Izuku Midoriya has been afraid of many things in his life.
Disappointing his mother.
Dying at the hands of the sludge villain.
Disappointing All Might.
Having to fight All for One or Shigaraki or the League.
Failing and disappointing everyone.
Watching all his friends die.
And also, Kacchan.
He can honestly say though, that this is the first time he’s been sitting in his desk, quaking in fear at… an oral report.
A five minute presentation.
And he’s not even the one that needs to speak.
It had all started last week when Aizawa had walked into homeroom and written three words on the board.
Route to Villainy
He’d underlined the words and then added another word beneath it.
Aizawa faces the class with his signature stare. “Villains. What makes them turn to villainy? What makes them decide to go down a path that will in all likelihood end with them behind bars? This class is usually taught in third year but since you’ve all come into close contact with villains already it was moved up the curriculum.”
The room is silent as Aizawa continues. “You will find what motivates them differs from villain to villain and a vast majority of them don’t even consider what they are doing as ‘wrong’. In fact most villains turn to crime for one reason alone. They were failed by the hero system.”
There’s a sharp intake of breath, a couple shocked gasps, but Aizawa continues undisturbed. “This is a fact of life as heroes. You can’t save everyone, you can’t be everywhere at once and sometimes. People fall through the cracks. This doesn’t make it our fault. Just our responsibility. At the end of the day, no matter a villain’s origin story it still all comes down to a choice. But it doesn’t hurt to understand why… ”
The class is silent as they hang on his every word.
“Over the course of the next week each of you will be taken off campus to interview a low level villain in prison. You will be accompanied by myself both for safety as well as to grade your overall performance. The interviewing itself and subsequent note taking will be all on you so make sure you adequately prepare in advance. Upon your return to campus you will have the rest of the week to compile what you’ve learned into an essay and prepare a separate five minute speech to share with the class on why that particular villain chose to go down this route. Yes Iida?”
The boy lowers his hand and gestures wildly as he speaks. “Is it really safe for UA to be exposing us to villains one on one? What if the fiends are simply using this as a way to get us off campus?”
Aizawa sighs. “You'd be surprised at how many villains jump at the chance to share their ‘tales of woe’. A willing audience that will then be writing up what is essentially their life story and then providing them with a free copy is something most incarcerated villains would kill for.”
The incident of five years ago flashes through his mind and he mumbles under his breath “Have killed for...”
The list of villains approved for the study is passed around.
Aizawa stops Midoriya from taking one. “Not you, Problem Child. You’ve been requested and I’ve already approved.”
“Requested? By who?”
~20 minutes ago~
“and that’s when Stain officially shed his persona as a vigilante and chose to become the Hero Killer instead.”
Izuku had volunteered to go first but now, with the class staring at him in shock he is rapidly coming to regret it.
Did I talk too much?
Oh god did I mumble?
I should have let someone else go first.
What if I-
Iida, pale faced and wide eyed finally looks up and claps. His other friends join in and Izuku quickly bows and makes his way back to his seat, beyond grateful for his wonderful friends.
Aizawa hadn’t exactly told them to take notes but Izuku has a fresh notebook out anyway. Keeping track of things that can push people to villainy will only make him a better hero in the long run.
So as Ashido gets up to speak next Izuku quickly writes down.
1) Disillusioned with heroes
That’s actually a pretty common theme now that Izuku thinks about it. Stain still has fans and at least two of the league have claimed to follow his ideals so maybe it’s something heroes need to actually work on changing...
Ashido clears her throat and Izuku quickly cuts the train of thought there.
He can always think more on this later.
“I met with the villain known as Sedusa who’s quirk is the ability to kind of hypnotize anyone that meets her gaze unimpeded for five seconds.”
Mineta promptly falls out of his chair but Ashido ignores him as her tone turns somber. “After her quirk came in her parents bought her special glasses that were thick enough to block her quirk. But it didn’t matter. Once her classmates found out, she was ostracized and even her teachers didn’t want to acknowledge her. It came to a point where she couldn’t even lift her head without being accused of trying to use her quirk. She was even physically attacked a few times and the teachers just turned the other way without intervening at all. As she got older she started thinking that if she was going to be treated as a villain anyway then she may as well gain something from it. So at her high school graduation when it was her turn to step on stage for her diploma she took her glasses off and well. She had her revenge. It took weeks for the police to find everyone she’d snared but by then all of her classmates had been involved in some kind of public scandal and she’d left town.”
Ashido shuffles her notecards awkwardly, a conflicted look on her face. “If I had to pin down the reason she became a villain I’d say she was really lonely…”
Aizawa is speaking now, gesturing for Ashido to sit back down and calling up Jirou next.
It all goes over Izuku’s head as he stares down at his paper.
3) Isolation from peers
There’s a feeling creeping up on him.
Because kids are cruel and he can’t imagine what Sedusa went through.
And isn’t that something.
He tugs at his necktie lightly and listens as Jirou begins.
4) They were ignored when they asked for help
5) Nobody believed they’d ever amount to much
6) Their best friend turned on them for something they couldn’t control
Izuku licks dry lips and digs his nails into his palms.
This is fine.
Everything is fine.
Iida gets up next and Izuku can’t hold back a flinch.
It’s just a speech.
A five minute presentation.
But he’s never been more terrified in his life.
“When Reaper was around 5 years old her father left, ostensibly to work overseas. She later discovered that he had abandoned his family because he was afraid of her quirk. Her mother struggled to provide for her, both financially as well as parentally. Reaper would come home from school covered in bruises but her mother was too tired to notice and so...”
Izuku’s heart stutters as something grips it tightly.
He’s starting to feel floaty.
Like he’s listening and watching and still writing down observations but at the same time it’s like he isn’t here at all.
His pen drags on the paper as he fights the urge to dissociate fully.
7) Abandoned by their father for something they couldn’t control.
8) No one noticed they were being bullied
He knows his classmates would keep things simpler.
Would write simple things like ‘no friends’ or ‘abandoned because of their quirk’ but that feels too harsh to Izuku.
Izuku understands their pain, understands that it’s not the fact that they were judged for their quirk that hurts, but the fact that a child can not choose what they are born with.
They were blameless and yet were judged as if it were their fault.
As if I had any choice in being born quirkless-
His head snaps up in horror, the fog receding in an instant.
It’s not the same.
The words don’t ring true, even to himself.
Probably because they aren’t.
Eijirou is called up last.
He’s a bit nervous honestly. About three of the villains had had some form of extreme bullying as the root of their convictions but his. His is a whole new level.
He stands at the front of the class but immediately wants to cower under the weight of everyone’s stares.
His mom told him that if he got nervous he should just picture everyone in their underwear but that’s just going to make him laugh.
And laughing right now would be wrong on so many levels.
Not manly at all.
So instead, Eijirou picks out the kindest kid in the class to focus on while talking.
Except Midoriya isn’t looking too good.
Aizawa coughs lightly and Eijirou rubs the back of his head. “Sorry sorry. Heavy stuff here.”
Midoriya sinks even lower into his seat.
Which is weird but Eijirou’s not gonna puzzle that out right now. He’s got a speech to give.
“Remote Control was the only quirkless kid in-”
Midoriya falls out of his chair.
Eijirou immediately stops and moves to help him but almost as soon as the green haired boy had hit the ground, Bakugou had casually grabbed his wrist and hauled him back to his feet.
Midoriya flinches, hand jerking out of his classmate’s hold. He steps back and holds up his hands. “I’m good. Sorry. I must have zoned out for a second there.”
He bows to Kirishima before retaking his seat and rubbing the back of his head sheepishly.
But his eyes stay glued to the ground.
His friends are all looking overly concerned so Eijirou quickly continues his speech to take the focus off. It’s the least he can do for a manly guy like Midoriya.
“Remote Control was the only quirkless kid in his school and was treated as ‘different’ from everyone else. It started out as calling him fragile and keeping him from playing with them but eventually devolved into acting like he wasn’t even there. His classmates would often speak badly about him while both he and even the teachers were right there but nobody ever said anything about it.”
Which really pisses Eijirou off but he has to stay objective while giving over the facts.
“It got really bad around high school...”
Izuku keeps his head down as Kirishima heads back to his seat. His pen presses against the paper so hard it scores a line through the page.
29) being suicide baited
The pen slips through his fingers as his hands start to shake.
That makes twenty five.
Twenty five things that he went through that villains have stated is bad enough to justify-
He feels nauseous and ill and has to press a hand over his mouth as Aizawa Sensei claps his hands together for silence.
“I’m sure some of you have already realized but the point of this class is to show you how easy it is for people to become villains. It doesn’t take as much as you’d think. In fact studies show that most, if not all children have faced at least one of these struggles throughout their childhood. To that end we’ll be doing a little experiment.”
He motions with his hand and holds out a stack of papers.
Iida practically leaps to his feet to start handing them out.
“This is the official list of top ten contributions to a villainous mental state. I want everyone to cross out everything you haven’t gone through personally and then tally your score with what’s left. We’ll review the results in a minute.”
Izuku grips his fists tightly to try and stop the shaking but luckily Iida simply places the page on his desk and moves on.
Izuku side-eyes it and resists the urge to push it off his desk.
That would be stupid.
And he’d still have to do the assignment, he'd just have to pick his paper up first.
He touches it gingerly with the barest tip of his finger and slowly slides it in front of himself.
He doesn’t want to look.
Can already guess what the paper will say based on his own notes on the presentation.
He already knows he’ll be hitting at least half the scenarios on the list.
Maybe he’ll be able to cross off four?
He squeezes his fists one last time before picking up his pen.
Here goes nothing.
1 Being picked on / bullied on a daily basis
2 Lack of support from teachers / authority figures
3 Lack of support from family members
4 Were categorically shunned by peers / family
5 Being told on a daily basis that your dreams are unrealistic
6 Having a loved one / very important person suddenly leave your life
7 Being discriminated against for having what is referred to as a villainous quirk
8 Asking for help and being denied / ignored / blamed for the situation instead
9 Being emotionally / physically hurt by a pro hero
10 Being discriminated against for being quirkless
Izuku tugs on his necktie with numb fingers.
His throat is dry and he can feel his heart racing as he forces himself to take steady breaths.
...at least he can cross off one...
He draws a shaky line through number seven.
And in the box at the top for his score, he manages an even shakier 9.
Eijirou startles at the tiny clattering sound that seems to shatter the silence of the classroom.
His head jerks up to see Midoriya’s pen rolling along the floor.
The boy himself doesn’t seem to care about it, wide green eyes staring unblinking and straight ahead.
“May I be excused Sensei?”
Eijirou frowns at the emotionless and scratchy tone of voice; so contradictory to the brightness and cheer of Midoriya’s usual way of speech.
He’s not the only one staring at the boy in concern. Bakubro is half turned in his seat as if to hide the fact that he’s watching at all and up front Aizawa Sensei’s eyebrows are furrowed. “Can’t it wait, Problem Child? There’s only a few minutes left.”
Midoriya doesn’t say anything but Eijirou can see shoulders hunching in, and head ducking low and Aizawa Sensei sighs loudly. “Off you go then. Just bring me your paper so we can update the statistics.”
Midoriya gets to his feet slowly and holds his paper close to his chest.
Bakugou tries to get his attention by poking at him with his pen but Midoriya continues on as if he doesn’t even feel it.
His feet shuffle and drag and Eijirou is almost surprised that nobody besides him and Bakugou are watching.
The explosive boy makes one last grab at Midoriya’s back and it’s enough to throw the boy completely off balance.
He flails as he trips and his paper flutters to the ground at Aoyama‘s feet.
“D-D-Don’t” Midoriya stutters out.
But that’s as far as he gets as Aoyama glances down and gasps loudly. “A Nine???”
All noise in the room cuts out immediately and Midoriya’s face turns so pale his freckles stand out from across the room.
He lets out a noise akin to a terrified squeak and in a blur of green lightning the door is swinging shut behind him.
Mina leaps from her seat and jumps for the paper as Kaminari shouts “You sure you weren’t just reading it upside down dude? How could Midoriya get a-”
“It is! It’s a nine!”
Mina’s scream silences the room as Bakugou’s head thunks solidly onto his desk.
“Holy shit! The only one he crossed off is-”
Aizawa Sensei snatches the paper from her hands, his eyes narrowed in a fierce glare. “This exercise is supposed to be anonymous. And I am sure you will be keeping what exactly you saw to yourself.”
He doesn’t say anything else, merely turns his glare from Aoyama to Mina to Bakugou’s head now covered by his arms.
The silence turns oppressive and Eijirou slowly raises his hand. “C-Could I… go check on Midoriya?”
Those eyes turn on him next, and he fights the urge to look away.
Aizawa Sensei scrutinizes him, seemingly looking for something and Eijirou swallows and waits him out.
Whatever he’s looking for he must find because he suddenly looks away and jerks a thumb over his shoulder.
Eijirou books it.
Izuku fumbles with his necktie as he staggers into the wall.
His dorm room is just up ahead.
He’s almost there if he can just-
His hands are trembling and the knot just.
He slams into his door gasping and tugging and just struggling to breathe.
It’s all over.
How could he actually answer it honestly???
Now they've seen-
He used to be quirkle-
Izuku stumbles, fingers still hopelessly tangled in what used to be his tie.
He opens his mouth but all he manages is a high keening noise as he gasps for breath.
“Shit shit. Hang on.”
There’s hands on top of his. His body is torn between flinching back and continuing to panic and he simply quakes as rough fingers gently free his own shaking ones and finally finally he is free.
His fingers immediately fumble with his top button but luckily his savior makes quick work of that too.
He presses back against the wall and just breathes for a minute till he can finally work up the courage to open his eyes.
Kirishima’s concerned face comes into view and he slowly closes his eyes again.
“Thanks” He croaks.
“Don’t mention it.” Kirishima murmurs.
Izuku slips his key from his pocket and slowly opens his door.
Kirishima hovers in the doorway and Izuku feels bile rising in the back of his throat at the thought of what this is.
He’s here to watch me
They must not trust me anymore.
If I try to leave
Will he stop me?
The thoughts swirl and race and he almost doesn’t hear Kirishima when the boy asks him if he’s alright.
For some reason, the question pisses him off.
“Am I alright? No I’m not fucking alright! I’ve just had the entirety of my childhood broken down into the millions of things I have in common with villains! Am I alright??? I don’t think I’ve ever been alright in my fucking life!”
He storms into his room, and flings that useless tie onto his desk, followed swiftly by his jacket. He runs his fingers through his hair and pulls hard.
“Fuck! This is so stupid. I can’t believe after everything, this is what’s going to get me expelled!”
“What? Dude no! They’re not gonna expel you cuz you scored high in some social experiment.”
Kirishima is naive.
He doesn’t understand.
Izuku’s been threatened with expulsion for less before.
He laughs again but it catches on a sob and he shakes his head rapidly as he grips his hair tighter.
“You don't get it! I could’ve been a villain! I should’ve been a villain! If All Might hadn’t seen me run in to save Kacchan from that sludge guy then I wouldn’t even be here!!!”
Kirishima blinks, looking startled and Izuku ducks his head lower, already preparing to be pushed away, written off, abandoned by another frie-
“That was you?”
The tone is so soft, reverent almost and Izuku flushes and looks up despite himself.
“The. The kid that ran in and threw his backpack. That stood up to the villin without having a strong quirk. That was you???”
Now it’s Izuku’s turn to blink in shock. “Uh… y-yeah, I-I guess…”
Kirishima stares at him and Izuku averts his gaze, suddenly uncomfortable and embarrassed at his previous outburst.
A hand moves into his peripheral vision and he can’t help flinching back, but Kirishima’s touch is gentle as it taps his face to get him to look up again.
“You could never be a villain Midoriya.”
His classmate’s smile is wide and soft and oh so bright as he says “Midoriya, you’re the one who inspired me to become a hero! I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.”
Izuku’s breath catches and his eyes water but Kirishima doesn’t stop smiling at him.
Not even when he clings to him and sobs into his shirt.