Both of their hands were scarred.
It was something Eri latched onto; Dekiru’s hands were scarred, like her own, a patchwork of marks for her to trace. She didn’t understand why, though—didn’t understand why his hands were like her own.
She got them because she was wrong, and bad. But Dekiru was never bad.
So why? Why did he have them, too?
When she had asked this, voice very small, tense, his face has shifted to something angry, and she flinched.
He softened again, the same Dekiru he always was, with her.
“You aren’t wrong, or bad,” he had said, “it was- him, that was, okay?”
She was doubtful. But Dekiru had never lied before. “Okay.” His hands took her own, lacking hesitation - no fear of her quirk at all.
His hands were so similar, and different.
She traces the scars with her fingertips, and for a moment, allowed herself to hope.
Sometimes. Dekiru would leave.
Not for long. Only at night.
But Eri would get very scared, every time, as she woke with a gasp and he wasn’t here.
The one time he was, he had looked very guilty, voice thick with something she didn’t understand. “Have you been having nightmares, Eri?” He had asked, and she nodded.
He was silent. Frowning. “I’ll be here next time, okay?”
He was. But he was always gone in the mornings, now. “I’m sorry. I just need to get this done, okay, bug?”
She wanted to scream and cry and kick, demand he stay—but eri knew that was Bad behavior, even if Dekiru had said she could do what she wanted, express herself as she wanted, that she wouldn’t be hurt. She didn’t want to test that; didn’t want to test Dekirus unlimited kindness, because she was afraid that it would run out, with her, that somehow she’d be so bad that even he would abandon her—
So she only nodded again, complacent.
The trash kept her company when he was gone, anyways.
They moved into a house, a month later. Dekiru smiled at her through his bruises, and she smiled back, hesitant. “We’ll be living here, okay, Eri?” She nodded, and he frowned with thought. “Is there anything you want to decorate with?”
She fiddled with her rabbit her got her, last week, and smiled. “Bunny.”
He blinked, then beamed back, slightly choked up. “Yeah. I’ll get you all the bunny stuff you want, Eri.”
She had hummed, nodding her head, something happy and relieved flashing on her face. He had grinned brighter at that, ruffled her hair. She had only flinched a little, before she leaned up into his touch.
It was the first time she asked for something.
(He remembered, the second time he met her, as he clutched her close and ran, how she looked at his hoodie and asked, Bunny?)
“He can’t hurt you,” he said as he held her, “I made sure that he can’t hurt you anymore.” Her tears still flowed, though, and he clutched her tighter. “It’s okay. I’m here, I’m here, I’m not going anywhere.” She took wheezing breaths.
He was here. Her nightmare didn’t matter; Chisaki was dead.
Dekiru—Izuku, as he told her to call him, now—made sure of it.
He was there in the morning. They had strawberry pancakes, her favorite.
“Eri,” he had said, “if anyone asks for your last name, it’s Mikumo, okay? And I’m your big brother, Izuku Mikumo.”
“Okay.” She hesitated. “Can it..”
Pause. She didn’t know if she could continue.
Izuku bit his lips. “I’m not going to be mad at you asking things. I promise.”
He had never broken a promise, she nodded to herself. “Can it be...” She made a frustrated noise at her phrasing. She didn’t know how to say it. “...real?”
Izuku blinked, before immediately softening, understanding her in way no one ever bothered to try. “Of course, Eri!”
She softened as well, something lessening. “Izu-nii,” she tried out on her tongue, and found it fit like a missing puzzle piece, “Izu-nii.”
He beamed, like the sun she had missed so long.
He took her to the park. Taught her how to play tag, and hide and seek, and played with her alone. It was always during the day, when other kids were at school. She only knew what it was from Izuku’s muttering—a place he was debating sending her to. She didn’t like it based on principle; didn’t like the idea of being sent away, away from Izu-nii. She told him, gentle and soft, still hesitant to share, and he had immediately softened. “Oh, no, Eri, I don’t want to send you away. I’m selfish, I want you here all the time, but- but I...” He paused, stilled. “I know you need to talk to kids your age, eventually.” His voice was impossibly softer, only a whisper, but he shook his head. “It may be too overwhelming right now, though...” he started mumbling again.
She ended up not going. He taught her at home—their home. Eri thought it was nice, to spend time with him, and his gentle voice washing over her, explaining. He never got mad like- like- ...He never got mad.
And on Friday’s they’d go to the park, and he’d teach her games like he taught her equations, gentle and kind. Ever gentle and kind, until—until someone else came, and suddenly he’d withdraw, folding in on himself like a house of cards. “L-let’s go, Eri,” he’d say, breath fresh with urgency, with fear, “pl-please, let’s go.”
She knew that tone well. She knew that fear.
It was her own.
They left, soon after. She didn’t complain once; she understood.
She traced his scars again, and he stared. “Someone once told me,” his voice was as gentle as ever, but there was something almost like poison in it (like how he talked about him, talked to him, before he-) alighting his voice with contempt, “that scars, make you stronger. Show that you survived.”
He glanced down at her own, that venomous thing replaced with something else, something infinitely more tired, “I don’t know if that’s true. Scars remind me of where we’ve been, and I can’t help but think,” he paused, breaking himself off, taking a shuddering breath, “you. You should have never had to go through that.” He sounds close to tears.
She looked up, at him, from her place in his lap, her uncertain hand moving up to brush away the water that escaped, like he did for her. He laughed, watery, clutched her other hand tighter, from where it was clutched in his. “God, I’m sorry, I..” with his other hand, he wiped his face, too. “I shouldn’t... I’m failing you, I’m breaking and you- I’m so sorry, god, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Eri, I.” He’s hardly breathing through his gasps. “I hate, I hate- I hate—”
Myself, he doesn’t say.
Not with words, at least.
He clutched both her hands, now, breath stuttering. He stared at them, something brewing. “Your quirk could. Erase me. I wouldn’t have to...”
There’s something like awe in his tone, something longing. It scares her, and she pulls her hands away.
He blinked, looking at where they used to be, uncomprehending. Before- suddenly, it clicks, and he realigns, eyes widening. His hand flew to his face, covering his mouth as tears flew down and half choked down, gasping sobs. He can’t speak, his throat horror coated. Eri hovers anxiously, hands frozen in a reaching out position, unsure, red eyes wide. Finally, he chokes out-
“Sorry. Shouldn’t. Have said that.”
Eri collapsed in on herself, both pain and relief. She falls onto his side, and clutched him with tiny hands, afraid. He tries to breathe though his tears.
He laughs like nothing is wrong in the morning, braids her hair and cooks her more strawberry pancakes. The sugar feels like lead in her stomach.
The thin white lines and star shapes don’t disappear from his arms, as she glares at them. She knows they could, when she traces them with her finger tips. But she is afraid. So they don’t, staying constellations built on pain, branded on his tan skin. And she thinks she might hate herself for that, as her curse boils under her skin.
“Your quirk isn’t a curse, Eri,” he had said, something desperate in his tone, “it has so much potential, to help.”
At the time, she still hadn’t realized that Izuku always meant those things, when he said them that way. Still didn’t know he was Izuku, didn’t call him Izu-nii, hardly even talked at all. “It could be great for hero work, too! Or in the medical field, or in rebuilding after fights–” he went on, and his voice semi-calmed her. He blinked, seemingly to come back to himself. “You... didn’t break my mumbles.” He ironically mumbled, and Eri merely blinked back at him. “Right,” He smiled, a soft sort of thing, on edge of breaking, “right.”
She blinked again, red eyes staring at him, and it rung of innocent in his head.
Later, Eri had asked, voice soft like always—
“Izu-nii, is the world sick?”
—and he had stopped, and turned to look at her.
“What do you mean, bug?”
A bitten lip. “He always said it was tainted.” She paused. “But you’re untainted.”
Something painful and angry and hurt twisted in his face. “No,” his voice was firm, “he was wrong.”
She looked down, hands twisting in her blue dress. “Okay.”
She touched a wound, she knows, that she shouldn’t have. She doesn’t press. It would only make it more irritated.
(She doesn’t realize it might stop the bleeding. She is used to being docile.)
(His own hands are blood stained, from where he digs them in and pulls, until veins are under his nailbed.)
After two years of living with him, she finally cracks. “What happened to your hands?”
He goes quiet, face serious, face sad. “Do you really want to know?” He whispers, and she nods, gulping down her fear.
Izu-nii is brave. He had always been brave.
She would be, too.
He takes a breath. Holds it, for a second, as if tasting it. Releases it in one big whoosh. “Well,” he starts, “Well. I broke it, once. Pretty badly. Shattered the bone— I should have known,” he laughs a little, “that it was a bad idea. It electrocuted me, too. But. I saved someone.” He smiled, genuine, “Saved a girl my age. I didn’t pass, though.” The smile is gone again, replaced with a sigh.
He blinked, as if realizing he had left out a crucial detail, and amended. “I wanted to be a hero, back then. This was a test to get into a school.” Eri wrinkled her nose, and he laughed, bopping it. “Ha, yeah. I know you don’t like the idea of school.”
He hummed, faced turning pensive. “The other times... the other times. Someone...” he hesitated. “Someone gave me these- explosion ones.” She tilted her head, and he clarified with a rueful smile. “The star shaped ones.”
She nodded, considering. “A bad man, like him.”
Izuku blinked. “No, kacchan wasn’t that bad, he just..” a frustrated sound, trapped in his teeth. She blinked, head tilting once more. “But he hurt you. You said - he - was a bad man, because he hurt me.”
“I... guess that’s right.”
“So ‘kacchan’ is a bad guy, too. Because he hurt you. Right?”
He froze, before thawing out in a split second, way too easily. “I.. guess you’re right, Eri.” His voice was warbling. “I guess your right. At least in my story.” He whispered that last part, almost to himself, an affirmation.
“What about the rest of them?” She wrinkles her face. “The lines?”
He’s silent, before he barks a hollowing laugh—
There’s a tired, scruffy looking man at their door, who looks at the two of them and sighs.
He looks very sad, to eri.
“Dekiru,” his voice matches his face, tired, rough and scratchy, and it takes her a moment to jolt, because Izu-nii has always said that she should never call him Dekiru infront if someone, that no one else could know—
But this man knows, anyways.
“I didn’t expect you to be so young,” the tired-grumpy-scruffy man says, before his eyes shift to her, “and I didn’t expect anyone else to be here.”
Izuku kept his head up, even as his fists trembled, those hands so like hers, those hands that are safe. “Overhaul had her. I couldn’t leave her.”
The mans eyes flash, red (like hers-) hair floating up, briefly. He pauses when there’s nothing to erase. “You really aren’t what I was expecting.” He sounds almost rueful, before his voice gets hard, again. “So you killed him?”
Izuku’s face doesn’t change, crafted from marble. He is unmovable, and she hides behind his leg, clinging. “You didn’t see her. He deserved worse.”
They stare. The man sighs again, pulling out eye drops, and squeezing them in his eyes. “You should know you’re surrounded.”
Izuku snorts. “Figures.”
“You’re a smart kid, you should know when to quit.”
“Kacchan beat that into me, at least. Tell him I said hi, wouldn’t you, Eraserhead? That ‘Deku’ says hi. He’s in your class, after all.”
The man flinched, very minutely, before his eyes flashed again. Izuku snorted, once more, just as bitter. “You should know that intimidation won’t work on me. I’m not one of your students.”
The man deflated. “Yeah, I guess you’re not. But you could have been.”
Izuku smiled, a smile oh so wrong on his face. “No. I couldn’t have.”
The man took them to a police station. It was one of the places Izuku had told her never to go, and she presses herself against him, hiding her face. His hand rests in her hair, fingers carting through it. She takes comfort in that, at least.
“Come on, kid,” The man says, and izuku pulls away from her, “it’s time to go.”
“Izu-nii?” She’s trembling, alarmed, “Izu-nii?”
He turns back, and smiles at her. “I’m sorry, eri,” he turns back to the man, face serious, voice deadly, “take care of her. If you don’t, I swear to god I’ll hunt you down.” The man nodded, serious. “I will.”
“I-izu-nii? Izu-nii? Izu-nii?”
He walks away with another man, who sends her a pitying glance, as izuku looked back at her, wobbling smile still in place, before he let a door close on his figure. “It’s okay, kid,” the strange man—Eraserhead, Izu-nii had said—lied, “you’re okay. He’s going to be okay.”
Eri wanted to spit in his face, scream and scratch and cry, snarl and yell and demand, no, no, no it’s not, don’t you know, don’t you understand? He needs me, please, please, please—
All that comes out are choked back sobs, as she reaches out, trying to escape the mans grasp from where he holds her back, trying to run after her brother.
He said he’d stay with me. He said he’d stay with me. Please.
Begging never helped any. She learned that from Chisaki.
The man holding her is crying, silently, too, almost unnoticeable. It doesn’t matter.
Izuku slips through her fingers like sand.
( —and replies, “I’ve always been my own worse enemy.” )