It starts with an innocuous comment.
Izuku’s whole friend group (the Dekusquad, people call them, and isn’t that a weird experience, not just having friends but having enough of them that they actually have a group name) is gathered in his dorm room. He’s sitting at his desk while Todoroki, Shinsou, and Iida are spread out across the floor, and Uraraka and Tsuyu have claimed the bed. There’s papers and textbooks and highlighters everywhere, but with the exception of him and Iida, no one’s actually using them.
“Do I seem like more of a cat person or a dog person?” Izuku spares a moment from his English worksheet to glance over at Todoroki, who posed the question. He has to hold back a snicker when he sees how concentrated the other boy is on his phone, different colored eyebrows furrowed together.
Shinsou looks up from his book as well, a flicker of amusement crossing his normally passive features. “Neither. You’re a fish person.”
“Really?” Todoroki frowns as Uraraka throws a pillow at Shinsou. He dodges it easily. You don’t train with Eraserhead for months and not learn how to get out of the way of random incoming projectiles.
“Don’t listen to him, Todoroki-kun! You’re a cat person, through and through.”
“Uraraka, you should not be throwing things in other people’s rooms, especially not Midoriya’s. There are valuable collectables in here!” Iida starts gesturing with his hands, and briefly Izuku thinks that’s probably more of a threat to his stuff than the thrown pillow.
“It’s fine, Iida,” he says, laughing. “And I agree with Uraraka. Cat all the way.”
Todoroki stares at him for a long moment. Then, slowly, he blinks.
There’s a few seconds of silence before Shinsou says, “I guess you’re right,” and everyone bursts into laughter. Todoroki just looks confused, but the conversation moves on.
Eventually Izuku turns back to his work, focusing his mind on the long list of irregular verbs (seriously, who created this language and was their intention to torture poor Japanese hero students specifically?) instead of his friends in the background. At least, until Tsuyu chimes in.
“Have you guys heard about what’s going on with Slugger? It’s terrible. Ribbit .”
“Oh, yeah, it’s awful! I can’t believe so many people would be so mean like that.” Uraraka sounds genuinely upset, and it’s enough to pull at least a little bit of Izuku’s attention, even as he tries to figure out why feed becomes fed but feel becomes felt .
“Apparently he released a statement of support for the upcoming hero bill, and in response a bunch of trolls have been spamming his social media with suicide baiting posts. Ribbit .”
“That’s deplorable,” Iida says, tone grave. Todoroki hums in agreement. “Who would act in such a manner?”
Izuku tries not to flinch (he knows who, he knows exactly who, boys and girls who put on innocent looking smiles and then turn around and unleash their cruelty on the most acceptable target) and doubles down on his efforts to focus on his studies.
“That makes me kinda worried, you know?” The mattress squeaks as Uraraka moves around, bouncing a bit. “I’d never really thought about it before, but that’s probably something we’re going to have to deal with, too.”
His mind is half on the worksheet, half in the conversation, so when he hears the concern and anxiety in Uraraka’s voice, the words slip out before he can truly stop to think things through.
“It’s not that bad,” Izuku says. “You get used to it after awhile.”
The room goes so quiet he can hear Kaminari and Sero playing video games two doors down, and very quickly he realizes his mistake.
“Deku-kun,” Uraraka starts slowly, like maybe she didn’t hear him right. “Did someone...did someone tell you to kill yourself?”
His shoulders tense. Something deep inside him, something old and faded but always there (like scar tissue, he thinks) tells him he should just leave. Go so he doesn’t have to tell them. So they can’t reject him for his weakness, or worse.
Quickly, he forces that thought from his head. They’re not like that, he knows them, it’s fine . He turns to face them, avoiding their gazes, and wrings his hands nervously.
“Um, yes?” He tries to force a bit of casualness, his usual cheeriness, into his voice. When he accidentally meets Iida’s eyes and sees the mixture of shock and horror there, though, he figures it probably didn’t work. “A few people.” (More than a few, but they don’t need to know that.)
Uraraka leans forward, anger and determination blazing in her eyes, and he realizes what he might have implied. “Not here! Before high school, I mean. You guys know how my Quirk manifested kinda late, right?”
“Yes, but what does that have to do with this?” Iida pushes his glasses up his nose and frowns. Somewhere to the left, Shinsou is studying him carefully, making Izuku shift uncomfortably.
“Well, um, until my Quirk showed up, we all thought I was Quirkless,” he explains, biting his lip. He feels bad lying to his friends, but...he’s not ready to share the secret of One for All with them. Especially not when he still doesn’t entirely understand it himself. “And, um, you know. People weren’t always nice about it.” His voice trails off towards the end.
(Thinking about it makes him so, so tired. He’d had so many feelings about his situation, but none of them ever changed anything, and eventually they just became this: a learned helplessness, an exhaustion that settled into his bones and told him to stop fighting back. Even now, it reaches a hand out and pulls him down, down, down.)
His friends are quiet, and whether it’s because they’re in shock or just trying to figure out what to say, Izuku doesn’t know. Part of him is bracing for one, or all, of them to start laughing, because what kind of hero spends their childhood scared of bullies? (What kind of hero is still scared of them?)
Then Uraraka blurts out, “That’s really messed up, Deku,” and Izuku winces, just a little.
“Agreed,” Iida jumps in. “That sort of behavior is absolutely reprehensible—” he braces himself for the lecture, for having you should have been able to defend yourself thrown in his face again “—how could someone treat one of their peers that way? Especially for something they have no control over.”
“It’s not right. I’m sorry they treated you badly, Midoriya-kun. Ribbit ,” Tsuyu adds, a slight frown on her face. Izuku opens and shuts his mouth a few times, unsure how to respond.
“What do you mean?” All heads swivel to Todoroki, whose piercing gaze is still fixed on Izuku. “By ‘weren’t always nice about it’? What did they do?”
“Todoroki,” Uraraka hisses a warning at the other boy before turning back to him. “Deku, you don’t have to—”
“It’s okay,” he says (lies). “Besides the, um, suicide baiting stuff, they just said mean things, or pushed me into lockers, or whatever. It wasn’t—it wasn’t that bad.” (Is that a lie? That’s what the teachers always told him, so maybe it was true.)
“It doesn’t sound good,” Shinsou says, eyes narrowed at him. “Midoriya—”
“Can we just—” Izuku lets out a desperate, high-pitched laugh. “Can we just drop it? Please? We have a lot of studying to do, you know, Present Mic assigned this worksheet and we have that essay for Midnight and—”
“Of course,” Iida says, throwing a sharp glance around the room. Uraraka looks like she’s about to protest when he continues, “It is true that we have a lot of work to do, and as prospective heroes, we shouldn’t ignore our responsibilities. Let’s get back to studying.”
Reluctantly, the others grab their textbooks and start chatting again, this time about the various subjects they’re working on. Izuku turns back to his own worksheet with a sigh of relief, and steadfastly ignores the weight of his friends’ concerned glances on his back.
He knew it was unlikely that his friends would drop the topic. Afterall, they all tended to be nosy in their own particular ways, especially when it came to one of their own. However, Izuku did not think he would be talking about this again less than a day later, and he definitely did not think it would be Todoroki bringing it up.
It happens during sparring. Izuku has just finished up fighting with Ojirou and is nursing a few tail-shaped bruises off to the side of the sparring rings. Most of his other classmates are exchanging notes or gulping down water, but not him. No, Izuku is watching Bakugou.
It’s amazing how, after everything the other boy put him through, he can still think about how awesome Bakugou is. And by amazing, he means unsettling, and possibly indicative of a questionable mental state.
But it’s true. The way he moves, even now, during basic training, is something to behold. Fast but strong, aggressive but balanced. Bakugou is the pinnacle of power and skill.
Most days, it’s easy to sit, watch, and analyze.
Some days, it’s not.
Today is one of those days. Every explosion sets him on edge, muscles tense and teeth grinding together. It’s like a permanent state of limbo, like knowing the blow is coming but having to just wait for it. Izuku can’t even take notes because he’s too busy tracking Bakugou’s movements, waiting for the other boy to suddenly turn on him instead of Ashido. He tries to put it out of his mind, to shove down the instinctual fear that comes with every pop, but he just can’t think (hands that grab him roughly by the shoulders and shove, the shock and sting of burnt skin, a grin that bares teeth like a predator, take a swan dive off the —) about anything else.
Ashido cries out as she gets caught in the edge of one of Bakugou’s blasts, and Izuku is ready to get up and run when someone thuds down next to him in the grass without any warning.
“Oh!” Izuku jumps back in surprise, rearing his head at Todoroki, who just looks at him with an even gaze. “Todoroki, did you—”
“You flinch sometimes,” he interrupts bluntly, his expression betraying nothing of whatever emotions lie beneath. When Izuku gives him a questioning look, he tilts his head towards the sparring ring. “When Bakugou uses his Quirk. Sometimes, you flinch.”
Izuku laughs nervously, searching desperately for a way to deflect. He knows where Todoroki is going with this, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. Talking about it means facing it, and he’s not ready for that, possibly won’t ever be ready for that. “Lots of people flinch when Bakugou uses his Quirk. Explosions are kind of loud, you know?”
“Not like that.” Todoroki watches him with a knowing gaze for a moment, but he’s not one to beat around the bush, so it isn’t surprising when he straight out asks, “Was Bakugou one of the ones who hurt you?”
And, well, there’s really no lying about that one, is there? The answer is pretty obvious. Izuku focuses on the ground, bottom lip tugged between his teeth, as he gives a short nod.
Todoroki is quiet for a minute or so, watching the fight unfold before them. Then, in a perfectly flat, deadpan voice, he says, “Do you want me to kill him for you?”
“ What ?” He sputters, nearly pinwheeling back into the grass. “What, no, Todoroki—we’re not—we’re hero students, we’re not killing anyone.”
The other boy shrugs, unbothered. “That’s what Uraraka says anytime one of us is complaining about someone else.”
“But—” he scrubs at his face, groaning “—she’s not serious, Todoroki. When she says that, she’s just joking. Were you joking?”
Todoroki shrugs again.
“Besides...Kacchan...he’s trying. He’s getting better.”
(The problem is, Izuku doesn’t know if that’s good enough. What does it matter if Bakugou’s trying to become a better person when the damage has already been done? But then, what right does Izuku have to stand in his way? What, because he called Izuku a few names and shoved him around a bit, Bakugou can never be a good person, a good hero? That’s—that’s the problem, he has too many conflicting feelings about this to ever truly—)
“Does that really matter?” Todoroki shocks Izuku out of his thoughts by nearly reading them out loud. “Just because he’s changing, or trying to change, doesn’t mean you have to move on. It doesn’t mean you have to forgive him.”
Izuku frowns, because he’s said those words, or something along those lines, when talking to Todoroki about his father, and he knows— “It’s not the same.”
“He hurt you.” Simple, blunt facts. That’s what Todoroki deals in, but Izuku can’t see it like that.
“But it’s not the—”
“No, it’s not,” he agrees with a quiet hum. “Our situations were very different. But that doesn’t make what Bakugou did to you any less significant. He still hurt you, Midoriya. You have a right to be upset.”
As if on cue, Bakugou unleashes a massive explosion with a yell, blasting Ashido out of the ring. Izuku can’t help it ( fucking Deku, get back here— ); he flinches , hard, and curls into himself a little bit.
A cold hand wraps around one of his own, squeezing gently. Izuku looks up, into Todoroki’s calm, patient eyes, and gives him a small, shaky smile and a quiet, “thanks.”
Todoroki nods and leans in, pressing his shoulder to Izuku’s, a steady form in the presence of his panic, an anchor to keep him here in the present.
They sit there until Aizawa calls the class together to discuss their results, but by then, Izuku finds that the sweet smell of nitroglycerin and the ashy taste of explosions are once again a long distant memory.
There are a lot of nights where Izuku just can’t sleep. Sometimes it’s anxiety, sometimes it’s nightmares, sometimes it’s just the feeling that someone is watching…
It’s probably a sign that he should be seeing a therapist or a counselor, honestly, but that’s not a topic he’s going to think about right now, at two o’clock in the morning, when he has to technically be awake in four hours. He guesses that might not be a problem though. After all, waking up requires going to sleep, so if he never does that, then it’s guaranteed that he’ll be awake when he needs to be.
Izuku’s never claimed to have sound logic in the middle of the night.
The only thing to be done for nights like these is a soothing cup of tea, so Izuku sneaks down the stairs as quietly as he possibly can. He only exhales once he’s on the tiled floor of the kitchen, where there’s no threat of creaking floorboards beneath his socked feet.
Izuku jumps so quickly that he nearly slips and barely manages to muffle his yelp. Grabbing onto the kitchen counter to steady himself, he glares into the pitch black lounge, where he can now barely make out the vague, shadowy outline of Shinsou.
“Shinsou,” he hisses, one hand clutching at his shirt, right over his pounding heart. “What— why ?”
“Scaring people is fun.” Izuku can’t see it, but he can practically hear Shinsou’s trademark dead inside smile. “And scaring you is hilarious.”
He huffs, pulling down the kettle from the cabinet. “Yeah, thanks for that. I just needed another reason not to sleep tonight.”
There’s an awkward silence that goes on a second too long as Izuku gets the water set up on the stove, and then Shinsou says, “I’m supposed to be the dorm insomniac.”
“Trust me, I’m not trying to usurp you,” he snorts.
“Good,” Shinsou says, suddenly on the other side of the counter from Izuku. His pale purple hair looks dark still in the dimmed lights of the kitchen, and the shadows across his face make his cheshire smile even creepier than normal. “I’d have to kill you otherwise.”
Two months ago, Izuku might’ve taken him seriously. But now, having known Shinsou for a bit, he feels fine retorting, “You’d have to get in line.”
He’s expecting a snarky comment back. Instead, Shinsou’s smile slips, just a bit, and for the first time, the other boy looks at a loss for words. It’s then that he realizes what he might’ve implied (and not for the first time he decides that he hates this, he wishes he’d just kept his damn mouth shut like everyone always told him to—) and immediately he tries to fix it.
“Behind Shigaraki, I mean,” he says with an awkward laugh. “And Muscular. Dabi, maybe. Oh, and Overhaul, too—”
“We get it, you’ve pissed off a lot of villains.” Shinsou rolls his eyes, but it’s with a soft kind of fondness that makes Izuku smile as he pulls down two mugs from the cabinet.
“It’s not my fault! Trouble just finds me, I guess,” he says with a shrug.
“I don’t think it counts as finding you if you’re the one who runs straight at it.”
“What am I supposed to do, ignore it?” Izuku gets the tea out from the cabinet. It’s a tin of chamomile that his mom sent in her last care package. “That wouldn’t be very hero-like of me.”
“No, but it would indicate a healthier level of self-preservation,” Shinsou drawls. He sounds suspiciously like Aizawa, and it should say something that Izuku suspects Shinsou is actually quoting him.
“Self-preservation? Don’t know her,” Izuku quips back. When he turns back to Shinsou, he pauses. There’s...a look, in the other boy’s eyes, that doesn’t match the curved smile on his face. It looks something like concern.
“Clearly,” Shinsou mutters.
They both go quiet as he prepares the tea with the now heated water. It’s not like their normal silence; it’s awkward and tense, full of things that aren’t being said, spaces that Izuku isn’t sure how to fill so he lets them just be instead. The tea helps a bit, giving him something to focus on other than the intimidating gaze across from him.
“So,” Shinsou is the one to break the silence as he sets his half full mug down on the counter, “you weren’t born with the perfect Quirk.”
It takes everything Izuku has not to choke on his tea. How—how did he find about One for All? Did he overhear something? Read through his notebook? He’d written his notes on the Quirk and All Might in code specifically to keep this from happening, but maybe he should’ve been more careful—
“At least, not at first,” Shinsou continues, seemingly unaware of Izuku’s brief panic. He bites back a sigh of relief. The secret of One for All is still safe, though maybe he should consider burning that notebook. Just to be safe.
Izuku stares down at the mug in his hand, studying his almost-reflection in the tea. “No. Not at first.”
“I guess I was wrong, then,” the other boy says softly, and Izuku looks up in surprise. There’s a small smile on Shinsou’s face, something a little self-deprecating but kind all the same. “We’re more alike than I thought.”
(And yeah, Izuku’s known that since he stared Shinsou down in the arena, since he saw the same type of fire burning there that he’s felt since he was four years old and was told that he’d never have a Quirk. It’s a strange thing, this motivation fueled by the scars others have left on him, this creature that lives in his bones and tells him don’t fall behind, show them they’re wrong, prove you’re a hero . It’s even stranger to find someone who understands it exactly.)
“Yeah, maybe we are.” He quietly admits, tracing patterns on the side of his mug.
Shinsou raises his mug and taps it against Izuku’s like they’re doing a toast. “To shitty childhoods.”
Izuku just laughs.
Aizawa finds them the next morning, asleep together on the couch. Izuku is curled up next to Shinsou’s side. The taller boy has a protective arm wrapped around him, face buried in Izuku’s green curls. They both look at peace, barely touched by the soft light of the rising dawn.
Their teacher doesn’t smile, but he does pull a blanket over the two of them.
Later that week, after his evening workout, Izuku takes a quick shower and heads straight to his room, turning down Ashido’s invitation to a Star Wars marathon in favor of putting his head on a pillow, stat. Except that plan is immediately forgotten when he opens his door to find Uraraka sitting on his bed, hugging one of his All Might plushies to her chest with a deep furrow in her brow—the one that only appears when she’s thinking about something that deeply upsets her.
“Uraraka? What’s wrong?” he asks, shutting the door softly behind him. She looks up, surprised at the sound of his voice, like she hadn’t even heard the door opening.
“Nothing, I just—” she stops, taking a deep breath. “Well, no. Something. I know you said you didn’t want to talk about it, Deku, but I’m really worried about you. And I—I wanted to ask you about some stuff, if that’s okay with you.”
Izuku takes a seat on the bed next to her, biting his lip as he considers. He doesn’t particularly want to talk about it, but he’d already done so with Todoroki and Shinsou a little bit, and it had made him feel somewhat better. And if it would help Uraraka too... “It’s okay. You can, um, you can ask.”
It really shouldn’t surprise him that she doesn’t beat around the bush. “Did you ever think about…” Uraraka pauses, her voice near breaking as she visibly holds back tears. “...going through with it?”
“No,” Izuku reassures her. “Never.”
(It’s a lie, but he doesn’t want to think about that. Doesn’t want to think about the one time, the split second of a moment where he was angry and frustrated enough to think what if , and then was faced with the horrifying reality that he probably wasn’t worth enough for any of them to care. That the only person who’d attend his funeral, who’d cry over his grave, who’d even remember him at all, would be his own mother. Doesn’t want to think about it because he’s buried it away for so long, he’s afraid what he’d find if he dug it up again.)
“I’m okay, really, I promise.”
“Okay,” Uraraka nods, letting out a shaky breath. Her hand finds Izuku’s shoulder, twisting into the fabric of his pajama shirt like she’s afraid he’ll disappear. “Okay. I’m glad. But...that wasn’t all I wanted to ask.”
He bites his lip, nervous that he doesn’t know where she’s going with this. But he trusts her, a lot, so he says, “Go for it.”
“Did Bakugou ever tell you to kill yourself?” There’s something about the way she says it, with this angry edge to her voice, that makes him a bit nervous, but he knows it’s not directed at him. “It’s just, I was there for that first exercise. I know he must have been one of the ones who bullied you. But did he ever…?”
He hesitates. It’s not a story he ever wanted to relate to anyone else, partially because it was humiliating, and partially because it still hurt. But Uraraka is looking at him expectedly, and he doesn’t want to hide or lie. “Yeah. Only once, though.”
His eyes are glued to the All Might printed blanket below him, but he can feel the weight of her gaze still. She’s waiting for him to continue, like she knows he has more to say. And before he knows it, he’s spilling the whole story.
“Kacchan—he—he was really mad, when he found out I was gonna apply to UA. Started yelling at me about how they’d never accept a loser like me, and I’d never be a hero, and all the usual stuff. But then he—” Izuku takes a steadying breath and ignores the way Uraraka’s fingers have tightened their grasp “—he told me there was still one way I could be a hero. That all I had to do was take a swan dive off the roof, and hope I’d be born with a Quirk in the next life.”
The pressure on his shoulder grows tighter, but then, with no warning, it’s gone. The bed frame creaks and shifts as Uraraka doesn’t say a word, just slides off and walks towards the door. Izuku sits straight up, too surprised to be worried.
“Uraraka! Wait! Where are you going?”
She turns back at the doorway, and Izuku leans back unconsciously. Her expression is steady, with a determined set to her jaw, but her eyes are full of fury. “I’m going to go beat the hell out of Bakugou,” she says calmly, like she’s talking about going to the grocery store.
He gapes, speechless, as she opens the door, but manages to find his voice again when she starts stepping out. “Uraraka, wait , you can’t do that!”
“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t,” Uraraka says from behind gritted teeth. In the space of a moment, her eyes go from dry to shining brightly with unshed tears.
“Because,” Izuku scrambles for something, anything, “Aizawa-sensei will get really mad if he has to break up another fight. And because I don’t want you to.”
She doesn’t react much to the first thing (which, wow, he must’ve underestimated how angry she is if the threat of their homeroom teacher’s wrath isn’t enough to deter her), but the second makes her sigh, the fight leaving her like air out of a balloon. Carefully, gently, Uraraka closes the door and pads back over to the bed. As soon as she sits down, she hugs Izuku.
“I’m sorry.” Uraraka sniffles into his shoulder. Already he can feel the damp spot forming there, but he can’t be mad when he’s pretty sure he’s doing the same to her.
Izuku doesn’t know what she’s apologizing for, if it’s about what happened to him, or her bringing it up again, or what. Maybe it’s for all of it. Maybe it doesn’t really matter. “It’s okay.”
He can feel her shake her head against him, but she doesn’t protest. They just sit there, arms wrapped around each other, the quiet broken only by an occasional sniffle from one of them.
After a few minutes, Uraraka sits back, wiping at her face with her sleeve. Then she looks at him with that determined glint again, setting her hands on his shoulders as she says, “You know you didn’t deserve any of that, right? And you matter—you matter so much, Deku-kun. To me, and to everyone else. I can’t...I can’t imagine doing any of this without you. You’re one of my best friends.”
Izuku stares at her for a moment, feeling a hot blush creeping up the sides of his face. Slowly, he buries his face in his hands, hiding the renewed wetness gathering in his eyes. “I just stopped crying, Uraraka!”
“It’s okay,” she says with a giggle, pulling gently at his hands so they’re looking each other in the eyes again. “That’s one of the things we love about you, Deku!” (And isn’t that strange—someone loving him for the things that had Bakugou calling him a loser for only a year ago?)
He laughs, even as the tears start dripping out again. “Thank you. And I...I love you guys, too. A lot.”
“We know.” She pulls him into another hug, and they stay like that until curfew comes.
Uraraka sticks to her word and doesn’t go fight Bakugou that night. Something in the universe, though, must have heard her, because the very next day her and Bakugou are matched for a sparring exercise.
The match is brutal and quick. Uraraka moves with a ferocity that Izuku’s only seen in her once before, at the sports festival. (Is Bakugou’s anger contagious, he wonders?) Even Aizawa seems surprised by how fast and hard she goes after Bakugou, hardly even using her Quirk as she favors some of the martial arts she learned with Gunhead. She’s met with dozens of explosions and furious yells, but none of it deters her. At the end of it, Uraraka manages to simply tackle Bakugou and pin him in such a way that his hands are stuck against his back, preventing him from using his power.
Izuku watches on the edge of his seat as she leans in and says something too quiet for anyone else to hear. Whatever it was, it makes Bakugou’s eyes widen just a bit.
It’s the closest thing he’s seen to fear in Bakugou since those last few moments at the training camp, right before he was warped away.
Something about that is disturbingly comforting.
Izuku’s favorite part of his morning routine is his jog with Iida.
They meet every weekday around six, after sunrise, outside the dorms to stretch. Then they jog around campus for usually half an hour at least, before stopping to take showers and get ready for the day. Usually, it’s a quiet, peaceful affair, just the two of them running in companionable silence.
Today, though, Iida seems to have other ideas.
“Midoriya, there is something I would like to speak with you about,” Iida says as they stand, panting, under a pair of shady trees. He fiddles with the lid of his water bottle, which tips Izuku off immediately that something is wrong. Iida doesn’t get nervous, not even when Cementoss walks into class and declares a pop quiz.
“It’s just…” Iida looks lost for a moment, like he’s trying to figure out what to say. Or how to say it, in this case. The expression passes, though, replaced by the familiar determined glint in his eyes as he looks Izuku directly in the face. “Since our conversation the other day about your...past experiences, I haven’t been able to shake this thought. I have noticed, since the beginning of the year, your tendency to not rely on our teachers for help or tell them when something is wrong. At first I thought this was just a bit of overconfidence in yourself—”
“Hey, wait a second—”
“—but I know you better now, and it’s clear that isn’t the case. And the fact that you didn’t tell your teachers about your bullies makes it obvious that this is a long standing habit of yours, so I was wondering why—”
“Iida,” he cuts in, unable to listen any longer. “I did. I did tell them.”
“What?” The other boy looks genuinely confused, like he hadn’t considered that as a possibility. Izuku tries not to feel too frustrated by that. “Why would they not stop it, then?”
He shrugs, the toe of his shoe scraping back and forth through the dirt. “They didn’t care. Or they didn’t believe me. Or, sometimes—” and this one, this one takes a second to choke out but he makes himself say it anyways “—they agreed with them. The bullies.”
(The looks on their faces are still carved into Izuku’s memory, even if he can’t remember exactly what the faces themselves looked like. How they squinted at him like he was a nuisance, or gave him that condescending smile and told him maybe you’re just being a bit sensitive , or didn’t acknowledge him at all. And he hates it, hates that sometimes Aizawa glares at the class over something stupid someone said and his hands start shaking, or Midnight rolls her eyes at a bad joke and his muscles tense up, or Present Mic gets too loud and he has to excuse himself to the bathroom to go hide for awhile.)
“That…” Iida stops and starts, mouth agape. “That can’t be right.”
“I’m not lying,” Izuku snaps, too sharply, too defensively. It sends Iida reeling back for a moment before he regains his composure, adjusting his glasses.
“That’s not what I meant to imply,” his friend says apologetically. “I just meant—I don’t understand.”
He sighs. It makes sense, the more he thinks about it. The Iida family is a long and prestigious line of heroes; there’s no way they didn’t send their son to the best schools they could afford, where the teachers genuinely cared about the students, or at least were better at pretending they did.
“The teachers, they—they just didn’t care. It wasn’t a big enough problem for them to do anything about it.” With a shrug, he pops the cap off his water bottle and starts drinking, if only to avoid having to say more.
“Well that’s...that’s bullshit.”
Water spews out of Izuku’s mouth as he bends over coughing. He doesn’t know what he expected Iida to say, but it definitely wasn’t that .
“Midoriya, are you alright? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” A wide hand settles between his shoulder blades, rubbing in circles as he clears the water out of his throat.
“No, no, I’m good,” he says, voice rough.
“Well, then.” Iida straightens up, but he doesn’t take his hand off Izuku’s back, and he’s sort of glad about it. “I meant what I said, however crude it may have been. Teachers are supposed to look out for their students, not neglect or, even worse, hurt them. I’m sorry that yours failed you. You deserved better.”
(He’s never—he’s never thought about it like that before. That it was their fault, not his. That it was their failure to help him, and not his failure to be worth helping.
It’s going to take some time to get used to. But the seed is there, the hope is growing.)
“But I have to ask,” Iida continues, “why don’t you trust our teachers now? They clearly care about all of us. Aizawa-sensei nearly died for us during the first week of school.”
“I do,” Izuku insists, even though he isn’t entirely sure he does. “It’s just hard to shake the past, you know?”
“I do,” he says after a moment’s contemplation. There’s a look in his eye that means Iida can only be thinking about one thing, and Izuku scrambles for a way to comfort his friend from the old wounds, but Iida moves on before he gets the chance. “But I hope you know that even if you don’t feel as though you can rely on the teachers, you can always rely on us, both as your classmates and your friends. We— I am here for you. Whenever you need me.”
(He thinks he’s known that, maybe, since he sent out his location in a panic and Todoroki showed up right when he needed him. Since Uraraka found out that katsudon is his favorite and started buying it for him whenever something special happens. Since Tsuyu quietly listened as he rambled about the stress of his upcoming essay and didn’t interrupt or tell him to shut up or anything. Since Shinsou started sitting with him in the common room on the nights where he can’t sleep. Since Iida got a second sense for when Izuku’s not taking care of himself and began mother henning him until he’d put down the weights and eat a full meal.
Still, the reminder is always nice.)
“Thank you, Iida-kun.” He smiles, bright and wide and genuine, and Iida smiles back.
“You’re very welcome, Midoriya. Now, should we run back to the dorms? We are cutting it close, schedule-wise.”
Izuku takes one look at his wrist watch, one sniff of his sweaty shirt, and activates Full Cowling.
Technically, Quirk usage is allowed on campus so long as they have a supervisor.
Technically, Iida does not count as a supervisor and Izuku gets a week of detention.
Izuku startles, nearly knocking over his cup of tea onto his math worksheet. His earbuds fall out in the process, clacking loudly against the tabletop.
Tsuyu smiles, face at its usual level of blankness but with an added bit of amusement. “Sorry. Ribbit .”
“It’s, um, it’s okay,” he says, sheepishly moving his tea away from his homework. “What do you need, Tsuyu?”
“I need a favor.” That’s one of the things he loves about Tsuyu—she’s blunt and direct. (If she didn’t like him, he would know. He would know. He doubts a lot of things, but he can trust in this.) “The plants for the courtyard garden came in, and I could use some help to get them in the soil.”
“Of course.” Izuku beams, not hesitating for a second before tucking his worksheets into his backpack. Anything would be better than trying to figure out how to use the quadratic equation. Tsuyu smiles back.
Outside, the weather is quite nice. The sun is shining but it’s not too hot, just the right amount of warmth that Izuku nearly hums in content when it hits his skin. He follows Tsuyu through the courtyard to the small garden. It was meant to be a group project for the class, to help them destress and connect with nature and all, but it was mostly Tsuyu, Uraraka, Tokoyami, and Shouji who worked on it. Briefly, he wonders where the rest of Tsuyu’s usual garden buddies are if she’s asking him for help. He’s okay with gardening, but he certainly doesn’t have a green thumb, not like the rest of them.
( Is it a trap? Some always scared, always paranoid part of his brain says. Is she luring you out here for something? To beat you up? What does she want? )
( No , the rational part of his brain says. Tsuyu would never do that to him. None of his friends would do that to him.)
“Midoriya?” Tsuyu’s steady, calm voice pulls him out of his thoughts. He looks to where she’s pointing, a corner of the garden filled with black plastic containers of baby plants. “Can you grab a few of those and bring them over here please? Ribbit .”
He nods and gets to work, stacking as many of the plants into his arms as he can handle. Very, very carefully, Izuku makes his way over to Tsuyu, who’s pulled on gloves and is making small holes in the soil with a little shovel.
She looks up as soon as his shadow looms over her, giving an amused snort once she sees all the plants in his arms. “I didn’t say you had to try and bring all of them, Midoriya-kun.”
“I know, but I figured less trips this way, you know?” Tsuyu just shakes her head as Izuku grins. His smile soon drops, though, as he tries to figure out how to set the plants down without spilling them everywhere. Eventually Tsuyu just takes a few out of his grasp, and he sighs in relief.
They start working in comfortable silence, transplanting the different vegetables, fruits, and flowers into the ground with extreme care. Tsuyu has to show him the process a few times, but eventually Izuku gets the hang of it, and they set a good pace. It’s actually kind of relaxing, in a way. He thinks he might actually understand why his friend enjoys doing this so much.
Izuku is so involved in making sure the strawberries get in the ground safely that he doesn’t notice when Tsuyu stops and sits back. He does notice, though, when she says quietly, “Midoriya?”
“Yeah?” He looks up, accidentally using his hand to push his hair back before remembering he’s wearing soil-stained gloves.
Tsuyu laughs softly and leans forward, using her sleeve to wipe some of the dirt off his forehead. He stutters out a thank you and removes the gloves, embarrassed. They both sit in awkward silence for a moment before Tsuyu continues whatever she was about to say before.
“When I was younger,” her eyes are downcast, lost in memory, a look that Izuku knows well, “a few of my classmates didn’t like me and my Quirk very much. They thought frogs were creepy, or gross. They used to tease me about it—my tongue especially. Ribbit .”
His heart clenches, the staccato beat thrown off by the mixture of anger and sadness and understanding that hits him all at once. “...Tsuyu, I—”
“It’s okay. It didn’t last very long, and it wasn’t that bad.” She stops for a moment, her wide fingertips tapping against her mouth. “It hurt, sometimes, but I never felt bad for long. Ribbit . My friends were always right there to cheer me up. But...you didn’t have that, did you?”
Izuku bites his lip, feeling like a light has suddenly been pointed at him. There’s nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. Just him and the truth, and the truth is (sitting in the back of the classroom because no one wants to be near the Quirkless kid, eating lunch outside because no one wants to be near the Quirkless kid, walking home by himself because no one wants to be near the Quirkless kid, nursing his burns and scrapes alone, alone, always alone) “—no. I didn’t.”
Tsuyu nods. It looks like that was the answer she’d been expecting, but she doesn’t look any happier for it. “I thought so. I know...I hope , things are better now, but still. I hope we’re able to do that for you. I hope we’re able to make you feel happier. Ribbit .”
“Oh, Tsu,” Izuku breathes, tears already forming in the corners of his eyes. He wipes them away before they can fall and, without thinking, leans over the row of plants to pull his friend into a hug. She stiffens at first, but after a moment, she relaxes into it, even patting his back a few times. “You guys already do. You make me feel better all the time.”
(It’s the truth, come to light. He hadn’t thought about it much before, but he honestly doesn’t know where he’d be without them, without their steady, comforting presence. Probably dead at the hands of a villain, but Izuku doesn’t particularly like thinking about that. He’d rather think about the stark difference between then and now, between lonely lunches and crowded, chaotic study groups, between muttering to himself and actually getting to talk about the things he’s thinking about, between being alone and suddenly having people on his side, between bullies and friends.)
Finally, Tsuyu pulls back, with a small smile on her face. “I’m happy to hear that, Midoriya. Ribbit .”
“Izuku.” He doesn’t really think about it before saying it, but when he does, it feels right. “You can call me Izuku.”
“Okay,” she nods, but Izuku can see the excited gleam in her eyes. “Izuku it is.” As she looks down at the plants in front of her, she frowns a bit. “I think we crushed this strawberry plant. Ribbit .”
He looks down and yeah, that is one crushed plant. Pretty sure that’s the imprint of his knee smashing the leaves into the dirt. “Oh, jeez.”
“Oh jeez, indeed.”
There’s an unspoken rule among Izuku’s friends: no matter what, Saturday night is movie night. No exceptions. Well, unless there’s a life-threatening crisis, in which case there is an exception, but other than that—Saturday night is for watching dumb, cheesy movies, action flicks, and the occasional horror film.
Izuku walks into the common room with three bowls of popcorn carefully balanced in his arms and looks around. Sometimes others from Class 1A join them, but tonight it’s just the Dekusquad (as strange as it still feels to think of them as that). It looks like they’ve already made the choice for tonight’s screening: an old documentary about All Might, one of his favorites. A soft smile spreads across his face as Uraraka turns and spots him.
“Deku-kun!” She grins and waves, even though he’s only a few feet from her. “Come on, I saved you a seat!”
“Here, Midoriya, let me help,” Iida says as he passes by. He takes two of the bowls from him with a smile and goes to sit on the couch, Izuku following close behind.
Uraraka steals the last bowl of popcorn from him as he plops down next to her, right in the middle of the couch. Iida is on his other side, and next to Uraraka is Todoroki, squished into the corner. Izuku laughs and scooches down, practically snuggling into Iida’s side, to give their friend more room. In front of the couch, nesting in a little pile of pillows and blankets, is Tsuyu, positioned perfectly so Uraraka can reach forward periodically and give her head a pat. The farthest person is Shinsou, who’s curled up on the loveseat and keeping his eyes glued to the TV, even though he shoots the rest of them a small smile when he thinks no one is looking.
For the rest of the night, as they watch the documentary and then several more All Might-focused films, Izuku can’t help but feel light. Warm. And it’s not like this fixes everything—he still can’t shake the distrust around his teachers, or his lingering bad feelings he has towards Bakugou, and maybe he never will. But as Uraraka throws her head into his lap and her legs over a slightly-smiling Todoroki, and as Iida narrowly misses Izuku’s face with one of his sweeping hand gestures and immediately apologizes, and as Tsuyu hands them a blanket from her pile without hesitation when Uraraka complains about being cold, and as Shinsou interjects sarcastic comments and smiles when they all laugh—well. Izuku thinks he might be okay, anyways.