It was a terrible accident. While it hadn't been an expected detour for the class of 1-A (when was it ever?), some of the students had of course been drawn into the chaos. With their history, everyone's first thought had been a villain attack...but sometimes even the mundane creeped in, making tragedy out of a placid day.
Shouta sighed, looking over the permissions forms he had signed, only days before. He cursed his prior generosity. The tiny voice in the back of his mind whispered, it's a just restriction, with how much trouble they attract. You could ban any off-campus outings, prevent the damage...protect the children.
That was illogical.
Of course, hearing the screech, the crash, the screams…smelling the smoke, the burnt rubber, the tell-tale fumes of organic and synthetic machinery…why wouldn't his fledgling heroes, his Hell Class, think it was some purposeful attack, some villain, some travesty? So much suffering, in their short, budding careers. They had thought they were on the scene of a villain attack. (Again.) And they had jumped immediately into action. (Again.)
This time, though, it was just a drunk driver. The man had drowsed at the wheel at the traffic signal, waiting at the stop...they weren't sure yet, if he would wake up. Asleep, he had slumped onto the steering wheel, his foot slipping and putting enough pressure on the accelerator to jerk the car forward, into the intersection...
...into the car already in the intersection, the one that a middle-aged woman was driving home from work.
It was only logical that the students respond, regardless. From the minimal debriefs Shouta had insisted they give, before shooing them off to bed, overall, they had been relieved, as they came to see that a villain had not interfered, that there was nobody attacking them or the civilians around them. Some of them had taken it harder than others--Kirishima, his mind's voice whispered urgently, as if it were even possible that Shouta had somehow already forgotten how much more upset the boy had seemed than his peers, how much harder he had taken his moment of inappropriate relief and gratitude, the way he had rubbed the back of his neck while refusing to meet Shouta's (regular) gaze, the way he had said "which is totally un-manly", as if blaming a subconscious spark of relief that they weren't under attack for the suffering of others...
Shouta held his forehead, sighing, telling himself--lies, that pesky silent-voice whispered, even as he answered back for it to shut up--that it was only to rest his bloodshot eyes.
He disliked the world, sometimes. Disliked the cruelty in it, disliked the injustice, disliked the needless suffering. His own reasons for wanting to be a hero had been...complex. But somewhere in the mix, protecting these innocents, these children, who were entrusted to his care, who showed up with bright and eager eyes, and so often died with haunted ones...he wanted to make sure they did it right. That none of them would be foolish, incompetent, self-sacrificing, even to the point of rushing in head-first to save others, when the building was bound to collapse, without using logic, without any analysis, to throw their precious lives away that were so filled with potential—
The phone beeped. A single tone, unassuming, but Shouta opened the message immediately, eyes refocused before he even knew he had opened them.
With a silent sigh, Shouta stood, and walked out of the office. The permission forms remained, stack untidied where they had been spread out and skimmed and sorted. He could deal with reconstructing the events for the hundredth time, later. The police had already had someone with a helpful quirk on the way to the scene when he had spoken with them, anyway.
The swirling darkness was familiar. It wasn't comfortable--not really. It wasn't welcoming. It wasn't familiar in the sense of warmth or comfort or feeling at ease. But it was perhaps better than a total unknown. Yet, somehow…well, was this familiar? The darkness that had seemed like he knew it, suddenly seemed different, somehow. Ominous? Or just unknown? He couldn't quite tell.
Unlike previous experiences, he could not perceive or see his body more than just a general sense of his own presence, his own being. Hello?, he wondered, thinking-as-if-yelling into the void, Is anyone there?
The darkness, despite having no colour, nor form, somehow seemed to start stirring. It wasn't tumultuous, not quite enough to be swirling, even, but the sense of movement was unmistakable. Whereas Izuku had previously hoped for contact, he was now afraid of what might be out there. Why had he not thought more, before he called?!
Yet...not silence...? Despite the total lack of sound, of colour, of distinction, along with the stirring, there was almost a...whisper...? But, no--that wasn't right. It was more of a rustle, wasn't it? Like crisp leaves in the wind, a faint sliding, almost scraping, a hushed almost-hiss, without any words. Surely that was more of what the not-sound was...?
Or maybe whisper had been intuitive, his brain noting the pattern before he was consciously aware? Because now it almost sounded like a hiss of low voices, sliding past and over one another, the trickling-creek-water sound of a few people--no, maybe a crowd of people--who were each whispering things, mindless to the others, also speaking soft words, so that the overlap made an indistinguishable whoosh of continuous-but-fluctuating sound. But...he could almost< hear some of the words, standing out from the rest. He strained, trying to hear, trying to make out anything from the silent-yet-deafening hissing that somehow seemed to be getting louder, without any volume at all...
…speak to me…
Speak to me…
Speak to me!
Izuku's eyes snapped open with a gasp.
He didn't think. He didn't plan. One moment, he was waiting at the corner for the cross symbol to light up and alert them they could go to the side of the street with the shops they had left campus to visit...the next, they were in a villain fight.
Or so they had thought.
With the initial crash, Kirishima-kun had gone Unbreakable faster than the blink of an eye, somehow getting bodily between the boom and his friends. A true hero, first instinct to protect his friends. Izuku was already running. The thrill of power came almost unbidden, Full Cowl spreading across his body almost as fast as his classmate's hardened skin over his. In that split second, he had pushed off--going toward the twisted accident, as opposed to the many screaming civilians, all streaming away at varied speeds and trajectories.
His guard was up, and his stance defensive, still half-expecting a villain to pop out at any moment. The few remaining onlookers screaming soon had him orienting more properly to the situation.
"Did you see him speed forward--”
"--right into the driver's door--”
"--at the intersection itself! The traffic signal on the cross-street was toppled--”
A car crash. A regular car crash. Not a villain, not an attack, just a typical vehicle accident.
Deku would have to process the muddled feelings later; a vehicular crash still meant victims to save.
Red Riot was already running toward the sporty two-door coupe, which had the front crushed in, and seemed to be leaking oil or fuel that was catching fire. With Unbreakable, Deku knew he could get any drivers or passengers out. Froppy was close behind, though warily staying back from the fire, sensitive to dessication. Uravity was close behind them. Shouto was already covered in ice on his right side, gaze just as cool and sharp as he looked over, but waited for the removal of any victims, appropriately not wanting any melting ice to worsen the oil-based fire and cause greater damage. If they got everyone out, he would probably overwhelm it by encasing the whole spot with ice, suffocating it if nothing else. Producing that sort of volume would be easy for Todoroki-kun.
The movements of his classmates processed in an instant, Deku slightly adjusted his trajectory, ending up at the sedan in a fraction of a moment. He pulled on the passenger-side door, which was nearest him, the car having spun after the impact. He could see the form of at least one person through the shattered windows and air bags. The resistance was more than he expected, and he focused a little bit more power into his arms to pull the door off, opening a path in to the victim. When he saw the driver inside, though, his heart dropped down into his gut, and he had to hold firm not to be sick on the spot.
So much blood.
His training failed him, for a moment. Usually, he was supposed to meet them with a smile, let them know he has arrived!, and reassure them that he would take care of them, would get them to safety.
Izuku knew better than to try to move this woman.
"Hi." he said gently, climbing into the passenger's side, surprisingly untouched, despite the shattered glass and now-missing door. "I'm Deku, and I..." I'm here to save you? That was the sort of thing he would usually say. The words dried up in his mouth, though. No, Deku could not save this woman. If someone could--a big if, but he couldn't give up yet--it would be emergency services, who should already be on the way--
"I'll stay with you," he said, calmly, instead, "until help arrives."
"...you acted logically." Aizawa-sensei said, voice without inflection, but the words reassuring, especially from him. "Given the injuries you describe, and the way the car's side was crushed, moving the driver was not an option. With your classmates already attending the other vehicle, your best option was to give comfort and keep the driver calm until emergency services arrived for medical support." It was an absolution, in a sense, but Izuku didn't feel any better, hearing it. Even if it did somehow reassure him that he hadn't been wrong, hadn't missed something, maybe something that could have saved her.
"I-I just...Sensei, I was right there, and I couldn't--”
"Not even I might have been able to save this patient, Midoriya-kun." Recovery Girl said, gently. "With injuries that severe, a normal civilian's stamina could not support the amount they would need to heal, even with my Quirk." she sighed, shaking her head. "Sometimes, even a Hero cannot change events." Izuku knew this already. The grim sense of dread that filled him at those words was dark, cold--Sir Nighteye pinned, and helpless...All Might bloodied and poof-ing out of Muscle Form on live television...Sir NIghteye, in the hospital with an oxygen mask...Sir Nighteye, dying with a smile-- "But let's stop for now--the police are looking into the woman's Quirk Registry listing to report to me, but other than passing out before, you don't seem to have suffered any ill effects thus far. Let's have you rest, and I'll just keep an eye on you until we know more."
"That sounds reasonable. We can continue your debrief in the morning, given your condition, and let Recovery Girl continue your monitoring." Aizawa-sensei confirmed, standing up from the chair by his hospital bed in the nurse's office. Recovery Girl nodded and sighed, stepping off into the back area to sort through supplies and bags of fluid. After a pause, Izuku's teacher spoke again.
"…blaming yourself is illogical, if natural. But remember: everything you did was what a Hero should do. You responded to events appropriately, and when there was nothing that intervention could help...you prioritised the victim. You showed compassion, even though it was hard." Aizawa-sensei always spoke in that flat, even tone, but Izuku, like most of 1-A, could hear the subtle near-inflections. The way his teacher spoke had Izuku almost straining, trying to cling to each word, despite the swirling despair and accusations of failure building in the roar of thoughts layered under his hearing. Sensei started to walk toward the door, slowly, but Izuku was listening, and didn't miss the last
"To that person, you were a Hero."
Izuku managed to hold back his choked sob until Sensei had closed the door.