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The school day is over, and Class 1-A troops back to the classroom from Grounds Beta, tired and satisfied. The mood is cheerfully bombastic, and together they stampede through the hallway with raucous conversation, laughter, and lighthearted boasting. And who would blame them? It’s the second day of school, and they just had battle training with the Number One Hero.

It’s one thing to use their quirks in PE exercises. Using them in a fight is something else.

All in all, Eijirou is comfortable with his own performance. It was down to the wire against Ojiro and Hagakure—Ojiro has some moves—but he and Shouji managed to pull off the win by the skin of their teeth. The closeness was exhilarating. It was fun, no matter what Aizawa-sensei says about why they’re here. He can get stronger and have fun at the same time.

The star of today’s show has got to be Todoroki, though. His match was as bombastic as it was quick, especially when he and Bakugou finally met in the middle. Their fight was the flashiest thing Eijirou’s ever seen, and… well. He doesn’t like to throw the term “curb-stomp” around, but there’s no other way to describe how handily Bakugou got his ass kicked. Todoroki’s partner Iida didn’t have to do anything but blast past Uraraka and touch the bomb.

It was awesome. The only one who doesn’t think it was awesome is Bakugou.

“Shut the fuck up!” Bakugou yells. “The only reason Two-face got past me was ‘cause he pulled a cheap move! If he’d had the balls to actually fight me, I would’ve buried him!”

Somebody’s a sore loser,” Sero teases, and Bakugou’s angry ranting almost drowns out the ensuing laughter.

“Hey, c’mon, don’t worry about it,” Eijirou says when the noise dies down a little. “It was one fight on the second day of school. You’ll get loads of chances after this! You’ll show ‘em, don’t worry.”

Bakugou snarls at him to fuck off, but after that he doesn’t rise to any more of the baiting. He’s not so bad, Eijirou thinks. Just passionate, and his standards for himself are insanely high. Eijirou can’t hold that against him.

For his part, Todoroki isn’t saying much. A few of the others sling praises at him, but they wash over him like water off a duck’s back. He’s the stoic and cool type, apparently. That’s so manly.

As they cruise through the main building, they pass through the hallways where some classes are still in session, and hit a stretch of hallway where the rooms aren’t in regular use. It’s a lot quieter now that Bakugou’s stopped yelling, enough that Eijirou can pay more attention to their surroundings, and that’s how he spots the student coming toward them from the opposite direction.

He isn’t paying them much mind, too absorbed in the notebook in his hands. Eijirou doesn’t recognize him, and the sleeves on his uniform jacket have only one stripe on the hem, marking him as a Gen Ed student. He glances up at them, as if suddenly aware of the stampede of footsteps, and Eijirou offers a friendly wave. The other boy grins back at him. His eyes flick to the side, taking in the rest of the class.

His face freezes, and then so does the rest of him.

Next to Eijirou, Bakugou stops so abruptly that Sero runs into his back. “Deku?” he barks.

The Gen Ed student’s eyes almost bug out of his head. He steps back, suddenly hugging his notebook to his chest. “Oh. H-Hi, Kacchan.”

Kaminari snickers. “Oh my God. Did he just call you Kacchan?”

Without another word, the kid turns and books it the other way. Bakugou lets out a scream of inarticulate rage and gives chase, and Eijirou can’t help laughing. It’s easily the funniest thing he’s seen all day, like something out of a cartoon.

Then Bakugou boosts his speed with his quirk and catches the other boy at a corner, and that’s when it stops being funny.

Bakugou grabs the kid by the arm and wrenches him back, dragging a yelp of pain out of him. “Deku, what the fuck do you think you’re doing here!”

“K-Kacchan, wait!” The kid struggles, but Bakugou’s grip is like stone. “I’m not—I’m just in Gen Ed, I’m not even—”

Shut up!” The kid flinches like he thinks Bakugou is going to hit him. He doesn’t, but he does shake him hard enough that it has to be rough on his neck. “What did I tell you about following me? I told you what would happen if I found your useless ass anywhere near here!”

“Kacchan, wait, please—”

It’s the explosion that finally knocks Eijirou out of his shock and gets him running. No one’s laughing anymore, because they all saw Bakugou use his quirk on someone who wasn’t fighting back.

He’s using his fucking quirk

Eijirou is slow. Even with someone crying out in pain, even as he learns the sound that a skull makes when it rams into a locker, he’s still slow.

A wave of ice overtakes him. Bakugou doesn’t get a second blast in, because suddenly there’s a barrier of ice between him and the other boy. He blasts through it anyway, but it’s enough to slow him down so that Eijirou can catch up and grab his arm.

“What the hell is wrong with you!” He’s thrown off roughly, and Bakugou tries to lunge over the shattered ice barrier, only for three others to pounce on him.

“Get off me!” Bakugou yanks himself free and throws another explosion at the Gen Ed boy. It’s not a fraction of the firepower he pulled out against Todoroki, but it’s still enough to toss the kid right into the wall.

“Bakugou, stop this at once!” Iida shouts, forcing himself in Bakugou’s path. “Can’t you see you’re hurting him?”

“Mind your own damn business!” Bakugou snaps. “The little bastard’s had worse!”

Iida draws back at this, clearly shocked, and Eijirou doesn’t blame him. He’s had worse? What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Bakugou lunges one more time at his victim, only to smack into another ice wall. Eijirou didn’t even see Todoroki come up, but there he is, standing between Bakugou and the Gen Ed student cowering at the foot of the barrier. Sero, Kaminari, Satou, and Uraraka pile on Bakugou, weighing him down and pinning his arms back. The rest of the class converges on them, either helping haul Bakugou away or crowding around the student to make sure he’s okay.

Eijirou’s close enough to hear Asui pull Iida aside and speak urgently to him. “Iida, you’re the fastest,” she says. “Can you go get Recovery Girl? I’ll see if I can find Aizawa-sensei.” Iida nods, and they both take off down the hallway in opposite directions.

By now, about half the class is gathered around the injured student, asking if he’s all right and offering loud but well-meaning comfort. It doesn’t seem to be helping, judging by the way the kid is cramming himself into the corner, as far away from them as he possibly can.

A wave of cold forces them away from him, and Ashido rounds on Todoroki indignantly. “What’s the big idea!” she says. “We’re trying to check if he’s okay!”

“You’re crowding him,” Todoroki says flatly. “Stop hovering and give him room.” Some of the others look ready to argue, and Eijirou can’t contain himself anymore.

“Guys, he’s right,” he says, and it’s a hard balance between trying to make himself heard but also not shouting. “Give him space. Can’t you see how scared he is?”

That gets them to listen. He’s squashed into that little corner, eyes darting at all of them, wide-eyed and dazed like he isn’t quite sure what’s happening. The back of his uniform is blackened, one shoulder of it burned and shredded from Bakugou’s quirk. There’s blood running down his face, probably from where he hit his head.

Eijirou steps in, not too close, and hunkers down a little to the side in the hopes that the kid won’t feel cornered. “Hey,” he calls out, feeling a little foolish. “Hey, man, it’s okay. We’re not gonna hurt you, and we’re not gonna let Bakugou get to you again, okay?”

The boy stares at him, bewildered, before slowly nodding.

“My name’s Kirishima,” he offers. “What’s your name, man?”

“Um. M-Midoriya,” he answers. He reaches up to feel his head, then winces when his fingers come away bloody.

Kirishima turns to the others. “Does anybody have—?” Yaoyorozu’s already stepping in cautiously, pulling a handkerchief out of her arm and offering it to him.

He takes it with a murmured thank-you and presses it gingerly to his head. Eijirou takes the opportunity to scoot closer slowly, emboldened when Midoriya doesn’t flinch.

“I’m really sorry,” he says. “We should’ve stopped him sooner.”

“Yeah,” he hears Hagakure say softly. “We’re sorry, Midoriya.”

“We thought he was just rough-housing,” Ashido says, ashamed.

“I-it’s okay,” Midoriya stammers. “Really. H-he was, it’s—it looks worse than it is. He just loses his temper sometimes—”

Shut your fucking mouth, Deku!

Yaoyorozu shoots a glare over her shoulder and offers another handkerchief. “I promise you, if we’d known he’d hurt you like that, we would’ve stopped him sooner.”

Midoriya stares at her like he just watched her grow a second head. After a moment he says shakily, “That’s a cool quirk.”

“Oh—thank you,” she says, smiling. After a moment she adds, “It lets me convert fat cells to other matter.”

As dazed as he is, the boy’s eyes light up. “Can you make anything? Organic, inorganic?”

“As long as I understand its molecular makeup,” Yaoyorozu answers. “I can’t create living things, though.”

“That’s really cool,” Midoriya says. “Y-you could do so much with that, as a hero.” Yaoyorozu grins again, blushing a little.

An explosion rings out, and Midoriya flinches again. Todoroki barely looks at Bakugou as he freezes his feet to the floor.

“Don’t worry,” Eijirou says. “He won’t get through us. My quirk’s not as cool as Yaoyorozu’s but it’ll keep him back, see?” He hardens himself to demonstrate. “Perfect shield.”

He’s always known that his quirk is a little blah, but Midoriya stares at him like it’s the most amazing thing he’s ever seen.

They’re cut off by more sets of running footsteps. Asui and Aizawa-sensei have arrived. Midoriya catches sight of their homeroom teacher, and Eijirou sees his face fall. He wonders what the problem is—the teacher’s here, and that means everything’s going to be fine.

As soon as Aizawa-sensei gets close enough, all hell breaks loose. It’s like everyone in class is trying to shout over each other to be heard. Aizawa puts up with it for about three seconds before his eyes flash red at them.

“Quiet,” he says. His eyes sweep the room, from the cluster of kids keeping Bakugou contained to the corner where Midoriya is. Midoriya lowers his eyes and says nothing. “Yaoyorozu. What happened?”

She gets to her feet, hands locked behind her back. “We were walking back from Grounds Beta,” she says. “The other student—Midoriya-kun—was walking toward us, but he stopped when he saw Bakugou-kun. They both seemed to recognize each other, and Bakugou started running after him.” She purses her lips tightly, almost grimacing. “We didn’t realize that he intended to harm him. We thought they were old friends roughhousing, until Bakugou cornered him and used his quirk on him.”

Aizawa’s eyes flash. “Go on,” he says, icily calm.

“We all hurried to stop him,” Yaoyorozu continues. “Todoroki made an ice wall between them to keep Bakugou from using his quirk again. Kirishima got to him as he was blasting through it, and it took more than one of us to pull him back far enough that he couldn’t do any more damage. Asui went to find you, and Iida went to get Recovery Girl.” She shoots a glance toward Midoriya, who won’t meet anyone’s eyes. “We’ve been trying to keep him calm…”

Their teacher nods, then turns toward Bakugou. He’s still being dogpiled by almost half the class, feet frozen to the floor, mouth sealed shut with some of Sero’s tape. Aizawa flashes his quirk at Sero, and the tape falls away while Bakugou spits with disgust.

“Todoroki,” Aizawa begins, and without waiting for him to finish, Todoroki reluctantly melts the ice trapping Bakugou’s feet. “Thank you. Now,” he says, turning his glare on Bakugou. “What have you to say for yourself?”

“It was fine,” Bakugou snaps. “These idiots are whining about nothing.”

“It was not nothing!” Uraraka rounds on him indignantly, and several others chime in.

“You were really hurting him!”

“Can’t you see he’s bleeding?”

“What is wrong with you?”

“Are you denying any of what Yaoyorozu just told me?” Aizawa asks.

“Why should I?” Bakugou shoots back. “They don’t know anything about me or Deku—if they did, they wouldn’t be siding with him

“What are you talking about, Bakugou?” Aizawa asks. Eijirou is close enough to Midoriya to feel him cringe and shrink back again.

“He shouldn’t even be here!” Bakugou points accusingly at Deku, his fingertip sparking with the threat of another explosion. “I don’t know how the hell he lied and cheated his way in here, but there’s no way someone like him made it into UA!”

“Students trying for General Education aren’t required to take the physical exam,” Aizawa says, and if he’s getting impatient with Bakugou’s attitude, he doesn’t show it. “The written examination is exhaustive and difficult in its own right. Do you think you know better than the Admissions Board, Bakugou?”

Bakugou curls his lip scornfully. “I don’t know, do they know they let a quirkless kid into UA?”

Next to Eijirou, Midoriya trembles.

The hallway has gone quiet. No one’s holding Bakugou anymore—no one’s even touching him. They’re all drawing back, as if they’re afraid the bile he’s spitting is contagious.

It’s Kaminari who breaks the silence at last. “...Dude,” he says, his voice tinged with a little bit of disgust. “You were beating this guy up because he’s quirkless?”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Ashido demands.

Bakugou stares at them, wide-eyed with disbelief and fury. Half the class closes ranks around Midoriya, as if there’s any chance of Bakugou going for him again when Aizawa’s standing right there, looking mad enough to spit fire.

“Pack your things,” Aizawa says, in the coldest voice that Eijirou has ever heard in his life. “Go home. Maybe have a good look around before you go, because there’s a good chance you won’t be coming back.”

Midoriya’s sharp gasp is drowned out by Bakugou’s furious roar.

What?!

For a wild moment, Eijirou is half-convinced Bakugou is about to attack their homeroom teacher. Aizawa’s eyes flash red, and the popping of explosions in Bakugou’s palms goes dead.

“You can’t do that!” Bakugou roars. “You can’t kick me out!”

“I told you yesterday that teachers have free rein here,” Aizawa answers, calm in the face of Bakugou’s rage. “I’m well within my right to put forth a recommendation for your expulsion. Which I will be doing.”

“Are you serious?” Bakugou spits. “Really? You’re gonna kick me to the curb? For what? Some quirkless Gen Ed nobody who isn’t worth the air he’s wasting? Yeah, I’d like to see you try.”

In an instant, Aizawa is nose to nose with him. “There is no place in my class, or any hero class, for bullies and thugs,” he says, and the scary part is that he’s calm when he says it. He should be spitting with fury, but his voice doesn’t even shake. “You think you’re hero material? You think you’re the big man on campus? Because I think you’re a spoiled, selfish brat with no potential for heroics, and I won’t waste my time pretending you’re anything more. Now. Get. Out.”

Bakugou stands there trembling for a moment more, then turns and shoves his way past the others to leave.

It’s dead silent. Aizawa stands in the middle of the hallway, one hand over his eyes, not saying anything. Now that Bakugou is gone, Eijirou can see him shaking with anger.

It’s terrifying.

“I’m—” The silence shatters. Midoriya barely moves as he finally speaks up. “I’m sorry. —you sh-shouldn’t have done that, Sensei.”

There are cries of protest. “Of course he should have!” Uraraka says, shocked.

“I think he should’ve decked him,” Kaminari mutters.

“He’s—you don’t understand, he’s strong,” Midoriya says. “He’s so strong, and he’s wanted to be a hero his whole life, and I don’t—I don’t want to take that away from him, please, Sensei, you can’t just…”

Finally, Aizawa’s hand leaves his face. “Who do you think you’re helping?”

Midoriya goes quiet, curling in on himself again. “I-I don’t…”

“For whose benefit are you saying that?”

“B-Bakugou’s. But also—he could be a great hero, he could save a lot of people if you just—”

“Do you know what the purpose of a hero is, Midoriya?” Aizawa asks him.

“To… save people?”

“To fight for those who can’t fight for themselves,” Aizawa says. “To save those weaker than ourselves. That’s the entire job description. Bakugou sees you as weaker than himself, and he chooses to treat you like this.” Aizawa locks eyes with him. “Do you think you’re doing future victims any favors, by crusading to give a bully a license to use his quirk freely?”

“I…”

“Why do you think he’ll treat others any differently than he has treated you?”

“Other people aren’t quirkless,” Midoriya says, in a small voice.

Aizawa raises an eyebrow.

Ojiro raises his hand then. “My aunt and cousin are.”

“So’s my grandma,” Jirou adds.

“Twenty percent of the population of Japan, actually,” Aizawa says. “The population of Japan is one hundred and thirty million. By your logic, Bakugou would happily mistreat twenty-six million people, and that’s just in this country. Do you find those numbers acceptable?”

Midoriya looks away and doesn’t answer. Eijirou wishes he could help, but he’s not sure Midoriya won’t flinch away if he tries to touch him.

“I do not,” Aizawa says. “I don’t find his treatment of you acceptable. I find it reprehensible and disgusting, and I won’t put up with it, especially not when there are countless worthy students who deserve the chance he threw away. And I can promise that none of them will ever lay a hand on you.”

It’s that moment that Iida arrives with Recovery Girl, just as Midoriya Izuku breaks down into quiet sobs. Eijirou puts a cautious arm around him, and Midoriya lets it stay.