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Double Dare

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If what Dare heard coming from the upperstory window of Aldera Middle was any indication of a typical school atmosphere they were quite glad they had never been allowed to attend.


Classes had just let out for the day about 10 or so minutes ago, and they decided to use the crowd of children leaving as a convenient cover on the way to their daily patrol; but they were distracted by the sound of small explosions emanating from the classroom overhead. No one else seemed to look twice in the direction of the sound, so it must have been a regular occurrence, but something about it gave them pause. Dare elected to loiter behind, just in case their services would be needed after all. The popping sound of further small explosions sounded out in tandem with the smallest boy's whimpering cries, followed by the unceremonious tossing of a scorched notebook out the window. At first, Dare was unsure if the owner of the book was the one who had tossed it or not, could just be some brat rebelling against the concept of homework or something like that, but the words he heard next dispelled that notion for him.


“That's just sad, I would have thought youd have some fight in you.” The first boy said dismissively.


“He finally gets it, he'll never be a hero.” said the second with a sneer.


“Better to find out now instead of later I guess.” The first boy replied.


“You know if you wanna be a hero that badly there may actually be another way...” The third boy, the one Dare had instinctively pegged as the ringleader, said with an air of false hope. “Just hope you'll be born with a quirk in the next life and take a swan dive off the roof of a building.”

Dare recoiled at the cruel indifference in the boy's tone as he suggested the unthinkable. He said the words as if they were an obvious solution to an overdue problem, and in that moment Dare’s heart broke for the green haired boy in the window. It took every ounce of his self control not to leap through the window and dispense his usual justice on the vicious brats, but despite the hot bite of anger in his stomach, they reminded themselves that these were just middle schoolers and not actual villains. But that didn't mean they were completely powerless; in this moment two things were known to him about how to help the boy with viridian curls. The first was that he was in serious need of a friendly face to help combat the others' cruelty. The second was that that ruined notebook was almost certainly theirs and must be of some form of importance if its destruction left him so upset that he would just stand there looking gutted by the loss of it. So instead of charging into a public building in the middle of the day to fight three middle schoolers like he so desperately wanted to, Dare scaled back down the side of the building to start gathering the scattered pages.

--

Midoriya Izuku thought he was used to Kacchans bullying by this point. After years of snide comments and outright abuse by his former childhood friend, he thought that he had heard and felt the worst of what he and his cronies had to offer. He should know better by now that to ever underestimate Kacchan, he could always go above and beyond.


He was glad none of the teachers had stuck around to hear their latest fight, they had never done anything to stop his bullies in the past, in fact it sometimes felt like they had encouraged the other kids with more promising quirks to practice their powers on him. But openly baiting a student, even a useless quirkless one like him, was surely crossing a line, wasn't it? The last thing he wanted was to get Kacchan in trouble and get in the way of his dreams of being a hero.


Midoriya bent over to gather some of his pages from the koi pond in front of the school, muttering under his breath to himself.


“What if I really jumped, what would he do then?” He shook the bulk of the water gently from the page he'd grabbed, hoping against all reason the ink had not bleed too badly for him to transcribe his notes into a new notebook when he got home. “...My dreams have turned into fish food.”


Suddenly a shadow eclipsed the sun over the boy's shoulder. He turned hesitantly to see which of his bullies had stuck around to beat him up or push him into the pond this time, and instead saw someone he'd never seen before in his life.


His eyes widened in fear as he took in the form in front of him. They were holding his notebook in one hand and had extended another in Midoriya's direction, and while they were decidedly human, and did not look much older than he was, those were really the only two things you could tell about them from first look. Their skin was a patchwork of different colors and textures, their hair was a similar amalgamation, like that of a calico cat, and each eye was different in tone, shape and size. No one part of their face or body seemed to match the rest of them, and one fanged tooth hung lower than the rest over the top of their smiling lips. The clothes they wore were plain, dark, and dirty, with several patches that were sewn with little to no skill. Everything about this person set off the uneasy danger bells in Midoriya's brain, they looked entirely too similar to Frankenstein's monster from that ancient movie he watched with his mother for halloween last year.


When Midoriya stared at them stunned for an uncomfortably long amount of time without accepting the other childs hand, they retracted the offending collection of fingers and cleared their throat to speak. Their voice did nothing to help the uncanny valley effect currently sending Midoriya's heart rate through the roof. It was the true neutral of all speech he had ever heard, it did not reveal any age, gender, or dialect, it could believably belong to anyone you'd heard speak for the first time without much question, and as a result felt like it could never naturally belong to anyone.


“Uh, hey. This is yours right?” They said gesturing towards the still dripping and scorched notebook in their hands. It sounded fake, artificial, like a trap.


Midoriya could hold in his fear no longer, his base fight or flight instincts took over and they chose the latter. With a startled whimper they fled from the scene as quick as there nervous legs could carry him. They were sad to abandon notebook 13, but honestly between Kacchans explosions and the koi pond, he was gonna be transcribing everything over again anyway, so starting over from scratch instead wasn't that much extra effort, and it was preferable to whatever form of torture the zombie had planned for him.

He ran the full capacity of his lungs before realizing he wasn't being followed. He finally slowed down to a stop to catch his breath in the tunnel under the bridge. Only to come face to face with a third person who wished him dead. A sludge monster emerged from the sewer grate, and Midoriya had no more flight left in him to get away fast enough.


“You'll make a great skin suit for me to hide in, kid.” The sludge villain said as he quickly overpowered the already tired boy.


Midoriya tried to scream, to struggle against the vile tendrils currently slithering down his throat, but all that came out was feeble whimpers.


“Don't worry, I'm just taking over your body. It'll be better for both of us if you don't fight back. It'll only hurt for a minute. You'll feel better soon.” The sludge villain tempted to coax him in a gravelly voice.


Midoriya thought back on all that had happened to him in his life. All the little doses of misery and discrimination that had peppered his days ever since he was four years old and found out he was quirkless. About his dream of being a hero that even his own mother didn't think he was capable of. Of the childhood friend who made it abundantly clear he wouldn't be missed. And all the other signs the universe seemed to be sending him even just in the past day. Maybe Kacchan was right, maybe he'd have better luck in his next life, he wouldn't even have to find a building to try, all he had to do was just stop fighting.


Just as Midoriya was beginning to come to terms with the opportunity before him, he saw something even more shocking than either of the monsters that had attacked him in the last hour.


“Have no fear, You're safe, now that I Am Here!”


ALL MIGHT?!?!


Midoriya could hardly contain himself as the number one hero, Midoriya's idol, All freakin Might jumped into action with the call of his catch phrase. Calling out one of his signature moves with gusto as he punched.


“Texas Smash!”


The force of the blowback combined with the excitement and lack of oxygen all came together at once, and against all his better wishes, Midoriya lost consciousness just as the villain was being scooped up into a plastic bottle.

--

Dare should have known better than to sneak up behind the kid like that. He was already in a fragile state and well, most people were afraid of them even with the best conditions. He hadn't meant to scare them, he hadn't even meant to sneak really, but several years of stealth training are hard to just turn off at a moment's notice.


They couldn't find it in themselves to be upset at the boy's reaction. There was a time that seeing the look of terror and unease on peoples faces when they saw them was deeply troubling to him, the frustration and loneliness weighed heavily in his heart with each failed attempt at pleasant introduction. But as time went on, and as their body morphed further any further with each injury or failed experiment, those emotions were replaced with understanding.


He looked to their reflection in the pond to see just how bad his current face had gotten. Admittedly it had been awhile since his last reset, and while most of his features had been damaged and reformed in the past month or so of work, none of it had happened in the same fight. When he saw the discordant features reflected back at him in the water, they let out a long suffering sigh.


“Yeah, I guess I’d’ve run too if I were you kid.”


He hated doing resets, the pain was short lived, but not nonexistent, so the mental energy it took to sike himself into it was usually more trouble than it was worth. But last night's patrol had tipped the scales from “that guys kinda funny looking” to full on conspicuous, so if he didn't reset soon people were liable to start taking notice of them. Plus, if he managed to track down the boy with the green curls to return his notebook, they would need a visage that was a bit more approachable to gain their trust.


Dare searched his surroundings for a suitable corner that could do the deed in one swing, they needed the damage to be simultaneous across their whole face if they wanted it to match when it regenerated, plus, he hated having to psych himself into it twice when he missed something. He tested out the dimensions of a possible contender, and when it seemed to fit nicely he shook out his hands and began his usual pep talk.


"Okay Dare, you can do this. Your pain is temporary, theirs isn’t. You can't save people if they are running from you. And if you get caught, then you won't be able to save them from inside a lab or a jail cell. Who would feed your cat? Nobody. The mission comes first. You can do this. You aren't even real. The pain is an illusion. Nothing mattress just-Just do it….just...Do ITTTTT!”


With a final desperate shout he rammed his face as hard as he could into the unforgiving bricks.


He barely had time to react to the blood splatter before his quirk took over, shuffling the broken bones and regenerating the bruised and torn flesh to create the newest iteration of their face. Dare squeezed down on his thumb to contain the rising bile, no matter how many times it happened, the visceral wrong feeling of bones shifting and morphing under your skin never got any easier to stomach, and while the skin regeneration was simple enough for their quirk to fix in mere seconds, the bones often took a minute or two to settle.


“God! I hate reset days!” He gripped to himself as he made his way queasily back to the pond to assess the new look.


Hmm, it's not bad, decidedly more masculine than the last one, but I can work with that. Maybe this jaw line will be more authoritative and reassuring...Nose leaves a little to be desired but I've had worse...Yeah, this'll do. He thought to himself before carefully flipping through the notebook the boy had lost.


Normally they would try to avoid such invasions of privacy, but time was of the essence to track down the kid before he had a chance to follow through on the tiny villain's advice. Normally kids would write at least a name somewhere in the front or back of these things, if Dare’s lucky there may even be an address or some sort of contact info.


There was no such extra info, but what was there was incredibly enlightening. While parts were difficult or impossible to read due to the damage and missing bits, what was readable was page after page of incredibly well done hero analysis, complete with detailed sketches of the heros and their gear. The more they read the more confused they became. He was pretty sure the bullies from earlier had called him quirkless, but surely skill and intelligence of this level would be impossible for someone so young without one. Wasn’t it?


What was once a simple wellness check had upgraded in his mind to full investigation, insight like this would go a long way in the field, and given that this notebook was labeled “hero analysis for the future #13” There must have been at least 12 more books full of knowledge he could read. Hopefully the Boy with the green curls would be gracious enough to let him take a look.


At a loss for a better plan, Dare set off on a light jog in the direction the boy had run, when he got into the city he could take to the rooftops for a birds eye view. Worst case scenario, they could always camp out by the school tomorrow morning and hope the boy showed up in one piece.

--

Midoriya stood in stunned silence, abandoned at the top of a random high-rise, feeling hollow and heavy all at once. He finally met his hero. All Might saved his life, and then he made that life seem pointless a mere five minutes later. It took the last vestiges of his courage to grab hold of the towering figure as he leapt up into the sky, it was reckless and stupid, and All Might had told him as much, but he couldn't bare to see him leave before he had a chance to ask him the one question he'd always wanted to ask him.


And then there was the shock of seeing his infallible hero deflate before his eyes in a puff of steam and tell him that he'd had this- This nearly fatal accident all these years ago that nobody knew about? How was that even possible? He swore never to tell anyone, and he meant it. Even now, he'd never dream of betraying the symbol of peace by telling his secrets. But then he got up to leave again and Midoriya once again panicked. All might had been vulnerable with him, so he laid bare the last shred of hope he had left.


“Sometimes I feel like I'm a failure. Like there's no hope for me...But even so, I'm not gonna give up. Ever!” He braced himself and asked him the question. “Is it possible to become a hero, even if I don't have a quirk? I'm a normal kid without any powers...Could I ever hope to become someone like you?”


There it was, no one else ever believed in him, but if All Might said he could do it, then it would be enough. He'd have a reason to keep fighting…


But All Might didn't say that. He told him, in no uncertain terms, he could never be a hero, “Not without a quirk.”


“It's not bad to have a dream young man. Just make sure your dreams are attainable. Realistic. Understand?”


And with that he left.


He left him standing alone on top of a tall building with nothing but his thoughts and his broken heart. He slowly slumped down against the wall by the vent shaft. Hugging his knees tightly to his chest willing his consciousness to eject from his body. To leave behind this useless, quirkless body and find a better one, one with a quirk, any quirk. Even a weak or passive one, he could find a way to make it useful, he’d find a way to make it a hero's quirk.


Midoriya was so lost in his own despair that he did not hear the blast in the distance. So used to the sound of resonant booms after a lifetime of knowing Kacchan that it had become white noise to him. So removed from the world around him that he hadn't even seen the boy approaching him until he was running past in front of him.

--

Dare had made it halfway across the city when he heard the blast in the distance. He wanted to continue his search, but he knew the first rule of heroism, prioritize the rescue. He may not be a hero in any official capacity, but even vigilantes had to abide by the code if they wanted to be a force for good.


Leaping from roof to roof allowed him to reach the fight faster and without being seen, so it was often his preferred method of traversing the city; plus he was already up here anyway searching for any sign of the boy with the green curls.


They were so focused on getting to the city center that they nearly ran right past him. Or more accurately he did run past him, but a blur of brilliant emerald from the corner of his eyes had him doing a double take and skidding to an abrupt stop.


The boy's eyes flushed wider in fear revealing eyes like a forest after it rains. He had clearly been crying, his eyes were puffy and bloodshot and tracks ran over his face clearing the dust and grime he’d somehow gotten on his face since he'd last seen him.


For a moment Dare stayed perfectly still, still in the awkward runner's knee he’d skidded to place in, eyes locked on the other child's. They feared moving too fast or saying the wrong thing would only scare the boy away again. But as the uncertain seconds ticked by, Dare watched the fear dissolve into hollow acceptance. Whatever self preservation techniques he'd considered the minute before was no longer worth it. He didn't say anything out loud, but his body language conveyed his message perfectly. It said 'This might as well happen.'


Taking reluctant advantage of this indifference, Dare readjusted their stance to instead sit criss-cross applesauce in front of the boy and pull the notebook out of his backpack.

Recognition flashed for a moment across the boy's freckled face as he looked at the tarnished book in Dare’s still mismatched fingers. Followed but utter confusion as he looked up at his new face. Still not wanting to spook them, Dare slowly extended the notebook forward in the boy's direction and gestured with his head for the boy to take it back. The boy swallowed, his barely peeking adam's apple bobbing with reluctance as he carefully took the book.


He flipped it over and back, as if inspecting it for booby traps, once he was content that it would not bite him his eyes locked back onto Dares.


“T-Thank you.” He stuttered out.


Dare smiled in a way that he was hoping would look reassuring, he still hasn't learned the intricacies of expressions with this new face.


“No problem.”


The sound of distant sirens sounded out in the distance and both boys instinctively gazed at its direction. But dare knew there would be plenty of other heroes and police there to handle that crisis by now, right now he was needed here. Prioritize the rescue.


“What's your name kid?” Dare asked to regain the boy's attention.


He seemed confused by the question, but Dare wasn't sure if it was from a stranger asking his name or from being called a kid by someone who was, presumably, around the same age as him. Whatever it was, he answered him anyway.


“M-Midoriya. Midoriya Izuku.”


They smiled at them again, hoping to convey warmth, but they knew right away that it was a bit too far stretched in the checks before they readjusted it. They extended their hand to be shaken, hoping this time the boy would not refuse his grasp.


“It's nice to meet you Midoriya. They call me Dare Dare.”

--


Midoriya was at odds with himself in ways he never expected to be. He was almost 99% sure that the person sitting in front of him was the same one he encountered in front of the school. But he was also about 80% sure that he looked completely different just under 30 minutes ago. Was he hallucinating? Misremembering? Was this the same person or were there two people with frankenstein bodies and calico hair?


His panicked lizard brain still thought there was something inherently off about the person before him. But on the other hand, they hadn't done anything particularly mean or harmful to him yet. In fact, they went way out of their way to return his notebook to him; So in a strange turn of events, they were the only person to show him kindness without adding to his ongoing mental health crisis afterwards...Or at least they hadn’t yet...The night was still young.


Perhaps the strangest thing about him, besides, well, everything, was their name. Dare Dare? That just means who. That's like being named John Doe in America, it's not a name so much as it is the absence of a name. And he smiles like he's still learning how to, which would be unsettling if it weren't also somehow...endearing?


He may have literally ran away from him after their first meeting (assuming this was indeed the same zombie from before) but something about the obvious effort they were exerting to seem friendly in their second encounter gave Midoriya the instinctual knowledge that he meant no harm.


Midoriya had nothing left to lose, so when Dare offered his hand in greeting, he shook it.


“Sorry if I scared you earlier.” Dare said sheepishly. “I uh, know I'm not the most calming presence to have sneak up on ya…” They flexed their arm to rub at the back of their neck with a shy smile. Midoriya suddenly felt very guilty for his earlier reaction. He tried his best to formulate an acceptable apology that didn't seem too forced.


“I-its okay...I'm sorry I uh, ran away? You seem really nice and I didn't mean to offend you, I'm just...having a rough day. I guess I'm kinda jumpy?”


“God I hope not.”


“What?”


“What?”


The two stared at each other for a long moment before Dare broke the silence once more.


“You wanna like, get outta here? Go for a walk or something, somewhere more ground floorish?”


“Uhhhhh” A montage of stranger danger lessons he'd heard as a kid began playing in his head.


“I pinky promise I'm not a villain or anything.” He said extending a pinky that was a good 12 shades darker than the adjacent finger and 3 lighter than his palm.


It was at this moment that Midoriya gave a closer inspection to the boy's outfit. While the damaged and dirty assessment from earlier still held true, it also featured a lot of pockets and pouches, as well as a utility belt, and what he was pretty sure was a taser.


“A-are you a hero?” He asked before he could think better of it.


“Not exactly. But I'd like to be… So do you, right?”


Midoriya felt his stomach drop, this was it, the moment this person turned on him and told him his dreams were pointless. He wouldn't give him the chance.


“No.” He said it with a much colder tone than he’d intended. “I can’t be one. So it would be useless to want that. Right?”


“I don't see why not. I uh- I hope you don't mind, but I kinda read your notebook.” Midoriya panics and based on the rushed words that followed it must have shown. “I was trying to find a return address, I wasn't like, intentionally being a creep or anything I promise! But like, your super freaking smart dude. I've never seen such in depth analysis, especially from someone your age.”


Midoriya felt his eyebrows furrow on reflex. This was another strange thing about Dare, they kept talking to him as if he himself wasn’t also a kid. It was intriguing, but was hardly the most mysterious thing about him, so he elected not to question it.


“That's… Kind of you to say. But it doesn't matter.”


“Of course it does. A big brain and a bigger heart is the ultimate formula for heroism. I think you'd be great at it!”


He had said it so matter of factly, as if he really believed that was all it took. Against his better judgment, he asked him the question. The one he now dreaded the answer to.


“E-even if I’m not...If I don't have a quirk to back it up. You still think I can be a hero?”


“Of course you can still be a hero, Midoriya. Quirks don't matter, actions do.”


He doesn't know them. Not really. But Dare just told him the words he'd waited his whole life to hear. He didn’t mean to cry in front of this new acquaintance, he really didn't, but he weeps all the same. And before he can even think to stop himself, Dare has swung around to sit next to them and placed a reassuring arm around his shoulders.


And that's how he ended up crying ugly, giant, Midoriya family tears into the shoulder of a zombie he’d only officially met 5 minutes ago.

--

They stayed on the roof like that for another 20 minutes or so before Midoriya took Dare up on his initial offer to go for a walk. He thought about texting his mother, letting her know he was out with a friend. But he wasn't entirely sure if that was true or not. I mean, sure he'd spent 20 minutes staining his shirt, but he'd never be so presumptuous as to think anyone would want a deku like him as a friend. So instead he said nothing, it would hardly be the first time he’d stayed out late chasing heroes to fill in his analysis pages; so long as he made it home before dark he was probably fine.


Dare allowed Midoriya to choose the route of their walk, so he led them in the general direction of a park near his house, figuring he'd be near home in case of emergency but would still have something to do when they reached their destination. They made light pleasant conversation on the way over. Midoriya had a million questions he really wanted to ask Dare, but he didn't know which, if any, would be appropriate questions to ask him. Things like, why don't you have a real name? Or: Why do you look like a human quilt? Or: Am I nuts, or do you have a new face? All seemed like potentially sensitive topics, so he opted for the far less interesting inquiries.


When they reached the park they sat on the swings. Midoriya used to come to this park all the time when he was younger, but it had been a few years since his last visit. At least since he was about 7, that's when Kacchans teasing started to turn truly violent.


“So.” Dare eyed Midoriya on the swing next to him.


“So?” He asked back.


“Are you okay?”


Midoriya's face flushed in shame.


“Y-yeah, I'm really sorry if I ruined your shirt.”


“Midoriya?” Dare grabbed at the front of his shirt and gestured wildly at his outfit with his free hand. “You can’t ruin this, that's the point of the costume. Its made for kickin’ ass and consoling children.”
They did it again, this had become too big a pattern to be ignorable.


“How old are you?” He blurted out.


Dare seemed to consider his answer for far longer than necessary before he replied.


“15 I think...Why?”


“You think?”


“Yeah, they never told me. But you're like what, 14?” They measured himself from a distance against Midoriya's form for a moment before confirming. “Yeah, 15 sounds about right.”


“That’s-” Midoriya wasn’t sure if he was about to say that's weird or that's not how age works. But he doesn't get the chance to say either, cause all of a sudden Dare is enthusiastically pulling a cell phone with far too many external attachments to be normal from his utility belt and practically tossing it into Midoriya's hands.


“You’ve got a cell phone right? Gimme your number so we can talk.”


Midoriya's face burns hotly for a moment, no one had ever asked for his phone number before, nor had anyone given him theirs. His contacts list was 5 numbers long, and two of those were just emergency services. It used to be 6 but Kacchan made him delete his number the second Auntie Mitsky was out of the room.


“Talk about what?” he asks in his stunned state, and then winces at his own awkwardness.


“I don't know, life and stuff? We’ll need to coordinate somehow for hang outs and training.”


The first two were already foreign concepts to him. Not that he didn't know people did those things, just that anyone would willingly do them with him. It's the last one on the list that has him truly stupefied.


“Training?” he croaks out the word as it gets stuck somewhere in his throat.


“Yep.” he pops the p sound for emphasis. “You wanna be a hero, then you gotta train for it.”


Midoriya doesn't know what to say to that, so he says nothing. Just kicks his feet in the sand.


“Unless…” Dare hesitates. “You would rather not?”


“No-no I want to! It's just…” Midoriya does not say 'I don’t want to waste your time trying to help a lost cause like me.' He doesn't think he needs to.


Dare's gaze drops to his own feet for a moment before he swallows with a small nod.


“Just... You’d rather find someone a little more qualified, and less...me shaped, to train you.”


“That's not what I meant!” Izuku panics as he realizes the insult his new acquaintance thought he was giving.


“It’s okay. I can help you find a better teacher.” Dare gives him a half smile that doesn't reach his eyes.


“I don't want a better teacher! ...Or wait, that's not what I mean either. I mean- let me start over?”


Dare gesture for him to speak. Midoriya takes a deep breath as he formulates his response.


“I'm honored that you’d ever consider trying to help me. Or even spend time with me at all. I guess I just don't understand why? Like, why me?”


“Couple reasons, most of them selfish really. For starters, I was hoping you’d let me read the rest of your notes, figured you’d be more likely to say yes if I was doing you a favor too.”


“Notes? Oh! You mean my analysis books. Y-you really want to read them? What for?”


“Well they’re fascinating, great reading material for trivia buffs and all that. But if I’m being brutally honest, knowing as much as you do about other heroes will make my job a lot easier.”


“I'm sorry, I still don’t understand.”


“Well, vigilante work isn’t exactly legal, so uh, knowing how best to out run, out maneuver, or just plain avoid the pros will be a big help.”


It makes more sense that he would like it to. Dare had said he wasn't exactly a hero earlier, and promised he wasn't a villain either, so being a vigilante was the only other explanation for his actions. He was a little disappointed in himself for not putting those clues together sooner. He was also a little conflicted, the notion that analysis he had done for the intention of helping the heroes, instead being used to make their jobs harder, wasn’t exactly his idea of a good first step on his path to heroism. But on the other hand, it's not like Dare would be using it to pick fights with them, just to evade capture. It's not illegal to help your friends avoid arrest. Wait, no, yes it is, that's called aiding and abetting! Would that make him a criminal? Would he get arrested for that? Maybe he should be writing his analysis in code to avoid them falling into the wrong hands. Wait, that's ridiculous, they couldn't be that dangerous. It's not like he was writing down any information that wasn't already common knowledge. Anyone with half a brain could look at the same articles and news clips he had and draw the same conclusions. And it's not like anyone else had ever shown any interest in reading them before so-


“I really didn't catch a word of that. But imma cut you off there.” Dare said suddenly.

Midoriya slammed his jaw shut and covered his mouth with one hand. He really needed to break his annoying habit of rambling when he didn't mean to. Dare shuffled in his swing to see Midoriya's face better before he continued.


“You don’t have to let me read them, you're allowed to just say no if it makes you uncomfortable. I’ll still train you either way.”


“You will?”


“Of course. You're gonna be a great hero one day, and when that happens I'll have the honor of saying I knew you before you made it big.” There were practically stars in his eyes as he said this, a huge grin, he’d finally mastered the use of, plastered across his face. Midoriya could tell he really meant it. A second bout of happy tears threatened to fall from Midoriya's eyes.


“Oh no. What's wrong? Too much pressure?” Dare asked when he saw the water in his eyes.


With a sniffle he replied, “No it's just. You have so much faith in me, but I've done absolutely nothing to prove I'm of any real value to you. What makes you so sure?”


Dare shrugged. “Call it a hunch?”


Midoriya gave a polite smile in response. He still didn’t understand any of this. But If Dare was willing to place his time, effort and belief in Izuku, then he would just need to commit 100% to making sure he didn't let him down or make him regret it.


“It's getting kinda late. Let me walk you home?” The possible older boy asked.


“Oh, you don't have to do that.”


“I know but I want to. Unless, you don't want me knowing where you live? In which case I could always just walk you a block or two away from your place to keep it safe.”


“No, I don’t mind. It's just, I don’t wanna burden you any further than I already have- and I'm sure you have places you'd rather be.”


“You’re not a burden.” Dare hopped up off his swing and extended his mismatched hand in an offer to help Midoriya off his.


Midoriya's face flushed for a second as he accepted the help, avoiding the other kids' gaze. He wasn't used to compliments. On second thought, it wasn’t really a compliment so much as it was the lack of an insult. He wasn’t used to that either.


They were a block into their journey when Midoriya realized he hadn’t exactly denied the claim that there were other places he’d rather be. But it seemed like it was too late now to worry about that. He would just need to add it to the rapidly growing list of favors he owed the other boy.


“Hey, you know Dagoba Beach?” Dare asked.


“You mean that little beach people dump all their trash on?”


“That's the one. I wanna use that as our base of operations for now.”


“Um. Okay.” Midoriya had no idea why that particular venue appealed to Dare as a training ground, but he was by no means an expert, and he wouldn’t dream of questioning the kind miracle stranger... Acquaintance? Friend? Mentor? He’d have time to figure that out later.


“Does tomorrow after school work for you?”


Midoriya's eyes widened for a fraction of a second. He wasn’t expecting to get started so soon. Then again, the less time before they began the less time Dare had to change his mind.


“Y-yeah that works for me.”


“Sweet. Wanna meet me there or should I pick you up?”


“I’ll meet you.” Izuku said a little too fast. The idea of adding one more favor to the list was unforgivable to him. “I know the way.”


Something on Dare’s utility belt beeped out at him. He glanced down real quick and then cursed under his breath. He glanced back up and bit his lip looking conflicted.


“I’m really sorry, but duty calls. Will you be alright making it back on your own?”


“Yeah, of course! Don’t let me keep you.”


“Right, uh, real quick. Make sure to bring extra water with you tomorrow. And some workout clothes to change into, don’t wanna mess up your uniform. Oh, and maybe a first aid kit if you have one? Just in case...What else? Hmmm... I think that should be all for now.”


The device beeped again.


“Shit. I gotta go. But promise me you’ll text me when you get home, so I know you're safe.” He was already side stepping nervously in the direction of whatever distress call he was getting.
Not wanting to hold him back any further, Midoriya nodded urgently and waved goodbye.


“Promise?” Dare gave him a look between a smirk and a glare.


“I Promise. Now go, I'll be alright.”


And with that he turned on his heels and started jogging back down the street and up an alley.

When Midoriya got back to his house he kicked off his shoes at the door and yelled “I’m home!” Into the empty house. It would be another hour or so before his mother got home from work, but he got into the habit of saying it anyway. He heated up some leftovers and parked himself in front of the coffee table so he could eat, watch the news, and get started on his homework; Pausing only for a moment to nervously text a quick “I’m alive haha” to Dare in an effort to fulfill his promise. When he turned on the TV his stomach dropped, face paling instantly as he took in the site.


It was the sludge villain from earlier, the one that All Might had captured, only he wasn’t captured at all. He had done a lot of damage to a whole city block, and to make matters worse, the reporter said a middle schooler had been taken hostage by the villain and was currently being hospitalized for the injuries he sustained before a hero with the right quirk was able to arrive on the scene. They kept the students' identity hidden for security reasons, but it hardly mattered.


This was all his fault. Looking back now, the plastic bottle All Might had captured the villain in was no longer in his pocket when they landed on the roof. He must have dropped it because stupid Deku jumped onto him as he was taking off. And now that sludge guy had done all this damage and injured some other innocent kid.


He stared at the screen like it was a train wreck. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t look away. His leftovers were getting cold again and his pen was hovering over his homework but he couldn’t move. An indeterminate amount of time later, Izuku was shocked back out of his trance by the sound of his phone buzzing on the table.


“Good, I'm glad :)”


Midoriya was still so dazed he had to look back at his own message to understand. He was saying he was glad he was alive. He couldn't help but laugh at that, he wasn’t so sure he agreed.

 

---

The following morning was equally rough. He nearly forgot to grab the supplies Dare had asked him to bring to the beach for their training. In his rush to go back to his apartment to grab it, he tripped and gave himself a bruise on his left cheek. But the worst part was when he noticed the empty desk at school. The teacher announced that Bakugo was gonna be out for a few days,

“I'm sure you've all seen the news by now.” was the only reason he would give.

Midoriya was sick to his stomach as he pieced together those implications. The anonymous middle schooler that his foolishness had gotten hurt, was none other than Kacchan.


He was so pissed off at himself that he almost didn’t show up to his training with Dare. He didn’t feel he deserved the chance he was being given anymore. But standing up the first person to willingly hang out with you, and throwing away the effort they had made already, seemed rude; so he kicked his feet remorsefully the whole way there instead.


When he got there he wandered aimlessly in the sand amongst the trash heaps, realizing only then that he’d never asked which part of the beach they would be meeting at. He sent a quick inquiry text to Dare and almost Immediately the sliding door of a half buried van slid open next to him. The sudden noise and movement startled him. He leapt up with an involuntary yelp only to realize the ambush was only Dare.


“Yikes dude, you scared me.”


Midoriya clutched at his rapid beating heart to settle it. He had a moment of secondary panic at realizing he had called dare ‘dude’ beyond being informal, he also wasn’t entirely sure if it was accurate in Dare’s case, he still couldn’t quite get a read on their gender, do to the androgenous, mismatched, and on second inspection, once again changed, parts. But he didn’t seem to react to it at all, so at a minimum they weren't offended. He made a mental note to ask for their pronouns later, for now he had to get his breathing back in order post scare.


“Sorry about that, I hadn't realized how close you were to the van.” They climbed the rest of the way out and approached. Their face morphing from a smile to a look of concern the closer they got. Dare pinched at Midoriya's chin with his thumb and carefully tilted his head to the right inspecting the bruise he had gotten that morning.


“What happened?”


“Oh, uh, I tripped.” He replied nervously. Embraced by both his own clumsiness and also the sudden contact.


Dare squinted at him as if he didn't quite believe him, but said nothing to dispute it.


“Right...Did you bring the stuff?”


“Mhmm.”


“Cool, go ahead and get changed in the van. And don’t let patches, that's my cat, give you any sass. She likes to think she's the queen of the beach, but really she's just a big scaredy cat.”


Once inside the van Midoriya couldn't help but do some cursory involuntary snooping. The van was outfitted with a small workbench, a heavily modified laptop, a cooler and a beat up mattress. A beaded curtain separated the back of the gutted van from the drivers compartment in the front. A fat but dingy calico cat sat on the dashboard glaring at the intruder. Between the evidence here, and the things Dare had just mentioned, it was looking highly likely that this van wasn't just a hangout spot for the young vigilante, this was his home.


Izuku was suddenly overcome with grief and worry for his new friend/mentor. He was only a year older than him (presumably) yet he was homeless, living in a van covered in junk all by himself? (minus the cat.)


He contemplated asking his mom if there was any way for Dare to come stay in their spare room, but in all the excitement yesterday he never actually got around to telling his mom he had even made a new friend, much less a friend who was going to start training him to be a hero. And the idea of having to explain to his mom how they met, and why he still hasn't given up on his dangerous and likely pointless dreams was a task he was hoping he'd have more time to ease into.


One thing at a time. He'd get through his training today, and if Dare didn't give up on him and cast him aside immediately, then he'd bring up the idea of introducing him to his mom. Maybe they could have a sleepover this weekend...and then just keep having them, indefinitely? It would be an easier request than asking for a permanent placement anyway.


Once he was dressed he exited the van and helped Dare stand up from his sandy spot on the ground.


“Alright, so I guess first I'll just go over the overall game plan with you and we can workshop some of the details together, yeah?”


“Okay, what's your plan?”


“Well I’m thinking we start off your training with a 5 pronged attack, and we can edit as we figure out more about your strengths and preferences.”


Midoriya pulled out a pen and a fresh notebook he had shoved into his bag that morning. (He had preemptively labeled it “Hero training for the future #1” for a lack of a better title.) And then nodded for Dare to start. Dare was smiling at him with an unreadable expression but Midoriya elected to ignore it in favor of paying attention to what he said next.


“Prong one, getting you into shape. I know you're pretty fast, based on how quickly you ran yesterday, but regardless of what fighting style you choose, you're gonna need to build up a bit more muscle.”


The whiplash of guilt from the reminder at his less than tactful first intro to Dare, leading immediately into the shame of being so scrawny, had Midoriya making a queasy looking smile. But if Dare noticed it then he did nothing to acknowledge it.


“Which actually brings me to my first question. Did you have a particular style in mind?”


“Not really.” He admitted sheepishly. His favorite hero had always been All Might, and all his life he wanted to be like him. But realistically, he was never gonna be anywhere near strong enough to even think of imitating his fight style. He wasn't sure which hero, if any, he'd have any luck trying to copy without having access to a similar quirk. “Maybe you can just show me how you normally fight? I’m sure that would be easiest for you to teach right?”


“Hahahahahahahah! No, no, no, if you fought the way I fight, you’d come home in a full body cast every night. The recovery time alone would mean you only get to fight once a season; it would be inefficient as well as painful.”


“Oh.” Was all he could think to say about that.

He didn’t think he was all that fragile, years of taking a beating and then hiding the damage from his mother meant if nothing else that he knew how to take a punch and his pain tolerance was pretty high. But he didn’t think it would be wise to share that at the moment.


“Well, what do you suggest then?”


Dare steepled his hands together in front of his face, eyeing midoriya up and down as he considered the options.


Well, your current build is both wiry and a little short. And I've already mentioned the speed. I'm thinking we go for dexterity and stealth over brawn. That will be easier to build up and perfect in our current timeframe anyway. If you can outsmart your opponent and avoid getting hit, the lack of overall power won't matter so much.”


“Like a ninja?” he said a little too enthusiastically, causing Dare to chuckle.


“Yeah man, like a ninja. Sound good?”


“Mhmm” he said as he scribbled down some notes.


“Cool, well make sure to focus on that goal alongside your overall bulk up for the fitness prong. Then we can utilize the landscape to get some stealth and parkour practice in for prong two.”


Izuku nodded with enthusiastic focus as he continued writing.


“Prong three: I wanna try teaching you some basic mechanics and hacking skills. I have a feeling you'd be pretty good at it.”


“Really?” He had never considered himself all that tech savvy, but he wasn’t computer illiterate either. Maybe he could do it if he tried, he'd just never thought to try before.


“Heck yeah! But that actually brings me to my second set of questions for you.”


“Okay, shoot.”


“So obviously your first choice is going to try straight for the heroic course, However, the entrance exam for UA is notoriously unbalanced, it's hard for anyone who doesn't have a flashy damage inducing quirk to pass it. So as a backup you can also apply for one of the other departments and then test your way in during the sports festival. All of which is to say, General Ed. is the easiest to get into, but I'm hoping you’ll consider support instead.”


He knew getting placed directly into the hero course was a long shot, jumping the ocean in a single bound type long, so he had expected the need for a backup plan. But he once again was stumped on why he would go for support instead of gen ed.


“Why?”


“Well that's kinda multifaceted as well. Not many people know this because the support course is kinda known just for the inventing/ gear making track that gets advertised the most. But the support course actually has 3 tracks. There's one for designing costumes and such, which is the second favorite among designer hopefuls; and then there's the analytics and consultation track.”


Izuku knew about the second track but had never heard of the third. He felt his heart flutter for a moment at the possibilities, it sounded perfect.


“Since when was that available?!” he asked excitedly.


“Hmm, about 20 years or so now. But hardly anyone ever takes it, they've only had a handful of students in it before, all of whom were scouted in from other courses.”


His heart sank, if scouting was required he’d never make the cut.


“Hey, don’t look so glum. I've got a plan for that if you're really interested, but it's actually not my main reason for trying to push support.” Dare said before Midoriya had a chance to get too sad about it.


“Oh?”


“Yeah, see, the thing is, a few well crafted support items can actually make or break a hero's effectiveness. Having a solid arsenal of tools and weapons designed with your wants and needs in mind could make your lack of quirk irrelevant. And the best way to get a bunch of high quality gear is to either make it yourself or make friends with the people who do. Either way, access to the first track of the support course will be a big asset for you. And even if you go for the analytics, there's so few students that they often share a home room with one of the other two tracks, so if you show up with a base knowledge of making support gear and stuff already-”


“Then they are more likely to pair me with them. So I'll still have access to the workshop and could potentially make connections with some good inventors. And even if I'm not scouted, I could potentially still learn to make my own gear as a last resort.”


“Exactly. See you're getting it.”


“Okay so I'll list support as my back up for when I fail the hero's entrance exam.”


“If you fail it, it will be hard, not impossible. But yes, you should test for support too as a backup. And I’ll handle plan C of getting you recruited straight to analytics on my end.”


“How are you gonna do that?”


“Don’t worry about it. That's strictly a me problem.”


“But-”


“But nothing. Moving on to prong 4.”


Midoriya grumbled but continued writing their notes anyway.


“Prong four is gonna be training you on whatever weapons and gear you end up making slash acquiring so you actually know how to use them. This is gonna be the last step of your training because building up the body and the skills to utilize them properly has to come first. So don’t get too excited about that just yet.”


“If that's the last step then what prong 5?”


“Prong 5 is the most important one of all. Self care.”


Midoriya tilted his head in confusion.


“You are gonna be asking your body and mind to learn and master a whole bunch of highly demanding skills in just under a ten month time frame. Not to mention the fact that you cant let your normal academics slip during this time either. If you don't take care of yourself properly, both physically and mentally, you're gonna crash and burn. We're gonna start each day with some yoga, end it with some meditation and at least one a week you're gonna take a rest day. Do nothing but chill out, or maybe do something fun but low impact. I’m gonna need you to make a promise that you’ll honor the sanctity of your rest days.”


“Okay I promise.” He doesn't hesitate to verbalize it. He had already learned last night that when Dare asks you to make a promise he expects you to verbally agree to it before he’ll leave you alone.


“Good. I also expect you to be honest with both me and yourself and take more than one day if you need it. We will adjust the pace and intensity of your training so that you get the maximum benefits with minimal burn out. It's gonna be hard work, but it shouldn't be so hard that you do more harm than good, yeah?”


“Okay. I can do that.”


“Good. I'm also gonna teach you some basic first aid, this’ll not only help you patch yourself up if you need it, but it'll get you ahead of the curve on rescue training.”


Midoriya wrote all this down as well.


“So to recap: we're gonna be building muscle, endurance, and flexibility during your regular workouts. We're also gonna train you in stealth, parkour, mechanics, hacking and first aid. I’m thinking of a rotating schedule where we focus on a different area each day once your workout is done. Then the sixth day can be whatever we feel needs the most work. That's gonna be your base level. The first four months of your training is gonna be getting a handle on all of that before you even worry about trying to throw your first punch. With me so far?”


“Got it.”


“Then we're gonna take those skills to develop a fighting style utilizing those strengths, followed by incorporating whatever gear you've come up with. That should be the next 4 months after that. The final two is gonna be all about putting it together, perfecting whatever hasn't already become second nature, and studying up for the entrance exam. Cause regardless of which course or track you end up in you still have to pass the same basic exam for gen ed stuff.”


“Right.”


“All the while you've also gotta keep your grades up and take good care of yourself. It's gonna be a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Think you can handle it?”


“I’ve got this.” He said with a confidence he wasn’t aware he possessed until he heard it for himself. Causing Dare to smile brightly at him.


“Hell yeah you do! It took us a bit to get everything planned out, so we're just gonna do the basic workout today. But tomorrow we're gonna get started on the rest of phase one. Please text me if anything comes up and you need to skip a day or start later than usual. Alright?"


“Right.”


“Sweet. Now go put your stuff in the van and follow me to the pier, we're starting with yoga.”

Three hours later they had finished their workout. Dare assured Izuku that once they got the routine down, this part of the training would only take half that time, but today it was almost 7 by the time he shuffled into his home. He was feeling a little sore, extremely tired, but he was also feeling determined and excited for more. He only had about 30 minutes left to shower and get started on homework before his mom would return home. But as he stumbled into the bathroom he caught an unfamiliar sight in the mirror.


A smile.

A genuine smile.

He wasn't forcing it to keep others from worrying or practicing it for some imaginary future interview. He was just, perfectly content enough for a smile to form on its own.


Wow.


He could hardly remember the last time he'd felt that.


Paradoxically, the realization of the emotion, and consequent realization of its previous absence, caused it to dissolve just as quickly as it arrived. But it was there. However fleeting it may have been, he felt it. And he was determined to feel it again. If sore muscles and fatigue was what it took, then it's a price he was beyond willing to pay.

Chapter Text

Dare couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. He knew it was a major breach in confidentiality and trust, but he needed information and he needed it fast. So yeah, maybe he hacked into some academic and medical history files, maybe he spent three hours familiarizing himself with all the documented cases of bullshit a kid he just met had to go through, maybe he even pulled up digital files of past year books to try and ID the bullies he spotted the night before; but he did it with the best of intentions, and in the end that's what really matters, right? He wasn’t stalking him, he was gathering necessary intel for a mission. Or three concurrent missions really. Operation: Save the Kid, Operation: Train the Hero, and now his latest charge, Operation: Shut Down Aldera Middle.

During his investigation some deeply troubling puzzle pieces started falling into place. The last reported case of Midoriya's bullying was midway through his first year there, and despite the incident report showing clear unnecessary violence being used against him, he was the only one to get into any trouble. The two cases before that had similar results, students using Midoriya as a personal punching bag to take out their aggressions and test out their quirks, him being near powerless to protect himself, and then him ending up in detention for 'wasting teachers time and making false allegations.' He may have only met Midoriya yesterday, but he knew they weren't false reports, if anything he would have held back on the extent of the damage.

Furthermore, there's no way this stopped after his last report. He almost definitely decided it wasn’t worth the effort to report it, given that the teachers never gave a shit anyway. A deeper dive into the schools files gave him access to some security camera footage; and it took a disturbingly small amount of time to confirm that theory. If it wasn't outright damage it was cruel words and cutting glances, it was isolation and discrimination and horrible jokes, it was being reminded all day ever day that he was useless, worthless, and quirkless; that his dreams were foolish and could never come true.

He had already promised he would help Midoriya train for the entrance exam. But after seeing all of that, and knowing it was only a fraction of the whole story, Dare mentally raised the importance of this mission to priority 1. He wasn’t just gonna meet up on the weekends and teach the kid some self defense like he was initially planning; no, he was gonna commit 100%. 4 hours a day, six days a week, he was gonna do everything in his power to make sure this kid had the tools he needed to prove those assholes wrong.

At the same time, he wasn’t gonna force this onto Midoriya either, he was gonna lay out his ideas and his intentions and give the kid the chance to decide for himself if it was what he wanted; and he was gonna make it clear he could back down or scale back whenever he wanted. Dare never really had any choice in his own training, and he wasn’t about to inflict any of that damage onto someone else, but Midoriya readily and enthusiastically agreed to all of his suggestions. They set up a working schedule, plotted out all the details and phases of their training and Dare was feeling really enthusiastic about the potential he was already seeing in his new pupil.

When their workout had finished Midoriya headed home for the day with the promise to see Dare again at the same time tomorrow.

But Dare would be seeing him much sooner, he tracked Midoriya from behind in the shadows the whole way home. It wasn’t stalking, he insisted to himself, it was training. For both of them. It would passively keep Dares' own stealth and parkour skills up, but it would also be a sort of test for Midoriya. Seeing how long it took for his instincts and situational awareness to kick in and notice Dares presence. He did not mention this part of the training when he went over his plans with Midoriya, doing so would have been counterproductive to its purpose. If you know ahead of time to be on the lookout, then you wouldn't really be honing your natural instincts at all, just your test anxiety.

He wasn't spotted today. But that was to be expected, it was only day one, on his estimate, it would take about a month for him to suspect anything and another two or three for the other boy to actually catch him. Give or take a month depending on how well he took to certain aspects of his new regimen. Once he confirmed his student was safely inside his own home he headed off to begin his nightly patrol.

 

It was a slow night all things considered. A purse snatcher or two that were clothes lined and incapacitated in under a minuet each, and an attempted drug deal that dissolved once the dealer realized stabbing a knife through his hand would do nothing to slow Dare down.

By the time he arrived back at the van, he was equipped with a new hand and a new switch blade. He always loved getting freebies, but he did wish the method of acquiring them was a little more pleasant.

Dares quirk was...unique to say the least. He never fully understood it, was never made privy to any information that would help him understand who, or what, he was, but a lifetime of experience and experimentation led him to the following understanding.

From his best estimate, it was some form of regeneration quirk, with a dash of shapeshifting thrown in for fun. Anytime a part of his body took any form of serious damage it would simply be replaced. It wasn’t healing par say, nor was it invincibility, the broken pieces were just replaced with a new one. But the lack of genetic coding to tell his quirk what he was supposed to look like, meant the overall form and appearance of the new bits was seemingly randomized. It was always humanoid, and was generally close enough to the same size of the part he had lost, so that much was a mercy. The most lopsided he’d ever been, was that one leg that came in an inch and a half longer than the last one, it had thrown him off enough that a week later he gave in and broke the other in an attempt to even himself back out in sheer desperation. It worked and he was now taller for it, but boy was that an unpleasant 30 minutes.

Bones were unpleasant to reset. The more complex the replacement was to make, the longer it took, and more uncomfortable it was to feel it developing. Skin level was just a little itching for a second or two, muscles would ache for a few minutes but it was hardly a distraction. Bones were where things got painful and time consuming, the smaller ones didn't take that long but those big boys in the arms and leg zone took a lot out of him. The organs were akin to torture. The last time his heart gave out he spent an hour gasping on the floor though the pain and the nausea as he felt the broken core morph into something new. The lack of blood flow as he awaited the reset to complete, meant several other organs also failed and needed resetting, a chain reaction that lasted a full 12 hours of agony before it finally ended.

Twice now he’d had to regrow a finger from scratch when they were lost all together in the line of duty, and once he had even made a fresh eye. The energy needed to reset from nothing meant he was knocked out for at least a day or two from the effort. He could never be 100% sure how long he was out, but it was long enough for his cat to be pissed off but not long enough for her to try and eat him, so that was his best estimate. Maybe he would set a timer next time, for science.

The impulse dissolved immediately, he was loath to subject himself to any further experimentation than he already had to deal with growing up. The day he escaped that lab was the best day of his life, he had no desire to return to that lifestyle anytime soon. They had lost track of the years that had passed since then. Several years of constant rubbernecking, palm sweating, vigilance later, it was clear that his captors had lost track of him. A helpful perk of having no traceable DNA or appearance; it meant he was easy to lose. And anytime he suspected he was spotted, he would simply do a full body reset and move towns to throw them off his trail.

God he hated reset days.

Thankfully it had been years since the last time a full rest was necessary, usually a facial reset was more than sufficient. But even that still sucked. But it was worth it to be free from those monsters that raised him. To be fighting on the side of the good guys instead of being forced into...well, whatever the highest bidder paid the doctors to have him do.

Dare stared down at his new palm, tracing the new lines with the mismatched fingers of the other side, hoping that this new palm would reveal a better fortune then the last one. After allowing themselves a good five minutes of angsty bereavement, he got to work cleaning and sanitizing his new switchblade. Then he fed Patches, cleaned himself up in the shallows of the ocean, and crawled into bed.

It was about 3am now, and tomorrow was another day; a day he would start his new job as a teacher in earnest. Hopefully he was good enough to do the task right. Midoriya was counting on him, putting his hopes and dreams in his freakish, ever morphing hands, the last thing that poor kid needed was further let downs.

 

Dare was completely unaware that somewhere on the other side of town Midoriya lay awake worrying about the exact opposite scenario. Each of them determined to do right by the other and not be a disappointment, and neither of them fully aware of just how much the other would soon come to shape the course of their very lives. The strings of fate had brought these two together, but this was only the beginning of their shared journey. So much more still laid ahead.

And as their eyes finally drifted closed for the night, their hands just so happened to land in the direction of the other's location, as if subconsciously trying to reach each other across town. A habit that would continue without eithers notice each night for a long time to come.

 

--

 

The two weeks since Midoriya had met Dare had been some of the best of his life. He had a new friend, a new routine, and a renewed sense of purpose and direction in his life. He was already starting to feel a difference in the way his body felt and carried itself too. It wasn't anything supper noticeable from the outside, he had only been working out for two weeks after all, but he could tell he was improving, and Dare was sure to tell him as much almost daily.

 

His mother was torn between worry about how tired he looked, and delighted at the happiness and determination she could see shining in his eyes again. Sure the eye bags underneath detracted from the sight a little, but whatever was going on with him lately couldn’t be all that bad if it returned her son's hope to him. She didn’t ask, fearful that the intrusion would scare off his good mood as of late. She trusted him to tell her when he was ready. In the meantime she would just cherish all the little smiles she caught on his face when he thought she wasn't looking.

 

He still felt immensely guilty for the reason, but the absence of his biggest adversary from school went a long way to reduce the overall suckage of Midoriya’s school days as well. Bakugo was in the hospital for a week and a half, and spent another two days at home with his family, before returning to school angrier and more hostile than Midoriya had ever seen him. Some small guilty part in the back of his head had hoped that his brush with a villain would have made him a bit more sympathetic, but if anything it just made him all the more determined to prove he was still the best.

As Midoriya tried, and failed, to block out all the painful jabs and deafening shouts his childhood friend slung at him, he couldn’t help but look at him with a fresh perspective.

The burning crimson eyes held hate, rage, possibly even blood lust, but there was something else there as well; a shadow lingering deep in the back of his mind, fear.

 

Bakugo cornered him on his way to lunch. Slamming his smoking palms on either side of the shorter boy's head against the rattling lockers.

“Where do you think you're going, Deku? I'm gone for a few days and you think you have cafeteria privileges all of a sudden?”

He didn't bother to argue, he wasn’t actually headed towards the cafeteria, he hadn’t been allowed in there in years, instead electing to eat his lunch outside under the trees. But that hardly mattered, once Bakugo decided you had slighted him somehow, there was no amount or pleading or logic that would change his mind. So Midoriya just stared into his eyes, willing his face not to make any sort of expression that the taller blonde could take further offense to.

Apparently this wasn't the right reaction either.

“The fuck you doing looking at me like that?! You think you’re too good to talk to me now? You think you're better than me?! Answer me you useless prick!”

There it was again. The fear, drowning in a sea of hate and anger in his crimson eyes.

“No, I don’t. I know you're better than me Kacchan, you always have been.” He reassured.

“You’re damn right I am! I'm gonna be the number one hero, and you’re nothing but a bug for me to stomp on the way to greatness. Don’t you ever forget it!” He slammed an angry fist into Midoriya's gut, knocking the wind out of him temporarily.

He probably could have dodged the attack, blocked it with his hands to lessen the blow, but he let him do it. It was Midoriya's fault that he had spent the past two weeks recovering. If he needed to take his frustration out on him, then he was entitled to do so.

Seemingly stated for now, the angry blonde turned on his heels and began stomping off towards the cafeteria. Leaving Midoriya slumped against the lockers with a hand clutching his bruised abdomen.

“I'm sorry.” He whispered under his breath.

“The fuck did you just say?!” The blonde shouted as he rushed back to the scene.

Shit. Midoriya didn’t think he would hear him from that far away.

Bakugo grabbed the collar of Midoriya's shirt to yank him back into an upright position against the lockers. His other palm sparking off constant tiny warning sparks as he raged.

“The fuck you appologizing for? Huh? You think I'm weak now or some shit?! You think UA wont take me just cause of one stupid villain attack?! You're wrong! I'm still the best and I’ll fucking prove it! I’ll kick your ass Deku! I’ll fucking kill you!”

Midoriya braced for the impact as scorching heat and a strong fist pummeled against his torso again and again.

As his body slumped down, held aloft only by the fist still rending his collar, his attacker seemed to sober up enough to realize the extent of the damage he was doing and tossed Midoriya down to the ground.

“Shit! Look what you made me do, you useless Deku! You tricked me, this is your fault! This is-Fuck!” And with that he sprinted off down the halls.

Wheezing all the way, Midoriya managed to drag himself and his backpack to a seated position against the lockers.

He knew he needed some form of medical attention for all the burns and the bruising, but he didn't want to go to an actual hospital. His mom would worry too much and he wouldn’t be able to hide who had done this to him for long before she figured it out. Even with the school doing their best to bury it, it may be a big enough stain on Bakugos record that UA might not accept him to the heroics course. He may be a bully, but he had the potential to be a great hero one day, and it had been a dream they shared since they were little kids. He could never take that chance from him. Plus, he had gone through a lot recently, and he wasn’t wrong about that being Midoriya's fault.

Once he got enough oxygen back to think properly, Midoriya pulled out his phone and messaged the only person he could think to ask for help.

 

“Dare, hypothetically how would one go about treating some moderate to severe burns with little to no medical supplies?”

Less than a minute later he got a response.

“Is this actually a hypothetical? Or did someone spontaneously combust next to you?”

“More like a series of blasts as opposed to combustion. And they aren't next to me.”

Midoriya's phone rang loudly in his hands, Dare electing to call him instead. He was afraid of this, but he answered all the same. Being able to put him on speaker would be easier than trying to text and patch himself up at the same time anyway.

“Say sike right now.” Was all the greeting Dare gave him. Sounding a little breathless himself.

Midoriya tried to peel away his scorched and bloodied uniform shirt to assess the damage, he smelled like meat. He tried his best to stifle the pained groan but failed. Routing through his bag to check for supplies as he spoke through clenched teeth.

“All I've got on me is an ace bandage and some neosporin.”

“Shit. Are you still at the school? Who's taking you to the hospital?”

“No hospital. My mom would freak out, she'd never let me leave the house again.”

“She’s right to worry, you're injured.”

“Dare-” He began to protest.

“Izuku” He cut him off in defiance.

He blushed at the sudden use of his given name but continued his point all the same.

“I don’t wanna give her, or anyone else, any more reason to say my dreams are too dangerous. No hospitals. Now will you help me or not?”

“Shit. Yeah. I’m on my way. Can you walk?”

Midoriya could hear the sound of rapid feet against pavement and rushing wind. Dare was clearly sprinting in his direction.

“I think so.”

“Good. Where are you right now?”

“Uhh, you want me to just meet you out front?”

“Only if you can do so without hurting yourself.”

“Yeah, h-hang on a second.”

Midoriya took another deep breath and braced himself as he struggled to stand back up. His legs were still shaking with the exhaustion and adrenaline, and being any form of upright made his entire abdomen shudder in pain, but beyond that he was perfectly mobile.

“Yeah I’ll make it.” He finally confirmed as he picked up his bag and began the shuffle outside. Dare stayed on the line the entire time but both boys were too preoccupied trying to reach each other to say anything.

Five minutes later Midoriya finally pushed open the front door of the school and clung to the handrail of the stairs. In the time it took for him to buckle over and give three shaky breaths he heard Dare huffing his way through the front gates.

“Hey, hey, hey, stay with me alright.” Dare said in a breathless panic as strong hands grabbed either of Midoriya's shoulders and attempted to stand him up again.

Midoriya winced with the stretch of burnt skin but stayed up. Dare’s eyes went wide as he looked at the wrecked shirt still hanging loosely on his body.

“We need to get you somewhere at least kinda sterile so I can treat this.” Dare’s gaze darted back and forth across nothing as he seemed to formulate all possible routes. “Is your mother home right now?”

“No, she's at work till 7.”

“Perfect, I'm taking you home then, my place is a literal dump.”

Midoriya worried his bottom lip, unsure how to tell him he couldn’t walk that far without making him worry so much that he took him to a hospital instead.

“I'm gonna carry you. Is that okay?”

“Oh, um…”

Midoriya furrowed his brows, it was a solid 20 minute walk from here to his house, that seemed far too far for someone to carry him, but he wasn’t sure what other options he had. He nodded his consent. Dare grabbed Midoriya's bag from him and slung it on his shoulders, then he carefully hoisted him up into a bridal carry as if he weighed no more than a small dog.

They somehow made the journey in a little under 15 minutes. Midoriya trying all the while not to wince, groan, or blush too much in the boys' hold. Dare set him down at the front door to his apartment so he could unlock it, using his arms to hold him steady as he did so. Once inside Dare helped sit him down on the side of the tub.

“Okay, you start getting undressed, Is it alright if I borrow your laptop real quick?”

“Uh yeah, it's on the desk in my room, first door on the right.”

Dare give a swift nod in response and jogged there and back, laptop in hand. He sets the laptop on the counter and begins rapidly typing something that Midoriya can’t quite see from his perch. Midoriya gets to work unbuttoning his ruined top and tossing it like a crumpled piece of paper to the corner of the room. It's a good thing he had a few spares already.

“Okay, all set.” Dare said as he closed the laptop. “Now as far as the school is concerned you're currently at a dentist appointment, your mom won't even know you left.”

Relief flooded his system. He hadn’t even thought about that, but it would make sense for the school to call his mom when they realized he hadn’t returned after lunch.

Midoriya expected him to ask all sorts of questions about what had happened, but he didn't. His personality seemed to flip into focus mode as he cleaned and dressed the wounds with careful, nimble fingers. The only words he says the whole time is asking where he could find the towels and a quick apology whenever Midoriya makes a sound of distress.

As he finishes up the last roll of bandage from his first aid kit Dare finally looks back up into Midoriya's eyes.

“Is that everything?” He asks with a look of concern.

“Mhmm” is all he can manage while his friends' (currently) golden eyes peer into his own.

Dare stands and then offers himself as a brace so Midoriya can do the same. They made their way over to the couch, Dare found a shirt in Midoriya's room to replace the one he threw away, and then sat down on the other side of the couch. A moment or two of silence stretched between them before Midoriya finally broke the silence.

“Are you gonna ask me about it?”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not really.”

“Then no.”

“Oh.”

A few more beats of silence pass, this time Dare is the one to speak up.

“I do have one question.”

“Okay.” It only seemed fair.

“What do you want to do about it?”

“About?”

“About Bakugou.”

Midoriya was stunned by this. He never said who did this, he was almost 100% sure he had never said the name before at all, much less named him as his tormentor. So how did he know?

“He’s the one who did this right? I know you guys have a...long history. I’m more than willing to get involved if you want me to, but I'm not gonna make a move without getting your go ahead first.”

This brought even more questions than answers.

“H-how did you...know?”

Dare looked down at his hand and then back up at Midoriya, swallowing thickly before he answered. “I...may have done some digging after we first met. I know I shouldn't have, it was weird and invasive and you have every right to be pissed at me about it. But I had to know what was going on so id know how best to help you, and after hearing what that dude said to you and finding you on a roof 30 minutes later I figured it was better to get the info direct from source rather than force you to talk about it and-”

Midoriya held up a hand to cut him off, gathering his thoughts. He had heard them, that's why he tried to give him his notebook, why he tracked him down so desperately, and let him cry all over him. That's why they went to the park, and gave him his number, and offered to help him train. All of it was because he felt sorry for him. Did he actually believe in Midoriya at all? Or was it all just a charity case?

“Y-you don’t have to…” He's not really sure what he's trying to say until after he's already saying it. “You don't have to pretend you like me. I'm not- I’m not gonna jump just cause you stop hanging out with me. You're a vigilante, you have better things to do than waste your time on me. So if that's what you're worried about, then you can just go.” He wanted it to sound passive, like it wouldn't shatter his heart to see him leave, but tears were already starting to form in his traitorous eyes.

“What?” Midoriya was surprised to see Dare also looked upset at the notion.

“It’s f-fine.’’ Midoriya says with a wobbly lip he wished he had more control over. “You don’t owe me anything. I'm not your problem to deal with.”

“Yes you are.” Dare’s hand reached out to grab Midoriyas, but he reflexively flinched away at the contact, so Dare apologetically returned his own hands to his lap.

He shook his head and then back peddled a little.

“That's not what I meant. You...I meant you're not a problem at all. I know I don't owe you anything, and you don't owe me either. I don't spend time with you out of like, obligation or whatever. I do it because I want to. I'm training you because I want to see you succeed. Because we’re...We're friends, aren't we?”

Midoriya isn't sure what to say. On paper it's exactly what he wanted to hear, but the nagging voice in the back of his head says it can’t possibly be true. That he was foolish to ever think his kindness was anything but sympathy for the pathetic, bullied, little quirkless kid. He must have been quiet for a bit too long because the next thing Dare says has a bit of a wobble to it.

“Do...Do you want me to leave Izuku?”

Midoriya's head snaps to look at him, his head is down avoiding his gaze but there's a defeated look on his face, like he expects to be kicked to the curb at a moment's notice. Midoriya knows the feeling all too well.

“No!” He says a little too urgently, causing Dare to flinch. “No, I- I want you to stay...If you really want to, that is. I just don’t want you to think that...”

Dare braves a look back his way now, looking more hopeful.

“I've never had a real friend before.” Midoriya admits before he can think better of it. “The only other friend I had growing up...Well I’m sure you know he's the one who...My point is, you're the first friend I made that actually wanted to be my friend back. I don't want to lose you. But at the same time, I don't want to hold you back either. You are putting a lot of time and effort into helping me, and I haven't really done anything to pay you back for that... So if there is any part of you that's doing it just to make me happy, when you yourself aren't also enjoying it, then I don't want it.”

Dare took a long deep breath.

“I haven't had a lot of friends either. It's hard when you look like...Well when you live the kind of life that I do, you get used to a lot of rotating door relationships. Anyone who doesn't immediately run for the hills tends to think twice when I show up with a new hand or a whole new face.” He gestures to himself as he speaks. “And I don’t blame them, cause honestly, it makes sense to be freaked out by that. And I’m sure it's hard to get attached when you don't know who or what you're really getting attached to. So like, fair I guess. I know...I know it’s only been two weeks, but you beat my record for longest friendship after the third day. So…”

That pit of guilt eats at Midoriya again, he himself initially ran away in fear from Dare. It's in the top five list for actions he regrets the most in his life. He still hasn't really answered his question, but in a way he has. He thinks he understands him and his motivations a bit better now, even if he's still missing a big part of the puzzle, the edge bits are all there now. He’s hoping over time they can help build each other up a bit more.

“Dare…” Midoriya reaches his hand out towards Dare just like he had done for him earlier. Hesitantly the boy takes it. “I’m not going anywhere if you don’t.” He says with determination.

Dare flashes a bright smile at him and Midoriya is quick to return.

“It’s settled then. There's no getting rid of me now. Once you're all healed up we’ll get back to your training, and in the meantime, I'm gonna just keep annoying you till you feel better.”

Midoriya chuckled in response. He wasn't sure if he should be taking his hand back or not, but Dare made no move to pull back, so neither did he.

“So, what do you normally do for fun? This is officially a rest day.” Dare proclaimed.

“Hmm...Do you like comics?”

“Maybe, I never had the chance to read them.”

“You’ve never-” Midoriya cut himself off and stood a bit too fast before he remembered the reason Dare was at his house in the first place. He didn't lose sight of his mission though. He hobbled in the direction of his room, calling to Dare over his shoulder. “That’s it, follow me. It’s my turn to teach you something.”

“Okay, geez, slow down your gonna agitate your burns.” He said with a chuckle as he followed behind.

 

Several hours passed with the two lounging on Midoriya's bed, several stacks of comics spread between them, as the green haired boy tried his best to surmise the entire vast multiverse of comic knowledge down to its essential forms for his calico friend.

“Wait, so is the rat also a mutant?”

“No he's just a rat, the turtles are the mutants, and he adopts them and teaches them kung fu.”

“That makes no sense!” Dare says with a chuckle.

“I know! Isn’t it great?” Midoriya says as he laughs as well.

They are having such a good time that they don’t realize the hour, nor do they hear it when Midoriya's mom comes home from work. They are only made aware of her presence when she rushes into the boys room looking worried.

“Izuku are you alright? I thought I heard…” Inko goes completely still as she takes in the second form laying perpendicular to her son on his bed.

“Uh, hey mom. Everything is fine. Sorry to worry you. This is my friend Dare Dare, sorry I forgot to tell you they were coming over today, we kinda made a last minute decision to comb through my comics collection.” Midoriya shuffled awkwardly off his bed, careful not to move in a way that would make him wince and give away his injuries. Luckily he had a lot of practice hiding his pain from his mother. 

Inko still didn't move. Her eyes darted back and forth between her son and kid with undefinable features laying equally still on his bed.

“It...It’s nice to meet you Dare…” She offers politely.

The kid smiles at her, and then slowly, as if trying to avoid scaring her, he moves off the bed as well. Standing in front of her with a formal bow.

“Thank you. It's an honor to meet you Ms. Midoriya.”

Inko isn’t sure what to make of any of this. Her son had never had someone over before, much less invited them over without warning. They certainly seemed polite enough, but they had such an unusual...Well everything. Dare Dare was more so an alias than a name, surely no one would actually name their child that would they? She found herself feeling suspicious despite lack of a real reason. But Izuku had said this person was a friend. Were they the reason he seemed so much happier lately? If that's the case, then she should do her best to encourage this, right?

“Have you two eaten yet? Would you like to stay for Dinner?” She asked.

“We haven't. I would love to, so long as it is not an imposition.” They said with another small bow.

“It’s no trouble. Right, mom?” Izuku says warmly.

Well if her son smiles like that at the idea of them staying for dinner, then they must be a source of good. Inko let go of her earlier suspicions in favor of gratitude for this mystery person her son had befriended.

“It’s no trouble at all. I’d love to have you.” She says matching her son's joy.

Dare also smiled, losing up some now that Inko seems to have warmed up to them.

“Would you like some help in the kitchen? I could chop the vegetables or wash some plates.”

“Nonsense, you're my guest. I appreciate the offer though.” She seems to consider things for a moment before asking. “Any requests for what you'd like me to make?”

Both Midoriya and Dare speak in unison. “Katsudon, please.” Realizing what they both said, they looked at each other a little surprised before speaking again in unison, but in each other's direction this time.

“It's my favorite… You too?” They are pointing at each other in a way that reminds Midoriya of a meme he saw of spiderman online. Both of their eyes sparkling at the realization of their shared favorite meal.

Inko tries and fails to hide her giggle behind her hand in the doorway. Both of their attentions snapping back over to her as she blushes at being caught laughing.

“Sorry, that was just a really cute moment. Katsudon it is. I’ll get out of your hair now.” She says as she makes her way back down the hall.

The boys both blush a little themselves at being called cute but settle back down onto the bed anyway. It doesn't take long for the conversation from earlier to pick back up, and the rest of the night goes by rather smoothly.

Dare offers to sign Midoriya out of school tomorrow as well so he has more time to recuperate before being forced to face Bakugou again. He feels a little guilty for lying to both his mother and the school, but he accepts, on the condition that he go to dagobah tomorrow instead, to work on some mechanics and hacker lessons. Just because he can't train his body at the moment, doesn't mean he has to stop training his mind. Dare can’t really argue with that point so he agrees. They eat a delicious home cooked meal. Spend some time watching the news with Midoriya's mom. And then Dare wishes them a good night and heads home.

As he goes to bed for the evening Midoriya revels in the fact that ever since the first day they met, Dare has always managed to take his worst mornings and turn them into the best nights.

 

--

 

Midoriya can’t help but feel a little guilty about skipping school, but the pain radiating from his barbequed torso reminds him why he's staying behind, and besides, it's not like he won't be learning anything today.

He also feels a little nervous, at some point last night, Midoriya made an important decision, he was going to let Dare read his analysis’. He had asked once back when he first offered to teach him, and at the time he hadn’t really said no, but he didn’t say yes either. Now that he knows Dare a bit better, he’s confident that it isn’t a trap, that he has a genuine interest and that he won't use the knowledge for anything particularly nefarious. So Midoriya packed up the three most recent editions of hero analysis for the future (minus the most recent which he was still dutifully transcribing into a less burnt/soaked notebook) and headed towards his favorite trash heap beach.

When he arrived Dare slid open the door to his van and ushered him inside with a smile on his face, Midoriya couldn't help but notice his smile was different today, his bottom lip was a bit wider and darker than it was last night. He tried not to stare, he really did, but Dare still hadn't really told him anything about his ever evolving appearance; he knew logically that this was Dare quirk, but he'd never seen him activate it in front of him, so he wasn't sure what triggers it or what it’s purpose was, and the fanboy within him really, really, reeeeeeally wanted to know more. Midoriya finally peeled his eyes from his lip to meet his eyes when he realized he hadn’t actually heard any of what Dare was just telling him. Oh no. Dare caught him staring. Now he's looking at him with a nervous expression, he must think I'm so rude and creepy. oh god is he offended? Is he mad? It he-

Dare cut off his mental spiral by clearing his throat and talking as if they weren't both red and avoiding eye contact.

“So anyway I had a few things I wanted to talk to you about before we get started.”

“mhmm , yeah, sure w-what did you wanna discuss?”

“I’ve got an idea for your first real project.”

“Project?”

“Yep. you’ve taken apart and put back together your fair share of toaster and microwaves now, so I’d say you're ready to build something from scratch, wouldn't you?”

“I-if you think i’m ready, then yes. What should I build?”

“I’m thinking of a computer.”

Midoriya tried not to choke on his spit.

“That's- a computer is a big step up from a microwave isn't it?”

“Eh, not really, there's all sorts of guides and stuff online, people build their own PC’s everyday. Besides, having a nice computer to work with will make all your future projects easier, and you can program in all sorts of extra protection that way. It's a super practical first project that will put together all your basics without you needing to do any actual inventing or out of the box troubleshooting.”

“That's true. It’ll be good for school too. Not to mention-” Midoriya continued mumbling under his breath about all of the practical applications of the projects and the future projects they could build off of its foundation, getting more and more excited for it.

“That’s actually the other thing I wanted to talk to you about.” Dare said when it was clear Midoriya would just keep mumbling forever if he wasn't cut off.

“What? Sorry, I got lost on my train of thought again.”

“It's alright, I said that's the other thing I wanted to talk to you about. School.”

“Oh the entrance exam? It's still 9 and a half months out, we have plenty of time.”

“No, actually I meant your current school.”

“Oh.” Midoriya's stomach sank, he wasn’t looking forward to talking about that place.

Dare typed into his laptop for a bit and pulled up a website, motioning for Midoriya to come take a look. The website was for an online school accepting “Bright minds aged 10-18”

“Are...you thinking of going to school, Dare?”

“What? No, not for me. For you.”

Midoriya furrowed his brow in confusion, but Dare just continued his explanation.

“I figured an online curriculum would give you the chance to get your middle school diploma from the comfort and safety of your own home. But also, this particular school offers some pretty cool electives, like programming and welding and stuff. I’m pretty sure it's meant for like, vocational training, but if you signed up for them it would give you a more legitimate sounding origin story than telling people you were taught by a shapeshifting hobo.”

“But what about…” Midoriya wasn’t sure what he meant the end of the sentence to be. What about his current school, what about the entrance fees, what about Kacchan, what about them not wanting a quirkless kid like him tainting their roster? Whatever his concerns were, Dare just kept listing counter points as if reading his mind.

“I know it was kinda underhanded of me, but I kinda sort of filled out an application for you already. Your grades all check out, but they do want you to fill out a little questionnaire and take an online exam to see what classes to put you into. I also kinda told them that you were doing some community service cleaning up the beach with me, so they agreed to let you in on a scholarship which will cover most of the expenses; provided we send in monthly progress shots proving you're actually doing the cleaning, which should be no problem.”

“Umm-”

“Unfortunately they don’t offer any full rides, so we will need to figure out the rest of the fees. I’m uhh...well I’m sort of broke. And I may be in the grey on the whole legal moral spectrum but I'm not willing to rob any banks for you. So it’s gonna have to be the old fashioned way, and by that I mean a part time job somewhere. Now, it's not that I don’t want to help, but technically, in the eyes of the Japanese government, I don’t exist, so I can't get a job.”

Midoriya opened his mouth to ask about that little bombshell of information Dare just let slip about themselves, but he was once again cut off by his friends excitable rambling.

“I know its kinda tough for quirkless people to find employment in this fucked up quirkest world we live it, so I went to the liberty of doing a deep dive on all the companies with a better reputation for these things, and then cross referenced that with places that were nearby, entry level, and currently hiring, and I found three possibility but this one here seems the most promising to me.” Dare handed over a small stack of papers he had printed off and tapped at the first page featuring an application for a local hardware and electronics store.

“I know it's gonna be yet another thing on your already busy plate, but if you're getting your hacking and mechanics lessons online now, then we can cut your training with me down to 4 days a week. And the courses are all at your own pace so it should be totally doable. The last page is a new proposed schedule that outlines some possible…”

Midoriya isn’t sure at what point he started crying, but him and Dare seemed to notice the tears at the same time.

“Oh my god, I'm so sorry.” Dare said with wide eyes as he grabbed a hold of Midoriya's shoulders. “I didn’t mean- you don’t have to do any of this. It's too much. I should have talked to you about what you wanted before, I just- I totally overstepped and I'm sorry. Just forget about all of that.”

“No, no it’s just...You did all this for me?” It must have taken him all night to look into all of this for him. Midoriya hadn’t even asked him to. He hadn’t even thought to ask. But he did it.

“I...Yeah, of course I did…” Dare sat down on his mattress and patted the spot next to him so Midoriya would follow him over. Once Midoriya had slumped next to him, Dare cleared his throat to speak again.

“You are so smart dude, like, ridiculously smart, and you're a quick learner, you’re motivated as all hell… You deserve a learning environment that's going to help you grow, not watch you suffer… That place is not good for you, but maybe, maybe this place will be. You-You could even come here for classes if you wanted, we can set up a little class room somewhere in the refuse and…”

That made the tears come even faster. Seemingly misinterpreting the cause, Dare back peddled.

“Or I mean, you’ll probably just wanna do it from home, whatever you want… Or if you’d rather just stay at Aldera you can do that too...I just want you to be happy.”

Midoriya flung his arms around Dare in a tight hug. He couldn’t hold back from it any longer. Dare tensed at the sudden contact for a moment then relaxed and put his arms around Midoriya's shoulders, giving him reassuring little pats and rubs.

Once he had a moment to compose himself, Midoriay pulled away and looked his best friend in the eyes to say, “Thank you.”

Dare smiled at him warmly and replied. “Any time.”

“No really, thank you. For everything. I don’t think I could ever repay you for all that you’ve...Oh hey, I just remembered! I actually have something for you too!”

Midoriya dug in his bag for the notebooks and held them out for Dare to take a look.

“I know it doesn't really come close to repaying the debt, but it's a start.”

Dare looked from the small stack of analysis books to Midoriya and back.

“These are your analysis books? I thought...You said you weren't really comfortable with-”

“Well I changed my mind. You're my best friend, and I don't wanna hide things from you. Especially things that could potentially help you.”

Dare was silent for a moment, Midoriya could almost swear he saw tears begin to form in his eyes but if he did then they were quickly swallowed back down. Dare chuckled a little under his breath and then took a hold of the precious books.

“Thank you, Izuku. I-I really appreciate your trust...And for what it’s worth, you’re my best friend too. I mean, that's probably pretty obvious but, you are. So thanks, for that too.”

“No problem, Dare.”

“You...You know you can call me by my first name too if you want.” He said a little awkwardly.

Midoriya tilted his head to the side in confusion.

“But...but, your first and last name are both Dare aren’t they? How can you tell which one I'm saying?”

Dare smirked at him and raised one eyebrow.

“Oh, I can tell.”

Midoriya tried to fight off the blush he felt rising up his neck.

“O-oh. Umm...Okay... Dare.”

Now it was Dare’s turn to fight off his blush.

“Hmm. Yep. Big difference.” He mumbled under his breath before standing up off his mattress.

“Okay so, first order of business is gonna be researching what kind of computer you wanna build.”

And with that they got to business. They spent a few hours researching and making a components list, then they spent another hour prepping for the exam for his online courses, then finally they filled out some of the applications Dare had printed out. Midoriya contemplated telling his mom about his plans to change schools. But he didn't want her to feel any pressure to help pay the tuition, so until he had a confirmed job in the works he decided to hold off on telling her. If he told her now, and then later discovered he couldn’t afford it, it would just make her feel sorry for him, and he hated that feeling from her.

 

In the end he never did go back to Aldera, Dare just kept signing him out for the rest of the week so they wouldn’t risk Bakugo doing any further damage to him. As nervous as he was, he scored a near perfect score on the online exam, and he had an interview lined up at the shop Dare recommended. If all went according to plan, then as of next Monday he would have a new job, and a new school, and really, a whole new life. In the three weeks since he met Dare, so much had gone wrong, but so, so much more had gone right.

Midoriya was by no means a confident person, but he was slowly learning he wasn’t as hopeless or useless as others would have him believe. His training with Dare was going well and things were looking up, despite his better instincts, the first rays of hope were starting to shine, and like a cat at the end of winter, he was happily basking in that sun.

 

--

 

Bakugo Katsuki was the best. He had to be. His mother, hag that she was, had drilled into him from a young age that you can only be two things in this world, a winner or a victim. “If you're not first, you're last.” She would tell him whenever he fell short. Second place wasn’t good enough, near perfect score wasn’t good enough, a tie or a forfeit was a loss in disguise. He was going to be the number one hero, the youngest to ever achieve the title, he had to be. And he worked hard to make sure it happened.

He trained every chance he got. Blasted targets till his wrists creaked and dehydration dried up all his sweat. Developed muscle mass to counteract the blow back that no one his age had any business having. Never ate any of the junk food and sugar the extras poisoned their bodies with. Early to bed, early to rise. Running three miles every morning before the sun even rose. Crammed his head with all the info he could and took every opportunity for extra credit to make sure he scored the highest on every single exam. By birthright of his miraculous quirk, he had the potential to excel; but that alone wasn’t why he was number one. His Quirk made him good, his work ethic is what made him the best.

And that's why stupid fuckin Deku got under his skin.

The little freak spent all his time muttering and obsessing over other people's quirks and how he wanted to be just like them one day. But He never once put any effort into making himself any better. He didn't have some amazing quirk to coast on, he didn’t have a quirk at all. But he harbored these delusions that just wanting to be a hero was enough to make him into one. Like he could just show up at UA and be a hero. Like he was above all the blood, sweat, and nitroglycerin it took Katsuki to be the best. Like he was better than him.

It pissed Katsuki off to no end.

He had tried, time and time again, to knock some sense into his muttering broccoli lookin ass. To tell him he couldn’t be a hero if he was weak and useless cried over everything. To tell him to nut up or shut up. But the message was lost on him. He just kept making pointless naïve claims that he could be a hero too. That he would be like him or like All Might. Stupid fuckin Deku.

He was gonna get himself killed.

His dumb ass was gonna show up to the entrance exams and get disintegrated it three seconds flat. And then auntie Inko would cry about it to his old hag, and his old hag would blame him for not doing enough to protect the weakling; as if he hadn't spent the past ten years trying to talk him out of it. He was just dead weight, an extra thing he had to worry about that was gonna hold him back from being number one. And he hated him for it.

So yeah, maybe he blew up his stupid analysis notes or whatever. It's not like those were ever gonna do him any good anyway. And sure, he maybe went a little harsh on the tough love from time to time, but so what? It was never any worse than the shit his old hag said to him when he started slipping. If he wanted to survive this world, he was gonna have to toughen up at some point. Better he get it in a controlled environment than from some villain on the streets. Villains wouldn’t stop when he started crying too hard, villains would just straight up kill him.

No one knew that better than Katsuki.

Katsuki had come face to face with his first villain and it killed him.

This wasn’t information anyone outside himself, his parents, and his doctors was privy to. But he had flat lined for 30 seconds in the aftermath of that attack. He had trained for ten years to be the best, and it wasn’t enough to save him. That thing was slithering sludge down his gullet and he was powerless to stop it. At that moment, surrounded by supposed 'pro heroes', nobody made any moves to save him. They “didn't have the right quirks” he heard them say. Pathetic. But Katsuki was no better. He was on his own, as he always had been, and he wasn’t strong enough.

“You let that thing get the drop on you?” His mother asked with disgust. “What good is all your training if a smelly pile of sludge is enough to overpower you? You need to be stronger than that if you want to succeed.”

She was right.

Of course she was right. He still wasn’t good enough. He had to work even harder. He had to be stronger, tougher, scarier than any stupid villain could ever hope to be. Next time, he wasn't gonna lose. He was gonna win, whatever it took. He would rather stay dead than let anyone ever look down on him again.

And then stupid fucking Deku. Tiny, useless, quirkless, Deku, had the audacity to say he was sorry for him. Him. feeling sorry for Katsuki. That was the last fucking straw. He saw red and he didn't stop wailing on him until his torso was just as red as his rage fueled vision.

By the time his better judgement had a chance to kick in he was already fucked.

His teachers had always had his back before, but this was beyond a trip to the nurses office, this was actual doctors level injuries, there was no way in hell this didn’t end up on his permanent record. And when UA saw that they'd turn him down for sure. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

How could he let this happen? How could he let himself be bested twice? A villain was one thing, but Deku? Deku was gonna be the thing that kept him from being a hero, from being the best? Fuck. What was that hag gonna say to him now? Dad wouldn’t be able to talk her down this time, he was in for one hell of a fight when she found out.

He spent the rest of the day on edge. Waiting to be called into the principal's office. Waiting for stupid fucking Deku to put the last nail into his coffin. But he never did. He didn’t show up the next day either. No one else seemed to even notice he was gone, the brat disappeared half way through the school day and never came back. And the only one even glancing at the empty desk was Katsuki. With each passing day of that week Katsuki's stomach tied itself into bigger and bigger knots. Was Deku still in the hospital? Just how fuckin hard had Katsuki hit him? How badly had he burned him? He wasn’t exactly in his right set of mind at the time. He didn’t look that bad when Katsuki left him, but maybe…

No. No way. He was just worrying over nothing. Deku was fine, he was just being a fucking drama queen like always. Probably crying and milking his bruises for all he could get like the lazy entitled prick he was.

Days turned to weeks turned to months. At some point he had to just accept that Deku wasn't coming back. He should be happy about it. He wasn’t in trouble and now he wouldn’t have to waste any energy lugging his dead weight around all the time. On paper this was the best case scenario for him. So why did it feel so wrong? Anger had always been the easiest emotion for him to come to, but this wasn’t that. He wasn’t sure what he was feeling exactly, but he knew he didn’t like it. He hadn't seen or heard from him in months, but he was still finding some way to annoy Katsuki through the cosmos. God, he hates him. But he's not gonna let that stand in his way. Katsuki was gonna be the best with or without Deku trying to drag him down.

He had to be.

 

Chapter Text

Dare is well aware that the work of heroes is more than just beating up villains, though sometimes the big name pros forget that. More often than not, it's rescue missions; being first responders in a natural disaster, saving pets that end up in tall trees or slimy ditches, and lots and lots of paperwork. Luckily as a vigilante he is spared the last part, but the rest still holds firm for him.


Dare is patched into three separate feeds to insure he arrives on the scene of wherever he is needed; The first is an algorithm that scans the popular forums and social media sites for any ongoing crimes in progress. The second is a traffic and weather scanner that informs him if there's any major accidents or storms causing havoc. And the last is a patch feed for the local police departments, that way he knows when the pros are about to arrive so he can skedaddle.


A new club recently opened downtown and it's led to a slight uptick in the number of car accidents happening between the hours of 11pm to 4am when the patrons start heading out; and its for this reason that Dares patrol route has shifted a little closer to that area for the past week or so, having already pulled people out of their cars to a safer area on more than one occasion. Tonight however it was a particularly bad accident.


Luckily Dare spotted the swerving vehicle and was already halfway down the fire escape of the building he was perched on by the time the collision happened. The car in the back hit the much smaller one in front of it with enough force to send it flying into the one in the front, jumping over the top of it and landing upside down on the other side. The now center vehicle spun out and was also rammed by the vehicle in the back, which finally slowed the speeding vehicle's momentum enough to stop it. And the one in the back may as well have been an accordion with how much the front half had scrunched into itself.

Dare started with the overturned vehicle in front, determining they would have the hardest time trying to find a way out on their own. He was right, the driver and its other two passengers were all knocked out, Dare used pocket knife to cut them loose from the seatbelts and guided them out, trying his best to be gentle and avoid debris while still moving as quickly as possible, time is of the essence in a crash like this and its better to gain a few extra scratches than it is to lose an extra life.


He firemen carried the ladies over to the other side of the road and propped them up along the guide rails under a street light. Setting down a few road flares to ensure they would be seen. Then he moved on to the car in the back, the petty part of him was tempted to save this car for last, given that their drunk driving was what caused the accident in the first place, but he could see from here that the guy was in pretty bad shape, with glass sticking out of various body parts and blood running down his face. So Dare pulled him out next, “prioritize the rescue” and all that.


The man was barely conscious, slurring out various noises and sobs as opposed to any real words, he didn't seem to have any passengers with him, so at least there was that. Dare deposited the man with the girls, making a mental note to try and stop some of his bleeding first chance he got to prevent him from bleeding out later. The scanner on his arm informed him that someone had called the incident in, and the cops and ambulances would be there in five minutes. That meant he had only 4 and a half to assist the car in the center.


Dare pulled out the driver first, using his elbow to break the window in order to reach her. He didn’t see anyone in the passenger seat, but what he saw in the back seat made his stomach drop. There was a child, eyes wide, face blanched and hyperventilating in place of real cries. They must be in shock, but mercifully the only major injury Dare could see was a possibly broken arm. Dare decided pulling the kid out first was the better course, so he quickly sprung over to his side of the car and tried the door. It was dented in a bit, and it took a bit of force, but he was able to pry it open; Dare was happy about this, breaking the window next to an already hyperventilating child would have only made things worse. He did his best to sound gentle and reassuring as he spoke.


“Hey there, everything is going to be okay, I’m here to help.”


The child did not answer them, but he turned his head to meet their eyes, so Dare was pretty sure he could still hear him. That was a good sign.


“I'm gonna reach over you real quick to get you un hooked, alright?”


When the kid made a motion that almost looked like a nod, he went to work, the buckle itself released on the second try, so then Dare walked the kid through the next step.


“Okay, I’m gonna pick you up now, and then I'm gonna carry you over there where you can wait for the paramedics. Everything is gonna be alright.”


He scooped the now crying child into a bridal carry and was halfway to the makeshift med zone when he heard the kid muttering.


“M-m-m..m”


“Your mom?” Dare guessed.


The kid nodded with enough force to jostle his whole body, eyes wide and sparking with tears.


“I’m going to pull her out next, don’t worry. More help is on the way too. I know this is scary, but you're doing a great job. You are being very brave.”


The kid dissolved into whimpers and snot as he was set down next to the other victims.


By the time he returned to the car the mother had started to stir, she was waking up. This was both good and bad, good because it meant her injuries weren't that serious, and bad because this was the point people tended to panic, and he already had one shock victim on his hands. Not to mention, a fight response would make it ten times harder to help guide them out of a window, luckily she seemed more the flight type. She made a sound like a scream but without any of the necessary oxygen to give it any real volume as she scrambled for her seat belt.


“Hey, hey, it's alright, you're going to be just fine. I’m here to help, your child is already safe. Please let me help.”


The woman did not respond, but with her seatbelt now off she wordlessly reached both arms through the window and grabbed a hold of Dare's shoulders, squeezing them for dear life. Dare laid his forearm down along the bottom of the window, his arm would be a much nicer thing to crawl over than the broken glass. He used his other arm to help pull the woman though, once her torso was out, he re adjusted his arms to pull her into a fireman's carry over his shoulder and carefully pulled her the rest of the way out. The feeling of glass being worked out of his now shifting arm was mildly distracting, but he’d worked with worse shifts mid rescue before.


The woman and child had a tearful reunion embrace, Dare couldn't help but smile a little at the site. They checked their sensors again for the time, he still had about thirty seconds.


Three unfortunate things happened in quick succession.


The first was that the drunk man with the glass very suddenly woke up and jumped to his feet. The second was that unlike the mother before, their fear response was most definitely fight. He began swinging and yelling like a cornered animal, Dare was quick to throw himself in the path between the man and the others, who in turn quickly pinned his arms down to his sides. And then the third thing. Dare could hear the sound of sirens fast approaching from the distance, this man posed a clear and evident threat to himself and others, but Dare did not have the time to talk him down or subdue him by other means, meaning his only real option was to knock the man back out and make a run for it. The man was strong and unwieldy enough that Dare's arms were too preoccupied holding him back to be used to hit any pressure points, so with reluctant realization, Dare realized he would need to knock him out with the most unpleasant of methods. Shouting just loud enough for the man to hear him over the sounds of his drunken, rages filled, cries, Dare said.


“I’m really sorry about this, if it's any consultation, it's gonna suck for both of us!”


And then he quickly reared his head back and slammed it forward into a blunt head butt, knocking the already drunk and bleeding man out with little to no fight. The headache was severe and instantaneous, blurring Dares vision for just a moment, but he had no time to wait it out, the first of the vehicles would be rounding the corner any second now. So without any real knowledge of where he was going, Dare took off down the street in the opposite direction of the sirens.


A block or two later Dare gained enough of his mental faculties back to turn down some alleyways he recognized and climb up the side of a building to wait out the rush. It was only then that they realized how potentially fucked they were. Three people had seen him and he didn't have the time to ask them not to tell others about him. The wrong key words end up in the news or police report and it would be like a homing beacon telling his captors where he was. Hopefully the mix of poor lighting, adrenalin, and inebriation would be enough that they wouldn't have much to say. But if any of them saw him mid healing then he would be in real trouble.


This was plenty of action for one night, he needed to get off the streets and out of anyone's sight until he could be sure he was in the clear. He took the long way around getting back to the beach, if he was already being followed then he wanted his route to seem sporadic, as if still on patrol, and not like he was heading home. When he finally returned home he took a look in the mirror to assess the damage. Luckily his eyes seemed unchanged, but the forehead and nose were different, as was his arm. Izuku should still be able to recognize him, but the differences were still obvious.


Dare knew Izuku was curious about it, he was curious about everyone's quirks, and the more interesting the quirk or closer his proximity to it, the more curious he became. But still, he never asked Dare about his. Part of Dare was curious to know what he thought about it, had he figured it out at all? Did he already know more than Dare did? Or was he completely in the dark? Dare didn’t ask either. The less he knew the safer it would be for the both of them, thus far, he managed to avoid any reset happening in front of him, only ever showing him the end result after the fact, but it was inevitably going to happen at some point. They worked out together and worked with a lot of hazardous materials in unstable surroundings, at some point an accident was bound to happen. How would Izuku react? Would he be scared of him again?


Dare shook his head to clear that train of thought away, he had more important things to worry about right now, like whether or not he needed to make a run for it.


Dare set up the search parameters and ran the program on his laptop, scanning for any mention of him or the accident. An hour later the story finally broke. With pessimistic hope he read the article.
“Mysterious Figure Rescues 6 From Multi Car Pileup”


Shit, okay so someone had mentioned his presence, but no need to panic just yet. It's possible that their descriptions would be vague enough that it couldn't lead to him. Dare read through the article quickly, skimming for the part where he would be described.


“Most of the victims of the incident were unconscious at the time of rescue, those who were awake had little to say about their rescuer. “I don’t really remember much I’m afraid. Whoever they were, they seemed really kind. They saved Tori and I, that much I’m sure of. I wish I knew who it was so I could say thank you.” Said mother and driver of the second vehicle, Mrs. Uzumaki. Her son, Tori, was also unable to give a proper description. When Hero Network 10 reporters questioned the driver of the first vehicle, he had this to say. “I am truly ashamed of my actions and the trouble that I have caused. I am glad no one was more seriously injured, and I’m sure that is due in no small part to the hero's quick response.” When informed that no heroes were dispatched to the scene last night, they maintained that “whatever their profession, they acted heroically, and I thank them for it.” beyond this, they had no further information of the appearance or identity of the individual.”


The article went on to mention the revocation of the initial drivers license, and the mandatory probation and reeducation program, to minimize the risk of future drunk driving. They even made a connection between this and their other accidents earlier in the week following the new clubs opening. An interview with the owner of the club promised new policies that limited the number of drinks patrons were allowed to drink without proof of a safe way home. All in all, the results were the best Dare could have hoped for. Based on this, he was in the clear. He hacked into the police reports to confirm no identifying information was given to them either before finally letting out a sigh of relief.


Dare checked their phone before getting ready for bed. The only message Dare received since patrol started was a gif of a sponge shaped cartoon character chewing his own fingers nervously like some would chew at nail beds. He didn't understand the reference but he understood the meaning well enough. Izuku's first day of work was tomorrow and he was really nervous about it. The new classes seemed to be going well, but since the job was in person he felt the chances of running into someone he knew or otherwise disappointing people was higher. Earlier in the day, Dare had tried his best to reassure him about it, but in the end all he could really do to help was promise to meet up with him afterwards. It would either be a celebration of a job well done, or, as a worst case scenario, a pity party for a bad first day. They both hoped for the first. It was too late, (or possibly too early depending on one's perspective,) to reply, so Dare simply set his phone aside for the night and crawled into bed.


Glaring at the roof, Dare let out a deep sigh. They might need to lay low for a few nights, just to be extra safe. Dare was always cautious, but now that he had a real reason to stay stationary, the idea of having to pull up stakes to avoid capture was all the more painful. Patches the cat crawled on top of him a moment later, purring deeply on top of Dare's chest, soothing the last of his residual anxiety of being discovered any time soon. The purr sounded to him like a promise.


“It’s okay. You’re still safe. You’re home.”


He allowed these imagined words to lull him to sleep.

--

Midoriya's first day of work was going suspiciously well. After watching a few obligatory training videos and passing a quick, common sense, safety quiz, he was given a name tag, apron, and a button that read “Be nice to me, I’m new.” which he was told he would need to wear for at least his first few weeks here.


“Or, you can just like, lie and keep it on indefinitely; it won't make you immune to Karens but it helps.” Said the boy training him with a chuckle.


His trainer was a boy about his age, he had yellow hair with a lightning shaped streak of black in it. Name tag said his name was Denki Kaminari. Izuku was expecting someone much older to be training him, but since they were the owners son, and would be working pretty much the same hours, they decided they may as well get acquainted now. He seemed nice, if easily distractible, and was quick to start joking as if they were buds. Midoriya wasn’t sure what to make of it, years of experience told him the kindness was a trap, or that maybe they hadn't been informed of his quirkless status yet; but maybe there really were more people like Dare out there in the world. Either way, it was his first day, so Izuku tried his best to make a good first impression and return the friendly atmosphere as best as possible.


“Is that why you're still wearing your button?”


“Haha, yeah, I haven't been an official employee for very long, but I’ve been helping out here since I was like 12. So it’s safe to say I know most of what's going on here pretty well.”


“Wow, 12? That's impressive.”


“Thanks, but I wouldn't be so quick to flash such admiration. The experience does nothing to keep me from crying like a baby anytime someone yells at me. So. Button.” The electric boy said while jiggling the matching button on his apron.


“Does that happen a lot?” Midoriya said with sudden nervousness.


“Me crying?”


“No, well maybe, I meant people yelling at you.”


“Oh. Not really. Most of our clientele is pretty nice but retail is retail. Don’t worry too much about it. If anyone starts giving you too much trouble just let one of us know and we’ll kick 'em out for you.”


“Oh, well that's nice of you.”


“I should warn you though. While completely harmless, we do get a few repeat customers that are a bit...eccentric. Real inventor/ mad scientist vibes. There's this one girl in particular with pink dreads. Zero volume control or concept of personal space. But she's one of our best customers, and she knows what she's looking for, so if she's freaking you out it's best to just smile and nod.”


“Uh, thanks for the heads up, I guess.”


“No problem.” He said with a smile before pulling up a map of the store on a tablet. “We’ll probably have you floating departments for a while while we figure out the best fit for you. But did you have any preferences for where to start?”


“Not really, wherever you guys need me I’m more than happy to help.”


“That's a good answer, but I’m not actually your boss, so there's no need to try and impress me with your professionalism. You can just tell me the truth. Like, if you've got a secret desire to be a lumberjack we can train you on the wood saws. Whatever floats your boat.”


Midoriya thought about it for a second but before he could finalize his thoughts Kaminari spoke up again.


“Resume said you're into computers and stuff right? Maybe you’d like working electrical with me?” He said with one eyebrow raised and a hopeful smile. One hand pointing to the yellow coded section of the map.


“Yeah, actually, learning more about electricity and wiring might help me out on a few projects I'm doing.” Midoriya’s excitement of learning more was poorly concealed.


“Heck yeah, dude. What kinda projects?”


Midoriya nearly froze, realizing he wasn't sure if he should really talk about it. But he decided there was nothing inherently suspicious about building your own computer, and he was gonna be working on other stuff for his classes soon enough, so it should be fine so long as he doesn't go into too many details.


“Oh, it's nothing too special, I wanted to maybe try building a PC.”


Kaminari gasped like that was the best possible answer. “OMG do you game? Are you a gamer Midoriya?”


“Not exactly.” He said, scratching at the back of his head sheepishly. “I’ve played a few games but I wouldn't say I’m any good at them. And I don’t do it regularly enough to really be like a 'gamer', par say.”


Kaminari looked slightly less enthused but still hopeful.


“But you like it right, like when you do play you enjoy yourself?”


“I guess.”


“Sweet, remind me at lunch to bring this back up then. We should play together sometime.”


Midoriya’s instincts once again told him this must be a trap, but Kaminaris smile seemed too genuine to be completely fake. So against his better judgment he allowed a seed of optimism to plant itself in his heart.


“S-sure. I’m really not great, but if you’re sure you don’t mind...” Midoriya trailed off a bit as he saw Kaminari’s attention was now directed about five aisles away from them, Midoriya's eyes went back and forth between Kaminari and where he was looking, but he saw nothing of note over there.


“Kaminari?” He asked hesitantly.


“Huh? Oh. Sorry dude I was trying to decide what to show you first. I'm thinking lighting department? That's part of our domain, and requires the least amount of actual know how.”


“Okay, sure. Whatever you think is best.”

Kaminari led him around the various isles that made up the wider “electrical” section he would apparently be working in. Once they got into the more finicky materials Kaminari handed Midoriya a pair of gloves that are meant to cancel out static and offer insulation. Midoriya couldn't help but notice that Kaminari’s gloves were twice as thick.


“Are those gloves for the extra delicate stuff?” he asked.


“Haha no they are for the extra zappy me.” He said with a thumb jab to his own shoulder. “I've got an electric based quirk so I tend to be a bit extra staticy. These help absorb and redistribute some of the excess volts I give off passively, so I don’t damage anything on accident. Still doesn't do anything if I actually activate my quirk by mistake, but at least it's something.”


“Wow, that's amazing! Where did you get the gloves? Were they made just for you or are they mass produced for people with similar quirks? How much electricity do you put off passively? And how much can you put out when you mean too? Are there any draw backs for you? Does it hurt if you get shocked or are you immune to it? Does it arch out like lightning or does it only charge your own body? Can it be used to power stuff or would that just make them short circuit? Like, could you use yourself as a generator in case of emergencies? Does this make you more or less likely to be struck by lightning in a storm?-”


Midoriya snapped himself out of his muttering when he realized the wide blinking eyes of his new coworker.


“S-sorry.” He said with a blush and averted eyes.


“Don’t worry, I don't mind. I’m not super sure about the answers to some of those though. Uhh… So it's called electrification, and basically it creates electricity around my body that shocks anyone I come into contact with while it's activated. Once I've built up enough of it, it surges out and shocks everything around me too. I can’t really control it, so it's kinda dangerous, but I guess it makes for a good long range attack. If I let off too much then it kinda fries my brain, leaves me feeling loopy and kinda useless for an hour or two, so there's that. My limits at around a million volts before I’m spent, but I'm not sure how much I give off passively, I just know it's more than the average bear. I can charge peoples phones and stuff with it, which is a nice party trick, so I might be able to do generators? I havn't been struck by lightning that wasn't my own, but neither have most people so i'm not sure where that really puts me on the probability score….Oh and I wouldn't say the gloves are mass produced but they aren't really custom either, I actually got them from this local support workshop. You remember me telling you about some of our repeat customers being kinda wild? Well some of them work there and they recommended them to us. Is that everything? I’m not sure I caught all of them…”


Now it was Midoriya's time to blink back with wide eyes.


“I-I can't believe you actually answered all of that. Most people don’t bother listening when I start muttering like that. You- you didn’t find it..creepy and invasive?”


“Uh, no. Seemed innocent enough to me.”


“Oh.”


“So anyway, over here is where we put all the scrap.” And just like that they were back to business.

The rest of the morning was pretty uneventful, a full tour of both the electronics department and the rest of the store, a quick walk through of the registers and the key codes, and finally a lunch break where Kaminari showed off his prized collection of shiny electric type pokemon on his switch.


“You don't wanna know how much time I wasted collecting them all. Suffice it to say my dad was not pleased.”


“Wow, I usually just go for the ones that remind me of my favorite pro heroes.”


“That tracks, you seem like the fanboy type.”


“Says the guy with only electric types.”


“So many I’m a narcissist, but somebody's gotta be my first fan as a pro hero, why shouldn't it be me?”


“You wanna be a hero too?!” Midoriya said with a bit too much enthusiasm.


“Yeah! Wait, you said too. What school are you going for?”


Midoriya suddenly regretted the entirety of this conversation. Kaminari had been pretty nice about his quirk status so far, but once he found out what his goals were he was sure to get mad. He considered lying, but that didn’t seem fair. So instinctively leaning away from the other boy, he braced himself and said, “Well, I’m hoping for UA, but its kinda a long-”


“Me too! I hope we get into the same class.”


That certainly wasn't the reaction he was expecting.


“Y-Your not mad?”


“Mad?” He said tilting his head to the sad like a confused puppy.


“Yeah. I mean, I’m just this useless quirkless wannabe, and I’m trying to be a hero just like you. I’m even going for the same school as you...That...That doesn't piss you off?”


“Woah. Okay. There's a lot to unpack there, and our lunch break isn’t long enough to address all of that. But, like, no dude I’m not mad. I think it's kick ass that you wanna be a hero. And, if anything, I’m twice as hyped now, cause it means I might have a friend in class on day one.” A quick smile was the only time his eyes came up from the screen of his switch as he continued his search. “That's assuming I get in at all. I’m kinda a dumbass if you haven't noticed. I don't do well on standardized tests, so my grades alone might be a bit of an issue for me. But I’m choosing to think positively about it. Ya know. Manifesting and all that jazz.”


Midoriya really wanted to dispute this, to offer himself as a study buddy or otherwise to just thank him for being his...he said friend right? That wasn't just wishful hearing? But before he got the chance an alarm rang on his phone signaling the end of their lunch break, and the boy had already sprung up and changed the subject to the next thing Midoriya had to memorize for work.


By day's end, Midoriya decided he really liked his new job, and his new coworkers were all really nice too. Just another thing on the list of favors he now owed to Dare for helping him find and secure the position. Speaking of which, he had promised to hang out with him today when he got off work. They would most likely be meeting at Dagoba, that was their usual meeting place, but they never actually confirmed that. So as Midoriya walked through the parking lot, he pulled out his phone to text him, but he froze before pulling up the contact. He suddenly got the feeling he was being watched. He couldn’t really explain it, but he somehow knew someone was looking at him, lurking somewhere just out of his current eye line.


Trying to be discreet he shifted his gaze from side to side, no one at his 3 or 9, he patted at his pockets as if looking for his keys to disguise his behavior as he checked behind him at his 6. This was the technique Dare had taught him. If the assailant knows you know about them they are liable to either attack out of panic or to make a run for it, meaning they are free to attack someone else. But if you can spot them back without being obvious, then you can use yourself as bait and lead them right to the police station. Technically, Dare had said to lead them to him, but the station was nearby and he didn’t know for sure if Dare was home right now or not, so it would have to do.


He didn’t see anyone at his 6 either, he was prepared to shake it off as him just being paranoid, but the feeling of eyes on him persisted, so without really knowing why, he looked up, and there was Dare. He was crouched on the roof of the store peeking out from behind the signage.


For a moment both of them just made surprised looking eye contact with each other, which held for a moment or two too long to be comfy; But then Dares face lit up into the biggest grin Midoriya had seen on him to date. Dare laughed a hearty chuckle and slapped at his knee in amusement before composing himself and using his grappling hook to repel down the side of the building. Midoriya jogged up to meet him in the alley.


“Zu, that's amazing! You spotted me in like under a minute!” Dare said with a proud smile.


Midoriya tried his best not to blush at the nickname.


“Did- was that like a test or something? And I passed?” He said with a pleased grin.


“Heck yeah you did! Okay, so confession time?”


Midoriya gestured with his hand for Dre to proceed.


“Promise you won’t be mad?” He extended a pinky with a reddish tint Midoriya hadn’t seen on him yet. He tried not to be too distracted by the addition to the color pallet as he took the pinky in his.


“Promise.”


“Okay so...I wanted to kinda help test out your situational awareness and passive perception and all that. Make sure you know what being followed feels like just in case. So...Okay, so I may or may not have been following you home everyday after our training sessions. I figured it would take you at least 2 months to even notice eyes on you. But we're only a month and half in and you already spotted me! I’m so proud of you!...You’re not mad right? ‘Cause you promised.”


“No, I- I’m not mad. But you've really been following me for that long?” Suddenly a cursed thought came to Midoriya's mind. A memory of him tripping over the neighbors garbage cans a week ago and landing face first in some half eaten leftovers. “You didn’t happen to see…” He trailed off with a bright red face.


“See you eat shit the other day? Yeah. But don’t worry about it, happens to the best of us.”


Dare brushed it off with a non committal hand motion and then started walking, looking over his shoulder to make sure Midoriya was following. Midoriya avoided eye contact and didn't say anything for a while, but he followed none the less.


They were a few blocks away when Dare spoke up again.


“I’m thinking we can maybe try something different today? You've cleared things out at Dagoba in a way that's accidentally created a pretty good obstacle course. I think with a few minor adjustments to the placement of some stuff we can maybe use that to our advantage and work on your jumps. Or, if you're too tired from work then we can save that for tomorrow and just hang out a bit instead. What do you think?”


He was pretty tired, but he was also really looking forward to working on his parkour a bit more, he had taken a liking to it when he realized how many of his favorite pros utilized the skill in their own work.


“Hmm, maybe a bit of both? We can finish setting up the course today, that way it's ready for us tomorrow and we can spend more time actually using it. And then we can hang out when we're done?”


“Oo I like that, a nice happy medium that will help out tomorrow us in the process. Good thinking Zu.”


“You did most of the thinking, I’m just too indecisive to chose haha”


“You seem to be in a really good mood. I take it your first day was a success?”


“Yeah, it was really nice actually. I didn’t get yelled at once.”


“Well, I should hope not.” He said with a smirk.


“Yeah, and my coworkers are all really nice. Kaminari even offered to like, play games with me during our lunch breaks and stuff.”


“Kaminari, that's your boss right?” he said with a raised brow.


“Well yes, but no. I meant his son. He’s the same age as me, and we're gonna be working in the same department, so we kinda got paired up for the day.”


“Oh. Well that's nice...right?”


“Yeah, really nice. He wants to be a hero too, he’s even trying for UA. he said he hopes we get into the same class together.”


Dares' expression was entirely unreadable. Midoriya wasn’t sure what he was really thinking, but his mood had definitely shifted. But his facial expression and tone remained the same, So Midoriya elected to ignore the obvious shift.


“Oh. Well that's nice. That means you, uh, you'll have friends there already when you get in. So that's nice. And he’s nice. So you should be safe around him right? You guys can like, hang out and go places together and be, ya know, friendly. So that will be...Nice.”


“Are you...Worried about me?”


“What? Oh...I mean, just a little. You can take care of yourself now; or I mean, you're definitely making big strides towards it. So I know I shouldn’t worry. It's just, your last friend was kinda…”


“I know. But, Kamniari isn’t Kacchan. He knows I'm quirkless, and that I mumble, and that I'm trying to be a hero and he doesn't hate me for it. He said he wants to be my friend and I want to let him...I’m not gonna lie, it does scare me a little, but- But you showed me that there are good people in the world and that it's a good thing to trust people from time to time. My fears almost made me miss out on having you for a friend, and now I can’t picture my life without you. You made everything so much better, and brighter, and gave my life meaning and purpose again. So if trusting one person can make that big of a positive influence then...Then taking a chance on others is totally worth the risks.”


Midoriya gave his best reassuring and confident smile he could muster. Dare's face became unreadable in the opposite direction from his earlier mood before he smiled back.


“Well, in that case. I’m happy for you. Maybe...maybe you could do some training with him from time to time, it would be good to get some outside perspectives, and diversify a bit. I can teach you some of the super basic combat stuff a little early so you can spare or whatever.”


“Really, You don’t mind him coming to the beach with us?”


“Oh I meant...You know what, no, you're right. I trust you. If you trust Kaminari then...I’ll try to do the same. Yeah, he can come too...Just, maybe not like all the time? I'm not sure I'm up for taking on an extra student full time.”


“Deal. I’ll ask him about it at my next shift.”


As they approached the beach they passed a guy selling popsicles out of a rolling cart, Midoriya's eyes lingered on the picture of the coconut lime blend on the cart for a moment too long and Dare had bought it for him before he had the chance to say it wasn’t necessary.


“Oh, no you don’t have to-...Fine but I’m splitting it with you.”


Midoriya pulled on the two popsicle sticks sticking out of the bottom, splitting the dessert in half.


“Fine by me.”


They sat in the doorway to Dares van and ate their popsicles in contented silence before Midoriya changed into the spare workout clothes he left here. Once they were both ready they got to work setting up the obstacle course until the sun started to set. Then spent the rest of the evening with their toes in the waves and their heads in the clouds.

 

Chapter Text

Dare wasn’t jealous. He wasn’t. Izuku was making new friends, that was a good thing. A kid should have friends. He should talk to coworkers and chat with fellow students and build a web of relationships that will support him on his journey. He should be able to hang out at cafes, and go see movies, and be seen out in the world. He should have a large group of peers his own age, ones he cared about, and who cared about him in turn. He should be able to relax, have fun, and enjoy life. He deserves as much. So he was happy he was starting to have that. Sure, maybe he wished he could be a part of that from time to time. And yeah, the initial gut reaction of absolute dread at the idea of being replaced or forgotten was hard to shake completely. But he wasn't jealous.

“So then I said, ‘if you didn’t want your whole team to get wrecked by one stubborn mudbray then you should have branched out a little.’ And he said, ‘you can't betray the aesthetics, it's about the vibes, bruh.’”


“There's something to be said about the dedication to his cause I suppose.” Dare tried his best to seem invested in the story.


“I mean sure, but ‘oops all pikachu’ is a terrible idea for a team composition.”


“That's the little yellow mouse guy, right?”


“Yeah, this guy.” Izuku typed into his phone and pulled up a picture that seemed familiar to Dare. He was pretty sure he had seen him on some signs and stuff before. “Did you ever play pokemon growing up?” he asked curiously.


“No.”


“What games did you play then?”


“I didn’t”


“Oh.” Izuku made a face like he was deep in thought about several things before finally speaking up again. “But...you make video game references all the time.”


“I do?” he asked.


“Yeah, you say stuff like ‘leveling up’ and ‘dex builds’ and ‘passive perception’, stuff like that. That's video and tabletop games stuff, if you've never played anything then why do you say that?”


Dare wasn’t sure how to answer that. Now that he knew what Izuku was talking about, he knew exactly where he had picked those phrases up from. It wasn’t someone he liked thinking about. He found himself lying before he made the conscious decision to do so.


“I don’t know. Guess I just heard people saying it on the street and stuff. Just like, pop culture and stuff, ya know.”


“Oh. Okay, yeah, that makes sense I guess.”


“How's your ankle feeling? Are you ready to take the course again?” Dare quickly tried to change the subject.


“Yep!” Izuku jumped up off the sand and started jogging over to the start of their impromptu obstacle course.

It had been about a month since Izuku had started working at The Tool Shed. A month of working, mastering, and then rearranging the course to make it more advanced. He was getting pretty good at its latest version, but there was still one more jump towards the end that was giving him trouble. Knowing Izuku he would have it down by the end of the day.


They had started combat practice too. It was a full two months ahead of their initial schedule. But Midoriya was a much quicker study than Dare had initially anticipated. He knew he would be good at all the mental work, the coding and hacking and first aid portion was stuff he knew he would excel at just by virtue of his raw intelligence and insanely attuned pattern seeking mind. But Dare would be lying if he said he expected Izuku to be so good at the more physical aspects so soon. He knew with enough time and practice he would be competent in his movements, but the kid took to the stealth and acrobatics training like it was his birthright. And now that they had gotten started on the actual fighting, he was doing surprisingly good at that too. He was still a beginner, he had a long way to go in several areas before he could claim to be an expert by any means. But if an outside observer were to watch him work they would probably guess he had been working on his skills for a couple years, not months.


Dare wanted to take the boost to his ego and say it was due to his wonderful teaching abilities, but he knew that wasn’t even half of it. It was the raw determination and enthusiasm, paired with Izuku's natural ability to self analyze and trouble shoot his own mistakes, that allowed him to grow as fast as he was. He hardly needed Dare at all, once they had shown or explained something to him once, Izuku had the information stored in his steel trap noggin or otherwise scribbled away in one of his journals.


On a subconscious level, that may have been part of why he decided to start his martial arts training early. The one thing his student couldn't do on his own was spar. But that portion of today's training would come later.


Dare was nervous. Today was the day he would be meeting the infamous Kaminari; a full month of vetting and stalling after he initially agreed to it. It wasn’t that he didn't trust the electric teen, but with each new person who knew he existed, much less knew where he was living, the threat of discovery grew exponentially. Between Izuku, his mother, and now this Kaminari kid, he was up to three people that knew his name, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Plus, this was kinda their thing. Him and Izuku, training and joking and just existing here on the beach with each other; a selfish part of him wasn’t super psyched to open that up to extra people. So after the third week of dragging his feet on the matter, he came up with a compromise. They were gonna get together to spar, just not at the beach; instead they were set to meet him at a park after dinner.


Part of Dare felt guilty and weak for refusing to let the boy meet them here, it would have been easier for all of them, but he just wasn’t ready to have anyone else enter his space like that. He was tempted to keep stalling forever and hope that Izuku just forgot about the whole thing, but he knew that would be too selfish of him. Dare was pretty good at emulating different fighting styles, but at the end of the day, only sparring with one person, even one who could change up his styles and his body types, would only help Izuku out so much. Plus, fighting people with fight ready quirks like Kaminaris would help prepare him for counteracting quirks in a way that Dare simply couldn't replicate by himself. Realistically, the more sparring partners he could find the better; so for his sake, Dare was willing to share custody of his friend on a bi weekly basis.


The mission comes first after all.


He reminded himself of this as he watched Izuku's proud face when he finally landed his final jump on the obstacle with a victorious yell and a blinding smile. And then again as they made their way towards the park to meet up with Kaminari. And then a final time as the electric blonde flashed him a confident smile and an informal bow in greeting; and Dare realized, to his chagrin, that the boy was objectively attractive. He didn’t know why that was upsetting to him, but it was. He shook it off, it didn’t matter, what matters is the mission.

“It’s nice to meet you.” He said giving a polite bow in return that he hoped hid his deeper apprehension. “Izuku has told me a lot about you.”


A voice in the back of his head told him he shouldn't be so informal as to call Midoriya by his given name in front of others. But a different, petty (but not jealous) part of him knew that the other boys weren't on a first name basis yet, and that was an advantage Dare felt the need to rub in. Just a little.


“Good things I hope.” Kaminari said with another sheepish grin. “And likewise dude, the way Midoriya tells it, you're like, the world's best martial artist instructor or something. So I’m really glad you agreed to help me out. I’m kinda hopeless.”


“I’m sure you're not that bad Kaminari.” Midoriya interjected.


“Oh it's bad. I can’t even win in a fight against my older sister, and she's not even a fighter or anything, she just plays dirty.”


“No such thing.” Dare started talking before he could think better of it. “A dirty fighter is just a smart fighter who cares more about survival than artificial rules of engagement.”


Izuku had a contemplative look on his face as if committing that phrase to memory; meanwhile Kaminari stared at him slack jawed for a moment before smiling again.


“Woah, brutal. Guess you’ve got a good point there, maybe that's why I always lose haha.”


“Well...We can fix that.” Midoriya offered helpfully. Dare did his best to smile with the same kind of friendly optimism that seemed so natural to the others.


“Right, that's why we're here. So you guys can make each other stronger...Uh, I guess I should start by asking what kind of training you have and what sort of fighting styles you like to use.”


“Uhhh, well I'm usually more of a ranged fighter if I’m honest with you. But Midoriya was saying uh, how did you explain it again?” He turned to the freckled boy to ask.


Midoriya flipped to a page in his notebook filled with his thoughts on Kaminari. Dare wondered for a moment if he had a page on them somewhere in one of his journals.


“Well, I’ll have a better picture of things when I've had the chance to see you actually use your quirk to its full capacity, or to see you fighting. But based on what you've told me, I think you would do well to switch to a more close ranged melee style. Upping the wattage of your passive electric field around your body but keeping it low enough that it doesn't start to arch out should give you a high enough voltage to become a human stun gun. In fact, by my calculations with a bit of practice you might be able to put out enough to knock out an elephant before you even worry about it arching out. This means you'd be able to take out several enemies without going anywhere near your output limit. Which means lasting much longer in a fight without going all…” Midoriya pantimined a blank expression and double thumbs up maneuver that Dare guessed meant he had the capacity to fry his own brain with his quirk.


“Interesting.” Dare interjected. “Does your whole body emit electricity or does it exit from a specific point?”


“Uh well it's kinda a full body thing, but when I'm trying to shoot it out it tends to leapt from whatever point is sticking out the furthest from my body. I can't really aim it at all, but sometimes if I do this thing, I can at least get it to go in a general forwards type direction.” Kaminari made a shape with his hand using his first two fingers and his thumb.


“Oh. That's that generator grounder thingy you were talking about. The one used to troubleshoot wiring and particle direction stuff. That's so smart!” Midoriya said with awe.


Kaminari blushed a little from the praise, rubbing at the back of his head sheepishly. “Thanks, but it's really not. I've had this quirk most of my life and it still took me years to realize I could use the stuff I knew for work on my own body. I really only realized I could count as a generator after you mentioned it last month. I haven't had much practice with it, but it honestly doesn't even help that much. Still, better than nothing I guess.”


Dare cleared his throat to get their attention back on him instead of each other.


“So if I'm understanding this correctly, you are gonna want a style with a lot of jabs and kicks to allow you to make the contact needed to administer a shock without leaving you in any form of grapple. Get in, get out, move on. That's pretty similar to what I've been teaching Midoriya. But something tells me you're not really the stealthy type...You're going for billboard heroics right? Not underground?”


“Oh, yeah, I guess so. I hadn’t even considered underground heroics if I'm honest. I've been told I'm kinda a big, loud, personality. Plus underground tends to be a lot of like, being strategic, and doing stakeouts, and infiltrations, and stuff like that. And I don’t think I'm cut out for that kind of big brain work, so yeah, I think traditional heroics is more my speed.”


“Yeah that tracks. Okay we can lean into that then. Instead of trying to be sneaky, you can make yourself into a distraction. Use misdirection and dramatic flare to keep the bad guys looking at you while your allies do the sneaking for you. Worst case scenario if you end up surrounded you can just let the volts fly and take them all out in one go once they're close enough, right?”


Both Kaminari and Midoriya had stars in their eyes at the thought.


“Okay, that sounds bad ass. I love it! Where do we start?!” Kaminari clung to Dares arm and started bouncing up and down in excitement, Midoriya clung to the other arm doing the same. Dare rolled his eyes in mock annoyance, but secretly he was pleased by their collective enthusiasm. Kaminari's similar but far more showboaty style would be a good complement to Midoriyas, which will make him a good sparring partner. Besides which, his new temporary student wasn’t all that bad a guy. Thus far he hasn't said a thing about Dares unusual appearance or voice, and they knew he was kind to Midoriya about his quirk status, which already made him better than over half the people he had met in his life.


“If you want to learn to throw a punch, you first gotta learn how to take one. You two go ahead and assume a starting stance and we can go from there.”


“Right.” Both boys said in unison with a tiny bow of the head.

--

Several hours later, the sun had begun to set and they were done training and sparring for the day. Kaminai gathered his things and said his goodbyes and began exiting the park, and all the while Izuku kept looking up at Dare expectantly from the corner of his eyes. Once he seemed confident that Kaminari was out of ear shot, he finally said whatever had been on his mind the past five minutes or so.


“So.”


“So?”


“Are you gonna follow him like you did with me?”


“What? No. First off, I’m not trying to teach him stealth, and second off, I only agreed to sparring for a couple hours every other week, not to taking on another full time student so it would be-”


“Okay, okay, just wondering.” Izuku held his hands up in defeat. But continued looking at him as if he had more to say. A hint of a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth.


Dare took a big gulp of water from his bottle, maintaining eye contact with the shorter boy all the while. With a sigh he gave in and asked.


“Alright, spit it out. What's on your mind?”


“Nothing.”


“Zu.”


“Dare.”


They stared each other down for a moment. It was Izuku's turn to break first.


“Okay fine. It's multiple things actually. First one being, what do you think?”


“Of?”


“Of Kaminari.”


“He seems...nice.”


“You’ve said that a lot about him, even before you met him. But what do you actually think of him?”


Dare exhaled a long sigh.
“Do you really wanna know? Like the full truth?”


“Yes, please.”


“Okay. Well. I think he has good potential. He's right in saying he has a big personality, he's easy going and has a magnetic personality. He also has a solid aesthetic going already just with the hair alone, so if he has a costume designer worth half their salt he will probably do well in the popularity polls. That being said, I think he underestimates his own intelligence while simultaneously overestimating his charisma, which leads to an informal, devil-may care attitude and self-deprecating sense of humor. Which isn’t inherently bad, that will be helpful with the media and gaining a fan base, like I mentioned earlier. But will ultimately lead to trouble coping when things go too far south to joke about. I also think he is friendly, and kind, but perhaps a bit too trusting and easy to befriend, which leaves him open to be targeted for manipulation from outside influences. So if you're planning to partner up with him, then you're gonna have to be twice as vigilant to make up for that.”


“Partner up?”


“Yeah, you know, after you graduate. Sometimes newly minted heroes will start off as sidekicks to bigger names and sometimes they opt to band together in their own little groups hoping their collective experience will make up for the lack of a big name backing them. So if you and Kaminari decide to go that route. You could be like a hero duo or whatever. He would be the face of it and then you'd sneak around the back while they're distracted and take people out.” Dare shrugged. Trying his best to seem impartial and unbothered, because he was, he wasn’t jealous at all.


“Oh...I mean, that's a good idea and all, and I’m sure Kaminari would make a good partner and everything. But...Well I was kinda hoping...But I guess that wouldn't really work, because- unless it could work? But that's just more work for you and it's… I mean if you think it would or wouldn't work. You would know better than I could...”


Midoriya was mumbling a bit and refusing to make eye contact again, that was a surefire sign that he was too nervous to say something important. So Dare put one reassuring hand on his shoulder and moved his head into his eyeline to get his attention again.


“Hey. It's okay. Deep breath and then tell me what's on your mind.”


Brilliant green eyes shone in the light of the setting sun as he looked up again, a new confidence permeating his whole face as he steeled his nerves.


“If I’m gonna have anyone as my partner then I want it to be you.”


Dare was taken aback by this. He literally took a step or two backwards as if the force of the words alone was enough to make him lose his balance. A million thoughts and a web of conflicting emotions passed through his mind all at once.


His first instinct was to accept that proposal immediately. Years of loneliness and isolation had made him desperate to have someone who was in any way guaranteed to stay by his side. And if he could choose anyone in the world to have with him, it would be Izuku, hands down. He knew he would have his back, and if he was already showing this much improvement after just a few months then he would surely surpass his skill in no time. But for all the reasons he wanted to say yes, there were all the more reasons he shouldn't.


Dare had been alone all this time for a reason. It wasn’t safe to bring other people into this. The missions he went on were often ones no one else could do, Izuku couldn't heal or resurrect himself the way Dare could. And even if he stayed behind for the more dangerous missions, what would happen if his captors ever caught back up with him? His only options would be cutting all ties and leaving in the dead of night, which would be devastating for a partner, or asking him to come with him, which he could never ask of him. And even worse, if his enemies found out about him, and they captured or threatened Izuku? He would never forgive himself if he got hurt because of him. Their current level of involvement was already risky enough.


But beyond all of that, there was another. Far more obvious reason why that wouldn't work out.


“Zu...You are gonna be an amazing hero one day. The best. Whether you go billboard and become number 1, or if you go underground and shake the underbelly clear of all its skeletons and cobwebs. I know, from the bottom of my heart, that you were born to be a hero.” Midoriya started tearing up, and it looked like Dare was in danger of being engulfed in a sobbing hug any second now. So he had to drop the other shoe before he lost his resolve.


“But I’m not.” He put a firm grip on both of Midoriya's shoulders and tried his best to maintain eye contact to ensure Izuku really heard what he was saying.


“I’m not a hero, Izuku. I never was, and I never will be. I'm a vigilante. The things I do are against the law, of both man and nature sometimes.” He attempted to lighten the mood with a small joke because Izuku was already crying. “I can’t be your partner because I can't be a hero like you. And I won't let you give up your dreams and your potential to become a vigilante like me. You're destined for more than that, far, far more than I could ever offer you...Do you understand?”


Midoriya gave a tearful nod, followed a second later by a determined shake.


“No, I- What if I could do both?”


“Both?”


“Don’t underground heroes work with vigilantes all the time?”


“Yeah, sure, some underground heros will have spontaneous team ups on rare occasions when they both arrive on the scene at the same time. It's against the law for a hero to not at least attempt to arrest known vigilantes, so the cool ones will intentionally allow themselves to get distracted long enough to let us get away once the job is over. But that's a whole different scenario. That's not any kind of official partnership.”


“But it could be, like a secret one.”


“And when someone notices the same vigilante showing up on the scene of all your missions and getting away every single time? That's a corruption scandal at best and an aiding and abetting arrest at worst. You could lose your hero license just as fast as you earned it.”


“Okay fine, but what if you didn’t go on my hero missions with me, what if I just went on your vigilante missions with you.”


“What?”


“I could have two aliases. One I use for my official hero career and another I use to help you. Different costumes and gear too so no one would recognize me.”


“It's still too risky. Not to mention the fact that you can’t be in two places at once.”


“What if I could be?”


“You aren't making any sense Zu.”


Izuku pulled out the journal he had started for all his blueprints and ideas for future support gear. Flipping it to a page that seemed well worn, as if it was erased and reworked a hundred times. And on it a diagram for a complex looking mask.


“Okay so I had a few ideas. Kinda working on the concept of being a sort of ‘guy in the chair’ figure. There's still a few holes in the mechanics so just bear with me a minute. Basically, using a two way comm system, some micro cams, and possibly a drone or two I can be fed a feed of both your perspective and an overhead view of a fight, then I could basically act as a second set of eyes to watch your back as well as provide you with real time quirk analysis to help you come up with a good counter attack. I could also hack into camera feeds or pull up maps or whatever else you need to help you out. It would be like a more advanced and personal version of your current alert system. You obviously wouldn't need me all the time, but whenever you're doing something particularly tricky, I could offer you backup without actually needing to be there in person.”


“I don’t know Zu, you could still wind up in trouble if you're caught.”


“I won't be caught. I can use a voice modifier so anyone who overhears me wouldn't be able to recognize me, though I doubt they would anyway, I'm probably gonna be underground and I'm pretty plain sounding.”


“It’s still not a guarantee.”


“I don’t care. It's a risk I'm willing to take. I want to help you. If it makes you feel any better, I can make the whole system two way, so you can be there to back me up on my riskier mission too. We can use earpieces and voice mutters so no one else can hear us talking to each other. Look.” Izuku flipped to the next page showing a close up version of the mask from a different angle. “I was already planning on using this mute system in my mask so I could think out loud without giving away my ideas or my position, adding in a voice changer and a comm system wouldn’t be any extra work. We can even put in a distress signal so if either one of us is in deep shit it will alert the other...I want to work with you. And if we can't do that in any official, in person, capacity, then this is the next best thing.”


Dare was running out of reasons to say no. Or at least reasons he could say out loud. This hardly seemed the time to spring the whole tragic backstory on him; not to mention, telling Zu that he might need to skip town at the drop of a hat at literally any moment would only stress him out and make him worry. And that was a strain on their relationship that he just wasn't ready to put there willingly. On the other hand, he felt guilty, hiding so much from someone who put so much of his trust and faith into him. It was a lie of omission, a lie meant to protect him, but a lie nonetheless.


He took a deep breath. Prepared himself to tell Izuku everything, to lay out all the reasons why associating himself any further with Dare, even on a secretive basis like this, was a horrible idea. But then Izuku grabbed his hands, he held them tightly as if they would fly away if he let go, and he looked at him as if he were the most precious creature on this planet.


“Please, Dare. I don’t want anyone else as my partner, I want you. Let me help you.”


And with that all the resolve in his body dissolved like popsicles on a warm summer's day. He was powerless to say no to Izuku when he looked at him like that. He found himself saying
“Okay. If you’re sure you really want me, then I’m yours.” And he was wrapped in a warm embrace before he had the time to fully process his words at all.

It wasn’t until several hours later, staring at the roof of his van as he laid on his mattress that night, that Dare considered the possible alternate meaning of their words. “I don’t want anyone else as my partner, I want you.” He knew he meant his hero partner. A partner in crime and in justice. But could he maybe also mean…


No.


Dare physically shook the idea from his head. That was beyond wishful thinking. That is not at all what he meant by that. That would be ridiculous. Dare had never actually asked Izuku what his orientation was, but whatever his preferences were, it would be impossible for Dare to fit the description; at least in any kind of permanent capacity. You can't be attracted to someone who doesn't have a permanent form for you to be attracted to. Can you?


Besides, it would never work, Dare was too selfish, too broken, and too unstable to be with anyone in that way. Much less, someone like Izuku. He deserved far more than any kind of life they could give him. At a bare minimum, he needed someone who was real.


So Dare buried the thought away, deep in a little box in his heart. He was his friend, his protege, and his partner. That was enough. It had to be.

--

Midoriya had a hard time trying to sleep that night. He looked up at his ceiling, the ancient, plastic, glow in the dark stars took the rough form of constellations he imagined in his youth. The same words repeating in his mind over and over again.

“I'm yours.”


Every time he heard the words repeated in his head they seemed to mean something different.


I'm yours. In what capacity did he mean that? Context clues say it's as a partner; a business oriented, hero/vigilante partner; as they discussed. But as the words echoed over and over again it felt like more than that. Dare was more than that to him, he was also his friend, and his mentor, and his lifeline…


In the short few months of knowing each other, so much of his life revolved around, or was the direct result of, Dare and his positive influence. He had even made a new friend and an acquaintance or two, but he wouldn't have his job or be attending his new online courses where he met them if Dare hadn’t convinced him he was capable of it first. He was now stronger, both physically and mentally, thanks to him. He was happier, safer, more confident.


He owed so much to Dare, which is why he wanted so desperately to return the favor and be there for him in turn. To prove he was worth all the time and effort it took to train him by using that training to be of use to him. It would make sense, he thought, for Dare to say Izuku was theirs. That he was accepting him for this position, that he was his guy in a chair, his eyes in the sky, his protege. But that wasn’t what he said, he said “I'm yours.”


What does that mean? What could it mean? Is it possible he was offering up the potential for something more? For a partnership of a different kind? The way he was looking at him when he said it, like Izuku was the only other person on the planet…


UUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHH

Midoriya groaned loudly into his pillow in frustration. He was overthinking this. He knew he was overthinking this. He was reading into things too much, and imagining false depth behind glances that surely aren't actually as meaningful as he was remembering them in his mind's eye.


He always did this. Imagined a world where people cared about him more or in different ways from the way they actually did. Rose colored glasses of wishful thinking and desperation is what made him believe Kacchan still gave a shit about him for all those years. He wouldn't let his delusions allow him to believe he had a chance when he didn't. Never again.


They were friends, and they were partners. Those were things Dare had said out loud in his own words, so he knew they were true. Everything else was just a fantasy.


He locked that fantasy up in the highest tower of the most impenetrable fortress of his mind, assigned a dragon of his insecurity to guard it, never to see the light of day again.


He wasn’t really his. Not in that way. And he never would be. But that was okay, because the ways he was his were already so much more than he ever thought he would get from someone. The him from two and a half months ago would never have thought he would have not one but two friends. That he would have a partner to help him reach his goals as a future hero. He was so lucky to have these things now. This was the time to be grateful for the miracles he was already granted, not to get stingy and ask for more.


He took a deep breath to steel his resolve. And fell asleep with a smile on his face.

 

Chapter Text

1 month later

It was a slow day at The Tool Shed. Rainy weather tended to scare off most construction work, and most people thought twice about buying electronics in bad weather, so in the three hours Midoriya had been here, he had seen only two customers. The boss informed him, the last time things were slow like this, that he could work on some homework or something at the help desk if he wanted; so long as he still paid enough attention to greet and help any customers that did come in.


He didn't have any homework per se, in fact, he was a few months ahead of his course work in most subjects at this point. But he did have other projects to work on. So he went to work refining the blueprints for his gear. As always, muttering under his breath without realizing.


“Lets see, the 3D mock up looked pretty good but I'm still not sure what material to use for the outer casing. It will need to be durable enough to hold up in combat but anything too heavy would be a literal pain in the neck to wear on your face all day.” A list of possible material was scrawled down in the margins, after a moment's consideration he circled one of them and moved on to the next problem. “I should have enough saved up to buy whatever materials I can't get scrap for, but where am I gonna actually build this thing? I'm gonna need actual equipment and a welding bench for parts of this, and I can't just go to the schools workshop because they would differently ask me what I'm working on, and I can't have anybody see-”


“What cha working on?!”


Midoriya reeled back in his chair, caught in the crosshairs of Hatsume’s too close eyes. He had met her once or twice before, she was the pink haired, eccentric, regular Kaminari had warned him about, and despite being rather loud, she was also oddly good at sneaking up on people.


“A-a hey, Hatsume, nice to see you again. What can I do for you?”


“Yeah, yeah, whatever,. What's that?” Hatsume brushed off his attempt to re-direct and zoomed in her quirk on the book still in Midoriya's hand.


“It's nothing.” He said flipping it shut to avoid her prying eyes.


“Nothing yet, you mean. I heard you need workshop space right?”


“Uhhh.” Midoriya wasn't sure how much Hatsume had heard or seen, so he scanned his memory to see if he had said anything particularly damning.


“Well I've got a workshop! You can use mine!”


What a convenient and tempting offer. But there was still the issue of having her learn too much.


“It's like a mask right? Some sort of support gear? I saw comm systems and voice mufflers that's a smart combination for a mumbler like yourself. Have you considered some form of recording system so you can review your notes after a fight? Or perhaps an auto transcription so you wont need to write things by hand anymore, wastes too much time.”


Welp. She already knew the basis of what it was, and had managed to make a few helpful suggestions, so I guess there's no use in hiding it at this point.


“Thats- thats actually a really good idea Hatsume, thanks for the suggestion.”


She got entirely too close to his face again as if measuring him with her eyes.


“Not a problem. It's for your hero costume right? For when you and Kami get into UA?”


“Kami?”


“The zappy blonde boy. Full names take too long to say, so I just call him Kami.”


“Right, does- does that mean I’m...Mido?”


“Naw, your Midas. On account of all the golden ideas you try to hide from me in your sketchbook. Why so stingy Midas?” Hatsume made grabby hands towards his sketches.


Midoriya didn't let her grab the book, but he did reopen it to the sketch of his mask, she already knew about it anyway, so if he was gonna use her workshop, the least he could do was show her what he’d be building.


Five minutes of back and forth later and Midoriya had a finalized design with even more features than he had initially planned on. With the flip of a switch on the side of the mask he would be able to turn on an auto transcription feature that would leave a record of what he was saying on his computer for him; a digital version of his hero analysis books, which could be automatically encoded for security. A switch on the other side turned off his mute function, in case he had to speak to civilians or other heroes not patched into the same comm system as him. Similar buttons hidden near his ears would also turn on or off the voice changer and the distress beacon features. A filtration system would protect him from smoke and poisonous gasses, making it useful for rescue missions. All great ideas. And aesthetically, it would cover the bottom half of his face, leaving his eyes uncovered for visibility, and be painted a sleek dark green color that would blend in with both the shadows and the trees.


It was perfect.


With a curled fist over his lips to physically bar him from muttering out loud, Midoriya considered which changes to this design he should make for Dares mask as well. For starters, he wouldn’t need the transcriptions feature, so he could take that out in favor of other features. He would need a visor of some sort, so he could pull up the visuals Midoriya would be sending him of maps and camera feeds and such. Perhaps a one way mirror effect? Allowing him to see out but preventing others from seeing him. Dare always seemed...jumpy, for lack of a better word, about other people seeing or recognizing him. It seemed like an odd fear for someone whose appearance changed at least slightly on a near daily basis, but the reasons for his discomfort were irrelevant. Perhaps a full helmet as opposed to a mask. That would cover his distinctive hair as well, allowing for further concealment of his identity as well as allow Midoriya to add extra micro cams to get a full 360 view of the fight instead of just a front facing one. He could warn him if someone was coming up behind him that way.


What should it look like? A quick glance around his surroundings for inspiration revealed that Hatsume had already wandered off, but had left her phone number on a scrap of paper for him. Later that night, when he was less distracted, Midoriya would realize this was the first time a girl had ever given him their number, and he would blush about it and bury his head in his pillows. But for now he was a man on a mission.


He spotted the tiny desk calendar sitting on the help desk, a cartoon image of a daredevil making a daring leap on a flaming motorcycle. His eyes went wide at just how perfect it was, of course Dare, the self proclaimed reckless fighter, should have a daredevils helmet. Maybe they could even make some updates to the rest of his costume too. His current one had definitely seen better days, it was more patches than original material at this point anyway. He would for sure be bringing this up at tomorrow's training session.

--

It was getting late, their training had ended long ago, Dare had insisted on walking Izuku home, and he had, in turn, insisted that he spend the night for his troubles. This wasn't the first time he had stayed at his house, but it was the first time he would be doing it on purpose. The first was after Zu had gotten some sort of limited edition comic he was really excited about, so Dare had come over to have another comic reading binge, and it was already 3am by the time either of them looked up from their stacks.


Zu had apparently secured a workshop space with one of their frequent customers at work, and was very excited about having the space and equipment to start building his support gear in. His school had a workshop he was allowed to use as well, but he said he didn't want to work on any of their support gear there for security reasons. Which was smart, but Dare still wasn't sure how building it in a customer's workshop would be any more secure. Zu had reassured him that Hatsume was only concerned about the what and the how of building things and couldn't care less about the who or the why, so they would be in the clear. They trusted him, and the Kaminari situation had taught him that generally speaking, he could trust the people Zu trusted. He would keep an eye on it, but willed himself not to stress about it too much.


“That mask is gonna look really bad ass on you Zu. I knew you'd be good at this stuff.”


“Thanks Dare.”


Dare noticed his ears had a tint of pink on the edges. He was getting better at accepting Dare’s compliments without going completely red in the face, but he was never completely without blush. It was cute. Wait, no, bad Dare, not cute.


“You- You could maybe use this as a portfolio piece for the support course at UA too. Show them how you built it for the support course, and then give them the demo during your test for the hero course.”


“You think?”


“Yeah, in fact you could fill your portfolio with everything else you make for your support gear too, give them the mechanical and the practical. I'm pretty sure no one has done that before, might give you an edge. You’ll need to fill out the forms ahead of time so they let you bring it all in with you. But it shouldn’t be a problem.”


“That's a great idea!” He said with stars in his eyes.


“Come to think of it, if you have the time, you could even make something for Kaminari too, show them you have the ability to build with other peoples quirks and fighting styles in mind, not just yourself. Diversify the portfolio and all that. I'm sure he would appreciate the help too.”


“You're a genius!”


“No, that's you Zu, I'm just here as the voice of common sense and reason.”


He had that ‘too nervous to bring it up’ look on his face again.


“Is there something else you wanted to show me?” he asked, fishing for whatever was currently worrying the freckled face of his partner.


“Yeah, actually, but I don't know if you're gonna like it, or just find it offensive.”


“Why would I be offended by your support gear?”


“Cause it's not for me. It's for you.”


Dare gave him a puzzled look before reaching over and flipping the page. It was a helmet.


Izuku gave him the run down of the design, starting with what was the same from his own mask, and then all the ways it was different. Dare wasn’t sure how to feel about the fact that Zu had picked up on his nervousness around being recognized; or how that was half the reason he went for a full helmet as opposed to a simple mask. The 360 camera and extra protection being the other half.


“From an aesthetics standpoint I modeled it after those old school daredevil helmets that stunt cyclists would wear. I just thought it made sense, the pun of your name aside, you said you were kinda reckless in your fighting style, so, ya know. I'm not sure if you have a codename for your vigilante work or anything. I mean, I'm sure you do by now. But if not, then like Dare Devil might be a cool one, if you want.”


“I don’t actually, I just don't tell people a name at all when they ask.”


“Oh, well, you don't need one I guess, but if you wanted something to tell people… There's more actually.” He flipped to the next page where a sketch for a whole new suit existed. “Please don't be mad, but I noticed your current suit is kinda, well, threadbare. So I figured if you're gonna need a new one soon anyway, then this would be your chance to go for something a little different. I took inspiration from your current suit, as well as a few prominent Daredevils from back in the day, to come up with this. I made sure there were lots of pockets and stuff to carry all your gear and first aid supplies. It's also shock absorbent, fire resistant, and difficult to cut, so it should help offer extra protection”


He couldn’t help but laugh at that. Izuku seemed confused and perhaps a little hurt by his laughter, so Dare did his best to reassure him.


“I'm sorry, I'm not laughing at you, I promise. It's just...You're going to such extreme measures to make sure I don't get hurt. And like, that's kinda the point. Ya know?”


“You…” Izukus eyes went wide with worry. “You want to get hurt on your patrols?”


“Well no. I don't want to. But if anyone is going to be hurt it should be me. That's what I’m there for, to take the damage for other people.”


“Dare.” Izuku had a stern look on his face, like he was about to chastise him.


“It's fine Zu, It only hurts me for a second and then it fixes itself.”


The squint of a thousand questions entering his head at once threatened to permanently wrinkle the area between Izuku's eyes. So with a deep sigh Dare gave in. This was his partner and his best friend. If he could trust anyone with knowing how his quirk worked it would be him.


“Okay. Listen, I'm gonna tell you something I’ve never told anyone before. I’m sure you've worked some of this out on your own anyway. But I need you to promise me you'll never tell anyone about this. And as much as I know you will want too, please don't write about this either. No one can know. Do you understand?”


Izuku offered up his pinky for a promise, a serious look on his face. Dare accepted it and then dropped their hands down onto his knee, pinkys still entwined. He was nervous about this, and the casual contact was a nice reminder that Izuku wasn’t going to hurt him.


“So my quirk. It's...I’m not actually sure what it is, or how it works, or why. But what I do know is…” He struggled to find the best way to phrase this so it would make sense to him. “So basically, anytime a part of my body gets damaged, my quirk generates a new, undamaged piece to take its place. It's not really healing par say, nor is it really limb regeneration because it's not like the old part gets removed...Well unless it gets chopped off, but that's a different story. Point is, the old damaged parts just morph, or reform or whatever, into the new part sans the damage. So while it does hurt me, it's not permanent, and it won't affect me for anywhere near as long as it would anyone else. So that's why it's important that I'm the one who gets hurt and not anyone else.”


“So...So like a shapeshifting quirk that is triggered by injury?”


“Kinda? But also not really. Because I don't get to choose the shape it takes like a normal shapeshifting quirk. So far as I can tell, the appearance is completely randomized. I think it's because of my lack of stable genetic coding? Like, my quirk can't tell who I'm supposed to be, so it just makes things at random?”


Izuku had that thousand questions look again. So Dare just kept talking about what he did know, hoping something in there would answer his most pressing concerns.
“Or maybe I have too many genetic codes? I'm not sure actually. No fingerprints, palms change each time my hands do, each hair on my head reads as belonging to a different person. Blood type comes up as unknown, but can apparently be used similarly to O type, in that it's universally donatable...I'm both everyone and no one as far as my DNA is concerned.”


“That's...that's really cool actually. I guess that makes you great for special ops stuff right? Cause you're basically untrackable.”


Dare considered for half a second telling him all about how useful that's been. But decided against it. He doesn't need to know the whole story, it would only compromise him further. He was just gonna tell him things directly related to his quirk. His partner should know these things, especially if he was gonna take it upon himself to design gear for him. So instead he said,
“Yeah, that's true.”


Izuku flexed the fingers of the hand not currently attached to Dares, clearly itching to write things down, but resisting the urge because of his promise. Dare appreciated the effort, and in an effort to distract him, decided to tell him more.


“There's also the uh, immortality factor…”


“The what now?”


“Immortality factor. That whole, ‘replacing the damaged parts’ thing goes for internal organs as well. Anytime my heart stops or other things fail, I get a new one of those as well. It takes longer to generate the more complex pieces, so sometimes it takes a while...I guess it's not really immortality either, cause I do die, I just don't stay dead.”


Izuku's eyes were so wide at the realization that Dare had died before he thought they might fall out of his skull. Yeah, that maybe was a bit much to think about, so he shifted the topic once again, to a slightly less bewildering aspect of his quirk.


“I kinda mentioned it earlier, but I can regenerate parts from scratch if I have too. Like if I lose an arm or an eye or something I can make a new one. But that takes a lot of time and energy, so I tend to pass out for a few days when that happens. So I guess your anti-slice fabric idea is good for that aspect.”


Izuku looked a little pale.


“Do...do you need a minute, Zu? Some water or...like a nap or something?”


“Yes please.” came out in a shaky whisper.


He wasn't sure which part he was saying yes to, so Dare gave him all three. He gave him a water bottle from his mini fridge, and then moved to a chair, so Izuku could have free reign of the mattress they were sitting on. He wanted to ask if he was okay, but figured talking would be counter intuitive to the whole ‘leaving him alone for a minute’ thing. So instead he just gave him a concerned glance from across the van and waited for him to say or do something on his own accord whenever he was ready.


Izuku sat there going on a facial journey through the six stages of grief. A blanket wrapped around his shoulder, taking shallow sips of water every few minutes. For what felt like hours but was in truth only 30 minutes he mentally worked through his thoughts.


Once Izuku seemed to find his voice again, that trademarked look of determination flashed across his face and his eyes met Dares from across the Van.


“Dare, I'm gonna ask you something and I want you to tell me the truth about it. Do you promise?”


“I promise.”


“On the day that we met...Did you purposefully reset your face to avoid scaring me when you found me again?”


Dare wasn’t sure what he expected him to ask, what he expected his reaction to the truth of his quirk to be, but it wasn’t that. A few bewildered blinks later Dare finally answered him.


“Yeah, of course I did. I should have done it before I approached you the first time, but I hadn't realized how bad the face had gotten till I caught my reflection in the pond.”


Izuku was crying now. Dare didn’t know why, but he was. Dare said nothing, unsure what it was he had said that upset his partner so much. Zu got off the mattress and knelt down in front of Dares chair, tears still glistening in his eyes, but a stern look to his face all the same.


“Don’t ever do that again.” He said with surprising force.


Dare's head tilted to the head in confusion, he couldn't exactly stop his quirk from working if that's what he meant. Izuku put one hand on Dares face to realign their eye contact and then spoke up again.


“Don’t ever hurt yourself on purpose to make me, or anyone else, more comfortable. You look the way you look, and if anyone else has a problem with that then screw them. Getting hurt on the job is one thing, but doing it to yourself isn’t okay.”


Dare wasn’t sure why it mattered, it's not like it would hurt for long and it wasn't gonna leave any marks behind or anything. But the look on Izuku's face said trying to argue would be pointless. He couldn't really promise he'd never need to do a reset, he was still on the run after all, but he could promise not to do it for other reasons.


“Okay?”


Izuku held out a pinky finger, his brow furrowed into a serious glare.


“Promise?”


“Promise.”


“Good. Now tell me what you think of the suit and helmet so I can put a final design together.”

And with that, the mood was lifted and they were right back to discussing design as if nothing had happened. Dare appreciated it, the serious face and the risky topic had him feeling a little anxious for a moment there. But once again, Zu proved he never had a reason to be nervous around him. He could be honest with him about what he was and he would never think any less of him for it. If anything, it seemed like clearing the air between them about the taboo topic of Dares quirk made things even easier between them. He wouldn't have to hide it from him anymore, meaning they could spar even harder and Dare wouldn't need to turn away whenever he got hit.


He should have just told him sooner, now that he had done it, he couldn't think of any good reason why he hadn’t already. This part of him wasn’t the dangerous part to know.


By night's end, they had finalized the ideas for Dares' new look. And had started brainstorming some costume ideas for Zu as well. Izuku fell asleep face down on his bed, one arm flopped over the side of his bed. A spare futon was set up for Dare on the floor next to his bed, and by the time he too fell asleep, the fingers of his outstretched hand were left brushing against Izuku's fingertips. If either of them noticed this when they woke up in the morning, they didn't mention it.

--

 

Since his hero costume wasn't something he would need or want to keep secret, Midoriya decided to consult his other friends for their input. Kaminari and Hatsume agreed to meet him at a coffee shop after work so they could all brainstorm together. Costuming wasn't Hatsumes area, but she could help come up with ways to incorporate other support gear into the overall design, and her overall eye for detail would still be useful. Meanwhile, as a fellow hero hopeful and arguably the most fashion forward person he knew, Kaminari could help determine what actually looked cool, and what was only cool to the nerds. It was a small focus group to run his ideas by, but a good one. In exchange for their help, Midoriya would be buying the drinks, as well as helping Kaminari design his costume, and owing Hatsume one free guinea pig on the project of her choice. It was a potentially deadly offer, but between her help on this, and offering up her workshop space for him to actually build stuff in, it was the least he could do.


Midoriya spread out the three sketches he had made as well as a few of the support item ideas he had come up with.


“Okay so here's what I've got so far. They all have their benefits and downsides to them, so I'm really not sure what to go with.”


“Let's start with the gear!” Hatsume said enthusiastically, her eyes roaming all over the pages as if they were treasure maps.


“I had a feeling you'd say that.” Kaminari said with a smirk, “But in this case, I actually agree. Knowing what sort of techniques and vibe you're going for with the gear will help steer us in the right direction for the style.”


Midoriya pulled out the 3d printed mockup of his mask out of his bag. He didn't plan on telling Kaminari about all of its functions, but it was gonna be part of his costume, so people were gonna see it, and the more obvious features like the voice changer was gonna be obvious anyway. They just don't need to know who was at the other end of the comm system.


“So this is just a prototype, but this is gonna be what my mask looks like. Thanks again, Hatsume, for helping me build this.”


“Just call me Mei, it saves time.”


“Right, thanks Mei.” Midoriya refused to make eye contact as he continued on. “Anyway, this part is kinda the branching off piece that I based all the other ideas on, but it's basic enough in appearance that it could really fit into a variety of other styles with minimal tweaking. So.”


He placed it down on the table so Kaminari could pick it up and take a look.


“As far as the rest of the gear goes. I've got a couple options, I don't know how many of these I'm actually gonna build, but I brought them all along to see what you guys think.”


This was a small fib, it wasn't all of his ideas, but some of them were tie ins to his plans with Dare, so he left those behind. These were the pieces he planned on using for his hero work.


“Basically what I did is, I thought about some of the most useful and versatile quirks the pros have, and then thought about ways to get similar results from support gear.”


“If you can’t make your own quirks, store bought is fine.” Kaminari joked.

Hatsume cackled at the joke a little too loudly, but neither of the other two minded, they were used to her lack of volume control by now.


“So you guys know midnight?”


“Oh god yes.” Kaminari said a little too enthusiastically.


“She has that knock out gas, which is super useful for ending a fight peacefully, but it really only works on dudes for some reason? Sleeping gas isn't exactly the most original concept, but it's useful and easy enough to make.”


“Are we thinking localized or widespread with the gas cloud?” Hatsume asked as she eyed the wrist piece Midoriya sketched for the idea.


“Both actually. I'm thinking a default setting of a much smaller dosage, having the dispenser on my wrist means I can get in close and release it directly in someone's face. Which should minimize the risk of accidentally knocking out my allies or any civilians. But if I pull out this safety pin in the back.” He pointed to the sketch for reference as he spoke. “Then it will release a much larger cloud all at once, in case I get surrounded. My mask will filter it out, so I don't knock myself out in the process. Unfortunately there's not much I can do for allies and civilians in that case, so I'll only use that as a last resort or if I know for sure there's no bystanders around.”


“That's kinda like how I'm using my quirk now, huh?” Kaminari asked, “Keep it close for the most part, and then go big only when I have too.”


“Yeah. Which reminds me I had an idea for you too. Remind me when we're done talking about this stuff, I don't wanna go too off track.”


“Aw, dude, you made me something?”


“Well, not yet. But I want to, if you're interested.”


“Very. But what else have you got for you?”


“Okay, so next I thought about all the different methods the pros use for detaining criminals. People like Eraserhead and Kamui Woods wrap people up to keep them from escaping, and that's great and all, but capture weapons tend to be kinda big and cumbersome. I specialize more in like, mobility and stealth so having a net launcher or capture scarf would kinda be counterintuitive. So I needed a smaller means of catching and detaining people, and I came up with this.”


Midoriya shuffled some stuff out of the way to find the correct page.


“Magnetized bolos.” He said pantomiming the way a bolo is thrown to help sell his idea. “They can be thrown, allowing me to slow down criminals as they try to escape. But they can also just be used as makeshift cuffs if need be. The powerful magnets should allow me to pin them to dumpsters or other heavy metal things once activated, so anyone who doesn't have some form of super strength should be pretty thoroughly detained, but they are small and light enough to not be a deterrent to the rest of my work.”


“Simple and effective. But what if they were Zappy too?” Hatsume suggested with a feral grin.


“Oh, you're stealing my steez now?” Kaminari said with mock offense.


“I did think about it, but I think the gas will be an effective enough means of knocking people out that tazing them as well would just be overkill. I might add that feature later if I need to, but for now, minimizing the number of buttons and codes I have to memorize to turn features on and off seems more important.”


“How do you plan on turning these things on and off?” Kaminari asked curiously.


“Well some things have physical buttons or switches I can use on the equipment itself, but other stuff needs to be done remotely, and it would be a good idea to have remote backups for some of the more manual gear as well, just in case. So that's why I have this.”


This piece was a gray area in his equipment, he planned on using it for both his hero work and his vigilante work, just like his mask. So he had to be sure not to go into full detail of its many functions, and just talk about how it would connect to his hero gear.


“So if the gas dispenser is gonna go on my right wrist, then this bracer is gonna be on my left. This panel flips up revealing a small screen and a keypad and will be connected digitally to all of my gear so I can control things from it like a tiny computer.”


The fact that he could also hack into local electronics and security cameras would be left unsaid. As would the infrared scanner to locate hidden combatants. They didn't need to know that part.


“Sweet.” Kaminari tried to get a closer look, but the sketch was swiped from his hands by Hatsume who was pouring over the design enthusiastically.


“Hey,” He protested before shrugging and grabbing the next design from the pile. “Okay so what about these guys?...Wait a minute, are- Are these freaking moon shoes!?” His face lit up in childlike wonder.


Midoriya chuckled a little at his reaction and nodded.


“Pretty much. But a little more advanced? I wanted to have a means to increase my mobility that would complement my parkour skills. I figured shoes that could somehow increase my speed, height, and airtime would allow me to pull off more advanced stunts as well as help me get to harder to reach areas faster for rescue missions and villain pursuits.”


He would be making a pair for Dare too, and their ability to help infiltrate bases was an added plus for him, but Midoriya left this part unsaid.


“That's the coolest shit I’ve ever seen. How does it work?”


“I actually wanted to ask Hatsume about that. I've considered a few possibilities, from bursts of air to jet propulsion. But both of those things seem potentially loud and flashy, and I really wanna be as sneaky as possible. Any thoughts?”


“Antigravity boosters with gyroscopic stabilizers come to mind. But something tells me accessing the necessary components for that would be both pricey and a little illegal without the proper licensing. So how's about-”


Hatsume grabbed a pencil and a page and started sketching wildly, her eyes zooming in and out with her quirk as she worked. When she was done she launched into a long winded and overly enthusiastic speil that only Midoriya was able to keep up with. The gist of it being soles made of a durable by springy substance, designed to build up kinetic energy putting a bit more spring and force behind each consecutive kick or jump. He could either build up the momentum exponentially as time went on, or release the energy all at once for a super strong burst, for really difficult jumps or if he truly needed to end a fight quickly.


“This is incredible Mei! I guess I should work on incorporating more leg work into my fight style too, so I can utilize these to their full potential.” Midoriya muttered under his breath for a moment about the different ways these could be used and whether it would be wise to put similar technology into some gloves for extra stability and punch power. Definitely a good idea.


His muttering was eventually cut off by Kaminari who had picked up the next sketch.


“Collapsible staff?” He guessed.


“Yeah, good eye. For the most part I tried to make gear based on versatility and practicality, and less for actual fighting, I figure it's better to stop a fight before it escalates as often as possible. But in this line of work, things are inevitably gonna lead to violence from time to time. So I have two weapons. The first is this collapsible staff, for people I want to put some distance between. And the other is a set of daggers, for more advanced hand to hand.”


“What do the daggers do?” Hatsume asks with a wide grin.


“Nothing...Sometimes a knife is just a knife.”Hatsume visibly deflated at this.


“Well that's boring.” She said with a shrug. “Is that everything?”


“That's all the gear, yeah.”


This was a lie, but the rest of the gear was a secret that only he and Dare got to hear about.


“Awesome, does that mean I get to hear about my thing now?” Kaminari bounced in his seat a little with excitement, the caffeine clearly starting to get to him.


“Oh right!” Midoriya reached into his bag and pulled out the sketches he had made for Kaminari. He had made three possible shapes, but the functionality was the same for all three.


“So it's kinda three items in one. Or possibly four? Three and a half? Anyway, to put it simply, they’re gauntlets, which you can use your quirk to electrify. With help from Mei and practice on your part, I think we can make it so it pools all the electricity around you into the gauntlets allowing you to use them as a taser, as well as making your hits in general a little harder and less hazardous to your own hands. It should also minimize the risk of you accidentally shocking people you bump into, because most of the voltage will be redirected to the gauntlets.”


“Dude. This is so freaking cool! What else?” Kaminaris eyes were sparkling with excitement already, causing Midoriya to swell with pride at a job well done.


“Magnets, I thought about it while making my magnetized bolos. But using the charge to magnetize the gloves means you'll be able to pull metal to you or otherwise use the grip to climb metal structures. If we also do the same to the shoes of your hero costume, you should, in theory, have no problem scaling any building with a metal frame or attaching yourself to vehicles.”


“Like I'm god damn spiderman?!” Kaminari smiled with a wide open mouth, little giggles of enthusiasm bursting out as he clutched the design closer to himself.


“Not exactly, you still can't just walk on walls, but it'll make it much much easier to climb. And that's just the gauntlet functions.” Midoriya flipped the page over to show him the other modes.


“So by knocking the gauntlets together like this,” He pantomimed holding his arms together in front of himself in a block. “It will activate shield mode. And these pieces here will expand to form a metal shield in front of you. The shield itself can also be electrified if you want, so anyone who tries to hit you will be shocked instead.”


“Dude this is incredible!...But why don't you have a shield?”


“You're the decoy, remember? Your job is to attract the bad guys to you, make them think you're an easy target, and then knock them out. You need the extra protection because you're trying to get them to come after you. I don’t need a shield, because if I'm doing my job right I shouldn't be getting hit at all.”


“That's a good point, I guess. Are these other sketches just the same thing with different shield shapes?”


“Pretty much, but there's also one more feature.”


“There's more?!”


“Disk launcher!” Mei said enthusiastically having zeroed her eyes in on the one feature Midoriya didn't mention yet from the design.


“Pretty much,” Midoriya confirmed with a chuckle. “I was thinking about that thing you said, about not being able to aim your electricity once it leaves your body, and I figured we should maybe try to find a way to fix that. So-”


Mei cut him off, by yanking the page away from them. So Midoriya just flipped over one of the other variants to continue his explanation.


“The disk provides targets your electricity will be naturally drawn to, by attaching them to the enemy you can send out volts knowing they will hit your targets instead of lashing out indiscriminately. If you send out multiple targets the electricity should arch between the two points allowing you to hit multiple targets at once. You could use it to even set traps ahead of time, by setting them up in alleys or hallways and sending the volts to them as they go past, like a tripwire. So now you have a long range, and a stealth option, that doesn't put you or others at risk.”


“Dude. I freaking love you. You're the best. I've decided to stan for life. You can’t stop me.” Kaminari gave little bows from his seat, raising his arms up and down with each bow as if he were praising a god. Midoriya turned a deeper shade of red than he ever had before, the mix of attention, praise, and declaration of love being too much to handle all at once. He let out a nervous chuckle that was a bit too loud and stilted to be genuine.


“Ha ha ha! It’s not that big a deal, really. I needed something impressive to put in my portfolio for the support course exam. I think I mentioned that was my backup if I don't make the hero course, right? Well most of my projects were for me, and I needed to show them I could make things for other people too, ya know. Show I can work with peoples quirks even if I myself don't have one. And you're really the only person I know who could use some gear. And I wanted to help you out since we are friends and all now. And you’ve been such a big help to me already, so if anything I'm just returning the favor and-”


“Midobro. Dude. You are entirely too modest. This is without a doubt the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. For real. I owe you one.”


“No, really, its fine-”


“I want in.” Hatsume cut him off.


“In? On what?”


“On these!” She clutched the sketches she had collected close to her chest. “All of these babies look so fun to make, and you've got a million of them! I want to help make some, and maybe you can help me make some of mine too. Our forces combined, we have a chance of actually having them all done in time for the entrance exam. Mine and yours. Think about it, most students are gonna show up with a sketch book and one or two complete pieces, but we could show up with a full arsenal!” She clutched at his arm like he was a life raft in a storm.


“Is that allowed?” Kaminari asked, his head tilted in consideration.


Midoriya tapped at his lips with his index finger as he considered it.


“Well, technically there's nothing in the rulebook that says you aren't allowed to collaborate on your portfolio pieces. And once actually in the class, students team up all the time. We should probably have one or two projects each that are purely our own just in case. But I see no reason why that wouldn't work.”


Not to mention, the extra help meant being done twice as fast, leaving time to work on Dares gear as well. And helping Mei with her projects would provide extra experience and inspiration he could use for future projects. Dare did say it was a good idea to make connections with support people. And a joint portofolio was about as connected as he could get.


“You know what. Yeah, I'm in. Let's do it!”


“Yes! I can’t wait! We're gonna make so many beautiful babies together!”


Patrons of the surrounding tables gave them dirty looks at Mei’s remark. Midoriya melted a little farther into the booth to avoid their judgment.


Kaminari, traitor that he is, made things even worse.


“Slow down their Mei, you gotta buy a guy dinner first before you leapt straight to the baby making. And I'm pretty sure there is a line around the block to take this guy out, so you'll need to wait your turn.”


“Ugh, I hate you both so much right now.” Midoriya grumbled in frustration at the tag team embarrassment his friends were supplying him with.


Mei snorted, ruffling his curls like an older sibling giving someone a nuggie. “No you don’t.”


She was right, he didn’t think he could ever hate them. He had exactly three friends now and he wasn’t willing to give up any of them any time soon.

The rest of their evening was spent talking about costume aesthetics. Landing on a sort of 80’s punk rocker vibe for Kaminari with a black and yellow color palette accented with red; lots of leather for insulation, and chains, both for the aesthetic, and to have extra metal to electrify if needed. For Midoriya, they had narrowed it down to two possible ideas, But he wanted Dare and his mom to help him choose a final design.


Mei and him decided they would meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays after his shifts at The Tool Shed to work on their projects in the workshop attached to her house. He was pretty sure Dare wouldn't mind, they usually used those days to work on the less physical training anyway since he was often tired after work. So making those official ‘work on support gear’ days would, if anything, be more efficient training than just working on the theory of building things. Besides which, it would give Dare two days off in the week that he wouldn't need to worry about him, so
they could do whatever it is that Dare did when Midoriya wasn't around.

The trio parted ways, bellies full of caffeine and desserts, to their respective homes. Midoriya texted Dare a play by play of the entire meeting. He had invited him along, but Dare declined the invitation. Midoriya got the impression that it wasn't a lack of wanting to go that made him say no, but a necessity not to be seen out in the world. He always seemed on edge anytime they left the beach before sunset. So Midoriya figured giving him as much detail as possible about the evening was the next best thing to actually being there.


Dare interjected his own two cents on some of the ideas they had floated, and as they got towards the end of the gear discussion he suddenly stopped replying for a while. Midoriya had made it home by this point, so he lounged in his bed waiting for him to finish whatever was currently distracting Dare. He tried his best not to be impatient, he was most likely out on patrol or something. But that thought just made him worry more. What if he was in trouble? Midoriya wished he could have a complete version of their mask and helmet so he could check in on him. Those were decidedly the first projects he would be working on.


30 minutes later he finally got a reply.


He saw the typing bubble show up and stop three times before the message actually came through.


“Wait, so Kaminari confessed to you?”


Midoriya stared at the screen in confusion before realizing what Dare was talking about.


“No, it was a joke.”


The bubbles popped up a few more times before the next reply came in.


“He said he was in line to take you on a date, and that he loved you as a joke?”


Midoriya tried his best to think of how to explain the concept of platonic flirting to Dare in a way that didn't sound weird.


“Well, he didn't say he was in the line, just implied that such a line existed. Which it doesn't, obviously, but it was a nice thing to say. Sometimes people make flirtatious jokes like that as a means of boosting their friends' confidence. They don't actually mean anything by it though.” Another minute or so passed, and just as Midoriya was contemplating sending another message to try and explain it further, Dare replied again.


“Is that something I should be doing?”


Midoriya turned bright red at the thought of Dare flirting with him, joke or no joke.


“No, you don’t have to. It's not like a necessary component of friendship, it's not even a very common one. Kaminari is just a very friendly and confident person himself, so I think he likes to do stuff like that for his own enjoyment as much as is for others' benefit. It's a personality thing.”


“I see.”


Midoriya tried to move on to the rest of the recap, typing out a long paragraph about the costuming ideas they had landed on. He sent it at the same time that Dare had texted him again.


“Did you say it back?”


Before Midoriya had a chance to ask what Dare meant, he got another text that cut off that train of thought.


“Do you wanna see a movie tomorrow?”


This was unexpected for a variety of reasons. Chief among them being that Dare had never offered to go out anywhere for anything before. Midoriya's thumbs moved quickly, worried he might change his mind if he wasn't fast enough in his reply.


“Sure. What movie?”


Another pause and four typing bubbles later he said, “They are airing this documentary about the golden age of heroes on channel 9 tomorrow night. Figured I could come over and we could watch it together. And then you can show me your designs in person, and we could ask your mom her opinions as well. I'm sure you want her input too, right?”


Ah, so they weren't going out to see a movie at all, he tried his best not to be disappointed by that. This plan seemed nice too.


“Sure. Sounds fun :)”

--

From the other side of town Dare stared at his phone as if it had personally insulted him. And in a way it had. They reminded themselves that this was a good thing. That either Kaminari or Hatsume dating Midoriya would be good for him. He deserved a partner that could take them out and treat them to all the cutesy shit he could stand. Someone who could go to the coffee shops, or to see a movie. Someone who could flirt with him, or hold his hand, and have him holding back the same hand every time. It would make him happy. And that was the initial mission statement all along, right? To add joy to his life so he wouldn't be tempted to follow the ‘advice’ of his tormentors.


So why were they feeling so disappointed? Why was he asking questions he didn't want the answer to? Why was he offering movie dates he could never actually go on, and then backpedaling it into another hangout?


He knew why. But he was gonna have to get over it. He was never gonna get what he wanted in that regard, and wishing for it was only gonna hurt him more. So he focused on the positive instead. Sending one final reply before heading out for his nightly patrol.


“Yeah, super fun.”

 

Chapter Text

Dare had seen a great number of baffling and peculiar things in his many years as a vigilante, but some nights the universe still found ways to surprise him. This was one of those nights.


His scanners had detected a pattern in the area, reports of low level perps turning themselves in to the police with no memory of why or how they had gotten there. Five of them so far spread out across three separate stations in the past month. It wasn’t a lot to go by, but Dare suspected there was a new player in town.


There was the question of whether they was a new vigilante such as himself, acting altruistically to help lighten the load of the local police force; or if this was a criminal, simply eliminating the competition with scare tactics. Either way, Dare wanted to know. Based on what little information he had so far, they either had a mind control or a memory altering quirk, possibly a combination of the two, and that was a dangerous power to have. If they were a bad guy, Dare wanted to take them down before they had the chance to get too big. And if they were a good guy, then he may be in need of Dares help.


By triangulating the areas of the cases so far, Dare determined which part of town was their usual stomping ground, and climbed to the roof of a taller building to get a lay of the land. Less than four minutes later, Dare heard the sound of a window opening directly below him. They leaned back, so they wouldn’t be spotted by whoever was stargazing at midnight, and to his surprise he saw a child crawling out of the window and onto the fire escape. The kid didn't see him, most people aren't accustomed to checking the rooflines for other people, but he was looking all around at the nearby windows and scanning the ground below. It took only a few seconds of observation to figure out what was going on. He was sneaking out.


The kid looked to be about Zu’s age, their hair was wild, fluffy, and lilac, and the bags under their eyes suggested sleep was a foreign concept to them. Welp, looks like hunting down mysterious figures would have to wait, this kid was gonna need an escort to whatever teenage nonsense they were getting into. It was a dangerous part of town, and until he figured out if this was a simple sneak about, or an actual runaway attempt, it would be irresponsible of them not to keep an eye on him.


Dare tracked them for several blocks, they didn't seem to be headed towards anything in particular, they bypassed train stations and convenience stores and kept changing directions at random intervals. Maybe they were just walking to clear their head? Dare heard sounds of struggle from a nearby alley at the same time the kid down below did. And to his shock and anxiety, instead of walking away or calling for help, the kid took off running in the direction of the fight.


The tired purple cloud arrived in the alley a few seconds before Dare did, due to his head start. A man with a knife and some form of mutation quirk had backed a woman up against the wall. Sounded like attempted robbery. When the man looked up and saw the boy with the purple hair he did his best to shoo him away.


“Get outta here kid. This doesn't concern you.”


Dare hated to admit he agreed with a criminal, but he was right, they had no business being here. The kid spoke with a monotone that made him seem almost bored of the scene before him.


“Are you having fun?”


“Wha-” The perpetrators indignant confusion was cut short. Their whole body entering into a relaxed but frozen posture, their face blank and eyes dull.


The kid smirked a little and then walked closer, listening out their demands.


“Here's what's gonna happen. You're gonna drop the knife, turn yourself in to the police, and forget you ever saw me.


And as if under hypnosis, the man seemed to do just that. Oh shit. This kid was the guy he was looking for. And so far, he looks to be on team vigilante. Once the man had exited the alley in his partial trance, the kid turned to the woman.


“Are you alright?”


“I-I’m fine, thank yo-”


The woman entered the same dazed state, and Dare held his breath. Depending on how he treats the victim they were gonna have one of two very different encounters after this.


“I’m glad you're alright. I’m gonna walk you home...Tell me your address.


The last part of his statement had the same strange echo quality to it as what he told the perp. Perhaps that was the actual brainwashing part? Dare wished Zu were here to give his two cents on how this quirk worked. The woman complied in giving her address, the boy pulled a map out of his pocket to try and find the best route. He either doesn't have a phone, or didn't bring it with him.


Dare followed the both of them, to make sure everyone found their way home safely. Once they reached the woman's address the boy spoke to the women again.


“Looks like this is your stop. It's been great...Forget you ever saw me.


The kid pulled the hood of his jacket up further to obscure his face, bumped into the woman and then took off running. Once the woman had been shoved, she seemed to be jostled out of her trance, but by the time she gained recognition of her surroundings, the kid was long gone.


Interesting.


Dare took off after the kid. The woman was home safe now, and while the shock of suddenly being in a new place wasn't the greatest condition to leave her in, seeing someone like Dare wouldn't exactly put her at ease either. Continuing to monitor the teen seemed more important at the moment.


As he followed along, Dare tried his best to formulate a plan. He had to find a way to introduce himself without spooking them into using their quirk on him. If they made him forget all about him then he would be back to square one again. What is the least threatening way to approach someone who doesn't want to be seen?


The decision was made for him. The sounds of another scuffle could be heard a few blocks down, and once again, both kids went running towards it; one on the ground and the other from the rooftops. This mugging seemed a bit more violent, it was three against one, a barrage of kicks landing on a man curled into the fetal position on the ground.


“Hey! The fuck you think your doing?” The kid yelled as he ran onto the scene. But all three men ignored him. He grabbed the shoulders of the tallest man and tried to peel him away from his victim. “I said, what do you think you're doing?”


The man answered him with a swift punch to the face. They fell back, hands reflexively moving to hold his bloody nose. Guess that meant it was Dares turn to step in.


Dare jumped off the building, it was only one story high, his ankles gave a wet crunch sound from the impact, but he'd had worse landings going into a fight. Ignoring the shifting of cartilage in his ankles he charged towards the man that threw the punch. Letting him land a punch on his left shoulder so he could use his right arm to grab the man's wrist. He twisted his body and pulled the man's arm into position so he could toss him over his shoulder. The second man pulled out a knife, aiming to slash at Dares neck. These villains weren't opposed to lethal force it seems, good to know, that means Dare would feel no remorse breaking a few of their bones.


Dare blocked the man's knife with the meat of his bicep, swinging the arm into a large arch to force his attacker to let go of the knife. Using the momentum his arm swing created, he swung into a high kick, knocking the man's face into the body of the third man making them both lose their balance. The first man had finally recovered and was standing up again.


Dare took the knife he had won from the second man out of his arm and used it to feint at the first. He was hoping the man's instinct not to get cut would cause him to back up to where Dare wanted him, away from the bewildered kid still clutching his nose on the ground. It worked.


Now that he had a bit more room to work with, he could have some real fun. All three men were on their feet and taking swings and Dare, he baited them in, then ducked just in time to have two of the men lunge at each other instead of him; a move he had seen in one of Zu’s comics.


“Ha! I can't believe that worked!” He said enthusiastically before he could help himself. He couldn't wait to tell Zu about that later, he would get a real kick out of it.


Meanwhile his attackers seemed far less amused. A fist just barely passed by his face with a bit too much wind behind it for Dare liking. Body shots he would take with no complaints, but he wanted to avoid damage to his face in this fight. He still had to talk to the kid after this, and he'd be less likely to be cool about it if he saw his face morph in front of him. Besides which, he promised Zu he wouldn't reset his face on purpose anymore, so keeping his facial features at least sorta matching was suddenly of much higher importance.


Dare managed to catch one of their arms and didn't hesitate to swing it harshly against his knee, the sound of snapping bone, followed by the perp falling to his knees in a scream, meant he wasn't likely to get back up. So now there were two.


“Holy shit.” He heard the teen curse under his breath.


Maybe he should avoid breaking too many bones after all? It seemed like it bothered the kid and he didn't want to traumatize him too much. Or worse yet, sour his opinion of him prematurely.


Being a bit more careful in his take down to the other two he aimed for pressure points he knew would either disable limbs or knock out his opponents.


Two minutes after the fight began, it had ended. Two of the men were unconscious, their arms and legs zip tied together to avoid them making a run for it when they awoke. The third was still clutching his arm whimpering.


Dare approached him slowly, arms raised to show he meant no further harm.


“You want me to reset that for you? Otherwise the cops are liable to take you in as is, and it'll be another 48 hours before they get you to a doctor.”


“Fuck you.” The man spat venom at him. Literally. The sizzling spit was likely the man's quirk.


Dare sighed in resignation, but then an idea came to him.


“Hey kid.” Dare addressed the wide eyed and bloodied kid slowly backing away from him, who froze at being addressed directly. “Do me a favor and use your quirk on this guy so he lets me reset his arm. It’ll never heal right otherwise.”


The boy's eyes went wide, a look of fear flashing behind his face.


“My-my quirk?”


“Yeah, your..mind control? Or whatever it is? While you're at it, you should probably let me take a look at that nose too.”


His face took on a new look. One Dare knew all too well, he was gonna make a run for it.


“Hey, hey, no, kid, don't-” And he was gone. “God dammit.” Dare cursed. Then he turned back to the man with the broken arm.


“Alright, two options here. You let me help you, or I zip tie you as is, and you face the consequence of your own actions in the form of a deformed arm.”


“Fuck. You.” he repeated his earlier sentiment.


“Alright, but don't say I never offered.”


Dare tied him up, much to the criminals' protest. Checking on their original victim revealed the man was unconscious, but stable. Dare placed an anonymous call for both an ambulance and a paddy wagon. Then he picked up the set of daggers the man had been using earlier. He tested the weight and swing of the blades for a moment and decided he would be taking them.


It wasn’t really stealing if you got stabbed with it. Once your blood is on something, it at least partly belongs to you, like kids licking cupcakes to claim them at a party. Besides which, Zu had mentioned wanting a nice set of daggers, and these should do for now until he gets his own.


As he ran from the scene, Dare contemplated if he should try to find the kid from earlier or not. He knew where he lived, assuming he would be returning to the same building he crawled out of earlier, so he could always just return there another night and hope to catch him again. Which might be for the best, he wouldn't want to overwhelm him on what was already a pretty eventual night for the junior vigilante.


Deciding space was a good first step for the time being, Dare headed towards Dagoba to turn in for the night. He had knives to clean anyway.

--

Midoriya took one last look at the three sketches before him. He knows exactly what the him of four months ago would have chosen. Past him would have gone for the costume that looked the most ‘traditionally heroic’, the one with the ears that resembled All Might's hair, and the permanent smile on the mask. But now? Now it just doesn't feel right.


It's not that he hated All Might or anything, he may have said some hurtful things to him, but it was coming from a place of honest concern. Just like his mother. Heroics is a dangerous career and the lack of a quirk makes it all the more risky, so he understood why they told him no… It still hurts though.


Midoriya has had a hard time thinking about All Might without remembering all the other voices of doubt he’s heard his whole life. And those doubts cloud his brain and make it hard to focus on proving them all wrong. So he got some new bedding, and took down some of the posters and replaced them with that of other heroes. He didn’t get rid of all his merch, in fact he kept the majority of it, he sold just enough to pay for materials for his support gear and to make room for other merch. Now instead of a shrine to All Might, his room looks like a shrine to the idea of heroes in general, and his desk has slowly been converted into a makeshift workbench for his gear. He still needed to go to Mei’s for most things, but he could do some basic tinkering and repairs here if he needed to.


All of which is to say, he doesn't want to look like All Might any more. He wasn’t anything like him in any other aspect, so why should he emulate his aesthetics?

Where All Might was strength he was dexterity. Where he was a symbol of peace, he would be a symbol of change. Where he was fame and adoration, he would be shadows and obscurity. They were opposites really in a lot of ways, he didn't set out for it to be that way, but they were. So the costume that would have once been the perfect fit was now an easy write off. With a sigh he set it aside and took the remaining two designs out to the living room.


He would be showing them to Dare first, going over some of the versatility aspects of the costumes that he didn't really want to worry his mother with. And then he would show her while they ate dinner; in hopes the food would distract her from asking too many questions. It wasn’t that she was unsupportive, but he could tell she was still a little hesitant and apprehensive of the idea of him being a hero. She worries, she's a worrier, and Midoriya likes to think she would be just as worried even if he did have a quirk. But she plasters on a smile anyway and tells him to follow his heart despite her anxiety; and in exchange he smiles back and promises to stay safe.


When he enters the living room Dare smiles at him looking excited to see his designs; he was excited to show him too. Dare was nearly as invested in Midoriya's dreams as he was himself, they were partners afterall, so his input meant a lot to him.


“Okay so they are both kinda similar as far as color pallet, but with enough key differences that it changes the whole vibe. So really it's a decision of if I want to lean more into the whole super stealth thing or into the whole gadgets and tech thing more.”


“Why not split the difference, go international super spy and wear a suit like James Bond.”


Midoriya knew it was a joke, but he found himself explaining why that wouldn't work anyway.


“A suit would be too restrictive and difficult to fight in, not to mention stuffy which might cause me to overheat. And also it would clash a little with all my gear so-”


“God you're cute. That was a joke, Zu. Now sit down and show me what you've got.”


It took everything in him not to turn bright red and freeze on the spot.


Did he just call me cute? Is he trying to do the whole platonic flirting thing now because I told him Kaminari does it? Is this something he's gonna do from now on, or is this a one time thing? Does he expect me to do it back? Should I? It wouldn't come out nearly as smoothly if I did it, and if I'm stuttering when I say it he may think it's sincere. Would it be? How am I supposed to respond to this? Do I respond at all or do I just ignore it? Would ignoring it be insulting, or would it be like an acceptance? I suppose moving on as if this is normal might be best, responding to it might make them uncomfortable, right? Okay, yeah I'll just ignore it for now, and see if it happens again.


In movements that were a little too quick and mechanical, he sat down next to Dare and showed him the designs.


“S-so the stealthier option is this all black bodysuit. It keeps everything close to my body and obscured, and Mei said she could weave it with this visual distortion field thread that will make it harder for people to notice me. It's not like actual invisibility or camouflage, it just helps you blend into the background more.”


“Okay interesting, that could be good for the whole underground thing, helps with infiltrations and what not. But on the other hand, you don't want to be soooo underground and under the radar that no one knows you exist at all. If your goal is to be the first quirkless hero and show the world it's possible, then you kinda need the world to see you from time to time.”


“That's a good point, I hadn't really thought of that...Maybe there's a way to turn the distortion field on and off? So I can use it for missions but turn it off for patrols so I can still interact with civilians?”


“Maybe. What about the other one?”


“The other is a bit more...cyber punkish? The jacket has bioluminescent strips that help disguise solar/lunar panels to help provide extra charge for some of my gear. I can't rely on Kaminari being there all the time to charge things for me after all. The inside of the jacket is a highly reflective material so it can double as an emergency blanket for civilians if I turn it inside out. The pants have lots of pockets for smaller gear and first aid supplies, kinda like we're putting on your new costume; but it also has the light up stripes up the legs to match the jacket.”


“Okay, interesting concept. I do have some concerns with the jacket though. For starters it might be a bit warm and cumbersome in the summer months, and while the lights are objectively really cool looking, it would definitely deter your stealth. Also, I like the idea of having shock blankets in case of emergency, but if you have to stop to take off and reverse your jacket to use it then that's time ticking down on the clock you might not have. Plus you can only give it to one civilian. You would be better off carrying around three or four compact foldable blankets in some of these pouches. Then you can distribute them quickly to multiple people without having to undress yourself.”


“Oh, yeah those are all valid points I guess.” Midoriya deflated little at the realization he had overlooked so many things.


“However, the solar/lunar charge packs are a great idea and will definitely help. Especially as you add more and more gear to your repertoire.”


The validation had Midoriya's smile return just as fast as it had left. Dare put a hand to their chin, tapping at their lips in thought. Their eyes went back and forth between the two sketches and after a moment they made a sound as if coming to a conclusion of some kind.


“Okay, um, hear me out, I think maybe we can combine the two concepts, but also go somewhere a little different in the aesthetics. Do-do you mind if I try drawing something up real quick?”


Midoriya's face lit up like a christmas tree. The idea of Dare coming up with the concept for his hero costume, especially after Midoriya had made his, just seemed right somehow.


“Yeah! P-please show me your ideas.” Midoriya scrambled to get a pencil and his sketchbook and handed them to Dare in a manner he hoped didn't seem overeager.


Midoriya chewed at his nail bed and resisted the urge to peer over Dares shoulder as he worked. Five minutes later he was done and turned the book around to show him.


“Okay, so keeping the pants from your second sketch, sans the lights, but keeping the charger strips. Also making them a bit more form fitted, like the stealth suit. Instead of a jacket, I'm thinking tactical vest. Extra pockets will store the first aid stuff and maybe some smoke bombs in case you need a smooth getaway. Plus, if the vest is bulletproof it should put your mom's mind at ease a bit.”


Dare chuckled a bit nervously before talking about the other features. “Lack of sleeves means the vest shouldn't be too hot and wont get in your way, but we can do a mesh sleeve underneath. You should ask Mei if there's a way to make the sleeves have the same anti slice properties you put into my suit and also use some of that vision blur stuff. If there's a way to turn that on and off, the whole suit can have it so you get the stealth suit benefits, but if it's an all or nothing thing, you can just put it in the mesh sleeves, should make it even harder for people to read your moves ahead of time that way.”


“That's a good idea.”


“Thanks. So adding in the gear we know you're gonna use. The mask, boots, gloves, wrist piece and arm guard, it’ll be like...this.” As he listed them off he quickly added them into the sketch. “And, I don't know how you feel about makeup or anything, but if you did the whole black strip across the eyes thing, like that one guy from your comics does, it will not only obscure your face more, it'll also add to your stealth and help reduce glare.”


With all the elements in place, the full ensemble had a sort of punk rock, dystopian, zombie movie vibe. It had all the practicality of his two ideas, but looked like it was made for someone way way cooler than Midoriya actually was. It was badass, but…


“You really think I could pull something like this off? I mean, look at me.”


“Oh, I’m looking. That's the point. Think about it Midoriya, while still stealthy, this creates a very commanding presence. It forces people to take you seriously and see you as a real threat. Even as an underground hero, you still want to be a little bit known, so you can help other quirkless people carve a space for themselves in the world. But at the same time, you're opening yourself up to a lot of potential hate, so keeping your civilian identity hidden should help shield you from the bulk of that on your days off. If your hero self is seen as this hardass, serious, war vet kinda vibe, no one will expect your sunshine and freckles self to be what's underneath.”


“That...That makes sense, I guess. But even with the costume doing most of the work, I doubt anyone would ever find me intimidating.”


“I wouldn't be so sure. You're an unknown element. There's never been someone like you before. And your mask is gonna have you on mute most of the time anyway. So put yourself in the bad guys point of view. You parkour your way into the building, unseen and unheard like a ghost, knock these guys out with gear you made, and you're doing it all without superpowers, something that's never been done before. And you do it all looking like this?” Dare points at the sketch for emphasis as he says this. “I’d be pretty freakin intimidated.”


Midoriya held the sketch up to his face, worrying at his bottom lip as he thought it through. Dare had a lot of good points. From a practicality standpoint, it combined all the best parts of his ideas and solved problems he hadn’t realized he had with either concept. Easing his mom's concerns with the bullet proof vest was a nice touch. And the added weight would be easily canceled out by his boots' kinetic energy effect. He hadn't really thought about doing the whole ‘alter ego’ thing, he was prepared to just accept whatever hate came his way. But he’d be lying if he said getting to avoiding some of it didn't sound really nice. He was mildly concerned that civilians in need of rescue would be intimidated by it as well. But turning off the mute or even removing the mask temporarily should help him reassure them if need be. Beyond his own self consciousness, he can think of no real reason why this wouldn't work. And it was, without a doubt, super cool looking. The more he thought about it, in a way, it almost matched Dare. In terms of being...well daring. And even if the outside world wouldn't know it, they were partners.


Midoriya set the page down, took a picture on his phone and sent the photo to both Kaminari and Mei. He would need their help finalizing it and figuring out some of the logistics. But his mind was made up.


“Okay. Yeah. This-this is it.”


Midoriya started tearing up despite himself.


Noticing his tears, Dare panicked.


“Hey, woah, it's okay! It doesn't have to be! If you don't like it we can come up with something else. You don't have to use this idea just because I came up with it.”


“No, it's not that! I do like it, I love it even. It's perfect... And the fact that you helped me make it, makes it even better. These are happy tears, not sad ones. I promise.”


“Yeah? Well, then, I’m glad I could help.” A shy blush came across Dares face. “You helped me with my new look, so...ya know.”


“Thanks Dare.” Midroiya wrapped him in a sideways hug on the couch.


He was going to say more, but he heard the sound of his mom's keys in the door, so he instead sprung up and ran to the door to show his mom his new costume design.


As Dare predicted, the bullet proof vest was his mom's favorite feature.


Kaminari and Mei were also enthusiastic about about it. With Mei being fired up by the challenge of making a costume with so many intricate needs to it. Combining the anti slice and the vision distortion materials into one would take some experimentation and help from her mother, who works on textiles for hero costumes professionally, but she was excited by the possibility of using it for other projects as well. Kaminari alternated back and forth between praising how badass it looked, and complaining that Midoriya would look cooler than him.


“Marginally cooler. And only in the costume. I'm still more suave in personality.” He teased, eliciting an eye roll from both Midoriya and Dare.


Midoriya planned to get started on the construction of his mask tomorrow with Mei, promising Dare that his helmet would be done right after that before moving on to the rest of his own gear. Both projects should be done by month's end at the latest, and one week at the earliest. Dare suspected it would be somewhere in the middle. One week of getting his head around the basics of building support gear, and then one week of building them both in record time.


Dare didn’t stay the night, Midoriya offered, but he said he had something else he needed to take care of that night. That was likely code for vigilante work, so Midoriya let him go without much of a fight.


He tapped the sketch of his costume up on the wall by his bed, imagining the day he would have an official poster of himself wearing it, and once again fell asleep with a smile on his face.

 

Chapter Text

Dare had a plan, the plan was to ask Midoriya to make him a plan.


The lilac vigilante had a quirk which would be difficult to counter, especially without much knowledge on how it worked and what all they could do with it. So today they would tail them and try to gather information, perhaps take some video on his phone, and if by day's end Dare hadn't figured out a way to talk to him themselves, then they would take what they knew to their partner for analysis. That's what partners are for after all. The thought warmed his heart a bit, knowing there was someone who had his back.


He tried not to think too hard about what happened to the last one. Zu wasn't like them. It would be different this time.


The first piece of the puzzle came from the building he lived in. East Musutafu Foster and Adoption Center according to the sign out front. So they were an orphan then, this didn't surprise them much, vigilantes often come with a tragic backstory attached. What did surprise them, was the total and complete lack of medical attention the kid had apparently received after they came home with what was clearly a broken nose.


Once again crawling out a window to the fire escape, he sported no splint, no bandages, it didn't even look like it had been iced. If Dare had to hazard a guess, it looked as though they had attempted to reset the nose himself and then just went to bed, all other aftercare simply forgotten.


It didn't bode well. Best case scenario, those in charge were unaware of the injury because he had hid in his room all day, but even then, that meant they went a full 24 hours without doing a welfare check on him. When benevolent neglect is the best case scenario it doesn't paint the best picture. Dare made a mental note to do some research on this place tomorrow.


The second piece of the puzzle came after they stopped their first mugging of the night.


It went pretty similar to the first incident Dare had seen them in. The kid ran in, made a bored sounding remark, the robber told him to get lost, then he activated his quirk and sent the guy packing. What was interesting about it was what happened afterwards with the victim.


“Are you alright, sir?” He asked the nervous salary man. But the salary man did not respond, simply threw his money at his face and started running.


The kid crouched down to gather the money before it could be blown away in the wind, and yelled after the man as he fled.


“Wait! I’m not trying to rob you! Come back!” But it was pointless, he was already long gone by the time he had finished gathering all the cash.


He stared down at the bills and coins in his fist and then up and down the street looking for any sign of where the salary man had gone. The kid chewed at his bottom lip, a guilty look on his face, before slipping the money into his left pocket. Dare couldn't help but notice that he did not put the money into his wallet, nor did he spend it when he went to the 7/11 for coffee an hour later. He did, however, give half of it to a homeless woman who asked for bus fare, and then slip the rest of it into the donation box in front of the children's hospital.


This told Dare everything he needed to know to decide he liked this kid. He clearly had it rough, and seemed to be lacking some relatively basic things for a kid his age, like a cell phone or shoes without holes in them. No one would have judged him for keeping the money for himself. Hell, Dare would have, he would have considered it a cosmic karmic payment for services rendered; but this kid didn’t, and that spoke volumes of his character and his motivations. He reminded Dare of Zu, of their desire to do good for goodness's sake.


Unfortunately, they only had the time to gather one more piece of information on them before circumstances demanded he make himself known.

They both heard the shouting at the same time. Two men inside a convenience store, shouting at the teller to empty the register, even through the window it was easy to see they both had guns. The kid hesitated, the physical human equivalent of buffering as he seemed to consider his odds. Dare slid down the side of the building he was perched on, pleading inside his head the whole way down. “Don’t do it kid. Don’t even think about it, those are guns and you aren’t bulletproof.”


Thankfully, the kid wasn’t an idiot, he turned around to run towards the nearest pay phone just as Dare turned the corner and met the kid's eyes.


For a second they just stood there maintaining eye contact, Dare saw a flash of recognition followed by fear in the kids' purple eyes. He spoke before the kid had a chance to do so himself.


“It’s alright. I can handle them, I'm bulletproof.” It was an oversimplification of the truth, he wasn’t technically bullet proof, the bullets just wouldn't kill him. But this was not the right time to get into the difference between the two. “Do me a favor? Wait here till you hear the shooting stop, and then please call the cops and an ambulance.”


The kid's head tilted to the side, their face scrunched in confusion.


“Why do you need an ambulance if they can’t hurt you?”


Dare smirked, one hand clamped down on the kid's shoulder in reassurance.


“It’s not for me,” He gave a two fingered point in the direction of the robbers. “It’s for them.” Then he cracked his neck and ran off towards the action.

Step one, getting the robbers undivided attention focused on him and not on the teller. Best method of getting attention fast? Breaking a window. Dare didn't bother with the door, he simply dove through the glass, landing in a roll on the broken glass. The shock and the sound did exactly what he knew it would, and before he even finished his roll, the bullets were already flying in his direction.
He heard the teller yelp as the dove down below the counter. Good, so long as they stayed down they should be safe.


Dare felt one bullet graze his shoulder as another found purchase in his calf. They hissed through their teeth at the pain, but powered through as they charged the first assailant; it was only muscle, it would be replaced in a few minutes. He leapt up ignoring the incoming shots, one leg swinging up over the man's shoulder, as the other wrapped around his chest. The force knocked them both back into the candy display in front of the counter. The leg slung over the shoulder made a crunch sound as it crashed into the shelves, but there was no time to worry about that now, the guy's partner had already begun aiming towards Dares' back.


Dare sprung backwards from the man below him, resulting in the second assailant accidentally shooting his partner in the shoulder.


“Shit!” The robber yelled in frustration and anger. A vengeful rage fueled their resolve as his now injured partner nursed his injuries.


Dare took advantage of the temporary confusion to spot the gun the first man had accidentally dropped on the ground. Looking back up at the still standing attacker, Dare knew that both he and the robber knew exactly where this was headed. Dare took another shot to left arm as he dove for the gun.


A quick somersault and a sliding spin later Dare was knelt on one knee, his gun leveled at the man's legs; he wouldn’t be running away without his knee caps. Meanwhile, the angry figure loomed over him, his own gun pressed against Dares forehead for what would be a fatal blow. Neither figure pulled the trigger.


“Drop the fucking gun! Drop it, or I swear to god I’ll blow your fucking brains out!”


“I’d rather you didn’t.” Dare kept his voice and his weapon stable, trying to exert dominance despite his lack of high ground.


“I don’t give a shit what you want! Drop the goddamn gun!”


Dare considered his options. He could shoot this guy's kneecaps, simply accept the headshot in retaliation, but then he would have three and half witnesses to him coming back from a fatal wound later on, not to mention the security footage. He could clear the footage when he wakes up, he would need to do that either way, but that was only half the problem. The kid outside could help wipe their memories, but would he agree to that? Surely he wouldn't be willing to wipe his own mind. He would need to play it safe and avoid any obviously fatal wounds. Time to use his acting skills.


With a defeated sigh he slowly lowered his weapon, dropping it on the ground and sliding it across the room out of either of their reaches. Then raised both his hands up in surrender. The man did not lower his own weapon.


“That’s what I fucking thought punk!” He shouted before turning his head back over his shoulder to check on his partner. That was all the opening Dare needed.


Muscle memory from hours upon hours of being forced to practice this move took over. In the blink of an eye, Dare’s right hand grabbed the backside of the man's wrist, deflecting the gun, as he simultaneously reached for the area just above the man's elbow with his left. The man fired a futile shot over Dare's shoulder as Dare quickly spun, continuing to pull the man's arm down and away from him at an angle. As the man clattered to the ground, Dare quickly twisted his arm behind him. If he tried to fire his weapon now, he'd only be shooting himself in the back. Dare knelt down above him, snapping the robber's wrist to get him to drop the gun once and for all.


He wanted to slide this gun across the room as well, but from the corner of his eye he saw the first man slowly moving their direction to try and help his partner. Time for acting lessons part two. He grabbed the gun, using other hand and his body weight to keep the other man held beneath him, and swung the weapon towards the crawling man's face.


“Stand down.” He said with an even voice. He did not turn to face him, only pointed the gun in his direction to show he knew where he was. The robber stopped crawling, but did not sit back down or move away. So with a bit more force behind the words, Dare repeated themselves.


“I said. Stand. Down.” To fully drive the point home, he cocked the gun to show he was ready to shoot if he needed to. And then, and only then, flicked his gaze over his shoulder to make cold eye contact with his target.


It had the desired effect. The man flopped backwards and scooted away. Dare put the safety back on and tucked the gun into his waistband.


A minute later he had both attackers secured with zip ties around their wrists and ankles. He found the teller sobbing behind the counter in the fetal position. She was clearly deeply distressed, scrambling on the ground away from Dare as he approached, but seemed otherwise unharmed. So instead of addressing her, he simply entered the necessary codes into the security system to delete all the footage of tonight.


He made eye contact with the hysterical young teller on the ground, she was terrified; not just of the attackers, but of Dare as well. As much as they hated scaring people, using their fear of him as a means of securing their silence was often the easiest and most effective. So he slowly approached, crouched in front of them and held one finger up to the woman's lips as well as his own. “Shuush” he hushed her in a mix of a whisper and a hiss. Then he slid his finger off the woman's lips, using the same hand to wipe away some of her tears before he stood back up and walked out of the store.

Once he exited the building he looked around for any sign of the kid, but it seems he made a run for it shortly after calling the cops. Sirens could be heard approaching in the distance, so Dare headed home as well. He had been shot a few times in the encounter and the discomfort of regeneration was more than enough for one night of work.


His only debate now was deciding what to tell Zu tomorrow. He still needed his help figuring out the other kids' quirk so he would have an easier chance talking to him; but he would inevitably have questions about the fight that separated them tonight, and something told him he wouldn't be pleased about it.


Zu worried about him, as pointless as the concern was, and it made him feel a little guilty every time he told him about his more painful injuries. But a whole new arm and leg would be difficult to hide, and the fact that the jr vigilante was smart enough to avoid a gun fight was part of the necessary analysis, so he would need to tell him at least that much.

It had been awhile since the last time he was shot. Guns were never particularly common in Japan, but now in the age of quirks they are even rarer. Most big time criminals preferred to use their own abilities as opposed to traceable bullets. Now the only people still using them are low level thugs with weak or non offensive quirks...or the quirkless.


One of the most common career paths for the quirkless was crime. Between discrimination making it difficult to obtain legal employment, and the lifetime of mistreatment affecting ones morals and priorities, it was pretty clear why. But that was just for the lucky few that made it to adulthood at all. Hate crimes and suicide rates made it so less than 20% those diagnosed quirkless make it to see the age of 25. And those that do had a 60% chance of turning to a life of crime.


It was a deeply unsettling set of statistics, one that made the miracle of Zu’s existence all the more important to preserve in Dares' mind. He had the misfortune of being born without a quirk, but instead of allowing that to slow him down or sour him against the world, it made him all the more determined to help others. He didn't want to be a villain, he wanted to be a hero. And while he still had ten years to go until he reached 25, Dare was determined to get him there.


He wouldn’t let his best friend become another statistic. The only number he wanted associated with his name is number 1. The first and the best. If anyone could do it, it was Zu.

--

Shinsou Hitoshi crept back through his window with his heart still hammering tensely in his chest. That was a bit more action than he was ready for, he was pretty sure that technicolor dreamcoat dude was shot at least twice but he just kept moving. He said he was bullet proof, but the blood splatter he saw spraying after impact begged to differ. So did he just not feel pain?


Whatever their deal was, this was the second time they had run into each other in as many nights. Was it a coincidence? Or was he being followed? And for what purpose? If he was aiming to beat him up or kidnap him then he had plenty of opportunity to do so. Instead he seemed to be...helping him?


He had even willingly spoken to him on several occasions. Which made no sense at all. He knew what his quirk was. He had asked him to use it on that one dude last night. So if he knew he was a monster then why was he talking to him? Did he just not know how his curse worked? That had to be it. He wouldn't put himself at risk if he knew.


Hitoshi felt a bit guilty for not warning them. For hiding how easy it would have been to hurt him. But at the same time, Hitoshi had a lifetime of experience telling him the stranger likely wanted to hurt him too, so he couldn't feel too bad about keeping his only line of defense to himself.


He crept through the rundown building to the bathrooms so he could flush the blood out of his nose. Once that thoroughly unpleasant experience was over, he returned to his room for an even worse one.


His “room” was once a supply closet that the warden threw an old mattress into. On the one hand, it was nice to have the only private room in the building; all the other kids slept in bunk beds with 2-4 kids in a room. But on the other hand, his private quarters were not given to him out of respect or anything, it was to keep him isolated; to prevent him from corrupting the other children. Not that he would, he had never once used his quirk on any of the other kids, or the staff for that matter, but that didn't stop them from fearing him.


The other upside to his closet room, was the small window leading to the fire escape. It wasn't the only window with access, but it was the only one behind a locked door. He spent more than a few nights locked in a tiny room, by himself, with an easily accessible way out right in front of him before he finally decided to go for it. It was almost like they wanted him to run away...Maybe they did.
It would be easier for them if he did. They could file a missing persons report to cover their own asses, the cops would spend 24 hours lazily looking for him, give up, and then they would be in the clear. But then what would he do? It was bad enough that the bulk of his government funded monthly allowance was stolen by the warden. He was given exactly enough money to not starve to death and that was it. But If he ran away, he would lose even that.


He could get a job, maybe, but if he was a missing persons case that would definitely come up during the background check. And would anyone even hire him? He could always make them hire him...No. He couldn't do that, that would just be proving everyone right. Tricking someone into hiring him was as bad as stealing from them, and Hitoshi was not a villain. He’s not. He was going to be a hero.


Nothing else to do but wait it out. A few more years and he would age out of the system. And by then he would either be a hero or he'd be dead. He just had to grin and bear it for a little while longer. Well, no, not actually grinning, but the sentiment was the same. Even if he was actually smiling, it’s not like anyone would be able to see it from under the monstrosity glaring up at him from his mattress.


His muzzle.


He hated the thing. Hated it with a fiery burning passion. But if the warden caught him not wearing it there would be hell to pay. Besides, it did a good job of hiding his broken nose. Not that anyone would care that he was hurt, but they would have questions about where it came from. Questions he didn't want to answer even if they would allow him to speak. So it was for the best that he kept it hidden from them.


With a deep breath and a grimace he slid the muzzle back into place and tightened the straps just enough to be convincing. Then he laid back down on his mattress for yet another sleepless night. Three and a half years. That's all he had left before one way or another he would be free.

--

Dare knew Zu was a genius, but he still found ways to surprise him with just how insightful he was. He knew exactly what questions to ask to get to the bottom of their little mind wiper problem, as if following a flow chart only he could see.


“Okay so on the first night he took control of the first two people but was unable to take control of the other three. Why? What was different about those encounters?” Izuku tapped at his chin with the knuckle of his index finger.


Dare racked his own brain to try and find an answer but Zu got to it before him.


“He said something to the muggers as well as the one victim before taking over right?”


“Yeah?”


“And they all responded to him except for that trio who just punched him instead?”


Dare thought about it for a second before answering, “Yeah, actually. You think he has to hear their voice or something?”


“Hmm, no, that's not it. He would have heard their voices during the struggle, and he definitely heard those guys last night giving their demands to the teller and that wasn’t enough to activate his quirk. It wasn’t until they had responded to him that he was able to take over.”


“Oh, so the response is what's needed to form the link then? That makes sense.”


“Yeah, makes it hard for you to, ya know, hold a conversation with him though.”


“You think nonverbal responses would work? Like if I brought a note pad along and just wrote down my responses?”


“Well yeah, that could work, but…” Izuku trailed off and his eyes shot back and forth in his head as if he were reading an invisible article in front of him.


“But?” Dare asked curiously.


“I think... If you want him to trust you, then…” He trailed off again, but this time Dare could see the invisible text as well. He filled in the blanks for his partner.


“Then I need to prove that I trust him first?”


Zu nodded sadly. It looked like he wanted to say more but wasn't sure if he should. He didn't need to, Dare understood completely.


“A quirk like that, people are bound to be a little uneasy or defensive around him. He probably has people bending over backwards to avoid talking to him directly all the time. Must get lonely…”


Dare knew the feeling well. The feeling of everyone around you assuming the worst of you before even giving you a chance. Avoiding your gaze, crossing the street, running away…


“Yeah.” Izuku confirmed his thought process nervously before adding in. “I think if you can find a way to make it clear that you know what his quirk is, and how it works, but that you still want to talk to him anyway…We learned about confirmation bias and social mirroring in one of my classes the other day. People are more likely to act in ways that confirm either what they think of themselves, or what they believe other people think of them. If your words or actions tell him that you think he will do the right thing, he is far more likely to do so.”


“If I trust him, he will trust me. But if I go in there showing hesitation, he will view it as a reason to be equally hesitant.”


“Pretty much, but at the same time, if you come on too strongly he is liable to think it's a trap or that you are just faking it for his benefit.”


“So be friendly, but don't overdo it? How will I know what's too friendly?”


“Uhh...I guess just try to read him for clues? Nervous ticks or defensive body language would be a sign to fall back a bit, but relaxed posture would mean lean in? Sorry I’m not really sure...It's just a theory though. I can’t make any promises it will work.”


“It’ll work.” Dare said with full confidence.


He knew Zu was right about this. Both the way the quirk worked and how best to approach him. Trust was still something he was trying to get used to, but he trusted Zu and it worked out. And he was beginning to trust the other people Zu trusted, and none of them had betrayed him yet. So he could find a way to trust one more. If it meant saving another kid from possible harm then he could do anything.

--

Hitoshi was having a strange week.


Encountering the same vigilante two nights in a row while on patrol was already unsettling enough, but if he had any remaining doubts he was being followed before, they were completely dashed on night three.


Hitoshi crawled out his bedroom window onto the fire escape just as he had every night for the past month, but this night a strange sense of being watched crept along the top of his head, and without really knowing why, he looked up. And there they were. The calico creeper in all their glory, sitting crisscross applesauce above him on the roof, and looking down at Hitoshi like he was a friend who was late for a movie date or something.


“Hey, there.” The looming figure smiled at him with their head cocked to the side, one hand raised in a noncommittal wave. “Nice place.”


Hitoshi swallowed down the bit of bile that threatened to rise in his throat. He was made. This guy knew where he lived, he knew what he did, he knew how he did it. He was fucked.


Gritting his teeth in frustration he turned on his heel and started running down the fire escape. The other fighter followed him; though not in the way the stairs were designed. Instead of descending like a normal freaking person, the lunatic decided to hang of the side of the railing, let go, then cling to the railing below just long enough to disrupt the momentum before dropping himself again. Each clatter of iron on the way down made his annoyance heighten all the more, the show off was probably just here to tell him to back off. That this was their turf and they had no intention of sharing it with a villainous monster like him.


They reached the ground floor just as Hitoshi descended the last flight of stairs. He expected them to stand in front of them and block their path, but instead they stood to the side and gestured with their head for Hitoshi to join them, as if waiting for him before going for a jog. The whole thing was overly friendly and confusing. He had no memory of agreeing to meet up with them or anyone else for that matter, and yet here they were. Why? What was their angle?


“What do you want from me?” Hitoshi whispered with as much don’t fuck with me energy he could muster without waking anyone inside.


They shrugged a bit before whispering back, “I wanted to talk to you.”


He squinted at him suspiciously, trying to read between the lines to discern their real purpose. “About what?”


“Figured you could use some back up on your patrol.”


This took him back a bit. He was expecting any number of threats to be slung at him, but not this. They wanted to team up with him? Why? The last person to ask Hitoshi's help with anything wanted him to use it to pick up chicks and then beat the shit out of him when he refused. Were they looking for a similar arrangement?


“I’m not looking to be anybody's lap dog.” He injected a bit of venom into his words as he shoved past them to begin walking down the alley.


They quickly caught up but didn't pass them, just maintained the same pace as they spoke.


“Good. I don’t want you to be one.”


He glared at him from the sides of his eyes, waiting for the other shoe to drop but it never did. “What do you want then?”


Patches shrugged again with a smile at the corner of their lips, “It gets real loney and dangerous on the job, as I'm sure you've noticed, an extra set of eyes and ears makes things easier.”


Hitoshi scoffed, “I’m not looking for a fucking side kick either.”


“Not a side kick. I've already got a partner. Maybe I’m just looking for a friend.”


This was confusing on multiple fronts. Firstly, he had never seen or heard of a partner, unless this guy had a twin and they had simply never been in the same spot at the same time, but that seemed unlikely. And secondly, if this guy was looking for a friend why the fuck was he talking to him?


“I’m not exactly friendly.”


“Are you sure about that?”


He stopped walking for a moment out of sheer confusion.


“What's that supposed to mean?”


“You’re a smart kid. You must know I've been following you for a few days now. I've seen you walk people home, donate money you just as easily could have kept for yourself, and stop to pet every stray cat you've come across. You seem plenty friendly to me.”


While Hitoshi had known logically that they would have been following him, something about being point blank that this was the case made him feel entirely too seen.


“Then you've also seen me hijack people's minds and bend them to my will. You’ve only been following me for a few days. How do you know I haven't done bad things as well?”


“Because you're a good person.”


He said it like it was obvious. Like it was an indisputable fact. Hitoshi could do nothing but blink back his bewilderment. But, evidently, the stranger wasn’t done with their little speech.


“I think you have a lot of potential. You’re clearly new to the whole vigilante thing, but with some proper training and support I think you could do a lot of good for the world.”


Breathing got harder and harder as each sentence left their lips. After swallowing back some of the tightness in his throat, Hitoshi managed to choke out a few words.


“Y-you do?”


“Of course. And I’d like to help you if you’ll let me...Hey how old are you? You in highschool yet?”


At this point he was too dazed to think about his responses. He went into auto pilot.


“Not yet, I was hoping for UA but I doubt I’ll get in.”


“No kidding? Some friends of mine were going for the same thing. The heroics class right? You don't strike me as the support or business type.”


“Uh, yeah.”


“Well in that case. We get together every other week to train, you should join us.”


With eyes wide as saucers he looked into the stranger's soul. Searching their eyes for any hint of what the trick was. What they would want in return.


“I- I don’t understand. Why would you want me there?”


“Because it's easier to train up all three of you future heroes at once then it would be to work out separate schedules for all of you.”


“future...heroes...And I’m- I’m included in that?”


“That's what you want isn’t it? Surely you're not joining the hero course just for kicks?”


The confusion was washed out by the sudden realization of guilt. Despite following him for the past few days, they must not fully comprehend his quirk. After a long pause to gather his resolve he told them the truth.


“My quirk is mind control. Once someone responds to me I can take over their mind and order them to do or say what I want. Just by speaking to me you're putting yourself in grave danger. You really think someone like me can be a hero with a quirk like that?”


“I don’t see why not. The quirk isn't what matters, it's what you do with it. If you do heroic deeds with heroic intentions, then you're a hero. So far as I'm concerned, you're already a great hero, you just need a license to start getting paid for it.” He chuckled for a bit as his joke.


Hitoshi wanted to laugh with him, but the chuckle quickly dissolved into ugly sobs as he broke down and fell to his knees.


The stranger knelt down next to him and waited for Hitoshi to regain his composure. Once they finally got a grip, they looked back up at them, expecting them to have changed their mind in light of his moment of weakness, but instead they gave them a reassuring smile and held out their hand to shake his.


“We’re meeting up tomorrow in the park near Dagoba Beach at around five. Think you can make it?”


He would need to sneak out a lot earlier than he had ever attempted before. But it was doable.


“Uh, yeah, I should be able to.” He accepted the hand shake, hesitant excitement bubbling under his skin.


“Glad to hear it...Hey, what's your name kid?”


“Shinsou Hitoshi.”


“Nice to officially meet you. The names Dare Dare.”


“That...That's not a name.”


“Haha I know. But it's the only one I've got.”


They stood suddenly, offering their hand back to help him off the ground. Hitoshi accepted it and stood at his side for a moment before both boys walked along the path of his usual patrol route as if they had done it a million times before. It was new, the idea of someone wanting him to be there, but he decided rather quick that it was a feeling he could get used to.

 

Chapter Text

Dare arrived at the park with Shinsou half an hour before the others were due to arrive. There were a few cursory things he wanted to discuss with him away from their prying ears.


“Okay, so I maybe should have mentioned this earlier, but Midoriya, the one with the green curls and the freckles, that's my partner that I was talking to you about the other day. Kaminari, on the other hand, does not know about my...extracurricular activities, and we need to keep it that way. He's the zippy zappy one.”


Shinsou snorted at that description. “Zippy Zappy?” He mocked.


“You laugh now, but once you meet him you’ll see that's actually a very apt description.”


“Hmm,” He had a thoughtful look on his face. “And did you...tell them I’d be here today?”


“Of course.”


“And they were okay with it?”


“Yeah.”


“...Did you tell them what I am?”


Dare tried not to give off a look of too much understanding at that wording. Shinsou said what, not who. They understood that sentiment a bit too well.


“A future classmate and fellow hero in training? Yeah of course I told them.”


“That's not what I meant.”


“I know. You're concerned about your quirk, right? I already told Midoriya, I needed to so he could help me find you. But I haven't told Kaminari yet, would you like me to? Or would you rather do the honors?”


Shinsou furrowed his brow and looked away as he spoke under his breath. “I’d rather nobody tells him.”


“Hmm, not sure how possible that's gonna be in the long term… You don’t need to worry about him though. Dude didn't even look twice at me when we first met, and… He didn't care when he found out Midoriya was quirkless either.”


He studied Shinsous reaction carefully. This was one of the things he needed to test before Zu got here. As much as he wanted to help this kid out too, if he turns out to be a bigot it's better to send him away before he has a chance to say something damaging. To their relief, the reaction seems to be one of curiosity and not anything inherently malicious.


“Quirkless? And he’s your partner? As in, also a vigilante?...Dude must be one hell of a fighter to keep up with you despite the extra toe joint...Or is that why I’ve never seen them? You keep them hidden so they stay out of the blast radius off all your...ya know.” Shinsou started pantomiming some truly ridiculous slow-mo fight moves.


Dare tried to bite down on his check to prevent the grin forming on his face.


“A bit of both.” They admitted. “They don't go into the field with me. But not because they can't keep up or anything, they are more than capable, despite being new to it all. It’s just because we don't want to risk his future as a hero by getting him slammed with a vigilante charge before he even gets into UA. So he helps in a more... support based capacity, to keep his hands clean… You should really consider backing down yourself, for much the same reason.”


“Heh. Yeah, that's not happening. I can't stop now.”


“Why's that?”


Shinsou didn't answer, just sipped on their water and started stretching.


“Okay,” Dare relented, “Fair enough. You don't gotta tell me shit, it was just a suggestion.”


He still said nothing, so Dare busied himself with analyzing the boy as he warmed up. After a few seconds of observation he moved on to the next topic he wanted to discuss.


“You have any prior training?”


The kid shrugged, “I know how to fight if that's what you're asking me.”


“Street fight or real fight?”


Shinsou made a face that suggested he wasn't sure what the difference was. It told Dare what he needed to know.


“Okay, that's what I thought… Okay, here's my thoughts. We don't have to go with this, it's just what I think would be easiest for you.”


Shinsou stopped their stretching for a moment to look up at him. “Okay? What?”


“Now I say this in the best possible way, But you’re gonna want to avoid going for the billboards. A quirk like yours only works if the people you go up against don't know what it is or how it works. So the second you get a whiff of fame it's gonna be pointless.”


Shinsou nodded thoughtfully. “That's alright. I was actually hoping to go the underground route anyway. I'm uh...kinda a big Eraserhead fan.” He admitted sheepishly.


“Good, I can work with that...Mei and Zu might even be able to whip you up a capture scarf if you're interested. I can't make any promises it'll be done in time for the exam though, they kinda have a lot on their plate at the moment.”


“Whose Mei?”


“Resident inventor and lovable wackjob. She's a skilled inventor but she comes on a bit strong. You’ll no doubt run into her at UA if not before then.”


“I see.”


“If you've got any interest in mechanics and what not, then maybe I can ask Zu to make an introduction for you. But that's besides the point. In the underground scene you're gonna need a base level of stealth, and parkour skills are kinda just as a prerequisite for the job. However, I'm really hesitant to train you with a dexterity based fighting style based on your past injuries. The joints are already weakened, making them more suitable to further damage.”


“My...past injuries? What past injuries?” He eyed him suspiciously.


Dare sighed a bit and began pointing as he listed them out. “You've dislocated that shoulder twice, broke the opposite arm a few years back, pretty sure at least three fingers are still out of socket, you got a cracked rib at some point, and you twisted your ankle two weeks ago. Not to mention the nose you still haven't gotten proper treatment for, which at this point is definitely gonna be crooked forever, even if you let me fix it.”


Shinsous arms wrapped defensively around their torso. “How did you...?” He trailed off.


“I've broken enough bones in my time to know what that looks like.”


“But...but you've got some sort of healing quirk don't you? I saw you get stabbed and shot multiple times and come back the next day like nothing happened, so you're either impervious or your healing.”


Dare couldn't help the smirk, he was observant, Zu is gonna like this guy.


“I wasn’t talking about my bones, kid.”


Shinsou’s eyes went wide for a fraction of a second before schooling his expression back to one of faux indifference. As a fellow vigilante, one who had seen him work in person before, Shinsou was able to understand the statement beyond its face value; Dare had broken a lot of other people's bones. What he didn't know, was that most of those happened well before his vigilante days, but they had no intention of ever telling him that bit.


“Right.” Shinsou said with a slight scowl.


“Anyway, I’m gonna say something that you might not like.”


He seemed to brace himself before nodding his head. “Okay, yeah, hit me.”


“You’re gonna need to work out more. I think the best thing for you to work on is gonna be bulking up a bit and getting some protective muscle on your weak ass bones.” They teased.


Shinsou chewed at his lip, his brow furrowed in contemplation before defending himself.


“It's not for lack of trying. But building muscle requires a lot of extra carbs in your diet and…”


“What, that foster home of yours doesn't feed you?” He said it as a quip, a funny little joke. But Shinsou's wide eyes and immediate defensive backtracking had him feeling suspicious.


“What? No! Of course they feed me! They have too.”


“Shinsou…” Dare tried to think of the best way to broach this clearly touchy subject. But from over the kids shoulder he could see Midoriya and Kaminari approaching, so for the sake of his privacy he wrapped it up. “We are gonna have to talk about that later, cause it looks like the guys are approaching. But, we will be discussing it, okay?”


Shinsou gave a nod of barely concealed panic and shame before pulling his features into his mask of sleepy boredom.

The other boys greeted him warmly, all three of Dare's students getting along reasonably well. Which is a thing they never in a million years thought they would need to worry about. The notion of him having one student much less multiple just a few short months ago would have been unthinkable, but here they all were.


As the night went on, the new kid became visually more relaxed in the others presence. After Kaminari tried his third flirty pun on Shinsou of the evening, the lilac insomniac simply looked at Dare and dead panned. “I see what you mean now by ‘zippy’.” And Dare gave a sympathetic nod back.


Dare couldn't really give him the fight training he wanted to give him until he had at least started to build on the necessary mass for it, so in the meantime, he focused on a skill all three people needed to work on. Free running. It was an effective training tool as a means of both practicing parkour, and getting in good cardio for endurance. Zu of course excelled with hardly any effort due to his months of training. Kaminari and Shinou were on about equal footing since Kami hadn't been training with them as long or as often.


They would all get better over time, he was confident in that. Dare could theoretically work a few lessons into the fabric of their patrol time for Shinsou to help him catch up if he wanted. He was still worried for the kid, not only because his quirk made him a target for both hate and interested parties, but also because he was real cagey when it came to questions about his personal life. His deflection, and at times outright refusal, to discuss what happened to him in the hours he wasn't with them was highly suspicious.


After a few days of getting the brush off on matters like what he had to eat that day, or where he got his latest bruise from, Dare was beginning to consider if they should launch an investigation.

--

Just as predicted, Zu was able to complete the mask, helmet, Dare’s new costume, and both of their boots in under a month's time. So they were now fully outfitted and Zu was able to digitally join in on a handful of their patrols. A feat he was a bit emotional about, in true Zu fashion, the first time they were able to actually give Dare a warning that prevented him from getting hurt.

“Duck!” Zu yelled through the comms in Dares helmet just a moment before the metal bat would have made contact.


Dare did as instructed as he chuckled to himself. They were having fun in this fight, and maybe they were also glad for the chance to show off just a bit. As they rose back up they replied.
“Quack quack.” Which confused the unaware assailant in front of them long enough to knock him out with a right hook to the jaw.


“Quack Quack?” Shinsou questioned once he finished putting the zip ties around the second hooligan's wrists.


“Zu called me a duck.” Dare gave a teasing explanation as they gestured to the ear zone of their helmet; earning him an eye roll from Shinsou and a weepy giggle from Zu.


“What’s wrong?” He whispered to his partner.


“Nothing. It's just. I actually did it… I did something useful. I helped.”


Dares chest filled with equal parts warm fondness and cool sympathy.


“Yeah. Of course you did, Zu.”


There was a beat or two of silence before Shinsou nudged Dare and signaled with his head that it was time to get going.

It took a few nights for Zu to stop sniffling whenever Dare thanked him for his help. But they got comfortable with the praise eventually. And before they knew it the three had fallen into a nice rhythm.

 

It was now two weeks after the duck thing, they had about two hours left before sunrise, so they started making their way back towards Shinsou’s place. The conversations sometimes got a bit muddled, with Dare having to relay everything Zu was saying to him since he didn't have his own comm system. After the third or fourth instance of having to repeat him, Zu was the one to bring up the obvious solution.


“Hey Dare... Maybe I should make a mask or something for Shinsou too. Get him patched into the same comms system and all that.”


It had been a month of them patrolling together and training every other week, but something about having him on the same server as them felt... significant in some way? Like they were officially making him a part of the team. Dare wasn’t opposed to the idea, but he was a little surprised that Zu was so ready and willing to add him in. As much as he tried to hide it, Dare could tell that Zu was just a little bit jealous that Shinsou was the one out patrolling with them in person, while he was stuck at home.


“You sure?” He whispered for confirmation from his partner.


“Yeah.” He was quiet for a second before explaining further. “ He’s our friend too. And I want to help keep him safe, since he does the same for you...We’re always gonna be partners, but he's the one in the field with you, so, whether we meant to or not, we kinda made him a part of the team a long time ago. It's about time we made that official...Don’t ya think?”


Dare swallowed down a bit of his excess nerves as he glanced at the lavender boy walking beside him. He was looking ahead, his glance scanning back and forth for threats as they went, but every once in a while his gaze would shift towards Dares helmet, as if he was nervous about what was being said. Zu was right. He was part of the team too, had been for a while, and he deserved a formal invitation and access to the same gear.


“Hey Shinosu.” Dare called for his attention, sliding up the visor of his helmet so he could be easily heard and make proper eye contact.


Sleepy eyes startled slightly before landing on theirs.


“Yeah?”


“Zu and I were wondering… I know you said you weren't looking for a sidekick or anything. But, we’ve all been working together for awhile now and- well if you're interested that is… We’d like to make you, like, an official part of the team? Ya know, get you your own helmet or mask or whatever so we can get the communication going all three ways...If you want.”


Shinsou blinked a bit more than was strictly necessary, his gaze training down on the ground for a few paces before looking back up at Dare again.


“Are you serious?”


“Uh...yeah?” Dare rubbed at the back of their neck nervously, unsure what to make of this reaction so far.


“You really want me to join in on your whole... Wonder duo thing? Like for real? On like a- a permanent basis, and not just for the time being?”


Dare shrugged as they replied. “Yeah, or, as long as you’ll have us at least.”


Shinsou looked straight ahead, once again blinking a bit more than needed. Dare wasn’t sure what to say, but Zu apparently did.


“Hey Dare, real quick, give Shinsou the helmet, I wanna talk to him.”


“Oh, okay, sure.” Dare went to take off his helmet and handed it over to Shinsou. Shinsou looked at the helmet with confusion for a moment before apparently realizing the intention.


He slid the helmet on and Dare did his best to listen in to what Zu was saying to no avail. He heard only Shinsous replies between what appeared to be paragraphs of information from Zu. Dare quickly started to feel slightly left out of the loop. Was this what Shinsou felt like the whole time?

--

Hitoshi was under the impression that this whole, ‘lets help the weirdo’ campaign was going to be a short-lived thing. That they would keep him around for a while as a curiosity and then send him away once the novelty had worn off. So when Dare asked him if he wanted to join their squad for real he wasn't sure what to make of it.


He was stirred from his confusion by Dare handing him their helmet so Midoriya could speak to him. And part of him was worried this would be the part where Midoriya told him he didn't actually want him to join the team, but he put the helmet on anyway.

“Hey Toshi!” He said brightly “Sorry, can we call you Toshi? I guess Mei has been rubbing off on me a bit , so now I feel compelled to give all my friends little nicknames.” He said with a nervous laugh. Shinsou could almost see the blush he was no doubt sporting.


Shinsou tried not to look too shocked by the implication they were friends. The green haired boy had said it so nonchalantly that Hitoshi got the impression he had viewed him as such for a while now, and being shocked by that might give them the impression that they didn't feel the same. In truth, he had considered the three training partners of his as friends for a while now, but had assumed it was a one sided relationship. Was it too much to hope the others also felt this way?


“Uh, yeah. You can call me whatever.” A nervous puff of breath came out as a chuckle at the end.


“Okay! You can call me Izuku if you want. Or just Zu, that's what Dare calls me, but you knew that already.”


He wanted to reciprocate the whole nickname thing, that seemed like the “friendly” thing to do, but calling him Zu felt like an intrusion of some kind on whatever him and Dare had going on. So without putting much thought into it, he said the first thing that came to his mind.


“How about Zuku instead? Nice middle ground.” then he cringed at his own awkwardness.


“Haha I like that.”


Dare made an intrigued expression, but said nothing, so neither did he.


“So about your mask.” Zuku began, “I've actually got a few ideas I'd like to go over with you. If you put the visor down I can project the sketches for you- but it might be easier to just go over it in person. That way we can all give our input at the same time. If you're free before training tomorrow, then we can meet at the park an hour or two early to go over it.”


“Y-you already have sketches put together?”


How long had they been considering letting him in? If he already had sketches put together then it had to have been at least a day right?


“Just a few. B-but we can design something from scratch if you hate them all.” A note of insecurity slipped into the last statement. As if Hitoshi could ever hate something the boy genius designed with him in mind.


“No, I’m sure whatever you've got is gonna be great. You're the expert.”


“Well I wouldn't say I'm an expert par say. I'm still just a novice at this stuff. Mei is the real expert, or even Dare is better than me really, he taught me most of what I know.”


“Modest as always…” Hitoshi glanced back over at Dare who was absentmindedly chewing at their bottom lip. Probably getting antsy without their helmet. He should probably try to wrap this up.

“Was...was there anything else you wanted to say?” He asked.


“Yes! Just that I’m really, really, glad to have you on the team, and I look forward to calling you a duck in the future.” He laughed so brightly at the little inside joke. Hitoshi could tell he meant it. He was so overwhelmed by the feeling of being welcome that he forgot to say anything back.


“You- you are gonna join us right? I just realized you never actually agreed.”


“Y-yeah!” He said a bit too enthusiastically. He cleared his throat, slipping back into his usual neutral intonation seamlessly. “Yeah, I don't see why not. Three heads are better than one.”


“Yay! Okay, you can give me back to Dare now. We’ll talk more tomorrow, right Toshi?”


“Yeah, sure...See you tomorrow Zuku.”


“Good night!”

Shinsou handed the helmet back to Dare, replaying the past ten minutes over in his head and wondering when exactly he managed to trick these people into liking him.


It still didn't make any sense. They were his friends? His teammates? They...trusted him?


He had no memory of intentionally brainwashing them, but… Is it possible he had done so without meaning to? Feelings of guilt and confusion overlapped the faint feelings of hope and excitement swirling around in his gut.


Once they got back to the firescape of his foster home, Dare laughed softly at something Zuku had said and then took their helmet off again to say their goodbyes for the night.


“Hey so,” Dare held the helmet away from himself and whispered to him. “I'll meet you here tomorrow and walk you to the park if that's okay with you. I uh, have a surprise I'm working on for Zu I could use your help with.”


“Uh, sure?” Just...Don’t let anyone see you.”


“What, you're afraid I’ll embarrass you in front of the foster family or something?”


Hitoshi wasn't sure how to say: If they see me talking to anyone then I will be punished, and might not be able to train or work with you guys for a few days until I recover; without actually saying it, and making them worry over nothing. So instead he just shrugged and said,
“Heh, yeah. Something like that.”


Dare nodded, with an expression that vaguely read as sadness.


“Right, I get it...Umm, around 3 work for you?”


“Sure thing. Umm...Do you...have a nickname or something you want me to call you now, or?”


Dare smirked, “Not really, but you can call me Dare if you want.”


A beat of confused silence passed between them before he got the courage to say,
“Don’t I always?”


“No, you call me Dare, I’m giving you permission to use my first name if you want to, which is also Dare.”


Another beat of confusion hung in the air. Hitoshi opened his mouth to argue but was cut off by Dare.

“I know it doesn't seem like there's a difference, but I can totally tell.”


“But... is there a difference?”


“Not in pronunciation, but in sentiment, yeah… Just trust me.”


He still wasn't sure he fully got it. But he went along with it anyway.


“Okay, well… I guess I'll see you at 3 then?”


“You bet. Night Toshi.”


Dare ruffled Hitoshi’s hair a bit and started backing away with a smile on their face.


“Night Dare.” He rolled his eyes as they tried in vain to fix their rumpled hair, but returned the smile anyway.


Dare finally slipped the helmet back on, turned around, and started jogging off into the night, so Hitoshi began climbing the stairs of his fire escape to sneak back in. A hesitant, vaguely guilty, excitement for tomorrow made its way from his gut to his heart, where it settled in and warmed his chilly bones.


Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one still awake when he got back inside.

 

Chapter Text

Dare was afraid something like this would happen. They weren’t sure what this was yet, but when they walked up the alley leading to Toshi’s and saw a handyman installing bars on his window, they knew it wasn't good.


Dare took a few grounding breaths, trying their best not to let their anger and anxiety get the best of them. Toshi is probably fine. It's possible this is a coincidence, the building management just decided to beef up the security or something; this is kinda a bad neighborhood afterall. But why start with the windows on the top story?


Okay, fine. We hope for the best and prepare for the worst then. Dare pulled out his phone to call Zu. After two rings he answered.


“Hey Dare! What's up?”


The sound of drills and machinery in the background told them he was currently at Mei’s working on something. Not wanting to alarm them without reason, Dare elected to maintain a casual vibe.


“Hey grease monkey. I might need to reschedule our training later today.”


“Oh...Is everything okay?”


Dang it, guess Zu could sense the anxiety anyway, or perhaps just had enough of his own. Well, he wasn’t about to lie to his partner.


“I hope so, but I'm not sure yet. We might have a situation over at Toshi’s”


“Like, what kind of situation? Should-” Dare could hear Zu walking away and muffling his whispers with his hands before asking, “Should I be suiting up for this?”


“Uhhh.” Dare contemplated for a moment what the worst case scenario here would be.


Depending on how much they knew, either Toshi was caught sneaking out and would be punished as a rebellious teen, or he was caught as a vigilante and would therefore be facing legal charges. If it was the second, having more vigilantes show up would only make it worse.


“No. I think I'm gonna try to sneak in as a civilian, see what all I can learn about the situation, and get back to you when I know more...Try not to stress, it's probably nothing. Just focus on your projects... And maybe call Kaminari, let him know we won't be meeting at the park today.”


“Okay, I’ll try. Stay safe.”


“I’ll try.”


Dare hung up before Zu would have the chance to argue. Taking a mental inventory of what gear he had on him. This was supposed to be a training day not a working day, so he didn't have most of his stuff, just a basic pocket sized first aid kit, his multi tool, and a flash drive.


Admittedly, Dare had gotten a bit distracted from his mission to investigate the foster home, thus far he had seen a few troubling reports, but nothing more extreme or frequent than was normal for places like this.


As upsetting as it is, the foster system was always less than fair or ideal. Corruption and abuse was laced into the very fabric of the institution, but there was plenty good to come from it as well. Dare didn't have the resources to try and revamp the whole ass system, as much as they wished they did, but they were known to step in whenever they got wind of any particularly shady cases. And while they had never had to rescue someone from this particular home before, there was a first time for everything. Hopefully not though.


The idea of having to rescue a kid he already knew, and was friends with, was already making anger bubble under his skin.


He didn’t want to feel the rage he felt back then. He was one of the good guys now, and he intended to keep it that way.

A preliminary lap of the building told him most of the kids and staff were either working on getting dinner ready or were outside playing basketball. That's good, not many people in the halls meant he had less people to dodge. However, they hadn't seen Toshi yet. They were either in a room without windows or they were gone.


Dare pulled the hood of their jacket up further than they normally would to avoid being seen by the security camera by the gate. Walking through the double doors in the front of the building, he saw a large sitting room, a stairway straight ahead, and a series of offices to the right. Dare slipped into the largest of the offices, assuming it would belong to whoever was in charge.


The room was unoccupied at the moment, so Dare wasted no time as they located the laptop and quickly began transferring all the files into his flash drive. They also left behind an invisible quick link to make it easier to hack into their system remotely later. Just in case.


Less than a minute later they were back in the main hall, training their ears to hear what was going on behind each door they passed.


Upon reaching the third floor, Dare located the door leading to Toshi's room. Pressing an ear against the oak revealed two things. The handy man was done and gone now, and Toshi was not inside.


Just as they were about to give up and assume Toshi was not in the building, they heard a faint and heart breaking whimper come from the broom closet across the hall. Dare flinched in an involuntary reaction to the sound, it was far too familiar sounding for comfort.


Dare took another deep breath, slipping into the mask of his vigilante persona. If they were right, and Toshi was the one trapped and crying in that closet, then they were going to need a stable and reassuring presence to help get them out of this mess, not someone radiating fear and anger. Trying the knob revealed what they already knew on some level, it was locked. And the sounds of panicked scuffling behind the door revealed something more that Dare couldn't think too hard about at the moment. No time to look for the key, they had to get them out of there now, so Dare used the multi tool to pick the lock instead.

Curled into the fetal position and shaking like a leaf was Toshi. The lilac eyes that met his were wide, tear filled, and blood shot; a black eye forming on the left alongside a cut that would definitely leave a scar. Dried blood pooling near his hairline suggested some form of head wound. The large tear in the shoulder of his hoodie and the way they were clutching at their forearm said something was likely broken there as well. But the worst thing. The absolute worst thing. Was the painful looking, too tight muzzle currently cutting into his cheeks in a way that lined up too well with some preexisting scars on his cheeks. Meaning this, or something like it, had happened before.


Dare swore to himself right then that it would never happen again.


A blood lust so powerful it nearly rivaled the day he escaped had him shaking and silent in the doorway for a few seconds as struggled to find their higher reasoning skills. He needed to get the both of them out of here right now, or he was gonna burn the whole building down to the ground.


Blinking the angry tears out of their eyes they slowly squatted down next to their terrified looking companion and pulled out their phone again. He didn't wait for a greeting or any formalities, the second he heard Zu pick up, he gritted out his message, “Meet me at the beach. Right now.” before hanging up, once again not leaving room for Zu to argue.

Moving as slowly and gently as they were able they reached for the straps of the muzzle, pausing to give verbal reassurances each time Toshi flinched.


“Hey, it’s okay. You're okay. I'm not gonna hurt you.”


It took longer than they would have liked to remove the muzzle, but he wasn't about to leave it on him a second longer than was necessary and simply yanking it off of him would have only caused more panic. Once it was finally off he spoke as softly as he could.


“Okay, now we are getting out of here. Is there anything in your room you need to grab first?”


Emphatic shaking of his head was the only response Toshi gave him, so he moved on to his next question.


“Is there anyone else here who's in danger?”


A wide eyed stare was followed a moment later by more shaking of his head, slower this time. Dare would give a thorough check of the records he obtained earlier to double check that later. One last question before they could leave.


“Can you walk? Or do you need me to carry you?”


Toshi furrowed his brows as if unsure of the answer before they made slow clumsy movements to stand. They wobbled a little, it was clear to Dare that it had been several hours since they last stood, but he didn't appear to have any major injuries to his legs. How long had he been locked in here?


Dare looked for the nearest, unbarred window leading to a fire escape, locating it at the end of the hall.


“Alright, we're going out this way. Is that okay?” He really hoped Toshi said yes. He didn't want to go through the front door. If they encountered anyone on their way out, there was no guarantee they would keep their cool long enough not to do something highly illegal. And as tempting as it was to go break a few bodies right now, he had a feeling Zu would not approve of violence against civilians. Toshi was still clutching their arm to their chest, but nodded in confirmation and silently moved to the window to climb out anyway.


He still hasn't said anything, even after the muzzle was removed. They said nothing the whole way down the stairs, or through the alley, or down all the side streets leading them away from the scene. Dare was unsure if it was the shock that kept his lips sealed, or if there was something more to that, but there would be time to figure that out later. For now his only priority is getting this kid to the beach safely. And then he was gonna have to go see an old acquaintance about a job.

--

Don't panic.


Dare told Midoriya not to worry and to just focus on his projects. He could do that. Sure, Dare was heading into an unknown situation that had something to do with Toshi. But his friends were both strong, capable, and smart, and they would be fine. It was fine. Everything is fine.


Do. Not. Panic.


He was shaken from his ‘totally not panicked’ state by the strong and grease stained arms of Mei on his shoulders, who had apparently been talking to him for a while.


“-but hey, it only blew up twice this time, that's an improvement! Right Midas!?”


“What? Oh, yeah. Sure.”


“Wow, you sure are extra spacey today. What's stalin your engines this time, baby daddy?”


“Mei! We’ve been over this. You can’t keep calling me that, people are gonna get the wrong idea.” He chastised her with feigned authority despite his bright red face.


“What's so wrong about it? We make babies together in the workshop all the time. We're doing it right now.”


“Oh god, Mei! You’ve gotta stop! I refuse to believe that you genuinely don’t know what that sounds like. You haaave to know.”


Mei burst out laughing, clutching at her torso as she buckled over. After taking a minute to calm down she spoke through her laughs.

“Relax, of course I know! But Kami is right, you're just too easy to fluster! It's fun to see people's reactions to these things, and you always get so red and squeaky it's adorable...Besides, no one’s gonna think we're actually dating or anything. Not when you're so clearly spoken for.”


“What’s that supposed to mean?”


His phone rang again before Mei had the chance to elaborate. Caller ID said it was from Dare so he quickly sprung off his stool and jogged to the other end of the workshop for privacy.
The smile on his face quickly dissolved when he heard the tone of Dare's voice and the sound of panicked tears in the background. Dare only said a single line of instruction before hanging up, telling him to get to the beach immediately. He wasn’t about to question it.


He gathered his things, apologized to Mei for the abrupt exit, and ran the whole way there.

Sliding open the door to the van he discovered only Patches the cat waiting for him, so he slid the door closed again and began pacing as he waited for the others to arrive. Dare spotted him before he did, and called out to him from the stairway leading down to the sand.


“Zu!”


Midoriya whipped around so fast it was nearly audible and started jogging in their direction. He met Dare half way, and when he caught sight of Toshi’s condition he nearly screamed.


“Oh my god! What happened?!”


Dare took a firm hold of his shoulders and turned him away from Toshi to make eye contact with him instead.


“I know. Believe me I know. But honestly, I think he might still be in shock, so I really, really, need you to calm down so we don't set him off. Okay?” Dare’s voice and face seemed calm, but the slight tremble of his fingers revealed a hidden emotion underneath.


Midoriya took a deep, if shaky, breath before plastering a reassuring smile on his face. Dare was right, it was time to enter hero mode, to be the calm eye of the storm his friend needed now. They nodded to each other before turning back to the shell of Hitoshi, still slowly shuffling towards them.


Midoriya spoke first, in a low but hopefully cheerful tone.


“Hey, Toshi.” He scanned for injuries the way Dare had taught him and determined the highest priority was probably the arm. “We've got a first aid kit in the van. Do you mind if we take a look at that?”


Hitohi startled a little, glanced down at the arm he was clutching tightly to his chest, and then back up at him, with a look of mild confusion. Then he looked at Dare, then all around them at the beach, before finally looking back down and clutching his arm even tighter with a wince.


Midoriya had no way of knowing for sure what was going on in his friend's head at the moment, but he got the impression he had only just registered where he was. A tight sorrow and worry clutched at his heart strings, but he did his best not to let it slip. The faint shake of Dare’s exhaling breath next to him was the only outward indication that he too was having a hard time maintaining his cool.


“Toshi.” Dare said with a slow step in his direction. “We need to make sure nothing is broken and treat your injuries as soon as possible. It's important that everything heals properly, and I umm...I have some pain meds in the van for you too.”


This was news to Midoriya, but it made sense for him to have some as a part of his first aid kit, so he didn't think much of it. Hitoshi did not respond. Just continued looking down at his feet to avoid their gaze.


“Toshi?” Midoriya tried to get his attention.


The tear tracks running down Hitoshi’s face got thicker as he began to shake. Midoriya and Dare both reached forward at the same time. Hitoshi flinched away from their touch at first, but then steeled himself and slowly shuffled forwards towards them. They each put one hand on either shoulder of the fragile kid in front of them.


“It's okay Toshi.” Dare said, just barely above a whisper. “You’re safe now. We won't ever let them touch you again.”


Hitoshi’s sobs finally became audible as his legs gave out. Dare and Midoriya both moved quick enough to catch him and hold him upright in a three way embrace.

Midoriya wasn't sure how long exactly they stood there like that. He tried his best not to cry too, to maintain the air of strength and confidence; but in the end, he just couldn't help himself, he was a Midoriya after all.


At some point their huddle disbanded and Dare and Midoriya gave Hitoshi a full check up and tended to his wounds. Luckily, Hitoshis arm wasn't actually broken, but there was a hand shaped bruise and some hairline fractures on his forearm, so they gently wrapped it in an ace bandage for stability.


Dare gave Toshi some pills that Midoriya did not recognize as anything his family had ever gotten over the counter, as well as a bottle of water. And once the empty stare Hitoshi had been sporting all night morphed to one of indifferent haze and occasional giggles, Dare took that as his sign they had kicked in.


Dare pulled a needle and thread from his first aid kit and Hitoshi’s eyes went wide. He started crawling backwards frantically from his seated position in the sand. Midoriya was not a fan of how fearful his friend looked.


“Woah, hey. It’s okay, Toshi. That cut above your eye is kinda gnarly. I just wanted to give it a stitch or two so it stays closed, but if you don’t want me to, then I'll just tape it up.”


Hitoshi took a few quick breaths that sounded kinda strained, but then laughed again to themselves before loosening back up. He crawled forwards again and fumbled around in the first aid kit, pulling out the medical tape and handing it up to Dare.


Dare took a deep breath before accepting the tape and putting the needle and thread away.


“Okay. Okay, no needles, got it.”


Half an hour later they had finished patching Hitoshi up, and he was still just swaying slowly in the sand with the wind, occasionally letting out a laugh or a little sob. Midoriya wasn't sure how much of this was a result of the trauma, how much was the head wound, and how much was from whatever medicine Dare had given him, but he was willing to bet it was about a solid mix.

Dare pulled him aside so they could talk without Hitoshi overhearing it.


“Hey, so. I know it’s kinda last minute, and that this isn't exactly the best venue, but I’m thinking tonight is a good night for a bonfire and a slumber party. What do you think?” Dare said.


“Yeah, yeah I agree… This really happened to him at his foster home?” Midoriya asked.


Dare pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.


“Yeah. I’m...He can’t go back there. Not ever.”


“What are we gonna do?”


“You-you don’t have to do anything. I’m gonna handle this.” He had this far away look on his face, more than a dash of hostility present in the hang of his shoulders. Whatever he was planning, it wasn’t good.


“Dare?”


“Yeah?”


“What’s going on? What are you planning?”


Dare sighed again and shook his head.


“I’m not gonna hurt the civilians if that's what you're worried about. I’m sure karma will get them back for us in due time...But there is something I need to go take care of tonight, will you watch him for me? Make sure he stays safe and awake?”


“That depends. Are you yourself gonna be safe while I’m doing that?”


Dare huffed and gave him a smirk.


“Safe as I am every night.”


“That's not very reassuring.”


Dare gave a smile that didn't reach his eyes as he said, “I know...Do you trust me?”


He did. He had never given him any reason to doubt him before, and they shared a lot of things they hadn't told others before. In many ways, Dare was the person he trusted most in this world.


“Of course I do.”


“Good… There's some emergency money in the glove compartment, go ahead and order a pizza or something and light a fire. Try to keep him calm, but don't let him out of your sight, eventually those meds are gonna wear off and he's gonna be a bit...fragile…”


Dare went to the van and started to get suited up in his vigilante gear. Which really did not help Midoriya feel any better about whatever mystery mission Dare was about to go on. He hadn't brought his mask or his laptop, so he wouldn't be able to help him. Dare saw the worried scowl on his face and gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze.


“I’ll be home before midnight at the latest. I promise.”


Midoriya held a pinky up between them which Dare wrapped in his own without hesitation. This simple action did wonders to calm his nerves. Dare promised, so he knew, one way or another, it would all be alright.

--

Dare hated that he was doing this. Going to see The Dragon after all these years.


They learned while back that having a fake identity was actually more dangerous for him than not having an identity at all.


Getting a passport and ID meant that even if what they were tracking wasn't really him, he was still traceable. So once his last set of papers were burnt, and his face reset, he elected not to go get new ones. But he couldn't do what he needed to do without having the paperwork to back it up. So here he was, standing in front of Dragons Den Pawn Shop.


The business was a front, a convenient way to launder the money of a man whose income came primarily from the sale of fake ID’s, experimental drugs, illegal weapons, and shifty loans. And against all his better instincts, he was here to ask for his help.


He took a deep breath, reminded himself of the reason he was here in the first place, and then opened the door.

At the sound of the little bell above the door, The Dragon looked up from his perch behind the glass counter. Emerald eyes looked him up and down, measuring him for potential before a smug expression took over his slimy face.


“Well, well, well, would you look at what the cat drug in.” He leaned forward, his scruffy chin leaning lazily onto his fist, as messy black curls fell into his eyes. “It's a little lost kitten.”


Dare flinched instinctively at the nickname, suddenly feeling even grosser about being here.


“I need a favor.”


The smile on his face bordered on sadism. “And what would that be?”


“You know what.” Dare snapped impatiently before grumbling the rest of his request through gritted teeth. “I need new paper’s and… A job.”


His last job for the man involved being a guinea pig for a few new drugs they wanted to put on the market. The only good part of the whole experience was the paycheck and the leftover pain meds he had saved for emergencies. Hopefully this time will be a bit more pleasant.


The sleazy and imposing figure rose from his seat and walked around the counter. He pinched Dare’s chin between his thumb and forefinger and jerked his face up to meet his eyes.


“Well in that case. You’re a lucky kitten. I’m in need of a new delivery boy.”


This was a test, if he showed hesitancy or weakness at this stage then The Dragon would not help him. So Dare aimed for sassy indifference as opposed to the hesitant nerves he actually felt.


“And what, pray tell, happened to the last one?”


“Same thing that always happens. They failed. Not everyone is as...sturdy...as you are.”


Dare swallowed down the bit of bile he felt rising in his stomach, not allowing the mask of fearlessness to slip in front of this man.


“What a shame… I can do a few jobs for you, but I won't be in town for long.” He lied.


He knew this was risky, if anyone would have the ability to track his fake identity it would be the man that made it for him. But the idea of getting looped into a long term contract made him feel sick to his stomach. This man wasn’t as bad as his former captors, but he was a close second.


“Fair enough, same rate as last time then. It’s 100,000 yen for the papers, you’ll earn 25,000 each delivery, so you’ll need to run four jobs for me before you start to see profits.”


“I’m aware.”


“And who shall I say you are this time?”


Normally all he would tell The Dragon was a vague description of what he needed. But for this to work he had to be someone very specific. He needed to insert himself into an existing family and make it convincing enough to fool whatever government official was in charge of the stamps that day. So with great mental difficulty he forced himself to say what he needed to.


“Shinsou Dare, I’m 18 years old, I’m a mechanic, and I’m going to be adopting my younger brother Hitoshi.”

 

Chapter Text

Midoriya grabbed a bench out of one of the abandoned cars and dragged it over to the makeshift fire pit. He parked Toshi down on the bench and wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, placing the box of pizza and two water bottles down between them, and lit the fire. The sun had set, and the stars were out, and it had now been three hours since his friend first got here and he still hadn't said a single word.


Dare had told him about how he found him; locked in a closet for god knows how long, clearly injured and afraid, and worst of all wearing a muzzle. It didn’t take a genius to reverse engineer what went down and why. While the specifics were a mystery, it was clear that this happened because the monsters that were supposed to take care of him, instead decided to attack and abuse him, all because they feared him for his quirk.


Quirkism wasn’t exclusive to the quirkless, people could be subject to similar hate and discrimination for quirks that were deemed either ‘useless’ or ‘unacceptable’. It was a different flavor of the same depressing sundae. People took one look at Hitoshi and decided he must be evil, despite being one of the nicest people he had ever met, and then they looked at him and decided he was nothing at all.
For a fraction of a second he wondered which was worse, but there was no worse in this scenario, at the end of the day, they had both suffered for things outside their control. And together, with the help of their friends, they would both overcome the obstacles before them and become heroes.


Step one: getting his friend to talk again.


“I- uh- wasn't sure what toppings you liked or disliked so I just got a plain cheese. I hope that's okay.” He tried to break the ice, but Toshi just looked down at the box and then to him with a faint nod.


The periodic giggling had stopped about an hour ago, so whatever pain meds Dare gave him earlier must be wearing off. Midoriya wondered whether or not he should give him more, but without knowing what it was exactly, or what a proper dosage looked like, he was hesitant to do so. Toshi still hadn't grabbed himself a slice, so Midoriya grabbed one and handed it to him. After a full three seconds of staring at it, he eventually grabbed it and nodded his gratitude to Midoriya, who smiled back at him as if to say ‘no problem.’


They sat in silence for a while, staring into the fire and eating their subpar quality dinner. He wished he knew what to do, what magic phrase would help pull his friend out of his head and tell him it was safe to speak. What would Dare say if they were here?


“You don't have to talk about it if you don’t want to. If you want to, we can pretend the whole thing never happened and never talk about it again. But… I do want to talk to you about other things.” He remained silent, but the furrow of his brow said he was thinking about it.


Midoriya opened one of the water bottles and handed it to Toshi before opening one for himself. Toshi hesitantly drank the water, taking the tiniest of sips, but once the liquid hit his lips he seemed to realize just how thirsty he was and chugged the rest of it down in three gulps. Midoriya reached into the bag of snacks he got from the 7/11 and pulled out two sodas.


“We’ve got a Mt.Dew and a Dr.Pepper, I wasn't sure which you would like, but you strike me as the type to enjoy anything caffeinated.” He said with a chuckle as he held both options out in front of him.
Toshi shrugged a little and grabbed the Mt.Dew. It still wasn't words, but it was non verbal communication, so that was progress. Midoriya smiled at him again and took a swig of his water. Before bringing up his next topic.


“I didn’t bring my laptop, so I can’t show you the 3D models, but I do have some sketches of your mask in my notebook if you wanna see.”


He reached into his bag and flipped to the appropriate page. Toshi looked at the sketches with a look of unmitigated confusion, so Midoriya took that as his que to start explaining his idea.


“So you’ll of course have the same communication system Dare and I have, as well as the distress beacon, cause those are a give in. But then I beefed up the voice changer to give you way more range. There are a few preset options, but you can also take recordings of people to generate a copy of their voice in real time, and then hit this button here to save it for future use. There are also these dials on the side to fine tune something manually if you want. Mei had this really great idea to include volume controls so you can either be all sneaky and quiet, or crank it all the up to bust some ear drums. Mei said she can try to use a directional speaker for that function so it can be blasted like a ray as opposed to making the whole building deaf, kinda like Present Mic with his speakers on his neck. You know Present Mic right? He’s that pro with the radio show that can scream real loud. He's gonna be one of our instructors at UA. So you’ll meet him soon enough.”


Hitoshi let out a sob, pulling Midoriya fully out of his mumble spiral and alerting him to the pained and confused look on his friend's face as he cried.


“Oh god! I’m so sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. Do you hate it? It’s okay if you hate it, we can do something else.”


He panicked a bit as he scrambled to the first available free page.


Toshi's hand landed heavily on top of Midoriyas to stop the hand that had already begun sketching something new. Midoriya looked at him to see if this was the moment he would finally speak, but he still just bore his lavender eyes into Midoriyas as if trying to communicate telepathically. Midoriya wasn’t above begging.


“Toshi...Please talk to me. I really want to know what you're thinking so we can work together on this. And I...I miss your voice.”


Toshi swallowed and spoke with a creaking tone, stuck in his throat from both tears and disuse.


“You...You still…” He didn't finish his question, instead began rubbing at his throat to soothe it, but he didn't need to. Midoriya knew what he was asking.


“Of course I do Toshi. We’re a team now, nothings gonna change that unless you want it to. We’re gonna get into UA together, and be heroes, and work with Dare to make the world a better place. One where people like us have someone like them to look up to…”


Toshi scoffed a little and looked up at the stars, rubbing the tears and snot from his face.

“You really think so?” He asked in a small voice.


“I know so.”


Toshi nodded slowly, letting the words sink in. He was quiet for a moment before meeting Midoriya's gaze again.


“I prefer coffee.” He said as he swirled the liquid in his soda bottle. “But you’re right, anything caffeinated will do the trick. And I like sausage on my pizza’s.”


Midoriya beamed, “Thanks for telling me. I’ll keep that in mind next time.”


“How about you?” He asked shyly.


“I like ham and pineapple.”


Toshi scrunched his nose in fake disgust, “You monster.” he teased.


“Hey, it's not that bad! And I like a classic pepperoni too, especially if it has that nice gooey cheese that gets all stringy.”
“Well at least your taste isn't completely terrible then.”

 

The next few hours were spent like that, asking each other questions and then roasting each other for their answers. Shinsou liked music, Midoriya liked comics, neither cared much for sports but did enjoy sports anime. The casual banter and comradery had both boys soon forgetting the unfortunate circumstance that led to this impromptu slumber party on the beach. Until Dare got back at 11:45 riding a new motorcycle.

--

Each time Hitoshi thought he had a pretty good understanding on who Dare was, they would do or say something that made him question all of it. And having them ride up on a bike as if they had always had one, was… well, at a certain point you just stop questioning things. Midoriya had questions though. Lots of them.


“Oh my god, since when do you ride a motorcycle?!”


Dare laughed a cheesy grin on their face.


“Well what kinda Dare Devil doesn’t have a bike to do tricks on?”


“One that's broke.” Hitoshi teased in a dead pan.


Dare's eyes flashed wide for half a second at the realization that Hitoshi was talking again, but to his credit, knew better than to point it out. So they just rolled with it. Hitoshi was grateful for that, among everything else he was grateful for.


“Ouch, dude. Rude.”


“You-You didn’t steal it did you?” Midoriya asked nervously.


“Double ouch! Who do you think I am, Zu? I’ll have you both know that this is a company vehicle...I got a job.”


“Really? That's great Dare, but..how did you- or I mean, why now?”


Dare shrugged, “Needed the income.”


“For what?” Hitoshi asked.


Dares' gaze flashed over to Hitoshi for a second before landing back on Midoriyas. Hitoshi had no idea what was going on, so he allowed the others to carry the bulk of the conversation for him.
“Beach get’s clearer every day.” Dare said, gesturing around them. “You’re doing a great job. But the cleaner this place gets, the more my van is gonna start sticking out. I figured it was about time I started looking for an apartment or something.”


“Woah. I hadn’t even thought about that. But, um, well, in that case…” Midoriya averted his gaze and nervously started kicking at the sand beneath him. “There's um...There's gonna be an empty unit in my building soon, the old lady next door is gonna be moving in with her granddaughter.”


“Yeah, I know.” Dare gave a warm smile filled with so much raw affection that Hitoshi suddenly felt like he shouldn't be here.


The blush and silence that passed between them lasted only a few seconds before Dare cleared their throat and started walking towards Hitoshi, pulling a stack of papers out of their backpack as they did so.


“So I have good news...Or I guess just news, depending on your reaction.”


Dares Sudden nervousness made Hitoshi feel nervous as well.


“Uh, okay. What is it?”


“As promised, you’ll never be going back there again. Because as of 9:47 this afternoon your custody has been transferred to that of your older brother.”


Hitoshi felt a lot of emotions all at once. Chief among them being confusion. So after sputtering like a cod fish for a minute he finally managed to say,
“But...but I don’t have an older brother?”


“Sure ya do. Are you telling me you don't see the resemblance?” Dare warped his arm around him in a move that was part side hug and part hair ruffle.


Still failing to process the information, Dare flipped the stack of papers to the last page, slapping his hand down on the dotted line where he had signed. Then he extended his hand in an offer of a hand shake.


“The name is Shinsou Dare. Nice to meet ya, brother.”


Hitoshi was crying into Dares chest before he even registered the fact he had moved to hug him. Midoriya's arms soon wrapped around both of them as well, sporting tears of his own. This was a lot of fluids he had leaked in the past 24 hours, he must be hanging out with Zuku too much. Not that he minded much, if becoming a cry baby was the price he had to pay for friends. No, for family. Then he would gladly pay it. Maybe Dare would teach him to ride a motorcycle so he could regain some tough guy points that way.

The whiplash-inducing rollercoaster of emotions that was the last 24 hours was not lost on him. He went from getting asked to join the team, to getting damn near tortured by the warden, to escaping, and then being...I guess adopted? Or at least being put under new custody. It was a lot to process, but the music coming from the radio, the waves, and the stars above, all did wonders to clear some of his troubles from his mind. At least for the time being.


A voice somewhere in the back of his head said he really should be more upset, or more afraid, or more...something. But ever since those meds Dare gave him kicked in he was having a hard time actually remembering a reason why. He knew what had happened from an objective, factual point of view, but the emotions and the turmoil that would normally accompany that was lost to him. He made a mental note to ask Dare about it later.


“Welp, you aren’t allowed to sleep tonight, on account of your noggin.” Dare gave his forehead a gentle tap. “So what do you wanna do for the rest of the night?”


Hitoshi shrugged, unsure what the options even were, but Midoriya stepped in with an answer for him.


“You like music right, Toshi? We can turn the music up and have a sing along dance party.”


“Ooo fun.” Dare perked up, turning the dial before Hitoshi even had a chance to debate it. Part of him was afraid of looking like an idiot, but based on the wild and awkward movements of the others, he might actually be the best dancer here. So with a deep breath he went ahead and joined in.

After several hours of dancing and singing their voices hoarse, the sun began to rise. Dare offered him and Midoriya a change of clothes so they could get out of their now very sweaty outfits and they decided to walk to the 7/11 for some breakfast and coffee.


Hitoshi pretended not to hear it when Midoriya pulled Dare aside in the bento aisle.


“Dare, is the beach getting cleaner the real reason you decided to get an apartment?”


“It’s part of it.” He admitted. “But honestly, I just didn't want Toshi to have to sleep in a van long term. Kid deserves a real home… And being closer to you is a big plus as well.”


Hitoshi smiled a little to himself. If Dare was gonna play the role of protective older brother, then Hitoshi was gonna play the role of annoying younger one, and tease him mercilessly for his obvious crush later. For now he was too busy playing the role of good friend by pretending not to listen in on these disaster bi’s. Maybe one day they would realize the feelings were mutual and actually get together, but Hitoshi knew better than to try and meddle in that whole affair.


Once the goods were procured, they walked back to the beach to eat and watch the sun finish rising over the waves. Eventually it came time for Midoriya to head home, but before he left he informed them that Kaminari wanted to get together in the park later that day. Either to train or to ‘just chill with the homies’ as his text message read. Shinou made no promises he would be joining them, but he wasn't completely against the idea either.


Midoriya said his goodbyes and for a minute or two after he left they just sat there in companionable silence before Dare began fidgeting beside him. He was picking at his nail beds harshly enough that it bled for half a second before Hitoshi saw the skin itself morph into a whole new shade sans the damage. Dare saw him staring at it, he took a deep breath before saying the words all anxious people despise most in this world.


“Hey, so, we need to talk.”


Hitoshi chugged the rest of his coffee. Whatever this was, he already knew he was gonna hate it.

--

Dare played a fun little game in his own head called ‘let's argue.’ In which the rational and emotional parts of their brain went back and forth deciding how much, if any, information he should give to Toshi.


On the one hand, if they were now both team mates and roommates, ones that, as far as the government was concerned, were now relatives. So they were linked and involved with each other in enough ways that any threat to one of them was really a threat to them both. It wouldn't be fair for Hitoshi to be made a potential target without his knowledge, and in a lot of ways he already was a potential target even before they met. A quirk like his, was exactly the kind of thing his captors would love to get their hands on; to exploit or experiment with, or steal. Which, if he's honest was more than half the reason he had started trailing him to begin with, trying to make sure he was safe. And now that they were traveling as a pack, what was once two small targets had become one huge one. He had a right to know that.


But how do you say something like that? And how much does he need to know? And should he tell him anything else while he's at it?


He had told Zu what his quirk was. And he had left some hints at the less than pleasant parts of his upbringing, but he hadn't really told him anything else. For some reason it felt...weird...that Toshi would know more about him than Zu. Does that mean he should tell Zu more, or tell Toshi less.


His nerves got the better of him, he began picking absently at his nail beds without thinking. When he felt the familiar itch of his skin regenerating he knew he had messed up. Sure enough Toshi had been watching the whole thing. He had reset in front of him before of course, but it was always body parts that were covered by his costume, this was the first time he would have actually been able to see anything happen.


Well, if anything this solved one problem for him, he knew what to start with now. He would tell Toshi the same thing he told Zu about his quirk and then use that as a segway to saying...Well, he’d burn that bridge when he got to it.

“Hey, so, we need to talk.”


Toshi chugged his coffee looking suddenly miserable. He probably thought he was gonna make him talk about himself.


“Don't worry. Or, maybe do a little, but not about- ya know what, Imma start over.”


He took a deep breath and told him all about his quirk. How damaged parts were replaced with new ones, how they came back with a random appearance because he had no set genetic coding to go off of, how things could grow back but it would leave him knocked out for indeterminate amounts of time, and how he was, for all intents and purposes, unkillable. And Hitoshi took it all...surprisingly well? Perhaps too well? Probably because he still had a bit of those drugs in his system. Guess that's another thing he needed to talk to him about.


“Okay. Yeah. I guess that all tracks. I knew you had some kind of healing ability, and obviously one doesn't get to look, ya know, like you do on accident. So...Yeah, it makes sense. Thanks for telling me.”


“Yeah, um. There's more.”


“Sure, of course. Why not?”


This was the hard part. The part he never told anyone before and honestly didn't want to be talking about now either. How do you say it? I guess you just do it.


“We… may or may not, at any moment, be hunted down by some very dangerous people. Who may or may not, want to experiment on, or just outright kill us. Or at a minimum try to use extortion and other methods to get us to join their cause.”


Hitoshi nodded slowly, his face pale and sweaty, but expression was somehow still neutral.


“Oh.” Hitoshi eventually said, after another moment's pause, “Why-why is that, exactly?”


“Uhhh” After doing some quick mental math on how much to reveal he decided the truth was once again necessary.


“Well, they are after me because I escaped from them a few years ago, and I used to be one of their greatest assets, so they aren't super psyched to just let me go. And I suspect they will be interested in you because… As much as I firmly believe you would never ever use it for these purposes, a quirk like yours could be incredibly dangerous in their hands. Which means the minute they catch wind of it, they will try to acquire it for themselves.”


“...I see.”


“And now that we are both, sorta, attached to each other, if they find either of us then they will almost certainly find the other… At the same time, having back up, someone to keep an eye out for each other, should also be as much of a help as it is a hindrance in this, so, ya know. Win some and lose some I guess.”


“W- when were you planning on telling me this?”


Honesty has gotten him this far, so he may as well stick with it.


“I wasn’t.”


Hitoshi chewed at the inside of his cheek, a subtle annoyance and anger clear in his expression. Dare deserved that anger, but that didn’t make him feel any better about it. Toshi was owed an apology and an explanation.


“My plan initially was to just keep an eye on you from afar, make sure no one else was following you. But then once I met you, I decided you’d be even safer if you had some actual help. I figured if I trained you up, and made sure you knew how to look out for and defend yourself, that you would be safe. But then we became friends, and then teammates, and then I found out you were already being held hostage in a way, and… I’m sorry. I should have said something sooner.”


Hitoshi looked contemplatively out at the waves, refusing to look at them as he spoke.


“Does Zuku know?”


“He knows about my quirk. But not the rest of it. They wouldn't target him, because, big shocker here, the bad guys are kinda quirkist and wouldn't see him as having value to them.”


“Maybe not. But he has value to you. They could use him as a hostage to get to you.”


The blood drained from Dare's face as he realized the truth of that statement. He wouldn't put it past them at all to do something like that. Was he putting him in danger? Should he be distancing himself to keep Zu safe? Maybe getting the place next door was a bad idea…


“You should tell him.” Hitoshi cut off his spiral before it could truly begin. “He’s your partner or whatever, he deserves the truth just as much as I do. And besides, knowing Zu, him and Mei would probably find a way to design some sort of anti-kidnapping device to keep us both safe if he knew it was a risk.”


Dare chuckled a little at that.


“I have no doubt they would try, but as much as I believe in them, even they can't do the impossible. Though maybe they can booby trap the apartment after we move in.”


It was Hitoshi’s turn to laugh for a minute before a fond smile came to their face.


“Thanks for that, by the way. Taking me in. You really didn't have to.”


“You don’t need to thank me. I wanted to. You’re my friend, I want you to be safe and happy.”


“Well then… thanks for giving a shit.”


“Anytime.”


“Is that everything?”


It wasn’t it wasn't even 10% of everything, but it was the bulk of what he needed to know. There was just one more thing they had to talk about.


“Almost?” He said with a wince. “There is still the matter of those meds I gave you earlier.” Dare did the quick math on what was and wasn't necessary information, he didn't need to know where they came from, or why he had them, just what they were and what to expect.


“They’re pain killers, but...they don’t just dull the physical pain, they also suppress mental and emotional pain. You probably felt kinda giddy when it first kicked in, but it's gonna keep teetering off for about a 24 window before it dissolves completely. You uh, you're gonna have some pretty fucked up nightmares for a few nights, but since you weren't able to sleep last night anyway, I figured the mercy of getting out of your head for a bit was the better choice to regular ibuprofen or whatever.”


“Huh, I guess that explains some things...Once it wears off, will I...feel it again?”


Dare took a deep breath before answering, “Yeah. Yeah you will. But it should be a little less intense than it would have been.”


Hitoshi nodded a bit and looked at him with a look that was equal parts curiosity and despair.


“Do you have more?”


“Yes... But I won’t give it to you. I’m sorry. One dose is fine, but continued exposure leads to...Problems.”


Dare tried not to think about the side effects and withdrawals he was subject to in the testing phases of the drug.


“Right...Okay.” Hitoshi shrugged with a slight scowl. “Are you gonna tell me where you got these miracle drugs from?”


“No.”


“Fair enough…”


Silence passed between them for a moment before Hitoshi spoke again.


“So...If you're gonna be posing as my older brother, does that mean I have to start calling you Oniisan or something?”


Dare knew he was just teasing him. The notion of being addressed by the Japanese honorific for an older brother was equal parts ridiculous, endearing, and not fully accurate, but he still found himself smiling as he said.


“Only if you want to.”


Hitoshi smiled as well and said, “Maybe I will then, from time to time, just to tease you.”


“Sure thing kiddo.” They ruffled Hitoshi’s hair like a dad dropping their son off at little league. Hitoshi groaned at the interaction, feigning annoyance, but the smile tugging at the corner of his lips gave him away.


“So what's gonna happen to the van after we move on up in society?” Toshi asked.


“We’ll fix it up together, get it running, and then I’ll teach you how to drive.”


“You’ll have to teach me how to fix cars first.”


“Of course, what kind of Oniisan would I be if I didn't teach you the family trade?”


“And here I thought the family trade was vigilante justice?”


“Eh, that too.”


They shared a knowing smirk before Dare turned the music back up on the radio. Electing to spend the rest of the morning relaxing before heading out to the park to meet with Zu And Kaminari. They still had a lot to worry about, but in that moment, Dare felt a sense of calm. Reassured in the knowledge that so long as they all stuck together, they would be okay.

--

Time passed slowly and far too fast at the same time. Midoriya got a series of letters from his school that baffled him. The first was his middle school diploma, which was odd because he still had 4 months to go until school was supposed to be out of session. The second was a letter informing him that he had exceeded the maximum number of credits he was allowed to achieve at this point in time without first meeting with a counselor and taking a test in person to prove he was not a bot. And the third was from said counselor telling him he had somehow accidentally acquired enough credits to fulfill the general education requirements of his first year and a half of high school.


This was troubling on a number of levels. The first being that he had done this completely by accident. He just kept hitting the ‘take next course’ button whenever he completed a lesson. How was he supposed to know he had already completed everything he needed to finish middle school? He had honestly forgotten that it was a combination middle and high school institution, so he figured when he reached the end it would just stop giving him the option to take more. But I guess when they say ‘at your own pace’ they really mean it.


The counselor told him if he wanted to, he could take the test to prove his human status, complete the rest of the courses, and become a high school graduate before the age of 16. But he didn't want to do that, he wanted to go to UA!


After a quick panic attack about how he had messed up, the counselor informed him that so long as he stopped taking any more online courses, this shouldn't actually impede his ability to still attend UA. He would just have a lot of free periods while his classmates were taking the courses he had already passed. Which was already a lot to take in, but it got worse from there.


When he told the rest of the diesel dudes, (The semi official name for their friend group, because it's what Kaminari titled the group chat when he learned Hitoshi was working on cars with Dare now. The fact that Mei wasn’t a dude and that diesel wasn't really used in his electronics was apparently irrelevant.) Dare dropped another potential bomb on him.

Dare: Oh my god Zu, do you realize what this means?


Toshi: That Zuku is officially the biggest nerd to ever nerd?


Dare: No. Though that may very well be the case. It means he can do both!


Midoriya: Both of what?


Dare: Both the hero course and the support course!


Mei: OMG Midas! Double D is right, you totally could!

Midoriya was too baffled by the possibility to respond. Surely that was against the rules somehow, you can’t just take two courses at the same time. Could you? Kaminari asked his question for him.

Kami: Wait for real? Is that even allowed?


Dare: Im looking at the bylaws online right now. There's no rules against it, the schedule lines up perfectly. Heroics classes do their gen ed classes on even days, support courses do it on the odds. Since you would have free periods during those times, you can just alternate which classroom you attend each day, and take the support classes as electives.


Mei: You can keep being my baby daddy in the lab and also be a hero in the streets! It's perfect!


Dare: You've got to stop calling him that.


Kami: Yeah, don’t be stingy, he’s all our baby daddies ;)


Toshi: Ew


Kami: Oh please, like we haven't all had a crush on our resident broccoli headed genius at one point or another.


Dare: This is getting off topic.


Dare: The point is, Zu. If you wanted to. You could not only be the first quirkless student to graduate from the heroics class. You could be one of the first to graduate with multiple degrees!


Toshi: One of the first?


Dare: After looking into it more, it turns out the principal, Nedzu, did the same thing, but with all four courses. Guess that's why they put him in charge when the old principal passed away.


Kami: Passed away? Or was murdered in cold blood so Nedzu could take his job? The dude is seriously freaky.


Toshi: I wouldn't go saying things like that out loud Kami. He might take you out too if he knows you're onto him.


Kami: :o


Dare: Zu? You still there? You haven't said anything yet.

Midoriya didn't know what to say. A small part of him was kind of sad earlier that he wouldn't be able to take the support classes if he made it into the heroics class. He really loved building support items, it was like a fun little puzzle trying to figure out how to make something work. And using his analysis skills to determine the best possible gear for each hero was really fulfilling, like all those notebooks had a real purpose. So for a minute or two each night, when he thought about what he would do if he didn't make it into the hero course, he had secretly resigned himself to just committing to the support business, and then going full vigilante with Dare. But now that he knew he wouldn't necessarily have to choose, that he could do both, it seemed too good to be true. But it must be an actual option, one that was both possible and allowed, because Nedzu himself had done it, so maybe, just maybe, he really could have his cake and eat it too.

Midoriya: Yeah, I'm still here. Just a little overwhelmed. But, I don't know, I think I might go for it? If you guys really think I should.


Kami: Go for it bro!


Mei: Do it! Do it! Do it!


Toshi: Sounds tiring to me. But sure dude.


Dare: If anyone can do it, it's you Zu.


Midoriya: Oh god! That means I'm gonna have to pass both entrance exams.


Toshi: Not just the entrance exams dude. You're gonna have twice the exams to study for during midterms and finals too.


Midoriya: Oh god. Is it too late to change my mind?


Dare: You can do it easily. We believe in you.


Kami: Yeah, why are you worried about tests bro? You're easily as smart as Nedzu, if he can do four courses at the same time with no thumbs, then you can do two of them with both your thumbs no problem.


Mei: There's no way we’ll fail the exams with our babies Midas! Don’t even sweat it.


Toshi: Plus, even if you do fail, you’ll still make history as the first to flunk out of two course at the same time :p


Midoriya: Keep it up Toshi. Those are brave words for you to say to someone with the power to design your costume in a way that it always gives you a wedgie. Real brave.


Toshi: I take it back. You're a genius and a saint. And have I told you lately that your dance moves are in no way embracing to watch?


Kami: Y’all are having dance parties without me? The heck guys!


Midoriya: We'll be sure to invite you next time, Kami.


Toshi: Actually, Dare and I should be finished moving into the new place by next weekend. Maybe a housewarming party is in order?


Kami: Oh my god, and they were roommates ;)


Toshi: He’s my brother dumbass.


Kami: Since when?! The hell? Though I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, must be why you're both so attractive, some families really do have the best genetics.


Dare: If you promise to stop hitting on me in a tangential effort to flirt with my brother, then you can come to the housewarming party. Otherwise I’m locking your ass out, pikachu.


Kami: Hell yeah! Party time!


Midoriya: wouldn't miss it. :)


Mei: Does this mean I finally get to see the van you guys are working on?


Dare: That depends, are you gonna try to put cannons and ejectors seats in it?


Toshi: Well hang on, maybe some go go gadget nonsense wouldn't be the worst idea.


Mei: What about rocket boosters?!


Dare: Absolutely not. To both of you. Teaching you to drive a normal van will be enough of a challenge without turning it into a mad max mobile.


Mei: party pooper :(

--

The next four months were some of the best and most stressful months of Midoriya's life.


Now that Toshi and Dare lived next door, a simple hop of the fence between their balconies was all it took for them to hang out together.


But on the down side, Dare told him some truly horrifying news about this big scary villain network that he was apparently on the run from. Did not care for that news one bit.

It made him feel all the more paranoid whenever they were gone, so after several nights of arguing about it, Dare finally agreed to let him go on patrols with them. He was told his attendance was conditional on his promise not to actually get involved in any of the fights, but he quickly and often broke that rule. Toshi helped him convince Dare that getting into real fights would be the most effective way to get accurate combat experience, and was therefore the best possible training to prepare them both for the entrance exam. So eventually he stopped telling him no and started telling him to be safe instead.


They did something his mom and landlord would be furious about if they ever found out. A quick study of the floor plans revealed that the closet in Midoriya room was right up against the closet in Dares room, so they made a secret door between them. They just couldn’t resist the chance to live out every kid's fantasy of having a secret tunnel to your best friend's house. Besides, it meant he had an easy way to sneak in and out when it was time for patrols.


With all the extra time that would have gone towards his online classes, he was able to do twice as much work on everyone's gear as well as help Mei with the stuff for their portfolio. He also took up a few extra shifts at work, once school started he was gonna have to quit, so he wanted to build up a decent savings before then.


They eventually invited Kami to train at the beach instead, without telling him it used to be where Dare and Toshi lived. They had most of their support gear now, but it was technically illegal to train with some of it, because quirk use without proper supervision was against the law. But not getting the chance to practice with it ahead of time, would put Kami and Toshi at a disadvantage. So the occasional late night rendezvous at Dagoba every other week was the best compromise to train while avoiding the cops.


The beach was almost completely clear now, with the only remaining trash being the small obstacle course they left up at the far end of the beach. The news called it a modern art installation, and in a way it kinda was, whenever one of them had a particularly bad day, they would all go run the course and then add to the quickly growing collection of graffiti the metal structure was acquiring.

Sometimes it was just stupid little doddles or meme quotes, but one night they put in the effort to write their hero names in cool fonts, assured that the evidence would be covered by other artists long before anyone could link it to them.

The selection of your hero names was usually something that happened later on in your schooling, sometime in your first or second year. But since Dare already had a name, and because Midoriya wanted some ‘vibes’ direction as he designed the rest of Toshi's gear and costume, they had another bonfire and workshopped it together.


Since a solid 90% of Midoriya's move set involved moving silently through the shadows and then knocking his opponents out before they got the chance to fight back, he took the name Nox. It fit the vaguely spooky and intimidating aesthetics of his costume, (that he still wasn't sure he could actually pull off, no matter how much his friends told him he totally could now.) A close call with a villain's scissor hand quirk left a three pronged scar across on the side of his head and he had no choice but to get a haircut. So now he had an undercut that, according to Kaminari, made him look 75% more badass. He had to lie to his mom and say he fell victim to a particularly large and vicious alley cat, he was pretty sure she did not believe him, but she didn't press him on it too much, so they both just stuck with that obvious fib.


Toshi's name came from a different conversation entirely. One of the nights they got together to train, they started asking Toshi some questions about his quirk, so they could figure out the best way to train it. He had come a long way in the past few months and actually trusted them enough to answer all their questions. Midoriya was so proud of him.

“So it just requires a response of some kind right?” Midoriya asked.


“Yep.”


“What counts as a response? Does it need to be verbal or would sign language work as well?”


“Naw, it has to be a verbal response.”


“So if you told someone a knock knock joke...?” Kaminari began with a cheesy grin.


Hitoshi scoffed a bit before saying, “Yeah, them saying ‘who's there’ would work.”


“What if they didn't actually go along with the joke though? Like, what if you told a really bad joke or a cheesy pickup line, and then they just groaned in response? Would that work?” Kaminari asked.


“Uhhh…” Hitoshi made a series of faces that showed how hard he was thinking about it before finally admitting, “I...I don’t know? Maybe.”


“Let's try it!” Kaminari lit up with excitement, but Toshi flinched back at the idea.


“What?”


“Try it on me!” He said with growing enthusiasm.


Midoriya and Dare both looked at Toshi with thinly veiled concern. It had taken several months for him to agree to practice his quirk on either of them. The idea of putting loved ones under his quirk was a sore spot for him. All the beatings he had taken over the years training him not to use it at all was hard to reprogram. There was a lot of guilt and uncertainty there, but at the same time, it was something he would need to get used to, so he could train with the rest of the class when they got into UA.


“I- You want me to use my quirk on you? Are you sure? It might be a little...scary.”


“I’m not afraid of you Toshi. I trust you… Now flirt with me!”


Hitoshi blushed as he stumbled over his words, “What?”


“Tell me a bad pick up line, and I’ll groan about it, and then you can try to mind wipe me or whatever. Then we’ll know if non-word responses count as being verbal or not. Pretty please?”


“I mean… If you insist.”


Kaminari nodded emphatically. Hitoshi still looked mildly uncomfortable, but he swallowed it down and slipped into a mask of false confidence.


“Hey cutie, are you a lightbulb? Cause you light up my world.”


“Ugggh-” Kaminari blushed and it looked like he was about to say something more but his expression went blank before he could.


Hitoshi only held the connection long enough to confirm he had one, and dropped it before telling him to do anything. Then he proceeded to raise his eyebrows at Kami in a silent question of whether or not he was okay. But Kaminari seemed completely nonplussed by the sensation.


“Bro, you were supposed to say a bad pick up line. Not hit me right in my electricity pun shaped weak spot.” Kaminari teased.


Hitoshi scratched at the back of his head nervously in lieu of a response. Meanwhile Midoriya was writing notes a mile a minute as a series of new possibilities came to mind. They took turns as the test dummy as they confirmed a laugh, a scream, and a confused grunt, as viable responses as well. Which was great news.


Hitoshis quirk was only effective for as long as his opponents didn't know what it was or how it worked. So as a means of keeping it effective for as long as possible, they hatched a plan to use subterfusion and distraction to keep it secret. If no one knew what the activation requirements were, then even if word got about what his quirk was, no one would know how to combat it. So if he went into each encounter doing something different to throw them off, and exchanged a few lines of dialog before he took over, then no one would know what factor it was that made it work. They workshopped a few possible red herrings, like prolonged eye contact, a fist bump, screaming like a banshee, putting a finger or two to his own head, or even singing a little song. Kaminari joked that if he started singing a really catchy song, and the villains started singing along, that that would be the funniest possible way to activate his quirk, and they were all quick to agree.


“You could be like, my own personal little siren.” Kaminari teased.


Hitoshi turned bright red and looked away for a moment, leaving Kaminari looking absolutely tickled pink at successfully flustering him once again. Midoriya was about to chastise Kami for teasing him so much when all of a sudden Kaminari gasped a said,
“Wait a minute, wouldn’t that make an amazing hero name! You could be Siren, the enchanting hero: Lurring bad guys to their doom, and all the ladies to your bedroom.” He said with a wink.


“I- I mean...definitely not that last part about the ladies, but…”


“Oh worm?” Kaminari asked with renewed interest, “Are you uh…” Kaminari did a little limp wrist movement to demonstrate his point before continuing, “Cause I’m painfully pansexual if that wasnt already obvious, so, ya know, no judgement here.”


“Well I...I guess so? Maybe?”


Hitoshi looked a bit uncomfortable at this particular line of questioning. So in what seemed like a display of both solidarity and mercy Dare tried to change the subject by saying,
“Yeah, yeah, we're all a little fruity here. Not important. What's important is that I agree. Siren could be a killer codename if you're into it, Toshi.”


Toshi looked between the three of them before a wide grin came over his face.


“On one condition. Zu has to make me a trident.”

Midoriya felt a surge of energy rattle his whole body with excitement, he squealed like a happy piglet as he pulled out his sketch pad and started rambling a mile a minute as he put together the concept for his costume and gear.


A color scheme of dark purples, blues, and green, would give him an underwater vibe that was still dark enough to blend into the night sky. A net launcher/grappling hook, designed to look like a fishing net and an anchor would help with detaining criminals and advanced mobility.


His mask would get a cosmetic upgrade to look like it was barnacle covered and water logged. As if it was made from the scrap metal of a long submerged shipwreck. A similar treatment would be given to any other pieces of metal and other accessories, to fully sell the illusion of the story they were trying to tell.


The capture tape that Eraserhead had as a scarf, would be doubled up and wrapped around either fist and arm like a boxer. Giving him added support for his punches as well as being a subtle nod to his favorite hero. And when the job was done he could use them instead of zip ties until the authorities arrived.


Kaminari tried to convince him to go topless to really sell that merman thing, but Toshi turned that down on the grounds that ‘what kind of idiot leaves his core completely exposed in his hero costume?’ So they instead went for a middle ground option of having a shirt made of the same armored, vision distortion, mesh, material that Midoriya's sleeves would be made of. The netting would be both practical and on brand, and it's not like Toshi had much reason to be embarrassed by the exposed view of his chest and arms. Now that he had ready access to real food whenever he wanted it, and a live-in personal trainer, he was quickly starting to bulk up.


But the real centerpiece, in Midoriya's opinion, was the requested trident. A collapsible weapon would be easy to carry with the addition of a holster on his back, while still being durable enough to be wielded like a staff. But his favorite part was that it doubled as a lightning rod, so he and Kaminari could do some really cool combos if they wanted to, and it would be perfectly safe so long as Toshi's hands stayed on the rubberized safety grips.


And with that decided, Hitoshi’s hero identity as Siren was finalized.


So now they were DareDevil, Nox, and Siren, Vigilante trio (and future underground hero duo) of Musutafu.

Time went on, they worked, studied, and completed their assorted projects. At night the trio would patrol, and every other weekend they would either be at the beach with Kami for additional training, or they would all get together in Dares apartment to watch movies, or play games, or whatever else they felt like doing.


They got stronger. They got better. They got a bunch more scars. They got the kind of contented confidence that can only come from several months of hard work and gentle friendship. And perhaps most importantly, they got as ready as they could ever possibly be.


And now the time had come.

It was finally the day of the UA Entrance exams.

Chapter Text

Midoriya and Mei brought a lot of gear with them for their portfolios. Like, a lot a lot. You are only required to bring one completed project, some sketches and blueprints of past or future projects, and your tools so you can complete the mystery blueprint they give you within the time limit for the test. But well, they are what you would call anxious and perpetual overachievers.


They, of course, brought all the gear they would be using for the heroics exam, but they also brought a few of Mei’s other babies, as well as a tiny dancing speaker they made just for fun. All of which is to say, they had a whole lot of things to carry, so they enlisted the help of the rest of the diesel dudes (minus Dare who wasn’t allowed on campus as a non-student.) Luckily, the van was all fixed up by that point, so they were able to carpool themselves and their gear right up to the school.


The van was “fixed up” in the sense that it was running smoothly, but it wasn't exactly polished. It was still covered in rust and duct tape, as well as some spray paint doodles and phrases. One side of the van was proudly tagged “diesel dudes” by Shinsou, and the other was marked “Rowdy 3” in reference to a tv show Kaminai was a fan of.


“Rowdy 3? But there's five of us?”


“I know! It's perfect!”


“...”

When they all pulled up to the school and started unloading all their gear, Midoriya was startled by a loud voice behind him.


“Holy cow, did you kids bring the whole lab with you!?”


Midoriya let out a rather undignified yelp, prompting Hitoshi to stifle a snort and mutter something about Dare being ‘disappointed by his lack of situational awareness’. Midoriya gave Toshi a playful punch to the arm for the teasing and turned to see the source of the voice, not at all expecting pro hero and radio DJ Present Mic to be standing there in all his giant hair spiked glory. It took half a beat for the shriek in his throat to turn into words.


“Oh my god! You're Present Mic!” He said in a fanboy squeal as he began frantical bowing his head in respect.


Presentation Michael gave a sheepish grin and started waving off the praise. “Oh that's not necessary, little listener. After all, if you get in, I’ll soon be one of your teachers here at UA. I teach English and Literature here, so you’ll be seeing me every other day when you're not in the support labs.”


“Oh, unfortunately, I actually won't be seeing you. I’m not gonna be taking any of those courses because I've already tested out of them at my old school. I kinda wish I hadn’t now, because learning from you would be a real dream come true! But on the other hand, it's only because of that, that I’m able to try for both the support course and the heroics course at the same time, which is kinda like two dreams come true!”


Present Mic made a shocked face that only became more baffled as Midoriya said more. Without really meaning to, Midoriya's nerves and excitement got the better of him, and he began muttering a long detailed description of how he had accidentally graduated middle school early and how he learned it was possible to be concurrently enrolled in multiple courses, and what his plans were. Eventually his spiral was cut off by Mei.


“Hey Midas! You coming baby daddy? These wagons aren't gonna unload themselves, ya know.”


“Whoops, I guess I got kinda lost for a second there, sorry Mei!”


Midoriya bowed to Present Mic and thanked him for his time before turning to leave, but his retreat was halted by Present Mic's hand on his shoulder.


“Ya know, little listener, we have a great guidance counselor on campus named Hound Dog, if you ever need someone to talk to...We also have an on campus day care, in case you can’t find a babysitter at the last minute.”


Midoriya was so distracted by the prospect of the school offering these services, that he didn't realize the implications of Present Mic telling him about them.


“You do? Oh, for the professors with children right? That's so neat of the school to offer these services. That must be so nice for you guys.”


Present Mic gave a warm smile, “Well yeah, it's primarily for the teachers, but if the students have need of the service at any time, they are also welcome to it.” He gave Midoriya a pointed glance that Midoriya completely missed, because Toshi and Kami had started laughing and snickering behind him.


“That's wonderful.” Midoriya muttered as he looked over his shoulder to look at his friends with confusion.


“Welp, I don't wanna keep you for too long. Good look on your exam little listener! Or I guess, exams plural in your case, you little go-getter!” Present Mic gave his shoulder a confident squeeze and then turned on his heel towards the teachers entrance of the school.


Midoriya turned to his still laughing friends and asked,
“What? What did I miss?”


“Dude!” Kami coughed out between chuckles, “Present Mic totally thinks you're a teen dad!”


“What?! No he doesn't! W-why would he think that?!”


“Gee, I don’t know.” Toshi deadpanned “Maybe because Mei called you here baby daddy and you didn't correct her.”


“Oh my god…” Midoriya's face blanched in horror “I-I need to go tell him! I cant have him thinking I’m some kind of delinquent!”


“Okay, first off, I hate to be the one to tell you this Zuku, but you ARE some kind of delinquent. Have been for awhile now. Look at the van you just crawled out of.”


Toshi motioned to the van with a thumb over his shoulder before putting a steadying hand on the now trembling Midoriya's shoulder.


“And second off, I would maybe wait till later to correct him. The dude seemed kinda impressed by your dedication, and him telling you about the day care and stuff makes me think you may have earned both his sympathy and his respect. You could totally milk that to get his vote in being accepted.”


“But, isn't that kinda like cheating? Telling lies to make the teachers take pity on you?”


“Technically, bro,” Kaminari butted in, “You never told any lies. He made some assumptions and you simply did not correct them. If his own assumption about you influences his decisions then that's on him, not you.”


“What pika said.” Hitoshi echoed the notion.


“I don’t know guys, I still feel like I should say something.”


“I tell you what, if you run into him again, and he brings it up, then you can correct him. But if not, then just roll with it. Deal?” Toshi reasoned.


A nervous bubble of guilt still sat in his belly, but Midoriya reluctantly nodded his assent and grabbed the handle of his wagon to pull into the building.

The support students had their timed builds and portfolio checks in the morning. The other students were set to arrive after lunch so all prospective students could take the general education exam. Which would finally be followed by the practical heroics exam.


Midoriya felt a little guilty that Kami and Toshi would have nothing to do while him and Mei took their support course practical, but the boys assured them that they would be fine exploring the tiny portion of campus they were allowed to explore in. So after listening to the “get hyped” playlist the gang had collaborated on to clear his mind, he entered the hall for the support practical with a renewed confidence.


The mystery build came first, with those able to complete the projects within the time limit, then moving on to the portfolio check and interview with Power Loader and Principal Nedzu. Him and Mei finished their projects in half the allotted time. At first this made Midoriya feel pretty good about his chances, but the longer he sat in that room watching the other students work with varying levels of struggle the more he started to second guess himself.


Maybe he missed some crucial component of the build and that's why it seemed so easy? Surely they gave the amount of time they did because that's how long it was supposed to take. After five minutes of increasing panic, Midoriya took a second look at the blueprints and started assembling a second version of the project, just to be sure. It went even faster this time, since he had already built it once, and he didn't catch anything he had missed the first time. But when it came time to present his project to the teachers, he showed them both versions, just to be sure. Principal Nedzu smiled at him with an unreadable expression.


“You’re Midoriya Izuku, yes? You were the student interested in the analytics track as well, correct?”


“Oh, um, y-yes sir.”


“And did you bring your analytics portfolio as well?”


“Yes sir!” Midoriya reached into his bag and pulled out the newly transcribed and completed ‘hero analysis for the future #13’ notebook.


The principal flipped through to a few random pages and scanned the pages quickly, his smile growing larger the more he read. Midoriya was starting to feel a little uncomfortable. Kaminari was right, this guy was kinda terrifying.


“Fascinating.” The principal said as he handed the notebook back to Midoriya, with his normal, unreadable expression, back on his face once again. The rodent of unknown species moved onto the next student's workbench, power loader following quickly behind him.


From across the walkway Mei gave him a big grin and a double thumbs up, which instantly made him feel better again.


When it came time to show off their gear together, Principal Nedzu once again had a grin bordering on manic plastered across his face. Meanwhile power loader had a look that was equal parts impressed and already tired of Mei’s larger than life personality.


“So the two of you put together this treasure trove of creativity yourselves then?”


“Yes sir! These babies are all Hatsume/Midoriya Industries originals!” Mei enthused.


“And did you each prepare a piece you worked on independently of each other as well?”


“Yes sir,” Midoriya reached for his mask from the pile as Mei reached for her gyroscopic jet pack. “This is some of the support gear I designed for myself. I’ll be using it during the Heroics course practical as well. So if you wanted to see a real time demonstration of its uses, you could review that footage later...I mean, only if you wanted to, of course...”


“Are you applying to the heroics course as well?” Nedzu asked with a smile.


“Yes sir, I managed to complete, and test out of, the general education classes already, so I have the time in my schedule to take both courses concurrently. Assuming I pass both exams, that is.”


“Fascinating.” The fingers of the principal's paws folded into themselves in front of his chin as that now familiar creepy look flashed on his face. “Well, only time will tell, but I've no doubt you will be hearing from me soon, one way or another Mr. Midoriya. As will you, Miss Mei… You two are dismissed. Feel free to explore the grounds and do some last minute studying before the written exam begins.”


Mei and Midoriya each gave a deep bow to the professors before rounding all their gear back up into their wagons and leaving the room to find the others.

Kaminari and Hitoshi were waiting for them in the van by the time they got out. Kami spotted them first and was quick to shout out a greeting of,
“Hey, the baby einsteins are back!”


“How’d it go?” Toshi asked as they got closer.


“Fantastic!” Mei shouted in response for the both of them. “They were totally wowed by all of our babies. As they should be. And I think the principal may be drafting an adoption request for Midas as we speak.”


“You think so? I kinda got the vibe he wanted to eat me or something.” Midoriya said nervously.


“I’m sure he loved you.” Kami said reassuringly, “But, if you do go missing anytime soon, I’ll tell the detectives where to start the investigation.”


They got to work unloading everything back into the van, sans the equipment they would need for their heroics practicals.


Midoriya and Hitoshi elected not to use all of their gear for this. While technically allowed, so long as they filled all the paperwork ahead of time, most people only bring in one or maybe two pieces of support gear, so having the full set and ensemble seemed like it would be both overkill and a little suspicious. They both brought their masks, Toshi brought his trident, and Midoriya brought his shoes and control panel. The exact nature of the exam was a closely guarded secret that was rumored to change yearly, forums online suggest robots of some kind were almost always used in some capacity, so the control panel should allow him to do some quick hacking in the field if necessary. And the kinetic energy shoes would give him the mobility to overcome any other sort of obstacles they came across. Kaminari brought the gauntlet/shield/launchers Midoriya made him as well, claiming they were the ‘ultimate piece of Kaminari specific technology’ and was all he would need to ‘kick some probably robotic ass’.


But first they would need to pass the written exam.

--

Bakugo Katsuki wasn't even a little bit nervous about the entrance exams. He was the smartest person here, and he knew he could kick anyone's ass at the drop of a hat. He was gonna kill these exams, and get the top score, and be well one his way to being number one by day's end. So why would he be nervous? That would be ridiculous. He laughed at the very idea. In fact, he laughed so hard at it, that he almost tripped.


Almost, being the operative word here, because he didn't actually trip. Of course he didn’t trip, that would be ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as the idea of him being nervous. But I guess some extra thought he was gonna trip, so they caught him in their stupid ass antigravity quirk before he had the chance to catch himself.


He rounded on the useless extra who thought he needed their pity.


“Who the fuck gave you permisson to touch me chubby cheeks?!”


The lady extra gave an offended look, though whether the offense was with the nickname or the reaction all together was yet to be seen.


“Sorry? I thought falling before the exams would be like a bad omen or something. I was just trying to help.”


“Well I don’t need your stinking help! I wasn't even gonna fall, you stupid extra!”


“Geez dude. Relax. I promise I’ll never try to help you again.” She said as she hurried off into the building, leaving him fumming on the stairs.


Stupid fucking extra thinking he needed anyone's help. He never needed help. He was the best.


He thought he saw a blur of green hair from the corner of his eye. But when he whipped around it was gone. Part of his mind wondered if that was useless Deku. But it couldn't be. For one, he had successfully convinced that loser to stay out of his way ten months ago when he dropped out. And second off, that figure was too tall, too wide, and surrounded by too many friends to possibly be Deku even if the idiot did show up today.

With a scoff he headed inside, and aced the written exams, before being moved to a separate auditorium with the rest of the hero course extras. He took a mental inventory of everyone in the room, placing his bets on which of these idiots looked the least useless. He was clearly the best person here, but it didn't hurt to see what competition looked like for whoever would be in second place under him.


Some loud, blonde, hero named Present Mic gave a presentation on the rules for the exam. Basically kill as many robots as possible and try to rack up the most points. Katsuki would of course be taking out all the three pointers and leaving the lower level robots as scraps for the others to pick off. It wouldn't be fair if he took out allll the stupid bots by himself after all. He had to give them something to do.


Some stick in the mud, hard ass type with glasses gave some annoying speech about a fourth type of robot they hadn't discussed yet. So then the teachers explained there was also a zero point obstacle in each course that was gonna be in his way. How annoying. It wouldn't be a problem for him though, he knew how to overcome obstacles.

 

Just as he thought, blowing up these fucking robots was breeze. He could kill these things in his sleep, he was barely even breaking a sweat, which was really pissing him off, cause he kinda needed the sweat to be able to make bigger explosions. But whatever, he was still winning.


A huge boom followed by the sound of approaching demolition alerted him to the arrival of the zero pointer. Was it truly necessary for the stupid machine to be so fucking huge? Where does it get off looking like a mega mech and not even being worth any points? It would probably be a lot of fun to take the thing out, just so he would have a decent challenge for once, but he wasn't gonna waste his time on it when there were still a couple three pointers to track down and destroy. One of which was apparently roaming down one of the side streets behind where the zero pointer was. He would need to dash around that thing to reach it.


All the extras ran away from the zero pointer, like the cowards they were, as Katsuki instead ran straight towards it. The sounds of distress coming from the ground caused him to do a double take. It was that round-faced bitch from earlier that thought he needed help, and she was trapped under some rubble the zero pointer knocked off one of the buildings. That was hardly his problem. None of his business whatsoever. Who gave a shit if this stupid extra failed the exam.


Except the path the zero pointer was on right now was gonna leave her crushed if she didn't get out in time. And none of the people she called out to were stopping to help her. She was gonna fucking die if she didn't get out of there in time.


Surrounded by people that claimed they were worthy of being heroes, and none of them did anything. The fathom tendril of sludge slithering down his throat stopped him from breathing. The sensation of choking, of dying, surrounded by heroes that just stood by and watched, stopped his running in its tracks.


Shit. Guess he was gonna have to do it himself.


A red hot anger coursed through his body, and with a feral yell he pivoted in her direction. He blasted away the rubble on top of her, and yanked her out of the way and onto her feet, just as giant treads rolled over the area she was just laying in. She looked up at him with wide eyes.


“Hey, you're that angry guy from earlier, aren’t you? Thanks for saving me!”


“Tch, Whatever!” He shouted at her, dismissing whatever unnecessary commentary she was gonna spout at him.


He didn't have time to talk to extras when there were still more three pointers on the field, so he dashed off towards the bot he saw earlier. He was just about to set off a blast to the things head when a loud buzzer sounded off, announcing the end of the exam.


“God Dammit!” he shouted at no one in particular.


He knew he had plenty of points to pass, in fact he was pretty sure he still had the highest score. But the fact that he ran out of time because he had to rescue stupid round face pissed him off. If just one of these other extras had pulled their fucking weight, instead of running away like fucking cowards, he wouldn't have had to do it himself. Or better yet, if round face hadn’t been such an idiot and gotten stuck in the rubble to begin with, then he wouldn't have been forced into that position to begin with. He set off a few explosions to demolish the remaining robots in his frustration. Who cares if the exam is already over, he said he was gonna crush all the three pointers and he would be damned if he wasn't gonna follow through on that. He was the best, and he never failed his missions.


Never.

--


Midoriya couldn’t believe he had forgotten about Kacchan. After almost a year of not seeing his childhood friend turned bully, hearing his familiar shouts directed at some poor girl with the misfortune of running into him, had triggered his fight/flight/freeze response. And his body, as it often did when Kacchan was involved, chose to freeze. It was like the past ten months of training and healing dissolved instantly, and he was once again the tiny, useless, defenseless, nobody he once was.


His friends noticed his sudden impression of a statue and followed his terrified gaze to where it landed on Kacchan up ahead.


“Uhh, you good bro?” Kami asked, just a beat ahead of when Toshi asked,


“Do you know that guy?”


“Uhh, yeah, sorta. I used to anyway.” He answered.


“I'm guessing, based on your reaction, that it wasn't an amicable split?” Kaminari suggested.


Midoriya's hand instinctively hovered over the burn scars still litteringing his torso from the last time he had seen Kacchan.


“Not really, no.” Was all he cared to say about it.


“You want me to go beat that guy up for you?” Mei asked.


“What? No! Of course not. It’s probably for the best if we just avoid interacting with him at all.”


“Well in that case.” Toshi said before assuming a new position in their walking formation to block Midoriya from view. Kaminari and Mei caught on quick to what he was doing and formed a protective triangle around him as they quickly walked past the scene and into the building.


Midoriya felt like crying, between seeing Kacchan again, and having his friends forming a human shield around him unprompted, he felt like he had plenty of reasons to tear up. But he didn't want to go into the written exam with red eyes, so he choked the emotions down for the time being.

The written exam was easy enough, it was pretty similar to the tests he had taken in his online classes, so it mostly felt like filling in review worksheets. There were three essay questions at the end, all of them asking about the best strategies for overcoming the circumstances listed in the question. Two were about fighting villains, one with known quirks, and one where you don’t know the combatants' quirks. And the last was about priorities in a rescue mission during a natural disaster. The essays only needed to be a page long, but Midoriya had a lot to say, so he wrote three pages for each. Hopefully whoever was in charge of grading the exams wasn't too annoyed by his rambling.


Once the written exam was over, everyone hoping to be in the heroics course were instructed to go to a separate auditorium to hear a quick explanatory presentation. So the boys said good bye to Mei, and did their best to stay out of Kacchans eye line, as they went to the auditorium.


Seeing Present Mic up on the stage before the speech started reminded Midoriya of the misunderstanding they had earlier, and he began mumbling under his breath about the moral quandary of not correcting him. A taller boy with blue hair and glasses turned in his seat in front of him.


“Do you plan on mumbling like that the whole time? It's rather distracting.”


Midoriya's jaw flew open at the sudden, and rather blunt critique, a red blush forming over his whole face and neck. Kaminari next to him looked like he might have an aneurism from trying to contain his laughter, and on the other side Toshi was giving him a shit eating grin.


“S-sorry.” Midoriya whispered back before slipping his mask on and turning on the mute function, his face still hot with blush.


Once the presentation was over, (and the boy with the glasses proved himself to be an equal opportunity critic, by questioning the teachers as well,) they were divided into groups and put onto busses to be carted off to various training grounds on campus to take the exam. The students were divided up based on where they were sitting for the presentation, which was both a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because he would be with his friends and away from Kacchan; but bad because the glasses kid was in their group as well.


The boys decided they would stick together for the first part of the exam and help each other rack up a good bank of points before splitting up for a bit of friendly competition.


They only had 15 minutes to get as many points as possible, Midoriya spent the first three hacking into the system so he would have a 3d modeled map with real time locations and status of all the robots. It was risky to spend the precious time on something he wasn't even sure was possible, but it was well worth it once he figured it out. Using the map and trackers they were able to locate robots of all levels much faster than the other students, allowing them to rack up points rather quickly. And during his hacking he also found out where their control panels were located; meaning he simply had to leap up, and either land a solid hit, or pop open the control panel and punch in the correct shut down sequence, to take them out instantly. Kaminari was taking full advantage of his directional disk shooters to knock out several Robots from a distance, and Toshi was able to take advantage of the loose wattage in the air to charge up his Trident as well.


Once they reached the ten minute mark, the boys all looked at each other and nodded; coming to the same silent understanding that it was time to break off on their own. As much fun as it was to fight alongside his friends, he wanted a chance to prove himself on his own as well.


A minute or so into his solo mission, he saw a kid with longer black hair and really sharp looking teeth taking out a robot by hardening his arm and punching its head clean off. Midoriya didn't have much time to be distracted by the cool quirk though, because a two point robot was barreling towards the sharp boy at an alarming speed and it didn't look like the kid was gonna see it in time.

Midoriya leapt over the divider in the road and sprinted over to the two pointer, shouting to get the boy's attention as he did so.


“Look out!” He leapt to its back, holding its arms back in a full Nelson just in time for the rock boy to turn around.


“Woah! Nice save dude!” He shouted gratefully.


“No problem,” He grunted out in his struggle, “Hurry up and take him out.”


“For real? You're not gonna take the points for yourself?”


“Naw, I'm good. He was after you in the first place, the points should go to you.”


The boy's arms hardened into sharp points, and he gave Midoriya a huge toothy grin, as he took out the two pointer's legs.


Midoriya leapt off at the last second and started sprinting down the fake road to the location of the next robot on his map, giving a quick wave goodbye to the other boy over his shoulder as he turned the corner.


Now with only three minutes to go, a loud rumble could be heard through the whole false city as the massive zero pointer came to life, bursting out of the ground like a slumbering mountain. A loud bellowing shout erupted from the mouth of the blue haired boy from earlier as he was sent sailing through the sky like a rocket. The literal engines in his legs, combined with the sudden rising earth from where the zero pointer emerged, apparently launched him like a pumpkin out of a trebuchet, and he landed rather roughly on the roof of a false high rise. It would have been hilarious if it didn't also look so painful and dangerous.


Midoriya ran over towards the scene to make sure everyone else was okay and saw Toshi and Kami, apparently doing the same. Luckily no one else seemed injured so far, but the boy with the glasses was still on the roof, apparently knocked unconscious from the fall. The zero pointer was slowly rampaging in their direction, knocking down buildings with powerful blows as he went.


Midoriya looked at his friends, speaking through his mask directly to Toshi he said,
“Toshi, remember that one time with the really stretchy dude?”


“On it.” He replied before he turned to Kaminari to start giving him instructions.


Meanwhile, Midoriya started shimming up a nearby lamp post and then lept to the roof of a small building to get the necessary height for his next maneuver. Jumping up and down to get a good kinetic charge in his shoes. Toshi and Kaminari both ran back out of the way of the approaching bot, and when the timing was just right, Toshi launched his trident like a javelin into the Zero pointers stomach.

Midoriya got a running start and leapt off the roof, latching onto the staff portion of Toshi's trident. Now that he was already half way up he used all the climbing and dodging skills Dare had taught him to quickly scale up the rest of the way, avoiding the swatting hands of the bot all the way. Once he reached the top, he shakily stood on the giant's shoulder, and ran across it in the direction of the knocked out kid on the roof. He leapt off the giant, rolling into the landing to avoid injuring himself. He heard Toshi give the command to Kaminari down below.


“Now!” and Kaminari let off a few thousand volts towards Toshi trident to short circuit the giant creature and end its rampage.


They knew they wouldn't get any points for taking it down. But they still had to stop it before it could knock down the buildings Midoriya and the engine kid were now both on top of. Even Midoriya wasn't fast enough to scale back down with another boy on his back before the robot would have reached them. And having the building come down while they were still on it would have been really bad.


Midoriya gave his companions a thumbs up to thank them for the assist, leaping over to the building next door where the glasses kid was laying. The boys below took a quick moment to make sure Kami hadn't fried himself in the efforts and took his good health as their cue to run off for a few more last minute points. Midoriya however would have to forgo any extra points in favor of making sure the other boy was alright. He had to prioritize the rescue.


A quick check of the pulse confirmed the boy was still alive, which was great, because Midoriya really wasn't sure what he was gonna do if he saw someone die from accidental robo launching.


He gently rolled him over, careful not to tweak his spine at all, and gave him a cursory first aid check up, to determine the extent of the damage. His main issues seemed to be some scrapes from the rough landing and a sprained wrist; but it looked like he mostly was knocked out by a combination of shock, and having the wind knocked out of him, as opposed to any super major head injuries.

Again, great news in Midoriya's eyes, emergency triage in the middle of an exam sounded horrendous.


Midoriya pulled the disinfectant wipes and bandages from his pocket sized first aid kit and started cleaning the dirt and rubble out of the kids elbow when the buzzer sounded signalling the end of the test.

Midoriya let out a little sigh, he was pretty sure he had acquired enough points earlier in the exam to pass, but he wasn't entirely sure, Present Mic had never said if a set number was needed to pass or not. He was making an educated guess based purely on the point total available on the board, the number of students in each testing area, and the average number of students admitted to the hero course each year. By his calculations you would need to acquire 20 points to pass, and he had about 27. It was a logical conclusion, but he had no proof if he was right or not, and the not knowing had him feeling suddenly very anxious.


Still, he couldn't bring himself to regret his decisions either. If he hadn't taken the time to save the glasses guy, then he would have been severely injured by the zero pointer, possibly even killed, so it was fully necessary. And while the rock boy from earlier probably would have been fine and walked away with only a broken bone or two without his intervention; doing nothing when he knew he could help, would have felt like a betrayal to his goals as a hero. So he knew he did the right thing by helping them, even if it meant failing the exam.


Worst case scenario, he could always try to transfer in during the sports festival or something.


After a few minutes of continuing to clean and patch up the still knocked out boy in front of him, he heard someone climbing up the fire escape onto the roof with them.
Recovery Girl, a retired pro who now worked at UA as the school nurse, approached them with a look of both worry and intrigue.


“Those were some risky moves you made earlier dearey. You're lucky you were not injured during your circus-like exploits. Though I suppose I should congratulate you on your successful administration of first aid in the field.”


“Oh, thank you.” He said with a smile and a bow, still feeling a little star stuck by seeing and talking to a real pro hero for the second time that day.


“Ya know, in all my years here, I've never once had a student take time out of their testing period to give another student first aid. Simply getting him out of harm's way and leaving the aid to me after the fact would have been plenty sufficient, but you really went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure another’s safety and well being. That’s the true essence of heroism if you ask me.”


Midoriya's face flushed and eyes welled with tears at her kind words. Possibly failing the test was definitely worth it if Recovery Girl thought he had acted heroically.


“T-thank you. That means a lot to me coming from you.”


Recovery girl smiled warmly at him and offered him a candy before asking for his assistance in carrying the other boy down the fire escape. When they reached the ground level, he laid the other boy down on a stretcher, which was then loaded into Recovery Girl’s van to be taken to the first aid station. Midoriya rode along with her at her invitation to the front of the testing site where he met back up with Kaminari and Hitoshi. And with that, the exams were over.


In a week or two's time, they would all be getting letters of either acceptance or rejection. But for now, there was nothing left to do but meet up with Mei and Dare for celebratory milkshakes and wait.


Or so he thought anyway.

 

Chapter Text

The risk Dare took was calculated, but he was apparently bad at math.


All of his friends spent the day working hard on their entrance exams, and as a reward, they now wanted to go get milkshakes and greasy American food at a diner. Eating out in a public restaurant during semi regular dining hours was an indulgence Dare was never able to participate in. The odds of being spotted and recognized in such an environment was too high. But Zu insisted that the celebration wouldn't be the same without him; that his training was a major component of their (hopefully) successful admittance, and that he was therefore just as entitled to a celebratory shake as they were. Toshi was quick to back him up, unleashing the big guns in his arsenal of persuasion by saying he ‘really wanted his Oniisan there’ to celebrate with them. Between the appeal to his new found big brother status, and Zu’s puppy dog eyes, he was powerless to deny them. The bastards.


Dare's head was on a swivel the whole way to the diner. He chose a large booth with a strategic position in the back by the exit, taking the seat with an easy view of all entrances. He even memorized the faces of the staff and other patrons in case he would need to hunt someone down later. Basically utilizing any and all precautions he could do in a casual setting without appearing suspicious. Once the others arrived, appearing joyous and in high spirits despite the small undercurrent of uncertainty, Dare started to relax a little.


Zu gave him a thorough play by play of the day. Mei was entirely unrepentant of the misunderstanding she caused with Present Mic. Zu seemed horrified by his accidental lie, but as mildly uncomfortable as the implications made Dare on the inside, he outwardly agreed with Toshi. Appealing to a teacher's sympathy was an effective way of getting their support.


Zu may have forgotten about Bakugou, but Dare certainly hadn't, his case file with more than enough evidence to put Aldera middle under investigation and have the whole staff fired was still sitting in his hard drive, just waiting for him to hit send. There were two versions of the file, one based entirely on the negligent adults and another that also heavily featured some of the biggest bullies in the school. Chief among them being Bakugou. For whatever reason, Zu was still determined to give him the benefit of the doubt, and it’s possible ten months of introspection, and possible admittance to a hero school, would do the job of straightening the explosive teen out a bit. So for now, they would wait on Zu to give the command to pull that particular trigger.


Dare was pleased to hear of Nedzu’s apparent interest in Zu, it seems the encrypted message he sent him a few months back had indeed reached him. He sent in a small portfolio as well as his own assessment of Zu’s skill and potential through the usual channels. The stout responded by asking if this was Dare calling in his one favor. Dare was quick to tell him no. This was him doing Nedzu a second favor by directing his attention to a mind that rivaled his own. He in turn gave some cryptic message about ‘that which remains unseen’ but Dare was rather confident nonetheless. Now that Nedzu had met Zu, he too would surely agree that Dare was now owed two favors by the man. He elected to tell Zu none of this, and simply smiled his approval over this part of the story whilst sipping his shake.


Zu and Kami took turns giving rather animated descriptions of the action during the heroics practical. Mei was very excited about all the explosions, while Dare and Toshi kept giving each other commiserating looks each time one of the boys' excitement levels got a bit too high. It was a glance that simultaneously said ‘I can’t believe we have to associate with these fucking dorks’ and ‘I cant believe were lucky enough to be graced by the presence of these adorable dorks.’


When they got to the part about their rescue of the kid with the engine legs, Dare’s heart swelled with pride. All three of his students had immediately prioritized the rescue and had used their heads as well as their skill sets to get the job done efficiently. As a teacher, it was proof that he had done his job well in teaching them.


Once the recap was done, the topics shifted to other things, like comics, games, and ideas Mei had for unnecessarily powerful support items. There was playful debate over whether or not dipping your fries into your milkshake was a good idea, as well as whether or not that answer changed based on the flavor of said milkshake. They had just landed on the conclusion that chocolate or vanilla were okay to dip in, but any kind of fruity flavor, or ones with candy bits in it, was a no go, when Dares' phone rang.


Dare’s smile melted from his face mid chuckle when he heard the ringtone, he didn't need to check the screen to know who was calling.


Zu and Toshi exchanged confused looks before turning their gaze back to Dare.


“Who the heck is calling you dude? Everyone you know is sitting at this table?” Toshi teased.


“It’s my boss.” Dare explained before moving to stand from the table, “Excuse me, I’ve got to take this.”


They made a quick retreat to the restrooms, happy to find it empty, as he locked the door and answered the phone.

“Hey kitten.”


Dare reflexively pulled the phone away from his head at the greeting. Hearing that man's voice in his ear was always unpleasant, but was more so when he insisted on using that name.


“Ya know boss,” he spoke before he could tell himself not to, “Your clients might take me a bit more seriously if you gave me a more menacing code name.”


“Aw, but this one suits you so well.”


“I beg to differ. You could at least make me some sort of bigger cat. Infantilizing me really makes my job harder with your rowdier clients.”


“You’ll earn a big boy name when you learn to roar on my command, little lion. Until then, you're still just my little kitten.”


Dare rolled their eyes hard enough they were sure Dragon could hear it over the phone.


“Fine. Why are you calling me then?” At this point, he just wanted to hear his orders and get back to his friends.


“Some associates of mine have put out a call for backup on an upcoming job. It's some dirty work, but the payouts are phenomenal. Are you interested?”


“Dirty how?”


“B&E with a side of homicide. But by the sounds of it, they mostly want numbers as a distraction to the main event, doubtful you’d need to pull any triggers.”


“Nope. You know I don't do kill jobs.”


The Dragon scoffed, the shared knowledge that he had in fact done them in the past, went unsaid between them. It was a debate they had many times before that neither party could ever fully win.


“Suit yourself kitten. Don't forget you still have to run a delivery for me tomorrow morning. So try not to stay out too late with your friends tonight.”


Dare stiffened. Was this a lucky guess on Dragon's part? A dig at his presumed friendless state? Or did he actually know where he was and who he was with? There was no way to ask without confirming something for The Dragon, so he instead put on his most impassive sounding voice and said, “I never forget my missions.” before abruptly ending the call.

Dare splashed some water on their face to calm down. In a few more months they should have enough saved up that they can stop working for the vile man. He just needed enough of a cushion to pay the bills while he got his own business up and running. His cover was as a mechanic, and he intended to act as such, but garage space did not come cheap and neither did the room and board for two teens. So until they earned enough to go out on their own, the dragon was the only one willing to hire him.


It was never their intention to put down roots. But here they were, limbs stretching wide to provide shade over his multiple loved ones. He no longer had the option of dropping everything and disappearing with the sun. He had Zu and Toshi and his other friends now. So for better or worse, they had to find a way to make thighs work here.


They just wished the work wasn’t constantly adding more to the debt he owed society. At this rate, he would need to keep up the vigilantism till he was well into his 50’s just to make a dent.


Dare looked at their own reflection in the mirror. He let out a sigh, he needed to get a hold of himself and reign in that miserable look, he couldn't let the others see him like this. Plastering a smile of false confidence back onto their face, they allowed themselves one whispered phrase as they turned to exit.


“No rest for the wicked.”

--

 

The situation with his acceptance letter was...certainly unexpected.


The second Midoriya's hands were wrapped around the large manila envelope with UA’s insignia, he made a mad dash for his closet so he could barge his way into Dare and Toshi’s apartment. Dare startled only slightly at the sudden entrance, he went from lounging on his bed to a full upright position with a smile on his face in .2 seconds.


“Hey, Zu.” They said with an air of amusement.


“It’s here!” He squealed as he held the envelope in front of him and did a little dance.


Dare leapt up off his bed and grabbed a hold of Midoriya's wrist so he could drag him out into the main living area.


A quick knock at Toshi's door revealed that he was still asleep, one long groan later, he answered the door with a wicked case of bed head and an exhausted look on his face.


“This better be really good or really bad. I just fell asleep.” He whined.


Midoriya held the envelope back up and continued his little dance where it had just left off. Toshi immediately perked up.


“Oh shit. That means mine must be here too right?” He half asked, half stated, as he pushed past them and ran to their mailbox in the hall.


When Toshi returned he had a contemplative and disappointed look on his face and a much smaller envelope in his hands.


“Why is yours so much bigger than mine? This is a bad sign right? You got a massive file and mines just a dinky letter? That can't be good…” The look on his face seemed impartial to the casual observer. But Midoriya knew the boy well enough to know he was already assuming and feeling the worst.


“I’m sure it's fine, Midoriya is just applying to multiple courses, I'm sure there is a lot more paperwork and such involved in that.” Dare tried to sooth the worry.


“Yeah, or maybe the extra bulk is a cease and desist notice. Maybe they decided a restraining order was necessary after I fan boyed too hard at all the staff.” Midoriya attempted to lighten the mood with what was 90% a joke and 10% a legitimate worry of his.


Toshi sighed deeply, “Do you mind if we open mine first? If it's bad news, I wanna get it out of the way first, so we can celebrate you fully after.”


“It's not bad news. Be positive...but yeah we can.” Even though Midoriya was vibrating with anticipation, he could hold out a few moments longer for his friend.


They all gathered on the thrifted couch. With slightly trembling fingers, Toshi opened the envelope and was surprised to see a small disk inside; they were even more surprised when a projection suddenly beamed from the disk, nearly making him drop it. With the initial shock over, Toshi placed it down on the coffee table so they could comfortably see the message.

Midoriya felt a bit sick at the sight of All Might, his feelings and emotions about the number 1 hero were still complicated. On the one hand, all the reasons he once idolized the man still held true, he was a great hero and a good man. However, his knowledge of his private predicament he learned on the roof that day still ate at him. The threads of worry and guilt of what happened to Kacchan because of his actions still gave him the occasional nightmare. And, perhaps the most ridiculous emotion, he was still a little hurt by what All Might said to him that day.


What was the point in remaining a devout believer, when your gods don't believe in you either?


But Midoriya shoved down the complex web of emotional turmoil at the sight of All Might in favor of being there for Toshi.


All three parties let out a breath they didn't know they were holding when they heard the good news. Apparently, the test had a few hidden parameters that weren't mentioned in the presentation. On top of the advertised battle points, there were two hidden categories: rescue points, and strategy and espionage points. Their joint-effort rescue of the boy they now knew was named Tenya Iida, showed initiative in both, so between their (apparently) impressive number of battle points, and their bonus points in the hidden categories, Toshi had plenty to pass.


In fact, in what was a bit of a spoiler for Kami and Midoriya's own results, Toshi had one of the top five scores, landing him a firm position in class 1A, the top tier heroics class at the top rated heroics school. In a perfect display of Midoriya's influence on the other boy. Toshi burst into tears at the news and required a good five minutes of group hug time to calm back down.

They already knew the results of Midoriya's hero exam after watching Toshi’s message. Midoriya had twice as many rescue points due to his double rescue, and had gotten a substantial number of strategy and espionage points after hacking into the school for maps and robo trackers.


So against all odds. Against everyone who told him it was impossible, and that he could never be a hero. Midoriya had the highest score...right above Bakugo Katsuki.


Boy oh boy was Kacchan gonna be mad about that.


Midoriya was, of course, overjoyed at the results. Unlike Toshi, All Might did not provide his prerecorded message, his was instead recorded by principal Nedzu himself. After a run down of his result for the hero exam, as well as a congrats at his higher than average score on the written, he transitioned to the results of his Support course exam. Power loader was apparently looking forward to working with him and Mei, but also insistent that they try to keep the structural damage to the lab to a minimum. He was two for two. He was so busy trying not to cry happy tears that he did not notice the small glitch in his video feed.


“But that's not all Midoriya,” Nedzu chimed in.


“It's not? He asked despite knowing the recording could not hear him. Only to be literally knocked prone when it did.


“It’s not!” The stout said with a wicked grin as his projection turned to face Midoriya better on the left side of the couch.


“Oh my god!” Midoriya shrieked. “I thought this was a pre-recorded message?!”


“It was, but now it's a video conference. I see you have company with you…” The tiny black eyes of the principal drifted to Toshi and then to Dare, who stiffeed only slightly under his gaze.


“Yeah. Um...is it okay if they stay for this? Or would you rather we speak privately?”


“I do not mind their presence, so long as they each promise not to interfere or influence you in your next task.” Nedzu said with a pointed glance.


Toshi could only manage a shrug and a head nod, still stunned by the sudden transition to real time conversation. Dare held up a pinky in a wordless implication of a promise, but Midoriya saw the twisting fingers of a promise breaker hidden behind his leg.


“Very well. Your practical exam for the analytics course shall begin shortly. Should you pass, your time in the support course will be divided evenly between lab time with professor power loader, and private instruction time with yours truly. As my personal pupil, I shall hone and refine your skills in not only analytics, but also in remote espionage, a skill you showed impressive aptitude for during your heroics exam. Do you accept these academic conditions?”


“Uh, yeah?!” His brain was still trying to fully catch up with what had been said so far, but it sounded good to him so far.


“Excellent. Then onto the parameters of your exam. You should have received some additional literature alongside your acceptance letter and entry paperwork. Correct?”


“Yes sir.”


“Good. Your task is to analyze the materials there, and follow the implied directions before time runs out. Should you succeed, the end result will be the key to contacting me here in my office. You have 3 hours. Beginning….now. Good luck Midoriya, I look forward to your correspondence.”

And with that the projection ended and Midoriya made a mad scramble for the envelope. Toshi and Dare did as they promised and did not interfere, with both parties removing themselves from the couch all together. Toshi brewed a large pot of coffee and gave Kaminari a congratulatory text before he sat with Dare at their duct-tape-ridden dining table to silently watch Midoriya work.

There were three pages of information, all of it encrypted in some way. The first appeared blank at first glance, but was in fact written in braille. The second was a series of dots and dashes which seemed to be morse code. And the third was a series of letters and numbers which had no apparent rhyme or reason to them. The morse code contained the key to translating the nonsense letters and numbers into a message informing him of a scavenger hunt he would need to be doing out in the real world. And the braille was a series of riddles which were meant to lead him to the location of his scavenger hunt prizes.


His first 30 minutes were spent on decoding everything, meaning he only had 2 and a half hours left to answer the riddles and find the scavenger hunt pieces. So with all the speed he was born with, and the agility he had learned from Dare, Midoriya sprinted back to his own house to change and put on his shoes, gloves, and control board. Just in case.


Midoriya had to operate under the assumption that he would be looking for his prizes here in his own neighborhood. Not only would Nedzu know he lived here, but it was also the same city as the school. So when the first riddle was answered with ‘a Cafe’ Midoriya dashed to the one nearest his own apartment and was relieved to see a small puzzle box with his name on it waiting for him in the planter box.


Inside the puzzle box was a single letter and number. Midoriya instantly knew that collecting the puzzle boxes around town was meant to give him a password he would need to rearrange once he had collected them all. So he stored both the paper and the box in his bag and moved on to the location of the next riddle.

Towards the end of his time limit, Midoriya was drenched in sweat from his sprinting and stressed beyond belief. With 15 minutes to go, he found himself at the library looking for a specific book based on the dewey decibel system. He was unsure if asking the librarian for assistance would be considered cheating or not. But based on the knowing and amused look on the staff's faces, they must be in on whatever Nedzu was trying to do. Which was a relief, because otherwise Midoriya would probably look completely insane at this point.


When he finally found the book in question, Midoriya groaned aloud to find it was written in English instead of Japanese. He was tempted to phone a friend and call Kami, since he was always reading english novels during the slow bits at work, he must be fluent enough; but based on Nedzu’s insistence in the beginning that neither Toshi nor Dare offer their help, he was pretty sure Kami wouldn't be allowed to either. So with trembling hands he scanned the page numbers for the correct passage. “Ask for what you seek and it shall be found.”


He took a minor gamble on what that could mean, and decided to ask the libraina behind the help desk if they had seen a puzzle box with his name on it around here. This was apparently the right answer and he was rewarded with the final clue. Rearranging the clues based on the numbers beside the letters gave him an email address and the password for surpassing the security of the private server. So with just five minutes to spare, Midoriya booted up one of the library computers and sent his message.


Panting with exertion and relief, he slumped down in the desk chair and hoped to whoever was listening that he had one everything correctly. A library assistant approached with a tea cup and a small plate of sweets. They silently placed the food and drink in front of Midoriya with a thumbs up and a smile before walking away. But Midoriya had no time to question the offering before his phone suddenly started to ring.


With mild panic of breaking both the ‘no food and beverage’ rule and the ‘silence your phones’ rule of the library, he quickly answered the offending tone.


“Congratulations Midoriya. You have passed.” said the pleased rodent on the other end.


“Oh thank fuck.” Midoriya let out in a breathy whisper before he could stop himself. He then immediately clammed up and began apologizing profusely for the poor language.


Nedzu, to his credit, only seemed further amused by the slip in his manners.


“Nonsense, Midoriya. Language exists to convey our concepts and emotions to one another. If a curse word is the best word to convey your message clearly, then so be it. No such thing as an inherently bad word, only poor word choices.”


Midoriya still apologized twice more anyway.


Nedzu gave further explanation of how his complex academic schedule would work. He would still be alternating between the Hero Course and Support Course every other day; but during support days, he would report first to Nedzu’s office in the morning to work with him, and then to the support lab after lunch to work on whatever projects he or power loader gave him. On paper, his enrollment was with the analytics track, but he would be receiving the same lab time and accruing the same credentials as the support gear students. Meaning he would be free to operate as a fully licensed support gear manufacturer after graduation if he wanted to.


When asked about the tea, Nedzu explained that it was his own specialty blend of caffeine, peppermint, rosemary, and cinnamon. A blend designed not for taste, but to maximize one's neural pathways for better focus, memory, and processing speed. It was apparently the blend they drank twice daily to keep themselves sharp, and he recommended Midoriya to do the same.


While the benefits were tempting, the confusing and powerful blend of smells and flavors made him question if it was truly worth it.


He spent another 20 minutes or so on the phone with Nedzu, asking questions and allowing his heart rate to climb back to a resting rate. It wasn’t until after the call had ended that it occurred to Midoriya he never gave the school his cell number. Midoriya began to mutter his confusion of how the principal had acquired his number, but quickly dismissed it as just one of Nedzu’s many hidden skills.


At this point he was starving, even after eating all the little cookies and biscuits provided. So he quickly made his way to his favorite restaurant and ordered five sets of katsudon to-go, eager to get home and celebrate with the others who had no doubt already gathered there.


Things were getting complicated schedule wise, but this was everything he ever dared to hope for, so he wouldn't have it any other way.

--

Katsuki had blasted a hole into every tree in the little patch of forest he liked to run through. He lost. He lost to fucking Izuku Midoriya. To god damn Deku. To the weak, lazy, entitled, little shit that used to follow him like a lost puppy. To the fuckin quirkless dropout.


A feral yell or anger and frustration belted out from somewhere deep in his soul as he let off blast after blast. Not giving half a damn about the ache in his arms or his chest. Not even caring when his palms began to burn and his ears began to ring.


This was infuriating. This was humiliating. This was unacceptable. How could he allow himself to be surpassed by Deku of all fucking people?


His mother was gonna be so disappointed when she found out about this. He punched himself in the face if only to beat the hag to it. Throwing the first punch at least meant he succeeded at something, and since he could never hit the bitch back, this was the only way he could do it.


Maybe...Maybe he didn't have to tell her? Maybe he could omit the information about the rankings and simply tell her he had been accepted with high marks? There was no way for her to know that official rankings were provided. All she needed to know was he made it into the top course. Surely making 1A at UA was good enough for her, right?


No.


No it wouldn't be.


Because it wasn’t good enough.


Second place was never good enough.


Swallowing his own spit felt like trying to swallow acid. The phantom taste of sludge on his tongue was enough to make him gag as he set off a few more explosions for good measure.


He had to be better than this. He had to work harder. Clearly he wasn't doing enough if Deku had scored higher than him damn it. He had to run farther, and faster than he was. He had to lift more, and study harder. He had to be better. He had to be the best.


Deku may have cheated his way to the top this time, but he would be damned if he allowed him to surpass him ever again.


With newfound determination, Katsuki set off again in a dead sprint. The burn in his legs and his chest meant nothing. He had to keep going. He still wasn't fast enough. He didn't have enough stamina. He wasn’t enough.

He wasn’t enough.

Chapter Text

Kaminari Denki’s day began the same way they always do, with a rebel yell.

The scream emanating from the music alarm on his phone shocked him out of his slumber and got him just pumped up enough to brave the day. The sounds of his rambunctious family getting ready from deeper in the house was almost enough to make him hang back until the coast was clear, but he couldn't be late for the first day of school, so with a deep breath and a forced smile he bravely exited his room.

His twin elder siblings were both making a mad dash for the bathroom, Rai was the victor of today's race, strong arming Nariko out of the way with just enough time to slam the door in his face.

“Noooo! Rai, you bitch, at least let me grab my stuff first!” Nariko lamented.

“Snooze you loose!” Rai chimed from within in a sing-songy tone.

Kaminari knew better than to try and get involved in all that. He knew his turn in the bathroom would come last, just as it did every morning, so he instead made a hard right to go wake up his little sister Nijiko.

Kaminari gave a little drum beat with his fingers on her door in lieu of a proper knock before slowly creaking open the door. The sound of small giggles coming from the pile of blankets on her bed informed Denki that their usual morning game of hide and seek was a foot.

“Hmmm, that's weird. I thought Nijiko would be in here. But she’s nowhere to be found.” Kaminari mused aloud, earning him a few more muffled giggles.

“Oh whatever shall I do? I’ve lost my baby sister. Now who shall I eat my breakfast with?” He laced his words with extra drama, the blankets began to shift.

“Oh woe is me! To live in a world of only clouds, with no little rainbows to brighten my mornings! Ohhhh! I cannot go on! I shan't!” Kaminari swooned onto the bed with all the grace of a 3rd grader doing their first Shakespeare play.

Nijiko Burst out laughing as she launched the blankets off of her and tackled Denki in a hug.

“Here I am!” she shouted between her giggles.

“Oh thank goodness!” Denki shouted in return as he picked them both up off the bed to koala her out towards the kitchen. “And here I thought you had disappeared for real this time.”

“Noooo.” Nijiko got out the rest of her giggles as Denki got down two bowls for the both of them.

Denki set her down on the ground so she could go claim the tv while he got their cereal ready. From down the hall he could hear Nariko finally being let into the bathroom with no shortage of banter between him and Rai.

Once cereal and morning cartoons were done, his dad came to claim his little sister from the couch to get her ready for daycare, and Denki returned to his room to put on his new uniform for UA. Once he was dressed, he took a good long look at himself in the mirror.

He really did it. He got in. He even passed the written. And he only had to use up half his limit to do it, the closest he got to whey mode was the burning tingle in his finger tips and a slightly swollen tongue. What an improvement.

He was so glad and grateful to have friends who were so much smarter than him. Without their help there's no way he would have gotten in. It was Midoriya and them that built his gear, and taught him to fight, and showed him a better technique for his quirk. He wasn’t really sure what he brought to the metaphorical table of friendship; but they seemed to like his jokes? He didn't mind being the comic relief of the group, it was often his job in most of his social circles, and at least these guys never called him an idiot or made fun of him when he short circuits. Or at least, not to his face, which is really all he could ever ask for.

He took advantage of the lack of sounds coming from the hallway to take his turn in the bathroom. With teeth brushed and hair styled, he went back out to the kitchen to pack himself some snacks.

“Denki! There you are kiddo, You were in the bathroom so long, I thought you fell in.” His dad laughed at his own joke, despite saying it almost daily, and never getting a laugh in return.

“It's cause he spends forever on his hair.” Rai teased as she filled her coffee mug.

“Oh I see, hoping to make a good impression on the ladies on your first day?” His dad asked.

From over his dad's shoulder he could see both Rai and Nariko mouth the words ‘or the boys’ as they did an in synch limp wristed movement. Denki wasn't officially out with his family, but his older siblings have long suspected the truth.

Denki tried not to laugh at the twins' antics as he replied to his dad. “Something like that.”

“Well why don't you make a move on that nice girl who comes by the shop sometimes? I know you guys have started hanging out. And she seems sweet, if a little scary… Plus she's intelligent, she's industrious,-”

“She's got great tits.” Nariko interrupted their dad's list with a clause of his own.

“Nariko!” His dad scolded, giving his son a smack to the arm with his newspaper.

The second their dad turned back around the twins began pantomiming some comically large breasts and making faces at the back of their dads head. When he turned his head back around to check they both scattered like frightened birds and began whistling. Nice save guys. Real inconspicuous.

“Okay. Well. If we're done with all that now, I’ve better get going if I don't want my ride to leave without me.”

“Allright, allright, I'll let you go. Do your best, and try not to get kicked out!” His dad teased as he ruffled his hair. Great, now he’d have to fix it again.

“Thank you, dad, for the vote of confidence.” He mumbled as he slipped on his shoes.

As he slid the door closed he could hear Rai shouting, “Stay in drugs, don't do school!” and he rolled his eyes at the joke.

 

He could just take the train all the way to the school, but he wanted to meet up with Toshi and Midoriya, so he got off two stops early instead. Just as he suspected Midoriya was already in Toshi’s apartment when he got there.

“Are y’all ready to f’in rock and roll?!” He shouted as a greeting.

“Oh god, Present Mic has already rubbed off on you.” Toshi groaned from behind a coffee mug that was a good three sizes bigger than anyone could ever possibly need.

“I’ll have you know that Presentation Micheal got his schtick from me. Not the other way around.” He said with a bit lip and finger guns at the lavender avenger. Who just gave him an eye roll and a poorly hidden smirk in return.

“Good morning Kami.” Midoriya was practically vibrating with the mix of excitement and nerves over their first day.

If he’s honest. Half of why he wanted to meet up before class was for Midoriya's benefit. He knew how much the poor boy tends to overthink things, so he figured Toshi could use some back up in trying to keep him calm and distracted through the morning.

“Morning.” He smiled back at the trembling broccoli.

“You're in high spirits this morning.” Dare said as he sipped down his own large coffee mug.

“You bet your sweet cheeks I am!” he said with more finger guns.

“Ew.” Toshi said with a glare that lacked any real venom.

“Don’t be jealous, your cheeks are sweet too.”

“Oh yeah? Well it's too bad you complimented my brothers first then. Or I might have let you touch ‘em.” Toshi teased.

He had started doing this awhile back, meeting Denki’s failed attempts to flirt with flirtatious jokes back. Part of him enjoyed the banter, but another part of him really wished it was genuine.

“Aw man! I take it back, can’t I get just a little squeeze?” He half joked right back.

Toshi gave him a slow, pursed lipped, shake of the head no. Dang it, he was really hoping he could joke his way into a platonic butt grab. He snapped his fingers in a perfect impression of the bandit fox from dora the explorer whenever his heists were foiled. Midoriya and Dare both had disgusted looks on their faces, so that was probably enough of those jokes for now.

Dare got a few pictures of them in their uniforms for their first day, acting very much so the part of mother hen.

“Look at you guys! All grown up and heading off to highschool!”

“Ugh, you're as bad as my actual mother.” Midoriya groaned.

“Am not. She took 12 photos of just you. I'm entitled to three of all you guys together. You were my students first, ya know.”
Dare was smiling, but there was a hint of actual sadness buried somewhere in that statement. Denki had faked enough smiles as the ™ funny friend to know what it looked like in others.

“We're still your students dude. You cant get rid of my dumb ass that easily. I, for one, intend to take advantage of your free coaching for as long as you keep giving it. I'm gonna get you one of those mugs that say ‘worlds best sensei’ and everything.” He said in reassurance.

Dare smiled back at him, genuinely this time and said, “Yeah? Well then you better buckle up buttercup. Between me and your real school you're about to be the world's best stun gun.”

“Looking forward to it.”

“Us too.” Midoriya chimed in. “I mean, obviously we're gonna keep up with our extra training during the school year too. Right?”

The three other boys shared a look that Denki couldn't fully decode. He knew the others got together for extra training way more regularly than they did with him. He didn't mind. Toshi was Dare’s little brother, apparently, and Midoriya and him had...whatever was going on with them. So of course they were all closer with each other than they were with him. He was just glad to be included at all.

“Right.” Toshi and Dare confirmed in unison.

After a few more moments of quick goodbyes and gathering their things, the three boys headed out to the van. First years weren't really allowed to use the student parking lot, so they would need to park out on the street. It was just as much of a walk as taking the train really, so they would probably use public transit to save on gas most days. But since it was the first day, they elected to take the rowdy mobile as a special occasions type thing.

The ‘get hyped’ playlist blasted from the radio the whole way, and by the time they reached the school all three boys were smiling and laughing with reckless abandon. But upon reaching the door to their classroom Midoriya suddenly froze.

“What's up?” Toshi asked gently.

“Kacchan…” Midoriya said in apparent reference to the voice shouting at someone inside.

“That the guy? The one you told me about?” Toshi asked again.

Denki hadn’t heard anything about a guy. But if he had to take a wild guess, it was probably that angry dude that made him freeze at the entrance exams too. There's history there for sure. Maybe he should ask about it later.

“...Yeah.” Midoriya said to his shoes more so than to them.

“Okay. Not a problem, you've got us now. If he tries to start shit Denks and I will knock him out. Right?”

Denki stutterd with his jaw open for half a second. Both at being volunteered for a street fight and also at being called Denks. A nickname based on his given name? Since when did Toshi start thinking of him as Denks? He guessed it was only fair, since he called him Toshi.

“Uh, Uh, right?” He said to Midoriya for reassurance, before making eyes at Toshi that he hoped conveyed the message ‘I super don’t want to start a fight on the first day of classes. But I will if I have to.’ Toshi seemed to get the message and gave him eyes that Denki read as meaning ‘same.’

“Please don’t.” Midoriya pleaded. “I don't want anyone getting in trouble over me.”

“Okay, but if he goes too far, you can't stop me.” Toshi said with an air of severity.

“W-whats too far?” Midoriya asked nervously.

Toshi hummed in thought for a second before saying, “I’ll know it when I see it.”

Midoriya chewed at his bottom lip for a moment before nodding his assent. Toshi slid in front of Midoriya so he wouldn't be the first person this ‘Kacchan’ guy saw. Denki took that as his signal to head up the rear. They slipped in as quietly as possible and took a triangle formation of desks in the back by the window.

“Heck yeah, Midoriya; you got the anime protagonist seat!” Denki praised.

From the corner of his eye he saw the angry blonde spin in his seat upon hearing Midoriya's name at the same time that Midoriya himself tensed up. Whoops, guess he shouldn't have brought attention to him.

The blonde looked like he wanted to stand up and head over here, but he was cut off by the scolding of the guy with the glasses and the engine legs that they had rescued in the entrance exams, as well as a cute girl with a brown bob cut, who appeared to be thanking him for his own rescue efforts. Hmm, weird.

A dude with red spikey hair and sharp ass looking shark teeth approached Midoriya enthusiastically, taking the seat in front of Denki and across from Toshi.

“Hey!” The redhead said with a toothy grin.

Midoriya seemed mildly confused as he replied. “Umm, hi?”

“You uh, probably don't recognize or remember me.” The redhead said as he scratched at the back of his head with a flexed arm. Damn, he looked strong, just like Toshi. “But you helped me out during the entrance exams. Do you remember that bot you held back so I could get a good swing in? I just wanted to say thanks and let you know I plan on returning the favor someday.”

“Oh...Oh! Yeah, I do remember you...Did you?” Midoriya started to point towards the guys hair but upon seeing the frantic wide eyes of the red head seemed to change his mind. Guess he must have gotten a haircut or something that he's shy about.

“Haha...Anyway, my name is Kirishima Eijirou! It's nice to formally meet you. I look forward to working with all of you in class.” He said with a bow prompting them to all introduce themselves as well.

Students continued to file in slowly and form little groups of conversation around them. At one point, engine boy approached Midoriya as well with a deep, stiff, 90 degree bow.

“Hello, My name is Tenya Iida. I was told you were to thank for my rescue and care during the entrance exams. I've come to thank you, as well as apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused you.”

“Oh, um. It's no trouble really, and I didn't do it alone. Kami and Toshi helped me as well.”

“Then I offer you my gratitude and regrets as well. I’m pleased to see that assisting me did not hinder any of you enough to prevent your admittance.” He gave each of them a firm 90 degree bow as well. The formality of it all was making him feel a bit nervous. From the corner of his eye he saw that Toshi didn't seem any better off either.

“Well actually,” Midoriya began “The bonus points we got for rescuing you, helped us land a higher score. So in a way, you helped us as well.”

“I see. The exam had hidden parameters that awarded heroic behaviour beyond basic combat skills, then. But of course. You were all quite wise to realize this.”

“We...We didn't. Not till after anyway.”

Iida looked confused for a moment before giving a small smile to the three of them. “Then in that case. I owe you even more gratitude for your actions. I am truly in debt to each of you.” He gave them each a bow before turning sharply on his heel and walking to the front of the room.

“Wow.” Kirishima chimed in. “Guess you guys really got a head start on everyone else on the whole rescue front, huh?”

“What?” Midoriya asked, suddenly nervous, “Not really. Not at all actually, I’m sure anyone would have done what we did in our position. And it's not like we-”

Toshi gave Midoriy a light smack to the chest to stop his mumble spree before it could begin.

“Sorry.” Midoriya said under his breath before smiling at Kirishima.

“Whatever you say bro.” Kirishima said before turning to make conversation with the all pink girl sitting next to him.

From the corner of his vision he saw Toshi tense up slightly. Looking from him to Midoriya showed they were both staring at the ground near the entrance to the class. With a small tinge of fear Denki’s own gaze slowly landed where they were looking, and he saw a huge, man sized, yellow grub laying on the ground.

In a stunning display of Denkis lack of self control he sprung up onto his seat and pointed at the grub while shouting, “What the hell is that?!”

‘That’ turned out to be their homeroom teacher. Aizawa sensei stood from his position on the ground as he scolded the class for their “lack of situational awareness.” He reminded Denki of Dare, he was often singing the praises of situational awareness too. Aizawa unzipped what was apparently a sleeping bag just enough to toss a PE uniform to the girl with the bob.

“Get dressed and follow me outside.”

“But what about the opening ceremony?”

“Pointless ceremonies are a waste of time. If you want to be heroes then you need to learn to maximize the best use of your time to receive better training.” And with that said, he began to zip back up his sleeping bag as the students all moved towards the locker rooms.

Welp, five minutes into his first day of school and already things were looking pretty interesting. But unfortunately for Denki, this is where things took a turn for the worse.

Aizawa sensei gathered all the students outside and wasted no time in tossing a ball at Bakugou and asking him to throw the ball as far as possible using his quirk. Apparently the day would be used for completing a bunch of physical fitness tests with a twist, using your quirk in whatever way necessary to do well.

When Bakugou launched the ball with a mighty blast, Denki did not miss the way Midoriya's eye twitched. Perhaps a reaction to loud noises in general, or perhaps a clue to the nature of whatever beef the two have with each other. Only time would tell, but in the meantime, he and Toshi each took a step in front to shield him from the explosive force.

The pink girl from earlier gushed about her excitement at getting to use her quirk for school tests, which was apparently the wrong thing to say. Aizawa took a look of disgust and apprehension and announced that whoever scored last on these tests would be expelled at the end of the day.

That was all it took for Denki to deflate, alongside a good half the class whose quirks (or lack thereof) would be of little to no help in the kinds of tests Aizawa was having them do. In a race against engine legs and jet propulsion how was phone charger meant to win?

“I don’t know what the rest of you extras look so worried for. We all know who's going home today. Deku doesn't even have a quirk.” Bakugou boasted with a sneer.

For half a second Denki wondered who this Deku kid was, and whether they also used a bunch of support gear like Midoriya. But upon seeing Midoriya visibly cull in upon himself in shame he realized that he was the Deku in question. By why? That doesn't sound anything like his name, what does that even mean? Toshi tensed and shuffled forward ever so slightly like he was about to approach the mean pomeranian boy, but Midoriya caught his wrist and held him back.

“Umm, sensei?” Midoriya asked, “Am I allowed to use my support gear for these tests?”

Aizawa had a contemplative look on his face for a moment before saying. “Is there any part of your gear you currently have on your person or that you would normally have on you in your day to day life?”

Midoriya pulled out a pair of gloves from his pocket and gestured down to his shoes.

“Then you may use those. The point of these tests is to gage your base line abilities, so any gear you wouldn't normally have on your person does not count at baseline, but things you always have with you would be. That goes for all of you.” Aizawas gaze landed heavily on a blonde kid with a huge belt and a french accent.

“Thank you sensei.” Midoriya said with a nod.

“Tsk, it’ll take more than a pair of gloves and fancy shoes to keep your useless ass in class Deku.”

“Really? Because it was enough for him to beat your score in the entrance exam.” Toshi deadpanned, causing Denki to snicker and Midoriya to tense up.

“The fuck did you just say to me eyebags?!”

The crowd of students cleared out of the way as Bakugou approached them, palms sparking threateningly with explosions. Toshi didn't even flinch when Bakugou grabbed at the front of his shirt with one hand and raised the other to give off threatening pops.

Both Denki and Midoriya sprung into action, with Midoriya trying to push himself in between Toshi and the bomb man and Denki attempting to pull Toshi away. But their efforts were apparently unnecessary as a sudden flash of white fabric sprung out from the direction of their sensei and wrapped Bakugou instantly in his capture scarf. Bakugou began thrashing about in the scarf like a trapped animal, his snarling yells muffled by the fabric of the scarf.

From beside him, Toshi's posture took on a whole new demeanor as his eyes went back and forth between Aizawa’s and the thrashing boy.

A threatening display of glowing red eyes and floating hair only added to the overall menacing demeanor of their teacher.

“You would do well not to test me when I say I will not tolerate any fighting or needless quirk use outside of supervised training exercises. Do I make myself clear?...Yes? Good. Then do try not to antagonize each other.”

Midoriya looked to be in a state of shock over their teachers intervention. Denki didn't like the picture all these puzzle pieces were beginning to paint. The blast shaped burn marks on his friends torso, the flinching at loud noises, and freeze response upon hearing Bakugou’s voice, and now his shock at someone stepping in. Denki had read this book before, and he didn't like the ending.

Aizawa announced the parameters of first test over the muffled shouts of the still thrashing Bakugou wrapped in his scarf. Looking more and more annoyed and exhausted as time went on.

When he dismissed the group to get ready, Toshi slowly approached the teacher and whispered something near his ear. Aizawas face looked mildly shocked for half a second before looking down at Bakugou and then back up to Toshi with a firm nod. Toshi crouched down next to him and said something too softly for anyone to hear, Bakugou responded with some muffled yell that sounded vaguely like ‘fuck off’ before his whole body went slack.

Aizawa hesitantly unwrapped his capture scarf and left both Bakugou and Toshi crouched down next to each other on the ground. Toshi slowly reached for Bakugou's hands, guiding one of them to his chest and the other to Bakugous over their hearts. The exaggerated movement of both their shoulders showed they were each taking long deep breaths as Toshi continued to say things softly to the boy.

Glancing around him, it seemed most of the other students were too busy stretching and talking amongst themselves to take notice of the scene. But Denki, Midoriya, Kirishima, and a boy with a bird's head were all transfixed on the scene. He had a feeling they all knew exactly what was happening here. Toshi was trying to talk Bakugou through a panic attack, using his quirk to help create a sense of artificial calm.

Aizawa walked over to them sternly, “You boys should be stretching with the others, staring won't help the situation, and need I remind you expulsion is still on the line.”

“Right.” Someone replied on behalf of the group as they all nodded and scattered to begin their assorted warm ups. But each of them kept making eye contact with one another as well as the huddled forms in the corner.

Denki may not be smart, but he considers himself to be fairly emotionally and socially intelligent. So he knew, with almost complete certainty, what these shared glances meant. They all suffered the occasional panic attacks, and they now knew that to be true about each other, and they also knew that the others knew they all knew as well. And with that a wordless understanding and comradery grew among them. A truce of saying nothing to the other students, but knowing to keep an eye out for each other should they be in need. An alliance of nervous wrecks, that against all odds apparently included one Bakugou Katsuki.

Denki could practically hear the gears turning in Midoriya's head of conflicting thoughts and emotions on the matter. So Denki did what he did best, he became ‘the funny friend,’ cracking jokes and making faces as they helped each other stretch.

Eventually Toshi finished his duty as human sleepy time tea and joined them. Bakugou seemed tense and uncharacteristically silent. Kirishima not so subtly went to stretch in his general vicinity, but his attempts at small talk only seemed to earn angry grunts in response. Toshi didn't mention what had just happened, and neither did they, once again using their inherent friendship link to communicate with their eyes that they would discuss it later.

For now they all had bigger fish to fry. Like exercising for the fate of their very lives.

Suddenly his dad's request not to get kicked out on the first day was more than just a joke, it was a very real possibility. He tried his best to keep the smile on his face and the laughter in his friends voices despite the vice grip of fear in his chest throughout all the tests.

After a full day of stress and sweat and mild panic, Aizawa posted the results.

A quiet boy with a head that looked like a mountain began quietly whimpering when he saw his name at the bottom of the list, with several students gathering around him with sympathetic words and gentle touches. But Aizawa did not give too much time for despair to set in before revealing the whole affair as a “logical ruse” meant to inspire them into doing their best. Saying he had no actual intention of expelling the lowest score unless they legitimately seemed hopeless, but that Koda (apparently the mountain head boys name) showed enough potential to be allowed continued enrollment.

Part of Denki was of course happy that neither he, nor anyone else, was expelled on day one, but another part of him was a little miffed at the trickery. Afterall he had spent all day worrying over nothing; but hey, at least he hadn’t proved his dad right by immediately getting the boot.

Chapter Text

You could say many things about the Dragon, that he was a slimy bastard, that his breath smelled of brimstone, that eyes shone like emeralds but were twice as sharp. But his best and worst trait, simultaneously, was his intelligence. The pawn shop was only one of many business fronts in the Dragons arsonal, there was also the car shop (where Dare was officially employed on paper,) the flower shop, and the pizza parlor. Dare's job as a delivery boy often meant having to quickly change into uniforms for the other businesses so he could make illicit deliveries under the guise of a perfectly legal business transaction.

If the Dragon needed to send a message, he would use the language of flowers to arrange a bouquet laced in threat. Smaller packages would fit into pizza boxes easily enough, and larger things could be packaged into vehicles to be dropped at various locales.

Each business was registered under a different alias, with no obvious connection between them. So should one cover be spent, it could easily be dropped without compromising the rest of the web; and none of his employees or clients were aware of all his dealings or fail safes, so any leaks could be dealt with without sinking the ship.

So far as Dare could tell, the person who knew the most about The Dragons business was Dare, but it was neither trust nor necessity that caused the Dragon to share with him, it was cruelty.

The Dragon knew the best way to hurt Dare, to flex his power over him fully, was to give him all the information they would need to take them down, knowing full well that Dare was still powerless to do so. Because one word from the Dragon was all it would take for Dare’s own cover to be blown. And it wasn't just Dares' life at risk anymore, it was Toshi and Zu’s as well. It was mutually assured destruction, and Dare had far more to lose.

As loath as they were to admit it, Dragon was the person who knew the most about them as well. His former captors knew all of his past, and his friends knew most of personal life now, but the Dragon was the only one to have puzzle pieces for both pictures.

They hated each other. But at the same time, they understood each other to a certain extent. They had the kind of complex bond that comes from partaking in the same shoot outs, knowing it would be so easy to turn the barrel of the gun on each other and get away with it, but choosing to take out shared enemies instead. It was pats on the back with a knife to each other's throat. It was the promise to kill you in your sleep, if only because it would be more fun to kill you in the morning over breakfast.

Which is why when Dare returned to the shop with singe marks all over his jacket, and half their face and torso a new shade of tan, they did not question why the Dragon was offering him a drink, but he did wonder if it might be poisoned or otherwise compromised.

Dare looked at the glass of whiskey waiting for him on the counter with a scrupulous expression, the Dragon simply raised a brow and motioned with his hand for them to drink up. Dare didn't make a habit of drinking, they weren't usually one to indulge in such things, but this latest delivery was a rough one.

A frequent customer of theirs, Dabi, had run out of his prescription of the Dragons special pain meds. And between the severe burns all over his body, the undoubtedly intense backstory, and the growing dependency on the meds, it was a very rough session of withdrawals. So by the time Dare had found him at their designated meet up space, he was practically exploding with disoriented rage, and decided shooting the messenger was a valid idea before Dare had the chance to force feed his first dosage to calm him back down.
He felt bad for Dabi, he wouldn’t normally force pills down someone's throat like he had, but it was hard to feel too much empathy when you're literally being set on fire. Besides, Dabi thanked it for him afterwards, so they drove away with minimal guilt over the interaction.

All of which is to say, if ever there was a time to engage in underae drinking it was a night like this one. But the real question was whether or not this particular drink could be trusted.

“You know better than to spike my drink, right?” He asked.

“Pft, would it even matter if I did?”

“Yes.”

“Don't be so paranoid, kitten, it's only fireball.”

Dare rolled their eyes, of course it was fireball, what a cliche brand for the Dragon to stock up on. How obvious...but Dare did like cinnamon. So they accepted the shot, only for the glass to be immediately refilled.

“You trying to get me drunk? You know I've still got to drive home after this right?”

“Pft, two shots won’t be enough at your tolerance level.”

“And make’s you so sure you know my tolerance level?”

“Cause I’ve seen you under the effects of things a hell of a lot stronger than booze. Hell I watched you overdose, what, six or seven times over one long weekend?”

“Right, and whose fault was that?” Dare didn't even try to hide the venom in his voice.

“Just drink it kid. A bit of whiskey won't kill you.”

“No. But it might kill you if my inhibitions get too low.”

“That's real cute kitten, but you and I both know you wouldn't bite the hand that feeds.”

Dare simply glared as he slid the glass back across the counter undrinken.

“Are we done here?”

“Suit yourself. You're dismissed for now.”

Dare grabbed his helmet and exited the building, the chimes of the doorbell serving as his only good bye.

He swished a bit of the mouthwash he kept in the cargo of his bike, if he goes home with the scent of alcohol on his lips it’ll set a bad example for Toshi. And of all his more recent job descriptions, his role as a guardian and mentor was arguably the one they took the most seriously.

The diesel dudes were all set to gather at their place tonight to celebrate the first day of school, so he went ahead and stole a pizza or two from his boss's other business. The parlor may be a front, but they do make real food, and it's...admittedly pretty good. The kids he has working in the back might not even be aware of the other goods leaving their building on a semi regular basis. Or if they are, they don't let that stop them from mastering the art of propper topping placement.

With nourishment procured, and all evidence of fire scrubbed clean, Dare mounted his bike and rode for home.

--

The first two days of school went about as well as Hitoshi could have hoped for. He had suspected the one in crisis to be himself, but for a variety of factors he still wasn't sure how to feel about, he was actually the only one who hadn't had some form of minor to major meltdown.

First Midoriya was confronted by one of his bigger sources of childhood trauma, then said trauma source showed signs of their own trauma. The second that capture scarf was wrapped around his neck and mouth, Bakugou freaked out, and not in the angry way he had already expressed, but in a way that reeked of panic and fear. Given it was a shared trigger, Toshi instantly recognized the response as a panic attack, and was left with no choice but to help the guy out. He may hate the little shit for everything he did and said to his best friend, but even the worst among us still deserve compassion.

Eraserhead, who Toshi still couldn't not believe was their homeroom teacher, was understanding of the situation, and thanked him for his vigilance and assistance. The inner fanboy squealed at being praised by his favorite hero, but he outwardly maintained a straight face and passive attitude. The sleepy, sardonic, attitude was a mask Toshi developed over the years, one meant to help him cope with his life, and he had modeled it after Eraserhead. And now here he was, using it in front of the man himself. What were the odds?

The second day was simultaneously more and less eventful.

Zuku’s desk was empty, since he had his support course classes that day, a fact that the rest of the class was quick to freak out over.

“Hey, where's Midoriya?” Kirishima asked, “It’s super unmanly to be late for the second day.”

Toshi wasn't entirely sure if Kirishima knew the meaning of the word ‘manly’ or not. In their short time knowing one another, it became clear the word was simply a stand in for anything good or interesting in this world. The best thing one could be, in Kirishima's eyes, was manly, regardless of gender or even whether something was human or not. And likewise, anything they found distasteful was seen as ‘unmanly’ even if it made no sense in the context of the sentence.

Part of him was tempted to question or correct him on it, but he was such a force of pure kindness and warmth that Toshi couldn't find it in himself to say anything.

“Tch, Deku probably just dropped out again when he realized he couldn't keep up.” Bakugou mocked from the front of the room.

Toshi couldn't help the smirk that spread across his face as he got the chance to ruin this kid's day.

“Actually Bakugou. Zuku never dropped out of your middle school, he was transferred to a program for elite students. Where he not only graduated middle school early, he also completed the first year and a half of general education classes for highschool. So he's using the extra time in his schedule to be concurrently enrolled in the support course as well as being the personal proege of Principal Nedzu himself...So…”

Bakugou's jaw was dropped so low it may actually be dislocated by the shock. The rest of the class gave remarks of surprise and praise. Iida was in the beginnings of a grand speech about how he was unaware concurrent enrollment was an option, and how Midoriya was a great example for the class as a whole to look up to when Bakugou finally recovered.

“Shut the fuck up glasses! There's no way any of that shit is even remotely true. Deku isn't capable of something like that.”

“Oh, you have no idea what Izuku is capable of sparky.”

Bakugou sprung from his seat and was halfway to Hitoshi’s desk when Aizawa walked in and had him frozen in his tracks, quirk erased and body trembling with rage.

Bakugou continued to send him dirty looks and grumble expletives under his breath for the rest of homeroom, and may have very well done so all day, but if he was, then Toshi was too preoccupied to notice. He was too busy observing the rest of class during their lessons, especially Denki.

Denki was fascinating to him. He read books in at least three languages, and not just any books either. Sure he read all the mainstream hits, but he also read classic literature and poetry too. Not to mention the fact that he had taught himself pretty much all there was to know about electricity and its many applications. And yet.

He seemed almost incapable of maintaining focus in almost any of the classes. Even Present Mic’s class, which by all reason he should be invested in, based on his apparent love of both language and reading. And when it came time for math, he may as well have been in a different dimension with how twitchy he was being.

Hitoshi was no doctor, but he’d bet his last dollar Denki had ADHD or a similar learning disability. Which if anything just made his other academic accomplishments all the more impressive really. The fact that he was able to teach himself complex scientific concepts about electricity and lightning, as well as learning multiple languages, despite having an obvious and presumably rather severe learning disability, meant he may very well be one of the smartest people in the room. But it seemed like Toshi may be the only one who knew it.

All day, whenever Denki was caught spacing out or failed to answer the teachers questions correctly the other students would snicker and the teachers would make these disappointed expressions. Denki’s natural charisma had earned him several other fast friends in the class, but even they would poke fun at him for his presumed lack of intelligence. And Denki would just laugh it off. He smiled and nodded and even doubled down on their remarks as if they were even remotely true.

Denki may not be phased by it, but boy was it really starting to bother Toshi. How did no one else see how smart Denki was? How did the teachers not recognize such obvious signs of a learning disability? Why did all of his new friends laugh along when Bakugou called him a dunce face? He wasn't a dunce, and he had a great face dang it!

By day's end he wanted to start a riot in the boy's honor, but since he was already on thin ice for ‘antagonizing’ Bakugou earlier, he had to exercise restraint and try not to snap at any of the other classmates. That didn't stop him from hosting all manor of hypothetical fantasy beatdowns inside his head though.

“Hey Denks,” he said once the final bell rang, “You busy tonight?”

“That depends, why you askin?”

“Figured two heads would be better than one on the homework tonight.”

“Oh god, is it that obvious I need help?”

“Well I’m good at math and you're good at english so it would be a mutually beneficial alliance.”

“You say that,” Sero chimed in “But I'm pretty sure I saw him spell his own name wrong earlier.”

“Haha yeah, I'm pretty hopeless when it comes to spelling and grammar.” Denki agreed with a smile.

“No you're not.” Toshi was quick to defend. “You're just easily distracted, and there was a bird singing outside the window at the time.”

Denki looked at him like he grew a second head.

“Woah dude,” Sero said with a teasing tone, “That's kinda creepy. If you were watching Kaminari that closely, then are you sure he's the one who's easily distracted?”

Toshi tried to hide his blush at being called out as aggravation.

“It’s called situational awareness Sero, it's a life saving skill to cultivate as a future hero, so you might wanna work on yours.”

“Oof.” Sero pantomimed a shot to the heart before giving a slight chuckle. “Alright I yield. You win this round, Shinso.” Then he turned his attention to Mina and Kirishima as they continued packing up their things for the day.

Kaminari was still looking at Toshi with a mildly confused look, so Toshi tried once again to steer the conversation back on track.

“So? You, me, a couple snacks from the conbini, and a pile of homework between us? What do you say?”

“Hmm, how romantic.” Denki teased.

Toshi decided looking out the window was far more interesting than looking at Denki’s face all of a sudden as he replied.

“No, it’s not. But, it would be a lot more fun than studying alone.”

“Fair enough… Alright, I’m in. Just let me call my dad real quick.” Denki gave him some finger guns before pulling out his phone to do just that.

 

The impromptu study session went well enough, except for the smug and knowing glances Dare kept giving him from across the room. By the time Denki had left for the day Dare was practically vibrating with all the withheld remarks.

“Ya know Toshi, if you're gonna be bringing boys over, you could just let me know beforehand so I know to clear out and give you privacy.”

“I'm not ‘bringing boys home’, I'm studying with Kami.”

“Sure. For now. But when are you gonna give in and ask the boy out on a real date?”

“I’m not.”

“Why the hell not? He's clearly interested, he flirts with you all the time.”

“Kami flirts with everyone, it doesn't mean anything.”

“Yeah, but he flirts with you the most. And you're the only one that makes him blush right back.”

“That's not true, three other people made him blush in class today.”

“Irrelevant. That's just all the more reason for you to make your move.”

Toshi gave Dare his very best ‘I’m so done with you’ glare. Which just made him sigh in return.

“Seriously, give me one good reason why you haven't asked him out yet.”

Toshi could think of several. Starting with the fact that Denki was way out of his league. And ending with the fact that Hitoshi didn't know the first thing about being in a relationship. But at the end of the day there was only one reason that truly mattered. It was the same reason why he would never be able to enter into any kind of serious relationship with anyone. His quirk.

He may not know a lot about relationships, but he did know one thing. The most important things in any and all relationships was communication and consent. Hitoshi would never, ever, ever, use his quirk to influence someone to do something they didn't want to do. At least, never on purpose. But enough people had made their insinuating remarks after discovering his quirk in the past to sow a seed of self doubt in his mind.

If he asks Denki out on a date, what's to say that his own desperate desire to hear a yes wouldn't cause him to subconsciously activate his quirk and force him to say yes? Or when asking for a kiss? Or when… Yeah, no. He could never be the one to initiate anything without that voice in the back of his head wondering if the ‘yes’ was really an informed and freely given form of consent. At best, it would nag at his subconscious for all time, and at worst...at worst, his worst fears would be right, and then he really would be a villain for making someone love him against their will.

But the idea of explaining all of that to Dare sounded emotionally exhausting. Especially since the voice in the back of his head still wasn't convinced that his current living situation wasn't also courtesy of him subconsciously tricking Dare, and to a lesser extent Zu, into helping him. So instead he decided to pull out his metaphorical uno reverse card.

“Give me one good reason why you haven't made a move on Zuku? I saw you wipe some sauce off his face with your thumb the other day. Y’all are practically married already.”

“Because, I-I… can’t” Dare said, looking both flustered and defeated.

“Well there you go. Now don't you feel foolish for throwing stones in glass houses?”

Dare sighed a bit before rolling their eyes and flipping him off. Toshi was quick to return the gesture in kind. Dare chuckled for a second, but his smile slowly faded off his face, and with a second defeated sigh, he whispered his real thoughts, just barely loud enough for Toshi to hear.

“He’s too good for me. He deserves better. He needs way more than I could ever give him. It would never work…”

Toshi furrowed his brow, a slow nod of understanding occurring without his full knowledge.

“I would tell you I wildly disagree with that sentiment. But I know that wont do anything to change your mind.”

Dare glanced at him with a sad expression on their face, as they gave their own understanding nod.

“Ya know, sometimes I think you may be just a little bit too much like me. Like we really are brothers, and I somehow managed to mess you up already.”

“Pft, if anything I’m the one who's messing you up...But for what it's worth...We are real brothers...Or at least, I think we are.”

Dare looked away to try, and fail to, hide the tears springing to his eyes. “Yeah... You're right Toshi. We are real brothers now… Thanks.”

Toshi swallowed down the emotions that were clawing at his throat.

“Alright, that's enough sad shit for one day. Let's just, like, watch TV or something.”

“You got it dude.” Dare said with a relieved laugh as he tossed him the remote.

Toshi found some meaningless cartoon to throw up on the screen, but he paid it no mind. He was still too lost in thought about everything that had happened the past two days. Tomorrow would be their first official ‘essentials of heroism’ class. Which meant meeting the new professor as well as undergoing their first training exercise, and for some reason Toshi felt like something really important and potentially hazardous was going to transpire soon.

--

This. This was a disaster. A true worst case scenario if Midoriya had ever been in one.

Today was their first official training exercise for the heroics course, which should have been a good thing. It meant seeing everyone suited up for the first time as well as getting the chance to see how everyone worked as a hero. It was also a great chance to do the analysis Nedzu assigned to him yesterday. He was given the assignment of starting a new analysis journal on his classmates and then working with both them, and the support course, to come up with a few recommended gear or costume improvements. And this practical exercise would be the perfect opportunity to get started on that. So he started the day filled with optimism and enthusiasm, only to have that excitement die on the tracks when their heroics instructor announced his presence to the class.

“I am here!” All Might bellowed with all his usual panache he used on the scene of a rescue.

The whole class erupted in a chorus of shock and excitement to learn he was their newest sensei. Midoriya however, felt frozen in place.

The last time he saw All Might, he was a skeletal version of himself, and he was telling Midoriya it was too dangerous for him to be a hero without a quirk. Would All Might be mad to see him here? Would he be disappointed or offended that Midoriya had ignored his advice and was pursuing heroics anyway? He wasn't sure what he would do if All Might told him to go home.

Midoriya shrunk in his seat and tried to hide his face from the hero. If he could just manage to avoid bringing attention to himself until after he had a chance to prove himself, then maybe everything would be okay. The boy All Might had said those hurtful words too was no longer who he was. This version of him was stronger, faster, more skilled, and far less useless than the old him. All he had to do was prove it to All Might, and then maybe he would change his mind about him.

Both Midoriya and Toshi had worn their costumes before, but this would be their first time wearing it around others and in the daylight. It was also the first time they would be seeing Kami and the others in their costumes as well. Midoriya was excited to see Kami’s suit, since he had helped design it, and Toshi was excited to see it because...well… ya know.

The second Kami slipped on the spiked leather vest with the words “Ka Chow!” Spray painted on the back, Midoriya knew that they had designed his costume just right. It was a perfect blend of practicality, aesthetics, and accurately depicting his personality. The finalized shield design for his gauntlets was painted to look like an electrical hazard sign when activated. And all the studs, leather, and chains, helped to sell the punk rock vibe as well as provided both insulation and extra metal to charge/magnetize. Midoriya was mentally patting himself on the back for his efforts, and the frantically scanning eyes of Toshi suggested he was similarly impressed.

So far as outfits he hadn't had a hand in designing, the best in class were undoubtedly Sero, Uraraka, and unfortunately Bakugou. He should have expected Bakugou to have a good costume design, his parents worked in the fashion industry, and he was pretty smart and knowledgeable about his own quirk. So between their industry eyes and his practical know how, they managed to put something together that was both practical and undeniably good looking. Which was upsetting to the petty part of his brain, but also good news to the tiny pathetic voice in the back of his head that still wanted the best for his childhood friend.

So far as bad designs went, there was definitely some questionable aesthetics in the mix, but art is subjective, so none of them were quite as baffling to Midoriya, as Todoroki’s costume. The first part of Nedzu’s assignment involved him hacking into the school records to write down the cursory information on everyone's quirks that they had filed before the entrance exams. So Midoriya knew that Todoroki’s quirk involved producing Ice with one side of his body, and Fire with the other. And yet his fire side was completely covered up with what looked to be fake Ice.

Sure it was cool looking enough, but how was he planning to make fire if those flames were already pre smothered by his costume? Come to think of it, he hasn't used his fire side at all for any of the other class activities so far either. Maybe it's not as strong? Or he had less control over it? He made a mental note to pay extra attention to him during the exercise.

People's reaction to seeing Midoriya fully outfitted with his costume and gear was pretty mixed. Kirishima led the charge of people saying he looked very cool and of course ‘so manly.’ But another half of the class seemed either confused or stunned by the ensemble given how counterintuitive it seemed to his usual personality. Uraraka was bright red, Aoyama was gawking, and Bakugou just seemed pissed. But Midoriya was quickly distracted from his own costume when he overheard Mina talking to Hagakure.

“Hey, aren't you cold?”

“Very.” Hagakure confirmed with a surprising amount of pep.

It took Midoriya's brain a few seconds to catch up to the situation. Hagakure had an invisibility quirk, and the only visible parts of her hero costume were her gloves and some shoes. At first, Midoriya thought this was a stylistic choice, but based on the new information of her being ‘very cold,’ he now knew this was because that was the whole costume. This poor girl was naked.

Before he could think any better of it Midoriya had whipped out one of the shock blankets he kept in his uniform and was wrapping it around her shoulders as he began his panicked word vomit.

“Oh my god, oh my god, Hagakure. Please tell me you're not really naked right now? How can anyone expect you to fight effectively while so exposed?! Whose idea was it to let a 15 year old fight in the nude?!”

All eyes were now on them but Midoriya didn't notice, he was too upset on her behalf to care what anyone else thought.

“M-midoriya. It's okay. I'm a stealth based hero, not having a costume means I'm fully invisible, so no one will even know I'm there, it's clever.”

“I'm a stealth based hero too and no one tried to put me on display like this! Who was in charge of your costume design? Give me a name, I'm gonna have a word with them.”

Toshi and Kami had both approached by this point to put steadying hands on either of his shoulders because he was now visibly shaking with his anger.

“It’s so sweet of you to worry. But it's really fine. It's not like anyone can actually see anything anyway.” Hagakure tried to sooth him as well, but it only made him angrier.

“It doesn't matter if you're seen or not! You're still a minor being put in compromising positions with nothing but gloves and boots to cover you!”

“But wearing anything else would kinda ruin the whole invisibility thing…”

“Not if they made the suit using your own DNA to manufacture the fabric. Some of our upperclassmen have suits with the same technology, how is it possible nobody told you about this?! They are able to use hair as a basis to weave materials that have the same characteristics as your own quirk now. Not to mention the fact that you could always just get a suit with a stronger visibility distortion field effect like mine, or even- You know what? After class I’m taking you to meet my friend Mei, she's brilliant in her own right, but her mom actually works on quirk complaint textile projects just like this professionally. Just an hour with them will have you walking out of there in something a million times better suited than this. I just….God, I can’t believe this… I’m so sorry, Hagakure.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment as Midoriya stared sadly in the general direction of making eye contact with the poor girl still wrapped hastily in a shock blanket. It was like no one had really questioned it before he had pointed it out, and suddenly the full weight of the situation was settling over all of them at once. After a beat of silence the mound of silver fabric walked forward and Midoriya was suddenly being hugged by an invisible force.

“Thank you.” She said in a sweet but small sounding voice.

Midoriya's brain short circuited for just a moment. He wondered if this is what Kaminari felt when his own brain was fried. The only girls to ever hug him before was his mother and Mei, (if you can count Mei lazily draping herself over his back while he was working as a hug.) But now he was getting a proper hug from a peer. And they, just so happened, to be wearing only a shock blanket as they did so.

His instincts were frozen somewhere between wanting to return to hug to comfort her, and wanting to put both hands up high in the air in surrender, to make it clear he was being respectful and not engaging in contact. The end result being a sort of stunned pair of jazz hands by his shoulders that slowly came down to pat hesitantly at her own wrapped shoulders.

His tongue felt swollen in his mouth and he was pretty sure he forgot how to breathe for a second, but luckily Yayorozu came to his rescue by making Hagakure a spare PE uniform for her to slip on in the meantime. And once the invisible girl had released him to go get changed, his motor functions and higher reasoning finally returned to him.

The remaining girls in the class were all looking at Midoriya like he had just saved a million kittens from a tree. And several of the boys were now approaching him with claps on the back and words of praise.

“I’m glad you said something Midoriya. Once again you have proven yourself to be an upstanding figure of integrity.” Iida said with chopping hand motions for emphasis.

“Bro, that was super manly of you.” Kirishima said with manly tears in his eyes.

Ojiro put one firm hand on his shoulder, giving him a tight nod and a thumbs up, which Midoriya interpreted as some form of gratitude or respect.

Yayorozu asked whether a similar fabric could be made for herself, and Midoriya had to quickly swallow back down his second hand indignation long enough to tell her “Of course it can.” and extend an open invitation to the whole class for any interested parties to join them in going to talk to Mei after school.

Once that whole debacle had settled itself back down, Midoriya realized he had completely failed in his mission not to bring attention to himself before the exercise could begin. All Might was gazing at him with a look of curiosity from the small podium he had set up. No doubt wondering what he was even doing here.

With everyone's attention now back on the matter at hand, All Might explained the assignment. A basic heroes vs villain exercise. Teams of two would be chosen at random, with one team acting as the heroes and the other as the villains. Your goal was to either apprehend the villains or capture the weapon to win as a hero; or to protect the weapon and apprehend the heros as a villain. Everyone was given ear pieces to be able to communicate with their team mate and with All Might, but Midoriya simply patched the feed into his existing comms system in his mask.

Midoriya was a little disappointed not to be paired with Toshi or Kami, but ultimately it was probably for the best that they all learned to work with other people. He ended up teaming up with Uraraka, a quick smile and a wave was all the invitation he needed to go stand by his new partner.

And then it was time to find out your role and who you were up against. And that was the moment his day went from bad, to the worst possible outcome. In a class of 20 people. With nine other teams to be assigned against. He ended up facing off against Bakugou and Iida.

Iida he didn't mind, he would be a fierce competitor, given his speed and how seriously he was already taking the assignment, but he was a nice enough guy, so he wasn't too worried about him. Bakugou however.

Bakugou didn't know the meaning of the word restraint, and he had always had it out for him. Midoriya took one glance at the murderous intent behind his eyes and the giant grenade shaped gauntlets on his wrists and suddenly wondered if he should draft up a quick will in the event of his death.

But if this was how he was destined to die, then he was gonna go down swinging. He needed a plan, and fast.

He quickly scanned his command panel for all the information he had on Uraraka and her quirk. Five finger contact allowed her to cancel the gravity of the object or person she touched. Making contact with her own fingers allowed her to cancel out the effect. The limitations were currently undefined in terms of weight or size limit, but apparently the quirk caused her to become queasy, and she was prone to vomiting when her quirk was overused.

“Wow, your quirk would be perfect for rescue work, it's so cool!” He enthused.

“Thanks Deku! That's actually what I was hoping to specialize in after graduation.”

“I...D-did you just call me Deku?” He asked nervously.

“That's your nickname isn't it? That's what Bakugou called you. I thought it was real cute, like ‘you can do it!’”

“Oh… That's not what it means at all. That’s just something he calls me to make fun of me. It's supposed to mean that I'm... useless.”

“Oh…” Uraraka made a sad and confused face for a moment before a sudden determination replaced the old emotions. “In that case we have to work twice as hard to kick his butt!”

Midoriya tried to meet her level of determination in his own smile before he started to explain his plan to Uraraka. This plan was gonna require really precise timing and teamwork, but he had faith in her.

They would be acting as the heroes for this exercise, so things were already stacked against them. However, Midoriya already knew everything there was to know about Bakugou and how he fights. And his cursory analysis of Iida had already given him a pretty good idea of how he thinks and operates. Meanwhile, with the exception of Toshi, and to a certain extent Kami, no one had any clue what Midoriya was capable of.

Kacchan was never gonna see it coming.

Chapter Text

Midoriya knew three things for sure.

1- Kacchan would be coming after him, leaving Iida to defend the weapon. This meant their best course of action would be to use himself as bait, leaving Uraraka free to move ahead to secure the weapon.

2- All Might and the other students would be watching the fight remotely. Which means there are cameras throughout the building, and where there are cameras, there's a free method of tracking.

3- Kacchan always started out with a strong right hook.

These three things were all he needed to initiate phase one of the plan. He set his mask to mute, so only Uraraka and All Might could hear him through their headsets. Then wall hopped his way up to hang from a pipe and open the grate for the industrial vents. Once the grate was open, he swung his body up into the vent and perched himself in the shadows.

The monitor on his command center showed his target approaching, no doubt planning a sneak attack of his own based on his prey stalking posture. He set the magnetization level of his bolos to a 4, strong enough that his target wouldn't be able to pull them off if things went as planned. And then he just had to wait.

He watched silently from above as Kacchan stalked past, calculating the exact right time and position for his attack. He grabbed the edge of the vent and slowly lowered his body down, swinging his legs just enough to build up the necessary momentum, and then released his grip at the height of the arch so he could fly kick directly to the area between Kacchan’s shoulder blades.

The kick had the desired effect, it sent him to the ground, but more importantly it made him mad. Kacchan was smart, but easily distracted by his anger, so Midoriya had to keep him angry so he wouldn see through his plan.

As predicted, Kacchan immediately sprung up from the ground and rounded on Midoriya with a growl and his signature right hook. Midoriya swung the bolo up around Kacchans elbow, just above his gauntlet, as he slid beneath the punch with ease. Once he heard the click of the bolo attaching to itself he took off in a full sprint towards the stairs to initiate phase two.

“The fuck is this Deku?!” Kacchan screamed as he followed in hot pursuit.

His feed of the cameras showed him exactly where the weapon was hidden, so he told Uraraka the best route to her objective as he dodged the blasts approaching from behind.

A painful blast of searing heat to his back informed him Kacchan had officially caught up. He let out a pained yell, and then cursed himself for probably hurting the ears at the other end of his comms. Sure enough Uraraka was asking him if he was alright, but he didn't have time to respond just yet, it was time for phase two.

Midoriya pivoted to face his opponent and did some quick calculations in his head of the surrounding structure determining the best possible jump points and holds. A barrage of hits and kicks swung wildly in his direction. Small blasts sending heat, and bright flashes of light all around his body as he blocked and dodged.

“Since when are you so slippery you damn nerd?!”

Good, he was getting frustrated.

As Kacchan lunged forward with a straight on with his left, Midoriya saw his opening and took it. Bobbing under the hit, he wrapped the other bolo into place at the same time that he grabbed the arm and swung his body around into position for a shoulder toss.

The look on Kacchans face when his full body flipped through the air and was consequently slammed onto his back like he was a human pancake, filled Midoriya with so much petty pride, that he couldn't help but smirk a little.

But more importantly, both bolos were now wrapped around either of Kacchans arms which meant phase two complete, time for phase three.

Midoriya took off once again before Kacchan would have the time to catch his breath, he was now half way to his target position. And Kacchan should be plenty mad at this point to give him the data he needed.

Midoriya found the room he was looking for, a large open space with several concrete pillars giving him plenty of space and places to hide. He turned off the mute function of his mask temporarily, for this next part, he wanted his stealth to be compromised just a bit.

Kacchan arrived right on time, just as Midoriya had moved himself into position behind his desired pillar.

“Where the fuck are you Deku?! I know you're in here!”

Okay, now here comes the hard part. Midoriya used a combination of sprints, rolls, and fake outs to move between the pillars. Dodging both blasts and debris from the concrete that took the bulk of the heat for him. After a few minutes of this, They were both drenched in sweat and Kacchan was practically foaming at the mouth as he unleashed his barrage of curses and insults.

Midoriya heard a faint beep from one of Kacchans gauntlets and the boy took on a manic expression. This was what they were both waiting for. Midoriya dashed to the last pillar and prepared himself to leap out of the way.

“Lets see you try and dodge this Deku.” Kacchan said with an unhinged grunt.

Midoriya could hear the clicking of Kacchans gear sliding into place for this blast, as he assumed a deep bracing position with his arms and legs.

Midoriya couldn't hear what All Might was saying through the enemy team's comms, but he could hear Kacchans response.

“He’ll be fine, as long as he dodges!”

Welp. That can’t be good.

Once Midoriya heard the tell tale sound of the grenade pin being pulled, he flung himself as far as he could out of the way, only to be caught up in the shock wave of a massive blast.

His body was thrown harshly from its trajectory, his vision went white as he was slammed into a wall which quickly crumbled away with him.

For a moment all he could hear was high pitched whistle tones and what almost sounded like several people yelling in his ear, but he couldn't even begin to comprehend what they were saying. A nauseous dizziness had his head swaying beyond his control as his brain slowly caught up to what had just happened.

A massive hole was blown through not only the concrete wall of the room they were once in, but the two other walls behind that one leading outside. As the dust began to settle he could see huge chunks of debris, exposed wires and dripping pipes, that was one big blast.

He mumbled out the info Uraraka would need for phase four of their plan while still in a daze. But as he continued to reboot his system, his emotions flooded out the more rational part of his brain.

Bakugou had just unleashed enough power to be considered a sizable bomb, it blasted through several feet of concrete as far as 50 feet back and in a 15 feet wide radius. And it was pointed at him. That was an undoubtedly fatal blast, if he hadn't dodged in time that would have killed him. And based on the pain and heat his adrenalin was mercifully shielding him from at the moment, it almost got him anyway.

Midoriya gritted his teeth as rage filled tears flooded his eyes. He was shaking with anger and frustration, unable to hold himself back as all higher thinking temporarily flew from his brain. He painfully drug himself up off the ground and grabbed for his collapsible staff and stalked towards Bakugou with all the cold determination he usually reserved for the most formidable criminals.

“Are you fucking stupid?!” Midoriya screamed as he limped in to fight the stunned looking Bakugou. “A fatal blast?! Indoors?! In a base you're meant to be defending?!”

He continued to vent his frustrations as he went into full offensive mode with his staff. It's not like Bakugou could hear him anyway with his mask on, so he saw no reason to hold back.

“You had that aimed at me! Do you even realize how close you just got to committing man slaughter?! You’re supposed to be a fucking hero student!”

Bakugou's eyes continued to get wider and wider as he did his best to fight off Midoriya's attacks, probably shocked at the switch away from his usual defensive maneuvers. Midoriya could end this fight quickly by simply gassing him now. But they still had phase four of the plan to go, and Midoriya had a lot more to get off his chest. So he just kept hitting him into position.

“Are you so blinded by your hatred of me that you forgot where you were?! Forgot what you're supposed to be doing here?! Your assignment was to subdue and capture, not to jump straight to killing blows?!”

Bakugou landed one hit straight to his gut, Midoriya buckled over as the oxygen left his lungs.

He was suddenly reminded of the burn marks that littered his torso; of the fist that hit almost the exact same position almost one full year ago. The second he could breathe again, Midoriya started laughing, he didn't know why, but for some reason this suddenly seemed funny to him. The words left his lips without his permission long before he even realized he was saying them.

“I don't even know why I’m surprised at this point. I already knew you waned me dead when you told me to kill myself in middle school! I guess you got tired of waiting for me to handle the problem on my own, right, Kacchan? Was I taking too long to find a suitable building to take a swan dive from?! So now you’ve decided to try and take matters into your own damn hands?!”

Midoriya swung his staff like it was a baseball bat at Kacchans legs, for a moment it looked like Bakugou would be too stunned to dodge it, but he managed to jump over the swing at the last second.

“SHUT THE FUCK UP DEKU!” He yelled as he lunged, setting off a small explosion right by Midoriya's ear.

His comms system crackled in his ear with static, perhaps damaged by the close proximity to the blast, but he could still faintly hear voices in his ear, so it was still functional.

His own rage blinded him to some essential knowledge. Bakugou telling him to ‘shut the fuck up’ meant he could very much so hear him. Because in all his shock he forgot to put his mask back into mute mode. Meaning...everyone could hear him. But adrenaline and trauma combined to cancel out his usual level of observation. So he continued venting as he swung.

“Ten years Kacchan! I spent ten fucking years as your personal punching bag! Taking all the hits and letting you burn out all your frustrations! I swallowed every insult, and hid every scar from my mother, and for what?! I protected you from yourself because I thought you could be a great hero one day!”

“I SAID SHUT UP!”

“NO! I was silent for too damn long already! I looked up to you! I thought you were so cool! I thought you could be the best hero of our generation! That you could win any fight! Because you were my friend! And it didn't matter how much you hurt me, or tried to push me away, because you were the only one I had!”

“DEKU!”

“THATS NOT MY FUCKING NAME, BAKUGOU!”

Bakugou stumbled back for a moment, Midoriya was able to see through the red long enough to realize they were in position, so he let out a low whistle, the signal he and Uraraka had decided on ahead of time to initiate phase four.

He sprung forward with his staff, getting right up in Bakugou's face.

“My name,” he said with a snarl, “Is Izuku Midoriya! And you would do well to remember it! Because I'm the one you're about to lose to.”

He saw Bakugou's face morph from shock to carnal rage as he reached towards his gauntlet. This was it. Midoriya only had about three seconds to do what he had to do.

He stabbed his staff upwards with all his might so it was lodged in the pipes near the ceiling directly above Bakugou, and then promptly sprung backwards in a series of flips meant to get as much distance between them as possible.

Just as Bakugou was about to pull the pin of his other gauntlet, Midoriya cranked the magnetization of his bolos to max for just a second.

Three things happened all at once.

Bakugou's arms snapped together at the point the bolos were still wrapped around them from earlier. Then they were flung upwards to snap onto the metal of Midoriya's staff. And lastly, the blast Bakugou had already begun to set off, was detonated, not straight ahead towards Midoriya, but directly overhead, blasting a giant hole in the ceiling above them.

Huge chunks of Concrete and rebar began falling down around them, but Midoriya was already back on defense. He used up all the kinetic energy he had saved in his shoes during this fight to dodge and spring forward, barreling right into Bakugou. They both slid roughly along the ground acquiring several scrapes, but they were both out of the way of the falling debris.

Midoriya grunted against the pain, moving as fast as his body would still allow him to go as he quickly straddled the flippant Bakugou before he would have the chance to recover. For half a second they made eye contact with one another, one boy thrashing beneath the legs of the other with his arms pinned to his sides. Bakugou's eyes were swimming with a mix of rage, fear, and just a small dash of something Midoriya couldn't define. Midoriya directed his right wrist at his face, just under the nose, and pulled the pin. The potent sleeping gas, from which he got the code name Nox, knocking Bakugou out in just three seconds.

As Bakugou's frantic movements and screams slowed, and eventually stopped all together, Midoriya had just enough time to say one last thing.

“And that is how you subdue a criminal whilst inflicting minimal injury!”

Somewhere above him, Uraruka was using the debris Bakugou’s blast had created, to clear a path between herself and the weapon. Using her quirk to distract Iida and fling herself onto the massive fake bomb. The buzzer signalling their win sounded off just as Midoriya dismounted Bakugou's limp form and began to stand.

Midoriya glared down at his former friend, swallowing down a bit of bile and the last of his tears. Now that the fight was over, his adrenaline high was starting to crash fast. The rage dissolved from his body in waves, with each ebb of emotion being replaced with exhaustion.

With one shaky exhale of a sigh he crouched back down next to Bakugou and began administering first aid. He wasn't badly injured, but he did have a few open scraps with dust and other nonsense in it, so he gently cleared him with disenficing wipes. A task that got harder and harder to do as his vision started to blur and distort.

Before he knew it. Midoriya collapsed down on the ground right next to Bakugou, the extent of his injuries and severe exhaustion from his emotional outburst finally becoming too much for his body to handle.

--

When Midoriya's heavy eyes finally fluttered back open, he was laying in a bed with plain white sheets, he groaned against the strain in his body and the bright, clinical lights over head.

“Are you awake my boy?” A deep familiar voice asked him.

Midoriya forced himself to look at the source despite his earth splitting headache, and was surprised to see All Might sitting by his bed.

“A-All Might?” He asked sleepily.

All Might smiled at him. “I’m glad to see you are alright. You had us all scared for a moment there.

Midoriya was about to ask what had happened, but he was already starting to remember. Yeah, he could see why his teacher would be concerned.

“Sorry.” He said sheepishly. “Is everyone else okay?”

“There's no need to apologize. And all things considered, you were the only one truly injured. Though myself, and the others, do have a few questions for you. Do you feel up to answering them now?”

“Yeah?”

All Might smiled warmly before asking, “Is it agility of analytics?”

“What?”

“Your quirk. Watching you match I couldn't determine which it was.”

“My…”

This made no sense. All Might already knew he was quirkless. He had told him so when they met after the slime villain attack. He had spilled his guts about how he wanted to be a quirkless hero to All Might, and he had told him it was impossible.

“You...You don't remember me?”

“Ah, well, it's only my first day of teaching, I haven't had the chance to memorize everyone's files yet. But needless to say you've made quite the impression.”

Midoriya didn't know what to say. Their meeting was one of the lowest points of Midoriya's life. It had changed and shaped him into the person he was now in more ways than one. It mattered to him in ways that rivaled finding out he was quirkless or the day his dad left for America. And All Might had forgotten all about it?

Maybe he just didn't recognize him. His appearance had changed quite a bit as a result of his training and his vigilante activities. Maybe if he just gave him a subtle reminder, All Might would figure it out.

“I...I’m quirkless?” He said with hesitation, hoping that alone would be enough to spark some recognition in his hero.

“Quirkless?” All Mights eyes went wide for a moment before his face was schooled into a new expression “Oh my boy. If I had known you were so defenseless I would have stopped the match immediately. I’m sorry I missed that.”

A small flicker of the now familiar rage ignited in Midoriya's belly once more. Defenseless? The only reason Midoriya wasn't more seriously injured, or hell, killed, was because he had the agility training and the support gear necessary to leap far enough out of the way. From the top of his head, he was pretty sure he was the only one in class who would have had half a chance of dodging that blast.

“My lack of a quirk doesn't make me defenseless. But yes, you should have stopped the match. Because if anyone else had been at the receiving end of that blast, you'd likely have a dead student on your hands.”

“I-I did consider stopping the fight. But you seemed so fired up and...Well I thought the experience may be cathartic for you. To get a win against a student who had caused you such grief.”

Midoriya bit down on his check to prevent himself from saying anything he may regret later. After counting to ten and taking three deep breaths he came to the conclusion that All Might still didn't remember him.

Was he truly so forgettable and insignificant in All Mights eyes? He had revealed his true form to him, Midoriya knew his big secret. Did he at least remember that much?

“All Might.” Midoriya gestured with his finger for the man to come closer so he could whisper in his ear.

When the man complied by leaning over his bed, Midoriya swallowed hard and asked “Aren’t you already close to your limit for the day?” As he gently poked at his torso where he knew his weak point was hidden.

All Mights face blanched white as a ghost as he took in the implications of what Midoriya knew. His sunken eyes searching Midoriyas for any hint of malicious intent, before the recognition Midoriya was looking for finally flashed across his face.

“It's you. The boy from the roof.”

Midoriya tried not to think too hard about it. About how close he was to considering taking Kacchans advice before Dare showed up that day. He swallowed down his emotions, doing his best impression of Toshi’s sleepy indifference.

“Yeah… It's me.”

A few beats of uncomfortable silence passed between them. But just as All Might was about to open his mouth to speak, the door slid open and in walked Aizawa and recovery girl.

“All Might. It's past time for you to leave for the day. Recovery Girl and I need to speak with my student.” Aizawas tone did a poor job of hiding his distaste for the man. But if All Might himself noticed this, it was well hidden in his own response.

“Ah, yes, of course. I’ll leave you to it then.” He stood with a bow. Making hesitant eye contact with Midoriya before exiting the room.

“How are you feeling deary?” Recovery Girl asked, her voice laced with concern.

“I'm fine.” Midoriya replied automatically.

“Are you sure? You got quite a few burns and scrapes during your match. Not to mention the things your classmates over heard…”

Midoriya was confused for a moment by that statement before he realized what she was talking about. Like a polaroid finally developing, the delusion of privacy faded away. He forgot to mute his mask before venting at Bakugou. Not only did Bakugou hear him, everyone else had too via the cameras. The whole class now had intimate knowledge of the things Bakugou did to him when they were young.

Shit! Was he in trouble? Was Bakugou? Everyone heard him have a near melt down, would they look at him differently now? Would they see him as fragile and useless like All Might did? Would they use this against him? Would they even care?

As the silence in the air grew palpable, Midoriya realized they were still waiting for him to respond. So he forced himself to say something.

“...I’m fine.”

“Do you think if you say it enough times, that will make it true?” Aizawa deadpanned.

Midoriya looked down at his hands as he clenched at the bed sheets. This was it. Between being quirkless, and now being deemed unstable, Aizawa was gonna expel him for sure. Was there any way to convince him not to? Anything he could do or say to prove he still had potential?

“It is true, I’m fine, really. I’m a lot stronger than people think I am. I can handle this. I'm used to it.”

“You being used to it is precisely why we are so concerned, Midoriya.” Principal Nedzu popped up suddenly from the folds of Aizawa's scarf. Startling Midoriya into a yelp.

“Ah! P-principal Nedzu, sir. H-have you been in there the whole time?”

“Yes, of course. It's quite comforting and convenient for me.”

“I...see…”

Recovery girl finished detaching him from the monitors and handed him a healing gummy with an affectionate pat to his hand. After looking to Nedzu, she seemed to read silent instructions from him to leave the room, so she did so after giving Midoriya one last reassuring smile.

“As I was saying.” Nedzu began as the door slid closed “You made some very serious and startling accusations during your fight with Bakugou. After reviewing the tapes, it's clear disciplinary actions must be taken. I only wish we had been made aware of the situation ahead of time.”

Midoriya hung his head to avoid the angry gaze of his mentor.

“I...I understand sir... I’m sorry to have been such a disappointment to you.”

“What are you talking about, problem child?” Aizawa questioned with a furrowed brow.

“I know you had higher expectations for me after admitting me to multiple courses… Am I… Expelled from the support course as well?”

“Expelled?” Nedzu asked, “Who told you you'd be expelled?”

Midoriya looked back and forth between Nedzu and Aizawa waiting for one of them to say something, when neither party did, he spoke for them.

“You said… You said there would be disciplinary actions, so I just assumed. Did you mean detention then? Or-?”

“Midoriya.” Aizawa pinched the bridge of his nose. Clearly exasperated with him. “You're Not the one in trouble here.”

“I'm not?”

“No. You're not.” Aizawa sighed deeply. “Nedzu, could you please explain to the boy before I have an aneurysm.”

“Yes of course.” Nedzu offered before crawling out of Aizawas scarf and onto Midoriya's bed with him. “I was of course referring to Bakugou. If the things you said during your match are true, as the scarring recovery girl found on your torso suggests they are, then Bakugou should have never been admitted to the hero course in the first place.”

“I- what?”

“We will be, of course, launching an investigation with the local police department, and pending results, he will be expelled.”

“You can’t do that!” Midorya yelled before he could stop himself.

Aizawa and Nedzu shared a glance before Nedzu turned back to him to ask, “And why is that, Midoriya. I should think you would be happy to hear your former tormentor would no longer be enrolled with you.”

“Because he would make such a great hero! It's everything he ever wanted growing up, and he worked so hard for it, you can't take that away from him now!”

“Hard work or no. His words and deeds suggest he lacks the empathy and mindset necessary for hero work.”

Midoriya panicked internally for a moment. On the surface, what Nedzu was saying was true. But it wasn't that simple, was it? Bakugou wasn't lacking empathy, not really. In fact, when they were really little, he used to be so nice. But as they got older he changed, what was it that changed him? Was it just him getting his quirk? Or was there more to it?

Midoriya searched his memories as quickly as he could to try and find the root of the problem, and once he found it, he wasted no time in telling the others.

“It's not his fault. The adults in his life failed him, repeatedly. They filled his head with all these expectations and encouraged his more violent impulses. If just one person had told him what he was doing was wrong, then he might not be like this.”

“Hmmm.” Nedzu seemed to be considering this, so Midoriya added more to his argument.

“The teachers at our old school encouraged all the students to test out their quirks on me. Not just Kacchan. If he was really the problem here, then none of the other students would have joined in, but they did. And his mom…”

He didn't want to throw Auntie Mitsky under the bus, but if he was honest, she was part of the problem as well.

“His mom is just as aggressive as he is. Possibly worse even. And she puts a lot of pressure on him to do well in school and stuff. He never had any way of knowing better.”

Nedzu and Aizawa shared another glance before Nedzu one again turned his attention to Midoriya.

“So what do you suggest then? If you don't believe expulsion to be the best option.”

Midoriya thought about it for a moment before responding.

“Honestly? I don't know. Maybe therapy or community service or something? I just know that if you crush his dreams now, when he's so close to becoming something better, that it would be a mistake. He has the potential to be such a great hero, he just needs someone to show him how… He deserves the chance to prove himself.”

Nedzu and Aizawa stared at each other much longer this time. Some sort of silent battle of wills clearly taking place between them, before Aizawa finally broke eye contact and released a long, low sigh.

“Fine kid, you win. He can stay.” Aizawa began before pointing directly at the principal to list his demands. “But he's on probation. I’m talking mandatory therapy sessions with Hound Dog, anger management classes, and 30 hours of community service. Minimum.”

Nedzu looked to Midoriya instead of answering Aizawa directly.

“Does that sound agreeable to you Midoriya?”

It sounded a hell of a lot better than expulsion. He was pretty sure Kacchan would be furious about it. But in the long run, it would be good for him. So Midoriya nodded enthusiastically before Aizawa sensei would have the chance to add on more.

“And you.” Speaking of Aizawa adding on more… “You should be seeing Hound Dog as well.”

“What? Why me?”

“Because you clearly need it.”

“ But, I thought you said I wasn't in trouble?”

“You're not! I- You know what? Nedzu, I need to go lie down for a while before our conference with the Bakugous later.”

Aizawa had his hands up in defeat as he made a swift exit from the room. Midoriya flinched, unsure what he did to upset his homeroom teacher so much, but glad for the reassurance that he wasn't in trouble.

The room was silent for a moment before Nedzu turned to face Midoriya once more with a smile.

“So, how is your assignment from me going?”

“Oh my gosh! I almost forgot! I promised Hagakure and Yaoyorozu I'd take them to go see Mei after class! What time is it?”

Nedzu checked his pocket watch before responding.

“Class should be out in about five minuets. If you feel up to walking now, you should arrive just in time.”

“Then, I'd better get going!”

Midoriya flng the sheets off himself and was halfway to the door before Nedzu cleared his throat to regain his attention.

“You may want to change back into a pair of pants at the least before you go.” Nedzu said with a soft smile as he pointed to the folded uniform sitting in a chair by the bed.

“Oh, right.” he said with a blush.

Midoriya changed out of his medical gown as fast as humanly possible before dashing out of the room. He didn't want the girls to think he was flaking on them. A promise is a promise after all.

Chapter Text

What am I even doing here?

Katsuki woke up pissed off and still swinging before he realized he was already in the nurse's office. Some grandma tried to feed him some gummies but he refused. He didn't want her pity candy. After getting cleared he went back to class to catch the tail end of the matches.

When he walked into the viewing room all eyes were on him in the worst possible way. He was used to other students looking at him with fear that they tried in vain to disguise as reverence, but that wasn’t what he saw here. They all looked at him with looks of disgust and anger, like he was a monster. Whether it was the fight itself that caused the reaction, or the things Deku said he wasn't sure, but they had all clearly turned on him.

Fucking shitty hair was bitting at his nail beds looking from him to the other students with so much nervous energy that it rivaled Deku in middle school. What's he so worried about? Does he think he's gonna blow up on everybody or something? Maybe he will if these extras dont stop fucking staring at him.

Its bad enough he fucking lost. Again. They don't have to rub it in. As if any of them could have done any better.

That voice in the back of his head was quick to tell him they probably could have. If Katsuki had just gotten his priorities straight to begin with he wouldn't have lost. But he was so zeroed in on beating stupid Deku to prove the entrance exams were a fluke, that he completely failed to see through the nerds plan. He saw the bait dangling there and he took it like some dumbass fish biting the hook.

He could hear his mother now. First she’d slap the back of his head, her favorite way to start a conversation, and then she would say, ‘God damnit Katsuki, I thought you were smarter than this! You have all the fire power of a bomb and you were bested by fucking magnets. How pathetic.’ And he would try to argue, because he always did, but she would be right. She was always right.

Katsuki sat slumped against the back wall to watch the other matches, since no one seemed inclined to let him sit near them now. What's that all about? At his old school the extras always flocked to him, hoping some of his glory would rub off on them. He loses one fucking match, against omeone who cheated with all their fancy new gear, and suddenly hes a pariah. But whatever. He doesn't care what they think about him, he doesn't need anyone's approval.

He was only half paying attention to the match on the screen. He hated to admit it, but some of these extras actually showed potential. Elbows and Dunce Face had some good moves, but between Ponytail making insulated blankets and Eye Bags staff apparently doubling as a lightning rod, Dunce Face was practically worthless. And then when Elbows tried to wrap the mind fucker in tape, they beat him to the punch with wrist wraps that apparently worked like Aizawa's scarf. Damn it, the nerd probably made his gear too.

Since fucking when did Deku know how to build shit? Is that something he learned after he dropped out? Eye Bags said he went to some fancy online school but that can't possibly be true, Deku always scored lower than him on tests, if anyone was gonna be sent to some elite academy it should have been him.

A few minutes later the extras returned to the viewing room after their match. The second mind fucks sleepy eyes met Katsuki’s, he tensed up and moved like he was about to start some shit, but Dunce Face and the others held him back.

“Toshi, no. Don’t even try it.”

Eye bags snarled a bit, but ultimately took his advice and sat down a little harsher than was strictly necessary.

Good, maybe Dunce Face isn't a complete idiot after all. He at least knows how dumb it would be to start a fight with him. He would kick his ass in three seconds. He could kick anyone's ass. Anyone except fucking Deku apparently.

A small part of him should be happy that Deku finally took his advice and got serious about his training. His stupid support gear was still doing the bulk of the work for him. But he had obviously bulked up a bit and had to have a fair amount of martial arts training to be able to go head to head against him now. That should be a good thing. If he's actually putting the work in now, then that means he can protect his own damn self. His old hag would get off his back about him, he would be free of the burden of making sure he didnt fucking die.

But he wasn't happy about it. Not even a little. Because the little shit used that against him.

The things he was saying during their fight. He made it seem like he was the bad guy. He twisted all his words and actions to make it seem like he was just needlessly attacking him on a daily basis. He only ever hit him when he deserved it. And it's not like he ever said anything untrue.

Deku was weak, and quirkless, and always getting in the way. His fucking muttering was annoying and creppy. And when it came to taking care of himself he was totally useless. It was all true and he needed to hear it so he would know what to improve on. It wasn’t bullying, it was an astute observation.

His mothers critique always helped him eliminate any of his own weaknesses, so he was trying to do the same for the nerd. It's hardly Katsuki’s fault that he never took his advice seriously. Always getting offended instead of working to do better. Sure he could have worded it a little nicer sometimes, but at the same time, it's not like the outside world was gonna be any nicer about it. If he can't take the heat he should just stay out of the damn kitchen.

‘I already knew you wanted me dead when you told me to kill myself in middle school!’

What the hell was that about? He didn’t want the nerd dead, he was trying his fucking best to make sure he didnt end up a smear on the pavement. Trying to be a hero without the hard work and skill to back it up was only ever gonna end one of two ways. Either a villain would take him out, or he'd take himself out when he realized it was never gonna happen for him.

‘Was I taking too long to find a suitable building to take a swan dive from?!’

Oh, wait, he remembers now. It was the day of the slime attack, he had found out Deku was still trying to go to UA despite looking like he had never lifted a weight in his life. So Katsuki made one last ditch effort to get him to back the fuck off on his pointless suicide mission. He blew up his notebook, because creepy stalker notes about other people's quirks weren't gonna magically give him one, and then he said…

“You know if you wanna be a hero that badly there may actually be another way. Just hope you'll be born with a quirk in the next life and take a swan dive off the roof of a building.”

Oh. Is that what the nerd was going off about?

Seriously? That was like a year ago and he was still upset about it? It's not like he fucking meant it. He was obviously being facetious, he was trying to point out how useless it was to keep hoping for some miracle that was never gonna happen. It wasn't a real suggestion. That's not how any of this shit works. He knows the nerd is kinda a dumbass, but he didnt think he was dumb enough to take that as an actual suggestion.

Was he really that bothered by it? What a wuss. His old hag says stuff like that all the time.

‘Damn it Katsuki, if you insist on playing in the street after I’ve told you a million times not to, the least you can do is get hit by a car so you won't cause problems for me anymore.’

‘If you’re gonna sleep in all day like a corpse, then you may as well dig a hole in the yard first.’

‘Really kid, a B- on your science project? Maybe next time you should try and actually get struck by the lightning, so you’ll have some first hand experience with the concept.’

And that was just what he could think of off the top of his head. She didn't actually mean any of that either… Probably. He never took it personally like some fucking cry baby. So why did Deku?

‘Ten years Kacchan! I spent ten fucking years as your personal punching bag!’

Well yeah, because it took all ten years for you to take the fucking hint.

‘Are you so blinded by your hatred of me that you forgot where you were?!’

Okay, yeah, maybe he had lost the plot a little bit during the exercise. But only because he had a point to make, that he was still the better fighter than stupid Deku. And then Deku pulled out all these fucking moves he never had before, and was using all this gear that made him almost impossible to hit.

The fucking nerd actually managed to prove himself as a worthy opponent, so he was taking him seriously and using his own gear to it’s full extent as well. Why does that make him the bad guy here? It was a complement. It was his way of saying his best was necessary to win against him, why didn't he see that? It wasn't hatred, it was respect.

He should be fucking happy about this. The nerd had followed him around like a lost puppy all these years, always so desperate for his approval. Then he makes moves to actually start earning that respect, and he's upset that he was getting it? What the fuck?

‘Do you even realize how close you were to committing manslaughter?’

I mean, yeah, the blast was a bit bigger and more powerful than he was expecting. He hadn't had the opportunity to test the gear out ahead of time, so sue him. But he knew Deku would dodge it. He wouldn't have pulled the trigger if he wasn't 100% certain Deku could dodge it. He had even said as much when All Might tried to talk him out of it.

‘I swallowed every insult, and hid every scar from my mother, and for what?! I protected you from yourself because I thought you could be a great hero one day!’

What was that supposed to mean? He didn't need his damn protection! He never needed anybody's help. Counting on others is how you end up drowning on sludge. And he was gonna be a great hero one day. So what was with the past tense? Did he no longer think that? Had Deku lost faith in him when he failed to save himself? Did he somehow know what had happened?

Katsuki glanced around the room at all the other students still casting him the occasional dirty looks. Did… Did none of them think he would be a good hero? Did they all think he was weak? No, that wouldn’t explain the mean mugging he was getting. It wasn't weakness they saw in him, it was malice. Did they all believe Deku when he said he was a bully?

If Deku had honesty been reading too far into his comments all this time. If he was really hurt by the things he said and did, then why stick around? Why not call him on it sooner? In their ten years of knowing each other Deku had never complained about him. On the contrary, he took every possible opportunity to say he was Amazing. Why would he say that if he was legitimately bothered by the shit he said?

‘Because you were my friend! And it didn't matter how much you hurt me, or tried to push me away, because you were the only one I had!’

It's not like Katsuki had a lot of friends in middle school either. Sure he had extras who followed him around, but they weren't his friends. They didn't give a shit about him. They proved as much when they left him for dead with the slime monster.

Deku wasn't his friend either. They hadn't been friends for a long ass time. Not really. It’s not Katsuki’s fault that he never got the fucking hint. No matter how many times he tried to tell him to stop following him around, the damn nerd kept trying anyway. He kept talking to and about him like they were still all buddy-buddy. Always calling him that stupid childish nickname. Always Kacchan this, and Kacchan that.

‘ Thats not my fucking name Bakugou!’

...Until today that is.

Was he finally over it? If that's the case, then Katsuki had accomplished his mission. He convinced the nerd to take his training seriously and finally made him quit with the fucking baby names. He got exactly what he wanted from the nerd. It took ten fucking years, but he finally got there, that should be a major acomplishment. A hard won victory. So then, why did he feel so...empty?

On the monitors the next round was over before it had a chance to fully begin. Fucking icy hot walked up to the building and froze he whole thing in a single touch, then he just walked on up and won the match. Fuck. He was really strong. It was gonna be hell trying to catch up to that kind of power level.

He was already training so hard. What more could he possibly due to compete with a quirk like that? Was it even possible? Growing up, he always had the best quirk in the room. Now that he was at UA it seemed like he was surrounded on all side by people with quirks that were just as powerful if not more powerful than his own. Would his other skills be enough to close the gap? Or would he fail on that front as well?

The door to the viewing room slammed open, his quirk was erased and a captor scarf was wrapped around his body before he even had the chance to blink.

“Bakugou Katsuki.” Aizawa sounded genuinely terrifying when he used that tone, eyes glowing red and hair floating around as if even his own hair wanted to get away from him. “You're coming with me.”

Oh fuck. Deku must have told them about everything, and of course his dramatic ass would have played it all up and made him sound like the world's jerkiest jerk.

A vision of Dekus face standing over him crying as Katsuki lost consciousness came to mind. The nerd was crying, but it wasn't his usual cry baby tears. These tears were filled with anger, fear, and hurt. He looked at him like he was a traitor. Like Katsuki was a dog that had gone rabid, and he just realized he had to put him down.

The eyes of disdain from his teacher as well as the other students bore into his soul. It was clear they were all thinking the same things. They all agreed with Deku. They all thought he was evil and mean, that he no longer deserved to be a hero. And maybe they were right.

It was odd to see such hatred directed at him from eyes that weren't his mothers or his own.

Everyone here was so naturally talented. He bet none of them had to put in half as much work as he did. And they were all so...Nice. Even Eye Bags, arguably the grumpiest among them besides himself, had gone out of his way to help him on the first day. And that was after nearly getting into a fight with him. He was never gonna fit in with these people.

What was he even doing here?

Katsuki didn't even fight it. He just stood and followed Aizawa out the door.

--

Kaminari was a total and complete loss for what to do.

The whole room had gone silent once Bakugou set off that blast. He could have sworn his own heart stopped when he saw Midoriya's body hit the wall. For half a second, he and half the room really thought they had just watched him die. But then he started to move and mutter something under his breath, so he also took a deep breath.

But then the expression on Midoriya's face shifted, he donned a look he hadn't even realized Midoriya was capable of. All the happy, bubbly, nervousness was gone. And what took its place was a man possessed. Kaminari was on the edge of his seat as he watched Midoriya pull himself up off the ground and charge at Bakugou on legs that were at least sprained if the limp was anything to go by.

Next to him, Toshi was emanating an aura of absolutely murderous intent. Half of it directed at Bakugou, and the other half glaring daggers at the back of All Might's head. Honestly, Kaminari couldn't blame him, the fact that All Might had yet to call the fight seemed a bit ridiculous. I mean yeah, this was an elite hero institution, and they would need to learn to counteract serious threats like this eventually. But as their first real day as hero students, Bakugous actions seemed a wee bit excessive, and uhhh, potentially deadly?

But then it got worse. Midoriya must not have realized he forgot to mute his mask, because he was really letting Bakugou have it. He read him for filth and then aired out all his own dirty laundry with only his own tears to clean it all off with. Kaminari winced more than once as the reveals of what exactly had gone down between the two kept getting dropped. And he was far from the only one left feeling both embarrassed and concerned for him.

Kaminari had some idea that things between Midoriya and Bakugou were complex and not great just based on the context clues he had so far. But hearing just how deep that rabbit hole went, left him feeling absolutely crushed on his friends behalf. That must have really sucked for him.

But on the other hand, it really explained a lot about why he is the way he is. The overwhelming amount of self depreciation and humbleness despite his intelligence and skill level. Always seeing the good in people and complimenting them even when they don’t deserve it. The alarmingly high pain tolerance. And the overachiever curse of taking on way too much, if only to lighten the load for others, or otherwise to prove himself. It all checked out now.

Kaminaris gaze shifted to Toshi, who shared a lot of the same traits as well as displaying a few other alarming red flags. Maybe this was why he and Midoriya got along so well despite having outwardly oppositional outlooks on life. It was trauma bonding.

Usually when his friends were going through something, he would just work extra hard to cheer them up by telling jokes. But how do you joke about something like this?

The class went wild when Midoriya used Bakugou's own explosions against him. The near impossible speed with which he got himself and Bakugou out of the way of the falling debris was incredible. He found himself in awe of it all, the realization that this was his plan all along was mind boggling. And then on the other monitor Uraraka was securing her team the win like it was nothing. His classmates were all so smart and talented. He felt so lucky to be learning alongside them.

The round of awwws from all the girls in the room (and Kirishima) caused Kaminari to look back at the monitor Midoriya was on. He had started cleaning Bakugou's wounds for him. The dude had way worse injuries, and by all reason should have taken care of himself first, but he wasn't. Instead he cared for the kid who had mercilessly bullied him for years with all the same tenderness you would expect someone to give a small child.

Welp, there goes anyone elses chance to catch the attention of the girls in class. Between this, the Hagakure incident this morning, and the fact that Midoriya was, objectively speaking, both hot and talented. There's no way they aren't all already half in love with him. Hell, most of the guys were giving Midoriya heart eyes at this point too. Dare better get a move on if he doesn't want someone else to beat him to the punch.

Come to think of it. Toshi was pretty close with him too, not to mention being a bit overprotective at times. Is it possible he also had feelings for Midoriya? Is that why Dare hadn't asked him out yet? Cause he knew his little brother's feelings would be hurt if he did? That would make a lot of sense. And as he had just established, Midoiya was a grade A catch, so anyone who had their sights set on him would probably never settle for someone like him.

Kaminari almost let himself sigh. The realization he had even less of a chance with Toshi than he thought was pretty soul crushing. But then he remembered he had a job to do. The things they had all collectively just witnessed as a class were pretty intense. Someone had to be the comic relief and sense that was really all he was good for, it better be him.

“Welp. F’s in the chat for whoever has to follow that act.” He said with a grin and a chuckle.

“Actually Kaminari, I'm pretty sure we’re up next.” Sero said looking a little pale despite also sporting a nervous smile.

“Ah beans.” He said with a deflated sigh.

He could hear one or two people chuckle lightly to themselves and caught a few smirks from the corner of his eyes.

“I can't believe you forgot that already.” Jirou snickered.

“Yeah, well. My mom used to say I’d forget my own name if it wasn't written on my underwear.” He said with another laugh.

A few more faces were starting to lift. He was glad. He hadn't actually forgotten he was on next, but he thought the faux mix up would help lighten the mood and take people's attention away from the now unconscious Midoriya on the screen. And he was right.

But when he glanced back at Toshi to see how he was taking things, the look in his eyes had Kaminari’s next joke dead in his throat. To the outside observer it looked pretty similar to his usual unbothered expression, but Kaminari could sense something much deeper in there. He couldn't quite place the emotion, was it sadness? Anger? Disappointment? A mix of the three?

Kaminari disguised a gulp as another chuckle. He kept his expression light for the benefit of the rest of the class, but he was having a harder and harder time resisting the urge to pull Toshi aside and ask what was wrong.

He was pretty sure he knew what was wrong. Their mutual friend just revealed a seriously tragic backstory and took one hell of a beating. He was clearly worried about him, and so was Kaminari. But at the same time, he couldn't help but feel like there was something more to all this. Something he was missing. He had that feeling a lot around them. Like there was some major secret they all shared and were worried about.

He wished his friends trusted him enough to just tell him what was going on sometimes. But then again, it was probably hard to put your faith in someone so far below you.

Maybe if he managed to prove himself as a capable future hero, they would have an easier time going to him for help? Yeah, that made sense. That's how he could help his friends when jokes alone weren't enough to cut the mustard. He would show them he was helpful and dependable, and then they would trust him with their problems, and he could figure out how to help from there.

He may not have a chance with Toshi in a romantic setting. But he could still be there for him as a friend. He gave Toshi a reassuring smile that he hoped conveyed the message ‘I’m here for you’ before rising from his seat to start getting ready for his match. Toshi had a contemplative look on his face before he rose to do the same.

Okay, step one of the ‘prove your friends can count on you’ plan, he would need to do his best in his match against Toshi and Momo. They were both really smart, but him and Sero could probably come up with something. Right?

--

Dare wanted Midoriya to be the one who made the call. He really did. But when he got the call from Toshi explaining what had happened at school that day, he just couldn't reign himself in long enough to wait for the okay.

He had both versions of his research on Aldera booted up on his laptop. One with Bakugou and the other students involvement included, and one without it. In the end he used both. He sent the cleaned up version to the local police department as well as three separate news sources. And the file including footage of Midoriya's bullying was forwarded to Nedzu.

The message was simple. Just an attachment to his research and the line ‘Now that this has become relevant information.’ He had already finished hitting send when his logic caught back up to his emotions.

They...maybe should have at least given Zu a heads up before doing this. But the idea of holding it in any longer, of giving Aldera a chance to cover their tracks now that Midoriya himself had already spilled the beans, was just so aggravating to them. They couldn't just get away with it. So he made the call himself.

Zu might be pissed for a bit, but it would all be fine in the long run… Probably… Hopefully...

Chapter Text

Midoriya arrived back at his homeroom class just in time for the final bell to ring. He had braced himself for dealing with everyone's reaction to his fight with Bakugou earlier, but when he opened the door, he was surprised to see no one react in the ways he had expected.

Though some of them, (mainly Uraraka and Kirishima) seemed almost physically pained by not being allowed to smother him with their concern, everyone else was surprisingly very chill. No one brought it up beyond the stray nod of affirmation or reassuring pat to the back. He suspected his friends may have coached the class in not making a big deal out of it for his sake. Or otherwise, maybe Aizaw had told them to contain themselves, since not doing so would probably be ‘illogical’ in his mind. Whatever the case, he was glad he wouldn't have to explain himself to them.

The meeting between Mei, Hagukure, and Yayorozu (who was now insisting everyone call her Momo after Mei had done so herself) went about as well as he expected. Mei was over the moon at the chance to work on some custom babies, but was a little disappointed that the bulk of the work would actually fall to her mom in manufacturing the fabric. After the initial shock of adjusting to her larger than life personality, and complete and total lack of personal boundaries, the girls all got along pretty well.

Midoriya wasn’t sure whether or not this counted towards his project with Nedzu, since he himself really didn't have much of a hand in making the new costumes. But he wrote it down in his notebook anyway. He did have one idea, of making Momo a much smaller and more specialized version of his command center, so she could look up the necessary chemical compositions for certain objects much faster than she would be able to with the books she currently stored in her belt. So if nothing else, he would get some partial credit for that.

Once they were done talking it over, the girls all left, but he stayed behind for a bit. He needed a few more minutes to finish up his notes and get some things set up for tomorrow. When he finally finished up his preparations, he said goodbye to Power Loader sensei and headed out.

Just as he was about to turn the corner he heard some familiar voices echoing in the halls. It sounded like Auntie Mitsky and Bakugou. Not wanting to be spotted, he decided to hang back and wait for them to leave. He didn't mean to eavesdrop, he really didn't. But the Bakugous aren't exactly known for being quiet.

***

“Well I hope you're proud of yourself you miserable brat. Cause I’m sure as shit not.” Auntie berated him harshly.

“I’m not.” Bakugou said through clenched teeth.

“I can’t fucking believe you said that nonsense to poor little Izuku. Your father and I work with his mother all the time, she's one of our best seamstresses, you know.”

“I know.” He said with an audible eye roll.

“Well if you know that, then why the hell would you pick on her son. Do you enjoy putting your parents' work lives at risk? Do you even realize what would happen if word gets out that my child is a delinquent little punk? Picking fights with quirkless kids? I mean really Katsuki what possessed you to-”

“You did you old hag!”

“Katsuki!” She shouted with a sharp slap to the back of Bakugou’s head. “I did no such thing, you lying little brat!”

“Yes you did! You told me to look out for him! You said it was my job to make sure he stayed safe! How was I supposed to keep him safe if he insisted on being a hero without doing any fucking training for it first?! The fucking nerd was weak as shit back then, I tried to tell him but he never fucking listened to me! And if he wasn't willing to do the work to become a hero then he was gonna get himself killed! So I figured he was better off just giving up, but he wouldn't listen to that either! What the hell was I supposed to do?!”

“I don't know Katsuki, but you sure as shit weren't supposed to do what you did. You’re fucking lucky they didnt expell you. But now there's gonna be an investigation, and CPS is gonna come sniffing around again, and they are always such a pain.”

“I know what to tell them at this point. It’s not gonna be a problem.”

“It better not be. You’ve cause your father and I enough fucking problems. I swear the stress of raising you is gonna give me wrinkles, and my quirk should make that impossible.”

“I’ll handle it. I always do.”

“Oh really? Were you ‘handling it’ when you acted up in the first place? Or when you let that slime monster defile you like that on national television?”

“I didn't let him do-”

“It will be a miracle if we ever live that embarrassment down at this point! You had better become something really great someday to make up for all the trouble you’ve caused. If you fail again your father and I might not survive the shame.”

“Yeah, well dying isn't so bad compared to living with you.” Bakugou mumbled under his breath.

“What was that, you fucking brat?!” Auntie slapped him hard across the face. Midoriya instinctively flinched back, but Bakugou just accepted the hit, sucking in air between clenched teeth before responding.

“Nothing...Can we just go home now?”

“Tch, fine.”

Auntie Mitsky took a firm grip of Bakugou's upper arm and led him further down the halls and out the door.

***

Midoriya was left stunned. He had seen them get into arguments before. But she never said anything quite that cruel or harsh sounding when he was around before. She also didn't hit him quite so hard. The realization that CPS had been called on them at least once before didn't sit well with him at all. Was this the sort of thing he should be telling Dare about? Did this warrant intervention? Or was he just reading too much into it because of his own personal feelings on the matter?

Bakugou was the strongest and most opinionated person he knew, if he was in any real danger then he would have handled the situation himself by now, wouldn't he? He never put up with anyones shit. So it couldn’t really be that bad could it? But on the other hand, his pride was always his one true weakness. Would he avoid seeking help for the sake of not seeming weak?

And if that was the case, then would Midoriya stepping in just make things worse? He hated asking for help from anyone, but especially from those he considered weaker than him. And in Bakugou's eyes he was at the very bottom of the food chart.

Maybe he should go to Aizawa with this? He had already mentioned Auntie Mitskys more aggressive nature earlier when he was pleading with him not to kick Bakugou out of the hero course. So it shouldn’t be that difficult to drop a few more hints and hope that he takes them. Aizawa was smart, and he was a pro hero, so he had plenty of connections. If anyone could help, it would be Aizawa.

But then again, if their homeroom teacher got involved, there was no guarantee word wouldn't spread to the rest of the class. And if there was any outcome Bakugou would hate more than getting help from a weakling, it was having everyone in class think he himself was the weakling.

Perhaps for now he should just keep an eye on the situation, and if it looked like intervention was necessary, then he could decide whether going to Dare or Aizawa was the better solution.

Yeah. For now, that was really all he could do without risking making a big deal over nothing or alienating Bakugou even further. As much as he hated the idea of doing nothing, waiting for further information was truly his only option.

At least they had a field trip coming up. That should provide the both of them with some much needed distraction.

--

“No, I mean, I’m honored of course. It's just, I don't understand how I was elected as class rep when I wasn’t even in the class at the time.” Zuku tried once again to explain his grievances to the others, but it fell on deaf ears.

“You had the most votes. That is how democracy works.” Iida spoke with all his usual tension, but there was a small undercurrent of disappointment that had been there ever since he saw no one had voted for him.

“I think you'll make a great class rep.” Uraraka began, “I mean you've already helped out Momo and Hagakure.”

“Yeah dude, you've already won the hearts and minds of half the class, so you should have no problem getting everyone to follow you into battle.” Kami said smirk.

“I- I’m sure that's an exaggeration.” Zuku said nervously.

“It’s really not.” Toshi dead panned.

For as good as Zuku was at stealth, he had done a pretty bad job of remaining under the radar as far as their class was concerned. His grand campaign against overly sexualized uniforms for the girls in class, and the accidental trauma dump in class yesterday, really didn't help him with keeping a low profile. Everyone was already forming pretty strong opinions of him and it was only day four. He was pretty sure he had even overheard someone say something about a fan club, but he was really hoping that was just a joke.

“Oh… Well I mean, still, shouldn't the class rep be someone whose, ya know, actually with the class 100% of the time? I’ll only be there every other day...”

“You could always use the Mido-gram I built.” Mei offered.

“The what?” Zuku asked, confused.

“The Mido-gram. It's a holographic Midas I built.”

“H-how and why is there a hologram of me?”

“Well you know the rubber duck thing right?”

“Rubber duck thing?”

“Oh, oh, I know this one!” Kami said with all the enthusiasm of a kid hoping to get called on in class, “It's a programming thing. When you can't figure out what's wrong with the coding, you explain the code in full detail out loud to a rubber duck. That way you are more likely to catch the mistake.”

“Correct!” Mei put one finger to her own nose and the other pointed excitedly at Kami. “Good job, Kami!”

Kaminari’s megawatt smile at the praise had Toshi feeling a bit faint. The light filtering in through the cafeteria window had him back lit like the star in a slice of life anime. His nose wrinkled just slightly and, Jesus Christ, does he have dimples? God he was so pretty sometimes it hurt. The sound of Midoryas still baffled voice managed to pull Toshi’s focus back away from the pretty blonde.

“Okay, but that doesn't explain why there is a holographic me, Mei.”

“I'm getting there.” Mei turned her focus back onto Zuku. “Why explain my babies to some lame hunk of plastic when I could be bouncing ideas off a real lab partner? Right? And obviously, as my favorite baby daddy, you're the best one to go to for help.”

Iida and Uraraka both had a deep blush forming on their faces, but Toshi and Kami were all but immune to Mei’s antics at this point.

“Okay, I think I see where this is going. You developed a hologram of me so you could talk to me on days I’m busy with the heroics course. Right? But why build a hologram as opposed to just taking a photo of me or something.”

“Silly, Midas. A photo can't talk back to me, thats the other advantaged the Mido-gram has over a stupid rubber duck. I programmed it to speak and behave in the same ways you do.”

“You did? But how did you-”

“By using all the recordings I have of you as a basis for the program obviously.”

“You have recordings of me?” Zuku had a look that was equal parts horror and awe. “How? I've never seen you with a camera? And I know there aren't any in your workshop so-”

“Wouldn't you like to know, hero boy.” Mei teased

“Hatsume, it is an invasion of privacy to film someone without their knowledge or consent. Not to mention using said footage to-”

Iida began what sounded like the start of a long lecture, but he was cut off by the sudden blaring of an alarm. Loud noises and flashing lights sent the whole cafeteria into chaos. Toshi could just barely make out the sound of Nedzu’s prerecorded voice over the speaker system saying,

“Level three security breach. Please evacuate in a calm and orderly fashion at once.”

The evacuation was decidedly not calm and orderly.

The second Toshi got out into the main hall he was swept up in a sea of bodies.

Students were pushing and shoving in their panic. Toshi could hardly hear himself think over the cacophony of whispered fears and shouted voices of people calling out to friends. He was surrounded on all sides, jostling bodies pressed in on him tighter and tighter till he felt he couldn't breathe. All of his friends had disappeared, lost to the same current of chaos.

Somewhere over the blur of other sounds, he was vaguely aware of someone calling out his name, but he couldn't bring himself to respond. It was all closing in on him, the panic in the air met the panic in his own body and suddenly he was right back in that closet again.

***

It was dark. So dark. And he was in so much pain. His arm ached, the muzzle was cutting into his flesh, his throat felt raw from crying, and his chest felt so tight he wanted to claw his own heart out. How long had he been here? Minutes, hours, days, he had no way of knowing. How did he get here again? Somewhere through the hectic haze, his mind supplied the answer he thought he had buried too deeply to remember.

“How did it get out of the muzzle?!”

“Don’t ask me!”

“Well we have to do something! We can't let an evil like that out into the world!”

“Fine! Bring me a suture needle and thread from the first aid kit, we’ll just sew it’s mouth shut.”

Shinsou thrashed against their hold, but it was a futile effort, it was three adults versus one small monster. The warden held the needle over the light of a candle to disinfect it before approaching, cruel eyes almost glowing with malice.

Shinsou finally managed to get one arm free as one of the keepers moved to take off the muzzle for the procedure.

He swung to knock the needle from the warden's hands. The largest of the keepers retaliated by squeezing his arm like a vice grip. He could feel the strain on his bones, creaking under the extreme pressure. He wanted to scream, but the other keepers were already refastening the reins of his muzzle even tighter on his face.

“You meddlesome little shit! If you don't want to cooperate, then fine.” The warden said with indignation. “Lock him in the broom cupboard. A few days with no food should knock him out eventually, we can finish this then.”

Toshi panicked even further, he hated the closet. Hated the oppressive darkness and inability to even stretch his legs. It was too tight, he couldn't breathe in there. He couldn't speak, or scream, or cry.

He couldn't breathe.

***

Somewhere out in reality. Kaminari had finally managed to swim upstream through the crowd to reach him. Gentle worried hands cupped his face to try and force eye contact.

“Toshi! Toshi, it's okay, you're okay. Just look at me. Do you know where you are right now?”

He couldn’t fully hear him, it was like listening to someone from under water. His head was throbbing and the sea of other people was still crashing in all around them. It was all he could do to keep from drowning. He still couldn't breathe

A blur of rapid motion flashed over all their heads as Iida blasted off like a rocket to land over the door by the emergency exit. Toshi wasn't cognizant enough to know what he was doing or saying, but whatever it was, it seemed to calm the crowd down a bit.

The other students stopped shoving each other and started clearing the halls with far less urgency. But Toshi still felt trapped.

“Can you guys give us some space please?” Kaminari politely called out to the people of the immediate area with mixed results.

If Toshi were more aware, he would have noticed Tokoyami approaching, creating a barrier around them with dark shadow to gently push back the remaining stragglers in the hall. Or Midoriya asking Kirishima to run and get Recovery Girl. Or even Bakugou down the hall, scaring off anyone who tried to approach with threatening glares and subtle pops along his palms. But at the moment he didn't see any of this. He could only see Kaminari’s golden eyes cutting through the darkness, like the little rays of light peeking under the closet door.

Now that the source of his claustrophobia had gone away, he was slowly gaining the ability to think and see clearly. Kaminari helped coach him through some breathing exercises, gently brushing his lavender hair off his sweaty head and providing some grounding contact.

As Toshi’s field of awareness extended past the two of them, he finally noticed Midoriya on the phone, presumably with Dare or possibly Aizawa, filling whoever it was in on the situation. Glancing around he saw Kirishima round the corner with Recovery Girl in tow, as well as Tokoyami, and surprisingly enough, Bakugou, stationed at either end of the hall to keep watch.

It seems the silent alliance that formed on the first day of school was in full effect. Later on in the day, when he had the chance to think back on it fully, Toshi would feel an overwhelming gratitude to all of them, but at the moment, his adrenaline high meant the only thing he could currently feel was his fear subsiding into exhaustion.

Kaminari tried to step aside to give Recovery Girl room to work with, but the second Toshi saw him start to move away, he panicked and reached out to him, clutching at his shoulders like it was the last raft leaving the sinking ship.

Kaminari blinked for a moment, presumably startled by his sudden clinginess. A tiny voice in the back of Toshi’s head said he should be doing this. That it was selfish, annoying, and unnecessary to force this boy to stay with him at all, much less when he was acting so crazy. But that voice was overpowered by the fear that if Kaminari left him now, the sun would somehow leave with him, never to return.

Kaminari grabbed the hands on his shoulders and carefully peeled them off, Toshi let out a small sob at the rejection, but it was instantly soothed again as Kaminari laced his fingers into his. He gave his hand a reassuring squeeze as he moved to the side, allowing Recovery Girl access to her patient whilst remaining glued to Toshi’s arm to give him comfort.

Toshi let out a sigh of relief. Still in a haze and trying to catch his breath, he nodded and shook his head to answer Recovery Girls questions. He took the gummies she handed him without hesitation, and some small part of him was disappointed they didn't work the same as those pills Dare had given him all those months ago.

He wasn't sure at which point he and Kami were moved to a bench, but when he finally came fully back to himself, they were sitting side by side. One of Kaminari’s hands was still entwined with Toshi’s, his other arm was wrapped around his shoulders, with nimble fingers gently carding through his hair in absentminded circles. Toshi’s head was resting against the shorter boy's chest, his spine ached from being hunched over for so long, but everything else about the position was so soothing that he didn't mind. Based on the position of the sun outside, Lunch was long over.

A sudden guilt washed over him. He had caused such a scene, he made everyone worry, he forced Kaminari to comfort him, and now they were both missing class.

Toshi straightened up, expecting Kami to release him instantly, but instead he just looked at him with a look of confusion and concern. So Toshi let him go instead.

“I'm sorry.” He managed to force out the apology despite the construction on his throat.

“Don’t be. I got a free pass from math class for this.” Kaminari smiled warmly at him as his arm slowly slid off Toshi's shoulders.

“But I… I made you… I'm so s-”

“You didn't make me do anything.” Kaminari cut off his apology before he could even finish giving it. “You're my friend. You needed help, and I was more than happy to give it to you.”

Toshi searched his face and body language for the lie, but found none. He supposed it shouldn't be that surprising. Helping people in crisis is the job of a hero, and Kami was destined to be one of the best, so of course he stayed with him when he asked. He still felt bad though.

“Well, then at least let me help you with the work you missed because of me.”

“Are you asking me on another study date?”

“Yeah.” Once Toshi realized what he said he immediately back peddled. “No! Not a study date. Just...let me help you with the math? It's my fault you're missing the explanation, so I should be the one to catch you back up.”

Kaminari was smiling but there was a hint of something else buried underneath. He couldn't quite tell if it was annoyance or disappointment. But he said yes all the same.

“Sure. We can go to your place again after school then.”

Toshi bit his lip as he nodded in confirmation.

“Do you feel up to going to our other classes? Or no? Aizawa gave us the all clear to ditch the rest of the day if you needed to.”

“He did?”

“Well, technically what he said was,” Kaminari straightened his posture and donned a blank expression as he began his Aizawa impression. “It would be illogical to attend lectures if he is at risk of being triggered again. It would only cause undue distress on him and your other classmates. Please refrain from returning to class until you are both certain the situation is under control.”

Kami relaxed his posture with a shrug, “But I chose to interpret that as permission to ditch if you wanna.”

Toshi nodded as he considered the words. Part of him wanted to go back to class just so Kami wouldn't miss anything else and the others wouldn't worry. But a big part of him still didn't feel up to being surrounded by people again.

“D-do you want to go back to class?” He asked Kami.

“Not really, but I never really want to be stuck in a classroom, so I’m not the best person to ask.”

That made sense to him, if he was right about Kaminari having some form of learning disability, and he was pretty sure he was, then being confined to a desk all day was probably pretty tortuous for him. Maybe allowing Kaminari to use him as an excuse to ditch class would be enough to repay him for his help earlier.

“Okay, well, where do you wanna go then?” He asked.

Kaminari tapped at his lips and hummed as he considered the options.

“Part of me wants to go full Ferris Bueller and start a parade and go to a museum. But that might be a bit much. So hows about we head to the beach instead?”

“You want to do a few runs of the obstacle course?”

“I mean, sure if you're up for it. But I was actually thinking we could just sit on the pier and chill for a bit.”

Toshi felt the beginnings of a hopeful thought come to mind, but he squashed it down before it could fully form.

“Yeah, that sounds great, actually.”

“Great. Let's go then.” Kaminari smiled and grabbed a hold of Toshi’s hand as he stood from the bench, leading him down the hall towards the exit.

Toshi was hyper aware of the contact between them, staring at Kami’s hand wrapped around his. It shouldn't be that big of a deal, they were practically cuddling on the bench earlier. But that was when Toshi was still coming down from an anxiety attack, and this was just random casual contact.

Does this mean he had permission to initiate contact whenever he wanted now? Or should he just leave that to Kami, allowing him to decide how much contact is too much for their current level of friendship. Probably the second one right? He had already pushed him too much by grabbing at his shoulders earlier, if he pushed his luck too far he was bound to cross the line.

Kaminari kept the mood light and playful with small talk and little jokes the whole way to the beach. The group chat informed them that Zuku had formally turned down the position of class rep, passing that metaphorical torch to Iida since he managed to calm the masses earlier with his quick thinking. The rest of 1A agreed he was a worthy replacement, with Momo as his vice rep, and all other positions being filled by whoever volunteered for the position.

Iida sent Zuku home with homework packets for both Toshi and Kami, so when school was out they met up with him at the apartment. When he got home a large coffee mixed with hot chocolate was waiting for him, Dare made it for him after hearing he had a bad day. But comfort beverage and quick hug aside, Dare didn’t bring it up, which Toshi was grateful for.

The brothers had reached a silent agreement not to mention it whenever one of them had panic attacks or nightmares. Neither one of them ever really wanted to talk about it, but trusted that if they ever did want to talk, that the other would be there to listen. Instead they would just make their presence known and offer up whatever subtle favors or objects of comfort they could to make it easier for each other.

With caffeine and cocoa acquired, he got to work walking Kami through the assignments with the occasional hint from Zuku for the stuff he didn't already know. Even Dare got involved at one point, constructing a model of the shape out of toothpicks as a visual aid.

The four of them spent the rest of the evening working and laughing together. Completely unaware of the horrors that awaited them all tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Midoriya ended up next to Uraraka on the bus ride to the USJ. Kami had called dibs on Toshi as a seat mate, claiming it was the perfect time for them to compare music libraries on their phones and see who had the better taste. It seemed like a flimsy excuse to him, he wasn't even sure how they were gonna decide that, since they would obviously be partial to their own tastes, but he wasn't gonna break ‘bro code’ by calling Kami on it. And besides, Jirou offered to be an impartial judge if necessary.

With Midoriya's first and second choice for seat mates taken, he had almost resigned himself to a fate of sitting alone. But as he boarded the bus he saw several people send him a smile and a wave. Realizing he actually had several options for who to sit by was confusing and a little overwhelming at first. He didn't want to misinterpret anyones general friendliness as an invitation to sit by them; but he also didn't want to potentially hurt someone's feelings by not going to sit with them if that really was what they were hoping for.

Ultimately the decision was made for him, as Uraraka grabbed a hold of his arm and pulled him into the seat next to her with a smile.

Midoriya wasn't sure when exactly he and Uraraka had become friends, but somewhere along the line, it had just sort of happened. The same with Iida, Kirishima, Tokoyami, Tsu, Momo, Hagakure...Honestly most of 1A seemed to have adopted him as a friend when he wasn't looking.

A small part of him still thought it might all be an elaborate prank. Like back in elementary school when people would ask if he wanted to play with them, and then laugh in his face when he said yes. But he had seen what genuine friendship looked and felt like now, so he had a much better frame of reference for spotting the differences in people's intentions.

The second they sat down Uraraka started wiggling in her seat with excitement. Her smile hadn’t left her face ever since Aizawa announced they would be doing rescue drills with Thirteen. It brought a smile to his face to see her so giddy.

“You seem to be in a good mood this morning.” He said with a nudge.

“Yeah! This is like my dream trip. Thirteen is my favorite hero of all time, I’m so excited to meet her.”

“Wow Midoriya, we may have finally found someone who can rival your level of hero worship.” Kami teased from across the aisle.

“Well can you blame me?” Uraraka began. “She's everything I wanna be as a hero. She is so talented, and passionate, and she never fails to rescue those in need.”

“And she's really cute.” Kaminari added.

“Yeah, she- wait” Uraraka agreed before fully realizing what she was agreeing to.

“Ha!” Kaminari said full of self satisfaction. “Caught rainbow handed. I know a simp when I see one.” Kami rotated in his seat to call to the back of the bus “Pay up Mina!”

Toshi supplied an elbow to his side to silence him, causing him to pout a bit before he handed Toshi one of his earbuds.

“Hmm, you guys are pretty similar now that I think about it.” Midoriya mused aloud, “You both have upbeat personalities, and a sort of space based aesthetic, and you both have quirks that are perfect for rescue missions.”

“You really think so?” She asked a bit flushed.

Midoriya opened his mouth to go into a more in depth explanation, but he was cut off by Kirishima.

“Totally dude. You've got a great quirk, and you can do so much with it. I’m a little jealous. My quirks pretty good giving and taking a punch, but it's not exactly flashy. Makes it kinda hard to stand out. Ya know?”

“Are you kidding?” Midoriya asked, “Your quirk is totally cool looking! And it has such great potential since it's both offensive and defensive in nature. And it seems to negate some of the strain to the body one would normally associate with lifting heavy weights, meaning you could totally use it for rescue work as well if you wanted. Clearing out rubble of lifting cars that would be too heavy for others to handle alone. You could easily fulfill three out of four roles the big names want coverage for in their agencies. Plus, your personality and aesthetics are both easily marketable, so you should have no problems making a name for yourself in the field.”

“Woah, bro. You really think so? That's so nice of you to say.” Kirishima said with the hint of a manly tear or two in his eye.

“Well now I’m curious.” Iida piped up from the bench in front of him. “You seem to have put a lot of thought into everyone's quirks already. Who would you say has the best quirk for mainstream heroics?”

“Hmm, that's kinda hard to answer. I mean everyone has so much potential. Sure some are flashier than others, but really anyone has the potential to do well, regardless of quirk, if they find ways to make their abilities work for them and compensate adequately for their shortcomings. And do you mean in terms of practicality, or in terms of who would likely be popular in the hero rankings? Because those aren't necessarily the same thing. And-”

“Well if anyone has a media ready quirk it's Bakugou and Todoroki.” Kirishima offered his opinion on the matter when it was clear Midoriya wasn't going to give his own any time soon.

From a few rows back Bakugou seemed to tense at the mention of his name.

“Yeah but Bakugou's anger and brashness will make it hard for people to like him.”Tsu said matter of factly.

“The fuck?” Bakugou muttered angrily.

“Yeah, you know, we all just met you, so it's pretty telling that we all already know your personality is like flaming garbage mixed with sewage.” Kaminari said with a smirk as if he wasn't inviting death to his house for tea by instigating Bakugou.

Bakugou started shouting obscenities but Aizawas glare from the front of the bus had him gritting his teeth and looking out the window pretty fast. Which was truly a miracle, because the notion of anyone saying something like that to Bakugou and living to tell the tale, would have been an impossibility at their old school. It seems Aizawa's probation orders had Bakugou on a pretty short leash.

Meanwhile Toshi never looked prouder or more awestruck by Kaminari than he did in this moment. Midoriya could practically see Toshi mentally planning their wedding in his mind's eye. Low key bullying Bakugou back on Midoriya's behalf was apparently one of his love languages. That, or he was just enamored with his music collection.

Once they actually got to USJ, they all filed off the bus and stretched their tired limbs. Midoriya slipped his mask into place and looked over to see Toshi staring down at his own mask in his hands, with a far away vacant look on his face.

“Hey,” He called gently to get his attention, “You good?”

Toshi looked at his face like he was surprised to hear his voice, then he looked back at his mask with a furrowed brow for a moment. After a beat or two of silence his tension seemed to fade and he looked back up at Midoriya with a small smile.

“Yeah. Sorry, I kinda spaced out for a second there. But I'm good now.” He gave him a thumbs up before slipping his mask into place.

Midoriya returned the thumbs up. But then both he and Toshi had to conceal their reactions as a third voice sounded over the Comms.

“Hey guys.” Dare said happily.

Midoriya flipped his mask into mute mode before answering.

“Hey Dare! What's up? Everything okay?”

“Yeah everythings fine. I just saw you guys were both online so I figured I'd say hi. It's really boring on my days off when y’all are off doing school stuff.” They said with a laugh.

“You want to be a virtual stow away on our field trip?” Midoriya asked hopefully.

“Naw, I wouldn't want to distract you guys from doing your hero stuff.”

“You're not a distraction. You're a valuable asset. We're gonna be doing rescue drills today. You could provide extra eyes for us.”

“Hmm, you sure you won't get in trouble for talking to me during school hours?”

“Can't get in trouble if we don't get caught.”

“Oh no. I've fully corrupted you havent I?”

“What? No. I corrupted myself. I've always been a rebel.”

Toshi snorted at that. Refusing to meet Midoriya's glare for his offense.

“Sure Zu. You keep telling yourself that...But if you're sure it’ll be alright, then I guess I see no reason not to stay online. We could test out the long range capabilities of the comms and the micro cams. We've used the ones in my helmet a few times, but we've never really gotten around to test the ones in your masks.”

Midoriya smiled, happy at the chance to test his gear as well as work with Dare on hero stuff.

The slow, subtle nod of Toshi’s head suggested he was down to test it out as well as they both moved to flip the switch for the cameras on.

“Okay can you see everything?” He asked.

“Uhhh...Yep! I've got visuals.” Dare confirmed just as Aizawa started ushering them inside the building.

Midoriya was in awe of the sheer size of the facility, it was like a small theme park with each of its many designated disaster zones. Uraraka was practically vibrating when she saw thirteen standing inside. Kaminari leaned in and teasingly told her to try and contain her drool. And she swatted his arm in retaliation.

Midoriya hesitantly looked around. Aizawa had said All Might would be here today, and he still wasn't sure what to do about the strange tension created by All Might forgetting and then subsequently remembering who he was. But he couldn't see him here at all. Aizawa seemed to have the same confusion as he walked up to Thirteen and asked where he was. Midoriya couldn't hear what she was saying, but he did see her hold up three fingers.

Did that mean All Might had already met his time limit today, is that something both Aizawa and Thirteen would know about? That would make sense for the rest of the faculty to be aware of his limits so they could cover for him. And he did see a few headlines that morning of incidents All Might had helped out in. He could just barely hear Aizawa's begrudging tone.

“That man is the height of irresponsibility.”

That pretty much confirmed his theory then. Midoriya let out a small exhale of relief. Don’t get him wrong, being a teacher short wasn't a good thing, and he still liked and respected All Might well enough as a hero. But at the same time, he was kinda happy he wouldn't have to worry about his judging glances overseeing all he did.

Thirteen gave a speech about how her quirk allowed her to be an effective rescue hero, but it could also easily be used to kill. The class stiffened at the realization when she told them that almost any quirk, even theirs, could become deadly if they weren't careful with them.

More than a few eyes drifted to Bakugou, who scoffed and let out an angry sigh at their accusatory gazes. Midoriya couldn't help but feel like she was making this point to all of them at Nedzu’s request. In retaliation for everything that went down the other day.

As Thirteen finished up her speech Midoriya felt a strange sort of atmospheric shift. Aizawa and Toshi both stiffened as well. The lights surrounding the ceiling all flickered with electricity for a moment.

“It wasn't me.” Kaminari said with his hand raised in preemptive surrender.

“Whats-” Dare started to say but trailed off as a strange purple mist formed in the distance by the fountain.

Midoriya and Aizawa were both squinting to see the mist better whilst everyone else still seemed distracted by the lights.

“No….” Dares' voice sounded so crushed and fearful that Midoriya almost didn't recognize it as his.

“What's wrong?” Midoriya asked.

He was so worried about Dare and why he sounded so defeated, that he almost didn't notice as the mist cloud grew.

“No, no no no NOOOO!” Dare became more and more frantic as a hand suddenly emerged through the mist.

“Dare?” Toshi asked over the comms.

“GO! RUN! GET OUT OF THERE! YOU NEED TO RUN! NOW! GO, GO, RUN, JUST R-”

Static cut him off and suddenly he could no longer hear Dare or Toshi. Midoriya's stomach dropped and his eyes flew wide. He whipped around to see Toshi looking similarly stunned, his hand slowly reaching in Kaminaris direction seemingly on impulse. Midoriya looked back at the swirling purple clouds as a man with several severed hands affixed to his body walked through the mist, followed by dozens of other figures.

“Stand Back!” Aizawa sensei yelled as he assumed a battle stance and readied his scarf.

“What's going on? Is this part of the exercise? I thought we were rescuing people?” Kirishima asked.

“I said stand back! These are real villains! Thirteen get the kids out of here! ”

Midoriya felt a surge of dread as the reality of the situation settled on him. They were under attack. Villains were here and if he didn’t do something quick, then they would all be in danger.

Midoriya quickly backed up closer to his friends, taking up a defensive position of his own.

“Zuku?” Toshi’s tone was steady and serious, but his hands had a slight tremor that revealed his inner fear. And when Midoriya looked into his eyes he suddenly understood why.

Dare had recognized these guys. He knew instantly who they were the moment he saw those tiny first wisps of purple mist. And he sounded absolutely terrified by them. What kind of monster does someone have to be to make even Dare dissolve in fear? The only things that had even come close eliciting a reaction like that from him was when he talked about…

“It's them.” Toshi said quietly, his face going completely pale.

Midoriya had a sinking feeling that he was right. These aren't just any villains coming to attack them, these were The Villians. The ones Dare was trying so hard to run away from. The ones that tortured and experimented on him. The ones Dare was worried might come after Toshi if they ever found out about him.

Midoriya looked at the faces of the approaching bad guys. And pure evil stared back.

He could let them take him. He couldn't let them take anyone. He had to protect everybody. They wouldn't want him because he was quirkless, and that meant he was the only one he knew for sure wasn't a potential target.

All the fear dissolved from his body and was replaced with a new found resolve. He had to save everyone. And that meant he didn't have time to be afraid.

It was time to be a hero.

--

“I only see two real heroes here. Our intel told us All Might would be here, but he's nowhere to be found.” A deep, almost disembodied voice complained.

“And after we went to all this trouble to bring all my friends over for him.” Said the grating voice of the man covered in severed hands. “Oh well, maybe he will show up if we start killing some kids.”

Toshi was overwhelmed by the conflicting emotions battling for dominance in his mind.

This guy just confirmed they were here to kill and had no problem with having the students as their victims. And that was obviously very, very, bad. But they had also implied their true target was actually All Might.

He feels like such complete shit for being relieved by that, but if that's the case, that means they might not be after him and Dare after all. They might not even know anything about him, or they probably would have mentioned that by now. And if that's the case, then all he has to do is keep his quirk hidden so he doesnt turn himself into a bigger target. So long as he can keep the brainwashing under wraps, he still has a hope of getting everyone out of here safely, himself included.

He was horrified, he was relieved, he was guilt ridden, he was nervous, he was hopeful. He was all of this and more.

“Thirteen go!” Aizawa yelled as their hair began to float with the activation of his quirk.

“Sensei, you can't fight them all by yourself. Your quirk is best for ambushes and one on one battles, not prolonged head to head group fights.” Midoriya worried.

“Midoriya, go, I’ve got this. You can't be an effective pro hero if you only have one trick in your bag.” Aizawa said sternly as he leapt down the stairs and into the fray.

“Everyone, we’ve got to go!” Iida beckoned, a voice of reason that cut through whatever had their feet still glued to the floor.

He didn't need to tell them twice, they all turned and made for the door as fast as they could, only to be cut off by the dark purple mist.

“Oh I’m afraid I can't allow you to leave.” The shadowy apparition said.

Bakugou and Kirishima were both jumping in for the punch before anyone could stop them.

“Wait!” Midoriya and Thirteen both called out to them, but it was too late.

Their fists just passed through the mist like it was nothing. The only real outcome of their attack being a slightly annoyed tone of the misty man as he mumbled something about splitting them all up.

Toshi felt torn in two by the impulse to reach in opposite directions for both Zuku and Kami, desperate not to lose either of them. But before he even had a chance to react properly, he was surrounded on all sides in inky blackness that felt like rain clouds.

He felt the ground below him disappear, suddenly suspended in nothing at all, and in an absolute free fall. His stomach lurched and he could feel the panic bubbling up from his core. But then the darkness fell away and he was falling for real. Rapidly approaching a large body of water.

Oh shit.

See, the cruel irony of having a hero name and costume so heavily inspired by the ocean, is that Toshi never learned how to swim.

He meant to learn it, they all agreed it was a skill he should eventually learn, if only to cross that potential weakness off his list. But Dare had said it wasn't that high of a priority yet, because the odds of any villains taking one look at him and trying to call that bluff was really low. But apparently Toshi is really bad at poker.

He suppressed the impulse to scream, instead redirecting that energy to sucking in as much oxygen as he could before he hit the water.

Between the momentum of his fall, and the frigid water, he ended up gasping on impact anyway. Double shit.

It's okay, it's okay, don't panic, if you panic now you’ll just drown faster.

Oh who was he kidding he was doomed either way.

A second cruel irony. All the gear that was usually a comfort to him, the things lovingly designed to keep him safe, were primarily made of metal. It all weighed him down, making it even harder to move his body in any form of meaningful or helpful way. He had seen other people swimming before, but trying to copy what they did now seemed impossible. He wasn't even sure which way was up.

A spot of green in the distance caught his eye, oh thank god, Izuku was here too. He fought against his sluggish and uninformed muscle movements to try and flail his way to him. It looked like Zuku was trying to swim towards him whilst simultaneously typing something into the Command Center on his wrist.

As if watching it in slow motion, Toshi saw a man with the head of a great white swim at Zuku with astonishing speed. He was so preoccupied with his underwater typing that he didn't even notice the flash of teeth coming for him. On impulse Toshi let out a scream to warn his best friend of the danger, but was met only with bubbles as the last of his air left his lungs.

The powerful jaws bit down hard on the arm with Zuku’s command center, crushing it instantly and setting up an instant cloud of red blood around them. Zuku somehow managed to keep his calm, trying to punch at the shark's nose with his unclasped arm. But the damage was already done.

Toshi's whole body burned with the effort to breathe despite sinking ever deeper into the waves.

This was it. This was how he was gonna die. Uselessly floundering thirty feet away from someone who needed him, someone he cared deeply for, and being powerless to help, because he couldn't even help himself.

As the tunnel of his vision started to darken and constrict around him. A second flash of green collided with him, rapidly changing his trajectory and sending them both up to the surface.

The second his head was above water he let out an unholy sound, hacking up all the liquids he had unintentionally swallowed.

“Are you okay, kero?”

It was Tsu. Tsu had saved him. He wanted to thank her; to reassure her he was okay, but that Zuku was still down there fighting a fucking shark creature of some kind. But he still didn't have the oxygen for that. Tsu practically tossed him onto the chain of the ships's anchor.

“You pull yourself up, I'm going back for Midoriya.” Tsu said calmly before disappearing back under the water in record time.

Toshi clung gratefully to the chain, trying to gain his composure and his strength to follow Tsu’s command, when he suddenly remembered he had an anchor of his own. He fumbled with his utility belt for his grappling hook, thanking the stars that it was self retracting, he wouldn't need to pull himself up, he just had to hang on.

In the time it took him to successfully flop himself onto the deck of the ship Tsu had returned with Zuku strapped to her back with her tongue. It was an odd but strangely effective tool. Tsu released him onto the ship besides Toshi, who immediately started inspecting his arm.

Several deep puncture wounds and some instant bruising and swelling, not to mention the little bits of machinery that had scraped and embedded themselves into his arm when his command center was crushed. This wasn't good at all. If it wasn't for the reinforced material of his sleeves, he probably would have lost the arm all together.

“Sorry, Toshi,” Midoriya said between gasps for breath and pained moans. “I was trying to activate your floatation belt, but he got to my command center before I got the chance.”

Toshi gave him a bewildered look. What flotation belt? Zuku reached over and hit a button he hadn't noticed before on his belt and the whole thing suddenly inflated like an innertube. Zuku must have foreseen this sort of situation and forgot to mention he had built that feature in. He made a sound that he really wasn't sure if it was a laugh or a cry.

He really almost died because he didn't know he had built in floaties. It was too much to think about right now. Especially with how much blood Zuku was already losing from his mangled arm.

“Are you guys okay?” Zuku asked through strained teeth as Toshi tried his best to stop the bleeding.

Leave it to Zuku to be the only one injured and still worrying about everyone else.

He shook his head yes and no at the same time, too absorbed in his task of administering aid to answer him fully.

His efforts were complicated by a variety of factors: they were still surrounded by enemy combatants, some of their supplies were lost or ruined in the water, he really didnt have the tools necessary to counteract fucking shark bites, and most frustrating of all, he was having a hard time seeing what he was doing through his tears.

With a frustrated grunt that may as well have been a howl, he chastised himself for letting his emotions compromise the mission. Prioritize the rescue. He still didn't even know where the rest of his class was. He gave one long sharp tug at his wet locks to ground himself, slipping back into the mask of sardonic indifference like it was a second skin. He had a job to do.

“I’m fine, kero. But are you two gonna be alright?” Tsu redirected the question onto them.

“I'm okay I- uuuuuugh” Zuku was cut off temporarily by a pained groan as Toshi poured disinfectant into his wounds. “I’ll be fine. Toshi knows what he's doing. Right Tosh?”

His throat was still too tight and too hot to even consider speaking. So he just gave a sharp nod as he focused all his efforts into making sure Zuku wouldn't bleed out. Applying butterfly sutures to as many of the deeper punctures as he could before they both ran out. His regular bandages were ruined, so for lack of a better option, he quickly unspooled one of his capture scarfs from his own hand and re-wrapped it around Zukus arm. It wasn't perfect, hell it wasn't even good, but it was all he could do at the moment.

“Um guys. I don't want to alarm you, but it looks like they are getting antsy out there.” Tsu said in reference to the villains surrounding their ship.

Zukus eyes darted back and forth in thought, his usual analysis instincts kicking into high gear. After a moment or two of gears turning he muttered aloud.

“They don't know our quirks.”

“Okay?” Tsu said it like a question.

“They don't know them or they never would have sent you here to the water zone. Based on the fact that they sent both you and Toshi here, they likely just shuffled us off randomly without much thought.”

Tsu seemed to consider this for a moment, her head tilting to the side like a cat.

“And because they don't know our quirks, they have no idea how strong we are, or what we can do. That's why none of them have tried to crawl up here yet, they know they probably have an advantage in the water based on their own quirks, but have no way of knowing if they can take us on land.” Zuku continued to explain.

“That's something we can use against them… Tsu how far can you jump?”

“Pretty far, but not if I'm carrying you guys.”

The sound of warping metal and gushing water temporarily pulled their attention to the fact that their boat was now sinking. Whatever they were gonna do, they would have to do it fast.

“Shit! Okay, here's the plan.” Zuku quickly walked them through his thoughts. It was a long shot, but it was the only plan they had, so it was gonna have to work.

Toshi quickly fussed with the controls on his mask until everything was set to the right parameters. To his right, he could see Zuku running in place to build up the kinetic energy of his shoes, and to his left Tsu was wrapping her ears in his other capture scarf. They only had a matter of seconds before the ship would have sunk too low, so despite wishing desperately they had more time to prepare, it was now or never.

Zuku and Tsu each grabbed a hold of Toshi's arms, and at the count of three they all jumped from the rail of the ship. Zukus kinetic burst and Tsu’s frog powered legs sending them surprisingly high and far into the air. But that alone would only get them halfway across the lake, so at the apex of their jump, it was time for Toshi’s first official Sirens Wail.

With all the force and sound barrier bursting of a jet taking off, Toshi aimed a full bodied scream at the surface of the water.

The soundwaves parted the liquid, as he propelled them further up and forward along the lake for the duration of his screech. As they passed overhead, the water rushed back in, throwing their enemies into a rip current that should keep them busy long enough not to follow them. To either side of him, Tsu and Midoriya pulled taunt the emergency blankets they had tied to their arms and legs to create makeshift gliders.

By some miracle he had just enough air in his lungs to get them almost all the way across the lake, and they then glided down, with very little grace, into the shallows.

The water was shallow enough he could stand and bob his way to the edge with the others. His throat burned more than it ever had before. Between nearly drowning, the repressed emotions, and now being forced to scream at full force for an extended time, he was positively raw. The taste of blood running down the back of his throat felt disgusting. But they were alive. And right now that was all he could hope for.

Cranking the settings of his mask back down, so he didn't accidentally deafen his team mates, he tried to check in. He wanted to say “are you guys okay?” but instead what creaked out was more along the line of,

“Huh~hn”

Great, he blew out his vocal cords. His voice would be gone for at least a day, meaning this isn't a trick he could pull again. In fact, even if it were safe for him to use his actual quirk on people, he would have a hell of a time trying to do so. Guess he would have to rely on his hand to hand and his trident.

Tsu gave him a sympathetic pat as she slid his capture scarf back off her head and handed it to him. He glanced down at it, remembering that their home room teacher, his idol, was likely still trying to face off against dozens of enemies all alone. And they still didn't know what had happened to any of the other students... Oh god, he had know idea what had happened to Kami!

He made a pained and panicked grunt at Zuku that he hoped he would be able to interpret. Luckily, Toshi's past trauma had caused him to go non-verbal enough times that Zuku had gotten pretty good at reading his expressions.

“I know.” Zuku said, looking equally conflicted. “I want to help them too, but I don't know how yet. We're gonna have to run recon before we can come up with a plan. And with our comms down, and your voice spent, we can't even split up without having to worry about each other as well...”

Toshi looked at his scarf as he wound it back into place around his fist, and then around at the other areas in the USJ, and finally towards the exit where the sounds of a fight and large clouds of purple mist could still be seen. Luckily Zuku knew exactly what all of those looks meant as well.

“You're right. As worried as I am about sensei, he's an adult and a pro, he can handle himself well enough for now. And he would want us to make sure everyone gets out safely before going to rescue him.”

Toshi nodded, grateful he had a friend so good at both reading him and remembering all the field strategies Dare had drilled into them before the exam.”

“No offense, but I'm a lot faster and sneakier than you, so I’ll probably have an easier time running recon around the perimeter. Once I know everyones status, I can redirect them to the exit with you guys. Meanwhile the two of you can help clear the way so we can escape once everyone gets there. Hopefully I can find whichever villain is responsible for jamming the signals, so we can get a distress call going out along the way. Once we are done with our duties we can meet back up by the stairs to help Aizawa.”

Toshi gave him a hard look.

“I know, but I’ll be fine on my own. I promise.”

Toshi held out a pinky that Zuku took without hesitation. They shared another look and a nod. They really didn't have the time or the means to come up with anything better. So once again they had no choice but to move forward with this reckless plan.

Tsu seemed reluctant to leave Zuku by himself as well, but after sharing a steady look themselves she seemed to reach the same conclusions. So without further delay, they ran off towards the exit. A silent prayer on their lips that everyone would be okay, and that there weren't already any casualties.

Chapter Text

Midoriya's first stop was the downpour zone. It would mean having to back track along the back of the flood zone later, but if he saved it for last he would need to cut across the stairwell to get to here, and he had a feeling that would mean getting pulled into the fight in the plaza sooner than he meant to.

 

Once he figured out who all was sent here, he was glad he came here first. In the nicest most respectful way possible, Koda was the classmate he was most concerned for. His quirk allowed him to speak to animals, good for recon and occasionally persuading animals to fight on his behalf. However, they were inside, with no animals for him to call on for help, and without his quirk Koda really had no means of defending himself. The quirked have always relied a little too heavily on their abilities, and Koda was a prime example of this. He placed last in Aizawa's test on day one for a reason, and he was a pacifist by nature with no combat abilities to speak of in his own right. 

 

Midoriya made a mental note to move Koda to the top of his priority list of people to build gear and recommend self defense lessons for. He really needed a means of defending himself and fighting back in situations like this. But now wasn’t the time to get into gear design.

 

Tokoyami was here as well, and thank god for that. He and Dark Shadow were making short work of the combatants here, with the bulk of them already knocked out by the time he arrived on the scene.

 

Midoriya dropped in behind Tokoyami so they could fight off the remaining henchmen back to back. Dark shadow looked at him with a small smile before stretching off to knock some heads together, and midoriya pulled out his daggers.

 

“I see you have joined us for some revelry in the dark.” Tokoyami said cryptically. Midoriya chose to interpret that as a ‘glad you're here’ and responded in kind.

 

“I’m glad you guys are safe.” Before slashing at the approaching villain.

 

Two minutes later Midoriya gave a hearty chest kick to the last combatant, sending him flying into Dark Shadows' grasp who then promptly knocked him out. 

 

“Thanks for the assist, Shadow.” Midoriya thanked the entity. Who preened at the recognition. 

 

“How are the others fairing?” Tokoyami asked as he pulled Koda to his feet. (The poor boy had been hiding behind a dumpster.)

 

“I'm not sure yet, you guys were my first stop. Head back to the entrance so you can help the others clear the way, I'll join you once I've finished clearing the other zones.”

 

“Are you certain you won’t need assistance yourself? I could walk the perimeter in the other direction to lessen the burden. Otherwise, those on the other end would potentially be without help for quite some time.”

 

Midoriya didn't like the idea of sending anyone into more fights. But Tokoyami and Dark Shadow were a formidable pair. And while stealth wasn't an official part of his style, his dark color pallet and brooding tendencies did make for a bit of natural camouflage. Plus, he made some good points about leaving people waiting.

 

“Okay, but whatever you do, don't engage with the guys in the main plaza. The thugs we've been fighting are all pretty low level, but I have a feeling they are just here as a distraction to keep us busy. The ones there are bound to be a lot more dangerous. They came here fully confident they could take down All Might, there has to be a reason for that confidence beyond just arrogance.”

 

“I’ll head clockwise then, to the ruins. The fire zone would be a...bad matchup for me.”

 

“Right. Stay safe.”

 

Midoriya put his mask back into mute and headed off with urgency. Slipping past the villains still recovering in the flood zone to reach the next area.

 

He was annoyed by the how soaked the flood and downpour zones had made him earlier, but now that he was surrounded in the oppressive heat of the fire zone he was glad for the extra protection.

 

Once Midoriya's brain caught up to what he was seeing his jaw dropped. Ojiro was here by himself, armed with nothing but his own body, and he was winning. His quirk was simply having a tail, on the surface he had one of the least offensive or defensive quirks in the class. He had no additional weapons or gear, and his uniform was a simple martial arts robe. And yet, the skill he possessed in raw martial prowess was enough to face off against dozens of attackers, by himself, while almost certainly getting overheated and dehydrated by the surrounding flames. Ojiro might even be a better fighter than Dare, and that was saying something.

 

Midoriya shook his head to clear his mind of its fanboying. The time to admire his classmates was later, for now he had to provide backup. (As unnecessary as it may currently seem in this case.)

 

Midriya crept around the edge, taking advantage of the fact that he was still unnoticed to wrap one of his bolos around the ankles of a charging villain. Once the flaming figure dropped to the ground, their partner rounded on Midoriya. Their body appeared to be made of lava rock, if that's the case, it would be heat resistant, but potentially brittle given its porous nature. Midoriya sent an elbow to their jaw and instantly regretted it, the rocks were sharp and reheatable it seems, good to know.

 

He pulled out his staff to get distance between him and the villains, they were likely all fire/heat based given they were sent here, and he really didn't want to get burned again. The staff iself was metal, so there was the risk it would overheat if it had contact with the wrong figure, but his gloves should provide enough protection to avoid that for a while at least.

 

Midoriya managed to knock out three more before he heard Ojiro call to him.

 

“Midoriya down!”

 

He dropped to the floor on instinct, dodging the incoming fireball as well as the practically flying Ojiro springing over him in the opposite direction to take down the fire mage.

 

“Thanks!” He shouted in return as he sprung back up to his feet, forgetting his mask was still on mute.

 

Midoriya took down six more before spinning to check on Ojiro’s status. He was surrounded on three sides, with his back to the cannon man who seemed to be powering up his attack. Having no time to determine the power level or speed with which the cannon could be fired, he had to assume the worst, so Midoriya sprung forward to alter the cannon's trajectory. 

 

He used the stored energy in his gloves to palm strike the side of the cannon. It did the job of sending the blast to the side well enough, but the heat and the blast was enough to disintegrate the bulk of the glove and singe his hand underneath.

 

Dang it, so much of his gear was gonna need repairs after this. But it was better than having to carry classmates out in body bags.

 

He would need to slap some burn cream on his hand later when he had time. But for now he still had work to do, and the one good thing of dealing with Kacchans bullying growing up, was that he had gotten used to working around the sensation of burns.

 

In the time it took him to subdue the cannon man and two others, Ojiro had handled the rest. He switched off his mask to talk to him.

 

“Avoid the main plaza and get to the entrance as fast as you can. Some of the others are there trying to clear the way.” He told Ojiro who gave him a grateful bow for the help before turning off into a jog.

 

Next was the Mountain area, assuming Tokoyami was able to keep the same pace as him, he should be finishing up in the ruins and heading to the landslide zone now. So the mountains should be his last zone before he could meet up with the others and help Aizawa.

 

He still hasn't found the one responsible for jamming the signal, not knowing the status of Toshi, Kami, or the others was really spiking his anxiety levels, but he had to have faith in them. He had to believe everyone would be okay.

 

--




Katsuki leveled a blast at one of the last of the wannabe bad guys in the area just as Shitty Hair decked the other out cold. He let out a huff, not bothering to conceal how pissed off he was. 

 

It was bad enough a bunch of villains came after him, couldn't they have at least put up a good fight? Where do they get off claiming they are here to kill All Might when they couldn't even hold their own against him and a glorified boulder?

 

“We’ve got to get back and help the others.” Shitty hair said with concern.

 

“You can meet up with them if you want, I’m gonna go take out that warp fucker.”

 

“What? Dude, our physical attacks did nothing against that guy. We would be better off focusing on helping-”

 

“Shut up, will ya. That guy is their way in and out of here. We have to take him down so they can't just buzz off and get away with it. Besides, I saw something when we went in to hit him. He's wearing armor around his neck, and that means he has to have a physical body in there somewhere.”

 

“Oh woah, nice catch bro. Since when are you so calm and rational? Usually your all like, ‘die, die,die!’”

 

“I’m always calm and rational, you red haired loser!”

 

“Ah, there you are.” He said with a laugh.

 

Kasuki caught a bit of movement from the corner of his eye and grabbed the lizard man by the face, setting off a small blast and knocking him out instantly.

 

“Woah! That reaction time is insane.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

Katsuki and Shitty hair both turned to see Bird Brain stalk in from the shadows. Fuckin edge lord just had to enter all building in the most extra way possible.

 

“Hey bro!” Shitty hair waved, “What are you doing here?”

 

“I was sent to help those along the perimeter, and escort them to the entrance to help with the escape efforts.”

 

“Whatever.” Katsuki scoffed “If you guys wanna go do that you can, but they don't need our help. Aizawa is fighting alone, and I need to wipe out that stupid fucking warp gate.”

 

Katsuki moved to leave but was called back by shitty hair.

 

“Hang on Bakugou! I think what you're really saying is that you believe in our classmates. And that's thinking like a man. I’ll stick with you. Tokoyami, can you please keep checking on the others? Just to be safe.”

 

The bird gave a small flourish with his cape as he bowed and stalked back off into the shadows like some sort of vampire. The loser was either trying way too hard to look cool, or legitimately didnt realize how fucking extra he was being all the time, and Katsuki didnt know which possibility annoyed him more.

 

He didn’t need anyones fucking help. But if anyone was gonna be there to offer backup, he guesses Shitty Hair was a decent choice. His quirk meant Katsuki wouldn't have to hold back on his explosions to avoid him getting hurt. So at least he wasn't as annoying to share a battle field with as most of the others would be.

 

He nodded once in recognition to shark boy, who gave him a smile that was entirely too damn pleased, before continuing on towards the main plaza.

 

--

 

Toshi and Tsu made it back to the entrance just in time to overhear Thirteen telling Iida to escape and find back up.

 

“I can't just leave you all here, it would be dishonorable.”

 

“The best heroes use their skills not for fighting, but to save others. You're the only one fast enough to get out of here and find help in time.”

 

“But-”

 

“Don’t argue, kero.” Tsu said as she hopped into the fight. “Just wait for your opening and get out of here.”

 

The others got over their surprise of seeing them easily enough, quickly redirecting their efforts into trying to combat the mist man and his portals.

 

Thirteen created a small black hole with her quirk and began sucking him in, only for him to open up a set of portals that turned thirteen's own quirk against her.

 

For a moment they all watched in stunned horror as the back of her costume was ripped away and she collapsed to the ground. Sato was the first to speak again.

 

“Iida go! You've got to get out of here!”

 

Iida made a face like he was gonna debate it, but then a wave of palpable resolve washed over him and he gave a curt nod instead.

 

“Right.”

 

Iida fired his engines and zoomed off towards the door. The mist man opened up a portal blocking his path, but Shoji tackled the portals from the back, which led to a startling discovery that the portals are in fact tangible and apparently directional. So while Uraraka and Mina rushed to see if Thirteen was still alive, Shoji, Sato and him worked on clearing the way of portals for Iida. Meanwhile Tsu and Sero used Tongue and Tape to try and capture the mist man, or at least pull his focus into dodging them.

 

Between the divided attention, and the brawler crew knocking portals out of the way, Iida managed to reach the door relatively quickly. Toshi heard the sound of Iidas engines kicking into an even higher gear as he disappeared.

 

A collective sigh of relief could be heard amongst all the students present. Soon help would be on the way, they just had to keep it together until then.

 

Mist man gave a frustrated grumble before teleporting away back to the main plaza.

 

With the threat cleared from the exit Toshi could refocus his efforts on making sure Thirteen was alright. He had no idea how to give first aid in response to spontaneous black holes. This was the third unforseen simulation he had encountered today, the facility was really earning its title it seems. 

 

Thirteen was alive, but only barely, parts of her own body having been sucked up before she could release her own quirk. Nothing in Toshi's first aid kit was gonna be helpful here. She needed a healer, a surgeon, and a miracle. 

 

A nervous looking Koda, and a soot and sweat covered Ojiro, were now heading up the stairs, these must be the people Zuku had saved so far. Assuming Zuku was still okay, that meant half the class was now accounted for, exchanging helpless glances amongst each other and Thirteen. Toshi tried to think if there was anything he could do. He felt like he had done nothing helpful the whole day.

 

A painful creak of a voice, barely even a word, escaped Tosh’s  lips.

 

“~Thirteen?~”

 

“Yeah?” Came her barely audible reply.

 

Don't Die .”

 

It's not how his quirk works.

 

He knows that it's not how his quirk works.

 

And based on how quickly her pain knocked her back out of the effect, it wouldn't have helped even if it was how it worked.

 

He knows he can only command people to do things that were already possible for them to do. But he didn't know what else to do, so he tried it anyway, if only so he could say he did all he could. Then he scooped her up as gently as possible and handed her to Shoji.

 

“We should take thirteen and start evacuating. The fewer people still in the building when the heroes get here, the less they have to worry about, kero.” Tsu, ever the voice of blunt reason, supplied.

 

Toshi nodded his agreement and the others each relented after minimal argument. But once the bulk of the crowd had already exited, he slowed to a halt and hung back. Sharing a glance with Tsu who was heading up the rear.

 

She knew what he was doing. He said he would meet up with Zuku to help Aizawa when they were done clearing the way earlier. And even if he hadn’t, there was no way he was leaving this building before he knew if Zuku and Kami were alright.

 

She gave him a pointed nod and held up her pinky finger. It was a silent reminder of the promise Zuku gave him earlier to stay safe, as well as a command for him to promise her the same. He held up his own as a means of meeting her commands, and then turned to sneak down the stairs. 

 

--

 

Dare had never ridden faster in his life. There was no such thing as red lights or traffic laws for him right now, not with what was at stake if he failed to get there in time. 

 

When he reached UA he jumped off, tucking and rolling to minimize the damage and sending his bike zooming off without him into the entrance. The security system read it as a threat and activated its usual security measures, which were notably upgraded even further after the incident with the press the day before. The bike was pulverized, Dragon would be pissed, but Dare couldn't care less about him right now.

 

“Nedzu!” Dare screamed towards the gate once his feet were back under him.

 

They knew he had cameras here, and he knew he would be watching them now that Dare had set off the security system.

 

As expected, a small hidden monitor flipped out of the wall, revealing the rodent sipping nonchalantly at his tea.

 

“Dare, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

 

“USJ is under attack, you need to send all your best fighters there stat!”

 

Nedzu set his tea cup down, a serious expression on his face.

 

“Are you sure? We have received no-”

 

“I’m sure. I saw them, and if you dont send in back up right the fuck now people are gonna die!”

 

Nedzu only pondered it for a fraction of a second before hitting a switch on his desk and sending out an announcement to the staff for a code red.

 

Not three seconds later the front gates were open and an All Might shaped blur ran past him.

 

Dare allowed himself to feel just a small shred of relief, back up was on the way now, but they were still far from safe. 

 

A second blur heading in the opposite direction caught his eye, this blur was silver, and it met the rushing teachers halfway across the front lawn. Dare overheard the stern and distressed shouts of the boy he assumed must be Iida explaining what had happened to the teachers. Dare scanned the crowd of teachers Nedzu had sent out, determining which of them would be the best asset, when his eyes landed on Snipe he called to him.

 

“Snipe!” Once the masked face snapped his direction he tossed the man his spare helmet. “With me, let's go!”

 

“Who the fu-” Snipe began before he was cut off by Nedzu.

 

“You can trust him, go.”

 

Snipe shook his head in annoyance of being out of the loop, but donned the helmet anyway, he climbed onto the back of Dare's bike and they took off once more at max speed towards the USJ.

 

--

 

Okay Kaminari, this is it. You failed to prove yourself in the class exercise, but now this is a for real, honest to god, villain fight. You can't let everyone down here. You've got to go plus ultra and save the day, or else everybody dies.

 

On second thought. Lets try not to think about that right now.

 

Just focus. What would your friends do if they were here?

 

Dare would do some crazy ass maneuver he couldn't even dream of attempting, so that's out. Toshi could probably just mind control these dudes into standing down, that's not an option either. Mei would blow stuff up, but he doesn't have that kinda fire power either. And Midoriya would come up with some genius plan that uses everyone's quirks perfectly to make sure they all walk away unscathed.

 

Is that something he can do? Past experience says no. Thinking was never Kamnari’s strong suit, but he's seen Mido work enough times before. Just fake it till you make it right?

 

Okay, just try and think smart people thoughts. He can do this. 

 

He’s here with Momo and Jirou. What does he know about them? Momo can make stuff, he's not sure what kind of stuff or how big, but he knows it’s stuff. Boy that is not helpful, how does Mido just know stuff? He just looks at someone and knows how to use their quirks better than they do. Maybe he does have a quirk and it's being really good at figuring out other people's quirks.

 

Focus! What about Jirou, what does he know about her? He knows she can hear real well. And Mido was geeking out about her boots the other day! That's right, with those she can do directional sound wave blasts using her own heart beat, kinda like Toshi’s mask. That's something right.

 

Kaminari had to temporarily switch out of planning mode and into attack mode long enough to remember all those pressure points Dare taught him. Sending small currents to the tips of his gantlets as he jabbed at the bad dudes coming his way.

 

The combination of hitting their weak points whilst concurrently shocking them, means they all drop pretty quick without using up much of his voltage. Which is good, cause he really needs all his brain power right now.

 

He activates his shield to defend against the small barrage of rocks being thrown at him. From the corner of his eye he sees Momo making swords for her and Jirou. Okay cool, she can make metal then. And he already knows she can make clothes because she made some for Hagakure. What can they do with cloth and metal?

 

Jirou used her boots to blast apart a large boulder, creating a semi circle of smaller boulders around her and Momo. He hasn't caught up to the speed of his own thought process to know why yet, but he is happy to see this. He rushes back towards the girls. Speaking his ideas into existence before they are even fully realized.

 

“Momo!”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Can you make an insulated blanket? Like a really big, really thick one?”

 

“Theoretically. Why?” 

 

“I've got an idea, but for it to work you and Jirou need to be protected from about a million volts of electricity. Is that something you can do?”

 

Momo’s eyes go wide for a fraction of a second. “That's a lot of volts. But yes. It might take a while for me to make something that big though.”

 

“Not a problem. Jirou?!”

 

“What?!” She said over her shoulder as she swung at a few baddies.

 

“Can you make me a few more big rocks? Preferably in a circle around you guys?”

 

“I guess?”

 

Okay good, now while he waits for Momo to make the blanket he can start setting his back up trap. He alternates between jabbing at pressure points and discreetly sending out disks to the rocks Jirou is making. Setting up a good circle of targets around them.

 

He knows he will be brain dead for a bit after he initiates his plan, but if he can get a current going around them, anyone who doesn't go down with indiscriminate shock, will have to pass through the current to get to them. Mido probably could have thought of something better, but this is the best he can do. Hopefully it's enough.

 

“Ready!” Momo shouts from behind him.

 

Kaminari runs into the circle they've created, sending a few hundred volts into the disks as he passes, and once he has confirmed the girls are wrapped up safely, he turn on his heel and shouts,

 

“Come at me bitches!” 

 

He waits a few seconds for the bad guys to start rushing in, and just before they are about to reach the barrier, he braces for pain and unleashes his full wattage.

 

White hot pain courses through him, locking up all his muscles and blanking out all coherent thought; and two seconds later he is fully drained of all his power.

 

Small aftershocks ripple through him, making it hard to move, see, or hear through the pain. He is barely cognizant enough to see all the bad guys have dropped to the ground and Momo and Jirou are okay. He can’t believe that worked.

 

He doesn't want them to worry, if they are too busy worrying about him, then they won’t be focused on keeping themselves safe. So he forces himself to put up both thumbs in reassurance and attempts to mumble out ‘I’m okay’ but what comes out instead sound more like

 

“Wheeeeey”

 

Jirou snickers a little at his bumbling appearance, and even Momo smiles a little.

 

He can't blame them for finding it funny. They don't know it's painful, and he has no intention of telling them. He doesn't want people worrying about him. Besides, it's his job as the funny friend to lighten the mood. And if ever there was a time to brighten his friends up, it's after a life or death scenario like this one. 

 

He’s still so out of his mind in delirium that he doesn't even recognize the look of horror on the girls faces or the arms suddenly wrapping around his throat and torso. He does see the exit of the tunnel someone made under his electricity web though.

 

Dang it, he forgot about people being able to just go under his trap. Guess that was pointless after all. And here he thought he made a good plan for once.

 

“If either or you move, I'll tunnel straight through the boy and kill him.” 

 

Kill who? He wonders. Oh wait, he means me. He's holding me. Oh no.

 

“Freeze! I see you moving those ear jacks.” The bad guy says seriously.

 

Jirou lets out a frustrated and disappointed grunt as she retracts her wires.

 

“I'm gonna be nice and give you girls a choice. You can either save him, or you can save yourselves, but I'm taking somebody out. So who's it gonna be?”

 

There is a tense silence that stretches out between them.

 

Kaminari really wants to reassure the girls. To tell them it’s okay, to save themselves, and not to worry about him. To tell them that it’s his own fault and not theirs if he dies here. But before he gets the chance to even attempt to speak, another voice steals the silence.

 

“Me.” Midoriya calls from somewhere unseen. “Take me.”

Chapter Text

It was a bit of a hike trying to find whoever was sent to the mountain zone. He had been running, fighting, and climbing, for quite some time now, and it was starting to get to him a bit. It was entirely possible that none of his classmates were sent here, or even that whoever was here had already cleared out by the time he got here. But he had to check the whole faux mountain to be absolutely sure, so he pushed through the fatigue as he scaled around towards the back.

 

When the unmistakable sound of combat started echoing off the rocks, he knew he was heading in the right direction, so he picked up the pace. He leapt across a small ravine, running off towards the sound of splitting rocks. The reverberations implied Jirou was here somewhere, but it was the voices he heard as he got closer that revealed she wasn't alone.

 

“Ready!” He heard Momo shout.

 

Midoriya climbed a small hill just in time to see Kaminari retreat towards the others, activating the trap he had set with his disks as he did so. Midoriya couldn't help but feel a bit of pride knowing his friend was using the gear he made him to keep himself and the others safe.

 

“Come at me bitches!” Kaminari shouted at the encircling enemies.

 

Oh, was he hoping they would all run into the field he made around them and get shocked? That's a smart idea in theory, but they weren't likely to run into a trap that was already sprung. Looking just behind Kami he saw Jirou and Momo cover themselves with a large blanket. Huh, it kinda looks like an insulation blanket...Oh no…

 

Midoriya tried to back out of range as fast as possible but still ended up caught in the edge of the electricity storm. His whole body locked up, muscles tightening and spasming with the strong currents before he was dropped to his knees.

 

He focused his energy on getting his breath back into his lungs for a minute, riding out the ripples of convulsive energy. He alternated back and forth between being so exhausted he could drop, and being so completely and totally awake he could have run three marathons. Once the metaphorical stars stopped spinning around his head, he fought his legs back underneath him to go check on the others.

 

“Freeze!” He heard an unknown voice call out, for a second Midoriya thinks he's been spotted, but then he hears “I see you moving those ear jacks.” Followed by a grunt of disappointment from Jirou, and he knows his cover still hasn't been blown.

 

He silently climbs back up the small hill separating him from his friends. His mouth feels as if it's full of ashes as his eyes take in the situation.

 

A fully delirious looking Kaminari is being held hostage by a man with some sort of drill quirk. One arm around his throat and the other around his torso, a look of malice in his eyes.

 

“I'm gonna be nice and give you girls a choice. You can either save him, or you can save yourselves, but I'm taking somebody out. So who's it gonna be?”

 

It feels as though his heart has stopped. There's no way he can let Kami die. He was one of his first friends. He gave him a chance and a job when he was still just a useless nobody, before his training had really kicked in and he was still weak and talentless. He never cared that he was quirkless or awkward, he only cared that he had a coworker to play games with during breaks. He was a great friend, someone who made others happy, and he was well on his way to being a great hero. He can’t die. He just can’t.

 

And he can't let Jirou or Momo get hurt either. They are both so sweet, and full of so much heroic potential. Out of everyone, he's by far the most expendable. So without really giving it much thought, Midoriya stands atop the hill and offers himself up instead.

 

“Me. Take me.”

 

Jirou and Momo's heads snap in his direction, eyes blown wide in frustration and fear. The drill villain's eyes land on him as well, a smile spreading slowly across his face.

 

“Midoriya, no!” Jirou pleads as Midoriya climbs down the otherside of the hill, his eyes locked firmly on the villains as he descends.

 

“Well, well well. What do we have here? I'd ask if you were hiding back there the whole time, but I can see you're already injured. And you're somehow soaked and singed at the same time. That can only mean you've been making the rounds. Tell me kid, are you looking for a good fight kid, or just a quick release?”

 

Midoriya does not give this man the satisfaction of an answer, simply shuffling forward with his hands raised slightly in surrender.

 

“You can take me. But you have to let the others go. Okay? Just don’t hurt them, please.”

 

“Oh I get it. You're the real martyr type aren't you? Hoping you’ll go out in some self sacrificial blaze of glory? Alright, I’ll bite, I can give you what you want. You come here first, and then I’ll let sparky here go.”

 

“Midoriya!” Momo and Jirou call out in unison.

 

“Don’t do this.” Momo says seriously the hint of tears in her eyes.

 

Midoriya looks at Kaminari. His eyes are glazed over, still suffering from the backlash of his quirk, not fully comprehending his surroundings as he babbles out random sounds. But Midoriya could almost swear he saw the effort of an internal fight behind those golden eyes, as if he was giving his all to say or do something he wasn't currently capable of. Midoriya has a feeling he knows what he wants to say.

 

He knows his friend would probably be upset with him for taking his place when he eventually snaps out of his ‘whey mode’. But that's all the more reason for Midoriya to do this, because he knows Kami would do the same for him if the situation was reversed. 

 

He looks back at Jirou and Momo.

 

“It’s okay.”

 

“No! No it isn't!” They protest, but Midoriya tunes it out as he takes the last few steps forward towards the villain's grip.

 

In one tight and concise movement, the villain takes a hold of Midoriya's arm and flings Kaminari to the side. Kami lands harshly about ten feet away. Midoriya can see him slowly try to Crawl back their direction, but his efforts would be futile now even if he did have full control of his brain or muscles. Drill man is already backing up quickly, with Midoriya firmly in his grasp.

 

“Alright, you two can take the spark plug. But no funny business, or this,” The villain's hand sharpens to a point and begins spinning rapidly as he hovers it over Midoriya's temple “Goes straight through his skull.”

 

Momo and jirou are both gritting their teeth with the effort of not acting rashly. A second or two of silence fills the field once more before they hesitantly shuffle forward to collect Kaminari. Each of them taking an arm and lifting him to his feet so they can begin backing away as well.

 

“Good. I’m taking this one as my hostage, if you follow us he’ll be dead in .2 seconds. So don't even think about -”

 

A loud crash and a rush of wind grabs all of their attention. In the distance, a blur of red, blue and yellow leaps through the door landing hashly near the main plaza.

 

It’s All Might! Oh no, what is he doing here?! He's the one they’re after in the first place, and he's already past his limit. It's too dangerous for him to try and fight these guys right now. Between him and Aizawa, he now has two teachers he has to save. But first he has to get down there.

 

Midoriya takes advantage of the villain's stunned state to duck down and send an elbow to his jugular and stomp as his instep. The villains drill hand scrapes across Midoriya’s forehead as he spins out of his grip. But he quickly aims his gas canister at the Villains face and deposits a double dose to be extra sure he goes down quick before he can recover.

 

He knows Jirou and Momo are calling out to him, but he ignores them in favor of booking it back down the mountain instead.

 

He hates the fact that head wounds bleed so much, the blood is distracting, and it's clouding the vision in one eye. He doesn't have the time to try and seal the wound properly, so as he runs, he bends down to take advantage of the clay like mud along the bottom of the fake river, creating a makeshift liquid bandage. It will have to do for now.

 

He sprints and leaps as fast as he can, pleading all the way for everyone to still be okay.

 

--

 

From his position kneeling behind a large tree, Toshi has a much better view of the fight than he would have liked. There's still about a dozen low level looking thugs, Mist Man, a giant black creature with exposed brain matter, and Mr. Handsy all going up against Eraser Head.

 

Toshi did a mental inventory of what his options were. His voice was shot, so he couldn't really use his Sirens Call. And using his quirk would be a bad idea here even if he did have his voice. Because if he's right, and these are the guys Dare is on the run from, then revealing his quirk would make him a target as well. He’s still down one of his capture scarves, because he had to use it to wrap Zuku’s shark bait arm. That means he’s got one scarf, his trident, and his fists.

 

It’s not the absolute worst case scenario, but it's definitely not great odds. The smart thing to do would be to wait here on standby until Zuku or Kami shows up to provide backup. Leaping into the fray by himself would likely cause more problems than it's worth.

 

And it's this logic that keeps him hidden in the shadows despite his guilty conscience of watching his teacher take on so many bad guys by himself. But all such logic goes completely out the window when he sees the Hand Man's fingers grasp at Aizawa's elbow, and then sees said elbow dissolve into dust before his eyes.

 

Aizawa manages to free himself from the grasp before his whole arm disappears, but it hangs limply by his side, unusable. Not even Eraser can keep up with all these guys with only one arm.

 

Toshi’s body moves on its own before he has the time to think better of it. Sending out his remaining capture scarf to wrap around the wrist of the baddie that was about to land a hit, he tugs on it sharply, throwing off their trajectory and sending him crashing to the ground. 

 

“No fair, you had a hidden player two laying in wait.” The scratchy voice matches the hand mans apparently itchy neck, it makes Toshi feel sick.

 

“Shinsou, get out of here!” Aizawa shouts his command.

 

Toshi shoots him a mildly apologetic but firm glare. There's no way he’s gonna leave him here now.

 

The two of them work in tandem to clear out the remaining henchmen. Toshi can’t help but feel a little freaked out by the fact that the three toughest dudes are just sorta standing there. Beyond the occasional taunting phrase from handsy, they almost look bored. Is this what bad guys feel like when Toshi wears his mask of sleepy indifference during a fight?

 

He suppresses a flinch as he breaks the last henchmen's nose. A phantom tinge in his own slightly crooked nose, makes him feel just a little bad about it, but not bad enough to stop him from doing it. These dudes did come here to kill people after all.

 

“It’s over Shigaraki.” Aizawa asserts.

 

“What you fail to realize, Eraser Head, is you’ve yet to face the final boss. Nomu!”

 

In the blink of an eye, the gigantic black creature sprung into action, grabbing Aizawa and flinging him back and forth, crashing his body into the ground over and over again. The sound of squelching blood and breaking bones somehow louder than Aizawa's shouts of pain or Toshi's internal screams of terror.

 

The Nomu crashes Aizawa's limp form down to the ground, a rapidly growing puddle of blood pooling below him. Toshi felt frozen in place.

 

“Shigaraki. Their reinforcements should be arriving soon. Perhaps it would be for the best to retreat for now.”

 

Shigaraki scratched at his neck, bemoaning his companions' advice like a child sent to time out, before he finally calmed down enough to agree.

 

“Perhaps you’re right, Kurogiri. Maybe this should be game over for now. But first, let's completely crush All Might's pride, to make up for him being a no show.”

 

With a speed that seemed inhuman Shigarki appeared before Hitoshi, red eyes peeking out behind the severed hand on his face.

 

“Let’s make it hurt.”

 

Toshi’s whole life flashed before his eyes as Shigaraki’s hand moved to grasp at his face. Most of it was miserable, but it had gotten so good towards the end.

 

There was so much he still wanted to do and say. People he still owed debts to, that he would never be able to repay. So much he will miss. His Friends, his family, his future. How ironic that he realizes he no longer wants to die, just a fraction of a second before he's about to be killed. 

 

But as the five fingers of death clasp around his face, nothing happens. They both stand there stunned for a moment or two, before Shigaraki turns away with a laugh.

 

“You really are so cool Eraser Head.” Shigarki praises in a shaky breath.

 

It’s only because it was pointed out to him that Toshi now see’s Aizawa was the reason he wasn't turned to dust. Despite still being pinned by the nomu, Aizawa had forced his head up to cancel out Shigaraki’s quirk.

 

“Nomu.” He commands indifferent.

 

With a soul shattering crunch, the Nomu slams Aizawa's face roughly into the pavement.

 

Feeling possessed by a desire to do something, anything at all, Toshi prepares to charge, readying his Trident to launch at the arm holding down his hero.

 

All at once, chaos breaks out.

 

A sudden wave of ice comes from nowhere and separates Shinsou from Shigaraki. At the same time, a series of bright lights and loud pops is followed by Kurogiri being pinned by Bakugou, with Kirishima trailing swiftly behind him.

 

Toshi shouts a warning about Shigaraki’s quirk to the others so they won't be caught off guard.

 

“Move an inch and I'll blast you into a million pieces. They’ll be cleaning you off the pavement for weeks.” Bakugou threatens Kurogiri.

 

Kirishima calls out to him, “That doesn't sound very heroic.” But the phrase lacks any real discontent. If Toshi didn't know better, he would almost say it sounds encouraging with the way Kirishima smirks at him.

 

With Kurogiri pinned, and Shigaraki having some sort of mental breakdown/ scratching fit, Toshi focuses his energy back on helping get Aizawa free from the Nomu.

 

Todoroki has covered the beast's arms in ice, so he javalines his trident at the ice, hoping to break its hold completely. But if the nomu is bothered by the ice or the impalement, then he doesn't show it.

 

Now that he thinks about it, the nomu only seems to react at all if given a command by Shigarki. Almost as if under the effects of brainwashing, but if that's the case, it doesn't have the same release conditions as his own quirk, because it would have snapped out of it by now. How does this thing work? Is it even really alive? Maybe if I aim for the brain?

 

Before Toshi has a chance to put that theory into action, the nomus master calls it.

 

“Nomu! free our warp gate!”

 

As if the ice and the trident are nothing, the nomu bounds off towards Bakugou. But a sudden gust of powerful air and a loud boom cuts off the Nomu’s attack.

 

“It’s alright students! Because I am here!” All Might bellows as he lands.

 

Bakugou is suddenly standing several yards away from where he once was, no longer in the direct path of the nomu’s charge.

 

“Alright!” Kirishima says with relief at their teacher's arrival and rescue of Bakugou.

 

“Looks like our little game has gotten a continue after all.” Shigaraki croons.

“All Might.” Todoroki says calmly and plainly as always. “I interrogated some of the villains. The creature here has been engineered to kill you. It's quite strong. Be careful.”

 

All Might leveled a thumbs up in his direction, speaking confidently. “I've got this. You boys have done enough, take Aizawa and join the others outside.”

 

Bakugou protests being benched, but is practically dragged along by Kirishima and Todoroki. Toshi immediately rushes to Aizawa's side to check for a pulse. 

 

The pulse is incredibly weak. Almost nonexistent. But it's there. They would need to get him to a healer fast.

 

Off to the side a heated battle commences between All Might and the Nomu, gusts of wind and the sound of blows make it hard to concentrate. But All Might is number one for a reason, he can't afford to worry about him when there's already a victim in need of care. He has to prioritize the rescue. 

 

He scoops up the lifeless form of his teacher as quickly as possible and makes for the exit. Kirishima moves in to help him, which he is grateful for, because while Toshi is pretty strong by himself, Aizawa is a full grown, unconscious, adult male, so he's pretty heavy. And the fatigue of the events thus far have already depleted quite a bit of his energy.

 

Once they reach the stairs, he glances back to see how things are going. All Might is doing his best, but it honestly looks like his hits are hardly doing anything. As much as he hates to admit it, objectively speaking, Bakugou and Todorki would be the most effective backup. They both have long range capabilities that are quite powerful, meaning they can stay out of the way and keep some of the pressure off All Might at the same time. So he gestures with his head for the two of them to hang back while he and Kirishima take Aizawa to safety.

 

A few moments later, he is squinting at the harsh light of day as he hefts the doors open and carries his teacher outside. He is met with cries of both relief and horror by the students that had already evacuated.

 

Several people rush forward to help lay Aizawa down, pooling together whatever first aid supplies they still have together to try and help both him and Thirteen. None of them say it out loud, but unless Recovery Girl gets here soon, there really isn't much they can do for either of them.

 

He himself was so close to dying at least twice, once from drowning and once from being disintegrated. At this point, he is so past his limit of worry and stress that he has started to feel numb.

 

He isn't sure how long he is standing there, just watching his classmates scramble and worry and cry. There's some passive argument about whether they should go back inside to help or to find the remaining students. But he hears it all as if underwater.

 

At some point they are joined by Tokyami, Aoyama, and Hagkure. There are still six of them left inside. Bakugou, Todoroki, Jirou, Momo, Zuku, and Kami.

 

Upon realizing this, he begins to break out of his mental fog. He can't just check out now, he needs to get his head back in the game, he has to go find Kami and Zuku. He said he wouldn’t leave them earlier, and he meant it.

 

He is able to jog forward about six steps before the sound of a rapidly approaching motorcycle zips into the lot.

 

“TOSHI!” He hears Dare scream his name, breaking off his run mid step.

 

He tries to scream Dare’s voice back, but all that comes out is a strained crackling. He changes direction on a dime and runs to his brother instead.

 

Dare drifts into a parking spot and leaps off the bike. Toshi barely has time to become aware that this does not look like his usual bike, and wonders what happened to his old one, when he is wrapped up in a bone cracking hug.

 

Dare pulls back just enough for his helmet to rest against Toshi’s forehead, he lets out a shaky exhale.

 

“Are you alright?! What did they do to you?!”

 

Toshi still can't speak, so he just shakes his head no as he points to his throat.

 

“Fuck! Okay, where's  Zu and Kami?!”

 

Toshi points back at the door to tell him they are still inside.

 

Snipe is apparently able to communicate with the other teachers from outside the building, so with one hand pressed to his ear he says.

 

“Thirteen and Eraser Head are down. We still have six students inside the building alongside All Might. Permission to engage?”

 

Toshi and Dare don't wait for permission, they both charge back in. Seeing his brother and knowing his friends still need him is all it takes for Toshi to gain his second wind. He pays no mind to Snipe hot on tier heels or the other students calling after him to stop, he has to save Kami and Zuku, consequence be damned. 

 

--

 

The world zooms past him in short bursts as he takes each small burst of energy in his shoes to propel himself forward. Down in the plaza, he can see All Might exchange blow after blow against a terrifying creature with exposed brain matter. It looks like it must have superstrength and some form of impact absorption in order to neutralize the force of All Might's punches.

 

If that's the case, then any physical attack he can do would be useless against it. The real question is what other sort of immunities does it have. Would his sleeping gas have any effect? Maybe he should go for a big cloud for maximum potency. But if that doesn't work, he will be all out of gas to use on the other two. Worth the risk if it does work. But he needs a backup, what are its other possible weak points? The exposed brain is a major possibility, video games have taught him that anything with a big squishy head is liable to be knocked out with a good bonking. That's two possibilities, that's all he needs. One of them is bound to work. 

 

Before he can reach them, two portals are set up by the same guy from earlier, and the beast begins dragging All Might along the ground into the portal.

 

“I don't normally like getting blood and viscera inside my warp gates. But I’ll make an exception for you this time, All Might.” The portal guy taunts.

 

Midoriya uses one final boost of kinetic energy to propel himself high into the air, twisting into position mid jump to aim his gas at the creature's face. But just as he’s about to pull the pin, he feels an overwhelming wave of cold as ice spreads across the floor.

 

Shit, Todoroki is here too! If he pulls the pin he risks knocking him out too. Midoriya aborts that plan and skids along the Ice Todoroki has created. At least the nomu is locked in place now.

 

“Another one?!” The man with the hands screams in frustration.

 

Midoriya pulls out his staff hoping to play whack a mole with the beast's brain instead, but his plans are once again cut short. A man with several severed hands rushes in front of him. Grabbing onto his staff which instantly crumples to dust in his grasp. Midoriya flipps back out of the way, a small bubble of panic clutching at his chest.

 

Crap, crap, crap, that guy has a disintegration quirk! If he touches me I'm done for, and he just destroyed my best weapon for keeping distance. I’ll have to go on the defense and evade till I can come up with a better plan.

 

The sound of several small booms and ice skating past, means both Todoki and Bakugou are here, but at the moment Midoriya isn't sure if he's happy for the back up or afraid for all the additional things he now needs to dodge on the field. At least it's getting in the enemies way twice as much as it is his, which gives him enough time to think between dodges.

 

Todoroki seems sensible enough not to do anything too risky. But can he trust Bakugou well enough to keep his head? Midoriya realizes he might need to knock him out for his own good if he starts looking a little too trigger happy. But hopefully it doesn't come to that, cause his quirk really would come in handy here.

 

Midoriya just barely manages to dodge a swipe that gets entirely too close to his leg for his liking. Picking up the pace a bit, he looks to see who else is still around. 

 

Aizawa is nowhere to be seen, and it seems unlikely he would willingly retreat when there are still students present. So that must mean he has been incapaciated. The entrance must be clear now, since the warp guy is down here, but Toshi isn't here either, so he must have been the one to carry Aizawa out. Hopefully they are both okay.

 

All Might breaks free and pulls the attention of the disintegration quirk off of him again. Allowing him just enough time to try and catch his breath while he figures out his next move. But he knows he can’t just leave the fight in All Might's hands for much longer, he was already running on empty before this began. And the bad guys have already stated their intent to kill him specifically.

 

From the corner of his eye, Midoriya could see Bakugou and Todoroki moving closer, but All Might held up a hand and called for all of them to move back and out of the way.

 

At his master's order, the beast rips off its own arm and legs to break free of Todoroki’s latest blast of ice only for said limbs to regenerate at an alarming rate. 

 

“What is this? I thought you said the Nomus quirk was shock absorption?!” All Might asks indignantly.

 

“Ah, but I didn't say that was its only quirk.” The head bad guy boasts. “My nomu, was designed to take you on at 100% of your power, so he was given many powers.”

 

“Very well.” All Might says seriously. “Then I’ll just have to go beyond 100% and overwhelm him with repeated hits!”

 

In a flurry of blows that created enough air force to blow Midoriya and the others back a bit in the current, All Might unleashed onto the Nomu.

 

It was in moments like this, that Midoriya remembered why he admired All Might so much growing up. Against impossible odds, he never gives up, and he saves people with a smile.

 

With one final hit, fully powered with the full bodied shout of  “TEXAS SMASH!” All might sent the nomu soaring. Breaking through the glass ceiling and crashing loudly out in the forest.

 

“Surrender! I've defeated your little science experiment, you stand no chance against me now.” 

 

All Might spoke from his chest, projecting an air of absolute power and confidence. But through all the dust, Midoriya could see the little wisps of smoke coming off All Might's body.

 

This was just like that day on the roof. All Might was bluffing, if he tried to fight them now, he would probably lose. He had already used up the last of his strength for the day, and if he doesn't get out of there soon, he's going to revert back into his true form. 

 

“No, no, no. This is no fair. Our intel said he was getting weaker, but he's not weaker at all. I'm so close to winning. It can't be game over yet. It can’t be.” 

 

It shouldn't surprise Midoriya that a villain wearing severed hands like body jewelry was a bit unhinged. But the way he scratched at his own neck till it bled and muttered near incomprehensibly, was still highly unsettling.

 

He subconsciously found himself shuffling forwards to put himself between All Might and bad guys, and was glad to already be on his way when the warp villain whispered in the other villain's ear. Midoriya saw the beginnings of a portal opening up behind All Might and instantly knew what was about to happen.

 

He sprinted forward preparing to tackle the hero out of the way, he still had a full charge of kinetic energy in one of his gloves, and he used that to slide All Might out of the way just in time for a hand to reach through the portal where he once stood. Midoriya dropped into a tuck and roll to avoid being fully captured, but he still felt the burn of corrosive fingers grazing at his back and side.

 

All Might shouted for him to move, and he scrambled back to his feet, clutching at his bleeding ribcage to assess the damage there. As the villain came fully through the portal, he itched at himself with a feral intensity.

 

“I'm getting real tired of NPCs getting in the way of my mission. I guess I'll just have to eliminate you first then.”

 

All Might and Villain both lunged toward him at the same time, and Midoriya was horrified to realize this only had two possible outcomes.

 

Either All Might reached him first, and he would be forced to watch as the number one hero got dusted right in front of him, or the villain would reach him first, and he would finish the job he had started on his burning ribs.

 

Much to his surprise and immense relief, neither option happened. And instead the sound of gunfire echoed around the building as the villain was shot multiple times.

 

A swirl of black mist surrounded them. In all the sudden chaos and confusion, Midoriya could hear the sound of gunshots, metal colliding against metal, explosions, ice crystals forming, and shouts of fury from all directions. And by the time the smoke cleared the villains were gone, leaving only a trail of blood behind them.

 

Midoriya was getting dizzy from the adrenaline and the blood loss at this point. He was already at a deficit from the shark bite earlier, and since then he had been burned, electicutied, took a drill to the forehead, and got his ribcage partially dusted.

 

What exactly just happened?

 

Up by the exit, he could see Snipe blowing the smoke from his gun, that explained that part. And shortly after a group of other professors followed suit. So they must have succeeded in calling for help. Down in the plaza, Bakugou was cursing up a storm about how “The fuckers got away! God damn it Icy Hot, if you had just let me blow that guy to pieces then-!” but Midoriya couldn't be bothered to listen to Bakugou's rage at the moment, because there were two bodies rushing towards him.

 

“Zu!” Dare yelled as he and Toshi both collided with him. When did they get here?

 

“Zu, oh my god you're bleeding!” Dare said with panic seeping through previous relife.

 

“Dare? Toshi?” He questioned, still not entirely sure they weren't just illusions his hopeful brain created at the moment of his death.

 

His woozy legs turned to jelly beneath him and he felt his vision begin tunneling in. He was held up in the collective hold of both Toshi and Dare, but he knew without a shadow of a doubt he would lose consciousness soon.

 

“Hey, hey, no, don't you dare. Stay with me Zu. I'm gonna get you some help, just stay with me.”

 

And as much as he wanted to do as Dare asked, as much as he wanted nothing more than to stay with him forever, his vision faded to black, and he was out before he could even apologize.



Chapter Text

Katsuki had no clue who the extra in the helmet was, but something about them was giving him the creeps. He would assume it was just one of the teachers who worked in general studies or something, but they seemed entirely too familiar with Eye Bags and the Nerd for that to be the case. And none of the other teachers seemed to question it, which just made him more suspicious. But whatever, it was hardly Katsuki’s problem what kind of weirdos stupid Deku hangs out with.

No matter how many times he said he was perfectly fine, he was forced to sit on the back of an ambulance as the EMT’s looked over him. Shitty hair, Icy Hot, and a few of the others were given similar treatment for all their minor injuries, but he wasn't sure why they were bothering with any of them, when they had three actually injured people they should be focusing on.

The old hag showed up just as he was released from the forced patch up. An angry scowl on her face.

“What the hell did you do you brat?”

“Me?!”

“Yeah, I just spent the past 30 minuets on the phone with an inconsolable Inko Midoriya. Her boy is apparently undergoing reconstructive surgery.”

“Why is that automatically my fault?!”

“Cause what the hell happened for that to be necessary in the first place?!”

“I don’t know! Gee, do you think one of the couple hundred or so villains that just attacked the school had something to do with it!? You know I fought like thirty of the fuckers myself? Do you even care how I'm doing?!”

“Oh don’t be so melodramatic, of course I care! But it's obvious you made it out just fine. So whatever.”

Katsuki grit his teeth to prevent himself from speaking his thoughts out loud. Yeah. He was fine this time.

This time around he kicked everyone's asses before they could even think about laying a hand on him. This time he held the worst of them back to buy All Might and Deku time and distance. This time he impressed Shitty Hair and Bird Brain with his reaction time and reflexes. This time he wasn't hurt. This time he didnt fucking die. But that didn't matter, because last time he lost. And he was gonna have to win a thousand fights to make up for that failure in her eyes.

“Tch. Yeah... Whatever.” Was all he could get himself to say in response before storming off towards the hags car. Completely unaware of the red head listening in on the other side of the wall.

 

--

Midoriya feels an overwhelming sense of deja vu as he once again wakes up in Recovery Girl’s clinic with All Might sitting beside his bed. Only this time it is not the artificially inflated form the world knows him for, but the sickly and tired shape of Yagi Toshinori.

Midoriya's eyes feel so heavy, depleted of all energy and stamina, both from the fight and from the aftereffects of the healing. He is hooked up to several IVs and machines. His arm and torso have been wrapped in proper bandages, Toshi’s bloodied scarf lies discarded at the foot of the bed. His mouth feels like it's full of sand with how dry it has gotten. He knows All Might is waiting for him to speak, to acknowledge he is awake enough to hold a conversation. But after the disastrous conversation they had the last time he woke up in a hospital bed, he is hesitant to open himself up for further pain.

“My boy.” All Might eventually speaks for him. “That was an incredibly reckless and dangerous thing you did back there.”

Midoriya see’s no point in denying it. He's not entirely sure which part All Might is referring to, but he knows most of his actions could honestly be described as such. So he clears his throat and nods.

“I know.”

All Might gives a small sigh before a warm smile comes over his face. “But it was also very brave and heroic.”

Midoriya can only blink in his confusion. Did he hear that right?

“Heroic?” He asks hopefully.

“Yes. Meddling where you do not need to, putting yourself at risk for the benefit of others safety, that is the heart of true heroism.”

Midoriya feels the tears already threatening to spill from his eyes. “T-thank you, sir.”

“I believe that you have the heart of a true hero. But you lack the power necessary to accomplish your goals safely. And that is why I would like to take you under my wing as my successor.”

He is at a loss for how best to process and interpret those words. “I-I don’t understand. What do you mean by that?”

“You already know part of my secret, and you have been gracious enough to keep it. So I know I can entrust you with this as well. You see the true name of my power is One for All. This quirk has been passed on from hero to hero for several generations, with each holder adding their own power and honing the ability making it stronger each time. It is a sacred duty, for those in possession are swarn with being a beacon of hope and freedom for all. It's something which must be kept secret, lest evil doers seek to take it from you. But should you accept, I can pass my quirk onto you, so you can become the great hero you deserve to be.”

Midoriya is silent as the weight of All Might words sink in. It's certainly a hell of an offer, one that seems almost too good to be true. But…

“All Might. I don’t want to inherit a quirk.”

All Mights face scrunchys in confusion and concern.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean...I don’t...want a quirk?” Buried somewhere in his subconscious he must have known this was the case for quite some time. But hearing the words leave his lips feels like realizing it for the first time.

“But, young Midoriya, you still want to be a hero don't you?”

‘Yes. Of course I do. More than anything. And...if you had offered this to me a year ago, I would have accepted it in a heartbeat. Back then, there wasn’t anything I wouldn't do to have a quirk, any quirk, much less one given to me by- by you of all people...But my goals have changed since then.”

“I’m afraid I still don’t understand. How have your goals changed?”

“I don't just want to be a hero anymore. I want to be the first quirkless hero. There's never been one before, and that...that needs to change. Someone has to be the first, to prove to the world that it can be done. To show we aren't inherently less worthy or capable than anyone else. And I want...no, I need that person to be me.”

All might was silent for a while, a contemplative frown on his face.

“Young Midoriya. While I appreciate the sentiment, truly I do. There is a reason it has never been done before. It simply is not safe to go against powerful enemies like that without a quirk.”

“It’s not safe with a quirk either. But heroes do it anyway. All day everyday heroes put their lives on the line for others. It’s not safe for any of them, but...Didnt you just say that was the very heart of heroism?”

“Well yes. But that wasn't quite what I meant by-”

“I’m good at what I do sir. Really good. I believe anyone can be a hero, but to be frank, I know for a fact I could take down 90% of my classmates in a fight. Classmates who have quirks, and who have managed to make it into the top class of an elite hero academy. Just like I did. And I could build circles around half the support students and out hack the rest of them too. So what makes you think I'm the only one for whom heroism is ‘too dangerous’?”

“Midoriya, in a class of 20 students, you were the only one to sustain any major injuries. All the others escaped with mere scrapes and bruises. That's not a coincidence.”

“You're right. It's not a coincidence. I'm the only one injured because I worked my ass off to make damn sure I was the only one. I saved several classmates, and then I saved you too, or have you forgotten that? And I did it all without a quirk, and without your approval. And I'm gonna continue to do so.”

“Midoriya-”

“NO!”

He was almost as startled by the heat of his own anger as All Might was. His lip trembled and his eyes filled with tears, but his voice and his resolve did not waver.

“No… Whatever you have to say, I don't want to hear it. I neither need, nor want, a quirk. I will be a hero. And a damn good one at that. And there's nothing you can say that will make me change my mind about that. So...So I think you need to leave now.”

With trembling hands he pointed to the door, his green eyes burning holes into the sunken face of his former idol. All Might looked like there was still a lot he wanted to say, but looking at Midoriya as he struggled to hold himself together, made him think better of saying it just yet. So with a defeated sigh and a nod he got up and left.

The second the door slid shut and he heard the squeak of All Mights rescinding shoes disappear down the hall, Midoriya crumpled onto the bed in despair. He clung hopelessly to his own legs as if becoming a small enough ball might allow him to roll off into the sunset and be anywhere but here. His chest burned with an intensity that rivaled Bakugou's blasts or the fingers that threatened to disintegrate his ribs just a few hours earlier.

How does this keep happening? How does he keep running into All Might when he is at his lowest points, only to be let down time and time again? He is the number one hero. The man he looked up to all his life. The man who has saved hundreds if not thousands of people. Who never once failed to save everyone once he arrived on the scene. And yet, after each encounter with the man, Midoriya is left feeling more and more like he would rather not exist.

It always starts off okay, and then he asks the wrong question, and All Might gives the answers he least wants to hear, and he is gutted and hollow when he leaves. Is it him? Is he the problem? Is he inviting misery onto himself by saying and doing things he shouldn't? Are his hopes truly too high?

Midoriya hears a knock on the door, and he quickly wipes the tears and tries to piece himself back together. He is unsurprised to see a solemn looking Recovery Girl, followed by Toshi, Dare and his Mother, all wearing matching looks of concern and relief.

He lets his mother weep over him as she begs him to never get hurt again. And then when she has exhausted herself of her tears, he lets Dare and Toshi grab onto either of his hands as they talk about anything but what they just went through.

They will. They will spend the next few nights laying sleeplessly in each other's presence talking about everything. But they all need for today to stop happening. They need the time to process it and be glad they are all safe.

Recovery Girl has requested to keep him here in the clinic overnight. And while she wouldn't normally allow extended guests, especially so many of them, she knows each other's presence is the medicine they need most right now.

An hour later, Kami and Mei join them in his room, Kami is acting like his usual goofy self. But he refuses to meet Midoriya's eye. And they both know this is yet another necessary conversation they will have to put on hold.

Midoriya's phone is flooded with concerned and grateful messages from his classmates. And he is grateful for them, but he cannot help the small seed of resentment that spikes with each person asking if he will be okay. Were they asking in a way they would ask anyone in his condition? Or were they asking because it happened to him, because he was quirkless?

 

Class obligations are canceled for the weekend, they don't want the students worrying about homework at a time like this. But there is an unspoken knowledge that come Monday, they will all be expected to carry on. They are hero students after all, bouncing back from villain attacks is part of the job they were all signing on for. It doesn't usually happen so soon in a young heroes career, but they would need to get used to it eventually.

He learns from the others about what all happened when he wasn't there, and he feels guilty for every near miss and scrape he wasn't there to prevent, but everyone assures him he had done more than his fair share.

Recovery Girl is able to heal him for the most part, but he would have some scars. Overusing her quirk when the patient doesn't have the necessary stamina is dangerous and potentially deadly. So while she does her best, it's not a perfect cure all.

He doesn't like how he got the scars, but he feels a strange sense of gratitude for each of them. The drill mark cuts through his forehead and eyebrow in just such a way that he is grateful he doesn't also need an eyepatch. The puncture marks around his left arm make him grateful that his sleeves provide enough protection to still have the arm at all. The faint lichtenberg scars on his neck, back, and shoulder make him grateful Kami was still alive and practicing good battle strategy. And the fingers along his ribcage make him grateful Recovery Girl was there to provide speedy recovery post reconstructive surgery.

She warned him to take things easy for a week or two while the ribs continue healing, and prescribed him some pain meds, sleeping pills, and healing gummies. And then he was sent home to his overly doting mothers care.

He loves his mom. He really does. She had worked so hard his whole life to take care of him, and it certainly wasn't an easy task.

For all intent and purposes, she was a single mother. Her husband had left to work in America conveniently a few weeks after Midoriya received his quirkless diagnosis. They would still talk on the phone from time to time, and he was never late paying child/spousal support, but he can count on one hand the number of times he had come to visit in person, and never after his tenth birthday. So while his mom may still be married to the man, and he smiles and nods civilly when ever he comes up, Midoriya hardly considers him his actual dad.

All of which is to say, he loves and appreciates his mom, and fully understands why she is so protective of him, but even he has his limits. So after spending all of his moms waking hours in her presence, ignoring her worried glances and outright refusal to let him so much as lift a finger to do things for himself. He can't wait to sneak over to Dare’s apartment goof off and purge himself of all her babying.

--

To say Dare was feeling overwhelmed was the understatement of the century. Every fiber of their being was telling them to do a full body reset and flee the country with Toshi and Zu. But he could never ask them to leave everything behind like that, and he could never leave them behind either, so he was at an impasse.

The rational part of his brain told him that his cover still wasn't officially blown. Thanks to Zu, his helmet and costume had him covered head to toe. There was nothing exposed to give him away, so they had no way of knowing he was ever there. And likewise, Toshi never used his quirk in front of any of them, so he was still safe as well. But seeing Tenko...No Tomura, he was Tomura now, brought back so many unpleasant memories of being turned to dust over and over again during their sparring matches.

Nedzu assured him that he had instructed his staff to leave Dare's involvement out of their incident reports. It meant using up one of his two owed favors, but he was more than happy to use it, if it meant not making his existence known on paper.

And then there was the immense guilt. He apologized profusely to all of them, and they just kept insisting that it wasn't his fault, and that he couldn't have known. But he did know. He had gotten the invite.

Sure, he didn't know that this exact scenario is what the Dragon was talking about when he called him that night in the diner, but he knew that something big was coming and he did nothing to prevent it.

The cosmic scales were weighing heavily on the side of becoming irredeemable, if he hadn’t reached that point already. And the worst part was he still couldn’t even quit working for him. Not when all his savings had just gone to repaying the Dragon for the damaged bike. He was back to square one now, and their bills still needed to be paid.

Toshi’s nightmares had never been worse. He asked Dare about those pain meds again, but it would be a major risk to give them to him. Dependency forms after just three doses, so he would only ever be able to take them twice to remain safe. If he takes his second dose now, and then heaven forbid he ever goes through something worse down the line… So Dare said no, and Toshi accepted the answer, but then he proceeded to get a sum total of three hours of sleep in as many days, thrashing and sobbing all the while.

He couldn't blame him for it in the slightest. His own near death experiences aside, he also had front row seats to seeing two of his teachers getting brutalized, not to mention the thing with Zu and the shark. He had seen some shit, no doubt about it, so nightmares were to be expected, even if he didn't already suffer from them fairly regularly. But he wasn't the only one getting little to no sleep.

Zu had snuck over every night. They would play games and read comics for awhile, eventually decide they were too pent up with anxiety, dance for an hour or so to burn off the energy, and then collapse in the living room for a tearful heart to heart before finally going back to the games and the comics.

They put the vigilante duties aside for now. They would have done so even if the USJ incident hadn’t happened. Zu and Toshi agreed ahead of time to take the first few weeks of school to get acclimated to their new course loads, and while it was truly insane to think about, it had only been the first week. And now Recovery Girl had given Zu a ‘take it easy’ order, and none of them were sleeping, and Dare was still too nervous to leave his apartment, so needless to say it would likely take awhile for them to get back into the swing of things.

They still got together with Kami, but not for training, he was similarly wiped out so they agreed as a group to push that back a week as well. It was nice having him there to lighten the mood a bit as he always did. But Dare kept catching him giving these looks to both Zu and Toshi when they weren't looking, and the faces he was making seemed deeply upset, but for seemingly different reasons.

Mei stopped by at some point, she and Zu comisserated the destruction of so much of his gear. She showed she cared in her own way, by swearing to help him rebuild even sturdier versions, but also by giving him a gift. Mei could call it a ‘multi tool blaster’ all she wanted, Dare knew a gun when he saw one.

He could load six rounds at a time, and she had designed six kinds of ammunition. The first was smoke pellets that contained some of his knockout gas. Then there were stun pellets, that would provide a bright flash and administer a small electrical shock. The trackers would stick to his targets and allow him to track them via his command center. He had both Fire pellets and Ice pellets, meant to ignite or freeze over on contact. And the last was basically sandbag mode, delivering pure generic force, but not sturdy enough to cause more damage than your standard bb gun.
She claimed she designed so many because she wanted to give him a wide variety of options for long range combat, but Dare had a feeling she just couldn't decide which idea she wanted to build the most, and went ahead and made all of them instead.

Midoriya was apprehensive at first, claiming a gun might be pushing the boundaries a bit too far in terms of what society deemed traditionally heroic. But once Toshi pointed out Snipe and several other heroes who used similar weapons he relented. Besides, he was never gonna be the kind of hero the general public found at all traditionally acceptable, so why turn away from an incredibly useful tool just to make those people more comfortable.

Mei offered to make matching weapons for Dare and Toshi, but Toshi declined the offer on the grounds that he wanted to get better with the gear he already had before trying to add more to the equation. Dare however accepted the offer, someone was gonna have to teach Zu how to shoot after all, and using any of the real guns he had confiscated from people in the past would be a bit suspicious.

The weekend was over quicker than any of them would have liked. And come Monday morning when they all left for school, Dare had to fight the impulse to hold them back and tell them not to go. But they knew it would be too selfish to ask such a thing, so he simply watched them go from the window.

--

 

Midoriya was glad his first day back at UA was a support day and not a heroics one. Don’t get him wrong, he loves the hero course and all his classmates, but he knows everyone is gonna be all awkward and emotional around each other for a day or two after what happened at USJ. So he was hoping by the time he saw everyone tomorrow they will have gotten the bulk of that out of their system already.

It's not like his support classmates didn’t care or anything. They did, but just...less personally?

He and Mei mostly kept to themselves, really only interacting with the rest of the class when necessary, so he hadn't exactly made many real friends among them yet. And none of them were there when it happened. So the extent of their reaction was a collective get well soon card and an offer to help work on the repairs to his and everyone else's gear and costumes.

He got a text from Kami that morning asking if they could meet up after class. He had a sinking feeling he knew what it was about, but agreed to meet up anyway. He owed him that much at least.

To make his nervousness worse, Nedzu asked if he wanted to go over some of the recovered security footage to help with his analysis of his classmates. It was a good opportunity to see them going all out in a practical setting, but he was still feeling a little queasy about the whole thing. So he asked if he could just keep reviewing footage from their exercise earlier in the week insead.

And then Power Loader Sensei kept giving him these looks, like he wanted desperately to ask him something but just wasn't sure how or if he should. After a few hours of playing eye tag with each other across the lab, he finally approached him.

“Midoria, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

Midoriya let out a small sigh. “I had a feeling. What's it about?”

He braced himself for the obvious answer. To have to talk to his teacher about USJ, but instead his teacher said something unexpected.

“It's about the sports festival actually.”

“I- oh...Really?”

“Yes. You see, your concurrent enrollment makes it a bit difficult to figure out which course you should be registered under for the event.”

“Oh. I hadn't really thought much about that. Couldn't they just list me under both?”

“Well yes. They could...However, I think it would be in your best interest not to do that.”

“Why's that?”

“Well, as I’m sure you know. The hero course students aren't typically allowed to bring support gear into the event. With the exception of select special circumstances, and only if they fill out the necessary paperwork ahead of time. However, the other courses are allowed as much gear as they want, provided they make and design it all themselves.”

“Oh, I see what you're saying. If I register as a support student and not as a heroics student, I'll be allowed to use all my gear without restrictions.”

“Exactly. And also, on a more selfish note...The support course has never had a student actually win the sports festival before. We rarely make it past the first two rounds. Even if you just made it into the one on one matches, I think it would really boost the overall morale and prestige of the program...But no pressure or anything!”

Did...Did Power Loader sensei just imply he thought Midoriya could win the sports festival?

After his conversation with All Might the other day, the idea of a teacher believing in him so completely, felt like a warm blanket and a bowl of soup for his soul. Midoriya felt the happy tears fill his eyes but he did not allow them to spill.

“T-thank you sensei! I won't let you down!”

“Hey, again, no pressure. Just try your best and have fun, that's all I can ask... Actually, one more request, keep an eye on Mei for me? Try and make sure she doesn't build anything too explosive or volatile for the event.”

Midoriya gave him a dutiful salute. “You've got it sir!”

Power loader returned the salute with a smile before retreating back to his desk. And Midoriya rode the high of that encounter all the way through to his talk with Kaminari.

Shinsou made suspicious shifty eyes between the two of them when they told him to go on without him after school. It had already become a regular thing for Kami to go over to Toshi’s on gen ed days to work on homework together, and Midoriya always walked home with him because they were neighbors. He felt a little bad sending him ahead by himself. But he had a feeling Kami wanted to talk to him alone, otherwise he would have already said what he wanted to say the last time they got together.

Once Toshi had awkwardly shuffled on with a final squint of suspicion, Kami pulled him over to sit under one of the large trees that decorated the front lawn of the school. They sat in a vaguely uncomfortable silence while they waited for the bulk of the students to filter out. Kaminari picked at the grass and made a small tower of the blades on his knee. When they were down to the last few remaining stragglers, Midoriya decided to start the conversation with the question he most wanted an answer to.

“Are you...mad at me?”

“I mean… Honestly? Yeah, I kinda am. But I’m also pissed at myself. And I really wanted to clear the air with you on both of those things. So where do you wanna start?”

Midoriya was so unused to seeing Kaminari look so serious, that for a second he couldn't even think of what to say.

“I guess...We’ll start with why you're mad at yourself? You didn't do anything wrong.”

“Heh. Yeah I did Mido. I let myself get captured, if I had been smarter about things, you wouldn't have been put into a situation where you felt you had to step in like that.”

“You didn't let yourself get captured. You were attacked in the middle of dealing with your quirk blowback. And Momo and Jirou didn't even see that guy till it was too late either. That really wasn't something you could have avoided.”

“Okay, maybe not. But that wasn’t my only fuck up. I know what lichtenberg scars are dude, and I’m pretty dang sure I know how you got yours. You were there when I sent off indiscriminate shock weren't you? You got hurt because I wasn't observant enough to notice you.”

“Kami, that wasn't your fault either. I didn’t want to be noticed, I was running recon at the time. If you had seen me, then they probably would have too.”

“But it happened though. Whether or not it's my fault is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, because of me, you were shocked and then taken hostage. And I'm mad at myself for letting either of those things happen, but I'm also…”

“Mad at me for the same reasons?” Midoriya offered.

Kami sighed and ran a hand through his hair, looking away for a moment.

“Yes and no. I'm also mad at you for other reasons.”

Midoriya winced a little but asked anyway, “Such as?”

“Such as...a lot of things. For starters, you just ran off the second you got free. And I was still brain dead and being dragged away when it happened. So I didnt even know you got out till like an hour later when Jirou told me. That whole time I was coming back out of whey mode I thought that guy still had you man, I thought… And then Toshi told me you were in surgery, and I figured it must have been because of him drilling at your noggin. Your brain is like your best quality, and I thought it got busted because of me. I just, my own brain kept supplying the worst case scenario because it didn’t know what else to think.”

“Oh, I'm so sorry Kami, I should have-”

“Hang on. I’m not done. Contrary to popular belief, I can usually still see and hear most things while my brain is fried like that. So I heard what that guy said to you. He said you were a ‘martyr type.’ That you were going out of your way to try and ‘go out in some selfless blaze of glory.’”

“Kami it wasn’t like that.”

“Wasnt it though? I know what the stats look like for quirkless people in Midoriya, I used to have a cousin who… I know the stats. And I've talked with our other classmates, I'm far from the only one you stepped in front of the line of metaphorical fire for. And like, you were far from scar free before last week.” He pointed at the scratch marks on the side of his head, “Can you honestly look me in my eyes and tell me that those claw marks came from a fucking house cat like you said?”

Midoriya couldn't. But he couldn't tell him where he actually got it either. When he was silent for a beat too long, Kami took that as his answer.

“See, that's what I thought… So yeah. I'm mad at you for taking my place in a hostage situation, cause you shouldn't have done that shit. But I’m less mad about the what or how, and more mad about the why. Cause as much as I want to believe that dude was just talking out his ass, the evidence points to the contrary.”

“You're mad because you think I was just needlessly seeking out danger?”

“No I'm mad, because your one of my best friends, and I’m not entirely convinced you weren't looking for a convenient exit strategy from life.”

Midoriya was stunned by the implication.

“Kaminari… I'm not suicidal.”

“Maybe not directly. But you don't seem as opposed as you should be to the idea of being killed by someone else. And that's just as bad.”

“I swear I'm not trying to get killed either. I just wanted to protect you. To protect everyone. I just didn't want you guys getting hurt.”

“But it’s okay if you’re the one that gets hurt? Let me ask you this Midoriya. Why did you even speak up at all? That drill guy didn't even know you were there until you made your presence known. You could have snuck up on him instead.”

“That would have been too risky. If I was spotted, or if it went poorly, then he would have gotten you.”

“You could have signaled to the girls to help keep him distracted. Minimize the risks that way.”

“But then all three of you would have been in even greater danger.”

“We were already in danger. I was already the hostage. It was a risk yes, but it was a risk that already existed when you arrived on the scene. You went out of your way to put yourself into the direct line of fire instead. Why? Why did you take my place? What made you the only suitable hostage? Why did it have to be you?”

“Because I was-” he cut himself off before he could finish the sentence. The real answer, the one he used at the time, was that he was the most expendable. But if he says that outloud, Kaminari will take that as a sign that he was right.

“Because you were what, Midoriya?” Kaminari’s gold eyes looked into his very soul, and Midoriya knew he already knew the answer.

“I'm not… It's not about...I wasn't trying to…”

Midoriya tried and failed many times to come up with a solid enough defense. Kaminari was wrong, but he couldn't for the life of him figure out how or why he was wrong. Every excuse he could think of just seemed hollow or untrue. Kaminari’s face shifted into one of understanding sympathy.

“I get it.” Kaminari said gently. “I...I'm not gonna call you out like this, and then lie and say I’ve never had a similar mindset. After the thing with my cousin, and then with my mom…”

Kaminari trailed off and picked at the grass a bit more. Giving Midoriya a second to swallow down the tightness in his throat. He had no idea Kaminari had ever been anything less than ecstatic to be alive. He was always smiling and laughing with everyone. But maybe that was the point, maybe he always seemed happy because he didn't want anyone to see him looking sad. Midoriya was about to say something, but Kaminari cleared his throat to speak again.

“But I got help for it, and it got better. I talked to my siblings, and I saw a therapist for a while, and it got better. I’m not gonna force you into anything. But… I hear Hound Dog is pretty good at his job. And if formal therapy is too much for you right now, then you can always just talk to me. Or to Toshi, or Dare, or your Mom or anyone really. Just...talk to someone. Please?”

“If...If I talk to you about it. Isn't that just gonna make you sad too?”

Kaminari gave him a light smile. “It might. But then I’ll just talk to you about it and feel better again. And then you can talk to me about it again if it makes you sad. And it’ll just go back and forth, getting a little better and more manageable each time, and eventually the things that bring us down won't have the power to hurt us anymore. Teamwork makes the dream work right? That's what friends are for.”

Midoriya chuckled a bit in spite of himself. “Oh yeah?” He teased the logic.

“Yeah!” Kaminari said excitedly, but then his smile faltered a bit again before he said, “I want to be someone you feel you can rely on. I want people to come to me for more than just a quick laugh, or to charge their phones. I can handle the heavy stuff too. And… And I know how to keep a secret.”

Midoriya knew the truth of his statement. He knew he could trust him and how dependable he was when it came to the stuff that really mattered. For half a second he considered unloading all his stress onto him. To tell him about how he got his vigilante scars, and why he was so afraid for Toshi and Dare, and about everything All Might had told him. But those weren't his secrets alone to reveal. So he kept them under wraps. And instead turned it back onto him.

“You can count on me too, ya know? You can tell me about your heavy stuff, or your medium and light stuff too.” He did his best to fill the role Kami usually filled in these cases. “Even if you just want to commiserate about how unfairly pretty all our classmates are.”

“Oh my god, I know right?!” He said with a chuckle and a groan.

They spent another 30 minutes or so alternating between bi panic, jokes, and little nuggets of trauma. But then their stomachs started to rumble with the lack of their usual after school snacks, so they stopped by 7 11 and headed over to Toshi and Dares apartment to study.

He felt a lot lighter and closer to Kami now that they had cleared the air a bit between them. And he contemplated having similar conversations with Toshi and Dare. True they talked about their problems all the time, but it was also clear that all three of them were still holding certain things back for each other's benefit, especially Dare. And they were a team, so he didn't want to hold things back from them if he could help it. Nor did he want them festering in silence over things they could otherwise deal with together.

Besides, he also had other things to discuss with them. He wanted to ask their permission to tell Kami about the vigilante thing, and he wanted to build him an earpiece and a distress beacon so he could be in the loop and protected as well. After all, Kami may not join them as a vigilante, but that didn't mean he wasn't part of the team.

Chapter Text

“Got any sixes?” Hound Dog asks.

“Go fish.” Katsuki replies nonchalantly.

Hound Dog pulled from the deck.

“Got any queens?” He asks smugly, knowing the answer already.

“Yep. Here you go, kiddo.” He says as he surrenders the card. “You feel like talking yet?”

“Never.”

“Alright… You know, I treasure our twice weekly card games, but the therapy tends to work better if you spend the hour actually doing therapy from time to time.”

“And I already told you I don’t fucking need it. I'm just here to fulfill my end of the bargain with the school.”

“Is that how you see it? As a bargain?”

“A bargain, a plea deal, a pacification. Whatever you wanna call it. It's just another set of obstacles I need to get past.”

“It doesn't need to be an obstacle, you could use it to boost you forward towards your goals instead of slowing you down.”

“It's not slowing me down.” He says just a tinge too defensively. “I never let anything slow me down.”

“Why not?”

“Nice try ass hat, but you're not gonna trick me into opening up that easily.”

“But you admit there is something to open up about?”

“Tch. You gonna go? Its your fucking turn.”

Hound dog nods. “You got any threes?”

“Ugh! You jackass! You know I asked for one two rounds back.”

“And you know I asked for a queen the round before that. That's how the game works, Bakugou.”

“I know that, I'm not an idiot! ...Here take your fucking three.” He tosses the offending card towards his face.

“Thank you.” Is all he says, refusing to rise to meet his temper.

“...You got any fours?”

“Yeah.”

The second Katsukis fingers wrap around the card he slams down his last pair, winning the game.

“Ha! I win! You suck at this game!”

“ I don't think you can really be bad at Go Fish. But that hardly matters so long as you enjoy yourself.”

“The hell are you talking about? Of course you can be bad at Go Fish. And how the hell are you supposed to enjoy something if you're not good at it?”

“By enjoying the act of doing the thing just for that thing's sake. Not because you want to be successful at it, but because you find pleasure or value in it. Or because you enjoy who you are doing it with.”

“That’s stupid. Are you saying you just sit around all day doing things that don’t even mean anything?”

“Anything can have meaning if you decide it does. If it brings you joy, or fulfillment, or peace of mind.”

“You get those things from being the best. Not from wasting time.”

“Do you think obtaining the top ranking will make you truly happy?”

“What kind of question is that?”

“You had the top rank in your old school all three years in a row. Did being there bring you peace and joy?”

“Fucking no. It was just middle school. That didn’t really mean anything either.”

“Then why did you work so hard to obtain it, if it meant nothing to you?”

“Cause I had to be the best to get into UA.”

“And now you are here. And you're clearly working towards the top of these classes as well. Do you think reaching the top here will bring you fulfillment?”

“No, but it will get me internships. Which will get me a job. Which will give me the start I need to open my own agency, so I can finally become number one.”

“You know, on average, people don't break the top ten till they are well into their thirties, if ever.”

“Yeah, well I'm not average. I'm the best there's ever been. So I’m gonna do it in my twenties.”

“That's a nice goal. Very admirable. But you're still 15 now. Even in your best case scenario, that's at least five years down the line before you get there. So how do you plan to find fulfillment in the meantime? What will bring you peace and joy right now?”

“I don’t know… Just working towards that I guess.”

“And if you accomplish your goals. Make number one in record time. And you find you still aren't happy. What then?”

“...”

He realizes too late that he fell for hound dogs trap. The tricky bastard. But he refuses to admit defeat.

“You gonna shuffle the damn deck for the next game or what?” He asks dismissively.

“If that will make you happy. Then yes.”

Katsuki simply growls at him. He won't dignify that pathetic attempt with an actual response.

--

Just when Dare thought he understood who the Dragon was, he overheard a phone call that shifted everything into a new light.

“Of course my love, anything for you...Haha...Give the kid a hug for me when he gets home...Uh huh...Miss you too...Bye babe.”

Huh, that was weird. Is it possible the Dragon really is a human being with a heart after all? Dare tries his best to school in his expression as he walks up to the counter, but he clearly fails.

“What?” The Dragon asks with an eyebrow raised in challenge.

“Nothing. I just didn't know you had a family.”

“Huh. What do you take me for? I have several.”

Dare raises his own eyebrow in a silent challenge to elaborate.

“You know as well as I do I’ve got a lot of alias’ floating around Kitten. If the cops start sticking their noses into things they shouldn't, having references for your alibi goes a long way.”

“So you've just got a bunch of women on your payroll pretending to be your spouse? That sounded real affectionate for an accomplice.”

“They aren't pretending shit. The best way to convince someone to lie for you is to convince them it's not a lie at all. If I say my name is Ryu Yo, and I've got a wife, a kid, and a couple decades worth of paper trails that all back that up, then in the eyes of them and the government it must be true.”

“And they don't get suspicious with you being gone so often trying to juggle them all?”

“No, because I don't live with any of them. I'm an international businessman, or part of the military, or a missionary, or whatever else I need to be to keep them off my back.”

“And none of them have any clue that your whole relationship is a lie?” So much for him being a human with a heart, he's clearly just a devil with a smile.

“Oh don't give me that look. They are getting a good deal out of this arrangement I assure you, they all receive very generous support checks. I'm basically a sugar daddy they have no obligation to give any sugar to.”

“...The woman you were just talking to said she loved and missed you. You have a kid with her, apparently. Doesn't she want to ‘give you sugar’ or whatever.”

“Oh, sometimes, they do. I am a very eligible bachelor after all. That's the other beautiful part of this arrangement. Whenever I've got an itch to scratch I can just ‘come home for the weekend’ and I've got plenty of homes to choose from.”

“That's disgusting.”

“Don't be a prude, kitten. You're the one who asked.”

“Yeah, and now I fully regret it.”

“Alright then, suit yourself. How about you? How's the fake brother doing?”

Dare levels a glare at him that he hopes conveys as much malice as is safe to give.

“Okay, you're right. I don't actually give a shit. But if you're gonna cast your stones of judgement at me for using others as a cover story, then just remember your own house is also made of glass.”

Dare scowled at him. Their situations couldn't be further apart from one another. He didn’t form a fake family to back up a false identity. He got a false identity to back up his real family.

“Are you gonna tell me what you called me in for? Or am I just here because you ‘missed me’ too?”

“I always miss you when you're gone, Kitten.” The Dragon reached under the counter and pulled out a briefcase which he then slid across the counter. “But I’m afraid this is a business trip.”

Dare read the card with the address on it long enough to memorize it and then handed it back to the Dragon for disposal. He always insists on burning his own evidence.

With his assignment in hand, he leaves, shaking loose the lingering feeling of shame and disgust he feels after nearly every interaction with the man.

He's not sure why this particular conversation has set him on edge like this, compared to some of the other things he knows about the man, this is a relatively mild offense. But for reasons they can't quite put their finger on yet, this is setting off alarm bells of some kind in his subconscious.

--

They only have two weeks to prepare for the sports festival.

There was some debate about whether or not they should even be holding the sports festival so soon after the attack on the USJ, but they can't really afford not to.

In the age of quirks, regular spotting events that used to hold the world's attention, like the olympics, have taken a back seat to more quirk and heroics related events. The UA Sports Festival is the most watched program in all of Japan, and most of the world tunes in to watch as well. It's a major opportunity for hero hopefuls to make a name for themselves and get drafted into top agencies for their internships. Canceling it isn't really an option, and everyone could use the distraction to help return to normalcy as well.

So the whole school shifts into preparation mode, but no one is more frantic in their quest to get ready than Midoriya.

He splits most of his time between a beefed up training regimen, and making sure all his wrecked gear gets the necessary repairs. But then there is also all the stuff he needs to build for his classmates, and the shooting lessons he has been doing with Dare down at dagoba so he can at least be a somewhat good shot with the ‘multi tool blaster’ Mei made him.

All this combined with the general sleeplessness of the past week or so, has given him eyebags and a caffeine dependency that rivals Toshi’s. He knows he will need to get his sleep schedule fixed soon, he will need to be well rested come the festival. He has to give it his all, Power Loader said he believed in him, so he can't let him down by making a rookie mistake like being too sleepy.

As the days march on, some of the tension starts to leave their collective shoulders, replaced with a determination to prove themselves. The whole class is putting in overtime in the gym before and after classes, not just to work on themselves, but to help their fellow classmates as well.

Midoriya and Ojiro teach Koda how to block and throw a decent punch, it won't do much, but it's a start. Shoji is able to spot multiple people at once on the weight benches, and Iida has no problem running lap after lap to help his classmates build speed and endurance.

Kirishima offers himself up as a sparring partner to anyone who asks, but spends most of that time with Bakugou, Mina, and Sero.

Sato brings in sweets and other snacks to help everyone replenish mid workout as well as lift everyone's spirits, and Momo is quick to offer up water bottles and towels with her quirk when she sees someone has gotten theirs.

All in all, 1A feeds off each other to motivate themselves to go plus ultra. Even those who don't offer up anything directly, are still contributing by giving it their all.

Midoriya, Toshi and Kami spend a few hours down at Dagoba sparring and running the obstacle course whenever they get the chance, which isn't as often as any of them would like, but it's at least something to give them an edge.

They decide to tell him about the vigilante thing, but deemed it too risky to tell him about Dare. Kami takes it surprisingly well, apparently he had known there was something going on for awhile, but just didn't know what, so he is mostly just happy to have that mystery solved, and to finally be in on the secret.

Midoriya builds him an ear piece to patch him into their comms system in the form of some lightning bolt earrings. They are stylish and subtle enough to fit right in with the rest of his costume, and if he's ever in trouble he just needs to twist the backing to send out a distress signal with his location.

Trying to reign in Mei’s ambitions turns out to be a lot easier said than done. And she confides in Midoriya her goal of getting into the one on one matches just so she can have a proper showcase of all her babies. Power Loader seems torn between being happy and afraid by those implications. But at least that means two potential support students with the same goal.

Dare sits him and Toshi down at one point to talk strategy.

“Okay, now remember, this is a major public event, all eyes are gonna be on you guys, and while I know you’re both itching to do your best and land some nice internships, it's important to remember what your long term goals are too. It's not impossible to go underground after winning the sports festival, after all your homeroom teacher did just that during his years there, but bringing too much fame and attention your way isn't exactly in your best interests either. I’m not telling you to throw any matches or anything, just to try and keep a lower profile in mind. Alright?”

They both nod in understanding, but Dare has more to say. “Toshi, you especially need to be careful, keeping the exact parameters of your quirk under wraps is vitally important for your career going forward. And that's even if we don't consider the danger of making your quirk known at all. So I’d highly suggest you either disguise it really well, or preferably not use it at all if you can help it.”

Toshi agrees to get as far as he can without his quirk, and Midoriya promises not to do anything too drastic to secure his wins. Neither party is planning on taking it easy, they both want to win.

--

Toshi stares down at his mask as he sits restlessly in his bed.

He loves his mask. It was designed with him and only him in mind, lovingly crafted by his best friend to be as beneficial to him as possible. It makes his job as both a vigilante and a future hero easier. It offers him a wider range of possibilities to help disguise and better utilize his quirk. And symbolically, it represents his official inclusion into his makeshift little family.

But ever since his panic attack during the press break in, the memories of Muzzles and threats of being permanently silenced have been dug up to the forefront of his mind. And the idea of willingly putting anything over his mouth, even the mask he loves so much, is getting harder and harder to convince himself to do.

He has contemplated more than once asking Midoria for something different. Perhaps a helmet of some kind like Dare’s wouldn't be so bad since it isn’t localized to just his mouth? But he could never ask him that right now. Not when he worked so hard on the mask already, and when he has so many other projects he is struggling to juggle already. It would be too big a burden. And it's not like it's a necessary change at all, the mask works just fine. He likes the mask.

He has elected to do a sort of exposure therapy method with it. By putting the mask on for a few hours each night just to prove to himself that it won't hurt him, and that it really is his choice to put it on or take it off. It helps a little. But it also gives him some time to mess around with the settings and figure out some new presets.

He has presets for all his professors and most of his classmates now, but some of them are trickier than others. And he can't seem to get Denki’s voice quite right. No matter what adjustments he makes, it lacks that little spark of something more to make it a convincing copy.

He tests his voice out between each click of the dials. “Hey...Hey...Hey…H-”

“Hey Toshi!”

Toshi freezes, for a fraction of a second he thinks he's cracked the code, before realizing that's just actual Denki using the comms.

“...Hey? It's like...4:36 am. What are you still doing up?”

“I could ask you the same thing.”

“I'm always awake this late. You're usually in bed by 1.”

“You've got my sleep schedule memorized? That's kinda creepy bro, should I be worried about you going full stalker on me?”

“I don't need to stalk you. You always come to me first.”

“Hmm good point. Maybe you're the one who should be worried then.”

“Nah, you're harmless.”

“What? I'm not harmless. I'll have you know I'm a full blown menace to society.”

“Heh, don't I know it.” He teases with a chuckle.

“I'm serious. I'm one sneeze in a crowded pool away from accidentally becoming an instant serial killer. You should be very afraid of me.” He claims to be serious, and one some level maybe he kinda is, but he says it with enough of a chuckle that Toshi can tell it's said mainly in jest.

“Sure Pikachu, consider me thoroughly intimidated.”

“Good.”

“You never answered my question.”

“What question?”

“About what your doing up?”

“Oh, that. I just couldn't sleep.”

“You nervous about the sports festival?”

“Among other things. But yeah, mostly that.”

“You shouldn’t be. You're gonna do great.”

“I mean, I don't know. I'm not exactly a jock or a master tactician.”

“Could've fooled me.”

“What do you mean?”

“You scored pretty well on most of Aizawa’s tests on day one.”

“Yeah, I did okay, but I was never in the top three on anything.”

“Maybe not, but you never fell below top ten either. That's pretty dang good considering.”

“If you say so. But that will hardly matter if I make some stupid mistake in the first few rounds.”

“You won't.”

“How do you know? Im pretty infamous for making dumb mistakes.”

“No you're not.”

“Do you just like saying the opposite of whatever I say?”

“Only when you're saying something untrue.”

“But it is true.”

“No. It's not. You're one of the smartest people I've ever met, Denki.”

The other side is quiet for a while. Toshi realizes he may have crossed a line by calling him Denki to his face. He had called him Denks once, and he didn't seem to mind, but the full and proper given name might be a step too far. Just as he's about to stutter out an apology he hears the other boy speak up.

“Are you making fun of me?”

“What? No! Of course not!”

“Then why would you say that?”

“Because it's true?”

“In a world where our primary friend group is a prodigy, a mad scientist, a combat specialist, mr insightful, and my dumb ass. I’m one of the smartest people you've ever met? Yeah right dude. I've already got straight C’s in all my classes and that's with your help.”

“You struggle with academic settings, that doesn't mean you're not smart. If anything it proves just how smart you really are, because you were able to teach yourself so many things despite your difficulties.”

“I… I don't follow.”

“Denki, I'm not a doctor or anything, but I'm pretty sure you've got ADHD. And despite that, you can read fluently in how many languages? 3?”

“Four actually. Five if you count elvish, but that's just a conlang. And I only learned it so I could write some super cringey, nerdy, love poems to this girl I met in summer camp in fourth grade.”

“See, five whole languages. Why do you even know so many?”

“I...like reading…”

“So, because it holds your interest, you were able to learn it, no problem. Same with all your electricity knowledge, or video game facts, or music theory.”

“But none of that is like useful information.”

“I beg to differ. But even if we ignore all of that. You have a lot of good ideas during training too.”

“Since when?”

“Since always. Half my strategies for concealing how my quirk works came from you.”

“That's not-”

“Denki. Stop it. Why are you so adamant in disagreeing with me on this?”

“I don't know… I guess it's just because no one’s ever really said something like this to me before. I'm used to people saying the exact opposite most of the time.”

Toshi considers this for a moment.

“Well then they're all blind for not seeing you for who you really are.”

“And who do you think I am?”

“Someone incredible.”

The second the words leave his lips he wants to reel them back in. That's definitely crossing a line isn't it? Friends dont just casually tell each other they are incredible like that.

“...So are you.” Denki says after a moment's pause.

Toshi feels his face flush. Maybe friends do just say it sometimes? Or maybe…

“Thanks...”

“No, thank you.” Denki giggles. “Hey, by the way, is there a reason you were doing an impression of me earlier?”

“What? Oh! Yeah, I'm trying to get presets of all our classmates' voices saved into my mask for future reference.”

“Why not just ask for recordings? Wouldn't that be easier than trying to set them all manually?”

“Well yeah. But for starters, I thought it would be kinda creepy to ask to record them. And doing it by hand gives me practice over the controls, and helps fine tune my ear for it.”

“Hmm, that makes sense. Good job, it was a pretty good me.”

“Not really, there's something off about it. It's missing something.”

“I’ll keep talking to you until you figure it out then...Hey, maybe try smiling while you do it?”

Toshi shrugs a bit, it makes sense in a way that a smile would be an important element in sounding like Denki. So he gives it a try. He adjusts the dials to the version that was closest beforehand; he clears his throat, flashes a smile, and even throws up some finger guns for good measure.

“Hey, I'm Denki Kaminari. Kachow.” He teases just a little, but realizes half way through that it really does sound more like him. “Holy shit, it worked. See? You're a freakin genius. I never would have figured that out on my own.”

“Haha, glad I could help, evil twin. Now that there's two of me, will we have to battle for dominance at high noon?”

“Hell yeah we will. Put 'em up, sucker. This town ain't big enough for the two of us.”

The boys laugh and joke together for half the night, testing out a few of the remaining voices Toshi hadn't been able to crack yet. By the time six am rolled around, Denki decided to give sleep a second try.

“I better at least attempt to get a few hours of sleep. Need my beauty rest if I want to maintain my title as the prettiest boy in class.”

“Yeah, we wouldn't want you losing your crown there princess.”

“Does that make you my prince charming?”

Toshi turned bright red but tried to keep his nerves out of his voice. “Only if you want me to be.”

“That depends, are you gonna take me to the ball?”

“UA doesn't have a ball.”

“But if there was one, then you'd take me?”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Hmm, you've got yourself a deal then… Good night Hitoshi.”

“Sweet dreams Denki.”

Once he heard the faint click of Denki logging off, he slid the mask off his face. A smile so wide it was painful was firmly plastered on his face. His cheeks and neck were still hot with blush, and his heart was hammering in his chest with all the speed of a fluttering swarm of butterflies. Toshi ran a hand through his hair, exhaling his nerves, before throwing himself face first into his pillow to muffle a groan.

He was so hopelessly gone. His inevitable downfall was now fully sealed. His heart belonged to one (1) electric, loud, blonde with a pretty face and a killer wit. There was no saving him now. Denki would be the death of him, and it was an absolute honor to fall to such a fate.

--

Kaminari strolls past the nurses station with three books under his arm. He can never be sure how lucid his mom will be on any given day, or whether she will remember who he is, or what language she will be speaking. So he likes to bring lots of options to their weekly reading sessions.

He had been staying in this facility for two years now, her quirk having slowly deteriorated her memory until she was deemed senile and in need of round the clock care. The quirk suppressants keep her from accidentally frying her brain more, but they also make her anxious, so Denki, his older siblings, and his dad worked out a schedule so each day someone is free to stop by and read to her and keep her calm.

When he slides open the door to his mothers room and sees her steeping some sweet tea, he knows that today will be an English day. That today she will think she is still a teenager, living in Tennessee, and that Denki is the boy from down the street she used to babysit.

“Hey lightning bug.” She says in a drawl as sweet as honey.

“Hey,” He shuffles The Great Gatsby to the top of his book pile, slipping into his own american accent to match. “How are you feeling today?”

“Just fine, But I think a storm is coming in soon.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah, but hopefully the sun is shining again for homecoming.”

“I'm sure mother nature wouldn't dare rain on your parade. Now where were we?”

He holds up the book, already flipping to the correct page before she even answers.

It's always the week before homecoming on days like this, the storm is always coming, and they are always on page 189 of the Great Gatsby.

“Page 189. Nick carraway just said ‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’”

“Ah yes, of course, how could I forget.”

He reads to her for an hour or two before she turns to him, a slow and yet all together sudden realization dawning on her face.

“Denki?” She says uncertainly in Japanese.

Denki marks the page and sets the book down with a smile on his face.

“Hey mom.”

“When did you get here?”

“Not too long ago, dont worry about it.” He reassures her.

“Oh… How is school?”

It's always a gamble to tell her about more recent events, just because she knows the who and the where doesn’t necessarily mean she has caught up to the when. But ever the optimist, he updates her anyway. Leaving out any unpleasantries, there's no point in upsetting her when she likely won't remember why she feels upset later anyway.

“It's going okay. The sports festival is coming up soon, I think I might actually stand a shot… Will you be watching?”

“The sports festival? Yes, I think I will. That nurse said something about a television being set up in the common area.” The nurse in question was probably his older brother, but there's no point in asking about that.

“That's good. It will give you something to do all day besides reading.”

“Oh, I don't mind. I love to read.”

“I know.”

“So do you. We read together sometimes, don't we?”

“Yeah mom, every night.”

It's not entirely true, but it's true enough to him. Growing up, his mother would read all of them to sleep each night. And on rainy days they would all gather on the couch, wrapped in blankets and drinking cocoa, while she reenacted scenes from Winnie the Pooh or Peter Pan. They still do that sometimes for his younger sister whenever she has trouble sleeping. And while he has no real way of knowing for sure if or what his mother is reading when he's not here, he always sits by his window at night and reads till he gets tired, hoping that she is here doing the same.

She smiles sweetly at him, “I thought so.” she muses mostly to herself as she sips her tea.

As the sun begins to set, he knows visiting hours will be over soon. So he packs up his books and gives his mother a hug.

“Bye mom, I’ll be back soon.”

“Oh no, Denki. You should never say goodbye, because saying goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting.” She smiles as she quotes Peter Pan.

His heart feels warm, but also as if it is stuck in a vice. When she says things like this, it feels to him like a kiss with a fist. A reminder that she is still his mother, even if she herself doesn't always remember that.

“Yeah, you're right… I love you.”

She looks out the window for a few seconds and then looks back to him, slipping back into her American accent with ease.

“I love you too, lightning bug.”

Chapter Text

Toshi sat on the balcony, a blanket around his shoulders and his third mug of coffee in his hands, to watch the sunrise.

 

Today was the sports festival, he wanted to say he was facing it with confidence and determination, but that would be a lie. Hero students weren't allowed any gear unless operating their quirks without it would be hazardous to their health, like with Aoyama, so he was going in without any. And even if he was able to show off his quirk like the others, it wasn’t something physical that could help him with athletics. So he was essentially going into it quirkless.

 

It made him both humble and jealous of Zuku. Jealous because at least he was allowed to use all his gear, and humbled because Zuku actually was quirkless, but was still plenty skilled enough in other ways for that not to be a hindrance to him.

 

He heard the sliding door open and Dare shuffled out to sit next to him.

 

“Did you at least get a little bit of sleep?” They asked.

 

“Like three hours.” He admitted.

 

“Hmm, better than nothing I guess. Did the melatonin help any?”

 

“Kinda, I think the lavender bath was actually more relaxing though. But its a bit extravagant to do all the time.”

 

“We’ll figure something out eventually.”

 

“Yeah, I know… Thanks for trying.”

 

“Of course.”

 

They let the sound of bird song fill the silence for them for a while before Dare spoke again.

 

“I could probably try and sneak in if you want me to.”

 

Toshi smiled a little at the idea. He had no doubt his brother could find a way in, and the offer was nice. But it was too big a risk. 

 

“Nah. I know you’ll be watching from here. And Zuku will have his mask, that's even better than the front row seats.”

 

“True. You could ask to borrow it during the breaks if you want me to give you a pep talk.”

 

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

 

The sun was radiating warmth through his bones in a pleasant way that brought a small smile to his lips once more.

 

“Hey,” Dare said to get his attention. “I just want you to know. Regardless of what happens today. I’m already so proud of you.”

 

He wasn't gonna cry. Zuku had a strong influence over him in that regard, but he refused to be as bad as him about these things. So he did not allow himself to cry.

 

“Thanks Oniisan.” He said with a bit of a tease to relieve some of the pressure in his throat.

 

“I mean it. I know you're gonna do great, but even if you totally bomb, I’m proud as hell. So try to relax and just have fun with it. Yeah?”

 

“I’ll try.”

 

“Promise?”

 

He didn't have to look to know Dare had his pinky up, Toshi just reached his own over to intertwine it.

 

“Promise.”

 

“Hell yeah… You wanna go toss blueberries at Zu till he wakes up? I’ll make pancakes after.”

 

“Hell yeah.”

 

--

 

They took the rowdy mobile to the sports festival, they may be competing against each other, and they were divided by half hero students and half support students, but they were still part of the same team. Team Diesel Dudes.

 

Their ‘get hyped’ mix blasted from the radio, Mei and Kami were practically vibrating with excitement, Toshi and him were trying their best to rise to their level, but were both subdued by their nerves. By the time they were walking toward the locker rooms Midoriya felt downright sick.

 

“Oh man, I think I may actually puke.”

 

“Please don’t. I'm a sympathetic puker.” Toshi practically begged.

 

“Or do, but wait till the first event starts and aim it at the competition.” Mei said with all her usual feral energy.

 

“Oh man, that may be a bit too messy even for you.” Kami said, looking a bit green himself at her suggestion.

 

Midoriya swallowed thickly as he nodded in agreement with Kami.

 

“What? The rule book said nothing about avoiding biological warfare.” Mei defended.

 

“Mei, I swear to god if you don't change the subject soon I'm gonna make it your problem.” Toshi threatened.

 

“Midoriya.” A voice he hadn’t at all expected called for his attention.

 

He turned to see Todoroki standing behind him looking tense. The whole group stopped walking, but stood off to the side to give them the illusion of privacy.

 

“Uh, ummm, hi thereTodoroki. What’s up?” He said nervously.

 

“Objectively speaking, I'm stronger than you.”

 

Ouch. That was out of nowhere and super unnecessary.

 

It didn't seem like he was going for an outright diss really, more like a stated fact? Todorki said it with the same expressionless dead pan he said anything else in, so Midoriya chose to be curious instead of offended by the statement.

 

“Okay?”

 

“And yet. You have consistently done well in all class activities, you've yet to lose a single sparring match, and you seem to have garnered the special attention of the principal, as well as several teachers. Even All Might seems to be watching you closer than the others.”

 

“Umm-”

 

“That means you are the person to beat. I wanted to announce my intentions to defeat you.”

 

“Woah dude. What's with the declaration of war? We're all friends here.” Kami chimed in but was held back by Toshi who seemed equally curious to hear Todoroki out.

 

“I’m not here for friendship. And you shouldnt be either.” Todoroki levels at Kaminari before turning his attention solely back to Midoriya.

 

“Making a good impression here can make or break a hero's career. Given my fathers status as the number two hero, I am obligated to succeed... I aim to win, and that means I must defeat you, Midoriya. I figured it was only fair to give you adequate warning.”

 

Midoriya isn't sure how to feel about this. Being called out, personally and by name, by the son of the number two hero is kinda an honor in a terrifying sort of way. He said he was the one to beat, that's high praise from someone he's pretty sure has never even held a one on one conversation with before. But the implication that Midoria wasn't already planning on taking this seriously is a bit of a sting as well.

 

“You're right Todoroki. You are stronger than me. You have an incredible quirk with the kind of firepower I could ever hope to recreate with support gear. But if you think for a second that I’m just gonna roll over and let you win because of that, then you're wrong. I'm gonna give it 110%, just like I always have to give everything in order to keep up.”

 

Todoroki nods, apparently satisfied with that, and turns to leave, but Midoriya has more to say.

 

“And you should be using 100% too. Using only half of your power, when all your classmates are giving it their all, is an insult to them.”

 

Todoroki stops, whole body tense, glaring back over his shoulder at Midoriya, and a chill runs through the hall that has nothing to do with his quirk. Then after a few seconds of prolonged, uncomfortable, eye contact, he turns and continues down the hall without another word.

 

“Jesus dude... What the hell was that about? Todoroki is straight up scary sometimes.” Kami low key freaks out on his behalf. And Midoriya mentally agrees, but tries to maintain his outer calm.

 

“I’m really not sure what that was about. But I guess I have no choice but to back that up now, right?”

 

Toshi is still staring down the hall where Todorki disappeared, his brows furrowed in some sort of deep thought. “Yeah...I guess so.”

 

They all say their last, pre-festival praises and encouragements, and then break off to get ready. A trail of nervous sweat already running down his spine before they even begin. He has a feeling this is gonna be a long day.

 

--

 

Katsuki entered the arena already pissed off.

 

He found out six minutes ago that he was expected to make some sort of speech to kick off the sports festival. It should have been Deku’s fucking problem to come up with a speech, hes the one who actually scored highest on the entrance exam. But for whatever fucking reason the nerd decided to sign up under the support course instead, so now the speech was his responsibility as the second highest score.

 

He hated this for a variety of reasons. First off, the fact that Aizawa neglected to tell him about this till the last fucking second, giving him no real time to think of what to say. Which wasnt that big an issue really, not like he got stage fright or anything. But it still would have been nice to get a bit more of a warning.

 

The thing that really pissed him off about this, was being announced as the highest scoring student in the hero course when he fucking wasn't. 

 

If he was actually the top score it would be a different story. But he knew he wasn't, the teachers knew he wasn't, all the students knew he wasn't, so what was the point of acting like he was? He hadn’t earned the speech, it was a consolation prize, and that pissed him off.

 

Losing to Deku of all people was disgraceful, but it was a momentary setback that he was trying hard to put behind him. And now he was being forced to remember it, and give a speech about it like it hadnt actually happened, and he really didn't fucking want to. But Aizawa made it clear it wasnt optional.

 

Midnight called him up to the stage, making some weird inappropriate comment that made his skin crawl, and he reluctantly took the mic.

 

“I just wanna say…” What did he wanna say?

 

He had a feeling he was supposed to say something ‘uplifting and inspiring’ to the extras. Give some grand ‘lets do our best’ spiel as if any of them had any real chance. But if he was gonna be forced to give a speech he neither earned nor wanted to give, then he was gonna do it his way. By telling them the truth.

 

“I'm gonna win.”

 

A chorus of boo’s could be heard from students and spectators alike. He swallowed down their disapproval like a smoothie. Allowing their hate to fuel him even more. He could care less if they liked him or not, he was still gonna kick all their asses regardless of their feelings on the matter.

 

He thought for half a second if there was anything else he wanted to say, but what else was there? So he gave a small shrug and left the stage.

 

Glasses gave him a dumb lecture about the importance of good sportsmanship, and a few of the others gripped and complained about the other classes hating them even more now. But why the hell should that matter? They weren’t here to make nice with other classes, they were here to win.

 

Or at least they all should be here for that, if they got their fucking priorties straight. They only have three years to make a good impression before going pro, if they aren't putting their all into winning, then they are gonna fail miserably out in the field post graduation. 

 

“Our first event will be an obstacle course around the outside of the stadium. The top forty places will be moving on to the second round, all others will be eliminated. Your only rule is to stay on the course, beyond that, anything goes.”

 

That's exactly what he was hoping to hear, ‘anything goes’ means he can blast anyone and anything in his way. Katsuki cracks his knuckles, a grin plastered across his face as they gather behind the starting line. This is his first chance to show the world what their future number one looks like. It's time to show them a champion.

 

--

 

The second Midoriya hears the loud bang signaling the start of the race his mind and his legs are both moving practically a mile a minute.

 

The first obstacle is a deceptively simple and natural one, just making it through the tunnel leading back outside the stadium. With hundreds of kids trying to shove through a doorway only ten or fifteen feet wide, it makes quite the bottle neck.

 

Midoriya takes a page out of Iida’s book, if you can't go through something, go over it.

 

Taking advantage of the high ceilings and the exposed pipes, he leaps and swings over the tops of the other students' heads, and from over his shoulder he can see Toshi, Sero, and a few others have taken a similar route. When the temperature suddenly drops and Todoroki’s ice glues several peoples feet to the ground, he knows this was the right choice.

 

Finally breaking through to the otherside of the tunnel he takes stock of the situation. A few of his other classmates managed to avoid the ice trap through various means, having expected Todoroki to do something like this, which is great news. As much as he wants himself to win, he wants all of his friends to do well today too.

 

Up ahead he sees the first real obstacle is the robots from the entrance exam, and a wide smile forms on his face. He was a bit curious about them, so during a break in one of his analysis sessions with Nedzu, he looked over some of the files and schematics. Meaning he now knows how to override the controls.

 

Jogging ahead and then off to the side a bit, he began typing into his (new and improved) command center. It was ridiculously easy for him to access the main system, but Nedzu must have changed up the final code a bit just to throw Midoriya off. He would have expected him to try this and wouldn’t want to make anything too easy for him.

 

But at the same time, he wouldn't make it impossible either. He likes encouraging out of the box problem solving like this, and in all honesty, he's not immune to favoritism. Knowing him, the password was probably changed to something only the two of them would be able to guess. One of the many cryptic little phrases he was always saying was probably a clue.

 

Midoriya was so preoccupied inputting every possible hint Nedzu may or may not have given him the past week, that he barely registered the large shadow coming his way.

 

“Midoriya! Look out!” Kirishima shouted as he shoved him out of the way of a falling bot.

 

The bot, still covered in Ice from whatever Todoroki had no doubt done to it, landed with a boom right where Midoriya was once standing, right where Kirishima now was.

 

“Kirishima!” He screamed in concern, but he could hear the sound of Kirishima already busting his way up through the belly of the metallic beast.

 

“I'm alive!” He yelled as he resurfaced, “ Man, It's a good thing this landed on me, anyone else would have been crushed!”

 

Half a second later, a second figure, with skin made of titanium, burst out parroting almost the exact same thing. Kirishima seemed to deflate at the realization someone from 1B had virtually the same quirk as him.

 

Kirishima climbed over the downed bot and shouted over his still hardened shoulder at Midoriya, “Now we're even for the entrance exam!”

 

Reassured that Kirishima was fine, he quickly got back to work, pumping his fist in the air when he finally found the right key phrase. Quickly changing their main objective to taking out each other instead of blocking students. He quickly dove under one of the metal legs and sprinted towards the next obstacle.

 

He allowed himself a fraction of a second to be surprised by the giant cavern before him. How the hell did they build this thing so fast? How had he not noticed it on his way in? None of that mattered right now of course, but seriously, how?

 

He mentally mapped out and calculated the terrain like he would the obstacle course at the beach. There were several rocky pillars spread throughout, but they were spaced too far apart to jump across cleanly. He could maybe make it to some of the closer ones using the kinetic energy stored in his shoes. But then he wouldn't have any left for whatever other obstacles laid ahead. There were also thick metal cables running between the pillars; these were likely the straightforward solution to the obstacle. They expect students to walk them like a tightrope or climb along the bottom. But that would take a lot of time...

 

Looking around he saw Bakugou simply blast past, Mei using long retractable stilts, Uraraka floating over, Iida and Todoriki sliding gracefully along the wires, and….Holy shit, Shoji can glide with his dupli arms?! This opens up so many possibilities for- wait, no, geek out later! For now we need to focus!

 

Glancing back, Midoriya saw there was still one bot left standing, one of the massive Zero pointers, and a possibly crazy idea came to mind. Time to make a bridge.

 

Typing in the right commands Midoriya called the bot over, stunning the students still trying futilely to fight it. And with a salute to the iron giant's sacrifice, he commanded it to lie down across the expanse. With a loud scraping boom of metal against stone, the robot flopped backward, its arms straight over head to provide even farther reach.

 

It was tall enough to get him almost all the way across, he would only need to make one final leap from its outstretched fingers to the other side. So using up about half his charge, he backed up into a run and jump, his hands just barely finding purchase on the opposing cliff wall. He tried not to wheeze from having the wind knocked out of his lungs when he slammed against the rocks, hanging for just a second to catch his breath before he pulled himself up.

 

Rolling away from the ledge, he pushed himself back up to see what the next obstacle was and felt his jaw drop.

 

It was a minefield. An actual, literal minefield. Were they trying to get the students killed? Would losing a leg on camera be that good of a ratings boost to justify making kids clear a literal 200 meter dash worth of minefield?!

 

Whatever, he can complain about health and safety regulations later, for now he's gotta figure out how to get past this.

 

They appear to be low charge, single detonation, pressure triggered mines. They are buried a few inches under the sand. If you take your time, and pay attention, you can kinda see where most of them are buried.

 

Surveying the field, he knows he already has enough of a head start to make it into the top 40 no problem. That's really all he needs to move onto the next round of the sports festival. He could just do the sensible thing and carefully make his way across. He doesn't actually need to get first place here...But boy does he want to.

 

Setting the magnetization levels of bolos about half way, he quickly tests out a theory. As expected, force stepping down isn't the only means of detonation, being quickly pulled up will also work. He doesn't need to worry about where mines are buried if they have already been set off.

 

He cranks the magnetization up a little higher just to be sure it actually sets all of them off, and then frisbees the first bolo across the field, setting off a wave of small explosions in front of him that he sprints behind till he's about a third of the way across.

 

The heat of the freshly detonated blasts going off right in front of him gives him an instant sunburn, but it's not anything super painful, and it doesn't slow him down in the slightest. 

 

Up ahead he can see Bakugou and Todoroki struggling against each other for first place in a very literal sense. Their attention is divided between moving forward and trying to fight the other back. And that means they won't see him coming up behind them till it's too late. 

 

Midoriya sends out the second bolo clearing out the next third of the mines ahead of him. The force of the sudden blast wave trips Bakugou up for just a fraction of a second, but it's enough for Todorki to get a little ahead.

 

Midoriya scoops back up his bolo and then pulls out his blaster, relishing the chance to beat Todoki at his own game. He spins the chamber to the ice bullets he loaded in ahead of time and aims for Todorki’s legs.

 

Midoriya saw the first thing he could consider a real emotion register on Todorki’s face as his feet locked down into his ice trail and his body lurched forward; it was a mix of absolute confusion and betrayal. Midoriya tried not to laugh out loud at his classmates clear distress, but the boy had declared war against him no more than 30 minutes ago, so he would be lying if he said the sight didn't fill him with a bit of petty self satisfaction.

 

Bakugou didn't even try to hold back his laughter, cackling loudly as he blasted over the top of Todoroki who was already beginning to melt the ice. But Midoriya aimed his next round for Bakugou's arms. The stun pellets set off a current strong enough to lock up the explosive teens muscles, betraying his ability to set off his own detonations. And if Midoriya thought the look on Todorki’s face was satisfying, the look on Bakugou’s was down right delicious.

 

His bolo cleared the rest of the field for him no problem, and he was now locked in an all out three way sprint against Bakugou and Todoroki back into the stadium.

 

Ten feet back from the finish line, Todorki got his revenge, freezing one of his feet to the ground mid-step.

 

He landed hard on the ground with a splat and a faint crunch. A sharp pain radiated out instantly from his weakened, reconstructed ribs, and once again the air was knocked from his body. His foot was still frozen in place, but the dull ache of the extreme temperature was a mercy against what would otherwise be the pain of the very not correct angle his ankle was snapped at when he fell.

 

But he couldn't even bring himself to be mad about the situation. This was only fair really, he brought this on himself when he did the same thing to Todoroki earlier. And the pain, frustration, and determination won out against all other emotions he could or should be feeling.

 

Gasping for air like a fish out of water, Midoriya grit his teeth and spun the blaster to his fire rounds, aiming down at his own foot to melt the ice quickly. He burned himself a bit in the process, but he was gonna have to see Recovery Girl after this anyway, so he saw no point in holding back now.

 

The second he was able to pull himself free, he crawled forward over the finish line, securing himself fourth place. Just behind Bakugou, Todoroki, and Iida.

 

It wasn't the first place he was hoping for, but it was in the top five, so he tried not to be too disappointed by the outcome. Reminding himself of Dare’s advice not to bring too much attention to himself as a consultation. He...may have done that anyway with some of his more ‘out there’ solutions to the obstacles, but hopefully the other flashier quirks on display will have pulled some of the focus away from him a bit.

 

And it was all worth it just for the looks on the other boys' faces when they thought for half a second that the quirkless boy was gonna beat them. He would get them in the next round, he was sure of it.

 

As Toshi carried him to Recovery Girl’s clinic to get his leg and ribs patched up, he learned all of his 1A classmates, and Mei, had made it into the next round, so he was feeling really happy on everyone else's behalf. And he tried to focus on that and not the scolding he received from all sides.

 

“I distinctly told you to take it easy for the next few weeks after your surgery.” Recovery Girl said with a stern glare as he put up his x rays. “And what did you do instead?”

 

“I...trained for the sports festival.”

 

“You trained. And I also told you to avoid reckless behavior to prevent reinjury. And what did you do?”

 

“...Behaved recklessly?”

 

“You behaved recklessly.” She confirmed. “Now I can heal the ribs and ankle, but if I try to heal the burns too, you won't have enough energy left to compete in the next round. I have half a mind to do it anyway, if only to save you from yourself, but I have a feeling your gonna say-”

 

“No, don't. I want to compete.”

 

“Yes, that.” She said with a slight groan. “Fine. I’ll comply for now. But so help me Midoriya, if you wind up in my clinic again after the next round, I will knock you out regardless.”

 

“Thank you. I understand. And I'll do my best to avoid further injury.”

 

“You better.” She spoke sternly but there was also an air of fondness in her voice and expression as she used her quirk to heal his bones.

 

Once she was done, and he swallowed down the offered healing gummy and energy tablet, he walked back towards the field with Toshi to hear what the next event would be.

 

“She’s right, you know.” Toshi said in hushed tones. 

 

“Huh?”

 

“You may have gone a bit too ‘plus ultra’ there for a moment or two… I’m just saying, I manage to make it to the next round without yeeting myself into a cliff, intentionally setting off bombs, or literally shooting myself in the foot.”

 

“Well yeah, but-”

 

“What did Dare say after all of that anyway. Is he pissed or proud?”

 

Midoriya's eyes went wide at the realization that he forgot to turn the comms back on after the race. Oh boy, he was gonna be so mad…

 

“Don’t tell me.” Toshi said, looking entirely done with his friend's nonsense.

 

Midoriy gave a remorseful nod, holding up one finger to signal Toshi to wait as he hesitantly flicked the switch on his mask.

 

“-And I swear to god, if you don't start taking better care of yourself, I'm gonna cover you in bubble wrap and force feed you nothing but soup and chocolate till you learn to love yourself more!” 

 

“I’m sorry!” Midoriya yelped out in reply. Though something about that threat didn’t seem entirely unpleasant if he was being honest. 

 

“You better be! Jesus Zu, there's a reason I didn’t want to teach you to fight like me, so stop trying to do it anyway.”

 

He bit at his bottom lip, unsure how to reply to that.

 

“Yeah, you're right. It all just seemed like the easiest and quickest way to get things done at the time… Are you really mad at me?”

 

“I'm not mad.” Dare corrected. “I was just really worried about you. I don't like seeing you get hurt. Especially when I'm not there to take care of you”

 

“I know… I'm sorry…” He was feeling really guilty now.

 

“It...It did look really cool though.” Dare admitted.

 

Midoriya felt the smile return to his face instantly at the praise.

 

“Really?” He said excitedly.

 

Dare chuckled a little “Yeah! And oh man, the faces on some of those kids' faces when you tripped them up? Delicious.”

 

“I thought the exact same thing!” Midoriya enthused.

 

“Well, you know what they say about great minds.”

 

“Hey,” Toshi nudged, “We've got to get going.”

 

“Right.” He said to Toshi before responding to Dare. “I’m gonna put you back on mute now so I can concentrate. I’ll talk to you after the next round.”

 

“Alright. Good luck Zu. Don't break a leg. And pass the luck on to the rest of the Diesel dudes for me, will ya?”

 

“Of course. Later gator.” He said before signing off.

 

As the light of the stadium hit their faces Toshi looked like he was fighting hard to suppress a laugh.

 

“Lator Gator?” He questioned teasingly.

 

“Shut up, Toshi.” He said with a playful shove.

 

A giant wheel of options was set up on the stage. Midnight sensei gave a short spiel summing up the last event before explaining that the wheel would decide the shape of the next event. As the colorful blur slowed to a stop she announced the winning event.

 

“A cavalry battle!”

 

What the heck is a cavalry battle?

Chapter Text

Katsuki’s furrowed brow and scowl got more and more pronounced as the rules of the cavalry battle were explained to him.

Everyone had to form teams of 2-4 people, consisting of at least one ‘horse’ and one ‘rider’. Already he was annoyed just from the idea of having some extras dragging him down, and making him reliant on them to secure his win. But whatever, he could carry whatever dead weight he needed to just fine.

Then Midnight said you can use your quirks, and share gear with your teammates, however you see fit so long as it complies with the other rules. This annoyed him because he knew Deku and that freaky chick with the goggles had a full arsenal of bullshit with them to make his life difficult.

But what really set him on edge though was the points system.

Only 16 people from the top scoring teams would move on. Your score was determined by how many points you ended the battle with. Your starting score was decided by how you placed in the preliminary race. All of this was fine. Having ribbons with your point value displayed on them for other people to steal to up their own score was fine too. Last place was worth five points, you add five points for each rank closer to first you were. Making your previous success, give you both a head start and a target on your back. All of this seemed perfectly fair to him. But it just wouldn't be his life if the universe didn't throw some sort of bull shit curveball directly at his face for him to try and catch.

Because he had scored first place in the prelims, he was worth a million. That's right, a million points. Not the two hundred the math should have made him. But a full ass Million. And the moment this was announced, he felt the heat of a million hunger eyes land on him. God fucking damn it.

He had already made himself public enemy number one just by virtue of being in first and generally not giving a shit about any of these extras and their feelings. But now there was every strategic reason necessary for everyone to come after him. If they got their gruby hand on his points it was an automatic win.

And because everyone was gonna be after him, that would make it damn near impossible for him to really go after any back up points, because he would be too busy defending himself against every single motherfucker on the field. He knew he could blast anyone to bits instantly, but he was primarily an offensive fighter by nature, going on the defensive was fundamentally opposite to his usual strategy.

And now, finding a team was gonna be an even harder task, because instead of asking himself who he could stand to be on a team with, it was about who had the balls to team up with the guy everyone would be going after. The whole fucking thing seemed impossibly stacked against him and it was really pissing him off.

“Hey, Bakugou!” Shitty Hair shouted at him as he ran up, a stupid, too bright, shark toothed grin plastered across his face.

“What do you want, Shitty Hair?”

“The names Kirishima, and my hair’s not shitty! It's not even that different from yours.” He complained.

“Whatever. Just tell me what you want. Out with it already.”

“I was hoping we could team up.” He said with another grin.

“Huh. Why?”

“Well the way I see it, your team is already gonna be in first place right off the bat, so all we’d have to do to win is defend it, and I'm like an impenetrable fortress. Plus, you've got your blasts to keep people back, but if you're gonna use them, then whoever's in front of you has to be someone that can take the heat and the pressure. And that's me. I'm basically your perfect match.” Kirishima flexed a thumb into his own chest with a smile.

He just might be right about that. He found out during USJ just how compatible their quirks were together, and he made some solid points about being a solid front defense. Katsuki eyed him up and down as he considered it before finally relenting.

“Alright, fine.” He said with a smirk.

“Alright!” Kirshima banged his fists together in front of his chest with a toothy grin that made Katsuki’s own grin deepen. He liked this guy's confidence, it meshed well with his own.

Kirishima looked around for a moment before calling over Pinky and Tape Face, “Hey guys!”

Katsuki made a bit of a face, he hadn't exactly agreed to taking on anymore extras, but it's not like these particular losers were entirely useless. Pinkys acid could be used to keep people back just like his blasts. And Tape Face had enough reach that they might be able to snag a few back up points after all. So once Kirishima had talked them into joining he had a team and a basic plan in place.

Glaring around the field he saw the other teams that were forming already had all eyes on him. It didn't bother him, he met each stare with a measured and threatening glance of his own. He looked back at the rest of his team, who gave him a synchronized thumbs ups, clearly all tuned in to the same frequency of dumbass. They didn't seem bothered by the other teams scheming glances either.

A smile that bared his teeth spread across his face. Who gives a shit if everyone else was after him? He was still gonna win this thing.

Bring it on.

--

His friends and him didn’t even think twice about it. The second they heard you could have a team of up to four, they all gravitated together like ships caught in a whirlpool.

And once they heard gear could be shared amongst team members Mei practically cackled with how easy this was gonna be. Since Kami and Toshi’s gear was made and designed by them, they were allowed to bring it in with them, so they did, in case of just such a scenario. Plus, Mei had brought two whole steamer trunks worth of additional babies she was hoping to show off today. They were honestly spoiled for choice when it came to what gear they wanted to use for this, it was just a question of what would be the most strategic in these circumstances.

There were three main areas of practicality they needed to cover. This first was gonna getting around the field as quickly and evasive as possible. Then they would need a means of obtaining other people's points, and a means of protecting their own.

They decided on having Midoriya as the rider, while Kami was technically lighter, his balance wasn't quite as good, and remaining grounded would be safer with his quirk anyway. Plus, he could use his shield to block anyone incoming from the side. Mei was deceptively strong, and roughly the same height as Kami, so they would take up the rear. Leaving Toshi in the front holding up the bulk of his weight.

Mei had a headset they were able to patch her into the comms with, meaning Midoriya could put his mask on mute and still communicate with all three of them seamlessly. Which would give them a leg up in evasive maneuvers. Using Toshi's capture scarves, they might be able to trap a few people long enough to steal their points. And Midoriya still had his bolos and blaster as well. But the real stars of the show were the jetpack and hover boots Mei made. No one can steal their points if no one can reach or catch them.

“Oh my god it's even better than moon shoes!” Kami squealed with joy.

“How did you know all of our shoe sizes?” Toshi questioned.

“Thanks Kami!” Mei ignored Toshi's question in favor of Kami’s enthusiasm.

The plan was simple. Midoriya knew everyone would be aiming for Bakugou and his team to secure the Million points. It was sure to be an absolute free for all blood bath wherever he was, so all they had to do was avoid him like the plague.

If they stuck to the outskirts, and systematically took points from those along the edges of the main fight, then they could slowly build up points without bringing unwanted attention onto themselves. Keeping out of the way of the mayhem, building up a solid bank of points, and making sure no one had the opportunity to steal their own points; that was all they needed to do to secure their spot in the next round.

And if all went according to plan, Midoriya should be able to remain completely uninjured, which would make Recovery Girl happy.

Midoriya hopped up to sit on Mei and Kami’s shoulders, his legs dangling over the front of Toshi's shoulders onto his chest in the position they were told to assume. He counts 12 other teams here, 5 of them composed of people from 1a and the rest belonging to 1b or the other courses, which means he can only know for sure about half of the quirks they will be up against. But he can make a few educated guesses.

The buzzer sounds and the field erupts in instant chaos.

As expected there is a mad rush towards team Bakugou, but a few of the other teams seem to hang back with a similar strategy to their own. A massive sheet of Ice coats the ground behind Todorki’s team, instantly locking down some of the teams who weren't already familiar with the peppermint teens MO. But unsurprisingly all the 1a teams and about half the 1b teams find ways to avoid the initial trap. A slew of acid and explosions singes anyone who gets too close to Bakugou, and Midoriya almost feels bad for them, but his focus quickly shifts to easier targets in front of him.

Zipping about to each of the teams locked down in the ice, they manage to snag three bandanas before meeting their first real challenge. A giant speech bubble reading “BAM!” suddenly lands like a wall in front of them, the force of the onomatopoeia made real shoves the team they were heading toward backwards as if they were hit with a wrecking ball. It looks like something straight from a comic book, and when he finds the source is a boy with a blank speech bubble for a head Midoriya damn near loses his mind.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” He practically screeches, “That's the coolest quirk I’ve ever seen in my entire life!!”

It's the perfect combination of his three favorite things, heroes, quirks, and comic books. His mind kicks into overdrive, fully prepared to devote an entire notebook's worth of analysis towards this quirk the first chance he gets. But Toshi pulls him back to reality pretty quick.

“Zuku! Focus! And stop screaming right in our ears.”

“Right. Sorry, let's avoid that one for now and go for Hagakure's team.”

He would need more time to figure out what to do against that, and if he was completely honest with himself, he kinda wanted to let these guys stay in the game longer if only so he had more opportunities to see that cool quirk in action.

However, Hagakure's team of her, Jirou, Ojiro, and Aoyama was something he knew exactly how to counteract.

“Kami, Ojiro and Aoyama don't know your gauntlets have a shield mode, do they?”

“No but Jirou does. Why?”

He figures Jirou would be unlikely to mention the feature to her teammates. So long as they act quick enough that she doesn't have time to give a warning, they should be in the clear.

“Think you can gode one of them into attacking you? Preferably Aoyama?”

Kaminari smiles, clearly getting onto the same page, and they all rush forward.

Kami calls out for Aoyama's attention before saying something in french, that Midoriya can only assume is an incredibly raunchy and disrespectful insult about the boy's mother based on the look of utter betrayal and disgust that flashes over the prim boys flushed face.

Not a second later they are met with an indignant stomp of Aoyama’s foot followed by a sparkling beam from his belt. Kami puts up his shield just in time, deflecting the beam and bouncing it right back towards them. They all make a disorganized scramble trying to avoid getting hit with the lazer, and in their panic, Toshi uses his scarf to grab the bandana from Hagakure's head and they blast off out of there before they have a chance to recover.

“What did you say to him?” Toshi asks with a chuckle.

“I’ll tell you later.” Kami says with a slight blush that leaves Mei cackling once more.

Midoriya feels a smile on his own face in amusement as he scans the field for their next target.

Teams Bakugou and Todoroki are locked in a complicated dance with each other as they swerve through the other charging groups. A lot of the class B teams have lost control of their own points at this point, and are desperately trying to get them back, with the exception of one. The titanium boy from earlier is working with a girl with huge hands, a girl with tensile vines for hair, and a blonde boy who….That can't be right. Did he just use three different quirks in a row?

Electing to ignore those three teams for now, he zeros in on the few other remaining teams that have still got a few bandanas on their heads and necks. The one that catches his attention first is the group with Sato, Koda, Tsu, and Momo.

Momo seems to have made Sato one of those funny drinking hats people fill with beer at ball games. Only it's filled with soda, providing him with a constant supply of sugar to keep his strength up. Sato was for sure gonna feel sick after this, but it was admittedly an effective solution for keeping him going throughout the match. Meanwhile, from atop her perch on the others shoulders, Tsu uses her tongue like a sticky hand from the arcade to swipe up bandadas as they run past.

Midoriya spins his blaser to its ‘bean bag’ setting and simply knocks the funky drinking hat from Satos head, spilling all the soda into the dirt. It would take awhile for the sugar he has already consumed to run out of his system, and Momo could always just make more. But it did the job of distracting them all for a moment.

Tsu spots them coming and her tongue lashes out in their direction, and Midoriya makes a series of split decisions he instantly regrets. The first is that he grabs the tongue, wrapping it around his wrist a few times for good measure so she couldn't pull back. Which, if the look on the girl's face was anything to go by, was oh so very uncomfortable for all involved parties. The second was asking Kami to lightly zap the tongue. In all technical senses, this plan worked. The girl's tongue fell limply, unable to retract itself due to the sudden extreme muscle fatigue. But poor Tsu just looked so sad with her tongue flapping about in the wind, that it made him feel sad on her behalf.

Midoriya sent out his bolos to wrap around Satos arms at the same time that Toshi used the scarves on either arm to wrap around Momo and Koda. So with all three horses now under wraps, and their rider left dealing with the minor after shocks on her tongue, they were able to take their points relatively easily before taking back to the sky to survey the arena again.

Down below Todoroki was creating intricate looping tracks ahead of his team as Iidas engine sent them speeding along, Uruaka seemingly making them weightless to make their journey along the loops even faster. It looked like a roller coaster, and it might have even been fun if it weren't for the angry explosive pomeranian in hot pursuit behind them.

It looks like Todoroki’s team had gotten control of Bakugou's bandana at some point, and he was pissed about it.

Midoriya wondered aloud if Bakugou was allowed to blast off on his own like that without his team attached to him. But it seems he wasn't the only one voicing a similar concern. Midnight was soon announcing that this was fine, so long as he never touched the ground. That seemed like a very loose interpretation of the rules they were given beforehand. But it wasn't his place to tell the teachers how to run their games. So with a dismissive shake of his head he turned his attention elsewhere.

They were down to the final three minutes at this point. Midoriya was feeling pretty good about where they stood. The only teams that still had any points on the board were teams: Todoroki, currently in first, Team Monoma, which he assumed must be the ones from class B, Themselves, currently in third, Team Bakugou, and team-

Dark Shadow zipped out in front of them with such speed and force that it sent all of them reeling backwards. He didn't even get a chance to process the sudden appearance of the gigantic shadowy mass in front of him, before the bird had already swiped all their points and retreated back to the shelter of Shoji's dupli arms. Making them the sudden second place team, and leaving Midoriya’s with nothing.

Midoriya's stomach dropped at the sudden defeat, his mind temporarily too stunned to even know how to react beyond sitting there with his jaw dropped.

“Did- did that really just happen?” Kami stuttered.

“Shit! What do we do now? There’s literally only two minutes left!”

Midoriya's eyes flashed back and forth across the field, doing rapid fire calculations to figure out what their best shot was. No doubt muttering up a storm all the while.

“Midas!” Mei shouted loud enough to snap his attention back to them. “Do you have a plan?”

“I do. But you guys aren't gonna like it.” He admitted.

“How much will I hate it?” Toshi droned.

“On a scale of 1 to 10? Like an 8?”

Toshi bit at his lip for a second, glancing at the clock that was now counting down their final minute. “Yeah, I think I can live with that.”

Midoriya quickly explained the plan to them. And as he suspected, they were super not happy about the truly bat shit and likely futile efforts they were going to. But desperate times call for desperate measures. And he must be truly desperate if he was gonna try and copy Bakugou.

With one hand pinned to his chest, Midoriya clutched tightly to one end of Toshi's scarf. In his other hand he had the second scarf on standby. Toshi held onto the other end of the first scarf making a face that said he already regretted what he was about to do. Midoriya lifted off all of their shoulders using the jetpack. Then, with a final shake of his head, Toshi started whipping the scarf (and attached Midoriya) around over his head like a lasso. They would need to build up a lot of momentum to give them the speed needed to catch up. Just when Midoriya was starting to get dangerously dizzy, he saw his opening and let go.

Being catapulted across the field with enough speed to make his eyes water, time seemed to slow almost to a stop.

He was propelled directly in between the shrinking space between Bakugou and Todoroki, Midoriya saw heterochromatic eyes blow wide in shock as the blur of green entered Todorki’s field of vision. He sent out the second scarf, using it to wrap around the other boy's shoulders and pull himself closer, his hands reaching desperately towards the collection of bands around his neck.

All within a fraction of a second, he saw fear flash in Todorkis eyes as a sudden wisp of flames lashed out to meet Midoriya, whose fingers were just barely begging to warp around the fabric. Midoriya felt the heat of flames ahead of him and approaching detonations behind him, sandwiching him in an inferno; but just before either party had the chance to collide with him, he flew out of their reach.

Time began to speed back up for him as he registered what were once the top three bandanas from Todoroki’s stack now entwined in his own burnt fingers. Bakugou had nearly avoided crashing into either of them as Sero’s tape wrapped around his body and pulled him back to his group. And down below, his own team was sprinting to get into position to catch him as well.

Midoriya tried to angle himself in mid air and cut the engine to the jetpack to make for a softer landing. The arms of his friends had just barely wrapped around him as the final buzzer sounded off.

There was a beat of silence as the entire stadium tried to process what had just happened. No one dared move or make a sound, and then there was sudden pandemonium. His feet were gently lowered to the ground and they all gathered around to inspect the points they had scored in the literal final seconds of the battle.

Three numbers stared back at them. 20, 175, and 1,000,000.

Midoriya felt all the blood rush from his face, that- that can't be right. He had assumed Todoroki would have put the million point headband towards the bottom of the stack to make it harder to steal back. He hadnt meant to grab the million pointer, he was just trying to get enough points to pass onto the next round. And yet, no matter how many times he read it, the number did not change.

Suddenly Toshi, Kami, and Mei were all screaming at the top of their lungs in joyous cheers as they tackled him into a rambunctious group hug.

They were all jumping up and down and screaming and laughing, and he let out his own hysterical laugh, not sure how this had happened but so caught up in his friend's happiness that he no longer cared.

And then the hug evolved into them hoisting him back up onto their shoulders for a victory lap that lacked any form of humility or winners grace.

“Holy shit! What the actual fuck!? How did we just get first place?!?!” Toshi said with joyous disbelief.

“Who cares! We did it!” Mei replied with a cackle.

“Oh my god, Mido I thought you were totally gonna die for a second there!” Kami cried out with a smile.

“Honestly, same!” He admitted in hindsight, he really wasn't expecting Todoroki’s flames.

“You have got to stop doing shit like this! How the hell did I let you talk me into that?!?” Toshi said, as his rational mind slowly creeping back into the equation.

“No idea! But again, who cares?! We won!”

His friends pulled him back down to the ground level with a second chorus of hugs and high fives as they chanted out “We won!” in euphoric victory.

It was just the second round of the tournament, but with as happy as their sudden surprise win made them, you would think they were just announced joint rulers of the world. A mix of shock, adrenaline, and the underdog effect making it feel all the sweeter.

As they slowly started to come down from their natural high, Midoriya looked around to get a fuller grasp on how things had shaken out.

Bakugou was absolutely seething, needing to be physically held back by both Sero and Kirishima to prevent throttling somebody, as Mina tried not to laugh. Meanwhile, Todoroki was staring down at his own hand as if it was a foreign object that had personally betrayed him. Both Iida and Uraka seemed to be caught between wanting to make sure their teammate was alright, but also wanting to get out of Bakugou's warpath.

But regardless of both teams having lost possession of the million point head band at some point, they had also both acquired enough back up points to still move onto the next round.

They would be joined by the four students from team Monoma of class B, as well as Shoji and Tokoyami, to form a 16 person bracket for the next stage of the sports festival. But first, there would be an intermission for lunch as well as some optional, actual sporting events for the students that had already been eliminated from the tournament.

Midoriya looked at the mild burns on his fingers and contemplated whether or not it was worth going to see Recovery Girl. She had threatened to knock him out if he ended up back in her clinic, but this was such a mild injury comparatively, it was barely worth a healing gummy. So all things considered maybe she would be proud of him for not being nearly as hurt by that maneuver as he could have been? Maybe?

Toshi nudged him to get his attention.

“Hmm?”

“Are you seriously already forgetting to unmute Dare again?”

Midoriya's eyes went wide for half a second before he could school his expression back in. “What, no of course not, I was just about to do that.” He aimed for nonchalance, as he flipped the switch.

There was a beat or two of silence before a truly exasperated voice groaned out.

“You're killin me smalls.”

Chapter Text

“Did you see the starting line up for the one on one battles?” Toshi asked the group as he sat next to them with a lunch tray.

“Sure did,” Kami said with a grin, “Looks like you and I are gonna get our shoot out at high noon after all.”

“Wait really, you're going against each other?” Midoriya says with a hint of concern as he pulls the bracket up on his command center.

Sure enough his two best friends are set to compete and he is suddenly so conflicted about who to root for that he almost doesn't even comprehend who he's supposed to face. Momonoa Neito, the blonde from 1B he saw using multiple quirks.

“Yep.” Toshi has a look on his face that is equal parts cocky and uneasy as he glances at Kami across the table from him.

“Psyduck v. Pikachu. Battle of century.”

“Psyduck? Excuse you, I’m no psyduck.” He says with mock offense.

“ You’re absolutely a psyduck, are you kidding? He's a psychic water type with eyebags.”

“Ugh, no. I resent that. Why can’t I be Espeon or Mew or something?”

“Becau-”

“Midas!” Mei says directly into Midoriya's face as she appears suddenly beside him, making him jump. How someone so loud is one of the few people able to sneak up on him baffles him to this day.

“Ah! Hey Mei, what’s up?”

“Tell me about Iida.” She says enthusiastically.

“What do you mean? You've met him already, remember? He's the one with the glasses and the engine quirk. He eats lunch with us sometimes.”

“Yeah no. I know who Iida is, he's the hot one. I meant like his psychology, his weaknesses, any exploitable workarounds in his quirk, maybe some means of blackmail.”

“I- ''

Midoriya isn't sure what to say to that. For starters, Mei referring to the class president as ‘the hot one’ is surprising for a variety of reasons. Chief among them being that she finds anyone or anything hot at all. She always struck him as the ‘married to her work’ type. But that aside, the fact that she had this sudden need to know his weaknesses, paired with the fact that she came to him to learn them, has him even more confused.

“What?” Is all he can think to say.

“I know you've already done analysis on all your classmates. I’m going up against him in the tournament, so I need to know how best to exploit him into being the spokesmodel for my babies.”

Ah, now it makes sense. Kinda

“Mei, I’m not sure I should be helping you manipulate my classmates into being unwilling participants in your advertisement.” He says nervously.

“Why not?” Mei and Kami speak in unison. Surprising both Midoriya and Toshi.

“You to?” He asks Kami.

“I mean. Obviously I've got nothing against the prez. And like, class A solidarity and all that. But like, team Diesel Dudes first, ya know?” Kami says with a shrug and a big bite of his burger.

“Yeah Midas!” Mei agrees enthusiastically, “Where's your loyalty? Besides, it's not like I'm gonna end his whole career or anything. I'm just gonna show off my babies and then concede the match. I get to make a good impression on the support companies, and Iida gets to move on to the next round. Everybody wins.” She says with a feral grin.

He thinks about it for a moment with a furrowed brow. On the one hand, so long as Iida still gets to move on to the next round he should be fine. But on the other hand, he’s still not completely comfy with the idea of sharing his analysis for evil intentions.

“Hmm, I still don't know…”

“I can’t believe this. My own baby daddy denies me aid in my time of need? See if I ever let you use my workshop again.” She says with a huff as she crosses her arms in front of her sternly.

He knows it's an empty threat, Mei wouldn’t kick him out of her workshop, she likes having him there to test things on too much. But the little pout and subtle tone of disappointment in her voice shows she really was hoping he would help her. And Kami did have a point earlier. So he folds. When it comes to his friends, he is weak, and he can never say no for long.

“Oh fine. Here.” He unhooks the command center from his arm, pulling up his file on Tenya Iida, and hands it over to Mei so she can read it.

“Thanks Midas! Knew I could count on you!” She shouts with a smile despite not even looking at him anymore, her face already fully absorbed in scrolling through his information.

“Midoriya.”

For the second time that day, Todorki was seeking him out, a pensive look on his face. For reasons he didn't quite understand, he had a bad feeling about this. And based on the look Toshi was giving him, he didn like it either.

“Uh...Yes?”

“I was hoping to talk to you privately for a moment.” Dual colored eyes flicked over the other occupants at the table before settling back into Midoriya’s.

The odds of Todoroki being upset enough about his loss to actually hurt him were pretty low, he wasn't Bakugou after all. So he figured there was no harm in hearing him out.

“Uh, sure.”

“Thank you.” He bowed his head slightly in respect. “Please follow me.”

Todoroki turned and started slowly moving away. Midoriya stood to follow, but was stopped by a hand on his wrist. When he turned back, Toshi had one hand on his wrist and the other on Midoriya's mask and a small screwdriver, he silently handed them up to him, his eyes still trained on Todoroki’s retreating form. He understood the message just fine, and accepted the mask before jogging off to catch up.

Todoroki led him far away from any crowds towards the tunnels leading out of the stadium. When he glanced down at the mask in his hand Midoriya was quick to use the cover Toshi had supplied him.

“Oh, I hope you don't mind. I needed to make some adjustments to my mask during lunch, so I figured I could work on it while we talk.” He began tightening and loosening the strap needlessly, whilst ensuring the comms and transcriptions were both on.

He wasn't sure what it was exactly that had him feeling like this was necessary. Todoroki had never given him a reason not to trust him, but he hadn't given him a reason to trust him either. But his whole vibe right now seemed so off. And between his declaration of war that morning, and having just lost an otherwise guaranteed win to him before lunch, there was enough there to make him nervous.

Todoroki surveyed the mask for a moment but seemed to decide it was harmless before glancing back at Midoriya and leaning up against one wall of the tunnel.

“Very well.”

“So what was it you wanted to talk about?”

He was silent for a moment, looking down at his hand and away. “You made me break my vow earlier.”

What a cryptic and ominous thing for him to say. Midoriya wasn't sure what he supposedly did, but he found himself apologizing curiously anyway.

“I’m sorry? What vow was that?”

Instead of answering his question Todoroki asked one of his own.

“Midoriya, do you know what quirk marriages are?”

His brows rose up at that, he had heard of them before, but only as a footnote in the history of the early quirk era. And If Todoroki didn't already have his full attention before, he certainly did now. He went on to tell him a thoroughly depressing and upsetting story of his upbringing.

He said that his father, the number two hero Endeavour, was so obsessed with surpassing All Might, that he decided to give eugenics a try. Tracking down a young woman with a powerful Ice quirk, paying off her parents to marry her, and then forcing her to have several children with him. All in hopes of producing an heir with the perfect blend of their two quirks.

He said that their training was so brutal it left him puking and bleeding and passing out with exhaustion. That his older brother had died when he couldn't keep up. That the two middle children were neglected and ignored when their quirks proved not powerful enough.

He said that in every memory of his mother, she is crying. That he drove her crazy. That she was so far gone and filled with hatred for her husband, that she burned Todoroki with boiling water from a kettle because his face reminded her too much of him. That when she realized what she had done she panicked and used her ice quirk on the burn, but the sudden temperature shifts only made things worse and caused instant frostbite. And that this was how he got his scar. And his mother has been locked up in a psychiatric ward ever since. They hadn't spoken in years.

He said he never blamed his mother. Only his father for driving her to this. And that he made a vow never to use his fire side. Because that was his father quirk. And he wanted to prove he did not need his power to succeed, only his mothers. So when Midoriya’s desperate move in the cavalry battle shocked him into using his flames. He had inadvertently caused him to break his vow.

And Midoriya, the boy known for speaking entirely too much, had absolutely no words.

There were no words able to convey the mix of sorrow and anger and empathy he felt for him. No words to show how he both knew how he felt but also could never fully understand. No words that said what all needed to be said here. But he had to say something. He had to try.

“Todoorki, I’m so sorry that happened to you. You didn't deserve any of that. None of you did.”

His eyebrows furrowed just a fraction of a degree, the only sign that Midoriya's words weren't the response he expected from him.

“No one deserves the lives they are given. They are simply born, and then must work to earn better accommodations.” He said it like it was some obvious fundamental truth of life.

Now Midoriya really didn't know what to say. It looked like Todoroki might try to leave soon, but Midoriya still had so many questions left unanswered. And no clue how to ask.

“Umm. Todoroki, if you don't mind me asking. Why did you tell me all that?”

A set of eyes, one ice blue and the other coal grey, stared into his for a moment seemingly unsure of the answer themselves before admitting as much.

“I’m not sure. I suppose because I felt like you may understand my circumstances somewhat. We each have been burdened with the expectations others have placed on us. Only you strive to prove those expectations wrong, to become a great hero despite them. Whereas becoming a hero is the very purpose I was designed for, a destiny I have no choice but to fulfill. The end result may be the same, but in many ways you are my opposite. And that makes you an obvious choice for a rival.”

“A rival?”

“Yes. Someone to fill the same motivational role that All Might provided my Father.”

Midoriya's nose scrunched in involuntary distaste. Todoroki seemed to notice this.

“You do not care for All Might much do you?...That is strange given how universally beloved he is.”

His immediate thought is that people seem to like Endeavour plenty too. But it's not at all a fair comparison. He now knew the extent to which Endeavour was a truly terrible person, whereas All Might had never really done anything wrong beyond hurting his feelings a few times. But still, being compared to him left a sour taste in his mouth.

“Yeah, I guess it is… But I’m nothing like All Might, and you're nothing like your father. So I see no reason to hold us to the same antiquated formula of rivalry when we could instead be allies.”

“...I'm not sure what you mean.”

“I mean, instead of fighting like rivals we could spar like allies? We can get all the same benefits of helping each other improve, maybe offer up some friendly advice or critique, but like, without the toxicity and vaguely threatening speeches?”

He seemed to consider this for a moment. “You mean like one of my fathers sidekicks or interns at his agency?”

Midoriya couldn't help the little sigh of exasperation. “No. Like, I don't know, a friend?”

Todorki blinked a few times as if the possibility had never occurred to him. His mouth opened like he was going to reply before closing again. He repeated this action a few times. After several failed attempts at a response he simply nodded.

Midoriya had no clue if the nod was an acceptance of his invitation for friendship, or just an acknowledgement that he had heard what he was saying. When the silence lasted a beat too long Todoroki took it as his sign to move onto the next topic.

“We will likely be facing each other in the second match. Any gear you are wearing during our match will likely be damaged by the ice. I would recommend leaving anything you care about behind.”

Midoriya wasn't sure if this was some sort of threatening fear tactic thing, or genuine advice coming from a place of actual concern for his gear. Todoroki was always so hard to read, and the emotional rollercoaster he had just taken him on left him too frazzled to even try and decode him further right now.

Then Todoroki silently pushed himself off the wall and started walking away.

Midoriya waited for him to disappear down the hall before slipping on his mask and setting himself to mute.

“Dare, did you hear all of that?”

“Every word.” His voice seemed strained, as if his jaw was clenched tightly and he was trying to restrain his real response.

“What should we do? We obviously can’t leave him there with his father. But we can't exactly kidnap the son of the number two hero either.”

Dare was quiet for a second before saying, “I’ll think of something. For now, just...try and focus on the sports festival. I’ll take care of it.”

“Dare...The last time you said something like that, you disappeared for night and came back with a bike, a job, a new identity, saying you adopted Toshi.”

“Yeah, and? It was handled, wasn’t it?”

Midoriya sighed, pitching at the bridge of his nose.

“Can you please promise me that you’ll at least let me in on your plan before you do anything drastic this time?” He pleaded.

“I promise.”

Midoriya squinted in suspicion, something about the way that said that sounded off.

“You were crossing your fingers weren't you.” He accused.

“...You can prove nothing.”

“Dare. You need to promise me for real. You can't just run off and do things without me...We're partners aren't we?”

Dare let out a small defeated sigh before replying in a voice that radiated his fondness for him. “Yeah, Zu, always will be... You’re right. And for the record, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” He said with a smile before checking for the time. “Hey, I should get back and finish eating. But I’ll talk to you later, alright?”

“Of course… Later gator.” He said with a mildly teasing tone before he logged off. Leaving Midoriya blushing slightly at Dare using his earlier embarrassing slip up against him.

The distraction of the many conversations he had held through the lunch break clouded out his more strategic reasoning, so he never did get around to researching who Monoma Neito was until he was already being called back out to the stadium for their fight.

Oops.

--

Toshi had no illusions of being able to win this fight.

If they were fighting hand to hand without quirks, he would win. If he was allowed his gear, he had about a 50/50 chance. If they were both able to use their quirks freely, he had about a 75% chance of tricking Denki into responding to him somehow. But none of those conditions were available to him, he had no gear, and using his quirk on live TV was too big a risk for a variety of reasons.

If you enter into a fight with nothing, and the other guy has a taser, you're gonna lose. He had already accepted this as inevitable. But that didn't mean he was gonna make it easy on him. Mei and Kami had already revealed they weren't above scheming, so why shouldn't he dip his toe into some dirty tactics as well.

“Hey Kami, I've got a hypothetical for you.”

“What?”

“What do you think hero agencies would be more impressed by; someone who finishes the fight in one hit, or someone who shows off a variety of skills in an endurance match?”

“Ooo, interesting. I guess that would depend on the agency. Some of the more practical no nonsense dudes would probably like the first one. But the more billboard/showboaty guys would enjoy the showmanship of the second I guess.”

“Hmm, interesting. You're kinda hoping for the second type to pick you as an intern right?”

“I guess so. My own style kinda matches that, so learning under someone similar would be good experience for me.”

Toshi pretends to mull this over for a bit. “Well in that case, I've got a proposition for you.”

“Oh really?” Kamin wiggled his eyebrows in intrige.

“Not that kind.” He said with a blush. “I meant a way to make our match a bit more interesting. Give you a chance to catch the right eyes.”

Kami looked suspicious, his golden eyes examining him for signs of trickery. “I’m listening.”

Toshi smirked, “First three minuets of the match, no quirks.”

“No quirks? Why?”

“Gives you a chance to show off your other skills: hand to hand, agility, flirtatious quips, ect. Shows you can keep your audience stunned without doing any actual stunning.” The fact that it would also give Toshi a three minute window to try and win, or at least put up a good fight, was left unsaid.

“Okay, but why bother? Once the three minutes are up you’ll just put me under your quirk and I wouldn't be able to show off my own quirk. How's that gonna impress anyone?”

“I’m not gonna use my quirk at all.”

“What? Why not? We've got all these strategies to hide how it works now. It's not like you need to worry about that anymore.”

He didn't know what to say here that wouldn't be either suspicious or putting Kami in danger. Telling him the truth, that his quirk made him a potential target for the league, just wasn an option. But saying nothing would be equally suspicious. He had two possible excuses on stand by, but being unsure of which would work best to convince him he listed both.

“Honestly? That's kinda a multifaceted answer. For starters, I only got three hours of sleep last night and two the night before that. My mind isn't exactly operating at full capacity, and using my quirk isn't gonna help with the head ache. So that's a definite factor. But also, seeing Zuku always put his all into things without a quirk has kinda been inspiring to me. I wanted to give quirkless fighting a try in this first match, just to prove to myself I can do it too, ya know?”

Kami nodded slowly, wearing a look of understanding, sympathy, and perhaps just a dash of disappointment.

“He’s a really big influence on you huh? Like you admire him a lot?”

“Well yeah, he's my best friend.”

“Right... Well in that case, I guess I'm down to try it too. For a little while at least, then I'm lighting your ass up psyduck.”

Kami had a bright smile on his face, but it wasn't fully reaching his eyes. And Toshi wondered if maybe he was upset with him for some reason. He was just about to ask him about it, but Kami had already started standing.

“I'm gonna go warm up a bit before we have to head to the stands.” Toshi wanted to offer to come along with him, but he had already started walking away, calling back over his shoulder to say, “Catch ya later.”

Toshi couldn’t help but feel like he had done or said something wrong at some point. But before he had much of a chance to over analyze the whole encounter, Zuku was returning from his talk with Todoroki looking similarly stressed. So he put his worries on the back burner for a bit to hear what happened.

--

Kaminari found a jump rope in the warm up room and started skipping it absentmindedly.

He had his suspicions before that Toshi might be into Midoriya. They spent a lot of time together and were obviously really close. And it would explain why Dare hadnt made a move on him when Mido was so clearly into him. But he pushed those suspicions aside because he didn't really want that to be the case. However, after hearing Toshi talk about how much he admired him, and how he was willing to put a self imposed handicap onto their match as some show of solidarity with him, it was getting hard to deny the very real possibility that his suspicions were true.

It was a tragic love triangle, a tale as old as time. Two brothers both fall for the same lovable genius, and neither are willing to do anything about their feelings for fear of hurting each other. That part of his brain that loved a good romance story would have been happy about seeing the trope played out in real life, if one third of the trope wasn't the guy he himself was crushing so hard on.

He should have known better than to get his hopes up. After their late night conversation a few days ago, he really thought that maybe his feelings were reciprocated. He had said he was one of the smartest people he ever met, and it made him feel so… But that was just him being a good friend. And their flirtatious little teasing about princesses and taking each other to the ball was just that, a tease. And telling himself any differently was just gonna lead to further hurt.

“Wow.” The sudden voice of Sero snapped him out of his stupor. “I didn't think it was possible for someone to look depressed while jumping rope, but here you are.”

Kaminari quickly plastered a smile onto his face and laughed it off.

“Hey Sero! Exercise is such a bummer, isn't it? Why do people willingly put themselves through it?”

“Who knows dude. I let our regular training regiment count towards gym time for me. But like half the guys in class seem to live in the gym, it's kinda intimdating.”

“I know what you mean. Bakugou's pecks are so well developed they might actually be a c cup at this point.”

“Oof. Don't even get me started on Iida, dude doesnt even look like a teenager.”

“Hardly acts like one either. Maybe he's one of those undercover cops sent to infiltrate schools to see who all is doing drugs.”

“My money's on Koda. It's always the quiet ones.”

Kaminari likes Sero, he's a funny dude. And he loves all his friends in the Diesel Dudes. But given that three of them are the source of his current angst, and Mei isn't exactly subtle, he can't really complain to any of them about what's currently bumming him out. So making a few friends outside of his usual group is probably in his best interest. So he forces himself to stop moping and start making friends.

Before he knows it, the two of them have gone off to the stands to watch the first few matches together. They are soon joined by Mina, Toshi, and Kirishima. Midoriya and Mei would be a few sections over, sitting with the support students.

The first match was between Iida and Mei, and just as she had said she would, she tricked the poor class prez into being a gear model for her. It was an absolutely brutal 20 minute long impromptu infomercial. Iida tried his best to run Mei out of the ring, but she evaded him easily without even breaking a sweat, giving a speech and laughing maniacally the whole time. And then when she ran out of babies to showcase, she stayed true to her word and simply stepped out of bounds.

Iida seemed utterly frustrated and betrayed by the whole situation. And ordinarily he would feel bad for the guy, but Mei was his friend, and it was honestly hilarious how she so thoroughly outsmarted and outmaneuvered Mr. ‘multigenerational hero legacy’ like it was nothing.

After that it was Kirishima versus Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu, another honestly laughable pairing. Presentation Micheal really did Kiri dirty by giving both boys virtually the same intro as they walked onto the field. But in all honesty, they had very similar quirks and personalities, so he isn't sure what else anyone could have said to differentiate them.

The match itself was truly just a one for one slugfest, they were so evenly matched that it became a matter of sheer endurance. And in the end they both ended up collapsing at the same time. So midnight declared it a tie, with the winner being decided later with an old-fashioned arm wrestle. Kirishima ended up winning that after he woke back up.

Two of the girls from 1b were up against each other, Ibara and Kendo. The Ibabra chick had vines for hair she could control independently, which seemed kinda rad, but she also had a very evangelical, holy woman thing going for her that Kaminari wasn't sure what to make of.

Kendo was the class president of 1b so he had pretty high hopes she would be a good fighter, and he wasn't disappointed. Her quirk of growing really big hands seemed super basic on surface level, but she found ways to get creative with it, proving she must also be pretty smart. She ended up winning her match.

The match between Tokoyami and Shoji was over pretty quick. Dark shadow grappled him out of bounds in under a minute, but that was to be expected really. It's hard to win a brawl against some form of eldritch shadow deity.

Midoriya's match against Monoma caused him and Toshi to both burst out laughing. Midoriya had been worrying about it for so long. But then the Monoma guy gave some grand self important speech about how his quirk was being able to duplicate other people's quirks, and how no one else could ever understand what it was like to have a quirk like that. But the ignorant little shit clearly wasn't given the memo that Midoriya was quirkless. So after laying his hand on him and getting nothing for it, he was so shocked he didn't even see Midoriyas fist coming till it had already knocked him the fuck out.

Just... Boom. Out. Dude fell like a plank and everything.

He could already tell there would be a million gifs of this blonde pricks face shifting from smug to baffled, followed by getting one hit KO’d, all over the internet tomorrow. It was a thing of true beauty. And he and Toshi laughed so hard they cried for like five whole minutes. Even from the other side of the stands they could hear Mei cackling as well, which only made them laugh harder.

The match between Todoroki and Sero was honestly just upsetting. If he thought the minute long match between Tokoyami and Shoji was outmatched, then this was like an ant going against an elephant. His buddy had exactly three seconds of action, wrapping Todoroki in tape and trying to whip him out of bounds. But no sooner than when the tape was wrapped around him, Todorki made a glacier of ice so large it spilled out of the stadium.

Poor Sero never stood a chance. Buried up to his head in ice, teeth chattering and face already turning blue. After a tense moment of silence, where they confirmed Todoroki hadnt also buried any of the audience in his new land formation, Midnight asked Sero to confirm he was pinned and unable to continue. Obviously, Sero had to conceded.

Kaminari was bummed on Sero’s behalf. But Toshi seemed to be making sad eyes at Todoroki instead, clearly reading something in the ice prince's expression that Kami didn't have the context for.

There would be a brief intermission whilst they evacuated the affected stands and thawed the ice. Followed by the match between Bakugou and Urauka, and finally him and Toshi. So they both left the stand to go get ready down in the tunnels.

After seeing matches running the gambit from being over in three seconds flat, and lasting half an hour due to absolute stalemate, he found himself feeling equal parts curious and anxious to see where his own performance would land on the scale. He just hoped he didn't embarrass himself somehow.

Chapter Text

“Hey Midas, you want some popcorn?”

 

Midoriya scrunched his brows together, he saw a few booths selling candy and snacks but hadn't seen any selling popcorn. “I didn't think they were serving any?”

 

“They aren't, I brought my own!” Mei pulled out a metal canister with a pull tab on the top, upon pulling the tab out, the faint sounds of corn popping could be heard from inside the canister. Midoriya smiled to himself, of course Mei had invented a portable corn popper, why wouldn't she.

 

“Sure. I’ll take some.”

 

Down on the field the ice had finally thawed, and Bakugou was in the middle of a fierce battle against Uraraka. Midoriya found himself chewing absentmindedly at his nail beds in worry.

 

Uraraka was putting up a pretty good fight, she kept low and charged in repeatedly, dodging blasts and trying her best to get in close to Bakugou. But he wasn't leaving her any openings. At one point she even used her shirt as a decoy in a move that had Midoriya at the edge of his seat. 

 

But then the audience started chastising Bakugou on Uraraka’s behalf, claiming he was just toying with her, and that he should either be nicer to her or just get the match over with. But they clearly weren't watching the same match he was if that's what they saw.

 

Uraraka wasn't some poor defenseless creature in need of mercy, she was a capable and strategic opponent, who was currently giving one of their strongest fighters a run for his money. Bakugou wasn't drawing the match out, he would never do such a thing, he was always quick to eliminate any obstacle in his way with everything he had. So if it was taking him a while to beat someone, it’s because they were making him work for it. Luckily Aizawa saw the same, and was quick to call the audience out for their sexism. 

 

Midoriya isn't sure what compelled him to look up, something about the shadows he saw amongst all the dust and debris, but when he did he saw a full meteor shower hovering above the stadium just waiting to be dropped. Midoriya was so impressed by Urarakas quick thinking and execution that he actually laughed out loud before he could stop himself. He nudged Mei with his elbow and motioned with his eyes to look up, and when she saw the trap Uraraka was laying, she too started cackling softly into her popcorn. Regardless of whether it worked or not, this was gonna be good.

 

Uraraka called the cement down in a devastating hail storm, a look of shock and fear flashed across Bakugou's face before he braced one of his arms directly over head and set off a massive blast. With the large boulders being disintegrated into largely harmless pebbles, and Uraraka herself being blown backwards in the force of the blast, it became clear who the winner was long before Midnight called it. But to Uraraka’s credit, she never gave up. She literally crawled forward in an effort to continue the fight before literally passing out. 

 

Wow. She may have lost, but her show of ingenuity and dedication was sure to land her plenty of internship offers. Or at least it will if the pros have half a brain, she was amazing.

 

Midoriya fully expected Bakugou to scoff and walk away after he was declared winner, but instead, he walked up to where his opponent was being loaded onto a stecher and then walked alongside them as they took her to Recovery Girl. He was wearing a complex expression Midoriya had never seen on him before, a mix of concern, respect, and possibly even a small dash of regret. And it made Midoriya insanely curious to know what was going on inside his head. 

 

They ended up needing another impromptu break while Cementoss fixed the arena floor. A big part of him wanted to run by the clinic to check on everyone and perhaps do some snooping. But Toshi and Kami were gonna be going on next and he just couldn't risk missing a single second of their match. So he promised himself to go right after instead. 

 

--

 

The first two minutes of his match with Kami were far from being the most intense battle of the day, but based on the periodic chuckles from the stands whenever they exchanged quips, it may have been one of the most entertaining.

 

As per their earlier agreement, the first three minutes of their match would be fought quirkless. His actual intention in suggesting this was to give himself a small window of opportunity to try and win their match, but he told Kami it was to help him make a good impression on the pros, so he might as well actually help with that while he was at it. So they filled the space between each punch or grapple with playful banter to help Kami’s natural charisma shine through 

 

He knew he was a whole weight class above him due to both his height and his muscle mass, but Kami was a lot faster and more dexterous, so he still made for a decent challenge. He really didn't want to actually hurt him, but he wasn't about to pull any of his punches either. They may be hamming it up a bit for the cameras, but they were still taking this seriously, so going easy on him just to avoid leaving bruises wasn’t an option. Which is why, with two minuets down in the match so far, Kami had a split lip, and Toshi had the beginning of a black eye, but both boys were still smiling.

 

Toshi’s fist narrowly missed as Kami bobbed under his arm like a boxer.

 

“What was that?! You punch like my sister!” Kami teased.

 

“Is that meant to be an insult? I've seen your sister, she has arms like a goddess.”

 

“No, it was a compliment, I think my life flashed before my eyes for a moment there.”

 

Toshi laughed a bit at that and Kaminari took advantage of the presumed distraction to try and level a kick at his chest, but he caught the foot before it could land. Fluidly yanking the leg in towards him to pull Kami closer, he slid his hand up the back of his calf till it was grasping the area behind his knee. His other hand wrapped around the blonde's back as Toshi pivoted his feet into a lunge that had the boy dipped low like the end of a tango. Kami’s eyes were blown wide, and they both sported a blush and a smile at the closeness of their position.

 

The sound of hoots and wolf whistles from the stands reminded him they were in fact still being watched, so he yanked harder at the leg still held up by his hip to knock his opponent further off balance and promptly dropped him to the ground. Denki let off a soft groan at the rough landing, but managed to roll out of the way of Toshi's incoming stomp before somersaulting back to an upright position.

 

“Ya know Tosh, if you wanted to take me dancing, you could have just asked.” He said with a laugh as he dashed forward with a series of jabs.

 

Toshi responded a few words at a time between dodges. “Maybe I- just like- to surprise you. Keeping you- on your toes- and all- that jazz”

 

“Quit dodging will ya? It makes it really hard to pin you down.”

 

“Ha! Like you could.”

 

“Watch me.” He declared with a cocky smile.

 

Toshi returned a smug look of his own as he landed a hit on the boy's torso. Wincing along with him as he did so; he still didn't like the fact that he was hitting Kami with his full force, but doing anything less would be an insult to his abilities.

 

Kaminari sputtered a little and let out a cough, stumbling forward slightly. Toshi was suddenly flooded with concern, his arms reaching out to stabilize Kami who was now clinging onto him to stay upright.

 

“Shit, you okay?” He asked with guilty concern.

 

Kami looked up at him, a small trail of blood dripping from his split lip. He coughed once more before saying, “Never better.” Then a devious smile crept slowly across his face. “Your time is up.”

 

It took Toshi a moment to comprehend what he meant by that, but by the time his mind clicked from worry to understanding it was already too late.

 

The electricity washed over both their bodys. A few seconds of light and pain that felt like much longer locked up all his muscles, and by the time he blinked back into reality, he was on the ground.

 

His arms were pinned behind his back, and Denki was leaning over the top of him holding him down on the ground with his legs. Toshi tried to struggle free from his hold, but his muscles were still weak and convulsing against the current.

 

He knew when he was bested, even if he did manage to break free, Kami would just shock him again even worse till he lost consciousness. So when Midnight asked if he wanted to tap out, he begrudgingly nodded his head, and she declared Denki the winner.

 

Denki leaned forward whispering into his ear, “Told you I could pin you.” with a wink before dismounting him and offering a hand to pull him up.

 

Toshi accepted the hand and then made a swift exit, eager to get away from any prying eyes so he could go scream his various frustrations into a towel in the locker room. 

 

--

 

“Man,” Mei said with a smirk, “I’m not sure if we just watched a fight or some weird form of foreplay, but either way I’m so glad I made popcorn.” She cackled as she shoved another handful into her mouth.

 

He wanted to chastise her for teasing their friends, but...well, she wasn't exactly wrong.

 

He pulled up the updated bracket to see who would be facing who in the next round. It looked like round two would be Iida vs. Bakugou, Kirishima vs Kendo, Kaminari vs. Tokoyami, and himself vs Todoroki.

 

Just like Todoroki predicted, he would be his next opponent; and he found himself wondering how seriously he should take the boy's warning about not bringing any gear he didn't want to get wrecked. On the one hand, he would need every possible asset at his disposal to stand a chance. But on the other hand, he just got all his gear fixed after USJ, and he wasn't particularly looking forward to having to rebuild it all again. Whatever he was gonna do, he had to choose quickly, because his match was set to be first after the intermission.

 

Remembering his earlier promise to himself to go snooping after that fight, he handed over the rest of his popcorn to Mei and dismissed himself to ‘go get ready.’

 

Halfway to the clinic his journey was cut short by the flaming, imposing, figure of Endeavor stalking the halls. His earlier conversation with Todoroki was still fresh in the back of his mind, so he couldn't help but make a face of distaste at the man's presence, which he was quick to return with a scoff.

 

“It's a wonder they let people like you compete at the same level as my Shoto.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

He already knew the answer, but sometimes calling people out was enough to make them second guess a confrontation. The fear of being forced to voice their predice directly and outloud potentially causing scandal. But, clearly Endeavor had no such qualms.

 

“I mean the very idea of a quirkless support student being anywhere near enough of a challenge is simply outrageous. How does UA expect their students to improve if they hand them an easy win.”

 

Midoriya’s hands were curled into tight fists at either side of his body. A constant inner monolog reminding him not to start a fist fight with the number two hero, no matter how much he really, really, wanted to hit him.

 

“I have no intention of making it easy for him. I think you’ll find beating me is a much harder feat than small minds like yours would assume.”

 

The temperature of the tunnels rose several degrees as Endeavour's flames burned hotter.

 

“What did you say?” He said with a sharp glare.

 

Midoriya smirked a little. All manner of self preservation skills apparently being cast aside in favor of a need for petty chaos “ I said-”

 

“Ah, Midoriya” He was cut off by a small paw landing on his arm. “Just the student I was looking for.” Said Nedzu calmly.

 

Midoriya and Endeavor stared each other down for a few more seconds, neither party wanting to concede, but also being too smart to say anything incriminating in the principal's presence. Eventually they both broke contact simultaneously and Endeavour walked off down the hall. Once he was sure the threat was gone, he turned to look down at Nedzu with a smile.

 

“Hello sir. You said you were looking for me?”

 

“Yes and no. In truth I wanted to wait to talk to you till after the sports festival has concluded. But I sensed a bit of tension between you and Endeavour and felt I should step in.”

 

“Oh.” Midoriya grimaced a little.

 

Of course he knew logically it was a bad idea for him, a child, to start an open beef against an incredibly powerful pro hero. Especially one he and Dare already had plans to try and bring down later, because that would just be incriminating to him. But he also didn't like being tricked like that.

 

“Should I be concerned?” Nedzu asked with a look that said he already was.

 

“No sir. It shouldn't be a problem.” It was both true and untrue at the same time. But he didn't want to get into all that with him.

 

“Hmm. Well, should you change your mind and decide you would like my assistance in any capacity, you know where to find me.” He said with a slight smile.

 

“Thank you sir. I’ll keep that in mind.”

 

Nedzu nodded and turned on his heel to walk away, but stopped for a moment to speak over his shoulder. “Midoriya?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“As principal, it would be indecent of me to show any form of favoritism in events such as these. However, off the record, you should know I believe you are entirely capable of achieving victory should you make the right choices… That is all.”

 

And with that he disappeared around the corner leaving Midoriya blinking in stunned confusion. That was now two faculty members admitting they believed in him.

 

If making the right choices would lead to his victory, that meant if he lost it was because he made the wrong ones. Didn't it? It wasn't just his fighting skills being called into question now, it was his strategy and analysis skills as well. His mind kept flipping back and forth between being happy that two separate faculty members thought he could win, and being absolutely terrified of letting them both down.

 

And it was this uncertainty that caused him to abandon his quest to the clinic in favor of doing some last minute strategizing and warm up exercises to prepare for the next match. He decided to bring all his gear, if it was wrecked after this then so be it, he could always rebuild it even stronger. What he couldn't rebuild is the chance to prove himself.

 

--

 

Step one of Dare's plan was research and fact checking. It's not that he didn’t believe every word of Todoroki’s tale, in fact it was because he believed him that he needed to find any evidence he could to support the claims. The transcript Todoroki wasn't aware he was providing, wouldn't be anywhere near enough evidence in a court of law. They would need evidence, both pre existing on the public record and obtained in person, to back it up. And they would likely need the other Todorki siblings to testify as well.

 

Well, at least the ones who had survived long enough to be able to. 

 

The obituary for Touya Todoroki was simple and buried as a mere footnote in the local paper. Endeavour had likely made sure it wasn't made a media spectacle to save face. Cause of death was listed as a training accident, that he had simply succumbed to severe burn wounds caused by his own quirk. The body was never recovered. The picture provided was of a young kid, brilliant blue eyes shining with determination.

 

Dare stared at the photo for a while. The story was obviously upsetting in more ways than one. And perhaps it was just the familiarity of their circumstances that made the boy himself seem so familiar. They were both created with a purpose, trained ruthlessly, and had died as a result. Only Dare got better, and then worse, and then better again, over and over and over all as a result of his quirk. But this boy was only given one chance at life, and he had that chance wasted by his fathers misguided ambitions.

 

Maybe the feeling gnawing at his stomach was just survivors' guilt. But...those eyes…he could have sworn he had seen those eyes before. And recently too, though no longer shining with determination like they were in the photo, instead they were shaded with rage and regret. But he couldn't quite place where it was he had seen them. 

 

He added the obituary and any other articles he could find to his case file and continued his research. Trying to find anything concrete about the number two hero in the news was going to be difficult. He would have clearly gone to great lengths to ensure a decent reputation in the public eye.

 

His gut instinct was to break into the Todoroki compound whilst he knew they were away at the sports festival. But he promised Zu he wouldn’t do anything drastic without him, so any in-person recon would have to wait.

 

There was another obstacle throwing a wrench into this case. Anything he did, regardless of how discret they tried to be, was liable to be big news. The wider repercussions of accusing a pro of such high esteem of abuse, and much more, attempting to remove his own child from his custody, would undoubtedly be sizable. It would cause some seriously big waves.

 

Meaning this wasn't a mission they could handle alone. Someone else would need to be the face of the operation, and it would have to be someone with their own level of authority in prohero circles to avoid it being swept under the rug.

 

It would need to be someone who isn't above working with vigilantes, because there would be no hiding that some of their info was illegally obtained. So likely someone in the underground. But someone with enough connections with bigger names to still be a reasonable threat to Endeavour's own credibility.

 

And it would need to be someone who wasn’t afraid of going against a fellow hero if it meant doing the right thing. Someone who would give enough of a shit to risk their own reputation in an effort to help a kid escape the abusive custody of a celebrity.

 

And lastly it would need to be someone who could reasonably be trusted with the care of said child after the fact. Because he was gonna need their support long after being removed from Endeavors custody.

 

And really, when he listed out all the parameters like that, there was only one person who fit the bill. His homeroom teacher.

 

Dare was...not afraid of the man par say. But even though Eraser Head had a good track record of working well with select vigilantes, Dare had still gone out of their way to avoid running into him while out on patrol. It was likely a completely unjustified apprehension, but the man's quirk was scary to him specifically.

 

Dare had no way of knowing for sure what would happen if his quirk was Erased. But he had narrowed it down to 3 and a half possibilities.

 

The first option was that absolutely nothing would happen, that his quirk would be considered a mutation quirk and therefore be immune to the effect. They hoped this would be the case, because it was the least terrifying option by far. And thankfully, he gave this theory the highest probability rate, but he couldn't fully count on that being the case without testing it in person.

 

The second was that it would revert them back to their ‘default’ state, to whatever it was they were supposed to be if they had never gotten damaged or regenerated. And that was unsettling for reasons that ate at the very core of their being. The very idea that there even could be a default version of them, that there was a them they were meant to be; and that they could know what it was, but then be powerless to return to it, was… a lot. They really didn't like to think about things like that if they could help it.

 

The third came in two parts. Because it's possible the part of his quirk that would be erased would be the healing function, that the regenerations that had pieced him back together and revived him would be suspended. And with that came two possible outcomes, the first was that if he was injured when the quirk was still erased then he wouldn't be able to heal the damage. Which would really only be a problem if he did indeed get hurt. The second, was that it would reverse all the healing he had already done, and he would instantly drop dead. Which was obviously not a great outcome.

 

And the hidden third outcome? Should he drop dead, would he then be revived when Eraser Head blinked and released him from his quirk? Or would he actually stay dead that time?

 

He didn't know enough about either one of their quirks with 100% certainty. And that meant there was a chance, however slim, that EraserHead may be the literal only known thing that could permanently kill him. So he avoided the man at all costs, because he wasn’t anywhere near brave enough to put any of his theories to the test. 

 

But he also couldn't deny that if he was gonna have any hope of helping Todoroki escape, that he was going to need his help to do so. He couldn't risk stirring up all that drama only to have Endeavour sweep it all away or win his case in court. That would only make things infinitely worse.

 

They had to do this right, and that meant having the right person leading the charge. So once he had a chance to talk to Zu and Toshi about the plan, (and had set up the right fail safes in case of his accidental permadeath,) he would have to face his fears.

 

Speaking of Zu, it was almost time for his match against Todoroki, so setting his research aside for a moment, he slipped his helmet back on and pulled up the feed from Zu’s mask.

 

--

 

Midoriya stood opposite Todoroki in the stadium, a buzz of adrenaline thrumming under his skin like a swarm of bees. Midoriya was sure to reload his blaster and had stashed a few extra rounds in his belt. He spent a good ten minutes hopping from foot to foot whilst hitting the speed bag in the warmup area to insure his shoes and gloves were all fully charged. And he reviewed the footage of his previous three second match against Sero to determine the exact size of the glacier he had made.

 

He knew he was likely to replicate his earlier strategy. He almost always started any given encounter by trying to trap his opponents in Ice, and since the glacier method worked so well the last time, there was no real need to do anything different.

 

So when the start of the match was announced, Midoriya used half the charge of his shoes to leap up as high as possible into the sky to avoid the imminent barrage. But to his surprise, when he looked down he had only made a thin layer of Ice along the floor.

 

Suddenly Midoriya felt silly for falling for the obvious reverse psychology, of course Todoroki would know that Midoriya would guess the obvious opening move, and would therefore do something different. Now he was down half the charge of his boots for no reason, but at least he had a better grasp on how Todoroki thought. Most of his fights were over so fast there wasn't much material for Midoriya to analyze about him. So if nothing else this was a good chance to get more data.

 

Midoriya tucked and rolled into the landing to lessen the stress on his legs as well as allow himself to move again quickly. He serpanteened his path towards Todoroki at a full sprint knowing the other boy would be trying to freeze him out long before he had a chance to get in close. And yet, the rays of frost that were sent his way weren’t nearly as fierce or as fast as he knew he was capable of.

 

Was this a fake out too? Was he feigning sluggishness to get him to let his guard down just to fully encapsulate him once he got wherever he wanted him?

 

With a weary apprehension Midoriya tried to throw Todoroki off his rhythm by letting loose a few of his beanbag rounds as a distraction. Charging forward once the third round was shot to attempt to close the distance. But Todoroki didn't even have to dodge, he simply put up a small wall of ice to absorb the rounds.

 

Midroriya paused for a moment waiting for any indication of what Todorki’s next move might be, and the peppermint teen seemed to be doing the same. When neither party moved for a second Todorki furrowed his brow and sent another ball of ice his way that he needed only step once to the side to avoid.

 

Okay. Now Midoriya was fully confused. He knows for a fact Todoroki is a much better fighter than this. He knows his quirk is powerful enough to do way more than what he was currently trying to do with it. What on earth is his strategy here? He made a mountain of ice less than an hour ago against Sero. But now during their fight he's making little half walls and basically tossing out snowballs? Was it a lack of stamina? He seemed to have plenty of that during USJ.

 

The realization hits him ten times harder than the second half hearted ball of ice he didn't even bother to dodge. Todoroki is holding back. This isn't reverse psychology or luring him into a trap. This is him going easy on him. And suddenly Midoriya is boiling over with rage.

 

“Are you kidding me right now?!” He shouts as he shoots out a flame round that Todoroki is quick to extinguish.

 

Todoroki doesn't answer him, merely furrowing his brows in assumed confusion. So Midoriya calls him out even more.

 

“You came to me this morning with your little declaration of war, and now you wont even face me with half your power?!” He charges in, sliding along the ice on the ground to try and land a hit, but Todorki dodges it easily.

 

“I do not wish to hurt you.” Is all Todoroki says as he sets up another Ice wall to deflect the incoming stun pellets.

 

“Hurt me!” Midoriya shouts. “We're supposed to be fighting with all we've got, remember?! I'm gonna try to hurt you! You had no problem hurting Sero earlier! So what the hell?!”

 

Todoroki grimaces as he skates on his ice out of the way of Midoriya's latest dash.

 

“I went too far with Sero, it was unnecessary to use as much force as I did.”

 

“Bullshit!”

 

Midoriya uses evasive maneuvers and some of the charge in his shoes to finally get in close enough to land a hit. Todoroki grabs his fist and covers it in a thin layer of frost, before sliding backwards in a quick get away. Midoriya winces at the pain of having his fist locked up in Ice, but at least he got him to do something. He shoots a fire round at the ground so he can thaw himself out enough to open his hand.

 

“You're underestimating me.” He says with a glare. “You honestly think you can beat me without really trying?” 

 

Todoroki lets out a curt breath somewhere between a sigh and a huff. “I’m not underestimating you. I'm just trying to avoid excessive force.”

 

Midoriya wants to yell more about how ridiculous he’s being, but ultimately decides experience is the best teacher. So he opts to kick it into higher gear instead. He would prove to Todoroki that he was an opponent worthy of his full power if it was the last thing he did.

 

So with a yell of determination he pulled out his staff and sprinted forward. He deflected or busted threw each chunk of ice sent his way, sliding along the slippery ground or otherwise bouncing off whatever walls Todoroki built up. His fully offensive maneuvers forced his opponent to go on the defensive to avoid him.

 

After a few minutes of keep away, a layer of frost started to form on half of Todorokis body, his breath visible with the chill he had created in the air around him. His quirk was slowly freezing him over. If he kept this up, he would need to use his fire to balance himself back out and avoid any permanent damage.

 

“You're hurting yourself more than you’re hurting me in this fight!” Midoriya points out bitterly as he swings towards Todoroki’s knee caps, forcing him to back up further. “Why won't you fight me properly? What did I ever do to you to earn such an insult?”

 

“You said-” He began as he rolled out of the way, “That you wanted to-” another dodge “be friends.” Todoroki finished with a slight tone of confusion.

 

“And you're what? Offended by the notion? So put off by the idea of being friends with the quirkless kid that now you think you're above even putting effort into this fight?”

 

“No. I'm trying. I just don't want to hurt you. My father-”

 

“I’m not fighting your dad right now! I'm fighting you!”

 

Midoriya jumped over the makeshift wall swinging the staff down towards Todorkis head like a samurai sword. Todoroki deflected it with a pillar of ice that froze the pole in place. Forced to abandon the staff, he instead started swinging with his fists.

 

Now that he had gotten in close enough, he could see just how cold Todoroki really was, his teeth chattering involuntarily and his skin turning a nearly translucent form of pale.

 

“You're gonna cause permanent damage if you don't warm yourself up soon.” He warned.

 

“I know.”

 

“So use some of your fire so we can keep fighting! I don't want to win because you were too stubborn to go all out against me!”

 

“I don't need that man’s fire to win! I won't go back on my vow.”

 

“It's not his fire damn it! It's yours! Don't let him hold you back or define you! Your father doesn't own you! It's your own ice and your own flames, not your parents, yours! You're not some pet project he gets to control, you’re a person! And only you have ownership or control over you and your own damn quirk!”

 

Todoroki stilled, clearly lost in thought. Midoriya took advantage of his distracted state to throw a few punches. But Todorki hardly reacted to the hits.

 

Bleeding knuckles pummeled the Ice off of Todorkis body. Partially an attempt to win the fight, partially to try and keep the boy from suffering frostbite, and partially an attempt to shake him back into reality. But he just kept staring into space like he wasn't even there anymore.

 

“Fight me!” He yelled as he punched Todoroki in the jaw.

 

The sound or possibly the hit was apparently enough to finally summon Todorki back into his body. Dual colored eyes looking into his eyes with a dawning realization. But he still wasn't fighting back, so Midoriya tried again.

 

“Fight! Me!” He said with a slap punctuating each word.

 

Todoroki grabbed Midoriya's shoulders and tossed him backwards. A serious expression he couldn't quite place on his face. Midoriya straightened up, his fist raised in a ready stance awaiting Todorokis next move but he was still just standing there, wheels rapidly turning in his mind.

 

“Midoriya-” He said, his voice sounding distant. “I don’t…”

 

“Fight me Todoroki! If you have any respect for me at all, you will fight me with your full power and you wont hold back! Just-Please!”

 

He felt pathetic having to beg his opponent to take him seriously. But he had something to prove, and a whole heck of a lot of people to prove it to. And he wasn’t gonna accomplish that goal if his own classmates wouldn't face him like he was a real threat.

 

Todoroki seemed to finally understand the point he had been trying to make. A new resolve visibly crashed over him, beginning in his feet as he changed up his stance, and ending in his eyes as they narrowed down to a determined glare.

 

“Very well.”

 

A flame. Just the tiniest ember at first, but soon after a full bonfire that ate away at his uniform and cleared his body of all its chills, lit up on Todoroki’s body. And with it a smile of deep satisfaction spread across Midoriya's face.

 

The fight was over soon after that. Midoriya was fast, but Todorokis flames were faster.

 

Midoriya managed to land a few more hits. But then Todoroki thoroughly scorched Midoriya's legs before enveloping them in ice, providing them with a burn of a different kind. Endeavour's bellowing voice could be heard echoing Shoto’s name out through the whole stadium, drowning out the sound of Midoriya's own pained yells.

 

A deep frown settled over Todoroki’s expression before he allowed the ice to continue rising up Midoriya's whole body, fully locking him up in a similar, but more localized way, to how he had defeated Sero.

 

Maybe Midoriya should be more upset over his loss. Maybe he should be sad he disappointed his teachers, or that his legs had gotten burned, or even that he had to fight so hard to finally be taken seriously. But he wasn’t.

 

Because the second Midnight called the match, Todoroki used his flames to free him from the ice, and wearing a face that was equal parts mournful and serene, he said, “Thank you.”

 

And while Midoriya may not know what exactly he was being thanked for, he knew that something about this fight had helped Todoroki work through something. And the knowledge that he had somehow helped him to feel better, whilst also proving himself as an opponent worthy of his full force, was enough of a victory for him.

 

So with a small smile and the offer of a handshake he told Todoroki thank you as well.

 

Todoroki looked down at his hand for half a beat before accepting the handshake.

 

“Umm. Todoroki?”

 

“Yes Midoriya?”

 

“Can you please take me to Recovery Girl? My legs are numb.”

 

“Oh… Yes, of course.”

 

And with that he was carted off to receive his fully justified scolding from Recovery Girl and a more than deserved nap.

 

Chapter Text

When Midoriya woke up in Recover Girl’s clinic, he fully expected his curse to continue and for All Might to be sitting beside his bed. But to his relief he was instead surrounded by his friends.

Toshi had one arm wrapped around Kami, his fingers carding softly through his hair as the smaller boy leaned into him. Kami was swaying slightly, mumbling things that weren't quite words with both thumbs up. It was pretty clear he was in his ‘whey’ mode, and Toshi was trying to keep him calm and comfy through it. Midoriya noticed Toshi was wearing his mask, nodding slightly every once in a while, most likely talking to Dare.

To his otherside, Mei was fully absorbed in the tinkering of what looked to be a pair of rollerblades, but knowing her, probably held some alternate purpose.

Toshi was the first to look up and notice he was awake. Flipping the switch out of mute mode with a small degree of concern in his eyes.

“Hey, sleeping beauty.”

“Hey. I take it Kami's match didn't go well?”

Toshi looked at the blonde nuzzling into his shoulder with a half smile. “Actually, I think it went pretty great. Right up to the very end that is.”

“What happened?”

“Kami found Dark Shadows' weakness. Pretty obvious in hindsight, but still, he was the first to piece it together, so credit where it's due.”

“Really? What is it?”

“Light.”
Of course. Toshi was right, it's super obvious in hindsight. But a big part of him had always assumed the ‘shadow’ part of Dark Shadow’s name was just because of his appearance, and not an actual description of their composition, so he hadn’t put that together yet.

“So I assume he went for an indiscriminate shock then?”

“Well, yes and no. At first he just covered himself in electricity so he would be too bright for Dark Shadow to go near, and tried to knock out Tokoyami. Turns out Dark Shadow doesn't actually need Tokoyami to give him orders, and in fact gets stronger and more unhinged when he isn't reigning him in, so then Shadow got twice as big and started screaming and thrashing about.Which was absolutely terrifying, just, by the way. Remind me never to make them mad. Anyway, Shadow bowled right into Kami, who then used indiscriminate shock to try and incapacitate Shadow so they wouldn't start rampaging. And it worked, but Shadow had already pushed him out of bounds by then. So…”

“Geez. I'm kinda bummed I missed it.”

“I mean, you can always just watch the reruns later. But yeah…” Toshi looked down at Kami again before speaking. “He was incredible.”

Midoriya smiled to himself, he wasn't blind, he knew how much his friends liked each other in a ‘more than friends’ capacity. It’s just a matter of time before one of them gets brave enough to actually ask the other one out. But in the meantime, witnessing these little moments of fondness and affection between them pre-relationship gave him a lot of second hand happiness for them.

“Oh yeah,” Toshi seemed to remember, “Dare wants to talk to you.”

He took off Midoriya's mask and handed it to him. Kami pouted at the sudden lack of contact when he leaned forward, but perked right back up when Toshi returned to his position and pulled him in even closer.

Midoriya slipped the mask on and muted himself, just in case whatever they were gonna talk about wasnt Mei or Kami safe conversation.

“Hey.” He said once he was settled.

“Hey Zu.” The breath and rush of wind implied Dare was currently on the move to somewhere.

“What's up?”

“Well, I was doing a bit of research for our new case, and I saw a blog post criticizing Endeavour for an overly hostile takedown in Hosu last night. But I couldn't find any actual articles saying anything about it, so I figured I’d go check out the area myself, see if I couldn't find some sort of evidence, or a witness, or something.”

“Ah, okay. Is that what you wanted to tell me?”

“Yeah, sorry I didn't wait for you. But I didn't want to give any involved parties any more time to sweep things under the rug. And I figured a midday recon, nowhere near the target, was decidedly not ‘drastic’ enough to warrant the delay.”

“Yeah, that's fine. Just stay safe.”

“Safe as I always am.”

Midoriya rolled his eyes. “No, safer than that. I'm still too busy with the sports festival to give you backup remember.”

“Alright, I’ll be extra vigilant for your sake then.”

“Thank you.”

“I’ll let you get back to it then. And I’ll update you once I know more.”

“Alright, bye Dare.”

“Bye Zu.”

Taking off his mask he turned his attention back to Toshi again.

“So, what's Mei hyper focused on now?”

“Olive branch.”

Midoriya looked at what he was still pretty sure were some kinda of roller blades with scrutinous eyes. Toshi sensed his confusion and elaborated.

“Iida was notably distracted during his match against Bakugou. Mei is worried it’s because he was still upset about their match earlier, so now shes making him the ultimate heelys as a ‘please dont hate me’ present.”

“They aren't heelys.”Mei chimed in. “They are reinforced, heat resistant, collapsible wheel, combat boots.”

Toshi mouthed the word ‘Heelys’ again but Mei ignored him.

“And I'm not worried, I just saw an obvious solution to an existing weakness in his gear. That's just my job as a support engineer. These simple and effective little babies will increase his speed tenfold without him needing to do anything.”

“It’s a great idea Mei. But are you sure they'll fit? And what if he doesn't know how to rollerblade?”

“Oh they’ll fit, I've memorized the measurements of all the hero course students, it's faster than looking the information up. And if he doesn't know how, then I’ll just have to teach him.”

Midoriya found himself squinting in suspicion yet again. Mei offering to teach him herself instead of just saying he would have to teach himself was a little outside her usual commitment level to a project. Normally once the gear was made she was on to the next thing. He considered asking about it, but decided it really wasn't any of his business.

“Alright, well when you're done I’ll come with you to deliver them. Just in case he sees you coming and runs the other way.” He teases.

The soft groan followed by the fog clearing blinks from Kami signaled he was finally starting to come back out of ‘whey’ mode but still wasn't fully back to normal. Toshi stopped messing with the blonde's hair but kept his arm over his shoulder. They all waited a minute to see if he was up to talking yet, but it seemed like the answer was still a no, so Midoriya filled the silence instead.

“What else did I miss?”

Toshi thought about it for a second. “Kirishima vs. Kendo was kinda interesting. Like a game of rock paper scissors made real. Kendo tried to just crush him in her giant hands, but then Kirishima just got even harder and the jagged edges of his rocks cut up her hands. She put up a good fight, but he outlasted her. Now he's set to go against Bakugou, which should be interesting.”

“Oh that will be actually. I wonder how big of a blast he can take? It's a real unstoppable force vs immovable object type scenario.”He mumbled a bit to himself about the possible outcomes but was cut off by Toshi before he could fall too far down that rabbit hole.

“Mmm. And then Todoroki is gonna face Tokoyami. Which should be an easy match, now that you've unlocked his fire, and Kami has exposed Shadow's weakness.”

Kami shook his head violently, apparently clearing out the last of his side effects as the smile returned to his face. Then he looked up at Midoriya and smiled a bit more.

“Hey Mido, quick question.”

“Uh, yeah?”

“What the heck man?”

Midoriya blinked at that, unsure what he was talking about. “What?”

“Your fight with Todoroki. You totally could have had him man. But instead you just slapped him around a little trying to convince him to fight you. What happened?”

“Oh, that…”

He thought back over the fight, Kami was right of course, there were several moments he could have taken advantage of the fact that Todoroki was still underestimating him to win the fight. But the match stopped being about winning to him the second he realized what Todoroki was doing.

He could have used his sleep pellets to knock him out, or even used the stored energy in his gloves to knock him out when he started hitting him. But winning when his opponent wasn't even giving it their all would have been a hollow victory. It wouldn't have proved anything. Of course he wanted to win, but more than that he wanted to earn the victory.

He told his friends his thoughts on the matter and they all nodded along with varying levels of understanding.

“I mean,” Kami began. “That's noble and all. Don’t get me wrong. But next time someone refuses to take you seriously like that, I vote you make that their problem.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean...Look, it obviously sucks right? I'm sure it doesn't feel great to know people are being quirkist pricks when they face you. But like, you can use that to your advantage. They’re the idiots that let their guard down, so why not punish them for it by knocking their ass out? Karmic justice, ya know.”

“Yeah, but Todoroki wasn't just some guy, he's our classmate. Like, if I'm up against a villain and they pull that crap, I wouldn't hesitate to ‘make it their problem’ as you say. But a classmate? Especially one who had previously called me out as being one of their biggest threats? I just couldn't accept it. Maybe it was a bad move, maybe it was overly prideful, but…”

“No, I think I get it.” Kami said with a new sense of understanding.

There was a beat or two of silence as they all digested it. But then Mei perked up.

“Done!” She said with a wide grin as she held up her completed product to the light.

“Let's go Midas, we've got babies to deliver!” She said excitedly.

“Ew, now we sound like a pair of OBGYN’s” He lamented. “I can't just leave, I need to get checked out by Recovery Girl first.”

“I’ll go get her then!” She piped up before moving from the room with a hasty purpose.

“Is it just me,” Kami questioned, “Or is Mei even more excitable than usual?”

“I didn't think it was possible. But you might be right.” Toshi agreed.

“Oh my god, wait! Do you guys think it's cause Iida is part engine? Like, do you think the blend of man and machine is what piqued her interest?” Kami asks with a hint of scandalized gasp at the realization.

Toshi and Midoriya’s jaws both dropped at that. Part of him wanted to defend Mei and say it couldn't possibly be that shallow or simple. But another part of him couldn't really deny that that was likely a big factor for her.

“That...That would make a lot of sense actually.” He mused aloud.

Kami nodded enthusiastically, having apparently convinced himself he cracked the case. “That's gotta be it right? Because by all other accounts, he’s like her exact opposite. He's serious and straight laced and she's goofy and unhinged. So it can't be the personality pulling her in.”

“Well, actually,” Toshi said with a bit of head tilt and a furrowed brow. “I’m not so sure the pres. is as straight and narrow as he appears on the surface. Like he's certainly a hardass, don't get me wrong. But sometimes he gets this look in his eyes...I think under the right circumstances he has the capacity to be just as feral as Mei, if not more so.”

“Really?” Both Kami and Midoriya said in unison.

Toshi opened his mouth to speak but was cut off by Mei and Recovery Girl reentering the room. The gears were visibly turning in all three boys' heads as they continued to silently contemplate the possible situation.

Recovery girl gave him another healing gummy and a follow up speech about needing to find some means of avoiding fire and explosions, since over half of his injuries were burns of some kind. It was a good point, and he made a mental note to think of ways to add some extra heat resistance to his uniform when he got the chance.

--

Kaminari was led back to the stands by Toshi, they had broken off from Mei and Midoriya, who were on a quest to find the missing class president to give him his fancy new heelys.

He was trying really, really, hard not to get his hopes up. If he let himself over analyze the way Toshi had taken care of him while he was brain dead, or the tone of adoration he was using when he talked about how he lost his match, then he was just gonna get his feelings hurt. He couldn't think about the ease with which they quipped back and forth in the ring, or how that suave ass dip had instilled in him a deep need to learn ballroom dancing. Because thinking about it was either gonna make him sad or give him hope, which would make him doubly sad when he inevitably got rejected. So to save himself that heartache he had to ignore it. He just had to.

He tried to distract himself by alternating his attention between the next round of fights and learning a new language on his phone.

He was always fascinated by sign language. He had never really bothered with it before because his mom didn't know that one and it wasn't a written language, but it was interesting to him all the same. And the idea of being able to keep his hands busy with something productive when he was feeling fidgety had its own form of appeal.

If instead of bouncing his legs or picking at his nail beds during class, thus distracting everybody, he could be writing or reciting poetry in his pocket, then everybody would win. Or maybe reading the textbook in his head, while also translating it to another language at the same time, would be enough to actually make the material stick for once. It was worth a try anyway, so he downloaded an app on his phone and worked his way through the alphabet and the number system between each blast Bakugou shot at Kirishima.

To one side Sero and Mina were cheering Kirishima on, and to the other, Toshi had a vaguely sleepy but entertained smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

He had such a nice smile. Not the fake one he used infront of other people, that one was only used to make others unsettled by him, and was modeled after Aizawa’s; While it held a smugness some may find attractive in its own right, it didn't hold a candle to his real smile.

The smile he only used around him and the rest of the Diesel Dudes, that smile was soft, and pure, and revealed an inner vulnerability he never allowed outsiders to see. Around other people he put up this mask of absolute indifference, but Kaminari knew better, at his core, Toshi was indifferent towards absolutely nothing. He always had an opinion, he always cared, he cared about everybody and everything, even people who had done nothing to earn his good will. He was such a good person.

Ah. Crap. He was supposed to not be thinking about Toshi. Come on Kaminari, focus. Let's learn some greetings, shall we? That will be a nice distraction. Hello. Good bye. Nice to meet you. My name is-. What's your name? Good morning. Good evening. Good-

A larger than usual blast on the field caught his attention and he saw Kirishima was starting to lose steam. Dang, he was really rooting for him.

“Are you really learning a new language right now? Five wasnt enough for you?” Toshi asked with an incredulous smile as he gestured at Kaminaris phone.

“Oh. Uh yeah, I thought it might help me study if I could translate things as I read them, But obviously doing that outloud would be really annoying for everyone around me. So I figured a primarily silent language would be a good fit.”

“Hmm, it's a good thought, but isn't it gonna take you a while to learn a whole new language? Might end up distracting you from your homework in the meantime while you're trying to learn it.”

“That's a good point.” He said feeling slightly deflated. He couldn't exactly say he was mostly trying to learn it right now as a distraction from thinking about him.

Toshi seemed to read something in his expression and changed his stance pretty quickly.

“It's a great idea though, using one of your primary interests to make the material more engaging to you, also using multiple parts of the brain at once making it more memorable. It's worth a try for sure… Maybe you should teach me too.”

“What? Why?” Oh no. This is the opposite of a distraction, abort mission.

“Well for one, we study together a lot, so if this is how you want to try learning I should probably know it too. But also it could come in handy. Sign language is good for stealth, and if I ever have to scream my voice raw again, it would be nice to have an alternate means of communication...Come to think of it, you should teach Zuku and Dare too… Hell you could even teach Mei, then we can all trash talk people in front of them without them knowing.”

Oh boy, now he had to not only learn the language himself but then teach it to four other people. This fun little distraction was quickly becoming a full fledged project. Toshi wasn't exactly wrong though, it would come in handy, especially for the three undercover vigilantes of the group.

He was still having a hard time fully comprehending the fact that his friends were vigilantes. That on any given night while he was snug at home reading, they could be out in some alleyway delivering the justice of the streets to some random baddies. Maybe by teaching them a skill that could help keep them safe, he could repay some of the debt for all the things they had taught him during their training sessions. It was a weak contribution to the cause, but it wasn't nothing.

“Yeah. I think I can do that. Give me a few days to get the basics down and then we can add it into our usual study time?”

“Sounds great.” He flashed that smile Kami loved so much and he felt his heart melt just a little at its warmth. So much for keeping himself distracted.

Another particularly loud series of bangs finished out the match between Kirishima and Bakugou, with the latter as the decided victor. He let out a small disappointed sigh that Sero and Mina matched next to him. But Toshi just nodded like this was the outcome he had expected from the beginning.

A sudden loud trill accompanied by flashing lights came from Toshi's phone. He furrowed his brows as he pulled the phone from his pocket, looking equally shocked and confused by it as Kaminari himself was.

When he looked at the screen his face instantly blanched and his phone clattered to the ground. His vision seemed to blur as he stared off into the middle distance.

“Toshi? Everything okay?”

The sound of a familiar voice seemed to pull him back out of his temporary stay in another plane. He shook his head, breaking out in an instant sweat as he picked his phone back up off the ground and read whatever was on it three more times.

“I- I've got to go. It’s-” He stood looking nervous, Kaminari rose to meet him and Toshi put his shaking hand on either of his shoulders. “Cover for us?” He asked with a look of urgency.

Still unsure of what exactly was happening, Kaminari found himself agreeing without really knowing what he was agreeing to.

“I-yeah of course.”

“Thank you.” Toshi pulled him in roughly for a hug so tight he could feel his heartbeat hammering in his chest before dashing off out of the stands.

Kaminari just stared at the doorway Toshi had disappeared through for a while, trying his best to decode what the sudden emergency could be, and trying his best not to worry too much about it. He had said ‘cover for us’ and Kaminari was gonna make the educated guess that the ‘us’ in question was him and Mido. That probably meant this was a vigilante thing then, right? He wouldn't have looked that panic stricken if it was like a spontaneous invite to dinner or something. Would he?

Whatever was going on. He was officially the decoy, which meant he would need to come up with a good excuse for their absence if anyone asked. And he should probably pay more attention to the final two rounds of the sports festival for them, since they were gonna miss it. But now he was having an even harder time not thinking about Toshi. Only instead of his usual teenage angst of unrequited feelings, he was worried for his safety. Don’t think about it. Focus.

They would be fine, right?

--

Mei and him found Iida fast enough, he was out by the stands looking down at his phone with a contemplative face.

“Hey Iida!” Midoriya said cheerfully as they approached.

In a stiff but fluid motion Iida pivoted his head to see them, and his eyes widened for just a fraction of a second when he saw Mei was with him, but he quickly schooled his expression back into his usual polite smile.

“Ah, Midoriya, Hatsume, how may I help you?”

“Actually Iida, we’re here to help you.”

Iida tilted his head slightly in surprised confusion. “Oh? And how is that?”

“With these!” Mei said as she thrusted the ‘totally not heelys’ out towards Iidas chest. “These little babies are reinforced, heat resistant, collapsible wheel, combat boots! Designed to increase your speed and mobility tenfold, while the auto stabilization and power braking systems should prevent injury from the increased speed!”

Her face was so close to the side of Iidas as he inspected the boots with an air of suspicion that Midoriya was worried it would soon become a head but.

“I see. The addition of wheels would allow me to go longer distances much faster while using less energy.” Iida said with one hand to his chin and the other holding one of the skates up for closer inspection. “How does one activate the collapsibility of the wheels?”

“If you click your heels together it activates the pressure release system to bring the wheels out, clicking them again will bring them back in! But I could also instal a secondary switch somewhere into your hero costume if you'd like!” She said with a toothy grin.

“Fascinating. And is the reinforcement in the ankle of the boot? Or in the foot itself?”

“Both! The file Midas made for you said you use your legs a lot for combat, so I made sure to reinforce the boots in ways that would increase damage to opponents while also absorbing the impact to yourself!”

Iida looked at Midoriya with a hint of a question in his features at the knowledge he had a file on him. Midoriya gave him a sheepish smile in answer to his unasked question. Iida pursed his lips together for a second but quickly recovered to continue questioning Mei.

“Is the heat resistance meant to protect against the flames of my recipro burst?”

“You bet! But they can also handle way more heat than that, you could skate across a volcano if you wanted to!”

Iida cracked a small smile “It seems unlikely I would ever need to do such a thing, but I do appreciate your thorough consideration in the matter.”

“You do know how to skate, right?” Midoriya asked.

“Yes. Though I must admit I'm a bit rusty. My elder brother Tensei used to take me skating when we were younger, but he's been very busy with work, and I with my studies, so it has been a few years since I last attempted.”

He had a far away look on his face that morphed from a smile to a slight frown. His eyes now had that same degree of consideration he was looking at his phone with when they first found them.

“Everything okay?” Midoriya asked.

Iida seemed to remember they were both still there and schooled his expression back into its neutral politeness.

“I'm sure it’s fine. I don't mean to worry you. I was just expecting a phone call from my brother earlier, but he hasn't gotten back to me as of yet. I know it's a bit silly to worry about him when he's such an accomplished pro hero, but he is still, first and foremost, my brother… I’m certain he is merely too busy with work at the moment for correspondence. Don’t worry yourself with it.”

Midoriya furrowed his brow and gave a small half smile. People telling him not to worry about something always had the exact opposite effect on him. “If you're sure.” He said in a questioning tone.

Iida nodded sharply before turning his gaze back to Mei. “What do I owe you for your invention?”

“Nothin’, It's your payment for being the spokesmodel for my babies earlier!” She said with a grin.

Iida seemed taken aback by this. “Oh, I...You must at least allow me to pay you back for the materials.”

“Nonsense, it’s mainly scraps from the support labs.” She waved him off before zooming in closer to his face again. “Just make sure you tell your big shot brother and the rest of his agency where you got them, so they know who to go to for all their future gear!”

With his attention no longer divided by inspecting the skates, he seemed to finally notice just how close she was getting to him, and a slight flush came over his face as he took a small respectful step back to bow.

“Thank you, Hatsume, I’ll be sure to do so.” He straightened back out of his bow to give a smaller head bow to Midoriya as well.

“Call me Mei, it saves time.” She said with a small swat at his arm.

His eyes once again went wider for a fraction of a second before he could regain his full composure. “I...If you wish.”

Midoriya was about to reassure Iida that Mei was just like this with everyone, and to apologize for not giving him a better warning about her complete lack of respect for others personal space. But his attention was immediately peeled away by the sharp trill and flashing lights coming from both his mask and his phone.

It took him a fraction of a second to realize what was happening. They never actually had to use the feature before, but his brain quickly caught up, and he felt all the blood rush out of his face as his stomach dropped. That was the distress call.

Dare was in trouble.

Chapter Text

The alley didn't seem to hold any evidence of the fight that had taken place the night before at first glance, but the scuffs along the concrete by the broken wheels of the dumpster suggested something more. Dare pushed the dumpster back the way it came, deepening the scuffs in the ground, to see what was hidden behind it, and was rewarded with scorch marks in the brick. An arch of black soot revealed the outline of a human form with their arms held high in surrender.

They took a few pictures on their phone of both the scorch marks and the scuffs on the ground that suggested a lazy cover up, adding them to his file of evidence against Endeavor.

The faint rustle of movement from somewhere deeper in the maze of narrow alleyways caught their attention. They wouldn't normally concern themselves with alley cats or bar fights, but they had promised Zu their vigilance, so they found themselves wandering towards the sound.

The closer they got the more obvious it became that this was far more than a bar fight, the clang of metal on metal and small bursts of engine made that clear. So they slid the visor of their helmet down and got ready for a real fight.

Nothing could have fully prepared them for the sight they stumbled upon. In movements so fast they were barely more than a blur to his eyes, the hero Ingenium was locked in a fight with Stain. Tattered trailing fabric of red and white softened the shaper glint of several swords and knives as the hero killer made lunge after lunge towards the armored hero.

He had heard of Stain before of course, he had developed quite the reputation for taking down heroes he deemed unworthy of the title. Rummor has it, he had started his career as a vigilante going by a different name before he finally snapped and switched sides into villany.

Dare had about half a second to ponder what Stain’s problem with Ingenium could possibly be before realizing he wasn't the actual target. Off to the side of the fight there was another figure, a woman he recognized more from her several billboards and commercials than any of her actual hero work.

Prioritizing the rescue he rushed toward the crumpled form, but a quick check of the pulse revealed she was already dead and likely had been for a few minutes at least. Ingenium must have rushed onto the scene just as Stain was finishing up his actual mission.

A pained yell caught his attention and he turned just in time to see Ingenium fall to the ground with a sword plunged into his back. Dare pulled out his blaster and immediately fired a stun round into Stains face to prevent him from pulling the sword back out. Removing the sword would cause Ingenium to bleed out faster, and if it stayed still enough, there was a small chance it could be taken out later without paralyzing him. Stain stumbled back a few steps at the flash and the taze, but it wouldn't stop him for long.

His reputation was what it was for a reason, Dare knew this was gonna be a hard fight, one that would be entirely too long to get Ingenium to the hospital in time. So he did the only thing he could, he called for backup. Triggering the distress beacon in his helmet, he hoped his team would be able to alert paramedics in time.

In the time it took Dare to stand, Stain had already recovered from the stun round and was charging his way. The close quarters of the alley and presence of previous victims meant using his blaster for this fight would be a no go. But that was okay, because Stain wasn't the only one with knives.

--

Midoriya Pulled up the feed from Dares helmet to figure out what was happening and was immediately met with the sight of blood platter, blurred movements, and an impaled Ingenium on the ground.

Not for the first time, the surge of emotions in his chest was met with the need to keep calm enough to develop a plan, and the result was an icy, analytical, rage.

Hosu was nearly an hour away by train, by the time he got there Stain would be long gone and Ingenium would likely be dead. If he was thinking a bit clearer, he may have questioned his next move, but his only concern at the moment was getting there as soon as possible.

“Mei.” His voice came out like venom, shocking both her and Iida. “How fast can he get to Hosu wearing those?” He asked, pointing at his new gear.

Mei looked torn between wanting to ask what was wrong and wanting to brag about her latest babie, but answered him plainly after some quick calculations.

“If he's using his quirk at its highest gear, about 15 minuets.”

He nodded in lieu of a reply. It wasn't great but it was a hell of a lot better than the hour long train ride. He turned to Iida, green eyes blazing with urgency

“Iida. I need your help. You can't ask me how I know this. But your brother is in danger, and we need to get to Hosu right now or he's going to die.”

Iidas face flashed from shock to blazing determination as he quickly started changing into his new boots. While he was busy with that, he turned to Mei.

“Mei. I’m sorry to drag you into this. But-”

“It’s okay Midas. I know.”

In a world where he had time, he would ask her what it was exactly she thought she knew, but this wasn't that world. She took hold of his hand by the wrist, lifting it up before placing a small disk in his palm labeled chameleon.

“What's this?” He asked.

She took out a similar disk and attached it to her chest with the adhesive, hitting the button at the center she turned invisible.

“Made these with the leftover samples I got from Hagakure. It's single use and only lasts an hour so use it wisely.”

He was about to thank her for her help, but he was cut off by Iida kneeling in front of him.

“Get on.” He said sternly just before opening and chugged a bottle of orange juice, leaving no room for argument or delay.

Midoriya looped his arms around Iida’s shoulders and climbed onto his back. Iida tossed the now empty bottle into a trash can over his shoulder, and the second he finished standing he clicked his heels together and activated his quirk.

For a moment the sheer g force threatened to give him whiplash, but once he ducked his head down more he found a pocket of lower wind pressure behind Iida’s head that was a lot less volatile. If the class president himself was at all affected by the sudden extreme speed, he didn't show it. Midoriya pulled up the coordinates on his command center, angling his arm so Iida could easily read the directions as they tore through the streets at max speed.

--

Hitoshi’s heart was hammering in his chest at an alarming rate, working overtime to suppress the impending panic attack he was sure to have if he lost focus for even half a second. He was running so fast his feet slid around corners like he was drifting on Dares bike. He had to find Zuku and get to Hosu as fast as possible.

“Wait, Tos-” He collided with an unseen force, taking them both to the ground as the invisible figure finished with a groan. “-shiiiii.”

He would recognize that voice anywhere, even it made no sense for it to be coming from the invisible body between him and the ground.

“Mei?” He asked as he scrambled off the ground and offered a hand to the general area he thought she was laying in.

She accepted his hand and pulled herself off the ground. “Yep.”

The time to question how or why she was invisible would come later, when his brother wasn't in danger. So he ignored the part of him that was deeply curious in favor of the more pressing matter at hand.

“Where's Zuku? I need to find him.”

“Him and Iida just blasted off towards Hosu.”

“Fuck!”

Part of him was happy that help was already on the way, but another part of him was a little pissed that Zuku left without him. Now he would have to find his own way there.

“You're gonna need your gear right? I've got most of it in the locker rooms.”

He shook off the impulse to deny it. Either Zuku already told her something or she had figured things out for herself. Either way, he really would need his gear, and probably some of hers, if he wanted to be of any use. His phone only gave coordinates, so he had no way of knowing for sure what he would be facing when he eventually got there, for all he knew it was the league, and he had to be ready for that possibility.

He nodded with a mumbled thanks as him and Mei both started jogging down the halls to the locker room.

--

Stain tossed two throwing knives at Dare who caught them both in his forearm before he swung his other arm up with his own knife at the villains midsection. Stain had ridiculously fast reflexes but Dare was still able to get a few good hits in. He was a good ten minutes into his fight with Stain and he had managed to steal four of the man's knives so far, albeit by less than ideal means, and he could tell it was really starting to make him mad.

Stain had a tongue that was ridiculously long and gross looking, and he kept trying to use it to lick at Dares wounds. He wasn't sure what would happen if he ever succeeded, but the first rule of dealing with unknown quirks is: if it seems like your opponent really wants to do something, you should do everything in your power to make sure they don't get to do it. So Dare was being a bit more defensive than he normally would be in an effort to keep this weirdo away from his blood.

His first priority was making sure the fight stayed far enough away from Ingenium that he wouldn't get any further injuries. But if he made that effort too obvious then Stain was liable to go after that assumed weakness. So he was only able to add in some distance during every other dodge after landing his own hits, hopefully the anger and the pain would provide enough of a distraction that Stain wouldn't see what he was doing.

With a bit of a growl Stain took the sword from its holster on his back and charged forward. Dare wall jumped off a dumpster to dive over Stain’s head, pulling one of the knives from his own arm to stab into the meat of Stain’s shoulder from above. Rolling into the landing, he quickly pivoted on the ground to slice at Stain’s ankles, but the man was too fast and spun out of his reach with a too wide smile on his face.

Stain lunged at him and he dove between the man's legs, springing back up on the other side to get a bit more distance.

The elaborate game of keepaway tag with knives was leading to quite a bit of damage on both ends. Obviously, being the bad guy, Dare did not condone any of his actions, but he had to admit he was an impressive opponent with reaction times and pain tolerance that rivaled his own. If only this guy had stayed true to his vigilante roots, they could have been a great sparring partner.

Dares' knife grazed the side of Stains arm as he ran past him. He sensed the sword swinging down at his back before he felt it, slicing a long streak all the way down their back right along his spine. Dare winced, breathing through clenched teeth as he swung around.

He grabbed an empty glass bottle off the fire escape to smash over Stains head, but at the height of his swing he felt his whole body lock up. Stain was lapping the blood off his sword with a sickening grin.

Just as quickly as he felt his body freeze, it was released again, gravity doing the bulk of the work in glass shattering against the enemy's baffled looking head. Then he was frozen once again, unable to avoid the deep gash being cut into his arm. When he felt the release half a second later he used it to stab the neck of the broken bottle into Stains side, only to be locked up again and have another gash made into his thigh.

Stain dashed backwards looking just as confused as Dare felt. He was moving like a human strobe light. Alternating rapidly between paralysis and a clumsy charge, pain radiating from his gashes as they began to seal and regenerate.

“What are you?” Stain said with a sense of hesitant awe.

Dare ignored the question, he would never be able to fully answer it anyway, and instead continued to push himself to move as fast as possible during the brief flashes of control he was given.

A look of frustration was present on both their faces. Dare was having a hard enough time trying to keep up with stain before, and now he was moving at half speed in choppy motions that would be far too easily avoidable.

Stain plunged his sword through his stomach, and Dare had just enough time to grab a hold of the blade in an effort to hold it inside his body before he locked up again. Stain looked all the more frustrated and confused as he pressed his sword in further and started to twist the blade, scraping it along Dare’s organs as well as his palms. It was agonizing, but he couldn't let go. Once the blade was removed his quirk would kick in and try to replace the damaged organs, and he couldn’t handle that level or regeneration and hold Stain back at the same time.

Abandoning the sword for now, Stain licked some of the blood from his hands, and Dare felt the tensing and releasing of his body double down even further. Now lasting a full second of each as opposed to the half second doses of before.

With one hand devoted to holding the sword in place, he used the other when he could to lash out at Stain who looked disgusted by the whole affair.

“Why?” Stain seemed to be asking himself as much as he was Dare.

He saw Stains eyes flash over to Ingenium for a moment and then back to him. A look of contemplation and a slight growl was the only outward indication that he had come to some sort of conclusion as he quickly backed away and disappeared into the shadows.

Dare yelled out in frustration and pain. He was really hoping he’d be able to catch Stain before he had the chance to kill anyone else, but there was no way he was gonna catch up to him in his current state.

His whole body itched and ached with the constant little regenerations it had to do throughout the fight. And he still had three daggers and a sword sticking out of him.

Slowly, in the little bursts where it was a possibility, he pulled out the daggers from his arms and leg. He left the sword in its place. He could already tell the ruptured organs had been damaged too extensively and for too long for a simple patch to work.There was no avoiding it at his point. He was gonna die.

The second he allowed his body to heal, he was gonna be knocked out for however long it took to reproduce the organs from scratch, but he needed more time, he had to get himself somewhere hidden so his body wouldn't be discovered while he was out. And that meant it was better to leave the sword in and die slowly than it would be to yank it out and trigger the regeneration.

He stumbled towards Ingenium, who had long since passed out from the blood loss, and checked for a pulse. Still alive. He let out a small sigh of relief, at least he would be okay.

Dare shot one of the tracker rounds from his blaster into the nearby dumpster so Toshi and Zu would be able to find Ingenium easier. Then he shuffled himself further into the complex maze of alleyways till he found what he was looking for. He had noticed the small abandoned basement when he was looking for the scene of Endeavour's crime earlier, and it seemed as good a place as any to die.

He broke the window with his elbow and pulled himself through with as much grace as he could muster while only being able to move for a second at a time, and with a big ass sword impaled through his center. He crawled up against a pillar to brace himself and bit into his arm to muffle the inevitable groans and cries, the sounds might alert any neighbors, and he needed to make sure he wasn’t seen. But just as he was about to start pulling out the sword, he heard the call of his own name echo through the alleys.

He knew if he was already gone when Zu found him that he would freak out. He had explained to him once before that he never stayed dead, but hearing it as a hypothetical and seeing it happen in front of you are two very different things. He would need to give him a lot of reassurance and some last minute instructions to help lessen his anxiety. So instead of pulling the sword from his body he called back out to him.

--

Just a minute before they arrived on the scene, Midoriya's command center got the alert that one of the tracker rounds had been activated, he expected the round to start retreating but to his vague confusion it stayed put and it was instead Dares coordinates that started to change. Putting together the most likely scenario in his head, he figured the tracker was meant to show them where to find Ingenium while Dare moved the fight elsewhere.

They skidded to a stop at the mouth of the maze of alleys, Midoriya dropped from Iidas back and they ran side by side to the place marked by the tracker. Ingenium was in the same position Midoriya had seen him in from Dares helmet cam. Laying face down on the ground in a puddle of blood, a sword sticking straight up in his back.

Iida was at his brother's side in the blink of an eye, calling for an ambulance with his phone on speaker while simultaneously pulling the shirt off his back to use as a compress to stop the blood. At first glance he seemed perfectly calm and collected as he administered first aid and spoke to the operators on the other end of the line, but he was radiating an aura of absolute malice. Like he would not hesitate to pull the trigger on whoever had done this to his brother. Midoriya couldn't help but wonder if this was the look Toshi was talking about earlier.

Midoriya checked Dare's location and saw that it was less than two blocks away and moving really slowly before suddenly disappearing. His eyes found an alarmingly thick trail of blood on the ground leading his way and broke off in a sprint ignoring the shouts from Iida to stay.

Once he got near the area his signal disappeared from, he started shouting out Dares name. He heard a shaky strained call return his name from inside an abandoned building. The blood on the broken window told him he had definitely found the right place and he hurried through to the other side.

He felt his heart break just a bit at the sight of a sword impaling Dares blood soaked body. His eyes filled with involuntary tears as he rushed over to his side.

“Hey Zu. You sure got here fast.” Dare was clearly trying to give him a reassuring smile, but it came off more like a grimace. “Is Ingenium alright?” He asked.

Midoriya shook his head no as he started pulling what little first aid supplies he had on him from his pockets.

“I- I don’t know. Iida is with him, I came to find you.” Midoriya moved to put some gauze against the implement but his hands were stopped by Dares' firm grasp.

“Don't waste your supplies on me. You have to prioritize the rescue.”

Midoriya felt a small flash of anger bubble in his stomach. “I am.”

“I meant Ingenium.”

“Iidas got him. I need to help you.”

“Zu…” Dare looked at him with sympathy as he wiped the tears Midoriya didn't know had fallen from his face. “You can’t save me.”

Midoriya's lip trembled a little as he sniffled, the tears filling his eyes to the point of thoroughly blurring his vision.

“Why not?!” He sobbed. He knew the answer, his first aid training included knowing who was beyond saving in a crisis situation.

“I'm sorry.” Dare replied. “I know it's scary. But I’m gonna be okay. I’ll come back.”

Midoriya couldn't stop himself from crying harder. He knew logically that what Dare was saying was true, but that didn't make watching him suffer any easier. He could tell he was in a lot of pain, and he could also tell Dare was going to great efforts to try and mask that pain for his sake. Which really only added to his guilt.

“W-what do I do? How can I help?” He asked through his tears.

“Make sure no one else finds me. Waking up in a morgue always complicates things for me… If it's safe, could you try and get my body back home?”

He wiped the tears from his eyes with his fist as he nodded in confirmation, trying his best not to choke on his own sorrow at Dare referring to themselves as a body.

Dare gave him a half hearted smile, “Thanks Zu.” He winced involuntarily, sucking in air through clenched teeth. “You- you should go make sure the Iida’s are alright. If you're gone for too long they’ll get suspicious.”

He hated that he was right. He didn't want to abandon him here to die, alone and in pain. Wasn't there anything else he could do to help ease the pain?

“I- I should take the sword out right? So you don't start healing around it?”

“It doesn't work that way, it only heals when the damage is done being made. I was gonna wait till you were gone to take it out. I should be gone pretty quick after that and... you shouldn't have to watch that.”

“But that means it’ll stop hurting right?” He said as his hands hesitantly started moving towards the sword, only to have their path once again cut off by Dares.

“Zu. It’s okay.”

Midoriya started chewing at his lip to avoid sobbing loudly. He wanted so desperately to do something to help. He had been called useless all his life, but never had he felt that was more true than he did in this moment.

He wished Dare would just let him pull out the sword. It would be a mercy to have his quirk painlessly take over as opposed to slowly bleeding to death. It was all so frustrating. Sure, maybe there wasn’t any way to save him, maybe none of his first aid training would be able to help, but there had to be something he could do to make them feel better. Anything at all.

A flash of memories came to mind of scraped knees and paper cuts his mother had soothed over the years, and before his brain could catch up to what he was doing his body was already leaning forward.

His hand grasped either side of Dares face as he tilted it down towards him, he pressed his lips to the top of Dares head. A sweet and chaste kiss to chase away the pain. As he pulled away he saw Dare's eyes swimming with some undefined emotion, a slight smile at the corner of his lips.

“Zu?” He questioned with more breath than sound as his head leaned in closer to Midoriya's almost pressing their noses together, his eyes trailing down to his lips and then back up to his eyes in an unasked question.

Midoriya took advantage of Dares' dazed state to pull the sword from his body; he couldn't stand to see him in pain for a second longer.

Dares eyes flashed wide in pain and surprise at the removal of the blade, blood sputtering from his body in large gushes before his quirk had the chance to seal the wound. Midoriya stumbled backwards to avoid the bulk of the spray, but still felt a few stray droplets rolling down his face. Dare's eyes glazed over and his body collapsed to the side, unmoving and unbreathing.

Dead.

The need to scream and cry and burn something to the ground was strong, but Dares only requests were to help the Iidas, make sure no one found his body, and to somehow get him home. So his mission was not over until he had accomplished those tasks.

A strange form of self imposed numbness took over him as he pulled the Chameleon Disk Mei had given him from his pocket and attached it to Dares bloody chest. He lingered for only a moment, before activating the invisibility.

He wiped the blood from his face and his shoes and made his way back to the broken window. He looked back at the place Dares' invisible body laid for another moment before climbing through to the otherside to find Iida.

He sent a quick text to Toshi telling him to bring the van to their location as soon as he could. He didn't tell him what had happened. It wasn't the kind of news you gave over text even if it was only temporary. He would warn him when he got here.

When he got back to the Iida’s, Ingenium was being loaded onto a stretcher.

“Midoriya, where were you?” Iida asked with just a touch of anger.

“I was trying to find the guy who did this.” He lied.

“Did you find him?” He asked with far less spite.

Midoriya shook his head no with a furrowed brow. Iida squeezed his shoulder reassuringly before speaking up again.

“It’s alright. We’ll find him… I’m sorry, but they said they can only allow one person in the ambulance with him. And I’m afraid I must be selfish and take that space.”

“Don’t apologize. Of course you should be with him. I’ll be fine.” He needed to stay here to meet with Toshi anyway. “Text me when you get to the hospital?”

“Of course.” Iida stiffly bowed before climbing up into the ambulance and shutting the door.

The sirens blared loudly as they peeled off towards the E.R. Once he was sure there was no one in ear shot Midoriya allowed himself this small moment of weakness, and he let out a full bodied scream. He kicked at some stray trash and punched at a brick wall, sobbing all the while. He had about 20 minutes of alone time before Toshi got here and he needed to get some of these feelings out of his body before they caused him to combust.

Maybe it was his own wishful thinking trying to make a truly terrible moment better in any way it could. But he could have sworn, that for just a moment, right before he pulled the blade from his guts and sped up his death, Dare was looking at him as if he might lean in for a kiss. The direction of his gaze and that faint sparkle in his eyes really made it seem like…

Like maybe, just maybe, he felt the same as Midoriya. That maybe he too was in love.

Which would be great, If he hadn't just essentially committed a mercy killing.

Chapter Text

Katsuki felt like he was dying.

He didn't want the damn award, he hadn't earned it. That Icy Hot bastard refused to use his fire during their fight, he used it on fucking Deku of all people but for whatever reason he didnt think Katsuki was good enough for it. He was looking down on him the same way he looked down on the others, but he wasn't like those other extras god damn it, he was better than them, he was the best.

That half and half disgrace held back on him the whole fight and then had the audacity to pass out before Katsuki had the chance to actually earn his victory. It was bullshit, and he refused to accept some stupid consolation prize. It was bad enough he had to give that stupid speech this morning, but now this was just unacceptable.

But apparently Midnight and all her inappropriate bdsm bullshit didn't know the meaning of the word consent; cause when he said no she used her quirk to knock him out and then chained him up while he was incapcitated.

His hands were bound in quirk canceling cuffs that made it impossible to break himself free, his body held firmly in place against unforgiving concrete with thick chains, and his mouth was covered in a human sized muzzle so he couldn't even cuss them out for their bullshit.

The more he struggled and failed to break free, the more his heart rate climbed and the harder it got to breathe. And before he knew it he felt like he was right back where he was a year ago. Trapped and choking on the vile sludge that burned his throat and filled his lungs.

He felt the low light of the afternoon sun hit his thrashing body as he was raised out of the ground and onto the stage, the beams of light blared directly into his eyes making it hard to see, but he didn't need to see to know he was surrounded by people. Hundreds of people gathered all around him, watching him struggle, and doing absolutely nothing to help him. Hundreds of people, all here to watch him die.

He did all he could, just as he did that day, and just like then it wasn't enough. His quirk did nothing, all his muscles and stamina did nothing, all that training and studying and sacrifice did nothing. He was still trapped. He was still drowning. He still felt like he was going to die.

And then All Might was there, and a small spark of hope flared in his gut. Surely All Might wouldn’t just stand by and watch him struggle, he wouldn’t watch him choke on someone else's body as it tried to take over his own, he would save him. He was a hero, a real hero.

All Might removed the muzzle, and it instantly made him feel 20x better, he was still trapped, but at least he was no longer drowning, at least now he could breathe. He became suddenly aware of the many cameras trained on him. The whole world was watching a live broadcast of his failure. He was filled with the heat of shame and anger as he tried and failed once more to break free of his cuffs.

His hero moved to put something over his head and Katsuki flinched out of the way on instinct, he didn't want anything around his throat, he was still trying to catch his breath. All Might tried twice more, and Katsuki just kept thrashing out of the way. He didn't want it.

Katsuki tried to shout as much, to tell him to stop, because he didnt want the stupid medal that he hadnt even earned. With a disappointed sigh, All Might gave up on his cooperation and shoved the ribbon into his open mouth.

Katsuki felt his whole body freeze up. Now he felt like he was choking for a completely different reason. This can't be real. There's no way this was really happening. There is no way the man he trusted most in this world to save him, would be the one to shove something into his mouth while he was struggling to break free.

He knows, with the small shred of sanity he still holds, that this isn't the same thing as the sludge villain attack. That he is still at the sports festival, and that there is no real threat to his life here, but that doesn't stop his mind from flashing back to it.

His mind's eye is flooded with a vision of a man from the crowd that day. A man who was tall and thin and sickly looking, a man with blonde hair and sunken eyes, who looked right at him as he finally lost consciousness and didn't even blink. The last face he saw before he died. And he knows there is no connection between that man and the one standing before him now, that the audience currently laughing and chastising him from the stands are not the same bystanders from the street, and that his teachers are not the so-called heroes who let him die. But they may as well be.

So he stops fighting. He stops struggling and trying to break free, because he knows it's a pointless effort, he was never gonna be good enough to save himself, and no one was ever gonna give enough of a shit about him to do it themselves.

They hated him.

It had never bothered him before, what others thought of him, champions were rarely liked by those below them. But he couldn't help but wonder if people would have been so willing to watch him suffer if he was someone a bit more likeable.

If this same thing had happened to Deku, would anyone say something? If it had been some other kid being violated by sludge, would the heroes have let them die? Or did things like this only happen to Katsuki because he was the way he was. Had he somehow earned this as punishment for some karmic misstep he had committed in his past?

With numbing clarity he looked around the stadium and not a single person there was on his side. He was merely a curiosity to them, an angry little kid who needed to learn a lesson in humility, or a feral creature finally being put down.

Hundreds of people… Statistically speaking it was impossible for all of them to be wrong.

After a few more minutes of fanfare that he mentally wasn't present for, he was lowered back into the ground. And waiting for him down below was the still mummified looking and clearly upset Aizawa. No doubt pissed that Katsuki had embarrassed him with his behavior.

The second Kirishima was lowered down from the third place podium, he rushed over to remove the ribbon from his mouth. Then Aizawa waddled up on his crutches and started unlocking and unwinding the chains.

If he were a willing occupant in his own body at the moment, he would have noticed the looks of anger and concern on their faces, but he was putting a lot of effort into pretending all of Japan hadn’t just seen him chained to a concrete slab and having a mental breakdown on national television.

Midnight was lowered from the stage, the sound of applause followed her down before being abruptly cut off by the sealing hatch in the ceiling. Aizawa was quick to jump on the offensive, waddling her direction with purpose.

“Whose idea was this?” He said with a snarl as he slammed the chains down at her feet.

Midnight looked taken aback at his tone, and Katsuki himself wasn't really sure what was going on. He rubbed at his sore wrists, between the stress of using his quirk all day, and the struggle against the cuffs, they have been rubbed raw. He could feel all the bones in his arms aching and it was truly nauseating.

“Well the little brat didn't want to play nice for the awards ceremony.” Midnight defended.

Katsuki tried not to flinch at being called a brat. He never really liked Midnight, she reminded him too much of his mother. So that name coming from her was just a reminder to him of what he would be facing when he got home.

“So you skip his part of the ceremony. You don’t chain a child up and force them to take part in pointless frivolities. Especially when they are so clearly distressed by it. It's illogical.”

“Well after his disastrous speech this morning, I thought it would be a bad look to let him further disrespect the traditions of the festival, as well as disregard the feelings of his fellow competitors, by refusing the medal.”

“And you thought this-'' He gestured wildly at all the hardware that was removed from Katsuki, “Was the better look for the school? That having a 15 year old child held against his will would be better for our reputation than just having an empty podium? Or better yet, if he had already said repeatedly that he wouldn't accept the win, you could have just accepted that as a forfeit and given it to the runner up.”

Midnight looked a little uncomfortable at having her methods questioned in front of the students, her eyes flashing around to each of them before settling onto Katsukis face. He shifted his weight to his back leg feeling more than a little uncomfortable himself but still feeling too out of it to put up a fight.

“Don’t look at them, Nemuri. You think they’re gonna defend you? No. Look at me. How long have we been friends?”

“...Since highschool.”

“And how long have I been telling you to use your head in situations like this, instead of just defaulting to your first horrendous instinct?”

A flash of anger came across her face at the insult, but whatever it was she was about to say to defend herself it was interrupted by the rat.

“Oh dear, I see this little faculty meeting has started without me.” Nedzu said with a glint of irritation in his beady eyes. “Children, if you would please return to the locker rooms to change before heading to your home room for dismissal. Your sensei will be joining you shortly.”

Katsuki didn't move at first, still not fully present enough to realize the mouse was talking to him. Kirishima clapped one hand onto his shoulder to lead him away, and Katsuki flinched back at the sudden contact before realizing who it was.

“You okay?” He asked, and between that and the small concerned raise of Kirishima's eyebrows, it was enough to bring him back into his body.

He hated people pitying him. He angrily tossed shitty hairs hand off his shoulder and stomped away, slamming the door behind him for good measure.

This whole day had been one helping of bullshit after another and it wasn't even dinner time.

Fuck all of this. There was no way he was going back to class just to have everyone stare at him like a circus freak. But there was no way in hell he was going home either. The hag would have a fucking feild day with all the ways Katsuki had found to embarace her.

Looks like tonight was gonna be another impromptu camping day for him. His tent and a few protein bars should still be hidden in that log by the beach.

--

“Kaminari,” Mr Aizawa said with an air of exasperation as he pinched at the bridge of his nose. “Where are Shinsou, Iida, and Bakugou?”

Kaminari stalled mentally for a moment. He had a cover story planned for an ‘us’ that he assumed was just Toshi and Mido. He wasn't sure whether or not Iida was involved somehow, but he was, presumably, with Mido when he got whatever that alert was for. So maybe he was? Bakugou though? He wasn’t sure if Mido hated him or not, but he was pretty sure at least Toshi did, so he likely wasn’t part of the ‘us’ he was asked to cover for.

Aizawa raised his eyebrows expectantly, he couldn't stall forever, going with his gut he added Iida to his cover story but left Bakugou out. Hoping with all his nervous little heart that that was the right answer.

“Well you see sir, Mei, you know Mei right? Form the support class? She made this new portable popcorn popper that she wanted us all to try. I myself don't really like popcorn, because the kernels get stuck in my teeth, and I used to have braces in the second grade so I really hate the feeling of thing between my teeth and-”

“Kaminari, I assume your story has a point to it?”

“I'm getting there sir. Anyway, I didn't try the popcorn, but Midoriya, Shinsou, and Iida all did. Which was unfortunate for them because it turns out the brand of synthetic butter Mei used had an adverse chemical reaction with the metal she used for the interior of the canister and-”

“Oh shit, did it explode?” Sero asked with a bit of a nervous giggle.

“Close, their digestive tracts did. Instant food poisoning. I'm talking both ends here folks, it was really ugly. Absolute brutality. It was ‘need to write a formal letter of apology to the janitorial staff’ bad. It was-”

“Kaminari.” Aizawa said with a sigh. While the rest of the class failed to suppress their laughs.

“Sorry sir. Anyway, the point is they all went home to re-hydrate and call a priest.”

“And Bakugou?” He said with an eye roll.

Kaminari was about to say he had no clue where he was, but he was cut off by Kirishima.

“His mother came and got him sir. I think she was upset about the whole awards ceremony thing.” He said nervously.

Kaminari wasn't sure why, but he got the feeling that wasn't at all what actually happened. But he wasn't about to call Kirishima out for lying when he had just done the same.

Aizawa’s slight glare suggested he didn't fully believe either one of them, but was too tired to care at the moment. So with another long suffering sigh he accepted their excuses and moved on with the closing announcements.

They had tomorrow off from classes to recuperate but would continue with lessons as usual Monday morning. Once they were dismissed, he and Kirishima shared a short knowing glance with one another before they both checked their phones and in near unison let out a small sigh at the lack of a text message from their respective friends.

He was really, really hoping they were all okay.

--

Toshi had just finished compelling a police officer not to give him a speeding ticket when he got the text from Midoriya that the threat (whatever it turned out to be) had passed, but that they still needed him to show up with the van as soon as possible.

He felt a little guilty for using his quirk on the officer now, but at the moment he didn't have time for burearcy. And there was no way he was about to call the guy back over and tell him to write him a ticket after all, so he just accepted the guilt and continued on his journey, going as fast as was legally allowed.

When he finally pulled up to the alley he found Zuku curled up in the fetal position, head between his knees and fingers pulling at his hair. That was already worrying enough, but what was worse was the fact that Dare was nowhere to be seen.

He hopped out of the van, scanning for threats. His text earlier said the threat was gone, but maybe it had come back since then and that's why Zuku was so upset. Seeing nothing of obvious note he kneeled down next to his friend, speaking gently to get his attention before he slowly reached forward to put a hand on his shoulder.

“Zuku?”

Wide green eyes snapped up to meet his own, they were bloodshot and puffy, he had clearly been crying pretty hard for quite awhile now. His friend was prone to tears, but not like this. Toshi felt a sick sort of dread filling his stomach with heavy stones.

He searched Zuku’s expression for any further indication of what had happened, and saw a single drop of dried blood on his cheek shaped like a teardrop.

“Zuku.” He tried a little more sternly. “What happened?”

Midoriya shook his head, tears clouding up his eyes once more as his nails dug into his knees. His first attempt at words came out like a strangled cry, he bumped his forehead against his knees twice in frustration.

The whole display was making Toshi feel worse and worse about the situation, his mind immediately supplying him with the worst case scenario, that his brother had been captured. And when Zuku finally did find his voice, his first words really didn't help him feel any better.

“I'm sorry.” Was all he said at first.

Toshi felt his legs give out from under him and he was suddenly sitting on the vaguely wet ground as well.

“Toshi it’s...I’m sorry.”

“What. Happened.” He spoke through clenched teeth and blurry eyes, trying to hold back the flood of emotions till after he knew all the facts and could come up with a plan to get him back.

“I...I think it was Stain.”

The hero killer? Why would stain go after Dare? Vigilantes weren't part of his MO. Before he had much time to wonder more about it Midoriya finished his explanation.

“Iidas brother, Ingenium, he was here, and he had a sword in his spine...and there were all these daggers, and another sword in...I think it was Stain.”

“Okay?” He said with confusion and mild relief, if it was Stain, then at least Dare wasn’t captured. “So then...where's Dare? Is he still fighting him?”

Toshi looked around listening for the tell tale signs of a fight. But all he heard was a choked whimper that Zuku failed to suppress.

“No. He’s...Toshi, I’m so sorry. But-but it's gonna be okay, because he’ll be back. He said he always comes b-back.” He said through his sniffles and sobs.

He had a sinking feeling he knew the answer, but Zuku still hadn't said the actual words yet, so he asked one last time.

“Zuku, what happened?”

Midoriya looked at him with wide eyes and a pale face. It looked like simply trying to say the words out loud was physically painful for him, but he eventually spoke in a horrified whisper.

“I killed him.”

Toshu felt the blood drain from his face and his soul eject from his body for about three full seconds before the ghost of him catapulted painfully back into his chest.

“W-what?” He managed to croak out of his rapidly tightening throat.

It took several tries, Midoriya kept having to stop to cry or scream or slam his fist against the concrete. But eventually he told him about everything that had happened. And Toshi found himself crying on behalf of both Dare and Zuku. Wrapping an arm around the shorter boy and allowing him to cry into his shoulder for a minute.

It was awful. He was simultaneously sorry and grateful that he wasn't there to see that. He wasn't sure what he would have done in that scenario, and hopefully he would never have to find out.

But at the same time, he knew Dare wouldn’t stay dead, his quirk would bring him back soon. At least he hadn't been captured...Toshi couldn't help but wonder just how fucked up their lives had gotten that dying wasn't even the worst case scenario.

By his calculations, they only had about five minutes to get Dares body into the van before Mei’s invisibility disk would wear off. And transporting an invisible body was definitely gonna help with the whole, not getting arrested thing, so they forced themselves up off the ground and Toshi braced himself for seeing, in Zukus words ‘an impossible amount of blood.’

The scent of iron and early decay was so strong he had to suppress the urge to vomit, but they managed to find his crumpled and cold form. With Toshi grabbing his arms and Zuku on his legs, they carried him to the van, the drips of blood only becoming visible after they rolled off the invisible body. They laid him down in the back just in time for the effect to slowly fade like a polaroid developing in 3d.

And suddenly glass eyes were staring up into his own, and Toshi had to bolt from the van to puke into some poor stranger's trash can. Zuku rubbed soothing circles into his back until he stopped. Looking back towards the van he could see bloody legs laying on the floor and he had to look up at the sky to avoid getting sick again.

“Can- can we cover him with a blanket or something? I don't think I can drive back like this.”

Zuku nodded with a furrowed brow looking equally pale and sweat drenched.

Eventually the body was covered and both boys had chugged down some water to clear the gross taste from their mouths. Toshi crawled back into the driver's seat avoiding his rear view mirror like the plague. With a deep steady breath he turned the key in the ignition and put on some calming music.

The whole way home he looked through the windshield without really seeing anything, but he somehow managed to get everyone home in one piece. Where they were then met with their next problem. Dare was no longer invisible, so how were they gonna get him inside without being seen?

Both boys seemed to realize the problem at the same time, looking at the person-shaped lump in the blankets and then at each other. There were a few beats of tense silence between them before Midoriya eventually spoke up.

“I...I know we all agreed it wasn't safe to tell Mei and Kami about Dare’s whole...thing. But-”

“But you don’t think we can do this without them anymore?” He finished for him.

Midoriya swallowed his nerves, looking tense, but nodded his agreement with the sentiment.

There was another moment or two of them debating the best possible way to broach the subject with their friends and ask for their help. And eventually landed on trying to bring it up as a ‘totally hypothetical joke’ at first, that way if they reacted badly they could back peddle easily enough. Which is how the diesel dude group chat ended up looking like this:

Toshi: What would you say if I asked you to help me move a body? Haha

Mei: You thinking Incineration or Wild Hogs?

Kami: See, on any other day if you asked me that question I would play along with you. But since you and Mido ditched me to go handle some sudden mystery situation a few hours ago, I’m a little worried this isn't actually a hypothetical.

Kami: For legal reasons, this next statement is a joke. But in theory, my quirk can be used as a heart defibrillator, so if the body is still fresh I might be able to revive them. That way we all avoid jail time.

Toshi: Bonus question. What if I already had a way to bring them back later, and I just needed your help moving them to a secondary location so I could do so?

Mei: Just use the Chameleon disk I gave Midas.

Midoriya: And if I hypothetically already had to use it to get them into the van?

Mei: Then I would hypothetically give you another one.

Kami: For legal reasons, I need you to say yes to this question regardless of the truth. But is this actually a hypothetical situation? Or do you legitimately need our help moving a body?

Toshi: yes

Midoriya: Yes.

Kami: …This is on me for asking two questions at once.

Kami: Who’s the body?

Kami: Wait don't answer that.

Kami: Or do.

Kami: No, don't.

Kami: Where are you?

Toshi: Denki, it's okay. You don't have to help with this totally hypothetical situation if it makes you uncomfortable. No is a valid answer here.

Mei: How much would you say Dare weighs? We could use the prototype hover stretcher I’m designing for Recovery Girl, but it still gets a little finicky around the 180 pounds mark.

Kami: DARE IS THE BODY?!?!?!

Mei: Well he hasn't said anything in the group chat and there is a 99% chance that the distress call earlier was about him. So…

Kaminari called Toshi at this point, damn near hyperventilating and definitely already in tears. Toshi made the split second gut decision that this would be too much for the electric blonde at the moment, so he didn't tell him. Midoriya started a separate group thread with Mei, who said she would be there in ten minutes, and Toshi spent those ten minutes doing some of the best acting of his life to try and convince Kami that they were in fact just kidding and that Dare was totally fine.

He felt bad for lying to him again after being so close to coming clean, but this was clearly one step too far for him and his anxiety to deal with today, and he respected that. Maybe after Dare wakes up they could try again to talk to Kami about this, but for now calming him down and throwing him off the scent would be the kinder thing to do for him. It was a lot to ask of someone to just be okay with what they were asking them to be okay with.

When Mei showed up she was wearing a dark hoodie and an uncharacteristically somber expression. She was carrying two large paper bags filled with spare clothes, gloves, bleach, a bottle of lighter fluid, heavy plastic sheets, and a few of the Chameleon Disks. Toshi was torn between being a little afraid of Mei, and being touched that she was so ride or die for them that she came fully prepared to help them dispose of a body.

Once they got Dare inside, they sat her down and explained everything to her. And upon hearing Dare was not permanently dead and should be waking up at some point in the next day or two, she visibly perked back up and looked way more relaxed. The mood turned somber again as they explained what happened, and she was the first to ask if anyone had checked up on Iida.

Midoriya had a guilty look on his face that suggested he had forgotten to call since they were a bit preoccupied. A quick call on speaker phone confirmed that Ingenium was alive and awake, but that he was paralyzed. They were going to try physical therapy, but as of now, it seemed unlikely he would ever fully regain the feeling in his legs. They made plans to go visit him in the hospital tomorrow, since they had the day off from school, and then ended the call so Iida could go be with his family.

They tucked Dare into his bed and then made some hot cocoa to soothe everyone's frazzled nerves. Shortly after finishing her drink, Mei jumped from the couch, muttering about some new baby too quickly under her breath to be understood as she made a quick exit. And as much as Midoriya clearly wanted to stay with them, he too had to return home to his mom, who had already left him two missed calls.

So then it was just Toshi.

He sat on the couch, clutching tightly to an empty mug, looking into a tv that wasn't even on. A few hours passed in insufferable silence before he gave up on the idea of sleep and made himself some coffee. It had been a very long day already, but the worst days always were the ones that refused to end.

Chapter Text

The news broke early that morning that Ingenium had been paralyzed and forced into an early retirement by Stain. Most of 1A and several pro heroes had stopped by the hospital to pay their respects to Tensei and the rest of the Iida family. Midoriya and Toshi decided not to go together, they wanted to make sure someone was home with Dare at all times in case he woke up. So while Toshi and Kami went in the morning, he stayed behind curled up against a cold chest.

Somewhere around 2am last night Midoriya realized he wasn't gonna stop shaking until he saw him again, so he went through the tiny doorway in their closets to check on Dare. He was still dead, still laying in his bed, pale and unmoving. He was so desperate for any sign of life that he crawled into bed next to him and tried to listen for a heartbeat, there was none. But a small voice in the back of his head reminded him of the promise that he would come back to him eventually, so he stayed there, waiting. He was gonna be there to hear that first heart beat even if he had to wait all night.

He must have cried himself to sleep at some point, because he woke up at around ten with a blanket draped over him. On the nightstand was a glass of water and a note from Toshi that he had gone to the hospital with Kami but that he should be home at around noon.

After half heartedly forcing themselves to eat something, panic cleaning the whole apartment, and mentally debating whether or not it would be weird to prop Dare up to watch a movie on his laptop with him, Toshi finally came home. He met up with Mei at the train station and together they headed off towards the hospital.

Iida was still wearing his same polite smile he always was, but he had the beginnings of some eye bags forming on his face, and his shoulders somehow held even more tension than they normally did. Midoriya handed some flowers to Mrs. Iida while Mei approached Iida with a small bonsai in a tin container.

Midoriya had asked about the little tree on the way over, she said she didn't like to give flowers to people in hospitals because they would eventually die, whereas a houseplant was something that would grow with them as they recovered. It was a surprisingly deep sentiment to come from Mei, but it was also practical in ways that made perfect sense for her.

But apparently the Bonsai was not the only gift she brought with her. She enthusiastically pulled a very alarmed looking Iida into the seat next to her in the waiting room and started showing him something in her sketchbook.

“So obviously the wheels would be gyroscopic and omnidirectional. I've included the same power braking system I put into your sonic skates to counteract the rocket thrusters. But there's also some airbags and what I like to call ‘armadillo mode’ that will give him a 360 orb shield. Armadillo mode is, of course, doubly reinforced, and will essentially turn them into a wrecking ball whilst keeping them completely safe inside. For situations that require more finesse there's the ‘impact drill batter ram’ that-”

“I’m sorry, I- I don't understand. Who is this for?” Iida asked in a mildly concerned tone.

“For Tensei obviously. A normal wheelchair isn't gonna cut it if he wants to keep up with the heroics.”

Iidas jaw dropped a little and he looked at Mei as if she had grown a second head. Midoriya was feeling similarly shocked, Mei hadn't said anything about any of this to him.

“What?” Mei asked a little confused before a smug grin came over her face. “You thought I was gonna let Ingenium retire before he had the chance to sign me on as the head support engineer for the Iidaten Agency? I don’t think so.”

“Hatsu-...Mei.” Iida corrected himself before Mei could. “I really appreciate your generosity and ingenuity. But my brother...He can’t feel his legs at all, continuing his career would be impossible.”

“Pft, he doesn't need his legs, his engines are in his arms aren't they? Last time I checked, the Iida’s weren't a family of quitters, they were a family of heroes. Besides, this little baby will get him around just fine. And for even tighter spaces there's also mech mode!” She flipped the page to show a transformers-esque transition from wheelchair to armored exoskeleton. Even for Mei, the design was ambitious.

Iida was perfectly still and silent for a moment as he looked down at the page. Eventually reaching out to grab the paper from Mei so he could inspect it closer. His expression did not change, but Midoriya could see the moisture slowly filling his eyes. After a moment he silently handed the paper back to Mei and stood up rather mechanically. Moving to stand in front of her chair to give a deep 90 degree bow.

“Thank you Mei. I-I truly don’t know how I could ever repay you for your kindness.”

Mei stood as well, and after a slight pause where Iida remained awkwardly bent forward in a bow, he slowly rose back to an upright position, searching her face for some indication of what to do or say.

“Well for starters,” Mei offered, “you could introduce me to my future customers at Iidaten. But I wouldn't say no to a hug either. We're the same age Tenya, there's really no need to be so formal all the time.”

Iida looked like he might be short circuiting for a minute, but after about a few hundred rapid blinks and a slight shake of his head he finally recovered.

“A...hug?”

“Yeah, you know.” She mechanically moved his arms out in front of him like he was a posable doll and then attached herself to his chest. “Like this. A hug.”

Iida was a brighter shade of red than Midoriya had ever seen on him. He was starting to feel really bad for him, and was contemplating calling Mei off to show the poor boy mercy, but then his tension started to visibly dissolve from his shoulder as he slowly wrapped his arms around her back.

Midoriya averted his gaze, feeling more and more like an intruder as the seconds ticked by. But after what was quite possibly the longest ten seconds of his life, both Iida and Mei moved away from each other. Iida apparently learned nothing about ditching the formalities because he gave her another bow before clearing his throat.

“Well, ummm, if...If you wanted to meet Tensei to show him your designs, I’m sure he would be thrilled to see them.”

“Great! No time to waste if we want this baby to be ready for him by the time he's released from the hospital!” Mei said with an excited grin as she scooped up her designs from her abandoned chair.

Midoriya followed along behind them as they walked into Ingenium’s room. Tensei proved to be the more relaxed of the two brothers, already grinning a little when they came in despite his condition. And after having Mei shout her whole sales pitch to him, he actually laughed. By the time she finished explaining the wheelchair/wrecking ball/battering ram/exoskeleton hybrid she had designed for him, he looked ready to hire Mei on the spot.

“I like this one Tenya, she's going places for sure.” He praised.

They continued hanging out together for a few minutes, going back and forth between design ideas and talking about school, before Mei and Iida decided to go find some drinks for everyone from the vending machine. Shortly after the door slid shut, Tensei looked to Midoriya with a more serious expression.

“The man with the helmet,” He said with a curious expression. “You know him don't you.” It was more a statement than a question, and Midoriya was instantly torn on whether he should tell the truth or play dumb.

“Who?”

“Helmet guy. He rides a motorcycle, looks like a daredevil? Tenya said he was at the USJ attack, and that he seemed to know you and Shinsou.”

“Oh, right, him…” There was no point in denying it if they had already been seen together.

“He was there when I was fighting Stain too. I’m not sure what happened to them, I was only conscious for a minute or two after… I wanted to ask you if they were alright.”

Midoriya paused for only a fraction of a second before forcing out the lie. “Yeah, they’re just fine.”

“Good.” He looked genuinely relieved to hear it. “Will you tell them thank you for me? And that if they ever need anything from me, I would not hesitate to return the favor.”

“I will.” He promised. “But umm...You didn't tell anyone he was there did you?”

Tensei seemed to furrow his brow for a moment as if measuring his words carefully.

“No. I didn't recognize them from the registry of local heroes.”

Midoriya understood more from the words the pro didn't say than the ones he did. The implication was clear to him. Tensei was saying he knew Dare was a vigilante, and left him out of the reports to protect him. He was definitely the more chill of the Iida brothers if he was willing to work with (and cover for) vigilantes.

Midoriya didn’t respond to him out loud, just gave him a grateful smile and a bow.

The others returned shortly after, full minibars worth of crackers and juices in their arms. They exchanged polite conversation over their snacks, finalized the design for the ‘Wheelchair Mach-Ten,’ as Mei had decided to call it, and then said their goodbyes. With Mei splitting off at the train station to run off to her lab, and Midoriya returning to Dare's apartment to check on both him and Toshi.

Toshi was sitting in the desk chair by Dares bed, plucking absentmindedly at the tiny little guitar he won from the arcade a few months ago. He raised his eyebrows in a questioning greeting when Midoriya opened the door.

“Anything?” Midoriya asked hopefully.

Toshi just shook his head sorrowfully. It shouldn’t be surprising to them that he wasnt back yet, they may not have an exact timeframe, but Dare had estimated that it usually took a day or two to wake up when this happened to him. And while it certainly felt like infinity had already passed, it hadn't even been 24 hours yet.

Midoriya dragged a few stacks of comics over from his room and settled onto the floor between Toshi and Dare. A few hours passed with them just engaging in their own separate distractions whilst simultaneously being grounded by each other's presence.

Midoriya asked if Toshi was trying to write a song or just messing around, and he replied by saying he wasn't sure, but after a few more minutes he left the room to grab a spare notebook and a pencil, so it seemed like maybe his muse had struck after all.

Midoriya was eventually forced to return to his own apartment at around 7 to eat dinner with his mother and tell lies of omission about how his day had gone. After eating she pulled up the recording she made of the sports festival.

“I know you weren't able to see everything since you were...busy, for parts of the tournament. So I recorded it for you. I know how you like to take notes on the festival every year.” She told him.

“Thanks mom.” He said with a warm smile.

She really was a good mother, always looking out for him and making kind gestures like this. As worried as she was for him, it was things like this that showed she wanted to support his dreams in her own way. So as nervous as it made him to be away from Dare, he snuggled up next to her on the couch and took copious notes on everything he saw.

The awards ceremony was...well it was horrific. He was glad Toshi had already left by that point, because seeing someone else in a muzzle like that would have likely set him off. He made a mental note to edit the awards ceremony out of the version of the sports festival highlight reel he sent to him later. But figured he should also give him a warning to avoid any news sites or social media for a few days, just in case there were other pictures or videos floating around.

When 1 am rolled around Midoriya once again gave up on the idea of trying to sleep alone and crawled back into Dares bed. Maybe this was a little creepy and invasive, but he really couldn't bring himself to care about that right now. He was still waiting to hear a heartbeat, and until he did, this was where he would stay.

--

Their life came to them in small flashes.

Surgical blades slicing them open and removing their heart.

Tubes and wires pumping blood and other fluids in and out of their body.

The burn of drowning while submerged in a glass tube, waking up a few days later only to drown again. Over and over again.

Electricity courses through their veins.

Knives and daggers cutting into their flesh.

Training with the others, knowing with each round their only options were to win or to die.

The press of a gun barrel to the temple. Pulling the trigger. On them and on himself.

Chains around his neck, his wrists, and his ankles.

Doctors taking what they needed from him. Scientists adding in more.

Pain. So much pain. He felt it and he caused it.

He killed and was killed, day in and day out. He was beaten, drugged, and burned. He was thrown from tall buildings and felt his limbs disintegrating at the touch of his only friend. He was buried alive and forced to claw his way out of the earth. He was locked in dark rooms for weeks at a time, left to starve or bash their own brains out in delirium.

They taught him to hurt and be hurt. How to make others feel good, even if it only ever made him feel disgusting. How to meet the needs and wishes of others and never indulge in his own.

When they told him to jump, he jumped. When they told him to please, he pleased. When they told him to kill, he killed. When they told him to light himself on fire, he struck the match.

He was made into an assassin, a lab rat, a plaything. But above all, they were made into a monster.

An incomplete creature, a failed experiment, designed to fulfill some grand purpose they were never allowed to learn.

Their days were spent being teleported blindly from place to place, doing as they were told, and then being rewarded for it with hours of experimentation, brutal training, and often torture or death.

They couldn't take it anymore.

The Dragon slipped a knife under his mattress. A kindness and a curse.

He slit seven throats before they caught him. Tenko was forced to remove his arms for his punishment. He was Tomura now.

He woke up a few days later in the lab with their guts spilling out on the table. And then they were buried in a steel coffin till they ran out of oxygen. And then they were hanging upside down in a dark room as it slowly filled with water. Then, finally, they were back in their cell.

It was another three months before they found the strength to try again.

They didn't bother with weapons this time. They used their hands. They watched the life leave the eyes of all 12 people that stood between them and the door, only to be met with a machine gun on the other side. His training was good, he was faster than their bullets. He used their own gun against them, and bathed in their blood.

He finally saw the sun. It had been so very long. A child saw the blood that drenched their body and started to scream. He silenced them.

His chest hurt. Everything hurts. He was in so much pain.

His life came to him in a flash.

And at the sensation of a warm body pressed to his own, he did as he was trained to do. He wrapped his hands around their throat.

--

Toshi sat on the couch staring down at the empty coffee mug in his hands contemplating whether or not to refill it.

A chime on their phone showed a new message from Denki asking if he was still awake, it was 4 in the morning. It had been less than a day since he last saw him, so part of him felt weak for already missing the sound of his voice. But his hom