Izuku was studying in the common room when the news broke. He’d taken a break from writing notes to rub his stiff fingers. Even though Recovery Girl assured him his bones were completely healed, they still ached sometimes, especially when he wrote too much.
Todoroki was planted on the couch beside Izuku, slowly tilting more and more against Izuku’s shoulder as he drifted off to sleep. The first time Todoroki had fallen asleep on him, Izuku had nearly freaked out. But he’d come to realize it was because Todoroki trusted him. And that— that— made Izuku’s heart do backflips.
Most of 1-A were scattered around the room, laughing and talking, playing games, or attempting to study. The only ones missing were Tokoyami— who said he needed to search for answers in the dark— Satou— who was stress baking over the upcoming test— and Kouda— who was having a bad sensory day and needed to destress with his rabbit.
When Mina leaped off the couch with a loud yell, everyone took notice. Todoroki startled awake and straightened. Izuku missed the loss of his warmth next to him.
“Have you guys seen the news?” Mina demanded, waving her phone around. She continued without letting anyone reply. “A teen committed suicide on live tv!”
Izuku’s blood went cold.
“How?” Kaminari asked.
“Jesus, Denki,” Jirou said, giving him a disgusted look.
“What? It’s just a question,” Kaminari said.
Mina returned her attention to her phone. “It says they hanged themself and they had the video sent to the local news station. It’s blown up online because of the message they attached to the video.”
Something lodged in Izuku’s throat. “What’s the message?” he croaked out, but his voice was drowned out by several other people asking the same thing.
Mina skimmed through her phone. She gasped, her black eyes widening. “They were quirkless!”
Izuku felt like he was going to throw up. He pointedly did not look at Kacchan sitting on the couch across from him.
Silence filled the common room.
“I didn’t know quirkless people still existed.” That was Kaminari, followed by the sound of Jirou punching him in the arm.
“My grandmother is quirkless,” she said.
Kaminari rubbed his arm with a wince. “Jeez, I just meant I didn’t think there were people our age who were quirkless.”
“This is a serious matter! Not something to be gossiped over,” Iida proclaimed. He was ignored.
“Did they commit suicide because they were quirkless?” Sero asked.
Mina nodded. “That’s basically what the message is about. They’re saying they hope society is happy it pushed them this far.”
“Good riddance, I say,” Mineta said with a smirk.
Izuku couldn’t feel his hands. Where was all the oxygen going?
Multiple people yelled at Mineta to shut up. It sounded like all their voices were coming from underwater.
“Quirkless people face more discrimination than even people with mutant quirks,” Ojiro said softly, his tail twitching over his shoulder.
Mineta huffed and crossed his arms. “Why does it matter? They’re a dying breed anyway. Give it a few more generations and quirkless people won’t exist anymore. So who cares?”
A loud explosion set off from Kacchan’s general direction. Izuku flinched, hunching his shoulders. He fixed his gaze on his shaking hands.
Izuku was confident enough at this point that he could consider most of his class friends. Maybe even best friends with a few of them like Iida and Uraraka and Tsuyu and Todoroki. He knew they would never do anything to hurt him.
But what if— a small part of his brain said— they knew he was technically quirkless? Would they still be friends with him if they knew how weak and helpless and useless he was?
“Shut the fuck up!” Kacchan snapped. “None of you stupid extras know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
“And you do?” Mina asked.
“Midoriya, are you all right?” Tsuyu asked, staring directly at Izuku. “You look pale.”
A warm hand suddenly clasped Izuku’s. He ripped his gaze from Tsuyu’s and met Todoroki’s heterochromatic gaze.
“Are you okay?” Todoroki asked softly. “You’re shaking.”
Izuku swallowed passed the lump in his throat. “I’m fine.” His voice sounded wrong to his ears. Did Todoroki notice? Oh god, what if he noticed how off Izuku was acting? How would Izuku explain it? Would Todoroki figure out the truth that Izuku was an imposter? Izuku didn’t want to lose Todoroki. He didn’t want to lose any of his friends. He didn’t want to leave UA. Izuku couldn’t take it. He wasn’t strong enough.
Do everyone a favor and take a swan dive off the roof.
Izuku looked up and met Kacchan’s gaze across the room. Izuku flinched at his glare. Kacchan wouldn’t say anything… would he? He was the only one who knew about Izuku’s quirklessness. He wasn’t vindictive enough to out Izuku to their classmates, right? Izuku had no idea. If it helped Kacchan get to the top in some way, he probably would.
Oh, Izuku really was going to throw up.
He ripped his hand from Todoroki’s and fled the room with a hasty excuse. He barely made it to the bathroom before he fell to his knees and vomited into the closest toilet.
His heart pounded in his ears, feeling like it would explode right out of his chest. Sweat dripped down his temples and back. Stomach acid stained the toilet seat and dripped off his chin. He gagged and retched until his stomach was empty— and then some.
He sagged against the toilet. Resting his forehead against his arms, he tried to just breathe. It’s fine. It’s fine. They don’t know. They don’t know. He repeated it like a mantra, trying to calm his racing heart.
Give it a few more generations and quirkless people won’t exist anymore. So who cares?
Izuku threw up again.
Banging on the door startled him. He whimpered and pressed himself into the corner. The porcelain toilet was cold and damp against his side. Just go away, please.
“Oi! Fucking nerd, you in there?”
“Midoriya?” Todoroki’s voice. Todoroki was out there with Kacchan. Izuku couldn’t let them see him like this. He opened his mouth to tell them he was fine, but all that came out was more retching.
It hurt. He had nothing left to throw up, but his body kept trying anyway. Tears dripped off his cheeks. He whimpered.
“That’s it,” Kacchan barked. There was a small explosion, then Kacchan kicked the door open. “Shit,” he hissed through his teeth.
Izuku squeezed his eyes shut, trying to will them away.
“Midoriya, are you sick?” Todoroki asked.
“No, he’s not fucking sick,” Kacchan said. “He’s having a fucking panic attack. Go get Aizawa.”
“No!” Izuku blurted. His head pounded. He just wanted them to leave so he could wait out this episode and clean himself up. He didn’t want to face anyone, not Kacchan and Todoroki and especially not Aizawa-sensei. Aizawa can never, never know he’s quirkless. He’d expel Izuku in an instant. Izuku couldn’t be a hero if he was weak.
“Midoriya, why—” Todoroki started.
Kacchan clicked his tongue. “Just go get Aizawa, Icyhot.”
A beat of silence. Izuku forced his eyes open. Kacchan stood in the doorway looking both pissed off and awkward. Todoroki was gone.
“There. Are you fucking done now, nerd?”
Izuku sucked in a breath, wincing at the rancid taste in his mouth. He forced the words passed his lips, wheezy and not quite there. “Kacchan… Kacchan, don’t t-t-tell him. P-please.” More tears streamed down his face. Fuck his fucking stutter.
Kacchan frowned. “Tell who what?”
Izuku’s chest physically hurt. His back ached and his stomach burned. As much as he loved Satou’s cookies, he never wanted to taste them regurgitated again.
“Hey.” Kacchan snapped his fingers in Izuku’s face. Izuku flinched, smacking his head against the wall.
“Chill,” Kacchan grumbled. “You spaced out. What didn’t you want me to say?”
“D-d-don’t tell Aizawa-s-s-sensei I’m—”
Before he could finish, the door slide open, and Aizawa stepped through. Todoroki hovered anxiously just outside.
“Don’t tell me what, Problem Child?” Aizawa asked. He sounded tired. Or maybe weary was the better word.
Izuku pulled his knees to his chest. He couldn’t get enough air into his lungs. It felt like something was sitting on his chest. “No, no, no, no, go away. D-d-d-don’t look.” His breathing stuttered in his chest like a flame about to go out. His words were gaspy and quiet.
Aizawa gave Kacchan a pointed look. Kacchan left without a fuss, pulling an unwilling Todoroki behind him. Once they were out of sight, Aizawa crouched, giving Izuku space but still in his line of sight.
“Midoriya, can you look at me?”
Izuku blinked away tears. When had he started crying again? Had he ever stopped?
“Good,” Aizawa said, his voice soothing. Izuku had never heard him sound so soft. “Can you name five things you can see?”
A grounding technique. Izuku knew these. Aizawa knew he was having a panic attack. No hiding it now. The whole class probably knew by now. What if Kacchan was telling them right now? He was probably laughing while he revealed Izuku’s biggest secret. Izuku hated him. He hated him.
No, he didn’t.
Izuku hated himself.
He hated that he was so weak. He hated that he was quirkless. He hated that he’d allowed Kacchan to use him as a punching bag for a decade. He hated that he made his mom worry. He hated that he was the reason his dad left. He hated that his quirk left him broken and vulnerable— weak. He hated that he’d only gotten a quirk by causing the downfall of All Might, his idol.
He hated the way his breath snagged in his chest like something was cutting off his airways. He hated his pounding heart. He hated the tears. He hated his shaking, aching hands. He hated the way Aizawa was looking at him.
“Midoriya,” Aizawa said again. He placed a heavy hand on Izuku’s shoulder. Izuku shuddered and leaned into the touch. He closed his eyes not wanting to see the disappoint— disgust?— on Aizawa’s face.
“Does touch help?” Aizawa asked.
Izuku trembled. He forced a jerky nod.
“Can I hug you?”
More tears blurred Izuku’s vision. No one had ever treated him with such kindness during a panic attack. Maybe his mom would have, but he’d made sure to never let her see. She already worried too much. No use burdening her with this.
Izuku nodded again. Then Aizawa’s arms were pulling him away from the toilet and into a warm embrace. It was a little awkward with them sitting on the bathroom floor but they made do. Izuku tucked his face into Aizawa’s shoulder. His capture weapon was soft on Izuku’s skin. Aizawa’s grip was firm but not constricting. The pressure was deep and unyielding. It loosened something in Izuku’s chest. He sucked in a breath. Then another and another until he was breathing semi-normally again.
Izuku winced. He was getting tears and snot all over Aizawa’s clothes. Not to mention his breath was undoubtedly rancid.
He started to pull back, giving Aizawa a chance to leave. But Aizawa hugged him tighter and Izuku melted. He closed his eyes and cried, not the sobbing, hiccuping cries from his panic attack but weeping, near-silent, tears that shook his entire body.
Finally, once Izuku’s breathing was back to normal and he’d run out of tears, Aizawa drew back. “Better?”
Useless, worthless Deku.
“Do you want to talk about it? It doesn’t have to be me. It could be your mom, one of your friends, All Might—”
Izuku jerked upright, meeting Aizawa’s gaze with a clear question in his eyes.
Aizawa sighed. “I know All Might is training you, Problem Child. You two are about as subtle as Bakugou during training.”
Izuku suppressed a wince. He opened his mouth to say he was fine, make some excuse about how he was just having an off day, something to placate Aizawa. But what came out was not any of that. “A quirkless teen committed suicide.”
A pause. “Oh, I’m sorry, kid. That’s upsetting.”
“No. Wait, I mean, yes! It’s just that I-I-I-I…” Izuku swallowed. Aizawa waited patiently for him to gather his thoughts. “I… my quirk came in late. Like, r-r-really late.”
Aizawa frowned. “How late?”
“The d-d-day of the en-entrance exam.” Izuku spoke the words so quietly he was sure Aizawa heard him.
The flat tone of voice made Izuku flinched back. He shouldn’t have said anything. Why did he say that? Why was he so stupid?
Useless, quirkless Deku—
“It’s r-r-rare,” Izuku stumbled over his words, trying to remember the cover story he and All Might had come up with. “About p-p-point zero oh one percent of the population develop their quirk late. We th-th-think I g-g-got my quirk late as a defense mechanism because my b-b-body isn’t able to handle the strain.” Aizawa was still staring at him. Izuku didn’t know how to fix this. Why did he open his mouth?
Finally, Aizawa groaned. “Problem Child, you really are impossible. You thought you were quirkless until high school?”
Izuku nodded jerkily.
“Were you bullied?”
“N-no! I mean, maybe? I guess. But it wasn’t that bad! It was my fault! I got in the way. I always made Kacchan mad and—”
Fuck. Izuku wanted to bite off his tongue. He’d fucked up big time now.
“Did Bakugou bully you? Did he hurt you?” Aizawa’s gaze was intense. Izuku wilted.
“Jesus, kid, and here I was thinking you two were rivals. I owe you an apology and I swear I will do better by you.”
Izuku hastily shook his head. “No, no, no, you don’t have to! I’m fine! It’s fine.”
“You just had a panic attack and threw up. That’s not fine, kid.” Aizawa hesitated, then spoke in a softer tone. “Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?”
Do everyone a favor and take a swan dive off the roof.
Aizawa didn’t look like he believed that. Izuku didn’t blame him.
“Okay, therapy is nonnegotiable. I will be contacting your mother as soon as possible to discuss options and fitting sessions into your school schedule.” Before Izuku could even open his mouth to protest— his mom absolutely could not know he’d thought about that— Aizawa cut him off. “I won’t tell her anything you don’t want me to. But I will tell her enough to give her a picture of what’s going on. She’s your mom, kid, and you’re still a minor. I have to tell her, okay?”
Izuku reluctantly nodded. It could be worse he supposed. He stuttered out an okay.
Aizawa sighed. “We’ll talk about this more tomorrow. You need to rehydrate and sleep after that.”
Izuku pushed himself to his feet. Aizawa offered his hand and he took it. He was still shaky and weak but it was a little better. He moved toward the door.
“And, Midoriya? You can always come to me with anything, okay?”
Izuku didn’t know how to process that. Aizawa sounded so sincere, so earnest. Izuku had never had a teacher who’d wanted to help him before. This was something he’d have to get used to.
Some part of him wondered if this could be a good thing. Aizawa seemed like he wanted to help. Maybe— Izuku didn’t want to get his hopes up but it was so, so hard— maybe UA would be different from middle school. Maybe he could get help and start healing now that he had people who were willing to help him.
“Yes, sensei,” he said. Then he hesitated at the door. He whirled around and wrapped his arms around Aizawa’s middle. The man let out a surprised oof and staggered back a step. Then his arms wrapped around Izuku’s shoulder. Aizawa placed a heavy hand on Izuku’s head and gently ruffled his curls.
Izuku felt like he would die. It reminded him of the times All Might ruffled his hair, but Aizawa was different… better, somehow. Maybe because Aizawa was so much more down to earth than All Might. Maybe Izuku was remembering how Aizawa hadn’t hesitated to throw himself at the villains during the USJ attack to protect the students. Maybe because All Might had never talked Izuku through a panic attack. But Izuku felt safe and cared for in Aizawa’s arms.
Finally, Izuku pulled back and Aizawa let him. Izuku scuffed his feet against the floor before looking up to meet Aizawa’s gaze.
“Thank you, sensei,” he said and he meant it.
“Problem Child,” Aizawa said fondly, barely managing to hide his smile in his capture scarf.
Izuku ducked out of the bathroom with a wide smile. He avoided his classmates as he slipped up the stairs. He started crying again as he reached his room. But this time, it was tears of joy.