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In Good Time

Chapter Text

The summer air was sweltering, visibly shimmering in waves above the park. Cicadas buzzed in the trees, their loud, low humming drone filling the air; birds sang distant songs; children laughed and ran around with their friends; and Hitoshi Shinsou sat alone, crying into his knees.

Not that he wanted to be crying, or that he wanted to be alone; he would’ve gladly been running around, playing with the other kids, had they let him. But they never wanted Shinsou around, they said that he was scary-- that his quirk was scary--, and that they didn’t want to play with a villain.

Shinsou didn’t understand-- how could a six year old be a villain? It didn’t make sense. It was stupid.

But those kids… they didn’t care about making sense. They didn’t care that Shinsou couldn’t exactly choose his quirk, didn’t care that he never hurt anyone with it. They just made faces and sneered and refused to talk to him, because if they talked to him Shinsou could use his quirk and control them, and that was a villain’s power. If he wasn’t already a villain, he would surely grow up to become one.

This area of the park was overgrown and littered with trash. Shinsou sat with his back to an old tree, the roots gnarled and growing up above the ground, littered with candy wrappers. But no one else was there-- people never wanted to be in this part of the park, so it was the perfect place for Shinsou to cry.

He didn’t usually cry. He was better than that, normally. He was used to kids being mean to him, and crying did it no good. If anything, it made the bullying worse. But that day, it had gotten really bad-- it had ended in a fight that Shinsou definitely lost, his face red and painful where one of the kids had punched him, a bruise sure to be there by tomorrow. His knees were skinned and his hands were scratched and he couldn’t bring himself to care, that much. He buried his face back into his knees as soon as he felt the tears coming again.

The cicadas continued to drone, the birds continued to sing, and the only other sound was Shinsou crying-- up until it wasn’t.

“You alright, kid?”

Shinsou looked up.

There was a girl standing over him. She was tall, wearing a high school uniform, sans the jacket. She was standing in the shade of the tree, the dappled light that shown through the leaves shifting across her. Shinsou blinked; he hadn’t heard her walk over here.

“You mute or something?”

Shinsou scowled, tucking his face away again.

“Go away.”

“That’s no way to talk to an older kid, you know?”

The girl apparently decided to ignore him-- Shinsou wasn’t looking, but he felt her settle down next to him.

“So.” She said. “Why are you crying?”

“Why do you care?”

“Just trying to do a good deed, that’s all.”

Shinsou’s eyes flickered over to her, and he saw that she was shrugging. It was weird hearing someone reply to him. He knew it was just because this girl didn’t know his quirk, and therefore didn’t have a reason to be scared, but still… it felt nice.

“If you don’t want to talk, I can go. No problem.”

“No!” Shinsou said, maybe a little too quickly. “Stay.”

He looked away again, still scowling.

“Bossy, aren’t you?”

Shinsou set his mouth in a thin line, but didn’t reply. The girl sighed.

“Okay. But if I stay, you have to tell me why you’re upset.”

Shinsou shifted, looking down at his feet.

“Everyone’s telling me I’m a villain.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Shinsou saw the girl tilt her head.

“Why?” She asked.

“Because of my quirk.”

He didn’t clarify. She didn’t ask.

“Well, that’s just silly.” Was what she said instead.

Shinsou’s head snapped over to her, confused. She went on.

“No one’s just a villain because they were born that way. That doesn’t matter. What matters is what you choose to be.”

Shinsou stared at her, furrowing his eyebrows in the hope that if he thought hard enough, then her words will somehow sound less foreign. She smiled at him.

“What do you want to be?”

“A hero.” Shinsou replied, without hesitation.

The girl smiled wider, her teeth showing.

“Then, if you work really, really hard at it, you can be a hero.”

Shinsou slowly turned away, lost in thought.

“What about the kids that still say I’m a villain?”

“Fuck them. They don’t know you.”

Shinsou couldn’t help it-- he laughed. It was a startled, awkward laugh, but a laugh all the same. He turned towards the girl again, and his eyes widened.

“Hey, wait a minute-- that’s a U.A. uniform! Are you studying to be a hero?”

The girl laughed awkwardly, rubbing the back of her neck.

“Uh, yeah, kinda. I’m going to be graduating soon--”

“What’s your hero name?”

“You wouldn’t have heard of me.”

“Well, duh. I meant for the future.”

She laughed again, brushing away her hair.

“You’ll have to try and find me-- I have to go for now.”

She stood up, leaving a very disappointed Shinsou still sitting on the ground. She spoke before he could ask her why she was leaving.

“Remember what I said, okay?”

Shinsou just closed his mouth and nodded instead. She turned around and waved good-bye to him.

“See you soon, Hitoshi.”

Then she walked off, leaving Shinsou on the ground, wondering when he had told her his name.

 

...

 

Early in the school year, after the cherry blossoms had finished blooming and before the summer heat swept in, a new transfer student arrived in class 1-C at U.A. High School.

But Shinsou didn’t really care.

The most it affected him was by having it cut into his allotted fifteen-minute nap time in homeroom, and he still spent the whole introduction with his face in his desk, anyways.

Shinsou wasn’t the kind to look a gift horse in the mouth, but he couldn’t find himself enjoying this class. He wasn’t supposed to be in General Education-- he was supposed to be in the Hero Course! It wasn’t his fault that the Hero Course exam was biased as all hell, expecting students to fight giant robots and giving an unfair advantage to kids with flashy, physical quirks, allowing them to just coast on in while kids like Shinsou were left in the dust.

But Shinsou was nothing if not used to the deck being stacked against him, so he was content to bide his time and show off his potential at the Sports Festival. After that, he would get that sought-after Hero Course transfer, and all would be well.

But that was the plan for the future. Right now, mostly, he wanted to sleep.

Ms. Kayama was up front, her entrance betrayed by the distinct clicking of her heels. Shinsou had his head in his arms, so he wasn’t aware of the second person until she spoke.

“Everyone, we have a new student in our class!” Ms. Kayama announced. Shinsou tried to hide his groan.

“Hello! My name is Takako Yoshida, and my quirk is Precognition!” A girl-- presumably the new transfer student-- said. Her voice was fairly high-pitched, and Shinsou could tell that if he had to hear much of it, it was going to get grating real fast. There was a pause, and Shinsou assumed she was bowing as she spoke again.

“Please take care of me!”

Quiet.

“Okay, Yoshida, dear. Feel free to take any empty seat you want.”

Shinsou was already pushing the exchange out of his memory. He didn’t even remember the names of any of his current classmates, he surely wasn’t going to be remembering any new ones. He didn’t even remember the names of anyone from his middle school, and he had spent three years dealing with those people.

He was just about to get to his rightful (now ten minute) nap when he heard the distinct scrape of a chair being pulled out right next to him, and the sound of a voice far too close to his ear.

“Hello!”

Shinsou looked up to see the transfer student in the desk next to him, twisted to the side so that she was looking straight at him.

The first thing he noticed was her eyes-- a bright, searing yellow. But that was about where the interesting features ended. She was fairly plain looking, otherwise. Her hair was a dark indigo, cropped into blunt bangs and hanging just below her shoulders. Even sitting down, Shinsou could see that her uniform jacket didn’t quite fit her-- there was no cinching around the waist, falling boxy around her small frame and folded up a few times around the cuffs.

“What’s your name?”

She was still talking, apparently.

“Hitoshi Shinsou.” He said, making it as clear as he could through his tone that that was the end of the conversation. She just smiled in reply.

“You can call me Tekku.”

Shinsou frowned.

“Why?”

“My friends call me Tekku.”

Shinsou raised an eyebrow. The girl continued smiling at him, yellow eyes boring into him, yawning and immovable.

“We’re friends now.”

Shinsou snorted, and her face dropped.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t even know you.”

The transfer student, or, Tekku , apparently, faltered a little bit, mouth falling open, before letting out a little hmph , and turning forward in her chair.

“Well, I don’t see how that has to do with anything.”

Which might’ve been the weirdest possible response she could’ve given. It was too early, however, for Shinsou to bother to try and decipher it, so he just followed suit and turned forward in his chair, tuning into the announcements Ms. Kayama was giving and pointedly ignoring the gaze he could feel burning into the side of his head.

 

...

 

Tekku Yoshida was apparently not only a crazy person, but an especially persistent one at that.

As soon as they were let out for lunch, she attached herself to his side like a magnet, and even when he sped up his pace, she continued chasing his heels, like a dog.

“Go away.” He said,  pointedly not looking over his shoulder, where Tekku was jogging along behind him.

“No!” Was her eloquent reply. “I don’t have anyone to sit with at lunch.”

“Go make some friends or whatever.”

“That’s what I’m doing!”

Shinsou stopped abruptly in the hall, causing Tekku to bump into him, startled. He swung around on his heel, facing her.

“Do you know who I am?” He asked, only feeling a little bit guilty as he used every bit of his above average height to loom over the tiny girl now in front of him.

“Not yet!” Tekku replied, grinning.

Shinsou resisted the urge to roll his eyes, then continued.

“I’m only here at U.A. to get into the hero course. Not to make friends. Go bother someone else.”

Tekku frowned. Shinsou turned around and continued walking, and after a moment, Tekku followed behind, scooting up to his side.

“I don’t see why you can’t do both.”

 

They made it to the lunchroom, and inevitably, he didn’t manage to shake Tekku off before she planted herself across from him at the lunch table that he usually had to himself.

He was just starting at U.A., and no one really knew his quirk yet, but people still left him alone. He supposed it was some combination of his appearance and his height and his near constant silence, coupled with absolutely no attempts made at socializing that led to people leaving him to his own devices, and even earning him his own silent little corner at lunchtime.

At least, until Tekku Yoshida came along and ruined all that.

She didn’t seem to be able to read the mood, happily dropping her bag in the seat across from him and looking excitedly around the lunchroom. Shinsou just stared at her, uncomprehending. He didn’t understand how she was still here.

Of course, he could always make her go away, but that was a dick move, even for him. At the moment, his emotions towards Tekku Yoshida were slowly shifting, away from annoyance and more towards outright confusion as she continued standing, putting an arm out on the table and leaning her weight on it as she grinned at Shinsou.

“Do you want anything from the lunch line?”

 

...

 

We’re sorry, but the position you were applying for is no longer available. Have a nice day!

It was courteous, if nothing else. It was rare that she even got a formal rejection.

 

If there was one emotion that presided over Haku Yoshida’s life, one single feeling that ran within her, day after day after day, it was the feeling of being trapped.

 

The first time she was trapped was when she was 17 years old, left pregnant by her classmate at the time, who promptly disappeared off the face of the earth as soon as the news broke.

Her parents were strict and rather conservative, and the news had struck like a bomb in her home. Haku had always been a quiet girl, had always played by the rules. It seemed impossible that she would be fooling around with boys while still in high school.

She had never been considered an attractive girl, either; she was built fraily, looking as if a harsh wind would blow her over. Her hair was light and thin and her eyes were dark, perpetually framed by a pair of oversized wireframe glasses.

Maybe her upbringing had left her naive; maybe it had left her cold and lonely and the second a boy called her pretty she had crumpled like wet tissue paper.

Whatever the reason, it had led to her being kicked out of her home at the age of 17. She never saw her parents again after that day, the last thing she said to them being pleas screamed at the locked windows of her childhood home.

But Haku stuck it out. She got a job, she got an apartment, she had her daughter and she loved her more than words could express, even on nights when she went without eating so that her daughter was fed, even on days when she dragged herself to the soup kitchen, head down even as she tried to assure herself that there was nothing to be ashamed of, even at times when she found herself crying outside of her apartment door at the package of diapers her neighbors had left out for her.

Haku had stuck it out, thanking every day for the small kindnesses of strangers and the free daycare service her job provided.

The second time she was trapped came when she was 19.

She didn’t look 19, certainly didn’t dress the part-- she wore turtlenecks and cardigans and long skirts that didn’t quite hide her orthopedic shoes. She dressed like an adult, so people saw fit to treat her as such.

That day… it had been a bad one. There hadn’t been any particular event leading up to it, but Haku knew that the stress was accumulating. She was shaky, barely holding it together. She wished she could’ve stayed home, spent the whole day with her daughter, but she couldn’t afford to miss work. So she ignored it and went to work, went to do her job of typing and scanning and organizing documents, ignoring the way she felt so high-strung she thought she might burst.

She lost control of her quirk.

She had been typing up data for the company’s client, and her finger had just barely brushed against the computer screen when she felt a release, and before she could process it, every system in the multi-level building had shut down.

Haku rarely used her quirk-- what good was just shutting down technology, after all?

But it was officially registered, and she had put it in her job application, so they knew exactly who it was that had caused such a massive (and expensive) system failure.

Haku had begged and begged for her job back, had tried to explain how it was an accident, how she had a child to take care of-- but it had all fallen on deaf ears.

Haku was not one to cry quirk discrimination, but she knew that’s what it was. She knew that’s why she couldn’t find another job.

 

And that’s how she ended up walking home dejected on a chilly fall evening, the sun just barely visible over the horizon, after yet another failed interview. She was looking down, hands in the pockets of her bulky, hand-me-down coat, kicking a rock down the sidewalk. She wasn’t paying attention to her surroundings, and that’s why she didn’t notice the man until he spoke.

“Haku Yoshida?”

Haku froze in her tracks. The voice was deep, masculine, and didn’t belong to anyone she knew. She looked over to see a man-- tall, broad-shouldered-- wearing a suit and leaning against a black car, both far too expensive for this neighborhood. He was carrying an open umbrella despite there being no sign of rain, and his face was cast in an unnatural shadow. He pulled a card out of his suit, holding it between two fingers as he spoke.

“Haku Yoshida, age: 19. Quirk: Hacking.”

He paused.

“That’s you, correct?”

There was silence. Haku could see the air the fell out of her mouth as she breathed, trying to will her heart to stop pounding against her ribcage.

“It is, yes.”

“I understand that you’re looking for a job, Miss Yoshida.”

Despite his phrasing, it wasn’t a question.

“I am, yes.”

The man grinned. Despite the shadow on his face, his teeth shone bright, almost glowing in the gloomy air.

“You have an offer, then.”

He held out the card, and Haku took it with minimal hesitation, making sure that her skin never touched the strange man’s.

“All you have to do is call the number on there.”

The man’s grin widened.

“If you’re willing, of course.”

 

...

 

Shinsou changed his mind. The transfer student was annoying.

After the thoroughly awkward affair that was lunch (both of them sitting at the same table and neither of them speaking), Tekku had mostly left him alone. It was almost as if she had gotten the hint, and Shinsou almost allowed himself to believe it-- but nope, she was just biding her time.

The school day was over, and Shinsou had just collected his bike when he felt it-- a pair of eyes on him, and a lingering, rapidly approaching dread.

Almost on cue, and missing only the Jaws theme, Tekku appeared behind him.

“Hi!”

She was smiling at him, waving with her free hand, the other holding her discarded school jacket. At least the rest of her uniform looked like it fit.

Shinsou ignored her, and simply began walking his bike off of his campus. There was silence, the only sound the clicking of Shinsou’s bike chain. Tekku jogged up so she was walking side-by-side with him.

“It’s rude to ignore people, you know.”

It took a lot of willpower not to roll his eyes. If he just continued walking, eventually she would have to go home, and leave him alone.

But she didn’t split off to go home. She just continued walking by his side, humming under her breath as she looked this way and that, closing her eyes briefly and turning her face towards the sun. It was a beautiful day, Shinsou could admit that. If only he could spend it in peace.

Shinsou stopped once he reached the school gate, turning to her.

“Are you going to follow me home, too?”

Tekku froze, looking uncharacteristically nervous as she spoke.

“Um, well-- I think my home is in the same direction as yours!”

Sure it was.

Shinsou sighed, running a hand through his hair before grabbing his bike helmet and pulling it on. Tekku stared at him as he fastened it with a click.

“You bike?” She asked.

“What gave it away?” He replied, swinging his leg over and settling onto the seat. Tekku didn’t reply.

There was silence, the only sound the leaves that were being shaken in the warm breeze and the distant atmosphere of the city just beyond the gate. Shinsou sighed, planting his feet on the concrete and folding his arms.

“What made you decide you wanted to be my ‘friend’ ?” He asked, not looking at her.

It took a minute for Tekku to reply, kicking her foot against the concrete before raising her head.

“You seemed lonely.”

Shinsou raised an eyebrow, shooting her a look out of the corner of his eye.

“Really?”

“Yes, really!” Tekku replied, crossing her arms. “And you haven’t done anything to prove me wrong yet!”

Shinsou uncrossed his arms, grabbing onto the handlebars and moving to kick the bike into motion. Her glanced over at Tekku; her arms were still crossed, but her stance had loosened, and now she just watched him quietly, waiting for a reply.

Shinsou rolled his eyes, for real this time. She wasn’t his friend, and she likely never would be. But it wasn’t going to hurt if he let her try.

“You want a ride?”

 

...

 

Haku was quiet and unambitious. She wasn’t stupid.

She knew what that card meant. She knew who that man was. It was obvious.

The card sat on her coffee table, now, somehow managing to be intimidating despite only being a white piece of paper with a string of numbers written on it.

She was being recruited by villains.

Haku clasped her hands in front of her in an attempt to keep them from shaking. She didn’t want this. All she had wanted was to live her life quietly, as a good, upstanding citizen. No unemployment, no threat of homelessness dangling over her head, no nameless and faceless villain organizations coming to recruit her.

She didn’t want it, but this is what she had.

She glanced up, around her apartment. It was an old building-- the walls were yellowing, and the furniture smelled permanently musty, no matter how often she cleaned. There were far too many dishes in the sink, a pile of bills on the kitchen table, and Tekku’s toys were scattered across the living room floor-- Haku had been too tired, recently, to take care of much of anything.

Tekku herself was asleep at the moment, curled up on the other side of the couch, clutching a throw pillow. Looking at her made Haku feel nothing but guilt at the moment. She was only two years old, and Haku already felt as if she had let her down. Haku reached over and gently brushed her daughter’s hair back.

Tekku looked like her father.

Initially, it had been a source of distress for Haku. Here she was, trying to move on with her life and start over, and there was her daughter, with the eyes and hair of a man Haku had hoped she would never see again.

But then she got over it, very quickly. Tekku was nothing like that man-- she was a bright-eyed, manic child. Tekku was intelligent and curious, and always willing to share her thoughts-- as soon as she learned how to babble, she had been babbling. Sometimes (most times), it was exhausting, but Haku wouldn’t change it for the world. When she saw Tekku, she saw her daughter, and nothing more.

Tekku shifted under Haku’s touch, whining gently but not waking up. She buried her face in the couch cushion, and Haku withdrew her hand, face darkening as she turned to the number on the table. She didn’t want it to come to this, but did she really have a choice?

Did she ever have a choice?

 

...

 

Tekku ended up standing behind him on the bike, balancing her hands on his shoulders.

“Be careful.” Shinsou said, pushing off. “You don’t have a helmet.”

“Don’t worry-- if we’re about to crash and die, I’ll tell you!”

Well, that was cryptic as shit. But he brushed it off and continued on his way.

Tekku, thankfully, didn’t talk much on the way there, mostly focusing on keeping balanced in her rather precarious position. Shinsou was also content to stay quiet-- he wasn’t used to biking with another person, and it was throwing him off.

At one point, he hit a bump, and Tekku stumbled, squeaking as she nearly fell on top of him.

Careful, I said.” Shinsou hissed.

“Sorry!”

Tekku straightened up, hands tightening around his shoulders. She looked down at him, hair flowing out behind her in the wind.

“Hey, Shinsou?”

“Yeah?”

“You said you were trying to get into the Hero Course, right?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Why aren’t you already there?”

Shinsou didn’t reply immediately, instead focusing on making a fairly sharp turn. Tekku was thrown into him again, pulling herself back up in record time.

“The test was biased and my quirk was no help.”

“ Ah, what? That sucks.”

She shifted, leaning heavier on him, the weight of her hands pressing against his shoulders again.

“Hey! What is your quirk, by the way?”

“I’m not going to tell you.”

“Aww, come on!” Tekku squeezed his shoulder. “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”

“I literally do not care what your quirk is.”

“You’re no fun.”  

Shinsou huffed, a small smile gracing his face. Tekku noticed, and she laughed, leaning over him.

“Are you going to be like this in the Hero Course, too?”

“Probably.”

Tekku leaned down, resting her elbows on his shoulders instead.

“What about teamwork, though? Heroes have to get along with each other.”

“Well, maybe they should have thought about that when they said I couldn’t be a hero.”

“Who said that?”

“Uh-- everyone?”

Tekku’s eyes widened.

“Really? Why?”

He shot her a look before immediately turning back to the road.

“Because I’m a weird, creepy kid with a villain’s quirk. Not exactly hero material.”

“I don’t think you’re creepy.”

“Wow. High praise.”

She whacked his shoulder gently.

“Take a compliment! You’re not creepy, and I don’t understand why people don’t think you can be hero. Anyone can be a hero!”

Shinsou snorted.

“Yeah. That’s what they say.

Tekku dropped her head onto his, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. Shinsou stiffened, nearly swerving on the bike.

“I’m so sorry. I’ll be sure to tell everybody that they’re wrong!”

“Yoshida.”

She didn’t react.

Tekku.

She perked up, opening her eyes and blinking at him.

“What?”

“Personal space.”

 

...

 

Eventually, they reached his home.

It was a small thing, close enough that he could bike to and from school but not enough to walk. Shinsou appreciated it for what it was.

Tekku hopped off the bike quickly, sending him a thumbs up as he followed suit. Her hair was all over the place, messed up by the wind.

“Thanks for the ride!” She announced.

“Sure.”

Tekku paused, clasping her hands behind her back and kicking at the ground.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”

“Sure.”

Shinsou pulled off his helmet. Tekku made no attempt to move. Her shoe hit the concrete again, producing a faint slap.

“Are you just going to stand there all day or…?”

Tekku startled a little bit, taking a step back.

“Sorry!” She said, raising her hands. “I was just, uh, waiting. Making sure you got home safe.”

Shinsou stared at her. He looked behind him.

“I’m literally standing in front of my house.”

“I know, I know! I’ll just--”

She took another step back. Shinsou could feel a headache forming; he moved to pinch the bridge of his nose, groaning.

“Go home, Tekku.”

“I can wait a little--”

Go home.

He activated his quirk this time, watching as her face immediately went blank and she turned on her heel, walking back right the way they had came.

Shinsou couldn’t say he was surprised. He shrugged it off as he put his bike away.

 

He entered his house shortly after. He could feel Tekku’s presence still in the back of his mind--like an itch he couldn’t scratch.

He climbed the stairs to his room and released her from his quirk as soon as he got inside, immediately dropping down and sprawling across his bed, staring intensely at the ceiling. His fear of her hurting herself during her zombie walk overpowered his fear of her turning and running all the way back, demanding he explained what just happened. He wouldn’t put it past her.

It was an odd feeling, really.

Hoping she wouldn’t get hurt.

Chapter Text

Haku’s team always met after dark.

Their meeting place was a warehouse, long abandoned. The building was all metal and stone, dirty and stained on the outside, and not much better on the inside. The room they met in was a sea of concrete, adorned with only a metal table and chairs and glaring orange lights.

Haku hated the place-- it was cold and unpleasant. The table was placed in the middle of the floor, the edges of the room cast in darkness. The chairs were just regular folding chairs, usually stacked in the corner where she had to fetch them. It probably should’ve been funny-- this big powerful villain organization, and they couldn’t be bothered to buy decent chairs.

It wasn’t funny, though-- Haku had to live this. She had to sit in those chairs and use that metal table and listen to her orders, the lamp buzzing and flickering above her head.

She was the first to arrive that night, as per usual.

She sighed, grabbing the chairs and dragging them over, wincing at the sound the metal made when it scraped against the concrete floor. Once set up, she dropped her elbows onto the table. She could feel the cold surface even through the multiple layers she wore, but she ignored it, instead pulling out her phone and scrolling absentmindedly. She had been working for the organization for nearly a year, now.

The organization had no name-- Haku knew nothing of its larger hierarchy, who was pulling the strings, what its goal was-- and she had no intention of finding out. She was a low-level grunt, paid a generous sum to keep her mouth shut and do what she was told. If nothing else, she had always been good at that.

A door opened, and Haku tensed, eyeing the shadows suspiciously until she saw Harubetsu walk in. Then she relaxed, if only a little bit.

Harubetsu Tokuhiki was her favorite of her team members. He was only a few years younger than her (17) and he claimed to be a villain for fun, to get some extra cash. He dressed like a stereotypical punk, with a red mohawk, leather jacket, and piercings all over his face. He was tall and lanky and his eyes were beady and dark, but Haku liked him. He was just a kid, and he copped an attitude all the time, but Haku knew the type. He was kind and respectful towards her, and she wasn’t blind to the way he slowly started to cling to her and ask for advice about things unrelated to villainy.

Haku was far too young to have a teenage son-- she was basically still a child herself. But, well, she already had one kid. If Harubetsu wanted to consider her his mother, she could deal with two.

Harubetsu dropped down in the chair next to her, nodding once at Haku before pulling out his phone and propping his legs up on table. She found her thoughts moving to the other members of the team.

Anio was… he was alright.

She didn’t think so, at first. At first, he scared her. He was a large, intimidating man, and he rarely spoke. He had a mutation quirk that made him look like a crocodile; his skin was green and scaly, his eyes were small, and his teeth were sharp and yellowed where they stuck out of his mouth. He was the oldest member of the group by far, and he had been a villain for a long time, working as a henchman for hire and beating up whoever needed to be beat up. He mostly served as their bodyguard, but that didn’t stop Haku from being nervous around him.

There was one day, another bad day, when the team had been called together last minute, and Haku had to either take Tekku with her or risk leaving her alone.

Of course she took her-- nearly shaking in fear as she carried Tekku in, curled up against Haku’s shoulder, eyes wide as she took everything in. It was mostly fine, though. No one really cared, and Tekku was smart enough to listen to Haku’s warnings of not making too much noise. Still, Haku had noticed the way Anio’s face had softened, just a little bit, when he saw Tekku. He had spent the whole meeting making funny faces at Tekku when he thought Haku wasn’t looking, and if Haku looked a little closer, she could see-- just barely visible, a golden locket, tucked under his clothing.

So Haku decided he was alright-- if nothing else, Tekku was safe.

No, the one Haku had to look out for was her team’s supposed leader-- one Jun Gyangu. Haku knew, from the first time she saw him, that that man was a snake.

He was short and wiry, constantly grinning with a wide-toothed smile. He was the only one of them that wore a costume, showing up to meetings wearing a zoot suit and domino mask and calling himself Mob Boss. He acted friendly to the point of suspicion, and there was always an edge to it. A warning. There was a hunger in his eyes, a dark tilt to the smile, and Haku knew-- if she showed any sign of weakness, even the smallest hint of betrayal, this man would sell her out, would throw her to the wolves without a shred of guilt.

Anio arrived next. He didn’t acknowledge either of them, just sat in his chair on the other side of the table, folded his arms, and waited. Haku sighed, putting her phone facedown on the table. She knew who was coming next.

She heard the entrance long before she saw it-- Jun opened the door so fast it hit the wall. He shoved it closed with his foot and sauntered over to them, hands in his pants pockets. He grabbed his own chair and pulled it to the head of the table, placing it backwards and draping his arms over it.

“Good evening, everyone!”

Haku subtly straightened up. She had learned to get good at pretending she had a backbone in Jun’s presence.

“Guess what I have today?” Jun asked, pulling his hand out of his pocket. He held it out for them, even though there appeared to be nothing in it. That was his quirk-- he could turn any small object invisible, so long as it was in his hands. Useful in limited circumstances, but not exactly a powerhouse.

There was silence; Haku could hear the chorus of crickets from the outside.

“What do you have?” Harubetsu asked begrudgingly, slouched in his chair with his arms crossed.

“It’s… your orders!” Jun announced, opening his hand to reveal several sheets of paper, which immediately scattered across the table. Anio made a move to grab one, crushing it in his fist in the process. Harubetsu grabbed hold of the others, and slid one over to Haku.

“This mission’s going to be for tomorrow night, so get your babysitting in order! We’re going to need Hacker and Pitchfork to do most of the work.”

Haku and Harubetsu nodded at the same time. This job looked fairly standard-- a hero agency. Haku had to use her quirk to shut down the security system, and Harubetsu had to run in and wreck the joint, among other things. Anio would be there to make sure no one caught her-- she had no real way of protecting herself, and the organization considered her (well, her quirk , at the very least) to be a valuable asset.

Hacking was a great equalizer, in a way-- it didn’t matter how complex, how secure the system was. Shutting it down took the same amount of effort for everything.

 

There was nothing to report, otherwise, and the meeting ended shortly afterward. She walked with Harubetsu for a little bit, asking about school (he rarely went), work (he just got fired), and family (they still didn’t know what he did). Eventually, he had to split off to go home.

Haku took the train back to her apartment; it was mostly empty, and no one shot her so much as an odd look as she settled down in a seat, watching the world pass by and slowly letting her barriers down. She let her shoulders fall, let a couple tears slide down her face, and no one noticed.

Haku felt invisible.

Everyday, she went about her life. She made no attempt to hide what she was doing-- her villain name was almost exactly the same as her real name, and her quirk was pretty distinctive. But no one noticed. No one would ever suspect, of course, that meek and gentle Haku Yoshida could ever possibly be a villain. The idea was absurd.

Haku didn’t have much of a social life. She tried to. Sometimes, she would talk to the other moms from Tekku’s preschool, but they didn’t like her, much. Haku had used her earnings as a villain to send Tekku to a nice school, but it meant that the both of them had stuck out like sore thumbs. The moms were never outwardly mean, of course-- but they took one look at Haku’s age and second-hand clothes, and heard all about how often Tekku got in trouble for her antics, and saw fit to ignore her whenever possible.

Really, Haku was beginning to think she could walk in anywhere, loudly announce that she was a villain and would like to be arrested, and nothing would happen. She didn’t matter. Even as a villain, she was just a lackey, a nuisance at most. Why would anyone bother to try and find her civilian identity?

Haku wiped her face discreetly, listening to the rattling of the train as it barreled in the direction of her home. She didn’t matter-- it was a fact she had always known, and had learned to grapple with over time.

But there was someone out there who mattered to her. And Haku would do anything-- she would endure this pressure for the rest of her life if she had to, if it meant Tekku could be safe.

 

...

 

“Shinsou! Hey, Shinsou! Stop walking so fast!”

It was far too early in the morning to be hearing that voice.

Shinsou groaned, but he didn’t stop walking. It was yet again another beautiful day outside, and Shinsou had just locked his bike in the bike rack and was walking up the stairs to head into the school.

He felt a pair of hands grab onto his arm, and Tekku emerged beside him, looking up and frowning at him.

“Don’t think I didn’t notice you speeding up when you heard me.”

“Really?” Shinsou replied dryly. “I assumed you didn’t notice anything.”

Tekku gasped dramatically, but she was smiling.

Shinsou glanced down, eyeing her skeptically. He would think that, after yesterday, she would be more cautious around him.

But Tekku didn’t seem to be acting any different-- if anything, she seemed to be friendlier, still clinging onto the sleeve of his uniform jacket as they continued walking together.

Tekku glanced down, kicking at the sidewalk.

“Hey Shinsou-- that thing that happened yesterday-- was that your quirk?”

Ah. Here it comes.

“Yeah.”

“What is it?”

Shinsou sighed. He looked away from Tekku, over to the side, as he spoke. He scratched the back of his neck-- a nervous habit of his.

“It’s called Brainwashing. I can control anyone who responds to me.”

They entered the building. Tekku finally let go of his arm, but used it as an opportunity to move in front of him, jogging backwards so that they could still talk.

“Well, now we have to be friends!” She announced, bouncing on her heels. Shinsou blinked, faltering in his step for a second.

“Why?”

“Our quirks are similar.”

Shinsou raised an eyebrow.

Really now?”

“Yeah! Mine is-- it’s um, Precognition. Sometimes, I can see into the future-- usually only a couple seconds-- but still!”

Shinsou frowned.

“That’s not even… remotely similar.”

“Well, um, they’re both mental quirks! And those are more rare, too, so we have to stick together, you know?”

Shinsou rolled his eyes as they entered the classroom, Tekku once again settling into the desk right next to his.

“You’re really grasping at straws here, aren’t you?”

Tekku slumped a little bit, looking uncharacteristically disappointed.

“Yeah…”

Shinsou snorted. He turned away from Tekku, glancing at the clock. They still had a little bit of time until class started, and if she was already feeling so chatty…

“Can I ask you a question?”

Tekku perked up immediately, smiling at him.

“Of course!”

“Why do people call you Tekku?”

“Oh, that .” Tekku paused, putting her hand on her chin. “Well, it started because my mom always called me that, since I was really little-- it’s a joke, based on her name. We always thought my quirk would have something to do with technology, since hers did-- but then it didn’t, but the name had stuck.”

She shrugged.

“Okay.”  Shinsou replied. He didn’t add anything else. Tekku continued watching him, until he put his face down on his desk.

“Wake me up when class is over.”

“You can’t tell me what to do!”

Shinsou snorted, face still tucked in his arms, and he just knew that Tekku was grinning like a madman at him. He let himself drift off.

He had no doubt Tekku actually would wake him up, later.

 

...

 

By the time Tekku turned four, Haku had taken to drawing all the blinds in her apartment.

A stint of paranoia had struck her around the time she passed the two year mark on her tenure as a villain, as she began to believe that this arrangement was going to be permanent.

She wasn’t paranoid about the villains-- as it stood, she had nothing to hide from them. She was paranoid about getting caught.

Haku had grown complacent, even comfortable, with her lifestyle-- she didn’t like it, not exactly, but it was a hell of a lot better than what she had before. She hadn’t had to worry about being able to buy food or pay her bills in two years, and no matter how much she knew that shouldn’t be considered a luxury, it felt like it to her. She had a savings now, if only because the guilt over the money’s source kept her from ever attempting to live outside her means. On top of that, her nightly schedule meant she would actually be able to spend time with Tekku during the day, when she wasn’t at school. Haku didn’t want to lose that, now.

One afternoon, Haku was sitting at the kitchen table, hunched over, attempting to read. The air was quiet and still, and the beams of light cast between the blinds illuminated the dust in the air. Haku flipped a page in her book, the gentle rustling of pages the only sound until suddenly she heard the furious patter of tiny feet, coming down the hall.

“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy, guess what?”

Haku looked up, just as Tekku barreled into her, full force.

“What is it?” Haku asked, smiling.

Tekku pulled her head up, tiny hands grasping at Haku’s long skirt. She grinned, a wide, gap-toothed smile.

“I got my quirk!”

Haku gasped, taking Tekku’s hands and shaking them excitedly.

“Wow! Tell me, tell me!”

Tekku bounced up and down, words falling out in a stream.

“You know that picture in the hall? I was running to my room and I accidentally hit the wall and everything shook and it broke and--”

Haku blanched, then stood abruptly.

“I’ll go get the broom--”

“Mommy, stop! I’m not done yet!” Tekku yelled, tugging at Haku’s skirt until she sat down again. Haku took a deep breath.

“Okay.” She said. “What happened next?”

“So I was really upset, since I broke the picture of us and that would make you sad, but then I felt something , and it was like a movie , everything was in reverse , and then I was at the front of the hall again and the picture was fine!”

Tekku clambered forward, pulling her mom into a hug.

“I finally got my quirk, Mommy, and it’s amazing!”

“It sure is, sweetie.” Haku replied, stroking her daughter’s hair.

Tekku giggled, rambling and rambling about what exactly her quirk could do, now that she had it, and Haku heard none of it, only a dull rushing in her ears. Dread curled in her stomach, looming and threatening to destroy the smile on her face.

Tekku had been late to her quirk-- she was nearly five already, and Haku had been beginning to think she might be quirkless. It was basically unheard of, nowadays, but there was always a possibility, however small. Haku had kind of hoped that she would end up quirkless-- because then, Tekku would’ve been able to slip under the radar, neither a threat nor an asset.

But now… this quirk, whatever it was-- it was clearly a time-based power. Those were not only rare, but often powerful.

It was the kind of power any villain organization would love to get their hands on.

Haku, she…she had to get out of there.

It was a harsh reminder-- being a villain was dangerous, and even her teammates couldn’t be trusted. She was a tool to them, and if Tekku’s quirk was deemed useful, then they would use her as a tool, too.

But what could she do? She couldn’t just leave -- they would kill her. And she couldn’t turn herself in, either-- if she wasn’t killed by the villains for knowing too much, she still couldn’t exactly protect Tekku from prison, could she?

Her only option, then, was to make sure they never knew about Tekku’s quirk in the first place.

“What do you think your quirk should be called, Tekku?”

“Hmm…” Tekku paused, thinking hard. Haku pulled her a bit closer.

“Rewind!” She announced. “Because it’s like those really old movies, the ones we saw at the museum? The ones that are big and clunky and make a lot of static when you go back?”

“VHS tapes?”

“Yeah!”

Haku stood up, lifting Tekku by her armpits and settling her in her arms.

“I’d say this calls for a celebration, don’t you think?”

“Yeah!” Tekku replied, throwing her arms around her mom’s neck.

“How does ice cream sound?”

“Good!”

Haku moved to get ready, grabbing her keys and coat and slipping on her shoes while still carrying Tekku.

Today, she would be happy for her daughter. Tomorrow, she would start damage control.

 

...

 

It turned out that when Tekku used her quirk, only she could see what had happened before she reversed time. This disappointed Tekku to no end, because it wasn’t nearly as cool, but to Haku, it was a relief. Even if Tekku used her quirk on accident, no one would know.

Haku had explained it to Tekku the next day-- that she couldn’t tell anyone about her quirk, and instead pretend she didn’t have one. Tekku was disappointed, of course, and didn’t really understand why, but she went along with it. She brightened up a little bit when Haku assured her that she could Rewind all she wanted when they were home.

 

When Tekku turned five, Haku took her down to the Quirk Registry, to get her officially listed as quirkless.

The Quirk Registry was in a massive building-- a solid square of many stories, composed almost entirely of glass. Tekku was uncharacteristically quiet the whole trip, simply allowing Haku to lead her by the hand as they waited in line after line until they could get the whole ordeal finished. The system was totally electronic now, which did nothing to ease Haku’s nerves, but she made it through. After a while, Tekku let go of her hand, sitting down by Haku’s feet and just watching all the people that shuffled past the windows. When Haku was done, she leaned down and ruffled Tekku’s hair, and Tekku smiled back at her.

 

On the walk back to the train station, they passed a Quirk Enforcer on the street, and Haku made the mistake of speeding up her pace as she walked past him.

“Excuse me, ma’am?”

Haku almost made it out, until she felt a hand on her shoulder. She stiffened, then turned to look at the man. The crowd parted around them, like the Red Sea.

“Name and quirk, please?”

He didn’t bother to give a reason why she was being stopped; he spoke lazily, routinely pulling out his scanner as he spoke. Haku pulled Tekku closer, hands curling protectively around her shoulders.

“Haku Yoshida. My quirk is Hacking.”

The enforcer typed something into his scanner, humming in confirmation a second later.

“And your daughter?” He asked, not looking up.

“Takako Yoshida. We just came back from the registry-- she’s quirkless.”

“Oh. Wow.

The man leaned down so that he was eye-level with Tekku. She stared at the ground, not looking up to meet his gaze. Haku was holding her so tight she was sure that it was beginning to hurt.

“I didn’t realize those even still existed.”

“Her father was quirkless.” Haku replied with a practiced ease, smiling sadly.

“Alright.”

The man stood back up again. The scanner turned on with a beep , a red light suddenly shining in Haku’s eyes.

“Have you used your quirk in public at all recently, Ms. Yoshida?”

Well, at least she already knew this man didn’t have a lie detector quirk. A lot of enforcers did.

“No.” She replied.

“Have you ever intentionally used your quirk outside of the home?”

“No.”

“Do you understand the consequences for those who do?”

“Yes.”

The light turned green, then shut down. The man looked bored as he lowered the scanner, promptly tucking it back into his belt.

“You’re free to go, Ms. Yoshida. And sorry about your daughter.”

Haku nodded in reply, taking Tekku by the hand again and hurrying forward so that they wouldn’t miss their train.

 

On the train, Tekku quickly disregarded her own seat and curled up in Haku’s lap. Haku smiled sadly, curling an arm around her so that she stayed put in the moving train. Tekku rested her head on Haku’s chest, eyes fighting to stay open as she listened to the sound of her mom’s heartbeat.

The train rattled along on the tracks, and Haku had thought that her daughter had fallen asleep when Tekku spoke, so soft and tired that Haku almost didn’t hear.

“Why can’t I tell anyone about my quirk, Mommy?”

Haku’s heart twinged. She knew that this decision was going to subject Tekku to a life of ridicule, but she preferred it over the alternative…

“It’s to keep you safe, sweetie. There’s… there’s some bad people out there, and Mommy would rather they not know about you.”

Tekku whimpered.

“But why…?”

Haku sighed, then hugged her closer.

“You’ll understand when you’re older. You just have to trust me right now, okay?”

Tekku didn’t react. Haku gently stroked her hair, humming softly.

“I’ll let you choose supper tonight, okay? For being so brave today.”

“Okay.”

She didn’t say anything else. Haku continued humming, and eventually Tekku’s breathing evened out, and she fell asleep for real. The train continued onwards, and no one paid the single mother any mind as she let a couple tears slip through again, kissing the top of her daughter’s head and hoping beyond hope that Tekku’s trust wouldn’t prove to be blind.

 

...

 

 

It was hard to get her alone.

Lunch came, and the transfer student was once again sitting with Shinsou, just like she had been doing all day.

Ao was not the type to get involved with business that was not hers. She understood the importance of context, and the importance of people being able to do their own things, without outside interference. She would much rather stay in her own lane and never bother anyone, if possible.

But her old childhood pipe dream of being a hero had never quite left her, and she couldn’t just stand by if someone needed help.

She didn’t know Hitoshi Shinsou; despite being in the same class, they had never spoken. He was even more inclined to stay in his own lane than her; until yesterday, she had never seen him talk to anyone.

But she had talked to someone who had gone to his middle school, before. He was a student in class 1-D, a gossipy sort who always sat at her lunch table. The things he said about Shinsou made her nervous, and Ao was now thankful that he had never tried to speak to her.

But now, apparently, he was friendly with the new girl. Ao knew it was probably a good thing-- it’s good when people make friends! But it also made her nervous. She just had to talk to Takako alone, to make sure she knew, and that she wasn’t being… coerced.

Ao shuddered at the thought.

Eventually, finally, her chance came. Takako had gotten up to go the bathroom; Ao quickly excused herself from her own lunch table and chased after her.

When Ao got into the hall, Takako had apparently stopped in the middle of the hallway, looking dazedly out at nothing in particular, head moving back and forth between doors. Ao stopped a couple feet behind her and cleared her throat loudly.

Takako turned abruptly. Her face brightened when she saw Ao.

“Hello! Do you, um-- do you happen to know where the bathroom is?”

A little stunned, Ao nodded.

“Oh, thank god. I was worried I was going to have to wander around here like an idiot for a couple hours. Thank you, um…”

“Ao Shizuka.” Ao said, stepping forward and putting out her hand. “You’re Takako Yoshida, right?”

“Oh. Yeah, that’s me!” Takako replied, shaking her hand. “You’re in my class, right?”

Ao nodded.

“Yes. Actually, I was wondering-- can I, um, talk to you?”

Takako tilted her head.

“Isn’t that what we’re doing right now?”

“I meant, uh, in private.”

Takako blushed-- oh god she had taken that the wrong way-- but she nodded. Ao, still holding her hand, led her over to a corner where they could talk.

As soon as they got there, Ao used her quirk to make a bubble of silence around them, so that no one could hear their conversation.

“So.” Takako started, leaning against the wall. “What did you want to talk about?”

“I wanted to, um, warn you.”

Takako’s smile disappeared.

“About what?”

Ao shuffled her feet, trying to think of the most delicate way to put it.

“About Hitoshi Shinsou. I saw you hanging out with him a lot. You’re new, so you don’t really know, but… he’s kind of a loner.”

“I noticed.”

“Right! And like, I don’t know much about him, but I know he really prefers being alone. I worry about you getting close and all, because…he might-- he might be dangerous.”

What?”

Takako shouted that, loud enough that it startled Ao and popped the silence bubble, allowing the rest of her rant to echo across the whole hallway.

 

...

 

Shinsou was halfway through his sandwich when he realized that he was feeling unusually at ease, and it took him three more bites before he realized that it was because Tekku had been gone for a solid fifteen minutes, with no sign of coming back.

She had gotten lost, probably.

Shinsou considered just staying and finishing his sandwich, but that just meant that Tekku would be wandering the halls the whole time, likely bothering any poor soul she came across. Shinsou wouldn’t sic Tekku on his worst enemy, so he took one more bite of his sandwich, threw the rest in the trash, and stood up begrudgingly, off to find where the hell that girl had wandered off to.

Shinsou didn’t have to go very far-- he had just walked out of the lunchroom when he heard Tekku’s voice, very loud, coming from the other side of the hall. He headed over to see her talking-- well, yelling-- at someone, a freckly girl with blue hair. Shinsou ducked behind a wall before either of them saw him, reminding himself-- it’s not eavesdropping if he couldn’t not hear the conversation.

What are you talking about?”

“It’s just-- I was, um--”

“It’s really rude, you know! He’s worked just as hard as any of us-- he’s gotten into one of the top schools in the country, and you’re telling me he’s dangerous? And why, because he’s a loner? Do you think that all people who are a little bit different are out to hurt you or something?”

Oh shit. Shinsou thought. They’re talking about me.

“It’s not that. I know someone from his middle school, and they said that he-- that his quirk is--”

“Oh my god this is about his quirk? We live in a society , Shizuka. People have quirks! And not all of them are pretty! But that doesn’t mean you can just assume that anyone who has a quirk that can be used for evil is evil! You can’t go around judging people for something they don’t even have any control over!”

Blue Hair whimpered, and Tekku’s voice softened.

“I know you mean well, but this wasn’t the best way to go about it. Don’t worry about me-- Shinsou’s an asshole, but he’s a good person. I promise.”

“I, uh--” Freckles sounded like she was going to cry, damn. “Sorry. I’ll just go now.”

There was a pause, then the sound of footsteps, and she stepped out of the corner. She passed Shinsou, and her face turned white as a sheet as she saw him, leaning casually against the wall, hands in his pockets.

“Yo.”

She ran.

Priceless as her face was, this was unlikely to help with the implication that he was somehow dangerous, and the inevitable rumors that were going to start eventually.

Tekku emerged a second later. She didn’t see him until he spoke.

“I lose you for ten minutes and you decide to cuss out the first student you see?”

Pfft. I did not ‘cuss her out’.”

“She looked pretty close to tears.”

Tekku folded her arms.

“She… probably didn’t deserve that. But it needed to be said.”

“Yeah.” Shinsou looked up, resting the back of his head against the wall. “Thanks.”

“I meant it.”

He knew she did.

Shinsou unpeeled himself from the wall, running a hand through his hair.

“Well. We should probably get back to lunch.”

He stepped forward, but Tekku didn’t move. He stopped.

“What is it?”

“I, um--” She looked down, embarrassed. “I still don’t know where the bathroom is.”

Chapter Text

When Tekku turned six, a strange man appeared in their apartment.

It was a hazy summer day; Haku still had the blinds drawn, but the windows themselves were open, allowing the noise of the city to bleed through. Tekku was lying on the living floor in front of a small fan, coloring and kicking her feet to the tune of a song she was humming. There was a knock on the door, and Haku made the mistake of answering it.

The man was tall; his frame filled the entirety of their doorway, casting a shadow over Haku. He was wearing a suit and looked vaguely familiar, but Haku couldn’t place it-- every time she tried to focus on his face, her eyes slipped away, her vision going fuzzy.

“Hello.” Haku smiled politely. “Is there anything you need?”

“I need to speak with you, Ms. Yoshida.”

There was a pause.

“I’m from your work.”

Haku blanched, but she pushed it down quickly enough.

“Of course, of course! Please come inside, sir.”

The man did so, immediately sweeping inside and planting himself at their kitchen table. Tekku paused in her coloring to stare at the stranger in her home, crayon hovering over the page and eyes wide. Haku shot her what she hoped was a reassuring smile before entering the kitchen, immediately opening the cupboard and grabbing a tea kettle.

“Would you like some tea, Mr…?”

“Yes, I would love some tea.”

He didn’t give her a name.

Haku grimaced as she put on the water. She glanced at Tekku, still watching them from the living room. Haku shooed her away with a gesture.

“Go to your room, sweetie. We’re just going to talk about adult things, okay?”

“Actually,” The man said, behind her. Haku stiffened. “She should probably come in here. This discussion has to do with her, as well.”

“Oh?” Haku’s voice cracked. She moved to grab some mugs out of the cupboard, ignoring the way her hands began to shake.

The man smiled at her, folding his hands on the table.

“It really is impressive, Ms. Yoshida-- how someone like you managed to string us along for so long.”

Haku laughed nervously, the mugs hitting the counter with a series of distinctive clinks .

“What are you talking about?”

The man smiled wider, and Haku refused to turn around, feeling the man’s eyes bore into her.

“Really-- a little henchwoman like you, lying to your organization, who has done nothing but help you since the beginning. It’s awfully bold of you.”

Haku finally turned around, forcing her features to look concerned rather than scared. The water began to boil behind her, the tea kettle whistling in a steadily rising pitch.

“Sir, I don’t under--”

“You seem to be under the impression that you can somehow continue your act. Trust me, Yoshida. That is no longer an option.”

Steam was pouring out from spout, the whistling resounding throughout the apartment. The man turned to her fully now-- even unable to discern his face, Haku could see his eyes, dark and penetrating, pinning her to the spot. Despite the noise, she heard his next words clear as day.

“Now tell me,” He said. “Your daughter isn’t really quirkless, is she?”

 

...

 

Apparently , if you walk to and from school with someone, sit next to them in class, and sit at the same table at lunch, you are automatically considered friends, regardless whether or not Shinsou had actually agreed to it. 

A few days had passed, and Shinsou had come to realize that everyone considered him and Tekku friends. He knew that Tekku considered him a friend, and probably had since he let her ride his bike that first day, even though that was not intended to be an overture of friendship-- that was him trying to be a little less of a colossal asshole for once.

But it didn’t matter-- Tekku considered herself having won, and apparently it was spreading. People, having now seen evidence that he won’t automatically attack anyone who spoke to him, began actually addressing him occasionally-- usually just ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’, but it felt weird. Sometimes, in moments when Tekku miraculously wasn’t by his side, classmates would actually turn and ask “Where’s your friend?”, to which Shinsou would fold his arms and ask “Who?”.

(Sometimes, they would even reply to that-- “The new girl.” They would say. “Takako.”

Shinsou’s second “Who?” would be genuine, because he had long forgotten what Tekku’s real name was.

Damn. Maybe that meant she really had won.)

 

But now that Shinsou had resigned himself to his fate of being Tekku’s friend or whatever, he had another question looming over him--

What the hell was  wrong with Tekku Yoshida?

Because there was definitely something wrong with her. Unambiguously. Because outside of her immediate decision to befriend the scariest motherfucker in class, she was just weird in general.

Like, she often had this weird, vacant look in her eyes, and sometimes she would stop talking, mid-sentence, and just pretend nothing happened. She hoarded food at lunch, eating not only hers, but also Shinsou’s leftovers, along with any other offerings she received from kids at other tables. She was undoubtedly friendly with everyone in their class, but she also made it clear that Shinsou was the only one she considered her ‘friend’. She didn’t like talking about family-- she went quiet, whenever the subject came up.

Maybe she comes from a troubled home. Shinsou thought, watching her hoover her plate one lunch.

“What do you want to be after you graduate?” Shinsou asked abruptly. Tekku paused, a deer in the headlights, mouth still full of food. She answered once she had swallowed.

“An engineer.”

Not the answer he had expected.

“Not trying to be a hero?”

Tekku laughed.

“Yeah, no. I’d be terrible as a hero.”

“Your quirk would be good in a fight.”

“Yeah.” She looked down. “But I don’t have good control over it.”

Shinsou shrugged.

“Whatever. More room in the Hero Course for me.”

“Yeah! That’s the spirit.”

She took another bite, baring a smile even with a sandwich between her teeth. Shinsou paused, glancing to the side.

“Do your parents approve?”

Tekku choked on her sandwich.

What? ” She asked, between coughs.

“Of your career choice. Of U.A.”

“Uh… yeah.”

“Okay.”

He paused again, watching Tekku carefully. She had her hand up to her mouth, chewing slowly behind it.

“Do you… like your parents?” He asked. Tekku stared at him.

“Yeah.”

“Are things alright, at home?”

Tekku paled again.

“Can we-- can we not talk about this? Right now?”

Shinsou shrugged.

“Okay.”

He shot her a look.

“But you will tell me if something’s wrong, right?”

“Mm-hmm.” Tekku replied, nodding rapidly.

Shinsou let it go after that. It wasn’t his business.

If Tekku didn’t want to tell him, he had no right to know.

Didn’t stop him from wondering, though.

 

...

 

 

Tekku sat alone, in an unfamiliar room.

She had been in a lot of unfamiliar rooms, recently. This one was likely the best of the lot. It wasn’t loud and crowded like the police station, and it wasn’t cold and empty like the… villian place.

She was in an apartment-- not her and Mommy’s. A different one. It was cleaner and newer than her and Mommy’s; The floor was wood, decorated with thick carpets, and the couch was filled with extra blankets, where she was probably going to sleep that night. A new coloring book and crayons had been set out for her on the table, but Tekku ignored them. She wanted to see what was going on in the other room, where all the people were.

Tekku kneeled on the floor. All of the lights in the apartment were off, except for the light from the other room. The door to it was cracked open a bit, a beam of light shot through the otherwise dark apartment. Tekku scooted up to it, watching and listening for hints of what was happening.

Mommy was in that room, sitting so that she was facing the door. Tekku could see her face-- she looked tired, her hair was messy, and the clothes she wore weren’t hers, but she looked better than she had in the days before. Mommy’s friends were also in the room-- the scary teenager, slouched down in a couch, and the crocodile man, standing over Mommy, hand on her shoulder. They were all quiet at the moment, listening to the fourth person speak.

Tekku knew who he was-- she had only met him once before today, but she would never forget him; he was a hero. He had rescued her and Mommy from the villains.

He almost looked like a villain, himself-- he wore all black, except for the dark gray scarf thing around his neck. The bottom of his face was covered by a black, mechanical mask. His hair was purple, and his eyes, when Tekku had seen them, were also purple, darkened and tired. His hero name was Mindjack.

Tekku knew his real name, too. He had told her, when they had met. But right now, he was still in his hero costume, so he was Mindjack.

Tekku curled her hands into fists on the floor, running her fingers through the thick carpet and holding on for dear life. She didn’t like thinking about that villain place, not when her and Mommy were already rescued. But she wanted to hear what they were saying.

Mindjack was sitting with his back to her, talking to Mommy and her friends. Their voices were quiet, worried, but Tekku could still make out most of it.

“Your options are limited, now.” Mindjack was saying. He had a distinctive voice-- it was very deep, and it had scared Tekku, at first. “Your organization was disbanded, and we unfortunately can’t make the argument that any of you were forced into villany. Normally, we would put you into a villain rehabilitation program and get you out in a couple years, but none of you have any crimes serious enough to warrant that.”

Haku nodded. Her friends were looking down, probably thinking.

“It’s pretty common to have henchpeople defect, even without the larger hierarchy falling apart. We try and keep them out of jail as much as possible-- God knows, we don’t need any more in there.” Mindjack paused. “Usually, in these circumstances, we give out probationary hero licenses. Basically, you’ll have an eye kept on you for a couple years, but you’ll get training and begin to work as a hero. Usually underground-- this isn’t a system we advertise, understand?”

Harubetsu and Anio nodded, but Haku herself went quiet, looking down. She wrung her hands as she spoke.

“...I do understand, and I can’t thank you enough, Mindjack, sir. I-- I don’t think me or my daughter would have it made it out of that compound alive, if it weren’t for you.” She swallowed, looking up and making eye contact with Mindjack. Her face hardened subtly, a light in her eyes not there before.

“But I think I’m done with the hero system altogether. Good or bad.”

Mindjack sighed, long and weary.

“That’s fine. I don’t blame you, honestly. We’ll have to find an option for you later; your situation is a bit more… unique.”

He paused.

“But right now, I think we have an audience.”

Tekku froze. Mindjack turned to the door, waving at her. Slowly, he reached behind his head, and with a series of clicks , his mask came undone.

Tekku rose herself up slowly. Mindjack removed his mask altogether, and looked up at her.

Just as Tekku entered the room, she felt herself relaxing. She was safe, right now. Because there, smiling kindly, face backed by the warm light of the room, was the 25 year old Pro Hero, Hitoshi Shinsou.

 

...



They moved into a new apartment.

They couldn’t take anything from the old apartment-- it was too dangerous, and any lingering villains who might come after them could likely find them again, if they went there. Tekku felt kind of sad about it, but she couldn’t be too upset, not when she saw how cautiously, almost nervously happy her mom looked at the prospect of such a big change.

They didn’t have to go very far-- it was across the hall from Shinsou’s apartment, and that’s where they had been staying for the last couple days.

Regardless, Haku made a big deal out of it, leading Tekku by the hand as she swung the door open, letting Tekku take all the time she wanted to take in their new home.

It was bigger than their old apartment. There was furniture in it already, but it still felt wide and airy. It had lots of windows, and Tekku could see the city beyond them, tiny cars and people moving up and down the street like a model toy set. Tekku clambered over the furniture in her exploration; it looked like no one had so much as breathed in this room before, and she was determined to change that.

Her new room was small, but she liked it. It felt empty right now, the only things inside a desk, a bed, and a stuffed cat sitting on said bed.

“What’s that?” Tekku asked, immediately running over and picking it up.

“Oh, that’s a gift from Mindjack. He wanted you to have it, since you had to leave all your toys in the old apartment.”

Tekku turned the black cat over in her hands, watching in fascination at the way it’s bean-stuffed limbs hung down, sunk under their own weight. Haku shuffled her feet, waiting for Tekku to finish.

“We’ll probably be seeing him often-- we’re neighbors now, and he’s paying me to work on his hero paperwork, as a, um, temporary job.”

Tekku nodded. She settled the cat in her arms.

“I’m naming it Hitoshi.”

Haku giggled.

“Isn’t that going to get confusing?”

“Hitoshi’s a common name.” Tekku replied, hiking the cat further up on her shoulder. “He’ll get used to it.”

Haku smiled, the barest hint of tears in her eyes. She shook them away a moment later, taking Tekku by the hand.

“Come on. Let’s go check out the kitchen.”

 

...

 

Tekku sat on her new couch, bouncing Hitoshi in her lap. Her mom sat beside her, leaned over the coffee table, attempting to mentally compile a list of everything she would need to get and how much she had in her savings to pay for it. There was a knock on the door, and even as Haku stiffened, Tekku called out:

“Who is it?”

“Your hero.”

Tekku clambered off the couch, opening the door herself before Haku could stop her. Mindjack-- well, Shinsou. He was wearing normal clothes, so he was Shinsou-- stood in the doorway, holding a box of donuts. He was dressed casually, in a dark gray jacket and jeans, and it was a night and day difference from his hero costume.

“Morning.” He greeted, before glancing at the clock. “Afternoon.”

Tekku bounced back over to the couch as Shinsou walked inside, setting the box of donuts on the table. Tekku immediately went to stick her nose in them as Shinsou settled into the seat across from Haku.

“I came to check how you were settling in. Didn’t realize it was too late for donuts, but I don’t think Tekku will mind.”

Tekku was already in the process of pulling out a strawberry frosted one, getting sprinkles all over the otherwise pristine couch.

“Don’t spoil your supper.” Haku warned, even as Tekku staunchly continued on, taking her first bite. Haku turned to Shinsou.

“Thank you so much, for everything. You really didn’t have to do all this.”

Shinsou smiled.

“It’s no problem, really-- I couldn’t exactly leave you two out on the streets. This way, you’re protected from any possible attacks, while still being able to readjust to normal society. It works out for everyone.”

“Yes, but--”

Shinsou raised his hand.

“No buts. If anyone asks why I’m putting so much into one rescue,” He pointed his thumb over at Tekku, whose face was currently smeared with frosting. “Say it was because of her puppy-dog eyes.”

Haku smiled, face softening.

“Yeah. She has that effect on people.”

She ruffled Tekku’s hair.

“Right, sweetie?”

Mommy, I’m trying to eat.”

 

...

 

Haku had gotten up to go to the bathroom, so Shinsou and Tekku were alone, for the time being. Tekku had finished her donut, and she sat with Hitoshi in her lap, licking the frosting on her fingers and eyeing the box still on the table. There was quiet.

“How are you doing, kid?”

Tekku wiped her face, leaving a streak of pink across the sleeve of her new sweatshirt. She didn’t answer immediately, instead looking down and kicking her feet.

“Did you really do all this just for me?”

“Well, not all of it.”

Tekku frowned at him.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why help me and Mommy so much?”

Shinsou shrugged.

“Because you’re a kid, and you have your whole life ahead of you. Couldn’t let it be wasted before it even began.”

Tekku frowned again, wrinkles creasing her young face.

“But you’re a hero. You see kids in danger all the time.”

“And when I see them, I help them. Do you think you and your mommy aren’t in danger?”

“Not anymore.”

“You’re not being held at knifepoint by villains, no. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need help. I’m not doing much-- just giving you a boost, until your mom can get on her feet again.”

Tekku hugged Hitoshi tighter.

“Yeah, but you didn’t have to--”

“I’m a hero, kid.” Shinsou said. “It’s what I do.”

Tekku huffed a little bit, still kicking away. Shinsou leaned forward.

“Tekku, can you look at me?”

She did.

“I know you’ve never had anything like this before, so I’ll tell you now-- my door’s always open. Any problem you have, no matter how silly it seems, you can come and ask me for help. You can even just come if you want to hang out. Anything. Do you understand?”

It took a bit for the words to process, but eventually, Tekku nodded. Shinsou smiled; it was odd, how much softer his face looked, when he smiled.

“I’m going to hold you on that, okay Tekku?”

Tekku nodded, a knot in her chest loosening-- one that she hadn’t even realized she had.

 

 

...

 

Tekku had her first day of school.

She felt like a new person that day, with her new school new uniform, new backpack, Hitoshi tucked under her arm.

Her mom walked her to and from school; it was within walking distance, but she hadn’t felt comfortable letting Tekku go alone quite yet.

For the first time, Tekku had been able to proudly announce what her quirk was to the whole class. She couldn’t exactly show it off, but it made her happy. Her new school was small and tight-knit, and though she hadn’t made any friends that day, she was sure it was just a matter of time.

When she got home, she sat at the kitchen table and ate an orange. She talked incessantly despite the food in her mouth, Haku listening gently across from her and smiling as she filled out a pile of paperwork. When Tekku finished eating, she went quiet. She kicked her feet. She stared at the clock. Then she stared at the door. Then she stared at her mom.

“Can I go visit Shinsou?”

“If he’s home.”

Tekku hopped out of her chair, Haku smiling gently at the sight as Tekku scrambled to the door as fast as her little feet could carry her.

“Don’t wake him if he’s sleeping!” Haku called out behind her.

 

Tekku stopped in front of Shinsou’s door. She was nervous, but it was the kind of nervous that made her restless, unable to stand still as she waited, hopping from one foot to the other. She stared at the door and wished it would open on its own.

Eventually, she managed to raise her hand and knock on the door, immediately going back to dancing in place.

“Who is it?”

“It’s me!” Tekku announced, balling her hands into fists. She heard the sound of approaching footsteps.

“Who’s ‘me’?”

“Tekku!”

The door opened, and there was Shinsou. He was dressed casually again, and his hair was unbrushed. Tekku had forgotten how tall he was, and she all of a sudden felt very, very small.

“You--” She looked down. “You said I could come over?”

There was a moment of unbearable silence before Shinsou replied.

“Sure. Come on in.”

Tekku followed behind him. Despite having spent several days in Shinsou’s apartment before, it felt like new territory, now.

Shinsou’s apartment felt warm; it was the same size as hers, but it was full of stuff-- big, cozy throws, several “Kitten A Day” calendars, stacks of books, old magazines, and pieces of hero merchandise. On most surfaces, there was at one least photo of someone different-- whether they were all family or friends, Tekku wasn’t sure.

Shinsou went into the kitchen, so that’s where Tekku went, too, dropping her backpack onto the table and settling down on a chair as she watched Shinsou head over to the fridge.

“You want some chocolate milk?” He asked.

“Yes, please!”

Shinsou pulled out a carton of milk and a thing of chocolate syrup, promptly going into the cupboard and pulling out two glasses and a spoon, as well. He approached his task staunchly and quietly, and it made Tekku realize-- despite what he had been like when they first met, Shinsou didn’t actually smile much in day-to-day life.

“How was your day, Tekku?” Shinsou asked, spoon clinking against the inside of the glass as he stirred the syrup in.

“I went to school today!” She announced, all of a sudden feeling like she might burst. “And I got to tell everyone about my quirk and the teacher read us a story and I got to color and I drew you a picture!”

Tekku scrambled to grab her bag, digging through it as Shinsou watched with a bemused expression, quietly pushing a glass of milk in her direction.

“See?” She pulled out the picture, now crumpled from the time it had spent in her backpack. It was crude and hard to decipher, but luckily, she explained it all verbally.

“That one’s you--” She pointed to a black and purple blob. “And that one’s me--” She pointed to a blue and yellow one. “They didn’t have a crayon my hair color, so I had to improvise.”

Shinsou leaned forward, taking a sip of his chocolate milk.

“What’s going on in it?”

“Oh!” Tekku smoothed the paper out on the table. “Me and you are heroes, and we’re saving Mommy from the evil villain.” She pointed at the blob representing the “villain”.

“They look like a giant cat.”

“I don’t know what villains look like, so I used Hitoshi.”

Shinsou huffed.

“Okay. What kind of hero are you in this?”

Tekku stood up in her chair.

“I’m VCR, the Reversal Hero!”

She struck a pose.

“My costume’s yellow and green, and it has lightning on it!”

“Why lightning?”

“Because it’s cool!”

“Can’t argue with that.”

Tekku sat back down, finally taking her chocolate milk. Shinsou picked up the picture gently.

“I’m going to put this on my fridge, okay?”

Tekku nodded, still drinking her milk.

Shinsou had his back to her, still putting up the picture when she spoke again.

“How was your day?”

“Uneventful.” Shinsou said, sitting back down at the table. “My day doesn’t start until the night, really.”

Tekku blinked at him, tilting her head.

“I do all my patrols at night-- I’m an underground hero, and my quirk works best if no one knows who I am. So I try not to be seen.”

“Is that why I had never heard of you before?”

“Yup.”

“Are there people who have heard of you?”

“A couple. Nerds, mostly.”

“Do you have fans?”

“A few.”

“Can I be your fan?”

“If you want to be.”

Tekku stood up again.

“Then I’m going to be your biggest fan, Uncle Shinsou!”

“Uncle?”

Tekku’s face turned red. She looked away, considering whether or not she should Rewind as she stuttered out an explanation.

“I mean-- you kind of-- like, you’re not my Dad, but--”

“It’s fine, Tekku. You can call me Uncle.”

She blinked.

“Really?”

“Really.”

And for nine years, she did.

Chapter Text

Shinsou woke to the sound of his phone buzzing incessantly.

He opened his eyes slowly, squinting at the now glowing screen by his pillow. It was pitch-black out, clearly either the middle of the night or very early morning. He clumsily grabbed his phone, wondering who could possibly be calling him at this hour-- 1:16 in the morning, apparently.

He unlocked his phone, realizing that it wasn’t a call-- it was a series of texts. Shinsou groaned; he never should have let her so much as touch his phone. He was very close to just ignoring it and going back to bed when he caught a glimpse of the last text sent.

Please let me in.

Shinsou sat up in his bed, clutching his head briefly before checking to see what the rest of the texts said. He had let Tekku put in her number herself, and he quickly regretted that when he saw her contact name.

 

✿.。.:* ☆:**:. Tekku!! .:**:.☆*.:。.✿

 

Hey

Shinsou

You awake?

Probably not

I’m sorry uh

You said we could talk

Is

Is that what you said?

Because I

Nevermind.

 

(15 minutes of silence)

 

I want to talk.

It’s stupid

I just

I don’t want to be alone

I’m bothering you

I know you hate me

I’m sorry.

 

(Twenty minutes, this time.)

 

Shinsou

Shinsou I’m sorry

I can’t be alone

I snuck out

It’s dark

I might die.

 

(Fifteen more minutes)

 

Shinsou

Buddy

Old pal

Shinsou I’m in front of your house

Your prob asleep but

If you’re not

Shinsou

Please let me in.

 

Shinsou dropped his phone, letting it topple from the edge of his bed and onto the floor. He pulled himself out of bed a moment later, untangling himself from the covers and stumbling blindly down the stairs to the front door.

It was dark and silent inside the house, the only light the filtered blue that shone through the curtained windows. Shinsou took a deep breath, undoing the lock and throwing open his front door.

She really was there.

Tekku turned to look at him as the door opened. She was clearly still in pajamas, wearing an oversized t-shirt and sweatpants, her school shoes on her feet, no socks. She was standing square in the middle of the doorway, shivering in the cold. The street was dark, the only light being the moon, at this hour. When she saw him, her eyes widened. They were rimmed red, cheeks still damp. Her mouth opened, but no words came out. She just stood, facing him, clasping her hands behind her back.

Shinsou shifted his footing, suddenly hyper aware of how odd this situation was, and what this was going to look like to his parents, in the morning.

“You…” His voice died in his throat. “You, uh, want to come inside?”

 

...

 

Before Tekku turned 15, she enrolled in the Support Course at U.A. High School.

“Shinsou.”

She knocked on the door.

“Uncle Shinsou, open up! It’s important!”

More knocking.

“I know you’re in there, and I know you’re ignoring me on purpose!”

She kicked the door.

“Open up!”

There was a sigh from behind the door.

“Who is it?”

“Me!”

The door was unlocked, and Shinsou opened it. Time had mellowed the now 34-year old Pro Hero, but he had remained mostly the same. His hair was shorter, but still perpetually untamed. He was wearing a sweatshirt today, old and gray and decorated with a watercolor scene of some fat cats. On his wrist he wore a series of friendship bracelets that Tekku had made a couple years back, during the one week she decided she liked making them. They were fraying and the colors were faded, but they were still there.

“What’s so important?”

“Look!”

Tekku spread her arms out, doing a twirl in her new high school uniform. Shinsou blinked at her.

“Still can’t believe you got in.”

Tekku stopped spinning.

“No thanks to you , you wouldn’t even put in a recommendation!”

“You signed up for Support. I was a Gen Ed and Hero Course student. Not applicable.”

“That’s a lie and you know it.” Tekku replied, skipping inside Shinsou’s apartment without so much as an invitation. She tossed her bag on the couch and began to pull off her shoes as she spoke.

“It was a really boring first day-- we just met our classmates and teacher and went to some opening ceremony where the principal talked for like an hour.”

Tekku made her way over to the kitchen table, slumping over it dramatically.

“Got any homework?” Shinsou asked, slipping into the chair across from her.

“Nope.”

“Good.” Shinsou paused. “Don’t get used to that.”

Tekku smiled, then dropped her head onto the table.

“I can’t believe I’m at U.A. and I can’t believe it’s so boring.

“It’s just the first day. It’ll pick up.”

Tekku raised her head.

“What was U.A. like for you?”

Shinsou shrugged.

“It was fine.”

“Oh, come on. I’m sure it was more interesting than that.

Another shrug.

“Did you have any friends?”

“A few.”

“Who? Are any of them famous heroes now?”

“No one you would know, probably. You're not a hero person.”

Shinsou leaned back, clearing thinking. A slow smile slid across his face.

“Actually… you know your second favorite hero? The number one? The one whose name sounds like yours?”

“Deku? You and him were friends ?”

“We were friend- ly . He kicked my ass, once.”

Tekku sat back in her seat.

“That must’ve been an honor.”

“Trust me, it didn’t feel like it at the time.”

There was quiet. Tekku glanced up at Shinsou again.

“I’ve been Deku how many times for Halloween, and you never told me until now?”

“Listen. I try not to think about high school at all, ever.”

He paused, taking in Tekku’s uniform, before rolling his eyes.

“Guess I don’t have a choice, now.”

Tekku smiled, stretching over the table and patting Shinsou on the shoulder.

“You’re proud of me. Admit it.”

Shinsou stared her down, ignoring the hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t burn down the school.”

Tekku laughed, but she made no promises.

 

...

 

Tekku sat down on Shinsou’s couch with a hesitance that spoke volumes more than any words could. She sat delicately on the edge of it, her hands gripping the cushions as if she was afraid she was going to fall off. She looked down slightly, her gaze far off and glassy. She didn’t say anything.

Shinsou turned the lights on, then stood at the edge of the room, unsure of what he was supposed to do in this situation, exactly. He didn’t know know what anyone was supposed to do in this situation.

“I’m going to go make some tea.” He said, eventually.

Shinsou turned on his heel, escaping into the kitchen. He quickly distracted himself with the process of making tea, periodically glancing behind him to make sure that Tekku hadn’t moved. For a while, she didn’t.

The silence of the house was eerie; the sound of all of Shinsou’s actions were heightened-- the clinking of spoons against ceramic, the water boiling in the tea kettle, his fingers drumming on the counter.

By the time he had finished with the tea, Tekku had laid down and curled up on his couch. Her head was resting on the edge of a cushion, her arms curled around her. Her eyes followed Shinsou cautiously as he shuffled into the room, placing the mug gently down on the table in front of her. He stood, unsure of where to go, and hesitant about sitting next to her, quite yet.

Tekku sat up slowly, still curling herself into the corner of his couch, making herself as small as possible. She stared at the cup of tea in front of her-- plain, since Shinsou didn’t know how she liked it. The steam rose from the surface, wispy and sad.

“Are you…alright?” Shinsou asked, feeling stupid as soon as the words left his mouth. Tekku blinked slowly.

“Yeah.”

That was a lie, and they both knew it.

“Do you…want to talk about it?”

Tekku let out a whimper, a high-pitched, unfamiliar whine. She dropped her head.

“...Not really.” She managed.

Silence.

Tekku shifted again. Shinsou could see tears in her eyes, and almost panicked. He really didn’t know what to do if she started crying.

“Can I just…stay the night?” She asked eventually. Her voice was so soft; he almost didn’t recognize it.

Shinsou froze.

He didn’t know what to do. There was a girl in his house. A girl he had barely known for a week-- and yet here she was, on his couch, in tears, at 1:30 in the morning. There was no way Shinsou was going to tell her to leave.

Oh, his mom was going to give him hell in the morning.

 

...

 

“Your birthday’s coming up, right?”

Tekku looked up from her spot on the couch, where she had been busy staring at her homework and doing none of it. The door to her apartment was open, and Shinsou was leaning in the doorframe, hair brushed and with his jacket on-- clearly on his way out.

“In like… four months.”

Shinsou shrugged.

“Close enough. We’re celebrating your birthday this weekend, just you and me.”

“Why so early?”

“It’s probably the only day off I’m going to be getting in a while.”

Tekku slumped back on the couch, turning her face towards Shinsou and grinning.

“Okay. I won’t protest that.”

Shinsou snorted.

“I didn’t think you would.” He pulled himself off of the doorframe. “Tell your mother I said hi.” He added, turning on his heel.

“Sure thing!” Tekku called out behind him, already turning back to her homework.

 

When Sunday came, Tekku woke up earlier than she had any right to, got dressed, pulled on her shoes, hugged her mom goodbye, and dashed out into the hall to meet Shinsou.

They took the train out to the city center; they didn’t exactly have a plan, so they just wandered, taking in all of the sights. When they passed a pet store, Tekku tried to convince Shinsou to get a cat-- he loved them, of course, but he claimed to be too busy to take care of one. They passed a bowling alley, and it only took Tekku minimal nudging to let them do a couple rounds (even if Tekku lost by a landslide, every time). When she asked if they could get ice cream, Shinsou wholeheartedly agreed. He didn’t roll his eyes once.

Shinsou handed her off her ice cream cone as she sat, leaning over one of the picnic tables as she waited. He quickly ruffled her hair with his now free hand, and Tekku scrunched up her face, protesting how she was far too old for that.

And then, before she knew it, the day was over.

By the time they got back to the apartment, the sun was setting, the sky clear and ablaze with shades of red and orange. The air was still warm, but not uncomfortable. Shinsou had long taken off his jacket, draping it over his arm, and he let Tekku unlock the front door herself.

As soon as they got inside, Tekku threw herself onto Shinsou’s couch, moving her legs slightly so that the older man could sit down next to her a moment later. She then promptly used his lap as a footrest.

Shinsou sighed, sinking further into the couch and shooting Tekku a look. She didn’t move her legs.

“Did you have fun?” He asked eventually.

“Yeah. It was nice.” Tekku paused. “You were nice.”

Shinsou huffed.

“What’s so special about that?”

Tekku eyed him from her spot across the couch.

“You’ve never been this nice to me. Not since I was a little kid.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You’re an asshole.”

“Hey.” Shinsou’s smile disappeared. “No swearing until you graduate.”

Tekku rolled her eyes.

“See? Asshole.

Shinsou didn’t dignify that with a response. Instead, he went quiet. Too quiet.

Tekku sat up, turning to look at Shinsou. He was sitting quietly, gaze turned slightly downwards. Tekku bumped her shoulder against his.

“You alright, Uncle Shinsou?”

His eyes turned towards her.

“Yeah. You should probably head back to your own apartment, now. Your mom will be worried.”

“Aw, what if I want to stay here?”

“Sucks to be you, then.”

Tekku scoffed, folding her arms and standing up.

“I see how it is.”

She headed over to the door, skipping across the apartment. Her hand was on the doorknob when Shinsou spoke again.

“Tekku?”

She froze, turning behind to look at him.

Only half of the lights in the apartment were on, casting shadows across the room.

The place had changed over the years; it was still crowded, still warm, but it was different. There was a photo of her and Haku resting on the wall by the TV, a magnet of one of Tekku’s more embarrassing school photos stuck on the fridge. There was a quilt folded over the back of the couch, apparently having been made by one of Shinsou’s classmates. He had packed away a lot of the books, but not the magazines-- those were still stacked in precarious heaps all around the coffee table.

Shinsou felt very far away, across the room as he was.

“Yeah?” Tekku asked.

“You know that I love you, right?”

Tekku froze. For a minute, she just stood there. Then, her hand tightened around the doorknob, and she laughed, the sound grating against even her own ears.

“You can’t just say things like that, Uncle Shinsou. Someone might take it the wrong way, you know?”

Shinsou sent her a look; even across the room, she could feel the intensity in his gaze.

“You know what I mean, right?”

Tekku laughed again. She rubbed the back of her neck.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“You know that it’s all an act, right?”

“What’s an act now?”

“Me being an… asshole, I guess. You’re not annoying. You’re not a burden. And I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to meet you, Tekku.”

Tekku found words escaping her. She nodded instead.

“Good. Remember that.”

Silence.

Tekku shifted, looking away from Shinsou, towards the door.

“You’re acting weird. I’m just going to go now.”

“Alright.”

Shinsou paused.

“Goodbye, Tekku.”

Tekku smiled, cracking open the door.

“I’ll see you later, Uncle Shinsou.”

Before she could hear his reply, she had slipped out of the room and escaped into the hallway.

She didn’t want to say it out loud, but she loved him, too.

 

...

 

Shinsou pulled out the couch.

Tekku stood awkwardly behind him the whole time, hands folded in front of her, looking down. When he was done, Tekku laid down on her side. Shinsou went and fetched some throw blankets, tossing them onto the bed; Tekku immediately went and curled up in them. Shinsou watched in silence as she curled herself into the fetal position on top of it, face obscured by the blankets.

Shinsou glanced down, shifting uncertainly. Should he leave? She didn’t want to talk, and they were clearly both tired. But leaving her alone didn’t seem like a good idea, either.

Shinsou turned slowly, heading over to the wall and turning off the lights. When he looked behind him, he saw that Tekku had poked her head out, watching him with wide eyes. He sighed, dropping his hand.

“Do you want me to stay?”

Tekku scrunched up her face, retreating back into the blankets.

“Please...”

Shinsou moved and sat down gingerly on the edge of the mattress, Tekku at his back. It creaked loudly as he put his weight on it, and Tekku squirmed slightly.

And then it was quiet once again. Shinsou could hear her breathing, sound clear as day in the now dark room.

He didn’t know what to do; he could feel his eyelids drooping, and without really thinking about it, he laid back, head resting on top of Tekku’s legs. She squeaked in surprise, head poking out again to stare at him. Shinsou just closed his eyes, folding his hands in front of him and steadying his breathing. He felt himself drift off, consciousness dulling and the welcome comfort of sleep beginning to enfold him.

And then Tekku spoke.

“Do you ever think about dying?”

Shinsou’s eyes snapped open. He turned his head slightly, and saw that Tekku was watching him, waiting for an answer. Her mouth was set in a thin line, eyes wide and nervous. She was holding her breath.

Shinsou turned back, staring at the ceiling.

“How so?”

“Like…” Tekku paused, shifting under him. “Do you ever just… think about how you’re going to die?”

Shinsou breathed out through his nose, before sighing.

“Yeah.”

He didn't want to admit it; he had surely never planned on expressing the thought out loud. But it was late, it was quiet, he was tired, and if this was what Tekku wanted to talk about, then so be it.

“Are you…scared of dying?”

Shinsou stared up at the ceiling.

“Not any more than your average person. I already know I have to come to terms with it, someday.”

“Hm?”

Shinsou paused, just a beat too long. His heart beat faster in his chest, but he spoke calmly regardless.

“Always figured, if things went as planned, I would die in action.”

Silence. His words sunk into the air, heavy and irreversible. He could still hear Tekku breathing shallowly, but she didn't speak.

“People don’t… they don’t like to talk about it, but… being a hero is dangerous. It’s your job to put your life on the line for someone else. So I just figured, inevitably… one day, I’ll do just that.”

When Tekku didn't speak, Shinsou turned to look at her again. The sight haunted him. Her face was lying on the mattress, hair splayed out around her. Her eyes were wide, her gaze distant. A couple tears had fallen out, streaking sideways across her face and leaving drops on the mattress.

“You really think so?”

Shinsou, for once in his life, felt words escaping him. He did think so-- he never expected to admit it, but it was a fact. If he wanted to achieve his dream, he had to weigh the dangers involved-- up to and including death.

Tekku's face fell, her gaze slipping down. She sniffled.

It was the truth, but somehow, he didn't think it was what Tekku needed to hear.

 

 

...

 

Tekku woke up in the morning, feeling the same as she always did.

She approached the oncoming day as cheerfully as she could, despite it being a Monday. She went to U.A now, and even though the work was hard, she couldn't help but still feel giddy.

She also couldn't stop thinking about Shinsou's words the night before. It was silly-- of course she knew that he didn't really hate her, he wouldn't have let her stick around if that was the case.

Shinsou was just weird. He had always been weird. And if sometimes that weirdness meant him reassuring her she wasn't a burden, she'll take it-- so long as she was able to hold it against him the next day.

Tekku stared at herself in the mirror, lowering her brush as she thought.

I've never thought of myself as a burden, have I?

Yellow eyes bore into her, trying to find some meaning within themselves.

No. I haven't.

So then why did Shinsou think that was something she needed to hear?

 

Haku was in the living room, nursing a cup of coffee and watching the news. Tekku planted herself in the kitchen, pushing her earlier worries out of her mind and half-heartedly listening to the TV as she poured out a bowl of cereal.

“Experts are still trying to determine how exactly the break-out was accomplished. Heroes are working around the clock to apprehend the escaped villains, but civilians are encouraged to stay inside after dark and to travel in groups when possible.

Remember that quirk enforcement is still in effect, and outside quirk use will still result in a criminal record.”

Haku sighed. Tekku continued scarfing down her cereal-- she didn't like when it sat in the milk and became soggy.

“Are you going to be alright today, sweetie?”

Tekku paused, mouth still full of cereal.

“What?”

Haku shifted awkwardly.

“The news, I mean. I can walk you to the train station, if you want.”

“Mom.” Tekku swallowed. “I go to U.A. It’s, like, the safest school in the country. I’ll be fine.”

Haku glanced over her shoulder, then smiled sadly at her daughter.

“I know. Would you please at least come home right after school today, at least?”

Tekku sighed, but she smiled back at her mom.

“Alright. No problem.”

 

Tekku kept her promise-- it wasn’t hard. It was, in fact, embarrassingly easy-- she hadn’t told her mom yet, and she certainly wouldn’t tell Shinsou , but she hadn’t really made any friends at U.A yet. She hadn’t ever really made any friends at school.

She didn’t know what it was-- no one was ever mean to her. She wasn’t bullied. But nothing ever seemed to stick. She had tried, many times, but you couldn’t exactly form a close friendship if only one side was interested in pursuing it.

She found herself considering it, trying to figure out what exactly it was as she took the train home, standing and staring out at the city as it passed her by.

Maybe it was her quirk. Mental quirks were still rare, and Tekku’s was invisible. Maybe people were uncomfortable with the knowledge that Tekku could say or do anything before Rewinding, and they would be none the wiser.

She used Rewind a lot less now than she had when she was younger. Young Tekku considered her quirk her get out of jail free card, her escape plan for if she ever happened to say or do something too embarrassing. Even if she tried not to abuse her power like that now, maybe it still came through. Maybe living with that ace up her sleeve had made her reckless.

Maybe it was her personality. People had said that she was annoying before, but Tekku had just ignored them, and just brushed off the comments. They made no difference to her, when the words just came from mean girls or equally annoying boys in her class.

But maybe they had a point.

You’re not annoying. You’re not a burden.

But how did he know?

 

Tekku’s musing left her in a funk by the time she got home.

She breezed down the hallway, immediately heading inside her apartment and pulling her coat and shoes off. Haku was in the kitchen, having only gotten back a couple minutes before, unpacking some groceries.

“How was school?”

“It was school.”

Tekku dropped her backpack on the couch and moved into the kitchen, slipping past her mom and grabbing a glass out of the cupboard. Haku leaned down, grabbing some cans and setting them down on the counter.

“You need any help, Mom?”

“No, thank you, sweetie.”

Haku pushed a can onto the shelf before pausing, slowly removing her hand and resting it on the counter.

“Have you seen Shinsou at all today?” She asked.

Tekku shook her head, filling her glass with tap water.

“He hasn’t answered any of my texts today. I know he can be kind of a shut-in, but it’s not often he goes radio silent.” Haku scoffed. “He better not be overworking himself again.”

Tekku shrugged.

“He’s probably doing that thing where he stays awake for three days, then passes out on the couch without warning.”

It made sense to her. He had been acting weird the day before.

She took a sip of her water. Haku shook her head disappointedly.

“I don’t know how that man’s still alive.” She paused, then glanced over at Tekku. “Would you mind going and checking on him? If only to make sure he’s eaten at all. He could also probably use some sunlight.”

“Sure thing!” Tekku replied, setting her glass down on the table. She headed out of the kitchen, skipping into the hallway.

The first thing she noticed was that Shinsou’s door was ajar.

That was…odd. Shinsou always locked his door, to the point of inconvenience. He must’ve been really out of it, to make a silly mistake like that.

“Uncle Shinsou!” She knocked on the door, more out of habit than anything else. “You left your door open.”

Silence.

“It’s Tekku. Mom wanted me to check on you. Have you eaten? Have you slept? ”  

She grabbed a hold of the doorknob, gingerly moving her head to glance inside. She couldn’t see anything-- all the lights in Shinsou’s apartment were off.

“I’m, uh. I’m coming in. You better not be naked or anything.”

She pushed the door open, the light from the hallway spilling in and illuminating the dark apartment.

The first thing she saw was blood.

A lot of blood.

The door swung all the way open, hitting the wall with a thud that Tekku didn’t hear because she was too busy processing the scene, processing the blood and the wrecked apartment and the strewn about glass and the

And the

And the body.

Somebody was screaming, the pitch high and reverberating against her eardrums, against the walls and into the room where a body she didn’t want to recognize lay strewn about the floor like a ragdoll, a hole in its chest, its eyes wide and vacant and blood everywhere, smeared across the floor and splattered on the walls like this was some kind of bad horror movie. The kind that makes you laugh with how silly it all is.

Tekku fell to her knees, realizing that the screaming was her, it was coming from her, of course it was coming from her, who else would be screaming?

Her throat hurt, her head throbbed, and her stomach threatened to empty its contents onto the floor, right then and there. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, and she couldn’t look away.

Somewhere, it was as if somebody hit pause. Static bloomed across her vision, across the screen like sheets of endlessly shifting snow.

Her voice faded from her ears, her body refused to move, but regardless-- somewhere, something deep within her hit Rewind.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Early morning sunlight shone through the windows, gray and diffused, warming his face. Shinsou came to slowly. He opened his eyes gradually, sunlight flooding his vision before it cleared.

On the bed next to him, an empty nest of blankets sat, and Tekku was gone.

Shinsou continued laying there, unmoving. Some kind of emotion curled in his gut, but he couldn’t place it. So he just stared at the place she used to be, wondering if maybe she had ever really been there at all.

“Hitoshi? Hitoshi, are you up?”

Shinsou sat up, just as his mother entered the room, still looking around for him. She stopped in the doorway.

“What are you doing?” She asked.

“Sleeping.” Shinsou lied.

“Why’d you pull the couch out?”

“I was trying to sleep.”

“Did it help?”

The sunlight was already making his head throb. Shinsou closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“No.”

 

There were no other texts from Tekku, and Shinsou couldn’t quite bring himself to send one himself. Instead, he did his best to push her out of his mind as he got ready for school, rotely following his routine despite the exhaustion he felt.

Even though he had fallen asleep last night, he had gotten no rest. All Shinsou could see when he closed his eyes was Tekku’s terrified face, the tears on the mattress, the single text she had sent in the middle of all the others-- I might die.

Why was she so concerned with death? Why did she think that Shinsou of all people would have the answers?

 

No one joined Shinsou on his walk inside the school. It felt weird, but he marched on-- just like old times, footsteps heavy and a scowl sure to be on his face. No one approached him in the hall, not even to wave hello, and yeah, he couldn’t blame them. He probably looked like Death at the moment, shoulders down and expression dark as his stomach roiled, dreading the thought of going to class and seeing an empty desk next to his.

Of course, it turned out that his worry was somewhat unfounded. When Shinsou walked into the classroom, Tekku was at her desk. Her head was down and her leg was shaking, but she was there.

Shinsou stopped in front of the desk, shadow looming over her. There was silence.

“Good morning.” Shinsou greeted. Or, at least, attempted to greet-- it came out sounding more like a threat than anything else. Tekku looked up slowly, expression blank, but she didn’t speak.

“Are you, uh, feeling better? After last night.”

Tekku blinked, the words settling in, before she suddenly looked down.

“I have to talk to you today.”

“We… do that every day.”

“I meant alone. After school.”

Shinsou shifted. He could feel eyes on him, the few other kids in the class clearly tuning into their conversation.

“Okay.” He said.

“You know the park near the school?”

“Yeah.”

“Meet me there. I’ll… I’ll tell you everything.”

Shinsou nodded, then settled down in his seat. He glanced over at Tekku, and saw that she was avoiding looking at him, turned around in her seat and staring at the wall.

He hoped she was okay. 

He wondered when he had started caring.

 

...

 

 

Something was tickling her face.

Tekku scrunched up her nose, attempting to get it off without moving. It didn’t work.

Tekku opened her eyes slowly, realizing that the thing tickling her face was grass. She was lying in the grass.

She shifted, not quite getting up. She was lying in the grass, still damp with morning dew. The sky was overcast. She shivered, rubbing her bare arms; she was wearing her U.A. uniform, but she didn’t have her jacket. She had left it on the couch at home.

Home.

She wasn’t at home.

Where was she?

Abruptly, Tekku sat up, examining her surroundings. They didn’t look terribly familiar; she could see a sidewalk, but it was mostly empty, only a handful of people there, likely heading to work or school.

Looking behind her, she saw that she was at the edge of a park she also didn’t recognize. There was a large tree, along with a swing set and a sandbox, both empty save for one or two kids.

Tekku pulled herself up on shaking legs. After taking a deep breath, she stepped out onto the sidewalk, quickly falling into step with the small crowd. Soon enough, she found herself in what looked like the city center. It was busier than the park, but still quieter than her home, the world not quite awake yet at this hour. There were buildings and there were people, but most of the buildings were solid, metal with small windows, instead of the walls of glass she was used to. Tekku looked around dazedly, trying to figure out anything she could about this city, but she was at a loss. She had never seen a city that looked quite like this, before.

Up on one of the buildings, she caught a sign displaying the time-- 6:34 in the morning, and Tekku frowned at the reminder. Something… didn’t seem right. How was it morning? The last thing she remembered, it had been the afternoon, after school.

What was the last thing she remembered?

She

Tekku keeled over suddenly, hand clasped over her mouth. She earned herself some odd stares and a wide berth kept around her as she wretched violently, squeezing her eyes shut.

That’s right. She remembered.

But then… how did she end up from Shinsou’s apartment in the afternoon, to a different city in the morning?

Tekku swallowed back her bile, removing her hand from her face and ignoring the way it was shaking. She pulled herself up slowly.

“You lost, kid?”

Tekku turned suddenly, to see a man watching her. He was sitting on the sidewalk, an old blanket thrown over his shoulders and a can by his feet. Clearly homeless.

Tekku nodded.

“A little.”

The man raised his hand, pointing his finger in the opposite direction that Tekku had been walking.

“I believe U.A. is that way.”

U.A?

Oh, right, her uniform!

Tekku straightened up, jumping a little bit in her surprise.

“Oh! Thank you, sir.”

Was there more than one U.A? Did it have another branch she didn’t know about?

“No problem. You might want to hurry up. Don’t want to be late on your first day.”

First day??

But Tekku just nodded, pushing down her confusion.

“Thank you, thank you, sir!”

She spun around on her heel and ran in the direction he had pointed, ignoring the alarm bells going off in her head.

 

U.A. was not hard to find once she got close.

Tekku slowed down once she reached it, staring up at its tall gates. It looked the same. There was no doubt in her mind that this was her U.A.

But was it?

There were cherry blossom trees flanking her on both sides. They were in full bloom, the petals drifting down and landing by her feet as the sun peeked through the overcast sky.

Was it really?

Tekku just walked inside. No one stopped her; she was a student here, obviously.

Not that that stopped Tekku’s heart from dropping into her stomach as soon as she crossed the entrance. The gates may have been the same, but the inside clearly wasn’t. She didn’t recognize these halls, not the color of the walls or the tile of the floors or the shape of the classroom doors.

Tekku’s heart beat faster in her chest, and her eyes widened.

Everything here looked...older.

Tekku started running. She didn’t really know why, but that’s what she did. She just took off, barrelling down the hall with her eyes closed. Unsurprisingly, she almost immediately crashed into someone.

Tekku fell back and landed on the floor. She groaned and looked up, recognizing the person she had crashed into as a teacher, hero costume and all.

Tekku felt her mouth go dry; she had seen this teacher before. Except her costume was different, her hair was shorter, and she hadn’t looked nearly this young, before.

“No running in the halls! You didn’t hurt yourself, did you, sweetheart?”

“N-no! Sorry, Ms. Midnight!”

Tekku bolted up, face burning with embarrassment, hands folded stiffly at her sides. Midnight blinked at her, before folding her arms and smiling.

“Ah, fresh meat. Call me Ms. Kayama, okay? Ms, not Mrs.”

“Yes, Ms. Kayama! Sorry, I’m a first year.”

Tekku paused, steeling herself. Her hands curled into fists by her sides, and she shifted her footing, standing as solidly as she could manage.

“And-- and-- can I ask you a very stupid question?”

Midnight shifted, smirking, her heels clicking against the tile floor.

“Oh, I get plenty of those. Ask away.”

Tekku took a deep breath. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with the answer.

“What year is it?”

 

...

 

Tekku didn’t speak to him for the rest of the day. She skirted around his presence, not looking at him during class. She spoke to her other classmates, about mundane things, insignificant small talk. She laughed at their jokes, regardless of whether or not they were funny, and pointedly refused to look in Shinsou’s direction.

She was nowhere to be found at lunch. Shinsou sat at his regular table, eating his regular lunch. He didn’t seek her out; if she didn’t want to sit with him, that was her business.

It was hard to ignore, though. He wasn’t used to the quiet, anymore.

After lunch, his little respite had apparently gotten to the point where, when waiting for class to start, he felt someone behind him tap on his shoulder. Shinsou turned around to see Freckles staring at him, her face knit with concern, hand still hovering over his shoulder.

“Did you guys have a fight?”

Shinsou stared at her dully for a few seconds, narrowing his eyes. She folded slightly under his gaze, retracting her hand.

“A fight with who?” He asked. 

 

Despite everything, the school day did eventually end.

Tekku had taken off immediately as soon as the last bell rang, and Shinsou let her. He took his time packing up, ignoring the concerned looks some of his classmates shot him.

By the time he exited the building, she was long gone. Shinsou sighed, heading over to his bike. He put his headphones on as he rode, taking advantage of the small amount of peace Tekku’s absence allowed him as he rode over to the park.

Shinsou hadn’t been there in years; he had visited a couple times, when he was younger, but it had never made much impact on him. He never did like interacting with other kids, anyways. Regardless, it wasn’t hard to find his way, and to find Tekku.

She was towards the back of the park, pacing underneath a tall tree. The light filtered through the leaves above her, casting her in dappled sunlight that was constantly shifting, both from her movements and the breeze that ran through the park.

Shinsou braked on the grass, quickly stepping off his bike. It took a minute for Tekku to notice, apparently lost in her thoughts. He stepped forward, and that seemed to alert her to his presence. She stopped where she stood, head snapping forward to look at him. Shinsou froze where he was, still standing in the sunlight, several feet away from her. Tekku went still, then turned forward, clasping her hands behind her back.

“Hi.” She said.

“Hey.” Shinsou said back.

Silence. Tekku fidgeted further, digging her shoe into the dirt.

Shinsou was tempted to speak again, but he refrained. It was better to let her take her time.

Tekku, after a moment, beckoned him to come closer, and he did. He stopped in front of her, close enough that their height difference became apparent. Shinsou towered over her, but Tekku didn’t seem to mind. She just looked up, yellow eyes wide.

“I have something to tell you.”

“So I guessed.”

“But you have to promise me you won’t think I’m lying, or that you won’t freak out, or anything.”

“Sure.”

A brief smile flitted across Tekku’s face, before it was promptly pushed away.

“You can't tell anyone. It's a secret.”

“I won't.”

Tekku looked down. She took a deep breath. The wind blew, and the leaves rustled above them. Tekku straightened her shoulders, planted her feet firmly on the ground, and spoke.

“I’m from the future.”

 

...

 

 

Incredible.

Tekku’s shoulders felt sore from standing tensely for so long. She hated standing so stiffly, so politely, but she didn’t know what else to do. There was a chair in front of her, and she was sure she would be allowed to sit, but she didn’t.

Tekku had attempted to explain her situation to Midnight, but the older woman had quickly gotten overwhelmed by Tekku’s frantic outpouring of words, and had instead brought her to the principal’s office.

That was where she was now, attempting to explain her story as concisely as she could to U.A’s current standing principal: a small, bear-looking thing named Nedzu

“How far into the future are you from?”

“Umm…” Tekku paused, moving to count on her fingers. Midnight, standing beside her, cracked a small smile at the sight. “...19 years, exactly.”

Nedzu leaned forward, paws steepled together.

“And you don’t know how you got here, or how to get back?”

Tekku shook her head.

“I think-- I think it’s my quirk. Usually, I can only go back in time for a couple seconds. Sometimes minutes.” She looked down. “Never… never anything like this.”

Tekku had neglected to mention any of the events that led up to her quirk going haywire, if only because she feared that saying it outloud would somehow make it more real, more inevitable. She had neglected mentioning Shinsou at all; if she had done her math right, he would be just starting at U.A. at this time.

But as she spoke, her voice wavered, and some kind of emotion must’ve leaked through, because Tekku suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. She glanced over to see Midnight holding onto her, her thumb brushing reassuringly against Tekku’s shoulder blade. It was a small gesture., but the contact felt nice. It reminded Tekku of her mother.

“Well, you’ve found yourself in quite an odd situation, Miss Yoshida.” Nedzu said.

“You could say that.”

“Regardless-- you are still a U.A. student. It would be irresponsible of me to let you slack in your studies just because you happen to be in a different decade.”

Tekku’s eyes widened.

“Sir-- I haven’t been born yet. I don’t know anyone here. I don’t even have a place to stay. School is the least of my worries.”

“Oh, I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out. You don’t think we’d leave you out on the street, would we?”

Midnight’s hand stilled.

“I’ll take her.”

Tekku’s head snapped over to Midnight, disbelieving. The pro hero just smiled down at her reassuringly, eyes crinkling at the corners in a way Tekku knew was genuine. She turned towards the principal.

“I don’t think it would be wise to let anyone else know about her situation. It’s bad enough to have a student with a time travel quirk, let alone a misplaced one. But she’ll be safe with me. I live alone, and my apartment’s quite close to here. I don’t mind keeping her for a while.”

“Ah, perfect! Thank you, Nemuri, that makes my life much easier.”

Tekku stared out in front of her, not processing anything before her eyes. Her “situation” was just now starting to sink in.

Shinsou was dead. She was here because Shinsou was dead. Her quirk had gone out of control because she had found him. She had seen his dead body and that somehow led her to the past. To before she was born. Her mom was in middle school right now. Shinsou was her age.

But at home, in her time, right across the hall from her apartment, Shinsou was dead.

“...not sure whether or not you would be able to affect the timeline at all. It’s probably wise to lay low regardless; you don’t want to change things on accident, after all! What course are you in, in your own time?”

Tekku didn’t realize she was being spoken to. There was silence, the only sound the ticking of the clock on Nedzu’s wall.

“Miss Yoshida?”

Tekku jumped.

“What?”

“What course were you in, in your own time?”

Maybe… maybe being sent back this far wasn’t random. Maybe she was here for a reason. What was Rewind for if not to fix her mistakes? This wasn't her mistake, but it still needed to be fixed regardless.

This was the start of his first year right? He had told her where he started out, before.

Besides, she just wanted to see him again.

“General Studies, sir.” Tekku lied.

 

...

 

“...and that’s how I ended up here.”

Her voice faded out, leaving nothing in its wake. Shinsou stared at her, wide-eyed, as the breeze provided the soundtrack for the scene. Tekku looked down.

They had gone from standing to sitting in the grass over the course of Tekku’s story, and now, in an uncharacteristic loss for words, she turned her focus to it, pulling chunks of grass out of the ground and scraping away the blades with her nail.

Shinsou was also at a loss for words. He shifted, leaning his weight on his arm and watching as Tekku pointedly avoided eye contact. As if she hadn’t just dropped a couple bombs into his life. As if she hadn’t told him where he would be twenty years down the line.

Well, it was best to start at the beginning.

“So I get to be a hero.”

“Of course you get to be a hero! What else would you be?”

“I don’t know. Figured if things didn’t work out, I’d get a job in retail.”

“Well, things did work out.”

Will work out, you mean.”

Tekku didn’t reply, and in the silence, Shinsou began to examine her in a new light.

This… revelation hadn’t changed anything about her. She was still Tekku. The same weird and tactless Tekku-- fifteen years old, with indigo hair, yellow eyes, and the most grating voice Shinsou had ever had to endure for long periods of time.

But things were different now; the weird lilt to her voice, the often distant look in her eyes, her weird fixation on him-- they all had a source, an explanation, one central cause.

It was grief.

Tekku wanted to be his friend because she had known him before and she had lost him before; every moment of weird clinginess, of awkward contact, of her watching him but not quite meeting his eyes-- it was grief. She was grieving one Hitoshi Shinsou, but another Shinsou was still right there. Not quite the same, but close enough. Close enough that she could fool herself into thinking that he was the same Shinsou she knew, the same Shinsou she had grown up with.

He couldn’t help but feel bad for her. She was lost and confused and clearly needed someone. And it was someone that he just couldn't be. Not yet, anyways.

“What day?”

Tekku looked up sharply.

“What?”

“What day do I die?”

She blinked, and then she told him.

“But,” She added. “That won’t matter anyways, since I’m here to make sure you won’t die!”

She balled her hands into fists, to punctuate the sentence.

“How?”

“I’m still working on that part! But trust me, I will.”

Shinsou rolled his eyes.

“I surely hope so.”

“Me too.” Tekku said. Then she looked down, her voice going quiet. “I’m sorry for dumping all this on you. It just didn’t seem fair to leave you in the dark. It’s your life, after all.”

“It’s fine.”

“It’s just-- I got so scared last night. I thought-- I thought that maybe I was going to wake up and be back in my own time, and nothing would be fixed and I can’t-- I can’t do that, so I texted you, and then I regretted it and then--”

“It’s fine, Tekku.”

She shut her mouth. She shifted so that she was kneeling on the grass, folding her hands and wringing them in front of her.

“I should go.”

“Yeah.” Shinsou said. “I’m going to stay here for a little bit. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah! Yeah, of course.”

She stood up, brushing off her skirt and adjusting the school-bag on her shoulder.

“I, uh--”

She whirled around, steadying her shoulders.

“I will see you tomorrow.” She said. A promise to herself.

Tekku walked off, and Shinsou leaned back, laying out on the grass, his head near the base of the tree. The air was warm and the sounds of the park were easy to tune out, and so he let his thoughts drift.

He was going to be a hero. He was going to help people; the kind of people most heroes wouldn’t even think to help. He had been face to face with a person who was alive because of him, and he had been none the wiser.

He knew the day he was going to die.

Shinsou felt himself stiffen, as if he was being doused in cold water. He felt sick, a sharp stabbing pain making itself apparent inside him. He believed Tekku, he really did. But would she really be able to change anything? She had said that her quirk was for fixing mistakes, but what if she changed something else in the process?

Shinsou curled up onto his side, clutching his stomach. He clenched his eyes shut as he tried not to think too hard to think about it.

One thing he knew regardless-- she couldn’t stay here. No matter what she said, she couldn't. It wasn’t good for her. It wasn’t good for either of them.

These kind of things never came without consequences.

 

Chapter Text

“Shinsou! What are you doing?”

Tekku approached the back of Shinsou’s chair stealthily, like a tiger stalking its prey-- or at the very least, like a tiger who, lacking all grace and subtlety, only succeeded because its target was too busy staring at a wall to notice until she was right on top of him, hands now on the back of his chair.

Shinsou, concentration broken, turned to glare at her.

“I’m preparing myself. I have a lot riding on today.”

He turned back to the wall.

Tekku and Shinsou had barely had time to adjust to the lack of secrets between them before the Sports Festival had come, barreling its way through the week faster than either of them could’ve anticipated. The excitement leading up to it was palpable, a frenzied force that could be felt throughout the school, and Tekku had quickly allowed herself to get swept up in it. Even though she had no intention of going for the win, and even though she had already been in a U.A Sports Festival before, in her own time. She could feel the excitement in the air, and so she was excited by proxy-- excited just to see everyone trying their best, and excited to see Shinsou put himself out there for the whole world to see for the first time. It didn’t matter if she already knew how it was going to end.

“I don’t think you are, actually.” Tekku said, grabbing him by the ear. “You’re not concentrating, you’re brooding.

“Fuck off.” He said, slapping away her hand.

“Don't overthink things, okay Shinsou?” She said, patting him reassuringly on the shoulder. She then left him alone, skipping off to do something else as the class waited for the Sports Festival to start.

The rest of her classmates were in varying states of boredom and mortification; most of them were chatting, scrolling through phones that they technically weren’t supposed to have on them, but a couple were in a similar state to Shinsou-- sitting at the waiting room table, hands folded in front of them, looking as if they were waiting for the ground to swallow them whole.

Tekku pulled out a metal chair, scraping it loudly across the floor before dropping down across from Ao, who looked pale enough that she may have forgotten how to breathe.

Tekku dropped her elbows onto the table, resting her head in her hands and smiling at Ao, who had not yet noticed her presence.

“Hey.”

Ao blinked, then looked up.

“Hi!”

“You seem nervous.” Tekku said bluntly. Ao blinked again.

“Does it show?”

“Yeah. There’s this thing called breathing. I hear it helps in situations like this.”

Ao swallowed and, thankfully, took a breath.

“Sorry, I just-- I’m not trying to get into the hero course or anything, I just… I really want to do good, today.”

“Of course!” Tekku said. “As you should. I think we should all do our best today!”

She raised her voice on the last sentence, earning herself a number of stares around the room.

There was a laugh from someone by the wall.

“Sorry, new girl.” One of the kids said, lowering his phone. “This whole thing is just an advertisement for the Hero Course. We’re just here as window dressing. It doesn't matter what we do.”

Tekku pointedly did not glance over to Shinsou’s brooding corner, and instead sat up straighter in her chair.

“I mean, yeah. ” She said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our best, anyways! Plus Ultra, right?”

She put a fist in the air. The kid she was speaking to snorted, then turned back to his phone. Ao sighed.

“Don’t listen to them.” Tekku said, folding her arms. “I’m sure you’ll do amazing out there.”

Ao looked down, a small smile on her face.

“Thanks, Takako.”

“Oh, my friends call me Tekku.”

Ao looked up sharply.

“Frien--?”

The loudspeaker turned on with a loud crackle.

Class 1-C, please line-up and head towards the stadium. ”  

 

Tekku quickly lost Ao in the shuffle, but she did put in the effort to find Shinsou, at the front of the pack, waiting for their class to be announced. She took hold of his arm to let him know she was there.

Are you excited? ” She whispered.

They were waiting in a tunnel, packed in like sardines in the dark, the blinding light of the stadium just beyond their reach. Tekku’s gym uniform was new, still unfamiliar on her, and her hair was pulled into a tight ponytail, tugging at her skull. Shinsou looked the same as he always did, feigning boredom, keeping his hands in his pockets and eyes directly in front of him.

“You could say that.” Shinsou replied, moving to remove her fingers from his arm.

I’m excited. Oh, Shinsou, you’re going to do--”

Don’t tell me how I’m going to do.” He interrupted her, shooting her a look. “Remember what you promised?”

Tekku grinned.

“No spoilers.”

 

The class in front of theirs was announced, to much fanfare, and 1-C was shuffled forward, until they were right at the brink of the exit, the light dazzling their eyes and the cheers of the crowd leaking in, muffled by the concrete.

“Tekku.” Shinsou said suddenly. Tekku looked up.

“Just so you know-- today’s the day where I’m going to do everything in my power to win, what’s right or fair be damned.”

He glanced down at her, making eye contact without moving his head. His gaze was intense, and his words dark-- a warning.

“So, you probably shouldn't get in my way.”

Oh, he was so full of shit.

Tekku blew a raspberry at him instead.

 

...

 

The first challenge was an obstacle course.

There was no way in hell Tekku was going to be completing an obstacle course.

She gave it her best shot, though-- she had to use Rewind almost immediately, to keep herself from getting caught in ice that another student had sent out behind them, and from there she jogged on, hoping that she wouldn’t do anything that might get her killed in-between times when she could use her quirk.

At one point, she passed some General Studies kids, who had opted to ignore the challenge presented to them and just settle on the ground cross-legged, in a loose semicircle, exchanging memes on their phones. Tekku slowed to a stop as she passed them, the crowd of desperately rushing students parting around her. She put her hands on her hips.

“Come on, guys.”

The one closest to her, the same student she had spoken to in the waiting room, lowered his phone and rolled his eyes.

“Did you see some of those hero kids, new girl? I’m not going to die.”

Tekku scoffed.

“It’s a school-sanctioned sporting event.” She said. “No one’s going to be taking it that seriously.”

As if to contradict her point, a loud crash was heard in the distance, shaking the ground they were standing on. Everyone’s heads whipped towards the source of the noise.

“What was that?” Tekku asked.

“Not gonna find out.” Her classmate replied, lying down. Tekku huffed, folding her arms. After a moment, he glanced up at her.

“Awful lot of people passing you right now.”

“Oh, I’m not planning on doing well . It’s just the principle of the thing, really.”

He laughed.

“Okay.”

There was a pause.

“I’m Miseru, by the way. I look forward to seeing you at the loser’s table.”

Tekku saluted.

“See you at the loser’s table.”

And then she ran off.

 

 

...

 

The loser’s table wasn’t so much a table as it was the section of stands where basically the entirety of Class 1-C ended up after the first round.

Tekku marched up to the stands, her hair a mess and scorch marks on her face. She stopped in front of her class, hands on her hips and stance wide, taking in the thoroughly unexhausted states of her peers.

“All of you are a disgrace to the good name of U.A.” She said. “Well, except for you, Shizuka. You tried really hard.”

“Thanks.” Ao said, head in her hands. Her face was scratched from where she had face-planted at one point, a bandaid running across her nose.

“You made it all the way to the minefield?” Miseru asked.

“Yeah.”

How?

“Trial and error.”

Tekku sat down, taking a seat in the middle of the front row, Ao to her left and Miseru in the row behind her, by her right shoulder. He moved to tap her on said shoulder, causing her to turn her attention to him.

He was the short and stocky sort, with wild orange hair barely contained in a ponytail. His eyes were green, mostly obscured by a thick pair of light-sensitive glasses. His grin was crooked as he stuck out his hand.

“Raito Miseru. My quirk is Solid Light.”

Tekku took his hand.

“Tekku Yoshida. I can see the future.”

“Oh, rad.”

Ao perked up.

“I didn’t know that was your quirk, Ta-- Tekku! Tekku.”

She looked down.

“Are you sure you’re okay with me calling you that? I know that’s what S-Shinsou calls you.”

“Oh yeah, it’s cool. Everyone used to call me that when I was younger.”

Miseru leaned forward.

“Shinsou’s the guy you’re always with, right?”

Tekku nodded.

“He seems like a real creep.”

“Oh, he's not.”

“Where is he?” Ao asked, glancing around. “Is he not coming up to watch?”

Tekku grinned.

“He made it to Round 2.”

“Really? How?” Miseru asked.

“Couldn’t tell you.”

“What’s his quirk? I could never figure it out.”

Ao pointedly looked down at her feet as Tekku smiled again, baring her teeth.

“You’ll just have to watch and find out.”

 

...

 

“I saw a hero yesterday!”

Ryou Sato, all of eight years old, tilts his head up after his announcement, smiling smugly as all of the kids began to gather around him, asking him for details.

Well, not all of the kids. Tekku remained where she already was, lying on the other side of the carpet and half-heartedly attempting to play with her toys, wishing that it wasn’t raining and that she could spend her recess running around outside instead.

“Me and my mom were going shopping, and there was a villain fight on the street!” Ryou continued. “The bad guy was really big, and he could breathe fire, and everyone was really scared. But then Weaver showed up, and she kicked his butt! She landed right in front of me, and she noticed, and she turned to me and she said…”

Ryou paused, and his audience leaned in, waiting with bated breath. Ryou pitched his voice down, imitating how one would imagine a hero would sound.

‘Be careful, kid.’

“Wow, Ryou!” One of the kids said. She was blonde with blue eyes, and Tekku had always thought she was really pretty. “That’s so cool! I’ve never seen a real hero fight before.”

“And she talked to you, too!”

“I can’t believe I missed it!”

“You’re so cool, Ryou!”

“I saw a hero too.”

Twelve pairs of eyes turned to the new voice entering the mix. Tekku was lying on her belly, watching the assembly with wide eyes, a determined glint in them as she waited for her words to sink in. Her Deku action figure was clutched in one hand, a plastic doll in the other. She wasn’t actually playing with them.

“When?” Ryou asked, frowning. “There weren’t any other hero fights yesterday.”

“He wasn’t fighting.” Tekku said. “He’s my neighbor.”

“Wow! Your neighbor’s a hero?”

“Which hero, Tekku?” Her blonde classmate asked, genuinely curious.

“He’s an underground hero.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s--” Tekku looked down. She twisted Deku’s arm in her hand. “It’s like being a hero, but you don’t go on TV, and you don’t do interviews, and they don’t make action figures or backpacks of you or anything.”

“That doesn’t sound very cool.”

Tekku kicked her feet behind her. Her eyes traced the road decorating the carpet.

“What’s his name?” Ryou asked, folding his arms.

“Mindjack.”

“That’s creepy .” One of the girls said, covering her face with her hands.

“What’s he look like?”

“His costume’s all black, and he has a gray scarf, and a face mask-- it helps with his quirk.”

“What’s his quirk?”

Tekku faltered. She bit her lip, eyes flicking away.

“I-- I can’t tell you.”

“Why? You don’t know ?” Ryou asked. He asked it really mean, like he thought Tekku was stupid for not knowing.

“No! I know what it is. But it’s a secret. He has to keep a secret, to-- to do his hero thing better.”

“You made up a hero, but you can’t even think of a good quirk?”

“He’s not made up!”

“Then why haven’t I heard of him?”

“I told you why! But he’s real. He’s my friend, and I see him everyday, and I tell him about school and he tells me about his hero stuff.”

“I know all about heroes, Tekku, and I’ve never heard of a hero like your stupid neighbor.”

You’re stupid!”

“What’s going on here?”

The teacher chose that moment to step in, putting herself between them. She leaned down, hands on her knees, keeping her face level with the two students. There was quiet for a minute, both kids struck into guilty silence. Ryou pulled the trigger first.

“Tekku made up a hero and then called me stupid.”

“Ryou called my friend stupid first!"

The teacher blinked at her. She tilted her head slightly, uncertainty in her voice.

“Your… hero friend?”

Tekku nodded frantically. Her teacher sighed, dropping her head.

“Takako, what did I tell you about telling stories?”

“I’m not! He’s my best friend, and he’s really nice. His hero name is Mindjack and his costume’s all black and--”

“That’s enough, Takako. I’ve already talked to you about fibbing. Now, why don’t you say sorry to Ryou for calling him names?”

Tekku shut her mouth. She glared at the floor, and spat out an apology. Her teacher didn’t look satisfied, but there were other kids already causing a commotion behind her, so she stood up and went to deal with them. Ryou had the gall to look smug the rest of the day, as he continued to embellish his hero encounter.

Tekku didn’t speak for the rest of recess.

 

 

 

When Tekku got home, she was greeted by the sight of her mom and Shinsou sitting together at the kitchen table, chatting quietly. Tekku stopped in front of them, a couple feet away, clutching the straps of her yellow backpack and not speaking.

“How was your day, sweetie?” Haku asked. Tekku shifted her gaze, moving to stare Shinsou down. He met her gaze in turn, raising an eyebrow. It took a minute for her to actually speak.

“You’re real, aren’t you, Uncle Shinsou?”

“I would certainly hope so. What’s up?”

Tekku dropped her hands, clenching them into fists.

“Because Ryou said you weren’t real and even though he was wrong Miss Ito agreed with him and made me apologize for lying.” She announced, staring down at the floor.

“Well, that’s not good.”

“And he called you stupid.”

Shinsou snorted.

“It’s alright, Tekku. I’ve been called worse.”

“It’s not alright! I called him stupid back, but Miss Ito heard, and she made take it back. But I didn’t mean it. I’d call him stupid again.”

Tekku stomped her foot, and Haku frowned.

“Tekku, I know you’re upset.” She said. “But you shouldn’t call people names just because you don’t like them.”

“Ryou said it first.”

“And do you want to be like him?”

Tekku didn’t reply, just pouted. Shinsou nodded his head towards the chair beside him.

“Sit down, Tekku. You can tell us all about it.”

Tekku did so, shuffling her feet and dropping her backpack onto the floor by the chair.

“Do you want a snack?” Haku asked gently. Tekku stared at the table.

“Yes please.” She said eventually.

Haku stood up and headed towards the counter, and Shinsou turned to Tekku.

“So,” he started. “Why were you talking about me?”

Tekku mumbled something under her breath, not looking at Shinsou.

“I didn’t catch that.”

“Ryou saw a hero.” She muttered, louder this time. “And everyone thought he was so cool, but he’s not.”

“How so?”

“Because--” Tekku raised her voice. “I see you everyday! And I don’t think heroes are that great, but you’re definitely the best of them! So why does Ryou get all the attention? He’s mean.”

“Ah.”

“Hikari said he was cool.” Tekku added. She looked down. “I wish Hikari said I was cool.”

She kicked her feet under the table.

“...I didn’t tell them about your quirk.” She said. “Since I know that you have to keep it a secret from the villains. I don’t think anyone in my school is a villain, but Mommy used to be one and no one ever thought she was, so I wanted to be safe.”

She looked down.

“But they didn’t believe me, anyways.”

Shinsou sighed.

“That was very smart of you, Tekku. But it’s alright. You know that you were telling the truth, and if they ever accuse you again, your mom will talk to them.”

Tekku groaned. Haku came over again, putting a plate of apple slices in front of her and ruffling her hair. Tekku said thank you, and the atmosphere lightened considerably.

“Did anything else happen today, sweetie?” Haku asked.

Tekku nodded excitedly.

“Yeah! We learned about planets in science today, and they were really cool! And Miss Ito announced that we’re going to be doing Show and Tell soon!”

“Oh really? That’s great.” Haku said, smiling. Shinsou shot a glance at her, and they maintained eye contact for a couple seconds before Shinsou broke it, leaning in to hear more of Tekku’s story.

 

 

...

 

 

Tekku hadn’t ever really considered the difference between hearing a story told twenty years down the line versus actually seeing it play out in front of her.

Uncle Shinsou had begrudgingly told her the story of his first Sports Festival, and he had spun it as a minor defeat, a stepping stone. Sure, he had lost, but he had proved himself on a huge stage, and made his message to world known. He had even laughed about it, considering his opponent would go on to become magnitudes more famous than he ever would be.

But he wasn’t laughing now.

Tekku had watched with all her classmates, excited to see him pass in the second round. It was a cavalry battle, and it didn’t matter that he passed by slipping under the radar. He still passed! And Miseru quickly cheered him on with her, and the excitement became infectious-- after all, when was the last time some no name Gen Ed kid had gotten so far in the Sports Festival?

But the third round-- it was bad. He had almost won, he had almost won, and it felt so brutal, even watching it from a distance, the crowd screaming in her ears. Shinsou had almost won, but then Deku turned right back around and suplexed Shinsou out of the ring at the last moment.

It must’ve been her imagination, but Tekku was sure she heard a crack when Shinsou hit the dirt.

“Holy shit!” Miseru yelled, grabbing onto Tekku’s arm. “That looked like it hurt.

Tekku nodded, straining her neck to see better. The crowd was going absolutely wild, the announcer prasing Deku’s victory, but Shinsou was still lying there on the ground.

“Shinsou’s really powerful.” Ao said, beside her, wide-eyed. “He would’ve won if the hero student hadn’t...broken out.”

“Yeah holy fuck! Can you imagine if he had won? If some Gen Ed kid had won a match by telling someone to walk out the ring?”

Tekku nodded. She was counting the seconds in her head, eyes flicking between a panting Deku and the tiny figure of her friend, the dust still receding around him. 15, 20, 30…

“He’s uh,” She started. “He’s still not moving.”

Miseru dropped his arm.

Oh yeah. He’s not.”

The three of them stood up, rushing forward and moving to lean over the edge of the stands, staring directly into the ring. After a couple more seconds, Shinsou did eventually move, pulling himself up slowly and painfully. Tekku sighed, and Miseru patted her reassuringly on the shoulder.   They watched in silence as Shinsou and Deku bowed to each other, the announcer admitting that it was actually a pretty boring match. And it kind of was, Tekku could admit that.

Shinsou walked away with his head down. Tekku felt a touch on her shoulder, and saw that Ao had been pushed into her, as more of their classmates crowded around the edge. Just before Shinsou reached them, she made eye contact with one of the kids she didn’t know.

“I think you’ll know how to say it best, new girl.” he said.

Tekku did. Or at least, she hoped she did.

“Hey!”

Shinsou stopped. He looked up, and his eyes went wide at the little group that had gathered. Tekku smiled at him, leaning forward so that her head was poking over the stands.

“You did really good!”

Shinsou didn’t react. He blinked at her, face unusually slack. Tekku shifted, then kept on talking.

“And-- and I think you’re really cool and I’m really proud of you, I know you tried really hard!”

Nothing. Ao kept on looking between the two of them, and Miseru's goofy smile was slowly slipping away.

“Did I say-- you, uh, you tried?”

Tekku's words sunk into the air like dead weights, and Shinsou finally spoke.

“You’re really bad at this.”

 

...

 

 

One morning, after the sun had risen but before the start of classes, a man in black walked into their school.

Noriko was on receptionist duty, wanting to be anywhere but on receptionist duty. She was alone in the front office, typing away at the computer and periodically glancing mournfully over her shoulder at the ‘Out of Order’ sign taped over their coffee machine. She was having a bad day already, so when someone at the front door buzzed to be let in, she did so without so much as glancing at the screen.

And then the man walked in.

She had never seen him before, but then again, she never did pay much attention to those types. He was tall, wearing all black, the bottom half of his face covered by a complex black mechanical mask. His boots fell heavy against the floor, but otherwise, he made no noise.

Noriko stiffened; she was alone. If she were to be attacked right now, no one else would be the wiser about the villain in the building. She moved her hand subtly as the man approached, reaching for the intercom.

“G-good morning! What can I--”

“Stop.”

Noriko froze. The man stopped in front of the desk as Noriko's hand continued to hover over the intercom button. The man pulled an I.D out of his scarf.

“Hitoshi Shinsou, underground hero.” He said, handing it off to her. “I’m here for Show and Tell.”

 

Tekku hummed alone to herself that morning, thinking about what she was going to say for her Show and Tell. It was a glass jar, the bottom of it filled with sand and rocks-- it used to have a spider in it, but Tekku had let it out earlier, because she knew that it wasn’t good to keep things that aren't yours, and that spider clearly had its own life to live. Maybe she should say that? And conveniently forget to mention that she had let the spider go outside, and not in the classroom?

Before Tekku could decide, there was a knock on the door. Miss Ito paused in her rounding up of kids to answer it, and the volume dropped minimally as the class turned their attention to the door.

Tekku saw Miss Ito freeze, then pale, then step back from the doorframe.

Shinsou walked inside.

Everyone went quiet. He was in his full hero costume, a white guest pass stuck on his mask, ‘Mindjack’ written on it in hasty permanent marker. No one spoke as Shinsou’s eyes traced the room, eventually landing on Tekku. There was another moment of tense silence before she broke it.

“You came?”

“I did.”

“I never asked you to.”

Shinsou shrugged.

“You didn’t have to.”

 

...

 

 

Tekku found Shinsou lurking underneath the stands, crouching in the shadows, leaning on the wall with his hands in his pockets and listening to the Sports Festival continue on without him.

She headed up to him slowly; he hadn’t come up to sit with her after his match, and Tekku had gotten worried. She couldn’t help but feel that he was upset with her.

Shinsou didn’t acknowledge her presence, even when she stopped right next to him-- close enough to grab hold of his arm again if she wanted to. But she didn’t; instead, she shuffled her feet and looked down, waiting for Shinsou to speak first.

Eventually, he did.

“You knew?”

Tekku breathed out. She moved to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear.

“Yeah. I didn’t know all the details, but yeah.”

Shinsou looked up, staring straight at the wall.

“I lost.” He said.

“Yeah.” Tekku replied. Real smooth.

Silence fell again. Tekku quickly found herself fidgeting, desperately wanting to fill in the empty space.

“You’ll be alright, Shinsou!” She said, closing her hands in and out of fists. Her raised voice echoed against the concrete walls. “You’re so strong and so smart, another opportunity will come your way. I know you’ll be a hero no matter what!”

Shinsou breathed out. He was still as a statue, gaze still burning a hole into the concrete.

“You really believe that?”

“Of course I do.” Tekku said, breathless.

Shinsou looked down. He scraped his shoe against the ground.

“I’m not sure I believe that.”

“Well, you should.”

Shinsou looked her way sharply, glaring. He looked angry, and Tekku reacted almost subconsciously.

Rewind.

The gravel crunched underneath Shinsou’s sneakers.

“I’m not sure I believe that.” He said, again. Second time around, Tekku wasn’t sure what he meant. Did he not believe that she believed him, or did he not believe that he would be a hero?

“Shinsou.” She said instead, keeping her voice steady. “Look at me.”

He did, begrudgingly.

“Shinsou, you’re my best friend. You always have been. And I’ll always believe in you. Even when you don’t.”

Shinsou blinked, taken aback. Maybe she had come on too strong.

He leaned back against the wall, sighing.

“Whatever.”

His jaw was tense, and his hands fidgeted in his pockets. But whatever was bothering him, he didn’t say it out loud.

Tekku cleared her throat.

“Um-- I actually came to say that I saved you a seat, in the stands. I’m sitting with Ao-- you remember Ao, right? I cussed her out that one time. Anyways --” She paused. “Anyways, I’m sitting with Ao and a new friend I made. He’s excited to meet you! Everyone is, actually. We’re all really proud of what you did, Shinsou, and they want to say congratulations.”

Quiet.

“So, um.” She said. “Whenever you want to come…”

“I will. Later.”

Tekku nodded. She moved stiffly, heading towards the exit.

She glanced behind her, to see Shinsou hunched against the wall again, staring at the ground. She made eye contact, and a fleeting smile appeared on his face. She felt the pang of a not-so-distant memory, even as she smiled back.

She missed him so much.

 

...

 

Thump.

“Uncle Shinsou, please let me in! It’s an emergency.”

Tekku threw herself against the door again, just as she heard footsteps on the other side. Eventually, Shinsou opened the door, his hair disheveled and a blanket thrown over his shoulders.

“What’s the emergency?”

Tekku replied by harrumph -ing, stomping past Shinsou and diving headfirst onto his couch.

“I live here now.” She said into the couch cushions.

Shinsou let go of the door handle, letting it close with a ‘click’.

“What happened?”

Tekku nestled herself in further, not replying. She was still in her school uniform, the sailor collar folded up and her tie sticking out awkwardly.

“I live here now.” She repeated.

“I don’t think your Mom would allow that.”

“Who cares about her? You’re my mom now.”

Shinsou sighed, rubbing his eyes and moving to sit next to her.

“What’s up?” He asked, putting his hand on her head. She had been growing out her hair recently, and it nearly reached her shoulders now.

Tekku groaned.

“She just doesn’t understand me at all!”

“How so?”

“She won’t let me go to Sakura’s party! Even though I was invited, and already said I’d be there!”

Shinsou blinked.

“Don’t you… not like Sakura?”

“Yeah! I hate her, she’s mean. But everyone’s going to the party! Hikari’s going to be there and everything. And since everyone’s going, I’m going to look a total absolute dingbat loser if I’m the only one who doesn’t show up! Even though I don’t care about Sakura’s opinion-- she sucks-- she’ll never let me live it down! I’ll never be cool.”

“...But your mom won’t let you go?”

“Yeah! She doesn’t get it-- she says: ‘ Why do you want to go to a party for someone you hate?’ -- but it’s not about Sakura, it’s about my social standing .”

She sat up and crossed her arms.

“And you think that if I’m your Mom, I’ll let you go?”

“Uh-huh!”

Shinsou paused.

“How old are you now, Tekku?”

“Thirteen!”

“Practically an adult, right?”

“Right!”

Shinsou leaned back on the couch.

“I don’t know, Tekku.” He said. “I’d make a terrible mother. I’d sleep all day, go out all night, probably forget to feed you, nine times out of ten.”

“That’s fine! I can take care of myself.”

“I also--” He started, reaching over to muss up Tekku’s hair. “Think your mother is right.”

Tekku, betrayed, slapped his hand away.

“Uncle Shinsou, why?"

“I don’t know what to tell you, Tekku.” He shrugged. “Sometimes, you’re not going to realize it when the people you love are looking out for you.”

Tekku groaned, feeling a lecture incoming.

“Haku’s lived a much harder life than the both of us, and she knows how the world works. She knows what’s best for you. Even when you don’t see it.”

“But--”

“You’ll understand when you’re older. I know you’re tired of hearing that, but right now it’s true. It feels bad now, but you’ll be better for it in the long run.”

Tekku groaned, then collapsed into Shinsou’s lap.

“I’ll talk to her later. I want to stay here while you’re up.”

“I’m only up because you said there was an emergency.”

“There was .” She pouted. Then she sighed. “Sorry.”

“It’s alright. I’m just going to sleep here. Try not squirm too much.”

“Not making any promises.” Tekku said, stealing his blanket.

Chapter Text

Click.

Are Villain Attacks on the Rise? Quirk Specialists Give Their Thoughts.’

Next .

‘All Might Makes Appearance at Charity Dinner; Saves Orphanage.’

Nope.

‘Will Quirks Cause The End of Society As We Know It? A Mother’s Perspective.’

No way.

‘Musutafu Police Warn of New, Dangerous Villain at Large. Details Inside.’

She clicked on that one.

The only sound in the library was the clatter of keyboard keys as Tekku waited, the page chugging along slowly, the image at the top loading in piece-by-piece, like the world’s most boring puzzle. She crossed her arms, one leg resting on another as she shivered in the air- conditioned building, regretting coming wearing only a t-shirt and shorts.

Eventually, the page loaded. The image underneath the headline was chiling, a low-res cellphone capture of a man with a wicked grin and red eyes. She quickly scrolled past it, into the meat of the article itself. She picked up her notebook from where it was balancing next to the keyboard, holding it close to her chest as she skimmed the contents of the article, looking for something, anything, that might align with her notes.

 

  • Instant, likely silent attack
  • Very strong and destructive
  • Escaped inmate
  • Likely had a grudge against S

 

She glanced further down.

 

  • Punched a hole through his chest
  • Evidence of a fight
  • A lot of blood

 

And then she stopped looking.

It turned out that doing research for events that haven’t happened yet was extraordinarily difficult, but Tekku was still trying her best. She had promised Shinsou that she would save him, and this seemed like her best bet-- find the villain who killed him long before it even became an issue.

But she had been searching for hours already today, and it quickly became apparent that this was yet another dead-end-- the villain in the article was some kind of serial killer type, and left specific marks on all his victims. Nothing like what she had seen.

Sighing, Tekku closed the tab and quickly restarted the computer. She closed her notebook and tucked it into her bag as she began to head out.

She missed her old yellow backpack. It was cheap and had a couple holes, but it had been hers. This backpack wasn’t-- it was given to her by U.A, gray and blue and very practical. She was grateful for it, but it wasn’t the same. She missed having things that were truly hers.

Nothing she was wearing today was hers-- the shorts and sneakers and fresh white socks had been bought by Ms. Kayama shortly after Tekku had begun staying with her, and the t-shirt was an extra piece of Midnight merchandise Kayama had also picked up.

Tekku braced herself as she exited the library, but she still groaned as the sunlight and humid summer air hit her all at once. The air seemed to sway above the concrete, the trees drooping in the humidity, and Tekku found herself in the middle of it as she began walking, no specific aim in mind.

Summer break had finally come, and with it, Tekku found herself adrift, no longer bound by the structure or the demands of high school.

And it was really boring.

Her work was done for the day-- if she did any more, she was liable to drive herself crazy. She didn’t want to go back to Kayama’s place-- the older woman was kind and welcoming, but Tekku still felt like an invader in her home, no matter what she said.

Tekku sent a quick text to Miseru, and was informed that he was busy working at his family’s shop all afternoon. Ao was out of town with her family.

So it looked like it was time for her favorite hobby.

Tekku quickly went and got on a train in the direction of Shinsou’s house. She found a seat this time, and quickly claimed it, setting her bag by her feet and pulling out her phone.

This phone also wasn’t hers; it was yet another gift from U.A.-- Principal Nezu had insisted that it was necessary for her school work, but she suspected that it was just another thing to help her blend in-- it would be unusual, of course, to be a high schooler without a cellphone.

Tekku unlocked the screen, then pulled up her contacts. She stared at Shinsou’s name, the third one down.

The train rattled along, and Tekku raked her eyes along the series of messages sent between them. She had taken to wishing him ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ everyday, always holding her breath as she waited for his reply. Some days he was more chatty than others, but he always managed to reply to her texts with something, which she was grateful for.

She just needed to know that he was still here.

Her finger lingered over the send button, a half-baked message already typed, but she quickly deleted it and opted to just take her chances, staring at the empty text box for the rest of the ride, instead.

Eventually, the train hit the stop nearest to Shinsou’s house, and Tekku quickly got off, pocketing the phone and hoisting her backpack back over her shoulder. She headed off of the crowded train and quickly left the thick of it, soon finding herself in a weirdly serene quiet as she made her way down smaller sidewalks, the sun warming her back and cicadas buzzing in the trees.

Shinsou’s neighborhood was… kind of nice. Still in the city, but unassuming enough to almost resemble a suburb. There were small houses here, tucked in-between older, modest apartment buildings, and big old trees providing some shade. A cat ran out in front of her, and Tekku smiled as it scurried across the street, into the yard on the other side. She wondered why she had never heard Shinsou talk about this place.

Finally, she came up to his house, and rang the doorbell, waiting patiently for him to answer.

Someone did answer, but it wasn’t Shinsou.

Instead, it was a short, older woman who opened the front door. She had red eyes, square glasses, and tightly curled purple hair. She was dressed simply, in a white cardigan and floral patterned skirt, and she blinked in surprise as she saw Tekku.

Tekku smiled awkwardly, bouncing on her heels, hands folded behind her back.

“Hello.” She said. “Is, um, your son home?”

Tekku attempted to crane her neck around Shinsou’s mother and look inside the house, but the other woman just mirrored her actions, shifting to the other side of the doorway.

“Who are you?” Mrs. Shinsou asked. She wasn’t rude, but her voice was tinged with confusion.

“I’m Tekku.”

Mrs. Shinsou blinked. Tekku took a step back, kicking at the concrete.

“Oh-- ah-- Takako Yoshida. I’m Sh-- uh, Hitoshi’s friend from school.”

She raised her hands slightly, ready to turn around. Mrs. Shinsou’s face softened.

“Oh.”

Then she turned around, yelling into the house:

“Hitoshi! Your girlfriend’s come to visit!”

Tekku slapped a hand over her mouth, turning red. After a minute, Shinsou appeared at the top of the stairs, looking confused. As soon as he caught sight of Tekku, the expression dropped, being replaced with a kind of resigned annoyance.

“She’s not my girlfriend, Mom.”

“Oh?” Mrs. Shinsou asked, a smile on her face. “How come you’ve never told about her, then?”

Tekku felt about ready to just melt and disappear into concrete. Shinsou made his way down the stairs as his mother turned back to her, smile still on her face.

“I’m joking, you know. Are you planning on staying? We would love to have you over for supper-- Hitoshi never makes any friends, you see, and--”

“Actually--” Tekku interrupted her, raising her hands again. “Me and S-- your son-- we had plans today.”

Tekku glanced over Mrs. Shinsou's shoulder, where Shinsou had stopped and now stood, watching the both of them. She shot him a pleading look.

“Right? You remember that. That thing we were supposed to do?”

What almost looked like a smile passed across Shinsou's face, but it was quickly squashed and replaced with a cool indifference as he replied.

“Sure.”

“Oh!” His mother clasped her hands together. “Well then, I won't stop you. Be sure to text me if you stay out too late, Hitoshi!” She ruffled his hair before retreating behind him, closing the door as soon as he stepped outside. There was silence for a minute, the two of them standing alone.

Shinsou was dressed casually, in a t-shirt and black jeans that made Tekku sweat just by looking at them. He had his hands in his pockets and was watching her expectantly.

“So.” He said eventually, breaking up the sound of cicadas in the distance. “What was this about a 'thing’ you had planned?”

“Oh, I didn't actually mean anything specific .” Tekku replied, looking down. “I just wanted to hang out, and I didn't want to intrude on your home.” She paused, then added: “Again.”

Shinsou sighed, hanging his head, before shrugging.

“Whatever. I've been getting bored staying inside all day, anyways.”

“Right!”

Silence.

“So.” Shinsou looked at her. “Have you ever, uh, been to the mall around here?”

“Nope!” Tekku replied.

“Okay.” Shinsou nodded his head towards his driveway. “Let's go then. You can ride with me on my bike.” He paused. “Again”

 

...

 

Tekku enjoyed the breeze that brushed across her face as Shinsou biked. It was a nice respite from the humidity of the summer, buffering that hot air and blowing her hair back.

She balanced the heel of her hand on Shinsou's shoulders as they went along.

She wondered if Shinsou kept on biking as an adult. She had never seen him bike, but that didn't mean he didn't want to. He was always so busy with hero work; maybe he wanted to bike, but just never made the time. When she got back, she'll have to fix that. Maybe they could go together somewhere, go bike on some secluded trail in the mountains or in the woods. It would be good for him, she was sure. Uncle Shinsou was always such a workaholic; her mom used to nag him about it, used to drag him to family dinners when he got too in the habit of eating nothing but takeout and ramen.

They must've been friends too, she supposed. Shinsou and her mom. They used to talk and have coffee together a lot. Sometimes Shinsou would help carry up the groceries, back when Tekku was too small to be much help (and sometimes even after that, as well).

Tekku looked to the side, the breeze brushing her hair into her face.

“I wonder where my mom is now.”

“Hm?”

“My mom. She was-- she's a bit younger than you. I think she would be in middle school right now.”

Shinsou didn't reply, still hunched over his bike and concentrating on navigating the street. Tekku blanched.

“Oh my god my mom's younger than me.”

Shinsou glanced behind her.

“Are you worried that you're going to run into her and prevent yourself from ever being born?”

Tekku shook her head.

“No, no. She, uh, didn't live in Musutafu when she was that age. She doesn't talk about it much, but I don't think things were good for her, then…”

She swallowed.

“She doesn't talk to her parents at all. They just stopped contact entirely after they, uh…”

She looked down.

“After they kicked her out. When she got pregnant with me.”

She looked up sharply.

“I shouldn't be telling you this. I mean, you do know, but later. You actually know before I know, since I was a little kid when you saved my mom and I never put the pieces together until--”

“Tekku.”

“Huh?”

“You're rambling.”

“Sorry!”

She looked down.

“So sorry.” She mumbled. “I do that a lot, even though I really try to get better at it.”

“It's fine, Tekku. I noticed.”

She wasn't sure it was fine. She did it a lot, and when she rambled, she often said too much for her to Rewind. It was annoying, she knew. She had wanted to stop being annoying, once she hit high school, but it was hard. Shinsou was never one of those people she had to censor herself around.

“Sorry.” She added again, for good measure.

 

...

 

“I've never actually been to a mall before.” Tekku admitted.

She was looking at the floor as she said it, hands folded behind her back as she took exaggeratedly large steps to try and keep up with Shinsou’s stride.

“Really?” Shinsou asked.

“Yeah.” Tekku replied, shrugging. “There’s just not a lot of them around. So I’ve never been.”

Shinsou nodded in reply, satisfied with the answer. They walked in silence, and Tekku took in her surroundings. There were lots of people around-- walking along side-by-side like they were; sitting in groups around benches, surrounded by bags; pushing carriages and wheelchairs or leaning up against the walls, scrolling through their phones. The signs on the walls glowed neon above their storefronts, flickering and buzzing and luring people inside. Wide glass windows displayed things to buy-- shoes, clothes, hero merchandise or video games-- it was all very familiar, but something still felt off to her.

Tekku looked over at Shinsou as she spoke again.

“Why aren’t there any quirk enforcers around?”

“What?”

Tekku took in Shinsou’s confused stare, and quickly waved her hands distractedly as she tried to explain.

“You know,” She said, gesturing vaguely. “Quirk enforcers. They, uh, stand around public places, make sure no one’s breaking the law with their quirk or anything.”

Didn’t seem to ring a bell; Shinsou’s expression just moved, from confused to concerned.

“Do you not have those?” She asked, dropping her hands.

Shinsou shook his head slowly.

“Oh.”

Tekku looked away, and they quickly changed the subject.

"So…" she asked. "Do you come here often?"

“No.” Shinsou replied bluntly. “I don’t exactly have anyone to go with.”

“Ah.”

Tekku looked down.

“I know that feeling.”

Shinsou shot her another look.

“Really.” He said, sarcasm leaking into his tone.

“Yeah, I don’t-- I’ve never had a lot of friends, so I don’t go out much.”

“You seem plenty popular at U.A.”

“U.A’s different-- people are nicer there. And I’m still not close enough friends with any of them to do something like this .” She nodded her head towards one of the stores to punctuate the sentence.

Shinsou paused, thinking. He looked up as they continued walking.

“Most kids were scared of my quirk, growing up, so they wouldn’t talk to me.”

“Oh, I was just annoying and no one liked me.”

Another look.

What? It’s true. Admit it-- you think I’m annoying all the time.”

Shinsou shrugged.

“Sometimes.”

Tekku huffed, crossing her arms.

“And it’s probably such a pain in the butt, having to deal with me so often. I just won’t take no for an answer.”

“Eh, it’s alright.” Shinsou tilted his head. “It’s kind of nice, having someone so insistent on keeping me around.”

Now it was Tekku’s turn to shoot him a look. Shinsou rolled his shoulders and clarified.

“If it were anyone else, they would’ve gotten the hint that first day and run off screaming.”  

Tekku smiled.

“Well, I was lucky-- I already knew that we were going to be such good friends.”

“That doesn’t change anything-- I’m sure I’m not the same person you knew.”

“You’re Hitoshi Shinsou, aren’t you? That’s all that matters.”

“Yeah, maybe the name’s the same-- but your Shinsou’s an adult, and a hero. And I’m neither of those.”

“But you will be.” Tekku insisted. Shinsou looked doubtful, but she plowed on before he could interrupt her.

“And it doesn’t matter-- we were friends when I was growing up, so we’re friends now.”

Shinsou paused. He opened his mouth to speak again, but he quickly closed it. They walked along in silence, Tekku bouncing on heels as they went along. Eventually, Shinsou steered them over to the food court for lunch.

Shinsou, gentleman that he was, paid for the both of them-- Tekku didn’t have any money, anyways, and was just planning on not eating, but he had insisted.

Tekku found them a table in the back corner while Shinsou went up to get their food; she scrolled through her phone idly, periodically glancing up in his direction while she waited. She looked through logs of villains online, scrolling through pages of mug-shots and sometimes bookmarking ones that could fit. She hoped no one was looking over her shoulder-- she’s not sure how she could explain what she was doing without looking very weird.

“So,” Shinsou started as he approached the table, setting the tray down in-between them. “Are you having fun?”

Tekku nodded, setting the phone down; she really was having fun, even if her and Shinsou sometimes struggled to make conversation. It was nice, being around him. She figured that this must be what it was like, having friends your age.

Shinsou shifted in his seat, waiting for Tekku to pick up the conversation.

“Are you ?” She asked after a beat, pulling the tray towards her.

Shinsou stopped, thinking.

“Yeah,” He said, sounding surprised at himself. “Yeah, I am.”

Tekku grinned, unwrapping her burger. They moved to eat, and their table was silent for a bit.

Eventually, Shinsou spoke up again as he crumpled his wrapper into a ball.

“Can I ask you something?”

Tekku looked up sharply, wiping her face.

“Of course!” She said, possibly too loud.

“How is…” He paused, looking over his shoulder for a second before turning back. “How is the future? Like, in general? You don’t talk much about it.”

Tekku swallowed, considering. She hadn’t really thought much, about the state of the world she had grown up in.

“Well,” She started. “I don’t really think about it much. If you had asked me a couple months ago, when I was still home, about the how the world was going, I would’ve said it was fine-- good, even.”

She tilted her head.

“But I didn’t really have anything to compare it to, then. And I do now. It’s weird.”

She bit into a french fry, then continued, gesturing with it as she went on.

“When I was in elementary school, there were lots of pamphlets people used to put in schools, about ‘The Path to Villainy’ and all that. PSAs and stuff. I didn’t think much about it until I got older, when I learned that the number of villains significantly outstrips the amount of heroes around, and most of them were really young.”

Shinsou nodded slowly.

“We don’t really have anything like that.” He said.

“Yeah! Because, comparatively, there are very few villains around.” Tekku said. “And like, in the future, quirk laws are really strict-- because people are scared, and if you see someone using their quirk in public, they’ll usually think it’s an attack and panic. So no one does it, and they’re harsh on people who do-- sometimes they even get tried as a villain in court, if things escalate enough.”

“That sounds… kind of scary.”

Tekku shrugged.

“I guess it is-- I didn’t even really realize it, consciously, until I got here. Musutafu right now is so much more peaceful than what I’m used to.”

She laughed to herself.

“I almost don’t want to leave.”

“But you have to.” Shinsou said, suddenly serious.

“What?”

“You can’t stay in the past forever. You’ll have to go home eventually.”

“I know that.” Tekku said. “I haven’t figured out how to get back yet-- besides, I’m still working on my plan to save you.” She slumped back in the bench, crossing her arms.

“How is that going?”

“Oh, it’s going.” She said noncommittally. “I’m trying to figure out what villain, uh… attacked you, in the future.”

“Do you have any idea who it could be?”

“Someone you had captured before-- there had been a jailbreak right around that time, and no one else in the apartment building had been hurt-- they were clearly going after you, specifically.”

“Right.” Shinsou said.

“But don’t worry!” Tekku assured him. “That’s why I’m here. You’re not going to have to worry about dying like that, since I have a plan. You just need to follow it when the time comes.”

“Right.” Shinsou said again. He leaned back on the bench, draping his arm over the edge of it and looking out over his shoulder.

“Do you want to check out the arcade after this?”

 

...

 

By the time they left the mall, dusk had fallen. The sky was a dusty pink, and the air had cooled, no longer settling like a blanket over Tekku’s shoulders.

Shinsou set his phone on a holder in-between his bike’s handlebars, putting on music before he strapped his helmet on. Tekku climbed on behind him, her pockets crinkling with the candy they had won at the arcade, a new stuffed animal tucked under her arm.

“Did you use your quirk to win at that claw game?” Shinsou asked, not turning around.

“What? No, I would never.”

A pause.

“Once.”

Shinsou turned around to look at her, eyebrow raised.

“Okay, a couple times.” She admitted, rolling her eyes. “But look! I got a cute sheep out of it.”

She stuck her new friend in Shinsou’s face, the cheap fur brushing against his nose. He eyed it for a second.

“That’s a llama.”

“What? No?” Tekku pulled it back, turning it over so that she was looking at its face.

“That’s like, very clearly a llama. Just because it has wool doesn’t mean it’s a sheep.”

Tekku huffed, hugging her llama to her chest.

“It doesn’t matter. I’m still calling him a sheep.”

“Good for you. Glad you like being wrong.”

A laugh escaped Tekku, and Shinsou smiled at the sight, turning back forward and kicking up the bike stand. They started moving a moment later, and Tekku nearly lost her balance, only catching herself at the last moment.

The music from Shinsou’s phone was quickly drowned out by the breeze, but he didn’t bother to move and turn it off. The streets looked different in the setting sun; the hum of the city became lower and deeper as night settled.

Tekku found herself zoning out, forgetting where she was for a moment as she watched the city pass. She thought of days in the summer, when she was very young-- she would play out on the balcony of their first apartment until night hit, making up stories with her dolls until it became too dark to see them. Her mom was always there, dozing off on the chair as Tekku lay sprawled out on the wooden deck.

She felt a pang of something, thinking about her mom again. She missed her a lot. Tekku was sure, that if her mom was with her, this would be a lot easier.

“You’re awfully quiet back there.” Shinsou said, breaking her out of her thoughts.

Tekku hummed.

“Just thinking.”

“Good thoughts or bad thoughts?”

“Just thoughts.”

Shinsou hummed this time. There was a pause before he spoke again.

“Is it alright if I drop you off at the train station?”

“Yeah, that’ll be fine.”

Shinsou nodded once firmly, before shifting to make a turn. Tekku turned back to staring out to the side, trying not to think anymore.

 

Shinsou dropped her off at the train station not long after. It was dark out by then, the station lit with blue fluorescent lights as Tekku carefully stepped off the bike. Shinsou stayed on, settling his feet down on the sidewalk to remain steady. Tekku stopped, facing him with her hands clasped behind her back.

“Thank you.” She said. “For everything.”

“It’s nothing.” Shinsou replied, shrugging. “It was nice getting out for once.”

Silence. Crickets chirped in the bushes behind them, the air thick and stagnant.

“...Will you be staying all summer?” Shinsou asked.

“I can’t be sure, but,” She moved to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. “Probably, yeah.”

“Then we should do something like this again.”

Tekku’s expression brightened.

“Yeah! Yeah, we should.”

She paused.

“I probably won’t see you tomorrow, but… soon, right?”

“Of course.”

“Text me when you get home safe.”

“Sure.”

Shinsou readjusted his position, setting one foot on the pedals.

“I’ll see you later, Tekku.”

“Sure!”

She waved good-bye as he took off on his bike, and continued waving for as long as he was in view.

When he was gone, she dropped her hand, and stood alone. The world was still and silent, save for the crickets’ song and the gnats buzzing around her face.

Tekku felt an unfamiliar pain in her chest, something tight and hot, but she ignored it as she turned on her heel, moving to wait for the train in the comfort of the air-conditioned station.  

 

Chapter Text

“What have I been telling you this whole time?”

Shinsou had his head on his desk, the bottom half of his face hidden behind his arms. His eyes flicked up to Tekku as she spoke.

“Don’t try and turn this into some sort of ‘I told you so’ moment.” He said.

“Of course not! I’m proud of you.” She put her hand on his shoulder. “But, also: I told you so.”

“What are you two talking about?” Ao asked, approaching from behind. Tekku perked up, looking over Shinsou’s shoulder from her perch, sitting on the edge of his desk.

“I just heard the good news,” Tekku announced. “That this kid’s got himself an offer to train privately with a real-life, living, breathing hero course professor.” She pushed him on the arm as she mentioned him, earning a groan.

“Must you announce this to everybody?” Shinsou muttered, head still down.

“Yup!”

“Oh, wow, congratulations Shinsou!” Ao said, clasping her hands in front of her. She continued walking forward, turning towards the desk once she reached it.

“How was your summer, Tekku?”

“Oh, really boring, to be honest.” Tekku admitted, rubbing the back of her neck.

“That’s a shame. I went on a road trip with my family this summer!”

“I heard! How’d that go?”

While Tekku and Ao chatted, Miseru approached from his desk, playfully punching Shinsou in the shoulder.

“Congratulations, dude. I heard from across the room.”

“You and everyone else.”

“When should I expect you to abandon us for those big important hero students?”

“Not until next year, at this rate. If I even make it that far.”

“Hey, at least that’s not never, like it is for most of us.”

Shinsou snorted.

“You sound like Tekku.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Miseru said, crossing his arms. “But seriously-- the hero course is hard. I tried for it, briefly, but it was pretty obvious that I didn’t have what it takes. So what you’ve done already? Pretty amazing.”

“Thanks.” Shinsou said, turning his face down so that no-one could see it turning red.

“Miseru!” Tekku said, noticing his presence. “How was your summer?”

“Uneventful! I made a mixtape.”

“That’s an event! It counts.”

“What about you?”

“Well, I went to the mall a couple times, fell in a pricker bush, and passed out, but that’s about it.”

Shinsou glanced up.

“You passed out?”

“Yeah, it happened last week. Kind of weird, but no big deal.” Tekku waved her hand dismissively.

“That sounds like a big deal to me. What caused it?”

Tekku shrugged.

Tekku .”

“Look! I’m fine. I’m here, I’m fine. No need to worry.” She raised her hands to illustrate her point. Ao shot a concerned glance her way.

“You didn’t hit your head did you? That can be really dangerous.”

“Nope! My head hit the bed, nice soft landing.”

She pushed herself off of Shinsou’s desk, stumbling a bit.

Shinsou eyed her, but didn’t say anything as Tekku slipped past Ao and settled into her own seat. Miseru fidgeted nervously but also didn’t comment, waving good-bye and heading over to his seat on the other side of the room.

Tekku’s leg bounced under her desk as she folded her hands on top of it.

“I forgot to ask,” She said “How was your summer, Shinsou?”

“It was pretty good,” He admitted. He glanced over, making eye contact with Tekku, who was smiling the slyest smile she could manage. He knew they were both thinking about the same thing-- he could almost feel the message from the class 1-A teacher, weighing heavy in his bag, folded up next to his homework. “But I think this term’s going to be even better.”

 

...

 

There was a news article in Tekku’s history notebook; it was tucked between two half-finished worksheets from over the summer. She had printed it out herself, in the library-- it was in black and white, but she had gone over it in yellow highlighter, marking the parts that were relevant to her.

It was an article that had been written semi-recently, about a villain named Skullcrusher. He had been spotted in the area, so a local newspaper had gone and compiled everything the heroes knew about him up to that point.

Skullcrusher was a relative newcomer; he had started out terrorizing remote villages, moving from place to place in a way that was almost impossible to track. His appearance was nondescript, his villain costume an uncreative skull mask, but his quirk was a nasty one-- any object he punched would be broken clean through. Recently, a couple months before the article was written, he had moved on to a city, and sightings were popping up often enough that the authorities could hazard a guess about where he was residing.

It didn’t say anything about it in the article, but Tekku knew more than the writers in that regard-- at some point, a couple months or years down the line, he would get involved in a gang. He would serve as a bodyguard, kill in his free time, and he would rise through the ranks quickly, and probably do very well for himself in the process-- at least, until the day the hero Mindjack went after him.

“Never even got close enough to lay a hand on me.” Uncle Shinsou said, one arm draped over the back of his chair, the other opening a canned energy drink with a ‘pop’ and a ‘hiss’.

Tekku was sitting on his couch on her best behavior, heels touching together and hands folded in her lap, leaning forward slightly as she took in every detail Shinsou was telling her. It was 6:30 in the morning, and she really ought to be heading for school, but this is a rare treat-- she just turned twelve, and Shinsou never shares the gory details of his hero work with her. She’s just happened to catch him when he’s overtired from the long night of work, and has yet to rest up and let his mouth catch up with his brain.

So she sits, and she waits, and she listens.

The memory comes to the forefront of Tekku’s mind unbidden, and she knows that this is it. She’s found Shinsou’s killer, and now all she has to do is tell him.

 

...

 

 

“Hey!”

Tekku and Shinsou were walking side by side, on their way to lunch when she heard a voice. She turned sharply to see Miseru jogging up behind them. He slowed down as soon as he caught up, catching his breath before continuing: “Do you guys want to sit at my table today?”

Tekku shot a glance at Shinsou, who looked back at her but provided nothing to the conversation. Miseru went on.

“I always see you dudes sitting on your own at lunch. If you want, you can come and meet some of my friends, that way you won’t be alone!”

Tekku looked past Miseru to see the group of what she guessed were his friends, eyeing her and Shinsou a bit warily from a couple feet behind.

“Don’t worry, I’ll vouch for you guys. I know you’re cool.” Miseru added.

“Oh-- ah, thanks for the offer, Miseru.” Tekku said finally. “But, uh, we’ll have to decline for today. We sit alone by choice, you know. Since we’re kind of introverts.”

Miseru didn’t look convinced.

“Well, he’s kind of an introvert--” She nodded to Shinsou. “And it’s my job to keep him from getting in too much trouble.”

Miseru looked disappointed for a second, but it quickly vanished as he smiled and replied.

“Well, that’s alright. The offer still stands!”

“And we’ll take you up on it another day, I promise!” Tekku replied. She then grabbed ahold of Shinsou’s arm and steered them forward towards the lunch room. Miseru waved good-bye, and then they split off.

You keep me from getting into trouble?” Shinsou asked.

“Shut up.”

They kept walking. Once they reached their table, Shinsou spoke again.

“So I can only assume that this means you have something important you want to talk about?” He asked, slipping into his seat. Tekku remained standing, setting her backpack down on her seat with a dull ‘ thunk’.

“I found him.”

“Who?”

Tekku’s eyes quickly skirted the lunchroom. Unwilling to express the sentiment out-loud, she made a hasty chopping motion across her neck. Shinsou’s face slackened in recognition.

“Oh.”

Tekku sat down, pulling out her notebook and then slipping the news article out of it. She set it on the table and slid it towards Shinsou.

“He’s a villain called Skullcrusher. You can read what the article says about him-- but basically, he’s not terribly important now. But I remember the day you captured him, and his quirk and your… injury. They match up. So it has to be him.”

Shinsou frowned, picking up the sheet.

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“Absolutely positive?”

“Positively positive. I’ve never been so sure about something in my entire life.

“Okay then.” Shinsou set the paper face-down on the table. “So what do we do now?”

“It’s simple.” Tekku said. “He killed you as revenge for capturing him and sending him to jail. So don’t capture him.”

There was a pause.

“Oh.”

“Is there something wrong with that plan?”

“Not… necessarily."

“You don’t sound all that enthusiastic.”

“Well, preventing my own untimely demise isn’t exactly the most riveting activity." Shinsou said. “Anyways, what was this about you passing out before?”

“Well, you know, I really ought to go get lunch--” Tekku pushed herself out of her seat.

“Tekku.”

She froze. Shinsou eyed her for a second.

“Bring me a chocolate milk. And then we’ll talk.”

Tekku went and did so, dread gathering in her gut. She dropped the carton on the table first, sending it skittering across until Shinsou caught it. She sat down with her tray in front of her, not feeling very hungry. Shinsou opened his carton silently, taking a swig before shooting Tekku a pointed look from across the table.

“So.”

Tekku looked away. She didn’t say anything.

“You know I can always make you talk if I had to.”

“You know, even when I was being the worst kind of brat, Uncle Shinsou never used his quirk on me.”

“Yeah, well, nice Shinsou’s twenty-odd years down the line. Now tell me what happened.”

“It’s nothing serious. One day during vacation, I stood up from the bed and then I passed out. I don’t know what caused it, all I know is that I felt nauseous and dizzy, and it reminded me of how I feel when I overuse my quirk.”

“You don’t think…?”

“But! I only passed out once when I felt that way, so we’re good.”

“Do you feel that way often?”

Tekku froze.

“Hey, hey, don’t undo that comment, don’t think I won’t notice.” Shinsou added, brandishing his milk carton.

“How did you know?”

“You get this look in your eyes. Like a deer in the headlights.”

Tekku groaned, putting her head in her hands.

“I’ve been feeling dizzy on and off since July.”

“That’s not good.”

“I know. ” Tekku said, not looking up.

“You’re hurting yourself, Tekku.”

“I know .” She said again. Finally, she looked up. “Please don’t make a big deal of this, Shinsou. I’m fine. I’ll be fine. Nothing’s going to happen.”

 

 

...

 

Something happened.

It was the last class of the day, Chemistry. Their teacher, a retired Pro Hero who insisted they call him Mr. Kita and refused to give any clues regarding his previous hero identity, was speaking up front, writing the objectives of the day’s lesson on the board. Tekku wasn’t sure what it was about; she was having trouble concentrating at the moment. She was looking down, rocking gently in her seat with her arms folded around her. She felt sick to her stomach, and had been since the start of class. Her head felt heavy, thick with static even in the quiet of the classroom.

She felt bad for brushing off Shinsou’s concern earlier; he had just wanted the best for her, in the same way she wanted the best for him. But she really was fine-- she had probably just come down with something, over the course of the summer. Those kinds of things happened all the time, of course-- she was in a different environment than she was used to, and disease existed no matter the year.

Mr. Kita had moved from the board to his desk, where he was preparing a test tube, holding it up for the class to see while he clicked on a burner.

“Everyone come and gather round, I’m going to do a demonstration.” He announced.

Students left their desks quickly, eager to hopefully see something explode. Tekku followed after a moment, pushing herself up on shaking legs. Shinsou stopped by her desk, watching cautiously. Tekku managed to smile at him, pushing past him so that she got a good view of the demonstration. Her vision had turned gray at the edges when she stood up, prickling like the surface of an old television.

Mr. Kita put on a pair of goggles, pulling on his gloves as he spoke.

“Now, it’s always important to protect yourself, understand? If I see any of you trying to do this without goggles, you’re getting a zero, I don’t care what kind of quirk you have.”

Tekku folded her hands behind her back, squeezing tight enough for her fingertips to turn white. She rocked gently on her heels, trying to ignore the fact that he static in her vision had turned red.

“Now that I hope I’ve scared you sufficiently, pay attention! I only have one tube of this stuff to show off, so I can only do the demo once.”

Tekku didn’t remember anything after that.

 

...

 

When Tekku passed out, it took a minute for someone to notice.

She didn’t swoon dramatically, nor did she call out at all. She just kind of slumped, keeling forward into the kid in front of her. Startled, he jumped out of the way, and Tekku continued her journey down, landing in a crumpled heap on the ground.

The kid she had hit screamed, then the people around him, seeing an apparently dead classmate on the floor, joined in, so on and so forth until Mr. Kita noticed.

Shinsou quickly pushed everyone out of his way to reach her, just as Mr. Kita crouched down to check her pulse.

“She’s fine.” He assured the rest of the class. “She’s breathing just fine.”

Shinsou crouched down beside him.

“I’ll take her to the nurse’s office.”

“I can take her there, myself. I’m not as old as I look.”

“I know,” Shinsou glanced over at Tekku, at the spot where she had clearly slammed her head against the floor. “I just want to stay with her.”

“Okay. You better not be using this as an excuse to skip class.”

Shinsou shook his head, but Mr. Kita just waved him off. Shinsou helped his teacher pick up Tekku, hefting her over the older man’s shoulders. They left the classroom at a brisk pace, Mr. Kita warning the assembled students to behave before they went on their way.

Tekku was clearly not waking up; her head lolled over Mr. Kita’s shoulders, her whole body like a limp ragdoll. Worry curled in Shinsou’s stomach, mingling briefly with anger at her stupidity.

‘I’m fine’, my ass. He thought.

 

...

 

Bzzt, bzzt.

Haku woke up suddenly, the vibration ringing in her ears. She looked down and saw the romance novel she had been reading, having slipped off of the table and landed face up on the carpet. She looked to her other side to see her cellphone, still buzzing. She quickly picked it up, and her stomach dropped as soon as she saw the caller I.D: Tekku’s kindergarten.

“Hello?” Haku asked, trying to clamp down on any possible fear she was feeling in the moment.

“Hello, is this Takako Yoshida’s mother?”

“Yes, I am. Is something wrong?”

“Well, there’s been a bit of an incident , with your daughter. We’re calling to request that you come pick her up.”

“Is she hurt?” Haku asked, standing up.

“Oh, she’s perfectly intact. It’s a lesson about hurting others that she’s learned today.”

“What happened?”

“That’s not information I’m allowed to disclose. Please just come and remove her from my office as soon as possible. Thank you.”

Then she hung up.

Bitch.” Haku muttered, pocketing her phone and grabbing her coat on her way out.

 

Luckily, her elderly neighbor was home, and had been more than happy to let Haku borrow her car for the emergency. Haku made it to the kindergarten in record time as a result, making her way into the main office with about as intimidating a stance as she could manage. The lady behind the desk shot her a steely look, but Haku paid her no mind. Any anger she had been feeling had briefly melted away, as she caught sight of her five-year-old daughter, sitting teary-eyed on one of the office chairs, kicking her feet and fiddling with one of her barrettes. Haku leaned down in front of her, settling a hand gently on her daughter’s knee.

“Are you alright, sweetie?”

Tekku shook her head. Haku sighed.

“What happened?”

Tekku stopped fiddling with her hair, dropping the hand into her lap.

“I licked Yuu on the elbow.”

“Why?”

“‘Cause he asked me too. He said he wanted to know what it felt like. But then when I did it, he started crying.”

“Oh, dear.”

Tekku fiddled with her hair again, breaking eye contact with Haku.

“Am I going to be expelled?”

“Now, why would you think that?”

“Yuu’s mommy said so, when she came to get him. She picked him up and she talked to my teacher, saying that I ought to be ex- pelled , whatever that means.”

“They will be doing no such thing.” Haku assured her, grabbing her by the armpits and settling her in arms. “Let’s go home, okay, Tekku?”

Tekku hummed in reply, settling her head in the crook of her mother’s neck. Haku stopped by the front desk, moving to write Tekku’s name in the sign-out sheet. The woman behind the desk continued to eye them warily.

“That boy was extremely hurt by your daughter’s actions, you know. You really ought to scold her.”

“I will do as I see fit.” Haku replied, not looking up even as she set the pen down firmly.

“Your funeral.” The lady muttered.

Haku didn’t dignify her with a response, resettling Tekku in her arms and going to pick-up Tekku’s backpack before they left the building.  

 

The sun was shining bright as they walked outside, but that didn’t stop it from being a chilly day. Haku set Tekku down, content to let her walk on her own. Already in a better mood, Tekku took off with great bounding steps, balancing on the curb with her arms outstretched. Haku followed a bit behind, thinking. Unaware of her mom’s concern, Tekku spoke.

“Are we going to go wait for the train, Mommy?”

“Actually, I borrowed Mrs. Nakamura’s car. So we could go for a little ride, if you want.”

Tekku looked up, her mouth a little ‘O’ of surprise, before she nodded excitedly.

They headed for the car. Inside, Tekku stretched against the confines of her seatbelt, trying to see outside the passenger seat window.

“Mommy, can we open the windows?”

“It’s awfully cold outside, sweetie.”

“I know! But I like it.”

With a fond sigh, Haku hit the button and rolled down Tekku’s window all the way. Tekku cheered, gripping the edge of it and letting the breeze blow back her hair and numb her face. They drove in relative silence, the radio turned off and neither of them speaking. The car, which had previously smelled like the lavender perfume belonging to its owner, was filled with cold air and sunlight.

“Tekku, sweetie?” Haku asked eventually, breaking the quiet. Tekku turned away from the window to look at her, watching but not speaking.

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?” Haku added gently.

Mm-hmm. ” Tekku hummed.

“Now, I don’t want you think this is what you should’ve done, or that I wouldn’t have scolded you for it, but I want to know,” Haku started. “Why didn’t you use your quirk after that boy started crying?”

Tekku looked down, all of a sudden more interested in her feet than anything else.

“I didn’t think I had done anything wrong.” She admitted. “He had asked me to, and then I did, and he wasn’t happy. But that wasn’t my fault! But by the time the teacher got mad and sent me to the office, it was too late to Rewind.”

She looked away, back to the window.

“But I should’ve, right?”

Haku sighed.

“It’s alright, dear.” She said. “You don’t have to undo all of your mistakes. Most people can’t even undo one.”

 

 

...

 

When Tekku came to, she was lying on her back, staring up at a pristine white ceiling.

She blinked slowly, trying to clear the fog from her vision. She felt disoriented, and couldn’t remember where she was. For what felt like a while, she just stayed there, letting her memories reassemble themselves piecemeal. She felt exhausted, her whole body heavy and a sharp headache forming.

Eventually, Tekku shifted, turning her head to the left, where a little old lady was sitting on a chair, resting her weight on a cane with her eyes closed. After a moment, Tekku recognized her as Recovery Girl, the school nurse. Tekku assumed that she was asleep, but was quickly proven wrong when the old lady spoke.

“Oh good, you’re awake.”

“What happened?” Tekku asked, her voice cracking.

“You passed out.”

Tekku looked to her other side to see Shinsou. He was sitting in another chair he had clearly dragged over to her bedside, watching her with his arms crossed.

“Oh. Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize over something like that.”

“How are you feeling?” Recovery Girl asked, interrupting Tekku’s reply to Shinsou.

“Fine.” Tekku replied automatically.

Recovery Girl sent her a flat look that indicated that she didn’t believe Tekku at all. Tekku groaned, pushing herself up with her arms.

“I only used my quirk to heal your head-- you had given yourself a pretty nasty concussion with that fall, little lady.”

Tekku pointedly looked down. Recovery Girl went on.

“As for the reason you passed out, I’m afraid I can’t help you. You seem to be suffering from a very pronounced case of quirk exhaustion.”

Tekku looked up sharply.

“What? That can’t be right.”

“Have you been using your quirk often, lately?”

“No!”

Recovery Girl looked at Shinsou.

“Has she been using her quirk often?”

“Yes.”

“What the hell.”

Tekku flopped back down on the bed, arms outstretched. Recovery Girl pushed herself out of her chair, tapping her cane against the floor before she spoke again.

“No more using your quirk, for the rest of the month.” She said to Tekku.

“And you--” She pointed her cane at Shinsou. “I expect you to keep her to it.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Recovery Girl pulled out a packet of gummies from her coat pocket, depositing them into Tekku’s still outstretched hand before she made her way over to the door.

“I’ll leave you two on your own, for now. Miss Yoshida, feel free to leave whenever you feel strong enough to walk.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” Tekku replied weakly.

And then she was gone.

It was clearly after school hours; there were no sounds of students in the halls, no one crossing the campus outside. The sun was setting, casting the white room in gold and orange. Tekku felt warm as she lay there, unmoving. She didn’t really want to move, much. Shinsou shifted in his chair, scooting it closer to her bedside.

They sat in silence; it wasn’t a comfortable one.

Shinsou was the one who eventually bit the bullet.

“You should go.” He said. “You’re not helping anybody by staying here any longer.”

“I can’t do that.” Tekku said automatically. “I don’t-- I don’t know for sure that I’ve saved you, yet.”

“You’ve found the villain who did it, right? That’s what you said you’d do.”

“Yeah, I guess .” Tekku begrudgingly agreed. She propped herself up on her elbows, fiddling with the plastic packaging on the gummies she had been given. “Now, all you have to do is remember who he is, and not capture him when the time comes. And then you won’t die.”

Shinsou went quiet. Tekku shot a glance his way, and saw that he was clearly thinking, his face pained and sad.

“This Skullcrusher guy… is he a dangerous villain?”

“Well, duh.” Tekku said, splitting open the gummies. “He killed you. He killed a lot of people.”

“Right.”

Tekku popped a gummy in her mouth, chewing slowly as the silence overtook them once again.

“You said you’re staying with Midnight, right?”

“Yeah.”

Shinsou stood up.

“Then I’ll go and tell her you’re up. She wanted to drive you back to the apartment herself.”

“Okay.” Tekku replied, her voice light. Shinsou turned and walked away, but before he made it out, Tekku spoke again.

“Shinsou!”

He stopped.

“Thank you--thank you for staying with me. And I’m sorry that I made you worry.”

“It’s okay, Tekku.”

“And I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you in the first place.”

“It’s fine.”

“Actually, I’m sorry that I never listen to you at all-- I feel like I’ve been an awful friend all this time, and I always make everything about me but I swear I don’t mean to I just--”

“Tekku.”

She stopped.

“Just, please, stop talking.”

“Okay.” She squeaked out, eating another gummy.

Shinsou sighed.

“Thank you for being honest. We’ll talk things out later, okay?”

Tekku nodded.

Shinsou left, then, and Tekku was once again left alone. She chewed slowly, the sun warming the side of her face, and she wondered how many times someone ought to apologize until their wrongs have been righted.

 

 

Chapter Text

The drive to Kayama's apartment was silent. Tekku was exhausted, worn down and disheartened by the events of the day, and her temporary caretaker seemed to realize that, too, not attempting any more conversation than an encouraging smile as Tekku slid into the passenger seat. 

When they got to the apartment, Tekku had quietly thanked Kayama for the ride, and then immediately went and locked herself in the guest bedroom, manners be damned. 

Kayama’s apartment was gleaming and modern, and this room was no exception. The floor was dark hardwood, and the bedspread was white and fluffy, accented with a warm gray. There was a wood and metal desk tucked in the corner, and a watercolor painting of a city skyline hanging on the wall above the headboard. 

It wasn’t hers. 

Not for the first time, Tekku felt fiercely homesick. She dropped her U.A. issued backpack onto the floor and crawled under the covers, not bothering to even take her jacket off. She curled up, the comforter pulled over her head as she ignored the pillow provided to her, resting her head on the mattress. 

Shinsou was right. She had no reason to stay here any longer. Her mission was done, after all. She had done everything she could, short of hunting Skullcrusher down and killing him herself. 

But Tekku couldn’t do that. She was no hero. And she had never planned on being one. 

Heroes were people who put the lives of others before their own; they were brave in the face of hardship, considerate and caring in the face of hatred and anger. They saw the worst parts of humanity, saw the most horrible tragedies, natural or man-made, but they still went on to fight another day. 

Tekku wasn’t sure that she could do that; she was none of those things. She was just… Tekku. She wasn’t particularly strong, not particularly smart nor particularly brave. She was just a regular person, trying to help in the only way she could. Even though she had saved Shinsou, that didn’t make her a hero. She was just repaying the favor. 

She wondered if Shinsou would be proud of her, when she got back. Maybe he would yell at her for being so reckless. Maybe he would just roll his eyes and ruffle her hair and say ‘thank you’. Maybe Tekku would beat him to the punch, before he could say anything at all, and ask him if he wanted to go biking with her, one day. 

Tekku whimpered. She curled up further, hugging her knees to her chest. She was just dragging her feet at this point. Pulling off the band-air as slowly and painfully as possible. 

She sat up, throwing the comforter off and sending it over the side of the bed. Before she could overthink it, she sent a text to Shinsou. 

Meet me in the same park as before. 

And then she stood up, marching over to the door before she could regret it. 

"I'm going home." She said, closing the door with a click behind her. Kayama was sitting on the couch, her back to Tekku as she watched TV. She quickly paused the program and turned to Tekku. 

"You've figured out how?" 

"I think so." Tekku admitted. Then she clasped her hands together in front of her and bowed. 

"Thank you so much for letting me stay with you!" 

"Hey, hey don't get so formal on me." Kayama said, standing up. Tekku straightened up just as the older woman approached her and pulled her into a hug.

“Good luck.” She said. 

“Oh, ah, I didn’t need a hug.” Tekku said, squirming a bit. 

“Nonsense! People need hugs most when they claim they don’t.” 

She did let go as she spoke, though, settling her hands on Tekku's shoulders. 

“Will you be alright, going back on your own?”

“Yeah.” 

“Will you miss it here? I know that you had gotten awfully close to that Shinsou boy.” 

“Yeah.” Tekku admitted. She smiled a bit. “But it'll be alright. I’ll be seeing him soon, anyways.” 

She slipped past Kayama, then. She pulled her shoes on by the door, and then waved good-bye as she left that apartment for the last time. 

 

By that hour, it was dark outside. Tekku shivered, regretting going out wearing only her school uniform. 

But then again, if she had worn anything else, she might’ve ended up taking it forward in time with her, even though it wasn’t hers. 

Even then, the uniform jacket didn't belong to her, and neither did the phone. She’d have to make sure to take them off her person, before she left. 

Tekku walked to the park with her hands in her pockets, waiting with bated breath for Shinsou to reply to her text. The streetlights were on, lighting her way as she walked alone, the night sky pockmarked with clouds. There was no-one else around, and in that moment Tekku was left with just her thoughts and the moths gathering around the lights. 

It was weird how different the world had looked, not very long ago. If Tekku paid close attention, she could recognize bits and pieces of her surroundings-- the layout of the streets, some of the buildings-- but it was still a totally different beast from the world she had grown up in. Even the park she was heading to wasn’t around when she was young. 

Maybe she should become a historian. Go back in time not to observe world-shaking events, but to document the little things-- which buildings were around when, how many years the park was there before they decided to raze it. 

Tekku didn’t have much time to ponder that possibility before she came upon the park itself. She stopped at the edge of it, looking around in the narrow hope that Shinsou had gotten there first-- but there’s nothing. She’s alone here. 

Tekku settled herself down underneath an old tree. Its roots were above ground, and a nearby trashcan had overflowed, its contents scattered across, filling the gaps with wrappers and empty juice bottles. 

Tekku sighed to herself, then shivered. It was almost autumn, now-- soon enough, the weather was going to get colder, the nights were going to get longer, and the leaves would start to change color. 

Not that she would be around to see it. She was going home. 

With that in mind, she pulled her phone out of her pocket, setting it face-down on the grass. She began to pull off her jacket, still thinking. 

God, she had been here, what? Six months? It was no wonder she had passed out-- that was a long, long time to be using a quirk. 

She wondered if she would ever actually be able to time travel again. She hoped so-- it was an amazing ability, if she allowed herself to think very long about it. But what would she do with it? How far back could she go? How long could she stay? 

Tekku’s musings were interrupted by a sudden noise, and she looked up sharply to see Shinsou nearby, wearing a gray sweatshirt. He dropped his bike on the grass and removed his helmet; he was breathing heavy, clearly having rushed over. For a moment, they just watched each other. 

“You’re going home?” Shinsou asked eventually. 

Tekku nodded. 

Shinsou sat down in front of her, on the grass. They watched each other yet again. Tekku shifted, sitting cross-legged, and eventually she broke the silence. 

“You were right, about me having to leave.” She said, looking down. “Sorry for being so stubborn.” 

“It’s fine. You still had to think things over.” 

Tekku nodded slowly. 

“You… said we were going to talk about my apology, later.” She started. “But, I’m leaving now.” 

“You never had to apologize in the first place.” 

Tekku looked up sharply. 

“What?” 

“You were never a bad friend.”

Tekku swallowed. 

“I’m not so sure about that.” 

“You’re just putting yourself down for no reason. Making yourself out to be worse than you really are.” 

“But I--” 

“Would you expect me to apologize for being antisocial?”

“No! That’s just how you are. I know that.” 

“Exactly, Tekku. Sometimes people just are the way they are. You don’t have to change yourself just to make others comfortable.” 

Tekku didn’t have anything to say that; she wasn’t sure if she believed it, totally. But she was sure Shinsou believed what he was telling her, so she knew that she ought to take it to heart. Her hand curled up against the roots of the tree, and she shifted, turning so that she was looking straight at Shinsou. 

“You remember the plan, right? You can’t forget the plan.” 

Shinsou rolled his eyes. 

“Of course I remember the plan-- I can’t capture that one villain, right?” 

“You can’t forget.” Tekku said. “If you forget, then it isn’t going to work.” 

“How am I going to forget something like that?” 

“I don’t know! It’s a long way off, for you. I’m sure you’ll have other things on your mind, and it’s not like you can write it down in your agenda or something-- I don’t think they even have calendars that go that far--” 

“I get it, Tekku.” 

She stopped. 

“So you promise you won’t forget?” 

“I won’t.” 

“Do you--” She stopped. Her voice went quiet. “Do you promise that you won’t forget me?” 

Shinsou sighed. 

“I promise.” 

“You’re not just saying that to shut me up, are you? Because-- because I’m going to hold you on that, you know? I don’t know how, but I--” 

Unexpectedly, Shinsou moved forward and pulled her into a hug. Any words that Tekku had been preparing left her. 

“I promise, okay?” Shinsou said. “You’ve worked so hard, to save somebody like me. I won’t let it go to waste.” 

Tekku felt tears prick at her eyes. For a moment, she felt very, very small. It was like she was six years old again, scared and confused but almost certain that she was going to be dead by the end of the night. 

She had never wanted to feel that way again; it knocked the wind out of her, struck away any confidence she might’ve had moving forward. All she could do was close her eyes and settle her head in the crook of Shinsou’s shoulder, trying to recall what it felt like the day they had first met, and that fear had been vanquished. 

“I’ll see you again?” She asked. 

“Promise.” 

And then, it was as if something unlocked inside of Tekku; like a tightly wound reel coming undone, a painful tension finally released, the world turned white around her. Shinsou’s arms around her faded as her senses slipped away, her ears filled with cotton. 

 

And then she woke up in her bed. 

 

She knew it was her bed immediately; it may have been six months since she had last slept in it, but she knew it well. She was tucked in carefully, which was more unusual, but she couldn’t find herself worrying too much about it. 

Tekku looked to her side, seeing her laptop sitting on her desk, her chair tucked in neatly underneath it. Not far from that were her regular phone and U.A. jacket, neatly folded-- that had to have been her mom, Tekku never folded anything. 

Looking to her other side, Tekku saw Hitoshi (the cat, not the person) resting on her pillow. He was looking as worse for wear as he always had, his nose graying and missing his left set of whiskers. Behind him was her wall, decorated with two band posters she had found in the dumpster and a corkboard where she wrote reminders to herself. 

Teku finally sat up, examining the board. The last thing pinned up had been a list of homework assignments, along with a special note for Sunday-- “birthday” celebration with Uncle Shinsou! 

She was home. 

Now confident that she hadn’t accidentally written herself out of existence, Tekku got out of bed. She paused in front of her door, pressing her ear against it in an attempt to hear what was going on outside. 

She heard nothing-- no TV, no voices, no music, nothing. 

Tekku opened the door anyways. She saw her mom, sitting quietly in the kitchen, and then she relaxed. Her mom must be busy reading; she had always liked to do that in her free time. 

Tekku headed over, only slightly confused when she got closer and didn’t see a book on the table. Instead, Haku was just sitting alone, silently, her hands clasped in front of her face. 

Tekku stopped at the edge of the kitchen. 

After a minute, Haku noticed her, looking up and dropping her hands down on the tabletop. 

“I didn’t see you there, sweetie.” She said. Then she paused. “How are you holding up?” 

“...What happened?” 

Haku blinked. Her hands shifted, fidgeting as she spoke. 

“Well, after you went to… check next door, you fainted, so I brought you back to your room.” 

Before Tekku could reply, Haku stood up, the scraping of the chair unusually loud in the silent apartment. 

“Are you hungry? It’s been a couple hours. I can make you something for--” 

“How’s Shinsou?” 

Haku froze. She stared at Tekku. Tekku stared at her. 

“He’s--” Haku’s voice hitched, and the ground fell out from underneath Tekku. 

She turned and ran. 

“T--Tekku!” Haku yelled, moving to catch up behind her. 

Tekku scrambled across the living room, sliding straight into the front door in her socked feet. She pushed the door open before her mom could catch her still. It hit a body as it swung open, and a very incredulous police officer stared down at her in shock as she made her way outside. 

Her whole hallway was filled with them, in fact. Tekku stopped briefly, unable to run properly in the narrow space. In that moment, she caught sight of Shinsou’s door. 

It was open, the entrance barred by caution tape as a policewoman and a pro hero Tekku didn’t recognize spoke inside. 

Not like that was going to stop her, anyways-- Tekku ran forward, words she couldn’t quite process falling out of her mouth. People began to take notice. Someone grabbed her from behind, and Tekku screamed, trying to break out of the grip and failing. Attempting to Rewind only earned her a sharp pain in the stomach. She was about to move and kick them in the shins when they spoke up to the officers in the hall. 

“She’s just upset!” Haku reassured them desperately. “She’s not dangerous-- no, she’s just-- they were close, you see.” 

“No!” Tekku screamed again, feeling a lump well up in her throat, her nose and eyes burning. Haku continued to drag her into the room, and eventually Tekku just went limp in her arms. When they got inside, Haku dropped her, and Tekku hit the floor with a dull ‘ thunk’. 

Haku pulled the door closed firmly behind her. Tekku didn’t move from her spot on the floor, staring up at the ceiling with her hair sprawled out behind her. 

“Tekku,” Haku said, breathing deeply. “I know you don’t want to hear it but--” 

Oh God she didn’t want to hear it, please no no no no no. 

“He’s gone, Tekku. Shinsou, he’s…” 

Haku swallowed; if she finished the sentence, Tekku didn’t hear it. 

This couldn’t be real. This wasn’t at all how things were supposed to go. Shinsou had promised, he had just promised her that he was going to be there for her when she got back. 

So if that was true, but the scene outside was also true, that could only mean one thing. 

“He’s a liar.” 

Tekku’s whole body was shaking. Slowly, painfully, she sat herself up, staring down at Haku’s feet. 

“He’s a fucking liar.” 

Tekku gasped for air; it felt like she was drowning. 

“Mom!” She looked up, eyes wide and scared. “You don’t understand. He-- he promised me. He said that I’d see him again. But he’s a liar!” 

She was crying, now. Haku’s image smeared across her vision. 

“He said that he loved me! But he lied about that too! If he actually loved me he’d still be here! If he loved me he would’ve tried harder not to die, or--or he would’ve at least told me!” 

“Tekku…” 

“I never got to say ‘ I love you’ back! And now he’ll never know! Because, because I couldn’t do it. And now I’ll never get the chance, because… because…” 

She sniffled, and then she choked a bit, an ugly sound coming out of her. 

“Mom I’m scared.” Tekku breathed. “What am I-- what are we going to do without him?” 

Haku swooped down, pulling her daughter into a hug. They sat there, sprawled across the floor as Tekku returned the hug, burying her face into her mother’s shoulder. It didn’t feel like Shinsou’s hug-- this was fragile, a scared and shaking thing. Her mother was so much smaller than Shinsou, and despite everything she was trying her best to be strong in that moment.

“I don’t know.” Haku admitted. Her voice was shaking, but she had managed to keep from crying. “But we’ll make it through. I will. You will. I won’t let anything else happen.” 

An empty promise-- her mom had no powers to keep tragedy from striking, no superhuman level quirk that banished all bad things in sight. She had put on a mask to stay strong in front of her daughter, but Tekku could see through it-- she was scared, too. 

But, maybe, in the moment, as her mom began stroking her hair, humming under her breath as they sat there together, Tekku believed her anyways. 

Chapter Text

 

The day of Shinsou’s funeral dawned bright and sunny and warm, which Tekku thought was awfully inconsiderate on nature's part.

It had been a solemn affair, crowded but deadly silent save for the priest's chanting. Tekku had been in the back, head down, holding her mother's hand the whole time. The air was thick with the scent of incense. 

All of the flowers around his casket were white. 

 

After the funeral, Tekku sat on the front steps of the temple, counting flecks in the stone. The late spring air was heavy, and she was already sweating in her black dress. Her mom was making smalltalk with the other attendees, biding her time until they could both escape.

“Excuse me, miss?” 

Tekku looked up slowly, seeing an older man standing above her, attempting to lean down so that he was at her level. He was a pro hero, she was sure, but he was out of costume and Tekku didn’t know that many to begin with, so she didn’t recognize him. 

He smiled at her, waiting for a reply that was clearly not coming. Tekku turned forward, seeing a photographer not far from them, waiting patiently. 

Must be a great opportunity, to get a press-shot of their valiant hero comforting a sad little girl. 

“Did you attend the funeral today?” He asked, voice bright despite the subject. 

No answer. Tekku went back to staring at the stone steps. 

“...I’m sorry for your loss. He was a beloved coworker of mine.” 

There was a fleck of silver, on the step by her left foot. She wondered what it was called, and how much a whole chunk of it might be worth. 

“If you don’t mind me asking…what was your relation to Mr. Mindjack?” 

He was my best friend , Tekku thought, more than a little bitterly. She still refused to speak, though-- maybe, if she didn't speak at all, this man would get the hint and go away. 

Maybe if she didn't speak, didn't leave any mark of herself in this place, it was like she never had to go to Shinsou's funeral at all. 

“Is there a problem, sir?” Haku's voice broke through the awkward fog as she approached the scene. She had on her sweetest, politest voice as she adjusted her shawl and bodily stepped in-between Tekku and the hero.

“Oh, not at all!” He said, finally standing up straight and waving his hand. “I was just asking this little girl how she had known Mr. Shinsou.” 

“We were neighbors.” Haku said, a sad finality in her tone. She took Tekku by the hand as she spoke and lead her down the steps, finally letting the both of them escape.

 

...

 

Tekku spent the hours after Shinsou's death keeping time. 

It wasn't hard, to estimate the time of the attack and therefore to estimate the exact moment that he had stopped breathing. From then on, it was only a matter of keeping track of the hours that had passed since then, and readjust her schedule so time was now measured in how long Shinsou had been gone, rather than any other, less important measures. 

At hour five of Post-Shinsou Time, Haku set a mug down in front of her. Tekku looked up at it, and in her moment of distraction Haku swiped her phone so that Tekku would stop staring at the clock and counting down the minutes. 

“I made you hot chocolate. I dug out the fancy stuff we had gotten for Christmas, since I know it’s your favorite.” 

Tekku didn’t say anything. 

Haku leaned over, rubbing Tekku’s back gently. 

“Do you want to order takeout tonight?”

“I don’t want to eat.” 

“We’re ordering takeout.” Haku confirmed, pulling out her phone and dialing the restaurant. She stood in the living room, waiting for the call to be answered, shooting periodic glances behind her as Tekku slowly picked up her cup and took a sip. 

After that was done, Haku came back, sitting across from Tekku at the kitchen table. She folded her hands together on top of the table, and, just as the silence threatened to become overwhelming, she spoke. 

“Shinsou told me, a couple weeks ago, about what you did.” 

Tekku froze; she set her mug down slowly with shaking hands. 

“He was grateful for it, really. I’m not so sure how I feel about you doing something so reckless, but I think you’ve been punished enough already.” Haku said; her voice was low, even. She had clearly thought the words over quite a bit. “He never forgot any of it, but he said-- he told me that he had made a decision, one that you weren’t going to like.” 

Tekku’s hand twitched. 

He didn’t forget. He had promised he wouldn't forget. 

He didn’t forget the plan-- he ignored it. 

“He-- he was kind of vague on the details. I’m sure you understand them more than I do. But he told me that he might die soon, and that, if it happened, he wanted me to tell you that it wasn’t your fault.” 

Tekku stopped being able to look at her mom, calmly recounting a dead man’s words. She put her head in her hands even as Haku continued. 

“His plan was to stay and fight. And hopefully, since you had warned him about it, he would win.” 

Silence. 

“I--obviously he didn’t. I’m sorry, Tekku. I didn’t really believe him at the time. I just thought he was overtired again, so I never really considered that he might really be--” 

She stopped, covering her voice cracking with a cough. 

Tekku, mostly, felt angry-- all of this work she had done, and Shinsou had just gone and ignored it-- and look where he ended up yet again because of it! 

But she couldn’t really express it that way; it lacked the bite of regular anger. Instead, it was a muted, stormy sort of thing; she was sure that was scowling even as she started crying again. 

Haku started crying too. They both just cried, for what maybe could’ve been hours over the kitchen table, trapped together in mutual grief. It was only stopped eventually by the ringing of the doorbell, and then Haku had to get up and put on her best face to pay the delivery man. 

Tekku set her head down on the table, tears still not quite finished even as she felt a fierce headache forming. 

“I think I hate him.” she admitted. 

Haku, over in the living room, shut the door and sighed. 

“I know, honey.” 

 

...

 

In the days following Shinsou’s funeral, Tekku decided that she was going to become a hermit, never again leaving her apartment. 

It was a simple decision, really-- there were too many things out there in the world that made her think of Shinsou, and whenever she thought of Shinsou she felt sad, but she wasn’t allowed to feel sad when she thought of Shinsou because she was still very angry at him, so he didn’t deserve her grief. 

So the solution was simple-- hide anything he had given her in the closet, stay at home all day and only watch reruns of reality TV shows that in no way related to heroes, and she would be set for the rest of her life.

This also meant that she wouldn’t have to worry about silly little details like washing her hair or wearing real clothes, which was good since, frankly, she didn’t want to force herself to do those things anyways. 

And so she sat one beautiful afternoon, huddled up on the couch in her sweatshirt and sweatpants, drinking from a cup of un-microwaved canned soup and watching a cooking show. This was the closest thing to good she had felt in nearly a week, and really she was quite proud of it. 

She felt so not-terrible that she almost didn’t notice someone jiggling the lock on her front door until it opened. 

Tekku looked up sharply to see a man entering her apartment, casually tossing a key into the air before pocketing it. 

“Can’t believe this old thing still works.” He said, leaning on the doorframe. 

He was tall and skinny, wearing a leather jacket decorated with safety pins. His eyes were black and his hair was dyed blue, shaved into a buzzcut. He smiled at Tekku. 

“Hey, kid. How are you holding up?” 

Tekku didn’t speak, just took a loud sip from her soup cup. 

The man drew forward, setting a hand on top of Tekku’s head. 

“You do remember me, right?” 

Tekku rolled her eyes. 

“You’re one of mom’s old villain friends. You babysat me that one time.” 

“And what did we do that one time?”

“We lit my doll’s hair on fire and threw her into the river.” 

“Hell yeah.” 

He removed his hand from her head, holding it up for a high-five. 

“There’s a reason you only babysat her once. ” 

Haku emerged from the kitchen, arms crossed sternly. There was a momentary stand-off, but quickly she relaxed and smiled. 

“Harubetsu.” She said, allowing him to come up to her and pull her into a hug. “It’s nice to see you again.” 

“Same.” Harubetsu replied. After a moment, he drew out of Haku’s embrace. “I’m, uh, sorry that I couldn’t make it to the funeral. Work’s been crazy since the incident.” 

“It’s alright.” Haku said. “Have you eaten yet?” 

“Actually, no. I wanted to stop by first, but I was planning on getting ramen in town or something.” 

Haku pointedly glanced behind him to where Tekku sat, having gone back to staring out at nothing. 

“Why don’t you take Tekku with you? She could use the fresh air.”

“I don’t want to go out, Mom.” Tekku spoke up before Harubetsu could reply. 

“You’re going out.” Haku said firmly.

Then, quieter, she asked Harubetsu: 

“You’re okay with this, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, of course. I know how it is.” 

Haku smiled gratefully, patting him on the arm before speaking to Tekku. 

“Why don’t you go get dressed, sweetie? Harubetsu’s paying.” 

 

...

 

The ramen place they stopped at was small; it wasn’t terribly crowded, being an odd hour for lunch, but there was a low hum of noise, of murmured conversations and clinking of bowls. The whole place was warm, decorated in shades of red and orange. Tekku and Harubetsu were sitting in the bar upfront, and it wasn’t long before they ordered and got their respective bowls. 

The steam coming off her bowl made her eyes water. 

“You know, I seem to remember that you used to talk an awful lot.” 

Tekku looked away from her food, at Harubetsu sitting on the stool next to her, leaning over the bar as he lifted a chunk of noodles into his mouth. 

“Maybe I grew out of it.” Tekku replied. 

“Uh-huh.” He said. “I’m not stupid, you know.” 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” 

“It means that I know when you’re not feeling yourself.” 

Tekku didn’t say anything. She swallowed. 

“I’m a neutral party, you know.” Harubetsu continued. “I promise that, whatever you say, I won’t go and tattle on your mom.” 

“...what can I even say?” Tekku muttered.

Harubetsu shrugged. 

“Anything, really.” 

There were a lot of things she could say, a lot of things on her mind at the moment. But no matter how hard she tried, all of the tracks in her mind came back to Shinsou. It was frustrating, in a way, how much she was thinking about him, even when she really didn’t want to. She wanted to move on already, but even the thought of moving on made her guilty. 

So she was stuck. 

Eventually, she lifted her head, determining her feelings on the situation in one simple sentence. 

“I hate him.” 

It felt satisfying, to say it out loud after everything he had put her through. She knew it would probably make people upset, but maybe she wanted that, too. 

Harubetsu shrugged. 

“Okay.” 

Tekku’s head snapped over to stare at him. 

“What? I-I can’t say that. He’s dead.” 

“You can say whatever the hell you want to say. Besides, what’s going to happen? Are you going to hurt his feelings?” 

“I-I don’t know!” 

She turned forward in her chair, folding her arms. 

“It’s true, though.” 

“Uh-huh.” 

Harubetsu lifted up his bowl, drinking some of the broth. Tekku eyed him. 

“You don’t believe me.” 

“I don’t. Most people don’t go into a catatonic state for days over the death of someone they hate.”

Tekku looked down, kicking her foot against the bar. She didn’t reply. 

“So,” Harubetsu started, setting the bowl down. “Why don’t you tell me how you really feel?” 

Tekku breathed out, uncrossing her arms and gripping the edge of the stool instead. She felt her nose burn before she even managed to speak. 

“I…” The words refused to come. “Harubetsu, have you ever lost someone important to you?” 

“I have.” 

“Then, could you tell me--” She sniffled. “Could you tell me what I do, when I start to forget him?” 

The orange lights of the ramen shop seemed to bloom in her vision, her tears causing them to balloon. 

“I’m scared. I-I know it’s going to happen… because I have my whole life in front of me and he only had his and it’s over now. And--and I’m scared that one day I’m going to wake up and I won’t be able to remember the sound of his voice. I won’t remember the time we spent together. I won’t remember why he was so important to me at all. And--and then it’ll be like-- it’ll be like he was never in my life at all! And what’s the point then? Because right now I do remember, and everything hurts and I hate it. Is the only time it’s not going to hurt is the day I realize that it’s all gone?” 

Harubetsu shifted uncomfortably as she spoke. Eventually, she stopped to wipe her eyes, and, apparently out of words, she turned to Harubetsu, watching expectantly. 

He sighed. 

“Listen--” He started, pointing at her with his chopsticks. “I’ll tell you this right now, even though I’m sure you won’t believe me: it never stops hurting. It might hurt less , over time, but it never stops.” 

Tekku’s face fell, and she nodded. Harubetsu sighed again. 

“But it also doesn’t mean that you’re right, you know. A person is not the lot sum of memories you have of them. It’s something a lot deeper than that, something that time can’t destroy. It’s why it never stops hurting. Just because you can’t recall word-for-word every conversation you’ve had with him doesn’t mean that those conversations never  happened. You wouldn’t be the person you are today without him, and that’s something you can’t ever change, unintentionally or otherwise.” 

Tekku processed the words slowly, stirring her ramen in silence as Harubetsu spoke. 

“I think I understand.” She admitted. 

Harubetsu nodded, patting her on the shoulder. 

“Do you feel better now?” 

“No. I think I feel worse.” 

“Yeah, me too.” 

Harubetsu stretched his arms, turning on his stool so that he was facing Tekku. 

 “You want to go down to the river and light some shit on fire?” 

Tekku looked up, eyes still sparkling with fresh tears.

“You won’t tell Mom?” 

“Promise.” 

 

...

 

Life moved on, as it so often did. Tekku went back to school, and then summer came soon after. That summer seemed endless, most of the days dedicated to hiding away in her room. In August, she celebrated her 16th birthday by baking a cake with her mom and going to the movies, and for 24 hours the idea of growing up didn’t seem all that insurmountable.

 A week later, they went to a festival. Her and her mom shared a thing of takoyaki on a park bench and watched the fireworks, and Tekku got grass stains all over her yukata by lying by the river under the cherry blossom trees for hours on end. 

Autumn came. The air turned cold, and evidence of the horrible summer retreated along with the leaves. Tekku went back to school again, and started asking her teachers about the possibility of transferring courses. 

And then, one weekend in October, she got on a train alone, carrying a small bouquet of purple flowers. 

Shinsou’s grave was just outside the city limits, in a lush field reserved exclusively for dead heroes and freshly planted trees. It was a breezy day, and the leaves crunched loudly underfoot as she made her way along a well-kept cobblestone path to meet her friend. It was quiet and empty at the moment, the only sounds her breathing and the jingling of the charms on her backpack. 

The grave itself was simple and unassuming, a little bit out of the ways but not totally hidden. It seemed fitting; a solid square of dark granite, his real name carved down the right and his hero name to the left. A small collection of offerings sat around it; not nearly as many as some of the other graves, but still quite a bit. Tekku couldn’t help but crack a small smile, seeing how many of them were cats. 

She took a deep breath. 

“Hi.” She said. “It’s been a while.” 

Silence. 

“Actually, it’s been six months. Almost exactly. I’ve been counting, you know.” 

She paused. Her grip shifted, the plastic around the bouquet crinkling loudly. She flinched. 

“...I’m still mad at you.” She admitted. “I wish you had just been honest. It would’ve saved me a lot of grief.” 

She sighed. 

“I understand why you did it, though. I was stupid. I was a stupid, selfish kid, and it wasn’t fair of me to put all of that on you, when you were just a kid, too.” 

A bird flew overhead, cawing loudly. 

“I’m doing well, besides the whole ‘missing you’ part. That part’s pretty bad. I keep on expecting you to be there, right across the hall, but you’re just...not. I have a lot of nightmares; mom’s trying to get me a therapist and everything.” 

Shinsou still didn’t answer. 

“But I’ve been doing well at school. I’m one of the best in my class, you know-- actually! Actually! I have a secret to tell you.” 

She finally set the bouquet down on his grave. She leaned down close, speaking in a conspiratorial whisper.

“I’ve been training my quirk, at school. I can go back for minutes now, all on my own.” She said. “And I told myself-- I made a promise, that when I get full control of my quirk, I’m going to go back and see you again. Not to change anything. Just to say hi.” 

She put her hand on her heart, two fingers, pressing down on her chest. 

“I’m thinking about becoming a hero, like you. Not anything serious, not yet. I want to help people, but I don’t want to become a martyr. No offense.” 

She laughed to herself. 

“But we’ll see what happens. Time will tell.” 

She smiled, and that was when she started crying again; she had done so well, thus far. She had recited her words over and over in her head, so that she wouldn’t feel anything once she said them out loud. But it was still so hard, putting on a brave face. She had to do it so often, nowadays, that sometimes she forgot what it was like to cry all the time. After all, just because she was feeling better didn’t mean that she was feeling good. 

So she let herself cry for a bit; Shinsou would understand, and even if it made him feel guilty-- good. He was the one who caused it. 

Tekku stood up fully, readjusting her backpack. She turned away from the grave, wiping away the tears with her sleeve and getting snot all over the cuffs. She swallowed, taking a shaky breath, and then she turned back to the grave, giving it one good, long look. 

“Good-bye, Shinsou. I love you.” 

And then she walked away. 

 

 

...

 

 

Why on Earth hadn’t anyone ever told him how much of hero work constituted standing around and waiting? Maybe then he would’ve reconsidered his career choice. 

Shinsou had been called in along with a bunch of other heroes to help clear out a warehouse belonging to a recently dissolved villain organization. There were many heroes already in the building, scouring the place for evidence and destroying everything else. Shinsou, being considered a rookie despite the couple years of hero work already under his belt, was waiting outside with the rest of the back-up heroes, there just in case any disasters struck inside the warehouse. 

Shinsou sighed, closing his eyes and leaning his head back on the brick wall of the alleyway. The metal of his mask dug into his skin, and he elected to cross his arms rather than fiddle with it. 

“Mindjack!” 

Shinsou opened his eyes quickly, pushing himself off the wall just as a sidekick entered the alleyway, weaving around the other heroes with superhuman speed. 

“What is it?” 

“They want you inside. Apparently the villains were keeping people in the basement. They want you to check it out first, and question one of them so that we know why they’re there.” 

“Alright.” Shinsou replied, already setting out. 

 

The walk to the basement was like descending into hell. There were no lights, just a set of steps leading straight down into darkness. 

Shinsou felt as if he was being swallowed whole. 

It wasn’t much better once he reached the bottom. There were lights there, but they were only small LEDS, casting harsh shadows on the forms huddled in cells on both sides of the hall. 

Shinsou stopped at the first one he saw; there was a young woman in there. She had blonde, thin wispy hair, unkempt and falling undone past her shoulders. She was wearing glasses, one lense cracked, and she stared at Shinsou with a mix of contempt, but mostly fear as he approached her. She was clutching something to her chest that Shinsou couldn’t make out in the dim lighting. 

Shinsou quietly thanked that he had been given the keys to the cells as he stopped in front of her. 

“Hello.” He said. 

“D-don’t come any closer--” She started. Shinsou, only feeling a little guilty, cut her off by activating his quirk. 

“Tell me your name.” 

“Haku Yoshida.” She replied, inflection gone from her voice. 

Shinsou dropped the keys. 

The thing she had been holding shifted, revealing a child’s face to the light. 

And, well, Shinsou knew what child this was. 

So this is it. He thought to himself. The very beginning of the end. 

“Mommy…” A young Tekku whimpered, staring up into Haku’s blank eyes. “Mommy, what’s wrong?” 

She was crying, fat tears rolling over her cheeks as she shook Haku’s shoulder. 

Shinsou moved slowly, picking the keys off the floor and moving to unlock the cell as Tekku continued crying, looking from Haku to Shinsou and back and only increasing the volume. 

“Shh, shh...It’s alright.” Shinsou reassured her, sliding open the cell door. “I’m a hero. I’ve come to save you.” 

Tekku hiccupped once, twice, staring up at Shinsou with wide yellow eyes. 

Shinsou kneeled down, so that he was at eye level with her. 

“Can you tell me your name?” 

“Ta--Tekku.” She murmured, breaking eye contact with him. 

“It’s nice to meet you, Tekku. I’m Mindjack, but you can call me Shinsou if you want.” 

He held out his hand. After a minute of hesitation, Tekku took it. 

“Do you know why you can call me Shinsou?” 

“No, why?” Tekku replied, her voice hushed in awe. 

Shinsou smiled, the corner of his eyes crinkling above his mask. He held Tekku’s hand tightly. 

“Because we’re friends now.”