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“Are you certain about this?” Suzuki-sensei asks Izuku. “I’ll allow it, but only if you’re really sure. This is a bit of an uncommon situation.” 

Izuku turns his gaze to the screen, where it’s still playing the Sports Festival fight recordings. Shinsou Hitoshi of the General Education department stands, fists clenched, across the ring against Kacchan. 

The fight starts just as Izuku looks. Kacchan is amazing, of course. Shinsou doesn’t stand a chance, as red and orange explosions bloom outwards with a force that the camera just can’t capture. 

But it’s the look on Shinsou’s face that convinces Izuku. It’s the way he stands, bringing his arms in front of his face in a weak block, the curve of his back, feet wide. This is someone who has been beaten before, and knows he’s about to be beaten again. And he’s still standing there.

Izuku turns to his teacher. “Yes,” he says, and nods firmly. “I’m sure.” 

On top of his hero representation request form, Suzuki-sensei signs his name next to the line where Izuku has put Shinsou’s. 

“I approve,” Suzuki-sensei tells him after. “As a manager, you’ll have the chance to represent all sorts of heroes. Even unconventional ones, the ones that you don’t expect outside of popular media. But you’ll need Shinsou’s approval, too.” 

“I’ll talk to him,” Izuku resolves. 

After class he heads through the U.A. hallways. Passes by the group of students outside 1-A, one of them Kacchan, who meets his eyes and then looks away just as quickly. 

He could have represented Kacchan for this assignment. But—it would have been too easy, and too personal. 

Management is, in general, about representing someone to the public. Not to shape them into a person they aren’t, but to highlight certain aspects and traits so people remember them. To find the delicate balance—understanding what people want to see, and making it happen without betraying the hero underneath the costume. 

Representing Kacchan… as much as it hurts to admit, Izuku’s realized Suzuki-sensei is right when he says that representing someone you know well is a bad idea. Izuku wouldn’t be able to look beyond their past.

He passes 1-B. Passes windows and hero students, ignoring them. 

Finally he reaches Gen Ed, throws his shoulders back, and pushes the door in. 

Shinsou’s still in the classroom, along with a few other students. The Gen Ed teacher waves and nods towards Shinsou, clearly recognizing Izuku and knowing why he’s here. 

Izuku won’t take no for an answer. He marches right up to his target. 

“Shinsou Hitoshi,” he declares, feeling, in a way, braver than he ever has. 

A set of tired eyes peer up at him, taking him in. Shinsou’s mouth curves into a frown. “Not interested in friends.”  

Izuku swallows, but a little bit of wary hostility isn’t going to sway him. Kacchan, and all the other bullies at Aldera, have said worse. 

He presents his papers, setting a clipboard down on Shinsou’s desk. 

“I’m Midoriya,” he says. “A hero management student. And I’d like to represent you for my next assignment.” 

Whatever Shinsou was expecting, it isn’t this. He looks down at the forms. Looks up at Izuku. His eyes widen, then narrow again, and he crosses his arms over his chest. 

“A hero management student,” he spits. “What do you do, anyway? And the hell are you approaching me for? Don’t you have two classes full of heroes to pick from?” 

“I do,” Izuku chirps. “But none of them are you.” 

Shinsou leans back. Izuku can tell he’s considering it. 

“You don’t want to represent me.” 

“I do,” Izuku says again. “And besides, it’s temporary. If you hate how I do, then, well… we have a contract. When this assignment ends, we can go our separate ways.” 

He tries to put himself in Shinsou’s situation. Wonders how it must feel to sit across from Izuku right now—to be approached as a hopeful hero, and asked to be represented. 

Someone who has been beaten before, and could be about to again. 

“I’ll think about it.” 

Izuku nods. This is probably the best case scenario. He does have, of course, his eye on a few other students if Shinsou really refuses. Always have a backup. 

“I really hope you’ll agree to work with me,” Izuku says, bowing. He takes his clipboard back. His throat burns a little with disappointment, eyes stinging, but he keeps telling himself it’s not a no. “Here.” 

Shinsou eyes the business card Izuku hands him. “What kind of student has business cards? You're like, fifteen.” 

Izuku raises a brow. “Management,” he says, and taps the phone number and email on the card. “Message me if you change your mind, okay?”

“Whatever.” 

It’s not a no. 

Izuku smiles, and makes sure to wave at Shinsou when he leaves. Shinsou doesn’t wave back, but he does watch. 

It’s not a no. 

 

What Izuku knows about Shinsou is unsurprisingly little. As part of their assignments, the management class is allowed basic profiles of their potential heroes, printouts of information that anyone in their sort of industry could access publicly. 

But the rest, they’re told, has to come from their own research, work, and interactions with the heroes they choose to represent. 

“You have to build a relationship,” Suzuki-sensei says in class. “Not necessarily friendship, but understanding. Managers can do a lot of good, and a lot of harm depending on how well or poorly they represent their heroes to the public. That’s why bigger, higher-ranked heroes might have more than one manager, or a management team in the same roles, to keep their image. When you work with a hero, you two have to trust each other—the hero must know that you will show the best version of themselves.” 

“Yes, sensei,” the class choruses. 

Which is why Izuku only has a single sheet of paper in the manila folder in front of him.  

NAME: Shinsou Hitoshi

AGE: 15

QUIRK: Brainwashing — The Quirk allows the user to put someone in a state where they are forced to obey whatever he commands. He can only activate this power when his target verbally responds to something he says. Brainwashing needs to be intentionally activated and will not take effect if Hitoshi doesn't want it to.

CLASS: General Education 

Teacher note: As Shinsou is currently pursuing a spot in the Hero Course from the General Education Course, an exception is being made for Midoriya to represent him as a hero student if approved by both supervising teachers and Shinsou himself. 

The other hero students, Izuku knows, have a little more than he’s been given. They are allowed to access limited training records with Suzuki-sensei’s supervision to help build their profiles. Izuku doesn’t have any of that. 

It’s fine. Izuku doesn’t need more, for now. 

 

Brainwashing is an interesting Quirk, as Izuku finds out. He sets his tray not too gently down on the lunch table next to Shinsou, and seats himself. 

“You again,” Shinsou says. 

“Midoriya.” 

“Why are you here?”

“Can’t I have lunch with you?” 

Shinsou grunts. The table is near-empty, save for what looks like another Gen Ed student at the opposite end of the table that Shinsou’s ignoring completely. Izuku can’t help but file this bit of information away. 

“So,” Izuku says, “have you thought about it?”

“It’s been a day,” Shinsou responds, and digs his chopsticks into his rice. 

“Enough time to think,” Izuku says. “I actually have until Friday, so the rest of the week. If you want to say no, just tell me around Thursday so I can find someone else.” 

Shinsou glowers at the table. 

“Will you go away if I ask?”

Izuku considers it. He would say yes, in most cases, as a sign of respect. But—if Shinsou’s telling him to go away, but also won't tell him no, it’s not really fair to Izuku, either. 

So he says, “Only if you really mean it. “ 

Shinsou sets his chopsticks down only to take his spoon and stir his soup. 

“You know I could brainwash you and tell you to leave, right?” He tilts his head to the side and offers Izuku a wolfish smile. A little bit of soup splashes out of the bowl when he stirs again. “And you know it doesn’t matter for you, right? Even if I said yes, and you were my manager, I could just make you do whatever I want. You wouldn’t have any control.” 

Izuku’s heart pounds in his chest, but he’s not scared, exactly. Well, not scared of what Shinsou is threatening. 

“You’re using a lot of words to try and convince me you’re not someone I want to spend time on.” 

Shinsou looks away. “Is it working?”  

You have to build a relationship. 

“I saw you at the Sports Festival,” Izuku says. “And I was impressed. I took some notes, you know. Your Quirk is pretty versatile and useful against an opponent when you can use it, but it’s not always going to work in your favor. I’m not saying this to be mean, but you’ll need to make up for that in situations where you can’t use your Quirk with other skills.” 

Shinsou props his chin on his hand. “You’re saying I can’t be a hero.” 

Under the table, Izuku grips the edge of the seat hard. Wood digs into his palm. Blood roars in his ears, a billowing heat rising in his chest like when he saw the sludge villain with Kacchan. 

“Don’t,” Izuku grits out between breaths, “put words in my mouth that I didn’t say.” 

Shinsou doesn’t apologize. But he nods, once. “What do you think about my Quirk, then?”

Izuku pries his fingers up one by one. There’s marks where wood met skin, but they’ll fade. 

“Well,” Izuku says, “as you can tell from looking across 1-A and 1-B, not all of their Quirks are actually suited to being on the offense. Heroes with ‘powerful’ Quirks are often good at that, though, or even Quirks that can be used both ways, so they’re useful in taking down villains. Like All Might! But heroes aren’t just about beating villains in a fight, right? You could be a rescue hero, like the Wild, Wild Pussycats, or you could work in disaster relief, and all sorts of things. It’s just a matter of what your Quirk is best suited for that will lend well to your kind of heroics.” 

“You think my Quirk is suited for heroics,” Shinsou says. 

Izuku wets his lips and looks around. A mix of students surround him. Izuku picks out Kacchan, and is almost surprised to see some other people with him, poking him and laughing. But Kacchan doesn’t look that mad about it. Kaminari, Izuku places one of them, the one with the electricity Quirk. 

A few tables over, Izuku spots some 1-B students. He remembers most of their Quirks, too. 

“I think a lot of Quirks are suited for heroics,” Izuku says. “There’s all sorts of people here, right? And they’re all going to be heroes, probably.”

“Probably. That’s reassuring.” 

Izuku smiles. “You know, if you’re looking to get into the hero course, you could benefit from learning some hand-to-hand as a start…” 

 

The assignment goes something like this. With the Sports Festival over, and internships on the horizon, the hero management students are expected to work alongside the hero student they represent to help them build a more public presence. There’s also an agency opportunity—while the hero students are off learning with their hero mentors, their student managers work with the agency management. 

So Izuku knows Shinsou is a gamble. Since he’s not a hero student, he won’t be getting an internship opportunity. 

His assignment, then, isn’t to help Shinsou with an internship—it’s to help get Shinsou into the hero course. On top of some other mock-agency work, the same kind of thing Izuku would be doing if Shinsou was working with an agency. He’ll be submitting to Suzuki-sensei a list of goals that they’ll workshop, and then depending on how well he does for the next two weeks, he’ll get his grade. 

Which goes back to the question of if Shinsou will let him. 

Izuku flops onto the couch when he gets home, sighing. Checks his phone compulsively. There’s notifications for his blog, a few texts from the Class 1-J group chat, but no word from Shinsou so far. 

Mom comes by. She’s home, too, and leans down over the couch to kiss the top of his head. 

“How’s it going, sweetheart?” 

“Mmmm,” is Izuku’s best answer. He rolls over so he can see Mom’s face. “I’m trying to convince another student to let me represent him for my assignment, but he hasn’t told me yes or no yet and I’m running out of time.” 

Mom hums. “Are you sure about him?” 

“Yeah,” Izuku says to the ceiling. “I mean, I have other options in case he says no, but I really, really hope he lets me, Mom.” 

Mom ruffles his hair. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out. I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to work with you. Now, come on, let’s eat.” 

Halfway through dinner he gets a text. Mom shoots him a quizzical look as Izuku scrambles to get his phone, mentally chanting please, and like magic, it’s Shinsou. It has to be.

Unknown Number 7:13 PM
So about that manager thing... 

Izuku shoots out of his chair. “Sorry, Mom,” he calls, racing down the hall. “Gotta get my notebook!” 

 

Transferring from Gen Ed to Heroics isn’t unheard of, but it’s not exactly common, either. As Izuku learns, it takes a series of exams, a round of interviews, a recommendation, and, of course, a practical test. 

And a whole lot of paperwork. 

That’s okay. Izuku’s used to paperwork by now.

Where Izuku comes in is less studying and more parading Shinsou in front of the hero course and going, look at what you’re missing! 

“Like I said,” Izuku tells Shinsou. “You need more fighting skills, and maybe we could get you learning stealth skills, too. Think about it. If you can’t take out a villain with Brainwashing, then you’ll need to fight—and also how to protect yourself. Oh, and I need to know more about your Quirk.” 

They run through the ins and outs of Shinsou’s Quirk first, to better build Izuku’s knowledge. Izuku writes down every detail, cramming them into the first pages of his newest notebook. 

Then he flips the page and starts a new list.  

“So how are you gonna make me hero material?” Shinsou asks. 

Ideas swirl through his head. Izuku snaps his notebook shut. “I need to make some appointments.” 

 

“Potential,” is what Eraserhead says when Izuku asks him what it would take to get a Gen Ed kid into the Heroics Course. “If you have no potential, I won’t accept you. And I haven’t accepted any transfers into Heroics since I started here.” 

Izuku clicks his pen idly. “But you were a transfer.” 

Eraserhead doesn’t startle, but he does raise a brow. “You’ve done your research.” 

He lifts his chin. “My goal is to help get Shinsou into the Heroics course. So first I did some asking around to see who’s done it before.” 

“Hm.” 

“That isn’t my only goal, though,” Izuku says quietly. “I’m not going to do the work for him, that’s not my job. I’m just here to propose the opportunity, and I’ll have him approach you, but… I want you to consider mentoring Shinsou and teaching him to fight.” 

“Management,” Eraserhead sighs, and it’s neither a sign of approval or disapproval. “Alright. Tell me why, and I’ll consider it—but I’m not accepting anything unless Shinsou comes to me and proves that he has what it takes.” 

In the backpack set down by the podium, Izuku’s notebook sits, whispering words to him. He takes a deep breath. 

 

“The Support Department?” Suzuki-sensei asks, reviewing Izuku’s list of goals. 

“Uh-huh,” Izuku responds. “I’m sure Shinsou could use some support equipment. I had a couple ideas, and he had a couple ideas, too—I’m friends with one of the Support students, and I know she’s going to take our ideas and go wild, so. I think it would be beneficial.” 

“Hm. Acceptable.” Suzuki-sensei keeps reading. “You’re awfully ambitious, Midoriya. Anyone ever told you that?” 

Izuku smiles a little, but he’s thinking about all the teachers at Aldera who told him he couldn’t be a hero. “Ambition doesn’t always get you where you want.” 

Suzuki-sensei nods. “Well, I support you, alright?”

“Yes, sensei,” Izuku says, and goes off to drag Shinsou to Support. 

Hatsume is there, knee-deep in what looks like a pile of scrapped inventions. 

“Midoriya!” she calls, looking up, and lifts her goggles from her face. “You brought me a new victim!” 

“Uh,” Shinsou says. “Are you sure about this?”

Izuku steers Shinsou forward. “Very.” 

Izuku presents Hatsume the sketches he and Shinsou put together, and points out the limitations of Shinsou’s Quirk. As expected, Hatsume tears the sheet from her notebook, mumbling to herself. 

“I was thinking of some sort of natural amplifier, if that’s possible,” Izuku explains awkwardly. “And really anything that might be helpful with his Quirk. We were talking about, like, some sort of vocal distortion, but I’m not sure how that would work.” 

“Well,” Hatsume says, “that’s what I’m here for.” 

She beams at both of them. “Come back in two days!” 

 

“Let’s go somewhere else,” Izuku blurts after school, when Shinsou comes to find him. 

Shinsou shrugs. “Where?” 

That’s kind of the moment that Izuku realizes that despite all their discussions, Izuku doesn’t know that much about Shinsou. He knows about Shinsou’s goals, sure, and he knows plenty about Shinsou’s Quirk, but he doesn’t know about the person. 

Shame curls in his gut. 

Rule number one of management is to remember that every hero is also just a person. Every hero, even ones larger than life, like All Might. 

He likes Shinsou, from their limited interactions. Even though Izuku is a manager, he’s also a student. He doesn’t have to be doing his job all the time. 

And… Izuku doesn't really have friends. 

Shinsou snaps his fingers in front of Izuku’s face. “Where are we going, manager?”

“Midoriya,” Izuku corrects, and shoves his clipboard in his bag. This takes a different kind of bravery. “No more manager today. We’re going to get sodas, and… well, I hope you like games.” 

Shinsou grins. It’s not the smile he’s given Izuku a few times, sort of cold and mocking. This one is, well, nice. Izuku wants to see it again. 

“I know a place.”

There’s some vending machines not too far from U.A. Shinsou gets a melon soda. On the way to the arcade, Shinsou abandons him and crosses the street for a cat. 

Izuku follows, laughing a little as Shinsou crouches down and offers a hand for the cat to sniff. 

“I didn’t know you like cats,” Izuku comments. 

The cat flops over, blissfully accepting belly rubs. “Look at this guy,” Shinsou says. “What’s not to like?” 

When they make it to the arcade, Shinsou crushes him in rhythm games. 

“I used to come here a lot,” Shinsou explains. “After school. My parents don’t really mind as long as I get home before ten.” 

Izuku finishes a round, and Shinsou smirks. He taps the top player scores. On the screen, the third top player is MINDJACK

“That’s me.” 

Izuku groans. “I’ll never beat you.” 

“Yeah,” Shinsou says, “don’t get your hopes up.” 

Izuku is not as good at rhythm games, and, as expected, he doesn’t even come close to Shinsou’s score. Shinsou goes next, and blows him out of the water. 

“We’re playing something else,” he grumbles, and Shinsou laughs at him. 

They play some fighter games next, and Izuku wins there. Then racing, which Izuku is objectively the worst at because he always ends up driving into walls, so he loses miserably. 

“What about a team game?” Izuku says. “Look, they’ve got one of those hero team simulators!” 

Shinsou rolls his eyes. “You like those?”

Izuku shrugs. He doesn’t want to say he usually doesn’t have someone to be on a team with, so he doesn’t play often. 

“Just a round,” Izuku pleads. 

“Whatever,” Shinsou says. 

They step onto the platform, taking their player controls.

HEROES TO VICTORY scrolls across the screen. Izuku readies his character, looking through the set of Quirks and choosing a flight Quirk. Shinsou picks a long-range projectile Quirk, and the first round starts. 

Two villains in the first round, and a checkpoint they have to reach. Izuku takes to the air, his side of the screen shifting as he goes higher and higher. Smoke rises from somewhere to the left. 

“Villain,” Izuku directs Shinsou, and guides Shinsou’s character through the buildings. “I can’t tell what the Quirk is, but maybe something to do with fire?”

“Incredible detective skills,” Shinsou drawls, and ducks into hiding. Izuku steers himself to land on a roof, and carefully looks down. 

Well, at least Izuku’s not wrong. There is a fire, and it’s steadily growing bigger—which means his screen clouds with smoke. 

“I’ll drop in from above,” Izuku says, and Shinsou readies his character’s long spikes and nods. 

They attack. It’s quick; Izuku gets the element of surprise as he dives through the smoke, and then Shinsou is there, pinning the villain down. At the top of the game screen, their points go up. 

“Up!” Shinsou yells, and Izuku jerks his controllers back, forcing his character up. There’s a whistling sound from the game, and Shinsou presses buttons with both thumbs, shooting. 

The second villain goes down. 

“Nice,” Izuku says breathlessly, and the level changes. 

It’s harder inside the building, more restricted, and Izuku realizes he can’t use the flight Quirk as well. Shinsou waves a hand to get Izuku to follow, and Izuku glances through his controls. Oh, well. At least Izuku can throw a punch. 

They carefully move from room to room, and then suddenly the doors open, and Izuku loses control. 

He looks over. Shinsou shrugs. 

“Cutscene?” 

A villain walks out, and from the speakers comes a robotic voice, “I order you to stop walking.” 

Their characters stop. Izuku frowns. “Is this…”

“You’re under my control—”

Shinsou tosses the controllers back and steps off the platform. The villain is still talking, but Izuku drops his controllers and rushes over. 

“Shinsou…”

“Stupid game,” Shinsou bites out. “What the hell is—”

“I’m sorry,” Izuku tells him. “Really. That’s not, that’s not, you know your Quirk isn’t like that…”

Shinsou huffs. He kicks at the game’s platform. “I don’t care.” 

“Shinsou…”

But Izuku doesn’t know him well enough to know what to say, to do. 

“Thanks for inviting me, I guess,” Shinsou says. “I’m done here. I’m going home.” 

Izuku reaches out a hand, but he can’t do anything. 

So he says, “Okay, Shinsou. I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

They don’t talk about it, but when Izuku opens his notebook later that night, he looks through his textbook and writes half a page about the public perception of Shinsou’s Quirk, and cries for him. 

 

“Will you come with me?” Shinsou asks. He’s holding the classroom door open expectantly. 

“Where?” 

Shinsou flushes. “I was going to talk to Eraserhead today?”

He can’t help but gasp. “ Really? ” 

“Shut up,” Shinsou says, face even redder as he looks around. “You don’t have to make it a big deal or anything, I mean, he hasn’t agreed yet.” 

“Yet,” Izuku points out. “Also, you’re sure you want me there?” 

Shinsou shoves Izuku’s shoulder. “Manager.” 

“Hero,” Izuku says. “I don’t have to be there. Really. Even if I’m your manager.” 

“I want you in the room. You helped me.” 

Izuku stops in the hallway. Shinsou shoves him again, gentle, and Izuku starts walking again after being pushed. 

He’s never been acknowledged like that. Like, I want you there. And, even more importantly, you helped me. 

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Shinsou asks. “Stop, I know you’re being mushy. Don’t cry.” 

“I won’t,” Izuku promises, voice wobbling. “I’m too embarrassed to cry in front of Eraserhead.” 

“You better not.” 

So Izuku holds back the thank you. He spent years chasing the dream of a hero and then took a sharp turn to go into management. He hasn’t regretted it yet, but since starting at U.A. this is really the first time that Izuku can see what he’s doing has an impact. He’s still helping people. Just differently. 

Izuku takes notes quietly when Eraserhead and Shinsou meet. And then watches, noting Eraserhead’s fighting style, when Shinsou basically wipes the floor a few times. 

“Come back next week,” Eraserhead says, instead of anything else. Shinsou blinks a few times, not quite comprehending yet, but Izuku beams. He bounces into a bow. 

“I told you he has potential,” Izuku says. “I’ll make sure he’s not late!” 

Shinsou stammers out thanks, the first time Izuku’s seen him lost for words. He doesn’t say anything to Izuku after that, either, but Izuku doesn’t mind. They float down the hall, and Izuku thinks: You helped me. 

 

“Branding?” 

Shinsou looks bored, folding his arms over his chest. He taps his foot on the floor, a habit Izuku has noticed. 

“Personal branding,” Izuku explains. “Every hero has some sort of personal brand. Something that sets you apart, what kind of hero people will know you for. Just think about All Might! He’s the Symbol of Peace, everyone knows it, right?” 

“And I’ll be the Symbol of Sleep,” Shinsou quips, and drops his head down on the table. “I want a nap. Wake me up if you think of anything. Let’s talk later.” 

Like an asshole, he really does stop talking. Izuku gives him two minutes before he reaches over with his pen and starts poking Shinsou’s shoulder.

“Shinsou,” Izuku whines. 

“Get me an energy drink.” 

“I’m your manager, not your assistant.” 

Shinsou lifts his head back up. “Ugh. C’mon, let’s go get sodas again,” he suggests, and leads them back to the vending machine they’d gone to before. This time he does get an energy drink, and when he offers Izuku a sip, Izuku recoils. 

“How do you drink this stuff?”

“You don’t?” 

Izuku scowls. “I really don’t drink soda or energy drinks or anything that often. Just sometimes, like, for a treat.” 

“You’re one of those people, huh?”

He lets his forehead fall against the vending machine window, and gets himself some bottled green tea.  

“I know a place we can go,” Shinsou says once Izuku’s gotten his tea, and they walk half an hour to a cafe tucked away between two tall buildings. 

“We could have gone to the place closer to campus,” Izuku mutters. 

“The place closer to campus doesn’t have cats,” Shinsou rebukes, and Izuku blinks. 

Ah. Not a cafe. A cat cafe. 

He’s at least glad Shinsou doesn’t bring up the arcade disaster. He’s apologized twice for it, been brushed off, so they’re fine, but… it still bothers him, what people think of Shinsou’s Quirk. 

Which is why they’re talking personal branding. 

Izuku has to sign a waiver to go in, but Shinsou’s clearly been here multiple times, and walks comfortably. A black cat trots happily up and winds between his ankles. 

“Let me walk, Checkers,” Shinsou protests, stumbling towards a table. 

Checkers meows back. 

“I’ll brainwash you,” Shinsou threatens, and slides into a booth seat. “Come on, Midoriya.” 

Izuku slides into the seat across from him. “What about the Cat Hero?”

Shinsou makes a face. But—he’s not really mad.  

“I can joke, too,” Izuku teases. Checkers hops onto the seat, and Izuku obligingly runs a hand along Checkers’ back. “It’s better than the Symbol of Sleep. People love the Wild, Wild Pussycats.” 

Shinsou makes another face. “I like cats, but I’ll pass on the cat costume.” 

Izuku grins and relaxes. 

“We’ll come up with something.” 

Shinsou, for once, smiles back. 

 

Izuku’s getting used to… this, he realizes, when he approaches Shinsou’s table with his lunch. Shinsou’s already moved over from the end, leaving Izuku a spot. 

They’re both getting used to whatever this is. Not every conversation is about, well, management. Sometimes they talk about homework. Or home. Izuku saves cat videos for Shinsou, and they put their heads together to watch during lunch. Shinsou saves him an extra piece of mochi. 

And heroes. Lots and lots of hero talk, because despite Shinsou’s attitude, Izuku’s found he’s almost as big of a fan as Izuku is. 

“Did you catch Kamui Woods’ last fight?” Izuku asks. He sets his phone on the table, and Shinsou taps the screen to start playing. “He would have lost if Mt. Lady hadn’t stepped in.” 

“Literally,” Shinsou mutters. 

“But look at how people are responding,” Izuku gushes. “They love him. I mean, his manager must have been working with the news, look at the headlines—he and Mt. Lady are lined up for a joint interview. And I heard they might be teaming up.” 

“Seriously?” 

“Seriously!” 

“They don’t balance each other out perfectly,” Izuku points out. “But they’re both good in open spaces, and they can also work together to cut off villains, see? If Mt. Lady blocks off, like, a street, and Kamui Woods can do the same and use his Quirk. And actually, I think she’s used her Quirk defensively, too, ‘cause she works great as a shield.” 

Shinsou grunts in acknowledgement. 

“I don’t have a team,” he mutters, and Izuku almost misses it. 

“Well,” Izuku says, “maybe… maybe you could talk to some of the 1-A or 1-B students? I’m sure Eraserhead wouldn’t mind, either. Oh! You think you could convince your teacher and Eraserhead to sit in on some of the classes sometimes? Or maybe join in on a training exercise…”

Shinsou shrugs, but something dark flits across his face. “I’m not ready for training.”

“Ah,” Izuku says, wincing. “Probably not. But you could do classes.” 

“I want to be a public hero,” Shinsou blurts. 

Izuku blinks. “What do you mean?” 

Shinsou flushes. “Eraserhead and I have been talking. He’s underground—you know—and he said my Quirk might be fit for a role more like that. But… that’s not what I want.” 

“Oh,” Izuku says, and mentally opens a new page. To be honest, he’s thought a lot about what Shinsou’s ‘fit’ for, too. Brainwashing isn’t a flashy Quirk; Izuku can’t brand him the way the top heroes are. But… 

“What’s that mean?” 

“Huh?”

“Oh,” Shinsou repeats, mimicking Izuku. 

“I just,” Izuku starts, then swallows. “I didn’t realize. Sorry.” 

Shinsou’s face closes off. “I want people to see me. I want people to know my name, and my Quirk. I’m more than what they think of me. You have a problem with that?” 

“No,” Izuku says, but he waits a bit too long to answer because he’s redrawing plans in his head. Shinsou scowls. Izuku’s heart sinks, just a little. “You… you can do it. If that’s what you want, I support you. You know that.” 

“Whatever,” Shinsou says, picking at his lunch.  

 

Hatsume finishes her second round of prototyping and presents Izuku and Shinsou what she calls Artificial Vocal Chords. 

“Not a speaker?” Shinsou confirms, poking it with a finger like it’ll bite him. 

Izuku elbows him. “Trust Hatsume.” 

Hatsume claps her hands, beaming. “Try it! It’s actually a voice modulator—you know how when you cup your hands around your mouth and talk, the sound of your voice changes? Same principle, just upgraded. Ooh! Also I have this new jetpack, would you mind testing out my baby?” 

“Is it safe?” Izuku asks. 

Hatumse scratches the back of her neck and then waves her hand back and forth. “Mostly!” 

“Great,” Shinsou mutters, “I’ll try the jetpack and be a Shinsou pancake before I get into the Hero Course.” 

He fits the voice modulator over his mouth. Hatsume points out the different plates for him and how to adjust them. 

“I still need to make some adjustments,” she explains, “but it should work. Here’s where to make your voice sound higher, and here lower.” 

Shinsou tweaks it, then says, “Hello? Hello? Hello?” progressively as his voice drops lower and lower. 

Izuku laughs. 

“I’m All Might,” Shinsou says, striking a pose. 

I’m All Might,” Izuku parrots back, doing his best impression. “I am here!” 

“Holy shit.” Shinsou throws up his hands. “You wouldn’t even need this!” 

He shrugs. That’s what you get as a lifelong All Might fan who’d watched his videos religiously and once won an All Might impersonation contest online to get his hands on a special edition All Might figurine. 

“I’m not the one who’ll be using it,” Izuku points out. “But that works great, Hatsume! It’s so smart, I mean, if you could impersonate other people’s voices there are so many things you could do… even outside of trying to get people to respond. I mean, you could confuse your opponents, too, or fake locations, oh, or—” 

Shinsou sets the prototype down. “You still need adjustments? Also I think the fit is a little off, there’s a bit of space up here,” he says, tapping his cheek. 

Hatsume snatches up the modulator, and then shoves her jetpack in Shinsou’s hands. 

“Now,” she orders, “fly my baby!” 

Izuku and Shinsou look at each other. Izuku decides he’d really rather not need to have his teachers call home and tell Mom about why they’re scraping him off the ceiling. 

“Hero,” he says, pointing at Shinsou. Then he points at himself, “Manager.” 

“Let’s rock paper scissors it,” Shinsou tries. 

They both end up trying the jetpack. Surprisingly, no one is hurt, Hatsume’s more than pleased, and Izuku honestly enjoys it. A little bit. 

 

“You’re always carrying that around.” 

“Hm?” 

“Your notebook,” Shinsou says. “Well, and that clipboard.”

Izuku glances off to the side of the desk, where it’s resting by his open textbook. He’s doing homework now, so he’s not even writing in it. 

“Yeah, well, it’s important.” 

“You’re welcome to look at my notes,” he says, shrugging and handing his notebook over. This one isn’t precious the way his Hero Analysis for the Future ones are—it’s just class notes and management for Shinsou. 

“There’s a lot in here.” 

“There’s a lot to take notes on,” Izuku replies. “I’m going to the bathroom.” 

Shinsou waves a hand, and Izuku leaves.

When he comes back, the air becomes thick and heavy. Shinsou’s standing. Izuku approaches the table and— 

"Did you really think you were going to just get away with it?" Shinsou hisses. The notebook is clenched in his hand, the page crumpling under his fingers. 

Izuku falters. “With… with what?” 

“You don’t believe in me,” Shinsou yells, and Izuku flinches. “Look at what you wrote. Look at what you wrote. You have two pages of notes about how I—how my Quirk isn’t that suited for hero work. All my weaknesses. And on how people see my Quirk as a villainous Quirk, and—” 

“You’re taking it out of context!” 

That’s when Izuku realizes he’s yelling back. That same bubbling feeling of anger returns, the same as that first day in the cafeteria.  

“I told you,” Izuku growls, “to stop putting words in my mouth I didn’t say. ” 

They glare at each other. Izuku’s not a fighter, but he wants, suddenly, to throw himself forward and hit Shinsou. 

“Am I a charity case?”

“What?”

“Do you pity me,” Shinsou says, meeting his eyes. “Am I just an assignment to you? Or- or someone you look down on? This is real to me, you know? Your assignment, but this is my dream !” 

Izuku forces himself to breathe, but there’s a supernova bursting in his chest and a burning in his eyes. 

“You don’t trust me, do you,” he says. 

Shinsou grinds his teeth. “Now who’s putting words in someone’s mouth?” 

“Not the same thing,” Izuku throws out. “You chose to work with me. You let me. Heroes can’t just do things by themselves. I’m supposed to be behind you every single step of the way, and I’m supposed to support you, and everything I have done in the last week and a half has been for you. How can you just—just, tell me that I don’t believe in you? ”  

“I told you what kind of hero I wanted to be, didn’t I?” Shinsou flips through the notebook, and shows Izuku the page of notes he’d taken talking to Eraserhead about underground heroics. 

“Keep going,” Izuku says. “That’s old. Are you trying to look for- for reasons to not trust me, and what I’m doing?”

Shinsou swallows. His voice drops. Quiet. And—there’s tears shining in his eyes, too. 

“Why did you pick me?” 

The question knocks the anger out of Izuku’s lungs for a second, just because of the way Shinsou asks it. Like someone who’s been beaten. Like someone who needs to pick themselves back up again, and will, but it hurts to. 

Izuku’s been there. Izuku knows that. Izuku chose Shinsou. 

“Why do you think I picked you?” Izuku asks. “Do you think I picked you because I thought this would be easy? Or because I pity you? Or because I needed someone for my assignment, and then I could just cut ties and walk away after, if things didn’t work out like I wanted?” 

“Did you?” 

He rubs at his eyes furiously, then grabs his phone and scrolls frantically through his videos. He misclicks three times, then hands over the video of Shinsou’s fight with Kacchan. 

“I didn’t win this,” Shinsou says. “I didn’t even place. I got my ass handed to me by Bakugou.” 

“I know.”

Shinsou watches the fight. There’s warped cheering from the speakers. 

“This was my chance to show that I could do it,” Shinsou spits. He passes his sleeve over his eyes. “And I couldn’t. ” 

The things Shinsou says… it’s not what he thinks Izuku sees in him. Is it? Something about this sounds familiar. 

It’s what Shinsou thinks of himself. 

“That’s not what I saw,” Izuku admits. The fight leaves him, completely. He sits. “You know what I saw, Shinsou?”

Shinsou sniffles. “Humor me.” 

“You were willing to go against one of the most powerful hero students in U.A.,” Izuku says. “Even though you knew you’d lose. You still stood there. I… I grew up with Kacchan, I know what he’s like, he- he’s amazing, whether it was you facing him or anyone else he’d refuse anything less than a victory. I, I mean, he did. When he fought Todoroki. You… you couldn’t have won against him.” 

Shinsou scoffs. “Reassuring.” 

But he looks less mad now, too. 

“And you- you still got up after.” Izuku rubs at his eyes again. “I… I couldn’t. I couldn’t get up.”

Shinsou grabs Izuku’s arm. He flinches. “What are you talking about?”

“You know what my Quirk is?” Izuku asks. He knows the answer is no, because it’s not important, and because it hasn’t come up. And Izuku has refused to share. 

Shinsou shakes his head. 

“I’m Quirkless,” Izuku tells him. Shinsou’s mouth opens and closes wordlessly. “Maybe… maybe in a different time or a different path I could have become a Quirkless hero or something. I wanted to be. My whole life. But I chose… I chose this instead. And I- I can’t regret it.” 

“I—” Shinsou shakes his head again. “I didn’t know…”

“I didn’t tell you.” Izuku twists his hands together. “Maybe I should have trusted you, too. But—”

He almost chokes on the words. 

“Please, Shinsou.” Izuku bows and thrusts out his hand. “I want to give you a chance I didn’t have! To be a hero!”

“Midoriya…” 

When Izuku lifts himself back up, Shinsou takes his hand, and grips it hard. 

“I’ll do my best.” 

 

The assignment ends. Izuku gets full marks, though Shinsou’s still working on his transfer—it’ll take months, but that’s okay. 

He’s not planning on going anywhere. 

They get sodas on Thursdays. Shinsou, hell bent on not making friends at the beginning, talks to some of the 1-A students. Actually talks. And then he drags Izuku in. Izuku even talks to Kacchan, a little, and Kacchan is… still Kacchan, but he doesn’t do anything. Izuku isn’t the useless, Quirkless Deku anymore, really. 

They revisit the arcade. Shinsou beats him in rhythm games again, and they avoid the hero simulator.  

And they still sit together at lunch. For months, through the rest of the semester—Shinsou doesn’t tell Izuku to leave a single time.   

After summer, after Kamino, after the world seems to flip upside down, Eraserhead looks at Shinsou—and Izuku behind him—and says, “I want you to participate in joint training.” 

“Sensei…” 

“Like with another student?” Izuku asks. 

Eraserhead shakes his head. “1-A and 1-B are doing a team exercise together. I think you’re ready to try, as your practical exam. If you pass, I’ll recommend you.” 

Izuku looks at Shinsou. Shinsou looks at him. 

“You’re—” Shinsou’s voice break. He curls in on himself, bowing at the waist. “You’re sure?” 

Eraserhead huffs. “I don’t make illogical decisions. I’ve spoken to your teacher. You’re excused for the duration.” 

“I… I don’t know what to say.” 

“Don’t say anything.” Eraserhead shrugs. “Waste of words. Just show up.” 

He tucks his hands in his pockets, and Shinsou calls, “Wait!” 

Eraserhead stops. 

“Thank you,” Shinsou says, and in the gym with the three of them, the thanks echo. 

“Not yet,” Eraserhead responds. “Do your best.” 

When he leaves, Shinsou turns to Izuku. They’re both grinning at each other. 

“Shinsou…” It’s the start, Izuku knows. It’s a beginning. “This is it.” 

“I know. And—” Shinsou looks away for a second, then raises his head and meets Izuku’s gaze straight on. “Thank you. You know—you’re a hero to me.”

And isn’t that all anyone needs? Just one person who believes.  

 

Izuku’s allowed to watch the fight, as Shinsou’s sorted onto a team and welcomed by his future classmates. They talk easily. Izuku smiles to himself, and sneaks a glance at Eraserhead, who’s watching. 

“You really think he can do it?” 

For a second it seems like Eraserhead’s not going to say anything, but then: “You doubt him?” 

A horn blares, and the teams split. Izuku tracks Shinsou on the screens. 

“Of course not.” 

Eraserhead tucks his chin into his capture scarf, and doesn’t respond. But Izuku thinks he almost smiles, too. 

When the fight ends and the dust settles, Izuku’s shoulders slump. Shinsou loses. Eraserhead touches his arm briefly, no more than a second, and Izuku looks over. 

“He’s on his way,” Eraserhead admits. “He’ll get there.” 

“I’m not disappointed,” Izuku says. His throat burns, and he swallows. “I- I’m not. I know he can do it.” 

The speakers blare with the students talking. Everyone’s congratulating each other, and on the screen, Izuku watches Kaminari throw an arm over Shinsou’s shoulder, their voices lost in the cacophony. 

Suddenly Shinsou lifts his head, looking towards the camera, and calls with a voice clear as day, “Midoriya!” 

Izuku pays attention. He always is. 

Shinsou pumps a fist in the air. He’s smiling. He’s not upset about this, Izuku thinks. He’s determined. 

“I’ll do it!” Shinsou yells, to everyone around him listening. But he’s really talking to Izuku, and the knowledge sends Izuku’s heart soaring. “I’ll be a hero!” 

You’ll get back up, Izuku thinks. I know.