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old light still slants through

Chapter Text

Izuku has always been good at paying attention.

It’s just something about the way he is. He channels it into the way that he analyzes Quirks, but there’s a part of him that simply pays attention to the world around him. It means Mom trusts him to take care of himself. She knows how good he is at staying out of trouble (mundane trouble, at least; Kacchan can sometimes be harder to predict and avoid) and tries not to worry when he chases after heroes.

It’s not a Quirk. Izuku pays attention to everything, even the things that normal people don’t, and it gives him an edge — he doesn’t trip over cracks, he tracks rubble from hero fights as they fly toward the crowd, he knows when someone sticks out a leg to trip him while he’s “distracted” or tries to creep up on him.

But it’s not a Quirk.


“A Quirkless loser like you could never get into Yuuei,” Kacchan snarls in his face. “If you want a Quirk so bad, why don’t you take a leap of faith off the roof and see if you get one in your next life?”

You shouldn’t say things like that, Kacchan, Izuku thinks, fishing his notebook out of the pond. What if I took you up on it? What would you do then?

(Something colder and angrier than he is stirs beneath the surface of his mind, but settles down just as quickly.)

Izuku stares up at the roof.

He doubts that Kacchan would try to save him. Kacchan wouldn’t hold out a hand and tell Izuku not to jump. He wouldn’t tell him—

Izuku shakes his head.

(Don’t do it, Yamamoto—!)

He starts walking home.


Izuku has nightmares.

They were worse when he was younger, his mom tells him. Mom was so scared that there was something wrong with him, but he slowly grew out of them. That’s a little true, but the real truth of it is that he got better at hiding them, so Mom didn’t have to worry about him.

Izuku can’t even remember most of his nightmares. What little he does, doesn’t make much sense.

They’re all disjointed flashes: blurred voices, blood, an endless stretch of clear skies—

And fire.

Everywhere.

Mom says his dad could breathe fire. Izuku doesn’t really remember him, either, and he doesn’t think his father accounts for the fire in his nightmares (he hopes his father doesn’t account for the fire in his nightmares), but for a long time he wanted to believe that maybe his Quirk would be fire like his father’s.

The nightmares were better when he believed they were a sign.

Now he wakes up in the middle of nights, tears gathering in his eyes as the nightmares leave him reaching for something that he can never have.

(Reaching for something/someone/somewhere that is gone and never coming back.)

Izuku doesn’t have a Quirk.


Izuku doesn’t take the route he usually does. He feels too disquieted. He doesn’t want to face his mom like this.

Kacchan is wrong, he tells himself. I can at least try.

I have to try.

Izuku wants to be a hero.

(Reborn, I don’t want to be—)

It’s everything he’s ever dreamed of. Everything other than the nightmares, or the nightmares-that-aren’t-nightmares, the ones where it’s only him and the soaring blue of a clear sky and the freedom to go wherever he wants.

Izuku forces himself to smile and laugh, the way that All Might always does.

I’m going to try, and you can’t stop me, Kacchan, Izuku thinks fiercely as he walks through the underpass.

Something scrapes behind him.

(Run! something inside Izuku screams.)

Izuku turns.


It’s just Izuku and Mom and their cat at home.

Izuku has something of a habit of finding hurt animals and bringing them home. He and Mom patch them up as well as they can, if they can, or take the animals to someone who can help if they can’t.

None of them stay until one of them does. He’s a rangy, underfed kitten that keeps showing up at their door for days after his leg has healed. Izuku looks at Mom and Mom looks back at him.

Izuku names him Natsu.


“You’ll do,” the sludge-monster says, and Izuku doesn’t have time to do more than throw his hands up in a futile warding gesture before the monster is upon him.

He should have taken the chance to run, but now there’s no way. The sludge is immobilizing him, and it’s forced its way into his mouth. It’s crawling down his throat and into his lungs and he’s drowning.

He’s drowning, clawing at the gunk around his mouth to try to free himself, and the sludge monster is laughing.

“Just give in, kid,” the monster says. “I promise it won’t hurt.”

Izuku panics even more at that, because it’s lying and he knows it’s lying and the worst part is that black is encroaching on the edges of his vision.

He’s going to die here.

He’s going to die here, and this monster is going to ride around in his skin, and his mom might never know what happened to him. This thing is going to kill him to continue to get away with its crimes, and there’s nothing Izuku can do about it.

Izuku’s sob doesn’t even register against the writhing mass.

I don’t want to die, he thinks, staring with fading vision toward the end of the underpass and the blue sky that will be the last thing he ever sees. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die!

Why don’t you let me help you with that? says a voice in the back of his head.

Everything around Izuku is dark now, but in the middle of the darkness, there is a light.

A Flame.

With the fraying thread of the connection Izuku still has with his body, he can feel his hands move without his control into a shape that is both unfamiliar and undeniably right.

Zero Point Breakthrough, murmurs the voice. First Edition.

Chapter Text

Toshinori pulls himself up and out of the sewers just in time to see the sludge villain he'd been chasing be encased in a huge block of ice. It's very precise work, enough so that he immediately looks for the hero who must have done it, except--

There is no hero, because the only person in this underpass is the hostage that froze his kidnapper around himself.

Shit, Toshinori thinks, and immediately leaps forward to help free the kid. The ice was obviously a last ditch effort — and more than likely a large amount of panic — so the kid may have stopped the villain, but he can neither free himself nor, Toshinori notes grimly, breathe. The villain had covered the kid's mouth and nose.

Toshinori isn't careful as he breaks the kid free. It's more important to make sure that the kid is able to breathe than it is to worry about the harm he might be causing the villain.

Finally, after what feels like far too long, the boy is free. He's shaking from the cold, spitting clumps of ice out of his mouth. He stumbles a few steps away from the villain, falls to his knees, and then starts throwing up a concerning amount of sludge.

He needs a hospital, Toshinori judges grimly, and the whole situation was worse than he thought. The villain wasn't simply taking a hostage and uncaring of whether or not his hostage could breathe; there was no doubt a much more sinister motive at hand, and the absolute worst of it is that it could have worked.

The kid has stopped vomiting. Deep, wracking coughs have replaced it, with an underlying wheeze to them. The kid's head it still bowed, hair nearly dipping into the muck beneath him.

"Are you all right?" Toshinori asks, crouching down and reaching out to help the kid to his feet.

The boy looks up.

Toshinori hadn't paid much attention while he was trying to free the boy, but now he sees that what had been a barely noticeable ember nestled in the boy's hair is now a bright orange flame, which neatly matches the molten eyes that meet Toshinori's.

Endeavor's son...? Toshinori wonders, because he has never met Endeavor's youngest himself, but the only child he knows of with a Quirk of both fire and ice is young Todoroki. This boy can't be that one, though; Toshinori has seen a few press photos — and paparazzi shots — of Endeavor's family, and green hair is about as far from that family's coloring as possible.

The boy doesn't answer his question, simply accepts Toshinori's outstretched hand with a fever-hot hand of his own as another coughing fit wracks him. He seems surprisingly steady on his feet as he stares past Toshinori at the iced-over villain.

"Are you here to deal with him?" the boy asks. His voice is quieter and calmer than Toshinori expected, though that might be in part because of the trauma.

"Yes," Toshinori says. He’s a little surprised the boy has to ask. Then, because the boy is frowning, he adds, "You won't be in trouble for illegal Quirk usage. It's a clear case of self-defense."

The boy looks down at his hands. Flickers of flame dance around his fingers, melting what shards of ice remain on them.

"The ice won't melt," he says. "Not unless I do it myself."

The boy doesn't wait for Toshinori to reply, simply steps forward with a look of intense concentration on his face, the flame in his hair pulsing as he holds his hands out in front of him—

And then the flame abruptly gutters out, the kid's eyes slide closed, and he collapses.


Izuku wakes up.

He’s staring up at a white ceiling. Something is beeping next to the bed he’s on.

Am I…in the hospital?

His head hurts. His hands hurt. He feels all over awful, especially when he breathes—

Because the sludge villain was drowning him.

He sits bolt up right and regrets it when he immediately doubles over into a coughing fit. And once he starts coughing, he can’t seem to stop, he can barely breathe between the coughs, until he feels like he’s drowning all over again—

Someone is rubbing their hand over his back. The panic slowly recedes, and the coughing slowly dies down as well. Izuku can breathe again, even if there’s an uncomfortable tickle at the back of his throat that tells him he’s not safe from another coughing fit if he isn’t careful.

“Izuku, baby, are you all right?” Mom asks him. Her hand is still resting on his back.

Izuku lifts his head and looks at her. Mom looks drawn and pale, her clothes rumpled and her eyes red-rimmed. She smiles tremulously at him.

Izuku bursts into tears.

Mom holds him while he cries, saying meaningless things he doesn’t pay attention to, even — especially — when the tears and hitching breath start another coughing fit that it takes him a long time to come out of. All that matters is that she’s there. He was so scared he was never going to see her again. He was so scared he was going to die. He—

He doesn’t remember what happened.

Mom has him drink some water when he’s finally calmed down, and Izuku can feel himself drifting away again. He’s so tired.

“Stay here?” he asks. He’s holding one of her hands in his, though his is lightly bandaged. He can’t imagine from what.

“Of course,” Mom said, and she’s crying a little. “I’ll be right here when you wake up again.”


Izuku had been asleep for almost three days by the first time he’d woken up, the doctor tells him the next time he’s awake. For much of that time, he had been running a fever; Izuku had developed pneumonia, which was why he kept coughing and part of why he felt so generally miserable. He would need to stay in the hospital for a while longer as a result.

“What about my hands?” Izuku asks.

“Minor frostbite,” says the doctor. “Don’t worry, they shouldn’t even leave scars.”

That’s not Izuku’s most pressing concern. What matters to him is that he doesn’t know why he would have frostbite in the first place. Off the top of his head, he can’t think of any pro heroes that are active in this region that have an ice Quirk, so it’s unlikely that someone stepped in. No one at his school has an ice Quirk, either. It could have been some random passerby, but something about that idea seems wrong to him.

Izuku just doesn’t know.


The next morning, someone follows Mom into Izuku’s hospital room. He takes a seat next to Mom, pulling out a notebook and a pencil.

“Hello,” he says, smiling. “My name is Tsukauchi Naomasa. I’m a detective with the police and I wanted to talk to you about what happened a few days ago.”

“Okay,” Izuku says agreeably.

“Do you mind walking me through what happened beforehand?” Tsukauchi asks, pencil ready.

“I was walking home from school,” Izuku says. “I — I took a different route than usual because I…” He pauses, unsure of how he wants to put this, before  he says, “I got into an argument with a…friend…and I wanted to walk it off.”

“It was that Bakugou again, wasn’t it?” Mom says, frowning.

Izuku doesn’t answer, and that’s answer enough. He turns back to Tsukauchi and continues. “I was walking through the underpass. I heard something behind me and I turned and then…” He draws his knees up to his chest. It doesn’t matter if it makes it a little harder to breathe. He needs the comfort more than he cares about that. “He said I’d do, and then he…he attacked me, and I, uh…I couldn’t…I couldn’t…” He scrubs at his eyes, trying desperately not to start crying in front of the detective.

“Is that when you used your Quirk?” Tsukauchi asks.

Izuku stares at him. “…What?” he says blankly.

“It’s clear you used it in self-defense, we just need a clear outline of the events as they took place,” Tsukauchi says patiently. “The witness on the scene—”

“No, I don’t think you understand,” Izuku says, dazed. “I don’t have a Quirk.”

Chapter Text

“Midoriya says he’s Quirkless,” Naomasa tells Toshinori later.

Toshinori raises an eyebrow at him.

“He was telling the truth,” Naomasa says. He frowns, thinking back to the conversation in the hospital room. “Or at least what he thinks the truth is. He also says — truthfully — that he doesn’t remember meeting you.”

A fact over which the boy had been exceptionally distraught. It seemed that Midoriya was a large fan of All Might’s.

“I had a conversation with him,” Toshinori says. “And he told me that the ice wouldn’t melt without him, which has thus far proven true.”

“I know,” Naomasa says. They’d called in Endeavor eventually, but even the Number Two hero’s flames weren’t able to melt the ice. In the end, they had simply chipped at the edges of the ice fastening the villain to the wall and ground until they could take him away, still encased in his ready-made prison cell. Naomasa has to admit, as far as Quirks went, unmeltable ice is a good one for hero work.

Except for how Midoriya can’t remember having done it.

“Do you think he blocked it out from trauma?” Naomasa asks.

Toshinori shakes his head. “He was calm when he talked with me,” he says. “Very calm. It’s possible that he can’t remember now because of trauma, but—” He’s not quite frowning as he thinks about it. “I don’t know.”

“Well,” Naomasa says, “I hope he remembers how to use his Quirk at some point. If the kid has any ambition for heroics, that Quirk would be a great one for it.”

(They should probably hope that Midoriya does figure out his Quirk, if only so that they can free the sludge villain from his prison and give him a proper trial. On the other hand, Naomasa doesn’t feel too bad about it, given that the villain had been attempting murder when he was summarily frozen by his would-be victim.)

Toshinori nods, but his gaze looks a little distant. He’s been checking up on Midoriya since the kid landed in the hospital. Naomasa knows that no matter how long Toshinori has been All Might, it’s always the hurt children that get to him most. Naomasa feels the same way. It’s certainly a relief that the kid is finally awake.

“Take care of yourself, Toshinori,” Naomasa says as he leaves.

Toshinori grins at him in response, and Naomasa hates how he knows Toshinori will do absolutely no such thing.


Izuku stares down at his still bandaged hands after Detective Tsukauchi leaves.

“An ice Quirk, then,” Mom says, sounding thoughtful and maybe a little confused.

“I have a Quirk,” Izuku says, mostly blank. It still hasn’t entirely sunk in. He can’t believe it. He doesn’t know how to believe it, because, well, it’s impossible.

It should be impossible. Izuku has the extra toe joint. It’s been fourteen years, why had his Quirk never manifested before this, why had there never been any sign, why—

Izuku buries his head in his knees and lets the sobs shake him again.

He doesn’t even know what he’s feeling this time. He’s torn between relief, because if it’s true and he really does have a Quirk, then he can be a hero, applying to Yuuei won’t just be a pipe dream, he might actually be a hero

And on the other hand, Izuku is freaking the hell out, because he doesn’t remember using his Quirk. He remembers up until that very last moment, the moment when he was so sure he was going to die, and he thinks that just before everything went away, there was something, but it dances just out of his reach. Was that his Quirk?

What if he can never figure out how to use it again? What if this was a one-off? What if Detective Tsukauchi and All Might were mistaken and it wasn’t his Quirk, what if it was someone All Might didn’t see in the underpass and Izuku is always going to be the same Quirkless dreamer he’s been his whole life?

It hurts so much to hope.

He doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to hope, in case it turns out that he’s wrong, that they’re all wrong.

It hurts.

Mom settles on the edge of his bed, wrapping one arm around his shoulder. She’s always been there for him. He’s wished for years that she had told him what he wanted to hear, that day when he was diagnosed as Quirkless, but in all that time he has never doubted that she loves him. She’s always trying her hardest, helping him with small heroics like their injured animals, allowing him to go running out chasing after hero fights, encouraging him to learn and grow and do his best.

She, besides Izuku, is the one who knows best just how much the hope this gives him hurts.

“I—I—I,” Izuku tries to say, tries to explain himself through the tears.

“It’s okay, Izuku,” Mom says, running her hand through his hair. “It’s going to be okay.”


That night, Izuku dreams.

He stares up at the endless sky overhead, and he doesn’t look at the fire dancing everywhere around him. Something tells him that if he looks around, he won’t see any of the bodies or blood he can faintly remember from other nightmares, but he still doesn’t dare. He doesn’t want to look at the fire.

Ice Quirk, ice Quirk, he thinks. If it’s anything, it’s an ice Quirk.

So why does he always dream of fire?

“Hello,” someone says behind him.

Izuku turns.

A man is standing in the flames, and one of those flames is dancing on his forehead. His eyes match the fire, a burnished orange that should be odd or disquieting but instead seems strangely — comforting.

“Who are you?” Izuku asks.

The man smiles. “An echo. A memory. A ghost.” The smile fades. He looks sad. “You can call me Tsuna.”

“Where did you come from?” Izuku asks. “Why are you — here?”

Tsuna winces. “I’m here because this is the only place I exist now,” he says. “And even here — this is only an impression of who I was, wrapped in the Flames that are yours now. I’m not exactly a real person anymore.”

“So you’re…”

“Dead, yes,” Tsuna says.

Izuku takes half a step back.

Tsuna looks so sad. “I would never want to hurt you,” he says gently. “My time has passed. I suppose I’m only here to…guide you. Help you.”

…let me help you with…?

Izuku squeezes his eyes shut, even in the dream, to follow that thought. He can tell, he just knows, that that’s what he was missing earlier. What Tsuna just said, he was echoing—

Tsuna was repeating—

“Sorry,” Tsuna says. Izuku’s eyes pop back open. Why don’t you let me help you with that? “You passed out, but you really didn’t want to die. I shouldn’t have pushed you for Zero Point Breakthrough, but it was the only way to be sure.” He pauses, and says, with an almost amused slant, “Congratulations on waking your Dying Will Flames.”

“Dying…Will Flames?” Izuku repeats. “Was that your Quirk, when you were…” And he gestures vaguely at Tsuna, floundering on saying ‘alive,’ because he really can’t bring himself to say out loud that he’s talking with a ghost. Who is (not-)living in his body.

“I suppose. We didn’t call them Quirks then. There.” Tsuna sits down on the ground, flames around him dying out and clearing away until they’re in a small park that Izuku has never been to but for some reason feels familiar. He gestures for Izuku to join him.

Izuku hesitates for a long moment, looking around the park. He knows it, he does. He’s never seen it before in his life.

“You talk like you were a real person,” he says. “So all the — the nightmares, the things I can’t remember, is that — is this —?” But like the way he can’t bring himself to say ‘ghost,’ he similarly can’t float this other insane idea.

“I was a real person,” Tsuna says. “I’m sorry for the nightmares.” He grins, a little wry, and says, “I don’t have all the answers to what you want to know, but in my experience, the world can be a very strange place.” He sighs, gesturing at the new grass in front of him again. “Sit, and I’ll explain what I can.”

Chapter Text

“So why couldn’t I remember any of this before? And why had I never met you before?” Izuku asks, after Tsuna has explained a few things to him.

“You were passively using your Flames, they weren’t active yet. Without active Flames, you would have no reason to meet me. As for the nightmares, I’m sorry. The main part of what was ‘me’ is now you, and I’m guessing that because of the Flames, things got…knocked loose that shouldn’t have been.”

“And I’ll be able to use these Flames—”

“Sky Flames.”

“—Right, Sky Flames without you taking over again?”

“Unless you pass out in the middle of a fight again, I don’t think it will be a problem.”

Izuku considers him for a long moment. Tsuna stares back at him calmly. “…You’re part of the Flames. My Flames. Are you always going to be here?”

Tsuna laughs a little. “A good question,” he says, looking down at his hands. There are gloves on them that Izuku hadn’t noticed before, gloves that look like they were made for fighting. He blinks, and the gloves are gone, leaving a ring sitting on Tsuna’s right hand instead. “I don’t know.”

Izuku nods thoughtfully. Tsuna’s explanation had involved a quick rundown of how Flames worked and an even more barebones explanation of who and what he had been before — before this. It’s a lot to process.

“Were you really a mafia boss?” Izuku asks plaintively. He wants to be a hero. He doesn’t particularly like the fact that he was a criminal in his past life.

“We were back to being vigilantes by the end of it all,” Tsuna says, almost cheerfully, but there’s a raw hurt scraping away at his voice underneath everything else. He hasn’t mentioned how he died, and Izuku hadn’t wanted to ask.

Izuku thinks he can pull the picture together well enough from what he remembers of the nightmares.


Tsuna and the park fade away from Izuku, and he doesn’t dream any more that night.

(Tsuna lays back, staring up at the soaring sky, and he laughs. “If you could see me now,” he says, and he wishes it were rain on his face.

He wishes the sky were anything but empty.)


The hospital releases Izuku a few days later. Between the healing Quirks some of the doctor posses and the antibiotic regimen he’s been on, he’s well on his way to recovery. Of course, they tell him, that doesn’t meant that he can go back to school immediately; he’s supposed to wait a few days more, maybe even a week, to be safe. He absolutely should not strain himself, while at home and when he’s capable of going back to class, and he needs to keep taking the medicine they’ve prescribed him.

Detective Tsukauchi visits again before Izuku leaves, but he’s just checking in on Izuku. The police have all they need from him, and even if Izuku knows what happened now, he can still truthfully say he can’t recall what happened with the sludge villain. Tsuna has told him, but he doesn’t remember it himself.

It’s nice of the detective to check on him, though.

Mom listens to the doctor’s instructions intently. Izuku’s almost surprised she isn’t taking notes, but then again, he gets his memory from her. He resigns himself to living on the couch for the foreseeable future, where his mom can check on him easily.

He knows he still has some healing to do — he’s still short of breath too easily, he’s still coughing a lot — but he wishes he could just go back to school. He wishes things could go back to normal immediately, and maybe then he wouldn’t have to deal with the fact that he was almost—

That someone tried to—

He knows what the sludge villain was trying to do. He’s living with the consequences. He faced the facts in that underpass, and there’s a reason they’re called Dying Will Flames.

He knows all this, but the moment he tries to think about it objectively, his throat closes up in panic and he can’t breathe anymore, just like then.

So he tries not to think about it.


Izuku spends a long week at home, most of it on the couch or in bed, Natsu curled on top of him. He watches movies or simply channel-flips until he finds something of interest. He analyzes what hero fights he catches on the news, working around Natsu batting at his pencil and notebook, and he tries not to want too hard to be out there watching the fights in person.

Sometimes he escapes to his dreams, finding his way back down to where Tsuna is. He asks questions, but other times he simply lays back in the imaginary grass of the park that Tsuna seems to favor, and they stare up at the sky together. It’s an unbroken, almost painful blue from horizon to horizon. No sun, no clouds, no weather of any kind, all the light coming from the flickering orange Flames that edge the park and the boundaries of these dreams.

“We aren’t meant to be alone,” Izuku thinks he hears Tsuna say quietly at one point. He turns his head to look at Tsuna, who has one gloved hand thrown over his eyes. He doesn’t say anything else, and Izuku pretends he doesn’t see the faint track of tears down Tsuna’s face.

Somehow, it’s that moment that it hits Izuku the hardest that Tsuna was a real person, and there are real people he misses.

The nightmares are never distinct enough for full memories, but the sense of them lingers. The sense of something and someone that was never coming back, a sense that Izuku has felt his whole life and never known the meaning of.

Izuku looks away.


He tries researching it, of course he does.

Tsuna has told him enough and Izuku has put together enough other information on his own that he can start searching. The problem isn’t the information he has. The problem is the information that the world has left. The appearance of Quirks threw the whole of the world into chaos; Izuku has heard it said before that society could have achieved interstellar travel by now, if not for Quirks, and as he delves more and more into that turning point of history, looking for Tsuna and the people he lost, the more he believes it.

He finds information about the Vongola family, a centuries long stretch as the reigning monarchs of the mafia, and then he finds the way that they slowly changed. Information around that time starts to get sketchy, but what little he can find lends truth to Tsuna’s words. The information only becomes sketchier, though, because that time is when Quirks start becoming more and more public. More people have them, panic starts to rise, and no one is able to hold it together. Vongola and something called the Foundation try to keep everything from falling apart in both Italy and — interestingly — Japan, but they were ultimately unsuccessful.

It was blood-soaked chaos, and Izuku has the unsettling feeling that maybe those nightmares of incessant blood and death weren’t ever about the mafia at all.

Chapter Text

Mom finally allows Izuku to go back to school on Monday.

“Call me if you can’t make it through the day,” she says, straightening his uniform worriedly. “If you have to come home, it’s fine. The doctors said not to strain yourself.”

“Okay, Mom,” Izuku says.

“And be careful when you do come home, whatever time of day it is,” Mom continues. “Don’t go —” She swallows convulsively. “Stay in crowds, if you can. Nowhere deserted. Be careful, Izuku.”

“I will,” Izuku says.

And he is. He is. It’s a little strange, at first, being back. There’s an odd disconnect after being gone for two weeks, but more disconcerting than that is the way people are staring at him. His shoulders move up to hunch around his ears. A few of his classmates are whispering things to each other that he can’t make out.

He ignores them as well as he possibly can.

He copies down everything his teachers say. He doesn’t speak unless a teacher calls on him. He eats lunch alone and shoots off a quick text to his mother.

It’s a frighteningly normal day, except for the way that Kacchan doesn’t look at him once.


He should have known it was too good to last.

“The fuck did you piss off to for two weeks, Deku?” Kacchan asks at the end of the day, looming over him and leaning into Izuku’s personal space. Izuku looks up from where he’s stuffing pencils into his backpack. He meets Kacchan’s red, red eyes.

Izuku should be scared. He should be flinching back. He should answer Kacchan.

Instead, he thinks, for the first time since he left the hospital, for the first time that it happened—

I almost died.

And once he thinks it, there is no going back. It’s a loop in his mind, the damning words thought over and over again.

I almost died, I almost died, I almost died—

Someone tried to kill me.

I almost died because someone tried to kill me .

…you can scream at me and you can hate me and you can hurt me, Kacchan, but I don’t think you scare me like you used to.

Izuku blinks slowly, coming back to himself. Kacchan, scowling, is still waiting for him to answer.

“The hospital,” Izuku says. He stands, caught in the grip of some unnatural calm, gathers up his backpack, and walks out of the classroom.


(Izuku doesn’t pay attention to the way that Bakugou watches his back as he leaves, brow furrowed, face set in something between anger and — guilt.

Izuku doesn’t know that his teacher stood in front of the class two weeks ago, calling roll and noting mostly to himself that of course Midoriya wouldn’t be here, he was still in the hospital. When people start to ask questions after a few days of Midoriya being gone — not because they care, simply because it’s strange he’s in the hospital — their teacher doesn’t have an answer. Inko gave the school the bare minimum as she clutched her son’s hand in hers and prayed that he would wake up.

Izuku doesn’t know the way that rumors have been spreading for the past two weeks, when one of Bakugou’s followers let slip to the wrong person that Bakugou told Deku to kill himself after school, the day Deku ended up in the hospital. Bakugou screams at him for it, and Bakugou screams even more because not even Deku would be weak enough to actually —

Bakugou sits next to an empty desk for two weeks and tells himself that this wasn’t his fault, dammit.

Izuku has lost weight by the time he’s come back to school, he still looks ill, and he’s tired. He’s so tired.

Someone tried to kill him.

He ignores the whispers and stares and he looks past everyone with tired eyes. The bandages have been removed from his hands for days, but he flexes them because his fingers still hurt a little. There are no scars on his face or on his hands.

All his scars are on the inside.

Izuku meets Bakugou’s gaze with his tired, empty eyes, and then he walks away.)


“You said I could use the Flames myself,” Izuku says, when school is done for the week. He curls on his bed, drifting down to where Tsuna is. He doesn’t have to be asleep to do this, but it’s easier, and he’s still so tired all the time. Mom spends a lot of time fretting over him, but he can’t stay away from school. A week was pushing it; he would go mad if Mom tried to keep him away. The lingering effects of the pneumonia don’t matter, as long as he can get out of the house.

Being back in class has reminded him of how much work he has to do if he’s thinking about applying for Yuuei. His teachers provided him make up work while he was sick, and he’s been given extensions on several assignments, but studying isn’t the only thing that will help him get into Yuuei.

He needs to figure out how to use his Quirk.

“Yes,” Tsuna says. He’s seated at the edge of a cliff, his legs dangling over the edge as he looks out over the sprawling, orange-tinted forest below. Izuku is sitting next to him. If he squints, he thinks he can see a town in the distance.

Namimori, something tells him. He closes his eyes, shakes his head slightly to clear it, and then looks over at Tsuna.

“Will you help me?” Izuku asks.

Tsuna smiles. “You’ll need to train. Hard.” There is something in his expression that screams to Izuku how incredibly amused Tsuna is by this, before the man sobers and says, “Unless you want to pass out again like the last time.”

Well, the last time had involved Tsuna taking over his body at the very beginning of the fight, Izuku thinks, so it doesn’t really count. Still, he understands what Tsuna is saying.

“I will,” Izuku says.

“Good,” Tsuna replies, and his smile is fierce.

Izuku matches it with one of his own.

Chapter Text

Izuku has one hand braced against the trunk of a tree as he bends halfway over and tries to believe that he isn’t dying.

It’s been three weeks since the sludge villain. He’s completed all the treatment for his pneumonia, he’s been able to go back to school, he is mostly a functioning person again.

So why hasn’t this lingering cough gone away?

Probably because life hates him.

It is not, he acknowledges, helped by the fact that Tsuna is going to be putting him through a lot to work his way up to being able to use his Flames. Izuku wasn’t necessarily out of shape before Tsuna — he ran all over town keeping track of villain-hero fights, and he had never been terrible at gym class for an average, Quirkless boy — but the attack that awoke his Flames is, he’s sure, the reason why he can’t seem to catch his breath now, and it’s not helping him get back in shape after weeks of lying down trying to get better.

He is so tired of feeling like he’s about to be coughing up half a lung.

“Are you all right?” someone asks from behind him.

Wheezing a little, Izuku turns around.

A man is standing on the path, edging over the borders of it as he draws closer to Izuku. He’s tall, blond, and nearly skeletally thin —  though for all Izuku knows that last one is something related to his Quirk. He looks concerned.

“Fine,” Izuku says, though he rather ruins the effect of it by immediately falling into another coughing fit right after he says it.

“Do you have an inhaler in your backpack?” the man asks.

Izuku doesn’t have an inhaler. Izuku doesn’t need an inhaler. Tsuna had told him to run with water bottles in his backpack, which Izuku had already made use of, and because it would adjust him early on to the way that Tsuna was going to have him carrying around weights. The way that the backpack bounced against his back as he moved was incredibly annoying, but logically, Izuku knows that adding weight to carry around would only help him in the long run. As would staying properly hydrated.

“No,” Izuku says, finally managing to get control of his coughing. The man looked perilously close to pulling his backpack off of him and digging through it to help him, so he adds, “I don’t have asthma. I was sick a few weeks ago.” He muffles another light cough in his fist.

“Ah,” says the man. He gives Izuku a long look, considering, and says, almost uncertainly, “You needn’t push through if you’re still feeling unwell. Taking time to recover is—”

Izuku scowls. He can’t help himself. “I have to,” he says, and then slaps a hand over his mouth. He should not have just snapped at a stranger; if Mom were here, she would give him the disappointed face, the one that always makes him regret everything he’s ever done wrong in his life.

Surprisingly, the man lets out a small laugh.

“You are very determined,” he tells Izuku.

“Thank…you?” Izuku says, thrown off. He can tell that his face must be bright red. “And, um, thank you for being…concerned? Sir.”

“Yagi,” says the man, before looking faintly surprised at himself for saying it. A wry smile tilts at his mouth. “Yagi Toshinori.”

“Midoriya Izuku,” Izuku says, giving a slight bow.

“A pleasure to meet you, Midoriya,” Yagi says politely. He considers Izuku again and says, “The point still stands. Take care of yourself. Overworking yourself will only set you back in the long run.”

Izuku shuffles his feet. Yagi may be a stranger, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a point. Tsuna had set him a schedule, but Izuku could feel the way he was always monitoring Izuku’s health. His schedule was — very precise.

Izuku can’t stop, though.

“I have to,” Izuku says again, quieter this time. “I have to get into Yuuei. I want to be a hero.”

He doesn’t know why he’s telling Yagi this. Though he’s never kept his ambitions a secret, even when it only gave his bullies more things to throw back at him—

Quirkless Deku thinks he can actually be a hero!

(Dame-Tsuna is just about as useless as anyone can be.)

—it’s not like he usually goes blurting his ambitions out to people on the street. People sometimes ask when they see him at villain-hero fights — if they don’t simply dismiss him as a fanboy which, fair enough, he is — but if he’s asked, his habit is to nod and find a way to pull himself out of the conversation. Those kinds of conversations always leads to someone asking what his Quirk is, and Izuku gets enough disparaging comments from his classmates.

He definitely doesn’t talk to anyone about wanting to go to Yuuei. Not when everyone tells him he can’t. Not when it gets him reactions like Kacchan’s.

A Quirkless loser like you could never—

But he isn’t Quirkless. He has his Flames. He has Tsuna.

He is going to make it into Yuuei, and no one is going to stop him.

“Yuuei, huh?” Yagi echoes. There is a small smile on his face still, but it doesn’t feel mocking. “I wish you the best of luck, young Midoriya. And I suppose I’ll look forward to watching you in the Sports Festival next year.”

Izuku stares at him.

No one has ever had that much faith in him. Sometimes not even his mom, no matter how much she loves him.

And now this perfect stranger is telling him — without demanding knowledge of his Quirk, without telling him how difficult it will be to do — that he believes Izuku can make it into Yuuei.

Izuku desperately wills himself not to cry as he bends low and says, “Thank you, Yagi-san!”


Izuku doesn’t quite drift through school, but it’s a close thing. He pays attention to his teachers, even as he’s sticking to Tsuna’s schedule and also working on other projects and research that will help him get into Yuuei. Other than that —

He can’t really bring himself to care anymore.

It’s not like he ever had friends in this school anyway. The whispers that followed him his first week back have died down by now, and everyone seems to have reversed their interactions with him. Instead of seeking him out, they avoid him instead.

He doesn’t understand it, but he doesn’t put too much effort into figuring it out, either. Izuku doesn’t mind it at all.


(Izuku is too distracted to notice the way that Bakugou never looks at him anymore.)


“So when do you think I’ll be able to use the — my Flames?” Izuku asks one afternoon, after he’s finished his homework and his workout. He still stumbles a bit sometimes thinking of them as his. He’ll need to get over that.

They’re eight months out from the Yuuei entrance exams.

“Well, I’m still trying to figure that out,” Tsuna confesses. He laughs at the expression on Izuku’s face. “Don’t worry. It’s a just question of how to best induce Dying Will Mode.” He stares out over the forest, leaning back on his hands. They’re sitting on the edge of the cliff again. “My teacher — well, for starters, he had a physical body. He also had Dying Will Bullets. He could just shoot me to induce Dying Will Mode and train me that way.”

“Um,” Izuku says. Sometimes he forgets Tsuna was mafia. Then he says disturbing things like that and Izuku is reminded all over again.

Tsuna ducks his head slightly to disguise his amused smile. “I had some issues with my Flames,” he says, looking back at Izuku, and his voice is light but there’s a darkness behind his eyes. “It was also the fastest way for me. You don’t have that trouble. I’m pretty sure we can work together to call out your Flames; it shouldn’t be an issue. The problem is making sure you don’t get hurt in the process.” He shrugs. “Which is why the exercise.”

That makes sense, Izuku thinks.

“So when do you think I’ll be ready for that?” Izuku asks out loud.

“Hmm,” says Tsuna thoughfully. “Who knows?”

Tsuna!” Izuku complains.

“Relax,” Tsuna says, reaching out and ruffling Izuku’s hair. He is badly covering the laughter in his voice. “There are things we can work with that don’t require you to be in Dying Will Mode.”

“Like what?” Izuku asks, batting Tsuna’s hand away. It’s not like it will translate to his physical body — and it’s not like there’s a noticeable difference given how curly Izuku’s hair is — but Izuku takes a moment to try to neaten his hair.

“Your Intuition, for one,” Tsuna says, and that — tickles something at the back of Izuku’s mind.

“My Intuition…?” Izuku echoes. His brow furrows.

“Hyper Intuition,” Tsuna says. “It was a trait of the Flame users in Vongola Primo’s line, though it would crop up occasionally in other Skies of Vongola.” His eyes fix on Izuku, watching him closely. “It was a way of sensing danger. Of being aware of everything going on in the world around you, and being able to react accordingly. It often works as an early warning system, I suppose, or helps you to pick out details that most people would push away as being unimportant.” Tsuna’s eyes are a blazing orange, intent and unwavering. “Have you ever felt anything like that, Izuku?”

Yes.

It’s in the way he’s always been so good at avoiding stumbling over cracks in the sidewalk or dodging flying rubble at villain attacks; in the way he could avoid his classmates trying to shove or trip him if he concentrated hard enough; it’s in the thrum of satisfaction he gets when he knows he’s managed to hit upon a good line of thinking and suppositions when he’s analyzing heroes’ Quirks.

It’s in the way that, in that underpass, a voice inside him screamed for him to run before he ever even turned around.

If he had listened to that voice, would it have saved him?

(If he had listened to that voice, would he have ever met Tsuna?)

Izuku had never thought that it was a Quirk. He always figured that was just the way that he was, and if he was different than everyone else — well, that was nothing new to him.

It’s all connected. It always has been connected. The good instincts and reflexes, the nightmares, the man living in his head—

It all leads back to the Flames he didn’t know he had.

It all leads back to the Quirk-not-Quirk that he’s always had, even if it took fourteen years to figure them out. Fourteen years of believing he was powerless, when if someone had looked beyond the extra toe joint, maybe they would have seen. He might never have gone Flame-active, but would they have labeled him as Quirkless?

There are intelligence enhancing Quirks. He could have played it off as that. People would have assumed it was that. Izuku would have assumed that.

They didn’t.

“Yes,” Izuku says, heart in his throat. “I know what you’re talking about.”

Chapter Text

Izuku’s training for the day can be summed up as “throwing things.”

“It’s a good way to start training your Intuition so that you’re using it actively,” Tsuna had told him in the morning, before he went off for his usual run. “Close your eyes after you throw and try to use your Intuition to figure out where things are going to fall.”

Which is how Izuku finds himself at Dagobah Beach, chucking pieces of trash at the tops of mountains of garbage.

(The minute he had mentioned Dagobah Beach to Tsuna, the man’s eyes had lit up with an unholy glee, and in hindsight that was the best training for his Intuition that day, because Izuku had a very bad feeling about that look.)

…Izuku is pretty sure that Tsuna is trying to get him to accidentally start an avalanche so he can practice his dodging.

He tosses the metal pipe in his hand up and down a few times, staring at the top of the nearest hill, then he flips the pipe to his left hand and throws. Tsuna hadn’t specifically said anything about practicing ambidextrously, but Izuku felt it had, at the very least, been implied.

Plus, his right arm was getting tired.

Izuku stares at the point on the garbage hill that he’d been aiming for and watches as the pipe hits well below it. It’s disappointing but not exactly surprising.

He sighs, closes his eyes, and tries to focus on where things are falling.


“I don’t think that actually helped me train my Intuition,” Izuku says doubtfully to Tsuna that night. He supposes his aim with his left hand had gradually gotten a bit better over the course of the day, but that hadn’t been the point of the exercise.

“Oh, no, it wasn’t meant to,” Tsuna tells him.

Izuku looks at Tsuna for a long moment, then he rolls over and buries his face in the grass of the park.

“Uuuugh,” he moans.

Tsuna pats his back, but Izuku has absolutely no doubt he’s amused by this.

“Tsuna, why?” Izuku asks, muffled by having his face pressed into the ground, and then he has to sit back up because he just got unreal grass in his mouth. He grimaces as he spits it out.

“Because you seemed pretty upset last night, and you needed to get it out,” Tsuna says, and he’s all seriousness again. There is none of the teasing from moments before in his face.

Izuku shrinks into himself. He doesn’t need some fancy Intuition to figure out that he’s disappointed his mentor.

“No, don’t,” Tsuna says, and his expression softens. He places a hand on top of Izuku’s head and sighs. “It’s all right to be upset about things. Bottling emotions up can be bad for you, and with all that life has thrown at you so far…it’s all right to be angry about it.” He seems to be looking beyond Izuku now, far beyond, to something Izuku is sure would only ever make its way to him in nightmares.

“But you can’t keep it inside and let it fester. You can’t let it consume you,” Tsuna says, almost an afterthought, and he drags his gaze back to Izuku. “You can’t let it corrupt you.”

Anger and pride make you like Kacchan, Izuku knows. Kacchan is one of the most powerful and prideful people Izuku knows, and a part of him still desperately cares for his first friend, but another part hates him for everything that Kacchan has put him through.

He can see how it would be so easy to have those feelings twisted until he turns into something terrible.

“I don’t want to be a bad person,” Izuku whispers.

“Izuku, no,” Tsuna says, looking stricken. “No, you — you’re a stronger, braver person than I was at your age. You might be braver than I ever was. I’m only telling you this because I don’t want you to get hurt.” He swipes a hand over his face. It’s ungloved this time, the ring with its blue stone always present, though this time it seems to be — split in half? “And I’m telling you this because sometimes…” Tsuna says, as he lowers his hand and stares down at the half-ring, “sometimes it’s not about you. Sometimes it just helps to understand part of why someone is hurt the way they are. Then maybe you can help them.”

“Did you know a lot of people like that?” Izuku asks, his voice still small.

Tsuna laughs unhappily. “I think every person I ever knew was hurt,” he says. “Myself included.”

The Flames at the borders of the imaginary park are flaring up. There’s darkness behind Tsuna’s eyes.

“I’m not sure I ever managed to help any of them the way I wanted. I’m not sure we helped anyone. I’m not sure we changed anything in the end, when we failed and fell—”

His voice catches. The scene wavers, fades, replaced by something that Izuku has only caught glimpses of before, blood and bodies and destruction all around him, fire caught on every surface, and Tsuna himself is—

Izuku is thrown from the dream abruptly, but not before he sees Tsuna in a way that he has never wanted to see anyone, much less his mentor.

Izuku sits bolt upright in bed, shaking.

Eventually he lays back down, curling around Natsu and taking comfort in the warmth of his cat, who is nestled up against his stomach, but Izuku doesn’t fall back asleep. 


Izuku gets up a little before his regular time, turning off his alarm clock before it can ring, and he goes on his run. It’s Monday, so he goes back home, takes a shower, and goes to school.

He walks to class and he doesn’t think about what he saw.

(He doesn’t think about red staining clothes in huge wet patches.

He doesn’t think about the gaping hole torn through where Tsuna’s throat should be, blood bubbling wetly out of it.

He doesn’t think of blank hazel eyes that have always been orange to him, Flame on Tsuna’s brow guttered fully out.

He doesn’t think about it, he doesn’t think about it, he doesn’t think about it.)


Izuku does his workout that afternoon without Tsuna’s input, following the schedule Tsuna had told him and that he had then written down in the real world. He doesn’t try to ask Tsuna anything, figuring it’s best to leave the man alone, at least for a little bit. At least until he recovers from…that.

(He doesn’t think about it.)


That night, when he reaches down into the dark, he can’t find Tsuna.

It's not only that he can't find Tsuna; he can't even find the place down inside himself where Tsuna is supposed to be. He's either been blocked or...Tsuna isn't there.

He knew that Tsuna was the one who always made that place, but he supposes he had never realized just how much Tsuna was doing to create it, holding an imaginary place together with his memories and Flames. It's always been places from Tsuna's memories; it changes a little day to day, depending on what Tsuna wants, thought he usually sticks only to the cliff or the park. Occasionally a peaceful forest clearing. Izuku has never tried to change it to fit something that he wanted it to be, rather than letting Tsuna control it all.

Now he wonders if he should have.

Now he wonders if he would have been able to.

Izuku can't reach Tsuna and he can't use his Flames. He doesn't know enough to be able to shape them in the easy way that Tsuna is able to. He can't even pull up the Flames by themselves.

He has no way to contact Tsuna, wherever he has disappeared off to.

If Tsuna has pulled himself down and away and blocked Izuku from being able to reach him, then there's nothing that Izuku can do about it.

Tsuna is gone until he wants to come back.


Izuku reaches down again later that night to find nothing. He reaches down in the morning. He reaches down that next night.

Nothing.

For the first time in almost two months, Izuku is having nightmares. He can't get away from them. They aren't being soothed away by Tsuna's gentle influence.

They aren't simply nightmares, of course. They’ve never been regular nightmares. They're memories from the part of him that used to be Tsuna, the memory-nightmares that he always has a hard time recalling in the mornings, mixed in with the outsider's perspective of Tsuna—

Tsuna, at what must have been his death.

Darting in and out of those nightmares are memories that are truly Izuku's — the unbearable weight on his lungs as he struggles to breathe around slime, that last wavering glimpse of a clear blue sky, the unshakeable conviction that he is about to die.

It would almost be better if Izuku didn't bother to sleep.


Come back, Tsuna, come back, Izuku thinks. Please, please come back.


Mom has a drawn look on her face when Izuku comes down for breakfast on Wednesday morning, freshly showered and dressed. It has been another restless night for Izuku, one where he got up earlier than his alarm again to avoid having to dream anymore. He sees the expression on her face and has to dully hope that she hasn't heard him screaming in the night.

He know he looks like a mess. Dark circles are forming themselves under his eyes, possibly worse than they've ever been in his life. Worse especially because he's been doing so much better these past few months with Tsuna's help, with the way that Tsuna holds the nightmares away.

Izuku hadn't realized how much he had been relying on Tsuna until the man left him.


Izuku waits and he waits and Tsuna doesn’t come back.

It’s been most of a week. Izuku is tired of waiting.


“Where the hell are you?” Izuku screams, throwing an empty can at the top of a hill — the last thing that Tsuna had told him to do, because maybe repetition will call him back if nothing else will — before he collapses to his knees, trying not to sob.

He fails; one hand reaches up, clenching against the front of his shirt as tears drip down to splash against the other, splayed flat in a tiny cleared out space in the middle of the trash piles on Dagobah Beach.

He keeps reaching down to find that there’s nothing reaching back to him.

Izuku doesn’t understand. Why hasn’t Tsuna returned by now? He doesn’t think it was something he did, but maybe it was. Maybe Tsuna hates him now, for having pulled up those terrible moments, for seeing what had happened.

The thought is unbearable. He wants Tsuna back.

Come back, he thinks.

“Please, come back,” he sobs aloud. “Don’t leave. You can’t leave me here alone.”

He can’t do this by himself. He doesn’t know how. Tsuna is the one who knows Flames and safe training and all about Izuku’s nightmares. Izuku can try on his own, but he’s so afraid he won’t be able to do it.

Tsuna understands him like nobody else does, because he is Izuku in a way, and he takes Izuku’s ambitions completely in stride. He’s been trying to help him as much as he can, always encouraging him while making sure he isn’t pushing Izuku too far. He’s been there every night since the hospital.

Izuku has grown too used that presence, to the encouragement, to how he doesn’t have to stifle screams in the middle of the night, to drifting down into that place where Tsuna is and feeling at peace.

Tsuna is like a strange mix of older brother and father, neither of which Izuku has ever known but has, apparently, sorely needed.

He can’t lose Tsuna. He can’t.

“Come back,” he whispers to the ground, tears slowing and drying on his cheeks. “Come back. Come back, dammit.”

Don’t you dare leave me here alone!

Come back !

Heat fills him. There’s a prodding deep in his mind, and he twists and pulls with a half-familiar motion—

His hands light on fire.

Chapter Text

Izuku dives down and down, deep into the dark.

Nothing, even as he can feel his Flames start to shape a world around him—

But that’s not what he wants.

Tsuna, where are you?

He dives further, still searching, still looking for any sign in the darkness.

Nothing, and nothing, and nothing.

Where are you?

The Flames wrapped around his hands flare brighter, illuminating the space around him slightly, and there’s nothing here, but —

In the distance, he feels an echo.

Izuku reaches. He follows that feeling, the sense of something just beyond his reach, a Flame that has just a sliver of difference from the ones he’s using. That difference makes it easy to follow, once he has a lock on what it feels like.

Found you.

The darkness breaks.

Izuku finds himself in a bedroom that he’s never seen before. It’s obviously not an adult’s room, going by the manga and schoolbooks lining the shelves and the few posters hanging on the walls, but it’s surprisingly neat. Cheery light streams through the window, and there’s a scattering of dishes and half-completed homework on the table in the middle of the room, like a whole group of people met to study and suddenly left in the middle.

And on the bed, curled in on himself with his head buried in his knees, back against the wall, is Tsuna.

This isn’t the Tsuna that Izuku knows, though.

This Tsuna isn’t wearing a fancy suit; he’s got on comfortable jeans and an orange-and-white sweatshirt. He’s here in this place instead of anywhere that Izuku and he have ever met at. And even accounting for how he’s tucked in on himself like that, Tsuna is small.

He can’t be much older than Izuku’s age.

“Tsuna,” Izuku says, kneeling in front of the bed. The Flames wrapped around his fists fade away, now that he doesn’t need them anymore, but he can still feel the one settled in his hair.

Slowly, ever so slowly, Tsuna looks up.

Countless tracks of tears have dried on his face. His eyes — mostly hazel, with only the faintest hint of orange — are red-rimmed and nearly empty. There’s a tiny ember of his Flame in his hair, but that’s it.

Tsuna meets Izuku’s eyes.

“Izu…ku?”

Izuku can’t be angry. He doesn’t think he was even angry in the first place; he was just scared, scared that Tsuna was gone. Maybe he was a little bit angry at himself, for the perceived notion that he had driven Tsuna away, but any dregs of anger he might have felt at Tsuna disappearing like that have vanished.

“Hi, Tsuna,” Izuku says.

Tsuna blinks at him slowly. Everything about him seems — slowed. Barely there. Izuku’s gaze flicks back up to the ember in Tsuna’s hair and he has the chilling thought that if his Flame goes out in this place, it might mean that Tsuna is gone. He has to stop that from happening.

“Are you okay?” Izuku asks. Foolish question to ask, maybe, but the only thing he can think of.

“Okay,” Tsuna says, and Izuku’s willing to take it as more than an echo given the faint twist Tsuna gives to the word. The kind of twist Izuku can tell means no, no, nothing is all right, nothing ever will be again, why would you ask me that?

It’s the same kind of twist Izuku occasionally buries under false cheer when Inko asks how his day has been, on some of those days when Kacchan hurts him and he hates that he doesn’t have a Quirk and he seethes because he’ll never be able to repair the friendship he’d had with Kacchan, he’ll never be able to become a hero, he’ll never—

Izuku can be angry, just like Kacchan. He tries not to show it, but sometimes he is. Tsuna was right, days ago, that he needs an outlet. He can be so angry.

Izuku never wants to worry his mom, though, so he buries any of those feelings deep down inside him under a fake smile. Except sometimes he can’t help it. It slips out.

“I figured,” Izuku says. “You…you disappeared on me, Tsuna. I was scared.”

There’s a question in Tsuna’s eyes.

“It’s Friday,” Izuku answers. “You’ve been gone five days. I couldn’t find you. You were just gone.”

The ember turns into a spark turns into a small Flame. Nowhere near the strength that it is usually, but at least Izuku can loose tensed muscles. Tsuna unfurls, moving to sit cross-legged instead of having his legs pulled up to his chest. His hands rest in his lap.

“Five days?” Tsuna asks, eyes wide. He is still a boy Izuku’s age.

“Yes,” Izuku says.

“No, I — I didn’t mean to — it can’t have been —” The Flame on his forehead is flickering wildly with distress, before Tsuna visibly reigns himself in, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. And then another, and another, until he’s nearly calm again. He opens his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Izuku,” he says. “I shouldn’t have — I didn’t mean to leave you. I should have had better control of myself.”

Izuku takes a moment to try to figure out how to say the words he wants to, before he gives it up and says, “It’s not your fault. Anyone would have to recover after remembering” — reliving — “that.” He doesn’t blame Tsuna, truly.

Apparently the same can’t be said for his mentor, because Tsuna laughs. It’s a mean thing. “I told you I was a coward,” he says. “You truly are braver than I —”

Stop it,” Izuku says. He isn’t angry at Tsuna for disappearing, but this pisses him off. It was one thing when Tsuna was trying to comfort him; it’s another entirely when Tsuna is using it to put himself down. He doesn’t get to talk about himself like that. No one does.

Izuku’s Flames flare.

Tsuna seems to notice them for the first time. His eyes go wide again.

“Izuku…” he breathes.

“Don’t talk about yourself like that,” Izuku says, and he can feel tears in his eyes. He’s only barely keeping them from falling. “Just — don’t. Don’t.”

Tsuna bows his head. “I’m sorry,” he says, staring down at his hands. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to —” And he seems to struggle for words, slow tears starting to trickle down his face again.

“It’s okay,” Izuku says. “Really, Tsuna, it is. I want you to be okay. You haven’t been for the whole time I’ve known you, and — if I can help you somehow, I want to. I don’t want you to have to help me so much while you’re still suffering. Not if I can do something in return. Especially then.”

“Ever determined to be a hero, aren’t you?” Tsuna says, with a faintly watery scoff, but Izuku knows that it’s kindly meant. Everything about Tsuna is kind, even the hardest bits of him, or maybe Izuku has simply never seen the most cruel parts of what Tsuna can be.

He thinks he might have, though. A glimpse, if nothing else, but he saw it. It doesn’t change anything for him.

“Tsuna…” Izuku starts, and hesitates. He doesn’t know how to ask.

“I think I went mad,” Tsuna says, allowing Izuku that escape. He’s not looking at Izuku, choosing instead to lean back against the wall and stare at the ceiling. “Or maybe I didn’t. I didn’t care. I wanted them all dead, and they were there, and I would be damned if I wasn’t going to take as many of them with me as I could.

“When we took a stand against the way Italy was reacting to Quirks appearing — when we took a stand to how the world was reacting — it meant that we were immediately fighting a war against everyone else. Vongola had been around for a long time, and we had enemies. There were too many people who were willing to take advantage of our divided attention.

“You can’t imagine fighting against an entire world, Izuku. We’d done it once, but we had surprise, careful planning, insider information, and then when Byakuran was dead — that was it. We were free. We were done.

“This — it was chaos. We had our Flames and advanced technology, but some of the people we were up against, they had Quirks, things that we couldn’t defend against because we didn’t know what they were until it was too late. And the enemy only had to get lucky once.

“We died. Slowly, a few at a time, but we died.” Tsuna drags his gaze back to Izuku, and they’re broken. “My little brother died in my arms. We couldn’t make it in time to save him, so all I could do was hold him. He was nineteen.

“He was nineteen, and he was one of my Guardians.

“They killed my Guardians.” Tsuna’s voice is wretched. “I was the last one left. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. It was never supposed to be like that. I don’t care if they wanted me to live instead of them, I was supposed to protect them. I was their Sky. They were mine, and those bastards took them from me—”

Tsuna’s Flames are flaring again, and Izuku notices with an unease he doesn’t quite understand that there are threads of red tangled among the usual orange.

“So I was going to try to kill them all. Damn the world. Damn fixing things. They took my family from me.” Tsuna closes his eyes. “I went mad. Or maybe I didn’t. And then I died. And now I’m here.

“We failed. We fell. I lost myself. Please, Izuku, I don’t ever want you to be like me. Hold onto yourself. Don’t become a monster.

“You want to be a hero. Please, god, don’t ever become what I was. I want to teach you, but I’m afraid. I don’t want you to get hurt, or to ruin your chances, because of what I’ve done.”

Izuku draws in a deep breath in the face of that grief, that wrath, and he says firmly, “You’re not going to hurt me.”

“You don’t know that,” Tsuna snarls, fourteen-year-old face twisted and lit by those blood-orange Flames. “What do you call abandoning you like that? What do you call the secrets I’ve kept? What do you call—”

“I call it helping me,” Izuku interrupts him. “I call it you doing the best you can, even when you’ve suffered so much. Tsuna, you’re helping me. Please. You don’t want me to lose myself, but I don’t want to lose you either. I don’t think I could stand to lose you.”

Tsuna is frozen. The red is fading away, a thread at a time, from Tsuna’s Flame. The thing that must be Intuition nudges Izuku, and he says the only thing he can. He just hopes it’s enough.

“Please, Tsuna. I can’t lose you.”


Izuku opens his eyes on Dagobah Beach. He can feel his Flames flicker out, and he doesn’t have the strength to hold himself up anymore, so he ends up faceplanting in the sand.

He’s laughing and he’s crying at the same time.

He can feel the warmth of his Flames inside him. He can also, if he concentrates, feel the kitten-curl of Tsuna somewhere even deeper inside him than his Flames, back with him again.


When Izuku visits Tsuna next, they’re on the roof of a building, and Tsuna is still his fourteen-year-old self. He’s laying on his back, a folded gakuran acting as a pillow. Izuku thinks he can see something red there, too — he’s disconcertingly sure, in the way that speaks to Tsuna’s memories, that it’s an armband

“My old middle school,” Tsuna says, to Izuku’s unasked question. “We would eat lunch up here. It was my Cloud’s favorite spot. And my Rain—” He presses his lips together and shakes his head, thinking better of saying whatever he was going to.

“Do you want to tell me more about them?” Izuku asks. Tsuna had explained Guardians briefly, that first time they had met, and at the time he hadn’t pressed for more information. It had already been so much to absorb. Now he sees Tsuna’s quick glossing over of the subject in a new light. He wishes he had asked more before it had come to this. He’s not sure it would have helped if he had.

Tsuna tilts his head toward Izuku, and he smiles. It’s small and hurt, but it’s there.

“Not yet,” Tsuna says. “I don’t think I can. But…maybe someday.”

That’s enough for Izuku. He lays back next to Tsuna, and they watch the empty skies above them together.


Tsuna is slowly better. It helps that Izuku is more aware now of the way that Tsuna is there in the back of his mind, like using his Flames on his own has made him more sensitive. And maybe it has, or maybe it’s the way he can sense the incredibly fine difference between the Flames that hold Tsuna’s — imprint, or consciousness, or maybe soul, and the Flames that are Izuku’s. They’re all bundled together in the same body and mostly blend together, but Izuku can feel that difference now.

That sensitivity also means he can almost hear Tsuna’s voice now, without diving inside himself. It’s more feelings, sometimes, but feelings like his Intuition gives off — something so close to being an articulated thought that Izuku can put it together from the pieces. It’s…comforting.

They practice pulling up his Flames together.

Izuku tries it by himself first, recalling that fierce determination that had allowed him to do it that first time on Dagobah Beach, and he almost gets there—

But for some reason, not quite.

His Will should be enough, but it’s not. Maybe it’s because there’s not that true edge of desperation. He had needed Tsuna. And now, it seems, he still does.

“I have an idea,” Tsuna says, expression thoughtful, when Izuku drops down to consult with him. “Try again.”

Izuku opens his eyes in the real world, sitting cross-legged on his bed. He concentrates

And he feels an answering push from inside him, down where Tsuna is, that’s just enough to tip him over the edge. He can feel the Flame on his forehead, and the world is so clear around him.

Eventually, Izuku will have to figure out how to will his Flames into being himself, but Tsuna promises him that he has time. It’s not an imposition for Tsuna to help him.

“You’re very good at this,” Tsuna says. “I took a much longer time to figure out how to drop into Hyper Dying Will Mode without outside assistance. So…don’t worry, I suppose? You’re doing well.”

Izuku grins at him.

The more they practice it, the easier it is, syncing with greater speed each time.

Reaching down for that assistance always feels like coming home.


“I think I need to register my Flames as a Quirk,” Izuku says. It’s been almost two weeks since Dagobah. Inko has finally lost that drawn look on her face, even if Izuku never explains what had made him backslide but then recover so quickly.

“Right,” says Tsuna, but he sounds troubled.

“What?” Izuku asks.

“…Did I ever tell you about the Vindice?” Tsuna asks.

Izuku thinks about it, and he shakes his head no. He feels a faint crawling along his spine, but he doesn’t know — or remember — who or what they are.

“They’re — well, they were an internal limiting factor of the mafia,” Tsuna explains. “They protected the laws of the mafia world, and they personally dealt with Flame users who had violated those laws. They would also…still be alive now.”

“Wait,” Izuku says. “You mean their successors, right?”

“Hm? Oh, no,” Tsuna says. “They’re immortal. Basically. I could probably get in contact with Bermuda if need be…”

Um,” Izuku says, high pitched. It’s really all that can make it out of his mouth, because why was Tsuna’s life so insane.

“Come to think of it, I wonder if Talbot is still around as well…” Tsuna muses, sliding an amused glance Izuku’s way.

UM,” Izuku says, louder this time.

Tsuna sobers. “The problem with registering your Flames as a Quirk is that you might get in trouble with the Vindice — or someone else, if they recognize them. Though I’m not sure how many people even use Flames now.” He frowns. “It was a fairly well kept secret — if you were outside the mafia or other crime syndicates, at least — and with the emergence of Quirks…the knowledge might have been lost. If you don’t use a thing anymore, it’s easy to forget it.”

“So,” Izuku says, rubbing at his temples, “should I register it under a different name?”

“Hyper Dying Will Mode is pretty distinct to anyone who’s ever seen it before. Changing the name wouldn’t disguise it,” Tsuna says dryly. “But…you aren’t mafia. In this age of Quirks, I’m not sure there are mafia who use Flames anymore. Added to that, the Vindice are — busy. They have a duty they have to see to. I don’t know if they’re still involved with the world in the same way. So many things have changed.”

Tsuna sighs. “If the worst comes to worst,” he says, “I think I — we — could negotiate with Bermuda. Anyone else…we can deal with it as it comes up.”

“So…I should register my Flames as a Quirk?” Izuku says, just to make sure.

“You should register your Flames as a Quirk,” Tsuna says, smiling.


Except before Izuku can register his Flames as a Quirk, he needs to tell his mom about them.

“Oh no,” Izuku says when he realizes this. It comes out garbled, because he’s in the middle of brushing his teeth, and what is he going to tell his mom?

He’s got to tell her as much of the truth as he can. Which means talking about — dammit, it means talking about why his “Quirk” activated when it did. She thinks he has an ice Quirk, and once he explains any specifics about his Flames, he’ll have to explain the whole “dying will” part of it. He can shade the truth, but if he’s registering his Flames as a Quirk anyway, then he’s at least planning on giving them their proper name.

He won’t be able to hide it from his mom.

Izuku spits out his toothpaste and braces himself against the sink, staring into his reflection and wondering how he’s supposed to do this without breaking his mother’s heart.

His only hope is that he can somehow slide around it. Maybe the question won’t occur to Mom, maybe he’ll be able to avoid the subject completely, maybe—

Maybe she’ll find out on her own when she looks at the paperwork for his Quirk.

Izuku has to tell her himself. She deserves that from him.


“Hey, Mom?” Izuku says, a few nights later, while they’re drying off dishes and putting them away. It’s taken him days to work up the nerve, going over the conversation again and again in his head, trying to hit on the perfect words to explain this. He doesn’t think he’s ready, but he’s put it off long enough. “Can I…talk to you about something?”

“Of course, Izuku,” Inko says, putting a plate in its place in the cupboard.

“Um,” Izuku says. “Maybe not…around fragile things?”

Inko folds the towel she’s holding, places it on the counter, and leads the way to the couch in the next room.

“What is it you want to talk about?” Inko asks when they’re seated. Her hands are just barely shaking in her lap. Izuku can’t help but notice it, and his heart clenches.

“It might be easier to show you,” he says, and then he reaches down and Tsuna pushes up at the same moment and between one blink and the next, the world is—

Clear. Uncomplicated. So easy to understand and react to, because it’s not that the world has slowed down any, it’s that Izuku’s processing has become faster, the streams of information he can take in has increased, and everything is there for him to take in.

Inko gasps.

Izuku goes ahead and sets his hands on fire, too, just so that they’re both on the same page with exactly what he’s capable of.

“That doesn’t look like an ice Quirk, Izukkun,” Inko says, and, as Izuku drops out of Hyper Dying Will Mode, “Is this what you’ve been doing these past few months? Experimenting with your Quirk?”

…He probably should have talked about this with his mom earlier.

“Yes,” Izuku says, cautious of his words. “It kind of…took a while to figure out how to active it again. And, uh, they’re Flames but they’re not really…fire? From what I can tell” — and from what Tsuna’s told me — “they’re more like energy. That’s manifested. And looks like fire.”

“And ice?”

“Ye-es,” Izuku says, hedging. “I haven’t, uh, tried that again? Because I still don’t really remember how I did that in the first place?”

Inko accepts this, but then asks, “You said energy. What kind of energy?” She catches Izuku’s slightly panicked look. “Don’t tell me you haven’t analyzed this to death already, Izuku,” she says, laughing a little.

She’s laughing because she doesn’t know. And she won’t, until Izuku tells her.

Izuku lets out a shaky breath. He wishes he hadn’t dropped Dying Will Mode, if only so that he could have that boost of confidence, that way of looking at the world that makes the best path so clear. Maybe then he could find the right words.

“The energy is based on willpower,” Izuku says. He wants to be a coward and close his eyes so he won’t have to see. He doesn’t. “Specifically, it’s based on—” His voice catches before he can help himself. “How much I didn’t want to die.”

Inko’s face crumples. She’s never been good at holding back tears, which is where Izuku picked it up, and she doesn’t even bother to try now. She just pulls Izuku close to her, wrapping her arms tightly around him as she buries her face in his shoulder.

“Oh, Izuku,” she says, an awful catch in her voice, too. “Oh, baby.”

“I’m sorry,” Izuku says, unable to hold back his own tears, and he doesn’t know what he’s apologizing for, he just feels he has to. For hurting her like this? For still lying to her and not telling her about Tsuna? For any number of things—

“No, no,” Inko says, pulling back slightly, tears dripping off her face. “No. You lived, Izuku. You fought back and you lived and you found your Quirk. Don’t apologize to me. Don’t ever apologize to me. I’m so proud of you.”

Izuku lets out a sob.

“Come here,” Inko says, tugging him close again, and they sit that way for a long time, until they’ve both cried themselves out and calmed down.

“You did so well,” Inko whispers, running her hand through Izuku’s hair. “I’m so proud…”

Izuku takes in the words and tries to imprint them on his core. He can do this. Maybe it was Tsuna who saved him that first time, but he’ll be the one to do it from now on. He can save himself, and he can save others, and he can be a hero—

Aah!” Izuku yells, sitting straight up.

Inko startles, looking around. “What?” she demands, and a frying pan sails into the room from the kitchen. Inko catches it deftly, ready for anything. “What is it, what—”

“The — that sludge villain,” Izuku says. “He’s still frozen.”

Inko lowers the frying pan.

“He’s still frozen,” Izuku repeats. He can feel the blood draining from his face. “I’m the only one that can release him.”

Chapter Text

“Here we are,” Detective Tsukauchi says, stopping in front of a metal door. He looks over at Izuku. “You don’t have to do this, you know.”

Izuku can’t even fake a smile as he says, “Yes, I do.”

Tsukauchi is attempting to shelter Izuku from the villain who almost killed him, and Izuku would almost be grateful, but he’s going to be applying to Yuuei. He wants to become a hero.

What kind of hero would he be if he left someone — even a villain — frozen like this?

(Last night, Izuku dreamed of an angry man, shooting at him with Flames instead of bullets, and his attention had been fixed on the livid scars on the man’s face and his stomach had dropped—)

“I have to do this,” Izuku repeats, half to himself.

Tsukauchi opens the door.

This had been easy to set up. Tsukauchi had given Izuku his card, that second time the man visited him in the hospital. All Izuku had to do was explain that he had been working with his Quirk over the past three months since they’d met, and that he thought he could free the sludge villain now.

Unless they had managed to melt the ice themselves.

(Flames weren’t Quirks. That was part of what had killed Tsuna and his people. Maybe, just maybe—)

“No,” Tsukauchi said, when Izuku asked that out loud. “We haven’t been able to do anything about your ice. We would appreciate your help, Midoriya.”

Inko had taken him to the police station, where they met with Detective Tsukauchi, and then they went to the jail where the villain was being held, in a cell that would contain him if — or when — he was ever freed from the ice. Inko stayed behind, in the front of the jail, as Izuku followed Tsukauchi further in.

Here and now, Izuku takes a deep breath and walks into the cell.

The villain is still fully encased in the ice. He can see the place the police officers must have chipped away at it in order to remove him from where Izuku — Tsuna — had frozen him.

Izuku can see an impression in the ice, the frozen sludge curled in and around itself, leaving just enough space for a body to fit. The edges of part of that curl are ragged, showing where the ice and slime underneath were broken to free the person trapped in that damning space.

That’s where I was.

Izuku tries not to gag. Tsukauchi approaches from behind him.

“He won’t be able to hurt you, Midoriya,” Tsukauchi says. “We’ve made preparations for when he’s freed. There are other officers out in the hall. He won’t hurt you again.”

Izuku nods his acknowledgment, and then he closes his eyes.

I have to do this, I have to do this—

He reaches down, Tsuna pushes up, and they synchronize. Flames flare on Izuku’s forehead, and calm settles over him. He’s still afraid, but it’s a little more distant. Hyper Dying Will Mode doesn’t remove him from his emotions, but everything about him in more centered, more confident, more powerful, and the fear can’t get as much of a grip.

“Okay,” Izuku says. He opens his eyes and raises his hands.

Tsuna had explained Zero Point Breakthrough last night — both versions of it, though in this world with Quirks instead of Flames, the revised edition won’t do Izuku much good.

(Unless he manages to modify Tsuna’s creation, to pull in power or energy that isn’t Flames, and convert them to give himself more power. But that’s something for the future, and this is what he needs to deal with right now.)

It would be easiest to break the Zero Point with a full set of Guardians, Tsuna had explained, all of them concentrating their Flames to simultaneously melt the ice.

This is Izuku’s ice, though. Izuku’s power, even if he doesn’t know how to utilize it fully yet. Even if he wasn’t the one to create it in the first place. It’s his.

He can melt this ice on his own.

Izuku breathes out. His hands catch fire, he settles his stance, and then he aims and lets go.


Naomasa watches as Midoriya lights up and can’t help but be intrigued.

You weren’t kidding, Toshinori, he thinks. Not that he had truly thought Toshinori would have been mistaken about it, but there’s something fascinating about watching fire burn on this boy’s brow, and seeing the utterly calm and confident expression on his face and in his orange eyes, when moments before he looked like he would rather prefer to be sick on the floor than anything else.

Not that Naomasa blames him. Midoriya is a civilian; he’s nearly old enough to go to high school, but he doesn’t have any of the training that kids get their first year at some place like Yuuei. And none of those kids have to deal with someone trying to kill them until they’re at least halfway through their first year. Even that is only if they’re unlucky or their mentor doesn’t keep them out of a trouble while they’re interning.

Midoriya is handling this well. It speaks for his prospects in the future, if he does decide to go into hero work.

Naomasa thinks he might. Midoriya is terrified, but he’s still doing the right thing. Someone with that kind of moral fiber is what Japan’s heroics need — and given how determined Midoriya is to set this right, when he doesn’t owe anything, means Naomasa would be surprised if he didn’t go into heroics.

Someone like that can’t leave well enough alone when someone else is hurt.

Ha, Naomasa thinks. I suppose that’s like you too, isn’t it, Toshinori? I hope you get to meet this kid again.

Midoriya finally lowers his hands after sustained minutes of flame. He’s not quite out of breath, but he’s certainly pulling in deeper breaths than he was earlier, trying to hide how much this must have taken out of him.

The villain is free.

It seems like he’s stunned from being trapped in the ice like that, and Naomasa has already arranged for a doctor to be on call. When the first day had passed and the villain hadn’t shown signs of going into hypothermia — or dying — they had all figured there was something about Midoriya’s Quirk that was keeping the villain from being injured by the ice. Now, Naomasa can see the evidence of what might be some frostbite — it’s hard to tell when the villain’s body is composed solely of sludge — but other than that he seems mostly all right.

It is far more than he deserves.

The fire on Midoriya’s forehead snuffs out. The villain steadies himself, looks up to see Tsukauchi watching dispassionately, and then his gaze fixes on Midoriya.

“You little bastard—” the villain starts.

Midoriya bolts.

Tsukauchi glares at the villain, and follows Midoriya. He stops outside the cell, coordinating with some of the officers there to make sure that they will take care of the villain, reading him his rights and making clear what will happen with him and when his court date will be. Then he asks which direction Midoriya took off in.

One of the officers, with a sympathetic look on his face, points down the hallway to the left.

Naomasa comes up behind Midoriya just in time to see him finish throwing up what must have been his breakfast in a nearby trashcan.

“Sorry,” Midoriya mumbles, wiping his mouth with the back of his head. He’s still bent over the trashcan. He doesn’t look like he wants to move any time soon. There’s a fine tremor going through him.

“Don’t be,” Naomasa says. He leans against the wall. “You were very brave to go in there.”

Midoriya curls in on himself. “I couldn’t just leave him there,” he says, quiet. “It would have been cruel.”

Naomasa sighs. “You’re a good kid, Midoriya,” he says.

Midoriya’s head is still bowed, but Naomasa can make out the way he clenches his jaw.

“I forgot about him,” Midoriya says after a moment. “I forgot—”

“You said you don’t remember part of the attack anyway,” Naomasa says. Pushing just a little, to see if the kid’s story still holds. He might like Midoriya, but he can’t help always wanting to be sure. It’s what he’s devoted his life to doing.

“I don’t,” Midoriya says, nearly soundless. He’s still not lying.

“So don’t blame yourself,” Naomasa says. “It was self-defense. You don’t remember it, and you can be excused for not ever wanting to think of it again. When you recalled what we told you about the villain and had a handle on your Quirk, you came here immediately to fix it. Doesn’t seem like a problem to me.”

“I want to be a hero,” Midoriya says, finally looking up. His expression is fierce. “I have to be better than this. I have to—”

“Do the best you can,” Naomasa says, because damn it, but this kid reminds him of Toshinori, and much as he loves the man, this is something he wants to cut off at the start. Toshinori drives himself too far every time; he refuses to take care of himself; he always puts everyone in the world above himself. That’s admirable, but Naomasa wants him to be safe, too, not just the world. “You did your best here, Midoriya. If you feel you didn’t do enough, then try to be a little better next time, but don’t blame yourself when you’re a civilian. Become a hero, and try to forgive yourself for any of your mistakes.”

Toshinori never does. Naomasa wants this kid to be able to.

“…Is there a bathroom somewhere nearby?” Midoriya asks, an entirely unsubtle redirection of the conversation.

Naomasa nods, and leads Midoriya down the hall.

God, but he hopes this kid learns how to forgive himself his mistakes in the future.


“That was a very good thing you did,” Tsuna says that afternoon. Izuku came home with his mother, let Inko fuss over him for a little while, and then barricaded himself in his bedroom.

“I had to,” Izuku says. His arms are wrapped around himself. He can still see the villain starting to lunge toward him in that cell, every time that he closes his eyes.

“Still good,” Tsuna says. “I would have done the same, but I’m different than you. It might have been for different reasons.”

There’s a story there. Izuku can guess who it involves.

“…Who is the angry man?” Izuku asks. He draws one hand at a sharp angle up his cheekbone, stretching back into his curls, shaping the injury. “The one with the scars.”

“Ah,” Tsuna says. “…My cousin. Xanxus.”

“He was your cousin? But he was trying to kill you!”

“A surprising number of my friends and allies tried to kill me at one point or another,” Tsuna says. His smile is soft and distant. “I got used to it.”

Izuku doesn’t think he will ever fully understand Tsuna.

“I was never supposed to be a mafia boss,” Tsuna says. “But everyone else died, and Xanxus wanted it when he could never have it. He was adopted, you see, and his father lied about it. Only the blood of Vongola can rule Vongola. Xanxus tried to take the family by force. His father — froze him.”

There’s a curl of contempt in Tsuna’s voice, on his face, as he says those final words.

“For how long?” Izuku asks.

“Nearly a decade,” Tsuna says. His hands are clenched into fists. “I used Zero Point against him, too, when we fought over the succession, but I would never have done that.”

It’s obviously an old hurt. It’s obviously still something that Tsuna hates. Not as much as he hates the people who killed him and his, but it’s writ all over him anyway.

“I suppose three months is better than a decade,” Izuku says softly, but he can’t help the guilt curling in his stomach. He had known, in some part, that the angry man — Xanxus — had suffered the same thing he had done to the sludge villain.

(Wasn’t that a selfish part of the reason why he had been so eager to free the villain in the first place?)

“It’s not your fault, Izuku,” Tsuna says. It seems like everyone is telling Izuku that today. “Hey, look at me,” and Tsuna grabs Izuku’s chin and tips it up. Tsuna isn’t a teenager anymore; he hasn’t been since last night. He’s back to being the adult he was when he died.

“If it is anyone’s fault, it’s mine,” Tsuna says. “I took over. I froze him. I miscalculated, pushed your body too far, and that’s the only reason why he wasn’t unfrozen the very same day.

“When someone tried to kill me, I got used to killing them right back. I don’t use Zero Point to torture them. This was a mistake. I messed up. I didn’t want to kill him in your body, Izuku, but if it had been fully up to me, that’s what I might have done. You, though? You’re still so innocent, and this is not my life. It is yours, and you were fighting to defend it. How could I not help you?”

Tsuna shakes his head. “When I took over Vongola, I said I would be better than my predecessors. Maybe in some ways I was, but I’ve killed a lot of people in my life. I killed a man when I was your age. I was born to this horror, and I was never able to outrun it.

“You weren’t. You’re able to make your own way. You can do so much good in this world, Izuku.” Tsuna sighs. “So please, don’t blame yourself for my mistakes.”

Izuku thinks that Tsuna is often his harshest critic. He always blames himself for things that go wrong. He continually says that he doesn’t want Izuku to be like him, but Izuku can’t help that. He admires Tsuna.

He loves Tsuna, this man who is helping him in every way he can, who constantly tries to shelter Izuku but at the same time give him the tools to protect himself.

Tsuna is almost contradictory in all the things that he tells Izuku. After knowing how he died, Izuku wonders how much of that is fear of dying again. Fear of losing everything again.

Izuku thinks he fears that, too, except his world is smaller than Tsuna’s. His world involves Inko and Tsuna and his dream of becoming a hero. He doesn’t think he would survive losing the first two. He desperately doesn’t want to lose the third, either.

“…I can try,” Izuku says, because else is there to say in the face of that? Izuku doesn’t entirely agree with Tsuna, but he’s not up to arguing right now. He’ll let it go for now.

Except—

“I was born to this, too, a little,” Izuku can’t help but point out. “Or — reborn. If we’re really keeping track.”

“Even death wouldn’t let me escape,” Tsuna says, wrinkling his nose. His shoulders, tense during his short speech, start to loosen. “Of course. Didn’t engrave my time deeply enough on my Vongola ring, somehow, and now I end up in this situation instead. Why would I have expected anything else?”

The words could sound bitter. Izuku can tell Tsuna doesn’t mean any of it. Tsuna’s not complaining in earnest, instead trying to lighten the mood that has settled between them. Even if the subject is dark, because Tsuna is dead but still here, haunting a living body, eternally grieving, and Izuku is the one in control.

If Tsuna was even slightly worse of a person, Izuku might not be here. Tsuna would have taken him over fully, swamping his Flames and personality with his own, refusing to ever give up control. If he had done it early enough, “Izuku” might never have existed at all.

Instead, they’re two people in one body, because no matter what Tsuna tells him, no matter what horrible things Tsuna reveals, he is moral. He is a good man. He would never do that.

All he ever tries to do is help Izuku.

Izuku bumps his shoulder against Tsuna’s and asks, “What’s next for training?”

He doesn’t want to think about the sludge villain any more. He wants to go back to training. He wants to go back to working toward his future.

(He’ll still think about the sludge villain. There is no way that he’ll ever be able to stop thinking about the sludge villain. It might not be every day — he’s gotten good at avoiding thinking about it over the past few months — but every time he uses his Flames, there’s a quiet thought in the back of his brain:

You got these because you almost died.

Yes. And Tsuna had frozen the villain, and they had both forgotten about him, and Izuku can’t afford to ever do that again.

He has to keep training. He has to be better.)

“Well,” Tsuna says, grin tugging at his mouth, “I’ve got some ideas…”

Chapter Text

“Hate you,” Izukue wheezes out loud. He’s hauling a microwave, filled with various small pieces of junk, and with a few flatter pieces of junk stacked on top. It’s heavy, even with the boosted strength his Flames give him.

A sense of laughter filters up from Tsuna.

“The worst,” Izuku says.

Tsuna has declared that Izuku is going to clear off Dagobah Beach. Completely. Before the Yuuei entrance exams.

“You want me to clear that in six months?” Izuku had demanded earlier that morning.

“Yes,” Tsuna said, implacable. “You’d best get started.”

“Tsuna,” Izuku said. “That’s insane.”

“Use your Flames and it will be easier,” Tsuna said, and oh, that was his plan. That was what he was getting at.

It was a terrible plan.

“That’s illegal!” Izuku wailed. “You’re not supposed to use your Quirk in public!”

“Well, you won’t get in trouble if you don’t get caught,” Tsuna said, like that made it better. The man couldn’t quite hide the amusement on his face at Izuku’s expression. “Thinks of it as training your Intuition, too. Don’t let anyone get too close.”

Argh,” Izuku groaned, pulling at his hair.

“Cheer up, Izuku,” Tsuna said. “People have been doing this sort of thing for centuries. Even before there were Quirks.” He looked thoughtful. “Of course, I suppose it was called environmental terrorism back then, and it probably still is. Which sounds worse than vigilantism in a way.”

You’re making this worse!

Tsuna laughed.

Izuku dislikes everything about this, but he’ll be damned if he’ll give up. Also, he won’t admit it, but he can see how much this will help him. This is just as important for his progress as the other training that Tsuna has him doing, and it’s training his Flames at the same time.

He’s not going to say that to Tsuna, though. The man’s absolutely insane.

Izuku staggers up the steps, out of the sand, and dumps the microwave and assorted other bits of garbage next to the small pile he’s already built. He doesn’t want to look back at the beach and see how much he still has left. He hasn’t made so much as a dent.

Izuku flexes his fingers, trying to regain feeling to them, and a flicker of Flames that are faintly more yellow than usual dance around them. Surprisingly, they actually feel a little better. Izuku shakes them and lets the Flames disperse.

“Young Midoriya?”

Izuku doesn’t jump, even though his Intuition, for some reason, didn’t warn him. He looks up from his hands and meets Yagi’s eyes. The man is paused at the edge of the road; he’s obviously in the middle of his morning run.

The morning run that Izuku usually sees him on, because they often take routes that have them pass each other. Izuku always makes sure to wave at Yagi, and the man smiles back at him. He has a friendly smile.

“Hi, Yagi-san,” Izuku says. He waves.

Yagi draws a little closer. “…What are you doing?” he asks.

Izuku glances at the pitifully small amount of garbage he’s managed to drag up off the beach and closer to the road, then back at Yagi. “Training,” he says. “I’m clearing off the beach.”

“Ah,” Yagi says. “It is an eyesore, isn’t it?” he adds, staring past Izuku. “It used to be a very nice beach, you know.”

Izuku doesn’t know. It’s been a dump for as long as he can remember.

The almost sad note in Yagi’s voice makes Izuku’s determination increase. He was doing this because Tsuna told him to, because he wanted to get into Yuuei and because he refused to give up, but he hasn’t thought about the people who used to come to this beach. He hadn’t thought about how he could be giving back to the community by doing this.

He felt foolish for not having realized that. Wasn’t that what being a hero was all about? How could he not have seen that?

“I’ve never been to the beach before,” Izuku says. “I mean — not for swimming, or anything. Dagobah is the closest, and it’s — this.” He gestures behind him.

Yagi nods, and then he asks abruptly, “Is that your Quirk?” He points at Izuku’s head, where his Flames have been lit for the whole conversation. “You’re not supposed to use that in public — not without a hero’s license.”

Before Izuku can panic, it’s like something clamps down on his emotions. He’s not sure if it’s Tsuna or his Flames themselves, but he’s abruptly calm.

“This is how I always look,” Izuku says blandly. When I use my Flames, he adds silently. It’s only a lie of omission rather than an out-and-out lie if he thinks the last part rather than saying it. He still feels bad about it, though.

“Mm,” Yagi says. “Of course.”

Yagi’s phone beeps in his pocket. He pulls it out, checks the screen, and he nearly frowns.

“Best of luck, Midoriya,” Yagi says, tucking it away again. Even if the words are encouraging, the look in Yagi’s sunken eyes is sharp. They both know Izuku is breaking the law here, but Yagi seems willing to let it go for now.

Izuku watches him leave, and he’s uncomfortably certain that if Yagi catches him again, he might not get off so easily.


"As long as you don't get caught—”

"That's what you said last time, Tsuna, and then it happened," Izuku says. He folds his arms across his chest, staring out over Namimori from the top of the school roof. "...Come to think of it, why didn't — why did I get caught?"

Tsuna frowns. "It's your Intuition," he says, and raises a hand to forestall Izuku before he can say anything. "It's your Intuition, so you're the one who's subconsciously classifying things as threats. And it looks like you — and therefore your Intuition —trust Yagi."

Izuku is caught a little off guard by this. “I—” he starts, and stumbles. "I barely know him! I mean — he — and —” And the truth of it is, now that Tsuna states that out loud, he can see what the man means. He does trust Yagi. He likes him and he trusts him and where is that coming from?

Izuku wants to be a hero, but he's well aware that he's not good at trusting people. He has been hurt too many times by his peers, by his teachers who don't do anything to help him, by strangers who look down on him and his dreams as soon as he is outed as Quirkless.

Izuku doesn't trust people.

He trusts Yagi.

"Tsuna," Izuku says, and his face must be doing something weird because Tsuna drags him back from the edge of the roof, closer to him. "What's going on?"

Tsuna scans his face, and there’s a tense cast to his expression.

“Light your Flames,” Tsuna says abruptly.

“W-what?”

Light your Flames, Izuku!” It’s nearly a shout.

Izuku does as he’s told. The Flames are shaky and sputtering with his discomfort, with the way he wants to recoil away from Tsuna for some reason.

Tsuna grabs Izuku’s hands in his own. Tsuna’s two-part ring shifts into bright red gloves as Tsuna’s hands light up, and then their Flames are mingling together. Izuku can feel Tsuna — searching for something.

He doesn’t know what.

Izuku wants to pull away, but he doesn’t. He stands there, letting Tsuna search his Flames for whatever he thinks is — not wrong, no, Izuku’s Intuition can tell him that much. But Tsuna is searching. Searching hard.

Finally, finally, Tsuna drops his hands, and then he drops. He falls down to his knees on the rooftop of Nami-chu, and he buries his face in hands that are abruptly bare. His shoulders are shaking, but Izuku can’t tell from what.

Izuku crouches next to him, reaches out — and draws back.

Tsuna lets out a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob, before he says, voice rough, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry—”

“Tsuna,” Izuku says. “It’s okay.”

It is a laugh that comes from Tsuna this time, cracked and harsh. “It’s not okay,” he says. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have — you don’t —” He shakes his head, finally uncurling himself to meet Izuku’s eyes. “You’re going to find your own Guardians at some point. And that hurts, but — but this isn’t my life anymore. It’s yours. I don’t have any right to interfere.”

Izuku absorbs this, then says, “Wait, so Yagi—”

“No,” Tsuna says. “You’re not bonded to him. He’s not Flame-Active, either. There’s just — potential there. He would fit well with you.”

And Tsuna doesn’t want that, Izuku realizes, because it would hurt. Because he’s still mourning the people he lost, and he doesn’t want anyone else to fill those places.

“I don’t need Guardians if I have you,” Izuku says.

“Yes, you do,” Tsuna says. He wipes a hand over his face, brushing away the few tears that fell. “You’ll need them some day. And I — it would be selfish for me to stop you.” He lets out a trembling sigh. Softly, so soft that Izuku isn’t sure he’s supposed to hear it, Tsuna adds, “Maybe it would be better if I weren’t here at all.”

Maybe it would be selfish for Tsuna to stop him. Izuku is selfish, too. He won’t bond with anyone, not while it will still hurt Tsuna. He cares about the man too much. He won’t.

He swears it with his Dying Will.


By mutual agreement, Izuku and Tsuna decide that he won’t be using his Flames outside of the house anymore. The risk of being caught is too great. Izuku can work on fine control and other small things while he’s at home, but the bigger things he’ll have to wait on until he’s a hero student.

“Should be fine,” Tsuna had said when Izuku pressed him about that, a little worried. What if he didn’t make it into Yuuei because he wasn’t experienced enough with his Flames? All the other students will have had Quirks their whole lives. “I did most everything on instinct. You should be the same, and if all else fails — you’ll have me.” He smiles at the last.

This doesn’t mean that Tsuna is letting Izuku out of his obligation to clean Dagobah Beach, though. If anything, he’s more adamant about it than ever.

Izuku doesn’t complain.

He’s going to make it into Yuuei.


Toshinori is jogging past the beach, and for the first time in a week, he doesn’t see Midoriya diligently at work. (Thankfully without his Quirk for the past week; Toshinori likes the kid a surprising amount, but he is a hero, and it is technically illegal for people to use their Quirks in public. He wouldn’t want to, but he might have to report Midoriya if he had kept so blatantly breaking the law.)

Toshinori slows. He’s scanning the horizon, wondering if the kid is in the middle of the towering hills of garbage, when he at last sees him.

Midoriya is laying facedown on the ground.

Toshinori absolutely does not feel his heart skip a beat, but he might cough up a bit of blood instead.

“Midoriya!” he calls, flat out running to get to the kid. Did he collapse from stress? Is he still not recovered from the villain attack? Did someone else attack him? “Midoriya!”

He skids to a halt, sweeping a glance over the boy’s form, relieved that he doesn’t immediately notice any blood or ripped clothing, and Midoriya—

—lifts his head and looks up at Toshinori.

“Hi, Yagi-san,” Midoriya says.

Toshinori turns his head quickly to the side so he doesn’t accidentally spit blood onto Midoriya.

“What are you doing, young Midoriya?” Toshinori asks, swiping at the irritating trickle of blood he can feel at the corner of his mouth. Midoriya had absolutely panicked the first time he saw Toshinori coughing up blood — Midoriya had frantically asked Toshinori if he needed him to call an ambulance, in fact — but the kid has since grown used to it. Not that it happens in front of the kid too often, thankfully.

Midoriya lets out a long groan. His head drops back down to the ground, and the way his face is mashed against the ground doesn’t prevent Toshinori from hearing the strangled “Dying” that Midoriya gets out.

I am not going to have a heart attack, Toshinori tells himself firmly. He crouches down next to Midoriya, pats the boy gently on the shoulder. He’s pretty sure Midoriya’s exaggerating. He would tell Toshinori if he actually needed help.

Probably.

Please let him tell Toshinori if he actually needs help.

“…What’s wrong?” he asks.

Midoriya sits up. They’re about eye level like this.

“I didn’t think about where I was going to put the trash after I took it off the beach,” Midoriya says. He slaps his hands over his face and lets out a long, frustrated wail.

And Toshinori — laughs.

He laughs bright and clear, because this kid. Such good intentions that he forgot about important details like getting the garbage to the landfill after it was off the beach.

This is something Toshinori absolutely would have done at Midoriya’s age.

Maybe that’s what makes Toshinori say, “I have a truck. I could bring it around and you can fill the back. It will take a while, but…” He rubs at the back of his neck. “It’s no good leaving the garbage sitting here.”

Midoriya’s head snaps up.

Really?” he gushes. “That would be great, Yagi-san! I can’t thank you enough!” He stands up and bows to Toshinori.

“No problem,” Toshinori says, grinning. Midoriya flashes him a bright smile, and then the boy is bouncing back off into the hills of garbage. Toshinori is left sitting there, watching Midoriya dive into trash and remembering that he doesn’t actually own a truck.

Chapter Text

"What are the yellow Flames?" Izuku asks weeks later. He's waited, watching the yellow Flames circle around him when he's the most tired or in pain, making sure that it's not a fluke. He has a good guess what they are, but he wants Tsuna to confirm it.

The glance Tsuna slides toward Izuku tells Izuku that he's guessed that, but nevertheless the man says, "They're Sun Flames. You have a dual affinity. Well — not dual. You're a Sky. You just happen to have a talent with Sun Flames, too."

"Isn't that the definition of duality?" Izuku asks.

"Hush," Tsuna says, flapping a hand negligently at him.

Tsuna,” Izuku says.

“It’s really what it sounds like, Izuku,” Tsuna says, shrugging. “It’s not common, especially with Skies, but it happens. Hayato —” Tsuna’s throat bobs. “Hayato was a Storm, but he could use four other Flames. Xanxus had his Flames of Wrath, and at least part of what made Wrath Flames so destructive was mixing Storm Flames in with Sky Flames.”

“Is there a special name for Sun and Sky Flames?” Izuku asks, curious.

“Not so far as I’m aware of,” Tsuna says. “Sorry.”

“Huh,” Izuku says. He sits down and copies the information Tsuna has told him into a notebook. It’s not real, but writing things down helps him to remember, and when he’s out of the dreamscape, he can just write it again. It helps keep him organized, and reminds him of all the things Tsuna is teaching him.

“Sun Flames are the healing ones,” Izuku says after few moments, recalling what Tsuna has told him on previous occasions. He holds his pencil away from the page, but he’s ready to take any more notes.

“Mm,” Tsuna says agreeably. “Activation. Healing and strengthening.”

Izuku can think of so many applications for that. He’ll have to experiment with exactly how much he can heal, and he’ll need to regulate the amount of strength he can use without harming himself, but at least that last one is something he’s doing with his Flame training already, and does he have the strength that he does because he’s been unconsciously using his Sun Flames before or is that an aspect of all Flames—

Tsuna laughs and sits down next to Izuku as the kid mutters and writes. He knows from experience they’ll be here for a while.


Izuku works and works and works at Dagobah Beach. Things are moving a lot faster now that Yagi is letting him load trash up into his truck. He feels a little bad having Yagi take everything to the junkyard. He tries to offer to help, but Yagi waves him off; he says between the workers at the junkyard and him, they get it done.

Izuku would be more inclined to doubt this, but despite constantly coughing up blood, Yagi is deceptively strong. Izuku has seen the man lift items that must be at least as heavy as Izuku into the back of his truck with ease.

He still worries about the man, though.

He can’t not be. The man coughs up blood. Izuku has long since realized that Yagi’s Quirk doesn’t have anything to do with his appearance; it has to be related to whatever sickness or injury Yagi is suffering from.

He doesn’t press. Yagi brushed off any offer of aid the first time Izuku saw him coughing blood, and he still just grins at Izuku when he has a coughing fit. Even when he’s wiping red away from his mouth.

Izuku doesn’t press. It turns out he doesn’t have to.

It happens by accident. Izuku is stumbling up the stairs with another load in his hands. Yagi stands by the side of the truck, watching the sunrise and stretching his arms, and the wind blows just right, catching at the hem of Yagi’s shirt.

Izuku sees the edge of a scar, stretching down from Yagi’s side, reaching toward the planes of his stomach. A stomach that is curiously, unnaturally concave.

(He sees the girl — he knows her, he knows her name, who is she? — lose control of the illusion all at once, sees the way that her stomach caves in, like there’s nothing underneath to support her.

They’ve lost this battle, and he hates the derisive tone in the other Mist’s voice, even as a thick fog moves to cover the girl’s body—)

Izuku blinks.

He realizes he’s stopped on the steps. It’s been a while since he’s slipped into the memories of his past life. Of Tsuna’s life.

(Izuku wonders how many times he writ off those memories as a child. He wonders if they weren’t strong enough to come through, or if there are parts of himself that are built out of things that perched on the edges of his consciousness when he was young.

He knows the nightmares shaped him. But he doesn’t remember them very well, and he’s glad of that.

He wonders what he does remember, and simply accepted as his own memories.)

“Midoriya?” Yagi calls. His arms are back down at his sides. Izuku doesn’t think he noticed Izuku staring.

Someone hurt him.

Someone hurt Yagi-san.

“Sorry, got lost in thought!” Izuku says. He gives a strained grin, trying not to show his thoughts, and readjusts his grip on his stack of items. He makes his way to the truck and dumps everything into the back.

He doesn’t look at Yagi’s side.


“Tsuna,” Izuku says that night. “I think I need to work on my healing.”

(She lets out a short scream as she falls, the trident clattering from her hand. Fog rolls in, and a dark laugh echoes out of it.)

“…Yes,” Tsuna says. He seems unsettled. “I think you do.”


Time passes.

Izuku memorizes anatomy and signs up for a first aid class and practices calling on Sun instead of Sky. He grows stronger and the horizon clears a little more each day and he takes to carrying extra granola bars with him, handing them off to Yagi even when it looks like the man wants to protest.

Izuku works. He keeps his head down and grades up at school. He studies and he trains and he dreams.

He’s going to make it into Yuuei.


“Wow,” Yagi says, the morning of the exam.

“I did it,” Izuku says. There’s a heaping mound of garbage behind where he sits on the steps that lead down to the beach, but as far as he looks up and down the beach, all he can see is clear white sand.

It’s not cheating to help himself heal a little faster at the end of each day, to subtly augment his muscles with what Flames he can pull up outside of Dying Will Mode.

It means he’s finished within the time frame Tsuna set for him.

Dagobah Beach is clean.

“You did it,” Yagi echoes, grinning. He sits next to Izuku, and he reaches out to ruffle Izuku’s hair.

Izuku can’t help but let himself lean into it. There are a very few people in his life who touch him for any reason other than to hurt him. His mother. Tsuna.

Yagi.

Yagi, a stranger who has no reason to care about Izuku. Yagi, who constantly volunteers his time and effort to help Izuku haul garbage. Yagi, who has occasionally inquired about Izuku’s training schedule and complimented him on how well thought out it was.

Yagi, who is so willing to help.

Izuku won’t bond with this man. He can’t make him a Guardian. He can’t do that to Tsuna.

If he could—

It doesn’t matter. He’s fifteen. He still has time, and he has Tsuna.

If nothing else, he has Tsuna.

“You’re going to be a fine hero, Midoriya,” Yagi says. He smiles, bright and almost familiar. “Best of luck today.”

(Izuku wants.)


“Do your best,” Inko says, after he’s eaten breakfast. She sends him off with a kiss.

I can do this, Izuku tells himself.

He holds close to his heart all the people that believe in him, few though they are. They believe in him.

He isn’t going to let them down.


Izuku’s first thought upon seeing Yuuei is, It’s so big.

The photos and the videos don’t do it justice. The buildings tower over him. He feels tiny in comparison to them.

Still, that doesn't keep him from staring around in awe. If everything goes well — and he has to believe that it will — this is the place he will be going to high school.

This is where he can become a hero.

Then, of course, Izuku trips.

He has one moment of panic, the surety of I can catch myself warring with you're not supposed to use Quirks in public. The internal conflict takes a moment too long and he's about to land flat on his face—

—until he's suddenly not falling.

Izuku stares at the ground. It's about a foot away from his face, but his feet are definitely not touching the ground.

"Eh?" he gets out.

"Sorry!" someone says beside him. He turns his head to see a girl wide a wide smile standing there, strands of her short hair moving in the faint wind. "I shouldn't have used my Quirk on you without asking, but it would have been bad luck for you to fall!"

She touches her hand to him — again, he realizes — and Izuku drops. This time he's prepared, and he can twist himself enough to land on his feet.

"Well," the girl says. "Good luck on your test!" She turns to leave.

"W-wait!” Izuku says, only half at the prompting of Tsuna inside him. The girl turns back to him. "U-um. Thank you. For helping me...not fall."

A faint pink blush makes its way onto the girl's face. "No problem!" she says cheerily. "Oh! Um, my name's Uraraka. Uraraka Ochako."

"M-Midoriya Izuku," Izuku says.

“Come on,” Uraraka says, grabbing Izuku’s hand. “We need to go find seats!”

Izuku’s face feels hot and he hopes he doesn’t accidentally slip into Dying Will Mode and set something on fire. Though at least he might be able to be more in control of himself if he were in Dying Will Mode.

Tsuna laughs and laughs as Izuku allows Uraraka to pull him inside.


Izuku didn’t notice Bakugou standing behind him, paused just through the gate to Yuuei.

Katsuki stood there and watched as Deku talked with some round-faced girl. He follows them inside slowly. He doesn’t say anything.

(If Katsuki were going to say something, it would be, What the hell do you think you’re doing?

It would be, You don’t have a goddamn Quirk, Deku, why are you here?

It would be, Do you still have a fucking death wish? You’re going to get yourself killed out there! Goddammit, Deku, you’re going to die—)

(Katsuki would say, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so fucking sorry.)


“It’s going to be okay, Midoriya,” Uraraka says, patting Izuku’s back. She sounds a little nervous even as she says it. Izuku still has his face buried in his hands after that other boy in the auditorium called him out on his excited mumbling.

Tsuna sends him a pulse of reassurance. That, combined with Uraraka’s attempts at calming him, are enough for him to finally look up.

“…It’s a miniature city,” he says.

“Yep,” Uraraka says. She doesn’t look much better than she sounds.

“Ah, I’m sure you’ll do great, Uraraka!” Izuku says. “Your Quirk must work well in both offensive and rescue situations, so I don’t think you have anything to fear. In fact—”

Izuku cuts himself off before he can start saying too much. His face flushes red again.

Uraraka looks a little red herself, but she’s smiling now. “Thanks, Midoriya-kun,” she says. “Good luck to you, too!”

“AND…BEGIN!”

Izuku jumps, looking around. Present Mic is standing on a high platform near the gate to the city. The other examinees are looking up at him, too.

“WHAT’S WRONG? THE TEST’S STARTED! RUN!”

Izuku takes off at that, syncing with Tsuna easily as he runs. Flames appear on his head and around his hands as he makes his way into the city.

Izuku catches sight of a two-pointer in front of him, and the shape of it is distantly familiar. Its red eye focuses on him and Izuku laughs. He knows someone who would have loved this.

Spanner, eat your heart out!


Ochako wheels around a corner, away from the remnants of robots she had just destroyed, and tries to catch her breath.

Don’t throw up, don’t throw up, don’t throw up, she thinks to herself.

She’s doing — well, she thinks she’s doing all right. Enough to catch her breath for a few seconds—

But all right isn’t enough. She has to get into Yuuei.

Ochako takes one last, deep breath and then sets off running again. She needs to find more robots. More three-pointers, if she can. Those are the ones that really count.

Of course, that means the next robots she comes across are one-pointers. She runs toward and then slides between two of them, slapping their legs with her hands as she passes, and they start floating. She then has to quickly roll out of the way as the last one-pointer aims its gun at her and fires.

How do I get that one?

She can’t hold the other two for much longer. She’s going to have to do something, fast.

Ooh, this is a bad idea, she thinks, dodging another shot from the remaining one-pointer. Then she rushes the robot, slapping at her side as she goes, and at the last moment, jumps into the air. She flips neatly, slaps the robot on its head as she passes, and grimaces. She’s barely off the ground with her Quirk, but she has to wait for the robots to get high enough to destroy them before she releases Zero Gravity.

Keep holding it. Hold it just a little longer—

Ochako presses her hands together. Too late, she realizes her mistake.

There’s someone else here, and he’s going to be hit by the robots as they fall.

“Look out!” Ochako shouts as her feet hit the ground. She slaps herself again. She needs all the possible advantages she can get. If she doesn’t weigh anything, she might be able to move fast enough.

She runs a few steps and shoves off the ground, slamming into the other kid, and they roll away as the robots crash to the ground.

Ochako shakily cancels her Quirk again, feeling gravity reassert itself on her.

“Sorry,” she says. “I’m so sorry, I should have paid more attention—”

She then ruins her apology by throwing up at the boy’s feet.


Izuku ducks under the two-pointer’s arm, grabs it with fiery hands, and uses a light touch of Sun Flames to slam it into the three-pointer next to it. The three-pointer goes down and doesn’t get back up, but somehow the two-pointer is struggling back to its feet.

Izuku puts his fist through its face.

Ow, he thinks as he pulls his hand back out, shaking it before he takes off down the street, looking for more robots. Ow, ow, that hurt, ow. Note to self, don’t do that again.

At least, not without gloves.

All the times he had designed his hero costume, he had included gloves in the design, but he needs better than cloth. He needs something that will help brace his hands. Come to think of it, he should probably ask Tsuna what his gloves are made of.

Tsuna’s gloves were definitely made for fighting.

It’s not holding Izuku back here, though. A lot of what works for him is simply grabbing the robots and throwing them into each other — between his Hyper Intuition and the strength his Flames give him, it’s relatively easy to keep grabbing them. They don’t seem to have a shared mind-network that allows them to transfer information, which is its own blessing.

Izuku hopes Uraraka is doing well.

He passes a couple of other examinees taking down their own robots, but he doesn’t see her. He hopes she gets in to Yuuei. He hopes he doesn’t have to get past her at some point in this exam to gain more points.

He would, is the thing.

He would do almost anything to get into Yuuei, to become a hero.

Almost anything.

The grounds rumbles beneath his feet, and Izuku nearly falls. He catches himself, settling into a more balanced stance, and looks down the street to his left. Other examinees are already panicking and running in his direction, away from—

That’s the zero-pointer?!

Running from that seems more and more like a good idea. He’s about to turn—

Izuku’s eye catches on movement at the end of the street, just ahead of the zero-pointer. Someone pushing themself up, but they can’t seem to get off the ground. They lift their head. Despite the distance, she seems to meet Izuku’s eyes.

Uraraka!

Izuku takes off running, but he already knows he’s going to be too late. The zero-pointer is too big — even if he managed to attack it, there was no guarantee that it would be thrown off enough to save Uraraka.

No. No! I’m not going to let her die.

Determination/decision/warmth flood up from Tsuna, and Izuku skids to a stop. He can almost hear Tsuna’s voice in his ear. “This is what you can do…”

Izuku positions his left hand behind himself, his right fist extended in front, aimed at the zero-pointer. He lets the Flames flow from his left hand and holds it all together in his right.

Wait…

The zero-pointer keeps coming. Izuku’s eyes narrow.

Wait…

Uraraka has tears in her eyes.

Wait…

The zero-pointer lifts its foot—

Now!

He steadies his fist, extends his fingers, and lets go.

“X-Burner,” Izuku says.


Damn,” someone behind Shouta hisses out.

Privately, Shouta agrees. He’s been keeping an eye on the kid since the beginning. The kid’s pretty plain, but he’s strong, he fights smart, he can make quick assessments.

He’s also goddamn ruthless.

Shouta isn’t impressed by the power in that attack. He’s impressed by the way the kid forced himself to realize he could never rescue the girl in time by running to her — and instead stood there, watching the zero-pointer approach, and waited until the opportune moment to strike.

He waited until the zero-pointer was off-balance, and then he took it fully out of the equation. That first attempt — even if he had managed to reach the girl in time, they still would have had to outrun the zero-pointer. The kid took the most logical option.

Shouta thinks he might be disappointed if — he checks the bottom of the screen — Midoriya Izuku doesn’t get into Yuuei. He wants to at least see Midoriya up close. He wants to know what kind of hero Midoriya dreams of being.

For now, Shouta settles back, looking at other screens, as on his own screen, Midoriya drops his hands and bolts toward the girl.

(Shouta doesn’t think anything of All Might’s smile beside him. If it’s a little wider than usual—

—well, who’s to say?)


“Are you okay?” Izuku gasps, pulling up next to Uraraka. Somewhere in the distance, he hears Present Mic screaming to alert them to the end of the exam. Izuku doesn’t care.

“M-Midoriya-kun?” Uraraka say. She blinks tears from her eyes. She looks over her shoulder to the fallen zero-pointer, then back at Izuku. “You…you saved my life.”

“I’m sorry,” Izuku says miserably, shoving at some of the rubble trapping Uraraka’s leg. “I wasn’t sure if I could get here fast enough, so it was better to take out the robot directly, but you probably thought—”

“Midoriya-kun,” Uraraka says, cutting him off. She meets his eyes. “You saved my life. Thank you.”

Izuku nods. It’s all he can think to do, before he turns his attention back to shifting rubble.

“Do you think you could lift the heaviest bit of this off yourself?” he asks after several moments. Even if Uraraka only lightens it, it will be much easier to move this beam off. “I can pull you out.”

“I can do that,” Uraraka says. She twists, a pained expression on her face, and brushes the beam with her hand.

The whole pile shifts. Some of the rubble pieces look like they’re threatening to fall. Izuku abandons any plans of getting Uraraka out more slowly, and simply pulls her free, careful to make sure her foot doesn’t get caught on anything as he does.

Even so…

“Does your foot hurt?” Izuku asks cautiously, after he’s propped Uraraka up against the rubble she was just trapped under.

Uraraka closes her eyes. “Is it bad?”

“That’s what I’m asking you,” Izuku shoots back.

“Yes, it hurts, Midoriya-kun. So…how bad is it?”

“I have first aid training,” Izuku says, practical and formal like he’s been taught. “Do you mind if I check your ankle, or would you prefer to see a professional outside of the training grounds?”

Uraraka grins weakly at him. “If it’s broken, at least you can splint it, right? Go ahead.”

“Okay,” Izuku says, grateful for the calm Hyper Dying Will Mode allows him. “I’m going to take off your shoe now.”

He does so as carefully as he’s able. Uraraka still bites down hard enough on her lip that Izuku’s surprised not to see blood.

Uraraka’s foot is definitely broken.

“Does this hurt?” Izuku asks, placing a feather-light touch on her ankle. His Flames shift, yellow swirling through them and diving into Uraraka’s skin.

“N-not too much,” Uraraka says, trying for a brave expression. It mostly looks like the grimace it is.

Izuku lifts his hand from her ankle, but only barely. He’s still close enough for his Sun Flames to close the distance. She kept him from falling when he walked into Yuuei; the least he can do is give her a little help in healing.

Still, he can’t delay here much longer.

“We need to get you to a doctor,” Izuku says. “I can act as a crutch, if you prefer to walk, or, um.” He shifts his weight from side to side. “I, um, I could carry you. If that would be. Less painful. For you.”

“Oh, don’t worry, dear,” a woman says behind him, stopping Uraraka from having to answer. “That won’t be necessary. Gummy?”

Izuku accepts, automatically murmuring, “Thank you,” as the woman moves past him, approaching Uraraka. Izuku stands and takes a step away, assured that there’s an actual medical professional here now. Of course Yuuei would have someone on standby after this test. The woman is older, using a cane shaped like a syringe, and something about her seems familiar—

“A broken ankle, then?” the woman asks. “You’ll be just fine.” And she leans over and kisses Uraraka on the forehead.

Uraraka eeps. A few of the other examinees, who Izuku had peripherally noted getting closer to them, let out strangled noises. Izuku yells, “Recovery Girl!” and slaps his hands over his mouth.

His hands, which are still on fire.

“Yes?” Recovery Girl asks, stepping away from Uraraka, whose foot is positioned correctly again. Uraraka’s leaning over and poking at her ankle.

“You’re…Recovery Girl,” Izuku says weakly, dropping his hands. “The Youthful Hero.”

Recovery Girl smiles at him. “I am,” she says, laughing gently. She raises her voice to ask, “Any other hurt children?”

Izuku lets out a quiet sigh as she starts past him. He’s relieved she seemed to take his excitement in stride. He’s also relieved that it’s over.

It’s all over now. He either made it into Yuuei, or he didn’t. And…despite his thoughts at the beginning of the test, if he doesn’t make it into Yuuei, if he only does one worthwhile thing in his life — at least he saved Uraraka.

No one’s going to die in front of me.

(They aren’t going to die in front of me again.)

Regardless, the test is over. He doesn’t need to hold onto Hyper Dying Will Mode anymore.

He lets go of his Flames.

“Hrghn,” Izuku says, falling to one knee.

Ow, ow, ow, this hurts so much, why?

Probably because his right hand is burned to hell. There are a few red marks on his left, but the burns on his right — they’re second-degree.

“Goodness,” Recovery Girl says, immediately turning around and walking back to him. She glances over his hand. “Come here.” And then she’s kissing him on the forehead, too.

The wave of relief is immediate, as is the drag at his reserves. He’s more tired than dropping out of Dying Will Mode accounts for — but then, Recovery Girl’s Quirk is documented as working with the injured person’s own reserves.

“Thank you,” Izuku says, climbing back to both feet and flexing his suddenly uninjured hands.

Recovery Girl smiles at him again, passes him a few more gummies with a wink, and then she’s moving through the crowd, still calling out for the injured. Uraraka and Izuku watch her go.

“So,” Uraraka says suddenly. “Do you want to be friends, Midoriya-kun?”

Izuku stares at her, running the words through his head to make sure he didn’t misunderstand them, and then a small smile starts growing on his face.

“I’d like that,” he says. He offers her a hand to help her back to her feet, and Uraraka matches his smile as she takes it.


Deep inside, Tsuna watches the thin thread twining itself together with the reaching edges of Izuku’s Flames, and he resolves that he won’t say a thing.

He can’t.

This is Izuku’s life. This is Izuku’s choice.

And Izuku…has found a Guardian.

Chapter Text

Izuku is determined to act like everyting is normal. He has to pretend that he didn’t just make a life-altering decision that will determine his entire future

He’s not very good at not worrying. Fortunately, after the first time Izuku works himself up almost into a panic attack, Tsuna has gotten quite good at — forcefully, if need be — redirecting Izuku’s train of thought. He’s also made Izuku keep to his training schedule. It’s to help him if he makes it into Yuuei, but at the same time an obvious ploy to try and keep Izuku too tired to panic.

Izuku can’t clear anymore garbage off Dagobah Beach, but Tsuna assigns him more weight lifting instead. Izuku keeps his same jogging route, though, and admires the clear sands stretching away as he passes by them.

Izuku is grateful.

Strangely, though, Izuku doesn’t see Yagi much the first few days after the exam. The beach is clear now, so maybe it shouldn’t be unexpected. It’s odd because even before he knew Yagi particularly well, even before Yagi helped him to clear away the beach, their paths intersected often during their morning runs. They came from different direction, yet chose the same landmarks — the parks, the beach, a short wooded trail — to run through.

It feels wrong now to not see him, after months of mornings spent together.

Maybe he’s sick, Izuku thinks. He remembers the way that scar stretched over Yagi’s torso, the way his stomach caved inward in a way that made Izuku break out in cold sweats if he thought about it too much.

(A visceral understanding of just how injured Chrome had been before Mukuro saved and taught her; the realization of how close he had come to losing her before he had ever met her; that horrid scene at the Ring Battles when she had lost her trident, her control, her anchor, while Mammom floated over her and laughed.

He liked the Varia’s Mist well enough, but a sharp-edged part of him would never forget or forgive them for that.)

Tsuna finds another worry to push Izuku’s thoughts away from.


On the fifth day—

it’s been five days, they said it would be about a week for the results to come up, just a couple more days, just hold on a couple more days

—Izuku jogs past the beach, and out of the corner of his eye he spots it. Someone sitting at the top of the stairs leading to the beach. Someone with blond hair.

His head whips around.

“Yagi-san!” he calls, immediately turning and heading that way.

Yagi looks up. “Young Midoriya,” he says with a wave and a smile.

Izuku quickly scans him up and down. He doesn’t look any worse than when Izuku last saw him. That’s not exactly saying much, though. He’s so sick

(Chrome screams)

and there’s nothing Izuku can do about it. Sun Flames can help heal, but Izuku’s not good enough with them yet. And even if he was — he can’t do anything for Yagi. These injuries are beyond even an Arcobaleno. Maybe if they had been there right as it happened, if they had been first on the scene…

But even then, maybe not.

There’s nothing Izuku can do, and he hates it.


Young Midoriya is staring at him with narrow, burning eyes.

Toshinori doesn’t think that Midoriya does it on purpose; he hadn’t publicly used his Quirk that Toshinori saw since the first time he caught Midoriya doing it. But sometimes burnished orange sneaks its way into his eyes and his soft face settles into something harder. Something older and almost unearthly.

And sometimes — the moments that make something sink in Toshinori’s nonexistent stomach — those eyes are looking away, inside, at something that Toshinori can’t see. Something that, going by the look of young Midoriya’s face, Toshinori doesn’t want to see.

Except to know what, beyond the sludge villain, has hurt this incredibly kind boy, and how Toshinori can deal with it.

It’s the moments when Midoriya zones out when looking at him that probably most concern Toshinori, though. The first time Toshinori coughed up blood in front of Midoriya, he panicked and flailed and pressed tissues into Toshinori’s hands. At some point, though, something changed. He doesn’t act like that anymore during Toshinori’s coughing fits. He doesn’t act like a normal child.

He has that sharp-edged glint to his eyes instead, his face set in neutral lines that don’t quite disguise the anger. He’s unbearably gentle and almost — understanding, if Toshinori reads his expression right when Midoriya eventually turns away again.

But Midoriya doesn’t know about his injury. Surely he can’t.

Toshinori isn’t worried about him finding out he’s All Might. It’s too far a jump to make. He doesn’t want to somehow hurt Midoriya even more, make him withdraw into himself further.

As it is, the look in his eyes…

It chills Toshinori to the bone.

“Young Midoriya?” Toshinori says cautiously. It’s been too long. Midoriya doesn’t usually miss parts of the conversation; he should have responded by now.

Midoriya blinks slowly, some of the orange fading from his eyes.

But not all of it.

“Are you all right?” Toshinori asks, making to rise.

It’s not quite a smile that flashes across Midoriya’s face. It’s too bitter and full of a strange kind of hurt to be called that.

“I think I should be asking you that,” Midoriya says.

Toshinori pauses, caught flat-footed. He isn’t sure what to say to that, especially since it seems to imply

“Never mind,” Midoriya says quietly. “Sorry. It’s not my business.” He looks away.

He can’t know. Toshinori is sick; anyone looking at him can tell. It’s obvious that he’s weak and sick and that’s why no one would ever suspect him of being All Might. Midoriya’s concerned about him, and they’ve known each other for months, so why wouldn’t he be? He’s too kind-hearted for anything else.

But surely he can’t know the extent of Toshinori’s injury. He can’t have even seen it.

Could he?

“That’s all right,” Toshinori says. He rubs the back of his head. “I’m about to start a new job,” he says. “It’s been a busy few days. Lots of paperwork.”

Midoriya huffs a laugh. The darkness to his face lightens a bit. “Are you looking forward to the job, at least?” he asks, and he settles down next to Toshinori on the steps for a short break in his morning run. “Despite the paperwork?”

“You know,” Toshinori says, rexlaxing, “I think I am.”

Instructing the next generation of heroes is an entirely worthwhile endeavor. If they’re anything at all like Midoriya, so strong and kind and determined, then this will likely be one of the best things he’ll ever do in his life.

And, of course, he’ll have to chance to look for someone to be his successor. That’s another — arguably more important — part of his job. He’ll be able to get to know the students, discover which one of them would be the best candidate to take on One For All.

(The problem is, Toshinori thinks he may have already found the successor he wants.)


He’s fine, Izuku tells himself later. He sits on the edge of his bed, closes his eyes and presses the heels of his palms against them until stars burst bright in the darkness behind his eyelids. He’s fine, he’s fine. He was just busy. He has his own life. He has his own responsibilities. You’re a stranger. He doesn’t owe you anything. He’s fine.

(Chrome screamed as she collapsed and the trident fell from her hand. Mukuro was drowning for years in the Vindicare, peeking out from Chrome’s face and holding her together from the inside.

In the end, they fell together.

A mission that Tsuna sent them on. He never should have done that. He should have protected them. He should have known, should have made better plans, should have known that even his Mists weren’t infallible and not even Mukuro could cheat death forever —

Instead their tridents shattered and all Tsuna managed to take from their final stand were their bodies and the Mist earrings, formed in two parts for his two Mists, and Tsuna had r a g e d)

He’s fine, Izuku tells himself over and over.

If he says it enough, maybe he’ll believe it. If he says it fiercely enough, maybe he’ll be able to forget Tsuna’s memories of his Mists.


Izuku screams himself awake that night, the first time in ages he hasn’t been able to stifle his nightmares enough to keep his mother from hearing.

Inko runs into his room. She holds him against her as he sobs and she doesn’t ask any questions.


Izuku hates feeling helpless. Too much of his life has been spent feeling that way. Yagi Toshinori is — should be — just a man Izuku met months ago, but Izuku wants to help, and he can’t.

There’s nothing he can do.

His Sun Flames can’t help, Izuku can’t help, and Yagi hasn’t even mentioned it to Izuku himself, simply sidestepped anything that might lead to deeper questions. Izuku respects that; he can understand keeping problems to yourself, because that’s how Izuku has lived his entire life, refusing to make his mother — the only person who cares about him — worried for his sake. He hasn’t always been successful, but he tries his hardest, just as hard as she tries for him. She does so much for him.

Izuku can’t do anything for Yagi, and it burns him up inside.

Chrome was in a car accident. Her parents didn’t help her, because they didn’t care, and even if they’re two hundred years dead, the thought of it makes Izuku angry.

Yagi…

Yagi probably wasn’t in a car accident. It’s possible, but in an era of organ transplants and healing Quirks, it’s far more likely that the damage was simply too much. That someone attacked him. That someone caused this, ripping him apart in a way that keeps him from ever fully healing.

Izuku guessed that from the moment he saw the scar. It still hurts.

Someone did this to Yagi. Izuku can’t do anything to help Yagi.

Izuku takes a deep breath.

Izuku can’t do anything to help Yagi, but maybe, as a hero, he can keep it from happening to anyone else.

(No one else is going to die in front of me, he thought during the exam.

Izuku is going to save everyone that he can, and maybe, someday, he might be able to help Yagi somehow, too.)


“Izuku,” Inko says. She’s holding an envelope in her hand.

It’s the seventh day.

“Is that…?”

Inko nods.

“Mom,” Izuku says. “Will you…will you stay with me? While I read it?”

Tsuna, here with him. His mother, here with him. Even if he hasn’t made it into Yuuei, he’ll still have their support. Their love.

He’ll need it.

Inko nods. “Of course,” she says. She stands behind him, one hand on his shoulder, as Izuku lays the envelope on his desk. He opens it.

He tips it slightly, reaching for the paper inside. Before he can pull it out, a small disk clatters onto his desk. It flares to life.

“I AM HERE — AS A PROJECTION!” All Might declares.

“All Might!” Inko gasps.

Izuku is frozen. All Might is in this video, the logo for Yuuei positioned to his right. All Might is in a video about his acceptance — or rejection — to Yuuei.

Why is All Might here?

“Midoriya Izuku,” All Might starts.

He knows my name, Izuku thinks blankly, and then, very loudly, he thinks, What the fuck?

“Since meeting you last year” — dammit that’s right, he met Tsuna! — “and hearing of your intention to become a hero, I have been looking forward to seeing your progress and have hoped to see you among the ranks of heroes someday!” All Might says. His smile is blinding. “Which is why I am proud to welcome you into Yuuei!”

What.

All Might keeps speaking, but Izuku can’t hear it over the buzzing in his head.

He…he made it?

He made it.

Izuku made it into Yuuei.

He didn’t only make it, he realizes. He zones back in as scores flash across the screen — rankings for the exam.

He made it into first place in the rankings.

“What?” Izuku says, near soundlessly. He blinks, but the scores are still there, unchanging.

Midoriya Izuku. Forty-four villain points. Sixty rescue points.

He’s first place. He beat out Kacchan. He beat out Kacchan by a good fourteen point margin, because Kacchan had seventy-seven and thirteen respectively.

There’s no way this can be real.

He must be misreading this, misunderstanding it somehow—

“Izuku!” Inko squeals. “Izukkun, that’s amazing! You’re going to go to Yuuei!”

“I’m going to Yuuei,” Izuku echoes her. He can’t quite believe it.

Pride/warmth/knew-you-could comes from Tsuna as Inko wraps her arms around him in a hug.

Izuku is going to be a hero.

Chapter Text

“Midoriya-kun!” Uraraka shouts from Yuuei’s gate. She waves a hand cheerfully over her hand, just in case Izuku somehow misses her. Izuku grins at the sight of her and picks up his pace to meet her.

They’ve been texting back and forth since the entrance exam. Besides his mom, Uraraka is the first person that Izuku told. He’d texted her immediately, and a few minutes later she had called him, yelling excitedly that she’d gotten in too, they were going to go to school together, this was great—!

The third person Izuku told was Yagi-san.

“Of course you made it in,” Yagi-san said, grinning proudly. “I never doubted you could.”

Izuku didn’t bother telling anyone at school. It wasn’t like they would believe him, and they certainly didn’t care about him. Well, maybe some of them would have cared if they could make fun of him for it, but strangely no one asked.

Then again, no one had been bothering Izuku for months. Especially not Bakugou.

At any rate, Izuku was bolstered by his friendship with Uraraka. The end of the school year passed quickly; Izuku kept his grades up, even if they weren’t entirely necessary given his acceptance into Yuuei. The high points of his school days are finding somewhere to eat his lunch away from everyone else and texting Uraraka while she, too, is on her lunch break.

(She’s a little nervous about moving to Mustufau to live on her own, but it’s easier on her parents and the commute is much better. Also, Izuku has promised that he’ll be there whenever she needs company, and she’s always welcome in his home.

He can’t wait to introduce Urarka to his mom.)

Now they’re going to have a chance to eat lunch together in person, because they’re both going to Yuuei. They’re both here.

“Hi, Uraraka!” Izuku says.

Uraraka is bouncing excitedly on the balls of her feet. She waits until Izuku is right in front of her, and then she can’t seem to contain herself any longer — she throws herself at Izuku, pulling him into a hug. Izuku hesitates for one brief second, and then his arms circle around her, too.

Uraraka pulls back, tucking hair behind her ear, her cheeks dusted with pink.

“W-well,” she says. “We should go find our classroom!”

Izuku stares up at Yuuei. It’s monstrously huge. They were guided directly where they needed to be when they were here for the exams. Somehow, Izuku gets the impression that it won’t be that easy from now on.

“Right,” he says. “Let’s go find 1-A.”

Hesitantly, he holds out a hand. He doesn’t look to see Uraraka’s reaction.

Which makes it that much more relieving when he feels her hand in his, and they walk into Yuuei.


 Tsuna wanders around the borders of the constructed Namimori. He can’t stand staring into the forest endlessly, so he turns around, heading back to town.

He stops in front of TakeSushi.

A faint blue limes the building. It’s been this way since the entrance exam. The bond isn’t a physical link, not really, but here and now, Tsuna can see the way that it manifests better than he ever could when he was alive. And because he is the one shaping this tiny reality in the midst of Flames —

It chooses Takeshi’s house.

Izuku hasn’t figured it out yet. Tsuna still hasn’t told him. He’s going to let Izuku figure it out in his own time — because how could Izuku not realize something is strange, when he is always so wary of people, but lets Uraraka in immediately and without reservation? Izuku is smart. He’ll figure it out. Tsuna just can’t bring himself to tell him. He doesn’t want to sound accusatory. He doesn’t want Izuku to blame himself.

Izuku thinks Tsuna doesn’t realize just how fiercely he wants to hold onto that promise Izuku made him, but he does. Oh, Tsuna knows. They’re part of the same being now, and more than that, the Flames where Tsuna exist ring with that determination.

It doesn’t hurt that Izuku broke his promise. How could he have helped himself? A perfect Rain for him was right there. He saved her life.

Tsuna laughs wearily, resting his head against the door to TakeSushi. There’s something about Rains, he supposes. Xanxus and Squalo bonded during a fight; Giotto and Ugetsu were in a similar fight, if what Tsuna recalls from Reborn’s history lessons is right; Tsuna bonded after pulling Takeshi off of that rooftop.

Danger and violence. This is what seems to draw Rains to their line.

Of course Izuku would pull her in without realizing it.

Tsuna slips inside TakeSushi. He treads slowly up the stairs, wishing his memory were good enough to recreate pictures on the walls instead of only a bare shell of a home.

He pauses in front of Takeshi’s door. Ever so slowly, he opens it.

The blue is even brighter here. Familiar. There is an echo of Takeshi here, in his room, but these Flames—

They aren’t his. They’re the sleeping Flames of Izuku’s Rain.

Tsuna sits on Takeshi’s futon. He pulls his knees up to his chest, thirteen and tiny and alone, and he doesn’t cry, but he mourns quietly for a long time.


 Izuku and Uraraka wander through the halls of Yuuei, searching for their classroom.

"1-C," Izuku mutters, pointing at the sign over the nearest door.

"So we're getting close, right?" Uraraka asks.

Izuku is pretty sure that 1-C is one of the General course classrooms. He's not sure if they're in the same area as the classrooms for the Hero courses. Would it be more likely that they would keep all the first year students near each other, or is it more likely that they would keep Yuuei sectioned off by what the students are studying? It might be more logical to keep Business students together in one of Yuuei's huge buildings, and then Support students -- so that they have space for experiments -- and General students likewise in their own areas, and then Hero students in an entirely different section. This would allow for the teachers for each section to be near when students need them and have upperclassmen of each section nearby--

"You're talking out loud, Midoriya-kun," Uraraka says, not unkindly. She sounds almost amused.

Nonetheless, Izuku lets out a tiny squeak. "Sorry," he says, and it's an automatic reaction that makes him shuffle away from her, his hand slipping out of Uraraka's.

(It's not that he truly thinks she'll hurt him. It's not like anyone at school has harassed him for a year. But some things he can't unlearn that quickly.)

"Do you really think we're in the wrong part of the building?" Uraraka asks. She looks up and down the hallway.

"I-I don't know," Izuku says, and he hates himself for how he stutters at first. "I don't know what's -- I don't know how Yuuei is organized. And...they didn't exactly give us a map."

Uraraka frowns. "...You don't think this is another test, do you?"

Izuku kinds of wants to slam his head against the wall just at the thought of it. They had to fight giant murderous robots in their entrance exam; testing them on navigation seems strange for Yuuei, but it is applicable for hero work. Heroes don't always have a map of the areas or buildings that they have to work in. This could be a test.

"If it is," Izuku says, "I really hope it's not cheating to ask someone for help." Then he turns on his heel and walks straight up to the nearest student.


 "Finally," Ochako sighs when they at last make it to their classroom. 1-A is posted at the top of the giant door, and she's almost happier to see it than she was seeing Yuuei this morning. Beside her, Midoriya looks half-dead, something intensely tired lurking at the edges of his eyes.

(She and Midoriya didn't send many texts with pictures of themselves to each other in the time between the end of their middle school days and the beginning of Yuuei, but she'd noticed a pattern in them. Midoriya always had dark shadows under his eyes. He always seems cheerful enough -- especially if they're talking in person, like right now -- but Ochako wonders if everything is okay with Midoriya. It can't be healthy to sleep that little.)

Ochako slides open the door.

Midoriya tenses ever so slightly next to her.

"What the fuck ever," a blond kid with spiky hair is saying, dragging his feet slowly off of the desk. "You pretentious fucking asshole."

Another boy, one that Ochako vaguely recognizes from the entrance exams, is wildly swinging his hand in a chopping motion. Light glints off of his glasses as he says, "We are all students of this prestigious institution now, and it becomes us to--"

The blond kid's eyes slide past Choppy Boy, glance over Ochako, and land on--

--Midoriya.

"Bakugou," Midoriya says levelly. Ochako sees him nod his head out of the corner of her eye.

Miniature explosions spark in Bakugou's hands as his red eyes go wide, but they die out just as quickly. Those eyes narrow, and then Bakugou turns his head away from Midoriya without acknowledging him.

So Midoriya...knows him? And doesn't seem to get along well with him.

"You!" Choppy Boy says. He's turned around and is looking at them.

"Um?" Ochako says.

"Ack," Midoriya says.

Now that Ochako can see Choppy Boy's face a little better, she realizes that she does recognize him. This is the boy that yelled at Midoriya for muttering to himself during the assembly!

Before she knows what she's doing, Ochako steps in front of Midoriya.

It's not likely he's harming anyone when he thinks things through out loud. It's helpful, even. And she can't help but think that maybe he's scared of people shutting him down; he'd stepped away from Ochako so quickly when she made a simply comment about it. She hadn't meant to hurt his feelings! It was just a part of Midoriya.

So if Choppy Boy wants to harass Midoriya again, he’ll have to go through Ochako.

"You want something?" Ochako asks, not quite aggressive -- yet -- but willing to go there if she had to. Even if she had to start a brawl on her first day attending Yuuei.

"I wanted to apologize," Choppy Boy says, and to Ochako's surprise, he bows. "My name is Iida Tenya, and I completely misjudged you on the day of the entrance exams. You are the only one who saw the true meaning of the exams! I am ashamed of the way that I acted toward you. You did not deserve the way I treated you."

"It's...it's really okay," Midoriya says quietly, peeking out from behind Ochako's defensive stance. "You really...don't have to apologize to me. People have treated me a lot worse."

"Midoriya-kun!" Ochako says. Midoriya says that so blandly, so calm about it, like it doesn’t wound Ochako to have quiet suspicions confirmed so easily. Maybe all he means is that Iida called him out on his muttering, that it happens all the time, but what does worse entail? Midoriya is kind and friendly until he shuts it all down; he stutters and apologizes too often. Ochako is afraid of what ‘worse’ means.

He never talks about his school. He never talks about any friends. And given how pointedly level his voice was when he greeted Bakugou, when he's usually quite expressive--

Ochako has a bad feeling.

"I--" Iida starts, looking off-kilter. "I still must apologize! I do not want you to believe--"

"If Deku says it's fine, it's fucking fine,"  Bakugou interrupts. He still isn't looking their way. A scowl tilts his mouth down. "So shut the hell up already."

"Such language is unbecoming of Yuuei--" Iida says, rounding on Bakugou again.

"You're all too loud," says someone from behind Ochako and Midoriya.

Ochako wheels around to see a giant yellow caterpillar on the ground, right outside the doorway. The caterpillar is glaring at them.

Between the maze of the school, Choppy Boy, and now this giant caterpillar, Ochako is starting to think that all of this morning has maybe just been a fever dream.


 Izuku squints at the man lying on the ground in front of them.

He assumes that this man must be someone who works at Yuuei. The security system is too complex for him to have been able to sneak in here, and besides, Izuku’s Intuition isn't going off. If the man were going to harm them, Izuku would know.

No, he's not a threat.

Which means he's...

"Pick a seat and sit in it," the man says, unfolding himself from his sleeping bag and standing up. "I don't care where."

...their teacher.

"My name is Aizawa Shouta," the man says, brushing past Izuku and Uraraka into the classroom. Izuku glances at Uraraka, and then they both quickly find a place to sit. Izuku ends up behind Uraraka; there wasn't a seat available so he could sit beside her, unfortunately. "I'm your homeroom teacher."

Izuku wonders what hero Aizawa-sensei is.

Someone who works nights? Aizawa-sensei looks tired enough for that, and if he's teaching by day, then he's probably not doing hero work during school hours. Unless he has a limited amount of time that he works at Yuuei, and the rest of the time he's out heroing. But no, it seems more likely that he works nights, but Izuku doesn't recognize him, and Izuku knows everyone. Aizawa-sensei isn't a newly graduated hero (he is assuredly not a teenager), which leaves—

Underground hero.

Aizawa-sensei must be an underground hero.

Izuku wonders what his Quirk is.

"These will be your seats for the rest of the semester," Aizawa-sensei says tiredly. "Hope you chose well." He jerks his thumb to the side of the room, where several rows of cabinets are set into the wall. "Get a gym uniform. Meet me down at training ground B."

"What about the welcome assembly?" someone calls out.

"I don't care about it," Aizawa-sensei says simply. "We're doing this instead. Get moving."

Everyone in class makes their way to the cabinets, finding the uniforms that have their names on them. Izuku grabs his, watching Aizawa-sensei leave the room out of the corner of his eye. Then he follows members of his class as they head off to look for the locker room.


 Izuku stands next to Uraraka out on the field. He's too aware of Bakugou close to him.

He doesn't know why he's suddenly so sensitive to Bakugou's presence. It's not like he didn't realize that Bakugou had also gotten into Yuuei. He'd seen Bakugou's score on the entrance exam — second place with 90 points. He knew that. Somehow, though, he had never really considered the fact that they might end up in the same class.

Months spent uncaring what his classmates thought of him, months working toward getting into Yuuei, months dealing with the trauma of the villain attack that started all this—

And he's suddenly thrown entirely off-kilter in a way that he hates.

This is a new school. This is Izuku's chance — his chance to become a hero. His chance to actually make friends, ones that don't know how the word Quirkless haunted him for fourteen years. His chance to start over.

Izuku wants it so badly, and now, there's a part of him that resents Bakugou for being here, for possibly taking that away from him.

He tries to squash down that resentment. It's not fair to Bakugou—

But when has he ever been fair to you?  a voice whispers inside him. It's not Tsuna. It's not his Intuition. It's that bitterness he always tucks away deep inside himself, the anger at being helpless and Quirkless and never good enough.

Shut up, shut up, shut up, Izuku thinks fiercely.

Izuku can see Bakugou at the other end of the crowd of students. His arms are crossed over his chest, and he's scowling. Per usual.

Bakugou suddenly shakes his head, dropping his arms, and then he looks over and meets Izuku's eyes.

They hold gazes for a long moment.

"Midoriya-kun," Uraraka whispers, nudging him in the side. She nods her head toward Aizawa, approaching the crowd of students his hands stuffed in his pockets.

"All right," Aizawa says. "We're going to hold a Quirk assessment test. None of you were able to use your Quirks in middle school. It's doubtful any of you have used them to their full extent. This test is going to measure where you are and provide a baseline for the year." His voice is monotone, but his gaze is sharp as he sweeps it over the students.

"Midoriya," Aizawa says suddenly. "You scored first in the entrance exams."

Oh no, Izuku thinks, and he automatically pulls slightly on his Flames, not quite entering Dying Will Mode, but pulling its calm over himself. If he could look at himself in a mirror right now, he's sure his eyes would be blazing orange.

"Yes, sir," Izuku says.

"Come here," Aizawa says. Izuku walks up to him, and Aizawa tosses him a baseball. He points at a white circle painted on the ground. "Toss the ball as far as you can from there."

Izuku steps into the circle. He takes a deep breath, reaching further down, pulling his Flames fully into himself. His center feels strangely empty; Tsuna isn't there offering him encouragement the way he was this morning, though Izuku can still feel him if he reaches down further. Izuku decides to leave him be.

He feels the fire light on his brow.

Izuku tosses the ball into the air once, twice, considering it and its weight as it smacks back down into his palm. He considers what his Flames can do—

—and then he considers Bakugou.

Yeah, that could work.

One last toss into the air, and Izuku pulls on the unique feeling of his Sun Flames, the different shade to them in his mind's eye, and watches faint yellow lime his arm. Every little bit of strength will help him with this test. Then he pulls his arm back, and he throws the ball.

Just as the ball leaves his grip, Izuku lets loose a condensed burst of Sun Flames from his hand. It's precisely controlled, so that instead of setting anything on fire, it acts...well, it acts almost like an explosion.

Izuku watches the ball sail away with a satisfied smile, and then he turns to Aizawa. He drops out of Dying Will Mode.

"Five hundred and sixty-six point three nine," Aizawa says. "Not bad."

No, that isn't bad at all. And this was Izuku's first time trying something like that with his Flames. If he keeps working at it, he may be able to send things further away than that, and—

"What the fuck was that?!" Bakugou screams from the sidelines. “Shitty Deku, you fucking liar!”

Izuku jerks his head toward the other boy, and receives the unpleasant surprise that Bakugou is heading straight for him, murder in his eyes, explosions crackling in the palms of his hands.

For a second, everything that has changed doesn't matter.

White noise fills Izuku's ears. He takes a step back. His hands catch fire without conscious effort from himself, effortlessly slipping into Dying Will Mode without meaning to.

Useless Deku—

—you'll never be a hero—

Why won't you just stop

—take a leap of faith off the rooftop and see if you get a Quirk in your next life?

Trudging home. Passing beneath the bridge. Sludge filling his lungs.

Drowning.

I don't want to die!

"Midoriya-kun," Uraraka says, gentle. She's resting her hands over his, uncaring of the Flames.

Izuku blinks dazedly. "Uraraka," he says, once he's managed to unclench his jaw and take a full breath. Uraraka smiles tremulously at him. How did she get here so quickly?

Izuku — Izuku thinks he must have lost time.

He looks past Uraraka. Aizawa is half-turned away from them, and Bakugou is wrapped in his scarf/capture weapon, his hands pinned to his sides so he can't loose any more explosions. Izuku is less interested in that than he is by the faint edge of red he can barely see in Aizawa's eyes, the way that the man's hair floats upward in a defiance of gravity. He only gets a glimpse of it before Aizawa releases what must be his Quirk.

Izuku looks down at his and Uraraka's hands. Izuku's Flames don't burn either of them; he doesn't want them to burn right now, so they don't. Uraraka can't have known that before she placed her hands on his, though. Izuku lets the fire fade away, and then he drops out of Dying Will Mode again.

He feels shaky.

He doesn't know how he got that lost in himself. Sometimes he has nightmares, but he doesn’t—

Usually it's Tsuna. Tsuna’s memories, Tsuna’s pain. This time, it wasn't, and something about that scares Izuku more than the flashes of memories he gets from Tsuna.

Izuku has his own nightmares about the sludge villain, of course he does. But not like this. He doesn’t — he thought he’d moved past this. He was dealing with it.

For some reason, though, just now, everything had overwhelmed him. Even Hyper Dying Will Mode hadn’t helped.

Izuku doesn’t know why, and he hates that.

“…I’m fine," Izuku says to Uraraka, pulling his hands away.

"Midoriya," Aizawa says. He's released Bakugou, and he must have said something to him while Izuku wasn't paying attention, because Bakugou is stomping his way back to the other students. He doesn't try to come for Izuku again. "Do you need to go to the nurse's office?"

"No, sir," Izuku says.

Aizawa searches his face. Izuku tries not to shift too obviously.

"I really just want to continue with class," he whispers.

Aizawa nods curtly. "Rejoin your classmates. You too, Uraraka," he adds. He doesn't look quite as bored when he says to Izuku, "If this happens again—“

"It won't," Izuku lies. He can’t promise that. He doesn’t know why he was suddenly so panicked, at such a normal moment, and because of his own memories. The nightmares, the flashes of memories — Izuku has been dealing with them for a year. For most of his life, even if he mostly couldn’t remember them. They’re not going to stop.

If Izuku’s bad memories are being dragged into this as well—

Izuku’s going to have to find a way to hide this better. He doesn’t want people to worry. He doesn’t want people to think there’s something wrong with him.

What if they decide he’s unfit to be a hero?

I won’t let you see it happen again, Izuku thinks to himself, looking up at Aizawa.

"If this happens again," Aizawa repeats. "Uraraka is taking you to the nurse's office. Understand?"

"Yes, sir," Izuku mutters.

I won’t let you see.

Uraraka grabs his hand again as they go to join the other students.

"That was kind of scary," she says, halfway there. “You just…blanked out.”

"Sorry," Izuku says. He doesn't know what else to say.

"It's not your fault!" Uraraka says. She scowls, adding, "Does Bakugou always act like that to you?"

Izuku shrugs. It's the best way to hide his flinch.

Unnoticed by him, Uraraka's lips press into a thin line.

"All right," Aizawa says. "We're continuing the test."

Some of the other students keep shooting Izuku concerned glances. There seems to be a circle of space surrounding Bakugou. Izuku tries to ignore it all.

He just wants to have a day at school. He just wants to have one day at school that Bakugou can't ruin.

Izuku's hands clench into fists.

Uraraka stands between him and the other students. It helps. It really does.

Izuku focuses on keeping his breathing calm and even until he's called up for one of Aizawa's tests.

He can do this. He can do this, he can do this.

All he has to do is keep holding it together.

He sinks back down into the preternatural calm of Dying Will Mode, masking his other emotions with it, smothering it down beneath that focus until he can almost pretend that he really is that calm.

(It's a lie, of course. Even in Dying Will Mode, he catches a glimpse of Bakugou out of the corner of his eye and snakes squirm around in his gut, disturbing the serenity he's holding to him like it's the last thing he has.)

"Start," Aizawa instructs Izuku and his classmates, and Izuku does.

The tests don’t require much concentration.  Izuku focuses on doing his best, of course, even through the vague shakiness that still hasn’t left him, but it’s not taxing by any stretch of the imagination.

Especially not given the fact that Izuku spent the past ten months clearing off Dagobah Beach.

He takes short pauses in between tests to observe his classmates. Uraraka does consistently well; she’s good with thinking up versatile ways to use her Quirk for Aizawa’s tests. Iida, who Izuku only was introduced to earlier this morning, is a demon with anything to do with speed. And Bakugou —

(who makes Izuku retreat further and further into the forced calm of Hyper Dying Will Mode)

—Bakugou comes up with something brilliant 

Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

Izuku holds memories from Tsuna. Memories of fighting Xanxus in the sky, ducking around him as Xanxua holds himself in the air with his guns; using his Flames to boost his speed, throwing himself up into the air so that he’s not dependent on his own weak limbs; all the dreams of flying, the wind on his face, the sun bright and the skies clear.

Tsuna, he thinks severely, and this time, he feels Tsuna answer him.

amusement/surprise/gotcha/what-took-you-so-long?

Izuku steps up to the starting line for the short dash.

Consistent Flames, he thinks, and the positioning of my hands will likely determine what direction I go. Pushing more Flames will mean more speed, but if I’m unpracticed at this—

reassurance/instinct-Intuition-faith/you-can-do-it/just-trust-yourself, Tsuna interrupts him. Fly.

Izuku lets out a slow breath. Aizawa calls for them to start.

Izuku flies.


 Katsuki can’t fucking believe this. Goddamn Deku is—

Goddamn Deku has a fucking Quirk and he’s flying with it and he’s been lying this whole time.

Katsuki waits. Aizawa wouldn’t let him demand answers from Deku, but Katsuki can wait. He’s practices at catching up with Deku later—

—you think you can be a hero?

—worthless Deku—

—why don’t you take a leap of faith and hope for a Quirk in your next life?

Katsuki shakes his head.

He’ll — he’ll deal with that later. It doesn’t matter.

(It does, it does.)

What matters is that Deku has been lying to Katsuki for his entire life. Deku always followed behind him and looked down on him and stood up to Katsuki and said Katsuki was his best friend.

But apparently he couldn’t be fucking bothered to share his Quirk with Katsuki.

(Even if it would have made things easier for him. Even if his life would be so much better with a Quirk. Even if Katsuki may still have never forgiven him for looking down on him like Deku always, always does.)

Whatever.  Katsuki’s going to get some goddamn answers.

He waits until everyone’s finished changing and cleared out of the locker room. It’s not hard to realize this is the best plan — Deku doesn’t know anyone at this school other than Round Cheeks, so no one will be waiting for him, and anyway, Deku has always been a slow changer.

(He limps into the locker rooms after Katsuki and the extras he used to hang around with would leave the locker room. Then he would change by himself. Sometimes that worked. Sometimes they waited for him.

Most of the time they didn’t.

But sometimes...)

(Is it any wonder he followed through with that? a poisonous voice whispers in Katsuki’s head. Is it any wonder he tried to kill himself if that’s the way you always treated him?)

They're alone in the locker room when Deku finally steps around the corner of the lockers Katsuki was waiting by.

Katsuki shoves him up against the wall, one hand on his shoulder to keep him in place. Katsuki is so furious he’s almost using to Quirk — but no. Not quite. Not unless Deku refuses to give him answers.

(He’s not going to do it. This is as far as he can go. What if he hurts Deku and that pushes him too far and he decides to try again?

He’s so fucking angry that Deku has been lying, but Katsuki doesn’t want him dead. ) 

"You were fucking lying to me this whole time!" Katsuki hisses.

Deku's face shuts down, blank like a doll, pale except for the burning in his eyes, orange and unnatural.

"About what?" Deku asks, and his voice — it's like it's not even him. It's different even from that day after he came back from the hospital. This is like someone has taken over his body. Like this isn't even Deku anymore.

Katsuki feels a shiver crawl its way up his spine, something whispering dangerous in his ear, but he ignores it. "You have a goddamn Quirk, Deku! You're a fucking liar -- always looking down on me, pretending you're Quirkless, when you've had a Quirk this whole goddamn time--"

"This whole time?"

Deku's voice is so quiet Katsuki almost doesn't hear it. His gaze had lowered, but now he tilts it back up, and the ugliest, cruelest smile Katsuki has ever seen is on his face.

"Is that what you think, Kacchan?"

Katsuki hadn't noticed Deku calling him 'Bakugou' earlier in the day. It hadn't registered, except maybe as a faint blip in his radar, something that was partially there because he hadn't heard Deku's voice in such a long time. This registers. The way that Deku says 'Kacchan’—

—it feels like a weapon.

Katsuki freezes.

"I haven't had it that long," Deku says. His spine is straight, his expression unwavering, and Katsuki can't stop him as he brushes Katsuki's arm off of him. "It's one of those Quirks that takes specific circumstances to wake up. You've heard of those, right, Kacchan?

"Do you want to know what my Quirk's called? It's called Dying Will Flames. Sorry to disappoint, but you never managed to scare me enough to make me wake up my Quirk." Deku's eyes burn him. "You never really made me fear for my life." He shrugs and shoves past Katsuki. "When it came down to it, though — I really didn't want to die."

Deku walks away.

Katsuki stands there, shaking.

I really didn't want to die.

Katsuki slams a hand into the wall. His knuckles split and bleed against the concrete, and Katsuki falls down to his knees. He wants to pretend that it's the pain in his hand that makes the tears come to his eyes, but he's spent enough time lying to himself. He has to stop.

It's my fault, it's my fault, it's all my fucking fault.

Chapter Text

Izuku doesn't remember most of the rest of his first day at Yuuei. It passes in a blur, the only constants Uraraka's presence beside him and the heavy weight of Aizawa-sensei's eyes on him. Not that Izuku had many more classes with Aizawa-sensei — he had English with Present Mic, for one.

Usually that would have thrown him into fits of rhapsody.

'Usually' didn't come into play anymore.

It couldn't.

You're a fucking liar! You've had a Quirk this whole time!

No I didn't, you bastard, Izuku thinks. He keeps looping back to that confrontation, to the half-imagined heat searing into his shoulder as Bakugou shoved him against the wall, to the way that Tsuna seethed beneath the surface—

But the way that it was Izuku who was in control the whole time.

And then he just — walked away. He left Kacchan —he left Bakugou — behind, found Uraraka, and carried on with his day as best he could.

You fucking liar!

"Shut up," he whispers out loud, curled in bed with Natsu rumbling out purrs from where he lies on Izuku's chest.

concern/frustration/anger/concern-concern-concern

(how-do-I-help/what-do-I-do/tell-me-what-you-need)

Izuku sinks down.

"Izuku," Tsuna says, already in front of him. He reaches forward immediately, cradling Izuku's face in his hands.

"He called me a liar," Izuku chokes out. "He called me a liar, and I — I was so angry at him."

"I'm sorry," Tsuna says.

"I hate him," Izuku sobs. "I hate him, how could he say that to me, how could he — after he — and he thinks I was lying to him—!"

Tsuna crushes Izuku against his chest. Izuku grabs onto the man's shirt, twisting his hands up in it.

"What gives him the right?!" Izuku shouts, voice breaking under the force of his tears. "How could he say that to me, how could he possibly — I hate him, I don't ever want to see him again, I thought I was over this, I thought it was done, I thought I didn't have to deal with this anymore, but one goddamn day and he confronts me and everything I made it past comes rushing back! It's not fair!"

"I know," Tsuna says. One hand strokes through Izuku's hair. "I know it's not fair. You don't live in a fair world. I wish you did, Izuku. I truly wish you did."

Izuku's knees buckle. Tsuna carries him gently to the ground, letting Izuku stay curled against him. He keeps stroking his hand through Izuku's hair, repetitive, comforting movements.

"I hate him," Izuku says again, quiet. But that's not the truth. Not the whole truth.

"I hate him," Izuku says, but he's trying to convince himself of that more than anything.

I'm not scared of him anymore.

But he hurt me. And he keeps making me remember. And he—

"I miss him," Izuku whispers. "He was my best friend. I —I looked up to him. He was going to be amazing, and — and I didn't have a Quirk, so I wasn't worth his time anymore. He — I never — I just wanted to stay friends. I wanted to be a hero. And he thought I couldn't."

Tsuna doesn't say anything, but Izuku knows he's listening.

"It wasn't about proving him wrong. It was about — I wanted to be heroes with him. I wanted to be heroes with Kacchan, because he's amazing and clever and strong. We could be the best. Except...he didn't want me anymore." Izuku curls into himself more, cleaving to Tsuna's side. "He didn't want me anymore. He didn't want to be friends, he didn't want to be anything. He was awful, he was cruel, he — he was a bully. I should hate him.

"So, Tsuna...why do I still miss him?"

Tsuna doesn't say anything for long moments.

"I was five when my father had me Sealed," he says. "I didn't understand what was happening. He brought his boss home, and one day I was playing outside. There was a dog — it seems silly now, but I was scared. I was so scared. Scared enough to wake my Dying Will. Iemitsu didn't want me in the mafia life; I was never supposed to be involved, until everyone else died and I was the only option." He draws in a deep breath. "So to keep me out — he had Nono seal me.

"Overnight, I changed. Everything was different. I couldn't keep my balance. My reflexes were off. People would tell me things, and I knew I should have been able to understand, but it didn't make sense anymore. What few friends I had drifted away quickly. That's...how I became Dame-Tsuna.

"Takeshi was popular. He always was. He never tried to be as cruel to me as others did, but — he never stopped it either. He always called me Dame-Tsuna. And when he wanted to kill himself —” Tsuna breaks off, and Izuku can feel him shake his head. "He asked me what my opinion was worth. He asked me what I knew about his situation. I didn't know that much then, really, but I knew I didn't want him to die.

"I understand, Izuku. School was hell for me, the same it was for you. Everyone who should have been there for me — they turned away. It didn't get better until much, much later. And then...I didn't ever talk about it with Takeshi, you know. We didn't —we were okay without talking about it. We made it work. But there are — there were — people in my life that were hard for me to forgive. They were so hard to forgive. And some of them I never did.”

Tsuna sighs. "What I'm trying to say is...it's possible to love people and still be angry with them. It's possible to be around them, and sometimes you can't look at them without thinking about the way they made your life hell. And sometimes you can come back from that. Sometimes you can't. I never forgave Iemitsu, but I forgave Takeshi. I forgave Mamma and Reborn and Kensuke and everyone who ever ripped my life apart. All those people who hurt me. All those people I could have wanted to leave behind — I didn't, in the end.

"But never," Tsuna says. "Never feel like you have to forgive someone. If you don't want anything to do with Bakugou, that's fine. But — if you want something else — that's always your choice, Izuku. You can choose. That's a power that everyone has, and you decide what's best for you. Hate him and stay away. Forgive him and stay away. Forgive him and try to build something new. Do what you want."

"I don't know what I want," Izuku says. He tips his head up to meet Tsuna's gaze. "I just don't want to feel like this."

Tsuna's face crumples at that. "Don't give up," he whispers. "Don't ever give up, Izuku. Please."


 

Izuku loops his school tie around his neck, tying it swiftly, faded memories guiding him through the proper movements, automatically straightening it out until it looks perfect and neat. It's been too well beaten into him — into Tsuna — to not do so.

He stares into the mirror. A pale face look back at him, freckles stark against his skin, and for a disorienting moment everything feels wrong about him: the roundness of his face, the color of his hair, the freckles, his whole body

Izuku closes his eyes.

Uraraka is waiting for me at school, he reminds himself. Mom is waiting for me to come down for breakfast. All I have to do is take this one step at a time.

Izuku lets out a breath and opens his eyes.

Nothing is right. He thought after he made it into Yuuei, everything would be so much easier, but it's harder. And this — whatever it is that's happening with Bakugou — it's throwing him off even more.

He hates that he's struggling. He can't give up, though. That would be proving everyone who ever looked down on him right. It would prove Bakugou right.

...Tsuna doesn't want him to give up.

Izuku doesn't plan on it.


 

"So who do you think our Foundational Heroics teacher will be?" Ochako asks during lunch. Midoriya-kun looks up at her from where he had been poking at his food.

"There are multiple possibilities—” Iida starts, chopping his hand enthusiastically. Ochako can't help but laugh a little. He's not so bad, Iida, no matter her first impression of him. Ochako thinks he might just be a little awkward. He certainly seemed nervous when he asked if he could sit with them today.

Midoriya is also grinning a little as he listens to Iida make his way through his list. It's a welcome change to yesterday, and even to earlier today. He'd been so out of it yesterday, and it was better today, but Ochako has a bad feeling. She doesn't like that Bakugou kid.

Not if he makes Midoriya act like this.

Though he's been acting kind of weird too, now that she thinks about it. He was all fiery and explosive during the Quirk apprehension test, and then he — wasn't. It's weird. He's almost more withdrawn than Midoriya. Ochako has to admit, she doesn't like that much, either.

Midoriya and Bakugou knew each other before Yuuei. Ochako figured that out yesterday, and she hates whatever that relationship must have been.

She might feel a little bad for Bakugou, but he better stay away from Midoriya-kun.

"I'm sure whoever it will be will be great," Midoriya-kun says. The words themselves might sound calm, but Midoriya is grinning from ear to ear. It was a smile that had grown as soon as Iida started talking. Ochako can't be mad at Iida anymore; she's not one much for holding grudges

Except for Bakugou, something whispers in her, he'd best stay away from my—

"What do you think, Uraraka?" Midoriya asks her. 

Ochako shakes herself back into focus. 

"I don't know!" she says cheerily. And she hadn't exactly been listening to Iida's guesses. "I agree with Midoriya-kun! Yuuei only has the best, right?" 

"The best..." Midoriya says thoughtfully, something about that striking home with him. 

"What?" Ochako asks, as Midoriya obviously continues to think that through. 

"The best," Midoriya says. "Uraraka, when you got your acceptance disk from Yuuei, who — who told you you'd been accepted?"

Ochako blinks. "It was All Might," she says, and then nudges Midoriya playfully with her elbow. "Didn't you say he was your favorite hero?"

"He is," Midoriya says. "He was the hero for my acceptance disk, too."

In unison, Ochako and Midoriya turn their heads to look at Iida.

Iida straightens his glasses. "All Might was on my acceptance disk."

"I didn't think any of it at the time, I was too excited to get into Yuuei," Midoriya says, slightly stunned. "I've read some of the new stories online, about how All Might accepted a teaching position at Yuuei this year. All the teachers are listed for our classes, except for the Foundational Heroics course. That's been left blank."

"You don't think—” Ochako starts.

"No, there's no way," Midoriya says. "He's got to be —he must be teaching the upper years. He wouldn't be teaching first year Heroics students, would he? There's no way that he would. If he's not, if he's wanting to focus on the upper year students — oh, but there's no teacher listed for Heroics. Maybe there's a rotating group of heroes who will be coming in? That would be smart — a bunch of different styles and Quirks, different ways that the heroes might interact with the students, a wide variety of ability, and you can't count on working with the same people all the time as a hero, you might need to team up—”

"Midoriya-kun," Ochako says. "You're spiraling." 

Midoriya takes a deep breath, cutting himself off. 

Iida messes with his glasses again while they all think this over. "You are very intelligent, Midoriya-kun," he says. "I confess, I did not think of it much, either, though certainly I should have."

"No," Midoriya says. "There's no way that All Might is our Heroics teacher."


 

Oh my god All Might is our Heroics teacher, Izuku thinks. All Might is our Heroics teacher. 

Izuku is torn between slamming his head down onto his desk and jumping into the air cheering. All Might is their teacher, and Izuku totally dismissed it as a possibility. All Might is their teacher, and Izuku —

Oh no, Izuku thinks.

All Might saved Izuku's life. It was over a year ago, and he's sure All Might doesn't even remember it, but All Might saved Izuku's life and Izuku doesn't even remember it because Tsuna was in control.

Does he need to go up to All Might and thank him for saving him? Is it weird since it's been this long? Is it weird, given that All Might is their teacher now? Did All Might even know that Izuku didn't remember their conversation? Obviously All Might is the one who called the ambulance, but he probably had other things to do afterward, and Izuku doesn't know if he checked up on him later, but if he did and he remembers Izuku, then is it even weirder if Izuku doesn't go up to talk to him—?

How would he even begin that conversation? Hi, my name is Midoriya Izuku, you saved my life when I villain tried to murder me last year—

“You’ll do.”

drowning drowning he’s drowning he’s

d y i n g

"Midoriya," Iida says. 

Izuku jerks himself out of his thoughts. "I'm sorry," he says automatically. It's a conditioned response. 

Iida looks like he's about to say something, but he bites it back and his expression softens a little. 

"All Might-sensei has instructed us to report to Ground Beta after we have collected our hero costumes," Iida says, fastidiously straightening his glasses. "He is already making his way there."

Izuku blinks. "I..." I missed All Might leaving? 

"Come on, Midoriya-kun!" Uraraka says, popping up by Iida's elbow. She's holding a suitcase in one hand; it must hold her costume. "I want to see what you look like in your costume. You too, Iida-kun!"

A hint of red appears in Iida's cheeks. "Of course," he says. "We will meet you at Ground Beta." 

Izuku stands. If there's one benefit to having zoned out, it's that the crush of other students grabbing their costumes has cleared out some. 

(Bakugou isn't there, and Izuku breathes out a sigh of relief.)

It's...a little worrying that he got so lost in his own head. He hadn't thought that he could get lost like that. Not to the exclusion of everything else happening around him. It had happened yesterday, Izuku supposes, when Bakugou charged him on the field and he got caught up in memories—

—take a leap—

—fucking Deku!

You'll do.

I don't want to die here!

"Midoriya-kun," Urarka says, one hand on his shoulder. She must have shoved past Iida. Izuku didn't notice.

He lost himself again. He keeps losing himself. It's a pattern of behavior. 

"I'm fine," Izuku says. 

"Midoriya, if you are feeling unwell, you should go to the nurse's office—” Iida begins.

"I said I'm fine," Izuku says, and he immediately regrets the snap in his voice, but he can't take it back. He wants to rub at his suddenly burning eyes. He wants the sudden pounding in his head to go away. "Come on, we need to get to class."

He can feel Iida and Uraraka trading glances behind him as he steps around them toward the costumes. It's a matter of moments to pull his out and to walk toward the classroom door. Uraraka follows him immediately, and he hears Iida grab his own costume and follow him, too.

He tries not to let it bother him, the way that this seems to be happening to him so suddenly. He doesn't understand why it's all happening right at this moment; he'd been totally fine before, but now something seems to be wrong.

Tsuna, he thinks to the space below. Tsuna, what's wrong with me?


 

What did I do to him? How do I fix this?

Tsuna pulls at his hair, pacing back and forth through Takesushi. He hasn't wanted to leave here — not since Izuku bonded with that Rain girl. It hurts so much, but Tsuna can't help hurting himself when this Rain feels so familiar. When this Rain is something that he's been missing so long. It's a burn and a balm to him. 

Now Tsuna worries he might be hurting Izuku. 

What is a a normal response to trauma? Is this a normal response?

Tsuna's life was too fucked for him to be sure what is a normal response and what isn't. He's pretty sure — no, he's positive — that Izuku isn't handling his trauma well, even though for a while it had seemed like things were at least all right, if not actively getting better. Now — now, in the past few days, things are suddenly getting worse.

Besides being there for him, Tsuna isn't sure what else he can do. Try to get him to talk to someone other than Tsuna? It can't help that he's bottling up his emotions and the truths about himself and refusing to share it with anyone. 

Maybe these new friends will help him. Maybe, since he's not alone now—

A new and horrifying thought occurs to Tsuna.

Am I pulling something away from him? By being here, by staying near where his new bond is, am I dragging something away from Izuku? Am I draining him?

Tsuna leaves the simulacrum of Takesushi, fleeing across town to the imagining of Namimori High. He wishes Hibari were here. He wishes that Hibird were here, flying above, and that he could turn and see his friend glaring at him. Hibari wouldn't stand for any of Tsuna's nonsense. 

Hibari would know what to do. 

Tsuna was never good for anything. All he brought about was death and destruction. He ruined lives when he was alive, and even now that he's dead, he's ruining Izuku's life.

He needs to fix this. 

Someone, please, help me. I don't know how to fix this. 


 

"Wow!" Uraraka cries. "Midoriya-kun, you look great!" 

Izuku tugs at his gloves, making sure that they've settled right. They're as close to Tsuna's gloves as he could get, and he had specified that they needed to be fireproof, though Tsuna's gloves actually channeled his Flames. Izuku would love to have something like that for himself, but no one knew about Flames now. He could probably talk to the Support Department about it at some point, but for now this would work. 

Izuku had been sketching out potential hero designs for as long as he had been determined to become a hero. Once he discovered his Flames, he started considering different things. Ultimately, he had landed on the same base of a design that he continually favored — a jumpsuit, dark green, that Tsuna had helped him design inbuilt armor to go along with it, so that it would better protect him.

(Tsuna had too many memories of bullets flying for him to let Izuku get away without at least Kevlar over vital regions.)

Izuku couldn't help but add a cape to the outfit. Tsuna sometimes had one, clasped over his suit with the Vongola emblem holding it together. It was partly an homage to Tsuna and partly to All Might that had made Izuku include it. He had originally designed a costume with more references from All Might, but—

It wouldn't work with his Flames. 

Izuku's Flames wouldn't burn him, or even other material objects if he didn’t want them to, but if he lost control, he didn't want to accidentally burn something. Plus, Tsuna helped to convince him that it might be better to have a visor and headphones anyway — he had shared information about the contacts he used to wear, and Izuku could almost picture the man Spanner that Tsuna described, a half-forgotten memory. It would be useful to gauge his X-Burner, and headphones would allow him to connect in with police officers and other heroes when he eventually got to that point. They hooked together with Izuku's mouthguard, too, so if he didn't need — or want — to be wearing them, he could hang them around his neck with the guard. 

Already after the Quirk test Aizawa-sensei had made them participate in yesterday, Izuku can tell that there were parts of his costume that needed improvement. If he’s going to be flying anywhere, he would like as not need knee braces, and sturdier shoes than his red tennis shoes. Probably elbow braces, while he’s at it. 

"Thank you," Izuku says in the present, shaking off thoughts of improvement for some other time. He should probably at least see how the costume works in the field before he starts considering how much he can improve upon it. "Yours looks great, too!" 

Uraraka has a space-themed costume. It's not quite as thick as the costume that Izuku knows the Space Hero Thirteen wears, but it isn't only decorative. Like Izuku, she must have specified that some armor be built into it. It is predominately pink and black, but when she shifts, Izuku can see a shimmer of stars in the black, lit up by the sun's light, and he swears he can see the swoop of a comet trailing up her arm. Her helmet matches the rest of the outfit, the visor tinted slightly. Uraraka wears solid boots, the kind that Izuku needs to consider having instead, because those look like Uraraka could seriously fight someone just by using her feet alone. 

"I think that you both look wonderful!" says Iida, who looks like — well, he looks like Ingenium, actually, though his helmet is tucked under one arm. 

Izuku tilts his head. Come to think of it, Ingenium has a very similar Quirk to Iida's. Or maybe it's the other way around, and Iida has a Quirk similar to him. And dressed up as him to pay respect?

"You look like Ingenium," Izuku says before he can stop himself. Curse his mouth. 

Iida adjusts his glasses, but it's a proud fidget this time. Izuku can tell. "Thank you!" Iida says. "Tensei is my older brother, and I wanted to acknowledge him and his great work as a hero as I begin my own hero work!"

Izuku and Uraraka stare at him.

"Ingenium...is your brother?" Izuku says, just to make sure he's got this right. 

"Yes," Iida says, now looking slightly unsure of himself. 

"That's so cool, Iida-kun!" Uraraka says, rushing to reassure him. And once Izuku gets over the minor shock — how many times is he going to be wrong today, good grief, he keeps dismissing possibilities out of hand, and why can't his Intuition warn him when he's about to make a fool of himself — he thinks it's pretty cool, too. 

All Might clears his throat behind them. Izuku still has absolutely no idea what he's going to do about that, but he and his new friends turn to face him anyway.


 

Toshinori doesn't know what he's doing. He probably should have talked to someone with more experience teaching than he has, because he felt confident right up until he had twenty teenagers staring at him, waiting for instructions. 

At least young Midoriya is one of them. There's one teenager Toshinori knows how to interact with.

Except Midoriya only knows him as Yagi Toshinori. Shit. How much can he act like Toshinori instead of 'All Might'? He really hasn't thought this through well, and he...doesn't exactly want Midoriya to realize that he's All Might. It will most likely come out at some point — Toshinori knows himself, and with his time limit and the fact that he is both Midoriya's teacher and sees him outside of school, he's sure something's going to happen. He's good at keeping certain things secret, but balancing a double life is not something Toshinori has to deal with often. 

He's either Toshinori or he's All Might. Very few people know him as both. 

(And several of them are dead.)

Even despite the worry about his secret identity, Toshinori can't lie and say he hasn't been looking forward to teaching young Midoriya. Since they met — and then met again — Toshinori has been impressed by this boy's resilience and unflagging determination. Yesterday, though — Aizawa brought up some troubling points. 

"There's something wrong with the Midoriya kid," Aizawa said as he'd entered the staff room, once all the students were gone for the day. 

Toshinori looked up sharply. "What do you mean?" he asked. 

Aizawa glanced at him, and Toshinori quickly smoothed out his expression, hoping it would be taken as simple interest. 

"He seemed a little quiet, maybe reserved," Yamada put in, and that was not exactly how Toshinori would describe him. Once Midoriya got going, he was a force to reckon with, and he really wasn't sure how you could call a kid as passionate as Midoriya 'reserved'.

"You had him after me," Aizawa said. Toshinori's nonexistent stomach sank. 

"Was he thrown by the Quirk apprehension test?" Yamada asked, straightening. 

"No," Aizawa said. "Not by that."

Toshinori had a very bad feeling about this. 

"One of the other kids tried to attack him. Midoriya fully activated his Quirk and totally blanked out," Aizawa said. "It took one of his classmates getting to him and talking to him to pull him out of his head."

Toshinori knew what Aizawa was talking about. Those months that he had spent with Midoriya, hauling away garbage from the beach — Midoriya could get trapped in his head sometimes. No. More than that, sometimes there were those looks on his face, and everything else in the world fell away from him, and Toshinori was obscenely grateful Midoriya had always managed to pull himself out before Toshinori had to intervene.

If he was suddenly worse, though—

"What do you know?" Aizawa asked flatly, glaring at Toshinori.

Toshinori flinched, aware that it made him look guilty. “I—” he started, and then stopped, and said delicately, "I don't know if I should tell you."

"If it is about one of my students and their health, you are going to tell me," Aizawa said. Unspoken was the remainder of the sentence: Or I will make you.

"A year ago," Toshinori said, because it was public record, and Aizawa would find out anyway. "He was attacked by a villain. There was — a murder attempt, and Midoriya, who up until that point thought he was Quirkless...developed his Quirk."

"Shit," Yamada breathed. Aizawa didn't even blink. 

"Do you know Bakugou Katsuki?" he asked. 

"No?" Toshinori said uncertainly. "I mean — the entrance exams. He scored well on them. He's in your class." He was from the same school as young Midoriya, and actually it was a little strange that Midoriya had never spoken of him. But then, Midoriya didn't seem to talk much about his life. 

(Toshinori knew why. He had been Quirkless, too, until he gained One for All. His childhood wasn't that far in the past, but by then Quirks were already more common than the Quirkless. 

He knew why Midoriya might not want to speak of his personal life, and he didn’t like that Aizawa was having to ask after a boy who had gone to Midoriya's school.)

"Hmm," was all that came from Aizawa, and the man turned away from him. 

Sitting there in the staff room, Toshinori resolved to keep a better eye on Midoriya. 

Now, his smile stretches a little wider as he picks Midoriya out of the crowd. He is between two other teenagers, one of whom must be young Iida Tenya — he certainly pulled inspiration from his elder brother! 

Toshinori quickly explains the rules to the battle trials, inexpressibly thankful for his little cheat sheet. He then has all the students come up to draw their lots. 

"All right!" he says, once they've all had their turns and shuffled around, finding their partner. "First ones up! Villain team: D. Hero team: A."

Midoriya is toward the back of the crowd with one of his friends. Even from Toshinori's position in front of the students, he can see the way that Midoriya's expression closes down and loses color. A second later, and Toshinori realizes why:

Young Iida is standing next to a boy that Toshinori recognizes as Bakugou Katsuki. The rest of the class is already separating themselves from the two teams. Midoriya and Uraraka are walking towards Iida and Bakugou.

Midoriya is up against Bakugou. 

Toshinori doesn't like this at all. 


 

"Midoriya-kun," Ochako says. She grabs his hand. "We don't have to—”

"No," Midoriya says. His voice is steely, even if he's still pale. Ochako sees a spark of orange in his eyes. "We're doing this."

Ochako squeezes his hand once, then lets it go. She catches Iida's eye as she and Midoriya walk up to him.

And Bakugou. 

Ochako scowls at him. He meets her eyes glare for glare—

And then his eyes slide sideways toward Midoriya. His shoulders rise, and he looks quickly away. 

"Villain team, get into position!" All Might-sensei says. It might just be wishful thinking, her own concern infecting the way she hears things, but All Might almost sounds worried. "Hero team, you have five minutes to plan."

Bakugou turns and stalks away. Iida trails behind him, but at the last moment Iida turns and aims a look at Ochako. In that moment, she can understand what he's trying to say:

He'll rein Bakugou in. He'll turn on his own teammate if he has to, because even if he's pretending to be a villain for this exercise, there's playacting and there's letting things go too far. 

Ochako doesn't question it. She's just grateful. 

(No one's going to hurt their S—)

She and Midoriya wait until Iida and Bakugou are fully inside the building, out of earshot. At that point, Ochako looks at Midoriya and asks, "What's the plan?" 

Midoriya is watching the door the villain team went through. His eyes are definitely orange now. 

(She's home, she's safe, she's where she will always be protected—

No one is going to take this away from her, she would kill them first, she would kill them all

—safe, safe, I have to keep him safe, I would drown a whole world to keep him out of harm's way.)

Ochako shakes her head. "Midoriya-kun?"

"Bakugou is going to come after me," Midoriya says. "Let him."

"I won't--" Ochako begins hotly.

"Uraraka." Midoriya is quiet, but his voice cuts like a knife. Ochako closes her mouth. She doesn't think about it, she just does. Midoriya looks at her, and there's a gentle smile on his face. "I'll be a distraction. You can get to the bomb faster if Bakugou is after me; you'll only have to take down Iida, and I know you can do that. When you're done, you can come back for me."

Ochako chokes back unexpected tears. She bites at the inside of her lip. 

"I don't want to leave you behind," she says. 

(STAY AWAY FROM HIM, STAY AWAY FROM MY S K Y)

"It's the best plan," Midoriya says. 

Ochako tastes copper in her mouth, sharp and salty. "Okay," she says. She throws her arms around Midoriya. "But the second the bomb is secure, I'm coming back for you. Do you hear me?"

Midoriya lets out a soft huff. A few strands of Ochako's hair blow up with it. "I understand."


 

Izuku has never had a friend like Uraraka.

(Tsuna did. Tsuna's Guardians were like Uraraka.

Izuku won't bond with Guardians. He won't, he won't, he promised he won't. Not until Tsuna —

He won't. He'll figure it out.)

Uraraka stays behind him, just like they planned. They know the layout of the building. Izuku is hoping that Kacch — that Bakugou leaves Iida behind immediately. If they come across him in the corridors, Izuku can lead him on a wild goose chase for long enough for Uraraka to get up to at least the next level, and then Izuku can lead the two of them to a room that gives them more space to move around in. 

It will be easier to fight Bakugou that way. 

(Why do I still miss him?

       Hate him and stay away. Forgive him and stay away. Forgive him and try to build something new. 

                 Don't give up. Don't ever give up.)

(I need to do…what I want. And what I want is—)

Bakugou is standing in the middle of the hallway when they round the next corner. 

Izuku shifts, balancing his weight so he's ready to make a run for it. He's a little surprised that Bakugou was just waiting for them. He would have expected an immediate attack. 

"Get out of here," Bakugou says. He's looking past Izuku, at Uraraka. Izuku risks turning his head to see her, and there's a mulish expression on her face. Even though they had agree that this was the best plan, Uraraka seems like she she's considering not going through with it. 

"Midoriya-kun..."

"I said get out of my way!" Bakugou shouts.

"...good luck," Uraraka says, and then she's running back the way they came, toward the nearest staircase. 

"Don't talk to her like that," Izuku says. It doesn't matter that she's out of earshot by now. It deserves to be said. Flames flicker to life over his hands and he settles his stance. His plan was to run, but if Bakugou wants to fight—

"You're the one I want to talk to," Bakugou says. There's something strange, almost feverish, lighting his eyes. Something that Izuku doesn't recognize. 

Caught deep in the artificial calm that Hyper Dying Will Mode grants him, Izuku says slowly, "You...want to talk." He considers this for a moment, and then he says, "If you want to talk — catch me first." Then he turns and runs. 

He doesn't run because he's afraid of Bakugou. Or at last, he doesn't run only because of that. No matter what Izuku says to Tsuna or to himself, Bakugou still scares him faintly. Izuku is divorced from most of that fear, but — Bakugou is a living reminder of bad memories.

Izuku is angry at Bakugou. He misses Bakugou. He doesn't know what he wants. Bakugou wants to talk, but Izuku doesn't know yet how he's going to react. So Izuku needs to run.

He needs to run, too, because he needs to give Uraraka her best shot. That was their plan, and if he and Bakugou end up fighting after all — almost inevitable, really, given Bakugou's temper — then he doesn't want her caught in the crossfire. The best way to solve this is for her to get to the bomb as fast as she can, and if she gets injured by a fight, their chances go down considerably.

Izuku chose the role of bait for this game. That absolutely doesn't mean that he wants to lose.

He's just playing his strengths, and getting away from Bakugou, waving a flag under his nose and then refusing to give up until Bakugou literally chased him down and forced him to stop, is something that Izuku has had years of practice with.

Izuku and Uraraka went over the layout of the building before they went in. Izuku memorized as much of it as he could, but it’s difficult to use it to help him when he's running away from Bakugou as fast as he can. There's not exactly time to stop and figure out exactly where he is compared to where he wants to end up. He knows vaguely where he wants to lead Bakugou, and that’s enough.

Instead, he relies mostly on his Intuition. It's the obvious choice, and it's terribly helpful. When Bakugou tries to head him off by slipping down a different corridor, Izuku knows to expect him around a corner. Instead of slamming straight into Bakugou, he waits until the last second, and then he slides right beneath Bakugou's grasping hand.

He pops up as soon as he's past and starts running again. 

"God fucking dammit, Deku!" Bakugou shouts in frustration. He's breathing heavily even as he shouts it, and Izuku feels a smile creep across his face. 

It's funny, but he forgot about this. Izuku was always fast, and Bakugou used to struggle to keep up with him. Not — not with his Quirk, but just because Izuku could run. When they were five, before Bakugou's Quirk came in, Izuku was the reigning champion at tag. Tsubasa could fly, but Izuku would duck straight under him before Tsubasa was able to touch him. 

(He was always so good at dodging last minute attacks in tag. Even back then, Izuku supposes that it was his Intuition at work. Tsuna may have still been sleeping away inside of him, Izuku wasn't Flame Active — but that wouldn't stop his Intuition from leaking around the edges.

The speed, though? That was all Izuku, and the pure fun he had playing tag with his friends.

Later, when he had to run from Bakugou after defending someone else from his bullying attempts, it came in handy again. It wasn't joy that made him run so fast in those moments, though.)

Izuku can't run forever. He doesn't mean to. All he has to do is get to—

There.

Izuku read and remembered those maps right. He's in a large open room, much better suited for fighting than the corridors that would hem them in. And there are enough exits that he can escape quickly if he needs to.

"Uraraka," he says into his comm. He'd had to leave his visor and headphones down to put it in, and he'd ended up leaving them down. He might have to work with them some to make sure that they don't interfere with his peripheral vision — or maybe that's just because he isn't used to them yet. Surely he can work with his Intuition to help him deal with it, too. "What's your status?"

There's a light tap against the comm, a pause, and another two light taps. She's busy then — near Iida, hasn't engaged him yet, but doesn't want to alert him to her presence. 

Good. We're close.

Izuku doesn't want to lose. But Uraraka is close, which means he doesn't have to stall for time anymore. He won't lose to Bakugou. That assurancee gives him the freedom to stand here and wait for Bakugou to show up. 

He stands patiently in the middle of the room, and Bakugou doesn't disappoint. He shows up soon enough. The delay is obviously because he'd taken off his gauntlets somewhere in the hall, leaving them behind. 

Izuku wonders if it's some kind of trap. 

(Wrong, wrong, it's not a trap... whispers Intuition.)

"Caught you," Bakugou says, in a surprisingly calm voice. He doesn't sound like he's gloating. He doesn't sound victorious. He sounds — dull. Flat. 

"Did you?" Izuku asks. 

"Izuku," Bakugou says, and Izuku flinches. Bakugou hasn't called him by name since —

See that? It spells Deku. That's you!

"Please. Can we talk?" 

(Tsuna, I don't know what I want — )

"What could you want to talk about?" Izuku asks. 

If you wanted to talk, you had years to do it. Why does it suddenly matter to you now. Why did you suddenly decide I was worth it ?

Bakugou must read that in Izuku's expression. Something in his face hardens. Then he lunges at Izuku. 

Izuku ducks out of the way, twisting around to keep his face toward Bakugou, who is already lunging at him again, one hand outstretched—

Don't move! his Intuition screams at him. Stay still, don't move, let him—!

Izuku freezes, automatically obeying his Intuition before his brain can catch up with his actions. He was already moving, so when he stops, his head is tilted to one side. It's tilted just enough that Bakugou hits against his ear, hard, and his comm is knocked loose because of the perfect, inexplicable angle. 

What the—

Bakugou stomps heavily onto the comm, crushing it beneath his boot. His head swings up, eyes narrowing on something behind Izuku. 

He wants to talk alone.

Izuku takes the camera out with a blast of Flames before Bakugou can start toward it. 

Listen. Listen to him, Izuku’s Intuition says, quieter now.

Listen.

Bakugou meets his gaze.

“I’m fucking sorry, okay?" Bakugou shouts, breathing heavily. "I'm sorry! I didn't fucking mean it, I didn't think that you — and then you didn't show up to class, and everyone knew it was because of what I said to you, and — I didn't mean it. I didn't fucking mean it and I'm sorry you believed me. I'm sorry I — I was such a shit to you, I pushed you to it, it's my fault. It's all my fucking fault and I can't — I can't —”

Bakugou is sobbing. Izuku always knew that he was an angry crier, but this is — this isn't that. 

Izuku doesn't know what this is. 

"What are you talking about?" Izuku asks. He can't think of anything else to say. It sounds like Bakugou is apologizing for the whole of their childhood, but there's something specific there that he's apologizing for, too, and for the life of him Izuku doesn't know what it is. 

He has all the puzzle pieces but it won’t come together.

It doesn’t compute.

"I didn't mean it," Bakugou says. He sounds desperate for Izuku to believe him. "I didn't mean it. It doesn't — it doesn't change anything, but you have to know, I didn't mean it. I didn't want you to — I didn't —”

"Bakugou," Izuku says. "I don't...I don't understand."

"I didn't mean what I said," Bakugou says. "I didn't mean for you to actually try to kill yourself."

The world tilts sideways. 

"I said — I know what I said, and everyone else knew it, too," Bakugou explains. His hands are shaking at his side. "I never should have said it. I never should have told you to — to — and then you didn't show up to class, and sensei said you were in the hospital. And I knew. I should have gone to see you and — and said something then, and I should have said something yesterday, and before you told me about your Quirk and — fuck, I'm sorry, Izuku, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." 

Izuku can physically feel those puzzle pieces clicking together. "You think I tried to kill myself," Izuku says slowly. He remembers what Bakugou said, of course he does. It likely won't ever fade from his mind. "Everyone —all of our classmates — thought I tried to kill myself."

Bakugou doesn't say anything. He nods, tiny and tremulous, descriptions that shouldn't belong to Bakugou. 

I don’t know what I want—

But I don’t want this.

"Kacchan," Izuku says. "I was attacked by a villain."

Bakugou stares at him. "What?" he croaks. 

"I was walking home. I was attacked by a villain, and he tried to kill me. And I didn't want to die." Izuku says it calmly, lays it all out like it's that simple, and it is. 

Izuku wants to be a hero. He's angry at Bakugou — he'll be angry at Bakugou for a long, long time, and Izuku isn't sure if they will or even can fix the things between them — but he's not cruel. He doesn't want Bakugou to believe himself complicit in an attempted suicide. 

(Though if Izuku hadn't been attacked by that villain, if he hadn't awakened his Flames and met Tsuna, if nothing had changed—

Izuku might not have ended up here. Bakugou might have ended up saying this all to a grave someday.)

"I ended up in the hospital because of complications," Izuku goes on. "I didn't try to kill myself." 

Bakugou sways on his feet. Izuku starts toward him, but Bakugou sits down with a heavy thud before he can get there. Bakugou buries his face into his hands, letting out hysterical-sounding giggles that get caught up with the tears that are still trickling down. The giggles turn into hiccups pretty quickly. 

"Fuck," Bakugou gets out through the hiccups, not looking up. "Shit. Good. That's — that's really fucking good."

"Yeah," Izuku says, standing over him. Then, before Bakugou can compose himself any more, Izuku reaches down and loops the capture tape around Bakugou's hands. 

Bakugou lowers them at that. 

"Did you just—?” he starts, sounding more bemused than anything. 

"Yep," Izuku says placidly. 

Bakugou stares at the tape. He stares at it for a long time, his bangs shadowing his eyes, and then he says, "I meant what I said. Not — not that day." He looks up to meet Izuku's eyes. "I'm sorry, Izuku."

It's not enough. Not yet. Izuku is still so angry. He's still scared, deep inside of himself, because even Izuku's Flames and Tsuna can't totally wipe that away from him. 

But Izuku can accept this. He can accept this, and they can work on it. It's a foundation, if nothing else, and Izuku hadn't ever thought that it was something Kacchan would admit and own up to. 

Izuku sits down next to Kacchan. 

"Thanks," he says, and they sit there together until All Might's voice announces over the loudspeaker that the hero team has won.