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The best lack conviction (while the worst are full of passionate intensity)

Chapter Text

Pluto remembers the day like it was yesterday.

ACDC remembers it like it was yesterday.

It burns his eyelids, every time closes his eyes.

It haunts their every waking thought.

It was a sunny day.

He walked over to the commotion and throngs of people that had gathered. They saw how crowded the next street corner had been

A villain attack. Routine enough . He’d seen a hundred of them already . Why couldn’t they spend their time better?

But then, things got worse. But then, people started getting hurt.

And the heroes showed up, but nothing got better.

Pluto remembers watching the man and woman bleed out on the ground, their insides turning the concrete red red red-

ACDC remembers watching the “heroes” fail to do anything to save them.

That was the moment he decided.

That was the moment they decided.

“I’m going to change things.”

“I’m going to stop this.”

Chapter Text

“Did you hear about the quirkless student that got in?”

“Whaaaat?! Here? As in, Class A?”

“Did anybody see him in the exam? How does a guy without a quirk even fight those robots?”

Exhausted from a late night out because of insomnia and anxiety, Izuku hovers outside of his new classroom as his peers unknowingly dismiss and dissect him. He really doesn’t want to go in there. 

A pat on his shoulder has him jumping; he’d heard someone behind him but hadn’t thought they were going to bother him. The girl he saved during the exam is peering at him curiously. “Aren’t you gonna go in? Class starts soon.”

He lights up a bit. “Oh, it’s you!” He scans her over for any injuries she might’ve gotten since he last saw her. “Uhm, yeah. I’ll go in soon. They’re talking about me.”

She grabs his arm and gently tugs him in anyways. “Isn’t that a good thing? You were the only one who tried to save me!”

“Ah, no, that’s-“

“Deku.” Izuku freezes. While most of the class is eyeing the two of them, Kacchan only has eyes for Izuku. He jerks his head up, then motions at the desk behind him. Beside him, a tall, square boy is staring at him strangely, like he wants to say something unpleasant about himself that he’s going follow through on. “Get over here fucker.”

The door, which had been shut a moment ago, slides open behind Izuku and the girl, and darn it all he still hasn’t gotten her name! A gravelly voice mutters behind them, “If you’re here to socialize you might as well quit this program now. Get to your seats.”

The girl squeaks and lets go of Izuku’s arm, and while he regrets not getting her name, he does appreciate the chance to be out of the class’ scrutiny. Instead, everyone is focused on the teacher. 

…who turns out to be Eraserhead, a pro hero that he’s had entirely too many close encounters to ever feel very comfortable with him in the same room. 

Fuck.

Izuku pastes on a star struck look anyways, because come on! It’s Eraserhead! The man is the definition of competence in the hero industry, and one of the few heroes Izuku tries to manipulate his targets towards. He hopes that his recognition of the hero isn’t too obvious, though, hopes that it isn’t too personal and familiar. He’s an underground hero, after all, and there’s a reason that the media doesn’t pay those sorts any mind, a government-backed, top-secret-classified-with-sunglasses-during-the-day-and-dark-suits reason. 

He sits through Aizawa’s short lecture, and Izuku takes the chance to glance over their heads, but no one is remotely familiar to him; he can’t decide whether that’s more relieving or concerning. He suffers through Uraraka’s - a name! Finally! - and Iida’s support, and he even tolerates their awe and concern that’s aimed at him after his quirklessness comes to light between the three of them. What he has the most trouble with, on his first day in school, is Kacchan’s unwavering, mute stare.

Because Kacchan doesn’t say anything to him, but Izuku can feel his eyes burning a hole in the back of his head every time he steps up to the starting line. And every time Kacchan finishes a test, it’s always Izuku he looks for first. Izuku still doesn’t know what to do with this passive and observant Kacchan, even after three years, so he just meets his gaze when he can.

It’s only at the end that the cry goes up. “I thought there was supposed to be a quirkless kid in here!” The boy with the electricity quirk hollers. “But I can’t tell who it is?”

Aizawa snaps at them. “What does it matter? They got in, they’re here, clearly that’s all that matters.” He glares at the class. “I will only say this once: I won’t tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment in this class. You will be removed from the hero course if I catch word of anything.”

Izuku shivers at the harsh gaze he tosses them all. Seeing Eraserhead’s ferocity in the light of day is somehow just as terrifying as it is in the dark. Izuku is suddenly struck by the irrational image that Eraserhead is going to suddenly realize who he is, truss him up, and hand him over to All Might, who will then give him his most disappointed look and- 

Izuku really needs to stop letting his imagination run away with him. He dreams vividly about it anyways, and of meeting all those he’s sent to prison turning on him at his arrival, later that night.

And it’s just his luck, isn’t it, that All Might is teaching the first-year classes, instead of the upper years. Of course All Might wants to start with the freshest minds, their next day of classes, especially unaware of the risk as he is. Izuku watches with only slightly exaggerated awe, along with the rest of his classmates, as the man bumbles through their first lesson and acting like a normal human being. He still seems more like a symbol than a person, and that colors every interaction the students have with the pro. 

On his mission’s front, nothing about his peers is standing out to him, either, even after two days in class with them. When All Might announces that they’re doing combat simulations, they all react in appropriately teenaged ways. It’s way too early to suss out the traitor in their midst, aside from Kacchan who Izuku knows would never be a villain no matter what, but still . He should have something more by now, and the fact that he doesn’t does not speak well for his time here. He might need to start looking outside of class A.

The boy with the animal quirk, Kouda, stands next to them quietly as All Might explains the exercise to them. He nods to both of them but doesn’t open his mouth at all, and eventually Kacchan is hauling him into the building by the back of his collar. Izuku feels especially bad, because Kouda doesn’t seem to deserve that sort of behavior.

And they plot for five minutes, but even after all this time, Izuku knows Kacchan, knows that he may have cooled off after three years but not enough to defend the object and wait for them to come. No, Izuku knows that Kacchan will seek them out no matter what. They need to be prepared for it. 

Uraraka’s quirk gives her mobility, but not strength. Against two opponents who are equipped with long-range capabilities, it isn’t exactly a fair match for her, but then Izuku’s spent his entire life at a disadvantage, and that clearly hasn’t stopped him.

“Kacchan, sorry, Bakugo, is absolutely going to come for me, which means that Kouda is going to be on the defensive. I can keep Kacchan occupied, but can you handle getting the device?”

“I- sure, but can you manage him alone? He seems kind of mean…?”

“Yes, I can. I grew up with him, he’s not as bad as he looks.” 

“You’ll be all right, won’t you Midoriya?”

He smiles gratefully at her. “Yes, I promise I’ll be okay.” The timer goes off, and they enter the building; he gives himself a second to feel happy for her lack of reaction to his absent quirk; the fact that she hasn’t brought it up at all since yesterday is incredibly heartening. Immediately, Izuku takes the lead, checking around every corner before giving her the all-clear and moving on. 

Three minutes into their allotted fifteen, there’s a noise from around the corner, and Izuku draws them to a halt on the third floor. Izuku turns to whisper to Uraraka, “Go out through a window, and get up with your quirk if you can. I’ll try and make as much noise and get Kouda to come investigate.”

She looks dubious, but the sound of an explosion tearing down the hallway towards them sends her scampering off. Izuku has just enough time to watch her reach a window before he has to keep his eyes on Kacchan.

Although his face is screwed up into a fierce scowl and his eyes whirl with emotion, he doesn’t seem angry. When Izuku adopts a weighted stance to prevent being thrown off of his feet, Kacchan flinches back. 

He’s nervous .

“Deku.” But Izuku doesn’t want to hear it, not here. Not in a place this public, where their every word might be recorded. Or when the wrong ears might be listening.

He throws one of his improvised bombs at Kacchan’s feet, and the resulting mixture splashes up at him. Kacchan covers his eyes instinctively although he doesn’t stop all of it, and Izuku seizes the chance to move in closer, with the quietest steps he can; Kacchan appears to be wearing only one hearing aide, since the bluetooths aren’t built for that capacity. Kacchan must hear him, miraculously, because he raises the hand not scrubbing at his eyes comes into aiming position. 

Izuku grabs his arm and hauls it over his shoulder, and tosses the teen into the ground. Then, Izuku sits on his chest and grabs his collapsed tonfa from his side holster, and jams it under Kacchan’s throat. He thumbs the button on the other one to display the charge it’s got, and Kacchan’s wriggling below him stills.

Kacchan’s hand leaves his face. He opens his mouth to say something, but Izuku’s more worried about Uraraka; his hand goes to his ear. “Uraraka-san, how goes it?”

Her voice comes up over the static. “I’ve found it, on the 4 th floor, but I don’t know what to do about it. Kouda hasn’t seen me yet though.

“Don’t ignore me, Deku.” Kacchan’s growl is dark and low. “Where the fuck have you been?”

“Taking online classes, Kacchan, when the bullying got to be too much.” He mutters dismissively. “Uraraka, what’s your position relative to the front of the building? Can you tap on the ground without notifying Kouda? I have an idea.”

He secures Kacchan with the capture tape, and peels his ears for the tapping; he ends up in a hallway next to the side of the building. He quickly launches himself out the window and scales up the walls with his support-commissioned grip gloves. As he’s perched outside the window, he whispers to Uraraka, “I’m going to distract him from this side. When his back is turned, tap him.”

The plan goes off beautifully. Kouda turns with a shriek, and advances on Izuku, with a small group of mice and varmints following him. Izuku makes a face at him for security, and in that moment, Uraraka charges silently at him. He floats up, caught unawares, and Izuku launches the weighted capture tape at him just as Uraraka reaches the fake bomb. 

“Hero Team WIIIIINNNNNSSSSS!”

Kouda panics a little from the ceiling, and says, in a voice much higher than Izuku would’ve thought he’d use, “Hey, can you get me down from here? I really hate heights!”

She giggles, and Izuku tows him down near the floor with his weighted capture tape before Uraraka returns his gravity. 

They march out of the room with friendly chatter, and Kacchan meets them at the door, grumpy face and all. He check’s Izuku’s shoulder roughly, but doesn’t do anything else. When they return to the rest of the class, a cheer goes up from the rest of them. 

A boy with spiky red hair is practically bouncing where he stands. “Dude, you guys were all so manly! It looked like a real confrontation with villains. Now I’m so pumped for my turn!”

“Like, seriously, you guys were awesome! Especially you, green kid! The way you just totally incapacitated Blasty over there-” “Hey! Who the fuck you calling Blasty, Pinky?!” “-Was just totally top notch! How’d ya do it?”

All Might tries to regain order before the interrogation can continue. “Now now, students, we’ll be reviewing all of the trials in detail tomorrow. I just want you to point out one or two things that was significant about this particular grouping?” 

The tall girl with the dark ponytail blinks from her intense examination of Izuku, and raises her hand politely. “While both groups split up, it was to the heroes’ benefit and the villains’ dismay that they did so. It would’ve been difficult, though not impossible, given Midoriya-san’s physical prowess, to acquire the weapon had both Bakugo-san and Kouda-san been defending the weapon. Or even, if they had kept in contact. Conversely, the hero team split up and kept the villains split up and held at bay, and used their strategies and skills to their advantage, and thus won themselves the victory. I would most certainly say that MVP goes to Midoriya-san in this battle.”

Izuku agrees with her analysis, as that was the same conclusion he had come to as well, but everyone around them looks gobsmacked. Even All Might looks a little stunned; the only indifferent one is Kacchan, who’s messing with his one hearing aid and the Bluetooth piece that probably didn’t work great for him.  The MVP comment has Izuku ducking a little, but, well, he’s had way more experience with this sort of thing than anyone combined, so maybe it’s because of that that he stands out against awesome hero potentials like Kacchan, Kouda, and Uraraka. 

All Might seems to collect his jaw after a moment, and coughs politely. “Yes, young Yaoyorozu, those were my thoughts exactly. Very well put.” He coughs. “Now then, onto the next pair…”

Izuku sits and observes as the various groups face off. He had originally thought this would take a while, but in spite of half an hour apiece for the  other four groups, the afternoon goes by pretty quickly. He gets good data on all of their abilities, but finds no indication of his target whatsoever. Eighteen candidates and he hasn’t a single clue as to who he’s aiming for, and the field might be wider if he considers Class B and the general ed departments, so Izuku really hopes the spy is in Class A

As bad as that sounds. 

He clocks the perverted kid who acts like he has never seen a girl or woman in his entire life, the earphone girl who would specialize in collecting inside information should she choose to do so, the many-armed boy who might do the same… But that’s judging unfairly, and Izuku tries to put his preconceptions out of mind. And maybe Izuku wouldn’t be so worried, but there’s been a criminal organization stirring in the depths of the shadows that even Izuku wouldn’t dare underestimate, and with their designs on All Might Izuku had to get involved, no matter the personal risk to himself. 

Anyone has the potential to be a hero, Izuku believes, just like he knows everyone has potential as a villain.

Really bad, because now, having seen all the kids, he doesn’t want any of them to be a traitor. They’re all so nice and innocent, and they seem to want the best for heroes. To be the best heroes.

But then, that’s what the shadows would want them to pretend to be.

Urgh, this is gonna be a headache, isn’t it ?

 

Izuku goes home after school, mind still evaluating the combat drills and how he’d counter the amateur and not so amateur tactics he’d seen from his classmates, when a scream goes up as he’s passing the abandoned park in the middle of the old shopping district. The sound is nearby, coming from a cluster of abandoned and for lease buildings, according to his ears.

He’s got a cache nearby, in this very park in fact.

He can never say no to a cry for help. 

So, he dashes to the cache, quick as anything, and rips open the panel buried in the soil.

Throwing on his gas mask, his goggles, his helmet, and his gear, Izuku fades, and Pluto emerges from the remains. 

Pluto moves with spider-like agility up the side of the building, a call back to his stunt earlier today in the combat trials. He’s at the top of the shallow office building, and running over rooftops as he glances down for the source of the trouble. Movement in the evening shadows of a parking garage, a man is being pinned down by three others. The man is in a cheap suit, entirely nondescript and entirely forgettable and a wide grin that doesn’t really match his current plight, and the three figures that hover over him are dressed in typical burglary fashion, with ski masks and dark clothes. 

Pluto thinks there’s something off with this scenario, but a cry for help is a cry no less, so he hangs upside down from the rusty fire escape and does what he does best.

He taunts them. 

“Hey, you! Yeah, you with the black mask! No, not you, the other guy with the black mask, nor you with the- is that charcoal? Are you serious? Nobody wears charcoal this time of year!” The three figures in what looks like a standard mugging all look up in utter bewilderment, their crowbars and pipes lifted high in the air. 

One has the gall to point to themselves in utter befuddlement. “You mean me?”

“Are you wearing charcoal?” Sometimes the silent treatment works better, but for petty criminals that move like bullies, mocking them always gets the best reaction. 

“Uhhhhh… I don’t know, am I?” Izuku shakes his head and drops down. He’s replenished his stock of bombs, but he doesn’t want the business man to run off before he can check on him, so modified nun chucks it is. 

“Hey mister, keep your head down!” And then Pluto goes in for the kill, metaphorically speaking. He takes down Dummy first, and he drops predictably like a bag of rocks. 

“Either of you up for a dance?” The goon on the right growls, and charges forward, while the center goon shakes his head and backs up. 

Charging Idiot’s hands and forearms balloon as he gets closer and density; but, as Pluto notices when he dodges, he also sees a distinct decrease in speed. Easy enough to handle. Pluto simply releases the lock on his weapon, and suddenly he’s got about four extra feet of chain to work with. 

Securing the bastard is easy, and then he’s left with only one thug left. Unfortunately, it looks like this is the smart one. 

“Hey, you’re Pluto, right? Aren’t you a criminal just like us?” He spreads his arms wide, weapon still clutched in his hand. “Why stop a couple of guys just trying to make a living off some rich salaryman.”

Although he knows his face isn’t visible, Pluto makes a face of doubt anyways. “…A rich salaryman wouldn’t be caught dead in a cheap, untailored suit like that. The man is probably barely making ends meet is, much less likely to have huge amounts of money on him.” The slightest scraping sound from behind him has him tuning his ears backwards. “And besides, it can’t be making a living when you’re just leeching off of the hard work of others.” He tucks and rolls forwards, just as one of the dropped pipes comes sailing overhead. Lead Thug must have some telekinesis or magnetic based quirk, meaning most of his weapons are going to be out of commission until he can figure out which.

So he sheathes his nunchucks and goes for his wooden bokken. He charges Lead Thug, and the fact that he still has a weapon in hand, he assumes something is preventing his enemy from disarming him. At the very least, the thug doesn’t seem to have any way of stealing Pluto’s weapons.

Good to know.

In spite of his dual wielding pipes, Lead Thug clearly doesn’t know what to do with against an opponent who’s skilled in combat and weapon trained. Pluto ducks under Lead Thug’s first wild swing and switches his weapon into his off hand, pinning the second one to the wall. A fist to the jaw is all it takes to drop the third figure. 

And then it’s Pluto, three unconscious thugs, and the salaryman all sitting in the wide alley. Pluto calls over to the man as he string up the thugs for the police to collect later. “Are you okay, sir? I’m sorry it took me so long to deal with that.” He helps the man up and manages to get a better look at him. 

There’s a bit of blood on his face from a scrape on his cheek, but given his lack of nose entirely Pluto doesn’t think he has to worry about anything broken. The man grins widely at him, in a way that might look scary if Pluto weren’t so used to dealing with actually dangerous people. “All thanks to you, young man. They said your name was Pluto, like Pluto the vigilante? They called you a criminal, though.”

“Uhhhh, yessir. You don’t need to worry about me though; I’m just a guy trying to save some people and maybe the world.” He pulls a wet wipe and a bandage from his kit and hands it over. “Here you go. Would you mind calling the police? I should go, but those guys,” He thumbs behind him, “need to be picked up.”

“Sure thing, Pluto.” And okay, Pluto deals with creepy people on the regular, but the way this guy says his name is starting to make him uncomfortable. 

Shrugging his discomfort off, he waves and takes off back up the side of the building. Discarding his gear back into the safety of the vault and stuffing his mask and goggles into his pack, Izuku sets off back home, unaware of anything going wrong.

Indeed, he’s unaware of the salaryman not calling the police, and instead opening his phone call someone else, as he wanders away from the would-be muggers. “Hey kid, I’ve found him.”

He’s also unaware of the man that approaches three strung up thugs with an open hand.

Or the way that someone is plotting his idol’s demise.

No, Midoriya Izuku, vigilante alias Pluto, is unaware of what exactly is coming his way. 

What he does know is that, the next day at school, someone breaks down the front gate.

And he also knows that, a couple of days later, villains attack with remarkably well-informed machinations on a supposedly secure field trip.

Chapter Text

Toshinori’s first year teaching at his alma mater off a little differently than it had when he was a student. For one thing, he’s on the other side of the program, and if he’d thought his life as a student was hectic, then life as a teacher who’s also a full time hero is something else entirely

First, he’s already running on an extreme time limit; four hours is a kitten’s sneeze to the amount of time his colleagues spend teaching, and he’s also got hero duties to fulfill, although the excuse of school reduces that some. He teaches one first year class a day, and spends the rest of his time out in the field, and somehow he never quite feels like he’s giving either job all that he can. But the fact of the matter is this: his time is wearing down, and he has yet to run into anyone promising enough to become the next Pillar of Peace.

Not even Nighteye’s recommendation had worked out; young Togata is a brilliant young man, and he will grow into his own tremendous strength without any help whatsoever from All Might or One for All. To offer him All for One, when he shows so much potential and promise on his own would be the biggest, most arrogant thing Toshinori could do for him. He and Nighteye had spoken long and hard after Togata’s introduction, and Nighteye had begrudgingly agreed to stand down on Togata’s candidacy. They’re still mending contact, slowly, painfully in the way that stepping on shards of glass is, but Nighteye isn’t going totally silent on him, and that’s all Toshinori could ask for after six years of nothing.

And in return, Toshinori makes sure to give Togata advice whenever he encounters the young man in UA’s halls. 

But that means that he’s without a successor, and Toshinori is starting to realize that the same thing that held him back with Togata is holding him back with the hero students, in that they’re all competent young men and women with plenty of potential to spare. They have heart, they have talent, and adding One for All will never help them more than they can help themselves.

Not even Class A’s quirkless student needs his help. Midoriya doesn’t need a quirk to be a hero and he’s determined to prove it. And Toshinori feels like it would be the gravest insult of all to imply otherwise. 

There’s no reason for the infinitely busy and famous All Might to interact with the General Education students, beyond the general all-school functions, but Toshinori is beginning to think he’ll need to go to  Nedzu with his plans, because Toshinori can feel the clock running down. Nighteye’s fears still hang over him like a noose, and he’s watching the rope fray with each day that passes. 

Just because he has yet to find the one, however, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other things that he can do. 

Take young Bakugo, for instance. 

Toshinori runs into him on his way out of school, the day of the battle trials. He’s moving with none of the characteristic vigor Toshinori has come to expect from him; instead, he slouches and sways his way out of school, and in the time it takes for Toshinori to cross the path to him, the boy has made it all of ten feet. 

“Young Bakugo!” He booms. 

The boy still seems taken by surprise, though Toshinori was sure he’d been loud enough. Bakugo doesn’t turn over his shoulder to glare at the speaker, but he does stop moving.

Toshinori draws level with him, still in his fake – it was real at one point but now it’s just a pathetic shadow and Toshinori doesn’t regret this form but he mourns the loss sometimes more than he can handle – body. He can see, this close up, how Bakugo’s shoulders shiver and bounce, and Toshinori can’t tell for the life of him where this is coming from.

“Bakugo?”

He tilts his head back and stares at the sky painted orange by sunset, teeth set in the softest snarl Toshinori has seen from the boy yet. Toshinori notes some alarm that there are tears glittering at the corner of his eyes. “Deku. Deku beat me.” The words are a little slurred, but more in the way that says Bakugo isn’t thinking about how he sounds right now. 

There’s only one match that young Bakugo fought in today, and only one person that can be said to have beaten him. Ah, he means- “Young Midoriya?”

“I always talked shit, when we were kids. Deku was always supposed to be a fucking stepping stone on my path.” He scrubs at his eyes furiously and not in any way that can feel good. “Look where that got me. Little shit disappears for five years, and suddenly my ass is handed to me on a silver damned platter.”

Toshinori thinks he knows the problem; it’s one he’s had to struggle with time and again. “When was the last time you lost, my boy?”

He snarls, and finally Bakugo looks at him. “I never lose!”

“And maybe that’s the problem.” Toshinori kneels, levels his giant form with Bakugo’s still growing one. “Maybe you’ve never been challenged, and now that you have been, you don’t know what to do. Tell me, what did you think of the rest of your classmates?”

“Not extras.” Bakugo mumbles, nigh on unintelligibly.

Toshinori nods, like it’s the right answer instead of indicative a dire need of attitude change. “And?” 

The boy rounds him, finally meeting his eyes. There’s fury now, and something Toshinori doesn’t know how to identify in the eyes of a student and not an enemy. “What else is there?!” He screams. “How was I supposed to know that Deku disappeared to get monstrously strong? How have I never any fuckers that strong before? Where have all these assholes come from?!” 

Toshinori smiles and, in spite of the barred teeth, places his hand upon the boy’s spiky hair. “The world is a big place, my boy. I didn’t get to number one by shutting my eyes and stopping my ears.”

That strikes the right nerve, because the next moment Bakugo is standing up straight and returning to his usual self. “Well, fuck that! I’m gonna be number one no matter what, and nobody’s gonna get in my way! Not Half ‘n Half, not Ponytail, and certainly not fucking Deku!”

Toshinori lets him swagger off, and although he knows he has next to no time left, he watches him go. There’s still a small bit of insecurity lingering in his slumped shoulders, but his feet move with purpose once more. Only after he’s disappeared down the stairs does Toshinori depart. 

He tells Aizawa about the encounter when he returns to the staff lounge, and watches him grimace and mutter ‘inferiority complex.’ Then, Toshinori goes about figuring out a way to talk to the gen ed students. Maybe he can ask to speak with the hero hopefuls?

 

 

It’s after the sixteenth – sixteen! There must be something in the air this morning! – villain attack that morning that Toshinori starts to feel his ire burning at the back of his throat. He’s holding up a collapsed wall in one of the darker parts of Tokyo, and a civilian family and some of the homeless population are fleeing the scene even as the first responders arrive. He’s saved burning buildings, stopped a car accident, prevented two muggings and three robberies, and Toshinori. Is. Tired .

That incident back at UA the week previous, with the reporters breaking into the school, appeared to be just the start of this nonsense.

Not that saving people isn’t important, but he really does have better things to do, like training the next generation or even finding a successor . The sheer amount of petty crime is breaking into levels he hasn’t seen since his early days in the hero industry, and that brings back memories of days where All for One’s shadow haunted the streets.

But that’s impossible, he’d vanquished All for One six years ago.

Right?

Gran Torino might kill him, if his lack of a stomach and his anxiety doesn’t. 

As he runs towards where another plume of smoke is soaring into the sky, he reflects once more on just how strange it is that so many incidents are happening today; he hopes it isn’t an omen for their training session later. 



It’s was definitely an omen. Or maybe a setup. A setup seems more likely, now that’s he’s pausing to think about it. 

The second he gets young Iida’s and young Kaminari’s distress call, he’s terrified for his students, terrified in a way he hasn’t felt since the death of his master. They’re the future of the hero industry, bright and hopeful and not yet tainted by the reality of the job, and he’d wanted to protect and nurture that in as many of them as he could. 

He can’t do that if they’re killed at the starting line.

He rushes, quick as anything, to the USJ. Although he looks to avoid property damage when he can, the element of surprise he might gather by smashing through the domed glass of the structure could save precious time and give him an edge. When faced with the black monstrosity looming over Aizawa’s and Midoriya’s heads, he thinks that edge might be the critical factor in this fight.

Both the boy and the teacher see him coming, and they duck out of the way just as Toshinori slams into the hulking shadow. When that doesn’t fell the thing, he starts laying into the monstrosity, throwing as many full-powered punches as fast as he’s capable of. And when he has a spare iota of attention, he checks the positions of his allies and enemies, but for the most part he’s using every millisecond of his limited time to take down this foe that simply will not fall .

He’s launched it away and given himself a breather when Aizawa’s scarf wraps around him and tugs. He follows the man’s puppeteering instinctively, dodging two steps back then two meters up as portals composed of black flames send the Noumu flying into the spot he had just stood previously. He is freed from the scarves by the time he lands next to Aizawa and Midoriya. 

Aizawa is a little scuffed up, but young Midoriya seems entirely unharmed. Both are warily gazing at their villains and barely acknowledge him, with only Midoriya sending him a nod. “Where are the others?”

“Split up at the entrance by the warp villain. They’re fighting throughout the building, sir.”

This anchors his frown even further, but until he can deal with the very clear threat before them, there’s going to be no opportunity to go after the rest of his students. He hopes the seventeen precious flames can survive long enough for him to finish here and get to them. 

But the villain takes beating after beating, takes one hundred percent of what he has, and then some when he pushes further and gives more than he really has to give. 

Then young Midoriya is there, weaving between the blows, jamming those tools of his into inconvenient places, and dodging and ducking away when the Noumu turns to him in irritation. Toshinori sees the distraction for what it is, and although he knows he should give the boy a stern talking-to for not fleeing like he should, right now he’s grateful for the opening it’s created.

But where is Aizawa?

Ah, Toshinori sees him, when he’s sent the monster soaring away from him. The other pro is keeping the two villains preoccupied, preventing them from setting the Noumu on him where he’s least expecting it by keeping their quirks under lock and key. He also sees various tools from Midoriya’s kit strewn around their feet, indicating the occasional long shot when the boy sees the opportunity. Between the three of them, they’re managing to keep the worst of the villains in check, and their combined prowess feeds a little bit of hope back in the flames of One for All that he’s wielding.

He gives one thousand percent, sends the beast soaring into oblivion, and turns just in time to see the two villains vanish into one of those blasted warp portals. 

He still has a few spare minutes on the clock, so with a quick once-over to ensure that his two partners are no more harmed than they had been when he had arrived – they are – he’s dashing around the facility to gather up the unconscious villains and his terrified students. 

Or not so terrified, in many cases, because his students came out of the damned situation remarkably uninjured, where the villains that had been abandoned by their leaders were much worse off. But still, they flock to him with tears in their eyes when he appears in their sections of the USJ, happy to see him, and in short order they’re all being shuffled off to the rest of the authorities and into the proper caring hands.

The villains are secured with lengths of steel wire young Yaoyorozu hands him by the bundle and left where they’ve been defeated, and after he’s sure he’s gotten all of them, Toshinori ferries his students to the front under his arms, where the rest of the pros are gathering. Midoriya greets them at the entrance, pats their backs and looks them over with the same sort of professional, experienced air that him and Aizawa had been puzzling over since the school term started. 

Toshinori meets his eyes once, after most of the building has been evacuated and Midoriya is about to follow his peers out. The boy nods to him but doesn’t attempt to talk or approach. Which is just as well, really, because the second he turns his back All Might is forced to revert to his lesser form, having run his time down to the very nub. 

He won’t know this until after he’s been checked upon by Recovery Girl, but with all the chaos of the USJ, school is closed the next day while the authorities do their investigations and the teachers offer their own reports and do their own investigations. The staff decides that the sports festival will continue in spite of the attack, both as a show of bravado and because there will be so many heroes in attendance that the school feels the risk to the students is minimal. UA can’t afford to look scared, even after such an attack on some of their most vulnerable students. 

All Might just prays, as he’s wheeled away by the paramedics to be checked upon, that a repeat of such villainous infiltrations doesn’t happen again. 

And he thinks of a boy with maturity and experience beyond his years, who’d kept pace with his teachers against a serious villain infiltration. He thinks of finding a successor, and the potential young Midoriya has now, without the help of a quirk.

He thinks of a future with such a symbol of peace at its helm, and his usual smile returns to his face once more.

 

Chapter Text

“So the day has finally arrived, huh?” Denki says to his audience; Kirishima seems more focused on warming up, but Sero and Ashido are cheering at the declaration. Bakugo is being Bakugo, just like always, a grumpy solitary asshole. 

“Are you ready?  I’m ready to show off what I’ve learned!” Ashido cheers.

“Not like they’ve had much to teach us, running drills like we have been.” Denki mutters.

“Oh, cheer up Denki, they’re trying to figure out what we know so they can teach us what we don’t.”

“I don’t see the point in some stupid sports festival against a bunch of extras with no training. What chance do they even have?” Bakugo is messing with his combat boots, the only bit of support he’s been allowed to bring from his costume. 

Todoroki and Midoriya are having some drama over on the other side of the room. Kirishima, peacemaking hardhead that he is, tries to intervene. Out of boredom, Denki dials into the conversation. 

“Whatever reason All Might has taken notice of you, I will beat you today.” 

Todoroki is walking away after that declaration, but Midoriya calls after him. “I don’t know why you think All Might treats me any differently to the rest of you, but you’re going to have to worry about more than just me if you want to win this tournament. Everyone here is a rival.”

Denki hears Bakugo scoff from where he fidgets. “I don’t know what that Deku said, but it was probably something stupid and pithy. I’m gonna win.” He, too, follows Todoroki out, thankfully missing Denki’s mocking, “ I’m gonna win, ” that chases him out the door. 

He's the last one out of the door by virtue of him sending one last text to his viewers from home. 

Once again, in the obstacle course that is the first round, they’re faced with the same lame ass robots that are terrible proxies for fighting real people. Denki overloads them and dodges all of the stupid traps that others try to trip them up. He’s already annoyed with the both of them, but Todoroki freezing the zeroes and Bakugo blasting them all backwards on the path is really starting to get on his nerves.

“Come on , assholes! Focus more on teamwork and winning and less on screwing everybody else over, will you?!” He roars after them. “You don’t see the rest of us sabotaging the competition, do you!”

What part of being a hero is about competition, ultimately? The teachers at this school struggle with making everything equally applicable, from assigning ‘villain’ teams to things like this. Why not make it about reaching a group of victims who’ve been attacked in a remote area, or getting to a distress signal? There’s no direct application being given here, as usual, and it’s kind of starting to piss Denki off.

Naturally, no one answers his question; they haven’t had to think about it before, why would they start now? He does meet Midoriya’s gaze, though, and he thinks that out of all of the competitors, it is Midoriya who understands him the most.

But he grits his teeth and drags himself across the ropes, and hits the mines just in time to watch Midoriya go sailing overhead from an explosion that Bakugo would be jealous of.

“Now that’s application!” Denki shouts after him, grin wide and happy; if anyone deserves to put those other two in their places, it’s Midoriya who has been their target since day one. But cheering on Midoriya doesn’t save him from the problem of making his own way across. If he does that same stunt with his quirk and clears a path, he’ll get docked for reckless endangerment. 

He decides to stick to the edges, and with a little testing, pulls the various mines towards him with his recently developed Electro-Magnetism that he and the Bossman had put together during one of their training sessions. The trees on the side may suffer a little bit, but at the very least people aren’t in danger, so he thinks he’s okay.

He makes it in before the cut off for the second round, which he’s thankful for, but most of his relief is washed away at the image of Mineta literally hitching a ride at poor Yaoyorozu’s expense. 

He quickly makes his way over and hisses at the little bastard, “Is that any way for a hero to act? Taking advantage of someone else’s efforts?”

The little asshole seems to tremble at his fury. “But, but with my quirk… it was the only way for me to continue competing!”

Which is a fair point, this isn’t exactly suited to his abilities, but Mineta’s been too much of a pervert for Denki to just let his behavior slide. “Then why pick Yaoyorozu?” He walks away before he can cobble together an answer. 

Midnight is waving her whip to get their attention; why they let an R18 hero teach kids is beyond Denki. “Alright kids, you have fifteen minutes to form teams and plan for how to survive the cavalry battle! Each team of four will be given a banner appropriate to their members’ placement in the first round, with the exception of the first place winner’s team, which will be awarded ten million points !”

“...Christ, UA doesn’t do anything by halves, does it? Who even got first place?”

“I did.” Denki jumps; Midoriya moves entirely too quietly for Denki’s peace of mind, sometimes. The teen in question is giving him a sort of thousand-yard-stare that has him reeling back.

“You alright man?”

“No. If I had known what was in store for me, I would’ve let someone else go first.” His voice dips lower, to his usual muttering levels, but Denki is close enough “Stupid UA with its stupid competitions… Now everyone is going to be targeting my team, and no one is going to team up with me, and coming up with strategy will be-”

Ah, a kindred spirit after all! Well, then, “I’ll join your team, man, stop worrying so much.” He clasps the muscular team on his stiff shoulder, and wow, he’s seen the guy naked, but feeling the muscles is something else entirely . “And it looks like someone behind you wants to speak with you as well.”

Uraraka is looking uncertain but happy behind Midoriya, and while he turns around to speak with her, Denki starts eyeing their opponents. Todoroki is still glaring Midoriya’s way, and the less said about Bakugo the better. Todoroki has Iida and Tokoyami, and some girl with pink hair and insane gadgetry that he doesn’t know, standing near him, with others further off and rapidly forming teams among themselves.

A tap on his shoulder has him whirling around to face… Yaoyorozu? The girl sheepishly eyes him.

“Yaoyorozu? What can I do for you?” 

She squares her shoulders and looks him in the eyes. “I heard what you said to Mineta. I wanted to thank you, and see whether or not you had a team?”

And now he feels really bad, because Yaoyorozu has been exceptional from day one, recommendation status notwithstanding, but it’s not his place to invite her or disinclude her from the team. Denki scrubs his head and winces at the static electricity the small action creates. He pats his pants with one hand as he thumbs at the duo over his shoulder. “Well, I already agreed to be on Midoriya’s team, but as far as I’m aware we still need a fourth? You gotta take it up with him, though.” The two of them look to be finishing up, so he decides to bring them in. “Hey, Midoriya, how do you feel about Yaoryorozu teaming up with us?”

He turns to them with stars in his eyes. “Really? Yaoyorozu-san, you wanna work with us?” His demeanor turns abruptly serious, and Denki is suddenly excited to see where he goes from here. His countenance is so serious and trained, Denki wishes he’d spent more time with him from here, because wow! What a presence! “I won’t lie, it’s going to be very difficult; everyone’s going to be after the ten million.”

She nods firmly. “I’m aware. But I’m the perfect counterbalance to Kaminari-san’s electricity. I can make sheets that will protect us so that he doesn’t have to hold back, and if we use Uraraka-san’s zero gravity on all of us when we want to move…”

He holds up a hand. “My mobility is better; Kaminari-kun goes on top. He can keep his gravity to keep us weighed down, so long as you, Yaoyorozu-san, can find some way to keep us adhered to him?”

She hums thoughtfully. “I have something that can work.”

“And that way, you can better insulate against his electricity. Make sure he’s tied down by way of rope so that we can put the insulation thing between us and him, and we should be golden. As far as actual strategy goes…”

Midoriya is clever, oh so clever, and Denki can’t even begin to help the massive grin that grows on his face as Midoriya lays out his plan. He really needs to team up with Midoriya more often. 

The time to start the cavalry battle comes soon after they’ve got everything set up, so with an Uraraka-assisted leap, Denki settles on top of the other three. 

“So, to confirm, we’re going after…?”

“Todoroki first. Make him float if you can, Uraraka-san, or any of his horses.”

“Roger.” “Got it!”

And then they’re off, charging towards the only group not beelining for them.

Midoriya’s plan is simple, they’re going to kite all of the teams, who had all pretty much telegraphed their intent to take the one million, towards one team in particular: the strongest team, Team Todoroki. Then, with everyone distracted and Yaoyorozu keeping a shield up at their backs for defense, they’re going to swap the ten million for Team Todoroki’s own banner, thus keeping the rest of the enemies distracted while they make their getaway.

The screams of “ Dekuuuuu! ” coming from behind them only tells Denki what he needs to know; that keeping the ten million is not worth their time. 

Todoroki’s team, meanwhile, is frozen at the sudden charge they’re getting, in a situation where they should’ve and probably were planning on having the luxury of sitting back and observing the match for a little while. Faced with all nine opposing teams running at them, they seem frozen by indecision.

And that indecision is all the time they need. Uraraka pats his foot twice, and Denki feels his gravity disappear. With a push from Yaoyorozu and a throw from Izuku, Denki’s off towards Todoroki faster than he thought possible. 

He makes the swap quickly, but Todoroki’s left arm comes up cloaked in flames before sputtering out without warning. Denki takes note of the strange reaction, but he has little time to do more than that, because Yaoyorozu’s pseudo-tape and his own spring loaded shoes are pulling him back to the group. Behind them, the eight other teams have all paused in confusion. Denki almost giggles at the gobsmacked look on Bakugo’s face.

They continue charging past as Denki rejoins them, and then suddenly… they’re home free.

What’s this? Team Kaminari has given its ten million headband to Team Todoroki! And are now breaking away with Team Todoroki’s original headband! What are they thinking, Eraserhead?!

Probably that they don’t want to be the main target against nine other teams. It’s entirely too much trouble .”

And it’s true, they’ve managed to lose the interest of every other team on the field, who’ve all taken Present Mic’s words as an excuse to change targets. Bakugo glares at them, hard, especially at Midoriya, but ultimately he chooses to go after Todoroki. Denki sighs in relief; he can only take so much of either one of them, and he’s not sure they would have been able to win in a straight out fight against those two teams in particular. 

They move slowly to sneak behind the melee, so that when other teams start looking for lesser targets, they’re ready to move and strike quickly. One of the class B teams and the one with the purple haired Gen Ed student start looking like they’re ready to leave Bakugo and Todoroki to it, and so Denki deliberately catches their eyes and makes a face at them. 

He nudges Midoriya, who’s just in front of him. “Hey, I just made eye contact with those two teams, so they’re probably going to come this way soon. Game plan?”

“Don’t know purple’s quirks, but given that he’s got two class A kids with him he’s either strong or smart, but not both or he’d be in hero course.” He huffs and begins guiding them sideways around the ring, a meter and a half from the edge. “Given his physique, I’d say he’s brains instead of brawn, so he’s probably got a quirk to match. Ojiro and Aoyama are strong at close and long range, and I don’t know what that class B kid can do, but he made it into this round so he’s got to be competent. For now, watch him.”

“And the other team?”

“Has higher points, so they’ll be caught up by the rest of them soon enough, since we’re getting further away.”

Midoriya’s words appear to be right on the money, and soon enough the class B team is attacked by Asui’s team, who appears to have given up on Todoroki’s and Bakugo’s ice-building/ice-destroying game. 

As Present Mic Begins the final countdown, the other teams are starting to get anxious, and even the Gen Team starts charging them. “Get ready, it looks- Something’s wrong.” Midoriya yells. “Neither Ojiro nor Aoyama are acting right!”

Uraraka gasps. “Brainwashing?!”

“Of a sort; for now don’t interact with them in any way! Brace!” Midoriya grabs the medium sized shield Yaoyorozu had prepared for the team and holds it up to ward off both a laser beam and Ojiro’s tail. He pushes Denki back onto the girls.

“Uraraka! Take Kaminari’s gravity and return your own! Run!” 

The purple-haired kid chuckles, low and sinister, and for a minute Denki is reminded of Aizawa on their very first day of school. “So you’re going to act like a coward and run, huh? I thought heroes weren’t supposed to run from a fight, but here you are, preparing to do it for a second time!”

Denki almost opens his mouth, but sudden weightlessness courtesy of Uraraka, he’s weightless again, so he forgets to say anything.

Midoriya holds them off as Denki and the others retreat, successfully though not without effort on the little guy’s part. Ojiro is battering him with empty single-mindedness, and Aoyama is firing after them whenever he can. Midoriya is so. Cool. And Denki can feel his appreciation for the guy skyrocket. Competence, strategy, self-sacrifice, fighting ability.

Midoriya is really the whole package, isn’t he?

The end to the round comes just after they’ve gained enough ground to be safe.

The purple asshole fucks right off after tossing a glare at poor Midoriya, who frowns after him but doesn’t follow. The three horses from his team abruptly come to, and with sheepish looks they apologize for their (brainwashed! Hah!) behavior during that last round. Aoyama quickly slinks off to go get some medicine and a heat pack for his stomach, poor guy, but Ojiro and the B kid go and announce their resignation.

Nobility and honor like that isn’t a bad look on a hero, Denki thinks.

They get a lunch break, and he sees Todoroki grab Midoriya and take him out into the hallway once more. Newly protective of Midoriya, and still wary of others and their tendency to harass the poor guy who’s literally done not but good things, takes one look at the rest of his class and quietly follows them out. He’s followed by the explosive asshole himself, but he looks shockingly contemplative and not out to murder anyone, so Denki lets him walk beside him. 

They both overhear Todoroki’s troubled past, and while Denki doesn’t hate Todoroki, he still thinks that the overpowered teen’s mindset is wrong. He feels for the guy, he really does, and his abusive asshole father has always been at the top of the Boss’ list, but that doesn’t mean he has what it takes to become a hero. Half-assing it just means you’re not going to stop every villain you could, and that sort of thinking leads to unnecessary casualties and shitty inflictions on the rest of society. If he’s so determined to not use his fire, he has no place being a hero. 

Midoriya is silent for a long while, hardly responding to Todoroki’s jab of All Might’s favor which, okay, Denki can kind of see it, but given that Midoriya fought side by side with All Might at the USJ Denki didn’t think it was out of the norm? Midoriya’s just better than the rest of the class, of course pros like Eraserhead and All Might are gonna notice him. 

Denki abandons Bakugo, who’s staring into nothing contemplatively, and heads back to the lunch room in order to eat before their time runs out.

Most everyone else has finished, and the ones who didn’t make the final cut are cheering the ones who did with their usual rambunctiousness. Everyone is being wary of Ojiro, not mean, but the tailed teen is just indulgently listening to Hagakure’s story. Denki seamlessly reintegrates himself into Kirishima’s circle, and eats his bento as he listens. 

Lunch is called to an end not too long after that. The sixteen remaining contestants, Denki and Midoriya included, make their way out onto the green to hear what they’re in for next. 

Midnight exuberantly announces the last round. “Now then, this last round of UA’s Annual First Year Sports Festival is going to be…” She gestures her whip to the roulette on the display screens. “A one-on-one fighting competition.” She squeals in delight. “Oh this is going to be so delicious!”

Present Mic takes over. “Each battle will take place on the arena floor. There are three ways to win: force your opponent to resign, force your opponent to step outside of the ring, or render your opponent unable to fight. Of course, Midnight and Cementoss are also free to make decisions regarding the outcome of a match, and will operate as referees and lifeguards should things get too much out of hand. Now, PLUS ULTRA!!!!”

Denki scans the display for his name and his opponent’s name. He winces when he sees Midoriya is still slotted to go first, and given that he doesn’t recognize the name…

Well, Purple Kid still looks pretty pissed at Midoriya. Denki genuinely hopes that doesn’t come back to bite the quirkless teen in the butt. 

He finds his name next to a Shiozaki Ibara, of class B, slotted to go third after Todoroki and Sero. The girl in question is hunched over her folded hands and praying quietly, the vines of her hair twitching and swaying with agitation. 

How does he go about this? Shiozaki has the advantage. Does he make it look good? Does he dodge suspicion?

Thinking of Bossman’s recent encounter with Pluto, he comes to his decision.

Man. Aizawa’s going to have his head after this. Ah well, it’s for a good cause. 

 

 

He’s a little upset about losing to Shiozaki, if Denki’s being honest. So much self-righteousness doesn’t suit public servants, and she needs to dial it down a notch or twelve if she wants to find people willing to work with her in the real world. But she’s still stronger than him, and he still can’t electrocute plant matter without risking killing her, so he takes his loss with as much grace as he can. (He can’t help but think about the potential of really letting go, but he quickly shoves that thought away.)

He’s just faffing about after his loss when the roar goes up from the crowd. Denki stops his moping and pastes a wide smile on his face, and rejoins his targets classmates out in the audience. 

Down in the arena, Uraraka is dropping what looks like a metric fuckton of rubble and debris on Bakugo, and whoooo boy he hadn’t known she’d had that sort of thing in her. It’s kinda hot, even if she’s already shot him down. 

But of course, the bombastic asshole just shuts her down like the bastard he is. The poor girl goes limp under the force of his next attack, and Denki watches with pity in his heart as she crumbles. And in spite of himself, he feels a little hope when she struggles to get back up.

“Hey Bakugo,” he calls down, only a little bit of his irritation making it into his voice, “shouldn’t you go easier on her?”

Of course, the asshole ignores him. And he thought working with the number two’s – heh, piece of shit hero – kid was bad enough as it was, during combat class. Denki shakes his head, even as the girl’s sent flying back. He ignores whatever preaching Aizawa has to say, and contemplates how he would have won against such focused and unrelenting force. It’s probably for the best that I got knocked out like I did, in the very first round before any of this went down; anything else would’ve been either shameful or a dead giveaway. That guy’s gonna be a real pain in my ass when he breaks into the hero scene for real, if we don’t cut him down first.

He hopes Bossman is seeing the same thing he is.

Things are slow and pathetic as time continues; Iida’s fight with the support chick is a joke, and Sero gets obliterated and annihilated two seconds into his fight with Todoroki.

It’s only when Midoriya goes up a second time, having taken down the Purple Kid from Gen Ed – the same stupid fool who had decided he was capable of declaring war on a bunch of hero potentials and deluded enough to believe he would not sound like a villain – in his first match, that things get interesting. The whole Todoroki-Midoriya showdown is, in a word, insane; Denki genuinely doesn’t know what to make of it. Todoroki’s stupid powerful, and Midoriya has always been slippery, since day one. Now, after the calvalry battle, Denki knows he’s not only slippery, but clever and strong and sure of exactly how to use all of that to devastating effect.

Now, he believes Midoriya has a real chance against even the strongest kid in class.

Consensus by the class is that Midoriya is the quirkless student, since Aizawa confirmed their suspicions that someone had passed the entrance exam without an ability, and Midoriya’s the only one who hadn’t displayed anything obvious. Someone suggested class B, but then why would Aizawa care? Nothing in any of his encounters with the teen thus far have indicated a quirk, and in spite of their close proximity in the cavalry battle, nothing outstanding or exceptional or even subtle occurred. Midoriya had strategized through that win with pure, unmitigated brain power.

It has to be Midoriya.

Which makes Midoriya interesting

Kaminari needs something to do while he’s bored and languishing at hero school.

He doesn’t regret it, no, it’s very difficult even now to regret meeting All Might. But while the man is the best hero around, he’s far from an excellent teacher, even if he’s improving. Kaminari has yet to see evidence that UA is especially good at training heroes, though, star-studded staff aside, and he’s said as much to the Boss.

Bossman had scoffed at this, said that the cycle of UA’s popularity is self-fulfilling; it has a reputation for being the best, so only the best apply, and UA gets the pick of the cream of the crop. It’s how you end up with assholes like Bakugo and Mineta, who are strong villain deterrents even if their personalities are just as utterly shit as any other villain. 

And somehow, from amidst all the garbage, a quirkless kid like Midoriya made it. 

Even now, down in the arena, Todoroki is sending wave after frozen wave of glacial ice towards Midoriya, who’s dodging it with, if not ease, at the very least brilliant, eye-catching skill. As he peers closer, he realizes that for once, Midoriya’s the one with an impassive face, and Todoroki’s the one with his heart on his sleeve. They seem to be exchanging words, but like hell can Kaminari hear or interpret what they’re talking about from up here. He’ll need to go bother Midoriya about it later.

They seem to be at something of a stalemate as the fight drags on. Midoriya has shrugged off his outer shirt and wrapped it around and broken off a sizeable shard of ice to wield like a blade, and Todoroki seems to be slowly freezing over as his bastard father shouts from the audience. Midoriya has Todoroki backed into a corner, ice-sword held threateningly at throat point as the two of them exchange words amidst the carnage of the rink around them. Denki didn’t think Midoriya had such a vicious ruthlessness in him, but he knows it’s more about keeping Todoroki in check and listening than it is about Midoriya trying to hurt him or win; Midnight and Cementoss obviously think the same, since they make no move to stop the match.

Then, the tempo of the fight changes. It’s as he’s answering a phone call from the Bossman that Todoroki bursts into flame, and while Denki may hate Endeavor, the flames his son makes are something else.  

“Got one more, think he has a brother in your class. Keep an eye on the kid, lemme know what you find out.”

“Name?” He whispers back.

“Ingenium.”

His eyes drift unwillingly towards Iida’s stiff back and stunned face. “Will do.” He doesn’t feel one way or another about the class president, but if Stain thinks Ingenium deserved it, then he’s gonna keep a closer eye on the teen. “Got my eval for me?” 

“Working on it.” The other line hangs up, and Kaminari watches the finale with only slightly faked feelings of being impressed. The false part evaporates as Midoriya is declared the winner, with Todoroki willingly stepping out of bounds as he stares up at Midoriya and then Endeavor, still wreathed in his fire. He’s glad that Midoriya has won, because there’s no one in the whole school who deserves it more. 

He’s standing and cheering with the rest of his peers as that braggart asshole from 1B rants in the next section. His grin feels a tad too much like Stain’s but no one who meets Stain lives to tell the tale, so he figures he can keep the smile where it is.

The less said about Midoriya’s match with Bakugo the better, but suffice to say, neither Iida nor Bakugo had stood a chance. Iida had ended up running off the edge after that speed move of his carried him over the edge, and Bakugo, well…

Midoriya’s match with Bakugo was another one filled with talking, and again it’s Izuku who bears the stony façade. Bakugo eventually charges Izuku, but in a callback to their battle trials, Midoriya flips him and secures him with his outer-shirt. It’s a rather boring finale, all things considered, and he hears several heroes saying that the Midoriya-Todoroki match was far more worthy to be the last round of the festival.

That’s sure to piss Bakugo off, when he hears it. If he hears it. 

Denki’s the first to catch Midoriya as he’s coming in from the podium, later after he’s completely swept the competition. “Hey man, that was some slick ass shit you pulled out there against Bakugo and Todoroki. How’d you manage it?”

He hears Bakugo holler at the mention of his name, but thankfully Kirishima keeps him preoccupied elsewhere. Midoriya chews his bottom lip, and Denki has just noticed the swelling on one side of his jaw.

“I just... did. Captures and detainment are important as a hero, so being able to detain someone like Bakugo is essential for fieldwork. I just-- practiced that.” 

Kaminari genuinely hadn’t thought of that, but he sees the logic in it. “I gotta practice that too, then.” Midoriya’s phone chimes, and the teen looks down apologetically at it. “You can get that, man, I’ll see around. Thanks for today!”

Midoriya nods, but as he’s walking out Todoroki joins him like a shadow, still exhausted looking but far less stressed; Midoriya smiles briefly at him but goes back to pecking away at his phone as Todoroki hovers awkwardly but resolutely at his side. Kaminari wonders again what went down in their match, since they seemed like they were genuinely trying to kill one another, but hey, he won’t judge.

Iida, when Kaminari scans one last time before he heads home, is nowhere to be found.

Chapter Text

Pluto is grinding his teeth by the time his companion stumbles his way out of the bar he’d wandered into for the night. 

Gossip Hound is the sort of controversial figure that only people in the business of being in people’s business knows; plenty of people from either side of the lane want either his arrest or his death, and equally as many and diverse want him out doing what he does best.

But Pluto has been up half the night tracking his drunk ass down, and he has a stack of homework he hasn’t gotten to because he’s been busy with other things, and he does not have the energy for Hound’s shenanigans at this very moment.

Pluto allows himself a glower down at the stumbling man in the alleyway who, in spite of his inebriation looks up with unerring accuracy to his shadowed form and grins, his pointy ears perking up in interest. “Hey, Pluto, just the kinda guy I was hoping would throw me a bone.”

“Hound.” Pluto descends down a level of the fire escape so that Hound doesn’t have to crane his head quite so far, but he stays well out of reach just in case. The man can be grabbier than Hinata on a good day.

He rubs his pudgy hands in a facsimile of greed. “Well?”

“First, I want confirmation on the info you gave me last time. Is there a traitor in UA?”

Hounds nods vigorously, and his ears bounce. “Oh yeah, for sure. Dunno if they were behind USJ or not, or any of the other shit the kids had to deal with. Why? Worried something’s gonna happen to All Might?” For all that he’s a money grubbing informant, there is something genuinely worried; Pluto figures All Might must’ve done him a good turn at one point. 

“They’ve already said outright that their goal is to kill All Might.”

“Who’s ‘they?’”

“The League of Villains.”

Hound trembles in delight at just the name. “So it’s true that they’re the ones who attacked UA. Pretty bold of them, they’ve gotta have serious firepower to back it up… What else do you have for me?”

“Nothing concrete, but I got a tip that I intend to follow up on.” Pluto considers his wording, and how to make it so that this only blows up in one person’s face. “There’s a name I came across that I need some more time to investigate. A Todoroki Touya who hasn’t been seen in years but who also hasn’t been reported missing, either.” 

Hound’s soulful brown eyes widen. “Holy shit.” He breathes. “Pluto, you’re going after Endeavor?”

Pluto holds a finger up to where his mask hides his mouth. “No, I said I was going to see why Touya hasn’t been reported missing in nine years, weren’t you listening?”

Hound nods slowly. “Don’t worry man, I wouldn’t touch that dog shit with a twenty-foot pole. But I’ll, uh, see if there’s anything like that.” He spreads his hands. “Now, what can I get for my favorite customer?”

“Iida Tensei is in the hospital because of a run in with the Hero Killer in Hosu.”

Hound nods, and Pluto is certain he’s heard the same thing countless times in the last 36 hours. 

“How severe are his wounds?” 

“Career-ending, although the Iidas are trying to keep it quiet.” Hound answers immediately. 

“But he’s alive? Should he be?”

Hound hums thoughtfully, rocking back on his heels in a way that no one his age should be doing. “Ingenium was pretty skilled, and it was the middle of the day on a day of special prominence to heroes. I don’t know; I’d say it was more of a warning. Ingenium’s far less controversial than other heroes, his location aside. I’d hazard it being more of a warning for those at the top from the man himself than anything personal against Iida himself.”

Pluto doesn’t like the amount of guesswork. “And I can assume that you won’t be able to get confirmation on that either way?”

“I’m gonna say no, kid. Hero Killer’s way too batshit for me to try and cross, and he’s never been one of my customers.” He picks at some dirt under one of his claws. “That all? Because I wanna move, and if it is I’m gonna need to mark you down for credit.” Pluto nods. “Credit it is. At this point you could probably ask me to spill on everyone in this city and you’d have the marks to keep me singing for days, but whatever. Keep bringing me the goss, vigilante!”

Pluto lets him wander down the alleyway a bit, before calling to him just as he’s hit the mouth of it. “Oh, and, Hound?”

“Yeah, Pluto?” 

“Ran into some teenagers over in Kamino Ward. Said they’d overheard some creep trying to sell Spades to one of their classmates.” 

Hound’s eyes harden. “Sure thing, Pluto. I’ll make sure it hits the right ears.”

“At least now Ginta can stop worrying about being accosted at school,” Pluto mutters as he heads further into the twisting alleys of Tokyo’s seediest ward.

 

Izuku grimaces as the bandaged hand of Aizawa passes out the list of heroes willing to work with UA’s first years; the way it twists his face pulls at the tight skin under his eyes from his late night.

In spite of his showing at the Sports Festival, no one really seems to know what to do with him, nor what to make of him. A quirkless kid, beating the highest scoring entrance examinee? When he’d passed by them after the sports festival, the pros had all recoiled and began averting their gazes, whispering behind their hands all the while. 

It had been humiliating in a way that Izuku hadn’t wanted to think about. Because what their reactions say to him, how they act? Tells him that he won’t be welcomed in the hero world without working his ass off, even more than he already is. Nobody reached out to him, and nobody has requested him for an internship. That says all he needs to know about his future in the industry.

He’d been getting optimistic, too. He hasn’t confirmed any suspicions, but he knows that everyone in Class A more or less assumes that he’s the quirkless kid of their group, and yet none of them have altered their behavior; they all support him and work alongside him with no problems, Kacchan aside. At first he might’ve dubbed the heroes’ caution as a result of their experience, but given the USJ incident and Izuku’s own nighttime activities, he can’t help but think that something else is the reason. 

He’s not the only student in the class to have gotten no offers, but he’s the only one who made it to the final round of the Sports Festival who hasn’t gotten any. Even Aoyama and Kaminari have gotten a couple of offers, and they lost in their very first matches. He commiserates with Kouda and Ojiro over their lack of offers, and together they brainstorm more options. Uraraka is preoccupied with asking teachers for advice, and Iida…

Well, since his brother was attacked, Iida hasn’t been the same. 

He’s withdrawn, silent, sulky, and no matter his Uraraka’s best efforts to be cheerful canaries, they can’t bring him out of this funk he’s sunken into. They try not to bother him directly, but make sure that they stay near him and keep themselves open and occupied. So far, it’s had next to no affect. 

One good thing that’s come out of the Sports Festival is his newly found friendship with Todoroki. After the shouting match they had alongside their fight, and the revelation of Todoroki’s past, it seems almost natural for them to just stick together. Pluto’s hunting grounds never took him near Endeavor’s estate, given that it was in one of the nicest parts of their city, otherwise he would’ve exposed this farce long ago. He still can’t blow the whistle on Endeavor’s actions, not so soon after hearing the truth, not without giving himself away as Pluto. But he can start making it obvious that Pluto is watching.

If he ever decides he wants to make an enemy of the number two hero. 

But Todoroki eats lunch with them, now, in spite of Iida’s reticence. And he talks more, too, instead of spending his days in silence. And, once he starts coming out of shell, Izuku begins really enjoying his company. He’s got a dry way of making statements that gets a laugh every single time, and his observations are always particularly witty. Izuku thinks he’s a good balance to their group, but he digresses.

Todoroki joins him, and mutters that he’s going to choose Endeavor’s agency in spite of everything. 

“Are you sure?” Izuku gapes at him. He doesn’t know if he’d be able to do the same, with the same sort of strength Todoroki is showing him now. 

Todoroki, Izuku has discovered, is utterly unafraid of eye contact, unusually. His gaze is firm when he looks into Izuku’s eyes. “Yes. Asshole he may be, but there’s no one better to learn to control my fire from.”

“You’ll be sure to tell him off if he misinterprets it?” Izuku can’t help but recall Todoroki’s story in the hallway, just prior to their life-changing fight. “Tell him that your goal was never All Might?”

Todoroki smiles, and Izuku thinks that, for once, he may have gotten something right. “Who were you thinking of choosing?”

“Well…”

As they go over Izuku’s list of potential hero mentors, one thing stands out to him. 

There’s a hero in Hosu who is willing to accept interns. 

The Hero Killer has been active in Hosu. In fact, that’s where Iida Tensei was attacked a couple of days ago. 

Izuku grabs his phone, and looks up all the info he can on the hero, “Piston.”

 

At the train station, Iida departs from their group of four with barely a word of goodbye. Uraraka and Izuku look after him with worry, but Todoroki just taps both of their shoulders lightly. “There isn’t much we can do. Give him time.”

Izuku, who’s riding the next train to Hosu, nods but looks after him all the same. The three of them depart, saying their goodbyes and promising to keep their phones handy when they can. Kaminari rides with him, and they talk quietly on the train on their way over, about everything from the latest villain attack to their thoughts on the Sports Festival. Izuku gets the sense that Kaminari wants to ask him something, but the other teen holds his tongue and shakes his head.

Piston is waiting with a banner - and a costumed mascot? - when he arrives at the train station an hour later. Izuku glances around in confusion, before pointing to himself, but yeah, that’s his name on the banner. He approaches the group slowly and with caution, receiving a firm push on the back when he takes too long. Kaminari snickers and sneaks off to meet his decidedly less showy hero mentor. Izuku catches him waving as they leave the train station.

Piston is a very young and new hero, all things considered. He’d graduated from the same class Hawks, the #3 hero, but where Hawks rose immediately in renown after UA, Piston stayed in the realm of lesser known heroes. They’re known as a competent hero for rescue and information-gathering missions, and her quirk lets her know when events within a certain radius of them occur, allowing him to track hundreds of happenings over the course of 24 hours. No one knows how far or how many things Piston can track, but he sacrifices the popularity that knowledge might bring him for the ability to work unimpeded in Hosu. 

He’s perfect for Izuku’s desire to not draw attention. 

Piston’s three-fingered hands clap down onto both of his shoulders. “Midoriya Izuku! It’s an honor to meet you, young man.”

“It… is?” That wasn’t the impression he’d gotten from his lack of offers.

Piston beams, genuine and heartfelt in a way that reminds Izuku of Uraraka. “Yeah! The Number one entrance examinee, the student who fought alongside All Might and Eraserhead at the USJ Infiltration, and the kid who toppled all of the favorites to win in the Sports Festival? You’ve been making some serious waves, little man. And you picked my agency!”

Izuku hadn’t known that he’d had such a reputation, nevermind that it’d been so positive. “Thank you?”

He guides them back to the rest of his mini-cheering section. “Of course! If I’d known you’d be willing to come and work for a little- sorry, one moment,” Piston suddenly turns and clotheslines some man running away from and old lady, presumably clutching the old lady’s purse in hand, “What on earth do you think you’re doing, robbing somebody like that? Didn’t your mother ever teach you to respect your elders, or some manners at the very least? I’m in the middle of a very important conversation.” 

Piston hands the would-be thief off to the harried station officer, before she turns back to Izuku. “Where was I? Oh yeah, if I’d known that you would be willing to work with my agency, I would’ve totally put in an offer. I bet a bunch of others would have too.” They scrub their short, lime green hair. “I guess we all just thought we weren’t good enough.”

Izuku, who has finally recovered from the whirlwind-multitasking that this hero seems to engage in so naturally, shakes his head. “No, no! I actually, uh, didn’t get any offers, so I’m happy that you’re so willing to take on someone… like me.” He finishes lamely.

Pistons head tilts to the side. “Oh, uh, someone like you? And wait, you didn’t get a single offer?! Preposterous!” 

“That’s ridiculous, Midoriya, nobody sent anything the the gold medalist of UA’s nationally renowned Sports Festival?” The person wearing the mascot says. The head comes off, and Izuku sees UA’s recent graduate Redstone, a hero who can trace electric signals and coded info through wires. 

He shakes his head numbly. Now that they’re saying it like that, he supposes it does seem a little odd, Quirkless or no. 

“I’ll contact Aizawa and make sure, but for right now why don’t we go and get you settled in. We’ll tour you around the office and make sure you know what to expect for the rest of your time with us, eh?” The other sidekick, a quiet man by the alias of Hitsuji, nods firmly.  

The trip to Piston’s agency is short, as they’d chosen to set up shop near East Hosu station. “For ease of transport!” She says cheerily. They pause just outside the steps that lead up to Piston’s second-floor agency. “By the way, what’s your hero name?” 

Izuku stumbles, uncomfortable with what he’s chosen. But his real first choice is a vetted criminal in the eyes of the law, so he utters, “D-Deku, Piston.”

“Deku, huh?” Piston thinks it over, long crooked fingers stroking her chin. They snap their fingers. “I like it! Short, sweet, simple, and to the point! And you picked us because you wanted to work on rescue oriented training?”

Izuku is beginning to wonder whether there’s anything he can do that would upset Piston. He also can’t say that he’s here to watch out for the Hero Killer, or that he’s here to cover for his experience that the UA teachers are starting to clue into. “That’s right. Rescue procedures and situation MCDs are far and away the most important skills for heroes to learn.” He bows. “I will be in your care for this week!”

Piston waves him away and guides him by the shoulder into their office. “Ah, there’s no need for that! Come on, I’ll show you around!”

Piston’s office is small and filled with outdated equipment, but it’s tidy, and one entire wall is filled with an interactive map framed by phones that Piston uses to relay hero assignments in times of emergency. One small, yellow beacon is flashing from the train station where the would-be thief had been arrested, but other than that the greater Chinjo-cho ward is peaceful. 

The two office workers stand to attention as the entourage returns. “Welcome back, everyone!” One sets about preparing tea and snacks, while the other walks right up to them. 

“Hello, Midoriya, and welcome to Piston’s Agency! We’re pretty small, but we’re very happy to see you’ve picked to spend your time with us.” The man’s hand extends, and Izuku shakes it cautiously. The office lady ushers him over to the meeting table, and the agency’s five members take a seat around him, grabbing cups and snacks of their own. 

The atmosphere is so casual that Izuku finds his nerves running higher. When is the other shoe going to drop? Are these heroes always this casual? 

Piston stands up from their seat and wanders over to the display board. Holding his finger on a singular point seven blocks away, he taps the orange button. Then, she picks up the phone and dials a number. “Hello, is this Manual’s agency? I’ve just detected an unarmed robbery at the patisserie next to the Aeon Department Store. You have a patrol running in that vicinity, correct?” Piston pauses to listen for a moment. “Yes, yes, thank you. Goodbye.”

Redstone leans over to his ear, her long, straight, electric yellow-green hair spilling over her shoulder. “This is part of our job here. Piston mans the comms for the whole of Hosu city and sends out commands to the appropriate agencies - we have all of their patrol schedules and members memorized - and work as the dispatch for the rest of the heroes in town. Me and Hitsuji alternate between field work and assisting with the phones, but for all that we’re small we have our own part to play in the town’s safety and protection, even if it doesn’t seem like the obvious method for heroes.” She eyes him discerningly. “But then, I think you already knew that.”

Piston eventually returns to the table. “What she said. You’ll be alternating fieldwork and phones for the next two days, but you’ll stick with me on Wednesday;  we’re going around to other agencies.” They pass Izuku a list of agencies, with leading heroes, addresses, and field member numbers. “Get that good and memorized, and then tomorrow I’ll have map routes for you. I know you probably won’t need these for a good while after this week, but do your best for now, yeah?”

They all pat his back and scatter to their desks, and Izuku sets upon the papers with fervor. He had actually memorized the map of Hosu after selecting Piston’s agency, but applying the addresses to the physical map requires his phone. He works at it for about an hour, and once he feels ready, joins Hitsuji, who is preparing to go out. 

The man smiles at him, and splits his head at the neck. His quirk, Splice Cloning, let’s him split his body into two parts to whatever degree he wants, and he can either have two bodies or two mouths. Rumor has it that he can make more than two copies, but no one has ever bothered to confirm. 

“Are you ready? We’re running by the place that was robbed earlier.”

Izuku nods, patting at his green uniform. It’s far brighter than he’s really comfortable with, but he has never made noises about being an underground hero, so when it came out at the beginning of the year, before which he had elected to let the support department handle his costume’s actual design, he had simply held his peace and moved on.

But seriously, lime green on forest with red? What about him said that?

The days go like this, half the day out helping stop crimes and consoling people who recognize him and appreciate him and don’t scorn his differences. In the afternoons, he helps with phone lines, running info between various agencies and learning how heroes in this city operate.

It’s on the third night, when Izuku is out running with Piston and Redstone, that shit hits the fan. 

Izuku hears a rumbling conspicuous on a clear night sky like tonight, and Piston is dragging the lot of them out of the way as a piece of rubble lands in the middle of the sidewalk. There, blissfully, hadn’t been anyone with them, but the civilians who had been milling about scream in fright.

Pistons swears as they begin to scatter. “Get the crowd under control, Redstone, Deku. I’m going to the source!” Piston takes off south, heading for a building that looks like it’s going to collapse on the town.

Redstone’s hair flickers in agitation, but she nods. “Yessir! Come on Deku.”

As they run and pace people to their destinations, Izuku glances over his shoulder and sees a hulking shape flying dark against the full moon of the night sky. Arcs of fire and light trail after the beast, but presently it’s soaring far above the range of heroes ability to hit it. 

They shuffle the civilians to the northern evac centers, where they run into Manual and other heroes. Izuku grimaces at Iida, whose mask hides and yet doesn’t hide at all the stony tension emitting from the armor’s shoulder, as he helps people into the secure areas. The other teen seems miles away, even when Izuku comes quietly up to work at his side. They guide crying children and the elderly into the bunkers, silent and stoic the whole time. Izuku itches to say something, to check on the other teen. 

But now isn’t the time for words. 

“Deku! Can you go check the department block? I think I’m picking up something-“ “Redstone, move!”

Manual takes the hit of the Noumu that had launched itself at their party, wingless with four gargantuan meaty arms. Redstone immediately flicks red lightning over the hero’s shoulder, and the two engage the monster. “Deku, go! Take that kid with you!”

Iida turns without thought, and Pluto’s experiences and instincts whisper over Izuku’s own latent processing: Iida isn’t going to follow orders. Izuku follows him as best he can, and thanks his stars that he has experience tracking fleeing targets, because even when Izuku loses him around a corner he can still find him again. They pass the department store with barely a glance, although Izuku sees Kaminari helping civilians out of the partially-collapsed department store entryway. 

Izuku pauses. “Kaminari! The shelters in that direction are being sieged by a noumu. Take them to East Sector-14’s evacs!”

He hears a scream around the corner Iida just turned, and charges after, heedless of Kaminari shouting after him.

He swerves into an alley, tonfa held defensively, just in time to catch the sword arc down on Iida’s unmasked head. 

He throws enough strength into the block to throw his assailant back. Then, and only then, does he have a chance to take stock of his environment. 

He’s turned into a narrow alleyway by happenstance, the same sort of narrow alleyway that provides vertical surfaces and limited view of the streets; these sorts of places are favored by villains and vigilantes alike.

There are two figures besides Izuku and Iida in the alleyway. The most concerning one is the man with the bleeding swords and the terrifyingly mad grin. The second is slumped further into the alleyway, not moving in the slightest. He sees blood and a fallen feather at his feet.

Izuku hopes that the second person isn’t dead. 

Iida is similarly frozen on the ground, but unlike the far still man, Izuku can see his eyes twitching and his mouth moving.

Izuku can’t move too close without provoking the madman into a strike, but he figures speaking might work anyways. “Iida-kun, are you alright?”

“Midoriya, you shouldn’t- I had-“

“Answer the question, Iida. What’s wrong?”

“Can’t- move.”

Izuku nods; there’s hope for the hero in the back, Native, if Izuku is recalling his information correctly. “Native, sir!”

“Same kid, don’t worry about me. Get you and your friend out of here!”

For whatever reason, the Hero Killer – because who else could stand so proudly amidst a crowd of bleeding and uniformed, paranoid heroes – has yet to move, and is watching Izuku with a curious glint that he finds himself disliking more and more. Izuku’s keeping one hand behind his back, typing out distress signals to whomever he can reach against all this chaos. He doesn’t want his classmates coming; no, the USJ had already been just about all they could take. Against the focused and trained violence of the Hero Killer, they don’t stand a chance.

Just as their class president has proven now, limp and two seconds from a fast death.

“Negative sir, but if you could give me defensive authorization should this come to a head I’d much appreciate it.” He tosses a smoke bomb in a feint, grabs Iida, and dodges back and out of the way of the sword the swings for his hair. 

He gets the hero’s permission.

Izuku tows Iida’s dead weight into the rickety fire escape, then perches on the creaky metal hand railing. He’s a little exasperated at just how useful talking is becoming as a hero skill, what with the mugging at the beginning of the school year and the whole incident with Shigaraki, but, if needs must.  “Well, Mr. Hero Killer, you have me at a stalemate. I can’t get one of them out of here without risking you killing the other one and vanishing, I can’t get both out of here and guard our backs, and you won’t leave until you’ve finished what you’ve come here to do. So, what now?”

The Hero Killer tilts his head to the side. “Stain.”

“Beg pardon?”

With a mocking copy of Izuku’s blasé taunting voice, the Hero Killer says, “Well, Hero Killer is such a mouthful, boy, so you’ll just have to make do with Stain. And none of you will be leaving here alive if I have any say about it, so it’s in your best interest to get one of them out, isn’t it?”

“Not what heroes do, Stain.” Izuku murmurs, still balancing in a way that will let him throw his weight down if the need or opportunity arises. “Heroes don’t leave people behind.”

“And yet that’s exactly what your friend here did, isn’t it? Didn’t even try to get this wannabe hero out to safety before attacking me. Heroes like that aren’t heroes at all, boy, and the less there are of their species ,” he says it like a man treating dirt with far more respect than he feels it deserves, “the more the real heroes will have the opportunity to shine.”

Izuku pretends to think on this, but internally he’s panicking and racing to figure out why the others are paralyzed and how Stain’s quirk might work. Something to do with the blades…? “And how many of these acceptable heroes are there, Stain? Even if I agreed with your ideals, would those that qualify be enough to keep society safe?” Where the fuck are his reinforcements?

“It doesn’t matter. The fakes must all be purged first.” A gout of flame ends the conversation, and for one heart stopping second, Izuku thinks Endeavor, the shitheaded number two hero, has come to his rescue.

 But then a surge of ice follows that, and Izuku knows someone far more precious has answered his call. 

“Midoriya! …Iida? Are you alright?”

He just hopes Kaminari, who was nearby and knew something was wrong, didn’t show up too.

Izuku doesn’t have time to respond, though, because the glint of a knife flying towards Shouto demands actions, not words. He snaps out and knocks the thing out it’s path, and engages Stain in close range. Todoroki, thankfully, catches on quick, and supports him from the rear.

“What are you two doing?! Stop! This is my fight!”

Izuku pulls up the mouth guard he had modeled after his Pluto suit when Stain breathes a little too much on him. “It stopped being your fight the moment you became unable to defend yourself!” Izuku snaps.

Stain takes a few paces back, nowhere near enough for Native to be in danger, but enough that Izuku can’t risk following him without opening himself up. “You... Midoriya Izuku… Who are you?”

“Just a guy trying to save his friends and maybe the world. What’s it to you?” If Stain’s gaze was unnerving before, it’s downright disturbing now. The man doesn’t even look mad. He’s grinning wildly, and that grin looks uncomfortably familiar… 

Izuku is reminded of the salaryman, the one saved after the second day of school. He’d said something similar to the man back then, too. 

Oh, fuck

And just as the realization strikes Izuku, Stains eyes also widen in recognition. It looks like he’s been found out. 

But the man doesn’t say anything. Instead, he charges again, trying to dodge around Izuku in a desperate rush, knives flashing in a dangerous dance. Izuku launches a kick to try and pursue him, and ends up redirecting a sword into the wall. Stain simply abandons it, and tries to go after Todoroki, who thankfully responds with a wall of ice a foot thick.

But it serves to isolate their strongest combatant from the fighting, even if only for the moment it takes for the ice to melt under Todoroki’s fire. 

Iida is start to shift, growling and crying, but Izuku knows it won’t be for another minute that the teen will be able to move. 

Stain wields his blades to the side, in as open and friendly a gesture as he can make it. “Well, looks like things here have failed.” He darts onto the fire escape just overhead. “Catch me if you can, hero .” And then he’s gone over the lip of the roof. 

Iida is struggling to his feet next to him, still obviously weak. “Midoriya, please…”

Should Izuku let him flee? Can he go after him, leave everyone behind just to pursue a criminal? Can Izuku afford to let him go?

Todoroki is beside him in the next instant, before he can make up his mind. There’s a shove at his shoulder. “Go, Midoriya.”

Izuku wishes he could do more, but he’ll settle for doing just as much as he can. 

It’s an easy bound and pull that sees him onto the rooftop, where Stain is waiting for him. They begin running, a chase across the nearby buildings, never on the same flooring for long, but never leaving Izuku too far behind, either. Some signal must hist Stain, because they stop on a building overlooking a busy street. 

Cautiously, with his tonfa still borne in a guard, Izuku steps closer to the solitary figure, eyes never moving. 

Heroes .” The Hero Killer snarls; his eyes are fixed on the road below them. “They all masquerade and volley for attention, and in times like this they respond, but what do they do on nights where men are mugged and women are attacked? They all leap to end the large conflicts without ever thinking of the people in places where the property taxes don’t pay the hero fees.”

Izuku thinks of Piston, of the hero casually stopping a burglar, of him tracking every incident large and small, of her focusing first on Izuku’s ability to work alongside the heroes in his vicinity and then on his ability to mitigate, contain, and deescalate situations before ever engaging in combat with a person. 

Izuku, wary of startling the man into fighting once more at the edge of a roof – don’t think about it don’t think about it – murmurs softly. “They’re still saving people, Stain. That can never be a wrong thing for a hero to do, even if they’re unheroic behind the scenes.”

“Feh. Endeavor’s at the top of my list, but he’s tricky to get to. Think you’re up to the task, Pluto ?” 

Izuku’s answer comes in his weapons, and they fight once more. But, when they’ve exchanged two rounds of heavy, nigh bone-shattering blows, Stain smiles. 

And one of Izuku’s tonfa connects with his skull.

As it just so happens, the connection comes when Todoroki leads a group of heroes onto their rooftop, close enough to see but far away enough to be unable to do more than watch the Hero Killer fall.

Around them, the city screams. 

A small, shriveled old man launches himself across the rooftops towards Izuku and Stain’s crumpled body. “Hey kid!” He scans Izuku for injuries, but aside from some bruising on his arms from the force of the weapons, he has come out remarkably, unbelievably unscathed; probably, Stain hadn’t been taking him seriously. “You’re one of T- All Might’s students right?”

“Yessir, Mr…” Todoroki is at his side next, and the teen plows into Izuku’s side and crushes him with an arm; Izuku might even go so far as to call it a hug. Todoroki’s face is hidden inside Izuku’s throat, though Izuku is a lot shorter than him, and there are fine tremors wracking his body. He doesn’t make a single sound though.

The words, when they come, are whispered into Izuku’s ear. “I was so scared I’d be too late, Midoriya.” He draws back just enough, unconscious or uncaring of the intimacy of eye contact at such close range. Instead, those two-toned eyes bounce between Izuku’s own. “I thought I’d be too late… Why do you constantly find yourself in danger?”

Izuku grimaces. “I don’t try to look for it.” A lie, Pluto absolutely goes hunting for danger, even if it’s just to save people. “But I can’t just… refuse a cry for help.”

Todoroki smiles, but it’s tight and strained, and nothing about it looks happy. “No, I don’t suppose you can, can you?”

A clearing throat has them both peering back over at the old man and stepping a bit apart self-consciously. “I'm Gran Torino. You just took down the Hero Killer, brat.”

Izuku glances once more at the crumpled body. “Uhhh…”

The old man grimaces behind his domino mask. “Lemme guess, don’t have your provisional license?”

“No, but I did get Native’s explicit verbal permission before engaging in combat. I promise, I did everything as by the book-“

“WHO ARE YOU!” Gran Torino yells into his face.

Izuku’s stutters come to a halt. “I’m… sorry?”

“Nevermind, brat. We’ve got to shuffle you kids’ sorry butts to the hospital. Before anything else can happen.” 

Izuku scans himself once more. “But, but I’m not hurt, sir, I can still help evacuate.”

The frown on Gran Torino’s face says he believes otherwise; Todoroki is giving him a disbelieving look from the side. “And do what, exactly? Things are being cleaned up, and you don’t even have your provisional. It’s well past bedtime for little twerps like you.”

Now that he mentions it, the sounds of distress around the city are changing. Izuku listens, and hears that the number of sirens and alarms now outnumber the screams, of which there are few. 

Something else comes to him, over the noise. The beat of wings, sounding from well above the rest of them. Izuku spins just in time to see big meaty claws coming for his shoulders, and it’s not enough time to get his weapons in place or even move

The ground is rushing away at alarming speed, the heroes gaping up at him. Some try to jump for him, and Todoroki sends a glacier after him, but there isn’t much anyone can do after even just five seconds of flight. 

“Midoriya!”

Drawn back to his sense, Izuku rams his tonfa into one of the clawed feet conveying him into the air. At the same moment, he hears the wings freeze in the air, and as he drops, so too does the noumu. 

Arms carefully wrap around his middle, but his savior is someone Izuku would never have asked for help. 

Stain roars as he rolls them to a safe landing. Izuku is immediately fighting out of his grasp and regrouping with the hero group; they seem frozen in terror, but Izuku can only feel malice pouring from the Hero Killer. Maybe he’s exempt, as a vigilante? “Come, you fakes who bear the names of heroes! I won’t be defeated by the likes of you! Only All Might and Pluto can bring me down!” 

But in spite of that declaration, the villain moves no more. 

The heroes murmur in relief, and gather the villain into bonds, this time stripping him of all weaponry. Iida has finally stumbled up to the rooftop, leaning heavily on Native, just in time to grimace and bow apologetically to Izuku and Todoroki. 

They are collected quietly from the scene, amiable and exhausted, and entirely too uninterested in speaking. The heroes and first responders around them seem to understand, and so they’re shuffled to the hospital with nary a question beyond the basic medical ones. All three of them are assigned to the same room, with the excuse of the hospital being overbooked at present covering up their desire to keep the teens together. 

It’s quiet for a long time in the hospital room, aside from nurses coming and going for examinations. Iida looks like he has something to say several times, but his mouth shuts before he can utter anything. 

The silence ends when the chief of police himself comes to speak with them. 

“While you pups have done a commendable service, and Pro Hero Native has spoken both of your professionalism and in your defense, we can’t allow you to go public with the information regarding your fight with Stain.”

Todoroki, sitting beside Izuku on the latter's hospital cot, stands abruptly. “What.”

The dog-headed man holds up his hands. “I apologize. But it is too risky for such promising recruits to go public with such information, legal permissions notwithstanding. Your careers would be over before they began.” He barks. “I would hate to ruin your futures just because of an unfortunate present.”

Izuku just sighs; he’d figured that there would be legal ramifications for this, he’s done the research. But Iida and Todoroki seem stunned at the implicit gag order. “We’re just supposed to, what, pretend that the Hero Killer was never apprehended?”

The dog stares down Iida while Todoroki fumes. “No, but we will need to pass this victory off as one belonging to actual pro heroes. The burn marks at the scene will make Endeavor’s involvement all the more believable, after all. We thank you for your service. ” 

Izuku flinches, and watches as Todoroki slowly collapses onto his cot. The chief of police departs, apologetic but nevertheless firm in his decision. The lines and letters of the law are wonderfully, terribly black and white in this regard.

Next comes news of the damage to Iida’s hand, which he promises to keep as a reminder that he still has a long way to go as a hero.

“I must have some sort of Hand Crusher curse.” Todoroki mutters, staring at his hands. 

Iida and Izuku share an uncertain glance. “Uhhh, Todoroki?”

Todoroki looks away from his hands to stare at Izuku in that straightforward way of his. “You hurt your hand at the sports festival too, Midoriya.” 

Izuku looks at the scar that runs along the back of his right hand, from when a piece of ice has slid across it in a bad block. “Ah, that’s more my fault than yours.” Todoroki merely hums and goes back to staring at his hand. 

Iida starts snorting in laughter, uncontrolled in a way Izuku has yet to see him. “I didn’t - snerk - know you told jokes, Todoroki-kun!” 

Todoroki is utterly deadpan. “I’m being serious.” But they all crack smiles, and perhaps it's the darkness of a night they never thought they'd survive to see, but the smiles turn to laughter, and the laughter becomes uncontrollable. 

To survive is a miracle, Izuku thinks as tears stream down his face. 

Eventually, they sober, and Iida turns to them. “I didn’t get to say this earlier, Midoriya, and Todoroki too, but thank you.” He removes his glasses and frowns. “I let my rage and need for vengeance cloud my ability to see what the correct thing to do was. And it took the both of you coming after me, saving me, and getting hurt in the process, for me to see the err of my ways.”

Iida bows low, from the waist, almost to the point of  touching his sheets with his forehead. “I will make sure I don’t forget this lesson, any time soon.”

Sometimes saving people means being silent, too, especially when your words will hurt them more. Izuku learns this on a night spent in the hospital after fighting his most dangerous criminal yet.  

Amongst the endless parade of adults, the last visitors they get for the night are their mentors. Manual and one of Endeavor’s sidekicks are quick, but the entirety of Piston’s office comes to offer their well wishes. Redstone has a bandage taped over her temple and her arm in a sling, and Hitsuji has some bandages as well. Piston is the worst of the three, with both arms incapacitated and sunglasses over their eyes, but he is up and walking. 

Everyone pats him on the back, commends his and his friends’ actions, and expresses their sorrow that the internship week is being cut short, given the mess that is currently Hosu City; none of the pros are being permitted to keep their interns with the amount of time and effort the clean up now needed. But eventually, some unspoken order has been given, because the other four people leave Piston and Izuku alone. Redstone even flicks the lights off when she leaves. 

“Do you know why I picked the name Piston, Deku?” The hero asks him quietly, after the lights in their hospital room have been turned off. The other two occupants politely pretend to not be listening in on their conversation.

Izuku, who is still too shell-shocked at tonight’s turn of events and the lucky break after lucky break they’ve been gifted with, only shakes his head.

“Because Radar was a dumb name.” She chuckles. “No, but really, it’s because it sounds like two things at once. The piston that pushes justice forwards. But, in Japanese phonetics, it also sounds like ‘Peaceton.’

“What the three of you did tonight, especially you, Deku, what you did was against the law. It was reckless, it was suicidal, and I agree with every higher up that says you should not be praised, even if your priority was just to alert the authorities of the Hero Killer’s next victim and get him caught. But, ultimately, your goal was to bring peace to Hosu. And for that, I can’t fault you. Just, try not to run off again?” Piston stands with a heavy sigh, and clasps both of Izuku’s shoulders with his strong, three-fingered hands. “We’re going to be coordinating with heroes for the rest of the week, but afterwards, you should come and see us on your next few days off. Get some rest, and we’ll cover the correct procedures for hostage evacuation and security from hostile individuals once you come and visit us. Which means, you have to come and visit us .” The hero finally departs, leaving Izuku to his thoughts and the breathing of his friends.

Izuku hadn't told him that he didn’t go looking for Stain. That it was because he’d heard a cry for help and Iida’s trail that he’d stumbled upon the man at all. Piston wanted peace for Hosu, yes, but mostly he just wanted safety. And  Izuku appreciates that sentiment. Really, he does.

But if before he thought he could be a hero, now he knows that he can’t. This is the final nail in the coffin of a childhood dream already gone up in smoke.

Because any professional hero would have waited, is what the adults all sound like they’re saying. Any professional hero would have engaged Stain in literally any other way. And that would have meant leaving Native and anyone else to the tender mercies of the Hero Killer, who hadn’t a merciful bone in his body. 

Izuku has seen what waiting can cost the world.

He won’t hesitate, never again.

Please, please, you have to help- !”

He hasn’t thought about that train station in a long time. It figures that a night like tonight has brought it roaring back. 

Izuku Midoriya can’t be a hero. Because to be a hero would mean committing to waiting to act. 

If only Kacchan could hear him now. He’d scream from the rooftops, and then only after he’d screamed himself hoarse would he go for Izuku’s throat. 

It’s with the company of that familiar thought that Izuku curls into the sad, thin hospital blankets and tries to get at least a little sleep. Assaulted by dreams of blood and being entirely too late, peace doesn’t come easy.

Chapter Text

Kirishima tosses him a worried look, when he comes in the day after internships, but Denki doesn’t have the energy to do more than shrug helplessly at him and go to hide on his desk. He feels more than sees the others gather round him in concern, but aside from mumbling incoherently he doesn’t really acknowledge them.

“Hey man, what’s up?”

“Yeah, did you get wrapped in the same stuff that Midoriya, Iida, and Todoroki got into.”

Denki can’t stop himself from flinching at those particular three names. His peers take that as an affirmative. 

“Oh shit, man. You guys are all alright, aren’t you? We got Midoriya’s distress signal, but we never heard anything about you getting involved in it too.”

Denki does not want to have this discussion. He raises one eye from the shield of his arms and glares. “Not now, guys.”

Sero’s hands go up defensively, but his face is far more contrite than anything else. They step away like the good wannabe heroes they are, and wow, Denki’s feeling really vindictive, maybe he should’ve stayed home today?

It’s not even like they’re wrong; the whole Todoroki-Iida-Midoriya thing is absolutely what has got him under the weather. Stain’s gone, and now he’s a free agent with little purpose, languishing and hiding in hero school.

Stain’s gone. 

And Denki can’t even be mad, because at the end of the day, it was Pluto that did it. And it was Stain that let him.

Denki’s eyes trail up as the three teens in discussion, plus Uraraka, enter the classroom and are immediately swamped by the early-birds. Midoriya looks like he hasn’t slept in weeks, and is hiding behind the bulkier forms and cheerful energy that his companions are giving off. He manages to hide pretty well, but Denki wants to see the man who’s caused him so much… conflict.

He jeers at Iida to get others to look at him, but he never takes his eyes away from where Midoriya is standing behind Todoroki’s shoulder. “So, you guys ran into Stain, huh? What did you think?” He thinks they might be under a gag order, so for Midoriya’s sake he’ll hold his peace, but he needs this, needs to turn his words into barbs, if only for a moment. Midoriya flinches, but his gaze is steady as meets Denki’s gaze, and Denki is the first to look away. 

“I beg your pardon?”

“I mean, I know he’s a villain, but he had that conviction, you know?”

Kirishima nudges him, hard even without his quirk. “Dude!” He gestures at Iida’s face, even though Denki is well aware of what this sounds like the teen whose brother had been cut down by Stain. Midoriya has turned away to place a hand on Iida’s trembling shoulder.

“No, Kaminari-kun is right. He had an admirable conviction, and maybe once upon a time he had noble ideals too, but the way in which he went about trying to achieve them was wrong, and the means is just as important as the end in the pursuit of Justice.” If possible, Iida’s already mighty head seems to raise higher. “Seeing Stain has shown me the err of my own ways, and I will strive to ensure that I don’t become as he did.”

And fuck, now Denki can’t even legitimately hate him. Square asshole though he is, it’s clear that Iida’s grown, and he may yet become a decent hero. Denki still doesn’t have to like him though. 

The class riots when Bakugo comes in sporting the dumbest haircut known to man. 

It’s the ruckus that finally gives Midoriya the opportunity to slip out of the limelight, but instead of retiring to his desk, the teen walks directly towards Denki. Denki twitches. He’s really not sure how to feel about Midoriya now. Denki knows, unlike the rest of the class exactly what went down in that alleyway, knows that it’s because of Midoriya that Stain is now spending life behind bars. Sure, Iida and Todoroki helped, but it was Midoriya’s hero-ness, his distress signal, and his unwillingness to fail to save people that ultimately led to the Hero Killer’s end.

On the other hand, Denki knows Stain. He saw the wide eyes, the mouthed realization. He was close enough to her his mentor utter, “and you, Pluto,” which the rest of the heroes seemed to thankfully miss. Stain held back, because he didn’t want to kill a hero, because that hero was Pluto . And if Denki respected Midoriya before, then Stain’s capture aside, Denki feels like he should be worshipping him now. Pluto, the quirkless vigilante, responsible for putting any number of criminals behind bars, that he and Stain had thought to be one of them.

The very same Pluto that was hovering before him nervously now. 

“Kaminari-kun, can I speak with you?”

“You are, I mean, uh, yeah?”

If Midoriya finds his behavior odd, he doesn’t say anything. “I, uhm, wanted to apologize for the other night.” He’s got a little scar, Denki notices, just on the bridge of his nose, slanting horizontally and very faint indeed. “The one with all the villains?”

Denki nods. “I can’t see what you’ve got to apologize for, man.”

“That’s just it.” He’s fidgeting, and his hands are still wrapped in a thin layer of gauze that’s he’s picking at relentlessly. Denki bats his hands to get him to stop, lest he need to leave. Denki doesn’t want him to leave, right now. “It’s because, well, I shouldn’t have left you alone at that store. I should’ve helped you with the evacuations. Instead, I ran off.” Midoriya bows low. 

Denki reaches forwards, this time to pat at his shoulders and pull him out of the unnecessary bow. “I had it under control, man, no need to worry.”

“It’s only because you had things under control that I felt I could leave you behind, Kaminari-kun, but I shouldn’t have, and nothing will change that fact.”

Denki sighs. “Look, we both heard the scream, and you’re a lot more mobile than I am. We both know what would have happened if you hadn’t gone right at that moment.” They both glance surreptitiously at Iida, who very likely wouldn’t be here if Midoriya hadn’t left. “Let bygones be bygones, and let’s just move on. I hear exams are coming up soon, after all.”

Midoriya doesn’t look very happy about the change of subject, but Denki is kind of done discussing his mentor’s capture. “I guess, then, thank you, both for not being mad and for being a good hero.” The green-haired teen grins brightly and keeps his voice low; Denki is enraptured, and yup, new hero to worship. “And hey, I guess you could say it’s thanks to you that the Hero Killer was captured! You’re awesome, Kaminari-kun!” 

With that delightful parting quip, although Midoriya couldn’t know that it really feels like a shot to the chest, the teen goes to his seat, just as Aizawa comes in and drags the purple-haired Gen kid in behind him.

And okay, fucked up as it might sound, Denki’s just a little bit in love now. Competent, powerful, resourceful Midoriya thought he was cool? He was just a nobody who trailed after Stain’s shadow, who couldn’t even commit to his mentor’s ideals. But Midoriya thought he was awesome , see, not a nobody. Not worthless, or boring, or indifferent.

Watching Bakugo trip Midoriya and sneer serves only to piss Denki off, and he promises a small vengeance for the explosive teen when he gets the chance.

 

The chance comes, as it turns out, to be during their practical exams. Class B’s Kendo had sworn by the rumors that it would be robots, according to the upperclassmen, but evidently UA was choosing to be even more Plus Ultra than normal, because now they were supposed to fight the teachers.

In pairs.

And guess who Denki had been and hadn’t been partnered with?

Mina had gotten Midoriya, the lucky girl; Denki knew they’d pass, even against the overwhelming power of All Might himself. 

But he’d gotten stuck with Bakugo, and he was seriously debating the merits of sabotaging the exam just to bring down the dude’s attitude, in addition to keeping hidden; wouldn’t be the first time he’s failed an exam at UA, but it would sure hurt his chances of remaining if he didn’t at least try. Worse, though, was that they’d been pitted against the one teacher they hadn’t a single hope of beating. 

Nedzu was going to force them to work together and think things through, and Denki didn’t know if either of them were capable of that. Denki didn’t know if he even wanted to be capable of cooperating with Bakugo.

He supposed it could be worse, if only slightly; he could’ve been forced to work with the expelled Mineta, after all.

The ride to their arena is spent stewing in silence. Denki sits as far from Bakugo in the back row as he can, while Nedzu mutters behind the bot driver at the front of the bus. Denki catches his eye in the huge rearview mirror that buses come equipped with, and every time there is a wicked glimmer that has Denki sweating, like the little mammal can see right through all of his facades and into the truth lurking in his heart. The only thing that reassures him otherwise is the fact that he isn’t already languishing in prison with his mentor. 

Bakugo doesn’t try to talk strategy, even after they’ve arrived in the trial area. Instead, he immediately makes off like he’s going to charge the principal. The mammal must have predicted this, however, because he begins maneuvering heavy machinery to alter the landscape around them right from the start, to such a degree that Denki can’t actually overpower them in order to stop Nedzu’s machinations. 

Well, he can’t really afford to lose, and winning’s gonna be a chore, so he’ll let Bakugo make the call. 

He can see Bakugo get turned around, and thus watches the ire and steam slowly build up in that thick head of his. It’s only when he’s boiling that Denki decides to speak. “We can try to think this out, or we can fail, man. Either works for me.” He shrugs casually, hands stuffed in his pockets. 

“Fuck you, Pikachu. I don’t need some short-circuited idiot’s lamebrain help to deal with one measly rat.”

“…That rat can outthink everyone, has the high point, and is almost certainly expecting you to charge him recklessly.”

“And? I’m still stronger.” He says it so confidently it sounds like the boy believes it to be pure fact. 

Okay, fuck that noise. “Do you really know that, Bakugo? What other tricks do these teachers have up their sleeves?” Denki huffs, not dramatically but knowing all the same. “Do you even remember my name? I know you still didn’t know everyone in your class at the Sports Festival, and I doubt you’ve paid any more attention to the teachers. Tell me, Bakugo, what do you actually know?”

He can see Bakugo flinch, and it’s satisfactory until the explosive palms are grasping his shirt. “What the fuck does that mean, Kaminari ?”

Ooh, this is why he’d gone to look for Stain in the first place; Denki likes playing with sparks and fire a little bit too much for his own good. He sends a healthy shock down the hand thrust under his chin, both to get the teen to step off and in retribution for Bakugo’s chronic nastiness to Midoriya. “It means that you don’t know you’re stronger than Nedzu, you just think you are.” The bared teeth and snarling maw growl at him, but Bakugo’s eyes are far sharper than Denki is really comfortable with. “It means, Bakugo, that you’re all hot air, and that just because you believe something hard enough doesn’t make it true. It means, that there are different types of strength, idiot , and that if we don’t start putting our heads together, Nedzu’s gonna prove himself to be stronger than us, using only his head .”

Bakugo’s snarl deepens, but he has a calculating look now, on top of the sharp eyes and abrasive attitude. “Then by all means, use that empty head of yours, bastard.”

Denki hums, but decides against antagonizing him further. He looks around to the cranes still gleefully swinging concrete around. “If we can remove his mobility, by either blowing up the cranes or melting their wiring, we might be able to drive him into a corner. We have twenty-six minutes and four seconds left, think we can get all of them before the twenty minute mark? Then he’ll have to move onto his next contingency.”

Those red eyes watch him unnervingly for three precious seconds before Bakugo snorts, and preps enough sweat to send himself flying. “Didn’t think someone who fried his brain as often as you do could come up with anything decent, never mind use words like contingency.”

“What the fuck ever, asshole, get a move on.” Using his magnetism, he scales the metal piping, and takes off after the left wing of cranes. 

Chunks of concrete come smashing onto the earth behind and around him, and he can hear the same being launched after Bakugo in the air. He wonders for a minute about the liability this must have, but maybe being the principle and also a victim of human experimentation means that Nedzu can get away with murdering a few students?

Whatever the case, Denki is being pushed to his limits just to dodge rubble and reach-climb-destroy cranes; he can’t even be bothered to keep track of his temporary partner. He and Bakugo circle around the principle, and as they wear down the last few, robots emerge from Nedzu’s control tower. The clock reads twenty-one minutes, thirteen seconds. 

Bakugo immediately sets upon the bots, but if these are anything like the previous exams and trials they’ve been through, Nedzu’s going to have more of them than what they can take out in the time limit. Denki casts around for anything, and watches as a steady flow of bots feed themselves out of alternating doors on the control tower. 

“Bakugo, can you meet me at the tower?”

“After I deal with these fuckers!” 

Denki takes a page out of Stain’s book, and employs the gymnastic martial arts the man had favored to weave through the bots. He takes out those he can, but his goal right now is the doorway slotted to open for three seconds. He’s up the wall and waiting for the next bot to stumble out, a ball of lightning cupped in his hands. 

Bakugo alights just as he ready to charge in. Denki gestures at the explosive palms and shakes his head. He discharges on the bots about to deploy out of the opening, and sets about working his way into the building, Bakugo close on his heels.

In a way, UA’s proclivity for robots works in Denki’s favor; he doesn’t have to hold back against them like he does when fighting living people. 

It probably works in Bakugo’s favor, too, come to think of it; Denki wonders whether he ever has to hold himself back when fighting an opponent. Then Denki snorts, because he doubts Bakugo has ever held himself back a day in his life. 

They quickly head up to the control room Bakugo had sighted Nedzu working out of, and when he crouches to let Bakugo blast the door open, he has a charge ready to send into the ground of the room. 

He stops cold when the door reveals Nedzu wielding a bazooka at them. “Welcome to my lair, little heroes.” He cackles in the way that Denki has seen cartoon villains cackle, loud and high and fast.

Neither Bakugo nor Denki wastes time with pleasantries; even with the weapon trained on them, they step into the room and separate. Denki makes sure he hides in the shadows as much as he can.

What would Midoriya do ? Denki thinks to himself, eyeing the principal. He’d probably try and get Nedzu’s attention, and let Bakugo get the capture while he offers himself as a distraction.

“It appears as though I have miscalculated.” Nedzu’s voice breaks through the plotting; the little mammal is staring right at Denki. “You’re using your head, child.”

Denki nods hesitantly. He watches Bakugo tense, handcuffs in hand. 

“What are you thinking, I wonder…?”

“’What would Midoriya do,’ mostly.” He sees Bakugo’s snarl hike three notches further up his cheek, but Denki is so far past caring what he wants. 

Nedzu grins at that, sharp and dangerous. “Ah, so it’s Midoriya you admire, is it? Not a bad peer to watch, if I must say so myself.” Without turning to look, he levels the weapon at Bakugo. “Now, now, Mr. Bakugo, we can’t have this little game ending before I say so. So then, Mr. Kaminari, what would Midoriya do in a hostage situation?”

Denki knows, like rivers flow to the ocean and birds fly south, that Midoriya manipulate the fuck out of his enemies, come out victorious if not unscathed, and bring everybody with them. The how, well… “Midoriya’s a lot smarter than I am, Nedzu-san. He’s stronger and smarter and better than me at everything.” Denki thanks his past thought; baggy clothing makes the minute tensing of his body harder to see, especially in the shadows like this. “Which means that I couldn’t hope to do things his way.”

Things all kick off at once. Denki lunges for Nedzu, who hesitates to shoot. At the same moment, Bakugo launches forwards. Denki gets Nedzu’s knees as the barrel of the gun goes up and shaves the hair off one side of Bakugo’s head, while Bakugo gets one cuff around Nedzu’s pinwheeling wrist.

A buzzer goes off above them. 

“Kaminari-Bakugo pair: Pass !”

Denki stares up wide-eyed; Bakugo is leaning over both him and Nedzu, hazy-eyed. Blood drips onto Denki’s face from Bakugo’s gun-grazing. 

They won. He won

It stopped.

But that doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t stop people dying on the street from preventable issues, and in a live situation, people would have died here.

Reality rushes right back in on him, and the glow of victory fades. He quietly follows Bakugo and Nedzu out of the testing chamber, and in haze listens to the aftermath of the exams. Kirishima’s too distracted by failing to watch him with concerned eyes, but the absence is made up by Bakugo’s black glare from across the room. 

It follows him until he leaves school that day, the haze and Bakugo’s eyes.

Denki feels like something is trying to send him a message. The world has knocked him down, only now it’s kept right on kicking instead letting up or backing off. The whole shitshow with Shigaraki is just the icing on the cake of how miserable life has become since he started at UA, and he can’t even peg that on the growing up theme that most movies and shows about high school like to espouse. It’s really just been that rough. 

He’s getting restless, and after everything Denki feels a clawing need to just… get out of his skin for a little while. So he scrounges around in his closet and throws together a disguise, hides his hair and his eyes and his face behind a scarf he got to resemble his mentor, and slips out of his room’s window. 

It takes a lot of wandering the streets, and honestly Denki isn’t even aiming for it, but he manages to stumble upon Pluto in one of the scrappier, poorer parts of town.  

Denki has to control his speaking patterns, or he’s gonna get found out immediately. “No, hey, I’m just like you!”

He can’t see anything of Midoriya’s face behind Pluto’s biker mask, but he can easily picture the skepticism. “Is that so.” Even his voice sounds distorted.

“Yes. I’ve seen just how… fixed society has become about heroes and quirks and everything, and I want to stop it before things can get any worse.”

That at least has Pluto’s posture shifting more towards him. “Yeah?”

Denki nods as vigorously as he can without dislodging his mentor’s scarf and his impromptu visor. “But I need help, Pluto, I can’t go it alone.”

Pluto is quiet for a long minute. “Are you recruiting me for the League of Villains?”

Denki knows that that’s the group responsible for both USJ and the night in Hosu; he can’t imagine Midoriya looking on them favorably. “Absolutely not! I’m on my own. Or, I am now.” He plays into the pain of losing his mentor, lets it color his voice, and is rewarded with Pluto’s hesitant approach. 

“You’re kind of young to be out here aren’t you? You had a mentor before?”

As if you’re one to talk , Denki thinks sardonically. “Yes, but he went down a while ago, and I just… Don’t know what to do next or where to go.”

Denki hears Midoriya mutter, “What kind of asshole brings a kid into this?” before sighing. Easy for you to say, we’re the same age , Denki can’t help but think. “I don’t really know what to tell you…?”

“ACDC.” It had been his backup if Chargebolt had been deemed too generic. 

“Well, then, ACDC, first rule of the streets: the less people know about you the better, but if they do know about you, know about them.” Midoriya guides him quickly through the streets, toward the district chock full of bars and seedy places where people can purchase pleasure on the hour. 

Denki eyes the few women and men he can see loitering outside cautiously; Midoriya doesn’t look one iota discomforted compared to him right now. “What are we doing here?”

“I’m introducing you to your new best friend. Hey, Gossip Hound !”

A pudgy, staggering man, one who had stumbled out of the busy side entrance into the alley, perks up at the call of his pseud. Literally perks up, his little doggy ears go straight into the air. “Pluto! My man! How you doin’?”

Midoriya’s strong hand grabs him by his upper arm and hauls Denki to the front. “I have a new guy who might be interested in soliciting your services.”

“Why, Pluto, you scandalous young rascal!” He covers his body protectively, which just looks comedic on him, but Denki isn’t about to burn this bridge before he can build it. He also sees Midoriya’s shoulders drop. 

“Hound, please .”

“Alright, alright, pup. So, who is he? And what is it with you kids and the masks?”

Midoriya nudges him, and his mouth opens to respond. “ACDC. And, uh, you an informant?”

He nods, his ears flapping. “Yup! I’ll talk to anyone who pays, good, bad, or evil. They just need to compensate me. Pluto here usually pays with information and tips that a dog would kill for, so you’ve got some pretty high standards to meet.” The grown man blows the obvious teenager a dramatic kiss, and Denki shivers in disgust. “He always brings me the juiciest bones.”

Midoriya evidently elects to ignore the man for the moment. “You can usually find him around the red lights’ districts.” 

Hound howls in offense. “Hey now! You know a little bit o’ alchy greases wheels like no other!”

Midoriya resolutely continues ignoring him. “Anyways, I can’t really help you with whatever it is you want to; you’re honestly better off trying to get into hero school or getting first responder license. But if you’re here then you’ve probably thought a lot about it anyways. I’m not great at leading or guiding-” Denki knows this is patently untrue, but he can’t call him on it without giving the game away. “but there are plenty of people out here that you can work with. And plenty of people who need your help.”

And then he’s making his way down the alley, his back turned.

“And on that note, since it’s your first night out, I’ll give you this tip free of charge.” Hound bustles close. “There’s a bar in Kamino that’s recruiting right now, looking for people on the wrong side of the law. Might be just the place to look for jobs.” His brown eyes, so warm and friendly, go cold and sharp in the street lights. “You’re not hero potential, after all.”

As thoroughly unsettling as it is to be read so quickly, he smiles at the man. It’s as he’s shaking Hound’s hand that he sees Midoriya disappear down the alleyway. Denki resolutely does not go to the bar for recruitment, but he makes a mental note to stop by when he’s got the power and people to back him up. Just in case they don’t take no for an answer. 

Well, at least it doesn’t look like I’ve been found out , Denki thinks the next morning, as he meets everyone at the Kiyashi Ward mall and proceeds to make small talk with Midoriya. Midoriya makes no indication of his late night, nor does he act out of character for a high school student. 

But Denki looks at the bags shadowing his eyes and knows . He might be the only person here, the only person in the world who does. And he revels in the feeling. 

He does end up separating from everyone, though; he has plenty of camping gear at home, and he doesn’t especially need to buy anything. He figures he’ll just go wait for the others at the food court, and pulls out his phone as he moseys away.

It’s only a couple of minutes of trying to catch a murkrow, his phone held up high, that he sees the hooded figure in a dark shirt that hasn’t left his back in a while now.

He’s being followed.

And he has a pretty good idea who’s doing it.

He loops around, still trying to catch the murkrow, until he’s reached the area outside of the hardware store. He hopes his friends aren’t in the area, but as he’s turning to confront Shigaraki, he sees Midoriya frowning over the man’s shoulders. He’s not close enough to act, especially when Shigaraki loops an arm over his shoulders and holds four fingers to his neck, but. 

It’s far more comforting than Denki would like to admit. 

“Whoopsy, I was wondering if you’d seen me. And that other one too; good scopes huh?”

Denki hasn’t actually met Shigaraki before; Stain had gone to that meeting alone. But he speaks like a man-child, one liable to lose his shit at the drop of a pin. And he’s holding Denki hostage. 

“A certain mutt we both know told me an interesting story last night. Said a young kid with yellow hair came and met him, went by ACDC. I wonder what a UA hero brat was doing in the Sanchome Red Lights’ District? Does your precious school know?”

Denki wasn’t considering answering that, especially not with Midoriya slowly drawing closer, but Shigaraki doesn’t give him time to do anything other than open his mouth. 

“Your hero school has been a thorn in my side for some time now, you know that? Lots of things have been in my way, but your teachers and Stain just take the cake.”

Midoriya is finally close enough, and he looks scared for the first time Denki has ever seen, even if it’s just a subtle shadow at the corner of his big green eyes; he wasn’t even scared when he fought Bossman. “Kinda makes you wonder if attacking a hero school was a bright idea.”

“Careful, Midoriya , I have your friend by the throat. But cool, two of you, gives me more dialogue options.” He cracks the fingers on his other hand. “So, which one of you is going to help me?”

“That depends entirely on whether you’re planning on premeditated murder.”

“Nope!” Shigaraki pops the ‘P;’ coming from someone who sounds as rough as he is, it isn’t a good sound. “Just an opinion. Surely some wannabe brat heroes like you aren’t above somebody who needs some help?”

Against his better judgement, and mindful of the hand on his throat, Denki says, “ S-shoot .”

He giggles, ragged and too high for any man in his right mind. But then, no one has ever accused Shigaraki of such. “Stain’s in prison, but people are still talking about him. We won when we invaded your school, but no one is talking about us anymore.” The hand tightens briefly, and Denki feels his air cut off. It loosens soon enough, but Denki knows he’s going to have bruises for weeks to come. “How’d he do it?”

Stain, Stain, Stain ! Even when the man’s not here any longer he still has a way of entering Denki’s life. He loves the guy and he misses him, but come on! He just wants to move on and forget, and yet apparently the world has other plans. Fine, he’ll give Shigaraki exactly what he wants. “Ideals, man. He had ideals. I don’t know what the fuck it is your guys after, but people aren’t going to support you or be interested in you if keep attacking school kids. Going after real heroes and winning gives you credibility; beating up children just makes you a bully.”

Midoriya flashes his phone at him while Shigaraki is looming close to his face. He sees a call with 119 currently in progress. 

“Is that so?”

Against all logic, Denki wants to nod, but he abstains. “Yeah.”

“So if I just go after the heroes, things will be better?” His grip tightens once more, only this time it takes a breathless eternity for the grip to loosen. Denki’s fuzzy gaze watches Midoriya take an aborted step forwards, before the hand withdraws. Something drops into Denki’s hood as he goes, but he’s too relieved to be breathing to try to investigate. Shigaraki stands quickly, smooth and dangerous, and stuffs his hands in his pockets before stepping away a bit. “Well, what do you know, you had some useful stuff to say after all.” He tosses a careless wave over his shoulder as he strolls purposefully for one of the busier exits. “Guess I’ll be seeing you, wannabes. Maybe you will have gotten some levels and armor buffs by the time we run into each other. Better hurry though.”

Midoriya is at his side the instant it appears that the villain is truly done with them. His hand goes to the small of his back, gentle like he’s petting a hurt animal. 

Not thirty seconds after he’s out of sight, the police swarm the place. By then, the villain is long gone.

Chapter Text

It’s futile to try and nap on the bus, Shouta learns very quickly. It’s like his students have inhaled a whole bucket of sugar, because even Iida’s attempts to get the bus under control are simply turning into more noise and more chaos. The bus driver eyes him pitifully before turning back to the road. 

He supposes it’s a good thing that they remain in such high spirits. Last year’s bunch had been a truly pathetic lot, full of bluster and absolutely devoid of potential. Class A this year has so much potential as a group it’s honestly all Shouta can do to not stand back and marvel, the departed Mineta aside, and Shinsou is filling in that gap with remarkable aplomb. That potential might be the only reason they’ve survived all of their encounters with villains, so if they can be cheerful in spite of everything, Shouta won’t begrudge them a little rambunctiousness.

They’re reaching the marked cliffside. Mandalay projects to him, we’re ready, Eraser, and he nods to the driver. “Bathroom break!”

The students cheer, and with wobbly legs they depart the bus. Shouta hides his smirk in the folds of his capture weapon, but the look Midoriya shoots him says the problem child saw it anyways. 

Ah yes, problem child number one, look around and figure things out, the hero silently bids him. When he sees that the boy, ridiculously talented and one of the most potent of founts from this bunch, has figured out his ruse, he raises a finger to his lips behind his students backs. 

Kaminari turns away quickly when Shouta scans the group once more, and shit, guess the brat had seen too, but as he chooses to stare into the forest, Shouta will keep mum as well. He joins Mandalay and Pixiebob at the cliff’s edge. More and more students are looking at them now, and he’s starting to see panicked realizations and last-minute dashes to the bus. 

“All right, you little monsters, listen up!” There we go, peace and quiet at last. “We have some assistant instructors joining us for the summer camp today.”

He lets them make their own introductions, flamboyant as they are. And then, with the call of a deadline, the students are launched into the air courtesy of Pixiebob.

He watches Midoriya carefully right himself and launch off of the earth, and sees various other kids course correct on their own, then reboards the bus. Mandalay’s nephew immediately heads for the back of the bus, and Mandalay offers him a bewildered shrug.

Pixiebob paws at his shoulder. “Hey Eraser, you’ve been working with these kids for a long time now, what sort of things should we be focusing on? Ragdoll’s got her own ways, but I don’t have the eye for it.” 

Shouta stares blankly ahead. “They’ve got potential. They’ve got rough edges. They have different baselines.” He turns to look at her head on. “You need to form your own opinions as you work with them.”

She pouts at him; it might’ve been more effective if she were actually a cat. “But, like, who are your problem kids?”

At that, Shouta really does sigh. The other heroes giggle. “That isn’t a good sound.” Mandalay adds helpfully.

“There are entirely too many to count, and just because they have potential doesn’t mean they’ve actually done anything with it.”

“Give us rundowns, then. The Iida kid has a speed quirk; I bet his maneuvering and endurance needs sharpening. And Todoroki has only just started using his fire, Rags heard Endeavor talking about it a few weeks ago. What else?”

What else, she asks, like there isn’t a whole slew of issues that require dealing with. Yaoyorozu is still rebuilding her confidence, Satou had fried his brain in his exam, Kaminari had a resentful streak a mile wide, and Midoriya… “Honestly, right now my biggest concern is Midoriya.”

The two blink and share a look. “How so? He was number one at the Sports Festival, right?”

“He has top grades in class, he leads without controlling, he is observant and patient,” Shouta ticks off on his fingers, “All of his peers respect him, he stood by heroes against villains, and helped one of his lowest scoring classmates best All Might… I’m struggling to teach him as it is. What do you think we can do, other than help him with conditioning?”

Mandalay catches his meaning first. “Riiight, because he’s quirkless, isn’t he? We can’t exactly help him apply his quirk in new ways and stretch its limits if he doesn’t even have one.”

Shouta’s been thinking the same thing; he assigns the top scorers extra homework, reading reports and analyzing them for data, and Midoriya always sends in the most detailed analyses. So he’s got the mentality down pat, and his conditioning is peak as it is. “The only thing I’ve noticed is a slight dip in his attitude, but given what has happened since school started, and especially with his internship…”

The others grimace. “You have a point. Maybe we can throw Tiger at him? Or I can fight him one on one when we have time?” Pixiebob tells him as they pull into the lodge’s parking lot.

“What’s a kid without a quirk doing, trying to be a hero anyways?” A young voice pipes up from the back of the bus. The adults turn to look at the forgotten kid. “He’s just gonna wind up dead.”

“Kouta!” Mandalay says, horrified. Shouta knows the story with this one, though, and admits that he may have a point; the Water Horse’s kid would know better than most how risky the field was. 

“Do you know who came first, Kouta?” He asks softly.

“Hah?”

“Heroes or villains? Which came first?”

The kid pouts and looks away. Shouta might continue, but he has to let the kid think for himself.

They leave the bus, and head into the building, grabbing students’ bags and whatnot and setting them neatly in the foyer. Shouta sets himself up near the air conditioner, by a window with a clear view of the forest. He can see beams of lightning and other quirks launching up into the sky, still quite some distance away. 

He’s drafting training menus for all of Class A when Sekijirou collapses opposite him in the loveseat sofa. Shouta glances up at his colleague, who is looking far more exhausted than he should be.

Sekijirou must see him watching. “Decided to try my hand at getting through Pixie’s forest.” He glances at the watch on his wrist. “Twenty-three minutes and change.”

Shouta nods and heads back to his menu planning. Sekijirou squawks. “What, nothing to say to that?”

“No.”

“Well, you’re never going to guess what I saw.”

Shouta does his best to ignore the conversation happening against his permission or interest.

“Midoriya has already made it here.” Shouta’s head snaps to the window, but there’s no sign of his student. “He went back in the forest, just told me he was path-plotting. Knew mention of the kid would get your attention.”

Shouta groans, and allows himself to melt on top of the table for just a minute. “What am I going to do with him?” He asks the sheets of paper.

The other hero just pats his shoulder. “I was thinking, if you don’t have any ideas, I’d like to use him against Monoma once or twice. The kid is entirely too quirk reliant. Going against an opponent who doesn’t give him any fodder and who’s twice as smart as he is seems like a good challenge.”

“Can you curb his mouth? I won’t have him mouthing off against my students for a petty grudge.” Particularly not the ones struggling with themselves recently.

Sekijirou grimaces. “I’ll speak with him, but you know I can’t promise anything.”

The students finally make it, in spite of Midoriya’s best efforts, about three hours after they’d been launched into the forest. All of them are scuffed and scratched in some way. Nobody’s broken or dying, though, so Shouta supposes Pixiebob’s restraint is to be admired. They get the spiel about what the camp is going to be about before they’re unleashed upon the lodge, though not before Mandalay’s nephew has managed to get in a good shot at Iida’s knees.

The teen bounces on one foot, and Shouta shakes his head.

He waits around for Class B to surface from the woods, and they take about three more hours to do so. Shouta notices that they’re much worse off than Class A was, even if they fought the same enemies. No, wait, they had to deal with Tiger too, didn’t they, to counter for Class A’s experience against villains.

Sekijirou shoots him a glowering look, but Shouta never intended to say anything.

He’s got decent plans for everyone by the time, dinner rolls around, which was prepared by Class A thanks to their early-enough arrival. He’s supervising when he overhears Monoma taking digs at Class A, and while he’d normally let his students handle it – villains aren’t going to hold back at insulting them, it’s best they grow thick skins now – this is a peer and future colleague that they’re already watching warily. Allowing such a negative relationship to stand when lives may one day rely on it would be neglectful on his part.

But Shouta doesn’t need to do anything, because Midoriya is there, placing his hand gently at Monoma’s elbow, and carefully drawing the boy’s ire away from his classmates and onto himself. 

“Monoma-san.”

Monoma’s face transforms from a sneer into a grimace, and he shrugs Midoriya’s hand off roughly. “Ah, come to defend your Classless A friends, huh? It figures that Class A needs a quirkless guy like you to defend it. Tell me, Midoriya, don’t you ever get tired of saving their sorry asses? Or maybe you’re fine with it, because they’re the only ones you can really save.”

Midoriya’s fist slams into the table. His eyes are deadly calm, but Shouta can see the anger and hurt glittering brightly there. The rest of the mess hall has gone utterly silent, and all of the students are staring at where Midoriya’s hand has dented the plastic table. His voice isn’t loud or projecting in any way, when he next speaks, but the whole room can hear Midoriya regardless. “Monoma-san. You’re going to take your food, you’re going to go sit down, and you’re going to leave my peers and I alone for the rest of the evening.” His eyes aren’t even looking in Shouta’s direction, and the teacher can feel the unsettling force they bear against Midoriya’s victim. “Am I clear?”

And, miracle of miracles, Monoma does exactly that.

 

It turns out, the way to solving Monoma’s attitude problem was to sic Shinsou on him. All it took was that one negative comment against Midoriya, and all of Class A was on his case. Shinsou, however, proved to be most lethal against the boy’s mouth and his piss-poor attitude. Monoma couldn’t respond back if it meant defeat, and it was good practice for Shinsou to fight someone who knew not to talk back anyways.

Shouta sees Sekijirou’s thumbs up from across the way. 

And then, someone decides it’s a good idea for Monoma to be allowed to fight Midoriya, who proceeds to end five bouts of sparring in the same exact way, with Monoma’s face in the dirt and his arms pinned behind his back.

Not even Aizawa has the heart to continue letting him get humiliated after that. 

Things go about as predicted; the students can see for themselves just how much work they have to do. Iida is lapping his peers constantly, Todoroki is single-handedly driving climate change forwards, Satou and Yaoyorozu are suffering the buffet they have set up; every student is pushing themselves to their absolute limits, and Shouta can see how it wears them down. The sun is starting to reach its zenith, and all of the kids have gone through at least two water bottles at this point.

Circling them are Ragdoll and Midoriya. They engage in spars with whomever they come across, and as they jog they’re talking. When they come around Shouta’s side of the field, Midoriya launches into an attack, quick and fluid and far beyond what he’s used against his peers, and starts muttering at him. “Aizawa-sensei, you attack with a variation of Aikido that encompasses various attacks like palm thrusts from jiujutsu and usage of abnormal attacking extremities.” Shouta attacks with one of the aforementioned palm thrusts, and Midoriya disengages and steps backwards, still muttering. His eyes bounce feverishly from Shouta to Ojiro, who squares up for yet another bout against Midoriya; they’ve all ended with Midoriya getting the best of the teen, and it’s clear the Ojiro is hungry for a victory.

Shouta glares at Ragdoll, who smiles far too widely, as they get into it. “I hope you aren’t breaking him.”

“Did you know that he has the best eyes, Eraser? Did you hide him from me because you thought I’d steal him from you? Because not sharing him was just cruel, and I would’ve loved to have seen him during their internship week, although I guess that means that Iida might have died- Mandalay, Tokoyami has spent enough time in the light, send him back in.”

Shouta twitches as the heroine’s attention shifts off of him. “Ragdoll.”

“He’s got the best eyes, Eraser, he sees everything! I want him to come with us next time!”

Shouta eyes the motor mouth that has Ojiro set on the back foot. The two are pretty evenly matched, for all that Ojiro has an extra limb to fight with. But it comes down onto Midoriya’s cross block, and Midoriya just melts into the movement to sweep Ojiro off his feet. The bigger teen doesn’t go down from the blow, but he does stagger, and that seems to be Midoriya’s cue to back off; compared to his own fight with the boy earlier, it’s clear that Midoriya was holding back. “Is that so?”

“Hmmm, yup! Kendou’s split another knuckle. So I’m gonna teach him how to use his eyes, because he sees- Kaminari needs to get his head in the game.” She sounds serious enough that Shouta looks over, and sure enough, the lightning arcing off of Pixiebob’s mound of mud has decreased to a mere fraction of what he was putting out earlier. 

“Is he gonna fry soon?” 

“Hmmm, I can’t tell, not when he’s putting out so little. I’ll let you handle that one, Eraser.” She grabs Midoriya’s arms and tows him back to continue their vulture-like circling.

Shouta would frown at her, but she’s got a point, so instead he crosses the training field as quickly as he can and waits for the teen to acknowledge him.

As it turns out, it takes a good, long while for Kaminari to realize that someone is watching his back. Almost until he backs into Shouta, even. He jumps about a foot in the air, and then mutters an apology. 

“You’re nowhere near your limit; don’t tell me you’re giving up?” Shouta says softly. Because if he is, if Kaminari is just looking for an excuse to laze about, then Aizawa won’t have any issues with sticking him in remedial classes, Kiyashi Ward incident or no. 

He sighs and scuffs his shoe in the dirt. “I just… I don’t know sensei, it’s hard to want to strengthen my quirk when all I can think is…” When all I can think is that getting stronger means it’s easier to kill people . Shouta’s heard this before; the teen has written it on homework assignments occasionally, when asked about potential uses for his quirk.

The magnetism was a stroke of brilliance, but at the end of the day, the teen’s gaze always seems to return to how it can be used against people. 

Shouta frowns; it’s not a problem he’s ever had to deal with, personally, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t coached others through this. “Do you recall what Thirteen said, the day of the USJ attack? That quirks are not solely for harming people with?”

“Yeah. But my quirk isn’t so good when debris and shit are flying around; there’s only so much forced an intangible thing like electricity can stop, and if I were to put out enough to stop something greater than that, I’d fry anyone around me.”

Shouta’s frown deepens, and he starts feeling something remarkably close to alarm building in his chest. He hadn’t noticed this plethora of self-confidence issues with Kaminari, and he definitely should have, if they’re manifesting here, after Kaminari’s already survived multiple villain encounters. The worst part is that, the boy has a point; his quirk is dangerous enough, and after a certain point it is unavoidably lethal. 

“Be that as it may, your control is fine enough that you need more voltage; no matter what you use it for, it’s always better to have more juice in the tank, and deal with the excess later.” He pats the boy’s shoulder firmly. “Now get to work before I put you into remedial class.”

“Yessir.” 

The lightning returns to full, natural force after that, and Shouta congratulates himself on a job well done. He moves to Mandalay’s shoulder, watching as things progress and observing as she relays Ragdoll’s comments to the various students. 

Things progress smoothly after that, and there are no major transgressions beyond the occasional overworked student passing out on them. 

Shouta gives them a lecture about pacing as they condition themselves, and then releases them for lunch. 

They descend on the sandwiches with the fervor of the famished, and Shouta watches Todoroki steal Midoriya’s notebook from him and force him to eat, holding it out of reach until the latter has swallowed at least two sandwiches. Shouta has to reel in a smile at that, and Uraraka sends him a helpless shrug. 

The afternoon session begins with all the students refreshed, and this time Midoriya is stuck to Tiger’s side, engaging each of his peers in a three-way fight. Shouta approves of the way Midoriya works, both with the heroes and with his peers; there’s a mature sort of cohesion that he has working with Ragdoll earlier and Tiger now, and he seriously does contemplate recommending the Pussycats as the boy’s next internship.

He has time now, to satisfy his curiosity. When Midoriya takes his next water break, Shouta joins him, watching as Tokoyami and Dark Shadow fight the flexible Tiger. “You seem pretty good at teaching, Midoriya.”

He gulps another mouthful of water, and looks away from the spar. ‘I’m just observant; it’s easy to tell others what I see.” He looks over in Bakugo’s direction. “It’s their choice whether or not they heed my advice.”

“So you haven’t taught or tutored before?” Shouta finds that hard to believe. 

“Well…” He stoops to grab his towel and throw it around his neck. “My foster-siblings right now are all younger than me, so I’ve been teaching them their schoolwork. I guess, I just kind of took that and applied it here? Hinata at least has always needed a little extra work.”

Ah, yeah, Shouta supposes that makes sense. “And do you find yourself teaching them self defense while you’re at it?”

Midoriya’s next mouthful of water is lost to the air. “Huh?” 

Shouta does something mortifying and not entirely professional; he snickers. He would gape in horror, but Midoriya is joining him before he can find it in himself to be embarrassed. 

Shouta’s kept him long enough though, and escapes answering because of the way Mandalay prods them both for their slacking off. “Well, that’s my cue, sensei.”

At least Hizashi hadn’t been here to see that little slip up. 

But he still keeps an eye on Midoriya for the rest of the day, and watches as he tirelessly helps those he can: he joins Iida on a run, helps deliver some more food for Satou and Yaoyorozu, and pats Aoyama and Uraraka as they struggle with keeping their food down.

In fact, there are only two students that Midoriya does not approach, Monoma and Bakugo.

Monoma is self-explanatory, and after the humiliation he’d received that morning he puts just as much effort into avoiding Midoriya, as well. 

Bakugo is another story, entirely. 

He’d heard from All Might, a while back, about his encounter with the teen after their second day of classes. He’d heard how rattled Bakugo had been of being dismissed outright by someone he already seemed so unsettled by; Shouta had seen the trial tapes, and he’d heard two conversations between the two of them. How he’d screamed denials of his inferiority to someone who had never accused him of such.

Midoriya’s avoidance of Bakugo is by no means subtle, and the explosions from further afield only increase as the distance grows. 

The Sports Festival had been another interesting case study in Bakugo’s complexities. He’s far more bluster than he is true anger, even though the teen seems to forget that sometimes for himself, but Midoriya besting him in a straight combat match, with makeshift tools and weapons he hadn’t had in previous rounds, hadn’t roused that forced rage in the slightest. He’d been utterly silent and still on his second place podium, and hadn’t smacked Midoriya’s hand away when he’d pulled him up onto the first to share. 

It might be the appearance of rejection that drives his anger now, or it might be the one-sided screaming match he’d gotten into during lunch with Kaminari of all people. Because where only the teachers had seen Kaminari’s weak attempts at training, Bakugo had seen something to correct, and he’d done it in true Napalm fashion.

Whatever the case, he catches Midoriya’s eye once more, just before he gets to the point in his circling where he’d turn away from Bakugo. He mouths very clearly, and what about him, before pointing his chin at Bakugo. 

Midoriya frowns, more in consideration than anything else, but he does eventually stride across the field and tap Bakugo on the shoulder. They exchange words for a minute, but it isn’t long for Midoriya is guiding by the wrist, and now it’s Kaminari’s turn to watch them distractedly, and Todoroki too. Even Shinsou pauses from where he’s been beating the tar out of Monoma. Again. 

Shouta is too tired for this. 

Thankfully, it seems that Midoriya going over to help him was exactly what Bakugo had wanted, because he’d gone back to practicing by himself and had done so far more peacefully. 

He leaves them to their own devices for dinner, but when Midoriya sneaks off with a plateful of food Aizawa intercepts him.

“And just where do you think you’re going.”

The teen has the gall to point into the woods. “Kouta’s there, and Mandalay says he hasn’t eaten.”

Shouta sighs. “And this can’t be handled by her, because?”

I want him to have some privacy, Eraser, Mandalay whispers to him; Shouta can feel her eyes now that he’s thinking about it. But if one kid he’s never going to see again knows his secret spot that’s a little different. And Midoriya insisted. 

Shouta heaves one last sigh, but waves him off. “Be back by curfew.”

Training the next day go about the same, though he starts springing sneak attacks on his kids; it wouldn’t do for them get complacent, and plenty of opportunistic villains will strike while a hero is preoccupied. Many from Class B get flustered, but most of Class A responds with a saddened sort of experienced ease. On the one hand, it’s a good thing they’re already building the skill repertoire that heroes need, especially with how much of a target they seem to be now, but it’s another painful reminder of just how he’s failed his students. None of his previous classes had had any encounters like this one has, never mind repeated encounters; his kids aren’t even looking for trouble, Stain aside.

It has had telling results, though , Shouta thinks as he redirects Ojiro’s own surprise attack away from him.

Even Iida, Satou, and Kirishima are learning from their mistakes, Shouta acknowledges at remedial lessons that night. 

He’s just taught them another kata from a grappler style that both boys could benefit from when Mandalay’s voice screams alive in his head, just after an explosion rocks the forest.

Eraser, Blood King, villains have infiltrated the forest while the test of courage was happening! She whisper-yells to him desperately. We need immediate backup. 

Shouta feels his heart stop. He looks immediately to where Vlad has surged upright, stiff and angry and scared . “King, stay here and guard!”

Kirishima and Satou fall out of their movements. Iida steps forward. “Sir?” 

“Villains are attacking the forest. Do not leave.” And then he’s charging into the darkness with their voices calling out behind him. 

He can’t believe he hadn’t noticed it before, but the forest is alit with flames. Blue embers rise into the night. Terrified shapes are running toward him, a small portion of Class A. He sees Ojiro, Hagakure, and Ashido running towards him, with their heads tossing every now and again over their shoulders to watch their backs. Yellow mist clings to the ground and dogs their steps. 

“Quickly!” He urges them. “To the lodge.”

They nod and move. 

Despairingly, he only sees a couple more students from either class; one of them hands him a gas mask, and he catches Yaoyorozu’s black ponytail waving as she charges past. He makes it to the clearing where they began the test, and comes face to face with a man with black hair and heavily scarred features. The man is silhouetted against blue flames and hard to see clearly, but the lines of purple deformities are hard to mistake.

Shouta knows this face, knows it from countless nights poring over eyewitness accounts and scrappy, scavenged surveillance footage. Has even the lonesome arsonist joined the League? “Dabi.”

“Eraserhead.” The villains face is lax and pleasant; utterly unbecoming of one with such a heinous ledger.

“You’re with the league?” 

The man shrugs, like the world burning around him and the screams echoing around the forest don’t concern him in the slightest. “Seemed like a decent gig for a little while. The boss has some interesting ideas for the future, and I wanted to see where it goes.”

Shouta launches his scarf at the arsonist before he can attack; information is only useful when it’s preemptive, and right now his priority is getting his students to safety. Damn their decision to have this training camp in a remote part of Japan’s mountains! Support could be hours away if they realize anything has gone wrong at all, and for a moment it’s the USJ all over again. Only this time, he doesn’t have backup. 

Dabi hardly fights back, batting the weapon away with a careless fireball but doing nothing else to interfere. 

The villain goes down much more quickly than Shouta is entirely comfortable with, and the way Dabi melts around his capture weapon only reinforces that fact. “Not what you were expecting, was it?”

The clone’s last words are whispered, and over the crackle of the flame they sound far more ominous than maybe even the clone realizes. “You’d better hurry, and save the ones you can.”

So Shouta runs, and doesn’t fight, and watches as the flames cool and turn orange. He never sees Mandalay, or Pixiebob, or any of the Pussycats. He hardly even sees any students running, and that worries him more than most anything. 

 He stumbles onto five of his students, collapsed in the dirt and and hurt in various ways. He can see knife wounds on Uraraka and Asui, gashes by a much larger weapon on Todoroki, and Shouji is missing half of one of his arms. He sees tension in them that tells him to hold his tongue before the lash out in anger or fear or instinct and do something they’ll regret later.

He notices that they’re all staring helplessly at one patch of dirt, and Shouta dreads whatever it is that happened there.

Tokoyami notices him first, thankfully, before he can startle his students into a hair-trigger attack. He seems stunned, but of them all he has the fewest injuries. “Sir… They- They took-”

Shouta’s heart drops into his stomach.



After the fires have been put out, his students have been evacuated and sent to the hospital, and all first responders have swarmed the forest, Mandalay brings her nephew to him. Shouta, feeling about twenty years older, turns to them slowly.

There are still tears running down the boy’s cheeks. 

“S-Sir?”

“What is it, Kouta?” He has about five thousand things to do, an investigation to lead, parents to apologize to, and as much as he wishes he could comfort the kid it isn’t his specialty. He’s safe, the only thing he could’ve done for Kouta Izumi, and he couldn’t do that because one of his students had beaten him to it. 

“Y-You asked b-before, whether heroes or v-villains came first.” He sobs and gulps. “It was villains, wasn’t it?”

“...Yes. Villains have always existed; it was heroes who rose to the occasion, chose to save those who needed it.”

“M-Midoriya saved m-me. He was the o-o-only one who came for me.” He was the only one who could, Shouta doesn’t say. It’s yet another unforgiveable sign of his disregard of Midoriya’s responsibility, to have let the boy hold so much responsibility on his own. “I nev-never got to thank him!” And now he’s wailing.

Shouta crouches low, because maybe he can help with this, after all. “That makes him a hero, right?”

“Yessir.”

“So that means that, no matter what, he’s going to do his best to come back alive.”

Kouta’s eyes only shed more tears. “But he might not.” 

“So long as he tries, we’ll make sure to get him back.” 

Shouta can promise that much.

Please, Midoriya, Bakugo, Kaminari, be smart, be safe, and hold on just a little longer.