don't let them see you (cry)
For the first time, Izuku was dreading the end of class instead of looking forward to it.
In the last five minutes, Mic-sensei finished the lesson, clapping his hands and grinning at them all. Izuku snapped his notebook shut and put it away as the sound of rustling paper and students preparing filtered through.
“Oh, man,” Mineta whispered behind him. “It’s time.”
Izuku didn’t respond, not sure that was directed at him and not wanting to give in.
“Alright,” Mic-sensei called. He waved a stack of papers. “These are your tests from last week.”
He was looking in Izuku’s direction as he continued speaking. Izuku’s stomach plummeted.
“Now, I know there’s a lot of work for you listeners to keep up with, but don’t neglect studying for English.” Mic-sensei waved a hand. “Some of you need to study more for this class. Don’t forget if you ever need help, you can come talk to me!”
He stepped to the front of the classroom near the door and then began to shuffle down the rows, passing back papers. Sighs and exclamations came from the other side of the room.
Mic-sensei had been looking in his direction. Izuku bit his lip; his teacher, of course, wanted to help them, but it’d still hurt. Work harder than you already are. Try harder. You’re not smart enough, you need help. You’re not doing well. You’re failing me.
Izuku felt sick. He drummed his fingers on his desk.
“Shut that, Deku,” Kacchan said, spinning around.
“Shut up or stop that?”
“Just— don’t!” Kacchan snapped. He was stressed, too, Izuku could tell.
The test was hard; every student in 1-A had agreed on that after taking it. On the same night they’d all piled into the common room and despaired together during dinnertime over instant ramen.
“Kacchan, you’re really good,” Izuku whispered. “You’ll be fine.”
He didn’t feel the same about himself. English had never been his best subject, but he was decent enough and trying to practice more. But sometimes it just didn’t make sense. The words were weird. They didn’t fit together right.
Mic-sensei got to their side of the classroom. He didn’t say anything. Izuku started sweating. He stared down at the edge of his desk. Kacchan got his test back and grunted, which meant he’d done good enough for his standards.
The edge of his paper slid into view. Izuku blinked rapidly.
Satisfactory , said the grade at the top. Underneath it the number was a sixty-eight percent.
Izuku looked around. Sero had just gotten his test, and his brow was furrowed and mouth drawn in a line. Izuku shoved his paper away into his bag, turning furiously towards the wall and trying not to just burst into tears.
How had Izuku let himself do so badly? Satisfactory was hardly passing.
And he hadn’t— he hadn’t failed a single time since coming to U.A. He’d worked to keep his grades high. Izuku was behind; he was always behind everyone else, always sprinting to just keep up. He couldn’t fail. He couldn’t.
“You good, man?” Sero asked. Izuku turned to look at him, and Sero made a face. “It could always be worse, you know?”
“I guess,” Izuku admitted. The words wavered. “But it could always be better.”
Sero grinned. “Let’s study together next time, yeah?” His eyes flicked to Kacchan. “We can help each other out!”
Kacchan spun around. “I don’t want to study with this damn nerd.”
“Scared he’s better than you?” Sero teased.
Kacchan growled. His eyes narrowed in Izuku’s direction.
“As if,” he snorted.
Kacchan used to make comments like this all the time. A defensive barb, Izuku knew now, a shield—he didn’t mean it like that —but it stung more today. Usually it made Izuku happy to think that Kacchan was accepting Izuku in his own way, but somehow Izuku felt like he was letting his friend down. Like he’d fallen so short of the mark he didn’t even deserve to be here, fighting.
“Seriously,” Sero said, and Izuku thought, do you only find me ‘satisfactory,’ too? “Next time. We’ll all help each other do better. Plus ultra!”
He was smiling as he said that. Izuku took in a shaky breath. His eyes burned.
“Plus ultra,” Izuku muttered, more as a reflexive response than anything with heart in it, and then the class was dismissed. Izuku grabbed his things and hurried away, but not before he saw the smile drop from Sero’s face or the way Kacchan’s fingers suddenly curled.
They didn’t think he was so smart, either. Not really.
Izuku spent the last class of the day trying to put his grade out of his mind. It sat there, in the back of his mind, like a thoughtless present that was opened and left on the floor; a gift from someone who barely knew you and hadn’t gotten you something you’d like. Just their idea of you.
In P.E. they were running relay races through an obstacle course as a sort of teamwork exercise in groups of three. Izuku was paired with Uraraka and Mineta. A decent team, he thought, and though they weren’t allowed to use their Quirks they could both move quickly.
Uraraka volunteered to go first, bouncing on her feet.
“You should go last,” Mineta told Izuku, and Izuku shrugged. The race began; Uraraka snatched the baton they were meant to carry and took off. She flew through the course, and Izuku had to admire the way she carried herself—confident, her steps sure. She paused only once, but then she was back, tossing the baton to Mineta.
“We’re doing well,” Uraraka cheered, face flushed. Izuku smiled at her. “Be careful balancing when you get to the beam, Deku— it moves, so be careful not to fall, okay?”
“Ye- yeah,” Izuku said.
He needed to focus. Mineta returned, and with a glance at his competitors, Izuku took off. He did fine for the most part; the course wasn’t too bad. He made it through faster than his counterparts and stopped at the beam like Uraraka had warned him.
“Focus, Izuku,” he said. He held out his arms, and then lightly took a step forward and another. The thin wooden beam underneath his feet trembled, but he took another few steps. “Focus…”
Satisfactory flashed through his mind, and Izuku’s foot stepped to the right. A terrifying moment as he felt himself tilt, snatching at the air helplessly before crashing to the ground. Izuku laid there a moment, stunned. The fall hadn’t hurt much—it wasn’t a long drop—so he clambered back to his feet and got back on. But he’d ruined it.
By the time Izuku got back to his team, completing the race, they were third. Izuku’s heart fell.
“I’m sorry I— lost this for you guys,” he said, bowing. Uraraka squeezed his shoulder.
“No, Deku, it’s okay…”
“You did fine!” Mineta frowned. “The balancing part was hard.”
“I- I let you down…”
“Third place isn’t bad! I’m sad we’re not first, but… we can crush them next time.”
“Class is over, anyway,” Izuku said. “I’ll do better next time. Sorry.”
After changing and getting their things, everyone began heading back to the dorms for the afternoon. A few split off to go train or to go the library—usually after class Izuku liked to train a little more, but he wasn’t in the mood today. The more he tried to push his test grade away the more it came back to him.
He knew he should have gone to the library to study, especially English, but Izuku really just wanted to go to his room and be alone. At least for a little bit. And then he’d get back to work.
“Hey, Deku, wait for me!”
Izuku drew his mouth into a smile. “Uraraka…”
They walked together to the dorms.
“Um…” Uraraka put her hands together nervously, though she remembered not to go airborne. “Sorry to ask, but is… anything wrong?”
“Sorry, sorry!” Uraraka waved her hands. “It’s just, you seemed kind of— out of it today. Not that you still didn’t do great! You just seemed, um, distracted.”
“It was just— yeah. But. I’m okay. Thanks.”
“Was it… because of the test?”
Izuku didn’t answer.
“Did you do okay?”
“Not great,” Izuku admitted, looking down.
“Oh,” said Uraraka. She paused for a moment and said, “well, you’ll have other opportunities. You’re really smart, Deku! It’s just one test, it doesn’t matter that much, right?”
It was really nice of her to say that, but Izuku’s stomach still twisted. Then he felt bad. She was just trying to make him feel better; it wasn’t her fault it wasn’t working.
It did matter. It mattered to him. The thought made him shake again; he felt a familiar rush of pressure to his face and knew that in minutes he was going to start crying.
“Yeah,” Izuku said quietly, “um… thanks, Uraraka.”
“Don’t think about it too much,” Uraraka reminded him. “Come on— we’re playing cards in the common room, you want to join us?”
Panic prickled along his neck. A bad grade wasn’t much to Uraraka; on the verge of tears, Izuku knew if she saw him start crying she’d think he was pathetic or something.
“Uh,” Izuku started, “no, I’m kind of tired. Not that I don’t want to go. But I think- I think I’m just going to… I’ll see you later, okay?”
It was rude, but Izuku turned away and left before Uraraka could respond. When he made it to the hallway, where no one was around, he stopped to face the wall for a moment, breathing and staring blankly until the feeling of almost-crying settled. Izuku wiped at his eyes—mostly dry—and started heading towards his room.
Sixty-eight percent. Satisfactory.
It wasn’t enough. He needed to fix it. Do better.
Izuku was tired, but not enough to stop him. He pulled the crumpled paper from his bag and sped up. There was work to do, studying; Izuku didn’t have time to cry.