Pause. Rewind. Play.

Summary: "'It gives me a hundred chances,' he thinks, even as his hands scrabbled for something sharp amidst the chaos. 'To do it again, better this time.' A knife against his throat, a red smile in his skin." Izuku dies for the first time at the ripe age of fourteen, down the wrong tunnel with an ambitious villain and a hero just a second too late. He wakes up that same morning and gets the chance to try again. And again. And again. Until he gets it right.

When Izuku awoke, it was with a flail, a choked off noise stuck in a throat no longer filled with mud, or guck, or villain. The bed sheets caught his legs, tangled him up, and for a brief, frightening moment, he was sure he was being strangled again, swallowed up.

The light filtering through the lazily drawn curtains was gentle, but bright, casting shadows across the bedroom floor.

He was home.

Izuku pressed the back of a faintly trembling hand to his mouth, tried to swallow down the urge to hurl at a phantom taste of something foul and putrid clinging to his tongue and the back of his teeth.

Just a nightmare, was what he told himself as he glanced at the alarm clock, numbers flashing cheerfully to tell him the time and date. Just a bad dream, one from staying up too late, prying too deep into the sordid affairs of heroes and villains.

Izuku was sure he couldn't remember anything about a villain that moved like something rotten come back to life, a rolling, cloying lump of mess and rotten fluid other than what he had seen behind closed eyes.

He was startled out his thoughts by the alarm clock blaring, a tinny little beep that repeated itself insistently until Izuku sat up and jabbed the button, the bedroom once more thrown into silence.

Tomorrow, he wouldn't need the alarm, his last day of middle school bleeding into the holidays that would lead into his high school life in just mere months.

Swinging his legs to the side and planting his feet firmly on the floor, Izuku pressed his hands to his face and tried to will away the sensation of drowning under the weight of a villain made of sludge and horror.

Breakfast was normally a simple affair in the Midoriya household. A quick meal, before Izuku was hurrying out the door to get to school, all for those few extra minutes in a cosy bed and cosier kitchen.

When Izuku stepped into the kitchen, to sit at the small table he shared with his mother for most meals, he was hit with a truly staggering bout of deja-vu.

"I know I shouldn't have gone so overboard," his mother was saying, one hand pressed to her cheek as she looked at Izuku endearingly. "But it's your last day of middle school, and I wanted it to be special."

Izuku tried his best approximation of a smile, and apparently it appeased his mother, because she bustled around the table, making sure he was seated, setting a plate in front of him and then ruffling his hair for good measure.

Picking up his cutlery, Izuku let his chopsticks hover over the spread of food on his plate and in the little side dish bowls either side, set like moons to the planet of his plate. It was almost unbearably familiar as he went to poke at his fish, and to get rid of the stomach churning sensation, he immediately went for the rice instead.

The feeling came and went as his mother joined him at the table, ebbing and flowing like the tide but not as slow. Rather, faster, like the beating of a bird's wings, up came the feeling of familiar-but-wrong, down came the calm. There were less downs than ups.

He helped with the dishes that morning because he had the time, and didn't fear being late, rolling up his uniform sleeves to keep them from getting sullied or wet, even though today would be the last he wore them. The down, the calm, was stronger. His mother's smile, stronger again.

They had a well set up system, years of living together, gravitating around one another as parents and their dependent children were wont to do, their relationship strong from many a year of it just being 'us', a trio turned two before Izuku could even walk.

Izuku always washed, would scrub sometimes until he couldn't think, could let the day wash down the drain. He tried to do that this morning, his dream disappearing under suds and murky water.

Inko would always be standing where the next dish would need to go, pulling it across the room with a subtle turn of her fingers, drying it where she stood before placing it into the cupboard. Izuku always envied the ease at which Inko utilised her Quirk, no matter that it wasn't as flashy as others could be. She had a mastery borne of many years practice, and she wielded that mastery with grace.

Izuku's hopes of being like a hero, or even like his mother, had been dashed away at the soft, young age of four by an x-ray that showed the horrendous truth.

"Thank you, Izu-kun," Inko said softly, as Izuku dried his hands on the towel she offered. "The dishes always get done faster when we work together." He was nearly taller than her now, but level enough to close his eyes and bask in her affection when she dropped a kiss to his head, her hand gently cupping his cheek.

"Now then," she continued, taking the towel away from his drier hands. "It's time you get your shoes on, young mister, and get going before you're too late. I'll make your favourite tonight, and we're going to eat it on the sofa watching movies, okay?"

"Yeah," Izuku breathed, smiling wide, and wider still when Inko gently pinched his cheek and murmured gently, barely a whisper, as if he wasn't meant to hear, "I'm so proud of you."

In the last class of the day, when Izuku had slogged through final lessons, teacher's farewells and rambunctious students looking forward to their weeks of free time, their teacher was replaced instead by the guidance counsellor.

"Some time ago," he began, voice placid as he looked at the multitude of papers in his hands. "You were asked to write down your future aspirations. Whether you wanted to go to a regular graded school, a technical school, an internship, what you wanted to do in your future after your choice of further education. I felt like today was a good chance to touch upon that, to make sure you are all certain, and ready, to take this next step."

"Of course I'm certain," a voice rang out above the rest, and Izuku couldn't help as he slumped in his seat to try and become a smaller target.

Bakugou, feet up on the desk, was grinning. His feet dropped, an audible thump against the floor against the floor as his chair swung back forward onto all four legs with a sharp 'clack'.

"I'm leaving all you losers behind and going to Yuuei. I'm going to be the Number One Hero!"

Murmuring broke out amongst his classmates, some admiring, others wondering, none doubting.

"You aren't the only one to apply, if I remember correctly," the counsellor said absently, shuffling pages again. Izuku felt the swooping up feeling again, his lunch sitting heavy at the sensations, of familiar, wrong, the impending doom, like there was a guillotine above his head and it was ready to drop.

"Midoriya, you also wrote down Yuuei as your hopeful, didn't you?" the counsellor asked. Izuku closed his eyes and felt the blade drop.

It hurt, not just physically, when Bakugou had pressed a smouldering hand to his shoulder, the cheap material of the uniform burning, the skin underneath hot. It hurt, that all of his hard work had been turned to something just short of ash and soot, the pages delicate under his fingers as they threatened to crumble.

It hurt when Bakugou told him he would be better off taking a walk off the edge of a building to see if maybe next time he'd be a little better off, wouldn't be labelled Quirkless. Izuku had entertained that thought for no longer than a second before filing it away into the depths of his brain.

His walk home was at nearly a trot, the burn of tears threatening his dignity with every passing second, his throat tight with emotion. The sheer feeling of terror, suffocating, drowning that assaulted him as he stepped into the tunnel he used as a shortcut was an unwelcome break from his tumultuous thoughts.

Hesitantly, he grasped his bag strap tight and only stopped for a bare second before he was walking down the tunnel, one of his sides near pressed against the wall. He didn't know what had suddenly brought on the uncontrollable bouts of familiarity, but the ceiling was looking uncomfortably close to the one he'd been looking at when he'd died in a dream that felt a thousand years ago.

The sewer grate he had just passed clattered open, something moist and wet dragging across the floor and making a noise like a sibilant hiss, a rasp.

Izuku didn't want to turn around. His heart was in his throat, his fingers white knuckled and tight. His feet would not listen, one and then the other slowly shuffling to turn his body.

"Hiding place," the gelatinous thing from his nightmares began, "found."

Izuku woke up, softer this time. There was no flailing, despite the sharp clarity, of being suffocated, swallowed, taken apart.

He was smart enough to know what had just happened wasn't a dream.

He was smart enough to try again.

Aha. Hahahah. I have so much stuff to be working on.