Aizawa Shouta enjoyed his time at the Quirkless Outreach Center.
It was a way for him to support the children that often needed it most, and to pass important lessons most of society seemed to forget.
It didn't matter what quirk a person had, their actions made them who they were.
He became a pillar to children who had no one else. He's built himself to be a support to those who were collapsing. He was a hero in all the ways that mattered, the ways that meant the most. The ways that had driven him to be an underground hero in the first place.
He had no need for fame, for rankings, or popularity. Didn't want it, didn't care.
It relaxed him, reminded him why he worked at UA, why he agreed to teach children to be the next great heroes of tomorrow. Reminded him why he expelled some of his past students.
And he knew he wasn't supposed to pick favorites, but well- every teacher did, no matter what they said. He just knew better than to let it affect how he treated the other children.
Midoriya Izuku was his favorite.
The boy was painfully smart, analytical, and focused. He wanted to be a hero for all the right reasons, and he persevered in the face of so much hardship, so many voices raised in unison telling him he never could, to give up, it was useless. He broke down quirks and their applications the way most people breathed, and Aizawa had long ago sworn to himself that he would submit a recommendation for him to Nedzu when it came time for the boy to apply to UA.
And he would, Aizawa was certain.
He rather hoped he could talk the boy into being an underground hero. They could always use more of those, but even if he wanted to be a 'spotlight' hero, Aizawa thought he could do it, and he made sure to show that in every way he could.
He was certain the boy knew who he was, even if he never actually voiced it aloud. And he still flushed just a little when he remembered the rant about how, even if All Might was amazing, Eraserhead was his favorite hero, because he- essentially- fought quirkless against everyone he took in to the police.
Aizawa was never anyone's favorite, and he didn't do what he did, didn't go out of his way to stay out of sight of the media, to be a favorite for a child.
He did it to save them, but this boy had still declared it to a room full of children, and argued with anyone that tried to put him down, and Aizawa was...flattered.
(Especially since, at the time, Izuku hadn't known who he was.)
Because his arguments were well thought out and logical, and true. He didn't set Aizawa- Eraserhead- on a pedestal. He loved him as he was. Aizawa had asked him questions about what he knew and probed at him, just to see why and how the boy thought, and it was those well thought out breakdowns, that brought the child to his attention in the first place.
That Izuku could- had- broken down clips and bits of fights for him, in the few seconds it took him to watch them, only enforced the idea that Aizawa was going to recommend him.
He liked to play strategy games with the kid, and was pleasantly surprised to find a challenge in him.
So when Izuku brought in a new game, and asked him if he wanted to play, Aizawa stood from his place and walked over to the game table, where he sat down and started to go over the rules.
Bakugou Katsuki would be joining them. Aizawa had worked hard to help widen the blonde boy's world view, and stop him from developing a superiority complex, but it was hard when he was working against every other adult figure in the kid's life.
It was slow going, but Aizawa wasn't one to give up on the hard cases.
And then the game started sucking Izuku into the orb at the center of it.
Aizawa hadn't felt cold fear and adrenaline dump itself down his spine like that in years. He hadn't had his fight or flight instinct kick towards fight like that since he was a teenager. He hadn't felt the licks of anger well up his chest like a wildfire since then either.
Nothing he did worked to stop it, and all Aizawa could think was that the game was some sort of object quirk fueled thing and it had taken one of the children in his care.
He wasn't having it.
Katsuki struggled with how to view Deku.
Aizawa-sensei told him that Deku was just as good as him, but everyone else said that he was better, that Deku didn't have much hope of...anything really, and he was destined to rise to the top.
And some days, Katsuki agreed with everyone else. He was better than everyone else, he was going to be Number One, he was destined for more, it was obvious.
But then...other days, Deku was the quicksilver kind of dangerously smart, that Katsuki admired. He was able to break down hero fights on the street at a glance, and he may not have had a quirk but he still kept up with Katsuki.
And Aizawa's voice echoed in his head, speaking about heroes, and saving people. About how he wouldn't ever be able to choose who to save at a glance, that he would have to save everyone, even those he called 'extras', and there were other arguments Aizawa-sensei made that just…
They made sense. They made more sense than everyone else.
And Deku used to be- still was?- his best friend, even now, and- and Katsuki missed the fucking nerd some days, not that he'd ever fucking say that out loud.
But...how could so many people say one thing, the same thing, and be wrong when only one person was saying something else?
He struggled with it.
(Some days he wondered, if he ever would have thought about how he treated Deku, if Aizawa hadn't stopped him, hadn't pulled him aside to talk about it. He had never yelled, but he'd broken the situation down for him, and that thought...terrifies Katsuki some days.
Terror makes him angry.)
But watching Deku- Izuku- his childhood friend being sucked into a board game, Katsuki can't stop himself from crying out, from reaching for him.
(And oh, oh, it hits him then- is this what Izuku felt when he fell off the log so long ago, when he climbed into the river and offered him a hand?
Was this what Izuku had reacted too, that bone deep terror, that need to do something- anything- where your body reacts before your brain, and you're reaching out before you even know that you are?
He hadn't been looking down on him.
It was instinct.
And Katsuki prays that he doesn't understand this truth just in time to lose Izuku.)
Aizawa-sensei is furious, and Katsuki understands.
He understands, and he listens as Aizawa breaks down what he thinks the board game is, that now that they started it, they may be stuck completing it. He listens to the man swear that no matter what they face, no matter what happens next, he will keep them both alive and safe.
Katsuki believes him.
And Katsuki remembers terrified green eyes, the hand that had lifted towards him, almost like Deku didn't even realize he did it, the way Katsuki had reached back before he'd known he was going to, and passed through him anyway-
And Katsuki rolls the dice.
There's a text screen in front of him.
Izuku is shaking, terrified, his eyes flashing around the forest, but the text remains in front of him anyway, bright green on a black background, and he can't help but read it.
Welcome to Jumanji!
Now that you have begun the game, there's no turning back!
Keep an eye on your mini-map, it tracks where you've been!
Pressing it will enlarge the map, and it will track creature settlements you've visited when enlarged.
The map will allow you to track your teammates and their health once you agree to party!
Games are more fun when you play together!
Voicing "Menu" will bring up your options.
Menu** will allow you to track:
-Your in progress and pending quests
-Creatures and the information you have on them
-Will recall the board and dice so you may continue the game, and see progress
-Allow you to access your inventory.
-Access the Rules
**Please note that the Menu option is not available when Enemies are in the Area.
Please note, that as a "NEW GAME" this is the only exception to the Menu** rule.
More information will become available as you progress!
BEGIN IN 3...2...1…
Izuku jumped as the text boxes disappeared, and he was left standing in the jungle, staring around him.
The sounds, smells, and humidity in the air felt so real. What kind of quirk was this.
And then he gasps sharply, as the slithering sound he had heard suddenly got louder.
It's not an animal.
It's plants. Vines. Darting across the ground, aimed right at him, and Izuku remains still for only a moment, terror crawling up his throat.
The riddle he had seen comes back in a flash of memory:
Poisonous and Fast to Grow, If you're Not Quick, Tomorrow Goes.
Izuku doesn't hesitate any more. He turns on his heel and runs. He runs, and he prays. He hopes that he's fast enough, that he can handle whatever poisonous turns out to mean.
Is it deadly? An inconvenience?
He doesn't want to sit still and find out.
The plants chase him.
Izuku has never been so afraid in his life.
The hardest thing Aizawa has ever done is watch determined, but terrified, red eyes meet his and hold them, as Bakugou Katsuki fades in front of his eyes.
A child he had silently promised himself to look after, swept away in front of his eyes again. This time with full knowledge that rolling the dice to this game will pull him inside. But the quirk-game had warned them not to play if they didn't plan to finish multiple times. The handwritten notes had reinforced it, warned of deadly consequences if they tried to stop anyway. He didn't want to imagine what the game would do, could do, if they disobeyed when it had already sucked in one of their number.
So he watches, and he swears to himself, holding terrified red eyes, that he will get these kids through this game, whatever it throws at them.
And when Katsuki has faded from the room, his snow leopard four spaces forward, Aizawa takes a deep breath and reaches for the dice.
He's not leaving them inside that game alone any longer than he absolutely has to.
THEY LIKE TO LAUGH
BUT THEY'RE NOT YOUR FRIENDS
IF YOU TAKE THEM LIGHTLY
IT WILL BE YOUR END
Aizawa lands in packed dirt, tucking himself into a roll, coming up swiftly to his feet and scanning his surroundings with practiced ease. There's text boxes in front him- bright golden yellow on black- that he reads quickly, frowning.
A three second countdown is the only warning he gets before the boxes disappear as he reaches that last box, and he moves to take in his surroundings better. He's standing on a small mountain path, above a jungle, and surrounded by caves and a mountain range. He falls back to old habits, walking softly as he tries to get his bearings and figure out his riddle.
And then the breathless, high sounding cackles echo through the cave systems.
Aizawa feels a chill crawl over his back, and his danger senses scream.
He ducks, and over his head, a real life, actual hyena has lunged for his throat, and- due to his reflexes- missed.
It is only the ringing warning from Aizawa to not use his quirk, backed by the warning on the strange text boxes- deep orange-red on black- that keeps him from using his quirk.
He shakes, eyes darting around the area, as he tries to figure out where he is, and how he can find the others. He's also trying to spot what his riddle had mentioned, even as he rushes quickly onward.
IN THE JUNGLE THEY WILL STALK
YOU MUST RUN AND DO NOT STOP
MISS YOUR MARK AND PAY THE PRICE
ONLY THE HOUSE WILL STOP YOUR STRIFE
What was stalking him? And how was he supposed to find a house in a jungle? The jungle was huge was he even going in the right direction? What if he missed it, or was going the wrong way? How was he supposed to know? Was that his 'mark?' If he missed it what price would he have to pay?
He kept his eyes peeled, scanning his surroundings, hoping he'd find something. The map was useless to him for now, utterly gray except in small spaces at the moment. He hadn't been anywhere, for it to be filled in yet.
He tried to control his building panic. He knew panic was bad, it led to stupid choices.
The jungle sounds- so very different than the sounds of his home- were making it worse, making him startle and jump. He'd never heard anything like it, and every little sound was new and scary, because he had no idea what the sounds meant, and he was supposed to be being chased right now.
He wanted to find the others. He wanted Aizawa, he wanted Deku, he wanted this to stop.
He whirled as a branch snapped, and his eyes widened with terrified horror as he spotted what, exactly, he was supposed to run from.
Katsuki turned, and he ran.
The only thing that is letting Izuku see through his tears is pure survival instinct.
And practice, sure, but mostly the desire to not die.
He doesn't bother to look behind him. He's already learned to watch where he's headed, and to keep an eye out for movement that doesn't belong. He'd already made the mistake of climbing a tree once in an attempt to buy a few moments of rest.
That...had been a bad idea. The ground was safer. He just has to watch for plants that were moving where they shouldn't. And for the barbs they shot at him. That was why he was weaving around without any set pattern, trying to keep trees between his back and the plants that were behind him. He'd also learned the even touching the plants was a bad idea, they shimmered strangely under the light, and the one monkey who had grabbed the vine and been dragged along behind him…didn't last very long afterwards.
Izuku tried to control his breathing. How long would this riddle last? How long would he have to run? Would it be forever? A day? Would this plant chase randomly? Constantly?
This quirk-game didn't make sense.
He hopped the other two would be better, would be safe. They'd come after him, even Kacchan, he knew.
The game had said they couldn't start unless they planned to finish after all.
Izuku slid down a hidden ravine, making a low terrified sound, even as he tried to adjust so he wouldn't tumble down the side. He managed to stagger and keep his feet as he came to the end of the slide, carrying new bruises and scrapes, but alive.
He still didn't look behind him.
The eyes followed him anyways.