He doesn’t know where he is. He doesn’t remember how he got here. His surroundings are a muddled nothing. His thoughts are blank. His body is numb. All he can make out in front of him is the form of a person he doesn’t know. Everything else is numb and silent and surreal.
“...I know where you’re coming from,” the stranger says, rubbing his forearm uncomfortably. His hood shrouds his face. Izuku can’t make out any distinguishable features. “I know it’s hard now, I know it is. But it’s not going to be this way forever.”
Those are the only words Izuku remembers. He doesn’t remember leaving that place. He doesn’t remember what place that’d been at all. He doesn’t remember the stranger’s face. He doesn’t remember the stranger’s voice. Only his words. Only his kindness.
He only wishes he’d gotten a name.
Moving into the dorms was already a huge step towards getting to know each other better as classmates (if the past near-death experiences and fighting for their lives hadn’t been enough), but even despite all that, a couple Saturdays since moving in, Sero suggests they take a big class trip to the mall, considering their last endeavor had ended abruptly and poorly.
So that’s what they do one Saturday morning; after getting clearance from Aizawa and the principal, the students are free to go for the day, granted they return before sundown.
It’s kind of odd, going as a full group of twenty, but it isn’t unpleasant. Izuku finds himself listening more than speaking; the conversations are entertaining just enough to listen to without interjecting.
“So,” Kirishima says, turning to face the group once they arrive at the mall, “should we split into groups? Maybe two or three people each?”
Tsuyu frowns. “Last time we did that Midori-chan was almost strangled by Shigaraki, so I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Izuku exhales sharply through his nose and shakes his head. “Ahh, I’m sure it’ll be fine,” he says. “It was already a bold move for the League in the first place, and I can’t see them repeating that…”
Still, in the end, they decide not to split up. They’ll take the mall by storm and try hitting everything they want to before nightfall.
“Dang, this brings me back, though,” Sero says, looking into one of the shop windows as they pass by. “I used to come down here all the time with my folks when I was little. We had a lot of laughs.”
“My mom and I really liked checking out the music store while my dad was working,” Jirou adds, also looking around. “He’d come down here to pick us up on his way home. Sometimes they had a band playing outside the music store, so we’d usually sit and listen for a while.”
“Older brother and sister used to take me out for ice cream every now and then,” Todoroki jumps into the conversation, which surprises just about everyone considering his typical silence. “It was a long time ago, but I remember really enjoying it.”
Iida nods. “My older brother and I were never big ‘mall’ people, but he would take me out sometimes when he wasn’t on duty and go to the park. It wasn’t much, but it was nice.”
“It sounds nice,” Izuku says, smiling at him.
“Say, how ‘bout you, Midori?” Ashido bumps his shoulder with hers and smiles. “What’s your fondest childhood memory?”
“My fondest…?” Izuku blinks out into space for a moment, drawn on a total blank. “I mean...not a lot comes to mind, I guess. It was a long time ago. Except…”
His voice trails off, but his classmates aren’t going to let him off the hook. Their eyes land on him, and when they don’t give up, Izuku gives in.
“I met this one person in middle school,” Izuku starts, walking again. The group matches his pace. “I never knew his name, but he encouraged me to keep going through a really tough time in my life. We only met for a few minutes, but...I wish I could’ve thanked him.”
“That’s kinda weird…” Satou frowns and cradles his chin in his hand for a moment. “Well, I’m glad he was around when he was. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet him again someday.”
Izuku faces forward for a long moment, turning this over in his mind. “Maybe,” he says, nodding. It doesn’t seem likely, but it would be wonderful to meet him again. Back then, when it’d happened, he hadn’t even been able to see the stranger’s face or make out any distinguishable features; he’d been wearing a hood, and either way, Izuku hadn’t been paying attention to detail back then.
“Hey, I’m pretty sure that music shop is right around the corner, actually,” Jirou says, jogging ahead of the group. “Can we stop there first? I’ve been needing some new guitar strings for a little while now.”
“Yeah, let’s go!” Hagakure agrees, also running forward (evidenced only by her galloping sandals and floating dress). “I love music stores!”
The group makes to follow, and that’s precisely when a small, childish shriek from nearby draws Izuku’s attention elsewhere. He’s not the only one to notice; his classmates stop and turn likewise, already on edge.
The shriek had come from a little girl, running frantically from a woman holding a jack-in-the-box. “It’s alright!” the woman is saying, rushing after the girl. “It’s just a toy, I didn’t mean to scare you—!”
The girl doesn’t listen, and she’s charging straight for a large group of complete strangers. Without thinking, Izuku steps into her path and holds out his hands.
“Heyheyhey, it’s okay!” he says, trying to be reassuring. “It’s alright, you don’t need to run—”
She runs straight into him, actually. By complete accident, of course, but even so. She crashes into his leg and wraps her arms around his knee tightly.
Immediately, the world around him spins and flips. He thinks he hears his name shouted by several of his classmates and a frantic screech from the girl’s mother, but he doesn’t have any time to respond or even register it. The spinning increases, turns his vision black, and then he’s falling.
He doesn’t lose consciousness, but there are a few times he thinks he might. He’s falling while the world around him lurches and spins and twists, and more than once he thinks his stomach is going to turn itself inside out, but luckily that doesn’t happen. Just when he thinks he can’t take it anymore, he slams into solid ground, and the world around him yanks to a standstill.
He’s facedown on hard cement, limbs sprawled beside him and head spinning nauseatingly. For a while, he lays there unmoving, trying to get his breath back; and then, when he thinks the dizziness has worn down enough, he pushes himself upright and eventually, to his feet.
He sways, his legs feeling like jelly, and catches himself against the brick wall of an alleyway. It’s only now that he realizes exactly where he is. Across from him is an overflowing dumpster, complete with piles of garbage bags around it. He doesn’t know how he didn’t notice the stench before, because it’s absolutely rancid.
“Yeah, that’s...not good…”
Guiding himself along the wall, he leaves the alleyway, finding himself on the sidewalk in the middle of bustling Tatooine Station. The sun blares brightly overhead, which tells him that it hasn’t been very long since the mall. It’s still around noon.
I wonder if that girl had some kind of teleportation Quirk, he muses, staggering and leaning against the side of the alley for support. He gets a couple odd looks from passerbys, but he waves it off with a wince-like smile. It’d make sense, if that’s the case…
When he trusts his legs again, he pushes himself from the wall and starts down the sidewalk, blending in with the crowd. For once, no one calls him out on being a U.A. student, which is nice. (And also kind of bizarre, but he’ll take it.)
I really need to get back to the mall. No one knows where I am—
And that’s when he’s rammed into from behind— hard.
He’s already unsteady as it is, and he pitches forward, just barely managing to slide his foot in front of him in time to keep from completely falling over.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” says the person who’d hit him, voice frantic. “I didn’t see you there, I’m sorry—I was trying to get downtown and rushing and I got stuck looking at one of the billboards—”
“It’s fine,” Izuku says, waving him off. He turns around. “I’m sure it was more my fault than yours, it’s oka—”
The kid doesn’t look at him, too busy gathering a torrent of scattered composition notebooks into his arms. He must have dropped them when ramming into him.
“I-I’m really sorry,” he says again, rising to his feet, “but I need to go. I’ll make this up to you!”
And then, without another word, he takes off down the sidewalk, away from Izuku, who can’t even manage a word edgewise.
He watches the kid leave, watches him run down the sidewalk with arms full of notebooks. He watches, wide-eyed, and the deep, nauseating pit in his stomach returns.
It would seem that little girl did have a teleportation Quirk—just not the kind of “teleportation” he’d originally guessed.
“I’m in the past,” Izuku stammers to himself, running a hand through his hair as he sorts through jackets at the thrift store. “I’m actually in the past, there’s no way this is happening…”
But it is. He checked clocks, calendars, the screen of the JumboTron in the plaza; he’d even asked a couple strangers what year it was, and while he did have to suffer through their baffled looks and suspicious glares, in the end, he gleaned the information he sought.
And now he’s legitimately panicking. He’d been okay with thinking this was some kind of weird dream or hallucination but no, he just had to go get confirmation for himself and officially work into a frenzy.
“Are you...quite alright?” the cashier asks, concerned when he staggers up to the checkout and tosses a black hoodie onto the surface. “You look terrible, Sir. Do you need to sit down?”
“I’m fine,” Izuku says, pulling out his wallet. “How much?”
“One thousand yen, Sir.”
“Okay.” Izuku pulls the required amount and settles it in her hand with shaking fingers. She doesn’t seem any less concerned for his wellbeing, but doesn’t question him again. As soon as the hoodie officially belongs to him, he wrestles it over his head, puts up the hood to shroud his face, then heads out of the thrift shop.
“Okay,” he tells himself, then inhales and exhales longly. “Okay, don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. This has gotta be some kind of big mistake. That little girl—her Quirk must have sent me back two years. It’s fine. I’m sure it’ll wear off. It will, I know it.”
He says it, but it’s more like he’s trying to reassure himself. He isn’t confident in any of it.
“Either way, I can’t let past-me figure out,” he decides to himself, making sure the hood is shrouding his face and hair. “It’d be such a mess. Besides, all the time-traveling movies say that you should definitely not change the past because whatever you do in the past would influence the future—”
He stops and comes to the sad realization that he has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about or what to do and not to do. Getting recognized by past versions of himself or others is definitely something he doesn’t want to do, but as far as his actions in this past-reality go...he doesn’t know what to do. Would walking down the street spur something? Could his mere presence here wreck the future picture?
His head hurts when he thinks too much about it, so he decides to do the one thing he knows: wait it out and see how it ends.
And to do that, he heads to his and Mom’s apartment.
Past-him arrives hours after Izuku does, and Izuku ducks down to avoid being spotted, but peers through the window from outside regardless. It’s getting darker now, and any hope of this being a small, temporary journey into the past has been thoroughly dashed. He has no idea how long this is going to last, or even if he’ll ever make it back.
Either way, he peers into the bedroom of his past-self. It’s weird being back here; he hasn’t actually laid eyes on his old room since moving into the dorm months ago. There’s something oddly nostalgic about it, he thinks; he’d be able to enjoy it a lot more if he weren’t in such a devastating situation, though.
Nevertheless, he watches. His past-self shuts and locks the bedroom door behind him, then crosses the room to his desk and swings his backpack off his shoulder and onto the back of his chair. He pulls a few composition notebooks from it, tosses them onto the bed, grabs a pencil from his pencil cup, and sits on his bed, taking up one of the notebooks while he does.
The window is cracked open, allowing the evening breeze to blow through, and allowing Izuku, crouching by it, to hear the pencil scratch the paper as past-him scribbles. Every now and then, past-him will fiddle with his sleeve or hiss and shake out his hand, but he doesn’t stop doodling and writing.
After a little while longer of watching and waiting, Izuku is hit with it.
...I remember this night…
He doesn’t know why it’s only coming back to him now. It’d happened years ago. He’d wanted to forget all about it.
The pencil scratching goes on for a little while longer, until past-him clutches his forearm suddenly with a low hiss of pain, the pencil slipping from his fingers. After a second, he rolls up his sleeve; several burns—blistering pinks and reds—mat the length of his forearm.
“D-Dang it,” he says through clenched teeth, then swings himself to his feet and disappears into the bathroom.
Izuku moves away from the window, sinking to the ground and leaning against the side of the apartment. There were a lot of nights like this, back in “the day”; nights where he’d hide evidence of Bakugou’s abuse beneath his sleeves and, when he could manage it, bandages (although that part usually came after he’d come home—hence the reason why past-him disappeared into the bathroom).
There were nights like this more often than not, and watching his past-self go through them, knowing exactly what it feels like, hurts a lot more than he thought it would. He’d rather leave this in the past, except, it’d seem he could never be that lucky.
When past-him returns to his bed and his notebooks, his arm is bandaged beneath his sleeve, and he tries using his opposite hand for writing until Mom calls him down for dinner. Past-him makes sure the bandages are secured and hidden, then leaves the room to meet her.
It’d been hard enough to live through, but now, watching it, leaves Izuku with an empty, hollow feeling in his chest. Like someone or something had left a real, physical hole through his heart.
Past-him goes to bed right after dinner, and Izuku removes himself from the premises to find a suitable place to hide out and sleep. The last thing he wants to do is get arrested at past-him’s own home.
When he wakes up the next morning, surrounded by leaves and branches, his first thought is Oh, so it wasn’t a dream. Then, he sits up a little straighter, neck and back sore from the position. He’d found a sturdy tree down in town square to sleep in, with branches thick enough to both hold him and shroud him, and while it hadn’t been comfortable, he isn’t in the situation to complain.
He flips his hood back over his head, climbs down the tree, and starts down the sidewalk again. He really doesn’t know what to do from here, aside from mingle and hope everything turns out okay in the end. Trying to do research on time travel would be pointless, and the little girl and her mother aren’t around for him to ask questions and get answers.
So he’s left with the option of walking, waiting, and hoping for the best. It’s really all he can do at this point aside from panic.
Yesterday was the really bad day with the burns, he thinks to himself, mentally counting. ...Huh...I don’t actually remember what came after that...I know I went to school the next day, but…
It’s weird. Everything after that feels fuzzy. Like it’d happened in a dream. Any time he tries to remember it, it leaves him with a headache, so eventually he gives up and focuses on not worrying. He’s sure it’ll all unfold eventually, in its own time.
He tries texting his friends, but his phone won’t work. It hasn’t so much as turned on since he arrived in this past-universe. He hadn’t really been expecting it to work, anyway, but still, he’s disappointed.
He supposes the weirdest thing so far in this universe—aside from literally crashing into his past-self on day one—is the fact that everywhere he turns, there’s a new report showcasing All Might taking down bands of villains. All Might retired months ago—in Izuku’s proper timeline, of course—so seeing all these news reports and hearing all these stories is bizarre. If he’d still doubted it before, he definitely can’t now.
Speaking of villain attacks, there are a lot of them today—something his past-self (and even his present-self...or would that be “future-self”?) always enjoyed watching. He makes a mental note of the locations as he makes his way down the street.
“At least the quiet is nice,” Izuku murmurs to himself, striding down the sidewalk with only a few people around him. This sector of the city is usually reasonably quiet, he thinks vaguely; it’s been a long time since he’s been here, but the memory is strong either way.
Izuku instinctively turns his head; a little boy jerks his hand out of his father’s and rushes to press his nose against one of the nearby shop windows. His eyes are as bright as the smile on his face.
“Looklooklook!” the boy says, bouncing and pointing excitedly while the father saunters over. “Look, a new train set! Can we get it? Please? Oh pleasepleaseplease?”
The father gives an exasperated sigh and shakes his head. “We just got you a train set, son,” he says heavily. “Christmas isn’t too far off now, why don’t you wait until then?”
The child’s face falls, and he steps back from the shop window and nods unhappily. “Alright…” he says, and the father smiles and turns away. The boy drags behind him unenthusiastically.
Izuku turns to continue down the street, a small, fond smile crossing his face.
Then he catches a gleam of something perched on one of the nearby rooftops.
Instincts immediately take over, and when he puts one and one together, One For All roars to life.
He barely has time to tackle the kid to the ground before a gunshot shatters the shop window. The boy screams; the boy’s father shouts his name; the glass rains down around them, slicing bits of Izuku’s exposed skin, but he grinds his teeth and doesn’t move until he’s sure the last of the glass has fallen. Then, he springs to his feet, ignoring the stings on his arms and face, and whirls around toward the rooftop.
“Well, you’re no fun, are you?”
The villain touches down on the opposite side of the street as civilians scream and run in the opposite direction.
The villain lifts his head with a deranged, moronic grin that looks too wide for his face. One hand hangs loosely at his side; the other hand is not a hand, but a gun.
“You’ve got fast reflexes for a kid,” the villain says, moving closer. “Have I seen ya somewhere before, huh?”
It’s only now that Izuku realizes his hood has fallen back off his face.
He yanks it over his head again immediately, then grits his teeth and shifts into another stance. So much for not affecting the future...I wonder if the police would accept provisional license set for two years forward…
...No, that wouldn’t work. I’d wreck things for younger-me if they had my name on file. This has to be hit and run. Hit and run and don’t let them know you were ever here—
“Stand still!” the villain roars, firing a bullet between the father and his son. They spring away from each other; arms wrap around Izuku’s leg tightly. “I’ll kill you all if you try that again, so don’t move!”
Izuku bites his lip. His mind is racing.
He’s probably more talk than he is fight, but he still has a gun. Can’t take any chances.
Izuku takes in a breath to calm his pounding heart and throws his hands above his head.
“We surrender!” he says, keeping his head low. “Do whatever you want, we’ll stay out of your way! Please!”
The villain takes aim, the barrel of his gun poised at Izuku’s stomach. “You’re a smart kid,” he says, starting forward. “Hand over whatever you’ve got on you—cash, valuables—and do it now.”
“Alright, okay, I will.”
Izuku lowers his hands slowly, faking a crack in his voice, and digs his wallet from his pocket and begins to look through it. “H-Hold on, p-please, I know I have something—”
The villain gets closer, teeth bared in a snarl. “What’s the hold up, huh?”
“N-Nothing, s-sorry, my hands are shaking—”
“Gah, just gimme that—”
He reaches for the wallet.
Izuku snaps his fingers around the villain’s wrist, yanks him forward, and slams his knee beneath his chin. The villain makes a choked, strangled kind of sound in the back of his throat. Izuku lets him go, but the second the villain staggers to his feet again, Izuku swings a leg and slams the side of his foot into his skull.
The villain hits the pavement like a broken marionette, and just like that it’s over.
Izuku drags in a deep, shuddering breath and lets it out slowly. I didn’t even have to use One For All...even if I got caught, the police woudn’t be able to prosecute me…
The boy breaks away, and the man rushes forward to meet him halfway, sweeping the boy into his arms and hugging tightly. Izuku smiles faintly, but when he hears approaching sirens, loud then louder, he turns away and starts down the sidewalk briskly. He neutralized the threat; he can leave cleanup to the police.
“Thank you, Mister!”
Izuku stops, then turns and looks over his shoulder. The boy is beaming at him, and the father lowers his head in a small but respectful bow.
Izuku can’t help but smile back.
He sticks around in the shadows afterwards, just long enough to ensure the villain doesn’t miraculously regain consciousness and try anything again (he doesn’t). By now, a reasonably large crowd has gathered around the area, as well as a group of heroes. The press hounds them, asking which among them actually saved the day, but they truthfully answer that they have no idea who it was, but that they’re eternally grateful to the “unnamed individual.”
And then it’s blasted all over the news. There was no footage of the villain’s defeat, so Izuku’s identity remains completely unknown. Every time he passes by a JumboTron or a television station, he can’t help but wince.
So much for not affecting this world…
He sighs longly. Even though the sun is bright and the day is hot, he can’t even lower his hood, much less take off the sweatshirt.
C’mon, it can’t be for much longer…
As the thought is still crossing his mind, another intercepts it. He stops dead in his tracks, eyes widening somewhat in realization.
...I didn’t see past-me at all over there. I was all over that stuff. It didn’t even matter where I was. It doesn’t make sense why I wouldn’t be there at the scene of the crime, especially with all this news stuff afterwards.
He doesn’t know, and he has no way of finding out, so he continues on his way and hopes for the best.
The rest of the day passes without much incident. He stops by a ramen shop for dinner, then finds himself back in the park in that same overgrown tree for the night. It isn’t ideal, but it’s the safest spot he can find so far, so it’s just what he has to deal with.
He makes a mental note to check on past-him after school the next day. He doesn’t know what’s wrong with him of the past, but the most concerning part about it may actually lie in that fact. He doesn’t remember any of this. He doesn’t remember what happened after that night where Bakugou’s burns were especially noticeable.
That’s really what bothers him the most.
There are a lot of villain attacks that morning. Izuku arrives at each scene to watch, expecting to see past-him at least once, but he doesn’t. It’s like past-him has been completely erased from the universe. It would make sense why he wouldn’t be there while he’s in school, but the morning before that, he had plenty of time to check out the crime scenes, and knowing past-him, he’d jump on the chance.
All the more reason to check on him after school.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just ask him how he’s doing, Izuku decides, trying to look inconspicuous as he stands outside the school and students flood out the double doors. I could tell him about some of the villain attacks downtown, too. That might cheer him up after yesterday. I know it always did for me when I was his age—
The absurdity of it all slaps him in the face once again, and he shakes his head feverishly and doesn’t dwell on it. He winds up with a headache whenever he tries.
He waits outside the school, and then, he sees past-him making his way down the steps and down the sidewalk, head down, fingers closed around the straps of his backpack. Izuku doesn’t approach directly for a number of reasons, but when past-him isn’t looking, Izuku pulls out his useless phone and taps the dark screen needlessly.
“Holy crap!” he says, trying to sound astonished. “A villain attack down near Dagobah! Really vicious villain, man! I wonder who’s taking care of it?”
Past-him would’ve instantly jumped on this, but for some reason, that isn’t what happens. Past-him doesn’t even seem to notice he’d shouted; he continues down the sidewalk with that same slow, head-down pace as before.
Izuku frowns. ...Maybe he didn’t hear me…?
“Hey, Izu—I-I mean, kid!” he says, jogging to catch up with past-him. “Watch out if you’re going near the Shituki prefecture, there’s a pretty massive villain attack going on there right now.”
“I know,” past-him says, without so much as turning his head. “Thank you.”
Izuku stops dead in his tracks, staring wide-eyed. If past-him notices, he doesn’t acknowledge it, heading further down the street in the opposite direction.
“That was...weird,” Izuku thinks out loud, watching past-him’s retreating back. “That was... really weird.”
The weirdest thing about it is he doesn’t remember this ever happening. He doesn’t remember having such an off-day that he ignored villain attacks and didn’t so much as bat an eye when someone brought one up. Fourteen-year-old him would jump on that any day, any time, any where.
But not here. Not now. For some reason.
And Izuku doesn’t have the slightest clue as to what that reason is.
He turns and starts in the opposite direction, ready to head for home and catch up with past-him there (maybe he’ll remember something he’d forgotten about today), but that’s when he passes younger-Bakugou and two of his cronies. Izuku doesn’t think much of it at first; he ducks his head and makes sure his hood is pulled securely over his hair so Bakugou doesn’t recognize him, and continues on his way.
But that’s when he actually hears their conversation.
“The nerve of him, really,” one of Bakugou’s goons says, shaking his head with mock sympathy. “Thinking he can still be a hero. He’s pathetic.”
“We really put him in his place, though, didn’t we?” the second one says, smiling and turning towards Bakugou. “You could just see the moment that all hope drained from his eyes. About time he learned how to face reality.”
Izuku stops walking. Younger-Bakugou rolls his eyes.
“Someone had to tell him,” he says lowly. “Stupid nerd. Hopefully he learns his lesson.”
Learns his lesson. Drained hope. Pathetic. “Put him in his place.”
The words are out before he registers speaking.
“What did you say to him?”
Bakugou and the others turn. Izuku balls his fists subconsciously and tries to keep from shaking.
“Eh?” Bakugou says, spinning on his heel. “What’s it to you, huh?”
“You’d be surprised,” Izuku bites out. “Tell me what you said to him.”
“I told him the truth,” Bakugou snaps back, confident and cocky as ever. “He was too afraid to realize it himself, so I made him—”
Izuku swings around and socks Bakugou in the face.
He doesn’t know what made him do it, and in hindsight, he regrets it, but right now he can’t help it. Bakugou stumbles back, clutching his face while blood bursts from his nose, and Izuku shakes out his hand and tears down the sidewalk in the opposite direction, One For All crackling and burning beneath his skin.
He remembers. He remembers Bakugou’s words, he remembers Bakugou’s threats, he remembers Bakugou’s “take a swan dive off the roof.” But he doesn’t remember what past-him did. There’s an entire blank, white space in his mind of absolute nothingness. Like he was in a dream. Like he was a dead man walking. Like he was completely numb.
“Not affecting the future” be damned, he has a bad feeling about this.
“Come on, come on, come on—” He leaps between alleyways and rickochets himself onto a rooftop. “Come on, come on, where did I go? Where did I go? Where would I go? Where—?”
And then, he sees himself, standing on a small bridge with his notebooks tucked against his chest.
Izuku gets there in record time, running and leaping. He touches down near the bridge, takes a moment to catch his breath and regain his composure, then starts forward. He feels like his heart is about to burst right out of his chest.
Past-him doesn’t even turn his head, staring down at the rushing water beneath the bridge. Izuku steels himself, summons his will, and leans against the railings on the other side.
Past-him doesn’t even acknowledge that he’s spoken. Izuku shifts, feeling awkward, but that doesn’t stop him.
“Listen—I heard what your classmates said to you,” Izuku says; past-him flinches, but doesn’t respond. “They were out of line, they shouldn’t have—”
“D-Do you think they were right?”
Izuku stops. Past-him still won’t meet his eyes, but he clutches the notebooks a little harder and bows his head.
“I know I don’t have a Quirk,” past-him says quietly, “but, I-I mean...I’m not...really worthless, am I?”
Izuku doesn’t know what to say. This moment in his life has been completely blotted out with a feeling of dead, unreal numbness.
“Maybe they are right,” past-him says, lifting his head and wiping the tears from his face. “M-Maybe I should just give up while I’m still ahead.”
Izuku watches, wide-eyed—and then past-him lifts his notebooks over the side of the bridge, and it finally snaps him out of his daze.
“Don’t!” he shouts before he can stop himself, turning towards him and reaching out. “Don’t, please.”
Past-him blinks. There’s no light in his eyes. “They don’t—” His voice breaks, and he shakes his head. “They hate me, they all hate me. They want me to give up. T-They don’t...they don’t want me here. No one wants me here.”
“That’s not true—”
Past-him chokes and clutches his notebooks to him again, tears falling. “No one cares.”
“Stop it,” Izuku snaps, inching forward. His feet feel like lead. His hands are shaking. “You mean so much, Izuku, more than you realize. You mean so much to—to your mom, to your family, to people you haven’t met yet—”
Past-him chokes on a low, wet sob. “How do you know?”
Izuku opens his mouth—and then, he stops.
He wants to tell him. He wants to tell him about One For All, about the future ahead, about the friends he’s made and about the life he has now, despite everything he’d been through.
But he can’t. Ultimately, he can’t tell past-him who he really is. He doesn’t trust that to not have lasting effects. He can’t alter the future. All he can do, here and now...
“...I know where you’re coming from,” he says thickly, lowering his hands down to his sides. He touches his forearm lightly in memory of the burns that once pained him. “I know it’s hard now, I know it is. But it’s not going to be like this forever. And you’re not alone. You’ve got a future, I promise you, promise, but you’ve gotta be there. You have to be a part of it. Your future is way too bright for you to give up on it now.”
Past-him lifts his head slowly, and through the tears streaming down his face, Izuku sees something like a rekindled light in his eyes.
And then, he ducks his head, drops his notebooks, falls to his knees, and buries his face in his hands while sobs wrack his frame.
Izuku swallows hard and approaches quietly. Now that he’s here, now that things are becoming more clear, he’s remembering. He’s remembering how he felt in these moments, past all the numbness and uncertainty and feeling like his body belonged to someone else, like he was passenger instead of driver. He remembers all of that and so much more he’d thought he’d been too numb to feel, much less remember.
He kneels next to past-him and reaches out, gently settling a hand on his left shoulder (Bakugou always burned his right one—the left one should be unharmed). After a long silence, broken only by past-him’s choked sobs and gasps of breath, Izuku speaks.
“...Let me take you home, alright?” he says, squeezing past-him’s shoulder. “Just, tell me where you live, and I’ll make sure you get there, okay?”
Past-him nods shakily, tears flying everywhere, and Izuku helps him to his feet, gathers his notebooks off the ground, then guides him down bridge, out of the park, and back into the bustling city.
“...Tell your mom about this,” Izuku says, once past-him has stopped crying and they’ve settled into a comfortable pace down the sidewalk. “Tell her what’s going on, alright?”
Past-him bites his lip. “I-I—I-I didn’t want her to—t-to know.”
“She has to know.” He remembers telling her, faintly, but most of that is a numb nothingness as well. He really wasn’t doing well these days of his life, proof being his numb, foggy memories. “You have to tell her. She’d want to know, believe me. It’s going to hurt both of you a lot, but then you can start moving forward.”
Past-him doesn’t reply for the longest of whiles, but then, he nods shakily and wipes his eyes.
“Okay,” he manages. “O-Okay, I’ll—I-I’ll tell her.”
Izuku replies by squeezing his shoulder again, and that’s it.
Two days later, Izuku sees it on the news. A report praising one Bakugou Katsuki and All Might for their bravery in the midst of adversity. There’s no word from past-him in the report, of course, but Izuku knows. That “second victim” that the report only glossed over in the interview was definitely reckless, relentless past-him.
Just watching the news report resurfaces so many memories, so many mixed feelings, so many emotions. He doesn’t remember much of his past with clarity, but these are moments he’ll never forget. They’re as clear as day in his mind, like they’d happened yesterday. Moving involuntarily to save Bakugou; meeting All Might; receiving One For All; training for nine months on the shoreline of Dagobah beach; and finally, U.A., where he made his first friends and finally began to make his dream a reality.
He watches the news recap of it, then spends the remainder of his day trying to contact his own timeline and finding which ramen shop is the cheapest in town (he’s running scarily low on yen; a few more days and he’ll either be a beggar or a dumpster-diver. Or both).
In order to reach his “Sleeping Tree” in the park, he has to cross over that bridge—the same bridge he’d found past-him at the other day, when he’d kept him from dumping his notebooks into the water. He glances down at the sparkling river, then averts his gaze and continues on.
But then he notices something blowing in the slight breeze, and he turns.
There’s a slip of paper taped to the railing.
Izuku frowns, contemplates, then decides to investigate moving forward and tearing the paper free from the tape. There’s no name. It isn’t signed. Only the words Thank you mark the paper in neat, practiced handwriting.
Warmth floods his chest, and Izuku’s eyes burn as a smile curves his lips. He holds the note close to his heart and shuts his eyes for a long moment.
And then, he’s stricken with a sensation not unlike the first one he’d felt; a whir and a twist and a pull, yanking him in all sorts of directions until finally, he free-falls. But it isn’t as hectic or terrifying now as it was before, when he didn’t know what was happening. He doesn’t know why it’s happening now, but the fact is, it’s happening, and he’s accomplished all he needed to in this timeline.
It’d happened in the span of an instant. The girl grabbed Midoriya’s leg, held tightly, and then with a flash of light, Midoriya was gone, and the little girl began to scream.
Her Quirk had only just developed in that moment. She didn’t know what she could do. None of them knew what she could do. Those facts remain president, along with the fact that Midoriya is nowhere to be found.
It’s hard to match Aizawa’s brisk pace, but Shouto and Iida do the best they can. Their teacher storms down the hall a few lengths in front of them, and the students jog to keep up.
“And there’s still no sign of Midoriya?” Iida asks, voice firm, but his eyes are worried. “Nothing at all?”
“If there was a sign of him, you’d know about it,” Aizawa answers curtly. “At the time, we don’t know anything, and the fact that the girl’s Quirk only just now developed doesn’t help matters. We’re still searching, but—”
And then, just like before, there’s a bang and a flash of light, and suddenly Midoriya is standing there, in between Aizawa and the students. His eyes are dazed and glassy, but he’s definitely here, and aside from a couple scabs on his face and arms, he seems unharmed.
“Midoriya—” Iida says, wide-eyed. “You’re—Aizawa-sensei—!”
Aizawa moves just in time to catch Midoriya when his knees buckle and his eyes roll back in his head. Shouto and Iida hurry forward.
“Go to the nurse’s office,” Aizawa demands in a voice that leaves no room for argument. “Tell Recovery Girl to get ready. Step on it.”
Shouto and Iida flee, feet pounding in-step with their racing hearts.
“Is he okay?”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine once he wakes up. His levels are normal. On all accounts, he should have woken up before now, but, I can’t really say that freely without knowing exactly what happened to him. He was missing for over three days.”
“Well, go ahead back to your class, Uraraka. I’ll let you know if he wakes up.”
“O-Okay. Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.”
A door closes. Izuku is too disoriented to open his eyes.
The next time he wakes up, he’s much more there and his mind isn’t as foggy anymore. He opens his eyes, squinting only for a moment against the plaguing overhead lights. His head is pounding, but again, it’s not something he can’t push through.
Recovery Girl isn’t there. No one is. Orange-yellow rays of sunlight stream through the window; evening is upon them. Izuku finds himself wondering what time it is, and how long it’s been since he returned to the present time.
It’s just when he’s trying to look over at the clock over the door that the door swings open, and in file Uraraka, Todoroki, and Iida.
“—doesn’t mind if we visited,” Uraraka is saying; Todoroki and Iida are treading lightly, almost like they’re expecting a scolding. “She said we could come by after school and—”
She catches him out of the corner of her eye, then quickly does a double-take. The others quickly follow her gaze, and Izuku can’t help it. He beams at them; they stare back at him wide-eyed.
“DEKU!” Uraraka shrieks, tearing across the room with Todoroki and Iida hot on her heels. She gets there first, just as Izuku sits up, and she throws her arms around his shoulders and hugs him as tight as she can. Todoroki sits on the edge of the bed and joins in the embrace, and then finally, Iida’s arms encircle the three of them.
Izuku hugs them back fiercely, and before he even knows what’s happening, his eyes are burning and his throat is tight. The tighter they hug him the worse it gets, and eventually he’s crying silently against Uraraka’s shoulder. She notices, but doesn’t mind, and they stay that way for what feels like an eternity.
Uraraka pulls back, and the others follow suit, though the joy and relief hasn’t faded from their faces.
“Are you okay?” Todoroki asks, staring him in the eyes. Izuku feels like he’s being interrogated. “Should we get Recovery Girl?”
“Nonono, I’m fine,” Izuku promises, rubbing his eyes with the backs of his hands and nodding feverishly. “I’m fine, I promise, I’m just...I’m really happy to see you guys again. Really happy.”
They exchange glances, concerned, but Izuku doesn’t think anything of it. They really have no idea how relieved he is to see them here. After seeing past-him, after reliving all of those memories, after remembering every second of pain and loneliness of his past, being here now with his closest friends...they really don’t have the slightest idea how happy he is. He kind of wants to cry again.
Luckily, Iida speaks and breaks him out of his thoughts before he can. “We were scared half to death about you, Midoriya,” Iida says, shaking his head and sitting down on the edge of the bed with Uraraka and Todoroki. “We’re glad you’re alright, really.”
“D-Deku...what happened?” Uraraka asks, eyes drawn with concern. “You were gone for three days. Where were you?”
Izuku exhales sharply through his nose and shakes his head feverishly. “It’s crazy,” he says. “I barely believe it happened. I-I’m still trying to decide whether or not it did happen...”
The band-aids on his forearms should already speak numbers, along with all his memories, but still. Now that the adrenaline has worn off and he can actually think again, he finds himself not knowing what to think.
“Midoriya, in this day and age, there’s nothing too crazy,” Todoroki says, shaking his head. “If you want to share, then, regardless of how crazy or unbelievable it is, we’re all ears.”
Izuku looks at them for a long, seemingly never-ending moment—and then, he nods shakily and wipes his eyes.
“Okay. S-So, it went like this…”
“WAIT,” Kaminari shrieks, spinning to face him with wide eyes. “SO YOU ACTUALLY TIME-TRAVELED!? FOR REAL!?”
Izuku shushes him as loudly as he dares, waving his hands about frantically. Kaminari winces and shrinks back under his and the rest of their classmates’ scolding gazes. They are, once again, trying to make up for their past bad experiences with the mall and are attempting now to have a normal outing. For once.
(Sero suggested getting some kind of rope to ensure no one snatched Izuku away again, but he was shot down quickly by Iida, and the argument was put to rest.)
“That’s crazy,” Kaminari says, much quieter now. “So you actually went back in time.”
“I think so,” Izuku answers, nodding and looking down to avoid his classmates’ eyes. There are still bandaids on his arms from the few shards of glass that harmed him; proof of his endeavor. “I mean...it’s hard to believe, but…”
“It sounds insane,” Satou says, cradling his chin in his hand, “but considering everything else going on in the world, I guess it’s not the most far-fetched thing that’s ever happened.”
“Maybe when the girl learns how to control it, some good will come out of it,” Todoroki says simply, looking ahead. Izuku had already told him, Iida and Uraraka of this before now, so Todoroki has had plenty of time to theorize. “Time travel…”
“It’s actually pretty scary to think about,” Kirishima admits, scratching the back of his neck. “I mean, someone could go back and royally mess things up for the future, y’know?”
“I don’t know about that,” Yaoyorozu says, deep in thought. “There’s a theory that says no matter what you try, the past is set in stone. You can’t change what’s already happened. Like, Midoriya.” She looks at him. “You said you already had memories of meeting your future self before you were actually sent back there, correct?”
Izuku nods. “Yeah,” he says, “but I didn’t know it was me.”
“So are you saying, that, like—the past knew it was going to happen, so it was already affected by the—?” Kaminari starts, then stops and looks down, wide-eyed. “What the hell.”
“It’s best not to question time travel,” Tsuyu pipes up, shaking her head. “I’m sure there’s nothing to—”
“WAIT A SECOND.”
Everyone turns. If looks could kill, Bakugou would have murdered all of them.
“YOU MEAN YOU WERE THE GUY WHO PUNCHED ME IN THE FACE!?” Bakugou roars, voice loud enough to disturb the nearby shoppers, who redouble their pace in their haste to escape. “ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW!? THAT WAS YOU!?”
Izuku’s knuckles are still sore. “Yep.”
“DON’T SOUND PROUD ABOUT IT, YOU DAMN—!”
“H-Hey! You! The guy with the green hair!”
Izuku turns, barely acknowledging Bakugou’s furious shout of “DON’T IGNORE ME!”, but soon, everyone else is ignoring him, too.
It was a boy who’d shouted, a young boy of maybe nine or ten years old. He’s racing towards them frantically, pursued by an older man. Presumably his father.
Izuku’s eyes blow wide.
...Wait a second…
“It’s you!” the boy exclaims once he’s made it there, and he stares at Izuku with sparkles in his eyes and a stunned, shocked expression. “It’s you! I saw you at the Sports Festival, I always wanted to talk to you, I can’t believe—! Is it really you!? Do you remember me!?”
Izuku does. Of course he does. To him, it’d happened just a few days ago.
“I remember you,” Izuku answers, dumbfounded. “You were that boy by the toy shop. I—”
“You remember me!” The boy continues looking stunned for a little while longer, but then, his face splits in a bright, wide grin. “Holy crap, it really is you! You saved me, I—I can’t believe I’m meeting you finally—! Oh, wait, here!”
He pats himself down frantically and finally yanks a notebook and pen from his back pocket.
“C-Can I please have your autograph!?” he asks, bowing his head and thrusting out his arms. “P-Please!?”
Izuku’s head is spinning. “I-I—I-I mean, s-sure—?”
With numb fingers, he takes the pen and notebook and prints his signature as nearly as he can. He then hands it back to the boy, who snatches the notebook and does a small victory leap.
“I can’t believe it!” he shrieks, talking more to himself than to Izuku. “I can’t believe it, I’ll never forget this—! Thank you so much, Mister—” He pauses, checks the audience, then looks up again with an even brighter smile. “Thank you so much, Deku!”
Izuku stares. “N-No problem…”
The boy doesn’t seem to mind his awkwardness, and he retreats in the opposite direction to rejoin his father, waving a hand above his head. The father also waves at him, and Izuku raises a hand and returns the gesture numbly.
Thirty seconds later, the two are out of sight, and Izuku stares out into space, drawn on a blank. His friends crowd around him. Someone pokes him on the shoulder.
“Is he breathing?”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh darn it, he’s broken. That kid broke Midoriya.”
“Middooooriya.” A hand wags in his face. “Earth to Midoriya. Speak.”
“S-Sorry,” Izuku says, looking down at his hands, “I-I just...that was…”
Kirishima cuffs him lightly on the back of the head, then slings an arm around his shoulders and drags him into a side-hug. “In shock over your first fan, huh?” he says, grinning. “Look at you, encouraging the next generation since you even realized you were doing it. Time travel is a trippy thing.”
“Wait,” Kaminari says, brows pinching together, “now I’m really confused. If Midoriya didn’t save him then the boy would’ve died, right? But the boy already recognized Midoriya from the Sports Festival which meant future-Midoriya had already saved him, but our Midoriya hadn’t gone back in time yet, which means—”
Tsuyu slaps him with her tongue, and he shuts himself up after a short yelp of disgust and pain. “It’s like I said. Try not to question time travel too much.”
Kaminari doesn’t respond, but the perplexed look on his face suggests that he wasn’t going to let it go that easily.
The shock gradually wears off as the day progresses, and soon, Izuku is smiling again. Whether or not he understands it—whether or not anyone understands it—whether or not it makes sense, it would seem he’d done something really special. Not just in saving and inspiring that boy, but saving himself from whatever pit of despair he’d almost fallen into. That’s what really gets him the most. If he hadn’t saved himself, if he hadn’t encouraged past-him to not give up on his dreams, then that boy would be dead right now, and Izuku would be drowning in hopelessness.
But that’s not what happened.
And because that one person believed in him—and because of all the people who’d believed in him henceforth, encouraged him, helped him—he’d been able to save himself.
Because of them, he’d been able to be his own hero.