The idea comes to Tokoyami like most ideas do—during a spirited argument with Dark Shadow late one night when the monster is too restless to let its host get a solid eight hours of sleep.
At first, the idea—the whim, if you will—is rather nebulous. Its foundation is humble, its possible future implementation distant… it is, on the surface, nothing more than a whimsical derivative of the sort that delights in coming at three in the morning when the time before your alarm starts to grow alarmingly short.
And yet, Tokoyami can’t shake it. It’s still on his mind when he’s getting himself ready for another day of revelry at U.A. High, the institute notable for its above-average cohorts of up-and-coming heroes. He grooms out a few broken feathers from the fringe of black at his nape, smooths out the down between his eyes, clips a handful of small charms to the dainty silver chain he wears ‘round his neck under his shirt, and he thinks about it. In fact, as he’s staring at his own grim face in the mirror, he zones out for several long minutes thinking about it because… well, it sure is an idea. A conceivably viable one, once it has some planning behind it. There is nothing, really, stopping him. Not like there once was, in any case… though one man and one monster are hardly enough to really get the ball rolling, so to speak. He hasn’t a clue who else he could approach for such a—
“Hungry,” whines Dark Shadow, nipping sharply at his tie. “Stop thinking… feeed me…”
Jerking out of his trance, Tokoyami hums in agreement. Dark Shadow is right—there’s more to contemplate, observations to be made and definitive action to take, but now is not the time. Tokoyami strokes the head of the demon soothingly and goes to find a lemon tart to split before it’s time to catch the train to school.
Morning classes are the same as ever. Preparation for the day’s activities, long lectures in history and English, a frustrating amount of loud disruptions and petty quarrels among his classmates… it’s all the same. The dark cloud of the U.S.J. Incident is slipping away into the fog of times since past, and as it goes a new beast arises to the North—that of the Annual U.A. Sports Festival.
It will be a time to prove themselves. To rise from the ashes of misfortune and show the world that they, and by proxy their school, are worthy of the honor and the burden of heroism. The class is in titters. Excitement and enthusiasm abound freely. Tokoyami nods to his classmates, encouraging their boisterous noise for once. He even joins in, if only for a moment or two. He needs to shed light on the general moods of his compatriots, lest he mistake equanimity for docility or arrogance for brashness. This will be yet another challenge, especially for one who revels in the shadows, but a blade must be forged in light and fire for it to be a blade at all. He will not be left behind.
He’s paying more attention than usual to the various conversations that creep up from all sides of the room during their first break, and so finds his first potential kindred spirit quite by accident, though said kindred spirit would likely blast him through the roof to hear such ‘slander’. It starts as a discussion about who is most suited to the tasks from last year’s festival, specifically the hostage-retrieval relay.
“All we’re saying,” Kaminari says, examining his nails to obscure the fact that he’s clearly hiding behind Ashido’s shoulder, “is that your quirk is the most destructive one here, and that’s coming from an electrification-user and an acid-user.”
“FUCK YOU! I’LL SHOW YOU FUCKING DESTRUCTIVE—”
A trill of laughter comes from the ring of seats around them. As if she doesn’t possess a single care in the world, Ashido props her elbow on the edge of Bakugou’s desk. “Nah, he’s right, Baku-babe,” she says, clearly enjoying the thrill of having wandered so far into the potential blast-radius of the lion’s den. The onset of excitement in the face of the upcoming festival has dimmed her sense of self-preservation considerably. Foolish. “How are you going to save a hostage, hm? Scream at it to die?”
Sparks fly, a warning just short of a proper explosion. Midoriya, clearly uncomfortable with the entire conversation, lets out a high giggle and pretends to be very amused by a flake of paint on the wall. The sound of Bakugou’s teeth grinding is audible clear across the room.
“And you’re always starting fights, and yelling insults, and there was that one time you destroyed an entire building while you were still in it…” Kaminari shrugs, smirking.
Ashido adds the cherry on top with a prod to Bakugou’s shoulder, not five inches from the bared teeth that look ready to take off her freshly-painted nails. “You’re clearly more of an antagonist than anything, don’t you think?” she asks slyly, a direct reference to the blonde’s tendency to call everyone around him ‘extras’.
Bakugou lights up and the floor shakes. The curious clustered at his desk dive for cover. Tokoyami tilts his head away from the blasts and lets the conversation fall into a simmer in the back of his mind, next to that idea, which he’s painstakingly tucked away in a shadowed mental trunk to keep safe until a time where he can give it its due reverence.
The chords that the words struck within him don’t stop ringing, even in his dreams.
The time for reverence comes several weeks later, after his defeat at Bakugou’s hands. Dark Shadow is cowed and shivering deep in his chest, and though he knew there would be no good to come from fighting on, the weight of his surrender lies heavy on Tokoyami’s shoulders. He is the amalgam of every effort he’s ever made, every risk he’s ever taken, every troubled thought and every nerve singing in pain. He is only as much as he’s made of himself, so to fall so spectacularly short after getting so far, well… he feels crummy.
It’s in stoic silence that he sits near Midoriya for the final matches. Midoriya, ousted in his second round, is chipper as ever as he cross-types the last combatants against each other, and then against all the defeated combatants as well for good measure. He manages a distracted greeting before he’s sucked back in, pencil thoroughly chewed.
He’s sharp, observant, traits that have come to mean so much more to Tokoyami after their cavalry battle earlier. That’s why Tokoyami pushes aside his own melancholy—so close, he was so tantalizingly close to the top—in order to focus on the boy’s twelve-words-per-second flow of information, hoping to soak some of it up.
“—Kacchan doesn’t always vocalize during fights, it really depends on his mood and, more so, how he gets on with his opponent; he’s also undoubtedly picked up the trigger by now, so Shinsou would have a hard time getting him to—"
“Who is Shinsou?” Tokoyami asks, his curiosity latching onto the unfamiliar name.
“—would definitely depend on what qualifies as a—oh, Shinsou—? Uh.” Midoriya grinds to a halt for a moment, his brows twitching as he tries to contain his runaway mind. “Remember that general studies kid that Kacchan pissed off? The one who came to say that he’d steal a spot in the hero class? That’s Shinsou.”
Ah. And he was Midoriya’s first match if Tokoyami isn’t mistaken. At the time, Tokoyami was trying to get Dark Shadow as far away from the stadium lights as possible to help calm both of their nerves in preparation for his own match against Yaoyorozu. Unfortunately, Present Mic’s voice tends to… carry.
Midoriya is still talking, his thoughts wandering off on the nearest tangent. “—has Brainwashing, which is a strong quirk, but it’s definitely limited by word of mouth, which makes me wonder how much flexibility he has with the trigger or if the requirements will drift to be broader in general as he trains it—"
Brainwashing, hm? Present Mic and Eraserhead in the commentator’s box were professional enough not to blast social commentary about stigmatized quirks across the stadium, but a power like that would not have escaped notice at the elementary and middle schools Tokoyami attended, and likely for all the wrong reasons. Mind-altering quirks, even ones with severe limitations, are always, ah, what did the kids call it? …a hot topic.
Lost in his own thoughts, Tokoyami stares down his beak at the stadium, turning this new information over and over and over. At his side, Midoriya continues his deluge of commentary, oblivious to the fact that something that was once naught but a small sliver of an idea has officially taken root and, finding no resistance, is now shooting straight toward the surface seeking the light of day. Tokoyami is powerless to resist its tenacity.
One person is an originator. If you have one person, you have a source, an idea, but no followers. A seed, with nowhere to plant it. Two is better—two people and you have a partnership, an engagement. The idea escapes its original confines and finds a plot of dirt in which to settle. But three… three is the magical number. A third is the water that encourages the seed to sprout.
Two’s company, three’s a crowd, as they say—and you need a crowd in order to make a support group.
Three more days of pondering, just to be sure, to tally up the names and quirks he’s heard that he thinks would find the presentation to their liking, and Tokoyami faces his demons in order to take his freshly germinated idea to administration. Socialization and eye contact have never been strong points of his, but he finds comfort in the clinical way that Aizawa-sensei’s apathetic eyes fall on him. He wonders, if briefly, whether or not his homeroom teacher has ever faced the kind of discrimination he’s come to expect at the expense of his own quirk. Erasure isn’t violent like Explosion, or morally questionable like Brainwashing, but… how many times has he had to take away someone’s livelihood, the essence of their being, in order to de-escalate a situation? Does that not fall, erroneously or not, into the category of villainy?
These are the thoughts and questions that give him the strength to approach. That and the ringing jokes, the screams, the accusations that have followed him since Dark Shadow’s very first manifestation.
“Sensei,” he says.
“Tokoyami,” the man says back.
Tokoyami steels himself, forces his feathers to lay flat in order to say, “If this is a good time, I have a proposal—a request—to make of you.”
There’s a silence as Aizawa-Sensei studies him with bloodshot eyes, the curve of the fresh pink scar on his cheek like a jagged grin. Then the man hums, briefly breaking eye contact in order to locate one of the applesauce pouches he keeps buried in his sleeping bag. Once he has it in hand, he gestures for Tokoyami to continue.
Now or never. He’s practiced reciting this to Dark Shadow in the shower at least five times. The speech rises painstakingly to his tongue, growing stronger word by word.
“With our society the way it is, there are certain individuals who are preemptively marked for villainy simply because of the stigma associated with their quirks. In order to combat the stigma of so-called ‘villainous quirks’, I’d like to propose a student-run support group, open to myself and my peers.”
The silence as he closes his beak on the last word is harrowing, deeply unsettling in the way that it rings just as loudly as a well-aimed blast from Bakugou’s palm. Aizawa-sensei seems to be studying him more closely now, sucking dry the last dregs of his applesauce, eyes half-lidded but now clear and sharp in a way they weren’t before.
“Who else is in need of this service?” he asks, at last. “Is it not something you can speak with the counselor about?”
Tokoyami shakes his head a little, forging onward. He’s thought this through a hundred different ways, following the gnarled threads through knot after knot until he’d straightened them all in his mind. “There are at least a handful. I fully believe that the problem would be better handled with public, preemptive measures instead of at each individual’s behest. It’s possible that some of the people afflicted may not even realize that they need support and would, therefore, be unlikely to seek out one-on-one help. An open environment provides less pressure, as does student initiation. A support group will be a safe space, open to anyone who is even mildly interested.”
Deep black eyes stare into the furled shadows of Tokoyami’s soul as if they can carve away the protective shell of his solitude and the darkness he uses as cover. They gaze inside him, searching, to find a way down to the vulnerability he hides even deeper than the nest in his ribs where Dark Shadow resides. For a long moment, he and his sensei are two entities locked together in limbo, questions and answers voiced by minute twists and turns of their heads, stories told in the twitch of a mouth and a slight inhale.
“If you’re sure,” Aizawa-sensei says, after a moment, turning away. He digs around in his sleeping bag yet again, this time to produce a manilla folder. Tokoyami leaves the staff lounge a moment later with the first real step toward making his idea into reality clutched in his hands: a form, with slots for a minimum of three student signatures, plus their requested faculty adviser, proposed meeting place and time, a written proposal of intent, and the Principal’s sign off.
“Return that by next week and I’ll see that it gets onto Nezu’s desk,” Aizawa-sensei calls after him. If Tokoyami isn’t mistaken, there’s a hint of a slanted smile hidden in the monotone of his voice.
The first person he pitches the idea to after the successful proposal grins a grin that could light the sun on fire.
“Oh, for real?” Kirishima demands, leaning forward intently, teeth on full display. “That sounds awesome, dude! Like, helping each other out and fighting against assumptions? Super manly.”
“Thank you,” Tokoyami says, too flustered by the enthusiasm to get to the point. The light is still his greatest weakness, he finds, as Kirishima’s face shines down on him.
Kirishima, thankfully, helps him along. “No problem!” he chimes, still grinning at 4,000 watts. “What did you need me for, though?”
Hovering just beyond the edge of Kirishima’s desk, Tokoyami casts a meaningful look toward the side of the room where a certain time-bomb sits, earbuds in, waiting for class to start. He keeps the horde back with the force of the snarl on his face. “I was wondering if perhaps you could give me a few… tips. On how to broach the subject with Bakugou.”
Kirishima scratches his head, managing to take his energy down a notch to properly consider Tokoyami’s current plight. “Ah. Yeah. Well, I mean… best I can say is try and keep it to the point? And catch him when he’s not actively blowing something up, that’ll definitely help.”
“…I see.” Tokoyami does not see. He has never witnessed anyone use this approach and survive.
“If you want I could go with you, keep the peace, you know? I don’t mean to sound cocky or anything but he doesn’t always wind up trying to blast me through a window,” Kirishima offers, his brows starting to pull into a frown as he thinks.
“I’ll pass on that, though I appreciate your candor.” It was only as much as he expected, honestly. He always knew that his first mark, for lack of a better descriptor, would be… difficult. Bakugou Katsuki’s strength and self-sufficiency are boons in the ring, but in matters more like these?
Kirishima hums. “Good luck, dude. I don’t know who you’ve talked to already, but… I could give you some names? Not saying they’ll for sure be on board, but this whole thing sounds like something a few people I know might be interested in.”
That, at least, gives Tokoyami some peace of mind. He graciously accepts and watches with interest as Kirishima scrawls a list for him. Now armed with a fresh number of potential members to accompany the two he already had, Tokoyami is ready to go head to head a second time.
Unfortunately, the resulting conversation with Bakugou goes about as well as Tokoyami feared it would. It begins like this:
“There’s something I think you might be interested in, Bakugou. I’ve been considering this for some time and I believe that—”
“Hey. Fuckface. Do I look interested?”
Having coached himself profusely beforehand, Tokoyami is decidedly unflustered by the first vehement rebuttal. He simply blinks, watching as Bakugou’s already hunched posture hunches further, head tipping to the side into territory more in the range of mocking. His teeth are bared, threatening.
Tokoyami sighs. Contrariness is only to be expected when dealing with Bakugou. “No, but you never do, so I thought I’d pitch it to you anyway.”
“Fuck that,” Bakugou says, already turning away. His back is a clear invitation for Tokoyami to not-so-kindly go fuck himself.
Unfortunately for him, Tokoyami intends to do no such thing. Mustering all the grace he has, he begins to stride after the retreating figure, saying, “Hear me out. It’s a support group for people who—”
“Hah?! Support?! Fuck! That! What the fuck! I don’t need support!”
Tokoyami winces at the punctuation provided by well-timed nitro blasts. “Fine,” he concedes, but only far enough to keep his feathers out of blast range. Having no desire to become lion feed today, he quickly revises his thesis statement. “It’s a club for people who have been erroneously assumed villainous simply because of their quirk.”
That has Bakugou pausing, if momentarily. “…So it’s for planning revenge?” he asks, a smirk alighting on his face. It’s threatening in an entirely different way, Tokoyami finds. His bared teeth evoke a greater sense of immediate danger than Kirishima’s fangs.
The smirk falls. “What’s it even for, then?” Bakugou asks, legitimately confused.
“I DON’T NEED SUPPORT! FUCK YOU! I’M OUT!”
Stride picking up again, Bakugou marches down the hall, leaving Tokoyami to follow along behind, beseeching. Beseech he does. “Come now,” he says, carefully watching the rise of Bakugou’s shoulders. “Even you must sometimes feel the weight of expectations, of judgment—”
Bakugou doesn’t even turn around this time as he sets off a warning blast. “I know who I am, Birdbrains, and who I am sure as shit doesn’t give a fuck what any of you extras think. Understand? Am I being clear enough for you?”
He doesn’t stop, but Tokoyami sure does. Bakugou is already halfway to the door, heavy feet carrying him away, when Tokoyami utters an affirmation to no one but the shadow in his chest. Yes, that certainly was plenty clear.
There are times when second—or even third—opinions are necessary to work the kinks out of a plan. This is what Tokoyami reminds himself as he watches Kaminari and Sero laugh themselves to tears.
“You actually thought that would work? Aw, dude, I’m so sorry,” Kaminari says, looking anything but. He wipes tears from his eyes. “I guess you haven’t realized this yet, but that shit only works for Kirishima, and only when ‘Splodey is in a good mood.”
Tokoyami knew it. Courting Bakugou with an idea that isn’t his own was always going to be a difficult task, and he fears he’s already blown his only shot.
“I don’t suppose you have any other ideas,” he says, rather forlornly.
“Get a teacher to suggest it to him,” Sero says immediately, grinning away. With his ever-present smile, Tokoyami finds it very hard to tell if he’s being sincere or not.
“Oooh, or Hagakure!” Kaminari adds, slapping a hand down on the table with enthusiasm. “He can’t explode someone he can’t see! Eh? Eh?”
Yeah, this time Tokoyami calls bullshit. This was, perhaps, a waste of time. “Thank you for your insight,” he sighs, inclining his head.
“No problem,” Kaminari snickers.
Sero elbows him in the side. “But seriously, good luck with whoever is next!”
“That would be Monoma,” Tokoyami admits, the first on Kirishima’s suggestion list.
The sound of them howling laughter follows him from the room.
Finding Monoma is the first challenge, a plight of several lunch-blocks before it turns up anything substantive as to his whereabouts. The second challenge is getting him to acknowledge that someone he considers his inferior is talking to him. The third, of course, is actually engaging him in the conversation.
…This conversation—if it can even be called a conversation—goes, arguably, worse than the ones before it.
The beginning of the speech is barely out when Tokoyami hits a barrier. He sees from the corner of his eye—Monoma has gone rigid, freezing where he stands with a crooked smile etched ‘cross his lips and a feverish light flickering behind a wide, unseeing stare. The sudden transition would be right at home on the face of a recipient of Shinsou’s Brainwashing, if the illusion hadn’t been shattered a moment later when Monoma began to shake where he stood.
Tokoyami blinks, his pitch coming to a hard stop.
“What did you just say about me?” Monoma asks in a dangerous tone, his voice pitched higher than normal with suppressed rage. Several people stop on their way past to stare. Monoma pays them no mind. He even goes so far as to nearly knock a lunch-tray from an unfortunate business student’s hands as he begins to rock back on his heels, neck stiff and head thrown back to stare down his nose. It’s as if he can see nothing but Tokoyami in front of him as he winds up for what promises to be an impressive oration at Tokoyami’s expense. “You 1-A vermin!” he hisses, enunciating clearly despite his rage. “Such a disrespectful little—"
Thankfully he’s cut off by a hand, which comes out of nowhere to grab him by the back of the neck and drag him forcefully out of strangulation-range. His arms flail and he lets out a high whine, which Kendou magnanimously ignores.
“I’m sorry, his hearing is very selective,” she says apologetically. She’s kind to a fault, her large eyes looking down at Tokoyami with tired compassion. She extends herself as a peace offering, smiling as she asks, “What was it you wanted to say?”
Tokoyami shakes his head mutely, his heart beginning to sink. Will no one he actually sets out to speak to hear him out? With chagrin, he realizes that they’ve attracted a crowd, all manner of eyes staring as the Monoma-driven drama unfolds before them. Tokoyami yearns for the solitude of darkness, the reassurance of the void.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Kendou says, lowering her voice. She bops Monoma on the head to encourage him to quiet down, releasing him with a warning glare. “Go on, we’re listening.”
He does, though his delivery is uninspired. “My apologies for bothering your class,” he says to finish up, bowing to Kendou. Lowering his eyes, he keeps his gaze aimed at the floor beneath him as he takes his leave. He’d like to say that he doesn’t hurry, at least, that he walks out of the room with all the dignity and confidence that he entered, but…
Two rejections, one after another, each more vehement than the last. It’s discouraging, leaves a bad taste in his mouth. He’s had his fair share of dismissals, maybe more than his fair share, even, in a lifetime of shunned advances and isolation, but this stings a little more than something as simple as a dismissal. He sought kindred spirits, just enough of them to bring fruition to an idea that’s plagued him non-stop for weeks, only to find his every attempt spurned with little effort and even less thought. As if his cause was simply so wrong as to be unthinkable.
Maybe, calls a nasty little voice from the depths of his psyche, it’s because you’re the only one. The one true, villainous quirk.
If he had lips to bite, bite them he would. A darkness settles on his lungs, the shadow within beginning to stretch and stir at the turn of his emotions. Maybe it’s true. Maybe there isn’t a single soul who shares this quandary with him. Maybe the monster residing inside of him is truly a one-of-a-kind evil the likes of which no one could ever understand.
But no… that’s not it. He shakes himself sharply, ruffling his feathers in his desperation to shake the thoughts right from his head. He’s in the Hero Course for a reason—he’ll be a hero, villainous quirk or not. He dares Dark Shadow, recalcitrant beast that it is, to even try and take this from him.
The stirrings in his chest take on a pained edge, his breath catching in his throat. He turns to the outdoors, taking refuge in his favored climbing tree. His brows twitch and his fingers curl as he struggles to rid himself of the ache.
You’ll never be a hero like this, the voice sings inside him.
Shut up, he says back.
He returns to class sometime later completely emptied out—purged of every thought and every emotion, his desolate head ringing with nothingness as he closes his eyes and crosses his arms across the hollow of his ribcage. This is a state of existence that he’s learned to call upon, one that leaves him void, numb to every pestering thought that once tormented him.
It’s not pleasant, never will be, but… at least his shadow has sound enough judgment to leave him be.
By the next morning, he’s come to terms with the setback. Two more days before he promised Aizawa-sensei a form, and by god, he’ll fill it out. He’s meticulous at the very least—his mind has always been suited for checking boxes, and he still has a number of names to get through.
He’s contemplating his next move, thoroughly cross-referencing his knowledge of the person next on the list to be queried with his failures to date so as to find and fill the holes in his methods, when a slow knock rings across the classroom.
Those who, like Tokoyami, arrived early enough to sit in solitude before homeroom began, all look up as one.
“Was that the door or am I still asleep?” Hagakure asks into the blank abyss of ringing silence.
There is another slow, three-tap knock in response.
“…I’ll get it?” Ojirou says in confusion, standing uncertainly. He slides the door open. A moment later, though no words were spoken, he nods and walks up to Tokoyami. “It’s for you,” he says.
From his seat, Tokoyami can’t see who is waiting on the other side for him. He nods his acceptance anyway, making his way to the door with only the slightest sense of trepidation. Who will it be, coming to call on a bird such as he? Has he managed to offend someone with his sparse queries? Is there a fight waiting to descend upon him the moment he steps through to the other side of this barrier? He’d undoubtedly win, with the knotted state in which Dark Shadow has been for days now, but he doesn’t look forward to the resulting detentions that will undoubtedly trail behind. He’s intimately familiar with the trouble Dark Shadow causes.
Waiting at the door, however, is a girl he recognizes from class 1-B. He doesn’t know her name—just her face, and the way she stands, which is reminiscent of something dead-and-walking. Her face betrays nothing, but he gets the sense that she is there out of camaraderie rather than anger.
His hypothesis is proven right after several long moments. With slow, limp hands, she gestures down the hall to a blond figure slouching several doors down—Monoma—and begins to outline a request in JSL. Having been through the introductory courses long ago as an extra communication technique for conversing with Dark Shadow, Tokoyami follows along, growing more and more astonished with each slow, sweeping word.
She starts with her name, Yanagi Reiko. And her quirk, Poltergeist. And finally, after several long minutes, finishes with a question—can she and Monoma join his club?
The tightness falls away from Tokoyami’s shoulders, the clench of shadow releasing in his chest. “Of course,” he tells her, through the smile that tugs on his beak. “I just need you to sign this form…”
With Yanagi’s quiet strength, Tokoyami finds the courage to move beyond the hero classes. He’s never fond of stepping out of the comfort of his shadowed haven in 1-A, but this is something he must do. He’s fueled by the righteous indignation beginning to sing again beneath his skin, the strength granted by slowly growing numbers, and the fact that Kirishima keeps asking him sweet, sincere questions about how his support group is shaping up.
It takes them less than five seconds to find Shinsou’s vivid purple hair in the sea of 1-C students.
“I’m not a trash collector, you know,” he says, one eyebrow raised, when they catch up. His eyes take in Yanagi’s blank stare and the way her bent elbows leave her hands hanging limply like dead birds in one long sweep of his dark eyes. Monoma stands in the back, staring intently across the courtyard as if he can will himself anywhere else at this moment in time. Shinsou’s attention returns to Tokoyami. “At some point,” he says with the hint of a smirk, “you’re going to have to figure out how to get Grape Boy out of the locker without my sultry voice.”
“Please, I do not need to remember that incident. Or… any of the others.” Tokoyami fights a shudder. There have been multiple instances of Mineta locking himself in one of the girl’s changing room lockers to gaze upon the forbidden fruit, and none yet have had happy endings.
“Understandable,” Shinsou says. He leans back, voice blatantly uninterested as he asks, “What can I do for you?”
Uninterested, Tokoyami thinks, is a far cry from outright dismissive. Wasting no time, he dives into his now well-tested pitch. “In a world as uncanny and inexplicable as our own, there is one thing that is absolute.”
“If you say death or taxes, I swear—”
A slow smile creeps up one side of Shinsou’s tired face. “…I’m listening.”
Deep black eyes gaze at narrowed red. “You’ve met all the requirements but the faculty advisor,” Aizawa-sensei says. It’s one day before his imposed deadline of the end of the week. Whether he’s affecting the boredom or if he’s truly this disinterested in current dealings, Tokoyami may never know. He wonders briefly if Shinsou has ever met Aizawa-sensei—they have the same deceitful listlessness about them.
“I wanted your advice on who to ask,” he responds to the unasked question, offering one of his own.
The two of them stare each other down for several long minutes before Aizawa-sensei hands the form back, hooded eyes blinking slowly. After a moment of consideration, he hums. “They used to say that Black Hole is the kind of quirk you’d find in a dark alleyway. Did you know that?”
“I did not, sir. Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me,” Aizawa-sensei sighs, rubbing his misused eyes. “Just get this thing off the ground. It’s about time we addressed this issue.”
One step closer to doing just that, Tokoyami takes his form and goes in search of 13’s blessing.
They say yes. With a calculating look and a subtle wink of their digitized eyes, they sign a large 13 on the waiting line. With just a few hours to spare, Tokoyami delivers the form to Aizawa-sensei with every last one of the necessary slots filled in.
Years of fermenting emotions, of waiting for the idea to fully manifest itself—weeks of organization and contemplation, fitting the various puzzle-pieces together into something tangible—days of unease and trepidation, pushing his boundaries and exiling himself from his comfort zone in search of the right people to fulfill this once-distant goal, and… it’s done. He did it. Tokoyami allows himself a small moment of celebration.
Then, in an inevitable wave of misery, comes the task of waiting for the final say. Will the club be approved? Will it be vetoed at the final stage? The question hangs like mist in the air. It is a mystery, how upper management decides to undertake tasks. According to apocrypha, the Principal has half a dozen of these requests to sort through every month, and that is only one drop in the vast, never-ending, never-stilling sea of duties he undertakes. He truly is a rat of distinction.
The wait does not become any easier, even knowing this. Tokoyami finds himself on the edge of his seat at the end of every day, teeth clenched in thrilling anticipation, only to wilt at the subtle shake of Aizawa-sensei’s head as he dismisses them for the day. By Friday, exactly one week after he sent the form off to the powers that be, Tokoyami is beginning to fear that there will never be any news—that his form was lost among the minutiae of the paperwork flowing to and from the Principals desk, his proposal too weak and underdeveloped to merit a second glance.
Kirishima catches his attention during their last break of the day, waving him over with a frown. “You look tense,” he says, hands on his bare waist as he studies the shorter boy. “Is something up? Did the club fall through?”
Tokoyami shakes his weary head. “No news yet,” he says somberly, and Kirishima’s shoulders dip.
“It’s supposed to come back by the end of today, right?”
Dark Shadow caws out a listless affirmative from its perch across Tokoyami’s shoulders.
Kirishima smiles, the sharp edges of his teeth glinting under the gym lights. “Then I’ll wait with you!” he decides.
True to his word, the moment they’re finished with the last of their cool-down exercises and have changed back into their uniforms, Kirishima is glued to his side. He’s a hundred times more hyped than Tokoyami himself, offering Dark Shadow high-fives, pumping his fists, and chanting affirmations about how he’s sure the club will pull through, that Aizawa-sensei will come around at any moment with the confirmation, and even if he doesn’t Tokoyami will just try again next semester, right? Right!
Tokoyami melts into his enthusiasm, allowing himself a rare moment of true and utter peace. Right here, right now, there are infinite possibilities. A quantum state of existence. Moving forward will offer one of any number of choices, of realities, but for now, he exists in a sheer slice of time where the future is a many-pronged path in the shadowed forest before him. After everything, he has any number of options waiting for him—and with each of them, he has steps to take in order to make his future his own, no matter which fork of the road eventually becomes reality or how winding the road once he’s on it. Kirishima, whether he truly believes it or not, is very right. If not this time, then the next—and if not then either, then the one after that. Tokoyami hasn’t come this close to reaping the fruits of his labors only to let them rot on the vine just out of reach.
A hand locks on his sleeve, careful not to grab too harshly, pulling the fabric with a gentle touch that Kirishima doesn’t offer often. “Look, there he is. Aizawa-sensei! Hi!” he calls, directing Tokoyami’s attention to the far end of the hallway.
“Hello, Kirishima,” Aizawa-sensei says in return. A small group tags along behind him, and he motions for Tokoyami to follow. With a grin, Kirishima waves him off, mouthing this is it as he backs off toward the front entrance. He raises two thumbs up, grinning. Tokoyami tilts his head in response, pacing to catch up to his teacher. He falls into step beside Yanagi, matching her long, slow stride. Ahead of him are Shinsou and Monoma, affecting disinterest in each other—in front of them walk a trio of second-years that Kirishima met at the Sports Festival. At the head of the cluster, just behind Aizawa-sensei, limps 13—bright and cheery under their helmet. Aizawa-sensei, hunched over with his hands in his pockets, looks like he’d rather be anywhere else in the world, but he leads them with measured strides that say anything but.
The procession buzzes with silent anticipation as Aizawa-sensei heads into the administrative wing. He starts to speak, his back still to them, voice carrying clearly after him. “…Let’s get down to business. Every Friday after classes, from five to seven, boardroom C is reserved for you. Your faculty advisor must be present at all meetings and events—if they cannot make it for any reason you may request a substitute adviser three days in advance. You’ve requested to control your own budget—just send us the budget proposal within the month. Other than that… well.” He stops in front of the designated room, allowing 13 to unlock the door. He lazily waves them all past.
“Here we go!” 13 says, swinging the door wide and stepping inside. The lights come up automatically as they go, lighting a series of small tables set up in a U. They raise their arms, spinning in a circle. The students trail in behind them, looking around with curiosity. Bringing up the rear, Tokoyami tries to keep his mouth closed as he processes what, exactly, his teacher just said.
As if sensing his daze, Aizawa-sensei pauses beside him for a fraction of a moment, staring down as he gazes around the room. He eyes are quick and sharp even as he says, “If there are no more questions, I’m going to go take a nap.”
“Alright!” 13 calls from the far side of the room. “Tokoyami, is this good?”
Tokoyami nods to acknowledge the both of them, words abandoning him. It’s happening. It’s really, really happening. So many weeks of trial an error, of enduring snapped responses and rejections, and look where he is now.
Look where he is now.
Shinsou, already sprawled in a seat facing the row of open windows, smirks. “We’re going to need to talk about goals and things, huh, Birdboy?” he says.
13 nods encouragingly. “We’ll need to set up club rules and long-term goals, along with a budget for activities and supplies. Why don’t we start with why you decided to gather us here in the first place, Tokoyami?”
Tokoyami smiles, slow-blinking his eyes. He walks to the podium at the head of the room, standing straight and as tall as he can behind it. He recalls a thousand muttered remarks, snide comments, murmurs, and screams directed at the beast inside of him. He raises his head high to speak. “I’m glad you all decided to join me in this endeavor,” he begins, and then stops, resting a hand on top of the writhing form of Dark Shadow curling between his lungs. “You’ve all heard my speech already… about how sometimes quirks are feared for no good reason. We’re all here because that fear has affected us in one way or another.”
A few heads bob.
Tokoyami lets out his breath. “This glorious dark gathering, this circle of revelry, exists to support those affected by such fear—and to fight back against it. As such, I hereby christen this the first official meeting… of the Villainous Quirks Club.”