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What Heroes Do

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Midoriya Izuku was trudging home from school, alone. This wasn't new to him. After all, Izuku had no friends in his middle school. He hadn't even had friends in elementary school. Not since everyone else started developing their quirks, and Izuku just… didn't. People weren't born equal. Some were born with great power, and with it, great responsibility. Others were born with no power, left to scrape by amidst the unnecessary cruelty of their peers. Izuku was a good student - top of his class, quiet, diligent, and kind to everyone. He loved heroes, and despite knowing that it was basically impossible to become a hero without a quirk, oh, he wanted to be a hero more than anything. Just that morning he’d been able to watch a showdown between a villain and some amazing heroes! He’d taken a lot of notes. Notes that had been mostly ruined when his notebook had been thrown in the pond by his classmates. They hadn't hurt him, this time. Well, not physically, though he still felt stung by the way the whole class had laughed when he’d declared his intent to apply to UA for high school. He wished that it had never been brought up. He sighed heavily, scuffing his shoes on the ground as he approached a dark tunnel. Just like my mood, Izuku thought glumly, before shaking those thoughts away. Who cares what they say? I gotta keep my chin up, he decided. Keep moving forward!

Lost in thought, he paid no mind to the filthy sound from behind him, until he heard a thick, soupy voice slur, “Aha, a medium-sized disguise…

Startled, Izuku glanced back over his shoulder, spying a gloppy, slimy thing oozing up through the holes in a nearby manhole cover. The thing was towering over him, it's crazed eyes filled with malice, it's toothy sneer sunk in an oozing, filthy orifice.

Izuku stumbled, turning to run, but he was too late, too slow, too useless . With a swirl of foul-smelling glop, the horrible creature wrapped itself around him, surrounding him like a living pit of quicksand, binding his limbs and coating him with its viscous ooze. A villain?! Izuku thought frantically, and that was all he had time to think before the slime villain had covered his nose and mouth, forcing past his lips and down his throat. He tried to scream, but everything was muffled by the crushing force of the slime villain forcing itself down his throat.

“It’s all right,” the villain purred, “I’m only taking over your body, calm down. It’ll only hurt for 45 seconds, then it’ll all be over…”

Izuku tried to cry out, even as the creature dragged him into the tunnel, where no one could see him struggle. His throat burned where the muddy sludge poured into him as his heart pounded painfully in his chest. You have to save me, he thought, struggling uselessly against the creature, did no one expect this, this thing to come this way? As panic began to set in at the realization that no hero was coming to save him, he clawed futilely at the slime monster, who just laughed.

“You can't grab hold of me, I’m made of liquid!” the thing cackled viciously, enjoying the way Misoriya twisted and flailed, eyes wide and rolling with panic.

Oh god, Izuku thought, I can't breathe! I can't… oh god, I can't even fight back, I’m so tired… He felt his knees wobble, and he dropped his notebook, the one he'd been holding all along, the one he’d fished out of the pond… all for nothing. He was going to die here. I’m going to die, he thought, and then, Am I really going to die like this? Black spots were swimming in his vision now and he was so tired. Someone! I’m dying! His gaze landed on his notebook, which had fallen open to his costume design. I don't want to die… he thought resignedly, please…

Suddenly, an explosion rocked the street and the manhole cover went flying nearly fifty feet into the air. Izuku’s vision was growing blurry, but he saw plain as day an imposing figure with pale hair hair pointed in every direction, a dark mask across his face, grenade-styled gauntlets on his arms. The hero rose from the depths like an avenging angel, broad shoulders rippling as he pulled himself up out of the manhole and stood, the very picture of fury, pointing a finger at Izuku and snarling. “I found you, you piece of shit!” The hero pulled his hand back, making a fist, and laying a hand on his grenade gauntlet before stopping, his eyes bulging with surprise. “Shit!” he cursed again, “He got a kid?” then, “Hey kid, you still alive?”

Izuku couldn't breathe, couldn't move, but he blinked a lot.

“Shi- shoot, so any big explosions are out,” the hero grumbled under his breath before turning back to Izuku. “This might burn a little,” he warned, and then Izuku couldn't hear anything else but a high-pitched whine. He saw a white-hot flash, and felt searing heat on his face. He felt the slime creature being peeled away by the force of the blast and as the slime pulled away he fell to his hands and knees, coughing and choking and gasping for much-needed air. Dimly he could see Ground Zero - for that was the name of the hero who’d saved him - just destroying the villain until he was reduced to the size of a pet bottle. Ground Zero sealed him in the bottle and stared at a moment before muttering, “Huh. Guess I owe Red Riot twenty bucks now.” Then the explosive hero turned to look at Izuku, who scrambled unsteadily to his feet.

He wasn't sure whether to cry, gush, or just fall on his knees in adulation. Izuku settled for his usual reaction to high-stress situations, which was to start rambling helplessly. “Oh my god!” the curly-haired boy gasped, “You're the celebrated rookie hero, Ground Zero!” he beamed excitedly, his heart pounding wildly. He was alive! And he was meeting an amazing hero! If he were being honest with himself, he'd never really expected anything that exciting to happen to him in his entire life. You’ve been climbing the ranks faster than anyone could have predicted! The brash hero with a terrible attitude and a 100% success rate! They say you’ll even surpass Endeavor one day!” Izuku took a breath to continue, but was interrupted by the hero, who folded his massive arms over a sculpted chest.

“I’ll fuc- fudging surpass All Might too, just you watch,” Ground Zero told him with a glower. “None of this second best business for me.”

Izuku frowned. “You can't surpass the symbol of peace,” he told Ground Zero solemnly, surprised that the hero hadn't realized this. No one could surpass All Might!

Ground Zero sputtered for a moment, then scowled at Izuku, “The fu-fudge kinda ungrateful nerd are you?”

Izuku blinked. “I’m sorry…?” he could feel his stomach twisting into knots already. “It's just that All Might is so amazing, and you're amazing too, I guess, but he's All Might, and I - don't touch that! ” he yelped as Ground Zero swooped down, picking up his ruined notebook.

“Jeez, kid, what did you do to this thing?” the pro hero asked absently, scarlet eyes darting back and forth as he flicked through the pages.

Izuku felt mortified. “I, I didn't do anything,” he protested weakly.

“Hmm,” Ground Zero commented noncommittally, before glancing up at Izuku and shaking his head. “Fuuu- fudge, kid, you are obsessed.” He closed the notebook, and eyed the cover. “Hero Analysis for the Future - number thirteen? Dam - ehrm - darn! You’ve put a lot of work into this, kid. I’m impressed.” He handed it back with a smirk, but it wasn't a mean-spirited smirk. “You applying to UA?” he asked.

Dumbfounded, Izuku nodded. Ground Zero thought my hero notebook was impressive! I can't believe it!

“It's a good school,” Ground Zero said, white teeth flashing into a predatory smile. “I was their best student.”

Somehow, Izuku doubted that was the case, but it felt rude to say as much, so he just nodded again.

Ground Zero preened, then, with a small frown of confusion, he broke the dreaded question. “So what’s your quirk, kid?”

Izuku felt his face begin to burn. “I, uh. I don't have a quirk.” He couldn't look Ground Zero in the eye.

“Huh.”

That wasn't the reaction Izuku had expected, so he looked up, surprised.

“There's lots of ways to be a hero…” Ground Zero began, then stopped. “Fuck it. I mean - shit, Fudge - I mean shoot! Goddammit. I mean goshdarn-”

“Kids swear in school all the time,” Izuku told Ground Zero. “I’ve heard worse, trust me.”

“Ah, thank fuck,” Ground Zero exploded. He crouched down so that he and Izuku were eye-to-eye. “Here’s the thing, kid. Without a quirk, you're fucked. Hell, even with a quirk. This job fucks with you on so many levels. It's great and shit, but it sucks ass too.” He shrugged. “You're shit outta luck without a quirk, and that's frankly a goddamn waste because you have a lot of knowledge and good instincts if that book of yours is any indication.” He stood up again, towering over him at full height. “I hate saying this, especially to kids, but… No, it’s never going to happen, you don't have what it takes, find a fulfilling job you’d actually be fucking good at.”

Izuku winced. That want at all what he’d wanted to hear. “Are you sure someone without a quirk has no chance-?”

“Fuckin’ most of the population doesn't have what it takes,” Ground Zero growled. “Get over yourself.” He turned to walk away, then paused. “Good luck, kid.” And then he jumped up, blasting off with his quirk to propel himself upwards like a human jetpack. Izuku watched him go, feeling as if he’d won the lottery and been bankrupted all within the span of five minutes.

With a sigh, he tucked his notebook under his arm and continued the long trek home. He knew he shouldn't have applied to UA, but he had to. What other choice did he have? He knew he couldn't be anything else. He needed to be a hero! He had to be! He felt something wet trickle down his cheek and he swiped at it curiously before realizing with a start that he’d begun to cry.

God, he was pathetic. Ground Zero was right, he didn't have what it took to be a hero. But dammit, he was going to try anyway! Because that, well...

That’s what heroes do. And no matter what anyone said, Izuku was going to be a hero someday.