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If There's an Answer

Chapter Text

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.

 

He's awake.

 

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?

 

Silence.

 

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?!

 

Silence.

 

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.

Chapter Text

Inui-sensei stopped in the next morning. It wasn't until it happened that Izuku realised he probably should have expected that all along. Yet another thing to make him feel foolish. Stupid, stupid! He tried to cooperate and listen to the teacher and therapist, just like he gave his Plus Ultra in trying to do everything.

 

With the boy's quiet, anxious replies to his toes, fiddling with his half-ruined hands, Ryou wasn't so certain that the reminders of the boy's own lack of blame were settling in for him, quite yet. After a half an hour, Izuku found himself released for the time-being...but with a mandatory follow-up appointment scheduled in a few days. Inui-sensei explained that, depending on how everything was going, he would be required to meet with him or another therapist at minimum two times per week going forward, though even three times per week was a possibility. Izuku meekly agreed, but then left, head low and blaming himself for taking up more of Inui-sensei's time due to his own failures. Ryou just stared after him and sighed after the door closed, rubbing the bridge of his snout, eyes closed in thought.

 

Izuku dodged the concerned remarks of his friends, giving the excuse that he had been told to rest. His classmates, of course, were very understanding of this--in fact, they seemed determined to make sure he did, once he'd mentioned it. They shooed him off upstairs, insisting he take the elevator instead of the stairs, and very nearly sending an escort or two along to make sure he got to his own bed safely. That was totally unnecessary, of course, and he managed to insist he didn't need that, promised to take it easy, and was promised class notes and some dinner brought up to him. The number of people who agreed they were only a message away was heartwarming, if startling to the boy.

 

He pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes, trying to keep them from stinging, as again, the visions of the dead swam before him. It didn't really help, but he did eventually fall into a fitful sleep.

 

 

-----

 

 

"What do you mean, nothing?" Shouta growled into the phone, closing his burning eye and rubbing his glabella with his free hand. He could feel a blinding migraine coming on. Of course nothing could be simple. Not when his hell class was involved. Not when his Problem Child was involved...

 

"Just as I've said, Aizawa-kun. The Registry, interestingly enough, reports her as Quirkless." Shuuzenji-san's calm voice replied, a thin veil of patience clearly being worn away by his disbelief.

 

"…right. I guess I'm on it." Shouta sighed, not opening his eyes.

 

"Good, very good. Thank you, Aizawa-kun. I'm too old for that sort of legwork, these days, you know." He could hear the satisfaction in her voice. "But given what he reported--"

 

"Yes, yes...I agree. I'll check it out." he repeated, now with his own patience peeling back. His colleague could hear it as easily as he had heard her frustration, previously.

 

 

-----

 

 

Izuku tried to keep a brave face, for the woman stuck in the car. Crushed in the car. He barely managed it. Her labored breathing was obviously filled with pain. Why hadn't he applied to carry emergency pain relievers?! So what if it usually wasn't available to younger students? Wouldn't any hassle have been worth it, not to be in this position, now?

 

"Emergency services are already on the way." Izuku reassured the woman, trying to keep his own voice from shaking. The woman gave a shaky, wet-sounding huff.

 

"It's not enough...it's not soon enough." she insisted, weakened voice not letting the extent of her distress push through, as she stared down at her injured side. Another cry and groan. Izuku couldn't help himself--even without appropriate gear, he couldn't keep away, as she cried in fright and pain. He grabbed the hand she had pulled away from her own side, hiding the bloodstains with his own, gloved hands sandwiching it gently.

 

"Don't be afraid...I am here." he tried to reassure her, gently. Careful pressure--with Full Cowl still activated, he couldn't risk pushing, lest his jitters make him lose control and harm her further. She seemed to accept the comfort, staring down unseeing, until her gaze suddenly snapped back up to him.

 

"It's not enough! It wasn't enough!" she insisted, eyes wide and locked on him, as she took a shaking, raspy breath, with an underlying sound like slurping in the undertones. She coughed, weakly, and Izuku leaned forward in alarm, trying to calm her, to help her save her strength. "At least one more--I can at least do one more!" she insisted.

 

"I-it's okay! Just rest, for now, and I'll help you sort out whatever you need, once you're stable in the hospital!" Izuku tried to assure her, grasping for straws. He could hear sirens approaching from the distance. Almost here, almost here...! Was his vision spotting out? Or was he seeing sparks? Was there a fire building at this vehicle, now, too? Or was it puffs of breath? But wasn't it too warm for that...?

 

With a surge of strength he didn't expect from her, she lurched forward, causing Izuku to cry out in alarm, trying to steady her.

 

"Take it! Take it! Speak to them!" she cried raspily, gripping at his arms over his bracers, with a strength he didn't expect. The blood seeping out of her--was it silver?! No, it was still red--a trick of the light? "At least once more...!" And as sirens pulled up to the scene, a bright, silver light exploded from her, knocking Izuku back and out of the vehicle, leaving him unconscious, causing a split in the medics who were running up to see to the civilian...

 

 

-----

 

 

Izuku gasped as he awoke yet again, jerking upright at the knock on his dormitory room door. He held his face, wiping away sweat--and maybe tears? Not that it was unusual for the boy--before groggily calling out for the guest to come in. He hoped it wasn't Inui-sensei; he didn't think that reliving the event would look good, but he couldn't justify lying to the teacher. Thankfully, the faces at his door belonged to others.

 

First came Tsuyu-chan, carrying some okayu and tea. He felt warmth, seeing that his friends had sent something for him. Behind her lingered Aizawa-sensei.

 

"Midoriya-chan, we all made you some dinner. Please eat as much as you can, kero."

 

"Ah...thank you, Tsuyu-chan, everyone..."

 

"You're welcome, Midoriya-chan. Feel better, kero." Tsuyu-chan said, before quietly walking out the door, calm as always, though giving Sensei a slight sideways glance as she passed. Once she was gone, Aizawa-sensei entered the room.

 

"Midoriya." he greeted, voice flat as ever.

 

"Good evening, Sensei!" Izuku answered, all at once at attention. "Did something happen?" At that question, Aizawa-sensei just sighed.

 

"Not exactly, Problem Child...but we've hit a dead end on the victim whose quirk you got hit with." This puzzled Izuku, and he sat up a little straighter in bed.

 

"What do you mean, Sensei...? Shouldn't the police give you access to the Quirk Registry, in a situation like this...?" he asked, puzzled. He was nothing if not curious, especially where Quirks, Heroes, or similar were involved.

 

"Yes. And they have. Unfortunately, the listing for the victim shows she was Quirkless." Explained that deadpan voice. Izuku's eyes widened.

 

"B-but how?! I know what happened, Sensei--I would never--”

 

"Calm down, Problem Child...we believe you." Aizawa-sensei interrupted, though his voice remained calm and flat as ever. This was somehow reassuring to Izuku. "We aren't sure why she hid having a Quirk for all these years, or what was worth the risk of falsifying her Registry entry--or living as a Registered Quirkless individual." he noted, flat tone somehow sounding more grim than usual. Izuku barely held back a wince. He understood that concern--more intimately than he wanted to admit. Unbidden, a voice rang in his ears: Believe you'll be born with a Quirk in your next life, and take your one-chance dive…

 

"What's that?" Eraserhead asked, interrupting the latest replay in Izuku's mind. The boy froze, looking up to meet his teacher's plain, but intent, gaze.

 

"Nothing, Sensei...it's very strange...how could this be?" he asked, focusing back on the topic. Eraserhead hesitated a moment, continuing to meet Izuku's gaze as if searching, but then seemed to resign himself, and answered as plainly as usual.

 

"We don't know yet. But we will find out." he assured his student. "In the meantime...stay put, and let one of the teachers know if anything out of the ordinary is happening. Understood, Problem Child?" he asked. Izuku straightened, features nervous but determined immediately.

 

"Yes, Sensei!" he answered, sharply. Once again, Aizawa-sensei held his gaze, but this time nodded, and his stare somehow seemed suddenly...less-intense, somehow. Not that he stared any less. Eraserhead's terrifying stern gaze was chilling for villains and students alike, after all. But this kind of gaze was the one that his students--and never the villains--got when he was looking out for them. Yet another replay ran through his head, of another time... If you're going to do this, do this properly, Midoriya...understood, Problem Child?

 

This time, instead of a gentle bump on the chest for encouragement...a hand suddenly met his hair, ruffling gently, softly and quickly enough that he almost could have imagined it, before his stoic teacher silently turned and left. Even the door barely clicked with his departure, and Izuku was certain it was only because the stealthy Underground Hero allowed it.

 

Sensei...

 

 

-----

 

 

...speak to me...

 

The woman in the car again, reaching out, burst of silver-white pinpricks of light, and then hazy silver clouds bursting forth from her--no, swarming around her, he saw now, with the apparitions brighter, more solid-appearing, than they had been in his conscious memory. She opened her mouth to make that final plea, but instead of her raspy, dying voice--

 

Speak to me…

 

Sir Nighteye, flickering between being impaled and mortally injured, to the bed in the hospital, Mirio-senpai crying over him, and settling into that stagnating hospital room with the heart monitor beeping too slowly, far too slowly. Sir looking into Mirio-senpai's tearful eyes and making his last statements to his protégé, too soon, far too soon, as the monitor slowed...but instead of that gentle smile, as if he'd fallen asleep, if not for the monitor stopping counting the beats of his heart, his eyes snapped open and locked wide onto Izuku's, though none of the other mourners in the room seemed to note it--

 

Speak to me!

 

This time, Izuku snapped awake from hearing the words clearly in Sir's voice.

 

 

-----

 

 

Recovery Girl insisted that Izuku come in for another check-up. When he asked her if it was because of the effects of the Quirk, she explained calmly that it was still being investigated, and that this was just a precaution. Izuku took that at face value--Shuuzenji-sensei had no reason to mislead him. She finished the check-up and declared him right as rain, but of course stopped at the end to make absolutely certain.

 

"And you, Midoriya...have you noticed anything strange or any new illness or symptoms?"

 

"No, Sensei...just a little nervous, with everything...but everything is okay!" he admitted sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck anxiously. She gave him a warm smile, and patted him before dropping several gummies into his hand.

 

"Just make sure to let us know if anything changes." she reminded him, leading him to the door and letting him leave the clinic.

 

 

-----

 

 

Across Musutafu that evening, in a run-down part of the city, a black-clad hero silently swung across the city-scape. He found the address that was listed for the woman, and it seemed undisturbed. A few flowers and offerings of incense were ashen and dying at a doorframe on the second level. Promising.

 

Without getting his hopes up or letting his guard down prematurely, Pro Hero Eraserhead cased the building. It was a duplex, almost literally engulfed by a bigger apartment complex. It seemed the owner had refused to build, and the apartment owner had given up and built over the property, putting it almost under an overhang of the monstrous apartment complex that spanned behind and on either side. Shouta was too professional to let his private, dry amusement distract him. Money-grubbing management companies always cared too little for the people they displaced, but whoever had owned this duplex had sternly held out.

 

Interesting, that it was right by the last location of the mysterious car crash victim. Middle-aged at 51, Miyamoto Kiyoko had lived alone in one of the apartments in the building just west of the old duplex. Indeed, he and the police officers investigating had been in that same apartment earlier that very day. It had been nearly bare, with few basic supplies, and some various odds and ends that were as easily trashed as used.

 

It hadn't seemed lived-in.

 

And so, Eraserhead had returned, that evening, to look into things a bit deeper. Multiple witnesses had seen the bright blast that had flung Midoriya backwards from the wreck, either knocking him out on its own right, or throwing him to the ground with enough force to do so. More impressive than average, given his training and quirk. The police--and Eraserhead--were taking this very seriously. It was not easy, to keep a falsified listing in the Registry. This meant that the woman's family, friends, school, work, and acquaintances--either none had noticed a discrepancy...or there had been a reason to keep quiet about it. Oftener a dark one than not.

 

Gaze careful, Shouta confirmed to himself definitively that nobody was coming down the road in either direction. No figured were looking his way through windows. No reason to believe he'd been spotted at all. Finally, he could get to work. With a few quick movements, he was silently touching down on a fire escape in the shadows, looking more closely--and then he noticed. The curtains in the window on the second floor of the duplex were wafting gently. A subtle moving, not enough to make waves or rustles in the fabric...but from the fire escape, it was visible. Leaping to the roof of the duplex in a smooth swing of his capture weapon, Shouta found his way to the window. As he had concluded, the window was cracked open.

 

He had an in.