Well, Midoriya Izuku thinks, his brain full of bees and his heart thrumming like a rabbit’s on three shots of espresso, that happened.
“My boy...that man,” All Might begins, his voice losing some of its boisterous energy. “Did he…”
“Just a moment, sorry All Might!” Izuku drops down on his haunches in front of the conveyor belt and peers beneath the machinery. He grins. “Sorry I made you wait!”
Aiko’s big eyes peak up at him. “I was scared you weren’t gonna come back.”
“Of course I was,” he soothes and gathers the little girl to his chest. Compared to old refrigerators and All Might, she weighs almost nothing. “I wouldn’t leave you behind.”
While he gently rubs Aiko’s back, Izuku lets himself drift away in thought. That man was...definitely his dad. The voice was a little different, unfiltered by phone lines and the haze of Izuku’s own memory, but still undoubtedly him. Izuku doesn’t understand. What was he doing in that warehouse? What was with that strange mask? Why did All Might seem to recognize him?
There are conclusions Izuku can draw...but none he wants to.
It makes sense, in hindsight, that he never manifested anything like Fire Breathing. His dad’s true quirk is something entirely different, something Izuku has always thought of as impossible. If Midoriya Hisashi could lie to his family about his quirk, who knows what else he could have lied about?
Then there’s the fact Izuku manifested a quirk at all. He’s heard of cases, of course. Stress-related quirk activation, or invisible quirks with incredibly specific triggers. Both are rare. But neither should apply to him. He has the extra toe-joint and the accompanying official diagnosis. It should be impossible.
He prods at the spark of Fire Breath in his chest to remind himself he isn’t dreaming.
“Hey Aiko, did you want to meet All Might?” She buries her face in Izuku’s neck and he smiles awkwardly up at the pro hero. “Sorry, I think she’s had a long week.”
“It’s alright,” All Might says. “Young Midoriya, did you—”
Before All Might can finish his question, the sound of rustling fabric draws his and Izuku’s attention. A figure launches itself out from behind the towering rows of crates and machinery, strips of gray cloth streaming behind him. A pro hero. He lands smoothly and shifts his distinctive yellow goggles down around his neck. The rest of his capture weapon follows suit, rewinding with a flick of the hero’s wrist.
Izuku swallows down what would probably be an embarrassing noise. Eraserhead is so cool.
“Ran into a bunch of kids on their way out the door,” Eraserhead tells All Might, and Izuku breathes a sigh of relief. He figured the others would be fine, but the confirmation settles some of the anxiety in his chest. “Pointed them at the police line. Still no sign of the leader.”
Izuku blinks. “Watanabe? Um. He’s…” Izuku gestures at the crumpled remains of the conveyor belt across the floor, where Watanabe is still lying prone in a dent the shape of his own body.
“And how, exactly, did he get there.”
“...He was thrown?”
Eraserhead’s eyes briefly flicker over to All Might, who stares confusedly back. The underground hero sighs deeply. “I’ll be right back.”
Once the man is out of earshot, Izuku turns back to All Might. “You’re running out of time, aren’t you?” he asks worriedly, looking at the wisps of steam rising from All Might’s form. “Won’t he see you?”
“Not to worry, my boy, Eraser is well aware of my situation.” All Might scratches idly at his jaw. “Though it would be for the best if we took this conversation somewhere a little more private.” He nods at Aiko, her arms still tightly clasped around Izuku’s neck.
“Oh, right.” Izuku adjusts his hold on the little girl. “Can we get Aiko back to the others? Then I’ll go with you.”
Eraserhead chooses that moment to return, Watanabe now tightly bound in capture tape and tossed unceremoniously over the pro’s shoulder. “You should let the EMTs look you over first.” The underground pro’s keen eyes slide over Izuku’s form, lingering on the singed ends of his hair. “I’m sure All Might would say the same.”
Izuku’s mentor stands bolt straight, his arms pressed tight to his sides. “Yes! Of course!” He sounds almost...chastised? That can’t be right. “My boy, I will meet you at our usual spot tomorrow morning.” All Might’s blue eyes glint sharply in the dimming light. “I believe we have much to discuss.”
“Alright,” Izuku agrees, and the number one hero launches himself up onto the catwalk and out of sight.
Eraserhead sighs again. Izuku gets the feeling he does so a lot. “Come on, let’s get you over to the police.”
Just up the block from the warehouse is a police barricade, complete with a medical response team and a criminal transport van. Several of the criminals Izuku noted before are already being loaded in, tightly bound by restraints. Lights from the vehicles illuminate the whole street, bathing the nearby buildings in blue and white. It’s a low-traffic area, but a handful of civilians still linger around the edges of the blockades, trying to get a glimpse of the action. Izuku spies Kokoro some distance away, deep in conversation with a dark-haired officer. Or at least, Kokoro is deep in conversation, her arms gesturing animatedly while the officer nods along.
“Alright. You two,” Eraserhead says. He jabs a thumb over at the medic set-up. “Ambulance, now. I’ll know if you don’t.” He waits for Izuku’s weak nod before turning towards the transport van, Watanabe still a motionless lump against his shoulder.
Izuku obediently carries Aiko over to the ambulance. In addition to the EMTs, two other figures wait in the back of the vehicle, each in the middle of treatment.
“Mami!” Aiko squeals and wriggles until Izuku sets her down on the pavement.
Aiko darts away from Izuku’s hands and straight into Mami’s, her thin arms encircling the woman’s waist. Mami sags in relief, almost boneless in the way her body collapses around Aiko’s smaller form. Aiko squirms in the young woman’s hold, clearly pleased by the affection but just as unused to it. Mami’s eyes are watery, her lips pressed to Aiko’s unkempt hair. “Izuku-kun, thank you.”
Heat rushes to Izuku’s cheeks. “It was no problem, really!”
Mami looks like she wants to argue that, but lets it go in favor of squeezing Aiko in a tighter hug. “You’re squishing me,” the little girl whines, then immediately contradicts herself by cuddling in closer to Mami’s side. Izuku can’t help a soft smile at the sight.
“I guess the important thing is we’re all in one piece,” Mami says. She isn’t that much older than the rest of them, really, but the weight of her experience is etched in lines on her face. Her gaze slides over to the emergency vehicle parked next to them and her mouth curls wryly at the edges. “Well, mostly, anyway.”
Natsuo sits on the open bed of the ambulance, patiently waiting while a bat-eared paramedic dabs burn cream over his wounds. He grins brightly. “Glad to see you’re alive!” The older teen flinches back from the paramedic’s gloved hands on his ribs. “Oof, that stings.”
“You’re lucky these didn’t get infected,” the paramedic says. “You’ll have to keep them clean while they heal.”
“Not my first time dealing with burns.” Natsuo’s easy-going smile sharpens, tension visible around his flinty eyes. “It’s fine.”
“There’ll be some scarring.”
“Aww, there goes my beach bod,” the older teen jokes. He rolls his shoulders and his half-smile fades. “Really, it’s fine. You should take care of this kid,” Natsuo offers, nodding in Izuku’s direction. “He got stabbed in the leg. A lot.”
The paramedic turns to look over Izuku, a frown on his face. “Pants off for me, please.”
Izuku full-body cringes. “Do I have to?” He darts a look over to Mami and Aiko and his voice climbs a couple of octaves. “There’s girls here.” Mami stares back at him, distinctly unimpressed.
Eventually, they compromise, and the paramedic cuts off the leg of Izuku’s track pants with a pair of scissors. Izuku’s burns, while a little deeper than Natsuo’s, are milder, roughly the equivalent of a nasty sunburn.
“We might still take you to the hospital, if only to treat the dehydration,” the paramedic remarks. He finishes bandaging Izuku’s thigh and gives his knee a gentle pat. “Try to keep off that leg for now.”
With that, the paramedic tidies up the extra gauze and other medical supplies and disappears to the front of the vehicle. Kokoro practically skips back up to the ambulance, apparently finished talking to the police.
“Hey! Hope you nerds didn’t miss me,” she greets, her haphazard ponytail swinging behind her.
Natsuo grins back at her. “Nope.”
“Rude.” She sticks her tongue out at him before turning to the rest of them. “The police want all our statements eventually but they’re willing to handle that part tomorrow. I think they’re calling up our families now.”
Izuku doesn’t miss the way Natsuo’s face sours at that, or the way Aiko shudders in Mami’s hold. He frowns. Maybe when his mom gets here, he can subtly push her in Mami and Aiko’s direction? Her specialty is family law. If nothing else, she’ll at least have suggestions.
“But anyway, Izu-kun,” Kokoro breathes, her grin wide and almost manic, “did you see there are pros here?”
“Yeah, Eraserhead.” Natsuo snorts. “I told you he was cool.”
“A-actually,” Izuku cuts in, “All Might was here as well...”
“All Might was here?” Kokoro smacks a hand against her forehead. “Aww that sucks I can’t believe I missed that.”
Over Kokoro’s shoulder, Izuku catches a glimpse of Eraserhead, currently transporting one of the traffickers across the lot. The criminal’s arms and shoulders are held against his torso by Eraserhead’s capture weapon, exposed hands bound behind his back. A piece of capture tape covers his mouth. His blond hair is matted with sweat, his skin dull. The police-issue quirk suppression cuffs binding the man’s wrists, Izuku notes, appear to be inactive.
Without a thought, Izuku slides off the back of the ambulance.
Kokoro’s hand on his arm stops him. “And just where do you think you’re going?”
“This will just take a second.”
“Izu-kun!” Kokoro gives his shoulder a hard shove and Izuku stumbles like a baby deer learning to walk. He catches himself on the side of the ambulance and Kokoro gives him a pointed look.
“It doesn’t even hurt!” Izuku protests. And it doesn’t, really, just twinges a little when he puts too much weight on his leg. He’s fine. “I’ll be right back,” he promises and hobbles after Eraserhead.
At first, the pro hero pays Izuku no mind, which is understandable. He knows he isn’t much to look at. The second Hoshito spots him, however, the criminal begins to thrash violently against his bonds.
Izuku puts his hands up in a placating gesture before he belatedly remembers the touch-based nature of his new quirk and lets his hands drop uselessly to his sides. “Sorry!” He slaps a smile on his face and hopes it lands somewhere in the vicinity of reassuring. “Is there any way I can talk to him for a second?”
The pro grunts and gives the line of capture weapon in his hands a sharp tug. Hoshito bobs like a fishing lure. “You should be resting.”
“I will.” He points to Hoshito, who hasn’t stopped watching him with wary, yellow eyes. “I’ve got something of his I need to return first, that’s all.”
“Whatever it is, kid, you can leave it with me. It’s just gonna end up in lockup, anyway.”
“Huh?” Izuku blinks. Realization settles over him like a fog and puts a chill up his spine. He flails, tongue tripping over itself in his hurry to correct the underground hero’s assumption. “Oh! No! I mean...I should explain. I have his quirk?”
“...You have his what now.”
“His quirk. I might have, you know. Taken it. Earlier.” He holds up his palm and lets a few gold specks of light swirl over his fingertips. “That’s my quirk. Not this, specifically! This is his quirk.” He wrings his wrist and the specks vanish. “Taking quirks, is my quirk.” That is still so weird to think, let alone say. Weird, but thrilling. “Oh, I should probably think of a name for it! I’m not very good at being clever, though, so maybe something simple and descriptive would be best. ‘Quirk Transfer’ is pretty boring...maybe ‘Give and Take?’ I’ll have to think about it.”
Eraserhead stares at him, probably as off put by the sudden verbal diarrhea as Izuku should be. Izuku doesn’t have the energy to be embarrassed about it right now. “So,” he presses, “can I give it back to him?”
“...Five minutes, kid,” Eraserhead says.
Izuku smiles gratefully and steps forward, arm extended. Hoshito jerks violently back, spitting muffled obscenities into the capture tape over his mouth, but Eraserhead’s hold keeps the criminal firmly in place. Izuku’s outstretched hand lands on Hoshito’s head, the heel of his palm just brushing the bridge of the criminal’s nose. Hoshito goes a little cross-eyed, but otherwise does not move again.
“I’m not doing this because you deserve it,” he tells the criminal, “you don’t.”
Returning a quirk is at once both easier and harder than borrowing one. Prying Hoshito’s quirk loose from his own takes effort, but it finally comes free after a couple of sharp tugs. Izuku gently pushes the quirk back towards Hoshito and it goes readily, gliding through the connection where the calloused skin of Izuku’s palm meets the criminal’s forehead.
It’s a wonderful quirk. But it isn’t Izuku’s.
The light on the quirk suppressing cuff flickers on.
Izuku pulls his hand away from Hoshito’s forehead and pointedly avoids looking at the stunned expression on the criminal’s face.
“You’re Midoriya, right?” Eraserhead shifts his stance, the look in his eyes carefully assessing. “You wrote the analysis on Kawaguchi.”
The noise that makes its way out of Izuku’s throat might generously be referred to as a squeak. “You...read that?”
“You’re applying to U.A., aren’t you. Sure you can handle it?” He nods at the bandages wrapped around Izuku’s leg. “They don’t offer make-up exams, you know.”
“Oh, no, I know.” Izuku sighs. He knows why they don’t: U.A. gets more than enough applicants to their hero course as-is. If someone can’t make the time, they don’t deserve a spot. Though Izuku does wish they made more of an allowance for extenuating circumstances. Regardless, he’s going to be working with about a ten-year handicap in the practical. A few more days of healing or preparation time won’t change that. “But I can’t let this chance pass me by.”
“Mm.” Eraserhead watches him for a moment, long enough that Izuku starts to fidget under the attention. Then the pressure eases and the hero looks away. “Your potential isn’t zero. Make sure you don’t waste it, problem child.”
“Thank...you?” The pro doesn’t reply, merely pushes Hoshito forward towards the police van.
Izuku takes the cue to leave for what it is and wanders back over to the ambulance. Three faces stare back at him expectantly. The fourth, Aiko, is tucked close against Mami’s side and dozing lightly. Izuku can’t blame her. She’s had a long couple of days.
Natsuo shuffles over, leaving just enough room for Izuku to climb up and take a seat. “You going to tell us what that was about?”
“It was his quirk,” Izuku explains. He cradles his hands to his chest, idly massaging the palm of one hand with the opposite thumb. “I had to give it back.”
“I would have kept it,” Mami offers. She passes Izuku a blanket, a lurid orange monstrosity made out of wool. A similar one is tucked around her and Aiko. “Would’ve served him right.”
Izuku can understand the logic to that, but… “It’s not really a matter of whether he deserves it. It’s the right thing to do.” He brightens. “Anyway, maybe he’ll learn from this, and be better. I’m not optimistic, but I can hope, right? I’ve gotta at least give him the chance.”
“Are you like, made of sunshine?” Natsuo asks incredulously. “Seriously, I’m going blind over here.”
“Too good for this world,” Kokoro moans with a hand pressed over her heart. The effect is slightly ruined by the wide grin dimpling her cheeks. “Too pure.”
Mami buries a giggle behind her hand. “Stop it, you two, you’re embarrassing him.”
True. Izuku’s primary concern at the moment though is the anxiety lacing itself between his ribs. His nervous smile drops a little. “You’re all...okay with this?”
Kokoro drops her teasing posture, her rose-colored eyes drifting off to the side. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous,” she admits. She kicks idly at the pavement, her boot scuffing against gravel. “I still wanna work with you, some day. And hey, maybe you won’t be the first quirkless hero, but you could still inspire them!”
Izuku was never going to be the first quirkless hero, anyway. But maybe now he can be a hero with his own quirk, instead of someone else’s. Would All Might be disappointed by that? Or is it cheating if Izuku still accepts All Might’s gift? He’s starting so far behind everyone else. He needs every advantage he can get. He and his hero have a lot to talk about in the morning.
“Why don’t we all exchange phone numbers?” Mami suggests softly. “I haven’t met another quirkless person since my grandfather. It’d be nice, having people who understand.”
“Yes yes yes!” Kokoro cheers. “We can start a group chat! Get ready for all the memes.”
“I’m game, but I think my phone has been drowning in saltwater for the last week.” Natsuo grimaces. “Would email work for now?”
Izuku smiles so wide his cheeks hurt. “That’d be great!” He fidgets in his seat, fighting the urge to pick at the bandage wrapped around his thigh. “You all really want to keep in touch?” The words ‘with me’ stay silent, but from the expressions on their faces they all heard anyway.
Kokoro frowns at him, her brows knitted. “Um, yeah? If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have gotten out of there.”
Izuku ducks his head shyly, his hands pressed nervously together. He hasn’t had friends since Kacchan and already he’s messing this up. “That’s only because I got my quirk though. And the pros were on their way anyway—”
Natsuo barks out a laugh. Izuku shrinks back from the sudden burst of sound. “Are you kidding me?” Natsuo glances back at the younger teen, who is currently trying to smother himself with the shock blanket. “Wow okay you’re not.”
The older teen sighs. “Listen up. You got us out of that freezer. Not a quirk. You. You put together a plan. You threw yourself in front of that glowstick asshole, you ran after Aiko and kept her safe. And sure, the pros were coming, but none of us knew that.”
“You were really cool, Izu-kun,” Kokoro adds.
Natsuo leans forward, a few wisps of snowy hair falling over his forehead. “I’m not a big hero fan, I think I’ve been pretty upfront about that. But what you did in there? That was what a hero should be like. And you didn’t need a quirk for any of it.”
“You’re not...jealous?” The words sneak out of Izuku’s mouth before he can stop them. He doesn’t miss Kokoro’s minute flinch.
“Maybe I would’ve been, years ago.” The older teen huffs, his gray eyes fixing on some point in the distance no one else can see. In the car lights, his pale hair turns blue, then red and back again. “I figured out a long time ago that having a quirk is more trouble than it’s worth. At least for me.”
“Can I ask...what happened?”
“Sorry, you must be a level five friend to unlock my tragic backstory.”
Izuku ducks his head. “Oh, sorry—”
Natsuo grins. “It’s cool. We’re like, at least level two now so we’ll get there.”
The five of them sit in peaceful silence, simply enjoying the company. It’s...nice, Izuku decides. He could get used to having friends.
With the sun down, the exhaustion of the week finally settles on everyone’s shoulders. Mami dozes off first, followed by Kokoro. Before he knows it, Izuku is blinking himself awake to see more people congregating at the edge of the police line. He can see an older couple, the man with eyes the same pinkish hue as Kokoro’s. A young woman wearing glasses, her white hair streaked with red. And in front of them all, Izuku’s mother, tears streaming down her face.
“Looks like it’s time to go,” Natsuo remarks. He gingerly hops off the back of the ambulance. He takes a couple steps forward, then turns back to face Izuku, his shoulders slightly hunched. “Can I ask you one thing?” When Izuku nods, he heaves a sigh. “Don’t forget, okay? It might be easy, when you’re big and famous and saving people. But never lose track of where you came from, alright?” Both of his hands are clenched into fists, knuckles as white as his hair. “Never forget to be kind.”
It isn’t a hard promise to make. “I won’t,” Izuku says. He’ll keep it even if it means breaking every bone in his body.
It is the morning of February 25th, the day before the U.A. entrance exam. The morning after young Midoriya escaped the trafficking ring. Toshinori watches the sunrise over Dagobah Beach. It looks the same as it did four days ago, dapples of pink-orange light on the waves and sand. But the shadows seem...longer, somehow. Darker.
Toshinori shakes his head. Probably a figment of his imagination.
The sound of footsteps shuffling through sand catches Toshinori’s attention and he turns away from the water. A familiar head of green hair steps into his field of vision.
Toshinori smiles. “You’re running a little late.”
“Sorry, All Might,” the boy says meekly, a hand pressed to the back of his neck. “Um. My mom didn’t want me to come alone.” He inclines his head up at the boardwalk. Sure enough, Midoriya Inko stands waiting in the distance, bundled up to her neck in a thick pink coat. She spots the two of them looking her way and waves enthusiastically.
Toshinori raises a hand back in greeting. “That’s fine. I know she was worried for you.” The same can be said of Toshinori. He sighs, a little smile sneaking onto his face. “Glad to see you’re okay, kid.”
“Thanks, All Might.” The kid rocks back on his heels, as nervous as Toshinori has ever seen him. “It...it means a lot. That you came to save me.”
“Young Midoriya. Of course I did.”
His pupil smiles at that, though the expression doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “Some of the other kids didn’t think anyone was coming. I hope they think differently now.”
“I’m sure they do.” Toshinori scratches at the back of his head. He needs to ask young Midoriya about his encounter with that man, but he doesn’t know where to begin. Perhaps start with a lighter subject? “So! Bet the entrance exam will seem like a breeze now, huh?” Ooh, no, that probably wasn’t as tactful as he should have been.
Young Midoriya eyes the piles of trash still marring the view of the beach, a defeated sigh escaping him. His shoulders sag. “I didn’t finish in time, though.”
Great. Nice going, Toshinori. He coughs into his fist. He could give young Midoriya One for All now. The boy has been working hard for it. And really, what’s a few less days of training? Though they have already been rushing the process as is. Can he afford to risk it?
He recalls All for One’s words in front of that warehouse and the taste in his mouth sours.
Before Toshinori can make up his mind on what to say, young Midoriya bounces up on his toes, his fists pumped at his sides. “Oh! I need to tell you—I got my quirk! I’m...not as quirkless as the doctor thought, I guess.” His voice trails off into a barely comprehensible murmur as he continues. “That’ll be a big help in the exam, though depending on the parameters maybe not? There’s still general studies or the support course as options even though I really want to be a hero but the exam is tomorrow that’s not a lot of time to figure out one quirk, let alone two...”
Toshinori’s blood turns to ice. “My boy, this is incredibly important. Did you get your quirk after you met that man?”
Young Midoriya frowns, a crinkle appearing between his brows. “No? It was definitely before.”
That bothers him. Several things about this bother him. All for One’s obvious familiarity with Toshinori’s pupil most of all. The memory of his nemesis’s hand on young Midoriya’s head forces a shudder through Toshinori’s limbs. “And after? Do you still have your quirk?”
“...Yes? I used it again at the police line.” The boy’s frown deepens. “What’s this about?”
“There’s something I need to tell you, something I should have a long time ago.” Toshinori sighs. The memory of his mentor, and her own telling of this tale, spurs him to continue. “About One for All.”
He explains. The words come out slow and unpracticed in some places, hurried and choked with too much emotion in others. Young Midoriya stands rapt with wide-eyed attention through it all. The true origin of One for All, the enigmatic monster that is All for One. Toshinori gets it all out, even though it feels like pulling out the rest of his organs through his nose. At the very least, he owes young Midoriya the truth. His nemesis—damn him straight back to hell where he belongs—was right about that, as much as Toshinori hates to admit it.
“That’s all of it,” Toshinori finishes tiredly. “If...I would understand, if after hearing all of that, you chose not to accept my quirk.”
For a long while, young Midoriya does not speak. He turns to stare out over the waves, his lips pressed into a tight line. He pulls his hands close to his chest, massaging the palm of one with the thumb of the other. From this angle, the green of his hair seems almost white, paled by the rising sunlight.
“All for One,” Young Midoriya’s voice trembles around the shape of the name. “That’s...my quirk is the same.”
Toshinori takes in a sharp breath. Four days worth of hints and off-hand comments and niggling little clues jar violently into place inside his brain.
Oh no. Oh god no.
The quirk analysis. The similarities in their features and expressions, however minute or superficial. All for One’s uncharacteristic concern for the ring’s victims and later for Toshinori’s successor, starting the very second he heard young Midoriya’s name.
The man’s picture is in the Midoriyas’ living room. Toshinori is an idiot. That’s the only possible explanation for how he was able to avoid seeing something so obvious.
Toshinori’s brain snags violently on the idea of Inko—sweet, soft Midoriya Inko—with that monster. No. Absolutely not. Toshinori is going to shove that thought in a box, toss it in the back of a closet, and pointedly never, ever open it again.
“I’ve never felt anything like it before,” the boy continues. He still isn’t looking at Toshinori. “One of the traffickers...he was hurting us, and I couldn’t help but think. If I had his quirk, I’d be able to make him stop. And then I did have his quirk. And he stopped.”
“Do you still have it?” Toshinori makes himself ask, his mouth full of sand.
Young Midoriya shakes his head. “No, I gave it back.”
Gave it back. Like it was that simple. That man would never give back a quirk. Not once he claimed it as his own.
“I would understand,” young Midoriya chokes out. “If...Because of that, if you didn’t want…”
It is then that Toshinori laughs. Because he realizes it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter, because Toshinori knows young Midoriya. The boy is good and kind and far too reckless in a way that reminds Toshinori of himself. He can’t lie worth a damn and gets hopelessly lost in his own head. He’s dealt with heartbreak and discrimination and he has kept going anyway, because he works hard and dreams fearlessly. It doesn’t matter who young Midoriya might or might not be related to. It doesn’t matter whether or not he takes One for All. He is Toshinori’s kid.
Toshinori blinks. Huh.
Toshinori catches his breath, his eyes sliding shut. The sun’s rays are warm against his face. “You know, I met the girl you saved, when this started. She came to the police because of you.” He opens his eyes to see the boy quietly watching him, the rising sun at his back. The shadows don’t seem quite so long. “Your journey might just be beginning, but to that girl, young Midoriya, you are already a hero.”
Young Midoriya’s breath hitches and Toshinori can’t help but smile. “My mind hasn’t changed,” Toshinori says. Well, no, it has, but not in the way his pupil is probably thinking. ‘A quirk is what you make of it.’ Once again, young Midoriya is proving Toshinori’s inability to live up to his own words. He sets a hand on the boy’s shoulder and gives it a gentle squeeze. “Whatever you decide. With my quirk, your own quirk, or both. You have what it takes, my boy, and I will support you the whole way.”
When young Midoriya looks up at him, the boy’s eyes are shining.
After dinner, long after his mom has already turned in for the night, Izuku sits in his room and thinks.
He turns the phone over and over in his hands, considering. In an odd way, he feels like he is sitting on the edge of something. A turning point. His future opens up in front of him, yawning with possibility. The shape of it hasn’t settled yet. It is his to mold.
Izuku pulls open the contact on his phone and presses send. The last time he tried this number, the line rang out, the voicemail replaced with a ‘call cannot be completed’ message. Izuku has a feeling that, this time, his call will reach its intended destination.
Before the second ring can finish, the line connects with a click. A voice, deep and familiar, slips over the receiver. “Hello, Izuku.”
“Hi dad.” Izuku swallows around the newly-formed lump in his throat. There is no time to regret his decisions. “Or should I call you ‘All for One?’”
“Ah. So he told you after all.”
“You had to have known he was going to,” Izuku points out. Technically speaking, his dad didn’t have to leave him behind in that warehouse. Though it was probably for the best that he did. Izuku can’t imagine that would have ended well.
His dad just hums agreeably. “What did he tell you, exactly?”
“That you created One for All by pushing a stockpiling quirk onto your brother,” Izuku spits, hot tears welling in his eyes. “That you’re a villain.”
As much as Izuku wanted to reject the idea, he can’t deny...it fits. His dad always had a certain presence, a commanding way of speaking. Several of Izuku’s childhood memories make a lot more sense, in retrospect. But it hurts, knowing that Midoriya Hisashi—a man who soothed Izuku’s nightmares and kissed his bruises and on one notable occasion dressed up as his favorite hero for his fourth birthday party—has hurt people. Logically, Izuku should want nothing to do with him.
Emotionally...Izuku is a kid who misses his dad.
The man was an unmistakably positive presence in Izuku’s early life. Izuku has never once questioned the fact that he was loved. He just always suspected there was something else his dad loved more.
Is it better or worse that it turned out to be his hatred for Izuku’s favorite hero? He could have been dead, Izuku supposes. Or living somewhere with his other, better son.
His father’s voice draws Izuku back out of his thoughts. “Hmm. But nothing about the bone-breaking?”
“Um. The bone...breaking?”
“It’s nothing, really,” his dad says in a casual tone of voice, the kind that is also concealing a dagger. “Just that cramming the combined strength of several human beings into an ill-prepared vessel has consequences including, but not limited to, exploding limbs.”
“...Oh.” You would think All Might would have at least mentioned that.
His dad sighs. “Yes, son. ‘Oh.’ Please tell me you did not accept that nightmare of a quirk?”
A vicious part of Izuku badly wants to lie and say yes, but he resists the temptation. “Not yet,” he huffs, the words both an admission and a promise. “I want to get used to my own quirk first.” He and All Might had both agreed it was the best course of action, at least for now.
“Ah yes. That’s not something I expected, but it’s not an unpleasant development. Far from it.”
“I didn’t think it was possible,” Izuku admits softly. “I mean...I have the extra toe joint.”
“So did your uncle.” The bitterness in his dad’s voice sparks a realization: Izuku and the first holder of One for All are related. Before, during his conversation with All Might, it hadn’t really sunk in. “I trusted the doctor’s diagnosis, but I should have known better. This society puts far too much emphasis on strong quirks.” His voice softens dangerously. “It has long been to my advantage. And, unfortunately, to your detriment.”
Izuku’s hand tightens around the phone until he can hear the faint creak of plastic. “What am I supposed to do about all this? You were...gone. For five years. And you were barely around for years before that.” The shock of seeing his father again has finally worked its way out of Izuku’s system and something raw and unnamed has clawed up into its place. “What do you expect me to do?”
“I don’t expect you to do anything, son.”
“Bullshit. You—” Izuku chokes on a sob, the burning in his throat too intense to ignore. “I’ve wanted to be a hero my whole life, you know that. Do you expect me to just throw that away? The entrance exam is tomorrow.” Izuku spares a quick glance at his alarm clock. Well, today, technically. “I—why now? Why did you wait until now?” Logically, Izuku recognizes that his quirk’s sudden activation was a coincidence. But the center of him; the part that is still six-years-old and missing his father after a devastating doctor’s visit; isn’t so rational.
Izuku knows his worth as a human being. He might have a quirk now, but he is the same useless Deku Kacchan always said he was. He talks too much and thinks too little. He’s weak. It’s only with All Might’s help Izuku has a hope of passing the entrance exam at all. Izuku never blamed his dad for leaving. It would have been easier if the man had never come back at all. “I’m...don’t you regret having me?”
There is a too-long silence between them, punctuated only by Izuku’s harsh puffs of breath and the hum of his computer fans. His dad sighs.
“There is no room in my life for regrets, Izuku. Even if there was. You and your mother would never be one of them.”
“Does she know?” Izuku demands, his voice wobbling over the words. He doesn’t know what he wants the answer to be. “Mom...does she know?”
“She knows...most of it,” his dad admits. “Nothing about my true quirk, of course, but plenty about the, ah—”
“The villainy,” Izuku finishes for him, voice flat.
“Yes, that.” Well, that’s something, Izuku supposes. Though it also opens up a cadre of other questions that Izuku isn’t remotely prepared to have answered. He and his mom probably need to have a long talk. “You needn’t sound so upset, Izuku. When you think about it, the difference between heroes and villains comes down to those that are approved by the government, and those who aren’t.”
“Villains hurt people, Dad.” You hurt people, Izuku couldn’t say.
His dad laughs, a sharp, mirthless punch of sound. “All Might would have murdered me that day, if he could have. He nearly did.”
Izuku squeezes his eyes tightly shut. He had pieced that together for himself, reading between the lines of All Might’s story, but had avoided putting words to the implications. It hurts to think of his mentor that way. “Dad.”
The man doesn’t let up. Izuku never experienced much of Midoriya Hisashi’s anger growing up, but it cuts like an icicle to the gut, cold and snide. “Negligence, destruction of property, even murder. All can be excused by the pretense of a little plastic rectangle.” He scoffs. “Doesn’t that sound the least bit hypocritical to you?”
“Society will hold people accountable for their actions,” Izuku protests. Even to his own ears the words sound flimsy.
“Oh, will it. You forget, this society allows people like me to exist. Allows rats like the criminals that took you to exist.”
“Then I’ll change it,” Izuku snaps back. He thinks of Natsuo’s pinched expression as he talked about heroes, before telling Izuku to go for his dream anyway. Of All Might’s encouraging smile, lit by sunlight. “Even if I have to work harder than anyone else.” If the system needed to change, so be it. He would tear the whole thing down and build it up again, if only for a world where people like Aiko and the others never had to worry that someone was coming to help them. “You can point out the flaws in the hero system as much as you like, but I don’t see you doing anything to make it better.”
“My apologies, son. The topic is something of a sore spot.” Izuku can hear the grin in the man’s voice. “Something we’ll both have to get used to, if you wind up attending that school.”
Izuku’s breath catches. “You mean…”
“Would I celebrate if you came to me tomorrow and said you would rather follow in my footsteps instead? Of course. But you won’t,” his dad says with certainty, neatly cutting off Izuku’s protests. “You are never going to be a villain, Izuku. I’ve known that since you could walk.”
“I could be,” Izuku mutters, mostly to be contrary.
“You could,” his dad allows. “But you won’t. And I won’t make the mistake of thinking I can change your ideals.” The man’s sigh speaks of a long-suffering fondness. “You are far too much like your uncle that way.”
“I thought you said you don’t have regrets.”
“I don’t. Society will crush your idealism far better than I ever could.”
Ouch. So Izuku will just have to prove his supervillain father wrong. He can work with that, probably. A realization settles over him and Izuku smacks his forehead into the top of his desk. “I can’t believe you’ve known All Might for years and never told me.”
“Don’t do that, Izuku, your brain is a precious resource,” his dad chides off-handedly. “My apologies for never bringing you back an autograph. Though I doubt he would have deigned to give me one.” He pauses. “Hmm. Perhaps I should have asked. That really would have shaken him.” The man chuckles. “Now. It’s getting late and I believe you have an exam in the morning.”
“You’re really not going to talk me out of this.”
“No, son. I really do have your best interests in mind.”
Izuku can’t help but scoff. “If you did, you wouldn’t have left.”
For a long moment, his dad is silent. “I’m sorry, Izuku,” he says finally, his voice soft as a hiss and firmer than steel, “I’ll do better this time.”
The call ends and Izuku’s phone clatters to the top of his desk. He presses the heels of his hands to his eyes with a hiss, trying in vain to stifle the heat prickling behind them. He can’t tell if his tears are out of anger or relief or something else.
By the time he calms down enough to collapse onto his bed, he is emotionally wrung out. When sleep finally comes, he sinks into it gladly.
All for One could use some sleep.
As it turns out, shedding and regrowing one’s entire epidermis is both exhausting and completely disgusting. The low humidity in the lab—a necessity, considering the poor state of All for One’s respiratory system—does not help matters. What should be one smooth process becomes a flaking, bleeding mess. Once this is over with All for One is going to foist this quirk off onto a noumu as fast as physically possible.
Finally, the last piece of scar tissue sloughs away and falls to the floor of the lab with a sick, wet plop. All for One wipes a hand over his face, his palm sliding over the unfamiliar bump of his nose, the sharp jut of his cheek bones. His eyelids flutter cautiously open. Droplets of blood and viscera still cling thickly to his lashes and he has to shut his eyes tight against the sudden onslaught of light and color.
His breath stutters. He can see.
“Combining Shed Skin with Super Regeneration was an ingenious solution to the cicatrization problem.” The doctor’s moustache twitches as he observes something on the monitors. “You shouldn’t need the respirator near as often.”
All for One fumbles for one of the towels set out on the medical table and methodically dabs it over his face and neck. A few more loose pieces of flesh come away, stuck to the terry fibers. All for One winces. Distasteful. “I would prefer not at all.”
“Go back in time six years, then,” the doctor chuffs. He swivels his chair back around. “You’ll be sensitive for a few days yet, since your nerve receptors are all new.”
“No matter.” As long as he’s relatively mobile, he will deal with any setbacks as necessary. “I have somewhere I need to be.” His usual suit, shirt and slacks freshly pressed, lie draped over a nearby chair. Hisashi ignores them for now, instead reaching for the jacket. An aged piece of cardstock tumbles out from its folds and he cradles it in his hands, gently pressing the creases flat with his knuckles.
The doctor’s eyes narrow behind the green, green glass of his goggles. “It’s been years, Sensei. Surely they can wait a few more days?”
“No,” Hisashi says, delicately thumbing the edge of the photo. The colors have faded with time, but the smiles on his wife and son’s faces are as bright as his memories of them. He will never take the ability to see their faces for granted again. “They’ve been waiting long enough.”