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getting better

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It hurts. 

Get it together. 

It hurts. 

This is necessary. 

But it hurts. 

Do you want to get better or not?

He grits his teeth, wrenching as hard as he can again, hearing that grating riiip of flesh again. The metal is still connected to his leg by a sliver, a visible sliver of flesh— his flesh, that’s his flesh dangling there from his calf, what is he doing to himself—

If you rip out your engines, they will grow back stronger. Better. 

He needs to be both stronger and better. 

So he lets out a rare curse and tugs at it again, sharply. He’s trembling and gasping; he exhales slowly, unsteadily, trying to calm himself down. When he drops the engine, the engine that was a part of him all but seconds ago, he’s not sure if it’s on purpose or not, because his hands are shaking so violently. 

And yet he still has a whole other side to go.

A whole other side , he thinks woozily, and by sheer force of will, he moves his hands, putting them on another intact engine, fingers wrapping around cool metal. Another deep breath to calm himself down. Just another side. Just another engine. Just some more pain on his path to being a hero. He tears —oh, his hands are too sweaty, they’re slipping off— wipe your hands off, Tenya, there you go, okay, now try again— his hands move slowly, agonizingly slowly— go faster, c’mon, just a bit faster, just get this over with —he clenches his jaw and— riiiip .

He blacks out to the sound of his own screaming.

 

The room is blindingly white, he notices when he wakes up. Blindingly white and blurry—although, on second thought, that was probably because his glasses had been taken off, and his hands instinctively reach towards where his nightstand would be to put them back on again. 

They’re not there, of course. This isn’t his room; his room is back at Heights Alliance. His room is not this white, this stark, this medical. His hands collide with plastic—a plastic bar, it seems. It’s cool to the touch, and instantly, his mind flashes back to the feeling of cold metal sliding under his fingers— 

He tears the sticky white sheets off from around himself and blindly grabs at his legs. Immediately, he winces in pain from his sudden movement. But he’s relieved by what he finds: all the engines on his left leg are gone, torn off. Fascinated, his fingers run over his calf. He can make out the texture of bandages, bandages uninterrupted by protruding metal. It feels strange; his leg doesn’t feel quite complete, but he knows that the engines will grow back, and he’s glad he did it, because he’s going to be stronger and better and that’s what’s important, after all. 

Then the memories of yesterday evening are coming back to him. And then his fingers come in contact with a cold, smooth surface, and it’s not a plastic bar this time. 

Right.

He had failed. 

He, Iida Tenya, Ingenium, had failed to do the simple task of just ripping his goddamn engines out, so here he was sitting uselessly in a medical office. 

Well, that’s alright , he reasoned with himself, trying to regain his composure and purge his mind of the uncouth and wholly un-herolike language he had just used. I’ll just try again once I get out of here. 

As soon as the words pass through his mind, however, his mind conjures the memories of excruciating pain, of cold cold sweat and colder metal, of his own still-warm blood, sticky on his fingers, sticky over discarded pipes, and he knows . He knows he can’t do it again. 

In other words, he’s weak. 

“Iida-kun, you’re awake!” 

“Ura—uraraka?” He raises his hands to adjust nonexistent glasses; the moving figures in front of him must have noticed because seconds later, he finds his familiar blue-rimmed glasses in his hands. 

“There you go,” Uraraka says as Iida puts his glasses on and the world comes into focus. He first sees Uraraka: she’s grinning at him, but her face is worried and anxious. Midoriya is standing in the doorway besides her, eyes big and round and already flooding with tears. It’s probably around lunchtime—did the two skip lunch to see him?—because both Midoriya and Uraraka are wearing their school uniforms. Midoriya is holding a comically large card in proportion to his head, and on it, he can read the words Get well soon, Iida! in crooked bubble letters. Behind the two, the windows are open, and the harsh midday light is making everything too bright and painful to look at. It doesn’t help, either, that he’s clearly in Recovery Girl’s office and everything is white, from the discarded sheets to the curtains to the bandages around his leg.

Ah. Yes. His leg. A lump rises in his throat, but he smiles (hopefully reassuringly, as befitting the class president) at Midoriya and Uraraka, which promptly sets Midoriya into tears. 

“A-are you alright?” he blurts, and then he sobs and lurches over to Iida’s bedside. “You looked awful when I found you, all covered in blood, and then your legs , your engines , I swear—you weren’t moving—I thought you were—I thought you said you would talk to us if something was wrong but what were you doing ?” 

“I-I…” the lump in Iida’s throat swells.

Uraraka bites her lip. “Iida…we were really worried! You said you would be training, and then—and then we find you—”

We found you collapsed on the ground and covered with blood with your engines torn out. What kind of strong hero, a hero people can rely on, worries his friends like this?

“I was training,” Iida says. He’s still smiling, albeit slightly shakily, and his voice picks up in volume and confidence. “And I am fine, Midoriya. I apologize deeply for worrying the both of you, but I promise that, although I am very touched by your concern, you need not worry about me. It is just something those of us in the Iida family must do to become stronger—”

“What, ripping out your engines ?” Midoriya wheezes, his hands clenching and unclenching the hospital sheets. 

Iida’s smile quirks to the side. “Tensei informed me that ripping out our engines, while unpleasant, allows them to regrow to be better than previously. Henceforth, by doing so, we can maximize our efficiency, power, and speed. It is necessary for us to become better heroes.” He swallows, but the lump in his throat remains, and he suddenly finds himself unable to speak, unable to reassure his classmates further.

Tensei said he did it by himself. Tensei just ripped them out. Tensei became a better hero because of it. Yet Tenya was weak, Tenya couldn’t go through with it, even though it was necessary.

“But…but is it?” 

Iida looks up at Uraraka and is horrified to see her eyes glassy with unshed tears. He fidgets, unwilling to meet Uraraka’s eyes again. 

“Yes,” he says finally, forcing his voice to return to his throat. “It is necessary for me to become a better hero, as is my goal. Pain is…pain is but an obstacle.”  

“We know that, Iida, but…” 

Iida forces a small laugh. “Midoriya, you’re one to talk,” he says wryly, attempting for levity and failing miserably. 

“And he might lose the use of his arms!” Uraraka explodes. She looks frantic, pained. “How—how many times am I going to have to visit my friends in the hospital, hurt because of themselves and their own lack of self-preservation—because it makes them a better hero or something—” She chokes off, and her fists are curling in around themselves, her knuckles a papery white. “I want to be a better hero too! We all do! And there are casualties and injuries involved in that! But just because—just because—” Uraraka sags against Midoriya, voice faint, and Midoriya hiccups—he’s crying even more now—and Iida doesn’t know what to do, what the next right action to take as class president is, but then he sees his friends sobbing against one another and he knows what a friend would do: he holds out his arms, and both Uraraka and Midoriya instantly collapse into him on the hospital bed, clinging to him, and Iida hugs them back, and maybe he’s crying too, even though as class president he should always try to uphold a dignified image and serve as a strong example for his classmates, even though—screw that, just screw that. 

“I’m sorry,” he says quietly. He balls his hands up into fists and releases again. 

“If you’re sorry, you won’t try again,” Uraraka says, her voice cracking audibly. 

Before Iida can protest (even though he knows he can't try again—he’s too weak, he can’t suffer through the whole ordeal a second time—but he has to, he needs to), Midoriya interjects. “There must be a safer way to do it, right? I—I know that you want to improve, Iida, and uh, I have, uh, not been the greatest example, so I’m just thinking that if you absolutely must tear off your body parts to become a better hero, maybe we could ask a medical professional and we could get anesthetics so it won’t be so painful, and plus the way you were doing it you’re lucky you didn’t get an infection, no seriously what were you thinking straight up ripping them off…” Midoriya trails off, frowning. 

“Midoriya, that’s a great idea!” Iida says as he sits up so suddenly that his head is woozy for a second. “Why—why didn’t I think of that?”  He actually can’t believe he didn’t think of going to a medical professional or anything like that. Of course that would be the obvious solution—plus, it would ensure that he’d actually go through with it. He almost laughs at his own idiocy. He didn’t have to do it alone, and he didn’t have to suffer again—why had he forced himself to think he did? Gratitude for his friends surges inside of him: they’re not here to discourage him, he realizes, but because they care about him and his well-being, even though he’s been too obtuse to recognize it. The lump in his throat dissipates, and affection rushes through him, warm and intense. 

“I mean—ripping out your engines, still not great , but—it’s better,” Midoriya stammers. His ears are flushed pink. 

“Thank you for bringing that up, Midoriya. I will look into safer measures to remove my engines, as you suggested.” He hopes his voice conveys how grateful he truly is, and it strikes him that he has so much he needs to repay his friends for: everything back from Stain in Hosu to their continued support of him today. “And I truly am sorry for upsetting the both of you. I trust you two and—and I should learn to be a better friend. Please—” he bows his head as far as he can while sitting up—“please forgive me. I promise that I will do my utmost to make it up to you.” 

“Okay.” Uraraka’s reply is immediate. She offers him a smile and raises a hand for a fist bump. “Heroics isn’t the safest line of work but—let’s promise not to hurt ourselves too much on purpose if we can help it, alright? And there’s nothing to make up to us, dummy, you’re our friend.” 

“Yeah! Let’s become better heroes together! In the least self-destructive of ways!” Midoriya adds his scarred hand to the fist bump, grinning. 

“Alright,” Iida says, relief and warmth flooding through his veins and stretching his mouth out into a smile to match. He nudges his fist against Uraraka’s and Midoriya’s—he’s pretty sure this is how fist bumps are supposed to go but he probably holds it there for longer than necessary but neither Midoriya or Uraraka comment on the prolonged awkward fist-touching (probably because they’re too busy laughing). Finally, Uraraka hops off of the hospital bed and picks up the previously discarded gifts from the ground. There’s some fruit (a melon), a badly arranged cluster of flowers, and the card from before, which is now slightly crumpled. Midoriya carefully arranges the gifts by his bedside and hands him the card.

“Be careful, I think Aoyama glitter-bombed it—oh.” 

Uraraka snaps a picture of Iida’s glitter-covered face, giggling, and Iida knows that his undignified mugshot is probably already being sent to the Class 1-A group chat for the rest of his classmates to laugh at. 

Iida doesn’t mind.