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I am made of glass. Beautiful I once was; No longer I am.

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If there's one thing about himself that Izuku absolutely hates it's the fact that the scent of burned flesh and death follows him everywhere. How smoke lingers on his skin and how ash settles on his clothes. How the roar of the flames haunts his every waking moment.

Everything about himself repulses him. The scars that litter his torso makes bile crawl up his throat and fills the inside of his mouth with copper. Even catching a glimpse of his own hands fills him with the need to pick up the cleaver stored in the back of the bar and chop off those dirty, hideous, traitorous fingers one by one.

Izuku despises himself.

Absolutely loathes the way blood gets into every little dip on the canvas of his palms, and fills his nose with its tangy copper-like scent. How the weight of every body he's burned, minced, and buried seem to latch onto his ankles and drag behind him.

Izuku stands before a large furnace. A huge bulky stone construct built right under the headquarters of the league of villains. It reeks of death and charred flesh, the stench permanently ingrained into each carefully laid brick. Flames lunge at his feet, heat nips at his neck, and embers snap by his ears.

He doesn't even so much as flinch when he makes a step forward. Instead, Izuku grits his teeth and tightens his hold on the body's wrist. Willing as much willpower as he could muster, so he could toss the body into the flames, while desperately trying to avoid looking at those lifeless blue eyes. It takes a lot longer than Izuku expects but eventually he throws the body into the flames, and furiously making a point to stare at the blood-stained shirt it had worn instead of its slack-jawed face.

The flames practically screech the moment the body goes in. Forcibly drawing his eyes into its hypnotizing dance. Hot fangs flickering left and right. Sinking its heated blades into flesh and bone. Devouring everything in its greedy jaws. 

Izuku can barely recall a time when fire didn't mean death or smell constantly like burning flesh. A smaller, more tame fire flickered once on a candle, rested on a cake. Decorated with the themes of his supposed favorite hero.  Only small blurred details that he can never remember with any real clarity. 

Only the ghost of a warm hug and the fleeting feeling of wishing for something he could never have been left in the fragments of his memory.

A loud beeping noise emits from the right side of his head that tears Izuku out of his headspace. The earpiece shrills loudly for a brief moment before Kurogiri's monotone voice crackles through, "Status report RA-01." 

Dredges of the blurred memory rattle through his head and slides down his back. It takes a bit longer than a couple of seconds for Izuku to pull himself back to reality to reply. Bringing up a finger to press against the earpiece's button. 

"All bodies disposed of. Returning to upper levels for a new assignment." The words taste like ash.

"Make sure you come back in a presentable state. Sensei has business with you when you return." Kurogiri's voice cuts off immediately, leaving Izuku with nothing but the crackling fires and a heavy stone resting in his stomach.

Great.

 

---

I am made of glass. Beautiful I once was; No longer I am.  

--- 

 

There's a limo parked outside the bar with dark windows shining in the light of the evening sun.  Izuku's skin suddenly feels like it's been drenched with slime. The collar of his dark vest feels tight against his sticky skin as beads of sweat roll down his back. His palms turn clammy with anticipation (fear?)

Izuku's mind twisting itself into circles trying to think of something he had done wrong.  What had he done wrong? What had he done in the past couple of months that could have incurred a one on one meeting with All For One. Fear wraps itself around his neck in a vice lock as anxiety starts crawling up through his throat and threatening to spill out onto the sidewalk. His pulse beats rapidly under his skin as the countdown begins as he becomes hyper-aware of every second that ticks by.

He goes over what he thinks are days, weeks, and months in his mind. Tentatively looking through every detail while skimming through flashes of decayed limbs, and mauled faces tinted blood-orange. The putrid scent of burning flesh tickling his nose briefly before he screws his eyes shut and forcibly shoves those memories back into their place. 

He had done all his assignments and hadn't even tried to skip a single one in the past couple of weeks (months?)

What was wrong? 

He goes through all the training sessions with his various handlers next. Phantom bruises ache all across his body, and scar tissue feeling painfully tight. But nothing comes up to him as out of the ordinary. For the past couple of months (years? months?) he had trained without an inkling of defiance, unlike his early days. 

He's still getting a grip on the newer practical lessons but it hasn't even been a week yet. So why? Why

Izuku wrings his fingers tightly already starting to feel the panic bubble up his throat. His fingers start twitching, and his lungs start to tighten. His vision swarms and shakes as his brain begin to fail him. Heart thundering in his chest while everything inside of him starts constricting. The next breath he takes comes in short and scratches the lining of his lungs. The realization that he was starting to hyperventilate makes him start freefalling.

Panic seizes his body at the dawning horror that if he breakdowns here with All for One looming over the horizon he'll be thrown to the wolves. His brain backtracks to his early days when he had been only six years old. 

The memory is blurred around the edges like everything is in soft focus but it does nothing to make remembering it any easier. The vertical scar slashed from the base of his neck to his tailbone burns as he tries to refocus his flailing brain. He can't afford to break down here. Not when the clock is ticking down until he has to face the wolves. God knows what the punishment will be this time and he had barely survived the last one.  

Izuku's not so sure he could endure another one. 

Blood coats his tongue and it's coppery taste slides down his throat as he swallows. Internally wincing as the inside of his cheek starts bleeding profusely. The pain offers him a small refuge from the storm raging through his mind. 

But it's not enough to pull him out (it's never enough)

Desperation worms its way through the rising tide of panic as he starts worrying at the torn flesh on the inside of his cheek. He tries so damn hard to just push everything into the back where it should be. But blood stained floors still flash by his eyes and desperate wailing still echo through his ears reverberating through his skull and vibrating through his veins. The phantom feeling of his skin turning to ash and cracking like glass rages through his nerves. 

Everything filling his mind with its cacophony. 

He wants to scream, to do something, anything to get it all out of his head. 

But he can't.

Sensei is here. 

A small dark car is rolling down the street and Izuku's body starts to rebel against his instructions to remain in place. 

Running would do him no good. If he makes a single mistake he'll be signed off as defective and returned to the lab (but hasn't he already?). He couldn't afford another one even if he'd been nothing but obedient for the past couple of months (years?). 

He simply couldn't afford it. He just couldn't, he just couldn't, he can't afford it, he can't-

"RA-01." Izuku jerks backward stumbling on his own two feet as he sucks in a large breath. Eyes flitting rapidly trying to grip onto a single focal point. They lock onto a figure wearing a neat suit. Izuku gets the distinct feeling the man is smiling underneath the bulky mask.

"Sensei." He grits the words out like their made of stone. Syllables grinding against his teeth as its sharp corners cut into his tongue.

"I thought we taught you better manners than that RA-01." All for One takes a step forward. His footfall sends vibrations through the ground and tremors up his body as his throat goes dry. His presence is like a choke hold. Stifling everything that dares to exist within even a meter of his existence. 

"Of course Sensei." Izuku forces a smile on his face. Silence reigns over them. His heart thundering loudly in his own ears.

"Let's get going, shall we? I have quite the surprise waiting for you my little RA-01." His voice picks up that strange high pitched lilt at the end that makes Izuku feel like he's being talked down on. 

All for One signals for the limo door behind him. Ice flooding his veins. The tinted windows glint darkly at him forcing his own sickly reflection into his line of sight. A gaunt face decorated with dark bags and hollowed eyes greet him.

Izuku barely gets his legs to work. It takes all his willpower to just take one step towards the car without having All for One watching him with what feels like a critical eye.

The moment he steps into the Limo and is seated the door slams shut making his heart jump as he flinches away. All for One is already turning away from the window and walking towards the opposite side. Leaving Izuku with a few precious seconds to pull the remnants of himself back together.

All for One steps in right when Izuku has tried to subtly dig his fingernails into his forearm. He snaps his wrist back and presses his fingers together into a tight fist.

For a long while, neither of the two inhabitants speak. The silence pushes against Izuku like a  battering ram. Suffocating him the same way All for One's presence does. Pressing its imposing weight against his chest until its crushing him. Panic stalks at the edges of his mind ready to pounce if he even so much as slips on the thin tightrope. 

When the seat starts vibrating and the dark blue lights that line the roof light up All for One finally speaks. "You're not in any trouble RA-01. No need to act like I'm about to bite."

Izuku's lip twitches upwardly wryly. I wouldn't really know now, would I? 

There's a blur of colors whizzing beyond the tinted windows as neighborhoods blur into each other and the bright blue sky mixes in with the clouds. He doesn't quite remember the journey when they arrive at the final location located deep in the woods. But by the time they stop and Izuku spies the familiar branches of trees he knows that he's about to enter a man-made hell one far worst then anything Shigaraki or that small blond haired child had given him.

---

I am made of glass. Beautiful I once was; No longer I am.

--- 


If there's one thing Izuku likes (or likes about as much as Izuku could like this detestable man) about All for One is his complete lack of theatrics, unlike his student Shigaraki. When they step out of the limo he doesn't gloat about the power he holds over Izuku or starts complaining about how much he hates hero society and All Might while 'subtly' threatening to disintegrate his face. 

All for One is instead completely silent when he slips behind Izuku pressing a palm against the small of his back. 

To anyone outside, it would have looked like a comforting gesture, like a father would a son about to go to the doctors for the first time. 

But Izuku understands the action for what it is. A thinly veiled threat. 

"Let's go." All for One rumbles.

They move forward with leaves crunching under their shoes and nothing but an autumn chill to keep them company as they proceed towards the facility that Izuku knows all too well. It's dark-reinforced one-way glass glints in the evening sun as if anticipating how fast his life was about to spiral downwards.

Each step they take forward makes his legs feel like jelly. The muscles threaten to collapse in on themselves as his muscles shake and jitter. His whole body repulses at the idea of taking another step instead there's a desperate urge to turn and flee. To simply run as fast as he could in the opposite direction. But the firm pressure on his back keeps him moving forward because as much as Izuku despises this place, he despises All for One a lot more. 

The both of them come to a standstill at the back entrance like they're waiting for something. The rusted grey door gives a quiet beep before there's a click and the door slides open.

 Izuku's blood turns into ice. Copper trickles over his taste buds as he keeps reminding himself he's survived worse in order to placate his rabbiting heart. He has survived worse. Even if the scars that litter his body burn and the bones that have never been set correctly say otherwise. (But deep down in that treacherous part of his mind, he knows nothing he's gone through would compare to his time spent here.)

Once they step into the building one of the guards wraps a blindfold around his eyes and takes over for All for One who disappears to wherever creepy, manipulative, and brooding villains disappear to. Izuku can't help but be a little smug with the blindfold. They started blindfolding him since his first escape attempt and it's something Izuku has been proud of since (but the blindfold never blocks out the distant screams that echo through the hallways everytime they walk.) 

They spend most of the long walk in silence with only the echo of their footfalls to keep his ears occupied. His nose is hit with the familiar scent of must, blood, and chemicals but it's almost always faded in the hallways of the building. They come to a stop at some point the guard(s?) shuffles around behind him before there's a satisfying click and something blows cold air across the skin of his face. For another couple of moments, there's absolute stillness before the blindfold is removed and he's shoved roughly forward with the butt of a gun. A loud slam resonates behind him as Izuku takes his time readjusting his eyes back to the blinding sterile light of the facility. 

Izuku takes a while to recompose himself blinking rapidly as his eyes try to readjust to the blinding lights, but he has a distinct feeling he's in the physical examination room that Izuku is all too familiar with.

"On the table." It's a gruff voice with a low pitch that is soon followed by the rustling of paper but Izuku doesn't dare take more time to get his eyes to readjust. He stumbles forward towards the voice hoping it's in the general direction of the table and praying he's not about to piss this guy off for taking too long. 

Izuku ends up crashing into something cold and solid. A tight pressure wraps around his shoulder and he's being hauled onto an uninviting metal surface roughly. When he tries to open his eyes they're immediately assaulted by bright surgical lights that burn into his skin and bleed warmth through his clothes. Izuku doesn't dare open his eyes again after that already feeling distant memories crawling forward. 

Consciously Izuku knows this is only a physical checkup. After all, this was the room they did it in every day for his younger years. But something can't help whispering in his head that this wasn't the examination room but the awful one filled with doctors and plastic tubes that were filled with a viscous black liquid that they pumped into the people strapped to the table. But he can't help it if his hearts pounds painfully as if he's waiting for hands to strap him in. Readying himself for the scratch of leather restraints against the porcelain skin of his wrists and ankles. He can feel his whole body tense up.

Don't open your eyes Izuku, don't open your eyes, don't open your eyes, don't open them, don't look, don't see their cold distant eyes, the blood-stained surgical masks, red tipped sterile gloves, and the cold glint of a bloodied scalpel.

He tries. He really did try to restrain his panicking body. Tried so damn hard to shove the memories away to where they belong. But they stubbornly persist at the forefront playing out like a badly shot movie. His chest constricts and his heart hurts as it pounds faster and faster his whole body tensing up anticipating the first touch of cold metal before blinding pain. Izuku furiously keeps his eyes shut, and tries to persuade his mind that he's not there anymore. He's not he hasn't been there in a long time. But the dark corners of his mind whispers he will be. He'll be returned to that room that smells more like blood and rotten flesh with the stink of death clinging to his skin. 

If not now he will be returned eventually. 

The sudden jolt of a stethoscope being pressed onto his still clothed chest makes him flinch back wildly eyes snapping open. Dark silhouettes of multiple people standing over him their fingers dipped in blood, the stenched of his own vomit filling his nose, and the glinting metal scalpels prepared to cut into his flesh again-- 

Izuku shoots out wildly to grab one of the doctor's wrists and moves to twists it between his fingers. An audible crack sounds and a familiar crunch reverberates under his sticky palms. But he can't anything over the blood roaring through his ears and the adrenaline pumping through his taut body. 

 He can't, he just can't go through this again, not again, not again, not again. He starts thrashing wildly moving as frantically as possible to keep the doctors away. When he raises his knees poised ready to kick at the doctor who surely has a taser ready for him he freezes. There are no leather straps holding him down. 

Izuku's heart drops as he blinks rapidly looking around trying to clear his vision. There's only one doctor and he's at least 6 feet back nursing his right wrist glaring at Izuku with venom. There's a phone pressed between his ear and shoulder as he barks out sharp orders his breaths coming out in short gasps. There's a clipboard that's clattered to the ground and paper strewn all around the floor. His brain comes to a complete stop at the horror that dawns across his own face. There's a loud crash somewhere to his left and his head is slammed back against the metal table harshly. His vision is greeted with the sight of the dark visors the guards wear. Distantly he's aware their shouting words and telling him something but their words fly through his ears never quite registering.

He's gone and done it now.  

When he's pulled off the table he can't help the small stream of relief that flows through him but it's quickly burned away when he realizes the situation he's put himself in. Metal cuffs are slapped onto his wrists and he's shoved out the door unceremoniously falling multiple times as they make the trip outside. A blindfold is wrapped around his face roughly as they keep shoving their gun into his back to keep him walking. 

His ears are buzzing with cotton as his mind races. Izuku can practically feel the executioner's ax that's swinging over his head.  The thin hairs on his neck prickles each time they shove their gun into his back barking their rough words. 

The cold air that he sucks through his lungs stings his overheating insides and it does little to keep him from hyperventilating. Izuku forcibly drags his mind away from the looming thought of the future and instead tries to focus on keeping himself steady instead of bumbling around like a newborn calf. It's a lot of effort trying to keep himself walking in a straight line with all the rough shoving and the amount of willpower he needs to keep his knees from buckling on themselves. But each step he takes he counts it in his head in a pitiful attempt on keeping his mind from straying to any other thought. 

"Stop." The words are soon followed by a rough hand yanking him back nearly making him fall flat on his ass but he regains his sense of balance soon enough. Though it's more muscle memory than active effort. There are more shuffling sounds as the guards slide in a keycard before a loud beep sounds. Afterward, they untie the blindfold and shove him hard enough that he falls onto the ground of his new cell. 

Pain rocks through his chin and shoots up the side of his head but he doesn't bother to move. Instead, he simply lies on the cold cement taking in deep shuddering breaths that shake his whole body as he tries to recompose himself. But the memories don't let go. Instead, they claw even harder to make themselves known no matter how hard he presses his nails into the palms of his hands. 

Images flicker by his eyelids as his breathing quickens. Memories of his first days in captivity are by far the worst. 

The cages were suffocating. Always smelling of rot and blood and low groans of pain filling the space. Sometimes occasionally when a new unfortunate soul was brought in there would be screams, and begging to be let out but they always fell quiet eventually. 

Even Izuku. 

He remembers sitting in the dimly lit space filled with stacks upon stacks of cages that contained people. When he had woken up there the first time he had screamed and cried fat tears. He asked questions, begged for answers even but no one answered and eventually, Izuku tired out and fell quiet just like every other newcomer. Most of the time it was adults that were carted in and slotted into a spot but sometimes there were children like him. The guards would cart by his row with someone on occasion but he'd never seen their face. Sometimes they would be screaming or crying, but most of the time they were silent.

Izuku tried twice to talk to his neighbors but they never replied. Their dead eyes simply flickered to his face before reverting back to the ceiling of their cramped cage. 

The second week he spent there was even worse. He hadn't been given water or food at all in that first week up until the following Sunday the guards came for his cage and started carting him out. He tried to ask them questions but his words were too raspy and quiet to come out for them to hear. Izuku's wasn't even sure if they would have answered him anyways. They brought him into a room filled with 10 other cages of people. They dropped a plastic bowl filled with dark brown pellets and a small water bottle in his cage before leaving him there.

Eventually, Izuku learned to hate feeding time too. In the center of the room, there would be a metal table with leather straps and they'd take the people out of the cages and force them onto the table. Izuku watched in horror as the people were pulled out of the cages. Sometimes they would be screaming and clawing as they were dragged, others were silent. But all of them had their skin painted ashen white under the surgical light with the only drop of color spilling out of their bodies and staining the dark floor and flowing through the sewer drain under them.

A lot of them begged for death on the table. Screamed and wailed for it but the doctors never gave them that mercy. Simply moving on and plugging them into their injections before continuing with their scalpels. They'd thrash against the restraints sobbing and laughing all the same. Sometimes they would drop dead with their head thunking against the metal and lolling around uselessly as their eyes became glassy. Those would be kept on the table dissected by the doctors their stomachs cut open to reveal rotting innards and pollute the room with the sickly sweet scent of rot before being disposed of and their cages cleaned and shipped off for the next person. 

When it came to his turn he screamed and cried too. And just like all the other's they never listened. Sometimes he'd wonder if they were deaf. Only someone deaf could ignore these cries of anguish and agony.

Only once Izuku got to find out what happened if the liquid they injected into people worked. The skin of their body would start rotting right off their flesh and their bones would crack loudly as their faces morphed into a beak as they started turning into some inhuman color.

Those people never screamed again after that.  

Izuku had sat across one of those beasts in his cage for a whole week after that. He'd watch their unmoving flesh rot off the brittle bone throughout the week as their skull cracked and fell to reveal the still pink flesh of the brain. 

Izuku couldn't eat when he was fed for a whole three weeks after that.

The memories were relentless after that. He could have spent hours laying there listening to distant screams and cries, remembering the smell of rot as people vomited up black liquid. It could have been hours, or maybe only five minutes that his breath bounced back to his face but eventually, he forces himself to get up and crawl onto the cot in the corner.

The scratchy material tears at his skin and he already knows it'll be impossible sleeping on this uncomfortable cot. He's overcome with the urge to just scream and slam his fists into the wall like a child. He opens his mouth but nothing comes out. He tastes copper on his tongue as his throat tightens up because he can't will the strength in him to do it. 

All he had wanted was to be a hero, to help people like All Might. And then what? He had been born useless, and quirkless. There's bile crawling up his throat. It feels like something wants to come out but it can't. Like it's stuck and clogged inside this wretched twisted body that doesn't even belong to him anymore. Everything burns. His blood boils, and his skin itches against the scratchy cotton. There's a heavy weight sitting on his shoulders knowing he'll have to sit here for god knows how long before being taken out to meet the consequences of his mistakes. 

Maybe if he wishes hard enough they'll kill him this time around instead.

It's hilarious really. The only thing he could remember from his childhood was that all he had wanted was to be a hero! As far as he could remember he hadn't done anything wrong, or at least nothing bad enough to deserve this hell! 

But here he is kept tightly under the thumb of villains with no hero coming to save to him. He begged, and prayed for all he was worth when he was younger. Wishing for All might to burst through the walls and announce he was there to save him and all those poor people who have likely been there far longer then he had been. 

But All Might never came. No hero came. And he felt his childish hope wither away with each passing day. 

This was reality. 

Heroes don't show up and save the day. 

Really it's funny. It's fucking hilarious that this is his life now. He doesn't miss the irony of his life as he starts laughing. Hiccuping in between sporadic breaths and wheezing so loudly that you could have confused it for sobbing if you hadn't seen the upturn of his lips. He's laughing because he can't scream anymore.

Izuku didn't believe in a god after that first month.  

The hollow laugh rings about the room releasing all the glass shards of his hopelessness. The laugh feels like he's coughing out nails, and scratches his throat like sandpaper. He wants to cry, to give out those ugly sobs with the shuddering shoulders and gasping breaths. But he can't no matter how hard he tries it's just a deep hollow chasm inside of him. 

He's numb.

Even now if a hero came they couldn't (wouldn't) save him and all the sins that drag him down to the deepest and darkest pits of hell.  

 

 

---

I am made of glass. Beautiful I once was; No longer I am.

---

 

When they took him out of his cell they dropped him into the Coliseum instead of doing what Izuku thought they would have done he can't help but feel elated that he won't have to go through that again.

There's a long moment of silence as he's standing behind a closed metal door already feeling himself wither away. He takes in the familiar cracked stone beneath his feet and the spider cobwebs hanging in the corner.

They threw him in here to die. Is this mercy? Is this the mercy that God has finally decided to give him? The rusted metal in front of him screeches open and the noise hammers through his skull giving him no time to continue that train of thought as he shields his eyes from the blinding light in front of him. 

"Go." One of the guards states gruffly shoving his back with the butt of their gun.

Izuku takes slow measured steps forward already taking into account the ruined state of the age-worn arena. There's another set of rusted iron gates across from here and Izuku already knows what's waiting for him. When those gates pull open a massive nomu comes out. It's the biggest he's ever seen. Even if it's back is hunched over it stands at least 10 feet taller than Izuku. 

The moment it steps out and sees the light of the arena it starts rampaging and swings out with its right fist. It hits nothing but air as it opens its maw to let out another ear-piercing screech cracking the concrete under its sickly green feet. Its brain is pulsing visibly while its protruding eyes frantically look around the arena. 

Everything about it makes Izuku want to vomit the remainder of his admittedly small lunch. The lower jaw of its beak gives a sickening crunch when it lets out another loud scream as the withered feathers on its arms and back starts straightening up as it stands straight with an audible crack as it's spine pops. The very cement it stands on starts cracking and gives way under its immense weight. Everything seems to rattle and tremble in its presence with every step forward. For a brief moment, they lock eyes and Izuku greets death like an old friend.

With another jaw wrenching scream it throws its whole body towards Izuku. It flies towards him at scarily high speeds and right before the moment of impact, everything comes to a standstill feels like it's frozen in time as they lock eyes. All of Izuku's senses start working in overtime, a habit that Izuku can't quite seem to shake even when he's willing to die because he simply doesn't want to endure what hell is surely coming for him. His vision zones in on the Nomu's body absorbing every detail. He notes the pulsing veins on its bedraggled torso, and how flakes of its horribly dry skin fall off.  Saliva flies from its crooked paled orange beak and drips down to the rubble beneath its massive bird-like feet. Even the huge ragged dark-green feathers growing from it's back come into his eyes in such fine detail he can make out each individual hair that makes the feather.

So when it's outstretched hand with it's peeling skin starts getting larger and larger he suppresses his instincts to move and lets the palm slam him into the cold ground. He hears a loud crack which he's sure is his skull as every sound he hears becomes muffled under the darkness of its musty palm. Pain ricocheted through his whole body as his head starts feeling the strain of all the pressure being pushed onto it.

The palm finally lifts and his coming migraine infinitely becomes so much worse when it lets out another scream. His vision is rapidly starting to blur as black spots dance in his vision. He's dizzy and for a moment he doesn't remember where he is or who he is. His eyes flicker over the area skimming over the gruesome details of the body looming over him and instead opts for something a little more pleasing to look at. 

The arena with it's cracked wall and broken cement. His eyes skim over the spectator stands there's a couple of employees milling around watching the fight with distant eyes but there's one audience member in particular that catches Izuku's eye. 

All for One is there sitting patiently in the red velvet seat with his hands neatly folded in his lap with his head tilted in such a way that makes Izuku think he's looking straight at him. All for One looks for in all the world like an innocent man who's done nothing wrong. 

Izuku despises this man with every ounce of his body. Hates him for the pain and agony he's caused him. But it's not just to Izuku, but to every poor soul, he's turned into a nomu and every innocent he has locked away rotting in the cages in the basement. This is the man who decided to throw Izuku into this god damn hell to die. This is the man who decides all of his punishments, who decides what he's worth, who decides whether Izuku deserves to live. 

Fuck him and his shit plans

In one fluid motion Izuku wills himself to call upon every battle training he's been in with the League of villains and rolls out of the way of another slam. Anger and hate boil through his blood and shoves the pain into the back burner. 

Fuck this guy and everything he fucking stands forIf he wants me to die then he's getting the exact fucking opposite. 

The ground beneath him shakes as the Nomu's outstretched hand collides with the cement. Sneakers slamming on to the ground, he picks up one of the loose pieces of rubble nearby and hurls it at the hideous thing. The Nomu makes an unnecessarily large arc with its arms before slapping the concrete away. The rubble cracks against the wall before splintering and shattering into the ground.

There's rubble everywhere and it's a battle between making sure he doesn't trip and avoiding the nomu hot on his tail. Right on cue It lunges forward throwing its fist into the ground and pushing off with its hands as it leaps into the air. Casting a shadow over the room.

Izuku feels it before he thinks it and he just moves. He tucks his shoulder in and rolls out of the way before getting up onto his feet and picking up another loose piece of rubble to hurl it at the beast in an attempt to buy himself more time. The full body slam literally has the whole room shaking and bits of concrete falling from the roof. 

This is by far the most dangerous thing he's fought in the arena before. 

Every moment continues forward like someone kept their finger on the speed-up button of the remote. The Nomu is relentless in its attacks. Each fist flying in one after the other throwing gust of wind in its wake. Izuku is forced on to the defensive stuck into a pattern of rolling out of the way or barely escaping a direct hit. Even for its humongous size, it was fast. It's massive legs covering more distance in one stride then Izuku can make in five. It was only by sheer force of rage and willpower that he was still alive forcing his body to move and work. The nomu digs it's heels into the ground as it prepared another hit. With another scream, the large bedraggled feathers on its back twitch for a brief moment before detaching themselves and launching at Izuku. 

Wind whips at his face as strands of his hair get into his mouth and obscure his vision. He watches with morbid fascination as a feather flying right past the right side of Izuku's face leaving a thin cut across his right cheek. 

He needs to end this in one decisive move, he has no stamina for a timer end (assuming there's a timer end on this fight) and there's no telling if he could actually fight this damn thing. His brain kicks into overdrive taking note of everything. Nothing about it's fighting is refined at all. Nomus were always brain dead never capable of thinking for itself with little to no combat prowess but they made up for it through sheer force of strength and speed. 

Untrained, wild, and frenzied. The way it splashes its actions against a billboard practically screaming at Izuku about every move its about to make before it even does it and a single glaring weak point that he could strike at. Its Incapability to formulate a plan of action. It only knows to attack anything and everything that moves. It's not much of an advantage but beggars can't be choosers.

Those are the only thing Izuku could take advantage of. It's unrefined fighting style, it's lack of ability to think, and it's Achilles heel.  

The plan already starts clicking into place as the puzzle pieces attach themselves together. 

It's now or never Izuku. 

It's high pitched voice grates against his eardrums like nails on a chalkboard as another flurry of feathers come at him. Izuku reaches forward with his hand feeling the sharpened edges of the feather slice through the tender flesh of his palm as he stops its course. 

He sucks in a deep breath centering himself again.

He was quirkless and useless that's what he had been told his whole life as far as he remembers. People have always been telling him what to do, what he was worth, and what he would never be able to achieve. All for One was one of them. He has deemed Izuku unworthy and sent him to his death. Maybe all those other people thought that he should have just died. Should have just tossed his sorry little self right off the roof of his school. 

But Izuku will be the first to admit he was a coward. He remembers distinctly as a young child he had complimented the idea for a little bit but decided against it. Instead of saving his mother the trouble of having a useless son he burdened her because he was selfish and stupid. 

Each heavy footstep sounds like a bell toll. Every rumble of the ground feels like the earth would crack open beneath him to swallow his body in its massive jaws. 

Izuku hates himself. He absolutely despises himself and all the sins that paint his body. But he hates All for One even more.

The nomu reaches for a large chunk of rubble lifting it above its head as it casts a dark shadow over him. Every ugly detail comes into focus like it's under a microscope as he sucks in a calm breath readying himself.

It's now or never.

Izuku's off like a shot tightening his hold on the feather he has in his hand before tossing it like a throwing knife straight at the nomu's gut. There's a little squelch sound as it digs into the abdomen and inky black blood squirts out from the injury. With another loud screech that rattles Izuku's very insides and makes his head throb, even more. It tosses the huge chunk of cement at him angrily the veins on its skin pulsing as it wraps its hands around the feather and yanking it out. 

It's now or never. 

Izuku just narrowly dodges the chunks of cement he could feel the whoosh of air behind him and the bits of rocks that bounce harmlessly off his back. He snatches up another piece of loose rubble while running towards the nomu before tossing it right at its head. Predictably it raises its arm to swat it away wit ha large arc of its arm. Taking advantage of the large swing Izuku ducks under the hit slides under the beast between the legs. It screams again and Izuku starts feeling his brain turn to mush as he staggers back up and starts scaling the back of the nomu. 

Izuku leaves a bloody handprint across it's back like a canvas as he climbs. It screams angrily rapidly shaking its body in a desperate attempt to shake off the pest on its back.

Izuku keeps an eye on the spectators out of the corner of his eye watching their expression of confusion and shock decorate them. This isn't fair, this fight had never been fair. Life had never been fair. The odds had been stacked against him since he had been born for fuck's sake. He knows that life isn't fair it's a lesson that's been burned into his flesh and carved into his bones. He hates the cards he's been given, he hates how little control he's had over his own god damn fucking life. 

It's now or never.

Izuku knows the dangerous position he's in knowing that the feathers could be hardened so he has to avoid those when he climbs his way up. The skin crumbles beneath his hands as the feathers start regenerating rapidly prepping for another launch. He needs this done fast. He'll be dead the moment those feathers finish growing.

With a massive amount of effort, he wraps his hands around the thick base of the neck before hauling himself up. Desperately ignoring the pounding in his head. Just a few moments longer, just a few moments longer. The rapid shaking the Nomu makes is nauseating but he clings on for dear life as he wraps his legs around its neck as quickly as he can. 

It's now or never.

Izuku sucks in a deep breath as he wills himself to calm down for what he was about to do. He pushes his fingers into the exposed brain. The organ is wet, and slimy with every wrinkle pressing against his skin like a mound of dead worms. The organ pulses against his hands the vibrations thumping like a drum pounding against his senses. It's juices sliding in between his fingers and pressing themselves against his palms making them slick. Blood gushes against his hand's like an oil spill disgustingly viscous and shiny. 

If the Nomu was crazy before it was nothing compared to how it was now. It screams and thrashes, swinging its fists around wildly reaching to tear him off its head with its massive palms. With each scream that leaves its throat, it gets higher and higher pitched. Making his own ears ring practically splitting his head in half.

Swallowing down the bile that's starting to rise up, he curls his fingers inside the brain with a loud 'squeeesh' noise desperate to end this fight before he's plucked off. For a brief moment, he feels the wrinkles in the organ press against his skin when blood spurts a bit from where his hands were shoved in. 

Then in one single motion, he yanks out a whole chunk of the pink tissue violently with his right hand, before following up with his left. The slimy solids are thrown out and hit the ground. Which makes them spatter and stain the ground upon contact.

There's a blissful moment of absolute stillness that settles around the arena before the body drops lifeless. Izuku crashes against the ground rolling away from the body with as much effort as he could muster in his exhausted body. Every breath of air that Izuku draws into his lungs feels like he's inhaling spikes. It scratches his throat and tears at his lungs like a starving bear. 

His muscles twitch and it takes a considerable amount of willpower for him to stand up. Everything is throbbing. His legs and head are pounding like a hammer to an anvil with his vision swimming.

Izuku blearily looks up to the audience stand. He imprints the look of their wide eyes and eyebrows drawn together in a tight line. Izuku basks in the spotlight and revels in his victory. He finds he likes that look of fear and shock on their faces. 

Call it an acquired taste.

All for One simply sits there as Izuku glares at him for a long while before the guards enter the stage ready to drag Izuku out of the arena. Shocked silence reigns over the place as they pick him up by his armpits. 

His glare remains firmly locked onto the masked man.

All for One stands up gracefully and starts clapping. The sound echoes and reverberates through the arena. The sound waves rolling through the air and bouncing off the walls. He claps slowly at first like he's contemplating an idea before rapidly quickening his pace like this was an event was truly something to be celebrated. It's the only sound that occupies Izuku's concussed head as he's dragged out by his knees with his head rolling around. 

The metal gate screeches closed behind him and he's wrapped in the welcoming embrace of darkness as he's finally out of the blinding arena lights.

Everything from the fight finally wilts out of his body as he lets the carbon dioxide drag out of his body with the crushing realization he had been playing right into All for One's hands.

If he was an awful person before, he was irredeemable now.   

 

---

I am made of glass. Beautiful I once was; No longer I am.

---

 

 

 

Chapter Text

---

You can only endure.

---

Strangely enough, Izuku has never seen Shigaraki inside the facility during his stay. The exchange of environment and 'ownership' gives him mixed feelings. For one Shigaraki had the temper of a petulant child with Izuku walking on a frail tightrope threatening to break at any moment in his presence. But on the other hand, at least Izuku had been able to go outside and breathe in the fresh air for assignments instead of being cooped up inside a sterile cell only allowed outside for his physical checkups before his injections that make his skin crawl and make him vomit black puke (no matter how much his body tries to purge the contents he still feels wrong.)

But today is an odd day. For the first time in his stay, the concrete schedule that Izuku had been forced to obey is broken. He had been removed from his cell and instead of taking a left like they usually do on the first turn they went right.

And here he is now standing in the same sterile room as All for One while sharing a space with the doctor he had snapped the wrist of.

"How long until the body is ready for finalization?" All for One doesn't ask questions. He demands answers. 

Izuku is left squinting against the bright lights with his legs hanging off the metal table while trying to focus on not vomiting up his insides. The doctor much to Izuku's surprise doesn't appear to hold a grudge against Izuku even if he's still wearing a brace on his wrist. Which is incredibly relieving that there is a high possibility there won't be further punishments for his actions. 

"I'm not sure. This will at least take 10 weeks to get the first stage done if not more." The doctor pokes a needle on his finger to draw his blood, "We have others doing far better in their test and physical preparations. This intricate project of your's cannot be rushed if you really need something to attack UA with we have other projects available." 

For a moment it looked like All for One was considering the choice as he contemplated it in silence. But that's an outright lie. 

All for One must have been using one of his quirks because there is suddenly a huge amount of tension pressing down into the room. The atmosphere thickens and Izuku is sure he is not imagining the pressure pushing against his rib cage. It's heavy and thick but precarious all at the same time. At any moment it could of all come crashing down at even the slightest misstep. 

They're waiting for something.

"Are you saying you can not give me what I ask after everything I've provided for your company Dr.Arendale?" All for One's voice is smooth and velvety like rich chocolate. But there's something hideous lurking beneath his words like a predator waiting for its moment to strike. Dr.Arendale freezes as something akin to fear flies over his body his horse ears flattening against the side of his head as his hand hovers over the machine for a brief moment. Even from where Izuku is sitting he can see the fear in their pitch black eyes as they try to smooth away the crease in their dark eyebrows. 

"No of-of course not! It's just that for all the intricacies you want in your project needs time for it to be implemented correctly-"  All for One brings his hand on the doctor's shoulder giving it a soft squeeze as a soft sizzling sound echoes through the room the moment the contact is made. The very atmosphere in the room changes after that exact moment as everything seems to creak under some unforeseen pressure. The whole world feels like it's teetering on the edge of collapse. 

When All for One speaks his voice is monstrous "You have four more weeks." The deep tones rolling with gut-wrenching pitches as each syllable grates against each other likes nails on a chalkboard.  If it was even possible his voice gets even worse, reverberating inside of Izuku's skull like a bell counting seconds before his death, "After everything I have done for you and your company I expect that much." 

"O-Of course Sir." Arendale's voice cracks right at the start before being forcibly lowered back to its regular pitch. Their hands left trembling against the machine that was currently processing Izuku's blood. The anxiety that permeates from this man is so thick Izuku could have inhaled it and suffocated himself from the stench.

"How long till finalization?" All for One's voice returns to the same velvety texture it held before as he removes his hand from the doctor's shoulder slowly. The doctor remains silent making an effort to avoid contact with both Izuku and All for One.

"Four weeks Sir."

Izuku has the gut-wrenching feeling All for One is smiling.

---

You can only endure.

---

There's something off about today though he's not quite sure what tips him off about it. Perhaps it could have been the weird stone that was settled inside his gut or maybe it was the way how everything felt surreal. Like Izuku isn't quite existing. Detached. 

But otherwise, it could have been any number of things that they could have pumped inside his body that's causing the issue of wrongness that he feels.

When the guards come to pick him up from his cell Izuku is already out of bed and making his way towards the door. The first thing that catches him off guard was that fact they don't bother blindfolding him this time instead they just snatch his shoulder in their hands and shove him forward. After that, the walk is mostly silent save for the rustle of clothes and their footsteps echoing through the vacant halls. His brain feels sluggish as it tries to figure out why he feels so wrong during their walk. It's on the tip of his tongue that he knows what's wrong with him but he just can't quite place it. The first thought is that maybe the injections are finally getting to him or maybe it's the monotony of everything. 

In the end, his attempt at trying to figure out what's wrong with himself is fruitless as they move towards a hall he doesn't quite recognize. There are more doors like the one Izuku has lining this one and he's struck by the sudden thought that he has never seen any of their other projects besides the nomu ones. 

His gut wrenches as he wonders about how many more souls they have trapped up here and not just in the basement. The hallway disappears behind them just as quickly as it disappears as the guards practically drag him towards their destination.

They end up stopping in front of a double door and Izuku waits for the telltale beep to sound. Right on cue, there's a red dot that flashes in the center of the metal door before it peels itself open.

The doors click open a few seconds later revealing a small room with some actual furniture. Izuku's eyes rake over the scene trying to take in this strange dream like place. 

Its... awfully normal looking for a place that experiments on people. The walls are painted a nice shade of pale yellow with bright green plants sitting in all the corners. The colors are blistering bright against the dull grey and sterile white of the whole facility. 

Izuku's second surprise of the day is when he sees All for One again in his large bulky mask with another person he's never seen before sitting on opposite sides of each other. 

The newcomer isn't anything interesting if Izuku is being frank. Dark brown hair, slightly narrow amber-colored eyes, and pale white skin bordering on unhealthy. But there is one thing that that's interesting about him. The man wears an orange beak like mask resting on the lower half of his face with the brass parts shining under the lights with orange leather stretched over the mold.

The guards release their grip on his shoulders and shove him towards the two men. Izuku ends up stumbling a little bit before moving to stand next to the glass table that separates the two men.

"He's the one?" The one wearing the beak-like mask asks while shifting his gaze over towards him. Their amber eyes boring into him like he's already deciding what Izuku's worth and value are.

"Its a project we've been working on Overhaul." he folds his hands across his lap as he leans against the cream colored couch.

"He's actually quirkless?" Overhaul raises a single eyebrow like he can't quite believe it.

"Indeed. We have medication injected into his body so there may be problems with the blood."

"How diluted is the blood?" There's an edge to Overhaul's voice something creeping on the outside.

"Not very. Give or take at least two days for his body to purge it from his systems and you'll have a clean slate." 

Silence. 

"The man who can have all the quirks he wants is looking to buy injections that permanently erase them." Overhaul narrows his eyes leaning forward as he rests his head on his hands. 

The whole room seems to crack under the sudden tension as the conversation topic changed. Izuku winces internally. He is not looking forward to this. 

"I simply want to support a fellow evil-doer after all. Is that so much to ask? You need an extra ingredient to speed up the research and I just so happen to have it." More silence. It stretches through the air like a rubber band. One more misstep and everything will collapse.

"I've heard stories about you and the sins you've committed against humanity." The amber-eyed man's voice is quiet. The way his voice echoes through the room like he's giving a warning. "What kind of fool do you think I am. What do you want?" Overhaul seethes his teeth bared and his hands poised ready to attack. The man burns with an anger so hot Izuku could feel his skin tingle. 

"If the blood works we'll talk again." His tone is final declaring that the conversation has come to a close. The whole room breathes a sigh of relief.  

"How do I know you'll keep up your end of the deal?" All for One hums like he already knows the answer to the question. 

"The Yakuza have honor." unlike you.

"Please don't take your time with our project we do need him back quite quickly." All for One's voice is perfectly calm as he remains seated turning his head to watch the other man stalk out before turning his head back to Izuku.  "Return it to its cell."  

---

You can only endure.

---

Izuku has no idea what transpired after. He had been escorted back to his cell and left there for the remainder of the day (week?)

So it comes as a huge surprise when he's taken outside of the facility for what feels like the first time in forever. Everything is so bright and colorful his eyes throb painfully. But the fresh air is a welcome change compared to the stagnating air of the facility. Even if the silence outside is just as suffocating as inside it's an improvement even if he knows very well he'll be stuck inside another cell once he's been transported to the Yakuza. So Izuku tries to impress the sight of the trees with their overarching branches and the vivid blue of the sky into his shaky memory. 

But all good things must come to an end. A short figure wearing a dark cloak and a plague doctor mask guides him into the back of a white nondescript van. 

"Sit." it's a simple one worded reply from the Yakuza member as they tilt their head towards the inside of the van. 

Izuku slides into the cold black leather seats followed soon after by the figure shutting the door behind him locking it with a loud resounding click reminding Izuku of his status. The van is cast in darkness leaving Izuku alone in the back of a van with nothing more but his thoughts. When the seats start vibrating and the van shuffles forward he lets out a long bone-weary sigh while leaning back and pressing his back into the cold metal. Izuku has to suppress a shiver as he feels the heat sapped from his thin body. 

It's going to be a long ride.

 

---

You can only endure.

---

 

Izuku is taken from the van and guided through an oddly empty traditional Japanese style house and is promptly dropped off into another cell with worn tatami floors and cracked concrete walls with a simple cot in the corner. After that, he's left alone to entertain himself for however long their keeping him there. While he just simply lies on the floor staring at the ceiling and counting the spider web of cracks trying to ignore the well of wrongness that churns in his gut.

It could have been hours or a couple of minutes since he'd been left on the floor trying to concentrate on anything else but the worms that were wriggling under his skin. 

There's a knock on his door but the noise is lost on him up until the doorknob slams into the wall and Izuku flinches up whirling his head towards the entrance his skin crawling with fear and sweat beading at his neck because Shigaraki is here and he's angry again and he'll go for Izuku just like he always does. His skin will burn and crack and he'll taste blood in his mouth and pain ricocheting through his mouth as he bites down on his tongue to keep from screaming because Shigaraki hates it when he screams and if he screams he'll place his hand over his face and he'll go for the eye again--

"Out." It's not Shigaraki. TWater has been drenched on him or so he feels like that because his body is freezing and his skin is clammy with all the sweat and grime residing on it while his fraying nerves suddenly coming to a standstill. His arms are shaking even as he pushes himself off the floor to stand on unsteady legs. 

It's the small figure from before wrapped in a dark cloak and a different plague doctor mask this time. 

"--Get rid of germs before we begin the proper research so please clean yourself thoroughly before proceeding." He simply just follows the figure dazedly barely registering the last words. The whole walk going by in a blur as Izuku tries to get a grip on himself and reality up until he feels a force behind him and he's shoved forward hard enough that he trips on his own two feet. There's a loud sound of a door being shut and locked and Izuku is left on the floor. 

Again. 

His eyes are starting to tear up from the sudden change in color and the unusually bright lights that are reflecting into his eyes. There are white and blue tiles coating the walls, floor, and ceiling. There are multiple shower heads coming out from the walls with drains plugged into the floor with some bathroom stalls holding honest to god toilets. There's a set of sinks attached to the walls with a mirror hanging above each.

 A white towel and a set of clean clothes had been dropped behind him. 

An honest to god bathroom.   

What.  

Izuku can't recall the last time he'd been in an honest to god bathroom beside the blurry memories from his long-forgotten childhood. Sure there had been one back in the League of Villians HQ but the one he was allowed to use had a bucket and a shower head that only worked if you kicked it hard enough, even after that the water was still questionable at best. He'd hardly call it a proper bathroom. 

But this? Definitely a bathroom or a washroom at least. 

Tentatively Izuku pushes up back onto his feet carefully plucking up the fresh towel and clothes and folding them neatly before placing them back on the floor. All the bright blue stings his eyes but he can't seem to tear his eyes from the scene. He can't quite seem to wrap his mind around the situation. 

"You need to shower if we wish to proceed with the procedure. Please clean yourself thoroughly." A voice comes through from the locked door behind him and it startles Izuku enough that he pulls out of his stupor. After that Izuku makes quick work of his clothes and attempts to get the shower to function. It takes a while once he figures out how to work it he's immediately sprayed by a barrage of ice cold water. He runs his hand through the grease in his hair and lets out a heaving breath. Even if the water is ice cold and leaves him shivering even more than he already is it's fresh and clean and it especially doesn't smell like suspicious chemicals like the hygiene chambers back in the facility. 

And he's free to use actual soap and shampoo! There's a little concave shelf under each shower head holding two bottles and Izuku uses them both liberally hardly remembering a day when he was allowed this kind of luxury. The bubbles that come up on his skin are wonderful at easing away the tingling sensation of flaking skin (he still feels wrong) and the water turns gray from all the grime. He makes it a point not to look at his body (that doesn't belong to him anymore) too terrified of having to relieve the story of how he got each scar and because of that Izuku is infinitely grateful that the bubbles cover up the cracks and scars that mar his skin.

When he's satisfied enough that he's clean and has rubbed off most of the grime clinging to his skin he shuts the water off and towels himself dry. The towel is the cheap kind where it frays easily at the edges but god does it feel nice having felt nothing but cold metal and scratchy cotton for a majority of his life a cheap towel is practically heaven against his worn out skin. He's almost unwilling to pull it away from his skin but he's freezing and he can't cocoon himself in the towel if he wants to get changed. 

Besides Izuku doesn't want to piss off the person waiting for him outside for taking too long. After all, he's not in any hurry to find out what the punishment here is like. He slips into the fresh clothes making a side note the pants don't have any pockets. 

Izuku is just about to knock on the door and let them know he's just about done until he freezes because he catches his reflection in the mirror from the corner of his eye and instead of letting the person know he's done he takes a step back and completely faces the mirror. 

There's something wrong with him. The thought has been bugging him since the random migraines and ghostly prickling sensation that crawls all over his skin like locusts. Objectively Izuku knows it's the injections fault and the sensation will likely disappear as his body tries to purge the effects. It's just the nomu transition and Izuku is simply turning at a much slower rate. 

But he's lying to himself. 

Because lately no matter how much his body tries to purge the feeling it stays coiled in his gut like a viper. He wants so desperately to know what they are doing to him but he's terrified. Because if he knows how exactly awful the coming future is he'll have to live with it hanging over his head like a ticking clock. Forced to listen to the second's tick away as he counts the days (months?) to his fate. 

He wants to know. 

But he doesn't want to know.

Something is clogging up his throat because he's finding it a hard time swallowing down the strange feeling of anxiety that's been poured over his skin. 

He stares.

His reflection stares back. 

If he looks hard enough he can almost see the faint outline of a handprint imprinted on the right side of his face right over his eye. It's cold and his whole body is still shivering but his throat is clogged with something and he can't quite swallow it down or make his muscles move towards the door. Instead, he starts tracing over the outline of his silhouette taking in the vivid gory details of the scars crisscrossing his arms from multiple injection sites. The large white shirt hangs off his thin frame awkwardly but it's a lot nicer in texture. Not that Izuku has much to compare to besides the mostly scratchy clothing the League of Villians had given him.

Curiosity killed the cat as they say.  

The reflection grows bigger as he steps closer feeling the cold air dig into his lungs. The light bounces off his skin painting him in the same ashen white color of the people strapped onto the table. He shares the same protruding collarbones and sunken cheeks as they all had. Even looking at his own sickly thin limbs makes him uncomfortable but his fingers start to twitch and he drops the towel into the sink.

He shouldn't look. He doesn't want to see the evidence of flaying skin turning a sickly shade of inhuman color. He doesn't want to see the broken scars that litter his arms where it was cracked and forcibly regrown or where his bones aren't aligned the right way. But it gnaws at him. The question chewing away at the edges of his brain like a disobedient dog that just refuses to listen.

What are they doing to me? 

There are spiders crawling under his skin as his heart tightens the moment he lifts his left hand. The fingers twitching rapidly and the wrist snapping back and forth like it can't quite make up its mind if it wants to pull the sleeve up or not. Something's coiling in his stomach churning like the ocean waves on a stormy afternoon. 

There's something wrong with me.

The feeling hasn't been going away like it should have been. Not recently at least. His fingers twitch again and his heart tightens while his throat constricts and his lungs can't get enough air because his hands are pulling up the right sleeve to check out the injection site-  

"Are you done in there?" He jolts back dropping his hand as quickly as possible and averting his gaze away from the reflection and turning towards the door with leaden feet while sucking in a short cold breath that rattles his lungs. He makes his way towards the door even if he feels like that there's something that wants to crawl out of his body and will tear a hole out of his abdomen in order to be free.

It's just the Nomu transition. I'll be braindead soon enough it won't matter. It won't matter. It doesn't matter. It won't matter in the end.  It won't matter. It won't--

(He's lying.)

---

You can only endure.

---

The short figure is in the middle of guiding him through the long winding hallways up until they get interrupted that is.

"Fuck!"

"Get back here you little shit!"

"Damn it if Overhaul finds out we'll-!"

Three angry voices reverberate down the hallway and soon after a white streak comes barreling down the hall. The blur shows the signs of stopping but Izuku can barely make out the silhouette of a young girl with a small horn growing out of her head. Perhaps least somewhere between the ages of 5-7. 

She throws her head back to look behind her with her eyes blowing wide open to see how quickly the men behind her were closing the distance. The way she tightens her muscles and practically throws herself to make the distance between them wider strikes a chord in Izuku's chest. 

They have another child here. The thought completely catches him off guard at the realization that there's another person just like him only a few feet away without any prison bars or walls standing between them. The girl trips in her desperate attempt to run and push herself faster. He can see the look of absolute horror on her face as her crimson eyes blow open wide and her mouth opens as she lets out an undignified squeak on her trip down. 

But she's fast. Faster than Izuku could have ever expected because in mere moments she's scrambled back to her feet and is running directly at him. There's something about her in the way she holds herself. It's In the small tremors that rock through her muscles and the deep heaving of her chest like she's been running too fast too much. It's in the blood that's spotted on the loosening gauze wrapped around her thin pale arms. It's the deep darkening pit in her crimson eyes that swallows all the light that. It's the raw desperation that claws a way through her body and shows in her face like she knows the consequences of what would happen if she fails. 

It's striking. 

It's familiar. 

How she turns her head rapidly always eyeing the distance between her and her captors like she's expecting a large hand to come up behind her and wrap her in darkness. Her eyes are scrunched closed and she's running blind but Izuku knows if they were open he'd see the darkness of her pupils devour the crimson of her retinas because his eyes do the same thing.

Her fear; Her desperation is splashed across her face and painted over her body in bright neon colors. It's everything about her that makes the yawning abyss inside his chest ache. 

She weaves in between Izuku and his assigned guard vanishing between like a melting snowflake. Izuku doesn't move to stop her but the short figure whose already moving in after her. 

Izuku snaps his hand onto the short figure's shoulder before he could even move and yanks him back with all his might. The muscles in his arm tighten as he pours all his strength into it and throws the midget into the three men behind them. They give out an indignant squawk when they're sent hurling through the air before colliding into two of the men down the hall sending them all crashing into the ground. All three of them hit the ground unceremoniously and he's off like a shot catching the girl's eyes when she turns her head back again. The flow of her silver hair whipping behind her is hypnotizing as she pounds forward taking a sharp turn in the corner.

The air nips at his face as he runs feeling his muscles burn as he moves to follow her but just as he rounds the corner his whole body freezes and his blood turns into ice shards their sharp corners cutting into his flesh and tearing at his veins. She's on the ground with her long silver hair splayed out on the floor as Overhaul clutches one of her arms tightly in his. 

"What do you think you're doing Eri?" Overhaul is nothing like All for One his wrath is open and the fury in his eyes rages like a wildfire even Izuku can feel the heat spreading through his body through that single quiet whisper. "And You?" Izuku flinches back snapping his head to the ground his stomach churning uncomfortably as his throat becomes tight the words dying in his throat before they even had the chance of seeing the daylight. Overhaul glowers at the both of them the very air charged with tension like the moments before the ice under your feet is about to collapse.  All for One is all glacial cold fury and barbed sentences something Izuku is familiar with. But this man is a thunderstorm in his rage. Anger crackling through his body like lightning with wrath wrapped around him like a flock of vicious birds. "Let me ask you again." Overhaul grits out between his teeth. "What were you doing Eri?" His voice is barely above a whisper like he's talking to a cowering animal.  Izuku doesn't miss the way she flinches backward when Overhaul prods her with his finger.  Eri remains silent and instead averts her gaze studiously staring at the floor near her scraped knees. 

"Boss! We're so sorry we turned away for one second-" The three men from before show up later panting heavily with the short midget following in soon after. 

"You turned away for one second." Overhaul deadpans and the men seem to have realized their mistake. One of them opens their mouth ready to correct it but Overhaul silences them with a hand. "You're telling me that after I told you to watch her!" He yanks up Eri's arm while gesturing towards her. Eri lets out a whimper of pain but otherwise keeps her eyes locked on the ground. "You decided to simply look away?" The men wince and look away averting their gazes and remaining sitff bodied while they're all left in suffocating silence that pushes against Izuku's ribcage hard enough he could be sure it cracked. Overhaul lets out a hot breath of air through his nose and his eye twitches again while he closes his whole hand around Eri's arm which makes her wince. 

"Let her go." The words fly out of Izuku's mouth before he could even think it. Overhaul snaps his head to look at him and locks his destructive gaze onto him. The hair on the back of his neck stands and Izuku is now suddenly aware of all their eyes turned towards him. All their gazes burning and melting away his skin except her's. Her eyes are wide and her eyebrows shift up in surprise before they scrunch down again with her lips pouting into confusion. After that, her face shifts into one of horror. 

"Excuse me?" Overhaul's voice is incredulous. The storm that so usually wreaks havoc in his mind has gone silent. Something is moving inside of him it tingles under his skin and moves his mouth without permission.

"Let her go. You're hurting her." He's sure there's a forming bruise popping up from where Overhaul's hand is gripped around her arm. Izuku can feel the electricity that's charged under his skin readying himself for a fight but that's not what he gets at all. Something flickers over Overhaul's face before it shifts into a false neutrality and he lets go of her arm which Eri quickly retracts back towards herself with surprise. 

"You can have Eri if you want to help her so much." His voice is deceptively calm as he takes a step back and throws his arms out. Even the mad fury in Overhaul's eyes are gone replaced with nothing but cold indifference.

It's all an act. 

There will be consequences later Izuku is sure of it but for now, he couldn't care less because his heart is jumping out of his mouth and is beating painfully and he drops down to his knees looking at this girl who didn't deserve what the world gave her. Who likely lived her whole life trapped in this hell with nobody to listen to her cry or anybody to offer her a hug and tell her its okay. Who maybe learned that help wasn't going to come not for people like her or him. Who maybe just maybe had to learn that the world wasn't fair. 

Because she never deserved the blood spotted gauze that's wrapped around her arm or the hand shaped bruise that's likely forming there or the deep dark abyss that makes up her eyes and swallows all the life out of them. She never deserved to cry out for help only to realize nobody would listen no matter how hard she begged. 

Eri hesitates at first from moving like she's expecting the other shoe to drop but after that, for a brief moment, she comes out of her shell. Her emotions are written so clearly and plainly on her face as relief flies over her face like the rising dawn. After that, she's gone and crashes right into him with her arms open wide coming to wrap tightly around his torso. She clutches him tightly her knuckles turning white under the force she's exerting. Holding onto him like she's afraid he'll disappear. Izuku feels his breathing start to shake because maybe just maybe it's his first time to being in contact with someone who didn't intend to hurt him. Maybe just maybe she knows what it's like to grow with a gaping void for a heart with nothing but pain to remind you of the hell you have to endure. Maybe she knows what it's like to watch your dreams crumble away into ash as you cried for the what you would know would be the last time you would be able to cry.

"You're going to be okay," Izuku mutters not able to keep his voice from cracking as he tightens his grip on her "I'm not going anywhere. I won't leave you." Eri's whole body trembles against his her whole body shaking as her shoulders heave up and down and her breaths come in short but she doesn't cry or maybe she can't cry anymore; Like him.

"Please." When she speaks her voice is barely above a whisper but it speaks so much louder than that. It screams and shouts everything she holds dear to her and everything she had to endure and will have to endure. It holds so much more and speaks so much more than Izuku could ever hope to understand. 

For the first time in his life; Izuku doesn't know what to do. His gut twists itself into knots because he knows that this won't last forever whatever brief comfort they may find. There are people watching them. And eventually, they'll be torn apart.

"You're going to be okay, you're going to be okay." He tells it to her over and over again because there's not much else he can do.  He can't say it gets better because he doesn't truly believe it will. Not for people like him and maybe the unfortunate souls like her. Because the world is unfair and the deck is broken. The hands are warped and twisted with the dealer being just as corrupted as the game.

It's so unfair.  

Maybe he's making her life worse by giving her this small kindness just moments before it has to be ripped away in the cruel jaws of life. To give her hope that maybe she could have a different ending to her story only to leave her torn apart. But he'll be damned if he lets her go without doing anything even if he knows he's only making it worse because it's always so much worse having had something only to have it ripped away. Leaving nothing but a phantom in its wake while you try so desperately to call it back.

Izuku hates himself. He despises himself. Izuku hates the sins that paint the body that doesn't even belong to him anymore. He hates the fact that he's powerless in every important event that's ever occurred to him. 

For a long, while everyone else had been silent up until Overhaul starts walking. His footsteps echoing like a countdown. Every time his foot connects with the ground it rings in his like a bell toll. Ring after ring it keeps going until it gets louder and louder until it's shrieking right in your ear.

And after that, everything becomes a blur because in one vicious movement Overhaul had torn the two apart and pressed his hand against Izuku's throat with an iron grip. Overhaul's eyes burning like hot volcanoes. The desperation returns to Eri's eyes as she reaches out with her hands clinging to Overhaul's legs. 

"Leave him alone! You can punish me but leave him alone! P-Please!" Her voice cracks at all the wrong places as she starts trying to physically pull the two of them apart. 

"If you wanted me to leave him alone then you shouldn't have thrown your little tantrum. This is your fault Eri." Overhaul snaps at the end white fury burning in the low light of the hallway. 

After that everything is lit ablaze. Muscles are being torn apart from all directions and the air is being forced out of his lungs. All his organs being stretched out as far as possible. His very consciousness comes to a complete stop as he becomes incapable of forming even a single thought. Parts of his body that he didn't even know existed exploded with hot debris being poured over his skin as his whole body was being pulled apart at the subatomic level. Hot white lightning tears it's a way through his body destroying and burning everything that had once held him together.

Izuku can still see her; A ghostly blur behind the veil of tears as she screams. Crying out with a voice filled with the broken bits of her abused heart. But whatever she's screaming out for is lost in the wind as his whole world is swallowed in the gaping maw of darkness.

It's all so unfair.

---

You can only endure.

---

Chapter Text

---

You're going to be okay.

---

The moment the first drops of blood bloom into her vision everything freezes. Not a single thing moves as the world freezes into perpetual stillness as Eri tries to comprehend the moment Overhaul had made the kind boy self-implode. Everything that had once made held him together scatters about. Blood flies in all sorts of directions splattering against everything with a sickening sound. It smears everything under its fingers and drips against her skin as she's left staring in the empty space that's filled with nothing but the but the sickly red that almost makes her vomit.  

For a few blissful moments, blood red petals become suspended in time. Hanging in the air like crystalline rain before the world resumes in fast forward not even bothering to mourn for a boy who had done something so kind for her. 

Is this how it looks like when Overhaul deconstructs her? Just tiny bits and pieces of her hanging in the air with the only sign that she had had ever existed were the crimson blood stains left to rot. 

Is the world so cruel to take away something so kind? Would it so willingly burn away the last remnants of somebody so kind? Eri's throat feels like something wants to tear out of it. The desperate urge to hook out all her insides through her mouth and slam them at Overhaul's face. Even if he looks absolutely furious with his burning amber eyes Eri musters all the strength in her small arms and hits him in the leg.  There are tears in her eyes as her vision blurs over as she sobs screaming out in rage and anger because it wasn't the boy's fault it should have been her.

But everything is muted. Words and movements speeding by her as her mind reels from the aftershock as she's being pulled away screaming and thrashing. Left begging for Overhaul to return the boy to what he once was because it wasn't fair. It was her fault! It was all her fault and he shouldn't have been punished for her selfishness. 

She never saw this coming. Eri knew what Overhaul could do deconstructing and reconstructing everything he touched. Something she's experienced first hand on so many days. She had been too selfish and had wanted too much and this is what she had to pay because she wasn't smart enough to know better.

All she wanted was a moment. Her heart dives into the depths of her soul because this isn't fair

It was her fault that she had misbehaved the boy shouldn't have to be punished for her mistakes. 

Overhaul will reconstruct him. He has to. The world can't just let him do this!  The boy who told her 'it's okay' like she deserves to be told that will come back solid, perfect and wholeHe'll be reconstructed. He has to be because she wants to be held in his warm embrace again. Even if she's an ugly, horrible, monstrosity who never should have been born. 

The world wouldn't let something that warm and kind be taken away so horribly. 

Would it?  His words so full with something as they nestled inside her chest taking root in the wasteland of her heart. It's a feeling that washes over her like a river and envelopes her in its soothing embrace. Whatever river that had filled her from before dries up quickly in the scorching sun of Overhaul's eyes. Scooped away by the greedy hands that pull her farther, and farther away.

Something builds in her throat. It twists and jumps between her muscles leaving deep bleeding trenches on the insides of her throat. It claws and screeches to be let out as she cries her silent tears. 

So she screams. 

Screams at the very top of her lungs to pour out all the anguish that's been forced into her since the moment she opened her eyes. Every feeling of torment spills out from her lips cutting her tongue and slicing through her skin as clawed hands ravage through her chest.

The boy will come back. He has to.

Somewhere deep in the dark corners of her mind, she can hear Overhaul whisper 'it's all her fault' if he doesn't come back. 

She believes the whispered words.

---

You're going to be okay.

---

At some point in time, Izuku realizes he's awake (and very not dead thank you very much).  Even if the sensation of breathing hurts. Air scraping away at his lungs and chewing at everything that makes up his body. His eyes are throbbing with his skin feeling like it's been peeled raw and left to bear the world on it's on. Everything is overturned to hell and back like his body has never come into contact with oxygen before. His whole body shudders as he sucks in a greedy gulp of air feeling the cold air chill his insides as he drags his mind away from the physical pain of existence in an attempt to do a mental catalog of everything. 

Despite the dull ache in his body nothing feels broken or at the very least immediately life-threatening. There's an itchiness resting on top of his skin and a churning wrongness in his stomach but at least he can check himself off he's not immediately dying. How low his standards for existence has fallen. 

For a long while, Izuku just lays there soaking in the feeling of scratchy cotton and an uncomfortable mattress with his eyes stinging behind his eyelids. 

Eventually, Izuku finally does manage to crack open his eyes which in turn makes them throb even more. Everything far too bright burning their existence into his retinas. Nothing but barren cement walls greet him. Even if it's a familiar a sight he's grown used to it does little to explain why his stomach drops with the weight of disappointment. 

Everything is so surreal as if he couldn't quite grasp the concept that he's alive even after Overhaul had done something to him and his body had felt like it had been ripped to shreds (but it doesn't even scratch the surface of what the doctors have done to him). The memory of meeting Eri is fresh and vivid but it leaves a sour taste in his mouth as he recalls the iron grip pressing around his throat. Izuku winces and screws his eyes shut waiting for all the sensations and memories to die down. 

Which is a mistake because his mind immediately latches onto the thought of Eri leaving his heart flopping around like a suffocating fish. When he tries to search through his memories he's left with nothing but blanks. Nothing but the empty spaces from then and now. His heart twists and burns while his stomach does catapults at the sinking thought that he had failed her. Another face to add to his list sins. 

The parallel of their situations is a staggering realization that grips his heart in a cage. Constricting around his body like a python. Izuku had known for a long time that there were other children like him. Stolen away from their homes never allowed to see the light of day again. He'd seen them in the cages crying silent tears as their flesh rotted away and their body failed them. 

They never lasted as long as the adults had.

The one chance he had to save someone just like him and he had failed. The thought burns as it rams into him and rattles his very foundations. Another face to his list of sins. Another thing he's failed at. Does she hate him for failing her? Does she hate him as much as he hates himself? Izuku takes in a shuddering breath feeling the weight of everything pressing against his too frail body. Waves of water lap away at his marred skin seeping their chill into his bones. 

He tilts his head back letting his eyes flutter to a close as he draws in another shaky breath letting the tremors travel through his body. The feeling of disappointment crashes over him filling him with its inky liquid. 

Izuku hates himself. He absolutely despises himself. He hates the sins that paint the body that doesn't even belong to him anymore. He hates the fact that he's powerless in everything he does. He hates how he lets everyone around him down by simply existing. 

Desperately he wishes that Eri is okay and isn't suffering the consequences of his actions. That maybe he had done the right thing in trying to console her in the long dark winding hallway of her life. It's a false hope an awful dream to believe in knowing it's not true. It never will be. Not in a million years, not in a hundred different timelines, and not in this world. The dark abyss in her eyes haunts him just as much as his own revolting face does. Even if he knows that there was nothing he could have done that would have changed the outcome his gut still churns and he still tastes bile crawling up his throat. 

Izuku can't do anything. He can't change anything. He can't do anything. 

Because Izuku is quirkless and useless. 

Existing as nothing more but a limp puppet adrift through the vast sea. He can wish and beg as much as he wants he will never be able to do anything. No matter how much he wants to save her he can't. Even if he wants to lift her life from that ocean of misery and push her onto the safety raft before she could drown like him it won't change anything.

They could cling to something or anything that would make their miserable existence better but eventually, they would both drown. Dragged under stormy waters left to watch the waves collide under the surface. Forever numb from the biting cold with their minds lost in the ever tossing and turning of the ocean. But Izuku was only an insignificant tool to be melted down and reshaped as they saw fit.

Izuku hates himself. He hated himself since that first week in the cage as he could only watch helplessly as the people screamed and begged for help. Izuku had wanted to help them. 

But there was nothing he could do. 

Nothing he did or could do would change that fact. It's a conclusion he came to a long long time ago while staring at a blank ceiling for what felt like hours because he couldn't sleep (he can't sleep not with all the screams echoing in his head and the flashing images that flicker by his eyelids). Memories and words swirl around his head in an endless spiral. Izuku can't quite seem to latch onto a single train of thought anymore as memories from the League of Villains, and the facility pushes their way to the forefront while words from his past life buzz by like clouds. Thoughts of Eri and all the people he's failed swing by mixing into the torrent.

Izuku and good just don't exist in the same sentence anymore.

It's a vast sea of negativity that pushes and pulls him in all sorts of directions. Sometimes it'll lean towards his uselessness that he only existed because villains had given him a purpose. Other days it would drag him under the surface his sins crawling on his back snagging into his skin to yank him further down. But today it's guilt. It's the surging hands of the people he let down because he was nothing but a bystander as he watched them suffer. Their fingers clawing onto every part of his body to pull him down and submerge him under the thick slimy water waiting for him to drown down there with them. 

---

You're going to be okay.

---

The door to his cell opens and reveals the small midget from before. Their face is hidden behind the dark lenses of their mask as the dark cloak they wore turned silver from the reflecting light in the hallway. For a moment their both left staring at each other tension building between them brick by brick. Izuku's skin crawls as anxiety nips away at his heels letting his mind go over all the countless scenarios of how badly the coming future was.

"Out." the words are sharp and pointed digging into his heart like swords. Izuku doesn't linger on any of the thoughts his mind supplies and instead focuses on stitching the hole that's been torn in his chest.

It's more difficult than he realizes getting out of bed and standing on his own two feet with his balance being all off center. Muscles pulling and pushing like it's his first time walking. His own feet clumsily taking unsure steps as he tries to cross over to the doorway. Right as Izuku seems to gain some semblance of control and basic human functionality the Yakuza member is pushing him out with the beak of its mask. 

They're surprisingly fast for being so small and Izuku has to push his mind and body into overdrive just to keep pace (it's a thankful distraction because he doesn't have to think about the way guilt clings to his body like a lost child). Eventually, the walk ends with them stopping in front of a room with double doors while a vague feeling of deja vu invades his brain as the doors slide open. 

The room is stocked full of large machines with tubes going in and out from the walls and metal tables lining every corner. Papers and thick dusty books scattered about the room in a disorganized mess. But what catches Izuku's eye is the type of chair sitting in the center of the room lit under the surgical lights. It's the kind of char you see at the dentist with plush grey seating and a lot of extra machinery attached to the bottom of it. The room screams indifference and cold burning metal, with distant gazes and sterile gloves splattered with red, blinding lights burning into his eyes and glinting steel-- 

Izuku draws in a sharp breath. He's forced into the chair and left to stew in his thoughts as the Yakuza member moves away to stand by the door. He's at the center of the room with lights pouring above him bleeding onto his skin and turning already pale skin into a nearly translucent color. Despite there not being anyone remotely resembling a scientist or doctor he has a sick twisting feeling rolling around inside him. He squeezes his eyes shut telling his brain that there will be no one to strap him in. There will be no leather digging welts into his skin as he bleeds. There will be none of that. Even if he closes his eyes and the place feels no different from the facility. Full of wretched people with twisted gnarled souls. Ready to turn a blind eye to everything. 

With the only change being his purpose. Izuku wasn't the end product anymore but just another variable in the formula. Which is worse? To have your will, identity, and person stripped away or to become a replaceable spare part to be thrown away. The question leaves a bitter aftertaste on his tongue. Leaving nothing but ash in its wake. 

Footsteps are echoing down the hallway and Izuku counts the steps because he has nothing better to do except count the seconds that tick away in hopes of avoiding a mental breakdown. Nothing has truly changed. He'll be returned to All for One soon enough. 

It's another prison cell. 

It's another day in hell.

What's new?

---

You're going to be okay.

---

"Here."Izuku doesn't know how long he had been waiting in the room listening to the sound of his own breathing and counting the footsteps of all the guards but it's Overhaul's voice that wakes him up. After that Izuku is nearly blinded by the blatant wonder and admiration in Eri's eyes. He's shaken to his core looking at the way her crimson eyes light up in his very presence. It's so strange really. Years going by with nothing but cold indifference or badly disguised hatred and it's this look of pure admiration that has him falling in on himself.

He tries to open his mouth to say something but clamps down on it. His mind blank with relief that she's okay, and he hasn't failed her yet. Something flickers inside him. A small gust of wind blowing in the moments before a windstorm roars to life tearing apart the roots of what's already been set. 

It's just Overhaul in the room with them his face a perfect mask of indifference. Izuku feels like he's being cheated out of something. A key piece of information that he just can't quite seem to glean from this man. Eri is leaning towards him but not pulling away from Overhaul even if she looks like wants to. There's no blood covering the gauze wrapped around her appendages but her face is twisted in worry marring the relief and wonder that had shone there earlier.

This meeting is a game. There is an ulterior motive Overhaul has here that will be accomplished if Overhaul plays the pieces right. It's the only thing that makes sense considering what had happened earlier. Why did Overhaul bring them together? Numerous possibilities, scenarios, and questions flicker by in his mind but none of them click into the jigsaw. There's still too many holes and not enough pieces.  

The man has laid a trap with the trip wires planted with painstaking care. That much Izuku knows but he doesn't know how to navigate his way through it. There are not enough pieces on Izuku's side of the board as a timer starts ticking down counting away the seconds until the end of the game. 

Overhaul lets go of her arm and Eri stumbles forward at first. Hesitation painted over her body as she draws her arms towards her chest like she's unsure if what's before her is real.  There's something about her face in the way her lips tremble that tells him exactly what she's thinking. It's a face he's all too familiar with one that he wore often when he was younger. She jerks hand forward like she wants to reach out but doesn't quite know how to ask for it. 

It's familiar. So Izuku swallows thickly and gently pats his legs and motions for her to come over. And then relief washes over her face crashing against her features like the ocean waves as she takes her first hesitant step towards him. When she's standing in front of him Izuku can practically feel the worry rolling off her in droves while he watches her chew at her bottom lip. 

She reaches out with her hand at first as if she was about to touch the most precious thing in the world before she snaps her wrist back. Completely terrified that she would ruin the one thing she would dare hope to touch. Her whole body shakes with tiny little quakes moving away from the epicenter before the massive earthquake that follows.

And just like that, a river flows through them. The barrier holding them apart falls down and the floodgates open.

"I'm sorry--" there's so much anguish buried in those words as she trembles in front of him. Shoulders shaking rapidly as she clenches her hands into fists "I'm sorry- I'm so sorry! It's all my fault that you had to go through that--" a hiccup cuts through her sentence like a knife. Her voice trembling at all the broken syllables that fall through her mouth like glass. Her words are heavy; weighed down with all her pain and laden with tears but so full of her heart. Tears well up at the corner of her eyes threatening to fall. 

If Izuku stares too long into her glistening eyes he can see himself reflecting back like a mirror. She's familiar and different all at once. Her heart pounding just as hard as his as he pulls her into his arms pressing her close to his chest. Because maybe that's what she wants to. To be able to hold onto something while you ride out the storm that rages on outside battering your worn out walls (it's what Izuku had wanted when he had still been able to hope and dream). Maybe she's just as desperate for any sort of comfort to break through the painful stagnation of her own life.

Eri is warm and so so so small against him. The feeling of the abyss that had stretched itself in front of them for a vast majority of their lives feels like at that moment shuddered closed. Like they bridged an impossible gap and filled a hole that was impossibly deep. 

"It's not your fault. None of it was."  Izuku wants to shelter her against the storm even as his own voice quakes and just barely reaching a volume above a whisper. Terrified that this small moment might shatter into a thousand shards that could never be salvaged back. This small fragile moment in time that's full of spider web cracks and screaming winds buffeting the walls. But it's a rare moment of softness that had rarely ever occurred in their lives.

Eri doesn't cry loudly. It's soft and quiet as if she's trying to stifle her tears like the way Izuku used to cry when Shigaraki was around. With terror running through his veins that mixed with the shards of hopelessness that cut him deep through his core. Sometimes in those days he'd shove his arm into his mouth and bite down hard enough to bleed in order to stifle the noises.

It's a horrible thought to realize that maybe she was punished for crying too.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry I'm so-" the words keep spilling from her lips uncontrollably. Syllables slurring together as they blend into each other in incomprehensible ways. Her hiccups interrupting her words. Her shoulders shaking as she cries without a sound clutching onto the front of his shirt.   

"It's okay. It's okay. It's okay. It's not your fault." he can't help it when his words tremble too as if the aftershock of her emotions is starting to affect him. "Shhhh" He hushes her tightening his hold around her. "I got you. I have you. I'm not going anywhere. I promise." Izuku's own lips start trembling like hers because his heart is shaking under the weight of everything. 

The world isn't fair he's learned that a long time ago. 

It's in the blood that spilled from his wounds as he fought to see another day. It's spelled out in the bruises and the injections. It's a lesson that's engraved into his very bones as he was being groomed into complacency. 

The will to rebel and breath was burned out of his body a long time ago.

The world is ugly and twisted. Changed far too much to backtrack and return to its roots. 

But it's not different enough. It's not different enough for Izuku to able to see the fine line between black and white. It's not different enough that it makes Izuku see any other color but shades of gray.

"Eri." Overhaul steps towards them. 

Izuku wants to shelter her against the coming storm (even if he knows it's futile)

Dread piles inside of him turning his insides to ice. Goosebumps rising against his skin with each step the man takes towards them. The pressure in the room intensifying monumentally. Eri doesn't even so much as twitch when darkness sweeps over Overhaul's features.

The world is unbelievably cruel.

Overhaul glowers at them. Distance no longer keeping them safe as he gets closer and closer. Everything about Overhaul's presence is oppressive; the thud of his footsteps, the sound of his knuckles cracking as he clenches his fist, and the sound of his infuriated breathing burying the sound of Eri's shallow breathing. Even the blood roaring in his ears isn't loud enough to block out the intense volume of Overhaul's anger. His heart is violent beating like a mad dog desperate to run from an abusive owner. Pressure pushes against his ribcage forcing the air out of his lungs. 

In a world like this running is never an option. 

It had been crossed out in bright red ink marking its lines against the scars that littered their body. 

Izuku just holds onto Eri tighter feeling his muscles coil with tension as he braces himself. Eri presses herself impossibly closer her whole body going rigid as if she knew that the only way to survive in a place like this was to ride it all out.

Overhaul snatches his arm violently pulling both of them off the chair. They hit the ground with a loud thud as Eri cries out in both a mixture of shock and fear. Overhaul snatching up Izuku's arm and physically pulling them apart. Adrenaline mixes into his blood and flows through his veins. His mind races his heart beating ever faster. 

One beat closer to the inevitable.

"No!" Eri cries out her voice rising an octave "You said you wouldn't hurt him!" Izuku doesn't dare turn around to look behind him. Not sure of what he's scared of seeing more. The cold glint of indifference or the glee of inflicting pain?

"It's fine." He croaks out but Izuku doesn't know who he's talking to here. If he's trying to console Eri or himself he might not ever know. She looks away swallowing thickly. 

They both know nothing can be done.

"This is just a warning." Overhaul's clipped tone is completely neutral and professional as his hand tightens around Izuku's right arm for a brief second. 

Pain rolls in like a steamroller barreling right into the remnants of his shoulder. Izuku's right arm literally explodes as droplets of red fly by his eyes flying away in long graceful arcs before hitting the ground. There's blood dripping down his cheek the substance dribbling down his chin and mixing in with the blood that clings to his white clothing.  Flames lick at the injury just a small tingle before the fire envelopes his nerves in its hellish embrace. The worse kind of pain is the one where it's all centered on one point instead of spread out across the surface. 

He'sbeen through worst. He's been through worst. He has endured worst. He's gone through the facility. He's survived the doctors. He's been punished worst than--

"Put him back!" Eri demands her voice is wet drenched in her tears and anger but coated with something far deeper than anything Izuku could name. "You promised that if I behaved he would be okay!"

"This is just an example of what were to happen if you misbehave again." Overhaul places heavy emphasis on the last word drawing out the end with a pointed barb. "If you misbehave again he's going to go through a lot worse." And it would be all your fault; the last part goes unsaid. Left hanging in the air wisping away like smoke. She doesn't say anything after that. Instead, she chooses to silently tremble like she wants to scream and pound her fist into the ground because she knows

She can't do anything.

"Put him back." her voice is barely above a whisper and yet it's so loud. Pain and grief shout above everything else filling the room with its noise without even making a sound.

"What else Eri?"

"I'm sorry-I-I-I" She drops her head towards the ground her chest heaving as tears drop to the ground turning the cement a dark gray "-I won't misbehave again." the sentence falls out like it's been broken. Coming out as nothing more but hollow and shattered as her whole body becomes lax losing all the stiffness from before as she breaths out a long defeated sigh.

Silence is heavy in its meaning. Weighted in its implication and can be oppressive in its use. But here it is none of those things. The silence is fragile like its mourning the loss of something it doesn't even recognize.

Overhaul grips Izuku's shoulder tightly and a brief flare of pain surges through him. But it's just another drop in the pain bucket. Izuku doesn't even so much as flinch as his arm is put back together. The blood that splattered everywhere draws back to him knitting the tissues, ligaments, and bones back together again. 

After that Eri is taken from the room guided out by Overhaul as Izuku's left in the room all alone with his thoughts.  Never once does she look up when she's taken from the room her gaze firmly locked on the ground. Izuku doesn't know what to feel by the time the small Yakuza member returns to the room to pick him up. 

Everything is a mess. His emotions jumbled together like puzzle pieces in a box. Nothing inside of him feels like an individual piece each emotion sliding into the next blurring the line between anger and guilt. What he thinks feels like relief is muddled with the aching sensation of disappointment. It's a difficult trapeze of emotions to navigate. A messy storm of destruction that leaves him feeling vulnerable like his skin has been peeled away. 

Izuku knows the tell-tale signs of a mental break down as his mind spirals downward and fast. It feels like they lost the game without even know what the stakes were. 

What had they lost if there had been nothing to lose in the first place?

---

You're going to be okay.

---

Izuku has never been good at keeping track of time. 

Days fly by in a blur mixing into the next morning and into the last time he managed to get a good rest. It doesn't help that most of his captors have a bad habit of never telling him anything as he's always left on his own to figure what day of the week is it.

Usually, he could figure out the schedule in each prison he was kept in but here in the hands of the Yakuza, there is absolutely no type of routine at all except for meal times which only come in twice a day at random intervals. But meals were the only thing consistent in this place. 

Other than that everything else is a mess. Sometimes he'll be taken out for a whole day to have his blood drawn with no recovery. Other days he won't even be removed from his room and left there to count the number of threads on the bed sheets (which so far he has gotten up to 30,567). But the most common occurrence would be when he was taken out for two sessions of his blood being drawn before being returned to his room. 

That was as much of a routine as he was going to be getting from these people. 

Izuku lets out a sigh dropping back against the bed to maybe try and get some form of rest. Picking at the gauze around his arms won't do anything to keep his mind away from Eri and Overhaul anyways. He hasn't seen either of the two since the second meeting and Izuku has been scouring as much of the building as possible for at least a glimpse of Eri. The sight of Eri walking past him with some invisible weight haunting her form as she walked listlessly haunts him. 

His nightmares are getting worse as the whole world is turned on its head. He sees her in his dreams her body lying on top the burned remains of others before crumbling away into ash. Sometimes he'll see her alive her eyes alight with hatred as she screams and cries just like the people on the table did. 

Izuku brings his hand up in front of his face watching the way his fingers curl into themselves and stretch out repeatedly. There's the sound of a doorknob turning and the wood door being thrown open before slamming against the wall.

"Don't move." Izuku drops his hand back down onto the bed his eyes locked onto the ceiling. There's some shuffling by the door until the door clicks shut and he's left alone in his cell. There's a tray sitting by the door with food resting on a porcelain plate with silver cutlery and a glass cup half filled with water.

That's new. 

Izuku hasn't touched silver cutlery or a glass plate in years. He rolls off the cot and picks up the tray to bring back to the bed. Suspicion flickers through his body trying to figure out why the sudden change?

The fork feels weird in his hand. It's completely smooth as he gently he traces his thumb over the elegant curves and the simple gaps between its prongs. The food is unappetizing, to say the least, it's just rice with a sorry excuse for a steak but it's better than the nutrient blocks in the facility.

He settles himself on the bed to eat his mind moving sluggishly. 

Izuku has a lot of free time here. Lots of time to be alone with his thoughts and to stare at the walls to memorize each crack that decorates them. It's too much time really. 

Wading through the slew of guilt and the murky waters of traumatizing memories. All the thinking leaves him vulnerable to having a full blown panic attack. 

With nothing else to keep him distracted it's a long long time of boredom mixed with pain and borderline breakdowns.

The plate is intricately detailed with blue leaves and flowers painted onto the sides with clear care for detail. There are small rises and dips on the edges of the object that flow into each other. It's quite pretty really.

He wants to shatter it.

He wants to watch the dark cracks form and see the plate splinter apart as the shards are sent flying everywhere as they crash against the cement. He wants it to break apart like the fragile thing it is. He wants to hear the satisfying crunch of it shattering apart under his hands. 

But he doesn't. 

Instead, he lets the plate drop against the tray and clatter loudly. The leftover rice spills out over the side but Izuku can't bring himself to eat. He tucks himself into his knees welcoming the void when he closes his eyes and takes a quiet trembling breath. The air he draws in shakes under the cavern of his lungs making his shoulders tremble. Forcing him to draw more rapid and panicky breaths.

This emptiness is a chasm. 

A wide unending abyss of darkness that would swallow him whole given the chance. 

His emotions are like stoic waves quietly lapping at the sands before the storm surges forward to destroy everything.

Izuku doesn't cry. Not anymore at least.

---

You're going to be okay.

---

Silence is an old friend (even if it suffocates him sometimes when he has nothing but his dark twisting thoughts to keep him company)

A friend that has been with him through thick and thin. He welcomes it with wide open arms because silence meant there would be no one to punish him. No one to walk through the door with annoyance flickering around them like flies. 

Silence is blissful and suffocating.

There's a loud creak that interrupts his thoughts and Izuku jumps out of bed scrambling to regain composure. Acid burns through his skin as his eyes squint against the light out in the hall as his scan the entryway expecting to see a tall figure scratching at their neck.

"Bring the tray over." The Yakuza member is tall against the white light that outlines them. Izuku's heart jumps out of his chest. Flashes of memories rolling by his body frozen stiff. "Come on hurry up! We don't have time for you!"

But it's not Shigaraki. Not by a long shot. 

He hasn't even been anywhere near that man for a long time and yet he's still terrified of his presence that lingers in the back of his mind. Existing in his brain like a ghost that refuses to move on.

Izuku wills himself to move and summon what little strength he has to push himself out of the bed and take the tray to the door. He drops off the tray where they instruct him to before he's being pulled around like a dog. It's a huge leap to assume that maybe he'll get to see Eri again this time but he can't quite bring himself to crush the hope under his foot as he lets it burn inside his heart.  

After many twists and turns through long dark corridors, Izuku finds himself surprise because Eri is there standing next to Overhaul her eyes cast downwards. But All for One is here looking over Eri with what must be a critical eye under his mask. There's a long staircase behind them that's pouring in bright light from upstairs and Izuku has to squint his eyes again because he's so used to the darkness of his cell.

Horror crawls a way through his spine and up his throat as he realizes what this meeting is. It leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

"His blood has been working out for us." Overhaul says as they come to a stop. The gauze around his arms burns against his skin. They sear like molten lava at that statement. "We're almost done with your project you can have him back in a week at least." There's barely disguised disgust in Overhaul's voice.

The light filtering from the hole above the staircase almost gives All for One a heavenly halo as the man remains speaks "One week and I'll take it back."All for One turns his head towards Eri, "This is your main component I assume?" 

Overhaul bristles as he hisses his reply out "Yes." 

Anxiety pours over his skin as Izuku realizes what's happening. He has one week. One week before he's taken back to that hell-hole to be turned into whatever they saw fit. His skin prickles as he takes in a sharp breath. He screws his eyes shut sterile lights flashing by and dark figures hovering over him. 

"How's the formula coming along?" One for All Places his hand under his chin as he turns his blistering gaze at Izuku which makes him flinch back squaring his shoulders and turning his gaze towards Eri instead. 

"We're almost done with the prototypes there are still some issues we're working out with it but it's almost done."

Eri is stock still beside Overhaul her eyes locked onto the ground while her petite form looking like it was made of marble. There's more blood staining the gauze she wears as Izuku notes the only color in the room comes from Overhaul's mask and the crimson splotches splashed across Eri's bandages. It's a stark contrast that makes his insides turn into ice because they're hurting her to achieve their own twisted and warped goals.  

"How about RA-01?" His own stomach plummets as Eri perks her head up at the last words. His throat turning dry as he expects Overhaul to say something and have All for One punish him for his outbursts.

"He's making Eri difficult to control." It's the only he says Overhaul says warily taking a step back away from All for One. Surprisingly All for One doesn't make any indication he was going to punish Izuku for bad behavior. 

After that Eri and Izuku are taken away guided out by the guards to be returned to their cells.

The conversation continues without them even as Izuku heart sinks through his body and his lungs start panicking because he's not breathing properly. He has one whole week until he's returned. One whole week to get out and avoid a fate worse than death.

They have seven days. 

Seven days for Izuku to get out and take Eri with him to save the light in a girl's eyes. 

---

You're going to be okay.

--- 

Chapter Text

---

Keep going forward.

---

 

If there is one thing Izuku is well and familiar with it's fear. How it gets his heart pumping rapidly, and sharpens all his senses. But sometimes he's far too focused on the pounding of his heart to notice the small bits of gravel pressing into his bare heels as he tries to throttle more strength into his burning legs. Cold night air screams by his ears whipping at his hair and stinging his cheeks. Eri's hand is clutched tightly in his left as they run, desperately trying to put distance between them and the guards chasing after them. 

 

The quiet neighborhood they're running through is cast in nothing but shadows, the few street lights aren't enough, but for a brief moment, everything is illuminated by a bright red light casting everything in an ominous red glow. Crackling energy resounds behind them while a laser shoots right by the side of Izuku's face. Red static crackling right next to his eye as heat presses against his cheek briefly, making the hairs on his neck stand. Smoke rises from the scorch marks on the sidewalk.  

 

"Get back here you little fuckin' shit!" their deep voices shout across the street their heavy foot falls ringing like a gong. They had done everything they could of done. Did acts that would bog down their consciousness, and it still wasn't enough. Memories floating to the surface as he tries to shove them down and refocus his concentration. 

 

Eri stands at the doorway of his room tears gathering in her eyes as she forcibly removes herself from the guard that held her. Izuku takes him in first, studying how he rubs the back of his neck and looks away from the scene instead of the stone face that takes up most of the faces he sees. A gold ring glinting on his ring finger, as he steps into the room closing the door behind him with a quiet click. 

 

"There's another door." She whispers quietly words buried beneath her purposeful loud sobs as she clutches the front of his quickly turning damp shirt. 

 

"You did well," he whispers keeping his eyes glued on the man in the room with them. He studies him, learning how the gears twist in his head.  

 

"Fuck damn it! Why don't you just shoot them!"   

 

Izuku throws his head back for what would be the 15th time, as his heart leaps into his throat. Shit. The guards are rapidly closing the distance that had once stretched between them, their longer legs covering more distance. One of them has their right hand outstretched with a bright red light gathering in his palm.  

 

He grabs Eri's arm and throws the both of them towards the ground, the rough cement scratching against his arms. Leaving torn skin, and dribbles of blood in it's wake.  Sharp sparks of pain shooting through his elbows.  

 

But none of those sensations compare to the overwhelming drumming of his heart that picks up speed when another ball of light flies by them. A loud hissing sound erupts from the sidewalk, a dark black scorch mark now marring the cement. Just inches away from where he had been. Both of them scramble back to their feet just barely glancing behind them. Terror filling their blood at the increasingly shrinking distance between them and their captors. Izuku notes that there are only 35 feet standing between them. They can't afford to let that distance shrink any more than it already has. 

 

He needs to think!  Eyes rapidly scanning the neighborhood desperately searching for a possible solution.

 

 But there's nothing.

 

With his own breath coming up short and his whole body burning he can't help but think the odds are stacked far too high this time. Even if they had gotten out of the building through a combined force of ingenuity and luck, Izuku knew it would have been too far-fetched to even assume they could shake off the guards. 

 

A stupid plan that had bid too much on luck and timing. 

 

With trembling hands Izuku crouches in front of the door to his room the silver fork wavering in his hands as he sticks it into the keyhole. Carefully twisting the prong as the soft clicks of the gears being turned echoes like it's being blasted through a speaker. Every fiber of his being tensing expecting the knob to turn and slam open, and to crush him against the wall. 

 

It's like watching an old horror film play out in front of your eyes, the people on screen moving silently towards their impending doom as you scream out at them. Desperate to change the ending but knowing full well there was nothing you could do. They could run as fast, and as far as they could but if they couldn't shake these guards it would be over. Another heaving breath tears it's a way through his body as he closes his eyes wondering what Overhaul or All for One would do when he was eventually caught. What would they do to Eri? 

 

When he steps out from the room with the blood roaring in his ears and screaming in his veins he bides his time hanging around the corners. Each rapid pulse that his body makes has him, waiting with bated breath for someone to turn that corner and find him.

 

Even with all the puzzle pieces gathered it's not yet complete. Everything they had done would still not be enough.  

 

He crouches in front of Eri's room the wooden doors looming over him imposingly. Through sheer force of will and the heavy amounts of fear, he gets the brass knob to twist freely. Throwing open the doors. Eri is cowering on the bed with a key card clutched in her hands.  She scrambles out of bed, reaching out with her hands as he takes them in his. 

 

A small reassurance in those moments.

 

"Let's go." the only sign he gets from her that she had heard is the tight squeeze that she gives.

 

A tall glinting chain link fence snags his attention. It stands in a dark alley only kept alight by the dim streetlight standing just outside. Pulling an idea straight from a cheesy movie he makes a quick decision. It would be an incredibly risky move, a maneuver that would be banking on his quickly waning strength.

 

"If the boss finds out they get away-!" The voice starts getting louder with each word, "Damn it!"   

 

His feet skid across the ground before slapping his feet back against the cement in a burst of speed. They barrel straight for the fence. Even with all the electricity that crackles through his body he could read the confusion radiating off her like a beacon.

 

"I"m going to-" sharp cold pangs jabs in his lungs as he sucks in the cold night air, "-throw you over!" 

 

"What?!" her eyes blow wide as he lets go of her arm and helps her up the tall green dumpster, before clambering on after her. With some hesitation, Eri moves towards the fence eyeing the pile of trash that crowds the other side of the alley.  

Izuku hoists Eri up by her pits motioning for her to stick her feet in the holes before feeling his muscles burn as he coils them. With massive effort he shoves her up over the fence, watching her hands tremble as she pulls herself over the rest of the way and drops down . A loud cry escapes her lips as she crashes unceremoniously into a pile of crinkly bags and mashed boxes. Izuku dares to look back again, his heart fluttering just a tiny bit at the realization that they haven't reached the alley yet. 

 

There's still a chance.

 

Izuku starts jabbing his bare feet through the holes in the chain link fence. He almost jumps back and lets go from the sting that catches him off guard. But he only tightens his grip and climbs faster. Hyper-aware of the thundering footsteps echoing behind him and the small girl whose staring at him. Watching with bated breath. Her worry pressing itself against him as she watches with wide eyes pleading for something. A silent but desperate wish for him to make it over.   

 

"FUCK! Boss is gonna have us! Especially after dealing with-" 

 

Eri clambers out of the pile of trash quickly but her eyes are still locked onto his face, her fingers wrapped tightly around the hem of her dress. Knuckles turning white from how tightly she was holding it.

 

"Why didn't you just use your damn quirk?! We wouldn't be in this mess if-"    

 

Izuku is just barely over the top of the fence as red light starts filtering in from behind him.

 

"You know a quirk like mine would just bring in a hero, and if we got a hero to the base it would be even worse!" 

 

"If we don't bring them back what do you think is gonna happen?!" 

 

Izuku jumps down from the top crashing into the pile. He looks up with wide eyes at Eri who is staring down at him her mouth frozen as she reaches out and grabs his hand. She pulls him up her eyes turning watery whether from relief or from the stress of the situation, he doesn't know.

 

"FUCK DUDE COME ON!" heavy foot falls reverberate down the alley as two figures come into view blocking out some of the light from the dim streetlight.

 

Only instinct saves them from the next laser as his gut wrenches telling him to move! He pulls Eri towards himself and dives for the ground watching from the corner of his eye, the twisting smoke that rises from the giant hole in the fence.

 

"DAMN IT!"  Their frustrated faces lit only by the dim red light that flickers off slowly. Even when the light is gone he could still see their faces contort in anger and frustration. Dark red eyes with a glowing ring meet his, while the other with golden yellow eyes stalks forward, his intent projected on them ten fold. 

 

To Izuku's absolute horror the one who had stalked forward has his body start expanding in size, the crunching of bone burns itself into his mind as he watches the body change. The man's face contort and stretches into something vaguely dog like. Cold water flooding his systems keeping him locked in place, unable to move his legs while watching the gruesome transformation from man to monster. 

 

Bits of cloth flying about as the suit tears off, while blood starts sliding down it's growing fur coat. All of it's muscles visibly ripple as it coughs something up. A pulsing beating something splatters out onto the ground from it's mouth. Blood staining the gray cement and dribbling down from it's lower jaw, as it shakes it's head and opens it's wild frenzied eyes. An unnatural glow radiating from them as it peels it's lips back into a savage growl. 

 

"GRRAAAGGH!" The low tones of the guttural sound pass right through his body like a physical force. It has him being pushed back just from the sound waves emitted. 

 

It's just like in the pit, a hulking beast before him ready to squash him like the pest he was. 

 

"We need to go." she whispers it quietly but Izuku hears it loud and clear. Her voice a clap of thunder against the the guttural growling and cracking earth.

 

They both turn rapidly and run. Feet pounding on the ground with renewed vigor, adrenaline pumping through their bodies giving them a boost of panicked strength. Every shard of glass that tears through his insides is suppressed by the hulking beast that causes earth quakes with each slam of it's paws. They both almost fall over on multiple occasions due to the trembling ground.

 

"Come on their just kids! I can't believe you're being out run by fucking children of all things?!"

 

The only warning Izuku gets is when Eri's silver hair is highlighted in crimson before the smell of burned flesh fills his nose, and acid is splashed across his back. Vision shaking, everything rattling around him dancing with the black spots in his eyes. Every breath that passes through him is a stab to the gut, the air hooks through his nerves and ignites everything it touches. Stumbling forward as his feet clumsily crash into each other as he releases Eri's hand. Her head turning around the moment they disconnect. 

 

The vague feeling of a rift stretching between them gives him a sense of déjà vu.

 

Izuku slides the key card through the machine, the small plastic nearly dropping to the ground as the metal door pulls itself open. Hissing out cold air when he moves to grab Eri's hand again. But his fingers only grasp air. Fearing for the worse he snaps his head back eyes blown wide, feeling his muscles tense as they prepare for a looming threat.

 

But it's not a threat that shakes him to his core. It's her form the way her shoulders were hunched, and the white of her knuckles as she grips her dress tightly in her fingers. The unsure tremble of her lips as they press into a firm line like she's polished her resolve.

 

"Eri?" Panic surges through his body as he makes a move to take her hand again but she steps back and avoids him. "We need to go there's people-"

 

"SHIT! HOW DID THEY GET OUT OF THEIR ROOMS!"

 

Usually, when she speaks it's always barely above a whisper, a small feather floating across the wind carried away under the storm that had been her life.

 

But here her voice is none of those things,  "Are we bad people?" It's loud but shaky like a crumbling building collapsing in on itself. The foundation breaking apart under all the weight it had to carry.

 

"Are we bad people?! For....."

 

His reflection is always so clear when he looks back at her eyes. The crisp detail of his gaunt face, the dark green curls that shine back with such clarity. But that's not what has his attention. It's the absence of life in there that has him staring with an open mouth feeling like a fish out of water. His mind twisting itself in knots as anguish digs a hole through his heart.

 

"We used people just...just like-" Her voice cracks just a little bit. Long shadows dancing in the hallway behind them. Indicating that the guards are getting closer. But the only thing he's truly terrified of is the t housands upon thousands of cracks that make up her body. Fracture lines that cross against each other to form an impossibly complicated web, teetering on the edge of total collapse.

 

Briefl,y he wonders what she sees when she looks at him. Does she see a helpless victim like her? A person who was nothing more but skin and bones... Or does she see a monster? A person no better than her captors? Had she ever thought she traded one sin for another?

 

"I wish we didn't have to." The words grate past his mouth, scratching against his throat unwillingly. Even though she nods and takes his still offered hand it feels like he had said the wrong thing. Like some sort of incomprehensible abyss shuddered open between them, and Izuku had failed somehow to bridge the gap.

 

She doesn't look up after that, keeping her head trained to the ground. He wishes he could see her again to know what she sees in him. What keeps her going and lets her trust a monster like him?  

 

"RRAAAGGH!" It rumbles through the alley, the deep pitches of the roar causing tremors to shake through their bodies. 

 

Her face is a gentle caress from the wind,a small soothing breeze that brushes past you on a burning summer day. No fear, no disgust, or apprehension fill her eyes. She doesn't see a monster in those foggy crimson hues that are blurred out by her tears.

 

"Please!" The wobble of her lips as she realizes he had let go of her hand and that his body is rushing towards the ground. Her eyes are an open wound bleeding the things that make up her heart as she locks eyes with him. Burning into his soul hoping for him to understand the magnitude of her desperation. 

 

Everything about her is screaming something, cutting through the chaos of the alley. She tells a story not with her words, but with her body. In every twitch of the muscle. Straining her thin legs as she makes them stop. Words are wrapped around her shoulders as she reaches back and snags his hand in hers. A fiery storm that encompasses her body as she refuses to let go, desperately pulling him back to his feet trying to right his disorientation.

 

When she looks at him now it's not with that same pleading expression she held when they first met. It's not the look of hesitant awe and with held compassion on other occasions. 

 

It's one filled with life, bursting to the seams with emotions. Raw determination takes up most of the stage but there are flickers of fear and anticipation dancing at the edge. Admiration lining the edges and desperation pooling at the bottom.  Izuku reads her like an open book. It's not a monster she sees, not a purposeless puppet adrift in a vast ocean, and not a person drowning under the weight of his own sins. 

 

She looks at him like she's asking for him to push forward and stay with her.

 

"Okay." His voice is breathy as he sucks in another mouthful of air, focusing on the stones that press into the skin of his feet. They make a sharp turn out of the alley. Ignoring the earthquakes and the orchestra of noise playing behind them. 

 

The wind whips by his face and bright neon lights flicker ahead with the passing silhouettes of blurry vehicles. A distant hum of a talking crowd of people, and the swooshing sounds of cars driving by. Their about to break out of the dark alley, and step out onto a street filled with innocents. Worry grips his heart in it's icy claws, but he's not sure if it's from the fact they might be endangering innocents or that they'll still have to keep running with more obstacles standing in their way. 

 

Bursting out into a colorful street, with neon signs glowing everywhere stings his eyes. A wide array of colors, sights, and smells assault his senses attacking his brain and cluttering all his senses. Izuku has to snap his eyes close and take a deep shuddering breath to keep from toppling over from an oncoming migraine. Everything is just so jarring. Such a stark contrast from the dull scenery he had become so accustom to throughout his life. There's so much traffic, and life here.

 

Quiet giggles that break out into sharp gasps, breaks the two of them out of their trance. Both of them snap their head back. A snake slithering up his body and crawling up his throat as he's met with golden yellow eyes, and bright red ones. The massive monster heaving hot breaths as it's chest expands and shrinks. Slobber dribbling down it's chin and falling to the ground as it lets out a low growl barely heard over the talking crowd. 

 

The beast takes a lumbering step forward, tiny vibrations traveling through their feet as Eri and Izuku take a wary step back. But the one with glowing red eyes puts an arm out effectively stopping it from continuing forward. 

 

"Boss will have our heads if we bring a hero this close to the hideout." his voice rumbles quietly. The monster whips it's head towards the man it's lips peeled back revealing long white fangs in a mockery of a smile. "What do you want the boss to be mad at us for? The loss of two important assets or the punishment of bringing a hero?! It was your fault for not transforming earlier!" the man snaps again rage burning like a furnace. But the beast just snarls and turns it's head towards them body lurching forward like it wants to move but can't.

 

The beast and his companion are still staring them down like their debating what to do. Eri is standing there frozen a statue by his side. Lingering stares of onlookers burn into his back as he kicks his mind into motion not willing to give this chance up to lose their hunters. 

 

"Let's go." His voice is scratchy the words tearing at his throat as he starts drawing in large gulps of air. Exhaustion finally taking hold now that the adrenaline was starting to wear off. His back starts burning and demanding his attention by shooting sharp sparks of lightning through his nerves. While the lower half of his shirt feels wet clinging to his skin with a sticky substance.  

 

It takes a bit of nudging and careful pushing to get Eri out of her state of shock, but when she does they both hurry away weaving between crowds of people. Their constantly looking behind them, expecting the hulking beast to charge forward and snatch them up in it's huge slobbering jaws.

 

It's difficult trying to withhold the gasps of pain that threaten to spill out of his mouth as he  guides Eri through the crowds. Pushing past people and coming to stop at a corner to watch the cars whizzing past them. Stopping at the corner turns out to be a mistake since people are whispering around them, giving the two a wide berth once they've been noticed. He swallows thickly and increases their walking pace, trying to shake off the stares and the quiet wave of whispers that seem to surround them. His stomach recoils and tries retching up what he had for dinner, but he ends up throwing up nothing. There's something familiar about this, the way people are looking at him and whispering among themselves.

 

Izuku tries to refocus his concentration on the walkway instead of the weird hazy feeling that has shrouded his mind. When he glance behind them again his eyes blow wide and his blood turns into ice. He freezes up on the road spying a man wearing sunglasses with eerie red eyes and a wrinkled suit pressing through the crowd. 

 

Eri follows his view and her breath hitches as she sees the man. It's a mistake. The two groups make eye contact, and then the man breaks out into a brisk jog trying to make it towards the walkway. While Izuku forces his already bone tired legs to start running again. 

 

It's difficult trying to lose him in the crowds despite their best efforts of diving in between groups, and trying to blend in with the people mingling on the streets. But he's always there head peering above the crowds searching for them hot on their trail. No matter how hard Izuku tries he can't just shake him.  

 

In a last ditch effort, Izuku takes them through a clothes store ushering Eri towards the back. A vague memory of coming to store to try out All Might onesies at the back of the store. There's a lady wearing a dark blue shirt managing something behind a counter in front of a long hallway filled with stalls. There's a cashier at the front of the store managing a couple of customers. Nobody's noticed them yet. 

 

The man as suspected pops up at the entrance of the store, but it looks like he hasn't seen them yet considering his glowing red eyes are sweeping over the room. Izuku sucks in a large mouthful of air, and debates on what to do while taking Eri with him and ducking behind a clothes rack. 

 

Izuku bites the inside of his cheek while snagging a couple of clothes from the racks and starts moving towards the changing room stalls. Izuku carefully picks his way through the store eyes shifting constantly between the entrance and the people inside. There's a cashier up front handling some customers and a lady standing behind a counter in front of the changing room stalls who looks busy doing something with her hands. Everyone is far too absorbed in their own task to notice the two of them yet.

 

He forces his muscles to relax, and melts away all the tension they held as they start moving towards the changing room stalls. Constantly ducking behind clothes rock whenever the man's eyes seem to roam a little too close to their location. 

 

Slipping by the lady at the counter is a little bit more than nerve wracking as he takes the hallway with what he presumes are the female changing rooms. She seems far to consumed in her task with earbuds blasting music as she hums along to whatever song is playing. But it still makes his hands clammy, and his skin sweaty when they walk by her trying to act natural.

 

They slip by her holding their breaths before slipping into one of the stalls quietly. Slowly he draws the door closed behind them before gently hanging the clothes onto one of the hooks. 

 

He collapses onto the bench drawing his knees into his chest as he takes large shuddering breaths. It's like someone had flayed the skin of his back and just left it like that, the muscles left to burn out in the open. 

 

Eri stares at him something akin to worry, and concern on her face as she clambers onto the bench with him. Hesitantly she reaches out with her hand, at first looking as if she wants to help but doesn't quite know how. She bites down on her lower lip about to open her mouth like she wants to say something but freezes instead. Her hand left hovering in the air as she shrinks back in on herself.

 

"Hi have you seen any kids walk around here?" Izuku eyes blow wide as he clamps down on his hand. Swallowing thickly as his heart starts racing again. If they get caught here it's over. There's no way they could slip out of his clutches here. 

 

The lady doesn't reply right away, only the sound of shuffling cloth fills the mostly quiet store"I don't think I've seen any children wandering around the store, maybe you should go make an announcement at the front desk?"

 

"Are you sure you haven't seen any kids running around?" he presses.

 

"I'm pretty sure if I saw children unsupervised I would of noticed sir."  It remains mostly quiet with only the sound of shuffling clothes to fill the silence. 

 

"One of them's got green hair, and the other has silver hair-" 

 

"Sir," she lets out a heavy sigh, "I haven't seen any children around here."

 

"I'll be checking around than." there's some footsteps that clack against the wood flooring. Eri inches closer towards him her eyes meeting his, as a long shadow stretches across the hallway.

 

"Hang on you can't check the female dressing hall!" the shadow moves across the floor as the footsteps come to a stop before continuing. His anger practically seeping through the walls as the footsteps got louder. "Don't make me call security!" 

 

The footsteps come to a stop, "If there's no one here why can't I just check it?" 

 

"How do I know you aren't gonna do weird stuff in there?" an irritated huff leaves the man's mouth that is soon followed by a loud sigh. 

 

"Than check it for me you lazy bitch." 

 

"If you could leave the hallway I will." Annoyance leaks through her voice. The shadow pulls out of the hallway, accompanied by angrily stomping foot steps. 

 

The lady's footsteps are much lighter as they pace through the hallway pushing open all the doors she walks by. However she stops at their door. It rattles a little bit but doesn't budge when she pushes it. Instead the lock holds it firm. Izuku motions for Eri to bring her feet onto the bench pressing a finger to his lips signalling for her to be quiet. His heart pounds as he presses closer to her, dreading what would likely happen next. 

 

"Excuse me is there anyone inside?" Izuku's mouth goes dry trying to figure out what to do. He could feel Eri pressed against him, her heart pounding just as badly as his.

 

"Open it!" his voice is gruff as his stomping resounds through the hall, each footstep booming like the noise is being plugged into speakers. 

 

"There could be someone changing in there-" a loud thump sounds followed by the door rapidly shaking as if someone was trying to push it open. The lock rattles multiple times, and the metal clinks against each other as it holds firm. A hissing sound follows soon after with the smell of smoke. 

 

From the lower part of the door, he can see her body lying on the ground her arms slowly reaching up to what must be her head, while the man pushes against the door giving out frustrated noises. "Security?! We have an issue in the changing rooms female hall!" 

 

"DAMN IT!" He roars and the door shakes violently once, the hallway immediately floods with red light. Static making the hair on his skin stand up as lightning crackles through the air before the ominous red lighting shutters out. A piercing scream cuts through the air and the smell of burned flesh pollutes the air. Eri's body lurches forward but he keeps a tight hold on her and pulls her back to keep her from falling as she trembles next to him. Violent shudders rack her body as she stares at the charred flesh of the lady's stomach. Izuku keeps his gaze locked on the door pulling back each time it quivers.

 

"We should go-!" She gets cut off by more red light flooding the room. Eri's crimson eyes turn a bright shade of red as they turn to look at his face before darting everywhere. Worry and fear are imprinted in her face on her furrowed eye brows and her open mouth as she bites the inside of her cheeks. Her knuckles turning white as she pulls on the front of his shirt her small body shaking. 

 

"Hey! You! Hands up or I'll shoot!" The world freezes, the hallway is still illuminated by an eerie red light. Lightning crackling on the other side of the door seems to rise in volume for a brief moment. "Stop using your quirk! The police have been notified and are on their way!" Slowly the red light fades away, but the tension looms over them like a massive building threatening to collapse. 

 

There's more footsteps the man's shoes disappearing from view as he walks towards what Izuku assumes is the guard. The lady shuffles around a bit on the ground, her small hands curling around the burned flesh of her stomach. It's a gruesome wound, the muscle charred pitch black with barely any blood leaking from the burned remnants of her flesh. She makes a soft whimper as she curls onto her side.

 

CRACK! 

 

A gunshot echoes through the building, and all hell breaks loose after that. Multiple screams fill the chaos as bright red light fills the building sporadically. Multiple crashing sounds of objects being thrown muffle the sound of breaking glass that erupts from the front of the store.

 

"Damn it what's the police ETA?!"

 

Their left sitting on bench with their toes curled inward staring at the door drawing in large breaths. Bodies shuddering as they listen in on the chaos. A small weed of hope grows in the desolate wasteland of his heart as Eri clasps her fingers tightly around his palm. 

 

"We need to go." When their eyes meet again there's still fear lingering in her eyes a haunting shadow that drapes across her face, but it's nothing compared to the determined fire flickering in her eyes.

 

---

Keep going forward.

---

 

<Messages                            Has No Self Preservation                                       Edit>

 

10:35 PM

How is the hunt for your successor doing?

 

10:36 PM

nightwing has an option available for me

 

10:36 PM

You didn't like them though did you? You said it didn't feel right?

 

10:36 PM

well yes but

 

10:36 PM

What's their name?

I can check them out for you if you still feel unsure about it. 

 

 

10:36 PM

he is a good student and a good person

i talked to them in person and i trust nightwing's judgement

 

 

10:36 PM

So what's the problem? 

 

 

 

10:37 PM

it's just

not right 

 

 

"Detective Tsukauchi?" He squares his shoulders and squints his eyes against another the cold night wind that turns his cheeks into ice. Small dots appear on the bottom side of the corner before vanishing. The process goes on for a while so Tsukauchi takes it as his cue to click the screen off and slide it into his coat pocket. 

 

"What do we have Sansa?" his eyes take in his partner's unusually ruffled appearance. His fur sticking out in all the wrong directions. But he opts not to poke at his partner's lack of professional appearance this time around, and surveys the area instead.

 

The front of the store was completely trashed, broken glass liters the street while mannequins were tossed to their sides, and multiple scorch marks covering the walls and floor. A faint smell of burned flesh and charred wood tingles his scrunched up nose. Some citizens are loitering around steering clear of the yellow tape as they try to peer inside. A couple of his co-workers are running about keeping the citizens away from the ambulance which is still loading someone in. A majority of the officers were inside looking over the building with critical eyes.

 

"One of the victims said the man was looking for his children, and tried to break into one of the locked stalls. He attacked the lady with his quirk which has been registered as 'Shooting Laser' and than made an escape once the guard came in." but his voice tappers off at the end, rushed away by the bustling street and whispering crowds.

 

"Anything else?" he hums while sliding on a pair of gloves. Going over a mental checklist of what he has to do.

 

"The stall that the man tried to open had somebody in it." Tsukauchi turns to face his partner one brow raised in skepticism. Glowing yellow eyes peer back at him, cat ears twitching awkwardly. 

 

"And?" He presses, following his partner towards the back of the store. 

 

The changing rooms are an absolute mess, all the stall doors have been pushed open with one of them hanging just barely onto one functional hinge. Small bits of blood stain the ground, while bits of black flecks pepper the floor. There's no scorch marks here however. The only signs of something that had been burned was the half melted knob on the slightly broken door. He tries the door for a little bit, the hinges giving a low groan before he pulls it open and takes a look inside.

 

There's a couple empty hangers scattered around the floor along with loose articles of clothing. But none of those really snag his attention like the dark velvet stain on the wall behind the bench. Blood sluggishly dripping down to the seat while dark flecks are scattered around on the bench and floor. The rotting smell of burned flesh intermingling with blood lingers in the air. 

 

His heart chills at the sight, wondering if it had been a child that had been injured this badly. Rifling through the pouch on his waist he pulls out a swab and swipes it over the blood stain with steady hands. 

 

"The blood still looks fresh have you had the area searched?" he pulls out a pair of tweezers and starts picking up the small black flecks. He drops the swabs and flecks into separate Ziploc bags. He presses the bags closed while trying to suppress the shivers that travel through his body.

 

"Yes, we're still searching but we haven't found anybody matching the man's description, or the children he was supposedly looking for."  his heart does a little dip at the last part.

 

"Take this to the forensics department, have them run the DNA through the database see if we can get any matches."  his phone goes off, vibrating in his pocket, "I'll continue the investigation here." 

 

Tsukauchi slides the gloves off and shoves them into his pocket. Fingers clasping around the phone in his pocket as he pulls it out.  

 

10:41 PM

Mirio Togata

 

10:41 PM

Okay, I'll let you know what I think when I meet him.

 

 

 

He drops his phone back into his pocket giving a thoughtful hum, while crouching low to the ground to get a better look at the scene.  

 

 

---

Keep going forward.

---

 

Chapter Text

---

I am nothing but a ghost of myself. But you are everything that I am not and cannot be.

---

"Izuku Midoriya." Naomasa raises a single eyebrow at his cat headed co-worker taking the pale yellow folder from their hands. "It's the DNA of the blood stain from the broken in clothing shop two days ago. A missing person's case that went cold 9 years ago." There's a small picture at the corner on the top right of the page with a chubby-cheeked child with a wide blinding smile, a smattering of freckles decorating his cheeks and the bridge of his nose. The child looks average nothing particularly interesting besides the odd green tint to his hair. "Two people filed missing person's reports, there's also an eyewitness account of the kidnapping."  

"Says here the eyewitness account came from a child?" Naomasa looks up from the folder with his right eyebrow raised skeptically. 

"That's the file from the precinct in charge of the case has." Naomasa frowns. 

"The kid's quirkless." He clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth as he thumbs the corner of the paper. "Kidnapped at age 6 by a person covered in black-mist with yellow eyes and never seen again for 9 years." 

"You pretty much summed up the whole file." His frown only deepens as he flips the only paper inside the file. It's blank. 

"That's it?" Naomasa is incredulous a file like this? A child kidnapping this straightforward with nothing? No leads? Just an impersonal description of the child, date gone missing, clothes last seen in, and the last person to see him. "A case like this can't have this little to go off of-" 

"That's all they found." Sansa flicks their ears back against their head as their glowing yellow eyes peer into Naomasa's face. "Or all they bothered to find." There's a hint of distaste in his voice that's buried under all that professionalism. 

After that Naomasa shuts up and pinches the bridge of his nose and drops the folder onto his desk carelessly. 

"So a kid never seen, or heard from in 9 years shows up out of the blue with another child with silver hair running from a registered member of the Yakuza. And somehow manages to escape after what must be 9 years of captivity?" He needs coffee. it's too early for this shit. 

"A person made of black-mist and yellow eyes was seen at the USJ Attack." Sansa says moving to pick up the folder from his desk. Naomasa lets out a long sigh tipping his head back so he stares at the blank ceiling above him. 

"Nobody mentioned someone with green hair or freckles in any of the reports last week." Naomasa lets out a long sigh tipping his head back so he stares at the blank ceiling above him letting his hand run through his greasy hair. He winces. He'll need a shower soon. 

"I'll go check on the salvage progress of the store's video feed see if we have better luck there." And with that Sansa leaves tucking the folder under his arms. 

"Thank you, Sansa." The detective waves him off as they leave. Naomasa drops into his seat and sags against the backrest. They quietly pad out of the office closing the door behind them as careful as possible.

A quirkless child kidnapped at 6 whose also presumed dead turns up 9 years later with a silver-haired child who is also apparently being affiliated with the Yakuza after being kidnapped by someone matching the description of a villain whose affiliated with the League of Villians.

Naomasa drops his head against the table.

Just another Tuesday for him then.

---

I am nothing but a ghost of myself. But you are everything that I am not and cannot be. 

---

 

<Messages Has No Self Preservation Edit>

9:34 AM

How's your training with Mirio going?

7:45 PM

it's going well

7:45 PM

Did you see someone with green hair/freckles at the USJ attack?

7:45 PM

no

why?

does it have something to do with a case?

7:45 PM

Yeah.

It's nothing important so don't worry about it.

7:45 PM

if you're sure

---

I am nothing but a ghost of myself. But you are everything that I am not and cannot be.  

---

If there is one thing Izuku can call a constant in his life, it's pain. 

His back burns with each nerve throbbing and pulsing like molten lava has been poured over the skin of his back. Not to mention the fact that all the running they had done had only exacerbated the injury. Izuku winces as he feels the blood sliding down his back and the acrid scent of burned flesh makes him want to puke. 

Whatever is sitting on his skin isn't pretty but he needs this done if he doesn't want any more trouble for himself in the future. He runs his tongue over his cracked lips trying in a sorry attempt to settle his fraying nerves. But his fingers still shake hard enough that he can't quite unroll the gauze from the stolen medkit. He purses his lips and moves to pick up the roll again.  

"I can help!" Eri blurts out suddenly from across him a determined glint shining in her crimson eyes as Izuku looks at her taken aback. "I-I mean can... Can I help?" Eri chews on her bottom lip for a long while before reaching out with her right hand nervously before snapping back. "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have asked please just-"

 "No, no it's fine!"  He scrambles with his words trying to ease her worry and smooth out the creases in her face and all but ends up shoving the gauze into her hands. After that, it's mostly silent as he watches her fumble with the wraps until she finally gets the roll to unwind. She's inexperienced with the gauze but that's fine because Izuku is suddenly hit with the urge to fall over and never open his eyes again. 

Exhaustion isn't particularly new to Izuku. But sweet Jesus does he feel it now in the aches of his muscles and the dull incessant throbbing of his legs and the way the cold air relieves the burning of his lungs. 

"Is it okay?" Eri's voice snaps Izuku out of his stupor as he jerks his whole body forward before catching himself on his arms. 

"Yea. It's fine, don't worry about it." He cranes his neck to look at her. Her whole body is cast in shadows with their only light being the flickering street lamp outside the alley. Her silhouette is small but even if he couldn't see her nervousness he could feel it in the way she was gnawing on her bottom lip and the nervous flickering of her eyes as she sits kneeled behind him with her fingers still clutching the gauze like a lifeline. Izuku turns around and drags the medkit in front of him and offers out his hand. Eri turns her head down before peering up at him again and cautiously hands over the gauze to him which he then places back inside the medkit. 

Izuku secures the white case before tucking it away next to him as he hauls himself up against the wall of the alley listening to the sounds of the city like he did so often back when he had been taken to the League of Villians HQ for the first time and left in his own small cell to listen to the quiet dull sound of cars speeding by left to wait for his next commands. The night air bites against the new jacket he had taken from one of the neatly folded stacks of clothes the lady had made he had felt bad for it at first but he's incredibly thankful for his foresight as he tightens the zipper against his neck and huddles in on himself. 

Eri, however, doesn't seem to be faring too well. She's kneeling in the center of the alley stiff as a board like she's expecting something even if her whole body is shivering slightly she won't move and that's when Izuku finally notes the heavy awkward silence that's resting between them. He tries to avoid looking at her directly feeling the awkward tension really starting to crack down on them now that they have nothing to distract them with.

"You should uh... Rest?" It sounds more like a question than anything which just makes him curse his complete lack of social skills.

"Okay." Eri nods vigorously but doesn't actually do anything. She just continues kneeling there in the center of the alley her dark eyes staring out at the entrance her whole body strung up with so much tension that her whole form bleeds it profusely.

Izuku sucks in his cheeks and turns away and instead opts to try and lean on the wall. Which is a mistake because for all his effort he just gets a stab of pain and a lurch forward for a reward. He's completely exhausted and wants to do nothing more than to be dead to the world but the sparking embers that are seared into his skin won't give him the luxury of resting. 

What's new.

Eri shuffles forward at first before shuffling backward again her head cast downwards. She hovers her hand in the space between them before snapping it back nervously over and over again. He chews on the inside of his cheek worrying the flesh while trying to figure out what exactly they're supposed to do. 

Technically they're both free to do what they want. The both of them can take separate paths. Izuku could ask right now if Eri wanted to simply just up and leave Izuku and if she wanted to he wouldn't hold it against her (he would want to leave himself to). But here they are still together in the brisk cold night air. 

Homeless, and on the run. 

But this is better. 

The taste of the crisp fresh air on his tongue, the weight that's been lifted from his shoulders, and the relief that he won't wake up the next morning only to find himself strapped to a table left waiting for his final hours. 

"You can sit next to me if you want." Izuku pats the spot next to him and motions for her to come over. Surprise is an emotion that covers Eri's face a lot. It's like she could never fathom a reason why somebody would want to have her near them. Maybe he would have worn that face too if anyone had asked Izuku the same thing. Because he could already count at least 10 reasons why he should let her go. Let her free and be somewhere safe with someone who could protect her because he is a bad, bad, bad person and he'll only get her in more and more trouble (But Izuku is selfish he wants to keep her. He wants to keep her safe. Even if he knows he can't no matter how much he dreams and wishes.) Eri hesitates at first like she's unsure if this is really an invitation but eventually she scoots closer and presses her small cold body into his. Being next to her he could feel all the shiver that rack her body and Izuku brings his hands towards her face so she could see. "Can I...?" He motions for the stolen black jacket she wore. It's a size too big but it's thick and darkly colored. 

Eri nods and Izuku zips up her jacket which he hadn't gotten the chance to do earlier too busy looking over his shoulders and guiding her through the crowds to where they could find some peace and hopefully not run into another member of the Yakuza or worse the League of Villains. Eri lets out a quiet hum when he pulls away after double checking the zipper and drops back to her side. For a while, Eri is as rigid as a board next to him but eventually, she settles into the curve of his body even if it's a little bit awkward with both of them trying to get comfortable but eventually their both settling. Eventually, Eri lets go of all the tension that had held her body in a vice-like grip and presses her head into his shoulder. 

There's some rustling noise as she turns her head upwards Eri doesn't say much as she looks at the dark blanket of the night sky she simply stares at it with that odd look in her crimson eyes like she's contemplating something before she drops her gaze and closes her eyes. 

Eri doesn't sleep Izuku notes her eyes are closed but she's not asleep. Even if a large amount of tension has left her body there's still something linger across her muscles that has sunk into her very core.  

"You should sleep." His voice is raspy and his throat feels dry but that's fine. Izuku's not sure he could do much talking anyway. He doesn't know how long they sit there soaking in the quiet and listening to the lull of the city. 

But Eri startles him out of his rest by speaking. 

"That man." Her voice is so soft even in the silence. "He called you RA-01? Is... Is that your name?" Izuku winces and screws his eyes shut. 

"No." He whispers back hearing the rough edges of his voice echo through the alley as he sits in silence again to contemplate the thoughts that go through his mind. Izuku thinks about the days spent in a cramped cage listening to the low groans of pain echoing through the room. He thinks back the blood that covered his torso constantly his wounds never allowed to heal with each session getting more and more painful as his body twisted and contorted trying to reject what they put into him. RA-01 burns against his ears and tastes like ash in his mouth. "It's Izuku." Even if the syllables feel foreign like the puzzle pieces don't quite fit together anymore; That's fine. Because the way Eri says it filled with so many, many things that Izuku can not even hope to comprehend it makes it sound like it does belong to him. 

She goes rigid at first testing the word in her mouth and feeling how it feels across her tongue before her small fingers clasp around his as she whispers his name over and over again like a prayer.  

Izuku doesn't dare hope he's learned a long time ago hope doesn't mean anything. 

But maybe. Just this once. He'll let himself do that. 

So he wishes and mouths his words into the nothingness and asks the things that he knows aren't listening. 

Maybe the feeling of inky black wrongness will finally dissipate.   

---

I am nothing but a ghost of myself. But you are everything that I am not and cannot be.  

---

It had been a long night and Izuku has an even longer day ahead of him. 

He had come to a conclusion last night while counting the breaths Eri took as she rested. 

He'll find someone who could take care of Eri for him. He has to. No matter how difficult it would be he has to. Even if asking the police for help is not an option he'll find a way. Izuku has seen dirty cops in the League of Villian's hideout they always left a sour taste in his mouth but Izuku has seen All for One. 

Izuku knows how far his influence stretches. Izuku won't risk the chance that Eri won't be secured before All for One comes for his runaway tool. But his brain hurts, and his mind is tired. The gears in his head turn slowly as he turns away from Eri's sleeping form and watches the dark red bricks turn a pale red in the rising dawn. There are so many things to worry and think about. How will he get Eri secured? Will they live their whole lives on the run now? Will Eri want to stay with him? Will they be constantly looking over their shoulders and praying that tomorrow won't be the day they're found? How about food, water, and shelter?

Warmth seeps through the dark jacket and chases away the chill that's settled in his bones. Izuku blinks blearily at the dawn as everything becomes awash in a soft yellow glow as the sun stretches its honey-gold hands to reach into the dark alleyway. He focuses on the sunrise determined not to let all the worry and anxiety cloud his thoughts because formulating a plan is so hard right now.  

The horizon is tinted a pale shade of pink with swaths of orange reaching out below it. Izuku's breath hitches and Eri starts to stir. He's seen many sunrises before in the time he spent with Shigaraki. But there's something about this one maybe it's the sun breaching the city skyline and outlining everything under its golden lips or maybe it's how when Eri finally peels opens her eyes and turns towards where Izuku is looking. At first, confusion flits across her face before her eyes suddenly snap open and her mouth forms an 'o' shape. Her pale skin is painted a soft gold as the light moves over her form.

The way her whole face seems to light up has Izuku marveling.

It's like someone had blown life into her.  

 It all feels so different from how he had experienced it many times before. He tucks the memory of her awe-inspired face away into the corner of his mind where he hopes it'll stay.

"What is that?" Her fingers trace over the pink clouds and the orange skyline over and over again like she wants this imprinted in her memory forever.

"It's a sunrise." Staying here for a bit wouldn't hurt anyone.

---

I am nothing but a ghost of myself. But you are everything that I am not and cannot be.  

---

City life bustles all around them. People are talking holding their phones between their shoulders and chins or tightly clutching onto their belongings as they force themselves through the crowd. There are kids out in uniforms talking and chatting at street corners while Izuku spends the day hunting for anywhere they could spend the night. He told Eri to keep a lookout for people who might be suspicious as he weaves through the crowd with her in tow.

Twice. 

Twice Izuku had to duck into an alley with Eri because she had squeezed his hand and pointed behind her. They would wait for maybe what would have been minutes or hours until they felt safe again to go out into the streets.   

The world turns and Izuku plows on through because he'll be damned if he lets them get caught again. 

He'll be damned if he lets himself get caught before he gets to see Eri off safely. 

---

I am nothing but a ghost of myself. But you are everything that I am not and cannot be. 

---

Eventually, they find a quiet place to call home for a little while. It's an abandoned warehouse with lots of loose debris but it'll have to do. It's remote and there aren't any functioning cameras nearby which is all Izuku really needs.  Surprising enough there are no other homeless people here which Izuku counts as a blessing. The fewer people that see them, the less likely they're going to be tracked.

Some parts of the roof are crumbling apart and there's a couple of holes in the ceiling with small pebbles falling through them. But most of the windows remain intact. Their dirty and difficult to see through but intact. There's only one entrance through the front but there's an exit near the back that leads out behind into the polluted yard with a chainlink fence that separates the warehouse from the streets.

The warehouse is mostly empty save for a couple of rooms that line the second floor with a couple of dusty chairs and tables that never got moved out. But after some digging from Eri, they find two plastic dusty tarps that they set up on the first floor.

With a lot of effort, Izuku manages to move some of the debris around so they have a clear space to lay out the tarps and to place a wall between their little area and the front entrance. It's not much of a wall but it keeps them out of sight if they need to hide. Izuku would have liked to take one of the rooms but the only escape path is located on the bottom floor near the back of the warehouse. 

Better safe than sorry.  

Izuku drops onto the ground hearing the plastic tarp crinkle under him as he lets out a long tired sigh. Eri is sitting next to him leaning against the wall her head already drooping against her chest. For a brief moment, Izuku watches her eyelids flutter and the muscles around her shoulders loosen as she starts sagging. 

"Eri."Izuku rasps his voice is still scratchy. Eri perks her head up her eyes blown wide as she looks at him.  This isn't a conversation Izuku can afford to avoid. Even if his throat is starting to tighten up on him and his arms shake with the effort it takes to push himself up so he's sitting up. "Eri. Do you want to stay with me?" He shuts his eyes and turns his head away. His heart does flips and his stomach churns because half of him wants her to say yes that she does want to stay with him (an awful, horrible, person like him). But the other half wants her to say no so he could get her somewhere safe with people who could take care of her, people who could put a roof over her head and wrap her in a swath of blankets. People who could read her bedtime stories and never let her go hungry. 

The longer each moment drags on the louder his heart beats. 

"Yes." Izuku snaps his eyes open. Eri's eyes are watering and her shoulders are starting to shake "Unless you want me to go-I-I can go-" She starts hiccuping in between words and presses her hands into her mouth as her whole body shakes. Izuku sucks in a sharp breath and pulls her in close. 

"No!" (Selfish) "No I-I don't want you to go! I want you to stay with me-" (Selfish, selfish, selfish!) "I would never ask you to leave! I-I-I...." Izuku's voice starts cracking and his heart shatters into a thousand pieces as he tightens his hold enough so that his knuckles turn white. " -Just wanted to see if you wanted to stay with me." (You're going to get her killed. You can't protect her.)

Izuku tries to ignore the dark crevices of his brain as he holds Eri's still shaking form well into the night. 

He can't fight the Yakuza who are hunting them down. He can't fight the League of Villains who are no doubt searching for their missing tool but he can run, right? Izuku has done plenty of running. Running from the demons that haunt his mind behind closed doors. Running from a fate worse than death, running from the doctor's with too cold gazes, running from Shigaraki's burning hand, and running from the guards he tried so hard to escape all those years ago. 

Izuku's been running even from the small blond boy's words he could barely remember. 

He's been running his whole life. 

One more day with Eri isn't that much time spent running at least not compared to the lifetime of running Izuku has already done.    

---

I am nothing but a ghost of myself. But you are everything that I am not and cannot be. 

---

Sometimes on bad nights when Eri does fall asleep, she'll wake up in a fit of tears in the middle of the night shivering under the second tarp and sobbing quiet tears. Until Izuku quietly asks if she wants the company before pulling her close to his thin frame and tugging the tarp around them tightly.

Those kinds of nights will make her look up at him with her red-rimmed eyes and tear-stained cheeks and her gaze burns against Izuku's skin because he's learned a long time ago that Eri doesn't use words. She doesn't speak with words. She speaks with her body and her face with the most expressive emotions that Izuku has seen in a long time. A story is told in the smallest twitch of her brow and the squinting of her eyes, and in the downturn of her lips and the biting of her cheeks. Izuku understands the words she never speaks and he'll hold onto her tighter clutching to her like a lifeline as he lets her weep.

After that, he's left with nothing but whispering promises that he's not sure he can keep. Even if he makes the promises to the both of them his heart aches because he's not sure they are something he can keep.

"I'm not going anywhere okay? Overhaul's not coming. I'll make sure of it. I'm not going anywhere Eri." They're promises Izuku doesn't want to break.  "I'm not going anywhere." His voice cracks at the end. 

He wants to let her keep the ability to cry because Izuku wants to cry to. Cry for everything that he's gone through and for everything that Eri has to go through. Izuku wants to cry for all the pain that lingers in his joints and the thing that stirs inside his guts and the scars that are seared across his skin like paint. 

But he can't cry. Not for himself and not even for Eri's pain that haunts her eyes like ghosts.

On those nights the bubble around them becomes a quiet moment in time where the minutes slide away like sand. Swept away without a fuss by the rising tides.   

---

I am nothing but a ghost of myself. But you are everything that I am not and cannot be.

---   

It's early morning the rays breaching through the stained windows in the warehouse and poking through the holes in the ceiling as their both quietly eating what Izuku had stolen from the bakery across the street. It's mostly quiet save for the crunching of bread and Eri playing around with the small water bottle he had taken but there's something hanging in the air. 

A type of tension Izuku can't really put his finger on it's been there since four nights ago when Eri had woken up silent instead of in tears like the usual. Izuku didn't think much of it at the time simply offering her a spot next to him and she had taken it with an odd atmosphere about her. 

"Why did you take me from Overhaul?" Izuku startles almost dropping his piece of bread against the floor as he jerks up. When the light hits her face at just the right angle Izuku swears he could see the beast that haunts Eri's eyes. A familiar hulking beast that walks the same jungle of Izuku's eyes if he ever catches his own reflection in the neighboring stores.

"Because-" he pauses right there and then his tongue freezing up on him. He doesn't know what to say. What is he supposed to say? 

"Did-did Overhaul tell you that I'm a monster?" The moment suddenly feels too big for Izuku. Her voice is full of cracks as it teeters on the edge of total collapse. The words fall from her lips like a broken record would sing. Her chest starts heaving and her shoulders shake her crimson eyes darkening for a brief moment before Izuku scoots closer to her his whole body on edge.

"Eri?" Izuku doesn't know what to do. When she carries a look that is far too familiar than it should be. Eri tucks her head against her knees as her whole body goes rigid opposite of him. It's the telltale signs of wanting to say something but being too terrified of the consequences to really say it.

"I'm sorry I-!" Her whole body sags again. Her hands flopping to the floor as she stops shaking, "I don't deserve you." Her voice breaks after that and she starts crying again. Heaving in breaths that shake her whole body and hiccups breaking in between her garbled words. Fat tears rolling down her cheeks and dropping against the tarp with quiet little noises. "I'm sorry! I should have told you before! If-if you want me to leave-" Her words become incomprehensible again as she sobs out the bits of her soul from her lips and pouring out from her eyes. "I've been lying to you and I-I didn't want to-" 

"Why would you be lying?" Izuku has an inkling of why but he's not sure if he's ready for the confirmation.

"You think I'm...." She pauses turning her head away completely while tightening her fist till her knuckles turned white but her hands fall lax as she lets out another hiccup. "I'm not a good person Izuku. I make people disappear- I'm cursed I'm a monster! I'll-I'll only give you trouble and I was-I wanted-wanted to stay-sta-stay with you! But I-I-" Her whole body shakes again and her shoulders lurch forward as she tries to breathe. The last part barely breaks through the noise of her tears. A somber aura that permeates around them like their sitting in a graveyard readying for a funeral.

This is the wall that stands between them four nights ago. A tall looming construct that is casting a dark shadow over the both of them. Izuku doesn't dare look at her now. Unsure if he's more frightened of seeing himself being reflected back or if it's how heavy the moment feels pressing against his ribcage and shortening his breath. The magnitude of the wall stretching for miles on end and vanishing into the horizon.

"I don't want you to disappear because of me-" Izuku can barely hear her over the silence. Her voice barely above a whisper as she pulls herself into her knees waiting for something. Izuku fidgets trying to piece together a sentence that might help the sudden turn of the situation.

For a while he lets the silence hang in the air because he's too terrified if he says the wrong thing she might crumble away into dust. Eri radiates fear and anxiety-like fog that clouds his own vision until the only thing he could see was her trembling form across from him.

He's a little bit hesitant unsure if he's doing the right thing or not. "You-" he pauses running his tongue over his dry lips again while trying to get a feel for the words, "You're not a monster." But the words feel stilted and wrong. That's not what he wants to say. It's something else. 

Something to do with the beast that haunts both of them. Hunting them down constantly as it's always hot on their trail. It's hot breath puffing over their faces. Saying that won't truly unwind years worth of hearing yourself being called a monster, and an abomination. Maybe it would help. Signifying the start of threads becoming undone but that's all it was. Only the threads coming undone. 

It's not the thing she needs. It's not the revelation she's searching for when her eyes implore into his. Simply waiting for something she might never get. 

Izuku's not 100% if this is the right way to do things. If this is how you comfort someone or if this is how you even help someone when you're just as broken as they are. 

"I'm not going anywhere Eri." His voice trembles at the last bit as he opens his arms for her and for the first time in a long time he forces a smile on his face because that's what he remembered as a child. Izuku doesn't have to see the smile to know that it doesn't fit on his face anymore and that it looks more like a grimace than anything else. "I told you this before I'm not going anywhere. I'm not going to leave you or make you leave because you think you're a monster. I'm not going to leave you because of some lie Overhaul told you. You're not a monster Eri you never were and even if you truly, truly believe that-" Izuku sucks in a breath the air rattling his lungs and chilling his burning insides as he pushes out the words that he never thought he could, or ever would say "-even people like you get a chance. A second chance Eri. I'm right here. And I'm not going anywhere." No matter how many times his voice cracks and it shakes like an unsteady house he remains where he is his back straight and planted firmly because he isn't going anywhere damn it! Fuck Overhaul. Damn the whole goddamned world who gave them these shitty cards. 

He's angry and tired all at once because he's so damn tired of looking at her haunted face and reminded that they're never safe. They always have to watch behind their backs on the constant lookout for any sort of sign that they're being followed or being caught by authorities. 

He's so goddamn tired. The smile on his face is shaky at best and it's mostly a tired grimace but maybe it's the thing that she needed. Or maybe not. 

Eri looks at him a little bit stunned clutching at the stolen jacket with her small hands her eyes boring into his own with a piercing gaze like she's searching for any lies. Izuku remains firm and doesn't waver in his stance. Uncertainty lies on her face like she can't quite believe the words he's saying.  

Then in a white blur, she crashes into him again wrapping her small arms around him and clings to him like her life depended on it. It's a warm embrace the kind that makes you feel all soft and mushy inside and fiercely protective as you wrap the one your closest to. 

It feels just like the hug in his fading memories.

Izuku doesn't cry but he thinks it's the closest he came to crying again.

---

I am nothing but a ghost of myself. But you are everything that I am not and cannot be.

---   

<Messages     Has No Self Preservation     Edit> 

12:03 PM

are you ok I just watched the news

recovery girl hasnt told me anything yet

12:06 PM 

please answer my calls toshi

toshi

toshi

are u okay im still on my shift but im locking up my office rn

i'll be on my way to the hospital

dont you dare die on me

if you do i ll kill u toshi

toshi please 

stay alive for me

12:07 PM 

please do not leave your shift for me

i am fine

i just got out of the emergency room

i dont need surgery this time

12:09 PM 

"This time"

Are you sure you're okay?

What did Recovery Girl say?

12:09 PM 

i will live

please do not worry for me

12:09 PM

Too late.

I'm on my way to the hospital with your favorite udon from downtown

Please don't die before I get there.

12:09 PM

Thank you.

Naomasa

---

I am nothing but a ghost of myself. But you are everything that I am not and cannot be.

---   

"Detective Tsukuachi?"

"Yes, Sansa?" Naomasa sucks in a sharp breath as the tension bleeds from his body.

"Are you alright?" The cat officer has his ears pressed against his head. His pen lifted a couple inches off the report he was probably in the middle of writing.

"Yeah. Yeah..." Naomasa's breath is still shaky but at least he could breathe now instead of choking on his own panic and worry like he was three minutes ago. "I'm fine. Fine." He was fine. Because at least he was fine and Toshinori the big dumb blond is Alive.

God he was going to die because of him and it's all his fault he would be getting high blood pressure in the future.

The cool glass of the window feels like ice against his burning skin.

"Do you want me to handle the interrogation of the newcomer for you?" Sansa offers dropping his pen against the desk as he was already prepared to move.

"Yeah." His voice cracks but he's too exhausted to feel much embarrassment. "Thanks, Sansa." The cat officer simply nods and returns to writing his report of the latest crime.

After that Naomasa makes his way out of the precinct waving goodbye to fellow co-workers and taking in their worried faces as they watch him go. Some offer their condolences but Naomasa doesn't bother returning their words. Not trusting his voice to crack any more than it already has.

It's a quick drive to Toshinori's favorite restaurant and picking up the udon he promised before hopping back into his dark-colored car and driving out towards the hospital. Even if he knows that Toshinori would live he still can't help the fact that maybe he'll open the door to find his best friend dead or dying on the hospital bed. Or another villain breaking into Toshi's hospital room just to get a crack at his best friend.

If he hadn't gotten there in time-

He shudders and shakes his head refocusing his attention back on the road as he makes a turn. His fingers drumming against the steering wheel as the roof of the hospital comes into view. As expected there's a hoard of news reporters outside the hospital. Multiple people holding mics and talking asking questions and searching for answers. There's an array of flashing white lights and the orchestra of voices as people bustle in and out of the hospital as security guards attempt to keep the paparazzi away but it appears their having a hard time with it.

And also as expected the moment the paparazzi spot him they dive for him like vultures. Immediately the moment he steps out of his car he's surrounded by bright lights and the incessant noise of shuttering cameras and overpowering shouts as they try to get him to respond. Naomasa simply replies "No Comment" to each of them as he tries to push his way past them shielding his face.

By the time he's arrived at the front desk, Naomasa feels thoroughly exhausted and bone-tired after that fiasco. He's just about to talk to the receptionist who cuts him off before he could get a word out.

"I'm sorry sir but visiting hours are closed you will have to come back tomorrow-" The lady at the reception desk looks exhausted. There are bags under her eyes and her tightly tied bun is falling apart with her hair falling all over her face.

"I'm here to get All Might's statement for the case." It's not an outright lie. It's just a small tiny lie white lie. The woman eyes the plastic bag in his hand and gives him the stink eye. He just shrugs and hands over his ID to her. She squints at the ID scrutinizing it before pursing her lips briefly and letting out a long-suffering sigh as she snaps on the paper bracelet on his wrists and directs him to Toshinori's floor.

After that, it's a quick trip to Toshnori's room.

"Toshi?" Naomasa pokes his head out from behind the hospital door taking in the dull colors of the hospital room and the steady beep of the machine. 

"Naomasa." Toshinori's voice cracks his throat rusty from disuse. But that's not the thing that makes Naomasa want to fall down to his knees and cry while simultaneously wanting to storm the streets with his burning righteous fury. It's Toshinori's skeleton body laying against the white sheets with his dark tan skin standing out against the colorless room. It's his best friend whose presence used to shine like a thousand suns burning like nothing more but a flickering flame in a room with too much white.

"You know we really need to stop meeting up like this at some point. It's getting to be a bad habit of your's." Naomasa voice cracks as he moves forward to drop off the bag of udon at Toshinori's nightstand. He's only greeted with exhausted blue eyes that are sunk too far back into their skull and hollowed out cheeks belonging to a body that's too fragile to do anything.

"Yes, I suppose so." Toshinori's voice wavers "It's just like old times isn't it." Naomasa starts setting up the udon pouring out the soup into a small plastic bowl and wiping down the fork with a spare napkin before pulling out Toshinori's hospital table and setting it there.

"God Toshinori what the hell--" His words die in his throat along with his rage and burning fury. Naomasa simply left with nothing but the bone-chilling exhaustion that's been nailed to his soul since the day he met this stupid, reckless, martyr of a man.

"I am fine." Something flickers over Toshinori's face as his cracked and ruined lips press against each other firmly. The blond avoids his gaze like the plague which only makes Naomasa narrows his eyes at him.

"You're never okay Toshi." Naomasa drops his elbows against the table and looks his best friend in the eye. Toshinori doesn't say anything simply just picks up the fork and starts eating as quietly as he can. But Naomasa has known this man for all but 5 years. "There's something bothering you."

"I am fine." But he averts his gaze again his knuckles turning white as he clutches the small plastic fork in his trembling hands.

"You know for a guy who has to hide such a huge secret you sure are awful at lying." Naomasa's lips quirk upward as he watches Toshinori curl into himself and turn his gaze out the window. "Even without my quirk Toshi I've known you for five years cut the crap." More silence. "If it's about the villain you fought we have him in custody. Sansa is going to be interrogating him so you don't have anything to worry about." At his last comment, Toshinori frowns bringing his gaze back to watch the ripples in his miso soup. The blond sets down his fork inside his bowl turning his head towards Naomasa before shifting it back to the bowl. He opens and closes his mouth like a gaping fish while Naomasa can literally see the gears turning in his dumb thick skull. "You have a successor now." You're getting weaker by the day.

"Yes, you are right." That's not what I'm worried about. The blond picks up his fork again but his fingers twitch rapidly and he puts the fork down again. "They left me a message." I'm scared for the people I care about.

"Is it from who I think it is?" It won't happen again I promise. Naomasa watches his crystal blue gaze drift away again the smallest tremble in his fingers as he watches his best friend who gives too much. Whose always tired every time he sees him. Who moves more and more sluggishly by the day.

He can't help but wonder what they could have told them that would rattle his friend so deeply to his core again.

"Yes. I would believe so." Toshinori falls silent for a long while as the blonde stares at his udon that has since long gone cold. Naomasa has never felt silence like this before in the entirety of his life. It burns and screams and claws at his ears like a vicious animal pounding against his ear relentlessly.

All for One is like a pest that just won't stay down.  

---

I am nothing but a ghost of myself. But you are everything that I am not and cannot be.

---   

Chapter Text

---

I made a promise to you; an oath made in your blood and broken by my tears. After all, promises worth keeping are the only ones worth dying for.

---

A life of crime is..... Difficult to break out of. Old habits die hard after all. 

The rain trickles down his face as Izuku thumbs the wad of cash between his fingers. The wallet disappears into his jacket pocket and the busied man vanishes into the crowd under the haze of umbrellas. The man had been too busy; too hurried to notice anything. Even when Izuku had knocked him down on 'accident' and had subtly slipped his fingers into his pocket. The man hadn't even blinked. Absorbed in his conversation on his phone while he tucked his umbrella handle under his chin and had crouched down to start picking up his things before accepting the folders Izuku had picked with a curt nod and scurrying away. 

It's odd, how easily some things fly under the radar for people. That might be due to how miserable the day is. Izuku doesn't blame them for wanting to get out of the rain as quickly as possible but even that thought doesn't soothe the tightness to his face (he was good at this, they had made sure he could do basic things first-).

Izuku tugs his hood on and ducks his head down and starts walking. His worn sneakers squelch against the soaked cement as he wades through the bustle of faceless people. The darkened sky rumbles with the promise of something heavy as his joints give a low ache.

He can finally buy the medicine for Eri now that he has scrounged up the money. The amount of weight that's lifted from his shoulders is incomparable to anything else, he's no longer as tense as before. The quiet thought that he could finally get back to Eri keeps the tension in his muscles from piling too high. His mind swarming with relief that he hasn't failed her yet.

He promised Eri he'd come back soon, he better keep it. 

Izuku pulls open the door of the drug store making a blatant effort to ignore his reflection in the glass windows. The man at the counter doesn't seem to notice as he steps through and pulls down the surgeon mask from his face to take an unobstructed breath for the first time in weeks. 

He has enough cash to afford the fever medication at least The clerk gives him an odd look but shrugs it off and bags the bottle for him before resuming whatever activity he ha been doing on his phone. Izuku hands over the cash and leaves as soon as possible. Nervous energy burning under his skin, eager to get back to where they're staying.

When he pushes open the door he's met with cold bitter air and the white noise of the city. Droplets of rain crashing down against his already soaked jacket and dampen his hair. Shivers wrack through his body as he steps out into the street with his sneakers squelching against the wet concrete. The wind buffets against the frozen skin of his face as he blends into the crowd again.

The world turns, and Izuku pushes onward (past the tingling under his skin, past the building migraine, past the thought-) 

---

I made a promise to you; an oath made in your blood and broken by my tears. After all, promises worth keeping are the only ones worth dying for.

---

 

By the time Izuku makes it back to the abandoned warehouse his clothes are clinging uncomfortably to his skin. His hair hanging limply in his face as he starts walking towards the back. A pile of debris that carefully hid their sleeping area walls most of the entrance off from the back. 

When he finally gets behind the wall the sight of Eri almost makes him fall to his knees.

She's gotten worse. 

Her greasy hair clings to her sweaty skin, and her face is all but flushed a bright cherry red now. The rapid shivering of her body is hard enough to make her teeth rattle so loudly Izuku could hear it nearly 5 feet away from her. She clings tightly to the tarps wrapped around her like a security blanket.

"Crap." He curses and scrambles to her side, ignoring the way small puddles seem to be forming under him. The damp hand on her forehead burns and as much as Izuku regrets it, he has to pull her out of the tarps. "Eri I'm going to need you to get out of the tarps, you're burning-!" 

The girl blinks blearily at him her eyes glazed over with sickness. She doesn't say anything just stares at him, or rather through him. 

Izuku winces and starts peeling the tarps away from her shivering body. Eri gives a weak protest. Wrapping her too thin fingers around the edges of the tarp in a poor attempt to keep them and shelter what little warmth she could feel. The chattering of her teeth gets louder which only makes Izuku feel more guilty as he carefully pries her fingers from the tarp and tosses it off her. 

"Sorry." He ignores how his voice cracks. Squeezing his own eyes shut for a moment to gather his bearings. 

The medicine he needs to give her the medicine. 

The plastic bag crinkles as he pulls out the fever medication and twists the cap open as quickly as possible even if it burns through the palm of his hand.  

He skims over the instructions, for children ages 6-8, strawberry flavored, fill up to the line in the cap, and take every 6-8 hours. A quick glance in the cap shows that there is indeed a blue line marked inside the cap and Izuku is instantly relieved that he won't need to steal a cup or a spoon from the neighboring bakery to get the correct measurements. 

"Eri you need to drink this okay? It'll make you feel better-" He nudges the cap towards her cracked lips. At first, Eri doesn't move outside of the rapid shivering. "-Eri please, come on." She doesn't even bother opening her eyes until he lightly shakes her shoulder. Through the strands of her hair, she seems to be fixated on something but Izuku's not sure what it is it should concern him but at the moment he's too distracted to get her to take the medication. 

He pushes the cap to her lips again and this time she finally opens them. Izuku tilts the cap so she can finally drink the syrup; though it takes a while for her to down the entire contents of the cap it has Izuku sighing in relief regardless. 

Immediately all his muscles seem to go lax as he just kneels there watching Eri shiver again and screw her eyes shut like her eyes hurt from how bright everything is.

He presses a wet hand against her forehead again hoping that maybe she's cooled off enough to use the tarp again... But she hasn't- if anything she's only gotten warmer. 

Izuku turns away and folds the tarps neatly before capping the syrup bottle and placing it back into the plastic bag. He slumps against the concrete. His exhaustion pulling away at his eyelids and his muscles feel like they weigh ten tons. 

But he can't rest yet, his clothes are still damp and gross. The jacket peels off about as grossly as Izuku expected it to- the wet cloth gave off squishing noises as he tossed it off of him and let it drop against the ground. Izuku pulls away to move to a drier spot after he had created a puddle under him. 

He tries really hard not to look knowing full well what he sees may terrify him. His bicep still throbs after all like it's changing and twisting into something that's not him. Hidden away just under the sleeve of his t-shirt is the evidence that his body is no longer his (has it ever been?). He knows for a fact that the skin there isn't human anymore (he hadn't looked, too terrified of the confirmation; but somewhere deep down in the darkest pits of his mind he knows, he knows.)

But try as he might the glittering dark jewels of his scars is too much to resist. The scars litter his forearms like malformed jewels. Maybe he could have convinced himself that they never existed, the evidence of him belonging to someone else. But the scars are endless. 

Endless in the way an ocean seems to stretch on forever, endless in the way they twist and knot like valleys and mountains.

 Almost unwittingly his reaches out with his thumb and traces them. His thumb runs over the ones that criss-cross over each other. The pad of his thumb is rough from years of hard labor and it feels wrong against his own skin like the thumb isn't his (but it is)

It's someone else's.

There's a finger running down his bare arm. The smooth plastic of the glove they wore rubs him the wrong way and makes him antsy knowing what they're doing. Taking measurements and drawing on his skin with a marker to make sure they make the correct cuts for whatever it is that they do.

Izuku never doubted why the doctors did what they did (he's always too busy screaming for that).  

Even when they took a knife to his arm and cut the flesh clean open and fit multiple needles into the cut. He hadn't doubted it, why did they need to cut into him to fit needles? Why didn't they just put the needle through to puncture skin? But the thoughts never went farther than that before the real pain began and he could nothing but scream and beg with ugly open sobs.

The needle must have been coated in something because the moment it went in on his exposed flesh he started thrashing against the leather restraints. The leather rubbed against his skin and burned, but that was just another drop in the bucket. Even if he could feel he had ripped away his own skin thrashing and blood was dribbling at the open wounds he had caused he hadn't noticed. His voice turned hoarse eventually; it always did. It always turned before his head hit the metal table and he could feel his eyes going glassy. Only the putrid scent of his own vomit kept him awake those times. 

The way they dug their blades deep into his innards and cut through his intestines to fit something else- something-something that wasn't him.

Each time those scalpels went in he could feel them, he could feel them put a nail onto of his rib cage and hammer it to gain more access to his torso. It happened every time he made a recovery and no matter how much he begged for them to stop they kept doing it.  Eventually, they started tasing him; the electricity jolting through his body as they tried to keep him still because all his damn writhing made them cut wrong.

And when they shoved him back into his cage with the only thing keeping his insides from spilling were thin black threads; he wondered. 

Wondered what it would feel like to die there on the table with the floodlights pouring over him, and their emotionless faces towering over him. Would he die as painfully as the others, with their bones breaking and shifting as they were turned right there on the table? Or would he pass away by rotting in his tiny cage; his flesh crumbling off his bone in red, wet clumps like so many of his neighbors.

They kept going. They always kept going. Never stopping. 

The only ones who stopped in this place were the ones trapped in cages.

He wondered why he didn't stop to. 

( They cut him up on tiny metal blades and left scars bigger than the length of his lifetime.)

He blinks away his heart in his throat as he jerks his head up and scrambles backward only for his back to hit something hard. Izuku gasps for air his fingers curling in on themselves as he struggles to fight back the blackness that crowded his suddenly blurry vision.

The walls are drab and gray, stained with rust but that's not right it's supposed to be sterile white. It's dark light coming in from the roof but it's not floodlights. They're too soft to be lights inside the facility. The bars of his cage are missing, the stench of rot is gone replaced by the scent of rain (when was the last time he had smelled the air after it had rained?).

What? Where was he-

"I-Izuku?" He snaps his head towards the voice. The blurriness in his eyes doesn't go away despite all the blinking. "I-I heard noises...Is-is someone coming?!" the last part falls off in a whisper, laced with terror and followed by the sound of shuffling like someone was trying to stand up but failing. 

Eri. The Yakuza. Warehouse. Right. 

"No- I was just having a bad dream that's all." When he's finally gotten his eyes to focus he realizes he must have fallen asleep at some point. Had he been dreaming or having a flashback? "Sorry, did I wake you up?" He winces internally damn him. 

He tries to pretend that the life they lead isn't hurting Eri in the long term, that living in constant fear isn't as bad as it is. But Izuku still hasn't found a way for him to leave the prefecture safely without being tracked, let alone figure out a way for Eri to live a better life. Guilt and panic churn inside of him, an awful combination really. 

He lets out a long breath as he tilts his head up to stare at the ruined roof. The only light that peers through are the ones from holes in the roof. Even with the sparse lighting everything suddenly seems too eerie to him now. At least Eri is coherent so the medication must have worked. They'll still need an extra day for her to rest and recover before they keep moving. Even if the Yakuza activity had dropped he's not willing to stay here until they're out of the prefecture. Shit had he restocked on food-

Eri hasn't spoken for a long while and it takes him a moment to realize why. 

Her gaze is fixed on his arms. He had forgotten he had taken off his jacket to let it dry and now everything is out in the open. Everything in his body turns to ice as a sudden chill invades him. Everything is out in the open now, and it's a can of worms he is not ready for. 

"I'm sorry-" and suddenly Eri's voice is cracking again, and he can hear the steady plip plop of tears hitting the floor. Izuku is alarmed, of course, but he's even more alarmed when Eri grabs a hold of his arm and looks closer. Tears are still blurring her eyes but she doesn't make any more noises. "Somebody hurt you too- and- and- I'm sorry I-I-" Her voice trembles and the grip on his arm is suddenly tight.  His arm looks hideous next to her small porcelain hands. Ugly and gnarled like twisted wood. The skin stretched taut in all the wrong places, the discoloration so wide and varied it was impossible to tell what his original skin tone may have been. 

"No, no it's okay- It's fine okay Eri? I'm fine they don't hurt anymore-" 

"You're like me." The tears are still flowing, but the way she says it is like they're both walking on tightropes. 

And Izuku sees it now.

She's hurting. She's been hurting. Ever since he took here away, ever since the day they started running and the days where Izuku can't get them enough to eat she's been hurting. The feeling of her hand on his arm is different. It is so very,  very different. It's not the feeling of his own calloused hands tracing back a memory he can't resist, but it's not the feeling of a clinical hand making the correct marks either.

 She aches in the same places he does (deep in the trenches of the darkness of their hearts).

It's familiar, a call back to a time he can't remember. When was the last time someone had touched him like this? Her grip maybe tight but it's because she's scared, absolutely terrified of the idea he may just turn into mist right before.  Not because she wants to hurt him, but she wants to keep him. And that thought right there makes everything else come to a standstill because he can't remember a time when somebody had just held him like that. 

Like they wanted to keep him- like he wasn't just some luggage to be disposed of or some kind of tool used to for frustration to be taken out on. He craves it. Craves the warmth from her body and how it doesn't hurt him. And she's hurting too, she wants it just as much as he does that delicate touch that neither of them has had much of. 

That nobody could spare them. She whispers. "They hurt me too, and I never wanted another person to hurt like me but-" she hiccups again and her eyes blur over with tears "I-I wish I could stop it. Stop people from hurting other people. It's-it's unfair! You've been nothing but nice to me even-even-" she hiccups again and Izuku pulls her closer tucking her head under his chin "-even after I told you I-I was an m-monster. It's unfair... that-that you- the world could hurt you to!" 

She's still feverish, he can feel the heat radiate from her forehead but she's coherent and maybe a little delirious. But that's okay. They have a lot of conversations like this, laden with emotions that never got to see the light of day. Neither of them really know how to talk due to their lack of experience. But they share a language that Izuku thinks nobody else can understand. 

Izuku's learned to read the little crease at the edge of her lips when she frowns, or the tightness of her eyebrows, and the death grip on his arm. 

She understands the quiet pain that aches deep inside his chest, even if she can't quite word it. Eri knows he understands her because she clings all that much tighter like she's the one trying to comfort him and not the other way around (and maybe it is her trying to comfort him and not the other way around)

It's her own way of offering him help for the deep emotional scars the physical ones leave behind. And if she holds on just a little bit tighter that makes him think it'll bruise over by morning he doesn't say.  

They have a lot of nights like these. Where they're clinging to each other and hoping to see the light of day together again. There's something about the nighttime that makes these moments all the more precious. 

Drops of time worth keeping, and memories Izuku would fight tooth and nail to keep. (The memory of arms wrapped around his, the memory of the soft warmth she radiates, the comfort of a touch that didn't hurt.) 

---

I made a promise to you; an oath made in your blood and broken by my tears. After all, promises worth keeping are the only ones worth dying for.

---

 

The rain had been coming down pretty hard earlier. But Izuku would guess that the rain had eased up by now, hopefully enough for them to leave the mall they had taken shelter in and continue moving locations.

Or well that was the plan up until Eri had pulled them to a stop in front of a bookstore inside the mall.

"Izuku what's this?" Eri presses her face flat against the windowpane almost childishly, there's an almost curious lilt to her voice like she's about to solve the world's greatest puzzle. 

"A book store." Izuku watches her reflection in the window. He can still see the confusion flit across her face like she doesn't quite understand what he just said. But she doesn't say anything just keeps trying to peer into the store as if she would unlock all it's secrets that way.

It's a nice change of pace being here. Or he hopes it's a nice change of pace for both of them. The people pass them by without even sparing them a second glance and it's something he is infinitely grateful for. They were just two kids passing by and enjoying their time at the mall no need for more attention.

It's far better than the suspicious glances he used to receive at the old neighborhood. Not that he blames them, he had stolen from them before after all.

"We can go inside if you want?" He throws it out casually already readying himself for Eri to likely hyperactive carry him through the store. Just as he had expected her whole body lights up at the prospect. The grip on his hand suddenly becomes iron tight and he's being pulled inside. They spend the morning just wandering through the halls, with Eri enjoying the feeling of carpet against her feet for the first time.

She likes the smell of books, or at least that's what she tells him as she wanders around with him in tow. There are so many things she's missed in life and his heart aches for her. He's glad that at the very least with him she gets a chance to experience them even if it's not much.

"What do you do with books?" Eri pulls one out from the nearby shelf

"You read them they're like little adventures."

"Little adventures?"

"Something like that." He hums, "Do you wanna try?"

"Really?!" He nods and picks up the book she holds and takes her into the children's section where they sit down on a plush carpet because Eri really, really likes the carpet. Eri tucks herself into him, pulling her knees under her chin as she wraps her arms around her legs.

"Yeah." He swallows thickly as he opens up to the first page. 

If they end up staying for a couple more hours as Eri fell asleep leaning against him content and nightmare free... Well, that's nobody's business but their's. Even if they end up waking up late into the evening and are forced to leave the book store and spend the night hiding from security guards tucked away in the smallest corner of the world.

"Do you think you can teach me to read?"

"Yeah. I will." Izuku hums his agreement and pulls her a little closer. They're not happy, they're not magically fixed or healed. But it was nice. It was nice not to worry about being tailed for a day, not to worry about getting food or water or a place to sleep. And he's glad that Eri got to to be carefree if only for a little while. 

---

I made a promise to you; an oath made in your blood and broken by my tears. After all, promises worth keeping are the only ones worth dying for.

---

"Detective?" The man groans rubbing his temples between his fingers. No amount of coffee or alcohol he downed today made the pounding migraine go away and he's completely swamped in paperwork to. Considering All Might has begun picking up activity since his recovery from... the most recent villain attack.  

"What is it, Sansa?" Naomasa wonders if there's some god out there who might listen to his prayer and give him a break from the shit storm that's been going on lately. All the reports he's been receiving haven't really been helping with his investigation of one of All for One's newest massive project only second to the nomu one.

"You may want to look at the new piece of evidence Eraserhead brought in." Maybe some god is listening. But then again maybe not because if they were Sansa wouldn't be wearing that face that tells him whatever it is probably isn't good.

"Evidence retrieved from the Nomu factory?" The cat only grimaces as his response his yellow eyes uncharacteristically dark in the artificial lights of the office. "Alright, alright I'll be on my way just give me a sec and let me finish this up." 

Whatever it was that had Sansa in that kind of mood can't be any good. 

So he makes quick work of his remaining paperwork, scrawling out his signature in chicken scratch before pushing himself off the desk with a heave. His bones give a pop as he stretches his muscles loose. 

God, he really was getting old, wasn't he? 

He makes his way out of the office with little fanfare and pulls open the door for their storage unit. Sansa is standing there currently flipping through a packet with Eraserhead leaning against the nearby wall watching the room with his ever tired eyes. The cat officer's ears perk up and swivel towards him and the yellow eyes peer into him. They nod at him and hand him the packet they had been reading before turning to leave to return to their duties.  

The door shuts behind them.

The detective gives the hero a curt nod of acknowledgment, "Good evening Eraserhead." he only receives a noncommittal grunt from the man as he shuffles himself back to standing on his feet. 

"Do you remember those quirk bullets the villains were firing at the Golden Bird Attack?" As direct as ever, and straight to the point.  

It had been an almost near disaster with All Might who had gotten hit and had almost had his damn identity given out.  God the stress hairs he got from that fiasco alone must have rivaled every other stunt the man pulled.

"Yes, I do. I'm guessing this has something to do with that at least." It's not information on the project that's been whispered around the streets but it's still information so he'll take a victory when he can get one.

"The first couple of pages are mostly just scientific jargon but jump to page 15." Naomasa does as Eraserhead instructs. At first, he just skims through the paragraphs but he stops and starts backtracking when he sees the words: From Subject RA-01 and a classified subject donated from the Yakuza.

"Human DNA." His mouth goes dry and now he understands why Sansa had looked so upset. 

"The quirk bullets before the Golden Bird Attack had only lasted for two minutes at most but since then they've been lasting for 10 minutes tops and it's estimated they're getting longer too. This kind of progress is almost exponential." The danger of such a weapon being circulated around the streets goes unsaid. If this kind of thing became permanent... Naomasa refuses to think about what could happen to One for All or his best friend for that matter. "This project used to belong solely to the Yakuza or that's what Nightwing tells me when I came up to him but he says there's been more activity from them they had a transport vehicle come in just a couple weeks back actually and that's when the quirk erasing bullets jumped in duration."

"The League of Villians and the Yakuza are working together." Naomasa presses his lips into a thin line it's nothing he hasn't already suspected but this is absolute proof. There's no way to refute this now. He's going to need to submit this report to hero agencies and get them working on taking this down right away. Chills run down his spine the more he lets his mind wander about the possibilities of what this project of quirk erasing bullets could entail, and then there's the nomu project they still need to be investigating and the new one. 

Maybe it's time for a different subject, "Do you have any data on the Golden Bird from the factory?" Eraserhead shakes his head. 

The Golden bird was probably the most advanced nomu they had seen or at least he assumes it's a nomu considering how many quirks the thing had.  It's disappointing that they didn't have any data on it but it wasn't unexpected. It's the first they've heard of it and it only happened recently. 

He's not expecting a miracle to happen.

Yagi had been barely able to defeat the thing even without being shot with a quirk erasing bullet. It's a nightmare and a half but not as pressing as other issues, or at least he hopes.

"Is this... RA-01 identified in the file?" The file is at least 50 pages thick. He wonders how much trouble Eraserhead must have run into to get his much data. 

"Page 23 The code-name was mentioned there when I skimmed through it. It's a report of some kind." Eraserhead grunts as he starts moving towards the door, "I need to head back to UA now let me know if you find anything, I'll email you my debrief paperwork tomorrow." and just as quickly and efficiently as Eraserhead had come he was gone. 

A lot of heroes could learn from him, Naomasa muses especially Yagi. 

He really needed to do his own paperwork god damn it.

By the time he's brewed another cup of bland office coffee, he's finished reading through the first 3 pages. It's mostly a bunch of stuff about how the chemical compounds react with human DNA and a lot of stuff he doesn't really understand so he just makes a note to make a copy of the packet and send it over to one of their labs.  

---

Patient: RA-01

Status: Alive, Quirkless, Reciprocating to additions fairly well.

Date: July 19 xxxx

Subject: Head 1 DNA Compatibility 

Overseer: Dr. Rakugo

Patient Summary:

RA-01 shows extreme compatibility to accept additions with little to no rejection. Rejection symptoms include; vomiting, passing out frequently during the surgery. Further observations during resting periods show other symptoms may include: migraines, pain in the torso and stomach area. The patient is unwilling to collaborate during questioning may need loyalty reconfiguring if the patient is admitted into the Orochi Project

Rejection percentage of additions currently stands at 45% and is quickly being lowered at a 7% rate with each successive surgery.  With DNA blueprints taken from the patient, have allowed breakthroughs with the other projects- which are being completed much more quickly than project Head 1. Estimated time until completion 6 months for pure biology adjustments, no estimation is given for loyalty reconfiguring waiting for input from corporate to give an estimate. If more studies are done the estimated time of the project to progress may be shortened due to the highly rare compatibility with the Orochi Blood Injections. 

Recent Adjustments: 

No anesthesia or numbing agent was given during the performance of this observation. 

More test adjustments had been given to the patient to check if the rejection percentage has gone down. See included voice/videotape for the precise recollection of the exact procedure. 

Once the patient was put onto the surgery table 4 incisions had been made across each bicep and the injection needles were set up. Surgeons were ready to observe the reaction of the body to the chemical. Lead Surgeon Dr.Willow made the median sternotomy before proceeding to open up the rib cage. Observations are listed below:

-Extreme stress response. 

-Vomiting. 

-Screaming.   

-Heart Palpitations. 

-Blood color had turned black near the left chambers of the heart.

-Blood color near the left arm had turned black following the response from the heart. 

-Additions were received and then rejected as the body bled out the infected blood through the surgical incisions. 

Conclusion: 

The patient will need bodily conditioning and repeated surgeries to fully absorb the additions even with a lowered rejection percentage.

Overseer Report: 

Highly recommend admittance to the Orochi Project, DNA proves useful and has given a good template to other sub-projects. Compatibility with the intended Head 1 biology is extremely high with a 68% chance of completely absorbing the Head 1 blueprints and adapting. Has a high chance of surviving the sub-project Head 1 than other patients admitted. Estimation of 16% for survival. 

If admitted: the final procedure should be done with anesthesia or a numbing agent. The patient has a record of moving frequently and ruining surgical incisions. 

End Report, waiting for debriefing.  

---

Naomasa freezes at the mention of the "Orochi Project". The debrief reports from some of his undercover agents had mentioned this to when they had been investigating the Nomu Factory. They had no idea what it was just that it was important and a massive project that had been in motion for months. 

Sub-projects? Shit, there were multiple of these projects? He skims through the report again but it proves fruitless. There's nothing else. Just the project names, not what they do or what they're planning to do with it. He flips to the next page dropping his chin against his hand and promises himself he was going to at least finish reading the packet by the end of tonight at least. There could be more stuff he could glean, this is probably the most information he's gotten about All for One's newest project in months. 

The moment he flips the page he regrets it. They're pictures of the surgery, gruesome, grotesque pictures. The person strapped to the table frozen in an awful moment of time jaws unhinged in a silent scream. Blood dribbling off their wrists and ankles as their spine arched forward. 

No anesthesia, no numbing agent. He wants to throw up.

But he doesn't. Because he's a professional. A total professional. He skims the pictures never really looking too much into detail lest he risks tossing out his lunch. 

At the bottom of the page, he freezes there's a face staring back at him the face is gaunt, almost as emaciated as Yagi and that has him wincing in sympathy for them. The palor of their skin looks a sickly green as if they were resting on their death bed.  The shape of their chin is almost familiar, the round eyes, the dark green hair-even if it looks dirty and greased to hell and back.  The freckle placement is familiar too- 

"Sansa can you do me a favor and bring in the missing person's file for Midoriya Izuku?" he drops his fingers against the desk as he releases the button from the phone. "Thank you." He clicks the phone off and drags his hand through his hair suddenly feeling exhausted as if he hadn't just drunk a whole cup of coffee. 

Sansa enters his office a confused expression on his face but otherwise compliant as he drops the folder onto his desk. "Are you doing alright Tsukuachi?" He gives a grim nod more or less. 

"I think I found out where this kid went." Sansa freezes and his yellow eyes almost blow comically wide. But there's nothing funny about it. "I'll tell you about it later once I've... finished up here. Make sure you have everyone investigating the new project on the ready for a mission update."

"Alright. Make sure you don't work yourself too hard Tsukuachi." Sansa leaves the office and returns to his desk. He runs his hands through his hair again grimacing at how oily it is, he'll need a shower when he gets home. But for now, he needs to do this. The phone starts ringing as he completes the number, god what is he going to say to them? Not to mention the implications of this. 

A single key component in both the quirk-erasing bullets and involvement in the Orochi project. And as far as he knows still out of the grasp of the League of Villians, and the Yakuza with one of the other key components for the quirk erasing drug. He drops his forehead against his hand and rubs at his temples again and wonders about how many mission objectives are going to have to be changed at this. 

He eyes the pictures again before looking away.

 A child. It had been a child on that table. He's going to be sick-

It picks up on the third ring. 

"H-hello who is this?" The voice on the other end is slightly shaky and difficult to hear even through the phone's speakers. His heart twists and he swallows the bile down. Now is not the time. 

"Hello, yes is this Midoriya Inko? This is Detective Tsukuachi from the police department. I have news about the investigation on your son." He swallows thickly and looks at the pictures again and something heavy settles in his stomach. She deserves to know what happened to her son and the investigation if there had even been one considering the last police department. 

Damn All for One, damn him to hell and back for ruining his best friend's life, damn him for the ruining the lives of children. 

Of god fucking children. He doesn't look at the photograph but he spies them out of the corner of his eyes. The agony that physically radiates from the still image, the sickening look of a child torn open under the hands of these people.  

How many? How many had All for One stolen from the beds and done this to? He tastes nothing but death on his tongue as he imagines the look of his best friend's face when he tells him about this. 

---

I made a promise to you; an oath made in your blood and broken by my tears. After all, promises worth keeping are the only ones worth dying for.

---

Midoriya Inko sits in their dining room quietly her hands wrapped around a warm cup of tea as she had interrupted their fucking dinner. But he keeps his mouth shut, kept it shut since he saw her walk through the door, and ever since he's seen her that day (when he told her that some fucking portal took her god damn son and he had fucking let go).

He scowls.  It's not like he didn't like Midoriya Inko it was just she was always crying as pathetically as her son did and he hated it (hated how his skin crawled and how he remembered the feeling of Deku's fingers slipping through his, how he had failed her and let her son go, because he was a goddamned failure couldn't even save the one fucking person in front of him)

But she's not crying. Not this time at the very least. She's simply staring at the cup of tea in her hands blankly (he hates how it unnerves him how oddly quiet she is, it just reminds him of that day).

"They-they found him Mitsuki-They have a trail." She whispers again her hands clutching for Mitsuki's wrist. But she doesn't cry. Not as Bakugo expected her to as he stomps back up to his room and throws his head into his pillow to scream.  "They have a trail. They have a trail, they can find my son now-" He pretends not to hear the desperation in her voice through the crack of his door.

After years of silence, after years of god awful fucking nothing. 

They had a fucking trail (he tightens his grip around his hero costume's gauntlets eyes staring distantly at them; he made a promise to them he wanted so badly to keep it).   

---

I made a promise to you; an oath made in your blood and broken by my tears. After all, promises worth keeping are the only ones worth dying for.

---

Izuku really should have known better to fall asleep. He's been exhausted for longer- he's pushed through exhaustion for so much longer than this! 

"I need you to come with me, quickly we don't have any time-" Izuku kicks out the moment he feels a tight grip on his left shoulder through sheer instinct. He reaches for Eri who had been sleeping next to him as he tamps down on the panic. Something metallic clatters to the ground, as he blinks his eyes open blearily and starts staggering to his feet. 

It was an officer who had found them, with the head of a cat- golden fur covered in dark spots. A mutation quirk of a cheetah he thinks as he tries to pull Eri up onto her feet but she's sluggish. Eyes still glazed with sleep and blinking blearily as the flashlight the man had been holding blinds her, "Izuku? What-" He's bought them some time at least judging from the dark stain by the man's head (he shouldn't be able to do that, he shouldn't have the physical strength for that, is he-).

"We've been found-" The scratchiness of his own voice makes him frown, "-let's go!" That seems to snap Eri back into wakefulness- she does that sort of full body jerk that means the adrenaline must have kicked in. 

Both of them break off into a sprint before the officer could wake up. 

They alleyway they had taken a rest in for the night only has one exit and it's the entrance (another mistake Izuku has made he should have thought things through!). When they make a turn out of the entrance the both of them crash into somebody.

"-we're supposed to grab both of them but I-" Eri gives out a loud cry as they hit the ground unceremoniously. Shit. 

There's a single frozen moment when Izuku meets the eyes of his soon to be captors. They're ice blue with dark hair and skin that looks like it's only held on by the metal staples. The other one is a man covered in green scales, purple hair likely only held up by the red headband, with the head in the shape of a lizard. 

For one blissful second, nobody moves. A single, truly blissful, second before everything starts moving at Mach 12. Izuku can see the very moment recognition flickers across those ice-blue eyes, widening just a fraction at the pure surprise before his ruined hand starts reaching forward for his neck as fast as possible. 

Izuku is faster. 

He releases his grip on Eri's arm and kicks out with his leg knocking the hand away before shouting, "Eri go!" She doesn't spare him a second and scrambles backward her dirtied white dress scraping against the cement. Dropping his leg back into the ground he presses his palms into the cement and pushes off. He winces slightly at the press of the pebbles but otherwise shoves it into the back of his mind as he scrambles away while the one with black hair is reeling his arm back muttering a curse under their breath. 

He jerks backward his whole body scrambling to get away his mind racing to catalog every detail that could help, because fuck, fuck, fuck,fuck-  

"Holy shit!" One of them exclaims and snags the back of Izuku's jacket. The hairs of his arm prickles, his instincts screaming. They're reaching to secure a body part and if they do that his chances of getting away are just about to go from low, to impossible. He tenses his muscles and already starts feeling the burn of the energy he's channeling in his leg before he plants his left foot into the ground and-

-his right leg collides with both of the bodies behind him. Much to his surprise the blow is strong enough to knock both of them to the ground (he shouldn't be able to do that-) the look of sheer surprise across both of their faces is gratifying but he doesn't take the time to enjoy it. 

He makes a break for it. 

Eri is only a couple of feet ahead so Izuku catches up quickly. With the adrenaline pumping through his veins and the burn of his feet from all the walking they did today he's not sure how long the both of them can keep running for. 

How much time did he buy them? Not enough clearly because when he throws his head back to check the two villains are hot on their trail- and are only closing the gap. Rapidly

His breath snags in his throat as he takes Eri's arm in his hand and starts running faster. She gives out a yelp but doesn't protest her face scrunched tightly as she pushes on (even if Izuku remembers her asking for a break because her feet hurt, even if he remembers watching her rub at her own feet when they sat at the park bench that afternoon, she still pushes even though he fucked up-)

If they're going to get out they're going to need a plan. 

Of all three assailants, two of them have mutation quirks; one of them based on a lizard and another based on a cheetah. So at the very least one of them does have a speed augmentation quirk which would be completely disastrous because Izuku is placing on all his bets on the fact that his capturers need them alive, and intact.  They have at the very least 5 -10 minutes before the one with the cheetah quirk wakes up so he's going to need to lose these two. The lizardman and the one with what Izuku is hoping is a combat orientated quirk. 

This whole night is a complete mess the street's though not overly crowded are still dotted with civilians who were taking pictures, and making the both of them seen, easily tracked by anyone who could be looking for them. The thought makes his throat dry as he pulls the two of them across the road- the bright wash of car headlights making his eyes throb.  

If an officer had found them than the possibility of more corrupted police officers heading for his location is high. They're going to need to be able to get out of sight. But the gap between them and the villains isn't getting any bigger, and neither of them has the stamina to run long enough to lose them (or outpace them, but that thought dies in the back of his mind).  

Whatever luck the both of them had had during their time out in the city must have run out because just from the corner of his eye he could see something. Something glinting in the street lights that made whatever few civilians around them scream. 

Eri is in the motion of falling before she screams. Her long messy hair flies out behind her. The silvery strands whipping at her face as her eyes widen in surprise. As if she couldn't believe what she was feeling before it registers. She crashes hard- the only reason why her head hadn't hit the pavement was that his grip on her arm hadn't loosened. And then he panics the whole world darkening around him because right there in the corner of his vision as he tries to get her back on her feet (there's so much fear there, in her eyes, in her body, in the way she holds his arm in a death grip- too terrified to let go- they can't stop-)  is a knife; sunk right into her leg.  

The world is cruel. It is so, so, bitterly cruel he thinks when he realizes just a moment too late that the second glint of metal that comes from the corner of his vision is another knife. It pierces right through his thigh and it sends both of them to a total stop. The air whistles past his ears, the street lights dance in front of his eyes, the sound of Eri's harsh breathing reverberates through his world before it all comes crashing down. 

(Careless.)  

Maybe in another world, they would have gotten away, or the knife had missed the mark. But this isn't the world they live in.

Eri's chin meets the ground so hard he could hear her teeth crash together as he throws his arm out to try and break his fall (all it does is make the pebbles dig into his skin, and the blood in his mouth all the more prominent). Izuku spits the metallic venom on the ground his heart beating at a rabbit's pace as he bites down a frustrated scream. 

What is he supposed to do? What does the world want from him? What the hell does it want from him?!

"You know I honestly didn't think I would land those." It's spoken so casually, so, fucking casually. As if the man hadn't just ruined their lives, as if he wasn't setting Izuku up to go to a man-made hell, as if he wasn't the reason that the quiet tears on Eri's face are falling to the ground. "So I know these two are important but was it really necessary for us to hurt children?" 

(why,why,why,why-) 

"They're important enough if they're the alliance's first priority." He's pulled to his feet roughly, the flaking purpled skin of the one who holds him scratches against his wrists (like the leather restraints-).  "Send Kurogiri a call, we need to get moving the heroes should be on the way considering the commotion we've made."

"Yeah, yeah no need to be so demanding." The lizard one replies moving to hold both of Eri's wrists in one hand. "We could have just caught up to them you know it's not like they were running very fast-" 

"Just call him we don't have time for this." He's hauled onto his feet half stumbling and dazed. Panic surging through his veins as he struggles to break free from the tight grip on his wrists. There's no way he can try and attempt to kick his way out, not with the knife that's embedded deeply into his leg it would be impossible to muster enough strength to do anything besides limping.  

"Alright you two no funny business, I really don't want to have to hurt you guys again-" Eri's face tightens for a brief moment before she slams her teeth into the arm that's holding onto both of her wrists. She's crying he notes as he watches with wide eyes his brain short-circuiting as he registers the quiet tears slipping down her cheeks. Her throat bobbing up and down like she's swallowing down her own voice (he's failed her). "-fuck! You little shit!" but the captor doesn't let go. 

"NO!" Her hoarse voice scratches against her throat as she starts thrashing, her small limbs kicking out as she's physically lifted and thrown across the lizardman's shoulder like cargo. Izuku could hear the sound of her fists hitting the man's back. 

But he doesn't stop. 

It's like every person Izuku has met is deaf. Fucking deaf to everything, to the screams, to the cries of anguish, to the desperation that wrings Eri hollow as she starts sobbing, ignorant of the wretched noises that tear their way past her dry cracked lips. 

The villains carry on. Footfalls as heavy as the bell toll Izuku hears ringing between his ears. The panic doesn't really set in, perhaps it never will (he knew it was bound to happen; he expected it but never really prepared for it)

The world tilts, his breath is tight. 

He doesn't want to go back. 

(but what is he supposed to do? what can he do? dumb, stupid, useless, quirkless- 

someone pushes him to the ground the sound of crackling explosions. heat seared through his pale skin bound to leave scars- everything leaves scars.)  

"Kurogiri we have the children we need a pickup." The green-scaled man only gives out a grunt and tightens his hold on her, Eri- strong, brave, Eri tries, she tries so hard but somewhere deep down she must have realized there's nothing she could do because she simply stops leaving Izuku with nothing but the sound of her tears hitting the pavement as assurance she was still alive. 

Izuku snarls. 

Lashes out with his teeth snapping, and eyes wide. With desperation plowing through his body- fueling it. Adrenaline is bad for combat, it narrows your vision it leaves you wild and frenzied. It was the first lesson Kurogiri had taught him before they had assigned an actual combat instructor to him. 

But adrenaline is all he has. Even when his head is yanked backward by a callous hand.

"Don't try anything. I don't think you want to be on the receiving end of my quirk. I was only given instructions to return you alive, I don't need you in perfect condition." The grip around his wrists tighten but otherwise, they don't stop moving. 

He wants to scream. Scream out everything, the pain, the frustrations, the quiet way Eri cries with her eyes screwed tightly like she can't quite believe what's happening- 

-but it dies down before it even makes it past his lips. 

Everything about Izuku always dies before it sees the light of day.

Through pure desperation, he tries to kick out again, maybe just maybe it'll be enough to at least stagger him and get him to loosen his grip- But it's not enough (it's never good enough, it's never good enough, he always got caught, he always got caught-). The man must have read through the attack because all he gets for his efforts is a knee to the back of his thigh and pain. 

(When Izuku thinks back to this moment later when he's realized he's at the end of his rope, that yeah; maybe there is some kind of higher power.) 

"SHIT-!" Everything happens so fast Izuku barely registers the moment the hand that had gripped his wrists had been torn off him, and the fact somebody had knocked the lizard man to the ground and pulled Eri from his grasps. 

Both of them snap their heads back to look. Eri is suspended in the air by white cloth connected to a man wearing mostly dark clothing, and a pair of yellow goggles hiding a furious red glow- but that's all the details Izuku gets the chance to catalog before their apparent savior sets down Eri and is practically half- carrying and dragging the both of them away (the man looks familiar he's seen him somewhere, those goggles, the dark messy hair, the scarf)

His mind has drawn blanks. Frozen. Body stock still even when a pair of sturdy arms wrap around his waist pulling him away.  His gaze is locked on the officer who is currently carrying Eri, the tears budding at the corner of her eyes gleaming in the harsh neon as she makes a desperate bid to climb out of the officer's grip and towards him. Even with the knife sunk deep into her leg, and the so obvious fear that permeates around her she's still fighting to get back to him. 

"IZUKU!!!" Her voice cuts through the chaos, and slices through the thick fog of his mind and suddenly her jerks. There are police sirens screeching in the air and the chorus of human voices calling over the panic and than Izuku is clawing his way out of the police grip to. "NO!! WHERE IS HE!!!"  

He wants to be there for her, even when Izuku's not sure if these police officers are corrupted or not. Even when he's not sure that either of the adults holding him could be working for All for One he just wants to be with her. To wipe away those tears, to quell the desperation in her ruined voice and hold onto her tight and never let go because he promised her he wasn't going to disappear-

"Secure the children!" It's the person who is holding him that calls out. Izuku jerks up pausing his struggling to get a look at his captor's face. It's another cat headed one, fur a bright orange with a golden yellow muzzle and honey warm eyes. They lock eyes with him, "Izuku we need you to cooperate with us." It's more of a demand than anything but it gets him to stop and lets the cat officer carry him off. "Yes- I have him Detective Tsukuachi I'm currently moving him to the transport vehicle, we have the girl to. We need an EMT to tend to them immediately both are injured." 

"Give him to me I can handle their injuries on the transport vehicle." He's passed off again to another set of hands before he's seated on the metal flooring of a van.

"Where's Eri-" The EMT frowns as their hand trail over the handle of the knife before muttering something under their breath.  

"We have the second one injured too, going into shock needs immediate treatment-" It's Eri her face set in tight lines. Greasy silver hair tangled in a knotted mess, face flushed red from exertion and blood staining her already dirtied pants as she weakly claws at the person holding her.  

"Tsbuchi I need you to take care of the other one, I can take care of this one- somebody get me a shock blanket!"  The EMT starts barking out orders like a trained professional. 

"No- give her to me." Izuku ignores the way his voice scratches against his throat as he reaches forward not even bothering to wait for a response as he wraps his worn fingers around Eri's hand. Even in the darkness of the night, and the chaos of the villain fight outside he's relieved. He doesn't want to hope that maybe everything is over.

 That maybe they really are in the right hands, and that figure out there fighting for their lives is a hero, and the police officers they're with are on the right side. It's too good to be true Izuku knows that much, but for now, it's okay. 

"We're going to be okay." He stutters out weakly pulling her into a tight hug and ignoring the EMTs who were poking and prodding at them. Eri starts crying again but it's not the quiet crying she makes where she tries to stifle all her noises out of fear. It's the one that makes him want to cry to as she does full on sobs, her shoulders shaking up and down as her small fingers clutch onto the front of his jacket. Holding onto him with that same vice lock grip that tells him everything he needs to know. "I'm not going anywhere- I'm not, I'm not, I'm not, I promised you, I promised you- I'm not going anywhere-" Breathing hurts and his words keep getting cut off by his rapid breathing as he just holds on tighter hoping that it conveys everything he wants to say without having to speak it through broken syllables. 

Strong, brave Eri who had a knife in her leg because Izuku wasn't good enough to keep her safe is still holding onto him like she's forgiven him like she never blamed him for any of this. Eri whose hair is getting in his nose, whose tears he can feel make a wet stain through the front of his shirt. 

"You're okay- you're okay-" She hiccups in between uncontrollable sobs her voice already collapsing under the weight of all her emotions. 

He promised her after all that he wasn't going to leave her, that he was going to teach her to read one day. 

He had always been terrified of breaking those promises the moment he made them but it was something. Something to keep him going, to keep him awake at night long enough to keep watch, something to keep his mind busy and away from all the dark memories lurking behind his eyelids (they were things to make the future look better than it did).

But he supposes he doesn't need to be scared about breaking them anymore at least. 

Something black blurs across the field that's shortly followed by panicked screaming and suddenly everyone scatters as the blur hits the pavement and a bright blue illuminates the whole area. Suddenly a scorching heat ignites the air around Izuku and it nips at his skin like a flame. The EMT (Izuku would thank later when he was at the end of his rope) reacts fast and pulls the two of them apart and scrambles to carry her away.

Their eyes were as wide as saucers. Their fear as obvious as possible but takes Izuku a second too late to realize what was happening. He moves too slow (he's always too slow).

The world is silent as he feels a scream tear out of his mouth, his whole right arm lit aflame by a burning hand yanking him back they're reaching for Eri to- Izuku throws a weak kick out with his leg and manages to stagger the lizard villain. Their voices fly over his head as his whole body slumps in exhaustion.

(Maybe this time around his punishment would be death.) 

"FORGET THE OTHER ONE WE NEED TO GO BEFORE THEY BRING IN MORE HEROES THAN THEY ALREADY HAVE-!" He's being pulled back, eyes wide in horror as he watches Eri's mouth stuck in a scream he never got to hear. The quiet plip plop of her continued tears lost in the cacophony of noise around them, lost in the crackling of vivid blue flames that eats away at his arm. The heat disappears in that all too familiar feeling of the wind sucking cold of Kurogiri's warp hole at his back.   

And this time when she cries it's the one that wrenches out his heart and splatters it across the pavement as he shuts his eyes in quiet resignation (it was bound to happen)

Strong, brave Eri who had forgiven him for letting her down, for letting her get hurt, who had held him like he had done no wrong (he hopes she has that same strength of heart if they ever meet again to forgive him), whose face is twisted in such pure unadulterated agony; eyes almost shut close, eyebrows scrunched downward, mouth wide open.   

(You can't be afraid of breaking promises if you've already broken them.)    

---

I made a promise to you; an oath made in your blood and broken by my tears. After all, promises worth keeping are the only ones worth dying for.

---

Chapter Text

 ---

I promised myself I would not let you break me, but here we are; a blade in hand, poison in my veins, and the blood that drips from your hands to mine. 

--- 

"Is she awake?" Sansa's voice crackles to life through the phone speaker. 

Naomasa closes the hospital door behind him quietly, listening to the incessant beeping of machines fade into muted silence.  

"No," He says as he loops his shoulder bag across his torso "The doctors are saying the operation was risky considering her condition. She won't wake up in at least two days." He pulls away from the door and starts making his way to the elevator. The almost subdued bustle of the hospital staff and patients is a nice change of pace from the rabid reporters outside.  "How's the press handling going on for your end?"

"Not great." The cat rumbles, "I've kept the information to a bare minimum for now... They seem satisfied with only knowing that we were trying to secure two kidnapped victims before our transport vehicle became compromised." Naomasa quirks up an eyebrow despite his co-worker not being able to see it. 

"Impressive." It's better then he expected, but then again Sansa has always been very good at handling the press. "Guess there are upsides to having a cute adorable cat face after all." He could almost hear the eye-roll. 

Almost. 

"Anyways so far the hero Jet-stream seems to be doing fairly well in keeping them occupied at the moment," Sansa says, there's more gibberish yelling coming from their end of the call.

"Good," Naomasa presses the call button for the elevator, "See if you can keep it that way. I want as many details on the down-low." No telling what All for One would do if this girl was a part of the Orochi Project, they need to keep her safe. 

Hopefully, they can move her to a more secure location soon but for now, he'll have to do with simply increasing the security, or would that be too obvious? Upping the security in a hospital might seem fishy to All for One's network if he really is after these children.    

"Thanks for your work Sansa I'll call you back later for an updated status." The line ends, and he steps into the elevator. Quiet cheery notes play as he opens up his phone. He makes a mental note on how he'll need to contact all the agencies of the involved heroes to get reports. 

"Uh- Detective what are you-" Naomasa jerks up almost dropping his phone. Surprised he had missed the ding of the elevator door opening, as he finds himself staring at the face of one of his coworkers.

"Emiyo?" It's one of the senior officers at the precinct, her uniform is wrinkled badly and her usually neat hair is tied in a messy tight ponytail. That's odd, he usually sees her with her hair down and styled most days. "What are you doing here?" Her pitch-black eyes are as wide as saucers. 

It's almost as if she hadn't expected to see him there.

The black curved horns on her head glint in the light as she clears her throat, eyes skittering to the side almost nervously. She steps backward for him to exit the elevator.

"Sorry I left my post-" Emiyo says abashedly, rubbing the back of her neck. "I just wanted to see the girl, I asked Sansa if it was okay... and well he looked like he had the situation handled." Her eyes skitter off again, "I can go back if you want...?" 

"I would prefer if you did-" Naomasa pauses his eyebrows drawing together, "-but  why do you want to see her?" Emiyo presses her lips together. Her fingers are tapping against her thigh rapidly, she looks off to the side again.

Despite the usual confidence that Emiyo displayed in uniform, she seems awfully nervous. "Are you alright?" He pockets his phone and meets her gaze head-on, concern etching it's way onto his face. 

"It's just-" She gives a long pause again, "-I have a daughter." There's a smile on her face like she's trying to reassure him, but there's something almost heart wrenching about it. 

Naomasa softens, "She'll be fine, she's stable for now the doctor's say she'll be awake in two days," He rests a hand on her shoulder and gives it a comforting squeeze, "As of guardianship, for now, she's a charge of the government so there's no need to worry about her." 

"That's good to know." Emiyo's nods and casts her eyes downwards, they flutter closed for a brief moment in an almost relieved manner. The brown-haired woman pulls away, with her shoulders tense, "I'll return to my post now then." With an awkward cough, she turns around and makes her way through the hospital lobby and back outside. 

Naomasa only nods and watches her leave. He decides it's better to work here than to try to survive the rabid host of reporters outside. The other people in the lobby give him odd looks that he ignores as he plops himself down into one of the uncomfortable chairs lining the lobby. The white noise helps. It's better to work here than at the precinct anyway, he's not sure he could handle the pitying looks from the other officers right now. 

Idly he muses if the cheap hospital coffee is worth the trip to the cafeteria. 

 ---

I promised myself I would not let you break me, but here we are; a blade in hand, poison in my veins, and the blood that drips from your hands to mine. 

--- 

"Bakugo you know you aren't supposed to be here." Naomasa sighs and fights to keep away the oncoming migraine that he knows is coming. But well it might be too late for that. Honestly, his head already hurts and it isn't half even past eight yet.  

The blond boy bristles but otherwise doesn't make a move to leave the precinct. 

He looks a lot healthier now Naomasa notes, that's good. Though he still shouldn't be here.

"Are you going to tell me what the fuck happened?" The boy snarls with his lips peeled back in an ugly sneer. 

The receptionist for the precinct Yukiino, bless her soul only glances up between the two of them before resuming her work. Ever since they've taken up the supposed cold case for a Midoriya Izuku he's been a not-quite-a frequent visitor, but common enough that nobody bats an eye anymore. 

Or well ignores him for the most part. 

"Bakugo," He hasn't even had his morning coffee yet, it's too early for this bullshit. "Whatever you want to know will be on the news, there's no need to go harassing me or my officers for it." 

It was cut and dry after all, not much to tell to begin with.

The mass of villains had compromised both the transport vehicle and the roads leading in and out of the area. What little underground heroes and public heroes showed up were quickly overwhelmed, Naomasa winces at that detail. The sight of Eraserhead injured, battered, and bruised still willing to carry the girl on foot to the nearest hospital. 

It had been a tough call, the most capable hero being summoned out to take the girl away covertly had resulted in a lot of quirk based injuries to both the few heroes and on-site staff. But it had to be made since two of the villains identified as followers of the Hero Killer managed to slip through the Police barricade and secure one of the victims that they've been tracking for days. 

It's not the answer that Bakugo wants, his body is tense. Antsy even. His hands are shoved into his pockets but he's tapping his right foot like he's itching to do something, and the way he holds his shoulders is a lot like Yagi after a particularly bad day. 

"Bakugo." He says quietly, "Leave it to the professionals, please." Naomasa can't help but remember how small the boy had looked against the white hospital sheets, and the absolute devastation that had marred his best friend's face. 

No matter what Naomasa had told him, that it wasn't his fault, that the boy was just simply reckless he would not believe it.  

But the boy just scoffs, and Naomasa knows his words have fallen on deaf ears. 

He's not particularly fond of the boy, or well even likes him for that matter but something tells him he'll have to keep a closer eye on him, or at least let Yagi know to alert the UA staff. 

 ---

I promised myself I would not let you break me, but here we are; a blade in hand, poison in my veins, and the blood that drips from your hands to mine. 

--- 

<Messages Has No Self Preservation Edit>

7:34 AM

How has Bakugo been at school?

7:35 AM

 what did the boy do

7:35 AM

Nothing, he just visited the precinct earlier today he looked kinda restless.

7:35 AM

i only teach one class at ua tsukuachi

i dont think im rubbing off them all that much 

7:35 AM

You're a bad influence on the children Yagi

Nedzu tells me that this is the first year with so many student injuries during training, it's also the first year with a villain attack incident.

7:35 AM

...

i'll keep a closer eye on him during class

how are the reports about the golden bird attack going 

7:36 AM

About as good as you can expect. 

I got a new report turned in earlier today from Eraserhead. 

He's been kinda a workaholic recently, I tried telling him that it was too dangerous for him to investigate the factory where we suspect the golden bird came from but well you can figure out how well that went.

7:36 AM

he seems the same as ever at UA 

but i have noticed he seems to be a little bit more strict with the students

hes been giving combat training in class despite me being the teacher

7:36 AM

See if you can throw recovery girl on him. He's been working himself to the bone on multiple cases, good lord knows you need Eraserhead to help you keep that class in check. 

7:36 AM

i will try my best

7:36 AM

You know you could learn a couple of things from Eraserhead. 

You may be the #1 hero but your handwriting is shit, and you still can't turn your paperwork in on time. 

7:36 AM

tsukuachi please

 

7:36 AM

I'll stop bothering you about it when you finally turn your paperwork on time for once instead of having me, do it.

With legible handwriting. 

 ---

I promised myself I would not let you break me, but here we are; a blade in hand, poison in my veins, and the blood that drips from your hands to mine. 

--- 

Chemicals. 

Sterile chemicals. 

It's the first thing Eri notices when she starts to pull herself awake. 

Her nose stings in that familiar way when she smells the overpowering stench of cleaning agents. All she can do is bring her hand to her nose to keep her eyes from watering. 

It's been a long time since she's smelled it and she hates it.

At first, she expects to see the dim grey walls of her room but the ceiling is unfamiliar. It's lined with bright plastic lights and it's also super white. 

Where is she? 

The bedsheets aren't right either, they're too scratchy and thin to be the ones back in her room- and, and the room! It's too bright, too strange to be her room either. There are machines everywhere instead of all the toys the Yakuza members keep bringing her. 

Even if it smells the same this isn't the Yakuza hideout... is it? 

So... She's safe, right? There's no... no bad people here? 

Eri squeezes her eyes shuts trying to remember what happened. 

The muted chaos all around her, the passing rapid conversations about a vehicle of some sort, the roads blocked, the general area needing to be locked down- and a whole bunch more words that Eri doesn't really understand maybe Izuku would explain-

The tired look on his face, the slump of his body, the small dotting of scars just under the collar of his shirt, the shadows that always seemed to follow him had swallowed him whole that night. 

Izuku. 

Izuku is... 

They had taken her away from him. 

Steady arms dragging her away kicking and screaming and clawing for them to take her back.  But they didn't listen (only Izuku listens). Even if the arms had felt sturdy, and warm like Izuku's they took her- took her away from the place where Izuku had been. 

What if Izuku came back? What if she missed it? Him coming back to her? Would he know where she is now- she doesn't even know where she is! 

Her throat is closing. It's closing super fast, it's like she can't- she can't breathe! Her arms are turning numb and heavy. Her chest is squeezing in on itself so badly that it hurts, it hurts! Her vision swims. Everything isn't what it is anymore there are two of some things and black dots dancing everywhere.  

When she opens her mouth to try and suck in a breath the air gets caught in her throat and refuses to go any further. She's shaking now. Shaking so badly she can hear the bed frame rattle, and the beeping machine get louder and beep faster. 

She can't breathe, shecan'tbreathe- her vision blurs with the tears pricking the corner of her eyes and she's- she's going to-

-she's going to die, she's going to die here, without Izuku, with him gone in some strange place,  with nobody- and Izuku, Izuku isn't here with her, and he might not be okay!-

A warm solid weight presses against her back almost like an anchor. There's a shadow cast over her almost eclipsing away the light from the too-bright ceiling.

"Breathe okay, breathe with me." They sound tired, but kind almost-almost like Izuku with the soft gentle tone. Eri wishes she could turn and look at them but she can't! She can't stop shaking or trembling no matter how much she wishes she could.  "I'm going to count to ten okay? And I want to inhale with me okay? We're going to hold it in for four seconds, and then let it out for another four okay? Can you hear me?" 

The person is rubbing soothing circles on her back in an attempt to keep her steady, "Okay one-" they draw in a long inhale and just like they said four seconds pass before Eri hears them exhale, "-two." 

Slowly, with each number that they count Eri feels a little less trapped, and a little less awful. Each inhales, and exhale calms her drumming heart that had been hurting so much. Their steady inhaling and exhaling help, it helps a lot. Eri tries her absolute best to follow their example because her chest isn't hurting so much anymore, even if she's still nauseous. 

Eri doesn't know how long it had taken her to steady herself but by the end of it, she's exhausted. 

The world feels wrong around her unsteady body. Each breath that drags past her lips feels heavy and she wants nothing more than to fall against the bed and simply sleep, but it would be rude to not thank the person for helping her. Eri doesn't want to be rude. 

"Th-Thank you." Her tongue feels heavy in her mouth, and her head feels so slow. But she fights through the exhaustion to look at the person who helped her. 

"How are you feeling?"It's a woman, with long brown hair tied into a messy bun, or well she assumes it's a bun. Izuku told her all about hairstyles but she's not sure if it's the right hairstyle or not. She smells kinda funny too, like cleaning chemicals except it's got a tinge of sweetness to it, and their clothes are all wrinkled with a brown stain on her white tee and some holes in her jeans.  

Overhaul would have disproved of her and taken her apart immediately. 

"I'm-I'm feeling okay...." Her throat itches a lot, and she wants water but what if this adult isn't as nice as they seem? 

"I'm glad you're okay." The woman seems tense, even if her tall form blocks out some of the light, the few that manage to hit her bounces off her harshly. The tall black curling horns almost seem white, and her skin is ghostly pale- almost as pale as Izuku and that thought makes her taste smoke as she looks into their pitch-black eyes. 

Eyes so dark they look like shadows have swallowed away her pupils. She wonders if that's what Izuku eyes would have looked like if the darkness that Eri saw really did swallow him. 

"I need you to do something for me okay?" She sounds a lot like Izuku too, her voice is desperate, tinged by something dark and sad. "Please." She begs, and Eri notices her lips are cracked. 

"Who are you?" It's rude and disobedient but Izuku told her that she should always check who a person is first, just to be safe. 

And Eri wants to be safe, she wants to be safe so Izuku has somewhere safe to come back to and he doesn't need to worry about her. 

(But even if in the back of her mind, she could see it; Izuku being disassembled. Never to be put back together. The image lurks in the back of her mind the red-stained walls, the nauseating sounds of ripping bones, and splattering flesh. 

But Eri has to believe, he'll come back. He promised her he'll come back she just needs to be patient and find someplace he can come back to, someplace safe so he doesn't always have to look over his shoulder like he used to.) 

"I'm Emiyo, and I need you to come with me. Please." Her eyes are constantly looking between her and the closed door, Izuku would do that too.

"Why." She croaks out. It's always good to check what a person wants from you, so you know if you want to do it or not. That's what Izuku told her, and if she doesn't want to do she should put her foot down and fight for it. 

"Becuase, there are people looking for you okay? We need to go now!" Eri squeaks as the woman grips her arm tightly and yanks out a wire that had been connected to her arm and practically hauls her out of the bed. "We don't have a lot of time okay?"

"W-wait!! Where are we-!" Emiyo opens the door quickly and Eri finds herself being taken outside of the too white room with all the strange machines and out into a hallway.

The noise is the first thing that Eri notices. It's a quiet sort of noise, the one where people are talking to each other but not too loudly. Young and old all populate the halls, some of them are wearing the same plain blue dress as she is and others are wearing a bright blue uniform that she isn't familiar with. 

"Just be quiet okay?" Emiyo whispers hurriedly, "Nobody needs to know that we're leaving." Eri doesn't understand though why? Why does she need to leave? But she doesn't dare ask out of fear. Her voice sounded desperate and almost scared like she might drop the other shoe at any second, and Eri doesn't want this kind person to change into a mean person because of her own mistakes, or because she did something annoying. 

But it hurts! Her leg throbs and the woman is holding on so tightly that she can almost feel her bones crack- the grip is familiar and her thoughts go dark. 

It's like Overhaul. It's Overhaul all over again, isn't it?

Why doesn't she ever get a choice in anything? Everything hurts, and she's tired and thirsty, and she can barely stand she has to obey her. She has to obey the adult or else she'll be punished, and Eri doesn't want to make the nice woman mad, and they always get mad when Eri doesn't listen. 

And she sounds so sad and so desperate. It must be important right? Wherever Emiyo wants to take her? She can trust her right? She helped her after all! She helped her, and nobody at the Yakuza would have helped her like this. So kind, and gentle, instead of treating her like she was some kind of burden on them.  

The woman walks with a determined type of fury that's fueled with desperation. She's fast. Each of her steps covering almost twice the distance of Eri's. It makes it difficult for her to keep up, and they've barely started walking and she's already struggling to keep up. Emiyo's head keeps constantly swiveling from left to right like she's double-checking their surroundings for something, or someone. 

Izuku used to do that too when they left the warehouse. His shoulders pulled together in a straight line, his chin tilted just a little bit up as his eyes swept over the area multiple times as discreetly as possible. 

But this woman isn't like Izuku who radiates a type of quiet worry. 

The way she looks around is wild and frenzied, like a cornered animal. And the worry that permeates from her isn't the one where Izuku is worried about their safety, she's terrified about being caught. 

By the time they reach a pair of bright shining metal doors Eri is completely drained. How long will they have to walk for? Can she ask for breaks? Izuku would let her take breaks whenever she wanted or would she get mad at her? 

Emiyo presses one of the buttons with an arrow drawn on it, and then they wait. 

Eri curls her toes together realizing that the people around them are giving her weird looks, she isn't supposed to be here is she? She doesn't belong here with her feet sore from walking barefoot and her body giving small tremors from the cold. The thin fabric of the dress she's been given is so thin, it doesn't keep her warm at all. 

It's difficult fighting back another wave of nausea, it makes her sway on her feet for a moment before suddenly her arm is jerked backward and she nearly tumbles over her own two feet from the sudden movement.  

"Emiyo?!" The metal doors swoosh open. It's a small cramped room filled with mirrors and a single tall man wearing a large tan coat, and a black hat. 

"D-detective-detective Naomasa?!" Emiyo grip on her arm tightens impossibly, and Eri winces feeling her own knuckles turn white. 

"What are you doing here...?" The man, Naomasa seems to trail off as he looks down. 

Eri stares blearily at his face. 

His whole body seems to go rigid and his eyes snap back up to the women's face. A loud crash jerk's Eri out of her exhausted mental state, the man dropped the case he had been holding. His dark eyes are wide and he is making a move for something that's on his waist. 

Those are the only details she is allowed to note before the world spins. The ground disappears from under her feet and a pair of arms are crushing her chest against theirs. Everything goes by so quickly. Sudden chaos of screaming and shouting breaks through the soft white noise of before, as the world around her becomes nothing more but a white smear dotted with a few colors.   

Eri hasn't even registered what has just happened. Only that she's not even standing on her own two feet anymore and the world is moving so unbearably fast that she might just throw up. 

"EMIYO!!!" Is that Naomasa? But his shout is almost drowned out amongst the panicked voices and sounds of crashing objects. 

Eri jerks her head up and tightens her grip on the pair of arms that are currently carrying her. She can see the beads of sweat forming on Emiyo's neck and the small wisp of smoke that's leaving her mouth. 

"EMIYO STOP!!!" That's a different voice this time, she doesn't recognize it.  

"HOLD IT EMIYO FUJIOKA!" Emiyo looks backward her eyes wide before she grabs something big, and large and throws it down behind her. It crashes against the floor with a massive boom. 

The air whips past her face and nips at her skin if she wasn't shivering before she is now. Even though the woman is warm; her body radiating a type of encompassing warmth Eri has never felt colder. 

She's tired, and everything hurts, and she doesn't know what's happening. But that's not new, is it? She never gets to know what's happening, the adults never tell her anything. 

She never gets a choice in what happens. 

The smears become almost indecipherable to make out against the tears that are starting to build in her eyes. 

"EMIYO STOP DON'T MAKE ME SHOOT!" That was Naomasa. 

Emiyo doesn't stop instead she just runs faster, and Eri starts shivering a lot more. Her teeth are chattering so bad she could feel them sending vibrations through her skull. 

But then it changes. There's a single loud bang that shrills through her ears, and the pressure is released from her chest before the ground rushes up to meet her. She collides into the ground chin first, her teeth rattling in her skull and pain blossoming all through her body. Her leg burns now, it had been nothing but a dull throb before but now it burns, and hisses at her and sends sparks all up to her body.

The floor is surprisingly warm, or maybe Eri is just colder than it. She's not sure. 

She's seeing two of everything again, there's two of the same woman blurring together on the floor with a quickly growing pool of red under her. There are so many people splitting apart and merging back together, and the lights are so bright they sting her eyes. 

"Naomasa, naomasa please, please, please god you need to let me do this-" Eri squeezes her eyes shut and hopes maybe it'll get better.  "-naomasa, please! Let me go, let me give her to them! They-they-" Emiyo's voice reaches a hysterical point before she starts breaking out into sobs.

When Eri opens her eyes again her vision is a little bit blurr but she could see. She could see that Naomasa's face is tight with something she doesn't quite understand. 

He's holding a gun in his hands still pointed at the woman, and there are people gathered all around them, two of them are in a bright blue uniform with navy blue hats.   

"Please! You can't do this to me, please! Let me give her to them! They- They-" Her hand is clutched around her thigh where her skin is quickly staining red, "-they have my daughter!" 

"Who?" It's Naomasa's voice sounding rough around the edges. If Eri focuses enough she could see the slight tremble in his hands and the shaking gun as if he's afraid of the answer he may receive.   

"Sensei." She answers in between broken sobs, her breathing becoming harsher and harsher with every passing second. "Please, please let me go, let me go, let me-let me you have to let me turn her in- I have to save my daughter- please- please oh god, no no nonono-" 

Eri is cold, but her chest hurts because she knows what a daughter is. 

This is her fault, isn't it? It's her fault this kind woman is bleeding from the leg and sobbing in between her ragged breathing. She doesn't know a sensei but she's sure it's because she disobeyed Overhaul, maybe if she had just listened and hadn't ever let herself become so selfish maybe this kind woman wouldn't be crying, and bleeding and missing a daughter. 

This is her fault, this is her fault, this is her fault,this is her fault,thisisherfault,thisisherfault!!

Eri lets the tears fall quietly as she lies against the floor, and watches them take the woman away half dragging and half limping. 

She's still crying and begging even when she's halfway down the hallway. 

 ---

I promised myself I would not let you break me, but here we are; a blade in hand, poison in my veins, and the blood that drips from your hands to mine. 

--- 

"This is detective Tsukuachi and I am currently interrogating Emiyo Fujioka, age 34, quirk heat absorption." The button on the recorder feels cold against the pad of his fingers. The room feels cold, and desolate like it always does, or even more now, "By absorbing heat from other living things she can strengthen her body or transform it into flames."

 It's not the first time Tsukuachi is sitting in an interrogation room across a fellow officer. 

"Naomasa please-" Emiyo's eyes are puffy and red-rimmed. There are quirk suppressing cuffs tied against her wrist, and she's wearing a new non-bloody shirt but her hair is greasy. 

Her lips are dry and cracked as if she hadn't bothered to do anything for herself recently.  

"What time did you arrive at the victim's room?" His voice sounds strained even to his own ears. 

He can see his reflection in her pitch-black eyes, the bags on his face and the small sag in his shoulders that no matter how much he tries to correct won't disappear. Emiyo visibly deflates. The muscles in her body visibly uncoiling as if the energy from her body was being sapped away by some dark spirit. 

"6:35 AM." She whispers quietly. So quietly he's not even sure if the recorder can pick it up. 

"What did you do when you first arrived at the victim's room?" She closes her eyes, an almost resigned look on her face. Strands of her hair falling into her face and blowing away with her breath. 

"She-she was having a panic attack so I-" She swallows thickly, she looks pale almost sickly "-I helped her through it..." Her eyes cast to the left the light glinting off the void in her eyes. She's not crying, her eyes aren't even misting over now. 

Like she's resigned herself to fate. 

"Why?" His knuckles are white from how hard he was gripping the pen in his hand as he prepared himself to write down her responses.

"I couldn't just take her like that." Emiyo half mumbles, resting her chin on the palm of her hand. The cuffs clink together almost solemnly. "My daughter, Fuyuki-" She runs her tongue over her lips, "-she used to get panic attacks too, you know. They were painful for her, and I couldn't just let her go through that too. Even if- even if I was taking her to a villain." Emiyo closes her eyes again, and Naomasa just stares, his heart pounding in his chest and in between his ears.  

Nothing from his quirk yet but Naomasa knows she knows about his quirk, and she knows how easy it is to bypass. 

To simply omit the truth, never outright deny it but never quite admit to it.

But something in his gut tells him she won't be doing that.

At the end of the interrogation when he's calling in other officers to take her away, she looks at him. 

There's something sad about her eyes. Something haunting about her sullen cheeks and red-rimmed eyes. 

"Naomasa- please, if-if you find her, my daughter, protect her please she-" They're dragging her through to the door now even when she digs her heels into the ground to try and get this message to him, "-she's everything to me! Please find her for me- get a hero to save her, please!" She's crying again, small tears streaking down her cheeks and landing with quiet little plips onto the floor

The door slams shut. 

Naomasa wonders what he'll have to tell her husband. 

 ---

I promised myself I would not let you break me, but here we are; a blade in hand, poison in my veins, and the blood that drips from your hands to mine. 

--- 

<Messages Has No Self Preservation Edit>

9:03 PM

are you alright my dear friend? 

i saw the news

 

9:03 PM

I've been

better

9:03 PM

would you like to talk about it?

9:05 PM

Yeah that'd be good 

Bring a bottle of sake with you

maybe two

9:05 PM

i'll be on my way shortly then

9:10 PM

I know you're busy with the UA thing and you only have a limited amount of time in your muscle form but... 

Can I ask a favor from you?

9:10 PM

of course!

9:10 PM

I'll

I'll tell you about in more detail when you get here.  

 

 ---

I promised myself I would not let you break me, but here we are; a blade in hand, poison in my veins, and the blood that drips from your hands to mine. 

--- 

Izuku wakes to a stone-cold floor with aches and pains all over his body. 

The place reeks of the sterile chemicals of the laboratories. It's a pungent smell that makes him scrunch his nose in distaste. 

"You sure have given me quite the trouble RA-01. Disappearing like that for two whole weeks." Izuku's skin crawls he knows that voice, he doesn't even need to open his eyes to know who it belongs to. "Though I'm quite glad the training we invested in you has turned out fruitful... It appears our programming, however, has not." 

Izuku has felt terror before but this time it's different. 

He feels it etched into his bones and sunk deep into the fragments of his soul. 

"You were supposed to bring the girl to us, after all the trouble we went through to help you escape." All for One hums as Izuku cracks his crusty eyes open. The walls are stained with probably dried blood despite the number of chemicals Izuku smells they couldn't wash them out. 

All for One is standing off to the side, his figure mostly covered in shadows as the only source of light seems to be a weak light bulb that looks like it hasn't been changed in decades.

"I would have thought you received the message before we set everything up but perhaps that's my fault. Shigaraki is rather... Indelicate after all, perhaps your programming was broken." The man gives a pregnant pause long enough for Izuku to feel his skin crawl.

Izuku knows him like the back of his palm. All for One is always playing a game, there's always a goal he wants you to do, there's always something, something, something! He chokes on his saliva as he pushes himself weakly off the floor keeping his eyes trained All for One not daring to look around the room.

All for One is doing something. 

"Or maybe it's that spirit of yours. " He steps closer, and Izuku snaps back eyes wide. His heart caught between his chest and his stomach, as the silence was drowned out by the roaring in his ears. 

What is he planning on doing? Can he even survive this? He barely survived the last one- 

There's a calloused hand on his cheek angling his head towards what Izuku assumes is the center of the room but he can't tell because that horrifying mask is pressed right into his face and when did he get so close-  and he can't move his body. Why can't he move his body? 

Why can't he-

"I never did quite know what to think of you when I received the reports. You were just some kid we were plucking off the streets, but perhaps I should have been more thorough with you, yes?"  All for One produces a single katana from behind his back, the temperature in the room drops a few degrees as sweat starts beading off his skin. 

Izuku stares at his own awful reflection in the glint of the silver blade. 

He studies it. He studies it in all it's awful and gory detail. The dark freckles sprinkled across his face, the trace of a handprint across his sunken cheeks, the thinness of his frame, the deathly paleness of his ruined skin, and a pair of lifeless eyes that stared right back. 

Izuku knows fear, he knows terror, he knows horror, he knows every dark fleeting emotion that no child should have to experience. 

But at this moment, in this single terrifying moment where he could see the pristine detail of All for One's finely tailored suit, the soft glint of his mask in the dim light, the smell of his cologne, and the light scars dotting the man's hands. This single moment would have him think otherwise, that no- 

-he doesn't know what they are when the man drops the katana to the floor. The very sound of metal crashing against stone echoes and shakes Izuku's very core. And fills his throat with a thousand crawling spiders each desperately trying to crawl out of his mouth and spill out onto the floor in front of him. 

But nothing comes out, his throat is clogged and his body is frozen against his own will. 

All for One steps away, and there under the single light bulb is a figure on their knees... Is Overhaul. The soft yellow light bouncing off his green jacket, and the blood-stained fur around his neck. His pants are torn revealing open wounds with a greenish tinge to each of them, and there's blood dribbling down his face but despite how exposed, and beaten Overhaul looks there's a type of fury burning lowly in his eyes.  

"I'll make this easy for your heroic spirit." Izuku sucks in a cold, bitterly cold breathe and feels his lungs frost over with it as feeling starts returning to his limbs. "He's a villain, and you're playing the hero~." All for One's voice carries this odd lilt that Izuku can't decipher, it's almost as if the man was laughing. 

Izuku has worked for the League of Villians. He's done their dirty work, he's cleaned evidence, he has sabotaged crime scenes, he's gathered data, he's collected money, but there was something he had sworn to himself back when he had burned his first body and the scent of burned flesh wouldn't leave the back of his mouth. 

He may be a villain's tool but he would not stoop to their level. 

He promised himself he would not let them take away the one thing that he still had control over (but that's not true anymore is it? There's something lurking in his blood, buried deep in his chest that has been lying dormant. Izuku knew it was only dormant he simply hadn't wanted to believe that the change was permanent, he may not even be able to control his own body anymore.) 

Izuku could feel Overhaul's burning gaze on him, but he's mute and oddly still. 

Like a puppet with its strings cut. Izuku wonders how long he had been like that. How long had he been frozen there against his will (how long until Izuku becomes him)?

"Well then, go on RA-01-" All for One rumbles, almost purring like a pleased cat, "-kill him, hero."

 ---

I promised myself I would not let you break me, but here we are; a blade in hand, poison in my veins, and the blood that drips from your hands to mine. 

--- 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

---

The katana is cold against Izuku's hands. His fingers tighten their grip against his own wishes. 

He wants nothing more than to let go. 

But what Izuku wants doesn't matter. 

Even his own body defies him (it's not his)

But he can't let go (his body remembers, it remembers, it remembers what it had endured)

The hilt burns against his calloused palms like acid. 

His limbs are locked in place and his muscles tense with the anticipation of pain. His skin sticky with sweat (but it feels more like his own blood), as everything inside of him, coils tightly in waiting. Somewhere in the back of his throat he can remember the taste of his own blood and vomit mixing together (his head tied to the table, the leather cuts into his throat, there's nowhere for the blood and vomit to go)

The skin of his cheek tingling with the phantom feeling of crumbling away to dust (you can't do something they don't like, didn't you learn your lesson last time?)

If he closes his eyes he could feel the bones that never healed right fracturing all over again, the skin of his abdomen being cut into, the flesh of his back being unraveled, the air against his exposed spine-    

Izuku chokes while trying to swallow all the vomit crawling up his throat. 

Vibrations roll up his arms in droves, traveling with the minute tremors down to his trembling wrists. His knees feel like jelly as he stands like a newborn doe fighting the urge to dry heave. He almost falls against the ground and shuts down right then and there. But it's tantalizing. So much more tantalizing to collapse here on the floor. 

So tantalizingly easier than doing... doing this.  

The sweat beading down his skin leaves trails of icefire, as he counts each beat of his heart.

Time has never traveled as slowly as it has before then at this moment. 

As much as Izuku doesn't want to lose this last shred of his humanity, the last piece of good that separates him from them. He knows he is also weak (so, very, very weak)

This thing he calls a body is fragile; made of nothing more but skin and bones, and haphazardly cobbled together parts that don't belong together. 

It's not a body that belongs to him (and it never will be again).

 With each passing second he feels his bones creak under the weight of every session he had to endure, and every punishment he had survived. 

(He will not survive another)

As he stands here with his chest closing in around his cowering heart, looking at the man kneeling before him in the eye. Watching the low burning fury in their golden-yellow eyes, and counting the drips of sweat rolling down his own skin, Izuku knows he is also scared (he can't, he can't go through that again,he can't,he just can't,he-)

He chokes. 

Izuku could remember a time he sat on the cot in the back of his closet room. A time where he swore on the tally marks carved into the walls and made promises on the broken shards of decade-old pencils and overused notebooks. 

He told himself he wouldn't let himself do this.  

He would not become the villains that they were. 

He would not let the pieces of their characters shove themselves into the cracks of his (Izuku's character is all he has left). 

Sometimes under the harshest conditions, the only thing keeping him going had been the small things. The little promises of what he could keep and what parts of him belonged to himself. He stayed up night after night to tell himself he was not the amalgamation of what they shoved inside of him(but that's not the case anymore is it?)

Standing here with the cement smooth against his dirty feet and staring down a man Izuku told himself he had no qualms about killing before, he hesitates. 

He should move, or just do something!

All for One won't wait forever. 

(Izuku can't afford to make him mad.)

It's odd, looking at a man that had once loomed over him like a tower. The impossible stillness of Overhaul's body is unsettling, like a puppet with cut strings. Seeing him frozen on his knees, blood crusted into his face, grease slick against his hair, and dust scattered across him. 

Izuku tastes something dying in the back of his throat. 

He remembers the way Eri had looked at him that first time in the unlit hall. Her body trembling under his, eyes wide with surprise, and her fingers clutching against him like a lifeline. 

When he remembers the way her tears hade made his shirt damp or the way she wakes up next to him with a jolt. Eri's fingers tightening around her own arms, clawing at something. Nails digging into her skin like she's searching for something, only to be surprised it's no longer there. 

The way she jerks her head up with eyes glazed and not quite registering the world for a moment. Before she jerks backward, eyes snapping open and landing with a sudden focus on Izuku's face. She's surprised when she sees Izuku. Almost as if she hadn't expected to find him still there, by her side. The thought leaves him feeling hollow now, not the usual boiling rage. 

He used to dream about this moment. Used to wonder if there would ever come a time and he could bend down to Eri's head and look her in the eye, and tell her Overhaul would never hold her captive again. That she would never have to fear waking up in a room with only a window's glimpse to the outside world. 

That she would never be scared to go to sleep and wake up without him (he supposes, that she will have to now)

But here, at this moment? Standing over Overhaul only inches away from the man's face. Izuku doesn't feel that hot boiling fury that he thought he would, or the ice-cold wrath that made his knuckles turn white. 

He only feels empty. Hesitation is the only thing keeping him from lifting that blade in a high arc and swinging it down. 

Eri believes in this image of Izuku he is not sure he could have ever lived up to. When he recalls the image of her looking at him with something so beautiful; eyes sparkling with light, a small sigh escaping her lips as she watches the sunrise while running her fingers over grass. 

The way admiration and appreciation seem to eclipse her eyes when she looks at him. 

Eri believes in an Izuku that he doesn't believe ever could exist. 

And maybe it's that thought that keeps the blade steady, or that small curling feeling inside his ribcage, or that wistful longing to at least hope that he could be that better image of himself. Perhaps it was that little boy in the back of his head with his face tucked into his knees rocking back and forth in a room with claustrophobic walls, whispering words that carried all the weight of his small aching heart. 

(But he knows why. He knows why he tastes iron across his tongue. Why there are dark memories in the back of his mind clawing to be let into the forefront. Why he feels like keeling over and letting the earth swallow him whole. Why he so desperately clings to the small blessings in his life. If he were a stronger less selfish person maybe he could one day see her again, and tell her she would never have to worry about Overhaul again.

Something in his gut claws its way to stand on all fours.  

(Would she turn away in disgust knowing what he was?)

He lifts the blade. 

(A selfish-) 

All for One places his hands on Izuku's shoulders. 

(-dirty,)

Izuku could feel it. 

(-rotten,)

The rank stench of All for One's will, like a hot whisper ghosting over the back of his neck-

(-coward.) 

Izuku lets go. 

(He will not survive another.)

 ---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

---

"Good morning sleeping beauty!!" A high pitched voice giggles as Izuku blinks open his bleary eyes, "It's been a while since they've brought in another one!!" 

Waking up to the feeling of cold metal will never be a pleasant feeling Izuku decides while straining against the heaviness in his arms to sit up. However, it proves to be a futile effort after giving up and collapsing against the floor. The right side of his head throbs painfully as he rouses from unconsciousness (he can't help the feeling of disappointment). Pressing a heavy hand against his temples doesn't do much either. 

"You smell funny." A girl's voice?  His vision is spotty at best, and the dim lighting doesn't help as he tries to look through the haze for some indication of the other person "I wonder what you are."  

Izuku faces the direction the voice came from.  

The spots in his vision are still dancing but he could at least make out the way she scrunches her nose. The deep scars running along her face and the disproportionate wideness of her crooked smile make him feel unsettled. 

"What?" He immediately regrets speaking.  Damn, that hurts. He runs his tongue over his cracked lips in a sorry attempt to soothe them. He doesn't remember anything once he dropped the blade. Did they knock him out? 

"Hi!" She giggles, some of her dirty blonde hair catches in her mouth, "It's nice to meet you!" She shoves her arm in through the gaps in between the bars and freezes her hand as far as it can go. It hangs there limply. 

Izuku blinks. Once. Twice, and then three times until he realizes what she wants. His eyes hover on her hand for a moment before he tries to study her face.

Keyword: tries. 

It's difficult to see much of anything through the darkness the only detail being the vacancy of her eyes and the lump of metal that catches his eye.

Something gleams under the low light just on the right side of her head. He can't make much of the design but just that it's medium-sized, maybe only half the width of his arms (but then he supposes his sticks for arms aren't a very good form of measurement). It's not sleek, but not quite bulky either. A headband? An odd accessory. How is it attached? It's only visible from one side of her head, but even only a glimpse makes his skin crawl. They never allowed anyone anything more to wear besides the plain white gown. He thumbs his own gown subconsciously, Izuku doesn't remember ever changing into it (the thought disturbs him a lot less than he thought it would)

The girl seemingly impatient uses her free hand to rattle the cages. The bars shake and tremble. Tremors spilling out from the shaking bars, the rolling high pitches of someone's screaming-

The world phases around him, the air tasting more like vomit and rot then stale chemicals. Walls grow taller, disappearing into some unforeseen horizon as the room stretches. Stacks upon stacks of cages, the darkness inside them morphing into loose silhouettes of something that had once been human. The cage door creaks open. Someone reaches through with their hands. Its fingers stretched wide, ready to encompass him but Izuku refuses, and in his defiance, he latches on to the bars and refuses to let go. He grips so tight his knuckles turn white, and they have to physically pry his fingers from the bars (he should have clung tighter, maybe they would have been irritated enough to kill him)

He blinks (he tries to pretend his pulse isn't galloping a 100 miles a minute)

Nothing but stale chemicals, in a room with only 7 other cages.

Izuku swallows down the taste of blood that tried to climb up his throat. 

"Well come on then!!!" She shakes the bars of his cage again, the noise makes him hold back a wince (the cage doors were always loud).  

He eyes her hand again, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But after an incredibly tense and drawn-out moment, it becomes clear she wasn't going to give up on this. 

Izuku hesitates, something about this girl sets him off the edge.

Slowly, very, very, slowly he carefully lifts his hand nears her. 

A mistake. 

The girl lunges forward her hand snapping up to life, the tips of her fingers had sunk into his delicate flesh with lightning-fast speed. "You're so slow!!!" Something sparks in her vacant blue eyes as she grins maniacally. The pressure around his hand lifts as she lets go, but not before one last jolt runs through as if something had been hooked into his flesh before being pulled out.  

A sharp jolt of pain stabs right through his hand, he hadn't even had a chance to register what had happened, let alone react.

"What the hell-!" The words die in his throat, watching in muted horror as she brings her hand to her mouth and sucks her fingers dry of the blood, maintaining eye contact the whole time. He doesn't miss the way something had glinted at the end of her fingertips, something black, and curved. 

She laughs. 

Not just any laugh, a full-body laugh that has her jerking backward and her head rolling around. A laugh with the kind of annoying pitch that burns against your ears, and leaves you with frostbite at the same time.

She jerks her fingers out of her mouth with a loud pop. 

Izuku thought it was impossible for her smile to get any wider. He thought wrong.  

"Oh, I know what you are now." Izuku cradles his injured right hand towards his chest, drawing in harsh breaths. She falls still for a moment, her eyes boring into his like she's looking for something before pulling away with a satisfied hum.

"You're funny, number one." And then she drops against the floor of her cage and laughs, hysterically. 

Number one? Izuku's mind jumps from question to question, who is she? What the hell happened to him, how did he get here? And what the fuck?

Like what the fuck. 

Honestly, what the fuck? His head hurts, and now his hand hurts, and he does not have the mental capacity to deal with this. 

His left hand is sticky with blood now, and the cold sweat building on his skin doesn't make him feel any more comfortable. Izuku tries not to dwell on what she said or the thoughts rampaging through his brain as he watches her drop to the ground jerkily as if her body wasn't made to move with human limbs. 

She lets out a soft giggle that sounds almost... normal. Like the kind of laughter he used to hear when he could walk outside during assignments and he'd catch people loitering near cafes, or storefronts.  His heart twinges at the reminder of the world outside, but he doesn't let his mind stray too close to the thought (he can't afford to)

 ---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

---

It's been some time since their... interaction if one could call it that. The girl hasn't moved in a while simply sprawled across the floor of her cage quietly humming a tune that he could barely hear. It's a nice tune that makes pure, unadulterated exhaustion seep through his body that drops against the cage. Some of the tension slips but not all of it away once he realized that yeah, he's here again. Stuck here in another cage, perpetually waiting. 

Waiting for the next thing he would have to suffer through, waiting for the next phase of his life, waiting, waiting, waiting, and waiting. 

Maybe he should be a little more panicked or terrified at what they were going to do to him after the stunt he pulled. 

But he's not. 

Here he is staring at the ceiling of his cage with nothing but apathy and unwilling to sleep. Even as he curls into himself trying to get comfortable he doesn't let himself relax, not that the sharp throbbing pain in his bleeding hand would let him relax anyways.

It's a testament to how dark the room is when he closes his eyes and barely notices a difference. This place is awfully quiet the girl's humming aside. Only the steady hum of the AC to fill the silence. Which is bizarre now that he thinks about it because Izuku can't remember a time when he'd been in an air-conditioned room when he'd been held captive. 

The warehouse they used to keep him in had never been quiet. There was always something. Some noise that kept the place occupied. Maybe the person in the cage next to him would shuffle around in the cramped cage, their bloodied gown rustling as they tried to get comfortable. A couple of rows away, somebody would be hacking with blood and spittle flying from their lips as they heaved out what little contents they had in their stomachs. The person right across from him would make a desperate whine in the back of their throat, body randomly spasming as their lungs cried for one last gulp of air before they collapsed. Body crumbling to the floor of their cage dying in a pile of their own vomit and piss. 

It would be days until the body was removed for the next.  

Has the girl next to him been in the warehouse? 

She's gone deathly still in the past couple of minutes which somehow strikes him as odd. She doesn't seem to be the kind of girl to be still like that. Frozen on death's bed, as if her body could no longer cooperate with her.  

Izuku doesn't like this. 

He doesn't like being alone with his thoughts. He doesn't like how his mind always seems to take a turn towards the worse no matter how hard he tries to steer it away to something else. Everything he thinks always seems to lead to some deep rabbit hole. Even the strange, hazy-like apathy that's wrapped around him doesn't seem to want to shield him against the dark corners of his mind. But then again nothing does these days.

He's forgotten what it was like in his short time outside, and his long captivity under Shigaraki. He's forgotten what it was like to be trapped with nothing to keep him occupied but the hunger and the aches that never seem to want to disappear. The intervals between events felt always felt long and yet so short. 

A long arduous wait for the next session, and yet when they pulled him from his cage the wait wasn't long enough. 

Just at the base of the neck, his hair stands on end. 

He's waiting. Waiting for an innumerable amount of things; his next mental spiral, the next checkup, the next surgery, the next planned schedule they have for him, the next punishment, the next training session, or the next phase. 

The list goes on. 

He can't bother to keep track anymore.

There's the girl in the cage next to his with unseeing eyes and hair as unkempt as his, making him feel like he's not supposed to be here. The tangled web of her hair and the painful stretching of her face when she smiles the smiles that don't fit leaves him feeling uncomfortable.

His left-hand aches dully now. He compartments the pain in with the rest.  

Minutes tick by, or maybe hours. He's not sure, but he is fairly certain that the girl next to him isn't actually asleep as he originally thought. She's still, like a puppet. Her breathing is perfectly steady nothing about her seems to give it away. Must be some kind of innate intuition, but he guesses it doesn't really matter, not anymore at least.  

(The small details like this used to matter, back then. When he hoped he could claw his way out, he doesn't have that hope anymore.) 

At the very least, Izuku isn't the least bit surprised when she suddenly jerks up with her whole body launching upward so fast Izuku could feel the buffet of wind. Izuku glances at her with a tired eye. Her face is pressed against the bars of his cage with the hot fog of her breath barely visible in the darkness. 

Yep, still weirdly creepy.

"You're not gonna talk to me?!" The skin on her face looks stretched to its limits, "Ask me anything?! You know you can ask me anything?!" 

"No?" Izuku's injured hand twitches as he watches her with almost tense apprehension. There is a lot he wants to ask her like why she called him Number One, but the questions all die on the tip of his tongue. Something about her makes him nervous, a creeping feeling building in his gut that tells him he won't like the answers he may get. 

She taps her fingers against the bars in response. Tilting her head left at an almost impossible angle as she pouts. 

"Really?!" The girl drops her head, her face no longer in view, somehow that only unsettles him more, "What about my name?! Do you wanna know my name?!!" She jerks up again, a smile stretching across her face. 

She reaches out to grab him again. She's fast Izuku notes as he just barely manages to retract his legs back towards himself in time to catch the light of something just at the tip of her fingers. But whatever it is it vanishes as soon as her hands come to a standstill. Fingers flat against the floor of his cage and tapping in an almost steady rhythm if it weren't for the erratic changes in tempo. 

Izuku's shoulders tense, as he keeps a wary eye. 

He doesn't offer her a response. 

"Ayame." She chirps anyways. "It's the only thing they let me keep." 

Something about her voice feels cracked, like the broken glass of a picture frame. 

Her smile only becomes more and more wrong the wider it gets like she doesn't quite know what to do with her mouth. It opens and closes like she wants to say something but, in the end, she's decided against it. Content to just keep it closed and hum a happy tune. 

Her vacant eyes never leaving his as she seems to come to a standstill, her hands pressed flat on the floor of Izuku's cage.

Izuku is left staring at her eyes as she stares right through him. 

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

--- 

Ayame likes to sing. 

That's one thing Izuku has learned from being trapped here for however long. He has no idea how long he's been here which is not surprising. The only way to tell time is the occasional meal drops of nutrient bars but that must have been hours ago. Since Izuku's stomach is aching more painfully now. 

The sad thing is that there's not even any water left from the bottle they dropped off to stave off the hunger pangs. He's spoiled himself being outside with Eri. 

Eri. 

His mouth twitches at the thought. Is she doing alright? They had been found by officers but are they the good ones? His heart goes cold as he lets his eyes fall closed.

He's not ready to explore that train of thought yet, instead choosing to block out the thought by picking up the small plastic bottle. It crinkles in his hands as he rolls it over while he lifts his head up to watch Ayame wave her fingers in the air to conduct an imaginary orchestra only she could hear.

Her eyes are closed in an almost serene expression as she hums. 

Her voice carries a soft touch to it as it reaches for the high notes. She starts out quiet at first the notes only moving along leisurely with an almost joyful tinkling. Her mouth stretches into a smile, that's so unlike all the other ones he's seen before. 

It looks right, like it fits on her face, and not stitched onto her skin. 

She starts humming louder bringing her fingers closer towards the top of her cage so that she can almost brush the metal. Her arms move on time to the melody before they flourish when her singing starts to swell. Izuku could almost imagine the orchestra she was conducting; clashing of drums coming together to synchronize the rest of the instruments, the violins drawing out long beautiful notes to meld together with the flutes, the deeper tones of the cellos and violas as the song speeds up. 

Notes leaping from one another in a beautifully fluid sound. 

She has a beautiful voice. 

Had it been a part of her quirk?

What had her life been like before she came here? 

Had she been stolen away from her home in the dead of night? Robbed from her parents in front of them? Or did she just wake up here with no recollection of how she got here like him? 

Did she go through the same agonizing process that he did? 

Despite how happy the song seems, there's something inherently sad about it. Or, well the way she sings it. Some of the notes she hums a little too long as if the notes are standing on the edge of something. Her voice a mere second away from teetering to the edge and falling into the unending abyss. 

There's something inexplicably sad about her. 

A tragic story that was written in the lines of her face, and the shadows across her skin. It makes his chest tighten with a cold feeling, but ache with sympathy too. He could only imagine what she must have gone through; what had they done to her to make her become like this? How did her eyes become nothing but an open door to her nonexistent soul? Open windows to a mind gone and shattered. 

A person who could no longer endure what they had put her through. 

How long?

How long until he becomes like her? How long can he survive this place, he had gotten lucky last time, didn't he? For some reason, they pulled him out to work for Shigaraki instead of letting him rot away like all the rest. Izuku got out of the warehouse out of sheer luck. If they hadn't pulled him out would he have ended up like all his neighbors? Glassy eyes staring at something far beyond the world as their breathing became more and more harsh until they finally gave up. Unable to bear the weight of what didn't belong to them. 

If he was still there, would he have died like them too? Or die on the table because he could not find the will inside of him to survive? 

How long does he have here? How long until the things they put inside would kill him? How long would he be able to survive on the table this time? How long does he have to wait for whatever punishment they must have planned for him?

Quietly, Izuku pushes himself up so he's sitting and draws his body closer himself. 

His hand still throbs, but not badly enough that it stops him from opening his mouth.

His voice is muted as he speaks, "How long have you been here?"

He's not sure if she could even hear him, but she blinks a long slow blink before the smile on her face evaporates. Her pale skin flakes off from her cheeks as she rolls onto her side to move away from him.

But she doesn't turn away fast enough. 

Izuku catches her face twisting into an emotion Izuku doesn't recognize (but he supposes he will eventually).

She doesn't grace him with a response.

Izuku doesn't ask again.

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

--- 

Surprisingly Ayame doesn't talk much. Despite their rocky... introduction would lead him to believe she's not really all that talkative. For the most part, all she does is hum and sing with the occasional interval of silence.  

It's the opposite of what Izuku expected of her which was talking nonstop or trying to get him to join in on a conversation. 

So he's surprised when he hears her talk to him, "Hey, Number 1?" 

Izuku hesitates for a moment his right hand still tracing the scabs on his left before he lets it drop to the floor. He's unsure if answering this would lead to him getting injured again. Other attempts at holding some semblance of a conversation with Ayame have either lead to her trying to grab him through the bars, or having her just simply shutting down and turning away.  

"Yeah?" He runs his tongue over his lips thankful that at least this time the guards dropped off a water bottle. 

Ayame doesn't respond right away. She must be mulling over whatever was bothering her because her humming dies down enough that Izuku has to strain to hear it. 

"You're the only one of us who's been outside other than Number 8." She says finally. Eyebrows furrowed a little bit as if she can't quite wrap her head around it. Hands reaching towards the ceiling of her cage fingers stretched to their limits as if she was trying to reach for something intangible. 

Izuku frowns at the last part but doesn't comment. He's missing so much information but trying to wheedle anything from Ayame is like trying to pull out a loose tooth; difficult, painful, and wholly unsatisfying. 

"I guess." He drops his head back against the cage bars, even if it is uncomfortable he doesn't want to move any closer to Ayame. Her erratic behavior still sets him on edge.   

"Is the sky still blue?" Izuku blinks, his mouth hanging slightly open caught off guard and shocked into a stupor.  

He snaps his mouth closed and turns away from Ayame's direction, and staring at the walkway that separates their row of cages from the one across from them. Cage Number 8 stares back at him bleakly, it's inhabitant missing but apparently must still be here under the thumb of All for One, somewhere. 

It takes a while for him to muster the strength to respond. The cold metal that's pressed against his back seems to be sapping away his energy as he closes his eyes and lets out a quiet sigh.

He could imagine Eri outside right now. 

Her silver hair finally cleaned out from all the grease and dirt it collected. Maybe tied in a neat little ponytail that would swing behind her, as she steps outside with the grass tickling her feet because she says it's her favorite thing ever. She told him it was better than the cold concrete back in her room, and the sun was so much brighter then she thought it was. He could imagine her body framed by the vibrant blue of the day and the edges of her face haloed by a white natural glow. 

Maybe she'd reach out towards the sky like last time with her hair splayed around her on the grass while she traced over the shape of the clouds with her thumbs, and tells him what she thought they all looked like. Maybe she'll still look him in the eye with that same look of admiration, and still be able to believe in that image of him he tried to live up to. 

"Yeah." He says quietly "It is."  

He wonders if Eri still gets to see the sunrises she loves so much. 

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

---

They're carting in something again Izuku notes dully as he watches the doors swing open with mild interest. Two guards keep the double doors open as he listens to the sound of wheels echo outside. It's probably a transport cage from the sound of it, light and scratchy.

A couple more beats pass as the cart gets closer until it comes into view as it gets pushed in. 

The transport cage isn't empty (he feels cold)

A lone prone figure lies on the floor of it, their auburn hair a tangled mess as Izuku watches them park the transport cage in the center of the room. Their face is turned away from him. 

Another one. 

One who hasn't been through the suffering yet. They're not skinny enough to have gone through everything yet. There's also a distinct lack of scars on what visible skin he could see. Skin that was too tan to have lived a life inside this wretched place. 

It makes him feel worse realizing he was going to watch this person deteriorate in this horrid place. Would they cry like the new ones in the warehouse? Would they come back from their first time on the table dead? 

Another one. 

There are so many. 

So, so many.  

Stacks upon stacks of cages flash through his mind, the countless bodies trapped inside never having to see the light of day ever again. Bodies stacked upon each other when they were being cleaned out. Faces slack-jawed, chunks of their flesh dropping off to the floor as they were carted by. 

(He shouldn't be surprised.)

Ayame stirs to life from his left. Her bones cracking loudly as she shuffles onto her knees and scoots over to the front of her cage to get a better look at the newcomer. They're curled on their side in a fetus position. Backside facing Izuku. 

"Oh, that's not Number 3," Ayame says out loud scratching at the floor outside her cage to get closer, "Whose this?"  Izuku twitches at the mention of Number 3 but stays quiet, the guards are returning. Their footsteps echoing just outside the room,  Ayame jerks her head towards the doorway her eyes widening just a fraction of a second before she's scrambling into the back of her cage. Legs flailing outwards as her palms slap against the cold metal to haul herself away from the main walkway.

Izuku hesitates for a moment before following her example. 

One of the guards carries in a pair of keys and unlock the new captive's cage. The other one of hooks his hand into their shoulder and hauls them out, letting their long auburn hair splash against the ground while the last guard opens the cage across from Ayame. 

Cage number seven if Izuku can count correctly. 

They unceremoniously dump the captive into the cage before locking it. Their body hits the floor with a loud thud, falling flat into an uncomfortable position their left shoulder pressed into the ground, head rolling against the ground. Izuku winces in sympathy when he hears their chin smack against the metal. 

The cage door closes with a loud crash (he's being pulled out, he doesn't want to go back there, he doesn't want to,he doesn't want tohedoesn'twa-)

His eyes snap back open, his breaths barely making past his lungs as his eyes scan the room rapidly. 

The guards already left.  

He slumps against the bars, the tension falling out of his limbs. A quiet sigh of relief escapes his lips as he gets his breathing back under control. 

Ayame clambers back to the front of her cage and smooshes her face against it while clawing against the marble tile outside. The sound makes him cringe, his face contorting at the high pitched noise as she makes an attempt to get closer to the cage across from her. If she did the same thing when he was knocked out how did he even sleep through it?

"Hellloooooo! Wakey, wakey!!" Ayame calls out. She slams her palms out on the walkway as loud as she can before she rams her head against the cage. Izuku tries not to wince at the noise. "This one is no fun, come on!"  

"Ayame." He says tensely hands gripping his arms. She whips around so fast Izuku could almost hear her neck snap "Please stop that." 

She breaks out into a wide grin again her head tilting as she retracts her arms back into her own cage, "I like it when you say that!" She beams. 

"What?" Izuku stares at her blankly.

"You know, my name!" Ayame moves further into her cage so she's sitting right across from him. Dropping her chin onto her hands as she gives an almost pleasant smile, "Nobody here calls me that anymore," she laments, "not even the people I ask!" 

Izuku's shoulder tenses as he watches her smile morph into a pout before she makes another lunge for him through the cage bars. The metal rattles from the sudden impact as Izuku draws his legs towards himself much more tightly. 

He eyes her fingers wrapped around one of the bars"...And what do they usually call you?"  

"TB-02." She states matter of factly staring at his face with wide eyes. "But do you wanna know a secret?" Her voice drops a couple of octaves as she lowers her own body, her mouth hidden behind her hands like she really was about to tell him something she shouldn't be. 

Izuku glances away to the prone figure in cage seven. 

Ayame unnerves him because if he looks too long at her face he'll see the person he might become in her round empty eyes. She's a reminder of the things he never wanted to be a witness of. An existing legacy of someone who couldn't bear the weight of what sits inside her; a reminder of what this place does to people like them. 

Ayame was destroyed by this place.

"Ok." How long until he breaks? Cracking from the inside out, as the last pieces of himself morph into something he can no longer recognize. If he catches a glimpse of his reflection will he recognize the face that stares back? 

Ayame pulls away, rocking back and forth with her hands clasped around her own feet. She seems to mull it over, teeth sinking into her bottom lip. "They used to call me Canary!" 

Something glints at the tip of her fingers before there's a quiet little plip like a drop of liquid hitting the floor.  A moment later, Izuku realizes its blood. From the small amount of light that filters in from the double door entrance, he could see the small shine of the red liquid, dribbling down her feet from where her long black curved nails had sunk into them. 

Izuku jerks his head up back in surprise his eyes landing on her face. 

The same vacant blue eyes and a too-large grin. She tilts her head to the left, her eyelids fluttering closed, "They used to call me Canary because I could sing." Then she goes still and laughs. 

A full-body laugh that has her hands release their hold on her feet, and her head tilting backward. She snorts, and giggles before leaning forward slaming her forehead against the bars hard enough that Izuku could feel the vibrations from where he was sitting. She reaches into his cage again, her nails scraping against the metal floor almost desperately before she stops as suddenly as she had moved. "You know you remind me a lot about Number 8!"  

"Number 8?" Izuku can't take his eyes off her face. Even with the details shadowed away from view, there's something about the way her smile is contorted now that seems so different from before. 

(He realizes later that the smiles she gives felt wrong because they weren't happy smiles. They're twisted, laced with something she shouldn't have to have experienced.) 

"He used to call me Ayame to." Her eyes are distant, arms hanging limply at her sides as she stares at a spot just to the right side of Izuku's head. "He doesn't call me that anymore." Almost absentmindedly she runs her hands over the metal headband on the side of her head as if she were in a trance. "You two are very alike." She breaks out into another wide smile her eyes shifting to his as if she were looking deep into his being. 

"S'okay you'll meet him eventually! He's really nice! He's like you! He talks to me! Like you! Nobody ever talks to me anymore!" She laughs that empty eerie laugh her vacant blue eyes staring hard enough to make shivers wrack his body.

The right side of his head burns from her gaze. 

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

---

The double doors swing open, white light floods the room again the metal cages reflect harshly.

Izuku's eyelids sting as he blearily blinks them open as he drops a hand against his eyes. Even in the safety of his hand the light still stings.

No matter how many visits the guards make the sting of the sudden brightness will never be something he could ever get used to.

Something's being carted in, the wheels scuffling against the marble tile as Izuku cranes his neck to watch their shadows stretch across the hallway outside from the small window on the door. It doesn't sound like a transport cage, whatever their carting in sounds too large and heavy to be one. There's low murmuring going on the walkway, but Izuku doesn't manage to get his eyes to adjust to the brightness fast enough, he only gets to see them leave. Their shadows vanishing down the hall along with their footsteps.

At first, he thinks maybe their back again to draw his blood for whatever reasons, but if that were the case then they wouldn't have left. His lips tug into a frown as he pushes himself into a sitting position after so long of lying still and drawing mindless figures in the air.

It's definitely not a normal transport cage. It's too large to be a regular transport cage.

The giant cage that sits in the middle of the room gleams, mysterious claw marks dug into the ceiling and floors of it. Ragged grooves crisscrossing across its bars. Leather restraints dangling off the top of the ceiling, the multitude of locks attached to its gate look worn as if something had tried to destroy it from inside the cage. 

Izuku looks over to Ayame hoping maybe she could glean some information for him but something tells him that he'll find out soon enough. She's frozen still, eyes staring at the massive cage, mouth hanging slightly agape as her fingers began tensing and untensing almost rapidly. 

She turns to face him. 

"Goodbye, Number One." Something crawls against his skin, a chill settling in his bones, "Maybe I'll see you again."

 When she smiles this time it feels just as empty as the cages. 

There's a quiet little beeping noise emitting from the headband she wears. Izuku swallows thickly as he watches her blue eyes haze over with some sort of thick fog.

And then she starts screaming. Izuku scrambles back, back pressed flat against the metal. The beeping noise becomes louder, a bright neon yellow LED flashing obnoxiously from the band. She tilts her head to the right, her face drawn so tightly it looks painful. The tips of her fingers are growing longer, and longer, shifting into something black and curved. 

Talons, he realizes now that he can see it. In one swift motion that registers too slow with Izuku she's lifted both of her hands and slammed the talons into the side of her head, screaming all the while. They've sunk into the side of her head, her eyes roll around wildly, blood dripping from the open wounds as she violently pulls. The sound of her skull cracking horribly and her flesh tearing loudly as she gurgles.

With dawning horror, he realizes she's trying to pull off the headband but it's not coming out. 

He can't take his eyes off her. 

Ayame starts laughing again her head tipped back as her shoulders shake almost hysterically. The noise she emits sounding trapped beneath a sob and a scream. Voice grating against Izuku's ears as throws herself against the cages over, and over, and over again.

Head slamming against the cages like she's trying to stop something. Each time she hits the metal it rings in time to her anguished screams (each time the metal rings Izuku is reminded)

Her talons scrape against the cage, her body thrashing wildly making so much noise Izuku didn't even hear the guards enter the room opening the cage in the middle.  

She doesn't stop moving even lying on the floor in some kind of desperate laced agony she tries to pick herself back up slowly and awkward. Her fingers cracking as she struggles to push herself up on nothing but skin and bones. Each hollow crack of her body tears at his eardrums and leaves them bleeding for silence. 

Izuku's blood thunders in his ears, as he listens to the bones in her body fracture (something inside of him claws under his skin)

He would have been convinced that she was crying, but she's not.

In what must have been in a fit of desperation she throws herself against his side of the cage and Izuku can see her completely. Something about her changes, like she's woken up from a long dream. Her blue eyes suddenly possess some sort of sharpness that pierces through Izuku's very soul as she lets out a choked noise that comes out like a half-scream and half-sob. Talons scratching against the floor, the metal scarring under her power as she reaches for him.

Her smile seems fractured this time the flesh across her cheeks rotting at an almost accelerated pace to accommodate for something that shouldn't be growing there (a beak he realizes). She makes one last lunge towards him and hooks her talons into his hands, an action laced with something akin to a kind of desperation that he's sure he's seen before (his mind flashes to Eri, the desperate way she had clung to him like a lifeline).

He doesn't dare move as if he's dazed into some sort of hypnotized paralysis the feeling of her dusty brown scales scratching against his skin feels too hot and yet too cold at the same time. Her scars become more prominent when she has scales he realizes. They no longer fade away into the color of her skin but turn an almost pale beige against the dusty colored canvas.  

She claws at his arm her smile is gone now, her voice turning into a shrill unbearable pitch (he feels hot, something burning in the deepest part of his gut that screams from the place he's buried it).  

This close to her with only the bars separating them, his eyes could trace everything about her. The smooth flat ridge of her nose, the perfectly arched shape of her blonde eyebrows, the prominence of her cheekbones, and the sudden brightness to her blue eyes.

She had been beautiful once, and she could still be beautiful if her hair could be washed and brushed, and the flesh of her cheeks was no longer there to reveal the rotting yellow teeth. Izuku is left to stare at her face as she lets go, disheveled dusty gold feathers popping from her skin, as her bones start cracking again. It's the only thing he can notice about her being this close; the feeling of missed opportunities and a life that could have been.

And then she stops; her body dropping the floor along with his now ruined hand. 

The silhouette of her slumped form speaking a monstrous shape (he could feel it howl, it's maw opening wide ready to swallow him whole).  

They haul her still changing body out from the cage, hooking something into the headband she wears as they lock her into the transport cage and carry her out (he tries to lie to himself).

He doesn't even notice the fresh blood spilling from his mauled arm (but he's always known).

The door swings shut behind them (he's always known what he was).    

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

--- 

Number 7 shuffles in their cage across from him. From a glance up he could tell they haven't gotten up yet, just mindless shuffling signs of them waking up relatively soon. 

It's been a while since they took out Ayame for who knows what (the yellow LED on her headband, the snapping of her bones, her flesh falling off to fit something that shouldn't be on her, the thing in his blood boils-)

Izuku watches them from the corner of his eye, his head resting on the floor staring at the ceiling of his cage. They move around groggily at first, head rolling around awkwardly as they tried to lift it. He could imagine their confusion as they press their palms flat against the cage floor to push themselves up into a sitting position. Their long hair spills out as they shift their weight to their legs instead of their arms, rubbing at their temples. They look around, seemingly confused. 

It's at this point that Izuku starts to realize their shoulders are shaking, and they're making sharp little breaths.

At first, he doesn't think much of it until he realizes their breathing is only getting louder and much more rapid. Shoulders are shaking so much more badly, bordering on spasming.  Her fingers are wrapped around her arms digging her nails into her flesh so visibly that if he concentrates hard enough he could make out her white knuckles.  

He recognizes the labored panicked breathing. 

Are they...? 

Izuku snaps up into a sitting position his spine pops at the stiffness.

"Hey!" He ignores how rough his voice sounds, he hadn't had a meal drop yet. 

They turn around their jet-black eyes searching the room, tears budding in the corners. 

Her eyes freeze on his cage in surprise but that doesn't seem to shock her out of it. 

He takes her in fully long auburn hair slightly wavy at the ends, a pair of small black horns curling on her head, and jet black eyes. Her quirk must be interesting, but he files that thought away for later. 

She's looking at him, her chest expanding and shrinking in what looks to be an incredibly painful way. 

With her full attention on him, Izuku realizes she is having a panic attack (he tries not to think about how he doesn't get them anymore, how his body has changed too much).

He has no idea what to do, okay fuck. 

Shit. 

Izuku shuts his eyes, okay think! Come on!

He thinks about his days as a child trapped in a small space with his heart-pounding painfully, tears building in his eyes as he thought he was about to die. A sinking feeling of a deep-rooted fear building in his chest as he clawed at his own skin when he realized he couldn't feel anything in his arms anymore. He remembers the sweat that had clung to him afterward. The throbbing pain in his chest and how much his abdomen had ached afterward. 

Panic attacks always ruined the stitches (his innards almost spilling out onto the floor, one of his neighbors lifting their dead eyes to watch him keep an arm tight over his stomach before looking away, the budding horror and vomit clinging to the back of his throat as he tried to keep it down, the blood that pooled, the fear, his lungs craving for air).

Okay breathing. That's important, right? That's definitely important (hands clutched over his stomach, the stitches gone, he can't breathe,he can't breathe,heCAN'TBREATHE-).

"Okay, uh I need you to breathe with me okay? You can do that right?" She just stares at him, her shoulders trembling more and more and her breaths becoming shorter. 

Okay well, she's still looking at him he can work with that.  

"Uh okay I'm going to take a deep breath and you're going to take a deep breath with me okay?" He tries to keep the panicked edge out of his voice, he's never done this before.  He drops his arms and tries to make an exaggerated example of taking a deep breath. At first, she doesn't seem to be making a move to copy him, just staring at him her breathing becoming more and more erratic. 

So Izuku tries again, "Just-" he inhales moving his shoulders up as far as they could "-breathe." he exhales as deeply as he can. Making sure to motion with his hands to encourage her to follow.  

She tries, some aborted motion with her shoulders moving up and her large inhale getting caught in her throat before Izuku repeats the motion again and she copies with a little more success. 

Rinse and repeat.

With each breath, slowly but surely she seems to even out. Eventually, the tremors in her arms die out and her hands drop to her sides no longer digging her nails into her arms. She leans her whole body against the side of her cage and Izuku finally drops his shoulders once he realized how tense they had been. 

Her face looks exhausted, dark bags resting under her dark eyes. 

Izuku lets go of the panicked tension he hadn't realized he held. He's tired he realizes, but it's not really a realization. He's always tired. 

"Th-thanks?" She winces while licking her dry lips, he can see the muscles on her neck tense. Izuku glances at her from the corner of his eyes as he moves to lie down, drained. 

"Your welcome." He drops his hands against his chest and lets them rest there.

More silence. She still looks tense that much Izuku can tell from how she shifts around awkwardly her hands picking at her patient's gown.  

"Do you know where we are?" She says suddenly. 

He bites down on his bottom lip, fingers tapping against his bony chest debating on how he should respond, "A facility." From the lack of response, she must be giving him a look at his cryptic response though he can't be sure what kind of look. In the dim light, he can't make out the more nuanced details of her expression.

"What kind of facility?" Izuku turns his head to look at her fully now, even from the distance and the lack of light he can see the pristine condition of her skin. The fullness of her cheeks, and the almost naive look of her pupil-less eyes. 

What is he supposed to tell her exactly? 

It's the kind of facility that cuts you open, and tries to stuff something inside of you? It's the one where the basement is probably filled with people who have not seen the light of day in years? It's the kind of one that breaks a person, the one that treats them like nothing more but objects? 

Izuku thinks of the naive look to her eyes, and how untouched she was by the people here. 

She'll find out soon enough, but Izuku should warn her, right? Or would that make it worse? He knows for a fact that when he was still in the warehouse with the others he hadn't known what that first trip to the surgery room would entail and how horrific it would be.

But then again he's not sure if him knowing would have prepared him for it (nothing would).   

"It's not..." Why is it so difficult finding the words, what should he tell her? "... a good place." From her silence, Izuku realizes that he needs to elaborate somehow.

It would be easier to show her he decides as he heaves himself up into a sitting position, his neck aching from all the cricks. 

He crawls over to the front of his cage before hesitating. 

Would she even be able to see? Izuku glances down to his own arms and runs a finger over one of the scars, the one that runs across his left arm from his shoulder down to his wrist. He got this from his first time (bright lights shining down, he's panicking, he's seen what they did to the others, he doesn't understand, why,why,WHY-)

It's more faded than the others, just a lighter shade than the rest.  

He shuts his eyes, he doesn't really want to show them if he could help it. But he doesn't have any other way of explaining.  

He slips his left arm through the bars and as far as he could reach. Hopefully, she can see and this can be over quickly. 

He doesn't open his eyes until he hears her gasp, and sees her snap both hands to her mouth.  

"Oh my god-" He can't tell what she's looking at, her jet-black eyes give away nothing but it doesn't really matter. At least she understands now, judging from how stiff her body has gone.  

"Are you okay? What did they do to you?" He looks up at her again after bringing his arms back towards himself. Concern. There's concern in her voice. It makes him swallow down a lump (the way Eri held on tight to his hand, concern flickering in her wide eyes, quiet tears).  

He should tell her. 

Give her a warning of some kind, would that help? Would it prepare her for the table? 

Would she sit in her cage when they parked her in the room with the table not knowing what awaited her only to see the person who came before her get cut into? Would she realize with a dawning realization she was next that she would be the next one on the table and panic? Would she try to break out from the cage in fear with a sob caught in her throat, and then realize she couldn't get out? Would she fight back desperately when they opened her cage and then realize that she couldn't do anything as they slammed her head against the bars to keep her from struggling until they strapped her in? 

She deserves to know what waits for her (but it won't prepare her for it)

Izuku slides his head up to look at her. 

He doesn't see her but sees the little boy in that too small cage that smelled like blood and death. He sees that boy with the round eyes, and a smattering of freckles desperately calling out for someone for just someone to please, please tell him what was happening! Only to never receive a response. 

He sees that boy who had his fingers wrapped around the bars and shaking the gate trying to get it to open, only to scream and crawl back into his cage when they came. 

He sees the boy who died a long time ago.

"They're going to take you." He says quietly. 

"What?" Izuku slides his head up to look at her. There's tension on her face, her eyebrows drawn tight bottom lip caught between her teeth.  

"They're going to take you to another room." He locks eyes with her, "And they're going to put you on a table and try to change you." His voice cracks at that last part. 

She doesn't understand he realizes and there's no way for him to make her understand. 

How do you explain it? This thing? This thing that resides in his blood and slumbers in his stomach. How do you explain how it feels to be strapped in leather too tight, and digging into your skin. How do you describe being cut open, your rib cage broken open so they could gain access to your heart? 

How?

Is this why they didn't say anything? 

Why his one of his neighbors, the one with the brown shaggy hair grown long through years of ill care looked at him with dead-soulless eyes, mouth partly open like he wanted to say something before shutting it and looking away. 

Because there wasn't a way to explain it? To warn somebody about it? 

It falls quiet again, neither of them saying anything for a long time. 

Izuku doesn't really know what to ask or talk about and he's not feeling up to it. Not after Ayame, who would sometimes ask him about things that made his heart twist painfully as he stared into her face. Her empty eyes telling him there were so many things he wasn't ready to face. 

She leans forward hands wrapped around the bars of her cage gently testing the gates to see if the material would give. "How long have you been here?" 

Izuku could feel her stare from across the room. His eyes flicker from her face to the ceiling of his cage. 

He understands now why Ayame didn't answer.  

A tense silence hangs in the air as Izuku stays quiet choosing not to answer and instead stare at the ceiling of his cage again. Wondering how long her bright, and naive worldview would survive for. 

She's stronger then him he muses, a lot less panicky than Izuku had been. A lot less desperate and cowardly. She radiates a sort of quiet calm determination underneath that apprehensive layer of fear. He can see it in the set line of her jaw and the way her fingers remain tight around the bars unmoving (she's different from all the new people)

If he had been like her would that have been enough to let him stay with Eri?

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

---  

"What's your name?" She asks suddenly, Izuku keeps his eyes focused on the ceiling of his cage.

Eri asked him that too (he tries to ignore that tight feeling in his chest).  

"Izuku." Speaking around the lump that's suddenly popped up in his throat (RA-01 bring him in-, Ra-01 appears to be-, RA-01 needs more-, RA-01,RA-01,RA-01RA-01RA-01-). 

"I'm Tsukiyama," She sounds hoarse, tired even "But you can call me Fuyuki since we're both gonna be here a while it seems."

"It's nice to meet you." He half mumbles not expecting a response. 

"You too." Her voice carries strongly despite the obvious dryness to her throat. 

He's surprised she could hear him. 

They lapse into silence again. 

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

---  

The nutrient bar tastes bland. Even the piece of stale old bread he'd stolen from the bakery had more flavor than this. He's a little disappointed that they didn't drop off a water bottle this time, but it's better than no meal drop at all. 

Fuyuki hasn't touched her's yet, she's just been staring at it as if it could unlock all the secrets in the world. 

Izuku gives her another sideways glance as he eats another piece letting it crumble in his mouth.  

"Is this it?" She lifts the bar up towards the ceiling, studying it with what Izuku assumes must be the most intense expression he has ever seen on anybody he's met. But he guesses it's not really a high bar to cross.  

"Yeah." He's not great at tracking time, but his general assumption and learned experience have led him to believe it's only one nutrient bar per day. 

"Oh." She doesn't really sound surprised like she kind of expected it. Her eyes hover over him, perceptive. 

She drops her hands to the floor again and then blatantly stares at him. Izuku tenses and breaks off another piece of his own to swallow, he doesn't really enjoy how difficult it is to bite into. 

She goes quiet for another long while "Do you want mine?" 

His brain short-circuits, "What?" 

"You should take mine." Her eyebrows furrow together, and she leans forward slips her hand through the cage bars and tosses the only meal she's allowed for a long way. It lands near his cage. 

Izuku stares at it, the piece he had eaten stopping halfway in his throat making him choke. He coughs and hacks it down to his stomach. 

The offending piece of sustenance sits close enough to his cage that if he reaches out and stretches his arm enough he could just barely pick it up and bring it back to himself. It sits there, looking at him. He stares at it dumbly. 

An act of kindness his mind helpfully supplies him (Eri, the way she had looked at him when he had given her the piece of bread and given it back to him demanding that he eat it)

"Why?" He reaches out from the cage and strains his arm to pick it up.

She just shrugs, "You look like you need it." 

He wraps his fingers around the bar firmly and manages to pull himself back into the cage. 

He thumbs the nutrient bar turning to look at her. She seems fine, body relaxed, fingers tapping against her thighs. He gets the feeling she's looking at him even if he can't tell from her lack of pupils. 

"I haven't done anything for you." His voice cracks again, his heart squeezes itself tight (he doesn't know this feeling)

She gives him a funny look like he's the one being weird, "You don't need to have done anything for me?" 

He looks at her in full again; her tan unmarred skin, her auburn hair that could still look healthy and clean, the small black horns on her forehead that curl towards the back of her head, and her pitch-black eyes. 

He thinks of her on the table. 

He slips his arm back out the cage and tosses the bar back to her, "It's okay. I don't need it." He doesn't add the, 'You need it more then I do' and pretends his voice didn't just crack again. She just huffs and reaches through the bars off her cage again and picks it up, slinking into the back of her cage. 

Izuku turns away and finishes the last of his own nutrient bar (the feeling doesn't disappear)

A couple of beats pass when he decides to lie down again and debate what he should draw in the air this time when something hits the bar of his cage. It clinks against the bars and falls against the ground with a soft thud making Izuku snap his head back up. 

Fuyuki is sitting innocently in her own cage her face turned away. 

When he moves forward to investigate he discovers it's a nutrient bar or half of it at least. When he looks up Fuyuki is looking at him with a pair of raised expectant brows and eating her half. 

He stares at her blankly. 

"What? You gonna wait for me to turn into a dying old woman to eat or what?" She snorts, Izuku could almost feel the eye roll she must be giving him if it wasn't so hard to tell. 

He moves to pick it up, he shouldn't take this but his stomach still gnaws painfully as it has been doing he can't remember a time it hasn't. 

Even if he wasn't hungry she still needs it more, she needs all her strength to survive her first time (the table sits in the middle, the machines surrounding it standing there coldly, they're moving the person off, it's his turn,it'shisturnitshisturnitshisturn-).  

"Pinky promise me." Izuku's hand freezes he had been just about to toss it back at her, and insist that she takes it. She needs it more, she really does. 

But he doesn't toss it back, not yet anyway, "What?" 

"Pinky promise me you're gonna eat that and everything else I throw at you." It takes a few moments for her words to register, but even when they do register he can't quite wrap his mind around it. Because of the implication, that she plans on giving him more, more food. When she only has half and Izuku has had a whole bar, and this stuff comes only in long intervals. 

"We can do the pinky promise like this, since well," She gestures around her, "we can't really reach each other." She lifts both her hands together and locks her pinkies together and then shakes them. 

Izuku gives her another stare. She stares right back at him her gaze unwavering. 

So he sets the nutrient bar on the floor and lifts both of his hands towards each other and locks his pinkies together just like she did, he looks up at her again and she gives him both an encouraging nod and smile. He shakes his hands together and then drops them (he thinks of Eri when he had given her the slice of bread back, and she had broken it in half for the both of them)

"That wasn't so bad." She hums a small smile tugging her lips, "When we get out of here we can have a proper pinky promise." 

"Okay." Izuku only agrees because he's too stunned to do anything else as he breaks off a tiny piece of his half of a nutrient bar (his chest squeezes painfully, but it's a good painful he thinks)

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

--- 

True to her word every time they have a meal drop she breaks off half of her nutrient bar and tosses it at him. Sometimes it'll hit him smack in the face and he'll give her an annoyed look and she'll just bat her eyelids innocently while taking a loud snarky bite out of her half. Most of the time he'll toss it back at her his throw fueled by the cold power of vengeance, and miss his mark horribly. 

That's usually how it ends up, them tossing each other half of the nutrient bar until one side gives up. Sometimes Izuku wins the argument and she'll take her half back and eat it begrudgingly, but other times she'll win and Izuku will eat it with the best-annoyed face he could muster. 

She just laughs at his misery and calls him a sore loser. 

What a jerk. 

"What year is it?" Izuku stares at Ayame's still empty cage, he can still see the deep groove marks on the floor of her's. He doesn't have to look to know that Fuyuki has jerked up so fast she strained her muscles in her neck. Her stare is boring into the side of his face as he lets that tiny piece of information sink in.   

He can imagine her bitting the bottom of her lip as he finds a new claw mark in Ayame's cage he hasn't noticed before.  

"It's currently 2202." Oh. 

His eyes squeeze shut almost painfully. 

Oh. 

Ten years. 

It's been ten years. 

He doesn't remember much, but he at least remembered the year it had been when he was taken. 

Ten years of his life spent in this miserable hell hole under All for One. 

"Do you want to know what month it is?" Fuyuki asks softly. Izuku just nods, keeping his eyes closed as he tries to keep his breathing in check. 

"It's June." Her gown rustles as she seems to move towards the front of her cage, "The last time I checked it had been June 1st, the UA sports festivals are supposed to happen this month."  

UA. The name rings a bell but no matter how much he thinks about it nothing comes up. He hates it when that happens, chunks of his memory missing no matter how hard he tries to fish it back.  

"You know before I got caught I was actually going home from seeing a movie." She says it like a throwaway comment, her head staring at the cage next to hear. Izuku pries his eyes away from studying Ayame's cage. "It was kind of dumb, you know the movie. Some documentary about conspiracy theories about a villain who's been around since the dawn of quirks, but it was nice you know?" She hums and finally turns to look at him. 

Izuku can't remember what a movie theatre looked like. "I went with my Mom, dad was kinda busy at work that day so we just went by ourselves, the movie sucked but mom made it better by making jokes about it. We talked over the narrator a lot." Her mouth quirks up into a smile at the memory. "I don't think the people who sat next to us liked us very much." 

"Can you tell me what the movie theatre was like?" He looks away again, swallowing nervously trying to picture her at the place with her mother. 

"It was horrible." Izuku looks at her kinda surprised, but as she describes it the uncomfortable seats and the horrible sound quality he could almost imagine the memory could have been good if the place was terrible. The scent of cheap store-bought popcorn and too sugary soda almost makes him almost smile too. She hadn't liked the place but her mom had made it enjoyable, a memory worth remembering.

If he had more time to spend with Eri and had managed to scrounge the money for a ticket would she have liked the movie theatre? He tries to imagine it- them sitting on the uncomfortable velvet chairs with speakers that apparently couldn't project loud enough even though they sat near one. 

Maybe she would have. Maybe he could have made the experience enjoyable for her like Fuyuki's mother did for her. 

"What was your mother like?" He asks quietly, did he have a mother? He must have, right? That woman with green hair in his dreams. Was that her? 

"Oh, she was a total bitch." She snorts but her voice quickly turns fond, "She was strong, confident a little uptight about some things. Kept her maiden name which my grandparents didn't like, some bullshit about respecting her husband, but dad totally didn't mind. I think he liked that she kept her maiden name, Emiyo Fuijioka Tsukuyami something about her being strong-willed and independent." Fuyuki makes a disgusted face, "I didn't bother to hear the rest he was getting really lovey-dovey."  

Did he have a father? He can't think of anyone being with the green-haired woman from his dreams but he must have, right? Maybe he had been busy but he would still have been a part of Izuku's life.

Fuyuki goes on to describe her day and then her life at school, and how she used to spend her weekends. Izuku could really imagine her life. The blue sky, the bustle of the crowds in the shopping district, her friends, and the taste of a mochi ice cream on a hot summer day. The frustration she felt at losing every game in the arcade against her best friend Samiyo who won at everything. He was totally cheating! Don't laugh at me I don't suck at video games! 

He can imagine how she spent hours in her room stomach flat on her bright orange bed agonizing over homework and calling her friends to complain about her teachers.

He lets her fill the silence with stories.

It's nice. 

Better than spending time alone with his thoughts trying hard not to think about things he doesn't want to remember. 

"You know when we get out of here, I'd like to tell my mom something." She says casually, her fingers tracing the horns on her head almost absentmindedly as if remembering something that occurred a long time ago. 

"What's that?" Izuku asks rolling onto his stomach and distinctly avoiding looking at Ayame's cage, and swallowing down a lump when she mentions getting out. She says that a lot and even if Izuku doesn't personally believe it he doesn't have the heart to tell her otherwise (if he let her say it enough maybe it would become true).   

"She was totally right about the nail polish she recommended." She slips her hand as far from her cage to show him her perfectly painted orange nails, "This shit lasts forever." Izuku snorts, fighting back a smile.  

"And I guess I'd tell her I love her too. That too, like a good, loving, caring daughter." She drawls leaning against the cage bar in an almost dramatic matter. What would he tell his mother if he saw her, or recognized her? 

Izuku laughs at that and scrunches his nose at her, something light bubbling in his chest that makes him ignore the hunger pangs, "Somehow I doubt the fact that you are a 'good, loving, and caring daughter'." He makes sure to emphasize the quotation marks.  

"Hey, where's your proof that I'm anything but, detective?" 

"I don't need proof, you literally just called her a bitch not even 15 minutes ago." She places her hand over her chest and pretends to be the most offended person on the planet. Even giving out a small dainty gasp and making an affronted face to make it more believable. 

"Lies!" She calls out, sticking her tongue out at him as she presses her hands over her ears childishly.

"It's the truth!" Fuyuki only cackles in response.

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

--- 

The time was bound to come. 

When they came in with an empty transport cage. 

They hadn't drawn Izuku's blood for a while now so he knows that the next time they opened those doors with wheels squeaking outside it would be for one of them (he hopes it's him, he can't imagine Fuyuki there on the table with them cutting into her, blood dripping down, head rolling back, dying on the table, unable to survive-)

He hoped maybe they were bringing Ayame back but he knows better. 

She wasn't coming back, whatever they were doing to her or making her do she wouldn't be coming back for a long long time. After all, the 6 other cages wouldn't be empty if that wasn't the case.   

They're both quiet when the guards unlock the gate to Izuku's cage and move to grab him. 

For a brief moment, his mind does what it hasn't done in years, he thinks of fighting back. Clamping his teeth hard enough to taste their flesh through their cloth, and refusing to let go of the cage. But the thought vanishes. 

He looks at Fuyuki, and he's glad that it's him and not her. He's not sure if he could handle seeing her coming back after that. She's been good to him. Giving him half of her nutrient bar when she shouldn't have, her cheeks were thinning from their roundness but he hadn't mentioned it to her. Unsure of how to approach her about the topic. 

There are two guards that grab him, not the usual one. 

He's proven to them before they need two, always.  

They grab his shoulders roughly and shove him into the cramped transport cage as quickly as possible. His head smacks into the bars from the rough handling, the bars send tremors through the rest of the cage. 

The gate slams closed and the lock clicks into place. 

Izuku looks up, hands gripping the bar of the cage as he turns his head to get one last look at Fuyuki. She doesn't know she may never see him again. If he comes back would she see him like how he saw Ayame? 

He doesn't want that, he doesn't want that.

But he can't do anything. 

He can't do anything. 

A stone sits heavy in his stomach as he finds Ayame's jet-black eyes, he's sure now that they are looking at him. 

"Hey, you gotta come back okay whatever they do, you gotta come back, okay?" She whispers loudly. The double doors swing open. "You can't just leave me here to die of boredom okay?! That's a cruel way to die!" One of the guards writes on the clipboards they always carry with them when they move patients. "If you don't come back who else am I gonna throw these disgustingly bland bars at?!"  Her breathing starts to become increasingly erratic, her hands are shaking along with her shoulders.

She's having a panic attack. 

"Fuyuki you need to breathe." His voice is hoarse, tight with some feeling he doesn't recognize (be he knows he's felt it before, with Eri)

"I'll breathe when you come back!" She calls out, increasingly desperate, "Pinky promise me!" 

"Shut up." One of the guards kicks at her cage, giving her a foul look, but she ignores him. Her hands still desperately clinging to the bars of her cage.  Her eyes widening he can almost see her physically becoming paler due to stress.

Izuku closes his eyes, unable to look at her anymore. 

He can't keep his promises, he's learned that already. 

But he also knows Fuyuki is an optimist, saying that you should always have something to look forward to in the future. Even the small things like knowing tomorrow is a Saturday and you don't have to go to school, or the big things like how she would be attending the concert to her favorite band three months in the future. 

Is it cruel? 

To give her this promise knowing he could not keep it? 

He knows that it's always so much worse to have something and then have it taken away. 

But he also knows that it's something, just one small thing that he can give her because he can't give her anything else. 

"Okay." He says, lacing his pinkies together and shaking them. 

She gives him a shaky smile as they cart him out, her breathing still erratic and short but she's trying so hard to be strong (he should have been stronger when they took him from Eri, he never realized how comforting it was to see Fuyuki smile when he knows he marches towards death's door. He regrets leaving Eri like that, not even able to see her face as they pulled him away).

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

--- 

They park his cart exactly seven feet to the left of the table, just like every other session. 

The world seems to spin, swaying under his feet the ground moving as if it were made of solid-liquid. The bars seem to bend at physically impossible angles as he clutches them for one last thing to anchor him. 

Is it selfish? Selfish to wish he could die here and not have to watch Fuyuki deteriorate in this place? Selfish to wish that he wouldn't have to suffer through the things after this, or to realize at the thing he's going to become? 

He wonders what Eri would think of him once she realizes what he was. 

It must be selfish (he's always selfish)

The walls are the same sterile white, with cupboards and counters lining the walls. Papers and folders neatly stacked, tools thoroughly cleaned in the sink, metal objects sitting in plastic containers. The surgeons haven't arrived yet, but he knows that when they do they will open both doors and they will walk in an almost single-file line. At least two of them will be pulling on their plastic gloves, or adjusting their surgical masks. 

He knows it will take at least 15 minutes for them to plug in all the machines and double-check the injections, and then another 5 minutes to go over the file of papers they keep on him. 

20 minutes. 

His mouth tastes like cotton. 

20 minutes, maybe more if they come in late. 

He knew it would happen. He has known it would happen. He's always known. 

And yet, he's not prepared (he's never prepared).  

Izuku leans his forehead against the cage bars, the metal feels cold. It's always cold. His knuckles turn white from gripping the bars so tightly, he sure he could hear them crack over the sound of the door opening and shuffling footsteps. There's more white noise as they move about and plug in all the machines, the electricity beginning to hum as the machines whirred to life. There's idle chatter, remarking something about the television and UA but he can't seem to get his mind to focus on it. Information like this was so important, maybe one of them would let loose what day of the week it was, or what they had planned tomorrow, maybe one of their friends was going on vacation and Izuku could skip a surgery if that friend happened to be a surgeon. 

But he can't focus, he can't, he can't, he CAN'T! 

His muscles coil tightly he can see the sewer grate at the bottom of the silver table it's rusted over, stained and ruined from years of blood dripping down on it. Two of the guard's click open his cage and grab him. 

His breathing turns erratic, he shouldn't do that it's only more painful if he does that. 

Why? 

Why, why, why?

Why can't he get himself under control? 

He's only going to make this worse, he's only going to make it worse, please, please stop. He needs to relax, it hurts more when they cut into tense muscles, his lungs hurt more if he breathes this fast when they become exposed to the open air. 

Please, please he needs to stop. 

The press him down onto the table, arms locking his in place as they are careful to avoid his legs. But even if he could fight back against the weight of their arms pressing against him he wouldn't. He can't seem to make his body do what he wants it to (it doesn't belong to him).

One of the surgeons has a taser ready he can see it in the corner of his eye. 

The leather comes in tight, extra tight as they test the bonds, it's not a lesson they would ever forget (screaming, it hurts, it hurts moving with his stomach cut open, his wrists are bleeding from where he's worked himself free, his ears hurt the doctors are screaming he's pulled a scalpel from their hands and slammed it into their eyes, his nails digging into the nearest surgeon after that, his head hurts, his ears hurt, everything hurts-).  

One of the surgeons lifts something curved. It's long, and curved almost elegant in design he notes as he spies the LED's embedded into it, the headband. The one Ayame was wearing, the one that lit up in her last moments with him. 

There's three LED's if he looks close enough, green, yellow, and red. Ayame's had glowed yellow as she screamed, clawing at the flesh of her head as she tried to pull the headband off but it wouldn't come out no matter how hard she tried.  

"Eito your quirk ready?" The one with the clipboard asks he's flipping through the paper as he studies the contents. 

"Yeah." The coarse leather feels familiar as it digs into his skin again. 

He pushes down the bile building in his throat as he tries so hard to keep calm and relax.

He's not- he's not, he's not he's not ready, he's not, he's not,no,nohe can't,hecan'the-he-he- 

The doors open again they're carting in something else again, but Izuku remains still the leather strapped around his neck digs into the soft tissue of his skin. He couldn't' even look if he wanted to, the leather restraints prevent him. He swallows down the vomit that he can feel climbing up his throat, the lights are blinding he screws his eyes shut, but even behind his eyelids, he sees red, the light revealing the blood vessels in them.

"I-Izuku?!" It's Fuyuki. "Oh my- what the fuck are they-" He can barely hear her over the blood rushing in his ears. 

It's him. 

It's going to be through him that Fuyuki discovers what they do, and it'll be her on the table next. He was going to be the person she would vomit at, that would prevent her from eating nutrient bars for a week. It was going to be him that she could not look in the eye anymore, with her face contorting into horror each time she saw his face. Unable to disassociate the Izuku she saw with the one struggling on the table (he knows he did that with the neighbor across from him, dirty blond hair, red eyes).  

"Is that-" He can hear her quiet gasp and the panicked edge to it "-that's a drill what-" 

To his right the electric whirr of something moving sounds, Izuku bites the inside of his cheek. Something in his throat catches itself on his tongue. Something cold washes over him. 

This will be the time that breaks him.

Ayame's face flashes by, her face twisted into something ever-smiling, unseeing eyes and a mind broken. He knows why now that for all her agony, desperation, and hidden strength, why she couldn't remove the headband. 

It doesn't matter that Fuyuki will be here and he will be the one that shows her what this place is. It doesn't matter that if he comes back and she makes it through her session that he will not be the same just like Ayame.

It doesn't change anything. 

It's okay. 

Eri is out there, and she's safe no longer in the hands of the man that had locked her up and tormented her. She's out there with the good authorities (he has to believe they are the good authorities, he has to). She won't need to see him again, she won't need to see his disgusting face and be in his vile presence, she won't ever have to know what he was and what he was going to become (the admiration, the way she held onto him, she believed in him, the version of him he could never be)

Izuku's chest tightens.  

He'll never see her again. 

He'll have to know in his last moments Fuyuki was here, and she would suffer right after him, in this, horrible, wretched, fucking place

"Oh my god what-" One of the surgeons places their hand on his head with a steady nearly painful grip, and tilt his head so his right side is more accessible. 

He goes deaf after that, from the blood pumping in his ears. 

He's always known his fate. 

He's known it since that day he realized the injections were different, he's known it since that day they took him to work for Shigaraki. He's known it since they took him back to the facility, he's known it since his body began humming with livewire energy and reciting the commands of someone else's schedule.

He's known it. 

And he knows it now when he feels a buffet of wind blow across the right side of his face, and the surgeon's grip on his head tightens. They're talking but Izuku doesn't know what they're talking about. 

He just knows he can't afford to lie to himself anymore. 

He only knows that when they line up the needles on his skin, and they go through something inside of him stands. It stands on all four, it's lips peeled back in a snarl drawing strength from whatever they put in him. Electric pain coursing through him when they make the cut across his abdomen for the next line of injections, but he doesn't scream. 

He bites it down (he tastes blood)

Because it's okay. 

It's going to be okay. 

It's going to be over after this, nothing will matter. 

It's okay.

It's okay.

It's going to be okay, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay. 

It's going to be okay, It's okay, it's okay. 

It's okay, it's okay, it's okay it's okay-

And he screams (sweet little white lies he never quite believed).

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

---   

"Put him under." The right side of his head buzzes with a dull-ache. 

His brain feels sluggish some sort of thick swampy fog that he can't quite cut through seems to hover over his mind.

A needle is being injected into him. A spot on his right arm stings before the needle is removed as the needle leaves he feels languid. Awareness dampening more.

Something's changed. 

Even as he feels like his brain is starting exploding out of his head and that he doesn't' quite exist on this plane of existence he knows something's different. But the thought escapes him. He can't quite think, there's too much. Too much going on. Too much noise, too much feeling. 

Cold slithers up his legs, and wraps around his feet, slipping between his toes and climbing up his thighs. 

He needs to open his eyes, he needs to know what's happening. But the urgency doesn't seem to quite register with him as he fights to try and get the signals from his brain to his eyes, but it doesn't quite work. His eyelids feel heavy. Everything is heavy, his bones, his skin, and this body. 

There are sounds, a flurry of them. Metal on metal, somebody is scribbling something onto paper, a person typing something on a computer, distant thundering and the steady beeping of a heart rate machine. 

Where is he? His mind is still hazy, but it's working through the fog now which he kind of regrets because along with consciousness comes his greater awareness for pain. Debilitating pain. Pain that is pounding away at the right side of his head, throbbing and pulsing. Sinking its fangs into his flesh like he was a feast. 

He can't, he can't think where is he- 

The steady beeping becomes incessant. Loud. It rings against his ears, it makes it worse. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts, please stop it hurts, please stop pleaseplease- 

"He's destabilizing, we need to put him in now!" More beeping, why can't it stop? More clamoring noises piling on top of each other nearly drowning each other out, he can barely hear anything over the noise.  

"Of all the times the heroes choose to raid, they choose now!"  

He opens his eyes, only to let them fall closed again. The migraine behind them screams pressing against his consciousness relentlessly.

"Fuck, Sensi is going to kill us if there's anything wrong with the project."  Something buzzes just under his skin. He knows that feeling. But it shouldn't be like this. It's supposed to be buried, not here, not at the forefront clawing against the tomb he has it encased in.

The cold feeling crawls up to his torso before surging up to his neck. An uncomfortable pressure starts closing in around his chest. He finally gets his eyelids open. He gets to see them, or at least a blur of colors. His eyes aren't functioning correctly as he watches almost lazily one of the white blobs hurriedly rushing over to him, something clatters to the ground.

"Just hurry up and get it in with the others!" It's too bright, it stings his eyes. They flutter closed.

"We're missing one! We can't just leave-" Something shakes, trembling the thing he's surrounded by.

Somebody's pressing their hand against his head and pushing-

"Who cares-!" And then he's cold.  

The chill washes over his face. His closed eyelids tighten against the foreign feeling as he hears something close with a muffled click. After that everything seems to just become something outside his little bubble of cold bitter nothingness.

In the darkness with the only thing to tell him of the world outside are the occasional tremors.

Something hooks its claws into his mind.

The body wears thin. He can feel the hot lava of pain budding at his fingertips and circling his feet like sharks as his bones start cracking against the rapid change of his own muscles.

Whatever they injected into him must be wearing out by now he thinks idly, his heart beginning to accelerate. The weight of something that is not him pressing against his lungs and dragging him down into unknown depths.

Cold.

He's cold all over now.

Thoughts in a disarray. He can't organize them. 

Can't breathe. 

Something's going through his nose and it's notair,it'snotair,it'snotair- 

It's water. 

Water that's wrapped around him like a viper. Ice-cold liquid wrapped around his feet, curling around his neck, latching into the space between his fingers, and burying itself deep in his lungs. It burns against his skin, sears like fire and fills his lungs. Forcing him to open his mouth (he needs to breathe,heneedstobreathe,heneedstobreatheheneedsto-)

But it can't be water, he thinks distantly as it enters through his mouth and strangles him from the inside out. It tastes too much like blood to be water. 

It burns through his body as the liquid surrounding him invades his body forcing whatever that was buzzing in his blood to rears its ugly head, maw opening wide, clawing through his stomach to taste the wine.

Eventually, the vibrations stop, and Izuku can feel his consciousness slipping.

It's quiet, and yet not quite. Distinct noises ringing against his right ear that doesn't seem to want to go away, even though nothing should be making noise here in this little bubble of darkness.

Ah, he's slipping again. His mind becomes slippery, difficult to form a coherent thought even as he comes to a quiet realization. He's glad he let go of Eri in that last moment. Thankful for the person who gripped her in their arms and didn't let go because he's sure if they did let go Eri would have followed him here. 

He can't imagine her being here.

She's not here with him. Somehow that thought comforts him more than anything else even as his chest constricts around his rapidly beating heart.

There's nothing else keeping him tethered. 

It's okay then, he can let go. 

It's over now. 

This would be his life now. Another cog in the machine. Another tool to be used and abused. 

And you know somehow the thought doesn't make him feel the same ice-cold terror it used to. 

It's just apathy now. A strange dull apathy that wraps around him like a safety blanket as he feels the liquid take hold, skin cracking, bones fracturing, pain splitting him in half like the hard glinting scalpels.

It howls in his ears.  

Perhaps there had been a time when Izuku had been happy: all smiles and glowing innocence. Blurred memories of sitting on a couch with a woman he can't even remember. Laughing, and smiling at a TV with a far too small screen and scratchy speakers. Swinging his feet at the edge of the couch as he bounced up and down excitedly chattering about something. Each of those vignettes slips away like sand. 

He can't breathe through the water but that's okay. The beast crawls from his insides and forces itself outside.

This body can't handle that.

Ribcages snapping apart and remending to form something else. Sides burning as they split open to accommodate for something that shouldn't be there.

It stands on all fours.

But the pain morphs away. Morphing into nothing more but another drop in the barrel. Merging together until he can no longer tell anything apart. Everything burns, and burns, and burns until he's no longer able to tell apart his individual fingers. 

He's left feeling numb even as he thinks of Ayame: the beeping of her yellow LED, her body stuck in the limbo of laughing and screaming in agony. The choked sobs that never quite came out as sobs. Vacant blue eyes that never quite seem to look at him. 

Maybe he should be feeling something, he deserves it after all. He's a selfish, dirty, rotten coward who makes promises he can't keep.  

But maybe it's better this way. To become numb-minded, and ignorant of his humanity. After all, the longer he clings to his humanity the longer it takes for the water to drown him: and drowning? 

Drowning is the worst way to go.  

Lips peeled back.

And after everything he's been through he'd at least like to go quietly. 

So he lets go.

He lets go of the tension that's coiled in his muscles. Lets go of the lifeline he's clung to all these years and lets the thing they put into him surge upwards. 

Fangs glinting. Head rearing, its guttural noises reverberating all across the body that doesn't belong to him. 

He lets it climb out from where he's buried it.

The liquid floods him.

But he's not drowning. 

Not anymore.

The body they've given him won't allow for that. 

It snarls, jaw unhinged, and swallows him whole.

 

---

It's okay, it's over now. You can stop fighting.

---