A/N: Yeahh I'm jumping on to the MHA boat! This is a little AU character exploration and a possible story start, though it's only a oneshot on my end. If anyone wants to pick up the idea/adopt it, or just use parts of the premise, just let me know so I can read it. I could see this going a bit interestingly, but Midoriya is still Midoriya.

Gaaah I want to comment on dreams, the deep and yawning sensation of failure, the fear of failure, and the importance of other people believing in you and your dream, but in this case, I'll let the story do the speaking for me.

Enjoy.


Facing Failure

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts."
― Winston S. Churchill


I had failed the entrance exam.

I looked at my fists hollowly, feeling tears springing to my eyes.

I had – failed?

Even after everything All Might gave me? Everything he did for me?

My mentor had given me the news directly. Though I had won a large number of "rescue points" by destroying that zero-point robot, it just hadn't been enough. Though the rescue had been dramatic, and glamorous, All Might had told me, the act itself hadn't been able to compensate for his utter lack of battle points.

It just couldn't be helped, he had said. The judges had decided, and the decision was final.

Even after all that work I did? I thought, remembering the days spent pushing tires, fridges and all manner of trash around the beach. The grueling ten month training. Pushing myself past limits I hadn't known I had, constantly, without fail, without backing down from the challenge.

It was enough to make me hurt. Hurt real bad inside. I had failed. After all that. After trying so hard. In the moment, I hadn't known what to do.

"But you can try again for next year…" All Might had told him.

But I couldn't, I thought, clenching my fists, leaning forward, biting my lower lip in a sudden sense of anguish. All Might had chosen me to be his successor to be a new Symbol of Peace, a new hero that everyone could rely on. A hero that could smile without a care and be everybody's strength.

If I couldn't even pass the entrance exam, how could I live up to that dream?

I had tried so hard, for so many years, everyone telling me I'd only fail. Now I had. I could feel it now, my determination wavering at the brink, on a dangling precipice where I could either climb or fall. A crack had crept into my determination to keep climbing, to keep always trying. Such a devastating failure – after all that work, all that effort plunging in full on, never hesitating, never letting myself say "what if"?

It's almost enough to make me give up.

Almost, I told myself, but my heart wasn't in it like it was after all the other setbacks. When Mom had told me with her tears that I could do it. When Kacchan threw all my hopes in my face and told me that I was useless. When even the teachers laughed at me. In those moments, I had always told myself almost, not yet, I'm not there yet, I can't give up, I won't give up until I try and give it my all.

Well, now I had tried.

It left me at an unfortunate place. A place I hadn't planned for, because I had refused to see it as even a possibility. Had refused to even think of it, in fear that doing so would fulfill a prophecy of failure. I laughed bitterly, suddenly, a motion that sprung the tears from my eyes and sent them cascading all warm and snot-like down my cheeks, until I was wracked with sobs, and I was clenched over myself, trying to hold it all in.

I had failed.

Why? Was I not good enough? Had I not tried hard enough?

Was this really just the lot of the world?

The cruel reality?

Had All Might been right, in those first words he spoke to me? Should I give up his dream, be realistic, and become a policeman instead? "A fine profession..." he had said.

But I have One for All now, I thought, despairingly. How could I abandon the hope he placed in me?

I didn't know which way to turn. Whether to go back, give up on my dream, admit that I wasn't enough. Or whether I should move forward, train hard this year, and as All Might advised, reapply for UA.

Both paths seemed impossibly hard. Both terribly shameful, in their own ways. There was no way forward that felt right. At the critical moment, I had failed. There was no getting around that.

What do I do now? I thought, still hunched over myself, viscious tears still pouring out. What do I do now?

Give up, or continue on?

It was the thought of discrediting All Might, ultimately, that made my decision.

I released a shaky breath, sobs decreasing in intensity, and methodically unfolded my body. I wiped away my tears with one hand, then the other. I clasped my hands together, closed my eyes, and breathed in, out, in, purposefully settling myself into a place of calm, a place of steel.

This was just another almost, I told myself. Another setback. I would just have to try again, and try harder.

I would get into UA, and I would live up to All Might's dream.

It's just a year right? I thought to myself, a shaky grin on my face.

It was the kind of grin that told sadness and pain "no, I defy you!", set all in a shaky, tentative, but unwavering strength.

Just another year of hell, I thought, and I can become a hero.

.

There came another letter from UA. It proclaimed, in too-loud, too-bold letters, that he had been accepted into the General Studies course.

"Though it is not our intention to promote heroes above all our students, we would also like to mention the possibility of transferring into the hero course, as your specific application was initially for that course. Later in the semester, there will be periodic chances for reevaluation and possible transfer. However, this is very rare and we would like to encourage you to consider all your options before electing to choose this option…"

So read the words that gave me a sudden, blooming hope.

I didn't have to stay out of school for a year, train while everyone else went on with their studies, became stronger than me. I didn't have to fraughtlessly charge into an future I couldn't turn away from, full of questionings and "why's" when no one could understood my desperate dream, the risk to my perfect future. I didn't have to lose my opportunity for advancement and friendship.

I didn't have to be held back, stuck in place because of my mistake, my failure. I could keep moving forward.

This is the chance, I thought, to prove myself.

I clutched the letter in my fist, the fire of determination lighting up inside of me in earnest. It had only needed a spark; the letter had been it.

I'm going to join the UA's general studies course, I thought with determination.

.

"No."

"Haah?" I waved his hands awkwardly in front of my face in shock. "But – All Might – why?"

The deflated skeletal man looked at me, eyes sharp. "Students are rarely transferred," All Might said seriously. "This might be a pipe dream. If you are seriously considering this option, you might as well go to another school than UA."

I deflated.

"Another school…"

I hadn't even applied to any other schools.

"It's too late," I said, grimacing. "The deadlines have all already passed."

"Hmm." All Might was quiet for a moment, thinking, rubbing his chin with one hand. "I see. You really hedged all your bets on UA, huh?"

Taking it as a reprimand, I deflated further. "I…"

"I like the spirit!" All Might interrupted, briefly flashing into his muscular form with a thumbs up and a blinding smile. "It's a hero's way to go all in!" His muscles shrunk again, and All Might was once again the lean and hunchbacked Yagi. He lifted his hand to his chin. "But it is a serious problem… I never thought they wouldn't have taken you in either..."

That… didn't make me feel better at all.

"All Might…" I said, hunching down. "I'm sorry. I couldn't make it."

The tears were springing again, and All Might looked at me in alarm.

"You gave me all that support," I continued, feeling the shame building, "and I only –"

"Stop right there!" All Might said in English, holding up one hand towards me in the universal stop gesture. He lowered it then shook his head. "It is my fault, not yours. This is the responsibility of the teacher. You have shown your courageous and heroic spirit, Midoriya! It was I who was unable to prepare you in time."

I swallowed, eyes moist at the speech. "But –"

"No buts! Listen well, Midoriya. A hero will always face many setbacks in their time. But the ones who face them with strength and persist onwards regardless, no matter how many challenges they must overcome, no matter how much adversity they must conquer, those are the true heroes!" He looked at me with softer eyes, after that rousing speech. "And you, Midoriya, have it in you to be one of those true heroes."

"Guh –" Now I couldn't help it, the tears were really pouring out. I had to wipe them away with my forearm.

It was just like before! When All Might had told me those words. "You can become a hero!"

These words struck me in the same way, down to the marrows of my heart, resonating with me deeply.

"Thank you, All Might!" I said, bowing as I continually wiped away fresh tears. "I will strive to be worthy of your words!"

"Ahh!" All Might cheered in rousing agreement. "Now, let's get to work. A sure-fire plan to get you into the hero course…"

.

I ended up joining the general education course.

Even though it was a long shot, according to All Might, it was the best option we had, since I hadn't applied to any other schools and waiting another year to reapply was, in the end, decided to be too risky given All Might's health. Since All Might was apparently a teacher at UA (and what a shock that was!) he could facilitate the process and recommend me for reevaluation.

"Though, ultimately," All Might had warned, "their final decision will be up to your efforts."

The warning was unnecessary. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Alright! I thought, thoughts determined as I walked to my very first class in the UA general studies course. I'll never give up, no matter what it takes!

With All Might's support, and belief in me, I was no longer dangling on that dangerous precipice, caught in the decision between climbing and falling yet again. On the contrary, my determination had been fanned up into a raging bonfire. I was ready to move on, to work hard, to reach for my dream and never surrender.

Even if it takes a year, a decade, or more, even if it takes ten months of pure pain, or a blistering moment, or a hundred failures, I will make it!

There was a tight, determined grin on my face as I rolled open the door to UA's general studies course.

My hands were shaking, but I was ready.

Ready to face this new future with courage and hard work.

I'm going to be the top hero, and no setback's going to stop me!