Izuku had never been one for fighting.
Even before everything else, when he'd been playing with Kacchan and it grew even a little rough, he'd start crying. At the time he'd been called a crybaby, a wimp. It'd upset him then. He'd thought it was the worst.
He was wrong. Being called a crybaby wasn't the worst.
But when he had been upset about being called a crybaby, he'd console himself with the thought that one day, he'd get a cool quirk too! Like how Kacchan could make explosions or his father could breathe fire.
He'd get a quirk, and everything would magically become better.
Except it never worked out quite like that. Izuku never developed a quirk despite waiting and waiting. Things never got better.
His mother took him to the doctor. That was meant to make everything better, right?
"Sorry kid, but you're quirkless."
He was wrong. He wouldn't get a quirk and things wouldn't get better.
"I... I can still be a hero, right?"
He was wrong. Being called a crybaby wasn't the worst.
"I'm sorry, Izuku."
Being called quirkless was the worst.
Quirkless meant useless. Quirkless meant that nobody would like him. Quirkless meant that he was nothing and nobody.
Quirkless meant that he couldn't have friends.
Quirkless meant that he was Deku.
"I don't want a quirkless son."
Going to the doctor hadn't made things better. It'd made everything worse.
After Izuku was diagnosed as quirkless, the arguing and the yelling started.
He was young. He didn't know how to react to the arguing. He only knew that it was loud and scary. His father's roars of rage would echo through the house, and his mother's voice would raise to a shrill scream and Izuku would hide until it was all over. More often than not, it ended with a door slamming.
He didn't know why they were arguing. Only that it was about him. So it had to be all his fault.
He didn't know if there was anyone he could talk to, ask for advice. Because Kacchan was suddenly even meaner, and Izuku would leave school each day with new bruises and a heavier heart. The teachers were acting weird, too.
They never seemed to notice that Kacchan was being really mean.
So all Izuku knew was that almost everyone had turned their backs on him because he was quirkless. All he knew was that he was making everone miserable and angry and causing arguments because he was quirkless.
But Izuku had never been one for fighting.
So he ran instead, and never looked back.
It turned out that, when he was absolutely forced to, Izuku could fight. He just wasn't very good at it. Which completely sucked, because he had to fight to survive.
He'd run and run until he was truly lost and he didn't recognise anything anymore. He reminded himself that it didn't matter, because he couldn't go back anyway. Everyone would be happier without him. He was just a quirkless nobody, after all.
Nobody even batted an eye in the new place though. It was awful. It was messy and dirty, the streets were overflowing with litter that no one had bothered to pick up. Torn posters littered the cracked walls like scars, and broken windows leered at the street from slumping houses.
There was nobody to care that he was quirkless here, so that was an improvement.
But he realised very quickly that he had no idea how to fend for himself. He'd been forced to steal to survive, and that was something that heroes wouldn't do, right?
But it didn't matter, because he was quirkless and could never be a hero.
Still, he'd managed to stumble into fights with other people like him. They had to steal to survive, too, and they had to find the warmest places to sleep at night, the best places to take shelter. So eventually, Izuku was dragged into conflict, and he was forced to fight.
"What are you going to do, you little shit?"
A more recent fight had been over the best place to take shelter from the rain. He'd lost and had stumbled into the downpour, and let the rain wash away his tears. Crying was a waste, it wouldn't solve anything.
He'd still rather be a crybaby than quirkless, though. He'd still rather be a crybaby than Deku.
The people he'd fought had quirks to use as weapons. He had nothing. He could tell after a while where their quirks were weak, but he couldn't fight back against that many. The best he could do was escape... But running away had always been his thing, hadn't it? He was injured and tired and hungry and cold.
He just wanted it all to be over, now. He'd almost take being quirkless and hated to be warm and safe and know when he'd eat next. But then he'd remember Kacchan's smirk and the yelling and the crying, and he'd resign himself to his fate.
So he sat at a corner of the street, partly covered by a broken metal sign, and watched people walk by, briskly and huddled under brightly coloured umbrellas.
A few looked at him. They looked away just as quickly.
Over the thunder of the rain, Izuku could catch a few of the voices.
"Don't worry about him."
"I'm sure a hero will do something."
Izuku nearly laughed at that last one. Some people were idiots. He was certain that heroes didn't help people like him.
He was quirkless and useless and worthless. Nobody could be bothered with him.
Tenko Shimura was not in a good mood. He'd been sent out to buy groceries for Kurogiri in the worst weather possible. The wind was frigid and managed to direct the icy rain directly into his face, no matter how he held the stupid umbrella.
At least the groceries were still dry, being hugged tightly to his chest. There was no way that he was going to be forced to go out again to buy more.
He was in such a bad mood that he almost stomped straight past the child. Almost.
But he couldn't really ignore the kid. The kid was barely out of the rain, hunched underneath a battered metal sign, with his knees hugged to his chest in an effort to make himself as small as possible. His matted hair was filthy and his clothes were baggy and torn and stained, revealing just how thin the kid was.
His eyes were the worst, though. They were blank and glassy, like the kid had given up hope a long time ago.
Yeah, Tenko could hardly ignore the kid. Not when he'd been in the exact same position just a little more than a year before. He could still hear the whispers, even so many months later. They stayed with him, would stay with him, and haunted him.
"The heroes will come and save him."
The heroes never came. Sensei came, and Sensei had saved him and that was far more than the heroes had ever done.
So Tenko could have just shrugged, written himself off as lucky to be saved by Sensei. He could have just walked straight past the kid, and back to the bar where he had Kurogiri and Sensei waiting for him.
But... But Tenko wasn't heartless. He lived with villains, he practically was a villain, but that didn't mean he was evil.
He wouldn't just walk by. He'd leave that to the heroes.
So instead, he stopped, and walked over to the kid, bending down so he looked as non-threatening as possible, and offered his hand. "Shit, kid. You're in bad shape. Want to come with me, and we can see about getting you fixed up?"
The kid blinked owlishly, like he thought Tenko was some kind of dream. Tenko had been there before. He knew how it felt.
"Why? Why would you help me?" The kid's voice was hoarse and trembling and he looked about ten seconds away from crying.
Tenko shrugged. "I was in a similar position myself a while back. Still would be, if someone hadn't saved me. So I felt like helping you... Besides, what have you got to lose?"
For a moment, nothing happened. Tenko remained crouched under an umbrella that shuddered with the force of the rain, and remembered being exactly like the kid: cold and lonely and scared.
Izuku remained hunched out of sight, unwanted, unloved and terrified. He really did have nothing to lose. So he managed a weak, hesitant smile and took Tenko's hand.
And the world changed.