Technically, on paper, there was no difference between class 1-A and class 1-B of UA. 20 students, everyone having completed the arduous tasks of getting into the school, the tests, the interviews. Same curriculum, same challenges.
And then there was Izuku.
A bit through the first year, as the class was slowly getting to know and learn about each other, conflicts and friendships brewing and growing in equal amounts, they found their home-room teacher sitting on his desk in the front of the classroom. Normally he would have lied down under it, taking naps while they worked with whatever assignment that he had given them for the hour; speaking up suddenly and unexpectedly to correct an assumption if someone spoke out loud about the task.
Superior Hearing Quirk? Kouda had once signed to Kyoka, who was interrupted before she even had the time to shrug, as their teacher, still half-asleep, corrected them on their misconception. One more off the list, and Momo dutifully crossed it off.
The class didn’t even remember if he had ever sat on the chair that was meant for the desk ever since they for the first time had stepped into his classroom; usually he would just standing when he had something to say or while he was teaching, so to come into class that morning with him sitting on the desk; sent their collective attention buzzing with questions unasked.
He looked awake, aware, leaning down with the elbows on his legs as he observed all of them walking in, taking their places with much lower voices than usual.
“So,” He started when they had settled, attentive and curious. “As you might have noticed I have a bit of an important announcement to make.”
Mina’s hand flew up. “Are you going to tell us what your quirk is?”
Aizawa raised an eyebrow, face flat and unreadable and stared at her down until she fell back into her chair, Sero tapping her with a quiet nice try from where he was sitting.
“As some of you might know,” Aizawa continued as if the interruption had not happened, a grin creeping onto his face. “1-B is at this very moment heading to the USJ for their supplemental rescue practice. We will, as well, do a similar supplemental practice and when 1-B asks; I want every. single. one of you. to lie.”
Aizawa stepped off the desk, let his eyes fall to Kyoka as he spun his finger around once. A bit taken back, it had been just a couple of week since they had had the “special communication” lessons with Mic, she nodded and implanted her ear-jacks into the ground, closing her eyes to scan the nearby area for any other presence other than the sounds that she knew to be her classmates.
Shook her head once everything seemed clear.
“Okay then. Welcome to your first lesson in Underground Heroics.”
Iida was immediately standing up, hand stretched up dutifully but voice raised just as much. “Excuse me, Professor! That’s not supposed to be until third year! We still have much to learn before we head into this kind of specialized territory!”
“Why do you think so?”
“Well, my brother…”
Aizawa chortled, shaking his head. “Absolutely excelled, don’t let him tell you anything different.” He stepped around the desk, splayed his hands over the counter and stared them down. “You see, the first rule of Underground Heroics is in the name of it. It is supposed to be hidden and under wraps, and as so the teachers of UA have some different rules concerning this part of your curriculum. For example; Iida, what did your brother say that he did for the assignment?”
“I believe, they were divided into groups and all given a phrase that they were supposed to keep hidden from everyone else, but brought forward to a certain target in another group.”
“Right. Close enough. The point of that assignment was to make sure the target got the phrase and did not share it with the rest of the group-members. It was an exercise in trust more than anything.”
“Professor.” Kyoka interrupted, slicing her hand towards her and then lifting two fingers.
Aizawa nodded, approving.
“Good. They’re here then, and good work on keeping your diligence.”
Their teacher sighed, and if they didn’t know better, the class would probably have thought that it was some last deliberation on his part, but that couldn’t be it, they thought, as subtle glances were exchanged. Aizawa being worried about anything sounded like slander, and since it was his own assignment that couldn’t be possible.
Except, Aizawa continued to talk.
“This is not going to be a normal assignment. Not only because it’s about Underground Heroics, but because this is not a game.
“There will be a new student in our class. For reasons that I can’t tell you, he is unable to join the school through the normal channels and has been a ward of UA to and from since a couple of years already. He will not join all of your classes, but I believe he will be able to teach you a lot. As well as you will be able to teach him. The importance of note, is that outside of UA he doesn’t exist, preferably, not even to the other students.”
From the side of the room, Bakugou let out a small disapproving sound, and Aizawa shifted his glance.
“Anything you wish to add to the conversation?”
“How is this the assignment,” Bakugou said after a pause that had lasted one second longer than the rest of the class had expected. He kept his voice down, lower than it usually was whenever there was something that he didn’t accept or believe in, still, the tone was kept characteristically sharp and chafing. Rage simmering into bitterness. ”Keeping quiet about some random kid, while he just gets to glide into the school? Some of us actually have the skill and talent to get here without any outside help.”
“A valid point.” Aizawa said, as Bakugou hid a twitch of surprise at the admission. “This is far from a normal assignment, and it is an assignment, Bakugou, far from the only one you will have from situations like this. Not everything will be like what you see on TV, shining and flashing, heroic. When you graduate, you will find that sometimes you will save lives that no one will know about, and you will have to stand your ground and not try to not cause more damage than you fixed by releasing information. Collateral damage is not only buildings and physical damage.
“And I assure you that he has been through challenges equivalent to your tests before joining up.” There was a finality in Aizawa’s words, not a challenge to question further but Bakugou didn’t drop his glare. Didn’t say anything more either. “If you have further doubts and questions, bring them forward after class. I approve of you questioning, but know that failing this assignment will be grounds for immediate expulsion.”
The buzzing excitement had dropped from the classroom, a lingering tension that forced the students to sit up straighter.
“I would like you to meet your new classmate, as well as your new additional teacher in practical heroics.”
As if there couldn’t be more surprises, the former number one, The Symbol of Peace that had suddenly stepped away from the light and only reappearing whenever there had been dire need, bowed his head as he stepped through the door. Behind him, even more curious and the center of attention, was a boy their age.
As Fumikage learned from his seat in the back to see better, he felt Dark Shadow rise from his perch by his shoulder, quickly growing in size as he seemed to have spotted the boy following close by All Might.
Tokyami nodded as Dark Shadow spoke excitedly, looked at the white curls framing the boy’s hair almost in a gloria, standing out against slightly-tanned skin, shockingly blue eyes and a faint shy smile as he shifted in place, glancing ever so often towards Aizawa. “A prince of light, I would agree. A fitting rival perhaps for our deliverance of protecting darkness.”
No! Fumikage, he…
“Tokoyami, Dark Shadow.” Aizawa cut through, “Attention up front for the both of you, and no, once again I am not using any type of telepathy, it is still just painfully obvious when you’re talking to each other.”
As he looked forward, he found the other boy looking right at him, the shyness for a couple of seconds blown away as he had almost frozen; not by fear or trepidation but a forced stillness concealing excitement. Then he waved, shifted his eyes to where Dark Shadow had peaked out by his shoulder, and waved at Dark Shadow as well. Strange, but well approved.
One last look towards All Might, and he stepped forward.
“My name is Midoriya Izuku, it’s, it is very nice to meet all of you.” He stumbled a bit on the words, a low bow as he finished. “Please take care of me from now on.”
There was a crash as Bakugou stood up, fire and something hot burning behind his eyes as the desk underneath his hands started to smoke.
Izuku looked up, eyes suddenly shining in recognition and everyone in the class saw how All Might’s eyes widened just a bit right before Izuku suddenly burst into a smile, genuine, excited and proud.
“I knew you would get in!”
When Bakugou awoke, it was to a careful tapping on the side of his cheek.
Fire already ready and burning in his hand he took a swipe, heard someone’s voice exclaim in surprise as he tried to get up to face his assailant. He barely managed to push himself up from the ground before the surrounding swirled, tilting and fading in turn with a heavy headache that forced him to grit his teeth. He was alive, but it hurt like someone had replaced his brain with small sharp rocks rolling around with every movement.
But the one in front of him, two steps away, wasn’t the slimy villain that had tried to drown him on land, that had effortlessly reduced his quirk to nothing more than sparks that did nothing more than make sound and light like a shining beacon to the failing that almost cost his life.
In what looked like an old, Mic-hoodie from a discontinued line, there was a boy his age, face barely visible between the hood over his head, an unremarkable black cap under the hood and the medical mask that he had over the lower side of his face. The only thing Bakugou could make out was a smattering of freckles, blue eyes, and tufts of white hair sticking out from the cap.
They had probably gotten loose during the fight.
Fuck. The fight.
“Hey, looks like you’re okay,” He spoke, less of a stutter in his voice more like the words themselves almost couldn’t remember in which order they came, falling over each other to get out first. He didn’t sound the least out of breath. “I’m pretty sure that you would be after he left you, but you didn’t wake up when I called, sorry for touching you, I’m not going to do it again without you, you know being okay with it.”
Careful after the swipe, and serious about his words, he stepped forward and held a hand out towards him at what would be a respectful distance. Bakugou slapped the hand away, barely noticing how it differed in colour in comparison to the other boy’s face, refusing to admit that his legs were shaking badly enough that if he tried to stand at this very moment he would have been forced to lean on the other one.
Embarrassment was burning him from the inside out, and he couldn’t figure out if the turning in his stomach was the residue of the feeling that the villain had given him, or that the situation was catching up to him. He would have died. Unremarkable and pitifully under the shade of a dirty bridge.
“This is going to be a bit weird.” He finally noticed that the boy held a water bottle in the hand that he hadn’t been using to reach out towards him. Inside it was a greenish slow-moving muddy liquid that reminded Bakugou very well of his gag-reflex once he saw it.
The uncovered eyes on his so-called saviour was moving between his reaction and the bottle, and quickly hid it away behind his back. Not fast enough that Bakugou hadn’t been able to see the eyes of the villain swirling around and he saw the boy block the side where the eyes would have been able to look up at the two of them. Bakugou coughed, there was the presence of muddy slime still choking him, phantom-like suffocation as he knew he had puked everything up.
“I’m just… just going to place this to the side, and you could… could you do me a favour, and tell them that you defeated him yourself? You’re going into UA, right, so you should have got your licence for self-defense use of quirks by the HPSC already? It shouldn't be a problem for you, and you were doing good! It was just a bad match-up...”
The way he switched between attempted comforting praises and a newfound insecurity grated on Bakugou’s already fried nerves. There was something wrong, something not adding up about him and it was putting him on edge. He’d been taken by surprise once already, he was not about to fall for something like that again.
“Why, scared of some spotlight?” He spat out, finally managing to get his knees to not completely betray him as he pushed up, brushing the remaining dust and grime and sludge of his clothes.
“Yes?” He wasn’t expecting the confirmation. “It’s a bit complicated with me? I technically don’t need a licence, I think. Or it’s that I can’t get one. I really don’t need the attention, actually that would be really bad.”
Bakugou had some blurry images, memories rising, of a voice calling out, getting the attention of the villain that was drowning him, and then something suddenly turning the light dark, something being thrown at the villain and involuntarily also at him, with speed and power but nothing unusual, nothing shocking.
Quirkless? It wouldn’t be unlawful, fighting quirkless, but the heroes on patrol probably wouldn’t like it. Thinking of it. Probably wouldn’t even count as self-defence. Maybe. Would explain why he didn’t have a licence even while jumping on the chance to punch a villain, should at least have registered for self-defence judging by his actions, the eerie way that he didn’t seem shaken. Coming down from the adrenaline-high, Bakugou could still feel his heart beating much too heavy and much too loud, his hands shaking from quirk-strain and the shock and fear he didn’t want to admit to.
Instead, he found himself mobilizing in the only way he knew how, turning the other one’s words until he found something that rationalized the hostility lingering even when the threat was gone.
“I’m going to UA. Why do you know that.”
“I heard him speaking about it,” A lie. That was definitely a lie. “While bragging about, uh. Taking your body.” Even through the little bit that Bakugou could see through the fabric that seemed to be covering his entire body even in the hot summer’s day, his face twisted something painfully repulsed.
“Sorry. For not coming sooner. I… I hesitated. Took me a second to realize that the patrol was too far away and…” He backed away, placing down the bottle by the corner of the road, perfectly still out of Bakugou’s sight and something about that once again raised his hackles, embarrassment mingling with the lingering loathing of everything that had happened.
Far away voices sounded, and Bakugou could see distant lines of timber, of what probably was Kamui-woods quirks moving rapidly closer to their position. When he snapped his head back, the other kid had already moved and was heading up towards the bridge. Looking down at him, he waved.
"Good luck on the entrance-exams!” The boy called, disappearing up and Bakugou could hear the distant voices, coming closer to his direction.
He told himself that he wouldn't take the commendation, should the hero-team on patrol try to give it to him. Relying on someone else left a searing seed of resentment; when he got famous it would be by his and his talent alone. Not because of some random nobody who didn’t even try to make something of himself. Who still dared to insult him by giving him the praise packed full by pity.
It didn’t matter what he said in the end. The hero in charge had taken one look at the burned marks his quirk had left, looked at the bottle and refused to even let Bakugou get a word in as he connected the dots for a story that didn’t exist. They called him humble when he continued to speak his mind, refuse.
He resigned himself to bitterness of his first debut being the work of someone else.
Familiar faces were something that were still so rare to Izuku.
Stepping into the class shouldn’t have been as scary as it was. It was a jittery sort of fear, one that he rarely had had the possibility to feel. He had already spent time in UA, many times over the couple of years whenever they felt safe enough to go back to Japan, meeting some new people that had been carefully informed and backgrounds studied for any connection. All of this was very new and an idea of Nedzu’s own creation and design.
The principal had, with fervor and zeal, taken the role of the one in charge of Izuku’s education; catching him up on what he did not yet know everytime they passed through; filling the bags with assignments and interesting tid-bits that he had hoped Izuku liked. Questions, that maybe should have felt invasive, but the rodent had had a way of speaking, of referring to the things that he had experienced and that he could relate to, that Izuku had found some sort of kinship.
It had felt stressful at first.
Not the deadlines or the assignments themselves, slowly learning this new way to learn had been fun, and different. When the echo of being alone clawed inside him too much, he had taken to his notebook, writing and wondering and sitting up late scanning the videos of heroes and quirks and gathering through the filter of the noumu.
It was still difficult. The feeling of his body not being him, but being something he wore and carried, lingered still. Days when he had spent sleeping too long, reaching out to his holders for that resonance he could never forget, it was always a little bit difficult to remember how to move the body properly.
“If you are looking for a new holder, you know you are more than welcome to observe my students.” Nedzu had said, a sly grin on his face that hid nothing of his intentions, when Izuku had at first refused the offer to stay at UA as a student, for a much too long period than what had been deemed safe.
Nedzu had obviously been preparing, and afterwards Izuku couldn’t not remember how often he had started to bring up that there were parts of Izuku’s education that he could not bring with paper and books; social development is detrimental for a growing mind, he had said. Maybe because he knew that Nedzu didn’t actually care should Izuku get a holder or not; maybe because he knew that Nedzu would push but never force, a guide more than pressure, it ended up being the tipping-point to agree.
Maybe because of the fact that him bringing it up was bringing up Izuku’s, One for All’s choice in the matter, the fact that Izuku himself could not truly decide if this noumu was supposed to be the living grave of One for All.
He wanted a Ninth.
He didn’t want another.
It was complicated.
He couldn’t even refute Nedzu’s claim considering he had already been using UA for that same explicit purpose. Almost two years ago, even.
The contrast in how Sir Nighteye had contacted them, close to the same question but different in all the way that mattered. That feeling when someone kept their eyes on you, but the attention was somewhere completely else? It was a feeling that had never quite gone away when Izuku was dealing with him. He had even picked someone, one of his own choosing though it was clear that… he wasn’t looking for a holder of One for All. No matter how much Izuku had tried to make clear, his holders had never been All Mights, with the obvious exception of his Eighth, Sir Nighteye was obvious in his choice.
Still. Mirio was good. When he had noticed how skittish Izuku had seemed before he joined All Might to go to Aizawa’s class, he had offered, joking, that if any one of them were mean; he would come to set them straight. (And Izuku hadn’t missed the smile in the principal’s face as he said that, an idea striking him along with the words).
The second, or third, reason that Nedzu had finally managed to set theory into practice and made Izuku’s presence right in this moment, standing in front of a group of students (of which he couldn’t look at too long, because oh god there were so many, and they were looking at him, and was he looking weird? Of course he was. But was it obvious?) was the point of darkness, spoken in the fondest of manner, that was looking back at him in one of the seats near the back.
Izuku had spent two hundred years as a quirk. One in suffocation. Six, as something more alone, maybe something more human. No one that really shared his experience.
Already, as he saw Dark Shadow tilt his head from the shoulder of his holder, he found a spark of anticipation, a kindred spirit.
Not to mention, as a student called his attention, a familiar face, even.
He knew that the dread crept in, alongside the happiness and even in direct reaction to it. Knew how fragile all of this was, how All for One being quiet and the lack of signs the last years had never been anything but foreboding. Remembered that his holders had all had friends and families, that had been taken right when their bravery and confidence had peaked.
But as a couple of students gathered up in front of him, bright eyes, the seed of future fate and destiny carried on their shoulders, he couldn’t help but cautiously hope.