The girl did a double-take. “What?!” she practically screamed. “Since when?!”
“Since forever,” Akio said. “I guess.” He scrubbed at the back of his neck, black hair fluffing up even more. He looked like a try-hard punk, especially with the line of piercings in his ears and the black-painted nails. “What’s up, Ryū? It’s...been a while, huh?”
Ryū stood up, shouldered his bag and marched off down the road. Surely whatever Kurou-sama would dish out onto him for not waiting around for his ride wasn’t worth even being in the nearby vicinity of that shitbag. He didn’t deserve a single second of Ryū’s attention.
“Hey! Wait up!” he could hear rapid footsteps pounding down the sidewalk after him. “Ryū!”
Ryū, who was not in any sort of mood to deal with irritating ex-family members, walked a little faster, picking it up to a light jog. He felt dumb running from some loser, but Ryū wasn’t above feeling dumb sometimes. He did hang out with Michiko and Kagami, after all.
“I just want to - ugh!” Ryū could hear Akio kick the tree he had just passed by. “Don’t just walk away like that!”
“Come on, Aki,” the girl called. “Just leave him. He’s just some dumb kid.”
Ryū, stung by her comment despite not even knowing her name, kept up his pace until he was around a corner near a copse of trees. He sat behind a large bush, kicking his shoes off and burying his sock-covered toes in the blades of dewy grass. His heart, still pounding in his ears, slowed a little.
After a few minutes, he heard them trooping past.
“-years,” Akio said. Ryū could glimpse his bright white shirt through the leaves of the bush, the flash of a grey blazer and red tie. Black hair.
“That’s crazy. And he never tried to...email or anything? Text?”
“No. I guess his dad wouldn’t let him.”
“He’s your dad too, Bakugou,” the tall blond boy pointed out, hands in his pockets. They’d come to a slow stop right beside Ryū’s resting spot. Just his luck, really.
Akio scoffed. “Not anymore,” he tossed his head back, spiky black hair falling away from his forehead for a moment and then flopping back down again. Ryū spotted the frown tugging at his lips. “Why would I want to be associated with some deadbeat loser like that?”
At that, Ryū’s face grew hot and, a red haze taking over his vision, he charged through the bush and hit the sidewalk. His face was surely steaming, his eyes flashing with uncontained anger. What right did this fucker have to talk about his dad like that?
“Shut up!” he was yelling, but the words felt very distant. Like they weren’t truly coming from his mouth. “You don’t have a right to talk about him like that!” Akio was staring at him, was flushed and dappled with ill-temper. He looked. Very familiar.
He licked his lips. “You were spying on us?”
“Bakugou,” the girl said, but she was just standing there. Just watching. They were always just... watching.
“Huh? Well, he is!” Akio kicked a piece of paper at him, the worksheet Ryū had been doing not half an hour before. “It’s not like he stuck around any longer than he had to! What kind of guy just cuts off all contact like that, huh!? Just...leaves?”
Ryū hefted his satchel off his shoulder. He was barefoot, so he clenched the handle and threw it, the angle of the arc sailing straight over his head. Akio dodged to one side, face twisting. “He had no choice!” Papers scattered across the ground, books and pens and Ryū’s empty bento box from the day before. He was still desperately hungry.
Akio spat on the ground. “There’s always a choice!” The blond boy tried to come between them and Akio shoved him away, stumbling. “Stay out of this.”
“No, come on, dude. He’s just a dumb kid.”
Ryū screamed wordlessly. It - “You don’t understand - none of you understand!”
“What is there to ‘ understand’!? That he loved you more than he loved us, so that’s why he left!? Yeah! Real fucking - difficult!”
“I hate you!” He snatched the bento box from the ground and threw that as well, where it hit Akio’s shoulder and then bounced down to the floor with a metal clatter. Not a second later, hands fisted in his blazer and Ryū was swung into the air. His feet, far from the ground, kicked pointlessly out at Akio’s chest. He shoved at his hands, scratching and screaming.
Akio threw him back against a low wall, face still red-cheeked, eyes blazing empty. He could feel the concrete against his back where his shirt had ridden up, the scrape of it against his skin.
“Bakugou -” the girl pulled at Akio’s shoulder, but it was no use against his Quirk and he simply shook her off like she was a particularly annoying bug.
“ Let go of me!” Ryū yelled, still scratching and kicking like a feral cat. He fucking hated being grabbed like this, being touched and manhandled by some - some - “Let go! Get off!”
“Akio! Leave him!”
“Hey, what’s going on!?” a man had stopped his car haphazardly at the side of the road and was half-leaning out of the driver’s side window. “Leave that kid alone!”
Akio heaved him back and slammed him into the wall once more, hands vice-like on his shoulders. Ryū, who knew he had no chance of escaping him with sheer force, last-resorted to his Quirk and heated up his fingers as they lay hung uselessly in the air.
“Fuck you,” he gasped and, as he’d hoped, Akio growled back at that.
“What the h -”
He was cut off as Ryū shoved his fingers in his mouth, pressing his fingertips up into the soft palate where the skin was the most sensitive.
Akio’s teeth chomped down on the second knuckle and Ryū then realised what a humongous idiot he was. He made a noise, closer to a strangled yelp than a real scream, and wrenched his arm back.
Unfortunately, that did nothing but tug painfully on his shoulder, which made a sad grinding sound and shot agony all the way across his shoulder blades and upper back. He made another sad little noise and his vision fizzled like television static.
Then he was on the ground, clutching his bloodied, throbbing fingers and trying to keep his arm as still as possible whilst doing so. The intervening civilian man had his hand up and Akio was drifting lazily through the air as his legs kicked wildly. It looked like he was yelling, but as he was surrounded by a pale blue bubble, any noise was muted.
“Are you okay?” he asked Ryū.
“Kaminari-kun!” a girl came running around from the other side of the car, long blade twin-tails flapping behind her. She dropped to her knees at his side. “Are you okay? What happened?” She looked over her shoulder at Akio. “Do you know that boy?”
Ryū sucked in a pained breath. “Shiomi,” he said. “Stop talking.”
She nodded. “Right. Dad!” she told the man. “Can you keep him that way until we get back inside the school grounds?”
The man, Shiomi’s father, nodded firmly.
“We’ll come with you,” Akio’s useless friend said. It was the girl, as the boy was mysteriously missing. “Amajiki-kun ran on ahead to find a teacher!”
Ryū was pulled to his feet and led gently along by Shiomi, who chatted quietly with her father. Akio bobbled along next to them, still in his blue bubble, and he looked pissed.
Shinsou-sensei met them at the main doors. He was holding a remote control and a small bag. He also looked pissed.
“Bakugou,” he said. “Kaminari. What is going on here?”
“Sensei,” Shiomi said. “We saw, uh, Bakugou attack Kaminari-kun first. He made the first move!”
“An upperclassman attacking a student in their first year is reprehensible!” Shiomi’s father said. “What kind of heroes are you training hero that they’d do this in their final year of schooling?”
“Not this kind, I assure you, Shiomi-san,” Shinsou-Sensei said firmly. “This matter will be dealt with appropriately.” He nodded at Akio. “Please release him.”
Shiomi’s father did, but not without a stern frown in the older boy’s direction. Akio dropped but landed on his feet. He immediately opened his mouth, but Shinsou-sensei got their first.
“My office,” he said. “Now.”
“But the boy’s injured!” Shiomi’s father protested. “He needs a doctor!”
“One will meet us there. Thank you for your help, Shiomi-san, Shiomi-kun. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
Ryū, allowing Shiomi to pat his arm comfortingly and even mustering a tight, ingenuine smile for her, trailed after Akio as he marched behind Shinsou-sensei.
That had not been how he’d imagined his long-awaited reunion with his older brother as a child. There had been a lot more violence than eleven-year-old Ryū had dreamt of. Fifteen-year-old Ryū was not upset, though - just disappointed. Why couldn’t one of his family members just be normal for once? Was that really too much to ask for?
A tall man with neat red hair and hazy blue eyes like chips of ice was waiting for them. He must’ve been the school nurse, which was further supported by the white + on armband. He smiled thinly at them.
“Bite wounds to extremities,” he mumbled. “Lacerations to back, pulled muscles, half-dislocated left shoulder. What on earth have you done to yourself, young man?”
“And what about me?” Akio asked bitterly. “My mouth is still sore.”
“First degree burn,” the man dismissed. “No worse than a day in the sun. Just try not to eat anything citrusy and it should heal within the next day. You, on the other hand,” he pointed at Ryū. “Sit.”
He sat in front of Shinsou-sensei’s desk and watched the man pull out...a flute of all things. He lifted it to his lips, which he wet, and then began to blow.
Ryū didn’t remember much after that.
He opened his eyes and blinked.
The face hovering above his own blinked back.
“What the fuck are you doing,” he said.
Shiomi sat back and he shuffled upwards in what he could now see was a hospital bed. Presumably in the hospital room of U.A., though with his luck who really knew; it could end up being the hideout for the most villainous evildoer in the whole of Japan and he wouldn’t feel a lick of surprise.
“I thought I’d sit with you,” she said, looking at him like he was a bit touched in the head. “Since no one else wanted to.”
“Ouch,” he said flatly.
He looked out the window and, to his horror, it was nearing dark. Had Kurou-sama been informed of the incident or was he...still waiting? Ryū didn’t even want to consider what would happen if that were the case, but all he knew is that it wouldn’t be good. Not good at all.
“You got into a fight,” a man swanned in through the door. It was the red-headed guy from before. The one with the - “The Pied Piper,” he said. “U.A.’s nurse. I make sure dumb kids like you keep all their parts attached and in...relatively good condition. You, however, seem to be on a crusade to mess with that. What on earth compelled you to get into a fight with a third year student?”
“He’s my brother,” Ryū said, like that was a good reason to get into a fight. Well, to him it was, at least.
“Brothers?” Shiomi asked incredulously and the ‘nurse’ finally noticed her.
“You again?” The Pied Piper raises an eyebrow at her. “Go home, kid! It’s too late to be here for no good reason.”
“Yes, Piper-san,” Shiomi stood up and dusted off her uniform skirt. “I hope you feel better soon, Kaminari-san.” She smiled softly. “See you tomorrow.”
He grunted and she left.
Good. Ryū didn’t have time for visitors, for - for friends. He threw the blankets off and swung his legs out of the long, skinny hospital bed.
“All fixed?” The Pied Piper asked as he watched Ryū inspect the paper-thin white hospital gown he was now dressed in. “Yes, you’re uniform was quite ruined after I was done with it. I have a spare one for you over there. Dress quickly and you can still make the last bus.”
Ryū dressed at a moderate pace. He buttoned up his new uniform, which was about two sizes too big for him, and opened the door. He felt like an uncertain idiot and he hated it. What the fuck was wrong with this school and its teachers fucking getting involved in his business like this?
“You’d probably be pleased to know that the older boy you were fighting has been taken into a meeting with the principal and his parents, and put on a two-day suspension.”
Ryū was sort of glad about the latter, but the former...not so much. What was with those two assholes and being in his vicinity lately? It’s not like they’d been doing it over the last five years!
“This way, please.” Ryū trailed after the man, eyeing the long bag he had strapped on his back. Clearly it was where he kept that flute, the one that had knocked Ryū out and healed his injuries.
The Pied Piper held the door open for him, revealing the front gates dappled at dusk, street lights circling yellow domes of luminosity onto the sidewalk. There was no silver car idling in sight, no stern yellow glare awaiting him - he was royal and truly fucked. A bus flew past.
“Guess you missed it,” the nurse said, not looking very bothered about leaving a student without a way home late in the evening. “Do you live far?”
Fifteen minutes on his bike. About half-an-hour on foot, less if he ran.
“No,” he hiked his bag higher on his shoulder and headed down the steps. “Sayōnara, sensei.”
“Sayōnara,” echoed the Pied Piper, disappearing back inside. The door made an audible locking sound as it swung shut and then Ryū was left all alone.
Hands tucked into his pocket, he set off. He passed the grassy area where Akio - that piece of shit - had attacked him with his loser friends, and rounded a corner under a streetlight. However, he was startled to a stop when his eyes focused in on a man leaning against the wall, smoking a red-tipped cigarette. An expensive, two-door, blue car was parked in front of him, neatly tucked against the curb. The headlights were off, but the engine was running.
The smell of tobacco hung in the air, along with the faint whiff of cologne. He didn’t know how he hadn’t noticed it before, now that the scent was so prominent and choking.
The man looked up, the cigarette lighting the planes of his face. He took it out of his mouth.
He looked familiar, but Ryū couldn’t quite make out his features in the limited light and his black hair was too common to place. Then he shifted and the streetlight illuminated his eyes enough to reveal a pair of extremely distinctive rectangular-shaped pupils.
It was Ariyoshi-san, who worked with Kurou-sama at his legal firm. Ryū had never met him personally but had seen them talking outside the house before and knew the man had even suggested the brand of tea his grandmother still enjoyed.
“Did I startle you?” he asked. “It’s quite dark out.”
“Yes,” Ryū said. “So I have to go home.” His feet stayed firmly rooted to the ground, however. How was he supposed to speak with the only man ever friendly enough with his Kurou-sama to visit the house several times just to chat? All adults he knew seemed to expect different levels of formality and it was confusing as hell.
“Well, that’s why I’m here, Ryū,” he explained. “To collect you for dinner.”
Why? “Why?” He’d never even spoken to Ariyoshi-san before, let alone been driven home by him from school. Not for his three days at U.A., and certainly not back at middle school. The only person who’d driven him then had been Kurou-sama (not including the distant memories of his estranged family, of course). “I can walk -”
“No, no,” Ariyoshi-san said. He dropped the cigarette and ground the flame away with his shoe. Ryū could no longer see his rectangular pupils. “I insist.” He gestured at the idling blue car. “Hop on in.”
Ryū got in the car. He sat in the passenger’s seat with his bag at his feet and hands in his lap. The leather seats also smelt of cigarette smoke and cologne, alongside peppermint or perhaps liquorice. A little Hawaiian hula-girl was stuck to the dashboard and she swayed as Ariyoshi-san climbed into the driver’s seat, adjusting the mirrors and clicking in his seatbelt.
Houses flashed by as they drove down near-empty streets, keeping to the residential areas to, presumably, avoid the late-evening traffic. Ariyoshi-san reached over to turn the radio on, which was playing some slow, drowsy jazz song.
At one point they passed Michiko’s house and for a moment Ryū could imagine he saw his friend standing in the window, laughing and wrestling with her father. Then the road flashed past and they were turning into Ryū’s, speeding down towards the little two-story place he lived with his grandmother and grandfather. The lights were on downstairs, his uncle Daiki’s motorbike still parked outside.
“We passed my house.”
“Be respectful,” Ariyoshi-san said, still focusing on the road. “Your grandmother didn’t bring you up with bad enough manners to question your elders.”
“But I live back there,” Ryū twisted around in his seat, staring back down the road, though his house was already out of sight. “Number 117.”
“When Mori-san told me you were a quiet boy, I didn’t think that meant you’d ask so many questions.”
It wasn’t a question - it wasn’t a question -
This guy was crazy. Ryū felt sorry for him, sorry that he’d ever agreed to get into the car in the first place, and pity that he seemed to have nothing better to do than pick up his friend’s great-grandson late home from school.
“Where are we going?”
“More questions,” Ariyoshi-san said to himself. “Keep quiet.”
He shut his mouth with a quiet sound, listening to the sad jazz and watching the houses whizz past at increasing speeds. They were pushing forty miles an hour and speedometer was only climbing higher by the second. After ten minutes passed it was at nearly seventy.
“You’re very handsome,” Ariyoshi-san said. “But I’ve always thought so.”
Ryū stared mutely out the window.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” he could see Ariyoshi-san looking at him out of the corner of his eye. “Boyfriend?” he pushed coyly.
“No,” he said. “I really need to get home.” He didn’t recognise this neighbourhood anymore; not the houses, not the street names and not the stores they were passing. He just wanted his bed.
They slowed to a gradual stop and made a right turn into the entryway to a small play park. There were no children playing, not a single soul in sight. The parking lot was empty and Ariyoshi-san parked his expensive blue car in a space next to a copse of trees. He turned the engine off, leaving only the small light from the radio to provide visibility.
He looked over.
“Take your clothes off.”
Ryū was very cold. The heating was on in the car and it was only April, but his fingers and toes, tucked underneath his satchel, were so so cold. He didn’t turn his head, didn’t stop looking out the window at the jungle gym and the swings and the slide. He hadn’t been on a slide in years, but could remember his brothers coaxing him down a big one near their house, gleaming silver under the summer sun as he whimpered and clung to the rails at the top. “You can do it, Ryū,” they said. “Just go! Before you get frozen!”
He was sure the sentiment applied now. Now, as a large hand came to rest on his leg, right where Kurou-sama’s had that very morning. But he hadn’t been able to go down the slide, and eventually, his dad had come to fetch him, laughing as he plucked Ryū from his metal tower. His sharp teeth had been comforting then, his calloused hands and crimson hair as familiar as could be.
And he couldn’t move at this moment either.
“Do as I say,” Ariyoshi said softly. “Take your clothes off.”
Ryū undid his tie and it slid down between his seat and the handbrake, disappearing into the dark. He unbuttoned his shirt, but only managed a few buttons before Ariyoshi’s hand was drifting up his stomach and shoving up below his ribs. Fingers caressed across his skin, feeling the goosebumps that arose at the pang of disgust. He felt sick, felt like he always did under the attention of his -
Ariyoshi continued to rub his chest and then pressed their lips together. To Ryū, his mouth felt very wet, very smooth. Like the skin of a eel, the pressure hard and forceful. He wanted to pull away, but he was pinned against the door and the seat, and he wanted to scream but he was too aware of what would happened when he opened his mouth. His first kiss had been with a girl in his middle school, a girl whose name he could no longer remember. She’d smelt like strawberries, though, and they had stood under a cherry blossom tree not far from school. He’d turned her confession down, but she’d sat with him at lunch, not bothered by his silent disposition and scathing looks. She’d moved away at the end of the year and then he’d sat alone again. Ryū remembered thinking that being alone was the worst thing that could happen, that all his problems stemmed from how alone he truly was.
As Ariyoshi undid his belt, his pants, Ryū wished to be alone with all his might.
Ariyoshi pulled away and, just like his mouth, his face was wet and shiny in the light from the wing mirror. He was sweating heavily and the tobacco/cologne smell of the car mixed with the body odour until Ryū truly believed he was going to be sick.
“Pretty boy,” Ariyoshi panted. “So pretty.” He rubbed Ryū’s cheek, up into his hair and across his eyes, fumbling in his haste. “So small. How old are you again?”
Ryū was empty of words.
Ariyoshi took the back of his neck and shook. “How old are you again?”
“Fifteen,” he said like a breath.
“Mmm,” Ariyoshi gasped. “So fresh.” He leant down, wet mouth sucking on Ryū’s neck as his hand kept his head twisted to one side. “I want you, Ryū. You’re all mine.” He began to kiss at his pulse point, his adam’s apple, teeth making a brief appearance before Ryū was going to the little place he sometimes went, the house where he was all by himself with no one to touch him, no one to bother him or say things he didn’t want to be said. He was close to going, could see the walls materialising, but then there was a tremendous bang.
Ariyoshi pulled away with a noise, a cry of surprise. “What the fuck was that,” he asked, clearly to no one in particular. “What -”
There was a screeching sound, a squeal of metal that sounded like a fork being dragged down a plate magnified by a thousand. The car began to shake and Ryū looked up, shirt still up under his armpits, trousers undone and tie missing. His face and neck were wet from Ariyoshi’s blubbery mouth.
The roof began to twist back, began to detach from the windows and rent the metal hinges from their sockets. The windows cracked straight across, threads of lines spreading across them. The cold night air fetched in, filling the car with a great inhale.
When the entire roof was gone, peeled away like a can of tuna, a white face met them, a long mouth and red eyes. A clawed hand reached inside and swept Ariyoshi up. The man shrieked and squealed.
Ryū, Kiyo snarled. He had never felt so glad, so relieved to see such a horrifying creature looming down at him with unblinking eyes and an ever-grinning mouth. Ryū.
He gasped as Ariyoshi kicked and screamed, clawing at her hands as they held tight to his throat. Ryū didn’t even know what his Quirk was, but it didn’t appear to make much difference for him, as Kiyo leant closer and huffed a wet breath right in his face.
“Stop -” Ariyoshi screamed, but it was too late as, with a harrowing growling sound, Kiyo leant down and bit off his head. It disconnected cleanly at the shoulders and the rest of the body swiftly followed into her gaping maw.
Eat, she said.