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Blood Butterfly

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DISCLAIMER: My Hero Academia is the property of Kōhei Horikoshi and Shōnen Jump.

This is a non-profit fan-fiction.

Now enjoy.

Inspired by
Tokyo Ghoul
2003's Fullmetal Alchemist
The Dark Knight
Joss Whedon's Serenity

I: Fluttering Wings

It's a story we're all familiar with by this point. A boy, born into a world filled to the brim with super powers with none of his own. Bullied and ignored by his peers and betters, all save for his mother; who did little to ease his lingering and incessant doubts that he could ever live his dream. Be that as it may, there he lay, flecks of his skin and hair smoldering, on the wood chips of the playground.

The other children laughed at him, Bakugo especially -being the one who'd reduced him to such a state- rubbing salt in his already tender wounds, non physical as most of them were. As they walked away, snickering amongst their four-year-old selves, an utterance of his mockingly bequeathed moniker was issued, passed between them for the cheap laugh its mention usually produced.

Deku, a shortening of the famous idiom Dekunobou: Useless Person. Perhaps there was some truth to the unfavorable label he possessed. In lending aid to the child of Bakugo's initial outburst all he'd really succeeded in accomplishing was adding another injured child to the scenario. A bitter pill to swallow, for one so young as Izuku 'Deku' Midoriya.

He needn't have, perhaps, and so Deku did no such thing. Years went by, just one over a decade for those who count such things as relevant, and little had changed. He and his classmates at the various schools he'd attended had remained stuck, such as they always had -as youths often do- affixed to their convictions and driving forward with the unshakable bravado of their lack of years.

So too had the child Deku, yearning to be a hero despite his handicap. Despite the bickering persistence of those around him, he clung to his dream. When a dream is all one has in total, save for their families, it is not a thing so lightly relinquished as some may wish; whether for their own desires or the wellbeing of the dreamer.

Yet, for as familiar as we are with this tale, there exist many versions. Many branches along the pathway of one child's life. Born with a 'quirk', these cherished superpowers, left broken a by foul deed of the aforementioned bully Bakugo, bitten by a spider only to inherit its miraculous gifts. Influential chance meetings denied he and those such meetings affected and some laughing at reality altogether. The fever dreams of those with only the only most base and -as some would argue- pointless of wishes to be fulfilled; usually involving nights loudly spent with many a differing soul.

Alternate realities. Like the pebble that begins an avalanche, subtle changes and variations in this path can lead to destinations not before spoken of or much less imagined. "It has been said that something as small as the flutter of butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world." - Chaos theory, a quote about the phenomenon known simply as the Butterfly Effect. So when, may it be known, did the fabled flutter occur? Near the closing of his tenure at middle school.

Their teacher had dared to ask a question most obvious: who among his students wanted to go into the hero course of the various high schools soon to be attended. Not one student, even defenseless little Deku, had failed to raise their hand.

"As expected," jovially said he, "you all want to be heroes." An outburst of every student in the room brazenly displaying their quirks erupted midway through his first sentence. "yes, yes," scolded he musingly, "you all have wonderful quirks, but you know it's against the rules to use them at school."

"Sensei, don't lump me in with these losers!" Roared the ever boisterous Bakugo, laughing mockingly at his fellow teenagers. "As if I have anything like their crappy quirks!"

"Get over yourself, Katsuki!" screamed a very offended student.

Bakugo merely howled back in laughter. "Shut up! Extras should act like extras!"

As always the teacher shook his head in bemusement, rather than apply any sort of discipline to the rowdy teen. "Ah yes..." he started slowly, "Bakugo. You must be aiming for UA High School."

Pandemonium ensued in the form clamoring, students exclaiming about the schools incredibly high standards and low acceptance rate. You had to be among the most promising students in the country with a powerful and versatile quirk to match. Academically, Deku was one such student. This was however his only boon, and only ticket in.

"Ah," Bakugo bellowed, stomping on his desk after jumping upon it, "the stupid chattering of extras! I aced the mock exam! I'm the only one here with the stuff for UA!" He struck a dynamic pose, palms flexing outstretched and fingers curling upward. "I'll even surpass All Might and become the best hero out there!"

"Oh," A timid voice said, "you're also going for UA aren't you Midoriya?" A declaration that left Bakugo in a state of furious shock and Deku hiding underneath his own, scrawny arms.

He'd never wished for an invisibility quirk before that moment... Compounding his embarrassment and fear was the turn of every head in the room toward him. The laughter that followed only served to intensify his humiliation at it all. Someone across the room shouted something about good grades not being enough to get anyone into UA. "Th-" he spoke with a stutter, "that's not necessarily true! Sure, there's no precedent, but-

"Come on, Deku!" Following Bakugo's shouting was an explosion that sent Deku reeling to the floor and his desk clattering off in pieces. As Deku, that scrawny, trembling child with messy, green hair, scrambled backwards Bakugo kept right on berating him. "Forget the crappy quirks," he grinned maliciously, "you're totally quirk-less!" He guffawed, "and you think you can rub shoulders with me!?"

As his back collided with the wall Deku was shaking on the point of jittering. "I wasn't saying I would compete with you, not at all!" Pleaded he, voice cracking with nearly every syllable. "I mean it!" Bakugo scoffed, Deku lowered his head, staring timidly at the floor. "It's just... been my dream since I was little. And well..." he gulped, quite audibly. "There's no harm in trying." muttered the quirk-less teen, downtrodden as could be.

"Try!?" Bakugo's palms exploded as his voice rocketed in volume. "Try at what, the entrance exam?!" Figures of other students loomed behind the explosive teenager, laughing at the display. "You're taking the exam just to try?!" The other students cast shadows Deku's fragile form, the entire room, enveloped in darkness, threatened to swallow him up.

"What," demanded Bakugo, "can you even, do?" No answer was forthcoming. Gaze cast to the shadowed floor Deku remained silent, beaten both in mind and body. It was difficult to produce an argument when he couldn't even protest such treatment.

It took only a few minutes for order to be restored. Desks replaced, to their original positions or entirely, and things gathered up before the ringing of that last bell. Students nearby, as class closed for the final time, murmured amongst themselves about Karaoke. While Deku had his eyes on his phone, scrolling through the local news, Bakugo had approached him yet again. As his fingers clung to the edges of his notebook -filled with drawings, diagrams and notes on various heroes and their quirks- the explosive one snatched it from him.

As a gasp resembling protest squeaked past his lips Bakugo growled. "We aint done here, Deku." He turned a scrutinizing eye to the notebook in his hand. "What is this?" he drolled, " 'For my future'? Really, Midoriya?" his smirk lined with contempt, an eyebrow raised.

"Come on!" Deku pleaded, "give it back!" Bakugo's smile disappeared completely, replaced with a disdainful scowl.

Clapping his hands together, notebook sandwiched between them, he unleashed a focused blast from his palms, nearly incinerating the volume betwixt his palms. While Deku looked on in helplessness, hopes crushed as he squawked out one word, begging the question why Bakugo would do such a thing, the other teen merely scoffed.

"The best heroes out there, well..." and he flung the book out the classroom window, "they showed signs of greatness even as students."

Hand reaching for the singed book even as it fell, Deku could only watch as it plummeted.

"I'll be the first and only hero to come out of this crappy public middle school!" Bakugo snapped, grabbing Deku by the shoulder and pulling him close.

His breath reeked of his lunch, blowing over Deku's freckled face in a cold wave. A sadistic smile bared his teeth as his voice dripped with venom, "in other words: don't you dare get into UA, nerd!" Even as he spewed such bile, terrorizing the smaller teen, he unleashed his quirk just enough to singe the joint in his vice-like grip.

With a harsh shove, Bakugo had moved him aside and joined his friends as they left the building, leaving Deku to try in vain to hold back tears.

"You wanna be a hero so bad? Here's some advice," berated he, over his shoulder, "take a swan dive off the roof! Maybe you'll have a quirk in your next life."

The words bit into Deku's fragile ego more than he could take. That was saying something after over a decade of such treatment. He spun on his heels, glaring with wide eyes even as he trembled with tears threatening to burst fourth.

Bakugo met that look with one of cold confidence, daring him to attack with a raised hand popping with small explosions. "Yeah? What?"

Reduced to nothing but the lone figure left in the classroom, he stood there shaking with fear and numerous other feelings, as they all abandoned him there with his wounded heart.

Standing up to one bully was a task akin to climbing a mountain for the green haired, freckled boy. What hope did one such as he hold to become something so towering and strong as All Might? His greatest aspiration, forever out of his reach. Idiot! He thought, Saying that kind of thing without thinking... if he'd said that to someone else and they had jumped what would he do then?

He'd made his way outside, eyes tracing the ground ahead of him. Eventually he found the spot where his notebook had landed: in the school's koi-fish pond. To make matters worse for the piece of driftwood, the fish were nibbling on it. It seemed the groundskeepers had neglected to feed the captive animals yet again. Hey, thought he, that's not fish-food, give it back.

His fingers found the edges of the book, plucking it from the water. From the feather light touch of his digits, the fish barely noticed until the book was removed entirely and ripples were sent across the surface of the water. With the edge of his shirt he dried the battered container of his thoughts. The vessel of his dream and repository of all knowledge he'd no doubt need going up against quirks like Bakugo's.

Idle fingers gripped at his notebook as he walked, sullen and eyes downcast. He seemed to shrink into the crowds, among the more fortunate members of his species, as he made way to his home. Perhaps that dream being so unattainable was what made it so appealing. If one were to live such a thing in their waking moments, could it truly be called a dream? Deluding himself may have been his only solace, growing up friendless as he had, afraid of human contact even at his best.

Without his dream, begged an unspoken question, 'what had he?' An anxiety disorder, no friends, an extra joint in his little toe and -naturally- no quirk. The new minority, such as it was. Shuffling, dragging footsteps kicked up stray pebbles and trace amounts of concrete-dust. What of a pep-talk he managed to give himself did remarkably little to bolster his spirits. But it was enough, enough for the end of the day before turning in.

It is here, as one might note, that the flutter of the butterfly's wings may be observed. For in his distraught, though climbing, state of mind Deku had failed to take his usual route home. Avoiding walking beneath a certain cobbled bridge with a manhole cover laid beneath it. As he shuffled along, some distance from the local, his Idol All Might did battle with a being made of slime. The herculean figure of a man lost track of the thing, leaving it to escape him in the sewer system. When it reached the exit by the bridge, it found itself alone. Oozing its way back into the more crowded streets of the city: Musutafu.

Whispers of a breeze, carrying into the wind, rolling in tune with other small breaths along a shared path, this is one such beginning for a hurricane. Where the storm truly began was in a crowded street, three now graduated students from Deku's school had been wandering in an alley when the slime-man had happened upon them. Several professional heroes had gathered, attempting fruitlessly to approach and rescue someone held captive within it. Even from the distance he was presently at, the commotion roused his attention. Curiously, he crept toward the source of the disturbance. Watching him from shadows were a pair of glowing, blue eyes. Hungrily, the owner thereof stalked behind him, looming just beyond the periphery of his awareness.

While Deku drew closer to the violent spectacle a long tongue slithered across ruby colored lips adorned on a slender face of pale skin, flashing glistening white teeth peeking from within the maw of this predator. It had been so long... control was a concept nearly beyond what it now knew. It was by chance that the hunter's senses were returned and her hand stayed. When the boy reached the source, the slime thing struggling to control another teen, enveloped at its core, while buildings burned around it and the one trapped within.

Hmmm... curious... she thought as the green haired child wandered forward. Fingers snaked into the pocket of her long, black dress -earning a few jealous stares from women with time enough to notice- and produced a pair of sunglasses that soon perched on her nose. Drawn in by the chaos? She quirked an eyebrow, tossing her flowing dark hair over her shoulder as the wind picked it up, watching the teenager with now rapt attention. What manner of child would willingly approach such danger?

Standing on tip-toes, trying to get a glimpse of what was going on, Deku readied his battered notebook. For now, this was all he could do. Take notes, learn, strategize and... who was he kidding. Shoulders shrinking down toward the ground, the pages of the notebook fluttered to a close soon followed by the cover. Corners of his mouth lowering as his eyelids drooped and gaze dipped to the ground. Reluctantly, he had to concede to Bakugo's point made earlier that day. Without a quirk... what chance did someone like him stand against a man like-

"Hey, I can see who's in there! It looks like a middle school student!"

...Huh? Deku returned his eyes to the spectacle of chaos unfolding before he and the crowd. As had been pointed out earlier, there was indeed someone at the center of the oozing mass. Someone with red eyes, a uniform matching that of his middle school, a piercingly gravelly voice, spiky, ash blond hair- Notebook dropped, flapping like a wounded bird as it hit the street, his feet hit the pavement rapidly as his form sprinted toward the mass of slime.

A pair of glowing blue eyes crept wide open as the quirk-less teenager charged at the villain. Backpack dropping from his shoulder, strap in hand he hurled it at the face of the thing, spilling its contents across the burning alley. Smoke bit at his lungs and eyes as his breath became quick and sharp. The heat scalding at his skin like the quirk of the one within this slime thing had so many times. His body had moved of its own accord and even still did it move so. Fingers clawing at the teeming mass of sludge Deku dug desperately, trying to free his classmate from this thing even as it taunted him.

Bakugo's eyes flashed, a question screaming behind those red mirrors of his. A question left unspoken as his next barrage of explosions reduced more of the alleyway to rubble. Ringing in Deku's ears clouded his hearing as the flashing of the explosions put white spots in his vision, blinding and disorienting him. Whatever sort of commentary the slime monster made it went beyond his observation. As did the monster's next move.

From the vantage point the predator had, her keen eyes saw much that the others failed to. The first round of explosions ignited much of what remained of the loose trash in the alley. Additionally, the green haired one was knocked off balance. Footing of the evidently quirk-less teen now unsure, the slime monster made its move. As the buildings burned and crumbled around them, it let loose a guttural snarl. Forcing the captive child to raise his hand, in time with blasting of explosions.

The predator's eyes went wide for a moment: the green haired one had been flung into the air. Soaring, leaving a trail of smoke in his wake as he flew far, far away. Murmuring of the crowd focused on much, but not that detail amidst the chaos. She was the only one who'd noticed...

Why? Again, the thought persisted as she strode, elegantly against the burning wind from the alley. Was he trying to die? Her gaze remained fixed on the boy's trajectory, though he was long out of sight. Surely there must have been some logic behind his- Something crumpled beneath her foot. Shifting her weight to her other leg she removed her shoe from the object she'd trodden upon.

A notebook? Gingerly, she lifted the soggy kindling with the tips of her thumb and index finger. 'For the Future?' What future? He just threw that all away... As it unfurled her question was answered. Even as the other people in the crowd fled, wind billowing through their clothes, embers biting at their heels, she remained. That boy... It was an old pull, a heartstring she'd thought long atrophied, made all the more pronounced for the fact she knew that she was the only one who'd witnessed his fate.

"It's all right now..." A wave of relief was so tangible in the air she tasted it on her breath, "because I am here!" A battle cry that had suaded many a persistent fear to relent to calm.

The battle cry of the world's greatest hero: All Might.

"Stand back, civilian!" His booming voice urged, "allow me to handle this cretin!"

With a single bound he'd put himself right next to the now terrified slime being.

With a mighty roar, announcing the name of his attack as his fist sent a torrent of wind into his enemy, stripping the slime from the teenager it had swallowed up. She let a short exhalation escape her. This sort of bravado... she'd lost her taste for it so many years ago. Tasteless, flashy, showboating self indulgence. So long as it got the job done it didn't seem to matter how obnoxiously flamboyant someone was.

"Alright there, youngster?" All Might pulled the stunned blond to his feet.

The teen gawked, utterly unsure what to say while the hero laughed. As the fires were extinguished by a hero dressed almost like a firefighter a few others tended to the crowd. Another exhalation, eyes drifting back to the sky, she found the path the boy had followed and made chase. Walking quickly, notebook still in hand, she ventured to where the other boy had been thrown to.

"Again?! Izuku, I think you're responsible for tens of thousands of this video's views." While her son threatened to rattle his head free from his body in anticipation, Inko Midoriya hovered over him and the computer chair setting up a certain video he loved to pieces. "It's a little too scary for mommy to watch."

As she backed away, making her way to the door, the four year old Deku watched with rapt attention. It was an old clip, a big disaster from a while back had left a city block looking like Armageddon had taken place there. But in the aftermath a certain hero made his debut. Newscasters spoke in tones that screamed of awe and wonder. In the wake of such catastrophe one man had save a hundred people in under ten minutes, carrying them to safety as a shepherd to the strays his flock. All the while a bright and determined smile had been engraved onto his imposing features.

"Fear not!" said the booming voice of the herculean man, "Why you ask? Cuz..." whether the dramatic pause was strictly necessary was a matter of debate, but there wasn't a hero alive who hadn't camera-nerves on their debut. "I am here!"

Ever since the first time he'd seen this clip it had been the child's dream to be just like him. Just like All Might. Longing for the day his surely amazing quirk would surface and his ascension would begin. That was until one day when he'd been taken to the doctor's office.

"It's not gonna happen." the pediatrician had stated clear as day.

While his mother had gone on, discussing the how and why with the man, Deku sat there, expression frozen, unable to do anything but sit there lifelessly. At such a simple phrase so thoroughly had his spirit been shattered that he failed to recognize the world around him. Amplified, was this, by the ensuing foul treatment of his peers and the invisibility he seemed to posses to all adults in the world but his own mother.

So it was in such a state that he watched the video again, late at night, trying desperately to feel as though his dream were not doomed to forever linger beyond his waking hours. Sniffling, watching with but embers of his resolve remaining.

"Mom..." Deku let the tears run down his cheeks as the video played. "No matter what kind of trouble you're in..." murmured the wavering voice of the child, "he'll save you with a smile." The chair swiveled round at a crawl, tears overflowing in his eyes and a smile born of quivering lips; a sight to pitiful not to cry at the sight of, and so Ms Midoriya did. "Do you think," strained the voice of this near sobbing child, "I could be a hero like that?"

Her arms were around him in seconds, cradling her child closely as her own tears ran into his hair. "I'm sorry, Izuku!" sobbed she in utter hysterics, "I'm so sorry!" Blaming herself for everything her son was sure to endure from the nature of his birth. What else was a mother to do, with a child so inherently disadvantaged?

No... no mom...

back then...

That was the exact opposite of what I needed you to say...

A faint beeping tickled at his ears, probing into his skull with throbbing pain. Never had he known the feeling of a migraine before this moment. With a sedated flutter his eyes peeled open. Where...? Deku's senses took what felt like a millennium to crawl back to a state of functioning. He was... still alive? In a hospital, warm and safe. No shortage of pain in his chest but he felt almost normal. What happened?

Vague images of an abandoned house, broken legs and some grievous injury to his chest plagued his mind. But it was all so hazy, so unfocused he may as well have forgotten it entirely. Musing of that sort held at the forefront of his mind as his strength seeped back to him. With a numb hand he tossed the blankets off himself. Legs in the correct shape, no sign they were ever damaged. Pulling his hospital gown up he saw bandages on his chest. Though there was an IV in his arm, blood trailing into the vein, as he'd lost enough blood to need a transfusion he was otherwise intact.

I Guess it wasn't as bad as it feels like, smirked he, I almost feel fine, actually. And he sighed in relief. Still alive, his scrawny, quirk-less self. Speaking of such miracles, his movements as he re-covered himself, had roused a certain woman by his bed.

"Izuku!" his mother cried, springing to his side, arms flung around his neck and shoulders. His shoulder was soon drenched with her tears as she sobbed against his neck and side of his head. "My baby..." she sniffled, a hand trailing up to tangle itself in his hair. A task that required no effort whatsoever, rats-nest as it perpetually was. "Why did you run into danger like that?" She gently demanded, holding him by the shoulders at arms length. "What were you thinking, child?"

An answer seemed as though it ought to have been forthcoming, but none was produced. It hadn't truly been a decision on his part... "I... wasn't," plainly said he, "when I started running," his fingers tightened at the hem of the blankets, "it was like my feet had just taken over my body. I couldn't not run in like that." What truly worried him though was another matter. "What happened? How did I end up here?"

The answer to his question was issued by the doctor at the door, just entering in on the scene. "That last explosion sent you flying into a nearby house," said he, "you wound up with a chunk of wood in you." lightly jabbing the boy's side with the eraser of his pencil. "You're lucky it wasn't worse. By the time we found you, you'd nearly bled out. Hell, you've been unconscious for three days."

"Three days?!" He blurted out.

"Mm-hmm," nodded the doctor, "worrying your poor mom sick the whole while." at the mention of her, her hand squeezed his. "Next time your legs 'start runnin on their own' you make sure they take you someplace safe, alright?"

After a numb, cursory nod the doctor's voice seemed to disappear. Echoing like stones in a cave as he discussed his outpatient treatment with his mother. Those memory fragments of what he'd seen before his eyes had been true after all. Perhaps the latter portion thereof had been a product of delirium due to his state of severe exsanguination. It had to have been. All the same, he was in much a better condition than he'd have expected. Appetite slow to return it took some effort to down his lunch. Hospital food, forever the bane of taste buds. Staving off the nausea he felt from ingesting food so foul he and his mother left the place of healing behind them.

It was a short drive home but felt longer after all that had happened just moments prior, from his perspective at least. It was much for a teenager to handle, as he'd been trying to, so alone, and that was speaking merely of the memories he'd been subjected to reliving. Coupling that with some hint of a near death experience in his memory left the young one feeling hazy in the subsidence of such a high. Car pulling into the driveway of their humble home, Deku and his mother were soon inside, attempting to relax as best they could after such a thing's occurrence.

Dinner that night had come and gone without conversation but with worried and apologetic looks shared between the family members present. Going to bed that night, after washing the dishes despite his mother's protests, he noted he didn't feel quite full. So he snacked on some loose fruit, brushed his teeth and turned in, saying goodnight to his mother. So it was, with a clear imagination and quiet stomach, that he ventured off into a deep and peaceful slumber. What dreams that came were of strange shapes, shifting about in cloaks of darkness and shimmering lights dazzling his imagination. Shapeless, amorphous and dancing with an elegance that entranced, it slowly came into focus.

Though he knew not what or where this was, it dared to feel familiar. Architecture of makes long erased from the annals of history, trees old and bent with barren, black branches. Howling of wolves coloring his ears, but they produced not fear in him. Their distance was great enough that it was but foolishness to be thusly apprehensive at their song. So along he trod, alone on a winding road through this blackened wood. It comforted him, in some strange way. A night sky so visible and bright with stars it hardly seemed black at all. A moon so bright and full it lit the heavens blue around it. Subtly did a smirk make purchase upon one corner of his lips.

Hands to his pockets, humming as he strode, it was indeed a peaceful night; a peaceful dream. Such a strange place he had never visited in hours waking but now that such a thought occurred, he supposed he wouldn't mind one day finding such a place. Provided the wolves kept to themselves, of course. It rather brought out the poet in him, not that he'd ever dabbled with such musings. It was only as he reached his destination, an old, oaken door with iron hinges on a shadowed dwelling, and his knuckles rapped upon the door that he felt the world fading again.

Daylight tickling his eyes had roused him from that realm. So with a yawn and stretch of his limbs and back did he swing his legs over yonder side of his bed and into some socks. The day passed uneventfully, without anything said of real note. His announcement to participate in the UA entrance exams was met with a nervous nod from his mother. While she knew talking him out of it was pointless the thought remained, as always, that she should.

Some days passed in the interim between his hospitalization and the start of the next school year. It would only be just a dew short weeks until the entrance exams began in earnest. All the while Deku felt himself growing uneasy. Studying for the written test was a full time endeavor all its own and his nerves were thus adversely affected. With the prolonged time spent on his studies, couped inside for days at a time, tension rose in his core as surely as his appetite. It was on the fourth day of his studies that he could take it no more.

With gusto he rose to his feet, grabbed his notebook and ventured out for a walk. Grabbing a few granola bars on his way out he winced at the scant sunlight encroaching on his retinas. For his isolation the sensitivity of his eyes greatly increased, having spent so long away from the touch of the yellow star. For all his time indoors he felt none the worse for it, his joints as free as though freshly stretched. Brisk was his pace even as he was forced to squint in the brightening light. Perhaps he'd spent a bit too long inside, staring at those books. Around the neighborhood and back again in time for lunch with his mother.

"Out for a walk?" She asked in a chipper tone.

His reply was a subtle nod, rubbing at weary eyes. "It was a bit bright out," he confessed, "thought I'd try again later if it gets a little darker outside."

Eyebrows raised, expression mildly curious Ms Midoriya chanced a look out the window, up at the sky. "It doesn't seem that sunny out." commented she, in an offhanded sort of way. "You might need to spend some more time outside to readjust your eyes."

Again the teenager nodded, a fraction slower this time. "I have been inside for a while..."

She gave him an encouraging smile. "Tell you what, if you don't get up to it today I might have an errand you can run in town." He gave her a questioning glance as he took a bite of food. "It's just some shopping, one or two things we're almost out of. It's really just an excuse to get you out of the house if you need one." Figuring he'd cross that bridge when he reached it Deku acknowledged the suggestion silently. After lunch it was straight back to his books, pouring over them as diligently as he could. Even one so used to social isolation as he was prone to go stir crazy reading through books so bland as those he'd been. In time the fall of the sun had declared his studies done, after dinner he gathered the dishes and started the water, preparing to scrub them clean, when he yelped in pain. "Sweetie?" His mother's ears perked up. "What's wrong?" Her head poked around the corner.

Shaking the offending water from his hand, "I just burned my hand in the water," Deku explained, "it's fine mom, nothing to worry about."

An eyebrow quirked as she stepped toward the sink. "Strange..." she said, running the water over her finger with no adverse reaction, "the water doesn't usually run hot enough for that."

Deku shrugged, unsure precisely what had happened. "Well it's fine now." He stepped back over, grabbing the sponge and pouring some dish soap onto it. "I've got it, mom."

Nodding she walked back to where she had been, relaxing with a book. Eye the faucet cautiously Deku started running the water again. After scrubbing a plate and sudsing it up he put it under the running water and winced, yanking his hand back and clutching it as he hissed in pain. When it finally subsided, as it took its sweet time to do, he glared at the faucet with an angry pout. Not wanting to repeat the experience he filled the sinks with water, one with soap and one without, washing them in one and then rinsing them off in the next. At least it hadn't hurt to wash them in this way. He rolled his eyes. Moody plumbing, as problematic as the day they'd moved into this house. Not worth much though. If it happened again he had a solution at least. Dishes cleaned he walked to couch, toweling off his hands and clicked the remote. There was a nature documentary on, featuring his least favorite creature in the animal kingdom: Spiders.

Shuddering at the sight of the things his hand went for the remote to change the channel when a realization stayed it still. Facing things far more deadly than arachnids was required for those in the profession he sought after. So with a gulp he pulled back his hand and hugged his knees to his chin, watching the documentary with wide, fearful eyes. From the sticky, steel-strong, tensile webs they spun to their long, numerous legs and overcast midnight-black-eyes there was nothing about them that didn't make him shudder.

Worse than their appearance was the way they fed.

Waiting for an unsuspecting creature -larger spiders could eat things as sizable as rats- to stumble into their web and then bear down on them, immobilizing them with a venomous bite only to then cocoon them; saving them to be drained dry at the arachnid's leisure. The venom of some spiders was so horrid it could liquefy the insides of small mammals. Thinking of such a creature sinking its teeth into his flesh made his skin crawl. A poorly phrased metaphor as the thought made him shudder violently.

That nature could produce a predator so venomous and unnerving as the spider mad his stomach churn, going queasy. As soon as it was over his hand darted for the remote and turned off the TV. It was with shaking hands that he brushed his teeth and clawed into his Pajamas. It was only after reading one of his All Might Comics that he was able to calm down enough for sleep.

It was a fitful sleep, fraught with tossing and turning, his mind frantic with images of spiderwebs and their sinister makers antagonizing him as he slept. Drenched in a cold sweat and with a loudly beating heart he awoke the following morn. Shaking as he pulled his socks over his feet and clothes over his limbs he left his room for breakfast. Perhaps it was the mood his nightmares left him in but he found himself nauseous when it was done. Carrying the dishes to the sink he heard the voice of his mother, "Oh, Izuku," she chirped, "did you want to run that errand for me?"

In his fear addled state the poor boy had all but forgotten about that. "Uh, sure." he attempted a smirk but, like his nerves often dictated, it was hardly convincing. "What do you need me to get?"

Reaching for a pen and a scrap of paper she wrote down a small list. It was only three things, some toothpaste and such. "Don't stay out too late, okay?" She smirked. Nodding quickly he took the list and put on his silly, square, red shoes. As he opened the door, and the light of the rising sun found his eyes, Deku winced with sharp pain. It took several moments for him to get used to how bright it was. Maybe it was something wrong with his eyes... A concussion might have gone unnoticed by the doctors, leaving his eyes unable to dilate properly, thus making them so painfully sensitive.

It was no matter as soon he'd gotten used enough to it that he was able to proceed. It was no small walk to his destination but he found himself arrived with energy to spare. A quick jaunt to the convenience store and to the grocer from there and he'd collected the items of his quest. As he was about to venture outward his eyes all but screamed at the light contacting them. With another pained yelp he stumbled back from the door, recoiling into a backpedal.

"You alright, kid?"

He couldn't see the source of the voice, his eyes refused to open as tears streamed out of them. "M- my eyes hurt." He admitted.

"Well that wont do," said the gruff sounding woman, "lemme see." A hand on his chin perked up his face as his eyes strained to open. "Oooh..." she said, "those look painful alright." looking over to a nearby display stand she grabbed a pair of sunglasses. "here, you might want to use these." As he took hold of them, uncertainly, he noticed she had glasses and long purple hair. "Don't worry about buying them," she placed a bill in the shopkeeper's hand, "you just take care of your eyes. Can't have your senses not working on you, right?" she offered him a friendly smile.

Smiling appreciatively Deku nodded. "Thank you, Ma'am."

"Oh, don't you Ma'am me," she batted that sentiment right out of the air, "I'm not that old."

"S-sorry," he stammered, waving timidly, "thanks again." at her farewell he ventured out into the afternoon sun.

From behind the tinted lenses of his newly gifted sunglasses the sun didn't gnaw quite so sharply on his retinas. After a few minutes time he didn't even need them any more. Removing them tentatively he pocketed the darkened frames as he boarded a train. Every so often he winced at the light, and made a mental note to stop by a free clinic if the problem persisted. Although if it was a concussion chances were he could only ignore it for so much longer. Medical bills notwithstanding, even if he didn't have a vested interest in maintaining his health, his mother would go back into hysterics if his health took another dip like it had days ago.

He sighed, head slumping back against his seat while he frowned. The price you pay for reckless behavior, but if he had his way... Maybe he'd best see the doctor now. If he was that seriously injured it was best to just deal with it now. As soon as the train stopped he exited and found his way to a familiar place. From there he extrapolated where to go to find the nearest clinic. After seating himself in the lobby he tried his best not to feel awkward around so many strangers. A task that became more difficult when his stomach started growling.

"I know your pain, man," said a rather scruffy man with graying hair, earning a very curious look from the teenager, "if goin hungry was a sport..." the old man let his voice trail off with a laugh, the unspoken words becoming obvious as his stomach started protesting too.

Adjusting his ratty clothes scattered flecks of moldy fabric to the wind the elder's laugh turned to a raspy cough. Feeling somewhat over his karmic limit for the sunglasses Deku fished some spare pocket money from his own clothes along with the granola bars he had and offered the goods to the man. At the sight of the offering, the dusty old man's eyes flashed with gratitude.

"Mighty kind'a you, man." He accepted the gift carefully, "thanks."

Deku just nodded with a smirk. Better the old man have it than him, he had more than enough to tide him over waiting at home; something Deku suspected this guy hadn't known the comfort of in some time. It was just then that the old man was summoned to meet with a doctor. Giving Deku a final appreciative smile he walked unsteadily to whoever would be helping him, and Deku's stomach growled again.

Curious that it was so vocal, he'd had a decent breakfast. Assuming it to be another growth spurt he stood up and walked to the nearby vending machine. Not much aside from junk food... Trail mix would have to do. Punching in the code he stopped moments before entering the final key. Another item had caught his attention. Jerky. At the sight of it his stomach growled. Confused at the odd craving, as he'd never cared much for the stuff, he decided to embrace it.

The bag was empty before he reached his seat, his appetite only slightly appeased.

Before a chance to mull this over could be taken he'd been summoned by the doctor. Problem dictated, questions answered he was subjected to a numerous tests, all indicating he had not only no concussion but perfect vision. The best the doctor could offer was that his eyes were simply becoming more sensitive to light as he got older. After being subjected to increasingly brighter lights he was given a prescription for sunglasses. Unusual as there had been no precedent in his family history for anyone needing such a thing. Not quite sure what to make of this he resolved just to use them whenever his eyes hurt.

Laughter was not far off from the thought So... just what everyone else does then.

Bag of items in hand he ventured home, only just making it aboard the next train heading for his neighborhood. Sitting in a secluded spot he rubbed at his stomach, for the chorus of growls it insisted on producing was beginning to become quite painful. Must be some growth spurt... mused the teenager as his brow furrowed with the growing discomfort.

Finally, some guy on the train got sick of listening to his stomach growl and handed him a sandwich. "Take it," said the stranger, "you need it more than me."

"I- I'm almost home." Insisted he, even while the growling persisted.

"Come on, listen to that! You can hear it halfway across the compartment."

Deku opened his mouth to deny the offer once again but his stomach gurgled at a volume he'd never heard it reach prior. With a blush he nodded and meekly accepted. "Th-thank you."

The stranger nodded, "Just make sure you're eating right." As the train pulled to a stop the stranger left.

Mere seconds later the sandwich had vanished down Deku's throat. What was going on with him? It was like swallowing spongy dust for all it did to alleviate his hunger. Gulping back some nasty acid reflux he felt as though he might be sick. It was just an egg salad sandwich for crying out loud. Store bought if the wrapper was to be believed. In fact it was in perfect order, not expired even labeled as having been prepared earlier that day. Nothing suspicious about it save for his innards reaction to it.

Ceasing this train of thought was the stop of the literal train. A flicker of the lights, the sound of a mechanism breaking and sparking and the machine had crawled to a halt. An apology from the conductor was issued over the intercom as passengers began to groan and shuffle toward the door. Deku could be counted among those who'd made such protests, as his journey home had just lengthened by an hour. Phone from his pocket and thumbs dancing on the screen to inform his mother of his impending lateness was met with no reply.

Of course, she'd only ask for him to run errands when she had a late night at the office. Exhaling through a corner of his lips blew hair away from that same corner of his forehead. If nothing else this extended voyage afforded him time to ponder, and now that he did, some things occurred: first and foremost was that, even at his worst, growth spurts had never left him so ravenous. Hell, even Bakugo, for all his testosterone, hadn't complained of hunger this severe. More suspicious than this was the realization that he hadn't felt quite right since leaving the hospital. Nothing he ate seemed to quite satiate his only growing hunger. The sudden onset of his eyes extreme sensitivity to light was also something quite concerning.

Try for the life of himself though he did, there was no answer he could conjure. Far too famished to think, supposed his slowing mind. Gripping his gut his other hand trailed to the side and caught the wall, supporting his unsteady weight. Audibly swallowing back more acid reflux he groaned and winced. Hands clutching, one at his stomach through his clothes, the other-

A loud cracking sound erupted from his left, loose sandy dust glided across the sides of his fingers.

Slowly, he turned to see what some part of him already knew had transpired: His hand, his scrawny fingers, had crushed their way through the brick wall he'd been leaning against. Startled by this discovery he recoiled, gawking wide eyed at what he'd involuntarily done.

"Hey!" Shouted someone across the street, "easy on the architecture, kid! It's illegal to use your quirk like that!" After some thought they added, "It's also vandalism or arson! ... One of those!" Before walking on their way.

But- His mind stammered as he felt a cold sweat coming on. But I don't have a quirk...Catching his attention was a faint sound. Instinctively focusing on it he soon found his legs scurrying toward the source. Wind ripped through his hair, clothes, dragging at his eyes. Someone was screaming. Screaming about someone trying to kill them. What am I doing?

Something illegal, was the guess of the piece of his mind yet rational. The reason no one but heroes used their quirks to fight criminals or defend themselves was because it was illegal to do so. A loophole for Deku was that he didn't have a quirk, but that didn't make fighting crime in place of the police any less an act of vigilantism. Before he could think better of this decision he'd arrived at the source, skidding to a stop, near the wall to his right, as the plastic bag swayed on his wrist. The sight befalling his eyes was that of a woman, beaten unconscious, by a man in black. Blades protruding from his forearms pointed back toward his elbows. Not something the teenager was prepared to handle...

"Who the hell are- doesn't matter!" and the thug ran right for him, "You've already seen too much!" A bladed arm swung for Deku's jaw, leaning to the side, his feet pedaling in the same direction, he soon came crashing -unharmed- against the opposite wall. His eyes went wide at one realization: he'd just lounged twenty feet to the side.

"What the hell!?" Demanded the delinquent man, something Deku very much wanted to do for an answer himself. "Quit screwin around and die!"

At his second charge Deku hadn't reacted fast enough to leap to the side, too caught up in his own thoughts, so he was forced to duck. As the thug's arms arced over his head, blades scraping the wall, Deku lurched a hand forward toward the man's gut, something he only narrowly avoided. "You're fast," said he, kneeing the teenager's nose and cracking the back of his skull against the wall, "but not fast enough!"

Rolling deftly to the side Deku avoided being rended open by the blades on the man's arm. Managing to get back to his feet he lounged to a standing position just in time to dodge another attempt to lacerate his flesh. The last swing left the thug off balance, and Deku took his chance. Swinging again, his knuckles caught on the man's sleeve and threw off the teenager's balance entirely. As the two of them spun around in a comically circular motion the thug was flung aside as the teenager's fist crashed into a steel dumpster. A more shocking sight he could not have imagined as, with the strength of his swing alone, he'd smashed the metal to pieces. Large hunks of metal scattered across the ground, clanging loudly in a cacophony that sounded like someone knocked over a shelf of gongs.

"Wh-..." he stammered, eyes wide in horrified awe, "Wh-at the... hell?"

His voice barely a murmur, shaking with fear he could only marvel at the feat of his newfound power. Somewhere off to his left he heard a groan. The thug was straining to regain consciousness. Deku was about to go and check on the unconscious woman when a scent enraptured his attention. A smell so sweet, so utterly delicious it may as well have been cooked in heaven.

Ravenously, with barely a grasp on his own mind, he spun toward the source of it. The... thug? Blinking, sentience somewhat returned, he took a cautiously inquisitive step forward. Looking him over, there was no obvious stain on him or bulge in his pockets denoting the presence of food. So what was that sme-

And then he'd noticed.

Flowing freely from the side of the man's neck was a cherry red fluid that captured his attention so thoroughly it seemed to radiate crimson light. Like a man possessed Deku stepped forward. Hands on the man's shoulders he wrenched his throat to his mouth. Growing from his canines were a pair of long, sharp, glistening white fangs as he bit down into the wound and drank.

It was then, as the most delicious thing he'd ever tasted ran down his throat, that it all came flooding back: what had happened that put him in the hospital...

Discerning in which direction 'up' currently lay couldn't have been a task more demanding. A shaky breath kicked up what dust his landing hadn't. His tongue tasted of iron, mouth warm and sticky. Chest throbbing in sharp pangs as he felt his ribs were soaked in what must have been in his mouth. Eyes peeling open, he saw little but darkness. Old wooden floors and walls, furniture laden with dust and sagging inward. A spectacle of decrepitude, someone's home left to rot. Like lifting stone, his emerald eyes strained, shifted to behold where he'd come from.

The wall, torn asunder by his body, was a jagged mess. Splintered wood, adorned with tattered strips of bloody cloth, a hole torn large enough for three of him to leap through. With great exertion he pulled his arms to his front and pushed against the ground, trying to raise himself from where he lay. A strangled yelp sounded from his throat and he went crashing back to the rotting floor. Fingers clutching for his ribs, the objects of his pained outburst, he found something where it shouldn't have been. Wide with horror he dared to shift his eyes toward the source of his agony: A chunk of a wooden plank that had pierced his flesh, bone and the lung behind it all. Worse than that was the state of his legs. Twisted and mangled like the necks of mice caught in traps. Tears blurred his vision, reality made a home in his mind.

He, Izuku Midoriya, was no one knew where, bleeding out and broken. He was dying, cold and alone in an abandoned house. Gurgling in his throat, blood spattering the floor in front of his face, replaced all sounds of crying. It was only after his lungs and throat had cleared that he was able to vocalize at all. He was frustrated, bereaved and filled to the brim with horror. Tears splattered the floor, mixing with the blood that pooled out to meet them. Fingers and toes going cold, the icy sensation of death spread up his limbs as he went pale and weak. Breath reduced to nothing, voice too beneath the state of whimpers, he begged silently for a savior, a second chance, and promised that no matter the form he would take it. By some twist of fate, or the hand of a god he'd never dared to believe in, he heard footsteps coming up the rickety stairs.

"H..." his voice rasped, "help..." Sneaking into view was a pair of shoes, caped by a flowing silk dress darker than any black. Grace was in the footsteps, the kind that seemed to be of another world. Whoever she was, she'd stopped at the sight of him. "Please..." he managed, "I... don't... wanna die..." not like this.

Two final footsteps and she knelt beside him, palms on his side and shoulder she pushed him onto his back. "Child," her voice was like cold velvet, "what is your name?"

As the fear of the inevitable settled in, fresh tears trailed down his face. "Izuku..." he squawked, "Midoriya..."

Her ruby colored lips shifted to a sad smile. "You want to be a hero when you grow up, even though you don't have a quirk, don't you?"

He only had enough strength left for the ghost of a nod. Her hand cupped his cheek, holding his gaze affixed to her eyes, hidden behind her sunglasses, was somehow colder than him. "I can promise you this," she said soothingly, "you will have your chance to be a hero," his heart fluttered, her other hand reached for the sunglasses perched on her nose and removed them, revealing eyes that glowed like sapphires in moonlight. "with powers only very few remain to claim," peeking from behind her lips... glimmering white fangs. "But it comes with a price."

Edges of his vision stated fading closer to the center as she kept whispering. "It comes with a hunger unlike any you've ever known..."

He'd made a promise...

"a life devoid of companionship..."

No matter what the form... "and most harrowing of all, child" that his salvation took... "you're going to die."

He would take it.

"But it won't be the end." her gaze was soft, contrary to everything his instincts screamed she was in that moment, as she peered into his eyes. "Do you accept my gift?" With the barest remnants of his strength Deku nodded and she smiled, "close your eyes, little Midoriya."

He did as was commanded of him, his body raised from its place on the floor, lips then teeth on his neck, a sharp pain as her fangs sank into his flesh and she began to drink. As the last of the sensation left his body, he felt her press a wrist to his lips. A warm fluid spilled into his mouth, the flavor so sweet it bordered on ambrosial, and down his throat. With that final kiss of warmth, gracing his fading form, he felt the world vanish and time disappeared entirely. His end had come... Izuku Midoriya had died.

But he hadn't stayed that way...

Teeth still digging deep into the thug's throat, eyes wide with horror Deku employed every fiber of his self control to release him.

But he was still hungry.

Trembling, eyes threatening to run with tears, he whimpered as though he might cry even as he involuntarily drank. After a few agonizing seconds longer he wrenched himself away, crying out in horrified disgust. Spitting the liquid from his mouth, dragging fingers across his tongue he tried to erase the evidence of his sin from his mouth. The way his throat gulped at the remainder of it made him gag. Inhaling and exhaling simultaneously his muscles strained and shook as he fell to his knees. Hands clutching at the cold pavement he tried his best to vomit and found he could not.

His face scrunched up in a sorrowful grimace as he did, he stated to silently cry. You wanna be a hero so bad? The words of Bakugo echoed in his mind, Here's some advice: take a swan dive off the roof! Maybe you'll have a quirk in your next life. Arching his back, arms half curled and hands clutching at nothing Deku faced the heavens and let loose an agonized, frustrated and helpless screaming, wail. Those words had essentially come true: he'd died and come back as this hideous thing he now was.

If the change in Izuku's path home that day -which had placed him in such a position to meet the woman who'd graced him with this gift- was the flutter of the butterfly's wings... then all that would follow in its wake was a hurricane beyond anything he could have predicted.



Chapter Text

When the door to the house swung inward it was a miracle that it didn't leave cracks in the wall. Stumbling in, out of his shoes, he practically tripped over the silly, red high-tops as he fumbled into the bathroom. Running the water in the sink into his mouth soon reduced him to a screaming, blubbering mess. Hands over his boiling maw, he slammed into the wall behind himself, crumpling to the floor like an old paper bag under a stone.

Shoulders shaking with each sob that wracked his scrawny frame, Deku held his palms tight against his eyes. His vain hope that pushing hard enough would hold back the already flowing waterworks was proved thusly so. It was with shaking limbs and unsteady feet that he rose and put his toothbrush under the water. Scrubbing his teeth so hard they bled did not make him hungry again, at the very least. By filling a plastic cup with water he rinsed the toothpaste from his mouth.

Trembling, he moved to start the shower but thought it best not to have his entire body burned just to alleviate himself of this emotional burden. So he filled the tub instead. Surprisingly, even though he'd gone quite overboard with the temperature, climbing in didn't hurt him at all. It was only running water that affected him so; an important thing to note. Judging by the steam he could likely immerse his hand into boiling water and not be the slightest bit uncomfortable.

Yet he was still shaking.

No amount of therapy or hot baths was going to erase what he'd done from his memories. While the decision hadn't been voluntary Deku had sunk his teeth into the throat of another human being. To make the matter all the more scarring, and cemented in his mind, he'd gulped down entire pints of the man's blood. Even as horrified as he'd been of the sin he'd just committed, the teenager had possessed enough of his wits to check him for a pulse before the sirens had drawn close. The thug's pulse was thready, faint and holding as it was. With shakier hands than he'd checked the criminal, Deku made sure the woman he'd beaten unconscious was still alive before he fled the scene.

Fled it so fast he left skid marks on the pavement where he'd alter course along the way. It was a minor miracle he hadn't completely scraped the bottoms of his shoes off. Now here he was, cradling himself, hugging his knees to his chin and shaking with the weight of his feelings in water that would have scalded the skin off virtually anyone else.

Wiping the tears from his face and under his nose with his wrist Deku dunked his head under the water. Still not even a hint of discomfort, but that was hardly shocking. Exhaling under the water bubbles drifted up his skin and popped on the surface, the sound almost too clear to him. So his ears were more sensitive too, which begged the question his other senses had sharped as well. Sharpened... a poorer word choice one could not have made. After scrubbing his skin raw, like he were covered in filth that had seeped into his every pore, he pulled himself from the confines of the tub.

Toweling himself off the poor teenager found he'd not stopped shaking even then. Grimacing at himself as he pulled his clothes back on Deku trudged to the kitchen and left a note for his mother. Feeling ill, went to bed. He'd have stopped right then and gone to bed if he hadn't thought better to add another few words to the message: I love you.

Crawling into bed and curling up under the covers he clung to his pillow so tight it might have burst if sleep hadn't overtaken him. Dreams riddled with bodies, spiderwebs and monsters with glassy, black eyes plagued his rest. Whether he was one of them or a victim wasn't clear, but the way he ran from it all bothered him most of all. Shouldn't he be the sort to run toward danger? To protect people from this kind of thing? Questions that followed him into the morning and beyond.

When he adjourned to the kitchen he found a note waiting for him on the table. "Had to leave early, leftovers in the fridge. I love you too! - Mom " In as dismal a mood as he was, even then a small smile spread across his lips. Short lived as it was. Sitting down with his textbooks found him quite unable to study. It was just as well, for all the time he'd spent glued to those old pages. Slowly closing the book he stood and stuffed his hands into his pockets and retreated back to his room. He would not leave the dwelling until his hunger became too strong to ignore.

Of course, even then, had he any sort of plan? Aside from tracking down criminals or assorted scum of the earth he had no food source readily available. Eating what his mother had cooked or even most food around the house made him physically ill. But for her, so long as she was present, he stomached it and dealt with the nausea as needed. "Are you alright?" she put a hand over his forehead, "you look sick..." So she'd noticed, the teenager noted with dismay. In reply he nodded slowly and finished off what was on his plate.

"Thanks for the food, mom." Before he set out to wash the dishes again with shaky limbs, cold sweat and powerful nausea churning in the pit of his belly.

After he'd drained the sinks he walked, with forced calm, to the restroom to vomit. Sputtering the remnants of his dinner from his mouth he brushed hi s teeth and crawled into bed. Dreams of powerful urges, stalking dark corners of the world and pouncing on unwitting victims with vicious glee. What scared him most was the thrill of the hunt, relishing the fear of those he'd preyed upon and the sheer satisfaction of feeding an all too vocal hunger. He hadn't the will to push aside these feelings upon waking.

For an entire week this persisted before he almost thought he was going to go for his mother's throat. She'd passed him on the way from her room to the living room, moments after they'd woken, when it struck him. The 'blood craze' that hounded his rest stole his faculties from him and he bared his teeth, preparing to lounge. Snapping his control back to him was a single thought, That's mom, you idiot! And he flung himself headlong into the floor. Had it been made of something less sturdy than concrete he might have sundered it with his now formidable strength.

"Izu!" His mother shrieked. "Are you okay?"

Muttering quiet curses under his breath he nodded. "Yeah, just a muscle spasm. I'm fine." So long as he lived and bore residence over his own will, that was not something he would ever again allow. His mother was not to be harmed. Ever. After breakfast -not easily consumed- he resigned himself to his studies. It was close to impossible to concentrate but he took a few, scant notes where his focus allowed. At night, before dinner, he grabbed his hoodie and his shoes and stalked off with not insignificant trepidation. It was time to find a solution that would keep his mother safe from his ravenousness.

How precisely he was to accomplish this without 'taking it too far' -whatever that might constitute, he was sure he wanted nothing to do with- hounded him as surely as his appetite. What eluded him was any realistic plan. The idea of rutting around in the dumpster of a blood bank crossed his mind, however this was unfeasible for a few reasons. Chief among those reasons was the fact that blood, if unused, is considered biohazardous material and thus not disposed of like common trash. Besides, this entire endeavor made him want to vomit enough as it was. Attacking other human beings seemed to be his only reliable course of action.

He'd almost resigned to turning himself into the police when the now familiar, entrancing smell snared control of him. It took a literal punch to his own face to regain some semblance of his consciousness. Luckily no one had noticed that particular outburst. Luckier still was the source of the smell: a butcher's shop. With an audible gulp, an effort to avoid profuse drooling, he stepped beyond the threshold of the door and said, "I need blood."

The butcher, large and imposing as one of his trade would be, eyed him suspiciously. "What for?"

Crap! "Um..." he stammered, struggling to invent some reason for it. "f-for cooking?"

Slowly, the butcher blinked. Arms splayed out he shrugged slower than he'd previously moved his eyelids. "Okay." Turning around he limped to the back of the shop. A few minutes -or one eternity to Deku's stomach- later and he'd returned with several gallons of the red fluid. "Here's what I got." Four in total and they all were deposited on the counter before him. "How much you want?"

Without thinking his lips spoke for him, "all of them." And the butcher's eye brows climbed as high as could be. Thinking quickly Deku added, "i-it's for a special event! A fundraiser at my mom's-"

The butcher raised a silencing hand. "Don't need to know," bagging it up he handded the bags to the much smaller person. "All yours kid."

Deku blinked, terribly confused. "W-what?"

Again, the carver of meat shrugged. "It's just something I have to dispose of otherwise. Just take it and go. I don't need to know what you're doing with it next time."

Another very audible gulp. "N-next time?"

"Yeah," remarked he, patience wearing thin, "you and that lady who swings by every so often. She cleans out my supply of the stuff bout once a week." he said, wiping the counter with an old, ratty rag. "Only this week she left that much behind."

"She did?" Images of the woman who'd cursed him so flashed in his mind at the mere suggestion of her existence. He hadn't presumed her to be non-existent but also hadn't pondered her whereabouts or what her doings might have been since that night. Unwittingly, he may have well allowed a menace to walk the streets of the city.

"Yup," he motioned to the door, "go ask her about it if ya want. Now, I'm closing shop. Get lost."

Deku nodded, "o-okay. Thank you!" The butcher rolled his eyes and waved, reaching for a bottle of some very potent looking alcohol. It was assuredly certain that he had some inkling as to what he truly wanted with the blood. But that seemed not to be of any concern. The lady, for he had no words more fitting to describe her, had been a regular for seemingly some time and he'd regarded her almost fondly. Or so the teenager thought, reading the large man's face. Lacking experience in reading one's more... base desires left him neglecting that as a possible reading. Ducking around the corner the young-man opened one of the gallon containers and took a hearty -he did his best not to gag at that choice of words- swig of the cold, red fluid. No where near as filling as the thug's blood. Perhaps due to the temperature? Or... maybe it was the source.

Animals likely didn't satisfy this hunger as efficiently as beings higher on the food chain. He avoided the word 'humans' in this context. That admission was cripplingly uncomfortable. After he'd quieted his hunger he licked his lips free of the excess before capping the remainder of the gallon. Half drained... not a promising amount left over. Simple arithmetic told him that at his current rate of consumption four gallons would last him two months. Granted, the butcher -not that there was only one from whom to procure blood- would certainly produce significantly more than he'd need but were he and 'the lady' the only ones like them? Were there more creatures lurking in the night with senses and attributes so enhanced? Worse yet, what if the blood of animals was only so effective now?

It could very well fail to satiate his hunger the more of it he consumed. These thoughts unsettled him greatly, more so than the fact that he knew not any longer his own limits. With naught but his curiosity at his disposal, he resolved to answer what he could the following night; His mother once again working late gave him the exact opportunity required for this assessment.

With an old, tattered mask from Halloween over a decade ago -from a costume his father had worn- and some gloves along with his hoodie again, Deku took to the streets in the dead of night. Finding a near empty neighborhood he donned the mask and gloves. Stretching his legs, loosening up a touch, he took a deep breath. Crouching low, muscles tense he eyed the edge of the roof above, gaging, calculating. Springing off the ground he shot into the air with a burst of air. He'd leapt considerably past the point of his intention and landed near the middle of the building's roof. Knees buckling from the force of his landing -and no small degree of surprise- he crashed onto the surface rolling like a tumbleweed.

Groaning with discomfort he rubbed at the sore spot on his head. A lot stronger than I thought... Mused he, remembering the dumpster he'd laid waste to the other week. Even if that was the absolute limitation he had to work with, he no longer felt so nervous about the upcoming practical exam he'd long been dreading. Strength enough to smash solid steel to pieces and leap considerable distances -well over the height of a five story building- into the air; he hadn't even tested his long-jump yet. Pulling the mask from his face, regretting his choice to obscure his vision, Deku walked to the edge of the building. Gaging the distance between him and the next rooftop made his stomach somersault. With a shaky breath and hefty gulp he stepped back and stretched his legs again. Knowing his limits was essential to the task ahead of him. While other prospective students had their entire lives to master their powers, Deku had but a week and some change.

Chances were he was going to injure himself, but worrying about such details as that would have to come later. Every advantage he could attain was not something that could be afforded to become lost to him. A spring forward and he dashed toward the edge in a blur, feet threatening to trip over themselves as he shot onwards. His next bound took him soaring, bounding through the air, a powerful wind howling around him as he sped. When he expected his flight to end -his feet to come skidding to a halt on the roof he'd aimed for- his stomach sank. Once again, he'd overshot his target and missed. Soles of his shoes barely scraped against the edge of the roof, sending him into a spin. His head hit the railing of a fire escape, arm snagged on a clothes line and then he slammed, face first, into the puddled street of the alley.

Sputtering out water tasting of asphalt, he peeled himself from the street while the stars voided his vision. He tried not to think about what else might have been in that water. With a few pops and cracks of his pained joints Deku slumped himself up against the nearby brick wall. That was about as graceful as a rhino trying to do a loop-da-loop. Wincing at the spinning, throbbing pain in his skull Deku was all but convinced his eyes were spinning like spirals. He tried to remember a point in time, before the slime monster, when his life as worse than this but recalled nothing. Given powers he had no control over, a near insatiable thirst for blood and now spending much of the day being flung about like a rag-doll, he was half convinced he'd been born under a cursed star. Which perhaps he was, considering his quirkless sate upon birth and much of his life thereafter.

Upon trying to stand he found his world still spinning and crashed back down into the watery street. "Hello?" Said a woman's voice, either one unknown or too muddled by his bleary senses to recognize. "Are you okay over there?"

She was getting closer, and with each loudening footstep came a strengthening of the rhythm of his own heart. "The hell did you fall from...?" Her voice trailed off, gaze averted -though he knew not how he possessed this knowledge- and searching for a sign of his error accompanied a rise of panic within him.

A hand ghosted over his shoulder, offering assistance in his efforts to stand. "Here, let me help you." It was at that exact moment, her hand under his arm and pulling him up, that he lost control. Horrified, even as he lurched forward, Deku's fangs extended and he sank his teeth into her throat. "What the fuck!?"

Fighting to haul himself away from her he found he couldn't release her. Blood gushing down his throat found a feeling of euphoria welling within his core. Before his mind could even begin to regain control of itself he felt something jab his face, and his body erupted with pain. It was like he was being electrocuted; his body vibrated down to his bones with such intensity his nervous system threatened to shut down. Muscles going limp, jaw releasing her throat, he was shoved bodily away from her and his head cracked against the brick wall. While she muttered curses, clutching at her bleeding throat, stars exploded in his eyes. Unable to do much more than wait for his senses to recompose Deku simply watched as his world spun about.

"What the hell was that for?" Demanded she, grabbing him by the collar and holding him against the wall. "Do you have anything to say for yourself? Anything at all?" She was furious, and rightly so. He'd no right to do such a thing to her.

As he wracked his brain for any semblance of a coherent reply he became dimly aware of another presence. Someone had followed her into the alley. Someone with a knife and an expression that communicated nothing seemly. Fingers curling around the elbow of the girl he haled her aside and lounged at the ill intentioned one. While she cursed in shock, preparing to defend herself from him, Deku disarmed their would-be assailant by slapping the knife away. Before he could vocalize much of anything he'd hit the man in the sternum, feeling something crunch under his knuckles.

The man flew and skidded across the alley like a rag-doll, landing in a limp, moaning heap. Panting for breath, exhausted from multiple forms of exertion, Deku clutched at his forehead to try and center his brain. After a few moments he had regained something close to composure. Turning around, hesitantly, he saw the girl staring at him with frightened, tanzanite eyes. Mortified that anyone could look at him in such a way, it was another moment still before he could think of what to do or say.

Stepping far from her, against the opposite wall, he bowed his head and answer her question prior. "Forgive me..."

For a time, the sounds of the city around them were all that could be heard. She had room aplenty to flee, but he suspected that she wouldn't so long as he was within what she judged to be his reach. Just when he was about to leave he heard her speak, though were it not for his enhanced senses he could not have heard her. "Why'd you bite me?" Her tone was strong, angry, almost demanding and rightly so. "I was just trying to help you."

Fists clenched, he answered with the only reasonable reply he had. "I wont make excuses." His head inclined further still. "I'm... sorry." It wasn't his place to cry, so he bit back the tears that accompanied his guilt.

As he spoke she noted a certain tremor from him. A trembling, strain of voice and body she'd seen only a handful of times. Junkies, strung out on whatever substances have you, jonesing for a fix had a way of looking almost just like that. It was astounding, a thought bordering on unnaturally alien to her, but she voiced it nonetheless. "You... couldn't help it."

He grimaced, a feeling of disgust washing over him. "Don't say that!" Images of his mother, his teeth sinking into her flesh plagued his mind, "Not for me! Not for anyone who..." he had to gulp back his nausea, not that his body would allow him to vomit. "Does anything like what I did to you. The second you excuse their behavior for them is the second you allow it to go on forever!" He was trembling so much he felt his tightened hands knocking into the sides of his legs. Resisting his tear ducts he manged a final phrase. "You should go. It's not safe around someone like me..."

The girl said nothing, not moving or giving any indication that she intended to do so. Deku remained bowed, eyes closed and holding himself as far from her as he could. This... was just what he was now: A monster, preying upon his own species. As that thought crossed his mind, he heard her stand and begin to walk. These sounds were soon replaced by their absence and an outstretched wrist lurking just before his nose.

"Prove it." Dared the girl, determined as could be even as his maw opened. "If you're really so vile you shouldn't be able to resist biting me again."

It took another punch to his own face to move himself away from her. Shaking, his breath bordering on hyperventilation, he forced himself to remain fixed where he was: away from the girl. "What are you playing at?" He breathed, once air had returned to his lungs. "risking yourself like that for someone you don't even know, someone who hurt you!" He couldn't bear to look at her.

She replied almost nonchalantly, with his ears being as sensitive as they now were he could here her shrug. "It's what heroes do." A simple, earnest reply. "If I want to be one, then I'd better get used to it." She regarded this scrawny boy almost pitifully.

He looked positively gaunt, malnourished as could be. His skin looked as though it was stretched over what scant muscle and bone lurked beneath. And how pale he was, practically reflecting moonlight. She'd known some people who avoided sunlight like the plague, but even they weren't so white as he. In those brief moments where his eyes opened, his emerald eyes, she noticed a faint glow highlighting skin stretched over his cheekbones that seemed just a hair too high for his face. As he grimaced, the exertion from resisting his graving, a pair of slender, glistening white fangs peeked from behind his lips.

If this wasn't an addict she was looking at, she questioned her knowledge. "Besides," she offered, tone a touch softer, "with all that fuss to resist what your body is screaming for, you clearly can't be so bad as you say." Another sharp grimace, a look of anguished disgust maligned his features as he looked at her helplessly. "Are you okay?"

From his lowered vantage point, the girl's form was almost everything he could see. Her slender toned build hinted at a life of athleticism. She had a modest bust -it seemed an insult to her that he had to all but pry his eyes away from her chest- that complimented her frame nicely. Her face was rounded but angular, a sharp jawline and matching, narrow chin complimented her almost triangular eyes. Though, perhaps most distractingly, were her earlobes and hair. Actually, compared to the earlobes her asymmetrical, purple hair seemed normal. A product of her quirk, her earlobes were long protrusions not unlike the chords of audio output connection cables. He surmised those were what she'd 'electrocuted' him with.

"G-great." stammered the unwilling predator. "Please... don't stay near me." He closed his eyes forcing his attention anywhere but her or the scent of her blood. "You're not safe."

She remained quiet for moment, considering that sentiment for a long while, before she spoke. "If that's true..." she began, "then your loved ones can't be much better off, can they?" Her words stung like sparrow bee stings for the truth they bore. She sighed, bitterly. "Fine. Just make sure you get home." Her footsteps leaving the scene afforded him some semblance of relief. "So you and everyone else stays safe."

Perhaps it was fitting that her words bit him so sharply as they had... As she disappeared from the alley, back into the streets, he felt a sort of calm wash over him. Shakily, he stumbled to the man he'd beaten to a pulp and checked his pulse. Another wave of relief washed over him as he discovered the man was still alive. Jumping back to the rooftops he bounded away -with only a handful more crash landings to the street- to a pay-phone and told the authorities where the unconscious goon lay. After that, it was a simple matter to get home and clamber inside through his window. Walking to his closet he opened mini fridge he'd hidden away inside.

The other night, after procuring the blood now stored within, he'd fished it off a beach whose name implied a green muppet with an odd dialect lived there. A dumping ground of those who littered and the ocean itself. Currents washed garbage from all over the world to that beach. At the thought of it, his plans for tomorrow cemented themselves soundly in his mind. It was as good a place as any to see what he was capable of. No one in their right mind would be there, unless they too were planning on doing something similar to he. Capping the gallon he'd taken a few meager sips from he closed the fridge and his closet. Opening the door to his room he vacated it, lights off, and looked about for his mother.

At the sight of him, her expression brightened considerably. "Hey sweetie, I thought you were asleep." She was on the couch, watching some sort of- Oh good lord...

His stomach did a pirouette at the revelation of what she was watching. With clenched teeth he stiffly shook his head. "Nope." A sentiment spoken for multiple reasons. "Not anymore."

She made room on the couch patting the cushion beside her. "it's another documentary about those spiders, the one you watched a while ago." She gave him an encouraging smile. "wanna watch it with your old mom?"

The phrase moved his fear aside as another heartstring was pulled. "You're not old, mom."

She giggled, " Such a gentleman, but that's my son." Her expression suggested an urge to pinch his freckled cheeks. Suppressing a pronounced sigh, Deku relented and sat beside her, arms stiff as he held his knees to stop his legs from shaking. Another night of spine tingling terror at the unsympathetic hands of nature and far too dedicated camera men. Occasionally his mom would gasp in something resembling shock or disgust and he would reach over and squeeze her shoulder; gently as he could. Why oh why did this documentary have to be so different from the last one?

As if his nightmares about their every day behavior weren't traumatizing enough, this one focused on their reproductive habits. Self genital mutilation, cannibalistic rituals of both the smaller male of the species and then the young -oh dear god...- eating their mother alive upon hatching. He gulped, trying desperately to force away the association his mind had just made, inching away from his mother as he did. He thanked his cursed stars when she didn't seem to notice his discomfort. Worse than anything was the way the narrator tried to paint this cycle of cannibalism and birth as 'beautiful'. It couldn't have been more horrifying, more wretched if it was-

...If it was humans doing such things. Throat going tight, stomach in queasy knots, his grip on his knees would have broken the bones of a more fragile being. He wanted to throw up. Vomiting at such a realization was only natural for a member of his species, and even that dignity was denied him. Eyes wide, a cold sweat started at the crown of his hairline. With the ending of the documentary came not any sign of relaxation from him. He only faintly regarded his mothers words of concern before stumbling in a haze to the bathroom. A vigorous scrubbing of his teeth later and he'd curled into a ball in his bed, quietly crying himself to sleep. That night his dreams of arachnids -preying upon frightened women with oddly colored hair- took a sharp turn, as now he wasn't observing them: he was one of them.

Following a fitful slumber, waking drenched with sweat, Deku rose and trudged to the bathroom. His hand stayed itself upon reaching for the faucet, realizing a shower would only mangle his skin. Switching it to the other setting he filled the tub, disrobed and climbed in. Sighing at the soothing feeling the heat brought to his muscles he let a fraction of his accumulated stress drift away. Though that was as much as he could rid himself of. It seemed his psyche was intent on hanging on to most of his distress for the time being. After scrubbing himself down with soap and shampoo he pulled the plug and dragged himself free of the water.

Then it was a short walk -after drying and redressing himself- back to his room and the hidden mini fridge to down what now passed for breakfast. A short trip back to the bathroom to thoroughly brush his teeth and he was ready to face the day. Sunglasses and shoes on he wandered out into the midmorning sun. As soon as the light hit him he felt his body go almost sluggish. An odd feeling, as that hadn't happened previously. It's progressing as time goes on... Wincing at the thought he broke into a run and sped like a runaway motorcycle toward Dagobah beach. It was with a sour disposition that he admitted he was weaker in sunlight.

Panting and wiping sweat from his brow he set down his backpack and took a seat. He'd made it to the beach in what had to be a new world record for the distance he'd just sprinted. A swig from his canteen and he was back on his feet. Trudging across the deserted parking lot he could smell the garbage piled in the sand before he saw it looming over the rise before the sprawling sandy plane. Such a smell... only the sight of it was even close to as rotten. Filth of every kind was strewn about this once glorious work of nature. Bandanna procured from his pocket and tied round his face to mask the stench he made his way forward. Hands gripping one of the larger metallic hunks of refuse he hoisted it above his head.

Were it not for some quick footwork he'd have topple backward and crashed to the ground, garbage in tow. From the size of the thing it had to weight more than an industrial steamroller. That's a lot more than I expected. But that was hardly the real test. Straining, lowering himself to the ground he coiled his muscles. With a surging roar of his cracking, adolescent voice he threw the rubble. His eyes widened at the sight of how far he'd managed to throw it: fifteen feet. Quite the distance for something so hefty. Almost can't believe it, He thought in awe, taking a weary step forward, It'd be more impressive if it didn't come with a such a heavy price...

Trading his humanity for such power was a thought that had never once crossed his mind. But in that moment where he'd had to choose between retaining that piece of his identity or his life, well, not many could have refused. Though he was hardly one to make such a statement any longer. Sighing, wiping some drool away from his mouth he murmured, "well, someone's gotta clean this up..." so long as no one came around to watch, it was a safe enough method to temper his new abilities.

It would be another week before the beach was cleaned, and he would then run off to UA for the entrance exams.

A burst of wind and sand punctuated the fall of a final piece of litter. Perhaps inaptly named for its sheer bulk. Drawing in slow, labored breaths was one Izuku Midoriya, standing triumphant yet exhausted. An entire week of his life had been spent on this beach, hauling garbage, studying whenever his mind was clear, or running home just long enough to make sure his mother wasn't worried. Now, he was falling on his back and panting, getting some rest before he had to get going. The promised day of the entrance exams had come. Sitting up with a groan he lurched to his feet and trudged to his backpack.

With a swig of his canteen -and a strong urge to gag- he wiped his mouth and grabbed his things. Ducking into a nearby changing room he switched to his gym clothes and started toward the school. Somehow, despite his speed and inexhaustible supply of energy these days, it seemed to take an eon to reach the place. And what a place: an enormous complex large enough to hold a sizable city, most of it undeveloped. Nature left to color the landscape with its natural hues. The grounds were littered with grand old trees, the main campus of the building constituted of four, towering, interconnected, glass high-rises. It was daunting, imposing as the reputation the place of learning garnered.

Gulping down his nerves he prepared to stave off his urge to feed as he approached the crowd. Animal's blood was only so effective, after all. He'd bitten that girl almost entirely unprovoked just one week ago. Approach the mass of prospective heroes he felt his fear and hunger peak. Lips trembling, threatening to expose his fangs, Deku did everything he could to keep his mouth shut.

Adjusting his sunglasses, Deku was about to cross the final stretch when he heard a familiar voice. "Move aside, Deku!" The snarling of his former classmate Bakugo. "Get out of my way or you're dead!"

It was at that moment that Deku noted a particular change in himself. Rather than remaining silent out of fear of his old bully, his compliance was prompted by a practiced reflex not to simply attack those around him. It hadn't been an act of self preservation but one of self control. His fear of others was beginning to change into a fear of hurting others. As Bakugo stomped along various murmurs about him being 'that kind from the slime villain incident' worked their way through the crowd. A few might have laughed at him.

Losing focus, having aimed it toward other things, his footing went beyond his notice as he resumed course. With a heart stopping drop he saw the pavement rapidly approaching his face. Eyes flinching shut he braced for his inevitable reunion with concrete. Only it hadn't happened... somehow he'd just stopped falling altogether. As he flailed about in a panic, floating in mid air, a chipper voice caught his ears. "Are you okay?"

He felt absolutely ridiculous. Losing his footing and tripping like that, now this display of anything but grace while suspended... what a first impression. Just like that, with his savior pressing her fingertips together, he fell back on his feet.

She smiled. "Don't worry, that was just my quirk was all," cheeks tinted with a hint of red, "sorry for using it on you without asking but... well, it'd a bad omen if you fell."

He just gawked at her, unable to talk for a number of reasons. First was that his mind was being forced to focus on other things. Second was that this girl was just too damned cute. Her checkered scarf, jacket and leggings all complimented each other -and her legs- quite well. And if her rounded face wasn't the textbook definition of adorable -with a head of brown hair that framed it perfectly- he didn't know what was.

"This sure is nerve wracking," she laughed nervously... " turning to leave she waved at him over her shoulder, still smiling. "Good luck to both of us."

Brain faltering, unable to formulate those now distant things called words he stood there processing what just happened. Unable to make sense of the encounter, a girl being nice to him out of the blue like that was simply unheard of, he blurted out the first word that leapt to mind.

"Wait." She turned, a curious look on her face. Finding his courage -and restraint- he stained out the words, "Th-thank you... for stopping my fall."

Her response was a warm, chipper smile. "Sure, anytime." she gave him a thumbs up and walked inside.

Taking a deep breath and sighing Deku followed suit. Once inside he was directed to an auditorium and assigned a seat. Of course, they would place him right in the middle of everyone. No rest for the monstrous... after everyone else had sat down a man walked onto the center stage and waved at the crowd. A man with a shock of fin-like yellow hair and a pair of sunglasses on his face, slender and a spring in his step that screamed 'I drink espresso like water'.

The Voice hero: Present Mic. "Welcome to today's live performance!"

His voice boomed like a cannon, reverberating across the room in deafening waves that had Deku covering his ears in pain. Somewhere toward the back of the room he swore he heard someone else reacting similarly. They sounded familiar...

"Everybody say 'HEY'!"

His rapturous exclamation was met only with silence. A room full of more astounded or confused teenagers you could not find.

"Alrighty then!" Declared the hero, unperturbed by this lack of enthusiasm while Deku winced in pain. Muttering under his breath about his new volume sensitivity he did his best to listen. "I'll just give you the 'what's what' before you start your written tests!"

What followed was a brief dissertation of what the practical exam would entail. Students would be assigned to one of six -possibly more- 'mock cityscapes' to fight robots. The smallest robots were worth 1 point, the next largest being worth 2 and the largest being worth 3.

"Excuse me!" Shouted a student of very formidable build. "But there appear to be no fewer than four varieties of faux villains listed on this handout!" He was tall, broad shouldered with dark hair and sported a pair of square-rimmed glasses and jawline more squared than they. "And you!" He spun about, pointing right at Deku. "You've been muttering to yourself for much of the presentation... it's distracting!" He scolded the smaller teen. "If this is some sort of game to you please leave immediately."

Fumbling his way through an awkward apology Deku remained silent. After the dissertation ended -Present Mic said something about the fourth kind of robots being obstacles to avoid or some such- Deku put his nose to his test and answered as best he could. He was surprised to find himself confident with most of his answers.

Then it was just a matter of being ushered over to the testing grounds. Filing in step with his prospective classmates he kept his jaw clenched firmly shut. Upon arriving at his designated testing site he noticed her, the girl who'd caught him mid fall. From the look on her face she was concentrating, working up the nerve for the fight that was to ensue. He felt a glimmer of desire to go and speak to her again, but with the loosening of his jaw he almost surged forward to latch onto a nearby student's throat. Cold sweating again he struggled to retain his willpower. So many people... he felt like a wolf among a flock of sheep, with his lips quivering upwards, threatening to reveal his fangs. He was just happy no one wanted to speak to him at this point.

Without warning, Present Mic shouted something about the test starting. After a few moment's confusion, Deku and the other students were sprinting into the arena. Gaining a respectable lead on everyone but that one square-jawed guy he searched eagerly for a machine to battle. At least with these he didn't have to hold back at all. It was an impressive display from most of them. That 'zero gravity' girl ran about, floating the robots into the air and letting them crash to the ground, sundered by their own weight. She wound up lost in the swarm of machines, fading from Deku's sight. Another student who wore some sort of weird belt blasted lasers from his navel, melting and shattering the robots until he doubled over, clutching at his gut.

That one square jawed guy had... something in his calves. Engines, from the way they behaved, bolstering his speed and strength of his legs as he crushed them with incredible momentum. Deku, meanwhile, resolved merely to smash the machines to pieces. It wasn't as easy as he'd hoped, the three pointers took more than a couple of his strongest punches to destroy. Some managed to hit him, smashing him through things and sending him sprawling across the pavement. Dodging was an animal he'd yet to tame. Still, he managed to gain a decent amount of points. By his calculations, at least.

But would that be enough? Sure others had gotten far more than he, clumsy and unfamiliar with his power as he was. Eyes shifting about he found naught but wreckage of the machines and rubble from the surrounding buildings. There had to be more. This couldn't be all they'd placed in the cityscape! Scrambling to go and search for more, he was stopped by a most frightening feeling.

The feeling of the earth shaking beneath his feet.

Slowly, he turned about, eyes going wide, and beheld the source of the disturbance. "Th-that's worth zero points!?"

If nothing else, the behemoth of a machine was an impressive feat of modern engineering. It stood at a height of eighty feet, a Goliath, a veritable war machine meant to decimate cities. The other students ran. He ran, trying to think of where else he could go to get just a few more points. He'd almost thought an idea had come to him when he heard a cry for help. Slowly, against the tide of running teenagers, he spun around. Lying in the middle of the street was a certain brown haired girl, her leg trapped under a hunk of concrete, the zero pointer lumbering toward her.

She- she's gonna die! Again, like it had been on the day of the slime villain's attack, his feet ran of their own volition.

"It'd be a bad omen if you fell."

Sprinting forward he leapt into the sky with a rush of air. Instinct having taken over he curled back his hand, fingers extended and let his body dictate what happened next. There, sprouting from his fingertips, were long, black claws. Flying toward the thing's 'face' he let out a savage scream and swung his arm in an arc. Claws rending through metal and wide he severed what would have been the thing's carotid artery as sparks flew from it's twitching neck. It let out a metallic growl, spinning around as he fell to the street on a heap.

He'd only just made it to his feet when its fist came smashing down into the pavement, sending him skidding away. "I'm over here!" he screamed at it, in spite of his nerves, leaping to his feet. "Come get me!"

It lumbered toward him, bringing another arm down to crush him. Or so he thought. Instead it swiped him off his feet, its metal knuckles cracking against his bones and smashing him into a concrete wall. Blood spattered everywhere as his body was torn, skin and clothing smeared across the surface he'd been pressed into like a bug. As the machine pulled back he staggered forward, limbs straining to hold him up. The world might as well have been in an ocean of red, for the blood coloring his vision. Claws still extended he took a shaky step forward, a determined, defiant look of resolution on his face, and he leapt at the thing's knee. This time, his claws tore through the entire limp, unbalancing the machine completely.

As he landed a promising distance away it crashed to the ground after him. There he stood, staring down the metal menace and wiping his own blood from his face. "If it's any consolation..." he managed, though barely, "you probably cost me my passing grade." he smirked bitterly as it prepared to take another swing.

He moved to dodge but his body wasn't having it. He crumpled to the ground like pile of stones as its hand came to bear down on him and he was crushed against the pavement. As it pulled its hand back, its metal knuckles dripping with his blood, he lay there, waiting. Unable to much else he closed his eyes. It was a strange, feeling, almost like floating- Wait. Opening his eyes he found he'd been moved. As the robot's fist pummeled the section of street where he'd been he saw it getting further and further away. Confused he turned and saw that brown haired girl, gripping him by his shirt, carrying him away as they floated.

"R-" she turned green in the cheeks as she pressed her fingers together, "release!" As they landed in a heap she vomited something that looked like rainbow glitter. Somewhere, off in the distance, he heard students screaming.

"We can't just leave them!" As a laser hit the zero pointer in its eyes and a boy with glasses and engines in his legs smashed his feet into its head.

Some girl with pink hair and skin leapt onto its back and began spraying some strange, clear, sizzling fluid from her hands, all over the robot's back. A kid with yellow hair ran up to the thing and grabbed its face, his body erupting into a light show of dancing electricity. A series of small, sparking explosions resonated within the machine. Between what the group of them, the zero pointer had been vanquished. Eyes closing, finally succumbing to his wounds, Deku let unconsciousness take him. His last, fading thought was only that he was glad he hadn't bitten anyone that day.

Chapter Text

Vague recollections drifted across what of his consciousness remained. Images of a rosy cheeked girl staring down at him, worry shining in her eyes. The square jawed boy with the glasses shouting for a medic, waving his arms about in manner not dissimilar to the way the machines had been moving. A pink haired and skinned girl with white horns protruding from her curly locks, peering curiously at him. Her golden irises surrounded by black sclera were wide as she fidgeted nervously.

Elsewhere, in the distance, a yellow haired boy stumbled about like a buffoon. His hands giving thumbs up as he murmured nonsense with a very stupid grin. Trying to corral him was another blond, the kid with that weird belt, clutching his gut and complaining of a 'tummy ache'. Then, an old lady hobbling on an equally ancient walking stick had approached with two robots, carrying a stretcher between them.

No... get away...

Something was said about an infirmary, his hand reached up to warn them away but was sternly, and gently, lowered by the brown haired girl. "Just rest, okay?" The only words yet to actually reached his mind, and they prompted a sluggish nod as he fell back into darkness. "Thank you..." A whisper following him into that abyss called sleep. "For saving me."

Whatever happened next went beyond his perceptions. All he knew was that, when he awoke, he was in what looked like a nurse's office. White, tiled ceiling, similar enough walls, shelves lined with medical texts and equipment. From the feeling of much of his skin he'd been thoroughly bandaged, he probably looked like an ancient pharaoh laid to rest. Raising his hands found that observation to be correct. When his bleary eyes reached the IV in his arm he just about panicked. Someone had the brilliant idea of giving him a transfusion. A slight twinge in his head gave way to a trace inkling on the matter, but of only voices.

He's lost too much blood, A gruff, tired voice echoed in his memories as he looked at the IV bag, using your quirk on him will only kill him.

We can't just do nothing Aizawa. Said the voice of an elderly woman, Do you have a suggestion or are you just here to prevent me from treating patients?

...Give him a transfusion first. Was the reply of this 'Aizawa' character, Give him some strength back before jump starting his body's recovery.

Or was that what had happened? A glance around the room afforded no possible source for an answer. Laying back against his pillow he closed his eyes, giving in to his fatigue once again. At the realization that he wasn't hungry, he gave a bitter laugh and had to ponder whether his appetite had been curbed, those weeks ago at the beginning, with that first transfusion at the hospital. If it hadn't... what manner of dire turn might his recovery have taken? Such thoughts made him shiver, despite his present warmth, cocooned in blankets.

He eyed the transfusion bag sourly, accusingly. Were it that he hadn't needed such a diet to survive... Not that there was much to be done about it now, nor that there ever would be. For the next few hours he lay there in silence, unable to contemplate much else but the ticking of the clock. At the sun falling to the horizon's crest he heard the door to the room open. Who would it be but the nurse of the school, The Healing Hero: Recovery Girl. Deku had to wonder if all the staff were professional heroes at one point or another...

"Well," said she, "you look like you've got some color back." Approaching the bed she put a hand on his forehead. "Some temperature too."

Brushing some of his hair aside she leaned toward his forehead and pressed her lips flush against it. Before Deku could question 'just what the hell she was doing' a fit of fatigue blindsided him. It was a feeling similar to that of stretching a long unused muscle first thing in the morning: rejuvenating, liberating and mildly tiring. Only in this instance it was outright exhausting, had he not been in bed already he might have fallen over.

"Wha-..." darkness encroached on his vision again, threatening another lapse of consciousness, "What did you do?"

"Oh just patching up your injuries." Recovery Girl laughed. "You don't think my name was chosen at random, do you?" He shook his head sheepishly after a moment, then she ruffled his already terribly fluffy, cow-lick ridden hair. "Well, give it a little while longer to rest. You'll be back on your feet in no time." Laying back, head slumping back into his pillow, Deku tried his best to relax.

As Recovery Girl left the room his gaze turned to the IV bag. Really it was lucky that he'd been given a transfusion but it left him wondering. Just why was he given that instead of intravenous nutrient therapy? Considering his blood loss it wasn't altogether unorthodox but... no. Perhaps he was over thinking it. What did he really know about medicine anyways?

Another bitter smile crossed his lips as a thought did much the same to his mind: More than I know about my powers.

Just as the Healing Hero had said, he was ready to leave less than an hour later. Removing his bandages -miraculously he found a complete absence of scar tissue- and changing into the spare outfit in his backpack he pulled the IV from his arm and headed for the door. Once outside the building he winced at the setting sun, realizing he'd have to get new sunglasses. With a groan he fished through his pockets for some spare change. Not a lot, but it sufficed for the shopkeeper he spoke briefly with. At least for a silly looking pair. Perfectly circular rims... his least favorite, so it was with some dismay that he admitted these were stronger than the last pair he owned. That the lenses were tinted a blackish red made him wonder if the hands of fate -should they truly exist- were just taunting him.

His walk home felt as though it were taking far longer than his walk to the school. A text to his mother told her that he was en route, another few later and he'd eased her fear that he'd been gravely injured. He had been, of course, but that was by what he would now have to consider his previous standards. It seemed he was able to take quite some amount of punishment. If his bones hadn't been broken by that gargantuan machine, his mind staggered at the thought of what might be required for such injuries to be inflicted upon his person. Alas, he knew not whether they had been. His pain receptors had been quite overloaded in that brief round of combat.

Although, even if his bones had been broken, the injuries he'd sustained were beyond lethal. That he had no trace of a concussion was astounding, a feat bordering on miraculous. The amount of punishment he was capable of taking would be the thing of envy to most professionals. According to some rather amateur guesswork on his part, he'd really only been 'functional' for the first two thirds of what he'd endured. The majority of his injuries had been dealt to him in that final strike, before the others had destroyed the machine.

Just why it was programmed to be so murderously hostile was a subject of worry for the poor teenager. If someone else had been that thing's target what would have happened? Could they have survived even one punch from it? Even if they did, the inevitable injuries wouldn't leave them in much of a position to escape. How many prospective students died every year trying to fight those things? With such gross incompetence on display for the entrance exams alone, he worried about the rest of the year might-

...Ah, that was right, wasn't it? His final score hadn't been that high. Barely competitive with the other students, if it could even be described as such. His final tally, if he was being generous with himself, couldn't have been higher than fifteen. Even if he was assuming that their performances were graded at twice the normal scale he hadn't even gotten the higher end of an ' F '. Still, he had to try. It had been his dream since he was old enough to even know what a hero was. If he hadn't tried he doubted he'd be able to live with himself, especially now that he was a blood sucking monster of the night.

Speaking of which, he still didn't have any idea what he was anymore. 'Human' was the word he desperately clung to but had reservations for allowing full belief thereof. Spiders -he shivered considerably at the word- were the only thing other than ticks or mosquitoes that he could compare himself to. Butterflies could drink blood too, now that he thought of it... His range of abilities was too focused, too narrow and didn't align with any of those creatures. For one, he couldn't fly, so that ruled out two of them.

Jumping incredible distances was the extent to which he was familiar with extraordinary methods of travel. He had fangs, his claws being the most recent development, now fed only on blood, enhanced strength and senses, evidently he also possessed astounding durability; or at least a hefty capacity to ignore his injuries well past the point of most people, let alone heroes. A lack of spinnerets -for which he was exceedingly grateful- ruled out the most unsavory option. So that left ticks and fleas. Not ideal comparisons. Of course, now that he thought of it, a hero named 'The Tick' or possessing powers similar to one sounded absolutely absurd. What was next? A villain who's only power was having a chair for a head? No. His powers had to be from something else, so said his claws.

Claws... only the most recent to the list. He was gaining questions faster than answers. Being alone in this, no guide or teacher to turn to, was rather discouraging. Finding that Lady, the one who'd bestowed these powers upon him, had crossed his mind but he hadn't the faintest idea where to begin looking. Lying in wait outside the butcher's shop all week seemed an unlikely option to work. She would doubtlessly be more watchful, more careful than to allow one such as he to observe her without her wishing it. But then why wouldn't she want him to find her?

She was the one who sought him out, saved his life and made him like this. Well, it seemed as decent a plan as any. Maybe from her he'd get something, an answer, guidance; he'd take anything at this point. What he desired most was a method of self control. For some reason he doubted she'd have an answer for that one... "A hunger unlike any you've ever known, a life devoid of companionship..." That such was her prediction of his future seemed to betray her would-be answer to that line of questioning. So resign he did just to venture home and rest, to enjoy the quiet in his stomach for as long as it lasted.

By the time he fumbled inside his home, Deku had no energy left to work with. So off he stumbled to his bed, not bothering to do much more than strip before falling onto the sheets and wrapping himself up in them. A fitful sleep though it was, plagued by his usual assortment of nightmares, he found himself waking upon the floor. Not something he'd done since early in elementary school. Rubbing the stiffness from his neck he stood up and pulled some clean clothes over his frame. It wasn't exactly early, but he cared not. With no responsibilities to consider he shuffled from his room and searched for something his mother hadn't cleaned yet. Eventually he settled for vacuuming the house, with an encore of dusting the ceiling. Following up this act was a generous scrubbing of the bathroom and cleaning the kitchen sink. By the time Mrs Midoriya crossed the threshold of the family home he'd scrubbed the floors down too.

"Izu," she smiled, "what's gotten into you?"

If you only knew... "Didn't really know what else to do today," admitted he, "just thought I'd make up for the last week away from home." He offered with a timid, little smile.

"Aww," she beamed squeezing the silly lad in the kind of hug only a mom could give, "you didn't have to do that." releasing him she said, "How about tonight we watch part three of those documentaries you like?" He had to bite back a scream. "They aired part three of it just a few days ago." But that happy almost excited look on her face...

The slight smirk he gave, had anyone been aware of the terror wracking his nerves, would have earned him an Oscar. For his acting betrayed not one iota of his fear. "Sure, that sounds great mom."

Kill me now...

So it was grim reluctance that he settled in with his mom for another night of spine tingling horror at the hands of nature. He half suspected the camera men rather enjoyed their work on this production a bit too much... Eventually, with knuckles gone white from the grip on his knees and color drained partially from his face, he sighed in relief as the documentary ended. To his surprise Mrs Midoriya only yawned, stretching her limbs a bit before standing up.

"And so the trilogy ends." she mused almost sighing a little. All Deku could do was thank his nonexistent gods that it was over. Ruffling his hair, Mrs Midoriya kissed his forehead. "Thanks for cleaning up, my little hero."

He couldn't help the smirk that followed. Worth it.

With another yawn she bid him goodnight and wandered off after he returned the sentiment. So there he was, in no mood to sleep, huddled up on the couch and fidgeting with the hem of his pant legs. With nothing better to do other than sit and try to erase what he'd just seen from his mind he did precisely that. Given his doubtless failure to enter UA he began fishing through his brain for other possibilities, other schools with hero courses he could still test into. After a few moments he grabbed a notebook from his room and began jotting down notes, looking up various things on his phone and coming up with a schedule for all the entrance exams he'd be taking.

Vrrrm... Vrrrrrm...

Deku's ears perked up at the sound of his phone going off. His hand drifted to the outdated device and swiped the notification open. Eyes fluttering, surprised not at the message but at the name of the sender: Aizawa, he'd heard that name before he'd woken in Recovery Girl's office. It was an address followed by a short bit of instruction.

Come alone, meet me in the alley.

A chill ran over his skin, sending ripples of goosebumps in its path. To say this was unexpected was a drastic understatement. What business did a teacher at UA have with him? Not wanting to waste time Deku stood up and slipped into his shoes. Sunglasses secured in his pocket he broke into a jog. Granted it was a jog that happened to be a good deal faster than most people could run, but still it was a jog. Reaching the address in less time than he'd expected the fanged one glanced around, searching for the one who'd summoned him. When no sign of the man was forthcoming -not that he knew the man's appearance- he half suspected he'd arrived too early.

"Think fast."

Before Deku could discern where the voice had come from a foot came roaring toward his head. Reflexes taking over, his hands flew up to meet the limb striking for his face. Fingers gripping the appendage he spun on his heels at the sheer force of the strike, stumbling in his efforts to redirect the attack. His would be assailant flew, tossed aside by the teenager who's head he'd sought to drive his heel into. Hair floating, swaying as though carried by some ocean current, the man landed like a cat. Agile and accustomed to combating foes significantly more powerful than he. Flowing in the air around him, winding like tendrils of some creature, was his long, white scarf. Adorned on his long, angular face were a pair of vented, yellow goggles.

"W-why did you do that!?" Deku stammered. "Who are- Hey!"

The man had made for the wall and started climbing up the fire escape with almost inhuman speed. Following his instincts Deku gave chase, leaping up the side of the building after him. To his grim surprise the man in black was waiting for him. With a sharp, downward jab of his elbow he'd halted the teenagers ascension and sent him reeling back toward the street below. In a desperate attempt not to get another mouth full of pavement he reached out, fingers clawing for the wall. As his digits scraped along the rough surface of the bricks he felt his descent slowing. Eyes open, as his world stopped spinning, he noticed that he'd stopped moving. Which was odd, due to the fact that his claws were sheathed and his fingers hadn't penetrated the surface. Yet his descent had halted altogether and his feet had never reached the ground. It was with increasingly widening eyes that reality dawned on him: he was clinging to the wall.

"As I thought."

When Deku worked up the nerve to look up at his assailant, he saw him glaring down at him through his goggles. Hair still swaying as though underwater, his scarf lashed out like a mass of flailing tendrils and snared him. What followed was a rather undignified removal from the wall, a somersault over the man's head and a rather painful deposit upon the surface of the roof; all the doing of the man's scarf.

Lips curled in something of a sneering snarl, the scraggly man advanced. "You're one of them."

Standing quickly, but keeping his distance, Deku eyed the man cautiously. "You- you know?"

Answers though he wanted, he wasn't itching to get into another fight. Least of all with someone who was only after him. This man clearly knew how to fight, and without an innocent bystander to leap in and defend Deku found himself wanting to avoid confrontation. But his aggressor had other ideas. Stepping forward every time the fanged teenager backpedaled he watched the younger one like a crazed hawk.

"You're not very good at hiding." stated he, removing his goggles and revealing his narrow, bloodshot eyes. "As if hunting at a hero school wasn't brazen enough, you displayed multiple powers over the course of that exam." One finger raised, "Heightened strength," another followed, "agility, claws and incredible durability. Now either that was all you thought you'd need to survive the exam or you're not aware of your entire repertoire yet."

The thought of yet more powers had Deku's head spinning, as did the prospect of his hunger growing with each power; Something that had only just occurred to him as a possibility. Granted he hadn't noticed any such thing happening but... that butcher had said The Lady cleaned out his supply of blood once a week while his own appetite remained at an even two gallons per month. At least so far.

Cracking of the man's knuckles snapped his focus away from his thoughts. "Either way, I won't allow you to harm anyone else." He made a motion with his wrist, almost like he was drawing a dagger from his sleeve when a cackle split the night.

Interrupting this bout, a laugh cackled over them. "Oh," and the voice attached to the laugh made Deku's spine tingle, "you wont have to worry about that." Turning around, he saw The Lady peering down at them from a nearby rooftop.

She had a strangely bemused expression on her face, and- he couldn't believe what she was holding. "He wants to be like you when he grows up." And with a flick of her wrist she threw the tattered notebook right into his grasp. After a few moments of flipping through it the Hero's expression lost a hint of its severity. "Don't you think that's sweet, Aizawa?"

While it wasn't much of a revelation, it did surprise the greenhead to learn this was the man who'd summoned him here. What had his focus however was the notebook in the Professional's hand. "For the Future..." Aizawa murmured, glancing up at Deku, letting his scrutinizing gaze speak for him.

After a few moments, Aizawa looked back at The Lady. "So... you're the one who turned him then. heh... as if it could have been anyone else."

The sound of boots clattering onto the roof told him that she'd leapt down beside him. It was a minor miracle he hadn't leapt aside in fright, but for some reason his instincts told him he had nothing to fear from her. Although that was somehow unsettling in and of itself.

Holding up the notebook, Aizawa added, "what makes you think he can even do this?" Deku's eyes flashed between the two adults. "Not even you have ever managed to completely gain control of yourself. He's only a child. What can you possibly say to justify turning him into that?"

It was the most outlandish thing: where the hero made him feel afraid, threatened, the being he knew to be a predator actually comforted him with her presence. Even her clawed hand, resting lightly on his shoulder, only served to put him at ease. While Aizawa had hidden none of the venom, the sizzling rage in his voice, The Lady hadn't cared. Reacting only with apparent amusement she lilted her head to one side with a casual little smirk.

"I was no different when I was turned, my old friend." The hero seemed conflicted by being addressed with such a label, so said the subtle flinch of his tired features and momentary shifting of his eyes. "This little one," her hand patted almost affectionately at the younger man's shoulder, "he was there at that slime villain's little rampage."

The confused expression Aizawa gave her prompted further explanation. "You had to have noticed," drawled she, "with those sharp eyes of yours, this little one running into the fray?" A slight widening of his eyes, sinking, lowering of his other facial features. "Didn't you notice that something -some one- had been tossed from the chaos?" Her smile widened, almost unnoticeably. "Quirkless, Young Midoriya here did what so many heroes already present hadn't dared, and it cost him his life." Slowly, the teenager in question turned to look at the woman speaking. When his eyes found her she almost seemed like she was looking fondly at him. "Wouldn't it have been a waste to let that be the end of him?"

Aizawa remained silent, contemplating her words while looking Deku up and down. It was true that he seemed harmless enough. That he hadn't retaliated for any of the attempts made to harm him was certainly a point in his favor. But...

The man sighed, hands sliding into his pockets. "Does he even know what he is?" His tone had lost its edge, now denoting genuine concern. "What you are?" At The Lady's questioning glance Deku shook his head and Aizawa sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index finger. "It's been almost a month since he turned..." grumbled he, pulling a hip flask from his pocket and taking a long sip. "You really haven't told him anything?"

Another smile, this one bearing a sardonic tint. "I wanted to see what he would do." Explained she. "If he would live up to my initial expectations." She released his shoulder after a gentle squeeze. "And he did. At every opportunity to give in, to let his hunger drive him, he resisted and prevailed." With a slight shrug she added, "There... might have been some slip ups here and there, but aren't there always with ones so young?" And she looked Aizawa right in the eye.

His only reply was to narrow his own as he gazed back. "Most other teenagers don't have to fight urges that could kill people."

And The Lady laughed. "We live in a world were people are born with the ability to decimate cities and you think he is the only one living as a possible liability? A threat?" She shook her head, only a trace of her little smirk remaining. "Tell me, what do you think would happen if a man such as All Might lost his temper? What do you think the fallout would be from that?" And the last traces of bemusement disappeared. "Can you imagine it?"

"I don't have to." Was Aizawa's simple reply.

"Then we understand each other?"

He considered the boy and the woman for a few tense moments. Eying them both with equal scrutiny until his shoulders sank and he let out another sigh. "Teach him about what he is," and he turned around, "he has a week to prepare for my class."

Deku's eyes widened. "What!?" he cried is disbelief. "You mean I passed?!"

Another, growling sigh escaped the hero's throat. "All of this and that's what you react to..." he dug a palm into one of his temples. "Yeah kid, you passed." he turned back around, obvious emotional fatigue plastered on his face. "In saving Uraraka you got sixty rescue points. Thanks your careless bravado she also passed because she had to save you." Deku blinked rapidly, jaw lowering a little as his breath caught. Some sliver of hope had just been planted back in his chest. "Funny thing about that entire encounter..." Aizawa remarked. "Had you not been there it wouldn't have been nearly so bad."

Another flutter of the teenager's eyes. "W-wha...?"

"See," Aizawa rubbed at a bloodshot eye, "we're not idiots. Those machines have safety measures which prevent them from killing prospective students. The only things they wont hold back against are known villains..." His eyes narrowed again. "Care to guess what else they attack with impunity?"

This time, it was Deku's turn for his shoulders to go slack with the weight of his emotions. "...People like me." His gaze lowered to the ground. "So... if I hadn't been there..."

"It likely wouldn't have been a threat to anyone." Aizawa attempted to soften none of the blow those words delivered. "You're lucky I didn't expose your little secret."

Wait... "W-why didn't you?" Deku asked.

A line of questioning that gave the hero pause. Rather than answer right away he turned back around, hands once again in his pockets, and considered what lie he might tell. In a twist of whimsy, he went with the truth.

"I recognize heroism when I see it." An almost touching sentiment. "Figured you deserved a chance to prove yourself. What I didn't figure was..." he turned his face toward the stars above. "that my own prejudices would prevent me from following that through." For a brief moment, from the edge of the Man's sleeve, he thought he saw a glint of light, reflecting on metal.

As the reflecting light flickered away Aizawa began to leave. "You have one week to prepare yourself." And he tossed the old, battered notebook over his shoulder with such precision that it landed right in Deku's hands. "Do not disappoint me, 'Young Midoriya'." At that sentence's conclusion, Aizawa bounded off the roof, into the night.

A lot of information to process... he hadn't the faintest idea where to begin doing so either. Pushing that concern well and truly away was the movement in the corner of his eye. The Lady must have been working overtime to resist the urge to latch onto the now absent hero's throat. A violent twitching of her arm, only ceased by her other hand grasping the shaking limb. To his surprise, Deku's hand had moved, reaching out unconsciously for her shoulder, out of the concern he felt for her. He stopped the motion cold, awkwardly putting his hand in his pocket, hoping she hadn't seen. Of course, she had however.

Her little smile bore a hint of gratitude as she cast him a sidelong glance. "Worried, little one?" She put a hand over her forehead, squeezing fingers at her temples, massaging the sides of her skull. She chuckled, hummingly under her breath. "You needn't. I've just... not had enough to drink in some time."

Hesitant though he was to trust this woman, something in him compelled him to. There was this... disarming nature in her aura. He felt as though he were in presence of a very old friend, not that he knew the feeling from any other era of his life. "Are you alright?" Why did I ask her that...?

The smile perched upon her lips twitched. It was a subtle, fleeting motion but it was there nonetheless. "I'm fine, little one." she took a few idle steps toward the edge of the building and sat upon the ledge. His concern had hardly been eased, and that seemed to be something she felt compelled to address. "You really don't need to worry about me." Her tone left no room for doubt, it hit the young lad's emotional center like a stone.

But... why? "I know I don't look it, but I've lived many a long year walking this earth..." She gave the night sky a longing glance, the nature of her little smile now becoming much clearer to the young man observing it. "The thirst for another's blood is not something creatures such as we can ignore for long. No matter how much you try to fight it..." she reached a slender, graceful hand toward the bright, blue moon. Fingers stretched out, longingly toward old, watchful Luna. "But my will is my own. When and where I lose that fight are well within my say." Though from the look on her face, he could tell -even with his limited interpersonal experience- that this was spoken more as a wish than a statement of any fact.

For a time, just a few quiet moments, he stood there and looked at her as the wind pushed gently over them. There was certainly an elegance about her, while it was something earned by the passage of her time spent wandering this world it bore with it a hint of something else. Something the young man had yet to learn, as only experience could teach what such a weight was bequeathed by.

"Who are you?" Of all the questions he had, this one, somehow, seemed the most important. She'd given him a second chance at life, a fighting chance at his dream. He wanted to know. He needed to know.

Slowly, her gaze turned to his. Eyes glowing blue, now no longer hidden behind her sunglasses, blazing sharply into his. Considering her answer was no simple thing, from the look her face bore upon it. "You may call me Vanessa." She stood, much steadier than she'd been, and began striding toward the opposite end of the roof. "But that's not what you meant, is it?" She gave a knowing look, tone dropping some of its playful lilt.

"N-" stammered he, "not only..."

At his answer she drew in a slow, bracing breath. This was not a matter she'd spoken of since the day she was turned herself. Yet the topic demanded discussion, and so... "We're Vampires." Was Vanessa's simple reply. "The last Vampires..."

Some eons ago, at the dawn of the human race and when the world was young, existed a nomadic tribe. Traveling across the throat of the world -a mountain chain now long forgotten- they fell victim to the shifting of tectonic plates, though it was no simple earthquake that befell them. Rather than a tremor of the land the stone simply gave way beneath their feet. Thousands of humans fell into the abyss, screaming as the world swallowed them up. Many did not survive the descent, many more were devoured by the beasts that dwelled beneath the earth. When the dust settled, and the survivors found refuge in the underground caverns, it became clear that the dead were the lucky ones. No light with which to cook, or see by. No tools with which to hunt. In the barren land, so close to the center of the world, humanity carved a concept for itself in the stone that would reverberate forward, into the eons of the species and all that would be done to flee this one word: Hell. But humanity, as it was trapped in the underworld, survived. Several groups of them, three in total, splintered off from each other.

Those without conscience or, perhaps sanity, were particularly adapted to this strange world. So it was, with such an advantage, that two of the groups managed to endure. Beneath the surface of world, one tribe became two. One resorting to a mix of cannibalism and near suicidal hunting tactics, taking on even the nastiest of predators roaming the underworld. Devolving to a prehistorically primitive state the members of this portion of the tribe forgot all that made them human, over time. Names, language, music, art, all forgotten in the madness that came from their need to live. The second portion of the tribe held onto their culture, their humanity in as many ways as they could.

But the underworld is a place most unforgiving... their reluctance to change, to adapt to their new environment cost them dearly. For the first splinter of the tribe preyed upon them more so than anything else lurking in the dark. Their only method to avoid being eaten, killed or worse was to abandon light and fire. In doing so, as the eons rolled on, their eyes changed. Adapted to the complete, starless darkness of the world below. It was only through this miracle of evolution that they managed to linger on, and persist in their competition with the other splinter.

But this has said nothing of the third...

In the beginning, they were the smallest group. Thoroughly disadvantaged by sheer malignant luck, they'd fallen into the most inhospitable place in the underworld. Hounded by predators so ferocious they would be akin to a plague of locusts on the wildlife above, for they would consume all in their path. Such was the nature of their predatory habits upon these hapless humans. For centuries, beneath the soil and stone, they hounded them all, hunting them with relentless hunger until only seven remained. Born to the smallest, the youngest woman among them was a single child. A child they protected with their lives, until all but the mother were taken.

Then there were only two. eventually, after years of running, they were cornered. Hiding the child away in a crevice in the rocks, she fought with all she had to protect her baby. Days went by, dozens of beasts were slain and eventually: she fell. Succumbing to injuries the most seasoned of warriors in the world above would not have been able to suffer, she died in time to assure her child that all was well. The danger was gone. There, cradling the dead woman in her arms, the child cried.

Were it only grief the little one had felt, history may have taken a much different turn. For in that moment, in the pitchest black any human had ever seen, the girl yielded to a hunger gifted to her by sheer, random chance of evolution. She bit into her dead mother's throat and drank. For every drop of blood she consumed her strength multiplied. Eventually, she moved to the corpses of the predators. Then she hunted the living ones, following their trails back to the other splinters and met more of her kind. Though the underworld had changed them, she recognized them as her own kin.

The second splinter, those who could see in the black, were afraid of her. She was a goddess among insects, one with extraordinary power in a world where so few had the strength the cling to life's barest embers. A predator who possessed strength enough to rule as she saw fit. But in the trembling fear of the night-sighted ones, she saw her own reflection from when she was a child. So she spared them, aiding them in their bid to survive the underworld's harshest dangers. Into her twilight years, did she aid them, until she was made their leader. A wiser, more powerful leader they had not known since their descent into this rabid, merciless world. But it was not to last.

At the turn of that very year beneath the world, a new danger made itself known. For a creature, so horrid and ravenous it had been hunted to extinction in the world above, had fled to their home. A terrible, scaly thing with muscular, clawed limbs and breath of fire. It possessed an intelligence not seen in wilder creatures. It was ancient, angry and desperate. For with it was a small clutch of eggs, within were young it would one day need to feed. What better to feed them with than the human descendants lurking beneath the world?

With a will unseen from most other creatures, it snared the minds of the first splinter, sending them to hunt at its bidding. It was then that these animalistic human descendants once again began to hunt their night-sighted kin. Only now 'The Lady' was there to defend them. With her immense strength she managed to fend off the attacking human offshoots and follow them back to their dens. It was there that she first laid eyes upon the creature, sending them to hunt their kin.

When she saw it could snare the will of the living, replacing theirs with its, she fled in mad fear. But when she returned she found her tribe, those who trusted and followed her, had been taken away. In a rage, she tracked down more members of the cannibals in a desperate mission. Gazing into their eyes, praying with all she was, she found that she too could take the will of others and make it her own. Gifting them with their lost intelligence, surrendered to madness those long years ago, she led them against the creature and into war.

In the caverns, deep beneath the earth, the fire breathing monstrosity and its horde felled many of her followers. In the end, only a quarter of all humans living in the underworld remained. During the final moments of the battle the beast struck The Lady's chest with a savage claw as she drove a spire of stone through its head. So it was with a great tremor that the two goddesses fell. One the humans were glad to see gone, the other they would all sorely miss.

With her dying breath she uttered the few simple words her mother had spoken at her passing: "Do not lose each other, for if you do, then all is lost." and then she died, gone to join her mother.

For her funeral, she was placed on a raised, stone alter, looming overhead in the largest cavern. Her blood was made to flow freely, into pools at the base of the alter, and in her memory, they drank. The eldest of either kin walked to the top of the alter, after all had drank of her essence, and made a mighty declaration. She was the one who had, after so many years, reunited the tribe. The one who had seen them to safety and cared for them as if they were her own. In honoring the memory of her mother, of her family, she had become a mother to them all: She was 'The Night Mother', their guide in the dark and their savior.

over time, further centuries and millennia, the humans lost their differences to breeding together. From the first splinter, they gained retractable claws, the ability to cling to surfaces like spiders and great endurance. From the second, a great intellect and eyes of the night along with all other senses greatly enhanced. From the blood of the Night Mother, they gained strength and a thirst for blood which compelled them to leave the underworld, for they could not bear to harm each other any more. Not after her sacrifice for them all... so it was that their dwindled numbers headed for the surface in droves. To each corner of the world, exiting to find that much had changed, they joined the humans and started anew.

This, and only this, is the true origin of the Vampire species.

A gentle breeze wafted through an open window. Threadbare curtains, wisping in the wind like cobwebs, clung to what little remained of their anchor points. Moonlight shone into a dusty, bare apartment, afforded only a cursory amount of electricity; enough only for the fridge filled with blood. This was the place to which Deku had been led, and had been related the history of who were now his kin.

"And now..." murmured Vanessa, a sad glint in her eye, "once again, we're only two." Her fingers fidgeted at the edge of her chair's armrest, picking bits of string and fluff from the fraying stitches. "Hunted by humanity until they thought us all extinct." With her other hand she raised a glass and half drained its crimson contents into her gullet. "That is... until one hunter took pity on one in particular."

From his spot on the floor, Deku could see a hint of tears at the corner of her eyes. At least... they might have been tears, were they not clearly so red. She reached up, and with her thumb and index finger, wiped the corners of her eyes. "You mean Aizawa?" she nodded at the mumbled question. "Why?"

All hints of joviality vanished from her face. "when..." she searched for a place to begin, "I was initially turned, I wasn't alone. It was me and my older sister." her eyes seemed to go dull, losing their color and glow as she spoke. "For a long time it was just the three of us, us and our teacher until he succumbed to father time."

Pausing, she let out a long, slow breath. "Then Aizawa hunted us, us and our coven down." she was almost totally still, save for the movements of her lips and chest as she spoke. "He killed all but me and my sister. In a move I didn't predict, he threw a dagger at my heart. My sister, she..." her hand gripped the couch, face scrunching to hold in her tears. "Well, she's not around any more..." and she relaxed, having avoided the statement altogether, but it was obvious what had happened...

"But he spared you..." Deku mumbled. "Why did he do that?"

She looked him in the eye. "Rather than flee, after she died, I flung him aside and cradled her." The wounded, broken look in her eyes told all. "In that moment, as I cried over her without a thought to escape... I think he realized we were people." Her eyes shifted to the moon, Deku's to the floor in horrified contemplation.

Shota Aizawa, Eraser Head... he recognized the name now. A hero who avoided the spotlight like the plague, with such utter detest for the fame garnered for hero work. Was this the reason why? Was it guilt? Had it been because of that and similar incidents, because he had been a Vampire hunter all his career as a Hero?

"So... what were you doing before you found me?" Deku asked, looking back at her. "Why did you save me?"

Her smile returned, though it was a somber little thing, perched on her lips. "Questions for another time, little one." She reached over and ruffled his cow-lick ridden hair. "I think it's time you headed home. Your mother will be worried sick if you stay out much later." She rose from her chair and wandered to the door, gesturing that she wanted to show him out.

Standing up, he complied. Following her to the exit she smiled warmly at him and waved as he left. "Will I-" why was he asking this? "Will I see you again... Vanessa?" It wasn't her last name, surely, but he felt like he was saying goodbye to family... what absurdity for that to be his feeling now.

In reply she nodded, "Goodnight, Izuku." Then waved as she shut the door.

It was at a much slower pace than he'd ventured out with that he made the return journey. Trudging along, kicking up stray pebbles here and there, he tried to process all that he had just learned. He'd made it into UA, helping another student do so in the process no less. He now knew what Vampires were and that Aizawa had apparently killed quite a few of them here in Japan. At the top of that list however... he was one of two Vampires left in the world.

Numbly, he reached for the doorknob of his home and entered. Sliding out of his shoes he wandered to the bathroom and brushed his teeth. After changing into his pajamas he climbed into bed, but found he could not sleep. So, with a breath that failed to alleviate any stress, he turned on the light and went to his desk. Opening the pages of his battered notebook for the future, he turned to nearest empty section and began to write everything he could remember about his powers. This particular chapter of his notes bore a rather obvious, though entirely necessary title: Vampires.

Chapter Text

Researching the topic of vampires proved to a task more headache inducing than any Izuku had previously undertaken. Separating fact from from fiction without Vanessa's guidance was outright impossible. Any notable authorities on the subject were either online conspiracy theorists, those who specialized in certain fields of fiction -some of which made the poor boy turn the deepest red he'd ever managed- and a few, very obscure news articles. Obscure because the media, or some driving force within it, had worked tirelessly to bury them. Even when he'd managed to dig one up it told nothing he didn't already know.

"I'm surprised," Vanessa admitted one day, "I didn't think they'd still be working so hard keep us a secret when they could just write it off as a strange, emergent quirk."

It did seem a logical solution at that. "Maybe the old stories and their prevalence made them think it was a bad idea," Suggested Deku, pen twirling in his hand as he paused taking his notes, "it would look like very coincidental."

From the look on her face, it seemed she agreed. "Perhaps," she stood up, walking to the fridge, "but stranger things have happened in this quirk-mad world."

Taking a small container -less than half a gallon- from the fridge she opened it and took a few lengthy sips. Licking her lips she offered him some of her drink, which he declined. With a shrug she capped it and closed the fridge. These daily visits to her abode felt intrusive enough without taxing her already meager rations.

"To answer an earlier question," she said with a languid stretch, "you wont have to worry about your appetite increasing exponentially." His sigh of relief was practically audible to the world outside. "Unless you're gravely injured, or indulge far more than you should, you can expect it to remain as is." She fussed with the fraying stitching of her chair, pondering what else there was to tell him at this juncture. "Have you discovered your healing factor yet?"

There's more? As if his list wasn't already extensive enough. "No, not- not yet..."

"I thought not..." said she, "those don't usually emerge without... well," letting her voice trail off, she reached up and fiddled with a strand of her hair, "hopefully that will never awaken." If he was being honest, he'd have voiced his agreement with that sentiment. There was a hesitance he'd noticed in her voice that made him wary of what might unlock that particular gift.

"Seems a little excessive..." Deku commented, "how did that power come about anyway?"

Vanessa seemed to think about this. "Maybe it was someone's quirk a long time ago. Those who are turned, if they turn anyone else, do pass on their gifts to future vampires one way or another."

Their visits usually consisted of little more than this. Speaking at length of what the young man could expect, that he should be ready to be overwhelmed with thirst while crammed in a classroom for hours at a time. The heat of battle, real or otherwise, would offer him no escape or outlet for this thirst. If anything such extraneous exertions would only make things more difficult. Occasionally she would speak of her past, stories of long nights under the moon, hunting with her sister. Reckless abandonment of youth, she called it. A longing in her voice, glistening in her eyes, spoke to how much she longed for those days returned to her. Or perhaps it was merely for those she'd shared such times with... Regardless, in no time flat, it was time for his first day of classes at UA.

Somehow he'd imagined his return journey being far less nerve wracking. Reality had decided this to be quite the opposite of what transpired. First real steps... He attempted a smile to reassure himself but ultimately found it a fruitless gesture. No amount of smiling or sedatives were going to calm his nerves with anything less than it would take to render him unconscious. With this in mind, he cautiously ventured into the school. Glancing at his student pamphlet, somehow surprisingly easy to read even through his silly, round rimmed-sunglasses, he saw that he was assigned to Class 1A. True to the hero's word, Shota Aizawa was listed as his teacher. Wonder if that was his doing... and if so, why? From their early -and only- interaction it was very obvious that his teacher did not care for him.

Bracing for his eventual confrontation with that reality, he wandered up the steps of the main building toward his classroom. Until that moment he hadn't thought it possible to be more jittery than he had been. Trembling limbs, clattering jaw and uneven footsteps, he made his way to the door, silently praying Bakugo wasn't in his class.

"Remove your feet from that desk!" The unmistakable voice of the imposing one with engines in his legs. "Such an action is insulting to those who came to UA before us, and the craftsmen who made the desk!" Of course, he found upon opening the door that the student who he was scolding happened to be none other than the one person he was hoping to avoid.

"Like I care." Bakugo's smile obnoxiously smug and echoed of his sadistic tendencies. "What middle school are you from, Extra?" It figured passing the entrance exams would only return his overflowing ego...

"I- I am from Somei private academy." He seemed taken aback. "My name is Tenya Iida." He extended a hand toward the other student, an olive branch hoping to end their bickering before it had the chance to continue.

An olive branch Bakugo was only all to excited to literally swat aside. "Somei?!" Laughed he. "A stuck up elitist then?" His smile shifted, a menacing shadow falling over his face. "I should blow you to bits."

Taken aback by this, Iida recoiled a step from the smaller teen. "Blow me to bits!?" He parroted in mortified disbelief. "You're awful! Do you really wish to become a hero?"

It was a fair question, when considering Bakugo's rather rancid personality...

In the act of recoiling, Iida caught a glimpse of a mess of green hair hiding behind the classroom door. "You..." he breathed under his breath, beginning to approach his newly arrived classmate. "You're the one who-..." The recognition on both their faces would have been impossible for a literal vegetable to miss. Extending a hand to his new classmate he said, "My name is-"

"I-" Deku Stammered, "I heard you..." he had to clench his jaw, the all too familiar urge had made itself known once again.

There was another matter that demanded his attention at that time however. Sitting in the seat immediately to Bakugo's left was another student who clearly recognized from the look on her face. For the second time a look of recognition flashed across his features. If he'd tried his damndest for a hundred years, he'd never forget the face looking at him underneath that purple haircut or those ears of hers: The girl he'd bitten in the alley, his first innocent victim. Her surprise at his attendance to the class was only briefly shown, but he definitely saw it.

Gulping, finding his nerves he addressed the student in front of him. "M-my name is Izuku Midoriya." Despite his better manners, he avoided offering a handshake. "Pleased to meet you, Iida." He said through a tightly clenched jaw.

Noticing his discomfort, Iida smirked and stepped back a pace. "There's no need to be anxious," said he, "I merely wanted to congratulate you for passing the entrance exams, and for seeing through to its true nature!" Bowing, perhaps exaggeratedly, he said, "You were truly the superior candidate!"

I- I didn't see through to anything!

At the sight of him, his eyes went wide with murderous fury."Fucking Deku, what-!?" Bakugo managed to growl in shock, completely displeased to see him joining the class. He had a look on his face that screamed 'extra killing time'.

"Oh yeah!" Said the kid with the yellow hair, decorated with that odd, jagged black stripe. "I recognize you now!" He stood up, followed by the students nearest to him. That kid with the belt and the pink girl, who was smiling excitedly as they trotted over. "Denki Kaminari, nice ta meetcha." His attitude was rather... lax, laid back. Almost too much, Deku felt, as he hesitantly shook his hand, jaw clenching so tight he thought his teeth might crack.

"You were crazy to go up against that thing!" The pink girl exclaimed, radiating energy and an infectious level of joy. "Still pretty awesome though!" With a wink she gave him a thumbs up, grinning like an idiot. "You can call me Mina Ashido." she shrugged. "I'm not too picky about which name you use."

With an odd twirl, almost like a ballerina, the blond with the belt flourished his hand in such a way that he flicked at his own hair. Had he put just a sliver more motion into that, it might have looked as though he were blowing a kiss... "And you can call me Yuga Ayoyama," he said with a wink, "you were quite the inspiring one during that entrance exam, weren't you?" For the life of him -or unlife, as the case may be- Deku couldn't tell if this kid was flirting with him. Maybe he was just... like this?

Either way, he and the others seemed nice enough. "T-thank you for stepping in," he managed through his simultaneously frozen and burning nerves, "during the entrance exams..."

"Eh," Kaminari shrugged, very nonchalantly, "it's what we're here to do, right?"

With another energetic thumbs up, Ashido exclaimed, "Right! Today's heroes of tomorrow!"

Iida blinked. "Is-... is that how that's said?"

"Ah!" From behind him, was an outcry that nearly jolted Deku's skeleton out of his body. "That curly hair!" Oh he recognized that voice. "The plain looking kid!" Said that brown haired girl who'd saved him from becoming a smear on the pavement.

He noticed with some surprise that she was surprisingly cute in the school uniform. Not that her radiant smile wouldn't have completely decided that one. "You got in!" She exclaimed, clearly quite happy with this turn of events. "Just like present Mic Said!" She raked her hand through the hair in a repetitive motion, almost like she were imitating an animal clawing at something. "Not that I'm surprised, mind you, the way you sliced off that thing's leg was amazing!"

It was... a conflicting mix of emotions he felt. On one hand, he was incredibly flustered simply having this girl talk to him, causing him to shrink away and hide under his arms like a shrinking violet. On the other was his constant urge that become nigh irresistible around other people.

She wasn't aware of any of this, however, and just kept merrily prattling on."You just clawed though it and shouted 'hey! Pick on someone your own size!' Well, not literally, obviously, but then you just completely toppled it!" And she was still doing that clawing motion... "I'm really surprised you weren't more seriously hurt by that thing, to be honest." In any other scenario, involving different participants than they, their positions would have been entirely reversed.

"I'm, uh..." croaked his straining voice, for multiple reasons. "Sh-should probably thank you for s-saving me from getting crushed while we're at it..." dear lord alive, how was it possible to be so overwhelmed. To make matters more confusing for his flummoxed, little mind he wasn't even certain he didn't like it.

"Oh you don't have to worry about that," she giggled, "I was just returning the favor at that point."

My god she's like a puppy... how is anyone this cheerful? Come to think of it, there seemed to be two of them in this class alone. Wait, why was Ashido winking at Kaminari and laughing mischievously like that?

"So what do you think we're doing besides orientation today?" She was almost bouncing up and down with excitement. "I wonder what our teachers are like, I can't wait to meet everybody!" Even as flustered as he was, Deku was certain that should have been more than one sentence. But his brain was presently unable to communicate this information to itself.

A prolonged growl resonated menacingly from somewhere beneath the teacher's desk. "For God's sakes, quiet down." That could only be Aizawa. "You're liable to wake the dead with this much racket." Rubbing a very sleepy eye was their scruffy, disheveled teacher, glaring at the lot of them like they were trespassing with the intent of vandalizing the school. "If you're just here to socialize then go home, this isn't the school for you."

Sheepishly, the six of them retreated to their seats. Deku was not pleased to discover he'd been assigned a seat immediately adjacent to the window. That one girl with the purple hair watched him closely as he sat down. He was one row back and one seat to the left of her, directly in front of one of the tallest, lankiest students he'd ever seen. He had a mess of black, disastrously unkempt hair hanging over his very long face. His features were like some cross between Iida's and Aizawa's: Lengthy and very square. His eyes were narrow, sporting both irises and pupils of pure white. A long nose sat between his eyes, ending in a slight hook that gave him an almost crow-like appearance. He seemed to watch Deku carefully, a dim look of recognition hinted in his eyes.

To make matters more uncomfortable, he could practically feel the burning rage blazing around Bakugo from the seat in front of him. Gulping quietly to himself he tried his best to keep still, jaw clenched shut, and focus on the teacher rather than his urge to feed.

"It took you all of eight seconds to quiet down," scolded the teacher, "from here on out, every second counts if you want to be heroes." Reaching into he desk he procured a sizable bag, "I'm your home-room teacher, Shota Aizawa. Pleased to meet you." Not that his tone of voice at all agreed with that sentiment... at that sentence's conclusion he yanked what looked like the school's gym clothes. "Get changed into these, then head to the school grounds."

Despite the initial surprise it didn't take them long to file to the head of the class and collect their gym clothes. After that it was a simple trip to the locker rooms to change. Deku, however, opted to hide away in one of the bathrooms and change. Avoiding time with his classmates meant a reprieve from his ravenous hunger, however brief. Once in his gym clothes he went to splash some cold water on his face but soon found himself yelping and recoiling from the running water.

"RRRRGH!" Groaning, wincing and hissing in frustration he exclaimed, "Idiot!" through clenched teeth as he punched his own forehead. Turning off the water he bitterly sulked out of the room, only to walk face first into that lanky guy's chest. He'd evidently been waiting just around the corner. "AUGH! SORRY!" he shrieked, leaping aside and bowing many, many times in rapid succession.

He was in the middle of explaining that he had a lot on his mind, and that he hadn't actually meant to do that when he heard the other boy chuckling in a voice that chilled his blood. "You're not what I expected..." Trembling, for his usual reasons, Deku glanced up at his classmate to find he looked darkly amused. "Oddly timid for someone of your kind, aren't you?"

Deku gulped. "N- no idea what you're talking about..." at the knowing grin that stretched the other student's lips he felt a cold sweat coming on.

After a few moments, he shrugged, a look of amusement that said 'guess I can play coy for ya' plastered on his face. "If you say so." and he extended a hand toward him. "Looks like we'll be classmates from here on out." Why did he have to speak in a manner that was just so creepy? Did he know how unsettling he was? "What's your name?"

Accepting the handshake with a quivering limb, Deku replied. "I-Izuku Midoriya."

He was about to attempt a return of the question when the much taller student interrupted. "Stendhal," said he, "or... Chizome Akaguro, if you prefer my 'real name'."

"N-nice to meet you." Managed the utterly mortified Deku. He'd seen super villains less intimidating than this guy. Hell, he'd run right up to one less unnerving than this guy!

"Anyways," Said Akaguro, hands drooping to his sides, "I just came to tell you that," he shrugged, his dark chuckle punctuating his speech, "if someone in our class happened to be a creature of the night," there was that urge to hide under a rock for all of time... "he needn't be concerned about what I thought of them." His smile flickered away for a moment. "There's enough stupidity of that ilk in this world without my adding to it."

Keeping pace, feeling his fear slink away some minuscule amount, Deku kept himself over an arms length away, but kept his nerve enough to speak. "Y-you're not scared of..." and after a momentary bit of self correction, "people like that?" Akaguro smirked and shook his head. "Why?"

"I'll tell you later," replied he reaching for the door to the outside, "sunglasses."

"Wha-ARGH!" Deku recoiled from the light, shielding his eyes with his scrawny arms.

Akaguro gave him a confused yet concerned look. "...Was that not enough warning?"

"I'm k-kind of distracted!" Deku exclaimed, rubbing the pain from his screaming retinas as he perched his tinted spectacles upon his nose. "I've g-" his guard had begun to slip. It was with no small portion of effort that he managed to keep his fanged maw shut as he stiffly turned away from his classmate. "got... more on my mind than just sunlight."

"So I see..." If it wouldn't have surprised him to hear it, he almost thought the other boy sounded concerned. "You haven't been what you are for long, have you?"

"No,"admitted Deku, eyes still a bit sore, "I've only-" wait. "W-why am I talking to you about this!?"

Akaguro shrugged. "Limited options?" It wasn't the worst guess in the world. "Besides, I'm not unfamiliar. If you have questions about anything," he pointed at himself, giving the smaller one an off-putting smile, "I'll answer them. " Maybe he wasn't as creepy as he seemed.

Then again, Deku was no expect at social interaction himself; hardly one to think such about anyone. At least this guy seemed like he wanted to be friends. He'd seen a fair bit of that attitude directed his way already. If it persisted, if they persisted, he'd just have to adapt. It was going to be difficult not biting anyone as it was, without them trying to get close to him.

It only took them a minute or so to reach the grounds where the others had gathered. Upon their arrival Aizawa gave them the description of their lesson: A test of their quirks.

"What about the entrance ceremony?" questioned the brown haired girl, she seemed rather distressed about this decision. "Or the guidance sessions?!"

A tired groan escaped Aizawa's lungs. "No. It's a pointless waste of time; every second counts if you want to become heroes." Turning to look at his students from over his shoulder Aizawa tried ineffectually to erase their concerns. "UA is known for its freestyle educational system, I plan on taking complete advantage of this to help you reach your full potential." With a stretch of his neck, rubbing at a shoulder, he said. "But we'll go over that in a minute. You," he pointed right at Deku, "follow me, you've got another lesson already prepared for you."

A moments hesitation preempted his short jaunt ahead to catch up with the teacher. Following the scraggly man he fidgeted nervously with his hands, opting to walk in silence until Aizawa spoke. "I trust she taught you as much as she could." Realizing who he meant, Deku nodded. "good," muttered the hero, "in truth there was only so much she could really do, but it's important that tried."

That didn't sound like an optimistic statement... "What does that mean?" Mumbled the teenager, suddenly worried for his Vampire mentor.

Aizawa considered the answer he might give for a brief moment before, as seemed to be his way, going with he truth. "Officially she's the last of her kind," Said the teacher as he opened the door to what looked like a storage shed, "Not exactly healthy for any social creature to be so alone." Aizawa grumbled. "I've gone to great lengths to ensure that she is not discovered. With you around... well, hopefully it all goes smoothly." Whatever that meant would clearly to wait.

At the center of the storage shed was a chair, bolted to the floor, and Aizawa was pointing right at it. "Go on, take a seat."

Not at all sure what to make of this, feeling very nervous, Deku walked over to chair and sat. As soon as he was seated a series of laser tripwires activated all around him. Barely enough room to breath around them all. Strangely enough, he could see them without the presence of smoke. Those eyes of his at work, he supposed.

"Don't worry," said the teacher placing a small pail on a stool near the door, "the only thing these triggers activate is a tally. Trigger enough of them? You're expelled." Quite the disciplinary measure for a failing grade.

Deku blinked, thoroughly confused. "You just want me to hold still?" A bizarrely easy task. Unless...

As if to answer his forming doubts Aizawa opened a tiny mini fridge and procured a small IV bag. Upon seeing the color of the contents Deku's eyes went wide. Oh he's not... Looking him right in the eye, Aizawa answered his question. "Exactly."

With a small pocket knife, he opened the bag over the pail. At the scent reaching his nostrils Deku's muscles immediately lurched toward the scent. Jaw hanging open as he salivated profusely he twitched in alarm at the sound of one of the trips being triggered. "And that's one point." The teacher sighed. "Loose nine more and that's it." Turning toward the door he waved over his shoulder. "See you in a few minutes." as he exited the room, returning to the rest of the class, he closed the door behind himself.

Deku's body was screaming, shaking so hard he'd have knocked the chair over were it not bolted to the floor. His legs seemed to moving for him, acting against his every effort to keep them still. Gripping tightly to the sides of his seat he soon lost feeling in his fingers. For every muscle in his hands that he retained or gained control over, two more started straining against those efforts. Twitching, opening and closing of his jaw while his tongue slid toward the scent, dripping torrents of saliva produced a feeling of disgusted humiliation. Reduced to little more than the rapidly deteriorating mental state of a rabid animal by a simple scent... What business had he in public to any degree -least of all in a school for heroes- if his will were truly so feeble? This had to be some form of torture, he almost couldn't control himself.

Lurching his legs back, feet planted squarely on the ground he shoved himself as flat against the back of his chair as was possible. For his redoubled efforts his head reeled back, over the back of his chair, and he heard another trip's trigger being thrown. Slowly turning around he saw that there were even more tripwires behind him. Good grief, he left me with no legroom at all. Turning around again, jaw trembling open and shut in spasms he attempted to center himself even as his body continued to resist his commands.

Muscles in his neck began to clench, twisting his head about in jerking, uneven motions. Breathing becoming so jagged and uneven that for brief flashes he saw the world go black. Or perhaps that was just his hunger, forcing control away from his mind. With Each successive blackout he woke up just a little farther away from where he'd been, and each one ended only when he'd heard another laser trip. Sometimes closer to the pail, sometimes slipping off the side of his chair, other times pressed so hard against the backrest that it hurt his it was that when something finally happened, when the lasers finally disappeared he almost screamed in relief.

"I'm impressed." Said the voice of Aizawa from the other side of the door, "The entire lesson and you only tripped seven of them." Deku couldn't reply, his mind was so far away from language he may as well have been a wild animal. "Go ahead, kid." He froze at the words, not daring to act until some clarification was provided. "Drink it."

No further instruction was necessary. Launching from the chair, crashing to the other side of the shed, he hauled the pail to his lips and guzzled down the blood with reckless abandon. It was somewhat impressive that he hadn't spilled any. Even as he felt the hunger disappearing, his mind crawling back to him, the poor teenager just wanted to cry. So said the strangled, miserable whimpers that squeaked their way from his throat.

Peeking into the room, Aizawa almost pitied him. "What the hell were you thinking, V..." he muttered, shoving a palm into one of his eyes. "This kid's not even close to cut out for what you've given him."

Had he not been so distracted, Deku almost assuredly would have heard that. Only he hadn't, so no reply was given. Breathing in exhausted gasps, the greenhead reached up and wiped some of the sweat from his brow. With shaking legs, and a nonexistent center of balance, he stood, facing Aizawa and awaiting further instructions.

The hero merely motioned for him to follow. "Come on, Kid." he reached into the fridge and grabbed a thermos before leading him away. "Lunch."

Shaking his head, trying to regain some focus, Deku squawked, "I- I didn't bring-"

Aizawa interrupted by tossing him the thermos. "Drink it. I don't want you acting out in my classroom." A sentiment that stung more than intended or expected. "You have remarkable control for one so recently turned," Probably because you're a damn softy... "but I don't think either of us want to bet all our chips on it."

Glumly, Deku had agree. "Where'd you get this?" Voicing the question quietly, he fiddled with the thermos in his hands, uncertain exactly where he should try drinking down its contents.

Aizawa rolled his eyes. "The nurse's office. Next time think about it before asking."

"Yes, sir..."

The slap delivered to Deku's back just about knocked the wind out of him. "Go on," said the teacher, adopting a tone that almost sounded encouraging, "join your classmates. I'll see you all back in home room." Leaving it at that, Aizawa wandered away with his hands in his pockets.

Secretly wondering if the Erasure Hero was deliberately making himself so difficult to read, Deku shuffled off to the cafeteria. Without knowing exactly where he should be going -and without his classmates to follow- it took him a few minutes to track the place down. By the time he arrived most of those in his grade were already seated, chatting and whatnot. Smelling the aromas from the kitchen made him miss normal food all over again. Whoever the cook was clearly knew what they were doing. Yanking his mind -and in fact all the rest of him- away from these thoughts and the cafeteria was the hand of a certain, angry, explosive blond. Finding himself pinned against the wall, staring down a furious Bakugo, Deku was suddenly very thankful for the fact his hunger had been so recently curbed, bot it hadn't been completely satiated. It still took some effort not to lash out and bit his aggressor.

Far less thankful was he for the screaming of his life-long classmate. "What kind of dirty tricks did you use to do it, you quirkless twerp!?" At that volume it was somewhat surprising people in china couldn't hear him. "HUH!?" Demanded he, his face so contorted with rage he barely resembled his usual self. "I was supposed to be the first and only!" His grip on the smaller teen's collar shifted, hauling him off the floor as he continued screaming at him. Deku could only flinch his eyes shut, trying desperately to keep his still burning hunger in check. "You tore my plans to shreds, you quirkless shit! I told you to go somewh- GNNNNNNG!"

Deku opened his eyes, only to feel completely confused as he was dropped, unceremoniously, to the floor. It was hardly a shock that someone had managed to sneak up behind Bakugo for all the commotion he was producing. Contrarily so, was it surprising to find it was none other than the purple haired girl with audio-jack earlobes. Earlobes she was still jabbing into Bakugo's side.

"Talk about garbage first impressions," she muttered as she finally halted her assault on the living bazooka, "threatening Iida back in the classroom, flaunting an ego the size of damned monolith, calling him and the rest of us 'extras' while you were at it."

The exchange had rendered Deku speechless. He'd never seen anyone get away with talking to Bakugo like this, although that was largely because he couldn't reply. The girl had rattled him soundly with her quirk just then. It was a testament to his constitution that he was even standing.

The girl, however, was unimpressed. "Now you're outright assaulting someone?"

The look in her eyes screamed of contempt, it was the way in which most people looked at insects. An expression the green haired boy had been on the receiving end of for much of his life. Seeing someone direct it toward the one responsible for his familiarity with the expression wasn't something he could process.

"Tell ya what," said she, arms crossed in front of her chest, staring down the now recuperated Bakugo defiantly, "I think you might be my least favorite person here, and one of the most annoying people I ever went to school with is here with us."

Bakugo's lips twisted in a snarl. "What the fuck is your problem!?" He bellowed. "This had nothing to do with you, you damned idiot extra!"

At being called an extra again, her eyes narrowed and earlobes twitched. It was almost as if she had to resist the urge to jab at him again.

"Good point," she quipped in a very nonchalant tone, "maybe I should get someone it does have something to do with then." Her expression shifted, matching the anger radiating off of Bakugo. "Like a teacher. Bet they'd love to see this on your first day."

Silence hung over them, colored only by the din from the cafeteria. Never in his life had Deku seen him so mad with rage, and he'd been pushing the envelope on that one each time they'd rendezvoused in recent times. Which was what made all the more jaw dropping when Bakugo, without so much as a word, stomped back into the cafeteria. Not that he witnessed it transpire, but every student he walked past on his return to his seat moved clear away from the blond.

The girl, on the other hand, had. "Wow..." she exhaled the word like a stale breath, shaking her head, "he's like a living land mine. Approach him wrong and you get blown to bits." Looking back at the continuingly stunned Deku she asked, "You're okay, right?"

Numbly, he nodded. "Uh, y- yeah." he chuckled breathlessly from his nerves, completely unsure how to feel about this. "Thanks for that."

She shrugged. "He was being an ass." Like that was all the answer required. "I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

"You might have to," Deku replied nervously, "Kacchan's not someone to forget something like that. He's going to be holding a grudge because you helped me..."

Scoffing, she rolled her eyes. "Bring it. Jerks like that don't deserve their enemy's fear."

So they were enemies... Once again, his problems were troubling other people. Worst of all it would be her, his aforementioned first ever innocent victim.

...Wait a minute. "Why did you help me?" Deku murmured, prompting her to raise an eyebrow at him. "You... you remember me, right?" He rubbed at the back of his neck, fraught with nerves and self consciousness. "What I-...that I-"

She held up a hand, effectively silencing him. "One," she began, "letting him get away with that would have gone against everything I was ever taught about human decency." A fair answer, to be sure. "Two, duh. Why do you think I was so surprised to see you here?" She looked at him in a way that genuinely confounded him. Whether she was amused, surprised, confused, thinking him a fool, concernedly interested or some combination thereof, he knew not. But her following words gave him a small clue as to the answer. "Didn't think someone with your problems would even think about going for something like this."

"Believe me," Said Deku, making sure he had the thermos right where he could get to it, "it's not something I'm thrilled about..." Fidgeting awkwardly with his hands, he thought of something.

"Can't imagine you would be," said she, hands in the pockets of her jacket as she shifted her weight to one leg. "So... what happened?"

"What do you mean?" Inquired he, trying to ignore the growling of his stomach.

She rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean. Why do you drink blood?"

Deku looked about nervously, hoping no one was around to hear that. "It's a long story..."

This time she was the one who shrugged. "I'll ask after class then. If I'm gonna trust you not to go for my throat again," she pointed two fingers toward her eyes before spinning her wrist round to point right at him. A rather telling motion... "knowing what you're up against could help with that."

If anyone had the right to demand answers from him, it would be her. So Deku nodded. "I usually take the train home," he ran over the route in his mind, "my stop's not too far from the school, but we probably shouldn't talk there."

She nodded. "Okay." Her expression gone neutral, the purple haired one wandered away. "Meet you at the station then."

What was with today? Sure, most of it had gone by uneventfully but had happened had all been rather overwhelming. That run in with Bakugo and her . His initial introduction to the entire class would have been almost more than he could take with the positive interactions alone. Aizawa's attempt at training his self control was about the most humiliating thing he'd ever been through. If every day here were going to be so harrowing as this, he wasn't sure how long he could last. What weirded him out the most, in this instance, was the attitude of that purple haired girl. She had every reason to be afraid of him, to hate him, yet she didn't. She'd remained consistently forgiving, even helpful today. Whatever he was to make of her eluded all reason in his possession.

Perhaps most concerning of his interactions that day had been with Akaguro. Someone evidently knew what he was, apart from Aizawa and Vanessa that hadn't precisely happened yet. Unless he were to count the purple haired girl as someone who knew his secret. Soon enough -if she hadn't begun to put the pieces together already- she'd know. Deku let out a long, groaning sigh. What a first day indeed. Twisting off the cap of the thermos he drained the contents and licked his lips. Capping it again he walked off to the locker room and changed back into his uniform before returning to the empty classroom. Empty, that was, aside from the rather audible snoring from under the teacher's desk. Sitting down at his own, it wasn't long before his textbook was open and he was lost to his studies.

Hunched over and nearly dragging his feet, Deku was thankful the day hadn't lasted a minute longer. Exhaustion didn't even begin to describe his current state of fatigue. Even with what Aizawa had given him, resisting the urge to feed was a constant struggle. So many people, at all times. Afforded not even one moment of sweet isolation he'd been forced to power through the day with his jaw clamped. Rubbing at his jaw produced some degree of pain, enough that he considered going to the dentist.

He'd briefly considered the idea of running it by his mother when a hand on his shoulder made him leap out of his own skin. "Midoriya!" Iida, apparently having run to catch up with him, wanted to talk. "What was that lesson Aizawa had you doing while he tested our quirks?"

"N-nothing!" Blurted the smaller of the two. "Just some endurance exercises for my quirk!" Technically, that wasn't a lie...

"Really," Pondered Iida, rubbing at his chin ponderously. "Curious that he'd single you out... unless he's already familiar with your abilities." It was beginning to dawn on Deku, the kind of person Iida was. Overtly serious, dedicated and possessing a single minded tenacity toward achieving his goal of being a hero.

Something he could certainly Identify with. "He, um..." he had to think quickly, "he's just familiar with someone from my family who has the same quirk, that's all." Now that one was a lie.

"Hey, you two!" The second voice made Deku's heart jump. That brown haired girl again."Headed to the station?" She was running over to them with a grin plastered on her face. Between her and Ashido -or what he'd seen from her in that brief moment in class- the scrawny boy wasn't sure the class would ever have room to be moody. "Wait up!"

"Ah," Iida gestured to her, "infinity girl." Deku had to wonder exactly what she'd done to earn such a moniker, but was afforded no chance to ask.

"I'm Ochako Uraraka," then she pointed to the taller of the two boys, "um... you're Tenya Iida." He nodded in confirmation. "And you're..." for the time spent considering her next words she seemed intent on getting his name right. "Deku Midoriya?" Well, she was nice enough to try...

The boy in question gulped. "W- well," stammered the flustered teen, "not really. My, r- real name is Izuku. Kacchan just calls me that because he th- thinks I'm useless." he attempted a smile and quickly wished he hadn't for how awkward it felt. "Like the old idiom Dekunobou?"

"Really," Said Iida, quite disapprovingly. "That's unsportsmanlike..."

Uraraka suddenly looked very guilty. "Oh, I didn't realize that... I'm Sorry." Even if she hadn't looked quite so guilty -or sounded so sincere- he wasn't sure he could be mad at her for calling him that anyway. Almost everyone else in his life had at one point or another. "Ya know what?" Her mind had apparently changed gears, back to her positive demeanor. "I like Deku, it could make a great hero name. Plus," oh, so her smile could get brighter than that then... He had to redouble his efforts to keep his mouth shut. Focus! You don't want to bite her, do you!? "I think it sounds kinda cute."

"Deku it is!" From his perspective, someone else with an eerily similar voice had just blurted that out. To everyone else present, it was clear that it had in fact been Deku who'd all but shouted that.

"Just like that!?" Iida could scarcely believe how quickly he'd made that decision. Gesturing about with his hands, denoting his unabashed confusion, he said, "Weren't you just saying it was an insult?"

Spinning about, hiding his face in embarrassment -his face was so red it was probably visible from orbit- he rambled, unaware he was saying anything out loud. "Total paradigm shift... my entire world is upside down!" His speech then devolved into incessant, nervous laughter.

"Wait, what?" Uraraka hadn't the faintest idea why 'Deku' was acting this way. It was probably just normal for him, not much about the boy seemed to suggest anything ordinary. That was aside from his face, aside from the green hair, eyes and freckles he was kinda plain looking.

Of course, Deku's flustered statement about said paradigm shift was fairly spot on; for reasons he'd already been contemplating. It bore not an insignificant twinge of pain that, for all the positive now being thrown his way, it was masked by the ever present reality of what was required for his survival. Trading physical handicaps for social ones mixed with dietary handicaps that directly impeded his already stunted ability to get along with anyone. Even if the other people now in his life remained determined to keep him, what chance had he at a normal life? The only reason his hunger was even close to manageable was thanks to Aizawa. Had that blood not been provided, the chances of Deku making it through the day without incident would have been scarce to none. An unpleasant topic to ponder, yet one that must be duly so. A lax attitude ran the risk of harming more than he, after all.

Eventually, he and the other two reached the train station in question. Rather than board as intended, Deku was reminded of a previous engagement upon seeing a familiar face. "Um, hey." Timid as he was, it was only polite to tell them. "I'm not getting on this one. See you guys tomorrow?"

Uraraka nodded, smiling brightly. "Alrighty. See ya then, Deku!"

"Until tomorrow, Midoriya." Iida saluted him, boarding the train with the other in their company before Deku wandered over to the purple haired girl. She hadn't heard him coming, but that was merely due to the MP3 player she'd been listening to.

Upon seeing him wave, she promptly put it in her pocket. "You actually showed up."

"Y- you almost sound surprised."

Speaking of surprises, he was feeling a bit of that himself. Sitting not terribly far away, on the same bench, was Akaguro. He had a large, oblong object, wrapped in cloth, slung over his shoulder. It wasn't thick enough at any point to be an instrument, and it was over three feet long... what on earth.

"What's-" shaking his head, Deku addressed him directly. "Why are you here?"

The hooked nosed teen shrugged. "Should I not be?"

Yeah, still unnerving... "N- no... it's fine." Sheepish as his reply was, it sufficed. Or so he thought. The purple haired girl raised an eyebrow at him, waiting expectantly for an answer. "He, uh... he knows." explained the boy in the sunglasses.

She shrugged, not giving any indication that she cared particularly. "If you say so." collecting her school bag, she stood up. "Come on," she motioned for them to follow, "I know someplace we can talk."

Following her closely the other two boys exchanged a look. Akaguro with a question in his eyes, Deku without an answer. Not minding one way or the other the taller, hunched teen put his hands in his pockets and begun to hum to himself as they walked. Of all the people he'd met, and who'd known his secret, this Chizome Akaguro was the first non-vampire who hadn't been bothered by it in the least. In fact he was completely cavalier about it.

"So... what's the story?" Mumbled Deku.

Akaguro's brow raised. "Hmm?"

"E- earlier," stammered the smaller of the two, "when I asked you why weren't scared of me, you said you'd tell me later." Hoping that would jog his memory Deku resumed keeping his jaw clenched shut. Couldn't let his guard down, not for one second.

Pondering this, the taller of the two drew in a long breath before slowly releasing it. From his face alone, it was clearly not a lighthearted topic... "My mother, she..." began he, rubbing at the back of his head, brow furrowed downward slightly in an apparent wince, of sorts. "She married someone like you."

Tongue sticking from his mouth, Akaguro's story paused long enough for Deku to get a good look at it. Sure enough, it was disturbingly long and snake-like, just like his own was now. "Where I gah thith thilly thing frahmuh." said he, before drawing the thing back within his maw. "For a time, I grew up around people like you."

For a time... Deku's thoughts echoed of the words, wondering whether it had been Aizawa's doing that such times had ended for he.

"But that's all over now." Sighed the white-eyed boy, shaking his head. "Like I said, if you have questions: you can ask me." For a brief moment, Deku actually smiled, grateful without conflicting fear for the first time that day. Noticing this, Akaguro nudged him fondly. "Stick with me, Midoriya. We'll go places." Creepy or not, he really wasn't such a bad guy.

Just a few steps ahead of the, the purple haired girl turned to the side and spotted what she'd been searching for. "We're here."

It was an abandoned parking garage. Left in ruin after a particularly nasty battle between a hero and some villain. The building had been condemned, deemed unfit for anyone to enter much less demolish safely. Having frequented the place for years -and being intimately familiar with its safe and unsafe areas thanks to her quirk- she knew exactly where to lead them: the roof. Once upon that familiar surface, her little hideaway, she walked over to the ledge and stretched. Taking in a deep breath, she sighed and relaxed, letting her arms drop back to her sides.

Turning around, poker faced as they come, she took a seat on the ledge. "You should probably start at the beginning," said she, while Deku collected his nerves, Akaguro leaning against a nearby wall, hands in his pockets. "Why do you need to drink blood?"

Finding his nerve was... surprisingly easy. Telling the story oddly refreshing. It was the first time he'd been allowed to really talk about it with anyone since any of it had started. As he went on, it was almost a relief. He hadn't been alone in this for over a week now, but this... was this what having friends around to help felt like?

When his story reached the night he'd met her in the alley, she held up a silencing hand and nodded. "So," she began slowly, "it's not an addiction, but a biological imperative?" she gave him an almost sympathetic look. "You need it to live?" Slowly, hesitantly, he nodded. "Shit," she chuckled darkly, "that's a lot worse than what I figured. You've got it rough, Green." Rubbing at the back of her neck, smirking guiltily, she said, "sorry I stuck my wrist in your face the way I did. Kinda feel like a jerk now..."

Blinking in surprise, his brain worked quickly to formulate some kind of reply. "It- it's not like that! You didn't know what was going on, and I had just bitten you..." he fidgeted with his hands, trying not to mumble but utterly failing in his efforts. Luckily, she had hearing very few possessed.

"Eh, still." She stood up, carefree nature showing in the slowed motion of her limbs during and after her ascent. "Don't expect me to do something like that again, okay?" She kicked a pebble, watching it skip across the dusty, concrete roof.

"Y- yeah." Managed he, unsure what else to even say. "I wasn't going to. Not after the way you defended me from Kacchan like that..." He managed a shy little smile, "Thanks. Again, I mean."

She gave him curious, searching look. You know, there's something... decided she, as she looked at those glowing, timid eyes of his, hiding behind those perfectly circular sunglasses. Different about this guy... Stepping toward him, hand outstretched, she said. "Kyoka Jiro." He's not at all the type who should have powers like the ones he does.

Accepting the handshake, he gave his meek reply. "Izuku Midoriya, but... Deku works too."

She quirked an eyebrow at him, clear skepticism on her face. "Like Dekunobou? Why would you want me to call you that?"

The nature of the comment sailed right over his head. "It's just what I'm used to," he shrugged, "is... that okay?"

She shook her head, hands up like she were surrendering. "You're the one choosing the name." She turned to the other in their company, waiting for him to speak up.

The tallest of them shrugged. "Chizome Akaguro." Answered he, "But I prefer 'Stendhal'."

Oh yeah, he did say that, didn't he? "Why?" asked the green haired boy. "Does it have a special meaning?"

He shrugged. "It's the name I chose." patting his stomach, 'Stendhal' smirked. "Anyone else hungry?"

"Yes." Said the other two in perfect synchronization.

Akaguro laughed. "Alright, follow me this time. I know a place that'll serve you too." he pointed right at Deku that time, leading the way. As they proceeded down the street -off to a diner he'd not soon forget- Deku couldn't help but feel just a sliver more optimistic about his situation. He had friends who knew what he was, and weren't scared of him because of it. Taking that for what it was, something he wanted to keep, he vowed not to make them regret that decision.

Chapter Text

Black pudding, a food previously unknown to the green haired vampire. That it tasted so sweet on his tongue was a welcome change of pace. Whether it was due to his preferences or the blood now flowing through his veins he cared not. It was solid food he could actually enjoy.

"Doesn't actual food make you nauseous?" Jiro commented, chopsticks stirring in her noodles, letting some of the excess steam billow out.

Akaguro smirked, "Well, that shouldn't. Anything so saturated with..." his eyes shifted about, giving their surroundings a quick scan. "Blood, will be fine for him."

In confirmation, the vampire nodded. "So far so good." Though it makes me wonder what else is safe for me to eat... his fingers started idly strumming against his chopsticks, his other hand on his chin as he contemplated.

Answering and interrupting these thoughts was the further musing of Akaguro. "Raw meat, but that will only get you so far." And he took a rather large bite of his sandwich, incidentally packed full of the stuff. "Aside from that, animal blood is your best bet."

Deku nodded. "Yeah, kinda figured that one out on my own." When Jiro gave him a curiously cautious look he added, "Ah, I- I get it from a butcher." This answer seemed to put her at ease, even if her eyes did linger suspiciously on him for another second.

Feeling a bit self conscious, he shrunk a few inches into his seat, taking another bite. The other two, being more at ease in their present situation, didn't seem to notice. Finding no end of distraction in their own dinners the conversation ended. All common ground and shared topics of interest exhausted they sat in relative silence. It took Deku some time to adjust, to realize this was, in fact, perfectly fine.

Even still, the words potentially left unspoken kept running through his head. Notions of offense, creepy or unsettling behaviors displayed or murmurings he might have let drift between them had him fidgeting as he ate. Occasionally Akaguro would mutter something under his breath, some scornful remark directed at the news being broadcast from the television just above the bar of the diner. At one point Jiro actually tried to pass him the soy sauce, but she quickly realized her error and set it aside; rolling her eyes at herself. Deku tried to reassure her it was fine but she ignored him.

Her own worst critic, he guessed...

Eventually, after bill was paid and food eaten, the trio wandered outside. Checking her phone Jiro noticed the time and flinched. "I gotta go, mom's gonna be worried if I'm not home soon." Giving a slight smirk she added, "this was fun."

Akaguro nodded, returning the warm expression. "Surprisingly. Considering the reason you two were originally heading out together."

Not something Deku was eager to revisit. "Y-yeah," mumbled he, "we'll, ah, have to do this again at some point." From the absolute lack of confidence in his voice the statement sounded more like a question.

Not that the others seemed to mind. "Sure," Jiro shrugged, waving to them as she slowly backpedaled away, "see you in class." and with one of her earlobes plugging into her phone she turned around and wandered away.

"Difficult to read, that one..." muttered 'Stendhal', idly rubbing his chin. "But she seems alright." In reply the green haired boy merely nodded, feeling a tad too timid to speak.

A large, long fingered hand clapped onto Deku's back. "You worry too much." At his questioning glance at the taller boy took a moment to comprehend the unspoken inquiry before answering. "She's either forgiven you, or wants to." The bespectacled boy wasn't so certain of that and, from the doubt upon his features, Akaguro surmised this. "If she didn't, you'd know." Hands to his pockets he smirked and added, "She doesn't strike me as the 'subtle' type." Before walking away. "Take care, Midoriya."

"Y-you too." Waving meekly he started fumbling with his feet until his trajectory home had been set.

Staring at the ground as he walked, he did his best to ignore the people around him. He'd found it was best to keep his jaw tight as iron, lest his hunger get the better of him in the crowded streets. Thankfully, the black pudding -along with what Aizawa had issued in the way of rations- had more than sufficiently dulled the bite of his appetite. Upon arriving home, red high-tops kicked off to the side of the door, he found he was once again alone. A

note on the kitchen table informed him that his mother would be at work well into the night: Sorry, sweetie. It's getting really busy around here. Dinner is waiting for you in the fridge. Love you! - mom.

Sighing, Deku removed what amount he could stomach from the container and placed it in the oven. After forcing the food down his own throat, he fumbled to the bathroom and drew up a bath. Tried though he did, both in and out of the tub, he couldn't brush his hair into submission. Though it did prove a sufficient distraction from his own discomfort, along with the bath. After drying and redressing in pajamas he climbed his way into bed and closed his eyes. It was with a queasy stomach that and a muddled mind from the day's events that he let sleep overtake him.

Deku sat in class the following day, jaw held tight as he focused all his energy on reading the textbook threatening to snap in his grip. Someone -most likely that guy with the white and maroon hair, if his nose was to be trusted- had a paper cut and it was driving him up the walls. Every now and then he'd put down his textbook, long enough to remember to breathe, only to 'see' the rage pouring off Bakugo's shoulders. Of course that was hardly the case, but, with how angry the boy often got, such an absurdity being made manifest wouldn't have surprised him as much as it ought to. Since yesterday's outburst he'd been bracing himself for an explosion from the other teen: A Phrase that could be interpreted as literally or figuratively as one wished.

English class was long behind them, being the first of the day and taught by Present Mic. Deku was almost giddy at the prospect of escaping the sheer volume of the man's voice. The decibel levels he could reach even without his quirk were daunting. If his career as a hero had fallen through, Mic would have made a fortune in the opera. Presently, the class was taking Civics, a class on Japanese law. A class arguably more important than any combat training they would receive. The logic being 'how can one enforce laws if one doesn't know them?' Plus, there were regulations involved with being a hero, just like the police. Only difference was heroes were allowed to use their quirks whereas police were issued weapons. Heroes could use weapons as well, but it was a rare occurrence that they felt so inclined.

At the blaring of the bell, and wincing from both Deku and Jiro, the horrid sound prompted the class collected their things and wandered off to lunch. Waiting for for the school's resident vampire, just outside the classroom, was Aizawa; shoving a thermos into the boy's hands.

"You're going into your first heroics class today." Warned the scraggly man. At the audible gulp from the teen, his tone sharpened. "Good. You should be nervous, because if you bite a classmate today expulsion will be the least of your worries."

That the risk of such was enough to prompt such an emphatic warning from the Erasure Hero had him nervous. Something had to be in the works today that would serve to increase the chances of such an occurrence. Considering the name of the class he had to look forward to, he was fairly certain he knew what that was. Giving Deku a stern, knowing look the teacher wandered back to his own classroom to take a nap.

It was with a cold sweat and shaking limbs that Deku eventually made it outside. Finally away from other people he unclenched his jaw and exhaled a mountain of stress. Leaning against the wall he ran his hands up his face, under his sunglasses and pressed his palms to his eyes. His every breath felt like there was ice in his lungs, despite the heat. Pulling his hands back from his face, Deku leaned close to the ground, coiling like a spring, and then leapt into the air.

He landed, somewhat clumsily, on one of the connecting points between two of the towers. Little more than a few hallways, roofed and windowed, between the spires. Once on his haunches, and after dusting himself off, he uncapped the thermos and inhaled its contents. The pitiful, anguished and frustrated expression that followed this display of wanton gluttony was one he was glad not to have an audience for. This wasn't something he could afford to have so badly under wraps. The threat of attacking another student was ever present, a fact he was sure to continue reminding himself of.

One slip could be the difference between going through the next three years without incident and seriously injuring someone. With a tired, strained sigh he pulled his old notebook from his backpack and started writing down various notes on some of his classmates. He hadn't witnessed much from them as of yet, but today, quite probably, that seemed likely to change.

A glimmer of sunlight reflected off the inside of one of lenses, stinging tears from the eye it was meant to protect. Flinching away from the light, Deku hissing in pain, the young man could only sigh. You know... thought he, through a bittersweet smile, for all my dreaming about being a hero, I never thought I'd miss watching a sunrise. After a tired sigh, another thought followed. And I've barely even begun to get there.

At the ringing of lunch's ending bell Deku had scarcely the time to prepare his nerves. Leaping from the roof, collected notes and backpack under his arm, he landed with a light clunking of his shoes against the cement of the walkway. Ducking his head, teeth once again digging into each other, he trudged along the halls, avoiding eye contact and any idle chatter thrown his way. Stepping through the doors of his homeroom it was a simple matter to walk over to his desk and shrink into the seat. As the remainder of his classmates filed in, one by one, he felt his anticipation rising. The exact nature of heroics eluded him, no straightforward description having been afforded. Thankfully he wasn't left wondering for long.

From outside the classroom came a booming, enthusiastic announcement: "I have," Deku knew that voice, "Come through the door like a normal person!"

It was all the young man could do to avoid flailing about in shock. Of course, true to his own particular form, the owner of that booming voice did precisely the opposite of his narrative declaration. Tromping in as though he were marching to the beat of an eccentric drummer. Such was the strangely disarming way of the symbol of peace: All Might.

"H- he's a teacher here!?" Deku shrieked under his breath, earning a very curious look from Jiro.

"You didn't know?" her voice was quiet, little more than scarce breath.

From the look in her eyes it almost seemed as though she hadn't expected him to hear her. All the same, the vampire shook his head. "How could you not know? Did you not watch the recording that came with your acceptance letter?" Considering that he hadn't needed to read it, no. Another shake of his head prompted her to roll her eyes and turn back to teacher at the head of the room. No helping the foolish, it would only serve to encourage such behavior.

"Heroics!" As he spoke, All Might Struck a pose, kneeling on the teacher's desk and flexing, facing away from the class. Ashido and Kaminari exchanged a very confused look between them. "the class that'll put you through all sorts of special training to mold you into heroes!"

As a side note: it also grants those who take it an absurd amount of credits.

"No time to dally." Flourishing a painstakingly sketched cue card, All Might announced the exact nature of the class ahead of them. "Today's activity is battle training!"

At his announcement the mood in the room shifted. Bakugo's face contorted into a sadistic smile, parroting the last two words spoken by the hero. Turning over his shoulder, looking to the rest of the class, Deku saw a fiery look flash across his Akaguro's eyes. Devious, with excited anticipation the lanky teen let a toothy smile part his chapped lips, a quiet, almost sinister chuckle rumbling under his breath.

"And for that, you'll need these!" All Might had drawn a remote from the drawer of Aizawa's desk, and pressed one of the few buttons it had. Slats on the wall rolled out, rows of cases all labeled with numbers: one through twenty, in the same array as the class's desks.

He'd almost forgotten... "In accordance with the 'Quirk Registry' and the special request forms you filled out before being admitted, you've all been given costumes!"

An almost somber smile perched itself on one corner of Deku's lips. During the entrance exams he'd been so focused on passing that the 'special request form' had fluttered to the periphery of his memory. Of course, seeing something come of it was to be expected.

All Might cleared his throat. "After you change into those, head to ground beta and look alive!" But his mind had been on other things since that day, "Because from today on..." and that trend didn't look to be ending any time soon. "You're all heroes!" The class got to their feet as one, clamoring, some practically stampeding to their respective costume cases.

Hands on the case in question, Deku thought he might recall what he'd written for his own request form. He gulped, almost afraid of what they might have made for him. Once again, same as the day before, while the others ducked off into their respective locker rooms, he went and hid in the nearest restroom. Akaguro gave him a nod, giving some vague hint of encouragement. A silent 'see you on the battleground', or something along those lines. With such limited experience reading people it was as good a guess as any.

Case laid on the sink his shaking fingers unbuckled the latches, and gently raised it open. The craftsmanship... A feeling of awe bloomed inside him, plucking the suit from its cradle and holding it up for his eyes to take it in. Now, now he remembered what he'd written: 'Lightweight armor, something protective that doesn't restrict movement. Something for enhanced agility and strength.' They'd come through on that in spades. From the specifications listed on the interior of the case it was suit of banded mail. Black and red, comprised of primarily graphene and Kevlar.


Ask for armor, and UA apparently delivered. As he stripped off his uniform and climbed into the suit another object caught his eye. Reaching out, with a now very protected hand, his fingertips plucked the black elastic from the case, the final part of his request echoing in his mind: 'A mask that strongly restricts movement of the mouth. If that is not too much to ask...' Evidently, it hadn't been. Slipping the mask over his face he turned and looked at the mirror, jumping at the sight of himself. You'd never know he was such a beanpole in this... he looked like some threatening combination of a warrior from legend and some sort of black ops commando. With his sunglasses, those red-tinted and silly round things, his 'look' would be one to remember.

Although, something about the mask seemed incomplete; too bland for a hero. But that was a minor detail, something to be rectified later if at all. Taking a deep, bracing breath he tucked his uniform into the case and closed it. Leaving the restroom behind he broke into a jog toward 'ground beta'. He'd almost assuredly be the last one there.

"Shall we begin, my wards?!" Even before he'd reached the staging area All Mights voice boomed in his ears like a canon. "It's time for Battle Training!"

Upon arriving, the variety in his classmates costumes was such that it gave him pause. Such creative designs... he hadn't anticipated this on day two. Catching his attention with a wave was Akaguro who resembled some sort of riot-police samurai. His mask completely covered his face, very angular in its construction there was a faint impression of a relaxed smile in the metal. Akaguro's calamitously messy hair was drawn back into a pony tail, a katana strapped to his back lay ready to unsheathed at a moment's notice. From the look of it, the costume was divided into two main parts: the under-layer, a baggy jumpsuit resembling a tank-top and baggy pants. Then the over-layer, lightweight sections of armor, some metal and some made of something akin to plastic, with cloth-armor sleeves. Strapped to his chest and hips were an array of small knives. Nothing lethal or quite as intimidating as the katana, but clearly there for a reason. Deku tiptoed over to him, trying not to disrupt the lesson.

Not so conscious of any such thought was a certain brunette."Ah, Deku is that you?" Turning to see his other friend left the green-freckled teen's brain momentarily fizzled out. "Cool costume, even if it is a little threatening."

Definitely not a description befitting her. Ururaka's costume was so... bubbly. Skintight, black, white and pink jumpsuit with... very curvy accessories on her wrists and boots. Heeled boots, for some undiscernanable reason... UA's costume department had a very distinct sense of style, one that quite the trick not to stare at the curves of the young woman wearing said costume.

"I wish I'd been more specific on my form..." she laughed nervously, rubbing at the back of her head with a light blush. Blush... he was thankful for the mask hiding most of his face for two reasons now. "This suit's so puffy and curvy..."

"That does bear a tactical advantage," Akaguro put forward, "if your opponent seems to notice, you can distract them, giving you a window."

Uraraka almost frowned at that. "Not sure I wanna be that kinda hero..." or person... she did not add.

The dhampire shrugged, offering nothing further. He'd spoken his piece, and left it as such. "Sensei!" Iida called out, "This appears to be the same field used in the entrance exam." Indeed it was, they hadn't even finished rebuilding the place either.

Turning his gaze off to the distance Deku saw the shattered remains of the zero pointer and felt his bones ache. Seeing lie there like a rotting husk sent a chill down his spine, like some foul omen before a long voyage at sea.

"Will we once again be performing cityscape maneuvers?!" The costume of usually bespectacled Iida looked like some hybrid of a hot-rod and a robot. Deku made a mental note not to call him 'autobot' and suppressed a smirk. It was too cool a costume to poke fun at like that.

"Nope!" Deku almost sighed in relief. "You'll be moving on to step two: Indoor anti-personnel training!" That could only mean one a few things... "You'll now be split into hero teams and villain teams!" Of course it would be the worst of the available possibilities. "Then you'll face off in two-on-two indoor battles!" Raising his index finger toward the heavens, All Might blurted out perhaps the most dreaded of phrases for a first day class: "Now! who wants to go first?"

Suddenly, it seemed as if the space around Deku became much more open, the air less constricted and somehow colder. Before he could look over his shoulder to see what had happened, All Might was speaking again. "Aha! Very brave of you, young... Midoriya, was it?" And he let out a booming, hearty laugh.

The rest of the class, so his over-the-shoulder glance told him, had backed away at the question; leaving him standing at the front, alone.

Yup. Same as middle school.

"But you can't be the only volunteer!" All Might put a hand over his eyes, shielding his gaze from the sun, as if he would have to search far and wide for anyone to answer his next question. "Who else wants to go with him?"

Raising her hand, metaphorically running to his rescue, was Ururaka. "Okay!" Deku had to do a double take just to be sure that had actually happened. "I'll work with Deku." She shot him a reassuring look along with a thumbs up, her eyes insisting that they had this in the bag.

"Excellent!" All Might returned the thumbs up, even though it hadn't really been directed at him in the first place. "Anyone for team two?"

Before the fear could even begin to set in, came the all too obvious outcry. "ME!"

It would be Bakugo, ever the first in line to beat him into the dirt. His costume... Black tank-top with a red X stictched to its front, very baggy and matching cargo pants, some sort of mask that resembled a fire decal on a race-car -complemented by the shoulder piece resembling the exhaust pipes of such a vehicle- and massive, grenade-like gauntlets on his arms. What kind purpose could those have served? There was no way he had those for decoration alone, not with how much they had to weigh. "I'LL KICK HIS QUIRKLESS ASS!"

"Language!" All Might roared, though it didn't even phase the ashen-blond. "and... what do you mean 'quirkless'?" that ever present smile flickered with confusion. This boy, if the files were to be trusted, had gone to the same school as 'young Midoriya'. Most likely it was an inside joke they'd shared for years, that had to be it.

"I volunteer as well!" Iida shouted with a raised hand, prompting Bakugo to roll his eyes. Whether this was another attempt to get on his good side eluded Deku's understanding. If it was, Iida sure had a long road ahead of him. "And surely you know he's not quirkless?" This time he was addressing his would-be teammate directly, pointing to the fallen zero pointer. "He almost felled that vicious machine by himself during the entrance exams."

Deku gulped. It took a few seconds for the words to reach their destination in Bakugo's brain, but when they arrived the look on his face sent Deku's skin crawling for the nearest exit.

"What," the ordinarily boisterous teen's voice had dropped to a haunting whisper, hissing with the barest hint of his simmering rage. "the fuck," climbing to a more noticeable volume, his speech had the green-freckled teenager quaking in his armor, "did you just say...?"

The look in his eyes could only be described as murderous. Wide, piercing and devoid of any amusement whatsoever. The look of a man who wanted to slaughter a creature he'd only just discovered, in defiance of his own lack of comprehension of its existence. It was the expression of a Spanish explorer who'd snapped upon finding there was no gold in the promised land he'd 'discovered'.

"LAST WARNING!" All Might's voice cut through the air like the blade a guillotine. "Another utterance of such a word and it's straight to detention with Miss Midnight!" He let out an exasperated sigh, "Now, come this way, my wards!" He said, throwing ear-piece radios to the four students in question and pivoting about, leading them onward toward the first arena. "We have a lesson to get through!"

Before the class followed in his wake, Bakugo's gaze shifted to the trembling outline of his old bullying-victim. There was some scathing, searching hatred in his eyes. Something screamed from behind them, calling out some offense the green one should never have dared to make. Whatever that was, Deku would never know, not for certain. All he knew was that Bakugo wanted to crush him like the little bug he'd always likened him to. Even with his versatile array of vampire abilities, Deku wasn't sure if he could stop him. So far the only real training he'd had was on restraining himself, not actual combat. If his meager performance during the practical exam was any way to judge their talents for combat, then Bakugo was leagues ahead of him.

Just like always.

Deku's footsteps were shaky, hesitant, placing him a few paces behind the other students as they rambled onward. Fidgeting hands wrung each other to the point of constricting blood-flow and he broke out into a cold sweat. He was not ready, not prepared physically or mentally to face Bakugo in combat. His only advantage was an understanding of the explosive teen, both his psychology and preferred tactics in combat. Polished tactics, years of practice with his own quirk like it were a second set of limbs he'd been using since birth, while he was only just learning to stop dragging his own through the dirt behind him. No, he needed to stop thinking about this, to focus.

"Are you okay?" The worried voice beside him prompted a jump. Uraraka looked almost more concerned than she sounded. "You've gotten kinda pale. Well... paler than usual, that is." There was something very disarming about those brown eyes of hers, something calming in the way she regarded the world. Wide eyed and innocent, taking in everything she could with eager abandon. Harmless and earnest.

Maybe... maybe he could let his guard down around her. Just a little, enough to stop clenching his jaw and talk at least. He couldn't bite her through the mask anyways. "N-not sure." He spoke truthfully. "Kacchan'-" his jaw spasmed, his instincts trying to overpower him even with the mask prompted a sound clattering of his teeth, maw snapping closed.

It took a couple shuddering breaths before he could continue talking. At least he was getting better at fighting it, he thought with no shortage of bitterness. "He's angrier than I've ever seen him..." Uraraka's head tilted to the side, denoting an almost child-like inquisition. "And well... of all the times I've fought him-" a sharp inhalation of air interrupted him. All nerves, no brains. How was he going to strategize for this if he couldn't think? "... he's always won."

This seemed to catch the brunette off guard. "You guys used to fight?" She frowned, sounding a little sad. "I forgot... he used to bully you, didn't he? Here I was daydreamin and thinking you two were friends. Sorry, Deku."

Deku's gaze cast itself to the street as he trudged along. A quiet sigh pushed passed his lips, made a little louder by the mask it had to move through. "Until recently... I- I'd always thought we were friends too. Or... hoped we could be." Again, anyways...

To his left, gone unnoticed by he and Uraraka, was a very confounded look from Jiro. What the fuck had Deku just said? Friends? In what universe-

"Here we are!" All Might, as seemed to be his role as a teacher, ended any and all trains of thought unrelated to the lesson at hand. "Now listen close, because we don't have time go over this again!"

The parameters were simple enough: The villains were to hide in their lair, protecting a mock nuclear weapon while the heroes were sent in to either capture the villains or disable the weapon. To spice things up, and ensure everyone got a chance in the ring, All Might had set a time limit and set up something of an observation area where those not participating could observe. Learning isn't just doing and hoping you get the hang of it. Before Deku and Uraraka shuffled off to the testing ground a finger tapped on his shoulder.

Spinning around, taken by surprise, Deku blinked a few times, taking a few seconds to realize who'd gotten his attention. "He's just a bully," Jiro, her face as blank as a professional poker player, whispered in his ear. Little did she know his hearing was almost on par with hers when she wasn't focusing her quirk, "he acts scary because it makes him feel like he has power when someone is afraid of him. Use your 'quirk' and show him you're not gonna play along, and that he's not as tough as he wants to think he is."

Deku gawked, taken completely aback by her entire assertion. Questions burned at the forefront of his brain: why she cared, why she was getting in between him and Bakugo again. Sure, yesterday they'd maybe started to get to know each other but aside from that the only interaction Deku remembered with her was negative. Whether she 'wanted to forgive him' or not something about the way she'd approached this seemed unrelated. Her tact was more direct here, less uncertain than she'd seemed yesterday when the topic of his vampirism had been approached.

Before he could un-clench his teeth to reply, "Come on now, Midoriya." All Might scolded him, though entirely without impatience, "there'll be time for your friends later! You've got villains to stop!"

So it was with bated breath and sparking nerves that Deku followed the others to the arena. He had only a few short minutes to brace himself for what was to happen next, no simple task in either case. He was so hungry now, and he blamed his nerves for that one, at least in part. How he hated his sense of smell, simply knowing people were around him was already harrowing enough without his newfound instincts urging him to attack.

To make matters worse, Uraraka seemed to be picking up on it. "Maps of the building's layout," Though focus, it seemed, was at least within her current capabilities. It certainly wasn't within his... "better memorize em." Dropping her seriousness, she gave a lighthearted laugh. "Though there's no punishment for failure like with Mister Aizawa, so I'm not worried." Spoken like someone who'd never gone up against Bakugo... "All Might's so nice, just like on TV."

Something about that rambling seemed off. "...What punishment?" he mumbled, through his mask.

Uraraka blinked, "He threatened to expel us if we couldn't perform well enough during the exercises he put us through." She smiled, "Thought he did the same to you."

Deku could only blink. "...I thought it was just me."

Uraraka chuckled, "Nope, same as the rest of us newbies!" She'd adopted a very All Might looking pose and jokingly deepened her voice before laughing in her normal voice. "Guess he wasn't playing favorites after all." And I can tell everyone to hush up about that. ...

Was she trying to cheer him up? She'd already noticed he was upset and the topic of Bakugo's malicious attitude toward him had been broached, however briefly. It was at least possible that was what she was doing. "Anyways, " she pumped her fist, thrusting another into the air, "we've got this! Right partner?"

Where ever she got such bountiful optimism from, Deku was grateful to have it on his side. "Right." He clenched his fists. "Don't wanna lose." Not to him. Not this time. And the bell rang, exhaling sharply through clenched teeth, Deku took the first step forward. "Let's go." With an enthusiastic nod, Uraraka skipped with her first step, falling in line behind him.

No doubt, Bakugo would be racing right for him, abandoning his post to satisfy his anger. Not something he could leave ignored for long, and after that interrupted altercation with him -thanks to Jiro- it was doubtless he'd be dealing with the remnants of that too. Maybe that was an advantage, if he was really that angry he'd be operating on almost pure instinct: no control, no finesse but also no holding back. A dangerous combination where the walking warhead was concerned, but that could be played to their advantage. If he could bait Bakugo far enough away, maybe Uraraka could get to the nuke and win the exercise.

It was a long shot, but it was the only shot they really had. "I'm not sure what else to do..." Deku mumbled, peeking around a corner, now deep in the inner recesses of the building serving as the villain's 'lair'. "Do you have any ideas?"

Uraraka shook her head, "Nothing with that much thought behind it," admitted she, "guess it's true, what they say about knowing your enemy." She smiled, "Alright Deku, if you're sure you can handle it, then I am too."

Why the hell did she have so much faith in him? "R-right."

He took a deep breath. Nothing to do now but keep moving, hopefully get a little closer to where they were holed up before- "DEKU!" Or not. "WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU, YOU SHITTY FUCKING NERD?!" Definitely still angry about yesterday. He gave Uraraka a look and a nod.

Time to act like heroes.

Lowering to the ground, footsteps as light as he could manage, he crept forward with his senses on high alert. Sounds, smells anything that would indicate the explosive blond was nearby. After years of being pelted and burned with that boy's quirk Deku had a very intimate understanding of what it smelled like. Thanks to his now heightened senses, he'd have a bloodhound's warning before he even saw him. How he loved to hate his powers. Of course, he hardly needed them. Bakugo was stomping so loud and with such anger the building was shaking. His talent for intimidation was the stuff some villains would likely envy. Waiting around the corner, back against the wall, Deku did his best to settle his breathing.

Jaw as tight as freshly sprung bear trap he began forcing himself to breathe through his nose. No room for error, no allowance for a single tooth or claw mark. Tensing the muscles in his arms and legs he waited until Bakugo was just about to round the corner, then he sprang. Leaping into view, deliberately overshooting his jump, he yelped in pain. Bakugo had missed with the explosion, just as planned, but Deku had failed to anticipate the flash and his eyes paid for it. Working off memory, he kicked off the wall and flew back the way he'd come from, eyes still seeing little more than blurs peeking though a white expanse.


Oh good, he was getting angrier...


Hitting a wall with his nose, and much of his body, Deku threw himself leftward, hoping there was more hallway to go down. Damn it, his eyes just wouldn't recover.

"All those years," Bakugo's voice trembled with fury, "you had a quirk," his tone, his voice were both so unsettling... "looking down on me like you better than me..." He almost missed the screaming. "WEREN'T YOU!?" And an explosion blasted the wall he was hiding behind to smithereens. Only this time, Deku was ready: his eyes flinched, but managed to absorb most of the light without worsening vision. "ANSWER ME!"

"YOU'RE WRONG!" And he sprang right at him, fist swinging and narrowly missing the retreating Bakugo.

At the sight of his knuckles smashing another wall to bits, the warhead's eyes went wide and for a moment, Deku thought he smelled fear.

"I spent the entire time..." Deku stood there, body shaking, doing everything he could to maintain his bravado. Thanks to the adrenaline now surging in his veins, it was working. "the entire time we were kids..." Images flashed in front of his eyes, even as he spun on his heels to face him. "Looking up to you!"

Chasing after Bakugo, following him and his friends everywhere they went, "I wanted to be like you, Kacchan!" and the images faded, legs launching him right at him. "But I'm not the same person I was back then!" Muscling through another round of explosions, bits of his armored costume tearing and burning from the force and heat, he narrowly missed with that second strike.

Sweeping with his leg, trying to kick Bakugo's feet from under him, left Deku wide open. The explosive blond had leapt over his swinging foot and aimed both palms right at the green haired vampire. With staggering volume, Deku was blasted through several levels of the building and buried beneath the ruble of the crumbling building, sunglasses flying who-knew where. Kacchan screamed something, but his senses were staggered, trying desperately to recenter and find where 'up' was. After a few moments, with gritting teeth, Deku rocketed out of the rubble like a canon ball.

"Throw whatever you want at me," another narrowly missed punch, another explosion to the chest, only this time he kept his footing, "hurt me as much as you can!" that one connected, and Bakugo shouted in distress as his ribs nearly shattered and he was flung into a wall. For the first time in his life, the blond looked at Deku and had no idea what to think.

Blinding speed, strength and durability. He was badly burned on the chest and shoulder, his costume tattered to dust and rags on all the way from his left elbow to the adjoining, bony ribs. His right hand was exposed halfway up his forearm, his right leg was smoldering and his mask was exceedingly discolored thanks to some nasty burns. Yet, despite being almost as scrawny as ever, just the barest hint of toned muscle on his bones, every instinct Bakugo had told him Deku was a threat. A walking, super-powered contradiction that defied all words he failed to speak.

So Deku spoke for him, "because I'm going to be a hero!"

"LIKE HELL!" Defying the screaming in his chest Bakugo used his own quirk to propel himself right at him. "You've always been a bug! A useless littleSTUPID DEKU!" Using his quirk like some crude engine, he rocketed his fist at Deku's face, narrowly missing. "AND DON'T YOU EVER FORGET IT!"

Bakugo's eyes went wide once again. Rather than move aside, granting him more room to set off a laeger detonation, Deku had grabbed his arm. Acting on his fear, Bakugo shoved his palm against Deku's abdomen and fired away as much as he dared to. If he used too much force, and the little shit held his grip, he'd risk tearing his own arm off. Accomplishing little more than burning more of Deku's flesh and destroying more of his costume, he braced himself as Deku flung him through what was left of a wall.

Rolling onto his back, the world now spinning in every direction at once, Bakugo groaned as his body began to register what had just happened to it. Holy fucking shit did it hurt. "As much as I might want to..." Deku's voice was almost a mile away, it didn't help that he sounded significantly calmer now. "I can never forget it."

He stepped over the rubble, handcuffs at the ready. "I've been called that so much, even inside my own head, I'm not sure I'll ever see myself as anything other than 'Deku', thanks to you."

The defeat in his voice would have been delicious at any other time, but now it just pissed him off. Feeling that ire rekindle reminded Bakugo of the day before when 'long-ears' had dared to stop him from putting this little shit in his place. When Iida had told that fucking story of Deku crippling a zero pointer.

"So, Kacchan," ...Kacchan. Was that his version of 'Deku'!? "I won't ever forget-"

His jaw clamped down in a vice as his eyes went wide. The smell, the sight! In throwing Bakugo through that wall he'd not only torn his costume to shreds but the skin on his shoulder too. Standing there, shaking with restraint, it was everything he could do not to attack, not to tear his own mask off and give in to his now screaming hunger.

Scoffing, hissing under his breath, Bakugo's body relented to his fury. "You're fucking right you wont."

In spite of his screaming instincts, telling him to dodge, thanks to his ravenousness the blond was now much faster. The ensuing explosion rocked the entire building. Deku was sent reeling, crashing and skidding along rubble covered floor, leaving a trail of armor, cloth and blood in his wake. Groaning, rolling onto his front, he tried to push off from the ground but couldn't shake this feeling of dizziness. His eyes were seeing spots, the world so unfocused he might as well have had bleach poured into them.

"Saw you looking at my gauntlets before the teams were decided," Hissed the warhead, his face twisting into a malicious grin, "wanna see what they're for, Deku?!"

He couldn't even open his mouth to reply. The resulting explosion only caught his senses for a flicker of a moment before the world erupted in pure pain. Searing flesh on the side of his face, a blaze of fire up his forehead and into his hair that was so hot it felt cold. Sizzling, popping of his flash-broiled skin was then punctuated by something in his eye-socket exploding in a wet splatter, then the feeling spread to the inside of his skull and the world went black.

"FOR THE LAST TIME, THAT'S ENOUGH, BAKUGO!" All Might shouted into his microphone back at the observation room. From the readout on his screen Deku's ear-piece had been destroyed almost immediately into the fight. "STOP THIS SENSELESSNESS, OR I'M ENDING-"

And the entire building shook. The arena was an entire block away and the building was still shaking. Cameras on the other end of the feed showed nothing but static, microphones either blown up or blown out if that horrid feedback noise was anything to go by.

"What the hell?!" Jiro exclaimed, bracing, preparing for the building to colapse. "What did Bakugo just do?!"

"Nothing good..." said the boy with the two differently colored eyes, while All Might furiously wokred at the instruments on the monitor. "If that earthquake was anything to go by he'll be lucky if he hasn't just outright murdered that other kid." Although it sounded like that wasn't the case. Distorted, but coming through, was the sound of Deku screaming in agony.

Cracking knuckles told all that Akaguro had clenched his fists. "What kind of insanity-" And the feed came back. All around the room reactions varied. Kaminari's jaw dropped, Ashido screamed, Aoyama recoiled and flung two hands over his mouth to stop himself from vomiting, a girl with a very long pony-tail reached out and instinctively gripped Jiro's hand. A motion she reflexively reciprocated as her expression fell in horror.

Somewhere to the pony-tailed girl's other side she heard the heterochromic kid breathe out in shock, "oh my god..."

On the screen, right in front of everyone, was Deku, in a haze of smoke. His right eye had been burned to the point of bursting, the skin around his eye socket burned away while more of his molten flesh dripped onto what remained of his costume. A splash of his hair had been completely incinerated, leaving charred remains of scalp from where it had formerly sprouted. His mouth was wide open, mask nowhere to be seen, as he screamed. Bakugo had unleashed an explosion big enough to shake part of a city at point blank rage, right into Deku's face.

"Stop this..." Jiro's voice murmured, "All Might!" she said, now much louder, "STOP THIS RIGHT FUCKING NOW!"

Pulling out of his shock the professional hero leapt from the room, not even bothering to open the door as he went. Sprinting, with surprisingly similar speed to All Might, was Akaguro, Kaminari following right behind him along Ashido. On the screen Deku had moved in a blur and now Bakugo was screaming.


It took a moment for the camera to shift, following the path of the ruined teenager. When it did everyone present wished like hell that it hadn't. There was Deku, face as destroyed as it had been moments before, with his arms holding Bakgo against a wall, face first, and his teeth sinking into the blond's throat.

"Wait..." Some kid with spiky, red hair breathed, "what is he...?" No answer was forthcoming, at least not verbally. Right before their eyes, as Deku gulped down no small amount of his old bully's blood, something remarkable happened: His skin starting regenerating.

"Holy-" Breathed the pony-tailed girl.

As his flesh got busy knitting itself back together, his eye blossomed. There was no other word for it, the way the flesh simply... appeared and unfolded bore no other likeness as a patch of snow-white hair sprouted from the ashes of what had been burned away. But the eye was wrong: Black sclera, much like Ashido's, but with the same glowing, green iris. Even the skin around the eye looked off, a touch lighter, just a hue or two darker than milky white, following the pattern of the grisly burn. As his flesh finished re-knitting itself his face twisted in horror. Hands on Bakugo's shoulders he tore himself away from him, recoiling, gripping his own skull as he fell to his knees.

It was at this moment that All Might burst onto the scene, just in time to see Bakugo, seething with fearful hatred, preparing to turn his other gauntlet on Deku. He was screaming something about finishing the job when All Might grabbed him. The piercing look was all he needed to reduce Bakugo to little more a simpering, tiny, mass of submissive flesh. Meanwhile, Deku had stood up and began staggering for the door. He would have run for the hills had Akaguro, Ashido and Kaminari not arrived, blocking his path inadvertently.

Shaking, his legs threatening to buckle beneath him, Deku's flinched away from them, falling against a wall, feeble arms flying up to shield his head as he sunk to the floor. His face just screamed the phrase don't look at me. Ashido was at a total loss, but approached Deku all the same, confused by the fact that his face was now miraculously healed. Akaguro, slowly, re-sheathed his katana, eyeing Bakugo like a hawk. Kneeling beside Ashido and Deku was Kaminari, eyes searching between the injured green haired boy and that psychopath Bakugo.

He saw the injury on his throat, the blood on Deku's lips and a look of comprehension spread across his features. "What did...?"

Deku's reply was a pitiful one. "I'm so sorry..." Little more than a whimper, "I- I couldn't stop- he- I- I-..."

Tentatively, Ashido reached out, her arms looping around him. As he started sobbing, her grip on him tightened and she tired to soothe his nerves, gently shushing him and murmuring what reassuring words she could find. "It's okay," she breathed, "It's over now, he's not going to hurt you again."

He just sobbed louder. That wasn't at the reason he was crying, not even close. He'd just bitten someone, again and this time... no. There were never any excuses. His lapse of control, his fault.

His fault...

"Hey man," Kaminari reached out, squeezing one of his shoulders, "it's alright. Just... breathe, okay?"

Only he couldn't. Between the sobbing, the adrenaline, being beaten and blasted to a pulp and the tornado of emotions he was feeling, it all became just too much. Deku, with almost painful slowness, fainted in Ashido's arms.

All Might let out a quiet sigh. "This lesson is on hold." With a firm hold on Bakugo's arm he turned around, the upstart in tow. "Could... could you please take Young Midoriya to Recovery Girl? I need to take this one to see Aizawa." When the blond went to start shouting in protest, The Pillar of Peace just gave him the look again, and any semblance of defiance vanished.

All Might had had enough.

Hesitantly, hand dropping from the hilt of his sword, Akaguro stepped toward Deku. "I'll do it."

Ashido looked up at him, somewhat surprised. "We're coming too." Kaminari nodded, confirming the sentiment.

"Do as you wish," Akaguro muttered as he gently hoisted the unconscious teen into his arms, "but my guess is he's going to want to be far away from people once he wakes up." Nodding as though she understood, Ashido rose to her feet and followed him, Kaminari not far behind.

Back in the observation room, a palm to side of his head, the spiky haired redhead spoke up. "What the hell just happened?"

"This is," the pony-tailed girl gulped, "just a guess, but... it looks like Midoriya's quirk lets him heal by-" she had to suppress a gag. "Drinking... blood." Nauseous as she felt, she wasn't surprised to later hear that she'd turned green.

Somewhere, in another corner of the room, someone ribbitted. "But... I thought his quirk was super strength? That's what it looked like until now."

And thus the wheel of the rumor mill began to turn.

Not wanting to hear any more of it, Jiro let go of the other girl's hand and made for the door. Chancing a look back at the screen she saw All Might dragging Bakugo along and she broke into a run. If there was going to be a conversation with Aizawa, one that potentially outed Deku as something dangerous, then she was going the conversation about Bakugo had all the available facts. Growling out a sigh, she sprinted for the main building, cursing at the weight of the boots afforded to her as part of her hero costume. Really, this was a conversation she should have had with Aizawa yesterday.

With any luck, it would at least help Deku a little bit, though she wasn't about to bet on it.

Chapter Text

Finding peace was a task that seemed forever unachievable to little Izuku 'Deku' Midoriya. Waking moments of much of his life fraught with anxiety, born either of social isolation or of being the favorite punching bag to every bully he'd ever come across. Even at home it felt as though there were no escape, for he always, inevitably, have to leave. Out there in the real world was where his tormentors lurked. The only place of solace he had was his dreams. Dreams he now found haunted by the fears which plagued him in the day.

It was such a dream that he failed to realize he was having at this very moment. Machines, menacing, covered in webs and towering over a burning city marched about like soldier ants attacking a rival colony. Deku, quite beyond his limits, was alone in his efforts to protect said city. Dozens, hundreds of machines lay destroyed upon the ruins of what he'd failed to protect; but for every one he defeated, it seemed a hundred more took its place. Spent, his injuries to severe to carry on, he relented. Collapsing to the cracked and ruined street he closed his eyes and waited for the end.

To his surprise no such thing was forthcoming, for in that moment aid finally found him. People he recognized, Jiro, Akaguro, Kaminari, Ashido, Iida, Ayoyama, even All Might along with Uraraka charged into the fray. Vigor renewed, inspiration lifting his spirits to new heights, Deku leapt up and followed them. Together they vanquished the machines, the metallic titans crumbling into smoking wreckage.

Taking a knee, panting for breath and bleeding, Deku finally relaxed and felt a sense of calm wash over his aching body. Just when he was about to sleep a hand reached down with padded fingertips. Looking up he saw the encouraging smile of Uraraka and felt safer than ever before. Taking her hand, pulled to his feet, he smiled too and the others began to gather round. It was then that he, finding himself more daring, went to hug her and she hugged him. It was serene until his stomach growled. Maw lurching open he sank his fangs into her throat, drinking with reckless abandon.

She only giggled in reply. "So... that was really it, wasn't it?"

Horrified Deku could only let his eyes go wide in terror. Again. He'd just done it again! Confusing him, driving his mind mad with conflict, were the arms of the girl he'd just bitten wrapping loosely around his neck.

"Being alone," her voice was calm, comforting. Everything he didn't deserve for it to be, "truly terrifies you doesn't it? After spending so much of your life that way." What the hell was going on? What was this? "But..." She giggled, in a tone that almost sounded... coquettish. "Now it's something else, isn't it?"

He pulled away from her throat, her arms remained as they were, hand playing in his hair as his eyes went wider still.

When she grinned impishly at him, slender fangs peeked at the corners of her mouth and it was all he could do not to scream. "You're afraid you'll make someone else like you, bring someone else into the world you're now a part of."

This... was this his doing?

"Maybe now you'll just agree with everyone that you should be alone forever," No, please no, "but now, with a chance at your dream, maybe you just don't care," The others, looming around them, cast black shadows that drained the color from the world around them. Eyes glowing red, hands drawing all manner of weapons as they drew nearer.

"Just by coming to UA, you've placed so many people in danger." Their maws opened, laughter of the most devilish sort echoed sharply around him. "Guess your dreams are worth any price, no matter who pays them then."

No... NO! That's not-! And, as she drew him in for what could only have been a kiss, the others pounced and he, consumed with fear, tore their bodies to shreds. Screaming, arms flailing, shoving at everything around him, Deku screamed. "NO!" Not again! Not again! DON'T LET ME DO THIS!

His head hit wood. Eyes snapping open found half the world back and the rest of it looking like a nurse's office. Chest heaving with his breath Deku saw the state he was in: bed torn to pieces to his sudden fit of movement, sitting up before he was even awake, the furniture that had been next to the bed was no on the floor across the room. Realizing his hands were still gripped tightly at the mattress he unfurled them and saw his claws had extended and torn much of the bedding to shreds. Fingers jolting at the fearful realization he retracted his claws back beneath the bandages covering his hands and shoved his palms into his eyes. Knees curled to his face he sat there in the tattered cloth and cried. For the first time, in any memory he had, he hoped no one would come to comfort him.

Naturally, as it was with every prayer he made, the opposite transpired.

"Midoriya?" It sounded like Kaminari. "You okay, bud?" Despite his efforts, Deku couldn't stop crying. So frustrating... he didn't want him to feel sympathetic. "Yeesh, you must've been having one helluva nightmare..." He didn't deserve sympathy. "You're not alone pal," Yes. Yes he was, more so now than ever before. "Ashido and Akaguro are outside too, if ya want me to get em."

A hand touched his shoulder, his face flew, jaw open, right for Kaminari's throat. NO! Milliseconds before his fangs made contact with the other teenager's skin, Deku's fist flew up and decked himself square in the jaw.

"HOLY SHIT!" As Kaminari yelped in surprise the force of the punch sent Deku off the bed, bones and remains of his costume clattering on the floor while his head hit the wall. "Dude!" Kaminari's voice reeked of shock, "What the hell just- are you okay?" Deku sat, with his back to the wall.

Hands gripping tightly over his mouth, he stared at the electric teen with like a puppy that realized it just hurt its best friend. Again... How many times in one day could he fuck up this badly?! How... Oh god... Crying. It was because he'd let his guard down enough to cry, he hadn't even seen the urge to feed coming.

If he wasn't going to be a threat to anyone, he couldn't cry anymore. "damn it..." His heart was in shambles, guilt and shame gnawing on the pieces. If he couldn't cry then what the hell could he do? What could he do when he felt this terrible?

Kaminari just looked at him, unsure what to do. This kid was terrified of something, another incident like with Bakugo he guessed. All he knew was that he absolutely shouldn't leave him alone. Walking over, he offered a hand to pull him up. "You're still banged up," he offered a friendly smile, "come on, get off the- HEY!"

Like a bolt of lightning, Deku had flown to his feet and toward the window. Tearing it open, still dressed in little more than bandages and tattered rags, he jumped. Unsteady, weak from the toll of his recovery, his legs buckled as he landed and he tasted the all too familiar taste of dirt.

"Dude, wait!"

Clawing at the ground, tearing the bandages on his hands to pieces in the process, Deku lurched back to his feet and ran. Somewhere behind him, as he leapt over the front gate, Kaminari was yelling something about him fleeing. Where ever he was going didn't matter, just as long as no one was there.

Ashido came running into the room, right up beside Kaminari at the window. "What just-"

"He took off!" Kaminari exclaimed, arm gesturing out the window.

"Why?" It made no sense, how could he still be this worked up? "You didn't scare him, did you?"

"I don't see how," he gave her an exasperated look, "he almost bit me- no, I'm fine." He held up both hands, stopping her from grabbing him and examining his neck. "Kid punched himself in the face before he could..." he pointed outside, where Deku had just pulled quite the vanishing act. "then- HEY, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!" What was with everyone and jumping out windows? Suddenly, it wasn't just her leaping outside, cursing under his breath as he dusted himself off from the landing he chased after her. "You know he probably wants to be left alone!"

"Don't care!" Ashido called back, "Speaking from experience: Last thing he needs right now!" Looking over her shoulder she waved, beckoning him onward. "Keep up, Kami!"

Growling, he did exactly that, muttering to himself as he went. "Ya know... I really just wanted to go to school today. That was it!" Naturally, he'd left his bag and water bottle back in the classroom. Ah well, how fast could this Midoriya kid really run?

Most of the class had followed behind them, wanting to see what happened next. The indignity of it all... what had he done wrong? So he'd pissed Deku off enough to make him bite someone. After an explosion like that not even phasing him he was the one that should have been being treated like this. Only a freak could survive something like that without a single mark to show for it. At least... that's what Bakugo thought had happened. Through all the smoke and pain he hadn't been able to glimpse the results of his handiwork. Evidently it hadn't been much, Deku was still strong and crazy enough to slam his face into a wall and then chomp down on him like a rabid dog. This was just All Might protecting the wimps, like he always did. So unfair... It really pissed him off.

When the door to class 1A swung open, Bakugo was almost shocked. He hadn't noticed how far they'd just been traveling. The benefits of spacing out. Grumbling as he was pulled into the room, his eyebrow quirked for a moment. On his desk were a pair of feet wearing clunky, black boots, criss crossed as their owner's arms as she glared at him. "What's long ears doing here!?" Her earlobes twitched with something resembling malice at the voicing of his demand. He just glared right back, this bitch was always butting in where she had no business. Fuming with equally as much contained rage, more so spilling over through his face than her, was Aizawa, listening intently to the phone in his hand.

"YOU!" Bakugo barked, "YOU FUCKING TATTLE TALE!" He stomped toward her. "What, it wasn't enough that All Might and..." he stopped for a moment, forgetting Aizawa's name. "Him were already about to chew me out!? You had to get in on it too!?"

"Like you don't have it coming," her eyes narrowed, posture not moving in the least, "after yesterday and today I am officially done being passive with you."

He scoffed, rolling his eyes. "You call this shit passive?" All Might made a considerable effort not to growl at how much this kid was swearing. "You have been getting right in my fucking way since we got here!"

"Yeah," remarked she, "wonder why..."

He lounged forward, hands slamming onto the desk she'd rested her legs upon, quirk searing the wood as he did. "You obnoxious little-"

Not even flinching in the slightest, her legs still on the frying wood, Jiro stared him down with grim, but hidden satisfaction. At his outburst she'd sent her earlobes right up to his throat, just a hair's breadth away from filling his world with pain. "Go on." She goaded, "give me an excuse." and her glare went sharper still. "I dare you." He could only grit his teeth in wide eyed, irritated fury. If he moved more than that, she'd use her quirk on him again, and that was something he'd never allow.

"Enough," All Might's voice rumbled like distant thunder, "I won't allow another incident like on the training ground." And he yanked Bakugo away from her. "Sort out your differences some other way, and after you've calmed down."

Gently and slowly hanging up the phone on his desk, Aizawa prepared to speak. His voice rumbled like a volcano threatening to erupt. "Sit down." So this was two teachers who unjustly had it out for him today. What the fuck? Was today opposite day or some bullshit? Because he and Deku seemed to be inhabiting the wrong spaces today. As he huffily complied, teeth gritting at the humiliation of it all, he glared at the teacher. A teacher who glared right back. "Explain yourself. Now."

"What the hell for?!" Bakugo's immediate retort was met with Aizawa's hands gripping so hard his knuckles snapped. "Everything I did to him and that useless Deku was FINE!" A growl escaped the teacher's throat. "Fucker went crazy and bit me!" He pointed right at the site where Deku's fangs had pierced his skin.

The instant Bakugo stopped talking he felt the air in the room run cold. "Do you want to know why?" From his tone, it was obvious that wasn't really a question. So Bakugo kept his trap shut while Aizawa elaborated. "I was just on the phone with recovery girl," he began, "that last attack you made," it was disturbing how level his voice was with all that rage pouring off of him, "did so much damage to Midoriya's face that he was driven into a mindless haze." Before Bakugo could voice how bullshit that was, Aizawa silenced him by raising a single finger. "I'm speaking literally." Bakugo blinked. "That last explosion," the teacher went on, "destroyed his eye." And the warhead's gut sank. "It gets worse." ...How? How the fuck could it? "The damage didn't stop there. Recovery Girl, when she was examining him, found something incredibly disturbing on the back of Midoriya's head and neck. Any guesses what it was?" Bakugo, with an air of numbness, shook his head and Aizawa scowled. "Bits of bone and brain matter."

If it was possible to feel smaller than Deku's level of importance to anything, Bakugo was certain that was what he felt in that moment. "Wh- whu?" Speechless, another new experience for that day. "You mean-"

He had to gulp, stomach so low and queasy he thought he might pass out. For all his boasting, screaming about squashing people like bugs, making such a claim literal filled him with rot. Somewhere outside the room he heard that brown haired extra squeak in dread. Iida sounded similarly shocked, cursing under his breath. Great, everyone was here to witness this. Just what he wanted.

"If he hadn't bitten you, he would be dead: his regenerative abilities would never have activated." Some of the rot subsided, leaving the warhead feeling only mostly disgusted with himself. Yet the feeling persisted, as well it should have, digging into his ego.

"I want you to think about this," Aizawa stood up, his glare sharpening, "Had you been fighting literally anyone else, you would now be a murderer." Any semblance of rage dropped from Bakugo's features, all that remained was the shock. "Congratulations. Midoriya's healing factor has kept you out of jail. Now, if I hear about another such incident as today or yesterday," Bakugo's gaze shifted, glaring at Jiro with all his venom before the erasure hero's continuing scolding drew his attention back, "you'll be out of this school so fast you'll think All Might threw you out himself. Have I made myself clear?"

Swallowing his pride and trying to quell his rage, Bakugo managed one, perfectly leveled word. "Crystal."

Aizawa pointed to the door of his class room. "Get your injuries seen to. Then go to the principal."

Shaking, barely keeping himself in control, his trembling hands grabbed his belongings. He cast one last spiteful look at Jiro who returned his gaze in full. This wasn't over, and they both knew it, Bakugo almost felt better knowing he had another pathetic enemy to crush. Almost. Barging through the door, everyone outside moved out aside as he stomped passed them. Afraid. That was the only look on any of their puny, extra faces.

He gritted his teeth, biting back his remarks about them long enough to climb inside the elevator. As the doors closed, anyone nearby might have heard him howling out all his frustration as he began his descent. Back in the classroom things were considerately closer to silence. Aizawa stood at the window of his classroom, face squeezed tight by the fingers of one of his hands. Of all the nightmares to contend with on day two. This class hadn't made it two days in without someone almost literally attempting murder. To make matters worse, there was the matter of Deku to contend with.

"All Might..." Aizawa's voice was barely even breath. "Send them... send them to go get changed."

The pillar of peace nodded. "And then what?"

Slowly shaking his head, Aizawa's hand splayed from his face and off to the side, at level with his shoulder almost. "Just that. But don't let them leave."

An affirmation murmured, All Might wandered outside and sent the teenagers on their way, shortly before wandering back to Recovery Girl's office. Another long sigh dragged itself passed his lips. Now there was video evidence of Midoriya's species along with nearly twenty eye witnesses. The secret was out, and likely only on its way further along that trajectory. Protecting that kid, keeping him hidden was impossible now, so the old saying declared: 'the only way three people can keep a secret is if two of them are dead'. There would be a long talk with principal Nezu and then, depending on how that one went, another with... Him.

Conversations with him were occasions to dread with all one's being. Even All Might found the man unsettling and he'd never had to answer to him. Then again... "That includes you, kiddo." Aizawa added, catching the still present Jiro by surprise, "head to the locker rooms and change, then tell them all to head back here." Silently, the girl stood up and left the room with a nod, closing the door behind her. This was an idea bordering on insanity, but... promises were promises and that was why he rarely made them.

12 Years Ago...

It was a very old room, so old it couldn't possibly have belonged in this spire of a building and it didn't. Creaky wooden floors, glass windows so touched by time it had become a murky green. Bookshelves built into the wall sagged at their centers, the tomes thereupon so frayed and decayed that their materials had begun to turn to dust. A desk at the center of it all fared no better. Meticulously dusted and maintained though it all had been, the makings and furnishings -to the threadbare, moth eaten curtains, lounge chairs and couch- were on their way out. It was from a house that had once belonged to a humble family, farmers at the border of Edo. Now, the last living descendant was a man in his forties, the last inheritor of an ancient legacy. When his grandfather had built this place he'd gone to the decrepit family home and salvaged one room: the study.

Engraved at the head of the doorway was one phrase: "Remember your roots". And so, with the wood of the old home broken down to dust, it was mixed into the foundation of this towering structure, where the office now resided. The owner, a man in the suit, a man who's name was never spoken, gave a grim smile. It was impressive how he could give an air of harmlessness and be intimidating at the same time, without so much as trying to be. "You understand why I've called you here?" Puffing of cigar smoke punctuated his sentences with trailing wisps of tainted air. A cloud of it followed him where ever he paced in the shrouded office. It unsettled the young hero standing before him.

Aizawa only nodded, quelling trembling nerves with steely determination. "I have no reputation, no face in the spotlight." The Nameless One smiled darkly at the young hero's extrapolation. "My methods and efficiency also match something you must be searching for," yes, this 'Aizawa' would do as nicely as he suspected, "you want to send me on a mission."

"Couldn't have said it better myself," his smile shifted to a form considerably lighter than before, "would you like to know what that mission is, Eraser Head?" At the hero's nod, a glint of excited anticipation in his eyes, a feeling of satisfaction welled within The Nameless One. "Tell me," he said, eyes narrowing, smile widening, "do you believe in monsters?"


Monsters... as it turned out they were much like the stories of old had described them. Bearing the face of humans but hungers from the darkest nightmares imaginable. When he'd killed his first, a vampire working as a nurse in a hospital, he'd found it draining a child dry. The sight of it had filled him with disgusted fury. Scarf flying toward the thing, he snared its wrists and throat, pulling it over backwards to its knees before plunging a dagger through its heart.

Even as the blade pierced the most vital of organs it screamed and struggled, something 'mercy' escape its lips and Aizawa twisted the blade as he savagely shoved the thing to the floor. Slowly, with a raspy exhalation of air, did its limbs droop, going limp and sagging to the floor. Yanking the knife from its chest he checked the child for a pulse and found none. Gritting his teeth, he turned on his heels and strode away, anger fuming from his body. As he battered the doors to the ward open and stomped away, he failed to notice the label above them: 'Hospice: Cancer Ward'.

From then on, he was on the warpath. Every vampire he was assigned to kill, he did so without hesitation. Leaving a trail of bodies, some impaled, decapitated, other simply burned to ash. He'd learned the secret was to use their strength, their momentum against them. Once they got moving fast enough, stopping was a pipe dream leading to a cement wall. All over the country, 'Eraser Head' garnered a reputation, ironically making a name for himself as 'the unknown hero'. His exploits were the matter of speculation, nothing he did had any press, his villains all without name. While some would glimpse, whisper of the bodies he left in his wake, these rumors were ensured to be little more than such. Shota Aizawa was a hunter, a lethal machine as ruthless and efficient as he'd boasted to the Man Without a Name.

'The Hero who Operates in the Shadows'... he liked that label.

Of course, this crusade could only go on so long...

Ring, ring...

Aizawa's eyes fluttered. Back in the classroom, back at UA. Just another memory, replaying before his eyes... how he'd grown tired of them invading his waking moments. Silencing the phone, picking up the handset and putting it to his ear he composed himself. "yes?"

"It's me," the voice of All Might, "I have an update on Midoriya..."

Putting any real distance between himself and the school had proven a rather fruitless effort. The afternoon sun had scorched his eyes so badly that he couldn't even see anymore. Not that he cared. Fingers along a brick wall guided him, giving some semblance of a path to follow. What he heard, the various sounds of the city around him, almost overwhelmed his ears. He couldn't see and his other senses were picking up the slack. How he wished his sense of smell hadn't bothered, as nothing smelled quite as awful as a city during lunch hour.

You'd think the smells of freshly cooked foods, of all kinds, would serve to reduce the vileness of every other scent. Garbage, exhaust, urine -for those who didn't care enough to wait and find a public restroom- drugs, rust, the leavings of birds. Putrid smells intensified by the mingling appetizing odors. One moment you're ready to start salivating and sit down for something delicious, the next that feeling is then corrupted by the rancid filth invading your nostrils. Even though such smells were no longer appetizing to he, Deku missed them enough for the effect to be the same. Trying to open his eyes, to rest his other senses produced a very loud, disorienting yelp. Of all the times to forget his sunglasses, not that their location was in any way known to him. There was also the matter of the rest of his belongings being there too.

He'd have to go back to UA... The thought filled him with dread. That was the last place he wanted to be anymore. If he hadn't just proven he was unfit to be a hero to All Might and Aizawa, he'd definitely just proven it to himself. What good could he really do there? Chasing this dream was self indulgence at its most ugly: without regard for the potential consequences to others. No matter, he wouldn't allow such things to go like that if he any say. Of course, he may not; considering Aizawa's prior warning it was almost assured that he would want Deku far, far away from the rest of his students. At least, now anyway, they agreed he was little more than a monster.

"Hey, kiddo," he heard a familiar voice, "you okay? What Happened to your... you?" It was the woman who'd given him that first pair of sunglasses. "What happened to you?" He'd almost forgotten about her.

"L-long story." He mumbled, completely uncertain what he should say.

A hand wrapped its fingers loosely around his, he jumped, flinching away from her touch. Forcing his mouth closed, almost by reflex, his heart rate skyrocketed. Recoiling, arms flying over his head, fingers clamping down on his mouth it was all he could not to scream 'stay away!' as loudly as possible.

"Kiddo, hey..." She'd walked over to him, he could... sense that she was reaching for him and flinched into a somehow smaller shape. "It's okay." her tone sounded like she was smiling, trying to be reassuring, "come on." she took his hand again and his entire body went rigid with fear. "I'm just bringing you inside." Without many other options left to him, Deku complied. Once indoors, sweet lack of illumination kissing his retinas, he dared to reach up and massage them. "Here," she guided him to a chair, "take a seat, kiddo. Let those eyes recuperate."

"...thank you." Whatever this place was, it had some comfy chairs.

"I like what you've done with your hair," His hair was different? News to him, as he had yet to even catch a glimpse of a mirror, "when did you do that?" Small talk, not always the best method for soothing nerves. In this instance,however, it was reassuring to just act like a normal person.

To act like a human. "Uh, pretty recently." Deku mumbled, eagerly searching for a change of subject. "W-where are we?"

"Hmm? Oh, we're just at a barber shop."


"This is the only place I trust to cut my hair. Anywhere else and they just get it wrong." Eyes peeling open, tears covering his eyes in a protective film, he caught a distorted glimpse of the place. Just like back when these places first started popping up, a true antique of the city. Right down to the barber-shop-poll outside the front door. "I was just about done when Ikari pointed you out to me."

A sudden feeling of guilt, by now nothing new to him, gnawing at the pit of his stomach prompted Deku to lower his head. "S-sorry..."

"Oh don't sweat it," she smiled, batting the apology out of the air, "I just had to make sure you were okay." Eyes gaining some focus back he took a look at his would-be savior, coming to his aid for the second time and his eyebrows jumped. "What do you think?" He'd barely noticed her hair, he'd been far too distracted by her earlobes. "Thought I'd try something different." She brushed some of her violet hair behind her ear with her fingertips, further exposing the long, earphone-jack earlobe dangling from the side of her head.

"Y-you're-!" He checked himself, making sure he wasn't forgetting to keep control of his jaw. When she raised an eyebrow at him, he had to conclude his thought. "...Jiro's mom?"

Her eyes fluttered, smirk broadening to a smile. "Oh, you must be my daughter's classmate!" making a fist she lightly bumped her knuckles into his shoulder. "Unless that's not a hero costume your wearing," she teased, in a strangely polite manner. "Tell me, is she making any friends?"

Deku blinked. "Whu... why?"

"Well..." she trailed off, expression falling. Fingers fussing at her pant-leg, a quiet click of her tongue against the backs of her teeth preempted her next words by a noticeable margin. "Can you keep a secret?" Hesitantly, he nodded and she sighed. "I'm... uncertain what to tell you."

Deku blinked, some of the focus finally returning to his vision. Sitting before him was... a sight that truly caught him off guard: her shoulders were slumped, head slightly inclined, eyes staring at her lap as she remained almost entirely motionless. A sad hint of a smile perched upon her lips, matching the look in her downcast eyes. "Whenever the thought of my little Kyo-Kyo going to school crosses my mind I get a little muddled," despite the woman's rather downcast demeanor, it was all Deku could do not to audibly go 'aww' hearing that nickname.

Instead, he allowed himself a smirk as she went on, "see, when she was in elementary school, going into early middle school, something... changed." Judging by her tone, this was not a topic lightly broached. "She started getting more and more closed off, standoffish with people." One of her hands gripped at a portion of her pantleg. "It was so... jarring. Watching my sweet little girl turn into something harsher, seemingly out of nowhere."

Her expression fell completely, taking Deku's heart with it as it sank. "The change in hairstyles, the clothing, the swearing, never smiling, always sounding growly... It wasn't until much later that I learned there'd been something going on with a bully at her school." Something clicked, "she and one of her friends were targets of their's," and clicked loudly in Deku's brain, "I didn't find out until after... well, it didn't make much difference by then."

This, this was why she had it out for Bakugo.

"She spent so much time yelling at the teachers to do something, which," she scoffed bitterly, "of course they didn't. So she put on a brave face and dealt with it on her own." She turned and offered Deku a sad smile, "she only tells me anything when she has good news, even now. Color me surprised when she starts talking about this boy with green, fluffy hair who protected her from a thug, with a little smirk on her face." Her look shifted, adopting a more knowing expression, again 'bopping' his shoulder. "Wonder who that might have been."

"I- I dunno," Deku tried to smile reassuringly, but he wasn't exactly feeling well himself, "s-some clumsy weirdo, I guess."

Miss Jiro laughed. "Probably, but who knows." At least his flimsy attempt at humor had worked. Sighing, somewhat more happily than before, she hesitated before voicing one last thing. "Keep looking after my little girl, would you?" Another bout of blinking in surprise corrected nothing with reality. She was being serious. "She doesn't... her first instinct isn't usually to trust adults, or much of anyone. If she wants to be your friend... would you?"

...God damn it. "Yeah," he muttered, "I will. ...if that's what she wants."

So much for abandoning UA, and for ignoring that old dream. When was he going to get it through his head that he could only help by staying away from people? Leave it to a lost soul with no other options available and asking for help to turn him back the way he came. Back toward the wrong path, the path life seemed determined to steer him away from.

She smiled, appreciatively at him for a moment when something outside caught her eye. "More friends of yours?" Bracing his eyes, Deku turned toward the window. Sure enough, there were Ashido and Kaminari -the latter of the two being entirely out of breath- racing into the shop.

"Caught ya!" Ashido blurted out, poking him square on the nose. "You seem a lot better." Her smile quirked, a note of concern on it. "All except for that eye though. That's still a thing..."

His eye? "What?" Deku turned toward the mirror and watched the orb in question widen in shock, leaping toward it, close as his face could go. "WHAT?"

When the hell had his sclera turned black?! And that scarring... Bottom lip now the latest victim of his teeth, though it was lucky enough not to be punctured by them, he could only stare in dismay at his face. Half the hair on the right side of his face was white, eyebrow included, skin gone almost milky white where Bakugo had burned him. His forehead slumped against the glass and he let out a groan. "Oh come on..."

Panting, gasping for air, Kaminari did his best to make him feel better. "Hey... relax..." his voice cracked in the funniest way when he couldn't breathe, "chicks... dig scars, man..."

"Says you!" Deku blurted, spinning his face round to look at him. "Do you know what my mom is gonna do when she sees this!?" His head slumped, a palm rising up to shove itself against his face. "Oh god she's gonna have a heart attack..." Hell, she might try to keep him from coming back to UA at all.

Pulling him from these thoughts was Ashido, nudging him. "Hey, it's okay. She'll calm right down when she realizes it's just one psycho ya had to deal with." She grinned, carefree as could be. "Nuthin to worry about."

Deku could only gawk at her in awe. "...what kind of parents do you have?" She just laughed at that.

"Hey there," at the sound of that voice, doing its best to sound as non-threatening as possible, every face in the room turned to see its source: All Might, with one of Deku's belongings in particular in hand. "It's not wise to run away from medical treatment like that, young man." With a gentle smile, he handed Deku his sunglasses. "I understand it's been a rough day for you, but you can't just run off like that."

Nodding, Deku reached out and put his sunglasses back on. "...where did you get these?"

All Might chuckled. "Your friend Uraraka dug them out of the rubble." At least the silly things weren't cracked to pieces. "Ran into her on my way to Recovery Girl's office. She was very insistent that I made sure you had them."

Deku was one part touched and another part confused. "Is- isn't everyone scared of me now?" mumbled he. "Why would she...?"

Kaminari scoffed. "Of you!? Dude, no. If anyone's scared of anyone, it's gonna be Bakugo." Kaminari shivered. "Talk about unhinged..."

Stunned, Deku turned toward Ashido who smiled encouragingly. "So your quirk has some unorthodox stuff about it," she gestured to her everything, "so does mine, and no one's scared of me."

Says the pink marshmallow... He thought, in reference to her personality. Though from what little that costume left to the imagination, had he meant it another way, not many would have argued. "Easy for you to say... you didn't just-"

"Hey," Ashido pointed right at his face, smiling in a way that was difficult to read, "stop beating yourself up. You're supposed to be doing that to villains, silly." ...her methods of consoling others left much to be desired. "Now come on," she grinned, carefree as her usual self could be, "lets get outta here."

"I concur," said All Might, "Lets get you lot back for the last hour or so of school. I think Aizawa wants to go over something with all of you."

Gulping at the prospect, of what surely lay before him, Deku nodded glumly. Filing outside behind their teacher -his childhood idol- he gave a last look toward Miss Jiro and waved. She smiled, waving back, mouthing the words 'good luck' as he ventured outside. At least the walk back wouldn't be nearly so unpleasant, despite what was waiting for him up ahead.

Principal Nezu, a man more resembling a rat than a human. His entire body, from head to toe, was that of a three foot rodent in a suit. A scar hung over and across his right eye, the only sign that he'd ever been a hero, how he got it was a story he seldom told. Presently, he sat at his desk, fingers laced together, elbows propped up on his desk and his chin resting on his entwined fingers. Aizawa sat in silence, in one of the chairs before Nezu's desk, waiting for his reply. It was only a few more seconds before he needed wait no longer.

"You're sure?" Nezu opened his eyes, ears tilting down like weighted leaves, denoting an air of something akin to sadness, or concern. "This is how you want to handle things?"

Aizawa scoffed. "Are you kidding?" Nezu tilted his head to one side, waiting for him to elaborate. "This is the exact opposite of what I want to do," the teacher sighed, "but I don't see any other way."

Nezu smiled, more to reassure himself than anything else. "You know he will find out eventually." Aizawa's fingers curled into a fist, gripping his pant-leg. "This can't stay a secret forever..."

The teacher turned his gaze toward the window. "It doesn't have to." Voice the barest trace of a murmur. "It only has to last long enough."

It was always painful to see a member of his staff so dejected, and with nothing to be done about it as well. It rather left the old mouse wishing he could do more than simply offer consolation. "I should warn you," Aizawa cast him a sidelong look, "if its redemption you seek, helping this boy... you may be disappointed to find what it leaves you with."

And his gaze was back to the window. "Who says I'm after redemption?" the teacher murmured. "Redemption implies forgiveness, and to obtain forgiveness, there has to be someone left to forgive you." Heavy, with wound and weight the world would never see, he stood and walked to the window. "There is no forgiveness for what I've done." Outside he witnessed the approach of All Might, the runaway students in tow. Hands to his pockets he turned to leave when a thought struck him. "You'll go along with it, right?"

Again, the old rodent smiled. "If that's what you think is best."

"Heh..." Aizawa chuckled mirthlessly. "That's what got us into this mess, if you remember." He turned and smiled, darkly at his old friend, shadows cast under his eyes accentuating the dark circles around them. "Thanks, Nezu... guess is another I owe you."

Nezu chuckled. "So long as your student's are taken care of, we'll call it even." With that, the teacher walked away, leaving the old rodent to ponder their decision. In truth, only time would tell if they'd made the right call with this one...

Changed back into his uniform, bandages removed and costume sent to be salvaged, Deku stared glumly at the mirror. All his life, all that he could remember, he and Bakugo had... well, they'd never really been the best of friends. When they were very small, three going on to four, he used to follow him about like a duckling. Bakugo was the kind of kid who just charged off and did things. No qualms, no nerves to get in his way. Naturally the other boys flocked behind him, easy to follow a brave example.

As time went along, and this slowly became the norm, Bakugo getting good grades, starting to show signs of athletic prowess his attitude started souring. With all the praise being heaped upon him, it seemed the natural order of things that it just go on, even when his behavior was less than ideal. So rarely were words of criticism spoken of him that it began to sound strange whenever someone dared to defy the trend. Hey, did you know the kanji for 'Izuku' can be read as 'Deku'? He'd announced one day, like it was the greatest thing in the world. Like 'Dekunobou'! Izuku's a useless Deku! And so the trend of the poor, green haired child being Bakugo's preferred punching bag began.

If Bakugo was one side of a yin-yang -representing talent and potential, things to aspire to be- then 'Deku' was the opposite. Eventually, as decades rolled on, everyone saw it that way. No one questioned it when Bakugo treated him badly, no one cared. Only when they'd reached adolescence did things take a turn for the worst and it had crossed the line toward being truly antagonistic. Even still, the poor, quirkless child couldn't bring himself to admit that was what was happening. He'd always held onto the hope, the denial that things could ever be anything else; that they could be like they were when they were small. He'd always been able to deny the evidence saying such things were no longer possible.

Now that such a truth was literally engraved onto his face, he couldn't. There was no denying it any longer: Bakugo was... not worth it. He'd stopped being worth it long ago. An eye scorched black, burn scars across one half of his face, even his hair had been disfigured. Though he supposed he was lucky to even have it by this point. Reaching up, tracing fingers over his newly deformed skin, he found it felt no different. Just the same as always, with perhaps a wrinkle here or there. Oh well... The price you pay for being so ill prepared.

So it was with a sigh that he put on his sunglasses, put his hands in his pockets and shuffled along to the classroom, where he saw Aizawa waiting for him. At the sight of the poor boy his eyebrows jumped. "That-" he paused. "Your injuries didn't heal the way they should have."

Deku shrugged, "any idea why?"

The teacher shook his head, "ask The Lady." Obviously, Vanessa. "As for now... listen close." And listen he did, though all the while he felt his stomach churning.

This couldn't possibly end well.

"Do you understand?" At his teacher's inquiry, Deku nodded, though it was without heart. Sure he understood, but this had him understandably on edge. "Good," Said Aizawa, "then lets get this over with."

The two of them walked into the room, Deku devoid of confidence -shivering in anticipation- and Aizawa sulking forward as usual. Though there was an odd weight to his step. Standing at the head of the room, side by side, they faced the rest of the class who were sitting expectantly. For some reason, Bakugo was absent. Unknown to Deku he was currently being given a detailed description of his punishment by the principal. All Might gave them a thumbs up from the back of the room, but this only made Deku's nerves scream louder.

"Listen up," the hunter turned teacher announced, his tone demanding their full attention, "because we're not gonna say this again, and what we say is not leaving this room unless you want me to ensure none of you ever get to be heroes. Clear?" Murmurs of affirmation, nervous though some of them were, made their way to the front of the room, and Aizawa gave the floor to Deku. "All yours." And he sat at his desk, waiting for the inevitable to unfold.

Deku took a deep breath, for all the good that it did, and looked across the room.

In for a penny... "Um, h-hey." He shuffled his feet, toes of one foot poking at the floor. "There's uh, s- something I should-" he gulped, "I mean, something you should uh..." come on, Deku, you can do this... "W-what you saw back at the training ground, there's an- um, an explanation for..." he bit his lip, jaw trembling.

This was mortifying, humiliating, scary. He was amazed at the amount of words he'd even managed to speak at this point. Drawing in another breath, the quirkless teen made up his mind, and just blurted it out. "I'm a vampire!" His eyes, such as they were, flinched shut. "It- its not a vampirism based quirk or- or something like that, I'm-" flinching, shrinking where he stood, the truth stung like the burns had on his face. "I'm a monster... an honest freak of nature who- who drinks people's blood just to survive." Silence followed his exposition, fellow classmates onlooking with faces he feared too much to see. "I'm a vampire..." he repeated, "you had a right to know..."

More silence, a few murmurs and looks were exchanged among those present of his classmates. His eyes remained shut, face turned to the floor. Any second now he'd hear it: the outcries of disgust, matching the fear doubtlessly written on their faces. Bracing for it, shoulders going as tense as could be, he grimaced at the sound of a student's voice. "Yeah..." said she, ribbiting for some odd reason, "we know."

Deku's eyes peeled open, an expression of astonishment plastered on his features his jaw hung open as he looked up at his classmates. "...what?"

"We know," repeated the girl, she looked vaguely frog-like too, "we kinda puzzled it out on our own... it was obvious."

He blinked, his eyes searching all over the room for any sign of what he'd anticipated and found nothing. Eventually he looked to Uraraka, who giggled nervously. "Ashido kinda made us promise not to say anything about it until you were ready to tell us." The pinkette in question snickered mischievously at the mention of her involvement. "It's okay, Deku," there was that smile. "You'll figure out how to get a hang of it!"

"Not sure what difference you think that makes," Kaminari shrugged, regarding the snickering girl with a quirked eyebrow, "we all saw your, uh, powers in action and no one's afraid of you, right?"

"And its not as if any of us are really in any place to judge you," said one girl with the longest pony tail Deku had ever seen, "from what I hear the teacher of class 1B's quirk is... considerably more unsettling to behold." Poor girl looked pale just at the mention of it...

A kid with a very bird-like head nodded in agreement. "You're not so monstrous or out of place as you might think, Midoriya." Another student grunted, nodding in much the same way as the bird-boy. A student with six arms, a splash of white hair and a mask over his entire lower jaw.

"So what if your biology's a bit different?" Ashido remarked, "Everyone's biology is a bit different!" She grinned. "Just part of the human experience."

Deku couldn't help but flinch. "But... I'm not human..."

"Screw that noise," He was almost shocked to hear Jiro speak up like that, "you're still a person under all the fangs and claws, aren't you?" She offered him a smirk, and Deku noted -thanks to what her mother had told him- that it did seem a little awkward. The same kind of awkwardness that his own fake smiles bore, from his lack of practice dealing with other people. "Don't sweat that nonsense." She remarked, tone trying for something nonchalant, reassuring. "Just keep trying to be a good person and no one will care what your species is."

Jiro... A truly touching sentiment indeed, the first time he'd heard such a thing. Being acknowledge as different and accepted anyway wasn't something he'd ever considered possible; not since the day everyone learned he was a quirkless freak. Were it not for the clenching of his jaw, the shoving down of his welling emotions, he might have teared up. But that wasn't something he could afford to do anymore, for the lack of control that followed, and that hurt worse than anything.

"I'm sure you'll make an exemplary hero!" Iida declared, finally joining the conversation. "The best heroes often have handicaps such as yours, if not worse in some instances. The greatest hardships produce the greatest strengths!" Okay, that was oddly encouraging. For a guy who was all business, Iida had some heart.

Akaguro chuckled under his breath, a wide smile pulling at his face. "Didn't see this one coming..." He looked to the vampire. "At least now you can rest a little easier, friend."

When Deku turned to Aizawa he just saw the man nod. "Go on," he murmured, "sit down." As he treaded lightly to his seat, the teacher walked back to the head of the room, pondering what to say next. With a tired sigh, he seemed to have discerned it. "It is a difficult thing, being a hero. Over the years you may be expected to keep secrets." The class lost some of its lighthearted demeanor at the utterance of such a thing. "Being trusted by the public, by law enforcement agencies and the like is... no small burden. It carries with it a heavy responsibility and complicated relationship to the truth. Knowing when to tell it, when to lie and when to say nothing at all is one of the most difficult lessons any of you will ever learn."

Eyes glancing at Deku for a moment left the vampire feeling cold, wondering what lesson he was supposed to learn from this. Wondering whether this was a moment to feel dread rather than relief.

"Consider this, and how you handle and keep this secret with your classmate," Aizawa declared with an air of finality, "the beginning of that lesson." His expression, for the first time Deku had seen, lost any hint of fatigue and carried only a stern resolution. "Look alive, children. Because from this moment on: You're all heroes." Or at least, they'd taken their first real step toward becoming heroes. Deku could only hope it was for the best, as it was now far too late to alter course.

This was his life now.

Chapter Text

Shuffling of chairs, metal scraping against the floor of the classroom sang out in a chorus as the final bell sounded. While the others all walked for the door, Deku remained where he was. This earned a pair of rather puzzled looks from Jiro and Akaguro, who were waiting for him at the doorway. Uraraka and Iida appeared as though they might have joined them, but one look at their homeroom teacher's glowering face discouraged them, so off they went.

Just when the green haired boy was about to say something, Aizawa spoke instead. "All Might and I have business with him. Be on your way." With some hesitation, wavering between one path or another, the two remaining teens obeyed, leaving the vampire to whatever awaited him.

Once the classroom was free of all but Deku and the two teachers, Aizawa sighed. Digging his thumb and index fingers into his eyes he took a few moments to compose himself. "I'm sorry."

Deku blinked. For a moment, the teenager was rendered thoughtless.

"I… allowed my prejudices to affect my judgement once again, and as a result I failed to consider your safety when passing my notes on this class to All Might." Of all the unprecedented occurrences to have graced his life lately, a teacher apologizing for negligence in the face of Bakugo's wrath was somehow the most unexpected.

Maybe his brain was still damaged… "I should have been more concerned about that boy's attitude, and your adversarial relationship with him in conjunction with that." Fingers pulling away from his eyes, Aizawa's face looked as though it had aged another decade with how tired he appeared now. Truly, he was as out of his element in this as all the others. Thinking of a vampire as anything other than an obstacle, a menace, would take time.

"As a result... " the scraggly man motioned toward the boy's face. "I'm sorry."

It was odd, but not knowing what to say was becoming a familiar feeling. "...I'll be fine." Mumbled he, fidgeting with his fingers.

After another few moments of quiet, Aizawa voiced another concern. "What do you intend?"

The vampire could only blink. "What?"

Aizawa considered how best to phrase this for a time. It was a rather sensitive matter. "Are you still interested in being a hero?"

Mild confusion was now replaced with a feeling of astonishment. "Th- that's an option?" Deku's voice was barely above the decibel level of a sleeping person's breath. "You're not- I'm allowed to-"

Aizawa growled out a sigh, thumb and index finger back at his eyes. "Were you not paying attention just a few minutes ago?" Shifting in his seat, the teenager managed to feel quite silly listening to the man talk. "When I said 'from this moment on, you're all heroes', I didn't exclude you." Wanting to simultaneously cry and scream in joy left Deku's face looking almost absurd. Not that the teacher noticed. "What happened during your heroics class… even if I wanted to blame it on you, there's no way I could." Once again, fingers dragging down his features left the man looking all the more exhausted.

"Th-thank you sir." Deku managed to avoid blurting the words out in exaggerated delight. All the same, the teacher yet to speak placed a hand on his shoulder, patting him reassuringly.

"Worry not, young Midoriya. You've nothing to fear as far as all this is concerned." If he had any worries left over at all, All Might had just removed them from the equation. "Eraser Head and I will have your back for as long as you're in our classes." With a thumbs up, a gesture he was only all too famous for making, he concluded, "You have my word."

Rather than say anything on this matter himself, Aizawa simply remained silent. From his complete lack of motion it seemed as though he was trying to blend into his surroundings and disappear. How he loathed promises…

"Now," All Might clapped his hands together, "sorry to just abandon you after this, but I must be on my way. Until next time, future hero!"

For a man of his size, All Might sure could run when he wanted to. Deku's eyes almost hadn't followed through with the motion of his body as he fled the room. Comical as it was, he thought he saw steam or clouds of dust billowing in his wake. For such urgency, it must have been something important.

Again, Aizawa sighed. "You can head outside now, but I'm going to request that you wait for me." Before Deku could ask why, the teacher was already answering. "I imagine your mother… will need convincing that you should be allowed to continue here."

Deku gulped, audibly. A matter his subconscious had been doing its utmost to avoid contemplating, for the sheer terror it elicited. For all the long years he'd been Inko's son, she'd never given him a reason to be afraid of her. Sure, she was terrifying when she was angry -as all mothers are to their children- but this was not what had the junior Midoriya so afraid. For all her nurturing and generally placid demeanor, when she got protective of him there wasn't a force on this earth more formidable.

If there was one thing he and Bakugo had in common, it was that they took after their mothers. Angry, prone to outbursts and the loudest, most imposing voice in whatever room they occupied. The only difference between Bakugo and his mom was that she smiled more, and possessed an indoor voice that didn't still burst people's eardrums. At least, so far as Deku had observed.

During a parent teacher conference, back when Deku was nine, the matter of 'Kacchan's' treatment of the green haired boy had been brought up. When Mrs Bakugo had tried to brush off the matter of her son antagonizing the other boy, Inko had given her a very distinct look. It was the only look she'd needed to sway the conversation in her favor. While she hadn't managed to stop the bullying altogether -as no one and nothing ever did, teachers being as useless as they were- Bakugo had eased it back a bit from then on.

Such a feat from the simple, menacing glare of a mother bear and as icing on the cake: Bakugo's mom, the woman whom the explosive teen took after, was wary of Inko Midoriya. Deku wasn't proud of much, but for that he was proud of her. But now… Now he was afraid of what her verdict would be on this matter, and that thought had him gulping down his nerves. "She- she might…" managed he, fear lacing the tone of his voice.

With another sigh, the hero reached for the closest drawer on his desk. A humble nod was his only indication that he understood. Swiveling around in his chair, massaging his temples, Aizawa motioned for Deku to leave, muttering something about needing a minute. Evidently it hadn't been an easy day for him either. Head held low, the young vampire wandered out of the classroom. Somewhere, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a tall man with incredibly angular features, a shock of spiky blond hair and sunken eyes. Black sclera, much like his own right eye, with piercing blue irises. The man looked exhausted, staggering to the teacher's lounge. Probably the teacher of some extracurricular class he hadn't the option of taking yet. But that could be answered later, right now he wasn't in the mood to find out.

Considering what surely awaited him at home he doubted there was much point in indulging any curiosity relating to this place. Crossing the threshold of the front door, sunglasses adjusted further up his nose now, he flinched a little at the light of the setting sun. It was only a moment later that his eyes blinked open and wide in surprise. Standing, leaning against one of the marble statues lining the walkway to UA's front doors, was a certain woman with long black hair and glowing, blue eyes. When she caught sight of Deku her expression took a turn toward forlorn.

She approached him, sad eyes locked on his face, taking in the damage wrought upon his features. In a surprise gesture, she reached out, fingers running over his scarred flesh, and pulled him into a hug. Further still to his surprise, he didn't mind at all. If anything, the embrace put him at ease. "I'm so sorry, little one." Her hand was on the back of his head, fingers squeezing lightly at his skull.

He hugged her back. "It wasn't your fault… I got reckless, thought I could handle myself enough to face Kacchan…"

She shook her head, hugging him just a bit tighter. "Teaching you how to handle yourself is my job. That you couldn't, and wound up like this, is my failure. Not yours." Why was everyone determined to take the blame away from him?

Behind him, the doors to the school opened, Aizawa stepping through them paused at the sight of them embracing. Seeing them act so… human jarred him, like a needle had pierced his chest. Bodies, broken and torn to pieces by his own hands flashed before his eyes. Faces twisted in horror, rage, lips spread just wide enough to show their fangs but the eyes, always so afraid as their faint glow extinguished, held an icy grip on his mind. Motion of two creatures, the only two yet living, pulled him free of the visions. She was shielding the boy with her arms, glaring at the hero with accusation burning in gaze. All he could do was look away in shame, though he let none of it show. Both because of the day behind him and the years further still in the past.

Now wasn't the time to face down those demons… "Thought you'd be here sooner." He adopted his usual tone: tired, gruff and seemingly without the patience required to deal with humanity.

Her eyes glared for another moment longer, but the look faded as she released the boy from her arms. It seemed she was intent on giving the impression that all was well between her and the hunter. "I came as soon as I got the message," she disclosed, "other responsibilities kept me occupied from the moment I awoke." Despite her warm smile, those eyes still cut like razors. "And I believe you know of what I speak."

Indeed he did. "We can discuss this later," Sighed the weary, sleep deprived human, "right now we have other matters to contend with..."

It was never the easiest life, not the one she'd imagined, raising her son. You'd always hear stories, what it was like to raise quirkless children. The long silences, the tears from crushed dreams and aspirations all children have, the bruises they'd refuse to explain, gotten from fights that teachers would demand you put a stop to. As if you scolding your child hard enough would stop the bullies from hitting them. As if your child shouldn't stand up for themselves in the face of that inevitable bullying; for the quirkless, such treatment seemed a lonely inevitability. What you never heard about was the stories about how hard it was to go through it all alone. Of course, for 'little Izu' such was the reality from the get-go, but for Inko Midoriya the solitude came a few months into the diagnosis.

Credit Japan for as much as you like: its cuisine, the colorful and sordid history of its ever evolving culture and the art that came with it, technological advances, the creation of certain animated entertainment medium. If there was one thing the people never seemed entirely rid of -something hardly unique to the nation in question- it was foolishly prideful men, clinging to the last vestiges of an outdated, archaic form of masculinity. It was such that prompted Hisashi to abandon his family, leaving for some faraway nation once described as 'a frozen wasteland whose only exports were alcohol and domestic abuse'. So it goes…

Soldiering on, dusting off her degree from college and heading back into the professional she went. Her old boss had been more than happy to hire her back on, apparently her newest accountant was an idiot, head in the clouds and all too eager to clock out each and every day. Sad as she was to get someone fired, her baby needed her here. Many a tired night was spent crying herself to sleep after tucking that little boy in and singing him to slumber.

Now, despite the persecution, despite his obvious handicap and ever mounting stacked odds against his favor, her son was attending UA and on the road to becoming a hero. It almost didn't seem real, such an impossible and unlikely feat being performed by her little boy. She'd have tasted a lie to say that the fear for his safety didn't come some small amount of pride. Although, the aforementioned fear rather overwhelmed most other feelings she had about their present situation. Nothing was more pressing on her mind than the worry that she would one day receive some news, delivered with the cold clinicity only doctors or police could manage, describing some horrid affair that left her baby in ruins.

It didn't help that it was presently well past the time he usually texted, announcing he was on his way home. She could only fidget with her tea, read so many pages of her book before it all started really digging in. A text shot his way went unanswered. Another, asking him what he wanted for dinner, served as a gentle reminder that she was awaiting a reply; or any word at all. Rather than any sort of reply to calm her currently spastic nerves, she received a jolt to her heart when someone knocked on the door. Clearing her throat, attempting to center herself, she walked to the door and opened it. Had she been holding anything at all, it would have clattered to the floor as a testament to her shock. There was her son, one of his eyes gone black where it had once been white and burn scars along the upper half of his face. To make the sight of him all the more jarring, his hair on that same side had gone white as paper.

Concern, shock, the whole gamut of what she felt must have been painted on her face, for Izuku couldn't bear to look her in the eye. "H- hi mom…"

Unable to cognize in the slightest Inko's arms flung themselves around him, pulling him in tight. "Who?" Wavering as it was, weighted with guilt along with the whirlwind of feelings she was already failing to conceal, her voice was only a touch more audible than his. "What happened?"

Her gaze was now a sharp glare, aimed at the two adults looming behind her son. One was a man, bedraggled, disheveled and worn with fatigue as one could be. Tall, sharp eyed and deceptively unimposing figure. The second was a woman, clearly a foreigner. Pale as the moon, slender, the posture of one brimming with confidence despite the shame on her face. Glowing blue eyes hiding behind a pair of dark sunglasses, long, flowing, black hair which seemed tinted with red wherever the light reflected off it. Giving her an unsettling air were the shadows cast upon her sunken cheeks, from the faint glow of her eyes.

When no answer was forthcoming from either of them, she spoke again. "Who are you, and what happened to my son?" Now her tone cut like a hot knife, intimidating as the cry of a warrior. She knew not what a feat she'd achieved when the scraggly man had to swallow his unease.

"Apologies," her glare sharpened at the man's hastily given recompense, "I'm Shota Aizawa, your son's homeroom teacher."

The woman -though perhaps 'lady' would have been a more fitting label for her- reflexively raised her hand, offering a handshake, only to lower it again. "You may call me Vanessa. Vanessa Valentine." She inclined her head, hair falling from behind her ear and trailing down toward the ground. "We… owe you an explanation."

The following turn of events went all too painfully slowly for the taste of either Midoriya in the household. Izuku was sent to his room, tea was poured from the already singing kettle and the three adults gathered round the dining room table. A tale was spun, one that started less than four hours ago. While Aizawa hadn't been there for the events, he had enough first hand accounts from all involved to provide all that was necessary for a retelling. At the end of it, even with the grisliest of details censored as much as could be, Inko was mortified, furious, beside herself with trembling hands resting on her teacup.

After a tempered, slow sip of her tea, a long exhalation of air served as the only viable method to calm herself. "Years." she murmured. "That boy has been picking on my Izuku for years." Not once did her tone lilt from its steady, controlled pace. "And now, only after he was almost murdered by that boy, does anyone even begin to address it." She had to avert her eyes from them, tears were threatening to run freely. It made her angry, she wasn't sad she was furious. "What the hell…?" She could feel her teeth gritting. "Is this what I think it is? Some plea for me not to sue the school?"

Oh how tempting a thought it was… maybe then people would finally take her claims seriously. Maybe then something would finally be done for her son's benefit instead of just the same old, tired routine of ignoring him; like all the other quirkless in the world, it seemed all anyone wanted was to look away until they disappeared. Society's ugly little blemish.

If their loved ones were so disadvantaged, how then would the lot of them treat ones such as her little Izu? "Tell me," she turned her face back toward them, "why on earth shouldn't I? I left him in your care, under your supervision and this wasn't prevented!" She couldn't help the climbing decibel level of her speech. Over a decade of this was too much, and seeing people start to care only in a scenario where it potentially affected them directly? No. No more. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't, and pull him as far away from that school as I can!" Shoulders shaking, tears glistening under the artificial light and glare that would have made a hunger crazed lion think twice before approaching. Incredible for one so unimposing in the faces of such company.

For a long time, both her 'guests' contemplated this. Neither of them had the nerve to speak. Arguing with such a declaration… how could they? To Aizawa's surprise, The Lady beat him to it. "How did your son get into UA?"

Inko had to suppress a growl. "What's that got to do with any of this?"

Valentine persisted, her tone soft. "Do you know?"

Another bout of gritting her teeth preempted any further reply. "An oversight, I assumed." She murmured, continuing to hold back her ferocity. "He's clearly not safe attending that school. Why you decided to humor such a suicidal endeavor is beyond me, but he shouldn't have had to pay for it."

Aizawa's eyes crept further open, his shoulders drooping lower. She didn't know… "You still think he's quirkless." The man breathed. Credit where it was due, young Midoriya was better at keeping his identity a secret than he'd suspected.

The whirlwind of emotions Miss Midoroya had been keeping at bay flickered. "Of course I do," she looked at him like he was an idiot, "if he had a quirk he would have been over the moon. Happy, bouncing off the walls with joy," memories of her boy behaving exactly like that carried a bitter sting. He'd been like that once, so bright and full of life, smiling at almost every turn. But now… "but he's not like that any more." More tears, these ones giving her guests a dull ache in their chests for the sympathy it prompted. "He had it kicked out of him over the last ten years… Now he barely even smiles at me."

The teacher felt like a mountain had just been dropped on his back. It was on them to tell her what had become of her son. There really was no justice in the world at all… Breaking the momentary silence, Valentine tentatively began to speak. "Miss Midoriya," began she, earning the direct gaze of the woman she was intent on breaking the news to. "Do you remember the night your son wound up in the hospital? It would have been a month or so ago at this point."

"Of course I remember," she eyed the stranger curiously, warily. "That's not the kind of thing you just forget because it 'ended well'." Only words so true, or perhaps less so, had ever been spoken. "What's that got to do with anything?"

It took another moment for Valentine to find the right words. "Everything…" a slow going endeavor, for this was not a topic hastily delved into. "That night, I saw your son try to save that other boy," Inko's finger tightened around her mug, "and I saw him get hurt. Saw him flung from the alleyway and found him dying." The mother's gaze averted, blinking back another round of tears.

"When I got to him," Said Vanessa, "he had maybe minutes left to live."

Some of Inko's ire gave way to a fearful curiosity, unsure where this woman was going with her story.

"Make no mistake, I called an ambulance but… not before I made him an offer." Now, all that was worn on the mother's face was worry, the air this story held was one that would have made most anyone uneasy; never mind when it was being told in regards to one's family. "I offered him his life, a chance at being a hero." Inko's eyes went wide. "But it came with a price, a change in his very being that I've neglected to aid him in adjusting to." And she met the human's gaze allowing her fangs to peek just a touch past her lips. "In order to save his life… I had to turn him into what I am, Miss Midoriya: a Vampire."

She could scarcely believe it, even with one such creature staring her in the face. "Vampire?" she breathed, quite reluctant to accept this as truth. "Your taste in jokes is abhorrent." and her grip once again tightened around her. "My son's life isn't some-!"

"It's the truth…" Aizawa interrupted, doing her no small favor. This was not a conversation meant to be overheard and had he not interjected, she might have started yelling. Admirable that it took her so long to get to that point. "Most of my career, my… success is largely credited to hunting them down." He met the mother's gaze, finding her full of shock, terror.

It pained him considerably to be among those responsible for such grief. "Vampires… officially they're extinct, Valentine is the only one who was allowed to live and she… well, her life is essentially owned by the hero organization she's technically employed by." A slight shuffling could be heard from Izuku's room, surprised at overhearing such a thing. "She has to work as a hero, never turn another living soul, harm no innocents… It was the only way I could secure her continuing existence."

Now it was his fingers tightening their grip and he let out a long sigh. "You asked us why your son should still attend UA? I only have one answer," and for the first time, in he no longer knew how many years, his facade cracked. Lurking behind the face of this tired, unfeeling man was an old fool consumed by guilt; and it was eating him alive, "all his life, he's lived as an outcast, friendless and rejected by society," underhanded as it was to say, it was the truth, "but now… it looks like that's turning around for him."

He had to look away from her, eyes peering into his tea, yet untouched. "In addition to being the only place, the only path that might teach him to control himself and adjust to his new species, the hero world is the only place I can think of where he might actually fit in and have a chance at happiness." It was a conviction he held with the utmost sincerity, weighted by the accompanying guilt of such manipulation though it was.

Aizawa gave Inko an apologetic look, unable to mask it away. "I'm sorry, but I don't have another answer for you aside from this," he inclined his head, bowing to the woman who'd welcomed him into her home, "I will do everything I can to ensure his safety, and that his time is not wasted in my class."

"You may count on myself as well," Valentine put forward, following suit with the bow, "if it means sacrificing my time as 'hero', then so be it. I am responsible for him being as he is, and the consequences that shall befall me for being so."

For a time, they remained much like that. Teacher and a murderer, a monster and a hero, bowing before a humble single mother of one. In their collective hands rested not only the fate of one boy -a boy more important than all the world where the mother was concerned- and an entire species along with him.

So long as it was within his best interests, "...Okay." she would accept this course of action. "Just… keep your promises, please. He's been through so much already…" and their conversation was concluded.

Guests ushered to the door, apologies issued, farewells spoken, phone numbers traded, they bid each other goodnight. As Inko closed the door, gently turning the locks, she felt the world falling onto her shoulders, much as it had on that fateful day of her son's diagnosis. Numbly, she walked to his room and knocked on the door only to hear the sound of shuffling blankets. Him hiding beneath them. Bracing herself she entered his room, seeing curled up beneath the covers and doing his best to stop crying. The sounds of him struggling, grappling with his feelings… no, too much. She closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms tight around him.

Almost immediately, he tried to get away. "M-mom, no!" The panic in his voice… "I'm not safe! You shouldn't-"

"I don't care." she squeezed tighter.

He struggled more, doing his best to avoid hurting her as he tried to squirm away. "Please, when I cry I can't- can't-" he had to force words through a strangled sob, her eyes winced tight, tears pushing through them. "I'll just end up biting you!"

"I don't care…" and she pushed her face against the top of his head, petting him soothingly with one of her hands. "You're my baby boy." He froze, going silent in the process. "If you think some teeth are going to scare me away, after everything else, you are wrong." She could feel his shoulder shaking again. "I'm not letting go."

I'm sorry, Izuku! I'm so sorry!

The last thing on earth she ever should have said back then, echoing in her mind for how familiar this moment seemed. In time, she had come to regret saying such a thing to him. "I don't care what happens." And he gripped at her arms, burying his face against them as he started sobbing violently, shaking in her arms like a child.

A last moment to be human, before things would truly begin to change.

Outside the home, some distance away on the street, Vanessa stood and listened. How she hated what had become of this family, due to her meddling. But it couldn't be helped, her decision was no less correct than it had been that month ago. If was ever correct at all. To her left, and some distance further still, Aizawa drained the contents of his hip-flask into his mouth and swallowed. Coughing caught his attention, and he turned to see a frighteningly thin man with very angular features approaching.

"You're late." Aizawa almost growled.

"Sorry," said the living scarecrow, "Recovery Girl wanted to make sure I was alright. I pushed myself pretty far past my time-limit today." A fact that Aizawa had neglected to remember amidst all the day's chaos. "She almost didn't let me leave at all."

The scraggly man scoffed. "You can't hide behind that excuse and be the symbol of peace at the same time. People aren't only going to need you when it's convenient." This earned a rather curious, if not scathing, look from Vanessa, finally turning her attention away from the semi hysterical family.

At the exact same time, the scarecrow noticed her presence as well. "Aizawa," he spoke in a low murmur, "we're not alone…" but then… he recognized her. She was the civilian who'd gotten far too close to the slime-villain that day. "You…" he breathed, "what are you doing here?"

In reply she walked over to him, hand pulling a hero ID from her pocket. "Relax, your secret is safe, mister...?"

He extended his hand, always nice to meet a fellow do-gooder. "Yagi," he disclosed as she accepted the handshake, "Toshinori Yagi. I think you know my other name."

He offered a polite smile, one she graciously returned. "Indeed, and you'll be pleased to know our 'Young Midoriya'," she cast a mocking glance at Aizawa, reminding him of his accidental starting of that little naming trend, "will not be halting his attendance." And her hands went to her pockets as the skeleton sighed in relief. He hadn't let the boy down so entirely as he'd feared after all.

"This is hardly a time for relief," Aizawa commented, "if anything now we'll have to work twice as hard to compensate for all that happened today, thanks to our lack of diligence." Vanessa bowed her head, eyes drifting from the other two as she began to walk away from the home in earnest. It was getting late… Aizawa was about to follow when he noticed something from Yagi. He was looking at the home, regarding it seriously, one of his feet pointed right at the front door. An all too obvious tell… "Now's not the time to bother them."

Yagi sighed, smirked, then nodded. "You're right… it was a foolish thought anyways." In the end it wouldn't have served the boy as much as it would have served him. "That young one has enough burdens to carry."

"Heh," Aizawa chuckled, humorlessly. "If you're that impatient for a successor, I think Nighteye is right with his recommendation."

"I'm not so sure…"

"And I doubt you ever will be." He beckoned for the older man to follow. "Come on, let's find some food or something. After all this, I'm famished." Yagi chuckled, falling in step behind him. At least one of them seemed to have spirits that hadn't been wounded in all this.

Chapter Text

Neither knew just how much time went by, with them so entwined as they were. All they knew was how tired they felt from all the crying. Inko sat on the floor, right next to the bed where Deku was perched. Knees scrunched up beneath his nose, he waited in silence for her to say something. Anything. When she finally did, he was almost surprised. "So you've been dealing with this, alone, for around a month now..." He buried his face behind his knees, she sighed. "You didn't think you could tell me?" The tone of her voice, she just sounded so wounded. Hurt by his apparent lack of trust.

"What could I have said?" He put forward. "It's not like I didn't think about it, didn't want to tell you…" His finger gripped at the blankets, fiddling with them in an attempt to draw his attention anywhere but this conversation. "But I was scared you wouldn't believe me, or worse that I'd scare you."

She scoffed, laughingly almost. "Scared of you? Izu, you're almost as harmless a newborn kitten. How could I be scared of you?"

"Because I barely have this under control!" Now he was turned toward her, no longer bunched up in a ball. "I've… bitten three people already, and I was doing everything I could not to!" He grimaced, eyes scrunched up in pained shame. "You'd be crazy if you weren't scared…"

"Guess I'm crazy then." Deku was about to protest when he opened his eyes. She had *that* look on her face. That look which said this was not an argument he was going to win, as her mind was already made. "I made my mind up a long time ago, Izuku. No matter what happens, I'll get through it for you." A sentiment that carried more of a sting than she'd intended, the weight of the potential guilt alone was enough to leave the poor boy tight in chest; almost fighting for breath. "After all," she smiled, putting a hand on her son's face, lightly holding that ghastly scar, silently swearing Bakugo would never again get away with hurting her boy. "That's the kind of thing people do, when they care. Isn't it?"

...Now that was a hell of a question, one he'd never really been able to find an answer to. Even by the time he'd arrived at school, the following morning, it was still bothering him. Amidst all the emotional turmoil, likely worsened by his having to rapidly recover from severe brain damage, both the previous day and this following morning had become a blur. So much so that when a reporter shoved a microphone his face, asking what kind of teacher All Might was, he blanked on what he should even say. He just blurted out, "I'm due in home room!" and fled.

When the same microphone was turned on Jiro and Akaguro he rolled his eyes while she merely ignored it. Under his breath, Akaguro muttered, "Putrid symptoms of an increasingly vapid culture… fools, the lot of them."

Jiro quirked an eyebrow, being the only other person with the ears to hear what he'd said. "The reporters or the folks who watch what their 'stories'?"

Akaguro gave this a moment's consideration. "...Yes." was his simply reply.

"Huh?" Apparently it was Uraraka's turn to get grilled. "What's he look like in front of the class?" She struck a bodybuilder's pose, half heartedly flexing while she awkwardly averted her eyes from the camera, trying to smile. "Um… Super muscly!" She giggled nervously,"yeah…"

Now it was Jiro rolling her eyes. Sighing, she muttered, "way to make our class look airheaded."

Deku blinked, turning to her, his fingers fussing at each other. "It- it's not like the three of us made the class look much better… Socially awkward and kinda rude, at best."

She had to hand him that one. "Mm, touche."

Then, much to Akaguro's amusement, someone made the mistake of asking Iida what All Might was like as a teacher. "Every day with him is a reminder that I am enrolled at the preeminent educational institution." Some of the camera crew exchanged very confused looks. The boy had quite the vocabulary, to be certain. "Beyond his dignity and presence, he's also quite humorous." Hmm… Deku must have missed some joke he'd told the other day. "As we students are privy to observing his many facets, we've been given an opportunity to discover just what makes a top hero a top hero."

The lanky Dhampire chuckled quietly. "Wordy bastard, isn't he?" He turned over his shoulder giving Iida an disconcertingly amused look. "Well, if you two were worried about the classes image, I'd say he just saved it."

Then, of course, they'd try asking Bakugo and they would recognize him from the slime-villain incident. "Fuck off." Was the warhead's only retort, as he ground his teeth.

Jiro sighed, shaking her head with a tired smirk. "You were saying?"

"Excuse me," Aizawa's voice cut above the din of the reporters and gathered students, "but you're interrupting our classes by delaying the students. Please leave." When he spun about, apparently incurring the ire of an all too impatient reporter, a massive, electronic steel door slammed shut and magnetically locked.

In that moment, though he could never be sure, Deku thought he'd caught a glimpse of someone in the crowd. Someone with a paper-white, disembodied hand clinging to their face and a cold, dead look in their eyes.

Uraraka yelped, jumping away from the door. "What just happened!?"

"That?" Aizawa replied, careless as the wind. "Security system. Anyone who tries to cross the gate without a student or faculty ID or a guest pass triggers that gate."

"Seems a tad excessive…" commented Jiro.

Aizawa shrugged. "I never thought so." and he made a shooing motion with his hand. "Now go on, all of you. Head to ground beta and finish up with All Might's class." Deku was about to comly when Aizawa pointed right at him. "Not you. You're coming with me."

Deku blinked. "Um. Okay… why?"

"Quirk training." Was the man's simple reply, and Deku was fairly certain he knew what he meant. After another grueling round of Aizawa locking him in the shed -an opened container of human blood at the opposite end of the room, laser tripwires and all- almost everything from the last week vacated his memory. While he'd been subjected to another round of said humiliation the rest of the class was with All Might, completing their lesson left unfinished. But that was considerably distant from his mind, as at that moment he was presently gulping down the contents of the canister that had been tormenting him.

"Hmm…" Aizawa mulled, "one less laser tripped than last time." He frowned, putting away his touch-pad. "Not much of an improvement but I hadn't expected you to have improved at all just yet."

Gasping for air, involuntarily licking his lips clean, Deku stammered in reply. "G-guess that's g-good then…" had he always such difficulty formulating sentences? How he loathed his unrelenting hunger. Grabbing his uniform jacket -which he had been allowed to discard- he got back on his now unsteady legs.

Shrugging, Aizawa put the pad into one of his pockets. "It'll do." He spun on his feet, motioning for the young man to follow him. The last time this had been done it wasn't just some brief warm up, preempting another class, it had been almost the entire class. First days at UA were usually painfully brief. On that particular first day, Deku would have emphatically disagreed. "Is your costume repaired?"

The vampire blinked. "Um… I don't think so." Unsteady as he felt, he trudged behind his teacher, keeping pace. "Wh-" Only he finished his question. On his way out of the shed his hair snared in a spiderweb and flailed away from it, hands scraping at his hair and flinging the webs off his fingertips when he managed to claw it free.

As the boy shuddered, looking paler than usual, Aizawa gave him an almost amused, skeptical look. "...for a lesson later today it's encouraged that you wear it." As if to punctuate the end of his sentence, the scraggly man took a hefty swig from his hip-flask. "Though with the amount of damage it sustained, it's unlikely it will have been repaired." Capping the hip flask, he returned it to his pocket. "If you feel the costume needs anything changed, now would be the time to say so." And they crossed the threshold into the main building. As the teacher slipped his hands into his pockets, the student slipped back into his jacket. "The others should be back soon." Aizawa yawned as they entered the classroom, taking his usual seat at his desk. Hands resting just below his ribcage, the scraggly man leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. True to his word, the rest of the class filed in not long after Deku had taken his own seat.

Uraraka and Iida waved at him as they entered the room, "Hey, Deku!" she called over the mild din, earning a nervous smirk and a wave from the boy.

A wary glance was thrown his way from Yaoyorozu, which she tried to mask with a smile that even one such as Deku could see through. Kaminari and Mina wandered in, business as usual, chatting about something and snickering. That guy with the tail and the bird-guy just went to their seats silently, eager to see what came next. The six-armed one lumbered to his desk, doing his utmost not to bump into anyone. He wasn't very successful. Akaguro regarded the vampire sympathetically. As he walked passed him to his desk, he pulled out his phone and began typing at the keys. When Deku's pocket buzzed, the message simply read 'here if you need me.' To which he replied 'thanks. I'll remember that.' After they exchanged a friendly, knowing look -despite his best efforts, there remained that unsettling presence in Akaguro's eyes- Deku looked up to see Bakugo.

He was staring at him, something resembling shocked, terrified guilt plastered all over his face. Eyes fixed on the right side of the vampire's head, a cold sweat broke out across his brow. It was one thing to hear you'd hurt someone, someone you know; it was another to see the damage you wrought upon them firsthand, to know you'd marked someone irreparably out of blind fury. Without a word, his jaw slowly closing, the walking warhead averted his eyes and walked quietly to his seat, resigning himself to stare at the floor in silent contemplation.

For once, the aura exuded by his mere presence was almost too distant to read. If it hadn't come with a certain absence of an old fear, it might have been disconcerting. Last to her seat was Jiro who looked Deku up and down, scanning for anything out of place, before looking him in the eye. She waved almost nonchalantly, then sat down. What to make of that, he had no clue but stirring at the front of the classroom interrupted any chance at contemplation.

Sighing from the dashed hopes of having a short nap, Aizawa stood up and addressed his class. "Okay…" he said, fighting against the sleep trying to cling to his throat. "Today you're choosing a class president."

In an instant, the atmosphere exploded as the noise lever rocketed to daring new volumes. "I wanna be president!" Yelled the red-head with bountiful enthusiasm. "Let me do it!" He had teeth like a shark's, rows of sharp, triangular fangs lining his gums. To think there were people with more intimidating maws than he…

"I'd like to do it." That was Jiro, speaking at a reasonable volume with a raised hand. By far the most reserved of those making such proclamations.

Behind him Deku heard Akaguro snort, turning around he saw the taller student leering out the window in disdain. Curious behavior considering that such a position looked good to hero associations. For any other high school, the class president would merely take on menial tasks, the kinds of things most roll their eyes at. But in a hero course at a school like UA, it would entail leading the group in all manner of scenarios. A position suited for a top hero in the making.

Ayoyama's hand rocketed up. "The position was made for me." It seemed his calm, level speech and his body were at odds with how he was to express himself.

"I wanna be a leader!" Ashido cheered, standing up and materializing at the front row. Deku silently wondered where she got those reserves of energy from as he also considered the obvious.

Should he go for position? He barely had control over himself at this point, assuming yet further responsibilities could tax his mental faculties beyond their already straining limits. Ahead of him, Bakugo was raising his hand, though he made no attempt at vocalization. Though initially disorienting, it did afford him some room to think. Wanted every advantage though he did, this seemed a bad idea to go for. He already had enough to keep his mind occupied with his screaming hunger, a hunger that never quieted. Pursuing the position would only place those around him in further danger from himself. So he avoided raising his hand and drew his eyes upon the surface of his desk.

Taking this moment of calamitous outcries to center himself, he focused on his breathing. While the rest of the class went about its discussion, the noise seemed to draw further and further away. Sensation of his body, motionless beneath his clothing as his autonomous functions carried on, registered as a warm, radiating pulse. The sound of rushing liquid, buried beneath his skin, filled his awareness along with his shallow breath. Then, as a form of calm seemed to linger at the border of his mind, he felt it: the raging hunger in the pit of his stomach. It screamed like the wind of a hurricane, tearing through flames. Twisting its way up through his core, snaring its fingers in his conscious mind and snaking their way past his free will. A vice like grip held on the center of his very identity, pulling at it like the reins in a horse's teeth. So this was what he was wrestling with, every waking moment… So his enemy had a face, so to speak. Now he could single it out and the path it took to get a hold on him. If there was a next step to this process he was interrupted before he could figure out what it was.

"Say you abstain."

Deku blinked, peering over his shoulder at Akaguro. He was sitting in his seat, much like before, only now he was looking at him. Side of his face leaning into the curled fingers of his hand, knuckles digging into his own cheekbones somehow accentuated the blase look in his eyes. "W-what?" Stammered the vampire.

Akaguro sighed. "Voting, for the class president. If you want out of the running, say you abstain." He made some half hearted gesture to the rest of the class, getting out pens to scribble down the name of whoever they wanted to vote for. "Blame Iida, he's the one that suggested it…"

After raising his hand, albeit hesitantly, he'd drawn the attention of Yaoyorozu, who was at the whiteboard with a marker ready. "Yes, Midoriya?"

Gulping, he did his best to speak up. "I uh, I'd like to withdraw from the running."

At his request, somewhere near the back of the class, he heard at least one person crumple up whatever they were writing on. Uraraka, from the sound of it, and that pulled at a heartstring. Yaoyorozu could only blink in reply. "Are… you sure?" her eyes darted between he and Akaguro. "You know what holding this position would do for your academic record, don't you?" At his nod she in turn made the same gesture, erasing his name from the running.

Turning over his shoulder again, Deku whispered to his dhampiric friend. "How'd you know I wanted out?"

He shrugged. "Your body language looked more timid than usual, like you were trying to disappear." He made some motion toward the front of the class. "If you care about this kind of thing, probably best you write something down." Nodding, Deku reached for his pen and notebook.

The matter of who to vote for, not something he'd considered having to care about any time soon. To make matters somewhat tricky was the fact that he knew none of these people very well. The only classmates he was at all familiar with didn't seem entirely suited for the position or didn't want it. The way Iida had answered those reporters's questions was impressive, definitely eloquent enough to warrant a point in his favor; even if some of his over abundant, serious enthusiasm was a but much.

Uraraka was nice but… If she was just going to vote for him anyways then she might not want to be class president. Deciding to respect that, he next considered Jiro. Level headed, determined and not lacking a certain fire, though that could be said to be a point against her. If passions were running high, she did have a temper… damn it, he couldn't vote for her either.

Ashido maybe, but she might not take it seriously enough. Although, she cared about her classmates, so said everything she'd done to help him during yesterday's ordeal. Kaminari was still something of an unknown to him as well, though he wasn't a bad guy. Hell, Deku had almost bitten him and he more or less hadn't cared.

Well, it turned out to be an easier thought puzzle than he'd anticipated. Scrawling down his vote, Deku walked to the front of the class and submitted it. Surprisingly, Akaguro submitted a vote as well. At the questioning look he threw his way the Dhampire merely grinned. 'You will see' the smile chillingly said. His near constant exudance of that unsettling aura made one wonder just what had happened to make him like that.

Over the next few minutes, after- Deku had to do a double take. There was someone invisible in the class? How long had that been the case? His mind started racing, considering the numerous ways in which her quirk must have functioned, but this was ultimately cut short by her tallying up the votes and exclaiming that they had a winner. "With four votes in total, we have Yaoyorozu!" Some cursory congratulations were given, grumbling from those who'd failed blending in with the noise, but not long afterwards the invisible girl had another announcement. "And it looks Ashido got second place with three." After a celebratory cheer from Ashido, the invisible girl added, "guess we have our vice president then."

Walking to head of the class, smiling with as much reservation as she could, Yayorozu said, "thanks for the confidence, everyone."

At her side, her own joy completely unrestrained, was Ashido thrusting her hand up in a peace sign. "We won't letcha down!" Deku did his best to avoid smiling. He didn't want to give away that he'd been at least one of the votes she'd gotten.

"Zero votes…." A barely noticeable murmur from the crushed spirits of one Tenya Iida. "I suspected as much! This is the harsh reality of this sacred office…" The poor boy looked so crushed, downcast by his compatriots lack of faith in him.

"Wait," Yayorozu blinked, regarding the engine-calved in disbelief, "you voted for someone else…?" at her incredulous murmuring Kaminari slowly spun around with a very skeptical look on his face, looking right at Iida.

"You were the one who suggested this," said a very large boy with puffy lips, "what were you trying to prove?"

Before any sort of reply could be issued the lunch bell rang, rousing the slumbering Aizawa promptly. Groaning he stood up, and addressed his class. "After lunch, suit up and head to the parking lot. We'll be heading to your next lesson from there." Then he motioned for the door, a non verbal order to leave and head for lunch.

Seconds before Deku was out the door the teacher poked his shoulder, prompting him to turn around. Handing the young man a thermos, something that was becoming a daily ritual, he said, "See you after lunch." Raising a finger, pointing right at Deku's face, he added, "And no more eating on the roof. We have rules against that."

The vampire was puzzled for a moment. "Plural?"

"I know what I said." Once again he pointed to the door. "Drink up. You're going to need it."

Nodding, now feeling a tad apprehensive, Deku wandered out the door. Hands gripping at the thermos with his dreaded nourishment inside. Well, if the roof was off limits there had to be somewhere else no one would go. The benches outside, littered among the sparse trees around the school, were sure to be packed on a day like today. He could try wandering out to the perimeter wall, near the gate, but the sunlight there would doubtlessly be rather intense right about now. Maybe he could just go to an empty classroom, the only reason Aizawa discouraged his students eating lunch in home room was because he slept during lunch. In fact he slept so much Deku suspected he had some sort of sleep disorder.

Yanking him from these musings was a voice he might have beens starting to get used to. "Hey, Green." Jiro's nickname for him. Looking up and seeing her walking with quite a few other students. Yaoyorozu, Iida, Ashido, Kaminari, Uraraka and Akaguro. The violet eyed girl flagging him down made him smirk. "You should sit with us this time."

Considering the number of classmates headed to one table, he was hesitant to think there'd be room. "Is- would that be okay?"

"Totally," Ashido said, waving aside any worries he might have, "they've got a lotta tables. If we need more room we'll just bunch a couple of em together. No biggie."

Kaminari chuckled, as one does when trying not to remember something unpleasant. "Yeah, cuz that went so well last time we did that…"

Ashido stuck her tongue out at him. "You're just mad that one guy tricked you into saying you were a 'mutant pikachu'." At that comment, Jiro had to suppress a snicker.

"And like I keep saying," Kaminari fumed, more embarrassed than anything, "I don't even remember saying it." By this point the group was resuming course down to the lunch room.

Teasingly, Ashido held up her phone. "I still have the video~" she almost sang under her breath.

"Is that truly necessary?" Iida remarked, feeling sorry for the yellow-haired boy. "That seems like it would be humiliating enough without such evidence existing."

"It does seem a little mean spirited…" Yaoyorozu had to agree.

Hearing this, considering her actions, Ashido almost looked hurt, guilty. Holding her phone in both hands, fussing with the device, "You think so?" she looked at the video file in question like a belonging a child was told they had outgrown. "I just… it was so cute…"

Seeing that look on her face, Kaminari's head slumped forward and his palm dug into his forehead. "Fine…" relented he, "you can keep it." Shaking his head and frowning even as she beamed at him, he added, "just don't show anyone."

With a grin and thumbs up she exclaimed, "I promise!" Then, quieter than before, she said, "You're the best, Kami." smiling with something that almost looked like warmth.

That damn smile threatened to give the poor boy diabetes. "...let's just go eat." He grumbled, doing his utmost not to look at her, shoving his hands in his pockets.

That earned an enthusiastic nod from Uraraka. "We're probably gonna need all the extra energy we can get." She commented off handedly to the group. "Mister Aizawa telling us to get into our costumes and all."

Akauro grumbled, ponderously as they approached the buffet line. "We don't seem to spend much time out of them I've noticed…"

"That's where your mind is?" Yaoyorozu quirked an eyebrow, "I'm curious about why they told us to go to the parking lot. They might be sending us off campus for next class."

Such a thought had Deku gulping. "Already? But it's only our third day…" he mumbled through clenched teeth, "I thought classes like that didn't come until much later in the school year."

"He makes a good point," Iida mused aloud, "it's likely we're just heading somewhere else on campus."

An idea Jiro was hesitant to seriously consider. "Somewhere we'd have to drive to?" Remarked she. "Like where?"

Uraraka shrugged, finally getting the chance to grab some rice when a thought occurred. "You know… I think I saw a huge dome structure on the school website. If I'm remembering the geography right that should be about that far away."

A large dome… Thinking back to when he was navigating the website himself, he thought he might have recalled seeing something like that. No name or description of what it was for, just another high tech facility to show off the envious public and prospective students alike. But it was the only facility anyone seemed to know of that was so segregated from the main building. As the group took their seats among their fellow students Akaguro cast Iida a questioning look. "Nothing to say?"

Somewhat taken aback, the bespectacled teenager hesitated at an answer. "I'm… not sure what you mean." His tone was far from convincing.

Deku almost narrowed his eyes at him, sipping at his thermos -how he hated his tongue for relishing the flavor- when he noticed Yaoyorozu deliberately avert her eyes. She almost looked sick, biting at her lower lip and squirming a little. Not sure what else to do Deku just gulped the rest of it down in a flash. When Uraraka gave him a quizzical look he shrugged, playing it off as nothing. Still, there a certain twist in his gut prompted by the class president's reaction.

"Your older brother went to school here, if the rumors are to be believed." Blinking, taken from his ponderings Deku looked up to see Akaguro smirking, almost darkly, at Iida, and the all too serious of the two was looking quite nervous.

That comment caught Jiro's attention. "Older brother?" Iida looked as though he wanted to shrink down a good four feet and run away.

"Iida…" Kaminari mused aloud, though it was little more than a whisper. "That does sound kinda familiar."

"Oh!" Yaoyorozu said, finding some of her pep. "Are you Ingenium's little brother?" And Iida deflated into a defeated, sighing slump.

Deku's eyes went wide, "The hero who's organization employs over 65 sidekicks!? That's your-" and a sudden twitching of his jaw, one he was quite familiar with by now, cut him off. Clamping his teeth back together, trying to keep himself under control. He almost hadn't felt the urge coming, were it not for that bit of meditation -for he knew not what else to call it- he might not have recognized it in time.

Adjusting his glasses, he seemed almost a little better for it as he sat back up. "I don't like it when people find out, so I try to it…" looking back toward the group, his usual demeanor returned, he carried on with his answer, "But yes, mine is a renowned hero family. I am the second son." At such a statement, he almost looked proud.

Beaming, their reaction almost synchronized, both Ashido and Uraraka blurted out with, "That's so cool!"

"It's true," Iida said frankly, "he is rather someone to look up to." From nervous humility to joyful pride in seconds flat. No setting between off and high for his emotional state, it seemed. "He leads people with unwavering adherence to rules and regulations. It's my admiration for my brother that's inspired my own desire to become a hero." Then, with a genuine, calm smile, he concluded his little speech.

His fingers fussed at the opposite wrist, trailing over a small bracelet he wore. A metallic band with what looked a 1950's pin adorned at the center. A black and blue outline of a cartoon face, two swept back protrusions off the top of the head resembling horns. Wait… the Astro Boy logo?

"Though I realize I'm not yet ready to lead anyone, this class presidential election is just the most recent evidence of this." Iida's eyes flashed to Deku, thinking back to that moment during the entrance exams. He'd been ready to just flee in the face of such a behemoth when Kaminari had shouted at him, saying they couldn't just leave their fellows behind. Ashido hadn't even bothered shouting anything, she'd just started running toward it, Ayoyama not far behind.

"That's not true," Yaoyorozu put forward reassuringly, "part of being a leader is the ability to see the potential and talents of others," she said, stirring idly at her tea, "and you've already gotten pretty good at that." She was, of course, referring to the moment had confessed his shortcomings in the entrance exam to Deku. "Recognizing that in addition to your own flaws is essential for working effectively with a team, you're already on your way."

Faltering, taken aback by such an analysis, Iida could only stare blankly for a time. "I- Well, I'm not so sure," he said, adjusting his glasses, yet again, "but thank you for the vote of confidence."

Kaminari laughed, "Ahhhh… that pun was awful."

The bespectacled boy's face flummoxed further with confusion. "I made no such attempt at humor..."

Agakuro snorted, "so that's your reason for being a hero…" the note of disapproval was thick in his voice, "striving to be like someone you're not."

Every face at the table turned to Agakuro, somewhat shocked at his brazen comment. "I beg your pardon?" Iida managed. "But what's wrong with that?"

Agakuro growled out a sigh, mulling his answer over as he licked at the straw between his teeth, between sips of his drink. "It's so… disingenuine." he concluded. "The more I look to the world we seek to plunge into, the less I see our 'betters' subscribing to the true idealism of being a hero." There was a certain clarity to the words he spoke, something definitive which was difficult to ignore. Not one iota of doubt lingered in the air, not as he spoke these words. "It's just another festering distraction of neon lights and fools seeking fortune and fame. To prove some valueless thing to those around them." And he polished off his drink. "Granted… at least you're aspiring to be better than you are. Not many do."

"Where the heck is that coming from?" Ashido frowned, almost angrily. "I dunno what 'world' you've been paying attention to but heroes aren't like that! A lot of them are just out to do the right thing, kicking supervillain butt!" Her fist clenched, pulled up to shoulder level as she flashed a determined grin.

"Um…" Uraraka mumbled, hands wringing over each other. "Is it really so wrong to go into it for the money?" Agakuro turned toward her, expression clearly disapproving.

The dhampire considered his possible answer, telling her all the ways in which such selfish drained society's verry marrow, but something... swayed him. "Is that your reason?" he prodded.

She nodded, albeit slowly. "I um… my parents business has been struggling, since I was little." she explained, "I just… I wanted to help." She looked like a puppy that had just been caught ruining a piece of furniture, those big brown eyes of hers only amplified the expression.

Sighing, Akaguro held his hands up in defeat. "Perhaps… I spoke a bit harshly."

"A bit?" Jiro quirked an eyebrow. "Dude, you just killed the entire conversation a-la outright accusing folks of being 'symptoms of an increasingly vapid culture'," she scolded, "that's not cool."

A lopsided frown on his face, Agakuro relented. "...Sorry." Not wanting to belittle the apology with an excuse he gathered up his tray, preparing to leave. "I'll… return in a few moments."

Waiting until he was gone, Yaoyorozu mumbled, "something happened to him." with a serious frown. "No one is that blunt and borish without some reason behind it."

"Hmph!" Pouting angrily and crossing her arms was Ashido. "Excuse if ya want, but I don't like it. You don't just act like a jerk like that, I don't care what reasons you have."

"Well," Iida sighed, "it's not like he was entirely wro-"

"Oh my gosh!" Uraraka shrieked, leaping in her seat, startling Deku most of all; being the one she was sitting next to. When he jolted she immediately held up her hands in a warning gesture. "No, Deku! Wait!" ...what was she so afraid of? "D- Don't move, okay?"

She was shaking, looking at the side of his head in trembling fear. "What are you-" and then he felt it. At least three, almost hair-thin protrusions touching at the edge of his eye. Body going rigid as stone, his gaze slowly shifted toward the thing crawling on his face.

"Whoa!" Ashido's face lit up in a alarm. "What kind of- that's a big spide-"

Yaoyorozu flung a hand over the pin girl's mouth. "It's not that big!" She cried out, not convincing anyone in the least.

"Nevermind the size," Kaminari said, just as Deku's eye reached the offending arachnid. It was staring him right in the eye, motionless. "That's a black widow. Bites from those things suck."

"That's not helping!" Iida shouted, looking about frantically for his glass, which had unfortunately been knocked off the table. "We need something to carry it with…"

"Screw that!" Ashido protested, aiming one of her palms at the thing. "Hold still, I'll just melt it."

"What!?" Uraraka cried, unable to believe she'd heard such a suggestion. "Don't do that! What if you hit Deku!" A sentiment somehow less frightening than the creature staring him down. This… thing was the most unsettling of all creatures. Its cold, black eyes, its fangs, ravenous appetite, the way it drank its prey... to… death.

His expression shifted. It wasn't just the spider he was dreading, loathing in this moment, was it? He'd done his best to not to think about that conclusion he'd come to, watching those documentaries. That all too obvious parallel between what was now his species and arachnids like this one. Fearing this thing, hating this ghastly creature, was becoming as second nature to him as directing such an attitude at himself. The fact it wasn't biting him, sitting there -now cleaning itself- content with where it was left a feeling leaching into his heart: a feeling that he and the spider were more kin than he and humanity. Much like the spider, hiding in plain sight or just plain hiding was his key to not being killed by humans.

Such a feeling of kinship made him wish Bakugo had finished burning him alive the day before.

"Oh for fuck's sakes…" Leaning over the table hand outstretched was Jiro. When her fingertips ghosted across the skin of Deku's cheek he felt goosebumps prickling up. Well, new ones anyways.

"What are you doing?" Yaoyorozu shrieked, hesitating at reaching toward her to pull her away from the spider, now crawling onto her hand. "It could bite y-"

"It wont." Jiro declared, slowly pulling the spider away from Deku's face.


She turned and looked right at Yaoyorozu. "It wont." She held it up, for her to see. "Look." Slowly hesitantly, everyone gathered round and peered at the tiny thing. Once again, it was cleaning itself, trying to rub the oils from Deku's skin and hair off of itself. "See how calm it is? They only bite when they're threatened, scared." Shocking everyone present, she reached out with a fingertip and pet the thing. "She must still be pretty young… they're not usually this small."

Ururaka, despite her earlier outburst, smiled at it. "Ya know… it's not so scary, once you get used to looking at it."

Kaminati shuddered, "hey as long as it doesn't rot my skin off? I'm cool with it."

Ashido snickered, "wow, didn't know you had such low standards there, Kami." She gave him a very playful look, eagerly waiting for his reaction.

He just glared at her, a very wide frown on his face. "...I don't like you." And she started snickering again. "You're a bad person." Then she was laughing.

"Just… be careful." Yaoyorozu managed. "It's still venomous enough to seriously hurt you."

Deku gulped, finding the nerve to move again. "It- It's missing a leg…" When I was scraping the web out of my hair… It was a miracle the thing hadn't bitten him.

"Poor thing," Jiro murmured, making for the door, "I'm taking her outside." looking at the clock she added, "...and I guess I'll meet you in the parking lot after that. Lunch is pretty much done."

Nodding, breathing her tension away, Yaoyorozu gathered up her tray. "Guess we'd better head back, get ready for this field trip we're heading on." More brightly this time, she added. "Meet you all out there?"

"Works for me!" Uraraka chirped, forgetting all about the fright they'd just shared, all the others gathering their own trays and following suit.

Suit… Oh crap! Breaking into a run, Deku made for the door. He hadn't remembered to see the support department about his costume! If nothing else he needed that mask, the rest of the costume wasn't important. It took him a few minutes to find the department he sought, a workshop with someone working tirelessly with loud power tools. Knocking raptly upon the door he waiting, tapping his foot nervously. Moments later, a girl with large goggles over her eyes, pink… dreadlocks flopping over the band.

Had he not been so distracted he might have noticed the her tank top hugged at her ample shapes… "Yes?" she spoke plainly, with the smile of a mad scientist: a look needing no other description.

"Uh sorry to bother you!" He bowed. "I just need a costume for my class!"

"Oh, is that so?" Not that he saw, but she'd removed her goggles at this point. "Name?"

"Izuku Midoriya!"

"ooooh…. " she winced vocally, "I'm not done fixing that yet… I've only got the underlayer finished and the mask is still marked from-"

Jolting back up, Deku exclaimed, "I'm sure it's fine, ma'am!" Did… were her pupils and irises shaped like targeting reticles?

Shrugging, she remarked, "your choice," with an odd smirk, "but I'm throwing something else in too. Wait a sec!" Door slammed in the throws of sudden inspiration Deku heard her frantically throwing things around. Moments later she emerged with a costume case, thrusting it into his arms. "Here you go! Let me know how it works!"

"Thank you!" He bowed with near lightning speed before making another mad dash for the nearest bathroom.

When the lunch bell rang he almost squealed from the pressure he was feeling. Tearing open the case, mask pulled on -it still smelled like explosion…- his hands flew, discarding piece after piece of his uniform. Clawing his way into the costume was markedly simpler than before. While it was little more than a simple shirt it had weight, clearly made of some durable material, whatever it was, he'd find out later. Same deal with the pants, to his surprise she'd thrown in shoes too, but they were thin, slender. A note was attached that read 'thin enough for wall crawlin :D ', so on they went. Essentially, it was the underlayer of his costume, sans the actual armor plating. There was another surprise waiting for him in the case: a pair of finger-less, armored gloves and some sort of jacket.

Lifting up the jacket he was surprised at the heft it held. Heavy… Made of sturdier material than the rest of his costume with ballistic plates and mesh worked into the interior as well as the exterior. Like the jacket of some space faring ship captain, almost. Even Bakugo would have a hard time damaging this. But there wasn't time for such musings. Throwing his uniform into the case he ran back to the classroom long enough to drop it off at his desk. Sunglasses adjusted, eyes squinting, he burst through the doors.

Strangely, upon exiting the building, he could have sworn he saw members of the school security team arguing by the front gate. A curious sight, but Deku had other things to worry about. Whatever it was, it was probably nothing.

Finding the parking lot was a simple matter, what with how hard to miss his classmates were. Flagging him down were none other than Urarka and Ashido. "I was starting to think you wouldn't make it." Said the brunette, happy to be proven wrong.

"Aizawa isn't even here yet," Kaminari remarked, "I wasn't worried."

As if on cue a large bus lumbered its way into the parking lot, doors pulling open, Aizawa in the driver's seat and looking as unenthused as always. Jiro turned and gave the electric teenager a wry smirk. "You were saying?"

"Well he wasn't."

Clapping her hands, Yaoyorozu called out to her classmates. "Alright everyone, let's not keep our teacher waiting." Like ducks in a row they climbed onto the bus, taking seats wherever they pleased. After not so much as a grunt directed toward his students, Aizawa began driving and the chatter resumed.

"Say, Midoriya, can I ask you something?"

Deku blinked, turning to see that ribbiting girl who'd taken a seat next to him. "Y-yes, um… Asui?"

Her face… didn't seem to move much. "You can call me 'Tsu'." though the ease with which her tone shifted seemed to make up the difference. "I was just wondering how you've managed to keep a lid on being a vampire for so long." His eyes scanned the compartment of the bus, expecting to see someone uncomfortable or afraid. "You must have felt pretty isolated growing up like that."

Somewhere else on the bus. Akaguro let out a low, chuckling laugh. "What's he laughing about?" Said the kid with the spiky red hair.

Gulping, his nerves slightly at ease with his mask over his mouth, Deku managed an answer. "I uh, only became a vampire about a month ago. Up… until that point I was actually quirkless."

To his right, that guy with the puffy lips grunted. "So that's where Bakugo's rambling about that came from…"

"Here I thought that was just some crazy insult." smirked the redhead, who wasn't very far off with the assumption.

Asui hummed, contemplatively. "Well, that was probably worse in a lot of ways… maybe it was insensitive to bring it up…"

"N-no, it's okay!" Deku did his utmost to be reassuring. "Although, I'm kinda curious as to why you brought it up now…"

Asui shifted in her seat, "It's a long story, but if you ask me later I'll tell you about it."

"Yeah, better to focus on what's ahead!" Said the redhead. "What are we doing anyways?"

"Rescue training." Came the monotonous reply of Aizawa.

After a brief awkward pause, Bakugo -who had grown rather sick of being quiet- shouted. "Why didn't you just say that before!?"

"You didn't ask." And that was his final word on the matter, leaving Bakugo to fume and growl to himself. Poor Kaminari, being the only one willing to sit next him, sat there and looked at him as though he were a time-bomb that had been dropped one too many times.

Laughing, the redhead broke what passed for silence. "Still, even with that thirst for blood that's one heck of a quirk." He said, holding up his arm and showing off his own. Skin going hard as stone, taking the shape and texture of a craggly cliffside, he almost frowned at his limb. "Cooler than this, good in a fight as it is."

"I dunno," Asui shrugged, "looks like a great quirk to me, Kirishima."

"Yeah, but it's not as useful." said he, "Midoriya here has a swiss army knife of powers to use. This is just good for... collisions?" He thought that was the word.

"Don't sell yourself short," ribbited the frog girl, "I'm sure you'll find all kinds of ways to make that useful as a hero." And that earned a warm little smirk from the redhead.

"But don't forget," Said Ayoyama, "heroes also have to worry about popular appeal!" and as odd a moment as it was to brag: "My navel laser is both strong and cool. Perfect for a pro."

Putting a hand on the blond's shoulder, Ashido remarked, without a hint of malice, "As long as you don't blow up your own stomach!" Unintentionally casting a grim shadow over the boy's face. Once again, toward the front of the bus, Akaguro started laughing.

"You want to talk strong and cool?" Kirishima said, making a gesture toward those he intended to mention. "That'd be Todoroki and Bakugo."

...Who was Todoroki?

First to reply to that was Asui. "Yeah, but Bakugo's so unhinged he'd never be popular."

"WHAT'D YOU SAY, FROG FA-!?" Only he never finished his retort. As he'd lurched to his feet, to better shout at the offending girl, he caught sight of Deku's face. Stomach tightening in a vice, strength and spirit sapped from him almost entirely, he slowly slumped back into his seat, eyes directed anywhere but toward his classmates.

Pointing right at him, Asui added, "See?" sticking out her tongue, almost as though she were trying to mock him.

"Yeah," Kaminari mockingly laughed, "cuz his yelling is what makes him unhinged… his violent outburst yesterday showed us what a flaming turd his personality really is."

Grabbing his shirt, Bakugo pulled him up as he loomed over him yelling into his face. "DO YOU WANT TO FIGHT?!"

Rather than tremble, Kaminari just sighed. "Tell me: have you ever had a friend who wasn't afraid of you?" And Bakugo went still, expression shifting to something resembling shocked consideration. ...Had he ever had a friend like that?

Hand over her mouth, a rather nauseous looking frown on her face, Yaoyorozu mumbled, "What a vulgar conversation…"

All the while Uraraka was laughing. "I dunno, I think it's kinda fun." Slowly, Jiro turned and looked at the brunette like her brain had just fallen out of her mouth.

"If you're quite finished," Aizawa grumbled, "We're here."

A facility of such enormous size had never been observed by the eyes of anyone present. That was, everyone except for the teacher. Deku's jaw had dropped, hanging open in shock under his mask since they'd pulled up to the building. Now that they were inside he thought he might actually faint.

"Wow," Jiro remarked, awe creeping into her voice, "straight outta 'The Truman Show'..."

"...What?" Said Kaminari, still processing the sheer size of the place.

"A Movie." Akaguro stated.

This answer did little to ease the boy's confusion. "Then… why did they call it a show?"

"This is what you're on about right now?!" Exclaimed the boy with the puffy lips. "Look at this place! What is this? Universal Studios Japan?!"

"It's a facility of my own design," said a voice as heavy footsteps clanked their way up the stairs leading to the overwhelmingly vast center of the building. "There's the flood zone, the downpour zone, the inferno zone, mountains, landslide and of course the ruins." Stepping into view was what appeared to an astronaut, fallen from the sky. At the sight of them Uraraka's face lit up. "Simulations for every disaster and accident you can imagine. I call it…" they spread their arms wide, as if to gesture to the entire facility all at once, " 'The Unforeseen Simulation Joint'."

The guy with the puffy lips blinked. "So… it really is 'USJ'..."

"Space Hero: Thirteen!" Uraraka jumped for all her excitement. "The Lady who does all her best work in rescue scenarios!" Beating Deku to the punch with the hero knowledge. "She's the best!" Earning yet more excitement from the girl, was a thumbs up from the hero in question. Uraraka could barely contain herself.

It's worth mentioning that Thirteen's voice bore an odd similarity to that of Oliva Wilde's.

Glancing about, searching for something, Aizawa approached his fellow hero. "Thirteen… where's All Might and Valentine? They were supposed to be here with you."

"Ah," she started, "About that…" she held up three fingers, a gesture that bore an odd emphasis. "It seems between his class earlier today and some impromptu hero work today, he's reached his limit." As Aizawa groaned under his breath Deku blinked. "As for Valentine, she tried to enter the school in the middle of a possible security issue at the front gate. She's presently held up with that."

Wait, Vanessa was going to be here too? And since when did All Might have a- "The height of irrationality." The disapproval in the scraggly man's voice was such an emperor would feel he'd failed his subjects to hear it. "So be it. We'll get started without them." Hand over his chin, finger sliding over his lips, he leered at the ground, running adjustments to his lesson plan through his mind in silence.

This left Thirteen to begin the lesson herself. "Before we begin, there's a matter we should discus…" Holding up a hand, one of her glove's fingertips opened. "As I'm sure some of you may know," She seemed to direct that comment toward Uraraka in particular, "my quirk is called 'Black Hole'. Just as the name suggests it pulls just about everything into it, tearing to to shreds in the process."

"And you've used it to save people in all sorts of disasters." Deku put forward, while Uraraka nodded with incomparable enthusiasm.

Thirteen faltered for a moment, "True…" Clearing her throat, she spoke louder this time, "However, considering the destructive nature of my quirk, if I were to make a mistake it could easily kill someone." The mood of the class dropped from enthusiastic to grim apprehension in mere seconds. "I've no doubt there are some among with similar abilities." Unseen by most, Bakugo raised an upturned palm, and gazed at his hand before clenching it softly.

Fuck today… Thought he.

"In our super-powered society, the use of quirks is heavily restricted and regulated for a reason." Thirteen went on, closing the cap of her gloved finger. "It only takes one wrong move with a powerful quirk for people to die." Pointing directly at her students, Thirteen declared. "In this class, I will teach you how to save lives without making such mistakes." And some of the optimism started creeping back into their hearts. "Your powers are not meant to inflict harm, I hope that you leave here today with the understanding that you are meant to help people."

As the class had found their spirits, determined to give this upcoming lesson their all, a sound reached their ears. Clapping, off in the distance. There, at the bottom of the stairs and at the closest end of the USJ's central plaza, was a man. Tall, lanky, thin as could be, a mop of light blue hair on his head and wearing a disembodied hand on his face.

Echoing from his throat was a raspy, chilling laugh. " 'Powers meant to help, but not kill…' ahhh…" and he spread his arms palms outstretched toward the ceiling. "What a foolishly naive statement." Flicking his wrist, a pen whisked from his sleeve, perching betwixt his thumb and index finger. "Tell me, Thirteen," his tone was challenging, amused as Aizawa's body shifted.

Yellow, vented goggles on his face, he dropped into a combat stance, staring this newcomer down. "What's a man to do," a final twirl of the pen, "if a quirk like this," and at the touch of all five fingers to the pen, it turned to dust, "isn't meant to hurt people?" At his mockingly voiced inquiry a swirl of purple energy came into being behind him and people began stepping through it. "Because I'm just not sure." Thugs, easily a dozen of them, poured out into the USJ, bloodthirsty looks on all their faces, looking at the students.

"Thirteen," Aizawa's tone was sharp, fierce, "get the students out of here, now!"

Before anyone could so much as move another portal opened up in front of the door. Stepping through was a man seemingly made of the same stuff the portals were. Glowing white eyes, tinted with the purple of his own energy, standing between them and the exit. "Leaving so soon?" His voice was calm, commanding and imposing. "And after all we went to to arrange this meeting." He scanned the group, searchingly, "hmm… All Might isn't here, Skigaraki. It seems we miscalculated."

"If only we had more time to plan this," said the man with disembodied hand on his face, "This was so… spur of the moment we didn't have time to find ourselves a white mage before initiating combat."

Stepping, with earth shaking footsteps, from the portal behind him was a creature with a truly ghastly appearance: A razor sharp beak lined with shark-like fangs, standing at almost eight feet tall it was a purple, limbering mass of pure muscle. Dead, lidless eyes stared unthinking and hungrily at the students, somehow more terrifying than the exposed brain atop its head.

"But we brought the mother of all Tanks with us, to even things out."

Aizawa hesitated. Surrounded, no time to formulate a plan and dangerously outnumbered and almost certainly outmatched.

"Ah well!" Shigaraki cackled, "All this won't go to waste! Kill as many students as you can! Maybe then we'll draw out All Might!"

The dark, haunting laughter of the thugs was enough to make his skin crawl in revulsion.

But these were odds he'd survived more times than he would dare admit. These bastards had stepped into an arena he excelled in at every turn. "Thirteen…"

Her eyes were locked on the amorphous purple villain between the class and the exit. "Yes?"

He turned over his shoulder, looking right at his students. "Get them out." And he lounged, headlong down the stone steps, scarf snaking through the air as he charged the idiots who dared call themselves villains. To stupid to live, but stupid enough to attack his class.

"Aizawa!" Deku called after him, taking an unconscious step forward his foot failed to make contact with the ground. A portal had opened under his feet and he'd fallen straight through it. He had just enough time to see his teacher break a villain's legs with one kick to the knees, elbowing another in diaphragm so hard his lungs stopped, before he found himself falling into fire.

Chapter Text

Vanessa rolled her eyes for the umpteenth time. Drumming her fingers on her arm, she regarded the security personnel with limited patience. She was running late to a class she'd agreed to assist in teaching -with a man she held less than no affection for, she might add- because they'd screwed up. From the sound of things, something had glitched with front gate. A student had entered through the front gates twice in one day.

Cearly not possible, so it must have been a glitch with the system itself. Vanessa didn't know much about technology but she knew enough to know that, most of the time, problems occured due to improper maintenance. Not updating the OS, not seeing what that rattling noise your car was making before it was too late, ignoring weird glitches your phone was making before it shut down completely. All due to human negligence, or user error.

Unless someone had attempted to breach school grounds -and considering the lack of alarms and police present, they hadn't- there was no excuse for this delay. Sitting on a bench by the entrance, one leg over the other, she reached into her bag and pulled out a canteen. Rather than one of her usual dresses she'd shown up in what she typically wore out in the field. A form fitting, black and red fiber-mesh bodysuit and a simple, matching domino mask with red lenses. It did little to disguise her identity of course, but that wasn't the point. The point was elegance, which she prided herself in maintaining at all times. At least she assumed so, one could never be certain what level of grace they held while asleep.

Aside from that, it shielded her eyes from the sun, which was always a good thing. Contents of her canteen partially consumed, she returned it to her bag and checked her watch. Almost ten minutes late… Sighing cast a tired look at the security team. They ignored her. Oh well. By the time this was over, and she'd finally make it to the class, it would likely be half over. She took solace in the fact that in such controlled conditions, with Aizawa's efforts redoubled, very little could would likely go wrong.

Ash, soot, embers and smoke clouded his senses. Coughing and gagging on it all, his body hadn't braced at when it collided with wood. Crashing down through the smouldering shingled roof of a small house, he spun, spiraling for another few feet before crashing through the floor. When he finally stopped falling, he landed face first in a pile of rubble on top of cement. Wheezing in his next breath, Deku's limbs fought against his every attempt to move them. Fingers fumbling about, he managed to find his sunglasses amidst the debris.

He crawled to a wall, propping himself against it as he replaced them on his face. Eyelids seemingly glued shut, from the sting of the heat and smoke, it took him several moments to realize he was in the basement of a burning building. Searching frantically, he spotted a small window, just narrowly enough room between the bottom of the next floor and where the ground started. It would have to do. Standing up, some life back in him, he felt the entire house shake. Looking up, he saw the floors above him collapsing. He flew. Legs springing him off the ground he tumbled through glass, rolling to a stop on the street. Behind him, the building imploded under its own weight in a billow of embers and smoke.

Panting, gripping at his aching ribs he looked around. "Must be the Inferno Zone…" he mumbled, coughing into his mask.

"SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!" The screaming above his head snapped his attention to the source.

"Jiro!" He flung himself skyward, in an instant they'd met, arms clasping each other's forms.

They were spinning, almost out of control when he flung his hand out, clutching at a nearby wall. Hauling her against him, face protected by his scrawny form, as they crashed against metal and plexiglass. He clung to her like glue as they skidded, his skin scraping against the surface of the building he was clinging to. Luckily, it was only the fingertips of his left hand he'd damaged. They reached the ground with anything but grace, his legs smashing against pavement as they fell in a heap. They both groaned, stirring back to their senses with as much reluctance as children being woken up for school. He scanned her over, eyes searching for anything wrong but found nothing.

Just ash on her face, now smudged up her cheek from where she'd been held against him. "You okay?"

She nodded, "You?" He nodded as well, and she sighed in strained relief. Getting to her feet she grabbed his hand and hauled him to. He must have been dizzy, because she had to catch him once he'd stood up, he was so unsteady. "Hey, Green?"

Shaking his head sharply, trying to force his senses back to focus, he said, "Yeah?"

Making sure he was steady, she let him go, taking a step back to observe their surroundings. "I'd like to have a normal school day again soon."

Laughing breathily, feeling some of the adrenaline clearing his veins, he replied. "Me too." But their reprieve was short lived. Portals opened up all around them, groups of villains pouring through, From the looks of them, their quirks were perfectly suited for such an arena.

"Akaguro!" Jiro looked up to see Yaoyorozu and the boy who's name she'd called hurtling toward the ground.

While she'd sprouted a grappling hook and rope from her hand, using it to swing harmlessly to the ground, he had no such method available to save himself. Or so they'd thought. Deku was about to leap to him when he unsheathed his sword; lancing it into the wall of the nearby building and clung to the hilt. Dragging the blade through brick and mortar only slowed his descent enough not to break his legs upon hitting the street, falling on his face in a heap. Seeing a villain about pounce on him, some horrid, glowing green sludge dripping from his massive maw, Jiro leapt forward.

Her earlobe dragged along the ground, sundering pavement to dust and debris. Hand following the same path as her earlobe, she flung enough street into the villain's face to stun him as he sputtered and gagged, bits of it cutting at his eyes. Wasting no time she flung her body into spiral, her knee smashing into the villain's ribs and smacking his head into the brick wall beside him. An attack best suited to one who'd had years to practice it, as she clattered against the ground, having failed to stick the landing. Another villain would have smashed her flat, with limbs shaped like wrecking balls had Yaoyorozu not flung a length of wire around his throat and hauled him away from her. She pulled him into a very uncomfortable position before bringing her elbow down on the villain's face, rendering him unconscious as Jiro and Akaguro picked themselves up.

Deku, on the other hand, had narrowly avoided being incinerated. A pair of villains, one who could control fire and another who created it, had singled him out and attempted to turn him to cinders. Only by throwing himself as hard as he could in the direction of his friends.

"Heads up!" He yelled, watching them throw themselves out of the path of the incoming fire.

In a moment of error, the vamprire found himself face to face with a mob of them. One opened their mouth, another raised his hand, another opened his eyes. A vortex of light, acid and wind shot toward him, unable to alter course he flung his arms in front of his face and closed his eyes. Instead of searing pain, he felt arms around his middle and a change in the wind. His body crashed through a window, someone else snarled around him. Someone who's side and face were sizzling.

Deku's eyes shot wide open. "Akaguro, you're-!"

"Just go!" He hissed through clenched teeth, hauling them to their feet.

Tearing off his acid-soaked mask narrowly avoided him going blind. His ribs were not so lucky. As the two boys ran, through a burning building, more villains plunged in after them. Not hesitating for a moment Akaguro swung his sword through the nearest wooden support, and a section of the roof collapsed; cutting off their pursuers.

In his haste, the dhampire got a lung full of smoke and started coughing violently; too violently to finish running away. Deku grabbed his wrist and jumped, hauling him along with him as the building collapsed behind them. No villains nearby, they waited in silence for a moment before letting themselves breathe, one of them coughing his lungs clear.

Clutching his side, Akaguro fell against a nearby wall. "Damn it!" he hissed. When he saw the puppy dog worry on Deku's face he forced himself to stand up. "Let's go."

Deku's eyes fluttered rapidly. "But you're-"

"Let's go." he repeated, forcing his legs to start walking. "The others might need our help."

Falling in step behind him, Deku murmured, "If we don't need theirs…"

As if on cue, who would come hurtling into the alley but the their two classmates. Making motions for them to run the other way their eyes went wide as they screeched to a halt. "Behind you!" Yaoyorozu shouted.

"Behind you!" Deku replied leaping forward and socking the fire creating guy square in the jaw. His body flopped, twisting like a slapped rag-doll as blood and teeth spewed from his mouth. Then, the four of them were standing in a circle, surrounded by villains.

One of them, a guy with a weird mass of flesh over his head, like a tent, caught Deku's with a savage punch. The force of the impact sent him flying a blur, through the corner of a nearby brick wall. World spinning, his vision clouded with fireworks that only head-trauma let you see, he was still incredibly disoriented when Yaoyorozu helped him to his feet. And the villain who'd hit him started laughing.

"Nowhere left to run, kiddies!" his voice was booming, deep, befitting of such a musclebound behemoth. Akaguro stumbled, gripping at his face, trying not to let the stars in his eyes drown out his consciousness. "Now you're trapped," he laughed, it was the kind of laugh that told all who heard it that they were about to die, "in here…" he took one more, earth shaking step forward, "with me."

Akaguro's shoulders started shaking, his face still aimed right at the ground, cupped in his fingers. "Heh heh heh heh heh heh…." Deku turned and looked at him, slowly. The grin on his face sent a chill down his spine. Why the hell was he laughing like that?

The behemoth growled, "what the hell's so funny, pipsqueak!?"

In a bone chillingly slow motion, the teenager's face turned upwards. The behemoth backed away. No human alive was supposed to have a smile that wrong, that wide and with eyes that beady. His expression was that a man completely unhinged and in love with his own insanity. The look of a wild beast ready to turn you into meat. "That's my line."

All bets were off. The lumbering pink villain was done fucking around. He swung his arm downward in a blur, trying to snap the kid's spine in two before he had a chance to do anything. But his fist connected only with concrete. The other teenagers had thrown themselves out of harm's way. Akaguro had charged forward, sword lancing through skin, muscle and sinew and sending a spray of blood into the teenager's mouth. Like a boned fish, the villain went limp and the hero in training lifted up his boot and drove his heel into the temple of the paralyzed evildoer.

A villain's eyes went wide, Deku doubled over clutching at the sides of his head while Yaoyorzu and Jiro leapt to defend him. "What the hell-!?" he breathed, then more loudly he repeated, "That cut wasn't fatal enough to kill anyone!" Turning to face the screaming villain, his face wearing the textbook definition of creepy -wide open eyes, narrowed brow and hatter mad grin- Akaguro said nothing. "What did you do to Trapezius!?"

Yaoyorozu looked at the blade in Akaguro's hand, covered in blood, and then to his mouth. Her eyes went wide and face white as she connected the dots. Holding the sword to his lips, his eerily long tongue snaking forward and lapping at the blood on his sword, he replied. "Only what I'll be doing to you next."

All Yaoyorozu needed to hear. From her leg, sprouting into existence was a pair of swords. "Jiro." Nodding, the violet eyed girl grabbed the hilt and aimed it at a nearby foe and the dhampire laughed, obviously approving of his classmate's plan.

Jiro grabbed Deku's shoulder, but he was still fighting against himself too much to think. "Green." No answer, villains were starting to close in. "Midoriya!" She had to leap in front of him, slashing at the stretching arm of someone attempting to claw for his eyes. Last chance… "Izuku!" His eyes snapped to her, wide, afraid and crazed like a rabid dog. In a motion that followed her swing, she flicked the edge of her blade toward Akaguro's open maw, and he caught the blood in the air. Sure enough, the villain attached to that stretching limb collapsed. "Claws!" She shouted, and a look of comprehension spread on the rabid boy's features.

He moved in a blur, him and Akaguro, into the nearest group of villains and started swinging. Their motions, frantic and quick -too quick to follow almost- tore through armor, cloth and skin. A dance of blade and claw, coloring the air almost thick with the blood of their enemies as the dhampire caught what of it he could with his tongue. Deku flinging more of the same right at him when the chance arose. Jiro and Yaoyorozu leapt to, swinging for whoever they could, whoever wasn't currently running away.

In a matter of seconds, the fight, if it could even be called as much, was over. As the villains lay, straining against unmoving muscles, Akaguro went around stomping on their heads while Yaoyorozu spouted handcuffs from her skin; binding villain's wrists as she followed in his wake.

Jiro turned to see Deku on his knees, fingers tearing at his scalp, like he were scratching some crazed itch. Cautiously, she approached, kneeling beside him. "Green?" no reply. "What's wrong?" She thought she might be sick. The skin around his right eye, the veins were… pulsing and black as his sclera, the eye itself completely bloodshot. A thick sweat had broken out over his brow, and his breathing was weak, shallow. "... Midoriya?" Slowly his eyes went to her, they were wild, unfocused. He seemed to be shivering on top of it all. "Can you talk?" Slowly he shook his head.

Yaoyorozu, having finished handcuffing the unconscious villains -binding their hands and feet together for good measure- walked over. "What happened to him?"

"I don't know," Jiro answered, looking him over, closely, "He's not acting right at all."

Taking a minute to breathe, hand clutching at his acid-burned ribs, the dhampire took a seat on the pavement. "Is it the blood?" his voice strained. Deku seemed to think about this, but then shook his head again, tapping at his skull and wincing.

Leaning close, Jiro realized his eyes were more than wrong. The one on the left was completely contracted while his right was entirely dilated. "I think he has a concussion." She frowned, "he must have landed worse than I thought…"

It was then that Yaoyorozu noticed the veins on the right side of his head. Moving his white hair aside she examined his skin. "Oh no…"

"What?" Akaguro and Jiro said together.

The creation girl turned Deku's face, so Jiro could see what she'd found. Two, tiny, red marks just below his hairline. "From our friend the black widow, it looks like." Black widows, spiders who produce a protein based venom that attacks their victim's nervous system.

"Shit…" Akaguro strained to climb to his feet. "I think Jiro's right… his landing, or that punch, must have hurt him more than we thought, otherwise his healing factor would be burning through the venom on its own." Looking around, frowning accusingly at their surroundings he added, "that and… vampires do not agree with fire. His body is likely working overtime to keep its temperature regulated."

Yaoyorozu gulped. "So… he could lose it and attack us?" she regarded him nervously, "if it's taxing him that much…"

Jiro glared at her, looking her right in the eye she grabbed Deku under his shoulders and hauled him up. He was shaky, unsteady, he leaned on her, other hand gripping at his skull as he got used to being back on his feet. He looked like a kid with a nasty illness. Eyes half closed, sweating, pale as snow and shivering. The unfocused look in his eye was almost disarming. "See how his jaw isn't shaking?" Pointed out the violet eyed girl. "The rest of him is, that isn't. What does that tell you?" Deku looked away from them, trying to hide his face, and the creation girl felt a pang of guilt stabbing at her.

Hesitantly, she answered. "He's still doing everything he can to fight that urge, even though it might heal him." Wincing, at her own selfishness, she felt an utter fool. "Midoriya- I… forgive me. I- I'm not used to-"

His answer was a hand, slowly placing itself on her shoulder, his eyes meeting hers. Labored, slow breathing pushed and pulled at his ribs, making them rise and fall. Motions that accentuated the exhausted look in his mismatched eyes. He couldn't speak, say anything to put her at ease, but he let go of Jiro -the one presently responsible for his sense of balance- to give her a thumbs up.

Yaoyorozu thought she might cry. "Can't we let him bite one of the villains?" She pleaded. "If it will help him-"

"No." Akaguro cut in. "We can't have evidence of his existence getting out, remember? If he bites someone, when he has every chance not to, it's over for him." The weight of the words felt heavy on Yaoyorozu's shoulders. Deku's hand left her shoulder, she turned to see he was still looking at her. He nodded, and she nodded back.

"And to be honest," Jiro put forward jokingly, "I think the idea of expulsion from the hero course scares him more than death." Deku's frame shook once with the force of a solitary laugh. Somehow, the atmosphere felt a little less oppressive now.

Taking a few steps toward Akaguro, Yayorozu bent to examine his wound. "Can I help?"

He shrugged. "Can you make something that could heal an acid burn?"

Holding out her hands, an ointment sprouted into existence, which she spread over the wound. Open skin, bits of muscle peeking through the faint remnants of his last epidermal layer. Next, she pulled a rather large adhesive bandage forth and he opened his shirt enough for her to apply it. "Unfortunately I'm no recovery girl," said she, "but I hope that helps a little."

Nodding, stars still dancing in his eyes, he coughed, shoulders and chest heaving with the effort. "It'll do." And he started walking Jiro leading a bleary Deku not far behind while Yaoyorozu kept her sword handy. A few extra pairs of handcuffs hanging from her belt, just in case and her stomach growled.

Jiro looked between her companions. Two with one foot in the grave, another already taxing her energy just a bit too far. To make matters more harrowing they had no idea where the exit was. "I really hope the others are doing better that we are…"

Water. Not Kaminari's preferred environment. Not the best swimmer, even without an entire hero costume weighing him down. To make matters worse, he was currently staring down a man who looked a PSA against human-shark interbreeding. The villain in question was swimming right for him, mouth wide open and barrelling toward his throat. Kaminari was about panic when he saw a pair of green legs slam into the man's face. Before he could realize what was happening, Asui's tongue had wrapped around his middle and flung him out of the water. Much to his surprise, he landed on a ship. Coughing the water from his lungs, chest heaving from his efforts to breathe he could have kissed the frog girl for saving his life.

"You okay, Kaminari?" She croaked, hauling a water-logged Aoyama onto the deck alongside them.

Finally able to speak, he grumbled, "I'll live." Taking a seat against a nearby wall. "What happened to everyone else?"

"I don't know…" Asui answered, regret coloring her voice. "We all got swallowed by that purple mist guy's quirk, but I don't think anyone else wound up with us."

Kaminari peered over the side of the ship, out at the rest of the USJ. "So we all got separated…"

Asui nodded, "that's what it looks like."

Stirring by the frog girl's side, was one Aoyama rousing to consciousness. "Mon Dieu, je déteste les vêtements mouillés…." He groaned, shaking the water from his gloves. "What happened?" He asked daring to stand up and look into the water surrounding them. Swirling in the water, calculating their next move, was a group aquatic villains. "...Nevermind, that was a foolish question." Turning to Asui, a tinkle in his eye, he said, "Asui, ma belle fleur, thank you for the timely save." He said with a bow.

"You can call me Tsu," The frog girl croaked, " and I think your thanks may be premature unless we find a way out of here."

"Well," Aoyama pondered, "there are… more than I think we can safely handle by ourselves, no?" Where the hell was this guy from and why was he speaking with a french accent?! "Can we evade them? Jump to shore perhaps?"

Asui gulped. "Not in one leap," she said, "not unless your navel laser can carry us the rest of the way." At the utterance of such a plan, Kaminari was starting to come up with one of his own.

"Ahh…" it was a plan Kaminari did not want to go through with, but he saw no other alternative. "perhaps but I will be worse than useless after such a display." Giving Asui an apologetic look, he added, "I'm afraid all I would do then is slow you down while the villains catch up with us."

"Do it." Kaminati said, standing up.

Asui's eyes went wider than usual, eyebrows jumping. "What? But you heard what he just said. We'd be defenseless." She stood up too, "You and me won't be enough to protect him from all them."

Kamniari gulped. "We won't have to," he smiled, fear showing through it clear as day, "I'm not going with you anyways."

"Ne sois pas absurde!" Aoyama exclaimed, making Kaminari roll his eyes. "Of course you're coming with us! We won't just leave you here!"

Asui nodded, "We're in this together, I don't see us making it out of here any other way." Villains below started swarming at the side of the boat, weapons and appendages scraping away at the metal.

Kaminari shook his head, "Except this one…" He pointed to the shore. "When you jump, just make sure you get there in one go."

Asui's voice sounded as though she believed he'd lost it. "While you do what? Go down with the ship?"

"No." Smiling, holding up a hand, fingers crackling with electricity, he tried his best not to look afraid. "I'm gonna throw a toaster into the tub." Gulping, he looked out toward the water. "Of course… you know what happens to the toaster." He muttered, already dreading what was doubtlessly going to happen. At the worst of times, overusing his quirk almost literally fried his brain. Overusing it on a metal boat in the middle of lake? If he survived, it would be a day to remember.

"Unacceptable," protested the other blond, "we can't just leave you to-"

"Do you have a better idea!?" Silence. Tried as they might, nothing was forthcoming from either of them. "Then just go." He leaned down palm spread over the surface of the deck. "When you get help, don't forget to send someone after me, yeah?" The boat rocked, villains clearly on their way aboard.

Asui reached right for him, "Kaminari-"

"GO!" The boat violently surged to one side, knocking them off balance.

After a moment's hesitation, she realized he was right. They really didn't have any other feasible way out of this. Too many to fight, even if it had been on favorable ground. Locking elbows with Ayoyama, the two of them back to back, she gave Kaminari a last worried look before she launched them into the air.

"Well," he chuckled, nerves beyond frayed as he prepared to go full power with his quirk, "always wanted to try fishing with a big zapper…"

Clasping his hand down on the metal, he cut loose. Electricity surged from the metal, arching off the sides of the ship and shooting through every drop of water in the artificial lake. Kaminari's mouth clenched shut, his every muscle going convulsing and constricting violently. The water, both in the lake and on him, it was serving as a secondary medium for his quirk! Instead of frying out his brain like he'd predicted the electricity of his attack rebounded. His hair stood on end, clothes and skin cooked dry as his limbs spasmed violently. Jaw trembling open, he fell backwards, as the boat began to capsize. His back collided with the side of the cabin, head slamming into it a millisecond later, making his vision fuzzy. So this was what passing out felt like… it was strangely like falling asleep, only instead of your body following your brain, your brain followed your body.

Eyes fluttering shut, he was only dimly aware of someone landing next to him on the boat. They hauled him up into their arms before wind tore at his face, his hair. Before he blacked out he thought he heard someone cursing in french, as a beam of light danced in the periphery of his vision.

Aizawa's back slammed into the edge of the fountain, am exclamation of extreme discomfort knocked from his lips. Glaring at the villain responsible he forced his tired, aching body to leap into the air, narrowly avoiding another body breaking punch. No good, his quirk couldn't cancel out this thug's quirk. It never worked on quirks that were constantly active, changing the shape of their owner's bodies along with the enhancements provided. So it was his usual tack with such brutes that would save the day. Footwork constantly pedaling away, weaving side to side, he baited the goliath into charging in. Then, bait taken, he somersaulted over his head, scarf snaring at the fools feet and toppling him. After that, it was a simple matter to let gravity carry his knees into the back of his opponent's head. Getting up after that was a trick his body wasn't thrilled to be performing.

A slight stagger, lasting only a fraction of a second, marked his wavering vim. "He's getting tired!" Shouted one, as his hair yielded to gravity at long last. "Now's our chance!" Six of them charged in all at once.

Aizawa scoffed. "Such arrogance…" Hair floating once again, he lashed out with his scarfe and coiled it around the neck of the furthest assailant. "All my career," he pulled with everything he had, ducking passed another villain's straightarm. "I've fought villains who could be described as true monsters," his knee lashed out, striking the fool he'd evaded right in the sternum, and a loud crunching noise was heard. "A bunch of punks here to pick on kids," he growled, spinning in the air and driving his fist into another thug's face. The number of teeth flying out of his mouth made his ally's wonder if he had any left, "have no chance standing up to me!"

With a final yank, he pulled the one he'd snared into the remaining two, leaping over them as the sprawled out on the ground. As they tried to collect themselves, one making it back to her feet, he charged. A strike to her neck, just below the larynx sent her back to the dirt. Driving his elbow down between the shoulder blades of the second succeeded in misaligning his spine with a loud pop. The third was still on the ground, with his face barely picked up off it. It was a simple matter to charge forward and swing his foot in an upward, like a football player aiming for opposite end of the field. A broken jaw and a few torn muscles in one's neck never killed anyone at least.

Shigaraki, the man with the disembodied hand on his face, seemed to growl. "You're rather ruthless for a hero…" he remarked, fingers clawing at his own neck. "I'd almost think you'd killed before, watching you fight." Even underneath that hand, the scraggly man could see the unhinged smile on his face. "Are you capable of such a thing, Eraser Head?"

Dropping back into his combat stance, he decided to meet that taunt with a challenge. "Want to find out?"

To his credit, Shigaraki laughed. A laugh that could only be produced by a voice that sounded like moldy sandpaper. "Oh you are just so cool!" Exclaimed the villain. "As if taking out my minions wasn't single handed wasn't cool enough, now this!" He flashed a mad look at the hero, a look like mad dog about to break free of the chain. "Not many heroes have that kind of loose moral code." he chuckled some more. "Just who the hell are you, Eraser Head?"

"Not going to lie," he said, giving his eyes a moment to rest. Using his quirk gave him very serious dry-eye. Right now he was certain they were borderline clinically dehydrated. But there were more enemies yet left to fight, "you've caught me in the middle of a very bad week." He allowed himself a dark little smirk. "I'm not sure just what I'm capable of right now." At that statement Shigaraki's face lit up like christmas had come early. Hook, line and sinker, "Like I said," he beckoned him, curling his fingers toward himself, "Come find out."

"Ohhh ho ho ho ho ho!" He held up a finger, drawing the attention of the purple brute. "Wait there, Nomu, I wanna a turn at playing this game!" And he charged straight for the professional, unaware of the trap he'd just run headlong into. "As for the rest of you," he bellowed hand outstretched for Aizawa's face, "kill those brats by the entrance!"

"No!" Aizawa hissed, trying to break away from his new opponent and make chase. There weren't many, maybe seven of them, but he didn't like their odds. They were just kids, fresh into the school for god's sakes!

Seeing him so frantic to protect them, Shigaraki laughed. "Go after them, and I send the Nomu instead!" Aizawa chanced a look at the hulking beast called 'Nomu'. Formidable, and mindless, likely some sort of quirk experiment gone horribly wrong. That it was so large, and had yet to display what it's true power was… no. He couldn't chance that thing going after his students. For now he'd play this 'Shigaraki's' game.

Though he hopped to break a few of his extremities in the process.

Their collective efforts to subdue the man made of purple mist had only succeeded in thinning their numbers. Every student who'd leapt in to attack had been thrown to who knew what corner of the facility. At present, the only ones remaining by Thirteen's side Uraraka, Ashido, Iida, that puffy lipped guy and the guy with six arms. Staring down an enemy, whose location was constantly in flux, and trying to get passed him was a challenge the pro hero had not yet encountered. Considering the lack of alarms going off, the villains had likely disabled them remotely. In his efforts to contact the outside, Iida had found that cell reception was also being blocked. No way out, no way to call for help and a building full of villains threatening their classmates. Not an ideal scenario to throw a group of newbies into.

"Young Iida…" Thirteen's voice was quiet, sober. Weighted with something heavy her students couldn't discern. "When we clear a path for the door, get through it and get help."

Iida looked shocked, almost offended, "But… ma'am, I can't just abandon you all!"

Ashido was the first to reply, "you're the only one fast enough to outpace these guys!"

"How am I supposed to outrun a teleporter?!" He demanded, "I'm fast but not fast enough to counter something that instantaneous!"

Uraraka chimed in, "once you get outside it won't matter! They can't follow you out without triggering the alarms!"

"It's true," Confirmed Thirteen, voice still unsettlingly grave, "all you have to do at that point is run and get help."

With a slight narrowing of his eyes, the portal villain gave a wordless reply. Opening a portal right under Iida's feet. Leaping to, Uraraka clapped a hand against his shoulder, and gravity no longer applied. "Good luck." Shoving him upwards, sending him right for the ceiling above the exit, she herself fell into the portal.

"Uraraka!" Hurtling toward the exit as he was, he tried to reach for her, but his fingers snared only air.

"Oh no you-" When the villain went to open another portal Thirteen was on him. Her gloved hand was opened on every finger, and the resulting pull of her quirk was that of a tornado. It was everything the villain could do not to immediately get sucked in. In fact he was forced to teleport behind her in the chaos. "You are beginning to irritate me." His voice carried a scathing bite.

Rather than say anything she merely turned her other hand on him, once again forcing him to teleport away. Taking advantage of the distraction, Iida blasted away with the engines in his calves, rocketing himself in a tailspin toward the glass above. When the villain next appeared, he was prepared. Thirteen's attack was redirected by two different portals, one in front of her, the other behind. When she went to siphon the man from existence, her attack instead tore the back of her costume to shreds and the flesh of her body along with it. Leaping to her rescue were the puffy lipped guy and Ashido. While the muscley teen landed a punch on his face -knocking him off balance- Ashido, palms outstretched, blasted acid all over the man's torso.

Shrieking in pain, the villain threw himself away from them, writhing on the ground. Instinct was an ugly thing if you pushed the human brain hard enough, and seeing the way the man convulsed in agony was enough to make Ashido wish she'd born quirkless. But there wasn't time for such thoughts. Up above Iida was fuming in frustration, furiously wailing his leg against unyielding glass. From the looks of him, he was barely holding onto the metal in his hands. Urarak's quirk must have stopped…

Thinking quickly the grabbed her classmate's shoulder. "You have a strength quirk, right?!"

He blinked, "yes?"

Ashido pointed toward Iida. "Throw me up there!"

Before he could protest the stirring villain was snarling, probably frothing at the mouth and forcing himself to his feet. Were it not for their six armed classmate tackling the purple man, he'd have been on them in seconds. So without a word, he reached for his utility belt, grabbed a packet of sugar and consumed it. Picking up the pink girl he curled his body like baseball pitcher and hurled her toward their armored friend.

"Iida, incoming!" She shouted, giving him just enough to brace himself for her impact.

Being thrown against a man in armor was significantly less pleasant than she'd ever imagined… wind knocked from her lungs, stars in her eyes, she managed to cling to a metal beam just above his head.

Hand outstretched she sprayed acid over the glass and metal. "Now, kick it now!"

He complied, sundering the glass and metal entirely. Unfortunately he'd also succeeded in destroying his hand holds. Luckily, Ashido's was holding strong. Strong enough that she was able to push him through with her legs rather than watch him plummet away back inside the USJ.

He landed on the pavement outside with a loud clatter, but with a few curses, he was on his feet and rocketing away. Ashido almost breathed a sigh of relief when she remembered just how high up she was. Looking back down below she saw the others had succeeded in subduing that mist guy, and three other students had made it back to the group. Asui, Aoyama and one crispy looking Kaminari.


Adding to the list of 'bad', Thirteen was done for. Underneath that bulky suit it was impossible to tell if she was still breathing. There wasn't time to find out, however. Right behind Asui's group was another bunch of villains, heading right for them. Frowning, letting her demeanor slip to something somber, she let out some of her negativity.

"I hate today."

Then she dropped, bracing her legs for impact.

By the time they'd reached the exit of the Inferno Zone, Jiro was amazed that either of the boys in her company were still standing. The sweltering heat alone was enough to make her dread ever wearing a leather jacket as part of hero costume. Having to half carry one of her friends made it practically unbearable. When she struggled to wipe the sweat off her brow, the vampire who she carried looked at her apologetically.

"We're even." she said, prompting a confused blink. "From when you caught me." It took him a minute, but he nodded.

Up ahead of them Akaguro let loose with a rather violent cough as he kicked the door open. Walking through it, without breaking stride, he staggered to the water's edge -the sea accident zone- and fell in. Sighing in blissful relief he floated there for a moment before dragging himself out of the water.

"I don't think that water's sanitary…" Yaoyorozu commented.

"Don't care." The dhampire replied, his breathing finally equalizing. "Feel better." and the creation girl shook her head. At Deku slumping back like a lump, Jiro strained in her efforts to ease him to the ground.

Growling with her efforts not to drop him, she hissed, "Damn it, Green!" But he wasn't present enough to hear her. The vice like clamping of his jaw remained resolute, even as his eyes drooped closed. Rolling her eyes, Jiro pulled on the back of his head to lean him forward. "Self destructive lunatic…" she muttered angrily. "Do you ever worry about yourself?" No reply, even after she'd wormed him out of his- oh good lord. The heft of this jacket was a sin against reasonably weighted clothing. "Y-you idiot!" She all but shouted. "Would it have killed you to take this thing off?!" her voice strained as she let it drop from his shoulders with a thud.

Akaguro rolled his eyes shaking his head with a one sided frown. "I'm starting to think you were right about that concussion." Coughing again, groaning and gripping his side, he growled in frustration. "I hate smoke…"

Wiping some blackened sweat from her brow, Yaoyorozu murmured her reply. "I'm not fond of it myself…" While Jiro discarded her jacket something caught the creation girl's eye. "Looks like Aizawa's still fighting that-" her eyes went wide. "Wh- what is that thing!?" Jiro looked up and just about thought she'd lost it. No way in hell did nature produce a creature that wrong looking. But why was it just standing there?

Unaware of those now observing them, Aizawa and Shigaraki were fighting two very different battles. The hero was on his last wind, unable to keep himself from wobbling as he alternated between dodging and negating the villain's attempts to disintegrate his flesh. His eyes were screaming for any sort of liquid to undry them, his knuckles and joints were all bleeding from beating a mob of fools into the dirt. Even if he beat this guy, he was no longer sure he had it in himself to beat the so called 'Nomu'.

Meanwhile, Shigaraki was having the time of his life. Sure, he was getting more bruises and cuts than any other time in his life, but there was something oddly thrilling about fighting. As another blow to his gut knocked the wind out of him, as another knee to his temple made the world spin, he cackled.

"Twenty four…" still listing numbers, for what purpose the hero knew not.

Another strike to the lunatic's ribs, another hand clawing for face. A hand he hadn't noticed until it snared his goggles.


Lurching his head back, Aizawa narrowly avoided his face being turned to dust. It was almost sad, watching those goggles deteriorate to nothing in the man's grip.


What was he on about? Aizawa glared at him, suppressing a snarl as he lashed out with his scarf and snared most of Shigaraki's upper body with it.

"Now it's all the way down to six." And he pulled the man toward him, flinging him into the air.

Lurching forward, tugging on the scarf with all he had, he brought the villain crashing down into the concrete water fountain. Ordinarily such a man would have shattered upon such an impact, but the water broke his fall just enough to prevent that. When the villain was out of sight, the scarf began disintegrating and Aizawa cursed himself for his error.

Bursting from the water, coughing up said liquid, the villain cackled breathlessly. "Your quirk, makes your float around whenever you use it." Grinned he, "I've been watching, calculating the amount of time you could use it," he pulled himself out of the fountain, looming toward the hero, whose breathing was heavy, labored. It had been too long since he'd had such a fight. "And now that you're down to the wire, facing the leader, you just keep mixing it up!" He pointed right at him with violent enthusiasm. "I can never predict a good time to try and use a finishing move!" Aizawa glared at him, growling disapprovingly at this man's appreciation for his tactics. "You really are just so cool…" Shigaraki sighed, happily. "I almost don't want to kill you."

Flicking his wrist, dagger in hand, Aizawa altered his combat stance accordingly. "The feeling is far from mutual." And Shigaraki couldn't help but snicker gleefully.

"Ahhh, " he sighed, stepping out of the fountain, "it's been fun," he flexed his wrists, snapping them more times in tandem than should have been possible, "but it's time for this game to end." Then something caught his attention: that group of villains he'd sent up the stairs was having trouble with those kids. And…

oh no. "Shit…" Shigaraki hissed under his breath. "Kurogiri's out. Looks like the fun's over." Whistling, instantly drawing the Nomu's attention, he pointed up the stairs. "Finish them, and bring me Kurogiri."

When the lumbering monster went for the stairs, Aizawa felt the veil around the world drop, and he remembered what nightmares felt like. You think you remember, in your waking moments, after they happen, but you don't. Not until something beyond horrible is looming over your head, threatening to change your life forever for the worst.

All heroes have moments where their bodies moved on their own. Rushing them toward danger they couldn't possible hope to beat in order to protect those who were helpless. All heroes, no matter how jaded, never quite manage to resist this impulse. When Aizawa landed on the Nomu's shoulders, he drove the blade of his dagger into the monster's eye. When he dragged the blade through its brain, he expected it to fall. Instead it reached up, faster than he could hope to react, and grabbed his chest. Air was pushed from his lungs, ribs snapping like twigs in its grip, it just tossed him off like he was a mosquito. Nothing more than an annoyance.

"Impressive, isn't he?" Shigaraki mocked, "the best that old 'Sensei' could put together." Sputtering, straining through the pain, the Hero looked up to see the flesh of the creature putting itself back together. "He should be more than a match for All Might."

In a flash, defying his broken chest, Aizawa was on Shigaraki. One hand pulled at the hair on the back of his head, the other had the dagger aimed right at his carotid artery. "You really think I won't?" and for the first time, Shigaraki saw it.

The look one only got in one's eyes when one had taken lives and was every bit capable of taking them again. It was a look that chilled him down the marrow, not one that should ever be in the eyes of a hero.

Aizawa didn't care. "Then keep walking," he… he was talking to the Nomu?! "Your master here won't live past your next step." The Nomu stopped, turning around and staring right at the two of them.

Talking to a wild beast instead of the man who commanded it… one line too far. Shigaraki reached behind himself, and gripped Aizawa's broken ribs. With a strained outcry of pain, Aizawa's hand actually made the motion to stab Shigaraki. Had the villain not anticipated the reflexes of his survival instincts prompting him to attack, the dagger would have killed him. Instead he let gravity carry him backward and down, away from the blade. Gripping at rotting, shattered ribs Aizawa staggered backward, staring down the villains with naught much left but embers of his strength.

Now, the look in Shigaraki's eyes was anything but amused. "On second thought, Nomu…" he pointed right at the Hero, his entire left shoulder drenched in blood from the sizable cut Aizawa had just given him. "Kill him first."

There was no mistaking what she'd just heard. That… thing was going to kill Aizawa. "Oh no you don't!" Jiro shouted, hand on her sword in a flash.

The creature only had a moment to look up before her next move was made. Throwing the blade like a javelin it speared itself soundly in the creature's chest. In confusion it looked down at the thing piecing its flesh. It seemed confused, like it didn't recognize the look of its own blood. Like seeing such a thing shouldn't have been possible any longer.

"No!" Aizawa shouted, "get out of here!" but it was too late.

The Nomu was already right next to her, a backhand hit her skull with greater force than a punch from god. Her body skidded across the dirt, bouncing and flailing limply into the air, spinning just enough so that when she next landed it was on her back. Wind and senses knocked soundly from her Jiro stared, groaning up at the ceiling while the world spiraled.

Lounging straight at the thing were Akaguro and Yaoyorozu. His katana skewered through the thing's entire torso, but it ignored it. It was by a hair's breadth that he avoided getting punched in the face, but the wind. The wind from the missed strike was enough to send him flying. Yaoyorozu's sword slashed through the thing's side, but she too -in the wake of that thing's attack, was thrown away from it.

"That thing…" she breathed, hurling herself back to her feet, "the force of that attack…" her eyes were wide with terror, even still she stood her ground.

In disbelief, the dhampire made the harrowing climb back to his feet, and marveled at it. "It's as strong as All Might." He said, almost reverently.

Yaoyorzu, standing between the thing and Jiro, refused to move. Two of her comrades were helpless, one was just about dead. She couldn't win, but she couldn't run. Gulping back her nerves, she aimed her blade right at the thing's face, staring it down.

"If I were a praying girl… I think this would be the time." she breathed, even as she quaked in her boots. It charged, she prepared to counter its next attack, only she never had the chance. She was knocked out of its way before it hit her, and someone else was on top of her. When he dragged her back to her feet, she almost screamed his name. "Aizawa? How did you-" His chest soaked in blood. Skin falling off, half rotted had torn open in his mad dash to save her life.

"I said," he strained through clenched teeth, tearing the sword from her grip, "RUN!" and he charged at the Nomu again.

She barely had time to register what happened next. It struck out, he narrowly dodged, the wind sent her flying, shoulders and head colliding with the wall of the Inferno Zone. It was a miracle the pain alone didn't make her black out.

Jiro was finally able to move again, but the pain from doing so made her wish she couldn't. Definitely a concussion. At the moment she was just thankful that thing hadn't broken her neck. Forcing herself to look up, she saw a truly hopeless sight. Aizawa, somehow managing to avoid a strike from it, slashed its side clean open. When she saw the massive, open wound on his own ribs she was no longer certain just whose blood he was drenched in. It reared up, ready to smash him into the dirt when Akaguro suddenly landed on its back. His thumbs forced their way into the monster's eyes, prompting it flail about. Jiro was on her feet, staggering, when it grabbed him. She was running when Aizawa impaled the thing's face. She was sprinting when it dropped Akaguro to force the blade from its grey matter. There just wasn't stopping this thing. Everything they did to it just healed itself and utterly failed to slow it down. They weren't strong enough to fight this thing, no human was save for All Might.

All Might wasn't here.

Someone who wasn't human, was here.

"Green!" She practically fell by his side, he was barely even breathing anymore. She reached out shaking him, trying to wake him to no avail. "Come on, get up!" Nothing. Between the heat from the inferno Zone and the venom was ravaging his body, Izuku Midoriya was long unconscious. "We need you!"

Even as she pleaded, the Nomu had recovered, swatting Aizawa aside just in time for Yaoyorozu to start launching… something at it from the backs of her wrists. Something thick, heavy and that solidified almost instantly. Whatever it was, it was only succeeding in slowing it down as its master started walking over to them.

"Midoriya…" Jiro breathed, as it smashed free of the solidified material, "I don't know if you really stand a chance of beating this thing," Yaoyorozu staggered, it reached out to grab her head and Akaguro was on it, forcing his sword up: the rest of the way through its body and lopping off its arm. "But without you, we all die before help can get here."

She undid her choker, letting it fall to the ground as the Nomu's arm re-sprouted from its side. In the next moment, she was pulling Midoriya's mask of his face, digging her fingernails into the side of her own throat with her other hand. "Don't hate me for this..."

As the Nomu struck Akaguro, straight on, right in his wounded side, she pulled Midoriya's face to the side of her neck and flinched. While the half blood was sent through the barrier of the Inferno Zone, the full blooded Vampire unconsciously sank his teeth into her neck. She felt incredibly faint. Between the head trauma and now significant and increasing blood loss she almost relented to unconsciousness. Behind her, the Nomu swatted Yaoyorozu aside, looking curiously at Jiro. It cocked its head to one side, like a curious crow as it lumbered toward her.

Aizawa, defy every screaming iota of his failing body, charged it again. Grabbing Jiro's sword, still in the thing's chest, he forced it up, vivisecting the Nomu's head. Before it had even finished healing it punched his already ruined chest. Its knuckles carried his body in an arc, smashing him through a section of the Inferon Zone barrier and he finally didn't get back up. At the sound of the violent crash, Midoriya's eyes sprang open.

Instinct took over. Flying from he'd been propped against the wall, claws at the ready, he tore the thing's face to ribbons. He'd jumped over its head, claws still in the thing's flesh he twisted his body and hurled as hard as he could. With a roar unlike any he'd ever unleashed, he actually lifted it up off the ground. With his other hand reached up to join the first, he smashed it back down to earth, clear away from his fallen allies. Shaking his head, staggering from the surge of adrenaline and sudden recuperation, he took a moment to process everything that had just happened. Chest heaving, suddenly able to draw in air at all he looked about and promptly realized he was the last one standing. Realizing the horrid thing he'd done. Yaoyorozu was stirring, albeit very slowly, back to her senses. Jiro lay on the ground behind him, her eyes narrow and brow furrowed from all manner of pain. The hand on her neck wasn't very effectual at staunching the blood flow, but it remained there as she stared defiantly at the Nomu.

"Good…" she strained, very light headed from the effort required to even speak, "good luck, Green…" and she couldn't risk another word.

If she passed out with a concussion, there was no telling when or if she'd wake up. When he looked over his shoulder, that look of horrified guilt made her want to scream. Stirring of the Nomu climbing back to its feet.

"Now that's unexpected…" That disembodied hand… and he thought it had been his imagination, back at the front gate. "You actually threw it…"

Deku looked at the hulking monster he'd apparently thrown. He was strong enough to throw an industrial steamroller, something weighting close to 20 tons, a good fifteen feet away from himself. Whatever this thing was, he'd only thrown it about half that distance; meaning that even while he'd grievously injured its brain -crippling most of its voluntary and autonomic functions- it was still strong enough to resist even that much strength. ...What kind of maniac created this thing?

"No matter," Shigaraki batted that thought out of the air, "you'll be dead soon enough." he clicked his fingers and pointed right at Deku.

Good lord that thing could move. Eyes going wide at this monster's sheer strength, he only managed to dodge it by falling over. When it tried to kick him, Deku twisted his body away, only narrowly avoiding that as well. The wind was still enough to send him flying. Body twisting in the air -with all the grace of a tortoise with wings- he only barely managed to get back to his feet in time to avoid another attack. No. He didn't have time to think about what he was doing.

If he wasted time with that, then this was over already. This time he was leaping over its head. That this tactic worked on it so well suggested it never expected anyone to be so crazy as to go over its head. It healed from this once already! Striking out with his claws, finally getting a chance to attack, he turned its exposed brain to jelly. It slumped forward, literal brain death stopping it dead as it started to regenerate. He sighed in relief. There was no way he could kill it, and that meant he didn't have to hold back with it.

"That's it!" Deku shouted, leaping straight for the creature. There was a way to beat it!

Leaping in front of it, claws swinging in rapid succession, he cut through flesh and bone like butter. It raised a hand to defend itself, but that was cut clean off for its trouble. In something akin to panic, it lashed out, striking his jaw in an uppercut and sending him flying into the air. He landed in a heap, his broken jaw and neck slow to reknit themselves, making snapping, popping noises as they did. He had to vigorously shake his head to retain his balance.

"You can't kill Nomu," Shigaraki's voice was his only warning before he felt an indescribable pain in his right arm.

Left arm swinging, this time in a punch, he swatted the villain's shoulder, making him scream. Deku staggered, clutching his rotting, disintegrating arm. Biting his lip and hissing from the pain he watched in horror as the skin and muscle turned to dust before his eyes.

Snarling, the villain carried on with his little speech. "Everything…" he strained, "you do to it will only undo itself thanks to one of its quirks!" Deku looked up to see that it was almost completely regenerated again. Only… was it regenerating slower?

A growl in his stomach halted that thought dead. The tax on his body, from healing everything he'd been through today on top of his most recent injuries, it was more than what he'd eaten could maintain. Looking at his arm he found it was still disintegrating, his healing factor barely managing to keep pace. It was only after that his stomach growled louder that inspiration struck.

"Funny thing about healing quirks…" with his good hand, Deku took hold of the rotting one, "your body can only keep it going for as long as it has the energy required." Claws extended, he braced for the pain he knew was coming. In one, excruciating motion, he used his claws to strip the affected flesh from his bones.

He nearly doubled over from the pain, screaming through his teeth as his blood splattered the dirt. His breathing was strained, muffling cries of anguish as he forced himself to look up at his enemies. The only reason they hadn't attacked was because one of them had been too terrified to think of it. Deku held up his arm, letting the villain watch as his his flesh regrew over his bones. Scared as he was, shaking from fear and pain alike, he knew his friends were counting on him. His teacher was counting on him. Presence of mind enough to comprehend the value of intimidating one's opponent.

Impressive that he had it, amidst the various screams of his ravaged body. "So I'll just have to keep hurting it," he took a step forward, "Until it's too tired to fight!" His quirk loving brain, ever to the rescue.

Shigaraki was at a loss. A kid, some brat with the quirk of a demi-god, was somehow managing to stand up his Nomu? No. Ridiculous. He pointed at the child in question. "Nomu," he said quietly, "pretend he's All Might."

In a blur too fast for any normal human to see, it was on him. Fist smashing him through the water fountain, careening into the stone steps. And Deku thought that injury from Bakugo had hurt… it took entire seconds for his body to register it was even in pain. His nervous system might as well have gone through a blender. Before he could process any kind of plan, it was over him again, fist ready to deliver a killing blow.

Body surrendering to pure impulse, he twisted out of the path of its attack by the skin of his teeth. No time to think. If he hesitated even for one second in this fight, he would die. The people he was defending would die. Feet making contact with some surface he kicked off it, claws moving in a blur. Its eyes turned to paste, he caught the blood flying in the air with his long, inhuman tongue. When he landed it swung wildly, fist blasting over his head like a rocket as he ducked.

Another lunge forward, this time he ripped most of its torso wide open, taking an arm with it as his open maw feverishly guzzled down the torrenting blood. Mid flight, it grabbed him, crushing his ribs and smashing him into the ground. Splattering him like a literal bug. But he'd easily had enough of this thing's blood to recover from it. Flesh reknitting itself in moments, he lunged upwards, spearing his arms deep into the thing's head.

He'd lost it, completely surrendering to his vampire nature his fangs drove themselves into its flesh. Hands digging, scrapping at the top of its head, keeping the brain from healing while he guzzled down its life force. A savage jab to his stomach, fingers spearing his flesh, rocketed him away from the thing. When he landed, he realized it had bit his midsection hard enough to burst it.

Coughing, senses returning to his adrenaline addled brain after such a strike, Deku saw the world above him spinning. He groaned as he got to an upright position. Off in the distance, even with its ruined head and missing arm, it was staggering toward him. You just couldn't keep it down… Forcing himself to his feet -a task easier than said than done with an open abdomen- he felt his own flesh and bone forcing themselves to reform. Still moving as it was, it was slow. Deku had given it a beating so bad its healing factor was ending the fight for him. Every inch of flesh regrown, was another hint of wobble added to it's step.

When the vampire turned to face Shigaraki he was stunned, speechless. "Like I said," the vampire repeated, literally holding himself together with an arm firm against his gut, "healing only work as long as the body can keep it up."

Shigaraki looked at him, almost numbly. Defeat worn plainly on his masked face, staring the victorious brat in the eye.

Deku quietly regarded him with something akin to sympathy. "Tell it to stop, before it dies." The Nomu had regrown its body, but its footsteps were beyond labored. It was like watching a man that was already dead as he tried to keep walking. But it was still heading his way, at the same pace it always walked. "Please…" Deku's expression went soft, "No one's died yet, this doesn't have to end that way."

Those who were awake to observe looked on in awe. This… this was the power of a vampire? Yaoyorozu looked as though she were staring at a living, breathing myth: Afraid and filled with wonder. Jiro had no idea what to think. This fight clearly wasn't over. As long as that thing could still move, it could still kill all of them. Midoriya had managed to survive this long thanks only to clever tactics and savagery. But his legs were shaking.

He was on his last remnants of vigor himself. Even with the ample supply of blood, coursing through his system, a vampire was still an animal. There wasn't an animal alive that didn't need sleep, especially after putting itself through something so harrowing as the fight he'd only narrowly survived. From the looks of the bags under his eyes -so purple they were almost black- and the sinking of the flesh of his face, Midoriya was almost dead from exhaustion alone.

Green… her fist curled, frustrated at her inability to move. Don't you dare die! We're almost through this, we almost won!

"Lies…" Shigaraki hissed, fingers scraping at the skin on his neck, "Nomu… Nomu is strong enough to kill All Might… this isn't over, it can't be over!"

Deku gave the man a pitiable look, one of sympathy. He knew the feeling of defeat, in the face of everything he could do. It wasn't easy to cope with, in fact it was heartbreakingly painful. The vampire had felt it himself more than often enough to recognize it on someone else.

"Shigaraki…" he murmured, "this 'Nomu' was almost outright murdered by me." Shigaraki's eyes drifted to his, those mismatched green orbs. "If someone with almost no combat experience and barely any control over his own quirk could beat it: what chance did it have against All Might?" Gently as the question was asked, it was still enough to make something in the villain snap. "This is over."

Frothing at the mouth, face contorted with fury he charged at this impudent brat. "NO!" he screamed, hands digging into the boy's chest. "IT'S NOT OVER UNTIL ALL MIGHT DIES!"

He felt it. The icy hand of death wrapping around his heart as his flesh turned to dust. Hands pulled at Shigaraki's wrists, hauling them aside and pulling his throat to Deku's mouth. There was a large gash in the villain's throat; one he forced his tongue into enough to drink from. His body was in agony. Healing from another injury just about made him black out, but he muscled through it. When the game was 'stay awake or die', you stayed awake.

"NOMU!" Shrieked the villain. "NOMU!" Deku hauled Shigaraki's wrists together, feeling the earth shake as the monster hastened its approach. "KILL THIS LITTLE BRAT! KILL HIM NOW!"

It only lasted for a second.

He went to throw Shigaraki out of the way. His fingers snared on villain's sleeve, their feet were pulled from under them. They feel sideways, the Nomu's fist flying straight at them, almost at a downward angle. Shigaraki had enough time to let his eyes go wide before the fist of the Nomu hit him. In an instant, the villains body was impacted into the ground and a loud, wet crunch was heard.

When the dust settled, Deku was at the Nomu's feet. It wasn't moving. It just… stared. Following its gaze, the vampire's eyes went wide with horror. Shigaraki… wasn't moving. He wasn't breathing. His life had just been snuffed out.

He was dead.

It was so quiet you could hear an ants footsteps. The Nomu's hand twitched. Then, shaking, it pulled away from the corpse of its master. Jaw quivering it took a trembling step back. Eeking ever wider open, its jaw began to spasm violently, its entire body following suit. Then, as it began to tremble like a traumatized child, it screamed. Screamed so loud Deku and Jiro had to cover their ears. Even Yaoyorozu couldn't help but try and shield her eardrums as it wailed in anguish, its massive hands gripping at its malformed head.

Flailing its body about, howling like the souls of the damned, it lashed out at the ground, pummeling a small crater into it. It slipped, falling onto its back and began spasming, flopping about like a beached fish as its horrid screaming continued. A commotion near the exit went entirely unnoticed. Vanessa and All Might, smashing through the door, arrived in time to see this spectacle being and then, abruptly, end.

With the force of surface to air launching, the Nomu sent itself skyward. Crashing through the plexiglass of the ceiling, it flew into the distance. Wherever it landed, they were certain it hadn't stopped there. The Nomu was running to some far off corner of the earth, and it wasn't looking back.

It had just done the one thing its brain could never let it do: it had killed Shigaraki.

Getting to his feet, an arm held to his battered chest, Deku walked numbly to Shigaraki's corpse. He fell on his knees, a look of abject terror on his features. He couldn't process it. What had just happened? What the fuck did his just do? Was it even him? Who held the blame?

"I don't…" Deku's hand gripped Shigaraki's cold, motionless shoulder. "Why didn't you just-!?" His palms shot to his eyes, shoulders shaking violently his body strained against every possible emotion. An internal struggle that only ended when he curled back his head, facing the heavens, and screaming like he had the day he'd first bitten that thug in the alley.

Worst of all, he had no idea if it was himself he should even be blaming.

Chapter Text

Nemuri Kayama, otherwise known as the professional hero "Midnight". Teacher of Modern Hero Art history, it was her job to teach these rowdy teenagers the subtler side of determining one's identity as a hero. Symbolism and naming conventions, two aspects of the name so intricately entwined one could mistake them as being one and the same. At present she stood at the head of Class 1A, a more forlorn group of faces she could not have found on school grounds.

This class in particular, she noticed, seemed more tightly knit than the others. Whatever the reason for this was, whenever one of them was adversely affected by life, the pain permeated to all of them. Such was the comradery born of surviving the things they had already, so early in their careers as heroes.

Though that was presently irrelevant, save for understanding the present mood lingering in the air. They all knew what had happened, what had shattered the heart of one of their classmates in particular. Today, almost painfully too soon after recent events, was the day they chose their names.

"A hero's name," began she, "is perhaps more important than the costume," this earned her some odd looks, but nothing she hadn't observed before while teaching this lesson.

"It's the label that people remember us by as well as something that usually carries a special meaning to the hero who chooses the name, though this isn't always the case." Opening a small case, she procured a set of small dry erase boards and markers from within. Placing them in the hands of Hagakure -class 1A's resident invisible girl- she said, "for the next fifteen minutes I want you to consider who you are," one vampiric student in particular flinched at that, "your life, your values, your journeys to this point in your lives." All in the room had eyes on her, she met their gaze with warm confidence. "Choose the name that fits all of this," she said raising a hand and pointing at them all, "choose a name that tells the world 'who you are'."

Two weeks earlier….

UA High School: USJ Facility

Dust began settle in the wake of the Nomu's retreat. Deku remained on his knees, head hung low and face twisted in confused, shamed grief. His hand remained where it lay, resting on the corpse of the crushed man's shoulder; clinging to the ratty fabric.

A name that defies everything you've been through…

There was a hand on his shoulder, gripping gently, not prompt enough to turn his eyes away from the body. A man he barely knew, a man who'd come here to kill him and his classmates, teachers. Dead by some grievous miscalculation, a feat of clumsiness and poor coordination of those inexperienced in combat. But this was still a human being, not just some cackling fool in a mask. Someone with hopes, dreams, twisted as they might have been. Horrid as his intentions there were reasons behind them, thought put into what he was doing. Monster though that made him, it also meant he was aware: Human.

Something he could no longer claim to be.

"Little one..." he winced, breath choking in his throat. "It's okay. You can let go." Vanessa put a hand over his, the one on Shigaraki' motionless form.

Shuddering breath, voice cracking, he rasped, "but I-"

"Did everything you could," softly as she spoke, the words cut through him like a lance. Everything he could, and this was the end result. "It wasn't you..." she had to draw in a beath, holding it for a few moments, "I know it doesn't feel that way," Slowly, one finger at a time, she peeled his hand off of the dead man's shirt. "And that it may never feel that way," she pulled his hand back, away from the body which was growing colder by the second, "but we need to get everyone medical attention, and… him seen too." Deku just stared helplessly at the body, as Vanessa pulled him away, to his feet.

"Come on," she murmured, turning his face away at long last. "We need to go."

When he was asked what he remembered about the USJ incident, the vampire would later say one thing. It ended with silence. In the wake of such a violent, traumatic experience your brain doesn't expect the world to go back to that familiar noise level. The rush of your own blood, your heart rate racing in your ears, the ringing of adrenaline, it all harmonizes in moments of chaos; creating a dissonant chorus of frantic energy, need to escape, survive. When those moments end, and the silence comes back, the world feels wrong. Like that living hell you were just in replaced reality, forcing you to adapt to it before throwing back into the realm it just stole you from. That familiar, peaceful quiet, after all that, just feels so alien.

It was very quiet when the rest of the faculty arrived. When the medical staff arrived along with one ambulance and a whole army of Musutafu's finest police officers. Dozens of villains were collected, taken to be locked away for decades. Aizawa, Thirteen, and Akaguro were completely unconscious when they were carted away to Recovery Girl's office. Jiro wished to have been so lucky, for the screaming pain she was in. She had resigned herself to watching the world spin, stars dancing in front of her eyes at the slightest attempt to move.

"Are they going to be okay?" Deku mumbled, watching them as they were removed from the scene of the incident.

As the last of them were carted away, the elder Vampire's lingered on Akaguro's unconscious form. For a moment, a flicker of recognition appeared in her eyes. Ultimately, however, she ignored it and so Vanessa replied, "From what I hear this school has a top notch medic," from his prior visits to said nurse's office, the younger of the pair could indeed confirm this to be true, "they'll be fine."

Stooping to pick his sunglasses from the ground -somehow making it through the encounter unscathed- Deku let out a long breath. "Guess that's something…" and he replaced them on his face before making the walk outside.

Funny, he hadn't remembered walking to be quite so draining before all this. It wasn't long before his legs were too weak to carry him, and his eyes fell shut, as though they were weighed by lead. Scooping him up onto her back, Vanessa carried the poor boy home.

His things would be waiting for him in classroom when he returned.

Sleep was about the only thing she wanted right now. That or about the most extensive full-body massage one could give; after as near a lethal dose of painkillers you could get without permanent damage. If nothing else, Recovery Girl's quirk had repaired most of the damage, and gotten the planet to stop spinning like a hyperactive child on caffeine. All the same, Jiro was impatient about getting back on her feet.

"You seem irritated." Violet eyes turned to meet onyx ones, sitting by her bedside. Sighing, closing said violet eyes, Jiro did not reply. "Don't want to talk about it?"

Slowly, her eyes reopened, staring at the ceiling. "What do you think would have happened if that villain hadn't died?"

Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, Yaoyorozu considered this reluctantly. "Honestly?" said she, now considerably downcast, "that… thing would likely have killed us all." Jiro winced, hearing her own pessimism spoken aloud by someone else was not what she wanted. "For as much as Midoriya did to it, you saw how much energy it still had when it…" she gulped, shuddering at the vivid memory of the Nomu's psychological breakdown. "Had that panic attack and fled," she continued, "if it had come to the fight re-ensuing…"

"Yeah," Jiro sighed, " So you noticed, Green just didn't have it him…" She glared up at the ceiling. "I hate that we were that helpless." Her fist clenched. "Relying on someone just like us, fish out of water, to save our skins." It wasn't often that Jiro felt shame stabbing at her so ferociously. "Nevermind being damsels in distress, throwing a classmate to the wolves like that makes me feel… dirty."

Groaning from another bed in the room prompted the violet eyed girl to look to the source. "Under the circumstances…" strained the voice of their teacher, Aizawa, trying to sit up, "One could hardly fault you for such a decision." Hand on his now thoroughly bandaged ribs, he used his other to haul himself up, back against the headboard. "But when class resumes," he pointed right at the pair of them, "we are going to have a very serious discussion about the word 'run'."

At that, the girls actually smiled. Well, one of them smiled. "You're a tough old bastard." Jiro quipped, turning her whole head to face him. "Should you even be moving?"

Growling at her fowl language Aizawa did his utmost to let it go. "When that concussion clears, your free ticket for swearing expires."

Wincing at a sudden urge to laugh, Jiro smiled through the pain. "...Deal." Managed she.

Swinging his legs over the side of his bed the battered, ragged man took a moment to breathe. "Oh no you don't." Opening his eyes, an eyebrow raised, Aizawa was most displeased to see Recovery Girl's cane pointed right at his nose. "Get back in bed this instant." The nurse demanded. "Your not getting up and undoing all that progress on healing your injuries." When he went to protest she actually went and pressed her cane against his lips. "No. No protests." She pointed with her other hand, her order unmistakable. "Down."

Stubborn as he was, Aizawa wasn't about to argue against such insistence on her part. "Fine." He muttered, complying with great reluctance. "Just tell me what happened to my students."

Coughing from the couch against the opposite wall preempted an answer. "They're fine," Akaguro wheezed, "No one but was seriously hurt." and his breathing devolved into a rather violent fit of coughing. Getting punched in the chest by the Nomu -right after breathing in all that smoke- had done him no favors. Even with the broken bones repaired his lungs continued to protest.

Aizawa raised an eyebrow. " I see." He turned his gaze to the two girls, to his left, and awaited further explanation.

"It's true," Yaoyorozu confirmed, "the only other student who was injured was Midoriya." She turned pale, clearing her throat before she continued. "Although… thanks to his healing factor he's still on his feet, somewhere on campus probably." A staff member at the door caught Recovery Girl's attention. For a moment Jiro swore she had yellow eyes but it turned out to be a trick of the light. Blue as could be. "In truth… he was a force to be reckoned with against that 'Nomu'."

"Is that so?" Aizawa turned toward the door, making sure that staff member and Recovery Girl were out of earshot. "Did he…?"

Jiro nodded. "Yeah," the guilty look on her face was rather telling, "he lost it, but… I think he knew he was losing it. Like…" she winced, wracking her brain for the words. "If he hadn't gone feral and bit the thing, no way this would have ended the way it did."

Aizawa sighed. "Just so long as evidence of what he is doesn't get out…"

"Don't worry," Jiro tapped the side of her neck, "claws aside, the only person his fangs sank into is right here." After some thought she added, " least who didn't immediately heal afterwords."

His next sigh was one of relief. "After all this… I'll take it."

After a moment or two of silence, Yaoyorozu piped up with a question. "Any idea what happens next?"

The teacher scoffed. "You mean apart from the media frenzy? I'll be getting you ready for the sports festival."

Akaguro looked at Aizawa like he'd just grown a second head. "You can't be serious…"

"Can and am." He declared. "If you want to make it as heroes, doing well in the festival is important." That… thought he and we likely have to save face in front of the world. Can't let the public think something like this will stop us, or future heroes from rising.

The dhampire growled, sitting up and rolling his eyes. "Such pointless, showboating frivolity…" his body shook with a few more haggard coughs, "give me a murder to stop or a villain's plans to thwart any day, but spare me the damn cameras."

That earned a smirk from the wounded professional. "Couldn't have said it better myself…" he exhaled, "but for now: suffer through it. Once you become a hero, do with your image as you please." For once, the first time since they'd begun sharing a classroom, Aizawa and Akaguro looked each other in the eyes. "It's only for the grades, kid." In response to this, the teenager nodded.

Straining to stand, Akaguro growled out his next words. "If you don't mind…" said he, trying and failing to sound non hostile, despite his lack of anger. "I'm heading out." He flashed that all too wrong smile of his before leaving the room. "See you in class tomorrow, if it happens."

As the others waved, Yaoyorozu couldn't help but eye him warily as he left, prompting an odd look from Jiro. "What?" said the violet eyed girl.

Remembering the fight in the inferno zone -just how utterly unhinged Akaguro had behaved- the creation girl swallowed. "Nothing." She lied. "Just… glad this is over." Silently, she hoped never to see that boy revel so in violence again.

It was a good thing she hadn't bothered to start praying then, as it only would have been ignored.

"Yeah," Jiro murmured, not sharing the feeling in the least. If that gnawing feeling in her gut was right, this whole thing was just getting started. "over…"

When Kurogiri next awoke, he was met with the uncomfortable sight of an ambulance's interior. Slow to start moving, so soon after nearly being melted to paste by that… whatever that girl was, he felt his skin tearing at his slightest effort. The acid burns on his skin were extensive, stretching his muscles enough to move produced incredible pain. What little remained of his shirt and vest were likely drenched in his blood. If nothing else, the pain was a source of relief for one reason: they hadn't bothered to give him painkillers or anesthesia. That meant it was only his injuries impeding him, and those were easier to function with than drugs in his system.

Fighting against the searing, tearing pain in his body, he searched the interior of the ambulance for the attending EMTs. Both were at the front of the vehicle, talking shop from the sound of it. Medical terminology he knew nothing about, small talk about the other villains in custody. As luck would not often have it, the boy was not far from him.

"Shigaraki," whispered he, reaching out and taking hold of his shoulder, giving him a shake. When no response came he assumed the young one to be unconscious, "worry not, young master," murmured he, "I'll handle our escape."

Difficult as it was, he did manage to produce a portal sizeable enough to ferry them to safety. Their entrance to their hideout -a bar long abandoned by its previous owner- was far from graceful, clattering of gurneys and handcuffs echoed throughout the dust ridden hovel. It was only when Shigaraki's body fell, limp and motionless as an empty shirt, that panic set in.

Only there was no time to act on such a feeling. A sudden creaking of the floorboards, the sound of a portable respirator -the kind used in hospitals, tubes sent directly into the lungs via the esophagus- sent an icy chill down the teleporter's spine. "Kurogiri," the lifeless voice, feeble as it was, carried an insignificant hint of rage. That barest of hints, was enough to make even the most hardened of warriors, heroes, go cold with a realization -a reminder, really- that death was only ever one moment away. "What. Happened. To my ward?"

feeble limbs, shaky and bearing skin that cracked and flaked into dust like old paper reached for Shigaraki's body. "Who did this?" a shuddering breath punctuated the ghost of a snarl. The bony fingers of the man on life support curled around the boy's lifeless head. Kneeling, he pulled the dead man's face to his knees, cradling his body like a sleeping, wounded child.

Kurogiri took a long look at the man holding the boy's body, petting at his cold hair. A skeleton, draped in the rotting remnants of human skin. He wore a threadbare suit with a red tie, little more than string around his collar. But that mask… a helmet over what remained of the man's face hid a sight most ghastly from view. Housed within the metal workings of the head-wear was the respirator, roiling away to keep this husk of a man alive.

"I don't know, master." He breathed, head held low. "I was… incapacitated." One of the husk's hands clenched into a fist. "Until we landed here, I believed he was still alive myself." The fist, reluctantly, unfurled, returning to petting at the dead boy's sky-blue hair.

Sighing, the shards of his broken spirit scattering to the wind as he breathed, he closed the poor boy's eyes. "This will not go unpunished, Kurogiri." His tone was weighted, cold, like steel. "I want the one responsible."

"Yer gonna be disappointed."

The pair of battered men looked to the doorway of the hideout to see a familiar face, a mess of blond hair tied into messier buns with yellow eyes blew a pink bubble with her gum. After the bubble burst, she walked into the room -laid back as you please- and dropped onto a chair. Crossing one knee over the other she took a knife from her pocket along with a whetstone, setting to work sharpening the rusty thing.

"From what the teachers were goin on about yer Frankenstein rip-off went nuts and…" when she felt the unbridled rage pouring off the man on life support, the girl seemed to shrink, carefully reconsidering her next words. Clearing her throat, she went on. "Well… after that happened it hightailed it away."

This time, the growl that came from the husk's throat was the real deal. "You're telling me the Nomu did… this ?" Hissed he, through the modulator on his helmet.

"Yup." She shrugged, "I wasn't there, couldn't tell ya fer sure." and she went back to sharpening her blade. "One other thing got tossed around though… while I was snoopin around the school grounds?" At this new revelation she pointed her blade, along with her eyes, up at the ceiling. "Some o'tha wounded in the nurse's office said somethin about a kid with claws who stood up to the thing? I dunno," she shrugged again, refocusing her efforts on her knife while the shoulders of her boss trembled with fury. "From the sound of it, it was a battle of healing factors. Seeing who's would stop workin first."

"Toga…" The husk shuddered out the word, barely containing his fury.

"Hmm?" she looked up, "Wassup, bossman?"

Taking a deep breath, calming himself what little he could, he gave voice to his question. "This boy with multiple quirks," he let the breath go, "you're going to tell me everything about him."

Chapter Text

II: Brewing Storms

She knew immediately that something had happened. The look on Vanessa's face, as she carried her sleeping child inside, told a great deal. Perhaps more telling was the bedraggled, ghostly state of the teenager on her back. The skin around his eyes had sunken, putting the orbital and cheekbones prominently on display. And the color… so purple the skin had almost gone black. He'd never been the soundest sleeper, that he was tuckered out enough to sleep while she carried him put a knot in her throat.

"What happened?" quiet as Inko spoke, her voice still managed to waver.

Vanessa hesitated at an answer while she laid the boy out on the couch. "That's… still being determined." Inko glared at her while she spread a blanket over her son. "I don't have the specifics, just the summary if even that." She took a step back, hands drifting behind her back, fingers interlacing. Inko's stare was sharp, colored with an angry worry.

This tense silence could only last so long. They relocated to the porch, voices kept quiet. Vanessa's retelling of the story was brief, barely covering all that had happened. What few details she'd gleamed on her way off the school grounds were vague at best. In the end, it was enough to satisfy Inko's need to know. Though it was not met without harsh criticism. "One day after you promised me…" her hand was gripping at her face, thumb and fingers gripping around one eye and along the bridge of her nose.

"Aizawa nearly died trying to keep it," Vanessa murmured, clearly perturbed. "From what I heard, if he hadn't been there it's unlikely that no one would have died."

While it did little to put Inko's mind at ease, it wasn't by very much. "And yet my you bring son home looking like he hasn't slept in a year." Considering the strain put on his body by the encounter, that wasn't far off from the truth. "More side effects of the change?"

Vanessa shook her head. "Our abilities take a lot of energy to use." She held up one of her hands, claws slowly extending from her fingertips. "Though we are creatures of legend, most got us all wrong. We're not supernatural beings, just… exceptionally powerful ones." Claws retracting, shifting to a more comfortable position, a pair of her teeth nibbled at the corner of her lower lip for a moment. "When we need to heal, our bodies draw directly from our reserves; extra weight and all that," something Izuku had remarkably little of, "it puts our metabolism into overdrive. While just about any wound can and will heal while this is happening you run the risk of fatally exhausting yourself if you overuse the ability."

"So his greatest advantage could also be greatest weakness under the wrong circumstances…" Vanessa nodded, prompting a frustrated, tired sigh from Inko. "Any other wonderful complications I should know about?"

She gave this some Thought. "That depends: has he mentioned anything about water?"

Inko grimaced, face resting in the palms of her hands, elbows on her knees. "No…"

Guilty as could be, the vampire elaborated. "Well… once upon a time we lived exclusively underground. It's very cold in the underdark," Inko, cheek and jaw resting against her palm, turned to look at the creature currently speaking. With her face unmasked, eyes uncovered, her ghostly pallor was almost haunting; illuminated by both the moon and her own eyes. "So our bodies had to be very efficient at keeping out internal body temperatures level." She shrugged, "So, when one considers the properties of water -that it absorbs a great deal of heat before its temperature rises- it becomes fairly evident what happens."

Inko was almost speechless. Almost. "So… when a vampire is submerged in water their body overexerts itself to try and maintain its temperature?"

The vampire currently present could only smirk at her deduction. "It's exceptionally worse with running water, as none of it remains in contact with the skin for long, it leeches heat almost indefinitely. If I fell into a river, I'd boil alive in my own skin."

"And when it rains?"

Vanessa, once again, shrugged. "I'm not fond of the rain, but it's far from harmful."

That much was something to be grateful for, she supposed. "Running water and his own abilities…" she shook her head, palm pressing against her forehead, fingers lacing between the strands of her hair. "As if sunlight and his hunger wasn't enough to worry about."

"You should be proud of him," Vanessa offered, "with all the boy's been through he's handled things very well, considering." Inko turned to glare sharply at her but Vanessa kept right on talking. "From what I overheard he was able to hold his own in a very serious encounter, saving lives in the process." Meeting the glare with a gentle smile, she went on. "Not long in the hero world and he's already making a difference."

Inko turned, looking over her shoulder into the house and at her son. Even in his sleep he looked so fitful and nervous. "Even if he doesn't feel overwhelmed with guilt at that man's death, I doubt he'd see it that way." Vanessa could only give her a skeptical look in response. "He never did give himself enough credit."

The vampire frowned, thinking back many a long year. "Considering what little I know of his childhood, that makes sense. It can be… difficult to give oneself proper credit when those around you never seem to."

That managed to catch the mother's attention. "You had similar experiences as a child?"

In reply, she smiled with somber nostalgia. "I was born quirkless too."

The following few nights, nearly everyone in class 1A slept unsoundly. Victory, for all involved, had not come so easily as in their childhood daydreams. Though, really, at this juncture they were all still children. Inexperienced, unprepared, reckless and still unmarked enough by the world at large to be left unphased after facing such odds so early. In seeing such eagerness from those villains to inflict harm upon them perhaps they had been marked. Seeing such gleeful excitement on their faces, at the prospect of murdering children they hardly knew, is not the sort of thing one easily disregards. So it of with such contorted visages that they all, collectively, dreamed. One in particular was especially unable to shake the memory during slumber.

Her old middle school, an arena she already dreaded with considerable aversion. Towering halls, even the smallest doorways and lockers looming overhead and curling toward her. Like snakes dangling from old branches, fangs reaching for your face. Backpack huddled to her shoulders, shoulders drawn up as close to the base of her skull as could be, she tried to appear as small as she possibly could. It was the one tack that held any actual record for success when avoiding confrontation. All the same, even this failed from time to time. As she would learn later, turtling up, trying to hide in plain sight among the crowds, only makes you appear all the more a vulnerable target.

"Hey," snickered some testosterone laden brute of an adolescent, "check out the new freak."

Her. They meant her.

They always meant her…

"Where ya goin, freak?" Another voice, likely a 'friend' of his. She picked up the pace, trying to find her first class of the year before they could catch up to her.

In her expediency she'd accidentally navigated into a dead end.

"Rejects like you have no place here." And there was a hand, tangling in her long hair and yanking ferociously down. Yelping, she felt the sharp pain in her scalp of far too many hair follicles being ripped from her skin as her face was forcibly upturned to the ceiling.

"Get lost while the gettin's good." Spinning around, falling to one of her knees in the process, she looked up and saw their faces. Twisted, wide eyed grins, colored with almost lust infused malice eagerly expressed some dark desire.

The dark desire to snuff the life from a fellow human being. "Gonna cry, freak?"

All around her, as her eyes pulled themselves wide with fear, the darkness took on a life of its own. Morphing, oozing about like some sapient form of slime, black hands stretched like melting, dripping flesh right toward her. Inky fingers snaked into her long hair, ripped at her clothes, and pulled. Laughing of the boys, those that seemed hell bent on tormenting her, echoed like cackling hyenas in the cramped, linoleum halls as the darkness that puddled around her began to swallow her up. She lashed out, thrashing her body in some vain attempt to escape the snaring fingers, the liquid darkness clinging to her flesh as it enveloped her. Letting out a fearful, frustrated, helpless scream, she curled her hand into a fist and struck out for the face of the nearest buly: the boy who would be her rival through all of middle school.

Her hand hit the wall, she yelped with sleep congested vocal chords, waking to find herself thrashing in her waking state. Now sitting up, chest heaving with fright her hand reached up to the back of her head. She let out a loud sigh of relief, feeling the strands of her purple hair at their appropriate, short length. To her left she saw her old bunkmate, a plush moose she'd had since she was small: Moosin, the best moose.

"Shut up…" she muttered, "I'm fine. Just… it was just a bad dream." She'd sighed those last words out, petting the old, faded plushie's face. "Bad memories."

Without another word, she got to her feet, stretching and pulling fresh clothes over her slender form, and walked to her dresser. Instead of reaching for the hairbrush her fingers gripped a pair of pill bottles. Opening one she took a lone pill from within, then from the other she took two, breaking the second of the two in half and setting it aside. Throwing them into her mouth she downed them with a glass of water, a swirling mix of transparency, ivory and blue. Suck it, nature. She stuck her tongue out at her reflection -a very old habit- and wandered to the kitchen.

"Hey sweetie." Jiro almost jumped out her skin. "Sleep well?" How her mother managed to be so quiet was a mystery that eluded them both.

All the same it was difficult not to feel amused and annoyed at once. "Yeah, think I'll skip the caffeine today." Remarked she, dropping some bread into the toaster and putting the kettle on before plopping down on the couch beside her mom. Putting down her book, Mrs Jiro wrapped her arms around her daughter, cheek pressing against the top of her head. Jiro pouted huffily at the affection. "Mooooom…." she whined under breath.

"Oh alright," and she went back to her book, "you used to be such a cuddleduck."

"Yeah, back when I was five." Remarked she, sighing as the toaster ejected her breakfast. "Want any?"

Her mother smiled. "Already ate." she patted her belly, making a couple of gentle thumps with her fingers.

Jiro shrugged and went about buttering her toast. When the kettle started whistling rather than use her hands she reached over with her earlobes and used them to pour the water into a mug. Reaching for some lemon zinger she saw the oldest photograph her parents still had of her. It was both her and mom, matching haircuts gotten just before middle school -despite the then tweenager's adamant protests- and sticking their tongues out at the camera.

It wasn't as bad as looking at older pictures of herself, but she couldn't tolerate anything older. Remembering the dream, hating every second it made her skin crawl, she reached forward and glowered at the photo as she plucked it up. For a while she just stood there, staring at her twelve-year old self, she tried to focus on how she felt now about herself.

If only bitter memories didn't linger like smoke.

A hand on her shoulder pulled her again against her mother, who kissed the top of her head. "You're not a freak, my little Kyo-kyo."

Deflating a little, she nibbled at her toast. Liar… an old reflex of a thought, whenever she heard such a thing. "I know." And she gathered up her breakfast, heading back to the couch to watch the news as her mother read by her side.

The train ride to UA was unusually quiet that day. Most everyone looked tired, hung over from the kind of sleep one only got on nights when it rained. Only last night was no such night, so that was a bit confusing. Shrugging off such musings Jiro fought back a smile when she saw her friends waiting by the school gate.

"Hey, Green, Crow." Waving to Midoriya and Akaguro she trotted right over to them, glad to see they were both okay after what had happened a few days ago. Relatively okay, at least. "You look so tired, both of you."

Akaguro suppressed a yawn, patting his ribs. "I'll live…"

Midoriya acknowledged her with a mumble, clearly not in the mood to talk as he hid behind his sunglasses. "Fangs got your tongue?" She quipped, trying to sound good natured as she teased him.

He gave her a wounded expression, eyes turning directly to hers as they rarely did. "...yeah, I guess."

Suddenly feeling guilty over her attempt at banter, Jiro fumbled with an apology. "I- ...sorry, I- I wasn't-"

"It's fine." Midoriya numbly pushed himself off the wall he'd been partially leaning against and trudged toward the main building, hands in his pockets. "Glad you're feeling better."

While she kicked herself inwardly she and the dhampire followed after him. Not quite the reunion she'd wanted after the days following the USJ incident…

When they finally got to the classroom, everyone taking their seats as usual, a very haggard looking Aizawa stepped in. His left arm clutched at his ribs, bandaged beneath his shirt, as his breathing came in sharp, short rasps. Without so much as a word addressing questions relating to his health he delved into the day's lesson. He had them all brainstorming ways in which to best use their quirks in battle. Coming up with new tactics, thinking of new support items they might want and the like. It was a lesson that allowed for half the class time to be conducted in relative silence. Taking advantage of this decision, Jiro got out her notebook and pen along with-

...Where the hell was it? Her brow furrowed, turning to actually look into her school bag. Raking her hand through the assorted contents she failed to turn up the item she sought. Where the hell is my MP3 Player?! It was only after and angry clearing of Aizawa's throat, directed at her, that she gave up and did her best to concentrate on the lesson. Only she kept getting fidgety. That her MP3 Player wasn't right where she always put it was bothering her. Had she dropped it on the train? Back at home, maybe? Or… She sighed at her own stupidity, remembering she'd been listening to it on the bus to the USJ.

That meant it was likely in her costume's jacket pocket. With that knowledge tucked into the corner of her brain she did her best not to worry about it. There was no replacing that MP3 Player. Not with single other model the world over. Antsy tapping of her foot garnered a few irritated remarks from nearby classmates. When Bakugo dared to complain she actually told him to shove it. Truly, there was no salvaging any sort of positive relative relationship between the two of them.

Eventually, after what felt like forever, the lunch bell rang and she practically sprinted for the door. The support department felt like it was leagues further away than usual, but she got there with an almost skidding halt. Knuckles rapidly tapping against the door she waited with jittery anticipation. Peeking out of the room was a girl with pink dreadlocks, giving her the evil eye with a raised eyebrow. "Yes?" she said, wondering why she was getting so many visitors lately.

"Kyoka Jiro, from class 1A." she introduced herself in a hurry, "do you have my costume here?"

The other girl shrugged. "Yeah, but why?"

"I need to check the pockets for something." Another shrug later and the pinkette was rummaging around for the items in question. It only took a few, agonizingly long minutes before she handed Jiro the costume case. "Thank you." She tore it open, yanking the jacket free, hand into- Crinkle.

Never in her life had the feeling of broken plastic and metal brought her world crashing down quite like that. Slowly, heart in tatters, she drew the item out of her costume. Her MP3 Player… destroyed. The case had been cracked open, loose bits of circuitry rattling inside it -some bits clearly much larger than others- and a smell of smoky ozone. Everything about the battered object splintered her heart to shambles.


Arriving at the scene, worried after seeing his friend run off like that, was Deku. Now that he saw her looking so distraught, his mood wasn't much better. "Jiro?" She was holding a broken electronic in her hand, the way her face was contorting… was she about to cry? He stepped closer. "What happened?"

Gonna cry, freak?

She turned away from him, hands covering her face, palms shoving against her eyes. No, she wasn't going to cry. She wasn't going to let anyone see that kind of weakness, she knew full well what that wrought.

"H-hey!" the concern in his voice gnawed at her, made her feel repulsively vulnerable. His hand overlapped hers. Her breathing stopped, eyes going wide, warmth spread across her face, down her neck. "It's okay to cry but you- you don't wanna cry into that thing, do you?"

She yanked away from him, face hidden as best she could. "It can't be fixed, you-" Oh god, that look on his face. Confused, shocked, worried, clueless as what to do in this scenario.

Like a damned puppy, and it was too much. She shoved the remains of her Mp3 Player against his chest, forcing his gaze to drift away from her. "You care so much, you fix it then!" Shame and nausea hit her like a kicking horse as her feet started running.

Shoes clattering against the tiled floor, abandoned as the hallway was she felt eyes and shadows on her. A clawing sensation of prying eyes and ears, laughing at her and plotting some form of punishment only the most depraved and asinine could conjure. Between this, her nightmare and looking at that damned picture with mom she'd had too much. The past just wouldn't let her be.

Staring like a stunned rabbit, Deku barely moved as she fled. "I…" She rounded the corner, disappearing from view as she desperately tried to hide her face. "Sorry..."

His attention was then directed elsewhere, to the item she thrust into his possession. This thing was an antique from some by-gone era of technology. It wore a logo of some company that had long since- Wait, this thing was called a 'Zune'? What the hell was a 'Zune'? Turning it over, musing what was going through Jiro's head that made her react like that, he saw something else. Etched into the antiquated plastic was an inscription.

When the world gets you down, just play a song and give it space.

There was a name that followed it, initials really. "K.H. ?" He whispered, finger tracing over the old lettering. "Who's K.H.?"

"You askin me?" Deku almost screamed. Standing in the doorway of the workshop with a sour expression, collecting Jiro's costume, was that girl with the pink dreadlocks. "I have no idea, but I'll tell you this much." She pointed right at his face. "That thing's not going to be an easy fix, even if you know how to."

"I- I don't even-"

"So," she interrupted, tossing Jiro's costume case back into the workshop and grabbing a scrap of paper. Scribbling furiously she almost muttered at him, "not sure how much this will help…" she handed him the scrap of paper, a list of websites scrawled on it. "But here. I'd do it myself but I've got too much to do with the festival on the way." She sighed almost contentedly, "everyone and their grandmother wants me to make babies for them." Deku's entire spine went rigid as he eyed her suspiciously. "Speaking of which," she got a mischievous smile on her face that put a swirl in his guts, "do you need anything made for the festival?"

He had no idea what to think. "What the hell are you-?"

"Gadgets, support items, you goose," she said, tone unchanged, "what'd you think I-?"

"Absolutely nothing!" he all but shrieked. "Thanks for the websites bye!" The speed at which he ran for his life he wouldn't have been surprised if he'd left clouds of dust in his wake.

Blinking at his sudden departure, she scratched at her cheek before shrugging to herself. "Weirdo. Hope everything's alright." And she shut the door to the workshop, getting back to her projects.

Were all women so terminally confusing? Chugging down the contents of the usual metal thermos, Deku did is best to compartmentalize that bit of interaction. His usual feeling of self loathing and disgust at meal time worked like a charm in moving that process along.

"So then Bakugo just scoffs and says 'if the others are dealing with idiots like these they can handle it themselves!' It was kinda cool to hear him say something like that." Kaminari gave Kirishima an odd look. "Didn't think he had it in him, believing in his classmates like that."

Kaminari rolled his eyes. "Sure, that's… totally what that was." And he sipped idly at his drink. "So was that before or after Uraraka fell on your head?"

While Uraraka huddled down, lower into her seat, Kirishima blinked. "She didn't fall on my head, she floated over it. After that she-" At the mortified, shy expression of the brunette in question, Kirishima quickly rethought what he was about to say. " ah… roundhouse-kicked a villain square in the face! All while still floating! Must've been exhausting using her quirk like that, uh… you saw I had to carry her out, right?"

Giving Uraraka a questioning smile, she met his gaze with an appreciative one. Of course, Deku figured what had really happened. Her quirk had a way of making her throw up if she over used it, so the events of the entrance exam seemed to suggest. Closing the lid to his thermos, he decided to remain quiet, giving Uraraka a questioning look. Sheepishly, once she noticed him, she nodded and then averted her gaze.

"So," Yaoyorozu said to Ashido, "what happened at the entrance?"

Ashido chuckled nervously. "Well… not much." She said, completely failing to be convincing. "Kicked some villain butt. What about you? What happened in the inferno zone?"

"About the same, honestly," lied the other girl, "I remember being very thankful for my costume being designed the way it is during the encounter."

"I kinda figured," Ashido smirked, "temperatures that high musta had you sweating the walls of a fast food joint." Yaoyorozu did her best to swallow a bit of food without looking too green. It didn't work. "Poor Jiro must've been roasting alive."

The creation girl nodded, washing down her nausea with some ice-water. "Indeed she was." Glancing about the table, she suddenly looked upset. "Where is she, anyway?"

Kaminari, glowering at the table and crossing his arms, kept a hand on his drink. "She uh… she's not feeling well. Lady's probably gonna be distant till that passes."

… he calls her 'Lady'? Deku thought.

"Aww, why?" Uraraka frowned. "Illness or…?"

"That's for her to say," he batted the idea out of the air, "whenever she gets like this it's best just to let her be. Learned that one the hard way in middle school…"

Ashido pouted, "that's silly. She doesn't have to suffer alone, she has us."

"She does," Yaoyorozu offered, "but she might prefer it this way."

One of Ashido's hands reached up, as she leaned her cheek into her other palm, and her fingers traced along the outline of one of her horns. "Even still…" that tone of voice, just then, colored by bitter memories. "Whatever's bothering her friends always help. Suffering in silence and solitude just isn't the way."

Gulping, staring forlornly at the table, Uraraka seemed unsure of what she wanted to say. "Maybe…" she murmured, "maybe she's not used to having friends." All eyes at the table went to her, and she seemed all that much smaller for it. "I- I mean… Growing up I was kinda… we moved around a lot, so I never really held on to friends for very long." Deku felt his heart twinge at those words. "So, when something's bothering me I don't think to ask anyone else for help." She put down her own drink, now not really having any appetite at all. "Maybe she's the same way."

To Deku, that made a certain degree of sense. From what her mom had told him about her childhood…

"Screw that noise," He was almost shocked to hear Jiro speak up like that, "you're still a person under all the fangs and claws, aren't you?" She offered him a smirk, and Deku noted -thanks to what her mother had told him- that it did seem a little awkward. The same kind of awkwardness that his own fake smiles bore, from his lack of practice dealing with other people. "Don't sweat that nonsense."

Was she bothered by something related to that, the bullying she went through? His fingertip traced over the pocket her 'Zune' was tucked away in, triggering another train of thought.

"see, when she was in elementary school, going into early middle school, something... changed." Judging by her tone, this was not a topic lightly broached. "She started getting more and more closed off, standoffish with people." One of her hands gripped at a portion of her pantleg. "It was so... jarring. Watching my sweet little girl turn into something harsher, seemingly out of nowhere."

Her expression fell completely, taking Deku's heart with it as it sank. "The change in hairstyles, the clothing, the swearing, never smiling, always sounding growly... It wasn't until much later that I learned there'd been something going on with a bully at her school." Something clicked, "she and one of her friends were targets of their's," and clicked loudly in Deku's brain, "I didn't find out until after... well, it didn't make much difference by then."

K.H. … His hand clenched tightly. An inkling that all this was somehow relevant took root in his mind, yet he was presently powerless to do anything about it. If he brought it up she might just run off again, if not worse. Unless…

He sighed. "Damn it." He stood up, putting the thermos in his pocket, earning curious looks from Iida and Uraraka. "See you back in class."

They nodded, waving goodbye as he trudged away. While it wasn't ideal, hardly what he wanted at all, this was a decent distraction from his own issues. Anything that kept his mind off of Shigaraki, that gave him something to focus on, was something he'd welcome dealing with. Just so long as he could do something about it.

Footsteps, falling in behind him, pulled him from his thoughts. "You weren't at lunch." His tone almost sounded accusatory, but Akaguro merely shrugged.

"You remember how it went last time last I was."

"You chose to talk to him like that." Deku muttered.

The dhampire nodded. "True, but I'd like to give it some more time, let things simmer down."

Deku sighed. "I don't think they care that much, but I'm no good at dealing with people. Up to you."

"All the same, thanks for the advice. Maybe I will be there tomorrow." For another few moments the pair of boys walked in relative silence, not wanting to broach sensitive topics. However, Akaguro being Akaguro, he did precisely that after enough moments had passed. "Are you okay?"

Deku's face lowered, eyes wincing shut for a second. "Can we not?"

"I just wanted to make sure you knew his death wasn't on you." Deku stopped walking altogether, shoulders squared up tense with his fists clenched, head hunched forward. "You did everything as best you could, better than I managed."

Gritting, grinding his teeth, the vampire replied as calmly as he could. "I know."

Akaguro blinked. "What? Then… why are you so upset?" Deku's shoulders slumped, head pulling back to stare at the ceiling in quiet, straining disbelief that this conversation was still happening. "If you know it wasn't your fault-"

"That's the point!" Deku spun around, his voice climbing higher in volume than he'd meant to let it. "I didn't make a single mistake with my powers, did everything as best as I could and someone got hurt- some one died anyways!" His arm gestured off the side, to who knew where, before slapping back against the side of his leg. "It doesn't seem to matter if I get a handle on this or not…" he murmured, fingernails digging into his palms. "Things just seem to go wrong no matter what I do and I'm getting worn out of it." One of his hands reached up to his face, palm pressing into the space between his eyes as his fingers dug into his scalp.

For a long while they both stood there, saying nothing. Then, Akaguro being Akaguro… "Then you may have chosen the wrong future to pursue."

Deku's face shifted to an expression that begged the question why he would say such a thing. Turning to look his friend in the eye he saw not the look of a know-it-all, trying to convince himself of his own thoughts, but one of sympathy. Like he knew exactly what Deku was going through and knew there was next to nothing he could do to help him through it.

"Without bad things happening no matter what we do to stop them…" Akaguro continued, "there's no world where we need heroes." Deku scarcely even breathed, expression disbelieving as he stared at his friend.

Akaguro just met his gaze as softly as he could. "All things considered, a villains death is a small thing to worry about, for anyone to even care about." At those words, Deku felt he might actually throw up. "That it bothers you this much? ...I applaud you." Akaguro smiled, turning on his heels to walk away. "I'm sorry I don't have anything comforting to say, but… I gave up sugar coating reality before I was even ten years old." His hands drifted into his pockets, eyes away from Deku. "Shit happens. I'm just sorry you're blaming yourself for it, when you never would have let it happen if you could. I'll leave you to your… distractions, as you need them." Lord knows I did, once upon a time...

As the dhampire started trodding away, Deku finally let out a long breath, deflating a little. "Akaguro?" The other teenager turned over his shoulder, casting him a sidelong glance with a raised brow. "Thanks… for understanding." With a smirk, 'Stendhal' nodded before walking away.

Sighing, Deku kept on his course back to class 1A. Phone from his pocket he set about some much needed research and started taking mental notes. Thanks to everything that had been happening since the beginning of his attendance here, Deku had been in a near constant bad mood. Hopefully, he could do something to mitigate that spreading to someone else.

To say that tensions were high on the dawn of the festival was a drastic understatement. Even getting through the front gates just to enter the school was a challenge. News reporters had gathered by the dozen, flocking around the gate and -once again- arguing with a certain perpetually tired teacher. Seeing him attempt to avoid snarling at them almost put a smile on Jiro's face. If that hadn't managed to bolster her spirits, what followed next surely did.

While the class had gathered in a sound proofed waiting area, with snacks, drinks and their support items laid out. Jiro almost cursed under her breath. She'd completely forgotten about the upgrades she wanted on her costume. Somehow or another, she got the feeling she would regret that absent mindedness. Strangely, as she looked about, she saw no sign of Midoriya.

That was disappointing, disheartening even. She'd hoped to get the chance to finally say something to him. She hadn't really been able to since that day. Whenever he'd look at her she just… hid. He'd seen her in a moment of weakness, tried to help and she'd lashed out almost viciously. Maybe it was best if they didn't talk at all just yet. She didn't want to distract him before such an important event.

Speaking of distractions, something was about to happen that would put a smirk on her lips. "Bakugo." A demanding, quiet voice cut through the quiet, nervous discussion. All eyes in the room turned to see Todoroki -their heterochromic classmate with the white and red hair- staring down the walking warhead. "Objectively speaking, I am stronger than you. More capable than you."

Now all but three pairs of eyes in the room were wide open, Todoroki's, Jiro's and Bakugos. One of them was determined, another was curious and the third looked extremely angry and offended. There was quiet waver to Todoroki's voice, an almost uninflected rage all but Jiro were unable to hear. She quirked an eyebrow at him. This was one classmate she'd never had the opportunity to observe using his quirk. But, Kirishima and Asui had both commented that he and Bakugo were the strongest members of their class.

Considering the way the walking warhead hesitated, she thought there might have been something to that claim. "What the fuck are you-"

"Throw whatever you want at me out there," His gaze sharpened, like a hawk narrowing in on its prey before the dive. It made Jiro very curious as to what exactly prompted this, "I am going to beat you."

"Cool," Kaminari whispered to her, "a declaration of war between the strongest in the class." She paid him no mind, instead opting to focus on the interaction between the two boys.

"Hey man," Kirishima pleaded, tugging on one of Todoroki's sleeves, "why pick a fight now? We're about to go on!"

"I really don't care," seethed Todoroki, "I'm not interested in pretending to be anybody's friend here." Somewhere in the corner of the room Akaguro glowered, beholding the spectacle with obvious disapproval.

Uncharacteristically, Bakugo seemed to be hesitating. The corners of his lips and nostrils were twitching, eyes screaming hatred at the heterochrome in his silence. But there was something else there, a hint of some pain in his eyes as he stared at Todoroki's face. His face… Oh. It only made too much sense, if he was human after all. Something about the walking warhead had been different since the incident in heroics and now she was puzzling together the cause. His hesitation, his behavior, it was affected by something akin to guilt. He might not have been looking at Deku, but he was staring down a classmate with a serious burn scar over his eye.

And just maybe, not that she had any proof, that scar had something to do with why he'd singled out Bakugo.

"Bring it the fuck on, eyepatch." Bakugo snarled, standing up in a furious huff. "Just don't go crying to mama when you lose the fight you started." At the word 'mama' Todoroki's calm flickered. A twitch of his face signaled that he'd barely held something beyond even the most unholy anger at bay.

"Come on, guys," Kirishima pleaded, "we're in this together, aren't we? There's no need for-"

"That's not true." Several people turned to see Iida, clearly contemplating something that weighed heavily on his mind. "Like it or not, in this endeavor to become heroes we're are in direct competition with each other to achieve our goals." He turned his own eyes to his classmates, considering them as softly as he could for what he felt needed saying. "That's just the situation we're in."

Rolling his eyes, shaking his head, Akaguro growled out a sigh as he stood up. "Pragmatism and pessimism aren't always wisdom, Iida. Sometimes they're just plain stupid."

Bewildered, clearly offended and making no attempt to hide it, Iida guffawed. "This from you again? I thought you'd agree this time!"

The dhampire afforded his classmate no such recognition. "Competition between heroes, between those trying to do good in the word, is needless division; distraction from the common goal." Hand waving to the side, cutting through the air in a decisive motion, Akaguro delivered his closing statement. "We cannot be competitors, even to the slightest degree, if we are to one day stand against the tide of evil loose in this world." Then, without another word, he cast his glare at Bakugo and Todoroki. Though perhaps, thought he as his eyes lingered on the walking warhead, not all present should one day be heroes.

Searching for someone to agree with him, Iida looked to Uraraka and Jiro. Unfortunately for him, the brunette simply said, "You know… they say nothing ruins a friendship like a good competition." She fussed with the hem of the shirt of her gym clothes. "I gotta agree with… Stendhal?" Akaguro nodded. "With Stendhal on this one."

Jiro sighed, "Sorry Iida, but they're kinda right this time around. You remember how things went during the USJ incident." Indeed he, and all the rest, did. "No matter what happens out there, whichever of us we may end up against for this, I'm not dropping the idea that we're in this together." Kirishima gave her the biggest smile for saying that.

Bakugo could only roll his eyes. "Whatever, long ears. Grow up. This isn't some dumb comic book where we all work together as some 'Justice League' or some dumb equivalent."

Growling, Jiro stood up and stared him down. "Okay, in this together except with you, you ass."

"Right back at you!" Snarled he, "You've had it out for me since day one! If I get the chance out there I am going to kick your ass!" This time, when Jiro's earlobes stopped just millimeters away from his throat, he didn't even flinch.

Really, she would almost have been impressed if she didn't hate him and everything he reminded her of. Rejects like you have no place here. "Try whatever you want," declared she, "I'm never losing to you."

And the bell rang, signalling that the events were about to begin. Shelving this for a later date, a few last icy glares cast at each other, they strode outside. "It's UA's Sports Festival!" Screamed Present Mic, into a microphone no sane being would have ever given him. "The one time each year when our fledgling heroes compete in a ruthless grand battle! First up," a pause for dramatic effect, "you know I'm talkin about! The Miraculous rising stars who brushed off a villain attack with their steely willpower: The first years of the hero course!"

After what was likely the longest introduction possible, the stadium erupted into cheers. The sight and sound of so many people… it was positively overwhelming. While a few did their best to act as if they didn't care, that it merely exhilarated them, most were not beyond admitting their nerves. Catching Jiro's sight, making her blush fire-engine-red, was the one standing on the center stage, "And now for the athlete's oath!"

What the fuck was she wearing? Why was it the same flesh tone as her own skin!? Why did it look like S&M gear and why was that sexy!?

"That outfit should come with a warning label…" Remarked Todoroki.

Overhearing this, pointing at him with a wink, was the one wearing said outfit. "Funny you should say: it does." It was at that moment that Jiro made her first and only vow to get herself into a nunnery at some point in her future. She was so red by now she had to be glowing practically in neon. "Now, as for the first year representative, who placed first in UA entrance exams: Katsuki Bakugo!"

Right, they would pick the worst person possible.

"Somehow, that's not surprising."

Jiro almost had a heart attack. Leaping, head spinning around, she caught sight of none other than Midoriya. When the hell did he show up!? He was wearing his mask, now even more badly scuffed up and marked since the USJ incident. Why he didn't have it replaced was anyone's guess. When he noticed her looking at him he tried to wave but she ducked away, hiding behind Sato, the guy with the puffy lips.

Damn it, damn it, damn it… She still couldn't face him. The most harmless thing on the planet, second to actual puppies, and she couldn't talk to him. If only the idiot hadn't seen her crying, only for her to run off like that…

Taking center stage was Bakugo, microphone in hand. Once again, he was hesitating, eyes lingering, flickering between Midoriya and Todoroki. Growling at himself, he raised the microphone to his lips. "You idiots better do your best, if you want to avoid being crushed by the competition." ...Huh. That actually wasn't totally awful, surprisingly. "Hold nothing back, I certainly won't." Dropping the microphone, he stomped off the stage back amongst his peers.

"Without further delay," said the S&M-gear clad heroine, "let's get the first event started!"

Uraraka giggled, "At UA, everything's always without delay."

"These are the qualifiers!" she went on, "It's in this stage that many are sent home crying every year!" Jiro gulped, "and the fateful first event this year is…" in that moment, she swore to god, she actually heard a drum-roll. "The obstacle course!" Jiro's heart sank. "A four kilometer run around the stadium itself! So long as you don't go off course," she had to pause for a moment to snicker, "anything is fair game! Now take your places!" At her closing words, a gate unfolded itself to both sides of what was to be the entrance to the course.

Of all the things for it to be… even her experience with gymnastics wasn't going to be much use here, save for the provided endurance. Her quirk wasn't entirely suited for this, but she was no stranger to making due in that regard, by this point. Still… racing against eleven classes of first years was no small challenge. It meant she couldn't afford to take even this first event lightly. When the bell sounded, signalling the start of the race, the entrance turned into a meat grinder of bodies.

Rather than run through it, Jiro opted for a different tack. The gate itself was configured of multi-shaped, interlocking objects that almost resembled tetris blocks. Climbable tetris blocks. While Todoroki skated into the lead on ice, generated by his entire right side, she clambered and then jumped over her fellow students. Midoriya and Iida weren't far behind him, even Uraraka and Ashido have managed to hurl themselves into a chase after their peers. From the looks of it, Ashido was using her acid in almost the same way as Todoroki.

Cursing under her breath, Jiro sprinted ahead. Failing to surprise her, her classmates all rocketed after Todoroki. Even as their feet began to be enveloped by the ice that still spread. "Dirty trick…" she hissed rounding the next bend and immediately wishing she hadn't. Ducking, she narrowly avoided Akaguro's sailing body, careening past her like some poorly launched projectile. "What the hell?!"

"Multiple targets acquired." She knew that droning voice, faux villains from the entrance exam.

"Pft," she scoffed, "getting their money's worth outta them." As Akaguro clambered to his feet, his eyes went wide.

"Holy…" the behemoth Zero-pointers from the entrance exam. ALL of them were present, standing between them and the next rung of the race. One of them in particular looked to be in disrepair, almost like some beast had slashed it to ribbons.

Wonder who might've done that…

"So," Todoroki droned, "this is what everyone was up against during the entrance exam." Somewhere behind him a student from another course screamed something about this being unethical. Clearly, they hadn't had to go up against these things during their own entrance tests. Todoroki sighed, lowering to a stance that resembled some form of martial art. "Kinda wish they'd prepared something a little more threatening."

Jiro stared at him in shock. Had he lost his mind? How the hell were these things not threatening enough? The horde of them closed in, the other students were busy fighting off the smaller ones or scrambling to the front of the race. Todoroki on the other hand, had other plans. As the Zero-pointers charged he struck out with his right hand. Jiro could only watch in stupefied awe. A veritable tsunami of ice erupted from his hand, encasing the entirety of the robot horde in mere seconds. In the seconds that followed the attack -as Todoroki ran through the frozen forest of machines- a wave of cold wind washed over her. This was what her classmate was capable of? Maybe Bakugo had more to worry about than she thought.

But now was hardly the time for such thoughts. Finding her courage, she and Akaguro raced after Todoroki. Only they soon wished they'd done no such thing. Crumbling to pieces, crashing down around them, the robots became a very different sort of obstacle. They scrambled, narrowly avoiding instant death beneath their titanic hulls. The shockwave of wind and dirt made further maneuvers impossible as they coughed and choked on the air itself. Arms flung above her head in a futile attempt at defense, Jiro braced for the inevitable snapping of her bones.

Only it never came. Something, long sticky and grossly warm snared around her middle. Before she could fight it off she was hauled further along the path, out of danger. She was almost rudely deposited on the dirt in a heap, hearing someone make a noise of disgust. "Dirt tastes awful, ribbit." Opening her eyes, Jiro saw Asui, helping Akaguro to his feet and giving her a thumbs up. "In this together."

Jiro, with a beaming grin, returned the gesture and the sentiment. "In this together."

Clapping them both on the back, signalling that the moment had passed, Akaguro started running. Nodding to each other, the girls shot after him. Somewhere, god knew where, up ahead were the obvious winners of the race. Todoroki, Iida, Ashido, Bakugo, that elbow-tape guy and Midorya, all fighting for first place. Their quirks gave them obvious advantages in terms of speed, it really didn't come as a surprise that they were the top bunch.

"It's almost unfair," Remarked Yaoyorozu, now running by their sides with a smirk, "but that's the name of the game."

"So let's beat the game!" Uraraka declared. "Anything's fair game, so let's win this thing!"

"Amen to that!" Kaminari grinned, moments before checking over his shoulder for Kirishima. When he found no sign of him he reluctantly resigned to hoping he was already further ahead.

What followed next was a literal pit. Tightropes tied between pillars, sticking up out of the depths, were their only viable way across. Uraraka and Jiro exchanged a look, nodding. Uraraka tapped her shoulder, removing the oppressive pull of gravity, and then each of her classmates. Next, Uraraka threw Jiro as hard as she could over the ravine. Spinning around mid air, Jiro extended her earlobes as far back as they could go, taking hold of the gravity girl. As she hauled her to, weight of her classmate removed, she and Uraraka flew to one of the stone lily pads on their path.

Meanwhile, Yaoyorozu used her quirk to push herself off the ground. Asui acted as an anchor that kept her from drifting off into space; using the weightlessness of her classmate to further her own leaps and bounds along the way. Akaguro and Kamniari had… a similar tactic. The dhamprire carried the other boy on his back, leaping and running as hard he could. Occasionally they'd miss their mark, and Kaminari would clutch at a tightrope to throw them back into the air.

It wasn't as quick as they would have liked, but it put them ahead of the others. Including that one girl who was so decked out with support items it had to be some kind of crime. Then there was that one boy with the crazy, purple hair, being carried to victory by half a dozen other students. What kind of bribe had he bequeathed to earn such a favor?

Then, came the last stretch of the race. Rounding the next bend, the six of them came face to face with… nothing? No obstacle, no trick, no nothing. Not even some kind of minefield shoehorned in to create some last minute drama. Just a straight shot to the end, their classmates fighting each other for first place. Bakugo and Todorki almost looked like they were trying to kill each other. "This is it!" Jiro shouted. "Run like hell!"

"Right!" Said everyone else, Akaguro and Tsuyu half carrying an exhausted, nauseous Uraraka. Breaking into an all out sprint, giving it everything they had, they came to end of the race a good ten seconds behind the real winner.

"And stealing first place at the last second is Iida! Followed closely by Midoriya!" The crowd erupted into a deafening cheer. "Tied for third place are Todoroki and Bakugo! Maybe if they'd played nicer they might have finished closer to first, eh?"

"OH SCREW YOU!" It was somehow entirely expected that Bakugo managed to scream over even the audience's clamoring.

Staggering, the six of them tailing behind came falling to a halt. Panting, catching their collective breaths they listened in ragged silence to Present Mic. Smiling, Kaminari reached out with a closed first toward Jiro. Smirking in reply, she tapped the knuckles of her own closed fist against his. "We did it, lady."

Jiro sighed, "it's been-" air, "three years already. You don't hafta-" oh god her lungs, "keep calling me that."

Kaminari gave a breathless chuckle. "Wouldn't be the most annoying person you knew from middle school if I did." She could only roll her eyes in reply. Regardless of anything else, they'd made it.

"Hope you youngsters saved some energy, cuz you've only got a few minutes before the next event!" Slowly, helping each other up, the six of them made the arduous climb back to their feet. "Brace yourselves for the event we've worked so hard to keep a surprise!" Surprise? Jiro raised an eyebrow, wiping sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand. What are they…? "It's UA High," Present Mic shouted, his enthusiasm bordering on insanity, "versus Shiketsu!"

While the crowd erupted into the loudest cheer yet, the leading winners of class 1A felt their eyes go wide. "...what?" Jiro, Murmured, looking up to see two lists of names appearing on the leaderboard. Sure enough, victors from UA's race on one side, and victors from Shiketsu -whatever that was- posted on the other. "WHAT!?"

Panting, gasping for breath, Uraraka suddenly puzzled something out. "Ya know… I was kinda curious as to why the waiting area was sound proofed…"

Chapter Text

According to old stories, you can't put the devil somewhere he doesn't want to be. Now these 'old stories' are mostly hearsay and rumors passed around through word of mouth over many a long year. Whispers made by frightened folk, those tasked with defending others, the every day people, from those who go bump in the night. Even the most stalwart and vigilant of knights have things that they are afraid of. To give these fears such a label as 'the devil' is to do these servants a discredit.

No, these public defenders are afraid of something far more sinister and twisted. A creature so devious and cunning that it hides among even the most clever of us in plain sight: Humans. Ask an officer of the law, ask a hero, a soldier, a doctor what they fear and the most sensible will tell you 'other people' every time. For human beings are, quite simply, beyond their own understanding. Animals, mythical creatures of evil are alike in that they are simple and pure. Comprehending them takes no leap of logic, no great bound of the mind to achieve understanding.

Humans are not like that. They think, and plot and map ideologies in their minds to justify all that they do. So dizzy and taciturn can these justifications be that they, simply, require the touch of madness to truly know. Circular logic, loops of thought that feed into themselves forever.

"The beginning is the end and keeps coming round again." Sang a song on the radio, and the darkness thought it funny. But... it was not always darkness, was it? No, it was something else once. Some one. A name lingered, like the scent of pennies in a dusty fan. Near enough to know it was there, distant enough to fail in discerning it.

But it had a name, and it would know it again.

The beginning is the end and... keeps coming round again.

Lips of a mangled maw, held open by restraints, made some cursory attempt at speech. "The loop..." rasped the darkness, "closes..." but how does one destroy angels?

If you think, for a moment, that madness is made by ideology then you'd only be half right. Half right at best. In some cases, some far darker than bedtime stories allow, madness comes first.

You can't put the devil somewhere he doesn't want to be, even if that somewhere is the underworld: Tartarus, the prison meant for that which valiant lived in fear of. Devils like this living darkness.

This 'devil' wants to be where the most 'flesh' is.

Clang, clang. Covered eyes looked up and saw nothing. A covered nose wiggled, sniffing at the air, and knew all. Dust, undisturbed for some time caked wall and floor. Old, plastic trays piled in the corner, remnants of old 'meals', if one was generous enough to call them such. A steel door, windowed with Plexiglas that even the strongest teeth could not puncture.

Leather and metal, jingling around it, suspending it above the floor and restricting the movement of its arms. "Meal time, Moony."

Ahh... yes... "Moon..." rasped the darkness, "fish?" Wasn't that its name once? Long, long ago.

"Yeah, yeah," grumbled the unseen man, "have at it."

One might have forgotten to mention: you also shouldn't tempt the devil.

When he said 'have at it', he neglected to specify what 'it' was. So long, tendril-like teeth lanced forward in the dark and pieced what the devil sought most of all coveted things. Screaming filled the halls, teeth snaked out like seaweed made of razors and spread through the man's flesh and bones like the roots of a tree. He was pulled, first against the door, then against the small hatch, then over the strange thing that always opened the door.

A few, gargling screams later and he was pulled into the darkness and its drooling maw. A foul noise polluted the air, a blaring, pulsing noise of a machine screaming. Once, the darkness might have called it an alarm, but that was so long ago. Wonderful sounds, sounds of munching, splashing of flesh against teeth, could not be heard over that annoying klaxon.

So much for the fabled security of Tartarus.

"have I... closed the loop?" Staggering, unsteady footsteps reached the hall, but it was still so dark.

People were shouting warnings, telling it to 'go back'. But go back where? It had always been in the darkness, it hadn't yet left. So there was nowhere to go back to.

"Is the beginning..." it licked its dripping teeth, voice now clear as summer skies. "ended?" More inane babbling, madness by these fools. It couldn't go back to the darkness if it hadn't left. Perhaps they were saying that they needed to go back to the darkness.

"As... you desire." Teeth like lancing branches, loud noises booming from what he assumed to be thunder -that metal thunder they carried in those funny pockets on those belts of theirs- screaming. Flesh. It tasted so good...

Meat, wet, blood, sweat, salt, hungry, kill, taste!

Slobbering, ecstatic humming -almost moaning- as it ate them, brought them into darkness. It was only doing what it was told, after all. No one could get mad this time.

Sharp pain, tearing at its face, and it screamed. The thunder, it had been cut by the metal thunder. Clearly it wasn't being fast enough for that one, so it decided to eat him now. Odd... why was he screaming if he wanted this? But then, they all screamed, so, that was only normal wasn't it. Light... color. Could it see? Blurry images, shifted about as eyes darted to and fro. Lidless eyes, saturated from blood dipping from its brow. That thunder... it had cut the darkness off its face.

"...Light?" it tilted its head, confused. "It sees... light... it is no longer darkness." it looked up, over itself and into the blaring, flashing red lights. There was a screen of moving pictures. Or perhaps very small people in a box? It, the darkness now light, didn't know. Staggering toward the screen, it cocked its head to one side.

"This creature," said a voice inside the box, "this thing with the exposed brain," and it stared at the 'creature' with lidless, bloodshot eyes. Oh... how beautiful. Its muscled, purple flesh, those wide and terrified eyes, that beak lined with jagged teeth... the light had never seen such wonderful flesh. "was last seen rampaging through a supermarket very near Hosu, devouring the store's entire stock of Meeeeeeeeeeeeat." How the light loved that word. Whenever someone spoke it, the world just seemed so full of joy. Hungry joy... "If encountered, do not approach it: call the police and run." Run... Footsteps were rapidly approaching, though they were distant yet.

"Hosu..." said the light, staggering as it peered away from the screen. Then, just there on the wall, it saw... itself. A picture of itself, only it had no eyes but that must have been a lie. It could see, couldn't it?

There, under the picture was a word: Moonfish. "My... name?" it looked down at itself, saw that its arms were bound. "Moonfish..." its teeth lanced out, carving through the straps and cloth and suddenly, it had arms again. It had hands. "Moonfish... creature..." it staggered toward the door, the exit. "Hosu..." Moonfish, not the light, not the darkness, began moving forward.

And from the desk, the music kept playing.

The beginning is the end and...

"Keeps coming round again..." Moonfish sang.

The beginning is the end and... Approaching, running footsteps were louder now.

"Keeps coming round again!" Moonfish sang louder, the footsteps, flesh, were nearly there.

The beginning is the end and... Then the flesh was right in view.

"Keeps coming round again!"

Shiketsu High, located in western Japan, arguably just as -if not more- prestigious a school as UA itself. Twenty one students from UA against 21 students from Shiketsu. School vs School, Red vs Blue, UA being the blue team. "You've got to be kidding me," Ashido groaned, "this was stressful enough going up against people we knew, but the only thing worse than that is facing total unknowns!"

"I hate to say it, but she has a point..." Yaoyorozu wiped some of the sweat off her brow, she wandered over to the refreshment stand. "Going up against classmates almost would have been easier, considering how much we know about each other and our abilities." guzzling down as much water as she could she took advantage of the calm the next few minutes had afforded.

Kaminari groaned, stretching his legs in a vain attempt to work the soreness from them. "Well," strained his voice, "going up against the unknown isn't anything new, really..." he grabbed some water for himself, passing some along to Uraraka while he was at it.

Meanwhile Jiro had remained fixed, staring at the leader-board.

1: Tenya Iida
2: Izuku Midoriya
3: Shoto Todoroki
4: Katsuki Bakugo
5: Mina Ashido
6: Hanta Sero
7: Tsuyu Asui
8: Ochako Uraraka
9: Momo Yaoyorozu
10: Denki Kaminari
11: Kyoka Jiro
12: Chizome Akaguro
13: Shiozaki Ibari
14: Itsuka Kendo
15: Eijiro Kirishima
16: Tetsu x 4
17: Setsuna Tokage
18: Mei Hatsume
19: Neito Monoma
20: Hitoshi Shinso
21: Yui Kodai

So these were the people in her school who'd made it to the top. Admittedly, less of a spread that she'd anticipated. Eleven out of twenty one students were from her own class, something Present Mic wasted no time pointing out. "Cream of the crop..." she muttered, giving the board an almost disapproving look.

"Deku!" And only one person with a voice that feminine called him that... "I can't believe you got so close to first place, I'm jealous!"

Jiro sighed, for multiple reasons. One, it was to be expected that he'd do so well, they all knew what he was capable of. Two, for how out of breath she sounded it was outright silly that she'd run over to him in order to say that. They'd all just run a semi-marathon for fucks sake.

Hiding behind his arms, red as you please, the boy with the black eye mumbled. "Uhm... it was nothing..." with a shaking voice. And there was the third reason she sighed.

Those two, the way they carried on it was a wonder that some rumor about them being an item hadn't started making the rounds. That was just how they acted, that adorable couple you know is gonna get together some day. The one that defies those stupid odds, making something so unlikely to work last well beyond the point anyone saw coming.

...This wasn't what she wanted or needed to think about right now. Turned on her heels she trudged over to the refreshment stand. Downing several glasses of water and cramming some granola bars into her face she started brainstorming. Without her boots -technically a support item- she was restricted to what she could do with just her earlobes. Not that those brick-heavy things had been useful yet. Come to think of it, having something so far away from her head which depended on her quirk to be of use was very impractical. Her boots were literally the furthest point from her earlobes without being her toes themselves. Quite the oversight, in that initial designing process. She'd need something lighter, easier to get to if she wanted something like that.

"You're not gonna choke, are you?" Jiro cast her glaring eyes at the owner of that voice, Kaminari. "Something got you upset?" He smiled in an effort to be supportive. "You don't usually maul granola like a rabid bear."

"I'm fine." she lied.

Of course, he would see through it. "Like hell you are," he half frowned, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "Look, I've been trying not to say anything but... you've been 'off' for the last couple of weeks." Brow angling down, giving an impression of anger, she bit her upper lip as she looked away. "Jiro..." his voice notably softer, "did something happen?"

Eyes winced shut she drew in a deep breath. "I..." made a total ass of myself to a friend I'd already complicated things with at the USJ? She thought, but did not say. Ultimately that was something of an afterthought compared to what she did give voice to. "...K's Zune broke at the USJ." The electric boy's heart sunk, rather than say anything else she let that be enough.

Not that he was inclined to agree with such a thought. "Shit, I..." he faltered, "are you okay? Why didn't you say something before?"

She gave him a knowing, patient look, which was very unlike her. "You know why I didn't say anything." Better than anyone else she knew.

"Still..." his words were more scarcely breathed air than speech, "I figured if you could talk to anyone about what happened with her-" she spun around, facing away from him, her body language shifting rapidly. Arms crossed, hands clinging to the underside of her her elbows with tense, drawn-up shoulders and face turned toward the ground. "...I was there too." Her face scrunched up, eyes shut tight as could be. This was not the time. "I might not know exactly how you feel," There might never be a time, "but... that whole sucked for me too."

Sighing, shoulders dropping along with her arms, her face upturned toward the sky. Slowly, she turned around, her expression was... it screamed of heartbreak. "Past tense, Den?" As did that little smile that perched itself on her face.

"Alrighty, folks!" Present Mic's voice cut through what passed for quiet with a thunderous boom. "Get comfy and ready to scream, cuz after Miss Midnight tells us the rules to this next bit-" he really did like those dramatic pauses... "it's time for the battle royale!"

Clapping her hands, into her microphone, Midnight -as the S&M-gear clad heroine was evidently called- got to divulging the rules of combat. "First of all, you're all gonna be wearing special vests!" 21 of the vests, bandoleers really, were laid out on a table near the center stage. "Each one has three 'hit-boxes'!" The students started putting them on, familiarizing themselves with their 'weak points'. "When all three of them get hit: you're out!"

She threw a rubber baseball into the air then swung her hand vertically as it fell, catching it with dramatic decision. "Of course you can't just tag em with anything, ya gotta use these or it wont work! But no friendly fire or you're out!" One index finger pointed to the sky, indicating the final point of her exposition. "And lastly:" not that she needed to. "Feel free to use your quirks, but if you draw blood or injure someone you are immediately disqualified! Save that stuff for the next event."

"Oh god dammit..." Akaguro growled.

"Thanks a bunch, Midnight!" She gave an almost ludicrously low bow as the Voice Hero returned to his own declarations. "Brace yourselves folks, this is about to get chaotic!"

Above their heads, plastered on the leader-board, was a countdown. Jiro drew in a long breath. "Here we go again..."

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends." Kaminari nudged her while Ashido, by his side did her best to bolster herself. "Once more..."

"Right..." breathed the Pinkette, "we've got this," her tone was more inquisitive than declarative, "not like we're strangers to combat by now." and the consequences of going too far with it...

Bracing her body, dropping to something of a stance as the center stage disappeared, Jiro rekindled her resolution. "Let's show these Shiketsu guys what we're made of." By her side Akaguro slammed a fist into his palm. That determined face he had on was slightly intimidating.

"Hey, Midoriya," at the dhampire's addressing of their friend Jiro turned away from the conversation. Hiding behind her hand, disguising the effort by fiddling with her hair in the process. "Punch Bakugo's lights out for me."

In reply the black-eyed boy raised an eyebrow while the warhead snarled. "What the fuck did you just say!?"

"LANGUAGE!" Somewhere, obviously in the crowd, was All Might; shouting just before the air-horn, signaling the start of combat.

The sound of the respirator filled the dusty room. There was a lull before that last teaser, preclude to the main event, and the silence wasn't doing the old husk any favors. He sat there with drumming fingers awaiting some sign of anything happening, glaring beneath his mechanical helmet. Cutting through the oppressive, rage building silence was the sound of his most competent pupil's quirk. The lone pair of footsteps -limping to a seat- filled him with ire.

"You're alone." Ire he made no attempt to conceal.

"Apologies," Kurogiri grimaced, clutching his ribs as he slumped into a chair, "after disabling the Tartarus's security system it was... impossible to reach the target."

The husk sighed, "And Nomu?"

"Long gone by the time I arrived. No trail to follow."

His temper had just about been broken, turning to stare down Kurogiri he hesitated, however. The ribs that his pupil was clutching were bleeding rather profusely. "Did someone attack you?"

The teleporter shook his head, "merely the security guards at Tartarus. I'll be fine, sir."

His shoulders lost some tension, deflating along with his rage. Impressions of a small child, alone in an alley colored his mind. Alone, scarred and malnourished, crying into hands stained with ashen blood. An older boy wearing disembodied hands all over his arms and face. His boy, hating All Might for doing this to his 'Sensei'. A young man, stepping into shoes he couldn't fill, to keep his dream alive a little longer. A lifeless body on his floor.

Funny thing was, he wasn't the first boy he'd found like that. The first boy, much the same in his own way, now wore a suit and a metal brace on his long, long neck. Seeing him push himself like this to amend some wrong he hadn't made... "I see." was not allowed. "In that case... just rest. Let that wound heal."

"But, there's more to be done and I can still-"

"That will be all, Kurogiri." His voice, that time, matched his exterior in its entirety.

It pained the suited man considerably to hear it. "You'll... you'll be happy to know Toga's in place."

The Husk hummed out a single laugh. "Our infiltrating friend? I hadn't realized she'd divulged a name."

Kurogiri felt himself relax, as he only could when 'Master' was feeling at ease. "Only this morning." confessed he. "When I sent her on her way she said 'count on yer girl Toga', for what it's worth."

A pleased sounding hum resonated in The Husk's voice synthesizer. "Considering our number is only three? A great deal." Blood was still flowing, freely from his ward's side. So much so he could smell the iron in the air. "Is that wound not bandaged?"

"It's fine, sir."

"Bandage it, Kurogiri." There was no mistaking that for anything but the order it was, so the teleporter complied.

He'd always been like this... even as a child he had to fight tooth and nail to get that boy to treat his own injuries. When it came to serving his 'Master'? All was done without question. At times it was difficult to see Kurogiri as anything but what he projected himself as: the help. He made it so easy for others to disrespect, disregard him entirely with that all too polite demeanor of his. In this world, especially as one deals with villains, showing respect to all -those who've yet to earn it- marked you as someone not worthy of it.

The Husk had gotten used to putting people in categories. People like Kurogiri were... minions, 'the help' and people like The Husk had once been were the Masters. A lesson that Kurogiri had taken literally and exactly the wrong way. Rather than shift into someone more commanding of respect he doubled down on this butler motif of his, thinking it was what his Master from 'his lowly minion'.

It truly had been the quite the opposite, and their entire dynamic now was precisely why he'd tried to teach that lesson. "I think the next event is starting, sir."

"Good," and his attention returned to the present, "now... did the girl say who she was going to be?"

How had things gone to hell so fast? Deku's eyes could scarcely keep track of the mess of motion that had unfolded in the last thirty seconds. First, a blast of wind tore up any loose dirt and pebbles, forcing everyone on the battlefield to scatter. At least that was everyone he could see, his compatriots from UA. The battlefield he was presently lost in was an odd array of artificial hills, crags, trenches and canyons. Some flat expanses existed but those were presently occupied by gale force winds. Some one, or multiple some ones, was making sure the currently separated enemy stayed that way. At least that's what gathered, all other thoughts were rather silly.

"So much for teamwork..." he grumbled, keeping his ears open for what or whoever came next.

"GOD DAMMIT ROUND FACE, GET OFF ME!" Okay, so, he wasn't alone but this was not ideal to say the least.

"I'm trying!" came her all too nervous reply, "but my vest thing is stuck on yours!" Deku could only sigh, gulping back his nerves. Only one thing for it. Leaping into the air, jumping from rocky outcropping to rocky outcropping he soon arrived at their location. "Hey, Deku!" Uraraka beamed, flagging him down. "Can you help for a sec?"

Even with Bakugo looking every bit the rabid animal that he was, Deku couldn't help but smile. "Sure." It was a relatively simple fix, a snag of the buckles that he corrected with a second's worth of effort.

"Tell me it wasn't that fucking easy..." Bakugo snarled.

Deku, eyes fixed on the warhead, felt his gaze narrow a fraction. "It wasn't." he quietly declared. "But the position you were in wasn't helping."

Bakugo jolted his face to look at him, to snap some sort of reply, only to lose his anger completely. Even behind those sunglasses, he could see what he'd done to his face. Looking away, he bitterly remarked, "Know it all..."

"Psychopath." Both Deku and the warhead were surprised by the sudden outburst. Bakugo couldn't even speak he was so taken aback. Further to Deku's surprise, he made no attempt at an apology. As he'd decided back on the day his reflection was forever changed, his old 'friend' just wasn't worth it. "Don't yell at Uraraka like that." And Bakugo's jaw dropped. "She doesn't deserve it."

For a moment, Bakugo thought he might have something to say. Some retort to go screaming back with, caution and decorum to the wind, but ultimately did not. "...Fine."

"Guys," Uraraka said, snapping their attention to her, "I don't think we're in good company..." she was looking at the closest 'mountain-top'. Someone, evidently observing them, had just dropped back below eyesight.

A loud chime of some electronic bell went off. "And that's Hanta Sero along with quadruple Tetsu out of the running!" Present Mic's voice boomed, making Deku's ears scream. "Guess we know who's being sidelined like supporting characters! I certainly know what that's like!"

From the same audio feed came a voice the three heroes-to-be knew well. "You're being rude, Hizashi." Aizawa grumbled, "those two were up against eight people. Just about anyone would have lost that fight."

Deku sighed, "Well, at least we'll know who's left in the fight."

Bakugo was not so patient as to think the ramifications of the announcement through. He, as one should expect, was flying headlong at the person who'd just fled from their sight. "GET BACK HERE!" the force of his explosions, propelling him through the air, knocked both Deku and Uraraka flat to the ground.

"GAH!" Deku winced his watering eyes shut. As he fell, slamming into the earth, his sunglasses went flying. Between the sun and Bakugo's quirk he was almost entirely blind now.

"Is he always like this?" Uraraka half groaned half yelled, pulling herself back to her feet. "No... wait... dumb question. Sorry." Then she noticed his lack of sunglasses. "Oh no..." While Present Mic announced that Bakuogo had in fact eliminated whoever that person from Shiketsu was Uraraka helped the vampire to his feet. "Are you okay? Can you see without them?"

"Yes and no," he replied, straining through the stinging in his eyes.

Another announcement, this one stating that someone named Itsuka Kendo was now out of the running. Something was said about 'giving her a hand on her way out' that vaguely sounded like it was supposed to be a pun. "

Can you see where they-" and then his ears detected another noise. Amidst the cheering, screaming and explosions that told Bakugo was still in the game he heard something flying at high speeds. Reflexively, like a cornered animal evading a hunter's arrow, he threw himself and Uraraka aside, narrowly avoiding whatever it was.

"Eep!" Uraraka squeaked, completely taken by surprise and flushing deep red. Deku had just tackled her, sprawling them both out across the ground with himself -accidentally- on top of her.

Going red himself he started stammering, "Ah- no that- I'm so sorry!" as he leapt right off her, nearly loosing his footing in the process.

"No no, it's fine!" she assured, getting up herself, "But why did you- OH MY GOSH!" She saw them, he heard them.

It must have been a dozen of those projectiles sailing right at them, carried by more of that wind. In their efforts to dodge Deku wound up tumbling face first down the rocky terrain while Uraraka floated down. By the time she reached safety she was about ready to pass out from using her quirk so much already.

"Ugh..." she gripped both hands at her abdomen. "De-" No, she scolded herself, not on live tv. "Where did you-?!" She barely had time to throw herself at the ground before another onslaught of rubber balls whizzed over her head.

The vampire was having similarly bad luck. He was sore, had ringing in his ears and couldn't see. On top of it all, he had no idea where his sunglasses were. Note to self: goggles or straps on the sunglasses. Picking himself up he was fortunate to find their attacker had either lost interest or lost track of them. Maybe it was just a random strike rather than something more coordinated. Either way, another announcement went out. This time it was Asui and someone else from Shiketsu being removed from the running.

"This is bad..." he breathed, "they just keep picking us off." Wiping dirt, gravel and stray pebbles from his brow he listened intently.

This was by no means going to be easy. Without his eyes he only had his nose, ears and sense of touch to guide him. So it was very slow going when he started climbing up the rocks toward what he thought was the direction of his sunglasses.

"Wait, not this way!" Uraraka's voice, she was... wait, how was she up that much higher than him already? "There's a bunch of- AH!" Crumbling rocks, rushing of air, her frantically flailing about to get a hand-hold on something.

But he could hear it all, and tell where it was. "CRAP!" he hissed, launching himself right at what he hoped was her. He almost sighed in relief when he caught her. His relief was short lived as he then slammed face first into stone. "GOD DAMN I-" he tasted blood in his mouth, and from the pain in nose it was fairly evident where from. As they crashed down to the ground, Uraraka on top of him this time, his world spun in the darkness he saw. "Nnng... give me a break..." he groaned.

Propping herself up on him, she said, "Thanks Midoriya," ...what? "I got kinda careless there..." why... doesn't she sound flustered? And since when does she call me- "here," she grabbed his hand, hauling him to his feet. "I gotcha."

"Th-thanks." He immediately refocused his hearing, trying to get a sense of where they were and what was going on. All he could tell? He was outside in the middle of an arena being watched by a huge, screaming crowd. Great... "Any idea where we are?" mumbled he.

"Not really," admitted she, her hand moving behind herself, "can't you open your eyes now?" And that settled it. Face snapping to look right at her, hearing focused completely on her, he just narrowly avoided her hitting him with something. Only he dodged right into a wall, leaving himself wide open to her next attack. "Gotcha now!" He jumped. Sailing right over her head he was knocked completely off balance when she hit his back. BEEP!

"No!" he hissed, slamming face first on the ground. One of his hit boxes!

"Surprised you didn't catch on sooner, luv." That was definitely not Uraraka's voice. As she continued talking he heard... it sounded like... boiling jello? What was this girl doing? Changing shape, not that he was able to see. "Dont'cha know your own lady-friend?"

Deku blushed, not sure if she meant what he thought she had by that. "That's- we'er not-" She giggled, taking another swing at him that he only narrowly avoided. "Who are you!?" his efforts to evade her onslaught left the thought of self-composure clean and far away. When he took another tumble down yet another rocky hill, he landed face first on a familiar object.

Wasting no time, he scrambled and returned his darkened spectacles to his face. ...Whoa. Standing at the top of the hill he'd just fallen from was... she was beautiful. "Camie Utsushimi, fam." She blew a kiss right at him, sending his brain to some far corner of the earth. "please as punch to meetcha."

Shaking his head vigorously, getting his brain back, Deku climbed to his feet. "How'd you know who I was?" his gaze sharpened, meeting hers. There was something... odd about her eyes. "There's no way we've met before today."

Another bout of giggling. "Sweetie, everyone knows about class 1A by now." She wasted no time resuming her assault, sliding down the hill right at him. "You all made headlines for the last couple weeks." She swung at another of his hit-boxes, narrowly missing. The speed of this girl...

"Fair point..." he murmured, pushing memories of Shigaraki as far away from himself as he could. "What happened to Uraraka?"

As he backpedaled, leaping away from her, she took a moment to shrug, "Iunno. Ran off, maybe?" She didn't seem to stop smiling this one... "But that's not important," she was in front of his face almost too soon for him to react. He slipped, letting out a very undignified yelp as they both toppled backwards. When they landed she was, once again, right on top of him. Straddling him, in fact and she seemed to get a kick out of how utterly flustered he was at this. "So, Izuku-Izuku," if nose hadn't already been bleeding, he wouldn't have been surprised if it started right then and there. "What's yer story, luv?" And she smiled a vaguely crocodile-like smile.

Present mics voice boomed above everything else once again, "Ooooooooh! That's Kirshima and Monama out of the running! You did well makin it this far fellas!"

"What the hell is going on!?" Kaminari shouted amidst the howling wind and flying debris.

"I don't know!" Ashido shouted right back.

"FOCUS!" Jiro's voice carried above even theirs. Forcing her eyes open, against the wind and dirt flying into her face. There had to be somewhere they could run to. "There, cover!" she pointed at a trench, as much shelter as they were going to find without further searching. "Come on!"

The others fell in step with her, trying to keep track of where she was as they made some attempt to keep pace. Somewhere behind them Jiro heard a multitude of footsteps racing in pursuit. From their lack of outcries, she knew her friends hadn't noticed them. Diving into the trench she wasted no time running further away, motioning frantically for the others to follow her.

"What?" Ashido said with a quirked eyebrow, hesitating a moment before she race right after her. "Why are we still running?"

A barrage of rubber projectiles hailed down into the trench around them. "Oh, ya know," Kaminari remarked, feeling rather fed up with this entire scenario by this point, "it's probably nothing!"

"Can it and run!" Jiro shot back, swearing under her breath when one of her hit-boxes went off. "We need to get somewhere where we can counter attack!" Of course it wouldn't be that simple. The very earth beneath their feet sprang up, flinging them into the air. As they flew, another barrage of projectiles soared right at them. "SHIT!"

"I got it!" Ashido shouted, palm outstretched.

Just as she was about to cut loose with a torrent of acid, disintegrating the rubber missiles, she caught sight of someone behind them all. Some tall, muscular boy with a massive gauntlet over his left hand, channeling a small hurricane at them. She froze. Images of that one villain, the one covered in that blackish purple mist, screaming and flailing about in agony because of her quirk, flashed in front of her eyes. Even then, soaring in the air as she was, she swore she heard his flesh sizzling. It was only when the barrage hit them dead on that she was snapped rudely back to reality.

Falling to the earth, at least this time behind cover, it took a few seconds for them to collect themselves. Even as she stood up, Ashido was trembling violently. "I thought you said you had it!" Jiro shouted indignantly.

For once, Ashido was unable to really voice a reply. "I..." Was... was she about to cry?

Jiro's attention was elsewhere. Lounging toward the rock wall between them and the enemy she stabbed it with her earlobes. The rock crumbled to nothing, and the Shiketsu student on top of it fell into the crumbling earth. Hands acting on their own, Kaminari grabbed a pair of projectiles and tackled their would-be-attacker, knocking out two of his hit-boxes in the process. It wasn't long before Jiro had thrown another, taking out the last one. Before they had time to celebrate another barrage of projectiles raced through the hole in the wall she'd just created.

"Great going, genius!" Kaminari shouted, lounging just barely out of the way.

Jiro spat dirt out of her mouth, climbing back to her feet. "As the only one being pro-active: I don't want to hear-" Her eyes went wide. Some muscle-bound goliath of a boy was standing right over her. She lashed out with her earlobes, only to have them deflected by a gust of wind that knocked her flat, and the boy stuck downward with one of the projectiles in hand.

He never made contact.

Tackling him from behind was a certain engine calved lad, hell bent on taking him out. Their arms snared each other, fingers interlocking as engine and wind sent them sailing through the air, crashing through rock after rock. Jiro leapt right up, ready to charge into the fray when she noticed something truly bizarre: A flying hung amorphous... flesh? And it was sailing right at Iida. Who was there to defend him with an iron shield but Yaoyorozu.

A decisive footstep, stomping right behind her made Jiro whirl about, ready to strike. Her hand was caught mid flight by a familiar, lankly limb. "Bout time you showed up..."

Akaguro only smirked in reply. "I'd watch out for those two..." he gestured toward the two Shiketsu students. "Out of all the students on the enemy team they seem to be the most powerful."

Jiro nodded, getting ready to charge them at a moment's notice. "So what's with the... flesh, flying around?"

"Don't know," Admitted he, "just know that the guy behind it is never far... he's the one who took out Tetsu and Sero."

Ashido, just then having recovered her wits enough to scan the battlefield, gulped. "I- I think that's him." She pointed, "the guy without his right arm?"

"Damn, he looks about ready to collapse." Kamniari couldn't help but be impressed with the guy, "he must be overdoing it like crazy."

Akaguro sighed. "No doubt..." He cast his eyes at Iida and Yaoyorozu. Something was off about them. The way they coordinated was too fluid, instantaneous. They had the wind guy on the ropes, but something about the way they were moving, and that glazed look in their eyes... "There's a third player on the field." He pointed it out to Jiro. "See how they're behaving? I don't it's them controlling their bodies right now."

Jiro blinked. "But... if someone's controlling them... why are they still helping us?"

Akaguro smirked. "I can't help but notice that hurricane guy has yet to lose a single hit-thing. However..." he turned his attention to the guy with no right arm, "I've got other things on my mind right now."

"Like what?" Kaminari demanded, exasperated. "You're not thinking of attacking, are you? Look out there!" He pointed, right at the crowd of no less than nine opposing students not far away from the one-armed boy. One of them looked like some PSA against letting your hair grow out: a walking wad of fluffy, brown hair standing very near his one armed friend. "They're clearly just biding time for them, Hoping to run us out of the game by using these two!"

Ashido nodded, "or just get us all cornered and then finish us off."

"And charging head on was how Asui was taken out." Everyone but Akaguro jolted in surprise. Some girl with long, curly green hair had joined them.

"Who the hell are you!?" Kaminari shouted.

Rolling his eyes, the dhampire gestured between her and the group. "Setsuna Tokage, my classmates."

She smiled, baring a mouth of shark-like teeth at them. "Hiya!" she chirped, waving to them all. "I come with tidings of re-enforcements!" Just behind her were another few students, one Jiro definitely recognized.

"Hey, Zune-girl," grinned the girl with pink dreadlocks. "need any help?" Jiro averted her gaze, completely unable to face her.

Beside her, a girl with her black hair cut into a bob waved at them. "That's Mei Hatsume." Her voice was completely monotone. "I'm Yui Kodai." She raised her hand, giving a small, singular wave. "Hi."

"Hush," Tokage scolded, "now's not the time. Where's the others?"

Kodai shrugged. "Fighting some girl made of ice. Ibari and Todoroki told us to run."

Kaminari turned his face toward the ground, expression defeated. "We're... really getting creamed out here, aren't we?"

Akaguro clenched his fists, staring at the kid one arm as he focused on finishing off Yaoyorozu. Then, the dhampire sighed. "Damned if I do or don't..." Jiro quirked an eyebrow at him but he offered no explanation. "Kaminari," said he, "how do you feel about a charge? I need you to incapacitate the hairy one."

The electric boy blinked, utterly confused. " That's the dumbest idea you've ever had, please continue."

A nod was his only reply, "Hatsume," the pink haired girl grinned, obviously listening, "feel like showing off those gadgets some more?"

She hummed happily, "you sweet talker, you know I do!" She pumped her fists excitedly.

"Then lets give Present Mic something to talk about." He pointed at Ashido, "can you coat the ground in a non corrosive acid?"

Her shoulders slumped a bit in relief. "Totally!" she gave a thumbs up. "Just say when."

Gulping, Akaguro nodded. "Alright, just follow my tail once this gets started because I doubt this will end well."

Jiro was suddenly very unsure about this entire plan. "What are you-" and he raced right past her, Ashido laying out a thick layer of acid right in his path. "Stendhal!"

"Now of all times you use my actual name..." grumbled he, "DO NOT WASTE THIS!" What the hell was he planning?

"Hey, wait up!" Tokage- no, her hands went sailing through the air after him, holding onto a pair of projectiles. Some student from Shiketsu leapt right at her, swinging his hand and hitting... where... her top half used to be. Now it was floating a good five feet above his head. She blew a raspberry at him, "How now, brown cow- OOP!"

When the earth went soaring up to hit her teeth, she floated aside, narrowly dodging. In his fit of swearing, trying to hit her with any scrap of earth he could control he failed to notice Jiro run right up behind him. Jabbing him with her earlobes she stunned him in place.

"Not the most observant guy are you?" and she proceed to tag all but one of his hit-boxes. Before she could hit the third the earth rose up and separated them, seconds before he lounged at her.

"What the hell's the plan!?" Kaminari shouted, as Hatsume went off the metaphorical walls with her gadgets.

A grappling hook snared one student, metallic spider legs sprouted from her back and threw another one -one who immediately sprouted wings from his back and flew away- and her boots propelled her along the slick ground like rocket powered roller skates. Correcting course with her spider-legs she started spinning around, grappling hook still tethering her to that other student, and keeping the entirety of the enemy forces at bay.

"We can't just have her do everything! And Ashido needs cover!"

Akaguro didn't say anything. He just kept running right at the kid with one arm.

"Akaguro!?" At Kaminari's shouting, the one armed one aimed his other arm right at the dhampire.

"SHIT!" He shouted throwing himself just barely out of the way. That kid's arm had come clean off, turning into a blob of skin as it soared right past him. "WILL YOU STOP TALKING!?"

In reply, Kaminari gave a very meek thumbs up. "Uhh... just one thing." Akaguro growled at him. "What happens if that touch-" no sooner had he begun to speak that Hatsume had been hit by it and summarily turned into a... Hatsume colored blob of flesh. "OH MY GOD!" Of course, even then, her gadgets kept right on ticking, only now they were a hazard to everyone. Not just their opponents.

"You're running out of limbs, Shishikura!" His taunting had the armless boy focused right on him. "What's next? one of your legs!?" And it was.

Narrowly dodging once again, Akaguro saluted Kaminari, his signature freaky smile plastered all over his face. He brandished something that looked like a blade and it was then that Kaminari understood what what about to happen. "Dude, don't!"

But it was too late, he was charging right at the other boy, the sharpened rock in his right hand. "GET HIM NOW!" There wasn't much time. Skating on the ice, cursing under his breath, the electric charged the hairy guy. He was worried about making it over to him when the kid's hair snaked out and enveloped him.

Big mistake... And the other teen's body felt the full force of a direct blast of Kaminari's quirk. Of course, as happens with electricity, every muscle in his body seized and convulsed. His hair was no exception to this, and Kaminari felt himself being crushed in the snarled mess of cooking hair. Tried as he did to scream, he just could't. Seconds later, he and his opponent collapsed.

Of course, this had unforeseen consequences as well. Everyone on the acid-slick ground was electrocuted too. Akaguro managed to avoid to the initial burst by leaping into the air, but even he was brought to his literal knees. Panting, straining against his screaming body, he tried to force himself to move but couldn't move fast enough.

To make matters worse, the one limbed kid looked ready to finish him off. "So close..."

"DIE!" A deafening explosion sent Shishikura face first into the ground.

This would probably be the only time Akaguro was happy to see Bakugo. Shishikura lashed out with his leg, kicking Bakugo square in the chest. Once converted into a lump of flesh, he sent the warhead skidding away along the acid-slick ground, sending him right into Ashido's unsuspecting face.

"Deus ex asshole..." the dhampire grinned leaping forward. "thanks for coming out!" Akaguro's yell was a warriors final battle-cry, moments before his fall. Swinging his arm upward, he cleaved the rock in his hand through the skin of his enemy and flew over his head. His grin widened when he saw the blood he'd collected.

"And Chizome Akaguro is disqualified!" Present Mic announced. "That's whatcha get for cutting an opponent like that!"

"heh..." Akaguro chuckled, looking right up at the booth the voice hero was perched in. "That's what I was counting on." and he lapped up some of the blood at the end of the rock, completely immobilizing Shishikura and his quirk. "Don't worry," mocked Akaguro, "since you used dirty tricks to win this," he tauntingly brandished the bloody rock, "I'll make sure you stay down until this is over." Even as he walked away he felt Shishikura's eyes boring holes in his back. "I don't care about winning, but some of my friends do. This is for taking that from them."

Tokage's hands flung forward, tagging every hit-box on the hairy guy before hitting all but one of Shishikura's. His last one was currently under him, inaccessible. "Aw come on!" her still floating top half complained, "All for that for only one kill!? What a waste of a good plan..."

"Oh quiet!" Said the surprisingly feminine voice of Jiro's earth-wielding enemy, "this entire fight and I haven't even gotten one-"

"Wave goodbye folks! Camie Ustsushimi, Mei Hatsume, Denki Kaminari AND Yui Kodai have all been taken OUT!"


Jiro blinked in surprise, "Wait... you're a-"

Her opponent snarled. "DON'T YOU DARE ACT SURPRISED!" Jiro felt multiple hunks of earth slam into her abdomen, knocking the wind out of her and sending her flying. "THAT'S ALL I GET, ALL THE FRIGGING TIME!" Jiro flung her arms up, feebly defending herself from a savage pummeling at the hands of her enemy. "YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT'S LIKE, CONSTANTLY GETTING CALLED A BOY!"

The world went silent, her eye twitched with unbridled malice. Suddenly, she wasn't on the ground any more, she was kneeling. A pair of earthen pillars flying right at her face were destroyed by her earlobes as she grabbed her assailant's wrists. Then, in a savage uppercut she slammed the rubber ball right into the last hit box and threw her hard against the ground.

She groaned, clutching her middle as the world she knew took a moment to be something other than pain. "WHAT THE HELL'S YOUR-"

"Stop talking." the Shiketsu girl's eyebrows jumped. This other girl... her shoulders were shaking, fists clenched. Tears running freely down her face. Freak! "Just..." reject! "Just shut up." gonna cry, little freak? "And think before you open your mouth next time." Her gaze shot up, meeting her opponent's dead on, rage and pain clearly on display. The kind of pain you never forgot. "Because you're the one who's shouting," and her voice climbed, "without any idea what you're talking about!"

The other girl just lay there and stared, bewildered. "I... I didn't-"

Suddenly a shadow was cast over Jiro. She turned around only to get blasted away by a gust of wind. "Now that was just plain rude!" Shouted the goliath, pointing to his now defeated friend. "Apologize for hitting Chikyu!"

Groaning, her body having had just about enough of this kind of treatment, Jiro rolled over. Damn it all... She kicked herself, her own mind screaming at her, How can I be this fucking stupid!? What is wrong with me?!

"Apologize, you brute!"

Jiro looked up to see a truly hopeless sight. Bakugo, Ashido, Iida and Tokage were barely keeping themselves on their feet. Uraraka and Midoriya were no where to be seen, neither was Yaoyorozu. To make matters truly hopeless, Todoroki and... whoever he was with were no where in sight either, and the remainder of the Shiketsu student body had surrounded those present. Not the way she imagined losing.

"Don't you think," Jiro's eyes went wide. She'd never heard this voice before but it sent a chill down her spine, "that it's a little rude to talk to a lady like that?"

The wind guy scoffed, "Well, I-" and then his eyes glazed over. Just like Iida's, just like Yaoyorozu's.

Speechless, stunned and too afraid to really move thanks to her own instincts, Jiro turned toward the source of the voice: A kid with very tired eyes, wild, frizzy purple hair that stuck off his head in every direction wearing a deceptively peaceful smile. "Now," said he, with so much calm it made Jiro's skin crawl, "would you mind taking your entire school out of this festival for me?"

For just one moment, silence followed, before one Shiketsu student managed to speak. "Wait, what did he just-" and then a hurricane of wind picked up every stray projectile within a thirty meter radius. The tornado that followed sent everyone not clinging to something for dear life flying, and the purple haired kid stood there, calmly grinning. Chime, after chime, after chime went off; signalling the defeat of one Shiketsu student after another. When the dust finally settled, Jiro could only gape at him in terrified awe.

Of course, with chilling slowness, he then turned and adressed her. "Name's Shinso Hitoshi." Then, with a close eyed smile he added, "Nice to meet you... but I think I'm out of the running now."


1: Inasa Yorashi
2: Seiji Shishikura
3: Momo Yaoyorozu
4: Setsuna Tokage
5: Izuku Midoriya
6: Katsuki Bakugo
7: Kyoka Jiro
8: Tenya Iida
9: Todoroki Shoto
10: Ibara Shiozaki

Hitoshi just waved at her, slowly starting to walk away. "See ya."

She wanted to reply. She wanted to say something to this guy, but her every fiber screamed for her not to. Who the hell... thought she, was that guy?

"Look alive, folks!" Present Mic's voice jolted her back to the present. "Cuz after out contenders have a little break, it's time for the main event: ONE ON ONE COMBAT!" There was the jeering crowd.

Jiro sighed, shakily getting to her feet. "Well... I've made it this far." She smirked listlessly at the scoreboard, seeing her name up there almost instilled a sense of pride. Of course, reality declared that it not. Had Shinso not been there she likely would have been out of this competition right then and there. "Long way yet to climb."

"Jiro!" Oh no no no no no, she had to gulp back her nerves, working quickly her palms furiously scrubbed the tears away from her eyes. "You made it!" Even beneath that dumb mask, she could tell he was smiling. It was a short lived expression, as he did not fail to notice the puffy red of her eyes. "Hey..." he reached out, very unsure of himself all of a sudden, "is- are you... okay?"

She nodded. "Yup." she lied, eyes everywhere but on his. "Just... yeah." She looked up just long enough to see his wide eyed concern, and then deflated with a sigh. "Just... I don't want to talk about it."

Nodding slowly, his reply was very quiet. "...Okay." After a breif pause, feeling bad for just leaving it at that, he added one last thing. "I'm... sorry I haven't been there lately." Damn it, now she thought she might start crying again. "I just... wasn't sure if I should try and say something after... you know."

She just couldn't leave this kid feeling like crap, could she? "Green..." she managed, a hand over her own face, "why are you apologizing? I was the one avoiding you, remember?" She peered up at him with her uncovered eye and a very tired expression, fingers pushing at her scalp under her hair. "You're too damn nice... you shouldn't apologize when you don't have to." Of course... apologizing when you didn't have to was classic behavior of anyone who survived life at the hands of people like Bakugo. Really, she couldn't fault him for it.

"I-" he laughed nervously, "it- it's just a force of habit. Sor- er, I mean-!"

"Chill," she couldn't help but laugh a little, "it's fine," and her hand fell away from her face. Looking to the others, being carted away by robot medics in large part she frowned. "It's like a war-zone..." despite her best efforts, talking to him left her shaking. She was still bracing for the moment he'd start ridiculing her for crying, or worse than that.

That was what had always happened, and while she knew he wasn't like that, learned instincts were difficult to fight.

"Yeah..." Deku quietly agreed, "I uh, kind of expected more of us to make it to the final stretch."

"Tell me about it." Both Deku and Jiro turned to see the newcomer. Large as a house, all muscle, buzz-cut hair and a very serious face. His eyes were half lidded, bored looking like Jiro's usually were. "Hey..." he droned.

Deku meekly waved at him. "Um... who are you."

"Inasha Yorashi!" he bowed so fast and so stiffly he slammed his head into the ground, and Deku recoiled in shock. "Pleased to meet you and sorry for yelling!"

"Don't give yourself a concussion over it!" Jiro shrieked.

"Aplogies!" And he went and did it again. "I'll try to avoid doing that in the future!" Deku and Jiro exchanged a very concerned look, completely uncertain what to make of this guy.

To their left, laughing up a storm as her body parts reconnected to her, was Tokage. "I think I like this guy." Grinning at her other UA attendees, she said, "Think we can keep him?"

"LADIES, GENTLEMEN AND YOU BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE BETWEEN AND AROUND THE TWO- YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!" Present Mic shouted, prompting both Jiro and Deku to clasp hands over their ears.

"Damn it!" they both hissed.


Turning toward the screen, Deku felt his heart sink. "Jiro..." She saw it too, right there in giant letters for everyone to see.

The line-up: Midoriya vs Yorashi, Todoroki vs Shishikura, and the one that had Deku's heart in his feet: Jiro vs Bakugo. The other two, while she hadn't yet recognized their existence, were Iida vs Shiozaki and Yaoyorozu vs Tokage.

Malicious snickering caught her ear. Turning over her shoulder, Jiro looked and saw none other than the warhead himself, grinning like a mad dog and right at her. This had to be some dream come true for him. "Bring it the fuck on." She growled, glaring right at Bakugo.

Deku looked at her like she'd just gone crazy. "But he-"

"Has never dealt with me," Jiro immediately shot out with, "trust me... I've dealt with worse."

Even as she stalked away, an air of confidence Deku only wished he had, doubt continued to gnaw at him. But... "Just this once," murmured he, "I hope you're not exaggerating..."

Chapter Text

Battered fingers, bandages both old and new frayed around the edges, reached for the latch of a rusty locker. The lock rattled in her hands, she growled in frustration at her trembling hands. A blood-stained hand brought to her eye, the back of her wrist trying to dry tears from her face smudged dried crimson beneath it, just over a blackened bruise. With that same hand she clawed stray hairs from her face, the strands falling amidst a patch of their torn brethren. Large clumps of her hair had been snapped, broken by attacking hands.

In that moment of panic, like so many others lately, it had felt as if the entire hallway was trying to swarm her. This was becoming the norm for this place, going to school here. That it hadn't rattled her to the point of sobbing was a sign that she was getting used to it. Reaching for the bandages she kept in her locker, her arm drifted past the calendar taped to the inside of her door. Red X's marked every day of april and half of march, at the opposite end of the calendar was a day circled in red: her last day of school for the year.

Can't get there soon enough... She thought bitterly, collecting the bandages and disinfectant from her possessions.

"You've got it almost as bad as me."

Without thinking, her elbow was flying. Someone had snuck up behind her, and by now her instincts knew how that ended. A rush of wind, elbow sailing past her would-be-assailant connected with nothing but wind. Shoulder length red hair and the white tails of earbuds she wore fluttered like tiny wings, soaring as this newcomer dodged.

"Whoa!" A pair of prominent lips hollered, the owner of them raising their hands. "Easy! I'm not here to start anything!"

Jiro eyed her with the glare of a watchful, lone wolf. Any attempt to get close was to be treated as an attack. Despite her fear, the thudding of her heart in her chest, her face remained fixed with steely anger. This... girl was entirely unknown to her. In the last month she hadn't seen her once among the many faces in the crowds. Yet here she was, wearing a school uniform and a few bruises on her face.

Jiro's eyes narrowed. "Is that what you told the one who gave you those?" She gestured to the discolored skin, earning a nervous chuckle.

"Trust me," Jiro did no such thing. Another nervous chuckle, as the red-head adjusted her sunglasses, taking her earbuds out and poceting an absolute relic of an MP3 player. Where the hell had she even gotten that thing? "I got these the same way you did."

Then the purplette raised an eyebrow. "What are you talking about?" And her defensive stance eased slightly. "You don't mean...?" She looked at the stranger with new eyes, looking them up and down. A mournful wince twisted the redhead's features for a moment, unable to look Jiro in the eyes.

It took all of five minutes to find their way outside, to the disused lot behind the school. They sat on a boulder the size of a small car, Jiro with her legs under her as this strange girl splashed disinfectant on her battered fingers, making Jiro hiss with the stinging pain. Then she wrapped the fingers, one by one, with Jiro's bandages. Indelicate fingers, a touch too wide, attached to broad hands. Her shoulders were wider than was to be expected, hips just a hair to thin and her jawline was far too prominent.

Feeling Jiro's eyes on her, she smiled sadly. "I don't blend in well, it's true."

Jiro quickly averted her gaze. "I didn't say anything..."

The other girl batted the tension from the air, her scratchy voice speaking gently. "Forget it," she set to work on Jiro's other hand, "everyone here already knows about me anyways, dumbass idea for me to out with it in the middle of last year."

A sympathetic look colored Jiro's face, regarding her medic with tender eyes. "That can't have gone well."

She chuckled mirthlessly. "Well, it did change everything, just like I'd hoped." And the bandages were applied. "Can you use em well enough?"

Jiro flexed her fingers, wiggling them rhythmically almost like the twitching of an insect's legs as it walked. "Yeah." Collecting her things she added, "thank you. Guess I owe ya one."

The redhead hopped off the boulder, feet padding on soft grass. "If that's the case, you should come meet a friend of mine." She flashed a wide grin as Jiro climbed off the boulder. "She'll like you."

Jiro couldn't help but feel a pang of envy. "So you've got a friend..." she smirked, masking the emotion with one she wanted to feel. "You're lucky."

The redhead shrugged, walking away from the school, the shadows it cast over them. "Maybe... but she isn't so lucky."

A tilt of her head to one side, Jiro blinked. "Meaning?" and her hands went to her pockets.

"Well, you know how it is." the redhead spread her arms to both sides, pivoting at the elbows and palms upturned. "No one wants to be friends with a freak, or the friends of the freak."

Jiro's gaze turned away, finding anything else to pay attention to for a moment. "I... wouldn't know that last part." A few moments of silence passed, leaving room for thought. Thought that Jiro soon turned to words. "Why haven't I seen you around before? Schools been going on for a month, where have you been?"

She sighed, scratching behind her head as she peered at the ground. "I uh... was recovering from surgery. Thought my depression was gonna do me in, I can't stand sitting around."

Her eyes went wide, "Wait, you don't mean-!?"

"Yes, I mean." she sighed. "It's the law, if you're serious about who you are then you'll get the surgery. Or so the logic says..." then she shrugged, "it's not like I wouldn't have gotten it anyway, it's just annoying that I didn't have a choice," the she muttered, "damn societal shackles..."

Tone hushed, more akin to breath than speech, Jiro replied, "Yeah, I'm ... familiar with those laws." Tucking some of her hair behind her ear, she swallowed. "So you're not new here?"

"No, but believe me: I wish I lived in Tokyo, or some other city where I'd have more agency with this but..." her voice trailed away for a moment, a sort of melancholic tint shadowed her features even as she smiled. "You work with what you get."

"I... see." She fiddled with her fingers on one hand, very aware of her words. "you don't seem any worse for wear though."

That time she laughed. "Damn right. Life might be a rancid bitch but it hasn't thrown anything at me yet that I couldn't handle, and I don't intend to make that a lie anytime soon." That was a sentiment Jiro could appreciate, even as they continued in silence.

They'd only just reached the edge of the town when Jiro's new -and only- friend started looking about, searching for something. Walking past a shop window she took a look at her reflection. Her hair had been butchered. Her flowing, purple locks were lopsided, tangled messes in places. Her bangs were now entirely uneven and her face... bruised, puffy eyed and streaked with dried tears, a smudge of blood beneath her eye was shaped like a triangle. She went to scrub it off but something made her hesitate.

It's like war paint... So she left it be, expression softening her hand returned to her pocket. She'd only just turned back to follow her new friend when a pair of arms flung themselves around her.

"Awww," a cheek smushed up against one of her own, a mess of blonde hair spilling onto her face. "if yer not the cutest little thing!" Growling at the indignity of it all, Jiro grabbed her arms and flung her off of herself. This second new girl cackling with laughter the entire way to the wall Jiro pinned her against. Rather than getting angry, she just smiled a crocodile smile, peering at her with yellow eyes. "Wassup? It's yer girl, Toga."

"Are you psychotic!?" Jiro demanded, and 'Toga' cackled with laughter. "You don't just- UMPH!" and the redhead's arm flumped onto her shoulders.

"Heyyyyy, Himiko!" the redhead reached out and pinched her cheek, and Toga did her best to bite playfully at the offending fingers. "Long time no see."

Toga laughed. "Finally got yer butt outta solitary, eh Big Sis?" Jiro ducked out from under the arm of 'Big Sis', backing away from the pair of them nervously. Toga pointed right at her. "Ya got a ducklin followin ya." Jiro growled at being called a duckling. "An angry, scardey ducklin."

She growled louder. "Scardey!?"

"Scardey pairdey!" Toga blew a raspberry, and Jiro lounged at her, hands trying to grab her.

"Get back here!" Now the blonde was howling with laughter, running with the abandon of reckless glee.

"K, help! She's gunna skin me!" Despite the obvious plea for aid, her tone was beyond ecstatic.

K, Big Sis, chuckled. "Run for your life! I don't think I can stop her!" Jiro couldn't help but grin. This was something she'd been lacking for the last month, something she'd written off ever having in middle school: fun. So the chase went on, right up until Jiro tackled Toga, the two of them crashing to the ground in a heap.

As the two of them struggled, both trying to pin the other, Toga and K exchanged a look. They'd found a keeper. Eventually, thanks to a very disorienting and unwelcome lick to the cheek, Jiro was defeated. Toga just sat over her, grinning like a lunatic. "I think I like ya." then she tousled Jiro's hair. "The mop? Not so much, but with a pair o'scissors I can fix that right up."

Jiro eyed the tangled mess of blonde sitting in a disheveled mess atop Toga's head. "Can you now?" Her tone betrayed her uncertainty as clearly as her features.

Rather than take this as insult, Toga laughed. "Don't worry yer pretty lil head." she hopped off of her, taking her hand and pulling Jiro to her feet. "When I'm done with ya, ya wont recognize yer reflection."

"If it helps," K pointed at her own hair, "she helped me with this.

Rather than continue an argument that would benefit no one, Jiro sighed and relented. "Alright…" Toga pumped her fist in celebration. "But… leave the bangs like this." Jiro pointed to the slanted, uneven hair hanging just above her eyes. "I kinda like em this way."

A glint of genius sparkled in Toga's eyes, the kind that flashed when a truly amazing idea was being formed. "I think I can help ya alright…." Toga turned and nudged K in the side. "Where'd ya find her?"

K just smiled, an empty smile that made all the right motions but held none of the spirit of a real smile. For the first time, Jiro suspected she was seeing her new friend's real face beneath her brave facade. "The same as you found me." A sympathetic look from Toga was all that bit of conversation needed for its conclusion.

There was something different about these two. Something about the way they carried on, in spite of all life threw at them. Jiro had made up her mind to find out what that was.

Maybe she'd be able to learn something from them, along the way.

A deafening cheer yanked her from her memories. Someone had just won a fight.

"AND THE WINNER IS MIDORIYA!" Present Mic screamed, splitting the eardrums of at least two UA students in one go. "YORASHI PUT UP AN AMAZING FIGHT, LET'S ALL GIVE THE MAN A HAND!"

Stunned, and a little surprised, Jiro made some vague attempt at applause. Up on the scoreboard was a reply of parts of the fight. Highlights, and whatnot. While Yorashi had a range advantage it was about all he had. Midoriya had no trouble countering his onslaught of wind with his super strength and claws: clinging to the ground and working his way relentlessly toward Yorashi. Even with his quirk at full tilt, it was little more than a battle of endurance, after it was established that Deku wouldn't be so easily defeated. Yorashi, for al his training, had the endurance that many an athlete or bodybuilder would envy.

But that wasn't anywhere near the fortitude required to battle Nomu.

Eventually, Yorashi had spent his energy. It was a simple matter for Midoriya to throw him out of the ring after that.

Somewhere to her side, Kaminari let out a single chuckle. "No surprises there. Our green boy more or less had that in the bag."

"You didn't see him wipe out his entire team in seconds." said Mina, rubbing the sore spots from where Yorashi's quirk had pelted her with so many rubber projectiles and bits of scattered earth.

Kaminari had his own sore spots about the conclusion of the skirmish. "Yeah, I didn't see much of anything after Akaguro led us into that kamikaze run." As the dhampire rolled his eyes, the electric blonde shot another remark his way. "You coulda said that was a suicide run before we were headlong into it."

Akaguro sighed. "It didn't go exactly as I'd planed, but we really should have expected as much." He leaned into his armrest, cheek propped against his palm. "Either way, I've about had it with it with self indulgent spectacle." Sneering at the gathered masses, he muttered under his breath. "Give the fools their bread and circus, distract them from the untold horrors likely being committed right as all this is happening…" The look of contempt in his eyes might have put off a seasoned Nun, making her question whether her place were truly right in the world. It was lucky no one but Jiro had noticed the look in his eye.

"You don't think a little distraction is healthy?" Asui tilted her head to one side, index finger resting on her lower lip. "If all people focused on was the bad things happening in the world, they'd probably break down and panic before too long."

Akaguro smirked, turning to look the frog-girl in the eyes. "You don't think anyone would rise to the occasion? Stand up to stem the tide of all the wrong being done?"

Asui seemed to shy away, faltering at the obvious strength of his beliefs. Speaking up for her was Kirishima, also out of the game. "Well, obviously there would be. Look at us!" he put a friendly hand on Asui's shoulder, earning a smirk from the frog-girl. "We're here, aren't we?"

At this, Akaguro could only give a half-hearted laugh. "After beholding what horrors of the world, I wonder…?" he turned away, regarding the jeering crowd with that same bored contempt as before. "One can only hope the 'heroes' of tomorrow have any idea." That was the last he had to offer on the subject, and so it was back to his quiet, brooding contemplation; a hand placed idly over his mouth, index finger tapping at his jaw.

"Heya, fam!" Jiro cringed. Camie, as she liked to be called, had a vernacular that lowered the collective IQ of whatever room she was in. "That was toats awesome, Midoriya." Between her choice of words -and that incredibly unsubtle wink- Jiro questioned why she was even allowed to sit with them. It had to violate some kind of rule.

It certainly violated her brain…

Right beside her, fangirling with equally unfiltered admiration, was Uraraka. "You were amazing!" She beamed, and between her and Camie Midoriya looked as though he may die from blushing. Too much blood pulled away from his brain. "I thought for sure Yorashi would be a contender in the finals, but them BAM!" Uraraka slammed her knuckles into her other palm, a wild grin on her face. "You just kicked him out of the ring!"

Kirishima, witnessing this, had to join in with equal enthusiasm. "Right!?" he pumped his fist, also grinning wildly. "Just tirelessly forcing his way through a hurricane!" With a giggle, Uraraka nodded. "You got the makings of a bona-fide man, Midoriya!"

To Jiro's -and Deku's- surprise, the vampire seemed to blush brighter. "I- uh, well… I dunno if I'd go that far…" he seemed to shrink ever smaller with each bit of praise. It would have been adorable, if only it didn't remind any who knew that he had so little experience receiving praise. "It was a pretty basic strategy and it kind tired me out… so, it's not exactly practical in emergency situations."

Kirishima blinked. "Huh? Oh!" he said, as the realization hit him. "So right about now you need-"

"YOUR PROTEIN SHAKE!" In that moment Ashido, Jiro and Kaminari had collectively shouted, the blond scrambling to procure Midoriya's thermos from his schoolbag.

"Brought this up for ya, man!" Kaminari blurted out, with all the tact of a startled elephant, tossing the metal canister to the vampire.

"We got your back, buddy!" Ashido gave an almost frantic thumbs up, her smile only just masking her fading panic. Camie could only look between the group in total confusion, exactly as they'd hoped for.

"Er, right…" Kirishima said awkwardly, "totally wasn't gonna offer, uh… nevermind." He held up both hands in a motion of surrender, laughing nervously and sheepishly slinking away to his seat.

Deku just shrank into his seat, hiding his face as he quietly sipped away.

Camie followed after Kirishima, subjecting him, Ashido and Kaminari to a line of questioning they wanted desperately to avoid. "Offer him…?"

Ashido giggled like a mouse corned by a lion. "It's just a… stupid inside joke."

Jumping to her aid was Kaminari, "y-you had to be there."

Shaking his head at this was Akaguro, face buried in his palm. While the others were distracted, Jiro snuck over to her hiding friend. "Hey…"

He peeked up at her, vaguely worried she'd somehow make him want to turn invisible like the others. "Uh, hey." An attempt at a smile was made, it utterly failed to convince her that he was anything close to composed. "W-what's up?"

She sat beside him, knees drawn up below her nose. "Nothing, just checking on you." when she caught sight of sad surprise on his face, she sighed. "Yeah, I know…" she ran a hand through her hair. "I've been shit at that lately."

Capping his thermos, he uncurled himself in his seat and turned to look at her more directly. "It's okay." really he just seemed to be happy to be talking to her again, if anything. "I've been worried, but I know you had reasons." That little smirk he gave disarmed her reservations against such things being brought up.

And that was something she found surprising. "Yeah…" she murmured, "mind if we don't talk about that while I apologize for ghosting you?" When he nodded the weight on her shoulders lightened some small amount. But it was an amount she needed to be free of burdening. "Thanks. Sorry for ghosting you, Green."

With another smirk, he shrugged. "Forgiven and forgotten."

She buried her face in her knees, letting out a frustrated groan. "You're too nice. You know that?"

He chuckled. "Thank you." Even as he blushed again.

Fighting back a smirk, she growled and looked away from him. "Idiot…"

"Meanie." That one she hit him for, right on the shoulder. When they looked each other in the eyes, smiles straining against their best efforts to hide them, they burst out laughing. "Let's not do anything like this again, okay?" He had to wipe some hint of tears from the corner of his eye.

She smiled, feeling just a bit better about the rotten couple of weeks now behind her. "Deal."

"EYES TO THE CENTER RING, FOLKS! THE NEXT MATCH BEGINS SOON!" Boomed the voice of Present Mic, making both teenagers startle and flinch from the pain in their now ringing skulls. "THIS TIME IT'S TODOROKI VERSUS SHISHIKURA! SILENT AND DEADLY VERSUS DEADLY AND SILENT!"

"Fucks sake, can he not!?" Jiro hissed, palms shoving into her ears.

"I keep wondering that myself…" Murmured Deku, rubbing at his own screaming ears.

It always surprised her when his hearing caused him pain. That bag of tricks he had at his disposal was not without its hidden problems. Problems that… She bit her lower lip, a knot forming in her stomach. Memories stirring up like old, rotting bones to make her queasy. "Hey… Green?" When he turned to her, mismatched eyes wide and wondering, she felt a pang of guilt. The question she was about to ask was probably not one he ever wanted to answer. But she had to know. "What does it feel like?" her voice was quiet, like that of a frightened child trying to lie to someone who obviously knew the truth. "Being what you are?"

For the first time since she'd met him, he looked genuinely conflicted. Touched, hurt, like he wanted to hug her before running away to scream into the sun.

After a little more hesitation, he spoke." really wanna know?" When she nodded, he deflated letting out a long, tense breath. "It's um... " his eyes flitted away, throat gulping. "It's like being on fire." Her eyes fluttered, taken aback by the harshness of that declaration. "My mind, it… I still…" a palm dug into his forehead, right at the center of his brow. That look of pain on his face twisted a knife in her chest.

He wasn't even done talking yet. "When I wake up, it's like I get to feel human again for one second." the hand at his side clenched into a fist. "Then my body reminds me that's wrong. I'm not human anymore…" and the knife in her chest became a sword. "But in my head…" his eyes winced shut. "I can't shake it. It's like some part of me knows what I am. What I should be and it just won't-" He felt her hand gripping his before she realized she'd reached out to him.

Blinking, utterly confused, he turned back to her. "...Jiro?" Wait, why did she look she was about to cry? A question his brain had no time to find an answer to before she hugged him.

Getting into fights was no longer as horrendous as it had been. Having removed her problematic hair from the equation, Jiro had at least that much working for her. Granted her physique was never the best suited for brawling but she never had a choice when it came to these fights. When running didn't work, when you got cornered by four people who would probably love to see you die and pain was inevitable you tend to worry less about your body type and more about where you hit the enemy.

Of course, this would have been so much simpler if she could just use her quirk but that would likely get her expelled. The fights alone should have been grounds for expulsion of the bullies she faced but the teachers, as every bullying victim knows, either could or would do nothing about it. The year was rapidly approaching a close, tests were breathing down her neck, but she didn't care.

She wasn't alone anymore. She hadn't been for a while.

At the sound of the closing bell, Jiro was out the door like a streak of lightning. Unlike every school year prior to this one, she had friends waiting for her. Reaching the main parking lot with a happy smirk she waved to K and Toga. Both of them seemed excited to see her, K pocketing that relic -her silly little 'Zune'- with the biggest smile on her face. "Sup?"

"Same as you, lil ducklin." Toga said, unwrapping and then sticking a lollipop into her mouth.

K and Jiro rolled their eyes at her, shaking their heads in bemusement. Toga and her penchant for nicknames... "Still making up our minds about what to do," said K, "have you got any ideas?"

A dark, obnoxious and sinister chuckle made them freeze. "I got one." As the trio turned to face their least favorite students Jiro was hit in the face with a soccer ball. "How about 'run home crying to mommy'?"

While K helped Jiro back to her feet, blood dripping from her nose and lip, Toga glared at the three boys approaching them. "Izzat the best taunt you could come up with? Really?" then she cackled. "Wow, kudos to this school. Didn't realize lobotomy patients were allowed to attend here. Let's give em all a round of applause." And she started slowly clapping, a wicked smile spread across her lips while their antagonists seethed with anger.

Wiping the blood from her face, trickling from her split lip and nose, Jiro and K exchanged a nod. Just like always... "Go easy on em, Toga," Jiro quipped, "I know they look our age, but these guys are actually just toddlers with gland problems."

A blood vessel on the largest boy's head threatened to explode. "Do you want to die?" he hissed through clenched teeth.

"Why?" K devilishly smirked, "planning on killing us with your bad breath? You boys know that toothpaste isn't for decorating the bathroom, right?"

One line too far. The largest boy's anger snapped, "I know you're little secret." and he smiled like a man unhinged. "See, my dad works at the hospital," Jiro's heart skipped a beat, a sadistic smile spread on the bully's face, "He brought me into his work a while ago, got to talking about a patient. One with purple hair?" For a brief moment, as it hadn't in any real capacity for months now, she felt fear seeping into her from the cold air. "I know more than just your secret... you little freak."

For a moment the world was eerily silent. A gust of wind went through the parking lot, tousling their hair And K charged in, her friends not far behind. Like every other tussle did these days, it ended with the boys being handily defeated. Limping away to lick their wounds for the next time they tried something like that.

"Have fun replacing those teeth!" K screamed after them. "Just so you know: the tooth fairy isn't real!"


"Not even in your lonely, pathetic dreams!"

"K..." Jiro's hand on her shoulder, along with her near lifeless tone, forced her to calm down. "Stop." As the redhead turned around she saw the tears streaming down Jiro's face, her shoulders shaking. "just..." and K hugged her, Toga following suit. They stood there in silence for a long time.

Eventually, as it was with silence, someone found just the words to break it with. "Hey," K backed away, placing a hand on Jiro's cheek, fingers under her chin upturning her face. "wanna know something about me I wish I could change?" Jiro, after some deliberation nodded. Toga just squeezed her tighter, face burrowed into her neck at the hairline. "My name is... it's Kenji." Jiro thought she might cry again. She still hadn't- "It's a bitch trying to get your name changed without your parents consent."

If her heart hadn't been reduced to shambles before then, it had now. "K..."

K held up a silencing finger. "It's nothing." She gave a smile so warm it could have melted ice. "It's just a label, and labels are for idiots who don't care enough to see the reality of what's in front of them. They just wanna box it up and not think about it." she giggled, "so names don't matter. It's the heart of those that own them that do." She took Jiro's hand, "come on, let's go get some food."

Walking hand in hand with K and Toga, Jiro felt a little better. She was able to stop sniffling before long. When they finally arrived at the sweet shop -Toga's suggestion- K walked off to the restroom. "Not what ya expected, is she?"

Jiro blinked, turning to look at Toga. For once, her manic demeanor had been replaced with something calm, thoughtful. "No." Admitted she, fussing at her eye. "No, she isn't."

Toga nodded. "She wasn't to me either." she fiddled idly with the ice-cream in front of her. "When I heard she had depression, and that other thing goin on," they didn't mention that out loud. Not when people could over hear them, "I figured 'ey, this one is gonna be a bundle of joy...', cuz most folks with depression?" She pointed her spoon at Jiro, "well they're kinda lifeless. Mostly cuz they just don't... want to keep goin, ya know?"

Toga smiled a lopsided frown, shifting her head to one side while a shoulder rose up almost to her cheek. Casting a sidelong glance at the floor she went on. "If ya throw a depressed person into the ocean, and they realize they're gonna drown, there's no sense of panic. No streak of fear that kicks in, tellin em that it's do or die. So, knowin that, I kinda figured K was just some idiot who didn't know what she was. A sad sap lookin for a way to fix 'the unhappy' with some hormones or somethin."

Jiro flinched, fussing with the hem of her skirt, her innards in knots.

"But... she obviously wasn't." The smile on Toga's face was serene, affectionate. "Girl's got spunk, life to her that wont be ignored in spite of a brain that hates her." Then, her usual self came rushing back, flashing a crocodile smile right at Jiro. "Ain't that fuckin badass?"

That... was Toga... It wasn't just K she was talking about, was it? At that, Jiro couldn't help but laugh, flattered as could be. "You know what, yeah. It's badass." She gave Toga a very appreciative smile. "Thanks, Himiko."

"Anytime, Kyoka gurl."

A few moments later and K had come back, "Hey," she smiled, happy to see her friend had cheered up. "I knew Toga had the right idea with this place." She took her seat and scooched up to them. "What were you talking about?"

Toga shrugged, "Oh ya know, just some stuff." She and Jiro shared a quick, knowing look and set about eating their treats. Over the course of their desert, Jiro couldn't help but steal glances at K. It was strange, but... it wasn't often that you found a friend who turned out to be your role model.

Thanks to Toga, and K's prior actions, Jiro was starting to feel lucky realizing that this was the case.

Forcing his face away from her, it took every fiber of self control he had not to bite her right there and then as she hugged him. But she obviously needed that hug. So he clasped his jaw tight and wrapped his arms around her for as long as he could. Eventually, of course, it got to be too much. His heart hammer, temperature through the roof, straining to keep his voice quiet, he hissed as he put shaking hands on her shoulders.

"Um, ah-" why did thinking have to be so hard? "fangs!" he went with that as his pleading warning, and he would almost instantly come to regret it.

Understanding what he meant she moved away quickly. Her arm snared in his underarm, yanking him awkwardly closer to her for a moment. His face brushed against hers, their cheeks flushing bright as they made contact. Her chin glanced off his forehead moments before his face squished right into her sternum; and everything in that vicinity. Then they rocketed away from each other. She let out a mortified squeal while he did very much the same, a flurry of apologies spilling from his brain.

"I- that- I'm so sorry! I didn't-"

"Me too!" She interrupted, her face just as violently red as his. "That was a complete accident!"

Stammering, his every word was a single, uninterrupted train of thought. "Of course! I never would have assumed otherwise! I know you're not like that at all!" He was deathly afraid of offending her in this moment. He probably could have thrown her from end of the stadium to the next, but for whatever reason the fear was perfectly logical in his brain.

Blushing furiously, she turned away to stare at the floor. Hiding behind a hand placed strategically at the side of her face, she fiddled with her hair. "Holy hell today has been a trip…" she breathed, after clearing her throat.

"It uh…" Then it was his turn to clear what vocal chords he had. "Could be less of one, yeah." She could feel the heat radiating from his face.

It did not help her calm down. "You're overreacting…" she hushed, once again hiding her face behind her knees.

He couldn't even look at her as he replied. "Believe me, I am trying to refocus my brain." Never again would he think of her as 'flat chested'. Something he wished had been more of a decision on his part than it was.

She peered at him, like a cornered cat afraid of a stranger. By god that boy was embarrassed. The meekness his face held seemed such a paradox in the face considering what they both he was. Then her eyes turned to their friends, who were suspiciously, entirely unaware of them. "...Do you think they noticed?"

"...I don't know." he sighed. "It wouldn't surprise me if people in space noticed." Now he was hiding behind his knees, "I'm really sorry…"

Shoulders deflating, forehead jamming into her knees, she let out a long breath. "It's fine. I should probably just be glad it wasn't some total pervert who just…" she couldn't. "Y- you get the idea."

His reply was a single word. "Yep." spoken at a pitch higher than she would have credited his vocal chords of being able to reach. In truth, they'd likely look back at this moment and laugh. Before, once again, blushing half to death. Why couldn't things ever be normal when they interacted?

"AND HERE WE GO!" They both yelped, hands slamming over their ears as Present Mic screamed. "LET THE NEXT BATTLE START!"

Deku leaned forward, eager to see Todoroki's quirk in action again. His notebook seemed to just appear in his hands and he flexed his wrist. This was the first chance he'd had in a while to actually study his classmates quirks. Hell, it was the first time he'd been able to observe quirks from students outside the school. Considering what he'd heard about Shishikura, this was going to be quite the match. If Todoroki could keep his quirk away, he'd just have to-

The fight was already over. Todoroki had almost instantly frozen the poor boy with a simple scuffle of his right foot, shooting ice along the ground. From there it climbed up Shishikura's legs and turned him into a statue before he made his first move.

For a moment the stadium was silent. At the sight of nothing happening, Present Mic declared the winner. "AND TODOROKI WINS BY AN AVALANCHE!" The crowd, perhaps more sedately than ever, applauded. "SOMEONE GET SHISHIKURA THAWED OUT! HE MIGHT WANNA WATCH OUR NEXT FIGHT," here was the announcement that had her mind anywhere but here... "BAKUGO VS JIRO!"

Deku blinked, gulping down a sudden bout of nerves. "That was... abrupt."

"Tell me about it." Jiro breathed, watching Todoroki stalk away with weary eyes as reality settled in: she was up next.

She had to fight Bakugo. Admittedly, she'd wanted to beat the stuffing out of him since they'd encountered each other outside the lunchroom. But now, now her innards were all in knots. A queasiness had spread from her stomach and almost to her legs. Reality was here, and it had billions of eyes watching her. Still, she refused to back down now.

Standing up, fists clenched, she steeled herself. "Guess I'd better get to the waiting area..." Deku looked at her with those wide, puppy eyes and she couldn't help but smirk. "Wish me luck."

He nodded. "You can do it, Jiro." He smiled, giving a thumbs up. "Good luck."

Mina thrust her fist into the air, "You've got this, Jiro!"

Kaminari gave her that reassuring smile of his. "Go get em, lady."

"Plus ultra!" Kirishima cheered. "May the best-" wait... he couldn't say 'man' there... "uh... Hero win!"

Taking in a deep breath, Jiro started walking. The stadium's halls felt oppressively dark, cramped. In the midday heat she started sweating. There were only a few minutes before the match would start, but it felt like hours before she reached the waiting area. Heart thudding in her chest, wiping sweat from her brow she did everything she could to keep her mind locked on the present. Whatever form of catharsis she wanted from fighting Bakugo wasn't the point here. This was about proving her mettle as a hero. Kicking Bakugo in the tail was just a bonus, however personal this was.

"Hey." She looked up and saw Todoroki, walking past her. "Good luck. You're going to need it."

"...thanks." she muttered, before opening the door to the waiting area with more force than intended. She walked to the water fountain and splashed water on her face, taking a long drink.

She had this, she could do this. This wasn't new, she'd fought actual villains and won. So why was her heart pounding? Why was she so worked up? Why couldn't she stop thinking about- No that wasn't new. There wasn't a day that went by where those few months didn't haunt her as surely as the present. Today it was it just impossible to deny. Bakugo was scum, but she hated him for personal reasons, reasons he had nothing to do with directly.

But he was just like those bastards, and he'd made Midoriya go through what she had for a decade. Worse than that, he'd been alone from start to finish and it showed. His awkwardness, that nervous lilt in his voice when he talked, how he couldn't take praise without turning into a blushing, stuttering mess. The way he didn't even seem angry about half his fucking face being disfigured. Bakugo deserved a beating and then some, but... could she actually deliver? he was insanely gifted. His quirk was enough to at least challenge Midoriya if not outright surpass him through power alone. Did she really have a chance at this?


Jiro took another deep breath, utterly failing to calm her heart. Fists clenched she started walking toward the door, then to the ring. She reached to her pocket, hoping to squeeze that old Zune for good luck but, of course, it wasn't there. Growling at her stupidity she remembered that it was probably long gone. If she could have remembered where it was- she slapped both sides of her face. Focus, Kyoka! And then she was at her edge of the ring, staring down Bakugo. Cold confidence and blood lust shone in his eyes. Like some beast staring down a lamb.

That was not how reality would play out, those were not there respective roles. She reused to allow it.

"LET THIS MATCH..." She braced herself as best she could. "BEGIN!"

Neither of them seemed willing to take that first step forward. The hesitance that slowed their footsteps as they made that first approach sent a wave of worry through the audience. Something in the air, tangible as the humidity, made it known that this would no simple brawl between the heroes of tomorrow. Eyes locked on one another broadcast the personal nature of this bout. Bakugo was wary, cautiously approaching the center of the ring.

With every step forward her emotions climbed. Fear, resentment, displaced anger and blame, guilt from years passed. As her emotions rose, her footsteps hastened until she was running right at him. Her charge was met with an outstretched palm; an explosion tearing the air between them with deafening heat. Yet she muscled through it. Arms crossed in front of her eyes, ignoring the ringing in her ears she lashed out with her earlobes.

Nothing but air.

Bakugo had seen it coming and dodged. A growl escaped her throat, the lower corner of his eye twitched. Palm raised he let another explosion free. His quirk had one drawback in close quarters like this: it obscured his vision for all too precious seconds of time. Seconds she used to get right up next to him. Cursing under his breath he used his quirk to propel himself away from her. She yelped, hissing in pain and clutching at her ringing ears. This was his chance! He raised his hand, she expected him to blow her away and braced herself, arms right in front of her face.

Only nothing happened. She looked up, confused. There he was, eye twitching, raised and readied palm shaking. His expression was locked in place, fiery determination mingled with fear. Fear of what?

"GET HIM, JIRO!" Above the din of the crowd she made out Ashido's voice. "HE'S A DEER IN HEADLIGHTS!"

"KNOCK HIS TEETH OUT, JIRO GIRL!" For once, Camie's voice didn't make her nauseous.

All the reminder he needed to do something other than stand there. The explosion he unleashed did nothing more than singe her skin and gym clothes. This was a far cry from what he was capable of. Her eyes narrowed, cursing under her breath as she once again failed to jab him with her earlobes.

Then it was Kaminari's turn to cut through the noise. "KICK HIS ASS, LADY!" Why was Bakugo hesitating?

His last retreat had sent him flying, and he'd landed some distance away. Adjusting her tactics she charged again, waiting for the moment he tried to defend himself. When it came, and the explosion came roaring forth, she lowered herself almost prone. Earlobe stabbing into the ground she tore the surface of the arena apart, turning the ground beneath Bakugo's feet to loose rocks and sand.

While he flailed to correct his footing, sinking into the ground, she used her earlobe and fingers to send debris at his eyes. A choice of attack that had Akaguro silently hoping Bakugo would end up with a damaged eye, for karma's sake. Her choice paid off. While the walking warhead sputtered, clawing at his blinded eyes, she rushed in. Earlobes jutting forth she sought to spear at his ribs, if she didn't knock him out she would stun him long enough to land the real deciding blow.

Only it didn't happen.

Bakugo had sensed her approach, instincts kicking in. Fear and adrenaline fueling his actions he lashed out with both hands and set off a deafening attack. She screamed. Ringing in her ears rocked the very foundation of her skull, a searing pain in her ribs and arms sizzled with burned skin as she dragged along the ground.

It was a monday, just after the weekend following that last violent encounter with those bullies. Something was wrong. School had gone by completely without event. No one approached her, not her usual antagonists, neither of her friends, no one. It was enough to fill the air with a sense of foreboding. In the midst of her final class her eyes drifted to the clock. Still another ten minutes to go. What was wrong? Where were they? Why did the air have to be so thick? She couldn't focus on the lesson. She just wanted to get up and find K and Himiko. But that was silly. Nothing was wrong, it was probably just some project or something. School getting in the way of things. Midterms were approaching after all. Yeah, that was all it was.

At the sound of the bell her book slammed shut and she was out the door. Worming her way through the crowded hall, she reached her locker and dropped off her things. Only something caught her eye. There was... an envelope in her locker, sitting square in the middle of her belongings. It was unmarked, unlabeled. Picking it up, she found it was heavier than if paper was left inside it. Something plastic, with mild heft slid to her fingertips as she turned it over, finding no writing on the other side either. As she closed her locker in confusion she jumped. Hiding behind the door was the bully, his face covered in bruises and lips twisted into a malicious smile. She leapt away, braced for combat but it never started.

"Feeling lonely?" His tone dripped of venom. "Heading home by yourself this time?" There was a look in his eyes, something beyond his usual sadism, hatred.

Something that pit a nauseous pit in her stomach. "What of it?"

He snickered maliciously, "Oh... I see." he started limping away. "Nevermind. Have fun."

As he drifted away, she felt something wash over her. Panic. Why wasn't he attacking? Why was he talking like that to begin with? Turning toward the exit she broke into a run. The world was nothing but black and white, her footsteps clattering in distant echoes made up the only sounds she heard. No one was waiting for her outside. Not in the town. Not at their usual hideouts. Neither answered their phones. She tore open the door to her home, chest heaving with breath. The last place to check, the last place they might have been waiting that she knew of.

All she saw was her mom, a look of devastation on her face. "Sweetie..." her voice was as dead as her face looked.

Jiro's breathing hastened. "Mom..." she felt a pang in her chest, anxiety from some mood she couldn't make sense of. It had to be unfounded. It had to be teenage hormones riling up nothing into melodrama, it had to be. "I- have you heard from K or Himiko?"

Her mother winced, eyes closed for a moment she breathed in slowly, bracing herself. "I just got a call from the school..." Jiro's heart sank, and all warmth faded from her skin. "Please... you should sit down..." No... No no no no no no no no no no no no no! "Your friend K... she's... something happened..."

Underestimating Bakugo. Not a mistake she anticipated making. She clutched her singed, bleeding ribs while her hearing returned very slowly to normal. Every sound was dim, fuzzy. Her equilibrium completely thrown off, it was disorienting to hear the world like this: through an ocean of cotton, her understanding of her surroundings faint.

She'd never relied much on her eyes to observe the world, not when her ears told her everything they couldn't see. How a person's heartbeat quickened when they were afraid, the sound sweat made when it sprouted, the creaking of muscles and bones moments before someone sprang to action. The echoes of enclosed spaces, broadcasting where things were in a dark room. The way sounds moved like ocean currents, branching and splitting around objects in their paths.

Perfect vision was nothing compared to that, and it was what she had to work with at this moment.

Of course, her opponent wasn't faring much better. While she hadn't made contact with his ribs, Bakugo's eyes were struggling and his ankle was almost useless. He was lying on the ground, clutching his screaming limb, eyes watering and turning the dirt on his face to trace amounts of mud.

It was a dizzy climb back to their feet, made with swaying staggers as they stared each other down.

Once upright, her eyes gave her something her ears never could. As Bakugo struggled to stand, she saw they'd reversed positions on the field. He was standing with his back to the seats where 1A had gathered. His palm outstretched and waiting to defend himself, propped up by one good leg, was shrouded by the far away face almost directly above him. The scarred, mismatched face of his former childhood friend. That determined fear on his face was all but gone, his eyes fixed on her burned ribs. The usually colorful pallor of his face had gone painfully pale. In a brief moment, she connected the dots, realizing what he was as a moment from weeks ago echoed in her memories.

Thirteen faltered for a moment, "True…" Clearing her throat, she spoke louder this time, "However, considering the destructive nature of my quirk, if I were to make a mistake it could easily kill someone." The mood of the class dropped from enthusiastic to grim apprehension in mere seconds. "I've no doubt there are some among with similar abilities." Unseen by most, Bakugo raised an upturned palm, and gazed at his hand before clenching it softly.

So this was what he really was. Not some belligerent, unfeeling brute but a childish boy who'd never once stopped to consider the consequences of his actions. Either because he hadn't wanted to or never had to and thus didn't know that he should. Her fists clenched, nails embedding themselves in her palms.

"God damn you..." her rage, seething contempt for him was wavering in conflict. "You idiot!"

She charged right at him, the look of momentary confusion he wore replaced by that now familiar fearful resolve. He was immobile, his fear overwhelming his hesitance enough to put some more oomph back into his quirk. The blast rocked her body, rattling her even further. Pockets of reality and memory flashed interchanging in her wavering consciousness and she forgot to use her quirk when she punched him in blind fury.

For brief moments she wasn't fighting Bakugo, she was fighting him. Years ago, in the rain, after running for hours, tracking him down and screaming with impotent fury and grief. They traded hit for hit in the past, fist for explosion in the present. Both her opponents were disoriented, staggered by the force at which she'd hit them. Somehow, by either throw or the searing fire of the blond's quirk, she was hurled onto the ground. Her body twisted, launching herself at an unprepared enemy. Her hands grabbed his collar, missing his throat by milometers and her earlobes lashed out.

She'd struck true, and both versions of reality blended together. In her memories she screamed, in reality she didn't have the strength. Do you feel that!? In either case, her enemies had felt fear looking at her in stunned terror as their bodies were rendered helpless by her quirk. That insane fear making you want to puke!? Making you want to run for you life!? Her teeth grit, world spinning around her from pain and emotional whirlwind. That's something she never got to feel! Every day she was alive, every day she made herself deal with this stupid, fucked up world was a march through hell you will never understand! Both boys threatened to black out, as well as both versions of herself. You stole that from her! Stole her effort away to fight through a pain she was born drowning in!

Hands moved to her wrists, and she hauled their owners forward, pulling them both off their feet. Tears streaming down her face, her lips moved, past and present in unison. "Take it back! Take back what you did, god damn you!"

It was here that reality and memory split apart. Where the bully had looked at her with broken eyes, Bakugo raised his hand and retaliated. She was sent flying, slamming into the ground face first as the world threatened to go black.

They stood there, in the rain. One with his back to a brick wall, the other poised to break his body where he stood. Neither could speak, neither could move. She stood there, defiant and triumphant in their battle, but broken and alone. He fared no better. For whatever reason, those stooges that followed him about were gone. No longer by his side. His hands loosely held her wrists, not trying to hurt her in the least as rain and tears streamed down her face.

"...I can't."

She started shaking, quivering, guilt, grief, anger, pain. It all made her body tremble as though she might come apart. With a disgusted heartbroken wail she threw him to the ground, his battered form splashing in the puddled sidewalk. When he looked up to say something, she'd already started away.

The rain and wind tore at her. Her slender form was little more than a toothpick flying through a typhoon that raged around her. All she could do was run, keep moving against the weight of this horrid world. When the door to her home tore open, her shoes flying off, she ignored her mother and father's worry on her way to her room. Door slammed and locked, drenched as she was, she dove into the covers of her bed and gripped her pillow like it were her only anchor to the earth as she sobbed into it. Sleep overtook her exhausted body, and nightmares plagued her restless slumber.

At the end of them all, she was alone, clutching what remained of her friends. She'd lost one of the most important people she'd ever met. Someone she looked up to, who's example she desperately wanted to follow. But... her example had led her to... No, don't think of her like that. She climbed out of bed as reluctantly as could be, but something needed doing.

Himiko had yet to reply, to say anything to her. Awaking early the next day, she found she still hadn't said anything. No calls back, no texts. Not even bothering to change her clothes or get ready for the day she trudged off to school. If Himiko was there she needed to know. No one else would tell her. As far as Jiro knew, Himiko had no parents to speak of. So it was on her to pass the message along.

No one at school dared to speak to her, to approach. Her appearance was outright dreadful. Face bruised and bloodied, lips cracked and dried, eyes black, hair ruffled and messy, clothes much the same. She made a brief stop by her locker to collect her hoodie and claw into it. Some stupid scrap of paper, something plastic too, crumpled in her hoodie's pocket. Whatever, not important. After that she went to Himiko's locker and waited.

She didn't have to wait very long before the superintendent, the guidance councilor and principal were all looming over her. "What?" she snapped.

"You're coming with us."

She rolled her eyes. "I'm busy."

One of the grabbed her shoulder and started hauling her away. "Not any more."

For twenty agonizing minutes she sat alone in the faculty meeting room. Staring at the floor in silence. Eventually, the three staff members she'd had the encounter with arrived, followed closely by several others. Her parents, worried sick, the now lone bully and his father. What followed was about far from anything dignified as an official discussion with the school could have been. Late last night, the bully had wandered home and his father had asked no end of questions. Their discussion led the fact that Jiro had attacked him but little else. His father called the school the next morning, and now here they were.

"What do you have to say for yourself, Jiro?" Her hands clenched into fists, a numb rage boiling over inside her. "How can you possibly justify this kind of violent behavior?"

She wanted to scream, to lash out and smash the building into dust. When she opened her mouth to speak, she was surprised by the voice that filled the room. "Are you fucking kidding me?!" Blinking, dumbfounded, she and all others in the room turned toward her mother, bristling with anger. "This!? This is what we're doing now!?"

She took a step toward the staff, Jiro's jaw dropped. "This brute and his stooges antagonize my little girl, beating her to a pulp for how long, and it's only after he drives her friend to the edge, pushes so hard the unspeakable happens that you come together against her!?" She waved her arm to the side, slicing through the air in declarative defiance. "NO! If you want to know where to direct that hostility," she pointed right at the bully, "direct it at him! Hold him accountable for his despicable behavior!"

When the staff failed to say anything, when all they could was stare at her, Jiro's father stepped up. "Well? How about it? It sounds perfectly reasonable to me."

Licking his upper lip, tongue scraping against his top teeth, the principal's upper lip twitched in a barely contained snarl. "This is the first we've heard-"

"Bullshit." Now everyone was staring at the bully, his dead, vacant eyes locked on Jiro's mother's. "She's telling the truth." His voice was like that of a zombie, barely holding any life in it at all. "It's... all true." His face turned toward the floor. "I'm the one at fault. Have been the entire time."

The room was silent, air heavy with the weight of all too obvious decision that now had to be made. "Children," said the superintendent, voice laden with defeat. "wait outside..."

Outside the room neither of them could hear what was being said. But it was all to obvious now, how this was going to play out. As she slumped against the wall, she once again felt the paper in her pocket. Pulling it into view, she recognized the unmarked envelope. Hesitating for a moment, she slowly tore it open. Housed inside was a relic of an MP3 player. Inscribed on the back, was a simple phrase: When the world gets you down, just play a song and give it space. -K.H.

"It wont take anything back." She looked up, drawing her legs up, her knees close to her face. She was sitting, curled up in a ball against the wall now, hugging her legs up to her face. He... just slumped, facing the ceiling and sprawled out across half the hall. "For what it's worth... I'm-"

"Don't." Her face shoved behind her knees. "Just don't..." It was finally drawing to a close. The bullying, the fighting, all of it. But that didn't change that she was alone all over again. That this had still played out as badly as it possibly could have in every other way.

He respected her wish, eyes still staring into the tiles above. "What are you gonna do now?" Her body tensed, holding herself as tightly as she could. "Once I'm gone... well, this place will probably be a lot better for you. But I can't say I'd be surprised if you left anyways." She felt herself relax a fraction, realizing that now she had a decision of her own to make. "What's your way forward, girly?"

And the brute finally called her something other than freak. "Do you know who I lost?"

"Your best friend."

"Wrong." When he turned to look at her, he found a fire burning in her eyes as she stared right back at him. "I just lost my hero."

His body seemed to shrink, if that was even possible for him to do any further. "So the world's lost someone that important. That special..." listlessly, he turned back toward the ceiling. "Are you going where I think you are with this?"

Hesitation stalled her reply, the answer she was already determined to make reality. Fist clenched by her side, she caught her breath and found her voice. Beaten, bloody and disheveled as she was, her answer rang forth like a bell through a still morning. "I'm going to be what she was meant to be from the beginning."

Her fist hit the earth, her shaking body pushing itself harder than she ever remembered doing. Sweat dripped off her face, blood from her wounds and she hauled her shaking form upright. Staring down Bakugo, the warhead looked about ready to blow a gasket he was angry and confused, she recalled the words that brought her here. The words she would live the rest of her life to fulfill.

I am going to be a hero.

Her feet started running, body preparing to launch itself at her opponent, even as he snarled at her. "You think you have any right to say that to me!?" Ignoring the pain in his screaming ankle, he frothed at the mouth as his hands splayed out behind him. "YOU'RE NOT THE ONE WHO FUCKED UP LIKE ME!"

The cascade of explosions he unleashed sent him at her like a projectile. His body curled and twisted in the air, his right hand poised to deliver a one-hand-knock out of an attack.

So he's human after all...

Her earlobes went to her hands, taken between her fingers in a vice-like grip. She had a plan of attack, one that was far riskier than any from before. Considering how battered she already was, it was do or die time: risk was part of the part of the game no matter what, all she could do was embrace it. "You have no idea how wrong that is..."

Back then... she'd been so focused on her own crap that she hadn't bothered looking to anyone else's suffering. To actually take care of her friends. Kyoka Jiro would never make that mistake again if she could help it. With that thought fueling her muscles, she lanced her hands and earlobes out toward Bakugo's palm. Rather than jabbing his undefended flesh, she brought the metal of her earphone-jacks crashing together.

As Bakugo unleashed the mother of all explosions, the resulting onslaught of sound amplified and deflected it. Bursting forth from the ring was a wave of wind and dust so strong it pushed everyone into the backs of their seats. Microphones blew out, cameras were spun around and the stadium was shrouded in a cloud of dirt.

No one could see how it had ended.

"JIRO!" Deku leapt forward, his hands catching the railing of 1A's private section of the stadium, allowing him to lean over it and closer to the arena. By his side were Kaminari, Yaoyorozu and Ashido, frantic to see what had happened.

"Is she okay?" Ashido brought a hand to her mouth, shoving it against her lips.

"I don't know..." Yayorozu worried, "can anyone see anything through this?"

Kaminari narrowed his eyes, trying to see through the cloud. "Rrrgh!" he growled in frustration, his and Ashido's hands gripping each other on the railing. "Where's... Wind... Guy when you need him!? I can't see anything!"

Deku waited with baited breath for the dust to clear. Slowly, like a curtain unveiling for the final act of a play, it split enough to see the area. Bakugo was lying outside it, dazed and groaning, clutching his useless ankle, but Jiro...

"I DON'T BELIEVE IT FOLKS!" She was lying motionless at the center of the ring in tatters. "THIS MATCH IS A TIE!" Present Mic announced with uncontrolled excitement. "BOTH CONTENDERS ARE OUT OF THE RUNNING!"

"WHAT!?" Deku screamed, as the audience erupted in mixed cheers and booing.

Ashido growled in petulant frustration, stamping one of her feet. "That's so stupid!" She threw her hands to her sides, yanking Kaminari's hand -along with him- to her in the process. Bodies leaning against each other, they both blushed bright red before inching apart. Meanwhile, robot medics had arrived with stretchers, carting the fallen students away to see recovery girl.

Deku fell back into his seat, completely disheartened. What kind of ruling was that? Just because the rule was 'whoever was knocked out of the ring or could no longer stand would lose' didn't mean it had to apply to both of them! She'd come so far... He buried his face into his hands, leaning forward.

"Nothing sparks a memorable event like a good outrage." Akaguro sneered. "I think I might actually be sick..." and he stood up, hands shoving into his pockets as he stomped away to who knew where.

By Deku's side, Uraraka sighed. "I don't like how often he's had the right idea today." she pouted, arms crossed. "Jiro should've won that."

He wanted to say something, to agree with her but... a realization crossed his mind. There was a lesson here, one he'd learned a few too many times. "Sometimes... the best we can do isn't enough to win." For a moment, he saw Shigaraki's lifeless body on the ground in front of him. Fingers curled, digging into his palm, he gulped before he continued talking. "Sometimes what should happen just doesn't." Forlorn, he looked at the floor of their section.

Surprising him, Uraraka put a hand on his as she leaned toward him. "But that's why we're here!" He blushed furiously, jumping and leaning away from her as she got just a little too close to him. "We're going to be heroes aren't we?" Her resolution made way for a look of defeat. If you'd asked him right then, Deku would have said that such looks belonged no where on Uraraka's face. The fact that such a thought crossed his mind surprised him. "Aren't we supposed to stop things that shouldn't happen?"

He blinked, she failed to move her hand away from his. "Yeah..." She realized just how close the pair of them were and flushed beat red. Moving away from him, fingers fussing nervously at each other. "But a world without things that shouldn't happen, is a world that doesn't need heroes." For some reason, that sounded very familiar to him. "Just think of this one as a reason to fight harder against the next one that tries to stop us." Smiling, like she usually did, she nodded emphatically.

"Now that's the Deku I know." She said through a closed eyed grin. Though after a moment, it faded and she looked toward the arena again. "Think someone should go make sure Jiro's okay?"

Ashido was the first to reply to that one. "Actually... Kami and Yaomomo kinda already went to do that." She held up her phone for the pair of them to see.

Jiro's in the waiting area she started in. She's not really taking this well. - And Ashido would save Kaminari to her contacts as " Kami" followed by a heart.

Deku and Uraraka frowned at the same time. "Poor Jiro..." She murmured. Unable to just there, Deku stood up, walking for the exit. "Deku?"

"I'll be right back." While Ashido and Uraraka looked after him, saying... something, he made his way toward the waiting area.

This entire event was playing out in a way he hadn't once suspected it would. Shiketsu's sudden appearance, the battle royale that followed, now... this. He'd expected chaos, heightened emotions, fighting for recognition against the best of his peers but not this sinking feeling in his gut. He hadn't expected him or his friends to win, to make it to the final stretch.

Or that failing to get there would hurt this much.

He was almost at the waiting area when he ran into Kaminari. "How is she?"

For a moment, the blond seemed uncertain as to what he should say. "She..." he sighed. "Go talk to her." He met Deku's gaze, something in his eyes pleading for him to oblige. "Yaoyorozu and I tried but... I dunno." The blond slumped against the wall, hands in his pockets and staring at the floor.

In reply, Deku nodded. "I'm not sure I'll do much better." He rubbed at the back of his neck, "I'm not the best at 'peopleing'."

"Heh..." Kaminari chuckled mirthlessly, "trust me. You don't have to be." Before Deku could ask what he meant, the other boy clapped him on the back. "Go on."

Unsure what to think, uncertain what to feel, Deku just kept walking along. He felt... nervous, almost queasy for some reason. What was he supposed to do? Why was Kaminari-

...Wait. He stopped in his tracks, ears straining. Between the sounds echoing slightly in the corridor -the noise made by the crowd outside- he heard... singing?

"I never really feel quite right
And I don't know why, all I know is something's wrong
Every time I look at you, you seem so alive..."

That was Jiro... he almost hadn't recognized the voice. She sounded totally different, singing like that.

"Tell me how do you do it, walk me through it
I'll follow your every footstep

Maybe on your own you take a cautious step
Till you wanna give it up, but all I want,

Is for you to shine
Shine down on me
Shine on this life that's burning out..."

Why was she...? He shook his head, making his way toward the room she was hiding away in. His knuckles tapping on the door elicited a sharp gasp. "Jiro?" He mumbled, "It's me..." he heard rustling in the room, hesitation at any actual movement toward the door. "are you okay?" He heard her breathe, open her mouth and then close it; unable to find words to speak with. "... Do you want me to go?"

At his offer of space the door opened. The sight of her made him want to cry. Recovery girl had more or less healed her up, but that did nothing for the dirt and dried tears. Or the damage to her clothes. Jiro had since changed out of her UA gym shirt, mangled as it was, and was wearing a madras patterned shirt. Primarily black with red lines, some hints of white thrown into the pattern for good measure. She wasn't wearing the way she was supposed to. She'd tied it off at her midsection rather than using the buttons and rolled up the sleeves. "No."

Slowly, he stepped into the room with her. It wasn't much more than four walls and a few chairs, a water cooler and a sink thrown into the corner. When the door closed he turned toward her to say something but never got the chance. In a moment, her arms were around him, face buried against his chest. Reading the room, with as limited skill as he had, he determined it would be best not to deny the embrace. Instead, he put his mask back on and wrapped his arms around her. "How not okay are you?"

She laughed a solitary, breathy laugh. "A typically reductive inquiry, Green."

Tried though he did to resist, he smirked anyways. She'd just quoted Star Trek, something he wouldn't have expected from her. "Sorry, Spock."

Lightly, she smacked one of her fists against his shoulder. "Shut up..." the way she was shaking, she was likely laughing but it could have been crying.

When she finally backed away and he saw her face, it turned out to have been a bit of both. "That was... a pretty song." Said he, and she bashfully looked away. "I couldn't help but hear it."

Her eyes drifted back to his, hiding behind those sunglasses of his, but her face remained where it was. An idle hand ventured to the side of her head, fiddling with a few strands of her hair. "Have you ever heard it before?" He shook his head. "That's not surprising." Said she, taking a seat in one of the room's few chairs. "It's well over two hundred years old." Surprised, his eyes fluttered as he took the seat next to her, while she continued talking. "I heard it on my uhm..." pain, sadness, grief, old, old anger moved her face, flickering the expression there for a moment. "the Mp3 player. It was the first song on it that I listened to."

"So it's important to you..." an obvious bit of information, but more so than the next he inquired about. "I'm guessing it has something to do with... K.H.?" At the mention of the name she seemed to shrink. Shoulders slumping, eyebrow furrowed gloomily over closed eyes and a pained smile. He hadn't meant to hurt her, he hadn't wanted to. Yet the pain was there, and might not have been if he hadn't asked. "Nevermind..." he shook his head at himself, "I'm sorry, I- ... shouldn't have asked."

"It's fine..." her face turned toward the floor, eyes now open but face otherwise unchanged. She took a slow breath, in through her nose. "Yeah. It has a lot to do with her." She turned her face toward him, and he felt the weight of everything she'd yet to say, staring at him from behind her eyes. "I never really told you about myself, did I?"

It had only been two weeks, two weeks since their year at UA had started. From day one she'd known his story, to some extent. What history he and Bakugo shared, how he'd become a vampire, what growing up quirkless had been like. She'd never divulged her own history, told him the story that out her here on the same path as him. There, in the waiting area, while the world outside seemed content to be unaware of them and busy with its own dealings, she told him. There was only so much to tell, so many important details that bore true significance. But now he understood, or was starting to at least.

It's like being on fire... Was that the real reason she was looking out for him? Why she wanted to be his friend? It was all because of K... "I'm still not really sure what I'm doing..." Jiro's voice trailed on, "trying to make myself into a hero when... I don't even know if that's what she would have done." Her shoulders started shaking, tears dripping from her eyes and her palms flew up to her face, hiding her face from view. "But I don't know what else to do!" Between sobs, as his eyes widened, she managed a short couple of sentences more. "What are you supposed to do when your hero loses the same fight as you, the one you can never stop fighting?" Her voice filled the room, sobbing becoming utterly uncontrollable. "What am I supposed to do?"

Even as he hugged her, holding her as her body shook itself violently, he couldn't find an answer. He'd never had to ask that question before. But something about what she'd said...

The same fight...

It's like being on fire...



He could only squeeze her tighter, hold on harder than he had been until the crying passed. Even then, her fingers clung to his shirt, face buried in his shoulder. Eventually, when the next fight was announced, they had to move apart. "I'm gonna..." she sniffled, "go hide for a bit longer." When she looked him in the eyes, he almost started crying himself. "I'll uh... meet you back at the seats, okay?"

He nodded, and together they left the room, before going their separate ways. Body almost entirely numb, though he knew not why, he started wandering back to his other friends. Just around the corner he saw Kaminari waiting, hands shoved into his pockets, staring at the floor. "...You heard everything, didn't you?"

The blond could only smile a sad little smile. "I already know the story..." he sighed, "heard most of it through rumors and the rest from her, back in middle school." He turned to look him in the eye, holding his gaze. "Keep it quiet yeah?" Then he shoved off from the wall, walking back the same way Deku was headed.

A knot in his stomach kept him from walking, kept him rooted to where he stood. "Kaminari?" The other boy stopped, turning around, an eyebrow raised. "When she said 'the same fight'..." he fought to raise his voice above the barest whisper, "did... did she mean...?"

Kaminari raised a hand, index finger raised and pushed to his lips, silently shushing him. "Before I even think about answering that..." he gave Deku a long, searching look, scrutinizing his every detail. "Does it really matter?" His fists clenched, stomach upturned, going even further into a bunch of knots. He couldn't look at Kaminari anymore, even as he kept talking. "Would knowing change anything? Like how you feel about her?"

"I... have no idea how I feel about her. But..." Slowly an answer came to him, his hands unclenched, stomach settled and air left his lungs. "...No. It wouldn't change anything." His eyes went back to his friend, seeing him smiling with approval. "She's Jiro, my friend. Nothing's gonna change that."

And so the blond smiled, almost grinned really. "Good." Turning away he kept walking back to the others. "For what it's worth, I'm glad I can call you 'friend'... Green."

Deku couldn't help but smile. "You too." When Kaminari was out of sight he slumped against the wall and took a long, deep breath. What a day... Wringing his fingers through his hair, pushing them at his scalp, he shoved off from the wall and started walking back to his awaiting friends.

There was still the rest of the festival to get through yet...

"When you looked through me,

you really knew me,

like no one else ever looked before..."


Chapter Text

"He's your oldest and your best friend...

if you need him, he'll be there again..."

Answering a call for help was standard fair for any hero. Running to the aid of someone you might not reach in time to save, arriving just in time to watch them die... all too often did things like this transpire too. Getting the call, hearing the screaming, begging pleading for their lives, it reminded him that he was just a man. There was only so much one could do, even with such gifts as his, to quell the suffering of innocents. By the time he'd arrived at the scene, it was long over.

This was someone's home. He stood there breathing, chest heaving up and down. A cold clammy sweat had started down, past his wide open eyes. Shock had overtaken his nerves, his mind. Blood caked the room. Ceilings, walls, the chairs, the table, all were splashed in the still warm fluid. Fingers lay scattered on the floor, a hunk of bone and flesh was centered in a puddle of red. Someone's torso, legs still attached, lay against a wall, torn open. The head was attached by what remained of their neck, half their face torn away and revealing the bones beneath. Hidden behind the couch was a much smaller body, its little hand resting over the head of a bloodied teddy bear.

He lurched away. Metal mask torn from his face he vomited over the railing into the street below. Gasping for breath, chest still heaving he shuddered and gagged. "What kind of-" he had to gulp back what to tried to evacuate his stomach. "It couldn't have been human!"

"Are you indeed so certain, Ingenium?" Wiping the vomit from his lips, Tensei Iida looked up to see her, in all her black and red splendor.

Vanessa Valentine, he'd never had the opportunity to work with her. They'd all heard the stories, how she'd appeared one day, Eraser Head vying to see her established as a professional hero. The foreigner with unbelievable strength. When she'd first arrived on the scene it was only a few years into his career as a hero. Aizawa had dodged every question he'd asked, told him nothing he'd wanted to know about her or why he wanted her in this profession. Only he and someone called 'The Nameless One' seemed to have any idea what she was doing working as a hero.

Not many knew about Valentine, most that did were suspicious of her at best. Tensei Iida was one such person.

Right now he was just thankful she was here, and that was a first. "Look at them..." he breathed, trying and failing to do so himself. "There's... there's nothing left. Just... parts." His stomach churned, queasy as if he'd eaten sour milk. She on the hand, looked right into the face of it.

Horrible as it was, there was not a trace of the disgust she felt worn upon her face. She walked to the center of the apartment, taking in the sight and rancid smells. "Have you been to the other apartments in the building?" Her eyes were locked on the body hidden behind the couch, her tone as lifeless as what now surrounded her.

"No," Ingenium replied, "I haven't."

Valentine pointed to something, hidden from view in another room. "They smashed through the wall, going into the next one over too."

The engine hero felt his heart -and stomach- sink. "What do you see in there?"

She turned and looked at him, not that he saw. Looking into that spectacle wasn't something he was brave enough to do. "It's... comparable to what happened here. Whoever our perpetrator is, they can't have gone far. This is... fresh."

How she knew this so easily, he didn't want to know. "They?" So he focused on what he could bear to.

"The bite marks... massive, jagged teeth." Eyes covered by tinted lenses surveyed the carnage, "I've only ever seen one person with teeth that could have done this." double checking her observations. "No one else could have-" she seemed to choke on her words for a moment. "eaten..." Which indeed she had, as just then she sounded as unsettled as he. "this much, besides."

Tensei's hand gripped at his belly, jaw clenched and eyes winced shut. "Oh god, you mean that thing from the news?" his head hung low, "where do you think the... thing went?"

Steeling her resolve, gulping back her own disgust, she ventured into the adjoining home. "When I find out, I'll call for you."

Did I ever tell you about my favorite flower?

I saw you fight today, in the tournament...

heard what you said...

in a lot of ways, you remind me of it now.

But then... you always did, my little Izu.


Vines were cut to ribbons with scarcely the effort required to move his arms. A feat either of his immense strength or the sharpness of his claws. Either way, it was an altogether brief encounter. Shiozaki hadn't even managed to bring up enough foliage to shield herself from him. She was barely obscured even from view by the time his palms -fingers splayed wide, an effort to diffuse the force of his hands impacting on her flesh- met her abdomen, throwing her from the ring. When Present Mic's announcement cut through the air, declaring him the victor, his hands were already over his ears. Wincing eyes declared he'd been hurt by the volume all the same. While the crowd cheered for him, he slunk away back to the concrete halls of the stadium. Winding back to the seats, where his classmates were waiting for him.

Some minutes remained between now and the final bout of the tournament, and recent events had left his mind disquiet. Jiro, his friend and arguably the one he felt closest to right now, had told him a great deal. Both about herself personally and what sort of life she'd lived in recent years. And that last implication... No. That didn't matter, not to him. With any luck, things would just go on like usual. A few awkward moments of putting his foot in his mouth, some sarcastic quips and the odd reference. They hadn't been friends long, but he was starting to get used to it.

Of course, that was hardly the thing to focus on now, what with his next fight being so imminent. If he was one to gamble, it was a safe bet on his opponent being Todoroki. A young man formerly very much unknown to Deku. Their interactions before this day were to be described as non-existent, a fact that neither bothered nor put Deku at ease. He was just a classmate, someone who's face he only regarded as familiar thanks to their mutual attendance of Aizawa's classes.

Soon he would be his final opponent in the arena.

Sweat trailing down his skin, slick on his forehead, was wiped away by the back of his hand. Exertion's reward to a toiling body on a heated day. His stomach rumbled, his mind raced to recall if he had anything left in his thermos to eat. Memory has a way of faulting in the wake of hunger's pangs. So wend his way back to his compatriots he did, footsteps echoing in the faint light. A smell of glycerin and sweat, burnt skin reached his covered nostrils, laboring to breath beneath his silicone mask. Rounding the corner he saw him walking side by side with Uraraka, thus his feelings of encountering his old bully were mingled with something warmly, strangely, positive.

Waving to a smiling Uraraka, Deku went to walk right past them, to ignore Bakugo altogether and get to his thermos, when the familiar voice reached his ears. "Wait."

"I can't." His pace hadn't even slowed, barely had he gone passed the two of them when a hand grabbed his collar.

With a snarl, angry, maybe with some other emotion coloring that anger, Bakugo bared his teeth. "Damn it, Deku!"

"Wait!" Uraraka interposed herself between them, making Deku's eyes leap wide open. "You said you wanted to apologize for something! Not hurt him!"

Heart rate through the roof, Deku froze with fear. After losing that fight against Jiro there was no predicting what heights Bakugo's temper would flare to, what he'd do to her. He put a hand on her shoulder, trying to move her away, but she just reached up and took his hand, squeezing it reassuringly. While Bakugo seemed to boil in his flesh, she stared him down, determination blazing behind her eyes.

"Shut up!" Snapped the warhead, "He was just gonna walk away!"

Uraraka seemed to get taller, her own anger making her puff up slightly. "If you were serious about apologizing that wouldn't matter!" She stepped closer to him, Deku's hand fell away from her shoulder. "Sorry isn't about what you want, it's about being kind to someone you wronged!"

Bakugo faulted at this, silence his only retort. He almost looked confused with that raised eyebrow, like he'd never once had this explained to him. No one spoke for a few moments while the warhead collected his thoughts, tried to comprehend what he'd just been told. His mouth had only just opened to speak when another voice caught their collected ears. "No." Icy, emotionless, monotone. The three of them peered back around the corner Deku had just rounded, down the hall, catching sight of two individuals who hadn't noticed them.

One bore a crimson scar over his left eye, iris a searing blue, and hair that was both red and white. Young, tall and with a physique earned by over a decade's worth of sculpting his body for the life of a hero. The other was a mammoth, towering over the boy with enough muscle mass to crush a lesser man with weight alone. His flame-red hair was offset by fierce eyes and beard made of fire. The nation's second greatest hero, Endeavor.

"I wasn't asking, boy." Said Endeavor. "You will use that fire of yours, embrace that part of yourself in this next match."

Todoroki's eyes narrowed into a glare. "I said no, and you know full well why I wont."

What was this? Why were these two arguing? Did they know each other? Wait... The resemblance, something in the area around their eyes. Father and son... "You're being an arrogant little fool." Endeavor scoffed. "I didn't spend so long trying to create you only for you to cast aside your gift like some unwanted toy." He took a step forward, looming over his son and casting a threatening shadow over his smaller form. "Do you understand?"

There was a slight tremble, a shaking of Todoroki's hands as he stared defiantly into his father's eyes. "You've never taken refusal of anything well, have you?" Something about the seething bite those words carried made Endeavor's twitch. At the barest hint of motion on his father's face, Todoroki's hand clenched into a shaking fist. "So it is true... " His eyes went wide with rage, "that's why I have this eye." blood trickled down the space between his fingers and palms. "You really are just a monster wearing the skin of a hero."

Nausea had settled into the pit of Deku's stomach, Uraraka's face told of similar horrors snaking through her mind. That... what was that implication? What did that mean? Why did Endeavor look like he was about to strangle Todoroki? Questions that received no answers before the hero's hand was around his son's collar, lifting him off the ground. "You..." He hissed, "haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about, what you're thinking."

"It's all I ever think about." Todoroki's voice strained, his teeth bared at the man holding him off the ground. "That's why, no matter what, I'm going to be the kind of hero you never were. I'm going to be better than you!"

Knuckles impacted into Todoroki's gut before he was dropped unceremoniously to the concrete floor. "You have until your final fight." Endevor turned on his heels, walking away, leaving his son in pain, on the ground. "Do not disappoint me." Without any regard for his child, rounding the corner and failing to notice the three onlooking teenagers, Endeavor stalked back to his seat.

"What-" Uraraka, pale as a ghost, gulped. "What just... what was that?" She was shaking, trembling in fear, disgust.

Deku was fighting a similar battle against his own body. Sickening, that was the only word for what he'd just seen. "I... I don't know."

Beside them both, a cold sweat drenching his skin, Bakugo's mind was racing, puzzling together the evidence he'd just beheld. 'Why I have this eye...?' Bakugo, slowly, linked something between the pro hero and his son. Flame quirk, brazenly on display. A burn scar over Todoroki's eye.

A burn scar over Deku's eye.

The kind of father who would lift his own child off the ground by his collar and-

His breathing stopped. Slowly, Bakugo's eyes trailed back to Deku. His hand, still gripping Deku's collar, pinning him to the wall. In horrified disgust, his fingers released the cloth of Deku's clothing, backing away from him, mouth agape. No. No no no no no no no no no no no no no! That wasn't him! He wasn't like that! That wasn't the kind of hero, the kind of man he'd- he'd...

Move aside, Deku! Get out of my way or you're dead!

Have you ever had a friend who wasn't scared of you?

What kind of dirty tricks did you use to do it, you quirkless twerp!? HUH!? I was supposed to be the first and only!

Blow me to bits!? You're awful! Do you really wish to be a hero?


Psychopath. Don't yell at Uraraka like that. She doesn't deserve it.

You've always been a bug! A useless littleSTUPID DEKU! AND DON'T YOU EVER FORGET IT!

Take it back! Take back what you did, god damn you!

You wanna be a hero so bad? Here's some advice: take a swan dive off the roof! Maybe you'll have a quirk in your next life.

His stomach, lurched, a hand flew to cover his mouth and Bakugo bolted for the nearest rest room. He was barely at the nearest sink when his stomach emptied itself into it. Body heaving with burdened breath, his shaking hands gripping the edges of the sink were the only things keeping him from falling over. His hands... fuck today... he raised one of them, turning it over and staring into his palm.

"God damn it..."

his fingers curled inward, fingernails cutting into his skin. Tearing his gaze away, unable to look at the cursed bearer of his quirk, he saw his reflection in the mirror. A look in his eyes, a seething anger, cutting into the world they beheld. Eyes that burned with a rage he would forever attribute to an abusive, violent monster of a father. "GOD DAMN YOU!" Combustion of his quirk rocketed from the scant space between his fingers as his knuckles flew, shattering the mirror with cacophonous retribution. Shaking shoulders, breath trembling and quick he pulled his hand back and hit the mirror again. And again. And again. And again. Again. Again. Again.

Arms snaked up, under his shoulders. Pulling him away from the wall before he could ruin his now mangled hand any further. "Stop it!"

Shaking, flailing to get free, Bakguo screamed. "GET OFF ME! LEAVE ME ALONE!"

Deku just held him tighter, even as Bakugo's elbows railed against his ribs, the side of his head. "Not until you stop! You're gonna ruin your hand!" After one nasty blow to the side of his face, Deku's sunglasses went clattering away.

Feet kicked about, heels hitting the floor, Deku's toes, his shins, his knees. "WHO THE FUCK CARES!?"

Hands gripped Bakugo's shoulders, hauling him against the wall, knocking the air from his lungs. When he looked up, Deku was staring him in the eyes with a desperate, pleading look in those mismatched orbs. "ME!" The hands gripping Bakugo's shoulders were slight, gentle, doing their utmost not to so much as scratch him. It made the warhead want to weep. "I CARE! SO CUT IT OUT ALREADY, KACCHAN!"

Bakugo's jaw dropped, shoulders slumped and all tension in his muscles just went away. Plastered on his face, making him look nothing like his old self, was the most broken-hearted expression Deku had ever seen. His face dipped, turned to the floor as his shoulders started trembling.

"Why?" hands curled into fists, his eyes hid behind his hair as he stared at the floor. "Why do you still-?" his voice cracked, choking in his throat. Fight as much he could to hold it back, it seemed nothing was going to keep this dam from bursting. Guilt, pain in his flesh and bones, seeing Deku's mangled, worried face looking at him so concerned... His palms clasped over his eyes, moments before the tears started flowing. "You- You idiot!" His body shook, heart shambled. Arms went around him, holding him tight and Bakugo sobbed louder. I don't understand... why are you still being nice to me?

After a time, perhaps not so long as it felt, Bakugo managed to calm down, at least a little. "You should go see recovery girl." Deku's arms unfolded, freeing Bakugo from their embrace.


"Go," said Deku, "get that hand seen to." And he left the room, passing by Uraraka as he went.

Concern worn plainly on the brunette's face directed itself toward both boys, looking between them both. As Deku wandered away, her eyes shifted to the warhead and his mangled hand. She said nothing, he said nothing. He just stooped to the floor, picked up Deku's sunglasses and passed the off to her as he walked away. "This isn't who you wanted to be, is it?"

Bakugo stopped in his tracks, face staring gloomily at the floor. Drawing in a long breath, he sighed. "...No." Sniffling, he wiped his face with his uninjured hand. "I never really... I just..." he bit his lip. "What does it matter?" He shook his head. "Why do either of you even care? I'm obviously not worth it."

She hesitated, foot fussing at the concrete floor. "Maybe not... but can't you still change into someone who is worth it?" The question cut like a knife, lancing his heart like the glass now in his mangled fingers. "You don't have to be like this forever."

No reply came forth, no reply was even thought of. He just sighed, and walked away. Even if he could do that... it was too late to change what he'd already done. He'd marked a friend of his for life, on his very skin. Even if the damage hadn't been direct, even if his behavior had prompted something self destructive and stupid long ago, the markings were his fault, and his fault alone.

Be someone who's worth it... Like that was even possible. If he had any sense in his brain he'd just push until everyone walked away. They'd be better off, safer that way, if nothing else.

But then... he was never that selfless, was he?

He found him curled up in a dark corner, face behind his knees, arms hugging his legs tight. Gingerly, he sat beside him, saying nothing. The other boy knew he was there, he could tell by the way his breathing went quieter. Rather than say anything Deku just sat beside him. What could he have said anyways? Abusive parents were a tribulation he'd not known. Had Endeavor simply been unaware that there'd been onlookers? It seemed the only reason he'd been so shameless with his behavior.

Something Todoroki's eventual mumbling confirmed. "What did you see?" He sounded scared.

Deku could only admit to the truth. "I... heard all of it, I think."

Todoroki seemed to grow smaller, shrinking further into the ball he'd curled up into. "So why aren't you saying anything?"

Again, all he could say was the truth. "Because I don't know what to say. What to ask." you're obviously not okay...

The heterochrome chuckled joylessly. "I guess that's fair..." Slowly, his legs drifted away from himself, his shield lowered as he slumped his head back against the concrete wall, to stare at the ceiling. "you know... it's pretty obvious that it's gonna be me and you in the last fight. I don't mean to speak ill of Yaoyorozu but..." his eyes drifted shut, mind searching for the right words. "when it comes to raw offensive capability... you, Bakugo and myself are the ones at the top of the roster."

Yet another thing Deku was left uncertain how to meet with a reply. "You think so?" He scratched at the back of his own head, behind his ear. "It's not like the others are so incapable..."

"They're not." Todoroki said, making sure his tone was gentle. It was... odd, unexpected from one with such a demeanor as he. "They're more versatile, in most cases. But this makes their potential and presently available combat prowess somewhat limited, in comparison to us."

All people are not born equal... "Maybe you're right about that much..."

Todoroki sighed. "Even so, inevitable as this was, I was really hoping it wouldn't be you." Deku blinked, confused, about to question his meaning when Todoroki turned to look at him, pointing the scar over his own eye. "You and me, we're... a lot alike, I think." His eyes drifted away Deku, unable to look into his as he spoke. "Marked by the violent pride of horrible people, given powers that are more akin to curses than 'gifts'... things that we have to keep at bay, lest we become what we hate." another sigh and he turned to look at the ceiling again. "Sorry if either of things are... sensitive matters."

"N-no, it's okay." Deku tried to reassure him. "So... Endeavor he... he did that to you?"

Todoroki winced. "Not... directly."

"FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS, OH GENTLE AUDIENCE!" Deku almost screamed as his hands lurched over his now ringing ears. "IT'S TIME FOR OUR SECOND TO LAST MATCH! TODOROKI VS YAOYOROZU!"

A growl that could only belong to Aizawa resounded over the loudspeakers. "Please tone it down a little... I can only take so many painkillers for this headache." And then the microphone cut out.

Tired, that was how Todoroki looked as he climbed back to his feet. "Midoriya?" Said he, back turned to his classmate.

Meekly, quietly, he replied. "Yeah?"

"I wont hold back... but I hope you win." Before he could do more than blink in confusion, Todoroki had wandered away. Alone now, Deku got back on his feet too, before wandering back to his classmates.

It wasn't far, not as far as it had felt the last time he'd tried to go this way. An occupied or otherwise distracted mind can go a long way to passing time. He couldn't help but wonder about Todoroki. Powers akin to curses... It was only as he made it to the threshold of the seats when reality rudely stormed the gates to his thoughts. Sunlight, barging into his eyes and stinging made him yelp, recoiling from the light as his eyes watered.

"Hey." When he managed to open his teary eyes, he saw Uraraka, her hand outstretched, offering him his sunglasses. "You lost em again."

She always seemed to be the one to return them, whenever those silly things went missing. "Sorry."

Sorry? She couldn't help but smile as he took them back. "Why are you apologizing?"

Right, he didn't have to do that."Old habit, sor-" he caught it that time, she still giggled. "... thank you." Said he, returning them to his face.

She shrugged, "Don't mention it. With everything you've had going on today you can't be expected to keep track of everything."

"Yeah, but without these I'm blind, so long as it's sunny." A finger tapped at the scratched, dented and chipped rims of the silly, round rimmed spectacles. "It was stupid of me to leave them behind..."

"Don't be silly," Uraraka's smile went from amused to gently reassuring, "you were running from one boy that needed help to the next." she reached up, fingers self consciously fiddling with her hair. There was a hint of something else, a twinkle in her eye, in her smile that confused him as she looked at him, after saying that. "I wasn't sure what to do... just wound up following you and trying to talk some sense into Bakugo."

Clearing his throat, recollecting his thoughts, he managed, "D-did you help?"

Another shrug, coupled with a frown. "Didn't make it worse, at least. Last I saw he was off to see recovery girl."

Now it was Deku's turn to sigh. "Well, it's something."

He'd started walking back to his seat, feet dragging slightly as he went, when she heard herself speak again. "You really do worry about everyone, don't you?"

With a scuffle, clicking of a heel against concrete, he halted. Back turned to her, uncertainty gnawing at him, his words were difficult to find. "Not sure what you mean."

Walking up beside up, her presence drawing his gaze back to her face, she elaborated. "When Jiro lost her fight, you ran after her. When Bakugo, someone who used to pick on you someone who..."

he winced, she guiltily looked away from the right side of his face. The discolored skin, the paper-white hair, the jet black sclera around a green iris, faintly glowing behind his sunglasses.

"When he was freaking out, you just went and helped him anyways. And as soon as he was okay," there was that twinkle, that warmth in her smile all over again. "you ran off to check on Todoroki." She seemed to laugh a little, though the vocalization was oddly breathless, like her lungs were directing energy somewhere somehow more important. "When I tried to talk to him he just..." she averted her gaze again, a touch of sadness on her features. "is he okay?"

It took a moment for him to find an answer. "I... No. But he uh, might've gotten some of it off his chest, at least." The audio feed clicked to life, Present Mic was going to start yelling again.

Hands went over his ears, palms pressed firmly down to shield his sensitive hearing, only they were hardly his own. After he was done wincing, the pain subsiding, he realized his hands were over hers on the sides of his head. From the embarrassed look on her face, that heated flush of her cheeks, he surmised that she'd acted without thinking.

Clearing his throat again, he gently removed her hands from his face. "Th-thanks. I think..."

She gulped, turning somehow redder. "Sorry! I- I just reacted! I know loud noises hurt you if your not ready for them and I just-"

He squeezed her hands, reassuringly. "It's okay." When had her heartbeat gotten so loud? Releasing her hands, adjusting his sunglasses made for a flimsy effort to hide his face from her. Her... excitement, that had to be it, made him nervous in an odd way. In all that excitement, he'd failed to notice that he'd kept his control. Not for one moment had he felt that all too familiar urge to bite, in spite of his stomach. He should have felt proud, but he didn't remember to.

Clearing her throat, calming herself a little, she found that enthusiasm he was beginning to find familiar. "Anyhow... I just wanted to say that I think you're amazing." Ah, there were those butterflies again... wait, again? When had he felt those today? It hadn't been around her. So... who...? "I'm glad you decided to try and be hero. I know it probably wasn't easy to do that after... well, you know."

After becoming a literal monster. "Yeah... weirdly, that's not a very happy topic," he murmured, "I wasn't really sure what else to do." A fluttering of her eyes told him he'd surprised her. "It's what I've wanted for so long I..." he shook his head, "I figured if anything could redeem what I was," he'd bitten a man while he was unconscious, "what I am," he'd bitten Jiro when they first met, "it was the same thing I'd always wanted anyways." It was the only thing that could redeem his monstrous behavior.

The careless death of Shigaraki, that still appeared before his eyes.

Nodding, understanding, it was another moment before she spoke again. "You know, I don't think you ever said why you wanted to be a hero," she'd side-stepped it, the topic of his species. she seemed eager to shift from that topic. ...was that why she couldn't look at his face just then? Because of why and how it had healed? "back when everyone was talking about it a few weeks ago." She smiled again, he questioned the smile. "It's had me wondering." was he being paranoid or... was his species an issue for her? Did she not want to think about it? But she was the one who brought it up...

He was about to speak when they both heard the audio click back on. This time, she did not leap to his aid and he managed just fine. All the same, they blushed as Present Mic announced the beginning of the fight between Todoroki and Yaoyorozu. "Guess that'll have to wait..." all of it would.

She nodded trotting eagerly back to their seats as he followed, more sedately, slowly. There was something heavy about him. Not muscle or weight just... fatigue. Today had been a drain in every respect. His body was tired, his mind was tired, he felt tired. Slumping into his seat, Jiro only vaguely caught his attention. She was still wearing that patterned shirt, her violet eyes bearing an odd shine to them that captured his attention. The fight started, Yaoyorozu had managed to evade Todoroki's initial onslaught.

Jiro handed him his thermos, a smirk bearing an odd softness on her face. "You look exhausted."

He gratefully accepted, no longer caring that he'd be drinking blood in front of others. Todoroki missed with his next attempt to freeze Yaoyorozu in place. It was a desperate game of keeping each other at arm's length. "so do you." he emptied it, consuming everything in one go. "Are you okay?"

Neither opponent was eager for any sort of entanglement. There was an odd chemistry in the air, between them. Something that prevented them from acting, moving forward and ending the bout. "No." Her abilities to prolong the conflict were being tested, she was already tired after such a long day. Excitement could only keep one going for so long before the adrenaline left one feeling drained. "I feel a little better though." He seemed to be weary, faltering in his efforts to remain upright already. It seemed she was drawing closer to him. "You?"

There wasn't much space to retreat to, not that he seemed to be trying to. "I don't really know..." he'd let his guard down, an opening in his otherwise usually stalwart defenses.

"Do you need to talk about it? It'd only be fair." An opening she leapt at.

Attention turned from the fight, his eyes met hers. She was sitting closer to him than he'd noticed, almost nestled against him really. Opening taken, caught unprepared, he reacted with the first thing that his mind conjured. "I don't even know where to begin."

Ice erupted between them. Somewhere in the arena, a girl, a classmate was encased in ice. Deku's breathing was sharp, jagged. Adrenaline at the sudden appearance of a glacier had snapped his focus well and truly back where it belonged. To his side, on the other side of the frozen water, Jiro was reacting similarly.

They looked back at the arena -what of it they could still see- and saw Todoroki panting with wide eyes. Present Mic declared him the victor, and Deku noticed something his sluggish brain hadn't a few moments ago. Todoroki's flesh was starting to freeze. Bits of ice were clinging to his skin, making his movements sluggish. Overusing his quirk had a drawback after all... he could only freeze so much before his own body succumbed to the cold of his quirk.

Todoroki reached out, his left hand pressing against the ice. Slowly, it began to melt away. Eventually, after Present Mic announced the final fight would begin in a few minutes, the barrier that had nearly encased Deku and Jiro melted away. "That was..." she gulped. "Sobering."

He nodded quickly. "Woke me up." And pulled his mind right away from where ever it had just been. Where ever that was...

Believe me, I am trying to refocus my brain.

Blushing, he turned away from Jiro and hoped she wasn't trying to see his face just then. What was wrong with him today?

A growling sigh, "He's unhinged," the voice of Akaguro caught his attention. "I'd bet on his father having a hand in this..." regarding the sheer volume of ice that still stood, melting in the hot sun, covering no small portion of the stadium, he watched the weary Todoroki walk away.

Deku, once again, could only blink, leaving Jiro to ask what he'd wanted to. "Wait, what are you talking about?"

Another sigh from the dhampire. "A long time ago, nearly seven years ago I was..." he winced. "I took shelter with a friend, Todoroki's older brother." He has an older brother? "I wasn't supposed to. He wasn't allowed to bring people inside the family home." Akaguro took a long swig from his water bottle. "Something about hiding some... creation from the public eye." He capped the water bottle, others were listening now too. "His father found out, I was thrown out and... that was the last time I got to really see him."

Ashido, afraid to ask, slowly voiced the question on everyone's minds. "What happened to him?"

Akagro frowned, drawing a knee up beside his long face. "He vanished, ran away from home. Haven't heard from him since... but," he raised a finger, "I did see a kid that looked vaguely like him. Mostly covered in bandages, hard to say really..." he shrugged. "Ever since then though..." his eyes glared, scanning the crowd for Endeavor, "after seeing that kid all bandaged up, clothes just rags, I could never stop wondering why he was so afraid of his father. If he was... violent with his children." His finger flicked something off his knee, releasing some pent up frustration. "I've always regretted not looking into it."

Evidence seen with his own eyes corroborated that one, he felt ill just thinking about it. "What's with that face?" Deku looked up to see Ashido, concerned and eyeing him curiously. "You look like you're about to throw up."

He gulped. "I think Akaguro's right." Jiro's eyebrows jumped. "From... from what I've seen of Endeavor that wouldn't be surprising." And now that he thought about, public record seemed to back that up too.

There were few photos out there, online, in publication, where the Todoroki family could all be seen together. Over the years Endeavor had been pictured with at least three different children along with his wife. A girl, now an adult, with glasses and flared white hair. A boy, a few years younger, with spiky white hair with a face and build resembling his father. The third had also been a boy, his only notable characteristic had been black, wildly spiky hair. In truth that last child bore little resemblance to the family, from what he remembered.

"Yeah," Akaguro seemed to perk up, "that was him. Toya." A slight, sad smile played at his lips. "Good kid..." his sad smile remained as his eyes shifted away.

"Wait," Ashido scratched at her head, "where's Endeavor being a scumbag come in? Lotsa heroes avoid being seen with their families."

Deku couldn't answer, his face turned away from the conversation. Speaking for him however... "He hit Todoroki." Uraraka barely mumbled, but everyone turned and looked at her all the same. "right in front of us."

Akaguro's lips twitched in disgusted anger, Jiro looked appalled, Kaminari's jaw dropped, Kirishima's eyes went wide and Ashido looked like a horrified puppy. "Bwuh- No way!" her arm flew sideways, as if to throw the notion far, far away. "You gotta be lying! Making stuff up! How could a hero do something like that?"

Eyes averted from everyone, Jiro gulped, murmuring just loud enough to be heard. "Fame and money, give em to the wrong person and watch what they do, once they think they're untouchable." It was something ugly, an unspoken rule of any industry where one could be idolized.

It would be Akaguro that gave voice to what she'd begun to explain. "Take any soul, give them power or a mask and you will see their true face." He took a long swig from his water bottle. "All too often is common decency a mere facade put on by those too afraid to be themselves, for fear of retribution."

"Theeeeeeeeere's a fun thought..." Kaminari sighed as his head slumped forward into the palm of his hand.

"Man," Kirishima griped, "here I was thinking today was just gonna be fun... Just some healthy competition, not this kinda thing."

Deku looked up at the scoreboard. Just a few minutes to go... Gulping, nerves twisting in his gut, he started walking for the exit. "Goin already?" Kaminari frowned. "You just got back."

Deku sighed. "Yeah... sorry. I'm kinda nervous," he offered, trying not to be too fidgety, "plus... there's not much time before it starts."

Ashido pouted, frowning much the same as Kaminari. "Okay..." then she grinned, mischievously. "But after this is over we're all hanging out! No more doom and gloom for the rest of the day!" Jiro suppressed a groan, wanting nothing more than to go hide away in her room. Something Deku was also keen on, after such a draining day.

All the same, he didn't want to disappoint his friends. "Sure," he smirked, "so long as it's not too exciting."

Smiling, eyes closed, Ashido traced a finger over her chest in a criss-cross. "Cross my heart." Having seen her other hand crossing its fingers, Kaminari smirked and rolled his eyes, shaking his head.

Nodding, Deku made for the hallway again. His footsteps, though hesitant at first, soon picked up the pace. "You're gonna do something crazy," he stopped, shoe scuffing on the concrete. Turning around he saw none other than a certain girl with purple hair, walking slowly over to him. "Aren't you?"

Hesitantly, he turned the rest of the way around. "Define crazy."

Jiro seemed uncertain, one of her hands fussing at the hem of her shirt as her eyes darted away. "I'm not sure... But if there's one thing I've come to realize about you, it's that you tend to throw yourself into danger when people need help." Now his eyes averted, uncertain how to take that. "I heard about what happened, you know. With the sludge villain." Sudden fearfulness crept over Deku, and his eyes darted back to her. "After the USJ incident most of us became pretty well known. Someone in the news recognized you, showed what happened to you when you ran in to help Bakugo." His head lowered in shame, eyes wincing shut for a moment as he recalled it himself. He could still feel the wood, pierced deep into his flesh... "That was before you got your powers, wasn't it?"

Unable to look at her, he turned his eyes to the cold, concrete wall. "Does it matter?"

"Kinda," Jiro crossed her arms, "it tells me you don't give a second thought to yourself when you notice someone needs help."

"Isn't that what we do?"

She growled, sighing in frustration. "It wont be what you do for long if you don't learn to watch out for yourself too!" She advanced a step, leaning forward, arms uncrossed and by her sides. "Whatever's going on with Todoroki, what do you really expect to do here?"

Deku sighed. "His father wants him to use his flame quirk... embrace his full power so he can... I don't know exactly, but he's willing to get violent in public about it." He looked up to gaze at her eyes, finding her sickened, shocked by what he'd just said. "Todoroki has to go home with him. If his father's willing to be that bad where there might be witnesses, what do you think he might do once they're home, alone?"

Jrio gulped, some of her color draining from her face as she returned to something resembling her normal posture. "You're tired, fire is a weakness of yours and it doesn't sound like you're worried about yourself right now." She was persistent, he'd give her that. "Whatever you do, just-" she bit her lip. "Just don't get hurt out there, okay?" She fussed her wrist against the side of her leg, palm turned to the ground, fingers curled in. "If you slip up and bite him on live tv who knows what'll happen."

Giving her a thumbs up, he smirked. "wasn't planning on screwing that bad." He turned back to wander down to the waiting area again, putting his mask back on as he walked.

Sighing, hands stuffed into her pockets, Jiro breathed. "No one ever does..." Before walking back to her seat.

His heart was racing, almost as fast as it had during that first heroics class. In truth, he had no plan. No theories, no ideas, nothing but a twisted feeling in his gut. This was a no-win scenario if ever he'd met one. If he won without getting his classmate to give the fight his all, Todoroki was in for it. If he succeeded in getting Todoroki to use his quirk, he'd likely get seriously hurt. Even then, if he still won, it didn't seem out of the question that Endeavor would still punish him. And if he lost... well, he lost. After coming this far, if he just threw the match, what would that look like? Cowardice? Some collusion with Todoroki to get him out of being punished? Either way, he didn't see that ending well for-

...Or, perhaps...

Maybe he had a plan now. Some idea as to what to do at least. It was stupid, risky, personal and about the only thing that seemed like it might work. It was, at the very least, better than nothing and considering how hard Todoroki had been pushing himself, he had one advantage: while tired, his body hadn't been nearly so taxed as his would be opponent. Todoroki was slowed on top of it all, and Deku had not only speed but agility on his side. So long as he didn't over do it, tire himself out too fast, this could work.


Deku sighed, rubbing at his ringing ears. At least no matter how this ended, things would -hopefully- quiet down considerably. Adjusting his sunglasses, he took those daring steps out the door and walked to the starting line. As soon as the bell rang, he advanced. True to his earlier matches, Todoroki opened up with by shuffling his foot, sending a wave of ice along the ground to entrap him.

Only the vampire was ready. Leaping aside and over it he flexed his wrists and his claws sprang from his fingertips. Now that the expected part was out of the way, there was no telling what Todoroki would follow up with. To his surprise, he stepped up his game: rather than holding back, conserving his energy, Todoroki had gone full force and sent a jagged column of ice, roaring toward him.

Deku's momentum betrayed him, carrying him right into the path of the frozen onslaught. Swigging with one of his arms, hand curled into a fist, and smashed through it. Having lost balance, his footing slipped and he toppled over in an awkward somersault. No room nor time to breathe, he had to dive further aside to avoid an even larger barrage from his opponent. An eight of the ring had just been covered in a glacier. Rolling to his feet, Deku found his footing and sprang toward Todoroki.

Eyes flying wide open, all the Heterochrome could do was put up a literal wall between him and Deku. His claws had cut through the armored steel of a Zero Pointer. Ice, a true force of nature as it was, only slowed him down. Cursing under his breath, Todoroki extended a palm and unleashed a sprawling spire of ice, right into Deku's chest. The force of the impact knocked the wind from his lungs, carrying him far away at a break-neck speed. Jagged bits of ice cut into his flesh, tearing his shirt apart. Hissing in pain, Deku had to wrench himself free as the ice started encasing him. When he looked at the ground, he saw that he was no longer in the ring. Todoroki had pushed him out of bounds! But... His feet hadn't hit the ground! Working quickly, snapping himself free, he almost panicked when gravity kicked in.

"Crap!" Swinging his arm wildly, he hooked his claws into the cold solid and spun himself with the newfound leverage. The force at which he'd swung his body carried him around it in a winding spiral, until he was back on top of it. He wasted no time leaping back for the arena, just moments before Todoroki launched another massive hunk of ice to smash what he was on top of.

The crowd was going insane. Just moments in and they were at the edge of their seats hollering with boundless excitement. "I DON'T BELIEVE IT FOLKS!" Present Mic, thank god, had lowered his voice just in time. "MIDORIYA HAS MANAGED TO COME BACK INTO THE FIGHT! I THOUGHT FOR SURE THIS WAS ALREADY OVER!"

Eyes narrowing, palm aimed right where Deku was headed, Todoroku muttered, "it is." And what followed left the world shocked into silence. I

f the attack that had won the match against Yaoyorozu had been a glacier, this was the entirety of Antarctica. Springing into existence with violent speed and force, was a a jagged, overwhelming monolith, leaving Deku nowhere to be seen. Falling to his knees, panting out frozen breath, Todoroki looked at his right side. Blue skin, a pointed chunks of ice protruded from a thin, motion restricting layer that weighed him down considerably. Breathing labored, jaw chattering his teeth together, he looked back up to the ice he'd just created.

Was... that the final blow? Did I win?

Present Mic seemed hesitant to speak, even as the audio feed clicked on. "Well... I GUESS WE HAVE IT FOLKS! WINNER OF THE TOURNAMENT IS-"

The ice shook. Todoroki's breath caught, murmurs went through the audience. What was going on? Surely he couldn't be... It shook again, large pieces of ice broke away, falling to the ground and shattering . "No way..." One last time, the ice shook, but this time it was punctuated by a loud smash. A wave of frozen vapor, like dust in the wind, wafted across the battlefield as icy shrapnel scattered across the ground.

Blood splattered on the ground, panting could be heard somewhere inside the glacier and a red sneaker took a step out of it. Labored breathing, legs shaking, Deku stared down Todoroki as he and the audience took in the sight of him. His shirt had been torn to shreds, rags draped over his shoulder, what remained of his under-shirt didn't hide much. There, on display for the whole world, was a boy who's upper body was covered in tiny scars. Burns, nasty ones from the looks of them. Injuries he'd gotten when small, that had stretched as he'd grown. A particularly nasty scar on his side, from the ugly wound he'd gotten the day he'd died.

Well... the first time he'd died. The scar from the second time was right there on his face.

Even then, as he panted, the old wounds now uncovered along with his scrawny frame, new injuries leaked blood into his clothes. What truly silenced the audience and made Todoroki look as though he might be sick, was his re-knitting flesh. "That..." Deku panted, shaking his head, trying to remain standing. "all ya got?"

Todoroki shuttered, falling back, away from Deku. He brought up his shaking right hand, staring into his palm. What... what would have happened if he'd been fighting someone else? How badly had he just hurt Deku? "What did I just do?"

Deku caught his breath. "You're starting to get it, aren't you?" Todoroki turned his gaze toward him. The black eyed boy seemed so... calm. A gentle look took root in his features. "It's not... your quirk that has the potential to make you like him." Todoroki's eyes fluttered, Deku's hand went up to his mask. "It never was."

In one fluid motion, he removed his mask and Todoroki's jaw dropped.

Tossing the thing out of the ring, jaw trembling with his effort to avoid lunging for Todoroki's throat, Deku smiled. "It's not what we have, not our... quirks that make us anything bad." Holding up a hand, claws on display, he re-sheathed them. "It's what we do. Our choices, above all else that make us who we are." Deku let out a breathless laugh. "Just look at me... I'm more a monster than anyone, but I'm choosing to be something else."

Expression softened, mind and heart partially at ease, the heterochrome had only one reply. "Do... you really believe that's enough?"

The shift in Deku's smile made the boy want to hug him, right there and then. He just looked so sad, so tired... "I have to." have to...

Nodding, Todoroki understood. "Even still," he clambered shakily to his feet, "I can't do it... not against you." From the look of him, Todoroki had completely lost his desire to fight. "I'd be no better that my father... than Bakugo if I..." sheepishly, he gestured to Deku's right eye. "I can't stomach it. I wont be like them!"

Deku took in a long breath through his nose, before slowly letting it go in a sigh. "Then I've only got one choice..." Seeing Deku's muscles tense, Todoroki got ready to defend himself, but never had the chance. Deku spun on his heels, turning toward the audience, staring down a man whose beard was made of flame. "HEY, YOU!"

Todoroki's eyes went wide, his heart started hammering. What the hell was he doing?

"WHATEVER IT IS YOU'RE TRYING TO PROVE, I'VE GOT BAD NEWS FOR YOU!" Even from this distance, Todoroki could make out the searing scowl of his father's anger, and his body backed away. "I WONT BE A PART OF IT!" Deku's arm cut through the air, hand outstretched, fingers rigid. "AND I WON'T GIVE YOU AN EXCUSE TO ACT LIKE A TYRANT EITHER! IF HE USES HIS OTHER QUIRK IT'LL BE ON HIS TIMELINE!" Endeavor's lips curled into a snarl. "YOU WANT SOMEONE TO GET MAD AT!? I'LL GIVE YOU SOMEONE!"

Deku took a step forward, Todoroki's hand outstretched, trying to reach him. "Wait!" And Deku stepped out of the ring.

The audience erupted in calamity. While all the world screamed, furious about the end of the tournament, one person leapt to his feet and cheered above them all. "THAT IS HOW IT IS DONE!" Akaguro earned more than a few odd looks, but Kirishima was right by his side, cheering Deku on. Jiro just stood up and blew a shrill, celebratory whistle. Ashido and Uraraka jumped into the air, fists pumping sky high as they laughed. Kaminari just laughed uproariously as he applauded. Yaoyorozu, gave them all very confused looks, but hesitantly started clapping all the same.

Todoroki stood there, in total disbelief, unable to speak as Deku turned back around. Smiling warmly, he gave him a thumbs up. "You win."

Blinking, the heterochrome mouthed only one word. "Why?" Deku raised an eyebrow, confused. "You barely know me... you didn't have to protect me..."

Hands in his pockets, Deku smirked. "I thought that was the point." Walking forward again, he collected his mask, returning it to his face. "Otherwise... what are we really doing here?" Shrugging, he made for the exit, leaving Todoroki to his thoughts as the crowd booed.

"...Thank you... Midoriya." I hope helping me doesn't come back to bite you. He clenched his fist. No... I won't let it. Whether they knew it or not at that time, the two of them would count each other as friends from that moment forward. Not a bad trade, where Deku would have been concerned.

"He won't complain if he's caught in a freeze..."

Chapter Text

"Can you still remember...

when little things made you happy?

and can you still remember...

when simple things made you smile...?"

It was only ten seconds of film. Ten seconds of a face, a smiling face.

But it was all the world needed.

All one man, in particular, needed.

Ten seconds of film… That was all it appeared to be, to one Kurogiri. He sat in his seat, clutching his ribs and lightly massaging them, wondering what his master was up to. He'd been struggling with the remote, rewinding and pressing play only to pause to rewind again. The Husk was trying to find something. One moment, one frame out of ten seconds worth of film.

When ten seconds are all you have, even one can seem to last a long time.

Confused, concerned, Kurogiri turned his eyes to his master. "Sir," he pleaded, "perhaps you should leave this for later." The Husk ignored him. "Whatever you're seeking, it will still be there after you've had time to rest."

The Husk snarled. "I've had nothing but time to rest for over a decade!" His fingers fumbled, weak and decrepit, barely holding onto the remote for the frantic anger that trembled them so. "There is something here..." He murmured, searchingly. "something familiar, something old that I haven't seen in over..." abruptly, he pressed pause. Then, reverently, his voice began whispering again. "...a century." The remote clattered to the floor, his chair fell back, Kurogiri looked up, worry worn plainly on his face as his master stood, taking a staggering step toward the television. Then, his shoulder slightly shaking, a breathy, raspy laugh was heard.


He said nothing. Instead, The Husk began cackling. His body shook, the respirator began blaring an alarm, warning of a drastic upset to his oxygen levels. The Husk ignored it, continuing to laugh with mad glee. It was only when Kurogiri's eyes shifted to the TV that he saw what had The Husk laughing.

There, on the boy's face, peeking from behind his smiling lips, was a pair of white, thing fangs.

"What does they mean?" The Husk either ignored him or hadn't heard. "The fangs, sir. What do they...?" A hand on his aching gut, staggering away down the hall, The Husk continued laughing.

He knew the boy's arsenal, what he was and was capable of now.

His revenge and recovery were finally within his grasp.

Then the rest of the long dormant plan would follow...

It was fifteen minutes after the sport's festival had ended. Media frenzy in full swing, dissecting the last match and every word that poured out of one teenage boy's mouth. A hero's character was called into question, however briefly. Funny what money and the right friends can do, even to sweep away a public spectacle such as that. A few minutes texting on a phone and speculation was already dissipating. Funny what money and the right friends can do to sway opinions that want to be swayed. Endeavor, formerly an idol of one Izuku Midoriya and current idol of many, many more. Now, to one boy, he's just another over-powered face in japan's hero roster. Plans to discard all his merchandise cemented in his mind, all he needed to do was get home and do it.

Fifteen minutes, surfing the web on his phone, confirmed his worst thoughts. No one wanted to believe that Endeavor was anything less than a stellar parent. Whatever drama that Izuku -real name yet to be chosen- had witnessed, he'd misunderstood. In disgust, Stendhal clicked off his phone and scoffed through gritting teeth. Nothing induces nausea quite like the willingly blind...


He blinked, looking up to see a curious Yaoyorozu. "Yes?" Replied Stendhal.

She seemed hesitant, nervous. Her pallor a slight too colorless. He unnerved her, something he'd suspected, known since that day at the USJ. Good. Intimidation was a useful tool and this woman had a will about her. If his 'true face' could rattle her, then it could rattle others with perhaps more conviction than she. "What was Midoriya yelling about just now?" That quiet gulp only further confirmed what he already knew.

Suppressing a smile at the overheard sound of hidden fear was only too easy. "Ask Todoroki." Sighs he. "We've done him enough disservice by speaking of once already without his presence." Standing up, hands in his pockets, Stendhal turned toward the exit and started walking.

The yelling was impossibly loud. How Midoriya and Jiro -real names yet to be chosen- could stand it even when his ears ached eluded his understanding. Practice, he supposed, though one had leagues more than the other. Water bottle withdrawn from his pocket he drained its last drops and wiped his mouth. An eyebrow raised. Some girl with blonde hair, drawn up in messy buns, was skipping her way down the corridor. Blonde hair... a relative of that 'Camie' who'd been eavesdropping on everything since the main event had started? Speaking of whom, he hadn't seen her after that last fight had ended.

"Excuse me," Said he, but she payed him no heed. Raising his voice, Stendhal spoke again. "You're in the wrong section."

She ignored him, skipping merrily away, her oversized sweater bouncing almost as much as her light steps. Turning his nose up, he sniffed at the air in her wake. She smelled of blood, faintly obscured by perfume. A similar sort of scent that he'd noticed on Camie. Stendhal grinned. Run away, little changeling. He chuckled under his breath. I'm sure we'll meet again, 'Camie'.

A thought occurred, that Midoriya hadn't commented on such. Perhaps he hadn't noticed or hadn't cared about her scent. Or maybe, simply, he'd upgraded his mask or done something to it to block out smells. He had thought that the boy smelled faintly of garlic... well, that might be wrong. Since he hadn't noticed him wrinkling his nose or heard anyone else commenting on it -he'd been rather close to several people today- he wouldn't mentally retcon that bit of information into being.

Still, a decent enough idea to hold onto.

"Are you trying to end up dead, child?" Somewhere up ahead, behind a very thick door, Aizawa was scolding someone.

Zero credit to the one to guess his identity. "N-no sir!" Stammered Izuku 'Green' Midoriya. "I- I was just-!"

"Don't." Aizawa sighed, abruptly. "Your need to butt into that family's business has just put a video of your face, durring one of the world's most high profile sporting events, without a mask into circulation." The sound of someone falling into a chair, exhausted, was heard. "I could see your fangs, kid. Not for long, but if I saw them, then..." a note of hesitation, a fearful gulp of nerves. "He, will no doubt see you for what you are..."

Another raising of his eyebrow, Midoriya shuffling his feet uncomfortably was heard. "...He?"

The sound of skin, a hand dragging over a tired, stubbly face. "The Nameless One." A wave of shivers was sent over Stendhal's goose-pimpling skin. Whenever someone spoke that name, whenever he'd been there to hear, it had always been with an undertone of dread. That a man with such steeled nerves as Aizawa could speak the name with such an inflection only added to Stendhal's growing weariness of the moniker. "The architect behind the... final genocide of the Vampires." ...Interesting. Seethed one boy's rising temper. "If he finds out that you exist, it may spell the end for you."

Fingers curled, nails digging into their respective palms. Not on my watch.

At present, Midoriya was the only tie he had to his past, his long dead family. Losing that was not something the dhampire would allow. It was an odd basis for a friendship, but he cared not. Not when the two of them seemed to get along despite their mutual, obvious social obliviousness. This prompted investigation, research into this "Nameless One's" identity.

"If this blows over and, by some miracle, you come out unscathed? We need to have another discussion about keeping your identity secret. Have I made myself clear?"

Midoriya gulped. "C-crystal, sir."

A sound, someone's hand patting a cloth covered shoulder. "Go, spend time with your friends." Footsteps padding for the door were Stendhal's cue to slink away. So slink away he did. Aizawa's sending him off wasn't a show of fondness, more like giving someone on death row a final meal. Perhaps that was unfortunately phrased, considering what physical proximity to others gave rise to. Hmm... I need to work on my word choice, don't I? As he rounded a corner he walked face first into someone. It wasn't his face being buried against the other's chest, however.

The sweaty, glycerin scent gave away the name before the voice. "Watch it!" A strong, bandaged hand shoved him, unbalancing the lanky teen. His long fingers gripped fruitlessly at the wall, but their dragging along the pebbled surface slowed his descent long enough to regain his footing. "Fuckin idiot..." Bakugo growled, good hand squeezing gingerly at his bandaged one. Stendhal rolled his eyes. Once again, this brute was lashing out, hurting others with only regards to his own dilemmas. It made him shudder to think what it might take to rattle this kid into widening his narrow vision.

That train of thought would be ended by the warhead himself. As he continued stomping away his shoulder slammed rudely into Stendhal's upper arm.

"Watch where you're going, crow-face."

Last straw.

Stendhal's hand was on Bakugo's throat, a millisecond before his body was slammed against the concrete wall. Bakugo was dragged across the pebbled wall, drag upward by his neck. The snarl on Stendhal's face bared teeth, pointed canines similar to Midoriya's fangs. The warhead tried to kick the taller boy off him, his legs were already flailing about, but he didn't so much as budge. When he went to turn his good palm to Stendhal's face -to blow him away with his quirk- the dhampire's unoccupied hand snared his wrist. Bakugo's wrist felt like a twig between his fingers. Humans really are fragile little things. His snarl curled into a dark smirk, relishing Bakugo's helplessness.

"What's wrong?" goaded he. "Never been put in a situation like this?"

Bakugo choked, trying to say something, likely just more mouthing off.

Stendhal cackled, "You really haven't been having the best time of it today."

Even as he choked Bakugo's lips flinched upward, snarling at him.

A gesture Stendhal was only too happy to ignore. "Late karma if you ask me." Bakugo's face started going white, his limbs losing their strength. Stendhal took this as a cue to toss him back to the ground. As the warhead sat there gagging, gasping for air like a beached fish, Stendhal turned to walk away. "If there is any hope for you at all, take this as a warning..." his hands went to his pockets. " if you really want to be a hero then correct your path, or some day I will come along and correct you." With another cackling laugh he added, "Next time someone walks into you, try being polite."

"Get off your damn high horse..." Bakugo massaged his throat, climbing onto shaky legs. "Like you've never made mistakes in your life!"

How I wish that were so. "At least you admit it." Said he, both to himself and the other boy. Truth be told that threat was likely an empty one. It wasn't possibly to forcibly correct such a stubborn spirit as Bakugo's. The only way to stop his violent path was likely to end that path. Not an action to be considered lightly.

But then, that sort of thinking was never far from his mind...

He didn't remember much about the day his family died. A lot of smoke, heat, a building burning to ash around him. Eventually it collapsed, leaving him almost buried on the bottom floor. Concrete dust and smoke clouded the air, blood and corpses tainted the ground. Both had nearly suffocated him, though for much different reasons. When All Might had arrived on scene, pulling him from the wreckage, he'd found little more than a screaming child covered in his mother's blood. Memories he'd done his best to bury, to avoid discussing entirely.

One thought, above the others, persisted: he wondered exactly what he might do if ever he found his parent's killer. The answer was never difficult to find. Every now and then a crack would appear in his mind, some errant emotion or desire that prompted a re-compartmentalization of that dreadful night.

Such as a friend killing maniac pissing him off, reigniting his murderous intent.

Really, the days where he felt almost nothing were the best days, by far. Feeling things was... cumbersome, draining. Days like today made his emotions work overtime. He let out a yawn, doing his best not break stride as his mouth pulled wide open. Time to go 'home'...

"Akaguro?" He stopped. Turning around, he saw a certain vampire, looking after him with those mis-matched puppy eyes of his. "Where are you going? I thought we all made plans to hang out after the festival."

That look on Midoriya's face, of a puppy missing its owner, put a smirk on his own lips. "Sorry, my friend," said he, doing nothing to mask his fatigue, "I'm just... weary. Today was a bit tiring, rich as that must sound." He chuckled, self conscious of how selfish that must have come across.

"N-no, it's fine!" Reassured he, hands frantically gesturing about. "I just..." he seemed to struggle with something, debating whether or not to divulge a certain emotion. He wanted to say that he was hoping Stendhal would tag along, that he wanted his friend there as they blew off steam. However, he didn't voice this in the end, and thus Stendhal could only guess what he wanted to say. "Nevermind," Smiled he, failing to mask his disappointment, "get some rest, alright?"

Another chuckle, this one devoid of any darkness. "Alright, and I'll... be sure to be there next time." At this, a genuine smile appeared on Midoriya's face and Stendhal turned to keep walking away. He'd only just made it to the door, the exit, when a thought occurred. "...You know," said he, turning around seeing his friend doing much the same. "There's a rumor going around that we're going to chose our real names soon." Midoriya blinked, clearly confused. "Soon you won't be 'Deku' or 'Green', 'Midoriya' or 'Izuku' but a name of your choosing, your true name."

More blinking, a hesitating hand pointing at himself. "My... true... name?"

Stendhal chuckled again. "That's right," without meaning to, he smiled reassuringly at his friend, "the names others give us, no matter the reason, never hold as much meaning, as much weight as those of our own choosing." Midoriya, slow on the uptake this time as he was, seemed to be getting it. "The names we choose are who we are, reflections of our own hearts, indicators of our desires; the things that make us who we are." He pointed at himself, more decisively than Midoriya. "I chose the name 'Stendhal', and will officially when that day comes." Then, that look of dark determination, curious this time, colored his brow, his eyes. "I'm curious about what you'll chose." Waving goodbye, he stepped through the door. "See you soon, 'Midoriya'."

As the door closed, the vampire waved goodbye. "See you then... Stendhal."

And the door clicked shut.

Well, that had certainly turned out to be fun. Skipping along, humming merrily to herself, Himiko Toga plopped a lollipop into her mouth. If she could just ignore the fact that she'd had to ignore her 'Kyoka gurl' the entire time, this was actually a good day. She got to go out, beat up a few jerks, meet new people, be new people, the good things in life. Although she had hurt one person who hadn't really had it coming today, she'd have to leave her chocolates as an apology.

Assume she'd even remember what happened, that was.

The old man had a way of fogging memories, something she'd long been afraid of. Make one wrong move, betray the old husk and there goes your identity. Every story you ever had to tell, gone in a flash. It wasn't the kind of thing she daydreamed about happening to her. She cherished her memories, the good and the bad. If those memories got to be hard to carry? Well, she had ways to manage the burden.

"You done yet?" Her ears perked up, at the gravely voice of a strange man. "The Boss wants us to report back immediately.

"I'm done when I'm done." Snapped another man.

The first one growled. "Gotta death wish? We're keeping him from his experiments with the girl."

Girl? What Girl?

"Ain't gonna go any faster with you badgering me," the second remarked, "you're so anxious then git. I'll let im know what's up when I get back."

A long tired sigh from the first. "You do gotta deathwish." Arms were thrown into the air, slapping down by his sides. "Fine, your funeral. Just don't try beggin to me if I'm the one who's gotta kill ya."

Experiments on a girl? A boss who killed his peons on a whim? She grinned, barely containing her squeal of delight. Oh what a fun day! Now she had to know what all this was about. Slinking forward, toward the voice who had already left his friend behind, she drew one of her knives. Quietly, silent as a shadow, she tailed him. It was only after a minute that she saw where he was headed. A rutty, run down, abandoned shop. Several people were gathered around outside it, most of them young. Dirty, rag-wearing street urchins, to the untrained eye, but Toga saw through them. Their eyes were never focused on their games or side-walk scribblings, but always on their surroundings.

Watchers, lookouts for some secret hideaway inside the old shop.

Very interesting indeed. Grinning wide, exposing her four, long and pointed canines she crept up to the thug. This man had no qualms about killing his friend, why should she feel bad about killing him?

"Psst." Whispered she.

The thug, with as much deft as a drunk toddler, turned around in time for her to stab him through the neck. Wheeling behind him, arms hooked beneath his shoulders, she dragged him into an alley as his strength left him. Allowing herself a quiet cackle she withdrew her knife and latched her teeth into his neck, mouth over the open wound. Slowly, gulp by gulp, the man's strength faded and she was left standing in an alley holding a cold corpse.

Stripping down, hiding her clothes away for later, she drew in a deep breath as her skin turned to blobby jelly and her body re-shaped itself as the man she'd killed; clothes and all. Clearing her throat Working quickly, she hauled the body to a dumpster and fished the man's belongings from his pockets. His ID, several glass vials containing liquids of varying colors, a phone and- she balked at the sight of it. A gun?! What kind of criminal was this man? Warily she pocketed the weapon and started lumbering towards the hideout. One of the children, the lookouts, nodded at her with a smile. She grunted in the man's voice and nodded at the young one. The beaming smile she got from such a minor gesture almost made her heart skip. These kids weren't treated very well, were they?

Once inside the shop she peered about. There had to be something in here, some hidden entrance to a hideout. Wandering into the back room, she found it. Scratched upon the floor were faint, semi circular markings leading to one side of an old cabinet. She allowed herself a grin, easy-peasy. What is this, criminal amateur hour? Taking hold of the outer edge she hauled the old cabinet to, and opened the secret passage-way. A long, winding step into the dark below. Judging from the smell, these goons were hiding out in the sewers. Jus' what I wanted… Wrinkling her nose she began the long descent.

Slippery were the steps, so much so that she nearly lost her footing. Once at the bottom she whistled out a relieved breath. What kind of lunatic would establish a hideout down here, she wondered. As if to answer the question was the sudden ignition of a blue flame, at the end of a man's fingertips. He stood there, poised as though his fingers might become a flame-thrower, staring her down.

"You're late." Said he, with a face so ghastly she nearly let her eyes go wide. From is sternum all the way up to his upper lip, his skin was dark, wrinkled and glistening. So too was the skin beneath his eyes, and in both places it seemed that miscollored, dead skin was held in place with little more than a few staples. What kind of monster would do this to a person?

"Sorry," she shrugged, still speaking in the dead man's voice, "idiot's taking his sweet time takin a leak." Silently, she decided to call him 'Frankie', after Frankenstein's monster.

Fankie rolled his eyes. "Typical." And the flames extinguished as his hands jammed into his pockets. "Did you at least try to make him hurry along?"

She chuckled, feigning nervousness. "You know I did."

A growl rumbled in her companion's throat. "Well, at least you had the brains to come back. I don't look forward to watching him get scraped off the wall."

A sentiment that piqued Toga's curiosity. "Whudda ya think the boss'll have done to im?"

Frankie scoffed out a single laugh. "Just the usual." No answers to be gained from this one.

Toga nodded walking silently by the man's side, following him deeper into the underground maze. Above them, the ceiling shook. "What was that?"

Her friend turned a lazy gaze to the ceiling. "Probably that mutant thing on the news, from the USJ incident or whatever they're calling it. It's so close to us now every time it lands somewhere it shakes the place up." He dusted off his shoulder. "Mind your head, Tsubasa."

"Will do…" The Nomu… was it headed toward UA? Why? That thing was supposed to be mindless, incapable of sentient thought. The old man had done a number on the man it used to be. That it was running about, causing trouble of own volition was concerning.

After another few steps, Frankie opened a door and ushered Toga through it. There, standing at the far end of the room, looking up at a large chemical vat, was a man. He stood only a few inches taller than your average man, his reddish-brown hair unkempt. Draped over his thin frame was a large, fur collared bomber jacket. When he turned around to give them a sidelong look in the eyes, his own eye narrowed. A thin, beady, gold eye with a pupil so small it may as well have not been there.

"Did you obtain them?" He spoke through a leather plague mask, fastened together and lined in places with old metal.

The voice made Toga's skin crawl. Without a moment wasted, she reached into her pocket and procured the glass vials, holding them up for this man to see.

He hummed, pleased with the result and turned back toward the chemical vat. "Good. And where is your partner? Delayed again?"

Toga, once again, laughed nervously. "He's been makin a habit of it."

The man in the plague mask sighed, "It won't be one for long." Then he turned to Frankie. "Dabi," he said to Frankie, "when he returns, turn him to cinders." Nodding, Frankie turned and walked out of the room.

"And me, sir?"

"Call me Overhaul, Tsubasa." The man in the mask held up the vials. "You did well, bringing me these." Placing the vials on a table, beside the chemical vat, he said, "now leave, and er, tell Katsukame to bring Eri to me." He removed one of his gloves, flexing the fingers and wrist of that hand. "We have work to do."

Deku wasn't sure exactly how they'd arrived at the theater. He only knew that, for the last two hours, they'd been sitting through a two-hundred-year-old film called 'Serenity'.

To his side, curled up in her seat, Jiro was fast asleep. She'd nestled up against Kaminari's arm, face pressed against his shoulder as she slumbered. Smirking, taking off his jacket, he draped it over her. "Is she… usually like this?"

Kaminari shook his head. "Only when she's exhausted. The more tired she is, the more cuddly she gets." In her sleep, Jiro groaned, shifting down slightly, obscuring her face beneath Deku's jacket. "It's too god-damn cute… get me insulin, Green. She's giving me diabetes."

"I… doubt that." Deku smirked sheepishly, scratching at the side of his neck.

Peering over from Kaminari's left was Ashido, turning scrutinizing eyes to the sight of her friends cuddling. "Nope, he's right." she grinned, suppressing a mischievous laugh. "Just don't don't be rude now and wake her up by tickling her."

At Ashido's harsh whispering of that one word in particular, Jiro's eyes bolted open and she sat up, practically jumping to the other side of her seat. Then Ahshido started snickering.

Jiro glared at her, making sure to cover her sides with her elbows as she rooted herself as far onto the other side of her seat as possible. "You're evil." Ashido's snickering almost turned to cackling. "When I graduate? You're the first villain I'm putting away." Then both her and Kaminari burst out laughing. Growling, Jiro, with no small amount of indignity, jabbed Kaminari with her earlobes.

"OW!" He all but shouted, "Why me?!"

Crossing her arms and looking away from him, she angrily pouted. "You were closer…"

And shielding the other person who made her mad... Deku did not say.

As Ashido continued laughing several people in the theater started hissing, "SHHHHHH!" Even then, she kept snickering.

Rolling his eyes and shaking his head, Todoroki shrank into his seat, trying not to be seen by anyone. "We're not going to get in trouble, are we?"

Nervously glancing about, looking for any of the staff that might have decided to kick them out, Yaoyaorozu mumbled, "I sincerely hope not… I'm rather fond of this theater."

"It'll be fine," Uraraka batted that sentiment out of the air, "when I was a kid I made loads more noise than that and we never got kicked out."

Deku couldn't help but disagree. "I don't think security will be so forgiving with a bunch of teenagers… children get away with things because they're, uh…"

"Kids?" Jiro offered, giving him a playful smirk.

"...Well, yeah."

She shrugged. "Nah, I'm sure it's still fine. This place isn't nearly ritzy enough to get mad about one-" a mammoth of a yawn exploded out of her. Just watching her face made Deku, very involuntarily, follow her example. "Noise complaint." she finished, trying to get comfortable where she was. Noticing Deku's jacket was draped over her, she blushed a little as she tucked herself into the make-shift blanket. "Thanks for your jacket…" she mumbled, hiding her face a little more as she snuggled against him.

He almost followed suit with the blushing too. Guess Kaminari was right…. "S-Sure." He meekly replied.

Fighting back fatigue, she managed to notice that stutter of his. "Um… I can just… try to stay awake."

"N-no, it-it's fine!" he chuckled nervously under his breath, earning a very peculiar look from Jiro. "You-you don't have to do that…"

Uncertain, giving him an apologetic look, she closed her eyes. Before long, she was far away in la-la land all over again. Deku let out a short breath. Two weeks of not even talking, and now this? It was official, friendship made no sense to him at all.

Fortunately, he was in the perfect place to avoid confusing trains of thought.

Turning his attention back to the movie, Deku suddenly remembered what he was watching. Once upon a time, Deku had tracked down the old Tv Show that accompanied this film and loved it. To a thirteen-year-old Deku, it was about as amazing as serialized Sci-Fi could be. But this movie… it was a grim, monstrous beast, only vaguely like the original. What was it about the big screen that made writers feel like they had to kill off such beloved characters? The wider audience it garnered, perhaps. The idea that what you have to say could reach and affect the lives of millions; it had a way of making one feel as if they must leave some tangible mark on those who would behold such a creation. Whatever lesson this film seemed to be trying to teach, Deku wasn't sure he liked it.

'...They will swing back to the belief that they can make people… better. And I do not hold to that.'

He squirmed in his seat, trying to avoid letting such a sentiment sit well with him. It was the kind of thought that led one to question the viability of any sort of personal growth. A defeatist attitude, one Deku couldn't afford to abide by.

If that's true, thought he as he exhaled sharply, what hope do I have of overcoming what I am? If people can't be better than… themselves, then what hope does anyone have of overcoming the terrible things that might have happened to them? He turned to his gathered friends, considering their stories; at least those that he knew to any degree. Two of them had come from places, backgrounds that made his own life look easy, simple. Yet here they were, fighting against what they carried to be better than all of it. It was… disheartening to think that struggle would be in vain.

Wasn't it just human nature, to struggle against one's darker side to try and leave the world a better place than when you entered into it? He couldn't stop thinking about that, not even when the film ended and everyone was going home.

Jiro tried to hand him back his jacket, but he just shook his head. "I don't really need it," she gave him a curious look, prompting him to elaborate, "I don't really get cold. Thanks to, er…"

A look of realization crossed her face and she held up a silencing hand. "Say no more." She slid into the garment, with more more grace than one should have been expected of the so recently awoken. "I'll bring it to school on monday, promise." She said with a happy smirk.

"Thanks," he chuckled nervously, "Iida would probably yell at me for breaking the school dress code if you didn't."

Jiro giggled, "yeah, even though that's Yaomomo's job."

"Ooh ooh! Mine too!" Ashido said, excitedly raising her hands. "I'll totally be like 'you have committed an unforgivable infraction!' "

Todoroki gave her a very incredulous look. "...I.. I don't think it would be that bad."

Leaning closer to him, both Yaoyorozu and Kaminari whispered in his ear. "She's probably kidding." Making a very self conscious Todoroki wish his jacket had a hood for him to hide inside; So his body language said anyways.

Chuckling, Uraraka spun around on her heels to talk to everyone. "That was fun, but I think if we stay out any longer we're all gonna collapse." Giving them all a wave, she bid them all goodnight. "See you all soon, yeah?"

"Of course!" Ashido chirped. "Even if we don't hang out this weekend we're all back at this school thing after that!"

Nodding, Yaoyorozu gave their little group a polite smile. "Sweet dreams, when you have them, everyone."

Waving goodnight, Jiro failed to fight back another yawn. "Night, guys."

Pointing at Jiro's nose, Kaminari gave her a playful scolding. "Text me when you get home, sleepy."

She rolled her eyes. "Tell your gramps I said hi, alright?" Nodding, Kaminari spun around and started walking away, Ashido and Uraraka doing the same.

"Midoriya?" Deku turned to see Todoroki, fidgeting his fingers at his other arm. He was obviously somewhat uncomfortable. "...Thanks. For… well, you know." He looked Deku in the eye, hoping he'd catch on so he wouldn't have to elaborate.

In the end, that hope was answered. "Anytime, Todoroki." Surprising all present, the heterochrome smirked. Something that none had yet seen him do.

"If ever you need my help," said the dual-quirk user, "I'm one phone call away." Waving, backpedaling for the first few steps, he turned about and walked off.

Mild shock worn plainly on her face, Yaoyorozu turned and looked at Deku. For a moment she wondered exactly what had happened out there, in the arena, but failed to ask about it. In the end, she simply -and silently- regarded him with a small degree of respect. "See you soon?"

Both he and Jiro nodded. "Count on it." Said she, and a smiling Yaoyorozu walked away. "What a day…" Jiro sighed, rubbing the back of her head. "Feels like it dragged on for over a month or something."

At the utterance of those words, Deku let out a long breath, and only then did he realize just how exhausted he was. "Forget sleep, I think I'm gonna fall into a coma tonight…"

Jiro laughed. "I'll be sure to inform your mother, so she stocks up on smelling salts." She stuck her tongue out at him, jokingly, but after a moment, she almost started to look gloomy. "...I wanted to thank you too." Deku blinked, surprised by her sudden sincerity. "I've been a lousy friend for a while, like I've kinda already said but…" she looked at him, a guilty half frown on her face. "You were awesome today. Letting me whine and cry to you about my stupid life and more or less acting like the last two weeks never happened." Reaching out, she lightly punched his shoulder. "You're a good one, Green." She smiled, her awkward, unpracticed little smile. "I'm… glad we're friends."

For a moment, he truly had no idea how to react to this. Blinking, shaking his head and forcing his brain to function, he blurted out. "Ah, me too! I-I mean, don't worry about it." She raised an eyebrow at him. "You were obviously going through a rough time, considering- ah, wait you probably don't want to think about that!"

"Um… Green?"

"The main point I was trying to make was you had nothing to be sorry about! Ah, n-not that your feelings are invalid or anything!"

"...Green, it's-"

"I just don't you too feel like-

"Green!" She shoved a pair of fingers over his lips, silencing him outright. "Breath in, slowly." He did. "Good, now let it out, just as slow." Closing his eyes, he obeyed and felt his nerves calming down. "Good boy." Removing her hand from his face, she shook her head failing to fight back another smile as she failed to notice a rather prominent reddening of his face. "You know you can relax around me, right?"

Just to be sure, he took another series of slow breaths. "Starting to, I think." he murmured, suddenly aware of headache that was coming on.

Still smiling she rolled her eyes. "Izuku," his face went bright red again at her using his fist name like that, "you are one silly person." Judging from that look on her face, that smile still perched on her lips, she'd clearly started letting her guard down around him.

Still blushing, he drew a closed hand up in front of his lips and cleared his throat. "Um, ah…" Words, his brain knew how to use those once. "Are we… on a first name basis now?"

"Hmm?" She blinked, smile replaced by a look of curiosity, head tilting to one side. Then it hit her, and it was her turn to blush as her hands flew to cover her mouth in her embarrassment. "Oh! N-no, that was…" and she cleared her throat, "accidental, total slip of the tongue, Green. Sorry."

"H-hey, it's okay." he reassured, "It's… not the first time, remember?"

Another round of curious blinking. "Oh… right…" not a happy memory. "Back at the USJ." She rubbed at the back of her head. "I just didn't know what else to do then. You were so out of it you didn't respond to anything else."

"Sounds about right." Said he, fighting back the memories, the images of the ensuing battle that had followed. "Actually… why didn't you try calling me Deku? It's what I call myself in my head, after all."

Sighing, eyes narrowing slightly, she forced herself to remain patient. "Because I refuse to call you anything approximating 'Dekunobou' or 'useless person'." She reached up and flicked his nose, making him flinch. "So… get used to Green, or whatever you want me to call you instead."

Realizing he wasn't going to win this one, he relented. "Okay. But, what do you want me to call you?" Jiro, once again, quirked an eyebrow at him. "Like… do you have a nickname or should I just stick with Jiro?"

Cheeks going pink again, she reached up and fussed with a strand of her hair, eyes darting away from his. "I-I mean… yeah? Jiro works but…" Okay what the hell, this was nothing to get flustered over and she knew it. "I did just call you-" No, don't call him that again. "By your first name, so, maybe… just give mine a try?"

Credit where it's due: of all things he'd been anticipating, that was the one he was least prepared for. "U-um, okay…" he gulped, taking a short breath before the plunge. "Kyo...ka?"

Nope. Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope. The shade of crimson they both turned was almost neon red. So embarrassed were they that they had to turn away from each other. "Iiiiii think Jiro's fine." she squeaked, and he could only nod rapidly, many, many times in reply.

They stood there in silence, forcing themselves to calm down again. A gust of wind blew. A car drove by. Her watch beeped, telling her the hour had struck.

Glancing at her watch, she winced. "Fuck. Um… yeah, we should call it a night." It was ten.

Again, nerves finally calming, he nodded. "Uh, text you later?"

Putting her hands into her jacket pockets -well, his jacket pockets- she waved and gave him another smirk. "You'd better." For a few steps she backpedaled away, but soon enough she was spun about and walking, almost skipping away he thought.

Sighing, rubbing at his eyes he did his best to process what a day it had been. It was clear from the spinning of his brain that he was going to need sleep before that happened.

"That was so cute!" Deku almost screamed, whirling about, arms flailing he wound up face-to-face with his mom. She jolted, backing away from her surprised and flailing child. "Did I sneak up on you?"

"What are you doing here!?" He almost shrieked, hand over his hammering heart.

She blinked. "You… texted me where you'd be?" She held up her phone, pointing at the message in question. "I thought you wanted me to come get you once the movie ended."

When the hell did I do that? "O-oh. Thanks mom…" okay, remember: breathe slowly, Deku. That's how you stay calm.

She smiled. "Sorry to scare you, I just didn't want to interrupt the two of you." Then she giggled. "I have to admit, I didn't expect to be seeing anything quite like that so soon into the school year."

He did not like the sound of this. "...What are you talking about?"

"Oh, nothing I'm sure." She gave him the most obviously fake innocent look he'd ever seen. And that was saying something. "Are you hungry? You didn't say if you'd had dinner yet."

Relieved at the change in topics, he sighed. "No, but I'm not hunger-" Then his stomach practically roared. Forcing his jaw to remain closed, he covered his face with his hands. Great, so much for the peaceful walk home. His mother clearing her throat prompted him to peek through his fingers. She was giving him a patient smile, holding up a metal thermos. Gulping, sheepishly, he reached out and accepted it. "Thanks, mom…"

She leaned forward and kissed his forehead. "What else would I do?" as he opened the thermos, they started walking home. "Bad parenting to let your kids go hungry."

Not like anyone would blame you, kid being a literal monster and all. Sipping at the thermos, he silently thanked his good sense to not say that out loud. "...Yeah."

Only she knew her son well enough to guess what he might have been thinking. Concerned, frowning, she cast him a sidelong look as they walked. "Little Izu?"

"Hmm?" he murmured between sips.

It took her a little while to sort out her feelings, to find what she wanted to say. But eventually, as she always did, she found exactly the right ones. "...Did I ever tell you about my favorite flower?"

They'd just started walking over a bridge, just as the wind picked up the other side. It carried the lingering scents of the city's daytime activities. All those wonderful and disgusting smells that reminded him just how inhuman he was now. Streetlights reflected off the water below, orange coloring the little river in shimmering cascades across the blue, rippling surface of the water. Yet the youngest Midoriya was focused on the question, unanswered. "...No." Said he.

She smiled, peering up at the night sky as they walked, more slowly now. "I saw you fight today, in the tournament…" Her voice was quiet, trailing almost as gently as the wind around them. To say it was calming wouldn't have done it justice. "In a lot of ways, you remind me of it now." Giving him a knowing look, she added, "but then... you always did, my little Izu." He stopped, overcome by curiosity as she gazed out into the water below. Her hands trailed along the cobbled stone that made up the wall, along the bridge's edge before she leaned against it, resting. "It symbolizes one of the things I've always thought to be the best about people: love." Deku rubbed at the back of his neck, not sure he really agreed or understood the sentiment. "My little boy, his heart so big that his biggest dream was to be a hero. The kind that saved people with a smile?" She gave him another knowing look, and he bashfully looked away.

Darn it, mom…

She turned back toward the water, face upturned she closed her eyes and drew in a long breath. "And in all this time that never went away." her voice was sad now, almost longing, searching. "Even when life seemed to content to just batter you around for the fun of it…" Eyes open, she looked sadly, down at the water again. "Now here you are, making that dream come real, even as you fight against… how did you phrase it? 'That monster you are now', right?" Shaking her head, at the silliness of her boy ever being such a thing, she went on. "Blood, anger, aggression, violent things… it's also a symbol of those. So in the end… the little flower symbolizes the internal struggle everyone faces: love, that quiet, persistent thing that it is, trying to be the greater force and win against such terrible things, that we all have the potential to do." Then, smiling in full, she turned at looked at her son, standing there speechless. "Guren, the crimson lotus, reminds me of you, my little Izu, and I know the better side will always win, no matter what."

Do you really believe that?

...I have to.

He smiled, taking a step closer and holding her tight. "Thanks, mom."

She hugged him back, face nestled against his shoulder. When had he gotten taller than her? "I love you, my little boy." He squeezed her tighter. "Never forget that."

He wanted to say 'I won't', to tell her he'd always know that, but he couldn't. Something stopped him. A lancing feeling in his chest, right through him, a stabbing pain. He was so shocked to feel it, nothing felt wrong just then, did it? So why did he…?

His eyes opened, the world seemed… blurry, hazy. He held up a shaking hand and saw-

Eyes going wide, his mind was slow to recognize it. Blood? It spurted from his mouth, something ripping in, through his chest. He was drenched in it, one of his lungs screaming in agony!

"The beginning… is the end and..." said a strained, tired voice. The kind of voice that had seen into the darkest depths of all living things and not turned from the sight unscathed, unmarked. "Keeps coming round again."

Deku was flung into the air, the things lancing through his chest wriggled about like squirming tendrils. White, glistening with his blood and reflecting light like only human teeth ever did. He'd been stabbed by teeth, growing, writhing, superhuman teeth. Screaming in pain, his claws extended and he slashed through them.

Screaming, his attacker retracted what remained of his mangled teeth. Hands flew to his mouth as Deku fell against the concrete, his blood gushing from his chest as he gasped for air, lungs gargling against the fluid that filled them.

"M-mom," he strained, "ru-!" and then he was aware of it. The thing standing over him, its purple, muscled leg right in front of his face. Looking up, he saw the face of a thing he'd hoped never to look at again: the face of the Nomu, covered in what could only be human blood.

Its face twisted with rage, neck convulsing, twitching as its mouth slowly opened. "You…." it- it could talk? "Killed master." Bits of dried blood and viscera flaked off of it at it moved, the remnants of flesh that he could smell on its breath.

His chest hadn't finished healing. Its hand was on his head, pulling him from the ground as he gasped for air. Maw drawing closer to his head, his limbs struggled to function against a lack of air. Eyes flinching shut, he tried to think of anything other than the things maw and hoped it would be a quick death.

Flesh was rended, cleaved from the body, and Deku fell again to the street. Confused, dazed, his eyes opened to see Vanessa standing over him, her claws dripping red. She stood, defiant, between Deku and the Nomu. "Touch him again," she threw the Nomu's hand into the river below, "And I will kill you." In retaliation, its fist swung for her, but a flick of her wrist cut the attacking appendage to shreds. It roared in savage anger, and so did she.

Arms flailing over his head, a feeble effort to protect his nearly healed form, Deku tried to be as small a target as he could. Vanessa lounged forward, her claws digging into the thing's chest. Feet planted firmly on the ground, she hauled with all her strength, and threw the Nomu. It screamed, arms not yet regenerated, it went crashing to the ground. The man, speaking in riddles, leaped over it, lancing out with his still bleeding teeth to spear the lady. She barely even tried to dodge. Leaping into the air, her knee soon made contact with the man's head, sending him skipping across the road.

"NO!" The Nomu screamed, kicking her with the force of a hurricane. Her body was sent careening, crashing through a nearby building. "NO KILL FRIEND!" Arms reforming it tore through the night after her, as Deku writhed on the ground. She met its charge head on. Claws tearing through, skin, muscle and bone, her hands lanced their way down to its chest. She vivisected it, tearing it clean open and spilling its entrails onto the street.

It didn't even scream. It just lurched forward, and latched its teeth over her shoulder. A sickening, splattering crunch made Deku thing he might be ill. Dazed, unable to scream, Vanessa fell to her knees. Her eyes twitching, body unable to move as one of its arms rekindled. It picked her up and started flailing her into the ground, over and over and over again.

The madman wasn't moving, noise seemed to fill the air. Heroes arrived, Ingenium, he thought he saw. Ground shaking, a woman the size of a kaiju stepped into the fray, stomping on the Nomu while Ingenium scooped up the unconscious madman. She was flung into the air, her spine crashing down through a nearby garage. Blood spurted from her mouth, the Nomu soared through the air, its feet drawn up close to its body, poised to crush. When it connected, the giant heroine's sternum was driven into the yielding flesh of the organs behind it.

"God damn you!" Vanessa screamed, tearing through the air after it. Her foot managed to snap the Nomu's neck, its head dangling limp and swaying at the slightest motion. "Takeyama, hang in there!" the giant lady wasn't even moving. Her body shrinking down to its normal size, motionless and going cold. Arms swinging wildly, Vanessa tore through the Nomu again and again. Blood was strewn across the ground, bits of ribs, arms, muscles and tendons painted and clung to walls. Why didn't it just fall!? A question punctuated by a rather desperate and savage punch to her head, sending her careening through a small car.

Staggering, the Nomu looked about, shaking its head as it snapped back into place. Its eyes found Ingenium and it snarled. "No." In an instant, it was on him, hands crushing his armor and ribs as it brought his head to its mouth. With a defiant scream, Vanessa leaped back onto the Nomu her teeth sinking into its face, its eye as she speared her hands deep into its chest. Fumbling about it dropped Ingenium, and grabbed her. Pulling with all its strength, one of her arms was torn clean from her torso before it hauled her over its head smashed her through the roof of a nearby van. Staggering, its flesh crawling back together, it hobbled over to the madman and picked him up.

"ENOUGH!" Slamming into the ground, feet smashing through the pavement, was a herculean being that made the creature's eyes bulge. "You're not hurting anyone else, because I AM HERE!" All Might, his voice was a battle cry, challenging this monster for all it had left to fight with.

It wouldn't be delivering on that today. With a rush of air, it took off into the sky, leaping for the horizon, and All Might pursued.

Coughing, gagging, Deku shuddered. If All Might hadn't arrived… no, there wasn't time to think about that. His groggy head rose and scanned the area. Ingenium was groaning, rolling onto his back in an attempt to get back up. Vanessa was peeling herself from the jagged metal of the vehicle she'd crashed through. The other lady… wasn't even twitching.

Blood spewing from his lips, his lungs struggling in their final efforts of repair, he tried to talk. "Mom," he coughed, gasping for more air, somewhat easily this time. His hand fumbled about, searching for her. "Mom, where-"

Palm resting on her back, he felt a warm, open wound. Her shirt and skin completely saturated, body unmoving.

"MOM!" He lurched forward, hands cradling her limp form. She was so cold now… "Mom, stay with me!" a hand went to her face, cupping her cheek. "I've got you! It's gonna be- it's…" No, no please no! Not her! Not her for the love of everything! Take the world, take anyone just not her!

"Izu...ku?" Oh god, oh no, oh god, please! "You… your eyes…"


She smiled. "I never noticed… how clear…" her hand was on his face, the scarred side, tracing around his blackened eye. "How clear… they still were…" Color drained from her face, hand falling to the ground, eyes glazing over, unfocused and staring into eternity.

No warmth, no life.



Just a void, where she used to be.

You don't meet people like her.

Not crying, it was so… easy. Just strangle your own heart, relish the pain of it, the misery it brings, caging up such things. Of funerals were the one place you were really expected to cry…

My mother was-

Teeth dug into a lip, the rain beat down from the sky. How much time had gone by? How had he gotten here? Faces… none of them friends. Co workers of hers, he guessed. Here as some act of courtesy to the woman they'd long labored beside. Some of them had said… something, kind somethings. He couldn't remember what they were. He couldn't remember anything. He couldn't let himself feel anything.

But every time he started speaking… there were those things called emotions, threatening to boil to the surface.

'Tell me you're gonna be okay,' a friend had said, a girl with brown hair. 'Tell me you'll get through this, Deku.'

How can I?

'If you need anything,' A square jawed boy with glasses, 'I will be there.'

Can you bring her back?

'I am sorry,' tall, lanky, muscular and messy hair, 'it is a useless sentiment, but I know how you feel.'

I wish you didn't….

Arms wrapped around him, purple hair smelling of lavender under his nose. 'I'm here. You're not alone. I won't let you be alone.'

Jiro… and he'd held her tight. I hate that you know this feeling too…

A girl with a pony tail, much taller than he. 'You… she didn't deserve this.'

That's the problem: I did, but she…

Teary eyes, pink skin, messy hair, a tight hug, face smushed against his shoulder. He could feel the tears running down his shirt. 'I'm sorry… I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry!'

It wasn't your fault. Even if you'd been there…

'Uh… shit, hey man.' Yellow hair, black zig-zag. 'If… don't be alone okay? Call me if you need to, I'll swing by, spend the night, week, whatever. I've got your back, buddy.'

Thank you…

Cold, sympathetic, heterochromic eyes. A wordless hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. 'It's okay to not be okay. You don't have to heal until…. Until you heal.'

How much did you need someone to tell you that, once upon a time?

Spiky red hair, strong arms around him, crying his eyes out. Nothing was said, nothing needed to be said. The embrace said it all.

You're a good man, you know…

Tears wiped from his face, standing at the podium, days later. This was it… the last goodbye…

The eulogy of Inko Midoriya.

You hear about them, people like my mother, but you never really see them. You never really meet them... so you end up just thinking they don't exist. You end up deciding the exist only in the most ideal fictions. In stories, maybe… people willing to give everything they have for their kids. Fingers gripped at the podium, cracking the old wood. But she… she was it. She was all of that and then some.

Alone… she'd lived the majority of her adult life alone. Raising a boy too stupid, too suicidal to just not. Go charging off. And DIE ONLY TO COME BACK LIKE THIS!

That was her…

That was Inko Midoriya… my hero.

The porch of their house felt desolate. Alone, he sat there, hoping the sun would just burn him from the earth. Waiting for the end.

This was the end, right? Things couldn't go on after this. The world wasn't that cold, it couldn't just keep spinning like nothing happened. It had to stop, it had to realize she was gone. Someone important was missing, who needed to be here. Why was it still spinning? WHY DID EVERYTHING JUST KEEP GOING LIKE NOTHING HAPPENED!?

It can't do that…

It shouldn't…

Alone he sat, waiting. Nothing happened, nothing changed, nothing went back.

This was his life now.

This was reality.

At the end of the walkway, several figures stood. A woman with sunglasses perched on her face, a boy with spiky, ash blond hair, another with spiker, red hair and a girl with violet eyes.

"Do you really think he'll listen to you?" Vanessa murmured. "He hasn't moved in days…" She remembered sitting there with him, offering him drinks from various canteens. Trying to keep him going, to bring him inside to sleep. He wouldn't move, react to voice or touch. His mind, heart, done.

'Do you really just want to die?'

And if I do, would you blame me?

It was her last ditch effort to go and find friends of his to help him, but even they hadn't heard him speak one word.

Walking, cautiously to his side, holding his hand, was Jiro. She didn't say anything. She just squeezed his hand, letting him know she was here. He looked at her sympathetic face, his vacant eyes searching for a reason. Why she was here, why she was wasting her time. There wasn't any point… he was done.

"Oh fuck this…" Fingers snared his collar, hauling him to his feet. He barely had time to give Bakugo a look of shock before he slapped Deku across the face.

"BAKUGO!" Jiro roared, hand seizing the boy's wrist. "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING!?"

"Come on man," Kirhsima, urged, trying to coax Bakugo away from him. "What good is that gonna do?"

"You're still in there, right?" Deku blinked, utterly unable to talk. "Good, because you need to fucking listen:" He hauled Deku's face closer, letting his eyes burn a way into Deku's soul. "You cannot just sit there forever!"

"Whuh…." all he could do was blink. "Buh… I-"

"Is this what it was all worth to you?" His breathing stopped. "Everything she did, all the care your friends have for you… if it's really that worthless, fuckin do it! Just sit there forever!" And Bakugo Dropped him, stunned, Deku felt his breath come in shuddering gasps, as he stared up the other boy.

Having had enough of Bakugo's usual antics, Jiro threw a mean right hook, right into his eye. Bakugo reeled, staggering from the force of the hit, Kirishima fought to keep between them. "Lemme at him! He's just hurting him! Stop protecting him!"

Laughing, smirking, Bakugo righted himself and loomed over Deku. "But just so ya know…" He leaned down and looked the vampire right in the eye. "If you walk away? If you really do decide to die? Then you're saying everything she did for you, everything she went through, everything your friends feel for you, all of it was worth nothing to you."

Jiro's eyes crept wide open, Kirishima turned around in disbelief, Vanessa just watched.

Deku's mouth slowly opened. "What did you-"

"You heard me." Bakugo goaded. "You don't value a single thing she did for you," he bared his teeth, "because if you did, you'd be at school kicking ass to make what she gave you worth it!"

Something inside Deku was trembling, shaking, burning now. What was this feeling? What was Bakugo-?

"You're saying that you never loved your mom."

A blur of green, a rush of air, the sound of something hitting all too yielding flesh and Bakugo was sent flying to the ground. Standing, panting, rage and pain on his face, Deku realized he was feeling something.

"Shut… up." Deku's shoulders shook, his body quivered. "Just shut up!" He was angry. "Where the hell do you get off say any of that?! You have no idea what this feels like!" Tears streamed down his face, running freely as his breath turned to sobs. "You've never lost anything except a fight! Never cared about anything but yourself, have you!?" Groaning, blood trickling from his lips, Bakugo fought to so much as prop himself up. "So why are you….?" Hands clapped over his face, Deku fell to his knees, sobbing violently. "Why are you trying to make me care?"

Deku's speech devolved into incoherent crying, blubbering anguish. Bakugo, despite his wounded pride, despite his wounded body, got to his knees too, and put his hands on the shoulders of his former friend. "A long time ago…" said he, quietly, "I… had a friend." Deku's sobbing seemed to stop, sniveling he looked at the warhead's face.

There was… grief on his features, regret. "This weirdo who believed in me… wanted to be just like me." His face scrunched, he growled at himself, but… tears came anyway. "But I… I threw him away. Let my ego get into my eyes and it was all I could fucking see. I treated him like crap because he didn't have a quirk, he was never going to be like me and the idea that he wanted to be, that he'd fight hard enough to do it? Scared the shit out of me." He looked Deku in the eye, those disbelieving, mismatched eyes of his own making. "I was scared that you'd be better than me, becoming a hero without a fucking quirk."

The splintered remains of Deku's heart threatened to break all over again. "...Kacchan?"

Bakugo sniveled too. "You're right… I have no idea what real loss feels like." His face turned to the ground, hands gripping tight at Deku's shoulders, as tears ran down his face. "I just know what it's like to lose your best friend because you were too much of an asshole to do anything other than hurt him until he hated you." Tears streaming freely now, his face upturned with fiery determination. "SO I AM NOT LETTING YOU THROW AWAY WHAT YOU HAVE LEFT, OKAY!?" Deku's lip trembled, the sobbing starting up again. "Get up…" Bakugo's face was shaky, quiet and straining against too many emotions at once. "Get up and fight to win, no matter what like you always do. I know we can't be friends again, but if one us gets to be a hero it should be y-"

Arms flung around Bakugo, pulling him into a vice-like embrace, as a familiar face buried itself in his shoulder. "I missed you…" Bakugo's breath shuddered, unable to believe what he'd just heard. "I missed you, I missed you, I missed you!" And then, unable to hold himself back, his arms went tight around his old friend.

"I'm so fucking sorry…"

"I missed you, Kacchan."

"I'm sorry…"

Looking on, with the biggest, sad smile was Kirishima, beaming at the two hugging, crying boys. Wiping away tears of her own, Jiro walked to them, putting a hand on Deku's shoulder. Vanessa, sighing in palpable relief, walked to the house. School would be starting soon… He'd need his things, probably something to eat.

As Kirishima and Jiro helped the boys to their feet, the purple eyed girl turned to Bakugo. "Thank you." She whispered.

Sniveling, wiping away tears, he nodded. "Whatever…" Clearing his throat, he patted Deku on the back. "Let's… just go to fuckin school."

Eventually, after getting the poor boy inside to change, they did just that.

UA High School: Class 1A Homeroom, Present Day

Nemuri Kayama, otherwise known as the professional hero "Midnight". Teacher of Modern Hero Art history, it was her job to teach these rowdy teenagers the subtler side of determining one's identity as a hero. Symbolism and naming conventions, two aspects of the name so intricately entwined one could mistake them as being one and the same.

At present she stood at the head of Class 1A, a more forlorn group of faces she could not have found on school grounds. This class in particular, she noticed, seemed more tightly knit than the others. Whatever the reason for this was, whenever one of them was adversely affected by life, the pain permeated to all of them. Such was the comradery born of surviving the things they had already, so early in their careers as heroes.

Though that was presently irrelevant, save for understanding the present mood lingering in the air. They all knew what had happened, what had shattered the heart of one of their classmates in particular. Today, almost painfully too soon after recent events, was the day they chose their names.

"A hero's name," began she, "is perhaps more important than the costume," this earned her some odd looks, but nothing she hadn't observed before while teaching this lesson. "It's the label that people remember us by as well as something that usually carries a special meaning to the hero who chooses the name, though this isn't always the case."

Opening a small case, she procured a set of small dry erase boards and markers from within. Placing them in the hands of Hagakure -class 1A's resident invisible girl- she said, "for the next fifteen minutes I want you to consider who you are," one vampiric student in particular flinched at that, "your life, your values, your journeys to this point in your lives."

All in the room had eyes on her, she met their gaze with warm confidence. "Choose the name that fits all of this," she said raising a hand and pointing at them all, "choose a name that tells the world 'who you are'." Turning to one boy in particular, she added quietly, "A name that defies everything you've been through…"

The dry erase board felt wrong in his exhausted hands. This wasn't… No. He was here, he would see this through to the end.

For her…

"I saw you fight today... in the tournament..."

A name that means something to me… Defying...

He had it. Uncapping the pen he'd been given, he scrawled out the few Kanji the name required, the raised his hand.

Eyes fluttering in surprise, Midnight nodded. "...Alright. Come to the front of the class, hold it where the others can see it."

Nodding, he complied. It felt like miles to walk to the front of the room. Out of the corner of his eye he saw many names his classmates had chosen. Crimson Riot, Alien Queen, Earphone Jack, The Invisible Woman, Chargebolt, Creati… Well, his friends had made good choices.

He only hoped his own would so well received, as he expected theirs to be. "I, um…" he mumbled, fidgeting with the board in his hands. "I've been thinking about this for a long time, what my name was gonna be when I got to be a hero. Since I was a kid, really…"

Aww… my little mini might hero! A mother's laugh, her loving embrace.

I love you mom!

He drew in a sharp breath. "Ah, anyways," he wiped a tear from the corner of his eye, "pretty much all those names, from back then were never really gonna work," a few of his classmates gave knowing, sympathetic chuckles, "which worked out just fine for me cuz, I made a friend…" He looked to one brown haired girl in particular.

They exchanged a look, she smiled at him, beamed at him really, even through the sadness she felt on his behalf. "I had this nickname they said would make a great hero name, and for a while? I wanted to do that, turn that name into something to be proud of." Bakugo averted his eyes, guilt twisting his face as he crossed his arms and shrunk into his seat. "But…" Deku breathed, "a few people came along and changed that." Resolution brimming back into his heart, he let his voice raise a little. "I can't change the past, make it prettier or easier to carry," and he flipped his board up, letting them see the name. "We all carry bad things with us, things that happened, things we don't want to be… but we can always choose to be better than that, if we fight hard enough."

Feral Hero: Guren Fang

"That's what this name, is supposed to mean…"

"Please tell me we're not alone,

in this world fighting the wind.

life can be simple if only you can see

the best is yet to come..."

Chapter Text


Toga looked over her shoulder, out the door that Frankie -Dabi- had exited from. Kicking and screaming, a little girl was being hauled into the room by a muscular, broad shouldered man wearing a black cloak and a hockey mask. In his hands, held there as if in steel shackles, was a little girl. She had long pale-grey hair and a small horn on the right side of her head. She was frantic, hysterical, desperate to get away from the man dragging her into the room.

The muscular man growled. "So annoying..."

Overhaul pointed right at the hockey mask. "Hurt that child and I will end your life, Muscular." His eyes narrowed to a bloodthirsty glare. "We don't do this to hurt her, we do this to turn her cursed quirk into something that will help people. Isn't that right, Eri?"

Uncertain, Toga looked back and forth between them. Experiments on a girl... that had meant experiments on a small child? The girl, Eri was sniffling, tears running down her face, but she nodded. "D-does it have to hurt? I don't want it to hurt..."

"Oh, Eri..." Overhaul knelt before her, his hands on her cheek. At his mere touch she flinched, as if his fingertips alone were enough to snuff out her life. "You know I can't do that." Toga gritted her teeth. "Besides... I thought we agreed you deserved the pain, after what your little power did to your parents."

She was shaking, head lowered as she failed to fight back tears. "I- I didn't mean to make them go away..."

"Kill them, Eri." Overhaul said, fingers cupped under her chin, making her look at him. "You killed them, it's okay to say it." He put a hand over his chest. "kill people too, but most of them deserve it. And what have I said about that before?"

She sniveled. "Making my quirk help people is how I wont deserve it too." Toga's lips quivered into a vicious scowl.

And now I have an Overhaul to kill. This was rapidly turning out to be considerably more than what she'd bargained for.

"Good girl." He ruffled her hair. "Now lets get you-"

"BOSS!" Frankie was screaming. "THERE'S SOMETHING HE- ARGH!"

Toga's attention was yanked away from the three others in the room. Sailing through the doorway, a nasty cut on his chest, was Frankie. He crashed into a table that sat at the center of the room, its straps and buckles clattering as he toppled it.

Muscular growled. "What the hell do you mean 'some thi-' " His eyes went wide, Toga's eyes went wide, Overhaul raised an eyebrow. Lumbering, shakily into the chamber was a purple, bird beaked Goliath.

Toga took a step back, away from the monster. What the fuck? Why is Nomu here!?

"That thing from the news?" Overhaul murmured, standing up. "No matter." Waving his hand in a shooing motion, he spoke to the man in the hockey mask. "Muscular, kill it."

A dark chuckle resonated in his throat. "With pleasure, sir." Pushing Eri aside, he spun around and threw a right hook into the Nomu's face, snapping its neck completely around.

In response, its arm moved in a blur and the resulting punch sent Muscular through a concrete wall. Taking a deep breath, Overhaul sighed. "Must you? Good help is so hard to find these days."

"Hungry..." its shaking, bloody, overly muscled arm reached for Overhaul's head, its fingers ready to snag his skull.

Overhaul didn't even try to avoid it. He just reached up and gently took hold of its arm. "You should have asked nicely." In a violent spectacle so sudden Toga couldn't help but scream in shock, the Nomu's arm, torso and abdomen exploded. "Then I wouldn't have done that instead of feeding you." The Nomu staggered, its knees wobbling as its exposed ribs and organs crawled back together.

As most of its energy was being directed toward healing, it dropped the body in its other hand. Eyebrow raised again, Overhaul walked over to the apparent corpse. When the Nomu went to grab him, his fingers turned its remaining arm to paste and the lumbering beast toppled over. "No... hurt... friend..."

Overhaul scoffed. "You had no problems hurting mine. Why should I...?" A puzzled look contorted his brow. Reaching down he turned the body over, and looked at its face. "...Mooney?"

Gulping down her nerves, Toga spoke, creeping closer to Overhaul. "You know him?" This was the lunatic that the old man had sent Kurogiri to bust out of jail. Ain't that a coincidence...

Overhaul took in a short breath, rubbing at his masked chin and coughing a little. "I... used to." Said he, trying to close eyelids that weren't there. "What have they done to you..."

"Riddles..." managed the fading man, "questions... prophets of dark days..."

Overhaul blinked. "...what?"

Mooney laughed. "Forged in flame, but they know not why... soldiers... secrets..."

Blinking, no idea what to say, Overhaul regarded the man with something resembling horror. "They drove you mad, you poor soul... it would have been kinder to just kill you."

"Boss," Toga managed, eyeing the healing Nomu, its torso almost knitted back together, "who is this guy?" Something even the old man had neglected to mention.

"One of the brightest minds I'd ever known." Overhaul pet at the man's leather covered head. "A genius unparalleled... he deserved better than this."

Huh... so the Boss wanted a former genius on his payroll... Toga grinned. Imma just hafta find out what for. "Can you... fix him?"

"Hmm..." Overhaul rubbed at his chin again. "I don't know, there might not be enough of his mind left..." Beside him, the Nomu groaned, straining to right itself. Overhaul turned and looked at it, eyeing its exposed brain. "Although... maybe there doesn't have to be." Then he started chuckling. "Two poor souls on death's door, finding their way to my doorstep." He laughed. "Fortuitous." He dragged Mooney by his collar and dropped him on the Nomu. "Hang on, old friend. It wont be much of a body, but your mind may yet return." And he placed a hand on Mooney's chest.

The two of them burst. Organs, flesh, bone, muscle all tearing themselves apart, unraveling like flowers in violent bloom and weaving into each other. Two men screamed, their maws agape while their bodies burst and wove back together. Blood pooled on the floor, gallon after gallon as the pulsing, throbbing pile of flesh and bone writhed in agony with each passing, wet pop. Bone jutted out, then in. Stabbing through flesh, carving their way back into place. Two screaming mouths, faces, sets of eyes, slowly lurched closer, melding together and becoming one.

It was all Toga could do not puke.

"Shhhhh..." Overhaul cooed, "it's almost over." And with a final, bloody explosion, the warped body reshaped itself. With a frantic swat of its arm, Overhaul was knocked aside as it scuttled away to cower in the corner. Oh the warped shape it had taken... Its now overly long limbs and torso added something to its already terrifying height. A spine with vertebrea jutting out impossibly far beneath the skin along with the exposed sinews of the muscles in its neck gave it the vague appearance of a living corpse. Its face was shrouded in darkness, hidden beneath a hood molded from the leather of Mooney's outfit and the Nomu's skin.

It sounded like it was crying...

Overhaul stood, his mask torn clean from his face, exposing the jawline hiding behind it. His skin was all wrong... coughing violently, his legs trembling beneath him, the veins in his face, chest and throat had all turned black, the skin pale. Shaking hands returned his mask to his face and he cautiously approached his creation. "Mooney?"

It stopped crying. Fearful eyes turned to Overhaul, its body quivering in fear, rattling of its teeth audible to all in the room. Outside, a collection of black-clad men in plague-masks gathered, watching for whatever came next. Some drew weapons, guns and knives, others readied themselves to flee.

"I..." said the creature, its voice cracking. "yes... Mooney... I am Mooney."

Beneath his mask, Overhaul smiled. "Do you recognize me?"


"That's right." Mooney crept forward a few tentative steps, head lowered like a nervous dog and Overhaul kept his voice level, gentle "Are you hungry?" Slowly, Mooney nodded and Overhaul snapped his fingers. "Get this man something to eat and make sure he's comfortable." Confused, the creature peered about, watching for threats, any sing of danger or attack. "When Eri and I are done, we will have much to discuss."

Some grumbling was issued, some sighs of palpable relief and the crowd dissipated. Hesitantly, cautiously, Mooney crept away like a gorilla, crawling about on all fours and following a man who said something about food. Groaning, Muscular and Frankie collected themselves and left the room to lick their wounds.

This left only Eri, Overhaul and Toga in the room. "Tsubasa," Overhaul said to Toga, "I want you to head to the surface, see if anyone might have followed our new friend here." With a flex of his wrist, the bones and tendons cracked more comfortably into place. "If so... well, we'll have to relocate."

Toga nodded. "Anything else, sir?"

"No." Overhaul patted her shoulder. "Actually... be ready to get Eri some ice cream, in the event that she behaves herself." From beneath a table at the far end of the room, Toga heard pitiful whimpering and had to resist the urge to tear out Overhaul's throat.

With a voice so level it may as well have been monotone, Toga replied. "Consider it done." And she left the room. Eri... she was about to go through what the Nomu and Mooney had, wasn't she? Fingernails digging into her palms, Toga made her way up the steps to the surface.

Running into an alleyway, body rapidly shifting back to her normal shape, she threw up. When she thought she was done, she threw up again. Shaking hands pulled her clothes back over her body, and she made a solemn vow: before she was done with Overhaul, that child would be out of that man's reach. Hopefully, she'd get the chance to gut him like a fish while she was at it.

"Ticking away...

the moments that make up the dull day..."

Time, as one may notice, is unreliable. Seconds may tick away as quickly as they ever did, but turn one's attention away from the clock and watch how they slip away. Years can pass in the blink of an eye, days, months, it all becomes a blur, a haze in the face of the human heart. Emotions color all that humans perceive, consciously or unconsciously, and time is just another thing to behold. Funny how a memory, no matter how recent, can alter the present; steal the mood and feel from something only to twist it to match that which one recalls, however reluctantly they may.

How much time exactly had gone by already? What was he doing tomorrow? How much time did he have left?

Did it matter?

His friends wanted it to matter, that much he knew for certain. In moments where he couldn't escape them -his ever growing social responsibilities- going through the motions of smiling, nodding, making plans and pretending he was alright was only another part of his routine now. Pretending he still had the energy to be human.

If it meant he wouldn't waste what his mother had given him, then it would all be worth it.


Some time ago he'd been asked a question. "Who did you choose to intern with?" A smiling brunette, rosy cheeked and walking along beside him after class. Her name was Uraraka.

"Nighteye." His answer was plain, monotonous, no lilt, crack or even growl of emotion. When her expression turned to worry, he quickly altered his demeanor. "He- All Might used to work with him. He and Aizawa said he was the best option so..." He laughed, feigning nervousness. This girl used to make him feel something, now he just pretended to so she wouldn't worry. Was that normal?

"Oh." She smiled. "Do you wanna hear who I'm interning with?" He wanted to shake his head. He nodded. "Some hero called Gunhead!" She threw a rather basic, straight-armed punch, enthusiasm brimming in her determined smile. "He was one of the heroes who actually requested that I intern with them! Guess I did something impressive during the event against Shiketsu."

Okay... "That's great, Uraraka." He smiled, and inside his head he screamed in anguish.

She giggled. "Isn't it? I hope he teaches me a lot about fighting! I need to branch out more, learn how to be less of a one-trick-pony, ya know?" He agreed, that was indeed important. "What're you doing after school, Deku?"

Useless little Deku. "Nothing really. Why?"

"Wanna hang out?" she chirped, a hint of worry showing in her eyes. "I know it's kind of... well..." You can say it... not saying it wont make it not real. "I don't wanna push you into something if you're not up for it." For a moment, her eyes flickered away, something painful on her features. But why? "Still, we can if you want to." Then she was looking at his eyes again, some glimmer hope in them.

Smiled though he made himself, a quiet sigh escaped him. "Yeah. That sounds nice."

"Okay! I promise we wont do anything too crazy. Just... I dunno, stargazing or something?" At his nod, with a friendly smile, she walked away.

Once she was out of sight, no longer looking at him, the smile on his face disappeared. Replaced with the fatigue he never seemed to be rid of anymore. Footsteps trudged along, dragging against the ground. He'd notice this and try and stop every now and then, but a yawn or a considerable effort to keep his eyes open soon returned the sluggish gait to his feet.

Passing by an old tree, withered and free from the burden of its leaves, he saw someone. There, leaning against the tree, his 'for the future' notebook in his grasp, was a tall, thin man with a scared face. His chewed lips and tired eyes twisted with some sadistic happiness. "So..." said the ghost, "why didn't you go meet her?"

A train soared past his nose. Jolting awake, if he'd truly been asleep, his chest heaved with fearful breath. The train had only narrowly missed his face. The subway, he was in the subway. So vivid... Shuddering a last uneasy exhalation, he waited for the train to stop and climbed aboard. As it clattered along, every now and then he thought he'd see him out of the corner of his eye. He'd never forget that mop of blue hair, or the face lurking beneath it.

Elusive in his sightings, "of the two of us, you're still here," but in quiet moments he almost thought he could hear him, "shouldn't you be... enjoying that? Or is something weighing you down?"

Something or multiple somethings. So hard to choose which one came after- His eyes winced, breath going into a sharp stutter. No. Don't think about her. His teeth gnawed at his lower lip, fighting back tears and louder things. Stay in control. Don't let your guard down, don't bite.

The agency, the building it was housed in, looked like any other. Five stories of concrete and glass, standing over the street. The only reason he knew what this was, was because his teacher had told him. It blended into the street corner it occupied, just another plain, old office. Not surprising him at all, the interior was much the same. Just your average offices. He was starting to think he had the wrong address until he saw a few costumed heroes running about.

Somehow he ends up in the office of the agency's owner: Nighteye. Tall, thin with a narrow and angular face and dark, straight hair. Imposing, serious, eyes hiding behind glasses that reflected entirely too much light. A long fingered hand reached up and pushed the glasses as close to his eyes as they could go. A growling hum resonated in his throat.

"Hmm... you've barely the strength to stand boy." Deku averted his gaze, eyeing the conspicuous amount of All Might merchandise in the room. Posters, photographs, figurines... it rivaled even his own collection. "Not a scratch on you, as expected." He sighed. "First time losing someone?"

Blinking the boy's eyes ventured back to the man's, hiding behind his spectacles, the transparent reflection of the vampire's. "... You know?"

Bony knuckles bring a cigarette to the man's lips, the other hand flicks at the lighter. "We have... a few people in common." His eyes flicker to the man standing, his back leaning against the wall, to his left. A guilty looking expression on his face, Aizawa can't look Deku in the eye. His hand massaging at his ribs indicate that they still pain him. "Can you guess the second?"

As far as guesses were concerned, it hardly seemed a stretch that he make the one that leapt to mind. "...All Might?"

The bespectacled man nodded, exhaling a cloud of smoke. "Your teachers were rather adamant that I take you under my wings." Deku shifted where he stood, uncertain he appreciated being where he was on others merits. "That aside, I suppose Mirio could use the company." Okay, he was certain he didn't appreciate it.

"...Is there a reason you wanted me here, sir?"

A dark smile crooked at the corner of Nighteye's lips. "Because I think I can help teach you something, if life hasn't already gotten it through your head."

Deku gulped. "And what's that?"

"The big picture." The young man raised an eyebrow, the older man waited patiently for him to understand. "Tell me..." another long exhalation of dark, arid vapor. "Why didn't you save your mother?"

Shocked, speechless, Aizawa's face spun to look at Nighteye, mouth agape. The question had shaken Deku to his very core, so much so that he'd unconsciously taken a step back in retreat from the hero. "I- there was- I couldn't! I didn't even see or hear-"

"You could have brought her back."

His heart stopped. Face gone pale and cold he felt his world slip away. "...I..."

Nighteye sighed. "You didn't even think of it..." His palm dug into the space between his eyes. "I'd hoped you'd made a choice, that it was something you'd decided was against everyone's best interests."

It... it was my fault...

"But in the end, you hadn't learned the lesson at all."

She's dead because I-

"Rather than understanding what complications that would bring, how that would inevitably end, you merely thought solely with your heart; just like you did the day you were turned." When his feet had started running on their own, no second thought given to his own safety. "In truth... it was probably for the best that you didn't turn her." A clawed pair of hands clenched into fists. "If you had... well, two of you running around is already most likely a death sentence for you both. With a third? The Nameless One would doubtlessly order your deaths as soon as he discovers you."

The big picture...

Words that echoed still, even as he sat there, in his room. At his desk, hunched over a technical manual, little bits of circuitry and plastic littered over the surface of the polished wood. Phone off to the side, a text gone unanswered. A friend wondering where he was. His clock struck eleven, school was less than a day away. He didn't want to sleep. Sleeping meant nightmares, nightmares meant thinking. His fingers gripped a pen that scrawled poorly written kanji on the pages of a notebook as his eyes darted occasionally to Japanese-to-English dictionary. The technical manual was in English, to understand it he had to translate it.

The big picture.

What had the consequences of his choice that day truly been? When he'd rushed in to save Bakugo, not a second thought was given to anything but the act itself. That day, he'd died. The day after he'd attacked a man he'd beaten unconscious. Then he'd bitten an innocent girl. Attending the entrance exams for UA had nearly gotten several people killed. Even when he'd supposedly made no mistakes, Shigaraki had died. My fault... Because Shigaraki had died, the Nomu had lost its mind, and run free from whatever master it served. A path to freedom and revenge against him, leading Nomu to the one who'd killed his own mother. In the big picture, he was entirely at fault.

One little decision, one little breath of wind, that had cascaded into something so much more than a hurricane on his little life.

Mom... Tired arms rested on the desk, and a face upon them.

A beach, recently cleared of innumerate pieces of filth and junk, and he was lying against a tree on its border. Cobwebs, grey and thin, hung in the ocean breeze like tattered cloth of old sails. A man was walking over to him, humming merrily.

A man with shaggy, blue hair. "Funny to think what might not be, if you hadn't tried and failed to save one person in particular." Deku looked away from him. "All those terrible things you wouldn't have caused." Spider legs, curling down and around him and Deku couldn't even move enough to scream. As he was carried up, into the webs, Shigaraki smiled; his eyes wide and malice unhinged. "Shhh..." he put a finger to his lips. "Go back to sleep." And a pair of fangs sank into Deku's throat, warmth and feeling fading to black.

Arms flailing, his books scattered to the floor, he woke with ragged breath in a cold sweat. The world will and would be just fine without you...

The pencil in Akaguro's teeth snapped in twain. "I'm going to have words with Nighteye..." Next to him, furthest from Deku, was Uraraka, quietly avoiding him and trying not to look sad.

Of course, the boy with mismatched eyes had failed to notice.

Hoping to avoid any sort of confrontation, Deku meekly protested. "It- it's not like he was trying to be mean."

"I don't care. A man without enough tact to avoid such cruel words is no man at all and should be corrected."

Kirishima raised his glass to that. "Hear hear! But... Maybe cool off first." He put forward, perhaps more quietly. "You don't wanna go in and make a jerk of yourself. Yelling and screaming out of anger is never helpful, even if you're right." Quietly, deliberately so, Bakugo sipped at his drink by Kirishima's side. Biting his tongue, and failing to hide that fact.

Jiro fussed at her food, the din of the little cafe the costumed teenagers were gathered at taking center stage for a moment. She couldn't argue that Nighteye was entirely wrong, but he'd picked the worst possible way to try and get his point across. When one cares little for the cost of being right, such insensitive things are often said in order to be so. Instead of commenting on it all, she gave Deku a searching look, one he noticed. "I'm fine." He lied.

"Like hell." She murmured, their conversation carrying on at a decibel level below the other's notice. The advantage of being the only ones present to have such keen ears.

He shifted, guilty at having been caught in his deceit. "...How do you know I'm not?" the other's conversation had shifted to something else about how 'men were supposed to behave', if anyone cared enough to listen.

She wanted to reach out and take his hand, but didn't. "Because I'm still not fine, when it comes to K."

His eyes met hers, hers averted. He started to speak, then stopped, his mind in flux as to what he should say. "It never gets better, does it?"

Then her eyes returned to his. She regarded him with a reluctant feeling of understanding, maybe if she didn't acknowledge the feeling, reality would reshape into something kinder to her friend.

Sadly, Jiro knew better than that. "No," said she, "it doesn't..." he frowned, unable to face her any longer, at that admission. Funny, he thought he was getting used to facing down reality's colder, harsher sides. "But..." she breathed, "with enough time, enough help, it can get easier to carry. There will always be moments where you think back, and it hurts as much as the moment it happened. The trick is... holding out, and hoping those moments get more distance between them, as time goes by." Not that he saw, but she offered a sad little smile, awkward as ever. "Lousy advice, but... it's all I got."

It wasn't lousy advice. Deku was about to say as much when Kirishima's arm draped around his shoulder, almost knocking him out of his chair. "Ah, enough about manly stuff! Well, for now." Lunch was over, time to go back to their patrols. "After school, lets go do something fun!"

Uraraka's ears perked up at this. "Like what?"

Kirishima gave this some thought, but Bakugo was the one who spoke first. "Laser tag."

Jiro managed a laugh. "Alright, I'm down. Any excuse to find another way for you to get your butt kicked."

Bakugo groweled under his breath, Kirishima laughed nervously. "Come on, guys..."

Akaguro merely snickered under his breath. "Sounds like fun."

One Izuku Midoriya would not be joining them.

Weeks went by, and he never did.

Months, and he never did.

Every night he would come home, feeling like a ghost, lost and taking refuge in a place he didn't belong.

Without his mother here, 'home' was... nowhere. Just a cold house that was barely used, one room he never entered. Dust collected on the door, the handle and doubtless all within. It was wrong to enter that room. Every night he'd go to the fridge and drink just enough to stave off hunger, then he'd go to his room after a long bath.

Occasionally he'd tidy up the paperwork that was left on the dining table, things Vanessa brought with her whenever she'd try and stave off his loneliness. At least with her around the house didn't feel completely abandoned. But even still, whenever she was there, he'd just hide in his room. Leafing through the technical manuals, fiddling with circuitry and trying to comprehend not only a foreign language but also the specifics of the book kept his mind occupied.

When his mind was left to wander he just about went insane.

"Is there a point in continuing?" Moments where his mind was idle, he heard Shigaraki talking. "You clearly don't seem to want to."

What's the alternative?

"you could just die."

Flickers, seconds were the length of time he might have really considered it. ...I can't.

Ultimately, he never did. "Wasn't that what you wanted?" Deku was lying in a little river, unable or not wanting to move. "It wasn't so long ago so as for you to forget. You waited, unmoving for days. What you were you waiting for, if not death?"

He recognized this place. It was that part of the forest he and Bakugo used to play in, the one with the fallen tree. They'd pretended to be heroes, warriors trapped on that little 'bridge' fighting hordes of enemies, or explorers lost in a strange land. Until...

Looking to the far edge, he saw himself, back when he was five. Bakugo was at the head of the troop, as usual, and he was about to cross the bridge. "You ever wonder what would happen if your life ended?" Deku sat up, turning over in the water, preparing to stand. "You could end up anywhere, any time, as another you."

Bakugo fell, and Deku leaped after him. Both versions of Deku. Mid air, the three collided. Mid air, both Dekus merged into one. The landing was more painful than anything he ever remembered feeling. His spine, his back shattered, splitting open against the rocks below. A scream split the air, Bakugo was trashing about, covered in blood. Deku's blood. He thought, for a moment, that he was the one who'd been hurt in the fall, until he saw his green haired friend. "DEKU!" He lurched toward him, pulling his head up, keeping his face above the water. He screamed, crying out for someone to send help, shouting for anyone to some save the broken boy. "Why?" Bakugo cried, "Why did you do that!?"

Deku just smiled, weakly. "Isn't that... what you would have done?"

Then, again, he was just a spectator. Watching as the paramedics carted away the broken body of his younger self. Shigaraki chuckled by his side. "I know this doesn't seem appealing yet..." He snapped his fingers and they were in a hospital. A hospital where-

Deku had to look away.

His mother was begging, pleading for the doctors to save his life. To do something to mend his broken back. "Keep watching," Shigaraki whispered, "This is where the real plot hook comes in!"

Type O-negative... universal donor... unable to receive any blood type but his own... no emergency supply left... A wounded man, sharing the room with little Deku, came hobbling forward and demanded to donate his own blood. A tall, muscly man with blonde hair and black eyes, coughing up no small amount of blood.

Who's he?

Shiagaraki chuckled. "Don't recognize him? Well... maybe you did see him looking a little more like this." With a click of his fingers the man instantly became emaciated, his face gone frail looking with the most angular of features. "Ringing any bells yet?"

I... Deku blinked, I think he's a staff member at UA but... I've really only seen him in passing.

The hospital staff yielded, his blood was taken, the crippled version of Deku was saved. "Look just a little bit closer..." Shigaraki draped an arm over his shoulder, hand on the back of Deku's head, making him lean forward, closer to the man. "Look at his eyes. Really look at his eyes."

Hesitantly, Deku did as he was told. Black sclera, shining blue irises. Whatever significance Shigaraki hoped this would hold, it wasn't coming through to him.

Until he looked up and saw the news.

All Might had just barely won the fight of his life, leaving a villain dead in his wake. Wait... I remember that... All Might was nowhere to be found after the battle, just the corpse of a man he'd been fighting.

"You know it's him," Shigaraki whispered in his ear, as they watched the scenery changing shape again, "almost no one has eyes like that, just you, All Might and what's her name."


"Whatever." The hospital disappeared, soon replaced by a cascade of images, places. Doctor's offices, physical therapy appointments, all in the long process to get him back to a point where he could walk again. "Doesn't this look better? This life, right here? It's got more in it, more people more... love, if that exists."

Younger versions of himself, Bakugo, even Uraraka was there. All the while, as he climbed the impossible mountain to his recovery, they were by his side.

"WE'RE GONNA BE HEROES TOGETHER, GOD DAMMIT!" Bakugo's typical anger, muddled with guilt, determination to see Deku come back from a life-long wound he felt responsible for.

"You can do it, Deku!" Uraraka, ever that beam of sunshine, cheering him on.

His limbs crackled with green, electric energy. Almost like All Might, he smiled, watching his younger self run, after over a decade spent fighting against his own spine. Three children, teenagers, running through the rain. Laughing, enjoying the simple act of running together, leaping over a ditch and crashing to the ground. They looked so happy, it made Deku feel as isolated and alone as he was in waking moments.

"Wouldn't you rather be there?" Shigaraki clicked his fingers and the illusion turned to dust, drifting away in the wind. "It would be so simple, wouldn't it? To just... go there? Find a better world at the end of this one." Ashen dust, cascading away in the air, making way for a murky, grey-white expanse. There, he and Shigaraki stood alone. The dead villain faced him with a tired smile. "To be happier in another life... One where you're not so alone, where your mistakes don't weigh as much as the world itself, where it's not all only pain." It was far more tempting that he wanted to admit.

One day, after school, he was trudging his way home when he got a call.


Answering it, he gave a simple greeting and waited for a reply.

"I... need your help."

Something in Deku's chest tightened, air pulled into his lungs in a way it hadn't in some time. "What do you need me to do?"

Todoroki drew in a sharp breath. "I want to go see my mom, but... I'm scared to do it alone." Deku's hand tightened around his phone. "I just need someone there."

Then, it was Deku's turn to take a much needed, bracing breath. "...Okay."

Hospitals always felt strange to him. So clean, spotless, at least on the good days, like no one ever set foot in the place. As those thoughts crossed his mind, he heard Shigaraki laughing. "If that's what you think of hospitals, you had the nice insurance."

Turning his head away from the voice, he scratched at the back of his neck. "H-how- ...where is she?"

Todoroki mumbled, his cold disposition giving way to a nervous, bumbling teenager. "Uhm... just, up this way, I think." He swallowed, breath uneven, shaky. "I've... never visited her before."

Deku bit at his upper lip, steeling himself. One of his hands patted Todoroki's shoulder. "Just tell me what you need, okay?"

Todoroki nodded, and then it was up an all too short flight of stairs. The attending nurse directed them to the furthest room down the hall, a single bedroom. "Well," Shigaraki grinned, "at least she gets sunlight." Somehow, Deku got the feeling of someone pointing, like a shadow in the corner of his eye, only there was nothing there. "See that room? Opposite side?" Deku quickly averted his gaze. "No sunlight for that poor soul, but maybe they want it that way."

Todoroki was hesitating at the door, his fingers on the handle, startling away from it. His breathing was shaky again, short and ragged. For a moment Deku didn't know what to do, what to say.

Then he remembered why they were here.

Putting a hand, once again, on Todoroki's shoulder he spoke a few gentle words. "How many tomorrows do you have with her?"

Shocked, blinking rapidly, Todoroki turned to him. "I- I don't know."

A very sad smile crossed Deku's lips. "That's right." And he patted his friend's shoulder again. It was all Todoroki needed to knock, wait for an answer, then go inside.

Dragging hands over his tired face, the vampire slumped against the wall. His fingertips told him the bags under his eyes had gone softer than the rest of the skin on his face, smoother than the scar tissue. Lines were forming, thin ones, around the edges of his eyes. The lids felt dry, lashes saturated with oil, like his body was trying to hold itself together but was forgetting how. Lack of sleep was taking a toll. Weird thing was, that wasn't all he noticed. Something scratchy, rough on his face lined his lips, jaw, cheeks. Confused, he fussed at the strange intrusion. It wasn't stuck, no matter how much he picked or pried it stayed where it was. The strange substance on his face was a growth.

"That substance is called 'hair', if you were wondering." Blinking, Deku turned toward the source of the voice, only there was nothing there. "Good, search for a voice that's not there. You're in the perfect place for it."

"Shut up."

Shigaraki laughed. "Yes, keep talking out loud. Only proving me right."

Wiping his hands over his face again, Deku hid the twitch of a snarl he couldn't contain. Taking a deep breath he managed to level his nerves and shut out the voice again. Instead he heard others, the voices of two Todorokis.

Gentle rustling of hair, someone petting the side of someone else's face. "You've grown up..." The voice of his mother, speaking in that way that only mothers can to their children. That tone of voice that somehow tells you that everything will be alright.

"It doesn't feel like it." Murmured he, an ache in his heart that Deku couldn't help but hear in the waver of his voice.

"No, but I can see it in your eyes, it's the kind of thing one sees there when someone had to grow up too quickly." Deku clenched his fingers tight. "I should have been there..."

There was a strain in Todoroki's voice, the effort of choking back a sob. "No, you- you're not to blame. You didn't chose to be-"

Somehow, silently she shushed him. "I did. That choice was when I put that mark on you." Deku's breathing halted, his eyes creeping further open. "Stupidest thing I've ever done..."

"That wasn't your fault!" Todoroki's hand took hers. "He hurt you! He- he made you! You didn't know what you were doing because of the pain!" A quiet desperation pleaded to be heard, in that hushed and urgent tone.

'please don't talk like that...

just let me love you...

let me forgive you.'

Her arms wrapped around him, holding his form tight. "My sweet boy..." Her voice, that waver threatening to turn to tears... 'I wish that were true.'

"So... Endeavor he... he did that to you?"

"...Not... Directly."

Even as the pair of them walked away from the hospital, what felt like ages later, Deku still felt nauseous from that particular realization. Sniveling, barely holding himself together, was Todoroki. "You okay?"

"No," he half laughed, half sobbed, "...but thanks for coming with me."

Offering a smile, one he hadn't intended to look sad, Deku murmured. "Anytime."

After such an errand, the journey home was one that felt all the emptier. Returning, venturing through that doorway only to find an empty house, no one there to greet him. No note left on the table, the shoes he didn't own had gathered dust. Dust that was kicked up when he dropped his backpack by the door. Shoes slid off he slunk away to his room, dove into his bed and pulled his pillow tight against his face. In the suffocating embrace of the fabric, muffling the sound, he screamed as loud as he possibly could.

It wasn't enough.

So, he threw his pillow at the wall, ran from his room and forced his feet back into his shoes, before running out the door.

Hours later, he was at a salvage yard, throwing himself against what was left of a subway car. His fists punched through the metal walls, his knees scraping off skin as they shattered glass, shoes tearing and flaking with each shattering impact. With every blow dealt to the broken car, memories flickered like an old recording. Patrols spent chasing villains, times he'd been injured in all manner of ways. Bullets tearing through his arms, legs, grazing past his face. Knives ripping through his skin, muscles, claws at his acid, acid on his back, fire on his legs.

Screaming of the innocent, people begging to be saved. All he ever said, with a sad little smirk was, "it's going to be alright." Words always tasting of a lie, he never believed them, never felt as if anything was alright anymore. All the same, as time rolled on, the name 'Guren' became something known to the public, a name and presence that could put fears to rest.

For every life he saved, his heart weighed heavier still, reminded of the one he'd failed so entirely to preserve.

Eventually there was little more than a hunk of dented metal, which he hauled above his head and slammed into the ground until his body was too weak to continue.

Helpless, alone, frustrated and confused. Had he any way to process or recognize the state of his mind, perhaps this wouldn't be where he was. Standing up was like lifting the world itself, walking, dragging his feet home, wasn't much better. By the time he returned home, his strength had left him completely. As soon as he'd locked the door, kicked off his shoes and fallen onto the couch, he was asleep.

Many nights went by where he returned home in such a state. Waking up, arm hanging off the side of the couch, his clothes wrinkled and smelling of dried sweat and blood. Many nights went by where he dreamed of that 'other life', one where he had his family, friends who were by his side no matter what. Just dreams, idle fantasies that would never be. "Not if you're not willing to make it happen." Said that irritating, haunting voice.

"Shut up..." He murmured, rubbing at his eye.

"I didn't say anything."

The voice in his home made him leap to his feat. Vanessa's eyebrows leapt to her hairline, eyes fluttering rapidly. "How- When-!?"

She pointed calmly to the front door. "I came by to see how you were after last night's patrol. The door wasn't even closed."

It took a moment for the measure of his carelessness to settle in. When it did, a quiet, breathy sigh pushed past his lips. "Oh." In truth he was getting used to her visits, the nights she'd swing by to make sure he was alright. Most of those nights were spent in silence, she'd try to get him to talk to her but he'd just slink away. Off to his room to keep translating those manuals.

"You need to talk to someone." His eyes shut tight for a moment, a grimace breaking out across his face. "If you haven't already, that is."

"I'm fine..." He lied, stalking off to his room to grab a fresh change of clothes, before running off to school.

He peeled himself off the hardwood floor, wiping blood from his face even as the bloody lip healed itself. Aizawa sighed, walking away to take a long drink from a water bottle he'd brought. When Deku had righted himself again, sitting up, the scraggly man threw a thermos his way. Catching it with one hand, the vampire popped off the lid and drained it in seconds.

Aizawa gave him a sympathetic look. "You've been pushing yourself pretty hard, haven't you?"

Gasping for air, after drink so much so fast, Deku gave his mentor a curious look. "What?"

The hero gestured to his face. "You're bruises, cuts, they're taking longer to heal than usual."

Sighing, settling his breath, Deku climbed back to his feet. "I'm fine."

"No you're not." Aizawa crossed his arms. "You're usually more difficult to beat than this, you're weaker than usual."

Clenching his jaw, taking a deep breath, Deku realized he was starting to feel annoyed. "Sir... I'm okay." Please drop the subject, don't make me talk about it.

Cold, tired eyes looked into that of the youth's. In more ways than one he was starting to see his own reflection in the boy. The way he carried himself, the way he fought, that persistent guilt that colored everything about him, how he was more of ghost than actual presence in the class. His grades had been slipping too, questions turned up wrong on tests that he had no place erring. His focus was radically shifted, but to where neither could say for certain. Half the time, it seemed that someone else had the boy's ear, had his attention thoroughly in their grasp.

After toweling away his sweat, after sparring with his teacher, Deku would wander off and change into his armor. After school he went on patrol until he was made to go home, usually by Vanessa. Tonight would be just another like all the rest, save for one thing: Akaguro wanted to patrol with him, for an undisclosed reason. They'd talked about it briefly in class, something about the request seemed... urgent, so how could he refuse?

Sunglasses secured, mask over his face, he trudged along, head held as high as he could manage. He wore the same armor that he had during his first heroics class, only now the mask stood out more than the armor. All the burns, scratches, signs of wear and tear made it look almost ancient. Coupled with the battered sunglasses, the silly, round-rimmed things he'd replaced the old ones with, he might have looked like a seasoned hero.

It was just another turn round the corner, the train station to his usual route, but someone caught his eye. The tall, messy-haired boy he was meant to meet, in armor similar to his own, a katana over his back, roses in his hand. Roses? Deku blinked, stopping in his tracks. There was something off about the way he carried them. His fingers cradling the flowers through the plastic wrapping, how his shoulders slumped like they were weighed down, his slow dragging steps, walking almost like...

Picking up the pace, it only took a few steps to reach his friend. "Hey."

Akaguro turned around, blinking, surprised to hear Deku's voice. "Guren," he smiled, "It's been a while since we hung out."

"It doesn't feel like it has."

Akaguro shrugged. "It's good to see you either way. What's up? You seem concerned."

Deku pointed to the roses. "Just... wondering what's going on."

The dhampire's smile flinched away, holding the roses in both hands, his fingers wrung at them through their plastic sheath. "Right... these." His smile came back, sad this time, and he motioned for the boy to follow him. "I have to deliver them somewhere."


Akaguro beckoned for him follow. "It's better if I just show you..."

The two of them walked in silence, Stendhal and Guren Fang. Every now and then a civilian would wave at them, shout something encouraging, a kid would run up and hug Deku's legs before running away again. As they drew nearer to their destination, such occurrences became fewer. As the buildings became more unkempt, more rotten, so too did the people. Quiet desperation saturated the air, the smell of decay and neglect filling their nostrils. Eventually, in a neighborhood long abandoned, they found a pair of buildings reduced to rubble.

"What happened here?" Deku murmured taking in the sight with wide, searching eyes. There was something... haunting about this place.

Placing the flowers down, on the rightmost building's doorstep, Akaguro searched for the right words. "It's... what I have, instead of a grave to visit." He kissed his fingertips, then pressed his fingertips to the flowers. "This old motel, it's... where they died."


"It's the first time I've ever been back here, I... didn't want to do it alone." Hands in the pockets of his costume, Akaguro's foot fussed at the concrete of the sidewalk. "I can still the smoke, the propane, the burning concrete, the blood... hear the hunter's synthesized voice." Shaking his head, the taller boy put a hand on Deku's shoulder. "But that doesn't matter now." He gave his compatriot a sad smile. "We're the last of us now, brother." His fingers squeezed at Deku's shoulder, affectionately. "What matters is making that count."

Brother... Deku almost smiled at that. "I think I know what you mean."

Most patrols went by uneventfully. There was the occasional bit of violence, the random mugging or villain attack, but Deku always had a handle on it. His ability to scale walls, speed and agility made any attempt to flee him almost impossible for all but a few. Those same attributes, along with his strength, claws and healing factor saw to many a victory in combat. Even as the snow began to fall, a event that slowed down many a hero, didn't impede him much. When he'd started, injuries were earned every single fight. Now? Now he almost saw his own blood in combat, not unless he was up against a serious threat; an opponent with considerable skill or ability.

Tonight was a night that had no significant event. Just a walk around the snowy streets, looking for any sign of trouble, reminding the public that heroes were about, constantly vigilant. He yawned, his jaw threatening to dislocate with the exaggerated effort and to his right Uraraka did the same. "Thank goodness for boring nights."

He laughed, or scoffed, he wasn't sure which. "Yeah, nice change of pace."

Skipping, arms swaying by her sides as she made her way to walk backwards in front of him, Uraraka gave him as friendly a smile as she could manage. "You don't seem very sure of that..."

"...I'm just tired."

She frowned. "You're always tired."

Frowning now himself, he was grateful for the mask that hid such an expression. "It's nothing to worry about, really." She pouted, clearly not buying it. "Just a lot of late nights."

She deliberated what to say, mulling over what she might have been able to say that would help, or coax into talking. Ultimately, she thought of nothing. "Okay," she sighed, spinning around. Resuming their walk in silence. "...Hey," she said after a time, "are you... busy? This new years, I mean." Her hands wrung at each other, she was obviously trying to let him look at her face.

He almost stopped in his tracks. "Erm, no?"

Eyebrows raised, slightly tilted, she gave him a sidelong look. Part nervous, part vulnerable she gripped her hands together as they kept walking. "Do you... wanna hang out then?"

Wait, she doesn't mean-? That blush on her face, the nervous hesitance with which her feet met the ground ...You are kidding me. "Uh, sure? Yeah, that... sounds fun." You're crazy. After all the times I've blown you off?

Her mood lightened right up. "Awesome!" She threw a celebratory fist into the air. "...You're gonna make it this time, right?" There was that sad nervousness again, puppy dog, brown eyes pulling at what few heartstrings he had that could still be reached.

Damn it... "Yeah," he breathed, trying to smile, "I'll... I'll make it."

She too, did her best to smile. "You better mean it this time..." Guilt squared right up to punch him in the gut. "I feel like I've barely seen you in years."

Deku actually laughed. "Years? We haven't known each other that long. I mean... almost one," he gestured to the snow, "clearly..."

Uraraka blinked, apparently very taken aback by that statement. "Um..." then she sighed, a hand pushing at her forehead, fingers weaving into her hair. "Yeah... that's right, Deku. It's been a year..."

Hearing the hopelessness in her tone, he immediately felt bad for laughing. "...Sorry." His hands fell into his pockets. "Keeping track of things hasn't been much of a priority lately..."

"What has been, then?" Her tone was curious, searching not the least bit annoyed, to her credit.

Unfortunately, he had no answer. "Mostly just... trying to pick myself up. Move on, move forward." His hands gripped in his pockets. It wasn't... it wasn't entirely a lie.


She walked to his side, closer than anyone had gotten in so long, not without intent to harm. Slowly, Uraraka leaned up close to his face and closed her eyes. He didn't feel it, he wasn't sure his brain would have let him even if the mask was off, but she'd kissed his cheek. "Seeyousoonbye!" And she ran away.

"Ah- I-" he stammered, utterly failing to formulate anything even remotely close to sentence. He felt like his face was melting, blushing with such intensity that it had spread to his shoulders. Clearing his throat he did his best to try and think what had just happened.

That wasn't real. His brain demanded. That did not just happen. Lack of sleep, that's all that was!

The sudden rining of his phone is his pocket practically gave him a heart attack. Hand over his heart, reaching for his phone, he gulped down his nerves and brought it to his ear. "H-Hello?"

A loud sniffling sound caught his ear before the voice. "Hey..."

He blinked. "Yaoyorozu?" why was she calling him? It sounded like she'd been crying. "Are- are you okay?"

"No..." her voice was quiet, weak, like the life had just been kicked out of her. "I... can you- can you meet me? I don't want to be alone right now."

"Y-yeah, sure!" He pulled his mask off, so she could hear him better. "Just send me the address."

Less than an hour late, after no small amount of running, he found her, bundled up in her winter attire on the steps of an apartment building. Breathlessly he waved, she wiped away at her nose with a handkerchief. "Thank you for coming."

He nodded, still out of breath. "Not... where I... thought you'd live..." he panted, almost laughing as he did.

Self conscious, she gripped at her shoulders. "I... it's not." She hid part of her face, her mouth and jawline, in the crook of her elbow. "I needed time away from home."

Nodding again, some of his second -more probably his third- wind had gotten him some energy back. He sat down next to her. "What happened?"

She winced. "I... did I tell you that I come from a long line of heroes?"

He shook his head. "No but... I recognized your name, the day we met."

She laughed a little, a small smile peering through he wounded state. "That's me, heir to Yaoyorozu legacy." She sighed, leaning back on her hands and staring up at the stars. "And all the expectations that go with it..."

He wasn't sure he understood. "Are they... not happy with your progress as a hero?"

Sniffling again, she nodded. "My grades were a bit behind, this last report card," He'd almost forgotten those were a thing... her fingers fussed at some snow as she went on, "couple that with a few accidents during training and... mom's angry that I'm not doing better."

His eyes fluttered, "Accidents? You're- from what I've seen you're doing better than most of us." Another sad smile crossed her lips, eyes cast to the ground. "Where'd she get that idea?"

"...That's UA's training regimen." The statement hit him right where he lived. "Not mom's."

For a moment, he had no idea what to say. That wasn't something he'd ever had experience with. He almost gave up on comforting her altogether, when a thought crossed his mind. "Can we go for a walk?"

She blinking, sniffing a little bit. "Hmm?"

He pointed down the street. "Trust me." He stood up, taking her by the hands as he pulled her to her feet, leaving her very confused. "You'll feel better soon." Letting go of her hands he started walking and she followed. A mitten clad hand at the back of her neck fussed at her pony tail, as she nervously gazed about.

She was following a vampire to some unknown location. It had her heart in her throat.

Before long they'd arrived at- she blinked. A hotdog stand? "hey, Tsunohara." Deku smiled. "How's business?"

"Still here, ain't I?" The grey-bearded man laughed, giving the boy a hug. "Ain't the same since, well... my best costumer stopped coming around." Deku winced, doing his best to keep smiling. Yaoyorozu noted his smile was... strained, forced.


"Well," Deku shrugged, "I brought you a new one," he gestured to Yaoyorozu, "think you could whip up a- ...a couple of Midoriya house specials?"

The bearded man laughed. "Sure thing, little man." and he set to work dressing up some sausages. Deku handed him some cash, then the food was in his hands. "Hey... thanks again, all that time ago, for that pocket money back at the doc's office." The bearded man smiled wide at him. "Got myself cleaned up enough to get a job, thanks to that."

Handing Yaorozu her hotdog, Deku pointed at the old man's beard. "Probably would've been easier to find one without that thing though."

Mocking a frown, Tsunohara stroked his beard. "You ain't suggesting I get rid of my soup catcher?" With glazed eyes, he gazed into the distance. "Can't do that. Shave this, and people no longer know I am wise." Yaoyorozu couldn't help the giggle that followed, and it put a twinkle in the old man's eyes.

Deku, perhaps sympathetically, conceded. "Yeah, they probably wouldn't."

"Well don't let me keep ya," Tsunohara tipped his hat to the teenagers, "have a good night you two."

"Nice to meet you." Yaoyaorozu offered with a smile, as she and Deku walked away. "So..." she whispered, holding up the thoroughly seasoned hotdog. "this is your cure for sadness?"

Deku shrugged. "Well, that and Tsunohara's personality." Yaoyorozu giggled again, the vampire let out a little sigh. "I was out for a walk with my mom one night and... we just found him, got to talking and it turned out he made the best hotdogs in the city." His tired smile was sad now, as he regarded said hotdog. "She used to get these whenever work got her down."

"Really?" Yaoyorozu, raised her eyebrows. "They're that good?" Deku gestured to hers, indicating she had to try a bite to know. Hesitantly, she did and her eyes fluttered before lolling nearly to the back of her head. Savoring the delicious flavor that only truly cheep food bring, she slowly finished the bite. "Oh my god." Then she hungrily took another. "Okay," she said, between bites. "You were right." Then she noticed he wasn't eating. "Not feeling well?"

He hesitated. "Well... if I eat it I wont be."

She blushed, feeling silly for having forgotten his dietary restrictions. "Right, sorry."

Shaking his head, he batted the idea away. "It's not your problem." Holding up the offending food item, he said, "however, this is mine." and before she could stop him, he took as big a bite as he could. He took a few minutes to drink in the taste of it before swallowing with a harsh grimace. Groaning, he had to stop walking for a moment gripping at his stomach.

Amused, a hand on his back, she smiled. "Was it worth it?" Nodding, obviously still uncomfortable, he took a bite that completely finished it off and she burst out laughing.

"Yes," he managed with a strained voice, "hundred percent." It sounded like he was having trouble breathing.

Sitting down, a little way's later, Deku and Yaoyorozu just sat in silence, looking at the night sky. Giving him a searching look, trying to see the real him underneath this all too amusing act, she sighed. "Thank you." Curious, he turned to look at her. "I know you haven't been yourself lately." Guilty as charged, he looked away, rubbing the back of his neck. "So... cheering me up was very kind."

He shrugged. "Isn't that what friends do?"

She opened her mouth to speak, to say something, but ultimately did not.

I know, he thought, I've ghost lately, you don't have to tell me. Although, speaking of ghosts, "Why wasn't Jiro your first call? Or Todoroki?" She tilted her head, unsure what he meant. "I thought they were your closest friends, not- not me."

She gave a lopsided frown. "Well, Jiro's out of town and... Todoroki has worse things going on with his own family. He'd probably just think I was being selfish if I went to him."

Deku blinked. "We're... talking about the same guy, right?" She gave him a look, he continued anyways. "He's not like that."

Looking at the ground, her fingers fussed at her mittens. "I'm not so sure..."

"You should talk to him about it," Deku suggested, feeling his stomach turning, "if nothing else, you both know what it's like. Maybe you can help each other." Biting at her lower lip, she mulled it over. "He clearly told you about his family," he shrugged, "that means he trusts you, appreciates you enough to open up about important things." She gave him a nervous, vulnerable look. "If anything, he'll probably feel happy that you feel the same way."

"After he's done feeling sorry for me..." she muttered.

Another, slow shrug. "What's wrong with sympathy?"

She squirmed a little. "It feels... tricky. Like I'd be manipulating him into feeling something for me that he wouldn't otherwise." Slowly, Deku blinked, beginning to realize what they were really talking about here. "I don't know..." she hugged herself, suddenly feeling very small. "it just feels like the sort of thing I should talk to friends about."

Romance is in the air and on people's minds tonight, I guess... "Well... isn't he your friend."

Surprised, she turned right to him. "Of- of course!"

"So what's wrong with talking to him about your problems too?"

Eyes off to the side, she failed to think of another reason why not. Sighing, smiling, she gave him an appreciative look. "Thanks again, Midoriya." She stood up, a spring in her movements told him that she felt much better. "You're a good friend. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

Nodding, he did his best to just take the compliment, but wound up blushing as a result. "Anytime." After a hug, the two of them went their separate ways, and Deku failed to fight back another jaw-breaking yawn.

He fell back-first onto the couch, sighing away what stress he could. Still in his armor, no idea what day it was, he only knew how heavy his body felt. To his left, on the coffee table, his phone sat in silence. A few unread messages, probably from friends, earned no reaction. They wanted to know where he was, why he hadn't shown up again, not that it mattered. They always managed to have fun one way or another, those texts, even if he answered them wouldn't affect much of anything. Besides, if he showed up for whatever game they were playing the teams would be uneven.

"Not exactly the logic of a philosopher." Deku let out an annoyed sigh, at the sound of Shigaraki's voice. "They'll get sick of you blowing them off eventually."

Your point?

Shigaraki shrugged, kicking back in the easy-chair, dirty shoes placed up on the coffee table. "Oh, nothing I suppose."

Rolling his eyes, Deku stood up, stripping off the armor and grabbing some sweatpants from his room. Dirty shoes on the furniture reminded him that he hadn't really cleaned the house in ages. Just say it...

"Already did," Shigaraki yawned, "You're choosing not to do anything about it." And he folded his hands behind his head, closing his eyes while Deku started sweeping.

"Yeah," Muttered Deku, "because I know where this conversation is headed." In his anger, the broom was scraping against the floor, kicking up more dirt and dust than it gathered to the dustpan. "I say something about not having the energy, not seeing the point, futility. Then you come in with something about about leaving all of it behind and trying for that 'other life' you keep plaguing me about, that I keep dreaming about."

The dead villain laughed. "Ah... I do love our chats."

"They've gotten seriously old." Deku emptied the dustpan into the trashcan, trying not to stomp his way to the sinks, he filled one with water and soaped up the sponge.

Stretching, his shattered, pulpy ribs popping and crunching with the motion, Shigaraki sighed. "Just trying to help you find happiness."

Deku drew in a sharp breath. "No, you vouching for me to kill myself So I can chase after a fairy tale."

"Not necessarily," he almost sounded offended, "you haven't gotten to the good part of it yet."

The vampire scoffed out a single laugh. "What? All Might stepping in as my dad isn't the good part?"

Shigaraki grinned. "Wanna find out what's better than that?"

Deku just shook his head. "Knowing you," he turned off the tap, grabbing a glass and submerging it in the water before scrubbing it down. "It's probably something horrible." With a clatter, he set the glass in the drying rack. "Someone dies, I'm guessing. World gets spun into some form of depressing, hopeless chaos."

A laugh was the villain's reply. "Now why does that sound familiar?" Mockingly he stroked at his chin. "I swear, something like that must have happened to you already."

He practically slammed the next glass into the rack, taking a moment to breathe, center himself. His breath shuddered, in through his nose as he tried not to cry.

"And you don't really know me," Shigaraki sighed, "a minute's worth of conversation, tops, that was all we had before I wound up in the ground."

"Yeah..." Deku's shaky hands reached for another glass. "But you've been hounding me for a lot longer than that."

Slowly, the villain blinked, a wry smile stretching his chewed lips. "Who exactly... do you think I am, Deku?"

Deku shrugged. "The psychopath who tried to slaughter a bunch of teenagers?"

"No that was the real me," Shigaraki sat up, his hands on his lap now. "We both know that's not who I am."

Another roll of his mismatched eyes, "keep waxing philosophical," another two glasses cleaned, "you're just a hallucination."

Shigaraki threw up his hands, "true, but with your diagnosis it has to be significant."

Deku blinked, "I don't have a diagnosis." He turned around, confused, annoyed, seeing Shigaraki nose deep in a psychology book.

"Hmm," he mockingly hummed, "Post traumatic stress disorder..." the villain stood up, an index pointing up decidedly as he paced about, reading aloud. "Diagnostic criteria for the ailment. The patient must have experienced one of the following: One, directly experiencing a traumatic event. Two, witnessing in person a traumatic event, or three, learning of a traumatic event happening to a close family member." Once again, Deku blinked his expression shifting from confused anger as a pit formed in his stomach. Shiagaraki nodded sagely. "Well, you've been through at least two of those."

Shoulders slumping slightly, Deku's eyes drifted to the floor. "...What else does it say?"

"Symptoms include!" Shigaraki dramatically declared, "memories of the event interrupting the day, dreams related to the incident, psychological distress when exposed to stimuli relating to the event and psychological reactions to those cues."

"...'psychological reactions' could mean anything."

Whistling, Shigaraki leafed through the pages for a moment before launching into another tangent. "Let's see... trauma's effects affects on patient's emotional life and self identity... One, inability to remember specific details about the traumatic event. Two, persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations of oneself, others or the world. 'I cannot be trusted', 'I am bad', 'no one else can be trusted.' And -this one is my favorite- 'the world is a horrible place.' Which, it is, to be fair."

Laughing, Shigaraki went on. "Three, persistent, distorted blame of self or others in relation to the cause or consequences of the traumatic events. Four, persistent fear, horror, anger guilt or shame. Five, markedly diminished interest or participation is significant activities. Six, feelings of estrangement, detachment from others. Finally, seven, persistent inability to experience positive emotions." With a sickeningly wide grin, Shigaraki looked at Deku with wild eyes. "Tell me, how many of those have you exhibited? Cause you only need one or two from each list for a diagnosis!"

He fell back, leaning against the counter, his hands resting on the edge of the sink. "You mean... since mom died?"

Shigaraki's head tilted back, howling with laughter that rattled his broken ribs. "Why start there?" He shook his head, still grinning. "You've experienced a multitude of these criteria since before even UA." He started pacing again, finger pointing up for each tally mark Deku met. "There's me -shocking, I know- your nightmares since you turned into this... thing. The amount of pain you feel every time you slip up and almost bite someone. You think you're a literal monster, you blame yourself for not only my death but your mother's death, you're definitely feeling guilt and shame most of the time, you ignore your friends and struggle with your schoolwork. You've always had trouble feeling connected to others and you barely even remember what it's like to smile without forcing it at this point."

For a long time, a long time, Deku stared at the floor, pondering. It wasn't a professional diagnosis, but, the evidence was compelling. Except... "Hallucinations weren't on that list."

Shigaraki just smiled, wickedly. "Open your eyes, Deku."

A startled breath, a jolt of his body, and he found he was back on the couch. Sitting up, his breathing heavy, quick, he put a hand on his armored chest. He'd never left the couch. "Izuku?"

Turning about, toward the kitchen, he saw Vanessa filling out paperwork, like usual. "Yeah?"

Concern plain on her face, quietly she spoke. "Are you alright?"

Gulping, legs over the side of the couch his eyes drifted to the coffee table and the open psychology book lying upon it. "...Yeah." he breathed. "I'm- I'm okay..." Standing up, he ventured to his room. He was awake, might as well do that cleaning... He was halfway into his shirt when a thought occurred. Pulling it the rest of the way on, he held his breath and opened his door. "Vanessa?"


"...What day is it?"

She shrugged, "the first of January, why?" His eyes shut slowly tight, face grimacing as it upturned toward the ceiling. Palms shoving into his eyes, fingers wringing through his hair, a feeling of utter stupidity flooded him. "Is everything alright?" When he didn't know what to say, it only took a few moments to puzzle it out. It had been a long since she'd last discussed this topic. "...Did you not want to see them?"

His face told exactly how foolish, sad he felt. "Yeah..." but then shrugged. "But no..." he winced again, biting at his upper lip. "Either way she didn't deserve to be stood up tonight."

Vanessa gave a gentle smile. "Did she on any of the other nights?"

Eyes fluttering, he looked into hers. "Did you go through my phone?"

She shook her head, "your friends talk, and you know how good my hearing is." Face buried in his hands again he slumped against the wall and slid down, until he was sitting on the floor. "I'm sure she'll still want to be friends."

"Do I deserve that?"

She shrugged. "No, but does anyone?"

Sighing, his head slumped back, knocking against the wall as he stared up at the ceiling. "Right..." He dragged himself up, off the floor with a groaning sigh. "At this rate I'll be lucky to have any friends left for class during junior year."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "Junior year?"

"Yeah, you know, eleventh grade?" he said, reaching for the broom, "I'm still going to UA then, plan hasn't changed."

She almost didn't have the tell him. Almost. "Izuku... this is your junior year."

He froze, heart stopping, breath stopping completely. Eyes creeping wide, he looked her right in the eyes. "...What?"

She gave him a very sad look. "Please go to therapy." Stunned, unable to do anything but accept this as the truth, he slumped back against the wall, staring numbly at the floor. "If you don't, well... I'm afraid you'll just let the rest of your life drift along like this."

A hand pressed into his forehead, fingers snaring into his hair. "You're telling me I've been a vampire for two years?" It was all he could do not to scream, not to black out. "My- my mom died over a year and a half ago?" He felt faint, fuzzy, weak, his legs threatened to buckle beneath him. "I've-" he gulped, "I-"

"Izuku, breathe." He couldn't, spinning around, eyes to the back of his head, he fell.

He was unconscious even before his head hit the lip of the couch.

In his dream he saw Shigaraki, and he was smiling. Smiling like a man who had every right to say, "I told you." and he did.

"Yeah," Deku exhaled, nodding as a feeling of numbness washed over him. "You did..."

Smiling, Shigaraki walked to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Want to see more of that 'other life' again?" At Deku's urgent nod, the villain patted his shoulder, and showed him the way.

What was the difference, when life was one big bad dream anyways?

"The sun is the same, in a relative way, but you're older...

shorter of breath, and one day closer to death... "

Chapter Text

One of Musutafu's nicer parks, on a clear, summer night. Live music, fireworks, two teenagers dancing near and nearly in a fountain. Him, him and her probably exactly as she'd wanted last night, dancing together. Truly, his imagination was a sadistic thing when it wanted to be. Beside him, spectating along with him, Shigaraki poked at his broken ribs. "Are they supposed to be so... squishy?" Deku sighed, eyes closing in an effort to maintain his patience. "I guess not, seeing how I'm dead and all."

"You talk more now that you're dead..." Muttered the vampire.

In reply, the dead villain merely laughed. "Sassy," he elbowed Deku in the ribs, "I knew you had a spine in there somewhere."

Taking a seat, lounging against a tree, Deku put his chin his palm. "Why are you showing me this?"

Shigaraki shrugged. "Same reason as always." He sat down beside the vampire, his ribs making wet crunching noises as he did. "Is it working?"

The vampire shook his head. "Was it supposed to?"

Defeated, the villain lay back, arms stretching above his head, earning more incredibly nauseating sounds from his ribs. "Figured it might, a world where you hadn't screwed things up with her."

Tilting his head back, sighing again, Deku stared at what his believed the night sky should look like. "This may come as a surprise," he breathed, "but I don't..." something in his chest twisted, putting a queasy little pit in his stomach. "I don't..." He gulped, head lowering again, eyes at the ground. "feel that way about her..."

"Pity you didn't tell her that." Shigaraki stretched again, the sounds his body made were outright disgusting. "Ah well, I'll think of something to push over the edge yet."

At this point, Deku was having an easier time believing that he'd formed a second personality than thinking he had PTSD. "Yeah... good luck with that."

Shigaraki turned and gave him a puzzled look. "You really just don't care about yourself anymore, one way or the other, do you?"

Deku took a deep breath. "Evidence seems to point that way..."

"That's about as noncommittal as an answer can get."

"So read into it what you want," Deku snapped, "I'm tired of this... all of it." He fell back, into the grass. "This conversation, this life, this dream... I just want to rest, for my life to calm down."

Slowly, the dead villain turned his head, and looked at Deku. "What about the next life?"

Deku scoffed, "What about it?" He closed his eyes. "No, I don't want it. If there's an ending to be had, then I'll have it once this life ends. No... no next steps, no other journeys, no reincarnation." His hand reached up, toward the sky. "It's all gotta end at some point, right?"

In disbelief, Shigaraki sat up. "...You've completely given up." It wasn't a question, and Deku didn't disagree. "Happiness, you... you don't think it exists anymore."

Taking in a slow, deep breath, the vampire opened his eyes and smiled. He turned and looked the villain in the eyes, "I didn't say that..."

"I can see it in you," he said with a nearly breathless voice, "this place, this little dream you hold onto, something here makes you want it. Why shouldn't it be that you no longer see any such thing as happiness?"

Quietly, he sighed. "There is something here, in this little hideaway." Smiling again, he said one thing more. "But I'm not sure what it is."


Thrumming of a fan, a cold breeze on his face and a piercing pain that seemed to permeate every nano-meter of his skull. Okay, maybe now he wished he was dead, because lord alive was he in pain. Groaning, he fought to sit up but was soon met with a hand on his chest holding him, gently where he was.

"Easy now," Aizawa spoke with a surprising softness, "you just took quite the knock to the head."

Wincing at what little light there was in the room, Deku. "A knock from what? An anvil?"

"The couch." Said Vanessa, somewhat awkwardly.

His pride wounded, and feeling a bit silly besides, Deku only muttered one word in reply, "...oh."

Sighing, Aizawa took a seat on the floor next to the couch where Deku lay. "This isn't good, kid." Deku felt the full weight of those words, guilt digging its teeth into his chest. "This really isn't good."

Shaking his head at himself, Deku murmured. "I know..." So much lost time, so many things he simply didn't remember. Two years of his life, zoomed right by in a dissociative haze. He was about to enter into his final year at UA...

"I was really hoping you wouldn't have this damned affliction," Aizawa dragged a hand down his tired, tired face, "it's... going to complicate things, moving forward."

Deku turned to see his teacher's face, but only saw the back of his head. "Do I need to be cured before I can be a hero?"

Aizawa scoffed. "Cured?" He almost laughed. "There is no 'cure' for PTSD, kiddo. You're in for the long haul with this one..." Reaching over, he put a sympathetic hand on Deku's shoulder, squeezing a little. "I'm sorry." His voice, the vampire wasn't used to him sounding so... emotional.

Blinking, wondering if he should squeeze his teacher's hand in turn, Deku spoke quietly. "Are- ... are you okay?"

Smiling, Aizawa shook his head. "Of course... you would ask that, wouldn't you?" Hand withdrawn from Deku's shoulder, wearily, the man stood up. "Don't know why I expected anything else." His smile was tired, sad, regretful. "Take tomorrow off, kid." Deku's breath caught, eyes bolting wide. "Just take some time to rest, see a friend, do something that makes you happy."

He was sitting up in less than a second. "I can still go on patro-!"

Aizawa's hands gripped the boy's shoulders, his gaze serious and stern. "Take. The day. Off." The vampire's mouth reluctantly shut, eyes turned to the floor. "You need it. Do you understand?" Reluctantly, Deku nodded. "Okay," Aizawa sighed, taking a moment to breathe, "when you come back, you're starting therapy." Deku went to protest again, but Aizawa held up a silencing hand. "Starting. Therapy."

Thoroughly defeated, Deku shifted his gaze back to the floor. "Yes sir..."

Aizawa wanted to reach out, ruffle the kid's hair, cheer him up a little if he could. However, ultimately, he did not. It wasn't his place, wasn't his right as the kid's teacher. He was here to guide him, protect him and show him how to protect himself. That was all. "Get some sleep, kid." He handed Deku a blanket -one that had been hanging over the back of the easy chair- before he started walking toward the door. "I'll see you soon."

Once outside, at the end of the walkway, Aizawa reached into his pocket and plucked out a cigarette. Lighting it, he took in a long, long draft before letting the smoke ease out of his lungs. It didn't really help, but it did calm him down a little. "What on earth was that?" Vanessa's voice, ever a source of a conflicting emotions. "If I didn't know any better I'd almost think you were starting to care about that child."

The words carried an edge he hadn't expected them to. Slowly, his eyes drifted about half the way open. "Why yes, I was about to thank you for calling me over here for this. You shouldn't have reminded me." He took another long breath of smoke, letting it muddle his mind as much as it could. Considering how long it had been since last he'd smoked, it was a considerable amount.

Vanessa rolled her eyes. "Yes, you're welcome..." muttered she, shaking her head. "I suppose I should be glad you're so invested in taking care of him, all of a sudden."

"You mean like we should have been, two years ago?" Aizawa smirked. "Two broken people trying to coach a child on how to survive in the world..." he laughed, bitterly as he took another long drag. "It would almost sound like some dark comedy, were we not in the middle of it."

It was the vampire's turn to take a deep breath. "You do realize any therapist he talks to is going to find out he's not human." Raising an eyebrow, Aizawa turned about to look at her face. She wasn't looking at him, but rather up at the moon. "It's an central part of what's gone so wrong with his mind, his life and what's continuing to go wrong with both."

Closing his eyes, breathing the smoke out through his nose, Aizawa turned back around, placing the cigarette back at his lips. "The thought crossed my mind..."

She gave him a look. "Did you ever find someone you could talk to?"

Pausing for a moment, Aizawa debated the answer he would give Vanessa. In truth he'd never really talked about it with anyone, words being spoken wouldn't undo the past. However, in the case of his student, maybe it could help him realize what had happened wasn't the boy's fault. "Relax," said he, "a friend once recommended someone to me, and if I could trust them, then Young Midoriya can too."

The word tasted funny as it passed through his lips, 'young', the child was only a few months away from legal adulthood. His status as a minor, and all that did to protect as well as hinder him, was about to go up in smoke.

"I think now's a good time to follow up on that bit of information."

That was about as much of an actual answer as she'd expected. "Fine..." She sighed, turning back toward Deku's home. "Let me know when you set up an appointment, I'll make sure he goes to it."

One less thing to worry about in the long run, at least. Polishing off his cigarette, he threw it down a nearby storm drain and started walking away. In a few short months, they'd be entering into the class's senior year. For once, he wasn't certain of what was going to happen...

An early rise from slumber, he'd fallen asleep at his desk again. At least he'd made sufficient headway with his little project. He'd managed to hook up one bit of circuitry in particular to his laptop. Surprisingly, most of its contents was intact, but that wasn't saying much when dealing with this much data. Only seven percent of it was corrupted, but that meant he'd have to figure out what each of the dozens of files were and replace them. Sighing, he went to his backpack and fished his phone out of it. Hooking the devices together he downloaded the files onto his phone and the laptop.

Just in case...

Phone and pair of earbuds in his pocket he left his room. Climbing into his hoodie, socks and shoes he grabbed his student-hero ID, a thermos from the fridge, a shoulder bag, his mask and sunglasses and put them in various places on his person. Vanessa had fallen asleep at the table, doing paperwork again. Shaking his head with a tired smile, Deku draped a blanket over her shoulders before going outside. Hoodie up, mask over his face and hands to his pockets he just started walking.

Eyes as heavy as cinder blocks, his body refused to shake this feeling of fatigue. Fishing through his pockets for loose change -something in an ever decreasing supply- he found enough for at least a cup of coffee. He'd never really just... gotten a cup of coffee before, he'd always been too nervous to walk into the shops, talk to the people behind the counter. Something about this cold, cold morning told him it was time to try.

Venturing inside, it wasn't long before he got a few worried looks. The barista looked like she was about to panic when Deku sighed, pulled off his mask and hoodie, then showed her his student-hero ID. "I promise not to rob the shop."

She let out a courteous, nervous laugh. "Well, that is certainly appreciated." Inwardly, the vampire groaned, already regretting coming inside. "What'll it be?"

Unsure what to say, Deku shrugged. "What would you recommend?"

Eyes to the ceiling, she thought about this for a minute before she gave a prolonged shrug. "Hazelnut mocha?"

She might as well have been speaking another language. "Yeah, sounds good." He handed her some money, waited a few minutes and then, before long, he was out the door again.

At least it wasn't making him nauseous. Tasted good too, he found, pleasant on his tongue. Strange thing was, he'd always expected it to be hotter than this. Then again he wasn't exactly vulnerable to temperature, not like he used to be. Coffee and black pudding, well at least the list of human foods he could still enjoy was getting longer. As he continued his stroll, he noted with some quiet sense of calm that the streets were surprisingly empty. Taking another sip, enjoying the sweet and savory flavor of the coffee, he took the oppurtunity to just breathe. Fresh air, not something you often get in a city. It figured things would be relatively inactive, first day of the new year. Almost everyone was off work, off school, only a select few heroes -and some in training looking for extra credit- were still active.

"Guess even villains take days off..." he murmured, taking another sip.

"They are only human."

Deku practically drowned. In his surprise at hearing the voice of another person, his coffee had almost slid directly into his lungs.

Shaking his head, sighing, Akaguro patted the poor boy's back. "For one with such exceptional hearing, people seem to have an easy time sneaking up on you."

Coughing, clearing out of his poor lungs, Deku gagged. "it's-" god dammit, he couldn't stop coughing. "not my fault," said he, finally able to breathe, "you're very light on your feet..."

The dhampire shrugged. "My apologies then." Letting out a yawn, he stretched his neck until there was a loud pop. "Surprised to see you up and about, thought you'd still be hiding away."

Suddenly feeling guilty, self conscious, Deku fidgeted as he shyly took another sip. "Yeah... Aizawa ordered me to do something different, take the day off from being a hero." At his friend's raised, incredulous eyebrow, Deku quietly added, "long story."

"Must be," Akaguro's hands went to his pockets, and the vampire noted he was very bundled up. Ratty as his winter ensemble was, it certainly looked cozy. "There isn't much I can think of that would keep you from our work." Of course, even in his faded, puffy parka, 'Stendhal' had his katana slung over his shoulder. Silently, Deku wondered if there was a story behind its acquisition.

Mind back to his friend's words, he had observed correctly. "My time in the field helps me avoid thinking..."

Now that was a surprising thing to hear. "You? Trying not to think?" He chuckled, "must be raining in heaven." Without another word, he stepped into an alley. Leaping, he kicked his foot off of a dumpster and grabbed onto the ladder of a fire escape, climbing his way up the side of the building.

Okay then... Deku opted for the simpler tack. Dropping his empty cup into a receptacle, mask and hood obscuring his face again, he merely started climbing up the wall.

Akaguro laughed, "Paging mister MacGuire." as he continued climbing up the fire escape. From the outside, no less. "You could have just jumped to the roof."

Once upon said roof, Deku shrugged. "Wasn't in the mood."

"I suppose it is a bit early to be fooling about like this," said the dhampire, suddenly feeling very self aware. "Again, apologies. I'm still not used to the company of others, or accommodating their sense of normality."

"No, it's fine." Said Deku, as the walked along the roof. "...You never told me what your life was like." Akaguro stopped in his tracks. "Is it a... sensitive subject?" Maybe he shouldn't have brought it up.

After taking in a slow breath, Akaguro sighed the cold air back out again. "It is..." he said, quietly. "In short, I spent much of my life drifting. Osaka, Kyoto, at one point even Tokyo. Anywhere I felt people wouldn't notice me."

"You like hiding?"

The question gave the dhampire pause, as he continued walking, jumping to the next rooftop. "It's less that than a general mistrust of people." Then Deku was back at his side. "After my friend, Toya, disappeared I... well, I mistook what happened for a long time. Thought he'd just stopped liking me," he scratched at the back of his neck. "After that well, lets just say my foster parent left for some much deserved time in prison."

The way he snarled those words made Deku shudder.

"After that? I found myself with a group of vigilantes. Mostly just putting petty criminals away, the odd villain here or there. Of course, one day that had to end too." His lips twitched, brow angled down and in with glaring eyes, he ran to the rooftop's edge and leapt to the next. "Turned out they were all just a bunch of hypocrites..." He sighed, standing here he was for a time. "That's when I decided I was done with people. Figured it was better I did things on my own. I'd always felt like a black sheep, a lone wolf anyways, or something between the two."

Giving this some thought, Deku concocted an appropriate label. Something with the temperance of both animals, if given the right chances, "So... a black dog?"

To his credit, Akaguro laughed. "Sure, though it sounds weird applied to me; I knew a very strange woman with that pen name once." Batting such silly musings aside, he shook his head and smirked. "Anyways, that's about all there is to it. When I finally got back to Musutafu, I ran into an old... contact. We sat down, I told him my story, he recommended I try to be a hero." As they continued walking, he sneered at a nearby add. A billboard advertising some hair product a hero had endorsed. "Despite my... Issues with the profession."

For a few moments, Deku just looked at his friend, pondering in silence. "Why do you feel that way?" Akaguro turned to him, raising an eyebrow. "You're always talking about the things you don't like about heroes, but you never say why."

It took Akaguro a long time to consider his answer. "...Maybe some day, I'll tell you." He offered a friendly smile, a look of pain flashing across his face, "I've got to meet up with Ingenium. Patrols and whatnot."

Deku blinked. "You're still working with him? You said during your internship that you couldn't stand the guy." funny... he didn't quite remember hearing that, but it didn't feel wrong to say that at all. His mind, the state of it, was getting difficult to deny.

The dhampire shrugged. "I'll let him explain." Then he saluted his friend with a wicked grin. "Until next time, Guren." Then he hopped off the roof.


Sighing, Deku took a look at where he was. Near one of the seedier parts of the city, probably not where he should spent his day off. With a running start he leapt to the next building, his fingers halting his fall, clinging to the side of the high-rise. So his friend had issues opening up about the past, he thought to himself as he climbed. Something he could relate to, among the few things he and Akaguro seemed to have in common. Honestly, he didn't want to think about it. If he thought about it then he might get curious, and he'd already learned as much as he was going to.

It only made sense to leave the past where it lay.

Of course, as reality often demands, that it rarely does. Far behind schedule and deliberately so, months later, there he was, waiting in a lobby for his appointment with the therapist. Vanessa sat by his side, a book held between her fingers, peering at the pages from behind her sunglasses. "Nervous?" Said she.

Not that he wanted to admit it, "Yes."

She closed the book, petting at his shoulder. "Don't be. Everything you say in that room is confidential. You don't have to worry about anyone else knowing."

Of course, that wasn't what he was worried about. "I know..."

Before their conversation could continue, his name was called and he stood with some reluctance. His breathing was strained, tight in his chest. What he would give to avoid this, to be somewhere else at this point in time. If wishes were enough to shape the world...

He stepped into the office, old bookshelves lined with psychological texts, studies in self discovery. Faded, fraying furniture, obviously very lived in, and plants in various corners. A water cooler sat next to pile of pillows, a water cooler someone had taken the time to draw a little sleeping cat thereupon. Cozy, comfortable, everything his life felt like it wasn't.

The woman sitting at the lone desk offered him a friendly smile. "Welcome, Midoriya. I am doctor Kokoro."

Politely she reached out and shook his hand, a gentle grip. "Um, hey..." Fidgeting fingers in his lap, he sat down and almost sank completely into the seat he'd taken.

With a disarming look she clicked her pen, flipped a fresh notebook to its first page. "Lets start at the beginning," He winced, "tell me about you."

Then he gulped. "That's... complicated."

"In what way?"

Just this once, he figured words wouldn't do the trick. Reaching for a plastic cup, pulling it from the water cooler, he pulled his thermos from his pocket. Opening the cool, metal canister he poured some of its contents into the cup. Kokoro's eyes fluttered, brow inching upwards as he drank what was clearly blood, right in front of her. When he emptied the cup, taking a short breath, she swore she saw fangs, hiding in his mouth. Giving her a sheepish look, Deku sighed.

"Have you ever... psychoanalyzed a vampire?"

"No," She smiled, "but I'd like to."

He told her everything. One appointment to the next, he spun the complete story of his life. He paced about the room, he screamed, he cried, sometimes he experienced his old memories so vividly he swore he'd gone back in time. He was vulnerable, opened like an old chest dragged from the bottom of the sea. His very skin felt as cold as though he were naked, the extent to which she dug into his life.

It was all him, really, divulging answers. He wasn't certain if it was because he wanted to talk about it all or if it was because he had to.

"I'd like to discuss a few things you mentioned during our last visit." She flipped through her notes, scanning down the page, the tip of her pen leading eyes along. "You said something about your friend Kaminari? His grandfather if I remember correctly."

Deku sighed, "yeah, that was... it was awful, honestly."

"Would you mind telling me why?"

It had been at the start of spring, a call for help and he went running. Snow was melting, caterpillars had come out of hiding, chewing on what green had sprouted. Arriving at a small house, room enough for two he saw nothing out of order. Loose shingles, some moldy wood and broken screens. When Deku entered the home, he saw a man in a nice suit, a stethoscope hung round his neck. He was holding Kaminari's shoulder offering some unheard words of comfort.

Through an open door, to a bedroom, the vampire saw a thin, old man lying in a bed. An IV in his arm, his body hooked up to several different monitors. His chest was slow to rise and fall, his eyelids purple and blue, fingers pale and veins showing clear as day. As the doctor left the building, Kaminari wiped at the corner of his eye.

"Hey, man..."

Deku stared, shocked at his friend. "...How long?"

A bitter ghost of a laugh scoffed from Kaminari's lungs. "Has he been like this? Does he have?" Arms splayed out to his sides, falling, clapping against his legs. "Too long, and-" his eyes shut, choking back some quiet exclamation of grief. Gulping the outcry back down, he quietly kept speaking. "and I don't know."

He could only nod along, completely lost. "What's wrong with him?"

The rise and fall of Kaminari's chest was slow, tempered, his tired eyes did all the screaming that his voice could not. "Time."

Slumping against the wall, the bones of his spine poking into the wood, the vampire looked about the room. "No illness?"

Kaminari shook his head. "If it had a cure, we'd-" a shudder, a wince, "I don't even know if that would work."

There was a knock at the door, both boys turned to see who'd come by. A pair of girls, two they knew, Jiro and Ashido. For one second, the violet eyed girl looked at Deku, and he noted an apparent lack of surprise at seeing him here. Grimacing for a moment, Kaminari walked to the door and welcomed them inside. Before long two pairs of arms were around him, and a mess of pink hair had nearly tangled in his own for the face that planted a kiss on his cheek. He squeezed her hand and she squeezed it back, pain glistening in his eyes as he smiled at her and the embrace ended.

Jiro was the first to speak. "How're you holding up, Den?"

He really didn't have an answer for that. "By gravity's good graces." He shrugged, his hand still firmly in Ashido's grip.

Nodding as though she understood, Ashido murmured, "What did the doctor say?"

In reply, Kaminari spoke a few of the most unwanted words a prognosis could be. "Wait and see."

Eyes shifting to the old man, Ashido puzzled her thoughts together, for a few seconds. "Is he awake?"

The blond gestured to the room. "You're welcome to go find out, he could use some better company."

"Hush," Ashido leaned up, kissing his lips this time, making both others present feel somewhat awkward for having observed such a moment between their friends. "He'd never say that about you, so don't think he'd think it."

Nodding, sniveling a bit, Kaminari started walking to his grandfather's room, Ashido close behind. Before she joined them, Jiro placed a hand on Deku's arm. "Thank you for being here." So quiet he barely heard her, so quiet he wasn't sure if she meant to say it, then she went to the room too.

Deku was about to follow them when a row of pictures caught his eye. Sitting just above the fireplace, the first was of small family. A mother, father and a newborn baby. The second was of a three-year old Kaminari pretending to bite his mother, who was acting as though she'd died, his father recoiling in mocking fear. The next was of the three again, little, grinning Kaminari's face sandwiched between his parent's, their smiles identical to his. Fourth was his four year old self in a Halloween costume, striking a heroic, accusatory pose, pointing at his father, dressed as villain, holding onto a wife who'd exaggerated the motions of fainting.

The next was years later, Kaminari, sitting alone, with a tired, tired, fake smile on his face.

The next was of him and his grandfather, his real smile back again. Next he was making a silly face, and the old man was laughing.

Several more like that lined up, until the last, where Kaminari and the old man were standing outside UA. Smiles still real, a note of worry permeating that of the younger man. It was taken the day he'd first gone to attend class at the school, and from their postures, Deku could tell he was practically holding the man up.

Face slowly turning to the old man's room, he saw him smiling. Ashido was dancing about, eccentric as you please, illustrating some silly, lighthearted tale with the motions of her body. Through that smile she wore, Deku saw the scream she'd stuffed down inside, the tears she wouldn't grant freedom as the old man laughed. Jiro sat by the old man's side, her hand on his shoulder, thumb patting his barely covered bones. Her tears were not so well hidden.

Hours later, when the old man had fallen asleep, Jiro was outside with Ashido, arms around her as they cried into each other's shoulders. Deku sat on the floor, too numb to move or care that sitting there was painful. His head had fallen to the side, leaning against the wall, crumpling up his messy hair. "I saw you." Deku blinked, eyes slowly moving to Kaminari. He was lying on the couch, facing the ceiling, listless and cold. "That face you made, looking at those pictures." He sighed. "You figured it out, didn't you?"

Slowly, Deku nodded. "It's just been the two of you."

Then Kaminari nodded. "I barely even remember my folks," he practically sighed the words out, "it's more... like a vague feeling, just an empty space in my heart, no idea what's really supposed to be there."

"Sounds about right..."

The blond shook his head. "I'm scared, green." His face shifted, pained, trying to break down in tears.

Moving, adjusting his seat at long last, Deku felt some life come back into him. "What can I do?"

Kaminari exhaled, closing his eyes, trying to center himself. "What's it like?" and the vampire's heart sank completely. "How bad does it hurt when...?" he couldn't finish asking the question, afraid of reality might bring if he did.

Eyes to the floor, forehead pressing into his palm, Deku considered how much of the truth he should tell. "Your heart breaks." Kaminari's eyes shut tight. "everything goes... cold, numb, then you just wanna scream, burn down the world, hurt someone, something. 'Just make the pain go away' or 'bring them back'," he shrugged, "either way that missing piece of your heart is there again."

"Fucking god dammit..." Kaminari's palms were against his eyes. "Why?"

He just went with the truth. "Because the part that goes missing is where they used to live inside you." A single tear fell to his lap. "Worst part is how much heavier everything feels without that piece."

For a moment, it almost looked as though Kaminari had just gone numb, unable to feel. Then he just burst out crying, his hands over his face. "Damn it..." at this point Deku was standing up, "damn it!"

He pulled his friend to sit up, then wrapped his arms around him. "I've-" hold it together, you're not the one who gets to be weak right now. "I've got you."

As Kaminari cried into his shoulder, Jiro and Ashido pulled themselves up and soon joined the embrace. While Ashido pet, lovingly at Kaminari's head, Jiro hummed as soothingly as she could. No one knew the song, the tune, but in time, so they thought, it helped to bring Kaminari's wits back around to him.

Deku sat there, somewhat numb to it all as Kokoro did her best to keep her professional attitude in play. Even still, she had to wipe away the tears in her eyes. "That's..." she had to take a deep breath, "that sounds like it was very harrowing."

Eyebrows up for a moment, shrugging in place of his shoulders, expressing silently the word 'duh', Deku took in a sharp breath. "Yeah."

"Which part of it, do you think it was that did?"

He blinked. "I'm... sorry?"

She blew her nose. "Sorry," said she, before she went on, "the comparison between having and losing or..."

"Not having at all?" he shrugged, this time with his shoulders, as he shook his head. "It's the same thing with my mom, my father. I don't even remember what he looked like, just that vague feeling of something being gone. Both hurt, one's just... quieter."

She nodded, taking another note in her now tear stained notebook. "Lost parents seem to cropping up in your life, don't they?"

"Seems to be the city for it."

She gave him a curious look. "You blame the city itself?"

Deku shook his head. "No, but I've noticed a lot of absent or uncaring adults in my time here."

Fiddling with her pen, turning it over between her fingers, she puzzled for a moment. "Do you think that's something you seek out?"

That time, he laughed in earnest, though it was only a single exhalation. "No," he shook his head again, "but when I find it these days, I try to do... something, if I can."

"Like what?"

A question that led him to another memory, this one with Ashido at the center stage. He, her and Akaguro had been wrapping up a patrol when they'd found a group of school children at a playground. In a scene all too reminiscent of his youth, Deku watched as a group of children shoved another child to the ground. Another stepped in, only serving to add a second wounded child to the scenario. Deku and Ashido went running in, stopping the violence before it could escalate. Akaguro, with an all too jaded shake of his tired head, wandered to the nearby school and knocked on the doors until a teacher emerged. Funny how he hadn't noticed until three somewhat famous students from UA had made their involvement known.

the children were sent home, the three future heroes wandering numbly along. "Can you believe that teacher's attitude!?" Ashido fumed, her cheeks puffing up with impotent fury. "He could have at least pretended not to be annoyed with us!"

"Oh," Akaguro said with a mocking smile, "but we asked him to do his job, and we can't have that."

"Ugh!" Ashido rolled her eyes, crossing her arms. "Teachers like him are the worst. Makes me wanna...!" And just to let some of her anger out, she stomped.

In mild disbelief, Deku gave her a searching look. "...What are you? A bunny?"

Ashido blinked, "huh?"

Deku pointed at her foot, "the stomping, because you were mad. Rabbits do that." Okay, now he just felt silly for saying anything at all.

"Pffft!" Ashido waved a hand in a fanning motion. "No, no, no I was just doin that to-" passing by a large bay window, she saw her reflection and stopped walking. "to..." She stood there and stared at herself for a moment. Then, shoulders shaking and quietly at first, she burst into laughter, palm against her forehead.

Now, the vampire just felt totally lost. "...What?" Turning to Akaguro, clearly amused, he said, "why is she...?"

Akaguro chuckled. "Just... imagine her hero outfit with matching bunny ears for a second."

Confused, Deku actually did this, wondering what the point of it was when the realization hit him. "...Ah." he squeaked, going a bit red in the cheeks. Bunny outfit. got it.

"Awww," Ashido teased, "are you blushing, Midoriya?"

"No." he lied, hiding behind his arms.

"You totally are!" She giggled, reaching out and pinching his cheek as his eyes shut tight. "So innocent, like a delicate lil' flower!" She snickered.

Motioning for her to shoo away, Akaugro suppressed a laugh. "Okay, okay, that's enough of that." Even as she complied, the pink troll-girl snickered. The dhampire sighed, "you think we'll have to write a report on this?"

"P-probably..." Deku managed, clearing his throat.

Ashido let out an exaggeratedly annoyed, groaning sigh. "No good deed goes unpunished..." She shrugged, apparently already over it. "A'ight. Let's write this thing."

A while later, after enough writing to make their wrists cramp, the three of them sat in UA's cafeteria, eating dinner. Well, two of them were eating. Flexing his aching wrist, Akaguro grumbled. "I'm not sure stepping in was worth it."

"Hey," Ashido pointed right at the dhapire's nose, so close and so suddenly that the'd jerked back in surprise, "stopping bullies is always worth it."

Deku blinked. His eyes immediately went to the girl's face. This time, he was surprised to see that there wasn't even a hint of her usual, jokester self. Completely serious. It wasn't often that happened, and it struck him as odd that-

"You know he probably wants to be left alone!"

"Don't care!" Ashido called back, "Speaking from experience: last thing he needs right now!"

Befuddled, Deku's eyes fell away from her face. "Can you please not do that?" Akaguro gently pushed her hand away, and Deku's eyes caught sight of it: the scar, just barley peeking at the hem of her costume, under her arm. "It's... obnoxious."

"Hmph!" Crossing her arms, she huffily turned away from Akaguro. "Well don't say stupid things like that." and she stuck out her tongue.

This left both boys unsure how to react this, though for differing reasons. Deku had suspicions about that scar he'd seen, Akaguro was just not adapted to human interaction. "...You're all over the place."

Ashido growled, "you don't know what happens if that kinda thing goes unchecked..."

Rolling his eyes, the dhampire let out an annoyed sigh. "Enlighten me. What happens?"

Now, the woman was glaring at him. "One way or another people get seriously hurt." Akaguro blinked, Deku rubbed at his scarred, right eye. "Saw it happen all the time, when I was a kid." She spoke quietly. "If you push someone hard enough, make their life painful enough, one of two things happens. They either become someone amazing or… they turn into the thing that hurt them." Neither of them knew what to say to that. Deku wasn't sure he agreed, it felt like he'd be giving himself a little too much credit if he did, but... 'turning into the thing that hurt them'... why did that strike a chord?

Shaking his head, hands up in surrender, Akaguro collected their papers. "I'll just... turn these in. Back in a few."

When he left, Ashdio smushed her cheek into her palm, leaning her elbow against the table. That empty expression on her face was all too familiar to the boy with mismatched eyes. "You didn't just see it happen, did you?" She turned her eyes toward him, blinking once. He gestured to her side. "The scar... I'm guessing there's a story."

At times, she really hated Deku's brain. A few minutes went by, in silence, as she considered the lie she wanted to tell. Say something about a bit of carelessness on a playground, falling onto a sharp branch, or some slip up with a knife. However... "Yeah." she sighed, "yeah, that's right."

Deku slumped back against the cushioned wall of their booth. "That's... hard to imagine." Her eyebrows jumped. "You're just... so nice, I-"

"Look at me." Her tone was quiet, almost no emotion at all, and that caught him off guard. "Really look at me. What do you see?"

After a few seconds, he opened his mouth to speak but then, immediately, he realized what she meant. "...A girl with black eyes." She nodded. "Pink skin and hair. Horns."

She gave a sad smile. "What more excuse does a kid need to start making fun of someone?"

He shook his head. "To leave a scar like that? I'd hoped... I'd hoped more."

Ashido allowed herself a little laugh. "You want me to be weirder, do you?" He shushed him before he could reply. "You know how it is. Any sign of difference or weakness? Kids break out the spitballs and schoolyard beatings."

"Yeah..." in his experience, that was certainly true, "is that why... you're you?"

"No," Ashido waved the notion away, "I'm me because I refuse to be anything else." she smiled, grinning really, and this time Deku saw through it; saw the pain behind it, that had always been there. "our little secret, kay?"

He reached up with his thumb, idly cracking his knuckles one after the other. So much for that promise...

As was her usual, Kokoro took notes at the story's conclusion. "You care deeply about your friends." He avoided looking her in the eye, another she noted, after considering the timing. "Are you ashamed of that?"

His eyes shot to hers, the rest of his face unmoved for about a second. "I didn't say that..."

She shrugged. "Your body language seemed to say it."

He sighed, eyes closed. "It just..." he bit his lip, "it feels wrong taking credit for that, saying you're right."

"It's wrong to admit that you admit to caring about your friends?"

"Only when it's a complime-" and then he realized how silly it sounded to say that. He sighed, "...yeah, I guess."

She smiled at him. "How do your friends know you care if you don't tell them?"

"I'd hope my actions would tell them."

She seemed to hold back a more scathing reply than she gave. "But... you don't hang out with them unless they ask for help." Deku winced, shrinking into his seat a little. "Frankly, I'm surprised they even ask you for help anymore. Most people don't ask a friend who's never there for help unless there's no where else to go."

Admittedly, he had thought of that before. "I'm confused about that myself, doctor."

"Has there been a time recently where you didn't need such a prompt?" That he was already wracking his brain even for one instance, was telling. "An instance where you weren't just there to help?"

Hesitating, he defeatedly sighed his answer. "Well... I wasn't asked, one time."

Bakugo's family had always been loud. Exceptionally loud, even before his quirk had manifested. There wasn't a day that went by where someone wasn't yelling something across the house, out the door, to a neighbor or just plain screaming. After a while, a few years, the neighborhood had gotten used to it. The volume level was never anything beyond tolerable and it never on to an unreasonable hour. They were just loud people, that was all there was to say about it.

At least, that was what almost everyone in the neighborhood thought.

One night, Deku had been outside putting out the trash when he heard them yelling. Nothing out of the ordinary, or so he thought at first. He was almost back inside when he heard a new voice in the fray, quieter than the others: Kirishima. Not quite sure his ears could be trusted, Deku turned around and listened, actually listened to the ruckus. Tones were harsh, growling. Hostility was in the air and tension seemed to be rising with it. He thought that maybe he was just being nosy, snooping in on something he shouldn't, when a loud slap split the night.

Shocked, he spun on his heels, the continuing squabbling doing little to dissuade his growing fear. The front door tore open, Bakugo stomping his way outside, nursing a bleeding cheek. He was quietly cursing to himself, prodding at his bleeding face and hissing with the pain. That was, until he noticed Deku, a stunned look on his face, staring at him. "What?" he demanded.

"Nothing..." said he, "I just..." he looked toward Bakugo's home, the screaming match was still in full swing. "What the hell happened?"

Bakugo rolled his eyes, growling. "Same thing that always fucking happens when mom gets pissed, that's what." Hissing at the pain in his still bleeding cheek, he added. "Why? You want one to match?"

"Hey," a new voice quietly scolded, "he's just worried about you." Kirishima, evidently realizing he couldn't mediate this particular quarrel. Him putting a hand on Bakugo's shoulder was expected, comforting a friend was just what he did.

Bakugo tenderly taking that hand in his own? Now that was not something one would typically expect. Deku had been prepared to just write it off as two exceptionally close friends when the two of them had gently bumped their foreheads together.

When they nuzzled, Deku just about lost it. He had to do a double take just to make sure that it had happened. "Uh, guys?"

Kirishima smiled at him apologetically while Bakugo rolled his eyes at the interruption. "Er, sorry, are we bothering-?"

"No no no!" Deku frantically waved his hands, "Nothing like that! I just- Um... I didn't think you'd want an audience, is all..."

Bakugo growled out a sigh. "So... you're saying you don't mind?"

Deku blinked. "I- well, yeah, of course! I'd never mind-"

And that was when Bakugo french kissed his boyfriend. "Then stop yammering." Kirishima's eyes fluttered, butterflies in his chest making him smile like an idiot as soon as the kiss ended. Turning back to the house Bakugo's shoulders slumped. "God dammit... are they still screaming!?"

Frowning a little, Kirishima nodded. "Sounds like..." his foot fussed at the grass, he seemed to be very uncertain as to what to do.

Sensing that, perhaps, these two could do with time away from that house, Deku made way in front of his door. Motioning inside he waited for them to say something, but they just looked at him with varying degrees of indecisiveness. "If you don't want somewhere to hide, do you at least want to use my first aid kit?"

The two boys looked at each other. Kirishima nodded to Bakugo, a hand on his cheek, and the warhead sighed as he relented. "Yeah, okay."

Deku clicked on the lights, grabbing the first aid kit as his friends got comfortable on the couch. Handing it to Kirishima he asked, "So... what was that about? It wasn't... I mean-"

"I don't think so," Kirishima frowned, applying some disinfectant to the wound of his boyfriend who growled at the pain. "at least, none of the yelling was about that."

Bakugo shrugged. "Mom never really needed an excuse," Kirishima's frown deepened, "her and dad have always been like this."

"So..." Deku couldn't fathom it. "This entire time, all these years, it's actually been this bad?"

This, was this why Bakugo acted the way he always had? Just a child lashing out from an unstable life at home?

Sighing, Bakugo seemed at a loss as to what he should or could say. "What'd you think it was? Over enthusiastic scrabble nights?"

"Hon..." Kirishima quietly protested.

Taking a deep breath, slowly letting it back out, Bakugo let some of his angry roll away. "Sorry, Deku, I-" Biting his lips, rolling his eyes, Bakugo smiled a smile of barely contained rage. "Sorry, again. I uh, know I shouldn't call you that, Midoriya. I'm just bitchy from the pain, okay?"

For once, he was truly speechless. "Uh..." Deku blinked. "O- okay?"

Bakugo rolled his eyes again. "I figured it was a thing by now, seeing how everyone calls you 'Green' these day- OW!"

"Sorry!" Kirishima hissed, clearly meaning it. "It's hard to do this with you talking so much, handsome."

"And you didn't tell me to shut up, why?" The warhead whined, angrily.

Kirishima gave him a look. "That doesn't really sound like something I'd say, for one." after another few seconds, he placed a large band-aid over Bakugo's bleeding cheek. "there, best I can do."

Flexing his jaw, stretching his cheek, Bakugo got a feel for how much he could move his face like this. "It works." He muttered, standing up and heading for the door. "Back when they stop yelling." and the warhead resigned himself to sitting on Deku's front porch, waiting for things with his family to simmer down.

Sighing, rubbing at his face, Kirishima leaned back, falling against the couch and groaning some of his stress away in a long, long sigh. More sedately, Deku did the same. "You okay?"

Kirishima nodded. "Yeah, just, first time meet his folks." He shrugged, letting a hand drop soundly into his lap.

Deku exhaled sharply. "Fun."

"Right?" The redhead smiled, trying to bring some levity back to the scenario. "I was just wondering how I was gonna brag about how tonight went."

It was enough to make Deku wish he was any better at having friends. "Well, Kaminari usually deals with stress by being funny." He shrugged, hoping the suggestion would prove amusing.

Fortunately, his audience was one willing to laugh. "Yeah... yeah he does." When neither of them could continue the conversation as it was, Kirishima just went with what he felt that he should. "Thanks, for stepping in like that, I mean."

Deku shrugged. "What else was I supposed to do?"

Kirishima smiled. "yeah, I guess you have had that habit lately."

Wait... "What do you mean?"

"You know," the redhead shrugged, "it's kinda what you've been doing for a long time now: whenever someone in our class needs help?" His hands clapped together, "Bam! there's Midoriya."

Eyes narrowing, Deku gave Kirishima a very skeptical look. "And... you know this how?"

For the briefest of moments, though he could never be sure, Deku swore he saw Kirishima's face flicker with fear. "Ah, well, people've been talking about it. and there."

That didn't sound right at all. "Why would they?" Kirishima squirmed under Deku's questioning. "Most of the things I've been there for haven't been the kinda you just bring up in conversation." At least, he didn't think they were. Why someone would ever go around talking about any of the things he'd helped his friends deal with was beyond him.

That being said, even Kirishima didn't seem to have a good answer to that. "Well, I must've heard it somewhere," he laughed nervously, "after all, you did just confirm it."

Okay, that was a fair point. "A bit..." Deku conceded, right as Bakugo came skulking back inside.

From the look on his face, it was obvious that things hadn't calmed down at home. "Not even a little?" Kirishima frowned.

Sighing, clearly at a point where he was just plain done, Bakugo dropped back onto the couch. "No."

After a brief discussion, it was decided that at least Bakugo would be spending the night at Deku's. Another minute or so later, and Kirishima was staying too. They stayed up late, watching cheesy, badly acted action movies. 'Guy stuff' that barely entertained enough to be forgiven for the absolute lack of substance the movies bore. It was enough to convince Deku that his usual taste in movies wasn't actually that bad after all.

Still, 'Die Hard' was okay, he admitted. When the other two had passed out on his couch, snuggled up to each other in a way Deku couldn't help but smile at, he called it a night. Turning down the volume he draped a blanket over them and trudged to his bathroom. Teeth brushed, face splashed, he took a moment to breathe. He hated this. that he was part of this now. It felt intrusive, rude on his part to be butting in like this. That his friends seemed grateful for it was one thing, but he couldn't make it feel right.

He'd crossed the line the private, family life of his childhood friend. What he'd seen beyond that line had left him feeling awful. Years of his life, he'd spent along side Bakugo and he simply failed to notice. Something like this, should not have been so easy to miss. Falling onto the bed, he was almost out like the lights as soon as he hit the sheets, were it not for a small knock on his door.

Forcing his eyes open, Deku sat back up. "Everything okay?"

Taking a seat at his desk, was Bakugo. "Yeah... no." Forever at a loss with quiet moments. "You didn't have to help me, us, like this tonight."

"Yeah, but I wanted to."

Something the warhead's mind just couldn't parse. "Why?" His face showed every iota of his disbelief. "Look I... after that talk we had, outside after-" he hesitated, "after your mom died I get that things are somewhat less shitty between us, but-"

"You're overthinking it." Bakugo's disbelief soared to new heights. "At this point I'm just glad we can talk like this again."

Nodding slowly, Bakugo blinked. "...So, should I start calling you 'Green' too?" Deku shot him a curious look, and Bakugo shrugged. "It's what your friends call you these days."

Well, he wasn't wrong. "I'd like that, but, what do I call you?"

Bakugo shrugged. "Kat?"

That made Deku laugh. "Really?"

"Oh fuck off, it's a valid nickname." His laughter only intensified and it made Bakugo growl. "Okay, you have a better Idea-"

Holding a hand, Deku did his best to stop laughing. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry I just-" he couldn't help it. "Oh man... I don't know why I laughed so hard at that."

Bakuko sighed. "Guess it doesn't really matter. Hell, you can call me Kacchan if you want."

He wasn't so sure about that. "I thought you hated that name."

The warhead shook his head. "Nah, it's just... you were the only one who really kept using it, after a while." He leaned against Deku's desk, his cheek pushing into his palm. "Always kinda chalked that up to you wishing things hadn't started changing, wanting the good times to keep going when they were obviously ending. Life just hasn't let you have a break since then, but that's not my point." His eyes shifted, peering right into Deku's. "My point is... well, I don't hate it. I just figured you'd move on from it like everyone else eventually."

In the end, Deku couldn't help but smile. "Kacchan it is."

"Cool." Bakugo swiveled Deku's chair around, his elbow accidentally knocking something off his desk. "Shit... where'd it go?"

"What was it?" The vampire said, hoping it wasn't anything fragile.

Bakugo flicked on the light. "The fuck would I know, I didn't see-" He stopped, blinking as soon as his eyes caught it. Slowly, he stooped to the floor and picked up the object that perplexed him so. Then, with equal slowness, he looked back at Deku.

"W-what? Why are you looking at me like that?"

Wasting no time, Bakugo spun the chair back around and took a good look at Deku's little project. He looked at the textbooks, the circuitry, his laptop, notes, all of it. All the while a building look of comprehension spread across his face.

He was very, very nervous now."...Kacchan?"

"How long?"

Deku blinked. "W-whu-?"

In his hand, Bakugo held up a piece of plastic, a faded word painted on it in black ink: Zune. "How long have you been trying to fix long-ears's little toy?" The accusatory tone was surprisingly friendly, calm. Though that said nothing about the face Bakugo was making, like he'd just learned the other boy's darkest secret.

Worst of all, Deku had no idea why he was acting this way. "I- I don't know." it was the truth. "Since... maybe before the sport's festival? I'm not sure."

While his perplexed brow remained as it was, Bakugo's eyes widened. It took him a moment to actually find his words. "You've been trying to fix this thing for two years?"

The words hung in the empty air, making the vampire sweat. Why? What did it matter how long he'd been trying to fix it for? He was almost done... he just had to find a few more songs. Admittedly tracking down the exact songs and albums by decoding seemingly random bits of the error messages and what of the faulty data he'd managed to sift through wasn't exactly easy, but it hadn't stopped him yet.


But it was keeping him sane. The project was just as useful to him as it would turn out to be for Jiro. After all, she'd be getting back something that was truly priceless in her eyes. The day she'd found it broken had been traumatic enough to put a rift between them for a considerable length of time.

"...You almost done?"

Although maybe he was exaggerating, reading too much into it. Teenage hormones being what they are, it would be no surprise of things had simply been amplified by that between them. Hardly the first time that would be the case between friends, sharing their troubles anyways. No no, there was no other-

"Fuck's sake, do you know you're talking out loud!?"

Eyes aflutter, Deku gulped. "N-no. I... I didn't."

Not knowing what else to do, Bakugo just shook his tired head. "Shoulda seen this comin..." he chuckled to himself. When Deku blinked, entirely unaware of Bakugo's discovery, the warhead just out and said it. "Your feelings for long-ears ain't anything so simple as 'friendship', Green."

...That... made no sense. "What are you talking about?"

In reply, Bakugo pointed at the project, two years of it, littering the Vampire's desk. "No friend I've ever heard of would go this far, for this long just to do something nice." He splayed his arms out to the sides, clearly at a loss. "The fuck else am I supposed to say here? It's- it's fucking obvious!"

Deku quietly hoped this wouldn't wake Kirishima. "It's- no! Come on, it's not like-!"

"Oh, don't bullshit me!" Bakugo rolled his eyes. "Tell you what: let's ask Ashido what she thinks of this." Bakugo pulled his phone from his pocket. "She's the expert, I'll bet she'll know-"

The speed at which Deku had moved across the room had been too fast for Bakugo's eyes to register. One minute he was holding his phone, the next he wasn't. A gust of wind had swathed over him, rustling and even turning the pages of the books on Deku's desk and the vampire stood in his own doorway, suddenly very short of breath. Rather than say anything, Bakugo simply, slowly, folded his arms and spun around in the chair, an expectant look on his face as he waited for Deku to just admit it. After a few, very short, but increasingly lengthening breaths, Deku fell against his doorway. "...I... I don't know what to say."

Bakugo held out his hand, and after a moment, Deku returned his phone to him. "If it helps, I didn't manage to text her."

Running a hand over his face, fingers pushing through his hair, Deku just breathed. "I... this doesn't make any sense."

"Does it feel wrong?"


"Can you think of a reason why you shouldn't?"

"I- ...well, also no."

"Do you think she doesn't feel the same way?"

He blinked. "I don't know." Then he sighed. "But... after... after standing up Uraraka on new years, I-"

"Yeah," Bakugo laughed, "she's probably not gonna care too much about that."

Deku shook his head, "No- no, I mean... I'm not sure I can... if I'm ready to... Or even... GAH!" Frustrated, pent up and now discussing something very, very new to him, had rattled the poor boy just a little too much. In a flurry of motion his hands frantically shoved and tugged through his hair in a frenzy, leaving him with even more of a rats nest than usual. Eventually, after a few moments silence, his feelings just came out. "...I can't."

He wanted to tell Deku that life didn't work that way, that karma wasn't really a thing that would bite him for just trying to be happy. However, something stopped him. Perhaps it was understanding that he'd been through so much over the course of his life. Perhaps it was knowing that the man simply needed a break, but he tried to accept it.

"Okay." Putting the piece of the Zune down, he stood up. "we should... probably sleep but," he held up a finger, pointing at nowhere in particular, "just promise me one thing?" Deku waited for him to elaborate, and elaborate he did. "If you ever find out that she feels the same way, just fucking go for it."

"But I-"

"No no no, but nuthin." Bakugo wasn't having it. "Everyone, and I mean everyone, is sick of seeing you miserable. If that's really gonna make you happy, then why not go for it?" His hands flopped by his sides, clearly, still at a loss here. "Hell, you'd be making her happy too if it turns out the way everyone thinks it will!"

"It's not-!" He had to quiet himself, taking a deep breath. "It's not that simple..."

"Why the hell not!?"

"I don't know!" Bakugo was taken almost blindingly by surprise, hearing Deku snap back like that. "There's no logic in it, alright!? Whenever the thought, whenever the feeling crosses my mind my head starts hurting until I just decide that I can't! Pressure builds up, under my skull and splits my head down the middle until I just..." he pressed a hand to his forehead, face wincing from the pain in his heart.

In the silence, Bakugo came to another realization. It was the reason behind this, behind his isolation and almost definitely a major part of what made him sabotage his friendship and potential relationship with Uraraka. "You're afraid to be happy."

He let out something that resembled a sob, face twisted with giref. "Look what happens every time I start getting there. First my face," Bakugo flinched at that, "then I killed Shigaraki-"

"The fuck- no you didn't!"

"Then mom!" Bakugo looked the other way, any other way. "It's just not- I don't get to be happy. Maybe if I don't go after it, no one else gets hurt. Maybe I don't get hurt again."

"Oh my god, are you even listening to yourself!?"

"I know it sounds crazy!"



"Guys!" They both jumped at Kirishima's sudden leap into the argument. "you're gonna wake the neighbors..."

Both the other boys facepalmed. "Thanks, Eiji..." Bakugo groaned.

Kirishima shook his head, exhaustion taking hold of him again. "You coming back to be- er, the couch?"

"...Yeah, be right there." And Kirishima laid back down, Bakugo gave Deku a look that said the conversation wasn't over.

Something Deku made sure to cut off right away. "Don't."

The warhead just shook his head again. "Fine. Just don't regret it, Green." Then he wandered back to the couch.

Deku closed the door behind him, taking a moment to bang his head against it with a dull thud. Switching off the lights, he fell back into his chair. When the hell did his life get so backwards so as to necessitate Bakugo being the one one to point out his own feelings? Holding up the Zune, the case he was still fixing, he wondered still how he'd managed to be right while he was at it. He knew even when he hadn't, all the obvious evidence right under his nose. Literally! How could he have failed to notice? It was an entirely new feeling, a new emotion that he had for someone he knew. There was no good reason why he wouldn't have been aware, PTSD be damned.

Unless... it wasn't a new feeling, per say...

Slowly, with painful reluctance, Deku felt the realization crawl across his brain. "You've got to be fucking kidding me." he laughed, once, feeling no joy for it. "What moron bunch of brain-dead hormones decided this was a good time to fa-" No. Nuh uh, nope, NO NO NO, no, NO. Jaw clenched tight, it was like his mouth wouldn't let him say the words. With a last, very slow, very deep breath, he shook his head at himself. "I wonder if alcohol is one of those things my body doesn't handle any more..."

"you're so afraid...
all that you have...
is all that you deserve.

Maybe it is...
maybe it is...
oh baby..

it is..."

Chapter Text

July 4th: 2211

A girl is born to quirkless parents. Quirk: Attraction of small objects.

April: 2237

Half a dozen letters, sent to her friends in the area. Bittersweet goodbyes met with lukewarm replies. A man and a woman leaving the countryside to the big city, expecting child.

June 15th: 2237

A child with messy green hair is born.

June: 2242

Child is diagnosed 'quirkless'.

August: 2242

A man is naturalized into a foreign country, Japanese citizenship renounced. Legal ties to all resident family and property rescinded.

Phone calls are made to friends, friends all with unopened letters, met with no reply.

A mother cries alone.

October 15th: 2242, 3:53am

Patient admitted to Musutafu General Hospital. Affliction: severed radial arteries. Blood alcohol content:0.25%

Diagnosis: Clinical depression, suicidal tendencies.

December 11th: 2242

Courts rule a mother is permitted to return home to raise her child.

A mother who will dedicate her life to her child.

July 19th: 2255

In a cold house, a young man with green and white hair finds a bundle of legal documents and unsent letters; along with the deed to a house. He reads them all, and goes for a battle of alcohol.

It's drained in seconds flat.

Glass set down, he briefly considered going for the alcohol in the cupboard. Would've been easy, just to go for it. Not like anyone was there to stop him, not now. Three days after his last appointment with Doctor Kokoro and he was still thinking about going for the bottle. Therapy is a beautiful thing, but only helps when the patient wants it to.

When the patient mentions everything going on.

"Curious that you still haven't told her about me." Shigaraki mused, flexing his wrists. Could hallucinations get stiff in the joints? "I thought you wanted to get better."

Deku rolled his eyes, shaking his head. "And I thought that was the last thing you wanted." His hand went to the fridge, rather than the cupboard.

The dead villain shrugged, a wry smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. "What makes you think I want any one thing in particular?"

Pulling a gallon of blood from the fridge -about the only thing in it these days- he poured himself a glass. "You sure advocate death a lot for someone who doesn't care, one way or the other."

A hand of the corpse batted dismissively at the air. "That was then, and you've made it clear since then that it doesn't matter what I want."

As Deku dragged out a chair to sit down, settling in at the table with the technical manuals, so did Shigaraki. "and yet, you're still here..." He muttered, taking a sip from his glass.

Again, the corpse shrugged. "Take it up with your brain, I'm just along for the ride at this point."

"No chance you can do so quietly?"

Shigaraki reared back his head and laughed. "Just keeping the pilot company, on his long flight. Can't have you going totally insane, then they might start treating you and I'd go away entirely."

Deku could only scoff. "How altruistic of you..." Another sip later and he was setting down the glass. Time to get to reading, translating and re-compiling the instructions, one last time.

Gesturing to the group of books littering the table, Shigaraki sighed. "Is all that really necessary?"

"At this point? Probably not." Deku admitted, pen already furiously scribbling away. "Just wanna be sure I do this right the first time. I'd hate to reassemble it only to have to undo everything because I made a mistake."

"How thoughtful..." Mused the villain, scratching at the back of his neck. "and what's you're little plan once it's done?"

Deku shrugged. "Honestly haven't decided."

"You could just walk up and hand it to her," he stretched, his back and ribs making popping noises to varying degrees of unpleasant. "Simplest solution."

Of all the conversations to be having with a dead villain. A dead villain inside his head. "Yeah, no. Not doing that."

"Why not?"

Another shrug. "I'd rather not take credit for this if I can help it."

The villain cackled under his breath. "You mean now that you know how you feel and can't ignore it or pretend it's not there."

A sharp exhalation pushed its way through Deku's nose. "Assuming I jumped to the right conclusion, you mean."

Now it was the villain's turn to shrug. "Haven't you?"

Deku actually gulped. "I... guess I'll have to find out."

Shigaraki grinned. "And wont that be fun?"

Deku let out an exasperated sighed, rolling his eyes. "Of all the people I've let get hurt, that I feel any level of guilt about and it's you I end up with as a hallucination..."

He shrugged, "Well, you are something of a masochist."

The vampire could not believe what had just been said to him. "Ex...cuse me?"

Another round of raspy cackling. "Remind me... how did you feel when Jiro called you a 'good bo-'?"

"Changing subjects. Right now." As the villain howled with laughter, Deku continued his indignant protest. "And that's not masochism!"

The laughter only intensified. "And yet, you'd know!" He almost fell out of the chair, his calamitous laughter leaving the vampire feeling completely foolish.

Deku dragged hands over his face, obscuring scarlet features as he groaned in frustration, embarrassment. "...This is what going crazy is. Isn't it? Arguing with a hallucination that overreacts to everything I say..."

Then the laughter died down. "Ahhh, who among us would know?"

The boy with mismatched eyes shook his head. "probably my therapist..."

Shigaraki chuckled, putting his feet up on the table. "So she might."

Rubbing at his eyes, Deku tried to stave off the feeling of exhaustion that washed over him. "I'm starting to think I should tell her about you."

"You could stop going on patrol so much."

Deku sighed, giving up on taking notes for the time being. "Can't do that." He took another long sip from his glass.

"And why on earth not?" Shigaraki actually seemed annoyed. "It's not as if you're really doing anything all that important most days. You're not the symbol of peace."

Biting his lower lip, Deku did his best not growl. "No, but he's... not doing well."

Shigaraki blinked, letting his confusion show plainly on his face. "You know this how? You haven't spoken to him about anything non-class related in two years."

Rather than dignify this with his own thoughts, Deku pulled out his phone and opened up a page he'd bookmarked. Sliding his phone across the table, letting the villain look at it, he spoke. "He doesn't do hero work for more than an hour now, not that anyone's gotten footage of."

The corpse raised an eyebrow. "And... you'd trust these message boards?"

"I trust the evidence." Deku mumbled. "Every time All Might is anywhere, doing anything, someone's got a cell phone out recording him or there's a security camera or the news..." a raised hand clapped against his lap, "If you look at the time stamps, you see it's almost never past an hour a day."

Even the nay-saying, argumentative hallucination couldn't disagree. "Hrrrm... well, that's going to make things ugly... when villains start noticing."

"Who's to say they already haven't?"

Distressingly, he kept on agreeing. "Does he know?" Confused, his turn for it, Deku looked back up at Shigaraki. "You know who he is, does he know that?"

Deku had to laugh. "Why would I tell him that? He has enough on his plate without my adding to it."

"That's exactly my point," Said Shigaraki, "don't you think he should know how easy it was to figure out? All you needed was the eyes, his hair color and you had it. Someone else has no doubt put the evidence together by now."

For a cold, worrisome moment, Deku felt the comprehension of frightening truth crawl across his mind. "...You're right."

"Exactly," Replied he, "So maybe you should-"

"You keep doing that," Deku interrupted, "bringing things up like that, things I don't know but should." He was puzzling something together, but was completely uncertain of what. "I fall asleep reading about PTSD, then dream about you going on about it when it should be me processing that information alone or through some abstract, now this..." His eyes searched about, scanning the table and floor in front of him as if the answer were there somewhere. "You're not a hallucination," he breathed, a chill running down his spine, "you're something else. A manifestation of some kind... some thing..."

Shrugging, Shigaraki didn't seem very concerned about this revelation. "So what am I then?"

"No idea," Deku admitted, tapping a decisive finger against his notes, "but I'd bet this isn't real right now, I probably fell asleep at the table, already did this..." he sighed.

The dead villain let out a solitary laugh. "Well it's not another nightmare, at least."

"I'd almost prefer the nightmare..." Deku groaned, "gives the illusion that I have a life."

"Which," Shigaraki raised a finger, wagging it at Deku's nose, "you would have if you went out and talked to any of your friends, beyond being their go-to for their problems."

A painful memory flickered at those words. At one point, he'd had a chance not to be that guy, to just be there with a friend and enjoy a rather specific night. A friend he was very afraid to talk to again. "Yeah..."

Rolling his eyes, the villain groaned. "You're not gonna make me talk to you about her are you?"

Deku glared at him. "Uraraka."

"Whatever," he batted dismissively at the air, "seems to me your solution there is very obvious."

"But I-" he faltered, biting at his lip, "How do I know apologizing would be anything she'd want? How do I know if she doesn't just want to keep ignoring each other?" He fell back against the back into his chair with a loud clatter of his spine against the wood. "It could just be completely selfish on my part..."

"Asking never hurt." The villain shrugged, exaggeratedly and with an unsettlingly wide grin.

The feeling of sunlight, stinging his eyes forced him to wake up. Wincing from the pain he sat up, covering his face as he fished about the table in front of him for his sunglasses. Once in hand, on his face they went. Sighing, he got up and closed the curtains, obscuring the view of the back yard and patio. Tired feet fumbled to his restroom, equally clumsy hands went for the door, opening it just a touch too hastily. The coat hanging on the door shook and something dropped from one of its pockets. A phone, long forgotten in a disused coat on the bathroom door. As it bounced on the floor it booted back up. Brow furrowing in confusion he stooped and gingerly picked it up. His thumb started flicking through various screens, no password needed to unlock the device. Old pictures of-

It took everything he had not to cry.

This... this was his mom's old phone. If there was one thing he remembered about his father, it was that he never took pictures. Old pictures of his mom and dad. There was a face he barely remembered, suddenly looking back at him like he were still here. Quivering lip and twitching nose, he flipped through picture after picture until there were no more to find. The last one had been taken the day before that fateful visit to the doctor. It's not gonna happen. Closing the folder, he was about ready to jam the phone back where it had fallen from when he noticed a file folder. Its title was one, two letter word: Me: Created Dec 11th, 2242.

He'd almost clicked right on it when he noticed the time. Almost time to leave. Pocketing the phone, he decided to see what was in the folder later and walked to the bathroom faucet, turning it on. He's almost put his hands under the running water when his brain kicked in. Giving the faucet an accusatory look and quiet growl he reached for plastic bin and filled it. Shaking his head at himself, with a roll of his eyes, he caught a look at his reflection.

He hated his reflection.

Long, eternally messy, cow-lick-ridden hair, half white and half green. One eye, the sclera burned black, the other very much as it always was. Ridiculous, green stubble he hadn't bothered to shave yet, not in days. He'd lost the round cheeks of his earlier teenage years, childhood. In place of them were sharp cheekbones he couldn't help but notice were slightly too high for his face. Sunken cheeks and a pronounced jawline only accentuated his gaunt, malnourished look.

The skin around his eyes was purple, if you looked close enough in the right lighting, veins peeking faintly from beneath. Bags under said eyes were decidedly difficult to ignore as well, making him look almost half way through his twenties instead of only almost eighteen. In as little clothing as he was wearing, an undone, rolled up button up, undershirt and slacks, he could see many of his scars. Blades, bullets, claws, fire, jagged edges of all manner, acid, teeth, he'd been marked by them all. He almost wished he remembered how most of them had happened, aside from the ones he hid beneath that extra layer his undershirt provided. Those had all been the work of Bakugo, long ago.

It was lucky he never really explicitly enjoyed swimming, one less opportunity to go shirtless where anyone would see. One less thing to explain to a concerned, onlooking crowd. Then again, maybe if Bakugo had seen those scars, back when they were younger, his eyes might still match. The only consolation for any of it was the layer of muscle his hero work had earned him. It wasn't very much, just enough to partially disguise the fact he never ate enough. Enough to let any who might see him in such an exposed state know he led an active life. Not that he'd ever been fond of the musclebound look, wanted it for himself.

He didn't know why but being skinny never bothered him. Although, that might have been due to the fact he lived in Japan; a very warm part of Japan. Still, one good thing about it was how it felt. In a way, it made him feel more human, a feeling he desperately needed to feel more. Gaining muscle meant something about his strength was almost natural, it could be built upon like anyone else's. It wasn't just some byproduct of supernatural powers, magic or anything he couldn't explain. Being able to explain it felt human.

Splashing the hot water against his face, he rubbed it into his eyes, his skin. For precious seconds, he thought he saw his old self in the mirror, for how young his skin appeared to be. Color brought back by the warmth of the water, his skin smushed up against his bones bringing back some of the roundness now missed in his cheeks.

Then it was back to staring back at the vampire.

On one half of his face, he saw humanity, on the other? The terrible truth of what he'd become. True reflections, the opposite image on either side. His struggle, forever at odds with his own nature, his humanity versus the predator he fought not to let out, into the light of day. A bitter laugh shook his chest, just once, and a matching smile quirked one corner of his lips. He remembered, long ago, a dream that rather brought out the poet in him. Now such poetic musings seemed to flow from his thoughts as surely as his efforts to ignore his own emotions, his own inner thoughts. In truth, it wasn't that poetic, not really, even he knew that. But it was more so than he'd ever dabbled with intent.

That it came so easily and without prompt, it left him wondering why. How many of those long remembered poets had suffered such as he? Was pain the true instrument they played? Life, for all it's beauty, never seemed to inspire such beautiful as that which was born of darkness, literal or otherwise. Now a smile of bemusement crossed his lips, as he followed the thought like a black rabbit. Could life, in lighter times, produce such works as those we now remember? Such as those that have lingered in books by bedsides, like so many nights before. The answer came from one such tale, a bird perched upon the door. Feathers black and eyes no different than, it answered much the same as it had about little, lost Lenore. Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.' Write as many love songs, ballads or inspiring tunes as you please, you'll be met with an ever silent dare to make it more memorable than the works of Poe.

Time to read, afforded him by long years of solitude, had evidently not gone to waste. It left the lad wondering what else he might remember with such musings. Another splash of water, running a towel over his face, and the bin emptied. It was time to face the day, and his sunglasses soon perched upon his nose.

July 20th: 2255

Trips to school were more a symbolic act these days. Once there, climb into your costume, meet up with your classmates for patrol and hop to it. Senior year was about putting everything into practice, the academia was, for the most part, behind them. Considering it was the middle of July, Deku wondered if this was technically extra credit. As always, he slunk off to the disused restroom near the support department to change. Dents, scratches, tears in the materials marked the numerous times he'd worn the armor. Stitches marked the seems and various places the armor had been cobbled back together, like old scars that had been sewn shut with indelicate hands.

From his vague memories of the last two years patrols were usually done in groups. Considering how long it took to don his armor, Deku was usually left patrolling with whoever had decided to wait for him. How little he remembered of these patrols, brief, visceral flashes of violence. Frantic scrambling to keep civilian's safe, protect vague shadows of classmates that eluded recollection. In perfect, vivid detail he could recall every scratch, every wound endured and attack he'd made, but not the faces of those around him. Like his mind was programmed to zero in on the worst of it, and the worst of it alone.

Today, it seemed life was following much the same pattern. Who should be waiting for him but three of his friends: Akaguro, Jiro and Uraraka. One he was happy to see, two he was not at all prepared to talk to for explicitly differing reasons. It was enough to make him feel as though he'd had a stroke. Waving, Akaguro smiled behind his mask, still bearing the burns from the USJ incident. "Hello, Guren." Ever the insistence on calling him by his chosen name.

Jiro, with that little, persistently awkward half-smile of her's, waved. "Heya."

Meekly returning the gesture, Deku squawked his reply. "H-hey." Earning a raised eyebrow from the girl. Odd, considering he didn't usually react in such a way to her presence. Keep it together, you idiot. Deku inwardly chided himself with a sigh. They were just good friends, fixing the Zune was only something she'd asked him to do. No amount of butterflies or flutters of the heart were going to convince anyone otherwise.

Killing those butterflies outright -as if with unholy fire- was the reluctant regard he received from a certain brunette. "Hi, Deku..." Utterly flat, her delivery of the greeting put an anvil on his heart.

Regretfully, doing his best to obscure the emotion, he replied. "Um, hey... Uraraka." Bitterly, he wondered what sort of life he'd lived before this one. Karma, should such force exist, had it out for him and he begged to know why.

Even Akaguro could sense the mood that followed their reunion. He went to say something about it when Jiro kicked his foot, shaking her head wordlessly at him. Silently, the vampire thanked her for sparing him and Uraraka from explaining their present lack of enthusiasm. With a shrug, Akaguro announced the patrol they'd be taking, the only one left to take of course. The route went through the least likely locals for any sort of disturbance to erupt. Safest parts of the city with the heaviest police presence.

With one major exception: in the middle of the trek they'd be headed though one of the seediest parts of the city, one with little to no police presence. Run down buildings, shabby inhabitants, schools without windows, homes without doors, ghastly sights en masse. Naturally, this was the place the future heroes would be spending the majority of their time. This was no accident on their part and was largely the arena in which Deku had fought many of his battles as a hero these last two years.

Glancing around the derelict neighborhood, Jiro frowned. "I didn't know Musutafu had police deserts..." glaring at her surroundings, like the culprits for the place's mere existence lurked behind the ramshackle walls, she muttered. "the hell happened to make the cops abandon this place?"

In reply, Akaguro shrugged. "Who knows, at least we're here now, in case someone needs us."

Nervously peeking down an alley, Uraraka gulped. "You wouldn't think UA would allow its students to patrol places like this..."

"Ordinarily it doesn't," Akagruo said, index finger raised, "but thanks to... a friend I was able to convince the principal to add it to the patrol roster."

Blinking, flabbergasted, Uraraka almost yelped her reply. "Why!?"

Equally so, though more sedately expressed, the dhampire was in turn perplexed by her outburst. "...Why not? The people living here need protection as well, do they not?"

"Yeah but..." Uraraka murmured, rubbing at the back of her head, "by professionals, not a bunch of rookies like us."

"Ha!" Jiro laughed, "I don't think we think we qualify for amateur status these days." With a shrug, and wry smirk, she added, "a lot of us are already getting courted by agencies and we haven't even graduated yet."

"Everyone wants the recruits making it out of UA," Deku murmured, "either for skill or the prestige associated with earning a diploma here."

Akaguro rolled his eyes. "Some are so greedy for it they'll try to convince youths still attending the school to sign up before they graduate." He scoffed. "Uncle heroics wants you for hero work..."

Sighing, Uraraka shook her head. "Ever the optimist, Stendhal..."

Then it was the dhapmire's turn to sigh. "If ever the optimistic outlook matches the realistic one? I shall hold such a viewpoint. Until then..." he gestured to the dilapidated buildings around them. "I'll just keep my eyes open to the truth of things..."

By Deku's side, Jiro bitterly laughed under her breath. "Never thought I'd see the day..." At Deku's quizzical look, she elaborated. "She's barely said a word to you, talking to him of all people instead."

The vampire rubbed at the back of his neck, averting his eyes from hers. "Yeah... they've never really had the most compatible personalities."

There was a phrase that drummed up memories. "No kidding," the optimistic upbeat girl with the glowering king of doom and gloom, "he's the oil to her water, and I don't mean because of his hair." A jab that Deku was very relieved their friend hadn't overheard.

From what he knew, Akaguro was lucky to have running water at all most days. His living situation was nothing shy of abysmal, not that Deku had ever visited the guy. When your friend shows up to school smelling like he had after an intense workout the day before? You don't just not notice.

"'re in a mood today." Deku commented, not really sure what was going through her head at this moment.

Stuffing her hands into her pockets, Jiro looked away from him completely. "Well..." she sighed, "it's just sad, looking at you two avoiding each other for, what? Half a year at this point." Keeping her voice low, low enough that no one but them could possibly hear, she went on. "I know something happened with you guys." Her tone was almost accusatory. "I wont push but... the fuck, Green? I thought you two were sweet on each other."

I'll never understand where people get that idea from... the vampire sighed. "She... she definitely felt that way about me once." She didn't say anything, instead she merely waited for him to keep talking, if he was going to keep talking. "I... kind of stood her up on new years."

She almost looked offended by that statement. "What the hell for?"

"It wasn't on purpose!" His reply indignant. "I forgot what day it was and, well... when I woke up at maybe three AM, January first? I realized I'd messed up and-" Wait, no. If he told her he'd fainted that would raise questions, questions he didn't want to answer. "...and calling her to apologize at three AM seemed like insult to injury." Well, at least that much was true, even if it omitted his fainting spell.

Frowning, considering what he'd said, she evidently believed him. That didn't mean she liked believing him. "Jeez, Green... were you trying to make her hate you?" She cast a sympathetic look to Uraraka, who was blissfully unaware of their conversation. "Poor thing..."

Once again, Deku sighed. "Guess I was..." What else could it have been? He didn't have an answer to that, wasn't sure he wanted it if there was one.

Jiro on the other hand, wasn't so pessimistic. "You know I wasn't really asking that." her hands wrung at her jacket's lapels for a moment or two. "Well... she's here, right?" Reluctantly, he nodded. "so, she's clearly at least willing to talk to you." Easier said than done though that was. "Maybe not right this minute but, you definitely should."

Not like he could really say she was wrong about that one. "I- yeah, okay." Just as soon as I figure out what to say...

Hands back to her jacket pockets, the hearing hero was somewhat surprised at how quickly he'd agreed with her reasoning. Then again, she hadn't said anything that he could exactly refute. "Good." She said, more calmly now. "You two need to be friends again."

If that's even possible. "Yeah..."

It felt like days, days spent just walking along. In reality it had only been a matter of hours. One half of another patrol done, another day of the final year at UA gone. Four friends sat at a table, gathered round in relative silence. One of them was comfortable with it, not paying the quiet any mind as he bit into a slab or raw meat. Another was trying to keep herself quiet, her metaphorical foot quite comfortable remaining out of her mouth as she twirled a long earlobe with her fingers. As for the last two, they seemed to be avoiding eye contact like it might set them ablaze.

Deku wanted to say something, anything if it meant making Uraraka feel better. But maybe that was the problem, saying anything might have been the thing that got them here. Being to afraid of hurting his friend leading them to this scenario, where if he'd just said no to begin with she might be fine right now. But then, he wasn't even sure if that was he wanted. How he felt right now was difficult to discern. Being nervous around Jiro was par for the course, always had been for various reasons. Was he wrong about- about... okay, he couldn't even think the actual words. Whenever his mind approached them it would just freeze. Was it fear, or that he didn't feel that way at all? Even if it he did feel that way, fear of what?


He blinked, and suddenly he realized he and Uraraka were alone at their table. She sat across from him, a wounded expression on her face, shoulders bunched up tense. Nervous, hurt and yet not backing away from whatever they were about to say to each other. There was a certain bravery about her, something he'd never really appreciated. She was the one mediating the moment when Bakugo had first tried to apologize to him. She'd volunteered to be his partner during that first heroics class. Risked almost certain death to save his life from the zero pointer all the way back at the entrance exams. She'd even been the one to ask him out for new years, different sort of courage though that was.

It... it made him wish he felt something other than empty. "Hey." he said lamely.

She waved, timid gesture though it was. "I- can we talk?"

Something inside him twisted, nauseating him and welling up a need to squirm in his seat. "Yeah."

She drew in a deep breath. "...What happened, back during new years?" He winced. "Was it... was it something I said?" Then his eyes crept back open. "Something I-" she was visibly trembling, a shine pooling in the bottom of her eyes as she fought to keep her voice level, even. "I'm sorry I kissed you, I should've asked, I should've-"

"Whoa, hey, hey!" He stood up and walked to other side of the table, gently gripping her shoulder as he sat beside her. She just lowered her head, shaking body steadied only a fraction by his hand as her face hid behind her hair. "No, it- it wasn't like that, honest. I completely lost track of what day it was and... well..." he sighed, "I'm sorry. I should have said something sooner, I should have apologized ages ago, I just wasn't thinking... Trying not to think."

She reached up and squeezed the hand, the armored hand on her shoulder, still unable to look him in the eye. "Why?" He blinked, his stunned silence prompting elaboration. "What's so bad about thinking?"

Indeed, a question he yearned for an answer to. Analysis, puzzling out how quirks functioned, this sort of thing used to give him life.

But now... "Its more what happens with unfocused thought. When my mind wanders." She sniffled, giving him a moment to think before he continued. "I hate- I hate guilt, feeling guilty about the people I've let, I've watched die." Now she was looking at him, sidelong. "When I'm distracted, when I'm focused on things other than my life? I can almost forget what seeing that, feeling that felt like."

He shook his head, at himself mostly, "But it doesn't leave me alone... It's like a voice in my head, a noise that won't. Go. Away." He had to take a breath, having harshly pushed those last few words through his teeth. "I keep thinking... I keep wanting to be anywhere else, thinking about any other life than this... and I let that hurt you."

He let go of her shoulder, and she reluctantly released his hand. "I'm tired, Uraraka." His voice was barely strong enough to be heard. "Just... so tired. Tired of pain, tired of not feeling, tired of feeling insane, lost." With a final pause, time enough to breathe for a moment, he concluded his ramble. "Tired of feeling lonely, when it feels like I'm better off alone."

For about a minute, no one said a word. The nearly abandoned outdoor area of the restaurant offered naught but wind in terms of sound. As they sat there, together in silence, the terribly honest truth of Deku's heart hung over them. It was pitiable tale of self hatred, isolation. Something Uraraka, rather dismally, knew all about. "Deku," she weakly said, "Stop me if you've heard this one but... I need to tell you a story..."

Once upon a time there was a little girl. Born to a loving a mother and father she smiled so bright her cheeks were burned forever red. They lived in a small, rural village, far to the north. The girl's parents worked together. Born without the abilities of most in the world, there was only so much they could really do; building houses for all the villagers of all the towns nearby. For a time, they were happy. Their living more than enough to keep food on the table, and warmth in home and hearth.

Until one day when no one needed them to build another house. The two parents had no idea what to do. Struggling to think of anything that would keep feeding them and their little girl, they finally came up with a solution. So they packed up their things, said their farewells to friend and family alike and traveled away. From then on out the family was always moving from place to place. No matter where they went, their time there was always short. No point in them ever settling in, they'd just be leaving soon anyways.

Saddest of them three was the little girl. No matter who she met or made friends with it always became pointless, because they'd just be leaving again soon.

She cried.

Despite her parents love, despite all they sacrificed for her to be warm and happy, she was so lonely. But she could never tell them that. Her parents could never know how ungrateful she must have been.

So she smiled.

She smiled like she remembered smiling back home. Putting on a brave face she made herself learn for mom and dad. As long as they were trying so hard to make things work... well, crying just would've been selfish.

So she smiled.

Home was everywhere, so home was nowhere. So they wandered, their little girl learning to burn and shine bright in the face of the lonely black she carried with her, in her heart. Blackness that knew the truth of humans and the trees. Both are creatures that put down roots, spreading and connecting to the world around them. Their surroundings and their young as much family as the other. All the friends, so sweet and accepting of her though they were, were the forest to the tree who was always blown away in the wind.

So she didn't put down roots. She kept them to herself, and thus she felt less and less hurt as they traveled on and on.

Until one day, she traveled away from them. By a train she went to a strange land with towering buildings all round her. It was time to start her own journey. But all the girl wanted was to stop. No more wandering, no more journeys. Just a place to call her own, a place for her and her family to finally stop.

If only that wasn't the kind of thing that only happened in fairy tales. No happily ever after for anyone in the real world.

But then... the most unexpected thing happened. She saw someone trip and fall. So she caught this nervous, clumsy boy. Secretly hoping they'd never be friends, she gave him that smile she'd gotten so good at faking. He just... looked so nice and genuine. Saying goodbye to someone like that after so many others... she didn't know how she could.

Then... he saved her life, and neither of them had to leave.

As time went on, she started to think that maybe she saw a lot of herself, her past in his eyes. That same determined spirit, that same smile worn for others. His kind heart, she thought it could warm the sun were ever it cold but that's not something she ever thought about herself. While her goals were to care for her family, that was never a trait she'd really associated with herself. Secretly, she was afraid that the boy thought the same thing in return.

Years passed, and she thought she might have fallen for this nervous, clumsy boy. Watching him struggle through some of the most difficult things, watching him refuse to give up despite his broken heart...

He could only sit there, blinking, as she sniffled a little, wiping her nose. Why... why did it sound so familiar? "And that brings us to today," she said with a blow of her nose, on a rough, paper napkin. "just..." a bitter, grief wrought laugh shook her shoulders. "Now I just don't know what to do about that last part, if there's anything I can... I don't even know what to think of that part anymore."

He should have felt something. Sadness, remorse, pain. No, just the void in his chest, like always. Even still, his friend's tale made his mind stir. There was something there, a hint, something tangible to help her with. Put down roots... "You want my thoughts?"

She'd gotten used to his lifeless tone. Sniffling again, she turned to look at him. "Yeah..."

A deep breath, slowly exhaled. "I don't think... I don't think it was me you fell for." She flinched, but he wasn't looking at her. He was looking up at the sky, wondering at the dark clouds above, wondering when it would rain. "You're like that tree, constantly being uprooted." Her eyes fluttered, eeking open just a touch wider. "It's the most unnatural thing to you, not having a place to just... grow."

He gave a mirthless, lone laugh. "Yeah, you've had that for three years now. But you didn't really remember what that feeling was, right?" Tightness in her chest, tingling in her eyes warned of tears. "You're- I don't think you're in love." Sure, now he could say it.

Proof enough he didn't feel it at all anymore. He could still say the word where it felt like truth to pass through his lips. Idiot... he had no business, no right to consider love at all. Not for himself. "I think... I think you want this to be a place you'd long forgotten." I don't feel anything... why don't I feel anything?

Cautiously, sniffling again, she gulped before she squeaked out her reply. "What place is that?"

When he turned to look at her, she saw the real him in his eyes. Even behind those sunglasses, in those vacant, lifeless eyes, she saw the glassy eyes that failed to hide a broken heart. There wasn't any warmth there anymore. Even still, he smiled. "Home."

The dam burst. Arms flung around him, his neck, his middle. So shocked was he that he could only blink as she sobbed into his shoulder. He was right, he was so observant and he was right, but... "Deku, I-" the words, his name, choked their way out between sobs. "I love you..."

His face flinched with his grief, regret as he embraced her in turn. "I'm sorry."

"I love you..."

"I'm sorry..."


At the front entrance to UA, sheltered from the rain, Uraraka took in a long breath. She was smiling again, uniform on instead of her hero costume. The sun was almost down, rain had darkened the walkway back to the city.

"Well," said she, in her usual, bright voice, "it ah, almost feels silly to feel okay so soon, but... never look a gift horse in the mouth you, know?" She spun around, hair and skirt swaying with the motion, a grin at her friend.

Deku tried to smile in turn, but it wasn't very convincing.

"Sorry I got so... well, you know." she gave an awkward, breathy laugh, rubbing at the back of her head. "Usually I just let it outta my system on my own but, I guess I couldn't really do that this time."

"Don't worry about it." His fake, one sided smile widened a little, "you didn't do anything wrong, Uraraka."

Her eyes flickered a bit of that sadness, that hurt. "Heh," and then it was gone, "well, as long as we're hanging out again, right?" she walked over, offering him a hug which he was hesitant to accept. "Mind if I tag along again tomorrow?"

"...not at all."

Smiling, she stepped away from him and gave a little wave. "I'll see for patrol then... Green." With a flick of her wrist, her umbrella opened and she turned around, walking away.

Alone. All he heard was the rain, coming down by the bucketful. Slumping against the wall his head hit with a dull thud. Well... now he felt something: cold. He'd almost forgotten what that felt like. Not the sort of cold you feel on your skin, then kind that seeps out from within, from your very core. When had he felt this? What time in his life had let him to... no. That wasn't important.

His friends were important, graduating was important. Living up to everything his mother had done for him was important, not that, not his feelings, not now. His hand went to his pocket, plucking his umbrella therefrom and as it was retrieved something else fell from that pocket. A clattering of glass and plastic and his head turned to see it. A phone, his mother's old phone from when he was a kid.

Wincing at a sigh, he stooped over and picked it up again. There, right in the middle of the last home screen, was that file: Me: Created Dec 11th, 2242. Opening his umbrella, he pushed on the folder and saw it open. My song, dot MP3.

A... a song?

Reaching into his school bag he procured a pair of earbuds and plugged them in. Walking out into the rain, umbrella held with his other hand, he hesitated at the button to play the song. This was... this was a piece of her, her past, her life. The last tangible part of her he had in reach that wasn't her room, her space.

Alone in the streets, standing still with closed eyes, he knew that he had to. He had to, so he did.

Abruptly, at his press of the button, came the light and chipper melody of a piano. Played to a rythym of drums, jazzy and upbeat. He smiled. Yeah, that was her...

"I know...
I know I've let you down...
I've been a fool to myself,
I thought that I could
live for no one else..."

His heart felt like it was about to snap. That voice, that woman's voice... why did it sound like-

looking up, he almost screamed.

"But now through all the hurt and pain...
It's time for me to respect,
the ones you love mean more than anything."

She was there. He saw her! Singing the damn song, how?! He'd never hallucinated in waking moments...

"So with sadness in my heart,
I feel the best thing I could do
is end it all and leave forever...
what's done is done, it feels so bad
what once was happy now is sad
I'll never love again
my world is ending!"

Why... His hands griped so tight his palms began to bleed. Why did it have to be her singing it? Why did his own brain hate him so much?

A gentle hand at his shoulder dragged those thoughts away. Turning around, drenched from the rain, he saw Shigaraki offering a kind smile. With a glum nod, Deku started walking, Shigaraki at his side, twirling serenely in the rain.

His mother's voice following them all the way home.

"I wish...
that I could turn back time...
cause now the guilt is all mine!
can't live without the trust from those you love...
I know...
we can't forget the past...
you can't forget love and pride,
because of that, it's killing me inside..."

Tucked away in their homes were his friends, having taken shelter from the rain. Uraraka kicked off her shoes, umbrella put away as she settled in at her apartment, smiling at the portrait she kept of her mom and dad. Kaminari was by his grandfather's side, while the old man slept peacefully. Ashido was home with her mother, father and little sisters, the family dog snuggled up to her little brother -'his boy'- while she took a snapshot of the moment.

Akaguro lay on his back in a single room apartment, his hand reaching toward the sky like someone there was reaching for his own. Todoroki sat locked in his room with glassy eyes, talking on the phone with a certain patient, vising hours now restricted by her husband's decree. Bakugo and Kirishima snuggled together, in the Kirishima household, sleeping through the rain. Yaoyorozu, cup of tea in hand, looked longingly out the window as she sat at her desk, her notes and various textbooks scattered before her. Lastly, Jiro stood alone in her room, a picture of her, K and Himiko in her hands as she lingered by the window watching the rain.

She got a text, and a tired hand went to her phone. 'hey,' Kaminari, 'not to be all needy but would you mind coming over? I'd ask Mina but... she's all happy with her family right now and I don't wanna get in the way of that.'

Her reply was the same as always, as it had been for over two years now: 'I'll be there, but you should ask Green to be there too.'

This time, someone dared to have a question. 'Why? I mean, I will, I love the guy and all, but why do you always say that? I don't get it.'

Her eyes flickered to photo in her hands, thumb petting at K's face. 'Because as much as you need you need someone to be there, he needs to be there.' Taking a slow breath, she added. 'I know you need help. I know he needs help, but he wont let anyone help. Being alone is killing him. He's only human, after all.'

'heh... guess he is at that. Okay, lady. I let him know. Now will you get your skinny butt over here? I need my other best friend too.'

Jiro actually smiled. 'Already on my way, Den.' Gently setting down the old photo she walked back out her door. Raincoat on, rainboots on she started away to Kaminari's family home. Turning her face toward the sky, she let the rain wash over her as took another, deep breath. With a bitter smirk she shook her head. "Life... god you're a bitch."

"It all returns to nothing...
it all comes tumbling down,
tumbling down,

It all returns to nothing...
I just keep letting me down,
letting me down,
letting me down..."

Chapter Text

III: Raging Wind

It was drawing to a conclusion. Months of hunting, hounding rumors about 'The Coven' had drawn him here, to this old, crumbling motel. Four of them, all that remained in Japan, lurked within. These were odds he'd never faced before. His battles with them had always been one on one. A feat of his ability to remain unnoticed, and his prowess at one who hunted these predators.

His hands were shaking as he put his binoculars back into his pocket, the chill brought from the rain did little to help him cease such movement. He really wanted one of the cigarettes in his pocket, but the smell of smoke, even through the rain, would be a warning that humans were in the area. Patting the packet of cigarettes where they resided, he felt the lighter dig lightly into his leg. After this was done, he'd likely dig into the pack and then some. Knives up his sleeves, caltrops at the ready he pulled his mask down over his face, hood over his head and crept toward the building. None of these things would escape.

As the door creaked open, and he peered inside, sound was swallowed up by the emptiness within. Dust lingered in the air, light from the streets casting shadows across broken floorboards. Only the faintest sound of an exhalation said he was not alone. Lounging forward, into a somersault across dusty wood, he narrowly avoided a hand wreathed in barbed wire swinging for his throat.

Feet scraping at the rotting wood, he skidded to a stop and lashed out with his scarf. When it wrapped around the monster's throat it hissed at him. The male grabbed the scarf and used it like the chain of a mourning star to fling Aizawa into a wall. Upon impact with the decrepit barrier, he smashed right through it. Wind knocked out of him left the hero stunned, sense screaming to recenter themselves. As reality came rushing back, he saw the thing flying toward him and, out of the corner of his eye, his savior: A broken plank, hanging loosely in the floor.

With a savage kick, he propped the jagged hunk of wood up like a spear aimed at a charging boar. Pulling the monster by the same scarf that had been only just been used against him, Aizawa winced at the sound of its ribs snapping, and the organs beneath being shredded. It was almost like the sound of celery and strawberries being chopped.

Momentum of the monster so rudely interrupted snapped the plank in two. Spinning in the air like a projectile penny, the dead beast crashed through what was left of the wall and twitched. Lying dead, bleeding on the dusty floor its death rattle almost sounded pitiful. Breath slowly returning to him, Aizawa peeled himself from the shards of the old wall. A sharp pang, just above his hip, informed him that he too had been lacerated by the decrepit wall.

Not good...

with these injuries they'd smell him long before they could even see him. To make matters worse, his scarf was snarled around the corpse and would take too long to free from it. If only that had remained his only concern, as from upstairs he heard the sound of a child screaming and nothing else mattered. Sprinting up the stairs, knife in hand he leapt toward the source of the cry. Three of them, gathered around a small child. A boy, face hidden from view by one of the females, throwing him behind her.

All he saw was the tangled mess of disastrously unkempt black hair, hanging over the boy's face.

Activating the voice synthesizer in his mask, Aizawa growled. "Let the boy go." They were in the middle of another wide open room, it smelled faintly of propane. Someone had rigged up an old gas powered generator.

Rather than reply, two of them charged right at him, the third taking the boy and running. Cursing under his breath, Aizawa leapt from their paths. Somersaulting despite his pained hip left him shaky. One of them was already on him, claws narrowly missing his throat. Stabbing the hand with one of his knives, he used it like an over sized thumbtack to pin his arm to a wall.

While Aizawa backed away from him, the second female had grabbed him from behind, hauling his throat to her mouth. When her fangs pierced into his skin he let out a pained growl. Second knife sliding into his palm he lanced it up, into her face. The resulting sound was like... spearing a partially crunchy tomato. Warm blood splattered over his neck and shoulder, her muscles went limp, spasming as he wrenched her off him with his newfound leverage.

The male let loose a guttural snarl. Tearing his hand through the blade of the knife -still stuck in the old, dusty wall- he gave the hero a savage backhand to the side of his head. Aizawa went sailing across the room, smashing into the generator, knocking the propane tanks over. One of them was hissing, its precious fuel leaking into the room. The male had torn the knife from the female's skull, allowing her to heal, before making his way over to him. Weaponless, Aizawa went with the one plan his frenzied, dazed mind could formulate.

"So..." the male darkly mused, "this is Eraser Head, Japan's great vampire hunter." While the vampire spun him onto his pack, the hero's hand went to his pocket. The male gripped Aizawa's throat, claws from his other hand savagely destroying the mask on his face, cutting into his skin and drenching him in his own blood this time.

"A young fool without a quirk that works on us at all, murdering with reckless glee." His hand slowly withdrew from the pocket, lighter in hand. "Say hello to the devil for me, murderer."

Before his hand could spear claws through Aizawa's chest, his thumb flicked at the lighter and the room exploded.

The male was sent careening through the opposite wall, the still healing female was set ablaze moments before she threw herself, flailing out the window. She crashed into the adjoining building, the flames on her body licking at the old, dry wood. One could faintly make out the words 'gas storage' on the sign sitting upon the building's roof, if one cared enough to look.

Aizawa was not so lucky. His chest was seared, most of his right arm too and he was sent crashing against the same wall as the now screaming male. Stars in his eyes, his hands fumbled for the knife now by his side as he fell into a crawl. Standing on shaky legs, he limped forward, eyes scanning. No sign of the either female, nor the boy, one of the propane tanks was left miraculously intact.

"I'LL KILL YOU!" The male screamed. "I'LL KILL YOU!" Sighing, a gasping exhalation really, Aizawa reached down and turned the valve on the remaining propane tank, letting the gas into the air.

He said nothing as he turned around, seeing the burning monster flail about helplessly against the flames, and kicked the tank toward him. As it rolled toward the burning monster he limped around the corner and the tank exploded. There was no scream, no cry of pain, just the sound of bones turning to dust.

"Takes care of the cremation..." His voice synthesizer mangled the tone, making him sound like a dying machine.

As he continued limping, he spotted a pair of chains on the wall. Gripping them with his empty hand, he kept his wits about him, watching, listening for the last one. She still had the boy. No further than half way down the hall was he when an arm came through the wall, claws raking his back.

Growling pain, he lurched forward only to then see a leg smashing through the wall. Only by falling to one side as he staggered did he evade the killing stroke. She tore through the wall like paper, her eyes blazoned with fury, claws outstretched. Even then, she had an elegance about herself, her poise as she strode toward him preparing to carve him into shredded meat. Unsteady, shaky, he rolled to his feet and backpedaled. This one was cautious, experienced. She hadn't let her rage blind her and was watching his every move closely, waiting for an opening. Attacking a vampire head on was a death sentence. The only viable tactic was using their momentum against them, playing it defensively and counter attacking.

But she'd seen right through it. Her mind was sharp enough to realize this and expect it from her enemies. "I'm impressed," Aizawa's mechanically inflected voice made her eye twitch, "you seem to have some understanding of tactics."

She said nothing, rather than attack she raked her claws along the wall, picking up chunks of wood and dust that she flung at his face. Only by hurling himself at the wall did he manage to evade. When she charged, he lashed out with the chain, wrapping it around her neck and yanking her toward him. He'd have speared her heart with his knife if she hand flung her arm in front of her chest. Yet her momentum, along with his, carried them through the wood and they fell into the neighboring room.

The adjacent building exploded.

Flames from the other female had ignited something, the gas stored within had burst into rushing fire. As they hit the floor, it yielded to the weight of their bones. Crashing through wood, concrete and mortar they finally came to a stop on the second floor. The neighboring fire spread to the old motel, concrete dust carried over in the smoke of the storage building flooded the rooms thereof. Groaning, rolling onto his front, Aizawa came to the grim realization that most of his ribs were broken and his left leg wasn't much better.

Hand on his knife -his one remaining weapon- he looked up to see the female lying against a piece of concrete. Her head had spun completely around, healing factor slowly correcting the broken neck with awkward, stuttering jerking motions punctuated by cracking and snapping of bone. She'd be up in a matter of seconds. Panic setting in, his moment of success so close, he gripped the knife in hand and pulled his arm back behind himself. Roaring from pain and surging adrenaline he brought his body lurching forward, the knife soaring toward her chest as her eyes went wide with fear.

Someone, somewhere in the room, screamed out a solitary, anguished word: No. The second female, flying through the air -her body still smoldering- hurled herself between them. When the knife pierced her chest, the human and vampire crashing to the ground, he felt his heart grow still. Rising, slowly, eyes agape he looked at her. The look on her face... sadness? Worry?

Another anguished cry split the night, and Aizawa was flung aside. His broken body clattered against the floor, and he could barely feel it anymore. Straining, forcing himself to rise, he took in a sight that gripped at his frozen heart. The last one, the last vampire was... sobbing. Cradling her dead companion in her arms, a hand on the other's cheek as her tears dripped onto the dead one's face.

What? He barely staggered to his feet. But... but they're- Monsters weren't supposed to feel. Monsters weren't supposed to cry, to mourn. Why was this one-

...It was all wrong. Everything he and Nameless had ever known about them and their status as unfeeling beasts.

These things he'd been killing, been sent to kill... they were-

Above, the sound of the building collapsing warned of imminent death. Limping to her side, he gripped her shoulder, she violently pushed his hand away, sending him back to the floor. Cradling the body tighter once he was away. "We have to get out." He said, staggering back to his knees and her. "Now!" She ignored him, and the ceiling came crashing down. Arms around her middle, his one good leg kicking against the floor, he flung he and her backwards; into the streets, into the rain.

While the smoke billowed upward, the collapsed storage building sizzling in the rain as the motel burned, he dragged them both away. She continued sobbing, shaking from grief, only to abruptly snap out of it, lurching for the burning motel.

"CHI-" and the second building collapsed in a roar of bursting flame, smoke and fire billowing into the sky the same as its neighbor. Falling to her knees she let loose an anguished wail. Face in her hands she let her grief wrack her body, as the rain soaked her to the bone. Aizawa couldn't stand up, his strength had abandoned him completely.

The boy... Had he just killed him too?

She was on him in a flash. Hands on his collar she pinned him to a brick wall, rattling his broken ribs. "Why?" her voice cracked, lip quivering. "What reason do you have for this!?"

He couldn't look her in the eye, he couldn't even look at her. It took him a long time to voice an answer. "The wrong one..." Shaking his head eyes closed, shame, guilt and a broken heart weighed his body like stone. "No reason I can give would ever be good enough." His voice was cold, devoid of will. "I wont justify this, I can't." Slowly, he turned his eyes to hers. She bore no anger, no rage, just the face of a woman whose world had ended. "If you want to kill me... you have every right."

She dropped him. Fingers releasing his rain and blood soaked collar, she let him slump to the street. "Live with it." She turned away. "That's your punishment." He looked at her in stunned, disbelieving grief. "You clearly have something resembling a conscience." her clenched fists shook, the effort of steeling her resolve. "Someone should feel that for us... before we are extinguished forever." And she walked away, disappearing into the night.

Aizawa lay against the brick wall, making no attempt to stand. He didn't want to, didn't care. The blaring of sirens, fire trucks, soon approached but someone else had beat them to the scene. Landing with an impact that shook the ground was All Might. "Never fear," said he, "FOR I AM HERE!" Aizawa didn't even look up when he approached. "Hang on there, citizen!" Said the hero, gingerly putting hand on his arm. "Help is on the way!"

Aizawa looked up, into the man's eyes. Funny... he hadn't remembered them being black like that. "Doesn't matter." And his head lowered again. "The damage is already done..."

All Might picked him up, carrying him to the approaching ambulance and he was put on a gurney. As the EMTs set to work, keeping him alive, his eyes closed and he drifted off. Had he stayed awake a moment longer, he might have seen All Might carrying a boy with messy hair, his small body shaking with violent coughing, to another ambulance.


Startling awake, hand reaching for his phone, Aizawa tried to calm his racing heart. He was in his classroom, at his desk, a series of newspaper clippings strewn upon it. Disappearances, all in the last two years, of heroes, villains and civilians alike. All had an article featuring an initial disappearance, and then one where they'd mysteriously come back, only then free of their quirks. Occurrences that had All Might acting as though the world might be ending, something Aizawa had assured him was not happening. Until they knew the cause, had a hint at least, there was no point jumping to conclusions.

Sighing, swallowing, he rubbed at his eyes as he answered the infernal, ringing phone. "Yes?" Said he, chair spinning around as he spoke.

"He's back," the voice of Nezu, the oft unpresent school Principal, "The Nameless One just returned to Japan." Aizawa felt his heart skip, his breath halted. "He just called, said it was a productive trip, asked how you were."

Gulping, a shaking hand reaching for his hip-flask, Aizawa took a sizable swig. Gone for over ten years... why come back now? "Still here." After a moment's silence, his nerves demanded he break it. "Did he say anything else?"

"Only for you to be careful," Nezu spoke gently, "he thinks some nasty storms are about to enter all our lives... he sounded worried."

Taking in a shuddering, stabilizing breath, Aizawa couldn't help the fear that was building in his bones. "Let's hope we're ready..."

Arterial spray painted the concrete walls, bodies losing their last embers of warmth lay motionless next to a single, steel door. Boot prints left a trail, first through the crimson puddles, exposing the metal and concrete beneath, then again as they left perfect outlines of their treads in red along the rest of the corridor. Overhaul didn't care about any of this. All that had his attention was the open door and empty room beyond. When Dabi approached, shaking his head, the man snarled behind his plague mask.

"Find her." Turning on his heels he went to stomp away.

He'd only made it a few steps when Dabi replied. "According to my guys, she was last seen headed to the lab with Shuyen. I'll start there."

Overhaul's boot scuffed against the floor, his retreat from the scene halted. Eyes narrowing, he slowly turned around, approaching one of the dead bodies. Stooping low, he reached out and peeled off a dead subordinate's mask. Giving Dabi a very impatient look, he gestured to the dead man's face. "Looks like Shuyen never left his post."

Expression flush with disbelief, Dabi considered the corpse. "That's not possible..."

Overhaul's hands clenched into fists, knuckles popping audibly. "It seems we've had a shape-shifter pay us a visit, old friend." His hand clapped down on Dabi's shoulder, earning a flinch from the mutilated man. He knew full well what a simple touch from his boss could and would do to a man, he had no reservations for ending up like that.

As Dabi gulped, his fight or flight response warring in his mind and body, Overhaul whispered. "I don't need to tell you how important that girl is, both to myself and the mission." Dabi nodded, Overhaul gently patted the man's shoulder. "Take Muscular, Mooney and whoever else to the surface, follow the tracker in her arm and bring her back." He released Dabi, carefully. "quietly, if you please. I'll not see her fall into the wrong hands." and he began to stomp away.

Mind still stirring with adrenaline and fear, Dabi blurted out the first words that came to mind. "Who's hands are the wrong ones?"

"Anyone else's," Overhaul barked, "now bring her home!"

Monday, July 23rd: 2255

Broad daylight, just outside a cafe known for its hazelnut mocha, a group of heroes sat gathered round a table. Hunched over his coffee, a mask by the saucer his cup occasionally rested on, was a boy wearing a red and black hood. His body was clad in a suit of lightweight armor, same color scheme as the hood over his white and green hair. As he took a sip of his coffee, hazelnut mocha of course, sunlight glinted off his sunglasses. As he exhaled after the sip, the scent of his drink, toothpaste and the alcohol the it failed to mask, wafted gently into the air. No one but him would smell it, but he didn't need them to notice to feel ashamed of himself. Anything that helped him sleep, so long as his friends didn't know about it.

A hererochromic lad, wearing a white button up and slacks to match, broke the momentary silence. "You guys hear about that villain that got brought in the other day?" Todoroki, 'real name yet to be chosen'.

Akaguro -or Stendhal, as he preferred- shook his head with a sarcastic chuckle. "You mean that fool, Gentle Criminal?"

Kyoka "Earphone Jack" (usually just "Jack") Jiro rolled her eyes. "A Saturday morning cartoon villain come to life... yeah, we heard."

Sensing more to this story, Uraraka chimed in. "What about him? Weird for you to bring up old news like that..."

Not bothering to chime in, Bakugo just crooked an eyebrow and looked to Todoroki, who glared in return. While the warhead rolled his eyes, crossing his arms, sulking back into his chair and staring out the window, the heterochrome explained. "Well... apparently he's quirkless."

"What?" Yaoyorozu -"Creati"- sounded shocked. "That's- but just the other week he was engaging several heroes with some form of body altering quirk!"

"Elasticity." Deku put forward, taking a slow sip of his coffee.

Yaoyorozu nodded appreciatively. "Precisely. How can he be quirkless now?"

"Well..." Uraraka put forward, uneasy. "You guys saw Aizawa asleep at his desk, right?" Everyone nodded. "Did you see what he fell asleep looking into?"

Deku's eye twitched. "Yeah... creepy stuff. Some psycho's been going around taking people's quirks." The group was standing up now, prepairing to head back outside to finish their patrol.

Todoroki nodded, as they exited the shop. "What's strange about it is the lack of discrimination. Heroes, Villains, regular people, anyone seems likely to be a target."

"Wait..." Bakugo rubbed at his chin, "Kirishima said something about that the other day..."

Uraraka blinked, gulping nervously as she did. "What did he say?"

Bakugo growled. "I don't know! If I knew I'd just- ah, fuck it." He got out his phone and started texting. How he was able to navigate without tripping and kissing pavement was anyone's guess.

Rolling his eyes, Akaguro muttered under his breath. "Charismatic as ever..."

"Fuck off, crow face."

Holding up his hands, Deku hoped to diffuse the situation before it could erupt into something worse. "Easy, guys." He said soothingly. "There's no need be confrontational, ri-?" Vrrm VrrrmmmEyes aflutter, Deku reached into his pocket for his phone.

Ashido: "Hey! Heard about your little 'project' from Kami, (Kiri told him, and I think he found out from Bakugo?) I think I remember her listening to this one!" What followed was link to some video streaming service. "Best of luck~! ;D "

...okay then. As the link took its sweet time loading, Deku placed his phone back in his pocket as he adjusted his mask. If he was blushing, he wanted to hide.

"In any case," Jiro sighed, "he was apprehended by the local police, here in Musutafu, right?. We should be on the lookout for anything related to this." And the group had begun wandering toward the most run down part of the city.

Akaguro laughed his unsettling laugh. "Please, the worst we've had to deal with lately was that bunch of Yakuza who'd acquired machine guns. The chances of us actually dealing with-"

"ACK!" Deku nearly fell over. Someone, a very small someone, had run up and grabbed him around his middle from the side. Akaguro and Jiro turned around, very confused by what they heard and then what they saw. Soon the others had turned around as well, having similar reactions. Astoundingly, when Deku looked to see who had embraced him, he saw a little girl. She couldn't have been even ten years old, for how small she was. Grey hair, a horn protruding from the right corner of her skull, a shabby dress and arms covered in bandages. She- she reeked of blood. "Hey," Deku said, kneeling down, "what's wrong, little one-?"

She jumped into his arms, clinging to his armored chest as if for dear life. Reflexively, Deku felt himself cradling the little one. "Please..." her voice was tiny, utterly afraid. "I don't wanna go back..." her tiny body was shaking violently, but it was the middle of the summer, and Deku's nose had already detected the cause of her tremors: fear. He could actually smell the fear on her.

"Uh..." Jiro knelt beside them both. "Friend of yours green?" She seemed to have no idea what to make of the situation.

Though it wasn't like anyone else did either. "I- no, I've never seen her before." Deku pet soothingly at her head, hoping to at least calm her down a bit.

"Looks like we're taking a trip to the MCPD precinct..." Akaguro sighed, rubbing at the back of his sweaty head. "can't have her running around without supervision." Even without knowing anything of his childhood, his tone told that he spoke from experience.

Uraraka nodded as Jiro reached out and started petting soothingly at the child's head, but she seemed to flinch at the initial touch. "We don't all have to go though, one of us could take her there while the rest keep up with the patrol."

At the mere suggestion Eri's grip on Deku tightened. "I- I guess that'll be me." Said the vampire, squeezing her in turn. Something in his chest... fluttered, ached. What was that feeling? He knew it so well but...

A trash can clattered in the alley, hopping on one foot as she clawed her foot into a sock, was a girl. "Drn it Eri!" Her other shoe was in her mouth, "I sed WAI a seh!" A mess of blonde hair, somehow made messier by the buns she kept it in. Yellow eyes and pale skin, the veins in her throat, forearms and lower jaw were dark blue, distended Yaoyorozu went white at the sight of her, a hand clasped over her mouth, and it was plain to see why. In her hand was something bloody, something that smelled like the blood on the girl, apparently named Eri. "I only cut yer arm like that so those sickos couldn't find ya again!" Eyeing the object accusingly, she threw it away, as far as she could. Todoroki's eyes went wide at the sheer altitude the object reached.

Jiro's jaw dropped, standing up as though she'd been stunned into a trance. Deku's arms formed a protective layer around Eri. "Who are you?" He demanded as Eri chanced a look at her pursuer.

The girl rolled her eyes. "We've got goons from the Yakuza on our butts. Now ain't the best time for a meet and greet."

"Himiko? Everyone, even the blond with the bloody hand, turned toward Jiro. "I- I thought you were dead!" Deku's gaze shifted rapidly between them. This was her old friend? This was Toga!?

Toga, backpedaling a step, looked about ready to scream. "...Kyoka gurl, I-" she shook her head vigorously, growling as she did. "Now's not the time! We have to-"

"Have to what?" Then, everyone suddenly found someone else to pay attention to. Multiple someones. "Go on, I just have to hear what you were planning to do with that child." A man, his hands mutilated by ancient burn scars, wearing a scarecrow-like mask stepped forward, a towering behemoth of a man in a cloak and hokey-mask behind him. "Or, if you prefer, I could just take her back quietly." Eri's grip on Deku went so tight it almost hurt.

As the men stepped forward, tailed by a few others in similar outfits, Akaguro drew his sword. "That sounds about legit as a back alley card trick." His blade came to bear, forming a barrier between Deku, Eri and the approaching men.

Jiro's eyes were searching frantically between all these new arrivals. Total overload, no idea what to react to first or what any of the appropriate reactions were anymore. Himiko, her Himiko, was back and on the run from actual Yakuza. ...If she was telling the truth. She'd been all but a ghost for the past 5 years, that entire time she'd never reached out, said one word to her. Now she comes back, after wounding a child, telling tales about an all but extinguished criminal organization? There was no appropriate reaction, none that didn't come with an alternative that wasn't just as valid.

Uraraka was not so uncertain. "Hey, we don't know what's going yet! There's no need to go drawing weapons!" She interposed herself between the two groups, eyeing one and then other, watching for any sign of combat.

Bakugo's eyes were fixed on one man in the other group. Lurking behind that hockey-mask was an eye, just one that he could see. It barely registered as human, more like the eye of a starving beast, yearning for the kill. It was stuck, right on the little girl. Lightly tapping on Todoroki's hand, he whispered. "I think the girl is telling the truth. See the eyes on the big guy?"

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Todoroki nodded. "Kinda reminds me of my father." Among others. He did not add. At least in this particular instance, he was able to find it within himself to take the warhead's side.

Overhearing the conversation, Yaoyorozu started drafting a metal quarterstaff from one of her palms. "Any chance we can just flee? Get... Eri to safety." She only hoped she'd gotten the name right, and that such an option was indeed possible.

Although he'd overheard everything, Deku hadn't had to. Every instinct in his body was screaming to protect Eri, pulling at his heart. ...Ah, now he remembered the feeling: empathy. It had his heart pounding, blood surging through him with an indomitable strength, making him feel again. This little girl, this scared child... he remembered being, feeling like that once. The big picture... if we risk a confrontation now, without knowing what's going on there could be incredibly collateral damage, injured civilians or worse, worst case scenario.

"You merely thought solely with your heart; just like you did the day you were turned."

...Yeah, okay. Maybe that was a lesson he hadn't learned. If learning that lesson meant abandoning a girl to a fate at the hands of possible Yakuza, he didn't want to learn it. Standing up, Eri held protectively in his arms, Deku cleared his throat. "Who are you? What's your relationship with Eri?"

The man in the scarecrow mask paused. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me," Deku's eyes narrowed, "explain your relationship to this child, but I'm going to ask that you prove whatever claims you make. Otherwise, if you insist on taking her into your custody, you'll have to follow us peacefully to the police station." Eri gave him a look that was somewhere between wanting to cry, relief and joy. She buried her face in his shoulder, her trembling finally subsiding almost entirely away.

Toga let out an inaudible sigh of relief, giving Deku a grateful -if not partially mischievous- smile. Spinning on her heels, she stuck her tongue out at the group of men and backpedaled toward the UA students. Growling a warning, Akaguro leveled his sword again, preventing her from reaching Deku and Eri. Toga gave him a disdainful, impatient look but ultimately shrugged it off. Evidently, things were going somewhat the way she wanted.

Jiro grabbed Toga's shoulder and pulled her up beside her, as distant from Eri as she could manage but also out of reach of these 'Yakuza'. Leaning to Toga's ear, she hissed. "I don't even know where to begin right now, but don't you dare run away again." Even Deku could hear the trembling waver in her voice. Something bordering on heartbreak and rage.

Toga cackled to herself. "No promises, Kyoka Gurl. Yer girl Himiko is a busy bee," casting a vengeful eye to the man in the scarecrow mask she grinned like a crocodile, "Ain't that right... Dabi?" for a brief second, unseen by all but 'Dabi', her eyes changed to the color a man named Tsubasa.

Dabi let out a savage snarl. "What. Did you do. To Tsubasa!?" Uraraka, sensing the inevitable, motioned for everyone to start backing away, which they did.

All except for Jiro. "Himiko-"

Toga pushed her out of the way. "Wuddaya think I did to him?" With a flick of her wrist, a knife was in her hand, making Jiro's eyes go wide. "I could show ya, if ya want..." Roaring, tearing through the air where had been, was a rush of blue flame. Cackling as she sailed into the air, another knife in her hand, Toga cheered. "Run for it Kyoka gurl! Imma skin me some bad guys!"

Deku's arms cradeled Eri as his body tensed, "Hang on to me..." he murmured, and she did. Eri's foot jammed against his pocket, Akaguro's eyes widened at the sight of the blue flames, Jiro fell over in her mad dash to escape Dabi's attack and the others prepared for combat. Yaoyorozu pulled her quarterstaff from her skin, Todoroki's ride sight encased itself in ice and Bakugo lowered to his usual stance.

And music started blaring from Deku's pocket. The lively, energetic tune of an alternative rock song.

He'd forgotten that he'd left that song loading... Eri's foot must have-

"BRING IT ON, ASSHOLES!" And Bakugo was the first to go tearing into the fray. He was met with an inferno of blue flame, but his quick reflexes and quirk turned the fire to a massive cloud of smoke.

Coughing violently, Akaguro backed away, gagging for air as he dropped his sword. "Guren-" he actually fell over, his body so weakened by the smoke. "RUN!"

"Uravity!" At his yelling of her name, She ran to Eri and Deke, flinging her arms around them and Deku felt his weight vanish.

"GO!" She didn't have to tell him twice. One kick off the ground, his arms securing Eri perfectly, and they were flying away.

Snarling, Dabi pointed to the sky. "MOONEY!"

With the added sound of the music, Deku was too easy to track. "Damn it Ashido..."

When they landed on a nearby roof, Deku almost pried, Eri off of himself and put her in Uraraka's arms. "NO!" Eri screamed. "Don't go!" Her hands reached after him.

A purple behemoth -its head shouded by some fleshy, leathery hood- crashed onto the roof. At the sight of the armored teenager, it snarled. "Murderer..."

"RUN!" Deku screamed, hurling himself at the thing with everything he had. Even as he and the monster feel from view.

Eri started sobbing as Uraraka started running, jumping as fast and far as she could away. "Don't worry," she cooed, cradling the child as reassuringly as she could, "That's my friend Izuku Midoriya..."

Back at the erupting scene of violence, Deku had only just succeeded in throwing the monster into the street below, landing with the grace of a cat as he surveyed the area. Hockey-mask was currently charging at a fallen, nearly incapacitated, Akaguro, Yaoyorozu standing over and defending him. Toga was busy, her knife slicing through the soft flesh of the men yet to speak. Jiro's earlobes clicked into the devices she'd apparently mounted on her gloves as her her eyes searched frantically for an opening to attack.

He's one of the most amazing people and heroes I've ever met...

While the monster groaned, its flesh putting itself back together, Deku's fists clenched and he readied to charge ahead.

Everything's going to be alright .

With one push off the ground, he was soaring like comet, fist sending Hockey-mask flying.

Time to be a hero.

"I!" Deku almost didn't stick the landing because of the song. "biding my time at the end of the line," he fumbled after his phone for a moment, nearly getting flattened by an incredibly muscled arm for his trouble, had he not leapt into the air. "no compromise in sight so I'LL!"

Never again would he leave any apps open on patrol... Feet connecting with the wall, he kicked off of it and uppercut Hockey-mask into the street. No sooner had he landed when a pillar of blue flame threatened to engulf him.

"walk through the fire..." Thank goodness for Todoroki and his ice quirk, shielding his armored, flammable body. "break through the blinds to find my desire..."

Todoroki sighed. "Midoriya... why?"

"But I'm slipping back again!"

"I didn't mean to-" Blue fire all but evaporated Todoroki's ice barrier, the heterochrome's eyes went wide as he frantically put up another one.

"Back to the start again,"

Snarling, eplosions splitting the air, Bakugo roared at Dabi. "I'M NOT DONE WITH YOU YET!" Deku could just make out the Yakuza man's smoldering form, skidding across the street as Bakugo chased after him.

"Back where I ought've been,"

The smoke had Akaguro's body wracking with each, violent cough. It sounded like he was tearing vocal chords with each of his body's attempts to clear his lungs. A purple limb raised onto the street, threatening to snare his neck.

"Feels like the tide is turning back again!"

Deku pointed after Dabi. "Help Bakguo!" and he leapt at the monster, his fist sending its body careening into a brick wall. With a begrudging nod, Todoroki skated along an icy trail of his own making to help his classmate.

"No sign of settlin," Where the hell was Jiro? Neither she not Toga were anywhere in sight... "just like there's never been," Yayorozu's quarterstaff twirled about, sending one thug with the head of a velociraptor to the ground, spinning around just in time to parry an attack from Hockey-mask. She let out a roar, spinning her body about in an elegant, violent swing, her weapon sundering the man's mask and staggering him. From his amused smile, he'd barely felt it. Springing to, Deku's body twisted as flew, bringing his boot into the side of the man's skull and sending him through a neighboring wall. "sounds like the record's broken!"

Grumbling Deku punched and grabbed at his pocket. "Shut up! We're in the middle of-"

"Look out!" Yaoyorozu tackled him, barely saving him from their assailant's wild punch. Deku's eyes went wide when he felt the rush of air that followed. This guy was strong all right... To his horror, he saw the man had spouted additional muscle fibers, exposed to the air and pulsating around his arms. His face bore the look of a rabid animal, let out to slaughter whatever couldn't escape it. His left eye bore a nasty, jagged scar and the glass eye within the socket looked like that of an eldritch horror. To make matters worse, he was laughing.

"Creati..." Deku breathed.

"It's been up and down,"

"Yes?" said she, as they got to their feet. Behind them the monster was re-entering the fray.

"But I know I'm fine..."

Deku gulped, keeping an eye on Akaguro as he prepared to counter attack both their enemies. "We need backup." Nodding, a communications device started spouting from her ear, and the violence really got going: both Hockey-mask and the monster charged. While Yaoyorozu clung to his back, Deku leapt into the air.

"I'm alive!"

The villains crashed together mid air, Deku threw Yaoyorozu while a grappling hook shot from her wrist to carry her to safety, the vampire plumetting toward the tangled villains. His heels made contact with their skulls, driving them into the ground as he sprang away, between them and his allies. This was not going to be easy...

"I've been justified..."

The monster was the first back on its feet, and it moved faster than Deku anticipated. Only by falling back, his body at a ninety degree angle only his feet barely remained in contact with the ground as it soared past him.


It landed just over Akaguro. Body pivoting, twisting, Deku's propelled himself into something of a backward somersault as his foot kicked into the monster's ribs a football player during playoffs. Ribs shattered, a scream was produced and it crashed into another neighboring wall. He landed over his wheezing friend, prepared to protect him from whatever came next.

"Panic attack, I'm slippin through the cracks..."

Hockey mask seemed to have doubled his size for all the muscle fibers covering his upper body. The same could be said for his speed, it was enough to catch Deku completely by surprise and his fist connected with the vampire's skull. His neck broke like a twig, sending him spinning in the air like a rag doll and sprawling over Akaguro.

"Everything's turning black..."

He might had followed after the agonizing teenager, his body screaming in pain so severe he almost blacked out, if not for Yaoyorozu. She was on a nearby roof, nearly instantly sollidifying riot foam spraying from her palms, coating the muscular man. "This is creati broadcasting on an open frequency! We need backup! Villains are attacking, possible nearby civilians! Repeat: We need backup!"

"still don't know how I'm gonna make it back..."

The riot foam was enough to keep the man almost total immobilized. Shaky hands, pushing past his sword, reached Deku's head. "S-sorry... Guren..." with a tug, he spun his friend's skull back into place and as his body healed, Deku took a gasping breath.

"Back where the other side, back where the other's lie..."

Staggering back to his feet, shaky breaths making his body tingle with cold, he stood over his still incapacitated friend. "Th-thanks." Muscular shattered his way through the riot foam, Yoayorozu looked about ready to pass out from the exertion of making so much material, and the monster leapt right at Deku. Its hands grabbed his shoulders, forcing him to the ground and smashing his spine directly into the concrete. This thing... it felt like fighting the Nomu all over again.

"Feels like it always drags me back again, back where it all began..."

Feet kicking up into the thing's chest, he hurled it over his head with a savage roar, slamming into Muscular and the street beneath them. With a twist of his body, he was back on his feet, spine forcing itself back into alignment as he flexed his wrist and unsheathed a set of claws. "Stendhal..."

"back to the start again,"

Still coughing, the dhampire gave a wicked grin and peeled off his mask with a nod, and Deku flew. In a blur of motion, he sliced through the skin of the monster and the man, sending the blood into Akaguro's awaiting maw. The man went limp, the monster did not. If anything, it only seemed to be slower.

"back to the start again,"

Akaguro growled. "No." Staggering to his feet, he glared at the monster. "First the nomu, now you?" His legs were shaking, threatening to buckle beneath him. "My quirk can incapacitate anyone!

"back where I ought've been,"

Deku landed, skidding to a stop, eyes going wide at the sight of what his friend was doing. "Don't!"

"Feels like the clock keeps turning back again,"

With a snarl, Akaguro charged, sword poised to strike. "FALL!"His sword impaled the monster right through, slicing the limp muscle fibers of Muscular's left side off. Just like the Nomu, it was already healing. With a howl, the monster ripped the sword free and punched Akaguro so hard he went flying, bouncing off the street like a stone on water. Amazingly, he'd kept a grip on that sword of his.

"back where it all began, comin around again, yeah but I know this time-"

Mooney looked about ready to charge after Akaguro, something Deku could now allow. So he flung himself at the thing. "No you don't!" Both sets of claws at the ready, he dug into the thing's flesh and shredded the muscle and tendons at the shoulder blades, making it fall onto its face. In a surprise move, it kicked off the ground, sending them hundreds and hundreds of feet into the air. It was everything Deku could do to keep from sailing away from it in the wind.


He grappled at it in the air, trying to position it between him and the ground, and it seemed to have the same idea. Raking his claws across the thing's face, shredding through bone, muscle and brain. He saw an eye go sailing away as it punched him, grazing his jaw and spinning him about like a boomerang. Thinking quickly, he hooked his ankles around it's neck and hauled, bringing just barely between and the street.


They crashed into and through the road with a near roaring split of the pavement and splatter of blood and bone.


The twitching mass of purple flesh and bone gurgled beneath him as the word around him spun. If only the damn song would turn off, or his center of balance would come back, or- ...something!


A fumbling hand found Mooney's face, less than a second later Deku punched it as hard as he could. The gurgling subsided, the motion reduced to next to nothing and all it seemed to be doing at that moment was healing. Staggering to his feet, finally getting a grip on his phone, Deku managed to turn the audio off.

Just in time for muscular to hit the back of his head with the force of a jetliner at full speed.

To say that Deku saw stars would have been a drastic understatement. A veritable galaxy sprang to life, dancing in front of his eyes, cascading in a brilliant display of cognitive malfunction the likes of which he had never thought to imagine. It took a full three seconds for his body to register what had happened, another second for him to realize he'd hit a wall and then a second further the pain to final reach his synapses. His nervous system had been overwhelmed, overloaded and overstimulated to the point that a lesser creature would have died instantaneously -and rather painlessly- from the shock of such extreme stimuli alone.

Deku was no such creature. He was, in fact, a full blooded, physically matured-to-his-prime vampire with all the durability and redundant healing of the most overwhelmingly gifted heroes. So when it is stated that he fully processed and fully felt the extreme pain of that attack, it should be known that his nervous system recognized every single minute impulse of electrical activity in every available pain receptor. Unlike humans, Vampires do not have a threshold to cross at which point dopamine and serotonin will be flooded into the endocrine system to block out the pain. Luckily, this meant that Deku was not immediately loopy or mildly intoxicated by the contents of his own brain. Unfortunately, this meant that he saw no relief, no shielding and no blissful escape from the pain until it had subsided moments later.

Perhaps most unfortunate of all, those precious moments were all it took for Mooney and Muscular to get back up. Yaoyorozu had done everything she could -exhausted herself to a point of unconsciousness- but this only prolonged the inevitable. So, with shaking bones barely supported by shell-shocked muscles and signals from his poor brain, Deku stood back up as well. Until his friends were safe, he refused to stay down. A decision he would regret later, but in that moment, it was exactly what he should have done.

"You're a tough kid," Muscular laughed, his mad-dog grin bursting with life, "this might be the first fight I've actually enjoyed in nearly ten years." He let out another, cackling laugh. "It's never any good when your opponent goes down too easily.

A shaky, staggering footstep met the concrete and Deku's knee nearly buckled. One step forward almost had him on the ground again. "Yeah... I have a knack for that." Swaying under the forces of gravity, he brought his fists up, preparing to fend off whatever happened next or to attack if he saw an opening.

He only hoped his body would follow through with the decision. Strangely, he wasn't exactly afraid anymore. Seeing how much his adrenal glands had already pumped into his system had easily gone over the amount they typically produced in a day, his body was having a fit. Heart rate was through the roof, his eyes seemed to pick up every spec of dust and debris in the air, every sound rang in his ears like a gunshot and he could swear he felt the air pressure around him fluctuating. His limbs were shaking, sweat soaked into his armor and clothes underneath, and for the life of him he couldn't slow his breathing.

Muscular's already inhumanly wide grin went wider still. "Oh really?" His legs tensed, clearly getting ready to strike, Deku braced for impact. "HERE I COME, LITTLE HERO-ULGH!"

A rush of wind akin to a hurricane tore through the area, blood spattered and sprayed at the ground making Deku's stomach growl louder than he though he could yell. A wave of sound hit his eardrums, two impacts -the first was the crunching of flesh and bone, the next was of a body being sent through at least one building- hit Deku's ears with enough force to make him scream as blood trickled down the sides of his head.

As he staggered, clutching at his ears, he became dimly aware that he was in someone's shadow. "You're not hurting another hair on any of my student's heads..." The booming, herculean voice of the world's greatest hero put Deku's battered at east. "Because I AM HERE!" All Might's voice bellowed like a warrior from eons past, standing between Deku and Mooney. "You okay, Young Midoriya? I didn't see any injuries just now but that was one nasty punch you took."

Weakly, barely able to stand, Deku nodded. "Wh-..." he had to breathe, "what do you need me to do?"

All Might smiled. "Just stay back, you did an admirable job keeping everyone safe until help arrived." While All Might spoke, Mooney seemed to hesitating, his eye twitching.

Deku fought to keep talking, even as his vision threatened to go completely black. "The- ... the others..." stay. awake... "Fighting a... flame guy... Jiro ran..." He fell, hand clutching at the wall to keep him upright as he pointed, "that way, I... think..." his hand slipped, and then he was on the ground. At least he was still awake.

"Don't worry," Said All Might, "I didn't come alone..." As Deku surrendered the fight, a row of teeth erupted like lava out of a volcano from Mooney's mouth, right at him. With the back of his hand, All Might shattered the assailing teeth, a spatter of blood bursting from his hand. With a glare in his eyes, All Might demanded something. "And just who might you be, evildoer?"

Mooney seemed to smile at this. "Me?" He drew up, standing only his legs, towering over All Might. "I am the sins your precious world tired, and failed, to erase, obscure from the eyes of this fragile, fragile world. I am my friend's, and my Sensei's creation."

All Might's breath caught. "...Sensei?"

Mooney grinned. "I am... at the High End of your evolution, pushed beyond what humans will reach for millennia." He was on All Might before he could think to dodge. Grappling with him, trying to throw him away from Midoriya, he found that his usual efforts didn't so much as budge the creature. Putting everything he had into one savage haul, Mooney was able to meet the effort and their bodies spun with enough force to stir up a small twister. When the wind finally settled, All Might had a nast gash in is his side, bleeding profusely and Mooney was standing over him. "But you can just call me 'Mooney', everyone else does."

As Deku's vision faded away, he only hoped that this would end with minimal bloodshed.

Chapter Text

It's a sad thing, realizing that everything changes.

Change marks the beginning