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light a lantern (against the dark)

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Midoriya Izuku had always been ordinary in the eyes of those around him.

Green curls, freckles on tan cheeks and eyes as wide and bright as the noonday sun all seemed commonplace in a world of quirks where people came in seemingly infinite shapes and appearances.

His quirk, while versatile, didn’t have the same impact as some of his classmates’. Light manipulation sounded amazing on paper, but all he was capable of was making shapes out of sunbeams. Elegant koi fish or small birds, nothing complex. Nothing even close to what Bakugou was capable of. Crackling sparks dancing in the palms of a four-year-old trumped being able to make a tiny orb of light in the eyes of his preschool teachers.

The only standout thing about him, his teachers would say, is his intelligence. His ability to pull apart and memorise information. Even then, he was still second best to Bakugou. He had a tendency to ramble and skip steps that he felt were simple enough to do in his head, things that his teachers were constantly pushing him to stop.

If you asked someone close to him, like his mother, then Izuku Midoriya became something extraordinary, a star given human form.

Midoriya Inko could go on for hours about her darling son’s brains and how he had a heart too big for his chest, and a stubbornness that rivalled her own. She might tell you about how he cried whenever he felt something strongly, how he spent an hour sobbing into her arms after seeing a life insurance ad on the television. To her, there was nothing commonplace or ordinary about Izuku. He was brilliant and unique and nothing could stop him once he set his mind to a goal.

She had always felt that his quirk was an echo of the light that his smile gave out, a reflection of how brightly he shone when he was leaping about the living room playing heroes or chattering away to her while she cooked.

For Midoriya Inko there was no doubt about it, her son was set to do something incredible.

- --- -

If you had of told Izuku that preschool was not a clear indicator of how his life was going to go when he was younger, he would have scoffed. To him, there was a set way that things worked. A particular hierarchy that things were expected to follow. It was expected that would continue to play second fiddle to Bakugou, staying comfortable in being good but not the best.

He’d been thrown off that path when he was ten and Bakugou announced to their fifth-grade class that he was moving away.

--

The classroom seemed too small for the emotions Izuku was feeling. Bakugou was standing at the front next to the teacher’s desk, grinning widely. From where he was sitting, Izuku could see the chip on his front tooth and wondered why his friend made a smile look so sad.

“Bakugou-kun has an important announcement to make if you would all please quiet down and pay attention.”

Izuku wasn’t sure he wanted to know what the announcement was, but he sat up straighter and listened. Whatever it was it seemed to be upsetting for his friend.

“Listen up extras, I’m leaving this shit hole in spring and I’m not coming back,” the grin remained, strong and bright and endlessly sad.

It was short and to the point. Lacking the fire that was typical of the explosive boy’s usual tone.

As he watched Bakugou stomp back to his desk, Izuku felt as though a stone had been sunk in his stomach. The chatter of his classmates seemed distant, and he couldn’t help but think that something massive had just changed.

--

With his best friend moving away, Izuku had to refind his place in his school, as well as figure out what this meant for his life moving forward. Heavy topics for a child, but he had built his future plans around Bakugou’s and without him marching ahead he felt he had been set adrift.

So he’d thrown himself into training, finding comfort in early morning jogs and the familiar path to and from school. Loneliness came easily to Izuku, he hadn’t been close with his other classmates, and with Bakugou gone he had less reason to socialise with them.

He’d taken up kendo when he was twelve, after the realisation that he wasn’t limited to simple parlour tricks with his quirk. He was able to form solid constructs out of light and he felt that a sword would be easy to form and useful to be able to wield. The walk to Hino-sensei’s dojo for class every Tuesday and Thursday evening gave him structure and kept his mother from worrying that he would be lonely when she took late shifts at the hospital.

It was fun, he decided. The exercises were strenuous but they helped to clear his head and kept him busy enough that he could block out the Bakugou shaped hole in his scarce social life.

When studying and kendo still left him with too much spare time, he took to the streets for hero watching, deciding that the internet wasn’t giving him enough information for his quirk analysis notebooks. Hero watching was dangerous, but it gave him something to do on idle weekend afternoons when he had no more homework to do.

He had gotten countless ideas from hero watching, and his notebook on his own quirk had filled up quickly once he’d gotten around to testing out his hypotheses on what exactly he could make and how much light he needed for his quirk to be effective.

It was these discoveries that lead him to Dagobah Municipal beach. The towering piles of discarded rubbish provided shelter from onlookers and created a space in which his experiments were unlikely to hurt anyone except himself. Logically he knew that solo quirk training in a dumping ground was less than ideal, but quirk training gyms were expensive and he and his mother were on a tight budget.

The beach became a haven for Izuku, a place where he could hide out from his responsibilities and train until he felt as though his arms were going to fall off. He spent hours there after school, taking weekends as rest days at his mother’s behest. It was in a tiny clearing he’d created that he worked out how to solidify light around him into a usable copy of his shinai that lasted even when a car backfired, making him lose his concentration.

He’d made leaps of progress since he was a child. He’d moved past only being able to create small, simple things with his quirk and spent countless hours holed up in his room trying to make shields and barriers and bigger animal shapes. His reasoning had been that they would be the most useful in hero work, being able to make a solid barrier that powered itself would be indispensable, and he had read that animals were extremely good for calming people down. His constructs had the added bonus of being hypoallergenic.

Despite his improvements in making larger things out of whatever light sources he could find, Izuku found that any lapse in concentration meant that they melted, going back to their insubstantial roots. When he’d asked Hino for advice, she’d told him to focus less on ignoring distractions, and more on being prepared for them.

And so he practiced. Hour upon hour spent alone on the beach after school making staffs out of orange sunlight, starting over every time a sound or movement distracted him and sent his control over the light spinning away. He had been unsure of Hino’s advice, not understanding why she always felt she had to be cryptic when imparting knowledge to her students.

He’d been about ready to pack up and go home to work through his assignments when he formed a copy of his shinai in his hands. It had glowed softly, burnt orange with gentle gold currents running along its surface. He’d hardly noticed, thinking instead about whether he would start on his English or his maths homework first, and what he would be having for dinner. When the sharp crack of a backfiring car cut through his thoughts, he was shocked to notice that his shinai was still there. Still glowing in his hands and thrumming with energy.

In his shock, he had let go, but he still counted it as a win.

He was nowhere near where he wanted to be, but progress was progress and Izuku was proud of himself regardless.

--

Izuku was on the eve of his second year of junior high when he’d realised that he hadn’t spoken to Bakugou in months. His mother said that growing apart was normal and that maybe they would reconnect when they were older. He wasn’t sure he agreed. Even over the phone, he felt that there was a gulf that was more than just distance separating them, pulling apart the bond that they’d had when they were younger.

He sighed and flopped back onto his bed, narrowly avoiding hitting his head on a textbook he’d left sitting on his blanket. There was no use thinking of the past, he thought. It only ends with tears and a void sitting just beneath his ribs, aching to be filled.

It was just nostalgia, at least that was how he had always rationalised how much he missed his childhood friend. Bakugou had been all Izuku had for a while and it was only now that he was really just how far apart they’d grown.

Reminiscing like that made him feel like an old man. It had only been three years, but people change. He knew that, but a part of him had thought that even without seeing each other, he and Bakugou would remain friends.

For the first time in a long time, Izuku felt lonely.

He was used to it, revelled in it some days, but part of him wanted to not be so isolated. To not have his whole contact list on his phone be two numbers. To have someone who wasn’t his mother or Hino-sensei to talk to.

Izuku hadn’t chased the friends he’d shared with Bakugou. Hadn’t made an effort to keep being around them. They had been Bakugou’s friends first, and they didn’t have much in common once the blonde moved away.

He’d been too busy to make new friends after starting kendo, preferring to spend time alone studying or training. After that, hero watching had taken any time he might have had for getting to know his classmates better. Sighing, he closed his eyes.

Maybe a new school year would make everything easier.
--

Midoriya Izuku was constantly surprised by just how wrong he could be.

When he’d sat down at his desk, he’d elected to ignore the chatter of his classmates in favour of staring out the window and zoning out. The trees outside were started to regrow their leaves, tiny green shoots bobbing in the breeze. It was a pleasant view, and Izuku fully intended to take it in until the bell went. Possibly for part of the first period.

His plan had been going perfectly, the bell had gone and the teacher had done the roll with the same level of disinterest that Izuku had come to expect from any of the staff at Aldera Junior High. He had turned his attention from the window to his latest analysis notebook, going back over his entry for the rescue hero Thirteen, when the door to the classroom was opened.

Standing in the doorway was a teenager with straight dark hair falling into his eyes. He was gripping his backpack tightly, and he had a determined set to his chin. Despite this, he still looked nervous.

‘Then again’ Izuku thought, ‘wouldn’t anyone?’

“Ah there you are, alright class this is our new student,” the teacher beckoned the boy over, “come and introduce yourself.”

The boy walked over stiffly, still keeping his death grip on his backpack. Stopping next to the teacher’s desk he took a moment to look over the class. When his eyes came to rest on Izuku he flashed him what he hoped was an encouraging thumbs up.

That seemed to spur him into action, as he took a deep breath before speaking, words tumbling over each other.

“My name is Kirishima Eijirou, please look after me!”

He ducked his head in a messy bow before looking awkwardly around the room for a seat. Izuku was content to go back to his notes, letting the rest of his class chatter away to the new kid while he worked. Fate, however, had different ideas.

“Kirishima you can take the desk next to Midoriya.”

Izuku bit back a groan. He wasn’t opposed to having Kirishima sit by him, but he would undoubtedly come with the rest of the class’s attention, something he avoided for the most part. As the dark haired boy shuffled to the seat next to his, Izuku flipped to another entry for an up and coming hero that he hadn’t finished the night before.

The class had settled back down into muted mutterings, glances thrown at Kirishima. The inevitable flood of classmates wanting to know more about him was reserved for recess. Izuku resolved himself to eating outside, rather than in the classroom.

He was about to start writing in his notebook again when Kirishima cleared his throat.

“Hey man, whatcha writing? Is that for class?”

Izuku blinked at him. He’d gotten used to his classmates ignoring him when he wrote his notes, keeping interactions to the bare minimum.

‘Well, I did just spend last night thinking about how I wanted someone to talk to and he doesn’t seem like a complete asshole,’ he thought.

Outwardly, he shrugged, tilting his notebook so Kirishima could see the page better.

“Oh, this? It's just hero analysis notes, they aren’t for class,” he mentally cursed himself for his inability to talk to people. “It's more like a hobby? I guess? Kind of a weird one but I used to have a lot of free time, and I find that analysing other people’s quirks helps me work on my own? If that makes sense? Sorry for rambling, yeah I’ll just. Be quiet now.”

He sunk down in his seat. He hadn’t had what his classmates had dubbed a ‘mumble storm’ in a long time. Mostly because he didn’t have anyone close enough to him to stick around once he started.

He peeked back at Kirishima from behind his messy curls and was shocked to see that his eyes were shining.

‘Well. That’s new. He seems like a cool enough guy, and it doesn’t pay to be rude.’

Izuku smiled at him and was rewarded with a shark-toothed grin in return.

The teacher berating them both for not paying attention didn’t make a dent in Izuku’s good mood. His thoughts strayed back to the night before, and he resolved himself to making an effort to break out of his self-imposed isolation.

‘Maybe it is time to put myself out there,’ he turned his attention back to the board, ‘I wonder if he likes heroes’..