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your life is your own

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“Give it a rest already, Deku!” the words lash at his skin, burning like the sparks that crackle from Bakugou’s palms, “You’re quirkless, useless, and worthless! You’ll never be a hero!!”

Izuku shuts his eyes tight. The other kids’ shoes slam into his body, but he’s learned to bite his lip and swallow his cries of pain- despite the teachers never interfering, Bakugou never takes it well when adults catch wind of what’s going on. So he covers his head with his hands, presses himself into the playground sand as hard as he can, and waits for the other kids to grow tired of him.

“Knock that off!” comes an unfamiliar shout, bold and full of passion. 

The kids pause in their torment of Izuku, and he dares to raise his head just enough to see who’s yelling. 

A tall, lanky man with dark eyes and vibrant orange hair, clad in a slightly oversized grey suit is launching himself clumsily over the chain-link fence surrounding the playground. He drops a plastic bag of groceries on the grass as he lands on the other side, but pays it no mind. No, his eyes are on Izuku with a sort of concern and protective fire he’s only ever seen burning in his mother’s gaze. He wastes no time in shooing the other kids away and dropping to one knee in front of Izuku.

“Hey, kiddo, you alright?” he says, placing his hands on Izuku’s shoulders and guiding him into a kneeling position, “Oooh, yeah, no, uhh...damn- ack, I mean crap- no, crud, just-” 

Before Izuku can even think up a single word, one of the teachers is standing next to them. Her eyes burn into Izuku for a few seconds, and he acutely feels her anger corroding his skin. She manages to drag her eyes over to the strange man with a plastic smile, and in as cheery a voice she can muster, she says, “Strangers are prohibited on school grounds, sir. If you don’t leave, I will be forced to call the police.”

The man’s attention is immediately on the teacher, and he shoots back a retort of, “I saw you watching everything that happened here. You saw this child being mistreated and did nothing to interfere.”

Her smile cracks momentarily. “You must be mistaken. These kids were just roughhousing-”

“There’s a massive difference between childish roughhousing and bullying,” he gently takes one of Izuku’s wrists and holds it up in plain sight, “These burns will probably scar- not only is this a complete acceptance of abuse, it seems you condoned illegal quirk misuse. Children, no matter their lineage or quirk, should be protected .”

The teacher isn’t smiling anymore. “Sir-”

“And you dare call yourself an adult. If it were up to me, you’d be fired on the spot for pulling this crap.”

“He’s just a quirkless child, sir. Quirkless children are born for a life of hardship-”

The man jolts to his feet, and despite being a few inches shorter than the teacher, he radiates intimidation from his head to his toes. “You are an adult. Your job is to help children and teach the rest of them that it’s not okay to be unkind to others. Teach them to do math, draw pictures, not take candy from strangers, whatever. But as an adult, it’s also your responsibility to protect them from harm.”

The teacher merely stares, eyes blank and stunned into silence. After a few moments, however, she clears her throat, furrows her brow, and huffs, “I’m calling the police. You’re trespassing on school grounds-”

“And you just let a child suffer beating and second-degree burns without doing anything. Let’s see how well the police respond to that little detail.”

She opens and closes her mouth for a few seconds...and then she swallows hard and hisses, “Leave now and I’ll do something about the roughhousing-”

“It’s pronounced ‘bullying’, but keep using that term if it helps you sleep at night.”

“-regardless, I’ll see to it-”

“Nah, I’m gonna stick around and let the kid’s parents know. This is serious.”

Panic flares in the woman’s eyes, and Izuku almost chokes on terror at the thought of his mother learning about the bullying. In a moment of boldness, he grabs the hem of the man’s suit jacket and meets his gaze with wide, fearful eyes. “Please don’t tell my mom!!”

For a moment, the man seems to search his eyes with a strangely calm intensity. Then, he takes a deep breath and reaches up to ruffle Izuku’s curly hair. “Are you worried about being a burden on your mom?”

Izuku nods tentatively. 

“Is your mom a nice lady? Is she always kind to you and is she always there for you when you need her?”

“Y-yes. She’s very nice.”

A small, lopsided smile finds its way to the strange man’s face. “Then she won’t think you’re a burden on her at all. From the sounds of it, she’ll never, ever think that. In fact, she’d want to know if you were being hurt so she could help you.”

“But-”

“No buts, kiddo,” he interrupts with an exaggerated hand gesture, “I’ll hang around if you need help coming clean to your mom, but if you think you’re fine, then I’ll leave you be.”

“Sir,” the teacher begins, but is immediately cut off when the man whips up a hand to hold it directly in front of her face.

“Shhh! It’s not your turn to talk.” the man hisses, without taking his attention away from Izuku.

Izuku swallows. “Could you stay?”

“Sure, kid.”