“I’m sorry, but I can’t.”
Izuku had no idea how things had gotten to this point. Maybe his brain was still sluggish from nearly being ambushed by the league, but he was sure he’d been on his way to school. Somehow, Izuku’s brain couldn’t bridge the gap between when he was turning a corner to pleading with an unknown hero to train him - or at least, give him some pointers!
Which was weird, because he already had a teacher. He was All Might’s successor, there was no need for Izuku to try and obtain another teacher, though there was no such thing as too prepared.
The man - Tenth, he’d called himself - was unlike any hero he’d ever seen. For one thing, he was wearing a suit. He wasn’t dressed in the brightly colored costumes meant to catch the eyes of citizens, in decorative - but padded! - garb, though his outfit was eye-catching due to the strange formality of it.
He did have a fancy cape and some strange gloves, though, and that had to count for something. That seemed like support gear to him!
But Izuku had never seen him before. He was sure of it.
Izuku stands across from the hero-vigilante-stranger on a rooftop, ironically. The man had placed them there, out of harm’s way, but as he opens his mouth to try again, to do something to get the man to stay a little longer (if only so Izuku could puzzle him out), there’s the flapping of his coat, the sizzling sparks of a flame just lit, and the man is lifting off.
Only, this time, Izuku is left behind.
Tsuna was not having a good time - at all.
When his family had died off, one by one, he hadn’t exactly meant to go on. He’d fully intended upon eradicating the threats that had killed them, and then… disappearing? Most likely.
He hadn’t wanted to die, exactly, but without friends or a family... there wasn’t much left to go on for.
What Tsuna, for all his mortal folly, hadn’t accounted for, was an assassination attempt flinging him into another dimension with no conceivable way of getting home. He was lucky enough just to be alive, but, well- Shouichi was dead. Spanner was dead. Everyone in the science department was dead.
Whoever had tried to kill him was either horribly incompetent or an absolute genius.
...Who gets rid of their enemies by sending them to another dimension entirely? Seriously.
Regardless, everyone was gone. There was nothing to return to.
And yet, god, did Tsuna want to go home. He’d been in this world for a little under a week at this point, but he had yet to get used to the world he was in.
Quirks. Heroes and villains - real ones. No flames. No Mafia (that, he wasn’t sad about). Laws against saving people.
It was completely different from everything he knew, which was weird. It was weird and strange and hard for Tsuna to wrap his brain around.
He supposes that people who had grown up in this world would find its rules understandable and sensible, but to Tsuna? It was incorrigible. He couldn't stand it.
When he’d been pacing the streets of Musutafu and stumbled upon some guy attempting to sneak up on a kid, it was just common sense that Tsuna would punt the fucker into a wall - this world’s laws be damned.
Belatedly, Tsuna realizes that must have been one of those villains this world opposed so much.
He shouldn’t have, really, should’ve been more subtle - as Reborn had tried to beat into him - but he hadn’t been thinking about that at all, at the time.
No- all that’d been going through Tsuna’s mind was alarm, his intuition yelling at him to save and get-kid-away - dangerous!
So, he did. His flaming, gloved fists shoving the would-be attacker through a brick wall, scooping the child off the sidewalk and whisking him away somewhere safer - soft apologies absentmindedly falling off his lips.
Honestly? Tsuna’s more surprised that the kid didn’t start yelling his head off, but it seems like he got the gist of the situation quickly enough to let himself be saved.
Or maybe he was just in shock. Who knows.
He was just glad that the law hadn’t come down on him, bringing with it questions and trouble and possibly arrests. That would be troublesome.
Tsuna laments the state of his life and supposes it was mostly his fault.
He was a bit perturbed with how intensely this teenager was studying him as if he were a puzzle or a particularly fascinating mystery to pick apart, whilst also regarding him with some sort of… awe?!
Tsuna didn’t like that.
He didn’t like that at all.
Figuring that he’d gotten them both far enough from the scene of the crime, Tsuna gently sets them both down on a random rooftop, away from the immediate sight of any pursuers. The teen didn’t seem injured, but years of taking care of children with a propensity to get themselves injured has Tsuna checking anyway.
“Are you alright?” Tsuna asks, “Are you hurt anywhere, are you bleeding?”
This seems to knock just enough awareness into the teen that Tsuna gets an answer, rather than a wide-eyed stare.
“N-no. I’m not- I’m not hurt anywhere. I’m fine.”
Tsuna breathes a sigh of relief. This child reminds him of Fuuta, a little - shy and almost surprised that anyone would ask him how he was doing, let alone actually care, even though that ranking book of his had told him Tsuna would-
Mentally, he slams a lid down on that line of thought. Thinking of them would only lead to pain, and that wouldn’t help the situation at hand. It wouldn’t do to have a breakdown in front of a kid probably still gripped by shock and confusion. No, an adult suddenly bursting into tears in front of him would only make things worse. Especially when trying to process being ambushed, watching his attacker get shot into a wall, saved, and then scooped up and flown across the city. All in a span of about fifteen minutes.
Oops. Maybe he overdid it a bit, but… well, ‘overdoing it’ was the Vongola way, wasn’t it?
A squeak breaks Tsuna from his stupor - the same stupor he had been trying to avoid getting into in the first place - bringing his attention back to the child in front of him. He’s obviously shaking off the shock by the focus in his eyes, appearing less like a deer in the headlights before.
“That was…” ‘Terrible? Awful? Scary and panic-inducing?’ “-amazing!”
The teenager doesn’t seem to notice him gawking, though, as he descends into rambling, heaping praise on him - for no reason, might Tsuna add. “Incredible!” he crows, “So cool- how quickly you dealt with the villain and removed me from harm’s way - even having the forethought to move to another, safer, location! Since it was a targeted attack of course you’d want the villain to lose my trail… not that the villain would be able to walk away from what you just dished out - he didn’t even see you coming! I have got to learn how to do tha- ack.”
The teenager blushes, cutting himself off. His fingers - still quivering from the scare - tangle together.
‘A nervous habit,’ Tsuna notes absently.
“I’m so sorry!” the boy nearly yells, bowing so low anyone else would have thought he’d committed some grave offense against him, rather than get a little too carried away while praising him-
“Now- there’s no need for that!” Tsuna titters, unsure of what to do in this kind of situation. “I’m- I’m just glad you’re alright!”
Green eyes peek up at him, as if checking to make sure he’s not actually mad, before the boy rights himself again, cheeks still tinged with embarrassment. “T-thank you for saving me.”
This Tsuna could deal with. This was normal. “It was no trouble,” he says, a slight smile sitting upon his lips.
There’s a beat. Then two, then three.
‘I made it awkward!’ Tsuna internally wails, mentally bashing his head against a wall. All he’s doing here is staring at the kid, who’s staring back. Silently. Awkwardly. On top of a random roof. In a random city - gah.
What terrible luck he has.
‘To be fair to me, the kid isn’t exactly the best with conversation, ei-!’
“Please train me!” the kid screams, eyes squeezed shut as he bowed low once again - and didn’t Tsuna say there was no need for that?!
“I’m sorry, but I can’t.”
It’s a bit of a blur after that.
There’s a bit more back and forth about the matter of training, of taking on a student - and god wasn’t that a terrible thought. Him, a teacher?! - while Tsuna dodges questions about his person with the subtlety of a drunk, until Tsuna reaches his breaking point and pulls a disappearing act. If a shitty one - the kid managed to see him go, after all.
Reborn would be so disappointed.
(He’d be even more disappointed to learn that he’d hidden identity - a mafia boss wasn’t supposed to say his name was “The Tenth” with the confidence of a newborn kitten.)
Truthfully, Izuku had thought that’d be the last he’d see of the man - there and gone in a flash, never to be seen again, just a faint memory of a mystery and a lost opportunity. After all, Izuku had never heard of him before he’d been saved, not even a whisper.
(He’d always been more affected by rejection than others, though he supposed that made sense due to his own past. Missed opportunities, missing out, could-haves and would-haves… they always rankled a little more deeply for him.)
Izuku had thought that “Tenth” would disappear into his memories. He was wrong.
Tenth appears again, having swooped in elsewhere across the city to save another hapless citizen. And then, he does it again, and again, and again.
Different places, at all hours, using a variety of methods, yet, always, disappearing without a trace.
Honestly, Izuku wasn't sure if Tenth was a vigilante or just a particularly bad underground hero. It would explain the clean getaways, how he tried not to attract attention (even though his very presence garnered suspicion and intrigue), the lack of media experiences, as well as the level of skill Tenth demonstrated in fighting. There was a particular level of polish that spoke of experience.
Most vigilantes were borne of rebellion, of rage and passion and an itch under people’s skin so fierce that it bubbled over and they crossed lines they never would have otherwise.
(Speaking of, wasn’t it the same for most villains, too? Borne of rage and greed and an itch.)
(Izuku had that itch, too.)
The news reporting on him isn’t any better, either: some sources try to name him a “Rising vigilante”, others who were more cynical, “A villain biding his time”, and even “a new hero’s debut stunt”.
Either way, he was getting a lot of attention.
But Izuku isn’t concerned about that. Thinking about it, it makes sense. Even from Izuku’s single encounter with the man, he knows the man’s an oddball through and through - anyone would be fascinated by that.
What really catches Izuku’s attention, what pulls him in, is that he always looks the same.
Other heroes look different from day to day, even if their costumes are the same. They have different moods that cannot ever be fully squashed, and some days heroes are just doing their duty because it’s their job. It happens.
That was what made All Might so special, he always looked to be in the throws of passion, in the thick of battle he kept focus, his moods were geared towards saving, helping, being a hero.
And this Tenth - he was the same. Though, different. Whereas All Might beamed his signature grin, flashing white teeth in triumph and near-glee, Tenth was solemn. Eyes narrow, contrasting the pulsing heat of whatever his quirk was, skillful and focused and sad.
Where All Might found purpose in being a hero, Tenth looked as if he were sorry he had to be one at all.
It was weird.
Maybe that propensity to stay the same was what drew him in; Izuku, himself, was ever-changing, an exact opposite. He had nothing like All Might’s stabilizing smile or Tenth’s calming, firm presence: Izuku was a rocky sea battered by a thunderstorm overhead, tides shifting and changing, rising and falling and taking everything along with it. Every new day brought another change, a minuet shift, a little change like the slight adjustment of guitar strings.
Izuku wants to be that - a static, unchanging presence. Wants to be integral - to be calming and needed.
He doesn’t want to be a choppy sea swept up in the beating of thunderous drums.
It needles at him, pokes his brain with sudden frustration, the need to know. To unravel what made Tenth similar to All Might, what made them the same. Why he was here, why he wouldn’t take Izuku under his wing.
For the first time since Izuku was saved that day, he stares at the television screen and wonders-
“Where did he come from?”