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One Life for Them All (If That's What It Takes)

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He is “Toshinori” when a boy with wild curls and bright eyes beams at him with a look that betrays nothing short of pure admiration.

It’s a weird occurrence, that, especially when most people tend to avoid his true form—sickly, gaunt, and jagged as he looks—or at least politely ignore.

He knows he is wearing his usual too-large clothes, his simple white t-shirt and cargo pants that are both oversized to compensate for his All Might form. And he knows that he’s a bit of a scary thing to behold.

But it is with a look of unmistakable clarity that the boy stares at him, as though he holds the world in his hands, and something within Toshinori melts just a bit.

“Hello,” he says, kneeling down to eye-level. It feels a bit weird doing this without his more potent All Might bravado, he has to admit. “Are you lost, boy?”

Something stirs within the child’s eyes, and Toshinori notices that something other than admiration—a look that’s a bit too weighty and confusing for a child that looks no older than eleven—rests in his gaze, but it’s gone with a few rapid blinks as the boy tries to verbalize an answer.

“N, no.” He rubs his eyes as he gives a quiet sniff, and Toshinori realizes with a start that the boy was on the verge of tears . “I—I just wanted to talk to you.”

He takes a moment to appreciate the fact that he seems to be holding back the waterworks, because Toshinori has never been good with tears and usually the appearance of All Might was enough to make most kids cheer up, but he can’t exactly rely on that right now. And then the boy’s words register, and he once again realizes the oddity of the situation.

“Oh?” He prompts curiously. “And why’s that?”

The child freezes for a moment, his form stiff, and there are a million emotions going through his eyes that Toshinori cannot keep up with.

After a moment, he looks up, shrugs, and says, “I wanted to.”

Toshinori frowns, admittedly feeling a bit disappointed at the lacklustre reply. He pats the boy’s head and stands up, remembering that he had been patrolling the area before he got distracted.

“Well, if you don’t need any assistance, I should go.” He turns around with a wave.

“W-wait!” A hand clasps at his pant leg and he pauses to stare down at the boy, who is frowning.

(The frown is there for a reason, because of a surfacing memory of another time and another place where the hero and boy had ended up in a similar situation, but there is no way for him to know that.)

“I… Is it okay if we become friends?” The boy all but squeaks out, looking hopeful.

Toshinori’s brow furrows, deepening the already-present lines. This whole encounter is strange, enough to the point where he honestly doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but he also doesn’t see any harm in being kind to the boy. It might have been different had he been in his All Might form, but he isn’t, and there is no logical reason for the civilian Toshinori to reject the offer of friendship.

(Of course, most people might say that the decades-wide age gap is enough of a reason for it to be strange, but Toshinori is not “most people,” and he certainly has his own eccentricities.)

“I don’t see why not,” he says, hand outstretched for a handshake instead of the usual greeting. “I am known as Yagi Toshinori. What is your name, boy?”

That look again—the one that makes him second-guess which form he’s in, the one that is filled with so much awe and admiration and respect—appears on the boy’s face, and he looks as though Toshinori has handed him the world.

(In another time and another place, where a boy stands over an unmarked grave grieving for his mentor, friend, and father-figure, such a chance is the world.

But again, there is no way for him to know that.)

“Midoriya,” he says, a beaming grin on his face as he claps his hand over Toshinori’s.

“Midoriya Izuku.”

 


 

Their “friendship” holds a very strange dynamic. Or at least, it does to Toshinori.

Midoriya does not know his secret. He does not know that he is the number one hero All Might, nor does he know all of the other secrets that go along with that knowledge.

And it is an odd experience for Toshinori—who is used to posturing and forcefully inflated egos as expected of society’s pillar of strength—to actually be wary about revealing that side of himself instead of his true form.

He has caught himself many a time where he is about to access his quirk before greeting Midoriya, if only because he almost never has reason to talk to people who don’t know his secret while in his true form. It’s a sad fact, but one that he has come to accept, along with the responsibility of being All Might.

Perhaps the strangest thing about their friendship—and he is still hesitant to call it that, what with the boy being so young—is that despite Midoriya only knowing “Toshinori,” he still looks up at him with an almost indescribable expression of respect.

It had taken weeks, but Toshinori had realized soon enough that the way Midoriya looks up to him isn’t quite that of what All Might’s fans do. Because where there is ample respect, awe, and fascination in both, there is also a strange quality of yearning, hesitance, and almost… familial love. And Toshinori doesn’t know if he should be uncomfortable or flattered about that, or maybe both.

Despite all of this, it has become routine for Toshinori to walk over and greet the boy whenever his eyes catch the familiar shade and style of his dark hair, and vice versa.

Their conversations are mundane, simple, almost never broaching the topic of All Might or even heroes despite their society being full of such conversations. Once or twice Midoriya had let slip his admiration of All Might, but it had been quickly shaken off with a smile and a new topic.

Toshinori has divulged facts about his rather dull life (carefully cutting out anything including his hero identity, which admittedly makes him feel rather small) and he has in turn learned much of the boy’s innate genius, aptitude for strategy, and his love for his mother.

(Upon inquiry he finds out that Midoriya is quirkless, much to his surprise, but like the topic of All Might it is brushed to the side. Only, it is with a quiet pain and a shadowed look to his eyes. The topic is not brought up again, and though they go back to their easy conversation the reaction is filed away in the back of Toshinori’s mind.)

They’ve had near-daily chats since they first met and Midoriya extended a hand of friendship, which occurred not even a month ago.

It’s almost vexing how comfortable Toshinori feels around the boy after such a short amount of time.

But one day, the familiar pattern of conversations abruptly ends when Toshinori finds Midoriya jogging down the street. And perhaps that in itself is nothing to worry about, but the boy looks half-dead with exertion and—are those weights?

“Toshinori-san,” the boy greets with a beaming grin as he jogs up to him, despite the exhaustion lining his eyes. “It’s nice to see you—OW!”

Toshinori’s hand is still up from the light smack he delivered to the back of Midoriya’s head. He frowns minutely, but the expression’s severity is increased by his look. “What exactly do you think you’re doing?”

Wide eyes blink confusedly. “… Er, I was exercising—“

“Who told you that it’s acceptable for you to start weight-training?” Toshinori asks, feeling worry and a strange sense of irritation bubble forth. He reaches for the boy’s wrists and inspects the weights, frown deepening at the size. “Exercise is fine and good, but you need to know your body’s limits. Weights at your age will only serve as a detriment, and the benefits will be much lower than if you waited a few years.”

He catches a startled look on Midoriya’s face before it is wiped away, replaced by a sheepish grin and a considering glint to his eyes. “Ahaha… I… I didn’t know that. Um. When can I start?”

Toshinori opens his mouth to reply, but pauses as he realizes that he doesn’t actually know the boy’s age.

“… How old are you?”

Midoriya blinks at the question. “Eleven.”

Toshinori nods absentmindedly at the answer. “Alright. If you are aiming for strengthening and muscle growth, you would do well to wait until you’ve reached puberty.” A pause. “… When you’re around thirteen.”

He is contemplating with a hint of relief that he found this out now instead of later and therefore does not catch the way Midoriya’s shoulders stiffen, a frigid look settling in his eyes.

I can’t afford to wait that long,” the boy intones, and Toshinori tosses him a surprised glance.

Midoriya almost immediately shrinks into himself at the sudden realization of what he said (or how he said it, Toshinori isn’t sure) and he bows his head, his eyes hidden behind his fringe.

A stilted silence settles between them, awkward and biting. Eventually, sounding hesitant, Midoriya speaks.

“You… Do you remember when I told you that I’m… Quirkless?”

Toshinori, feeling a bit unstable at the sudden switch to a topic he thought forbidden, nods. “Yes, I do.”

Midoriya’s hands come up to fiddle with the hem of his shirt, and he turns slightly to the side. “… It was always my dream to be a hero. I remember how, when I was younger, I saw the news feed of All Might saving over a hundred people. I thought it was awesome, and I even had my mother save the footage.”

He pauses, allowing his hands to drop back to his sides. “I wanted to meet All Might. I wanted to talk to him, to be like him—I wanted to become a hero. But when my quirk failed to manifest when I reached the age, I was discouraged by everyone around me. Bullied, looked down on, and even my own mother thought that my dream was hopeless. ‘You can’t be a hero,’ they all said.” He lifts his head and stares at Toshinori, his shoulders set. “Everyone else sees an impossibility, but I haven’t given up.”

Toshinori can’t help it. Immediately, his mind wanders to his own quirk—One for All—the metaphorical torch, the legacy of many before him. This boy’s mindset, his dream, his situation, his determination

He stamps down on the thought immediately. No, he tells himself firmly. Midoriya is far too young, far too inexperienced, and the power of All for One would only destroy him as he is.

He doesn’t want to do it. Toshinori doesn’t want to be the one to do it, not when this boy is a friend however tentative, not when there is so much potential and power in his eyes, but.

(Better now than in the face of an enemy who would crush his dream and life together.)

“You cannot be a hero without a quirk, Midoriya-boy.”

Toshinori stares at the boy, waiting for the look of defeat to surface. He searches for the signs of despair, the crumpling determination and shattered hopes. He will help Midoriya recover, he will guide him down a safer path—it’s the least he could do for delivering such a devastating blow.

It never comes.

Instead, Midoriya smiles, a surprisingly bright and true look despite the tinge of sadness.

“I know,” he says, and it really does seem as though he knows, “but there are people I care for. There are people I love, and I need to protect them.”

“That’s foolish,” Toshinori murmurs, the response automatic and biting even to his own ears. Oddly enough, he feels the blow of his own words. “There’s no need for you to do something like that when there are trained heroes.”

Midoriya’s grin falters but does not lose it’s quality. “Heroes are not fool-proof, or perfect. Heroes are human, and humans fail occasionally. Even with the truth right in front of me, I once depended on a false legend because I was weak, and that isn’t something I’m going to do again.” He lifts his fist and points it at Toshinori in an unknown gesture. “Even quirkless, I’ll do my best because it’s what I have to do to save the people I care about. And I’ll do it up to my dying breath, if necessary.”

He drops his hand and, quieter, to the point where Toshinori almost doesn’t catch it, murmurs, “And I don’t have a lot of time.”

“Why?” Toshinori questions, feeling completely out of his depth and somewhat desperate. This boy… “There is no need for you to put your life on the line to such an extent.”

You are a child, Toshinori wants to say, you are eleven, you are just barely out of your first decade of life, why are you so desperate? Why do you look so certain that you must risk your life for your cause?

“Because I want to be a hero,” Midoriya answers without hesitation, a resolute look on his face. “And a hero doesn’t care about limits.”

Something within Toshinori clicks.

“… Anyway,” Midoriya begins, glancing down at his wrist. “I should go now. Wow, I was supposed to be done with my jog by now, I hope mom isn’t worried.”

He turns away to resume his jog, waving back at Toshinori with a smile. The picture of happiness and youthful innocence. “It was nice seeing you Toshinori-san! Bye!”

As his silhouette disappears around a corner, Toshinori breathes a strained sigh and releases his clenched fists.

He had forgotten, somehow. He had forgotten what it felt like, wanting to save lives, wanting to become a hero but being unable to because of the false impossibilities weighing him down. Most importantly, he had forgotten what the makings of a true hero were—instead, living by the minimum and using his injury as a crutch.

And Midoriya… Despite having been born with a natural disadvantage, despite living in a time where being quirkless is even more difficult than previous generations, despite having been told time and time again that his dream is impossible… He never gave up. He continued dreaming, continues to work for that supposedly unattainable goal.

“… Because a hero doesn’t care about limits,” Toshinori echoes quietly.

It is certainly sooner than he expected, but in light of his injury, he supposes that this is for the best. He couldn’t possibly ask for someone more suited to his legacy, anyway.

With a shake of his head, he turns away and heads in the direction of his home, mind already working to fit together a training schedule for his potential protege.

Chapter Text

She notices.

Her son, who is a mixture of boisterous, excitable, yet with a delicate confidence and almost-shy disposition at times, changes.

It is such an abrupt change that it’s almost as though a switch has been flipped, and the only thing Inko can think about is that it must have started the day she went to her son’s room to wake him up and instead found his room empty. She had panicked for what felt like hours crammed into minutes, mind frantic with thoughts of her son missing—because he had no reason to not be home so only the most worrying of scenarios occurred to her—and she rushed downstairs to call the police department—

—only for her son to walk in through the front door that very moment.

He had gone out to exercise apparently, at four in the morning, before she woke up. The look on his face might’ve been something she would call half-asleep—he was still in his sleepwear, for goodness’ sake—but when he looked at her, she had felt that familiar tightness in her chest she hadn’t felt since the day she and her son found that he was quirkless.

Something about his expression had evoked that in her, but before she could say or even think anything beyond why does he look so sad she had found herself with her arms full of her son as he all but tackled her.

He hadn’t cried but he clung to her with something akin to desperation, his shaking hands balled up in the fabric of her shirt as they simply stood there, Izuku fighting some sort of internal battle and Inko trying her best to help but not really knowing what was happening.

It wasn’t until she detected the smell of burning that she remembered that she had been cooking and she hurriedly rushed Izuku to the table before beginning her valiant efforts to salvage their breakfast.

She had noted that Izuku’s expression was a positive one, smiling and cheeks red with laughter at her blunder, despite what she had been fearing.

(What had she been fearing?)

Overall, her son hasn’t changed too much, and she might not have noticed had it not been for that particular day. That incident had made her wary, made her much more attentive of her son and his minute shifts in a way she had never been before.

She had asked after the Bakugou family, wondering if, perhaps, Katsuki might have known what was ailing her son (or might have played a hand in it) but all she had received were questioning looks and shaking heads.

And when she asked her son if he was being bullied, he had given her the most puzzled look as he ate.

“… What?”

Inko wrings her hands under the table, her smile strained. “Well, you’ve seemed so… Withdrawn, lately. I’m worried about you, you know. You can talk to me.”

The puzzled look is replaced with something far more twisted and unplaceable, wrong on the face of her son. But his expression eventually settles on something softer, and he gives a genuine smile.

“… Thanks,” he says quietly. “I’m fine though. I just... I guess I just remembered that I’m quirkless.”

It doesn’t sound like a lie, and Inko’s heart constricts at the reminder that, yes, her son is quirkless. Conversation dwindles as they go back to eating, and Inko quietly frets.

If she is being honest, she still doesn’t know what happened to change her son. He is still Izuku, no question, but it’s the small things that stand out. The way he tends to hold eye-contact longer, the way he sits with a straight posture, how he walks with his shoulders back and his head held high instead of between hunched shoulders. It's all different.

These changes are acceptable—good, even, because she has always worried about his shy nature being a target for bullying—but what she dislikes most is how reserved her son has become.

Reserved, distracted; sometimes he just seems so lost in the middle of conversation and it scares her whenever she finds him in the living room, eyes dull as he stares seemingly at nothing, lost within his mind. That is what worries her most.

But no matter how often she inquires, most of the time tentative and unobtrusive, other times blatant, he only smiles—that real smile that makes her lower her guard—and she leaves the topic with the thought of, Well, I suppose he’s okay.

A part of her quietly hates how easy it is for her to accept it for what it is and leave her son to… Whatever it is that haunts him. Another part says that perhaps this is needed, and that Izuku needs his space.

Inko has no direction for this. And even though Izuku clearly still looks at her with a fond affection that is almost indescribable, she hates how powerless she feels to help him.

 


 

He changes again.

It’s been a little under six months since the initial shift in his behavior, and his birthday has passed since then—he is twelve now—but this change is no less obvious than the first.

It starts with his dwindling presence. More than she can count, Inko has found herself pacing in the living room, busying herself with various tasks and constant glances to the time as she waits for her son to come home. He leaves early in the morning to exercise as usual (this is something that has been a constant ever since that morning he came home wearing a shuttered expression and therefore doesn’t worry Inko so much) but instead of coming home immediately after school, he… Doesn’t.

She’s starting to regret her reluctant acquiescence to Izuku’s plea that she let him commute to and from school on his own.

“Kacchan does it,” he had said, eyes hopeful. It hadn’t been until he murmured a quiet, “I want to be able to help you on my own, soon,” that her heart melted and she caved in, however.

That doesn’t mean that she isn’t worried. She doesn’t know what it is that occupies her son’s time after-school. She already knows that it isn’t, in fact, Katsuki, and despite his less than desirable mannerisms he is at least a known variable, and it has only been the distinctly exhausted but happy look her son has when he finally does come home that has kept her from prying.

He always looks tired and scuffed up, but not necessarily in a I-ran-into-some-bullies way. And the fact that he has looked happier than ever, eyes practically shining, is the only reason why she has yet to inquire after his state each return.

Regardless, she thinks with a sad smile, I’m going to ask him today. He’s only twelve, and as his mother, I should know what it is that he gets into so I can protect him.

Perhaps it isn’t just coincidence that this is precisely the moment that she hears her son shouting animatedly somewhere outside. Curiously, Inko turns around to look at the clock—it’s barely even four—and sets her dish towel down as she peeks out of the window.

She sees Izuku, and her eyes catch sight of another figure. A tall, looming, gaunt figure, wearing an unreadable expression, staring down at her son who is still shouting unintelligible words. Her son.

Izuku.

Between one moment and the next, Inko has grabbed one of her pots and rushed out of the front door, subconsciously activating her quirk as she reaches for Izuku to pull him behind her. She can feel the hairs on the back of her neck raise, her vision hyper-focusing on the man in front of her as she clutches the stainless steel pot tightly in her hand.

Dark circles under his eyes. Ragged appearance, he doesn’t look like he even eats. Shaggy blond hair cut unevenly and left in disarray. Sunken cheeks, and wide-eyes the color of the sky. She can take him, she thinks, he hardly looks like he could bear a particularly strong gust of wind.

The man is stunned, she realizes distantly. She also hears her son whisper out something that sounds suspiciously like, “her quirk worked on me, me, I’m a small object…” but her attention is trained on the man standing in front of her.

Who are you?” She questions, hands trembling.

Izuku seems to snap to attention, and Inko feels a small tug on the sleeve of her shirt. “Mom, it’s okay. He’s a—a friend.”

She glances to her son, quickly noting the slight worry and unease in his expression but noticing that he is, for the most part, at ease. She turns back to the man even as she speaks. “A friend? Since when? Where did you meet him? Are you sure it’s safe? And neither of you have answered the question, just who—“

“Yagi Toshinori, Midoriya-san,” the man says, apparently having come back to himself. He’s smiling, or at least attempting to, and Inko suppresses a wince at the expression—it really doesn’t look too good on him.

“I apologize for not introducing myself to you sooner. As Midoriya-boy here said, I am a friend, and we’ve known each other for…” He trails off, glancing to Izuku with a contemplative expression.

“Four months,” her sons says with a chirp, and Yagi nods even as he seems to grimace. Or is that a smile again?

“Four months. Yes, sincere apologies for not making myself known to you sooner. I didn’t mean to present myself as a threat.” He glances off to the side as he rubs his neck nervously.

Inko eyes him for a moment, gaze glancing between him and her son, before lowering the pot in her hand. She feels the slightest twinge of sympathy and guilt now that the initial adrenaline and fear over her son’s well being has passed—because, well, she supposes that their interactions were amicable enough before she came rushing outside, steel pot akimbo with Yagi’s name on it. She had taken one look at the man, however, and she couldn’t help but think that he seemed dangerous.

“I’m Midoriya Inko, Izuku’s mother,” she says with a smile and a small bow. “I’m sorry for reacting as I did, but I hadn’t known that you two knew each other. Please don’t be a stranger—since you’re my son’s friend, I would like to get to know you, Yagi-san.”

Izuku laughs as Yagi adopts a sheepish, almost wary look, but he nods in understanding.

Inko feels like she’s being a bit mean, but she’s glad that the man realizes that he won’t be allowed anywhere near her son unless she wholeheartedly approves of him. She may not be the strongest of personalities, but this is about her only son.

She turns to Izuku with a sad smile. “And Izuku, please tell me when you intend on staying out late. I understand that you want to be a little more independent, but I worry about you, and it’s still my responsibility as your mother that I make sure you’re safe.”

Izuku rubs the back of his neck and murmurs a quiet apology. Inko blinks at the similar action.

“Anyway,” Inko begins with a clap of her hands, making both her son and Yagi jolt. “We’re having fried pork tonight. Would you like to join us?”

Yagi isn’t really given a chance to reply, because he is quickly ushered in by Inko and a beaming Izuku.

 


 

A couple of weeks have passed since Inko first met Yagi Toshinori, and since then she has decided that he isn’t a bad influence on her son. Rather, he is actually a positive figure in Izuku’s life, if only because he (somehow) manages to make her son smile with his sheer presence alone.

His influence has made Izuku less prone to shrinking into himself, and it hadn’t taken long for Inko to draw a connection between Izuku’s confidence and Yagi. But when she had inquired after the start of the change, the morning when her son’s behavior had inexplicably shifted, he only gave her a puzzled look and shook his head.

“There has been no change in Midoriya since I met him, not as far as I can tell at least,” he says, contemplative. “From the sounds of it, the ‘change’ did indeed take place around the time he met me, but I assure you, I have not done anything to purposely change his demeanor. We talk about menial things and training.”

She had then asked what “training” entailed, to which Yagi had responded with a list and explanations of what each activity entailed. She was happy that Izuku’s attention was being diverted away from his obsessions, giving him a metaphorical breath of fresh air, and therefore decided to leave the explanation at that.

But it had been strange. For what reason would her son need to have such a rigorous training schedule? Why would he need a training schedule at all? Exercise and studies are good in equal measure, which had been part of the reason why she had been pleased with Yagi’s influence. But each day she saw her son come home increasingly exhausted only helped inculcate the point that, whatever was going on, was trainingnot a simple leisure exercise.

So, one day, with her son out on a cool-down run, Inko had decided that she should finally ask Yagi why he is so active in his approach to get Izuku in top physical condition.

And as she glares at Yagi, she considers that it’s a good thing that her son went out for another jog.

“What do you mean, ‘so he can become a hero’?”

Yagi holds her gaze with a placid look. “I’m training Midoriya to become a hero.”

Inko stares at him, not quite sure what it is that she’s hearing. Because, on one hand, it’s—it’s heart-warming, almost, hearing someone say that they want to help her son become a hero, half-implying that they believe he can become one. But on the other hand, it’s reckless, unrealistic, impossible, and—

“Izuku is quirkless,” she says, the words cutting even to her.

To her ever-growing frustration, Yagi considers her for a moment before giving a small nod. “Yes, he told me that a while ago.”

“Then why? Why would you give him that false hope?” She swallows roughly, grimacing. “It’s always been his dream to become a hero. You, you can’t do that, you can’t give him false hopes like that, it’s unfair to him.”

Silence follows her words as Yagi stares at her, contemplative, and she looks down at her clasped hands. Shaking.

“… He has the potential.”

The sound of Inko’s hands slamming down on the table echoes throughout the room.

“My. Son. Is quirkless!” She shouts, staring incredulously at the expressionless man sitting in front of her. “What’s wrong with becoming a police officer, or a—a fireman? He can still help people like that, can still be a hero in his own way! He doesn’t need to constantly put his life on the line—which is a given for a hero without a quirk!”

She is breathing heavily by the time she finishes her rant, and she sits down, her eyes closed as she rests her forehead in her hands. Inko has always been the only one Izuku had—she doesn’t have many relatives that are still alive, Hisashi quite literally disappeared, and the only person Izuku is truly friends with also serves part-time as his bully.

In equal measure, Izuku is the only one Inko has. She wants to be a good mother, and she refuses to let anything happen to her son when there is something she can do about it. She loves him too much, and she wants him to be alive and happy.

(Even if that means that he has to give up his childhood dream. He’d recover from it, Inko is sure, he would just need time.)

When Inko finally regains herself and looks at Yagi to gauge his reaction, she finds herself slightly unnerved and almost irritated at how understanding he looks.

“... Your worries are valid,” he says quietly, “I myself questioned his dream before. I even told him that it isn’t possible for someone without a quirk to become a hero. But Midoriya has the potential and determination, more than many I have seen, and I know what I’m doing.”

Inko bristles. “What do you mean, ‘I know what I’m doing’? You aren’t even—who are you? I’ve never seen or heard of you, are you even a registered hero? Do you even have a job?”

Her breath catches and she turns away, wiping away tears as casually as possible. She doesn’t want to think about it, about how dangerous this world is for someone who is quirkless, how this world could kill her quirkless son if he tried to become a hero.

“… Sorry,” she murmurs, a tight smile in place as she stares unseeingly at the wall. “I’ve been pretty rude to you this entire time, but I just—I don’t really know how to take all of this. It’s been my son and I for so long, only the two of us, and for someone to suddenly step in and change everything is—“ she stops when her voice cracks, and takes a breath. “… It’s disorienting.”

She gets the distinct feeling that Yagi is nodding. “I know it is difficult to accept, but please, Midoriya-san. I only have young Midoriya’s best interests at heart.”

She turns around to look at him, uncertain of what she will say. It has only been a few weeks and she still barely knows this man, but she’s seen enough to know that yes, he does mean well, and she would’ve had to have been blind to not see the ease with which her son and Yagi interacted.

But whatever words she has die in her throat when, instead of the spindly, gaunt form of Yagi sitting before her, All Might is there in his place.

All Might. There, in her kitchen, looking uncharacteristically serious. All Might, the hero her son practically worships.

ALL MIGHT.

She stares at him, eyes like saucers, and for that moment both of them are silent. Except for Inko, who is actually slightly screaming in her head as her mind works at light-speed to process what it is that she is seeing.

Inko eventually regains the use of her lungs, and she manages to croak out the most prominent question in her mind. “D-does Izuku know?”

All Might—Yagi, but how in the world—shakes his head, even as he seems to shrink and revert back to his other (original? Disguised?) form. Inko watches with a sort of confused, panicked awe.

“Midoriya doesn’t know. He only knows me as Yagi Toshinori.”

“Why are you like that?” Inko blurts, before she can think better of it. She claps her hands over her mouth, but Yagi only smiles.

And he explains.

Inko can feel the blood drain from her face as she hears the story, his battle, his handicap, his shortened life—the man lost his stomach.

(She suddenly feels very, very horrified as she remembers jokingly scolding him for rejecting offers of eating with her and Izuku after that first time they all ate dinner together.)

Finally, as he finishes the explanation, Inko voices her question. “… Do you really mean it? Does Izuku, does he really have the potential to become a… A h-hero?"

Yagi nods without hesitance, and the sincerity in his eyes eases some of the tension in her shoulders. “Yes, he does, far more than the majority of people I’ve encountered in my life.”

“Even without a quirk?” She presses, hands held tightly together.

“No.” Her heart sinks. “But… I… I may know a way to solve that.”

Inko jolts, eyes wide. “H-how?”

Yagi adopts a hesitant look, glancing to the side as he seems to fight an internal battle. Inko is fighting one of her own, because Izuku, her son, had somehow managed to catch the attention of the very man he idolized, the very man that spurred on his obsession with becoming a hero.

Something warm swells within her at the knowledge that the very man who her son looked up to the most recognized him, believes in him and his dream. All Might believes that Midoriya Izuku can become a hero.

“I was quirkless once, too.” Inko snaps to attention, staring at Yagi with surprise.

“My quirk was passed down by my predecessor, who believed I had what it took to become a hero. I have decided that Izuku, who was also born quirkless, is the one I would like to pass my quirk on to, if he accepts.”

“Passing on quirks…” Inko murmurs. “That’s… Possible?”

Yagi nods. “Yes.”

Inko remains quiet as she grips her arms, trying to still her sudden tremors. She is reminded of a time when she had thought all was lost, when she thought that her boy’s dreams were completely shattered.

She had apologized, at the time. She had run up to and embraced her son, trying her best to comfort Izuku from the harsh reality of his situation. But now, against all odds

An opportunity. Her son, her Izuku, he… He can become a hero.

“… I,” she manages, hands trembling as she clasps them in front of her, bowing her head. “… This is… Unbelievable. You don’t, y-you don’t know how much this will mean to Izuku, how much this means to me that you’ve given him this chance, I—“ She pauses. Breathes. She lifts her head and smiles, the expression almost painful with the emotions she feels in this moment.

“… Thank you.”

Yagi blinks a few times before offering a small nod, hand reaching up to rub the back of his neck awkwardly. “It’s nothing, really, Midoriya-san. I couldn’t hope for a successor with more potential, and Midoriya-boy is a dutiful student with a kind heart and a strong sense of justice.”

Inko quickly wipes at her eyes as she continues to smile. “None of that. Inko is fine.”

Yagi pauses. “Inko-san, then. In that case, I am Toshinori.”

He reaches out a hand, and though Inko stares bemusedly at it for a second, she realizes what the gesture is and reaches forward to shake his hand. “Toshinori-san. Thank you.”

He smiles, and it’s somehow far less terrifying than it was when they had first met.

The front door opens, followed by a weak call of, “I’m home,” and both Toshinori and Inko abruptly stand, sharing an understanding look before heading into the general direction of the living room.

“Welcome home, Izuku—are you okay?” Inko’s greeting is cut-off with a sharp intake of breath when she sees her son collapsed on the couch, taking wheezing breaths.

She barely takes a step into the room when Toshinori darts past her, eyes wide as he frets over Izuku. “Midoriya, what—how many laps did you do? Why do you look so exhausted?”

Izuku winces, then offers up a guilty smile. “Ah, haha, well I sort of zoned out and I… I, uh. Lost count?”

“You lost count. What—“ Toshinori’s gaze darts to Izuku’s feet and darkens as he intones, “what did I say about wearing weights?”

As Toshinori’s irritated worry grows and Izuku’s poor attempts at defending himself become weaker and weaker, Inko watches. And she sighs, smiling a little self-deprecatingly.

That was, admittedly, supposed to be Hisashi and Izuku. But her husband had disappeared, leaving her alone to raise a son that didn’t even know what his birth father looked like. She had always worried what kind of affect it would have on her son—to not have a father figure, to only have one parental figure in his life—and that worry had only increased day by day when she saw her son retreat further and further into himself due to his quirkless nature and the ever-growing rift between him and Katsuki.

And yet, Izuku had managed to find someone that could fill that spot himself, and had seemingly become that much stronger and confident in the blink of an eye. And despite their unpleasant introduction, Inko knows that Toshinori is someone that she can trust Izuku with, and that the affection and care in the lines of his face is true.

Even if it isn’t the image of a happy family she had first had in mind the day she wedded her absentee husband, Inko finds herself content.

Because, however strange it may be, Izuku has a family now, and he’s undoubtedly happy.

And that’s what matters most to her.

Chapter Text

It pisses him off.

His eyes bore into the back of a head of dark-green curls, face contorted into a scowl more severe than his usual set of irate expressions. In the background, the teacher continues to rattle off words that don’t matter. “You’ll be graduating soon, moving on to junior high, so you’ll need to prepare…”

It really pisses him off.

“Class dismissed.” The object of his focus leans over to grab his bag, packing his notebook and writing utensils away as his classmates do the same. Mindless conversation and the clatter of chairs scraping against the floor fills the room.

It. Pisses. Him. Off.

Bakugou Katsuki is at the top of his class for a reason. He’s smart, has a top-tier offensive quirk, and is generally either well-liked or feared.

(Not that he really cares. All that matters is that his application to the top hero school looks good, and that he eventually makes his way up to the position of top-hero. Number one, like All Might.

Better than All Might.)

Katsuki has always had an advantage over everyone else, maybe not to the point of being a genius but definitely being a cut above the rest. But that doesn’t stop him from constantly working hard for his still-out-of-reach goal, and keeping an eye out for potential competition.

He isn’t stupid. He isn’t fucking blind, and even if he didn’t really notice right away, he now knows that something is up. Something has changed, something is different. And that something happens to be the idiot he grew up with, his neighbor from childhood.

Midoriya Izuku. Deku.

It had started with the lack of Deku’s hovering (annoying) presence. Katsuki had never really bothered to see if his followers went along with him whenever he had the urge to do something—that was generally a given—and ultimately he didn’t actually give a shit if they came or went. He had, admittedly, always been a bit more attentive regarding Deku’s presence, if only because they have known each other for almost their entire lives and he knows that Deku’s mother would bother him if something happened.

So it hadn’t taken that long for Katsuki to realize that Deku no longer followed him. Suddenly, Deku was no longer the constant, hovering presence at the back of the group. Deku stopped following, instead leaving school as soon as classes ended. And even if the change had been only a minor irritant in the beginning, it’s been a grating presence in the back of Katsuki’s mind for too long. It bothers him.

Maybe it’s the fact that Deku seems to be less of a follower now, with more of a backbone than he had before. Maybe it’s because Katsuki hasn’t heard him stutter out his name in a while. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t even glanced Katsuki’s way in a while, let alone even talked to him.

(What happened to the sniveling, quirkless freak that couldn’t do anything but quietly follow Katsuki because he had nothing better to do?)

Regardless, something changed, and Katsuki doesn’t like being left in the dark about things—even if it involves a useless idiot he couldn’t care less about.

So.

“Deku,” he drawls, walking over and clapping a hand on the boy’s shoulder. Deku flinches at the sudden contact, and slowly turns to look up at Katsuki.

“… Oh, it’s you—er. Yes?”

Katsuki’s eyelid twitches at the response, and he gestures sharply to the door with his other hand. “Follow me.”

Normally, Katsuki wouldn’t bother to stop and check to make sure he was being followed. But when he reaches the threshold of the classroom door he does, and sneers when he sees Deku still sitting at his seat, staring dumbly at him.

Stop dragging your ass!” He shouts, rolling his eyes when Deku jolts before hurriedly grabbing his bag and following.

When they make it outside, Katsuki wastes no time in shoving Izuku against a wall, using his height advantage to loom over the smaller boy threateningly. “What. The shit. Is going on.”

Deku blinks almost placidly, not even a hint of fear in his eyes—and Katsuki, Katsuki hates, loathes that look, hates the way he feels worse than if it were his goddamn mother staring at him after catching him sneaking out at night.

DEKU!” He snarls, fists shaking. “Answer the fucking question!

“… You shouldn’t swear, Kacchan.”

Katsuki’s whole face spasms before falling blank as he processes the words that fell out of Deku’s mouth. “… What.”

“You shouldn’t swear,” Deku repeats, brow creased. “You’re still only twelve, Kacchan.”

Somehow, Katsuki both relaxes and bristles at the words because—because Deku called him “Kacchan,” that annoying but customary nickname, so there’s some normalcy at least, but—

—but what the fuck.

He grabs Deku’s shirt and holds him against the wall by the collar, his arm digging into the other boy’s throat. A flicker of unease unfurls in his stomach before he mercilessly tamps it down. “Just—just shut the hell up already, Deku. What the hell is going on? What did you fucking do?”

Infuriatingly enough, the idiot, the fucking nerd only blinks at him. Blinks again, eyes wide and expression contemplative.

“… Kacchan,” he begins after a few uncomfortable moments, voice quiet. “… Are you… Are you worried about me?”

Katsuki flinches back as though burnt, tossing Deku to the side as his face contorts into a twisted snarl. “What the fuckingFUCK NO! What the hell even made you think that I—“

Katsuki’s hands let off a litany of explosions as he grows increasingly more irate. “WhatAAAAAARGH, you know what, just, just FUCK OFF! Fuck off and leave me the FUCK alone!”

“You were the one who called me out here though, Kaccha—“

“I DON’T SHIT-FUCKING CARE!”

With his piece said, Katsuki storms off, shouting obscenities and denial all the way.

And Deku—Izuku—is left behind to quietly ponder.

(He had always known that his childhood friend wasn’t quite as confident as he always liked to appear, but the raw emotion that the boy had tried to desperately hide was unmistakable. Uncertainty. Nervousness. And a small sliver of fear, even.

With a shrug, he briefly checks himself over, noting that he didn’t even bruise after that conversation. It’s a bit strange, because he had expected at least a well-placed punch or two, but the worst he has is a slightly sore throat. I guess Kacchan wasn’t as violent at this age, he thinks to himself.

He lets out a quiet murmur, unheard by all but him: “… Huh. A non-violent Kacchan.”)

A muffled snort echoes in the clearing.

 


 

Katsuki almost allows himself to relax and brush aside the change when Deku starts following after him again.

He almost allows himself to think that normalcy has returned, that Deku hasn’t really changed, that Deku is still the same nerdy dumbass that he remembers. But he doesn’t, because it isn’t like before, it isn’t the same.

And he isn’t. Fucking. Stupid.

Deku is constantly there whenever Katsuki and his lackeys wander around, a silent, not-quite unobtrusive presence as the others go about their business and follow Katsuki’s whims. But it’s different from before.

Katsuki can practically feel Deku’s gaze on him, like the nerd is waiting for him to make a mistake, like he’s—like he’s some goddamn guardian or some stupid shit. Like he's better than him.

(Deku has "helped" them more than just once. A couple of times when they had traveled too far out from the town, he directed them back so they could find their way. He also magically pulled bandages, alcohol swabs, and medical tape out of nowhere when one of Katsuki’s lackeys had fallen down into the ravine and skinned his leg. There have been a few other instances too.

And all of it fucking pisses him off.)

It’s not even like the time when Deku had offered him help after he had fallen into the ravine. It’s infinitely worse, because he doesn’t treat him with that tentative, respectful distance that he had when they were younger. No, that was a million times better than feeling like he’s constantly being protected, and by Deku no less.

One day, Katsuki tells his lackeys to not-so-politely fuck off, because he isn’t in the mood to hang out. They do, after some friendly jeering about how he should stop being such an ass, but he doesn’t care.

What he does care about, is how Deku stays behind.

“... Oi. Deku,” he growls out, hands twitching. He doesn’t need to turn around to know that Deku is standing there, watching him. “Are your ears broken? I told you guys to fuck off.”

He receives no reply for a few tense moments, and when he’s about to turn around and yell at the idiot to go away—

“… No.”

Katsuki freezes.

Slowly, he turns around, and he doesn’t know what expression he’s making—doesn’t even know what he’s feeling—but he knows that something within him is simmering, growing, hateful.

“… What.”

“No,” Deku replies, crossing his arms. His posture is defiant, but his expression isn't as confident. “I’m not sure what’s going on, Kacchan, but if you need someone to talk to I can liste—“

Katsuki moves before he can think better of it (not that he would have). His eyes are wide, blood-shot, and his area of vision narrows on Deku as his fist is aimed at his face, waiting to hear the satisfying impact of his knuckles connecting because—

—because Katsuki has always been better, better than everyone, especially DEKU

—because he has the best fucking quirk and DEKU, this IDIOT is FUCKING QUIRKLESS, what a fucking JOKE

… But nothing happens.

Deku’s face remains unharmed, because Katsuki's fist never connects with it’s target.

Instead, he finds himself staring, wide-eyed, at his fist, and the hand enclosed around it. The hand that he hadn’t even seen, the hand that shot up and captured his punch and stopped him dead in his tracks.

He had thrown the entirety of his weight into that punch.

“Kacchan,” Deku says slowly, staring at Katsuki with—with that fucking look again, the look that is somehow softly exasperated yet also disapproving. He glances at Katsuki’s fist with a frown, as if he hadn’t been close to being slugged in the face.

(But that wasn’t close at all. He had stopped Katsuki’s fist without batting an eye.)

Deku turns back to him. “What was that for?”

Whatever it was that had been building up in Katsuki surges forward all at once, and he snaps.

“FUCK YOU!” He yells, roughly twisting and wrenching his arm out of Deku’s grip, following through with the movement and swinging again.

Deku deflects his attack as if it were nothing, and Katsuki growls, explosions at his fingertips as he lunges forward and—

Deku darts to the side. He grabs Katsuki’s wrists as he directs a sweeping kick to his legs, forcing Katsuki’s center of balance to destabilize. And before Katsuki knows it, the sky flies into his vision and he impacts the ground, hard.

Deku hovers above him. Katsuki freezes as a hand presses down on his throat, restraining. A threat.

His eyes are wide and his pulse hammers in his ears as he tries to figure out what just happened and how the FUCK it happened in the first place.

“… I know that it’ll be difficult for you to understand,” Deku begins, staring down at him with an intensity Katsuki has never seen on him before. It makes the hairs on the back of his neck raise. “But I’m not as weak as you think, Kacchan. I’m not a follower, I won’t ever be one ever again, and…”

He pauses, and Katsuki feels the weight on his neck relent, lift away. He immediately shoots up into a sitting position, one hand hovering between him and Deku and the other rubbing at his throat. His gaze never leaves Deku.

Deku, who is scratching the back of his head with his eyes skittering away to the side in stark contrast to the intensity that they held moments ago. Familiar.

“… If possible, I’d like us to start over. As equals. As, well, actual friends…?”

Katsuki stares.

Deku glances up at him and offers a sheepish smile. “… Please?”

Their silent staring continues for a few more moments, with Deku becoming increasingly nervous with each passing second. He’s visibly fidgeting and his hand continuously clenches and unclenches. But Katsuki doesn’t reply.

He stands up, dusts himself off, glances at the wide-eyed look Deku shoots him.

And without so much as a word, he turns and walks away.

 


 

Kacchan is avoiding Izuku.

He doesn’t talk to him, doesn’t yell, doesn’t even glare. The most Izuku has managed to get out of him is a brief, unreadable glance before his gaze is redirected elsewhere, dismissive.

And when Izuku tries to talk to him, Kacchan stands up and leaves—even in the middle of class, to their teacher's dismay.

Izuku, despite all of his knowledge of the future, realizes that he doesn’t really know this Kacchan. Because the one he does know is someone that he has fought with and against, survived with, sparred with, and come to truly understand. The Kacchan he knows is someone that isn’t nearly as confident as he seems but is a bit more secure where he stands, at ease with his select group of peers, and actually knows how to rely on his classmates and childhood friend—even if it did take a while to achieve that mutual trust.

But the Kacchan he knows is not the Kacchan that exists here. Because this one hasn’t seen the world for what it is, hasn’t seen the dangers that exist. He hasn’t found anyone suitable to truly give him that taste of reality that he new in the future. He still sees Izuku as a useless, quirkless idiot.

… And Izuku thinks he may have just lost the friend he remembers for good.

 


 

Katsuki doesn’t know what he’s doing.

(He would sooner die than openly admit this to anyone, and even quietly acknowledging it to himself is a bit difficult.)

He weaves in and out of the crowds, eyes trained forward as he dodges the oncoming traffic.

And as Katsuki ends up tripping, again, due to his gaze being focused on the tuft of dark curls several meters in front of him, he grudgingly amends his inwardly stated observation.

He really doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.

It had started as a quiet irritation at the realization that he never actually figured out what happened to change Deku. He tried to ignore it—I don’t care, he would repeat to himself, I don’t care at all—but Katsuki has never been particularly good at ignoring irritants, and he has always been the proactive type when it came to getting things done, whether that was completing a stupid assignment for school or beating the crap out of something that pissed him off. So he had decided to do something about it.

And he had decided that, if there’s any way he is going to figure out what the hell is up with Deku, it’s this. Not that Katsuki is really the type for covert operations, or quietly following, or sneaking around—his quirk pretty much reflects his personality—but this is all he can do.

Like hell he was going to ask any of his lackeys to try and figure out what was going on with Deku, because that would have lead to questions. Talking has already been tried, and as Katsuki recalls with something between a sneer and a wince, that hadn’t turned out too well.

(“Too well” is stretching it. He failed, but he isn’t about to admit that. Katsuki doesn’t fucking fail, even if he will admit that he’s kind of crap at civil conversation. Who the fuck cares. Common courtesy can kiss his ass.)

Katsuki’s thoughts come to an abrupt stop when Deku suddenly darts forward, disappearing into the crowd.

Damnit, Katsuki thinks acridly, picking up his own pace as his gaze glances around to find Deku again. Why did he suddenly run off? Does he know that I’m here? Did he see me?

The thought makes his steps momentarily slow before his pace picks up again.

Katsuki continues searching, but he weighs the pros and cons of giving up for the day and going home. Deku noticing that Katsuki is following him is embarrassing as hell, but that’s about it. Katsuki has full confidence that, even if Deku knows that he’s there, he’s plenty capable of keeping up with the nerd, and he’s reluctant to turn tail and go home just because he was discovered.

After a few minutes of searching, Katsuki finally finds Deku—he’s in a park, now—and freezes when he notices the other person standing to the side. Apparently, Deku hadn't just suddenly decided to go on a leisurely stroll.

… Okay, Katsuki thinks to himself, eyes narrowed on the taller figure. That guy looks really fucking creepy.

Definitely creepy. In a sort-of cool way, sure, but the man is tall and thin to a sickly degree, his cheekbones casting dark shadows on his face and his eyes sunken in. As Katsuki observes the two of them converse, he wonders if he should step in.

Who the heck is that, anyway? He wonders, eyes narrowed and ears straining to catch snippets of conversation. How does Deku know him?

And then a thought occurs to him, making his eyes widen as he all but bristles.

… Is that… Is that a fucking PREDATOR!?

He swears under his breath suddenly because, honestly? Fuck those kinds of people. He’s going to become a hero one day and people like that are the lowest of the low, on par with the other villainous scum of society.

Katsuki is flexing his hands, ready to dart out there and subdue the shit-head—not because he’s particularly worried about Deku, but because he wants to be a hero and that's the kind of thing heroes do—but then he gets a real good look at Deku’s face.

Deku turns slightly, gesturing animatedly with his arms and—

—he’s smiling.

It’s not just a small tilt and a flash of teeth, or even a normal smile. He almost seems to light up in a way Katsuki has never seen before, his eyes practically glowing and his grin reaching ear-to-ear almost stupidly. The man nods, and something resembling a smile stretches across his own gaunt features as he pats Deku on the head, inciting a laugh.

Katsuki’s hands lower as he stares, something leadened resting in the pit of his stomach.

... It’s shocking. Because Katsuki suddenly realizes that he has never seen that expression on Deku’s face before. He has never seen a look of such obvious happiness on the face of someone he has known for almost his entire life.

(He doesn’t really think about the insinuations there, refuses to think about them. But he is, inexplicably, reminded about the way All Might always maintains his smile. How he brings smiles to everyone around him, how he is the number one hero not only because of his strength but because of his charisma.

He is reminded of a time when he and Deku were still on amicable terms, when Katsuki had said he wanted to be strong and unbeatable like All Might while Deku had said he wanted to smile and protect.

“Because a hero has be nice and kind, and be liked by people, too!”)

When Deku and the strange man make to leave the park, Katsuki clicks his tongue, shoving his hands in his pockets as he makes to follow them at a distance.

He watches them in silence for a while, hearing the occasional shout or cheer as they jog through the town and converse. His face twitches into random scowls every now and then, because a he has found himself trying to remember why he had come out here in the first place a couple of times.

But then, when Deku and the weird man stop at the outer-edge of the forests, realization hits him. The two of them exchange some words before Deku nods and begins going through several motions, several exercises

—And Katsuki realizes that Deku is training.

The first thought that comes to mind is that he still has yet to give up on becoming a hero, that Deku still clings onto that childhood dream despite having been told that he has no quirk.

Katsuki lets out a mocking huff at the thought because, as if. There has never been a quirkless hero on record, and it’s not only because of the fact that being quirkless is a rare occurrence or because those without quirks are weak, even if both are true—no, it’s also because it’s generally far too dangerous for people without an ability to become heroes, far too risky and time consuming to give a license to someone who is likely to die within the year.

Yeah, there’s no law against it. But most people are reasonable enough to realize that being quirkless is equivalent to being unable to become a hero, and Deku is one of the rare few born without a quirk. He's weak and useless as a result, and he will never be able to become a hero.

But, Katsuki suddenly thinks, a scowl on his face. That isn’t exactly true.

Because he remembers how Deku had been the one to stop his punch, how Deku was the one to lay him out flat on his back, how Deku was the one who had taken him down and won in an informal spar without even breaking a sweat.

Katsuki has always prided himself in being a cut above the rest, but he has also prided himself in being a hard worker. He likes being on top, and he wants to stay on top—which means staying vigilant, constantly working harder to grow stronger and more capable.

(But Deku is training. Deku has proven that he can beat him, that he’s better, and Katsuki never expected it, because he grew complacent at some point and underestimated him.)

Katsuki sneers at the pair standing at the forest's edge before turning away, setting off at a light jog.

(And yet, despite his sneer and the scowl set on his face, he doesn’t feel quite as irritated anymore. He had followed Deku to find answers, and instead came away with a quietly burning resolve.)

And if Katsuki decides that Deku is a little more than a quirkless freak in that moment, if he quietly acknowledges that, maybe, his dream of becoming a hero isn’t so weird anymore… Well. It’s not like anyone will know.

(He’ll acknowledge it the day he fucking dies, so it’ll stay that way, too.)

Chapter Text

There is a boy staring at her.

She surreptitiously twists to reach into her bag, getting a glance at the weird boy. He’s small, possibly smaller than her even, but she thinks he’s around her age. Pale, freckled skin, wide-eyes, and short, dark curls that reflect an almost greenish hue in the sun.

He seems kinda unassuming. She’s been taught how to spot dangerous people, and she doesn’t recall “kids her age” being part of the criteria, but that doesn’t mean that his gaze is any less rattling. She kind of wants to go over to him and ask why he’s been sitting there just staring at her.

But she’s out here for a reason.

With a shake of her head, Ochako forces herself to focus, tapping the heavy box of supplies in front of her and activating her quirk. The box lifts easily and she walks to the other side of the field while guiding the airborne chest.

She has to focus. After all, there’s only so much she can do (only so much her parents will allow her to do, because they don’t want her to get hurt) and she wants to do her best in her small range of ability.

Brown eyes glance to the side before snapping forward, and Ochako worries her lower lip.

He's still staring at her.

For the last fifteen or so minutes, the strange boy sitting by the planters has quite literally been doing nothing other than watching her, and she is puzzled and more than a little nerve-wracked over this fact. At first, she had brushed it off, thought it a coincidence.

Maybe he’s just staring at something past me, she had thought, something in my direction. Or maybe he’s just zoning while out facing this way? I do that too.

But she had made several disguised glances his way, pretending she was turning around or responding to a call of her name from one of the wandering workers, and it is undeniable—he is staring at her.

Eventually, Ochako doesn’t quite feel comfortable enough to keep working on her own outside, so she goes into the break-room where she knows her father is handling the finer details of the job. She doesn’t quite know what happens, really—one moment, she comes into the room and is greeted by her smiling father, and the next, she finds herself standing off to the side as the boy from earlier is being given one of the sternest looks from her father as he towers over him.

(She might’ve mentioned something along the lines of “there’s a weird boy staring at me,” but she honestly doesn’t really know. Her father, for all that he looks more on the brutish and hulking side, can be rather quick when he wants to be, and she feels a bit like she was picked up by a tornado and carried outside in the blink of an eye.)

“Well?” Her father questions, arms crossed and posture combative. “What exactly were you doing here?”

The boy, who Ochako now realizes is sitting seiza-style on the bench, stutters out a slew unintelligible sounds. At the narrowed look her father gives him, his mouth clicks shut and he ducks his head, looking away.

“… I couldn’t really help staring,” he says eventually, rubbing the back of his neck.

Ochako fidgets awkwardly even as her father’s eyes somehow manage to narrow even more. “Oh?”

Uh oh, she thinks, wincing. That tone never meant anything good.

Strangely enough, the boy actually perks up at that and straightens, meeting her father’s gaze without fear. “Y-yeah! Her quirk is really cool! It’s gravity manipulation, right?” He glances to her for a moment even as he gesticulates wildly. “It’s such a cool quirk, but what’s the most amazing is how proficient she is at handling it!”

Ochako flushes at the compliment, not really sure how to respond aside from a quiet, “thanks.” Her father isn't looking so glare-y now, so she supposes that’s a good thing.

“... I see. Well, we need to get back to work,” he begins, patting Ochako’s head lightly. “Next time, don’t be a stranger hanging out on the sidelines, it’ll make people worry. It was interesting meeting you, er…”

“Midoriya Izuku,” the boy greets, standing up to give a slight bow.

“Midoriya-kun,” her father nods, gesturing to her. “My daughter, Uraraka Ochako.”

Ochako pouts a little, because she could have introduced herself, thanks. But she turns to Midoriya with a smile instead. “It was nice meeting you, Midoriya-san!”

“Um!” The boy begins before they can walk away. “Actually, I, ah. I came here for a reason, and it wasn’t just to watch Uraraka-san use her quirk.”

Ochako’s father raises an eyebrow, and she tilts her head curiously.

Midoriya suddenly bows at the waist, startling the two, and exclaims, “I’d like to help you with your work! Without pay, I don’t mind, please just give me some of the heavy-lifting tasks!”

Ochako balks a bit—not only because it’s a little weird that a tiny kid her age wants to work, but he wants to take on the “heavy-lifting tasks”—but her father is quick to shake his head.

“No no, there’s no need. We have plenty of help already and you’re just—“

“Please!” Midoriya insists, looking up at the man with a determined gaze. “I’m certain I can help, and this is a good way for me to train.”

Ochako’s father sighs, rubbing his face. “Look, Midoriya-kun. I appreciate the offer and it’s good that you want to stay in shape, but I’m afraid I can’t just let you work here, and as a heavy laborer at that.” He casts a suitably skeptical look to the boy. “I think it’d be good to start small, anyway.”

Something flickers in Midoriya’s eyes before it’s snuffed out, and he turns on his heel and begins walking. Ochako has about two seconds of thinking that he’s given up before he walks over to the piles of concrete mix—

—and picks up two bags with ease, each weighing roughly twenty-five pounds each.

He grins over at Ochako and her father, who are busy scraping their jaws up from the ground.

“See? I can do it!” He drops the bags back where they were and walks back over, grin still present. “And it’s okay if you’re worried about injuries, or my parents being angry. I only have my mom and she’s more or less fine with what I choose to do, as long as I tell her. And I wouldn’t be a contracted worker since I’m not being paid, it’s volunteer work, so you don’t have to worry about legal issues!”

Ochako doesn’t really know what he means about volunteer work and legal issues, and when she glances to her father it’s to see him adopt an assessing gaze as he looks at Midoriya.

“How old are you?”

“Twelve, almost thirteen,” Midoriya replies, grinning ear-to-ear. “I’ve actually been training for a while now, which is why I’m so muscular despite my age. I didn’t start to see any visible results until this month, though.”

“Training,” Ochako echoes, brow furrowing. “You mentioned that you wanted to work here for training, too. What are you training for, though?”

Her father nudges her slightly and when she looks up at him with a questioning look, he chuckles. “Same reason as you and many of the other kids your age, I’d imagine.”

Midoriya nods as he looks between the two of them. “I’m training because I want to become a hero.”

Ochako’s father considers him for a brief moment. “Well, you’ve definitely got a good mentality for it, I'll give you that. What’s your quirk?”

It’s a logical question, really. When the topic of dreams of heroism comes up, the topic of quirks is usually quick to follow because of how closely linked the two are. All heroes have quirks, after all; it’s mostly their quirks that make them unique amongst the masses in attribute and application.

But Midoriya only shakes his head with a weak smile in response. “Ah, well… A quirk never manifested for me, actually. So that’s why I’ve been trying to figure out methods of going around that.”

Ochako and her father exchange a glance.

“…Alright,” he says, grinning widely. “You can use this as training! But don’t underestimate the grueling experience of hard labor at a construction site, kid. I’ll expect you to put in as much effort as Ochako does!”

Midoriya’s smile brightens instantly and he bows rapidly at the waist, shouting, “R-right! Thank you, Uraraka-san!”

The day is grueling, far more than what Ochako is used to—though to be fair, she does want to become a hero and she logically shouldn’t rely on her quirk alone—and by the end of the day they’re both feeling like their limbs have been stretched and pulled beyond their limits.

Though, Ochako finds herself marveling at Midoriya’s capacity more than once. Even quirkless, his stamina and strength are more than any of the kids her age that she can think of, and even when he looks half-dead with exhaustion he still continues working. His motivation, in part, is the reason why Ochako had pushed herself so much today, both with (which ended up in her expending parts of her lunch a couple of times) and without the usage of her quirk.

So yes, very tired. But they wear matching smiles of exhaustion and triumph all at once when the sun sets, and Midoriya looks awfully comfortable when her parents invite him to dinner.

(She hadn’t realized it until she saw him fully relaxed, but for most of the sparse time that she’s known him, he has been tense. Nervous. Out of place. She had thought him shy at first—kind of like the other kids in her classes—but with how at ease he is with all of them at the end of the day, Ochako wonders if it’s something else. But she takes pride in her parents being really nice people, so she thinks it might be that, too.)

She finds it odd, if she’s being honest. It’s not that she dislikes Midoriya or anything, but she knows that her parents are entirely genuine in their amicable behavior towards him, when she herself still has yet to really settle on what she feels on the situation.

Maybe… Maybe, it’s a little bit of jealousy, for so easily capturing her parents’ attentions, for being so physically capable (and therefore helpful to her parents within their chosen occupation), for so seamlessly fitting into her little family that has been her world for her twelve years of life. Because for all that Ochako is still young yet, she has always been self conscious, with her efforts constantly being put into becoming a better person, both for herself and for the benefit of her parents. And admitting that, yes, she might be a bit jealous, is a step towards that goal.

(Or, maybe, a wizened part in the back of Ochako’s mind that has yet to be realized notices the odd way that Midoriya looks at her, the pure familiarity and adoration and humor in his eyes as though privy to an inside joke that only he knows, a look that has not been directed at her parents and therefore leaves them unawares since they are not on the receiving end of the odd feeling.

Ochako is twelve though, and however keen she may be for her age, she doesn’t pick up on this.)

Despite the foreign feeling that settles in the back of her mind, it’s easy enough to summon up a smile when Midoriya suddenly interjects on the conversation with a startled exclamation about forgetting to let his mother know about how late he’s stayed out.

And when he departs with a hurried onslaught of thank-yous and well-wishes, Ochako finds herself anticipating the next time her fellow aspiring-hero comes to visit.

 


 

Several months pass, and Midoriya becomes something of a fixture in the lives of Ochako and her family.

Ochako isn’t sure how much her parents’ opinions of the boy have changed, if they have at all, but she knows that she has come to truly enjoy his company. He exudes a sort of positive energy that Ochako has always strived for, and they have both come far in their training since that day he had first introduced himself.

(Ochako wonders if she would have been able to bench-press a quarter of her weight without breaking a sweat, had she not met him. She sort of doubts it.)

Yes, it’s become customary, expected, now. Like clock-work, Midoriya visits in the morning, helps Ochako’s parents right alongside her as part of his training regimen, sits down to eat with her for an hour before going back to work, and then goes home once evening hits. Rinse and repeat, twice a week, Saturday and Sunday.

But today, he hadn’t come.

He didn’t arrive at his usual eight o’clock. Noon came and went, and Ochako’s worry only grew as Midoriya’s absence stretched longer.

(There was one other time when he hadn’t come, but his mother had called Ochako’s parents early in the morning and told them that he was out with a particularly nasty cold and couldn’t come. No call had come in today, which means that something must have happened between Midoriya leaving his home and arriving at the site.)

She doesn’t really remember what happened, if she’s honest. She would later cringe at the fact that she had simply left, in an impulsive decision to look for her wayward friend on her own without even leaving a note to her parents that would no doubt worry about her if she didn’t come back in time before their respective breaks.

But regardless, Ochako had left.

And now she finds herself gaping with her eyes set to pop out of her head as she takes in the sight in front of her, amongst the crowd of other gawkers.

Because, Midoriya, her friend, is dangling from his shirt collar as some creepy villain wearing a dark-colored ensemble and snarling evil things holds a knife to his neck.

“S-someone!!” A woman to Ochako’s right shouts, frantically glancing around. “Someone, call the hero associations! O-or the police! Just—“

Shut up,” the villain hisses, the arm holding Midoriya’s shirt shooting up into the air. The hand holding the knife follows, and Midoriya gives a small wince as the blade digs into his skin. The man gives a gross sneer, pointed and yellowed teeth peering out from blackened gums. “Or do you want the brat to die? Just throw your wallets into the pile and I won’t kill him.”

Ochako stops thinking. She doesn’t register the people around her, doesn’t take note of the people shouting that “the heroes are on their way,” doesn’t recognize just how terrifying the villain looks with his jaundiced pallor and warped features, doesn’t even notice that Midoriya’s face is surprisingly lax for someone being held hostage.

Because, between one moment and the next, her frozen breath suddenly releases and she’s running.

“MIDORIYA-KUN!” She shouts, hands outstretched as both the villain and Midoriya turn around to stare at her in shock.

The villain recovers first and, to her relief, the pressure of the knife on her friend’s neck releases. But then the knife is whipped in her direction, dark, slithering shadows directing it to her head.

By reflex—something honed from months of caution and trained senses while working in construction sites and from her training with Midoriya—she ducks and rolls, slamming the whole of her weight into her attacker’s legs as he gives a startled yelp.

As Ochako recovers herself from the move, Midoriya spins around with his newfound freedom and kicks the villain in the face with an angled, downward sweep, and then he lands on his feet, ducking forward to kick both of his heels up towards the man’s chin before side-stepping the teetering yet still conscious figure.

But Ochako herself isn’t done.

She jumps up and catches the stunned villain by his tattered scarf, their eyes locking for a brief moment before she slams her forehead into his with all the force she can muster.

Ochako sees stars. But she knows for certain the villain sees nothing with that last blow, so that’s a good thing.

(Thank goodness for those self-defense lessons her father had insisted she take.)

By the time the authorities come around—heroes to take down a villain, police to apprehend—the man is unconscious and suspended several meters in the air, the ugly scarf tied at his wrist being the only thing keeping him from drifting up into the atmosphere like a balloon.

And Ochako, who had been keeping her quirk active until the situation could be put into more capable hands, frets over her friend in the safety of a nearby shop.

Are you okay?” She questions frantically, patting his shoulders, arms, and back, looking for any hidden injury.

Midoriya laughs uncomfortably, gently grabbing her hands and pushing them away. “It’s okay, I’m fine. I was kind of worried when you rushed in suddenly, but things worked out—thanks for that, by the way.”

“Worried? Worried!?” Ochako yells incredulously, shaking the hands still gripping hers if only because she doesn’t know what else to do. “You had me worried! What would have happened if I hadn’t arrived? That villain had a knife to your neck!”

Midoriya blinks at her for a few indiscernible moments. “… I, ah… I had a plan.”

Ochako stops her shaking and gesticulating for a moment to pin her friend—her very bright, but occasionally kind of dense friend—with the stare that comment deserves. “… You’ve had a plan for the last four hours?”

Midoriya blinks, again, his brow furrowing. “… What?”

With a breath that is part exasperated and part breathe-so-you-don’t-asphyxiate-yourself, Ochako points at the wall clock conveniently situated on the wall. “It’s past noon, Midoriya-kun. You’re over four hours late.”

He jolts, eyes wide, and… Yeah, it’s obvious that he hadn’t realized how much time had passed. Ochako takes a breath, holds it for a couple of seconds, and breathes out. Her hands shake slightly but she summons up a genuine-enough smile. “… What happened?”

Midoriya smiles back, sheepishly. “Ah… Well, I wanted to get something done before I got to the site today, but that obviously took longer than expected… Especially with the hostage situation…” He rubs the back of his neck, eyes darting away. “I’m… Kinda looking for someone. A few someones, actually.”

“… And that means that you get caught by villains…?” Ochako asks dubiously.

“No!” he shouts, eyes wide. “N-no, it doesn’t, it’s just that I’ve been, er, hovering in certain areas that I think might help me find the people I’m looking for. Maybe that makes me look like good hostage material.” His voice falls to a murmur as he turns to the side, face set in a near-pout. “I guess being on my own makes me an easy hostage at first glance—it must be, this is the third damn time this has happened this month—“

Ochako stares at him. What.

“—but it’s not like I can ask him to come with me. It’ll be too difficult to explain if I see the others since no one actually knows me right now and I’d rather not burden him anyway—“

She places her hands on his shoulders, halting his mumbling. “… Midoriya-kun, can you… Promise me something?”

He turns to her with a questioning look, and she gives a smile that causes his eyes to widen in shock and a little bit of fear, and she can sort of guess that it isn’t exactly a smile promising sunshine and flowers.

Let me know if this happens again. If it does, I’ll use my quirk and make them float up into space.”

Midoriya squawks—there’s no other word for the sound he just made—as his eyes bulge from his eye sockets. “Ocha—Uraraka-chan, that’s—you can’t do that! That’s—“

“Why?”

Because! That’s dangerous! You have to make physical contact to make things float!”

Ochako pouts. “It’s dangerous for you to be captured by villains, too!”

“But your quirk can kill people that way!”

She had been readying a retort before he even spoke, but at his words her jaw clicks shut. Oh.

Ochako blushes as she looks away, because… Okay, that was kind of… Mean? Evil? Cold-hearted? … Of her to say, she thinks. Even if the people who would try to hurt her friend would be villains. Maybe. “Oh. Um. I didn’t—you’re right, I guess, I mean I know that’s what would happen, not that I w-would really want to do that because heroes don’t do that! I was just…”

She trails off and takes a breath, remembering what her parents would say about rambling. Which was usually told to Midoriya because of his habit of mumbling. After a moment, she shakes her head and looks at him, squaring her shoulders. Her thoughts were impulsive, sure, but she refuses to be ashamed about worrying for and trying to protect a friend.

“… You’re my friend, Midoriya-kun, and you don’t have a quirk. That means that, even if you become super strong, you’ll still have a disadvantage. I just want to make sure you’re safe, because, um, because…“ She flounders a bit, her confidence waning at sudden inability to find words to say. “Well, it’s—it’s because you’re my friend!”

“… Oh.” Midoriya blinks rapidly, ducking his head with a nervous laugh. “Oh. Okay, um. Thanks, Uraraka-chan.”

Ochako beams, slightly flushed. “You’re welcome, but it’s no problem! What kind of hero would I be if I didn’t care about my friends?”

The laugh he gives at that is more genuine than his last. “That’s true.”

They begin walking back to the site, discussing their weeks and generally inane topics; simply chatting. Ochako eventually finds that, yes, Midoriya actually did have a plan (a pretty neat one, too) before she arrived, but she still doesn’t regret reacting and jumping in to save her friend. Overall, conversation back to the site is light-hearted and amicable enough, despite what they had just gone through.

But the half-angry, half-indignant, and entirely worried lecture that her parents give them as soon as they enter?

… Not so much.

 


 

Ochako and Midoriya are sitting outside of the construction area for their lunch break, the spot by the planters that Midoriya had been when they had unofficially met. They hold each other’s gazes with unexpected gravitas, even though one of them is wearing a bear-themed hoodie and the other a cat-themed ensemble.

Without breaking eye contact, Ochako folds her legs under her as she grabs her thermos of tea, and squints in a poor imitation of her Hana-baachan from down the street.

“I’m Uraraka Ochako,” she begins in a nasally, wavering voice. “Drinking really good ocha.”

She watches with stifled humor as Midoriya jolts, covering his face and turning away as his shaking shoulders betray his mirth. She forces the corners of her mouth down before she smiles and grabs her lunch box.

“And…” Midoriya turns slowly, face red, and Ochako pours her tea into the container holding her seasoned rice. “… Ochazuke!”

This time they both burst out in fitful laughter, neither trying to stifle their mirth. They both know that the puns she just made are terrible, not even that stellar, but Ochako’s inspiration for them is a mixture of her own father’s terrible jokes and her five-month-long friendship with Midoriya.

(He makes a lot of jokes that rhyme with “might,” and based on the not-so-inconspicuous “rabbit” hoodie that he had been sporting only a week ago, Ochako feels that she knows where the inspiration for those jokes comes from.)

As he continues to laugh, Ochako swipes an eggroll from his own lunch box, feeling only slightly guilty when he directs a frown in her direction.

“Sorry!” She chirps happily, biting into the perfectly seasoned eggs. “But your mom’s cooking is soooo good. A lot better than my cooking.”

(She isn’t too sure if Midoriya’s mother’s cooking is better than her own mother’s, but she is confident that it is better than her own. She kind of misses her mother’s cooking, but she knows that it’s a lot of work to manage daily with work piled on top of that.)

Midoriya gestures to her own bento and she nods, accepting. He takes a small piece of battered eggplant and pops it in his mouth, and Ochako winces when a loud crunch sounds throughout the area.

“… Huh. You, uh, used a lot of batter on the tempura,” he says after swallowing, reaching not-so-inconspicuously for his water bottle. “It’s still good though.”

“Tempura isn’t supposed to sound like you're mauling a small animal,” she says despairingly. She knocks around the pieces in her bento a few times before giving up and going for her spur-of-the-moment ochazuke. At least she didn’t mess that up. Then again, it's essentially impossible to mess up something like ochazuke.

Midoriya laughs and she looks at him, an indignant “hey!” on the tip of her tongue, but he only pats her shoulder. “Don’t worry about it too much. I can’t really cook either, though I am learning at the moment. I want to be… Well, I want to help my mom as much as I can.” He gives a sheepish laugh. “And, honestly, considering what’s required for my training? Knowing how to cook my own meals would help.”

Ochako tilts her head to the side, considering. She can understand that goal, especially because she feels the same. For the both of them, there is only so much they can do individually—what with their ages, small stature, overall small experience in practically everything—and there aren’t any worthwhile shortcuts to achieving what they want. But…

Suddenly, she grins as an idea comes to her.

“Hey, why don’t we practice together?” She begins eyes shining with possibility. “We can cook for each other! Kind of like our training, if we work together at the same pace, we might see more improvement than if we did it separately.”

Midoriya looks at her, considering. “… Huh. Well, if you want to, I guess? I’m willing, I can see how it would help.”

“Great!” She claps her hands together, smiling. “Then, how about we both try something simple for next week? Maybe rice balls, with just a little bit of seasoning—“

“What,” a low, mocking voice drawls, “the fuck.”

Both Midoriya and Ochako jump, turning wide-eyed stares at the source of the voice.

A delinquent. That’s the first thing that pops into Ochako’s mind when she sees the blond hair, the narrowed look, the condescending sneer and the way he holds himself. She squints at him. Wait, no, maybe not. He’s about our age… But that doesn’t mean he isn’t one.

Ochako takes a moment to try and recall what it was her parents had told her to do when faced with a delinquent or hoodlum. A kick to the crotch? A right hook to the face? … Wait, no, that was only if they tried to do something bad to her. Hmm.

“What the fuck are you doing?” The maybe-delinquent boy growls, eyes narrowed at Midoriya. “Wasting time with your fucking girlfriend, Deku?”

Ochako is only vaguely aware of the fact that her friend has become a stuttering mess of denials, and she blinks at the blond-haired boy. “‘Deku’?”

Two pairs of eyes, one condemning, turn to her. Midoriya’s eyes are unreadable for a moment, before he blinks and a shy hesitance takes over. “… A-ah. Yeah, that’s—it’s Kacchan’s nickname for me.” He rubs the back of his neck with a laugh. “It’s, well, my name can be read as ‘Deku,’ as in, the insult meaning a person that can’t do anything, and because I’m quirkless it kinda…”

Blond-delinquent-boy "Kacchan" scoffs, his eyelid twitching. “Whatever. Stop wasting your time, Deku—or did you give up on your dream to become a hero? Are you or aren’t you hoping to become one?”

The questions are directed at Midoriya, but his gaze, his irate sneer is directed at Ochako. And even though she realizes that this boy is dangerous, most likely stronger than her, and volatile, she holds his gaze with a stolid one of her own.

Midoriya looks between the two of them with a puzzled, if slightly guarded, look.

“‘Deku’… huh.” Ochako tilts her head, looking up. Then, she smiles brightly, lightly tapping the pads of her fingers together. “His name kinda gives that ‘I can do it’ vibe, doesn’t it? I don’t think it’s an insult, I thinks it’s kinda cute, actually!”

Off to the side, Midoriya’s expression shutters again. Short-tempered-snarly-blond sneers at her, gesturing at her with a curt “shoo” motion. “Look, you don’t know anything, so just keep your mouth shut.”

Ochako frowns, actually feeling… Angry? Annoyed? Offended? She doesn’t really know. It’s weird, because not too long ago, she cringed away from people like this. It was never a good idea to anger these types of people when possible, and she had seen first hand what happened to her father whenever he had gotten customers that were tough both in attitude and strength.

(It was never a good idea for them to lash out. Money isn’t something they have much of, and there are people out there that can destroy their lives with a single sheet of paper if they so choose.)

But after meeting Midoriya, meeting Deku, she… She gained a close friend. She changed, she grew, became stronger and far more confident than she had been before, simply by having a relatable friend by her side, working alongside her towards the same goal. Not to mention, there had been that encounter with the knife-villain, too.

Compared to that incident, where her friend’s life had been on the line? This doesn’t scare her at all.

For a moment, Ochako remembers a memorable occurrence from a month ago. Her father had given a certain gesture and said a certain word to that mean droopy-eyed man that had tried to take their house away. The droopy-man had gotten angry, face practically glowing red in indignation, but her father had shut the door in his face with a triumphant look and some official-looking papers in his hands.

Ochako glances between irritable blond-delinquent-angry-mean-boy and Deku, before adopting a contemplative look. “… No. Deku was hanging out with me before you came here, so I think you’re the one who should be quiet.”

Before either of the boys can do more than gape and splutter indignantly, she lifts up her right hand, allowing all her fingers except the “proudest” one to fall, and—

She smiles. “So fuck off, please.”

(Yes. That’s what it was.)

She is distantly aware of the fact that Deku’s jaw is on the floor and the mean kid’s glare has become about ten times worse. But explosions dance across his fingertips, capturing her attention, and her eyes widen.

“WHA—!!! WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU JUST SAY, YOU SHITTY FUCKIN’—“

Deku quickly grabs delinquent-detonator's arms and drags him back, even as the blond snarls out insults and flails in an attempt to break free. “W-WELL! It was, ah, nice talking to you Uraraka-chan! See you next week—“

Human-explosive kicks him in the crotch, expression twisting into something demonic as he glares at Ochako. “I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU BITCH, YOU HEAR ME!? SLEEP WITH ONE EYE OPEN, BECAUSE I’M GONNA KICK THAT SHIT-EATING GRIN OFF OF YOUR GODDAMN—“

“A-AAAAAND I THINK WE SHOULD G-GO NOW, KACCHAN!”

SHUT THE FUCK UP DEKU, LEARN HOW TO READ A FUCKING SITUATION!!! I NEED TO KICK THIS GIRL’S ASS, SHE FUCKING CHALLENGED ME—“

“I THINK I HEAR YOUR MOM CALLING YOU!” Deku continues dragging, “VERY!” gets punched in the face, “FAR!” punches the other boy back before darting across the field, “AWAY!”

Ochako just smiles as she waves them goodbye, watching with a bit of admiration as her friend manages to successfully manhandle the delinquent pyromaniac away. It isn’t until they disappear around a corner that she allows herself to sigh, posture sagging slightly.

That “Kacchan” was a bit scary, she has to admit. The fact that such a violent person has that kind of quirk makes him more frightening, even if she’s encountered an actual villain before. But Deku is her friend, and she doesn’t like people insulting her friends—she will defend them, when necessary.

Ochako frowns after a moment, contemplative. She… Doesn’t actually know if that “Kacchan” is a friend of Deku’s or not, though. She honestly can’t imagine anyone being good friends with someone that mean and villain-like, but they were very familiar with each other, so…

… Oh well, she thinks, mentally setting the topic aside as she spins on her heel. It doesn’t really matter, after all—she personally thinks that the short-tempered, explosive, blond delinquent is a mean jerk, even if he is Deku’s friend.

Instead, she decides to focus on practicing her cooking for next week.

After all, she could always threaten to make “Kacchan” go up into space if he bothers them again. Not for the purpose of killing him, of course—she would do her best to make sure he is properly outfitted and prepared for the journey, first—but because there is no oxygen in space.

At least that’d be one less issue to deal with.

Chapter Text

It had been a brisk January afternoon when they met.

Midoriya had been eleven at the time, a mere eleven years old when he had set himself apart from the multitudes of other youths in Toshinori’s eyes. A year and six months have passed since then, Midoriya reaching his thirteenth year. A year and six months since they had met.

And Toshinori decides that it’s time to tell his protege the truth.

They are sitting on one of the benches at the beach Midoriya cleared months ago, located on the concrete outskirts of the sandy ocean view. Conversation has died down to nonexistence, but there exists no awkwardness, only familiarity and comfort as they watch the waves.

It has been a long, but rather enjoyable day for the both of them. Toshinori had decided that, in lieu of today being special, he and Midoriya would take a break from the usual training and simply spend time together.

As far as he knows, Midoriya had spent a good portion of the morning with Inko, the two of them enjoying each other’s company and opening gifts. Midoriya clearly enjoys the gift he received from her considering he has been wearing the headphones around his neck for most of the day, but Toshinori feels that the All Might brand was completely intentional—what with her knowing that her son was going to spend the latter part of the day with him.

(Seeing his face engraved on the sides every time he looks at Midoriya is, while flattering, a bit conceited, and a staunch reminder of the secret that he still has yet to tell the boy.)

Yes, he thinks with an internalized wince, definitely intentional.

After Inko had released her son to Toshinori’s care with well-wishes and a fond smile, Toshinori took a moment to panic because, while he had gotten Midoriya a gift, he had not thought about what they were going to do, with training out of the question.

Toshinori hadn’t and still doesn’t really know what boys Midoriya’s age do for fun. He himself didn’t have particularly nurturing parental figures in his childhood, what with his own parents being largely absent through the formative years and his master maintaining a respectful distance due to her fear for his safety. Gran Torino certainly never went easy on him, and Toshinori knows that what the man did—however effective and useful for his hero career it turned to be—is far from anything enjoyable or appropriate for a birthday.

In a hopeful bid for finding something to do, Toshinori had exclaimed that—being the birthday boy—Midoriya had his choice of what to do for the day. Anything, absolutely anything at all, so long as it was within his power (and budget, but he hadn’t mentioned that, since hero paychecks are rather large).

Midoriya had quickly replied with a (very typical of him) reply of, “anything is okay, I’m just happy to spend time with you,” which, while it made Toshinori melt a bit, only further reiterated the issue of him having no idea what to do. He had thought, for a moment, that it would have been easier if Midoriya were a bit more selfish as kids his age should be.

But then Midoriya looked at him, blinking with a far-to-understanding look, and smiled.

“I kinda feel like getting something to eat. Maybe a cold snack. Ice cream?”

And much of their time together had been spent in the same manner, with Midoriya directing their plans with spur of the moment decisions that Toshinori was all too happy to oblige with.

It is at the end of the day now, however, with the sun slowly sinking behind the horizon, and Toshinori decides that now—with there being no prying ears, and before Midoriya is sent home—is the best time to discuss the truth.

“Midoriya,” he says, watching as the boy’s eyes droop. “It has been nearly two years since I had taken it upon myself to train you, and I believe… I believe it may be time for me to tell you a few truths that I have been hiding.”

Midoriya immediately snaps out of his sleepy reverie to turn alert eyes in his direction.

Toshinori takes a delaying breath. “… It has not been purely out of the goodness of my heart that I decided to help you, as I am actually training you with a set goal in mind.” He pauses, flexing his hands. “But first, I need to tell you who I am.”

His gaze is keen and searching as he watches Midoriya’s expression, and he reaches for the power within him.

But the boy’s reaction, far from shock, awe, disbelief, or—as Toshinori had once foolishly feared—horror, is something so vastly different that it takes him a moment to discern what he is seeing. It holds surprise and relief and it’s more than a bit disorienting.

Midoriya doesn’t give a verbal reply, doesn’t say anything that’s on his mind. He only smiles, and bemused, Toshinori continues.

He tells the boy about his quirk. One for All’s origins, its creation, the relationship to the man who holds All for One, and Toshinori’s injury due to the same individual.

He observes as Midoriya gets paler and paler through the explanation—he is heartened by the obvious worry for his well-being. And yet, he is mostly worried for Midoriya, his eyes dilated and his form shaking, especially when the boy suddenly starts hyperventilating.

Toshinori feels a rush of anxiety as Midoriya curls into himself, breathing coming out in short gasps and his hand clutching the front of his shirt as sweat beads at his temple.

His eyes, though, are the most disturbing—they are glazed over, unseeing yet riveted to some unseen mirage, haunted, and they look as though they belong on the face of someone decades older than the boy in front of Toshinori.

He doesn’t know what to do.

“Midoriya-boy,” he says, quietly, but with urgency, grasping the boy’s shoulders gently. Midoriya doesn’t reply, his eyes now darting around at a disorienting pace.

“Midoriya, listen to me,” no response, “breathe slowly and try to calm down—“

Toshinori cuts off, realizing with muted panic that the boy’s complexion is rapidly purpling. His eyes are still unseeing, the faint trembling from earlier still wracks his form, and—

he isn’t breathing.

Izuku.

The boy jolts at the tone, falling off of the bench with a startled “oomph.” But his eyes are focused and clearer than before, he’s cognizant, which is a relief to Toshinori.

He offers a steady hand. “Izuku, are you alright?”

Izuku only stares at him, still pale and trembling, but his eyes are focused and his shoulders move up and down with each breath taken. He gives a shaky nod.

Toshinori releases a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “That’s… That’s good. Do you need me to carry you home?”

Izuku’s eyebrows seem to shoot up even higher if possible, and his face takes on a bright red hue. “N-no, I’m—! I-I, I’m fine, I just—I was—“

“Don’t worry, I understand that my injury isn’t a very pretty sight,” Toshinori says with a nod, understanding. “And my story isn’t exactly easy to listen to. I didn’t mean to frighten you like this.”

Izuku shakes his head vehemently. “NO! That’s not it, I was, i-it wasn’t that I was disturbed or—well I mean maybe a little but that was mostly just—!”

Toshinori places his hand on Izuku’s head. “Breathe.”

The boy’s mouth clicks shut and he freezes under the hand. Then, slowly, he takes a breath. He doesn’t follow through with the exhale though, and his knitted eyebrows and puffed cheeks are a rather humorous sight.

“Exhale.”

Izuku breathes out with a whoosh of air, but the action falls apart into helpless laughter. Toshinori smiles a bit himself.

“S-sorry,” the boy says eventually. “I just, I freaked out a bit.”

Toshinori only nods, tamping down the urge to inquire. He isn’t sure if the reaction is solely connected to worry for his well-being or something else entirely, and the last thing he want to do is stress the boy even more.

“There’s no need to apologize, Izuku. I understand that the subject made you more than a bit uncomfortable.”

To his confusion, Izuku freezes. Just as he is about to ask what’s wrong, the boy whispers, “… You called me Izuku.”

Oh.

“Ah,” Toshinori says, withdrawing his hand. “If you don’t want me to call you by your given name, I can continue calling y—“

“No no no, it’s fine, it’s great!” Izuku interrupts, hands flailing. “I-I mean, you can call me what you want, I was just kinda… I was a bit shocked.” He scratches the back of his neck and ducks his head. “Anyway, um. The rest of the explanation?”

Toshinori pins him with a hard look, earning a surprised squeak. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

Izuku laughs, a bit shaky, but his face is a healthy hue. “Y-yeah, I’m okay. I, want to hear what else you have to say.”

After scanning his face for any uncertainty and finding none, Toshinori relents, leaning back and interlacing his fingers. “There isn’t anymore explanation, really,” he says simply, “but I have been training you for a reason. One for All requires a sturdy vessel, and I would like you to be my successor.”

Izuku’s expression twists, giving Toshinori the slightest anxiety that, perhaps, this was a bad idea. He had thought that, being an aspiring hero yet quirkless, Izuku might have jumped at the chance.

Toshinori won’t blame him, if he turns down the offer. After all, his own injury is a testament to just how dangerous being the holder of One for All can be, and it isn’t fair to pass on such a weighted responsibility to a thirteen-year-old boy.

(It would be unfortunate, yes, especially because Toshinori has truly become attached to Izuku. But he would never fault him for rejecting his offer.)

His worries are swept away when Izuku’s expression morphs into a heartfelt smile, practically vibrating with energy and excitement as he spouts new potential training schedules.

Toshinori doesn’t read anything false within the boy’s expression and antics, and quietly wonders what it was that caused the shuttered look.

Instead of voicing his curiosity, he grins back. “Slow down a bit, boy. Even though it’s been made official that you’re my successor, I can’t quite pass on One for All to you yet. Your vessel isn’t quite ready and I’d rather not take any unnecessary chances.”

He stands up, placing his hands on his hips and puffing out his chest in bravado usually reserved for his hero persona. “I hope you know what this means, Izuku! Your training will be even more intensive than before!”

Something unreadable flickers in the boy’s eyes before he hops up onto his feet, giving a hearty cheer.

 


 

Toshinori is walking through the shopping district after a long day when he sees a crowd of people in the distance.

He is exhausted. His limit has been reached, he has already coughed blood twice, and a bit of something like dread and worry coils in his stomach at the crowd. Because what if it’s a villain?

Toshinori can’t access his quirk at the moment without severe repercussions, of that he has no doubt. The last task he accomplished exhausted his dwindling strength and he had pushed past his limit, even when he wasn’t supposed to. But it had been the right thing to do, and the mother he had delivered the child to wept tears of joy, thanking him. He later coughed up more blood than usual upon reverting to his real form, but it had been worth it.

Prior to that, he had taken out a forming gang of villains who were planning to raid a local warehouse, and saved the handful of hostages they had collected. There had also been a purse-snatcher, a pyromaniac that wanted to set fire to the forests, a car accident that resulted in two people being trapped and injured, and a rampaging villain on the highway.

It has been a long day. But he is All Might, the number one hero, and he managed to handle everything without a single casualty, securing the safety of the populace for another day.

He is All Might, and the peoples’ safety is his first and foremost priority.

Which is why, when he pushes through the murmuring crowd and sees a villain, holding a hostage, holding Izukuhis student—at knife-point, his exhaustion is quickly swept away and replaced.

Self-loathing. Regret. Panic. Frustration. Angry, boiling, rage.

Self-loathing and regret because, had he not pushed himself as far as he did, had he been just slightly more efficient, he wouldn’t be hesitating, and could have activated his quirk prior to entering the crowd and dealt with the situation. Frustration, because he can’t just transform now, he needs to back out of the crowd to activate his quirk and return, but who knows what might happen in that interim?

And rage, because that’s Izuku being held hostage. Izuku, who—despite how precocious he is—is still a child, Izuku, his student, his friend, the boy that may as well be his son

Jade eyes lock with his, and suddenly, Izuku is shouting.

“IT’S OKAY, TOSHINORI-SAN! I’M FINE!”

Before Toshinori can even find his voice to reply with a vehement “no, you’re NOT,” and before the panicked crowd can do more than balk at the exclamation from the boy—

he explodes.

No, Toshinori thinks, heart in his throat as he watches Izuku tumble away, only vaguely aware of the villain hurtling in the opposite direction at a high speed. Something else happened—did Izuku do that? How? What did he—

He hadn’t even realized he had instinctually begun moving until he scoops up a teetering (and singed, what happened) Izuku into his arms, barely aware of the sudden increase of activity now that the villain is down.

“Izuku, boy,” he says as he pats the boy’s cheek, voice surprisingly steady. “Are you alright? What happened? What was that explosion?”

Izuku blinks blearily, lifting his head from the crook of Toshinori’s arm, and gives a weak (but distinctly proud) smile. “…Toshh’nri..san…thawas… nitroglyshsshh…”

“Nitroglycerin?” Toshinori finishes with faint alarm, grip tightening.

Izuku nods, smile relaxed. “Yeeah… Like Kacchanss quiiirrr….k.” His left hand fumbles with the fabric of his pants for a few moments before reaching his pocket, and he withdraws an empty plastic storage bag. “Taabletss. Made ‘em m’self.”

Toshinori doesn’t bother asking anymore questions along that topic, but he does maintain simple (and decidedly less stressful, for him) conversation to keep the clearly concussed boy awake. Following the hero associations and the police the medics arrive, and even if they don’t compare to Recovery Girl, not even an hour passes before Izuku is coherent again with a clean bill of health.

Izuku’s hands, right arm, and back had all suffered burns from the explosion, and he wears bandages on all the burnt areas and around his head.

From where they stand in the shopping district, Toshinori pins him with a look, one that does not betray his inner turmoil yet still gives the boy an idea of what he thinks of his method of escape. But Izuku remains smiling, and actually laughs.

“I’m all right, really,” the boy says, rolling his shoulders and flexing his hands. He gives a slight wince, but is otherwise at ease. “Sure, I took a bit more damage than I thought I would, but that was my own fault for acting without really thinking. I just wanted to get away from the villain before you activated your quirk; you’ve already reached your limit today right?”

Toshinori remains quiet, trying to reconcile the anger, worry, and sheer panic from earlier that has yet to fully subside. After a moment, he takes a breath and places a hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“… I… For remaining calm through that situation and finding a solution, I commend you. But when there is another, less dangerous solution, please do not resort to the more dangerous alternative.”

Izuku stiffens, clearly about to protest, but Toshinori closes his eyes as his grip tightens. “Please.”

A silence settles over them as Izuku seems to contemplate his words, and Toshinori blinks when he feels a hand tentatively pat his arm. Izuku looks away with a wince. “I, ah… I understand. I’ll try to do that, I just…” His voice falls below a whisper. “… I didn’t want you to be in danger because of it.”

Toshinori nearly opens his mouth to say that his worry is misplaced, because he’s All Might, but something about the look in the boy’s eyes tells him that those aren’t the right words to say.

“Another minute or two of using my quirk is hardly going to harm me,” he says instead, tone casual and light.

“I know, I just…” Izuku seems to fumble with words for a bit, before his face flushes a deep shade of red. He ducks his head but the tips of his ears practically glow, and his voice falls to a murmur. “… Um. C-can I, hug you?”

Toshinori has about a second to blink before he’s suddenly forced to steady himself, because Izuku has actually leapt up and hugged him.

He freezes for a moment because, at first, he doesn’t know what this is—as All Might, children have flung themselves at him for him to pick them up, toss them in the air (carefully, always carefully) and generally be a humanoid jungle gym—but he has never actually… Hugged someone, in recent memory.

(He has no living family. The woman who could have been like a mother to him always kept a respectful distance, and is currently gone. Gran Torino and Toshinori have never really had that sort of bond despite being undisputedly close. As the hero All Might, he is required to maintain a certain distance from everyone due to his secret and the still-present dangers of being associated with a hero. As Toshinori, he is a loner that tries to avoid things as simple as day-to-day conversation for fear of some particularly discerning individual realizing who he is.

He has given and received more smiles than he can count, but he can’t even recall the last time he had embraced someone.)

Awkwardly, but carefully, he kneels so the boy isn’t hanging off of his neck, and after a moment’s deliberation pats Izuku’s back. He feels a brief moment of panic (which also feels distinctly ridiculous) because the boy shows no signs of letting go, and, in fact, seems to tighten his hold. He briefly wonders if Izuku is about to cry and panics more.

… People are staring. Toshinori is accustomed to that, he has to be as the number one hero. But it makes him skittish, what with him being in his real form, and being on the receiving end of these stares—stares that, he realizes, are disturbingly fond. He thinks he hears someone mention the word “father” and fights down the color that threatens to show on his face.

(What would he—a man that has no memories of familial experiences to go off of—know about being a father, anyway?)

Toshinori pats Izuku’s back once more. “… Izuku?” He questions quietly, turning his head slightly to see the boy’s face.

Izuku’s eyes are closed, and his breathing is even. Toshinori almost wants to slap the palm of his hand to his forehead, because Izuku hadn’t been on the brink of an emotional breakdown or anything so worrying as that, no—the boy had fallen asleep.

Toshinori takes a moment to stare dumbly at the sleeping boy. Then he lifts Izuku up in an awkward yet comfortable half carry, half embrace, and hurries out of the district—all the while trying to ignore the warm gazes following them.

It’s silly. They’ve known each other for under two years, and this was never in Toshinori’s plan in the long run. Yes, Izuku doesn’t have a father, yes they spend a lot of time together, but… But that doesn’t mean that they could just, become father and son. There are legal procedures required for that, and that isn’t even counting the fact that they are not related at all.

… But then, he thinks about how much time he and Izuku have spent together training. How proud he feels, watching the boy improve, grow, and smile at his accomplishments.

He thinks about how fast time has passed since he met the boy, a stark contrast to how pained he thought life would become in lieu of his injury. He thinks about how worried he had been, how, before Izuku had called out to him, he had been a second away from reaching for his power to save the boy despite the crowd and his strained limit.

He thinks of Shimura Nana and Gran Torino, of people he has no familial ties to, yet fill his being with respect and fondness.

And, he wonders if, maybe… Maybe, this is something that he would be happy with.

(Toshinori later gives Izuku a stern talking-to after finding out about his little arsenal of self-defense items. That makes him feel like a guardian too, strangely enough, though not in the same manner.

He finds that he understand’s Inko’s stress more and more by the day.)

 


 

It isn’t long after the incident with the villain that Toshinori decides that it is time to give Izuku One for All.

Izuku had proven to be resourceful, using what he can and still managing despite not having a quirk, but Toshinori wants him to be as prepared as possible. That incident had only proved that Izuku, while intelligent and resourceful, has a reckless streak in need of tempering if he wants to be able to use One for All properly.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something that can be taught without feeling the actual weight of One for All’s responsibility. Toshinori had felt that they wouldn’t get much further in the boy’s training without him having the quirk, and that it was time to actually grant Izuku his power so they could start on application of utilizing One for All.

(He had wanted to delay this inevitability, but as it stands, Izuku has truly reached a standstill in his development.)

So, a couple of hours after giving Izuku a hair to ingest, they find themselves at Dagobah beach to commence the more “official” training.

“You will not use One for All out of my supervision,” Toshinori says sternly, eyeing Izuku. “You are still a child, a couple years away from becoming even a hero potential. Despite your training, there is a very high possibility of One for All damaging you irreparably, so to prevent such casualties, I will need to be present whenever you intend on using it.”

With his spiel said, he activates his quirk, clenches his fists, and punches forward. The force of the movement causes the previously calm air to snap and twist, and the sand stretching out in front of him is blasted forward and away.

When Toshinori turns to Izuku, he admittedly feels a bit of gratification at the boy’s clear awe. “Even if you have my power now, you will not be able to use it to the level of capability that I am! You will need to temper your strength and find a range that you are able to handle.” Smiling, he gives a thumbs up. “Reach inside of yourself, and find that spark of power. You might not feel very different at the moment, but you will find it—and once you do, grasp it!”

Izuku nods, a determined look on his face as he looks down at his hands. He stares in silence for a few moments before scooping up a small pebble from the sand, tossing it up in the air a couple of times.

“Lower the output of energy…” he mumbles, expression contemplative. “Channel the power to a concentrated area. Balance. Vessel strength. Measured propulsion.”

Toshinori quietly wonders about the boy’s words as he allows his own grasp of his quirk to release.

Izuku closes his eyes and holds the fist containing the rock to his face. Takes a breath. He opens his eyes, bends his knees and rears back, brows knitted in concentration. And then he flings the pebble with a side-ways swipe, as though aiming to skip the stone over water.

The pebble soars across the beach with a low whistle, disappearing from view almost instantaneously save for the obvious trail of blasted sand left in it’s wake. It’s difficult to judge the exact difference in strength between Izuku’s attempt and Toshinori’s example, as the boy had used a medium, but it is impossible to deny that he had managed to grasp One for All.

Izuku turns to Toshinori, eyes wide with exhilaration and pure happiness.

Toshinori is beyond proud of his student’s accomplishment—this was the boy’s first attempt, and he managed to summon One for All’s strength already! He might have congratulated him for it had it not been for the very obvious result of Izuku’s handling of One for All.

It isn’t as bad as what he had been fearing from the boy’s first use of One for All, not nearly as bad, but it still makes Toshinori twitch. As it is, he silently begins ushering Izuku to his truck, and the boy looks at him as though he has grown a second head.

“… Um, Toshinori-san,” he questions simply, “… why are we going back already?” Bless the boy for walking without slowing down anyway. But.

“Look at your finger,” Toshinori says instead as they reach the truck, buckling Izuku’s seatbelt for him. “That, while not broken, is not something you want to endure for longer than necessary.”

Izuku blinks at him for a moment before turning to his hand, and finally getting a look at what was wrong with his finger. His pointer finger is dislocated in two places; dislocated at the knuckle, bent perpendicular to his others, and dislocated at the middle joint in the opposing direction. His finger is shaped in a lopsided ’z’, and it looks terribly painful.

Really, how had the boy not realized it before now?

“… Oh,” is his only reply, blinking bemusedly (but thankfully calmly) at his finger.

“Yes,” Toshinori says tonelessly. “Oh.”

The ride to Recovery Girl is thankfully a short one, and despite her unimpressed side-long glances, she fixes Izuku’s finger without any outward reprimands. After setting him in the waiting room with a juice box and a magazine, she does take a moment to interrogate Toshinori, however.

Regardless, they are in and out of her infirmary in under an hour, and Toshinori can’t help but watch the boy. It had been shelved for later contemplation in lieu of the injury, but it hadn’t escaped Toshinori’s attention that Izuku had displayed control over One for All that is beyond what someone new to it’s power should have.

Not to mention, throughout the entire ordeal, the boy has maintained a level of composure that betrays a more mature thought. Even after near-fracturing his finger, he had been calm. Almost eerily so.

As if it had happened before.

The thought is dismissed immediately, but not forgotten. Izuku has always been different from most children his age, even if it had taken a while for Toshinori to realize this. It’s a small, simple curiosity, and nothing more.

“Are you all right?” Toshinori asks as he drives, eyes on the road. “You were very calm throughout everything, considering you dislocated your finger in two places.”

The resulting wince is not missed. “I… I have a high pain tolerance.”

“… A high pain tolerance,” Toshinori echoes, hands tightening on the steering wheel. That hadn’t been what he was expecting.

“I-it’s, ah…” Izuku trails off, scratching the back of his head. “Um. Well, when it comes to physical injury I’m okay. I guess it sort of balances out the fact that I’m… Kind of a crybaby, haha…”

It’s a clumsy dodge of subjects, but Toshinori obliges despite the worried curiosity grating at the back of his mind. “And you’re all right?”

Izuku looks at him, and through Toshinori’s peripherals he can see that the boy’s expression is lax, but… Odd. Eventually, he looks away. “… Yeah, I’m okay.”

Toshinori glances over briefly and nods.

A silence settles over them as he drives them to the Midoriya household, and he is hard pressed to not constantly glance at the boy. Izuku has always had a habit of falling into his thoughts, with a telltale haze shrouding his eyes signaling that he has left the conversation, but it has never stretched for this long.

“Izuku.”

The boy jolts, blinking at Toshinori with a questioning look. “Huh? Oh, uh, yeah?”

“You have something on your mind,” Toshinori says, tapping his finger on the wheel. “I can listen, you know. If you wish to tell someone, I’m willing to listen for you.”

At first he receives no reply as Izuku looks away, and Toshinori thinks that the boy has fallen back into his mind. But then he speaks, quietly, but unmistakable.

“… Thanks.”

Toshinori blinks for a moment before grinning, not turning away from the road. “It’s no problem, Izuku. We couldn’t leave your finger like that.”

Izuku shakes his head. “No, not that, though I am grateful that you take care of me like this. I mean… Thanks, for giving me this power. For choosing, me, as your successor.”

This time Toshinori does glance over to the side, seeing Izuku’s head bowed forward sullenly.

It’s times like these that make him truly question what it is that goes through Izuku’s mind, and what he sees. It isn’t simply a child with an acute intelligence or level of precociousness, no, it’s… It’s hard to place, but it isn’t so easy to describe. Sometimes, it reminds him of the sullen look Gran Torino gives when talking about his friend, Toshinori’s master, and the similarities—that should not exist—give him a distinct sense of vertigo.

There’s something cumbersome on the boy’s shoulders. There exists a burden that he has carried since before Toshinori granted him One for All, since before he even met the boy. And if Toshinori were to wander on the poetic side of thought, he would say that the boy’s gaze belies a morose pain healed by time, with an invisible scar left that only his eyes can see. A reminder.

None of it makes sense, not for thirteen-year-old Midoriya Izuku. But Toshinori doesn’t want to pry.

Instead—recalling their conversation—he reaches over and ruffles Izuku’s hair, equal parts fond and exasperated. Really, this boy is modest to a fault. “It’s nothing you need to thank me for, boy. It’s my honor to have you as the next wielder of One for All.”

Izuku looks up at him, eyes reflecting that familiar, indiscernible quality, until a suspiciously wet sheen seems to surface. He ducks his head again.

“… I guess.” Small hands grasp at Toshinori’s, small and seeking comfort, but with an unshakable grip.

“… Thank you.”

 


 

I didn’t expect you to think I was anyone worthy for your legacy, this time around.

For all appearances, I was just a small, quirkless child, despite what I know goes on in my head. Despite what I experienced, none of that matters to anyone when it hasn’t happened.

But if this is what you want… If you are willing to give me a second chance, despite you not knowing it, I’ll take it.

And I’ll protect you, this time. I promise.

(I’ll protect you all.)

Chapter Text

Todoroki Shouto is not a wanderer.

He has no sense of wanderlust, has little interest in interacting with people he does not know, and he has only a slight curiosity in the outdoors beyond what any other teenager might have.

But despite these truths, he wanders the streets of his hometown as much as he is able.

His father would never let him continue this habit if he found out, Shouto knows. He would tell him that, if he has the time to walk aimlessly, then he has the time to train. There’s always time to train in his eyes, and Shouto himself agrees to an extent, if only because he refuses to idle any longer than necessary as his father’s belonging.

But his father is not there to reprimand him, to learn of this habit, because he is one of the top heroes. Being a top hero means that he is busy often, whether it’s for the sake of defeating villains or catering to the curious and awed populace—which also means that he is usually out of the house.

Regardless, Shouto can’t stand being in that house, even in his father’s absence. Because that house has memories ingrained in every surface and corner, and Shouto is constantly oppressed as it is. He has no freedom or autonomy as long as he lingers in that household. It’s frustrating. Annoying. Stifling.

So he had taken up meandering at some point. It had been after a particularly harsh “training session” with his father, he recalls distantly, and he had escaped the house in a rush after his father had been called away. He escaped, if only for a brief time, and it sort of… Stuck. Became a habit. It helped that his siblings (when they could) would alert him of chances to leave and when to come back before their father returned. He appreciated their thoughtfulness.

When he wasn’t being put through the ringer by his father, he liked walking out of that house and feeling the metaphorical weight lifted from his shoulders. He liked going to the beach in the mornings, walking through the streets to watch the bustle of people, and sometimes hanging around the park while listening to the sounds around him.

Like today.

It is a bright, sunny afternoon. His clothes cling uncomfortably in the summer heat, and the unrelenting rays make him itch at the reminder of the day’s most recent training incident with his father. He pauses in the middle of the street to survey his calloused hands.

His father never expresses disapproval, disappointment, or anger through distinctly physical abuse. No, when Shouto fails to meet his expectations, it equates to harsher, brutal training to force Shouto to use his fire, to draw out that damned flame half of his quirk. And today had been undoubtedly so, with Endeavor actively using his hell flame against Shouto.

“Use my power!” He had growled, the heat only increasing as he lashed out with his flames. “Fight fire with fire! Stop hiding behind your security blanket like a child !”

Shouto’s shoulders hunch protectively at the memory, and he forces his attention outward to the cool air and the hum of the city. This is not the time to get frustrated and angry, he tries to rationalize—he is out here to escape these sorts of thoughts. With a twitch of his right hand, the cool air turns biting around him, and it’s both refreshing against the summer heat and a reminder that he has a choice. He doesn’t need his father to be strong. He is strong.

It is on this sunny day following one of his father’s “training sessions” that he first meets a young Midoriya Izuku.

He is rounding the corner of a park when a familiar, bitter and stinging smell invades his senses, startling him out of his thoughts. Fire , he thinks as he turns upwind towards the source.

… And sees a man wrangling a boy his age in the middle of the street, just before the man’s face goes up in flames .

The man jumps back with a startled yell and promptly lands ungracefully on his ass, slapping at his face and hair to suffocate the flames that cling stubbornly.

The boy—victim?—jumps forward to land a solid kick to the side of the man’s head, and watches as the man falls to the ground boneless. His wild, green hair is a good summation of what just happened, Shouto can’t help but think.

“Stalking kids is bad!” The boy shouts, before running off over to a small crowd of children younger than him, spray can and lighter tucked away in his back pockets.

Shouto blinks at the sight before turning his attention back to the (supposed) criminal, whose hair is still on fire. He twitches at the sight and lets his ice creep forward, pinning the man’s legs to the ground and extinguishing the pitiful flame.

He stays long enough to watch the police come by to take the criminal away before leaving the scene. He hadn’t expected to spend his little break watching an act of vigilantism performed by a boy his age, let alone helping somewhat.

(The memory of bright green hair and a flying kick powerful enough to knock out a grown man sticks to his memory, for whatever reason.) 

=== 

The second time he sees the boy is no less memorable than the first, and Shouto recognizes him immediately.

It’s another sunny day, and Shouto is feeling relatively good. But then there’s shouting, both child and adult, and he sees a boy—the same as before, with the wild green hair—clutching the shirt of a man who is literally on fire as he runs down the street with panicked screaming.

Shouto stares.

(He’s pretty sure everyone in the vicinity stares with him.)

“Help!” the boy shouts, “someone call the police or the heroes!” even as he and the presumed criminal head further and further down the street. The man’s unintelligible screams follow them the whole way.

Shouto watches as the crowds start to head in that direction, some pulling out their phones as they hesitantly follow, and he turns away to continue walking. Someone will help the boy eventually, he figures, and something tells Shouto that even if they didn’t, he’d be okay.

(... What a weird kid.)

===

The third time he sees the boy, it’s a humid evening. And he is walking down the street when the sound of a muffled blast reaches his ears, and the very same boy from before goes tumbling around the corner ahead of him.

Shouto jogs up to the boy even as he eyes the surroundings, looking for the site of the blast but finding nothing. His brows furrow when he realizes that there’s no one else in the vicinity, either.

He turns back to the boy currently on the ground, rubbing the side of his head with a groan. His hair is no less disheveled than it was previously, though his jacket has certainly seen better days, what with the obvious scorch marks and torn fabric.

“Hey,” Shouto says quietly, offering a hand to the other boy. Green eyes blink blearily up at him as though only just realizing he was there. “Are you alright? I heard an explosion, but I don’t see anyone nearby…”

He very nearly freezes the other boy on instinct when he suddenly lurches forward, eyes wide and shouts, “so you WERE in this area!!!”

Shouto steps back, hand raised defensively between them, just as the green-haired boy claps his hands over his mouth. His eyes are as wide, if not wider, than before. Somehow.

“Ah, w-wait,” he stutters nervously, muffled. “No, sorry, that… I mean, that wasn’t…”

Shouto narrows his eyes at the boy, assessing. He has his questions, but more importantly: “... What happened? Was there a villain or not?”

The wary nervousness seems to melt away from the other boy, and he offers a sheepish smile. “No, there wasn’t, I just…” He looks down at his jacket, and, as though just realizing the fact that his jacket is only sleeves now, lets out a distressed noise. “AH!!! No, how did this… Mom and Toshinori-san are going to be so mad …”

Shouto gives an emphasized cough, and the boy’s attention snaps back to him.

“Oh! Um, sorry, I got a bit distracted.” He gives a weak laugh. “I, well, the nitroglycerin capsules I had in my pocket exploded while I was jogging, I think. I kinda forgot I had them in my jacket.”

Shouto blinks down at him. “Nitroglycerin capsules.”

“Yeah!” The boy seems to almost glow. “I mean, not quite nitroglycerin. It’s… Well, that doesn’t matter. They’re really useful, and pretty good for distractions. They aren’t lethal in concentrated doses, but I’m lucky that they were sealed up tight because with the amount I had, they can still pack a punch!”

He ends his spiel with a mimed punch and a toothy grin.

“But anyway, I’m Midoriya Izuku! It’s nice to meet you.”

At the end of the night, Shouto rather feels like he was the one that was hit point-blank by an explosion.

 


 

Unexpectedly, Shouto and Midoriya form something of a friendship.

(At least, that’s what he assumes this is. Midoriya insists on them meeting up occasionally, even if only to talk, and Shouto can’t quite bring himself to tell him no.

Midoriya has said that it’s because they’re friends, and, well. Again, Shouto can’t really find the reason or logic to completely deny it.)

They often meet up at the park close to where they had first met, and simply spend time together—whether it’s to wander around the town to window shop, or simply sit around the park and talk.

Months pass, and eventually, Shouto finds himself anticipating when he next sees Midoriya.

It’s odd, not to mention different—almost uncomfortably so—but he can’t deny that being able to simply spend time aimlessly with another person his age, without the heavy weight of expectation looming over him, is pleasant.

And in these months, Shouto has learned quite a bit about Midoriya Izuku. The boy who he had assumed to be brash, wild, and uncalculated, is unexpectedly… Not. In fact, Midoriya is a very thoughtful individual (both in the emotional and logical sense), and Shouto finds some solace in this, realizing that there is much more to Midoriya than he had first assumed.

(To be fair, what he had initially assumed was still quite a lot, considering.)

That isn’t to say that he doesn’t have a more uncontained side, however. He isn’t rude, but he is very comfortable with Shouto, almost un comfortably for him. He has no qualms talking about every detail of his life—which Shouto hasn’t minded; he actually likes learning about the other boy—or asking anything that comes to mind about Shouto, which, of course, doesn’t sit quite as well.

Which is probably what lead to the eventual topic of the fire half of his quirk.

“Why are so many of your methods fire-based?”

Midoriya blinks at him. It’s a reasonable enough question, Shouto figures, and one that he has wondered the night they first introduced themselves to each other, so he had decided to finally ask. He didn’t think any harm in his inquiry considering the other boy’s habit of giving free information.

Midoriya gives his explanation, of being motivated by his childhood friend’s quirk, in order to properly defend himself. An explosion quirk.

There are a lot of questions and replies Shouto can think of to that almost immediately—why does he have to resort to those means as a form of self-defense? Is his quirk a support type? Does he not have a quirk at all?—but they are instead shelved for later discussion in favor of a more pressing matter that Shouto feels he can (and should) confide in his friend.

He asks that Izuku not use those methods in front of him.

Months of knowing the boy has led Shouto to believe he knows him to an extent, and vice versa. He knows the boy’s habits, knows his dream, knows how much he loves his mother and “Toshinori,” and can reason that the same “friend” who likes to use him as a stress relief outlet is the very same as the childhood friend with the explosion quirk.

But he doesn’t expect Midoriya’s expression to suddenly shutter at his request, for the boy to level a grave, searching look in his direction.

Midoriya’s response is a single word. “Why?”

Shouto had already decided that he would divulge the information if the boy (his friend, the only one) asked. Still, he narrows his eyes in what he thinks is a scolding look. “You shouldn’t pry.”

The look on Midoriya’s face disappears with a blink, and he frowns as he cocks his head to the side in a considering manner. “... You have a point. But you’re asking me to stop using over half of my artillery, which also happens to be my most effective and practical method.”

Shouto’s frown mirrors the other boy’s. “I only asked you to not use it in front of me.”

“Yeah, well,” Midoriya huffs, “if you haven’t noticed, I happen to like spending time with you which means that we hang out a lot .”

Shouto stares. Midoriya jolts, smiling sheepishly as though he had accidentally insulted him. “Ah, sorry, that was a little rude of me. I think…?”

Honestly, if Shouto hadn’t already been used to Midoriya’s antics and didn’t see the boy as a good friend, he would have said something dismissing—to both the statement itself and the admission of Midoriya acknowledging him as a friend.

As it is, Shouto’s gaze darts away for a moment, a warm feeling settling within him despite the sense of awkwardness accompanying it.

“It’s alright,” he relents after a moment. “I can tell you a bit.” It ends up being more than “a bit.”

He tells him about his quirk. About the effects and drawbacks, about his father’s harsh training methods. About how he met Izuku because of his frequent outings, his ingrained habit to avoid his father and that house. He even tells Izuku about his scar, the woman that gave it to him, the mother who was driven to mental illness, and how he’s vowed to not use his fire for all of these reasons.

He admits, quietly, that he is made uncomfortable by the sight of fire.

But it isn’t just a simple “discomfort.” It’s a controlled, volatile anger at the knowledge of who his father is, at the fact that he has the propensity to be just like him, at the fact that he is not so much the person “Todoroki Shouto” but the tool to help achieve his father’s ideals while he sits in Endeavor’s shadow.

It’s the knowledge that he is his father’s son, and has part of the very same quirk he loathes.

(Midoriya is quiet through the explanation. Because Izuku already knows this, knows his friend, knows the weaknesses and strengths the man—the boy —holds, knows that he once and will eventually grow past them, growing ever stronger.

Instead, Izuku thinks, ponders, what he could do or say to help his friend. What he plans is separated by a thin line from insult, from intentionally harming his friend. Shouto doesn’t and won’t know, and it’s a gamble, but he is strong. Izuku knows he is strong, and believes that he will be able to withstand any complication or blow.

He will become a hero that surpasses even Izuku’s memories.)

At the end of Shouto’s explanation, he doesn’t expect much. Maybe an awkward smile, a sympathetic word or two. But instead, after a tense beat, he is told that there are people out there who are quirkless. He is told by Midoriya, who wears a solemn expression, that there are people who dream of being heroes but are rejected outright because they don’t have a quirk.

“So why?” The green haired boy asks, head tilted. Something coils painfully in Shouto’s gut. “Why would you hide half of your quirk? Why would you purposefully give yourself that handicap when there are people who give their all, only to find that it’s not enough?”

“Isn’t that a bit selfish of you?”

Midoriya doesn’t inch closer, is the picture of calm inquiry, but Shouto finds himself needing to hold himself in place anyway.

“Why would you reject a part of yourself?”

(Shouto isn’t stupid. The times when quirks have come up in conversation—and they have , look at the society they live in—Midoriya has gone silent, never volunteering to offer information on that particular subject when he is usually so free with everything else. Shouto never pried, partially because of disinterest and mostly because he felt it wasn’t quite his place to ask, but he already had an idea for why the other boy would be so hesitant to divulge information on his quirk.)

Shouto twitches, his fists clenching in his lap as irritation bubbles forth.

He hadn’t expected Midoriya to say what he did, the boy was determined but never intrusive or rude , and he feels angry. But it isn’t the indignant fury that he feels towards his father, not when there’s a sense of almost-betrayal and regret— disappointment that he decided to confide but ended up with criticism instead.

But he doesn’t consciously know this, isn’t of a clear mind to acknowledge this string of reasoning. He only knows that he’s irritated with the small sting of unforeseen hurt.

He lashes out.

“It isn’t ,” he seethes, eyes narrowed angrily at Midoriya. “Why—no, you didn’t listen to a single thing I said, did you? This fire isn’t a part of me, it’s a part of my shitty father , and I refuse to accept it! It’s a power that does nothing but injure and destroy !”

He reaches out and grabs the lapels of Midoriya’s jacket before consciously realizing it. “I will become strong without that asshole’s gift!!”

Shouto stares furiously into green eyes—calm, almost disturbingly so in light of his anger—and releases the other boy with an angry, dismissing exhale. He feels… frustrated. Gross, in a way, because the rolling unpleasant emotions settling in his stomach can’t be described any other way.

“You’re quirkless,” he starts before his reason can catch up to his mouth, “if you want a damn quirk so bad, you can have—”

Suddenly, hands are placed over his mouth, and his words cut off. He looks down at the other boy—his eyes are shadowed by his bangs, and he’s not shaking, but Shouto gets the distinct feeling of something off.

...He could push him away. Midoriya’s hands merely hover closely, not actually making contact—he’s hesitant, but for what reason when he practically tore at his emotional wounds Shouto has no idea —and he could definitely push him away. He could continue, tell Midoriya to stop talking about things he doesn’t understand and shove it , but—

“Please.”

The word is spoken in an indecipherable tone, and Shouto’s indignation, any traces of his previous anger, vanish.

“Don’t say that. Don’t ever say that you’ll give your quirk away.” And then he looks up at Shouto, his eyes hard but glossy.

“Even if you may have inherited it, it’s not your father’s fire, it’s yours. You’re the one who controls it. You’re the one who chooses whether or not to use it. And if it were taken away, you would feel the resulting hole left in it’s place. You would be the one suffering its absence—not your father .”

=== 

The atmosphere surrounding them is a bit awkward following Midoriya’s statement.

They continue to talk as usual, albeit in stilted tones, and there’s an unspoken tension between them that gnaws at Shouto.

He knows it’s mostly because he’s hesitant to completely accept the other boy’s words (despite them being, admittedly, accurate , there’s a weight of indignation that stops hims) and partly because of Midoriya’s likely doubt in himself over whether or not what he said was the right thing to say.

Shouto doesn’t really know how to diffuse this annoying awkwardness; he’s the first to admit that he isn’t exactly a wordsmith nor is he all that great with social pleasantries. Not to mention, he doesn’t feel like an apology is appropriate, his unwillingness to do so notwithstanding.

(He can admit that he’s being a bit stubborn, but he doesn’t really think he’s in the wrong . At least, not entirely.)

Eventually, topics run out and conversation comes to an uncomfortable standstill. Thinking about it, he wants to stay long enough to try and see… whatever this is fixed, but he knows that the chances of it happening without the other boy initiating are nil, and he’s probably pushing the time as it is.

He glances at his wrist, affirming his thoughts. It’s earlier than usual, but I can’t think of anything to say. He frowns. Is this how it is when two friends fight?

Shouto sighs as he stands, glancing to Midoriya who looks lost in thought. “I should get going.”

Midoriya jolts. “Oh, um, okay! Bye...uh. Get home safe…”

A moment of silence passes as Midoriya trails off, and Shouto hesitates, but eventually gives a stiff nod as he motions to walk away.

“I’m sorry.”

Something about the tone is unlike the boy, a lot like earlier , and Shouto stops.

“... You won’t understand what I mean, exactly, but…” He hears the other boy hum, his tone relaxed. “... Well, I could have handled that better.”

Before Shouto realizes it, he relaxes himself, giving a snort. “I completely understand what you mean, and I agree.”

Midoriya lets out a startled laugh, but shakes his head. “That isn’t exactly what I mean.”

He lifts his hand to rub the back of his neck. “I, I didn’t have to rile you up or anything, I just couldn’t really… I couldn’t think of how else to get you to really let it all out, y’know? Crying isn’t really your thing, your tears may as well be frozen—oh um, no offense intended, that was a joke, sorry—but you still needed some kind of catharsis. Am I making sense? I don’t really know if I am, maybe I am but I can’t really tell.”

Shouto turns at the end of the boy’s rambling, slowly, quietly wondering if he should feel insulted or not. “... Why would you think I needed catharsis? And you thought I could achieve that by you pissing me off?”

Midoriya shrugs, but even then looks a bit sheepish. “From what you’ve told me about your family situation and your dad, I figured that you were a bit, um, repressed? And of course, if the main reason for that is your dad, then it would explain your aversion to fire.”

Well, he’s… right, Shouto supposes.

“But why would you do that? Why would you,” and he pauses, because why would you piss me off to help me sounds a little off.

Luckily, Midoriya seems to understand his meaning and smiles. “You’re my friend! And no offense, but you’re kinda frigid. With reason yeah, but I know you can be a really cool guy when you relax.”

Shouto has a moment to reflect on the statement and wonder if that slight pun was intentional, when Midoriya’s smile gains an impudent edge. “What better way to melt the ice than to encourage the fire?”

Shouto pinches the bridge of his nose and groans , ignoring Midoriya’s jubilant laughter.

Another thing that he has learned about Midoriya Izuku over the months they’ve been friends is that he loves jokes , to Shouto’s exasperation. If it isn’t excited hero chatter and accidental murmuring, it’s puns ranging from everything being All Might to Shouto being “hot ‘n cold.”

(... He’s quietly thankful that the previous stilted atmosphere has dispersed thanks to Midoriya’s more light-hearted, if stupid, jokes.

But he isn’t about to validate the boy’s usage of puns.)

 


 

It had started with an offhanded comment of homemade food being a rarity in his household.

More time has passed, and since that not-quite argument they had, Izuku began making efforts in expanding his “repertoire” of methods for self-defense.

(One time he ambushed Shouto with a bright, neon green scarf, effectively blinding and subduing him. Shouto had been a little irked that he was so easily subdued, but then Izuku threw the plain scarf around his neck while making as serious an expression as he was able, claiming he was “the mysterious erasure hero Eraserhead,” and the irritation quickly gave way to somewhat exasperated humor.)

At some point, the two of them started talking about their families more—Shouto finding ease in divulging his past that he hadn’t had previously, and learning about Midoriya’s absentee father.

That last particular point had led to an interesting conversation, one that Shouto looks back on fondly. It had been his comment of, “I thought that ‘Toshinori’ was your father,” that had led to Midoriya choking on spit with an astounded, “W- WHAT !?” And then following up with explanations of no , Toshinori-san is NOT my dad, what even gave you that idea oh my GOD , w-why would I refer my dad by his first name!?

He had been red-faced and hilariously freaked out the whole time, but in a distinctly shocked-but-pleased way instead of a horrified way, so Shouto had made it a habit of asking after the man occasionally. No matter if he was actually Midoriya’s father or a figure that happened to fill that spot, he was someone that Midoriya clearly looked up to and enjoyed speaking about, so Shouto obliged.

Regardless, conversation had eventually reached the topic of household meals.

“We don’t eat together,” Shouto had said simply, “and Fuyumi is the only one that really knows how to cook, but she’s busy. I prefer to not eat with my father when I can. I do know the basics, but it’s easier to order in so eating homemade food is kinda rare.”

Izuku had given him a brief, but odd look for that, and they spent the rest of the day as they usually did.

The next day they met, Izuku had greeted him by saying, “you should come over to have dinner with us soon.”

And that's how Shouto finds himself going to Izuku’s house for dinner, not even a week later.

He squints down at the address displayed on his phone in his messages, then casts a glance around his surroundings, noting the apartment number of the door in front of him. I’m in the right place , he thinks to himself with a nod.

He shifts his drying umbrella to his left hand and reaches for the doorbell with his right. But before he can actually press the button the door opens with a click, and he’s met with a wide-eyed woman with a kind face, who is almost undoubtedly Midoriya’s mother.

“Um,” he says intelligently, blinking. “Hello.”

She smiles a bright, happy smile that dispels any doubts he might’ve had about him being in the right place. “Hello, you must be Todoroki Shouto-kun! I’m Izuku’s mother, Midoriya Inko. Come in, come in, make yourself at home, dinner will be in an hour or so. You had a safe trip here, I hope? No complications? Oh, here, let me take your umbrella. You can leave your shoes next to Izuku’s.”

She continues to fuss over him, leading him to the living room and asking if he needs another jacket or a blanket “because this winter chill is really harsh this year and it wouldn’t do for you to get a cold now,” and before he even has a chance to gather his wits and reply, he finds himself seated on the plush couch surrounded by pillows with two blankets sitting on his lap.

Shouto feels a bit like he was swept up in a storm. Despite this, her presence makes Shouto think of his briefly mother.

He looks around himself, feeling welcomed but severely out of place. “... Um,” he says for the second time that day.

Midoriya’s mother pauses in her flurry, and gives a quiet, sheepish giggle. “Oh, I’m sorry Shouto-kun, I hope you aren't uncomfortable. Izuku rarely brings a friend over, and he’s never had two friends over like this, so I'm just a bit nervous.” She shakes her head a bit, smiling. “Anyway, Izuku and Ochako-chan are in his room, but I’ll send them off to join you. You can watch TV if you’d like, the remote is on the end table right over there.”

Shouto shifts, and ends up sinking into the literal pile of pillows a little bit. He flushes and straightens, making sure to not disturb their placement. “I, I appreciate it. Um. Why…?”

He winces a bit at his words (or lack thereof), not really knowing what to say.

Midoriya’s mother smiles. “It’s natural for me to try and make sure that my Izuku and his friends are happy and comfortable.”

Shouto doesn’t really know how to reply, so he gives a small nod in response.

“Izuku! Ochako-chan!” She calls, stepping out of the room. “Shouto-kun is here, come greet him!”

He listens to her voice grow distant, and breathes a quiet sigh. The atmosphere of the house is undoubtedly homely, as is the head of the house, but it’s difficult for him to actually relax. He isn’t really used to, well… Relaxing his guard.

He hears footsteps down the hall and turns, prepared to greet his friend. But instead of Izuku walking in the room with a friend in tow, a round-faced girl with brown hair peeks around the door jam, brightening when she sees him.

Uraraka , he guesses quietly. Without a word, she walks into the room and sits down next to him, outside of the pillow fort Shouto is buried in.

… And stares at him, not saying a word.

Shouto finds himself a little unnerved despite himself, honestly. Should I… Introduce myself? He wonders absently, staring pointedly at a divot in the coffee table and pretending that her focused gaze doesn’t freak him out a bit. Why is she staring at me like that?

He glances over after a few moments, and—yes, she’s still staring, but he can’t tell if she’s glaring or just observing him. He had thought she might be a little like Midoriya, being his friend and all, but she’s decidedly not.

(Then again, Shouto is Midoriya’s friend, too, and while they have their similarities they are still very different people.)

“So, you’re the one that Deku was looking for.”

Shouto turns to her, and blinks. “... ‘Deku’?”

“That’s my nickname for Izuku,” Uraraka says offhandedly, narrowing her eyes.

Shouto inconspicuously inches away, letting the barrier of pillows provide a form of defense as he thinks about her words. Thinking about it, he does remember something like that, vaguely, when he first met Midoriya. Something that hinted at him “confirming” that Shouto was in the area.

Shouto’s brow furrows in thought. He’s curious. Before he didn’t really care, not when there wasn’t any overt threat to worry about, but now that he considers Midoriya a friend, he wants to know. I wonder if he’d tell me if I just asked hi—

“Hmm. I guess I can see how you’d be a bit problematic.”

Shouto snaps to attention, staring at the girl. “... What?”

“That,” she says, gesturing at him vaguely as she looks him up and down. “I didn't believe him before, but I can sorta see how you're almost as bad as Kacchan. In your own way, of course.”

Shouto doesn't know who “Kacchan” is, but he feels insulted anyway.

Uraraka !!” A pained cry that sounds like Midoriya comes from the hallway. “I told you to stop calling him that, he hates it when you call him that!”

Uraraka scowls. “But you call him ‘Kacchan’!”

“Kacchan is Kacchan, but that’s only because I’ve known him for years! You say it to mock him !”

Uraraka blinks innocently as she places a hand to her chest, even though Midoriya won’t see the gesture. “I don’t know what you mean.”

There’s a slapping sound, as though Midoriya either clapped his hands to his face or his forehead. “ UGH .”

Uraraka laughs, and turns to smile at Shouto. “He’s silly, isn’t he? Anyway, I’m Uraraka Ochako, sorry about that. I was just reeaaally curious about the other friend that Deku had. Oh! and don't worry, even though I was comparing you two you’re loads better than Kacchan. He's a jerk to Deku and doesn't know when to shut his mouth.”

Then this Kacchan is probably the childhood friend, Shouto muses quietly. He nods, the motion a little uncertain, but affable. “Todoroki Shouto.”

Inexplicably, Uraraka’s eyes widen impossibly as she blinks. “Oh. Oh .” She turns to face the hallway, hands cupping her mouth. “ Deku. You win.

The door opens and Midoriya gives a slightly exasperated grunt in reply as he and his mother make their way to the kitchen.

Uraraka laughs, and Midoriya’s mother beams.

Shouto feels hopelessly lost.

=== 

Dinner is a simple but pleasant affair.

Shouto learns more about Midoriya’s mother and Uraraka, the latter of which who Midoriya has apparently known for about a year now.

(Shouto also learns about her quirk and habits. From what he has learned she and Midoriya make a terrifying tag team, efficient and experienced in each other's tells and all. She has a similarly sharp wit, and she easily wins a bit more of Shouto’s respect.)

It's in the midst of their meal that Shouto decides to try asking his friend what he had meant during their first official meeting, and says, “Midoriya.”

“Yes?”

“Yeah?”

Four pairs of eyes blink at the simultaneous responses both Midoriya and his mother gave, the former making a face as the latter and Uraraka delve into amused giggles.

“Um,” Midoriya says, turning to Shouto, “just call me Izuku, please.”

Shouto feels uncertain. He turns to his friend’s mother, “... I wouldn't call you ‘Midoriya’ without the honorific, Midoriya-san.”

She smiles warmly.  “Yes, but I agree with Izuku. You’re his friend, and I’ve been hearing all about Shouto-this, Shouto-that, so I think it’s fair.”

Shouto relents, albeit still somewhat hesitantly at that, smiling a bit at the embarrassed flush of his friend.

“Any friend of Deku’s is a friend of mine,” Uraraka chips in. “So you should call me Ochako!”

Under any other circumstances, Shouto would decline the offer. As it is, he can sense that he doesn't really have a say in the matter and, somewhat exasperated, agrees.

After dinner when Shouto offers to help clean up, Uraraka and Izuku’s mother shoo the two of them away from the kitchen/living room area and into the hallway, which puzzles him.

“They like to chat one-on-one sometimes,” he says when Shouto stares a bit blankly at the now-closed door. “Even though my mom never became a hero and never took on a job that required the use of her quirk, she’s still pretty skilled at using it. They like to compare quirks, discuss, and… Just talk about general things.”

Shouto side-eyes his friend for a moment, thinking. “... ‘Girl talk’?”

He thinks he can recall Fuyumi mentioning something like that. When he was younger and, as the younger sibling was wont to be, curious, Fuyumi would sometimes become exasperated with him and shoo him away by saying that she was having “girl talk.”

Izuku shrugs. “That’s one way to call it, I guess? They are pretty close, after all. Can you believe she refers to my mom on a first-name basis? ‘Inko-chan’! I was a little spooked the first time I was privy to that conversation, honestly.”

They laugh as Izuku walks them to his room, talking about inane things. Shouto isn’t very surprised at the various All Might brand paraphernalia about Izuku’s room, though he is a little at the sheer volume of it in such a small room.

They end up chatting as they usually do, jumping conversation to conversation as if it is just any other day. Shouto finds some old notebooks that pique his interest just from how worn they are, and Izuku introduces him to his notes.

(Shouto already knew that his friend was particularly studious with a sharp mind and intelligence, but seeing these notes and being able to tell just how much work went into them does boost his respect for the boy. It means that Izuku’s knowledge isn’t just something innate, but earned, and Shouto is nothing if not admiring of hard work.)

When conversation reaches the topic of Izuku’s newest strategy for subduing villains without the use of fire or explosions, Shouto recalls the question that he had wanted to ask earlier and voices it.

“You said something confirming about me being in the area,” he clarifies at Izuku’s questioning look. “When we first met. That time you blew yourself across the street by accident. Something like, ‘you were here.’”

At this point, Shouto isn’t worried about Izuku having had selfish reasons—for one, not many people know about the hero Endeavor’s son yet, and even if Izuku did, his friendship is without a doubt genuine. Shouto is still curious though, hence, him asking.

Izuku’s brow furrows as he cradles his chin in his hand, eyes glancing off to the side, and Shouto knows that he is deeply considering something. What, or why he is considering this Shouto doesn’t know or understand, but he waits patiently for his friend to decide.

It doesn’t take long for Izuku to turn back to him, beaming grin in place. “I’ll tell you when we get into Yuuei.”

Shouto blinks. He doesn’t think he ever explicitly told Izuku that that was the high school of his choice, though it is the number one school, and considering both of their ambitions it makes sense that they’d want to attend Yuuei first and foremost, but…

“... Will you be all right?” He asks, feeling more than a bit worried for his friend. When Izuku’s smile falters in confusion, he clarifies, “you, ah. You don’t have a quirk.”

He’s almost worried that Izuku might react negatively to the reminder, like he did that day they had their not-quite fight. He knows that the topic of quirklessness is a bit of a sore spot for Izuku, and the last thing he wants to do is offend him.

But Izuku jumps to his feet with a happy laugh, motioning for him to follow. They leave his room and Izuku peeks his head into the living room, telling Uraraka and his mother to join them outside.

Midoriya Inko gives a fond smile, with a stunned Shouto and a gaping Uraraka, when Izuku bench presses a car .

(Both Shouto and Uraraka immediately demand to know what happened as soon as it’s clear that Izuku hasn’t strained anything, and though Shouto’s own insistence isn’t as fervent as Uraraka’s he is quietly just as curious.

Their friend says that he doesn’t want to lie to them however, and promises that he’ll tell them the truth when they all get into Yuuei.

Shouto and Uraraka exchange a quiet glance at that, but in the end, if Izuku had a reason for keeping it a secret, then they both knew they would respect that.)

(When Shouto leaves later that night, it’s with a warm feeling settled in his chest and a kinder sort of determination about him.)

 


 

He stands in front of a door, the sound of chatter and equipment being carted to and fro filling the air. The name tag “Todoroki” is barely noted in his peripherals.

Shouto takes a breath as he slides the door open and takes a step into the room, a terrified yet quietly hopeful feeling in his chest when he sees her.

He visits his mother.

Chapter Text

The sound of rubber soles on concrete reaches Eijirou’s ears and he automatically turns.

He’s back, he thinks, grinning as he watches the same kid he always sees on the weekends jogging along the path by the field.

Eijirou has always made a point in hanging out with his friends from elementary school, because it’s a good way to get out and exercise, and he always has fun with them. They usually end up playing baseball, soccer, or some other team-sport in the local field depending on what everyone brings.

He’d been making it a habit to come by on the weekends ever since summer ended and a couple of his friends came back from their trips. They had been playing again for a couple of weeks now, sometimes doubling the weekends. Overall, Eijirou had been having a pretty good time.

And then, one weekend, a boy with wild green hair that could be seen even from across the field started jogging along the outer path, early in the mornings like clockwork.

Eijirou finds that he's actually pretty curious about the other kid. So far, he has seen him there every weekend except one, and he can only assume that the guy is passionate about training and staying fit. It’s kinda cool, especially since he’s never seen another kid his age so determined.

(Heck, even Eijirou doesn’t bother with jogging all that much on his spare time. He does a little more than what’s needed for school, and makes sure to play sports with his friends as often as he can. That’s what makes it fun after all, working together with others that is, and it keeps him pretty fit as it is.)

Eijirou blinks when the green-haired kid slows down, and a familiar group approaches him. It’s the guys , Eijirou realizes, already beginning to jog over. This is a nice opportunity he figures; he has been curious about the green-haired kid and it’d be cool to talk to him a bit. Maybe he wants to be a hero too?

But as he approaches, he notices that he seems… Nervous. His posture is a little uncertain, and Kotarou’s posture—he has always had a bit of a rough personality, Eijirou knows—is definitely not relaxed. He looks kinda irritated, actually.

Eijirou’s brow furrows in worry. “Hey!” He calls out, and the group startles a bit. “Kotarou, leave ‘im alone! I hope you aren’t trying to intimidate the new guy!”

Kotarou turns to him with a scowl. “What? We’re just asking him to play soccer with us! S’not our fault he’s a scared wimp.”

Eijirou just grins. “Yeah yeah, all right. Hey, you guys can go ahead and start playing. I ran here from my aunt’s house and I think I might’ve pulled a muscle or something, so I’m gonna take a break first.”

Kotarou and the others start walking towards the other side of the field, a few teasing about his recklessness as Kotarou rolls his eyes.

Eijirou turns to the green-haired boy and watches worriedly as he breathes a small sigh. “Hey, don’t worry about it too much, Kotarou’s a bit of a jerk to everyone. He didn’t mean any harm.”

Curiously, the boy only shakes his head and smiles. There isn’t a trace of tension in his face, and Eijirou realizes that he actually might not have been all that nervous.

“That isn’t it, but thanks for the worry. I… I actually know someone that’s more abrasive than,” he nods at the group. Then, he snorts to himself, apparently thinking about something funny. “It’s just been… A while. Years now, I think.”

Eijirou doesn’t follow. “What?”

The other kid shrugs, clearly not intending on clarifying.

“Eh… Well, I’m Kirishima Eijirou!” He jabs his thumb at his chest, grinning. “If you don’t mind, do you wanna be my friend? I’ve seen you jogging nearby a couple of times, and I think it’d be cool to work out with you occasionally!”

The green-haired boy blinks a bit, seeming a little surprised. “... You look… I mean. Do you normally make friends with people you just meet?” And then quieter, “not that I should talk, but…”

Eijirou shrugs. “Not really. But like I said, I’ve seen you jogging nearby. There aren’t any other kids my age who would be up for that, and it’d be nice to have someone to work out with.”

The green-haired boy smiles warmly, and nods. “Yeah, that makes sense. My name’s Midoriya Izuku. But just call me Izuku, please.”

Eijirou’s grin widens as he claps a hand on Izuku’s shoulder. “All right, Izuku! Then I’m Eijirou, ‘Kirishima’ is too long.”

“... ‘Eijirou’ has more characters than ‘Kirishima’, though.”

He blinks at Izuku, not really sure what the purpose of that statement is. “... Eh? I mean… I guess…?”

Eijirou’s jaw unhinges slightly when Izuku turns to the side, hand over his mouth with the telltale sign of laughter in his motions. He’s laughing at me , he realizes. He briefly thinks about the spelling of his name and it hits him that oh, he’s right, before his face lights up as red as his hair in embarrassment.

Izuku’s laughter only increases at that, guise of not-laughter abandoned as he lets his humor out.

Eijirou, despite barely knowing him, and having only conversed with him for a handful of minutes, smiles at the not-so-nervous boy who is now his apparent friend.

He gets the feeling that Midoriya Izuku is a pretty cool guy.

 


 

Eijirou realizes he sorely underestimated just how fit Izuku is on their first jog together.

He sort of expected it, but the first time he joins him for a run, Eijirou feels like he’s dying halfway through it. His muscles are sore, his shirt is drenched, and he’s seeing double. Or triple. He doesn’t really know, he just sees blurred shapes instead of solid forms and he hurts.

Izuku doesn’t even bat an eye when Eijirou calls his name, wincing at his request and feeling pretty embarrassed over the whole thing. They stop at a vending machine, and Eijirou gratefully takes the cool water bottle Izuku hands him.

“... Man, I think… I think I just ran a course through… hell or something… How far did we even go…?” He breathes out the words in between each gulp of water and lungful of air. When he expectedly chokes on his water in the process, he settles for catching his breath first while holding the cool bottle to his neck. “... How… How are you completely… Unfazed?”

“Not completely,” Izuku says, and okay, he is sweating and his breaths are a little faster than usual but Eijirou is wheezing and this is totally unfair . “And that was about, um. Three kilometers I’d say?”

Eijirou huffs (more like wheezes) a laugh. “I’m not used to running more… More than the distance between my home and school. I’m pretty sure that’s half that distance. Three kilometers … Holy crap, man, we just… We just ran three kilometers straight.”

He takes a large gulp of water and resumes trying to steady his breaths while feeling pretty pathetic overall. Man. I’m pretty sure I’m actually pretty fit for my age. What the hell kind of training does Izuku do?

Izuku scratches the back of his neck after a moment. “Well, three kilometers isn’t… Really… A lot for me. I’m pretty used to distance travel. I’m not that fast, so what I don’t have in speed I make up for in stamina. I actually walk part of the way here, whenever I come around his area.”

Eijirou takes another gulp of water as he contemplates this. “Walk? Wait, you’re not from around here?”

A nod. “Shizuoka prefecture.”

Eijirou spews his water. “W-what, whoa man, what ?” He winces through the coughs and whips around to stare at the other boy. “What’re you doing so far away from home? And you walked ? What the hell, man, the distance between here and Shizuoka isn’t exactly walking distance!”

“I only walked a small part of the way! Only about four kilometers from the station to here,” Izuku says with a laugh. “And like I said, I’m used to traveling some pretty far distances. I go to Mie pretty often. Around three times a week.”

Eijirou isn’t even drinking water—he set that aside after spewing the first time—and he chokes. “M-MIE!? And three times a week!?” When Izuku only nods, as if that isn’t absolutely ridiculous, he side eyes him suspiciously. “... You aren’t going today, are you? That’s like, three times the distance from usual? If you go from here.”

“Two times. And no, I usually visit on weekdays after school. She’s busy today, so I shouldn’t bother her.”

Eijirou takes a moment to think about this. “Her, huh?” He gives a sly grin.

But Izuku doesn’t give the expected reaction of stuttering or blushing, like most kids their age. Instead, he rolls his eyes with a sigh.

Honestly, even though Eijirou has only known Izuku for about two weeks, he still feels like he should know the other kid enough to know that he isn’t like most people their age. He’s just… Different, from anyone Eijirou has ever met. He has his own brand of nervousness and honesty, not to be mistaken for weakness. It’s pretty fun to hang out with him, in Eijirou’s opinion.

He doesn’t really know why Izuku’s reaction would be that, but he figures it isn’t really his business if his friend doesn’t want to talk about it. He decides to let the subject drop with a mental shrug.

“Anyway,” Eijirou says, “what’re you doing all the way out here on your own, anyway?”

This gets more of an expected reaction from Izuku, who jolts a little at the sudden question. His expression turns uncertain. “I, um, well… I wanted to?”

“... It’s no problem if you don’t wanna say,” Eijirou says after a beat, “because hey, we’re friends, aren’t we? It’s cool.”

Izuku’s eyes widen by a fraction before he gives a small smile.

They continue their run once Eijirou doesn't feel like proverbial death anymore, and it isn’t even lunch time when Izuku eventually forces him to go home.

“It’s a gradual process, Eijirou, he says, wearing the most concerned parent expression Eijirou has ever seen on anyone his age. “Pushing yourself to collapsing is bad.”

So they part ways, Izuku promising to come by the next week, Eijirou quietly thinking that Izuku really is a cool dude.

And even though he might literally be half dead by the time he gets home, he feels pretty accomplished anyway.

 


 

Eijirou readjusts his scarf, partly because of nervous anticipation, mostly because he really is just damn cold.

The winter chill has yet to set in this year, especially because it isn’t actually winter yet, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t cold. And while he doesn’t dislike cold weather, he definitely prefers the summer heat a person could practically feel the warmed earth radiating as opposed to the stifling chill of winter that sorta makes his bones and muscles ache.

Eijirou peers at the rails as people bustle around him before glancing at the round-faced clock at the center of the station. They should be here soon, he thinks, recalling the schedules he had seen on the way in.

While he knows how it happened, can recall it easily, Eijirou still finds it all kinda weird. He and Izuku had continued training together as promised, sometimes just hanging out and doing random fun things like going to an amusement park or playing a sport (Izuku had eventually become acquainted with Eijirou’s old friends, and as he had hoped they all got along pretty well). But a week ago, Izuku had come a couple hours late with a concentrated if distracted look, before staring at Eijirou like he was deeply considering something. And when he had questioned if there was something on his face or if something was wrong, Izuku’s eyes had gone distant again.

“Maybe I should introduce them,” he murmured, eyes hazy as he absently picked at his lip. “Kacchan was a lot easier to deal with. Maybe that will help. Or at least help him learn to adapt.”

Eijirou had blinked, echoed a confused, “... what,” before Izuku finally made his decision about whatever he was thinking about, turning to him with a smile.

“Wanna meet a friend of mine? He’s got a strong quirk, and even though he’s a bit abrasive I think you’ll find him pretty cool.”

And later that day before he departed, he had said that he would bring his friend the next time he visited. And then he gave Eijirou his newly bought mobile number with a promise of messaging him the details.

Which is why Eijirou is currently standing by the rail, waiting for the next train to arrive with his friend and friend’s friend in tow.

He looks once more down the rails, shivers at the cold that manages to snake around his neck at the action, and decides to flip up his collar too. He shoves his chilled hands in his pockets for good measure and grins at a passing woman who looks equally as cold, the two of them exchanging a quiet agreement over the weather.

The train rolls in just under a minute late. As people rush towards and away from the train he keeps to the back, eyes narrowed as he scans the crowd for familiar dark green. He has met Izuku here before, and though they had a bit of an issue because of the other kid’s height in comparison to the crowd, Eijirou feels like he could spot him this time.

“Hey, Eijirou!” A shout from a short distance away. Eijirou twists his head to the side, brightening at the sight of his friend, but grows a little wary when he sees the foul look on the blond boy with him. That isn’t…?

Deku ,” he bites out, and confirms that he’s the ‘friend’ Izuku was talking about. He glares at Izuku, and everyone in the vicinity actually. Or is that just his face? “Shut the fuck up already. You’re screaming in my ear.”

Eijirou’s greeting sort of doesn’t come out when they pull up in front of him. But Izuku’s reaction is simple, and he doesn’t seem bothered by the other boy’s insult. “Well, considering you live in a constant state of maxed volume I think it’s fair. I was only greeting a friend, not cussing out some poor person.”

Izuku then turns to Eijirou with a wide grin, introducing them—“Kacchan, this is Kirishima Eijirou, Eijirou, this is Kacchan”—as the blond yells an indignant “I don’t always fucking yell!” at Izuku and growls “it’s Bakugou Katsuki,” to Eijirou.

Eijirou takes one look between them as he mentally struggles to reconcile their behavior. “... Huh,” he says, “you guys get along pretty well...?”

Bakugou practically spits fire at him while Izuku stands to the side, smiling.

Eijirou quietly observes the two of them over the course of the afternoon, noting Bakugou’s ire at Izuku and pretty much everything in general.

By the end of the visit when the two of them are about to head home, he thinks he understands what Izuku said before, and quietly snickers to himself.

 


 

Eijirou somehow finds himself not only visiting Izuku on occasion, but Bakugou, too.

It just… sorta happens. It becomes habit for him to visit Izuku a couple times a month when Izuku can’t come over to Chiba, and while he’s over in Shizuoka he heads over to Bakugou’s place to say hi as well.

(They’re neighbors, it’s literally a stone’s throw away and it’d be kinda rude for him to not at least drop in for a few minutes when he’s right there, he figures.)

Bakugou Mitsuki, he comes to find, is just as hot-headed as her son if slightly more contained, and she all but lights up when Eijirou first visits—going so far as to claim that her “stupid shitty son actually has friends that aren’t minions or followers.”

Eijirou is hesitant to say that he’s Bakugou’s friend, especially when he’s only met Bakugou once, but he just nods and goes along with it when Bakugou only grumbles an indistinct, “dumb hag,” that apparently wasn’t indistinct enough and nets him a flying sandal from across the room that smacks him on the cheek.

An odd thing that Eijirou notes later on, however, is that whenever he offers to Izuku or Bakugou that they hang out as a group, both of them decline. Izuku with a shrug and smile, Bakugou with anything ranging from flat-out ignoring Eijirou or flying into a fit of swears.

He doesn’t understand. At first he wonders if it’s him—maybe they don’t like hanging out with each other when others are there?—but after several months of getting to know the both of them, he thinks he starts to get it.

There’s some pretty major history between them. It didn’t take long for Eijirou to realize that Bakugou isn’t as confident as he likes to appear, and while his behavior isn’t just bluster without substance it definitely isn’t complete confidence, either.

There’s something about Izuku that bothers Bakugou, that sets him constantly on edge, and Izuku seems to understand that—keeping his distance, probably hoping that his friend(?) will eventually outgrow it.

Eijirou doesn’t really like it. He doesn’t like conflict where it doesn’t belong, and while both Izuku and Bakugou seem more or less okay with how things are, Eijirou can also see that they’re both ridiculously hard-headed (which is really saying something, considering who he is). But he also knows that this is something between the two of them. Ultimately, if they want it resolved then they are the ones who will need to resolve it.

Still, he’s Izuku’s friend, considers Bakugou his friend, and he doesn’t feel like it would be very friendly of him to not try something to help bridge the gap between the two of them.

So he does.

(Years later, he will realize that this line of thought is precisely why Izuku had them meet to begin with.)

They’re actually cleaning the house (as per Mitsuki’s instructions) when he takes a breath, turns around, and speaks.

“How do you feel about Izuku?”

One thing Eijirou has realized in his acquaintance with Bakugou is that he is intelligent, and very sharp. He doesn’t mistake the question for anything else and his reaction is immediate—his shoulders seize and the previously neutral, slightly amicable silence grows tense.

He rigidly continues cleaning with sneer on his face. “... Stupid. He’s a stupid loser.”

Eijirou sighs. “Really, Bakugou.”

This time, Bakugou drops the cleaning supplies in his hands to slam his hands down on the table with a snarl. “Whaddya mean, ‘really ’? Deku’s Deku, and he’s fucking useless.”

He doesn’t turn around, though. He just glares at the grain of the table as if it did him a personal offense, and Eijirou frowns.

“... I don’t actually know what the relationship between you two is, even if Izuku called you a friend.” He pauses as Bakugou’s eyes slowly slide over to him. “But Izuku is a friend of mine. It’s not very cool of you to insult my friend, man.”

Bakugou narrows his eyes at him in a glare (though Eijirou has definitely come to suspect that that particular look is a default more than anything).

Then, he turns to his hands splayed out on the wood of the table, his scowl darkening in thought. It feels like minutes pass before he finally speaks.

“... An obstacle.”

It’s a murmured statement, and Eijirou has to strain his ears to make out the words.

“Deku’s an obstacle. He’s in my fucking way. I’m supposed to become the number one hero in the future, and Deku…” His hands clench into fists. “Deku isn’t supposed to be as much of a fucking threat as he is.”

Eijirou blinks. A... threat ? Does Bakugou… Does he think Izuku is intimidating ?

… Izuku doesn’t seem all that intimidating to Eijirou. In fact, he doesn’t seem intimidating at all, he almost seems too nice and laid back to be anyone that he should fear. He’s a cool guy and determined, yeah, but not intimidating.

Bakugou scoffs, picking up the cleaning rag and scrubbing at the table with more force than necessary. “I didn’t say intimidating, shit-for-brains.” Oops, he’d said that out loud. “And you won’t fucking get it. The point is that even if Deku might be somewhat stronger than me now, I’ll beat him someday.”

Something clicks in Eijirou’s mind and he stares at Bakugou, blinking. Then, he beams as something similar to relief floods him. “... Oh. So he’s like your rival, not... That’s, that’s really cool, man!”

And it is. For someone stubborn like Bakugou, it’s all but an admission of quiet respect, even if he himself may dislike the entire thought of it. The situation isn’t as ugly as he had worriedly thought.

That isn’t it, shithead! ” Bakugou barks, scrubbing faster than necessary.

Eijirou absently wonders if the furniture in the Bakugou household tends to need replacements sooner than usual as he gives a small shrug. “Eh. Personally, I think Izuku is pretty cool. He’s a good rival to have.”

Bakugou only side-eyes him before clicking his tongue, relenting slightly in his abuse of the table for smoother, less, “I’m gonna kill this fucking table” motions.

Eijirou just huffs a laugh before turning back to his own task. He had sorta wondered why Bakugou even bothered coming that first time if he didn’t want to, but now, he thinks he sees where Izuku is coming from.

He doesn’t know their history and doesn’t want to pry anymore than necessary. But despite their behaviors around each other, he can tell that they both think highly of each other—Izuku in a friendly way fitting of him, and Bakugou in a way that’s like pulling teeth.

Eijirou’s life wasn’t boring before, not at all. But he’s quietly glad that he decided to introduce himself to Izuku all those months ago, and decided that he’d try to see what was up with Bakugou.

They’re both pretty darn cool.

 


 

He takes a breath and speaks.

“Yo, Katsuki. I have a question.”

“What?”

“What exactly is the relationship between you and Midoriya?”

The atmosphere takes an abrupt turn from brisk to glacial.

“... What the fuck do you mean.”

“I mean, you… Look, I don’t know the full story, no one other than you two does, but don’t you think it’s time you guy just—move on?”

A glare, matched with a quieting, challenging look.

“No, look, hear me out. You two need to work together. I know you two already do pretty well on the field, but as soon as you finish dealing with whatever you’re called in for you two barely exchange a word that isn’t insults from your end or careful wording on Midoriya’s. Why can’t you two just be friends?”

“... If all you’re going to do is preach at me, you can just fuck off—“

No, Katsuki, because you’re the one always going off and saying that you’re gonna be number one, and Midoriya has his own dreams too, but as it is the two of you are shooting yourselves in the foot. I’m saying this as your friend, man, and I think you two need to figure out what went wrong. I think you two need to resolve this—this whatever it is, and get along.”

Everyone thinks so, not just me. Because we think that you two are more alike than either of you want to realize. You’re both key parts to our class, you’re the ones who lead the rest of us, and you’re the ones who really know how to motivate. What was it that Asui said? Charisma, that’s it—both of you are charismatic.”

“Because, even if neither of you will acknowledge it, everyone looks up to both of you, because you two are the ones who will shake the foundations of this society. You’re the ones who are going to make the most waves.”

He swallows. “You’re going to change the world.”

Silence weighs heavily. And then quietly, almost too quiet to hear:

“... It’s not just us.”

He blinks.

“... What?”

“It’s not just us, you fucking moron.” A sneer, and a shove. “I’m going to be number one, and that isn’t going to change. But if you’re too fucking stupid to see that it’s not just us, then you’re more of a dumbass than I thought.”

He watches his friend stomp out of the room, and the door is slammed shut with more force than necessary.

He wonders in silence.

=== 

“You know, you should just call me ‘Eijirou.’”

Wide, green eyes blink in confusion.

“... Huh? I-I mean, if you want me to then that’s fine, but, um. Where did that come from?”

“I dunno, I was just thinking! You call Katsuki ‘Kacchan’, and a few others by their given names. I feel left out, man.”

“... OH! No, I didn’t mean—I just didn’t know that you would prefer that I call you by your first name, I mean, I thought—“

"Slow down! I was just teasing you, Midoriya.”

A small, tentative smile. “If I’m going to call you Eijirou, then you should probably call me Izuku.”

A mirthful laugh, and he claps the boy’s shoulder.

“All right then, Izuku! Nice, it’s easier to just call each other by our given names. Our surnames are kinda long.”

“... Um. You know, ‘Eijirou’ is actually longer than ‘Kirishima’.”

“... Huh?”

“The characters. Written in Hiragana, Katakana, or Kanji, your surname is actually shorter than your given.”

“... Oh. Oh. I get it! … Hey, stop laughing at me! I was just—I meant—… Man, this isn’t very cool at all.”

“It’s all right, Eijirou, don’t worry about it.”

A beaming grin.

“We all think you’re really cool.”

Chapter Text

Ingenium watches the two mutant villains as they are locked away in police transport, his arms crossed and his posture rigid.

Half of a small warehouse demolished, two parked (thankfully empty) vehicles destroyed, and the streetlights fried—all of it totaling well over a million in damages. And all it took was two lucky villains and a slight delay in the local associations’ reactions. Scattered crowds are dispersed around the unspoken barrier of police officers, keeping the civilian onlookers at bay. A single ambulance car is pulled over to the side, medical professionals tending to the handful of civilians who were involved.

Six total civilians, half of them injured, and thankfully none of them critical. Two young women, a businessman, a college student, and a father and his son. Still more than he would like, but definitely not the worst.

The boy lifts his head as his father converses with the medical staff and turns, demeanor perking up when he sees Ingenium.

Ingenium smiles a bit under his helmet. He waves, giving a small inclination of his head as he does so.

(He is the Turbo Hero Ingenium right now, not Iida Tensei. His self-critical thoughts on how he can better improve can be saved for later.)

He speaks to the few who are given the clear by the medical staff, and gives the boy his autograph. He laughs when the boy asks for a pat on the head—he says he wants to become a hero and that the pat is for good luck—and lingers a bit longer when an officer requests a brief recounting of the incident.

He absentmindedly flexes his hand as he brings his recounting to a close. “Anything else you need from me before I leave?”

“No, that’s it. We can handle the rest.” The officer shuts his note book and tucks it away in his vest pocket. “Thank you for your time, Ingenium. If it weren’t for your quick response, we may have had more than three lightly injured civilians to worry about.”

Ingenium gives a small nod, and the officer excuses himself with a casual salute.

Despite the way he can feel his eyelids drag with each blink, he continues to affect an air of alertness as he makes his way out of the area.

He normally isn’t so drained at the day’s end. But the increasing villain activity (however slow) is something that hasn’t escaped his notice. They all remain small, somewhat minor incidents, but it’s the number of them along with their dispersed locations that keeps each of the hero associations on edge.

Not many civilian outlets have noticed it due to the heroes doing their best to maintain the peace, but the heroes themselves have certainly noticed. All Might’s drop in appearances, that is.

Even though they all know that he can’t possibly be more than a man himself, it’s a little (shamefully) difficult to remember that when he has never failed in performing feats of heroism that would seem daunting to anyone else. And yet, despite him still being around, he isn’t always there as he had seemed to be before.

Not that this is anything particularly bad for the other heroes. It just means that they have to work just as hard and more, ensuring that no one allows themselves to slack on the job. Tensei may be a little more tired with each day of increasingly sporadic villain activity, but it’s fulfilling, and he’s doing his part in helping keep that peaceful ideal alive. It’s a good reminder that the rest of them are here, too, and contribute despite their presences not having quite the impact that the number one’s does.

It’s a little worrying though, thinking about what this means for the upcoming generations of heroes. Tensei has little doubt that the villain activity will drop eventually, but there is still the worry that it won’t. There’s the worry that villains will see All Might’s dwindling presence, view it as a chance to break free. And with Tensei’s brother being the age he is...

A small smile forms at the thought of his brother despite himself. I wonder how Tenya is doing. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him.

And it has, unfortunately. Between his busy schedule mixed with chasing after villains and public appearances for his following and Tenya’s own fervor in getting into Yuuei’s hero course, they haven’t seen much of each other even despite the fact that they all live in the same area.

… I’ll go home early today, Tensei thinks to himself. In fact, I’ll head home now. Tenya’s tutor should have left by now, and he’s probably having lunch. Maybe I’ll let him ride on my back? Or maybe we could go to the campus, I’m sure Nedzu wouldn’t mind if we dropped by the track for some harmless racing. Or maybe—

“Um, excuse me! Ingenium!!”

He snaps back to attention, his posture straightening at the sound of his hero name. When he turns around, he immediately has to look down—and he sees a young boy with wild hair and bright eyes, a notebook in hand.

Another fan, he guesses—he’s a bit tired but this is one of the joys of his occupation. This one looks to be around Tenya’s age, too, though maybe a little younger considering his height. Ingenium kneels down and smiles despite his helmet being on.

“Hey, kid. What’s up?”

The boy doesn’t offer his notebook with a request of a signature like expected, however. No, instead—

“I know this is going to be weird but can I meet your little brother!?”

Tensei blinks.

Eyes wide, the boy’s nervous energy seems to jolt. “Aa-h I mean, um—the interviews!! I’ve seen the interviews, where both you and your parents mentioned Iida Tenya, your little brother, and how he aspires to be a hero someday! I thought it was cool! I’m not asking because of something selfish or anything… Actually maybe a bit but-!! It isn’t because he’s an Iida it’s because he’s Tenya and, I um…”

The boy stutters through his words, his expression shaped into something like a nervous grimace. Eventually, he seems to wilt as he lets his arms drop. “... I’m... not doing this right.”

Tensei has to take a moment to calm down, turning to the side as he tries to stifle his laughter. He’s thankful for his helmet, otherwise his grin would have given him away.

“Don’t worry about it, you seem like a good kid. I have to admit though—it’s definitely a new thing for me to be used as a way to meet my brother.” He doesn’t bother stifling his laugh when the boy covers his face with a groan. “So. What’s your name?”

“Midoriya Izuku.”

Tensei nods sagely. “And why did you want to meet my little brother?”

Midoriya rubs the back of his neck, cheeks still a little red but expression contemplative. “... Thanks. Lately I’ve been having issues getting words out for… Reasons, but anyway… It’s partly that it’d be nice to have someone equally as aspiring as me to befriend. And he has the Engine quirk, right? I want to be a hero as well, and I’ve been trying to reg— adapt to a fighting style using my legs.” He gives a small shrug. “Iida-kun sounds like an earnest kind of guy. I was kinda hoping we could be friends.”

Tensei shakes off his brief surprise (old soul, this kid) at the abrupt change in demeanor. He doesn’t know why—maybe it’s because this sort of request hasn’t ever been made before, and Midoriya strikes Tensei as a well-meaning kid—but he genuinely likes the idea of introducing him to his brother, however spontaneous and odd it may be.

(... It also gives him a bit more of an excuse to drop by, which likely helps.)

He kneels down and smiles.

“Well, you’re in luck.”

 


 

Tenya introduces himself politely, even as he finds that he is rather confused.

He’d been surprised when he heard that his brother was coming home. The times Tensei could spare a moment to just hang out with him for the sake of being with him were few and far between these days, and Tenya himself had decided that his free time could be spent pursuing a life in the hero industry much like his parents’ and brother’s. So yes, he had been surprised, and overjoyed when his brother had called over the phone to let him know he was coming.

Less so when he saw the short, wild-haired boy that his brother had apparently brought home to be Tenya’s friend.

The other boy gives a tentative smiles as he introduces himself in turn—“Midoriya Izuku,” he says—with Tensei standing over them with a smile of his own. The two of them had met after Tensei had subdued a villain, according to him.

It’s all very odd, and Tenya has no issues turning to his brother to ask, “why?” when told that Tensei hopes that they become good friends. It isn’t said with venom or ire; it’s an honest question.

Midoriya is the one to answer. He smiles and says, “because I’d like to be your friend.”

When Tenya again asks why, he only gets a bemusingly brighter smile in return.

 


 

Tenya comes to the conclusion that his brother and Midoriya have grown shockingly close in the small amount of time they’ve known each other.

The second time Midoriya visits is the very next day, which also signals the first time in a long time that Tensei has managed to come home for consecutive days. And then he visits the weekend after that, and after that when Tenya realizes that he has even met his parents in passing.

Midoriya is earnest. Tenya himself has been called earnest many times before, but he has never actually met someone who makes him immediately think of the word. He is also even-tempered yet passionate; earnestly kind to Tenya.

But Midoriya also makes him feel uneasy. There’s almost a sense of guilt accompanying this unease precisely because Midoriya seems to have only the best intentions, but more than anything there is a reluctance to open up to him. Hesitance.

(An intimidating, overwhelming force. The best of intentions and a resounding charisma, but too much.)

And despite his amicable demeanor, his smile and greetings irritate —Tenya feels a bit of guilt for this, too, but Midoriya’s familiarity is almost patronizing, and it feels as though he views Tenya as something … Lesser. Than what he doesn't know, but the feeling of comparison is definitely there.

Unsurprisingly, Tensei notices his discomfort.

He asks Tenya about it one day. He asks why Tenya gets quieter when Midoriya is around, why he doesn’t seem at all interested in befriending the other boy.

Tenya, in turn, asks why Midoriya wants to be his friend. He asks why Tensei seems so at ease with him, so friendly with someone (who is so much younger than him!) he barely knows and barely knows him in turn. It just doesn’t make sense.

“He’s interesting,” Tensei says simply. When Tenya frowns at the lacking answer, he elaborates.

He sees a potential for greatness in Midoriya, something that will shape him into the hero he wants to be in the future. It’s a lot like what he sees in Tenya—a strong, unshakeable will, and the intelligence to support it, but with an earnestness that only a true hero would have. As a person he is hard-working and honest, with an open-mindedness despite the firm awareness for the world he has.

He says that Midoriya honestly wants to be Tenya’s friend very much, and asks if he doesn’t like him.

Tenya doesn’t answer. His brother ruffles his hair affectionately, smiling.

“He can be a bit intense, I know. He’s almost weird like that; can go from seemingly meek and easy to overlook, to something almost obtrusive. But to be fair, you’re pretty intense too.”

Tenya shoots a disbelieving, slightly offended look at his brother for the comment. His look only incites laughter.

“... So, you think he’s interesting because of his similar qualities to me?”

“It isn’t specifically a likeness to you, so much as it being that you both have qualities that I think make good heroes. But yeah, that’s one way to look at it.”

Tenya doesn’t see it. He believes in maintaining an open, amicable mind, as many heroes are forced into situations where teamwork becomes crucial to resolving the situation. But there is a divide between professionalism and being friendly just for the sake of being friendly—and while Tenya doesn’t particularly mind the idea, something about Midoriya’s blatant friendliness in particular makes him wary.

Still, his brother tells him to give Midoriya a chance. Which is why, the next time Midoriya visits, Tenya suggests that they “hang out” like kids their age would.

The pleasantly surprised look and then happy smile that Midoriya expresses lessens the unease a bit.

Tenya realizes belatedly that he doesn’t really know what “hanging out” entails, but fortunately, Midoriya seems to have an idea. Though Tenya doesn’t think that wandering around the area and window-shopping is a lucrative pastime, he accepts Midoriya’s offer of it, and after letting Tensei know that they’d be back in a few hours they leave.

Conversation is slow and awkward, though most of the awkwardness is admittedly on Tenya’s side. Midoriya starts on the topic of heroes, however, which is something that Tenya finds relative ease in discussing.

“Hmm. I’m guessing that you want to get into Yuuei too?”

‘Too.’

Tenya blinks at that, turning to him with a quizzical look. “You want to be a hero?”

“Yes I do," Midoriya laughs. "You haven’t been listening, have you?”

“What type of hero?” Tenya asks, a little ashamed but curious. “Do you know what you want your outfit to look like?”

Midoriya adjusts his jacket as he thinks. “Hmm… Well, a hero that can handle a wide range of situations, if needed. Someone that many people feel they can rely on. Supportive or combative, either one is fine as long as I’m capable of helping.” His gaze takes on a wistful quality. “As for what I want my hero outfit to look like… I do have a pretty good idea, yeah.”

Tenya can’t really argue with that. Being a reliable hero with a high adaptability is something he would want to be, too.

“What do you mean, supportive or combative? You don’t know?”

Midoriya shakes his head. “I know that I’ll edge mostly on combative, but my focus isn’t on whether or not I’ll be able to fight villains so much as whether or not I’ll be able to resolve situations. Or help people. To be honest, fighting for the sake of fighting just… Doesn’t really appeal much anymore. Didn't really appeal much to me ever, really.”

Tenya frowns. “If you aren’t able or willing to fight, then you should focus on support. It isn’t good if you try to become a hero with a half-hearted resolution.”

Midoriya only turns to him with a bland smile.

“... Why—“

Tenya’s words cut off abruptly as the two of them round the corner.

Smoke, he registers immediately, the grainy, charred scent stifling against his senses. But beyond that, the sound of hurried footsteps and muted panic.

Civilians rush to the sides of the streets, clearing out of the way but still in a close enough proximity to see the situation. Some are on their phones, frantically speaking words that are lost in the whirlwind of activity. A car alarm blares insistently.

He whirls around. Beside him Midoriya is unnaturally stiff, his fists clenched and his eyes wide—but it isn't fear or even surprise that whirls around in his eyes, no, he looks like

Tenya grabs Midoriya’s wrist and pulls him back, just as the boy lurches forward.

"What are you doing!?" He hisses, tightening his grip on Midoriya’s wrist. "You weren't seriously going to rush out there, were you? What were you going to do? You're a kid!"

That’s against the law! He thinks acridly. We’re supposed to wait for the heroes!

Midoriya turns to him, wearing a pinched expression as he inclines his head towards the scene. "Look."

Tenya does after a moment, eyes narrowing. Two villains in the center of the shopping center, one crouched on the crushed hood of a smoking car, the other standing on a stone slab over a collection of children that he has pinned to the ground with spikes. The one on the car emits a bluish-reddish glow from his skin as he glances around, exchanging quiet words with the other villain.

It's a hostage situation.

Tenya frowns in muted revulsion. “Children as hostages. This isn’t something new, unfortunately, since they are the easiest to corral. But that’s exactly why you can’t just rush out there! You’d not only be risking your life but theirs as well.”

Midoriya laughs.

Tenya jolts, turning to him with wide, confused, and slightly disbelieving eyes. He almost thinks that Midoriya is mocking him—he just doesn’t understand him or his mannerisms, what goes on in his mind—but as he searches, he can only read honest humor (why?) in his expression.

Midoriya cups a hand over his mouth as his laughter subsides, and he redirects his attention to the scene. His eyes are sharp and piercing, a smile still in place.

“It’s not an accusation or anything. But, you don’t really trust me, do you?”

Tenya balks a bit at the question, brow furrowed. “I... it’s a matter of there being the fact that neither of us are equipped to handle this sort of situation,” he says slowly. “We don’t have the licensing, the training, or appropriate gear, never mind the fact that compulsory hero education doesn't begin until high school. In all aspects, we’re the ones at a disadvantage.”

“That’s true,” Midoriya says. His gaze is still focused on the villains, however, and his hand absentmindedly picks at his lip.

Tenya glances between the boy and the scene, his frown deepening. “… Why are you like this?”

“Like what?”

Frustrating. “Everything. Why can’t you just obey the rules? Why did you approach my brother that day? Why do you keep coming back? Why are you trying to befriend me?”

Midoriya digs into his bag, searching for something. "Do I need a reason to want to be your friend?"

"... It doesn't make sense for you to go out of your way like this if there isn't a reason. If this was something you did on a whim, then I don't think you would have continued this."

"You have a point."

"So?"

Midoriya doesn't reply. Instead, he turns to him and smiles—again, that same, bemusing smile.

And then he’s dashing towards the villains.

===

Tenya watches as Midoriya is fussed over by the paramedics who treat his injuries.

He can’t really remember what happened. But his initial shock at Midoriya’s impulsive action eventually calmed, replaced by a simmering discontent he can’t place.

The boy converses with the others he helped free, some looking barely over five, two looking about their age, and the rest in between. He laughs and smiles as though he had just done something he is proud of.

Tenya stays long enough to be told that he should head home, and that Midoriya’s parents had been informed that he would be taken to the hospital for poison treatment. He returns home and greets his parents as they converse lightly.

He’s quiet throughout dinner when his father asks him about his day, retires to his room to study, and it isn’t until Tensei visits him to ask about Midoriya that he snaps.

Tenya whirls around to glare at his brother. “Why would you think someone like that could be my friend!?”

Tensei’s eyes widen in clear shock, but before he can say anything, Tenya continues. “Your agency must have heard about it by now, since we were still in the area. That villain! The one with the spikes, Kuri, was there! He was—” He throws his glasses on his desk, pulling at his hair in restless frustration. “I tried to stop him—Midoriya—but he just, he didn’t—!!“

“... Wait, Tenya,” Tensei lifts a hand, but after a pause he lets it drop back to his side. “I did hear about the incident, yes, but you two were there?”

Tenya glares down at his knees, hands balled up into fists at his sides. He doesn’t look up when he feels a hand on his shoulder.

“... From what I know, it turned out okay. I’m glad that you’re all right—“

“But he wasn’t.” Tenya’s head snaps up. “Why would you try to make me befriend someone who takes the law so lightly!? Sure he managed to save the hostages, but that was against the rules! Something bad could have happened! Someone could have died, and all because he tried to save the hostages himself! And he got hurt because of his own recklessness!! Is that what a hero is supposed to be like!?”

Tensei only watches him quietly, which is infuriating—his brother is a hero, so he knows that what Midoriya did was against the law! There are laws for a reason, and the risk Midoriya had taken was unnecessary and brash. He was lucky that all he got away with were a few scratches and minor poisoning. Had he not been so lucky…

“You know, I’ve never seen you this frustrated about something, Tenya.”

Tenya aims a pinched look at his brother.

“How about this,” Tensei waves a hand through the air, “why don’t you try talking to Midoriya? Ask him what his motivations were?”

Tenya’s jaw nearly drops. As it is, he just stares at his brother. “... Do… Do you think that what he did was right?”

“I didn’t say that,” Tensei replies with an easy smile. “But people always have their reasons, Tenya. Whether hero, villain, vigilante, or civilian—you’ll find that they all have their reasons. And Midoriya was very set on getting to know you. I’m just saying that you should give him a chance, and see if there wasn’t something more to what he did.”

Tenya stares at him for a few beats before turning away, staring blankly at his hands instead.

While it isn’t right to break the law, his brother has a point, and he probably should hear Midoriya out before he continues to judge him.

“And like I said, I haven’t seen you this frustrated in a while.” Tenya looks back up when his brother ruffles his hair. “Even when someone does something you think is stupid, you usually just let them know that what they did was wrong before moving on. I doubt you’re even spoken to Midoriya about this.”

Tenya nods.

“Well then. The situation is already different from the norm, hm? So try talking to him.” Tensei smiles. “Just to humor me?”

He’s still hesitant, but it’s true. Everything about this is different from usual—Midoriya is different—and that would mean that a different course of action would be required to resolve it.

… Resolve what, though? He frowns. Everything stems from him, he realizes. His aggravation and aversion to Midoriya, the hesitance he felt at even speaking with the other boy—it was all on him. Midoriya has tried to be friends with him, behaved in only the nicest manner, and his decision to be a vigilante for the day was his choice and his alone. Technically, Tenya should not have been bothered by it as he had been.

… But he had, and now he feels frustrated and annoyed on top of everything else.

Tenya slumps into his chair, wiping his eyes with an airy breath. “... I feel tired.”

His brother laughs.

 


 

Tenya fidgets with his tie in front of the door.

He breathes in, holds his breath for five seconds, and breathes out, his shoulders slumping briefly with the motion. He glances to the nameplate and straightens before opening the door.

Midoriya seems to snap out of inattention, glancing briefly to the door with a barely-there smile in greeting before double-taking.

Iida-kun!?” His surprise is obvious, and he lights up at the sight of the other boy. “H-hi! I thought you were one of the—I mean, what are you doing here?”

Tenya’s mouth presses to a thin line. “Hello, Midoriya-san. I’m… I’m here to talk.”

“... Oh.” His smile takes on a confused, hesitant quality. “Well then. Let’s talk…?”

When Tenya doesn’t move to enter the room, Midoriya smiles warmly and gestures to the chair beside his bed. “Here, have a seat. You can relax. I won’t bite or anything.”

Tenya pauses, indecisive, but does walk over to take a seat. Midoriya continues to smile beatifically.

“So, how are you? I hope you weren’t too mad about what happened the other day.” Midoriya laughs a little nervously, rubbing his arm. “I tried to tell the medical professionals I was okay, really! But they insisted that I had to come to make sure that my system was flushed of the poison, so…”

Tenya stares down at his lap, consternation written clearly on his face. He had come here with a purpose, but for whatever reason he can’t get the words out. In his mind, it’s simple, but actually trying to figure out how to broach the subject is another thing altogether. He frowns at his hands in his lap.

Unseen, Midoriya observes him and his stiff posture, the lines in his brow, and his overall troubled bearing. He smiles, but it’s a little weak.

“... You don’t like me much, huh.”

Tenya’s expression eases slightly, but his frown is still in place when he looks up. “... It’s not a matter of liking or disliking you, Midoriya-san. You performed an act of vigilantism, and had you not been lucky, you could have made the situation infinitely worse. As it is, you didn’t, and you were lucky.”

“I guess you have me there,” Midoriya mumbles with a tired sigh, leaning into the bed. “As prudent as ever.”

The last comment confuses Tenya a little, but he brushes it off as another of the boy's many eccentricities. “I had a question, regarding what happened.” He pauses, staring at a crack in the wall just past Midoriya. “Why, did you do what you did?”

"What did I do?"

Now he's just being dense. Tenya stares harder at the boy to show his displeasure. Humor lights Midoriya's eyes for a moment before he turns to the edge of the hospital sheets he has crumpled in his hands, blinking slowly.

“... Why did I do it…” Midoriya tilts his head. “Well. Because it was the right thing to do.”

The hospital’s foldable chair clatters away as Tenya abruptly stands.

“Because it was ‘the right thing to do’? But it wasn’t!”

Tenya quickly reels in his anger, remembering his own brother’s surprise at his outburst the other day. But Midoriya only watches him with calmly assessing eyes.

“According to the law, yes. And that isn’t to say that I don’t respect the law—regulations are in place for a reason—but ultimately, I reacted without thinking.”

“Which is foolish—“

“I acted, because those children were in trouble. Because no one else would have made it in time. Because there were no certified heroes in the vicinity. Because once the heroes arrived, the villains would have acted beyond just holding hostages, and their attacks would have hurt not only the kids, but the surrounding bystanders. Because if I didn’t act, then the casualties could have been much higher.”

As he turns to Tenya, his eyes almost seem to pierce with the determination behind them. “I wasn’t thinking about the consequences I would be faced with if I broke the law—I was focused on the consequences of what would happen if I didn’t do something. And that’s why I acted.”

He closes his eyes again, and Tenya stares.

Thinking about it, it’s… He has a point. The attack, the bystanders, the lack of heroes at that point in time. But still, if he hadn’t been lucky, if something had gone wrong

Midoriya shakes his head. “I admit that it was also a bit selfish of me. I have my own, less altruistic reasons. But even that boiled down to seeing someone who needed help.” He stares at the far wall with a distant look. “Someone who, even if they were to become one of the best heroes in the future, was not at that moment. And I wanted to make sure that they would be able to achieve whatever bright future they intend on taking.”

Tenya frowns at his ambiguous comment. “One of the hostages was a friend of yours?”

“I know him, yes.” Midoriya rubs the back of his neck. “Anyway, uh. Don’t do what I did. Because yeah, you’re right—someone who isn’t a trained hero could make those kinds of situations worse, even if their heart is in the right place.”

Tenya observes him quietly as he starts to fiddle with his blanket. “... You reacted without thinking.”

Midoriya gives a nervous laugh. “Yeah, it was—“

“And you reacted without thinking because you felt you had to.”

Tenya turns away to stare down at his hands, gaze tracing over the lines. He… doesn’t understand, can’t even pretend to understand—society’s regulations are placed with a purpose, and the risk Midoriya took was a recklessly high one despite his intentions. He’s a child, just like him, and even Tenya with all the effort he has put in and preparation his family has given him wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to say that he’d be able to perform at the standards of licensed heroes.

There’s no way Midoriya went in with anything but a half-made plan, inexperience, and sheer hope for the best.

And yet, what he said seems a lot like something Tenya’s brother would say.

“Why did you react the way you did, then?” He drops his hands to his lap and turns to Midoriya. “I can’t actually… I can’t remember it right now, but I know that you had been very prepared, almost unnaturally so. The scarf to deflect the poisonous spikes, the flammable spray can against the other villain… How did you know what to do?”

Midoriya’s expression pinches. “… That... was just me being prepared, like you said. I just, I try to be as prepared as possible.”

“As for knowing what to do, well…” He shrugs. “The smoke was mostly coming from the villain, not the car. If you looked carefully, you would see that the glow was only around his exposed skin, and the smoke only increased when it wasn’t blue. It wasn’t a glow, but fire. Combustion. Which is, why I knew the hairspray would react as it did. As for the other guy, it was pretty clear that the hostages had been pinned down with projectiles, even though I didn’t know where the spikes came from initially.”

“So you had come to the conclusion that the other villain was the one responsible for the spikes, and used the scarf to pull them away from you.” Tenya pauses. “Even if it wasn’t completely successful.” His comment incites a wince from the other boy.

It also explains how Midoriya came to the conclusion of a heightened risk with the arrival of heroes, Tenya thinks quietly. If he had already come to the conclusion that the villains had long-range quirks, then everything else was deductive reasoning.

… Which means that Midoriya’s plan hadn’t been something completely careless. He had reacted impulsively, yes, but he hadn’t done so as recklessly as Tenya had assumed.

Still.

“I don’t agree with what you did,” he says, frowning. “But I suppose that the line between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ isn’t clear all the time. Sometimes, crossing that line can actually result in a better outcome.”

“But!” He shouts, gesturing abruptly and rigidly before the other boy can do more than open his mouth, “more often than not it won’t, so as long as we are friends you really should not do that!!”

Midoriya jolts, surprised.” … Friends?” His voice is quiet. “You consider me a friend?”

“I’m not exactly sure what I consider you. You frustrate me—”

—stricken sadness clouds over Midoriya’s face in a quick moment—

“—but even family can be frustrating. I know that you mean well, and you are clearly an individual with many strengths.” Tenya nods, smiling slightly. “I don’t see any reason to not be your friend.”

Midoriya’s answering smile glows.

 


 

It’s a reunion, of sorts.

They’ve only been graduated for a handful of months, but it’s perhaps because the separation is still new that this gathering had been a necessity. Three years of impossibilities and events beyond their imaginations, and the following separation, however much it signalled a new age for them all, is something they are still growing accustomed to.

They laugh, joke, reminisce over the food and drink. Conversation slows down as they simply enjoy the company of the people they cherish. Some leave early in anticipation of an early day, some go off for more festivities.

Izuku turns to Tenya.

“You know, I don’t completely disagree with what you did, back then.”

Tenya pauses his chewing, turning to his friend with a raised eyebrow in question.

“Oh, sorry, I’ll just explain.” A laugh. “The time with the Hero Killer. Our first year, after the sports festival.”

“... Ah.” Tenya swallows down his food with a gulp of water. “... Unless I’m recalling the event wrong, which I’m pretty certain I’m not… I really don’t follow what you’re getting at.”

“I don’t disagree with you. What you did.”

“... I was acting on impulse,” Tenya says, staring disbelievingly. “I wanted to get revenge.”

Izuku nods. “Intrinsically, yes. You wanted revenge, and you were hyperfocused on that goal to the point of ignoring your own values as a hero. You prioritized a vendetta over the people you should have been saving.”

“...It was selfish and absurd.” He clears his throat. “I apologize, but I’m still not quite following your thought.”

“A wise man once told me that a true hero’s wish protect is an impulse. They don’t think, they act.” A nod. “What you did was selfish. But… it’s something that I feel is still important.”

“How do you mean?”

Izuku smiles. “Well, think about it. For all that I looked—look, I still do—up to All Might, he couldn’t do anything about the fact that he’s only human, just like the rest of us. The image he was trying to portray, however, was that of an unfailing immortal.”

“... Yes.”

“He lost a part of himself, in a way.” The smile gains a somber quality. “He was so focused on giving and giving and giving, and saving everyone. He set such a high bar for himself, and everyone—even himself—expected him to meet that expectation.”

He turns to Tenya. "By me agreeing partly with what you did, I don’t mean to say that becoming engrossed in yourself and your anger is anything remotely good. It’s more about finding a balance between wanting to save the world while knowing what you can and can't do. What you yourself need, as one of many living on this planet. All Might lost sight of himself for a small while, and that was all that was needed for everything to start falling apart. The toll for failing was... Very high."

A beat of silence.

He laughs, dispelling it. “Call it selfish of me, but I’d rather not see anyone else end up in that situation. And it’s not all that wise in the long-run, either—run yourself for too hard for too long, and you’ll inevitably crash. You don’t even need to think about the hell from years ago to know that the end of an era can lead to some nasty things.”

“And ultimately, you did learn your lesson. You were the one that stopped me from trying to interfere in a situation I could have only made worse. That time, with All for One when we were trying to rescue Kacchan—you saved me.”

“So, I guess what I’m saying is… It’s good to want to give your all to save the people you care about. It’s also good to be selfless and try to save the world. But don’t give so much of yourself to the point where, when someone out there really, really needs you, you have nothing left to give.”

“It’s okay to be a bit selfish. It's okay to have moments of weakness. It’s okay to rely on others. We’re only human, and that’s what we’re here for.”

And then, quietly:

“The world is too much for one person to bear.”

Chapter Text

The first time Inko’s eleven-year-old son stubs his toe and starts swearing in English, she just about has a heart attack.

She may not be fluent in the language but she still did pretty well in school—was at the top of her class throughout high school even—and she’s seen plenty of movies to know that those words aren’t exactly pleasant. Which makes the whole situation that much more shocking.

Her polite, mild-mannered and kind Izuku, swearing in English. To say she’s surprised is a vast understatement.

She knows that her son doesn’t have all that many friends, if any at all (she tries to not let that thought bring her down) and knows that he doesn’t have any fluent English-speaking friends.

Honestly, if anyone Izuku’s age in his social group were to know how to spew obscenities in English it would be Katsuki, but she knows that those two have not been on good terms in years. It’s possible that Izuku would have picked those words up from being on the receiving end, actually, but Inko doubts that he would feel comfortable speaking words that were used to disparage him.

Regardless, Inko’s surprise quickly gives way to stern worry, and she talks to him.

“Those words are neither necessary or appropriate for you to use, Izuku. Please try not to use them, you nearly gave me a heart attack.” She rests her cheek into her hand, sighing. “Where did you even learn that sort of language?”

When Izuku only blinks at her, stunned, she frowns. “Your mother knows English, Izuku.”

He jolts. “Oh. I, I knew that! I just....” He flushes, eyes averting to the side.

Inko melts a bit, but she keeps her disapproving expression in place. “Where did you learn those words?”

“I, uh. I picked it up somewhere. I didn’t mean to, actually say it.” He sags, his head bowing. “I’m sorry.”

Inko nods, reaching out to grasp his hand. “It’s all right, you just shocked me a bit.”

Her son yelps when she gives a sharp pinch to the skin of his palm. “But don’t do that again. I don’t mind a few slip-ups here and there, but you will not speak like that in the company of others. If you want to make a point, there are plenty of other ways to do so without sounding like an animal.”

Izuku rubs at his hand. “Geez. I can’t believe some people still think you’re just a meek kind of person.”

Inko can’t help the soft smile that surfaces at that, and Izuku grins in return.

 


 

Crap!!"

Thud.

HOLY SHIT!!! … Oh, n—!!"

CRASH.

“... SHIT.”

Inko sighs as she folds the last shirt, shaking her head. She turns to the hallway and cups her hands around her mouth. “Izuku! Remember, language!”

A muted thud is heard from the direction of the living room.

“... I forgot!”

When she walks into the living room a few minutes later, Izuku turns to her with a sheepish smile. “Sorry, mom. It was kind of an automatic reaction…”

Inko’s hand brushes against his back as she lightly pats him, eyes scanning the room. “It’s all right, but what caused the lapse? You’ve been pretty good about it lately—only here and there, a couple of times since that first time months ago.”

“... Oh. Well, I was trying to move the couch so I could vacuum, but the… The arm kinda slipped from my hand and the couch landed on my foot.” Izuku gives a nervous laugh when Inko whips around to stare at him with wide eyes. “I yanked my foot away but then tripped on the carpet and, sorta landed against the table, upending it…?”

Inko brushes the hair from Izuku’s face to stare at the purpling lump on his forehead that she only just noticed, and—“Oh no, it’s swelling horribly! It looks so painful, are you sure that you’re—actually forget it, sit down and let me—here, lie down and I’ll get some ice. I hope you aren’t concussed, or worse—!!”

“Mo-m, I’m fine,” Izuku protests lightly, smiling as she worries over the lump on his head.

“No, you’re not, as is evident by the fact that you ended up hurting yourself this badly despite the fact that you’ve been almost unnaturally coordinated for months.” When he finally relents and sits, Inko hurries to the kitchenette to grab a plastic bag and some ice. “Honestly Izuku, it’s worrying. I get that you’re a growing boy, but you’re changing a bit too fast for me to keep up.”

She returns with the bag of ice in one hand and a towel in the other, and has him lean back against the couch. Izuku laughs quietly as his thumbs press against each other. “You have a point. I guess I might be a little nervous about Toshinori-san coming over...?”

Inko smiles at the reminder. It has only been just under two months since she first met the man (and nearly tried to, ah, club him with a kitchen tool), a couple weeks since he told her the situation with Izuku being his successor and all… And she admittedly finds her son’s adoration of the man—and she subsequent unmistakable doting on Toshinori’s part—quite adorable.

Izuku well and truly looks up to him, has always looked up to him even if he doesn’t quite realize it. And even though there are some things about the situation Inko doesn’t completely agree with, she could never hope to fulfill her gratitude to the man for reviving Izuku’s dream and supporting him when she did not.

(She quietly wonders why she doesn’t feel quite as nervous about him coming over. In any normal circumstance she would be, and she is if only slightly. But, perhaps because the first one she met personally was Toshinori and not All Might, she can’t quite muster up the same nervousness that her son is experiencing despite not even knowing that the man he looks up to is the very same hero that he idolizes.

… Well, she did go on a cleaning spree to tidy up the whole house, but still.)

Both of them jolt in surprise at the telling chime of the doorbell. Izuku motions to answer, but Inko shakes her head, applying pressure to the hand holding the ice.

“It’s all right, I’ll answer the door. Just ice the bump for a bit longer, and tidy up in the meantime.”

Izuku’s eyes widen a bit at that, and Inko stifles a small laugh as she leaves walks into the hallway, hearing her son attempt to finish his last-minute preparations. She pats her hands on her skirt to get rid of the moisture from the ice, and makes her way to the entrance.

She opens the door, her greeting on the tip of her tongue, but she stops and blinks in surprise at what she sees.

Toshinori stands away from the door, his back to her as he faces the railing. He isn’t in his usual outfit of a baggy T-shirt and cargo pants, or his training outfit, or any other loose-fitting casualwear she has seen him in whenever he’s with Izuku. Instead, he’s in a collared shirt and black slacks (still loosely fitted, she notices) with his jacket draped on the crook of his arm.

One moment, he is deep in thought with his hand cradling his chin, the next he’s shaking his head with a sigh, and then he’s back to deep thought while rubbing at the bridge of his nose. Inko watches him pace a bit, not even registering her presence or the fact that she is watching.

All-in-all he makes quite the picture, and Inko can’t stifle the small giggle that comes out. He looks more nervous than Izuku.

He jolts in surprise, whipping around to look at her and nearly flinging a small gift box that he'd been holding in the process. He manages to catch it just in time, however, both arms outstretched.

A beat of silence passes before he straightens. He smiles weakly, hand coming up to rub the back of his neck. “A-ah. Hello, Inko-san.”

Inko blinks at the familiarity of the action. … Izuku does that too.

She shakes her head and smiles, gesturing inside. “Please come in! I’m sorry, you looked so concentrated, I didn’t want to interrupt your thoughts. Oh, go ahead and put your shoes to the side, here.”

Toshinori obligingly places his shoes where she indicated, and when he holds out the box in his hand to her she stares a bit.

“A small gift,” he says simply.

Inko jolts. “O-Oh, for me!? You didn’t have to, I already said you’ve done so much. I-I thought this was for Izuku…”

She flushes a bit when she opens the box and sees the small hair tie with a delicate light-pink flower sewn to it. It’s a fairly youthful-looking item—even though she doesn’t consider herself old, her wardrobe doesn’t really have pinks or flowers in it, these days—and she hadn’t thought the gift would be for her.

“Just something in gratitude. I realize that you have been very accepting of the circumstances, and I thought… I figured I should show my appreciation, for that.” Toshinori chuckles. “And while I think it might suit Izuku if he wanted to wear it, I can’t really imagine that he would.”

The idea of Izuku wearing the small floral tie comes to mind, and the hilarity of the image makes her laugh.

“Thank you,” she says with a warm smile, carefully closing the box. “It’s lovely.”

A muted clatter echoes through the walls.

Inko startles at the sound. “Oh, look at us standing around here! Izuku is probably wondering what’s taking us so long.” She gestures inside. “Let’s head to the living room?”

Toshinori nods, the hint of a smile in his expression.

“I hope it wasn’t too much trouble getting here,” Inko says conversationally. “No villain attacks on the way?”

“Oh, not at all. This is a very peaceful neighborhood, and today has been a calm day.”

Inko opens the door to the living room, and Izuku perks up from where he’s sitting on the couch, grinning brightly. “Toshinori-san!”

Toshinori smiles. “Hello, Izuk—“

Time slows down. Inko watches in muted horror as he walks into the room, eyes wide and a warning lodged in her throat.

His belt loop gets caught in the door handle.

Wha—“ He’s jolted backwards as the hinge catches, and for a moment his form puffs out into his familiar All Might appearance even as he falls backwards. “Oh my go—HOLY SHIT!!"

He crashes into the door and it snaps off from the hinges, splintering under his weight as he lands on the ground with a decisive thud.

For one long, shocked moment, no one says anything.

And then Toshinori deflates, his face redder than Inko has ever seen it. “Oh, I-I’m sorry,” he springs into action, attempting to salvage the door and grimacing when he sees the remains.

“... Oh, shit, I didn’t mean to—that was—“ He turns to Inko with a fretting look. “I apologize, Inko-san, that was terribly clumsy of me, I—“

A burst of laughter fills the air.

Inko turns to see her son curled up on the floor, clutching his stomach, red-faced with tears in his eyes as he laughs more openly than she’s seen in a long while.

Inko can’t help it. She looks between her laughing son, a fretted Toshinori, and the splintered remains of the door, and finds herself clutching the door frame in her efforts to abate her giggles.

The hilarity of the number one hero, society’s Symbol of Peace accidentally getting his belt loop caught in the handle and destroying her door by sitting on it … It’s all too impossible and comedic to believe, but she’s seen it with her own eyes, and she realizes why she hadn’t been as nervous as she thought she should have been.

Despite his accolades and status in the eyes of many, he is still just a single person. He’s still Yagi Toshinori.

Toshinori coughs into a fist as he attempts to fight the flush from his face. “... This is… embarrassing.”

When Izuku’s laughter only increases at that, Toshinori huffs, and reaches over to swiftly but gently chop the boy on the top of his head. “Stop that.”

Izuku claps a hand over his mouth but his shoulders shake and his eyes dance with mirth, belying his humor.

Toshinori sighs, turning to Inko with an apologetic smile. “I, ah. I apologize. I will pay for the damages.”

Inko wipes tears from her eyes, smiling. “I-it’s all right, we can figure something out. I’m just a little glad I know where Izuku gets his impulsive English swearing, now.”

Izuku practically bursts back into laughter at that, and Toshinori glances between him and Inko with a clear look of confusion.

It isn’t until several months later, when Izuku is clearing the clutter at Dagobah beach, drops a metal car door on his toe and launches into English swears that Toshinori gets it.

(He’s sort of pleased that Izuku has taken to emulating him.

… He isn’t sure if emulating his English swears is a particularly good thing, but is pleased, nonetheless.)

Chapter Text

Aizawa Shouta has not been having a good week.

… He supposes that it's rare that he ever considers a week “good,” though. That’s generally reserved for when his students are attentive to the lectures that week, or when Mic manages to not blow out his eardrums with a single greeting, or when he gets a full six hours or more of sleep five out of seven days.

But considering he’s had to take odd paths to avoid news vans and reporters five times today, he decides the point still stands.

He has not been having a good week.

It's not like his avoidance of the media is anything new, and for a while, it seemed like some of the more avid reporters and journalists had forgotten him in favor of the more popular top five—but the interest in him and other heroes had spiked considerably in the past week, and the media has been relentless.

It doesn’t help that the heroes have collectively been agitated as of late, but Shouta already knows the reason for that. The reason being none other than the world’s most favored stars and stripes hero.

For whatever reason, the usually boisterous and smiling hero had been absent for three days, and when he had come back, while he was still his smiling self he hadn’t been quite as energetic as usual. Or so the news outlets liked to claim.

It’s ridiculous, Shouta thinks—they’re heroes but many had been acting like damned children that don’t know what to do when left to their own devices. A single hero takes some unanticipated time off and they start to panic. How they managed to actually obtain licensing as heroes is beyond him.

Adding on to that, a week ago the media was enraged when the incident with that common villain, Kuri-something, occurred. The “inaction” of the surrounding agencies barring Ingenium in an area as populated as Tokyo had had the media spewing out all sorts of disparaging content against the other local agencies.

“Not a hero, not an adult, not even a vigilante,” one news outlet had reported. “A child. It took the efforts of a quick-thinking child to resolve the situation, and it wasn’t until…”

Regardless, between dodging the downright aggressive media and watching some of the other supposed heroes lose their heads, Shouta has not been having a good week.

And he resists the urge to crawl into his sleeping bag and give up when he stares down at the boy who tugged on his sleeve.

What.” It’s less a question and more an aggravated statement.

The boy winces. “Ah, sorry. I wanted to ask where I can get a scarf like that one.”

Shouta is completely unamused. It’s his day off, his usual twenty-minute walk to the grocer has already turned into an hour, and this kid wants to inquire after his fashion.

He lightly knocks the kid’s hand away, saying, “I can’t tell you. Ask someone else for fashion advice.”

To his annoyance, the kid only latches onto his sleeve again. “Wait! Please, I,” he pauses to dig through his bag, and it’s only a product of brain fog and lack of sleep that Shouta doesn’t take the opportunity to leave. He stares a little though, when the boy pulls out a pile of scarves. Three of them. Two yarn, the third some other material, and all three are shredded to hell.

… Wait.

“You’re the kid that decided to play vigilante,” he says, eyes narrowed. Wild, dark hair, around twelve-years-old, and the usage of a scarf to deflect the villain’s poisonous spikes.

The boy makes a face, but nods.

He’s definitely the one—and his interference had been pretty effective, Shouta’d give him that, but what he did was still a risky gamble. Heroes don’t gamble with lives on the line.

Not zero potential, but still pretty low, Shouta thinks to himself. Probably the type that won’t realize that his actions are reckless until it finally bites him in the ass one day.

Even if someone has the intelligence and strategy for hero work, it doesn’t mean a thing unless they also have the right mindset for it.

But even as he evaluates the kid something skirts around the edges of his conscience, something that makes his gaze sharpen on the boy staring up at him. “... You want this scarf,” he says evenly, mindset slowly shifting from Aizawa Shouta to Eraserhead. “Why?”

The boy gulps, but doesn’t look away. “I… I admire your technique in using in conjunction with your quirk, sir.”

… Maybe average potential.

Shouta sighs. As in really sighs, letting out a drawn-out whoosh of air that betrays all his inner irritations, stress, and thoughts of why am I always surrounded by these overzealous types.

“I’m not even going to ask how you figured out who I am—“

“It actually isn’t that hard,” the boy interjects with a smile, “you have the same hair, the same outfit, the same scarf. The only difference is that you don’t have your goggles on.”

“—but my answer is still no,” Shouta finishes.

He watches quietly as the kid frowns, head bowing. Shouta distantly hopes that he isn’t about to cry. Who the heck is this kid, anyway?

“Look,” Shouta says, picking a piece of lint off of his sleeve. “Why do you want this scarf? It’s a weapon that I use in conjunction with my support-type activation ability. Wouldn’t you want something,” he pauses, “flashier?”

Children that age like flashy things. Cool, flashy, interesting things. Right?

“I want to become a hero,” The kid says with a laugh, half nervous and half honest. Of course. “But, ah, I want to keep my options open. A ‘resourceful hero’—something like that.”

Well, that’s a decent mindset to have at least, Shouta thinks. “What’s your quirk?”

When the kid freezes, Shouta shakes his head. “Whatever, it doesn’t really matter. I’m not about to direct anyone, let alone a kid, to my sources.” He turns around, pulling out his grocery list. “Maybe come back in a few years when you actually have a chance to be a hero.”

“W-wait!”

Shouta is tired. He looks down the street at the collection of news reporters crowding around the shopping district, and without another thought, darts up the nearest wall to the rooftops.

Eggs should be on sale … He considers his list thoughtfully. I could pick up that premium down sleeping bag on the way back.

He jumps across the gaps towards his destination without missing a beat.

 


 

Shouta takes one step out of the depot and sighs.

Well, he thinks wryly, at least I managed to get some shopping done first, this time.

“You're not doing a very good job at hiding.”

He adjusts the bags hanging on his wrist. When no reply comes, he gives an aggravated breath.

“What do you want? If you’re still hoping to get information on this scarf, the answer’s still no.”

He twitches when a head of dark hair pokes around the corner of the adjoined building. The boy flashes a nervous smile and walks out. “I… Um. That is part of it I guess, yeah.”

He holds his hands behind his back. His shoulders are stiff and too high, his light smile too strained and ill-fitting in ways that can’t really be placed. Stiff. Contrived.

Shouta’s eyelid twitches. He has no idea why a kid trying to appeal to a hero would try to make himself more childish, but that’s what he’s doing, and it’s doing little more than aggravating him.

He has the briefest, fleeting thought of the boy being someone more problematic, but the idea is dismissed almost as soon as it makes itself known. He seems genuine barring the slightly forced childish demeanor, and if he really were some kind of skilled threat to be wary of, his ability to make a passable kid should be better than this.

… Of course, it could be a double-layered lie. And if, in a hypothetical situation, the opposing side did their homework… then yes, they would know that the usual deception tactics wouldn’t fair too well against me. A pause. He slowly blinks back the grating dryness in his eyes. … I’m also more on edge than usual.

“What’s your name?”

The boy immediately brightens. “Midoriya Izuku! What about you? Oh, should I just call you Eraserhe—“

“Aizawa,” he interrupts with a mumble. “Don’t call me that when there are people around.”

“All right, Aizawa-san.” The kid speaks with a bright smile, as though he knows that he was being irritating.

Shouta takes a moment to rub his eyes and turns on his heel. “You’re welcome to do whatever since nothing I say will stop you. Just don’t follow me like that. It was getting on my nerves.”

The kid brightens and jogs up to him, footsteps providing an uneven rhythm to Shouta’s as he keeps pace.

Midoriya doesn’t talk for a while, which is perfectly fine with Shouta. He’s more than fine forgetting that he has a little follower trying to get a weapon like his own, especially when it’s his day off again and he’s running errands.

He steps out of the office supply store, printer paper and ink in the bags at his sides, when he feels a tug on his neck. He furrows his brow at the feeling but keeps moving.

He feels it a second time, and insists on ignoring it. A third time.

The fourth time it’s a strong wrench with enough force to throw him off balance, and he finally turns around to aim a scathing glare at the culprit.

What are you doing.

Midoriya jolts, honest confusion and surprise in his gaze as he lets go of the weapon as though burnt. Shouta is pretty sure he heard him hiss a quiet, and familiar (courtesy of Mic) swear.

“S-sorry! I didn’t mean to—there was—!”

Shouta lifts an eyebrow. There was…?

Midoriya pauses, red flooding his face to the tips of his ears. He clasps his hands together. “… There was… Lint. And some stray fibers.”

Shouta gives a heavy sigh.

No. That’s real. It’s not that he really suspected much of anything, but he has been on edge lately and this is the kid that went up against a fairly well-known villain. But that kind of earnest attitude can’t be faked.

Of course, it still brings up the question of why a kid would want people to think he’s a kid when most children his age try to do the exact opposite. But Shouta really doesn’t care.

“Just… Don’t do it again.”

Midoriya gives a quiet nod.

Unfortunately not quiet enough, because not even two minutes after Shouta resumes walking he musters up the courage to ask, “So there’s no chance of you telling me?”

Shouta’s shoulders slump a little before he reaches into the pharmacy bags he had gotten earlier, withdrawing a small roll of medical tape. Shuuzenji had asked for a few rolls and he’d gotten five, so one less wouldn’t hurt.

Midoriya looks at the offered tape curiously. “... What’s this for?”

“You could probably use this in a similar fashion that I use my scarf.” Not. It’s flexible, but too delicate to be effective in battle. “I’m not going to tell you about my weapon, so just take this and leave.”

Instead of taking the tape, however, Midoriya shakes his head with a laugh. “Thanks, but no thanks.” He unshoulders his bag and rifles through it, withdrawing a hand to reveal his own roll of medical tape. “I already have it. The same brand, too! See?”

Indeed, it’s the same brand.

… What the hell, kid.

With a sigh—he always sighs, but it feels like he’s been doing that even more often lately—Shouta tosses the medical tape back in the plastic bags and picks up his pace.

“Then you’re fine. Leave me alone.”

Midoriya lets out a surprised noise before the sound of footsteps trails behind Shouta, and the boy is walking alongside him again. “I can’t just hang out with you?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t babysit kids.”

“You said I could do what I wanted as long as I didn’t shadow you from a distance. You’ve let me walk with you up until now!”

“I changed my mind.”

Midoriya frowns at that but doesn’t reply, fortunately. Un fortunately, he also doesn’t leave, and it isn’t until the two of them are at Yuuei’s gates that Shouta finally turns around to him with a scowl.

“You can’t keep following me. Unauthorized personnel aren’t allowed—“

“It was nice seeing you Aizawa-san!” Midoriya shouts from several yards back. “Good luck with your classes this week!”

Shouta is left staring at the boy’s retreating back for several beats of silence. He closes his eyes and breaths out a sharp breath before turning around to head through the gates.

Why am I always the one surrounded by the overzealous types?

 


 

It's while he's cleaning out the storage space in his apartment that Shouta finds one of the first prototypes he used when he was still an interning student with a provisional license. He starts carrying it around with him, and the days between Midoriya’s unanticipated visits give him time to think.

He isn't certain about the situation or even his own motivations, which is equal parts surprising and worrying.

Part of him wants to give it to the kid just to get him to stop following around, and another part is begrudgingly curious about whatever potential Midoriya has and wants to see how his mind works.

But either option is irresponsible on his part—he can’t and has no intention of becoming associated with the kid—and he shouldn't even be contemplating this.

So why he’s taken to carrying around an old prototype he has no intention of using is… Worrying. And tiresome.

It’s not the only tiresome thing he’s had to deal with. There’s the persistent reporters that still have yet to let up on their antics, for one.

There’s also the new teacher that Nedzu has decided to induct to the faculty of Yuuei. True, the student-teacher ratio is one that keeps them all busy, especially with the two retirements in the last five years that they still have yet to fill the resulting positions of, but it’s nothing impossible for the current faculty to handle.

Nedzu had only provided them sparse, but telling information. A picture of a gaunt man with sunken-in eyes and unruly blond hair, and his own commentary of the man. An influential figure with a good heart who would make a “fantastic addition” to their staff, and who has a few secrets that should be kept quiet when revealed.

That, along with the fact that he has been trying to get a very specific alumnus back is enough to reason out the possibilities.

It’s obvious enough that Nedzu had intentionally revealed the information. It isn’t just book-learned knowledge that he excels at, but in all facets of the mind and words—he had intentionally revealed that much information precisely so that they’d guess, and correctly.

Testing the waters, per se. And it hadn’t taken a lot more after that for Shouta to guess who it was that was going to be joining their staff.

Either way, it’s an addition to the Yuuei staff that he isn’t looking forward to in the slightest, even beyond the fact that they do not get along.

It’s an addition to the staff that he’s staring at right now.

The first thing he thinks is that he looks even more tired and worn out than he did in the picture, and a fleeting curiosity of how that happened comes to the forefront of his mind before being rationalized as not his business nor worth the effort and exasperation to find out.

Then his gaze drops down to a familiar, dark head of hair, and he is overwhelmed with a sudden sense of understanding and regret.

Figures, he thinks more than a little tetchily. Yes. A logical conclusion. Astounding.

He would say he's surprised, except he's not, and that fact in itself both irritates and exhausts him. It’s not the first conclusion he would’ve come to but, again. He’s not surprised.

He watches his possible new co-worker pat Midoriya’s head, notes the small smile painted across his face, before the man turns to walk away with a simple wave. Midoriya shouts some unintelligible words that can’t be heard from this distance and above the noise on the street. And to think, Shouta had just been ready to pretend that he hadn’t seen two of the most peppy individuals he knows interact.

He gives a weary sigh and walks over.

“What was that all about?”

Midoriya turns around to beam up at him, apparently unaffected by his sudden appearance. Another thing that doesn’t really surprise him. “Hi, Aizawa-san! What are you doing here? It’s pretty rare that you come to find me.”

Shouta blinks very slowly at him.

“... That was Toshinori-san,” Midoriya says after a moment, relenting. He gives a weak laugh. “He’s just teaching me.”

“Teaching what?”

A curious look flits across the boy’s face, but it’s gone before Shouta can examine it too closely. He lifts a hand to rub the back of his neck. “Uh, I mean. He’s training me? He’s my mentor I guess.”

Shouta squints. “Was he the one that told you to ask me about my capture weapon?”

“No!” Midoriya jerks ramrod straight, his hands waving frantically. “No, he wasn’t—no. It was my own decision. He doesn’t even know, it isn’t anything that would come up in normal conversation and—and it’s a personal side project of mine.”

Well, that makes sense. Even if the man respects him for his ability, it would seem remiss of the number one to throw their disciples in the direction of other pro heroes.

“But anyway, what are you doing here?” Midoriya rolls on the back of his heels, wringing the straps of his backpack. “I was actually just about to go look for you. Like I said, it’s rare for you to… actually, this is the first time I haven’t had to track you down, huh?”

Shouta rolls his eyes a bit, shoving his hand into his pocket. “No, I’m here for a reason.” He pulls out the worn prototype and holds it out. “Here.”

The boy’s eyes go wide, his hands coming up halfway to hover inches away from it. “... Wait. Is this—"

“It’s a prototype I’d used years ago. It’s old, but still functional.”

… Frankly, he doesn’t know why the number one hero All Might would have an interest in the kid, nor does he particularly care to know. But while he may be an amazing hero Shouta isn’t so sold on the idea of him being a great teacher, which did help him in deciding.

(He isn’t particularly worried about Midoriya. Even though they might not get along, he knows that All Might has only the best of intentions and is one of the most trustworthy individuals he knows of.

As far as having the experience and know-how on teaching, however... Shouta does feel obligated to at least help the kid out enough to not die a premature death.)

Shouta’s eye twitches when he hears a quiet sniffle, and he sees Midoriya wipe at his nose.

What.

But Midoriya looks up and there are no tears—thankfully—and instead a smile, bright and awkwardly tilted. “Thanks. I didn’t think you’d actually—just, thanks.”

Shouta stares.

“I’ve… I’ve always looked up to All Might, you know,” Midoriya laughs a bit. “For his charisma, overcoming the seemingly impossible and, well. Just being someone that embodies hope.

“... But I also look up to Eraserhead. To be flexible, to have backup plans for backup plans… To be someone prepared for any situation despite not having the flashiest ability. It gives other people who might not have the best quirks for heroism, or might not have quirks at all, hope.” He smiles, eyes creasing at the corners. “I’ve always respected Aizawa-sensei a lot!”

Shouta blinks down at the boy grinning stupidly up at him.

… He certainly has shown to have put some effort into having a full arsenal of techniques, however simple some of them may be. With enough work…

Shouta drops a hand on Midoriya’s head and grips it firmly, leaning over with a dry, slightly manic smile.

‘Sensei’, you said?”

Midoriya freezes.

Shouta lets him panic a bit for a few seconds before straightening, lightly flicking the boy’s forehead as he drops his hand. “I guess we’ll see if that sticks in a couple years.”

Quietly, to himself, he admits that Midoriya could become a pretty interesting hero one day. It’s annoying, but he’s curious to see just what he will do with that potential.

 


 

Shouta looks down at his watch. “We’ll be using this free time you have to acquaint you with the weapon. I’m assuming that you don’t have anything else to do, since you have the time to follow me around twice a week.”

When Midoriya only stares at him, Shouta gives him a slightly irritated look. “You didn’t think I’d just hand over a weapon to a kid without taking responsibility for it, did you?”

Midoriya blinks. “... Oh. It’s not for me.”

Silence.

“W-wait! No, I promise—“ Midoriya complains, tugging valiantly at the weapon that Shouta is pulling away. “Aizawa-san, please! The person I wanted to give it to is very responsible, I promise, no one will get hurt and nothing bad will happen—“

Shouta’s temple throbs.

These stupidly overzealous types…

Chapter Text

“You chose this boy as your successor and you didn’t think to TELL ME about it until TWO YEARS LATER!?”

Toshinori winces at the reprimand, immediately giving heart-felt apologies that are significantly less important to Gran Torino than seeing his once-student squirm.

He isn’t as angry as he’s letting on, not quite. Because Toshinori didn’t actually give the boy One for All until further into their acquaintance—good, at least he had a mind to know better than to give an eleven-year-old something so dangerous—so it hasn’t even been half a year since.

He still is angry though, and the day he lets his student (number one hero or not) forget his respect for him is the day that he finally kicks the bucket.

… That, and he had hoped to scare this “Midoriya Izuku,” just a bit.

But as he glances over to the boy mid-rant, he catches sight of a quiet, bemusingly content smile as he watches his teacher be mercilessly yelled at by his own teacher, which… is a little strange.

Still, Gran Torino continues his lecture on respect and not forgetting all that he’s done for a decently long-winded amount of time, deciding he’s made his point when a good thirty-minutes or so have passed.

He snorts at the tired look Toshinori aims at him and gestures to the door. “All right, get. Go take a walk, or get lost in a forest or something.” He aims an impish grin at Midoriya. “I want to speak with the boy.”

Toshinori coughs into a fist, “Er, we only came here to visit—“

Gran Torino clicks his tongue. “I thought you were better than this. You’re just gonna leave your teacher out of it, is that it? Just because I’m old? Because I’m retired?”

His statements are light in phrasing and tone, with no actual heat behind them, but he levels a distinct look at Toshinori that he knows the man will understand.

Instead of backing down, Toshinori holds his gaze firm, searching. Gran Torino is almost proud. Almost.

He must find what he’s searching for because he turns to Midoriya and pats his head, a small smile on his face.

“I know that he might not have given the best first-impression, but you can trust him. Despite appearances and what just occurred—“

Hey.”

“—he’s a good teacher. He’ll be nice.”

The last sentence is said with a near inscrutable glance his way, and Gran huffs, before leaping into the air to aim a firm kick to his student’s behind. “Nothing good will come from coddling the boy, for God’s sake.”

Toshinori says nothing, just rubs his back as he shoots a look towards Gran that conveys exasperation and irritation in one, and excuses himself with a quiet goodbye. Gran settles himself back on the couch as the front door closes.

“All right, kiddo, let's get this over with. How many months did you say you’ve had One for All?”

Midoriya blinks. “... About three months, almost four.”

“I see, I see…” Gran nods. “And what kind of training do you do? What did you do to prepare? How would you rate your progress in handling it?”

“... Uh, I’m focusing on finding a good output of power to train with. It’s gotten to the point where I generally don’t need medical help after using it. Preparing… it was standard strengthening in all areas, stamina work, a bit on flexibility. I still do similar regimens now, just in tandem with actual quirk application sometimes.” He stares hard at his upturned palms for a few moments before looking up. “I guess… I’m progressing okay?”

“Define ‘okay’.”

“I can consistently reach an output of 4% with both arms and legs without hurting myself.”

Gran nods again. He reads the easy slouch to the boy’s shoulders, the relaxed posture, the calm expression on his face as he mulls over the questions he’s been given.

I suppose I’ll get to the crux of the matter. Gran smooths out his beard and dons a contemplative look. “So, who are you?”

The immediate response is a look of confusion, the typical furrowed brow and downturned mouth. He can tell the exact moment when Midoriya comprehends the statement—it’s when he gives a bland, expectant smile.

I’ve done this a thousand times, the smile seems to say. He’s just a senile old man.

Gran gives a quiet snort.

“I’ll tell you now: I’m not like Toshinori. Heart of gold, that boy, and he’s definitely got something real sharp up here.” He taps his temple to punctuate the statement. “But as you’ve probably noticed, he lets his guard down. He’s very susceptible and open. It’s the way he is, and with his whole Symbol of Peace thing going on, that openness is a necessity.”

“I… Yes?” Midoriya says, brows knitting together. “I mean, I guess I’ve noticed that about him, yeah.”

C’mon boy. Don’t keep this oldtimer waiting.

Gran makes a show of observing the boy, cradling his chin with one hand. “... You know, ‘Midoriya Izuku’ is a pretty plain name. An unknown name, a plain face, and nothing stellar about your personality…” He watches Midoriya’s expression carefully.

“Wouldn’t be very hard to, ah, appropriate a child like that from society, eh?”

Hyperfocus. Everything about and around the boy seems to come to a screeching halt, shock lining his shoulders and eyes. But then he relaxes, his expression smoothing out to an eerily blank stare.

Oho, Gran thinks a bit victoriously, so he isn’t even going to try and defend himself or play innocent.

For shock value, he had obtained what he wanted. It’s still worrisome—because this boy has One for All, and if his hunch is correct who knows what else this boy has hidden under his sleeves. Gran had been banking on the idea that he wouldn’t be so quick to drop the act, would maybe deliberate a bit, which would still give him a chance to escape if necessary.

But, he supposes, if that man truly is still around and sinking his grimy claws into the world from the shadows, the last person he would want to have anything more than mere suspicions about his plan is Gran Torino, barring Toshinori himself.

Gran smiles, even though a thread of nervousness chills his spine. Well. I may be retired, but I was still a hero and a damn good one at that. His fists clench tightly and he keeps his knees loose, ready to spring at the drop of a pin. Anticipation thrums as he waits for the barest sign—threat—to move.

And Midoriya moves. But not in any way Gran had expected.

He bows.

“... I don’t know what you’re thinking, exactly, though I have a pretty good guess.”

His head hangs between his shoulders, the pseudo gesture looking awkward and misplaced from his position on the other couch. His hands curl into loose fists.

“Your suspicions are valid. But I’m not a threat to you, All Might, or any of the people I want to protect.”

Gran watches him warily for a beat. “Any of the people you want to protect… That’s pretty specific.” He slowly lowers himself back into a seated position and props his arm up on his knee, carefully casual. He doesn’t let his gaze wander from the boy across from him. “So, what? Toshinori told me that you wanted to be a hero, but you’ll be a pretty lame one if there’s a chance you might harm the civilians you don’t agree with.”

Midoriya’s head snaps up and something in his eyes ignites. “I will protect everyone I want to protect.”

… There’s something I’m missing here, Gran thinks quietly. The statement is the same, but there’s a hidden meaning to his words that he can’t grasp... Or is perhaps purposely left that way.

“Okay. Let’s say for a moment that you really aren’t some new project of All for One’s,” Gran says. The twitch at the name is minute, but noted. “You still need to convince me that you aren’t. Prove it.”

Midoriya narrows his eyes. “You say ‘prove it’, but there’s nothing for me to ‘prove’ with. In the hypothetical situation of me being his pawn, I would be prepared to handle this sort of setback. And even if the knowledge I was provided beforehand was lacking, I’ve been under this ‘assignment’ or whatever you want to call it for years now—I’d have filled most of the holes in my supposed briefing.” He pauses, eyes skittering to the side briefly before matching Gran’s gaze. “There isn’t much I can do. You say ‘prove it’ but anything I try to prove would be more likely to incriminate than help.”

Gran can’t help it—he laughs. Midoriya jolts, clearly, surprise at the sudden sound written all over him.

It’s interesting, and a little entertaining, Gran thinks. It’s clear that Midoriya is still fairly young, but he’s certainly more than what meets the eye—whether or not he’s someone to be trusted aside. At the very least, he doesn’t see Gran Torino as anything less than someone who could be a real thorn in his side.

(Maybe… Maybe, if he really isn’t someone to worry about and is just an especially sharp kid… Maybe he’d make a good hero.)

Gran shakes his head, letting his chuckles die down. “You sure talk a lot, don’t you, kid?”

Midoriya winces, and doesn’t reply.

“How about you do that, then? Talk to me. I’ll gauge whether or not you’re someone to trust off of that.”

His brow furrows just as he opens his mouth to reply, no doubt to retort the idea. But he pauses, taking a moment to think about it. He gives a short nod. “All right.”

Gran brings his hands together in a quick, sharp clap. “Good. Now talk, boy.”

Midoriya stares at him with something like exasperation and confusion and aggravation written in the lines of his face, but if he has any questions he doesn’t voice them.

Instead, he straightens from where he is seated, and talks.

Gran Torino listens.

 


 

He feels a sharp tug on his shoulder and jolts.

“Huh? Whazzat?” Gran blinks blearily and wipes the dried spit from the corner of his mouth. Gross. As his vision clears, he sees Midoriya staring down at him, actually looking a fair bit irritated.

“... Oh. I guess I fell asleep.” He lets out a yawn as he stretches, wincing as his back realigns itself through a series of pops. “Oof. Gettin’ old.”

Midoriya’s brow spasms, and he feels the corners of his mouth twitch upwards against his will. It’s always fun to exaggerate his senility a bit, especially when he can get a rise out of the younger generations like this.

But honestly? He’d already made up his mind about the boy long before he had succumbed to the urge to nap. The only reason why he was even able to do so in the first place is because he’s confident in his judgement of the boy’s character.

He might not know all there is to know about Midoriya Izuku. He hardly knows anything from this brief meeting, really, other than the fact that the boy has a backbone, is unnaturally sharp for his age, and has way too much knowledge about one of the strongest villains in the world for Gran to be comfortable.

But he’s seen enough to know that the boy isn’t going to be a problem for him, or for Toshinori.

His old friend would laugh and say that it was worth a try.

“... You’re not going to ask?”

Gran Torino turn to Midoriya, making a show of cupping a hand around his ear. “Hm? Sorry kid, my hearing isn’t—“

“About why I’m,” Midoriya gestures to himself, “suspicious.” He pauses. “... Actually, how did you even realize that something was suspicious about me?”

Gran eyes him briefly. “... It’s in the way you act, from the way you speak to the way you carry yourself,” he relents. “You put up a pretty convincing act, yes, but it’s obvious that you’re restraining knee-jerk reactions. That, and you’re laying on the ‘young and dumb’ act a bit thick.”

Midoriya’s face flushes, and he rubs the back of his neck. “O-oh.”

“Didn’t you hear me, kid? I said to stop that.”

“... I wasn’t acting, though.”

Gran narrows his eyes. Huh. The kid is more earnest than he thought. Kinda like a young Toshinori, I guess. Just quieter.

“And to be fair, I could say the same about you.”

The mumble is quiet, but not that quiet. Gran turns to him with a sharp look. “What?”

“Nothing!” Midoriya straightens, smiling beatifically. “Nothing, it’s nothing.”

I heard you loud and clear you little brat, Gran thinks. He gives a quiet snort and shakes his head. But fine. You have a point.

He walks over to the kitchenette, gesturing for Midoriya to follow.

“To answer your question, no, I’m not going to ask. I’m not really interested in it, or you actually, beyond knowing that you aren’t a threat.” As an afterthought, “No offense to you specifically, of course.”

Emotions flitter through Midoriya’s eyes too quickly to decipher. “... Yeah.” He rolls his shoulders. “It’s pretty amazing, actually. I’m pretty sure I’ve raised some questions, but no one has actually confronted me about it until now. Despite you claiming old age and being retired, you haven’t let up on your duties as a hero. I really respect that.” The last part is said with a bright, almost blinding grin.

Old habits die hard, and I’ve lived a long, long life. Gran waves his hand dismissively. “I’d be worried about the future if you didn’t know how to respect your elders, boy. It’s good that you realize I’m still alive and kicking.”

That startles a laugh out of the boy. “I don’t doubt it! I can definitely see you pulling out your old hero habits to kick some ass.”

He lets out an undignified yelp when Gran spins around to pelt him in the shin with a plastic plate.

“NO SWEARING! You’re THIRTEEN!”

Midoriya stares at him, shellshocked, as he cradles his abused leg.

Gran Torino shakes his head, muttering about uppity teens and lost generations before shouting, “No taiyaki for you!”

He misses the fond smile Midoriya wears as he turns away.

 


 

Gran Torino and Midoriya sit at the dilapidated table with the plate of taiyaki, the former frowning down at a newspaper article and the latter not-so-inconspicuously stealing more than his fair share of the food, when the doorbell rings.

Gran slants a look at Midoriya, who freezes with his arm held tellingly over the taiyaki plate.

“... I’ll go get it,” Midoriya says, snatching his hand back and shifting to stand.

Gran rolls his eyes. “No, don’t. It’s not important.”

“But what if it’s Toshinori-san?”

“He has a key. He can open it himself.”

Midoriya glances to the door and settles back in his seat, and Gran tries to go back to frowning down at the various articles summarizing the latest in heroism and villain activity.

Key word being “tries.”

The doorbell rings insistently for the next five minutes, the intervals of silence dwindling to being less than the span of each ring -

Gran stands abruptly, throwing his newspaper on the table. “Geez, what are you, leaning on the goddamned doorbell!?” He storms up to the door, and even still the ringing persists.

He unlocks the door, scathing remark on the tip of his tongue, “Who in the HELL—what—Toshinori, did you ransack a store!?”

His former student frowns down at him, stepping past. “It took you long enough, hello to you too. I went grocery shopping since you literally kicked me out, and I know you rarely if ever have anything that isn’t instant in your stores.”

Gran’s face pinches, and he follows Toshinori into the living room. “I’m as healthy as a horse.”

“Shuuzenji-san would disagree!”

Gran blinks, turning to look at Midoriya with wide eyes. “You know…?”

The boy turns to him—Gran notices that he’s now blatantly eating his share of the taiyaki, the little brat—and nods. “Yeah. Toshinori-san took me to see her one day when I had an accident. I see her a couple times a month.” He laughs. “She’s said some pretty not-nice things about your health habits.”

Gran Torino clicks his tongue at the new bit of information as he watches the two interact. Midoriya offers Toshinori one of the taiyaki, which is declined as he pats the boy’s head. Toshinori then asks how it was here, as though Gran isn’t right here, and Midoriya says that it’s been interesting.

Well, that is one way to call it.

“Midoriya,” Gran interrupts, “do you mind putting the groceries away? I’d like to talk with Toshinori for a bit.”

Both of them give odd looks, but after a moment Midoriya easily acquiesces with a nod. He grabs the several bags worth of groceries and heads into the kitchen area as Gran and Toshinori head further into the building.

Toshinori shakes his head with a chuckle as the door closes behind him. "You seem keen on secret talks, today."

“There’ve been some signs of his influence,” Gran says instead of responding to that. Toshinori goes stock still.

“Before you panic, no, I don’t specifically mean that he’s still active, despite that being a possibility as well. I mean that there’s been quite a bit of unrest, and even your fame can’t completely get rid of it.”

Toshinori’s gaze is hard. “How did you come to this conclusion?”

A wave of a hand. “A mix of things. Keeping an eye on the reports, general villain activity, and looking for familiar patterns that you may be too busy to notice.” Gran crosses his arms. “There hasn’t really been anything major to note. I’ve been pretty content to pass it off as paranoia for a while, but I’m starting to think it’s more than that. Maybe he’s changed tactics. Maybe it’s to keep suspicion low.” A pause. “Or maybe, he has a successor.”

“A successor…” Toshinori stares hard into floorboards. “... Well, despite our conflicting ideals, he was such a powerful foe precisely because of his sphere of influence. Charismatic, you could say, even though his motivations were less than praiseworthy.”

"Even the devil has its allure," Gran mumbles. He clears his throat. “Again, it's only speculation. It wouldn’t be surprising for him to play it safe—he’s always been the kind to meticulously plot and plan. Even his existence right now is speculation. He may very well be gone.”

“But there’s still traces of his influence, which is why you told me.”

He eyes his once-student, the thinness to his wrists and the dark bruising under his eyes. “... Yes.”

They converse a bit longer along that topic, deviating a bit as the atmosphere lightens. Midoriya makes an appearance not much later, head peering around the door frame in silent question, and Toshinori gestures for him to come in before Gran can do so himself.

Midoriya smiles, says something simple that incites a small smile from Toshinori, who lightly bumps him on the shoulder in response. Gran watches the byplay and the way they interact with an assessing look.

The light fondness in his once student’s behavior, the clear, undisguised admiration and care in Midoriya’s actions… The trust. It’s an awful lot like the brief interactions Gran had seen between his old friend and Toshinori, minus the unspoken wall of professionalism she had placed between them all.

Mentor and student, but with a dynamic untethered to fear of a looming threat.

He huffs a quiet breath.

You’d tell me I’m getting soft and sentimental in my old age, he thinks. And then before I could say anything against that you’d say, ‘it’s about damn time,’ wouldn’t you?

About fifteen minutes in, as interesting it is to see his former student and his own interact, Gran steals away the plate of taiyaki that Midoriya has almost single handedly finished and decides that he’s had enough.

He starts shooing them towards the door, with a, “Go be a doting father somewhere else” directed at his student.

Toshinori almost immediately jumps into not-really denials, his agitation showing as obviously as a puffed up bird with its feathers ruffled.

“Then,” Midoriya starts, “does that make you a grandfather?”

Toshinori chokes. Gran shoots the boy a look. “Cheeky brat.”

And when Toshinori laughs, “both of you, cheeky brats!” He waves a fist in their direction, “Now get! Offa my property, you ornery brats!”

The door closes behind them, and he releases a quiet huff at the muted laughter he can hear through the wood.

He knows the jovial “Grandpa Torino” he hears isn’t his imagination, and he quietly promises to give them both hell the next time they visit.