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Izuku’s homeroom teacher— a kind and strict woman that takes absolutely no bullshit— announces at the start of the class that she needs Izuku and Inasa to stay after the homeroom period. “It’s not anything bad, I assure you,” she comforts with a small smile.

Class resumes, and when it’s over and the students are collecting their things to head to the next period, Inasa and Izuku make their way to their front. Inasa’s eyebrows are saying Do you know what this is about? and Izuku shrugs back.

Izuku can comfortably call Inasa a friend now. They eat lunch together in the cafeteria, train together outside of class, and study together when they have an exam. Beyond his extremely embarrassing breakdown, Izuku has never confessed his reason for moving to Shiketsu. And Inasa proves his friendship in the way he never prods Izuku for more. Even if Inasa doesn’t know everything, Izuku already feels closer to Inasa than he ever did to any of his UA friends.

(If Izuku can even call them friends anymore, after he cut all contact with them without a single backwards glance. But they should forget him, people also do.)

“Good news! Good news, boys!” their teacher announces, noticing their uneasiness. “You’ve both been selected to take the Provincial Hero License Exam! So your schedules are getting a bit adjusted in order to make time for training with the second years who will be taking the exam.”

She continues, going on about the specifics of their new schedules, and then hands them the paperwork they need to take home and get signed by their parents. “Shiketsu doesn’t usually take first years to the exam, so be very proud! You two are at the top of the first years!”

Inasa beams as they leave the classroom. Izuku feels his own pride sitting heavy in his chest. He’s heard of the exam— Yagi’s been briefly talking about it now and again, thinking that it would be a good idea to take, but Izuku’s never had any solid thoughts about it. He’s mostly been going through life on autopilot, getting used to this new life of his.

“You okay?” Inasa asks, bumping into Izuku’s shoulder. “You look pretty zoned out there.”

Izuku shrugs once more. “Just thinking. I wasn’t expecting this.” He should have been expecting it, at least a little bit. Shiketsu is one of the top hero schools— it makes perfect sense for them to send their students to the Provincial Hero License Exam. It’s just that Izuku never realized he’d be selected to take it. He’s a decent hero-in-training, but he has so much more catching up to do.

Inasa nods, his mouth forming a thin line. “I get it. You’re worried. UA is going to be there after all.”

UA is going to be there…?

Wait, Izuku knows this. One of the reasons Yagi brought up the exam in the first place was because he was talking about how the teachers at UA were working towards making a new curriculum for the rapidly growing first year class. But it’s one thing to know of this fact as an abstract, passing idea. And it’s another thing entirely to be faced with the idea that sooner rather than later, Izuku will have to meet up with class 1-A again.

With his once friends… and whatever Katsuki is to him now.

“You good?” Inasa asks.

The bell rings above them, signaling that they only have a minute before their next class. Students are all around them, rushing their way to the next period. Izuku feels like he’s in the middle of a school of fish, except he’s going the wrong way and is not even the same type of fish as everyone else.

Inasa puts a hand on Izuku’s shoulder, grounding him. He guides him to their next class and by the time that Izuku sits down at his desk, he’s found his way back to his words.

“I’ll be fine,” Izuku says. Inasa tilts his head in confusion and Izuku continues. “With the Provincial Hero License Exam! I’ll be fine.”

And Izuku will be fine. Because there’s not another option for him to be but fine.

 


 

The Shiketsu second years are terrifyingly strong in their own right. Shiketsu is sending all of their second year class to this exam, but their practice groups are broken up into smaller groups of five.

“It’s because we all won’t be at the same exam site,” Moura explains. He’s one of the second year class representatives. His quirk is Extend-o-Hair, which works exactly how it sounds. Izuku’s been dodging tendrils of hair for the past week as they train together. Yesterday after dinner, Izuku’s mom had complained about all the hair she was vacuuming up. Izuku had apologized and told her he’d try better to get it all off before coming home. “So they split us up into smaller groups in order to get our teamwork skills down.”

“So we might not even see your old class!” Inasa says, bold and bright. He’s in the middle of a spar with Shishikura, another second year whose quirk allows him to manipulate flesh. It’s rather disturbing to continuously be formed into a meatball of a person and then back again. But this fight is quirkless, so Inasa’s quip and subsequent slip of attention just gets his feet knocked out from under him.

Shishikura helps Inasa up to his feet, but his attention is on Izuku, who’s on the ground and stretching in order to get ready for his own spar. “Oh, yeah, Midoriya you transferred from UA, didn’t you?”

Izuku nods. It’s no longer a shock when people bring up UA to him. But that doesn’t mean that he talks about his experience all that much. People draw their own conclusions, so it really doesn’t matter what Izuku has to say.

“Then I’m sure you’re looking forward to the customary Crushing of UA!” Camie says, the third second year in their group. “This year, it’s personal.” She laughs as she talks, which is why she misses Izuku’s confused expression.

Izuku has no idea what the Crushing of UA is and part of him doesn’t want to know what it is at all. Izuku wants to distance himself from UA, push it to the side and pretend like it never existed. That it was a fluke, a mistake that’s been remedied. But it’s UA— it’s not going anywhere.

Moura sits down next to Izuku. Amidst his hairs, his eyes are the only facial feature that can be seen. And they’re looking at Izuku carefully, as if he’s a specimen under a microscope that’s showing some type of anomaly. There’s always something wrong with him, isn’t there? Izuku edges away.

“The Crushing of UA is where all the schools go after UA in the first round of the exam. The more UA students disqualified, the better,” Moura explains. “Everyone has it out for them. It’s UA, who doesn’t have something against them?”

Izuku winces. In another life, that would be him everyone would be after. “Isn’t that mean?”

“Incredibly,” Shishikura replies, smirking. “But it’s UA. A bunch of brats with special treatment who chased away a super nice, super powerful kid like you. So, like, it’s deserved.”

Camie pouts. “Heard that Yoarashi already got a jab at one of the UA kids, so I’m waiting for my turn.”

“We’re not going to do unnecessary harm,” Moura says, glaring at the other second years. As one of the class representatives, Moura likes to at least pretend he’s an upstanding character. “But we are going to try to get them out in a fair way.”

“Of course,” Shishikura says, but the sly smile on his face only grows. “We know their quirks from the Sports Festival. That Todoroki kid is going to be tough with all that ice. But his fire looks super uncontrollable, so maybe we should make a plan to focus on that.”

“He’s gotten better with his fire,” Izuku says before he can think about it. He knows all of 1-A’s quirks like the back of his hand. He’s spent hours learning about their strengths and weaknesses and hypothesizing growth paths and new ideas to try out. He has pages on the best ways to take them out, because what type of analysis is he doing if he doesn’t pinpoint their Achilles’ heels? He’s done the same with his Shiketsu classmates, but no one knows about them. He’s curbed his murmuring and keeps all of his notebooks at home, written in code and in a locked box under his bed. He doesn’t want to give his new classmates any reason to ostracize him. “But if you provoke him, he’ll lose his cool pretty easily. Actually, a lot of the students in 1-A tend to run by their emotions, so I think provoking would be a good strategy to go with.”

He’s about to start listing the students who wouldn’t fall for provocation when he catches himself. Everyone is staring at him, probably in disgust at the way he’s easily giving away info from people he was once loyal to. Or maybe they’re wary of him now, seeing for the first time how he catalogues the people around him in a detached, apathetic sort of way.

“This is great info,” Moura says. He settles a hand on Izuku’s back and Izuku has to stop himself from jumping away from the touch. “Do you think you’d be able to tell us more? The Sports Festival gives us info, but it is a bit dated. We’d appreciate your more up-to-date stats.”

“Midoriya, you didn’t tell us you were so smart,” Camie teases.

“I-I’m not smart,” Izuku corrects. He’s not the best at school, but he tries hard and studies well and somehow manages to perform well academically. “I just like doing analytics. I’ve done it since I was a kid. It’s fun to me.”

Camie laughs. “Shush, you’re smart.”

“You can pick a few electives when you’re in your second year,” Shishikura says. “You should pick Hero Analytics. It’s right up your alley.”

Izuku nods, filing away the info.

“So what’s the best way to beat that Bakugou kid?” Inasa asks. “You have stuff on him, right?”

Izuku swallows. He has notebooks full of information on Katsuki. Katsuki was Izuku’s first true entry, after all. His earlier notebooks are full of crayon drawings and illegible handwriting about Katsuki’s then-new quirk. Izuku knows the best way to take him down, but sharing that information feels wrong.

It feels like a betrayal.

But hasn’t the betrayal already happened? He’s left everything already— not forgotten but gone. Izuku doesn’t even have any of his old friends' numbers in his phone anymore, deleting the contacts the moment he changed his number. It was a cleansing of sorts. Izuku’s already done the damage. What’s a little more?

And so Izuku starts talking. It’s like muscle memory, talking about quirks. The skill is always there, resting under his skin, just waiting to be flexed. He talks and everyone listens and it’s like someone’s stuck a valve on the top of Izuku’s head and let the pressure out, bit by bit.

It feels like by doing this, Izuku is washing his hands clean of UA. By doing this, Izuku is cementing his position as a Shiketsu student.

It… feels better than Izuku was expecting.

 


 

The night before the exam, Inasa walks Izuku home from their after school practice. It’s not an unusual occurrence— in fact the one time that Inasa didn’t walk with Izuku home, Izuku had to field questions over his and Inasa’s supposed friend-breaking fight. Ever since That Day, Inasa has always walked Izuku home.

And sometimes, Izuku even invites him upstairs.

They’re in the living room now, watching some old All Might cartoon reruns, and munching on popcorn that Inko had made. (In theory, popcorn isn’t too hard to make. In practice, Izuku burned a pot. So now he defaults to his mother for her popcorn making abilities.)

“You know,” Inasa says as the credits start rolling. “I was accepted into UA. Top Recommendation student.”

Izuku pauses the TV. This is news to him. Inasa always talks so poorly about UA that Izuku can’t imagine him applying in the first place.

Inasa takes a moment before speaking again. “I’ve loved heroes for my entire life. There’s something so noble about being a hero. My favorite hero used to be Endeavor.” He stops and looks at Izuku.

Oh. Izuku knows where this is going.

“But it turns out he’s a piece of shit,” Inasa says. He looks away, fixing his gaze on the floor. He doesn’t look like the person that Izuku has come to call a friend. He’s missing all of his sharp edges, the brash parts of him that make him loud and prideful. Izuku thinks he likes this Inasa more. “And then he and his copycat of a son get automatically accepted into UA. It was pathetic that the rest of us had to try so hard and then that family just got to waltz in and own the entire place. It was as if everyone just had accepted the fact that Endeavor was a bad person and resigned themselves to being content with the fact. And his son is exactly the same. They had the same dead look to their eyes.”

There’s a fire burning in the pit of Izuku’s stomach. Even though the last time Izuku spoke to Shouto was a handful of months ago, Izuku still wants to defend him. Because he is nothing like Endeavor— never was and never will be. But Inasa doesn’t look like he wants to be argued with right now. Inasa just wants to be listened to.

So Izuku listens.

“And so I took the Shiketsu entrance exam and here I am.” Inasa looks at Izuku again. He pushes a finger into Izuku’s chest. “And if UA can turn away someone as strong willed as you and let someone without any hero qualities in like that damn Bakugou kid, then it’s obvious that we made the right choice.”

Defending Shouto is something that Izuku can brush off. After all, he hasn’t known Shouto for all that long, and half the time was spent trying to get him to break out of his shell. But defending Katsuki is almost instinct at this point. It’s something he’s been doing for years— defending, excusing, laureling— that he has to take in a sharp breath and squeeze his fingers into his palms to stop from saying anything.

But he stops. And maybe for the first time, Izuku doesn’t try to cast Katsuki in a good light.

Inasa doesn’t notice Izuku’s actions and he continues on. “So what I’m trying to get on here, is that UA fucking sucks and I’m glad you’re here at Shiketsu. Everyone likes you, you know. Even if you really only talk to me and Shibata and some of the second years.”

The students liked him at UA, too. But they also drew all the wrong conclusions and left him to hang his own noose. It’s not their fault, but nor is it completely Izuku’s either. It’s a gray area. He misses them, but he totally cut them off without an explanation. They probably already hate him, and for that Izuku takes responsibility for.

“We want to be your friends,” Inasa says and Izuku knows that he’s telling the truth. Inasa never lies, never even hides behind half-truths and assumptions like Izuku does. He’s honest, always has been.

And the students at Shiketsu already know more of Izuku’s story than any of the UA kids ever did: everyone knows that Izuku transferred to UA for a very good reason and everyone knows that Inasa punched a UA kid a month into the new term. It’s not hard to draw the conclusion.

The UA kids still probably think they’re rivals.

(And god, god. What do the teachers think?)

It’s as clean of a slate as Izuku is going to get. He’ll take it.

“I… I want to be your friend, too,” Izuku says, quiet and unsure. In the classroom he’s still a fly on the wall, only answering when spoken to. On the field, it’s a bit better. It’s easy to slip into his hero persona and divide himself into a confident, assured self. But it’s the same Izuku. It will just take a while for Izuku to mend the bridge within himself.

Inasa smiles and bumps their shoulders together. “Good,” he says. He points his head to the paused TV. “Let’s watch one more? Big day tomorrow, so we should end early.”

 


 

Yagi calls to wish him luck. All the Shiketsu students have to meet up early to get driven off to their exams, and Yagi’s phone call comes in right before one of the second year teachers ushers them into their bus.

“Is this a bad time?” Yagi asks, sounding more awake than Izuku could ever fathom being. Izuku is not a natural morning person. The only reason he would wake up to exercise is because there’s simply not enough time at night to work out. “I wanted to call early, but not too early.”

“It’s fine,” Izuku says. The other students around him— Moura, Camie, Inasa, and Shishikura— all look at him with curious eyes, so he takes a few steps away. They don’t know about his relationship to All Might. They will, whenever All Might actually becomes serious about resigning from UA and moving closer to Izuku, but for now Izuku keeps this secret close to his chest.

“Well, I just wanted to wish you luck,” Yagi says. “I’m sure you don’t need it, as you’re an extremely capable young man, but I wanted to wish you luck regardless. And if you run into any of your former classmates—”

“I won’t,” Izuku says, cutting Yagi off and wincing as he does. He feels bad about doing it the second he does it, but the exam is already nerve-wracking. He doesn’t want to think about class 1-A at all. “I’m sorry, I just—”

“My boy, it’s fine,” Yagi says. He doesn’t sound mad. He’s never mad. Izuku sometimes thinks that it would be easier if he became mad. “Nevertheless, I hope you still have time to meet up later today. Your mother and I were serious about the celebration dinner.”

Izuku sighs and feels a sharp warmth rising in his cheeks. The phone call ends quickly after that, Yagi wishing him well once more and then telling Izuku that his friends are welcome to come to dinner if Izuku would like to invite them. He won’t, but he plays around with the idea for Yagi’s and his mother’s sakes.

He’s the last one on the bus, and when Camie asks who was on the phone with him, Izuku shrugs and tells her that it was family, calling to wish him luck. It’s another half-truth, but a harmless one.

The bus ride is long, but Izuku manages to fall asleep within minutes of being on the road, so to him it feels incredibly short. He’s groggy when he wakes up, and he follows the Shiketsu students in a drowsy haze. He’ll wake up when he’s in the locker room doing his warmups. But then everyone stops, and Izuku runs right into the hairy back of Moura. His hat almost falls off with the impact.

“Well fuck,” Shishikura hisses, words dripping in anger. Shishikura talks in a biting tone, but even Izuku knows that something must have really pissed him off for him to sound like this.

Izuku spits out a mouthful of hair and tries to peek around Moura to see what stopped them all. But Moura puts a hand out and says, “You probably don’t want to do that.”

Izuku does it anyway.

It’s just Izuku’s luck that out of all the testing facilities in the country, that he and his old class end up at the same location.

Katsuki is the first one to see him, eyes taking in the sight of Izuku in Shiketsu’s uniform. But his gaze only lingers for a second, and passes by him without a second glance. It’s jarring— Katsuki has never looked at Izuku so indifferently before. There’s always some emotion in his eyes, whether it be positive or negative. But Katsuki just looked and then stopped.

It probably has something to do with the fact that Inasa is there, taking up so much space that Izuku feels like he’s taking all of the air out of his lungs as he stands. Katsuki never likes admitting his failures.

“So are we doing this or not?” Inasa asks. It takes Izuku a moment to notice that the question is directed at him. That all of the Shiketsu students are looking at him. They’re waiting for him to respond.

“No?” Izuku's voice wobbles when he speaks.

“Great, then let’s keep walking, boys!” Camie says. The Shiketsu students shuffle so on every side of Izuku is a taller, self-assured Shiketsu student. And then they start walking away.

They get a few steps away, Izuku’s breath caught in his chest, when Izuku hears UA’s conversation start to pick up. He hears his name as a whisper, and then a solid word, and then Uraraka’s voice is loud and carries over the crowd.

“Deku-kun?” she yells, half in disbelief and half in surprise. Her words break something in UA and then it’s just a chaotic din. Everyone is asking for him, trying to see over the Shiketsu student’s shoulders. And then Aizawa is yelling at them to quiet down, but Izuku can feel his stare on the back of his head.

Moura puts a hand on Izuku’s shoulder and squeezes. “What did Camie just say about walking?”

They walk and Izuku doesn’t breathe the entire time. He can’t, because if he does something in him is going to break and he can’t afford that, not today.

 


 

Izuku feels alive for the first time in a while. The blood is moving in his body and instead of the energy making him feel uneasy and nervous, he feels ready to go. Izuku loves being a hero-in-training. He loves proving himself worth it— and he just did exactly that. The first round just ended and it was as close to a bloodbath as it could be, being a state sanctioned and monitored event.

The Shiketsu students are all riding similar highs, all proceeding into the second phase of the exam. Inasa, who sits by Izuku’s left and is munching on an apple, is the most proud of them all, managing to take out 120 students on his own.

“That was awesome,” Shishikura exclaims, laughing slightly as he speaks. He’s smiling as well, which just shows how well they all did; Shishikura is so serious that this is only the second time in knowing him that Izuku has seen him smile. “Midori, your info on UA was perfect. I don’t think there has ever been a more successful crushing.”

Izuku lets a small smile paint itself on his lips. “I’m glad.”

There are only three UA students proceeding to the second round, and Izuku knows that if it goes the way it has been going, that all of UA will be knocked out before the third round begins. Izuku had good information, but Camie did the hard work of actually getting all the information across to people. I have connections, she had replied when Moura asked her how she was going to do it.

And her connections came through, because within the first minute of the exam, ten UA students had already been knocked out. By the time it was done, only Katsuki, Momo, and Todoroki were left standing. Izuku didn’t watch the way they walked out of the stadium, but he can imagine that there was a heavy silence.

UA was supposed to be the best, after all.

“Uh,” Masa says, poking Izuku on the leg. “Incoming.”

Izuku looks up and sees that Todoroki is walking towards them.

He looks the same— it’s only been a few months but Izuku was somehow expecting him to look different. Like a different person. Like time had molded him into a new, unfamiliar shape. But Shouto is still Shouto, if only with a little hesitation in each step.

He has a cut across his face, the wound healed but still bright pink with new flesh. He must have gotten it in the first round; Izuku wouldn’t know because he’s been avoiding all of his former classmates ever since Ochako called out his name in front of everyone. By the time Shouto is standing in front of them, everyone is quiet.

Shouto stares at Izuku, eyes wide and mouth slightly ajar. Izuku feels a cold sweat drip down his back and he resists the urge to run. He already knows where this is going, with Shouto upset at Izuku’s sudden and unexplained disappearance and Izuku not knowing the best way to explain himself.

But what is there to explain? That he’s a bad friend? Shouto already knows that.

“Can I talk to you?” Shouto asks.

“No,” Shishikura answers for him. He looks at Izuku for confirmation.

“Uh,” Izuku says.

“Maybe now’s not the best time,” Camie chips in. She holds her bento up. “We’re all eating and the second round is starting soon.” She smiles, but the expression is hollow and carries a sharp edge to it. Even knowing her, Izuku wants to lean away from her.

“After the exam?” Izuku says and then realizes that they all plan to take out the rest of UA in the next round. UA won’t have any reason to stay for the entire exam if they all get knocked out in the second round. “If that works?”

Shouto nods. “I’ll see you after the exam, then.”

Shouto isn’t even out of earshot when Inasa lets out a sigh and says, “I hate him.”

“Is that the one you punched?” Shishikura asks. “He has a punchable face.”

“Allegedly,” Moura interrupts. “Allegedly punched. I know nothing and as class President I will continue to know nothing.”

They bicker for a bit and Izuku lets their conversation wash over him like a warm blanket. He doesn’t want to meet up with Shouto. There was a reason he changed his number— Izuku thought it was the way to get a clean slate, a chance to start again without all the baggage. At UA, Izuku felt like he was hanging on by a thread. He had to continue to put on a smile and a cheery attitude because no one knew about his cracks, and no one would believe if he told them the truth. Why would they? Adults never believed him, not when Katsuki had the perfect quirk.

And kids… other students didn’t tend to like him. Shouto and Ochako and Tenya were bound to forget him. Why care about a shitty friend?

Izuku doesn’t even know what to say to Shouto. Where to begin, where to end.

“Midori?” Camie asks.

Izuku jolts back into awareness. The loudspeaker is blasting, informing that they have five minutes to get to the second test. All around them, students are packing up and heading out. And the other Shiketsu students are looking right at him.

“We gotta go soon,” Camie says. “Let me help you pack up?”

Izuku nods and gets ready to leave. They stand up together and Izuku shakes out his limbs. He’s going to pass this test— he will— but he needs to leave all this sluggishness behind.

“When you go talk to that kid—” Moura starts. He’s looking straight at Izuku, his voice steady. He sounds like their Class President now, not just an upperclassman “—we'll be close by if you need backup or a getaway plan.”

Shishikura nods. “Yeah, we’re not letting you do this alone.”

Inasa grins and puts a hand on Izuku’s back. “What kind of friends would let you do this alone?”

Kids his age don’t usually like him, but maybe, just maybe, these kids do. These kids know that Izuku isn’t all smiles and dedication. They know he has his issues and they still like him for it. They’re by his side despite it all. They don’t know the full truth, but maybe one day they could.

Izuku feels better surrounded by Shiketsu than he ever did at UA.

“I— ,” Izuku starts, but he doesn’t know where he’s going with it. And then Camie is hugging him and it turns out that he doesn’t need to say anything at all. They just get it.

Izuku has never had people who just get it. It’s a good feeling.

 


 

Izuku passes— everyone from Shiketsu passes— and instead of feeling good about it, Izuku feels dread as a hole in his stomach that sucks all of his energy. It’s almost like the start of a depressive episode, the same combo of lethargy and deprecation.

But it’s just talking to Shouto.

Izuku sits on an empty bench, taking deep breath after deep breath. This will be over soon and then Izuku will ride back with the happy Shiketsu students and then go to dinner with his mom and Yagi. This will be over soon and then Izuku won’t have to think about how he can’t ever do anything right. He couldn’t even leave UA without causing a mess.

It was supposed to be a clean break.

Izuku sees Shouto a few seconds before Shouto sees him. It allows Izuku to let out his breath and square his shoulders. Pretend that everything is okay again.

Shouto sits on the bench next to him. There’s no greeting. No hello or hi or how are you? Just the two of them sitting side by side and waiting for the other to break the ice. There hasn’t been this kind of tension between them since the Sports Festival, but after efficiently ghosting all of his friends, Izuku deserves this distance.

“You never replied to any of my messages,” Shouto says. He says it evenly, like it’s just a fact and not something that hurts him. Izuku doesn’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. “You didn’t message anyone.”

“I changed my phone number after I transferred,” Izuku says. I couldn’t deal with thinking about the past, Izuku does not say.

“Oh.”

Silence overtakes them again. Izuku squirms in his seat, unsettled. There is so much yet so little to say. Izuku thought that his UA friends would forget him, either letting time take away his presence or letting their rage at Izuku’s sudden disappearance destroy every crumb of goodwill. But then UA just had to be at the same exam as them, and Shouto wanted to talk. Shouto wanted an explanation before he decided that Izuku was not worth the effort.

Izuku doesn’t want to come out and admit everything in go, doesn’t have the energy to go through the explanation of it all, but Shouto deserves something. But Izuku doesn’t know what that something is, or where to even begin talking about it.

Shouto doesn’t seem to know what to say either. It’s not surprising; Shouto has always been the more taciturn of the group, letting others lead the majority of their conversations. But Izuku doesn’t have it in him to put on the mask again, pretend that everything is okay, that UA is all that he dreamed of, and that he isn’t devastated by the way everyone seemed to be failing him.

But Izuku doesn’t have to pretend that he’s sorry, so that’s what he goes with. “I’m sorry for not contacting you or anyone else for the past few months. I… needed the space… away from everything.” Izuku winces as he speaks, knowing that he’s generating more questions than answers. But that’s all he can give at the moment. “I needed the space, but I shouldn’t have cut you all off without an explanation. That was wrong of me and I’m sorry.” Izuku takes in a breath and finds that his chest wobbles with the action.

Shouto stares at him. And stares and stares and keeps staring, barely blinking, until Izuku awkwardly coughs and breaks the tension. “This was supposed to be my apology,” Shouto says. “I am not sure what I’m apologizing for, only that whatever I did… wasn’t enough?” His words are slow, measured, thoughtful. He’s planned what he has wanted to say, but it seems like Izuku took a wrench to whatever he came up with.

You’re right, it wasn’t enough, Izuku wants to say. But it’s not Shouto’s fault that he didn’t know the truth. It’s a complicated mess, the entire thing.

“There was something that chased you away from UA and I don’t know what it was,” Shouto says. “What it is. A better friend would have known.” Shouto is not one for long, winding speeches. He’s quick and to the point, so the fact that he’s still talking must mean that he has a lot to say. “I’m sorry I wasn’t a good friend, especially after everything you did for me.”

Izuku’s eyes burn with tears. He wants to throw himself at Shouto, wrap him in a hug, and go to a world where this doesn’t hurt so much. Go to a world where Izuku’s skin was a little thicker, where he was able to hold it out at UA for a little longer and never have this conversation. That world is a pipe dream.

“It’s a long story,” Izuku says. “I’d rather have more time to talk about it.” And more time to think about it as well. How does he go about explaining everything without making his friends feel horrible about themselves? Or is that just an inevitable part of it all?

Izuku’s phone buzzes in his pocket. It must have already been ten minutes— Shishikura and the others told Izuku that they’d check in at the ten minute mark, and if they didn’t get a response then they would move in. Izuku quickly sends an All good text back.

Shouto stares at Izuku as he quickly pockets his phone. His eyes are full of concern, and Izuku can’t meet his gaze. It’s too much.

“Do you still want to be friends?” Shouto asks. He looks like he’s going to say more, but he bites down on his bottom lip and stays quiet, the question hanging in the air between them.

“Yes,” Izuku replies after a moment. “I just… I think I need more time? I’m sorry.” There’s an aching hole in Izuku’s heart that yearns for his old friendships, for a life that he once had. It’s difficult looking at Shouto now in his UA uniform. It’ll be even harder if he sees all of his friends together again. But talking to Shouto is making Izuku want to be their friend again, want to be back in their lives.

This wasn’t the clean break Izuku thought it was, but maybe it’s for the better.

Shouto nods. He’s always been the most understanding, the most empathetic. His curiosity is probably nagging at him right now, but he doesn’t ask for more. “Do you need my phone number again?”

Izuku nods his head. He wiped his phone when he changed his number. He thought that was the right thing to do.. Izuku hands over his phone and watches as Shouto puts in his contact info— again. Izuku puts his new phone number into Shouto’s phone as well.

“I should be going then,” Izuku says, not knowing how to end the conversation. Is there a proper way to say Sorry I ghosted you, won’t do that again, bye! He settles for the unsaid dismissal.

“Of course,” Shouto says. “I just… uh—” He swallows his words and then clenches his hands. “I just missed you. And I wanted you to know that.”

The burn behind Izuku’s eyes returns with a crushing force. “I missed you too,” he says, broken and small, voice cracking over the syllables. Now that he’s said it out loud, it’s suddenly too overwhelming. Because he has missed his UA friends. Even if they didn’t pick up all the signs, even if they couldn’t see that something was wrong, Izuku misses them so much that the feelings burst out of him in the form of ugly sobs.

Shouto looks shocked, but he manages to put a hand on Izuku’s shoulder for support. His touch is cold and grounding and after a few seconds of tears, Izuku is able to gather himself together again. Shouto doesn’t ask if he’s okay— at least right now they both know that he isn’t.

Izuku straightens himself up, rubbing his eyes dry. Shouto’s hand falls off of his shoulder. Behind Shouto, Izuku sees the tall, hairy figure of Moura slowly walking up to them. And then he’s joined by Camie, Shishikura, and Inasa.

“Midoriya! We have to go!” Moura yells, his voice strong and authoritative. Izuku hides his confusion. This is the exit plan— did they not get Izuku’s message?

“Thanks for talking to me,” Shouto says, his voice carrying a nervous tinge to it. Izuku can understand; Moura is scarily intimidating when he wants to be. He glances over his shoulder and locks eyes with Moura. He quickly turns back to face Izuku. “See you later?”

“I’ll message you,” Izuku says. Shouto sends him a small smile and then walks away. The Shiketsu students waste no time crowding over Izuku.

“You never responded to Shishikura’s text,” Inasa says. “You good?”

Izuku nods. He checks his phone and there is his message, unsent. “I’m fine— I thought I sent the message.”

“Actually, we actually do have to go,” Moura says before anyone else can ask more questions. He shepherds them back to the bus. It’s only when they’re seated and on the road do they ask about Shouto.

“How did it go?” Camie asks.

Izuku gives them the bare bones of the conversation and they seem content with the answers. Nobody tries to probe, which Izuku is grateful for. They all seem to know exactly how far to take their questions and when it's best to leave it alone.

He’s exhausted by the time he finishes his small summary, the day’s events catching up to him. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster and the bus quiets down as lethargy sweeps through all the students. Izuku takes out his phone to text his mom that he’s on his way back. He has an unread message. It’s from Shouto.

Shouto
Shiketsu suits you. I’m glad.

Izuku’s heart squeezes. Shiketsu suits him. Suits him better than UA ever did. And there’s something about Shouto saying it that makes it feel more real than before. Izuku stares at the text message for a minute before responding with a simple Thanks.

It’s enough of a reply for now.