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Angel Wings and Ankle Bones

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Post Hero Era Year 31, April

Izuku never expected to get accepted into the UA Special Investigation Task Force. He had tried transferring for the better part of a year with zero response to his requests until suddenly he stood in the bullpen without any time to gather his things from Musutafu.

“This is your desk,” Captain Aizawa said, indicating a simple metal desk with nothing but a stick-it note on the surface welcoming Izuku to the office and a phone to one side. Another desk was pressed front to front with Izuku’s but it barely had more to it than Izuku’s empty one. A phone set matching Izuku’s sat to the right, a plain black laptop took up the middle and a set of file baskets claimed the remaining space to the left. Not a single piece of personal paraphernalia filled in the empty gaps on the desk, but a quick glance around the room showed that Izuku’s desk mate was the only one who eschewed such things. Aizawa indicated the spartan space with a long fingered hand. “That’s where your partner sits. His name’s Bakugo Katsuki and he should be in at any minute now so prepare yourself. He’s the best we have, but he’s also a prick.” 

“I’ve heard of him.” Izuku smiled but his heart wasn’t in it. That explained the transfer, at least. His old captain couldn’t legitimately fire him so he foisted him off to UA as fodder for the infamous Bakugo in a last ditch effort to be rid of him. Well, screw him and screw this place, he sure as hell wasn’t going to quit now.

“I’m sure you have.” Aizawa eyed him and his shrewd gaze latched onto Izuku’s change in demeanor despite Izuku’s best efforts to hide behind a smile. He pushed back his long hair with a sigh before meeting Izuku’s eyes. He had a scar just beneath one bloodshot eye that hooked from his temple nearly to his nose. It would be intimidating if Izuku was a stranger to scars.  “Do you know why you’re here?”

“Because my transfer was approved?”

“Sure. But we get transfer requests from all over the country. Why do you think we picked you?”

Izuku had a suspicion, but voicing it would create unnecessary tension far too early in his position. In any other universe, he liked to think his resume would have knocked everyone else’s out of the running, but in this universe he was quirkless and quirkless people weren’t worth much of anything. He decided on a safe answer. “I don’t know, sir.”

“I think you’re lying, but for the sake of expediency let me clear something up. Yes, your former captain basically shoved your application down my throat the second he became aware Bakugo’d gone through another partner. You certainly pissed him off.”

“I’m told I have that effect on people,” Izuku said without much energy. So he’d been right, this was a blatant attempt to get rid of him by making him so miserable he’d quit on his own. At least Aizawa was honest about it. 

“That’s not why I accepted your application.”

That stopped Izuku’s thoughts short. “What?”

"I've been waiting for your name to come across my desk for over a year now." Aizawa met and kept Izuku’s eyes, his attention intense like turpentine, stripping Izuku down to his base layers right there in the UA bullpen. “You came highly recommended by Yagi before he passed away, so I was surprised when I didn't hear a thing from you until last week."

"I applied for a transfer after he visited mine to run a seminar on community relations." The familiar sting of tears pricked at the corner of Izuku's eyes as his world view tilted to the side and all his expectations crumpled under a few words. He fought back the urge to cry, not yet willing to show that level of weakness. He could still be wrong. "I kept applying here. He said I'd get in if I tried, but when I didn't hear anything, I just assumed he was being kind."

“You’re in now. Yagi’s good word and a pissed off captain got you in the door, but you’re on your own from here on out. You better make this worth my while.”

“Of course, sir. I won’t let you down.”

“You better not. Look alive, now, kid. Your first challenge just arrived.” Aizawa tilted his chin at something over Izuku’s shoulder. Izuku turned just in time to get out of the way as a very tall, very angry and very blond man stalked up to them, getting right in Aizawa’s face.

“Are you even trying anymore? This guy looks like you yanked a sentient stalk of broccoli outta the grocery store and told it to play human!” Bakugo gestured openly at Izuku with a broad, calloused hand, nearly hitting him in the face in the process. "I ain't working with that."

Izuku did his best to squash down the sudden indignation that flared to life in his chest, but even as he smiled his best and brightest smile, his mouth ran away from him. "Rude. I didn't know dandelions were so discriminatory. Can I report you to HR for being plantist on my first day, or am I under some kind of greenhouse probationary period?"

“What?” Bakugo turned to him, mouth curled down in a frown of disgusted confusion. Izuku smiled back, not sure what else to do. Aizawa sighed, already walking away.

“I’ll let you two get used to each other. Bakugo, play nice, I’m tired of finding you new partners.”

“You wouldn’t have to if you’d just let me work alone!”

Aizawa ignored him, disappearing into an office that could only be his. Bakugo flipped off his back before spinning on his heel to crowd into Izuku’s personal space. Izuku kept his ground, refusing to look away when Bakugo bent low enough that their noses almost touched. He had really pretty eyes, brilliant red like candy apples or the setting sun, but the way he scrunched his face up erased any other redeeming qualities about it. Too bad, he’d probably be quite handsome if he learned how to chill.

“Oi! Deku, are you even fucking listening to me?”

Oh. Izuku must have spaced out. He didn’t have a clue what Bakugo had been snarling at him. He tried to remember, but then his brain stalled on the strange name.  “Deku?”

“That’s your fucking name, ain’t it? Midoriya Deku.” He stepped back just enough to regard Izuku down his nose, one finger pointing at the stick-it note on Izuku’s desk. Izuku could see the shape of the characters that made up his name and could even understand how Bakugo had misread them, but the smug grin that had replaced his angry, crumpled up scowl didn’t sit well with Izuku. The words that followed cemented his misgivings. “Shitty name, but I can see why your mom would give it to you. You’re fucking useless.”

“My name is Izuku, not Deku,” he said slowly. “And we’ve known each other all of five minutes, that’s hardly enough time to decide if I’m useless or not.”

“You left earth for three of those minutes, space cadet.”

“I try not to give attention to children throwing tantrums.”

The scrunchy-scowl was back. “Listen here, Deku—”

“Izuku.”

Deku,” he said loudly, rolling right over Izuku’s correction. He loomed over Izuku, physically taller and bigger than him in all the ways that counted and if Izuku didn’t have experience dealing with loudmouthed assholes trying to bully him into submission on the daily for the past four years, he’d be terrified of Bakugo. Bakugo jabbed a finger at Izuku’s chest, but didn’t make contact. “I want nothing to do with you and whatever stupid aspirations you have for working here. You’re useless to me just like every other extra I’ve been saddled with and you’ll be gone within the week, I guarantee it.”

“Cool, cool, cool,” Izuku said, waving a dismissive hand. “I hear you, but like, are you sure you want to keep calling me Deku? I’d really prefer you didn’t.”

“I don’t give a damn about what you prefer.”

“So we’re sticking with Deku?”

“Did I stutter?”

“Alrighty, then.” Izuku gave a decisive nod. Two could play at that game. “Now it’s your turn to listen to me, Kacchan—”

What did you just call me?

“Kacchan. I called you Kacchan and I’ll keep calling you that until you use my real name.” The sheer rage that danced in Bakugo’s—Kacchan’s—eyes tried to burn down Izuku’s resolve, but Izuku refused to back away from the pissing contest Kacchan had challenged him to. Izuku could be just as petty as the next person and he’d absolutely pick a fight to prove a point. “You should know right now that I sure as hell am not leaving just because you’re pissed you got ‘saddled with an extra.’ I’ve had far too many people try to put me down and shut me up because they think I’m weak and it hasn’t stopped me yet, so you’re going to have to do a lot better than some school yard name calling to scare me off.”

Izuku rolled out the chair tucked up under his desk and sat down in it with as much finality as he could muster. He disliked giving Kacchan that much height on him, but he could pretend it didn’t bother him if it made him look like the bigger man.

“One week, Deku,” Kacchan spat out.

“We’ll see about that, Kacchan.” Izuku smiled sweetly up at him in response, showing all of his teeth.

PHE Year 32, September

One Year Later

"Do you think Baiko's flesh would still taste like strawberries if you cooked it? His quirk made his blood all fruity, but I wonder how applying extreme heat would affect the flavor profile of his muscle," Izuku muttered as he typed in the last few details on his case report. His eyes stung from hours of unbroken staring at the computer screen as he cycled between wrapping up his and Kacchan's most recent case and comparing videos of two people with similar electricity quirks for his quirk analysis project. He didn't dare look at the clock, afraid of what late hour he'd lost himself to this time, but at a sudden, loud thump he did glance over at his partner's desk. Kacchan had his forehead pressed into the metal surface of his desk and his large hands tangled into his explosive blond locks.

"Kacchan, what's wrong?"

"It’s currently one in the goddamn morning and you’re contemplating the fucking flavor profile of a cannibal's flesh." Kacchan spoke into the metal of his desk, his voice distorted but undeniably exasperated. He peeled his head up and glared balefully at Izuku. "What do you think's wrong?"

"It's a legit question about his quirk."

"It's a creepy-ass question about his quirk. It's like your freak levels are fueled by sleep deprivation." Kacchan kicked back from his desk and stood up. Izuku poked out his tongue at him and went back to his report. The characters swam in front of his eyes, but when he tipped his reading glasses down onto his nose from where they rested on the top of his head, nothing cleared up.

“It’s my job to think about every aspect of a quirk,” Izuku said as he rubbed at his eyes under his glasses. When that didn’t help his vision, he shoved them back into his hair and buried his face in his hands with a groan. “And besides, he started eating people because he tasted his own blood first, which kinda begs the question, how good did he taste— ack, Kacchan!

Izuku was yanked away from his desk by the back of his chair, his computer getting further and further away as Kacchan manually wheeled him away from his work. He tried to get up, but Kacchan caught him by the back of his shirt, pulling him back onto his chair and nearly choking Izuku as he continued to pull him through the mostly empty, dreary office. “Let me go! I was almost finished!”

“Nope, you’re fucking done now.”

“I have to save my work.”

“I’ll do it.” Kacchan tipped him out of his chair onto the floor. Izuku scrambled to his feet, fully prepared to rush right back to his desk and finish his report, but the room swam before his eyes as a sudden wave of vertigo crashed over him. Someone-not-Kacchan caught him as he stumbled, because Kacchan stood directly in front of him with a look of scowling, world-weary disapproval. Kacchan looked at whoever had Izuku in their arms and pointed a finger at Izuku.

“Keep him here until I shut down our work, Eye Bags."

"Aye, aye Detective Asshole." Shinso's drawl rumbled through Izuku's back and his arms wrapped around his chest. Izuku tilted his head back and looked blearily up at the face grinning down at him. He smiled back.

"Hi, Shinso."

"Sup, Midoriya. What's got Spiky upset with you this time?"

"I asked him if he thought Baiko's flesh would taste differently if it was cooked."

Shinso raised a lavender eyebrow at him, slowly blinking eyes of the same color. "That's a little morbid for this early in the morning, don't you think?"

Izuku pouted, slumping in Shinso's hold. "That's what he said. But it's a legitimate question! He only started eating people because his own blood tasted good! He didn't say it in his interview, but do you think he experimented on himself first? He's got this huge chunk of his bicep missing, maybe he ate that but then realized his quirk didn't let him regenerate so he tried to find someone who tasted just like him? Oh my God I have to write this down. Lemme go!"

“Nope.” Shinso popped the p and did his best to hold onto Izuku as he struggled to get back to his computer. For his part, Izuku didn’t have it in him to resist too hard as the exhaustion of the past few weeks had finally caught up to him now that he had stopped working long enough to notice it. He went easily with Shinso when he shuffled them over to Ojiro’s empty desk and unceremoniously dumped Izuku into Ojiro's chair after pulling it out with his foot. He slumped into it, feet sticking out and body boneless. Shinso stepped back and nudged one of his feet. “You gunna run?”

“No.” Izuku’s eyelids slid over his eyes like weighted blankets, almost impossible to pry open when Shinso kicked his foot again. Kacchan approached from behind, car keys jangling around the fingers of one hand while the other held onto his and Izuku’s bags where he had them slung precariously over his shoulder.

“Have fun getting him home, I think he’s officially gone from creepy to catatonic.”

“Fucking great, help me get him up.”

Shinso and Kacchan hoisted him out of the chair and Izuku stumbled forward, caught for the second time by Shinso before he could face plant into the linoleum. Kacchan smacked his shoulder, grumbling something but Izuku had stopped paying attention, too focused on moving his feet in time with the bodies on either side of him. He fell asleep the second they managed to manhandle him into Kacchan’s car.

He woke to Kacchan dropping him onto the floor outside of his third floor apartment. Izuku groaned, blinking to clear his sleep-heavy eyes. His ass hurt. “Wha-?”

“Fucking finally,” Kacchan hissed, holding out his hand. “Keys, nerd. I wunna go home.”

“Did you carry me?”

“No, you teleported us in your sleep,” Kacchan said, but at Izuku’s blank stare he groaned and dropped down into a crouch so that he was eye level with Izuku. Dark circles shaded the areas beneath his eyes, underlining the deep, exhausted red of his irises. He tugged sharply on one of Izuku’s curls. “Of course I fucking carried your heavy ass. You’re lucky I’m nice enough to deal with your shit. Keys.”

“Front pocket of my bag.”

“Was that so hard?” Kacchan struggled back to his feet and stuck his hand into one of the two bags slung over his shoulder, a bright yellow thing covered shamelessly in pins depicting the heroes of old. The key set he pulled back out jangled with more keychains than actual keys but he picked out the house key with practiced ease. He opened the door, kicking it in just the right spot when it stuck, and turned back to Izuku, hand once again outstretched to him.

“Get your useless ass up. I want to fucking sleep.”

Izuku took his hand and allowed himself to be yanked up to his feet. He stumbled but caught his balance on Kacchan’s shoulder. “Thanks, Kacchan.”

“Whatever, nerd.” He shoved Izuku inside the open door and tossed his keys in after him. They hit the genkan floor with a godawful clatter and not for the first time, Izuku was glad he protected all of his keychains with acrylic covers. “You better make it to your bed this time. I don’t want to deal with you whining about a sore back all day tomorrow.”

“Aw, you do care about me,” Izuku cooed, looser with his words in the early hour. Kacchan only rolled his eyes, reaching in to grab the handle of Izuku’s door as Izuku dropped down on the raised floor and started to untie his shoes with clumsy fingers. The wedge of yellow from the lights that lit the hallway outside his front door narrowed as Kacchan started pulling the door shut. Right before it closed completely, Kacchan reached in through the gap and slammed his hand on the light switch, flooding the genkan with terrible, bright light.

“Kacchan!” Izuku yelped, squeezing his eyes shut to the sound of Kacchan’s tired snickering. After-images floated around the backs of his eyelids, but when he tried to rub them away his hands hit the reading glasses he hadn’t had the chance to take off and leave at work. “You’re such an asshole.”

“Sure am. Get some sleep, dipshit.” With that the door clicked shut, leaving Izuku alone to blink away the glaring light of his genkan and to stumble into his apartment in search of his bed. He fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit his pillow, warmed with contentment beneath his superficial irritation toward his partner. He drifted off marvelling not for the first time at how far they’d come in only a year’s time.

— 

The sun rose on Musutafu a handful of hours later, bathing the sleepy town in early reddish light like a wash of spilled blood. Within the entrance gates of Orudera Junior High something dark and slick rested against the brick and plaster wall, untouched by the sun but large enough to catch the attention of the teachers as they arrived for the day. Viscera spilled from a split in the mass’s center and gathered between legs splayed out in a wide, disjointed V. As if a part of the thing’s flesh and not a separate entity of its own, the cloth of the student’s gakuran clung to every exposed bit of gore, inseparable from the blood and fat and bone. Near the breast, a bit of bright green plastic embedded in exposed cardiac muscle tissue declared the body to belong to Maeda Yudai, third year. His feet were missing, the bone bright and clean at the ankles despite a lack of light.

The white foundation of the main building melted up toward the sky like a glacier, sparkling in the dawn light and utterly detached from the structures around it. Where the entrance-facing clock once announced the hours to students and faculty alike, an angel hung in its place clothed in white and arms extended across the pale brick wall. Wings painted in blood stretched out wide from behind her back and trailed down past her legs. Like the boy at the school entrance, her feet were missing, but the rest of her was lovingly displayed against the building, body merged with the wall behind her so that she rested calmly for all to see. The sun caught in her long, black hair and lit up the planes of her pale face so that even without a name tag pinned to her chest, the small crowd gathered beneath her knew her name to be Tsumine Ria. 

Within minutes of the first teacher arriving on campus, police flooded the area and notifications let all students know classes were cancelled for the day. It took several hours and the eventual help of a local man who could control cement to get Tsumine down. Maeda fell apart at the first touch, bits and pieces of him scraped up and deposited into heavy duty bags for later analysis.

Three towns over, two severely sleep deprived UA detectives were woken from their slumber by twin phone calls dragging them back into work well before their starting times.

PHE Year 32, October

Now

                                                                           

“I’m so sorry, Katsuki.”

Chapter Text

PHE Year 32, October 

Now

Katsuki stared at the ceiling, breathing deeply through his nose in a futile attempt to calm his heart beat. Cold chilled his back and made it clench until it spasmed; the same cold seeped through his pants and the heels of his socks. Even the air was frigid and unbearable as it filled his lungs. Something bound his arms out to the sides of him and his hands had been forced into tightly curled fists, neutralizing his quirk. There was no give when he struggled, and his legs, stretched out from corner to corner of the medical examination table beneath him, were just as useless. 

He couldn’t see anything beyond the ceiling, but he knew two other people were in the room: Chisaki Kai, the serial killer who fucking kidnapped him. 

And Deku.

“Shall we begin?”

— 

PHE Year 32, September

"UA Special Investigator Midoriya Izuku speaking. How may I assist you this fine morning?" Deku chirped after answering on the first ring. Katsuki rolled his eyes toward the sky, begging the muddy dawn expanse for patience. Deku shouldn't be this chipper so early, he should be suffering like Katsuki was suffering. 

"Why the fuck do you answer your personal phone that way?"

"Because it annoys you, of course."

Katsuki could hear the grin in the little bastard's voice. He sucked in a stabling breath, his hands too occupied to pinch the bridge of his nose; he yanked open the back seat of his car with one hand and juggled his coffee and bag in the other. His phone barely stayed put wedged between his ear and shoulder. "Fuck off. I'm the morning person, so if you're this awake you never went to sleep and if that's true, I'm knocking your ass out as soon as I get to your apartment."

"Or I'm highly caffeinated, which is the correct answer, by the way, since I drank a whole pot of coffee already. Mom wanted to talk before her shift and I totally forgot until an alarm went off at...I think it was four? Probably four. She's coming to Musutafu to visit for some kind of thing and she wants me to come over to see her...and I'm not sure that's such a good idea, but if she came here, that'd be great! I could show her around Hamamatsu, take her out to dinner, maybe—"

Katsuki barely managed to get his bag onto the back seat without spilling his own coffee, all the while listening to Deku ramble a mile a minute. He slammed the door shut. "I'm going to stop you right there. When's your mom coming?"

"Oh, Kacchan, I'm not sure I'm ready to introduce you to her yet. We're just not that serious—" 

"Go fuck yourself," Katsuki snapped without any real heat. He'd punch his stupid sentient broccoli partner later for being a dumbass, but Deku dealt with anxiety in a variety of weird ways and it worked better for both of them if Katsuki played along.

Deku snorted. "She's coming next week, I think."

“Just meet her there. If we’re not still there after we wrap this case up, you can extend your stay or whatever."

"...what?"

"Did you think this was a social call?" 

"You called my personal line, Kacchan..."

"It's faster in the morning. Captain called and wants us checking out two bodies down in Musutafu, so get your shit together because I'm on my way to you now."

"Wait, does this mean we got the case?" Deku didn't sound nearly as excited as Katsuki thought he would be. After spending the month obsessively following the situation in Musutafu, Katsuki thought he'd be thrilled to finally be on the case. Then again, Deku went to great lengths to avoid talking about his past employment, or about any other aspects of his personal life; searching online didn’t turn up anything, either, since Deku wouldn't know a social media account if it ambushed him and shoved a friend request up his ass.

"Yeah, we got your freaky double murder case. Your old precinct called in saying they can't handle it anymore. They plan on handing over jurisdiction."

“Do they know I’m coming?”

Weird wording. I’m, not we. Katsuki let it slide. He was already in the driver’s seat and ready to go, picking at Deku would just drag this whole conversation out. “Who cares? I’m hanging up now, you better be downstairs when I get there.”

Before Deku could respond, Katsuki did exactly that and hung up. They’d have plenty of time to talk on the two hour drive to Musutafu.

The first set of murders in Musutafu involved a young married couple, Naka Rinka and Ayumu, who had just moved to the city so that Rinka could pursue a promotion. Between the two of them, they had yet to make any friends in the month they had lived in their apartment complex, but none of the neighbors had any complaints. Rinka worked for a bank but her husband was in between jobs. They were quiet, unassuming and for all intents and purposes, boringly normal.

Until they both turned up dead on Dagobah beach with no feet. For Ayumu, that was the only visible damage to his corpse, although further examination revealed complete exsanguination of his body. Blood soaked into the sand around him in wide wings, but the wind had chipped away any intricacy that might have been put into the design. Rinka was unrecognizable, her body ripped apart with such horrifying ferocity that it took days to find and piece her skeleton back together enough to realize that her feet were also missing.

The second set of murders involved two young girls from opposite sides of the country: Morimoto Natsume from Sapporo, Hokkaido and Fujita Kokona from Nago, Okinawa. They met their first year of university in Musutafu and hit it off immediately, moving in together their second year. Natsume excelled at sports and had created a tight-knit family of friends from her track and field teammates, but Kokona had trouble adjusting to the mainland and mostly kept to herself unless prodded along by her girlfriend. However, like Rinka and Ayumu before them, no one had anything negative to say about the pair. 

And like the couple before, they both turned up dead, this time behind a series of apartment complexes on the outskirts of the city. Kokona was found propped up against the wall of the complex, head resting against her bent knees barely kept upright on the nubs of her ankles. Wings stretched out behind her, sketched in blood on the concrete walling. The remains of Natsume bloodied the inside of a cardboard disposal terminal and clung to broken down boxes; her feet never turned up. 

“Eight feet. Twelve counting these new ones. What makes a guy keep twelve fucking feet?” Katsuki asked as he navigated the rush-hour clogged highway. Deku scrolled through the document open on his phone, a quick briefing Aizawa had put together and sent to the both of them after he called Katsuki that morning. Katsuki had only had a chance to skim it while rushing to get ready today, but the crime scene pictures alone had been enough to put him off breakfast. “As far as trophies go they’ve gotta be a pain, he’d need a giant-ass freezer to preserve them and removal ain’t easy.”

“Maybe he’s podophilic?” Deku said absently as he zoomed in on one of the pictures. A glance to the side revealed the off-white of the ankle bones surrounded by stringy tendon, pulpy muscle and torn skin. “It’s not entirely unheard of for a serial killer to keep feet for sexual gratification. Back before quirks, there was this guy in the U.S. who did just that and he also cut off—”

“Nope, don’t need the visual,” Katsuki said firmly. “I’ll take your creepy word for it.”

Deku hummed and slid his reading glasses from their place in his wild hair down onto his nose to get a clearer look at the screen while Katsuki pulled through a toll gate. He swiped to another picture and zoomed in on it as well, the quick movements of his fingers mildly distracting out of the corner of Katsuki’s eye. “I don’t think removal is a problem for our killer, either. I don’t see any signs of a blade being used or any real trauma to the bones either. Maybe they’ve got a quirk that helps them dismember the bodies?” 

“Great.”

“What do you think about motivation?” Deku asked, putting his phone down so that he could stare at the side of Katsuki’s head. Katsuki shrugged.

“There ain’t much in Aizawa’s report to go off of,” Katsuki said slowly, chewing over what he’d managed to glean in his quick readthrough. The most recent murders followed the killer’s past M.O.: two individuals murdered, one reverently and the other horrifically, both pairs of feet missing. Unlike the others, however, Tsumine Ria and Maeda Yudai were fucking kids with their bodies displayed to garner the most attention possible. “But I think there has to be a common thread between the husband, the Okinawan and the junior high school girl. We don’t have pics yet, but...”

“Tsumine.”

“Tsumine also has those stupid wings painted behind her.”

“By that logic, the other three should have something in common as well.”

“Yeah maybe. It’s not gender. Or age. Or even their hometowns, for that matter. Maybe the busted up half of the pairs cheated or some shit and our killer’s been slighted in the past and he’s living out some twisted revenge fantasy.” Katsuki eased off of the expressway when his navigation system prompted him to do so.

“Hard to imagine thirteen year olds cheating on each other,” Deku muttered as he tugged on his lower lip. His attention had turned outward, watching the scenery pass as Katsuki drove.The furrow between his brow deepened the closer they grew to Musutafu’s city limits while his fidgeting grew more pronounced; the tapping of his foot against the floor of the car had picked up, loud enough to hear clearly over the low rumble of the radio. “And how would the killer even know about their infidelity? It’s not like they go to the same schools or are members of the same clubs or even live near each other. Don’t turn left there, just keep going straight.”

“Why? Left is faster.”

“It’s not,” Deku said with confidence. “It’s a two way road but it’s so narrow that if another car comes from the other direction, you’re going to get stuck.”

“Fuck that shit, straight it is.” Katsuki ignored the prompting to turn left and sure enough, when the navigation system recalibrated, it sent them straight for another three miles. “You know these roads from working for the Musutafu PD?”

Deku shrugged but didn’t answer, picking his phone back up.

“The fuck’s your deal? You’ve been acting weird all morning.”

“I don’t like being here,” Deku admitted in an odd moment of forthrightness. “Nothing good ever happens to me in Musutafu.”

“Weren’t you only on the force here for like three years?”

“Four,” Deku said. For a moment, Katsuki thought he would say more, but instead he pointed to a series of white buildings on their left. “There’s the school. Turn left at the next light and it’s straight ahead.” 

He didn’t say any more until they arrived.

— 

PHE Year 31, April

"What the fuck.”

Somehow, in the span of forty-eight hours, Deku had managed to make a complete mess of his desk. A department issued laptop took up a place of pride in the center, but around it he had picture frames and hero-themed knick knacks and enough empty paper coffee cups to steal every square inch left over. He seemed to have a thing for the old Golden Age hero All Might, as nearly every writing utensil he had crammed into the holder on his desk flashed with some form of his signature blue, yellow and red coloring. 

“Good morning, Kacchan!” Deku chirped from where he slouched over his desk with his freckled nose almost touching his computer screen as he scanned through news sites. The lights of the home pages sparkled in the brilliant green of his eyes and lit his face strangely, competing with the fluorescent lighting of the office. He didn’t once look up at Katsuki.

“Your desk looks like a hero convention vomited on it,” Katsuki said dryly, surreptitiously scanning over the photos lovingly displayed in hero themed frames. A portly woman with the same green hair as Deku hugged him tightly, tears bright in her eyes at what looked like a graduation ceremony; girls in the background wore brightly colored hakama and the boys looked sharp in suits, but Deku’s own suit clung to his frame a little too tight, a little threadbare. In a picture from the same day, Katsuki was surprised to see two familiar faces from the UA Rescue Task Force, Round Face and Frog Girl, on either side of Deku, arms slung around his shoulders and free hands held up in peace signs, painted nails glittering in the early spring sunlight; their hakama looked new enough to be rentals, but the brightness of all three grins took all attention away from Deku’s poor clothing. The last photograph caught and held Katsuki’s attention, however. Katsuki knew Yagi Toshinori, he couldn’t work for the UA Special Investigations Task Force and not know that man. He knew him as the past leader of the Tokyo Division, as the closest thing to a modern day hero they had nowadays. In this final photograph, Deku sat beside Yagi, pale and thin in a hospital bed, but their twin smiles were bright enough to rival the sun; Katsuki didn’t miss the bruising beneath Deku’s eyes, or the grief trying to darken the corners of mossy green.

“I like heroes,” Deku said, snapping Katsuki back to the present, as he finally responded. He regarded Katsuki with observant, closed-off eyes, scouring his face for something Katsuki couldn’t even begin to guess at before turning to the photographs. The green softened briefly, going from bottle glass to field grass for one fond, sad moment. Despite himself, Katsuki wanted to ask how he knew the man. He didn’t, though, there wasn’t any need to get invested in his partner when Deku’d be gone by the end of the week.

“No shit,” Katsuki muttered instead, finally moving to sit down at his own, neatly kept desk. “It’s an eyesore, how do you keep up with anything in that mess?”

“I know where everything is just fine.” Deku continued to squint at his computer, narrowing his eyes to slits on occasion or leaning back to take something in; he muttered while he read, voice too low for Katsuki to pick anything up, but fuck was it annoying to watch him. Not for the first time, he wondered if Deku’s quirk was some sort of analysis; he spent so much time reading news articles and watching videos of villain fights that it bordered on obsessive.

“What’s your quirk, Broccoli Fucker?”

Deku frowned at him over the top of his laptop, his mop of green hair floating around his head in a cloud of curls. “I’m not sexually attracted to broccoli.”

“Jesus Christ.” Katsuki was at a complete loss. He couldn’t make heads or tails of this weirdo, but he sure as hell wasn’t anything like any of the other partners Katsuki had worked with in the past. For one, he seemed to take everything literally. Katsuki genuinely couldn’t tell if Deku thought Katsuki had actually accused him of engaging in sexual intercourse with a vegetable or if he’d decided from day one to mess with Katsuki at every opportunity. He continued to blink guilelessly at Katsuki over his laptop, but Katsuki swore he saw a glint of mischief in his eyes. “Quirk. Tell me your quirk.”

“Are you finally taking an interest in me, Kacchan?” Deku leaned his cheek against an open palm and batted his lashes obnoxiously. “I’m flattered.”

“You must have a really lame quirk if you’re trying this hard to get out of saying anything.”

“Nope.” He popped the p, but his playfulness went stiff, plastic. The lines of his shoulders stiffened even as he continued to rest his face on his palm; he watched Katsuki with an expression that Katsuki couldn’t pick apart beyond the wall it was meant to create between them. “I don’t have one at all.”

“What?”

“I don’t have one. A quirk. I have an extra toe joint, though. Not sure it was a fair trade-off, but you find the silver lining where you can. It’s a useless joint, evolutionarily speaking, but I like what it does for the shape of my feet.”

There was a long, drawn out pause where Katsuki stared, trying to process whatever the fuck he’d just heard, and Deku simply stared back, unblinking.

“No wonder your name’s Deku,” Katsuki said slowly, not surprised when Deku scowled at him. Quirklessness was rare, so rare that Katsuki actually had trouble believing him, but the defensiveness made a whole lot more sense with that bit of history backing it up. No way he hadn’t been bullied relentlessly growing up. Hell, he probably still got shit. Whatever, not Katsuki’s problem. “You can’t even answer a simple question without making it weird.”

“You gave me that name, Kacchan,” Deku shot back, sitting up straighter. The prickliness hadn’t melted away, but he didn’t watch Katsuki quite so coldly. Fuck, had Katsuki done something nice on accident? He didn’t want the fucker to think Katsuki liked him. Deku puffed out his cheeks at him suddenly. “And I can answer questions just fine!”

“Yeah, because telling me you like what an extra joint does for your feet was totally relevant to the question,” Katsuki said with a carefully dismissive wave of his hand. “It wasn’t. No one needed to know that.”

“Maybe, but now you’re probably curious about the shape of my feet, aren’t you?” Deku chirped, suddenly back to his cheerful self. What was this guy’s deal? “I won’t judge you. You can ask to see them.”

“No one wants to see your alien feet, you freak.” Deku gave Katsuki a headache and Katsuki wanted nothing more than to strangle him, but that wasn’t an option if he wanted to keep his job. So instead he swallowed down the burning homicidal urges and crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned back in his chair. Deku leaned forward unconsciously. “You know, Aizawa thinks you’re something special, but all I’m seeing is a hero nerd with a fucked up content filter. I ain’t impressed.”

He had wanted to counterbalance whatever he had said that got the nerd to warm up to him a bit, but his words seemed to have the opposite effect. Deku grinned sharply at Katsuki and fuck, did he have expressive eyes when they danced with a challenge, his green alive like a forest canopy illuminated by a bright summer sun.

“It’s only been two days, Kacchan. You haven’t seen anything yet.”

“Yeah, whatever.” Katsuki grumbled as Deku went back to squinting at his laptop. He scrunched his nose up at something he read, and the spray of freckles over the bridge of his nose moved like a constellation in motion. Katsuki sneered, angry at his brain for travelling down that path. “Buy some fucking glasses, you look like a half-blind rabbit with its own shit stuck in its eye when you squint like that.”

Deku cheerfully flipped him off.

— 

PHE 32, September

“Jesus Fucking Christ.” Katsuki stared at what he could see of the school. They’d parked their car a half a block away from it, but even at this distance he could clearly see the silhouette of a young girl pinned to the clock tower. Her body was sprawled gracefully across the white surface like an angel ascending toward the heavens and wings stretched out behind her, much the same as had been sketched around Ayumu and Kokona. This far back, the sea of bystanders thinned but a good handful of people still gathered to stare at the poor girl. Katsuki shoved his way past them, trusting Deku to keep up. “It’s been over two hours, why haven’t they taken her down yet?”

“Maybe they can’t,” Deku said. He kept pace with Katsuki’s brisk walk, weaving gracefully through the assholes milling about to gape and gossip. The school gates loomed into view over the sparse crowd, police scattered in front to keep them back. Deku slowed suddenly, so that he was directly behind Katsuki. “Aizawa didn’t mention how she was placed up there to begin with.”

“Make space, assholes. UASI coming through!” Katsuki shouted, badge out. The crowd parted for them, but the chatter grew louder; UA special Investigations brought with it a reputation of only getting involved with the worst of the worst, so announcing their presence here gave a level of gravity to the crime scene even heavier than that of the girl suspended from the melted remains of the main entrance.

“It looks different than I remember,” Deku remarked from his slouched position behind Katsuki. His voice sounded pinched, almost an octave higher than usual as he started to ramble quietly. “They put in wisteria around the gate and it looks like they’ve renovated the buildings as well. I don’t think they used to be that white. There used to be clock over there, too, and quite a bit less blood.”

“If you told me the blood was part of the original architecture I’d have to call bullshit,” Katsuki muttered, turning his head to the side so that he could catch a glimpse of Deku behind him. His face didn’t match his voice: freckled expression placid as a sheet of ice. Sharp eyes scanned over the school, stopping only briefly to categorize his surroundings before moving on to the civilians and cops surrounding them. Katsuki frowned at him. “You sound pretty familiar with this place.”

“Of course I am. I went to school here.”

Before Katsuki could respond to that surprising bit of knowledge, an officer approached them from his post at the gate, dropping into a hasty bow when he came to a stop in front of Katsuki.

“You the guys from—fucking hell, Midoriya?”

Deku shuffled just enough so he was no longer completely hidden behind Katsuki, heels scraping the asphalt like a guilty child dragging their feet to avoid a reprimand. He smiled broadly at the gape-mouthed officer but it didn’t reach his eyes. He did an awkward little wave, tilting to the side like a dork. “Hello, there. Fancy meeting you at a crime scene right within your jurisdiction, Officer Haraguchi. The universe continues to amaze me.”

“You're still with UA? I thought they’d have tossed your ass out by now.”

“Well, you know me, tenacious as a sea barnacle." Deku continued smiling, but Officer Haraguchi never met the expression with one of his own. Deku babbled on. "Did you know they secrete one of the strongest natural glues known to man?”

“You’re more like a cockroach,” the officer grumbled under his breath. Deku’s smile went a bit brittle around the edges and the green of his eyes hardened, blocking out whatever he was thinking from the outside world like a wall of foot-thick bottle glass. Katsuki grit his teeth into a grin that had Haraguchi backing away from them.

“Special Investigator Bakugo Katsuki,” Katsuki said, thrusting his hand out in an aggressive greeting. Haraguchi stared blankly at his hand for a long moment, but when Katsuki’s name registered, he blanched. His fingers twitched at his side but didn’t raise to take Katsuki’s palm in his; no one ever did. It wasn’t just the foreignness of the gesture, but his quirk that scared most people off and in the hot summer sun he was twice as terrifying. Katsuki didn’t drop his arm, staring straight into the officer’s eyes as Haraguchi stood there, unmoving.

“You’re being rude,” Deku said quietly, his smile just the slightest bit less fragile. Haraguchi chanced a chagrined glance his way, but said nothing for a long moment.

“I-it’s an honor to work with you, Special Investigator Bakugo, sir.” Finally, he lifted up his arm and took Katsuki’s hand in a weak grip, clearly meaning to let go quickly, but Katsuki’s clamped his fingers tightly around the palm in his and yanked Haraguchi close.

“You bet your ass it is, so if you want to keep your fucking job you’ll treat my partner with respect,” he hissed low and even. Haraguchi’s face drained of any remaining color but he nodded hastily. Katsuki squeezed one last time and let go, allowing Haraguchi to retreat back a couple of steps. With that out of the way, Katsuki jerked his chin toward the girl suspended above them. “Okay, extra, tell me why she’s still up there. It’s been almost three hours now.”

Haraguchi took a moment to compose himself, but to his credit he slipped back into professionalism quickly. Scratching at the trimmed hair of his beard, he glanced behind him quickly and then off to the left. “It’s not just her. They can’t move the boy either. They're both stuck."

"Stuck how?"

"Stuck stuck. Molecularly or something. The girl is completely fused with the building, from her ankles all the way to her hair. The boy’s body fell apart the second we tried to move him, but his back and bones won't budge from the asphalt. It's gruesome."

"Okay, so definitely the work of a quirk," Deku said slowly, looking over Haraguchi's shoulder to stare at the silhouette of the girl. He tilted his head to the side. "None of the other victims were displayed like this. Do you think the killer is trying to get media attention? So far this case has been pretty under wraps, but there's no way it's staying that way, not with all these people here."

“Your guess is as good as mine. I wunna get a look at the boy,” Katsuki replied, already walking away toward the gate entrance. Partitions blocked the other side from view. Deku gave a shallow bow to Haraguchi despite the officer’s twisted look of contempt and scrambled after Katsuki.

On the other side of the gate, a handful of officers and crime scene technicians stood around the corpse of the boy. Only bits and pieces of muscle and sinew, a tattered uniform and most of a skeleton remained and were propped up and fused to the gate. Katsuki wasn’t close enough to get a good look at the remains, his line of sight constantly broken by the officers and technician milling about nervously. He didn’t really want to get any closer, either, the coppery-salt tang of blood already had his quick breakfast of coffee and more fucking coffee churning uneasily in his stomach. Deku looked unbothered, but that was the mask he always fixed into place at particularly gruesome crime scenes. No one compartmentalized quite as efficiently as Deku.

The chattering continued, but no one stepped forward to speak with them and Deku’s enthusiasm to start a conversation was spectacular in its complete lack of existence. Katsuki didn’t know what the hell was going on, but he had no intention of baking out in the hellish late summer sun waiting for someone to break the awkward stalemate. He had to do everything around here, goddamn it. “Anyone gunna greet us, or you just gunna stare and whisper like a bunch of gossiping, snot-nosed grade schoolers?”

“Why are you here, Midoriya?” A young woman asked with little more than a disgruntled frown thrown Katsuki’s way, ignoring him. His skin crawled with immediate irritation, fueled by the look of absolute revulsion she fixed on Deku. That made two incompetent assholes who had it out for his partner.

“Well, you see,” Deku began in the distinctly cheerful way he had when he was just about to spew bullshit all over the place. “My parents decided one day they wanted to have a child, so they hoped and they wished and they prayed until eventually a giant stork alighted on their doorstep with tiny baby me wrapped up in a blanket, hanging from its beak. From there I grew up and—”

“I don’t have time for this,” the girl muttered, turning her back on Katsuki and Deku. The bun tightly scraped up to the back of her skull caught the sun, glistening brightly as she waved a hand over her shoulder dismissively. “If you’re not going to answer, just go on and get lost.”

Katsuki snapped, too hot for this idiocy. His tone whipped her back around to face him. “We’re here because UA's got jurisdiction over this fucking case and I'm getting real tired of everyone's attitude around here.”

"You get used to it," Deku said with false cheer. The forensic technician sneered at him, but she didn’t take her eyes off of Katsuki this time, wary. Good, Katsuki didn’t like being ignored.

"I heard we were getting UA's best," she said in a tone that implied she thought they'd received anything but. Katsuki sucked in a breath through his nose and grit his teeth, but it did little to quell his indignant frustration.

“We are the best.” Katsuki growled at her and she startled back a half step. Deku smiled placidly, saying nothing when Katsuki stalked forward. “I’m Special Investigator Bakugo Katsuki. Gimme your name, I wunna file a complaint.”

She said nothing, face as pale as Haraguchi’s had been at Katsuki’s introduction. Katsuki knew he had a reputation, but this over-the-top frozen-terror these idiots displayed when they heard his name was getting old. Katsuki rolled his eyes and turned to Deku.

“Yamagawa Mao,” Deku supplied, tone bland. Sweat rolled down the side of his neck, soaking into his button down shirt. “She’s worked forensics for five years as of last month. She’s usually very good at her job, so don’t hold today against her. It’s been a long morning for all of us, I imagine.”

“Seriously, Deku?” Katsuki hissed, tempted to throw his hands up in the air in sheer frustration. Deku never rolled over for anyone. Something wasn’t right. “Are you really just going to—”

“No one here is worth getting worked up about,” Deku interrupted with cold, clear certainty. He smiled with all of the warmth of a glacier, eyes scrunching shut; that was more like it. Not quite perfect, but better.

“This is ridiculous,” Yamagawa snapped, gathering herself together as she stepped away from them both. “I need to find a way to move the rest of the body before the sun can damage it any further.”

It seemed her assistants hadn’t made any headway in her absence. One older man had his hands pressed to the concrete a handful of steps away from the body, sweating profusely. She addressed him. “How much longer can you keep the ground cool?”

“Another five minutes, ma’am,” he replied through gritted teeth, eyes locked on the asphalt. Red painted his cheeks and bled into the messy white of his hair. He looked one stiff breeze from collapsing from heatstroke.

“You’re going to have to tear up the concrete.” Deku crouched down so that he had a better vantage point to look at where the corpse stuck to the ground and gate. A lack of gloves and protective wear kept him from crawling right up to the victim to poke around. “And the gate. If you don’t, you’ll risk leaving bits behind that we might need to identify the killer. Do you have the tools for that? Or someone with a stronger slicing quirk than yours?”

“We called in Ishiyama, but he’s over there trying to get the Tsumine girl down without causing too much damage to her or the school entrance,” Yamagawa replied reluctantly, jerking her thumb over her shoulder to indicate the candle-wax mess that was the main school building. Katsuki couldn’t figure out what kind of damage they could really prevent, it was already fucked. “He’ll be able to get Maeda’s lower half free, but we still need to get through the metal of the gate.”

“Fuck,” Katsuki groaned. He crouched down next to Deku, trying to see things from his perspective. Bone and cloth both melted into the asphalt, fused together as completely as if an artist had sculpted this scene from a single block of clay. Blood congealed in an oily perimeter around the body, thickest at the bright white ankle bones. Katsuki tore his gaze away and glared at Yamagawa. “Just tell us whatever you know about the victims while we wait for someone who can do that.”

There wasn’t much. Tsumine Ria was a second year dating Maeda Yudai, a third year. She kept to herself mostly, wasn't in any clubs and didn't seem to have any friends. Her homeroom teacher admitted that he thought Tsumine was being bullied by the other girls, but there was no concrete evidence and it never happened around him. Nothing was done.

Maeda had two close friends from the table tennis team, but outside of them he also seemed to keep to himself more often than not. Unlike Tsumine, however, his homeroom teacher didn't suspect bullying as a source of his isolation. He was just quiet.

They both went to the same cram school. It was the only connection their teachers could make between them.

"So far, aside from the victims being romantically involved in some way, there doesn't appear to be any other similarities between the pairs," Deku said with a frown. "I think we should check their quirks. I'm going to see if Denki can look into that for me."

"Waste of time if you ask me," Yamagawa grumbled, but Deku has already started to walk away, heading over to where the girl was finally being lowered down from the school front. A gaping hole stared over the parking lot like a giant black eye, judging everyone below it. 

"We didn't," Katsuki said. He followed after, watching Deku as he pulled out his phone and searched his contacts. He turned back toward Katsuki and gestured him ahead, holding his phone to his ear with his other hand.

“Hey, Kendo!” Deku chirped, detouring away from both crowds of officers and technicians toward an empty patch of parking lot. “Is Denki in yet? I need him to...”

Deku’s voice grew faint with distance and Katsuki left him to it, beelining for the second victim. She was laid out delicately on a circular section of the school walling, her body submerged in the white material. She looked almost as if she had fallen asleep bathing in milk. The red of her severed ankles stood out starkly against so much white and pale, but it only added a pop of contrast to the grotesque beauty of her corpse.

“This is the best I can do,” a grey, square shaped man was saying as Katsuki came to a stop behind the gathered police. He gestured at Tsumine with a thick, shovel-like hand. “I can’t separate her from the wall. Whoever did this went through a lot of trouble to make sure she didn’t come down.”

“She stuck like the Maeda kid?” Katsuki interjected, badge out in his hand so he wouldn’t have to go through another series of introductions. He couldn’t care less for anyone’s name here. The cinderblock man sighed.

“From my understanding of the situation, yes,” he said with a tiny frown. He scratched at his chin, turning away from the girl uncomfortably. “I’m only a consultant though, you’ll have to wait for a professional analysis to know for sure.”

“Which we will have for you as soon as we can,” one of the men in uniform said. He stood tall and broad, brown hair carefully styled away from his face. Unlike the previous assholes Katsuki had met so far, he held himself with professional poise; or maybe he did so because Deku was nowhere in sight. The entire force seemed to have it out for Deku despite him once being one of their own. The man held out his hand instead of bowing and Katsuki took it. “You must be UASI Bakugo Katsuki, thank you for traveling all the way out here to assist us.”

“Ain’t here to assist, we’re taking over command of this case,” Katsuki said and the man’s hand tightened on his briefly before he let go. His expression remained pleasant, however, unperturbed by Katsuki’s rudeness. “Who’re you?”

“Captain Nakaguro.”

“Great, thanks in advance for your assistance, Captain,” Katsuki said as pleasantly as he could muster. He looked past Nakaguro and Cinderblock Man, his insides twisting painfully. Tsumine’s features rested in a calm expression, eyes closed and mouth gently parted, reinforcing Katsuki’s early impression of sleep, but her hair shone with blood, slicked out around her in a fan of black and red. He noted vaguely that the removal of her feet had been much smoother than Maeda’s. Despite standing over her, Katsuki could see that her skin melted into the wall beneath her, fusing her in place. The muscle looked oddly dry, not a trace of blood to be found. “You guys got space for her and Maeda at your labs?”

“We have a rental space we can use.”

“Give me that address, I’ll get Mei out here to supervise.” Katsuki took out his phone, ready to shoot off a message when Deku came rushing back. His whole face was pale, pinched. He took a breath as he came to a stop beside Katsuki and pushed his emotions down with visible effort.

“I was right to check with Denki,” he said without preamble. The panic in his eyes calmed, color returning. His words sounded dead as they left his mouth, in direct opposition. He was putting up walls, closing himself off from whatever he was about to say. "Maeda, Morimoto and Naka Rinka don't have even remotely similar quirks, but Tsumine, Fujita and Naka Ayumu do have something in common."

A connection didn’t explain Deku’s strange behavior, but his next words left Katsuki cold with understanding.

“They’re quirkless.” 

Chapter Text

PHE Year 32, October

The weight of the knife in Izuku’s hand was perfectly balanced. He gripped the handle and his fingers wrapped around it comfortably. It was a custom job and a beautiful one at that, with a wicked sharp blade naturally patterned by waves from where the steel was folded over countless times. He took a moment to admire it before he approached the examination table that took up the center of the room.

Katsuki’s chest rose and fell rapidly as he breathed noisily through his nose. He jerked his head toward Izuku as he approached; desperate terror swam in the deep, angry red, swelling his pupils out until they nearly eclipsed all of the rich color. He scowled fiercely to hide the weakness. Izuku took a calming breath and adjusted his grip on the knife as a set of bare, spidery hands rested heavily on his shoulders. They gave a little squeeze.

“You’ll do fine, Izuku,” a voice whispered into his ear, low and smoky. “Just fine.”

Izuku certainly hoped so.

PHE Year 32, September

Izuku found out about the double murders by accident.

“No one wants to rent our old unit anymore,” his mother said one day, wistfully disappointed. “It’s rather dreadful, actually. I talked to Mrs. Komezake and she said two people were murdered between building A and B. Can you believe it Izuku? Those poor souls.”

Izuku didn’t have dealings in Musutafu any longer. Most of his friends lived in Tokyo or Hamamatsu, his mother in Kanagawa. He hadn’t returned in almost a year and if he never went back, it would be too soon. 

Yet, he still snooped around the case against his better judgement. He found out that the police linked the double murders behind his old complex to another set two months prior on Dagoba beach; same MO both times, same city. The term serial killer got bandied about online, but details were murky in the face of a media blackout.

Izuku wanted to investigate more, but the Baiko cannibal case took up all of his energy, pushing the potential serial killings out of his head.

Until now.

Now Izuku was overwhelmed. 

It was a few hours before they could leave the school, but in all that time Izuku found himself unable to calm the storm brewing in his head. Something scratched around the inside of his consciousness, awoken by painful memories.

Katsuki insisted on checking the other two crime scenes, dragging Izuku away from the toxic atmosphere generated by his past coworkers with tactless sympathy. Izuku appreciated it, but he wished that their path didn't lead them to Dagoba Beach. He could go the rest of his life without revisiting here.

Waves crashed against the beach, frothy caps stretching out across the hot sand before sucking back into the ocean. Garbage gathered in odd clumps further up the beach, strange islands of filth that infected the otherwise beautiful scenery. Amongst one such island, police tape caught Izuku’s attention, bright yellow strands waving out to them in greeting. Kacchan stalked off with purpose when he saw it, but Izuku dragged his feet.

He looked at his hands, tracing the scars that scoured his freckled skin with tired eyes. They held meaning once, but looking at the degradation of his hard work tore that away. Now they were ugly reminders that any difference he tried to make was a useless effort. His heart ached as he remembered.

Glass shattered in his hands, slicing through the flesh deep enough that he saw bone. As blood splattered across sand and shards of the broken window pane, Izuku could only stare. It hurt, god, it hurt so badly. He didn’t know what to do, but this much blood couldn’t be normal. Spidery- gloved fingers reached for his forearms, entering his blurry field of vision slowly. 

“Izuku,” a low voice said, drawing his attention away from his bloody, tattered hand. Bright yellow eyes watched him with alarming calm. “Are you alright?”

“It hurts.” 

“I can fix you,” he said but Izuku shook his head. No, he didn’t want that. He needed a hospital. The yellow eyes narrowed in frustration. “Let me help you.”

“Please don’t,” Izuku begged. Long fingers gripped his arms tightly, but eventually let go without doing anything.

“Fine. Where is your phone? I’ll call you an ambulance. Who knows what filth was on that glass,” he snapped.

“My bag.” Izuku took a shaky step back and blood trailed across the sand in his wake. He brought his hands close to his chest, pressing the worst of his wounds into his school shirt to stymie the blood flow. He felt dizzy, shaky on his feet and he dropped to the sand. After months, how could he be so careless?

Why wouldn’t he let his friend help?

He sat like that for long moments, blood soaking into his white shirt. The ambulance found him there. His mother never allowed him back.

“Deku, get your ass over here!” Kacchan shouted, dragging Izuku away from his ugly turn of thought. He shook himself free of the cobwebs and trotted across the sand toward his partner, coming to a stop outside the police tape. Kacchan scowled at him. “Finally, Space Case. You back with me?”

“I never left, partner,” he replied with false brightness. Kacchan jabbed him in the side with his elbow.

“You haven’t been normal all goddamn day—get your head on straight.” He held out a pair of latex gloves to Izuku and indicated the small mountain of trash. It splayed out around them in a crescent moon of debris with a pool of sand held in its curved arms. “Wind’s probably gotten rid of anything left behind in the sand, but maybe something got snagged up in all this shit. Let’s take a look and see if those Musutafu idiots missed anything.”

Izuku pulled on the gloves handed to him and stepped within the perimeter of the police tape. At first glance, nothing stood out of the ordinary. Wind and time had stripped from the sand any remnants of the double murders, leaving it blank to the naked eye. A closer glance didn’t show anything much different as Izuku walked a slow perimeter from one direction and Kacchan did the same from the other. 

Glass glittered everywhere, thick shards of it buried within the debris, stabbing into the viscera of abandoned machinery. A large pane of glass jutted out from a high vantage point, reflecting the late afternoon sun oddly across the sand. Izuku stared at it until his eyes burned, his hands aching along the seams of his scars. He approached it, ignoring the rest of his surroundings until he stood just underneath the glass; it was an arm’s length away and he reached out for it, sliding a gloved finger along its underside.

“Deku!” 

Izuku jumped, twirling around to face Kacchan. Kacchan watched him for a long minute, the glaring sun forcing him to squint his eyes to do so. 

“What the fuck are you doing? I called your name like five times,” Kacchan demanded at last. He stomped across the sand and bent down so that he could better squint into Deku’s face. “Did you get lost that obnoxious forest you call hair?”

“That doesn’t even make any sense.” Izuku pushed at Kacchan’s chest but he barely budged. Izuku huffed and tilted his head back to stare at the glass again. A crack ran down its center, a thin sliver of opaque white in the otherwise pristine pane. “I’m theorizing.”

“Bullshit, you mutter up a storm when you do that,” Kacchan shot back. He poked at the glass and it creaked ominously, prompting both of them to retreat. “What’s really going on in your head?”

Izuku bit his lower lip, chewing on it as he thought about how to answer.

Hours passed. Izuku wandered away from Kacchan, continuing to search while he avoided answering. Everything fit together strangely, puzzle pieces carefully crafted from broken down machinery and abandoned furniture. Sand and broken glass filled in the cracks, glittering blindingly as the sun set behind them. Old memories gathered in the back of Izuku’s head like storm clouds, rumbling with the warnings of a storm.

If Kacchan tried to talk to him again, Izuku didn’t hear him for a long time.

— 

“This is stupid. It’s late,” Kacchan announced loudly, snapping Izuku out of his jumbled thoughts. He held up his phone and shook the lit screen at Izuku. The sun had dipped to the horizon, slowly drowning in the ocean, staining the beach in its bloody light.  “We need to find a hotel. We can check out the last crime scene tomorrow.”

“We can stay at my place,” Izuku replied without thinking. When his brain caught up with his mouth, he immediately wished he could shove the words back down his throat. He blamed a lack of sleep and a preoccupied mind for his poor judgement, but he couldn’t take it back now.

“Your place.” 

“Well, it’s not really mine, it’s my mom’s. She bought out an apartment unit before she had me. We still have it even though neither of us live here anymore and it’s empty right now, but maybe a hotel would be better. Hotels have breakfast and I’m sure Captain would let us write it off as a—”

“Nah, I’m down for a wholeass apartment over a cramped hotel room. I can just cook in the morning if you’re so worried about that shit.” Kacchan stretched, but Izuku didn’t miss the shrewd once over he gave him. “How far is it from here?”

“Um…”

“Deku.” Kacchan stared him down, brilliant red eyes boring into Izuku’s. Izuku was a terrible liar but he had learned the art of deflection and omission at a young age and he’d done well to keep everyone out of his past up until now. He could not, however, work his way around this. Kacchan wouldn’t let him. “I want to get out of here and go over what we know. Maybe even sleep. Why are you being so fucking weird?”

“I’m not being weird, it’s just...never mind, hold on.” Izuku activated his phone screen and pulled up the navigation application, quickly finding his mother’s place from the favorites menu. He sent the pin to Kacchan and waited.

“Was that so hard?” Kacchan activated his own phone, fingers sliding over the screen efficiently. He frowned at his screen for a long moment. “Why does this address look so familiar...wait. No way.”

Izuku winced as he watched the realization dawn on Kacchan’s face. He growled, shoving his phone right into Izuku’s face without warning. “ Your apartment complex is another goddamn crime scene?!

“Well, technically not my complex. We lived in C block, but I suppose they all belong to the same...er...complex.”

“Why in the ever loving hell didn’t you tell me that you, stupid, fucking moron?”

“I didn’t think it was relevant?” That sounded weak even to his own ears, but it wasn’t exactly a lie either. He knew Kacchan would have found out eventually.

“That’s two places linked to you now.”

“Three.”

Three?!

Izuku stepped away, digging his heels into the sand as he rubbed the back of his neck in an attempt to relieve the way his skin crawled at the thought of giving this much of his past away; but it seemed like too much of a coincidence to keep from his partner. Even though he had been doing just that up until now, but that didn’t count. Izuku would have told him. Just, once he pieced a few more things together. “I spent a lot of time at Dagoba beach as a kid.”

Kacchan frowned at him, anger momentarily banked by confusion. “It’s a beach, that ain’t weird.”

“It was a huge mess back then, like trash and debris everywhere. I spent months trying to clean it up on my own, but I had an accident and ended up with these scars.” Izuku peeled off his gloves and held up his hands, displaying the discolored ribbons of scar tissue marring his skin. “I didn’t go to club activities after school, I came here.”

Kacchan ground his teeth together, visibly trying to calm himself down. “Deku, that’s three crime scenes connected to you.”

“I know.”

“Half the victims are quirkless. The cleaner half.”

“I know.”

“You know how this looks, right?”

Izuku tried not to let disappointment flood through his system, but he knew what was coming next. He looked over Kacchan’s shoulder, staring out into space as he distanced himself from the situation. “Probably a bit like I did it. Which I didn’t, for the record. I physically couldn’t have—I’ve got no quirk.” 

Izuku turned back and looked at the crescent moon of garbage behind him, taking in a breath before he met Kacchan’s eyes. His expression was unreadable beyond generalized frustration, giving Izuku no clues as to what he was thinking. “But I don’t have an alibi for two of the three double-murders, do I? And I’m creepy.”

A lot of bitterness bled into that last word, leaching out from the wound Izuku didn’t even know he had festering in his chest. He kicked up sand and watched as the slight sea breeze carried it away. Shadows stretched like grasping fingers reaching out across the beach. The setting sun dyed everything else bright red and brilliant gold.

“You done?” 

Izuku didn’t say anything. Kacchan sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “You are creepy, I’ll give you that, but I’d bet my left nut you ain’t a murderer. I gotta good eye for that shit, and you know it.” 

“Why your left one?” Izuku asked to cover up the weird warmth fluttering in his chest. He looked up to search Kacchan's face, not surprised to find frustration creasing the space between his eyebrows; he was surprised that that was the most extreme emotion displayed there. Kacchan treated Izuku to an exaggerated eye roll.

“That ain’t the point, Jesus.” He shoved Izuku’s shoulder. “The point is that you didn’t do it, but I think you know more than you’re telling me, so spit it out.”

“Can we maybe not talk out here anymore?” Izuku didn’t like standing out in the open and he wanted time to gather his thoughts. Kacchan looked ready to strangle Izuku over the suggestion, but he kept his hands to himself.

"Fine. It's not like we've had a chance to check out that final crime scene yet, why not spend the night there?" Kacchan started walking toward the parking lot on the edge of the beach. Izuku scrambled to follow, jogging a few steps to bring him just behind Kacchan. Kacchan glanced over his shoulder with a pointed look. "I'm calling this into Aizawa after you talk.”

Izuku pressed his lips together but nodded. That was fair. He dug his hands into his pocket and trained his eyes on the parking lot, nearly blinding himself with the light glittering off the shiny exteriors of the few cars there. “Okay. Um. We should get food. There’s a grocery store near the apartment and I’m pretty sure mom keeps basics in the cupboards, so we could cook?”

“By we, you better mean me.” Kacchan turned around so he was facing backwards, a fierce scowl clouding his face. “I ain’t ever letting you cook again if I can help it.”

“I can cook!” Izuku shot back, indignant. Kacchan scoffed and a little of the weight on Izuku’s shoulders lifted for a moment as the familiarity of their banter soothed his nerves. Izuku pointed at his own nose. “I cook all the time and I’ve never died from it. Or even gotten sick!”

“That bar is so low it might as well be buried underground.” Kacchan turned back around, pulling out his car keys as he picked up his pace toward the car. “Your stomach could digest a nuclear bomb without side effects. I’m cooking.”

“That sounded like a compliment.” Izuku smiled brightly at Kacchan, laughing when Kacchan’s entire body shuddered with disgust.

“Like fuck it was,” Kacchan spat, sounding offended by the very prospect of complimenting Izuku. He unlocked the car, the knuckles on his thumb going white from how hard he pushed on the keyfob. “You ain’t normal.”

“You wouldn’t like me if I was normal,” Izuku chirped; Kacchan surprised him by not objecting.

“Shut up and navigate.”

“Can’t do both, Kacchan.”

“Fuck off and be useful already.”

Before

Izuku cowered against the grimy wall at his back, shrinking away from the three bigger boys surrounding him. His bright yellow hat sat askew on his head, the elastic holding it in place uncomfortably against the underside of his neck, but he didn't dare move his arms from in front of his body to adjust it. He didn't want Jun to hit him, he had bony protrusions that covered his knuckles and they made his punches sting.

"L-leave me alone," Izuku stuttered but his little heart knew that they would not. They had never listened to him before, afterall.

"How's a quirkless loser like you going to stop us?"

"I don't want to fight." Izuku shifted on his feet, nervous energy making it hard for him to stand still. Izuku could not understand why he ended up in these situations over and over again—the big kids were supposed to protect the little kids, that was what the teachers always told them but no one had ever protected Izuku. Jun laughed and the other two followed suit.

"As if you could." He grabbed one of Izuku's arms and yanked it down without effort. Izuku stumbled, his heavy school bag upsetting his balance so that Jun had no trouble sending him crashing to the ground. Izuku scraped his palms open on something rough; tears stung the corners of his eyes in response to the pain. Izuku struggled to his feet, but one of the other boys kicked him in the ribs and he tumbled to the side, this time jarring his elbow against the ground.

“Man, you’re useless,” Jun snickered, crouching down so that he was near Izuku’s face. Izuku sniffed; the barbed words dug into his chest and lodged themselves in his lungs where they joined a host of others harbored in the soft flesh. Poking a sharp finger into Izuku’s forehead, Jun tilted his head to the side and smiled. “You’re so useless you shouldn’t even exist.”

“That’s rather cruel, don’t you think?” A new voice filtered into the cramped space of the alley. The three boys quickly scrambled away from Izuku, moving back so that they faced the newcomer. Izuku struggled to his knees, taking advantage of the brief respite while sharp eyes quickly took stock of his new situation. The newcomer was much older, maybe a first or second year in high school, but he didn’t wear a uniform. He dressed like a shadow, every bit of clothing black from his long sleeved shirt to his tight denim pants to wrist length gloves that stretched across spidery fingers. He wore a dark surgical facemask that hid his expression from view and emphasized yellow eyes glowing with menacing disapproval.

“We were only playing,” one boy said quietly. “We didn’t mean nothin’ by it.”

“He’s just clumsy, is all,” Jun added with a far steadier voice. He shouldered his bag and scowled up at the shadowy boy. “It was mean, but not that mean.”

“So you weren’t bullying him for being quirkless?” The older boy asked, taking a step forward. The others scrambled back. Izuku stared at the scene unfolding around him, convinced that maybe he had knocked his head hard on the ground and this was nothing more than a dream borne of desperation and a likely concussion. Yet when he dug a finger into one of the scrapes on his palm, the sudden flash of pain didn’t wake him. This was real.

“We weren’t.”

“Liars are dirty little creatures,” the shadow said serenely as he peeled off one of his gloves. He glided forward, hand outstretched and touched his fingers to the yellow school hat on Jun’s head. In an instant, it unravelled at the seams, sliding off of his head to fall to the ground in a pile of fabric panels and useless thread. Jun’s eyes crossed as he tried to look up at the hand just an inch from the top of his head, his whole body shuddering as fear froze him to the spot.

“I wonder if your head would fall apart so neatly?” Thin fingers spread out in front of Jun’s face, trailing from just above his head to right before his eyes. He stepped back, nearly tripping on his feet in his haste to get away. His little gang followed, small feet hitting the pavement hard as they turned tail and ran. Izuku watched in a daze, sudden relief warring with anxiety that this stranger might be an even bigger danger than Jun had been.

“What’s your name, kid?” The boy asked as he offered Izuku a gloved hand to help him to his feet. Izuku took it, wobbling on his feet. His legs stung with pins and needles.

“I’m M-Midoriya,” Izuku stuttered. He let go of the older boy’s hand and started picking at his shirt, staring at the ground as he tried to quell the sudden urge to cry. He cuffed his eyes when they started to water anyway. “M-Midoriya Izuku. Um..thank you for helping me…?”

No one had ever stood up for Izuku before. Not until now.

The boy’s yellow eyes crinkled in a smile. “Call me Kai.”