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When Hell Freezes Over

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Prologue – Deal with the Devil - 3 ½ months ago

Detective Naomasa Tsukauchi took the moment’s luxury of leaning back and closing his eyes in the otherwise empty elevator, now that the doors were safely closed, wishing for the first time that he lived on the thirtieth floor of a much larger building, just so he could have a few extra seconds of peace. As the lead investigator of the League of Villains attack against the UA at the USJ, he’d no doubt become a somewhat lesser target of those villains.

A gently voiced “third floor” notified him he’d already reached his destination, and he snapped to attention, pressing his hand to the reassuring weight of the specially designed firearm at his side, one which had been crafted with villains with powerful Quirks in mind. It would be useless against the Nomu they currently had in custody, but bullets had definitely worked against its master, the man currently sporting nearly as many bullet wounds as he had hands. Though Snipe’s bullets hadn’t been effective against the warp teleporter villain who had spirited him away from UA’s Heroes.

The apartment building hallway was thankfully empty of potential ambushers, or anyone else, for that matter, because very few other people would be getting home from work after 2:00 am. The lighting was reassuringly bright; there were no shadows for villains to lurk in.

“You’re getting paranoid in your old age, Masa,” he chided softly, using the nickname only his father ever used. And one other person, but that was years ago, and he quickly suppressed those memories. Because the thought of a maudlin night of drinking was too damned tempting, and he never drank alone, because too many good officers had crawled into a bottle and never climbed back out.

And he’d somehow made it to his door on autopilot, completely oblivious to his surroundings, and that could get him killed. “Fear not citizen, for I am here,” a familiar voice gently chided in his head. But All Might wasn’t here, beside him, and thanks to the battle he’d fought against the Nomu, he was down from three hours maintaining his hero form, to only one. At this rate, his best friend, the Symbol of Peace, soon wouldn’t be there for anyone. And to hell with his self-imposed rules, he needed that drink.

He disarmed the alarm, opened the multiple locks and headed inside, the combination motion detector and heat sensor trigger flicking on the lights as soon as it registered a human presence, reassuring him that he was alone in his apartment. He slipped his shoes off and his slippers on, and headed for his liquor cabinet, the one he normally only ever opened when he had company, because it had been another in an endless series of long, hard days. “Of course there’s no one here. You’ve never been that important,” he chided in unusual self-deprecation.

 “Some people might argue that,” a stranger’s voice stated quietly.

Naomasa spun, drawing his gun, as his heart raced, his eyes immediately landing on the intruder, who wasn’t even trying to hide, though he couldn’t have been inconspicuous if he tried.

His face was a purposeful patchwork of terribly scarred and perfect skin, that looked stapled together, rough patches under turquoise eyes, and on his chin, under straight black hair, with a long midnight blue trench coat, that looked as stitched together as he was. He was lazily seated on his sofa, his booted feet resting on the coffee table, arms casually draped over the sofa back.

“You’ve gotten careless in your old age, Masa. Motion detectors don’t turn lights on if someone remains still, and heat sensors don’t work on someone who can regulate their body temperature, and they can both be disabled or electronically bypassed anyway. You’ve gotten stupid, too. You obviously don’t need the gun, because you’d have already been dead, if I wanted you to be. You should know the bullets would never get near me anyway. Because I’d just melt them in mid-air.” To illustrate his point, a small puff of blue flame appeared over one hand, and began dexterously weaving in and out through his fingers, as if he was flipping a coin through them.

At the sight of the familiar action, the blue fire, Naomasa suddenly forgot how to breathe. “Touya?” he whispered in shocked disbelief, the gun immediately lowering. Because Endeavor’s eldest son, the headstrong and rebellious boy he’d mentored, had vanished without a trace ten years ago, at the vulnerable age of fourteen, becoming the subject of one of the most intensive missing person investigations in their department’s history. “We thought you were dead! What happened? Where have you been all these years? What are you doing here?”

“You tried to tell me being too confident, too cocky, would get me killed. You were right. It did. Touya is dead. In the States, they called me Conflagration, but he’s dead too, now. Now that I’m back in Japan, I’m going by Dabi. You remember the first step of our code, right? You should like my new name. You always appreciated American puns.”

The first step of their code. Dabi, backwards. Ibad. I bad. Naomasa’s skin prickled and a lead weight settled in his stomach, as his hand tightened on the grip of his weapon, though he didn’t lift it again. He licked suddenly dry lips at the likelihood that the troubled and violent kid he’d loved like a little brother was a villain, now. “What are you doing here?” he repeated, softly.

Dabi’s eyes burned with an inner light, of obsession, or vengeance, or madness, a look that belied his otherwise expressionless face. “I’m here to give you a thumb drive, a secure laptop, a watch, and a scrambled satellite phone, and to make sure you remember our code, so we can text one another safely, on the phone I’m leaving for you, after you’ve read the information on the thumb drive. Because you’re my new mole in the police department, my pipeline to the plans of the Pro Heroes and access to the teachers and students of UA. You and I are going to be working together, from now on.”

 

Chapter 1 – Dark Dreams and Difficult Discussions

Shouto Todoroki was aware he was falling behind Midoriya, and his other classmates, as they headed from their dorm across campus, towards their homeroom, that he was pulling out of earshot of the six different conversations he’d been simultaneously listening to, and he’d likely suffer for it later. He’d have even less of an idea what the others were talking about, less of a common frame of reference and raw data to notice or interpret the social cues he so often missed or misunderstood. But he forced himself to stay at his current slower pace.

He was exhausted. He’d had one of his particularly terrible nightmares last night, full of fire and roasting flesh and his mother screaming until her throat burned away. He woke, ready to fight for his life against a towering monster who thankfully wasn’t there, who wasn’t anywhere near. As he sat shivering under his blanket, sheathed in protective ice, he reminded himself his mother was safe, in the hospital, that as long as she was there, his father couldn’t hurt her, and as long as he was here, on campus, his father couldn’t hurt him, because they were both surrounded by witnesses. He’d spent the remainder of the night vainly attempting to read ahead in three of his classes, unable to focus and retain any of it, and then had gone for a run, as soon as dawn broke.

Just thinking about his father now instinctively made him want to press ahead, to try to pick up those lost trails of conversation. But his father wasn’t going to spring a sudden situational awareness test on him that he wouldn’t be prepared for, that he’d fail, because he always failed every test, every scenario and… Stop. Focus.

A moment later, his eyes locked onto disheveled green hair, over a deceptively narrow looking back and shoulders, in a familiar grey student jacket. Midoriya always looked so small, so harmless, until you saw his shirtless chest and arms, or his face, the unmistakable awareness and intelligence in his emerald eyes. Like him, Midoriya was constantly watching, gauging, cataloguing, for similar yet different reasons. Assessing weaknesses and strengths, yes, but Midoriya freely shared his discoveries with his rivals, to help them reach their full potential. Except they weren’t rivals to Midoriya. They were friends. Which even after months at UA was still alien, confusing to Shouto.

“Todoroki-kun?” Midoriya asked, as he turned towards him, as if sensing his gaze, radiating concern when they locked eyes.

Shouto felt his head automatically dip down, his left hand going up to surreptitiously and self-consciously push a few additional locks of hair over his scar. He aborted the ingrained motion deliberately, lowering his hand in self-disgust, because this was Midoriya, who not only saw past his scar, but honestly didn’t seem to ever even notice it, which was impossible, because it was huge, and ugly, and Midoriya noticed everything. With Midoriya, he didn’t need to try to hide or look like he wasn’t challenging him, and damn it, Midoriya had called his name and was looking at him, and he’d been so preoccupied, caught in his own head, that he’d failed to reply.

“I’m fine.” The words were automatic, and a lie, because he’d never been fine, not since he was an infant, and Midoriya knew that, because he’d told him, he’d confessed the deepest darkest secrets of his past, his family, and Midoriya hadn’t scoffed, or pitied, or ignored, he’d been kind, gentle, caring. But he couldn’t tell him the humiliating truth.

“It’s stupid.” He felt his brows crease in the faintest of frowns, the emotion escaping because it was Midoriya, he was safe, he wouldn’t judge and criticize, belittle and traumatize, and Midoriya, of all people, deserved the truth. But still, he couldn’t tell him about his horrific nightmare, so he settled on something else that he’d been worrying about, something real, instead of his own mind sabotaging him in his sleep.

He took a slow, deep, calming breath. “No, it’s not stupid, it’s important.” Not the most important thing ever, but the most important person. “It’s my mother,” he qualified, relieved to have finally conveyed what he meant to say.

Only now, Midoriya’s concern was morphing into alarm, as his eyes widened. “Is she alright? Did something happen? No, of course something happened, Izuku, you idiot, because he wouldn’t be upset if she was fine,” he continued, muttering the last part, no longer talking to him, but to himself.

“No. She’s fine. It’s not that. It’s… a present,” he rushed to clarify, because even in the light of day, with someone he trusted, someone safe beside him, he didn’t want to relive what he’d seen.

He looked into Midoriya’s eyes, expecting to see understanding and relief. But instead, there was confusion.

“A present?” he asked, politely baffled.

Why was communicating so hard? People all around him effortlessly had conversations daily, as if it was nothing, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to speak their every thought, without fear of rebuke, ridicule, and rejection. Shouto took a slow, deep breath and tried to untangle the gossamer wisps of thought that eluded him, like spider silk dancing on an evening breeze. Only it was morning, and there were no spiders, though Shouji perhaps counted, because he had eight limbs, six arms and two legs.

Don’t look at him, it doesn’t matter how far from you he is, what his weak points are, this isn’t a test, or a mission, he isn’t an adversary, a foe, you don’t need to take him down hard and fast, you need to speak, coherently.

You can do this. You’ve been learning, improving. You can’t disappoint Midoriya. Even if he wouldn’t ever be disappointed in you.Because you’re amazing, Todoroki-kun, I wish you could see yourself the way we all see you.” And now Midoriya’s voice is in your head, but not the right way. You need to listen to what he’s saying now, not before.

He licked his lips, quickly, ready to try again, and then frowned, perplexed, because Midoriya’s eyes were widening, and his gaze was still riveted on him, but not on his eyes, anymore, he was looking at his mouth. Why?

“Because you’re still not speaking, you pathetic, worthless, incompetent excuse for a Hero. When are you going to grow up, Shouto? When are you going to prove to the world you’re my son?”

He shivered as his right side flooded with cold at Endeavor’s belittling voice in his head, painstakingly tamping down the ice that fought to blast free and sheathe his arm, to prove to that bastard whose son he was: it wasn’t his father’s.

“It’s yours! Your quirk, not his!”

And the memory of Midoriya’s voice returning his flame to him cut through the thick, choking smoke in his mind that was smothering his thoughts, like a warm ray of sunshine driving away the cold morning fog.

“Sorry. I was just thinking, about what to get her, my mother, a present, because it’s almost her birthday, but it’s been so long, I’m not really sure what she likes anymore, what she needs, or wants,” he clarified, the words suddenly flowing effortlessly, and the relief would have made him giddy, if he wasn’t still ashamed for being so tongue tied before.

“Oh! Her birthday? That’s wonderful! How old is… no wait. I’m not supposed to ask that, ever, Mom said grownups don’t like people asking about their ages. Would you like ideas? For presents? Because I’ve gotten my mom presents every year, for her birthday, although mostly I make them, because she says it’s more special when I do, although I think it’s mostly because I never had a lot of allowance, growing up, and she didn’t want me using it all on her, because… oh! That’s perfect! Because your mother doesn’t have a heat quirk too, you told me, just a cold one, so she probably feels chilled a lot, right, so how about a sweater? I made this hair ornament for my mother, back in kindergarten, that she said was the best present she ever got, it’s honestly not that well made, because I was just a little kid, though I really took my time picking out and gluing down all the little cloth leaves, on the wood, to make sure the fall colors didn’t repeat, that the red and orange and gold weren’t next to the same color, and anyway, because she loved it so much, last year, I found this sweater, in those same autumn colors, with a leaf pattern, since she still insists on wearing the hair ornament, so I thought, that gave her something to wear that matched it really well but took the attention off what I made, and yeah, so anyway, how about buying a sweater? For your mother? Something pretty and cheerful, red and white, maybe, like your hair, or blue and gray, like your eyes, to remind her of you?” Midoriya finished breathlessly, blushing, because he clearly felt embarrassed, for some reason, even though he’d just given him a perfect suggestion for a present.

“That’s perfect. Definitely not red, or this shade of blue, but I’m not sure about the other colors, or the pattern, but maybe when we look, we’ll find something that… I will. When I look. Because you wouldn’t want to help me shop for a sweater, for my mother, when you’ve never even met her,” Shouto realized, belatedly, out loud.

“No! I’d love to! Shop with you. Help you find a perfect gift. To make you happy. Your mother! To make your mother happy,” Midoriya all but squeaked, his voice getting higher pitched with each word.

“So you’ll come to the mall with me? Could it be today, after school? I’m seeing her tomorrow, and I need to wrap it. So far I only have the card,” Shouto explained.

“The mall?” Midoriya’s voice cracked, and his burgeoning smile froze on his face, which grew notably paler, his freckles standing out in sudden, stark relief.

And of course, he’d be terrified, after what happened the last time he went there. “You don’t have to come wi…”

“No! You can’t go alone! I mean, you want help picking it out, right? And that’s where the store was. I don’t remember the name, it was weird, an English name, but I’ll know it when I see it,” Midoriya insisted, his voice shaky at first, but then determined, and there was that backbone of steel that always hid just below the surface, coming out unexpectedly, challenging the world, and every lurking villain in it.

“You’re going to the mall? I want to come!” Hagakure demanded, startling them both, because they hadn’t realized anyone was listening.

Before that revelation of his failing to be aware of his surroundings could drag Shouto into another downwards spiral, her words set Ashido off as she squealed and demanded to come.

“Me too,” Uraraka piped up.

“Hey Jirou, Momo, all the other girls are going to the mall. You’re coming with us, right?” Kaminari encouraged, as if he was one of the girls, or had at least already said he was coming.

“I’d like to accompany you all as well, if I might,” Iida stated somewhat stiffly and formally.

“We’ll come as well,” Tokoyami volunteered, Dark Shadow pulsing in excitement for a moment as a cloud passed overhead, before the brief shadow vanished and he cowered from the bright morning sun.

 “Class trip, class trip!” Ashido and Hagakure began chanting, hands clasped, dancing in a circle.

“Watch it!” Bakugo snarled, his hands crackling a threat of explosion, as they got too close. “If you idiots are going, we’d better come too, to make sure you don’t smack into anybody and piss them off, while you’re there,” he grumbled.

“Count me in! I want to buy some new clothes, too,” Kirishima instantly added.

Todoroki watched in fascination as within moments, the entire class invited themselves to come along with them. But he had no illusions that it was to help him pick out a gift. It was to ensure Midoriya was safe. And Tokoyami, and Bakugo, but neither of them would have inspired the entire class to come.

Everyone who was at the mall last time remembered how they weren’t with Midoriya, how he’d had to face that villain with the disintegration quirk, Tomura Shigaraki, on his own, how his deadly hand had been around Midoriya’s neck, how he’d threatened to kill mothers and children if he didn’t stay quiet and cooperate. How Uraraka had been there, and belatedly realized, and nearly gotten killed. Even Bakugo was ready to protect Midoriya, this time.

Shouto would have suggested a different store, one not in the mall, but it didn’t matter. Because they weren’t safe regardless of where they went, no one was safe, not with the League of Villains still on the loose.

Chapter Text

The Class 1-A students entered their homeroom in twos and threes and took their seats without the usual procrastination, but with extra chatter, happily talking about what stores they wanted to go to, or what they wanted to buy at the mall.

Ever since Bakugo was kidnapped, they needed to inform the school whenever they headed off campus, and with rare exception, they always left school grounds in groups of three or more. For a group larger than six, they were required to obtain advance permission and be especially careful that no one was ever lost track of or left alone at any point, after what had happened to Midoriya at the mall.

The administration had even debated injecting the entire class with subcutaneous tracking devices, in case anyone was attacked or kidnapped, but had decided against it: aside from privacy concerns, if the villains had somehow compromised the system, they would have known exactly where to find every student. Instead, they purchased smart phones for every student in the Hero Course. They’d debated disabling the tracking system in their phones, as well, but had decided against it, for reasons of safety. Their phones had the highest level of anti-hacking technology available, and could always be discarded, if they became a clear liability.

“As it looks like the entire class plans to attend, I will work with Assistant Class Rep Yaoyorozu to assign us into four person teams and then submit our proposal for an unsupervised off campus activity to Aizawa-sensei,” Iida stated confidently.

The first few times they’d done something like that, their Class Reps had been barraged by demands for certain people to be grouped together, but they had it down to a science now, with each team well balanced for both optimal survivability and social interaction, taking into account the special needs of the outing. But as he and Bakugo had both rarely attended the group outings, their Reps would need to formulate new teams.

After a brief moment of hesitation, Shouto headed for Iida’s desk. “I don’t care who else is on my team, but I need to be in Midoriya’s group. We’re shopping together,” he stated bluntly.

Iida nodded. “Understood. Normally, as you and he are two of our powerhouses, I’d put you on separate teams, but I’ll take that into consideration. That means this time, the team leaders will be Bakugo, Midoriya, Uraraka, Tokoyami, and Kaminari. No offense, you’re certainly somewhat evenly matched with Midoriya for sheer power, but his people skills are more developed.”

“That’s fine,” Shouto said, because that was certainly blatantly obvious to everyone.

Some of the classmates clustered around them laughed. “Wow, talk about the pot calling the kettle black, Iida,” Ashido accused.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand the reference,” Iida admitted, saving Shouto the awkwardness of saying the same.

“It means accusing someone of something you’re guilty of,” Midoriya piped up, because of course, he would know. “But it’s not true, for either of them. They’ve grown a lot, since the start of the year, and regardless, you really shouldn’t make fun of them, or laugh like that. It’s mean.”

“Come on. We’re all better at certain things than others. And our teasing is all meant in good fun, you know, sibling sort of stuff, right guys?” Ashido stated.

“It still can hurt,” Midoriya muttered softly.

Even after these past months, such immediate defense of him was unexpected. Unnecessary, because Shouto had certainly heard far worse, from someone whose opinion should have mattered most, but all the more touching because of it.

“Sorry, Ashido, I’ve got to agree with Midoriya on this. We’re future Heroes. We should be building one another up,” Kirishima argued.

“Exactly,” Uraraka agreed.

“I agree,” Aizawa unexpectedly stated, from the front of the class.

Shouto silently cursed, berating himself. He hadn’t noticed him entering the classroom.

“I didn’t hear what the original insult was, but ridicule is bullying, and bullying is wrong, and will not be tolerated in my class. Furthermore, as heroes, you are public figures, and as such, you’ll be held to a higher standard than the general populace because of it. You’re also going to be subject to greater scrutiny, vicious rumor, outright character defamation, and you’ll be roasted alive by the press, for actions perceived, imagined and purposefully manufactured. The less of an opening you give them, the easier your life will be.

“If any of you want to borrow my old notes from Nedzu’s classes on Hero Ethics, you’re welcome to them. His first year here, he taught a groundbreaking and controversial class called ‘Heroes, Ethics, Humanism and Animism in the Modern Age’. He has a rather unique point of view that I’ve never seen equaled. Now get in your seats, you’re cutting into class time. The affected parties, or anyone who witnessed what was said, can discuss the issue with me further, in private, after class, without fear of retaliation by the perpetrators.” He ran his disapproving eyes levelly over the entire class, not singling anyone out, his gaze not lingering longer on anyone.

Iida raised his hand. “The transgression was minor, and there was no malicious intent. I’m certain, if you heard the initial comment, you would likely agree, but I will be happy to clear the air, after class.”

“Alright. Good. Because I expect better of all of you,” Aizawa stated, temporarily appeased, as he turned towards the blackboard.

“Also, Sensei, Yaoyorozu and I will be submitting a proposal for a large group afterschool outing to you this morning, as soon as we’re done coordinating the teams,” Iida dutifully reported.

Aizawa noticeably stiffened, and he turned back around to face Iida. “Who, when and where?” he asked bluntly, suspiciously.

“The entire class, this afternoon and evening, the mall,” Iida replied.

0 0 0

“The entire class,” Shouta echoed, his eyes flicking from Bakugo to Tokoyami to Todoroki, who three-way tied for most antisocial in his class, to Mineta, who was universally disliked by everyone except Kaminari and perhaps Shouji, for his lechery and inappropriate behavior. Shouta would have expelled Mineta long ago, if Principal Nedzu hadn’t forbidden it.

Todoroki unexpectedly spoke up. “If it’s a problem, I can go alone with Midoriya. I’d actually prefer that.”

“Todoroki! Rude!” Ashido pouted.

“Hey, yeah, don’t be like that, bro. We’re all already stoked for it,” Kirishima added.

“Does it have to be today? It can’t be tomorrow?” Shouta asked, hoping against hope, pinching the bridge of his nose, in anticipation of the headache Hizashi’s outraged shrieking was going to cause. Because there was no way in hell he was letting his kids go to the mall, 20 walking targets for the League of Villains, without him there to protect them, to the best of his ability.

I have to go today,” Todoroki said stubbornly.

Aizawa sighed, surrendering to the inevitable. “Fine. Give me your proposal by the end of lunch, for my review. If I catch you working on it during my class, or any of your other teachers do, the trip’s off.” He knew better than to hope they would screw it up, now that he’d warned them, but they were kids, damn it, not prisoners, and they needed some semblance of normalcy and spontaneity in their social lives, no matter how unfortunately they conflicted with his own carefully laid plans. Not that they’d know what they’d done, or that he was watching over them, of course.

Class dragged by even more slowly than usual, even though for the first time in a long time he’d gotten a full night’s sleep the night before, in anticipation of the plans he and Hizashi had made for the evening. Hizashi was going to kill him. He tried to force the impending eruption out of his mind.

Period after period ground by, until it was finally lunchtime. Thankfully the staff break room was empty, by the time he reached it, all the other teachers eagerly eating outside, since the weather was so perfect. He got the matching homemade bento box lunches out of the refrigerator, even though he had absolutely no appetite, and sat down to wait, taking the opportunity to douse his eyes with his prescription drops and close them, rest them, because he might need to use his Quirk on Hizashi. As usual, he didn’t show up right away; Hizashi was always delayed in the hallways, chatting with one person or another.

Shouta startled awake at the sound of the door opening, eyes automatically flashing, hair and capture scarf rising, until he realized he was at school, it was only Hizashi, he was safe.

Hizashi frowned. “Shouta, are you OK?”

“I’m fine,” he automatically lied, frustrated with himself for falling asleep in the first place.

“Are you excited for tonight?” Hizashi asked, grinning.

“I’d rather have my arms broken again,” he admitted truthfully, because he wasn’t supposed to hide how he really felt from Hizashi, to pretend he was OK when he wasn’t.

Except Hizashi was looking at him in a combination of stunned disbelief and pain, and Shouta belatedly realized that joking about nearly dying was stupid and insensitive.

“If that’s how you feel about celebrating our anniversary, maybe I should-“ Hizashi’s voice was thick with hurt, and threat.

“No! Whatever you’re… just, no,” Shouta cut in, desperately. “I’m sorry. I’m an idiot. I forgot you don’t know yet that I can’t-“

Stop right there. You are not backing out on tonight, Shouta, not after we’ve been planning this for a month. I don’t care what the villains are doing, there’s always going to be another patrol you should be on. Let someone else risk their life for a change.” Hizashi often got frustrated with him, even after all these years together, but this time his voice was biting.

“Do you really think I’d put a patrol over us?” Shouta asked quietly, just as hurt.

Hizashi’s brow furrowed in a scowl, but more thoughtful now, rather than hurt, or angry. “No, you’re right. The only people you’d put before me are… shit. Shinsou, or your other students. What happened?”

Shouta was relieved to hear concern instead of censure, because he hated when he and Hizashi fought. It didn’t happen often, thankfully, but it always sent his heart racing and gut churning. “Nothing yet. It’s my class. They’re going to the mall, after school, all 20 of them, I just found out about it during homeroom. And I know that they’ll be in teams, that they take their safety seriously, that they’ll be vigilant, and I know the mall has increased security, hiring Hero patrols from various agencies, but…”

“But they’re your kids, and you need to be close so you can protect them, if something happens, if they need you. OK. I get that,” Hizashi agreed, remarkably reasonable about it.

“You’re not upset?” Shouta asked cautiously, because he knew how much his husband had been looking forward to spending the night alone together, to eating out and going home to their apartment together, the one Shouta had barely seen for months, since moving into the dorm with his class. Midnight had agreed to be dorm mom for the night, or Dormamatrix, as she had called it, so he could have a romantic night with Hizashi.

Hizashi waved his hand. “It just means we change the reservation time to 10:30. The mall closes at 10:00, right? So we both dress up like we planned, but we each bring a duffle, with our support gear, just in case, and we go shopping for five hours, and then eat.”

Shouta’s eyes widened in abject horror. Shopping. In the mall. With Hizashi. “Zashi, no,” he begged, because there was his pride, and then there was his sanity, and five hours of clothes shopping with Hizashi would destroy him.

“Zashi, yes,” his husband quipped, grinning mischievously.

And seeing him smile like that, when he’d looked so hurt before, took all reluctance and resistance out of Shouta. “Alright, yes. I love you,” he said spontaneously.

Hizashi’s entire face lit up, not with the megawatt smile he gave his fans, but with the special, softer smile he saved just for him. “I love you too, babe.”

And all was right with Shouta’s world.

0 0 0

Kirishima debated whether or not to say anything to Bakugo, about going to the mall. This was another of a small but growing list of rare recent instances where Bakugo voluntarily joined a social activity. The ones he reluctantly agreed to had been surprising enough, but he’d literally volunteered himself for this one. The last thing Kirishima wanted to do was to accidentally make Bakugo change his mind. But by the same token, he was burning with curiosity, and it would also be a good segue into what he really wanted to ask him. So he risked it, as calmly and casually as he could.

“I’m kind of surprised you want to go to the mall, with everyone,” he prodded, hopefully gently enough he wouldn’t elicit an explosion, both figuratively and literally.

“I need shit,” Bakugo replied curtly, in his, “Drop it, Shitty Hair,” tone.

“Hey, me too, I get it. So, are you free Sunday night, too? I was thinking of hitting the arcade,” Kirishima stated with feigned nonchalance.

Bakugo’s eyes narrowed suspiciously, and Kirishima was ready to either use his Quirk, run, or apologize, depending upon what came next.

“Is Pikachu going to be there?” Bakugo demanded.

That was… not what he’d expected. “Um, no? I mean, not unless you want him to be,” he qualified. Because he’d really wanted it to be just the two of them, but he’d take what he could get.

“Hell no! Every time he gets too excited about his score, he fries his machine, and then we all get our asses kicked out.”

Kirishima was careful not to mention how a certain someone had blown the steering wheel off the racing simulator at the arcade nearest the school, the one that had been their favorite hangout, until they’d been permanently banned, thanks to that pyrotechnic display.

“Or if you’re not into the arcade, we could, you know, maybe catch a movie or something, and maybe have dinner afterwards?” Kirishima suggested, immediately regretting it, because that had definitely made, “hanging out with your favorite bro,” sound perilously close to, “go on a date with me”.

“We’ll go to the arcade first, then dinner, then the movie, because I don’t need you crunching popcorn in my ear the whole time we’re watching, because you’re hungry,” Bakugo countered.

Holy shit. Holy shit! I’m going on a date with Bakugo!  “Yeah, sure. That sounds great!” Kirishima agreed, carefully suppressing most of his enthusiasm, because he absolutely could not do anything to mess this up.

0 0 0

For the first time since being allowed to go to high school, after a lifetime of being homeschooled, Shouto was anxious for the school day to end, instead of savoring each class, though he still cherished his few, awkward social interactions, mostly just quietly observing the others.

At lunchtime, Iida herded them all together, directing them to four empty tables that Sero had cordoned off with his tape, reserving enough seats for the entire class. “Yaoyorozu and I have made the team assignments, but we wanted to run them past you all, before giving them to Sensei, to ensure there are no objections. The leaders of each team are listed first.”

As the list was passed around the tables, Shouto saw some mouths open in objection but then close, as they nodded, after scanning the full sheet. Then it came to him, and he read it curiously.

    Team 1                 Team 2                    Team 3                 Team 4                    Team 5
1. Bakugo            5. Midoriya            9. Uraraka        13. Tokoyami         17. Kaminari
2. Kirishima         6. Todoroki         10. Asui               14. Shouji                18. Jirou
3. Ashido             7. Ojiro                 11. Koda              15. Mineta              19. Yaoyorozu
4. Sero                  8. Hagakure        12. Sato               16. Aoyama            20. Iida

He was with Midoriya, which was all that mattered. But he noticed that Yaoyorozu had listed Bakugo as #1, feeding into his ego, because Iida wouldn’t have thought to do that. But Iida was clearly the one who had placed both his team and himself last, knowing listing Mineta or Aoyama last would have hurt their pride. And both Yaoyorozu and Iida had obviously known not to put any of the girl’s on Mineta’s team. They’d also, intentionally or not, grouped together all of the most likely potential couples and the one possible polyamory in the class: Bakugo and Kirishima, Ojiro and Hagakure, Uraraka and Asui, Tokoyami and Shouji, and Kaminari and Jirou and Yaoyorozu – although Kaminari seemed just as interested in Bakugo and Kirishima, honestly.

“It’s perfect. You did an excellent job, Iida, Yaoyorozu.” Only a couple of short months ago, Shouto wouldn’t have realized any of the social nuances of his classmates, or thought to praise them for their work, but now he knew both Reps had self esteem issues, and wanted to do what he could to bolster their self confidence.

Both their faces flushed at the simple praise. “All in a day’s work, for your Class Reps,” Iida conceded humbly.

Inevitably, Mineta was the only one who complained, when he saw the list. “Wait! There’s six girls in the class, so why aren’t there any girls on our team?”

“Because none of us want to be anywhere near you, you little pervert,” Jirou snapped.

Shouto noticed that, unlike in homeroom, Midoriya didn’t come to his classmate’s defense. Shouto suspected that, had it not been for the USJ attack, Mineta would likely have been expelled by Aizawa the first week of class. But the school was either being lenient because of the trauma they’d each faced, or more likely, out of the fear of being sued by already upset parents.

“As there are no other objections, I’ll be bringing this list to Aizawa-sensei. I will return shortly. I suggest you sit with your teammates and determine which stores you would like to go to now, for optimal efficiency,” Iida urged.

What an unbearable hardship, being ordered to sit with Midoriya.

Shouto sat down opposite him, so he could see his face, because he loved watching him, he was so expressive. Also, because if he sat next to him, he might spontaneously combust. Literally.

He watched as Midoriya began eating his enormous lunch, which rivaled Yaoyorozu’s and Sato’s, but Shouto was used to the sight by now. Midoriya’s ravenous appetite fueled his spectacular Quirk.

Shouto had been indoctrinated his entire life into believing that food was merely fuel to feed the ice and fire of his Quirks, that taste was unimportant, but he had learned since coming to UA that he had a preference for cold soba noodles, and a few other dishes as well, and Lunch Rush was known for the quality, as well as quantity, of his food.

“So, um, other than the sweater store, is there anywhere else you’d like to go?” Midoriya asked, after chewing and swallowing the first of many bites, studying his lunch with unusual intensity, as if debating what part to tackle next.

“No. I don’t need anything.” Possessions were irrelevant: toys, games, books and puzzles were all distractions, to lure him away from his training. He knew, now, that wasn’t right, or normal, but it was impossible to break years of conditioning in a few short months, and he’d been picking his battles.

He’d learned to enjoy certain foods, and to even ask for them, sometimes boldly trying new ones. He’d borrowed some books from UA’s library that scandalously had nothing to do with training, and read them. He’d even joined his classmates for the occasional game night, as well as their now weekly Saturday movie night. Visiting his mother Saturday after school often put him in a confusing head space, leaving him feeling lonely, vulnerable and depressed, once he left, regardless of how well or poorly the visit went. His mother was sometimes less pleasant to visit, and he never knew when she’d be having one of her bad days. Just the anticipation was draining.

The first few times he’d returned from visiting, he’d thought solitude would help, and he’d resolutely gone to his room, or even to the training ground, but both made it so much worse. Instead, being able to look forward to something fun and brainless with his classmates had surprisingly helped a lot. And with every movie he watched, his frame of reference grew, and it became easier to relate to his peers, to understand what they were talking about.

“I need a new notebook. I’ve managed to fill another one. Oh! And some new jeans. With my new fighting style, and all the workouts I’ve been doing with my legs now, instead of my arms, my thigh and calf muscles have really gotten more defined. I can’t even move in my old jeans, they’re so tight,” Midoriya commented ruefully.

Picturing Midoriya in jeans that tight caused Shouto to involuntarily inhale, while accidentally swallowed his mouthful of noodles without chewing them at all, with predictable and catastrophic result. He began choking, and coughing as he desperately fought to expel the food from his windpipe. After surviving years of brutal training and sparring sessions with his father, it would be an incredibly stupid way to die, but he would certainly have a far more pleasant mental image. Although the picture of Midoriya in jeans had quickly been replaced by the actual frantically concerned Midoriya, as he instantly leapt up, along with a few others.

Shouto held up his hand to show he’d be fine, as soon as he managed to stop coughing up the food he’d literally just inhaled. He felt his face flush red, both from choking and embarrassment. He hated being the center of negative attention, and everyone was staring.

Midoriya handed him a water bottle, and he drank from it gratefully, rinsing the food down.

“That was idiotic,” he muttered, once he could speak again.

“Are you alright?” Midoriya asked.

“I’m fine. Jeans are a good idea. I’d like to buy some, too.” Unlike the other students, he didn’t receive any allowance or any other spending money, but fortunately Fuyumi had given him gift cards for his birthday the past three years, none of which he’d ever had the opportunity to use. He’d made a habit of keeping them in his wallet, with his ID card, for emergencies.

The second open bottle Midoriya was holding somehow slipped from his hand, and cascaded water all over his food, but Shouto managed to turn the rest of it to ice before it poured off the table and onto his lap.

“Thanks,” Midoriya muttered ruefully, his face flushing, clearly upset with himself.

“Accidents happen. At least you didn’t choke,” Shouto reminded him, eager to comfort him, and bring the attention off of Midoriya, and onto himself. Which had him completely floored. First, he’d said words which weren’t in his family’s vocabulary, at least, not in that combination. There were never accidents, only mistakes to be ridiculed and punished for. And he’d instinctively tried to draw the negative attention away from Midoriya, to protect him, as if he were Fuyumi, or his mother.

Then Midoriya graced him with one of his warm, shy smiles, and everything made perfect sense.

Chapter Text

Tomura Shigaraki stared at the frustratingly black screen, fuming, itching to turn the man behind it to dust. How dare some stranger use Master’s account to contact me? “Whoever you are, you’ve made a deadly mistake hijacking this account and contacting me this way.”

“No, I haven’t, for three reasons. First, you have no idea who or where I am, so I’m in no danger from you. Second, I didn’t hijack this account: I created All for One’s entire communications and security system. And third, most importantly, I’m still working for All for One, under his explicit orders. He instructed me, that if he was ever caught and imprisoned, I was to contact you exactly 90 days after his capture. He wanted you to be able to continue to grow, to fully come into your own as an independent adult, to demonstrate your worth as a true leader, to your underlings, before he gave you additional guidance and encouragement.

“And to prove to you I am truly doing his bidding, I was instructed to tell you his first words to you when he found you, when he held out his hand and saved you. They were, ‘No one came to save you. That must have hurt, right, Tenko Shimura? Everyone just passed by pretending not to see, thinking that some Hero would save the day. Who decided to make the world this way?’ So, you should believe I am who I claim to be now. I have a recorded message for you from him. Would you like me to play it for you?”

“Master,” Tomura moaned, his heart aching, the loneliness and fear that had he’d been fighting against for three months with hatred and fury suddenly nearly unbearable, almost overwhelming, with those familiar words. But he was no longer the lost child he had been in those first terrible days after the battle in Kamino Ward. He felt resolve fill him, flow through him, steadying him like his father’s and Master’s hands.

“Play it,” he ordered coolly.

The stranger did, and Tomura listened eagerly, his entire being focused on his Master’s beloved voice, his words. It infuriated him, jealousy burned hot and destructively as a glowing brand, that even a few moments were spent speaking of this stranger.

He stared skeptically at the black screen, when the recording was finished. “You’re certain you can convincingly forge a UA student ID card, with all the multiple security identifiers built into it?”

“I already have,” he claimed. “I will deliver it to you within five minutes, as soon as you confirm my conditions, and my payment, as All for One outlined.”

Tomura ground his teeth. This person calling himself Darkweb was smug, arrogant, and too familiar with Master by far, and he knew the dead name only Master had the right to speak. But he was trusted by Master, and currently his only link, so for now, he would live.

“Yes. I approve you transferring the money to your account. And the UA student Mezo Shouji will not be harmed in this or future attacks. If he is captured, he will be held for your retrieval,” Tomura agreed.

“Excellent. I look forward to our continued partnership,” Darkweb replied.

And then the words “End Transmission” scuttled across the screen in a hint of hairy legs, black on black, seen only over the writing as it was created, the letters a delicate weave of thin, white lines, a spider leaving behind a message written in spider silk.

Tomura involuntarily shuddered. “I hate spiders,” he muttered softly.

He waited, impatiently, for a knock on the warehouse door, as he monitored the security cameras and motion detectors that laced their new headquarters, and then scrambled up the nearest stack of crates as a hand sized tarantula emerged from the shadows, surging towards him. “Kurogiri!”

A warp opened up under the creature, but it somehow leapt up into the air and then hovered a meter above the floor. And promptly split in two, a thick plastic card falling towards the black abyss. Then both halves of the creature exploded.

“Interesting. It was a single use delivery robot,” Kirogiri stated, as he held out the plastic card to Tomura.

Tomura took it gingerly, and examined it, seeing a friendly, smiling, round face looking innocently back up at him from the UA student ID card. And then he smiled. “Welcome to the League of Villains, Ochako Uraraka.”

0 0 0

After classes were finished for the day, the entire 1-A class went back to the dorms to change out of their uniforms and into civilian clothes for their trip to the mall.

Izuku looked longingly at his jeans, but reluctantly settled on his black chinos, which had a wider leg, which accommodated his increased thigh and calf muscles. He agonized over which shirt to wear. He mostly had Hero based T-shirts, and he didn’t want to dress up too much, but he didn’t want to look like a fan boy, either, not tonight. He reached for his favorite hoodie, but then drew his hand back, because Shigaraki had been wearing a hoodie, at the mall. He grabbed a plain white T-shirt, instead, and his bright blue, button down short-sleeved shirt, to wear open over it, and put them on.

He studied himself in the mirror critically, and nodded. He was good to go.

Half the class was already waiting in their communal living room. He was surprised Todoroki wasn’t there yet. He would have thought he would have been one of the first to arrive. Izuku couldn’t believe he’d managed to embarrass himself like that at lunch, dropping his water bottle and spilling it all over his food, just at the thought of Todoroki in jeans. The last thing he wanted was for Todoroki to realize he had a hopeless crush on him.

He was glad to see he wasn’t the only one who wasn’t wearing jeans. Ashido, Aoyama, Kirishima and Kaminari were the most colorful. Kacchan was the most casually dressed, in his black skull T-shirt and black jeans, though Tokoyami was all in black, too. Everyone else came down in ones and twos, until only Todoroki was missing.

Izuku bit his lip, anxiously, checked his phone, and then he started muttering to himself. “What if he changed his mind? I know he doesn’t like crowds, and he doesn’t usually come when there’s too many of us. But he would have told us, right? Or at least texted. Should I go up and check on him? No, that might embarrass him, and it would be awkward, right?”

“It’s about time, Icy Hot,” Kacchan snapped, and Izuku’s eyes flew up from his phone.

“I’m not late. It’s exactly 4:30. The rest of you were early,” Todoroki replied coolly.

“Todoroki is right. We can’t fault him for being punctual. Although I always try to arrive at least 10 minutes early, or more, dependent upon the distance needed to travel, just in case there is an unforeseen delay,” Iida rebutted, managing to validate both sides of the issue at the same time. “Now that we’re all assembled, we’ll be traveling in a single large group, but keep an eye upon your team members. Once we’re in the mall, we’ll break off into the smaller teams.”

“Aye aye, Captain!” Kirishima said with a grin and mock salute.

Izuku gravitated towards Todoroki and Iida, forcing himself not to stare at Todoroki, even though he looked so amazing. He was in black chinos too, but they looked so much better on him, and in a forest green long-sleeved button down shirt, with the top three buttons undone, showing the base of his neck, and the inside tips of his collarbone, and his skin was so perfect and white, not speckled with freckles, like his own.

“Should I button my shirt?” Todoroki asked, sounding self-conscious and uncertain.

“No! I mean, no, why would you ask that?” Izuku replied, eyes snapping up to his face.

“You were staring at my neck. I thought maybe you thought I should button my collar, but didn’t want to embarrass me,” Todoroki admitted.

“I’m sorry! No, it looks great, you look great, I mean, that’s a very nice shirt. It looks really soft, and I like the color,” Izuku stammered like an idiot.

Todoroki’s lip twitched up in that small hint of a smile that always made Izuku’s pulse race.

“I should hope so. It’s the same color as your hair,” he replied. “It’s my favorite.”

Izuku felt his eyes widen at the potential implications. Did he buy it because of the color? Does he actually think-

“Fuyumi bought it for me,” Todoroki added, the tiny smile deepening, and his voice becoming warmer and gentler, the way it always did when he talked about his sister.

“She made an excellent choice,” Izuku said, feeling like an idiot for thinking Todoroki might have bought it because of him. “My mom bought mine.”

“Seriously? Your mommy is still dressing you? How old are you, five?” Kacchan snarked.

Izuku jumped. He hadn’t even noticed Kacchan get close, and he always noticed Kacchan. And now he felt completely mortified.

“You could use a little maternal influence. You groom and dress like a delinquent,” Todoroki stated, in that completely deadpan, emotionless voice that hid such a wealth of feeling.

“Don’t you fucking say a god damned word about my mother,” Kacchan snarled, his hands sparking.

“Dude, chill!” Kirishima told him, stepping between the two of them, but not hardening. “He didn’t say anything bad about your mom.”

You ridiculed Midoriya’s,” Todoroki replied, voice cold.

Izuku’s eyes widened at the challenge. Todoroki’s breath was literally fogging in front of his face, even though it was warm out.

“The fuck? No I didn’t, you half and half bastard. Deku’s mom is a fucking saint. I’ll kill anyone who says a bad word about her,” Kacchan snapped.

Todoroki’s eyes narrowed. “You know the word ‘bastard’ implies my parents weren’t married, that every time you call me that, you’re insulting my mother, right?”

Oh no. Todoroki doesn’t usually do this; Kacchan has called him that lots of times and he never escalates things.

“Hey, come on guys, stop!” Kaminari, of all people said, getting between them. “First of all, we haven’t even left the school grounds yet. You’re going to get our shopping trip cancelled. And second, there’s nothing wrong with parents not being married. My parents weren’t, when they had me. It doesn’t mean they don’t both love each other, or love me. Marriage doesn’t mean the same thing it used to. It’s not as important now, right? So just calm down, and walk on opposite sides of the group or something, OK? The point is to have fun, right?”

And miraculously, Kacchan backed off, heading to the right of the group with a final angry glare at Todoroki.

“I didn’t mean to make it sound like I was insulting your mothers, Bakugo, Kaminari. I’d never do that,” Todoroki apologized softly, but loud enough for both of them to hear.

“Hey, no problem,” Kaminari said with a wink, and then he followed Kacchan, who predictably didn’t acknowledge the apology, but he at least didn’t try to continue escalating the altercation either.

Todoroki headed to the left side, with a depressed sounding sigh.

“You shouldn’t let Kacchan get to you like that. It just makes it worse, when you argue with him, when he’s like that,” Izuku advised.

Todoroki snorted. “Isn’t he always like that?”

Izuku smiled sheepishly. “Um, mostly? But he’s really a good person. He just hides it well. Really, really well,” he said ruefully.

“You’re a good friend. You should have written him off a long time ago. But you never will, will you? You’d never abandon a friend. No matter how bad a friend they are,” Todoroki said, sounding sad, and introspective.

He hated when Todoroki sounded like that. It made his stomach twist in knots, and made him feel like crying. “You don’t think you’re a bad friend, do you?” Because that’s what it had sounded like.

Todoroki just looked down and shrugged, just a tiny little motion of his left shoulder.

“You’re not. You’re amazing. You’re one of my best friends,” Izuku insisted.

“You’re my best friend, too,” Todoroki admitted. “I’m really glad I met you.”

And all the weight just lifted right off Izuku’s chest; he felt like he might float away, as if Uraraka had touched him.

“I’m really glad I met you, too.”

0 0 0

They were fifteen minutes away from the school, when Izuku noticed one of his classmates’ attention was more behind them, than on the sidewalk ahead. “Shouji, is something wrong?”

“I was just about to tell everyone. Continue to act naturally. Don’t stop talking and don’t turn around. But we’re being followed, ever since we went through the school gate, by a man, wearing cologne I don’t recognize, something with a complex scent, expensive, probably,” he replied, his voice level and firm, though the mouth he was speaking with was at the end of his bottom left hand. “I waited to say anything, assuming it was coincidence, but it’s been long enough it must be intentional. I haven’t been able to spot him yet, but I can smell him.”

Shouji is tall. By speaking with a mouth on his hand, whoever is watching wouldn’t see his face mask move, wouldn’t realize he was speaking. Is it a villain? A new one, or an old one? Part of the League, or another group, or working alone? Or just a pickpocket or purse snatcher, some minor crook braver or stupider than most people, ready to risk taking on 20 UA students at once, because they know we can’t use our Quirks without risking arrest and expulsion?

“Stay here, everyone. I’m going to get a better look,” Hagakure stated decisively, breaking through Izuku’s racing thoughts, even as she moved to the center of the group and crouched down, using her friend’s bodies as cover from the crowds on the sidewalk, as she quickly stripped off her shirt, skirt, bra, panties, socks and shoes, stuffing them into Ashido’s bag, handing her friend her purse, as well.

“Wait! Not alone. Take Jirou and Tsuyu with you as backup,” Izuku immediately suggested, keeping his voice low. “They blend in a lot better than Shouji, they’ll be able to help protect you, and they also have Quirks that can help track whoever it is.”

“Midoriya, you , Bakugo and Tokoyami are all past targets. You need to move to our center, subtly, but now,” Yaoyorozu ordered.

“You can’t tell me what to do,” Bakugo snarled, his hands sparking, but only mildly. Clearly he was keeping his frustrated explosions in check.

“As Class Reps, we both can. Do it,” Iida ordered.

“You know we can’t risk facing these guys head on, not until we know who we’re facing, at least. Come on, man. Do it for me. Please?” Kirishima urged, facing him, his back to the potential danger, hiding his pleading expression from whomever was following them.

“Fine, just stop looking at me like that. And you’re coming with me,” he grumbled, latching onto Kirishima’s hand and yanking him forward.

“Me too,” Kaminari insisted, as he joined them, the others repositioning around them.

Izuku hated waiting, while three of his classmates went into danger, but it was the best use of their respective Quirks and skills. This time they’d make sure no one could take Kacchan, not even the warp villain. This time Izuku wasn’t hurt; he just needed to be fast enough to save him.

Memories of Hosu City as well as the disastrous Training Camp dancing in his head, Izuku sent out their location in the group text which included the entire class plus Aizawa, to alert their teacher, but this time he had the luxury of being able to also write a quick message. Potential villain following us. Will know more soon.

0 0 0

Shouta kept his kids in view, stealthily shadowing them, while staying far enough back that they didn’t spot him. They were in their own clothes, not their uniforms, which made it even easier to keep track of such a large, loud, colorful group. He mentally added an observation skills refresher to tomorrow’s lesson plan. Granted, he was a tracking expert, a lot of his success as a Pro Hero had to do with his ability to remain unseen, but it was lucky for them he wasn’t a villain.

Hizashi was meeting him at the mall for that very reason, because stealth was not his forte, and also, it would take him longer to get ready, since he had to shower and brush out his hair, styling it soft and down, instead of in his conspicuous stiff hero wave. He’d be in one of his many date night outfits: he had no idea what his husband would be wearing.

Shouta was wearing his sole pair of black dress pants, socks, and dress shoes, with his burgundy button down silk shirt, all of which Hizashi had bought for him on his birthday, and which he suspected cost more than the entire rest of his wardrobe combined. Not that he owned many other clothes, and no other dress outfits, other than the suit he’d worn to the press conference. He had his hair tied up and back, too, instead of loose and down, or in a ponytail, the ways he preferred it, both because he was less recognizable like this, and because Hizashi thought it was sexy. He’d even dabbed on a little of the French cologne Hizashi had surprised him with on White Day. His capture scarf and goggles were tucked in the seldom used, butter soft, black Italian leather shoulder bag his husband had given him years ago, on their first anniversary.

These clothes made it far easier to blend with the civilian crowds on the sidewalk, but between the lack of his capture scarf, his open collared shirt and his hairstyle, his throat felt uncomfortably exposed. He adjusted the collar, fastening one of the three undone buttons, and carefully tucked in the bit of exposed titanium chain, which was normally hidden by his scarf under his shirt. Once they were safely in the restaurant, he’d let the chain show, but he’d keep the wedding ring looped through it carefully hidden, under his shirt, pressed up against his heart, where it belonged. “You’re becoming a romantic idiot in your old age,” he grumbled, even as he fingered the ring through the soft fabric, once he ensured no one was watching.

He flicked his gaze back to his kids, immediately realizing something had changed. Kirishima, Kaminari, Bakugo, Tokoyami, and Midoriya had moved to the center of the group, and either someone had managed in the few short moments he was distracted to silently snatch Jirou, Asui and Hagakure, the closest trio the class had to stealth and tracking specialists, in addition to Shouji, or he was about to be discovered. Considering the remaining 17 didn’t look frantic, but instead looked alert, aware, ready for trouble, while trying to appear casual, he assumed it was the latter, not the former. An outside observer might have believed his students were oblivious, unaware of a potential danger, but he knew them too well to be fooled.

He disappeared into the nearest clothing store on instinct, so he wouldn’t be discovered, grimacing when an eager sales associate immediately approached him with a beaming smile. Normally when he entered a store, he was met with suspicious glances from a distance. Any offers of, “May I help you?” he’d ever previously heard could easily be interpreted as, “What are you doing here? You clearly aren’t going to buy anything. We’re watching you.” On the bright side, if he had been spotted by his kids, at least he’d have an alibi as to what he was doing in the area: clothes shopping.

He frowned. But if they hadn’t gotten a good look at him, if they’d just realized someone was following, but not who, and didn’t find him, they would worry it was a villain stalking them, and that was the last thing he wanted. His own plans had already been changed. His kids deserved a night of stress-free fun.

His phone pinged and he glanced at the text. It was from Midoriya, their location, and a message: Potential villain following us. Will know more soon.

Damn it.

“I changed my mind,” he told the overly helpful clerk, turning back to the door and then heading out onto the street, immediately sending a responding group text to his students, so they wouldn’t worry, but heading in the opposite direction, so they wouldn’t see him, so they’d be less likely to recognize him dressed as he was, in the mall.

Code green, u r safe, just me, not a villain, he sent quickly, to instantly reassure them, with a follow up message seconds later. Good job, stand down. You all passed my impromptu real life situational awareness test. Class is now officially dismissed for the day. I’m on my way out for the evening. Remember, Midnight’s dorm parent tonight. Don’t give her a hard time. Have fun. See you in class tomorrow.

He’d wait until tomorrow to find out who had managed to spot him, because they shouldn’t have seen him, how they decided who to send after him as recon, and their battle plan, and he’d award them bonus points accordingly, to make up for upsetting them. For tonight, he’d head to the mall on his own, trusting his kids to get there safely. But he’d still be there, just in case they needed him.

0 0 0

Everyone’s phones pinged and buzzed simultaneously.

 “Don’t everyone look at once. Stay alert. I’ll read it,” Izuku volunteered.

He let out a relieved breath, even as there was a second ping. “Thank goodness. It’s Aizawa-sensei. It says, ‘Code green, u r safe, just me, not a villain. And a second message, ‘Good job, stand down. You all passed my impromptu real life visual awareness test. Class is now officially dismissed for the day. I’m on my way out for the evening. Remember, Midnight’s dorm parent tonight. Don’t give her a hard time. Have fun. See you in class tomorrow.’

“Aizawa-sensei was testing us?” Tsuyu asked in surprise.

Ashido squealed. “Ooh! Do you think he’s actually going on a date? He was wearing cologne, he never does that. I wonder what kind of outfit he’s wearing.”

“Seriously? He almost gave me a heart attack,” Kaminari complained.

“At least it wasn’t an actual villain,” Kirishima stated in relief.

Izuku wasn’t quite so certain. Sure, it kind of sounded like something their teacher would do, but Shouji hadn’t recognized his scent, and ‘Have fun’ didn’t really sound like something he’d say, either. “Shouji? Could it have been Aizawa-sensei you smelled, under the cologne?”

Shouji nodded. “That explains it. There actually was something familiar about his scent, but the cologne masked it effectively enough I didn’t realize who it was. But yes, I am certain now that it truly was him.”

Izuku felt the tension ease with Shouji’s assurance.

“As Heroes in training, we must learn to expect the unexpected,” Iida commented, approvingly.

“If it really was a villain, we would have totally kicked his ass,” Bakugo bragged.

There was another ping, but just from one phone. Ashido read her text, and replied. “It’s Hagakure. They got the message. She’s in the burger place at the corner, with Asui and Jirou. She wants me to bring her clothes so she can dress in the bathroom. I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll walk with you. Just to be safe. We’re not supposed to travel alone,” Todoroki unexpectedly volunteered.

The rest of them watched the two of them walk down the street, cross it, and enter the fast food restaurant, as they moved in closer to the building on their right, so they wouldn’t block the sidewalk and keep other pedestrians from passing.

After a few minutes, Izuku started to get anxious. “Shouldn’t they be heading back by now?”

“They’re probably fixing their make-up or something. You know, girls and bathrooms,” Kaminari commented, although he was frowning, and looking intently at the restaurant.

Izuku pulled his phone out, and was just about to text, when he heard Uraraka say, “There they are!” in relief. He looked up and was surprised to see they were each carrying drink carriers.

“Todoroki bought us all milkshakes! His treat!” Hagakure announced excitedly, as soon as they got close.

“Wow, thanks, Todoroki! That was really nice of you,” Izuku praised. He was sure he’d done it to help break the stress from before, to restore the previous happy atmosphere. For someone who was called socially awkward, Todoroki was actually really aware and considerate of his friends’ feelings.

“Hand it over. Mine better be chocolate,” Bakugo demanded.

“Kacchan!” Izuku complained.

“What Blasty meant to say was ‘thank you’. Thanks from me, too. You wouldn’t happen to have a strawberry one, would you?” Kirishima asked hopefully.

“Actually, he knew everyone’s favorite ice cream flavors. I was really impressed. Especially since he said he’s never had a milkshake before,” Asui commented.

“We… um… don’t really eat fast food, at my house. Or any non-traditional foods, actually,” Todoroki explained, looking self-conscious, a light dusting of pink on his cheeks.

“I should have guessed that about you, considering how you decorated your room to look traditional. Man, we have got to introduce you to the wonderful world of fast food,” Kirishima urged.

Todoroki handed Izuku a vanilla shake.

“Thanks so much! What flavor did you get?” Izuku asked, curiously.

“Ginger. They had green tea and red bean, too, but I thought I’d like ginger the best,” Todoroki replied.

“You could try some of my vanilla too, if you’d like, so you get to try two flavors,” Izuku offered, holding it out to him.

Todoroki looked like he was going to say no and Izuku was ready for the polite refusal.

“Sure. I’d like that. If you really don’t mind?” he asked uncertainly.

“I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t mean it. Here!” Izuku said eagerly, holding it out to him.

Todoroki wrapped his lips around the straw and began sucking.

Izuku watched his mouth, mesmerized, until he swallowed, and then his eyes were fixed upon his throat. Stop staring! He’ll notice again!

“That’s really good. Would you like to try mine?” Todoroki offered politely. “The ginger is really good too.”

“Oh! Sure!” Izuku said, as he sucked on the straw, his heart racing as he imagined he felt the warmth of Todoroki’s lips still on it.

“Holy shit! You two both just shared an indirect kiss!” Kaminari crowed gleefully.

Izuku’s eyes widened, and he fumbled the cup, thankful for the lid that kept it from spilling, as he nearly dropped it to the ground.

“Hey, Jirou, Yaoyorozu! Want to try mine?” Kaminari offered.

“Not after you said that,” Jirou quipped, and the class laughed.

“Thanks! Here!” Izuku squeaked, mortified, thrusting the cup back at Todoroki and accepting his vanilla shake back, unable to look Todoroki in the eyes.

Everyone started walking, and chatting again, but even though Izuku knew he should still be keeping aware of their surroundings, like before Aizawa-sensei’s surprise field test, he was only aware of Todoroki, looking somewhat confused and flustered, at his side.

Chapter Text

Once they were at the mall, they quickly broke into their teams, eager to start shopping.

“I’m not sure I remember exactly where that sweater store was, and I still don’t remember the name. Let’s check the directory. And we can look for a place to buy jeans, too,” Izuku suggested, as he headed towards the large, glowing map and store index. His eyes widened as he saw a distinctive and familiar catchphrase, “Best - The only jeans you need.TM”, under the depiction of a Best Jeans store front, taking up half the ad space.

“Oh my gosh! They’ve opened up a Best Jeans store! We have to go there for our jeans. They’re really expensive, but they really are the best. We can both get the off the rack ones, which cost a lot less, but they also custom make them right in the store, for every body type and size imaginable,” Izuku said eagerly.

Hagakure laughed. “You’re lucky Bakugo isn’t nearby to hear you say that! You sound like a commercial, and he hated his internship with Best Jeanist, even though they actually gave him two custom fit pairs of jeans, one black and one blue. And they are sooooo soft.”

“How would you know?” Ojiro asked suspiciously, sounding a little jealous.

“I may or may not have accidentally bumped into his thighs and ass a few times. It’s not my fault I’m invisible, and people walk into me,” she said innocently.

“Oh, um, yeah. Um, so why don’t we go look at the sweaters first, and then the jeans? Because Best Jeans is probably going to be a madhouse,” Izuku suggested a little desperately, because honestly, how was Hagakure even still alive, after doing that to Kacchan?

“Yeah, sure, whatever,” Ojiro replied, sounding more than a little disgruntled.

Izuku located the sweater store in relief. “Knit Knacks! That was it. I knew it had a weird English name, I think it’s some kind of play on words.” The store was conveniently only five stores away from Best Jeans. He’d expected it to be at the opposite end of the mall, knowing his luck, but then he realized all the higher end clothing stores were grouped together, on the second floor, on the north end of the mall.

They began walking through the mall. It was weird, and unsettling, being back, after the run in with Shigaraki the last time. Izuku’s entire body was tense, his skin crawling, and he found himself scrutinizing every face concealed by a hoodie, or other clothing.

“I shouldn’t have wanted you to come with me. Are you alright?” Todoroki asked softly.

Izuku jumped at his voice, and laughed nervously. “I’m fine!” he assured him, but even he could hear the lie. “I mean, I’m a little freaked out, I admit it. But it’s nothing I can’t handle. I’m not going to hide away on campus my whole life, to stop going anywhere just because there might be a villain. There are always villains. And I wouldn’t be much of a Hero, if I couldn’t face them down, would I?”

“I know. But we’ve all been through a lot, some of us more than others. It’s only natural we’re affected by it,” Todoroki reasoned.

“Um, could we not talk about this right now? Here? I just… I need to remember what it’s like to just have a normal day, where people aren’t attacking us and the world isn’t ending, you know?” Izuku urged softly.

“Of course. I’m sorry. I’m not very good at this sort of thing,” Todoroki apologized, sounding self-deprecating and guilty.

“No, stop! You didn’t say anything wrong. You’re a good friend. I’m just… Can I hold your hand?” Izuku finished in a rush, shocking himself. How could I ask him that? Where did that even come from?

“Of course,” Todoroki replied, and then he reached out his right hand, and grasped his left, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Izuku wasn’t even aware of walking after that, he just suddenly found himself at Knit Knacks. They entered, and Izuku reluctantly let go of Todoroki’s hand, wishing he remembered more about holding it.

“Ooh, these are really pretty!” Hagakure said, immediately heading for the brightest sweaters in the store.

“Oh, Todoroki, look!” Izuku urged, his attention immediately riveted by a prominent display called Frost Faire. The design was beautiful, ice blue and winter white, an intricate, delicate knit pattern that looked like frost on a windowpane, on matching sweaters, scarves, hats and gloves.

“It’s perfect,” Todoroki whispered, touching the sweater on the display manikin almost reverently. “It’s so soft.”

Izuku reached up to touch it too. “Would you mind if I got a sweater for my mom, too? I think she’d really like it, and I’d love to have a good surprise for her, next time I see her. She’s been so worried about me.”

“Of course you should get her one, too,” Todoroki agreed.

They held up different sizes, trying to make sure they looked like they’d fit their respective mothers.

When they asked about gift wrapping at the cash register, Izuku winced at the extra charge; the sweater was already really expensive, but they had nice boxes and perfect snowflake paper with lacy ribbon, that made it worth the extra cost, so he paid for it, and once it was boxed and wrapped, it looked amazing, like the most perfect gift ever. Todoroki got his wrapped, too, in matching paper.

Hagakure came up to them. “Wow, you’re done already? How about we look around more in here, and meet back up with you later? You’re only going five stores away, right? And Ojiro doesn’t want to go to Best Jeans, I guess I teased him a little too much. I mean, pairs are still OK, right? I promise neither of us will wander off alone, and we can always hook up with Jirou and Yaoyorozu’s group, if you guys take awhile, and the two of you can certainly handle any trouble together. Not that I think there will be any,” she added quickly, as he frowned.

“Alright. I guess that would be OK? Todoroki?” Izuku asked, needing the reassurance.

“You’re right, we’ll be fine. Don’t Best Jeanist’s sidekicks actually run his stores? And there’s the heightened security here too. And we have our phones,” Todoroki stated.

“Alright. We’ll see you guys later,” Izuku agreed.

Best Jeans was huge, and loud, completely different than the store they’d left. Pop music was playing, and there were dozens of shoppers swarming everywhere. People had their phones in hand and were snapping selfies and taking group pictures, as much as they were actually shopping.

An impeccably groomed young man in jeans and a sweater greeted them at the door. “Welcome to Best Jeans, where only the best will do. My name is Hiroshi. Would you like to be custom fitted?”

“No. We just wanted to look at what you already have in stock?” Izuku said, phrasing it more as a question.

“For yourselves, or a gift?” he asked.

“For us,” Todoroki replied.

“Certainly. Come with me, let me assist you in sizing, to ensure the perfect fit.”

Izuku obediently followed him, feeling out of place and awkward, more so, when the man assessed his height and waist size, just by looking at him. “Color and number?” he asked.

“Black or blue. I’m not sure,” Izuku admitted. There was no way he could afford two pairs.

“Black and blue, one of each,” Todoroki said.

They were each handed a pair of black and blue jeans, and then escorted to the fitting rooms. “Once you’re done discovering how fabulous you look, you can bring your purchases to the register. You can leave the one extra pair on the rack to the left of the fitting room door. Thank you for your patronage,” he said, and then he was off to help another customer.

Izuku was relieved he was gone, though he’d been professional and efficient. He entered his fitting room, and closed the door, and quickly changed. He looked critically at himself in the three mirrors, from all angles. He was amazed by how soft the jeans were, nothing like his old pair, and they fit perfectly, like a second skin, hugging him but not confining him at all. He was thankful the fitting rooms had been designed to accommodate a diversity of body shapes and sizes. He was able to try a few test kicks in the large space.

“Midoriya? Do you mind telling me if I look alright?” Todoroki called out.

“Sure!” Izuku said, unlocking and opening his door, stepping out.

The door to the right opened, and Todoroki stepped out, looking surprisingly uncertain and self-conscious. “They don’t feel tight, but they look tight. In the back. And the front. Are they alright?”

Izuku stared. He wanted to answer, he meant to, but his mouth was too dry. Instead he just nodded, ridiculously fast and eager, because oh my God, Todoroki looked even better than he’d imagined.

Todoroki’s face reddened, flushing almost as dark as his scar. “I feel kind of ridiculous, but you look amazing.”

“Please buy them,” Izuku squeaked, and then he felt his own face flush. “You just…wow. I mean…I’m going to try on the other ones, bye!” he said, and dove back into the anonymity of the fitting room, before his brain completely melted.

He stripped off the blue pair and tried on the black ones. They fit just as perfectly, and Izuku decided to get both pairs, he’d just get a glass of water or something, if they all went out to dinner, and pretend he had to study, if anyone invited him to the movies or anywhere else for the next month. Or two.

Izuku changed back into his chinos, and headed out of the fitting room. Todoroki’s door opened a moment later. They wordlessly headed to the cashier together. There was a line, but it went quickly, with five different cashiers efficiently working the registers.

“Do you have a Hero or Provisional License, and a frequent buyer card?” the cashier asked, when they went up together.

“A License? You mean civilians can’t buy them?” Izuku asked, confused.

“Of course they can! But we offer a 10% Pro Hero discount, and a 15% Provisional License holder discount,” the cashier explained.

“Oh! I have a Provisional License!” Izuku said, eagerly, producing it, because 15% off would help a lot. “I don’t have a frequent buyer card. I’ve never bought them before. Todoroki, why don’t we pay together? Is that alright, for him to use my License? He’s studying to be a Hero too, he just doesn’t have his Provisional yet.”

“Of course! As long as you’re paying together, it’s fine,” the cashier assured him. “Do you want all four pairs on one frequent buyer card, or two separate cards? Either is fine.”

“One card, please,” Izuku said, because he couldn’t imagine ever spending so much money again, and this way, Todoroki would get extra points.

“Excellent. And can you tell me the name of the person who helped you today?”

“Oh! Hiroshi. He was very helpful,” Izuku added.

“Wonderful. Will it be cash, credit card, or gift card?”

“Cash for me,” Izuku said, carefully counting out bills for half the total.

“Gift cards,” Todoroki said, holding out two.

The cashier took their payments and returned one of Todoroki’s cards. “The remaining balance is at the bottom of the receipt,” he said, handing them two bags and the new frequent buyer card. “Thank you for shopping with us.”

“You’re welcome,” Izuku and Todoroki said simultaneously.

Izuku handed Todoroki the frequent buyer card. “Here, this is for you.”

“No, you should keep it,” Todoroki argued.

“Honestly, I can’t imagine ever coming back. Keep it, I insist. That was… really intense. But surprisingly fast. Let’s go see if Hagakure and Ojiro are still at Knit Knacks.”

“Alright,” Todoroki agreed, reluctantly accepting the card.

0 0 0

Hizashi pouted. “Shou, you’re supposed to be clothes shopping with me. You’re just here in case of an emergency, remember? Everyone is still present and accounted for. If you keep this up, they’re going to catch you. You still don’t know how they spotted you before, right?”

Shouta sighed. “You’re right. Alright, let the torture commence. Let’s get this over with.”

“Yes, I’d love to accompany you, my wonderful husband, on our anniversary expedition,” Hizashi prodded.

“Sorry. I love you. I just hate shopping. You knew that before you started dating me.”

“True, though I don’t think back then I was aware of the full breadth and scope of your aversion to shopping. Come on. I’ll make it as quick and painless as possible, I promise.”

0 0 0

“So, where do you want to go first?” Kirishima asked Bakugo.

“Fuck if I care. Like I said, I’m just here to make sure the rest of you don’t piss someone off,” Bakugo replied.

“Clothes it is!” Ashido cried happily.

Kirishima was surprised that Bakugo let Ashido lead the way, dragging them into one clothing store after another, letting her look her fill, even though she actually bought very little. He didn’t even look particularly annoyed, just resigned, as if he’d done this a million times before. He even commented when she tried something on or held it up against her and asked if it looked cute, and astonishingly, more than half the time he’d tell her something looked good, or would even recommend different colors and styles, when he didn’t like the ones she’d picked.

But Kirishima was completely floored when she squealed in delight and made a beeline for Victoria’s Secret, and Bakugo calmly went to follow her inside. “Bakugo, you can’t go in there! It’s ladies only!”

“No it’s not. I’ve been in here a bunch of times. The Old Hag loves this place; she’s been dragging me here since I was a kid. Besides, you’re gay too, right? It’s not like we’re going to be staring at the tits and ass on the pictures and screens on the walls or anything,” he stated, bluntly. “And Sero’s not a creep, so we’re fine.”

Kirishima stared, stunned. “You just came out to me.”

“No I didn’t. You know I’m gay,” Bakugo replied, looking genuinely confused.

“Um, no? I mean I hop… suspected. But I wasn’t sure, I thought you might be bi or pan, but maybe just straight, and that you just don’t mind bro hugs and stuff?” Kirishima admitted.

“Shit. Were you out, or did I just out you to Sero?” Bakugo asked, looking surprisingly worried.

“Seriously? Everyone in the class knows Kirishima’s gay,” Sero stated bluntly. “I’m bi, by the way, in case you guys didn’t get the memo. Pretty much the entire class is part of the community, except for Mineta, Ojiro and Hagakure. I’m not sure about Koda, Sato or Tokoyami, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter. So it’s all good.”

“See? What he said. So stop freaking out, Shitty Hair. Anyone gives you shit for it, I’ll fucking kill them.”

They got a few looks, and some shoppers veered away from them.

“OK. But maybe don’t threaten to kill people here? We don’t want someone freaking out and calling security, thinking you really mean it,” Kirishima urged.

“Whatever. Come on, Shitty Hair,” Bakugo said, grabbing hold of his hand and pulling him into the lingerie store.

0 0 0

“Shouji, Shouji, look! The girls are going into Victoria’s Secret!” Mineta declared, pulling on his pant leg to ensure he got his attention, pointing out Yaoyorozu and Jirou, who entered the lingerie store, followed by an eager looking Kaminari and a red faced, mortified looking Iida. “Why do Kaminari and Iida get to go to the Promised Land without me? Come on!”

“Mineta, no,” Tokoyami and Shouji both scolded, but Mineta let go and then ran, darting into the store after his classmates.

The two cursed and followed, hesitating uncomfortably at the entrance, Aoyama following silently behind, looking more amused than alarmed.

Tokoyami determinedly entered the store and began looking for Mineta, but their lecherous classmate was ridiculously short and the store was huge, with multiple display rooms, and there was no sign of the little purple terror, or Kaminari’s team, just an alarming number of potential targets. He began looking for the changing room in concern, fearing the worst, pulling out his phone and texting the group. Be on guard, Jirou, Yaoyorozu. Mineta got away from us, he’s in Victoria’s Secret with you. Stay clear of the fitting room. Kaminari, Iida, help us catch him before he’s arrested.

To his shock, only a moment later, Bakugo, of all people, emerged from the depths of the store, a look of fury on his face, all the more terrifying for his uncharacteristic silence, the lack of both curses and explosions, not even sparks, as he dragged Mineta behind him, by the wrist, who was looking completely cowed, but was also eerily silent. Then Iida and Sero appeared, following in their wake, just as quietly.

Mineta fastened his eyes on someone else behind them and started struggling, desperation flaring in his eyes. “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again, please don’t kill me. Shouji, you have to save me, I’m too young to die.”

Tokoyami felt unaccountably annoyed that Mineta was imposing upon Shouji’s previous kindnesses in such a disgraceful manner, when he was clearly in the wrong, and deserving of punishment for it.

Bakugo turned to look down at his prisoner. “Are you fucking kidding me? You can’t even face up to being caught red handed? I should have let Sero tape your mouth shut, blindfold and hogtie you, like they wanted, but I was trying to help you maintain whatever shreds of dignity you had left, because I remember how infuriating it was, to be chained up like a mad dog at the Sports Festival, for everyone to see. One more word, though, and I’m handing you over to the girls.”

Mineta’s eyes widened, and he shook his head frantically.

Tokoyami stepped back to let them pass, then followed them, Aoyama, Shouji, Iida and Sero out into the mall walkway. Shouji’s head immediately snapped to the side, and his arms raised. For a moment of panic, Tokoyami thought there was a villain, or a horde of them.

Two well dressed stern faced men strode up purposefully, at first he thought they were plain clothes mall security, or some of the heroes that had been hired to protect the shoppers, he didn’t recognize either of them, until he noticed a very distinctive scar under the brunette’s right eye. “Aizawa-sensei? What are you doing here?”

0 0 0

Shouta held up his shopping bag, in one hand, and his phone in the other, displaying the damning message. “Yamada was assisting me in shopping for dress clothes, because believe it or not, I actually do have a life that doesn’t revolve entirely around my students or my work as a Pro Hero. I knew you were all coming to this mall as well, but I foolishly thought you would behave like respectable young adults, and future Heroes, that you wouldn’t dream of breaking the law and violating the privacy and dignity of the civilians you’re supposed to be protecting, all for petty voyeurism and lechery. Or that you would not voluntarily help further tarnish the reputation of the school you attend, the school that so many Heroes who fought and died to protect those basic human rights of decency and dignity attended. But apparently only 19 of you met my expectations.”

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Mineta looked defensive, while the others, who had done nothing wrong, looked chastised and ashamed, on their classmate’s behalf.

“Our apologies for your involvement, Sensei! We were fortunately able to take immediate action to minimize the damage, but knowing his proclivities, we should never have even allowed him to enter the store,” Iida stated humbly.

Kaminari escorted Jirou, Yaoyorozu and Ashido out of the store, standing protectively in front of them, and looking accusingly at Mineta, and Shouji moved to stand at his side, extending his arms, clearly ready to shield the girls from their lecherous classmate’s view, if needed.

Midoriya, Todoroki, Hagakure and Ojiro ran up, slowing when they saw the gathering in front of the store, Midoriya startling, eyes wide, when he recognized him and Hizashi.

“What about Kaminari and Shouji? And Bakugo, Kirishima, Sero, Tokoyami and Iida? They went inside too! Why am I the only one in trouble?” Mineta argued desperately.

“Don’t you dare put me in the same league as you, you smarmy little shit. I’ve been coming here for years, and never once looked at anyone disrespectfully,” Bakugo immediately countered, but keeping his voice impressively low, clearly aware of the milling crowd swirling around them, and trying to minimize the damage. “We already proved I’m never going to be a villain. You just proved you are one,” Bakugo declared coldly.

“Did you honestly just beg for my assistance one moment, and throw me under the bus the next?” Shouji asked, incensed. “I entered the store to guard my team mates, my classmates. I stayed on the sales floor, I didn’t engage in infantile antics, crawling across the changing room floor and up the wall, using sticky balls. You clearly were intending to view the customers. If Sero had not captured you by the ankle with his tape and yanked you back before you found your way over or under one of the stalls…”

“Don’t group me with you, Mineta,” Kaminari cut in, even though he and Shouji were the closest people Mineta had to friends among the class. “Sure, I like looking at girls, and yeah, I wanted to see our classmates in swimsuits and loved those cheerleader outfits. But I felt guilty and apologized after the Sports Festival for tricking them and embarrassing them like that. And I don’t want to see them in lingerie, or naked, not unless they want me to. They’re just all really beautiful, and I like them a lot. But I like everything about them, not just the way they look. I love Jirou’s music, and Yaoyarozu’s brilliance, and Ashido’s wildness. But you don’t treat them like friends or classmates. You treat them like pieces of meat.”

“Mineta, you’re coming back to the school with me, without making a scene,” Shouta ordered. “The rest of you have done nothing wrong, and will not be punished for someone else’s crimes. You can continue your outing. Jirou, Yaoyorozu and Ashido, are you alright? Yamada can take you back with him, if you want to return to the dorms.”

“We’re fine, Sensei. But he’s lucky Sero stopped him in time, because this was the last straw. I might have crossed a line I never thought I would, and used my Quirk on him, if he’d seen me, instinctively,” Ashido admitted, sounding lethal.

“Thank you all for your restraint. Hizashi, I’ll meet you at the restaurant. Save me a seat.” Which made it sound like they’d be part of a larger group, because he wanted Hizashi to stay in the mall to protect his kids, in case they needed the help, and he’d also be damned if after all these years his marriage was going to be revealed because of this pathetic delinquent he should have been allowed to expel months ago. It didn’t matter that Mineta’s Quirk had an unparalleled potential for villain capture with zero collateral damage. He’d proven time and again he wasn’t Hero material.

Shouta left with Hizashi, Mineta safely trapped between them. He called Nemuri and asked her to pick him and Mineta up and drive them back to campus, since she didn’t need to stay at the dorm yet, with no one to monitor. He told Hizashi he needed to use the men’s room, and to wait outside with Mineta. But really he just needed privacy for his next call, because if Mineta overheard him call Nedzu, he’d throw a fit. Because he was about to break his perfect class record for the year, call Mineta’s parents, and inform them and their son that Mineta was expelled from the class, regardless of what Nedzu said, though he doubted he’d object this time, considering this particular incident had involved the general public, not just UA students, not that it should have made a difference in the first place. If anything, as minors, his students should have been protected even better.

Then he’d salvage what he could of his anniversary night. But he was already planning how to make it up to Hizashi, and take another night, maybe even an entire weekend, because Hizashi didn’t deserve to be punished either, for Mineta’s crimes.

He made sure no one else was in the bathroom, then called Nedzu first, as a courtesy, but ready to hang up on him and call Mineta’s parents directly, if need be.

“Eraserhead? It’s unlike you to call me. Is something the matter?”Nedzu asked in concern.

“Mineta just crossed your damned line. He was caught committing a crime, by his own classmates, thankfully, and we’re expelling him. You told me in that eventuality, you would be the one to tell him and his parents, since you’re the one who allowed his other transgressions to be overlooked,” Shouta stated bluntly, unable to keep the cold fury from his voice.

“I see. Please tell me what happened,” Nedzu instructed, sounding appropriately but unexpectedly subdued.

Shouta gave him the details.

Nedzu sighed. “You’re right. This time we have no choice. I’ll contact his parents, and have them meet me in my office. I’ll send Ectoplasm to his room to pack his things. With his clones, he’ll have it finished by the time they get here. You can drop him off in my office and continue with your plans for the evening. For what it’s worth, Eraserhead, I regret not allowing you to expel him the other times you asked, but we can talk about that at length tomorrow.”

“Whatever. I’m also giving you two weeks’ notice-“ He broke off as he heard a sharp gasp on the other end of the line, and rolled his eyes. “- that Hizashi and I are both taking a four day weekend, Friday through Monday, two weekends from now, to make up for tonight. We both have plenty of vacation time accrued, and that will give you enough time to find acceptable subs.”

“Of course,” Nedzu replied, both relief and embarrassment clear in his voice.

Shouta belatedly realized he should have just listened to what his husband had wanted in the first place, instead of wheedling Hizashi down to a single night. He was going to do his damnedest to more than make up for it.

0 0 0

Izuku and the others watched their two teachers leave with Mineta.

“Do you think he’s going to be expelled, this time?” Kirishima asked, sounding more grim and resigned than worried.

“From the look on both our teacher’s faces, I’d say yes. I’ve never seen Yamada-sensei look stern, before,” Izuku admitted.

“I hate having to denigrate a classmate, but Mineta brought his punishment down upon himself, with multiple infractions. He deserves his fate,” Iida stated seriously.

“I’m just glad the rest of us didn’t have to leave. I hope this doesn’t impact future off campus trips. And that nothing leaks to the media about this. I didn’t notice anyone filming any of it on their phones, but I might have missed something,” Sero stated.

“The security cameras were pointed at the merchandise and cash registers, thankfully, and not at the entrance to the fitting room,” Iida added helpfully.

Uraraka, Asui, Koda and Sato ran up.

“Where’s Mineta? Did you catch him, or is he hiding? He didn’t run away, or something, did he?” Uraraka asked worriedly.

“Aizawa-sensei is bringing him back to the school. He and Yamada-sensei were shopping, they were in civilian clothes,” Izuku explained. “Really dressed up actually, they were supposed to be going to some big dinner, but it sounds like Aizawa-sensei is going to be late, now. Maybe it was for something having to do with Present Mic’s radio show? A sponsor event or awards ceremony? But would they hold that in a restaurant instead of a hotel or conference center or hall? But they weren’t dressed formally, and he said restaurant, so maybe not. Could there be some kind of Pro Hero event I didn’t hear about? No, maybe a teacher event? I’ve never seen Aizawa-sensei look like that, it was different than the press conference, he wasn’t in a suit, but… sorry,” Izuku trailed off, as he realized he’d started rambling again, the way he always did when he was anxious or excited.

“We think Mineta is going to get expelled,” Kaminari added.

“Really? Oh my gosh! I feel bad for him, but he honestly brought this on himself. I feel terrible for saying it, but I’m going to be relieved I don’t have to look over my shoulder constantly anymore, and search rooms for him hiding, or for cameras or holes in the walls,” Uraraka stated.

“Were you girls really doing all that?” Izuku asked, shocked, and ashamed he hadn’t realized how bad Mineta had been, how stressed Uraraka and probably the other girls had been.

“Yeah, we all were,” Jirou admitted, confirming his fears. “I wasn’t about to be part of that little creep’s fantasies, any more than I could help being.”

“He made me feel dirty, every time he looked at me. I actually already asked Support to change my costume to something that would still expose skin but be less revealing than what I was wearing,” Yaoyorozu admitted. “Bakugo accidentally overheard and saw the drawing Todoroki and I were making, and he insisted on designing it instead. We’ve all admired his own costume, he has an excellent eye for costume design, but I never imagined he could assist me with mine.”

“Icy Hot’s design was crap. There’s no reason you should have looked like an idiot, just because he can’t draw,” Bakugo justified.

“Wow, we’re learning all kinds of cool things about you tonight, Blasty,” Kirishima teased.

“Shut up, Shitty Hair. And come on. I’m not wasting our night off campus because of that little freak,” Bakugo said, grabbing Kirishima’s wrist and tugging him.

“OK, OK, I’m coming. Come on Ashido, Sero,” he urged.

The two ran over, to catch up.

“Um, I guess we should start shopping again too? Although honestly, I don’t need anything else,” Izuku admitted, as they left.

“I thought you wanted to buy a new notebook?” Todoroki reminded him.

Izuku rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “I kind of spent more than I should have already.”

“We could always head back to the dorm,” Todoroki suggested.

“No, I’d still like to hang out with our friends.  Let’s hook up with one of the other teams,” Izuku replied.

“You are welcome to join ours,” Iida offered.

“Can we join too? We’ve kind of just been wandering around aimlessly. None of us really have much money to spend,” Uraraka admitted.

“We would also appreciate the company,” Tokoyami surprisingly offered.

The four remaining teams all coalesced into a single large team.

“We can get something to eat, and then decide where to go from there,” Ashido suggested.

Izuku preferred eating in the dorm, because it was free, and thanks to One for All, he ate a lot now. His plan was to pretend he wasn’t hungry and just get a cup of water. But once were in the food court, all the different scents were making his stomach growl like a caged tiger. And before he knew it, Uraraka was sharing her fries with him, and Todoroki claimed to have accidentally gotten more yakitori than he could eat, and Iida handed him a rice ball, and Asui gave him some mochi, from one of two bags she’d purchased. He figured the second bag was for her to eat in the dorm. Or maybe for Uraraka? Because he was pretty sure Asui really liked her, and he knew she liked Asui. Izuku was honestly full, by the time they left the food court: at least half the class had shared their food with him. They shared with the others too, but he felt guilty for being the only one who didn’t have something to share back.

After the food, they wandered around, more window shopping and people watching than anything else, until they passed a store called simply, The Tea Shop, and Todoroki’s eyes lit up. “I need to buy something,” he declared, heading for the door without waiting to see whether anyone was coming with him.

Izuku and at least half the others followed him inside and stared in awe. It was like stepping back in time. The store not only sold dozens of blends of loose leaf teas, but also iron tea pots and delicate tea cups, in a multitude of designs, and the two sales associates were both wearing kimono, the distinguished older man at least three times the age of the graceful young woman.

He risked looking at a few prices, and everything was even more horrifyingly expensive than he’d expected. He was terrified he might accidentally break something. But he was all but vibrating with tension for a different reason: he couldn’t help but remember Todoroki telling him how he had gotten his scar, from a tea kettle full of boiling water being splashed in his face by his mother.

But Todoroki didn’t look traumatized or even reticent at all. Instead, he went right up to the young woman behind the cash register, without even looking at the shelves, and gave a shallow bow. “Excuse me. I need two tins of Lullaby, and two of Dreamless, please,” he stated, his voice full of quiet respect.

“I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with those blends,” the young woman said apologetically. “Grandfather?”

“Forgive her, her mother is ill this evening, and she is assisting me in her stead. She is still in training, and perhaps not as familiar with our special stock as I had expected,” he apologized. “One moment, please.”

Her eyes lit in sudden understanding, as the elderly gentleman moved aside a curtain decorated with cranes, with practiced ease, and slipped into what was apparently a back room. He returned a few moments later with four ornate tins, two the same hue of purple as Shinsou’s eyes, and the other two the midnight blue of the evening sky, both decorated in an overlay of brass filigree.

Izuku almost choked on his tongue when he saw the total displayed by the register, at what Todoroki paid. He was surprised when Todoroki asked for two bags, with one of each tin in each.

“They’re for two different people,” he explained.

Is he buying some for his mother, and some for himself?

Their classmates meanwhile had thankfully looked around without touching anything, and no one else looked like they planned to buy anything. Izuku was incredibly relieved Kacchan wasn’t there, at the thought of the destruction one of his explosions could bring to the elegant shop.

After they left, Izuku couldn’t restrain himself. “Are those for you and your mother?” he asked softly.

“For my mother and Aizawa-sensei. They’re her favorite. She recommended them to me, when I told her that I thought he might not be sleeping well, because of nightmares or something, from what happened at the USJ and summer training camp, or maybe even his Pro Hero work. Now that he’s the dorm parent, he hasn’t been going on patrol at night, but if anything, he looks more tired than before. And if he does expel Mineta, even though I don’t think he likes him, it will probably be hard on him. He’s so protective of us, and Mineta will be crying and begging and yelling. So I thought this might help.”

“You had the same idea I did,” Asui stated, making Izuku jump. He hadn’t realized she was listening.

She held up the bag of mochi. “I bought mochi for him. It will go well with your tea, too.”

“What a wonderful idea! I would also like to get him something,” Iida praised. “He is a wonderful teacher, and has done so much for our class, and we should ensure he realizes we recognize that, and show how grateful we are. Perhaps a good book to read, or some soothing music? I’m certain he likely already has an eye mask and blackout curtains,” Iida suggested.

“There’s a combination music and bookstore not far from us, on this level,” Izuku offered, eager to help, since he couldn’t actually afford to buy anything himself, not even the new notebook he’d originally intended to get there. He almost regretted buying the second pair of jeans, but they were too amazing. And then he realized he already had the perfect gift.

Seeing his two teachers together earlier had sparked an idea. The two men were clearly close friends, that had been apparent for a while, from the mutual teasing they indulged in, one deadpan, the other loud and boisterous. And Ikuku just happened to have a special Limited Edition collector’s item three disc set of Put Your Hands Up for Nacht Musik, a high level contributor’s thank you gift from a charity fundraiser during the first year of Present Mic’s radio show, which Izuku had managed to buy at the swap meet at one of the first Hero conventions he’d ever attended, one of the few times he’d bought something other than All Might merchandise. He’d wrap it and give it to Aizawa sensei. He was sure he’d like it: the music wasn’t Present Mic’s usual style at all. It was soothing, melodic classical music from around the world, but he introduced every song, in a soft voice that was almost unrecognizable as his own.

Nearly an hour later, they’d each gotten Aizawa something, both singly and in groups, except for Sato, who was going to bake him a gift. They’d just finished shopping when everyone’s phones pinged, and they scrambled to answer them.

Izuku’s heart was racing. Did something happen to Kacchan and the others?

The message was from Kacchan, but nothing bad, thankfully. “You losers still here? Shitty Hair wanted to let you know we’re heading back to the dorm, so if you don’t come with, it’s not my fault if you die.”

“Blasty, come on! Be nice! What Bakugo meant to say is, if you’re done, we can all head back together. If not, then goodnight, guys,” Kirishima corrected in a follow-up text.

“I’m done. Does everyone in my team want to go?” Izuku asked.

He received three consenting responses. And each of the other teams was finished too. So they texted that they were on their way, that they’d all meet them back at the entrance.

A short while later, they all headed home together.

Since Aizawa was out for the evening, they made plans to give him his gifts in the dorm, after class tomorrow, where it would be more private. Sato volunteered to bake a cake as his contribution, and before Izuku knew what happened, an entire party was being planned. He was certain Aizawa-sensei would be confused by all the attention, and probably a little uncomfortable, but he was pretty sure he’d be more touched than annoyed. Because their teacher had proven time and time again that he truly cared about them, and it was past time they made certain he realized they felt the same way about him.

When Kacchan, Kirishima, Ashido and Sero heard what they were planning, they volunteered to provide the food and set up the decorations, since they hadn’t purchased anything for their teacher. Kacchan was fuming about it, as if they’d intentionally tried to make him look bad. Izuku was convinced that Kirishima was an actual saint, because he’d given up on trying to please Kacchan years ago. Sort of. Because no, he still did all he could to help him, whether he wanted his aid or not. And he likely always would.

Chapter Text

Hitoshi Shinsou looked at the alarm clock on his nightstand in surprise and no small amount of satisfaction. It wasn’t quite 9:00 pm yet, and he’d already completed his homework. If he was in his foster home, he’d be trapped in his room, restricted in his actions, subject to the whims of his latest pair of foster parents. But Aizawa-sensei had gotten him moved into a room in the UA dorms over two months ago, only a month after he started mentoring him, training him, even though he was still in the General Studies course. That same night, he’d surprised him with a Hero costume.

Hitoshi examined his new hero costume, wide-eyed. It was unmistakably modeled after his mentor, Eraserhead’s, a comfortable, loose fitting, soft but durable tracksuit, but a deep violet, instead of black, or perhaps black, but with an evanescent purple sheen. The capture scarf was pearlescent white and the goggles were a similar shade, but more opalescent white, sparkles of violet glinting in the sunlight. Both accessories were attention grabbing, eye-catching.

“You’ve chosen a purposefully deceptive Hero name that doesn’t betray your power, but instills fear: Mindwarp, the Nightmare Hero. Everyone will likely think you have some kind of illusion Quirk, and your costume is just as misleading. Let them think the scarf’s your weapon, and your eyes, like mine. They’ll be so concentrated on them, they won’t even realize you’re speaking, that it’s your voice they should be wary of,” Aizawa-sensei commented, as always intuitively reading the unvoiced question in his eyes, but this time foregoing encouraging him to verbally express himself, as he normally would, in his mentor’s continued, patient effort to break him of years of conditioned silence.

Hitoshi felt his face flush with heat, but he didn’t insist he was about to ask, because he never lied to Aizawa-sensei, not because he knew he’d be caught at it – because he was an expert at lying to his teachers over the years – but because he’d sooner bite off his own tongue and sacrifice his Quirk than betray the trust of the man who was selflessly aiding him in changing his life.

Aizawa-sensei looked frustrated, and that was akin to disappointed, which made Hitoshi’s heart drop to his feet. ‘I’m sorry,’ he automatically signed, and then immediately catching his mistake, quickly voiced the same apology, but expanded upon it. “I’m sorry. I should have asked, I know, I just… It’s perfect. I wasn’t expecting… and I should have, because you’re not like them, you’re the opposite, and I know you… It’s not your fault I’m still so pathetic,” he finished lamely, wishing he could take the damning words back, when he saw the flash of disapproval momentarily in Aizawa-sensei’s eyes, only to be immediately extinguished.

“Sorry! I didn’t mean that. Well I did, obviously, but I didn’t mean to be self-denigrating like that. I just got stuck in my head again, because… it’s overwhelming, everything you’ve been doing for me, that… that we’ve been doing together, but I understand, I do, I know you think I’m… no, I know I am worth it, really. So thank you. It’s the second best gift I’ve ever received, second only to you agreeing to mentor me in the first place.”

He sighed in relief at having stumbled and stuttered his way through what he had wanted to say. He was always so cool and caustic in front of everyone else, always prodding, goading, but with Aizawa-sensei it was different. His secret mentor not only understood, he cared, and no one had ever cared, not since his parents died and he’d been shuffled from foster home to foster home, always ones for deaf kids, though his hearing was actually well beyond the average range, because his voice Quirk didn’t work when either he or the intended victim signed instead of spoke the question and response needed to activate it. He’d even been forced to go to schools for the deaf, until his final year of middle school, when they finally trusted him enough not to accidentally brainwash his classmates, though they kept an eagle eye to ensure he didn’t intentionally do so. As a result, speaking aloud, knowing someone else could actually hear, was still a challenge for him.

A fleeting, precious, rare smile crossed Aizawa-sensei’s lips, but the pride that shone from his eyes remained. “Good. Trust me, I know how hard it is to rewire yourself after years of denigration, disparagement and unwarranted criticism, damage that runs so deep it’s become an almost irrevocable part of your psyche, but you’re doing it, and I couldn’t be more proud of you.”

Hitoshi stared, because objectively, he knew that, but it was still a shock hearing someone, anyone, say that, but to have it be Aizawa-sensei, to hear the unwavering faith, sincerity, made Hitoshi’s eyes sting in a way he thought he’d lost half a decade ago.

“And there’s no shame in crying, either, ever,” his teacher reminded gently. “Maybe not the unending waterworks Midoriya is capable of, which I’m tempted to make him register as a secondary Quirk, but I’m not about to break your arm for showing genuine emotion,” he qualified, with his usual sardonic humor.

But then Hitoshi’s breath caught, because he was certain Aizawa wasn’t aware of it, but his teacher had tucked his left arm in tighter to his body. Not his right, he wasn’t subconsciously protecting his elbow, the one that villain bastard had partially disintegrated, the way he often did when they sparred, but his left. Which coupled with what he’d just said meant someone, somehow, somewhere down the line had broken his teacher’s left arm, for crying. Which left him quietly furious, but also added another strong brushstroke to the intricate, half-formed painting in his mind that was his Sensei.

The day Aizawa had unexpectedly appeared and confronted him after school, a week after the Sports Festival, and volunteered to mentor him, as if he’d somehow been aware Hitoshi had been working up the nerve to beg him to, he had outlined his plan to train him and then astonishingly recommend him for the Hero course, once he was deemed ready. When Hitoshi had automatically signed, ‘Why?’, in the next moment thankful that he hadn’t spoken his response, he’d been astonished when Aizawa had signed back to him, both by the method of communication and the candor of what he had conveyed.

‘I know what it’s like to be trapped in a loveless and abusive household,’ he’d admitted to Hitoshi’s shock. The rest he’s said verbally. “And from my research, you’ve been in a series of them. I’ve investigated your current situation, and haven’t found any blatant evidence of verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual or physical abuse, but you clearly aren’t sleeping well or eating properly. I’d like you to tell me why, and let me know if I missed something.

“From the personal experiences of a person who is close to me, I am also painfully aware of how damaging it is for a hearing person to be forced to attend schools for the deaf, to be denied verbal input, music, and social cues, to protect others from a supposedly destructive quirk. If you need to be moved to a hearing household, I’ll do it. I would have already, I’m going to do all I can to assist you, but I need to be careful not to make a mistake and move you from a tolerable situation to a worse one, or to risk adversely impacting my recommendation to get you into the Hero Program, with accusations of favoritism. I’m trying to get authorization to have you moved into the dorms, as the preferred option. That said, if your situation changes, or if there’s already something I’m not aware of, if anyone harms you in any way, you are immediately to call the police, then me, and leave me to sort through the fallout. Is that understood?” His eyes were piercing and intense, intimidating even without his Quirk.

“Yes, Sensei!” Hitoshi had responded unhesitatingly, though his mind was swimming with questions, because he wasn’t about to risk the priceless gift he was being given.

He snapped out of his reverie and frowned at the clock. He was wasting time he could spend training, solo practicing some of the moves that Aizawa-sensei had been teaching him. Aizawa-sensei had mentioned he’d be out all night, and had said his entire class would be away as well, which meant he’d likely have the training room all to himself. Few people trained at night, most getting in their extra workouts either early in the morning, or after school. Hitoshi, of course, did both, still needing to catch up, to make up for the time he’d missed, including the Hero training class time he had yet to enjoy. Three months ago the thought would have been a bitter one. Now it just lit a fire under him.

He could get in a solid two hours before bedtime. His days of staying up all hours of the night were over. He was safe in the dorm, able to sleep better because of it. Sure, he still had a number of sleepless nights: years of insomnia inducing anxiety couldn’t be immediately cured. But he had the coping mechanisms Aizawa-sensei had shared with him.

Hitoshi quickly packed his costume in his sports duffle and headed out of his room. Tonight was going to be a great night.

0 0 0

Shouta stood in the training room in his Hero costume, his initial intention of sneaking in a short workout to burn away his cold fury and frustration before he met up with Hizashi after leaving Mineta to Nedzu forgotten, as he rubbed vainly at his temples, his hands trembling. The telltale signs of an oncoming migraine were there, as slow and inexorable as a freight train, the pain already drilling into his skull, his stomach flipping in nausea, as he winced at the glare of what he knew was soft indoor lighting.

Terrific. Just what he needed. This was a perfect ending to this absolute train wreck of a day.

No, he’d merely lost one still healthy and alive student, to his own stupidity and childishness. A train wreck would have been a villain attack: death, injury, kidnapping.

He stuttered and froze, at the sharp stab of pain under his right eye, like a railroad spike being driven into his brain, fighting to breathe through his crushed nose as an enormous hand wrapped around his arm, twisted and crushed, as the other already grabbing the back of his head, slammed it forward into the concrete one more time. After defeating so many villains single handedly he’d already lost the fight to the monster holding him prisoner.

“You can’t black out, they’ll kill them; you have to save them!” He struggled and fought, forcing his head up, “No! Asui!”, activating his power, keeping the villain covered in hands from disintegrating Asui’s head, the way he’d disintegrated his elbow, but he was still touching her. “Get your filthy hand off her!”

The pain was excruciating, agonizing, paralyzing, unbearable, he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even see through the blood and shattered bone of his face, but if he blinked she was dead, Midoriya and Mineta were dead. “Not my students! Save them, you have to save them, where the hell is All Might, damn it, keep fighting, you have to break free, don’t die, not yet, your kids need you, don’t die, Hizashi, I can’t, I’m sorry, I love you, I’m so sorry.” And then his head was yanked back and slammed down again into the merciless ground, and he drowned in a sea of his own blood, as his brain exploded.

“Why am I still breathing? I’m dead.” He could feel the confining hand wrapped around his waist, his chest, but it wasn’t crushing the life from him, “But that’s not right, it’s my face, and why can I breathe? Open your eyes, the smell is wrong, it’s too quiet; it doesn’t feel big enough to be the USJ. Did they warp you away, or into one of the other areas? My students! Are they still here? Where am I?“

He opened his eyes flaring his power, marveling that he could still see, then shell-shocked, because there was no concrete, only mat-padded floor, and that wasn’t a hand confining him, it was a capture weapon, like his, but gleaming pearlescent white, and there was a purple haired teenager holding the ends of the scarf, he looked both grim and terrified, and vaguely familiar, he was pale as a ghost, except for the macabre bright red blood streaming from his nose, down his chin. He was panting, his whole body was trembling, and Shouta’s erasure power was having no effect against him, other than to split his skull open from the agony of using his power. He blinked and his hair fell, as his power waned.

“Aizawa-sensei please! Your eyes, they look different now, like you’re here… Can you hear me now? Can you see me? Do you recognize me? Answer me, damn it, say something! Come on Sensei, please, can you answer me?” the boy begged.

Recognition belatedly flared and with it horror and humiliation. He’d hurt the student he’d sworn to protect, the one he’d been secretly training, preparing for his rightful place in the Hero course. “Shinsou? Shit. You’re bleedin-,” Shouta replied, and the world vanished.

0 0 0

Hitoshi sat in the Infirmary, his nostrils packed with gauze, because it was impossible to stand. Not because of blood loss, but from shock, reaction, he’d be pacing, but his knees couldn’t hold his weight and he couldn’t stop shaking, as he ran the surreal events of the night through his mind one more time.

When he’d gone to the training room to get in some extra practice time with his capture weapon he’d expected the room to be empty, but though all of Class 1-A and Aizawa-sensei were off campus, he knew 1-B and the other classes were still here. So when he’d heard strange noises, fighting, muffled screams, he’d thought it was someone being bullied, beaten up, and he’d gone to investigate, to help, to be a Hero. He was so stupid! It could have been a villain, an attack, he could have died.

He almost had. Because it was Aizawa-sensei, thrashing around on the ground, his face slamming into the floor, thankfully the padded mat was protecting him, but he was fighting an invisible foe, and he’d tried to help, he’d shot out his capture weapon, to grab whoever it was, but it just fell, there was no one solid to latch onto. It took him agonizing moments to realize there was no one there at all, not even Aizawa-sensei, not his mind, anyway, at least, not intact. Seeing all the lightning quick strategizing and cool calculation suddenly gone was terrifying, even before Aizawa-sensei’s elbow had broken his nose, and maybe cracked his cheek and jaw, when he’d tried to keep him from hurting himself.

“I’ve finished my examination,” Recovery Girl stated, startling him. He hadn’t noticed her approaching.

“Whatever is wrong, it’s not physical. Well, aside from his migraine, which I’ve medicated him for. Those tend to be triggered by stress, and the residual aftereffects of his severe concussion, the trauma from when he received those multiple skull fractures from the attack at the USJ. From what you told me of his actions, I believe he was likely having a flashback from that same incident, but we won’t know more until you release your hold on him, and I honestly don’t want to do that until Hizashi is here, to ground him.”

“Should you really be telling a random student all that? And I know Yamada-sensei is his best friend, but are you sure Aizawa-sensei would want him to see him like this?” Hitoshi asked doubtfully. Because his sensei was a very private man.

She snorted. “You’re hardly a random student, child. In all the years I’ve known him, Shouta never showed any interest in a protégé or sidekick, he’s worked predominantly alone, though Hizashi, or Tensei, or Nemuri would team up with him on occasion. Yet here you are, his protégé, and for all I know, soon to be his sidekick, or partner, perhaps. As for those two, they’ve been thick as thieves since they were your age. Trust me, he needs Hizashi here with him. I just have to look up his number. You’d think I’d have it memorized, by now, with all the trouble Shouta’s had recently,” she grumbled, as she headed over to her desk.

“I’ll call him. Aizawa-sensei gave me his number, as a second emergency contact,” Hitoshi volunteered, needing to feel useful, like he was doing something to help the man who was giving him a future, other than brainwashing him mindless. He felt horrible, doing that to Aizawa-sensei, like he was betraying him, especially after what Recovery Girl just said, but his past victims had all insisted they had no conscious thoughts from the time they were under his control, and right now, they needed to keep his sensei from thinking.

His shaking hands betrayed him, belaying the confidence in his voice, as he dialed the number.

“Hello?” The voice on the other end sounded polite, but cautious, instead of boisterous and exuberant, as he’d expected.

“Yamada-sensei? This is Hitoshi Shinsou, Aizawa-sensei’s additional student? He told me you know about me?” Hitoshi stated, though it sounded more like a question.

“Oh! Shinsou, sure! Shouta’s told me so much about you. Is everything alright? Were you trying to reach him? If he didn’t answer, I know he’s supposed to be out for the evening, but he should actually already be back on campus right now, at least for a little while,” Yamada-sensei supplied helpfully.

“I know. I mean, that’s why I’m calling. It’s not about me. It’s about Aizawa-sensei,” Hitoshi replied.

“What happened? Is he alright?” Yamada-sensei demanded, his voice octaves higher and decibels louder.

“He’s safe, uninjured physically, but I found him in the training room, and Recovery Girl says he needs you, that she thinks he was having a flashback. He was fighting, but there wasn’t an opponent, no one was there, and I had to restrain him before he could hurt himself, but… I needed to use my Quirk, to stop him, to keep him calm enough to get to the Infirmary, and Recovery Girl doesn’t want me to release him without you here,” Hitoshi admitted, hating to have to say it, to have it be true.

“God damn it!” Yamada screeched.

Hitoshi knew Yamada would hate him for using his Quirk on his friend, but he wasn’t ready for the depth of emotion in his voice, or the volume.

“That bastard was training? Tonight? He’s lucky he’s not hurt, yet, because he’s going to be, when I get through with him!” he shrilled threateningly.

Hitoshi’s eyes widened in panic, as he held the phone away from his ringing ear, because that was the last thing he’d expected to hear, Yamada-sensei sounding like one of his old foster parents.

Recovery Girl marched over to him and held out a demanding hand, for his phone. “I’ll handle this.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Hitoshi handed it to her, because Aizawa had given him the phone on the promise he’d take good care of it, and he’d never let anyone touch it before.

“Hizashi Yamada, you’ll do no such thing, and you know it!” Recovery Girl scolded. “Stop being such a drama queen and scaring poor Hitoshi and get over here, now. Shouta needs you. Just because he’s not physically injured doesn’t mean he’s alright. He’s having one of his migraines, though he’s not aware right now. But mostly he needs to see you, when Hitoshi releases his Quirk, so he knows he’s safe. If he recognizes anyone, it will be you.”

“I’m sorry,” Yamada-sensei apologized, so softly he almost didn’t hear it. “I didn’t mean it. You know I’d never do anything to hurt Shouta. I’m on my way. I’m calling Nemuri to cover for me, to watch over his kids, but I’m leaving now. I just hope nothing happens before she gets here. Shouta will never forgive me or himself if it does.”

“From what Nedzu told me, all 20 are together, correct? I’m sure they’ll be fine. They are quite a formidable class,” she assured him.

“Um… 19… but yeah. They should be fine. I hope. I’m on my way. I’ll get there as soon as I can. Please tell Shinsou I’m sorry for yelling like that, and thank him for helping Shouta for me,” Yamada said humbly, apparently not realizing he could hear every word.

“Alright. Be safe, Hizashi,” she told him, and then hung up, handing Hitoshi back his phone, shaking her head in fond exasperation. “Honestly, if I wasn’t already going gray when I met the two of them, and Tensei and Nemuri, they would have made me. Now then, young man, it’s high time I fixed that broken nose of yours, and check you for other injuries, because I’ve seen you testing your jaw, don’t think I haven’t noticed,” she scolded, stepping forwards.

Hitoshi immediately stepped back. “I’m sorry, but you can’t. Not yet. If you use your Quirk to heal me, I’ll lose my concentration on him. But don’t worry about me. It’s not like this is the first time my nose has been broken,” he admitted, trying to reassure her.

She frowned. “That’s hardly comforting to hear. Hitoshi, if you’re being bullied at school, or abused at home, you need to tell me.”

He laughed, and even to his own ears, it sounded a little too wild, too manic.

A look of sadness filled her face. “I swear, you’re exactly like him. No wonder he took you under his wing. I hope you’ve at least learned you can tell Shouta what’s been happening to you. He’ll put a stop to it, you know. No matter who it is, what the circumstances, he’ll keep you safe. You can trust him, with your life.”

“I know, he already has; I already have. I live in the dorms now. I’m safe,” Hitoshi admitted, because Aizawa-sensei was already doing so much for him. He was helping him become emancipated, as well, though his foster parents weren’t aware of it yet. He’d foolishly hoped Aizawa-sensei might volunteer to foster him: he didn’t want to be alone, not if there was someone worth coming home to, but he was just being needy and greedy. What Aizawa-sensei had already done was more than he could have ever dreamed was possible.

“You know, he’s going to hate seeing you injured. I just hope he doesn’t realize he’s the cause,” she said softly.

“He… uh… already saw. And realized,” Hitoshi admitted, rubbing the back of his neck guiltily.

“Oh dear. That poor man just can’t seem to catch a break, can he? Other than all his students still being alive and free, and that’s the most important thing, so he’ll just have to deal with this, the way he’s dealt with all the other curve balls he’s been thrown. We’ll just have to remind him of everyone he’s kept safe.”

“I will,” Hitoshi swore.

When Yamada-sensei finally arrived at the Infirmary, Hitoshi couldn’t help but stare. He hadn’t even recognized him at first: he looked nothing like his Present Mic Pro Hero persona.

His eyes widened when he saw Hitoshi. “What happened to you? Oh no, please tell me Shouta didn’t do that to you,” Yamada-sensei urged so intently, Hitoshi was tempted to lie and say he fell.

Yamada-sensei rounded on Recovery Girl. “Why haven’t you treated him? You can’t let Shouta see him like that, he’ll never forgive himself.”

“I know, I tried to tell him, but he told me Shouta already saw, that he knows,” she said apologetically.

“I need you to tell me the details, Shinsou,” Yamada-sensei ordered.

So he did.

“Alright. Here’s what we’re going to do. Shinsou, you go with Recovery Girl to another room, release Shouta, and let Recovery Girl heal you. I’ll stay in here, and calm Shouta down when he’s released from your Quirk,” Yamada-sensei instructed.

“What if he’s like before, if he doesn’t realize where he is, who you are? He’s dangerous,” Hitoshi argued.

Yamada-sensei barked a humorless laugh. “Honey, I’ve fought alongside Shouta for years; I know all his moves. I can dodge and evade and keep myself safe, if need be. I can even stun him with my Quirk, without permanently damaging his ears, if I have to, but I don’t want to think about what that would do to his migraine, even medicated. I don’t know if he’s told you about them yet, they’re thankfully not too frequent, but when they hit, they hit hard, they’re debilitating, and they’re a bitch to get rid of. But I’ve spilled enough tea.” He turned to Recovery Girl. “Go fix Shinsou up, please. I’ll take care of Shouta.”

“Alright. But be careful, Hizashi. The last thing he needs is guilt from injuring you,” she cautioned.

“Your concern for my continued well being is touching as always, Dear Listener,” he quipped, with a hand to his heart and a whimsical bow.

“Beast. You deserve at least a black eye,” she grumped, as she headed for the door, motioning Hitoshi to follow.

Hitoshi followed at her heels, feeling the control over Aizawa become tenuous as he was out of sight, more so as the door closed and the distance grew, and they walked to an area marked “Intensive Care”, with multiple beds and equipment that looked like it belonged in a hospital, not on a high school campus.

“Sit,” she indicated one of the beds, and he did.

She climbed up onto a step stool and looked him in the eye, then frowned. “Have you released him yet?”

“No. I’m going to do it now. But, um… I should probably warn you, I honestly didn’t think of this before, so it’s not like I was trying to intentionally hide it, or be a martyr or something stupid like that, but well, there’s usually a bit of backlash, when I release people. It’s not something I even realized, until I started training with Aizawa-sensei, and he allowed me to put him under control once, so he could feel what it was like, but also, to test my maximum holding time. I’d never felt the backlash before, but that time it kind of felt like letting go of a rubber band you’re stretching, and letting it snap back and sting your hand. Except it happens inside my brain,” he admitted with a wince, because yeah, that had been pretty horrible. And terrifying.

“The next time I held someone, it was only for a few seconds, and what I felt was so watered down, I wouldn’t have even noticed it, if I hadn’t been actively looking for it.” He looked at his phone and grimaced at the time. “So, um, I just exceeded my maximum time with Aizawa-sensei by a factor of... shit,” he swore, as his hold on Aizawa’s mind abruptly released and the truck hit him.

0 0 0

Shouta snapped awake, feeling disoriented and confused, but instantly assessing his surroundings as he reflexively activated his power, defensively, but not immediately rolling to his feet or attacking, instead releasing it, as he recognized Hizashi’s face hovering over his own, looking worried but not frantic, which was a good sign, as he felt Hizashi’s soft-skinned but strong hand squeeze his own, as he smelled his soothing and reassuring scent. But past his husband’s hair, which was surprisingly down, was an all too familiar ceiling: he instantly recognized the vent access tile with the broken corner that had been over the rightmost Infirmary bed since he’d been a student.

He was about to cautiously test and analyze his physical state, beyond the dull ache in his head, both he and Hizashi had simultaneously opened their mouths to speak, when there was a muffled crash from outside the room.

“Recovery Girl! Are you alright?” Hizashi called, his face creasing in worry, when there was no response.

Shouta rolled off the bed and was at the door faster than Hizashi, flinging it open, scanning the corridor and listening, hearing a muffled cry from the Intensive Care room. He raced to that door, which was open, and saw a body on the floor. No, two bodies, he realized, as he recognized the familiar tiny left arm of Recovery Girl struggling to push Shinsou off of her, who was face down but unmistakable, limp and lifeless looking, completely covering the rest of her and pinning her to the floor.

Panic set in and he momentarily froze, as memory flared, of the training room, being lost in a flashback, becoming aware only to see Shinsou’s anxious bleeding face, he’d attacked him, and he was in Intensive Care, and he wasn’t moving, he must have concussed him, or worse, not just broken his nose, but fractured his skull, he could be dying, was he even breathing? He could be dead.

Hizashi rushed past him and reached down to pull Shinsou off Recovery Girl, who for the first time in his life, looked both frightened and truly furious, as she sat up, as soon as the weight was off her, clutching her right arm and wincing in pain, even as she let go of her arm gently began checking Shinsou for injury, using the diagnostic portion of her Quirk in her left hand.

“What is wrong with all of you? I’m sick and tired of your self-sacrificing nonsense, when it simply isn’t necessary. You do more harm than good. It’s partly my fault, for encouraging him to do it, when he was already injured, but his injuries weren’t serious, and it’s his fault for taking it too far, and yours, Eraserhead, for not warning me about his Quirk’s backlash; there was nothing about it in his medical file.”

Use of his Pro Hero name instead of his given name got him moving again. Recovery Girl never called anyone by anything other than their given names. It was part of her bedside manner, to be motherly, grandmotherly.

“I’m sorry, Recovery Girl-sama, for not immediately updating his file. We only discovered the backlash recently, and were going to report it to you and have you help us run a few more controlled tests, before documenting it. I made certain he understood he wasn’t to use his power in excess until then. But if his injuries weren’t serious, why was he in Intensive Care and not in with me? You haven’t treated his nose, unless he just broke it again, which means his other injuries must have been more severe. Is he going to be alright?” Shouta asked, crouching down beside his student. Shinsou looked terrible, skin ashen, his nose clearly broken, the gauze in his nostrils saturated with his blood.

“He was relatively fine before he shut down his Quirk. Now stop talking. I’m trying to concentrate so I can diagnose him and make certain I was able to keep his head from hitting the floor, even if I did break my own arm trying to ensure we both didn’t end up concussed. I need to make certain his Quirk hasn’t injured his brain. I’m not used to being able to use only one hand, or to being the one injured, and the pain is incredibly distracting. I haven’t been hurt this badly since Yagi accidentally kicked me into the wall when he was a first-year,” Recovery Girl grumbled, but the concern in her face, even as she tried to reassure him, was chilling. Then Recovery Girl held her hand on Shinsou’s head, her eyes closed, as she focused.

Shouta kept silent, dreading her prognosis. Clearly the backlash this time had been severe, possibly catastrophic.

 After an agonizingly long moment, she let out a sigh. “There’s some swelling of his brain, but no tearing of tissue, thankfully, no hemorrhaging. I also seem to have successfully broken his fall from the bed, so he sustained no further damage, other than some minor bruising. His nose is broken, of course, so I need to set and repair that, and there’s a hairline fracture in his jaw and cheekbone as well. But he was healthy before this, no longer malnourished and sleep deprived, as he used to be, he’s put on a significant amount of muscle mass these past few months, thanks to your care, Shouta, so I’ll be able to treat his various injuries simultaneously, instead of concentrating on his brain and waiting to fix his nose and other fractures. He’ll make a full recovery, but he’ll likely sleep for the entire night, and possibly partway into tomorrow.”

“Thank God,” Hizashi said, hugging Shouta.

“Thank you, Recovery Girl-sama,” Shouta intoned, heartfelt, and relieved to hear her using his name again, but he continued to use the honorific. “Your Quirk doesn’t deplete your own health, right? You’ll still be able to fix your broken arm?”

She snorted. “Oh, my Quirk doesn’t work on me. I’m going to need to go to the hospital, get a cast, and endure the annoyance, for a few weeks, just like a civilian. Now be good boys and be quiet, while I heal him,” she encouraged, her voice full of more than her usual fondness, without the familiar exasperation that usually tinted it.

Shouta felt horrible. He’d not only gotten lost in his own head, but both Shinsou and Recovery Girl had been injured because of him.

Hizashi hugged him, he could feel him shaking his head, silently denying the thoughts he knew would be running through his head, but they both knew it was true. He’d messed up, and people had been hurt because of him.

“Alright, he’ll be fine now,” she soothed, as she finished the treatment, removing the bloody gauze from his nose. “The two of you, lift him to that bed for me, will you? I’ll put up the rail, to ensure he doesn’t roll off. I’d like you both to stay with him, until I return from the hospital. I’ll have Snipe or Ectoplasm pick me up here and drive me, I’m certain they won’t mind. And if I could have one of you splint and immobilize my arm for me with bandages? Don’t try to set it, it’s possible I have a spiral or complex fracture, I’d rather have it X-rayed instead of trying anything too fancy.”

She instructed them as to where to find the supplies they’d need.

“Let Shouta do it,” she urged, and he carefully and gently began the familiar first aid treatment he’d used dozens of times in the field.

He heard Hizashi call Snipe and explain the situation, as she looked at him intently, as he worked. “Stop blaming yourself, Shouta. It’s not your fault you were hurt so terribly, and have flashbacks because of it. And it’s not your fault Shinsou helped you. He’s training under you to be a Hero, after all, and that’s what Heroes do. I’m certain it was because of that training he was able to subdue you with relatively little injury. You did manage to take down six dozen villains single-handedly, remember? You’ve clearly taught the boy well, if he was able to hold his own against you. And as for me, I could have told him to lie down right off the bat, so it’s my fault as much as anyone’s that he was sitting when he passed out and toppled over onto me.

“Hizashi, you make sure he doesn’t start spiraling, that’s why I’m leaving you with him, instead of having you drive me. And for goodness sake, the two of you need to take a weekend off and properly celebrate your anniversary. You both need the rest and you deserve some happy memories, for once.”

“Thank you. I don’t want to worry you, so I’ll try,” Shouta said softly. “And Hizashi, I already got Nedzu to agree to give us four days off two weeks from now, Friday through Monday, so we can celebrate properly. I’m sorry tonight was such a disaster,” Shouta admitted, in front of Recovery Girl, so she’d know he wasn’t entirely hopeless, as he finished wrapping her arm.

“Good. I’m glad to hear that,” she said, giving him a gentle pat with her left hand. “And be sure to take additional pills for your migraine, in five hours, if it hasn’t stopped, I’ve already medicated you. Don’t you dare go thinking you deserve the pain and suffering and keep from taking them. I’ll not have you backsliding on my watch,” she warned him.

“I won’t, Recovery Girl-sama. Thank you, for putting up with me all these years. I know I haven’t been the best patient,” he admitted humbly.

“Nonsense. You’ve always been a good boy, Shouta, and you’re a fine man. Don’t ever think otherwise. I know you don’t want to leave Hitoshi, and you shouldn’t, until he wakes up, but do try to get some sleep. We do have three other beds in here, after all.”

“I’ll make sure he gets some sleep,” Hizashi foolishly assured her. Because they both knew he wouldn’t be sleeping until Shinsou woke up and he saw he was alright. And likely not for a few nights afterwards.

Chapter Text

Hitoshi awoke to the sound of gentle snoring, and the uncomfortable and unfamiliar feeling of a hand in his own. He yanked his hand away, hating being touched; the thought of being touched in his sleep made his skin crawl and heart hammer, as he scrambled to get away.

“Hitoshi, calm down, it’s alright, you’re safe, you’re at UA, it’s only me,” Aizawa-sensei’s sonorous voice unexpectedly soothed, the previously offending hand up and out, his other arm wrapped protectively and supportively around the blond-haired man who was slumped against him, sound asleep.

“Aizawa-sensei? What…? Oh! You’re alright,” he said, the tension and fear draining from him, as relief flooded him. He hadn’t been in that foster home in years, and he’d thankfully successfully fought them off and run away before anything too terrible had happened to him. The resulting investigation had gotten them shut down and jailed, where they belonged, and his foster siblings into counseling. And had sent him back into the system.

In his next placement, they forgot to feed him more often than not, and locked him in his room at night, which was a safety hazard, but at least they didn’t touch him or hit him there, and he didn’t have to share a room with half a dozen other kids either. But they of course still forced him to sign instead of speaking, like in all the other homes, because his Quirk only worked with verbal questions.

The tension was back, with a vengeance, his heart in his throat, as he remembered what he’d done: he’d used his power on Aizawa-sensei, without permission. He bowed, from his half seated position on what was apparently a bed in the infirmary, from what he’d seen. “I’m sorry, for using my power on you, without your permission, but I swear it was only to protect you, to keep you from hurting yourself, and because I needed to get you to Recovery Girl.”

“Hitoshi, that’s fine. I’m not angry with you for using your power on me. Thank you for trying to protect me from myself. I am upset that you were so concerned about me that you injured yourself by overusing your Quirk, but thankfully Recovery Girl was able to treat you. We’ll discuss that later, after I’m back from class. How do you feel? Your head, nose, cheek and jaw? You’re alright? I didn’t hurt you anywhere else, your power didn’t?”

“I feel fine. Kind of tired, though, groggy, even though it sort of feels like I’ve been asleep for awhile. What time is it?” he asked, even as he belatedly realized Aizawa-sensei had called him by his given name, twice. He’d never done that before. No one but Recovery Girl had used his given name; he hadn’t heard anyone say it in years. He felt tears of relief burn his eyes. Aizawa-sensei wouldn’t call him that if he hated him, or was afraid of him, if he was going to stop training him or get him kicked out of school.

“That’s only natural, after one of Recovery Girl’s treatments. It’s 5 am. Your internal clock is apparently well trained enough to wake without your alarm, but you’re not going to be going for a run this morning, or going to school today. I’ll inform your homeroom teacher. Hizashi and I will walk you to your dorm room. I want you to take it easy and get more sleep today. No studying, either, as well as training, not until this afternoon, at least,” Aizawa-sensei ordered.

“Yes, Sensei,” he said obediently, too relieved to even think of arguing.

“Are you sure you’re alright? I told you, I’m not angry with you. This isn’t a punishment, it’s just to be sure you’re alright,” Aizawa-sensei explained.

“I know, Sensei. I understand, I’m fine,” Hitoshi agreed, wondering why he was so concerned.

“You don’t usually acquiesce to things you don’t like without a fight. Not that you’re disrespectful – well, not to me, anyway, not to someone you do actually respect – but you’re usually comfortable enough now that you protest when you object,” he said, concerned.

Hitoshi smiled. “It’s because I know that whatever happened because of my Quirk must have been pretty serious, for it to upset you so much that you and Yamada-sensei spent the night here with me. Do I need to check in with Recovery Girl before leaving? I don’t want her to think I snuck out,” he admitted.

“That won’t be necessary. She knows Hizashi and I are taking care of you,” Aizawai-sensei replied.

Hitoshi fought a frown. There was the slightest hesitation before his response, something someone who wasn’t intimately familiar with him would have even noticed, his facial expression didn’t betray a thing, but something was wrong. But he wasn’t about to press, not now, when so far everything had been going so much better than he’d feared. He’s ask later, when they spoke about his Quirk’s backlash, and whatever else his Sensei wanted to speak about.

0 0 0

It had been hard waking Hizashi, he always got exhausted whenever he got so emotionally worked up, and last night had been a mess. And Hitoshi had seen him with his arm around Hizashi, but there was nothing he could do about that. He possibly already had his suspicions, from how close the two of them were. Hizashi was a very tactile person by nature, but Hitoshi knew Shouta didn’t normally allow anyone to touch him.

The memory of the terror in Hitoshi’s eyes when he’d scrambled away from him on the bed had him burning with quiet fury. He was going to talk to him about it later, find out if his reaction was just from the things he’d already read in his file, or whether there was something worse that had happened to him, in one of his foster homes, before he’d gotten him set up in the campus dorm.  

As soon as they saw Hitoshi safely to his room, he escorted Hizashi to the exit, so his husband could go home and change quickly, before school started. Even if he didn’t have time to style his hair, and just wore it in a ponytail, the last thing they wanted was for his kids to see him wearing the clothes he’d been in last night, and jump to a correct conclusion for an erroneous reason. They kept their relationship secret for a number of reasons.

At least it was early enough that he’d be able to speak to Nedzu at length, before class, to confirm Mineta was permanently gone, and find out how the expulsion went. If there were any pending lawsuits on the horizon, he needed to know about them, so he could alert his attorney, Hashira-san.

0 0 0

“Good morning, Izuku, honey. I’m not interrupting your run this time, am I?” Inko asked, purposefully calling him later than she had yesterday, eager for the chance to speak to her son.

“No, but sorry, I can’t talk right now, mom. I need to hop in the shower and then get ready for school,” Izuku said, sounding rushed.

“Oh, of course! I’m sorry, I don’t mean to throw off your schedule. You have a good day, honey. I’ll talk to you tonight, when you have more time, and you can let me know when is the best time in the morning to call: it sounds like you’ve changed your exercise routine again. Stay safe. I love you.”

“Love you too, mom. Bye!”

Inko waited until Izuku disconnected the call, in case he had anything else to say, because he did that, so many times, he’d call out, “No, wait,” and tell her one final thing. Or two. Or twenty. But this time, he was really gone immediately.

She sighed, disappointed, and set her phone down on the table, watching it, just in case he called back. “A watched phone never rings, Inko,” she chided herself, paraphrasing the old saying. “Now this won’t due at all. I know it’s hard, Izuku living in the dorms, but he’s so proud, and happy, you know it’s for the best. Besides, All Might said he’s safer there, and that’s all that really matters. What you need is to take a nice walk in the park. It’s a beautiful day, and getting out and being with people will do you good.”

She went into her bedroom and looked in the mirror, and frowned, then went to her dresser and got out the hair ornament Izuku had made for her, in kindergarten. It seemed like only yesterday, but it also seemed so very long ago. She brushed her fingertips against the leaves lovingly, and carefully set it in her hair, admiring it in the mirror, to make sure it was showing to best advantage. Then she got her special matching birthday sweater out, because it might feel chilly, under the trees, and put it on, smiling, but sniffing too, rubbing her eyes. “If you’re going to start crying over a sweater, Inko, you definitely need some fresh air and sunshine. A walk will do you good,” she both admonished and encouraged herself.

She put on her comfortable walking shoes and left the house, carefully locking up behind her, and then resolutely headed for the park. It was only five blocks from their house, and had the most wonderful playground. She used to go there with Izuku all the time, when he was little.

Inko bit her lip as she walked towards the park. Perhaps this wasn’t a good idea. It might only serve to make her more melancholy and emotional. But she continued on in determination, and then the sight of the trees and grass had her spirits lifting. She hurried forwards eagerly, and reached one of the many entrances to the park.

It wasn’t crowded at all, because most people were working, and the children were all in school, except for the really tiny ones. Just the thought of seeing toddlers had her quickening her pace, automatically heading for the playground, in spite of her earlier reservations. Because seeing children playing, hearing them laughing and squealing in delight, was the most wonderful thing in the world, next to her own son’s sunny smile.

Inko hurried down the path, starting to feel a little winded, and frowned. “You definitely need to get out more and get some exercise. There’s nothing wrong with putting on a little weight, but there is if you can’t even walk without getting out of breath. This is only five blocks, you used to jog five kilometers every morning and evening, before he was born. Just because your old jogging suit doesn’t fit is no excuse. You’ve been putting off buying a new one long enough. As soon as you’re done here, you’re going shopping.”

She heard the sequestered playground, just before she saw it, the squeals and laughter of tiny happy children playing. She broke through the trees, and there it was. There were at least a dozen toddlers, playing on the brightly colored metal equipment, and a handful of others digging in the sand with little plastic pails and shovels and strainers. ‘Looking for buried treasure’, little Katsuki used to call it, back when he was Izuku’s best friend. There were no little heads of wild, blond hair today, but there was a little yellow rodent faced girl happily playing with a blue bipedal pachyderm child, the two most exotic looking children.

Inko turned to look for an empty bench, so she could sit and watch, and frowned, puzzled, when she smelled the distinctive scent of wood smoke. People weren’t supposed to grill near the playground, the picnic tables were near the pond and…

She turned around, looking for the source of the smoke, just in time to see an older boy, in a middle school uniform, burst from the trees, running as if an Oni was on his heels. Inko immediately started heading for him, because he looked so afraid, and if he was being chase by bullies, she’d give them a piece of her mind! But then an enormous, hulking, monster burst from the trees from behind the boy, flames enveloping him and shooting meters into the air, and parents and toddlers started screaming, the former snatching up their children and fleeing in terror.

“Don’t you hurt them!” Inko cried, terrified and infuriated, her Quirk instinctively activating and hands flying out to direct it as a shower of sand flew for the flaming villain’s face without conscious thought, her body just moved, as she desperately tried to blind him, just long enough for everyone to escape, because these were children, this was a playground, they were supposed to be safe here.

Her feeble attack worked far better than she could have hoped, her Quirk given greater power by the adrenaline fueling it, the villain cursing, coughing and choking, stumbling and lurching, as his hands flew to his eyes, even as the sand melted to glowing orange molten glass everywhere his feet touched, his own forward momentum his undoing as his foot caught on the very end of one of the metal climbing structures, and he tripped, landing on his hands and knees, a broad, blue back over a growing puddle of glowing molten glass, though the flames had lowered, considerably.

She turned towards the middle school boy, to make sure he was safe, that he’d gotten away, and froze. The boy was still there, only a few meters from them, but his look of fear had turned into one of malicious glee, as he laughed, and there was a gun in his hand, pointed at the flaming man. Belatedly, the meaning of the blue costume and flames registered., and Inko realized she’d made a horrible mistake. She’d attacked a Hero, not a villain, that was Endeavor, but he looked nothing like he did on TV, he was huge and terrifying, and his flames had been everywhere.

“That’s a real gun, isn’t it?” she asked quietly, amazed by how calm her voice sounded, when her heart was pounding and her knees were shaking, as she stumbled between the boy and Endeavor, because she had to at least try to fix this, to warn and protect Endeavor, because he was momentarily blinded and on the ground, vulnerable because of her.

“Why?” she begged. Why are you a villain, when you’re so young? Why did I try to save you? Why am I going to die? I’m so sorry, Izuku.

She was slammed forward onto the ground as she felt a blast of heat, even as she heard a terrifying bang. She realized the sleeve of her sweater was on fire, and she rubbed it frantically into the sand, extinguishing it, pointlessly, because she’d been shot, she was dying. Only nothing hurt. Why did I fall forward, instead of back?

She looked towards the boy with the gun in confusion. He was on the ground, lying still, his nose mashed in and bleeding, Endeavor towering over him, coughing, the gun a half melted puddle of slag in a blackened and bloody hand, she smelled the sickly stench of cooked meat and fought not to lose her breakfast. But even as she watched, Endeavor staggered, as if the ground suddenly shifted beneath his feet, and he fell to his knees. For a moment, Inko was terrified that the boy was still conscious, that he had some sort of Seismic Quirk, until she realized the ground wasn’t moving, but Endeavor was still coughing, it sounded like he was choking, and there was a growing wet splotch of red darkening the Hero’s left bicep.

Inko’s eyes widened in horror, as she awkwardly pushed off the ground and rushed over to him. “He shot you. You pushed me out of the way, and he shot you instead. When I felt the fire, I thought you’d killed him, but it’s only his hand, you aimed for the gun, and you’re bleeding.”

“Of course. What… kind of Hero… lets a villain… shoot a civilian? Even an… idiotic meddling one,” Endeavor scoffed disdainfully, as he lurched to his feet, but he was coughing and wheezing as he spoke; he seemed unable to catch his breath, or to breathe properly.

Inko pulled off her ruined sweater, frowning, not at his criticism, because she deserved that, didn’t she? But because the sand shouldn’t still be bothering him that much, should it, and he was bleeding and shouldn’t be standing, now that the danger was past. “Stop trying to stand. Use this. We need to put pressure on that wound.”

Her eyes widened as she saw the dark blood gurgling alarmingly from the hole in his sleeve. “Oh my. That won’t be enough, will it? The bullet must have hit a vein. We need to make a tourniquet.”

She took off her belt and the sturdy wooden hair ornament, knowing this was going to damage it, probably ruin it completely, but she couldn’t care about that, it didn’t matter, not when Endeavor was bleeding, when he could even die, because of her.

Endeavor watched her warily, as he continued breathing raggedly, and coughing, but allowed her to get close, even lowering the flames that encircled his body, tamping them down entirely on the left side. She looped the belt around his arm, and the wooden hair ornament and started twisting it to tighten it, struggling to compress his bulging muscle.

“That’s not… tight enough. I can… do it myself,” he snapped rudely pushing her hand away and giving the belt a vicious twist, the muscles in his right forearm bulging, as he compressed his left bicep.

“Fine,” she snapped back, reaching into her purse for her phone, because they needed ambulances, and the police.

She gasped as he let go of the tourniquet and his flaming palm pointed threateningly at her face.

“What are you doing?” he demanded suspiciously, the cough at the end not lessening the threat at all.

“Oh! I’m sorry. I should have… It’s just my phone. I’m going to call the police, and ambulances,” she replied, trying to sound reassuring and soothing, as her heart raced.

“Pull it out slowly,” he demanded, and she did, as he watched her like a hawk, the fire dying out the moment he saw her phone in her hand, that she was truly dialing for help. He reached down and retrieved the hair ornament, though he kept a wary eye on her the whole time, and looped it back in and began twisting it again, stubbornly and self sufficiently.

“You saved my life. How could you think I’d want to harm you for that?” she asked, as the phone rang.

“You attacked me… once already, and you were… helping a villain escape,” Endeavor grumbled, his voice rough and gravelly.

She wondered if he always sounded like that, or if it was because of the sand.

Simultaneously, a voice on the phone stated , “Emergency services. Please state your name, location, and the nature of your emergency.”

“This is Inko Midoriya. We’re in the playground in Sunset Park, near the entrance off of Willow Street. We need the police and two ambulances, Endeavor has been shot, he’s having trouble breathing and is bleeding badly, but we’ve applied a tourniquet, and there’s an injured and unconscious villain.”

There was a soft gasp from the phone and a sudden flurry of sound. “We’re on the way. Is Endeavor conscious? Are you in a safe location? Are there any other villains endangering you?”

Endeavor glared at her, and she got the impression he would have taken the phone from her, if he wasn’t holding the tourniquet. “Midoriya? You’re related to… Izuku Midoriya at UA, aren’t you? It’s clear where… that boy gets… his propensity to meddle… in things that don’t concern him.”

“I’m sure you heard him, he’s conscious. Since I’m with Endeavor, and he’s the #1 Pro Hero, I couldn’t be safer. And there aren’t any other villains here,” Inko assured them, hoping to appease him with her words, as well reassure the dispatcher.

Endeavor snorted. “Except for you. They need to… arrest you, too… for illegal Quirk use… assaulting and obstructing… a Hero, and aiding… and abetting… an escaped villain.”

“Did I really do all that? Oh my goodness. What’s Izuku going to think? All those times I scolded him for doing something reckless and dangerous and getting hurt and… oh my. My arm is burned,” Inko said, looking in surprise at the reddened skin through the hole burnt in her blouse.

Endeavor frowned. “You were in danger… and too close… He would have hit you.” He sounded more accusatory than apologetic.

“Well, I’m not a trained and licensed Hero, so… so I shouldn’t have interfered in the first place. I made a mistake. I acknowledge that. But you were chasing and attacking a child, he’s only a middle schooler, only a few years younger than my Izuku. I know he had a gun, but what could he possibly have done?”

“He’s Mustard… part of the… League of Villains… he attacked your son’s… Training Camp. He gassed a number of students… hospitalized them… almost killed them… and shot a boy… your son’s age… multiple times… in the head. Without his Quirk… he would have died,” Endeavor told her.

Inko’s eyes widened. “He’s that boy? Part of that awful League of Villains that hurt everyone and kidnapped Katsuki? No wonder you’re having trouble breathing! He used his Quirk on you, didn’t he? You should have said something! I thought it was just the sand I attacked you with, that perhaps it turned into tiny beads of molten glass in your trachea, your lungs, because of your power, but it’s his gas, isn’t it?”

“I held… my breath... It didn’t… do much damage. You know… Katsuki Bakugo?”

Just like Katsuki, trying to look strong, instead of admitting he’s hurt. Fine, I know how to handle him, now. He shouldn’t be talking, so the more I say, the more he’ll stay quiet.

 “Of course! He and Izuku were best friends, until Katsuki’s Quirk manifested and my son’s didn’t. After that, he… well, I’ll just say that they grew apart. But recently, Izuku smiles when speaking about Katsuki again, instead of looking sad, and lost, and hurt, like he used to.

“As a father, you must know how that feels, seeing your son smile. That’s how I keep my optimism. As long as my Izuku smiles, I know that the world is still a good place, that people are good overall, that Heroes will always triumph over villains, and good people over bullies, and mean people. I know everyone isn’t good. We wouldn’t even have the concept of good, if it wasn’t for evil. Some people are just born wrong, their brains are missing something. But most people learn to be cruel. We teach them that: their families, neighbors, strangers, classmates, even teachers sometimes.

“If that school uniform is actually that boy’s villain costume, then he’s making a statement, sending a message: he’s wearing it for a reason. He was probably bullied in school, maybe even ridiculed by his teachers, like my Izuku, by people whose job it is to nurture and protect him. And his parents must have failed him somehow too, by not noticing, or caring, or acting to change things, maybe even being cruel to him, like I was to my son.”

Endeavor had been looking more and more pensive as she spoke, his brow furrowing.

She knew that as both a Pro Hero and father, Endeavor would know all that, and she couldn’t imagine anyone ever bullying his son, Shouto, not with such a powerful pair of Quirks of his own, and well-known Hero for a father.

“Tch. Look at you… making excuses and empathizing… with the villain who… helped attack him. How were you… ever cruel to your son?” Endeavor scoffed challengingly, but looking at her intently, too, as if truly wanting to hear her answer.

She was honestly surprised by what an acerbic personality he had for a Hero, even if he also clearly had a sardonic sense of humor, from some of the things he’d been saying earlier. She wondered who might have failed him or hurt him in the past, that he sounded like that.

“I… oh, thank goodness! They’re finally here,” Inko stated in relief, as three police cars followed by an ambulance and two additional police cars and another two more ambulances all came driving in single file up the walking trail she had taken to the playground.

Things happened very quickly after that, as the three of them were separated, and her identity confirmed as Inko Midoriya, the one who had called in the attack. Endeavor had been quickly ushered to an ambulance, coughing and limping badly, and she realized guiltily the limp was her fault, too: he’d slammed into the play structure because she’d temporarily blinded him. He was loaded into an ambulance which left immediately, the police not even questioning him at all, as both she and the still unconscious villain were surrounded by police.

She was reassured when they snapped Quirk suppression cuffs on his hands and feet, before loading him into the second ambulance with two policemen as guards, but confused when they escorted her to the remaining ambulance, until she belated remembered her arm had been burned. She honestly didn’t feel any pain, which she realized must mean she was in shock, although the burn wasn’t really bad at all.

She was startled when they put Quirk suppression cuffs around her wrists and ankles as well, thinking at first it was in case she lost control of her Quirk, due to pain, which was silly, really, considering how harmless her relatively minor power was. Although, I did temporarily disable the #1 Hero with it. Just wait until I tell Izuku! Only he’ll probably be proud of me, instead of mortified, like he should be. Maybe Endeavor should wear goggles, like Eraserhead, so he’s not vulnerable to a villain targeting his eyes, the way I did.

Her eyes widened as a pair of stern faced police officers entered the ambulance with her, and one of them began reading her rights, and then she remembered what Endeavor had said. She’d used her Quirk illegally, attacked him, and aided an escaping villain. Then they searched her for weapons and confiscated her phone.

Oh my goodness. I’m under arrest. I’m a villain.

Chapter Text

“Something’s going on,” Midoriya confided to Shouto, as they headed from the dorm to their homeroom. “Aizawa-sensei sent us that abrupt text this morning, way earlier than I’d expect him to be up, it was just a little after 5:30 AM, about Mineta being expelled, instead of telling us in person, in class, and when I saw him on the way to my morning run, he was hyper-focused, he looked angry, and the only time we’ve ever seen him like that is before, during and after a villain attack. I don’t think it was just Mineta that has him that wired. I think there’s been some League of Villains activity they’re not telling us about.”

“Dude, don’t say stuff like that! You’ll jinx us. Every day, lately, has been before, after or during an attack,” Kaminari complained, coming up behind them, Kirishima and Bakugo in tow.

 “It might have been something else. It could be something personal. Maybe he ended up missing his big dinner last night, because of Mineta, and Yamada-sensei’s angry with him or something. Did you ask him whether something was wrong?” Uraraka pressed, obviously overhearing.  

“Wouldn’t they have made an announcement? Or cancelled class? There wasn’t anything on the news this morning about a villain attack,” Shouto reasoned, finally able to get a word in edgewise.

 “Let them attack. I’ll blow their fucking faces off,” Bakugo threatened, setting off a few low level explosions as an audible exclamation point.

“Whoa there, Blasty. If the teachers are already on edge, hearing you set off explosions is going to freak them out, don’tcha think?” Kirishima commented, bumping him with his shoulder.

“Whatever. Quit crowding me, Shitty Hair,” Bakugo grumbled, but he didn’t move away, and his hands stopped sparking.

Shouto noticed Kirishima’s hand was open, palm outwards, towards Bakugo’s, though he didn’t do more than that, and Bakugo made no movement to take the hand that was being subtly offered. He also noticed that Ashido and Asui were approaching from the right, Tokoyami and Shouji from the left, and Tenya and Ojiro had dropped back. Bakugo’s explosions had become a Siren call for Class 1-A, in times of potential danger, as they instinctively, consciously and subconsciously, drew in to encircle him.

“I think Midoriya’s right. I saw Vlad King and Ectoplasm both walking with TetsuTetsu and Kendo this morning. And TetsuTetsu was in his metal form. So if something is going on, it looks like Class 1-B is involved too,” Hagakure piped up, making a few of them jump, and Kirishima momentarily harden, until he recognized her voice, because she was in stealth mode, sans uniform.

“Hagakure, we’ve talked about this,” Ojiro scolded.

“Yeah, yeah, don’t walk around naked, I know, but I can’t be stealthy when I’m dressed, not until Support comes up with an invisible or light refracting material, anyway. And you’re not supposed to look, remember?” she challenged.

Ojiro blushed.

“If something’s up with my bro, he’d text me,” Kirishima insisted, with a concerned frown, as he looked down at his phone, and sent off a quick text of his own, clearly to TetsuTetsu.

“That idiot’s fine. He’s freaking bulletproof, remember?” Bakugo reminded Kirishima.

“Yeah, you’re right. He’s a lot tougher than I am,” Kirishima agreed, but he didn’t sound very convinced.

“Bullshit. Are you forgetting who won against who in the Sports Festival? You’re way stronger than that metal guy, you idiot. You could kick his rusty ass any day, but they couldn’t kick his. So have some of that damn manly pride you’re always bitching to me about,” Bakugo scolded, even as he subtly took the hand that was offered, and gave it what looked like a reassuring squeeze.

“Yeah, I will. I mean, I do. I mean, yeah, we’re both really strong,” Kirishima conceded, sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck, and squeezing his hand back.

Shouto heard a nearly silent squeal from Uraraka, as she stepped behind Asui for cover and stealthily took a couple of pictures of Bakugo and Kirishima holding hands.

“I’m sure everything’s fine,” Ashido chimed in, most likely to distract them from Uraraka’s photo op.  “Aizawa-sensei wouldn’t keep us in the dark, if we were in danger.”

0 0 0

Shouta glared at Principal Nedzu, his patience gone, the past and present respect he had for the unique creature be damned. He’d thought all he’d be dealing with this morning was the blow by blow of Mineta’s expulsion. The last thing he’d expected was this. “I don’t care if there’s a news blackout, if they don’t want the general public to know what’s happened. My students aren’t run-of-the-mill civilians. They deserve to know that the League of Villains is becoming active again, especially since they’re the ones who will likely be targeted.”

He was done talking. The thought of his students being attacked again, on campus, after the USJ, the mall, the summer Training Camp, Kamino, had him itching to race back to the dorm, to corral them there and ensure they were safe, even though he knew he couldn’t truly protect them, not from that teleporter and the others. This time, someone could be taken and lost forever; his entire class could be killed.

He yanked open the door and exited the office, slamming it behind him, having neither the time nor patience to deal with Nedzu’s slow, deliberate, infuriating arguments as to why it was a good idea to hide from his kids that Mustard, one of the deadliest villains who had attacked them, had escaped, that he’d probably had help, which meant the League had a plan, and could be coming after them again.

He headed down the hall at a half run, barely avoiding knocking Hizashi down, as he barreled around the corner, steadying him with his capture scarf, even as he shoved him out of his way with it.

“Whoa, Shouta, what’s wrong?” Hizashi asked, alarmed.

“Ask Nedzu,” he snapped, releasing his scarf, and he kept going, because his kids didn’t know the danger was worse than usual. He cursed when he heard multiple voices in the halls up ahead, realizing Nedzu had successfully detained him, that school was about to start. He continued running, darting between students and faculty. Some of his kids, like Iida, Ojiro and probably Uraraka would be in the classroom already, while ones like Midoriya, Bakugo and Kirishima and most of the others would be on the way, while Kaminari, Ashido, Sero and Hagakure would likely still be at the dorm.

His heart almost stopped when he reached his classroom, cautiously opened the door, and found it strangely deserted, because some of his kids should already be there.

Screw Nedzu, Endeavor, the police and the politicians, and their insistence on secrecy. He typed a group text. Red Alert, activate squads, head to class. He took some small comfort in knowing that his class would immediately form protection squads up around Bakugo, Tokoyami and Midoriya, the three known targets of the League. Red Alert meant potential villain attack, they’d know this wasn’t a drill. Ultraviolet Alert meant imminent villain attack. Blackout was worse: it meant villain attack in progress. He’d hoped he’d never have to use any of them, particularly the last two.

He hesitated only a moment before typing a second message, a private one, to Shinsou. Red Alert, if you’re still awake, forget what I said about resting in your room, go to class, be ready to help, stay safe. He felt marginally better, after sending it. Shinsou was his secret weapon, his ace in the hole. Neither his class nor his fellow teachers knew he’d been secretly training him. Only Hizashi, Recovery Girl and Nedzu knew.

Shouta manually activated the emergency metal shutters to cover the windows in the classroom. He felt the driving need to go out onto the grounds, to at least meet his students at the entrance to the building, but they could be coming from one of four different doors, and up four different stairwells, and if he left the classroom unguarded, they could all be ambushed, and he could hear Hizashi’s voice in his head telling him he was being paranoid, that he was overreacting, as he rubbed the aching bone under the scar under his right eye, and dry swallowed three more of his prescription migraine pills, because the damned thing still wasn’t gone, and he couldn’t afford to be distracted, or out of commission entirely.

He scanned his phone for both new messages and check-in texts from his students, a quick “k” from each of them, short for OK, something fast and non-distracting, so they could stay on alert, aware of their surroundings, but let him know they were alive, unhurt. He was relieved to see a number of them already, with others appearing as he watched: Iida, Uraraka, Asui, Midoriya, Todoroki, Bakugo, Kirishima, Shinsou, Shouji, Tokoyami. His eyes scanned the list, counting as he went, even as he wondered what had delayed his usual early arrivers.

He started cursing when the number stuck at 19, including Shinsou, when there should have been 20. He scanned the list again for the missing name. “Kaminari, you slacker, you’d better have just hit your snooze alarm one too many times.”

He started to type a follow-up text and then froze, when Bakugo sent a message, prepared for the worst, until he read it in relief. Stupid Pikachu’s fine too, he just fried his fucking phone again.

“k” he typed back. Message received and understood. He’d forgive Bakugo for the long message, because he’d needed to convey enough to explain, and Bakugo was surprisingly perceptive and attuned to others’ mental states, he just tended to either ignore them, or take advantage of them, usually. He’d have known the momentary radio silence would have had him assuming the worst, but his words had been grounding.

Less than a minute later, his kids began funneling into the classroom, not taking their seats, but instead forming a defensive perimeter around the entire outer edge of the room. As soon as all 19 were inside, he closed and bolted the door shut, well aware that neither the shutters nor door would matter against Kurogiri’s warp Quirk. He turned to his class. All eyes were on him.

“Mustard escaped earlier this morning,” he stated bluntly.

He heard a gasp, and Jirou and Hagakure, the two he’d nearly killed with his gas, embraced arms, in a mutual show of support.

“I don’t have any details, I don’t know if he was in Tartarus or in transit for some reason. Principal Nedzu, Endeavor, the police and the politicians didn’t want you to know about it, there’s a complete media blackout on the story, and I was forbidden to say anything, but I don’t care. We don’t know how he got away, if it was on his own or with outside help, whether it was an orchestrated move by the League, and they’re planning on freeing the others, whether they’re about to launch an attack. But I’ll be damned I was just going to sit here calmly teaching class, without you knowing you could be in a heightened level of danger.”

“So what do we do, Sensei?” Yaoyorozu asked.

“We stay on our guard, but we do our best to have class anyway. Whatever is going on might take days until it affects us, if at all. But I needed you to be informed and to take rational precautions. We’ve been surprised too many times by the League. Forewarned is forearmed,” he stated grimly.

“Come on! You don’t seriously expect us to be able to concentrate on our lessons after all this, do you?” Kirishima challenged.

“I expect you to at least try,” Shouta snapped back acidly, regretting it instantly, when Kirishima actually flinched.

He rubbed the bridge of his nose, willing the pain in his head to stay manageable. “Sorry. I had a bad night and morning, but that’s not your fault. Take your seats, everyone. Let’s review emergency evacuation procedures, in case it becomes necessary, and so we’re not all just staring at the walls, waiting for an attack.”

Perhaps Nedzu had a point after all. So far all he’d done was upset his kids. But still, they were aware, and they might be at least marginally safer because of it. Damn it. The lack of sleep and tension from the night before and morning were clouding his thought processes, and the lingering, throbbing migraine wasn’t helping, making the logical courses of action muddied and unclear. He hoped Recovery Girl had made it back to campus, at least. They’d need her here, if there was an attack, injuries.

Nearly the entire class jumped at the knock on the door, he saw half a dozen Quirks activate, his nearly joining them.

“Calm down. I doubt the villains would simply knock,” he chastised, even as he approached the door cautiously.

“Who’s there?” he asked.

“It’s me, Present Mic. I need to speak with you,” Hizashi urged.

Damn it. On the best of days, interrupting class for personal business wasn’t acceptable. Today it was worse. “Not now, Mic. After class.”

“Now, Eraser. This is school business; I have an important message for you, from Nedzu. It’s about one of your students,” Hizashi insisted, letting him know it wasn’t about them.

Shouta’s stomach sank. Shit. Shinsou, it had to be him. Hizashi wouldn’t call Mineta a student, he’d call him a former student, and all the others were here.

He opened the door, cautiously, just in case, but it was truly Hizashi. He slipped into the hallway.
“What happened to Shinsou?” he demanded.

“Nothing. It’s not about him,” Hizashi explained, but from how upset he looked, he knew that whatever it was, it was bad.

0 0 0

Shouto leapt from his seat and headed for the door, the moment it closed, and he wasn’t the only one.

“Todoroki, Midoriya, Kaminari, Jirou, get back in your seats this instant,” Iida demanded, outraged.

“Quiet, we’re trying to hear,” Kaminari snapped back, as he pressed his ear against the crack in the door, along with Midoriya and Shouto, while Jirou used her jacks.

Shouto was frustrated by how well insulated the door was, he could only make out a few random words. He likely wouldn’t have been able to hear a thing, if Present Mic hadn’t been the one speaking. But at the next few, his heart started to pound, his blood both freezing and blazing: “… morning… mother… attacked... hospital.”

“It could be a villain attack, someone else’s mother,” he tried to convince himself, even as he yanked open the door, desperate to learn the truth, pushing past Midoriya and Kaminari, in time to clearly hear Present Mic say the words he’d dreaded hearing his entire life, “Endeavor burned her”.

Aizawa-sensei spun around, he looked like he was going to order them back inside, but he stopped, when he saw who was in the doorway, a horrible look of sympathy on his face, confirming Shouto’s worst fears.

“What did that bastard do to her? Is my mother still alive?” Shouto demanded, as both ice and flame fought to escape his control.

The look of shock and confusion on Yamada-sensei’s face would have been comical, in other circumstances, but Aizawa-sensei’s face had grown thoughtful, and grim.

“This isn’t how you should have heard. Kaminari, Jirou, get back to your seats. Iida, Yaoyorozu, you’re in charge as Class Reps. I expect you to keep them there. Midoriya, Todoroki, we need to speak to the two of you, in private, the Teacher’s Lounge, now,” Aizawa-sensei ordered.

Shouto felt a tentative hand touch his right shoulder, from behind. “You need to stay calm, Todoroki, and hear what they have to say. We won’t let Endeavor get away with this. He can’t hide this, like he did the rest. He’s going to be punished for whatever he’s done to your mother this time, and everything he did to her and you and your siblings before,” Midoriya assured him.

0 0 0

Katsuki glared at the door, tilting back in his chair. Fucking Deku. Going after Icy Hot like a freaking dog after his master. Deku used to follow him around like that, and he’d hated it. He wondered how long it would take for Icy Hot to tell that useless nerd to get lost.

“What just happened? I couldn’t hear what they were saying, other than Endeavor burned somebody,” Kaminari complained.

“We all heard that, thanks to Todoroki. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so angry before, except when he was fighting Deku at the Sports Festival,” Uraraka said.

“Jirou, you were using your jacks. What did they say?” Kaminari urged.

“It was kind of messed up. But it looks like we don’t have to worry about Mustard, anymore. Endeavor caught him. No thanks to Midoriya’s mom,” Jirou said.

Katsuki’s chair slammed down onto the floor. “What the fuck did you just say? What does Deku’s mom have to do with anything?” Katsuki demanded, because Deku’s mom was a saint, he’d fucking fight anybody who said a God damned word against her.

“She was in a playground, in a park, when Mustard attacked a bunch of kids. Endeavor was chasing him, and Midoriya’s mom attacked Endeavor, she tried to help Mustard escape. Endeavor’s in the hospital, and she’s been arrested, but she’s in the hospital for now too, because Endeavor burned her, and they’re going to the Teacher’s Lounge to talk about it privately,” Jirou reported, dead pan, with a shrug, like it didn’t fucking matter that that fucking bastard Endeavor didn’t draw the line at beating the crap out of his own kid and wife, but he fucking thought it was OK to attack Deku’s mom and make it sound like she was a God damned villain!

Katsuki launched out of his seat with a roar, both hands firing simultaneously, he was at the door before Iida and Yaoyorozu even got to their feet, and halfway down the hall before his feet even touched the floor. He could have gone a lot further, if the fucking ceiling wasn’t so low.

“Bakugo, wait! Calm down!” Kirishima called after him, but there was no way he was fucking calming down, not until he made that vicious fucker eat his own teeth.

0 0 0

Aizawa-sensei ushered the three of them into the Lounge, then rounded on him and Todoroki. “What has Endeavor been doing to you and your siblings and your mother, Todoroki?”

Izuku winced. He hadn’t realized Aizawa-sensei heard that.

“He’s been abusing me and my siblings our whole lives, and he drove my mother into a mental hospital, he’s kept her prisoner there for ten years, ever since she burned my face, and now he’s attacked her, burned her. What happened? Is she still alive?” Todoroki demanded.

“But…” Yamada-sensei said, but Aizawa-sensei held up his hand, and he quieted.

He turned to Izuku. “And you knew about this? And said nothing? Since when?” he accused.

“Since the Sports Festival. I wanted to tell you, but Todoroki was afraid no one would do anything, because Endeavor’s too rich and powerful, he’d just pay them off or use his connections or pretend it was nothing, say Todoroki is just trying to get out of doing his training, but it’s not training when you work and hit a five year old so hard that he throws up!” Midoriya shrilled. “I was so glad you started the dorm system, and he actually let Todoroki come, because he’s safe from him here. We thought his mother was safe, too, that he couldn’t hurt her in the hospital, because it was too public, but I guess… I guess he didn’t care anymore.”

“We’re going to talk about this later, because this is something neither one of you should have kept secret from me. I can help you, damn it. I swear I’m going to help you be safe, Todoroki, as soon as this current crisis is over. I’m going to tell you something only a handful of people know, so you can believe me when I say I will do everything in my power to see your father is arrested and punished for hurting you and your family. I’m a survivor of abusive parents too. I was emancipated at age 15, because I found the courage to ask for help, and I helped put both my parents in jail.”

“Shou!” Hizashi cried sharply.

Aizawa-sensei raised his hand. “I’m not going to tell them the rest. Knowing that is enough.” He sighed heavily. “But unfortunately, it appears you misheard what you overheard. Your mother isn’t the one who was attacked, Todoroki. You’re here, or would have been, because your father has been hospitalized, with some pretty serious injuries. He was shot, and exposed to Mustard’s gas, he’s been treated, he’s expected to make a full recovery, but we had thought you’d want to see him, be with him. Obviously, I doubt that’s the case, now.”

“But if Todoroki’s mother wasn’t the one Endeavor attacked, then who did he burn?” Izuku asked, relieved for his friend, but concerned his secret had gotten out when it hadn’t needed to.

Your mother was the one who was hurt, Midoriya. She wasn’t badly injured, it was a minor burn, but she’s being kept in the hospital, instead of going to jail, because her blood pressure is elevated. We were told she attempted to aid the villain Mustard in his escape, that she attacked Endeavor. She’s under arrest, for illegal Quirk use, assaulting and obstructing a Hero, and aiding and abetting an escaped villain,” Aizawa-sensei said.

“What? No, that can’t be right. My mom? No, she would never... Endeavor burned my mom?” Izuku asked, stunned, unable to process half of what he was hearing, because it was insane. His mother would never aid a villain! And what could her Quirk do anyway? It was just a weak levitation Quirk, it would have been laughable to think his mom could ever attack the #1 Hero with her Quirk, if it wasn’t so horrifying.

“This is because of what happened at the Sports Festival, isn’t it?” Izuku accused. “Because of what I said to him. Because Todoroki didn’t use his fire in the final battle. He’s blaming me for that, for some reason, isn’t he? And he couldn’t get to me here, to get back at me, so he attacked my mother, he spread those ridiculous lies and got her arrested and burned her and…”

The door was kicked open, and Kacchan came storming in.

“Bakugo! What are you-“ Aizawa-sensei began, but he ignored him.

“Come on, Deku. You, me and Icy Hot here are gonna go kick that fucker’s ass,” Kacchan swore.

“Kacchan? Why…?”

“Seriously? Your mother is a God Damned saint. You may have forgotten all those times I slept over, back before you became a quirkless loser, but I haven’t. You might have turned into a useless dick, but she baked us cookies, and told us stories, and let us stay up way past our bedtimes watching All Might videos. She never once yelled or hit us, even when we broke stuff, or brought home that bug collection, or turned your bathtub into a frog pond. You piss me off, but I’ll fucking walk through fire for your mom. Literally. So let’s go blow that bastard’s face off.”

“No one’s attacking anyone. And Bakugo, you are not accompanying us to the hospital,” Aizawa-sensei stated with surprising calm. “You wouldn’t be allowed to see Midoriya’s mother, in any case, only family can visit, and the last thing she needs right now is more stress. And clearly I’m not letting you anywhere near Endeavor, especially not in a hospital. I don’t even want to think of the injuries that could result.”

“What, you just expect me to fucking sit here in class while that fucker put Deku’s mom in the hospital, he got her arrested?” Bakugo snarled.

“You think you can get a confession out of him, or exact revenge? Trust me. It won’t work that way. At best, you’d be arrested. At worst – I refuse to think of the worst case scenario, knowing what I now do about Endeavor. I swear to you, he will not get away with what he’s done. But we need to take him down legally, not physically. You don’t even have your Provisional License yet. Just using your Quirk in public is illegal. But if you attack a Pro Hero, you’ll never become one yourself.”

“God damn it!” Kacchan roared, hands sparking in frustration. “Alright, fucking fine. We’ll do it by the book. But if he gets away with this, all bets are off, and I’m taking him down,” he threatened.

“It won’t come to that. Trust me,” Aizawa-sensei assured him.

“If I didn’t fucking trust you, I wouldn’t fucking listen to anything you had to say,” Kacchan retorted. Then he looked Izuku in the eye. “Deku, if you need me, text me, and I’ll have your back. And Icy Hot, if he lays another fucking finger on you, I’ll blow his fucking hand off.” Then he turned and without another word, left the Teacher’s Lounge.

“Hey Bakugo, come on man. Let’s get back to class,” Kirishima urged from the hall, and Izuku winced. He had no idea how Kacchan knew about Endeavor – he’d have stormed in a lot sooner if he got there when they’d been talking about that – but now Kirishima did too.

Poor Todoroki was looking as overwhelmed as he felt. He reached over, slowly, keeping his intent clear, and gently squeezed his shoulder. “Aizawa-sensei and I will both be there. He won’t hurt you,” Izuku swore.

“I’m not afraid of my father. Not anymore, not for years. I hate him, but I’m not afraid,” Todoroki assured him, grimly.

“I’d like to go with Midoriya to see his mother, to hear what really happened, and to talk to the police, to convince them my father was lying to them,” Todoroki said.

He turned back to Izuku. “I’m so sorry your mother got hurt, because of my father,” he apologized.

“It’s not your fault, Todoroki. You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m glad you’ll be with me, even if it’s just in the car ride over, and they won’t let you in to see her with me,” Izuku admitted. Just having Todoroki there was grounding him, making it possible to think again, over the panic for his mother.

“Alright. Hizashi, you’ll drive us?” Aizawa-sensei asked.

“Of course,” Yamada-sensei agreed.

She’s still alive, she’s going to be alright, please be alright, Mom. I’m coming. I’ll save you.

Chapter Text

Inko saw Endeavor frown, as he entered her hospital room, his right foot encased in a walking cast, and his left arm bandaged, but he was still dressed in his bloody costume, instead of a hospital gown, like she was. Inko remembered him tripping over the edge of the playground equipment, and had seen him limping, but she hadn’t realized he’d actually broken a bone. She felt guilty all over again.

“Why is there an officer posted at the door, and one inside with you? Why is she in quirk restraints? Why are you treating Midoriya-san like a villain?” Endeavor demanded, glaring at Detective Tsukauchi, who had only just arrived and started questioning her.

Inko was surprised to hear Endeavor’s voice sounding so different, deep and resonant, instead of harsh and gravelly. The gas must have damaged his throat or vocal cords too. She was relieved to see him breathing and speaking without difficulty now, at least, and walking, though she wasn’t sure he should really be doing that yet.

“You’re the one who listed the charges against her: illegal Quirk use, assaulting and obstructing a Hero, and aiding and abetting an escaped villain,” Detective Tsukauchi countered. “Your voice is on the recording to our dispatcher. Her burn is minor. She’d already be in jail, but the doctors were concerned her blood pressure was elevated. They’ve given her medication, and she’s under observation for it.”

“Idiots. Of course her blood pressure is high, if she’s being treated like a villain. Think how it would look to the public, to the press, if they get a hold of this. Do you really want to hear, ‘Middle-aged mother thwarts #1 Hero Endeavor’? Not to mention she’s the mother of All Might’s successor. Can you imagine the damage the villains could do with that kind of press coverage?” he scoffed.

“I’m well aware. I led the clean up in the aftermath of both the USJ and Kamino Ward incidents, remember. But she broke the law. I can’t ignore that at your request, or simply because it’s inconvenient. Without law, society would collapse and civilization would fall. You know that,” Detective Tsukauchi argued.

The poor man looked exhausted, and stressed. She hoped he was eating properly and getting enough sleep, that he had someone to take care of him, when he was off duty. He seemed like such a nice young man, he’d been so kind to her, after that horrible mall incident, and he was a good friend of All Might; All Might told her how wonderful he was.

Endeavor started to cross his arms over his chest, but then breathed in sharply, as if he was in pain, and moved his arms down to the side instead, and Inko realized his arm must still hurt a lot, or he was being careful not to rip out the stitches.

“Have you questioned her? It was a simple mistake, one that could have proven disastrous, had a lesser Hero been involved, but fortunately I was there. She and I were the only ones harmed by her actions. I’m not pressing charges for her attack against me, and she was ultimately ineffective in keeping me from apprehending the villain. She also intentionally warned me about his weapon and foolishly moved to stand between me and his gun, until I protected her. She provided first aid, as well, which I allowed, in order to reassure her, though I could have done the same without her aid. So interview your suspect, Detective, and draw your own conclusions.”

“At the very least, she’ll have to be charged for her Quirk use, and aiding an escaped villain,” Tsukauchi argued.

“Actually, she didn’t use her Quirk. That sand got kicked up in my face from Mustard running,” Endeavor claimed.

Inko had been quietly listening to the two of them speak about her as if she wasn’t there, a bit intimidated by them, as well as the enormity of what she’d done, but she couldn’t allow the police to believe that.

“No. I’m sorry to contradict you, Endeavor, but I actually did use my Quirk to attack you. I mistook you for a villain, and I’m truly sorry for it, but Detective Tsukauchi is right. Our laws exist for a reason.”

Endeavor glared at her. “Fine. Question her. But then you’ll question me, as well, and you’ll see there is no reason to charge her.”

“I’m going to have to request that you leave the room, so your testimony isn’t colored by hers,” the Detective stated firmly.

“I’ll be in my room. But after you’re done with Midoriya-san, I also need to speak with her. We have a discussion we need to complete,” Endeavor demanded.

“That’s fine,” the Detective agreed.

When Endeavor left the room, the Detective let out a breath softly, and she could see some of the tension drain from him.

“He is a bit overwhelming, isn’t he?” she asked sympathetically.

He looked at her in surprise.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I keep forgetting, you’re not here to reassure me, this time, it’s not about Izuku. Oh! Has anyone told him? He’ll be so worried, when he calls tonight, if I don’t answer,” she fretted.

“The school was apprised of the situation. I called Principal Nedzu personally,” he assured her.

“But am I going to be allowed to see him?” The thought of not seeing Izuku again, maybe not for years, brought tears to her eyes.

“You need to stay calm, Midoriya-san. If you could please continue what you were saying, before Endeavor entered,” he encouraged.

“Of course.”

She relayed the entire terrible mess, taking full responsibility for her actions, but explaining the reasons for them.

“Thank you for your cooperation. Please try to get some rest. We’ll speak again tomorrow, in the morning, once we review the facts of the case, and you have some time to rest and stabilize,” the Detective assured her, his voice as gentle as when he was speaking to her about Izuku, after the mall incident.

She bit her lip and looked up at him uncertainly. “Are the arm cuffs really necessary? Couldn’t you just chain me to the bed by my feet? I know it must sound silly to you, but I’m used to wringing my hands when I’m nervous or upset, and fiddling with things with my fingers, and not being able to… Poor Katsuki. He must have been so frustrated and afraid, when the villains held him captive, Izuku accidentally overheard him talking to one of their classmates, Kirishima, one night, outside his room about that and I’m so glad he has someone he can talk to, confide in, because that’s certainly not something he could ever tell his mother and… although you should have heard Mitsuki going on about the Sports Festival, and I don’t blame her. I can’t forgive the officials for humiliating him that way, in the crowded stadium, on television, in front of the world like they did. I’m sorry. I’m chattering. I do that when I’m anxious. You don’t need to stay and listen. I don’t want you to keep Endeavor waiting, and I’m sure you must have so many important things to do.”

“It’s my job to listen. I’m afraid I can’t do anything about the cuffs. It’s procedure. And in case you’re worried about the officer here, and outside your door, they’re honestly here for your protection, as much as to watch over you. As Endeavor said, you are the mother of All Might’s successor. We need to make sure you’re safe.”

“Oh. You mean the villains might…? I know Izuku’s been concerned, that he was glad to move into the dorms, as much as we knew we’d miss one another, because he thought I’d be safer, though he was worried about not being there to protect me. Honestly, we call one another every morning and night to ensure we’re both safe, as much as for any other reason. I should have been relieved, last night and this morning, that his calls were so short. It means he’s worrying less. Or was. I can imagine he’s going to be frantic, now, for a while, the way I’ve been, every time he’s attacked.

“Thank you, Detective. I just have one more thing to say. After you speak to Endeavor, please take the time to eat lunch. Your intensity, you remind me of my son, when he’s wrapped up in something. He completely forgets to eat or sleep. I don’t want you making yourself sick, because I was foolish.”

His serious expression relaxed into the briefest of smiles. “Be sure to eat as well. Make sure you put your tax money to good use.”

She smiled back, in spite of how anxious she felt. “I’ll try,” she promised. Because stress eating was normally her forte, but right now, just the thought of food made her nauseous. And she had no idea how she was supposed to eat without using her hands.

She watched him go and then leaned back in the bed, trying to relax, but her thoughts were racing. She was sure she wasn’t helping her blood pressure any, but Endeavor was right: it wasn’t as if being a cuffed prisoner was calming.

It was both a surprise and a relief when there was a brief knock on the door, in a different pattern than before, and the inner officer opened the door, tense and wary, but not alarmed or afraid looking. It was the other officer, and Endeavor, again, looking just as enormous and intimidating as he had at the start of his last visit.

Endeavor strode into the room, as if he owned it. “Leave” he said abruptly to the officer inside. “Go stand watch outside, with that other one. Midoriya-san and I need to talk.”

“I can’t-“ he began.

“You can and you will, or I’ll have you fired. As the capturing Hero, by law, I can guard her, and as the #1 Hero, I’m clearly better than you are for the job. You have her statement, and mine, it’s not like we can change it, so what we say to one another doesn’t matter. Now get out,” Endeavor commanded.

He sounded incredibly intimidating, but his flames didn’t flare, as she expected to see, so he was just being disdainful, not angry, unless he had better control than Katsuki, or her husband, Hisashi, who had put an ocean between her and Izuku, when he’d realized he couldn’t handle the pressure of fatherhood and control his Quirk, and had been terrified of injuring her, or their infant son. As a Pro Hero, she would have automatically assumed Endeavor would have complete control of his power, regardless of his state of mind or mood, but she remembered what he looked like, when she’d first seen him, an inferno of rage she’d mistaken for a villain.

“Yes, sir,” the police officer replied, stiffening either in respect or humiliation, because really, Endeavor hadn’t needed to threaten and belittle him like that, had he? She wondered for a moment if Endeavor had been the leader of a pack of bullies too when he was younger, like Katsuki, in middle school, or whether he’d been friendless, like Katsuki was at first, in high school. Izuku had been both amazed and saddened to see his old friend and tormentor ostracized, the way he used to be, and had actually been relieved when some of the class had finally begun befriending Katsuki. Good kids, good influences, ones that raised him up, instead of sinking to his level, enough so that the entire class had been devastated when Katsuki had been kidnapped. By the League of Villains. And she’d actually helped one of them.

“Are you in pain?” Endeavor boomed from right beside her.

She jumped, startled. She’d been so lost in her thoughts, she hadn’t even noticed him approach, which was ridiculous, because he was simply huge, and on fire.

“No! No, I’m fine. I don’t feel the burn at all, actually, they put something on it to numb it, and honestly, it wasn’t bad to begin with, and it’s not like I’ve never been burned before,” she said with a fond and wistful smile. After all, Hisashi breathed fire whenever he was nervous or anxious or excited, and they’d both been virgins when they met in college, and, well, it had taken quite a bit of practice before the sheets stopped catching fire.   

“You’re… smiling. About being burned,” Endeavor commented, looking at her like she was a Chinese puzzle box he was trying to unlock.

“I was thinking of some relatively happy memories, of someone I haven’t thought of in a positive light for quite some time. Someone I haven’t felt anything but disappointment for, in a very long time. But then, that’s my fault, for being an enabler. I acknowledge that. I always try to face my problems head on, instead of denying them or hiding from them, because I learned long ago that’s the first step in moving forwards, but there are certain people I give much too much slack to. Oh, but I’m sorry, you mentioned wanting to speak with me?” she encouraged. “And please, sit, that’s what the chair is here for, and it’s not as if I’ll be allowed any visitors except for doctors and the police, since I’m a criminal.”

Endeavor snorted, and sank down into the chair, which fortunately had been practically designed to encompass a multitude of body shapes and sizes. “Yes, you’re an absolutely terrifying villain,” he stated dryly.

Inko’s lips quirked mischievously. “I could be, you know. I could be quite devious and dastardly. My power doesn’t only work on sand. I might have been known to levitate salt onto the top of the sugar bowl, in my deep, dark, sordid past. It’s quite possible I’ve left a trail of ruined coffee and tea in my villainous wake, over the years.”

Endeavor unexpectedly barked out a laugh, sudden and almost violent in its intensity.

Frankly, he looked nearly as surprised as she felt. She smiled warmly at him. “I can’t believe I mistook you for a villain,” she chided herself.

But at her words, his face instantly shuttered, all warmth and mirth suddenly extinguished, like a candle in a typhoon.

“You wanted to speak with me?” she asked, feeling suddenly timid, aching to play with the edge of the blanket, because she always fingered things when she was uncomfortable, and she’d been teasing Endeavor, as if he were an old friend.

“When we were speaking before, in the playground. You started to tell me you’d been cruel, to your son,” he stated accusingly.

Her eyes widened. “Oh my! You don’t think I meant anything intentional, do you? I would never hurt Izuku, not for the world, not on purpose. Parents are sometimes intentionally cruel to their children, though I’ve never understood why, but more often, they forget how big and strong and impactful they are, how easy it is to hurt a child, physically, emotionally, psychologically.

“My son, Izuku, was always such a kind, sweet, loving, giving, happy child, one who always smiled, with stars and love, hope and joy shining in his eyes. His whole life, ever since he was a toddler, his solitary dream, his one overarching goal in life, was to become a Hero. He absolutely worships all of you.

“But in preschool, one after another of the other children began discovering and displaying their quirks. Flashy, impressive ones, like Katsuki, or subtle, gentle ones, like Yoshi’s. But my son’s just wouldn’t manifest, and he was getting so anxious about it, so upset. He looked so sad, so lost, so unlike my sweet little boy. So I finally decided to take him to a Quirk doctor, thinking he’d be able to reassure Izuku, and tell us when it might happen.

“But he examined Izuku, and X-rayed his feet, of all things, and that’s how we learned that if you’re born with an extra joint in your pinky toe, it’s an indicator that you’re… quirkless. That 20% of the population are. And… and my Izuku was that 1 in 5,” she said softly.

Endeavor snorted again. “That quack obviously didn’t know what he was talking about. I’ve seen you’re son’s Quirk. He nearly sent my son out of the ring a number of times, until Shouto finally took their fight seriously.”

Inko chose to ignore what he said about the battle. Because even on TV, she could see that Izuku was desperately trying to help his opponent, goading and encouraging him, she had no idea for what or why, until suddenly there was fire, as well as ice. She’d almost had a heart attack, seeing the two of them fighting so violently, so viciously. Even when two teachers stepped in, they hadn’t been able to stop it. Cement blocks had gone flying, her son along with them, he’d slammed into the wall, and…

And she needed to calm down, because her monitor was pinging in alarm, and her blood pressure was never going to settle, at this rate, and Endeavor was watching her intently.

“Yes, of course, now he has a Quirk. But he didn’t his entire childhood. Not until he turned 15, not until the Hero Exam at UA. Suddenly, his Quirk manifested there, explosively, violently. Did you know he broke both legs and an arm during that horrible test? The school notified me, that he was hurt, he was healed. It wasn’t the last time I heard from them, or the last time he broke bones at UA. Honestly, I still wonder if I was foolish, allowing him to go back. But he’s been so happy, again, after so many years of…

“And that was my fault. He was four years old, his entire life was crumbling in front of his eyes, he was sitting re-watching the same All Might rescue video for the thousandth time, only this time he was shaking, and though he was fighting to smile, his eyes were brimming with tears, and my precious, perfect, hopeful child looked me in the eyes and said, ‘A super cool hero like that. That’s what I want to be.’

“And I was so unforgivably foolish. I told him over and over, that I was sorry. But those weren’t the words he needed to hear. He was so trusting, but I shattered his dreams. It was my duty as his mother to support him through adversity, to shore up the cracked and crumbling pillars of his world, his future, to encourage him, to tell that of course he could be a hero, it didn’t matter, that Quirk or no Quirk, he could be the strongest Hero in the world, that he could be whatever he wanted to be. Instead, I watched my little boy’s world shatter, and the light vanish from his eyes, and the tears fell, and I hugged him, crying along with him, mourning the death of his dreams with him, instead of breathing life back into them, keeping them from dying in the first place. It took eleven years for me to get it right.

“He was miserable in elementary school and middle school, but he kept up such a brave face in front of me, that I never realize he was tormented. He kept insisting he was happy, that everything was fine, he’d smile, but not like before, there was something missing, and he never talked about friends, or went on play dates, or to parties. I thought he was just becoming shy, like I was when I was younger, or that it was just the disappointment, leaking through, that made him so quiet.

“It wasn’t until recently that I learned he was bullied, all that time, by so many different kids. Of course he was. Because he was convinced he was weak, helpless, powerless, because I believed he was, without realizing what I was doing to his self-confidence, his pride. I was the one who gave those boys power over my son. I was the one person who should have believed in him unconditionally, but instead, I betrayed him.

“Each of our children is capable of greatness of one kind or another. It’s our responsibility to foster their potential, to help them grow. But listen to me, going on like this! I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that. Your son, Shouto, is a wonderful child, from what my Izuku tells me. You must be so proud.”

“Of course I’m proud. He’s strong. But he can do better. He should have won the Sports Festival. He would have, if he’d used his left side, when he fought Bakugo, the way he did when he battled your son. Instead, he lost,” Endeavor scoffed.

“I wouldn’t call it losing. He came in second strongest, in the entire country,” Inko reminded him.

Endeavor snorted in disgust. “You can only say that because your son didn’t even place in the top three. There’s no such thing as second best in this world. There’s only the winner, and all the losers surrounding him, coveting and reaching for that spot.”

“But you were the #2 Hero for years,” Inko argued.

“Exactly. Because All Might was always in my way, he kept the #1 spot just out of reach. But Shouto had the potential to beat All Might, to blow him off his pedestal, if he’d use both his fire and his ice. He would have taken the #1 Hero spot by force, not achieved it by default, the way I did,” Endeavor stated bitterly.

Inko’s heart sank. Endeavor seemed so confident, to the point of arrogance, so strong, but she’d never heard a more disparaging, self-deprecating remark. She suddenly understood Katsuki better, the way he’d acted after winning the Sports Festival. He’d been so furious about it, enraged. They never should have chained him like they did, he was a child, not a villain, they should have either calmed him down for the ceremony, or not forced him to take part in it at all, they should have quietly awarded the medal off stage, as they did to Izuku’s other friend, Tenya Iida, though for a different reason, of course. But she realized now that tantrum Katsuki was throwing could have been because Shouto only fought with ice, not with both his ice and fire, the way he did against Izuku.  Endeavor had certainly given her a lot to think about.

“Surely you must want the same, for your own son. You must want him to succeed,” Endeavor stated, pulling her from her thoughts.

“Of course! I want him to achieve his dreams, whatever his latest dreams are, to do whatever makes him happy, to live a good life. I honestly never wanted him to be a Hero. What mother would want their child to do something so inherently dangerous? I still wish he’d chosen some safer way of helping people. But that’s not my decision to make, is it?

“Lately, though, he’s started making additional plans, for after he graduates. He’s going to open up a new Hero agency, and he’s hoping his entire class, as well as at least some of the 1-B kids, some of the General Studies and Support kids, and even some of his teachers will join it.”

Endeavor frowned. “He doesn’t seriously expect my Shouto to be his sidekick?” he asked, incredulously.

“No, of course not. He didn’t say anything about sidekicks. He wants everyone to be equal partners, to work and fight together, as one big team, but splintered off into twos or threes or however many Heroes are needed and with whatever powers to be able to resolve any situation, no matter how dangerous or massive, as quickly, and with as little collateral damage and casualties, as possible. He’s so frustrated, by the current system, with Heroes working against one another, instead of with one another, helping one another. He’s written so many analyses of how different historical battles could have been won more quickly and safely, with the Heroes who were present at the time, how rescues could have been more efficient and effective.

“I’m a complete amateur, compared to Izuku, and even I can see it. For instance, when that sludge villain attacked Katsuki, all the heroes just stood there, fighting the fires made by Katsuki’s explosions, and doing crowd control, but not a single hero tried to save him. Why couldn’t that fire fighting hero, the one with the water quirk, have used his water as a weapon, and washed the villain off of Katsuki, blasted him, the way riot police and the military do against dissidents, with fire hoses? It would have been even more effective against him; it could have diluted him, kept him from reforming and attacking. One of the other Heroes could have snatched Katsuki to safety, while the villain was incapacitated, if they’d only just worked together.

“But instead, my 14 year old quirkless son attacked that villain with nothing but a backpack as a weapon, because he didn’t want to see Katsuki die. If All Might hadn’t finally arrived, they both would have died, surrounded by Heroes, and that both sickens and terrifies me. So yes, I have ambition for my son. I want to see him save the world, with his classmates, his teachers, I want every single one of them to become his friends, his teammates. And I’m certain that’s exactly what Izuku is going to do, if a villain doesn’t kill him, first, because you current Heroes can’t see past that idiotic ranking system of your own devising, one that keeps every single one of you from realizing your true full potential. Being a Hero is about saving lives. It should never have become some sort of ridiculous popularity contest, about selling perfume and clothing, and fighting one another for the spotlight.”

Endeavor narrowed his eyes. “You’re the last person I would have expected to be spouting Stain’s ideology, criticizing the people who keep you safe from the actual villains. Or was your son so busy planning my son’s future that he neglected to mention he almost got Shouto killed in Hosu?”

“Izuku told me what happened in Hosu. I’m sure he left out a lot of the detail, he knows I worry, but I saw his injuries, and I’m not nearly as naïve as he believes me to be. He told me that he went to find Tenya Iida, and that Stain was too powerful for the two of them, that he texted his position, calling for help in the only way he could, the moment he began fighting, and that of everyone, your son was the only one who came to save them. He told me how he and Shouto fought alongside Tenya, that the three of them fought together, defeated the villain together, that they saved one another and rescued that Pro Hero, Native, but that you were given the credit, because they weren’t supposed to be using their Quirks without a license. Which is complete idiocy, that people aren’t even allowed to use their Quirks to save lives.

“Stain is a horrible, sick man, he’s killed and crippled so many Heroes, destroyed so many lives. His ideology is extreme, and I do not condone his actions, even though he decided my son was a true Hero, someone worth saving, and he saved my son’s life from that flying monster. But that doesn’t mean that everything he says is untrue. So no, I’m not a sycophant who believes our current Heroes have done anything to deserve death or mutilation. But I don’t believe they’re perfect, either. I don’t believe the system they work under is perfect. It’s far from perfect. It needs to be changed. But it needs to be changed peacefully and carefully, from the inside, not torn apart. And that’s what my Izuku is going to do. And I hope his entire class and all of 1-B and anyone else who has a similar vision of the future joins them in that. Because the alternative, the status quo we’ve floundered under for so long, is unacceptable.” Inko’s heart was pounding, her monitor was beeping rapidly, but she didn’t regret a single word.

Endeavor reached into his uniform’s utility belt, and pulled out his wallet, to Inko’s confusion. Then he took out a business card, and showed it to her, since she couldn’t take it, with her hands cuffed. It was deep blue, with a flame border, and listed his hero name, followed by a comma and the words “#1 Hero”, with the title “Owner” under it, the name of his agency, the address, and a phone number. He wrote a second number on the back, and placed it face up, on the little tray stand beside her bed.

“The number on the back is the direct line to my attorney, Toshiro Himura. He normally works strictly for my agency, but I’ll ensure he takes your case. Don’t worry, I know you can’t afford him, but he’s on retainer, he’s well paid to do whatever I ask. The number on the front is the line to my Executive Assistant. When you need to contact me, go through her. I’ll make sure they both know to accept your calls,” Endeavor stated gravely.

Inko looked from him, to the card, and back to him, stunned and confused. “Why?”

“Because, Midoriya-san, you are quite possibly the most dangerous person I have met, in a very long time. The thought of you in prison, with your ideals, sincerity, and charisma… you might survive the experience, but I don’t know that Hero society would. It’s likely, given my testimony, the fact that you have no previous criminal record, and the additional circumstances will get you off with probation. But I didn’t reach the #1 slot by taking foolish chances.”

Inko was astonished that he truly thought that, but also that he was willing to help her, after what she’d just said, and what she’d done. She’d attacked and injured him. Conceivably, humiliated him, though he was taking the incident surprisingly well. But there was one flaw in what he said. She bit her lip, then took a deep breath.

“About my not having a record…” she began hesitantly, her face flushing in embarrassment.

He snorted and waived his hand. “What, that single protest you were arrested for in college? The charges were dropped, so officially, you still have a clean record.”

 “You investigated me that quickly?” she asked, stunned.

He snorted again. “I investigated you months ago. I investigated all my son’s classmates, teachers, and their families. I needed to ascertain how strong they were, learn their weaknesses, their finances, histories, character flaws, addictions, anything that might make them a liability to Shouto, particularly any vulnerabilities to corruption or influence by villains.”
 
“That’s… very thorough of you,” Inko said weakly, because it was honestly mindboggling and more than a little unsettling.

“You’ve been estranged from your husband for 15 years, since shortly after Izuku was born. He’s been living abroad this entire time, and has never once returned. Why haven’t you divorced him? You could have been living just as comfortably off alimony and child support as the money he sends you every month. Why keep living the lie?” he asked unexpectedly, bluntly, taking her completely off guard.

Inko pressed her lips together, incensed, ready to give him a piece of her mind and to tell him to mind his own business. But then she saw something unexpected in his blue eyes: sorrow, sadness, that looked all too familiar, and made her breath catch in her throat, as her own eyes grew frustratingly wet. She swallowed, and told him the truth.

“Because I still love him. I’ll always love him, in spite of his flaws, in spite of the pain he’s caused me, knowingly and unknowingly over the years. I meant my vows, when I spoke them, we both did. And also, he’s Izuku’s father. If I loved him for nothing else, I’d love him for that. Do you know how heartrending it is, to love someone who continually disappoints you?”

“I suppose I should allow you to recover in peace,” Endeavor said abruptly, rising from the chair.

“Wait! Don’t go, please. I mean… never mind. I’m sorry. I forgot for a moment how injured you are. This must be very draining for you,” she apologized.

He snorted in derision and immediately sat back down. “Please. What kind of Hero would I be, if I couldn’t hold a simple conversation?”

“But it hasn’t exactly been simple, for either of us, has it?” she challenged bravely.

“No, it hasn’t. Quite honestly, I can’t remember the last time I’ve spoken to someone like this, that I’ve been spoken to like this. I’m used to worship, respect, intimidation, anger, fear, abruptness, flattery. You are demonstrating an intriguing combination of a number of different reactions, yet none of the familiar ones. Your honesty is refreshing. By all means, let’s continue our conversation. It will, at the very least, provide a distraction. After all, we’re both trapped here, in this hospital, until morning.”

Inko was immediately concerned and guilty all over again. “Is the gunshot wound still that serious, after being treated?”

He shook his head. “No. They’re keeping me for observation because of the respiratory damage, in case their treatment isn’t as effective as expected. The arm will take a couple of weeks to heal fully, and the broken ankle considerably longer. I’d blame you for that, but Mustard likely would have started gassing or shooting the children, or taken one of them hostage, if you hadn’t been there and intervened. The tree cover had completely concealed that playground, though he might well have known it was there, and headed for it intentionally. Frankly, I have enough on my conscience without witnessing a massacre of toddlers and parents too weak to protect them. But enough about Mustard and what happened. Tell me more about Izuku. He is clearly your favorite topic, and that way, I’ll know more about my son’s rival. And potential business partner, apparently,” he added with a frown. “You realize, I fully intend for Shouto to work with me at my agency?”

“Of course! Izuku didn’t mention Shouto, specifically, but he did say he expected his friend Tenya would want to work at his family agency, IDATEN. Izuku said they could work part time at the new agency, or just team with them,” she explained eagerly, surprised, pleased and somewhat touched, that Endeavor had chosen to keep her company.

Chapter Text

Izuku was vibrating with tension in the back seat of the car, literally, his leg bouncing up and down, as he kept fisting and releasing his hands, because it was taking so long, and he had no idea how badly she was burnt, his mother could be permanently disfigured, maimed, dying, and, “Can’t you drive faster?” he demanded.

He saw both his teachers flick looks at him in the rearview mirror. “Calm down, Midoriya. We’ll be there soon. You’re justifiably upset, but the city is congested. Mic’s going as fast as is safe.”

Izuku deflated. As quickly as that, his anger was gone, and all that was left was terror, and a feeling of helplessness. “I know. I’m sorry.”

He pulled out his phone and checked his texts. There were a number of new ones from his classmates that he’d read later. But nothing from All Might yet. Why wasn’t he answering? He’d called him, too, left half a dozen messages. Where was he when he needed him? What good was One for All, the power All Might had given to him. “What kind of Hero am I, if I can’t even save my own mother?”

“Stop blaming yourself. This isn’t your fault. It’s not like you were there, like you could have stopped him, protected her. I’m the one who should have stopped him, years ago. I should have gotten stronger, faster. I should have been able to protect them both, your mother and mine,” Todoroki said, and there was such bitterness and self-loathing and self-blame in his voice that it tore Izuku’s heart in two.

“No! You were only a little kid, there’s no way you could have stopped him, you know that,” Izuku argued. “And I don’t even want to think of you fighting him now, even with how amazing your ice attack was against Sero at the Sports Festival, and now that you’ve been training with your fire, too, he was the #2 Hero for years, he has decades more experience, and he’s got his Hellflame, that blue fire he uses, that burns so much hotter, that melts everything, that you can’t do yet. If the two of you fought now, it would be like All Might going up against One for All, you’d probably destroy an entire ward,” Izuku argued.

Aizawa-sensei turned in his seat to face them. “Your guilt is misplaced. I’m well aware you’re not going to forget it, ever, but you will learn to live with it. You will remain functioning human beings and become Heroes, and you will do what you can to atone for whatever you perceive were your past inadequacies. Neither of you is attacking Endeavor. The judicial system is going to hear the facts, see the evidence, and bring him down. As your teacher, one of the two adults in this car, it’s my responsibility to set those wheels in motion, and I will. You have my word,” Aizawa-sensei swore.

His eyes were all but burning, not with the red light of his power, but with something far darker, and Izuku couldn’t stand it. “The attacks on us this year weren’t your fault, Sensei, none of them were. You were the one who saved us, who kept us alive, both your direct intervention, at the USJ and Training Camp, and everything you taught us about strategizing, fighting, surviving, saving people, there and in Hosu and Kamino.”

Aizawa-sensei sighed heavily, closing his eyes. “I already had a body count I‘ve been drowning in long before Kamino, before I ever became a Hero, Midoriya. Just don’t ever fuck up as badly as I have, and you’ll be fine.”

“God damn it, Shou, you and I are going to talk,” Yamada-sensei hissed, and Izuku had never heard anything sound more like a threat in his life.

“Don’t listen to him, kids,” Yamada-sensei advised. “Not about the good parts about what he was saying, just about the parts where he was being an ass; I’m sure you can both tell the difference. He and I are going to take care of that, I’ll make sure of it.”

“Oh, thank God, we’re finally here,” he added, as they turned a corner, and Izuku’s attention jerked to the window, to the imposing hospital, the flash of ambulance lights. “We need to park; we’re all going in together.” And there was steel in Yamada-sensei’s voice, and he looked so serious, so different than usual, he wouldn’t dream of arguing.

Thankfully the parking structure under the hospital was just as massive, they had no trouble locating a spot on one of the color coded and lettered floors, Yamada-sensei typing in the stall number and floor in his phone so they could find the car again as they quickly headed for the elevators.

Moments later he was confused to see Yamada-sensei’s hands flying in complex patterns, until he realized he was using sign language, and he was surprised to see Aizawa-sensei respond in kind, but only briefly. He was grateful for the distraction. His tension had ramped up worse, now that they were here: he just wanted to run, to find his mother.

The number of impatient people waiting for the elevator had him looking for stairs, but then there was a soft ping, and they managed to squeeze into the thankfully nearly empty car with everyone who had gotten there before them. Parking went all the way down to H, he saw from the elevator buttons, but they’d found a spot in C. The button for 1 was already pressed.

Once they got to the first floor, he let his teachers navigate the system; with the ease with which they found their way, they’d either been to this hospital before, or maybe all hospitals were just set up the same way. They all needed to show their IDs to get visitors badges, and Izuku bristled when they insisted only family members be allowed in, but Yamada-sensei showed them paperwork he claimed made the teachers their guardians, that he recognized as being one of the forms his mother had signed, to allow them to be in the dorms, and he asked for both his mother’s room number and Endeavor’s, claiming their students were both there to visit their respective parents.

Both his mom and Endeavor were in the secured wing, but clearly for very different reasons, as the nurse told them a security guard would accompany them to his mother’s room, and that it would be up to the police officer guarding her door whether they were allowed inside. Thankfully, the guard she called over to escort them hadn’t heard that they were supposed to be going to two separate rooms, and took all four of them to her room. He was glad there was an escort, since the maze of corridors left him overwhelmed. They rounded a final corner, and Izuku saw not one but two police officers at the closed door to room 237, they’d been speaking to one another but immediately grew tense as they saw them approach, their hands hovering over their weapons, though they both relaxed somewhat when they recognized Present Mic.

Izuku could hear the police, the guard, and his teachers speaking, but he had no idea what they were saying. Because from inside the room he heard a musical sound he hadn’t heard in far too long. His mother was laughing, she sounded happy, fine, and suddenly he could breathe again. And then a deep booming laugh followed.

“She’s laughing. I haven’t heard her sound this happy in years,” Izuku admitted, stunned.

“I guess that’s maybe a doctor in with her?” Todoroki ventured. “You don’t have any other family in the country, right? It couldn’t be your father, could it?”

Then one of the policemen opened the door, and he entered the room and froze. Because his mother was lying on a hospital bed, Quirk handcuffs on her hands and feet, her arm bandaged, but she looked joyful, not injured or terrified, and sitting in a chair next to her wasn’t a doctor or his own father. It was Todoroki’s father: Endeavor.

His mother’s smile widened the moment she saw him, she beamed in delight, but Endeavor’s vanished, as he stood. “It appears you have other visitors. Shouto, what are you doing here? You should be studying, with the rest of your class.”

“His classmate needed him here,” Aizawa-sensei cut in smoothly, drawing his attention away from his son, to him.

“Mom, are you alright? They said he burned you. What’s he doing in here, why were you talking to him, what were you saying?” Izuku demanded, floored and trying to recover, because this wasn’t what he’d expected to find at all.

“Izuku honey, calm down. I’m fine. It’s only a little burn; honestly, the two of you are more upset about it than I am. And I was telling Todoroki-san… oh, I mean Endeavor, I forgot, I’m not supposed to use his name when he’s in public, in costume, when other people are around… but I was telling him about the time you and Katsuki turned my bathtub into a frog pond, and my bathroom into a swamp. The way you both looked up at me, so proud. ‘Because frogs eat bugs, Mom, and you don’t like bugs.’ Honestly, I never had a phobia about them until you brought that collection into the apartment and let them loose, ‘Because it would be mean to keep them in the bug box.’ You were so mischievous back then, but so sweet, both of you. I’m so happy Katsuki has been good to you again lately. You always smile when you talk about him now.”

Then unexpectedly, to his horror, her eyes welled with tears.

“Inko, what’s wrong?” Endeavor demanded.

And his mother looked up at Endeavor, not him. “I’m sorry. It’s silly to start crying now, isn’t it? It’s just that it’s been such a nostalgic day, being at the playground and remembering when Izuku was that little.” She turned back to him. “Talking about your father, Izuku, and about you, and hearing about Shouto-kun. Oh! I’m afraid I spilled the beans, Izuku, honey, about you starting a Hero agency, and having all your classmates and teachers join. I didn’t realize Shouto-kun hadn’t told his father about it, yet. But Endeavor has some wonderful advice, things he wishes he knew when he started his own agency, to make it easier for you to get started.”

“Mom! I didn’t even get a chance to tell Todoroki or Aizawa-sensei or anyone yet!” He hadn’t had the courage to mention his dream to anyone but her yet; even after everything that had happened this year, he still half expected to be ridiculed and belittled and laughed at. And now Todoroki and two of his teachers and Endeavor knew.

0 0 0

Yesterday, Shouto would have been horrified to hear Izuku’s mother had told Endeavor something like that, but now, after Aizawa-sensei finding out his secrets, it paled in significance. Of course, he didn’t believe for a moment that Endeavor truly wanted to help Midoriya. Whatever “advice” he’d given would likely ensure his agency went bankrupt within weeks of opening.

And what was he scheming, pretending to be concerned about Midoriya’s mother? Was this whole thing some elaborate plan to get at Midoriya, to sabotage him? What did it matter, now that his father had the #1 spot? Nothing was making any sense.

It should have made him happy, seeing his father being the one who was injured, for once, instead of him, bandaged and in a cast, though it had been years since his father had hurt him badly enough that he actually broke a bone. In recent years, he’d been battered and bruised, but not broken. Thankfully his father hadn’t even held a training session for him once, since becoming the #1 Hero. Probably because he was completely worthless to his father, now that he had obtained the #1 spot on his own. He no longer needed to rely on Shouto for that.

At least in all those many training sessions he had been injured, but he’d never been burned. He’d wondered at that, for years, until he’d been old enough to realize burn injuries would be too distinctive, too incriminating to brush off as anything but what they were: abuse.

“You’re actually injured,” Shouto commented, in the deadpan tone he’d reserved for his classmates, his first month at UA.

“I did just fight a villain. Two villains,” his father replied, his tone unexpectedly mild, and then he actually smirked at Midoriya’s mother, the implication unmistakable and infuriating, that she was the second villain.

“Todoroki-san! You’re embarrassing me in front of Izuku! Oh, but I’m sorry, I used your name again, didn’t I? You’d think I’d be used to Hero names, by now. And anyway, it is true, after all. It’s my fault you’re in that cast, and that you were shot.”

“Nonsense. I told you before, it’s Mustard’s fault,” Endeavor argued.

“But you never would have broken your ankle if I hadn’t blinded you,” Midoriya’s mother rebutted.

“Wait, you did what?” Midoriya screeched.

“Inko! We talked about this,” his father scolded, somehow sounding exasperated, instead of infuriated.

And he used her first name again! Why the hell is he calling Midoriya’s mother by her first name?

Midoriya-san beamed at Endeavor. “You’ve used my given name twice now, after claiming you wouldn’t. But only to scold me, this time. I suppose I deserve it. But there’s only family here, and Izuku’s teachers. And it’s not like Izuku won’t insist on hearing all the gory details about the attack, anyway. He flocks to villain attacks like a fly to honey, and he’s never actually had a criminal in the family before.”

Endeavor snorted. “Yes he has. Or did you conveniently neglect to mention your police record to your son?”

Shouto saw Midoriya look furious, his classmate sucked in a breath, clearly about to castigate Endeavor for even daring to suggest such a thing, but his mother beat him to it.

“Enji Todoroki! You’re the one who pointed out to me those charges were dropped. And that was years ago. And I told you, I never regretted that arrest. I was proud of it. I still am,” she said in satisfaction.

“Mom? What’s going on?” Midoriya demanded, sounding totally frazzled and overwhelmed.

“I’d better head back to my room,” Endeavor unexpectedly offered. “You have a lot of explaining to do, and I have discussions of my own, that are long overdue. Shouto, I’d like you to come with me. This isn’t about the agency, in case you are concerned. It’s something more immediate.”

Shouto stared. That hadn’t sounded like one of his thinly veiled orders, or an ultimatum, or threat. And he hadn’t called the agency a petty concern, or said, “that ludicrous agency idea.”

“Of course! I don’t want to keep you from your son,” Midoriya-san stated, which officially made her the only one in the room who didn’t. “But don’t forget you promised to meet me for coffee, once we’re both free. I have your number and I’m certain you have mine – you have my blood type and tax returns, after all – but if not, Izuku can give it to Shouto.”

His father snorted, his lips curling up in a self-satisfied smirk. “It’s only fair to warn you, I take mine black.”

What the hell is that supposed to mean? And why are they meeting for coffee?

She smiled, in a way that could only be described as devilish. “Don’t feel safe just because of that. You shouldn’t have warned me ahead of time. Forewarned is forearmed, and I am a rather devious and nefarious villain. I do have other tricks up my sleeve, you know,” she teased.

“Tch! I’d like to see you try,” Endeavor scoffed. If it was anyone but his father, he would have said it sounded playful.

What kind of painkillers is he on?

His father turned to him. “My room is on this floor, but in the other hall.”

Of course. The rich patron’s hall. Not the area for villains awaiting transport to jail.

Aizawa looked pointedly at Shouto, clearly ready to intervene, if needed, as he debated the wisdom of following his father. “I don’t-“

“It’s about your grandmother, among other things,” his father cut in, to his shock, before he could decline.

Damn you. Endeavor knew he had a burning curiosity about his grandparents. All his father would tell him was that his mother’s parents had given up all visitation privileges and influence in his life when they’d sold his mother to him. He’d phrased it exactly as that, as if his mother was a cow or a dog. It infuriated him. And Endeavor refused to say a single word about his own parents.

“Alright,” he said cautiously, subtly putting his hand in his pocket, clutching his phone, in case he needed it. Because there was bound to be a price for the information, and the usual cost was pain, or the loss of something he loved. Nothing was ever free, when it came to Endeavor, and nothing was ever worth the price.

Endeavor headed for the door and he walked at his father’s side, instead of behind him, until the door, but then, once in the hall, he walked at his side again, as his father led the way back to his room. Endeavor cleared his throat a few times on the way, as if he was about to speak, but he stayed silent. He also rubbed his chest, wincing slightly, as if he’d pulled or strained a muscle.

“Are you supposed to be walking around?” Shouto asked, cursing himself for it in the next moment; it’s not as if he cared about Endeavor’s health. He waited for the inevitable biting retort.

But to his surprise, his father didn’t scathingly silence him. Instead, he snorted derisively. “They wanted me to stay here three days. I agreed to one, as their concern is somewhat valid, given my medical history and the nature of the attack.”

What medical history?

He looked over at him with a sardonic grimace. “Don’t look so concerned. It’s not hereditary. Far from it. You’re likely immune.” There was something dark, angry, bitter in those words, that made Shouto’s pulse accelerate, his hand clutching his phone more tightly, his fight or flight response kicking in, as if this were the training room, and he regretted leaving the others. There was safety in numbers.

But then his father rubbed his chest again, in the same spot, frowning, sounding a little winded, his breath short and shallow, as if he was in pain, or had been exerting himself far more than walking down the corridor would account for, and Shouto stayed where he was, tense, anxious, but suddenly more concerned for his father’s health than his own, which was ridiculous.

Until his father cleared his throat again, but this time, it turned into a cough, a deep, haunting, familiar rumble, a sound he’d all but forgotten, from the dimmest memories of distantly remembered childhood; he couldn’t have been more than two years old.

“Shh. You have to be quiet Shouto. Your father is sick, remember? He needs to keep sleeping so he can get all better. He won’t be training Touya, or fighting villains today.” His mother’s voice had been so warm and gentle, reassuring, but with underlying worry. Touya. He hadn’t thought about his oldest brother in years.

But then they crossed the threshold of his father’s room, and Shouto was so astonished he gasped. He’d been watching his father’s face, he always watched, he needed to stay alert, to keep from being surprised by tests, attacks, but this time, instead of flaring, his father’s flames went out, entirely. For the first time in memory, he saw his father’s naked face, without the beard and mustache of flame. He looked far less fearsome, younger, almost… vulnerable. Which was ridiculous.

“Are you alright?” The question was automatic, instinctual, and incredibly foolish. Why do I keep making mistakes today?

“Why would…? Oh. The fire. I suppose you’ve never seen me like this, have you? I’d forgotten. But there’s an oxygen tank beside the bed. I need to keep my flames extinguished while I’m in here,” he explained mildly, instead of verbally attacking him for failing once again at situational awareness.

So that’s why he went to Midoriya-san’s room. So he could keep his flames. It didn’t fully explain what he’d observed, but it was at least a reason.

“You had something to tell me?” he asked bluntly.

Endeavor closed the door to the room, and Shouto immediately tensed, readying for battle.

It’s not oxygen, he’s lying, he’s testing me, but I can’t make a pre-emptive strike, because if I’m wrong…

Endeavor looked him in the eye, his expression determined, instead of angry or scolding or challenging. “I’ve been seeing someone.”

A dozen half-laid battle plans shattered at his feet like broken glass. Of all the things Shouto had thought his father might ever say to him, that had never made the list. It only took a few seconds for his shock to morph into cold fury. “It’s too bad that or being married to Mom didn’t stop you from flirting with Midoriya’s mother, then,” Shouto snapped acidly, apparently surprising himself more than Endeavor.

Endeavor frowned, but it looked like confusion, rather than anger. “I wasn’t flirting. We were merely talking, becoming friends. Although sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between the two, especially at your age.

Shouto’s temper flared. “Unlike you, I know the difference.” Not when it involved himself, obviously, because he still wasn’t sure what his relationship was with Midoriya, though he was relatively certain he knew what he wanted it to be.

“I meant at the age of 15 it can be difficult. That wasn’t meant as a personal attack against you, or a criticism. I’m sorry if that’s how it sounded,” Endeavor said, astonishing him.

Endeavor had never once told him he was sorry. He’d said, “My apologies,” or “Forgive me,” but only rarely and sarcastically. “My apologies for thinking you were strong enough.” “Forgive me for thinking you’d be able to dodge that.”

Endeavor exhaled heavily, and then inhaled again, slowly and deliberately, though the latter turned into another cough. He reached for the water by his bed, and drank deeply.

“Allow me to clarify. When I said I was seeing someone, I meant professionally. A psychiatrist. I have been since just after the Kamino incident. I had wanted to tell you sooner, but your sister forbade it, and the psychiatrist supported her decision,” Endeavor claimed.

“Don’t you drag Fuyumi into this! As if you’d ever listen to anything she has to say,” Shouto accused, infuriated on his sister’s behalf, that after everything he’d put her through, he’d blame her for whatever game he was playing, test or trap he was springing, as he scrabbled to make sense of it.

“I understand why you’re being so adversarial, Shouto, because that’s always been the nature of our relationship, but that doesn’t mean it needs to continue to be that way. I am genuinely trying to change. To correct and atone in whatever manner possible for my past mistakes.”

He sounded sincere, but it was impossible, he’d accuse him of being an idiot, an oblivious dreamer, there was no way he could take anything Endeavor was saying at face value, but this made all his other efforts at psychological warfare seem like child’s play. He didn’t have a clue where to go from here, so he sprang in for the attack, because attacking was almost always the correct countermove against Endeavor, regardless of the situation.

“Really? Fine. You can start by freeing mom from that damned hospital you’ve kept her caged in for ten years,” Shouto demanded.

“That decision is no longer up to me. Your brother Natsuo currently has power of attorney and guardianship over your mother and is responsible for determining her care,” his father ludicrously claimed.

“Bullshit! Since when? He’s 19 years old, he’s paying his own way through college, because you refused to support someone who was too weak to be of use to you. How the hell could he have the time or money to take care of her?” Shouto demanded, every shred of control he ever had gone, because this lying scheming bastard had destroyed all their lives, in different ways.

Endeavor sighed, heavily, and began coughing again. He reached for the water again, draining the rest of the glass, and then refilling it from the pitcher by the bed.

“That is one of the mistakes I have recently corrected, one of the things I needed to tell you, but I intended to do so more methodically than this. I’ve set up bank accounts for you and your siblings. I’ve placed enough in each that you can live comfortably, through your eventual retirement. Your mother’s care is covered, or her housing and expenses, as well, for the rest of her life, if she were to fully recover and leave the hospital. Your sister, Fuyumi, can continue to teach kindergarten. Your brother Natsuo can get his art degree and marry his girlfriend, he can raise a family of his own, if he chooses. And you can use your funds to go to college, or open your own agency, or, I suppose, become a full business partner with Midoriya in his agency.”

“Stop it! How dare you dangle something like that, about mom and my siblings, in front of me, knowing it’s a lie! Whatever game you’re playing, whatever test you’ve concocted, I’m not doing it!” Shouto snapped, cold sheathing his right side as his ice fought to overwhelm his control, the blood in his left burning, begging to be set free.

“Shouto, that’s enough!” Endeavor roared, stepping forward.

And there it was, what he’d waited to hear. He stiffened and crouched, trembling with righteous anger, ready for the next attack, whether it be verbal, physical or more of the psychological warfare Endeavor had been engaging in.

But unexpectedly, Endeavor took a step back and rubbed his hand down his naked face. “Damn it. I’m trying to… you have every right to voice your opinion, your doubts, your viewpoint. It is my duty as your father to not only hear what you are saying, but to truly listen, instead of dismissing you out of hand.”

His entire dialogue sounded scripted, rehearsed.

But then Endeavor looked him in the eyes again. “That’s one of my cool down phrases, whenever I’m triggered and I don’t have the luxury of walking away. I’ve used them a number of times with Fuyumi, these past two months. I normally recite them silently, of course, but you need to hear as much as I am able to share of what I am thinking, so you’ll listen, and stop blindly reacting. It would be to your benefit to listen. But if you need to leave, we can continue this discussion another time. I understand the timing is less than ideal. You’re clearly upset about your friend’s mother being arrested, and obviously blame me for her circumstances.

“You should know, I’ve been trying to get the charges against Midoriya-san dropped, since I found out she’d been arrested. Detective Tsukauchi refused to listen, he insists upon sticking to the letter of the law, regardless of the extenuating circumstances of this case. His scruples are infuriating, but admirable. To avoid forcing him into a moral dilemma, and for the sake of the country, I have gone over his head and appealed directly to the Police Commissioner. We cannot afford word of what happened leaking to the general public, or to the press. But we can talk about that later as well.

“Before you go, if you choose to leave now, I want to elaborate upon my earlier statement. Your comments to me at the Sports Festival and my reaction to All Might stepping down and my ascending in his place as #1 were a wakeup call. I contacted Kayama-sama. She’s Midnight’s mother, the preeminent Hero psychiatrist, with an extremely limited and select clientele. I was able to convince her that for the sake of my wife, my children, and the country, I needed to become a patient. We began with personal appointments, intensively, after our initial session, 15 one to two hour appointments within the first month.

“At that point, I spoke to your sister, Fuyumi, and told her about my visits, and encouraged her to go to family counseling with me, and if she was willing, private appointments as well, either with Dr. Kayama, or someone of her own choosing. She agreed, her single condition being that I not inform you, until a period of three full months, including my past appointments, to ensure I was truly committed. She also insisted I keep my interactions with you limited to brief visits outside our home, in a public location, and that I not visit you at UA, or engage in any sort of training with you, or any other actions of a competitive or judgmental nature. I agreed to her terms. Yesterday marked the end of the three months.

“I intended to contact you today. In spite of how it might appear, Mustard’s attack and my injuries and hospitalization were not the catalyst. I just want you to know that. Now that I’ve made headway… no, damn it, I’m not supposed to self-censor, especially not about that. Now that I’ve broken the ice, whether you choose to stay and listen, or to leave, is your decision. No, it was always your decision. But thank you for at least letting me say this much.”

Endeavor had never thanked him before in his life, unless it was sarcastically.

Shouto was struggling to process everything he’d heard, the flood of unbelievable information. Has he really been seeing a psychiatrist? Is that why the training stopped? Would Fuyumi really have kept something like this from me? I need to think this through. Talk to Fuyumi and Natsuo. To Midoriya. I need his input. Maybe even to Aizawa-sensei? Wait. Grandmother. He said he’d tell me about her. I can’t leave yet; this may be the only time he’ll ever be willing to tell me.

“Grandmother. You said you’d tell me about her,” he challenged.

“Ah, of course. That is the only reason you accompanied me, after all. You’ve always wanted to know about my parents. I killed her. And my brother,” he stated, as emotionlessly as if he was talking about swatting a fly.

Shouto froze at the inflectionless admission of guilt. Did he murder them? Or was it an accident, when his Quirk manifested or afterwards, did he lose control? How long have they been dead? Was it self-defense? Am I about to hear his mother or brother used to beat him or something, that he attacked one of them, and the other one died defending them?

“My psychiatrist disagrees, but the facts are that my mother and brother are dead, because of me. I was four years old, at the time. She was walking me home from preschool. We were talking and laughing, she was always laughing, we were so happy, back then, the three of us, it was just me and my father and her. I didn’t have any siblings, not yet, but I was going to: she was pregnant with my brother.

“My Quirk had just come in two weeks before, and it was amazing. They were both so proud of me. My father could make sparks, when he snapped his fingers, and my mother could make little breezes, I didn’t understand back then, but his Quirk was Ignition and her Quirk was Gas Manipulation. I could do more than both of them, I could actually make fire, not only with my hands, but with my whole body, it burned my clothes, but not my skin or hair, it didn’t hurt me. They told me how careful I had to be, because it could burn other people, my friends at school, even them. But I could already control it, I knew I wouldn’t ever lose control, they told me I was a prodigy, just like with school, the way I could read and write already far better than anyone else. I was perfect.” There was emotion now, bitterness, loathing, but this time, it wasn’t directed at Shouto or his mother; it sounded like it was self-directed.

“It was spring, flowers were blooming everywhere; she kept stopping to look at them in every yard, even though her garden was more beautiful than any of them. And then it started snowing, out of nowhere. I’d always loved winter, but it was spring, it wasn’t supposed to snow. I looked up at her, so excited, but she looked… I’d never seen… she was terrified. She started yelling at me to run. She’d never yelled at me before, she’d never looked like that, I was confused and scared, slow and stupid, but she tried to protect me anyway.

“Her name was Arctica, the villain who attacked us; I learned later, she could create snowstorms, blizzards, in seconds. My mother grabbed me, wrapped herself around me, tried to protect me, when she froze us. I woke up in the hospital. My mother and unborn brother were killed instantly, but she’d protected me just enough that I had hypothermia and frostbite, but I was alive. I was in the hospital for two weeks; I caught pneumonia for the first time, because of her attack. All the other times I’ve had it, and the bronchitis, the respiratory problems I’ve had, the reason I was never strong enough to beat All Might, were because of that, though it’s at least been over a decade since I’ve been weak enough to succumb again.

“When I finally saw my father, after two weeks, when it was time to leave the hospital – he’d never visited once – I asked where mom was, because the doctors and nurses never told me, and I was too afraid to ask, and my father… I’d never seen anyone look at me with hatred, before, the way your mother looked at me, every time I tried to touch her, after you were born, the way you looked at me, at the Sports Festival, when you told me you didn’t need me anymore.

“My father told me, ‘You killed her. And your brother. You have a Fire Quirk, you could have protected  them, but you were useless. They should have lived. I should kill you right now for that, but you deserve to suffer. I’m never going to let you forget.’ And he never did.

“I fought to get into UA, to atone for what I’d done, to save everyone else, but I failed there, too. I could never become #1. Even as a Pro Hero, All Might was constantly swooping in, because he’d seen I wasn’t strong enough to defeat everyone on my own, he’d pitied me since high school, ever since I was hospitalized again, he’s always tried to protect me, when I was supposed to be the one saving people.

“I’m sure you’ve always wondered why I chose someone with an Ice Quirk to marry, someone with a power that was the antithesis of mine. Dr. Kayama told me it was to punish myself, to constantly remind myself of my failure, but the truth is, I needed you and your siblings to be stronger than I was, regardless of the villains you might face. And you are, Shouto, you are everything I wanted you to be, even though you hate me for it.”

Shouto recoiled, because he’d been mesmerized by his father’s story, it was tragic, horrifying, it made Endeavor sound human, like he was worth pity or sympathy, but he wasn’t, he was a monster, he’d always been a monster, he always would be, and he’d almost forgotten, listening to him.

“I’m leaving,” he stated flatly.

 “Of course. You already stayed far longer than I expected you to. I’ll be here, in this room, until tomorrow evening,” Endeavor said, in what was a clear a challenge. “When you’re strong enough to hear more.”

He could have fought against it, but his head was spinning. He nodded, wordlessly and left, heading back for Midoriya’s mother’s room. He only got a dozen steps when a soft voice asked from behind him, “Are you alright?”

He jumped and spun and froze, when he realized it was Aizawa-sensei.

“You followed me. You were listening.” It was a statement, more than an accusation.

“I had the room number. I kept back, out of sight; I knew where you were going. But yes, once I arrived, I listened. I recorded every word too, though I knew it likely wouldn’t be admissible in court. I’ll admit, it wasn’t at all what I expected to overhear,” he said in a low voice. He nodded him to a clear spot of wall between two doors. “Keep your voice down, unless you want whoever’s in these two rooms to hear you.”  

“I don’t trust him. He’s planning something, he has to be. Why would he tell me all this now, after everything?” Shouto insisted, not only to Aizawa-sensei, but to himself, because there was a tiny, pathetically hopeful child’s voice in the back of his mind that still desperately wanted Endeavor to be human.

“Do you trust Fuyumi? And Natsuo?” Aizawa-sensei asked unexpectedly.

“Fuyumi, of course. Natsuo… I think so,” Shouto hedged.

“Then call them. Or better yet, meet with them, so you can look them in the eyes, read their body language. Bring the subject of your mother’s care up, or your lack of funds, see what they say, what they volunteer. Prod them with facts, if you need to, so they either open up, or tell you they have no idea what you’re talking about,” Aizawa-sensei suggested.

“I already planned to,” Shouto stated somewhat stiffly, because he wasn’t an idiot, feeling guilty for it in the next moment, because his teacher knew that, he’d never treated him otherwise. Well, except for after Hosu and Kamino, but he’d deserved it, both times, because what he and the others had done could definitely have been considered idiocy, or at least lunacy. And he hated the instinctive fear that he might be just as insane as his mother was, in that single moment of desperation, when she attacked him, that he was a time bomb too, waiting for the right stimulus, the right trigger, to set him off. Only when he exploded, it would be far more deadly than anything his mother could have ever done.

“Even if everything he said is true, it doesn’t change his actions, what he did to you, your siblings, your mother. He still needs to accept responsibility, to be punished,” Aizawa-sensei said firmly.

“I know,” Shouto replied. Intellectually, he knew that was true. But if Endeavor truly had sought help, on his own, had done even half of what he’d claimed, suffered through such a horrible childhood, blamed himself, been punishing himself.

Touya! I didn’t even think to ask. I can finally find out what happened to him. I have time. I’ve suffered in silence for 15 years. Reporting him can wait another day. Aizawa-sensei clearly had enough on his plate already. He suspected he’d be pressuring Bakugo, as well, after what he’d implied about his own home life, his mother.

Aizawa-sensei was staring at him, but he’d perfected the art of revealing none of his thoughts or emotions years ago. It worked on everyone except Endeavor. And sometimes Midoriya.

“Alright. Let’s go check on the Midoriya’s. Whatever happened to his mother is clearly not what it initially sounded like,” Aizawa-sensei suggested.

Shouto  nodded, relieved that the focus was momentarily off him, and the two of them started walking again.

Chapter Text

Izuku frowned at the police officer, when he entered the room, and took up a position just inside the door, after Endeavor and Todoroki left. “I’d like some privacy to talk to my mother,” he told the officer because he didn’t feel comfortable warning his mother about Endeavor with a witness he didn’t know. It felt awkward enough with Yamada-sensei there.

“Sorry, kid. Now that Endeavor’s gone, I’m required to be inside the room guarding the prisoner,” the police officer replied, not unkindly, his voice sympathetic.

“I’m so sorry I worried you, sweetie. I hope they didn’t make it sound too scary,” his mom soothed.

He’d thought she was horribly burned, maybe dying. He’d been terrified. “What happened?”

“After I spoke to you this morning, I decided to go for a walk, in the park by our house, just to stretch my legs a little. And I ended up at that playground Mitsuki and I used to take you and Katsuki to. There were a number of toddlers and their parents, mostly mothers, and suddenly this middle school boy came running out of the trees, and there was… well, it was Endeavor, who was chasing him, but at the time, I didn’t recognize him. His flames were shooting up meters into the air, they were everywhere, he looked nothing like he does on TV, and I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I actually thought he was a villain. And I don’t know what I was thinking, but I couldn’t let him hurt that boy, so I… well, I attacked Endeavor.

“It sounds silly even calling it that, but I used my Quirk, I threw sand in his face, hoping to temporarily blind him, and it worked much better than I could have hoped. He tripped, he actually fell on the ground, coughing, and his flames lowered considerably, and I turned to make sure the boy was running, that he was safe but… well, he wasn’t. He was standing there, looking… triumphant, evil, and there was a gun in his hand and that’s when I realized he was a villain, and the man in the blue costume was Endeavor. And that boy was going to shoot him.

“So I had to fix my horrible mistake, I mentioned the gun out loud, because I didn’t think Endeavor could see it, and I tried to get between them. But then something slammed into me and I heard the shot, I thought I’d been hit by the bullet, and suddenly my sweater was on fire, but Endeavor was the one who was shot, protecting me. He’d used his flames and melted the gun. And then… well, he collapsed a bit, and when I realized how badly he was bleeding, I made a tourniquet for him.

“I’m sorry, Izuku, I used that hair ornament you made for me, with my belt, it’s probably ruined, between that and the blood, but… anyway, I called the police and Endeavor told me that was Mustard, while we waited. I talked quite a bit, because he wasn’t breathing very well, and I finally realized it was because that awful boy used his gas Quirk on him, and well, I was more than a little upset, as you can imagine. And then the police and ambulances came, and they took Endeavor to the hospital, and arrested me and Mustard, but took me to the hospital too. Oh dear, Mustard is probably here as well, although they might have had to take him somewhere special, for his hand.

“Anyway, that’s what happened. Oh! And that sweet Detective Tsukauchi was the one to question me, he’s such a nice man, but he looks like he might be overworked. I tried to make sure he got lunch afterwards, even though it’s early yet. And Endeavor came in to finish our conversation. It was such a relief, having him here with me. I feel so much calmer now. They’re keeping me here because of my blood pressure, you know it’s been a little high lately, and I keep meaning to get more exercise and eat better. I’m definitely going to start. Hopefully, on my own, but well, I did break the law, even if it was only my first or second offense. I hear prison is wonderful for getting into shape.

“Izuku, honey? That was a joke. Are you alright? Endeavor’s having his lawyer take my case, and he’s refused to press charges against me, he even tried to get the rest of the charges dropped, so I’m sure it will work out, with probation or maybe house arrest or something. One of those ankle bracelets people wear. Izuku, sweetie, you’re starting to worry me. You’re not mumbling. You always mumble when you’re thinking too hard about something.”

“You attacked Endeavor. You tried to save Mustard. You got burned, you almost got shot, you got arrested, you could have been gassed or… of course I’m not alright!” Izuku yelled.

“Whoa, Midoriya, calm down,” Yamada-sensei said, stepping between them, his hands out in a calming motion, like he was a wild animal or something.

Izuku had forgotten he was even there.

“Honestly, if she was my mother, I’d have been yelling a lot sooner than he was,” the police officer volunteered.

“Izuku honey, I’m fine. I wasn’t shot, or gassed, and your father burned me worse than this more than a few times, by accident,” she soothed.

She could have told him, “Now you know how I felt, all those times you were injured,” but she didn’t, because she was his mother; she’d never throw that back in his face like that.

“Why don’t you tell me about your day yesterday? You were too tired to say more than a few words last night, so I know you must have done a lot,” she encouraged.

He felt guilty, how little he’d said last night, this morning. Those could have been his last chances to ever talk to her, and he’d blown her off, both times. He’d just felt so smothered, recently. He was a terrible son. So he told her about his classes and about the trip to the mall, leaving out about the present for her, and the presents for Aizawa-sensei, because he didn’t think Yamada-sensei would be able to keep a secret from him.

There was a knock on the door in a distinctive pattern, but the other officer verified who it was anyway. And then Todoroki and Aizawa-sensei came in, and Izuku immediately ran to his friend. “Todoroki, is everything alright?”

He nodded, wordlessly, which just made him more worried.

“Did something happen to your father? He was coughing a few times, earlier, when he was in here. I hope his lungs are alright,” his mother commented.

Izuku rounded on her. “Mom, enough already! You need to stop being nice to Endeavor, stop talking to him, stop trying to be his friend! He doesn’t deserve friends, not after the things he’s done! You can’t trust him! He’s a terrible person, he’s not who you think he is!”

“Izuku! What’s gotten into you?” his mother asked, shocked.

Belatedly, Izuku remembered it wasn’t just the five of them, that the policeman was there too, and appearing too casually disinterested not to be listening.

He opened his mouth to tell her, but Todoroki’s soft plea of, “Don’t. Don’t say anything more. Please,” had him shutting it again.

“Do you want to talk? We can go someplace private,” he urged his friend, because he looked lost, physically fine, but as if his whole world had just tilted on its axis.

Todoroki looked up at Aizawa-sensei, as if for permission, and that was nothing like the boy he knew.

“Actually, I think it’s best we head back to the school, Midoriya-san. It’s been a very emotional and stressful visit for both boys, and I’m sure their classmates are worried about them,” Aizawa-sensei volunteered.

“Of course. You go back to school, sweetie. I’m fine. I have these nice officers here to protect me and keep me company, Officer Fujiwara, here, and Officer Hasagawa, in the hall. I really am sorry for worrying you so much, honey. We’ll talk again tonight, or tomorrow, maybe? I’m probably not allowed phone calls, am I? They confiscated my phone.”

“No ma’am, I’m sorry, but no phone calls,” Officer Fujiwara confirmed politely.

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” Izuku assured her, and then he hugged her, hating how she couldn’t hug him back, or even pat him on the back or head, because of the Quirk cuffs.

“Oh, I should have told you before. Kacchan was really worried about you, when he heard, he wanted to visit, but Aizawa-sensei knew only family and the teachers would be allowed to see you,” Izuku explained.

She looked pointedly at Todoroki. “Then how…”

“Endeavor was in here, the first time, ma’am, and he’s his son. As for now, well, I won’t tell anyone if you don’t,” Officer Fujiwara said, with a conspiratorial smile. “I heard Detective Tsukauchi and you speaking, I heard a lot more details than your son, and frankly, you’re about the farthest thing I’ve ever seen from a villain, or a criminal. I’m hoping Endeavor actually can get the charges dropped, that he throws around all that weight of his and does some good.” Izuku could almost hear the unspoken words “for a change” in the air.

“I’m sure if anyone can help, he can. I love you, Izuku. Have a good rest of your day. I’ll see you tomorrow,” his mother assured him.

Izuku gave his mother a last long look before the door was closed and locked. As they started walking, he pulled out his phone.

“Not here, Midoriya. Leave it off,” Aizawa-sensei ordered. “Wait until we’re in the garage. Most of the hospital is a no phone zone; I guess you missed the signs.”

“Oh. OK. Sorry,” he apologized, tucking it back in his pocket, and settled for watching Todoroki anxiously.

The car ride back was nerve-wracking. Todoroki didn’t want to talk, he was just sitting there, quietly, and Izuku let him have his space.

He checked his phone and ignored the mountain of concerned texts he’d received, and instead sent a message to Kacchan.

Izuku: We’re on our way back. Mom’s fine, barely injured and in good spirits, I told her you were worried about her, and she sends her love. Tell everyone for me, OK? I kind of don’t feel like talking right now.

Kacchan: Bullshit. You always feel like talking, you yammer incessantly. How is she really?

Izuku: Honestly, she’s OK. They’re trying to get the charges dropped, what happened is insane, I’ll tell you in person, I promise, but Todoroki needs me right now. I just didn’t want you worrying.

Kacchan: Whatever. You’d better not blow me off when you get here, loser.

Izuku: I won’t. We’ll talk, but it might be kind of late. Bye, Kacchan.

He’d kind of lied, since Todoroki wasn’t talking, although it looked like he honestly did need him, even if it was only quiet support.

“How’s your head, Shouta?” Yamada-sensei asked Aizawa-sensei softly.

He only shrugged in response, which had Yamada-sensei frowning, Izuku could see it in the rearview mirror. It also looked like their homeroom teacher was texting someone. Izuku wondered who it could be. He wasn’t sure his teacher had any other friends, other than Midnight. Or Ms. Joke. But honestly, he couldn’t picture him texting either of them. Or texting at all, really.

“One of these days, I’m going to teach you to do that using your thumbs, like a normal person,” Yamada-sensei teased, but it sounded forced.

“My fingers work fine,” he argued mildly.

“I can attest to that. But it’s still embarrassing. What are you, 70?” Yamada-sensei retorted.

“Some days,” Aizawa-sensei replied softly, leaning back and closing his eyes.

“Yeah, you didn’t get any sleep at all last night, did you? Go ahead and nap. I promise I’ll wake you; I won’t let Midnight princess-carry you to your room again,” Yamada-sensei teased fondly.

“Beast,” Aizawa-sensei muttered.

Yamada-sensei started humming, and tapping his fingers against the steering wheel, as if to music only he could hear.

Did she really carry him to his room like that? I didn’t realize the three of them were quite that close. They must be really good friends.

“I’d like to be by myself for a while, when we get back. After class, I mean,” Todoroki qualified.

“Yeah, no, that’s not happening. I mean the class part. The two of you have a pass for today. No classes,” Yamada-sensei contradicted.

“I need the distraction. I always work things out best when I’m training,” Todoroki argued.

“Seriously? It’s a good thing Eraser’s already asleep. I don’t need him thinking your craziness vindicates his.”

“I’m perfectly sane,” Todoroki replied in his cold, dead, emotionless voice, the one that hid so much.

“Shit. Sorry, that wasn’t… of course you are. Eraser is too. I just… would you like to listen to some music, now that the grouch is asleep? I always think better with music, but something soft,” Yamada-sensei scrambled to pull his foot out of his mouth.

Izuku’s phone buzzed, and his eyes lit up when he saw who it was. He answered immediately. “All Might! Where were you? I’ve been trying to reach you!”

“Midoriya, my boy! I’m so sorry! I’m at the hospital, getting some testing done, my phone was off, and I just got your messages. How is your mother, is she alright, were you able to see her?”

“She’s actually doing a lot better than I expected. Her arm is burned, but she said it’s not bad, and she was talking and laughing, but she’s in Quirk cuffs, on her hands and feet. All Might, there are police inside and outside her room and they’re treating her like a villain!” Izuku burst out, and suddenly his eyes were flooding with tears that spilled over and ran down his cheeks, because he’d been so scared she was badly injured, or dying, he’d had horrible mental pictures of her burnt black and screaming, even now, he couldn’t get them out of his head, and just hearing All Might’s voice had somehow triggered everything.

All Might was sputtering something on the other end, but he couldn’t even hear him, and then a gentle hand took the phone from him, as he desperately tried to stem the flow of tears.

“All Might, this is Shouto Todoroki. Midoriya is with me, and Eraserhead, and Present Mic. Midoriya-san is fine, you shouldn’t worry about her. Endeavor is working to have her freed. The police are being very kind to her, they don’t think she should be locked up either, but they have to obey the law. We’re on our way back to the school, are you there?” Todoroki asked levelly, calmly, politely, even as his right hand began patting him on the back, gently and somewhat hesitantly, feeling awkward.

“Oh. That’s the same hospital Midoriya-san is in. I’m certain she would like another visitor, and the police wouldn’t dream of trying to keep you out, All Might. You should go see her,” he urged, as the gentle, irregular pats changed to soft rubbing circles.

“No, I’d prefer you didn’t confront him. He apparently didn’t injure her intentionally; he was saving her from being shot by Mustard. I’m sure she’ll tell you all about it. Try not to yell at her for it. Midoriya already did, and she needs to keep her blood pressure down,” Todoroki said calmly, as the gentle circles got wider.

“I will. Goodbye, sir,” Todoroki said, ending the call, and placing the phone back in his hand, even as slow, inquisitive, cool fingers slid up his neck and carded through Izuku’s hair.

“Is this alright? My mother used to do this, when I was little, when I was upset,” Todoroki said so softly he could barely hear him.

Izuku just nodded, not trusting himself to speak, and then he leaned towards him, hesitantly, frustrated by the shoulder strap of the seatbelt, until he tucked it under his arm. Todoroki did the same, his left arm reaching around, and wrapping carefully around his chest, his side, so warm, such a contrast to the right. “You’re OK, Midoriya. I’ve got you. Everything’s going to be OK.”

And for the first time since receiving the terrible news, Izuku believed it would be.

0 0 0

Thankfully, the others were still in class, so Shouto was able to bring Midoriya back to the dorm without people swarming all over them, asking intrusive questions, like why was his arm wrapped around Midoriya while they were walking, and why was he leaning on him, as if he was too injured to walk unsupported.

Or to notice that Aizawa-sensei was leaning on Yamada-sensei the same way, though from the hand pressed tightly to his face, over his eyes, the way he was trying to burrow into his scarf, Aizawa-sensei was clearly in pain.

Shouto had suggested he be brought to Recovery Girl instead, but Yamada-sensei didn’t think that was a good idea, for some reason, or maybe he knew that whatever was wrong, she couldn’t help with, which was somewhat concerning. If he hadn’t had his own hands full with Midoriya, literally, and his head hadn’t been swimming, he would likely have worried about it more.

He was used to seeing Midoriya charged with righteous enthusiasm, indignant fury. He wasn’t used to him looking and feeling so… broken. He knew the feeling all too well: helpless rage, that led nowhere, powerlessness that made it seem impossible to function, though he’d never had the luxury of simply shutting down, in hopes of rebooting, the way Midoriya seemed to be doing. Or not. He wasn’t sure, honestly. But it seemed like his quiet, supportive presence was comforting, at least, so he would stay as long as Midoriya allowed it.

They parted with their teachers in the common area, on the first floor, their teacher’s heading to the dorm parent’s apartment, and he and Midoriya heading for the elevator, though they usually took the stairs. Maybe that was why he heard one last gentle reassurance, from Yamada-sensei, whose volume even for whispering tended to be far louder than others’. “Come on, Shou, baby, I know it hurts. Just a little further, honey, and we’ll get you out of the nasty light and into bed.”

Ah. That cast a lot of the interactions he’d seen between his teachers today in an entirely new light. Apparently his warning glare aimed at Yamada-sensei about the way Midoriya was clinging to him when he exited the car hadn’t been necessary, after all, although he didn’t think his English teacher had even noticed. He was too busy trying to get Aizawa-sensei to leave the car.

“I’m sorry I’m such a wreck,” Midoriya apologized, as Shouto opened his door.

“You have every right to be,” he argued mildly. “Would you like me to stay, or do you want to be alone?”

“Well, you wanted to be alone, so…” Midoriya said, looking away anxiously, his body language screaming “stay with me.” He had no idea what other people were thinking, half the time, why they did the things they did, but he could usually read Midoriya easily.

“Since I’ve been forbidden to train… sorry… that… I’m trying to wrap my mind around that concept. But anyway, as you can see, I’d just get lost in my head, and my head’s actually a pretty scary place, when I’m not taking out my frustrations with my ice, so I’d rather stay, if you don’t mind,” Shouto offered mildly, as if the answer didn’t matter to him, one way or the other. So that when Midoriya told him to he’d rather be by himself actually, his more polite phrasing of Bakugo’s “Fuck off and die!”, it wouldn’t hurt quite so much.

“You don’t mind? Because I honestly really need you here with me, if that doesn’t mess you up,” Midoriya admitted, proving that he was actually as completely clueless where Midoriya was concerned as he was with everyone else.

“OK. Do you want to talk? Or sit quietly? Or maybe listen to music or something? That seems to work for a lot of people.” In his father’s house, of course, music hadn’t been allowed, not for him, because it took his attention away from training, and taught rebellion and disrespect of authority. At least the music he liked to listen to, anyway. Which was a pretty clear message, in and of itself, he’d always thought.

“I was kind of hoping you might like to talk? Because when you came back from seeing your father, you looked kind of… wrecked. And I need to know what that bastard said or did to you,” Midoriya said, and there was that fierce, protective focus he’d been missing.

“I… um… don’t think I can tell you, yet. It was… he told me a lot of really messed up things, about when he was a kid and… I think his father is actually worse than mine, if you can believe it. His father is actually definitely the reason mine is so messed up. But…I can tell you that he’s been seeing a psychiatrist. For three months. A really good, one apparently. And part of what got him there was me telling him off, at the Sports Festival, after you convinced me to use my fire. So thanks for that, again. And he apparently has gotten my sister to see the psychiatrist too, they’re in family therapy as well as individual. But he also… he said that Natsuo now is the one who has control of whether mom stays in the hospital.” He looked at Midoriya, for a reaction.

“Todoroki, none of that excuses the things he did to you and your mother, to your siblings,” Midoriya stated firmly. “He still needs to be punished.”

“He also opened up bank accounts for all of us, everyone he cut off: my mom, Fuyumi, Natsuo and me… Touya. He didn’t mention Touya, and I was so overwhelmed by what he said, about Grandmother, that I didn’t even think to ask. Damn it.”

“Who’s Touya?” Midoriya asked.

“My oldest brother. Endeavor used to train him, when I was really little, just a toddler, before my Quirk came in. Touya had – has, I hope – a fire Quirk, like Endeavor’s, except stronger, I think, because his burned blue all the time, like Endeavor’s Hellflame, his hottest. I remember thinking how cool he looked, how I wanted my Quirk to be fire, just like his. Fuyumi and Natsuo were both ice, but their Quirks weren’t powerful at all.” He heard his father screaming in his head, about how weak and useless they were, how they were disappointments.

“Touya had so much potential; I knew he was going to be the best Hero ever. I just wanted to maybe be strong enough to be his sidekick. But then as soon as my Quirks came in, when Endeavor saw I could use both ice and fire, and how strong they were, he abandoned Touya. He stopped training him completely, ignored him, and focused on me. Touya had been such a good brother, until then, really attentive, and loving. But after that, he grew so distant, he ignored me, the way Endeavor ignored him, he’d walk right past me and pretend he didn’t see or hear me, and… it hurt.

“I know he was jealous, resentful, but I think… I think he blamed me. Maybe even hated me? And Fuyumi and Natsuo did too, for a while. They’d play with each other, the three of them, but even the few times I wasn’t training, when I snuck away to see them, when Endeavor was doing Hero work, they wouldn’t let me play with them.

“Mom made it worse, by accident. She was so worried about me, trying to protect me, because of how hard Endeavor was training me, that she spent all her time with me, and she took my side, every time there was a side to take. But then, the older I got… she wouldn’t hold me, anymore. She wouldn’t even look me in the face, anymore, she’d stare at my chest, like she could burn a hole through my heart just by looking at it. And she started to get… strange. She’d be upset, all the time, and the tiniest little thing would set her off. Especially when my siblings and I would argue. She kept saying we were just like our father, self-centered, petty and mean-spirited, manipulative and bitter, but Touya and I were the worst, because… because we looked just like him. It hurt us, hearing her say that, all of us, comparing us to that monster she hated. And then one day, she just snapped, and attacked me.”

He touched his face, the burn scar he hated, as much as she’d hated his face the way it used to be.

“And that same night… Touya was gone too. Endeavor said mom was in a psychiatric hospital, that he’d locked her up, for hurting his ’masterpiece’, but when I asked about Touya, all he said was, ‘He’s not your concern. That worthless brother of yours ran off.’ But he was only fourteen years old. Where could he have possibly gone? Back then, I was convinced Endeavor had done something, shipped him off to boarding school, or maybe to our grandparents, either his parent’s or mom’s, we’d never met either of them. But as I got older… I started thinking that maybe Endeavor had killed him, either by accident, or on purpose.”

“Todoroki-kun!” Midoriya reached out his hand, but he flinched away. He couldn’t be touched, not now, not when he was telling him this.

“It’s been ten years, and I still don’t know what happened, whether he’s even alive… But the only good thing that came of me being burned, mom being locked up, Touya disappearing, losing half my family, was I got to keep the other half. Natsuo and Fuyumi felt so guilty, for not protecting me, pitied me, for how ugly I looked, that they started to pay attention to me again, they started trying to protect me from Endeavor, what little they could, or at least treat the aftermath, help me do the first aid, instead of me bandaging myself, the way I used to. They weren’t there much, of course. Unlike me, they went to school, while I was homeschooled.

“That’s why I never had friends, before I came to UA, or watched movies, or ate fast food, or did anything all of you did, growing up. That’s why I can’t relate to any of the others: there’s no common frame of reference at all. I’d be completely hopeless, if I didn’t at least have that little bit of time with my siblings, but I think it would have actually just hurt a lot less if I’d been an only child,” he finished, still staring at the same point on the wall, because he didn’t want to see the horror on Midoriya’s face, when he heard what a freak he was.

“Todoroki-kun! You’re not ugly. How could you ever think that? And how could they do that to you, hate you like that? I know they were kids too but. Damn it! All this time, and you think he murdered your brother? How could you even live there, after that? Why didn’t you run away? Escape? Burn through the walls or something, scale them with ice, when he wasn’t home?”

He forced himself to meet Midoriya’s eyes. He wasn’t looking at him like he was a freak. His eyes were somehow gentle and angry, all at the same time. It gave him the courage to tell him the truth, to tell him exactly how pathetic he was.

“What choice did I have? I was completely isolated from the outside world. I was more scared of running away than I was of him. He always made it sound like there were villains everywhere, ready to kill everyone. I’d never been to school.  I barely ever even left the house for anything – just a shrine visit here or there, or a party Endeavor wanted me to attend, so he could show off his ‘creation’ to the media, the public, like I was some sort of prized well-bred and trained show dog. I never even went to a store, until I came here; whatever I needed was just purchased for me, it just appeared in my room, what little he thought I needed.

“I know I came off as cold and aloof those first few weeks I was here. But honestly? I was scared out of my mind; I just hid that I was. Everything was new and different. Everyone else was talking and making friends so easily, but I couldn’t communicate at all. Everyone except Bakugo. They were all making fun of him. They treated me differently, too. Not badly, necessarily, just differently. Even you did. Until the Sports Festival. And then everything changed.

“You’re the reason I started accepting myself. You were fine with me being weird, being different, you didn’t care. Just like Kirishima is the reason Bakugo has friends now. You’re really special. Both of you, I mean. You and Kirishima. To me and Bakugo.” Because he’d meant it, Midoriya was really special to him, but…Midoriya’s eyes were shining, his mouth was formed in an “O” shape.

Damn it. Midoriya heard him the first time, what he’d really meant, but been too skittish to say.

“You’re really special too, Todoroki-kun,” he said softly, and that look in his eyes…

There was a loud bang, that made them both jump. “Deku, where the fuck are you, you useless nerd? Get your ass out here and tell me what the fuck is going on!”

Midoriya’s head sank down into his hand and he shook it. Then he stood up straight. “Coming, Kacchan! Don’t blow anything else up.”

“Don’t you fucking tell me what to do!” Bakugo roared, a series of explosions following the first.

“Katsuki, damn it, calm down!” Kirishima yelled.

“I told you not to call me than, Shitty Hair!” Bakugo yelled, punctuating it with another blast.

Shouto’s eyes widened, as he remembered their teachers, Aizawa-sensei’s migraine. He only hoped the soundproofing in their teacher’s apartment was better than what was in their rooms, as he ran for the hall, and then the stairs, trying to keep Bakugo from causing any more damage, Midoriya trailing behind him.

Yamada-sensei beat him to it. He’d never known there could be human volcanoes, before, without a Magma Quirk. Their English teacher was red faced, the angry flush visibly going down his chest, as well, which was bare, he was wearing pajamas, black ones, with tiny white cats on them, but the shirt was open and he was barefoot, his hair wet and down, he’d clearly either taken a very quick shower, or washed his hair, in the time they had been there. He was glaring at Bakugo, Kirishima, and Kaminari, most of his attention focused on Bakugo.

“You are lucky Shouta’s wearing those ear plugs that he hates, and that I forced him to take his hardcore medication, the stuff that completely knocks him out, because I swear to God, if any of you wakes my man up while he’s still in pain, I will make your life a living hell in my class. You will read War and Peace starting tonight and write a 20 page essay on it due in a week, and every other week for the rest of the semester I will find the most enormous and annoying and confusing and boring books that were ever written in the English language, the kind that line the bookshelves in the libraries in hell, and you will read them, and write about them, until you want to gouge your eyes out and cut your fingers off because of the pain, and that’s just to start. Do I make myself clear, children?” His diatribe was all the more terrifying because it was carried out in a quiet, deadly serious voice, not a Present Mic screech.

“We won’t let anyone disturb Aizawa-sensei, sir. Please accept my apologies, on behalf of our entire class,” Shouto apologized sincerely, bowing formally, because he’d overheard Recovery Girl and Yamada-sensei, one day he’d been sent to see her, after a training injury Aizawa-sensei was adamant he be treated for. Aizawa-sensei’s debilitating migraines were a direct result of getting his skull fractured, nearly pulverized, protecting them all at the USJ, and he’d nearly gone blind and lost his Quirk from that attack, his face had been permanently scarred. Their teacher didn’t seem to care about his appearance, but they had no way of knowing whether or not it actually bothered him. It was one thing to wear a wrinkled Hero costume every day, and another to have a permanent, constant reminder of something horrible etched into your face. The others might not be able to relate to that, but he certainly could.

“Alright then. I suggest you take whatever you were bitching about outside. And text your class and warn them off from the Dorm too. Indoor voices, children, until you hear otherwise,” and then he was heading back the way he’d come, his hair leaving little drips on the floor.

“I told you they were together. He said ‘his man’, those pajamas sure as hell weren’t his, he doesn’t have a room here, but he just took a shower, and he threatened us. You owe me dinner, Shitty Hair. Not barbeque, either, you’re taking me to that restaurant I showed you, I want to see you dressed up, in that new shirt I got you, to replace the one you ripped,” Bakugo said with a triumphant smirk.

“Seriously? They’re not the only ones. That sounded pretty gay, dude,” Kaminari quipped, with a self-satisfied grin, clearly having fried a few too many brain cells in the self preservation lobe of his brain.

“Yeah, so? I thought the whole fucking class already knew I was gay,” Bakugo huffed.

Ah. Well, he’d had his suspicions, obviously, but he hadn’t been entirely certain.

“Well yeah, of course, but now we know for a fact you’re gay for our manliest of men, Kirishima. Because you just forced him to ask you out on a date,” Kaminari stated proudly.

“What? No I didn’t, stupid Pikachu. He lost a bet. I won. That means I get to pick the prize,” Bakugo argued, but at a notably lower volume than normal.

“Right. And Kirishima is apparently the prize,” Kaminari replied. And then he ran. Because quiet murder leaves you just as dead as the noisy kind.

Shouto and Izuku followed the three outside, because Bakugo still wanted to talk, and just because they were outside didn’t mean Bakugo’s explosions couldn’t wake Aizawa-sensei. Which Bakugo fortunately realized, apparently, because he wasn’t setting any off.

The second he saw Midoriya, he stopped chasing Kaminari.

“Tell me about your mother. I want to know everything,” he demanded.

“Aren’t classes still in session? Won’t you all get in trouble, Kacchan?” Midoriya asked.

“Yeah, well our English class was cancelled, because our teacher was off at the hospital, visiting with the injured parent of a student, go figure. Talk, Deku,” he demanded.

“First let’s head to Training Ground Beta. If you blow up about something, I don’t want it to be where Aizawa-sensei can hear,” Midoriya insisted bravely.

“Fucking fine,” Bakugo snapped, which didn’t bode well for him holding a rein on his temper, once he heard the story.

Once they reached the simulated cityscape, Midoriya told them all about his mom, Endeavor, and the villain attack. Shouto listened in awe, stunned by what he heard, and the others looked just as impressed.

“Holy shit! I never knew your mother was such a badass, Midoriya. Now I see where you get it from,” Kaminari praised.

“You fucking bet she’s a badass, but she’s way cooler than Deku here will ever be,” Bakugo said proudly, as if it was his own mother being praised, at the same time denigrating her actual son.

“I would have had a heart attack if my mom told me something like that,” Kirishima admitted.

“Endeavor saved your mother? He got shot protecting her?” Shouto asked, needing the clarification, because that sounded like something a real Hero would do, not his asshole of a father.

“She protected him first. And he burned her,” Midoriya insisted.

“Well yeah, knocking her out of the way of a bullet. It’s not like he hurt her on purpose, right?” Kirishima asked.

“No, of course not. What kind of Hero would ever hurt someone’s mother on purpose?” Shouto replied acidly, vividly remembering the sound of his father’s fist hitting his mother, when he was curled up on the floor vomiting at his feet.

“Whoa, hey, Todoroki. You’ve been acting kind of weird today. Is there something going on we don’t know about?” Kirishima asked innocently.

“If I had the patience, I’d write you a list,” he snapped.

“Hey, asshole, don’t take your daddy issues out on Kirishima. If you don’t have the fucking balls to go after your father, I’ll do it for you,” Bakugo volunteered, with a sneer.

“Really? Because it sounded to me like you’re all bark and no bite, considering your mother neutered you years ago. No wonder you like Midoriya’s mother better than your own,” Shouto shot back, the last shreds of his fractured control shattering, finally caving in to the way his ice had been screaming at him to be set free, as if it were a caged beast, like the one roaring in front of him, explosions flaring from his hands, heading for his face.

They were met with a wall of ice, and a simultaneous gout of flame, but Bakugo was already thrusting up into the air, arcing up and over the ice shield. Shouto skated away effortlessly, shooting out spikes of ice, one of which scored an angry red line across Bakugo’s chest.

“Holy shit! Todoroki’s gone nuts! He’s really trying to kill him!” Kaminari yelled.

“Todoroki, are you out of your mind?” Kirishima yelled, diving protectively in front of Bakugo, hardening his skin, saving himself from being impaled because of it, as if the double accusation of him being insane was driving him to prove them right.

“Todoroki, stop!” Midoriya urged, darting between them.

It was just like when he was a kid, his brothers and sister all pitted against him, everyone against him, and his father, standing back and watching the chaos he’d created, reveling in his misery.

And then that looming figure of muscle in his mind, of fire and self-loathing shrank down, aging backwards, to a coughing, ashamed high schooler, staring up at a towering blond god he could never hope to surpass, to a friendless middle schooler, because who would want to befriend someone that crazy, that driven, to a lonely elementary schooler in a stark white hospital, to a terrified and confused kindergartner, to a child of four, looking at a spring snow with innocent eyes, seeing his mother’s terror, hearing her scream for him to run, feeling her arms freeze around him as her heartbeat faded to silence, as his brother’s did, as his arms and legs began to freeze, as the world faded to white.

0 0 0

Izuku stared, horrified, as Todoroki attacked Kacchan as if he’d truly lost his mind, as if he was trying to kill him. Kacchan was bleeding, and Kirishima was protecting him, but it wouldn’t be enough, not against the living glacier that writhed and stabbed at Todoroki’s whim. The full force of Todoroki’s Ice Quirk battered against the protective electric sheathe of full cowling as he scooped up both Kirishima and Kacchan, rocketing them to safety, only centimeters away from the tsunami of ice that chased them across the training ground. Izuku prayed that Kaminari was still alive, that he’d dodged it somehow, that he’d been running to get teachers, to get help, because he hadn’t seen him, he didn’t have time to look, and he remembered All Might gravely telling him that sometimes you can’t save everyone.

But then Todoroki screamed, as if he was tearing his throat out with the sound, and there was such anguish and pain and hopelessness and grief in his voice, that Izuku had to turn back, to look. He froze in horror as his friend, on his knees, erupted into blue flame, as his entire left side became a cobalt fireball exploding outwards. Half the ice of his glacier vaporized immediately, the other half melting into a flashflood of water, as alarms began flaring all across campus, as if it was a villain attack, as a supernova of light and heat exploded outwards, eager to engulf him and Kacchan and Kirishima. Izuku tried, but he couldn’t jump high enough, fast enough, he felt his shirt and pants catch fire, the skin on his back and legs start to blister, as desperate to save them, he threw Bakugo and Kirishima, the reaction sending him back into the inferno.

And then it was gone, in a flash of yellow, the blue flame was extinguished as if it had never been, and Izuku was falling, the ice gone, the fire gone, his power gone.

I can’t move, why can’t I move?

The ground was rushing up to his face, he was going to snap his neck, shatter his spine, he was going to die, One for All was going to die, without a successor, no one left to leave it to another.

And then something slammed into him, he smelled the familiar acrid scent of burning sweat that had terrorized him so horribly as a child, but it was comforting somehow, as strong arms cradled him, as he was dying, and there was a hard chest pressed into his cheek, a thundering heartbeat roaring in his ear that seemed to scream, “Wake up you useless nerd, you’re alive!” even as a voice just above his head roared. “Holy shit, Kaminari! What the fuck did you just do?”

“Oh God, I’m sorry, I think I killed him, I had to, I’m sorry, he was burning you, Kirishima was begging, Midoriya was on fire, it was the only way, I had to save you. Is he dead, did I kill them both? I’m a villain, I killed them, I’m a villain.” Kaminari was babbling, but not mindlessly, he was coherent, sort of, except he wasn’t dead. If he wasn’t dead then who…?

“Todoroki!” Izuku screamed, ripping his throat raw, every muscle in his body clenching in panic, in anguish, because between the blue flame and Kaminari’s attack, there was no way Todoroki could still be alive.

Kacchan jumped, it felt like he almost dropped him, as his feet slammed down on the ground. “Fuck, shit, Deku’s still alive,” Kacchan gasped, as if he’d just seen a ghost.

“Shit, damn it, I found Todoroki, get help, he was underwater, he’s not breathing,” Kirishima yelled, but his voice sounded really far away, or maybe it was just because Izuku’s ears were ringing, no, it was more like a roaring sound, all the blood rushing to his head, or maybe the past eight users of One for All, all yelling at him to keep fighting, but fighting was what killed Todoroki.

Izuku could barely feel the tears streaming down his face, he could scarcely breathe because of them. Maybe he was going to drown too, like Todoroki, but in an ocean of his own tears. He couldn’t fight anymore; it was hard enough just to breathe. Maybe it would be better if he just… stopped.

Chapter Text

Shit, fuck. Icy Hot had lost his God damned mind. He should have realized, when he cut him with his ice that he’d gone over the edge, that he’d cracked, he should have stopped him then and there, but he’d been trying to help him, damn it, and he’d been furious at that bastard for bad-mouthing his mom – he’d never even fucking met her, and now suddenly he was the expert because of a few stupid words about Deku’s mom? How the fuck had he gotten the idea that his mom was some kind of demon or something from that? But now he was actually fighting for his God damned life, and trying to protect Kirishima too, because that rocks-for-brains fucker was going to get himself killed.

And then fucking Deku was slamming into them both, carrying them off like they were princesses in a Disney movie or some such shit, he turned to tear Deku a new one for it and that’s when he saw Endeavor’s Hellflame, but big enough to be the sun fallen out of the God damned sky. Deku looked terrified, he was on fucking fire, but he looked determined too, and he knew, he God damned knew what that useless little shit was going to do, but it was already too late, he was flying, him and Kirishima both, and the fucking sirens went off, like just now the school safety system noticed there was a God damned war happening inside their fucking walls. Then there was a flash of yellow light, and the blue flame, the heat, was gone, like it had never been.

By the time he’d blasted himself back around Deku was less than 30 meters from the ground, and falling like a rock, Katsuki’s heart was thundering as he put everything he had into thrusting forward, intercepting him, keeping that God damned stupid nerd from breaking his worthless fucking neck, as he snatched him out of his freefall. Because he was still breathing, right? He had to be breathing. Had that really been Pikachu that took down Icy Hot?

“Holy fuck, Kaminari! What the fuck did you just do?” he roared, because how the fuck had he gotten that powerful, without him noticing, that he could zap Icy Hot, and knock All Might’s God damned successor out of the freaking sky?

“Oh God, I’m sorry, I think I killed him, I had to, I’m sorry, he was burning you, Kirishima was begging, Midoriya was on fire, it was the only way, I had to save you. Is he dead, did I kill them both? I’m a villain, I killed them, I’m a villain.”

He was about to tell him to get a grip, to start looking for Icy Hot, when Deku jerked in his arms, he screamed, “Todoroki!” like Icy Hot was really dead or something, like that stupid fucking discount Pikachu could have actually killed that half and half bastard, instead of knocking him out. The fucking useless little nerd scared the crap out of him, doing that. But at least that meant he was alive, right?

“Fuck, shit, Deku’s still alive,” he cursed, as his feet slammed into the ground, and he absorbed the impact with both a blast and flexing his knees. Not that he’d been worried or anything. Because Deku 2.0 was way too fucking tough to be taken out by Pikachu.

But then Kirishima was the one talking and that had him listening.

“Shit, damn it, I found Todoroki, get help, he was underwater, he’s not breathing,” Kirishima yelled.

Katsuki zeroed in on Kirishima’s voice and saw him kneeling next to Icy Hot, kissing him. The moment of possessive rage was short lived as he realized it was CPR, he was breathing for him. Icy Hot was lying there, just as limp as at the Sports Festival, only this time he was stark naked, he’d burnt every scrap of clothes away, even off his ice side, though his skin and even his hair looked fine. How the fuck did a little splash of hot water burn half his face off, when he’d been a fucking supernova a God damned minute ago, and he was fine? Well not fine, obviously, because he wasn’t breathing, but not burned, and the breathing part was Pikachu’s fault.

And even he could tell his brain wasn’t quite functioning properly right now, which meant either he’d been zapped by Pikachu too, or more likely, he was in shock, because that crazy drowned fucker had tried to kill them.

He looked down at Deku, to ask him what the fuck was wrong with his crazy ass boyfriend, and why the fuck hadn’t he warned them, when he realized he looked different, too damned still, as if…

“Fuck! Shit! You stupid chickenshit God damned bastard! Breathe you little fucker!” He didn’t even pause, knowing it was Deku, he just laid him down on the ground and locked lips, he started resuscitating the little shit, because there was no way he was walking into that damned hospital his mother was in, and telling her that her son was dead. Not on his watch. He was going to be the best God damned hero on the fucking planet by beating the little shit fair and square, not because his batshit crazy boyfriend pulled some Romeo and Juliet crap and killed them both.

And thank fuck, there it was, air he hadn’t put there.

I got you breathing again, don’t you dare pull that shit on me again, you dumbfuck bastard.

Why the hell did his lips taste like salt? Right, Deku had been crying, little shit, not like him, he never cried, well, except that time after their match, at the school gates, when Deku first confessed he conned All Might into giving him his Quirk, and that one other time. He rubbed his cheeks because they were wet and sticky and gross and… Fuck, that’s coming out of my eyes now, isn’t it? I should have known that shit was contagious.

It dawned on him he hadn’t heard Kaminari in too fucking long. I swear to God, you better be fucking breathing, Pikachu. He looked up and saw him sitting in a deep puddle up to his chest, a hole in one of the last blocks of still frozen ice, instead of the mud slick swamp the rest of the ground was. His gaze automatically jerked to Kirishima, and he wasn’t crouched over Icy Hot anymore, which could be good or really, really bad. He grabbed up Deku, because he didn’t trust the little fucker to keep breathing on his own, and headed for Kirishima.

“Oi, Kirishima. Did you manage to jumpstart yours too?” he asked, trying to keep it cool, because Icy Hot couldn’t be dead, he refused to accept that, so it wasn’t happening.

Then Kirishima turned to him and shit, he was crying his eyes out.

Bakugo felt his heart stop, he just froze, like that brainwash fucker sucked the life right out of him.

“I did it. I saved him,” Kirishima said, and then he started sobbing, he completely lost it.

“Of course you fucking did. There’s no Hero more manly than you, right?” Bakugo told him, because Kirishima had shit self esteem for someone so tough and badass, he liked hearing how cool he was from someone he could actually believe.

And then thank fucking God, the God damned Pros finally showed up, their teachers, late as fuck, just like at the USJ, but there to pick up the pieces. It was when they started demanding to know where the villains were that Katsuki totally lost it; he starting laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world, them asking him that. That’s when he was sure.

Fucking shock. I knew it. God damn it.

0 0 0

Inko looked up curiously at the knock. “She’s got two new visitors, Fujiwara,” Officer Hasagawa said through the closed door.

The nice young police officer from inside the room opened the door and unexpectedly snapped to attention. “Sirs!” Officer Fujiwara stepped back, allowing two men inside. Inko recognized both immediately.

“All Might! It’s so good to see you! Did Izuku tell you I was here? Of course he did. Please tell me he got to see you. He’s been so worried about me,” she gushed.

“Midoriya-san. No, I’m sorry, he left before I knew he was here, or that you were. I only just received my messages, and he was already on his way back to the school. I ran into Naomasa in the hall. He was on his way to see you, as well.

“Detective Tsukauchi. It’s good to see you again. I hope you had a chance to eat some lunch., after I already managed to take up so much of your morning. Is there something you forgot to ask me?” she asked solicitously.

He smiled back at her. “No, Midoriya-san. I’m actually here to release you. All charges have been dropped. You’re free to go, as soon as the hospital says it’s alright for you to leave. The Quirk cuffs will be removed immediately, but we will, however, continue to post two officers at your door, solely because of your visibility as a potential target.”

“Oh! Does this mean I won’t be going to court, or to jail? That I won’t have a record, again, like with the protest?” she asked eagerly.

“Exactly,” he replied, waving over Officer Fujiwara, to assist with the cuffs.

“Oh my, my arms feel so light now, like they’re going to float,” she said, as soon as the arm cuffs were off. She wiggled her fingers, and clutched her hands and rubbed them. “I can’t tell you how good that feels.”

He smiled at her, as he unlocked her foot cuffs. “I’m sure it does. Thank you for being so cooperative earlier, with your questioning, and for being so polite and respectful. I’m glad the situation was able to be resolved in your favor.”

“I suspect I might have Endeavor to thank for that. He was quite adamant about not pressing charges and trying to get the others dropped. I don’t know that I entirely approve, if he was able to influence that decision – I agree with you that our laws are there for a reason – but I can’t say I’m unhappy about it. I do hope that it didn’t cause any friction between you and your superior, Detective.”

He smiled again. “Don’t worry about me, Midoriya-san. It’s all part of the job.”

Oh dear. It sounded like she had caused him some difficulty after all. She’d have to bake him a cake or pie or something, to make up for it. Oh, or perhaps invite him to dinner, the next time she had All Might over. From what Izuku had told her, the two men were good friends. In fact, there was no time like the present.

“Forgive me if I’m doing anything improper, but I’d like to invite you to my apartment for dinner, next Thursday, with me and All Might. Just as my small way of thanking you for being so kind and courteous to me, even as a prisoner, and for everything you’ve done for Izuku.”

“I’m afraid I have to decline. Considering the unusual circumstances, it might look like some sort of bribe or thank you for your release. I hope you understand,” he apologized.

“Oh, my! That’s my fault, for not inviting you over sooner. I’ll just have to wait a month or two, then, and invite you later,” she said determinedly.

He looked surprised, but then smiled again. “I think that would be fine.”

“You mentioned she’ll be staying in the hospital? Is your burn that severe?” All Might asked, frowning in concern.

“No, not at all, it’s relatively minor, but my blood pressure was elevated earlier, so they want to monitor me for a day before sending me to jail. Oh, I mean home, now. It’s going to feel so good to just curl up on my sofa. This is all going to seem like a very strange dream, I think,” she said smiling.

“I’m glad tha-“ All Might stopped mid-word, his hands clutching his chest, his heart, and he collapsed with a gasp, Detective Tsukauchi catching him before he could fall all the way to the floor.

“Fujiwara, quick, get a doctor, I think he’s having a heart attack!” the Detective ordered, and the police officer ran from the room.

All Might was gasping, horribly, like he couldn’t breathe, his eyes blown wide and unseeing. “Midoriya!” he whispered, his hand reaching out and grasping, but pointing to the window, for some reason, not at her, as if he couldn’t see her or… or was seeing someone else.

She stumbled off of the bed, falling to her knees beside him, as her feet shot through with pins and needles for being held in one position for so long. “Izuku! Has something happened to my baby?” she begged, tears in her eyes.

He looked up at her, stark desolation and terror in his blue eyes. And grief. His eyes were swimming with tears, as she shook her head in denial.

Footsteps pounded in the corridor, the sound of a gurney accompanying them. Strong hands gently guided her away from All Might’s side, as doctors and nurses swarmed over him, as she rushed to the window, vainly trying to see whatever it was he was feeling, or seeing. She hadn’t known his power could do that.

She ran to the Detective. “My phone, where’s my phone? I have to call Izuku!”

“Of course. I brought your effects with me, but we need to go to a designated area to call. Come with me, I’ll escort you. Can you walk safely? I can get a wheelchair,” he offered.

“I’ll be fine, just please, my baby, I have to know if he’s alright,” she begged.

He grabbed a pair of hospital slippers, insisting she wear them, then took hold of her arm and led her into the hall, and then down one corridor and up another, and down a floor in the elevator, until they reached a large waiting area.

The moment he nodded to her, she hit her son’s name in her contacts, and listened anxiously, as the phone rang.

“Hi! Fear not citizen, for I am here! Just not right this minute. You’ve reached Izuku Midoriya, or the Provisionally Licensed Hero Deku! I can’t come to the phone-“ she hung up and called again, and heard the same message, and then she tried Aizawa-sensei.

“Eraserhead, leave a message,” his voicemail stated abruptly.

Shaking, she dialed Tenya Iida, thankful that Izuku had given her his number. His phone rang once and then was immediately answered. “This is Tenya Iida, to whom am I speaking?” he asked succinctly, though it sounded like he was running, and there was the sound of sirens blaring.

“Thank goodness! This is Inko Midoriya, Izuku’s mother, I’m trying to reach him, All Might is here, I think something’s happened to my son,” she blurted in a panic.

“I’m sorry, Midoriya-san, but there’s been an incursion on school grounds. I need to keep this line open for instructions. I’ll be sure to have him contact you as soon as he can. Goodbye,” he said, and then he disconnected the call.

“No! Don’t hang up! Please!” she begged, too late.

“Holy shit! Again, seriously? Glad my kid doesn’t go there,” someone stated.

“Turn it up, I can’t hear over that woman shouting,” someone else grumbled, and then the Detective was turning her towards the TV, and she saw a very familiar building, stock footage, apparently, from the denuded trees.

“… a live report of a possible villain attack at UA, the latest in a series of-“

She listened as the story built, she kept dialing Izuku and Aizawa, even as Detective Tsukauchi called his police contacts to try to learn more. Then Principal Nedzu was on the screen, a video call, assuring the reporter that it was merely a test of their defense system, a harmless drill, not an actual attack, and she collapsed weakly into a chair, her pulse still thundering.

She’d barely caught her breath, when new footage appeared, this time of blue flames shooting into the air, and tiny people, who were brought suddenly into focus. Izuku, her son; that was her son. He was… he was on fire, he was falling, he… he… Katsuki… a red haired boy, Kirishima, was that his name…? She stared, stunned, as the tape looped again, as she saw her son burning, falling, unable to look away, the unanswered phone like a brick of lead in her hands, and then her son’s cheerful voice, his voicemail.

“Hi! Fear not citizen, for I am here! Just not right this minute. You’ve reached Izuku Midoriya, or the Provisionally Licensed Hero Deku! I can’t come to the phone right now, which means I’m either in class, studying, or out saving someone! Please leave a message, and I’ll return your call as soon as I can. Bye!”

“Midoriya-san. Midoriya-san! Midoriya-san! I need help getting a patient back to her room,” Detective Tsukauchi said, urgently, as the cold fist of dread that she’d felt so many times since Izuku started school at UA wrapped around her heart and began crushing it to jelly.

0 0 0

“Mitsuki, get in here,” Masaru demanded.

“Hold your fucking horses. I’m not finished making the dip, yet, you can tell me what I miss,” she snapped.

“Fuck the dip, now!” Masaru yelled.

Glycerin flew from her pores, the bowl slipped out of her hands and shattered on the floor, she leapt over the glass and mess and dove for the living room, because Masaru never cursed or yelled, the only times she’d ever heard that was when the USJ had been attacked, and when Katsuki had been kidnapped from Training Camp.

“What happ- Holy fuck,” she whispered, her eyes riveted to the TV, the words “Emergency Broadcast” crawling across the bottom of the screen, as an inferno of blue flame shot up in the distance above the familiar buildings of UA.

Again, in direct contradiction to the claims of Principal Amadeus Nedzu of UA in the school’s official press release minutes ago that the incident was merely a simulated incursion, a training exercise for an actual attack, that there were no student or staff injuries, you can see here in this exclusive footage taken by our crew reporting on the construction of Koharu Tower…

The camera zoomed in and Mitsuki’s heart stopped, because there was her son, and Eijiro Kirishima and Izuku Midoriya, Inko’s kid was on fucking fire, as he threw Katsuki, who was bleeding, and Eijiro, and then Izuku fell back into the flames, even as, in a flash of yellow light, they suddenly snuffed out.

“Student Izuku Midoriya, on fire and falling from the sky, after flinging an injured Bakugo Katsuki – the well known kidnap victim of both the sludge villain attack and Summer Training Camp incidents – and Eijiro Kirishima, to safety. Bakugo can be seen here, jetting forwards, either to fight the villain responsible or perhaps in an effort to in turn rescue the falling Midoriya, as Kirishima is sliding down a tremendous shard of ice. From the ice, it is suspected that Shouto Todoroki, the #1 Hero Endeavor’s well known youngest son, who came in second in the Sports Festival to Bakugo Katsuki, was no doubt battling the same villain, who from the nature of the attack, sources identify as the villain known only as Dabi, a key figure in the League of Villains, run by Tomura Shigaraki. The League, of course, was responsible for both the USJ and Training Camp incidents, as well as The Tragedy of Kamino Ward, where 762 civilians lost their lives, another 3,465 were injured, and 64,621 were left homeless.

“For those viewers just joining us, we have exclusive-

She wiped her shaking hands on her pants, slathering them in slick glycerin, and then she pulled out her phone – it still almost slipped out of her hand – and then it rang, the UA identifier flashing, and she had it on speaker, so Masaru could hear too.

“Bakug-?”

“Is Katsuki fucking alive? Tell me my kid’s alive,” she demanded, cutting off Nedzu’s bullshit.

“Yes, Katsuki is alive, though it is curious that your first-“

“Shut the fuck up you God damned lying rodent. We just saw footage of your little fucking bullshit ’simulated drill’ on TV, three of our kids fighting for their lives. Izuku Midoriya and Eijiro Kirishima, are they alive too?” she snapped.

“Now, Bakugo-san, this is no time for speciest remarks. Please try to calm-“

“So help me, I’m going to stuff your incompetent mouth with rat poison, you fucking vermin, don’t you dare fucking tell me how to feel when you’ve endangered my kid’s life for the third fucking time in three months. How badly is he hurt?” she demanded.

“He had a chest injury, which has already been healed by Recovery Girl. We attempted to sedate him, due to shock-“

“Are you fucking kidding me? It’s not bad enough you chain and muzzle him on national TV, now you’re trying to drug him? He’s a god damned human being, you fur-faced fuck, don’t you dare pull your vet shit on my kid. Are he and the other kids at the Infirmary on campus, or a hospital?” she challenged.

“He is in the Infirmary,” Nedzu stated coldly. “I’m not at liberty to release information on students with whom you have no direct genetic relation.” That last sounded viciously delighted. Smug.

“Masaru and I are on the way, so get ready to have your fucking gerbil habitrail shoved up your God damned ass, you fucking scheming weasel.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” the smarmy little bastard replied, and then the call disconnected.

She called Inko, because Inko didn’t drive, but she lived near enough they could give her a lift, and she figured they would have called her first, since her kid looked hurt worse. She was frustrated when the call went into voicemail. “Come on, let’s go. She can grab a cab or something.”

“I’m driving. You won’t be able to keep a grip on the steering wheel,” her husband stated firmly, opening the little cabinet in the coffee table and tossing her the towel they kept in there for her hands, when they were watching something that didn’t make extra lubrication worthwhile.

He locked up after them as they left the house, as she rubbed her hands dry, bringing the towel with her.

0 0 0

They’d tried to drug him. They’d fucking tried to drug him. Even the villains, when they had him, hadn’t pulled that shit, they’d tried to talk him into joining them, when they could have drugged him mindless or brainwashed him or tortured him, but they’d just talked. But the God damned Hero’s, the fucking Principal, had tried to have that quack they scrounged up in place of Recovery Girl shoot him up with who knows what the fuck, without even knowing whether his therapist already had him on something – which she didn’t, because his brain worked fine. He had some issues, sure, his temper, some flashbacks and nightmares and stuff he was working out, plus that whole superiority complex crap that masked his self esteem issues, all the shit that revolved around Deku, who even now, years later, kept fucking him up, or whatever his shrink kept yammering at him about, but even she knew he didn’t need drugs.

Thank fucking God for Kirishima. Kirishima had been curled up on his bed, he couldn’t stop crying, the way Katsuki couldn’t stop laughing before – because what was wrong with that, he was just glad to be alive, right, to have saved Deku, for a change, not been the one needing saving, because Deku hadn’t needed to scoop him up or throw him, he could have evaded those flames by himself, but he’d given that little shit the breath of life, he hadn’t just saved him, kept him from hitting the ground, he’d fucking brought him back to life after he was already dead.

He held on a little tighter to Kirishima, watching the door, because he didn’t trust them, not anymore.

They’d tried to fucking pin him to the floor, they’d tried to put those God damned Quirk inhibitor cuffs on him again, like at the Sports Festival, like the villains after that, so they could stick a needle in him with who the fuck knew what in it. But Kirishima started yelling at them, “What the hell are you doing?” and he’d leapt off the bed, and hardened, and pulled them off of him, and then he’d stomped down so hard on those fucking cuffs that he dented them in, crushed them shut, wrecked them. Those fuckers were made to be indestructible, but that beautiful bastard had destroyed them anyway.

And then Kirishima demanded they leave, all of them, it was looking pretty hairy for a bit there, but then Aizawa-sensei and Recovery Girl burst into the room, and the Principal and his two muscle-bound goons and that quack had gotten both barrels from the twin hands of God. Recovery Girl was wearing a fucking cast, she was so damned tiny, but fierce as fuck. His teacher looked like death somebody forgot to warm over, he was pale and sweating, he kept looking like he was going to hurl at any moment, but he was on his feet and there and protecting them, just like at the USJ, him against the world, and that’s all that mattered.

Now it was just him and Kirishima, because Pikachu was hypothermic, from sitting in that ice water for too long, Aizawa-sensei was helping him take a warm bath, playing nurse, because neither one of them trusted anyone else to do it right, and the way Pikachu was sounding, all that guilt he was spewing, it would be a little too damned easy for him to accidentally slip his head under the water, and drown, like Icy Hot. His entire body reflexively shuddered, thinking about the water closing over their heads, and the way Icy Hot and Deku had stopped breathing.

“Hey, it’s OK, I’ve still got you. You’re safe,” Kirishima whispered into his hair, his ear, because they were sitting up in bed, but Kirishima had his whole body wrapped around him, as he watched the door. Because they could come back. Or villains could, while they were distracted.

“Pikachu and Deku and Icy Hot are going to be OK, right?” Katsuki asked, hating that he was, and the way his voice sounded, like he was a little kid, or broken or something, instead of the second or maybe third strongest Hero in the class. Because Deku and Icy Hot, they were both alive. Icy Hot had totally cracked, but that was just temporary. They weren’t going to have to lock him away like his mom. He was sure of that, because he wasn’t locked up in the loony bin, and if anyone should be, it was probably him, because of the flashbacks and nightmares and just general paranoia issues that kept him from sleeping, sometimes, that kept him on edge.

“Recovery Girl is in with them. If anyone can heal them, she can,” Kirishima reassured him.

He hated how he jumped at the light knock on the door, even though it was in the special pattern Aizawa had shown him he was going to use. “Bakugo, it’s Aizawa with Kaminari. We’re coming in, OK?”

Katsuki both liked and hated that their teacher phrased it like a question, like he was asking permission, that he was letting him be the one in control, or maybe just make him think it was. If he said ‘no’, would he stay outside? But Pikachu needed to be in here with them, so he’d be safe.

“Sure, come in,” Katsuki said, like it was no big deal, like he wasn’t freaking the fuck out.

Kirishima started to let go, to draw back, but fuck that, Aizawa and Pikachu both already knew they were a thing, and it wasn’t weak to have your best friend and boyfriend hold you when your life was going to shit, right?

The door opened, and there they were, Pikachu wrapped in a thick white robe, wearing slippers. Katsuki expected his hair to be wet, darker blond and limp and scraggly, but it looked soft and fluffy dry, he’d blow dried it, because Aizawa sure as shit hadn’t: the man didn’t even know how to use a comb or a brush, there’s no way he would have dried Pikachu’s hair.

Pikachu didn’t look nearly as wrecked as before, eyes swimming in guilt, face pale with horror, but he didn’t look like himself either, and that hurt, somehow, way worse than that ice spear that had gouged his chest, though Recovery Girl had healed him, he didn’t have so much as a scar to show for it. Which was good, because once Icy Hot was back to normal, he’d probably have felt guilty as fuck, if he’d scarred him, because scars were obviously an issue, considering the whole burn thing.

There was something different in Pikachu’s eyes now, longing, loneliness, as he looked at the two of them and tried to force a smile.

“No way, fuck that, don’t you dare smile unless you mean it. And you’re not lying all the way over there on your bed. Come sit here with us. You need to stay warm, right? Kirishima and I are like electric blankets, self powered, no Pikachu power required,” he offered, pulling away from Kirishima just enough to make room for him.

Pikachu’s eyes widened, he just stared. “Are you sure?” he asked, like he was offering him the sun and the moon and the stars, but thought he maybe only deserved a firefly or something.

“Fuck yes. You’re our bro, right? You always have our backs, of course we’d have yours back,” he replied, looking him dead in the eye, because he needed to know it was true.

But Pikachu still hesitated.

“Kaminari, look at me,” Katsuki ordered, using his actual name, because this was important, he needed to know he wasn’t shitting him. “You did the right thing. I know you hated it, you think you could have done something better, but you made a choice, to risk killing Todoroki to save the rest of us. And you didn’t just save us, you saved him too, because who knows how long he could have burned like that without torching his ice side? Best case scenario, he would have ended up looking like that villain fucker Dabi. Worst case he would have been a fucking charcoal briquette. You saved all of us. You’re good, you’re strong, you’re a Hero, and you deserve to be on this bed with us. So sit your ass down and prepare to have the shit hugged out of you. Metaphorically, because physically, that’s just disgusting, I don’t even want to think about you shitting on this bed.”

And there it was, that trademarked Pikachu smile, because he might be in high school, but he still had a middle school sense of humor, half the time.

Pikachu crossed the floor and he and Kirishima both pulled him up, and then they wrapped around him. He and Kirishima were wearing the flimsy thin shirt and pants Recovery Girl had given them to change into, after they’d cleaned up, because their clothes were torn to shit and they were covered in blood and mud from the fight, but they’d still looked a hell of a lot better than Deku and Icy Hot.

Katsuki looked up at Aizawa, not wanting to risk upsetting Pikachu, but needing to know. “Any word?”

“They’re both still unconscious. Thankfully, Midoriya’s burns weren’t at all as bad as we’d feared. His clothes were destroyed, but the wind speed from his jump or perhaps his power itself mostly protected his skin from the flame. Recovery Girl was able to heal him, without any scarring.”

Thank fuck, because Icy Hot would have hated burn scarring anyone even more than ice scarring them, especially his own fucking boyfriend.

“She also confirmed there’s no brain damage, to either Todoroki or Midoriya, from either the electrical shocks, or the lack of oxygen. You and Kirishima did a great job, resuscitating them and Kaminari, you controlled your power as well as I knew you had the potential to. Using the water to conduct your electricity to subdue Todoroki was a brilliant tactical move, and if there hadn’t been so much fog and steam in the air, from Todoroki’s flames vaporizing the ice, your lightning never would have arced up like it did to affect Midoriya as well. But as Bakugo said, you made the best of a no win situation, and pulled a win out of it anyway. All five of you survived. I couldn’t be prouder of all of you,” Aizawa claimed.

The guilt that was festering in Katsuki’s stomach tore out of his mouth. “It’s my fault Icy Hot lost it. I’ve seen before, how he uses his ice and fights to deal, when he’s upset, I think it’s a coping mechanism or some such shit, and I thought a little back and forth would take the tension down a few notches, but I fucked up. I didn’t expect him to go off half-cocked like that.”

Aizawa shook his head. “I knew his meeting with his father upset him, I even overheard what was discussed, but I didn’t realize how hard it hit him. That’s on me. Worse, I let my physical state distract me, and wasn’t there when he, when all of you, needed me. There’s plenty of blame to go around, don’t take a larger helping onto your plate than you need to. You kept him distracted, and gave Kaminari the opportunity he needed to stop him. Whether you intended to or not, the four of you worked as a team against him or the five of you as a team with him, to help him, however you want to look at it. Remember that. Use this as lesson, another stepping stone on your way to become Heroes. Don’t let this become a setback, don’t let it defeat you. I have faith in you. Make sure you continue to have the same faith in yourselves,” Aizawa intoned solemnly.

And yeah, the school kept fucking up here and there, but there was no way in hell he’d ever leave here before he graduated. Because Aizawa might be strange as fuck, but he was an amazing Hero and an even better teacher, and he always had their backs, and he’d be damned if he trusted anyone else to. He’d thought Deku and the others were nuts, buying him gifts and stuff, throwing him a party for no reason, but he was going to make sure when all this fucking craziness was over he made him the best God damned meal he ever ate in his life.

0 0 0

It had been a while since Aizawa had left, because Deku and Icy Hot definitely needed him more, when the door opened and Katsuki saw the quack doctor was back, with one of Nedzu’s goons. He was furious rather than afraid, because they didn’t fucking scare him. “Get the fuck out!” he snarled, his hands out, sparking threateningly, ready to blast them if they fucking tried anything.

But then there was a flurry of something almost like sand, but in the next moment he was yelling, his hands rubbing desperately at his face, as his eyes burned like they were on fire, or shit, like it was acid, his vision blurring and tearing. He wanted to blast the fuckers, but he could hear Kirishima yelling and the sounds of struggling and he couldn’t risk hitting Pikachu or Kirishima in the face – he could blind them for life, if they weren’t already.

Then a giant snake wrapped around him and squeezed, trapping his palms against his thighs, but wrapping around his face, too, so he couldn’t see at all now, not even fight, he couldn’t speak or yell, he could barely hear, and it was covering his nose too, he couldn’t breathe, like an octopus more than a snake, tentacles, at least three, he couldn’t breathe, like the sludge villain, trapping him, squeezing the life out of him, smothering him, as he heard muffled shouts and the sounds of frantic fighting.

I can’t breathe, fuck, shit, I can’t breathe, Kirishima, Pikachu, fuck, not again, I can’t breathe, stop it, stop, stop, I can’t breathe, somebody, fuck, help me, All Might, Aizawa, fuck, Deku, fucking help me!

“Get the fuck off my kid!” a voice shrilled, as the tentacles were torn away from his face and he collapsed onto the ground, gasping and choking, and coughing as he sucked in lungfuls of air and started retching out sludge that wasn’t even there, afraid he was hallucinating, because it couldn’t be her.

What the fuck? Mom?

“That’s my son!” a second, even less likely voice roared, one that had ever only been meek and quiet before, and there was a sound like Pikachu, only different, buzzing, angrier.

Dad?

Then there were arms around him and he started struggling wildly, frantically.

“Katsuki, calm the fuck down! Shit, what the fuck did you do to his eyes, you fucker?” his mother screamed as she wrapped around him protectively, like Kirishima had been holding him, like they’d been holding Pikachu.

The buzzing roared, like swarms of angry bees attacking.

“Shit, fuck, you got him Masaru, you can- Holy fuck, stop, shit, Masaru, enough! You’re going to kill him!”

And then his mom was gone, and he heard struggling again, as he kept blinking furiously, fighting to see.

“Calm the fuck down! The boys need us, look at them, they need water or something, to rinse out their eyes,” she ordered.

“Right, OK, I’m… OK. No more tasing.” There was the sound of a meaty thud.

“Fuck Masaru, guess yours isn’t going to be walking any time soon now either. That’s my man. Fuckers deserve it, attacking my kid and you two boys. Katsuki, don’t lose your shit, it’s me, Mom again, I’m going to pour water over your eyes. Try to hold them open for me, don’t blow me up,” his mother warned.

He flinched and coughed and inhaled water, he couldn’t breathe, and reached blindly, wildly, for the bottle, and it was pressed into his hands, and he started pouring it over his eyes himself, which was better.

“They’re not burning anymore, I think it might have just been salt, I taste salt,” Pikachu said, his voice shaky, relieved.

“Katsuki, it’s OK, I can see too, now, you’re going to be OK, just try to calm down and breathe for me, OK? You’re going to hyperventilate if you keep going like that,” Kirishima soothed.

He wanted to yell at him to stop treating him like a fucking kid, but his whole body was shaking, so much that most of the water missed his eyes, and he couldn’t suck in enough air to speak.

“Katsuki, I want to hug you so much, but I don’t want to freak you out. But just breathe with me, OK? Deep and slow, breathe in.”

He could hear Kirishima inhale.

“Then out,” he said, and his exhalation sounded just as deep.

“In, and hold it,” he urged.

“Now out.”

His voice was calming, grounding, and he was finally able to see, it still hurt like fuck, but with each blink it hurt a little less. Kirishima’s eyes were rimmed in red, the skin irritated and inflamed, and his eyes were bloodshot as hell, but he was looking right at him, he could see him back.

His eyes moved to Kirishima’s mouth, watching him breathe, and he fought to imitate him, using him as his anchor, pushing everything else out of his head, his mom, his dad, as he concentrated on breathing, because it was the most fucking wonderful thing in the world, just being able to fucking breathe.

“Shit, Bakugo, now I see where you get it from. Your parents are beasts. I guess they taught you how to fight?” Pikachu asked, sounding awed.

He wanted to say his dad was a wimp, except he’d apparently somehow been trying to kill one of the villains effectively enough that it freaked Mom out that he might succeed, and besides, he was still working on the breathing thing, and he didn’t want to fuck that up, because just thinking he might was throwing of his rhythm and started him hyperventilating again.

“Shit, OK, you were a little calmer a second ago, so I’m going to risk hugging you, OK?” Kirishima warned.

He nodded, because fuck, he wanted to feel that, someone good holding him, instead of tentacles or whatever the fuck that was. He looked and saw someone unconscious on the ground, being very forcefully tied up by his mother, one of the big goons, but he looked all stretched out and rubbery now, and shit, his neck was like a fucking giraffe, that must have been his arms and neck squeezing him before. That was just fucked up. And the salt guy was that quack doctor, that his father was busy hogtying. And next to him was what looked like a police or military grade taser, that it sounded like his dad had been using on the guy, and he didn’t think those were legal for civilians to have.

And then he jumped and attacked, because he was being grabbed again and-

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Calm down, Katsuki. I warned you, remember? Guess it’s a good thing I have my Quirk. It’s just me, Kirishima. It’s OK. So I guess no hugs, not yet? That’s fine. Just calm down and keep breathing, OK? That’s all that matters; the hugs can wait.”

Yeah, no, fuck that, the hugs were going to be now. He grabbed Kirishima and pulled him towards him, he heard an “oof” of surprise, and then felt gentle, careful, tentative arms around him, but good, solid, muscle and a little bit of rock thrown in for good measure, not rubbery, or sludgy. But he was only halfway covered, and he looked, and there was Pikachu, looking both worried and relieved, and he stretched out and reached over and grabbed him by the shirt and yanked him towards them. And Pikachu’s eyes flared in surprise and then his face lit with that special smile, and he joined the hug, and yeah, this and breathing, he could do this and breathing, and call it good.

Chapter Text

Hitoshi Shinsou was still in his school PE uniform, when he entered the Intensive Care unit. No one knew about his costume. Even when he was training, he wore only the scarf and goggles, quick to take off and hide, if anyone came in, and he put them on in the locker room. The rest of the time, the capture scarf was wrapped around his stomach and ribs, under his shirt, the goggles in his pants pocket. Once he was in the Hero program, he’d be able to finally wear his costume. His training was still secret, after all: only Present Mic, Recovery Girl and the Principal knew Eraserhead was training him.

His hand was pressed to his bleeding forehead, his hair thankfully tied back in a taming ponytail, the way he’d worn it to class since he started growing it out, so it hadn’t gotten bloody. Although if he had it down loose, the way he planned to wear it, when he was a Hero, it might have cushioned his fall a bit when he slipped down the stairs. It was ironic, after all the times in foster care that his foster parents had used that lame excuse to explain away his injuries after smacking him around, for once it had actually happened.

They were supposed to stay in the dorms, with most of their teachers, the Principal had told the students to stay away, even though it was supposedly just a drill, but he wouldn’t have bought that for a second, even without Aizawa-sensei’s ominous texts, about Midoriya, Todoroki and Bakugo all being injured, and Kirishima and Kaminari being involved in whatever the hell had happened. He knew there was no way Sensei would want him bleeding without being treated, so it gave him the perfect excuse to go to Recovery Girl and maybe find out what the hell was really going on.

Plus he’d been hoping she could take a minute or two away from her other patients to tend to him, before Aizawa-sensei saw he’d injured himself, but when he passed by Intensive Care he saw two of the beds were occupied; he hadn’t expected injuries that grave. It didn’t look like Recovery Girl or anyone else was tending to them, either, which was odd and a little disturbing. He headed inside, just to make sure they were both OK, still breathing, because Aizawa-sensei would be destroyed if anything happened to any of his students.

He was startled to discover Principal Nedzu, beside Izuku Midoriya’s bed – he was so short, he hadn’t seen him from the other side of the bed – staring up at Midoriya so intently he didn’t think the Principal even noticed him. It was kind of creepy, actually, the way he was so focused on him. “Excuse me, Principal Nedzu?”

The Principal spun at the sound of his voice and frowned. “You shouldn’t be in here,” he scolded.

Brilliant. Way to get yourself into the Hero program, Hitoshi, by getting the Principal angry with you.

“I’m sorry. I was looking for Recovery Girl,” he apologized, which should have been obvious, considering he was bleeding all over his hand.

“You’re bleeding.” The Principal’s voice raised an octave, saying it. “You should let me take a look. Head injuries can be serious business,” he stated, but his tone was a little strange. A little… off. He sounded more excited than concerned. Honestly, almost… gleeful.

“It’s not too bad,” he argued, reluctantly removing his hand, to show him, because his concept of “bad” for injuries usually differed greatly from everyone else’s.

The way the Principal’s eyes were fixed on him was almost predatory.

“Is Midoriya going to be alright?” he asked, genuinely concerned, but also activating his Quirk, because the way the Principal had shifted his position, he’d just accidentally revealed the syringe he was holding in his hand, and that uneasy feeling from a moment ago was replaced with alarm bells clamoring in his head.

“He’s perfect,” the Principal stated, his voice almost dreamy, before his eyes went blank.

“You’re going to answer all my questions. What did you inject Midoriya with?” he demanded, his heart racing, because every sense he had was screaming something was very wrong, and he’d honed his instincts in years of living in dangerous foster home situations, where a single misstep could mean a beating. He unzipped his PE jumpsuit and unwound his capture weapon, yanking it free, because he had a feeling he was going to need it.

“Nothing. Nothing is inside but air. But soon it’s going to be full of pretty red blood. You’re pretty too, like you are now, but no one’s as pretty as my Izuku,” the Principal stated in a voice that made his skin crawl, as he wrapped the unresisting little creature in his capture scarf.

“Why do you want his blood?” he asked warily, as he texted Aizawa. Blackout, Nedzu on Midoriya, Intensive Care. He’d used the code word for a villain attack in progress, because Nedzu might not actually be a villain, but it looked like he had been caught in the middle of attacking Midoriya, who was unconscious and helpless.

“So I can become him. When you really and truly love someone, you want to become them,” Nedzu stated.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Hitoshi demanded.

“I used their blood, to look like them, and sound like them, to be them, temporarily. It’s my Quirk,” he explained.

Hitoshi’s heart raced. The Principal’s Quirk was Intelligence, not Mimicry. Oh Shit. This isn’t Nedzu.

“Where’s the real Nedzu?” he asked, dreading the answer, because it would mean he was right, but also the most likely response would be ‘dead’.

“Packaged for transport, with the others,” Not-Nedzu said smiling vacantly, but somehow still happily. “Like my Izuku and Endeavor’s son are going to be. And you’re going to be.”

“I’m not-“ Only years of surviving on instinct and months of training with Aizawa saved him, as he spun and yanked his capture weapon at the same time, flinging Not-Nedzu behind him, into the towering figure of hulking muscle that had been sneaking up quietly behind him, now literally snarling, because the guy had fangs, and claws, which he slashed at him with.

The villain grabbed the capture scarf in two meaty heads and yanked, clearly trying to tear it, but the polymer weave was stronger than titanium, it couldn’t be torn so easily. Then he tried slashing it with his claws, even as he yanked Hitoshi forward. He knew he was no match for this monster in a tug of war, so he released the weapon reluctantly, because if he got within reach of those hands, he was dead.

But unfortunately that wasn’t all he released, as his concentration was broken by the desperate struggle.

The Principal blinked and shook his head and then looked at him in surprise and delight. “Ooh! He’ll definitely want that Quirk! I didn’t recognize you before, your hair is different. You’re that brainwash guy, aren’t you? You’re much cuter in person than you were on TV. Especially with all that pretty blood. Make him bleed some more, while I get theirs, and then put him with the others,” the fake Nedzu said, as he headed for Midoriya with the syringe.

Hitoshi tried to lunge for Not-Nedzu, but the hulking clawed villain attacked again, taking every bit of his concentration, as he desperately dodged and blocked every lethal blow, because the villain’s reach was longer, he was at least twice as strong, and just as fast, if not faster.

Then two feet in black combat boots slammed into the back of the clawed villain’s head, and he crashed into the ground, face first, and lay still, as a muddy cream colored capture weapon lashed out and wrapped around the fake Nedzu.

“He’s not Nedzu, use your Quirk!” Hitoshi warned his teacher.

Eraserhead’s eyes flared red, his hair rising, and in the next instant, the figure in front of them grew, and Hitoshi cursed, expecting to be facing another towering monster. But instead there was a blond haired teenage girl, she looked like she would have been cute, if it wasn’t for the manic look on her face, a knife gripped in her hand struggling to reach and cut Eraserhead’s capture weapon, and then she flung herself at him, teeth biting and knife stabbing out towards him, like a rabid beast, when the scarf wouldn’t cut, even though she was bound. He disarmed her, the way his mentor had taught him.

“Who are you?” Hitoshi demanded.

“I’m not tell-” she said, and then her eyes went blank.

“Who are you?” he demanded again, now that she was back under his control, as Eraserhead bound her hands and feet more securely with his capture weapon, tying her.

“Himiko Toga,” she replied obediently.

“Who are you working for?”

“Tomura Shigaraki, of course. I’m part of the Vanguard Action Squad, the best of the League of Villains,” she said tonelessly, what would have probably sounded as boastful, if she wasn’t under his control.

“How did you get onto campus?” he asked.

“I pretended to be Ochako. I already took her blood, at the Training Camp,” Toga replied.

Eraserhead looked enraged, his usual control absent.

“Where are your prisoners, Nedzu and the others, the ones you were going to transport?” Hitoshi demanded.

Fury and fear flitted across his sensei’s face at the revelation that the principal and others had already been kidnapped.

“The trunks on Loading Dock D,” she replied tonelessly.

“Who did you take?” he questioned.

“The principal, the big hands girl, the metal guy and the doctor lady, I don’t know their names. They were the easiest to take,” she replied and then she pouted, even though she was still firmly under his control. Her emotions had to be incredibly strong, for them to show at all.

“I wanted to take Ochako, she’s sooo cute, but I couldn’t find her. We’re taking Izuku too, but I wanted his blood anyway, because I know it will taste amazing, and I can’t wait to finally be him.”

“Where’s the blood you already took?” he demanded.

“In my belt. I used 4 of the 12 vials so far, and brought the rest of Ochako’s blood with me. I did way better this time, than the last time we attacked you,” she bragged.

“Are there any other villains here, in addition to you and this one?” he asked.

“Joru, the other big guy, and Toruna, the one who’s pretending to be a doctor,” she replied.

“What are their Quirks?” he demanded.

“Joru’s body gets all bendy, he can escape from anything and wrap around you like a snake. Toruna shoots salt out of his pores, it burns your eyes and blinds you, but only temporarily.”

“Where are they?” he demanded.

“They’re going to take Bakugo – they probably have him already – and then call me from the truck, when they’re ready to leave.”

Eraserhead cursed and lashed out, knocking her out with a single well placed strike. Then he spun and ran for the door.

Hitoshi raced after him, because the two villains here were out cold, and there was nothing they could do for the two unconscious students, but at least one of Aizawa-sensei’s kids was about to be snatched, or already had been, and if they succeeded, if they took Bakugo, Hitoshi knew he’d never make it out alive again, and he didn’t want to even think what that would do to his mentor.

0 0 0

Shouta’s skull was splitting in two, from using his Quirk on top of his existing migraine, as he dove for the door, desperate to save Bakugo, while fighting against the effects of the powerful medication Hizashi had guilted him into taking, once he found out he’d palmed the pills earlier and not actually swallowed them. He hated using the damned drug, because it left him unconscious and helpless, unable to wake at all during an emergency, and before it fully hit, it slowed his reflexes and made it hard to think, but didn’t help at all with the pain. This was one of the few times he was thankful for his bizarre metabolism, which made painkillers and anesthetics take twice as long to work on him as on a normal person. By all rights, he should have already been dead to the world.

The last thing he’d expected to be doing in the Infirmary was combat: he’d come here to collapse, because the dorm was too far away to make it, now that the pills were finally kicking in. As he ran down the corridor, fighting not to stumble, all that was keeping him on his feet was sheer force of will, fed by adrenaline, fury, and a fierce need to protect his students, and now, clearly, his fellow staff, as well.

He had no idea why Shinsou was here, or how he’d discovered someone was impersonating Nedzu, that the League had infiltrated the school, but his pupil’s quick thinking and actions had just saved Midoriya and Todoroki. The thought of losing any of his kids or co-workers had him wanting to turn vigilante and kill, only the fifth time in his life he’d ever been tempted to cross that line.

He ripped open the door to the main Infirmary, ready for an empty room, a pile of his students’ bodies, or shell-shocked, injured and traumatized or grieving kids. Instead, he was met with a wall of unleashed fury, his power quickly flaring to neutralize Kaminari, first, because he didn’t have Bakugo’s control, and this kid had taken down both Todoroki and Midoriya, two of his four strongest students – five, now, obviously – and he could easily kill everyone in this room. And because any attack against Bakugo might put him over the edge, not to mention his parents looked ready to literally kill anyone who dared raise a hand against their son, his mother in a trained fighter’s pose, and his father holding a crackling military grade taser. The only villains in the room were either dead or unconscious, on the floor.

“What the fuck?” Bakugo demanded with his usual eloquence.

Shouta had never been happier to hear him curse and yell in his life, as he did his best to look non-threatening, because clearly everyone in this room was on edge.

“Two other villains were after Midoriya and Todoroki, but we stopped them. There’s only the four of them, but we need reinforcements. One was that villain Toga that Uraraka and Asui fought at the Training Camp. She apparently used Uraraka’s blood with her Quirk to shapeshift into her, to get onto campus, then pretended to be Nedzu, and possibly other people in between. They already captured four others – don’t worry, they’re still on campus – and they’ve taken samples of their blood. Since you three look ambulatory, Bakugo, Kirishima, Kaminari, I need you to drag those other two villains in here from Intensive Care, where Bakugo, you and your parents can keep an eye on them. Be sure to search everyone for weapons and disarm them. That girl has knives and syringes, so be careful. Kirishima and Kaminari, I need you to guard Midoriya and Todoroki, they’re still both unconscious,” he ordered, as he pulled out his phone and dialed Midnight.

“Eras-“

“Shut up and listen, Midnight. The attack has become real. Get to the Infirmary, there are four currently unconscious villains you need to knock out deeper, including a shapeshifter, she’s a girl, but she’s proven to be bi, so your gas should work just as well on her as the three men. Bring Snipe with you, if you can locate him quickly, to be on the safe side. Shinsou and I are going to Loading Dock D, to release four captives, Nedzu, Recovery Girl, Kendo and TetsuTetsu. I’m calling Vlad and Ectoplasm next, to help us.”

“On my way,” she replied, all business, and then hung up.

“They took TetsuTetsu? Sensei, let me come with you, please!” Kirishima begged.

“No. I need you with Kaminari, in case reinforcements arrive, a second wave of villains,” Shouta ordered firmly. Then he called Vlad and Ectoplasm and just as quickly apprised them of the situation.

He turned to Shinsou. “You’re with me.” And then they were running for the loading dock, every step like wading through mud, as Shouta fought against both his migraine and the drug.

Shouta cursed when they got there and didn’t see any trunks, but there was a cargo truck, no signs of a driver. They approached cautiously, but quickly. It looked deserted. There was a padlock on the back door, but it was just looped into the holes, not fastened.

He made Shinsou stand back, behind cover, in case the truck was booby trapped, and then he cautiously rolled the door up. Inside were metal racks, lining both walls, carrying long narrow trunks, that looked disturbingly like coffins. After carefully opening the first and finding it empty, but not booby trapped, he signed to Shinsou to join him, and help him look. They found TetsuTetsu, in the fifth trunk they opened, awake, aware, visibly terrified, but trying to look tough, his hands and feet in Quirk cuffs , and his mouth taped shut.

“It’s me, not the shapeshifter. We’re here to rescue you,” Shouta assured him, because there was no way of knowing who or what the boy had already seen.

As soon as he ripped the tape off, TestuTetsu frantically cried, “Kendo, Nedzu took Kendo!”

“Calm down. It wasn’t Nedzu, it was a shapeshifter masquerading as him, and Kendo’s supposed to be here, too, but you’re the first one we found.”

“Found her, she’s fine,” Shinsou piped up, standing over a newly opened trunk, and another one of the stones weighing on Shouta’s chest lifted.

But then, the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh trunks all proved to be empty. Shouta stared at the final trunk in dread. Either Recovery Girl or Nedzu could be inside, and the villain couldn’t have lied under Shinsou’s control, which meant she’d genuinely though they were both here. The other one could be anywhere. He’d known them both since his own high school days: Nedzu had been his favorite teacher, long before he became the Principal, and Recovery Girl had always been like the grandmother he never had. The thought of losing either of them was horrible.

He opened the final trunk, and exhaled in overwhelming relief. It was both of them: Nedzu and Recovery Girl had both been stuffed into a single trunk. They were both still alive, like the other two, conscious but gagged and restrained. For one of the first times in his life, he’d been presented with a miracle, when he’d expected a tragedy.

He heard Vlad and Ectoplasm calling out, and Present Mic; he’d recognize that man’s voice anywhere. That’s when his legs finally buckled, as the last of his adrenaline burnt away. He crumpled, Shinsou’s strong arms catching him, before he could crush poor Recovery Girl like Shinsou had before, as everything flared red, then went black.

0 0 0

“Sensei!” Hitoshi cried, catching his mentor as he collapsed, forgetting to use his hero name, in his panic.

“Eraser!” Present Mic yelled, as he leapt up into the truck. “What happened, where is he injured?” he demanded, scanning him frantically.

“He wasn’t, not here, at least. Recovery Girl?” Shinsou asked anxiously, as Ectoplasm helped her out of the trunk.

She reached out and touched Aizawa with her left hand, to diagnose him. “He’s not injured. It’s the combined effects of stress, exhaustion, his migraine and the strong medication he took. He’ll be unconscious for at least six hours, thankfully, and likely longer. He’s burned through all his reserves. It’s a miracle he was on his feet at all,” she stated.

“Kendo! TetsuTetsu! Are you both alright?” Vlad King asked his students solicitously.

“What are you doing here, with Eraserhead?” Ectoplasm asked Hitoshi suspiciously. “Principal Nedzu ordered the students and faculty to stay away from the Infirmary.”

“Really? I have no memory of giving such an order,” Nedzu stated in surprise, looking speculatively up at Hitoshi.

“Don’t look at me like that. It wasn’t me. It was the villain, Toga, the one Eraserhead and I apprehended. She can assume the form of anyone whose blood she consumes. She told us she entered the school grounds as Ochako Uraraka. Sometime thereafter, she assumed your form, Principal Nedzu, Eraserhead and I both saw her looking exactly like you, before he used his Quirk to erase hers. Which means she somehow got hold of your blood. Possibly disguised as Recovery Girl, if Toga captured her before you. We did catch her in the Infirmary, after all,” he speculated.

“Ah. That would explain why the last thing I remember is drinking tea with Uraraka-kun in my office and why I feel a bit light-headed, beyond simple captivity. The villains might not have taken into account my smaller size, when drawing my blood,” Principal Nedzu stated in a seemingly calm voice that Hitoshi was certain hid a wealth of emotion.

“Alternatively, this could all be an elaborate plan of the villains, to make us believe you’re on our side, to get us to trust you,” Ectoplasm accused. “You’re just a General Studies student; you’re not even in the Hero course. I find it suspicious that Eraserhead would be working with you, instead of Present Mic, or even one of his own students. With Eraserhead conveniently unconscious, there’s no one to verify your story, is there? We only have your word that you stopped a villain attack.”

“Principal Nedzu and Present Mic can both vouch for my connection to Eraserhead,” Hitoshi stated confidently, though his heart was racing, as he prayed they actually would. Because even though they’d just rescued the Principal, Nedzu had been suspicious of him moments ago, and Present Mic was hovering protectively over Eraserhead.

“Or you can ask Bakugo, Kaminari and Kirishima. They saw me working with Eraserhead. Or Midnight. He called her first, before he called you and Vlad King, to have her put the villains to sleep that we and the others knocked out, to ensure they didn’t attack again. She’s probably in the Infirmary with them by now,” he added.

“What connection?” Ectoplasm demanded.

“With my consent, Eraserhead has been mentoring Shinsou-kun since shortly after the Sports Festival, with the intention of transferring him into the Hero course, as soon as there was an opening,” Principal Nedzu explained.

“We all saw at the Sports Festival how angry and disdainful he was of the Hero course kids,” Vlad King accused, glaring at him. “Maybe he got impatient, and decided to make an opening by kidnapping two of my kids, or when he realized he wasn’t good enough, he decided to get revenge.”

“Seriously? There already is an open spot, in Class 1-A: Principal Nedzu expelled Mineta last night. If it wasn’t for me discovering the other Nedzu was a fake, your two students and at least two of Eraserhead’s would all be crated in this truck and on their way to the League of Villains by now, along with Recovery Girl and the Principal. How many lives do I have to save before you all stop treating me like a villain?” Hitoshi demanded, his temper flaring.

“You leave this boy alone!” Recovery Girl unexpectedly voiced in support, having finished tending to whatever injuries Kendo and TetsuTetsu sustained in their capture. “If Shouta was awake, he’d be giving you an earful. I can verify Hitoshi is Shouta’s student, that he’s been training him. I’m certain every word he’s told you is the truth. So stop vilifying him, and let me treat his head injury,”

“I’m sorry, Shinsou,” Present Mic apologized. “I should have spoken up before this, but I just… Eraser has been mentoring Shinsou for three months, and from everything I’ve heard and seen, he’s perfect for the Hero program. I’m sure Midnight will back up his story of what happened, so why don’t we go into the Infirmary and confirm it? Then Recovery Girl can treat him, and we can call the police to cart off the villains they captured.”

“Yes, let’s go do as Present Mic suggested,” Nedzu encouraged.

0 0 0

Dabi walked down the hospital corridor in scrubs and slippers, because even for this he refused to be caught dead in a hospital gown. He loathed that he was wrapped nearly head to toe in bandages, concealing every burn scar, pushing an IV stand like some pathetic victim. Just the feeling of the bandages against his skin made him want to claw them off, and his skin along with them, it brought to the surface memories he kept suppressed for a reason.

But right now he needed to blend, not burn. Even though he was Tomura Shigaraki’s left hand man. Kurogiri was of course his right hand. His actual left and right hands, not one of those taxidermic masterpieces he decorated himself with. And people said he was fucked up. Twice and Compress were some of those extra hands. Toga was his teeth. Blood crazy obsessed bitch.

He smirked beneath the bandages, because obsession was something he could relate to. But right now, he had a job to finish, one that incompetent screw up, Mustard, had made unnecessarily difficult. It was supposed to be a quick and easy pick-up, guiding him to their new headquarters. But the little shit had taken matters into his own hands, somehow managed to break free on his own and gas the convoy, leaving Shigaraki’s careful plans in tatters. Fatal mistake. Shigaraki hated anyone deviating from his carefully laid plans, even if they were shit and the end improv was spectacular.

The slender terrified blond with a blazing blue naval laser flashed across his mind’s eye. There was a kid he’d like to have on his side. Scared mindless, but he’d nearly made him fail. It had been years since anyone had done that. When he’d spotted him hiding in the bushes, he’d reminded him just enough of Natsuo that he’d brought that protective big brother streak flaring up out of him, and made him momentarily lose focus, and then Twice had further distracted him with mention of the rampaging Nomu. And none of that mattered right now. He needed to focus on the task at hand. He’d survived these past ten years against impossible odds through clear focus on one task at a time.

He headed for the elevator at the end of the corridor, in no particular hurry. He had no idea how Mustard had managed to immediately get caught by the police again. Word on the street was an insane jumble of nonsense, some saying it was a plain clothes female cop, others saying it was a pair of Pro Heroes, a husband and wife, according to some, a second villain and a Hero, according to others. There hadn’t been a single damned word about the attack and arrest on the news. But over half the word of mouth stories said it was Endeavor, and that he was injured too. Regardless, both of them or all three had been injured, and this was the closest hospital, and it also had the best Burn Center in the city.

The elevator door began closing, just as he reached them, which would have been annoying, if he actually gave a shit about trivialities like that, the ones that derailed so many people. Especially since a security guard was staring out at him, locking eyes with him as they closed. Fucking asshole. But then the man unexpectedly stuck his hand out and the doors opened back up. “In you go, buddy. They should have hit the hold button for you.” Some of the other occupants had the decency to look ashamed.

Dabi nodded and trudged forwards, silently running through everything that could go wrong inside the elevator and up on the next floor, a sliver of his life at a time, even as he kept the big picture constantly in focus, humming in the background of his mind, as the doors closed, and the elevator began to ponderously rise.

He exited on the second floor, glanced at the signs, and kept walking. 230, 232, 234, he turned the corner and barely kept from instinctively stiffening at the sight of the all too familiar uniforms, even after all this time, his fight or flight instinct triggered by the two police talking outside the open door. Interesting. That door would be 237. Mustard was 246. He continued walking.

“… never thought I’d see the day All Might would have a heart attack right in front of me. Poor Midoriya-san. I hope she’s alright.”

All Might? Midoriya? Like the green haired brat Shigaraki is obsessed with? Shit.

There was always something unexpected to fuck up his plans, though occasionally, the universe threw him a curve ball that made things better. Sometimes even one that saved him, instead of fucked him over. Like Masa, ten years ago. And Masa now.

“Meanwhile that pompous ass Endeavor gets gassed and shot but is supposed to make a complete recovery. Sometimes I think there’s no justice in this world,” the other officer said, as he started to shuffle past, both of them ignoring him, dismissing him as harmless, if they noticed him at all.

Mustard gassed and shot Dear Old Dad? So he was the one who took him down. And it sounded like Endeavor was still here, and that at least one of these officers had as high an opinion of him as he did.

He jerked back, blue flames instinctively circling both hands, as a swirling black vortex opened directly in front of him. He immediately doused his flames, when he realized what it was, regretting it the next instant when a viselike hand reached out and grabbed him by the throat, four fingers only, so far, and yanked him forwards, as a bullet whistled past his ear and into the void, someone with reaction time nearly as quick as his own. But there was a gurgled yelp from behind him, and he knew a second void had opened up, and the bullet had found a new target, as thundering footsteps sounded, and a voice yelled, “Police, Freeze!”

Then the void swallowed him.

Chapter Text

After they entered the Infirmary and found Midnight, Shouta’s students and Bakugo’s parents, four bound and unconscious villains, a respectable pile of assorted weaponry, syringes, and an incriminating student ID card, exactly as Shinsou had described, the final traces of doubt surrounding him were removed, to Hizashi’s relief, because he was too busy worrying about his husband to be worrying about his protégé as well. Shouta was currently temporarily taking up a bed in Intensive Care, between Midoriya and Todoroki, guarded by Kirishima and Kaminari, as Hizashi met with Recovery Girl and Principal Nedzu, while they waited for the police to arrive.

Recovery Girl frowned in thought. “Shouta needs to be moved somewhere private, quiet, where he can rest undisturbed. His apartment in the dorm is certainly out of the question. I’d offer to let him stay in my apartment, but while normally quiet, it’s attached to the Infirmary, and we currently have patients, and the police will soon be conducting their investigation, so that won’t be at all restful.”

Hizashi wanted Shouta home with him, in their apartment, where he belonged, far away from the school and the dangers of another villain attack, especially while he was drugged and helpless. Their apartment was safe, anonymous: Yamada was a common last name, and they’d rented it in a secured building under Hizashi’s father’s given name, for an extra level of secrecy, from both his fans and potential villain attack. No one knew he and Shouta were married, or normally lived together. He knew that didn’t truly make them safe, but it helped to. But Shouta wouldn’t want to be away from his kids, especially not now.

Unexpectedly, Principal Nedzu spoke up. “I’d like to propose a solution, if I may. Eraserhead can take temporary residence in my home, while he is convalescing. As you know, the Principal’s mansion is on school grounds, and is rather excessively sized, the building as well as the furnishings, to accommodate all shapes and body types of residents and guests. It is isolated and quiet, peaceful and restful. It’s the least I can do, after adding to Eraserhead’s stress these past few months, by not allowing him to expel his student Mineta when he first wanted to. And on top of his previous injuries, the aftereffect of which has caused his current state, which I bear some level of responsibility for: had I not unfortunately detained All Might in my office for as long as I did, the day of the USJ attack, Eraserhead would not have nearly been killed.”

“Allowing Mineta to stay was your responsibility, but he doesn’t blame you or All Might for what happened at the USJ. He fought to the best of his ability, against impossible odds, but the only one he blames is himself,” Hizashi said tiredly, because Shouta had always been harder on himself than on anyone else.

“We can transport him via school ambulance, sans sirens, of course. And Present Mic, you are welcome to stay with him, to be his bodyguard, for the duration. Is that amenable to you?” the Principal generously offered.

“If it was anybody but one of the two of you offering he’d hate it. But given our shared history, everything that happened, starting when we were freshmen here, there’s no one he trusts more than you, except for me. And the Principal’s mansion certainly sounds like our best option,” Hizashi agreed.

“Then it’s settled. When the police arrive, I’ll ensure the detectives know he is not to be disturbed until you authorize it, Chiyo,” Nedzu stated.

“Good,” Recovery Girl agreed. Then she turned to him. “Hizashi, I know you’ve been trying, and how stubborn he can be, but you need to be more forceful with Shouta. Threaten him, if you have to. He’s been pushing himself too hard. Wearing himself out. He hasn’t been patrolling for three months now, but he looks more drawn than when he was. He’s physically healed from the USJ attack as fully as he’s going to be. But psychologically, it’s still affecting him deeply. I know he won’t agree to therapy, I’m not asking you to work miracles, but at least get him to talk to you, or to Nemuri or Tensei. Talking to Tensei, in particular, would help, I think, considering what he went through in Hosu. I’m certain he’s likely suffering more than physically from that attack.”

Hizashi shook his head. “He won’t, not to Tensei. I talked to Shouta about it before, tried to get him to. But he feels too guilty. He pulled through the USJ attack with his vision intact, save for the weakening of his Quirk, the eyestrain, and his resulting migraines. He retained the use of both arms, though I don’t think either is quite as flexible or strong as before the attack, after being crushed like they were, particularly with the additional damage to his right elbow. But Tensei is paralyzed from the waist down. Shouta told me he can’t talk to Tensei, not when he has the luxury of waking up from his nightmare, but Tensei never can.”

“Honestly? Survivor’s guilt? After everything that man went through at the USJ, you’re telling me he feels guilty for not being crippled, because Tensei was from Stain’s attack? Tensei would be furious with him, if he knew. I’ve half a mind to tell Tensei myself,” Recovery Girl huffed indignantly.

Hizashi’s eyes widened in panic, but before he could utter a word, she spoke again.

“Oh hush. It’s not as if I ever would. I’d never do anything to break Shouta’s trust. Given his past, I’m still honored that I ever earned it. But he’s hurting, Hizashi. He’s suffering. He needs help, and he’s too proud and too paranoid to ask for it. I know you hate pressuring him, but he can’t go on indefinitely like this. The more stressed he is, the more frequent and stronger those migraines will be, the less he’ll be able to function effectively, to teach and protect his kids, or to react quickly and effectively to villain attacks. It’s a recipe for inevitable disaster. And then, of course, there are the flashbacks.

“I could order him to see someone, for the sake of his health,” Nedzu proposed. “Implement a new rule, perhaps, that after a villain incursion or similar traumatic incident, all teachers and students are required to attend a psychological assessment and counseling session, with the need for follow-up appointments to be determined by the psychiatrist. Cast his obeying the rule in the light of setting a good example for his students. Clearly he worries about them more than he does about himself; he places their health above his own.”

Hizashi bit his lip and nodded. “That might work, actually. And honestly, I think it’s something we should have done long before this, especially for the 1-A kids. I’m not sure whether his entire class has recovered fully from the USJ attack, or even the mall incident, or 1-A and 1-B from the Training Camp attack, and Kamino Ward Tragedy.”

“Then it’s settled: as soon as the police are through with me, I’m going to go to my office, and write the new policy, call an emergency one item staff meeting, and have a quorum of you sign off on it. That way, by the time he wakes up, it will be a done deal. The students will also immediately get the help they need to recover from this, because there is no doubt it was incredibly traumatic, for not only the eight students involved – Midoriya, Todoroki, Kaminari, Bakugo, Kirishima, Shinsou, Kendo and TetsuTetsu – but for the other students on campus as well, when the incursion alarms went off. We’ll invite anyone in the entire student body who would like a consultation access to aid as well,” Nedzu stated.

“I hate going behind Shouta’s back like this, but I know it’s for his own good,” Hizashi admitted.

“It’s for the best,” Recovery Girl assured him.

Hizashi knew that. He only hoped his husband would see it that way.

0 0 0

Naomasa was escorting the wheelchair bearing a distraught Inko Midoriya back to her room, with a doctor monitoring her, when he heard the unmistakable sound of a gunshot, coming from up ahead. He grabbed the arm of the security guard who was accompanying them, to keep him from charging forward, and ordered him to stay with Midoriya and the doctor, to take her back to the first floor, as far away as he could, but somewhere easy to evacuate the building from, and then he ran, drawing his own weapon, but leaving the safety on.

He slowed before reaching the corner to the hall leading to Midoriya’s room and disengaged the safety. There were two officers stationed there and a total of four stationed at Mustard’s room. Or should have been.

As he crouched down and peeked briefly around the corner, risking only a quick glance, he saw Toyama standing, gun in hand, his head turning frantically from side to side, trying to guard from all directions at once, as Gatou was crouched on the ground, cursing, his hands pressed to the bleeding neck of a third officer, whose face he couldn’t see, next to what looked to be a large pile of ash. Don’t tell me Touya did this. Please don’t be ash.

There was a tense moment, as he identified himself, showing his badge, first, only coming slowly out from cover when he was certain Toyama wouldn’t mistake him for a villain and fire.

“What happened? Is the ash Hasagawa? Is Fujiwara alive? Report,” he demanded, as he scanned the hall with Toyama.

“We heard a shot, we ran, leaving Mikanagi and Takadono in Mustard’s room. There was a black vortex, it must have been that bastard, Kurogiri, but that’s all we saw, I yelled for them to freeze, and it vanished, and Fujiwara was lying here, bleeding, and yeah, I think that’s all that’s left of Hasagawa.”

“Get back to Mustard’s… no. Warn Endeavor first, room 261. Midoriya and Mustard might not be their only two targets,” Naomasa ordered, forcing the thought of the murdered officer and what it could mean from his mind as he ran into Midoriya’s room and slammed on the call nurse button repeatedly, to get help for Fujiwara, and then dialed the Pro Hero dispatch hotline and requested immediate assistance from any combat heroes in the vicinity, because to hell with trying to keep a lid on this madness, he wasn’t about to risk a hospital full of innocent civilians so Endeavor and the government could save face.

He’d never wished more for All Might’s power and presence, but he didn’t even know whether Yagi was still alive, and there was nothing his old friend could do, other than become another victim.

At the sound of thundering footsteps, he ran out of the room, ready for a horde of villains, but instead, it was Endeavor barreling down on them, his flames shooting half a meter high, his presence bringing none of the reassurance All Might’s would have.

“Where’s Midoriya?” he demanded, not his usual bellow, but a coarse rasp, taking in the blood and pile of powder, and the empty room, wheezing, as if he’d just run a marathon, instead of down the hall.

“She’s safe, for now at least – a security guard is with her. I’d already released her: she was still in the hospital, but not in her room, when the villains attacked. It was Kurogiri, and likely either Dabi or Shigaraki, depending upon whether what’s left of Hasagawa is ash or dust. We’ll know more once we view the security camera footage, and hear Fujiwara, if he lives to report,” Tsukauchi replied grimly.

Endeavor sucked in a ragged breath, Naomasa was just about to risk getting his head bitten off by asking whether he was alright, when Endeavor started coughed violently into his right hand, sounding almost like he was choking and trying to expel food from his throat, reminding him painfully of Yagi. For a moment it seemed to have worked, Endeavor drew his hand away from his face, but then he paled, as he stared into his hand, a look of shock, horror, and sudden fear on his face.

Naomasa stared, wide-eyed at the partly congealed mass of blood in his hand.

Then the coughing started again, worse than before, and Endeavor doubled over, and suddenly exploded into flame, not merely his beard, mustache and costume, but his entire body roaring with flames that shot out towards the walls and up towards the ceiling, as Naomasa dove out of the path of destruction, as the fire alarms began blaring, and the ceiling sprinklers began spraying the corridor with water, in a ludicrous, pathetic attempt to quell the raging inferno beneath them.

Endeavor lunged into Midoriya’s empty room. At first Naomasa thought he was just trying to protect them, or maybe even hit the call button for help, as he headed for her bed, leaving molten footprints of sparking, exposed wiring, and gushing water mixed with puffs of steam from broken pipes, in the melted floor, but then his eyes widened in realization as the flames of just his arms and hands flickered lower, as he dove for Midoriya’s discarded leg Quirk cuffs, clearly realizing only they might fit around his massive forearms and hands. It looked like he was desperately trying to seal off his own power, before he fell through the floor, before he began killing patients and set the entire hospital ablaze.

Naomasa ran into the room to help him, circling around to face him, but he couldn’t get near, not until Endeavor had managed to seal the left cuff around his own arm and hand, and activate it, and the flames lowered, flickering and sputtering but still not extinguishing entirely. He quickly helped him get his right arm into the other cuff, and sealed it, activating it, since it was impossible for Endeavor to do so with his left already cuffed, exhaling in relief, as the flames went out. But the relief was short lived, as Endeavor choked and spit blood onto the floor, desperately struggling to breathe, his efforts reduced to a horrible, wheezing, wet gasp.

“Not yet... Shouto… not now… not like this… won’t let her… kill me too,” Endeavor rasped.

“Don’t try to talk. We’ll call your son; you need to stay calm, to focus on breathing,” Naomasa encouraged.

Thankfully, the doctors and nurses arrived, half of them going to Fujiwara, which meant he was hopefully still alive, and half running in to aid Endeavor.

“He needs oxygen, and we need to prep him for surgery, immediately,” one of the doctors ordered, as Naomasa got out of their way, careful to avoid the compromised portions of the floor.

“You need to keep the Quirk restraints on him. He can’t control his flames,” Naomasa warned, and then he headed back for the hall, to Fujiwara. “Toyama, get back to Mustard’s room, make sure that they know to stay put, that the fire has been contained, but Kurogiri may attack again. We don’t want Mustard escaping. Gatou, see if you can get the power in this room shut off, and the sprinklers off, let the administration know they don’t need to evacuate. I’m going to head downstairs, to coordinate the Pro Hero response, and then try to view and secure the security footage, so we at least know what they tried before. The villains might well be planning another attack.”

“Yes, sir!” they both responded, immediately heading for their respective tasks. He’d see that all six of them received commendations. He prayed that only one of them would need to be awarded posthumously. And that he wouldn’t have reason for the fallen officer’s death to weigh more heavily upon his conscience than it already did.

0 0 0

Dabi, Shigaraki and Kurogiri emerged halfway across the city, in the converted warehouse that was their new headquarters.

Dabi fought to keep from swallowing, because Shigaraki would feel it against his palm, and know he was afraid. He went for confident outrage. “What the hell, Shigaraki?”

“You disappoint me Dabi. I thought you, of all people, understood how much I hate it when people ignore my orders,” Shigaraki stated, as his fingernail scraped against his bandages, crumbling them to dust, along with some of the skin of his scarred throat.

Shit! He could incinerate Shigaraki, but Shigaraki could disintegrate his neck – it would be a race to see who died first, and Kurogiri could likely cut him into pieces. He’d never seen him use his Quirk that way, close a gate with limbs still outside, but he didn’t need firsthand proof his dismemberment theory was viable.

How the fuck did he even find me? No one followed me, they can’t track me by my phone, if I ingested a tracker, I’d have detected it, and there’s nothing on my clothes, skin or hair. There’s no way either Shigaraki, Kurogiri, or any of the others I know about could have used the hospital security cameras to- Fuck. We were right, they’re working with someone else, someone I haven’t even heard about yet, a technokinetic or at least a virtuoso hacker, but confirming that is meaningless if I die because I can’t talk my way out of this, and fuck dying, not after everything I’ve already survived. Your fire has always been your weakness, your mind your strongest asset. Use it and live, or every single goal ends here and now, incomplete, and you will not fail.

“I followed your orders,” he argued, feeling his throat vibrate against Shigaraki’s palm as he spoke. “I went to the pickup zone. Mustard’s the one who fucked up, who went rogue. He escaped on his own, he got loose somehow and gassed the convoy, and then got himself fucking caught again by Endeavor. Mustard was at the hospital, room 246. I was going to spring him, bring him to you, just like you ordered.” Which wasn’t entirely true, but fortunately Shigaraki didn’t have multiple Quirks like his Master, he couldn’t read minds or detect lies.

“You’re lying,” Shigaraki accused confidently, and Dabi’s heart stuttered in his chest.

Fuck, shit, shit, fuck, please not a telepath, or someone like Ma… Your mind is a titanium box, and we bear the only key, no one can enter, no one can see or hear.

“There was nothing on the news about Mustard or Endeavor. What was on the news was how the League of Villains attacked the UA again,” Shigaraki stated, far too calmly, the calm before the typhoon.

Shigaraki’s words carefully filtered and registered through his mental defenses, the danger registered as a false alarm, the key turned in the lock and the box opened, leaving Dabi weak kneed, shaken and terrified. Shigaraki was completely oblivious to how close they’d all just come to being incinerated.

Fucking hell! Fucking dead man’s switch, buried in my head. Thank fuck, it was a false alarm. Because if it was true, and they succeeded picking the lock, we all would have burned, and fuck if I’m ever going to immolate myself again.

“Toga fucked up her stealth mission? So take that out on her, not me,” Dabi argued, carefully swallowing down a wave of bile, keeping his helpless fury and gut clenching fear in check as he threw her under the bus, because the murderous little psycho was doomed either way, and it was her fault he could have died because of her incompetence.

“Toga was succeeding in her mission, gathering the blood samples Master wanted, the ones she failed to retrieve at the Training Camp, she even secured four prisoners to bring back with her, and had at least five others she was working on obtaining, she likely would have brought us a full load. But then a certain someone with a Fire Quirk decided to very visibly attack the school without orders,” Shigaraki stated, as he turned on the TV, playing what was clearly a recording of an earlier broadcast, from the timestamp at the bottom of the screen.

Dabi’s eyes widened at the glacier of ice melting beneath the supernova of blue flame, underscoring the very prominent figures of Katsuki Bakugo, Izuku Midoriya and Eijiro Kirishima fleeing for their lives. “Holy… wait. That can’t be Endeavor, he’s still in the hospital, he-.“ He closed his mouth, stunned, as the only other possible explanation stared him in the face. Shouto.

The urge to run, to find whatever was left of his baby brother after what he saw was almost overpowering, but the kid was beyond his help, whether he was dead or burnt, and if he was alright, then he didn’t need it. Shouto wasn’t the helpless little kid he’d left behind in hell, a decade ago. You survived that. Survive this.

“Shigaraki Tomura, from the expression upon his face, I do not believe he is lying. I do not think he was the one who attacked. Nor, apparently, was it Endeavor. But I believe he knows who the culprit is.”

After ten years, selling your soul to them, how could you fuck up like this? You’re a professional, damn it, you’re better than this! He had to talk fast and firm and calm, remind Shigaraki how low maintenance yet valuable an asset he was.

“We have a deal. I told you, I’m not in it for the money or the prestige or the power, that I’d help you reach the top, help you get your revenge, free All for One from Tartarus, follow wherever you lead, help you create your new world order, as long as I got the two things I want. I haven’t broken my end of the bargain. I’ll continue to follow you, to obey you, get you everything you want. All I want in return is Endeavor and Shouto Todoroki. And that is Shouto Todoroki, both the ice and the flame. He belongs to me.”

0 0 0

Naomasa stood alone in the security monitoring room in the hospital and played the silent footage back one more time, recording it on his phone this time, fighting to steady his shaking hand. After over two months of zero contact, nothing since just after the disastrous Summer Training Camp attack, and before the destruction of Kamino Ward, endless agonizing doubt and uncertainty, the guilt and fear eating him alive, he finally had proof that, less than an hour ago, Touya had still been alive.

He watched Touya, bandaged and disguised, walking past Fujiwara and Hasagawa. The vortex opening up as Touya’s hands immediately flamed but then extinguished. A hand grabbing Touya by the neck, Fujiwara firing a single bullet as a second black swirling portal opening up behind him, his own bullet ripping into his throat, as Touya was yanked inside the vortex, vanishing, as Shigaraki grabbed Hasagawa by the face with his other hand, disintegrating him. Then he disappeared into the blackness, and the portal vanished, as reinforcements closed in too late from Mustard’s room. Privacy, solitude, for whatever they were going to do to Touya.

Naomasa took a deep but shaky breath and deleted the original digital recording, using one of the hidden capabilities of the special watch Touya had given him months ago, so no recoverable trace would remain, one of many similar crimes he’d committed since Touya had re-entered his life, and he’d begun doing whatever he could to help and protect him. And God forgive him, come hell or high water, he’d continue crossing lines and breaking rules and laws he’d never before even considered bending, to aid Touya, until he too was caught or killed. Because the alternative was unthinkable.

0 0 0

Izuku stared up at the ceiling, puzzled. He was lying on his back, in a brightly lit room, under cool sheets, definitely not in his own soft pajamas, but some sort of simple thin pants and shirt. The ceiling tile was painfully familiar, but the exact pattern of dots wasn’t right for the ceiling tiles over any of the beds in the Infirmary. He tried to remember what had happened, as he cautiously wiggled his fingers and toes, not wanting to try anything too ambitious, before knowing which bones he’d broken this time, especially since Recovery Girl had told him she refused to heal any more breaks.

He frowned in confusion. Nothing hurts. Why doesn’t anything hurt?

Not that he wanted it to, but it was weird, and if he hadn’t just wiggled his fingers and toes successfully, he might have been afraid he was paralyzed. He cautiously turned his head, and found it turned without difficulty. But the plethora of equipment beside his bed the simple movement revealed was more than a little intimidating, as he suddenly realized where he was, why the ceiling tile was familiar, yet different, when he saw there were wires running from both his forehead and chest, connecting to some of the machines.

The Intensive Care room. Drat. I guess I really messed up, this time. I don’t have an internship yet. Was it training? If so, I guess I must have been fighting Kacchan– Memory flared, the familiar acrid scent of burning sweat that had terrorized him so horribly as a child, but it was comforting somehow, as strong arms cradled him, as he was dying, and there was a hard chest pressed into his cheek, a thundering heartbeatKirishima’s voice echoed in his head, “…he’s not breathing, not breathing, not breathing.”

“Todoroki!” Izuku bolted upright, looking around frantically for red and white hair, delicate features, creamy skin, graceful strength. He grabbed the wires that tethered him to the machines, tearing them from his body and leapt from the bed.

“Whoa, Midoriya, calm down!” Kirishima urged, racing towards him from the opposite end of the room.

Kaminari was there too, looking up at him guiltily now, from where they’d both been standing, beside someone on another bed. Who is it? Todoroki or Kacchan? The other beds are empty. Why is only one of them here? Kacchan would be with Kirishima, after something like that, wouldn’t he?

“… not breathing, not breathing, not breathing.”

He pushed past Kirishima, knocking him out of the way, because he had to see, he had to know. He let out a sob of relief, when he saw Todoroki, because he looked alright, he was alive, breathing, no burns or other visible damage. He was only sleeping. Or unconscious. Because he wouldn’t be here if he was fine, would he? “Is he alright? What’s wrong with him?”

“That’s a loaded question, because honestly, I have no idea why he attacked us like that,” Kirishima admitted sardonically. “Physically, Recovery Girls says he’s fine. We won’t know about… well… the rest… until he wakes up. We’re here to either reassure him or stop him. You know, if he gets violent and tries to kill us all, again, or something.”

“He wasn’t…” Izuku automatically started to defend, but then stopped. Because he was. Although he didn’t think it was intentional, he didn’t think Todoroki had even known who they were, at that point, he’d just been lashing out at anything that moved. Which was actually even more terrifying. “And Kacchan? He saved me, when I was falling. I… he’s alright too, isn’t he?” he asked desperately.

“Yeah, Bakugo’s alright. But he didn’t just catch you, you know. You stopped breathing, just like Todoroki. Bakugo resuscitated you, while I was doing the same for Todoroki. Somehow we saved you both, I still can’t believe it worked, even though Recovery Girl assured us that physically, you’re both fine. She healed your burns, they weren’t nearly as bad as we thought they’d be, you’re not even scarred at all, something about your Quirk or the wind protecting you, they said? Anyway, there was no brain damage or anything, from you not breathing. But a lot of other stuff happened while you were unconscious, it’s only been a few hours, but the League of Villains attacked us, and took captives, and – whoa, calm down!” Kirishima urged, his arms out, like he was ready to physically restrain him.

“Everything’s OK now, I guess I should have led with, ‘Don’t panic, everything’s fine,’ huh? But anyway, we had to fight them off and rescue everyone, which we did, so you don’t need to go charging off and breaking limbs or anything, OK? We’re here guarding the two of you because the teachers are running all over, with everything that’s happened, and Aizawa-sensei told us to protect you, before he collapsed, and we refuse to leave until he dismisses us or people we trust are here to protect you both, and they aren’t letting the rest of 1-A near here, and frankly, right now, we kind of can’t trust anybody else.”

I stopped breathing? Kacchan resuscitated me? There was a villain attack? People were kidnapped? Aizawa-sensei’s been hurt again? How did I miss so much?

“And about that, do you know what’s up with Shinsou? He got in, somehow, and the teachers and police have been swarming all over him, but not like they’re treating him like a villain, or anything, it’s the opposite really. They’re treating him like he’s a Pro Hero. He and Eraserhead are the ones who tried to protect me and Bakugo and Kaminari, but Bakugo’s mom and dad had already beaten the crap out of the two villains who tried to snatch Bakugo.”

“What?” Izuku screeched, his head spinning, like he was back at the hospital talking to his mom again.

“Yeah, they’d apparently been called because of Bakugo being stabbed by Todoroki’s ice, though actually, probably just because of the fight, because they called my folks too, they’ve already been and gone, because I’m fine, and there’s no way I want my parents here, if the villains attack again. Same with Kaminari’s. Uraraka’s are down at the police station with her, because she’s still a minor and they need to be there while she’s interrogated for her part in the attack. Because Toga, that shape changing villain she and Asui met up with at the Training Camp, had Uraraka’s ID, she used it to get onto campus and start this whole mess,” Kirishima claimed.

“What? No way! Uraraka wouldn’t do that! She’d never work with the villains, not unless they’d kidnapped her family or something and even then… Wait. You said her parents were at the police station? Are you sure, or did they just call them? Because if they’ve been kidnapped, if the villains were blackmailing her, they could die if-“

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Calm down. We know it’s nuts, there’s no way she’d help them, but yeah, her parents are there. Everything’s just a big mess, what with Aizawa-sensei being down for at least six hours and probably twice that, from what Recovery Girl and Present Mic said, he collapsed right after rescuing everyone with Shinsou, and the two of them had taken down two other villains before that, apparently. I’m telling you, it’s almost like Shinsou’s Sensei’s sidekick or something, the way Present Mic was explaining it. Then once we found out the villains launched a second attack on the hosp… shit. I mean, uh...” Kirishima stuttered.

Izuku felt all the blood drain from his face, as Kirishima looked at him guiltily.

“The hospital,” Izuku whispered in horror. He grabbed Kirishima by the biceps, and shook him. “What happened to my mother? Did they capture her? Or… or… kkk…” He couldn’t even say it as his mind started flashing image after image of her, not just from today, but from years ago, too.

“Wait, no, calm down! It’s not your mom. Damn it, I wish Aizawa-sensei was here! I’m no good at this,” Kirishima claimed, looking totally overwhelmed. “Don’t freak out at what I’m going to tell you next OK? This time, I’m going to lead with, ‘he’s still alive’. They didn’t think he’d be, they thought it was a heart attack, but it wasn’t, it was something else, something weird, something to do with his Quirk, apparently, but more like something you’d expect from his sidekick Sir Nighteye than from-“

“All Might? What happened to All Might?” Izuku demanded.

“They’re not sure. Like I said, it looked like a heart attack, but his heart was fine. Apparently he called out your name and reached towards the window, then collapsed. But the really weird part is, near as the police can tell, the timing syncs with the fight we had here, with you and Todoroki both… well… uh… not breathing. But like I said, All Might seems to be OK, now, your mom too, they dropped the charges against her, she’s free, except she’s in protective custody right now because… the League of Villains attacked the hospital. We haven’t heard much, we know at least one police officer was killed, just what little Present Mic shared with us when he told us about Todoroki’s dad, in case he doesn’t survive the surgery.”

Izuku frowned, as he tried to make sense of everything Kirishima was telling him. “What surgery? For the bullet? I thought they already got that out, that he was fine.”

“No. Apparently Mustard’s gas really messed up his lungs, when he caught him, this morning, Endeavor was coughing up blood and everything, just like All Might does now, after his big fight with All for One. I don’t know if Endeavor’s going to be #1 anymore, or even be able to be a Pro Hero at all, after this, even if he lives,” Kirishima stated sepulchrally.

Chapter Text

Shouto woke, but instantly feigned sleep, years of training kicking in to protect him. There were hushed voices, that he strained to hear, but also, right beside his bed, there was someone standing motionless, but he could hear them breathing, feel the air currents of each inhalation and exhalation. And this wasn’t his bed, it wasn’t his futon, on the floor, he could instantly tell from the air pressure above and below that the bed was elevated, the room larger and more cluttered than his bedroom either at his father’s house or the UA dorm, he now knew it was from the gas sensing and controlling parts of his Quirk that he had inherited from his paternal grandmother.

The ice, she was freezing to death, he’d wanted so desperately to save her, to save his father, his unborn uncle, to stop everything before it went to hell. His fire, he’d thought his fire could melt the ice, save them both, but then he’d woken up here.

He’d been an idiot: it was all just in his head. It happened decades ago.

Something else was missing, obviously, because he’d been outside, at Ground Beta, fighting Bakugo, and now he was here. He needed more data.

He risked slitting open his eyes, but the way he was positioned, he couldn’t see anything useful. Then the person by the bed shifted and his eyes snapped open, as he sprang from the bed, not launching himself at the unknown quantity, but leaping off on the other side, so he could use the bed as cover, attack from a distance, with both his ice and fire, to his advantage. But then he recognized his classmate, Kaminari.

“Kirishima!” Kaminari yelped, looking terrified of him, for some reason, his hands flinging out and sending electricity flying, even as Shouto erected a wall of ice, shielding himself, but also cutting the room in half, shielding Kirishima and whoever he’d been talking to.

“Kaminari!” Kirishima yelled, and hands were pounding on his ice wall, Shouto could hear pieces of it shattering. He held out his left hand and melted it for him, because Kirishima sounded frantic, and terrified, and he had no idea why, because it’s not like he’d ever hurt his classmates. He half expected to hear explosions, but whomever he had been talking to was too quiet to have been Bakugo.

He melted the ice in front of himself, as well, and was surprised to see Midoriya was the one Kirishima had been with.

“Midoriya. Why did Kaminari attack me?” he asked, puzzled. It’s not as if he and Bakugo had never fought before. Although this time hadn’t been an official class spar. And he frustratingly couldn’t remember how it had ended.

“Todoroki! Oh thank God, you’re alright!” Midoriya yelled, and then he was embracing him, he’d just run up to him and started hugging him.

Shouto hated being touched, especially when he wasn’t expecting it. If anyone else had done that, he would have pushed them away, or more likely flipped them, but he remembered soothing Midoriya in the car and on his bed, before, so he hugged back, running his hand up and down his back reassuringly.

“I’m fine. Did Bakugo beat me, or something? I’m surprised he’s not in here, gloating about it,” he commented mildly, not betraying how much the thought of Bakugo winning their fight stung.

“Oh my God. You mean you don’t remember?” Midoriya asked, pushing against his chest, looking up at his face, his gaze searching and …

He swallowed, hard. Is that sympathy? Or pity? Did I do something? Did…? “Where’s Bakugo?” Shouto asked, in sudden dread. “Tell me I didn’t hurt him.” Tell me I didn’t do something worse. Because I was trying to burn the ice away. And that’s all I remember.

“Dude, you’re kidding, right?” Kaminari accused. “You freaking stabbed him with your ice, and then you tried to burn us all to death. You used your father’s Hellflame. If it wasn’t for Midoriya, Bakugo and Kirishima would be nothing but ash, and Midoriya-“

“Kaminari! That’s enough!” Midoriya snapped protectively. “Kacchan’s fine, now, and Todoroki obviously doesn’t even remember, and we know he’d never do something like that on purpose.”

“Now that you’re awake and Todoroki is too, and you can guard one another, I’m going to take Kaminari in to Bakugo,” Kirishima said more protective sounding than conciliatory. “Bakugo’s parents are probably driving him nuts by now, but you know him, he won’t risk them getting hurt because he’s not there to guard them, since they have to stick around for police questioning. Careful what you say, though, OK Midoriya? You don’t want to set him off again.”

Shouto expected Midoriya to get defensive on his behalf again, at the ridiculous warning, but instead, he looked solemn. “Right. We should probably find Present Mic or one of the other teachers, anyway.”

Once Kirishima left with Kaminari, Shouto said the first of many things on his mind. “What did he mean, I used Endeavor’s Hellflame? I can’t do that.”

Midoriya looked at him critically. “Yes, you can. Your entire left side lit up with blue fire. You remember the way you made that glacier when you fought Sero, at the Sports Festival? It was like that, except fire, not ice, and it… um… it didn’t stop. You were like the sun, except blue.”

He felt his eyes widen, as he looked down at his left hand, his arm. His skin was unmarred, but he was wearing hospital scrubs, like Midoriya. Had he been burned? Had Recovery Girl healed him? But he wasn’t scarred, and if he’d actually been using Endeavor’s Hellflame, without realizing it…

Shouto looked back up at Midoriya. “What Kaminari said, about Kirishima and Bakugo? He wasn’t exaggerating, was he?”

“Todoroki, you didn’t mean to, I know you didn’t,” Midoriya assured him, sounding almost desperate about it. Which meant it was even worse than he was imagining.

“I almost killed them?” Shouto asked, so softly he almost couldn’t even hear himself talk. Then he looked into Midoriya’s eyes. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?” He could hear the pain and desperation in his own voice.

“It doesn’t matter. We’re both alright now, we all are. That’s all that matters,” Midoriya insisted stubbornly.

“Midoriya, what did I do?” Shouto demanded, needing to know.

Midoriya sighed. “I couldn’t get away fast enough, and I was carrying both Bakugo and Kirishima. I had to save them. So I threw them, and got pushed back into the fire. But Kaminari zapped you with his Quirk that same instant and I guess he knocked you out. You fell into the water, there was water everywhere, from where you melted your own ice, pools and puddles of it, still ringed with the remnants of your ice. I’m not sure how I got hit too by his electric attack, but I did, I think, and I was falling. Bakugo caught me. And… um… I remember them saying you weren’t breathing, that you’d drowned. And then I woke up here, just a few minutes before you did.

“Kirishima told me he resuscitated you. And… darn it, I have to tell you, because I know he’s going to, but I want you to know, it’s not your fault. Apparently I stopped breathing too. And Bakugo is the one who resuscitated me, who brought me back. So I guess I owe him my life twice. If he makes a big deal out of it, I can say that makes us even, after the sludge villain and Kamino. Except I’d never mention either of those to him. So I guess I’m going to be getting an earful,” he said ruefully, like it was a joke, that he’d killed him. And himself, apparently.

If I tried to kill them, if I killed Midoriya, why did Kirishima save me? He didn’t realize that he’d spoken the thought aloud, until Midoriya reacted.

“Todoroki, no! Don’t ever say that, don’t ever think that! Of course he saved you! We’re going to be Heroes, remember? Heroes are amazing, but they’re not perfect. They make mistakes, but they learn from them, they move on, and do better, they keep going,” Midoriya encouraged.

“You don’t understand! I told you, ever since my mother hurt me, I’ve been afraid of doing the same thing, that some day, I was going to crack under all the pressure, and hurt someone, like she did, only worse, because of my Quirks. And now I have. How am I a Hero?” Shouto was desperate for some kind of validation, when he knew, rationally, there couldn’t be any.

“Because you have a good heart, and you try so hard, at everything, you always try to do the right thing, in spite of all the pitfalls and obstacles that get thrown in your way. You’re amazing, Todoroki. I just wish you could see that as clearly as we can.”

He didn’t understand how Midoriya could look at him like that, when he’d almost killed him.

“Todoroki, look at me. Kaminari needs to go to prison. He almost killed you, and me. He electrocuted us both, and you ended up drowning, he did kill you, and I fell to my death. Even though Kacchan caught me, I still died. It was Kirishima and Kacchan who saved us. Kaminari needs to be punished for what he did.”

Shouto was shocked Midoriya would say something like that. It was totally unlike him. Does he really blame Kaminari, hate him for what he did? Was he just waiting until Kaminari and Kirishima were out of the room to tell me?

“How can you say that? Kaminari must have been completely terrified, to attack us like that, to risk that. He must have known how dangerous it was, but from what you’ve told me, you and Bakugo and Kirishima were going to die, you would have, if he hadn’t stopped me. I’m still not sure how he got that powerful without me realizing it, but I’m just thankful he did. It’s my fault, everything that happened, not his,” Shouto insisted, urging Midoriya to understand, because this was his fault, too, Midoriya acting like this, so against his own nature.

“You’re right about some of that. I don’t blame Kaminari, I never did. How could I? He was trying to save us. He did save Kacchan and Kirishima. He even ended up saving us too, because we’re still here, we’re still alive, and I honestly don’t know if you could have stayed like you were and not just burned yourself up too,” Midoriya stated, looking more serious than he’d ever seen him before.

“Then why…?” Shouto was completely confused.

“Exactly. Why? Why can you absolve Kaminari of any and all guilt, when he actually managed to kill both of us, but you won’t absolve yourself of that same guilt? That attack wasn’t your fault. That wasn’t you. That was all the fear and anger and confusion from everything your father did to you over the past 15 years, and whatever he said to you today, that was so horrible and traumatic and scarring that you lashed out blindly. You’re not the villain here. Neither is Kaminari. Endeavor’s the villain. He’s always been the villain in your life,” Midoriya insisted.

“I need to talk to him more. About Touya. About everything. Will you come with me, back to the hospital?” Shouto asked.

At the conflicted look on Midoriya’s face, he winced, and drew away, clamping down his familiar mental armor, back in place, because of course Midoriya wouldn’t want anything to do with him or his father, after what happened. He was a fool for thinking their friendship hadn’t been destroyed by this, regardless of what he’d just said. Clearly, he blamed him for it.

“Todoroki, stop! Whatever you’re thinking, that has you looking like that, you’re wrong. It’s not that I don’t want to go with you. I don’t want you talking to Endeavor, that’s true, but I wouldn’t try to stop you, if it’s what you think you need to do. But there’s something else that I thought you overheard, because you leapt up right after that, but I guess you didn’t. You can’t see your father right now, because apparently Mustard’s gas attack affected him worse than anyone realized. He started coughing up blood, he couldn’t breathe; he’s in surgery.”

Todoroki remembered in horror what his father had said when they were talking: “They wanted me to stay here three days. I agreed to one, as their concern is somewhat valid, given my medical history and the nature of the attack. Don’t look so concerned. It’s not hereditary. Far from it. You’re likely immune.”

He’d been rubbing his chest, sounding winded, his breath short and shallow, as if he was in pain, or had been exerting himself far more than walking down the corridor would account for. And he’d cleared his throat a few times and then coughed, in a way he remembered from when he was little. That villain, Arctica. The hypothermia had turned into pneumonia, the first of many times, growing up. He’d said that’s why he was too weak to surpass All Might. A medical history of recurring respiratory problems, bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis, because of a villain attack. Almost like what All Might was suffering through. Coughing up blood, this time, exactly like All Might.

“I need to go. I need to be there. I need to see him. He can’t die yet. He hasn’t told me about Touya.” But there was that desperate little boy’s voice again, in the back of his mind. “He can’t die. He’s my dad.” Not now. Not when he’s finally doing something right.

“Alright. I’ll go with you. Or I’ll try. I don’t know whether they’ll give us permission or not. The League of Villains apparently attacked the hospital too, to kidnap or kill my mom, to get Mustard back, maybe they were even planning to attack Endeavor. Come on. Let’s talk to Present Mic, and get him to talk to the Principal for us. I want to see my mom, and All Might, too, while we’re there,” Midoriya urged.

“My mother. I was supposed to visit her this afternoon, after class,” Shouto remembered aloud. Then belatedly, the greater implications hit. “It’s her birthday. I can’t believe I… The sweater. The tea.”

“Oh no, that’s right! You were going to bring her presents. From what the others said, if she saw the news, she’d be really worried,” Midoriya commented.

“No, they don’t let her watch the news, or TV at all, only a restricted collection of recorded programs that her doctors and Endeavor approve. Or Natsuo now, I guess. What if he lets her see the news now? No, the doctors would advise against it, the risk of upsetting her, because even regular programming is interrupted for villain attack bulletins and live feed, and she might see Endeavor, especially now that he’s the #1 Hero, or something else stressful. So she won’t have seen what happened at UA, or heard about Endeavor being shot and gassed.

“But it’s her birthday and I’m not there. She’ll think I forgot. Or that Endeavor found out I’ve been visiting her, that he caught me, because I didn’t say I wouldn’t be coming. She’ll be worried, stressed, afraid. I need to call her hospital, so they can tell her I’m fine, that it wasn’t Endeavor, that… that Aizawa-sensei sprang a practical field test on us, a wilderness one, a survival test, so he confiscated our phones, he wouldn’t let anyone call, either. Endeavor made me do those, when I was little, so I’ll be able to lie really well, to describe it to her convincingly. I hate lying to her, I never have before, since I started seeing her in the hospital, but the truth would upset her really badly, and I won’t do that to her. But I’ll promise that I’ll see her tomorrow instead, and wish her a happy birthday, and bring her the sweater, and tea, and maybe even get a small cake, just for the two of us, or a bigger one, so she can share it with her favorite nurses.” He realized he’d been rambling as much as Midoriya, the thought calming, for some reason, releasing some of his tension.

He looked at the empty stand beside his bed. “I need my phone, I need to call her. And where’s my wallet, my ID? My keys? Where are my clothes?”

Midoriya bit his lip. “Um, I think everything probably burned? You used Hellflame. It would have all melted or vaporized. I’d let you borrow mine, it was in my front pocket, so it didn’t burn, but it’s completely fried. I think we’ll be able to requisition new ones, from the school? They’ll be able to preload it with the class and our teacher’s numbers, and the only other numbers I had were Mom’s, Kacchan’s parents’, and All Might’s, and I know all those by heart,” he admitted, looking sheepish.

“I only had Endeavor’s, Fuyumi’s, Natsuo’s and Mom’s hospital. I memorized the others, but not hers,” Shouto admitted guiltily.

“Oh my gosh! I just realized. My mom, your sister! If our fight or the villain attack or both made the news, they’ve probably been trying to call or text us. We need to find out if the school contacted them, and what they told them,” Midoriya stated anxiously.

“Recovery Girl will have a phone, and I can look up my mom’s hospital’s number,” Shouto stated confidently.

They didn’t even make it to the door, before Recovery Girl came in. “Good. You’re both awake. I-“

“Give me your phone. We need to call our mothers and my sister,” Shouto uncharacteristically interrupted.

“Calm down, child. The school already contacted your parents, we always do when-“

Shouto cut her off again. “Midoriya’s mother has been arrested, she’s in the hospital, she’s not allowed a phone, they wouldn’t have been able to reach her. My father is my contact, but he’s in the hospital, in surgery, my mother’s in the hospital, I need to get a message to her, and my sister Fuyumi will have been trying to call me, but Endeavor wouldn’t let me list her as an emergency contact, they won’t let her on school grounds and she needs to know I’m alright!”

He didn’t even realize he was shouting, until he saw Midoriya step protectively between him and Recovery Girl, the green glow of his full cowling activated, and the way he was looking at him, as if he was Bakugo, warily, like he might hurt him. Shouto looked down and to his shock saw a nimbus of flame around his left hand and a sheath of frost around his right, and he heard the sound of running feet approaching from the corridor.

The flame was a familiar orange, thankfully, not the blue of Hellflame Midoriya insisted he had somehow been able to achieve, but he hadn’t meant to activate either Quirk. He’d lost control, again, like a novice, like a child. Shame burned hotly inside him, like acid, and he took a step back from them silently, afraid he’d start yelling again, or maybe screaming, trying to show he wasn’t a threat, as he fought to control both his powers and his temper.

The door was flung open, it slammed against the wall, and he immediately turned to face the threat, as Bakugo ran in, fuming, looking ready to attack, dressed in his signature orange and black, only not his costume, and he had breasts, distinct cleavage in a flame orange sweater, rounded hips in a clinging black skirt, and Shouto really was losing his mind.

“Get the fuck away from Izuku, you psycho!” Bakugo yelled, in a voice that was his but wasn’t, as he surged forwards, to attack, but then Midoriya’s full cowling was gone, he grabbed Bakugo’s arm, not letting him past him.

“Aunt Mitsuki, don’t! It’s not his fault! Kacchan, help!” Midoriya yelled.

And then he was seeing double, because there was Bakugo, dressed in the same flimsy hospital clothes they were, assessing the situation instantly as he burst into the room. Shouto expected this second Bakugo to attack him, too, to finish their fight.

“Shitty Hair, Pikachu, Dad, stay the fuck out! Icy Hot, calm the fuck down!” the second Bakugo roared. “Deku, take your fucking hands off my mom before I kill you! And you, what the fuck were you thinking, you crazy old hag? Icy Hot’s got enough shit to deal with, without some shrew screeching at him. Shitty Hair and Pikachu never should have left you two losers alone in here, even if you are both awake now. Are you both going to play nice, now, or do I have to kill you?” Bakugo challenged.

Shouto fought to process what was happening. Bakugo, the real Bakugo, was actually playing peacekeeper, trying to diffuse the situation instead of escalating it, without coddling him, or talking to him like he thought he was crazy. This time, the fire and ice both extinguished easily, when he tried.

That other Bakugo is really a Bakugo too, but she’s his mother? How could he speak so disrespectfully to her, especially in front of us? Won’t she punish him for it, later, when no one’s there to see? And she looks so young; they look more like brother and sister, twins, even. And Midoriya called her his aunt? Midoriya and Bakugo are cousins? And her hair, she’s blond too, like…“Bakugo, your mother is All Might’s sister?”

Now Bakugo was staring at him like he was crazy. “How the fuck did you come up with that, you half and half b... loser,” Bakugo accused.

Shouto winced. He hadn’t called him a bastard, this time. “Midoriya called her Aunt Mitsuki,” he defended, although Midoriya kept denying All Might was his father.

“Oh! That’s because my mom and Kacchan’s mom used to be best friends, they still are sort of friends, and we grew up together. He calls my mom Aunt Inko. And his parents are actually still listed as my secondary emergency contacts, after my mom, because… well, there isn’t anyone else,” Midoriya admitted sheepishly.

“Son, Mitsuki, is everything alright?” an anxious male voice called from the corridor.

“We’re fucking peachy. Just having a God damned family reunion, apparently,” Bakugo snapped.

“Give me your phone,” Shouto demanded.

“You’d better not be talking to me,” Bakugo snarled, his hands sparking.

Somehow the familiar threat was comforting. It meant Bakugo wasn’t afraid of him, he didn’t think he was about to go crazy and try to burn them all to death.

“Kacchan, wait! Todoroki burned his phone up, and Kaminari fried mine, and he needs to call his sister, to let her know he’s OK, and his mom’s hos… um, you know, the place where she’s staying, and let them know he’s OK too, so they can tell her,” Midoriya explained in a rush.

“So ask, next time, instead of ordering, dumbass,” Bakugo snapped, as he reached his hand down and scowled at his pocketless pants. “Dad, gimme your phone. Mom doesn’t have her purse, and all ours are back in the room,” Bakugo ordered.

Shouto’s eyes widened as Bakugo’s mom smacked him in the side of his head, in front of everyone. “Ask instead of ordering, you little shit,” she snapped.

“Dad knew what I fucking meant, you batty old hag!” Bakugo snarled.

Shouto tensed, waiting for the backlash, the look that promised retribution, or even another physical attack.

“Shut your sewer mouth, you fucking delinquent,” his mother snarled back.

A remarkably quiet and timid looking man cautiously entered the room, but Shouto’s eyes widened further as he saw the military grade taser clutched in his left hand, though it was thankfully off, and his eyes were immediately diverted by the phone in his right, which he held wordlessly out to Bakugo. He was dressed casually, in muted colors, a button down olive green shirt and beige chinos, he looked comfortable, instead of stylish.

Is that really Bakugo’s father? He’d expected someone huge and hulking, dangerous looking, like his own father.

“Thanks,” Bakugo said, snatching the phone, and then holding it out to him. “Here. Call them. Then give it to Deku, so he can call his mom, too,” Bakugo surprisingly offered.

“Thanks,” Shouto said in relief. He Googled Yamamoto Psychiatric Facility and Recovery Center and then dialed them, as Midoriya urged everyone out of the door, so he could have some privacy, which he appreciated. To his surprise, Bakugo helped move everyone out quickly, instead of protesting, as he closed the door behind him.

“Yamamoto Psychiatric, how may I direct your call?” a cheerful voice asked.

Shouto explained who he was and why he was calling. The nurse he spoke to sounded relieved to hear from him, as he quickly apologized with the prepared lie. She told him his mother had initially been very upset, when he didn’t come, but they had been told by his father that his brother, Natsuo, now was the sole point of contact, and Natsuo had instructed them to never contact Shouto or Fuyumi about their mother, unless it was an emergency and Natsuo was unreachable.

Fortunately, both Natsuo and Fuyumi had come to visit with her, they even visited together, this time, though they’d never done that before, they were usually very careful not to overlap visits, so they wouldn’t overwhelm her, but they’d wanted to celebrate her birthday together with her. They had been surprised when they heard he had missed his usual visiting time, but fortunately been able to reassure her that he was fine, to reinforce that he was just tied up with school, so they hadn’t needed to sedate her. The nurse promised to relay his message to her and told him they looked forward to seeing him tomorrow.

Shouto ended the call, and then called his sister. The phone rang a few times, until it was finally answered.

“Hello? Who is this, why are you calling me?” his sister asked suspiciously. He knew seeing the unfamiliar number would have spooked her, that she likely only answered hoping it was the school or police or a hospital with news about him.

“It’s me, Fuyumi, Shouto. I wa-“

“Shouto, oh my God! Are you alright? I’ve been trying to call you for hours and the school wouldn’t tell me anything! Dad didn’t add me as a contact yet and Natsuo and I were so worried, when we saw the attack on TV, we didn’t even find out about it until we left the hospital after visiting with mom because it’s her birthday and are you injured? Where are you?” his sister demanded in a rush that made his heart both hurt and soar, because she’d been genuinely worried, she cared whether he lived or died. There had been a long time when she’d been the only one who cared.

“I’m fine. I wasn’t injured in the villain attack,” he told her truthfully, because he’d been killed before that, because of his own incompetence, his loss of temper and control.

“Are you sure? You’re not hiding something from me, are you? You always pretend not to be hurt, or for it not to be bad, even when you’ve had broken bones, even that time you could barely move for two days,” Fuyumi challenged anxiously.

“That was a long time ago, Fuyumi. I’m not that weak anymore,” Shouto denied defensively.

“Oh Shouto! Being injured had nothing to do with you being weak. Some day, I hope you’ll understand that. I… did you know Dad’s in the hospital?” she asked timorously, likely suspecting he’d either pretend not to care or be happy he was.

“I know. I visited him already, before he got worse,” Shouto admitted.

There was a long pause. “You did?” she asked, though from her tone, her question sounded more like, “Why?”

“I was there visiting someone else, who was injured in the same villain attack, my friend Midoriya’s mother, I’ve mentioned him to you, and Endeavor was in the same hospital, in her room, actually, the police were there too, and he said he wanted to talk to me about Grandmother, so I went back to his room with him,” Shouto admitted, waiting to hear what his sister would have to say.

“Grandmother? Which one? His or mom’s? What did he say?” she asked, sounding intrigued.

“Really? That’s what you’re going to ask me? Isn’t there something else you want to talk about, tell me, about you and Endeavor, the deal you made?” he asked bitingly.

“He told you? That he’s seeing someone?” she fished.

“You mean the psychiatrist he’s been seeing for three months? The one you asked him not to tell me about? That you said nothing about, all those times we’ve talked and texted? That you hid from me?” Shouto demanded angrily.

“Don’t be angry with me. I did it to protect you. Because I couldn’t believe he’d continue to see her, that he’d go through with it, that he was really was trying to change. I can’t believe how different he’s been, it didn’t seem real, it was too good to be true, and when it all came crashing down, I knew you would be the one left lying under the rubble of his lies. So yes, I kept it from you. But it’s not a trick or a trap or a test or a game. Believe me, I’ve made sure, I’ve gotten nearly as good at head games as he is, over the years, though he’s the only one I play them with.

“Everyone looks at me and sees this timid little mouse, but I’m really a tiger, just like him, I’m just wearing a mouse’s skin, to be small and fast, so I can slip between his paws or so he doesn’t even notice me as I scurry around along the walls, inside them, because tigers don’t really care about mice. They want to fight other tigers.”

“So everything he said about the psychiatrist and our bank accounts and Natsuo being Mom’s guardian now is true?” he challenged.

“He told you all that? In one visit? It took weeks for him to tell me everything. Yes, it’s true,” she admitted.

“What about Touya?” he demanded, hearing a sharp inhalation on the other end at his name. “When he talked about our bank accounts, he didn’t even mention him.”

There was a long pause, and a slow deep breath. “Shou, honey? Touya’s gone. He’s not coming back, ever. He’s been gone for ten years. You must know what that means.”

“Did Endeavor kill him?” Shouto demanded, because he had to know.

The gasp this time was louder, and then there was a clatter, and then Fuyumi’s voice.

“Shou, are you still there? Can you hear me?” she demanded urgently.

“I’m here,” he snapped.

“Sorry, I dropped the phone. You… you don’t really believe that, do you?” she asked, sounding more frightened than hopeful, as if the possibility had never even occurred to her.

“So you don’t know. But Endeavor does. Because he didn’t mention anything about Touya, not even when he talked about the money. I’m going to ask him, force him to tell me the truth,” he stated, in that cold, emotionless voice that always seemed to unnerve everyone.

“Shou, no! You need to-“

“Don’t try to call me back on this phone. It’s not mine, I only borrowed it. I vaporized mine, when I used my Hellflame, when I attacked my classmates and killed myself and my best friend. I’m finally strong enough I can truly confront him, I can fight fire with fire, and yes, before you ask, I have lost my mind. So it looks like I have nothing left to lose,” he stated coldly.

And then he pulled the phone away from his ear, ignoring his sister’s frantic calling of his name and clicked the “End” button, imagining slowly and deliberately melting the phone in the palm of his hand, watching the plastic crackle and buckle and warp and finally liquefy, but the phone was Bakugo’s father’s, not his, and he didn’t want Bakugo to be punished for his actions, and Midoriya needed it next. So instead he blocked his sister’s number, and erased it from the call history. Then he forced the familiar mask of calm he never actually felt down onto his face. When he was certain it was in place, he opened the door.

“Thanks for the use of your father’s phone, Bakugo,” he stated tonelessly, as he held it out to Midoriya.

“Is everything alright?” Midoriya asked in concern, his eyes riveted to his face.

“Everything’s fine,” Shouto lied, emotionlessly.

“Bullshit. Come with me, you fucker, and I’ll show you how fine you are,” Bakugo challenged, though without the usual sparking of his hands.

“Kacchan, no!” Midoriya cried.

“Bakugo,” Kirishima urged anxiously.

“Shut the fuck up, Deku, Shitty Hair. This isn’t about you, it’s about him and me and growing the fuck up. Or do you want to keep being that scared little boy other people burn?” Bakugo challenged.

That’s when the ice was replaced with fire, the cold control he’d slipped on like a familiar coat turned to steam at the mention of that day, his scar. “Fine. I’ll settle things with you, first,” Shouto agreed.

“No!” Midoriya yelled, looking from one to the other of them, panicked.

It was Bakugo’s mother, of all people, who intervened.

“Katsuki knows what he’s doing. Give him a chance, Izuku. You underestimate him, you always have. He’s a lot more perceptive and aware than you ever realized, than we did. You think you know everything about him, but you don’t. That’s why we like Kirishima so much, because he sees the things everyone else misses.”

And Bakugo looked at his mother and nodded, even as Kirishima looked floored and blushed at the unexpected compliment. And maybe Shouto had been wrong about that, at least, because Bakugo had said those things in the staff room about his mother, and he’d seen them yell at one another and his mother even hit him, but he didn’t seem afraid of her, he didn’t look or sound like he hated her, either. Their relationship wasn’t something he understood.

Chapter Text

“Come on, Icy Hot. Let’s go outside, so no one interrupts us,” Bakugo encouraged.

Shouto nodded, and followed, because he was tired of not understanding people and situations, of always feeling lost and alone and forgotten and betrayed, by the people who supposedly loved him. Maybe he’d find more understanding from an enemy, than from his family, and the people who claimed to be his friends. Although after the past three months, and the remedial training they were taking together, to prepare to retake the test for their Provisional Licenses, he didn’t really see Bakugo as an enemy. But he wasn’t sure what Bakugo’s opinion of him was, especially after the battle they’d just fought, because he hadn’t just attacked him and Midoriya, he’d attacked Kirishima and Kaminari too, and Bakugo was protective of those few classmates other people considered to be his friends, even if he didn’t openly admit they were.

“I thought we were done with this crap months ago, you looking like that, acting like that. You can’t be like this anymore, you can’t bottle up all that anger and hate, because it’s not just you it’s going to destroy now, it’s everyone,” Bakugo accused, as soon as they were outside, out of earshot from the others, though they were all clustered around the still open door.

In spite of himself, Shouto felt his eyes narrow, as he glared coldly at him. “What the hell do you know about it?”

“I’ve got eyes and ears. I see and hear shit. You think I don’t know about rage? Frustration? Know what it’s like to feel like the dirt on the bottom of someone else’s shoe?” Bakugo snarled.

Rage, sure, that one was obvious. Frustration, too, he’d seen the way Bakugo had constantly been struggling to keep up with Midoriya. But when had Bakugo ever felt like he was dirt?

“Yeah, I can see it from your face, it’s like Mom said: you don’t know jack shit about me, no one does, except Kirishima, and sometimes Kaminari, and one other person, who’s paid to know, but that’s OK, because she actually gives a shit anyway. But me, I know some stuff about you, some of what your father did to you, because I heard you tell Deku and then Aizawa.

“You want to know why you get along with Deku so well? Because he’s just like you. Back in preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school even, every time I pushed him down, pushed him away, hurt him, tried to get him to leave me the fuck alone, he kept coming back for more, kept trying, convinced there was something wrong with him, that if he just fixed himself, that it I’d like him better, that I’d go back to being his friend again, the way things used to be when we were little kids. He was a complete dumbass. Because he wasn’t the one who was fucked up, who needed fixing. It was me.” Bakugo glared challengingly at him, like he was daring him to say a word.

Shouto kept silent, wondering where Bakugo was going with this.

“Good. You’re fucking learning, just like I did, like I still am. The one thing that sucks about having a powerful Quirk is the same thing that sucks about any amazing talent, or trait, music, dancing, art, you name it. If you’re really great at one thing, special, gifted, people expect you to be that good at everything else.

“If you’re cute as fuck, and everyone’s always telling you how handsome you are, you already know you’re special, just from that. If they always tell you how bright you are, too, you know even more. By the time you’re in preschool you’re fucking brilliant, a prodigy at reading and writing when other kids barely know their alphabet, so then you must be great at math, too. If you can already do addition and subtraction with ease, when other kids are struggling with and crying over simple sums, when subtraction is still a complete and utter mystery to them, you must be a genius in science, too. If you know how to catch the best bugs and frogs and how to take care of them so they don’t die inside your house, you must be great with plants too. If you help your mom’s flower garden grow so well that you can cut and sell bouquets to all the other kids for Mother’s Day, get them to spend all their allowance, and still have the best ones left over to give your own mom, and use all the money you made to buy her a pretty bracelet to go with it, you’ve proven yourself to be a business genius, too. So of course you’re going to have a flashy, powerful Quirk, you’re going to grow up to be the best Hero ever. And then bang, you get your Quirk, and it’s amazing, just like everyone always knew it would be: your Quirk is as strong as you are, stronger even, and nothing can stop you from becoming the #1 Hero.

“Except that’s where the universe finally spits in your eye. Because there’s lots more to being the best Hero than making big explosions. You have to actually give a damn, to want to help people, save people. Because being a Hero isn’t just about looking cool, right? It’s for that. But people are fucking annoying. They’re weak and stupid and useless, pathetic losers, you’ve seen your whole life how much better you are than all of them. So why should you risk your life saving someone the world’s not even going to notice is missing, if they die? That’s only natural, right? Except that’s not what being a Hero is, and you know it.

“Then there’s this kid. He’s been trailing after you your whole life, living in awe of you, because you’re so much better than he is. He knows it, you know it. He should hate you for it, but he doesn’t, he worships the fucking ground you walk on. But what’s worse, that miserable little useless fucker keeps trying to help you. You fall off a bridge into ten pathetic centimeters of water, smile at your gang like it was on purpose, those sycophants who trail after you because they still think you’re hot shit, and there he comes, reaching out his hand, spouting some idiocy that he was afraid you might have hit your head, that you could have drowned. Instead of seeing that as what it is, him genuinely worrying about you, not wanting you to die, you think he’s ridiculing you, that he tried to humiliate you on purpose, that out of everyone, he actually sees what a fake you really are, the smoke and mirrors, down to your self-centered black soul, that he’s trying to show the world.

“Years later, a sludge villain tries to drown you in the disgusting filth of his body, and it’s the same thing all over again, only this time it’s not your gang watching, it’s Pro Heroes, and civilians, everyone whose respect you crave, you’re on TV, the whole fucking world is watching you being a weak, pathetic victim, and him being strong, him being the Hero.”

“What does any of that have to do with me?” Shouto asked, genuinely perplexed, first that Bakugo would bare himself so completely, expose his weaknesses and flaws so openly, but second, why he thought he would care.

“I’m getting to that. Don’t think I would have told you all this without a reason, because no one knows this shit, not all of it, except that one other person, and I know you’re going to run off to Deku the second you’re done talking to me and tell him every word, the moment he turns those puppy eyes of his on you and asks what I said to you. Why I’m telling you is because your dad is me, and Deku is you and All Might,” Bakugo said, completely confounding him.

“Stop thinking and listen, dumbass. It’ll make sense in a second,” Bakugo assured him. “So your dad is the #2 Hero for decades, second only to All Might. He’s big and muscular, physically powerful, he’s handsome, he has women and men and everyone else falling all over themselves for the chance just to talk to him, to maybe touch him. He’s intelligent as fuck, too, he’s outsmarted hundreds of villains and lived, he’s articulate, refined, charismatic, the way the Yakuza are charismatic, the power he wields, the danger, the thrill of it. He’s good at business too, just like I was, he built and runs his own agency. His Quirk is fucking boss, killer, kickass, whatever adjective you want to use, that’s him. His Hellflame is freaking amazing. But he’s shit with people. He treats them like dirt, like they’re in his way, not just his fans, but even the civilians he saves. He despises everybody, and it shows.

“His family, too. He’s never been able to beat All Might, it’s like a bullet in his gut, the wound festering, rotting him from the inside out. Every time All Might smiles, he sees it as him smirking at him. Every hundred people All Might saves, the ten he saves mean less and less, they become a sick joke, which makes him hate All Might and the civilians he rescues even more, until his soul is black to the core, just like mine.

“Only he’s got a secret weapon, something All Might doesn’t have, something he’ll never have, not a biological one, anyway: he’s got a son. Someone pretty and perfect and pure, gentle and compassionate, in a way he doesn’t know how to be, in a way he’s never been. Someone that can be the very definition of a Hero, achieve the victory that’s always eluded him. Only he’s too good, too soft, too kind to survive. He needs to toughen him up, harden him, so the world doesn’t just chew him up and spit him out at the first bite, or he’ll die the first time a villain sees him and attacks him. So that’s what he does.

“He trains him into the ground, until he pukes, and when his wife complains, tries to stop him, he smacks her down – not just because it’s his lifelong dream, and she should be supporting him – but because she should see he’s doing this for their kid’s own good, that he’s trying to keep him safe, that a little bit of pain now prevents death later. It’s nothing compared to what the villains will do to him, if they get a hold of him. He remembers Vanguard, most of the world’s forgotten him, or pretends they have, because that shit is nightmare fuel and what parent would ever let her kid be a Hero, what kid would even want to think about becoming a Hero, after what the villains did to him? And those villains, they fucking recorded it, so no one would ever forget the world doesn’t belong to the Heroes, it belongs to the villains. Until All Might. All Might changed all that.

“So Endeavor does everything he can to mold and shape his kid into his image of the perfect Hero. Only it doesn’t go the way he expects. His kid is bright, he’s got his own personality and hopes and dreams, and he’s strong, he’s got spirit and will, and his mom in his corner, until he doesn’t anymore, because no matter how good and strong you are, people can break – sometimes only once, just for a moment, but sometimes they stay broken. And pain and hate, they’re closely tied. So you hated him, for breaking your mom, for sending her away for hurting you, you rebelled, you fought against being anything like him, against being any part of what he wanted you to be.

“I don’t know what the fuck happened to you at the hospital, but I saw you were hurting when you came back, and I know fighting, using your ice always helps, and like a dumbass, I thought I could help you, that I could actually be the Hero for a change. I should have known better than to try to do something Deku would do, because I’m not him, I’ll never be him, but I’m not your dad either – I wasn’t just going to stand there and watch you go under. So I acted, and it didn’t work out like I thought it would, but at least you’re still standing. Though that part’s thanks to Kirishima and Kaminari.

“I saved Deku, though. Twice. Once when I caught him and then when I brought him back. He saved me twice, too, not that stupid shit with the bridge, but with the sludge villain, when the Heroes were just watching me die, and then with that crazy ass plan of his, in Kamino. Because it was Kirishima’s hand I took, but I know it was The Nerd’s plan. But that doesn’t mean that next time, when he needs it, or when I do, or when you do, we won’t be there for each other, because fuck keeping score, we’re fucking Heroes, all three of us, and that’s what Heroes fucking do. So ask yourself, what’s more important: getting even with your old man, sinking down to his level, in the sewer, the muck and the mire, or showing him you’re a better man than he’ll ever be?”

Shouto stared at Bakugo, speechlessly. If someone had asked him, before today, who the most self-centered and callous person in the class was, next to himself, he would have said Bakugo’s name instantly, without hesitation. He would have been wrong. And according to Bakugo’s perception of him, wrong about himself, as well. He never would have expected Bakugo to share a view on anything with Midoriya, but he seemed to share his view on that.

He still needed to talk to his father, to learn what happened to Touya. But for now, at least, the fury, the hate, the need for vengeance was gone. He should apologize to Fuyumi, for scaring her the way he had. He hated knowing it was intentional, that he’d lashed out purposefully, in retaliation for what he perceived was her betrayal. Thinking about it now, with a cooler head, he realized that she had just been trying to protect him, whether or not he needed it. Like Midoriya and Bakugo. He never would have made that parallel, before this, he never would have known why he should.

“Thank you. For watching, and listening, and putting together so much. For making the effort to talk to me. It helped a lot. You were only wrong about one thing,” Shouto stated.

“Seriously, Icy Hot? You really want to go there, after this? Fine. I’ve stopped thinking I’m God, I know I’m not perfect, that I don’t need to be. You’ve got stuff you need to learn, too. So one last thing before you tell me where I fucked up: you need to talk to a professional – a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, whoever it is you need – but you need someone. You don’t want to set it up on your own, Aizawa-sensei can help with that. Or fuck, I guess I could, if you don’t wanna ask anyone else. Alright. We’re done here. So go ahead. Tell me what I got wrong,” Bakugo demanded, but Shouto could see he thought what he was going to say was going to hurt, that it mattered, what he thought of him.

“You’re wrong about you. Because you really are the Hero you always wanted to be, Bakugo. You have just as much compassion and caring and humanity inside you as Midoriya does, as the best of the Pro Heroes do, you just express it differently. We’re really lucky to have you in our Class, to be able to work with you and learn from you, as well as to help you, whether or not you think you need it. I’m really lucky. Because I was going to do something stupid and you talked me down from it, without talking down to me. So if you ever need an extra person to talk to, to help, in addition to Kirishima and Kaminari and your paid person, and your parents, I’ll be here. Thanks to you.”

Bakugo looked at him in surprise. He was actually a little flustered looking. Shouto thought he even saw a tinge of red at the tips of his ears.

“What-the-fuck-ever. You’re welcome, I guess. And same. Now let’s get back to the Infirmary, before I puke from all this bonding crap or Deku has a fucking aneurism,” he muttered, turning on his heel and heading back to the building.

Shouto felt a smile pull at his lips, and for once, let it free, for Midoriya’s sake, and maybe to mess with the heads of the others a little bit, too, because the last thing anyone ever expected after a confrontation with Bakugo was the other person to be smiling.

0 0 0

Izuku watched Kacchan and Todoroki speaking from the doorway anxiously, eager to know what they were saying, wondering how he could possibly talk Todoroki down from whatever he was about to do, because Kacchan wasn’t the only one who had noticed the deadly intensity of his eyes when he’d finished calling his sister. Kirishima and Kaminari were spying along with him, but for a different reason – they were ready to attack Todoroki, if they thought Kacchan was in danger from him. Izuku didn’t want to ever have to fight against Todoroki, other than in a controlled spar. He hadn’t fought before – he’d tried to jump clear, to get himself and the others to safety.

Kacchan was never longwinded, he was abrupt and abrasive, and what could he possibly be saying to Todoroki that was taking so long? Whatever it was, Todoroki didn’t seem agitated by it, or impatient, or defiant. He just seemed attentive. Which in and of itself was pretty amazing. He knew the two had been getting along better, because of the remedial coursework they shared, but he hadn’t realized they’d apparently bonded.

“Holy… is Bakugo actually blushing? What did Todoroki say to him?” Kirishima asked, sounding amazed.

“I don’t… is Todoroki smiling?” Izuku asked, just as stunned.

“Quick, hide, they’re coming this way, we don’t want them to know we were spying,” Kaminari said.

Kirishima laughed. “I think it’s too late for that. But Bakubro doesn’t seem pissed.”

Kaminari frowned. “Maybe he’s not the real Bakugo. Maybe he’s that villain girl pretending to be him. What if she got away?”

“Dude, don’t even joke about that,” Kirishima chastised.

“What stupid shit are you saying now, Pikachu?” Kacchan accused.

“We were just talking about how we were getting hungry, because I don’t think any of us ate since breakfast, and I was saying I could cook,” Kaminari lied adroitly.

“No wonder Shitty Hair freaked. No way am I letting you poison us. I’ll cook. Or better yet, I’ll get the Old Hag to spring for dinner for the three of us,” Bakugo said with his patented shit-eating grin.

“Thanks, Bakugo. That’s really nice of you, offering to take us out to dinner,” Kirishima praised.

“Don’t say it like that. It’s not like I’m paying,” Bakugo grumbled.

“Before you go, could I…?” Todoroki asked.

“Right. Hey Dad, gimme your phone again, Icy Hot needs to call his sister back,” Bakugo ordered.

His mom pulled back her hand but he ducked. “Fine, please give me your fucking phone, before the shrew you married gets any bitchier about me asking.”

“Watch your mouth, you little monster, or you won’t be coming with the four of us to dinner. Six, if you’d like to come too, Izuku, with your friend,” Aunt Mitsuki offered. “I guess he’s alright, if Katsuki likes him.”

“Oh! That’s very sweet of you to offer, but I don’t think they’ll let any of us leave campus for that, although I’m sure Lunch Rush could cook for all of us, or I mean you, because I think we’ll pass? I mean, it depends on what Todoroki would like to do, so I won’t know until he finishes his call, but you can’t leave yet anyway, since he has Uncle Masaru’s phone and-“

“Don’t you ever shut up?” Kacchan snarled.

Aunt Mitsuki smacked him in the back of the head again. “Would it kill you to be nice to Izuku for a change?”

“I’m plenty nice to him. I fucking brought him back from the dead. What more do you want?” Kacchan challenged.

Izuku kind of agreed with Kacchan, especially compared to middle school, when at his lowest point he’d literally urged him to kill himself.

Todoroki rejoined them, and handed the borrowed phone back with thanks. Fortunately, he looked like his improved mood hadn’t changed for the worse. “I’m going to ask the Principal if I can go see my father. Do you still want to come, to see your mother, and All Might?” Todoroki asked.

“Yes!” Izuku agreed eagerly, because he was worried about both of them, and he also didn’t want to let Todoroki out of his sight, for a while. Or forever.

0 0 0

Principal Nedzu looked up at the two of them in surprise. “You wish to return to the hospital?”

“Yes, sir. I realize it was attacked, that the villains might return, to try to finish what they started, but I’m sure there are a number of Pro Heroes there protecting the hospital now, and he’s my father, and he could be dying. I need to be with him,” Shouto stated firmly, trying to put enough emotion into it to make it believable, but not overplay his hand, because it was likely Nedzu knew about his father’s abuse now.

“And I need to be there for my mother, and for All Might. I need to see they’re safe, and they need to see I am,” Midoriya insisted just as firmly.

Midoriya still hadn’t told Shouto what his relationship to All Might was, though he clearly trusted him with some degree of the truth, for having mentioned him at all in front of him.

“Yes, that would be best, I suppose. And with so many Heroes guarding the hospital, quite frankly, you’d be safer there than here. Shamefully, our defenses have so far done little to impede villain incursions. Ectoplasm will drive you, to ensure you reach your destination safely,” the Principal agreed.

Shouto hadn’t expected it to be so easy. He would have felt guilty for the deception, but he needed to hear about Touya, as soon as Endeavor could speak, because he might yet die, without revealing that secret, and Shouto refused to lose what might be his only chance to know what happened to his older brother.

0 0 0

Naomasa had finally gotten back to the hospital, after going to UA and then the police station, to catch up on the progress of the investigation into the second League of Villains attack, the one on UA, because it was ironically his job to try to put all the pieces together and into some sort of context, to determine the villains’ goals and potential future targets and actions. The problem with madmen, though, was that their actions followed a sanity and logic only they understood and it had been two months since Touya had been able to bring some sort of clarity to him.

The simultaneous attacks made no sense. The attack on the school had been a stealthy infiltration, until the students had accidentally exposed it by their battle. The hospital attack could have been a strategic move to draw attention away from the school, in case of that eventuality, but it was anything but. From the security camera footage he’d seen, and the written testimony of Fujiwara – who wouldn’t be able to speak again for some time, if ever again, thanks to the damage the bullet had done to his throat – that had been an infiltration too. Touya had been disguised as a patient, on his way to either Midoriya, Mustard, Endeavor, or any combination of the three, but for some unknown reason he had been stopped by Tomura Shigaraki and Kurogiri.

Shigaraki had grabbed Touya by the throat and forcefully dragged him into the warp, and they’d vanished. Had they discovered the truth about Touya, or was it merely some sort of power struggle that was currently taking place in the League? If the villains were infighting, they’d be more likely to make mistakes, to draw attention to themselves.

Then there was the ham-handed way Detective Mizushiro had handled the UA investigation, particularly the questioning of Ochako Uraraka. He still needed to question both her and Hitoshi Shinsou more thoroughly, but that would need to wait until after he found out how Yagi, Endeavor and Midoriya-san and were doing. He’d actually managed to eat lunch, thanks to her insistence. If he hadn’t listened to her suggestion, he’d be even worse shape. It was honestly the only thing keeping him going right now, her gentle concern the only thing that was keeping him from sinking into the whirlpool of guilt and desperation threatening to drown him.

I can’t go on like this. I’m at the end of my rope, I’ve been hanging by the neck since this started, and if something happens to me, and Touya’s already dead, no one will know the truth. I have to tell Dad, or maybe even Aizawa. Aizawa saved Dad’s life, once, Dad’s always called him the one person in the world other than me who he trusts implicitly as someone who would never become a villain, or be influenced by one.

Naomasa rubbed his hand over his face in exhaustion, trying to clear his mind and froze in disbelief when he lifted his hand, and saw the two students who entered the hospital, accompanied by Ectoplasm. He hadn’t even known either of them was conscious yet. He envied Ectoplasm his Quirk – what he wouldn’t give for the ability to clone himself, to be able to investigate multiple crime scenes simultaneously, to have copies of himself he could rely on for aid.

He strode over to the kids, and their protector. “This is the last place you should be. Not now, when a follow-up attack could happen at any moment.”

The two of them startled, and Ectoplasm watched him warily, and he realized that had come out excessively harshly.

“My father is in surgery and potentially dying. Where else should I be?” Shouto Todoroki replied coldly.

“My mother is injured and here. I need to be with her. And you more than anyone should realize that All Might needs me,” Izuku Midoriya replied firmly, but more respectfully.

He still didn’t know what had happened to Yagi, but clearly, it had something to do with the younger Midoriya, his successor. Naomasa took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. “Of course. Forgive me. I’d say it’s been a bad day, but you two have certainly had a worse one. It’s good to see you both conscious and apparently uninjured. Come with me. You won’t be able to get near any of the three of them, unless you’re with me,” he instructed truthfully.

“Although your father is still in surgery, Todoroki, I’m sorry, but there has been no word on his condition, yet. I tried calling you, but your cell phone didn’t connect, and when I contacted the school, I learned about the fight, the villain attack. Your father, when he collapsed, could barely breathe or speak, but he said some things. I’m not sure what he meant, I was hoping you might, because it sounds like a villain is to blame for his condition, other than Mustard. He said not yet, not now, he called out your name, and said he wouldn’t let her kill him too. Do you know who he was referring to, who might have attacked him, other than Mustard, a female villain?”

“He called out my name?” His son looked shocked, he sounded stunned. And then he visibly collected himself. “You don’t need to be concerned, Detective. I believe he was referring to an attack that happened over forty years ago, when he was a child of four, a villain named Arctica, who caused a chronic respiratory condition, which was apparently exacerbated by Mustard’s attack. I don’t believe another villain is currently trying to kill him.”

“You’re sure? That’s at least a small relief, then. We certainly have enough to deal with, with the current League of Villain members we’re aware of,” Naomasa stated, heartfelt.

“Excuse me Detective? What about my mother, and All Might?” Yagi’s protégé asked.

“Your mother and All Might both can see visitors, Midoriya,” he assured him, relieved to be able to transmit even a little bit of good news to someone, in the midst of this hell.

0 0 0

One of the hardest things Izuku had to do was decide who to visit first: his mother, or All Might. He decided it should be his mother, because All Might was a Pro Hero, he’d been trained to handle extreme stress, and villain attacks, but his mom was just his mom, far too nice and gentle to face any of what had happened, even if she had managed to get in the middle of a villain attack earlier, and to stand up to Endeavor, before she got tricked by him into thinking he truly was a Hero.

Detective Naomasa helped the two of them wade through the gamut of Pro Heroes guarding the hallway where his mother and All Might each had rooms, and Endeavor likely would too, once he was out of surgery, if he wasn’t in Intensive Care. Or dead. Not that he wanted him dead. Just in jail, where he belonged, for abusing his family for so many years, for making Todoroki’s life a living hell his entire childhood. Months ago he would have been fanboying all over the Heroes, wanting to ask them questions and get their autographs, except maybe not in a situation like this, but he was a Provisional Hero now, not a kid anymore, or a civilian.

Chapter Text

Izuku’s visit with his mom was quick and painful, nothing like he expected. He expected relieved tears and frantic hugs, but instead, she was happy to see him, but drowsy, groggy and distracted sounding. Detective Naomasa explained she’d been sedated, to calm her and lower her blood pressure, that seeing him would reassure her, and she’d sleep off the medication, but Izuku hated seeing her like that.

It was almost a relief, leaving her room, and heading for All Might’s, except he guiltily asked Todoroki, who’d stood in the hall for his visit with his mom, not to come at all, so All Might could talk freely. Todoroki said he understood, but he really didn’t: it was clear from what he said earlier that he still believed All Might was secretly his real father.

The second he entered the room, All Might’s head snapped to the door, and the look of relief on his face was palpable, as his eyes welled with tears. “Izuku, son!” he cried, sounding feeble and frail, holding out skeletal arms, instead of strongly and warmly call out, “Midoriya, my boy!” with his trademark smile, both the use of his first name and being called “son” a shock.

“I’m so sorry I worried you!” Izuku apologized, as he rushed to the bed.

All Might grabbed his arm as soon as he reached the bed, clutching him and pulling him towards him, his hands trembling and squeezing all along his arm, as if verifying he was real, solid, alive.

“I felt you die. I saw it, almost, not what happened, but I watched your light snuff out, like a flame, and… But then you came back and… Sorry, I’m sorry, it must have been far more horrible for you, but what happened, my boy? There’s been conflicting information, about the League of Villains attacking the school, it was supposed to be a training scenario, but then there was footage of an attack, but Naomasa said that wasn’t the actual attack, there was a hidden one, but he refused to tell me much of anything, because he was trying not to upset me, to protect me. I’m sick of being treated like some frail old man! I was the #1 Hero for years, damn it, I can still help protect people. I don’t want to be coddled like some doddering, useless has been, a worthless burden!” All Might ranted.

Izuku stared at him wide-eyed, hating hearing him say that, hating more that it was true, and there was nothing either of them could do about it. Except treat him with the respect he deserved. All Might was physically fragile, but he wasn’t frail, he was still strong, tenacious. So he told him about the attack, everything he knew, all that he’d heard, and All Might soaked it all in like a sponge, asking insightful questions, looking more and more animated and alive with each word.

The only thing Izuku downplayed was the fight between Todoroki and Kacchan, he made it sound more deliberate, less desperate and dangerous, omitting not only that Todoroki lost control of his flames, but also the fact that he didn’t even remember attacking them. Because none of that was Todoroki’s fault. It was Endeavor’s.

Izuku still didn’t know what Kacchan and Todoroki had said outside, when they’d gone off together, but he was grateful to Kacchan, whatever it was he’d said, because Todoroki had looked a lot better when he came back, himself again.

“Thank you for not treating me like I’m disposable, like now that I’m used up I should just be thrown away with the rest of the trash,” All Might stated.

Izuku startled, both because of what All Might said and because he’d been lost in thought about Todoroki, when he should have been paying attention to his mentor.

All Might lifted a shoulder in a half-hearted shrug. “Sorry. Sometimes I let my frustration get to me too much, but I certainly shouldn’t be taking it out on you, especially not after you’ve been kind enough to talk to me. You’re not the only one who’s angry and bitter. I know why I am. Why are you? I hope it’s not because I’ve kept you in here talking to me.”

“No! Of course not. It’s… personal. Not my story to tell. Sorry. But I actually do need to go, if that’s OK? Todoroki’s waiting alone, for news about Endeavor,” Izuku explained.

“Oh. Of course. I’m sorry for monopolizing you like this. But I can’t tell you how much it meant to me, you speaking with me the way you have, seeing that nothing’s changed, that in your eyes at least, I’m still the Hero I’ve always been.”

“How can you say that? Of course you’re a Hero! You’ll always be a Hero. Your body has nothing to do with it – it’s your heart, your spirit. You don’t think Iida’s brother, Ingenium, isn’t a Hero anymore, just because he’s paralyzed, do you?” Izuku challenged.

“No! Of course not. I’m sorry. Here I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. I should never forget how so many other people have suffered so much worse. I’ve truly been blessed, being able to help so many people as All Might, for so long. So many of my predecessors, so many other Heroes have died or been incapacitated so terribly young. Thank you, young Midoriya, for reminding me of that. I think I’m going to see whether the hospital needs any volunteers in the Children’s Ward, reading to their young patients, or storytelling. Perhaps I can brighten their days and raise their spirits, if even just a little,” All Might proposed.

“I think that’s a wonderful idea! That way you’ll be moving around and seeing people, having a change of scenery, but still be here, so the doctors can monitor your progress,” Izuku agreed. “I’ll come back later, alright?”

“Of course, young Midoriya. I look forward to seeing you again. And give my greetings and support to young Todoroki as well,” All Might said.

“I will,” Izuku promised.

He left All Might’s room and headed for the waiting room the hospital staff directed him to. The corridors were literally lined with Pro Heroes. He’d seldom seen so many in one place. But unlike what he’d seen on the news of the times other popular Heroes were injured, there weren’t throngs of them sitting in the waiting room, waiting for word. They all seemed to be working, only there because they were being paid to be. But surprisingly, Todoroki wasn’t sitting alone.

From a single glance, Izuku knew the man and woman with Todoroki had to be his siblings. Their hair color was distinctive and their facial features were so similar to his, though Todoroki was definitely the prettiest of the three. The timid and gentle looking woman with the white hair, with just a few streaks of red, and gray eyes must be his older sister, Fuyumi, the kindergarten teacher, and the stiff looking young man with the white hair, with just a sprinkle of red, and same gray eyes, his brother Natsuo, the college student.

0 0 0

“Midoriya!” Shouto called in relief, standing and heading for him, eager to get away from both his siblings. He’d barely spoken to Natsuo in years, and now suddenly he was acting like he was the head of the family, because their father had put him in charge of taking care of their mother. Fuyumi should have been the one – she was the oldest of the three of them, the one with a job, the responsible adult. Natsuo was still in school, and an art degree would be completely worthless. If he ever wanted to marry his girlfriend, he needed a real job, not-

Damn it! Get out of my head, Endeavor. Those are your words, not mine. Natsuo should be able to do whatever makes him happy. Especially now that he won’t have to worry about money, anymore.

“Todoroki? Are you alright? I’m sorry I took so long. My visit with my mom was fast, because she was sedated, but All Might really needed to talk and I didn’t mean to leave you here alone, but you weren’t, because your family is here, and hello, I’m sorry, I should introduce myself. I’m Izuku Midoriya, Todoroki’s friend, and oh, that’s going to be awkward, because you’re all Todorokis, and that’s going to get really confusing, because you’re not going to know which one I’m talking to and I can’t believe I just said that out loud, it’s just been a really weird day and-“

He stopped abruptly, as Fuyumi actually laughed, small and strangled, but a laugh, nonetheless. “I would have known who you were even if you hadn’t mentioned your name. Shouto’s told me so much about you,” Fuyumi said warmly, making a flush of heat creep up Shouto’s face, which was mortifying, only Mikdoriya was blushing, too, except on him it was adorable, and he really had to stop thinking things like that, because what if Midoriya realized what he thought, somehow? He was so perceptive, and he always seemed to know what he was thinking.

“I’m Fuyumi, and this is Natsuo. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Fuyumi added.

You’re Midoriya? You’re a lot shorter and skinnier than I expected. You looked a lot more impressive on TV during the Festival,” Natsuo commented.

Shouto expected Midoriya to shrink down, put his hand behind his head, and apologize sheepishly, the way he would if Bakugo was insulting him. Instead, he drew up taller and looked Natsuo in the eye. “Judging someone solely by their physique or Quirk is exactly what I’d expect from someone Endeavor raised. It’s a shame you haven’t grown beyond his bad example, the way your younger brother has.”

Fuyumi and Natsuo both looked as stunned as Shouto felt, at the scathing burn, even as he felt a fierce burst of pride in Midoriya for standing up to Natsuo, and in himself, that Midoriya thought he was more mature than his older brother.

“It’s easy to talk tough behind someone’s back, when they’re unconscious. I’d like to see you have the guts to say something like that to my father’s face,” Natsuo quickly recovered, immediately going in for an attack, the way Endeavor had taught even him.

Midoriya snorted in derision. “I already told him what I thought of his parenting skills at the Sports Festival. So did Todoroki.”

Fuyumi’s eyes widened. “That was the final catalyst he talked about? Why he…?”

“You don’t have to edit yourself around Midoriya. He knows about the psychiatrist. He knows how Endeavor abused us, about Mom. He knows everything. So does my teacher, Aizawa-sensei.” Shouto was done hiding, protecting his father’s reputation at their expense.

“Shouto!” Fuyumi sounded shocked, anxious, defensive, disappointed.

She might think she was a tiger hiding in a mouse’s skin, but she’d always been a mouse. He’d never wanted her to be more, because she was right, what she’d said, that tigers don’t even notice mice, they only notice and fight other tigers. It was whenever his mom had tried to protect him from Endeavor, when he was little, that Endeavor hit her. His mom was a tigress protecting her cub. And Endeavor had broken her because of it.

0 0 0

Izuku hated that look on Todoroki’s face, the rare but familiar way he’d pressed his hand against his scar that meant he was thinking about his mother, about what she did to him. Izuku wasn’t as forgiving of her as Todoroki was – he blamed her, too, not only Endeavor. What kind of mother scars and nearly maims her own son? Todoroki was almost blinded in one eye, and he thought he was ugly, because of the scar, and flawed, not only because of that, but because he wasn’t a perfect Hero already at the age of five, because no matter how strong, how amazing he was, it was never enough to earn his father’s approval, his pride. He didn’t realize that he wasn’t supposed to be perfect, no one was ever perfect, especially not as a child, that he was just supposed to be the best person he could be at every age, to try.

His mother was the one who attacked and scarred him, but from what Todoroki told him, before that, she was gentle, kind, loving. She never would have hurt her son, if Endeavor hadn’t hurt her first, repeatedly, systematically. And his older brother and sister, who should have banded together with Todoroki to protect him, who went to school, and could have told their teachers what was happening, adults, people who would have believed them, intervened, helped rescue all of them, had stayed silent, and let their little brother take the brunt of their father’s abuse. They might have kept silent, but he wasn’t about to.

“What’s the matter? Are you afraid Child Protective Services will take him away from the parent who’s been abusing him his whole life? That with Endeavor’s favorite punching bag gone, you might get hit instead?” Izuku accused, glaring at Todoroki’s sister. “It’s a little late for that. Aizawa-sensei already rescued him. He lives in the dorms, now, where Endeavor can’t touch him. Unlike Todoroki, you’re an adult, with a job. You could live on your own, if you didn’t value that big house and your father’s money and his Hero reputation more than you valued your brother’s health, his happiness, his life.”

It was like the Sports Festival all over again: he felt so angry. Todoroki hadn’t done anything to be bullied and abused his entire life. But why did he keep picturing Kacchan and him, instead of just Endeavor and Todoroki? This wasn’t about them, and Kacchan was nothing like Endeavor. He was amazing.

“What’s Shouto been saying about us? You have no idea what you’re talking about, who we really are. Who are you to mouth off at us like this, you little pissant?” Natsuo demanded, with all the haughty disdain of Endeavor.

“I’m Izuku Midoriya, Inko Midoriya’s son, All Might’s chosen successor, and Todoroki’s best friend. Not his only friend, because the whole class loves him. He’s more like a brother to us, we’re not just a class, we’re a family, we live and eat and fight together. We don’t snub and ignore him and blame him the way you did. No matter what happens, we have his back. If you don’t, then Todoroki doesn’t need you and he definitely doesn’t need Endeavor. He has 18 better siblings than you, 19 counting Shinsou, and Aizawa-sensei is more of a father to all of us, to him, than your father will ever be.”

You? All Might’s successor? You’re delusional if you think-“ Natsuo began.

“Excuse me. You might want to keep it down a little,” someone interjected and Izuku gaped, when he turned and realized, mortified, it was Kamui Woods. Izuku had a sudden flashback to being scolded by him and the other Heroes when he attacked the sludge villain.

“For safety and privacy we’ve cordoned off this waiting room for just the Todoroki family – and you, Midoriya, both All Might and Detective Tsukauchi told us you’d be with Shouto Todoroki, and to let you in – but there are still about a dozen Heroes in the corridors within earshot, and fighting like this, slamming Endeavor, when he’s still in surgery, when we don’t know if he’s going to make it…

“You clearly all have your reasons for feeling the way you do – what you’ve been saying is alarming – but we don’t know Endeavor as a father, we know him as a Hero. Endeavor has saved all our lives, numerous times, as well as countless civilians: he’s put his life on the line doing it. Unless I’m mistaken, Midoriya, he also just took a bullet yesterday, protecting your mother. So please show some respect and consideration. Work out your issues with him personally, once he recovers and is well enough to hear, or within the judicial system, if that’s what’s needed, where both viewpoints can be fully and impartially expressed and the merits of your accusations can be judged. If he’s broken the law, you’ll have our support. Until then, he has it. Although, you should know that a number of us will likely testify on his behalf and urge leniency, regardless, dependent upon the full nature and severity of his crimes,” Kamui Woods stated with the intensity and sincerity he was known for.

“I’m sorry. Thank you for stepping in,” Izuku apologized, with a respectful and apologetic bow. Then he straightened and looked the Hero in the eyes. “You’re right – this isn’t the time and place for this. But you need to know, Endeavor has broken the law, for years, severely, and he needs to be brought to justice for it, after he recovers his health. It’s up to you and the others, once you hear what he’s done, to decide whether or not you will speak upon his behalf.”

“Noted,” Kamui Woods stated just as solemnly.

The set of double doors at the end of the hall opened up, the ones marked “Medical Personnel Only”, and someone in surgical scrubs with a mask hanging down around her neck walked out. She was tall and willowy, with long slender limbs, hairless, with a thin finlike ridge running down the top of her head and down her neck, disappearing into her clothes, her supple looking skin an iridescent shimmer of fine violet, indigo and cobalt scales, more reptilian than aquatic looking, in spite of the fin. The claws and tail were somewhat expected, considering the rest of her appearance, but the extra set of arms would have been more of a surprise, if Shoji wasn’t one of his classmates. Two extra hands with ten… twelve extra fingers would definitely be an advantage for a surgeon.

He expected a forked tongue, for her to hiss when she spoke, but instead, her voice was warm and soothing, in spite of her tongue being a deep purple and her teeth razor sharp. “I’m Dr. Aoi Tokage. You are the Todorokis, I presume? And are you Shouto?” she asked Izuku, who was surprised by the question.

“No, I’m Shouto Todoroki. This is Izuku Midoriya, my friend. Is my father still alive?” Todoroki asked.

“Yes. But I need to discuss his case with the family, in private. Are the rest of you all related?” she asked.

“I’m Natsuo Todoroki. We’re his sons and daughter,” Natsuo stepped in.

“I’m Fuyumi, the oldest,” she spoke up.

“Then if the three of you would please come with me to my office,” Dr. Tokage urged.

0 0 0

The doctor escorted the three siblings to her office, to a handful of chairs, and then sat behind her desk, facing them.

“Your father is alive, but his case is a complex one. You all know that he was attacked by a villain with a poisonous and corrosive Gas Quirk, yes?

“I knew it was poisonous. I didn’t know it was corrosive,” Shouto stated calmly, even as he felt his heart rate increase at the news. Two of his classmates had been exposed to that same gas, and Class 1-B, but they were fine now. Was it because of their age? Or because they’d been further from Mustard? Had his father inhaled more of the gas, or a more concentrated form? Or was it because his lungs-

“I assume you are all aware that he has a history of respiratory problems, bronchitis and recurring bouts of pneumonia?”

“Respiratory problems? He was sick, occasionally, sure, but not recently,” Fuyumi stated uncertainly.

“I learned yesterday they began when he was four years old, when he and his mother were attacked by a villain with an Ice Quirk. He told me his mother was killed trying to protect him and his unborn brother, and he had recurring pneumonia all through his childhood. I remember him being sick with it about 13 years ago. I think that was the last time,” Shouto stated calmly, evenly, clinically.

“Grandmother was pregnant and killed in front of him, by a villain with an Ice Quirk?” Fuyumi asked, sounding as shocked as he had been.

“Then why…?” Natsuo began to ask, but left the question hanging.

“So we’d be stronger than he was,” Shouto replied, clipped, succinct, answering his unspoken question, of why he would marry their mother, but not willing to say more in front of the doctor.

“So you are, to some degree, aware of his medical history. Are you also aware of his historical habitual use of controlled substances?” Dr. Tokage fished.

Shouto froze, as if his Ice Quirk had coated him. No, that he hadn’t known, had never suspected.

“Controlled substances?” Fuyumi asked, her voice more meek and timorous than usual, almost a whisper.

“Are you calling my father, the #1 Hero, a drug addict?” Natsuo accused hotly.

“Legal ones?” Shouto asked, his heart beating wildly, because this revelation equaled the one about his grandmother.

The doctor took a deep breath and released it. “That would depend upon the age he was and the country he was in at the time he took them, for some of them.

“The anabolic-androgenic steroids Enji Todoroki used for nearly three decades from the time he was 16 years of age to 45, until three months ago, according to his personal physician, aren’t illegal here, for adults and certain specific prescribed use for children, though I honestly wish they were, for how often they are misused for reasons other than medical need, and the damage they cause. They’re a manmade version of testosterone, intended to treat diseases which cause muscle loss, such as cancer or AIDS, or to aid patients with hormonal issues, such as delayed puberty, but athletes and bodybuilders, and of course, Pro Heroes, have been known to misuse them in an effort to increase their performance or physical appearance, in spite of the resulting undesirable side effects, which most users refuse to acknowledge. Sadly sometimes even with the full knowledge of their physicians, as in this case.”

“Aren’t… don’t they effect mental stability?” Fuyumi asked, still quietly, but louder than before, more forceful, determined sounding. “I remember reading a term ‘roid rage’. People who take them have anger management issues, don’t they? And… um… impotence? Or lowered sperm count or sterility?”

That… that explained a lot, too. Touya had been conceived naturally, but the rest of them were all test tube babies, fertilized in a laboratory and then carried by their mother. Shouto had thought that it was so Endeavor could select for the perfect genetic mix. But clearly there had been other, or at least additional, reasons.

“Negative mental effects include extreme, unreasonable paranoia or jealousy, extreme irritability, aggression and rage, delusions – false beliefs or ideas, impaired judgment, mania, and difficulty sleeping,” the doctor confirmed.

Shouto sat and stared. Because she’d just calmly described his father’s entire personality, his behavior, a lifetime of irrational hatred of All Might, the manic need to surpass him, and then to groom first Touya and then him to, the grueling and abusive treatment he’d labeled training, everything.

“There are also physical effects and health problems, some of which your father appears to have fortunately avoided, including kidney problems or failure, liver damage and tumors, an enlarged heart and blood clots, and more cosmetic issues, such as baldness and the development of breasts. He does, however, have both high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, which increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks, as well as shrunken testicles and an extremely decreased sperm count, the latter of which can also contribute to mood disorders.

“There are also withdrawal symptoms he likely faced, when he stopped taking them, within his physician’s care, some of which you may have recently noticed: fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, sleep problems, decreased sex drive, steroid cravings and especially depression.”

She took a deep breath again, and Shouto tensed.

“But in addition to those steroids, your father was also taking Quirk steroids, which are illegal in most countries, including Japan, with the most notable exceptions being the United States, France and Thailand. Quirk steroid effects are much less well known, not only because of their illegality, but also because they have existed for a much shorter period of time, and new ones are being developed all the time, but primarily, because by their very nature they are extremely volatile and unpredictable, interacting with the user’s Quirk, producing completely different effects from individual to individual.

“According to the information from your father’s physician, as well as the official government Quirk database, your father’s Quirk, Hellflame, is the combination of both an Ignition Quirk and a Gas Quirk. Whatever other effects the various Quirk steroids may have had, they increased your father’s ability to manipulate gas, allowing him to absorb increased amounts into the tissues of his lungs, allowing his blood to oxygenate to a higher degree. None of which we were aware of when we treated him for the effects of Mustard’s gas attack. We only just received that information from his doctor, immediately prior to his surgery. Had we known earlier… the result of this was your father inhaled and absorbed far greater quantities of Mustard’s poisonous gas than we realized, gas which remained absorbed within his lung tissues, dissolved within his blood. The treatment we used, which appeared to nullify all of the gas, instead reached perhaps only a third of it, while the rest continued to insidiously destroy the healthy tissue, and poison his blood. The result was massive hemorrhaging and catastrophic respiratory collapse.

“For now, the best we have been able to do has been to stabilize him, to transfuse him and keep him from drowning in his own blood, to repair what tissue damage we could and to restore some limited respiratory function. But your father is extremely weak and currently dependent upon a respirator to breathe, and will be for a number of weeks at an extremely optimistic minimum, but realistically, months or quite possibly, longer.

“The only Quirk healer we know who is powerful enough to actually affect his current condition is Recovery Girl, and she works with rare exception exclusively upon UA students and occasional other children’s cases she is presented. Given your father’s status as our #1 Hero, his importance to Japan, and the severity of his condition, I hoped she might be swayed to assist him. For that reason, before coming out to meet you, I took the liberty of contacting her by phone, hoping I could bring you better news. However, the moment I mentioned my patient’s name, she adamantly refused to have anything to do with his case and insisted that I not contact her again.

“So, your father is currently confined to his hospital bed in Critical Care, and will be for the foreseeable future, unless something occurs to change his condition. New drugs and treatments are being developed all the time, new Quirks manifest as well, so I don’t want you to believe that his situation is entirely without hope for eventual improvement,” she stated.

Shouto was stunned. His father had been walking and talking yesterday, he’d even actually been teasing and laughing, with Midoriya’s mother, he hadn’t even known it was him, his laugh, because he’d never heard him laugh before, and now he was what? Little better than a vegetable? No, worse, like a quadriplegic, or someone with an advanced degenerative nerve or muscle disease, his mind was still as quick, as active, but trapped in a body that could no longer move.

It would kill him. Enji Todoroki would not be able to live like that, not for long. He’d immolate himself, if his Quirk could even still work, with his lungs like that.

And he wouldn’t be able to tell him about Touya. He… “Can he speak? Or write?” Shouto demanded, only belatedly realizing he’d apparently interrupted his sister, that she’d been speaking, though he had no idea what she’d been saying.

“He can’t speak, with the tube in his throat and the breathing mask over his face. He might be able to write or type, in a week or more, once he recovers enough strength,” the doctor said, not unkindly.

Shouto tuned out the rest of whatever his brother and sister were saying, it sounded like Natsuo was trying to throw their father’s money around, the way Endeavor would have, as if it could solve any problem, fix even something like this. Recovery Girl could potentially help, but she refused to. He was going to try to find out why, and try to change her mind, certainly not for his father’s sake, but for Touya’s. Because the world needed to know whether or not Touya Todoroki was alive or dead, and who was to blame, if it was the latter.

Chapter Text

Ochako had told the police who were questioning her over and over again that she didn’t know why that horrible villain had her ID or had decided to look like her, to sneak onto campus. She kept her ID in her wallet, she’d never noticed it missing, she still had it, she didn’t know when they could have taken it and copied it, because it was the exact same picture, too, but how could they even think she’d help villains, any villains, but especially not the ones who had attacked them and kidnapped Bakugo?

And yes, she hadn’t liked Bakugo, at first, because he was so mean to Deku, to everyone, really, but especially to Deku, and yes, of course she knew what the word Deku meant, but he liked being called that, now, he was proud of it, he’d chosen his nickname for his Hero name, and what did any of that even have to do with today’s attack?

She hadn’t known Bakugo was a target, until they told her. That they’d attacked him and tried to kidnap him again. Wouldn’t she be happier if he just disappeared? If he wasn’t on campus anymore, to torment Deku? Because they were a little obsessed with one another, weren’t they? Did she know that Bakugo was gay and Deku was bi? That Deku probably had repressed feelings for Bakugo, his whole life, that she’d never be able to be his girlfriend because of it?

That had been the final straw. Because Bakugo had respected her, as an opponent, at the Sports Festival, he hadn’t thought she was weak, or held back because she was a girl, he’d gone after her with everything he had. And she’d held her own, for longer than anyone expected, because he was just amazing. And since then, he’d asked her to spar, so many times, because she was a challenge, because she never gave up, or made it easy, she was always trying to find new ways to use her power, or new martial arts moves to beat him, and he’d taught her so much, and she’d taught him to fight better too, and she thought of him as one of her best friends, now.

And yes, Deku was sweet and super nice, she’d sort of had a crush on him, at first, but he was only a friend, a wonderful friend, and she’d realized she didn’t want him for a boyfriend, because she likes Tsu more – Asui to you, because only her friends are allowed to call her Tsu. So you can take your stupid lovesick teenager theories and… and… and she apologized, for losing her temper, because they were the police, they were only doing their job, trying to stop the villains, just like the Heroes. But she wasn’t a villain. She was a Provisional Hero. They were on the same side.

Ochako was so relieved when they finally let her go, even if she did have to wear a stupid ankle bracelet. Not because they didn’t trust her, they assured her, but because that villain, Toga, might pretend to be her again, but that would be impossible to copy, to fake, so they’d know it was really her, if Toga got loose. Which was such an obvious lie, they were clearly tracking her, hoping she’d lead them to the villains. But it had been hours, and she just wanted to go back to the dorm and curl up on her bed and have a good cry, and then talk to Iida, because he’d believe her, wouldn’t he? Would the police hear, that? Was it secretly a transmitter, too? It probably was. Which meant she couldn’t talk to Tsu or anyone, not unless she wanted their every word recorded for the police.

How had everything gotten so messed up? They’d all had so much fun, last night, even with what Mineta had done, he hadn’t spoiled it, and they were supposed to be giving Aizawa-sensei a surprise party, today, but instead he was unconscious, and she’d been arrested, and Todoroki and Deku were unconscious, and Bakugo had been hurt and almost kidnapped again, and Kirishima and Kaminari had been attacked too, but no one knew any details, just what bits and pieces the police or their teachers had said, and what they saw on the news.

And the villains had attacked a hospital, too, and All Might and Endeavor might both die. They hadn’t said a word about Mustard this morning, but this afternoon, it was all over the news, the current and former #1 Pro Heroes were both fighting for their lives, and there were over 50 Pro Heroes guarding the hospital. They’d sent Mustard back to Tartarus, along with Toga and the other three villains, because they were all wanted for past crimes, they’d had another 50 Pro Heroes guarding the caravan to get them to Tartarus, and they’d await their trials secured there. She hoped they never got out, that they never saw the light of day again. Because they were horrible and terrifying and she hated them, for hurting her friends.

Even seeing the dorms again didn’t cheer her up, because she’d had to say goodbye to her parents, and she missed them already, and the police were going to hear her cry, and think they’d won, that they’d beaten her.

“Hey Roundface! Where the fuck have you been?” Bakugo called out.

“Speak of the devil, and he shall appear.” Or think of him, maybe. Though he’s honestly not a devil at all, once you get to know him.

“Hey, Bakugo. Sorry I haven’t been around to help you guys. I’ve been at the police station this whole time, trying to prove I’m not a villain and don’t want you kidnapped, because I’m a good person, and would never do something like that, and I want to be a Hero, and Heroes don’t do that, and you’re one of my closest friends, we spar all the time, and help better one another, but mostly, because their stupid theory is wrong. I’m not in love with Deku and you’re not either.

“They think Deku’s in love with you, and that you’re in my way, that you’re keeping me from him, so I want to get rid of you. Pretty crazy, right? Do you want to tell them what you think of their stupid theory? Because the police are listening to every word, because of this stupid thing, I’m pretty sure, though it’s supposedly for my safety,” she proposed boldly, showing him the ankle bracelet, because she was so done with everything right now, she honestly didn’t care what the repercussions might be.

“What the fuck? What kind of stupid ass theory is that? Why don’t you morons fucking spend more time trying to arrest the real villains and keeping us safe, and stop harassing my friends? And if I find the dumbfuck who thinks I want anything to do with Deku’s ass, other than kicking it, I’m going to blow his fucking tongue out of his face!” Bakugo snarled. “Come on, Roundface. We’re going to see that crazy ass bitch Gunsight Eyes. She’ll know how to get that bracelet off, without blowing your leg off.”

Clearly, she’d lost her mind, because she just reached out and hugged him, and she started laughing like a lunatic. And Bakugo was pushing on her, and trying to get her off him, he was setting off explosions right and left, but all aimed above her, he purposefully didn’t hit her with any of them, and if that didn’t prove they were friends now, nothing did. Suddenly she started crying, because it was so messed up, that the person they thought she wanted to hurt was ready to attack them, to fight against them for her.

“Shit. Fuck. Stop crying, I’m no good with girls, especially not crying ones,” Bakugo complained, but not angrily, he sounded really freaked out, and then he began patting her back awkwardly.

“Uraraka? Bakugo! I heard explosions, what’s wrong?” Iida asked, zooming over in concern.

“Four Eyes! Thank fuck. You hug her. I’m going to go get Gunsight Eyes or a hacksaw or something. Calm her down. And be sure to tell the police to go fuck themselves, while you’re holding her,” Bakugo ordered. And then he was literally jetting off, using his explosive Quirk to shoot across campus, to find Mei Hatsume.

“What on earth is he talking about? Why would I ever say something so disrespectful to officers of the law? What did Bakugo say to you, to make you cry?” Iida asked, looking completely befuddled and overwhelmed.

Just the expression on his face made Ochako start laughing again, as he hugged her stiffly. It was like she was on a rollercoaster. “I’m sorry, Iida. My emotions are all over the place, today. Bakugo didn’t do anything. He’s being really sweet, actually. He’s going off to see Mei Hatsume for me, and I know he’d avoid her like the plague, otherwise. The police think I’m a villain, that I’m working with them, they questioned me forever, and are making me wear this ankle bracelet, and I realized they’re probably listening in, as well as tracking me with it, so I encouraged Bakugo to give them a piece of his mind. And we all know what a scary place his mind is, right?” she joked, but her heart wasn’t in it, because she could feel the tears threatening again.

“Midoriya is awake! And Todoroki! I thought you should know, that it might cheer you up,” Iida stated desperately.

“Deku’s awake? Is he alright?” she asked eagerly, the tears miraculously stopping.

“He’s perfectly fine. They both are, apparently, though from what Kirishima said, Todoroki doesn’t remember most of their fight. Which I suppose is a good thing, from what little we’ve heard,” Iida commented.

“You must be so relieved. I know you were as worried as I was,” she said, not entirely sure whether it was more, because she’d never seen Iida look at the two of them the way Kaminari looked at Bakugo and Kirishima, with happiness for them, but also, longing and quiet loneliness, but she wondered whether that was how he secretly felt, and he was just a lot better at hiding it. People called him stiff and wooden, but he honestly wasn’t: anyone who had ever seen him angry or determined could attest to how impassioned he was.

“Of course. They’re my friends. Also, as Class Rep, it’s my duty to be concerned equally about all our classmates,” Iida replied, sounding completely sincere.

“I’m glad,” she said, relieved that it sounded like there were no hidden feelings. Although something strange had happened in Hosu, that had brought Deku, Todoroki and Iida much closer together, she still didn’t know what. So maybe Iida really was secretly an expert about hiding how he truly felt.

He looked at her, baffled.

“That you’re Class Rep, I mean. Deku chose really well, and we all agreed. You were the perfect choice,” she explained, covering quickly.

He smiled. “Thank you, for that. I have my doubts, but you and Midoriya never do. I cannot tell you how much I value that, how much I value your friendship.”

She smiled back. “Of course! You mean the world to us, too.”

0 0 0

Tenya hadn’t wanted to let go of Uraraka, even though he wished she’d never hugged him in the first place, because when she did things like that, it confused him, it made him have hope, when he knew there was none. Not that she’d ever know.

He hated how good he’d gotten at hiding his true feelings from his family and friends, everyone he loved, ever since his brother was attacked and crippled by Stain. This wasn’t like when he was younger, when he had a hard time expressing his feelings in a way others could understand. Except for Tensei, of course. Tensei had raised him, as much as his parents had. His first word had been “Te-Te”, Tensei’s name, instead of calling out to his mother or father, even though they were equally loving and attentive, and he’d been on his father’s lap, at the time.

Tensei somehow instinctively knew how to interpret all his choppy arm motions, the ones he still made when he was especially excited, though he thankfully was able to suppress them now, most of the time, so people didn’t think he was unbearably weird – he wasn’t the social outcast he’d been in school in his younger days. Between that and his superior intelligence, he’d been teased and ridiculed and even bullied relentlessly, no matter how many times his parents and Tensei tried to intervene, until they moved him to a special combination preschool and kindergarten which embraced children with all sorts of physical, physiological, social, behavioral, and mental uniqueness, where he’d ultimately thrived, so much so that he was able to attend a mainstream private elementary school, and be in all the accelerated classes for his grade, to truly excel. He’d fought so hard not to lose his special identity, but to fit in better, as he grew older.

“Don’t ever change, Robo Bro. We love you the way you are,” Tensei had told him, time and again, those first difficult years, in particular; it was still his brother’s loving, gently teasing nickname for him.

He knew his family loved him, that his friends loved him too. Uraraka was a wonderful friend. So was Midoriya. But they each had someone they loved, not necessarily more than Tenya, but in a different way. Someone who wasn’t him. But that was his burden, to bear alone. He’d never want them to know he felt more, because they would both feel so guilty and helpless to fix it, because there was nothing to fix. You can’t choose who you love. He was only glad that Midoriya and Todoroki, and Uraraka and Asui were good for one another, that they would make one another happy. Because otherwise he would have lost their friendship, trying to protect them.

“Iida? Are you alright? You looked a little distant there. Is there something you’re not telling me, about Deku and Todoroki, or something else?” Uraraka asked, reaching out and touching his arm gently, in that concerned way she had that made his heart both race and ache.

He forced one of the convincing smiles he’d gotten so very good at. “No, everything’s fine. I was just thinking, though, that perhaps I’d better be there to intervene between Bakugo and Hatsume. With everything that has happened, Bakugo might well be more volatile than usual.” She’d called Bakugo, of all people – the classmate who had wanted his Hero name to be King Explosion Murder – sweet. “And Hatsume is more than a little infuriating, at the best of times.” He knew that from personal experience, from the way she’d tricked him and completely humiliated him, at the Sports Festival.

“Oh! You’re right, I didn’t even think of that. Both of them are good enough blowing things up on their own. The two of them together might bring down the building. Thanks, Iida!” she said, clearly expecting him to jet away.

Which was probably for the best.

He activated his Quirk Engines and headed for the person he liked least in the entire school.

0 0 0

Hitoshi entered the workshop cautiously, because he’d been previously warned by Aizawa-sensei that Power Loader’s inventive genius student also had an unfortunate penchant for her inventions exploding, seemingly at random, and he’d had more than enough excitement for one day.

“Hello Purple Person!” an exuberant voice yelled just off to his right, causing him to instinctively dodge left, and enter a fighting stance, capture weapon in hand, thankful it was no longer wound around his torso beneath his PE uniform. Which proved to be entirely unnecessary, as he recognized Hatsume from the Sports Festival.

“Ooh! I see you have one of my babies! Which means you must be Eraserhead’s protégé. Do you like the costume I designed for you?” she asked eagerly.

She’d just made what had been destined to be an awkward visit infinitely easier, bringing up his reason for coming before he spoke a word, which conversely made him want to frown, because he was perfectly capable of speech, and he enjoyed the luxury of finally being allowed to speak uninhibitedly. But instead he did his best to look suitably appreciative and enthusiastic, which wasn’t too hard, considering that was truly how he’d felt about his costume, when he first saw it. He simply channeled that remembered joy.

“I do. I really, really do. I actually thought it was perfect, when I first saw it, but now that I’ve had some actual combat experience, I was wondering if you could-“ He was abruptly cut off.

“Ooh, modifications! I love fine tuning a design, or scrapping it and creating something entirely new and better to replace it,” she said eagerly, rubbing her hands together in almost maniacal glee.

OK, this was going to be incredibly easier than he expected. Hatsume was rapidly becoming one of his favorite new people. It looked like he wouldn’t have to slowly and cautiously build to what he was really after, after all.

“I wouldn’t want to replace the design, just improve upon it a bit,” he admitted sincerely. “This capture weapon you designed is amazing: it clings really well, and is so flexible, but also strong. The villain I fought couldn’t tear it, or slice through it with his claws. But I was wondering whether it could have been burned. And not just the weapon, but the costume too. How flame retardant is it? Because it looks like three people can now use Fire Quirks at the same level as Endeavor’s Hellflame, and unfortunately, one of them is a villain, and I doubt whether, even if it was initially made to be fire resistant or retardant, it could withstand flames at that temperature.

“But also, I was doing some research on bullet resistant clothing, and found some cool websites where they make custom Kevlar clothing for rich people and celebrities and politicians, suits and tuxedos, but even everyday shirts, jeans and jogging suits, which would be great against villains like Mustard, who carry and use guns. But I know most Kevlar isn’t very good against blades, which wouldn’t be too much of a problem, except for villains like Stain and Toga, who use swords and knives, or someone with fangs, or claws, like that other villain I fought today.

“Although honestly, this isn’t just about me, or even mostly about me. I know a costume like that would cost a huge amount of money to make, in terms of components and design, and I don’t even have my Provisional License yet: I’m not even in the Hero course yet. But my costume was modeled off of Eraserhead’s. He’s the one I’m really concerned about. As a Pro Hero, and especially even as a teacher here, he’s had to face a number of different types of villains, often simultaneously, with all kinds of dangerous Quirks and support gear. He needs to be as safe as we can possibly make him.” Because standing at his mentor’s side in that cargo van, and seeing him collapse like that had terrified him. He refused to lose the only adult who wasn’t only a positive role model, but had taken an active interest in him, since his parents died, the only person who genuinely cared about him.

He was shocked she had let him say so much, without interrupting as she had earlier, which was good, because he hated when people interrupted him, after not being allowed to speak for years. Hatsume was definitely well on her way to becoming one of his new favorite people, maybe, possibly, even someone he might be able to think of as a friend.

He’d grown a lot closer to his classmates, after all the support they’d shown him at the Sports Festival and afterwards, but he hadn’t had much time to spend with them, to build on those tenuous bonds, with all the special extra training he was doing with his mentor, in additional to his actual coursework. He couldn’t allow his grades to drop, not only because that had been one of the few conditions Aizawa-sensei had listed in exchange for training him, but because that could interfere with allowing him to transfer into the Hero course.

“I like you, Purple Person! You think big! So an enthusiastic yes, to making beautiful babies with you!” she cried excitedly.

“What the fuck, General Studies!” Katsuki Bakugo growled from the entryway. “You know Gunsight Eyes is a freshman too, right? I don’t care who you want to fuck, that’s your business, but don’t start dragging kids into it, not unless you’re gonna be there for them, because I’m already up to my eyebrows in other people’s daddy issues. Next thing you know, that loser Deku is going to go on a rampage instead of crying about it, like he used to, because that asshole father of his was even more of a chickenshit than his nerdy ass son, and ran out on them when he was a baby.”

Hitoshi glared, immediately defensive, because he was so damned sick of always being cast in the role of the villain and being accused of or blamed for things he’d never do, and being called ‘General Studies’ burned like acid, or salt in an open wound. “What the hell, man? Hatsume was talking about costume improvements, not kids.”

“Bullshit. What costume? Whose?” Bakugo scoffed.

“That’s none of your damned business,” Hitoshi snapped.

“Gunsight Eyes, forget about helping out General Studies on some crappy Hero wanna be costume. I’ve got a real challenge for you. I need you to disable the voice transmitter on a police ankle tracking bracelet. Not the homing function, and don’t cut it off or anything. I realized on the way here that Roundface would probably get arrested for that. Just fuck up the listening device. Better still, rig it so she can turn it on and off, so she can talk to her girlfriend or whoever without those fuckers listening in. Make it sound staticky before it cuts out and when it turns back on, too, so they think it’s just a weak signal, or natural interference, which makes sense with all the security this school has wrapped around it. Not like that shit is good for anything else, obviously, since the fucking villains keep waltzing right in, like they own the place,” Bakugo complained.

“Hah! That’s not a challenge! I can do your request in my sleep,” Hatsume scoffed. “For his, just getting the stats on Endeavor’s Hellflame means hacking into the government’s ultra security Pro Hero database. I can’t just hack the UA system, because I’m certain his flames have gotten hotter since his high school days. Which is too bad, because Principal Nedzu is way more of a security challenge than the government.”

“Have you lost your minds!” Tenya Iida boomed from the entryway.

Shinsou cursed. That was the third time in only a few minutes that he’d been taken off guard. It didn’t matter that he’d had a rough night and morning, that he’d been tense and on guard all day, both before and after the attack, waiting for the villains to attack again. He couldn’t afford to be careless. He was lucky none of them were villains.

“How can you boast about doing something illegal? You hacked the school’s computers with the Principal’s knowledge? Why haven’t you been expelled?” Iida demanded.

“Person I Forgot! That’s easy! Because then who would test our defenses and help upgrade the system to seal up all those little holes I find? I’m an invaluable resource. Which is a much more enlightened way of looking at it than my old middle school. They’re why I’m so familiar with those pesky police ankle bracelets,” she admitted, with a manic grin.

“So what are you doing here, Four Eyes?” Bakugo challenged.

“It belatedly occurred to me that we’re supposed to be using the buddy system on campus, until further notice. And you were alone. Which, considering the fact that you are one of the villains’ top targets, is not safe,” Iida replied.

Which was a valid reason, but definitely not the real reason Iida was here; he apparently was a person who didn’t lie often, because he was bad at it.

“Bullshit! Why are you really here?” Bakugo challenged, also apparently noticing.

Iida sighed. “That is a valid reason and concern, that I am ashamed to admit I did not realize until I was already on my way. But my concern was also that you and Hatsume together would be too explosive a combination.”

“Whatever,” Bakugo said, apparently believing the half-truth.

What aren’t you saying?

“Don’t worry, Person I Forgot. I’m not going to blow anything up. I’m just going to take a peek at Endeavor’s stats.”

“How many times do I have to tell you, my name is Tenya Iida! And why not ask Todoroki? I’m certain he’d know!” Iida urged in desperation.

“That is a valid point. And a faster way to get the information,” Hitoshi agreed, before Iida could become totally apoplectic. “How about we give that a try first? You’ll save time, but still have the challenge of actually designing a costume with all three properties I requested, so you can focus on the greater challenge sooner, right? ”

“You raise a valid point, Purple Person! Yes, let us speak to Endeavor’s son!” Hatsume agreed enthusiastically. “Take me to your information source!” she ordered Iida.

“Wait, damn it! What about killing the transmitter in Roundface’s ankle bracelet?” Bakugo demanded.

“Sure, sure, sure,” Hatsume said with a dismissive wave of her hand, darting over to snatch up a tool kit. “Take me to your classmates!”

Chapter Text

Hitoshi debated where to go now. He was bone weary, but there was no way he’d be able to sleep, knowing there might be a villain attack at any moment, as he watched Bakugo and Hatsume pull ahead.

“Thank you for that. For dissuading her from breaking the law. And also, for fighting at Aizawa-sensei’s side, earlier. Though we are all curious about how that occurred,” Iida gently prodded, to his surprise.

Hitoshi could count on the fingers of one hand the times anyone had thanked him for anything.

‘No problem’, he signed, only registering the fact that he’d done so when Iida’s eyebrows raised, and he unexpectedly signed back to him, fluidly and fluently.

“Is someone in your family deaf, or did you learn from a friend?”

“Neither. I actually hate signing, but old habits die hard. Although it’s come in handy, recently,” Hitoshi admitted, surprising himself with his honesty.

“I must admit, I find that intriguing. I learned from my older brother, Tensei, but he learned from a close family friend, someone I grew up referring to as an uncle, actually, who was raised in a deaf household, but could hear. Unfortunately, due to the nature of his Quirk, he spent most of his childhood silent and signing. Considering the nature of your Quirk, I suspect you might have perhaps been in a similar situation?” Iida asked, sounding both curious and sympathetic, instead of oblivious or pitying, like the few people who had previously discovered his past, before Aizawa-sensei.

Hitoshi was so shocked he actually stopped walking, for a moment, and then shook his head ruefully. “I can’t believe I said enough that you figured that out. It’s not something I ever talk about to anyone. Well, except Aizawa-sensei, of course. Actually, it’s kind of ironic. The same thing happened with him: I accidentally signed and he responded the same way. When I asked him how he knew sign he… Wait. Yamada-sensei is your uncle?” Hitoshi asked, the pieces suddenly coming together.

Iida looked shocked and panicked for a moment, glancing quickly in Bakugo and Hatsume’s direction.

“Hey, don’t worry. They’re too far ahead to hear, and it’s not like I’m going to go announcing it from the rooftops or anything,” Hitoshi assured him.

“Thank you. It would be awkward, for the both of them, as well as for me, if the rest of the students knew I was on a first name basis with two of the teachers, and considered them family,” Iida confessed in relief.

Only years of practice concealing his reactions allowed him not to gape at Iida at the revelation. He’d said two of the teachers. Which could only mean Aizawa-sensei, too. “You’re so lucky. I’m jealous of you, having them to look up to and rely on, growing up. Especially Aizawa-sensei. He’s so amazing: his fighting technique, his strategic mind, his ability to instruct so well, his directness, his honesty, his patience and kindness.” He realized he’d shared far too much, when he saw the wary and this time overly sympathetic look on Iida’s face.

“Forgive me if I’m stepping beyond boundaries, but you need to know that Aizawa-sensei would never be interested in a student in a role other than as a teacher, and regardless, he is also in a long-term relationship,” Iida explained both forcefully and delicately.

Hitoshi grimaced. “No. That’s not… I meant as a teacher. I… stop looking at me like that! Alright, what I actually meant was, as an authority figure. A father figure. I haven’t trusted anyone the way I trust him since my father died, when I was little. All the other adults in my life have been uncaring bureaucrats and self-serving foster parents in it for the money.” And he hadn’t meant to share any of that. It wasn’t something he normally talked about. He deftly changed the subject.

“So, Uncle Hizashi and Uncle Shouta, huh? That must have been awkward as hell for you, being assigned them as your English and homeroom teachers. Recovery Girl told me the two of them have been friends since high school. Have they been together since then, too?”

“I cannot-“ Iida began, looking increasingly flustered and agitated.

“Sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you that. I don’t mean to be intrusive. I’ve been trying to respect their privacy. I’m just happy, you know? That Aizawa-sensei has someone like that in his life, to protect him and help him, not just me. He’s so strong, he makes it look like he’s indestructible, like he can do anything. But he really can’t. He nearly died at the USJ – even in General Studies we heard more rumors than the general public – and we all saw him walking around the building bandaged from head to toe afterwards. And he… sorry. Never mind.”

He couldn’t believe he’d almost said something about his mentor’s migraines, though he’d never have mentioned the flashbacks. Aizawa-sensei was such a private and self-reliant man, Hitoshi knew the last thing he’d want was everyone to know, for them to try to coddle and protect him. He’d already hinted at too much earlier, with the other teachers, but he’d been desperate for them to stop accusing him of being in league with the villains.

“I must admit, you’re not at all what I expected,” Iida stated. “When you manipulated Ojiro and then fought Midoriya, I was indignant. No, I must be honest: I was infuriated, that you would use and control them like that, when they’d both worked so hard and fought so long to develop their potential. But that is merely what you were doing as well, wasn’t it? Using your Quirk to full advantage, fighting to show the world your true potential. Except you were working at an extreme disadvantage: you’d had none of the combat training we take for granted. Yet still you were able to do so well. I’m honestly impressed.”

“I… thank you. That means a lot, hearing you say that. Because I was at a double disadvantage. My goal has always been to get into the Hero Course. In order to do that, I needed to do well enough that I impressed the school administration. But by taking out their precious Hero course students, I could well anger the teachers who’d taught them, make them resent me, turning them against me. I know I should be used to it by now. My entire life has been like that, fighting an uphill battle I know I’ll never win. But like Sisyphus, I have no choice but to keep trying,” Hitoshi stated sardonically.

“Sisyphus? You’ve read Greek mythology?” Iida asked, sounding unexpectedly excited and intrigued.

“Sure. My life’s been one big Greek tragedy, always trying to escape The Fates,” Hitoshi admitted automatically. “Damn it. I can’t believe I’m opening up to you like this. I’m usually a clam. But you’re too easy to talk to. You just project this aura of trustworthiness and honesty. I know better than to get taken in like that, but I still keep saying things to you I’d normally never reveal,” Hitoshi admitted ruefully.

“You think I’m easy to talk to?” Iida asked, looking and sounding completely astonished at the concept.

“From your reaction, I’m guessing that’s a novel experience, huh? I don’t know why that would be. But I learned a long time ago, most people are pretty limited in their thinking, their reactions. Like today. Here I discovered someone impersonating the Principal, revealed them, fought them, stopped them from kidnapping Midoriya and Todoroki while they were unconscious, helped save four other people the villains had already taken, and are they grateful? Do they thank me? No.

“The teachers who came in response to our call for back up were certain I must be the one responsible, that I was one of the villains, just because of my Quirk. If it wasn’t for Principal Nedzu and Present Mic, I’d be in police custody right now, being interrogated.” He couldn’t keep the anger, bitterness and frustration out of his voice. No matter what he did, how good he was, he was always cast in the role of the villain. They were lucky he was so set on becoming a Hero. If not for that, by now, he might have just folded under the constant bombardment of accusations and negativity and become the villain they feared.

He wondered whether maybe that was what had happened to Mustard. Poison gas as a power would have clearly labeled him as a future villain in most people’s eyes. Did he just stop protesting against it one day, stopped fighting and just attack everyone who’d been expecting him to show his “true colors” over the years?

Maybe even Toga too. It sounded like she literally licked people’s blood, or maybe even drank it. With a vampiric power like that, she’d be labeled a future villain too, wouldn’t she? She was definitely cracked now, but how long had it taken to get to that point? What had she endured before she broke?

Or am I overthinking it? Were they just self-serving all along, and followed the natural descending path into villainy?

“I’m sorry. I can’t imagine what that would be like, to be forced to live your entire life constantly defending yourself, trying to rise above everyone’s expectations, only to be dragged back down. Except I can at least understand a little, because that’s exactly what happened to Uraraka today. Out of the blue, she was singled out and treated like a villain, arrested and interrogated like one. It’s not right. She would never betray us, or the school. You must be an incredibly strong person, to have triumphed after a lifetime of fighting against similar injustices,” Iida stated admiringly.

Hitoshi actually felt his face flush with heat at the intensity of his expression, the sincerity in his eyes. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d blushed. But he knew for a fact, no one had ever been this nice to him before, other than Aizawa-sensei. Part of him mistrusted that, wondered what game Iida was playing, what he was really after, but the part that had learned to trust Aizawa-sensei and have real hope for a better future wanted to believe it was true.

“Your skin is even paler than Midoriya’s,” Iida commented, the tiny bit of wonder in his voice making it sound not at all like a casual observation.

Hitoshi covered his face with his hand, because he’d been hoping Iida wouldn’t notice. Because in his admittedly limited experience, nothing good ever came from blushing in front of another boy, particularly when they were the reason for it, though Iida didn’t sound angry. Although even there, Aizawa-sensei had gave him hope, if he’d been together with Yamada-sensei since high school.

Thankfully, they’d finally reached the dorm, which from the sounds of the yelling and the signature explosions, looked like it would provide sufficient distraction.

“Bakugo, how many times have we told you that you are not to use your Quirk within the dormitory?” Iida chastised loudly before even entering the building.

“Blow it out your tailpipe, ass-munch. You’re not the boss of me,” Bakugo eloquently replied.

“For the forty-third time, as your Class Rep, I am, indeed, the boss of you,” Iida rebutted, as they entered the dorm.

“Have you seriously been fucking counting, you four-eyed freak?” Bakugo scoffed.

Hitoshi felt a wave of anger wash through him. Iida had done nothing to deserve being denigrated and mocked like that. “Tell me again why he’s in the Hero Course and I’m not,” he muttered beneath his breath. He wasn’t part of Class 1-A, or even the vaunted Hero Program, not yet. He was only here in their dorm to make certain Hatsume didn’t get distracted with other things and forget to make Eraserhead’s new costume. And, he admitted to himself, he actually wouldn’t mind spending some additional time with Iida, either.

“Shinsou! What are you doing here?” a familiar voice asked.

“Hey Midoriya. Ask me later,” Hitoshi replied with far less visible enthusiasm, silencing the interaction he was normally eager for, even as Iida pointed to Hatsume, with his finger to his lips, shaking his head, trying to convey to Midoriya and the pretty brown haired girl he was talking that they shouldn’t mention her presence. It took Hitoshi a moment to realize she was the girl with the gravity control power, the one who had fought Bakugo, and she must be “Roundface”, the person with the police ankle bracelet he was trying to help. He didn’t remember her name. She looked way too friendly and gentle to be that same person who had been so tough and rough and tumble, who had stood up to him so well in combat.

“Midoriya, if I might have a sheet of paper from your notebook, and borrow your pen?” Iida requested.

“I only have two sheets left,” Midoriya stated reluctantly, the closest thing to a whine Hitoshi had heard from him, in his limited experience.

“In exchange I’ll give you one of my blank notebooks. I have at least half a dozen in my room that I haven’t used yet,” Iida generously offered.

“Iida, I can’t accept that! It wouldn’t be right, exchanging a sheet of paper for a notebook,” Midoriya argued.

“It would be to me,” Iida encouraged.

“Alright, if you’re sure,” Midoriya agreed, if still somewhat reluctantly, from his expression, carefully ripping a blank page out of his precious notebook. Aizawa had told Hitoshi about them, he’d apparently been very impressed by his student’s detailed analyses of his classmates and Pro Heroes. Hitoshi was painfully aware that it took a lot to impress his mentor. He’d love to be able to take a peek in that notebook.

Iida put his finger to his lips again, ensuring everyone became silent, and then wrote intently on the paper, gesturing to the page when he was done.

Quiet, everyone. Hatsume is going to disable the listening device in Uraraka’s ankle cuff. But we don’t want the police to know she’s doing it.

Hitoshi was impressed, considering how reluctant Iida had been to defy the law earlier.

“Iida!” Midoriya cried, and the two exchanged an incredibly weighted look.

This is different, though the same principle, of what is right, versus what is legal. After what we saw in Kamino Ward, I can no longer hold to the rigid code of morality I insisted upon before we left for there, not when the villains do not share the same scruples.

Interesting. I wonder if Aizawa-sensei knows about whatever Iida’s intimating.

I’m sure Todoroki would agree, were he here, Iida wrote. Then he frowned. “Where is Todoroki?”

“We just got back from the hospital. He told me he wanted some time alone. He’s trying to work some things out,” Midoriya stated, sounding anxious.

“Hey Midoriya. Do you have a write-up of Eraserhead in that notebook of yours? Can I see it?” Hitoshi asked, bluntly changing the subject, because he liked them both, but they were starting to sound tense and stressed, and Hitoshi knew from bitter experience in numerous foster homes that the next step would inevitably be an argument, if not an all out fight, and that was the last thing he wanted to witness, or be caught up in the middle of.

“Oh! Um, sure, I guess,” Midoriya agreed somewhat hesitantly. He flipped open the notebook towards the very front, and showed it to him.

There were two full pages dedicated to Aizawa-sensei, including a somewhat crude drawing of him in costume, with some more detailed sketches of his goggles and capture weapon, arrows with little notes pointing to the figure, and additional text in every centimeter of the pages. Midoriya’s information and deductions were almost eerily accurate.

Hitoshi swallowed when he saw the speed, frequency and duration figures for his Quirk had been crossed out and downgraded, apparently after the USJ attack and his teacher’s injuries. But he was relieved to see there was no notation regarding the one flaw in his mentor’s fighting style, the way he subconsciously protected his right elbow. Hitoshi had decided he was going to tell his sensei in private, because if he could find his weakness, so could a villain.

“That’s pretty amazing. Are all your entries that detailed?” Hitoshi asked, intrigued.

“I have more data on some people than others. I only have a few sentences on you,” Midoriya admitted.

The response floored him. “I’m in your notebook?”

“Sure! I put every Hero or studying Hero I come across in here. I saved two pages for your entry, too, because I wanted to be able to draw you in full costume, once you join our class, and have room for notes on your fighting techniques, once we get the chance to spar more.”

Hitoshi stared at Midoriya, stunned. “How can you be so sure I’ll even make it in?”

“Because you’re amazing, Shinsou!” Midoriya replied, with all the enthusiasm of a puppy.

His faith in him was mindboggling.

“All done!” Hatsume piped up unexpectedly, to Hitoshi’s relief, because he wasn’t sure he could process how nice Midoriya was being to him.

“Really? That quickly?” the girl wearing the ankle bracelet asked, surprised. Bakugo had been keeping her distracted while Hatsume worked.

“Like I told Explosion Boy over there, it was an easy fix, nothing I hadn’t done before. It would have actually taken a lot less time, but he specified that he wanted the sound to cut out in a burst of static, to make it look like a technical glitch, and have it so you could turn the microphone off and on, so I couldn’t just disable it completely, I had to rig a bypass. This way, they only hear what you want them to. You can turn it back on whenever you want and say all kinds of things to really mess with their heads, just press right here to switch it on and off,” Hatsume instructed eagerly.

“I can’t believe you actually approve of this, Iida,” Uraraka stated in surprise.

Iida pushed his glasses up with one finger. “I approve of sabotaging their device more than I approve of their listening in upon your private conversations without your knowledge or consent.”

“Thank you both so much,” Uraraka gushed. “And you, Bakugo, for asking for her help. You’re a great friend.”

Bakugo had started to look annoyed when she thanked the others but then he looked smug when she acknowledged his role. “Damn right I am.” Then his cell phone buzzed and he looked down at it and frowned, then left the room without another word.

Midoriya’s eyes tracked him as he left, a look of concern on his face.

Hatsume clapped her hands, making Hitoshi, Midoriya, Uraraka and Iida all jump at the unexpected noise, just showing everyone was still on edge from what had happened earlier, even the ones who hadn’t been part of the chaos. “Well, I’ve got to get back to the workshop. I’ve got costumes and weapons to improve!” she stated gleefully.

“Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And I’m not sure what I could do, but let me know if I can help in any way,” Hitoshi volunteered.

“I love volunteers! I might need you for the testing phase. We’ll start with a flamethrower and work our way up to a blowtorch,” Hatsume said eagerly.

“Flamethrower? Blowtorch? Shinsou!” Midoriya cried in alarm.

“Absolutely not,” Iida stated emphatically. “Shinsou, you should be warned that Hatsume-san’s support gear has a tendency to explode, and the thought of an exploding blowtorch-“

“Sounds like Todoroki?” Hitoshi cracked wryly, regretting it immediately, from the way Midoriya’s eyes turned accusatory.

“That wasn’t his fault,” Midoriya vehemently defended.

Shit. Way to alienate one of your two potential friends in the Hero Course, Hitoshi. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be insensitive. I know what happened at the training ground was traumatic, that the two of you were-“

“We’re fine! It doesn’t matter what happened. Everything’s fine now,” Midoriya insisted.

Hitoshi couldn’t fault him for interrupting him, much as he hated it, considering he’d done the same to Iida, but it sounded like Midoriya was in denial. He’d overheard some things while waiting to give his own statement to the police, he was an expert at being unseen and unheard, keeping to the periphery, being ignored. Todoroki had apparently lost control of both his temper and Quirk, nearly incinerating four of his classmates and he’d gotten himself and Midoriya killed in the ensuing battle, though some lightning wielder named Denki Kaminari was the one whose Quirk actually caused both their temporary deaths. The redheaded rock guy Kirishima and surprisingly Bakugo, of all people, had resuscitated the two of them.

“Just because you all recovered doesn’t mean what happened doesn’t matter. You and Todoroki know that best of all, after what happened in Hosu City,” Iida accused.

Kamino and Hosu? I really have to find out what the hell happened with these guys.

“We know what the five of you did in Kamino Ward, but what did you do in Hosu, Deku?” Uraraka asked bluntly, frowning in concern. “We all got that weird message you sent, your location, and then we found out you and Iida and Todoroki were in the hospital, that it was some sort of message for help, but no one know what happened. You were all caught in the Nomu attack, weren’t you?”

“No! We didn’t do anything,” Midoriya denied, sounding incredibly guilty.

“I can honestly say that Todoroki and I were never attacked by the Nomu,” Iida stated solemnly, as if testifying before a judge and jury. “I was merely there for my internship, and Todoroki accompanied his father on his own internship. Midoriya was on a bullet train headed to his own internship, but it was stopped in Hosu City by one of the Nomu, who his mentor fought.”

“Exactly. That’s what happened,” Midoriya stated in relief. “But I’d really rather not talk about villain attacks right now, not after everything that just happened. How about we go find Asui and tell her the good news, Uraraka?”

“OK. Sure. Let’s go do that,” she agreed, dropping the topic. “We’ll see you later, Iida, Shinsou.”

“Sure,” Hitoshi agreed, though he had no idea when he’d see her again.

After the two of them were gone, Hitoshi turned to Iida and gave him the patented Aizawa-sensei look, the one that made you want to confess all of your sins, or even invent new ones, if you didn’t have any to confess to. “Masterful wording. You danced around that question like a prima ballerina performing Swan Lake. So you and Todoroki weren’t attacked by the Nomu, but you didn’t mention Midoriya, which implies he was. So what else weren’t you saying?”

Iida eyed him, but kept silent, instead of answering the question, which was like a kick to his gut. He’d really thought Iida wasn’t like the other kids, that he wasn’t afraid of him, that he wasn’t going to assume he’d just use his power on impulse, to get what he wanted, but obviously he’d been wrong.

“Forget it. Keep you secrets. Like I care what a bunch of Hero Course students did anyway,” Hitoshi snapped, turning on his heel and heading for the door to let himself out of the dormitory he didn’t belong in, that he was never going to belong in.

“Wait! You look like you’re in pain. I think you’re misunderstanding. I’m not keeping silent because I’m afraid you’ll use your Quirk on me to learn the truth. I’m not speaking because we swore we would tell no one what occurred, and I will not break that oath. It has nothing to do with you, personally,” Iida surprisingly volunteered.

“What if I do use my power to find out what you’re hiding?” Hitoshi challenged, perversely baiting him and testing him at the same time.

“You won’t. Because that’s something a villain would do, and you’re not a villain,” Iida stated confidently, replying to his question, exposing himself to the potential use of his Quirk, without even a moment’s hesitation.

“That’s… not what I was expecting,” Hitoshi admitted.

Iida adjusted his glasses again, his entire being radiating sincerity. “Then perhaps it’s high time you learn you can trust your fellow future classmates,” Iida stated confidently, flooring Hitoshi with his words, which echoed Midoriya’s.

“What if I don’t make it in?” Hitoshi asked, voicing his greatest fear.

“You will,” Iida stated with a solemn confidence Hitoshi didn’t feel, his voice brimming with conviction. And then he smiled, and it was as if someone suddenly sucked all the oxygen from the room.

Hitoshi nodded wordlessly, like a mute idiot, in agreement, focusing all his effort on trying not to blush again. Maybe he did belong, after all.

Chapter Text

Katsuki frowned down at his phone, at the message from Kirishima.

Shitty Hair:         Kaminari’s feeling really down about himself, and I’m not sure what to do or say. Nothing I’ve tried has worked. Can you come? My room.

He headed out of the living room, feeling Deku’s concerned eyes on him, and ignoring him. How the fuck was he supposed to know what to say or do, to help Kaminari? Kirishima was always the one who said the right thing, who made their classmates feel good about themselves. He sucked at that shit. He was the fucking rocket scientist who’d told Deku to jump off the freaking roof, back in middle school.

He still had nightmares from that sometimes, him leaving the building, Deku yelling down to him, “I’m taking your advice Kacchan!” Turning around to ask him what the fuck he was yammering about, hearing the gasps and comments, seeing the other kids pointing back at the building, up to the roof, looking up, just in time to see Deku take the swan dive. The screams. The hideous slapping bursting sound when he hit the cement in front of him, the feel of Deku’s warm, sticky blood and brains splattering all over his face, his uniform, the sidewalk, drenching the scattered green tufts of hair on the shards of his shattered skull. The sickening knowledge it was his fault, that he wasn’t a hero, he was a murderer. Picturing his mom, when she found out. Worse, picturing Aunt Inko, when she did.

Shit. Kaminari isn’t fucking suicidal, is he? He was freaking the fuck out after zapping Icy Hot and Deku, blaming himself.

Katsuki took off at a run, foregoing the elevator for the stairs, even though he knew Kirishima was with Kaminari, because what if he could fry himself on purpose with his Quirk, all the way, kill himself with it, before anyone could stop him?

He reached the fourth floor, and slammed open the stairwell door, literally rocketing to Kirishima’s room, thankful the smoke detectors had been adjusted on this floor to not immediately set off the fire alarm and sprinklers if he used his Quirk. Then he slammed open Kirishima’s door, panting and collapsing, gasping, only steps inside, from such a pathetic little run, because he couldn’t fucking breathe, he was hyperventilating, and how the fuck was he supposed to keep Kaminari from killing himself when he was on his fucking knees, gasping?

“Katsuki? You scared the crap out of me! I thought- Shit! Calm down. Slow down, breathe, you’re doing it again, come on, with me, breathe in-“ Kirishima urged.

Katsuki fought to calm down, to breathe, because Kaminari looked just as freaked as Kirishima, and when the fuck had he started thinking of that stupid discount Pikachu by his name? Except he wasn’t stupid, he was fucking brilliant, and brave, and strong, and he’d given him so much shit already, this semester, calling him dumb all the time, always telling him how annoying he was.

How the fuck am I in the Hero Course, when I keep doing that? Why does Kirishima even want to be my friend? Why does Kaminari?

He forced himself to take a single, stuttering, ragged breath, to finally inhale, as he listened to Kirishima’s calm, gentle but insistent instructions, because this was another one of those God damned fucking panic attacks, it had been weeks since it was this bad, before the shit today, he was fucking backsliding, and looking like a weak, pathetic victim in front of Kirishima and Kaminari, the two people who mattered most.

“I should go. He hates people seeing him like this,” Kaminari said, because he knew, he got it, but he didn’t sound worried, this time, he sounded down, guilty, lonely, lost, broken, hopeless.

Katsuki couldn’t fucking tell them all the things he needed to say, he couldn’t fucking talk, he couldn’t even breathe, so he grabbed them instead, and yanked them in to him, because actions speak louder than words, and they’d almost freaking died, because he’d been too God damned weak to save them, and no way in hell was he letting Kaminari be alone right now, feeling like he was.

He could feel them both tense in surprise, but then Kirishima relaxed into it, but Kaminari didn’t, he was stiff and awkward, and trying to pull away, like he didn’t feel like he belonged there with them.

Fuck that! Katsuki was furious at himself and impatient, as he fought to calm the fuck down, because Kaminari was fine, and thank fuck he’d never told him to jump off the fucking roof, because he would have fucking done it in a heartbeat, in a misguided urge to please him. And fuck, there went the little progress he’d made breathing.

“Um… should I get Recovery Girl?” Kaminari asked hesitantly.

Great, now he was sounding worried, which would probably only make him feel more guilty. “Fucking… kill you,” Katsuki managed to rasp.

“Hey, maybe go a little easy on him, Bakugo? He’s just worried about you, and he’s already having a rough night,” Kirishima chastised.

And now he’d pissed off Shitty Hair. God fucking damn it!

“No. I’m fine. It’s stupid. I’m stupid,” Kaminari said, in that self-deprecating way Katsuki hated hearing. “But then, you already knew that, right? Guess I fried a few too many brain cells. But not only mine, this time. Todoroki and Midoriya. They’re both so smart, it probably won’t matter. Not like me, where every single one counts. I should get an IQ counter for the side of my bed, and every week – or who am I kidding – every day, right, just flip back one of the numbers. Pretty soon I’ll be in the double digits and by the time I get into the twenties I probably won’t even notice or care, anymore, I’ll just be some drooling vegetable, who’ll starve to death because he’s forgotten how to eat.”

And thank fuck, he finally had the air to speak again, because this was going to stop, now. “Shut the fuck up, Pikachu. I don’t think you’re stupid. Sure, I make fun of you sometimes for fucking up on tests and stuff, because you piss me off when you play videogames instead of studying, or get distracted by some dumb TV show instead of doing your homework, because you can’t just zone out and blow things off like that and not expect to suffer the consequences,” he accused.

“What does it even matter?” Kaminari yelled, but there were tears in his eyes, that threatened to make Katsuki forget how to breathe again. “By the time I’m old enough to be a Hero, I’ll be too brain-fried to be one, and I know you won’t understand – because nothing scares you, not villains, not Todoroki – because you’re the smartest and toughest guy in our class, and you know you’ll make it, you’ll come out on top, no matter what happens to you, no matter who you’re up against, but I can’t even sleep at night half the time, because I’ve seen those videos Jirou takes of me and posts in her SnapChat story, the ones she and her middle school friends laugh over. I have nightmares of what it’s going to be like, the day I fry myself completely, and stay that way. I should have just let Todoroki burn me! But he was going to kill you both too, and I couldn’t…

“Why do I have to care so much, when you don’t even think of me as a real friend, let alone anything else? I’m just the butt of a joke to you, the way I am for Jirou. I’ve known you for three months and you don’t even know my name, or remember it, at least I thought you didn’t, but then after I shocked Todoroki, you said… But once or twice doesn’t mean anything. You’ll never take me seriously, or feel about me the way you do about Kirishima, the way I feel about you. I’ll always just be some ‘dumbass Pikachu’ to you.”

0 0 0

Denki felt the blood leave his face, his heart race, he knew he’d gone too far, said way too much, he braced himself, waiting for the inevitable, literal explosion, the loss of those pathetic little wisps of friendship he craved like a plant craves the sun, the accusation that he was a moron, and to get the fuck out, forever, this time.

“God damn it! You’re really gonna make me say it, in front of Shitty Hair,” Bakugo growled.

“Heh heh. And you think your nickname is bad, Kaminari,” Kirishima weakly commented.

“Fine. You fucking asked for it,” Bakugo threatened.

“Katsuki, don’t-“ Kirishima warned, his tone suddenly dark, harsh, the way he seldom got with Bakugo.

To Denki’s confusion, Bakugo used one of the basic hand signs Aizawa-sensei had taught them in training, for communicating with other heroes on stealth missions, when you need to be silent, to show which villain you were going to take out. “I’ve got this.”

Then Bakugo glared at him, and Denki braced himself for a verbal blow, a scathing retort that would shred whatever little fragments of self-esteem he might have left.

“I don’t call you Pikachu just because of your Quirk, or your yellow hair, or that fucking black zigzagging lightning bolt – which I still can’t believe is just the way your hair grew, because that’s not fucking fair. I call you that because… because Pikachu was my favorite Pokémon, when I was a kid. And I’ll deny it if you say one word of this to anyone else, but he still fucking is,” Bakugo claimed.

It took a few moments for his words to sink in, because that was so not what Denki had been expecting to hear. When it finally processed, he immediately denied it. “No way! Your favorite had to be Charizard, right? Because he’s just like you: big and tough and angry, and he breathes fire; he’s got so much attitude. He doesn’t take shit from anybody. He just does what he wants and flames anyone who get in his way.”

“Exactly. He’s a fucking asshole. He was a cute little fucker as a kid, back when he was Charmander, that big head and those wide, bright eyes, but then he evolved into a teenager, and he was just a dick. No one liked him, except Ash. Meanwhile Pikachu? The whole fucking world loves Pikachu, inside and outside the anime. Even people who live in a fucking cave and don’t know what Pokémon is call him by name. Even moms and dads and teachers know him. ‘My kid’s really into that show but I don’t know anything about it. Oh! I know that one! That’s Pikachu.’

“Because he’s a little guy, but he’s tough as nails. He doesn’t take shit from anyone, but he’s so fucking cute, no one cares that he was a total brat, in that first fucking episode, when Ash nearly fucking dies to save him, after those goddamned Pidgeotto try to kill him. After that too, sometimes. But his electric shocks are killer. He can blast things better than his evolved form ever could, so he doesn’t need to change, and he doesn’t want to, because he wants to stay cute and lovable. Like you.

“You’re so fucking amazing, Kaminari. Your power is so strong, but you’re not an asshole, or a bully, like I was, like I still am, half the time. You’re a nice guy. Everyone loves you. Yeah, they give you shit sometimes, because they’re fucking jealous, the shit you get away with. The girls hated the Grape Fucker, but they never hated you, because you’re just a normal horny teenager, not some fucking creepy stalker like that perv. The reason Stringy Ears showed you her SnapChat, the reason she took and posted those videos in the first place is because she’s a lesbian. You freak her the fuck out when you flirt with her, and you piss her off when you flirt with Ponytail, and you won’t take ‘get lost’ for an answer, so she just got frustrated.

“And that’s the thing. At first, I never knew you were interested in me and Shitty Hair at all, the way I was in you, because you hid it too fucking well. All you ever talked about was the girls. Shitty Hair was flat out convinced you were straight, so he didn’t even let himself look. But I started noticing you staring at him and me both, and once everything went to hell and you fucking kicked ass for us, just like you did in the License Exam, only real life and death shit this time, I figured we’re way better as three than as two, and Shitty Hair, he thinks that too, we talked about it. We just didn’t get the chance to tell you yet. So hell yeah, you’re fucking Pikachu. You’re always going to be Pikachu to me. So deal with it.”

0 0 0

Pikachu was just staring at him, like he’d blown his fucking mind. But then he looked at Shitty Hair, and suddenly there was his usual devilish smirk, that killer grin Katsuki fucking loved.

“So if I’m Pikachu, then Kirishima must be a rock type, so that makes him Onyx, right? Just a big, thick, hard snake. When it comes to you, at least, right Bottomgo?” he teased. And then he ran, laughing like a maniac, just in time to evade the explosion that headed his way.

“Forget what I said, I’m going to kill you, you fucking electric rodent!” Katsuki yelled after him, but he wasn’t angry at all, he was grinning in relief, as he chased him, because this was his dumbass Pikachu, the way he was supposed to be. And he was going to hook him up with his psychiatrist, to make sure he stayed that way, and Kirishima too, because it was pretty obvious that he and Icy Hot weren’t the only ones needing to talk to someone, and if the school and their parents wouldn’t do something about it, he sure as shit would.

0 0 0

Momo shivered, fought a blush, and lost, biting her lower lip, as Kyouka’s right earphone jack caressed the pulsepoint of her wrist. They’d entered the dorm living room early, hoping to claim their favorite seat for Movie Night, the plush, cushioned armchair, the only one meant for one but big enough for two. Only two.

Usually Kyouka started off seated on the arm, only moving to squeeze in next to her whenever Mineta or Kaminari headed their way. One of them always did, especially on Movie Night, when their classmates were more distracted. Well, usually only Kaminari, because Mineta was rather terrified of Kyouka, by now, but Kaminari was completely clueless – only Mineta, at least, wouldn’t really be an issue anymore, would he, now that he’d been expelled?

She breathed a sigh of relief at that thought, which immediately made her feel guilty, because as the Assistant Class Rep, it was her duty to guide and protect their entire class, regardless of her personal feelings, and she’d tried so hard to instill even some basic level of morality into that perverted little troll. That was Kyouka’s voice, in her head, providing an accurate description, when she tried to be more forgiving. But perhaps she had tried too hard, because every girl in the class and a number of the boys had uniformly despised Mineta. He’d made her skin crawl every time he was near, or worse, when he wasn’t, but she knew he was watching, somehow, from somewhere.

“What’s wrong, Momo?” Kyouka asked, her voice warm with concern, as she prematurely slid down off the arm into the seat next to her, her earphone jack wrapping protectively and possessively around her wrist, and her left hand gently touching her cheek.

Momo felt heat flush her face. “It’s nothing. I’m fine,” she quickly assured her, because the last thing she wanted was to upset Kyouka, and she was pressed up against her thigh, and side, and what if this time she had the courage to touch her back, just her right arm, only that might feel too much like they were hugging, in public, where anyone could see, which wasn’t proper. Her parents would be so disapproving of her showing affection to anyone like that in public, she could hear her mother’s voice scolding how they’d raised her better than that, feel her father’s silent, disapproving stare.

Kyouka unexpectedly tensed, but then exhaled in what sounded alarmingly like annoyance, Momo was about to apologize for dissembling, when the uncomfortable silence was shattered by the loud bang of the stairwell door slamming into the inadequate backstop, the thunder of feet, the unmistakable sounds of a chase, but her instinctive fear that villains might have somehow breached the school’s security again and attacked was immediately laid to rest by both Kyouka’s reassuring caress and the joyous giggling laugh of Kaminari, as well as the indignant bellow of Bakugo. And then Kaminari tore into the room, and dove into the loveseat, knocking it over backwards onto the floor, in his enthusiasm. “Sanctuary! Safe!” he cried, and then, “I call the loveseat!” like he was a five year old.

Bakugo burst into the room, hands sparking, Kirishima unsurprisingly at his back, she was ready to intervene to protect Kaminari from whatever it was he’d done this time to annoy their volatile classmate, but relaxed at the grins not only on Bakugo’s face, but Kirishima’s. “Pikachu you id- maniac, pick that up!” Bakugo roared.

“I got you, BB,” Kaminari assured him laughing, Kirishima helping him quickly upright the loveseat.

“What the hell does BB mean?” Bakugo demanded suspiciously, his face suddenly flushing red, though not with anger, interestingly.

Momo had only ever seen Kirishima make Bakugo blush before.

“Bot-“ Kaminari started to say, but Kirishima’s hand slapped over his mouth.

Bakubro, right Kaminari?” Kirishima urged, loudly and succinctly, glancing in their direction, for some reason, surprising her, because she would have assumed it meant that as well, if it meant anything at all, although that wasn’t what it had sounded like. The things Kaminari said often didn’t make sense.

Kaminari startled, as if he hadn’t even noticed she and Kyouka were in the room, which would be a first, and his eyes grew more serious, as the three boys exchanged a look, and then he easily pulled Kirishima’s hand away, which meant he trusted him now not to say something inappropriate or uncensored.

“Sorry, Bro, I didn’t see them,” Kaminari apologized, sounding surprisingly sheepish and contrite, as he looked at Bakugo.

“Whatever, du- smartass Pikachu,” Bakugo grumbled, surprising her, because that was the second time he’d censored his words, in a way she’d previously only seen him do with Midoriya or Aizawa-sensei.

Instead of whining at the use of the familiar and annoying nickname, Kaminari’s entire face lit up with the most joyous grin she’d ever seen, which considering how often her exuberant and irrepressible classmate smiled, was saying something.

“Sit your ass down here, on this seat you claimed,” Bakugo ordered, yanking him backward.

To her surprise, Bakugo sat down in the left corner, pulling Kaminari into the middle seat next to him, with Kirishima taking the remaining seat, on the right. Kirishima was always on Bakugo’s right, but the two of them normally took up the entire plush, overstuffed loveseat alone, though there was certainly room for three.

“Dude, I can take the corner. Don’t you want to sit near Kirishima?” Kaminari asked, voicing her silent concern, although Bakugo didn’t appear to be angry with Kirishima.

“We sit next to each other all the time. I can take the middle next time, or he can. We both want to sit next to you,” Bakugo grumbled.

At the look of blatant adoration on Kaminari’s face, Bakugo jumped to his feet.

“I’mgoingtogetsnacks,” Bakugo mumbled in a breathless rush as he headed for the kitchen, his face flushing with heat, looking and sounding more like Midoriya than himself.

Did he and Kirishima finally confess to one another? No wonder they’re using Kaminari as a buffer, to try to hide their blatantly obvious affections.

Then Kaminari leapt to his feet and headed for them.

“Kaminari,” Kirishima called, sounding disappointed, more than censuring, as he normally was when he tried to dissuade Kaminari from pressing his unwanted advances.

To her confusion, Kaminari spun around and, walking backwards, used the hand sign for “I’ve got this,” that Aizawa-sensei had taught them, for silently coordinating with other Heroes during missions, and the frown on Kirishima’s face immediately cleared, and he smiled warmly at him instead, and then Kaminari turned back towards them.

Momo fought not to wince as Kyouka’s earphone jack tightened painfully around her wrist, as she stiffened at his approach, because the sofa was still empty, they were still early for Movie Night, and Kaminari was clearly going to invite them to share it with him, forcing Bakugo and Kirishima to sit alone together.

“Kaminari-“ Kyouka began angrily.

To Momo’s shock, he stopped two meters away and bowed to them. “Yaoyorozu, Jirou, please accept my apologies for all the times I’ve bothered you and made you uncomfortable! I should have listened to you and acknowledged that you truly weren’t interested. I hope you can forgive me and still be my friends, but I’ll understand if I pushed your tolerance of my stu- my well meaning but totally inappropriate behavior too far. But please don’t hate me.”

Kyouka was frowning at him at first, but now she just looked warily confused. “Does this mean you’re going to stop hitting on both of us?” she demanded suspiciously, seeking the clarification Momo was hoping for as well.

“I promise I won’t ever do it again. But if I say something by accident, like if I tell either of you, or both of you, how pretty you look, it’s just because you are, it’s only meant as a compliment, I won’t be flirting, not intentionally, so please be patient with me for a little longer,” he claimed, still looking down at the floor, instead of at them.

“Yeah, right. I call bullshit. After all this time, you’re seriously going to leave us alone? What, did you fry your brain one too many times, are you dying or something, you short-circuiting toaster?” Jirou snapped sarcastically.

Momo bit her lip as Kaminari stiffened in front of them, his breath hitching, Momo was just about to say something when Bakugo came storming out of the kitchen, yelling and cursing, to the sound of glass shattering.

“You fucking bitch!” Bakugo roared, as his power flared, rocketing over to them, only to be tackled by Kirishima, not in his hardened form, but in his vulnerable flesh and blood body, before he could reach them, even as Momo shot to her feet, interposing herself protectively in front of Kyouka, creating a riot police blast shield to protect them both.

“Bakugo, stop! It’s not her fault! It’s mine for-“ Kaminari claimed urgently, stepping protectively between them and Bakugo, his back to them.

“Get the fuck off me, Kirishima! You heard her! Kaminari was fucking bowing to her, all but fucking groveling, and she fucking made a joke about him d…dying, about lobotomizing himself with his own power!” Bakugo yelled, but he sounded more anguished than angry, and Momo realized to her shock that he was shaking.

Momo realized he wasn’t fighting to escape Kirishima’s hold, and that his friend’s arms were clamped around him more like an embrace than as a restraint – he wasn’t trying to pin his arms to his sides like he could have, with his palms facing his thighs, which would have made it impossible to use his power, and she realized that must be intentional, that he didn’t want Bakugo to feel trapped, which made sense, considering he had almost been kidnapped again today, by the same villains that took him before.

“Katsuki, it’s not her fault! She doesn’t realize. Jirou’s a good person: she never would have said that if she knew. Come on, man, you need to calm down, before you say anything worse, something that’s just going to add fuel to the fire. You gotta know you’re only pissing Jirou off more, cursing her out like that,” Kirishima soothed.

“Jirou, cut us all a break, alright?” Kirishima urged, changing his focus, though not looking at her, still physically focused on Bakugo. “The three of us almost died this morning, we’ve been through hell and back, and the last thing we need is another fight, or to not feel safe in our own dorm, to be thinking of another one of our classmates as an enemy, instead of a friend.” Kirishima sounded strong and unyielding, more serious than she’d ever heard him, save for the night that he urged her to help him and Todoroki save Bakugo.

What is he saying? What does he mean, thinking of another classmate as any enemy? Who was the first one? Momo knew they’d been kept in the dark to some degree, about the villain attack, Principal Nedzu had given them a brief summary, regarding the infiltration by the League of Villains, but the video footage they’d seen on the news had been terrifying. It was frankly a miracle that the five of them hadn’t been killed by Dabi, Toga, and the other villains who had attacked.

Kirishima took a slow deep breath, deliberately inhaling and exhaling, in counterpoint to Bakugo’s rapid breathing, and continued. “Kaminari meant every word, he’s genuinely sorry, and he’s not going to bother you anymore. Frankly, he’s honestly not interested in either of you anymore, anyway. Look, I’m not asking you to be his friend, but you need to stop saying things like that to him, making fun of his intelligence – he’s a lot smarter than you realize – and his power, because you have no idea how amazing he is, the things he’s capable of.

“He saved our lives today, all five of us. A quarter of our class almost died today, so joking about him, about any of us, dying, today of all days, that’s just really sick. But more than that, you need to stop videoing him during sparring practice, when he overuses his Quirk, and humiliating him by showing your friends. It’s not funny, Jirou, it’s cruel. I know you’re normally not a vicious person, but you have a mean streak in you that you need to keep in check, if you want to be a Pro Hero, or someone who deserves someone as cool as Momo. Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say.

“Come on, Katsuki, Denki. Let’s go to my room. We can sit and talk, or play videogames or something, maybe watch a marathon of your favorite TV series,” he urged, and the three of them headed out of the living room.

Kirishima had called them both by their first names and his voice had instantly gone from commanding to gentle and tender, soft, soothing. Oh my God. Loving? Is that what all this was about?

“What the hell just happened?” Kyouka asked, sounding shell shocked, and more than a little cowed and guilty.

“I think the three of them might be together, now, that they’ve confessed to one another. But also, it sounds like there’s a lot more to what happened this morning than we know. We can talk about it with them later, once everyone’s had a chance to process and calm down. Right now, I’m going to clean up that broken bowl, and sweep up the popcorn.”

It wasn’t like Bakugo to leave a mess: when he broke something, he fixed it.

“I’ll help. Be careful not to cut yourself,” Kyouka urged.

Momo frowned, puzzled, as something slick and wet coated her fingertips, as she lifted one of the larger shards of glass, and her eyes widened in understanding. “It’s his nitroglycerin. It’s all over this piece. The bowl must have slipped out of his hands. I thought he threw it down. We’ll need to spray some of his neutralizer on this, before we put the glass in the recycling. He keeps a bottle of it under the sink, as well as in each of the bathrooms,” she stated confidently.

They’d all been instructed their first day in safety procedures for one another’s various Quirks, but they’d seldom had to utilize any of them. Her classmates truly had remarkable control of their Quirks, for the most part. What must it be like, to have a Quirk where the simplest touch could endanger someone?

0 0 0

Eijiro kept his left arm around Bakugo, but broke the rest of the embrace, so they could walk, relieved that though his breathing had been rapid, it had been regular; it didn’t sound like he was having another panic attack.

As soon as they were in the elevator, Kaminari snatched up Bakugo’s left hand, and kissed the back of it. Then he smacked his lips together. “My knight in shining armor. My Hero. Mmm. Yum. Nitroglicinery.”

“Kaminari!” Bakugo immediately chastised, rubbing his sleeve across Kaminari’s mouth. “You need to be careful with that shit. One of your shocks could set it off, you could hurt yourself. Crap, you guys are going to have to wash your clothes with mine, or I’ll give you some of my special laundering neutralizer. Either way, we need to pretreat your clothes, so your hampers don’t explode. There’s a reason I’m not all touchy feely, you know.”

“It’s OK, honestly, I’m sorry, I was just kidding. I didn’t taste anything. I know not to kiss your palm or anything, or try to hold your hand, without your permission. I’ve seen how careful Kirishima is with that. I realized a long time ago that was more than just respecting your boundaries, and you not liking public displays of affection, that your sweat is dangerous,” Kaminari assured him, as the elevator door opened on their floor.

Honestly, he really is smarter than anyone’s been giving him credit for. “So, I was serious about watching Pokémon, if you guys are into it. I was thinking we could maybe start from the first episode, the first season, and marathon it,” Eijiro suggested.

“I’d really kind of like to watch that short, Pikachu’s Vacation, first, if that’s OK with you guys? Because that song’s a real bop, and I’d love for all of us to go on a vacation to an amusement park together, sometime, or a waterpark, or just any cool, fun kind of place like that,” Kaminari urged.

“Yeah, I’ll bet a waterpark. You just want to see us both in Speedos,” Eijiro challenged, with a mischievous grin.

“Hell yes! Sign me up! Either that, or the hot springs, again. Ooh! Or the beach! Maybe we can talk Aizawa-sensei into a field trip to a lake or the ocean or something, once things calm down enough, again,” Kaminari stated excitedly.

Once the villains weren’t so much of a threat they couldn’t even leave campus.

The three of them piled into Bakugo’s room, onto his bed, with both of them on either side of Kaminari.

Bakugo reached over to his shelves, pushed aside some other Blurays, and pulled out a handful of boxed sets that had been hidden from view.

“Oh my God! You weren’t kidding; you’re a total Pokémon nerd!” Kaminari crowed in delight, as Bakugo pulled out the right disc and handed it to him.

“Load that,” Bakugo grumbled, as his face flushed, instead of telling Kaminari to shut up, like he normally would have. Then he slid open the cabinet door to his snack stash and started pulling out bags of seaweed crackers, chips and cookies.

It looked like they were definitely in for a marathon, Eijiro realized with a contented grin. It was completely surreal, after the day they’d had, to be ending it like this: safe, healthy, happy and together. There was nowhere he’d rather be, no one he’d rather share his night with.

Chapter Text

Shouto headed determinedly for the Principal’s office. He had no idea what he was going to say to Recovery Girl, how he was going to convince her to help his father. But the first thing he needed to do was gather data, discover why she was so adamantly opposed to helping him, and Principal Nedzu seemed to be close to her, to know her well, so he figured he’d start with the Principal, see what he knew about it, if anything.

When he reached the door, he took a bracing breath, schooled his features to their usual calm neutrality, and knocked.

“Enter!” a voice sang out, sounding almost eager.

He resolutely opened the door and headed inside.

“Ah! Todoroki-kun. Perfect timing. I was just about to pour myself a cup of tea. Please join me,” Principal Nedzu offered, waiving him to the sofa, and coffee table.

“Thank you, I’d enjoy that,” Shouto replied, because the Principal was notorious for his love of tea and conversation, and it would be easier to pry the information he needed from him if they were in a more social setting, where he felt on a more equal footing, than on the opposite end of the Principal’s desk.

The Principal looked delighted, as he prepared a second place setting, and then set to pouring them each a cup, from the pot he had already brewed. “Please, try some of these as well,” he offered, indicating the plate of artfully arranged assorted cookies, as he proceeded to tell him about the bakery where they were made, and about the four herons he’d seen when crossing the river on his way, which reminded him of the hanging scroll painted by Maruyama Ōkyo in 1769 during the Edo period, who was known for his naturalist paintings, not only of animals, but capturing the atmospheric effects of rain, mist, and snow, and it was supposed to rain, on Wednesday.

Shouto was finally able to get a word in edgewise when the Principal stopped talking for a moment to finally drink some of his tea.

“That’s all very interesting sir, but I actually have something specific I’d like to speak to you about, if I may? I understand you’ve been at this school for a number of years, and I believe you’re friends with Recovery Girl, and I was wondering whether you know why she might be adamantly opposed to treating my father. His condition is grave and his surgeon stated her Quirk was the only one powerful enough to help him.” He knew even as he was speaking that he was being too blunt, too abrupt, but he had no idea how to be subtle, when it came to conversation, and he had no skill or patience for taking ten times as long as necessary to say what he meant.

“Ah. I was wondering why you chose to visit me here today. No, I’m not aware why she isn’t willing to aid him. I would, however, be intrigued to learn. Do you have any theories as to why that might be the case?” he asked, watching him intently.

“I know that after Midoriya hurt himself a number of times, breaking his arms and hands over and over, she warned him that she wouldn’t treat him if he injured himself again. But Midoriya mentioned she treated both of us, after we were injured yesterday. I think that was because he didn’t hurt himself intentionally, that he didn’t break bones using his Quirk, knowing that would be the result. So perhaps my father injured himself a number of times, training too vigorously, when he went to school here, and she drew the same line in the sand for him?” he hazarded.

“Yes, his overconfidence might indeed have played a part. Once we finish our tea, why don’t we go ask her together?” the Principal proposed, sounding eager.

Nearly half an hour later, Shouto was ready to drown the Principal in his own teapot, when thankfully he delicately set down his cup for what appeared to be the last time, and finally appeared ready to go speak with her. Shouto was a lot more confidant he’d receive an honest answer from Recovery Girl with the Principal present, and that he might perhaps even help sway her decision, which was the only reason he had sat through the grueling niceties.

Recovery Girl greeted the Principal with a warm smile, when he knocked on her apartment door, until she saw him as well, and frowned in concern. “What’s happened? Have you injured yourself again?”

“No, Recovery Girl-san. I came because I have a request,” Shouto stated boldly.

“Well then, come in, both of you. Would you care for some tea?” she asked.

Nedzu’s eyes lit up, but Shouto bit back a scathing retort worthy of his father, tempering his words with difficulty. “No thank you. The Principal and I enjoyed more than one cup before we came,” he instead declined diplomatically, hoping she would interpret that as a response from both of them.

“I see you hope to get right to the point. Very well. I’m afraid I suspect what this is about, but what is your request?” she asked.

“It’s about my father. The surgeon said you were the only one who would be able to help him. He had a severe reaction to Mustard’s gas attack and the treatment the hospital gave him wasn’t sufficient. He’s in critical condition. He nearly bled to death, his lungs failed, and he’s on a respirator,” Shouto stated.

The sight of his father in the hospital room after they’d spoken to the surgeon had been chilling. For the first time ever his father had looked weak. Helpless. He was still unconscious, and deathly pale, his mass of muscles a mocking reminder of how powerless he now was, and why he had been so vulnerable to the gas. He’d been unable even to breathe without mechanical assistance. His arms and hands were free, but a massive pair of Quirk cuffs bound his feet and calves, keeping his Quirk forcefully suppressed. He hadn’t been conscious, he was still sedated, but even had he been, Shouto wasn’t sure whether or not he would have been able to control his Quirk, in such a weakened state. Assuming it still even worked, with his lungs so badly damaged, unable to oxygenate his blood properly.

Recovery Girl’s voice dragged him from the memory.

“I’m sorry for your sake, but I’m unable to help him. He made his decision years ago, he knew the consequences – I was quite clear – but he made his choice, and it’s one he’ll have to live with,” she stated, sounding regretful, but firm.

“But he’s not going to live with it. He’s going to die with it!” Shouto argued, angrily. “I know my father better than anyone, and he won’t willingly live as an invalid.”

She sighed, heavily. “I’m honestly surprised he’s survived as long as he has. I never thought I’d see someone more destructive with his own body than All Might. All those years Enji struggled and fought to surpass Yagi, it’s ironic that this is the one way he finally succeeded.”

“How can you still hold whatever he did as a student that upset you so much against him? That was thirty years ago. He’s not the same person anymore,” Shouto argued.

“No, he’s not. I’m well aware of who and what he has become. It’s not as if I haven’t seen him since, you know. He changed for the worst the entire time, exactly as I feared, as I tried to warn him. He’s been poisoning himself for decades. Mustard merely finished the job he started,” she stated fiercely.

“You knew about the steroids? And you didn’t stop him?” Shouto accused.

“I tried. I did everything in my power to-“

“No, you didn’t,” he denied, cutting her off angrily. “You didn’t tell his family. We had no idea, until today. You didn’t tell the Principal. My father should have been suspended and then expelled, if that didn’t scare him into stopping. You should have told the police. The surgeon said the anabolic steroids were legal for adults, but he started taking them when he was 16. He couldn’t have taken them if he was in Juvenile Hall, or prison.

“I don’t know when he started taking the Quirk steroids, but she said they’re illegal in Japan, that they’re illegal in most countries, except for places like the US, France and Thailand. I know exactly when he went to those countries, when he would have brought home his first shipments, or made his supplier connections, but until now I had no idea that he was doing anything other than Hero work when he traveled. And I was a child. You could have told my mother, his wife. She would have stopped him, and if she couldn’t, if she’d known, she would have left him years ago. She would never have had children with him in the first place. Hell, you could have told her parents, and payoff or no, they would probably have found some other cash cow to marry her to, someone she might have actually had a good life with. Someone who wouldn’t beat her children into the ground, and denigrate and abuse her, who wouldn’t drive her into a mental hospital.”

Recovery Girl stood, silently, but he could see her shock, as he scored a number of direct hits, and then the look of horror at his final words.

“But that’s all in the past. If you’d gotten involved, instead of taking the easy way out, by looking the other way, leaving others to suffer, you would have known he’s different, now. It took thirty years for him to realize his many mistakes, to finally own up to them, but he did. He changed his life, three months ago, after the Sports Festival. He started seeing a psychiatrist, and he stopped taking those damned drugs, all of them. After all these years, he finally started being the father we always wanted, the one everyone has always thought he is, the one we deserved. He actually talked to me, for the first time in my life, not down to me, the way he always used to, and he didn’t yell and criticize, he explained, so much, but there’s so much more he didn’t get the chance to say, because there wasn’t time.

“I lived with that miserable bastard for sixteen years and I hated him for most of that time. I might not have been happy if a villain had killed him, but I would have been relieved. But now, I finally had hope, I actually started to care whether he lived or died, because he was trying, he was actually trying. When he collapsed, in the hospital, he could barely speak, he couldn’t even breathe, but he called my name. He was dying, and he called my name, and now I’ll probably never know what he wanted to say.

“Kamui Woods was right: the world may never know what a terrible father he was, but they know what a good Hero he was, the people he rescued know. He may have been an ass to them, but he saved them. He never walked past someone in danger and let them die. Not even someone who tried to kill him. He didn’t just save Midoriya’s mother, he saved Mustard. Mustard gassed him and shot him, but he aimed for his gun, he melted his gun and burned his hand, instead of killing him.

“My father is a fool: he struggled his whole life for a goal that never mattered. None of the people he saved cared that he was #2 instead of #1. He lived his whole life as a Hero anyway, he never stopped fighting and stopping the villains, until one of them stopped him. And then there’s you.

“Everyone always tells me how good you are, how you’re the best Quirk healer Japan, maybe even the world, has ever seen. That may be true. But you’re not a Hero. A true Hero doesn’t decide who lives and who dies. A real Hero doesn’t choose who they’re going to save. That’s something villains do. You’re no better than Stain. You’ve judged my father, and because he hasn’t met whatever bullshit criteria you set decades ago, when he was still a child, you sentenced him to death.

“So I’m glad you’ve refused to treat Midoriya anymore. I don’t want you anywhere near him. Or anywhere near me. We’d both rather be dead than be healed by a villain posing as a Hero,” Shouto stated in disgust.

She just stood there, lips pursed tightly, staring up at him wordlessly.

His heart was pounding. He knew he’d failed, that he’d said far too much, all the wrong things, that he’d completely alienated her now and doomed his father. But he’d been doomed anyway. He hadn’t made it worse, he just hadn’t helped. He had no idea how to convince someone to do something.

He was so furious he felt like he was going to explode, but Bakugo was right: he didn’t have the luxury of losing his temper, not with the power he had. He couldn’t lose control of his fire, or his ice, ever again. He was better than that. He was a Hero. Not the one his father had wanted him to be, but the one he wanted to be. And that would have to be good enough. Because it was all either one of them had left, now.

Without another word, he turned on his heel and left.

0 0 0

Chiyo looked at Amadeus. He’d kept silent the entire time, watching the two of them.

“Aren’t you going to say something, Amadeus? It’s not like you to keep so quiet,” she urged, because that boy’s accusing voice was hanging thickly in the air, and he sounded so very much like Enji had, at that age, it made her heart hurt, thinking about it. So did his words. Everything he’d said.

“You know me better than that, Chiyo. Contrary to popular belief, I only speak when it serves a purpose. I honestly don’t believe there is anything left to be said. Good day. I believe there’s somewhere you need to be, and I wouldn’t dream of keeping you.” Then he too turned and left, closing the door gently behind him.

Chiyo closed her eyes and took a deep, measured breath. “That boy is right, you know. Not about everything, but about enough. You were always too fond of Enji for your own good, or his. You saw too much of Naoko in him. You didn’t tell the Principal, because you were afraid if he got expelled, all that pain and jealousy and misplaced anger would take a darker turn. You looked at him and saw your brother, you were so afraid it would happen again, that someone who should have been a Hero would become a villain. You let it color your judgment.

“And once it was too late, once Enji graduated, you still kept silent. You knew an arrest would destroy his dreams, his future. You tried to warn Rei, but she was already in love with him, she was completely smitten with him the moment she first saw him, she was convinced she could help him. And you wanted to believe she could, even though you knew it was his addiction, that he had to be the one to want to stop.

“You haven’t even spoken to Enji in thirteen years. You’ve watched him on TV, heard the others say things, and assumed the worst. But from what Shouto said, something changed. He stopped taking the steroids. He finally met your condition, after all these years. You knew you couldn’t truly help him until he faced his addiction, until he stopped those damned injections, and when he finally did, you had no idea.”

Chiyo pulled her phone out of her pocket, pulled up her contacts, and pressed Ectoplasm’s name. “Hello. I’m sorry to bother you, but I need an escort to the hospital again. No, no, I’m fine. I have a patient I need to treat, that’s all. Thank you. I’ll meet you there, then, in ten minutes,” she concluded. Then she headed for the door, with a spring in her step that had been missing, recently, after everything that had happened these past few months. Because finally, after all this time, she was going to be able to save someone who she thought had been lost long ago.

0 0 0

Chiyo took a deep, bracing breath before entering Enji’s hospital room. When Kamui Woods had mentioned that he already currently had a visitor, she expected it to be Shouto, she was prepared to face him and apologize for being a stubborn and oblivious old fool. Or if not him, one of his siblings. She blinked in surprise. The last person she expected to see was Inko Midoriya, sitting attentively at Enji’s bedside, holding his hand, speaking to him, completely oblivious to her presence.

“… must admit, the changes he’s made to his hero costume make it look much better. But I’ve been chattering on for quite a while, now. Are you sure I’m not tiring you out? Remember, all you need to do is squeeze my hand four times to ask me to stop talking, but stay with you, or five times, if you’d like me to leave.”

“Just three squeezes? Alright, if you’re sure. So Izuku told me his idea for Shouto’s costume… oh! Hello there,” Inko said, glancing up and noticing her, but keeping hold of Endeavor’s hand. “You’re Recovery Girl, aren’t you? I… oh. Of course, Endeavor. I’ll give the two of you some privacy.”

Chiyo realized he must have squeezed her hand five times, indicating he wanted her to leave. Probably because he was afraid of what Midoriya might overhear.

“Would you like me to call another Hero into the room, while Recovery Girl is here?” Midoriya asked, her eyes flicking warily towards her, no doubt sensing the same sudden tension in the room she was feeling.

Chiyo saw Enji’s hand contract around Midoriya’s hand twice.

“Alright. But I’ll check back in with you in an hour or so, if that’s alright?”

Recovery Girl noticed his hand contract in hers a single time this time, and then Midoriya stood and spoke.

“Endeavor can’t speak, but we’ve worked out a basic communication system. If he allows you to hold his hand, one squeeze means yes, and two means no. Also, three means keep talking, four means stop talking but stay, and five means leave. If he asks you to stop talking or to leave, please respect his wishes. It’s very important he not be upset. And I’ve only known him for a very short time, but the moment he realized it was you, he became very tense. I know normally he is certainly more than capable of fighting his own battles, but these are extenuating circumstances. I need you to promise me you’re not going to do or say anything to upset him, before I leave,” she challenged.

“You’re the second person today to doubt my character, but I can’t say that I blame either of you for that, considering the circumstances. His son Shouto was the first. It’s thanks to him that I am here now, to help him. I swear on my Professional License I’m not here to upset or harm him. I am here to give him the first of what will likely be a number of treatments, to heal him to the best of my ability. I won’t say a word to him other than to ask medical questions, until he is able to have a true conversation with me, as I’ve now been given to understand that we can finally clear the air and resolve our outstanding issues,” Chiyo swore.

“Good. Alright then. I’m happy to hear that,” Midoriya stated, still sounding firm and unyielding, but somewhat reassured.

“I would hope your son has informed you, but I want to warn you, just in case you aren’t aware, that when I heal, the person generally sleeps for a number of hours to recover, as I use their body’s own reserves to heal them. He will likely sleep for a number of hours after this,” Chiyo advised.

“Yes, Izuku mentioned that. I’ll return anyway and just sit quietly with him, if his doctors allow it,” she stated, staying where she was, for the moment.

Chiyo addressed Enji. “Enji, as you’ve heard, I’m not here to cause you any further grief or pain. I would like to use my Quirk to begin healing you. No strings attached, no conditions, no obligations. Please squeeze my hand once for yes, if you are willing to accept my aid, one Pro Hero to another, or twice for no, if you don’t want my assistance.” She pushed the chair closer to the bed, one handed, and climbed onto it, encumbered by her cast. Then she stood on it, so he could look her in the eye, as well as he was able, without being able to move, and then placed her hand in his.

His eyes met hers, but he didn’t move his hand at all.

“I’m not going to apologize, I still believe I did what was right, but we can talk about that once you have your voice back. For now, for your sake, for your son Shouto, and the rest of your family, and for the sake of all the future civilians I hope you are able to protect, to save, please say yes.” She held her breath and continued to meet his gaze.

Carefully, deliberately, he squeezed her hand a single time. She waited, to be sure he wasn’t going to squeeze is a second time.

She exhaled heavily in relief. “Thank you.”

“Then I’ll see you in a little while, Endeavor. Goodbye for now,” Midoriya stated.

Unexpectedly, Chiyo’s hand was squeezed twice, in rapid succession, and his eyes flicked to the side, towards the sound of her voice.

“Midoriya-san, please wait. It appears he no longer wishes you to leave. Honestly, my healing will only take a moment. I simply need to use my Quirk to diagnose the nature and extent of his injuries, and then heal what I can. You are welcome to stay and return to his bedside as soon as I’ve finished,” Chiyo proposed.

Enji squeezed her hand a single time, in agreement.

“He just confirmed he’d like you to stay,” she added.

“Oh. Certainly. I’d prefer that too. Thank you, Endeavor. That’s very considerate of you, trying to minimize my worrying,” Midoriya stated, as if he would be doing it for her sake, rather than his own.

And honestly, Chiyo wasn’t sure. He was clearly not the boy she’d known, all those years ago, and hadn’t been for decades. She only had hearsay as to what sort of man he’d become.

She reached out with her Quirk and assessed the damage to his body. It was horrifying, the changes the steroids had made to his respiratory and circulatory systems over the years, and the insidious damage that had resulted from the gas attack. “I was right, it will take a number of treatments, but I believe a large amount of the damage will be reversible. You’ll still need the respirator, for now, but when you wake up, you should feel considerably stronger.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, directing her power downwards, into his tortured lungs, healing lesions and chemical burns, shrinking enlarged and inflamed tissue. When she pulled away, his eyes were closed, and he was already deeply asleep.

She looked down at the floor with a sigh, and then at Midoriya. “Would you mind giving me a hand? I don’t want to risk injuring my broken arm, and it’s more awkward going down than climbing up.”

“Oh! Of course! I’m sorry, I should have offered. I was just… that’s such an amazing Quirk you have. And I just want to thank you, for healing my son, and for healing Endeavor, for all the good you do as a Pro Hero. I didn’t mean to sound negative before. I was just trying to do what little I can to protect a new friend,” Midoriya stated, looking and sounding as sincere and intense as her son.

Chiyo climbed down with her aid. “Healing is what I do. It’s my calling, my purpose, my reason for being. I’m happy to help anyone who isn’t intentionally self-destructive. Be certain not to stay here too long, without getting proper rest yourself. Goodbye, Midoriya-san,” she stated, as she headed for the door.

“I’ll be sure to take care of myself. Thank you again,” Midoriya stated, as Chiyo left the room.

 

Chapter Text

Fumikage stood in the furthest corner of the dorm living room, next to Shouji, his attention, and the rest of the class’s, on Midnight.

“Well, it looks like you brats are stuck with me as dorm parent for another night. Try to be as well behaved as you were last night, alright? The last thing I want to do is greet Eraser tomorrow morning with a fistful of problems, especially on a Sunday, our one day off,” Midnight stated, clearly trying to keep up appearances, but tellingly lacking her familiar zeal.

She frowned at the students. “Where are Todoroki, Bakugo, Kaminari and Kirishima? This is supposed to be a class meeting.”

Midoriya’s hand shot up a moment before Yaoyorozu’s, an uncertain smile on his face. “Todoroki is fine. He was just tired, so he went to bed early. He promised not to train without supervision. He’s in his room.”

Yaoyorozu spoke up immediately afterwards. “Bakugo, Kaminari and Kirishima were feeling fatigued from the events earlier in the day as well, and retired to their rooms for the evening. As Assistant Class Rep, I can relay any important information to them.”

“Alright,” Midnight conceded.

Iida raised his hand and Midnight gave him a surprisingly warm and patient smile.

“To keep speculation and worry down, I can tell you that Eraser’s going to be fine,” Midnight stated proactively. “He wasn’t injured, thankfully, he’s not in the Infirmary or hospital, he’s not off looking for the League, he’s not in danger of any kind. He’s someplace safe and quiet, with people he trusts to protect him, so he can get the rest he needs. He’ll be as good as new tomorrow morning; you’ll get to see him as soon as the police get a chance to question him.

“And no, I’m not going to tell you more than you already know about the attack. The League attacked here and the hospital, we caught four of them, including Toga, the shapeshifter who attacked Uraraka and Asui at your Training Camp, we rescued the four people they took and stopped them from taking anyone else, and Mustard is still in custody. That’s all you need to know, and frankly, about all we know at the moment.”

Iida pushed his glasses up. “Thank you, Midnight-san, but Principal Nedzu already shared those details with us. I was actually going to ask if it’s alright if we continue with our tradition of Saturday Night Movie Night. It involves snacks and bumping our curfew back to a minimum of midnight and a maximum of 1 AM, but I think it would be particularly reassuring for our class to have some normalcy, after everything that occurred yesterday and today, and strongly recommend you authorize it,” he proposed primly.

“Oh! Yeah, Eraser’s told me about Movie Night. Sure, that sounds like a good idea. You kids are probably way too wired to have a normal bedtime anyway, right now. On one condition: it’s got to be a comedy or romance or light drama or something. No horror movies or action flicks with villains, nothing to keep you wired or give you additional nightmare fuel,” she qualified.

There were several groans and the start of protests.

“Don’t look at me like that. There are still plenty of great movies out there, within those limitations. But I’ll sweeten the deal: as long as you stick to that rule, and promise to behave, I’ll call in a favor and ask Lunch Rush to make us some pizzas and cookies, too.”

The rebellious attitude of the room immediately shifted into cheering, high fives and fist pumps, as Fumikage’s classmates animatedly agreed.

“Alright then. Raise your hands and call out your preferences for pizza toppings and cookie flavors when I call on you, and I’ll get Lunch Rush baking,” Midnight ordered, as she pulled out her phone to record their preferences, as over a dozen hands shot up. Fumikage wasn’t picky. He was fine with whatever the others wanted. Shouji was silent as well.

Fumikage had no idea what Shouji liked to eat: he never ate with them. He joined them for meals but only to sit with them. Shouji always ate in privacy, in his room. The few times he’d been asked, he’d stated quietly that it was for religious reasons, without ever clarifying exactly which religion it was that he followed. It added an air of mystique to his friend, which he found vastly appealing. Although there were already many things he found appealing about his large, muscular classmate: his quiet, his compassion, his loyalty, his gentle honesty, his focus, his physique and the webbing on his arms which reminded him of bat wings.

Fumikage loved all creatures of the night, particularly bats. He wished he had been born with wings or at least talons and winglike appendages. He thought it distinctly odd how normal and human he looked from the neck down. His arms, hands and feet were a particular disappointment.

*Stop moping. You have me and I have wings and talons.*

“It’s not the same, Dark Shadow,” Fumikage muttered softly, in response to the silent chastisement, though he never actually needed to speak aloud in order to be heard by his Companion Quirk.

“Is everything alright?” Shouji asked solicitously.

“I’m fine,” Fumikage automatically replied, the same thing he’d said the entire day, every time anyone asked, from the moment the first alarms had sounded and his protection squad had formed up around him, through the chaos when no one knew where Bakugo, Todoroki, Midoriya, Kirishima and Kaminari were. The others, led by Iida, had desperately searched for them, when they didn’t reply to multiple texts and calls. Their fears had been justified, when they learned that some of their missing classmates had been injured in the villain attack led by Toga.

“If you want company and you’d prefer not to watch the movie, all you need to do is tell me. Or if you’d like privacy, I can cover for you, the way Midoriya and Yaoyorozu are covering for the others, so you can head to your room. I know today must have been particularly stressful for you as well, with all the attention focused upon you,” Shouji stated.

His friend’s gentle and compassionate words were a balm to his tortured soul.

*Tortured my big black beak. No one touched you. They cooped us both up for nothing. You’re such a drama queen.*

“It would be worse to be alone, since I never am truly alone, and Dark Shadow is being less than supportive tonight,” Fumikage replied truthfully and somewhat acerbically, his comment directed at both of them, thankful that Dark Shadow hadn’t spoken aloud.

*Bite me. I’m there when it counts. I’ll rip apart anyone who messes with you and you can feast on their entrails.*

Fumikage shuddered and pulled a step away from Shouji, because Dark Shadow had become increasingly violent and graphic, ever since the Training Camp, and the last thing he wanted was to see Shouji injured again. Moonfish was the one who had bitten off Shouji’s arm, not Dark Shadow, but he had actively tried to slash and crush him, as well as Bakugo, Todoroki and Midoriya afterwards, when he’d lost control of him. Things that would normally have been said in jest months ago, teasing, almost playful, now sounded far more dark and threatening.

*You don’t trust me anymore. I’d never hurt you or your friends.*

Not intentionally, no. But you and I are both aware that you lost control and I was unable to restore it. If it weren’t for Bakugo and…

*Explosion-Light-Bringer. I hate him. He threatened me and he’s not your friend. So I can eat his hands, right?*

At that graphic image, Bakugo bleeding, screaming, permanently maimed, Fumikage wrapped both hands around his beak and ran for the communal intersex bathroom, thankful that everyone but Shouji was too distracted to notice. He couldn’t take the time to lock the door behind him as he dove for the toilet and vomited up a wave of bile. He hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

*Shit, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry, I wouldn’t ever, I’m sorry, I promise I’ll be good, I’m sorry, please be OK!*

Dark Shadow’s voice was a guilty, cowering, remorseful whisper in his head, like a small child desperately apologizing to his parent for something he broke that he knows can never be fixed, as he continued to retch, dry heaving.

Fumikage jumped at the touch upon his back and swung out a fist wildly, but strong hands gently caught his wrists, even as Dark Shadow called out far stronger, interposing himself between him and his attacker.

*Don’t, it’s Shouji! You don’t want to hurt Shouji!*

He realized Dark Shadow wasn’t protecting him, he was protecting Shouji from him, and that knowledge sucked the fight out of him, he fell forward and started sobbing against Dark Shadow and Shouji both, because he’d been so terrified and helpless all day, he’d literally become afraid of his own shadow, his partner, but Dark Shadow wasn’t attacking his friend, he was protecting him.

Dark Shadow slid out from between them, and warm, webbed arms wrapped around Fumikage’s back, pulling him close, in a blanket of security and safety, and multiple hands patted his back gently, even as Dark Shadow wrapped around them both protectively from behind, sealing them off from the prying eyes of the world, even though they were alone.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you. I moved loudly this time on purpose. I thought you heard me come in,” Shouji apologized.

“Sorry,” Fumikage forced out between the sobs that were still wracking his body.

“Don’t be. You have every right to be scared, we’re all afraid, but you have more right than most. I promise you I’ll do everything, we’ll all do everything we can, to ensure you’re never endangered by those villains again,” Shouji assured him, even as one of his hands began carefully preening the feathers on his head, gently, rhythmically, calmingly.

They both startled at the knock on the door, and Dark Shadow swooped away, sliding under the door, returning a moment later.

“It’s the Green-Haired-Arm-Breaker kid. I told him you’re both OK,” Dark Shadow stated aloud, so that Shouji could hear too.

Belatedly Fumikage realized Dark Shadow had been using Shouji’s name this entire time. He never spoke any of his classmates’ names, he’d never wanted to learn or acknowledge them, but he knew Shouji’s. “Thank you, Dark Shadow. Thank you as well, Shouji. I’m sorry I upset you both. I’m fine now. I’m just going to rinse off the tears and then I think I’ll head to my room,” Fumikage stated, trying for a semblance of normalcy, after humiliating himself in front of the person whose opinion of him meant the most.

“I’m not in the mood for a movie either; I was only going to watch if you were as well. I’m going to head to my room, also. But if you’d like some company instead, now or later, I’d sleep better if I could spend some more time with you,” Shouji stated, making it sound like he was the one in need.

“Perhaps later,” Fumikage stated.

*Come on, let him come. I said I was sorry. I would NEVER hurt Shouji. Don’t sulk all night, not because of me. Please?*

“Whenever you’d like. If I don’t see you again tonight, goodnight, and I hope your dreams are pleasant ones,” Shouji stated.

“Wait. Dark Shadow… we… I… give me an hour, to shower and light some candles and incense, and then come to my room, if you wish,” Fumikage qualified.

Shouji’s mouth didn’t move in a smile under his mask, it never did, but his eyes shone with happiness. “Nine o’clock then. I’ll be there.”

0 0 0

Mezo wasn’t surprised to see that Midoriya was still outside the bathroom, though he was looking out at the corridor, as if he was standing guard, turning at the sound of the door. He ran his hand through his hair somewhat bashfully. “I told Midnight you were both fine, and was just making sure no one bothered you. I don’t mean to be intrusive,” he apologized.

“It’s fine, and your vigilance is appreciated. It’s been a long day. We’re both going to our rooms. Please let Midnight know, so she doesn’t worry,” Mezo stated.

“Of course. But if either of you need to talk or anything, I’m a good listener. I know I might not seem like it, because I tend to talk a lot, but I can be quiet too. If you want. Ever. Oh, and let me know if you’d like me to bring pizza and cookies up to… not you, of course, because you won’t, but Tokoyami, if he’s hungry, I could… anyway, um, goodnight,” Midoriya offered awkwardly, turning to go.

“Thank you, Midoriya. We appreciate your concern,” Mezo stated softly.

Midoriya smiled at him, but it looked forced, rather than genuine. “That’s what friends are for, right?” he said, but somehow it sounded sad.

“Midoriya? Is everything alright?” Mezo asked, concerned.

“He’s fine. I mean I’m fine. We’re both fine. Everything’s fine, really,” he assured him, not particularly convincing.

“Of course. But within the next hour or so, if you determine that things are less than fine, please feel free to knock upon my door,” Mezo offered.

This time the smile was real, soft, and warm. “Thanks Shouji. Goodnight.” Then he headed back to the living room.

“Sleep well,” Mezo urged, then he reopened the door to the bathroom. “The coast is clear.”

Tokoyami made a quick exit, Mezo at his heals, headed to his room on the second floor. They parted company in the stairwell, and Mezo kept heading up, to the fourth floor, his own room. He was just outside his door when his phone screeched in the distinctive high pitched frequency set for his texts as he entered his room, a tone only he, and perhaps his classmates Jirou and Kouda, would be able to hear. He opened the door, entered, then locked it, and sat down on his bed, glancing at the text and smiling, when he saw it was from his cousin, Kebukai.

Mezo pulled down his mask and stretched out his mouth, for the first time since the morning, flaring out the skin flaps of his cheeks and his mandibles and then resettling them into their natural batlike configuration, just in case Keb wanted to Facetime him. Keb justifiably despised Mezo’s mask, and everything it signified, the intolerance and instinctive fear their respective appearances triggered in the general populace. Nothing could ever disguise Keb’s own distinctive features and physiology, but Mezo had calmly accepted and acclimated to the necessity of his mask years ago. It was essential if he were to be even minimally human-passing, in spite of his extra appendages. None of his classmates or teachers had ever seen his full face. They’d been told he remained masked for religious reasons, the same convenient lie that explained why he never ate in front of anyone.

Keb:       More crazy shit today. News video was insane, reporters spouting BS as usual. Uncle Maro told Dad you’re fine, and not to bug you, but wanted to check for myself. What really happened? You OK?

Mezo sprouted thin, tiny thumbs out of the base of his own larger ones and dexterously typed his response.

Mezo:   I’m fine. I didn’t fight and wasn’t injured, and am well protected. There are Heroes everywhere on campus guarding us. There was a villain incursion, but they were all apprehended and sent to Tartarus.

Keb:      Come on, cuz, what’s the real story? Press says it’s the villain Dabi, but I heard it was really Endeavor’s son, that before the villain attack even started he went psycho and tried to roast his classmates.

Mezo shifted uncomfortably. He hadn’t heard about that on any of the news stories, but Keb’s sources, whatever they might be, were often unerringly accurate. And Midnight had not mentioned Dabi by name. They had all assumed Dabi was the one responsible for the attack, when they saw the video on the news. But had Todoroki actually been the one who nearly killed Midoriya, Bakugo, Kirishima and Kaminari? He doubted that could be true, but even if it was, clearly it could not have been intentional. He must have either lost control of his power or made a mistake when fighting the villains. If he had truly lost his mind, he would not still be in the dorm with the others, correct? The staff would never endanger them like that.

Mezo:    Not to my knowledge, we too thought it was the villain Dabi, the one who attacked us at the Training Camp. If your information is accurate, Todoroki must have either lost control or made a mistake when fighting the villains. What else did you hear?

Keb:       Word is that electric guy you told me about, Kaminari, right? He actually fried both Todoroki and Midoriya, that green-haired kid Todoroki fought at the Festival. And I mean fried. I heard they both stopped breathing, they needed CPR. You hear any of that?

Mezo was shocked. Had they really needed to be resuscitated?

Mezo:    No. But the staff here has been very close-mouthed about the attack. And both Todoroki and Midoriya appear healthy. Although that could be because of Recovery Girl.

Keb:       You need to watch yourself, Mez. They’re lying to you, both those Pro Hero teachers of yours and your classmates. I keep telling you those other students aren’t your friends. You still wear your mask, right? You still haven’t shown any of them your face, have you? If you can’t even trust them with that, how can you trust them with your life?

Mezo:    I refuse to discuss this again with you, not tonight, and certainly not by text. Pick another topic or I will wish you a good night.

Keb:        OK, fine, I’ll drop it. The last thing I want to do is piss you off. Family’s all we’ve got, you know? Anyway, I got a really prime live shipment in this morning, from that new organic free-range place Uncle Maro’s been gushing about, for Mom’s birthday. I ordered an extra crate for myself, too. You want me to send a few bunnies your way? They’re delicious.

He attached a picture of a gray rabbit pressed against a wall, cowering in terror.

Mezo winced, picturing Kouda’s reaction. The live mice would be bad enough, if any of his classmates ever peeked into the large sealed pantry chest which took up the bulk of his closet. Asui was known to eat live insects, they were somewhat familiar with less conventional dining habits, but mammals were a different story. They might possibly accept mice, but they’d almost certainly never forgive a rabbit.

Mezo:    No thank you, my larder is quite well stocked. Did Aunt Kazu get the package I sent?

He hoped his cousin wouldn’t press the issue, by changing the topic.

Keb:       Yeah, but she didn’t open it yet and she wouldn’t let me X-ray it. What’d you get her?

Mezo:    A new set of custom made grooming brushes. They’re supposed to be easy to use for people without fingers.

He was careful not to say “unconventional appendages” or “manipulate”, because the latter word was derived from the root word for hand, and either would have set Keb off on one of his anti human-passing tirades.

Keb:        She’ll love those. Dad – shit, gotta run. Doing some work for a new guy, real primadona, and it looks like the spoiled brat’s having another meltdown. Later.

Mezo:    Good luck and good night.

Mezo exhaled in relief. He loved Keb, but it was always taxing to speak with him, even by text, because he always had to edit himself so carefully not to trigger him. Speaking with Bakugo was a cakewalk, in comparison.

His stomach grumbled. The sight of the rabbit and thinking about his pantry was making him hungry. He headed to the closet, relieved as always to know that only he had ears sensitive enough to hear his tiny prey scream, from outside his room. Time for dinner.

0 0 0

Dabi frowned down at his phone in frustration. There was nothing about Shouto, no details on any news source about the injured UA students. He would have hoped that meant his baby brother was still alive , and at least somewhat well, not screaming and writhing in agony, fighting for his life in some unknown hospital ER or private burn unit. But Endeavor had managed to conceal all mention of his own injury from the media, the entire fight with Mustard. He'd even managed to suppress all word of his eldest son's alleged death ten years ago, as he'd discovered to his shock and fury only a few short months ago, when being prepped for this mission.

He sat down at the bar they’d added to the warehouse, to feign some much needed normalcy, after their old hideout had been overrun by the Pro Heroes and destroyed. He’d fucking hated warehouses, ever since he was a kid in France; they made what was left of his skin crawl. And the last thing he needed was to be thinking about either of those nightmarish nights, those clusterfuck police raids, immolating himself and those cops in Paris ten years ago, or the devastation of Kamino Ward months ago, while he was unconscious and helpless to stop it. He fought to keep from scratching at the spot on his neck where Shigaraki had disintegrated some of skin – the last thing he needed was to pick up that crazy fucker’s habits – as he began unwinding the remainder of the bandages that had disguised him at the hospital.

“What can I get you?” Kurogiri asked solicitously, the consummate bartender, as always.

“Frankenjack,” Dabi compromised, because the name fit his look, and he was craving something strong but sweet. Apricot brandy would have to do, because what he really wanted was a French Connection, because he loved “contaminating” good cognac with Amaretto from force of habit, just to piss off certain snobs of his acquaintance, who weren’t here right now to see, but mostly because the very name set off alarm bells in his head, because if these two ever learned about his actual French connection, he was dead, and his mind worked like that, a leftover, rebellious, self-destructive tendency thanks to Dear Old Dad. It tried to fuck him over, tempt and taunt and get him in trouble in the worst possible, most deadly ways. But then, he’d died more than a couple of times already, he was already a zom-

“Fuck, wait, make that a Zombie,” he demanded, throwing caution to the winds, because that had Apricot brandy too, not to mention three types of juice, actual fucking sugar, and three types of rum. Why not consume 4-1/2 ounces of alcohol in a single drink, some of it 151-proof, in front of the two deadly maniacs who’d almost killed him, when he needed to stay alert and in control? He could always nurse it and he’d been told his capacity for alcohol was almost as terrifying as his face, by those same assholes who bemoaned his sacrilege against a good cognac. Fuck that. The only good cognac was a dead cognac. Dear Old Dad had loved that crap too.

Shit. Focus. You’re Dabi now. Remember that. Stop thinking about that asshole, before you get yourself killed again, because of him.

He watched Kurogiri prepare his drink until he caught unexpected movement out of the corner of his eye. “Tyger, tyger, burning bright, in the forests of the night,” he muttered in English in admiration as the exotic golden brown striped tarantula climbed up and over Kurogiri’s shoulder.

“What did you say?” Kurogiri asked, sounding befuddled.

“I didn’t know you had a pet. He’s beautiful. I’ll be gentle. Can I hold him?” Dabi asked eagerly, extending his left hand palm upwards towards the Chinese earth tiger, but not getting too close, awaiting permission, and not wanting to startle him.

Kurogiri’s face tilted towards his shoulder, and then his entire body flared out, black spurting everywhere, like a startled squid releasing ink, as the bottle of 151-proof rum he’d been holding fell to the floor, shattering.

The tarantula leapt into Dabi’s hand as his previous perch exploded outwards, more like a jumping spider in his movement than a tarantula, and Dabi immediately drew him towards his chest, shielding him with his right hand protectively, gently stroking his soft, bristly carapace, to reassure and sooth him.

There was the sound of raucous laughter, a voice Dabi didn’t recognize, and he realized, shocked, that it was coming from the tarantula in his hands.

“I’m glad to see these two decided not to kill you, Dabi. I love a good challenge, and I must admit – you intrigue me. I’ve been curious to learn more about you, ever since I first learned of you. You’re such a man of mystery. You have no discernible past that I could locate, in this or any other country – you’ve either kept a low profile and left no trace of your existence, or scrubbed it clean. That triggers my respect and admiration, but also my caution.

“However, frankly, right now, you’re one of our strongest assets. You led an extremely successful mission attacking the Training Camp, both wreaking havoc and adverse publicity for UA, and securing our prize, Bakugo. Unfortunately, the boy refused to be turned, and by the time All for One was in Bakugo’s presence, there were more pressing matters to distract him, before he could steal the boy’s Quirk.

“But your own Quirk is unquestionably powerful, you’re intelligent, resourceful, and quick thinking, and you appear to be completely loyal. And now I see you’re not cursed with arachnophobia, as certain others within this organization are,” the voice stated.

“Yeah, you’re such a big fan, you’re trying to piss my boss off into wanting to kill me again, with half the things you’re blathering about. Boss, can I flambé this fake furry fucker?” he asked Shigaraki deferentially, even though he knew people who would love to take the device in his hands apart and analyze it.

“Darkweb,” Shigaraki spat the name, his voice filled with venom and hatred that made his anger from before sound like child’s play. “I’m not the one you’re supposed to be spying on. Or my men. Why are you here?”

A loud sigh emitted from the apparently robotic tarantula. “Fine, you want blunt, I’ll be blunt. I’m here because you keep fucking up and destroying All for One’s careful plans. Your mission was to infiltrate UA quietly, secretly, using Toga, to kidnap Aoyama, Recovery Girl, Midoriya and Bakugo, in that order of importance, to steal as much blood and abduct as many additional students and teachers as you could lay your hands on within the allotted time limit , to muddy the trail, the raw materials the real Boss needs for his future plans. Instead, you concocted an unauthorized and ill advised plan to free Mustard, which, had it succeeded, would have drawn attention to the League when we least wanted it.

“It would have been in your favor that Mustard freed himself, instead, but then, when he got caught, and your best asset goes in to retrieve him, to carry out your plan, your orders, you throw another God damned spoiled brat temper tantrum and literally drag him away by the throat less than 50 meters from his target. Meanwhile, you left the #1 Hero Endeavor lying in that same hospital, meters away, unscathed, when you could have easily killed him or captured him. You left Inko Midoriya, the mother of All Might’s successor, in that same hospital untouched, when you could have captured her and used her to lure in that sanctimonious fucker, All Might, or her kid, if Toga failed to snatch him. And worst of all, you left All Might, weak, helpless, but unharmed, when you could have easily killed him, and brought the entire civilian populace crumbling to its knees in terror and despair. All you accomplished was killing a single police officer, wounding another, and alerting the Heroes to the threat, saturating the hospital so thoroughly with Pro Heroes and police now that even with Kurogiri, it would be a challenge to attack again. So I’m here to ask, are you still loyal to All for One? Because if you are, you’ve got a crap way of showing it.”

Dabi quickly set the robot down on the bar and stepped back, because Shigaraki was fuming, livid, and charging forward, and he didn’t trust him not to accidentally or intentionally disintegrate him, in an effort to get to the robot that was infuriating him, as if he could somehow harm the voice behind it that way. Shigaraki honestly really was nothing more than a spoiled child. He had no idea who this Darkweb guy was, but his ego appeared to be as big as Shigaraki’s and he sure as hell was pushing all the wrong buttons with Shigaraki – it remained to be seen whether or not that was intentional, calculated, or stupidity and hubris on Darkweb’s part.

It sounded like Darkweb might be the missing villain ally he’d been searching so fruitlessly for, the technokinetic or hacker they’d been worried about. If it turned out that after three fucking months with these assholes he was just another tantrum throwing spoiled brat, another egomaniacal kid, there was going to be hell to pay. Literally. Fuck playing nice, being on a collar and leash for ten fucking years, and this being his last mission, his final penance. People were going to burn to charcoal and ash.

“How dare you talk to me like that?” Shigaraki roared, infuriated. “I’m doing exactly what Master ordered! He wanted me to grow, to take responsibility, to make my own plans! I did that! I’ve made the League of Villains a name to be respected, feared, everything I could to carry on his legacy, to make him proud. But when everything is finally starting to go right again, suddenly you’re here, claiming to be relaying Master’s orders. You sounded authentic, but you must have somehow just watched our first meeting, scavenged footage, to know what he said to me, because Master would never speak to me the way you have! You have no right to be here! You’re nothing, you eight-legged freak!” he yelled, slamming his hand downwards, clearly intending to disintegrate the tarantula. But it was faster, it leapt forwards, towards Shigaraki’s face, again moving like a jumping spider, not a true tarantula, as Shigaraki flung himself backwards, wild-eyed in terror.

Dabi incinerated the robot to ash, only centimeters from Shigaraki’s face, because no one was killing his prey but him, especially not before he was done, even as Kurogiri opened a gate behind Shigaraki and yanked him protectively inside. Dabi scanned the room for more tarantulas, other robots, anything that looked dangerous.

Suddenly, the bank of TV monitors came to life, the screens black, but interlaced with thin white webbing, a dark, shadowy spider creeping across, blotting out bits here and there. “You just declared war on the wrong person, Handsyman. Congratulations. I’ve just frozen you out of your Master’s bank accounts. I could just as easily steal every yen inside, but unlike you, I’m loyal to All for One, I believe in his vision of a world where the powerful rule, where those of us with strong Quirks get the respect we deserve. I’m shutting down your internet, heat, water and electricity in 72 hours – it looks like someone hasn’t paid their bills in three months, at least according to what it now says in the computer systems of your utilities. I could put an APB out on you right now and direct every police car within 100 kilometers to converge on your location, too, but that would just be showing off.

“This is your new sole target, the one you already failed to capture once.” A picture of a dazzling, smiling blond haired boy flashed on the screen.

Dabi bit back a curse, because it was him, Laser Belly Boy, the one from that clusterfuck Summer Training Camp attack that had reminded him of Natsuo.

“There was a hard copy picture of him in that robot Pretty Boy just destroyed, along with a thumb drive with crucial data on it that would have enabled an easy snatch. Too bad for you. Now all you get are three facts: his name is Yuuga Aoyama, he’s in Class 1-A, and he’s the son of the French ambassador, Pierre Aoyama. You have 72 hours to kidnap him, and to learn some humility and respect, boy, at which time I will come back. When I do, I’ll tell you what All for One wants you to do with him, on one condition: I want to see you groveling on your hands and knees, begging my forgiveness for calling me an eight-legged freak, you pathetic, juvenile, arachnaphobic pissant. You’re not fit to lick All for One’s shoes, let alone fill them, and I’m going to make sure he knows that.”

Then the screen went to true black.

Dabi expected more screaming from Shigaraki, another tantrum, and a flurry of scratching. But instead he was completely still, too still. Dabi involuntarily shivered from head to toe in a way he hadn’t since he was a child, facing his father, during one of his most infuriated rages, he fought the irrational, misplaced, hopeless, self-preserving urge to back from him, to kowtow, to beg, to run, to hide. Not that any of that had ever worked, even back then.

“Kurogiri, Dabi. We are going to find and destroy that traitor. But I want to be the one to kill him. I don’t care if he has two legs, or eight, I’m going to disintegrate every limb a piece at a time, I’m going to make sure he takes days to die. And I’m going to record it, and show it to every single new person who joins the League, so they know what it means to defy me,” he stated, coldly terrifying. “I’m going to make what happened to Vanguard look like child’s play, people won’t even remember him anymore, once they see what I can do. And I know just the fly we need to bait our trap,” Shigaraki added gleefully, a manic light in his eyes, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Darkweb was likely still watching and listening, using their own security against them.

“Understood, Shigaraki Tomura,” Kurogiri stated.

“Yes, Boss,” Dabi replied simultaneously. He would have even if finding the technokinetic or hacker behind the League hadn’t been a crucial part of his mission. He wasn’t about to cross Shigaraki yet, not until he was free to kill him. All thoughts of capture had definitely just gone out the window with that vow. Because he’d been five years old when his father had made him watch that recording of Vanguard being executed, slowly tortured to death by the villains who had captured him. Nearly 20 years later, 10 years after burning himself alive, he still kept a wastebasket beside his bed, for the nights he’d wake up screaming from replaying the death of that doomed Hero in his nightmares, he’d still vomit up his dinner over the side of his bed, and think about the baby brother he’d left behind in hell, wonder how scarred he’d be from their father’s brutal lessons, before he finally escaped. Wondered how scarred he’d be after he did.

He knew one thing: he couldn’t let Shigaraki get his hands on Aoyama, or any other kid, even if it meant blowing his cover, failing his mission, and losing his only chance for salvation, being stuck for the rest of his life in his own personal hell. Because he’d learned ten years ago in that warehouse in Paris the things he could live with, and the things he couldn’t.

Chapter Text

Izuku bit his lip, looking from the platter with the large half meatlover's, half vegetarian pizza in his right hand to the plate of a dozen assorted cookies in his left. He'd played it safe getting both kinds of pizza, two extremes, not because Todoroki himself was two extremes, fire and ice, and it was kind of mean the way Kacchan kept calling him half and half, even without the really insulting “B” word he always used after that, but he wasn't sure what kind of toppings Todoroki liked, Todoroki himself probably didn't know, because Izuku doubted he'd ever even eaten pizza, because it certainly wasn't a traditional food, and he'd admitted to never having tried fast food until the milkshakes he'd bought everyone on the way to the mall, which honestly was so sweet and nice and generous of him, and he was just such a wonderful person, so warm and caring and compassionate, which was really amazing considering his horrible, evil, rotten mean father, and his self-focused siblings, and even with the milkshake he'd gone with a traditional flavor for himself. Not that milkshakes were Japanese, of course.

He'd managed to snag a few of a number of different flavors of cookies, too, for the same reason – chocolate chip, lemon, ginger, and matcha – because he hadn't wanted a full dozen of one kind, and risk Todoroki not liking them, but quietly eating them anyway. And he had a small bundle of paper napkins and half a dozen Ramune in his backpack, orange, strawberry, and melon, because again, he wasn't sure what flavors he liked. But the door was closed, and he didn't have a hand free to knock, and he didn't want to set the plates down on the floor in the hall, because Todoroki would probably think that was really unsanitary, and it was, but how was he going to- Oh. He'd been practicing his balance lately, so that might work, actually.

He settled all his weight on his left foot and carefully raised his right, and gently kicked the door in a knocking pattern.

“Todoroki, it's me, Midoriya. I brought you some pizza and cookies and Ramune, because I don't think you ate today either, and you really should in order to keep your strength up, and you might feel better if you did, and I'm not even sure you can hear me because you might have added extra soundproofing to the door or something when you renovated your room to be traditional style, and I hope I'm not imposing, but I'm afraid I'm going to drop something and I wouldn't want to waste Lunch Rush's food, or any food, really, but especially not after Midnight called in a favor he owed her to make us all pizza and cookies, but you probably don't even know about that, because you missed the class meeting, but don't worry, because I covered for you, and it's not like there was much to miss really, Midnight just told us what we already knew about Aizawa-sensei and I really hope he's OK, because Iida acted kind of weird about it when she did, like he wasn't at all worried or upset, but then I saw him get really quiet and intense looking when he didn't think anyone was looking, and I don't think he'll do anything reckless tonight, or I would have dragged him up here with me, except I would have had to have him carry the pizza or cookies to have a hand to drag him with and- Oh!” Izuku cut off abruptly in startled surprise, as the door he'd been babbling at opened.

“Um, hi. Does this mean you'll eat with me?” Izuku asked hopefully.

“It was either that or listen for the thud when you passed out from lack of oxygen,” Todoroki stated in that dry deadpan voice he used when he was saying something gently teasing, rather than the scary deadpan voice he used when he wanted to burn or freeze something but was trying not to show it, and it was amazing, really, how two things that sounded almost identical could be so very different.

“-doriya. The pizza's getting cold,” Todoroki chided. “Come in.”

“Oh! Thanks! But couldn't you just heat it up again, if it got cold?” Izuku asked earnestly, as he followed him inside.

“Theoretically, I suppose. However, this may apparently surprise you, but I don't actually wait with bated breath every night to see how useful my two Quirks can be to the class, acting as a space heater and plate warmer or air conditioner and refrigerator at everyone's whim,” Todoroki stated, but that was definitely his other other deadpan voice, the third one, his “I'm so done with this class and everyone in it,” voice, the one that always triggered Aizawa-sensei's commiserating creepy serial killer smile, instead of the tiny special smile their teacher gave Yamada-sensei and Shinsou, and sometimes Iida, for some reason, though he wasn't sure why.

Todoroki sighed, and Izuku's full attention was immediately riveted to his face. “Sorry, I'm sorry, if you said something, I didn't hear it, I was thinking, well I mean, everyone's always thinking, except I don't know that everyone thinks quite in the same way as I do, and sometimes I'm not sure about Kaminari at all, considering some of the things he does. Not that I think he's not intelligent or anything, because he honestly is, it's just he doesn't always think things through, but there is the pot calling the kettle black again, because Jirou said she heard Aizawa-sensei call me 'problem child', and I really hope he didn't mean it in a 'shut up and die!' kind of way like Kacchan, but more in mom's, 'Honestly, Izuku, what am I going to do with you?' way, you know?”

“Did you know that in a few million years the sun is supposed to expand into a dwarf star and engulf most of the solar system, including the Earth?” Todoroki asked matter-of-factly, apropos of nothing.

“Um, no?” Midoriya admitted.

“I only mentioned it because I was thinking that might be a good way to reheat the pizza, since we'll probably still be standing here by then,” Todoroki stated emotionlessly, but in the good way, the teasing way, and then, as if he wasn't certain Izuku knew the difference – which of course he did – he also blessed him with that tiny little quirk of his lips which was his version of a conspiratorial grin.

Izuku exhaled heavily in relief, because even if he'd been brooding before, it didn't look like he was now. “Then let's eat!” Izuku said with a return grin.

Todoroki took the pizza and set it down on his low, traditional table, and Izuku set down the cookies, then took out the napkins and Ramune, and laid them out as well.

“So I can tell this is meat, but I'm not familiar with the kinds. Is this different types of sausage?” Todoroki asked uncertainly, but he sounded intrigued rather than hesitant or reluctant to try it.

“It's salami, pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, and barbecued pork. Some of them are a little spicy, like the pepperoni, and sometimes the sausage, depending upon who makes it,” Izuku instructed, selecting a slice for himself and biting into it to show Todoroki how good it was, and oh my God, it was amazing, the best pizza he'd ever eaten, and to his embarrassment, he let out an actual moan as he chewed, he couldn't help himself.

“So, are you spending the night?” Todoroki asked casually, and suddenly Izuku forgot how to chew and swallow, he half inhaled the large bite, coughing and gasping, then forcibly swallowing it half chewed, before he choked to death on it, because dying twice in one day was extreme, even for him, so yeah, the fact that he even thought that and recognized it, he could see why Aizawa-sensei might think of him as a problem child.

“What?” he inelegantly squeaked, his voice cracking the way it used to months ago, in middle school.

“It's just, it's going to take us all night to eat this much food, and there will probably be enough left over for breakfast,” Todoroki said innocently, and this time Izuku had no idea whether he was being what Kacchan called a shitlord, or if he really had no idea the way what he said could have been taken, especially after that embarrassing moan he'd made.

“I can stay!” he shrilled, his voice sounding even worse than before. “I mean, if you want me to, our curfew's later tonight anyway, and I don't think Midnight is going to do an actual bed check, because that might look weird, with her being the 18 plus hero and all, and does it feel warmer in here to you, all of a sudden, are you using your Quirk or something because I'm actually feeling kind of hot right now and wait, what did you say?” he yelped, because he could have sworn he heard Todoroki mutter “Absolutely oblivious,” in a really fond sounding voice after he said he was hot. Not that Todoroki wasn't the one who was actually hot, because he definitely was, but it's not like he could tell him that or anything, and if he tried, he'd probably think he was just talking about his Quirk or something and oh God, he was going to be here with him for hours, he wasn't sure he'd be able to live that long.

0 0 0

Shouto inhaled slowly and deeply, able to breathe for the first time in hours. Ever since speaking with Recovery Girl he'd been fuming, desperately needing to train, but he'd been forbidden from training for the rest of the day, and honestly more than a little terrified of what might happen, considering what had happened earlier. And then Midoriya had knocked on his door, talking a blue streak, completely babbling, and suddenly the world righted itself again.

And he'd brought dinner, too, pizza and cookies, and he'd never tried pizza before, and he'd heard about Ramune, but never actually even seen it before, let alone tasted it, until tonight, and it was so amazing.

Shouto listened, completely entranced, as Midoriya told him that when he was little he used to get so frustrated because he wanted to get the marble out of the Ramune bottle, because it was so pretty, until one time he bemoaned about the marble in front of Bakugo, and he'd smashed the Ramune bottle he'd been holding, and Midoriya was really upset, because now there was broken glass all over the park, but then Bakugo had reached right into the sharp shards and pulled out the marble with a grin and proudly handed it to him.

Hearing that story, especially the wistful fondness in Midoriya's voice had him quickly finishing the rest of his Ramune, and before he even consciously realized what he was planning, he placed it carefully in the wastebasket and then, using precision control, he froze the outer shell of the bottle, until is shattered into finely sparkling powder, like snow, sand sized glass shards mixed with ice. Then he reached down and pulled the perfectly intact, unharmed marble from the powdered glass, blowing gently on it to remove the glass slivers, before presenting it to Midoriya. “For you.” Not that he was trying to compete with Bakugo or anything, because that would have been both childish and pointless, and completely beneath his hard won dignity, and- Midoriya smiled in that blindingly bright way that outshone the sun, that warmed his entire frigid and flaming world, and all thoughts of preserving any degree of dignity went out the window.

They sat and ate and talked until dawn, about everything that didn't have anything to do with Endeavor, including the plans for that Hero agency Midoriya was planning to form once they graduated, one with all the students from their class, and some from 1-B and the Support Class and General Studies, as well as some of the older students, even some of their teachers, an agency that focused on collaboration and teamwork, instead of competition. Just hearing him speak about such a wonderful, potential future gave him a small amount of hope, that somehow life would work out, he'd actually become a true Hero, out from his father's shadow and taint, and they would make the world a better and safer place.

Once dawn broke, they went on a long run together, to make up for the wonderful dinner and dessert and soda they'd consumed. Then they showered, even though the thought of Midoriya naked and wet and then the sight of him wearing some of his clothes unleashed a flight of butterflies in his stomach. Although it might have been all the unfamiliar sugar which was making his stomach queasy. Or the thought of going to the hospital again, seeing his father lying silent and helpless, unable to tell him about Touya.

They headed down the stairs, so Shouto could borrow one of Midoriya's hoodies, because he didn't want anyone to recognize him when he visited his father. The last thing he needed was to attract anymore attention and get swarmed by the press, especially not when thinking about Recovery Girl refusing to help his father had his temper hanging by a thread, all of Midoriya's careful calming evaporating away like water or hopes or dreams beneath his father's flames.

0 0 0

“Is Pikachu still your favorite Pokémon, is he, is he?” Zucchan demanded, bouncing up and down on his bed, causing a mini earthquake under Katsuki, and knocking half a dozen wrappers from their smuggled candy hoard onto the floor.

“Of course he is, dummy. He's the best there is,” Katsuki replied proudly, with all the certainty of his four year old heart.

“Just like you, Kaachan! You're my bestest friend and you're going to have the bestest Quirk, and be the bestest hero ever, and I'm going to be the second bestest, but your most favoritest sidekick, right?” Zucchan enthusiastically gushed, before glomming onto Katsuki in one of his infamous cuddle hugs, so hard that he knocked him down onto his back, on the soft All Might comforter that overflowed off his bed.

Katsuki rolled out from under him and on top of him, pinning him to the bed by his wrists. “Hah, I win!” he proclaimed triumphantly, ignoring Zucchan's stupid question, immediately turning his cuddle-hug attack into an impromptu wrestling match.

“You're so strong, Kacchan!” Zucchan stated, pride shining in his bright green eyes, but then his eyebrows crinkled up in that weird, wrong-looking way they did sometimes, like when he talked about how he wished his dad would ever come to visit, one of the mornings after he caught Auntie Inko softly crying, late at night, hugging that stupid framed picture of her worthless husband that she kept in her bedroom, so Zucchan would know what his father looked like, because that dumbass useless fucker had never once come home ever, not the whole time he'd known Zucchan, even though they'd known each other before they were even born, when they were still in their Mommies' tummies.

“I wish I was strong like you, or the bestest at something, too, at anything,” Zucchan said sadly, and now his eyes were that too-bright wet, and before Katsuki could say anything to stop it, a waterfall of tears suddenly flowed.

Katsuki's heart raced, pounding in his chest like a villain trying to beat the breath out of him, as he let go of his best friend's wrists. “You're best at lots of things!“ he instantly countered, not even needing to think fast or make anything up, because he knew all the things his best friend was good at, though they never talked about them. “You've got the best, brightest smile ever, and you have the best laugh, even better than All Might's, and you give the best hugs, just don't tell my mom, because she'll yell, and you're gonna be the best sidekick, and most important, you're my best friend, you're always going to be my best friend, forever and ever, so stop crying, right now, 'kay?” Katsuki finished breathlessly.

It wasn't working, why wasn't it working? Zucchan should be happy now, because Heroes didn't just beat up villains, they saved people, and made them happy, right? But Katsuki's panic immediately subsided when he realized that scrunchy look was gone, these were happy tears now, as Zucchan wrapped both arms around him and did his best to squeeze the stuffing out of him, like he was his All Might plushie.

“Thank you, Kacchan! You're the bestest friend ever, finding things I'm bestest at, just like Mommy! I love you, Kacchan!” Zucchan cried, and then he began covering his face with sloppy wet kisses.

Katsuki felt his face heat up, because no one ever kissed him but his mom, not even Auntie Inko, and he should have hated it, he would have, if it was anyone else but Zucchan. “I love you too,” he murmured softly, into his strawberry-sweet silky soft curly green hair, impulsively pressing his lips to it in a single gentle kiss.

Katsuki pulled back, opening his eyes and froze, staring at bright red hair and eyes, and an equally bright red face in confusion. Because what the honest fuck? This wasn't Zucchan, or even grown-ass Deku, in his arms – thank fucking God for small-ass favors – this was fucking Shitty Hair, his hair shittier than ever, sticking out every which way. And what the fuck does that even matter, dumbass, why the fuck are you hugging Shitty Hair? And why are his eyes all wet like that stupid ass crybaby nerd? Where the hell even are we? What the honest fuck?

“You do?” Kirishima sputtered, joy and wonder lighting his face, and Katsuki's heart was pounding, seeing that brilliant look of worship directed at him, just like back when that little shit-nerd used to look at him like he was All Might, even though he had no idea what Shitty Hair was talking about.

Katsuki jerked away from him so fast he almost fell out of the bed, his own fucking bed, in his own fucking room, in the stupid fucking dorms, in UA, and his knee sank into something soft, and holy fucking God, there was another one, fucking Pikachu was in his bed too, glommed onto his thigh and drooling onto it, like fucking Deku and his All Might plushie, and shitfuckGoddamnit, this was almost worse than waking up strapped to that stupid fucking chair in the villain's hideout, because at least then he knew what to do, to fight, to escape, but he didn't know what the fuck he was supposed to do in bed with these two dumbasses, and then he felt the heat flushing his face get even hotter, as that thought in all it's myriad connotations registered. That wasn't what he fucking meant! Stupid dumbass hormones or pheromones or whatever the fuck was making it even harder to breathe, because his face was on fire like he was Icy Hot, and fuck no, he wasn't even going there, thank fuck it wasn't Icy Hot in his bed and-

“I'm going to pee, you'd better be gone before I get back,” Katsuki ordered, stumbling out of the bed and running for the safety of his bathroom, slamming the door shut behind him as someone thudded to his bedroom floor.

0 0 0

“Ow! Seriously? I fell out of bed again? I... hey, wait, this isn't my rug, where's my...? Wait. Is this Bakugo's room?” Kaminari asked in confusion, as he stood. “Oh! Hey, Kirishima,” he said with a wave. “Where's Baku- Hey, are you OK?”

“Um... uh... I'm not sure?” Eijiro admitted with a shaky smile, because he suddenly felt like crying. Because waking up in Bakugo's arms had been amazing, he'd never felt so happy, or so well loved, and he hadn't meant to say it, he hadn't even known he was thinking it, but he'd whispered, “I think I'm in love with you.”

Incredibly, it had gotten even more wonderful, Bakugo had nuzzled his head, and he'd murmured, “I love you too,” and then he'd kissed his hair. Or he thought he did, but then it was like it was magic, and he'd broken the spell by speaking, because he'd said, “You do?”, and suddenly Bakugo had sprung away like he was on fire, and ordered him out of his room, and oh, God, Bakugo must have been asleep, and dreaming, and he'd told someone else he loved them, and kissed them, and he'd thought...

Eijiro felt his eyes well with tears, even as his stomach twisted into knots, as it felt like someone was stabbing an ice pick into his chest, piercing his heart.

“Whoa, hey, dude, what's wrong?” Kaminari asked, reaching out to him.

And suddenly it all made sense, it wasn't him, Kaminari was the one Bakugo loved, he'd just been hugging the wrong person, his sleep-addled brain had thought he was Kaminari, and when he realized, he was embarrassed for screwing up like that. He'd thought Bakugo liked both of them, wanted to be boyfriends with both of them, but of course he didn't want Eijiro, not after yesterday, he wasn't strong like they were, he didn't have a flashy, powerful Quirk, he hadn't been able to protect them from Todoroki, like Kaminari had, he was just a stupid boulder, as useful a Hero as a brick wall, and now he was humiliating himself in front of Kaminari, and it was so unmanly.

“I'm gonna go,” he choked out, stumbling to his feet and heading for the door, fighting to contain his tears until he was safely in his room.

“Kirishima, no, wait up!” Kaminari called out, sounding worried, chasing after him as he broke into a run, because it was too late, the tears had started to flow, and there was nothing Kaminari could say anyway that would help, that could make it better.

Kaminari must have realized that, because he didn't even come into the hallway, he turned around and went back into Bakugo's room, and Eijiro was so upset he didn't even realize he'd run past his own room until he reached the stairwell. He flung open the door and headed down the stairs, not even knowing where he was going, just following the need to get away, but he only made it down half a flight, onto the landing between the fourth and third floors when he fell onto his knees, because he couldn't breathe, he was crying too hard. Suddenly he knew what it must feel like for Bakugo, those horrible panic attacks he had, and just thinking that made it that much worse.

He wanted to shrivel up and die at the sound of two sets of steps racing down the stairs, because it was them, Bakugo and Kaminari.

“Kirishima? What's wrong? Did you fall down the stairs, are you injured?” a soft, warm, sweet, concerned voice asked. Midoriya, it wasn't Bakugo or Kaminari, it was Midoriya, and behind him, silent and impassive looking as usual, Todoroki.

He quickly wiped at his face, trying to scrub away the evidence of his tears. “Oh, hey guys. No, I'm fine, I just... um, I'm kind of having a rough morning, you know?” Eijiro explained vaguely, forcing a watery smile.

“What can we do to help?” Midoriya immediately volunteered, crouching down beside him, and he was being so nice, it made Eijiro want to cry again. Why couldn't he have fallen for Midoriya instead? Only it looked like he and Todoroki had finally gotten together, from the quiet support the other teen was giving from his back, and the fact that they'd come from the fifth floor, where Todoroki's room was, and it was early in the morning, and Midoriya was on the second floor, and they both smelled so clean, they'd clearly just taken a shower together.

The stairwell door just above them slammed open, bouncing off the wall, making all three of them jump and assume defensive positions, Todoroki and Midoriya pivoting to face the danger, the temperature plummeting around them even as green lightning arced around Midoriya, as Kirishima's skin instantly hardened and he leapt to his feet. But it was Bakugo who came bursting through, Kaminari on his heels. Kirishima almost wished it had been a villain instead, because they were the last people he'd wanted to see him like this; that was why he'd run in the first place.

“Deku, get the fuck away from my boyfriend!” Bakugo roared, his voice full of possessive fury, his hands setting off a flurry of miniature threatening explosions.

“Boyfriend?” Eijiro, Midoriya and Todoroki all echoed in varying degrees of surprise, as Bakugo pounded down the stairs, Kaminari on his heels.

“Pikachu said you looked upset, but there's no way you'd be crying like that, after we had so much fun last night. What did these ass-wipes say to you?” Bakugo demanded.

“I... nothing. I just... you told me to leave, so I left?” Eijiro explained, confused. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to fall asleep in your bed afterwards, I realize now you would have rather been alone with Kaminari, but it was just so wonderful and... but I won't cramp your style, anymore, I realize I'm not the one you meant to say it to, that you must have still been half-asleep and thought I was Kaminari. I know you're just trying to be nice, including me, but it's pretty clear I'm just a third wheel. So I'm just going to step away and let the two of you be together now, as a couple. But I want you to know, there's no hard feelings or anything, I understand. I'm not jealous or anything, so you don't have to worry about me being vindictive, and you know I'm not like that anyway. So I won't tell anyone what we were doing, I promise.”

“You three slept together?” Midoriya squeaked.

“Yeah, so? It's not like it's a big deal or anything. You and I used to fucking sleep together all the time,” Bakugo snapped.

0 0 0

Denki gaped at Bakugo. He did? I thought he hates Midoriya?

“You slept with Bakugo?” Todoroki asked, his voice strangely emotionless, in that scary way he had of speaking.

Midoriya was blushing furiously and waving his arms, shaking his head. “No, it wasn't like that!” he denied desperately.

Holy shit. Wait. When he said sleep together, did he mean sleep together like, actually sleep, like they had, or... No. No way. Right? But then why was Midoriya blushing so fiercely and denying it so vehemently? Methinks though dost protest too much, dude.

“What, now you're trying to pretend it didn't happen? You used to beg me to come over every single fucking weekend. You couldn't wait to drag me into your bed. We'd be up for hours, until we were both so exhausted we had to stop. You're just lucky your mom never figured it out, that I took all the wrappers and hid them in my pocket and snuck them into the trash at home. And that's after I was the one who swiped them from my dad's stash in the first place, right out of their bedroom nightstand. I would have been facing a shit-storm if my mom ever found out.”

Condom wrappers? Holy shit. You mean they actually...

”Holy shit. Wrappers? Plural? How many...?” Kaminari asked faintly, looking from him to Midoriya and back again.

“How the fuck should I know? It's not like I kept count, other than to make sure we each got the same number, otherwise crybaby here wouldn't stop bitching at me. Sometimes it was only four, but usually six or eight, between the two of us. A couple of times there was a full dozen, a whole box,” Bakugo stated proudly.

Midoriya nodded eagerly, in that innocent puppy dog way he had, except Denki wasn't ever going to be able to think of it as innocent again, now.

Bakugo smirked in pride. “I could fit six in my mouth and swallow, but Deku here could only do four, and he always gagged when he tried to swallow it all at once.”

“It was too much, but I kind of really got addicted to the taste, you know? And I wanted to impress Kacchan,” Midoriya stated, a dreamy look of reminiscence on his face as he licked his lips.

Denki leaned weakly against the wall, because holy shit! He knew Bakugo was a beast, but Midoriya? They were a pair of nymphomaniacs!

“Then you should have kept your fucking mouth shut and not ratted us out to your mom, loser,” Bakugo snarled.

“Oh my God! You told your mom?” Denki asked, horrified.

“Of course. I tell her everything. All she said was to make sure we both brushed our teeth afterwards, so we wouldn't get cavities,” Midoriya explained.

“Cavities? Holy shit! Dude!” Denki cried, his red face darkening with every word.

“Why the hell are you making such a big deal about it? Of course I'd brush my teeth after. I used to do that same shit every night in my own room, too and my mom never once caught me, but I'd still brush my teeth,” Bakugo boasted proudly.

“Oh my God, that's TMI, dude,” Denki said weakly, shivering as the temperature continued to plummet in the stairwell. Holy shit, he could actually see his breath now, and Todoroki looked like he was carved out of ice, or like maybe he just wanted to freeze them all to death in his own.

“Wait... you can't get cavities from that, can you?” Kirishima asked, his face bright red, looking completely floored, way more stunned than hurt, now.

“Dude! That's not the point!” Denki yelped, feeling hurt enough for the both of them, because he'd thought he was only competing for Bakugo's attention with Kirishima, but now he finds out Bakugo and Midoriya used to bang each other all the time, in middle school? That was just so fucked up on so many levels, especially considering the way Bakugo was treating Midoriya, at the beginning of the year.

“Seriously, rocks-for-brains? How can you have teeth that awesome and not know that eating candy at night without brushing your teeth after will rot them right out of your head?” Bakugo asked incredulously.

“Wait, what? Candy? You were talking about candy?” Kirishima asked, his voice full of both confusion and burgeoning relief.

“Yeah, candy. What the fuck did you think we were talking about?” Bakugo asked.

“Um, condoms and uh... you know...?” Kirishima said weakly, saving Denki from having to look like an idiot once again.

“What the fuck? You think Deku and I...? How the hell did you...? That's disgusting! I'm going to blow your face off! We were four years old, you perverted freak!”

Midoriya looked both mortified and horrified, as he turned to Todoroki, “Todoroki, you didn't think...? Oh, gosh, you did! Your lips are blue! It wasn't... We didn't... the last time Kacchan and I had a sleepover we were both four years old. It was the week before his Quirk came in. After that we... um... weren't close like that anymore,” Midoriya said tactfully, looking him in the eye.

“Oh. OK,” Todoroki said, his eyes riveted to Midoriya's as warmth began radiating out of his left side, billowing out into the stairwell in a visible wave.

“Come on, They need to talk and so do we. We can talk in my room, before you head out, while I get the... that thing you needed,” Midoriya offered, lifting his hand, like he was going to touch his arm or hold his hand or something, but then deciding not to, probably because they were watching.

Denki sidled up to Kirishima, so they could pass easily.

“My room, now, both of you,” Bakugo ordered, and Denki felt a little zing that wasn't his Quirk, because holy shit it was sexy when Bakugo sounded so commanding like that.

“Yeah, OK,” Kirishima agreed.

They trekked back up the single flight of stairs and headed for his room. As soon as they were inside, Bakugo ordered them, “Sit the fuck down,” waving to his bed.

They both obediently sat. “You two fuckers both need to stop making shitty-ass assumptions about things, and fucking talk to me. Kirishima, what the hell was that bullshit about us not needing you? Didn't we just straighten that same crap out with Pikachu? How the fuck did him being important turn into you not being important, to you not being our boyfriend?”

Kirishima bit his lip guiltily and nervously, looking from Bakugo to him and back again.

“Oh,” Denki said, heart sinking, because it was pretty clear that Kirishima didn't want to say anything in front of him. “I can leave and give you two privacy if-”

“Fuck that!” Bakugo snapped explosively, fortunately figuratively, rather than literally. “This isn't going to work if we start keeping secrets from one another. So spill, Kirishima,” Bakugo demanded.

“It's nothing. It's stupid. You said something in your sleep, I guess you were dreaming, or something, but I thought you were awake and talking to me, but you weren't, so I'm fine, really,” Kirishima dodged.

“Yeah, no, that's bullshit, especially not if you heard what I think you did, because I know what I was dreaming,” Bakugo stated, talking around the issue just like Kirishima was.

Denki felt his heart sinking further, that familiar dark tar he'd escaped from only yesterday with their help threatening to drag him under again and smother him. “OK, one of you needs to say it, because this isn't getting us anywhere except making me feel like neither of you cares about me or trusts me,” he challenged openly, because he honestly had nothing left to lose if that was true.

“Shit. Fuck. That's not...” Bakugo clenched and unclenched his hands into fists. “It's not something I say lightly, OK? When I say it, it means something, it's real. I've only ever said it to three people, my mom and dad, and I only said it that one time to the nerd because he was crying and... Fuck! I was just a kid, OK? And he was a weak, annoying little turd, but I'd known him since before I was born, my mom's were friends ever since they met at this stupid college protest and got thrown into the slammer together for a night, with some actual fucking criminals. My mom kept her ass safe until her boyfriend came and bailed her out, because that sucking ass-wipe loser was a chickenshit even before he knocked her up and ran out on her and Deku, he didn't even have the balls to protest with them.”

Kirishima's eyes widened in understanding. “Midoriya? You were dreaming about Midoriya? Like he is now or-?”

“Fuck no! He's Icy Hot's problem now, not mine, and he's welcome to him,” Bakugo grumbled. “We were four years old, and he was bitching and moaning and crying about how weak and useless he was, so I spun him a load of crap about how he wasn't the pathetic loser he thought he was and he got all touchy feelly and emotional and said it, so I said it back, and maybe hugged him or something,” Bakugo admitted squirming like he was being eaten alive by fire ants, his face flushed in embarrassment.

Bakugo took a deep breath, “So that thing I said, you thought I said that to you, and then I told you to get out, and that's what made you cry?”

“There's a little more to it, but yeah, basically,” Kirishima admitted sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment.

“What, you woke up with a boner or something? Like that's never happened every fucking morning of your life? Pikachu was drooling on my fucking leg, and I still woke up hard,” Bakugo stated bluntly.

“I wasn't drooling on you, was I?” Denki denied, mortified, although he didn't think Bakugo would say that right now, if it wasn't true. And because this conversation was getting really awkward.

“I'm going to tell you this now, so there's no more mistakes about how I feel, or who I feel that way about. I like you both, I want you both as boyfriends, you already are my fucking boyfriends, you're both strong as shit and hot as fuck, and I know you can take care of yourselves, but I don't give a shit, I'll still fucking kill anyone who tries to hurt you or take you from me. You're not my property or anything fucked up like that, but you're still mine. So are we all finally on the same fucking page, now?” Bakugo demanded, but he looked really keyed up, like he was afraid they might not think that this was the best thing that had ever happened to either of them.

“That's so manly,” Kirishima replied. “Can we hug now?”

“I feel the same way about you both,” Denki volunteered, as both he and Kirishima reached to embrace Bakugo, stopping when he jerked back and away, his hands out like he was going to blow them up, but not actually sparking.

“If this is going to work, we need to lay some ground rules,” Bakugo stated, unexpectedly. “But first, you have to swear not to say a fucking word about any of this to anyone, our classmates, other students, teachers, the fucking principal, no one. I'm talking literal fucking pain of death secret, because only me, my parents, Aizawa and one other person know this, and if this shit gets out and the villains find out, I'm fucked. So can I trust you both to keep your mouths shut?”

“I swear I won't tell anyone,” Kirishima swore, in that really intense way he had that made you know you could trust your life with him.

“Me too. I'd never betray your secrets or Kirishima's to anyone. I promise,” Denki swore, just as seriously.

Bakugo looked from one to the other and back again and then he exhaled heavily and put his hands down, but he still looked tense.

“OK then. So you know I don't do touching, much. I mean, I do, but it has to be on my terms. And it's not just because of my explosive sweat or because clingy, smothering people and grabby hands have always pissed me off. That's what it used to be, but it's more than that now. You can't do what you were going to do, both of you throwing yourselves at me like that. I can't... you can't... shit. Fuck. I just... fuck!” Bakugo swore, as his breathing became more and more rapid, as he began getting that same wild, desperate, panicked look in his eyes.

“Whoa, hey, calm down!” Kirishima urged. “Just breathe, OK? Breathe in, with me. You're fine, you're safe, nothing bad is going to happen when you're here with us. You don't have to say anything more, I think I understand. You'd get like this, right? The panic attacks, where you can't breathe. Is it because.... Shit. Did they...? Never mind,” Kirishima said, but he looked frustrated and furious and helpless all at once, lifting his hand, but putting it back down, because he couldn't touch Bakugo, and it looked like it physically hurt, him not being able to hug him. Denki had never see Kirishima look like that, frustrated and helpless, sure, but never furious like that.

Suddenly Denki's stomach fell. “Oh shit. When you were... They said you weren't hurt, but... Oh God. They hurt you, didn't they? They just hid it from us, to protect you.” Denki felt like he was going to throw up or cry, his whole chest was seizing up.

“Fuck no, shit, stop looking like that. Nothing like that happened, thank fuck, they didn't fucking molest me or anything,” Bakugo insisted, and then he took the time to breathe, in and out, his eyes riveted to Kirishima's.

Denki found himself breathing along with the two of them, in synch with them, and it seemed to be helping him, too, he was able to drag in stuttering breaths too, which became easier as they breathed together.

After a few minutes, Bakugo spoke again, sounding more like himself, still tense, but way better than before, not calm, by any means, but definitely more stable. “It started almost a year ago. After the first time I got grabbed. That fucking sludge villain, trying to smother me. I'd have these nightmares, where I couldn't breathe, I'd wake up gasping, vomiting up sludge that wasn't even there, anymore. It got so bad I couldn't sleep at all at night. For a while, I tried napping during the day, after school, but that wasn't any better. The last thing I wanted was to fall asleep in class, to have everyone know I was fucked up. Only it wasn't just during the night, when I was sleeping, or after those naps I took in the day, when I couldn't sleep at night. Sometimes it was when I was awake, too. I'd just sort of somehow be back there, on that street, the buildings burning all around me, the Pros just standing there, useless, watching me die, not lifting a fucking finger to save me. I got lucky it was my parents who saw me like that, not the other kids, or my asshole teachers, or strangers. It freaked them the fuck out, and mom sat me down and demanded I tell her what the fuck was going on and she... she cried.

“My mom doesn't cry. That was the first time in my whole life I ever saw her cry. She's so strong, but I looked like a zombie, I'd told everyone it was the flu or something, but I literally looked like I was dying. I'd never seen dad put his foot down, until that day. Both my parents drew the line, mom called an old friend from college, she was a shrink, a good one, one who knew her shit, someone she trusted, who specialized in both Hero and civilian trauma. And talking to her helped, a lot. She got me breathing again, sleeping again. And there was some other stuff, shit that had been bothering me, fucking me up for years, and she helped with that too. Everything was fucking peachy, for a while. And then Summer Camp happened.

“First that fucker Compress stuffed me into that fucking marble, and then when I got out, that Burnt Barbecue motherfucker, he... fuck!” Bakugo took a breathing break again, calming himself down, they all breathed together. Then he spoke again. “He grabbed me by the back of the neck, and that dumbass nerd Deku, he couldn't even fucking walk, couldn't even stand, but he was trying to save me. That bastard, Dabi, he whispered into my ear, 'If he follows, he's dead,' and he was holding my neck, I knew he could burn me alive, burn Deku, and he was already so fucked up. So I told Deku to stay the fuck away, I stopped fighting and let them take me.

“At the base, they didn't torture me or drug me or touch me, but they put those damn Quirk restraints on, and strapped me into a fucking chair, for two fucking days, it was like the Sports Festival all over again, being ridiculed and humiliated in front of the fucking world, only my world had shrunk down to a handful of fucked up half-ass villains. They couldn't do a damn thing, they just kept bitching and moaning and whining, talking my ear off about bullshit, about how crappy the Heroes were and how it was better to be like them. And then the police and Heroes raided and tried to rescue me, but the boss villain came and took me away again. But you know that part. I just... I can't be confined, or touched, or held.

“A fist bump, yeah. A shoulder clap, usually OK. A hug, sometimes, it depends who it is, and whether I see it coming, if it's quick and expected and someone I can tolerate, that's OK too. Even last night, sitting on the bed together, that was OK. After that, when we slept, even though when I woke up you were both clinging to me like leaches, it was still surprisingly OK. I actually slept really well last night. I had that weird ass dream this morning, only it wasn't really a dream, it was a memory, but anyway, it wasn't a nightmare, so that's something, I didn't wake up kicking and punching and blowing things up, so... I do that. You should know about that, so it doesn't freak you out.

“But this is the part you need to know most. No grabbing me from behind. Ever. Especially no pinning my arms against my body. Thank fuck Kirishima can harden his skin, because if he was anyone else, he'd have been dead last month. But the absolute worst fucking thing you can do is confine my arms and touch the back of my neck. Aizawa learned that the hard way a couple months back, when I asked him for some extra combat training, to show me some new moves, after class. The way he fights, all surprise attacks and ambush moves, it got fucked up pretty quickly.

“Lucky for us both, he's a fucking Pro: I blasted through his capture weapon, almost blew his face off and nearly broke both his arms, but he was able to subdue me. When I realized it was him, our spar, I thought I was fucked, that he was going to expel me, not because he was pissed, but because he'd seen how fucked up I was. But after we both cooled off, instead he taught me some new moves for when someone attacks you from behind, or when your arms are pinned, or someone puts you in a headlock or choke-hold. Some kicks and flips, moves involving leverage and using your attacker's weight or height or weaknesses against them. And he told me to come see him, if he ever needed to talk stuff out. So yeah, anyway, that's what you need to know.”

“What about kissing? You know, in case any of us ever wanted to?” Denki risked asking, because it was better to find out now, instead of later, when it might be awkward or dangerous.

“How the fuck should I know? I've never kissed anyone before,” Bakugo snapped, but he looked more intrigued than annoyed, which was a good sign, wasn't it?

“I think maybe we should wait on kissing,” Kirishima suggested. “Not that I don't want to! Because I do,” he added, his face flushing a deep red. “But this is all pretty new and yesterday was pretty intense, so maybe kissing can wait?” He made it sound more like a question than a suggestion.

“We do what everyone does: do what feels good, as long as everyone's OK with it, and figure it out as we go along. As long as if someone's not into something they speak up, we should be good, right?” Bakugo suggested.

“Yeah. I like that,” Denki agreed, because that definitely wasn't a 'no', or even a 'not yet', not really. Considering yesterday morning he didn't even have a boyfriend, and now he had two, and they were both amazing, he wasn't about to complain.

“OK. Good. There's one more thing, though, that's also a make it or break it part of the deal. The school's fucked this up, and your parents haven't stepped in yet, to pick up the slack, so I'm going to: you both need to talk to someone too. A therapist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, you need someone. It might be just one meeting, to assess your head space and coping skills, or more than that. But you need something.

“If you're OK with it, you can talk to mine. I figure it makes sense, since we're together now. I already checked with her yesterday, if she has space in her schedule to assess two students from UA, when she saw the news and called me to see how I was doing. I have an emergency appointment with her today for me, but she has time for both of you, too. She does family and relationship counseling too, so all of us going to the same person could really help make sure we don't fuck this up, because face it, at least half of everyone in our class is a complete fucking basket case, after the shit we've been through.

“Don't worry about getting your parents' permission to see her, those guardianship forms our parents signed so we could stay here in the dorms covers it under the medical treatment section, and the school's insurance will be paying for it, since it's related to trauma resulting from a class activity, Arakawa-san knows her shit: she went to UA, too, but the Business Program, because she knew she wanted to run her own business, once she got her Psychology degree. So are you both OK with seeing her with me?” Bakugo challenged, assertively suggesting, rather than ordering.

Denki wasn't expecting that. It was kind of a shock. At first, he felt it was directed at him, because of how he'd freaked out, until he saw the look on Kirishima's face, guilty and sheepish and blushing.

“Stop doing that. I said both of you. And it's not just you. Me, too. It doesn't mean you're weak: it means you're strong enough to know you can't fight the villains if you're fighting your own head, too. You don't think I'm weak, right? Besides, even the Pros see shrinks. Hell, most of their agencies require it. So are you going to come with me?” Bakugo asked again.

Kirishima bit his lip, then nodded. “I'm going to talk to my mom first, make sure she's cool with it, but yeah, even if she's not happy about it, I'll come with you, and just deal with the fallout later, if there is any, but honestly, she'll probably think it's a good idea. How about you, Kaminari?”

Denki looked from Bakugo to Kirishima. They were both looking at him so intently. He didn't want to do it, have someone trying to get inside his head, because what if they didn't like what they saw? What if they told Bakugo to keep away from him, said he was bad for him or something? But then he remembered how he'd felt yesterday, numb one minute, unable to move or think, and then feeling worthless, and guilty, and all the other emotions that had threatened to drown him as badly as Todoroki's ice water. Wishing it actually was the water he was drowning in instead, on the training ground, and later in the bath, when Aizawa was helping him. Wondering what might of happened, if his teacher hadn't been there, propping him up, both figuratively as well as literally. Knowing what would have happened. He shivered, remembering. But then Bakugo and Kirishima had turned his world around, with their words, their actions. Thinking about it now, how close he came to dying more than once, yesterday, was terrifying.

“I'm going to go with you. But I don't need to call my parents,” he lied. It wasn't that he didn't need to. He didn't want to. Because there was no way he could do this if he did. He'd already disappointed them enough to last a lifetime. But unlike every other decision he'd ever tried to make, only to have them second guess and question him, undermine him and make him doubt himself, until he gave up and did what they thought he should, this time, he refused to care or even listen to what they had to say.

Chapter Text

After running the gamut of Pro Hero security at the hospital, the last person Shouto expected to see exiting his father’s room, when he went to visit him, was Recovery Girl. It was largely his anger at her, in addition to his father, that had kept him up the entire night speaking with Midoriya.

To his shock, Recovery Girl approached him and told him she had just administered her second treatment to his father, that she’d visited last night, too, immediately after speaking with him. His father’s condition had improved enough this morning that they were able to remove the breathing tube, and he was now only wearing an oxygen mask, which he could remove for brief periods at a time. She told him that once he woke up from this treatment, he’d be able to speak, but warned Shouto that he was still very weak, and would tire quickly, that even a conversation would exhaust him, and cautioned him not to strain him or agitate him. She said she would be back in the evening to administer another treatment, and that even with two treatments a day, his father would still be confined to his bed for a number of days.

Shouto thanked her, but when he reluctantly tried to apologize for his previous conversation, she gently but firmly refused to hear it. “You were right, and they were words I needed to hear. Nothing is resolved between me and your father, I told him I wouldn’t speak with him about any of it until he was well again, but I want to thank you for giving me this chance to finally help him. He’s always been one of my biggest regrets, and considering my colorful life, that’s saying something. You just be certain to take care of yourself, too.”

He agreed to, to mollify her, and then entered his father’s room. Unlike the previous night, he was clearly sleeping, breathing naturally, though he was wearing the oxygen mask she’d mentioned. He was no longer as pallid and fragile looking, transitory, as if he might expire between one breath and the next.

Shouto sank down into the chair by his bedside and watched his father breathe, the slow, steady sound surprisingly comforting, relaxing, in a way that it hadn’t been since he was a tiny child. He had a vague memory of falling asleep against a strong chest, a lifetime ago, as a toddler, before he’d gotten his Quirks, the scent of smoke and sweat a reassuring comfort. Shouto found his eyes drifting shut, and this time he didn’t fight the urge to sleep.

An indeterminate amount of time later, he was startled awake by a shift of air currents, the door opening and another presence entering the room, a familiar one.

“Oh! I’m so sorry! Forgive my intrusion, Todoroki-kun,” Midoriya-san apologized. “I didn’t realize anyone was already in here. And I woke you, too, didn’t I? I’ll leave you to your visit. But do you mind telling me, did Izuku come with you? I notice you’re wearing one of his hoodies, although I don’t believe I’ve seen him wear it since the day he came home with it, from that Hero convention, where he won it in that trivia contest.”

Shouto felt his face flush. “No, he’s still at the school. I didn’t have a hoodie, and I was trying to look more discrete.” His father refused to allow him to wear them: he refused to have his son look like a ‘delinquent, gang member or villain’.

“Discrete?” she asked, her lips curving in amusement.

With good reason. Instead of the usual red, white, blue and gold, that screamed “All Might” just as loudly and brightly as if he were in the room, something that might have literally killed his father, or one of Midoriya's plain ones, this hoodie was solid black, but the hood was complete with pointed black cat ears, lined in pink. Thankfully, both the tail and paw shaped mittens had been detachable, and Midoriya hadn’t insisted he wear them. He had the face mask which covered his distinctive scar in his pocket. He’d taken it off as soon as he’d reached the hospital. He had worn his new blue Best Jeanist jeans, because the black ones would have made his outfit look too much like a Hero costume, and he was trying to avoid attention, not attract it. This way he just looked like a geek fanboy of an esoteric hero.

“It’s black,” Shouto claimed, deadpan, as if he hadn’t noticed the ridiculous cat ears. Which Midoriya had been completely enamored with, for some reason, after he put it on, modeling it for him, to ensure his distinctive hair was hidden. Shouto had the puzzling impression Midoriya had wanted to play with the ears on the hood, once he was wearing it.

“It’s Nekomancer. Her Quirk was putting people to sleep with her purr and then controlling them like puppets, while they were sleeping, I understand they looked and acted like zombies. She was a stealth hero, though not an underground one, extremely effective in infiltration of suspected villain hideouts and hostage situations,” Midoriya-san stated, with only about a tenth as much detail as her son had used, when he’d told him about her, but nearly the same level of enthusiasm.

“She was my grandmother’s idol. Female superheroes were still thought to be weaker and less effective than their male counterparts, back then, relegated primarily to office support, chauffeur duties, and on rare and coveted occasion, work as sidekicks. Nekomancer was one of the first to break that mold, to bring recognition to all the powerful female heroes who had been overlooked for so long. If it wasn’t for her, Heroes like Midnight and Mt. Lady wouldn’t have realized their full potential without a struggle. Oh! But forgive me for proselytizing, especially when you’d been trying to sleep. Honestly, sometimes I’m nearly as bad as Izuku.” But she said it fondly, with a warm smile, rather than in a disparaging way, the way his father would have about his own children’s failings.

Her gaze strayed to the bed, to his father, and her fond smile never changed, never wavered. “He looks much better this morning. Flashbang told me that Recovery Girl visited him this morning, too. I'm so relieved that he'd already recorded me on his approved visitor list from before. I knew he’d be sleeping, but I just wanted to see him, and I thought I’d sit with him anyway, so he’d have someone there when he woke up, though I know it will be hours, yet. It can be frightening to wake up alone in a hospital,” she admitted quietly.

“Midoriya would have stayed with you, if he could have,” Shouto immediately defended.

“I know, dear. I didn’t mean to sound critical, or wistful,” she assured him. “Have you had breakfast yet? If not, would you like to join me? If you’re at all like my Izuku, I doubt you’ve eaten this morning. I only hope both you boys had dinner last night.”

“We did. Aizawa-sensei was still recovering from the attack, so Midnight was our dorm parent, and she arranged for pizza and cookies for the entire class. I know that’s not a nutritionally balanced meal, but it would have been disrespectful to refuse, and we both ran an extra four kilometers this morning,” he immediately defended.

He felt himself tensing further at the disapproving frown upon her face, apparently no more forgiving than his father would have been, at his pathetic attempt at justification.

“No wonder you’re tired! You must have been up well before dawn, to complete that run, and still be here so early. Honestly, I would have hoped Izuku had more sense than that, but he keeps pushing himself,” she chastised.

Wait. The pizza and cookies didn’t upset her? She’s upset because I was training instead of sleeping? I guess it’s a good thing that she doesn’t know that neither Midoriya nor I slept at all, last night.

“We need to train, in order to get stronger,” Shouto defended.

“Pushing yourself too hard, not getting enough sleep, or rest of any kind, not relaxing in between studying and training, won’t make you as strong as you’d be if you took better care of yourself. Now come with me, to the cafeteria, and we’ll get some breakfast. I honestly don’t know why people insist upon complaining about hospital food, at least, not the food here. It’s actually quite good, and definitely more nutritious than what most people would make for themselves. Myself included, I’m afraid, but that’s going to stop as soon as I get back home. I’m going to go through my kitchen and donate most of what’s in it, then shop and start cooking again, the way I used to, back when Izuku was little. I’ve been relying far too heavily on packaged meals and snacks. No more stress eating. I used to run 5 kilometers, every morning and evening, that’s much better for me, to cope with my anxiety.”

Shouto struggled to word what he needed to say.

“Oh, don’t worry, dear, I’m not going to start going on runs immediately. Believe me, I’m fully aware how out of shape I’ve become. I know that would just land me back here. I’ll build back up to it, gradually,” she assured him, as if he’d voiced his concerns.

She knew what I was thinking, just like Midoriya would have.

“Please join me,” she urged.

“Alright,” he awkwardly agreed and obediently followed her to the cafeteria, silently noting that they were surreptitiously followed by no less than four Pro Heroes, Ectoplasm among them, either for his protection, Midoriya-san’s, or more likely, both.

His eyes widened in surprise at the selection of food he found there. It wasn’t on the level of Lunch Rush’s cooking, or Bakugo’s, but it certainly looked and smelled appetizing, as his rumbling stomach attested to. He selected fish, steamed vegetables, rice, and fresh fruit. Shouto saw Midoriya-san give a long, lingering look at the bacon and omelets, pancakes and waffles, but she resolutely turned from them and instead surreptitiously mirrored his selections, including the portion size. They both selected tea as well.

“We’re together,” she told the cashier, apparently intending to pay for his food, as well as her own.

“Please, allow me,” he offered.

“Nonsense. You’ve been such a good friend to Izuku. The least I can do is buy you breakfast to show my gratitude,” she insisted, paying for them both.

Belatedly, he realized to his embarrassment that he couldn’t pay in any case. His wallet had burned, and his remaining gift card along with it. He had no money. Or government issued ID. It was fortunate Principal Nedzu had insisted he have Ectoplasm drive him to and from the hospital. He couldn’t have taken a bus. He’d have had to walk the entire way. He’d have to speak to Fuyumi about money and a new ID. He should probably speak to Natsuo, but he was even less comfortable being in a position of vulnerability with his older brother than with his sister. At least the Principal had already given both him and Midoriya replacement phones and a new student ID card to Shouto.

“Thank you for the food,” he said politely, before they began eating.

“You’re right. It does taste good.” It was still a concept he was getting used to, caring what his food tasted like, seeing it as more than necessary sustenance, fuel for his body and his Quirks.

Midoriya-san nodded, though she didn’t seem to find it quite as appealing as he did, in spite of her earlier words. Then she set down her chopsticks, and took a determined breath. “Forgive me for being so bold, but there’s something I need to know, to understand, and Izuku’s not here for me to ask, and he just seemed so angry, and he’s usually so kind, so forgiving, even to people who don’t deserve it, especially to people who don’t. But you must know, so I’m going to ask you, because you didn’t seem at all surprised, or incensed, and… Do you know why Izuku is so angry with your father?”

Shouto was doubly glad for the cat hoodie now, which concealed his hair so well, because had his hair been showing, it would have been blatantly apparent who his father was, to anyone who might be listening. “Yes. But it’s not something I can speak about in public. It’s not something I’d ever spoken about before at all, until I told your son, but there are at least two other people who know, now, and it won’t be a secret for much longer.”

She closed her eyes, and swallowed, though she hadn’t taken another bite, her face creased as if in pain, then she opened them and he saw they appeared to be wet now, the sheen of unfallen tears upon them. “I see. That was the only thing I could think it might be, when I had time to think about it, but I tried to tell myself it couldn’t possibly be that. I don’t want you to feel pressured into telling me, but if you’d accompany me to my room, I’d like for you to tell me whatever you can. I’d like to help you, to the best of my ability, but in order to do that, I need to know what’s happened. Will you come with me?”

“I can’t. I know you’re Midoriya’s mother, that he loves you and trusts you, but you’re my father’s friend, and I can’t give him that kind of strategic advantage,” Shouto stated coolly.

“Strategic advantage?” she whispered, her voice sounding choked, her eyes shining more brightly, and she rubbed at them.

“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to manipulate you, by crying, I promise, it’s not something I can control, when I’m upset,” she apologized.

He smiled softly at her, because she was Midoriya’s mother, and she reminded him so much of him that it was physically painful to see her in tears, especially knowing he was the cause. “I know.” Like mother, like son, he thought, but didn’t say, because he heard his father’s voice railing in his head. “You’re pathetic, weak. Just like your mother.”

“You need to eat. Please finish your food,” he urged, picking up his own chopsticks and forcing himself to finish, mechanically, the food tasting like sawdust, now.

She nodded and began silently choking down her food as well.

Shouto hated it, how familiar it felt, silently eating, the tension in the air, not disapproval, but just as bad as thousands of similar meals in his father’s house, in his presence.

It was a relief when he was done. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my father’s room, now.” He almost said “Endeavor’s”, but caught himself in time. He didn’t want anyone else who might be watching to realize who his father was, who he was.

She nodded silently, swallowing a few times, but saying nothing, clearly still fighting tears.

He cleared his place, bringing the tray to waste area, as he’d seen the other diners do. Then he fled to his father’s room, as if it were a sanctuary, fully aware of the bitter irony of that thought, as Ectoplasm and one of the other four Pro Heroes trailed behind him.

Shouto was allowed to pass the guards at his father’s door, to enter again. His father was still asleep. Resolutely, he sat back down by his bedside, removing the hoodie, Midoriya’s scent and the softness a distraction, as he began trying to meditate, to clear his mind of Midoriya’s mother’s tears, and the reason for them, using the gentle, steady ping of his father’s heart monitor as a focus for his own heartbeat, bringing it into synchronicity, matching his breathing, as well.

Nearly two hours later, he was brought to awareness by a new shift in the air currents, a deeper breath, the stirrings of movement, and he focused his full attention upon his father. His father tensed, his eyes still closed.

“It’s me, Shouto, not a villain. You’re safe,” he told him, not because he cared whether his father was afraid, but because he had no desire to be incinerated, if he failed to dodge or block his father’s attack. Belatedly, ruefully, he realized he was still in the Quirk restraining boots, that even if he were stronger, his father wouldn’t be able to harm him.

His father’s eyes snapped open. “Shouto.” His voice was hoarse, muffled by the oxygen mask, barely understandable, but he could speak.

“Mask off.” The command was expected. “Please.” The courtesy was not, especially knowing the effort it must have taken, both physically and emotionally, to allow himself acknowledgment of the vulnerability of his helplessness.

He complied, removing the oxygen mask from his face, since Recovery Girl had said it would be alright, for brief periods, so he could speak.

“Water, please,” Endeavor instructed, his voice a hoarse rasp.

Shouto spotted a pitcher beside the bed, and a lidded cup with a straw, and filled it. The bed was already elevated into a seated position, he assumed to aid his father’s respiration. Endeavor tried to raise his hand, to take the cup, but apparently lifting his arm was truly beyond his strength, which should have been reassuring, but was instead, quite frankly, terrifying.

“Here,” Shouto said, coolly, moving the cup to his face, positioning the straw between his lips.

Endeavor sucked on the straw, and Shouto could see the fluid filling it, and then he swallowed. The process was repeated, over an over, painfully laborious, but he held the cup unwaveringly, until his father turned his face ever so slightly away from it, and towards him.

“Thank you,” he stated, his voice far stronger and clearer, now, but the words were still a shock, because Endeavor never thanked him, or anyone else, for anything.

“I didn’t… expect to see you,” his father admitted and then he breathed shallowly a few times, almost panting, as if the simple sentence had been a tremendous exertion for him.

“Do you need the oxygen mask back on?” Shouto asked woodenly, not betraying his accelerating heartbeat at the thought that his father was still unable to breathe easily, that he was still so helpless, after two sessions with Recovery Girl.

“Not for… a little while… We need to talk,” his father insisted.

“Are you in pain?” Shouto asked, not sure whether he wanted him to be or not.

“No. My chest… feels heavy… wrong…. But the painkillers… must be strong,” he admitted.

Shouto’s eyes flicked to the IV bag, and back to his father’s face. You should feel at home. You’ve apparently always been a fan of powerful drugs, he thought, but didn’t say, because taking his father head on now, like this, could conceivably kill him.

“Recovery Girl… told me… you convinced her… to come. I owe you… for that. I owe you… for so much more,” he stated.

Shouto nodded. “You do. And I’m calling in that debt. I want you to tell me what really happened to Touya.”

A look of pain and loss, betrayal and helpless fury flitted across his father’s face, as the heart monitor began pinging faster. Endeavor closed his eyes and held up a finger, as if signaling him to wait, as he began consciously, with extreme effort, regulating his breathing, and ever so incrementally, his heart rate began slowing, until it was still elevated, but nearer to what it had been before his question. Then he opened his eyes, and fisted his hands, not as if he was about to attack him, but as if he was bracing himself for what he was about to say.

“I’ll say it bluntly… because it won’t… hurt any less. Your anger… and grief… and blame… will still be… the same… no matter how… you hear the details…. My eldest son… Touya… was a villain… He died in France… he burned to death… during a police raid… ten years ago… within months… of leaving our home.”

Each word was like an ice-pick plunging into Shouto's heart. Dead. Touya really was dead, gone forever, like Fuyumi had always believed. Endeavor had called Touya his eldest son. When he was alive, his father had always said, “your brother”, as if he was denying any relation or responsibility for him.

“Were you there? Did you kill him?” Shouto demanded, because he had to know the truth.

His father looked genuinely shocked by the question, the heart monitor speeding again, though not as much as before. “No. I learned… afterwards… when the French government… contacted me… asking what… to do… with his ashes… They cremated him… They cremate all… dead villains… so their DNA… can’t be recovered.”

“Why would he have been in France, why there?” Shouto asked, clinging to the small detail, because the larger revelation was too overwhelming.

“I still don’t know… how he reached France, …but I believe it likely… that he stowed away… on a cruise ship or freighter… I think he chose France… because he was fluent… in the language; …the private tutor I… had hired for him… taught him well…. When he was 12, …and I took him to… that United Nations gala, …the French Ambassador, Broussard, …told me he spoke it …like a Parisian native, …he asked how long… we’d lived in Paris… I was so proud of Touya, …that night… It was one… of the few times… I’d ever been… proud of him… But I realize now… that was my fault, not his, …my mistake, not his.”

Endeavor grew quiet for a moment, introspective, something Shouto had rarely seen. Then he cleared his throat roughly. “Water, please,” he rasped.

Shouto again patiently gave him water, and once his thirst was again quenched, he continued, though it was clearly an effort, both physically, and surprisingly, apparently emotionally, as well.

“In any case, …Touya went to France… I don’t know… if he was intending… to become a villain, …to rub my face… in his actions, …or if he simply needed… a means of obtaining income…. Regardless, I don’t think… he ever intended… to become embroiled… in exactly what he was…. Thinking back on it now, …with a clearer head, …I cannot imagine …he would ever have voluntarily…”

There was a longer pause, but this time apparently not to breathe, and then he spoke again.

“Shouto, for once in your life, …trust me… You don’t need to know… the crimes your brother committed, …the ones he ultimately died for,” Endeavor urged, sounding not only sincere, but almost pleading.

“Yes, I do. And you’re going to tell me. Because you owe that much to me, after driving him away, after everything you did to me all these years, after what you did to… Tell me,” he insisted, without mentioning his mother, because that might shut Endeavor down, when he was finally communicating. But he had to learn what he could. The brother he’d known was a proud, conceited, distant, arrogant asshole, but there had been a time when he loved Shouto, before he’d gotten his Quirks and supplanted him as his father’s favorite.

His father sighed, then winced, as if the exhalation had hurt, in spite of the strong pain medication. “The organization… he joined… was guilty… of many crimes: …robbery, …extortion, …drug dealing. But also… human trafficking,” Endeavor claimed, his eyes riveted to his face, his voice whispering the final two words, as if he couldn’t bear to speak them.

“What do you mean? You mean kidnappings for ransom? Touya would never-“ Shouto began denying.

“No… I mean worse… I insisted… upon seeing the evidence… and they showed me… because of… my status… as a Pro Hero, …and because I… threatened to cause… an international incident, …and they couldn’t …afford an exposé, …a scandal like that, …anymore than I could, …than our country could: 'Son of the #2 Hero in Japan …is a villain' ...Touya was part… of a ring of… professional kidnappers, …human traffickers, …but not just of anyone: …of children. And not …for ransom: …for child pornography, …the sex trade, …underage Quirk marriages, …and Quirk experimentation… My son, …your brother, … was a monster, Shouto… That’s why… I never told you, …or your siblings, …or the government, …or the police, …or anyone, …that he was dead… I let everyone… believe he was… still missing, …because the truth… was far worse… That’s why… I didn’t inter… his ashes, …with our ancestors, …why I told them …to dispose of them… as they saw fit.”

Both ice and flame roared to be set free. “You’re lying. They’re lying. Touya would never…”

“No. I have nothing… to gain by lying… to you now, Shouto… You could hardly …hate me any more …than you do already, …and by telling you this, …admitting my guilt, …in driving him away, …pushing him into desperation, …I’ve likely lost …all chance …that we might ever …reconcile our differences… It’s no more… than I deserve… There are reasons… I haven’t been thinking… and acting rationally… these past years, …but I’m to blame …for that as well, …and one serious mistake …does not exonerate me …from the myriad of others …influenced by that action,” Endeavor stated, sounding exhausted, hundreds of years old, instead of decades.

Shouto knew he was talking about the anabolic and Quirk steroids that he’d used illegally for decades. He wanted to tell him he knew, to stab him with the accusation, to twist those words like a sword in his belly, eviscerating him with them. But that kind of hatred was what had destroyed Touya, slowly corrupting him from a loving brother into a villain, someone who used and tortured children for profit. His father no longer had control over him – he’d never let the man he despised destroy him.

“Need you to know… Last time… I’ll ever see you… Love you, Shouto… proud of you…” Endeavor whispered, and then his eyes closed and his tense muscles relaxed.

“Father!” Shouto bolted up from the seat, for a panicked moment thinking he’d died, but then he realized he could still hear the heart monitor pinging steadily, far more so than his own thundering heartbeat, which was pounding in his chest.

Why do I still care so much, after everything he’s done? He destroyed mother, Touya. He’d turned my childhood into a living hell, he almost destroyed me too. But Midoriya saved me.

He took deep, measured breaths to calm himself, even as he slipped the oxygen mask back onto his father’s face, carefully securing it in place, trying not to think how easy it would be to leave it off, or worse, to put it over his father’s face but turn it off. Or to quietly smother him with a pillow.

He snatched up the hoodie from the chair and slipped it back on, hands shaking, willing away the sickening, Siren sweet thoughts.

He needed to get out of his father’s room, away from him, to process all he’d heard, all he’d learned.

Midoriya. I need to see Midoriya.

Just the thought of seeing Midoriya made it easier to slip on his usual mask of cool indifference, to leave the hospital room, to pass by the rows of Pro Heroes guarding the man they knew nothing about, someone they still thought of as a Hero.

0 0 0

Darkweb stared at the footage he’d downloaded of Endeavor’s confession to his son in glee. He’d been toying with the idea of killing the helpless Hero, remotely shut down his life support, while bypassing the alerts that would warn the hospital staff until it was too late, but this was so much better. The Pro Hero’s security cameras, meant to protect the #1 Hero, had netted him the means to publicly disgrace and destroy him.

Not only was his dead son a villain, but upon further research, he confirmed that the supposedly unsolved Missing Person case for Touya Todoroki was still open, that thousands of unnecessary man hours and multiple hundreds of thousands of yen in taxes had been wasted over the years searching for someone who was long dead, all so Endeavor’s reputation could remain intact. This was pure gold, and about to be on every news station in the country.

He frowned. Except that hadn’t been part of All for One’s plan. Once he was made aware of the information, he might have a specific way he wanted it released, or use the threat of it to blackmail the government into acceding to unknown demands. Or he might want Endeavor dead. Or some combination of those options. He’d better check with his boss, to make sure he didn’t do anything to piss him off. And he needed to tell him just how badly his pet Shigaraki had fucked up, too.

He remotely erased the footage from the camera in the hospital. Now he had the only copy. In spite of the bullshit that useless drama queen pissant Handsyman was putting him through, he wouldn’t trade this for the world. Fuck, he loved his job.

0 0 0

Izuku was pacing nervously up and down the Critical Care waiting room, fingering the two marbles in his pocket like they were a security blanket, feeling the tiny flat spot on the one Kacchan had given him over a decade ago, where the glass had chipped, with the violence of it's extraction. Not that he'd ever let Kacchan know it wasn't perfect, because he had never wanted to hurt his friend, even once he stopped being his friend, and metamorphosed into his bully, his tormentor, until recently. It said a lot, that he'd held onto the marble all this time, clinging to it along with the memories of the person who had once been half his world.

Todoroki had broken a bottle for him too, but in such a different way, gently, almost, and it had been so pretty, tiny flecks of glass mingled with ice shards, all contained within his wastebasket – chaotic violence versus tightly controlled power. Almost destruction versus creation.

His eyes flicked to Snipe, who was patiently watching over him, after ascertaining from Ectoplasm that Todoroki was indeed inside the hospital room, with his father. Izuku knew Todoroki had wanted to come alone, so he hadn’t insisted he accompany him, but he’d instead followed after him. He needed to be here, for whatever aftermath and fallout there might be, because the last time Todoroki had spoken to his father, he’d been so upset by him that he’d literally lost his mind, and Izuku still didn’t even know why. He didn’t even know what he and Kacchan had talked about, Todoroki refused to tell him anything about it, other than to say that talking to Kacchan had helped a lot, and what could he have possibly said?

He would have insisted on going to the hospital with him, except people were always forcing Todoroki to do things he didn’t want to do, and he didn’t want to be one of them. But he should have at least convinced him to eat breakfast. They'd finished off the pizza and cookies before midnight, they'd both been pretty ravenous, once they started eating. He was just thankful that Todoroki had let down his guard enough for them to talk. They’d talked the whole night, about everything and nothing, focusing more on the present and future than the past. But nothing about what his father or Kacchan said. He hadn’t wanted to pressure Todoroki about either of them, to do anything to upset him or make him feel anxious, or judged.

Then they’d gone on a run together. It had felt so good, so normal, to breathe the clean, fresh air and feel the power of his body, to hear the slap of their feet on the ground, just to be with Todoroki. And then Todoroki had told him he was going to visit his father at the hospital, and insisted on going alone. He'd been terrified, but Todoroki was unwavering and determined. In the end, the only aid and comfort he'd been able to provide was his hoodie. Todoroki wanted to be less conspicuous, and Izuku had been happy to lend him one, except he’d realized to his dismay that all his were in the hamper, he hadn’t done his laundry yet, but then he’d remembered he had that Nekomancer hoodie that he’d been too embarrassed to wear, buried in the back of his closet. He honestly hadn’t thought Todoroki would wear it, but he’d tried it on, and he’d looked so adorable that-

“Todoroki!” he called anxiously, when he saw his friend enter the hallway, Ectoplasm protectively at his side, worried when he saw that usual bland mask of indifference that he now knew concealed so much pain and fury.

To his relief, the mask shattered, as Todoroki started in surprise.

“Midoriya.” His name wasn’t spoken atonally, the way he’d feared hearing it, completely lacking in emotion and inflection, but was instead filled with a depth of relief and warmth. “What are you- Oh. Of course. Your mother. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset her, I didn’t even tell her anything, but she’s as intuitive as you are. She’s figured it out.”

“You spoke to Mom?” Izuku asked, surprised.

“She came into my father’s room, when I was there, before he woke up. She bought me breakfast. We talked. You haven’t visited her yet?” Todoroki asked, looking surprised.

Izuku blushed. He’d honestly forgotten she was here. He’d been so worried about Todoroki seeing his father, he hadn’t even thought about his Mom. I’m a terrible son! I get hurt all the time, worry her, and then when she’s hurt, I don’t even visit her.

“Come on. You need to see her,” Todoroki insisted.

“Alright,” he agreed, because it sounded like maybe now she was finally ready to hear the truth, to learn what a terrible person Endeavor was, how he didn't deserve to be called a Hero, let alone be hailed as the new #1 Hero.

 

Chapter Text

Yuuga began pulling shirts out of his packed closet and the two additional wardrobes which contained the overflow, trying to force his actions to be deliberate, instead of frantic. Usually preparing for Movie Night was a joy, an opportunity to dress up, to look his prettiest for his classmates.

Not that they ever seemed to notice what he wore. No matter how much he sparkled, his amazing classmates never ceased to outshine him.

He dropped the cobalt blue and silver shirt he was holding in his right hand, as his hands unaccountably started trembling again. It was silly, to be shaking now, when it was all over. When they were safe. For now. When the villains had all been arrested. The ones they'd caught. But there were more of them out there.

His hands shook more wildly, all the strength leaving his fingers. What little strength there was to begin with. His fingers were so slender, so delicate, like Mama's. Like a girl's. “Or Todoroki's. He has beautiful slender fingers, delicate wrists, just like you,” he reminded himself aloud, the way he was supposed to when he started to silently disparage or doubt himself. He was speaking in French, because he ached to hear his mother tongue, even if it was his own voice speaking it.

“He's nearly as slender as you, too,” he tried to convince himself, but he had seen Todoroki's muscular chest and arms when his Hero costume had half burnt off, at the Sports Festival. He had never seen his nude torso before, in the locker room. Todoroki and Midoriya were nearly as private as he was about dressing and undressing in front of the others. Were they shy, like he was? No, neither of them had reason to be embarrassed or ashamed of their bodies, not with pecs and biceps and...

He looked in the mirror. “You have a nice body too,” he claimed unconvincingly, knowing what a futile lie it was, his gaze dropping to the floor in humiliation.

He jerked his head up and forced himself to look into the mirror again. “Your face is prettier,” he desperately tried. But Midoriya's eyes were bright as emeralds, although not sharp and hard and cold like jewels, like all the judging eyes that always watched and found him wanting. Midoriya's eyes were warm, and kind, like a mother's loving eyes, gazing at a flawed son through rose colored lenses that masked every imperfection.

“Mama,” Yuuga whispered in desperate longing, choking on the word, turning it into a sob, as his eyes swam with tears.

“Why so foolish, my shining star? You twinkle more brightly than any of them. Of all the diamonds your father ever gave me, you are the brightest, the one I truly treasure.”

He knew his mother's voice was only in his memory, that it was the only way he'd ever hear her again, but if he closed his eyes, he could pretend she was there beside him. Except then she would embrace him, and drive every fear and doubt away, banishing them with a mother's special magic, her love. But he was alone. She was gone, her mother's magic was gone.

His eyes widened in sudden desperate hope, and he dove for his jewelry armoire. He still had magic, not his mother's magic, but Faerie magic.

Breath held, hands trembling, he opened the topmost section, where his many necklaces were kept, then pressed his fingers against the hidden sensor plate, unlocking the secret compartment meant for one’s most valuable gem pendants. And there, as bright and perfect as the day it was gifted to him twelve years ago, by the Crimson Prince of Faerie, was the Feather of Courage.

He lifted it reverently from the cream colored satin padding. It looked like the feather from a parrot or other tropical bird, only he'd seen the Crimson Prince pull it from his own wing himself. The spectacular feather was nearly a third of a meter long, soft as silk, though he'd seen it's twin, the one the Azure Prince of Faerie had snatched away before he could touch it, effortlessly slice through centimeters thick mooring rope, as if it were a sword. Even grown now, knowing the truth of who they were, he would always think of them as his Faerie Princes.

He sank into the familiar warmth of the childhood memory as if it was his mother's loving arms, reveling in the feeling of safety that had embraced him then, when he had been his most terrified, hoping it would drive away the current fear that was all but crippling him.

0 0 0

Yuu-Yuu was lost in a sea of shoes, big shiny black ones, like his Papa's, and elegant slender ones, like his Mama's, in all the colors of the rainbow, below huge swaths of sparkling glittery and sequined waterfalls of matching brightly hued skirts, hemmed by a forest of dozens of coal black tree trunk legs. Tuxedo pants, like his own, but not made for a big boy of three-and-a-half, but for grown men, like his Papa, ambassadors and statesmen and other important personages.

But that was the problem. Every single man's leg looked almost identical to every other. There was no way to tell which belonged to Papa. He'd been bumped and lost hold of his father's pant-leg, as he was crossing the enormous ballroom floor of the reception, and grabbed hold of the wrong pants by mistake. He'd looked up expecting to see his father's soft smile and twinkling eyes, and instead seen a stranger's hairless chin. He'd immediately let go and grabbed another leg and looked up again. But every time he looked up for a familiar, bearded face, he was met with a stranger's, until he was too anxious to touch anyone, or to look up anymore.

He remembered that Papa once said it was hard to see the forest, for the trees, but it was harder still to find a single special tree within a massive looming forest. Perhaps from outside the forest he would be able to find Papa?

His eyes were drawn again to the tiny sparkling Faerie lights twinkling from the foliage wreathing the patio outside the sliding glass doors that led to the garden. Perhaps from the softly lit darkness of the patio, he could look inside the bright room and not be so overwhelmed?

He pursed his lips in determination and deftly began weaving in and out around the legs surrounding him, as stealthily as a cat, until he finally reached the enormous doors, which thankfully were propped open, to let the sweet cool breeze and wonderful floral scents of the magnificent gardens into the crowded ballroom. But to his dismay, there were nearly as many people on the patio. But he would not be deterred from his mission.

Yuu-Yuu determinedly made his way to the very edge of the patio, and climbed up onto a beautifully carved marble bench. All thought of finding his father or mother promptly vanished, like the mist under a morning sun, as he beheld an ethereal paradise.

Mama had told him there was a lake, she had even shown it to him, from the window, before it got dark, asking if he wanted to go on a boat ride with her, before the party started, but he was too afraid, because even though he had been taught how to swim, he wasn't very good at it yet, his head kept going under, and he choked on the water, and what if the boat sank? And even if he was able to float, it looked like the sort of lake that might contain sea serpents, hiding at the very bottom, just waiting for a tasty snack. His mother had told him over and over how he was sweet as sugar, that she just wanted to eat him up, and didn't that mean he would be like a sugar cube in a lake sized tea cup for a sea serpent, or water dragon, or selkie, or anything else that might want to eat a delicious boy? But he had never imagined there would be stars in the lake! A whole galaxy of them, shining from the surface of the water.

What if they were his brothers and sisters? Mama had always told him he was her shining star, and he'd always wanted a big brother or sister to chase away the monsters, and what if they were there, at the lake, just waiting for him to find them?

He scrambled down off the stone bench, wincing as he heard how he scraped his shiny shoes on the stone edge of the bench, but not even stopping to look, because his brothers and sisters might fly up into the sky with the rest of the stars if he took too long.

Yuu-Yuu ran along the stone path that snaked around the bushes and shrubs in the heart of the enormous garden. He couldn't see the lake from the path, but he knew it was somewhere just ahead, beckoning him. The laughter and music and clinking of glasses became muted as he got further and further into the garden, and it was oddly deserted too, the party guests all fluttering about the brightly lit building as if moths circling a flame.

It was colder, as well as darker, quieter, except for the sudden cracks and snaps of twigs, and he had forgotten how tasty he would be to the monsters, and of course, there were land monsters too, far more of them, in fact, than sea monsters or lake monsters, and oh no, he'd been so excited about meeting his brothers and sisters that he had forgotten about the monsters in the lake!

He stopped running abruptly, too quickly, for how fast he had been going. He skidded on some fallen wet leaves, and fell hard, scraping his hands. He gasped and began to cry, pressing his hands to his mouth, because he didn't want the monsters to hear him, but now his hands tasted like mud and slimy, cold, dead things, leaves and bugs and worms or maybe monster drool and he jumped to his feet and started running back towards the house, but he kept slipping and falling, because here the path wasn't dry and clear and pretty, with perfumed flowers and Faerie lights, it was smelly and dark, wet and slimy, twisting and turning in all different directions, and so very slippery. His palms stung and his pants were muddy and ruined, and his shoes, his beautiful shoes, the stars no longer sparkled in them. Yuu-Yuu sucked in a big gasp of air to cry louder, he couldn't help it, when suddenly he burst forth from the trees and saw the Magic Lake. Not the dark and scary Monster Lake he had feared, but one lit by starlight and moonlight, all but glowing with silver light. And that's when he saw the Faerie Princes.

He immediately knew they were Faeries, because the red haired, blue eyed one was haloed by licking blue flame of foxfire, and the one with the golden hair and golden eyes also had enormous feathery wings, and a shining crimson sword in his hand, and they must be Princes too, because of the sword, and because only Princes could be so beautiful. But that was also when he realized they were facing towards him, poised to fight, and he realized that all those scary sounds, the cracks and snaps in the dark must have really have been a monster, or many monsters chasing him, and he shrieked at the top of his lungs, “Don't let the monsters eat me!” And then the blue flames flared, lighting up the shore, even as the winged Faerie rose up into the air, with a single powerful flap of his enormous wings, and they began calling things to one another in Faerie language, as the blue one raced in front of him protectively, putting himself between the monsters and Yuu-Yuu.

There was more calling back and forth, urgent, demanding, and soft gusts of air from the flapping wings.

“What do the monsters look like? How close are they? How many villains did you see?” the blue Faerie Prince asked, only this time he was speaking human language, like Yuu-Yuu and Papa and Mama and...

He began to cry. “I couldn't find Papa or Mama, and I tried to be a big, brave boy, and then I wanted to see my brother and sister stars in the lake, but then I heard the monsters and I fell and I ruined my pretty clothes and shoes and my hands hurt and I know you're Faerie Princes but I WANT PAPA AND MAMA!” He began sobbing hysterically, because he was hurt and lost and afraid, he wasn't alone anymore, but the Faeries were going to think he was a little crybaby instead of a big, brave boy.

There was a sharp bark of rueful laughter from the blue Prince, and then a babble of voices in Faerie again, and a lot of gesturing, and now they sounded fondly exasperated, not alarmed and protective, like the way his governess sounded whenever Papa and Mama weren't there, and he missed them too much.

And then the blue Faerie crouched down in front of him, as the red Faerie landed beside him. Flames still danced around the blue Faerie's skin, he was glowing softly, like the nightlight that kept Yuu-Yuu safe from the monsters under his bed and in the closet at home. And he began speaking human language again.

“Hey, kid, it's alright. You don't have to cry anymore. You're safe with us. We don't think you heard real monsters or villains, it was probably just birds or squirrels or your own footsteps. My little brother gets scared at night too, sometimes, because things can sound really weird at night, when you don't know what you're hearing. I know for a fact there aren't any monsters or villains in the lake. And even if they were, Featherbrain and I would defeat them, because we're both way more powerful than any stupid monsters. Just ask my baby brother. He's a big, brave boy, just like you, but sometimes the world can be a strange and scary place. But that's what big brothers are for.”

Yuu-Yuu tried to be strong like that, he did, but he sobbed. “But I don't have a big brother! I'm just a single star and I've tried and tried, but I'll never be big and strong and bright like the sun!”

The blue Prince turned to the winged Prince and spoke more Faerie. And then the Crimson Faerie held out his feather towards Yuu-Yuu, smiling and talking excitedly in that beautiful, musical language.

Yuu-Yuu reached out hesitantly for it, but the Azure Faerie yelled, “Baka Taka!”, it sounded like a spell or an enchantment, from the way the Crimson Faerie wilted as he snatched the feather from his hand, and Yuu-Yuu started to cry.

“Wait, no, stop, you don't... It's dangerous, kid. It's as sharp as a sword. Featherbrain's feathers are special. Look, see?” he asked, as he walked over to the little pier Yuu-Yuu hadn't even noticed, to a small pleasure boat. He picked up the end of a thick piece of rope and sliced right through it, as if he were holding a magic sword, not a feather. “You can't have this feather, you could cut yourself, but... Oh! You don't need a Sword Feather anyway. You need something special, the rarest kind of feather he has. You need a Feather of Courage,” he stated firmly, his beautiful teal eyes glowing with conviction, reflecting his Faerie fire.

“A magic Feather of Courage? A gift, for me?” Yuu-Yuu asked hopefully, with a big sniff, looking from the Azure Prince to the Crimson Prince. “Oh yes, please, a magic Feather of Courage! And I can give you a gift, too!” He reached into his pocket, clutching the shiny coin his father had given him, and holding it out in his palm. “Don't worry, it's not cold iron, I know better than to give iron to a Faerie Prince! Papa said this is silver, it's very, very old, older even than Papa, his Papa gave it to him, when he was a big boy, like me!” he claimed proudly, eyes shining. His Papa had given it to him so he'd have a little piece of their home to carry in his pocket while they were away, he'd said it had been his good luck charm.

The Azure Faerie Prince held out his hand, the blue flame receding, and gently took the coin. He looked at it and whistled. “A 5-Franc coin from 1878? And you just carry it around in your pocket?” He shook his head and said something in Faerie to the Crimson Prince. The winged Faerie looked astonished and then laughed.

“That's a lot older than your grandfather, kid. We can't accept this,” he argued, holding it out.

Yuu-Yuu pouted, shaking his head firmly, even though his voice shook with how much he needed the magic feather. “I cannot accept the Feather of Courage unless you keep it.”

“Won't your father be angry at you if he thinks you lost it?” the Azure Prince asked, looking truly concerned.

“Of course not! I'll tell him I gave it to the Faeries. He'll understand,” Yuu-Yuu said seriously.

The Azure Faerie laughed, saying something else in Faerie. “Then we accept your gift,” he said formally, with a gracious bow. And he waved the Crimson Faerie over.

The winged Faerie suddenly looked very serious as well, as he approached, and he knelt down on the stony beach, pulling a feather from his wing, and laid it across his palms, as if he was a knight presenting his sword to his king.

Yuu-yuu looked wide eyed at the feather, then up at the Azure Prince, in case he was going to grab this feather, too, but he just smiled. “Take, it kid. You certainly paid enough for it. Hey, what's your name, anyway? Baka Taka should know the name of the person he's giving his most prized feather to,” he added with a wink.

“Yuu-Yuu,” he whispered in awe. “I'm the son of the French Ambassador. And the Crimson Faerie Prince is Baka Taka? What is your name, Azure Faerie Prince?”

The Azure Prince looked startled and then he laughed, long and loud, and he and the Crimson Faerie exchanged more private words. Then he looked at Yuu-Yuu solemnly. “I didn't know Ambassador Broussard had a son. I met your father earlier tonight. Now that I know who you are, I can help you get back to him. It's an honor to meet you, Yuu-Yuu. But you know, Faerie Princes are like Pro Heroes. Their true names are secret. But you can call me by one of the most special names Baka Taka calls me. He likes to call me Tiki Torch,” he said, his mouth curving up into a smile brighter than the sun, even as the Crimson Faerie laughed warmly.

“Then it is my great honor, Baka Taka and Tiki Torch to accept your most precious Feather of Courage,” Yuu-Yuu said solemnly, trying for all the formal gravity of his father, lifting the feather from the Crimson Faerie's outstretched arms.

0 0 0

Yuuga jumped when his phone rang, yanking him out of his memory, the feather floating gently to the floor from numbed fingers, as his heart hammered. No one except his father ever called him, and he didn't do so until 1:15 am precisely on Saturday nights, because he didn't want to impinge upon the time Yuuga spent socializing with his classmates, and he knew curfew was pushed back for Movie Night, and it couldn't possibly even be seven o'clock yet, Yuuga knew it would take a long time to look perfect.

He checked the phone he'd set down on his nightstand. The call appeared to be from Papa, but it was only 6:47 pm, it was hours too early.

He bit his lip and worried it between his teeth anxiously. What if it wasn't him? What if it was an imposter, a villain, someone trying to trick him? But if it was his father and he didn't answer, Papa might think the villains had captured him. He shook his head at his foolishness. That was what the code word and countersign were for.

He fumbled for Memoirs of Madame Curie opening to page 76 where the little glittery silver Post-it note flag had been affixed under the word of the day, thankful he'd followed procedure and listened to the radio broadcast for the numbers designating the page, line and word placement for the code word this morning and not waited until one of the repeat broadcasts later in the day, as he often did, repeating to himself silently, as if a mantra, “Majestic. Today's code word is majestic, to be used as the eighth word, and the countersign is aurora, to be used as the third word.”

His hands were trembling as he lifted the phone to his ear, frantically composing a suitable sentence in his head, instead of having one well rehearsed already in mind as he would have later at night, as he answered the call as breathlessly as if he'd had to run to the phone to answer it. “Forgive the delay. I was observing a majestic owl through my window. To whom am I speaking?” he asked in French, trying to sound calm and firm, instead of panicky and uncertain, as he affixed his eyes to the word underlined by the blue tab, the countersign, aurora, though he knew it by heart.

“Yuu-Yuu? Are you alright? Is that really you? You never say it without me prompting you,” the voice on the other end demanded suspiciously. It sounded like Papa, the tone, the warmth, the concern, and the childhood pet name, but he wasn't replying with the countersign.

Yuuga's hands shook violently as he flipped to the second marked page, the one with the little red tab, page 298. He'd only had to use the auxiliary page once before, in all the years Papa had been an Ambassador, the day Mama had died, when Papa had been too overcome with grief to speak the countersign coherently the first time, though he had not known the reason until after his father spoke the auxiliary countersign. His eyes welled with tears at the memory, his heartbeat thundering so fast he felt faint, and he crumpled down onto the floor clutching the book tightly, as if it weighed hundreds of kilograms instead of just a few.

“Bird. Oh, thank goodness, fifth word, that should be easy, because I talked about owls and why didn't he answer with the countersign, what if it's not really Papa, what if it's a villain trying to trick me, what if a villain has captured Papa, and is forcing him to call me because... because... I don't know why. Papa's the important one, the Ambassador, the only reason someone would ever want me would be to influence him.

There was a curse and the sound of rustling pages on the line, further alarming Yuuga, because Papa was never flustered or anxious, he was always calm and dignified, the perfect man, the perfect Ambassador, who always protected and defended his clumsy and humiliatingly awkward only child, telling him how handsome he was, because Mama wasn't there anymore to say it, and he only believed it because he looked like her, and she was the most beautiful woman who ever lived, and he needed to stop thinking about her, because he was starting to cry loud enough to be heard now, because he loved her so desperately, and missed her gentle support. She'd been the cornerstone of their world, and it had crumbled almost to dust with her gone, it had been five years since she'd died, but it seemed like only yesterday, and neither of them were talking, and-

“Owls are truly beautiful bird- Forgive me, Yuu-Yuu, my shining star, the light of my heart. I began to misspeak,” the person who sounded like his father, who must be him said. But his father did not make mistakes, but then it wasn't one really, was it, because he hadn't said 'birds', and he had called him his shining star and the light of his heart and only Mama used to say that, and he must be trying to reassure him, and he'd have to test him, to be sure, but first he needed the countersign, because he'd forgotten that Papa would be the one to speak the code phrase this time, and he would speak the countersign, and what kind of sadist had picked isotope, how in the world was he supposed to fit that into a conversation about owls and auroras and birds, although no one had said aurora, which was a shame, because it was such a beautiful and sparkling word and thing, a dazzling green and pink and blue and purple glow across the night sky, and-

“I misspelled the word isotope on my chemistry test today, Papa,” Yuuga lied desperately.

“Yuu-Yuu, thank heavens you're alright! I was locked in a negotiation session the entire day, literally, I had no access to my phone, or any media, and then, when we finally broke for the day, I saw that UA was attacked again! I received your text, saying you were alright, but I needed to hear your voice. I wish you weren't so shy and hesitant about speaking on the phone and leaving voice messages, it's not as if someone can hurt you over the phone, you can always simply end the call,” his father babbled.

Papa never babbled, he was always succinct and to the point, firm, steady.

“I... I'm sorry I worried you, Papa,” Yuuga stated contritely, as silent tears dripped down his cheeks. He was relieved his father hadn't insisted on Facetime, anymore, after those few disastrous attempts where he'd frozen up completely.

“No, forgive me, I didn't mean to sound as if I was scolding you. I need to see you. Why don't you come to breakfast, tomorrow morning? To the Embassy. I'll send a car for you. We need to discuss something important, in person,” his father stated. He didn't sound upset or flustered, anymore. He had donned his ambassador's mask of diplomatic efficiency and politeness.

“Papa, you're not being transferred again, are you?” Yuuga asked breathlessly, terrified, because his father had specifically positioned himself for this posting in Japan, to replace Ambassador Broussard, so he could attend UA.

It had been Yuuga's dream to come back to Japan ever since the night he got lost in the garden at the United Nations Gala and met the Faerie Princes. Although, of course, he'd long since realized the Faerie Princes had simply been two older boys, incredibly kind and gentle to a lost and foolish scared little boy. The younger boy, the winged one, had been the one to fly him back to the ballroom, because they had realized Yuuga's parents were likely becoming frantic looking for him. The first time he had seen a picture of the Pro Hero Hawks, he realized who his Crimson Faerie Prince truly was. But his feather was still magical, a memory of hope and wonder, safety and strength, amidst terror and tears. He'd even had a special sheath made in the right boot of his costume, so he could slip the feather inside for luck and strength. Not always, because he was afraid of damaging it, but he'd had it with him at the Entrance Exam, at the Sports Festival, and at the Summer Training Camp, during the Test of Courage. And he'd survived all three, unscathed, even the Camp, when that terrifying flaming monster had attacked them, and kidnapped their classmates.

The most frightening part of the attack was how horrifically similar that flaming villain Dabi had looked to the Azure Prince, the older boy he only knew as Tiki Torch. It was as if he was some distorted, monstrous, evil doppelganger of the beautiful, noble, gentle boy who'd helped save him. The most disturbing part was, to this day he didn't know who his young savior was. He'd never seen him again. His fondest wish was to someday meet him again, to perhaps get a chance to see Hawks again and ask him about his friend, so he could reassure him, laugh at him for ever thinking that terrible villain looked anything like his friend.

“No, Yuuga, I'm not being transferred. I- ,” his father said, cutting into his chaotic thoughts. Then he unexpectedly and abruptly switched to Japanese. “Yes, please excuse me, I'll only be but another moment.” Then he continued in French. “Yuuga, I need to go, I have a very important dinner I must attend, it's part of the negotiations, where the real work will be done, you know how these things are. I'll send a car and speak to you tomorrow at breakfast. Goodnight, son.”

“Good night, Papa,” Yuuga said quickly, not wanting to delay his father, though he was a hundred times more anxious now than he had been before.

He reached down and picked up the precious feather, clutching it to his chest, drawing what comfort he could from it, from the memories of long ago kindness, remembering laughing blue eyes in a breathtakingly handsome, enigmatic face, and golden hair and eyes, and a mischievous, irreverent smile in a playful face of otherworldly beauty. If only they were here now, to reassure him. Papa said he wasn't being transferred but then- He gasped, freezing. Was he ill? Was it serious? Like Mama?

His heart started pounding in terror. Is Papa dying?

No. It can't be that. It isn't. Papa is fine. It's something else. About my safety, probably, because of the attack. But he's not making me leave UA. Or Japan. He wouldn't. He can't. Stop panicking, Yuuga. Pick your clothes and watch the movies, interact with your classmates. You can't make Papa worry more about you. You need to make friends, to make Papa proud. Like Iida. At the Licensing Exam. He started talking to you, remember? He cares. You're going to be brave and sit next to him, for the movies, and talk to him again. You don't have to talk to anyone else, just Iida. You can do this. You're brave. You're going to be a Hero, like Hawks, with wonderful friends, like Tiki, and save lost, scared little boys.

With renewed determination he put away the feather and went back to his wardrobe dilemma, focusing all his energy on picking the perfect outfit, something that would help Iida notice him, but not be too glittery, something serious and respectful, dignified and refined and muted, that Iida could admire.

0 0 0

Even with so much time to prepare, Yuuga was almost late. He gravitated shyly towards Iida, listening to the explanations about the whereabouts of his missing classmates, as Midnight did her best to reassure them about Aizawa-sensei and then told them about a special treat of pizzas and cookies. Yuuga could barely keep from trembling. Kayama-sensei was far more intimidating than Aizawa, loud and energetic, rough and almost violent. Unlike Aizawa-sensei, who was gruff and impatient on the surface, but a steady and supportive warm presence deep down, whenever Yuuga most needed him to be, whenever any of them needed him to be. He desperately wished he was here now, and not only for him.

Iida was anxious and distracted, almost as much as he had been immediately after his brother was attacked and crippled. And he wasn't the only one. By the time the first movie began, nearly half the class was absent: Bakugo, Kirishima, Kaminari, Tokoyami, Shouji, Todoroki and Midoriya were all noticeably missing. Iida in particular no doubt felt the absence of Midoriya and Todoroki keenly. Yuuga had seen the longing looks he sometimes sent their way, whenever they weren't looking. He desperately wanted to reassure their Class President, but he had no idea what to say. So as usual, he stayed silent, and unnoticed, more invisible than loud, boisterous Hagakure.

Yuuga was barely able to eat his dinner, and far too anxious to enjoy it. They were only 15 minutes into the first of two movies when his anxiety became too great to tolerate and he begged off to his room, claiming to have a headache, all his plans regarding speaking to Iida turned to ash. Midnight looked so sad and worried, he felt immediately guilty for the lie, but he just couldn't bear to spend another moment surrounded by his classmates. They were all trying so hard to act as if everything was fine, when clearly they were still as upset as he was about the latest villain incursion, the kidnapping attempts, the injuries to their friends, the absence of their teacher. And he was also even more worried about what his father wanted to speak with him about.

As soon as he was in the sanctuary of his room, he began conducting his usual nightly beauty routine mechanically, instead of enthusiastically, slipping into his silk pajamas, applying the face mask, and then smoothing the overnight moisturizer over the remainder of his delicate skin. Then he laid back in bed and stared at the ceiling, picturing beautiful teal eyes haloed in a wreath of dancing azure flame and twinkling golden eyes, watching over him.

Chapter Text

Dabi watched as Kurogiri opened a warp under the broken glass and spilled liquor from the shattered rum bottle and then a second warp above the plastic lined wastebasket behind the bar, so that the refuse fell neatly inside, coolly taking care of the mess in an instant. He only wished his part in this mess could be taken care of as quickly and easily. Any moment now, Shigaraki would turn on him, blaming him for Darkweb's ultimatum. Even though he knew he couldn't let them get anywhere near Aoyama, he had to bluff his way through this for now, he had to act first and fast, a workable kidnapping plan already coalescing in his mind.

“Leave it to me, Boss. I can take care of snatching Aoyama, to get that Darkweb guy off your back. Must be new, trying to cross you like that. Sounds like Mr. Tech Support there is suffering from delusions of grandeur,” he prodded, hoping for some more information on the guy.

“He claims he's been working for Master, that he set up our communications and security, that he's in contact with Master, but I don't believe him. He lied to me, tricked me. Master would never allow anyone to treat me so disrespectfully,” Shigaraki insisted, and yeah, there was the obsessive scratching he was used to seeing.

“Do you have any info on who the guy is? If so, I could bring him in for you, so you can personally teach him the respect he needs to learn,” Dabi offered, artfully diverting Shigaraki's focus from the intended target, Aoyama, to the person of interest he needed to find.

“No,” Shigaraki spat venomously. “Each time he's contacted me through either the screens or those disgusting spider robots.”

Kurogiri spoke up. “Had he not provided what appeared to be incontrovertible proof of his claim, we never would have trusted him. But we should not speak further here. It is quite likely we are still being observed. I will warp us to a location where we can be assured we are not under surveillance, where we can be certain our discussion is private.”

Only a little while ago, privacy with the two of them had been synonymous with a death sentence. Thankfully, it appeared that danger had passed, at least for now. But he'd be ready, in case Kurogiri had ulterior motives. Even so, he had to physically suppress a sigh of relief, at Kurogiri's suggestion and caution. He hadn't wanted to be the one to have to risk bringing that up and potentially face Shigaraki's wrath, but now that Kurogiri had suggested it, he could refine the caution in relative safety.

But Kurogiri spoke again, before Dabi could. “I suggest we contact our newest recruit to meet us there. This could prove to be a further interesting testing ground.”

What new recruit? Sounds like another person I haven't met yet.

“Do it,” Shigaraki ordered, scratching impatiently.

Kurogiri pulled out his cellphone and touched the screen, then lifted the phone to what approximated the side of his face. “Red, this is Black. Meet us at the Rookery. Yes, now. Unless you have something more important than your arrangement with us? I thought not,” Kurogiri chastised, ending the call. “He will meet us there.”

Shit. That's all he needed, another unfamiliar face, another unknown quantity, some newbie who could be as psycho as Moonfish or as vicious and unstoppable as Muscular, or another screwed up kid like Toga or Mustard. But at least this was a good segue into what he needed to say. “We should also all leave our cellphones behind, locked up somewhere safe. They can be tapped and used as live mics to overhear our conversation. We can talk more about that, after we get to that rendezvous you're warping us to.” Making sure they had even more incentive to bring him, and not leave him out of the loop.

Shigaraki glared at him, but Kurogiri looked down at his phone. “Dabi is correct, Tomura Shigaraki. Darkweb might possibly have been a valuable ally, were he truly on our side, but he would also be a cunning enemy.”

Shigaraki's glare shifted to the living warp gate. “Fine. Put them inside your warp. Let's see him fuck with them there,” he challenged, handing Kurogiri his phone. Dabi did the same. His was only a cheap burner phone he's paid cash for, nothing like the high tech masterpiece he'd given to Masa, or the twin to it that he had hidden carefully away in one of his bolt holes. He knew better than to call them safe houses. There was no such thing as safety. He'd learned that lesson at the age of four at his father's hand.

“Now lets go. And your plan better be worth hearing Dabi, since you're the one who destroyed that fucking robot and pissed that asshole Darkweb off,” Shigaraki accused.

“Don't blame me for your own incompetence, Touya. I created you from the perfect DNA. It's not my fault you've managed to disappoint me at every turn. I only hope your little brother isn't the failure you are.” Ten fucking years, and Endeavor's words still burned hotter than his Hellflame.

Dabi barely restrained himself from clenching his teeth, knowing doing so would betray his suppressed fury, by the simple subtle but noticeable motion of the jaw beneath his cheek. He was sick to death of being blamed for other people's mistakes. LeBlanc might be a pretentious fuck who valued a good cognac over 99.9% of the human race, but at least his operatives were excluded from that tally, and Dabi didn't blame the fucker for his callous disregard of the bulk of humanity one damned bit.

LeBlanc had never once blamed him for a damned thing that wasn't his fault. That was because his boss saw with clear eyes. Most people were sheep, and most of the rest were the walking sacks of shit that pretended to be their shepherds, just like Dear Old Dad. It was the fucking wolves in sheepdogs' skin like them that kept the flocks safe, even if that safety simply meant that there would always be a source of mutton and lamb for their supposed shepherds to feed from.

And they call me the villain.

And fuck, he hadn't responded to Shigaraki's challenge. Although his silence could be considered response enough. Remember, you're the wolf here, you don't need to pretend to be a fucking collared and leashed dog, not here, not now, that's the only reason you've survived the past ten years, in hellholes like this. Careful when you show your balls. Play nice with the crazy man. “It is, Boss,” he assured him confidently, somewhat belatedly, but respectfully, reminding Shigaraki he was a supposedly loyal follower, and not a screw up or a challenge to his authority, that he was a valuable asset. And then the floor fell out from under him, literally.

Moments later, after another lurching, sickening, disorienting trip through the inky void that existed within Kurogiri, they were in a park. Or no, it was an actual fucking forest, that was a mountain looming overhead, blocking out the stars, and there were far more stars than he expected to be able to see.

“Are we even still in Japan?” Dabi asked, stunned, because he hadn't been expecting to be brought to a mountainside somewhere. He hadn't known Kurogiri could warp anywhere near that far.

“Does it matter?” Kurogiri asked bluntly, adding another black mark to the growing tally against Dabi's cover persona.

“Fuck if I care,” Dabi replied with a forced casual shrug. As long as we're nowhere near the Pussycats’ turf. After the clusterfuck last time, that's the last thing I need.

He still couldn't believe how catastrophically wrong that part of his mission had gone. It was supposed to be a simple kidnapping: snatch one UA student, someone tough and mean enough to survive being taken, strong enough to resist whatever enticements or threats Shigaraki and his henchmen threw his way, until he could be set free. He'd done everything he could to minimize the risk to the rest of the UA kids and their teachers.

He'd ingratiated and positioned himself well enough when he infiltrated the League of Villains that they believed he was a true follower of the martyred Stain. Considering how much that madman's ideology actually resonated with him, that part had been a cakewalk. Frankly, the hardest part had not been losing himself too deep in the role. The multiple news reports on the crippling of Ingenium and the murder of countless other true heroes had helped keep him on the right side. That and the time bomb inside his skull, ready to detonate if he ever crossed too far over the line.

Thankfully he'd not only managed to keep from immolating himself again, but had impressed not only Shigaraki, but the far more cunning and insightful Kurogiri, and quickly took on the role of older brother to the other new members of the organization, the teenage villains Toga and Mustard, and to Twice, though Twice was actually older than he was. As a direct result of that power dynamic, he was put in charge of the raid on the Summer Camp.

He’d planned the attack carefully, done all he could to minimize collateral harm to the students and teachers. He set the raid at night, when the students were all supposed to be in the dormitory building, an early bedtime after a long, exhausting day of training. He’d had Shigaraki give him a Nomu, solely under his control, so if he needed to take out one or more of the tougher villains, he could. He spread his attack force across the entire forest and mountain, making certain the most dangerous villains, like Muscular, Moonfish and Mustard were as far away from the students as possible. He’d set fire to the forest, and had Mustard spread his gas harmlessly into the woods, far from the building, to warn the Heroes of the impending attack, so they would hunker down and fortify and stay put, where he could get to them in a concerted mass, locate and snatch Bakugo, and leave.

When he attacked Aizawa with the clone Twice made, he'd given him that critical second to see the flames coming, so he could leap to safety, and the Hero hadn't disappointed. But everything else went to hell, all his careful plans backfired, spectacularly.

The students were scattered all over the trail in the woods, in pairs and unprotected by the Pro Heroes, in some stupid late night test of courage. Many of them were seriously injured in the attack, some critically, even gassed, but thankfully, miraculously, none of them died. Or anyone else. Even though the Pussycats' little nephew had somehow managed to pick the same fucking mountain to hide on that he'd sent Muscular to “scout”, instead of being safely in bed, where he belonged. That one in particular kept giving him nightmares nearly rivaling the death of Vanguard.

Even after it all went to shit, he tried to kidnap Bakugo as quickly as possible, to end it. But then that drama queen Compress had to showboat, to improv: he took Tokoyami, too. Ironically, it was thanks to that scared little rabbit he'd seen cowering in the woods, Aoyama, of all people, that Tokoyami had been freed.

He'd almost had a heart attack when he'd seen Shouto on the battlefield – he'd made a point to call out his name in what sounded like condescending ridicule, to ensure the villains knew who he was, that he was his protected prey, so they'd stay the fuck away from him. And Bakugo had thankfully listened to his risky whispered warning that Midoriya would be killed if he came after them; there was no way he could protect both of them, not when Midoriya couldn't even stand, let alone fight, when the shock of his injuries would likely have killed him without the League lifting a finger.

Bakugo had reminded him so much of himself, when he was a kid. He'd hoped he’d pretend to join the villains, play the game, bullshit his way to safety, the way he always had with Endeavor, until the end. That Bakugo would secretly stay on the side of the Heroes, plotting his eventual escape. He didn’t realize how straightforward Bakugo was, that he wouldn’t lie about who he was, what his goals were.

Once he realized, he knew he had to get Bakugo out of there, fast. So he risked contacting Masa, he revealed the location of the bar that was the League's hideout, and the warehouse facility where the Nomu were created and stored, and every other secret about the League he knew, even though he hadn't discovered who their technokinetic or hacker was, even though the closest person to a mastermind he'd seen was Kurogiri. Shigaraki sure as hell wasn't the puppet-master pulling the strings.

Masa concocted some cock and bull story about one of his men finding the League, and coordinated the simultaneous attack against both their hideout and the Nomu warehouse, to ensure it went without a hitch, and that he'd live through it. But they hadn't known about All for One, the true mastermind behind the League, behind the whining brat figurehead Shigaraki.

All for One ripped both their carefully laid plans and most of the Heroes to shreds. All Might was destroyed in the battle while taking All for One down. Months later, Best Jeanist was still listed in the inactive ranks, the details of his injuries kept from the public, but there were rumors that he'd lost one or more limbs, that he was likely permanently disabled and retired. And there were the civilian casualties, of course: 762 dead, 3,465 injured, a number of them horribly maimed, and 64,621 left homeless, escaping with their lives, but little else, every single one of them emotionally and psychologically scarred.

Yeah, he'd been unconscious, no, he couldn't do a damned thing to stop it, but that didn't mean it wasn't going to haunt him for the rest of his life, even if his superiors called the end result of the mission a win and finally cut him loose after this, and took that damn dead man's switch out of his head and let him have what was left of his life back.

He didn't even want to think what that kind of failure had done to Masa. He never should have dragged him into this, as his local back-up, he should have gone it alone, flown solo, the way he normally did, only there was too much risk, here on his home turf, especially with Endeavor out there, the chance that he'd be spotted, recognized, even fucked up as he was. Though the person he was most afraid would spot him was Kiri. He couldn't let Kiri see him, not now, after all this time, like this.

Shit. Speaking of fucking up, Shigaraki and Kurogiri were both staring at him suspiciously, he'd gotten lost in his damned head again. Only one way out now. Without hesitating, he pulled the little trick he'd perfected way back in elementary school, to get out of the classes he hated the most. Without warning, he lurched forward and began heaving on the forest loam, a wave of vomit and bile, emptying everything he'd eaten, cursing, as if he hated it.

“Fuck! Shit! I tried to keep it in, the other times made me nauseous, but never like this. Warn a guy next time, before taking him halfway across the fucking planet,” he bitched, accusing instead of apologetic.

Shigaraki cursed and backed away from him. “That's disgusting!”

Right, from the man who thinks disintegrating people's faces off is a fun activity. Shit. Fuck. The dead cops, at the hospital. I almost forgot about them. One got shot, and I'm pretty sure Shigaraki killed the other one while Kurogiri kidnapped me. God damn it! Masa's gotta be a fucking mess after that. At least he doesn't know I was there. It's not like they left behind any witnesses, and I was pretty well covered up by the bandages; I think I did a good job avoiding the surveillance cameras. Well, until they surprised me, anyway.

“Don't blame me, you know his Quirk makes me nauseous. I though we were just going to a local park or something,” Dabi accused.

“This way we can be assured we are not being watched. Now then. I believe you were going to tell Tomura Shigaraki your plan for taking the student Yuuga Aoyama,” Kurogiri stated, making it sound more like a threat than a prompt.

Fuck. Now that they don't trust Darkweb, they're not trusting anyone. At least I hope that's all it is.

“Yeah, I've got a plan. Darkweb said Aoyama's the son of the French Ambassador, right? Well, I speak fluent French. So I call the kid, pretend his father wants to see him, and we send a limo for him. We rent it, fake diplomatic plates and ID, have Twice dress as a chauffeur with me in the back, where the windows are tinted, so he can't see until it's too late. Then we drive right off the grounds with Pretty Boy inside and no one the wiser,” Dabi stated confidently.

As expected, Kurogiri was the one to challenge his plan, and far more astutely than he'd hoped. “Aren't there special codes regularly used by foreign officials and their families for security, to ensure the authenticity of messages such as those, to prevent such incidences?”

Of course there were, but he hadn't expected Shigaraki to realize that. He should have realized Kurogiri might. Fortunately, he already had a convenient lie prepared. “Yeah, but I know how their code system works. I used to fuck a code clerk who worked for the French Embassy in Vietnam, before he got himself scragged when the building blew up.” Subtly implying, of course, that he was also likely the one who did the demolition. Luong Minh had been real, but he hadn't been a fuck buddy, or even a friend, just another victim in a long, long line. He didn't do fuck buddies or friends.

“Don't the codes change? Especially after something like that?” Kurogiri challenged.

“They change daily. But if you know the radio station to listen to, know when to start listening for the numbers, and know which book they use, you're in,” he claimed truthfully. And he's just have to hope that they didn't ask more details, and if he had to tell them, that no one else died because of his spilling French intelligence secrets, before his real boss could warn them to change their system. Because yeah, this fucking mission was high enough on the priority list that a risk like that was considered justifiable. So was the body count in Kamino Ward, though no one would ever admit to that on paper, of course. What's a few hundred lives, when billions of lives are at stake, the safety of the entire fucking world? God damn megalomaniac super-villains. LeBlanc always gave him the “fun” jobs. Though that was his own damn fault, for living through the other missions he'd been assigned, as his restitution for those cops he fried and the crimes that led to that clusterfuck. But it sure as shit beat the death sentence the rest of the gang received, thanks to him.

“Why not send Twice and Compress?” Shigaraki challenged, pulling him out of his head again. “From Compress's report, if you'd let him keep Tokoyami and Bakugo in their marble prisons, you could have brought them both back to me.”

That fucking sideshow freak magician's been badmouthing me to the boss behind my back? Throwing me under the bus? You're not going to live to regret that.

“Tokoyami was never a target to begin with. That was Compress showboating, getting flashy and theatrical, instead of effective. His little improv is the reason we ended up losing Moonfish, Muscular and Mustard. But of course he managed to come back. I brought you Bakugo, our actual target, and got the rest of them back safely. I've followed every order you've given me to the letter. I'm not some insecure attention whore needing all eyes trained on me. I don't give a fuck who's watching me. No one should be looking at me. They should all be focused solely on you. You're the boss, it's your plans that we're executing, that have gotten the League the recognition it deserves, that have gotten us more and more recruits, so we can achieve your goals. I'm like Kurogiri. I'm not in this for me. I'm in it for you.

And honestly, it was sad how him saying that mattered so much to Shigaraki, how he ate it up, hook, line and sinker. Kurogiri knew better, but the way he'd phrased that end part, if Kurogiri spoke a word against him, after that little speech, it would be like telling Shigaraki he was full of shit too. Burn, baby, burn.

Dabi jumped at the unexpected snort overhead, his hand instinctively jerking up and igniting, only to be warped away from his body, his flame redirected towards the ground, as a sarcastic voice quipped, “And I thought Compress was the drama queen of the group. Don't tell me this guy is why you dragged me all the way out here at this time of night, Boss. No offense, Shakespeare,” he added, not cutting the salt or shade he'd thrown at all.

Who the fuck-?

With a gentle rustle of feathers and soft gust of wind from flapping wings, a figure alighted, just in time for a cloud overhead to shift, bathing the tiny clearing they were standing in with moonlight. And his entire world tilted on its axis. Because he hadn't seen him in anything other than his dreams and on the news in ten fucking years, but he'd know Kiri anywhere. Only he wasn't just Kiri, his best friend, one of the two people who kept him sane, when his world went to hell all those years ago. He might be dressed in civies, midnight blue and black leathers, but he was still Hawks, a Pro Hero, the fucking Pro Hero, the new #1 Hero of Japan, now that Endeavor got himself sidelined. Only apparently he was batting for the other team. He'd just called Shigaraki “Boss”. Fuck. Kiri was a traitor. He was a villain.

“How long have you been listening?” Shigaraki accused.

Kiri... no, the fucking traitor Hawks, shrugged. “Long enough to hear Extra Crispy here throw Black and White under the bus. Although knowing Compress, he probably started that little roadkill party. Why, what did I miss?” he asked, tucking his wings behind his back in an achingly familiar move that twisted the hot poker currently impaling Dabi's heart, ripping it down through his torso, gutting him, eviscerating him.

You're not Kiri. You're one of Twice's clones. Or Toga. You're not Kiri. He wouldn't be here, doing this. You're not him. You can't be.

Nothing he'd seen in the past ten years, not even his own face in a mirror, had ever shaken him the way this was. He couldn't think, he could barely breathe. At this rate, he was going to die here, tonight, and it was going to be Kiri who killed him.

“We were just discussing kidnapping two UA students,” Shigaraki stated casually.

Fuck. Shit! Two? Since when? God damn it! Focus, Dabi. What did you miss? Other than your best friend becoming a fucking villain?

“What, again? Damn, Boss, you really have a hard on for that school. Let me guess. Bakugo and Midoriya, right? Man, Eraser's going to flip. Assuming he's, you know, still alive, or conscious, or whatever, after Crispy Critter here torched the school today. From what I hear, their teach is MIA. Let me guess, he's currently guesting at Chez Secret Base, am I right?” Hawks quipped.

“Why are you always so annoying?” Shigaraki demanded, but not sounding particularly upset, more bored, done with his antics.

“Hey, a bird can't change his feathers. But I thought you told me you were going for stealth this time around at UA, that Toga was just going after their blood. But the news said the Pros thwarted kidnappings. You really stirred up a hornet's nest today with that one. Give a guy some warning, next time,” Hawks casually scolded.

Shit. Fuck. Kiri knew more than I did. Or thought he did. Was Shigaraki testing him? Looks like he passed, if he didn't warn UA about the attack, stop it. He's one of them. He's really one of them. What the fuck happened to you, Featherbrain? Did the damned Hero Commission finally push you too far, make you dive off the deep end? As soon as I'm done with these bastards, I'm going to kill every one of those assholes.

“I didn't do shit, Feather Duster. That wasn't me, that wasn't my fuck up, my mission,” Dabi snapped, more sharply than he intended, his words burning hotter than his flame.

“Whoa. Don't get your panties in a twist, Pretty Princess,” Hawks goaded, though his hands were up as if he was trying to be conciliatory.

“Shut the fuck up and give Kurogiri your phone, Red,” Dabi snapped.

That seemed to put him in line. “My phone?” the traitor asked uncertainly.

“Your phone. Now,” Kurogiri demanded, holding out his hand, backing Dabi's play.

“Yeah, sure,” he agreed, but Dabi could see the undercurrent of sudden tension. He handed over the phone, his right thumb and forefinger rubbing together in the all too familiar way that meant he was aching to pull a feather, create his blades, go on the offensive.

He knew all of Kiri's tells. This wasn't an impostor, a fake. Shit. It really is him. Damn it. He's not Kiri anymore. Kiri's dead, just like you. Hawks, he's just Hawks now.

Hawks' phone disappeared into Kurogiri's warp.

“So who's the second target, Boss? I thought we were only going after the one,” Dabi asked, instinctively, protectively drawing attention away from the fallen Hero, in spite of himself, giving his former friend time to realize he wasn't about to be jumped and killed, that this wasn't a trap or ambush. But he didn't mention Aoyama by name, in case Shigaraki didn't want Hawks to know and because he didn't want him to know, because he was no longer the caged bird he'd known a lifetime ago, the kindred spirit he'd known and trusted with his deepest, darkest secrets.

“Mezo Shouji. He's a UA Class 1A student too, but he's also Darkweb's weakness. Darkweb's deal was that Mezo Shouji would be protected, that if we ever caught him he not be harmed and that he'd be handed over to him. So we're going to catch him, and use our little fly to catch a big, ugly spider,” Shigaraki crowed gleefully.

Fuck. So Hawks isn't the only traitor. One of the UA kids is a traitor, too. He must have been feeding information, access codes to Darkweb this entire time. Or installing back doors and spyware into the schools security system. And with every teacher there being a Pro Hero, that gives them another direct line into all the Pro Heroes plans. No wonder All for One was able to keep five steps ahead of Masa at Kamino Ward. I've been fighting against the current this entire damn mission, it's a wonder I haven't drowned yet. Or burned.

“Just leave them both to me, Boss. Birds eat flies and spiders for breakfast,” Hawks boasted.

Fuck no. They're both mine. And so are you, Baka Taka. You stupid, overconfident, featherbrained fuck up. Damn it. I never should have left you here, with that God damned Hero Commission's hooks in you so deep, and no one to vent to, to watch your back. Fuck being a wolf in a sheepdog's skin. Those bastards just earned a real fucking wolf at their door, and a one way ticket to Hell right along side us both.

Sorry, Shouto. It looks like I'm not going to live through this mission after all. But I'll make sure I take Endeavor down, before I go.

Chapter Text

Kiri finished the trek up the stairs wearily, far more exhausted by the minor exertion than he should have been, but he'd been up for nearly 96 hours straight with barely a break, trying to drown himself in his work instead of one of the all too tempting bottles he'd sworn off of for the duration. Not that he was an alcoholic. He'd been careful to avoid that slippery slope, by making it a point to only drink socially. But that was the problem: he hadn't done anything social, including drinking, for two months now.

He swiped his access card across the sophisticated locking and security alarm mechanism, opening the door to the roof of his agency, stepping out into the cool night air in relief, feeling the breeze playfully but tauntingly ruffle his feathers, like a skillful but teasing lover. Not that he'd felt that for two months, either. He barely restrained the urge to open his wings to the caress, wanting nothing more than what he'd always wanted: to soar free.

Instead, he kept to the shadows of the entryway, his keen eyes traveling over the empty helipad with the muted landing lights, spotting three different news helicopters circling just outside the restricted airspace immediately around the Aerie like eager carrion birds, scenting blood, but not yet pinpointing the location of their prey. He normally would have stepped out onto one of the many agency balconies, but he knew that thanks to the as yet untraced hospital leak betraying the severity of Endeavor's condition, a bevy of cameras were trained upon each one, like ornithologists eager for a sighting of their favorite bird perched in his native habitat. In only a few short months, he had become, through default, the #1 Hero of Japan, the thought of which once would have filled him with pride but considering the company he was now keeping, was both laughable and terrifying.

Restlessly he pulled out his phone and scanned his contacts, desperate for a distraction, immediately scrolling to a relatively new but familiar and trusted name: Fumikage Tokoyami, his intern. Tokoyami was painfully young, a sardonic but still innocent and idealistically hopeful kindred spirit, someone who had bathed in the blackest taint of the world, been gripped in the deadliest most vicious talons of imminent tortuous death, but miraculously escaped physically unharmed. The young fledgling was somewhat mentally and emotionally scarred, of course, from his brief kidnapping, but still rational, sane, functional, in a way Kiri lately feared he himself no longer was, with good reason: he had literally and intentionally sold his own soul to the Devil a scant couple of months ago. Though it had been for the purest of motives, in a desperate effort to keep Tokoyami and so many others safe, to protect them. He'd watched innocence burn and die once before. He'd pay any price not to fail someone else who trusted him, who relied upon him. Never again.

As it had so many times the past two months, hell, if he was being honest with himself, the past decade, his mind flooded with images of Touya, when he'd first met him, an outwardly cool, preternaturally beautiful, mature and contained eleven year old prodigy, to the biting and sarcastic soulmate he became over three short years, that at the time had seemed a lifetime. That had likely been the remainder of Touya's lifetime: he'd disappeared without a word, without a trace ten years ago. Kiri had only been twelve years old, the last time he saw him, bruised, battered and bitter, fury radiating off of him in waves, spewing vitriol about his father. He swallowed hard, fighting to instead remember his playfully teasing voice instead, but it was gone along with his best friend. Only the bitter, angry memories remained. That and the new accusatory, hurt and betrayed version he saw nightly in his dreams, ever since he'd made his devil's bargain with Endeavor.

He used to drown out the voice and the nightmares with the rush of wind in flight, but he was grounded temporarily, by those damned vultures, and he refused to endanger any one of his sidekicks more than the others: he'd been strategically isolating himself from all of them, ever since he'd made his unholy bargain. He'd dug himself into a hole deep enough to be his own grave, and with Endeavor's collapse, dirt was being shoveled in on top of him, so thick now that he no longer could see the sky.

He realized his hand was trembling as he sank down onto the roof, and wrapped his wings protectively around himself, trying to convince himself it was to stave off the chill night air, that he was shaking because he was cold, or because of sleep deprivation, but he'd felt and witnessed enough fear to know it for what it was.

He pressed Tokoyami's name desperately, needing to hear the voice of someone warm, and real, and alive, who wasn't currently in his direct power to harm.

“Hawks-senpei? It is a pleasurable surprise to hear from you,” Tokoyami's formal sounding voice stated levelly.

It should have been grounding, hearing his voice, but he was too far gone for it to be of much help. This had been a mistake, the latest in a series of them. He needed to play it off, to hang up without alarming his intern. “What, I can't call my favorite fledgling?” he teased, but his voice sounded strained and almost desperate to his own ear.

“Is everything alright?” Tokoyami immediately asked in warm concern, only the slightest uplifted lilt at the end betraying his emotions, but after a week of working intensely together during the internship, he was attuned to even the most subtle changes in his protégé's inflection. Hell, he had been right from the start – he'd had three years of practice prying out secrets from a close-mouthed clam, though Tokoyami's tells and vocal cues were very different than Touya's, and-

“God damn it,” he cursed softly. Tiki, I love you, bro, but please, for now, just until this is over, get out of my head. I can't fly or drink right now, but I can't get your voice, or that blackmailing fucker of your father out of my head unless I do. You're even haunting my dreams again, the way you used to. I'm coming unglued, buddy. You're both finishing the work the Commission started, and your timing couldn't be worse. I've done something really stupid and dangerous, and you're going to get me killed if you don't shut up.

“What's wrong? Where are you? Are you drunk again, or injured? Do you need assistance?” Tokoyami asked anxiously. “Shouji, forgive me, but I need privacy for this call.”

“Of course. You know where to find me, if you need me,” a strong, deep, comforting voice stated.

Shit. Kiri froze, uncertain now what he'd said out loud, how much he had. And he hadn't realized Tokoyami was with someone, he hadn't expected him to be, it was late, on a Saturday night. Damn it, Mezo Shouji, the classmate he told you about. Brilliant Kiri. Time to do damage control, you idiot. You can have an existential crisis on your own time, leave the young lovebirds alone.

“Hey, no, wait, don't make him leave. It's nothing like that. I'm fine, really. I told you, I don't usually drink like that night you saw me, it was just... it was the birthday of a very special friend, someone who- Fuck,” Kiri whispered, his voice ragged, choked up, because of course he'd call Tokoyami for comfort and instead be reminded of that night. “Sorry. I'm just a little – it's been a while since I've slept,” he admitted quietly, clutching the phone tightly.

“Where are you? Are you someplace safe? Is there anyone nearby?” Tokoyami asked again.

“Couldn't be safer. I'm at the Aerie, and Yuki and half a dozen other sidekicks are downstairs. My loft is right under my feet. I can roost as soon as I go inside and head down,” he assured him.

“Yet you called me. And you're alone, on the roof,” Tokoyami stated, a deeper thread of concern in his voice.

Kiri laughed, though it was a little too hollow sounding and manic to be as reassuring as he meant it to be. “I'm not going to jump, fledgling. Besides, I have wings.”

There was too long and telling a pause of silence on the other end of the line. “That would be more reassuring, had we not spoken the night you drank to excess,” Tokoyami finally stated. “Do you remember your promise that night?”

Kiri blinked, trying to think what he might have promised, or worse, what he might have said in that state to concern Tokoyami about him being on the roof. He startled, when the door behind him opened, leaping to his feet.

“Hey, Boss, whatcha doing out here?” Yuki asked brightly. “How about you join me for some tea, and then maybe get some sleep? You've been burning the candle at both ends, lately.”

Kiri snorted and shook his head. “Masterfully played, Baby Bird. You texted her while we were talking, didn't you?” he accused affectionately.

“No one texted me. I was on security monitor duty and saw you head out here, but you didn't take wing. Sorry, I didn't realize you were on the phone, Boss,” she claimed. He couldn't tell whether or not that was the truth, which just went to show how out of it he was.

But the subsequent deep sigh on the phone told a clear and different story, confirmed a moment later when Tokoyami spoke solemnly. “Forgive me for overstepping my boundaries, but I nearly lost five friends today, ones I was powerless to help, and did not even realize were in danger. I could not stand idly by and risk the welfare of a sixth when it was within my power to direct immediate assistance to his aid. I won't ask your forgiveness, because I did nothing wrong, but I do ask for your understanding.”

“You did what you needed to, fledgling. In the end, that's all any of us can do. I'm proud of you. You'll make a fine Pro, someday. Until then, I look forward to working with you during your work study, later in the year. And of course, you're welcome back at the Aerie any time before then. Good Night, Tokoyami. And go chase after Shouji. That's an order, kid,” he said with his trademark irreverent grin.

“Good night, Hawks. May the Night Muses bless your dreams,” Tokoyami replied.

From your lips to their ears.

He smiled reassuringly at Yuki. “You mentioned tea? Cake too, right?” he asked with his usual eagerness.

“I don't think I saw you eat lunch or dinner, Boss. Eat something substantial, and we'll negotiate the cake option, if you're still hungry and awake by then,” Yuki countered, waving him inside with an irreverent grin she'd learned from him. “Beauty before age.”

He obediently entered the lit stairwell, and headed down the stairs, leading the way. It was warmer inside, but noisier, the usual bustle of a Saturday night multiplied tenfold, after the attack on UA, and the shocking leaked news that the #1 Hero Endeavor was in critical condition, that he'd either be out of circulation for months or more than likely even permanently retired on a medical disability, like Ingenium, like All Might. The recapture of Mustard and capture of Toga and three other League of Villains members had paled to insignificance at that announcement, even though it had somehow also leaked that Eraserhead was personally responsible for thwarting the League's plans a third time, although there had surprisingly been rumors of a new sidekick who aided him as well.

Eraserhead normally worked in the shadows, at night and alone, though on rare occasion he'd been known to provide behind the scenes support to some of the flashier and most recognizable Heroes, most notably Present Mic, Midnight, and Ingenium, before the latter was paralyzed. From what Hawks had been able to learn from his police contacts, this was someone new. A kid, a student.

What the hell is he thinking?

Kiri knew Shigaraki must be fuming, scratching himself bloody over the news, and plotting his revenge. He was concerned that he might have already taken it. There were reports that Eraserhead had collapsed after the take down and subsequently disappeared, before the police could even question him. Whoever that student was would likely be next. It belatedly dawned on him that Tokoyami might know who they were. Damn, he was tired, not to have realized that before.

“Hawks? Hey, are you in there?” Yuki asked, in a way that implied she'd been trying to get his attention, or had maybe even asked a question he'd missed.

“Sorry, Chickadee. Can you repeat that?” he asked with his trademark grin, the one guaranteed to make both warm and cold blooded hearts of every gender melt.

“Never mind. You clearly need sleep more than food if you, of all people, are zoning out. It's bed time for you, Big Bird,” she scolded.

“Was that an invitation?” he immediately challenged, more playfully than seductively.

She snorted and held up her left hand and wiggled her ring finger, the diamond catching the light in a sparkling prismatic rainbow. “One, Kuma doesn't share, Boss, and as a reminder, she's two feet taller than you, has six inch claws, and could snap you like a twig.”

“She'd have to catch me, first,” he retorted. His flight speed and dexterity were, after all, legendary.

“Two, we both know you're ridiculously beautiful, but you're not exactly endowed in the right areas for me. And three, you're clearly so tired you're punch drunk, and a lady never takes advantage of a gentleman-”

He opened his mouth to protest, because he'd been accused of many things, but being a gentleman was certainly not one of them.

“Or a scoundrel, when he's under the influence. Go to sleep, Boss. The City will still be here in the morning, trust me,” she urged.

News images of the explosions all over Hosu City months ago flashed across his mind's eye. “Don't tempt the Fates, Chickadee. Harpies might be winged, but they're not angels.”

“Neither are you, Boss. Good night. Sweet dreams,” she replied firmly.

He sighed and gave her a ridiculously courtly bow, with a special extra flourish from his wings. “As my lady commands.” Then he headed for his room, dreading the sight of his bed. Because sleep would invariably mean more nightmares: there was a reason he hadn't slept in four days. Work had been a convenient excuse, an escape from the problem, not the cause of it. But he was beyond exhausted now, so maybe he'd finally be able to sleep dreamlessly.

He brushed his teeth, frowning at his reflection, startled by the dark circles he saw under his eyes, that would have been more at home on Eraserhead's face than his own.

Damn it. Don't think about him. Yes, he's missing, but he's an adult, and he's been missing before, and always miraculously turned up again. He's probably just hiding from the press. But not the police. He wouldn't. So where the hell is he?

He scrolled through his contacts, and stopped at Present Mic, a number he'd seldom used, but he pressed it anyway. He frowned as the call went directly to voicemail. “Hey there, listener! You know I must be super busy with something really important if I'm not answering your call. Leave a message and I'll call you back ASAP. Later!”

“Hey Mic, it's Hawks. I know things are crazy at the school right now and a lot of Heroes are already mobilized, but if you need someone to do some aerial recon, I've got you covered, and a bunch of sidekicks eager to help. Seriously, Mic, word on the street is Eraser's gone missing and I just... if he is, he needs as many people looking now as can be. So call me, OK? Even if its just to tell me everything's fine. Talk to you later.” He reluctantly ended the call.

He debated calling Midnight, but then belatedly remembered Tokoyami might know. He hated to bother the kid again, but he'd never get to sleep at this rate. He was scrolling down to his number when the phone rang in his hand, startling him and then his heart slammed into overdrive when he saw the contact name: Black.

Fuck. Kurogiri. The League of Villains. I do not need this right now. But he accepted the call anyway.

“Red, this is Black. Meet us at the Rookery,” Kurogiri ordered, without preamble.

“The Rookery? What, now?” he asked stupidly. In spite of how isolated it was, it thankfully wasn't far, especially at his flight speed, but what the hell would the League be doing there, at this time of night?

“Yes, now. Unless you have something more important than your arrangement with us?” Kurogiri challenged.

“No, of course not,” Kiri assured him, wincing.

“I thought not,” Kurogiri concluded, ending the call without another word.

Shit. They want to meet me on a mountainside, relatively in the middle of nowhere, at this time of night. Heads it's an ambush, tails it's a trap. Unless it's just another test? What are the odds they won't try to kill me? So come in quiet, gather as much intel as you can before they know you're there. Not even Kurogiri is fast enough to catch you if you gain enough altitude quickly enough, and at least there's a clearing big enough so the trees won't be a liability. Time for a quick change into civies for this. Something dark that doesn't scream 'Hero' and paint an even bigger bullseye on your chest.

He stripped off his costume and shimmied into a sinfully skintight pair of butter-soft black leather pants and a midnight blue muscle shirt, custom tailored to fit around the base of his wings, topping it off with a pair of hip high matching midnight blue leather-look boots, that fit over the pants like a glove, and then a black leather-look biker jacket, both of which were actually made of the highest quality Kevlar money could buy. Then he opened his blackout curtains, and his terrace door and leapt over the railing, turning the deadly plummet into a swooping dive, as the first of the news helicopters immediately spotted and tried to follow him. He evaded them easily, not just outpacing but completely obliterating their top pursuit speed, even though that was definitely an XK9, the top storm chaser chopper available on the civilian market, as he streaked over the city like a comet, heading for the mountain rendezvous.

He rocketed over the city, reaching the edge quickly and then skimmed over the countryside beyond it, arriving at his destination in record time, only a few minutes after speaking with them, even with the costume change in between. A vile smell greeted him before he spotted anyone. He wondered who had been vomiting, and why.

He spotted Shigaraki first, the myriad white gloved hands the first sign, followed by his pale skin and light blue hair. Kurogiri would have been invisible, if it weren't for the white shirt he was wearing under his vest. But he cursed silently as he realized they weren't alone. There was another pale face, seemingly floating in the darkness, the rest of the person all but invisible by starlight. He dropped down silently and stealthily, careful not to even stir the air, getting close enough to hear the mystery person was speaking.

“-know which book they use, you're in,” a deep, unfamiliar, confident, and resonant voice stated.

Hey, there, sexy. And who might you be?

“Why not send Twice and Compress?” Shigaraki challenged. “From Compress's report, if you'd let him keep Tokoyami and Bakugo in their marble prisons, you could have brought them both back to me.”

Hawks felt immediate, protective, defensive fury at the casual mention of his intern's kidnapping.

“Tokoyami was never a target to begin with. That was Compress showboating, getting flashy and theatrical, instead of effective,” the stranger scoffed. “His little improv is the reason we ended up losing Moonfish, Muscular and Mustard. But of course he managed to come back. I brought you Bakugo, our actual target, and got the rest of them back safely. I've followed every order you've given me to the letter. I'm not some insecure attention whore needing all eyes trained on me. I don't give a fuck who's watching me.”

Au contraire, Mystery Man. Clearly, with this speech, you do. Though you're as painfully oblivious to my presence as Shigaraki and Kurogiri. No one ever looks up.

“No one should be looking at me. They should all be focused solely on you. You're the boss, it's your plans that we're executing, that have gotten the League the recognition it deserves, that have gotten us more and more recruits, so we can achieve your goals. I'm like Kurogiri. I'm not in this for me. I'm in it for you.

Well played. But time for me to upstage you.

Kiri snorted, purposefully, as the precursor for that, and then dove to the side, at the sudden, unexpected gout of blue flame, which fortunately was warped harmlessly away by Kurogiri. He hadn't been expecting an attack, and he hadn't seen reflexes that fast other than his own, ever. Belatedly, he realized who the third person was: the villain Dabi, a particularly cold and deadly monster, one he'd heard looked the part, thanks to the nightmarish mass of scar tissue that shrouded him, though the darkness was concealing those crucial details.

Kiri let sarcasm drench his voice, as he carelessly scoffed, “And I thought Compress was the drama queen of the group. Don't tell me this guy is why you dragged me all the way out here at this time of night, Boss. No offense, Shakespeare.”

He descended from his hover, landing just as the tiny clearing the three villains were standing in was lit by a beam of moonlight, as a cloud drifted past lazily overhead.

Holy hell. The descriptions didn't do you justice. Kiri felt an unexpected wave of pity for the horrifying mockery of a man revealed in the gentle glow of moonlight.

What the hell happened to you? Did you do that to yourself? It couldn't have been intentional. No one's that crazy. Shit. Fuck. It was Endeavor, wasn't it? Who else could it have been? Could even that lowlife waste of oxygen have done something like that to another human being?

Unless... were you just a kid when it happened? Oh no, not when your Quirk first manifested? When you were four years old? Damn it. If so, looking like you do, your only choice was to become a villain, wasn't it? I bet the other kids used to run screaming from you, and their parents too, probably.

“How long have you been listening?” Shigaraki accused, pulling Kiri from his musings.

Get it together, Kiri. These people will kill you, if you give them reason to, if you let them. Your life is on the line with every word, remember that.

“Long enough to hear Extra Crispy here throw Black and White under the bus,” he quipped, mentally slapping himself in the head for it in the next instant. That was his sleep deprivation talking. Quick, say something to appease Dabi. “Although knowing Compress, he probably started that little roadkill party,” he quickly improvised. “Why, what did I miss?” he asked, tucking his wings behind his back, as Dabi watched him with an intensity that was frankly unnerving as hell, his blue eyes almost glowing in the moonlight.

Memory of a far different pair of eyes, a devilish, laughing, irreverent pair of eyes in a breathtakingly handsome face momentarily overwhelmed him, and he forced the memory down quickly and brutally. Not now, Tiki. Haunt me later, or I'm going to become a ghost too.

“We were just discussing kidnapping two UA students,” Shigaraki stated casually.

Are you freaking kidding me?

He spoke again without his brain to mouth filter triggering. “What, again? Damn, Boss, you really have a hard on for that school. Let me guess. Bakugo and Midoriya, right? Man, Eraser's going to flip.” Fuck. That sounded a little too familiar. Quick, turn this into fishing for info.

“Assuming he's, you know, still alive, or conscious, or whatever, after Crispy Critter here torched the school today. From what I hear, their teach is MIA. Let me guess, he's currently guesting at Chez Secret Base, am I right?” Hawks fished far more clumsily than he normally would have.

Why not just wave a red flag in front of a charging bull, Baka Taka?

Kiri froze and swallowed, hard. That had been Touya's voice in his head, warning him, not his own. He heard it as clearly as if it was ten years ago.

“Why are you always so annoying?” Shigaraki demanded, but fortunately he didn't sound particularly upset, more like he was fed up with his bullshit.

“Hey, a bird can't change his feathers,” he offered as an excuse. “But I thought you told me you were going for stealth this time around at UA, that Toga was just going after their blood. But the news said the Pros thwarted kidnappings. You really stirred up a hornet's nest today with that one. Give a guy some warning, next time,” he chastised.

“I didn't do shit, Feather Duster. That wasn't me, that wasn't my fuck up, my mission,” Dabi snapped. If he'd been Endeavor, constantly aglow, his flame would have flared with his ire.

“Whoa. Don't get your panties in a twist, Pretty Princess,” Kiri instinctively retorted, as if this were Touya and not a homicidal pyromaniac. He quickly lifted his hands in a conciliatory gesture.

“Shut the fuck up and give Kurogiri your phone, Red,” Dabi snapped.

“My phone?” Kiri asked uncertainly.

Shit. What are they looking for? Thank God I'm not recording this. Are they going to use it to call someone, lure someone?

“Your phone. Now,” Kurogiri demanded, holding out his hand, enforcing Dabi's demand.

“Yeah, sure,” he agreed warily, ready to draw feathers and fight his way to safety, if necessary, as he nervously watched his phone disappear into Kurogiri's warp.

“So who's the second target, Boss? I thought we were only going after the one,” Dabi asked, thankfully unintentionally drawing their attention away from him.

“Mezo Shouji. He's a UA Class 1A student too, but he's also Darkweb's weakness. Darkweb's deal was that Mezo Shouji would be protected, that if we ever caught him he not be harmed and that he'd be handed over to him. So we're going to catch him, and use our little fly to catch a big, ugly spider,” Shigaraki stated smugly.

What? Son of a bitch! Shouji's a traitor? Tokoyami's Shouji? The one he's with tonight, who I told him to go after? Damn it! I have to get out of here. Warn him to stay away from him. Or fuck. Have him help me catch Shouji. Not for the League. But to interrogate.

But who is the other student? Don't tell me it's Tokoyami? Or is it Bakugo? Midoriya? Or Eraserhead's new protege? Someone they could torture to make him talk? Torturing one of his kids in front of him is the only way they could get him to cave. Or one of his friends, maybe, especially Ingenium, since he's crippled now. Not helpless, but definitely not able to hold his own.

“Just leave them both to me, Boss. Birds eat flies and spiders for breakfast,” he bragged.

Shigaraki looked appraisingly at him, and then at Dabi, a crafty and terrifying smile lighting his face. “No. You're each going to go after one of them. Dabi, you already have your target, and your plan seemed sound. You have 24 hours to bring him to me.”

Then that face was focused on him. “Red, your target is Shouji. You also have 24 hours. We'll see who does the best job. You're allowed to use any other single League member to assist you. Dabi has already spoken for Twice and Compress is doing a job for me, so pick whomever else you want of whoever is left, or do it solo. I don't care. Just bring me that spider bait. Now both of you, go away.”

“Can Kurogiri give me a lift back?” Dabi asked sounding respectful and restrained.

“You'd better not throw up inside him. Kurogiri, take him back, wherever he wants to go, but not the base, without us there. Then come back for me. We have additional plans to discuss,” Shigaraki posed.

So that's who vomited. I was wondering about that nasty smell.

“Understood, Tomura Shigaraki,” Kurogiri confirmed officially, as to Kiri's relief he returned his phone, without any explanation as to why they'd taken it in the first place.

Shit. If I pretend to fly away and stay to overhear and they catch me, I'm dead, literally. But I still have no idea who Tall, Dark, and Crispy is after.

“Hey there, Hot Stuff. How about you take the scenic route back instead? You can be my plus one. It didn't sound like there was a rule against the two of us working together. Unless you and Twice have a thing or something. Not that three's a crowd, I'm all for a lusty menage e trois, but I wouldn't want to break the Boss's rule,” Kiri flirted shamelessly, not really expecting him to take him up on the offer, since he'd been somewhat less than charming, before.

“And give you a chance to 'accidentally' drop me from a couple of miles up in the air? No thanks. I prefer the Vomit Comet to getting my brains splattered across a mountain,” Dabi retorted caustically.

Kiri barely managed to restrain the protest that he was a Hero, not a murderer. Because that wasn't the part he was playing with them. Not that this was a game. Just Endeavor's way of trying to destroy one more life, the way he'd destroyed Touya's. Not for the first time, he wondered if that was the Old Man's plan all along – kill one of the last people who knew Touya had ever existed, who knew the truth about what a monster Endeavor was, as much a villain as all three of the present company.

“Too bad. You could have joined the Mile High Club. Nothing beats a good mid-air fuck for the thrill,” Kiri quipped.

“So the rumors are true. You really do fuck anything that moves,” Dabi snapped with a surprising amount of ice, for someone whose Quirk was literally heat based.

Kiri laughed, even though the accusation unexpectedly stung. He was fully aware the rumors were true, but he was the only one who knew why. The only person he wanted, the one who truly mattered, had vanished ten years ago, without a word of explanation or even goodbye. It had taken a while longer to realize he was hopelessly and tragically in love with his missing best friend, that he'd met his soulmate at nine, and lost him at twelve. “Careful there or you might insult yourself by mistake,” he replied with that innocent seeming viciousness he kept on a tight leash. Because cats weren't the only ones who liked to play with their food. Hawks were known to torture mice too.

“Actually, I managed not to melt my eyes when I fried, so I have seen myself in a mirror, fuck you very much,” Dabi snarled back, unexpectedly flayed open by the talon he thought would swipe and miss.

Kiri opened his mouth to reply with a hollow and saucy retort but then closed it again wordlessly, feeling sick to his stomach. He tried to convince himself it was the lingering scent of vomit, or the lack of sleep, but he'd seen his own face in the mirror too many mornings after, while feeling that same self-loathing queasiness to ever deny how much he despised himself. Like the morning after his drunken memorial birthday drinking binge, the nighttime portion of which Tokoyami had witnessed. And suddenly he heard his own voice, soft, assured, subdued, and deadly serious, in the way only that of the truly hopeless drunk with nothing more left to lose can be.

“It's not going to be a villain or old age that gets me, Baby Bird. I know how I'm going to go. One day, I'm just going to fly straight up, get as high as fast as I can, so high there's no air left for me to flap against, no air left to breathe. But I'm not going to end it there, quick and easy, I'm not going to pass out. Because I want to be awake and aware when it happens. I'm just going to fold my wings against my back, and dive. And keep diving, until I hit the ground. Then I'm going to march straight into hell and demand to see that miserable son of a bitch. And once the Devil leads me to his right-hand man, and he greets me with that self-confident smirk on his face, and asks me where the fuck I was, what took me so damn long, I'm going to punch him right in that smug smile. And then I'm going to kiss him, and spend the rest of eternity reminding him why he should have waited for me, as we toast marshmallows in his bed.”

And there it was, that shooting pain in his heart that felt like he was stabbing himself with one of his sword feathers. He stumbled forwards a step, barely managing to lock his knees into place to keep from falling.

And the look in Dabi's eyes changed, to something that burned worse than his fire ever could, because it was poignantly familiar, but gone forever, and seeing that look in the eyes of a stranger, a murdering villain, was more than he could stand.

Kiri shot up into the air, straight up, like a rocket, each powerful flap of his wings taking him higher with dizzying speed. And suddenly his deal with Endeavor, the danger to the UA students, none of it mattered. He couldn't bear a single minute more. This was it. He was done.

The forest and even the mountain shrank beneath him, as the air cooled and thinned, as he silently whispered goodbyes and apologies to the few people who would actually truly care when he was gone: Yuki, his other sidekicks, and finally, Tokoyami.

“I'm sorry, Baby Bird. I can't do this anymore.”

The last thing he expected was to hear a response, his intern's voice, scolding him in his head.

“And people call me morbid and melodramatic. I want you to promise me something, Hawks. I think after this week together, I've earned that right. I want you to promise me that if you ever think of taking that flight, if you ever lose every rational thought in your head, and the Night Muses forbid, decide to do something so wasteful, and self destructive, and foolish and selfish, that you'll turn around and come find me, and talk to me, and Dark Shadow. That you come plead your case to us. And if you can convince us that your reasoning is sound, that your only option is to succumb to death's embrace, that you take us with you. Because no one should ever be so painfully alone, and we refuse to allow you to be. Unlike you, Dark Shadow is always with me. He is my compass, my anchor, my rock. Promise me, that if you ever resort to suicide, you will come talk to me first, so we can speak to you, or if need be, join you. Otherwise I'm not letting you out of my sight, ever. Promise me, Hawks.”

Kiri felt the same stream of tears drip down his face that he'd felt that night, as he'd reached over and hugged his intern, who stiffened into a flustered mess in his arms. “I promise, Baby Bird. I won't go anywhere without you.”

“Fuck,” he cursed softly, as he wiped ineffectively at the tears that were already frozen streaks along his cheeks, destroying the aerodynamic arrow of his ascent, causing him to spin and twist and then tumble, as his lungs began working like bellows, and his vision began blackening around the edges as sparks of light flashed. He cursed and dove, as he realized he'd flown too high, trapped in that previously forgotten memory, as he fought to breathe as he plummeted, then carefully began spiraling down, to avoid the deadly terminal velocity that would kill him just as surely, to keep from ripping his wings off from the friction, as the air began to perceptibly thicken, as he sucked in great lungfuls, coughing and gasping, as if he were All Might, or Endeavor, two men who would have sold their souls to have the strong young body he did, one that could recover from something so deadly, so easily.

As he swooped ever lower, he began locating landmarks, the mountain, the city, he guided himself by them, looking for a cluster of familiar rooftops, the shining bastion of UA, in all her fortified and guarded glory. He pulled out his phone, thankful that the villains had returned it, and typed in the access code that allowed him to penetrate their defenses without being targeted by their missiles and lasers. He could have dodged them, but the last thing he wanted to do was raise another alarm. The students had suffered more than enough.

And there were the dorms. He picked out Tokoyami's building with the familiarity of long study and careful planning, weeks ago, that of a trustworthy guardian, not a hopeless basket case. He counted windows, focusing on the one he'd been looking for on the second floor, his lips quirking upwards at the forbidding black curtain, darker than the night.

Kiri hovered outside the window and gently knocked, in a familiar pattern, one he had used on the door frame in the Aerie, one Tokoyami would easily recognize. The curtain was yanked open with alacrity, and the window opened just as quickly.

“Hawks? What are you doing here?” Tokoyami asked, warmth and concern in his voice, instead of censure, even as he took in his leathers, his windblown hair, and his windburned and tear streaked face.

“Keeping a promise, Baby Bird,” he managed to choke out with a pained smile, even as he felt his chin quivering, his eyes welling with tears he refused to let fall.

“Come inside,” Tokoyami urged, more pleading than ordering. But it was Dark Shadow that grabbed him by the wrist and pulled, that slammed the window shut behind him, that grew to envelope the entire room, leaving him no way out, nowhere to go, but where he needed to be.

“We're here for you,” Tokoyami assured him. “Tell us when you are ready, at your own pace, in your own time. No one will be allowed to disturb us. You can stay as long as you need to. And if you need to leave, for whatever the reason, we will go with you. Whatever the reason,” he repeated solemnly, meaningfully, his eyes boring into his, leaving no room for doubt that the promise Tokoyami had made to him that night was just as binding as the one he had made. And for that reason alone, if for no other, Tokoyami and Dark Shadow would never need to fulfill their promise.

Chapter Text

Dabi watched as Kiri rocketed upwards at an insane speed. They'd locked gazes for a telling moment, and in Kiri's beautiful golden eyes he'd seen shock, devastation, loss, grief and desperation.

Shit. He knows. He realized it was me, and he couldn't even bear to look at me anymore. I knew it would be like that. It's always like that. I can't even blame him. It's been ten years, and I still can't stand looking at myself either. I keep pretending I'm wearing a mask, that the real me is still whole underneath, and someday I'll finally be able to peel it off, and people won't cringe or stare or look away anymore.

“What is your destination?” Kurogiri more demanded than inquired.

“The alley behind my apartment, I guess,” Dabi replied, bracing himself for the trip, even as he wondered what Shigaraki and Kurogiri were going to discuss without him, and what mission Compress was on.

Kurogiri obligingly deposited him as requested, and then handed him back his burner phone, and promptly vanished.

As soon as he was gone, Dabi headed out of the alley, turning right instead of left, not entering the building, but instead heading for his primary bolt hole. He needed access to some of his special tech, and to plan in relative privacy and security what he was going to do about Aoyama. Shouji was definitely the key target now, if snatching him meant information on and leverage against Darkweb, but he might need to snatch Aoyama anyway, to keep him safe from them.

But why do they want Aoyama? Leverage against his father, the Ambassador would be the most likely reason, but what does the French Ambassador have that's of value? Contacts, access codes, some sort of plans? Do they think the French government is after them? It's not. I'm working for Interpol, not the frogs. Not anymore. It's been five years since they transferred me to Interpol, since I traded out Dubois for LeBlanc.

As much as Dubois was easier to work for, the guilt had eaten away at him every time he looked at the man. He'd been a healthy and whole police detective when they met, he'd reminded him so much of Masa that it had been easy, a relief, to betray the gang to him, after he discovered what their real profit maker was – he'd been disgusted by the drugs, but he never would have gone near those bastards, if he'd known they were snatching and selling kids, and for the most horrible reasons imaginable: prostitution, child pornography, sexual slavery, underage Quirk marriages and Quirk experimentation. The moment he'd found Raphael, trembling, huddled under feathered wings, chained, Quirk cuffed, helpless, an adult's finger-shaped bruises on the pale, delicate skin of his slender, bare arms, and the younger boy had looked up, and he'd seen his ethereally beautiful face, blue eyes wide with fear, but also filled with frantic hope, his cheeks tear streaked, he'd known what he had to do.

It didn't matter that the wings were white instead of red, it wasn't about the wings at all, it had nothing to do with Kiri – Raphael had reminded him far more of Shouto – small, weak and helpless, in desperate need of protecting, saving. He'd resented the hell out of Shouto, blamed him for Endeavor abandoning him, favoring him, he'd convinced himself he hated him, until the night he left, when their mother burned him. It wasn't until he was thousands of miles away that he realized he still loved his baby brother, as much as he loved Natsuo and Fuyumi.

He'd gotten the chained boy to speak, learned his name, and Raphael told him what he'd heard, them talking about other kids, a delivery quota they needed to fill, as if they were talking about shoes, not people, the poorer neighborhoods and schools they were targeting. He'd been infuriated, and immediately known what he had to do. Saving Raphael wasn't enough, and there was no way he could get him out safely on his own. They would have caught them both, and likely chained him up with him: the second he betrayed them, he'd go from comrade to victim. He needed to stop them, rescue every kid they took, the ones they could find here, still in the city, and the others who were long gone. There would be records of who they were sold to, where to find them, ones the police could find, could track.

He'd snuck away and contacted the police. He didn't betray his real name to them, he didn't want Endeavor to be contacted, to throw his weight around, take over, “fix his mess” for him, so he gave them the same fake name the villains knew him by: Mikaeru Daitenshi. He'd bargained and turned informant and spilled all the gang's secrets, he'd even agreed to go back, he'd worn a wire and a digital video camera, and gone inside, he'd gotten them all the evidence they needed for their raid. And then it all went straight to hell.

No one had ever even heard of aerosolized Quirk steroids, until the gang weaponized their stock, attacking him with it. His power had flared wildly, completely out of control. He'd managed to protect his eyes, most of the top part of his face with his hands, where his Quirk control was the strongest, but the lower half of his face and under his eyes had burned, along with his neck, ears, legs and arms, his back. But he wasn't the only one to burn. Over a dozen police officers were caught in the ensuing conflagration, including his contact, Dubois. Dubois was relatively lucky, he was on the outer edge of the inferno, he'd lost his right arm, but survived mostly intact. But ten other officers died, and three others were as horribly burned as he was.

Six of the gang died that night in the fire, too. But they were only the first to die. Every single other member of the gang was tried and then sentenced to death, for their part in the smuggling ring. According to his original deal with the police, he was supposed to have gotten off with two years in prison, and ten years probation, for his part in it, because he'd voluntarily turned on them, but the police deaths obliterated that agreement. Although they were still more lenient with him than with the others: he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. French prison, known the world over for their brutality. His sentence was supposed to start after he was able to leave the burn ward at the hospital they'd taken him to.

Unexpectedly, after six months in the hospital, as healed as he would ever be, when he knew they'd come any day to take him away at any time, Dubois appeared, but not with an escort, to drag him off to prison, but with a new offer, instead. He told him how he'd fought those six months to get his sentence commuted down from 20 years in prison to 10 years of their version of community service: working undercover for the police, finding and neutralizing cancers like the one he'd stumbled across, with the first six months in the hospital counting towards time served. And the court had finally agreed to it.

It had been a new lease on life, a chance for a redemption he never thought he'd be able to achieve, and more importantly, a reason to wake up every morning, and not take the easy way out of the pain and horror he'd condemned himself to. He'd leapt at the chance.

He'd exceeded everyone's expectations, even his own. Especially his own. He'd been told for 14 years what a useless and pathetic fuck up he was by his father, but he was told the opposite by Dubois – like Masa before him. Dubois became the closest thing he'd ever know to a real father. The man he'd burned and maimed.

Five years later, Dubois was the one who presented a second new deal to him, and urged him to take it: an offer to work with Interpol, as one of their elite operatives. It meant travel, and on the surface, greater freedom, he'd finally be getting out of France, but it of course came with a price: the collar and leash of the dead man's switch, and the knowledge that if he fucked up, he'd end up serving the remainder of his 20 year prison sentence. They had at least been straightforward about the consequences. And he'd agreed and signed his soul away once again.

A week later he'd been introduced to his new boss, LeBlanc, who shocked the hell out of him by greeting him by his real name, Touya Todoroki, the one no one had learned through the trial, the hospital stay, or in the four-and-a-half years of working with the police. LeBlanc told him bluntly that his father had been notified of his death the week before, told that it happened five years previously, in that police raid, that he'd burned to death, that he'd died a villain. His father had investigated the circumstances, viewed the copious evidence presented to him, verified the veracity of their claim, and then headed back to Japan, declining the offer of his first born son's ashes, instructing them to discard them. That fucker LeBlanc had watched him, a look of wry amusement on his face, as if something as paltry as that might ever make him break, after the hell of the first 14 years of his life.

He'd laughed in the fucker's face, told him to stop wasting his time, that he answered to Mikaeru Daitenshi, or any variation thereof, and asked to be to be fitted with his collar and leash and assigned a case. He'd regretted every single minute ever since. Officially. Unofficially, he'd reveled in the challenge, the rough edged, dedicated, consummately skilled, selfless people he worked beside, the soul crushing responsibility, the painfully but proudly earned chiding respect, the overwhelming ability to be a force for good the likes of which his pathetic father would never even dream of being. Even All Might paled in comparison to the work they were doing. At least, he had. Until this mission, when it turned out it was All Might's nemesis who was pulling the strings, who was threatening the entire world.

Dabi rubbed his hand down his face and over his chin, the sensation muted to almost nothing, as always, by the thick layer of scarred flesh and long ago barbecued and deadened nerves beneath it. Aside from not looking like an escapee from a horror movie, never looking in a mirror without the almost overpowering urge to smash it, the thing he missed the most was the sensation of touch. Everything from a gentle breeze, to the warmth of the sun, to the feel of a kitten's fur against his chin were nothing but distant memories. As for human touch, it was hard to miss what he'd never had. Loving parental hugs were for other kids.

But Kiri used to touch him. They'd grip each others shoulders, slap one another on the back, swap bro hugs. Wipe away the occasional hot tears from one another's faces. The softest thing he'd ever felt were Kiri's wings, wrapped around him, like a blanket of safety, an armored cloud keeping out all the ills of the world.

But that was a decade ago. The reality now was that Kiri was a villain, that he was working for someone who kidnapped people, who stole their Quirks or turned them into Nomu, into monsters. So Shouji wasn't his only new target. Kiri was a target too now, just another rat to be trapped or killed, along with the rest of the vermin in the League.

0 0 0

Kurogiri returned to the forest, to Shigaraki. “There is further business you wish to discuss?”

“Yes. Tell me, Kurogiri. Do you trust Dabi and Hawks?” Shigaraki asked.

Kurogiri didn't even have to ponder the question. “No. I don't trust anyone but you, and All for One. Dabi did capture Bakugo, but he was useless when our bar was attacked by the Pros, and in Kamino Ward. And his past is too much of a mystery, for my liking.”

“And Hawks?” Shigaraki challenged.

“He is loud, flashy, vain, and has an over-inflated ego and over-estimated sense of self-worth. So far he has done nothing of note for the League. Of the two, he is by far of lesser value,” Kurogiri stated honestly.

“Exactly! He's annoying. So I was thinking, if we're capturing Shouji to use against Darkweb, we should capture people to use against Dabi and Hawks, too. Dabi appears obsessed with both Shouto Todoroki and Endeavor. I think Endeavor is probably the one who burned him, that he wants to take his revenge on Endeavor's kid, scar him up like he was scarred. So I think we should get to him first, take him, to use as leverage against Dabi. And Hawks has to have someone like that too, one of his sidekicks or something,” Shigaraki stated.

Kurogiri was intrigued by the idea. “From what we have been able to learn, the sidekick he seems closest to is Yuki Tonamura. But from what I have heard, the person he is most protective of is his UA intern, the bird-headed child, Fumikage Tokoyami, the one Compress captured and lost. I believe Compress would be eager to secure him again. And as Shouto Todoroki was one of the students who fought against him and made him lose his prize, Tokoyami, I think he would enjoy capturing Endeavor's son, as well.”

“That's exactly what I was thinking,” Shigaraki agreed, with that manic smile that made even Kurogiri wary.

“Endeavor's son in particular will be easy to access,” Kurogirki stated confidently. “His father is in the hospital. He will, of course, visit him, as any dutiful son would. It does not matter how many Heroes are present. Compress and I will be able to secure him for you. And once we have one student, we can lure others. We've already seen the students of 1A will go to any lengths in an attempt to rescue one of their classmates.”

0 0 0

Fumikage was mortified, but both too anxious and too relieved to move from the embarrassing and compromising position he found himself in. He was currently curled into a fetal ball on his bed, but he was far from alone. Hawks was curled around him, not only his arms and legs, but his enormous wings were wrapped around him . The relief came from the fact that after a long and emotion filled night of frank discussion and confessions, Hawks had finally fallen soundly asleep. He was, in fact, sleeping like the dead, which was not surprising, considering he had apparently spent nearly 100 consecutive hours awake.

Fumikage did, however, find it both touching and poignant that Dark Shadow was spooning them both, protectively shrouding both of them from the prying eyes of the outside world.

The loud knock that sounded upon his door was both unwelcome and unexpected, but the scraping click of a key turning in his lock and resulting blatant violation of privacy which followed, when the door was flung open at his silence, was appalling.

“Tokoyami, you'd better be- What the fuck?” Midnight snarled, a ring of keys in her hand, her playful challenge instantly morphing into the protective fury of a tigress.

It was a testament to Hawks' exhaustion that he didn't so much as stir, even when Tokoyami sprang from the bed, quickly shoving a pillow into Hawks' arms in his place. “Please, keep your voice down. He would not want our entire class to know he is here. But this isn't whatever it must look like to you, for you to have such a strong reaction.”

“That's Hawks, an adult, known for his promiscuity, in your bed, with you,” she stated, her voice subdued in volume alone, her words filled with fury all the more deadly sounding for how quietly spoken they were.

“Yes, but he is not a pedophile. He is my mentor, and he is merely sleeping. Nothing inappropriate occurred. He was out working late, awake for the fifth night in a row, and was simply too tired to make it safely back to his agency,” Fumikage justified. “Certainly you would not want him flying in an impaired state? Studies have shown that drowsiness is just as deadly a cause of motor vehicle accidents as other forms of impairment, akin to drugs and alcohol, and certainly flying in such a compromised state is exponentially more dangerous than driving.”

Midnight groaned. “Eraser's going to kill me. Half the student body spent the night in a bedroom other than their own, Midoriya and Todoroki somehow managed to convince Nedzu to allow them off school grounds, again, Aoyama's heading out on some kind of father-son bonding breakfast, and-.” She huffed an exasperated and put upon breath. “I do not get paid enough for this. I don't know how the hell Eraser, of all people, manages to take care of you brats.”

She looked over towards Hawks, her brow frowning more in concern than ire, now. “Are you sure he's just asleep and not concussed or something? There's no way a Pro should be able to sleep through a visit from me, even if I am being quiet,” Midnight challenged, though thankfully in the same soft, nearly whispered voice.

“As I said, he is exhausted. If I sit in my summoning circle or at my desk, without physical contact of any kind, can he be allowed to stay, so he can sleep undisturbed?” Fumikage bargained.

“Summoning....?” She looked suspiciously at the floor, and the large rug which discretely covered a significant portion of it, most notably the circle he had mentioned, and then at the blatantly Gothic décor surrounding them. “You know what, sure, why not? I mean, if you can't trust the new acting #1 Hero of Japan with one of your kids, who can you trust?” she asked wryly.

Hopefully her question was a rhetorical one, because from the troubling things that Hawks told him last night, it did not sound like the former #1 Hero, Endeavor, was worthy of such trust, particularly when it came to the welfare of children, most notably, his own. Midoriya's fierce protectiveness of Todoroki, which had previously seemed excessive and unnecessary, was now viewed in an entirely different light.

“Thank you, Kayama-sensei,” Fumikage intoned formally.

She exited the room, without another word, gently closing the door behind her.

Fumikage let out a heavy breath. He had not exactly lied, but he certainly had not spoken the entire truth, either.

He studied his mentor. He'd possessively wrapped himself around the surrogate pillow, in his sleep, as if he were a child embracing a beloved stuffed animal. He looked far too young and vulnerable to possibly be the acting #1 Hero of Japan, to have that enormous responsibility weighing upon his powerful yet slender shoulders.

For a moment Fumikage imagined a more muscular set of shoulders along with four extra arms in his bed, and quickly turned away, and headed for his desk. He hadn't spoken to Shouji since Hawks' phone call, in spite of what his mentor had urged, before his unexpected arrival. He had wanted to remain available, in case Hawks needed him further, but he certainly had not expected a late night visit at his bedroom window. It was perhaps fortunate that Shouji had already departed, and that this morning it was Midnight, and not Shouji, who had caught Hawks in his bed.

But now that he was awake, and from what Midnight had said, he knew Todoroki was as well, he had business he needed to conduct. He was thankful the entire class had one another's contact information, thanks to Aizawa-sensei. He didn't think Todoroki would have shared his otherwise. He had identified each of his classmates in his contacts by their hero names. He typed out a text, including the location of his room, because he doubted Todoroki would know it.

Tsukoyomi:       I need to speak with you, in person. Please come                                 to my room at your earliest opportunity. I am on                                 the second floor, at the end of the hall.

The response was both immediate and abrupt.

                Shouto:                I'm busy.

Tsukoyomi:        I am aware. That is why I stated at your earliest                                 opportunity. But this is an urgent matter of great                                 import.

Shouto:                Text me.

Tsukoyomi:       I do not wish to put the details in writing, but I can                                 say that it involves blackmail and your family.

Shouto:                Endeavor will destroy them.

The heartless response infuriated Fumikage for a moment, until he realized Todoroki's erroneous assumption.

Tsukoyomi:        You misunderstand. Endeavor is the perpetrator,                                 not the victim.

Fumikage was startled by his phone ringing in his hand, until he saw who was calling, and then he accepted the call.

“You should have led with that,” Todoroki chided. “Do you have proof, because without it, you won't have a leg to stand on. No one will take the word of a kid over the assurances of the #1 Hero.”

“What if it is another notable Hero who is the one being blackmailed?” Fumikage posited.

“Then he shouldn't have done something Endeavor could use against him,” Todoroki replied acerbically.

“He did nothing wrong. Endeavor is blackmailing our country's most noble Hero,” Fumikage defended indignantly, upon Hawks' behalf.

His mentor was risking not only death, but dishonor and disgrace, if his actions became revealed in the wrong light, without the intentions behind them being made clear. Endeavor had wanted a pawn to go undercover in the League of Villains, someone to infiltrate their organization, to spy upon them and destroy them from the inside, a person that the villains might truly believe was one of them. Hawks had more than sufficient reason to hate the current Hero structure, to wish to tear it down. But to ask him to attempt such a dangerous mission alone was insanity, a death sentence. Reprehensibly, the enticement Endeavor had offered Hawks was irresistible, guaranteed to get him to agree to the kamikaze mission.

“Endeavor is blackmailing All Might? What leverage could he possibly have against him, now that his identity has been revealed? The man is literally a saint,” Todoroki argued.

“What do you mean, Endeavor is blackmailing All Might? How? Who is that?” Midoriya demanded, his voice more muted.

“Lower your voice, Midoriya. You're done already? I expected you to be in a lot longer with her,” Todoroki stated.

“She needs some time alone to process what I told her about Endeavor, and I was getting too worked up and accusatory, when she looked like she was still going to try to defend him, but also like she wanted to cry, but never mind my mom, what the hell has that asshole done now?”

“It wasn't All Might,” Fumikage interjected.

“But you said... shit. That bastard's blackmailing Aizawa-sensei? Damn it. It's about Yamada-sensei, isn't it?” Todoroki accused, sounding truly incensed.

“Intriguing as that statement is, on a number of levels, no. But the victim shouldn't matter. In fact, it would be best if they were to remain unknown. The means of blackmail is what is important. Blackmail only works when there is a secret to be kept. If I can learn the answer, the information they were seeking, and reveal it, then your father ceases to have any power over them. I need you to tell me the whereabouts of your brother,” Fumikage stated.

“What does Natsuo have to do this?” Todoroki asked, sounding both genuinely perplexed and protective.

Fumikage echoed the former sentiment. “Who is Natsuo? Oh. I hadn't realized you had more than one sibling. I was referring to your older brother, Touya. I understand he is 24 now, but vanished when he was a child of 14. To the public, he has been missing for ten years, but your father knows his whereabouts, and has offered that information as the price, the enticement, for the service he demanded in exchange.”

“Todoroki, what's wrong? What did he say?” Midoriya asked, his voice still somewhat distant.

“Who are you? What did you say to him?” Midoriya demanded, his voice loud and clear now, and containing a level of deadly fury and threat Fumikage hadn't realized his classmate was capable of. He'd apparently taken the phone from Todoroki.

“Calm yourself, Midoriya. It's Tokoyami. I merely asked him the whereabouts of his brother, Touya,” Fumikage explained.

“Why would you...? His brother has been missing for ten years. He has no idea where he is, what happened to him,” Midoriya stated angrily.

“That's not true. Not anymore. Endeavor told me, this morning. I didn't have a chance to tell you yet. I know what happened to him,” Todoroki stated, his voice disturbingly sepulchral.

“Midoriya, please. I need to know. Someone's life quite literally depends upon it,” Fumikage insisted.

“Um... Todoroki? I don't know what's going on, or why, but Tokoyami says he needs to know, that someone's life depends upon the answer,” Midoriya urged, with a level of gentleness that was almost painful to hear, that felt like the most base of intrusions to overhear.

“Touya's dead. He died in France, ten years ago, in a police raid. He was a villain,” Todoroki stated in a coarse whisper. He must have taken the phone back, for Fumikage to be able to hear him.

“A villain? No. He couldn't have been. He was only 14 years old. He was a child. A good child, a good friend, he... no,” Fumikage denied, on Hawks' behalf. This couldn't be true. This would destroy him.

“It's true. The French government showed Endeavor the evidence, the proof of what he did. He scrutinized it, he said it was true, he's not someone who can be tricked, and what would be the reason to? He said... they cremated his... him. They offered Endeavor his... his ashes, but he... refused them, he told them to... to get rid of...” His voice had been getting more and more choked and strangled, and his sentence ended in a sob.

“Oh, Todoroki, no. Shh, it's... I'm here, I'm here for you,” Midoriya said, and then the call ended.

Fumikage pulled the phone away from his ear, looking at it as if it was a murder weapon. And it well might be. He turned to the bed, where Hawks slept obliviously, seemingly peacefully.

“Oh Dark Shadow. What are we going to do? How can we help him now? This truth cannot possibly set him free,” Fumikage whispered.

“Shouji. Ask Shouji,” Dark Shadow offered desperately, looking just as helpless and lost as he felt.

“Shouji. You're right. We need to talk to Shouji. He'll know what we should do.”

He wasn't certain how his friend could help, but he knew that, as much as Todoroki needed Midoriya right now, he needed Shouji.

Chapter Text

Hitoshi slapped the snooze button on his alarm clock repeatedly, before realizing the loud, raucous buzz was coming from his phone. He focused on the traitorous device with confused and bleary eyes, because no one but Aizawa had the number, and he had no friends. He tried to make sense of the string of cryptic messages, as the time belatedly registered: 9:13 am.

He groaned and covered his head with his pillow debating smothering himself, to put himself out of his misery, because it was Sunday morning, and he’s finally fallen asleep less than an hour ago, from his last conscious memory, because he was still far too wired from the villain attack and unsettled by Aizawa-sensei’s collapse and subsequent disappearance to sleep. Principal Nedzu claimed his mentor was safe, recovering, guarded, but that was the same gleeful face that had been talking about blood and kidnapping, though not the same person, he knew that, intellectually, but the paranoid voice in his head kept whispering it could be Toga again, and they wouldn’t tell him where his mentor was, or who was protecting him, and he deserved to know, didn’t he?

His phone buzzed angrily again, insistently, the same unknown number, and he reluctantly and groggily focused on the string of messages.

9:06        ready coffee workshop

9:06        bring

9:07        answer

9:08        waiting

9:09        coming?

9:10        u there?

9:11        sleep is for the weak

9:12        testing testing 123

9:13        flamethrower time!

9:13        test time purple person!

Hitoshi blinked tiredly at the messages, yawning, not quite comprehending. Who…? Coffee is ready in the workshop? Workshop? Hatsume? Bring what? Answer what? There is no question. I know a question when I hear it, or read it, my Quirk is triggered by questions. Waiting for me? Coming where? No, sorry, you’ve reached a disconnected number, Hitoshi Shinsou can’t come to the phone right now, because he’s sleeping – please, if there is a God, just let me sleep, I’m begging you, what could I possibly have done in a past life to deserve these texts? Wait. Flamethrower? There was something about a fla… testing. Test time. Eraserhead’s costume!

He changed the contact number to Mad Scientist before responding.

                Mind Warp:        Sorry, Hatsume, on my way, there soon.

                Mad Scientist:   he’s alive, alive!

His lip twitched at the Frankenstein reference. Not many people were aware of the classics.

Hitoshi wrapped his capture weapon around his bare chest, and pulled on his PE uniform over it, zipping it up, finger-combing his hair, because brushes were for the weak, and then pulling it into a ponytail, before he headed for his door. Four minutes flat, and half that had been carefully wrapping his capture weapon, so it would unwind quickly and easily.

He probably should have brushed his teeth, he belatedly realized, as he headed for the elevator. But that was what mints were for, for when you were too tired to remember social niceties and basic personal hygiene. He routed around in both pockets and found his nearly empty tin, as there was a gentle ping, and the elevator doors opened. He rode down and was almost at the door to the outside world when the beguiling scent of coffee registered, and Hatsume’s first two messages belatedly made sense.

She must have meant bring coffee, right? Because she probably spent every waking minute yesterday and last night on his costume, to be done already. She probably didn’t sleep at all, and I’m going to have a sleep deprived mad scientist genius trying to roast me alive in Eraserhead’s new prototype costume.

Hitoshi ducked into his dorm's kitchen and somewhat guiltily filled one of the communal thermos’s with half the coffee pot and then snagged a spoon and filled a pair of plastic baggies with sugar and non-dairy creamer, because he had no idea how she liked her coffee. Then he headed out across campus, towards the Support Course Workshop, and his imminent demise, texting as he walked, asking her how she’d gotten his number.

A short while later Hitoshi entered the Workshop somewhat warily. The texts had certainly sounded like something Hatsume would send, especially the “purple person” designation, but he hadn’t given her his number, and while her reply to his texted question “I hacked it” was certainly likely, given all he’d recently learned about her, he didn’t want to risk walking into a villain’s trap, either, especially not after the villain Toga saying “he” would want his Quirk.

“Purple Person!” Hatsume yelled, as soon as he warily opened the door. He straightened from the defensive stance he’d immediately assumed at her yell.

It sounded like her. But then, Toga had looked and sounded just like Nedzu, too.

Stop being paranoid. Toga’s in Tartarus. I hope.

“I come bearing gifts,” he said, holding out the thermos and baggies. “You wanted to see me?” he asked, fighting with himself and winning, not caving into his paranoia and activating his power just to ask her if she was really Hatsume, because she was an ally, maybe even already a friend, and he couldn’t risk alienating her, or anyone else at UA.

“Yes! I wanted you to try on your new costume, so we could field test it.” She held a costume out him, and it was a testament to how exhausted he was that it took a moment for him to him to figure out why what he was looking at was wrong. It was the same, deep purplish black of his costume, the capture weapon and goggles iridescent white like his, and he realized belatedly that it was his. She'd made him a new costume, instead of Eraserhead.

“No, wait. It wasn't supposed to be for me. It was supposed to be for Sensei, to keep him safe,” Hitoshi argued.

“You need to be safe too. And Grumpy Person would never test a new costume for me, he'd just tell me it was fine and wear it. And his wouldn't fit you properly and would invalidate the test results, so I made you one instead, to test for me, and then once we work out the bugs, and fix the flaws, I'll replicate that iteration for him. I’ve already run it through a number of stressors, but nothing compares to an actual field test, to see if it’s really as fireproof, waterproof, bulletproof and blade proof as I think it is!” she explained enthusiastically.

“Mei, you are not planning on setting this young man on fire, drowning him, shooting him and stabbing him just to test one of your inventions, are you?” a woman’s voice gently scolded from behind him, more exasperated and amused sounding than surprised or even disapproving.

Hitoshi had spun around at the first word, ready to attack, as the woman closed the door behind her, but had reined in the impulse upon seeing someone who was clearly biologically related to Hatsume, and had called her by her first name. Her eyes were covered by large, opaque sunglasses, but she had the same pink hair, though tied back in a prim bun, and a similarly shaped face and skin tone. She was simply but professionally dressed, in a button down gray blouse, black slacks, and flat heeled shoes.

“Mom! What are you doing here?” Mei yelled, diving forward and catapulting herself into her arms.

She had clearly been braced for the impact, as she was only knocked back a little, as she embraced her daughter. “I was hoping you could help me with something from work.”

Mei rubbed her hands together gleefully. “What did you bring me?”

“Why don’t you help your victim – I mean classmate – first?” her mother proposed with a devilish smile.

“Purple Person can wait! Hand it over!” Mei demanded, holding out her hand.

“Mei, dear, you know my work is-“

“Confidential, I know, I’m not supposed to let anyone know I’m related to you and help you out, because they might try to kidnap me so you destroy the evidence, but this isn’t a villain, Mom, this is Purple Person! He’s not a villain, he fought the villains, yesterday, with Grumpy Person!” Mei insisted.

Hitoshi rubbed the back of his head self-consciously, with his left hand, and held out his right. “Hitoshi Shinsou, the underground Hero Eraserhead’s protégé, Detective,” he clarified, because it sounded like Hatsume’s mother was a police officer, and mentioning Eraserhead would probably be more likely to put her at ease than learning he was just a random student from General Studies.

“Oh! You’re the buzz of the Department. You made quite an impression on my colleagues. Your quick thinking and decisive action saved lives, your training appears to be exemplary, and of course, your Quirk is extraordinary. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Mine Hatsume, Mei’s mother. I’m not actually a detective, though. I work in the Evidence Lab,” she stated, taking his hand and giving a firm, strong shake.

Hitoshi wasn’t used to such warm praise, and lack of fear of his Quirk, and though the police had appeared to be somewhat respectful when they interviewed him, he hadn’t expected them to talk about him beyond that. “That’s pretty much all thanks to Eraserhead. He’s an excellent teacher,” he replied modestly.

“He’s an extraordinary man,” she agreed.

Hitoshi was surprised. Though even as an underground Hero, he must work closely with the police. Perhaps more closely, considering the types of cases he often assisted them with – drug dealers, thieves, and other petty criminals and low level villains who plagued the poorer areas, cases that weren’t glamorous or well paying enough for the more commercial Heroes to be interested in.

“Enough small talk! What do you have for me?” Mei demanded eagerly.

The elder Hatsume turned back to the closed door, locked it, and then glanced around at the security cameras, frowning. “Are the camera’s on?”

“Of course not! I rigged them with a loop program my first day here, which I run anytime I’m in here. And I’ve got jammers running, so no one can spy on us using our cell phones or other devices. I’m not about to let anyone steal my designs for my babies. Now what did you bring me?” Mei repeated.

The elder Hatsume reached into her handbag and pulled out a very familiar looking ID card, in a clear plastic envelope, and a pair of latex gloves, handing both to her daughter.

Mei took one look at the ID card inside, through the bag, and burst out laughing. “This is the worst forgery I’ve ever seen!”

Hitoshi took a careful look. It was the ID card for Ochako Uraraka, the Gravity Quirk user, the one with the police ankle bracelet. It looked authentic to him, from what he could see. From the stunned look on the evidence technician’s face, she appeared just as surprised by her daughter’s reaction.

“What do you mean? I’ve run it through dozens of tests – it appears completely authentic. I actually came down here to borrow your ID card to do a side-by-side comparison of the two, to try to see if I could find any flaws.”

“Mom, it’s the wrong color! Ochako’s a girl! I’ve seen her file, I know she’s not trans, but they used a boy’s ID blank. And you can still see the marks from the letters they deleted and replaced, from the card they used as a template,” Mei stated, like her mother had suddenly gone blind.

Her mother pulled off her opaque sunglasses, and he saw the same gun sight looking eyes as Hatsume's looking intently at her.

Shinsou pulled out his ID card and held it out in comparison to the one in the plastic envelope. The two card stocks looked identical. “Can I see your ID?” he asked Hatsume. Because he’d never noticed that the girls’ cards were a different color.

She dug it out of her wallet and handed it to him. He frowned in confusion, as he placed it beside the other two. “I don’t understand. They’re all the same color. Forgive me for asking, but are you trans?”

“Gender is a social construct, but biologically speaking, according to societal norms, though I’m gender non-conforming, I am female, not nonbinary or male, so I check the female box. UA uses three different cards stocks, for the three legally recognized genders: female, nonbinary and male. Those two cards both use the male template, the true violet one. Mine is the female one, which is clearly blue. The nonbinary one is a combination of the two, alternating curves of true violet and blue.”

Hitoshi held up Hatsume’s card. “This is white with dozens of thin blue squiggles.”

“Yes.”

“And these two are white, too, with the exact same shade and shape thin blue squiggles,” Hitoshi stated confidently, because they were blatantly the exact same color.

“No. The pattern is the same, but they’re true violet,” Hatsume insisted.

“Wait. ‘True violet’? You mean ultraviolet! You’ve called it that ever since you first learned your colors. They must superimpose ultraviolet over the blue. It never even occurred to me to check for colors that aren’t visible to most human eyes, even mine. But what was that about being able to see missing letters? You mean they didn’t use an actual blank, they scratched off the letters on someone else’s card?” her mother asked.

“No. It looks like they scanned a card and then used a 3D printer to recreate it, but with modifications to the scan to change the name, and clearly, the photo. But there are six different watermarks overlaying this card, three of which are true violet, the squiggles are only the most visible of them, and they only recreated four of the six, they missed the two that are embedded in the font. So I can still read the name that should have been on here,” Hatsume claimed.

“What does it say?” both Hitoshi and her mother asked simultaneously.

“Mezo Shouji. Whoever made this forgery used his ID card for a template,” Hatsume stated confidently.

Hitoshi’s blood froze and then burned in the next moment with rage. “Mezo Shouji? Isn’t he one of the Class 1-A kids? One of Aizawa’s kids betrayed him? He’s working with the villains?”

“Given the circumstantial evidence, at least, it would appear so, yes. We’ll need to bring him in for questioning to know for certain,” Hatsume-san stated grimly, as Hatsume went to her computer and began typing with impressive speed.

“We can’t risk him getting away. I can capture him, and question him. He won’t be able to lie to me,” Hitoshi stated coolly, doing his best to hide his seething fury.

“It would be illegal for you to use your Quirk for that, if we weren’t on campus. But also, skilled and gifted or not, you’re still a student. If he’s working with the villains, he could well be deadly. You need to leave this to the police and the Pros. What is Shouji's Quirk?” Hatsume-san asked.

“Duplo Arms,” Hatsume stated confidently, her eyes on her computer screen, as she typed away. “He has eight limbs, but he can create additional appendages out of his six arms – hands, mouths, eyes, ears, noses, but I’m not sure about anything X-rated. He’s also respectably strong and well trained in hand to hand fighting and athletic maneuvers, according to his student file.”

“Please tell me you didn’t just pull that up. If he somehow realizes we’re after him, he’ll either bolt or attack,” Hitoshi warned.

“Relax, Purple Person! That’s old news. I memorized that information ages ago, before the Sports Festival, so I’d know my competition. Right now I’m merely creating a lockdown condition within the school’s security system, sealing the school gates and fence along the entire perimeter, including aerially, so no one can enter or leave the premises. I’m not listing him as the reason, so we won’t be warning him we’re after him, assuming he has access to the school system, which considering we're using my security programs, is next to impossible,” Mei stated calmly.

Her mother looked flabbergasted. “Mei, you can’t just put UA on lockdown without informing the Principal!“

“Of course I informed him. I texted Principal Nedzu that his tea was ready first, so he’d know it was an emergency and to join us here, without alerting anyone who might be listening or watching, so we can strategize with him in private. I just need to add you and Purple Person to the Tea Party tape loop. I’ll be done before he gets here,” she assured them. “Just don’t interrupt me for a bit, or you’ll break my chain of thought and it will take twice as long.”

“Is she always like this?” Hitoshi asked her mother.

“A headstrong creative genius? It does tend to run in the family. We have university professors, scientists, surgeons, engineers and other prominent people in our collective gene pool. She’s quite the catch, actually, and not dating anyone, if you’re interested,” Hatsume-san stated with a crafty smile.

Hitoshi rubbed his forehead in frustration. “Not you, too. Why does everyone think I’m romantically interested in your daughter?” Hitoshi groaned.

“Relax, Purple Person! Mom’s just teasing you. Our entire family is a little bit off, socially and mentally, it comes with the ‘genius’ genes. She knows I’m both aromantic and asexual, and not interested in those kinds of babies,” the younger Hatsume assured him, with a dismissive wave of one hand, as she kept typing madly with the other.

“There. Now all we need to do is wait. He'll be here soon.”

Chapter Text

Shouta woke in an instant, sound asleep one moment and wide awake the next, the way he’d been conditioned from a decade-and-a-half living in an unsafe environment as a child, and over a decade of being a Pro Hero. He immediately relaxed as the familiar warm body pressed against him and half draped over him registered: Hizashi.

His husband was wearing the black silk pajamas with little white cats he’d bought for him three birthdays ago, the ones he never wore, because he didn’t feel comfortable enough to sleep unless he was in real clothes, sweatpants and a tank top at the very least, another relic from his sordid past. The pajamas looked ridiculously cute on Hizashi, in a way they never would have on him. Because Hizashi still retained the innocence of a child, in some ways, even after all these years, while he’d never been innocent. Especially as a child.

He buried the thought in the bitter and overflowing graveyard of his mind, as he stretched cautiously, assessing his physical state. He was relieved to find he was astonishingly pain free, with only the usual, but still relatively new chronic, dull, steady pressure in his right elbow, like a ghostly hand touching him, reminding him he’d almost lost that arm, both arms, and the tightness of the skin below his right eye, which he was still constantly aware of, after nearly three months of being healed. His head was thankfully clear: he was no longer trying to think through a haze of drugs and pain.

His brief instant of relief turned to anxiety bordering on panic immediately, at the memory, because that meant substantial time had passed, when he was unconscious and unaware, and unable to protect his kids. “Hizashi, wake up,” he demanded, shaking him, his heart hammering.

“Shou,” Hizashi murmured contentedly, glomming onto him more forcefully.

He heaved Hizashi off him, catching him before he tumbled to the floor. “Wake up, Hizashi! Shinsou, Midoriya, Todoroki, Bakugo, Kirishima, Kaminari, how are my kids?”

Hizashi pouted at him, still half asleep, which reassured him a little, because he would have woken up quickly, if something was wrong. “Hey, Shouta. The six of them and your other fourteen are all fine. Nemuri filled in for you as dorm parent again, last night. How are you feeling, babe? Is that nasty migraine finally gone?”

“How long was I out?”

Hizashi checked his phone. “Yes! It’s almost 3 am, Sunday morning, so nearly 12 hours. Good. Recovery Girl swung by, and diagnosed you again, and when she saw the migraine was lingering, she knocked you out for another 6 hours, with my blessing. Because you wouldn’t have been any good to anyone like you were, and the campus is swarming with extra Pro Heroes to protect the kids, all the Heroes who accompanied Mustard plus the four villains we caught here to Tartarus, and then some. There’s nearly as many at the hospital protecting All Might, Endeavor, and Midoriya-san. Oh, shit, except you don’t know about that yet,” he qualified, looking sheepish.

“What happened?” Shouta demanded.

“I’ll make a deal with you. Shower with me, let me feed you some actual real food for a change, and I’ll tell you everything that happened while you were out. As soon as it’s dawn, the police are going to want to question you, but I deserve at least a few minutes of your time while you’re conscious and not hurting. You’re not, are you? You hide it so well, but I know all your little tells. You’re OK, right?” Hizashi asked, a frown of concern knitting his brow.

Shouta impulsively kissed the wrinkles away, and nuzzled him. “I’m fine, I swear. No pain. And if everyone is as safe as we can make them, I can spare a few minutes for a shower and some food. You deserve a lot more than that, but I’d be too anxious,” he apologized, because their anniversary had come and gone with very little in the way of physical contact, other than some hugging and a few stolen kisses.

Hizashi smiled, full of warmth and understanding. “I know, babe. The shower’s honestly just because we both need to clean up, and soaping your back and washing your hair relaxes you, as much as soaping other bits has the opposite effect,” he teased gently, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.

“Come on. Let’s shower and eat. You can start telling me what happened while we cook,” Shouta suggested, as he stood. And then he frowned, and took a closer look at the unfamiliar bedroom, Hizashi’s reassuring presence and his worries having miraculously kept him from realizing the obvious immediately. “Wait. This isn’t my dorm room, or our apartment. Where the hell are we?”

He activated his Quirk, because what if that wasn’t really Hizashi? What if Toga had gotten free, and was tricking him, if Hizashi was chained up in a trunk somewhere?

“Whoa, Shouta, calm down, don’t attack me, it’s really me, I swear! Your favorite candy is licorice, because you say it’s black, like your soul. And that big, scary kid Ichigo used to call you that, because of your hair, back when you lived on your own, after you were emancipated, and he called me Butterscotch, because of mine. And you made me try some licorice, when we first started going out, back in high school, and it was nasty and made me throw up, and you hate butterscotch, because it’s way too sweet for you,” Hizashi offered, in a rush.

And he still looked, sounded and smelled like Hizashi, even with his Quirk activated.

“OK. Sorry. But where are we? You know I hate sleeping in places I don’t trust,” Shouta apologized and accused simultaneously, even as he dropped his Quirk.

“I know. That’s why you’re here, because he’s one of the few people you do trust. This is Nedzu’s home, the Principal’s mansion. You’re still on school grounds, still close to your kids, but it’s private, quiet, and safe,” Hizashi assured him.

The tension and wariness melted away with Hizashi’s calming words. “Nedzu’s home. Alright.” Because he trusted Nedzu with his life. Nedzu was one of the few people who actually knew his birth name, who knew who and what he really was: the son of a murderous super-villain who had once attacked UA and was serving consecutive life sentences in Tartarus for that and his many other more deadly crimes.

“Shit. I shouldn’t have mentioned something from that far back. You’re thinking about your childhood, aren’t you, your parents? You only look like that when you are,” Hizashi accused.

“Sorry. Let’s go take that shower,” Shouta immediately offered, because the last thing he wanted to do was upset Hizashi. He’d done enough of that the past two days to last a lifetime.

“Damn it! Stop spiraling, Shou. Nothing that’s happened in the past couple of days is your fault, no one’s dead, and no one’s even hurt, anymore,” Hizashi urged, his voice full of frustration and worry.

He put his hand behind Hizashi’s head and pulled him in for a kiss, the best way he knew to reassure him, because he wasn’t spiraling, he was alright, this was just him being him.

Hizashi stiffened, as if he was about to pull away, but then he melted against him and responded, and Shouta deepened the kiss from reassuring to hungry as their tongues touched, and fuck everything, the shower and food and the rest of the world could wait.

0 0 0

Hizashi kissed the tip of Shouta’s nose, trying to wake him gently, because it was past dawn, now, nearly 6 am, and they’d made love twice, but never actually made it back out of bed last night. They still needed to shower and eat, because the police were going to want to talk to his husband today, and Hizashi wanted him to be well-fed as well as well-rested for that.

Shouta reached for him and pulled him into another long, lingering kiss. God, he’d missed this! Waking up together, both enthusiastically and lazily making love, all hours of the day and night. He wished they were already on their anniversary vacation.

“Happy belated anniversary,” Shouta murmured, as soon as he broke the kiss, as if he’d read his mind. He’d missed that, too, the way they finished each other’s sentences, or didn’t even need to talk at all to communicate.

“I love you,” Hizashi said, summing up all his feelings in the three best words for how he felt.

“I love you, too,” Shouta replied, pulling him back into a kiss.

“Shou…” Hizashi encouraged.

“I know. Time to be responsible adults. Shower and food, and police questioning,” Shouta stated, even as he rolled over onto him, pinning him to the bed. “In a little while. First, I want to tell you good morning properly.”

And yeah, the shower, breakfast and police could wait.

0 0 0

Shouta stretched languidly and contentedly, then glanced at the clock on the nightstand and sighed. It was almost 8 am. He reached over and drew Hizashi to him, nuzzling him awake, by burying his face in the hair covering his neck and nibbling gently on his ear.

“Hey Sleepyhead. We fell back asleep. It’s almost eight and we still haven’t showered or eaten breakfast yet.”

“Good morning, again, Sexy,” Hizashi murmured happily, embracing him back. Then he stretched, and Shouta rolled off the opposite side of the bed, because Hizashi looked too damn tempting, with his pajama shirt riding up exposing that taut, firm, stomach, but they couldn’t keep the world at bay forever.

“Separate showers, and then we dress and cook,” Shouta recommended reluctantly.

Hizashi pouted, and Shouta just wanted to nibble on that lip and- His stomach growled, loudly, and Hizashi laughed affectionately.

“OK, your stomach wins. Separate showers and then food,” Hizashi agreed.

It was nearly 9 am by the time they were finished showering and dressing in the clothes Hizashi had apparently brought from his dorm apartment, and cooking breakfast together in Nedzu’s ridiculously huge and gleaming kitchen. Shouta couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt this human, this relaxed. He’d known he was giving up a lot, being a dorm parent for his kids, his privacy and the bulk of his Pro Hero work, certainly, but he hadn’t realized how much of Hizashi he’d been giving up. The closeness, the intimacy, not just the cuddling and sex, but cooking together, living together, just being together. It felt like years, not months, since they had spent a Sunday morning like this.

“I want you to move into the dorms with me. They can knock out a wall or two, expand the apartment, enlarge the bedroom, expand the kitchen and add a dining room. The teacher apartments should have been designed with couples and families in mind, anyway,” Shouta proposed, as they sat down to the breakfast they’d just finished preparing.

Hizashi’s eyes lit up in a way that he’d missed, but then just as quickly dimmed. “We can’t. We’ve kept our marriage secret for a reason, remember? And now that the villains all know about Eraserhead, now that they know about your Quirk, it’s way more dangerous for you than before. I’d be a liability to you, they’d try to use me against you, to get to you, and there’s no way you’re ever getting endangered or hurt, because of me.”

“What about you? How many times recently have crazy, dangerous, obsessive fans crossed the line with you? A large part of that is because they think you’re single, that they have a chance, that you’re straight. If we were open about our relationship, I could escort you to and from work, keep you safe. And if we lived together on campus, we’d have the best security system in the country protecting us while we sleep,” Shouta argued.

“Yeah, well it doesn’t seem to help you sleep any better than before. Before today you’ve looked more exhausted than ever, even with almost completely cutting out your Pro Hero work, at least the nightly patrol part of it you used to do,” Hizashi argued, before taking another bite of fish.

Shouta set down his chopsticks and looked his husband in the eye. “I can’t sleep without you. You know I’ve always been like that, but it’s been getting a lot worse. It takes forever for me to still my mind. Even the nights I manage, even the times I don’t have nightmares, you’re not there when I wake up in the middle of the night, and I can’t get back to sleep. The nights I do have nightmares, or flashbacks, or panic attacks… I need you, Hizashi. I need this. I need us.”

Hizashi had stopped eating, he was staring at him, eyes wide, tears sparkling in the corners. “Oh Babe. Oh my God, it’s like you just proposed to me all over again. I can’t believe you admitted that to me. I hate that it’s true, but… Hell yes, I’ll move back in with you! Does this mean you’ll start wearing your ring in public, on your finger, where it belongs?”

Shouta pressed against the ring tucked under his shirt, feeling his heart beat against his palm, then he drew out the chain and pulled it over his head. “I’ve never minded wearing it close to my heart, where you are. I’ve liked keeping you to myself, too. I’m not going to announce it from the rooftops, but I also hate that the whole world doesn’t know you’re mine,” he admitted, as he took the ring off the chain.

“Wait!” Hizashi cried.

Shouta frowned. Did he change his mind already?

“Let me put it on you,” Hizashi urged, and the frown melted away.

“And you told me I was the sappy romantic one, in this relationship,” he teased, as he handed Hizashi the ring.

“Please. We’re both just as ridiculous and romantic. It’s just, you usually deny it, and hide it a lot better. Now shush, and I’ll prove it to you once again.

“Shouta Aizawa, you are the love of my life, you’ve been my husband ever since we were fifteen, even though the law wouldn’t recognize it, because of our ages, and our genders. I am so glad that now, finally, I can claim you as my husband, in the eyes of the law, before our friends and their families, and our family, because my parents love you as much as I do, they would have adopted you, if you weren’t already an emancipated adult, and if it wouldn’t have been too kinky, even for me, because you can’t be my brother and my husband both,” Hizashi stated with a wink, repeating word for word the wedding vows he’d spoken years ago. And then he slipped the ring onto his finger.

Shouta stood, as he rubbed the ring, the way he had that day, needing to feel it was there, real, as solid and unmalleable as they were. Hizashi stood too, and Shouta reached out and did the same to Hizashi’s ring, as if he was just sliding it onto his finger, after taking it off the silk pillow their ring bearer, Tenya, was so proudly holding, because even for this, what was about to become a renewal of their vows, he’d never ask Hizashi to remove it, because he hadn’t taken it off since the day he slipped it on, years ago, he’d just worn other rings around it, to hide the significance of the simple band.

“Hizashi Yamada, you just drove every carefully rehearsed word out of my head. I’ll have to tell you tonight, in private, what I planned to say. But I love you too, you maniac, and I love our friends – though don’t expect me to ever admit that again, Tensei and Nemuri.” There had never been any question they would be their Best Man and Maid of Honor. He missed not hearing Tensei’s irreverent laugh and Nemuri’s snort, ridiculously wishing they were here with them, that Tenya and the others were too.

“And I love your parents, and I wouldn’t want anyone else here, to share this with us. I remember this part, at least, though, of what I planned to say. With this ring, I thee wed,” he stated solemnly, putting his whole heart and soul into the words. And then he kissed Hizashi, just like he had that day, to the well wishes and catcalls of their friends and Hizashi’s family, as they clung together like limpets, not caring who was watching and taking blackmail pictures for their wedding album.

Shouta pulled back as he tasted salt on his lips, and then playfully licked the tear streak off his husband’s left cheek.

“Shou!” Hizashi yelped, but he was laughing, now, instead of crying. The day of the wedding, he’d tried kissing the tears away, and Hizashi had started sobbing so hard at how romantic that was that it had taken him forever to stop crying.

“I’ve learned a little something, over the years,” Shouta said with a self-satisfied smirk.

“Babe, you’ve learned a hell of a lot. Me too. Just not how to keep from crying at weddings. Or vow renewals. Or whatever,” Hizashi stated, heading for the sink, and washing his face. “You’re just lucky none of my make-up is here, because that would have tasted nasty.”

“I’ve told you for years you don’t need it. You’re perfect without it. And I wouldn’t have licked you if you were wearing it,” Shouta admitted.

“You sweet and evil beast,” Hizashi accused, even as he hugged him, pulling him in for another kiss. “Time to finish breakfast, though, and wash the dishes, then call Nedzu and see if we’re supposed to head back to the dorm, or if the police want to question you here. I texted him just after my shower and asked him to give us a little more time, he promised yesterday he’d keep the police at bay for us this morning until you were ready.”

“That reminds me, I got a weird message from Hawks late last night, I just listened to it. He and apparently other people seem to think you were kidnapped or captured or something,” Hizashi added, as he replayed the voicemail for him.

“Hey Mic, it's Hawks. I know things are crazy at the school right now and a lot of Heroes are already mobilized, but if you need someone to do some aerial recon, I've got you covered, and a bunch of sidekicks eager to help. Seriously, Mic, word on the street is Eraser's gone missing and I just... if he is, he needs as many people looking now as can be. So call me, OK? Even if its just to tell me everything's fine. Talk to you later.”

Shouta frowned. “I hope none of the students or Tensei heard anything like that.”

“Oh, shit, I didn't even think about Tensei hearing something, but I'm sure he knows you're OK. Otherwise I would have called him a sobbing wreck, like last time,” Hizashi admitted and then looked sheepish and actually blushed, as Shouta's breath caught in his chest.

“You called Tensei after the USJ attack?” he asked in surprise.

“Of course I called him! You almost died! But that wasn't what I meant, when I said the last time. I called him after the Training Camp, too, before I knew you were really OK, that you weren't bleeding out and pretending to be fine, because you were more worried about your kids than yourself or...” Hizashi admitted, trailing off in a way that immediately had alarm bells clamoring in his head.

“Please tell me you weren't about to say, 'or me'.” One look at the wince on his face, the guilty way he didn't meet his eyes, was enough to have him pull Hizashi in his arms. After a too brief hug, Hizashi pulled away, looking embarrassed, mortified, like back when he was a lonely and awkward kid.

“Hizashi, I told you, and I'm going to keep telling you, until you believe me, there is no one in my life more important than you. I freely admit, I love Tensei, Tenya and Nemuri too, you know that, it would be idiocy to attempt to deny it, and there's no reason to – and if I'm being frank, it took another 15 years to find someone else worthy of it, but Shinsou too. Although if I'm being perfectly honest, I'll admit, it's not just him. I've been fighting it, because it scares the hell out of me, to care that deeply about so many people, but the rest of my kids are extremely special and important to me, this entire class – I can say that without hesitation, now that Mineta is gone. You know I'm closer to some of them than the rest, or maybe just more focused on them, for now, at least – Asui, Midoriya, Todoroki, Yaoyorozu, Bakugo, Kirishima, Kaminari – I see too much of the four of us in them or the six of us, I guess – not to be. But I haven't seen Kirishima/Kaminari levels of insecurity and self-esteem issues in you like this in years.”

Hizashi swallowed and shrugged one shoulder and tried to force that same awful smile he used to use all the time, before realizing, and stopping. “These past three months haven't exactly been easy on me, either, but I've seen how much your kids mean to you this year, how you've bonded with them, and that's so awesome, that they fought to save you as hard as you fought to save them, because I wasn't there, and I should have been there, Shou! I need to be there, next time, because I know there's going to be a next time. None of us were there for Tensei, and what if it's Nemuri next time, and I'm wrapped up in my stupid radio show, and she d... dies, or you d...d...or...or...”

Shouta embraced him again. “I can't believe we're still such a pair of idiots. Tensei would roast us and Nemuri would smack us, if they were here to hear us.”

“Speaking of Tensei, we really should let him know you're OK,” Hizashi suggested. “Because last night and this morning were amazing, but if you keep holding me, we're going to end up back in bed, and both be too sore to move. We're not exactly teenagers or even twenty somethings anymore.”

“You're lucky I'm not taking that as a challenge. But we do need to acknowledge the rest of the world, I guess. Just don't expect me to exercise this kind of restraint once were actually celebrating our anniversary,” Shouta grumbled, nuzzling and kissing his neck.

“Likewise,” Hizashi agreed happily.

Shouta reluctantly let Hizashi go and took out his phone. And stared, in consternation, not at the 37 text notifications from his students, though the number was surprising, or the 15 texts from his fellow teachers, but at the 76 additional text notifications that weren't from his students or fellow teachers as well as what must have been at least six dozen missed calls. The bulk of the messages appeared to be from various police contacts and Pro Heroes he'd worked with in the past, but the one that jumped out was a text from his attorney, Hashira-san, which he opened immediately.

Hashira:

This isn't a wellness check. Yamada told me you'll be fine. Once you're awake and aware and have had some time to deal with the fallout, we need to meet, in person, to discuss Shinsou's emancipation paperwork. There is an important issue I don't believe you've been made aware of.

Shouta replied immediately, his heart racing.

Eraserhead:

Is he safe? His foster parents can't stop it, they can't get to him, can they?

Hashira:

He's safe. The school still has guardianship, while he's living in the dorms. Legally, they can't touch him. This is a different issue, one that needs to be discussed as soon as is convenient, but in person. It's not time critical, I am aware the aftermath of the attack will occupy your time. That said, if you wish to meet me tonight, I can cancel dinner with my brother on short notice, or leave in the middle, because I know this will be eating at you until we speak.

Eraserhead:

So tell me what the issue is now.

Hashira:

No.

Eraserhead:

I'm your client.

Hashira:

You're both my clients, and I'm doing what is in both my clients' best interests. And no, as I assured you before, there is no conflict of interest in continuing to represent you, while I represent Shinsou-san.

Eraserhead:

5:00 pm tonight, the usual place. You shouldn't miss your dinner with your brother.

Hashira:

Thank you. It wouldn't be the first time, but I appreciate that you realize how important they are to me. I'm glad you're safe. I'll see you tonight, unless I hear otherwise.

Eraserhead:

I'll be there.

He belatedly wondered why Hizashi wasn't fidgeting, like he should have been, and then realized he was looking over his shoulder, reading the text string.

He sent a quick message to Tensei.

Eraserhead:

Disregard all rumors. I'm alive and well, and in no immediate danger.

Then he texted Shinsou.

Eraserhead:

Hey, kid. Good work yesterday on that take down with me, and on catching Toga like that. I'm proud of you. But you'd better have gotten some sleep last night.

Then he sent a group message to his students.

Eraserhead:

I'll be heading back to the dorm after the police take my statement. The building had better still be standing when I get there.

He temporarily ignored the flurry of pinging responses he received, and began eating again, trying to savor the taste of his rapidly cooling breakfast, but unable to, as reality came creeping back in, tarnishing the perfect slice of paradise they’d managed to steal.

He set down his chopsticks with a sigh and began reading the first of the responses from his concerned and relieved students, but then jumped when his phone rang, cursing himself for being so tense in the next moment, as he saw the call was from Nedzu and answered it. “Aizawa.”

“Good morning, Aizawa. I trust you slept well?” Nedzu asked, though it was more a statement, than a question.

“Yes. Thank you for the loan of the room. And your kitchen,” he added.

“It was my pleasure. Is your headache gone?” Nedzu prodded gently.

“Yes.”

“Good. I have someone here, who would like to speak with you, Detective Tsukauchi, from the police department. I’m going to bring him up to the house, if that’s alright with you,” Nedzu stated solicitously.

“That’s fine, we’re just finishing eating.”

“Excellent. We’ll be there within 15 minutes,” Nedzu warned.

“Whenever. I’m ready,” Shouta stated. He ended the call and pulled up the texts, his lips quirking in a brief smile.

Tenya:

We are relieved to hear you sound well and will return shortly! All is in order here.

He read between the lines easily. “I was worried about you, Shouta. Don't scare me like that again. We're all fine.”

Asui:

Welcome back, Sensei!

Surprisingly, Bakugo was the third He hadn't expected a response at all, or at the most, a brief, unconcerned, “Whatever”. But instead he received an actual message. He was immediately suspicious when he saw he'd used his classmates' actual names.

Bakugo:

I'm not the one who blew it up, and Kirishima and Kaminari were with me, so I've got both a rock solid and shockingly brilliant alibi.

Uraraka:

Bakugo, don't even joke about that! The building is fine, Sensei.

Bakugo:

Wasn't me. Smartass Pikachu stole my phone. He needs to be punished. Ignore the screaming you're about to hear.

Kirishima:

We're not really going to hurt him. But he's actually pretty ticklish, so there might be screaming, TBH.

After that impromptu chat, the rest of the messages were individual. He frowned as he got further and further down the list without seeing messages from two people he'd expected to be near the top: Shinsou and Midoriya. There was no response from Todoroki, either, but he hadn't really expected one. But Tokoyami and Aoyama were silent also. It was the morning, on a Sunday, they could be sleeping in late, especially Shinsou. Or in the shower. Or in the cafeteria.

Eraserhead:

Nemuri, confirm Midoriya, Todoroki, Tokoyami and Aoyama are on campus and alright.

Midnight:

Good morning to you too, Eraser. You're quite welcome, but please, such effusive thanks aren't necessary. It was a pleasure to spend my Saturday night babysitting your little monsters for you, instead of clubbing.

Eraserhead:

What happened? You only get that snippy about my kids when you're trying to hide something.

The phone rang.

“You calling me isn't exactly reassuring,” Shouta griped, putting her on speaker, so Hizashi could hear too.

“Too bad. I know you hate talking on the phone even more than you hate texting, but you're going to have to deal with it. I wasn't about to have you accuse me of being too afraid to tell you in person, or you know, vocally. But it's nothing major. Midoriya and Todoroki are with Ectoplasm and about 50 other Heroes, they're safe, but they're visiting their parents in the hospital, and don't yell at me, Nedzu is the one who authorized it. Tokoyami is in his dorm room. Aoyama's heading out for a breakfast, but it's with his father, and he's sending a car, so he'll be safe. When you get here, I need to talk to you about Tokoyami, and have you talk to him, because I don't have a clue how to handle it, it might be as innocent as he made it sound, but you know him better.”

Shouta rubbed his hand over his face and sighed. “You caught him doing a ritual, didn't you? Don't worry, he knows what he's doing – he comes from a long line of onmyoji. As long as there wasn't an inordinate amount of blood, it's fine, he uses his own, and I make him check in weekly with Recovery Girl to ensure he isn't anemic and that his blood pressure isn't low. But that's all I can do, without violating every religious freedom law on the books. At least his family was up front about it, before agreeing to move into the dorms.”

Shouta, are you out of your mind? Blood sacrifices! The kid is literally doing rituals using blood sacrifices, and you're really OK with that?” Nemuri exclaimed, exasperated.

“Freedom of religion, Nemuri. Besides, it's not like he's ever actually summoned anything, and if he does, I'll deal with it when it happens. If I'm lucky, my Quirk can dispel magic, too and I've always got my capture weapon,” Shouta reasoned.

“Wait, you believe in magic? How is that part of your rational, logical world?” Nemuri demanded.

“People believe a God or multiple gods are real, don't they? Millions of people have also practiced magic for at least tens of thousands of years. It's more irrational to believe magic isn't possible or real, than to discount the possibility that it is. Tokoyami has what we call a Companion Quirk, a sentient immaterial symbiote, something which rationally, logically shouldn't exist: in other words, a familiar, some kind of ayakashi, or animal spirit or totem, to all intents and purposes, especially from what the students saw in the forest at the Training Camp, a raging shadow demon of immeasurable and seemingly infinite power. Although personally, I think Dark Shadow at his worst is far less horrific than a Noumu, something that once was four or five humans.”

“Oh my God. You swore up and down for years you weren't Goth, and now the truth comes to light,” Nemuri crowed.

He rolled his eyes. “I'm not Goth.”

“Then how can you be so calm about blood sacrifices or one of your kids actually controlling a demon?” Nemuri asked, exasperated.

“Because I grew up controlled by a demon, remember? It's far less terrifying to me to think one of my students has the power to control one, than to be controlled by one, someone who wants to turn him into one,” Shouta replied with an honesty he'd never have risked with anyone but her, and a handful of others. Because she was one of the people who'd not only met but fought his father, at his side, the man who had earned his super-villain name, Demolition Demon, with every building he took down, every family and life he destroyed, every sadistic, murderous crime he'd committed.

“Shit. Sorry. I didn't... I wasn't trying to... I didn't forget, but I... How are you doing, Shou? And Hizashi? How come I don't hear him complaining in the background?” Nemuri asked, trying to change the topic, but also sounding worried.

“Because I can hear every word. He has you on speaker. I'm fine, Nemuri. Better than fine. We both are. You missed our vow renewal, but you're going to see Shouta wear his ring. We're going public. I'm going to be moving into the dorm with him!” Hizashi stated proudly, the last part stated at a far greater volume than necessary, but thankfully without his Quirk.

“Seriously? I'm happy for you, you know I am, but what about the villains?” she asked worriedly.

“It's like Shou said, we're safer on campus than we could be living alone, no matter how secure the building. Besides, we need to be together,” Hizashi stated.

The doorbell rang, causing them both to jump, but a quick check of the security monitor revealed it was Nedzu, with Detective Tsukauchi.

“We've got to go, Nem. But I'll be back at the dorm as soon as Detective Tsukauchi finishes questioning me,” Shouta assured her.

“OK. But don't forget, when you get here, I need to talk to you in private for a bit about Tokoyami, and it actually has nothing to do with his summoning circle or blood rituals or human sacrifices or whatever it is he's into, so make sure you find me, OK?” Nemuri insisted.

“Wait! What do you mean it-” Shouta glared at the phone. She'd ended the call. If the police weren't literally at the door, he'd have called her back.

He opened the door with only a cursory glance out the peephole and regretted it a moment later as he frowned at Detective Tsukauchi. The man looked terrible, worn and haggard, with dark circles under his eyes, but he seemed to be all but vibrating with energy, his dark eyes almost manic in their intensity and Nedzu at his feet, looked far more predatory than he'd been in a very long time.

Shouta's hair rose as he instinctively activated his Quirk on Nedzu, then Tsukauchi, ensuring they were who they seemed to be, as he blocked the doorway with his body, keeping himself firmly between them and Hizashi.

Nedzu grinned, showing a flash of strong, sharp teeth that had been known to draw blood, even to maim, before, but otherwise there was no change from the use of his Quirk. This truly was Nedzu.

“I received a call on the way here. There's been a change in plans,” Nedzu told them enthusiastically. “Instead of questioning and debriefing you here, we're going to a different building, and our priorities have shifted. It seems an intriguing situation has arisen, which has required the campus to be put on lockdown. There appears to be a traitor in our midst, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, likely two traitors. Unless there is a valid reason the current #1 Hero is unconscious in one of your students' bedrooms?”

“Midoriya, Bakugo or Todoroki? Who has Endeavor?” Shouta demanded, though frankly he wasn't sure which response would mean the Hero was less injured. Except... “Shit, it must be Bakugo. I heard the other two are at the hospital.”

Nedzu's eyebrow rose, one of the few times Shouta had ever seen his old ethics teacher surprised by anything. “Intriguing as your response is, you apparently haven't been appraised of some crucial information. Endeavor is currently in critical condition in the hospital – even with Recovery Girl's aid, at a minimum temporarily, and quite likely permanently – no longer able to function as a Hero. I was referring to the new acting #1 Hero, Hawks. As to why, I believe two of your students, Fumikage Tokoyami and Mezo Shouji, are the ones who will be able to answer that.

“Vlad King and Snipe are currently discreetly evacuating the remainder of your students from the dorm building, so we have less of a potential hostage situation than a single adult Pro Hero, no matter how highly ranked he might be. We've been trying to contact Midnight to assist in the evacuation, but we've been getting her voicemail, and she hasn't responded to our texts. It is possible she is also a hostage now as well.

“No, she was just on the phone with me. But there must be some mistake. My kids aren't traitors or villains. What evidence do you have?” Shouta demanded.

“I suggest we discuss that in the car, on the way there, and that we appraise Midnight simultaneously,” Nedzu stated with the same frustrating air of calm superiority he always displayed. He'd no doubt run through hundreds of different probable scenarios already, and was predicting the most likely outcome. But if they'd learned nothing else in their dealings with the League, they'd learned that their actions were unpredictable. Which didn't bode well for Hawks or his kids, no matter how innocent or guilty the latter might be.

Chapter Text

Yuuga was cowering in the bushes outside the clearing, wildly trembling hands pressed tightly to his mouth, in a desperate attempt to keep from screaming or whimpering in terror, the unconscious bodies of his fellow students surrounding him, the monstrous villains lurking behind him. He'd peeked too long at the flaming blue one in horrified fascination, because he knew that azure flame, he'd seen it before, long ago. And the burning villain had turned, and seen him, he was certain he'd noticed him – his glowing blue eyes had been riveted upon him.

'Please, I'm nothing, no one, a mouse, I can't fight you, go away, please don't kill me, please go away,' he silently begged. 'Aizawa-sensai, Vlad King, Pussycats, Iida, Bakugo, Midoriya, Todoroki, someone, anyone, please. No, Hawks! Hawks, Taka, please save me! Tell me that's not Tiki, he can't be, he's a changeling, a doppelganger, he can't be the Azure Prince.'

“Y-u-u-Y-u-u. Come out, come out, wherever you are!” a te