Work Header


Chapter Text

The air was still and cool, and though it wasn’t nearly as cold as some night could get this time of year, the street was still frigid. It was the kind of cold that digs down to the bones and settles there, yet the ground and sky alike were shockingly absent of snow. The trees were barely moving, stirred occasionally by weak gusts of air that made anyone on the receiving end shudder. The atmosphere was a lazy one, the kind best spent inside, lounging with a good book and a fire roaring away, perhaps a mug of green tea to warm oneself.

Most people in the neighbourhood had slunk away to relax, abandoning overgrown gardens, autumnal leaves yet to be raked up and winter festival activities in favour of wrapping themselves in thick jumpers and sculling anything good and hot as heaters worked on overdrive.

Haniko Miya was still awake. She was a rather strange woman, many of her neighbours and acquaintances said. In this warm, cosy neighbourhood of close friendship circles and casual gossip, she was something of an outlier. She turned away from idle chatter, preferring to spend time with either herself or the ratty calico she’d plucked from a shelter almost half a year ago. The whispering of her neighbours didn’t escape her notice, but she tended not to pay it much mind. By all outward appearances, she was a normal woman. Young, pretty and kind, a lovely girl who volunteered in her free time and spoke with the warmest tones about literature and animals.

Once one got closer, however, the cracks started to emerge. Someone taking a closer look would see how her cheeks had hollows deeper than they’d ever been before, and that the smile on her mouth rarely reached her dark eyes. They would see her crackling, insincere laughter, and almost frantic smiles, desperate to present the façade of composure over the symphony of a life slowly falling apart.

Haniko’s strangeness meant that most people found her boyfriend, Hagiwara, preferable company. He contrasted Haniko’s tired grins with laughter that started somewhere around his belly and just kept growing once he got started. His compassionate nature made some look upon the introverted, withdrawn Haniko with envious eyes. Hagiwara was kind, friendly and well put together no matter the occasion.

If Haniko was a braver woman, she always liked to think she would have raised her voice to contest that judgement. Under Hagiwara’s warmth, his charming smile and infectious laughter, there was a darker creature. Under Haniko’s shirt-sleeves, her skin blossomed a thousand shades of purple, black and blues because of it.

Haniko drummed her fingers gently along the table’s worn surface, tracing an old mark on the surface, a ring left by a cold glass of water. She circled it absently before moving on. The next one she remembered. It was less a mark and more a gouge, left by the jagged end of a glass bottle when Hagiwara had taken offence at something she’d said. His target at the time had been her leg, not the table, but it luckily had not been the recipient. Haniko could dodge, but thankfully for her leg, the table could not.

Her gaze slowly lifted itself to the windows. The street was bare, anyone with an ounce of sense ensconced in their house to keep warm. There was no snow, still, but the sky held the heavy, grey colour that indicated it was impending. That made her relax slightly. She’d always loved the blue haze that fell on everything when snow made landfall. Hagiwara hated it, but that had only driven her passion for it to new heights.

Hagiwara’s car was still nowhere to be seen. He’d made threats, perhaps empty, perhaps not, that he would find another woman to fuck if she showed resistance to it. Haniko was unbothered. A night spent not trapped under her boyfriend’s heavy, heaving body was one she anticipated greatly.

A tired sigh escaped her mouth. Really, all she wanted to do right now was sleep, but daring to slip into bed before Hagiwara arrived home was just asking for another sprained wrist or bruised neck or cracked jaw. So, she waited, forcing her eyes open. She was so tired she could have slept for a hundred years.

Haniko risked a glance out the window. The rooftops of the nearby houses were as empty and bare as the street, and she felt her stomach curdle slightly with dread. It had only been three days, and the system overloaded itself frequently, but she had dared allowed herself to hope. It was dangerous of her, not to mention foolish.

The light presence of nausea doubled, tripled in size when bright lights, undoubtedly belonging to a car, came streaming through the front windows. Hagiwara was back, evidently having navigated the late-night traffic well enough. She wished he hadn’t, almost wished he’d been T-boned on the way back. Haniko heard low murmuring outside, probably a well-meaning neighbour stopping Hagiwara to speak with him.

Speak with him forever. Hold him down while I run. Keep him away from me, forever if you can.

But the murmuring faded, and a key jingled in the lock, and Haniko braced herself as she got to her feet, bowing her head once more in defeat when the door swung open.

The warm look on Hagiwara’s face, undoubtedly the mask he’d worn to speak with his neighbour, fell away, replaced with disdain as he looked her up and down. Haniko hadn’t bothered to dress in anything particularly nice, though she’d refrained from wearing anything that looked like it might be deliberately unattractive. He hated it when she dressed in clothes that ‘didn’t suit her’. The look he sent her made her blood turn to ice, and she knew, instantly, that her clothes weren’t his issue.

Hagiwara’s hand drifted to his bag, rummaging for a moment before he withdrew a piece of paper. His knuckles were clenched so tightly around it that they’d gone white, as she kept her expression carefully neutral. She shifted her hands so they were behind her to hide how badly they were shaking. He turned the paper in his hands, and there was no mistaking the logo printed on the side. It was a bank statement. Haniko swallowed vomit.

“Welcome home honey.” She murmured, voice soft. Hagiwara’s face contorted into a glare as he slammed the statement down on the counter, hard enough to make a set of glasses stacked nearby wobble dangerously, and stalked towards her. Even from this distance, she could smell the sweat and something sweeter – perhaps perfume, from another woman – and see how his brow scrunched in fury.

“Don’t fucking ‘honey’ me, you stupid woman.” He spat, saliva flecking into her face as he seized her by the front of her shirt, dragging her closer and ignoring how she stumbled. “Why the fuck were you taking money out of my account?” Haniko stiffened in fear, thoughts making a beeline to the bundle of yen she had stashed in a bag under the floorboards. It hadn’t been much, barely ¥50,000, but enough that he would notice it’s absence. Idiot. She had gotten insurance, wanted it, needed a way to keep herself afloat if she chose to run like she’d dreamed of for so long. But she hadn’t thought about the statements he got delivered every three months.

Idiot. Stupid, foolish, useless woman. Her self-deprecating thoughts sounded like Hagiwara, and for once, she actually well and truly believed them.

“It was for groceries,” she whispered, ducking her head pre-emptively as she anticipated a strike. “I…I didn’t want to bother you at work again. I know how important it is for you to stay focused.” Always so important. Hagiwara hated outside noises. Hated hearing her footsteps if he was working on a project, hated hearing her muffled sobbing after he hit her, hated hearing her begging him to stop when he was on top of her, thrusting so hard it hurt.

Hagiwara’s grip tightened, and he pulled her closer. The look on his face hadn’t changed at all. He didn’t believe her, and rightfully so. Haniko had always been a terrible liar. It had just never mattered as a skill she would need before she’d met him.

“Are you trying to tell me you needed that much money for fucking groceries?” he snapped, teeth bared a mere inch from her face. There was a moment of complete silence before he shook her, hand finally wheeling around to hit her hard in the face. Haniko felt her lip split open, blood dribbling down her chin, but she stayed silent. Her silence, though normally a reassurance for him, as it ensured their neighbours wouldn’t suspect anything, only seemed to anger him tonight. His hand travelled higher, moving from her shirt to her throat, squeezing threateningly.

“What the fuck did you use that money for, you bitch?” he spat, voice low and dripping with malice as his grip on her tightened, nails digging painfully into her jugular. Haniko gasped audibly, hands batting uselessly at him as her vision started to spin. Oh, she remembered, of course. There were major veins and arteries on the sides of the neck, where his grip was the most solid. He was cutting off her brain’s blood supply.

So, this will be how it happens? She wondered. Haniko had long imagined her own death, though her imagination normally conjured up something more violent. Hagiwara tightened his grip again and slammed her backwards, into a wall. Her whole body shaking, fear coursing through her veins like heroin, Haniko whimpered, silently wetting herself. She had always anticipated that he would kill her, eventually, but she’d envisioned a frenzied stabbing, or him slamming her head into the ground until it was a cracked, bloody mess.

Hagiwara was screaming in her ear, shaking her, and Haniko dragged in a desperate, half-empty breath as her vision tilted and swirled. Hagiwara’s hand was around her throat-

Wait. No, it wasn’t.

The pressure was gone, and she gulped in air as blood rushed to her head. She was somehow slumped against the floor, angle uncomfortable but not painful. Her gaze was straight ahead, fixed on a blank wall. She blinked as the static filling her vision and ears began to fade. She could smell something metallic.

A gentle hand brushed the side of her face, and Haniko flinched away on instinct before relaxing. This touch was kind, comforting, and bracingly cold – far too gentle and small to be Hagiwara’s. She pressed her face dizzily into the hold as the hand gently wiped away the residual blood on her chin before moving to her shoulder, moving in slow, relaxing circles.

“It’s alright,” a voice murmured. That wasn’t Hagiwara either. It was gentle, kind…female. Haniko blinked in confusion as she moved to sit up, only to be braced by a careful but strong set of hands. “It’s okay. You’re safe now. That man can’t hurt you again.” Haniko blinked, hard, and the hands guided her into a sitting position, her back leaning against the wall behind her. She looked up, stomach flipping as her heart broke into a dead sprint in her chest.

She couldn’t see much of anything since the lights had gone out at some point, but Haniko could see enough. The woman before her, dressed in a shortened kimono in shades of grey and silver, wasn’t tall, but she didn’t need to be. Her frame was built like that of a gymnast, and her hair, a shockingly pure shade of white, hung waist-length in a wave behind her. Haniko turned towards where Hagiwara had been, seeing nothing but a dark smear on the wall. She, distantly, realised how cold it was. There were icicles on the roof, jagged and deadly as they pointed down at the floor.

“Widowmaker.” She sobbed, bowing her head as her body shook. The hands returned to her shoulders, coaxing her stinging face into a soft, cool shoulder. Haniko relaxed into it, sucking in a deep breath as she cried into the vigilante’s chest. Widowmaker seemed unbothered by it, gently rubbing her hand up and down Haniko’s back in a comforting gesture.

“Everything will be alright.” The vigilante said softly. “I’ve called the police, so they’ll know you aren’t to blame for any of this.” Haniko drew away, nodding blindly as she wiped at her bloodied face. “Be honest with them. The police don’t like me much, but they’re very kind to the people I like to save.” The woman’s face was covered, eyes concealed by a pair of thermal goggles, and mouth obscured by a black, fitted biker’s mask, but she imagined that the expression beneath would be something kind and comforting.

“Thank you…” she whispered as Widowmaker carefully pulled her to her feet and nudged her into a chair. “Thank you thank you thank you…” she felt the cool hand in her hair again, relaxing into the hold again as she looked pointedly away from the mess of flesh, blood and jagged ice that just minutes before had been Hagiwara.

“Don’t thank me.” Widowmaker murmured, her white hair tumbling slightly in the breeze coming in through the window – that must have been how she’d gotten in, Haniko thought blindly. “I only did what others should have done long ago.”

Haniko’s ringing ears picked up on the sound of sirens in the distance. Widowmaker hummed, running a comforting hand through Haniko’s hair one more time before withdrawing.

“Take care of yourself, darling. You’re worth a hundred of that man.” Haniko nodded numbly. The white-haired woman stepped back and moved towards the open window. Before Haniko could even try to thank her again, she was gone.

Naomasa Tsukauchi was exhausted, so much so that he felt ready to keel over and become comatose on the spot, but he still had an hour left of his shift, so entering a vegetative state would have to wait until later. He groaned, shooting a malicious look at the clock, mentally condemning the long sixty minutes he still had to slug through before he could be set free.

The precinct was, at least, blessedly quiet. It was, after all, well past 10pm. Naomasa had remained behind, waving at departing co-workers and smiling tiredly at his bashful senior officers, because he knew that if he left this file until later, he would become utterly stumped on it, and the last thing he wanted was to run into another pointless roadblock in solving this damned case.

He rubbed circles comfortingly into his temples, glaring at the offending file as his leg jogged up and down anxiously. His brain was still whirring ceaselessly with theories and bitten-off recollections of bloodied corpses, and he groaned to himself as he remembered that his Ambien prescription was almost through. Which meant getting up earlier than usual tomorrow to go to the pharmacy to get more. Which meant cutting into the sleeping time that, at this rate, would only total about five or six hours, if he was lucky and didn’t lie awake thinking about witnesses for an hour like he tended to.

“Another one?” he heard a soft voice ask, turning to see Tamakawa standing near his desk, feline facial features twisted in sympathy as Naomasa gave a tired nod. “I feel like it never ends, honestly.” The other detective murmured, placing the heavy case file he had been carrying on a nearby desk and sidling over to stand by Naomasa, furred hand gently resting on his shoulder.

“That’s because it doesn’t, not really.” He sighed, running a hand through his short hair. “I mean, it makes solving murder cases rather easy because we can just say, ‘yeah, Widowmaker did that, apologies’, but it’s not the same as actually closing a case.” Tamakawa nodded, brow scrunching again in sympathy.

“I can understand why.” He murmured, reaching over Naomasa’s slumped form to pick up a set of photos from the latest crime scene, wincing at the intense gore in the images. “I’m guessing there’s been an uptick recently? You always do get more stressed when she’s more active.” Naomasa nodded, cracking his neck from side to side.

“Seven more in the last two months.” He admitted wearily. It felt like a failure on his part, for more reasons than one. He’d been on the Widowmaker case for years, ever since she started gaining traction in Tokyo and the surrounding metropolitan areas, but the case was elusive and, quite simply, unsolvable. Not only did he feel like a failure for not being able to catch her, but it was compounded by the fact that she was helping people that hadn’t even been on police radars as victims of domestic violence.

“Are there any viable witnesses? For any of them, I mean.” Tamakawa asked as he shuffled the photos and looked over them again. Naomasa made a face, which drew a low chuckle from his friend.

 “Most of the bereaved partners seem to have been out of their apartment or houses whenever the murders take place.” He gave his colleague a tired look. “And the Captain said we still couldn’t convict any of them because none of them technically gave out their addresses.” He looked back down at the list. “We had one witness to the Hagiwara case from three months ago; his girlfriend Haniko Miya, but she likely won’t be much help.” He closed his eyes again, fingers returning to his temples to rub away the residual pain. “She was strangled shortly before Widowmaker arrived. Her memory was fuzzy.”

Tamakawa sighed, and Naomasa felt the sound reverberate down to his very soul. Widowmaker’s continuous string of murders tended to sit on the backburner a lot in comparison to more immediate threats like villains or terrorism, but this backburner had been steadily bubbling away for eight years. Random spikes of activity – ‘upticks’ as Tamakawa had dubbed them – came about every few months or so, when several domestic or child abusers were found dead or severely injured within the span of a few weeks, but the hype would soon die down. Widowmaker left no traces save the remnants of her signature ice quirk, and despite years’ worth of investigative work and long hours put in at the station, they were no closer to ascertaining what her identity was, whether she had any sort of hideout or if she had any help.

Frankly, the only thing that the police could make a reasonable, educated guess about was the pervasive vigilante’s motivations. She was a woman, as had been apparent from the start, and given that her victims were exclusively people who abused their partners or children, it wasn’t hard to assume that she had a personal stake in cases like that. For such a vehement (and justified) hatred of abusive people to be so deeply ingrained in her psyche that she was willing to kill them, more likely than not, she had once been a victim of similar things to what she saved people from.

That was part of what made her case so complex. Naomasa understood, he well and truly did. Frankly, he personally didn’t get too worked up about it when one of Widowmaker’s victims was found, because she had been proven to do thorough research, and every single person she injured or killed was a criminal through their actions against others. A part of him couldn’t help but applaud her efforts. Naomasa himself had spent a lot of time fighting against snide defence lawyers to get abusers put in prison, and enthusiastically supported people who had to kill out of self-preservation. Though her methods were twisted, her manifesto was sound, and she was helping people.

But at the end of the day, it was still vigilantism, and violent vigilantism at that.

“This case really is a nightmare sometimes.” Naomasa groaned. Tamakawa rubbed his shoulder again.

“Well, you’ve had it for five years.” The other man said teasingly. “I’ve had relationships that haven’t lasted that long.” That stirred a chuckle from his throat, and he shot the cat-headed detective a grateful look. He’d known Tamakawa a long time – frankly, there was probably no-one who understood him better, but the other man consistently proved himself a better friend than Naomasa could ever hope to be.

“You know what the saddest thing is?” Naomasa murmured. “Even if we did catch her, even if we got her into prison, lots of people wouldn’t be happy. Everything about her was just so divisive. Maybe she should have considered a political career rather than this. She’s certainly evasive and controversial enough for it.”

Tamakawa squeezed his shoulder again. “I really don’t know what to tell you, Tsukauchi. Widowmaker might have a good justification for doing the crimes she has, but they’re still crimes. Our job is to enforce the law, and according to the law, Widowmaker is in the wrong. We can debate the ethics once we have her secured in a cell, with quirk-suppressant handcuffs on.” Naomasa nodded.

“Yeah, you’re right, as per usual.” He said, chuckling when the detective visibly preened. “I should probably draw up statements to update everyone on the case.”

“Probably. What’s she at now?”

“134.” Naomasa murmured. “And that’s just fatalities. She’s hitting the high three-hundreds range for injuries.”

Tamakawa whistled. “Well, no-one can say that she doesn’t have a sort of brutal efficiency about her,” Naomasa grunted.

“Very true. I wish she would slow down a little, though. If only so we could catch her. I’d take even a glimpse at her face right now, that’s how hopeless this whole thing has become.” He gestured broadly at the empty precinct. “I mean, I’m stuck at work at,” he paused to check the clock once more, “10:40pm at night. I should be in bed right now.”

Tamakawa chuckled again, elbowing him. “Well, at least you’ve got me.” He teased. “And please, we both know you don’t sleep.” Naomasa laughed openly at that and felt his eyes widen when Tamakawa pulled a bottle from his pocket and handed it to him. “Since you’re terrible at keeping up with your own prescriptions, I’ve taken it upon myself to do it.” Naomasa’s fingers closed around the bottle of sleeping pills.

“I swear, Tamakawa if you don’t stop being so considerate, I’m dragging you into a courtroom one day and marrying you on the spot.” The other man laughed again, ears flickering slightly.

“Get eight hours of rest three days in a row, and I might consider it.” the other man said with a light-hearted wink, both of them pretending they weren’t both unduly flustered by the idea. “Anyway, as much as I would like to hang around planning our impending wedding, I need to go to the forensics unit about that Shinjuku stabbing spree.” Tamakawa straightened up, plucking up the folder he’d set down earlier and waving at Naomasa. “Good luck with your vigilante.”

Naomasa returned the wave, turning reluctantly back to his own files as Tamakawa wandered away, and with another little sigh, he pulled up the virtual files they had on the elusive vigilante.

Information on her was sparse, and a lot of the witnesses to her attacks and murders showed a great deal of reluctance to sell out any form of intel, so they really were running off rumours and whispers. What information they had on her had been gathered from those few willing to testify on oath about what she looked like, any sightings reported on the internet, and focused speculation.

All they really knew for sure was that she was a woman, had an emitter-type ice quirk, had white hair and probably had been a victim of domestic violence in the past. That was all that eight years of research and investigation had been able to scrounge up.

Sliding the bottle of sleeping pills deep into his pocket, murmuring further, silent thanks to Tamakawa as he did so, Naomasa sighed, resisting the urge to slam his head rather violently into his desk. This case had long been impossible, and he should be used to it by now, he really should, but every extra murder added further weight to his shoulders, and he despised every minute of it.

A low buzzing met his ear, and upon further inspection, the source turned out to Naomasa’s phone. Hoping that it was a friend like All Might or even someone like Aizawa was foolish, so he resigned himself to the worst and checked the number, glad that he hadn’t gotten his hopes up when it registered in his mind.

It wasn’t uncommon for pro heroes to become interested in specific cases where vigilantes or villains were concerned, but one of Naomasa’s consistent wishes – other than a healthy sleep schedule and instantaneous deafness so he didn’t have to listen to irritating underlings -  was that he could one day get a less determined hero interested in this case. After years of dealing with the chipper optimism and gentle understanding of All Might, some other heroes could prove to be grating and abrasive, in this case, in the extreme.

In addition to that, this hero constantly wanted updates on the case, even though information had always been sparse, as Naomasa always tried to explain. He did at least have proper information to pass on this time, but he still wasn’t pleased to pick up the phone and answer. He’d been aiming to be out by 11pm or so, but with the man on the other end of the line, he knew that likely was no longer a possibility. Because the world hated Naomasa, apparently.

Besides, what did Endeavour want with Widowmaker anyway?

Kazuko Amisaki pushed her front door open carefully, making sure to minimise noise. The hinges creaked obnoxiously, igniting irritation in her chest. She would have to get that oiled; it would hardly do for her neighbours to be aware of when she came and went from her apartment. Glancing hurriedly from side to side and spotting no prying eyes or ready adversaries, she slipped inside and locked the door behind her.

Breathing a sigh of relief for once again successfully completing perhaps the hardest part of her job, she pulled at her clothes, snatching the most recognisable elements and discarding them. Her silver and grey kimono, cut off at the knees and halfway down the forearm and patterned with black flowers, was folded carefully to conceal bloodstains and set off to one side. Her lace-up black boots, lined with white fur and inlaid with steel soles to make kicking in windows all the more easier, were pulled off and set by the door. Her fingerless black gloves and black biker mask also came free of her skin, thermal goggles joining them as she stepped out wearing nothing but her long-sleeved black shirt and dark, fitted pants.

With the most recognisable parts of her costume now gone, she stowed them in a bag, to be thoroughly cleaned later, and let the ball of tension resting between her shoulder blades relax. Placing the bag on the kitchen counter, taking care to keep it far removed from the fresh manju sitting on a plate at the other end, she poked her head into the living room.

A smile, foreign to her face when she wore her costume, but ready at a moment’s notice when she didn’t, spread across her features. Two of her children were in the living room, her daughter clearly trying to explain physics concepts to her youngest son, while he looked on with mild confusion and palpable terror. She eyed the whiteboard she’d bought for the very purposes of teaching, which was covered with diagrams explaining inertia and entropy.

Her son spotted her first, his whole body perking up as he radiated relief. The reaction was a brief one, though, as he quickly bowed his head and flushed, embarrassed by his own eagerness to see her. Her heart swelled. Kazuko Amisaki could not possibly be luckier in her children, and it was small gestures like this that proved it.

“Mom!” her daughter exclaimed, getting gracefully to her feet and darting over to her to accept a warm hug. If Kazuko still smelled like blood and dirt, her daughter didn’t comment on it. She never did.

“Hello darling,” she murmured, smiling at her youngest son as he seemed to overcome his embarrassment and also approached her for a hug. She indulged him happily, tapping the top of his head lightly. She had always known that her children would be taller than her. It was the simple curse of having three sons and only one daughter, but she had been surprised at how quickly and irreversibly they had all shot up. Her two oldest both clocked in at over six feet, and even her youngest, lagging behind his older brothers by seven and four years respectively, looked ready to match that. “You’re growing too fast.” She chided, turning to her daughter. “What is he now?”

“5’9’’.” Her daughter said, rolling her eyes. Clearly, unimpressed with the tallness of their family, and especially that of her younger brothers. “Honestly, I’m seven years older than him, but he’s three inches taller. It’s humiliating.” Her youngest son raised an eyebrow, looking ready to fight her on that. Being the mature adult that her daughter was, she stuck her tongue out at them.

“Didn’t Nat-Arata outgrow you at like 12?” he said, voice stumbling over his brother’s name for a moment. Her daughter shot him a playful glare.

“That is absolutely none of your business.” She sniffed, folding her arms in a mockingly pretentious display. “Shou, go back and finish those equations.” Kazuko raised a brow. Her daughter winced. “Sorry. Katai, go finish those equations.” Her youngest huffed, running a hand through his red and white hair before reluctantly obeying. Kazuko’s daughter shot her an apologetic look. “Sorry, Mom.”

Kazuko rolled her shoulders, shaking her head as she tucked a lock of her daughter’s hair behind her ear.

“It’s alright. Real names until tomorrow.” She said simply. Her daughter relaxed, as did her son. “Oh, come on, they aren’t that hard to remember.” She lectured them. Fuyumi sighed.

“Yeah, but it’s still annoying.” She murmured. Fuyumi relented under the stern look Kazuko levelled at her. “But I get it. I’m good at it outside, I swear, it’s just in here that things get muddled.” She smiled.

“I know how it gets, don’t stress.” She said gently. Glancing over at her youngest son, she laughed. He seemed to be paying attention to their conversation rather than doing the equations his sister had set out for him.

“Shouto, listen to your sister.” She said. “Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the only days that she has free to teach you in, so you should take advantage of it. Your education is important.” Shouto, who would be Katai, had Kazuko not called for ‘real names’, nodded, a light blush spreading up his cheeks.

“Yeah, I know.” He muttered, finally putting a pencil to paper with great reluctance and working through the problems Fuyumi had written down for him.

“So, where are Touya and Natsuo?” she asked, voice low. Fuyumi raised an eyebrow.

“You mean Idiot Twin and Problem Child #1?” Fuyumi joked, cracking a grin. “Idiot Twin is at work, and the other dumbass is probably out flirting with any girl he sees on the street again.” When her mother shot her a look, Fuyumi sighed and shrugged. “Or he might have gone to hang out with Touya at the parlour. I’m not sure. He’ll show up eventually.”

“Thank you. And don’t swear at your siblings.” She said, frowning reprimandingly.

“Yeah, you bitch.” Shouto piped up from his place on the couch, immediately ducking as Fuyumi picked up a nearby eraser and hurled it at his head. It sailed harmlessly past him, but they engaged in a half-playful stare-down regardless, with Shouto jabbing his pencil threateningly in Fuyumi’s direction as Fuyumi scooping up a ruler, slapping it against her palm. Rolling her eyes fondly at them, Kazuko moved past them, fingers tapping out a rhythm on her thighs.

“Do we have noodles for soba tonight?” she asked her daughter, smiling as Shouto perked up immediately. Fuyumi also giggled at his excitement for a moment but shrugged.

“Not sure. I could tell Touya to get some, though.” Kazuko nodded.

“Probably for the best.” She said, stepping over to the windows to adjust the blinds against the incoming afternoon sun. Sighing in relief, she let her guard drop, just enough for the difference to be obvious, and gently set Kazuko Amisaki aside for the day. With no prying neighbours or wary outsiders, she had no reason to wear her less visible mask.

Rei Todoroki slipped over to her youngest son, reaching out to card her hands through his hair as he worked, sitting on the couch behind him. The equations looked vaguely familiar, probably something she had covered in high school herself long ago. Looking at it now, she was very relieved to be free of physics.

“Did you get the guy you were looking for?” Shouto asked as he rubbed out an answer and went over the working for it again. Rei hummed in the back of her throat, leaning over to kiss the top of her son’s head.

“I got him.” A short buzzing from her pocket drew her attention. Scooping up her phone, she relaxed when she looked at the screen. “Ahh, Touya and Natsuo are headed back home now.” She pressed her cheek to Shouto’s bi-coloured hair. “We’ll have that soba, then, hmm?”

Chapter Text

Hawks cracked his neck from side to side, casting a curious look down at the street below. From his vantage point, about fifty-five odd floors high, the people on the sidewalks were little more than scuttling ants, scrambling along to jobs some of them probably hated, towing along children bursting with complaints or holding hands with partners that he hoped, for all their sakes, they legitimately cared about. Tipping his head back to take in the marbled blue and grey of the cloudy sky, Hawks let his legs swing back and forth. It a childish habit, but he’d carried it since he was a toddler himself, and even growing up and being lectured by his trainers had failed to remove it.

Hawks knew it was probably wrong of him to have jetted off to sit atop a building to people-watch rather than patrolling, but he felt that he actually deserved this small break. He’d logged dozens of hours of overtime on the last case that he had just closed, and after the hassle he’d been through, a moment to sit and breathe didn’t feel like much to ask in return.

He tugged the sleeve of his fur-lined jacket up, checking his watch and humming. He still had about twenty minutes until the meeting he’d promised to have with a detective, and though he knew he shouldn’t leave it so long to start flying, he hesitated, soaking up the cool air buffeting him from the sides.

He hadn’t been too pleased to be told by his agency that a case had been put on standby for him, least of all because it was in Tokyo, a good 1,000 kilometres away from his actual agency, but there was little he could do about it. Representatives from the Hero Commission themselves had said that it was strongly recommended he take on the case, which was less a nudge towards cooperating so much as it was a knife pressed to his throat forcing him into submission. Sighing as the minutes continued to tick by on his watch, Hawks got to his feet, stretching his wings and flapping them experimentally a few times as the wind tossed his hair to the side.

Somehow, standing on a high ledge was much more intimidating than sitting on one, and he felt his body sway forwards of its own accord as he eyed the long plunge between him and the ground. For a brief moment, he was suspended in the air, wings splayed outwards and eyes trained on the ground far below. Then, a particularly strong gust of wind caught him, Hawks sighed, and he stepped off the ledge.

The feeling of falling wasn’t alien to him, after all these years, and contrary to most people, it was one he actually enjoyed. Hawks knew he didn’t have to wait so long to spread his wings and catch himself on an updraught, but he let himself relish the pull of gravity on his lightweight body for a moment longer than he otherwise would before moving his wings into action again. He noted, with a small stab of guilt, that he seemed to have badly alarmed an elderly woman leaving a grocery store, but everyone else was staring at him with amazement.

Granted, Hawks operated in Kyushu, so he was almost a non-existent sight in Tokyo, and wing quirks had always been rare. He grinned, waving at a small girl who squealed in delight at the action, hid his face in his jacket collar and soared higher. A glance at his watch confirmed his fears that he’d left it too long to leave the roof, and he picked up the pace, jetting at top speed towards the precinct. After all, the route wasn’t a complicated one, but it was across the city. Cursing to himself, Hawks adjusted his visor against the strong wind and flew onwards.

He landed outside the police station with scarcely a minute to spare, managing to frighten yet another elderly woman. He hurriedly helped her collect the things she’d dropped in her alarm, apologising profusely all the while, before ducking inside. Because the world really hated him today, he also managed to almost blindside a detective with one of his semi-extended wings. He tucked them away, shoving his hands in his pockets and grinning sheepishly at some unimpressed-looking older officers.

It was no secret to him that police officers didn’t always appreciate the input of heroes, especially not in investigative work, which was increasingly seen as their territory. Hawks could understand that; as heroics became more widespread, the actual apprehending of villains and criminals alike had been a task that fell to the police less and less. Them wanting to protect their own job prospects was perfectly understandable. One thing that did grate on him, though, was that many officers disliked him personally because he was young. Hawks knew he was a bit of an idiot – in his own opinion, that was part of the territory that came with being 22 – but many people assumed that even without having met him.

“Hawks!” a voice from behind him broke him from his reverie, and he pivoted gracefully to face a young detective. The guy seemed rather unremarkable, save for the truly remarkable bags under his eyes – he and Eraserhead should have a contest, seriously – but looked friendly enough. A glance at the badge attached to his lapel confirmed his suspicions. He hadn’t actually been told anything about the detective he was meeting, just their name – Tsukauchi. This seemed to be him.

“Morning. You’re Detective Tsukauchi, right?” the man nodded, smiling slightly.

“That would be me, yes.” He chuckled, offering his hand. Hawks accepted it, eying the pure black coffee clutched in the man’s other hand. Relatable. “Thank you for taking the time out to come and speak with me.” Hawks shrugged, stowing his hands back in his pockets.

“Ahh, you know, I go where the Commission tells me to go, really.” He lightened his tone to hide some of the irritation he felt about that. “So, what is this about? Must be serious if you’re outsourcing work to the likes of me.” Tsukauchi chuckled again.

“Well, it’s certainly something.” He admitted. “Let’s discuss this in private. The case is…sensitive.” Hawks raised an eyebrow at that as the detective sipped his coffee, jerking his head towards a door on the side of the room. “Follow me.”

The precinct was hardly a dull building, but the fluorescent lighting certainly did have a way of draining the colour out of everything. Hawks made a face, wondering if it would be offensive of him to offer them money to replace some of the décor. He heard Tsukauchi snicker ahead of him.

“A little drab, isn’t it?” he called to him. “The grey walls really do wonders.” Hawks grinned, glad that he’d at least been assigned a detective with a sense of humour as he was led down a narrow corridor and into a small, sleek office. He judged that it wasn’t Tsukauchi’s since the man didn’t move to sit down at all, instead turning to face him with a tired smile. His suspicions were confirmed a moment later.

“The Captain said we were welcome to use his office for our meeting this morning, since talking about sensitive information in the middle of the bullpen is probably not a wise move.” Hawks nodded to himself, leaning casually against the wall, crossing one ankle over the other. Upon looking back at the detective, though, he immediately frowned.

It hadn’t been immediately obvious before, because of the lights, but Tsukauchi didn’t just look tired, he looked exhausted. The bags under his eyes were a clear indicator, of course, but the pallid tone of his skin was the real giveaway.

“You alright, Detective?” he asked cautiously. Tsukauchi shrugged, smile turning a little bitter as he sipped his coffee again.

“It’s nothing new, don’t worry yourself, Hawks.” The man said easily. “The case I’m in charge of is a complete nightmare, always has been, and unfortunately for you, you’re about to get pulled into it.” Hawks blinked.

“Is it really that bad?” he asked. Tsukauchi sighed.

“It’s just…the kind of case that both does and doesn’t have a perpetrator.” He said, only managing to confuse Hawks more. “It’s unsolvable because of some of the logistics, not to mention so wrapped up in social and moral dilemmas that even the slightest sign of a conviction could result in rioting, for all we know.”

“…Damn.” Hawks muttered. “Sounds like a delight.” Tsukauchi laughed again, setting his coffee on the desk behind him and folding his arms. “Have you had the case long?”

“Almost eight years now.” Tsukauchi murmured. Hawks felt his jaw legitimately drop, then. There were always cases that went cold or simply didn’t have any evidence to help drive forwards an investigation, but from what Tsukauchi had said, this case wasn’t like that. And yet, despite that, it had still gone (semi?) unsolved?

“Eww.” He responded, unsure of how else to phrase things. Tsukauchi snorted, burying the ungraceful gesture and his accompanying grin in his hand.

“That’s…very accurate, actually.” He laughed. “But don’t get too worried. The case you’ve been brought in to help us with isn’t that one, it’s just related.”

Well, that was a relief like none other. He said as much, which drew another laugh from Tsukauchi.

“I’m all ears.” Hawks said. “What is this case, then?” Tsukauchi retrieved his coffee, holding it close much like parents would a beloved child – again, relatable – before moving to pick up a pair of large boxes stacked to the brim with files and folders. He dumped them on the desk with a satisfying thump, gulping down more coffee as he tapped the tops of them.

“I’ll admit from the get-go that I normally don’t tend to ask heroes for help on investigative matters like these. You guys get busy, I understand, and I wouldn’t be asking this of you if I didn’t think I had a choice.” Hawks nodded, noting how the man’s tone had become more serious. Tsukauchi sighed again. “But this case, and more specifically, some of the implications around it, are really starting to make things difficult.”

Hawks nodded again, stewing on that for a moment. “So, is this organised or individual crime we’re talking about?” he asked after a moment. Tsukauchi bit his lip, making a noise akin to a tire having air let out of it.

“Honestly? It’s a bit of both. That’s part of what makes it so irritating to deal with.”

“I’m not gonna claim to be a master detective or anything of the sort,” Hawks said, “but how can it be both individual and organised? Normally crime is one or the other, right?” Organised crime was rarer nowadays than it had once been, but some villains – like that ‘League of Villains’ that had entrapped UA students and tried to kidnap one a few months ago – found it effective. More often than not, though, criminals were hesitant to trust anyone but themselves.

Tsukauchi opened one of the large boxes and pulled out a picture. “It is, normally, but frankly, this isn’t quite a normal case. Tell me, Hawks, what do you see there?” Hawks looked at the picture he’d been handed, frowning in confusion. It looked to be a crime scene photo, but rather than displaying a gruesome corpse or blood splatter like he’d become accustomed, this picture depicted a stretch of wall. There was ice slicing up across the concrete, in minuscule but wickedly sharp looking formations, but there was something else, too.

“Ice, probably from a quirk…” he murmured, squinting at the photo, “and…scorch marks?”

Tsukauchi smiled and took the photo back, so Hawks seemed to have done something right. “It is indeed.” The detective confirmed. “It’s the work of two different quirks, one based in fire, the other in ice. The latter is believed to belong to the perpetrator in my case, Widowmaker.”

Hawks straightened up, eyes widening. “Damn, Widowmaker?” he said. “You’re the poor bastard tasked with investigating Widowmaker?” Tsukauchi nodded, gesturing to the bags under his eyes.

“Yup. Didn’t get these from finishing up straightforward stabbing sprees or anything similar.” He sighed. “Luckily for you, though, this case doesn’t have to do with Widowmaker directly, but it’s still about vigilantism.”

Damn. Vigilantism was a grey area that sat somewhere between heroism and villainy, and in the hundred years or so since people had first gained quirks, no one had been able to provide an answer as to what end of the spectrum it sat closer to. Hawks himself came up at a loss when faced with the question, and he was not alone in that. It was a tough thing to consider. Saving people was a good thing, and it always was, but sometimes, the methods used by vigilantes raised the question as to whether their actions were morally sound. Widowmaker was at the helm of that debate and had been for a long time.

Vigilantism was wrong and destabilising to both the pro hero and police professions, but he could easily understand the motivations behind it. Sometimes, the legal system just wasn’t enough to get people the help they needed.

Frankly, Hawks could say with confidence that he found nothing wrong with vigilantism if the vigilantes in question were using safe apprehension tactics. But things were hardly ever that simple. Faced with the case of a vigilante who hunted down people who had done terrible things and did even more terrible things to them, well, it muddied the waters a lot.

“Can’t say I’ve dealt with a lot of vigilantes.” Hawks admitted. “In all honesty, I haven’t got a problem with them, most of the time.” Tsukauchi nodded, sighing again – seriously, he and Eraserhead should be friends – and rummaged through the boxes again.

“I agree, myself. They do some good work that the police aren’t always able to get around to, though the ones that engage in more…morally unsound tactics are less acceptable.” Hawks inclined his head in agreement. “However, they still have to brought to justice, as reluctant as we might be to dole out punishment for the majority of them, and we have more than one reason for wanting to take in this vigilante.”

Tsukauchi held out a file, which Hawks took cautiously, slipping it open. “For the most part, this one is more morally sound than a lot of others, but there are a few cases ending in murder which we’ve been able to connect to him. Our biggest concern about him is what seems to be a connection to Widowmaker. We’ve come across scenes with quirk residue that matches both of them.”

“Dabi?” Hawks asked. “Curious name.”

“We believe it’s named after his quirk. It means ‘cremation’, after all.” Tsukauchi explained as Hawks skimmed the sparse information on the vigilante.

“Charming.” He said dryly. Tsukauchi chuckled.

“From what we’ve been able to glean, he didn’t give himself that name, actually. The people in the neighbourhoods where he operates seem to have given him that name based on his quirk. It’s a fire type, obviously. We don’t have any solid specs on his appearance, but reports seem to place him in the 20-30 range, with fair skin and no visible quirk factors. It’s not a lot to go off, visually, I’m aware, but it’s the most we can provide for now.”

“So why all the sudden interest in this guy?” Hawks asked.

“Dabi’s been a low-level presence for a while now, but we’ve noticed an uptick in cases where the residue of both his and Widowmaker’s quirks have been found, so we’ve placed him on our priority list.”

“Oh?” Hawks looked up. “Did he do something?”

“It’s more the connection to Widowmaker that we’re interested in, frankly,” Tsukauchi admitted. “If we can get someone close to her arrested, then it’s a step closer to the woman herself, which would be a welcome advantage in the investigation surrounding her, I can tell you that. Not to mention, Dabi presents a problem, less for his own actions and more for what he represents.” Tsukauchi folded his arms. “He’s proof that people are being inspired by Widowmaker’s actions and trying to contribute to her anti-domestic violence, anti-child abuse and anti-rape agenda. And don’t get me wrong-” Tsukauchi held up a hand, “I agree 100% with her agenda, but encouraging people to kill anyone who’s wronged them is a little tricky, for obvious reasons.”

“Of course.” Hawks said, handing the file back over. “So, I’m assuming my role here is connected to this Dabi fellow?” Tsukauchi looked relieved that he’d picked up on it.

“Yeah, essentially. Dabi is a talented fighter, but he doesn’t seem to have the same level of support and secrecy shrouding him that Widowmaker does, so he seems like a much easier target to apprehend. If we can get him to give up any information on Widowmaker, anything at all, then it might be the break in the case we’ve been looking for.”

“Makes sense.” Hawks mused. “So, what’s my specific role in all of this?”

“Well, Dabi operates primarily in Roppongi, but he also does work in Shibuya, Shinagawa and Akihabara. What the Commission, and police, want you to do is infiltrate Roppongi, keep your eyes out for any information about him, and if the opportunity arises, bring him in.”

Hawks nodded. “Seems pretty straightforward.” He eyed Tsukauchi. “Straightforward enough that I’m betting there’s a catch.”

“I won’t lie to you; some neighbourhoods can get protective of their vigilantes, and that sentiment seems to have been taken to extremes in Roppongi. Getting information about Dabi from the locals will probably make pulling teeth look easy. I also haven’t been given a timeframe for this case, so it might end up being a long one.” He shot him an apologetic look. “If that’s not possible for you, I do understand-”

“I’ll do it.” Hawks interrupted, shrugging at Tsukauchi’s shocked look. “I spent three months on a really tough case, just recently, so potentially having months to unwind in Roppongi and charm information out of civilians sounds like a dream, frankly.”

Tsukauchi shot him a look. “It probably won’t be so much a dream as a nightmare.” He said. “Are you sure?” Hawks shrugged.

“I mean, the Commission recommended I take this job, and I’m not dumb enough that I don’t know how major of a player Widowmaker is out on the streets. If I can help contribute to her capture, I will. Besides, you look like you need a serious nap, so taking some stress off your shoulders is a pretty good reason, too.”

Tsukauchi smiled at him. “That’s very kind of you, Hawks, thank you.”

Hawks waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t mention it.”

I want to make life breezy for heroes. The police are included in that. Trust me, Tsukauchi, this is just me trying to feel like I’m achieving that goal.

“The Commission has paid for accommodation for you in Roppongi, so you won’t have to take from your own accounts. I doubt it’ll be anything fancy, but it should hopefully do the trick.” Tsukauchi said, stowing the various files he’d pulled out back into their respective boxes. “I’m the authority on the Widowmaker case and on others that branch out from it, so just give me a call if you need anything. Anyway,” he patted the boxes beside him, “these are for you. They’ve got copies of every case file we’ve collected on Dabi, as well as crime scene photos, witness testimony and some news articles on the guy for good measure. It’ll hopefully be a good base of information to start at.”

Hawks nodded. “Sounds good.” Tsukauchi smiled at him again.

“Really…thank you, Hawks. I’ll be glad to have you on the case with me.”

Hawks grinned at the tired detective, glad to see genuine relief on the man’s pallid features. “Just doing my job.”

Wisps of thick, tobacco-stained smoke drifted upwards, curling in a haze around leather-bound arms, spiked hair and ears laden with piercings. A cigarette, held loosely between a pair of sneering lips, provided more yet as its holder stalked forwards, footsteps echoing from the solid sounds of metal-soled boots meeting cracked concrete. At the end of the alley, a quivering, sobbing mess of a man lay, curled on his side and babbling with fear. Eyes the colour of ice bore into him, offering neither forgiveness nor sympathy.

It was funny to see the jarring contrast between someone when they were victimising others as opposed to when they became a victim themselves. Some retained dignity and others acted like the pathetic, snivelling mess before him, by curling into the foetal position and whining about the injustice of it all. The vigilante took a deep drag of his cigarette, exhaling slowly before plucking it from his mouth and leaning forwards to extinguish it on the weeping man’s skin. The low hiss of burning flesh met his ears – a familiar sound – and he couldn’t help but grin.

“Aww no, you poor, poor little thing.” He crooned, kneeling down by the man’s side as he flicked the butt away to lie discarded in the corner. Reaching forwards, he wound his hand through greasy black hair and dragged the man’s head back, staring into brown eyes blown wide with fear. “What’s wrong? Does it hurt?” the man sobbed again, and the vigilante dropped his head back onto the pavement, straightening up and looking down on him with pure contempt. “Answer me.”

He lifted a boot-clad foot and pressed it into the man’s temples, pushing and leaning his weight into it until the man’s face was being pressed hard into the ground. The sobbing increased in volume, and the vigilante matched it by increasing the downward pressure of his foot. “Come on, answer me. You want me to stop because it hurts, don’t you?” he pressed his foot down further. “If you knew the meaning of the word ‘stop’, I might listen.”

A low chuckle interrupted the sobbing, and the vigilante turned to see another man approaching him, a slight grin on his face.

“You should cool it down a little,” the newcomer said, gesturing to the sobbing mess of a man, “or he’ll piss himself a second time.” The vigilante grinned, shifting his foot so his heel was grinding down on the man’s jaw.

“Isn’t ‘cooling it down’ your speciality, Natsu?” he joked, finally pulling his foot off the man’s head, grinning when he continued to sob pathetically. Touya rummaged around in the pockets of his dark leather jacket, withdrawing another cigarette and lighting it with a minuscule, blue flame from his finger. He grinned around the bitter taste of tobacco in his mouth as the air temperature dropped. A thin layer of frost swept across the dirty concrete ground, ice creeping up the sides of Touya’s boots, the bags of trash piled high at the end of the alley, and the man still curled helplessly on the ground.

Natsuo exhaled, breath emerging as a cloud of thick white in the cold as he stalked forwards, his normally kind expression falling away to show off something uglier. Jagged icicles lined the bottoms of his own shoes, and Touya took another drag, watching as his younger brother knelt down by the man’s side.

Natsuo eyed the man for a moment, firmly ignoring the wailing coming from him, straightening up again for a moment before his own leg swung into motion, and his shoe swung straight into the side of the man’s throat. An awful sound, halfway between a gag and a squeal of pain, left the man’s mouth as he struggled to suck in air. Touya cackled as Natsuo grabbed the man by his collar, dragging him over to the wall.

Hearing scum like this man scream and cry in pain was music to Touya’s ears, always had been, and he knew he was likely more than a bit sadistic for it, but he’d come to terms with that long ago. Taking time out of one’s day to go after criminals and fuck them up required a certain degree of sadism, or at least a belief in punitive justice.

“Get up.” Natsuo spat at the man cowering on the ground, kicking at his side. “This wouldn’t hurt half as bad as what you’ve done, you know.” Natsuo leant closer. “And it wouldn’t be happening at all if you’d only kept your hands to yourself.”

Touya flicked away the butt of his dying cigarette, marching over to stand by his brother. He seized the man by his collar, throwing him against the wall and pinning him there with a foot planted in his stomach. A wave of Natsuo’s hand had the man encased in ice from the waist down, and Touya dropped his foot as the ma scrabbled uselessly against the cold concrete at his back.

“Please, please I didn’t do anything-” he whimpered. Touya felt his eyes widen with vindictive rage.

“Didn’t do anything?” he summoned his quirk, blue flames bursting to life and licking up his palms and knuckles. The man squealed, sounding all too much like a pig as Touya brought the fire close enough to singe his skin. “I beg to differ.” The expression on his face was probably more than a little crazed and wild, but Natsuo had seen it all before.

“You wanna explain yourself?” Natsuo asked the man as Touya pressed an elbow firmly into the man’s solar plexus. “Come on, Ichinomiya Shigemasa, do explain why you did those things to those kids.”

“I didn’t-” the man cut himself off when Touya brought his flaming hand closer to his face, enough that the skin of his cheek started to turn red. Shigemasa whimpered, and Touya grinned darkly.

“Oh really?” Natsuo said, tone soft and dangerous. “Don’t lie to us, now.” Shigemasa wriggled away from Touya’s flames and Natsuo’s glaring. “Because, I could have sworn that you,” he pointed sharply at the trapped man, “raped and molested five children that young Miss Imari Nagao paid you to babysit.” He leant closer, eyes glinting like steel. “Isn’t that right?” the man squirmed, averting his gaze. “Because those kids seemed pretty trustworthy to me, and that’s what we were told.”

“It was just a little mistake!” the man exclaimed. “They were right there-”

Touya brought his flaming hand to the side of the man’s throat, his words breaking into a scream as his flesh seared and bubbled under the touch. Natsuo pulled a gag from his pocket, jamming it into the man’s mouth as his screams tapered off into sobs.

“A mistake is picking up the wrong drink, or buying conditioner instead of shampoo. Raping children is not a ‘mistake’.” Touya hissed, gripping the front of the man’s jacket. “And you’re even more of a monster than I initially thought if you honestly try to believe that.”

It was rare for Touya to get any sorts of requests to deal with specific people since most of his work was roving around at night or in the evenings and stopping crimes as they were being committed, but a desperate plea for help had emerged on the dark web just a few days ago, from the poor young mother of Shigemasa’s victims. Just two hours spent with her and her small children had left Touya and Natsuo both with boiling blood and a thirst for vengeance.

Touya smiled again, though this one was less a smile and more a full display of bared teeth. Natsuo chuckled softly, sound low and ominous, and the man whimpered again, evidently having realised what fate they had planned for him.

Touya didn’t often kill; in that, he differed greatly from his mother, but he did when he felt it was necessary. And in this case, he didn’t trust the legal system to properly protect the young mother rather than vilifying her for leaving her kids alone. This guy was apparently a banker; Touya didn’t trust a jury to convict him, either.

“Now, Shigemasa,” he spat the name like a curse, “I would love to sit around to torture you for hours and give you a slow, painful death, but I have a shift at 3, so we’ll have to go down the ‘quick and brutal’ route instead.”

The man whimpered, struggling uselessly, as Touya turned to Natsuo. “What do you think?” Natsuo wouldn’t be the one killing the guy – Touya had allowed him to come and do vigilante work with him on the condition that Touya was the only one who got his hands well and truly dirty – but his brother still had some ideas. Natsuo hummed, flexing his fingers as he formed a wicked sharp icicle in his hand.

“Well, I’d say that we take away what matters to him, most,” Natsuo hummed, advancing on Shigemasa with the knife, “or, at least, what he values more than the mental and physical wellbeing of innocent children.” He melted some of his ice away, pressing the sharp weapon in his hands to the edge of the man’s crotch. He formed another icicle as the man stiffened, pointing it higher. “And he won’t need his eyes or hands, either. I’m in favour of taking a few things on behalf of those kids. Maybe what he used to fuck with them.”

Touya grinned and shoved the gag deeper down the man’s throat as they moved in tandem, midday sun glinting off ice and metal-toed boots.

Shouto was waiting outside Inkwell and Staples when Touya slipped out from a narrow alleyway. He raised an eyebrow in surprise but otherwise ignored his brother as he approached the storefront. Shouto’s hair was hidden under a black beanie – good, the kid had chosen to be sensible today – and Touya noticed with no small amount of irritation that he had appropriated Touya’s favourite black leather jacket. It was still too big for him – Touya did have five inches on him height-wise, after all – and the sleeves had been rolled up several times just so that Shouto’s hands were exposed, but Shou pulled off the punk aesthetic better than Touya could have expected. If his baby brother had actually asked to borrow that jacket instead of just swiping it, he might have been proud.

Though, frankly, the fact that Shouto had just up and swiped it was worthy of pride on its own.

“You reek of smoke,” Shouto said once he was within earshot. Touya’s mouth twitched at the side. His brother had always been a smart little shit, far too observant for his own good. Part of that he got from Touya, he was well aware, but he felt he could do without the snarky commentary that his brother was all too willing to provide. Shou knew exactly what he and Natsuo had been up to – that was the whole reason he pointed out the smoke – and Touya knew what his brother was about to start saying.

“Good to know.” He responded, trying to convey via tone alone that he wasn’t up for a discussion right now as he slipped in the door. The shift worker on before him, Nadeshiko, waved at him as she grabbed her bag and left. Shouto followed him inside, and Touya suppressed the urge to roll his eyes as he shucked off his jacket and bustled around, checking if there were any appointments for the afternoon. Shouto propped himself up on the counter, crossing his legs.

“Take me with you next time,” Shouto said, his voice insistent. Touya sighed. It was hard to avoid seeing how determined Shouto was to end up just like Touya. It would be a compliment, but Touya was a terrible person, fucked up over and over again by everything that he’d had thrown at him, and he didn’t want his baby brother ending up the same way.

“Asking continuously isn’t going to change my answer, Shoucchan.” He said, nudging at his brother’s legs to get his feet off the counter. Shouto adjusted his position and fixed Touya with a cold stare. And, well, damn, Touya loved his brother unconditionally and knew that he would never intentionally hurt him, but that look was a soul-shaking one. It made sense. Shouto was always subjected to the most glares because he was-

Don’t think about it.

That was step one, always had been. It was how Touya avoided the bad memories that got dredged up so easily. He avoided the horror plaguing his subconscious by refusing to acknowledge it. Was it a healthy coping mechanism? No, of course, it wasn’t, but it meant fewer dreams for Touya where he could feel the phantom impacts of a large, harsh hand on his skin.

“Don’t glare at me.” Touya snapped, and he knew Shouto could tell the look bothered him, because he dropped it immediately, expression shifting into something more like guilt. Sighing, Touya rested his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Kiddo, you know I love you, but I won’t let you come with Natsu and me.”

“But why not?” Shou asked, tone now less indignant and more pleading. “I know my quirk is-” he cut himself off here, shaking his head, “I know what my quirk is like, but…I could still fight. I want to help you guys. You let Natsu come with you!”

Touya chuckled. “Yeah, but Natsu is 19. You, my friend, are still a widdle baby.” He pinched Shouto’s cheeks for emphasis, and his brother wriggled out of the hold, looking mildly furious as Touya cackled and released him.

“Natsu’s also an idiot, as are you.” Shouto shot back. Touya sighed. He remembered distinctly how much of a little shit he was when he was 15, but that didn’t help him much when it came to dealing with Shou. If anything, it just made him feel sympathy for their poor mother, and even more for Fuyumi, who tended to be the first recipient of Touya’s bullshit.

“I will neither confirm nor deny that.” He said, managing to come off as proud despite the nature of his sentence. Shouto smirked, and Touya flicked him in the ear. “How about this; you go home and listen to Fuyumi teach second-graders or wander around scaring pensioners, whatever it is you get up to, and we’ll go train again on Saturday.” Shouto wrinkled his nose, but before he could complain, Touya reached out and tapped his wrists, where he could feel the thick, metallic cuffs locked around his brother’s arms underneath the leather. “Not just basic training.”

Shouto’s eyes lit up with excitement, and Touya managed to get away with lifting up his beanie and ruffling his bi-coloured hair before yanking the hat down over his ears. “We got a deal?” Shouto nodded, and hopped off the counter, looking a little bashful. Touya grinned at him and nudged him with his elbow. “Now go on, scram. I got customers to paint and stab.” Shouto rolled his eyes at the old joke but complied, slipping out the door as Touya readied a tattooing needle for the first appointment of the afternoon.

The smell of smoke was still clinging to him.

Chapter Text

Rei knelt down, eyes fixed on the window across the way. The curtains were drawn, and she narrowed her eyes. It was late, but there was still light filtering through the small gaps between, and she could see movement, brief and faltering. She pulled her phone from her pocket, examining the screen critically for a minute as her eyes skimmed the address. Her gaze snapped back to the window. This was it.

She tucked her phone away again, staring at the window. Tugging the ends of her gloves up and flexing her fingers, she slowly stood. She was poised to move, jump off and propel herself across the way with her quirk when she sensed a nearby presence. Years ago, she might have tensed, but after a long decade of hiding, running and fighting, she knew how to tell friend from foe.

“You should leave.” She murmured. “Fuyumi is out, and between you and I, I don’t trust Shou and Natsu in that apartment by themselves.”

A low chuckle met her ears. “And you think I’m a better influence than Natsu?” Rei smiled ever so slightly, pivoting. Touya’s eyes weren’t on her, they were gazing over the Tokyo skyline, his dyed black hair flying wildly in the wind. She stepped closer to him and rested a hand on his shoulder.

“I would say, you tend to be a little more responsible.” She said gently. “Why did you follow me?”

Touya’s eyes were back on the horizon. “You remember that guy that molested those kids? Shigemasa?” Rei nodded. She had been considering an optimal time to go after him. He was high on her list, and definitely among the most despicable of her targets. “We found him earlier, Natsu and I.” Rei raised an eyebrow. She wasn’t ignorant when it came to her sons. Touya and Natsuo took after her, they always had, and she knew that they shared her own relentless drive for justice.

“I see.” She murmured. “And?” Touya rummaged through his pockets and pulled out his own phone, switching it on and flipping it so she could see the screen.


Rei hummed as Touya lowered the phone. She sometimes wished that she had caught onto her son’s more violent tendencies before they had been given time to fully bloom. The acts she committed were bad enough, without her precious children being drawn into a cycle of blood as well. But Touya was 22 years old. He knew what he was doing, and though she feared for Natsuo as well, she was no fool. Her sons were capable.

A part of her wanted them to do other things. She remembered how Natsuo’s eyes used to light up whenever a show about lawyers popped up on their television screen, and his endless passion and talent for football. She missed the gleam in Touya’s eyes from similar things; crime documentaries and detective pieces. Her sons could have lives that weren’t so badly entangled with her own. She prided herself on the sense of justice that had been instilled in both of them, but she would always hope for a better future for her sons than the one she had adopted for herself.

“Do the police have any proof that it was you?” she asked. Touya slid his phone into his pocket, shrugging.

“I mean, they’ll recognise the scorch marks from me, though knowing their general incompetence, they’ll probably mistake Natsu’s ice for yours again. You know that they seem to be set on the idea of you teaming up with me rather than there being two elemental-quirk vigilantes in Roppongi. There were neither cameras nor witnesses around, though, so in that regard, I think we’re fine.” Rei nodded.

“Good.” She said evenly, turning to face the building she was preparing to enter. “I’m thinking of going to Saitama for a week or two. Domestic violence rates have been rising there recently, according to Malware. I think I might need to re-teach them an old lesson.” She didn’t need to look at her son to see the sudden, bright keenness in his eyes. “I want you working at the parlour while I’m gone.” She said. Touya deflated.

“If you’re drawing attention in Saitama-”

“Then it would be a lot easier to track down some more of the scum here, I’m well aware, Touya. But you need to stop thinking about your own hero complex for once. Shouto is restless, as I’m sure you know already. He might be more mature for his age than any fifteen-year-old boy has the right to be, but he is still a child, and he’s picked up your impulsivity.” Touya huffed, and Rei buried her smile in her black half-mask.

“Little shit kept bugging me today when Natsu and I got back.” Touya said, the words faltering as though he was expecting a rebuke. When none arose, he continued. “I told him no, obviously, but I promised to take him quirk training on Saturday.”

“Do make sure he stays under control. We only just finished paying Iwayama-san back from the damages last time.” Touya winced, and Rei laughed.

“I said I was sorry! And I’ll keep him under control, don’t worry.” He promised. “His ice is a lot better, though the fire can sometimes be cause for concern. But I can handle the heat, you know that.” She shot him a fond look.

“I’m aware of that, Touya.” She said gently. “But please, ask your boss for more hours when I’m in Saitama. Fuyumi is good but even she struggles to keep everything under control. You’re the only one who can well and truly wrangle everyone into some semblance of order.” Touya grumbled, but he finally sighed and nodded.

“Yeah, alright.” He stepped closer to the ledge, kneeling and squinting across the way. “What did these assholes do?” Rei laughed softly, but it wasn’t a kind laugh. She pulled her face mask up higher, so that it partially concealed her nose, and tugged her thermal goggles into place. Touya shuffled away a little. Her oldest son had watched her transformation from Rei to Widowmaker in real time over the years. The difference was distinctive, and vital, and Touya knew that better than anyone.

“Their poor child has been going to school covered in bruises.” She responded as she adjusted her gloves. “And a little birdy told me that both of them are responsible.” Touya made a face, and she simply nodded in agreement, reaching out to gently card her hands through her oldest son’s hair. “Go home, Touya. I’ll take care of this.”

He did as she said without argument, and Rei faced forwards again, a vicious smile dominating her face.

It was a relief to see that her children were all tucked away in bed by the time she got home. It made the blood that much easier to wash off.

Shouto jumped slightly when Natsuo peeled himself off the wall and fell into step beside him as he walked to Inkwell and Staples. He glared at his brother, but Natsuo seemed unperturbed, as per usual, and just grinned in response. He nodded his head at the duffel bag that Shouto had slung over his shoulder.

“Touya’s shift doesn’t end for another forty minutes, you know.” He said, voice teasing. Shouto scowled but didn’t respond, and Natsuo spent the rest of the walk laughing at him. He knew that he came off as overeager, but he could hardly help it. His brothers’ time was limited, so any opportunity that Touya and Natsuo offered him to practice with his quirk was one he jumped at happily.

Natsuo reached over, apparently aiming for his hair before realising why removing Shouto’s ever-present beanie would be a bad idea, and instead settled for pinching his cheek like Touya liked to do so often. Shouto wriggled free of the hold, and in doing so, almost managed to walk directly into a telephone pole. Ignoring Natsuo’s sniggering, he slipped the door of Inkwell and Staples open and ducked inside, not bothering to hold the door open for Natsu, which warranted an offended shout from his brother.

Touya barely glanced up when they entered, gaze intent on the arm he was currently tattooing as Shouto perched himself up on the counter and Natsuo took a spot on the floor. The client was a familiar one, who smiled at them both kindly when she spotted them. Her name was Fukunaga, if he remembered right, and she came to get tattoos and piercings from Touya often enough that she was more than acquainted with Shouto and Natsuo.

Of course, she knew them as Katai and Arata Amisaki, and Touya as Tatsuzo, but the fact that she knew their names at all – alias or no – was proof of how close she had already managed to get to them. They tended, as a family, to keep anyone who wasn’t them at an arm’s length, but Fukunaga was harmless. Her niece was one of Fuyumi’s students, she didn’t care too much about either heroes or vigilantes, much less those with flashy quirks, and her own quirk was mostly weak. Even if she were to find out about their family, she would hardly pose a threat.

Natsuo engaged Fukunaga in a conversation as Touya continued to patiently work, and Shouto leant against the wall and considered the room.

Inkwell and Staples had been a blessing in disguise when Touya had come across it about four years ago. Of course, his older brother had been searching for a place to get piercings of his own rather than a job, but the owners had quickly taken note of him when he had come in the third or so time. Touya’s strong stomach, steady hand and rather impressive knowledge of tattoos and piercings had only drawn more attention to him. Their mother had been ready to flee with anxiety before the owner, Ritsushima, had instead approached him to ask if he would like to do an internship.

None of them had ever had a real job before that, and it was Touya’s reluctant acceptance that had pushed Fuyumi to seek teaching qualifications and offer cheap lessons to neighbourhood kids, and for Natsuo to score a position as a casual worker at a nearby grocer’s market and delivery truck driver. Shouto wasn’t expected to look for a job yet, thankfully, since he was only fifteen, but he wanted one, nonetheless. Touya’s whole demeanour had brightened after he had been given a sense of purpose at Inkwell, and Shouto loved Ritsushima for it.

Touya had started working there regularly after finishing up his training and internship, and the money he raked in had helped their family greatly. There were people who donated money to their mother, but it was always risky to rely on it, since the police always seemed to be looking for opportunities to shut her whole vigilantism operation down. He could understand why, but it didn’t stop the seeds of resentment from festering away inside.

The parlour was only small, walls painted in a dark indigo colour and covered with pictures of various piercings and tattoo drawings, but it felt very homely to Shouto. It was a crammed, hole-in-the-wall place that most people didn’t visit unless they already knew of it, and from the odd things he had seen around here in the last few years, there was a 30-40% chance that it was some sort of front for drug trafficking, but it felt familiar and safe, and it always had.

Even as much as he liked Inkwell, though, Shouto found himself wriggling with impatience. He passed the next forty minutes restlessly, splitting his attention between the friendly Fukunaga and his phone before Touya happily straightened, twisting his back to release pent-up tension, and gestured for his client to take a look. She exclaimed in delight, immediately babbling out praise of her new tattoo as she waited patiently for Touya to disinfect and bandage it.

“You’re a miracle, Tatsuzo, honestly.” Fukunaga said once everything was done. She grinned wickedly and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Seriously,” she jabbed a thumb at Touya, facing Shouto and Natsuo with a meaningful look, “this brother of yours is a talented bastard.”

“Please, Miss Fukunaga, his head’s inflated enough as is.” Natsuo teased. “He’ll hardly be able to get through the front door soon enough.” Touya, being the mature adult of the three of them as he was, tossed his half-empty water bottle at Natsuo, rolling his eyes when Natsuo expertly caught it and opened the cap to start drinking without hesitation. Shouto snorted, giving his older brother a bold middle finger when Touya shot him a withering look. Laughing, Fukunaga thanked Touya again, finalised her payment and swept out the door with a spring in her step.

“Can we go now?” Shouto asked the minute the door had closed on Fukunaga’s back. Touya raised an eyebrow, obviously suppressing a laugh – he had always been marginally less of an ass than Natsuo, which Shouto appreciated, but he still never gave up an opportunity to make fun of him. It was his right and duty as an older brother to rag on his siblings, as he always liked to say.

“I’ll grab myself a drink first, then we can go.” Touya said, stretching. Shouto rifled through his bag, pulling out the bottle of sweet green tea that he had gotten on his way there. His brother was predictable, though he often tried to come off as otherwise. Touya laughed openly when he handed it to him, patting him on the head lovingly. “Oh Shou, you really are impatient, huh? Alright then, let’s go.” Shouto repressed the cheer that threatened to surface and practically ran to the door, vibrating with excitement. Touya arched a brow at Natsuo. “You coming?”

Natsuo made a show of considering the offer before he shrugged and grinned. “Yeah, why not.” He smirked at Shouto. “You aren’t gonna burn my jacket to ash again, are you?” Shouto flushed at the embarrassing reminder, but Touya barked out a laugh.

“I’ll be the one doing the burning if you don’t get your ass into gear.” He sniped. “I’ve got the quirk gym booked for two hours, so we gotta make the time count.”

Hawks pushed the curtains back slightly, surveying the dirty backstreet that took up much of the view from his window. The small square of sky he could see was clouded over and murky grey. It was going to storm later, which certainly crossed out the possibility of flying back across town. He made a face, scrunching up his forehead and pressing his cheek to the cool glass.

He had assumed that this case of his would be centred around integration into the community; it was one of the quickest most sure-fire ways to get information, and since information was the one thing that the police severely lacked on these vigilantes, it made sense. It would be hard, certainly, since vigilantes were often viewed favourably within local circles, and especially in poorer areas like this one. Tsukauchi had advised him that getting in close and gradually starting to ask questions would be the best method for finding information about this Dabi guy, and his alleged connection to Widowmaker.

Integrating into a highly suspicious community rife with petty crime was easier said than done, though, and Hawks sighed as he scrutinised the graffiti on the wall opposite his new apartment. The police had set him up here for the duration of this mission, and though he appreciated the effort, he was also just a little too exhausted to want to consider going out just yet.

His new apartment was sparsely decorated, holding just a futon, rickety wardrobe packed with his more lowkey clothes, dusty rug and a few other scattered items of furniture. Really, he wasn’t sure he could be bothered making the place look more homely. He had never been one to bother with too many material possessions. Perhaps that was a side-effect of growing up in less affluent areas like this one.

He examined his reflection in the spotty, cracked mirror in the bathroom. He would get around to doing a bit of DIY in here eventually, but he wasn’t too bothered for now. Hawks raised an eyebrow at himself. Even with his golden hair twisted back with a tie, hero uniform nowhere in sight and bags under his eyes from the long shift he had hauled in Shinjuku last night to resolve a minor hostage situation, he was instantly recognisable. He fluttered his wings, sighing despondently at their vibrant red colour. He loved his wings; loved everything about his quirk, really, but he did on occasion wish that it was a little more inconspicuous.

Groaning at the mission he had ahead of him, Hawks crossed the room to collect the files that Tsukauchi had given him on his target, looking through curiously.

The estimated age range given for Dabi sat oddly with Hawks; this guy was likely around the same age as him. He was only 22, and yes, 22-year-olds were, in his own experience, complete idiots, but one would still hope they would have some measure of understanding that vigilantism was not legally sound. 

Luckily for Hawks, Dabi’s profile actually provided a good number of accounts of what his quirk was. It was a fire type emitter quirk, which Hawks was already aware of, but he found his eyes arrested when he plucked up a photo slotted into the folder. Dabi himself wasn’t in the picture, obviously, otherwise the police would have had much more luck finding the guy already, but his fire was.

It wasn’t the yellow and orange that Hawks had grown up seeing from the likes of Endeavour and other flame heroes, but instead a vibrant, deep shade of sapphire blue. He knew, objectively, that fire turned blue, then white, when it got hot enough, but seeing a fire quirk of that calibre was incredibly rare, and definitely of note. It was surprising that a quirk this powerful wasn’t scouted when the user was young, like his own was. Shrugging it off even as the thought rested impatiently at the back of his mind, Hawks moved onward.

Pages upon pages of official reports detailed accounts of mutilation, arson, assault and other crimes committed by the mysterious Dabi. He didn’t have nearly as many murders on his ledger as his alleged friend Widowmaker did – only 9 or so had been definitively linked to him, with most others considered likely at best. All of them were done in the name of justice, but Hawks still sighed a little when he looked over the photos. He could understand the morals and ideology behind vigilantism; it was hard to get licensed as a pro hero, and there were some people who simply didn’t have the time or capacity to do so, but still wanted to help others in need. It was an honourable sentiment, but the legal system looked down on it.

Stuffing the numerous files back into their folder, Hawks collapsed back onto his futon with a groan. He definitely understood Tsukauchi and his eyes bags a lot more now. He had known this task would be a hard one, and that as confident as he’d been about it, he would have to do a lot of investigating to try and crack through the layer of secrecy that shrouded this vigilante, but he was starting to wonder if he’d gotten in over his head.

Shouto staggered as another blow slammed into his gut, narrowly dodging another as he tried to drag air back into his thoroughly winded lungs. It was clear to any outside observer that he had been hit hard, but Touya was unrelenting, he always had been, hence why Shouto loved training with him so much.

He darted away from another blow, not missing the feral grin on his brother’s face. The time they got to spend in joint training sessions together was limited, but that didn’t necessarily mean that Shouto didn’t train by himself. He had maintained a rigorous regime of mixed martial arts, weights and general cardio since he was 11. There was a particularly friendly fighter at the MMA ring at this very gym, and he was always willing to show Shouto new moved or go for a round with him.

It hurt, but it was always rewarding, too. Training used to be a word that sent cold, raw fear through Shouto’s very bones, but now it was something to be anticipated eagerly. He responded to Touya’s look with a grin of his own, and Natsuo, seated on the sidelines and grinning, cackled as they continued to dance and parry.

Getting a slot in the quirk gym was a rare treat for the three of them. The gym might have been a bit run down, but there were plenty of people around here with destructive quirks looking to train themselves. Shouto was fairly sure at this point that Touya could only get these appointments because the receptionist fancied him, something which he teased his brother about constantly.

The gym was special for its structure. The walls, ceiling and floors were all heavily insulated against numerous types of quirks, which meant that it made for a safe space to unleash ferocious power. This place had been recommended to them after Shouto had managed to badly scorch part of the normal sparring rings. The rates were slightly higher to use it, but the office had given them a discount to encourage them to practice there rather than in the public rooms, and they had never lifted said discount.

Shouto stilled when he saw Touya slouching into a more relaxed position.

“You wanna do quirk training now?” his brother called, and Shouto immediately felt just as much fear as excitement surge up. He nodded, even as his hands brushed hesitantly over the quirk-inhibitor cuffs that he constantly wore locked around his wrists.

“You’ll never beat All-Might if you can’t even control your own quirk.”

But I don’t want to beat All-Might. He’s my favourite hero. Why does anyone have to beat him? He’s the Symbol of Peace!

That was always what Shouto thought when his father knocked him down. He used to call him dada, before the training had started, but Touya-chan called him father so he would too. Dada felt too nice and sweet.

His father wasn’t nice and sweet. No, his father was mean. He kept making him fight, even though he didn’t know how. He kept making him use his quirk, screaming at him and hitting him when it spiralled out of control. He couldn’t help it! His quirk felt like it was always burning right under his skin, screeching to be let free. It got worse the more emotional he was. His father didn’t like that.

He had to be the best, though. That was why father hit him. That was why mama cried and Touya-chan said such bad words about father. That was why all of this happened.

He didn’t want to beat All-Might. He wasn’t even sure that he wanted to use his quirk.

He didn’t want this.

He didn’t…

“Breathe, Shou, breathe.”

Touya must have seen that Shouto’s eyes were clouded over and his shoulders were tense, because by the time he was shrugging the memories off, he was sitting down, wedged between his brothers. Natsuo was humming an old lullaby that their mother always sung to them, and Touya was gently rubbing his back between his shoulder blades.

His breathing was faster than it should be, Shouto realised as he came back to himself. It took a few long minutes for Touya to help him guide it back to a regular pace. He buried his face in his hands, digging his nails lightly into his forehead.

“It’s okay, Shou.” Touya said simply, and he knew that his brother was not saying it as a useless platitude to get him to come back to himself. Shouto sighed, hands shaking with minute tremors as he tried to pull himself back together a little better. He knew that it was okay, because it happened to every member of their family.

Fuyumi would space out at times, expression slackening as the past gripped her. It only took snapping his fingers in her face to snap her out of it, but the episodes usually left her more subdued for the rest of the day.

Natsuo tensed up like he had been shocked, muscles locking up tightly as his hands clenched into fists and he sucked in ragged breaths like he was trying to restrain himself from punching a wall. His flint eyes went darker than usual and any incidents like it left his voice raw, cracking like he had just been screaming his lungs out. He sought isolation whenever it happened, and Shouto knew by now that if he couldn’t find Natsuo and he hadn’t left their apartment building, then an overhanging section of the roof was his usual haunt.

Touya’s episodes were bad. He would go still, and for a long time, it wouldn’t even be obvious that something was wrong until he started to shake, or tears ran down his face silently. He had been conditioned against crying, so his chest would spasm and every breath would choke him, and he would hiccup like he was drowning on dry land. Sometimes his gaze went wild, and he would scream at them all, and by the end, he was on the ground, arms locked around his head while he heaved and dry retched. Shouto used to avoid him whenever he got like that, but in the last few years he had taken to hanging off him like a bat instead; wrapping his arms tightly around his brother’s chest and tucking his head under Touya’s chin until his brother started to cry properly, and he buried his sorrows into Shouto’s bi-coloured hair.

Mom’s episodes were…frightening. She normally just went still or distant or even got a little angrier, and she never got truly bad, not like Touya does sometimes, but when it was bad, it was bad. The last time it happened, Touya had swung his arm across Shouto’s shoulder and shuffled them both out of the apartment. Their mom loved them, and they loved her, but when she got really bad, it did her no good for them to be there. It had been about two years since she got really bad, which Fuyumi always said was a good thing. It meant she was getting better.

Shouto could only wish he could get better too. His episodes only seemed to get worse.

When he was younger, in the first year or two After, he had been painfully quiet, to the point that he barely spoke. It had taken constant encouragement, affection and reassurances from his siblings that it was okay, he was okay, they were okay, and that their new life wasn’t going to be ripped away from them. That had been his biggest fear; that his father would show up and hurt mama and hurt Touya and hurt him all over again, and it would be like they had never left at all.

But it had been ten years, and their father had never shown up. And though Shouto’s fear had lessened, somehow, his reactions had only gotten worse.

He had progressed from silent crying fits to locking up in fear to fully-fledged panic attacks that slammed into him without warning. He was gone from being able to manage his fits of fear and anxiety by himself; nowadays he needed his older siblings to calm him down and get his breathing back to normal.

Touya said he had PTSD. They all did. Shouto liked to not think about that.

“You alright?” Natsuo murmured as Shouto pushed his hair back from his face. He nodded slightly, forcing himself back to his feet. A stranger might have expressed concern, and told him to sit down and take a minute, but his brothers knew him. As much as they teased one another and jabbed and made fun, they were honest. If he said he was fine, they believed that he was fine.

Touya dug through Shouto’s duffel bag, pulling out the slender metallic strip that acted as a key for the quirk-inhibitor cuffs, approaching him. Shouto held his arm out obediently, and Touya slotted the strip into a narrow crease on one side of the long, bulky cuffs, holding it until the small light on the side flickered green, and the cuff popped open with a small sound. He shrugged it off, suppressing the burst of flame that tried to surface as Touya opened the other.

Most people immediately jumped to the wrong conclusions whenever the cuffs were visible. He wore them just about everywhere, after all. Shouto had had people approach him and ask if his parents were forcing him to wear them, like they were abusing him.

No, I’m not being abused. Not anymore, anyway.

Others avoided him like the plague if they saw them. Quirk-inhibitor cuffs were generally only used for children who couldn’t control their quirks, criminals on parole or for incredibly dangerous quirks. Unless the person was a criminal, it was uncommon to see them on people over the age of 10, hence why most people seemed to assume he was some sort of delinquent when they spotted them.

Really, though, the cuffs were a conscious decision he had made a long time ago. The long and short of it was, his quirk was strong, unusually so, and very dangerous. And despite his long hours of training with Touya, Natsuo and his mother, he still couldn’t control it very well. With a great deal of concentration, he could suppress it down to nothing, but when it got out of control, there was little that anyone, least of all Shouto, could do to stop it.

With intensive training, he might have been able to control it by now, but Shouto didn’t have the money for that, and he would rather die than go back to the one person who might have been able to teach him to control and harness it effectively, so the cuffs seemed like a logical decision. His mother had been reluctant, as had Touya, and it was only because of Natsuo that he had been allowed to get a pair.

“Come on, ma, it’s his quirk. Shou knows what he is and isn’t capable of, right? If it makes him feel better, then why not? We all know that his quirk is nothing to shake your head at. It doesn’t mean we have to stop training him in the meantime, either…”

Days of pleading had gotten him the result he wanted, and Shouto had worn the cuffs since he was about 10. He was willing to tolerate odd looks and twitchy behaviour from passers-by if it also allowed him a certain measure of peace about his quirk.

Here, though, he didn’t have to worry about fire flaring up when people brushed against him or accidentally forming glaciers on busy streets. He rolled his wrists experimentally. Flames burst to life on his left hand, and Touya grinned, falling into a defensive position as Shouto prepared to attack.

He used to hate his quirk, and though he did fear it at times, he no longer felt any resentment for the power he was born with. The fact that it no longer reminded him of his father was a great help.

Shouto had been born with orange flames, but they had burned blue since he was 6 years old. 

He lunged, and Touya was ready to meet him.

Naomasa was, as per usual, in a sour mood when he walked into the precinct, and being told that Endeavour wanted to speak with him sent what few fragments of a good mood he had running for the hills. He had been up all night looking over more case files, and the fact that he was going to have to talk to the child of Widowmaker’s latest victims had made him sour all morning.

And now, on top of all the lovely duties he had to deal with already, the Number Two hero wanted to speak to him?

“I should honestly just jump off the precinct roof at this point.” He moaned to Tamakawa. The cat-headed officer shot him a mildly concerned look, probably not sure whether or not to take Naomasa’s statement seriously.

“I understand he’s not the most pleasant hero to speak to, but he has been following this case for a long while, so it’s best to just get it over and done with. Like ripping off a band-aid.” Tamakawa tried to comfort him.

“It’s less like ripping off a band-aid and more like ripping off one of my limbs.” He muttered. He could see Tamakawa doing his best to silence his laughter at that, but his friend didn’t quite succeed, and his laughter was the only thing that helped Naomasa power down the hall, towards the captain’s office.

He could hear Endeavour’s harsh voice long before he ever spotted him, and he was almost certain he saw the captain send him a sympathetic look before the hulking Number Two hero was walking his way.

“Tsukauchi.” Endeavour growled, eyes narrowed. Naomasa sighed under his breath.

“Endeavour.” He responded, trying to look a little more energetic than he felt. The hero was scowling already, and he could just tell that this wouldn’t be a very pleasant encounter. “What can I do for you today?”

“Widowmaker’s committed another murder, as I’m sure you’re aware.” The words were spat out through a sneer. Naomasa concealed a frown, and nodded.

“Yes, two victims in East Roppongi. I visited the scene a few days ago.”

“Do you have any leads?” Endeavour asked. Naomasa fixed his eyes on Endeavour’s flaming moustache to prevent himself from rolling them.

“Very few. I was going to interview the child of the victims later today. Widowmaker very rarely leaves any usable evidence.” He was met by another scowl.

“I would have thought that after chasing her for eight years, the police would have found something to help crack the case,” Endeavour said, the insult clear when he added, “but, as usual, people seem to have overestimated you.”

Naomasa smiled thinly. “Well, we are doing our best. I would say the same of heroes, though. So much professional training, and yet so far the only heroes who have come close to encountering her are Eraserhead and Miruko.” Endeavour clenched his jaw, and Naomasa congratulated himself internally. “I can promise, Endeavour, we are doing all that we can, and we have Hawks investigating related incidents.”

Endeavour scoffed. “Hawks is a mere boy. I doubt you will have much luck there.” Naomasa levelled a stern look at him.

“Regardless of your own personal opinions, Endeavour, Hawks is the Number Three hero,” Endeavour glared like the reminder was a personal insult, “and he has proven to have admirable investigative skills in the past. I have faith that he will complete his assignment well.”

Endeavour just shook his head, as though the sheer ‘incompetence’ of the police was astounding to him, and turned on his heel to go. Naomasa considered calling after him, asking why this case intrigued him so much, but decided against it. He hardly wanted to prolong the amount of time he spent in the same room as the Number Two hero. The moment that Endeavour was out of sight, Naomasa practically fled back to his desk. Tamakawa burst out laughing, startling a nearby intern, and that cheered Naomasa up some, but he was still generally displeased by the whole situation.

He had no idea why Endeavour had shown an interest in this case for so long, but it made him uncomfortable down to the core, even though he wasn’t entirely sure why.

In any case, he was just glad that Endeavour had left. The man had never been pleasant, always rude and brusque and demeaning at every opportunity that presented itself. And, until they had Widowmaker in custody, Naomasa was stuck with him.

God, he needed a nap.

Chapter Text

Hawks had become used to ignoring curious stares, but stares normally didn’t come off so…distrusting. He knew that Roppongi had higher crime rates than a lot of other neighbourhoods in Tokyo, and that as a result, there would be more criminals and less love lost to heroes, but feeling the weight of borderline glares was still unsettling.

Doing his best to shrug it off, he kept walking. Anyone with a brain in their head could see that he wasn’t currently in costume – he had instead opted for black ripped jeans, a long-sleeved white shirt and boots. His signature bomber jacket and visor were nowhere to be seen, but of course, his wings had always been his most recognisable trait, hence the endless stares. Even when not in uniform, people seemed to think it was necessary to be overly polite to him. A sharp-eyed man held a door open for him as he entered a convenience store, and a scrawny, fearful looking child that bumped into him called him ‘sir’ about fifteen times before turning on her heel and fleeing.

He was already somewhat sick of it, and he had only been exploring this neighbourhood for about two days. Hawks was almost itching for something to do, and his fingers drifted to his ear, fiddling with the earring there as he wondered absently what he could do.

It was almost embarrassing how long it took his brain to realise that the answer was right under his fingers. He had been meaning to get a new piercing anyway, so he might as well do it now.

The stares he got were no less wary on this end of Roppongi, but he could almost completely ignore them as he followed the map provided by his phone. He ducked through narrow alleys and side streets, frowning at the graffiti he could see scattered around. A small gang of people turned and fled when they spotted the red hue of his wings, and the pale, shaky man they had been apparently cornering before looked almost faint with relief. Even off-duty, the presence of a known hero could work miracles.

He almost walked right by the place he was looking for, it was that closely wedged between the two buildings on either side of it. The name plastered above the doorway was faded and peeling off in some places, but the kanji was still legible. Inkwell and Staples. Huh, certainly an interesting name.

Hawks pushed the door open, folding his wings to slip in the narrow doorway. It was just as narrow inside as it looked on the outside. The walls were a dark, slate grey, with countless pictures of assorted piercings and tattoo concept art on the walls. The ground was polished concrete, he observed curiously. It seemed to only consist of about three or four rooms. The first was the one he was currently standing in, which appeared to double as a reception and tattoo parlour. Beyond a low desk that he assumed was the place to pay, there was another narrow doorway leading into another room. The second room, from what he could see, had walls lined with different earrings. He could spot two other doorways leading off from the second room, though they were firmly shut.

The place looked low-budget, dodgy and probably a place where he could easily get shanked if the wrong person came in.

He loved it instantly.

His wings ruffled in excitement as a half-distracted woman emerged from the other room, sipping on an iced coffee and talking to someone who was clearly a client. She spotted Hawks, did a frankly hilarious double-take, and very narrowly avoided spewing coffee all over the other customer. Hawks blinked in alarm as she dabbed the coffee away, spluttering out an apology.

“You right there?” he asked, tone bemused. The woman flushed, and he spotted a nametag on her shirt that stated her name was Nadeshiko.

“Fine.” She gasped, helping the other customer, who was also staring at Hawks, finish paying before she approached him, wringing her hands. “Uhh, how could I help you, sir?”

It felt downright wrong to be called ‘sir’ by someone who Hawks estimated probably had five or more years on him, but he could hardly tell her not to without coming across a little weird.

“I’m just here to get a new piercing.” He said, rolling his shoulders back and hoping that he didn’t sound too snarky. He had been told it was a bad habit of his. “A helix, if that’s possible?”

The woman looked surprised but nodded and smiled. “Oh, of course! That’s no problem.” She asked him about a few preferences – what sort of piercing earring he wanted, and double-checked that he was aware of the three-day rule. He nodded along and paid in advance, throwing in a bottle of healing solution specially designed for piercings when he spotted it on a nearby shelf. Long gone were the days where people had to wait six weeks for a piercing to heal. With the healing solutions they had nowadays, a piercing was annoying for a week at absolute most.

“Right,” Nadeshiko said. “Well, I’ll fetch my colleague, then. He’s the better piercer, of the two of us.” Hawks nodded, only half paying attention as she vanished into what he assumed was an employee storeroom. He read the instructions on the small bottle of healing solution in his hands as he waited, though his attention shifted when he heard voices approaching.

“-be friendly? I’m perfectly fucking civil, Nadeshiko.” Hawks buried a smirk of amusement as a tall man emerged from the second room. An incredibly tall, devastatingly attractive man, that is. Icy blue eyes froze him to the spot and raked up and down. “A pro hero?” the words rolled almost sinfully off the other’s tongue, and Hawks just stared at him for a moment. “Interesting. Now get your ass in here.”

Hawks obeyed, gaze lingering on by far one of the nicest faces he had seen in a while. The man grinned, all white teeth and effortless charm. “Name’s Tatsuzo. Nice to make your acquaintance.”

“So, what’s got you so annoyed?” Naomasa asked. Tamakawa jumped, looking a little surprised at being asked outright. Naomasa raised an eyebrow. The other detective had been frowning and huffing quietly at different people and files all day, looking on edge and exhausted. The feline officer was normally much chirpier, happy to talk to people and even happier to help. The last few hours, though, Naomasa had borne witness to a side of him that came out much less; the ‘I am not in a good mood and you will be scratched if you make it worse’ side.

Tamakawa sighed, one of his ears flicking in irritation. “It’s Sergeant Oba again.” He sighed. “Her team got clearance to do that search and seizure raid, and I really am just dreading the day it goes ahead. You know what she’s like,” he waved a hand, “arbitrary arrests and anger management issues. I fear for civilians over there who’ve done nothing wrong.”

Naomasa winced. Oba was famous around their precinct, namely for being the officer that skirted dismissal the most of anyone. As a Sergeant, she technically outranked him, and it did his head in every time he was reminded that he had to follow her orders. She wasn’t too popular around Roppongi, either with other police officers or with civilians. She had a tendency to run her mouth off at anyone who even slightly disrespected her, and she was the type to arrest first and find a crime worthy of such an action later.

Naomasa patted Tamakawa’s arm gently. “Yeah, that doesn’t sound good. When is it?”

Tamakawa sighed. “Only a week away or so. Things are gonna get ugly, I can already tell.” Naomasa nodded. Big raids tended to go that way, especially with criminals willing to use their quirks on others throw into the mix. He certainly didn’t envy anyone who was being put on call to participate. Luckily, since Naomasa was the overseer of a long-term case, he wouldn’t be called off to be a part of it. Naomasa nodded.

“Well, if things go sour, I’ll smuggle real food into the hospital for you.” Tamakawa smiled, his ears flattening.

“I’ll hold you to that, Tsukauchi.” He said, tone light and joking. “I don’t want to be left to suffer through hospital-brand pudding again.”

Naomasa shuddered sympathetically – he’d had that particular form on torture pushed onto him after a shootout with an armed villain several years ago, and he hardly wanted to watch one of his closest friends suffer through it. Tamakawa eyed the mounds of paper on his desk. “Widowmaker again?”

He nodded, sighing deeply. Tamakawa smiled, and Naomasa firmly ignored how that gesture made his heart flutter. “You’ll crack this case eventually, Naomasa, I know you will.” Tamakawa abruptly looked flustered, and Naomasa realized with a start that the other detective had referred to him by his first name. He just smiled.

“Thanks, Sansa.”

There was a pro hero in the middle of Touya’s piercing room.

Right. He could deal with this. This was fine.

Truthfully, Touya wasn’t sure what he would have expected of the Number Three hero. Hawks was incredibly well-known around Japan, and considering the sheer size and colour of the feathery wings on his back, it’s not hard to tell why.

Touya observed him out of the corner of his eye as he prepped the piercing needle. The hero was a lot shorter than he previously assumed he was. He was probably only about 5’7’’ or so, and with Touya currently standing at about 6’3’’, he towered easily over the hero. It was kind of cute, honestly. It was hard to believe that the short, slender man had the position he did, but Touya knew better than anyone not to judge people based on their appearances.

He had never seen Hawks in action in person, but he’d seen footage, and he could say with confidence that the man was insanely skilled. It did beg the question of what such a high-profile hero was doing in such a decidedly low-profile area, but Touya pushed that thought aside for the moment. He resumed his subtle examination of the hero.

Shortness aside, the wings were the next thing that took Touya by surprise. He had seen plenty of pictures of the hero, but they didn’t seem to have given justice to how large they were. Hawks’ wings were tightly folded now, but Touya could tell just looking at them that, if spread out, they could easily touch each of the walls of the room. The bright red feathers varied in size, something which no picture seemed to accurately depict. He could see some which were as long and thick as his arm, and others which were little more than tiny bits of fluffy plumage. He abruptly wondered if Hawks had to groom his wings like birds did. The mental image was an incredibly bizarre one, and he muffled a snort of amusement.

The hero was dressed very casually, Touya noticed as he took a closer look. No bomber jacket – a shame, the look really suited the other, from what Touya had seen – and no blue-tinged visor either. The laidback look, though it did drive home that the hero wasn’t on duty, didn’t do much to anonymise him. Having such an obvious quirk must have been a real pain.

He approached Hawks with the needle, finally shifting his gaze up to the hero’s face. Fuck, were those eyelashes real? He couldn’t see Hawks as being the type to bother with fake ones, but shit, he put Fuyumi’s long, natural lashes to utter shame.

“So,” Touya said simply as he carefully disinfected the outer shell of the hero’s ear, “what brings Mr Number Three to Roppongi? A little on the shabby side for heroes like you, aren’t we?” Hawks didn’t seem offended as Touya scooped up a marker to mark his ear.

“Well, little known fact, but this hero has spent a decent amount of time in Kabukicho.” The blond shrugged. “I don’t mind things on the ‘shabby side’, honestly.” Touya raised an eyebrow. Interesting. Kabukicho had just been a red-light district, prior to quirks emerging, but since then, it had rapidly deteriorated into one of the focal points of crime in Tokyo.

Touya grinned, curious to see how laidback this hero really was. “Well, if that’s the case, then you’ll like me plenty.” Hawks shot him a look, eyes alight with something bright and curious.

“Oh? You don’t look too shabby to me.” Hawks said, and Touya fought down a pleased smirk when he saw the hero running his eyes up and down him appreciatively. Touya wasn’t an idiot; he knew that, as horrible a person he might be on the inside, for aesthetic purposes he was nice to look at.

“I clean up nice.” Touya murmured as he picked up the piercing needle. “Hold still, hero.”

Hawks didn’t even flinch as the metal punched through his ear, he just reached up to feel the stud as blood rushed to the afflicted area. “I can see that.” Hawks murmured, and Touya could feel his stare lingering on him as he turned to put the piercing needle away. It pleased him more than it should, but Touya couldn’t even bother being annoyed with himself. He rarely got time to take advantage of the many pretty people who crossed his path and showed an interest in him. If he was going to take any chances, it would be on the pretty pro hero with wings the same colour as Touya’s natural hair.

He turned around with a smile spreading over his face, offering the hero a few different earrings to choose from. Nadeshiko had insisted on having a deal for piercings; get your ears pierced and get a free set of earrings or something along those lines. Hawks took them, a small trilling noise not dissimilar to a bird’s escaping his throat as he looked at them.

“I think your standards are a little skewed, hero.” He said dryly. They would have to be. Normally, he was pretty enough, by normal standards, but today, Touya’s dyed hair was all trapped under a black beanie, rather like what Shouto did, the jeans he threw on that morning were faded and ripped from age rather than from fashion, and the shirt he was wearing was one of Natsuo’s old ones. It was too tight across the shoulders and chest, and though it did compliment his muscular frame somewhat, the obscure band on the front definitely negated any flattering effects it might have had.

Hawks shrugged, smiling still. “Perhaps.” He glanced at the door, holding up the earring that he had chosen. Touya nodded in confirmation. “Did you want any help cleaning up the coffee your co-worker spat on the floor? I feel a little responsible since I startled her and all.” Touya laughed then.

“Nadeshiko’s just jumpy by nature.” He assured the blond. “Don’t worry about it.” Hawks cocked his head to the side, smirking at Touya.

“I see. In that case, do I have any sort of chance of getting your number?” Oh, he was bold. Touya could appreciate that. But let it never be said that Touya Todoroki, occasionally Yukimura, but known to most as Tatsuzo Amisaki, was an easy catch.

“Much more determined people than you have tried.” Touya laughed as he led the hero out into the front room. “Trust me, that’s a mission few successfully undertake.”

“Ahh come on, surely there’s something I could do to convince you.” Hawks said, mouth twisted into a teasing smirk. Touya paused. The hero seemed genuine, in which case, he was not above having some fun.

“Oh, I don’t know.” He said, waving a hand. “It normally takes something along the likes of five bouquets of flowers or some sort of nice haiku.”

“How do you feel about terrible pick-up lines or interesting facts instead?” Touya raised an eyebrow again. His forehead really was getting a workout today.

“For even suggesting that I dare you to combine the three.” Hawks bit his lip but then smiled again.

“Alright then, lovely Tatsuzo. I’ll do my best to please you.”

Touya raised an eyebrow and yeah, this atmosphere felt distinctly more sexual than a tattoo parlour should at 2:24 in the afternoon. Hawks didn’t look deterred in the slightest by his demands, though, and Touya couldn’t quite hide his grin when he waved farewell to the winged hero.

That…was certainly something.

Shouto sucked in another lungful of smoke, scuffing the toe of his boot along the ground and glaring at the middle-aged woman across the road who was frowning at him disapprovingly. He could almost hear her scoffing, even though he was a good fifty metres away, and when she looked just about ready to march over and lecture him, he flipped her the bird and stalked off. He would never understand the culture of entitlement that some people had, thinking that they were allowed to tell people what they could and couldn’t do with their lives.

True, that woman’s issue was probably more Shouto’s age than his actions, but even so, he hated people like that. He inhaled again, ducking his head in the opposite direction to exhale the smoke when he saw a young girl nearby. He ignored the soft, oddly touched look on her mother’s face and kept walking. He knew exactly what he looked like; he was a scrawny kid dressed in a black leather jacket, ripped jeans and spiked boots, smoking and glaring at everyone, with quirk inhibitor cuffs on full display. The fact that people were actually so afraid of what they saw as a teenage delinquent was honestly hilarious, though.

Ahh yes, fear me as you would a villain, he thought as a man spotted him, made a face and crossed the street to avoid him. He barely avoided snorting in amusement at that.

He liked to walk around inner Roppongi fairly often, hence why he wasn’t surprised when a friendly-looking woman in semi-formal clothing sidled up to him. The plainclothes police had never been too subtle here, and they have a nasty habit of diving at anyone who came off as ‘unorthodox’. Even without the quirk inhibitor gloves, boots and cigarettes, Shouto probably would have been pulled over just for wearing leather.

“I don’t need any help.” He snarled when the woman got within earshot. “So, don’t bother asking, officer.” The woman halted, looking him up and down and frowning slightly. Lots of cops seemed surprised that he could identify them just by looking, but Shouto had been in some pretty rough neighbourhoods in the past, which had helped him greatly in learning how the police operated in different areas. Roppongi was unsavoury, or at least as unsavoury as a Tokyo neighbourhood could get, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle.

“I’m sure you’re aware that it is illegal to smoke if you are under 20.” She eyed him harshly. Shouto didn’t respond, just plucked the cigarette out of his mouth and blew smoke into her face. The woman’s expression contorted in anger, and Shouto‘s hand brushed against one of the inner pockets of his borrowed jacket, where the key to his quirk inhibitor cuffs lay. He didn’t like using his quirk, much less in public, but if this woman honestly thought she could take him to a police station for walking and talking back to her, she had another thing coming.

“She’s right, you know!” a bright voice from behind him made Shouto jump, and before he could react, a pale hand with long, slender fingers was reaching forward, plucking the cigarette from his hands and dropping it to the ground, putting it out with a boot-clad foot. Shouto spotted wavy white hair and barely avoided cursing.

Natsuo turned to the officer, smiling apologetically. “I’d like to apologise for my younger brother’s behaviour, ma’am. He just likes to be a little rebellious at times.” Shouto glared at him. Hypocritical asshole. Natsuo had put soap-opera stars to shame with how endlessly dramatic he acted when he was a teenager. But Shouto smoked occasionally and was suddenly a wayward rebel? Right. God, he did love his brother, but sometimes he really hated him too.

The woman scrutinised them both closely. “Brother, huh…?” Shouto’s hair was covered, it always was, but Natsuo’s white mess was on full display. Evidently, she spotted the similarity between their facial structures, and the match between Natsuo’s two flint-coloured eyes and Shouto’s right, because she relaxed, turning to Natsuo. “I see. Do see he refrains from smoking again. Teach him to watch his manners, too.” Natsuo’s grin widened, and it took someone who had known him a lifetime to see the change.

To an untrained eye, Natsuo’s smile was simply wider, but Shouto saw the harsh edge, the sharp undertone that threatened harm. As polite as Natsuo was – or at least, as polite as he pretended to be – like the rest of their family, he didn’t well tolerate slights against his relatives, unless that relative was their collectively-disowned sperm donor.

“May I ask why you approached my brother, officer? I understand the questionable nature of his smoking, yes, but other than that, from what I observed, he’s done nothing wrong.” Shouto tugged up the collar of Touya’s overly large jacket, hiding the budding grin on his face.

The woman sniffed, straightening up. “I was concerned about the sight of a young child being alone. I do think he should be in school, correct?”

Natsuo didn’t reply, just hummed. His smile shrunk, and the sharpness in his eyes was suddenly very visible. The woman seemed to notice, and Shouto saw her tensing slightly. “Right, well ma’am, I shall teach my brother better manners, as you requested, and in return, I do hope you can get one of your superiors to explain that walking down the street is not a criminal act.” Natsuo’s smile bounced back into place easily, and he bowed slightly, “But we had best get going. Enjoy your day, officer.”

Then Natsuo’s arm was around his shoulders and steering him away as Shouto cackled with laughter at the thunderstruck look on the woman’s face. Natsuo elbowed him in the side. “You shouldn’t be laughing, you little shit.” He said sternly, though he couldn’t quite hide his own grin. “What the hell were you thinking? Getting up close and personal with a PCO?”

Shouto shook his head. “I didn’t do anything. She was the one who decided to get right up into my space, Natsu.” Natsuo chuckled.

“So, you decide to antagonise her.” He murmured, tugging on one of Shouto’s ears cheekily. “Touya would be proud.” Shouto elbowed him, cursing, and Natsuo laughed openly, relaxing his hold but not dropping his arm from Shouto’s shoulders. Though he often liked to make a habit of snarking at both of his older brothers, Shouto really did love walking with Natsuo like this. Though he knew he could handle himself just fine even if someone were to approach him, it was nice to have Natsuo here, the arm on his shoulders a physical reminder that he had people who wanted to help and protect him. Shouto relaxed into the hold, leaning sideways into it slightly. Natsuo said nothing, but he smiled again.

“What are you doing out, anyway?” Shouto finally asked. Natsuo hummed.

“Fuyumi had the little Inouye triplets over again for lessons. And, yes, they’re cute, but fuck are they loud. I needed at least an hour without some annoying kids yapping.” He flicked Shouto with his fingers. “Guess I couldn’t even get that, what with you around, huh?” Shouto rolled his eyes good-naturedly as Natsuo laughed at his own joke. “Oh, come on, don’t glare at me like that.” His older brother thought for a moment, then grinned. “How bout we grab some lunch?”

Shouto raised an eyebrow. “You’re planning on buying my love with food?”

“We can get soba.”

“You’re forgiven.”

Natsuo cackled all the way to a noodle store they had become well acquainted with. Shouto focused wholeheartedly on the bowl of delicious noodles in front of him as Natsuo chatted to the chef before turning his attention to the television over Shouto’s shoulder.

Catching the intrigued look on Natsuo’s face, Shouto turned too. They were playing rerun footage of the UA Sports Festival from several months ago. He and his siblings had camped out in front of their own shitty TV at home to watch it, spending the day tossing popcorn at one another and making bets on who would win certain matches. It had been a good day, and Shouto felt the warm memories wash over him as he watched clips of the cavalry battle.

The winner at the end of the day, for the first years at least, had been some hulking kid with black hair and a wind quirk. Yoarashi Inasa, he recalled, as the name popped up on the screen. Second and third place respectively had been a loud, blond kid with a serious anger management problem, and a guy with a literal bird head. The explosive blond had seemed very angry with the outcome of the day, to the point that, as Fuyumi had pointed out, they had positioned a teacher right behind the kid’s pedestal to stop him attacking the winner.

Shouto watched the screen for a moment longer before turning his attention back to his noodles. It was odd to think that he was the same age as the kids in that festival. If he didn’t live the life that he did, he wondered if he would have ever ended up at UA. As a child, he had always wanted to be a hero, after all.

He dismissed the thoughts and nudged his brother, urging him to eat faster. Natsuo rolled his eyes but complied, gesturing to the screen.

“I never asked, but who was your favourite?” Natsuo asked once he had swallowed his massive mouthful of sōmen. Shouto hummed thoughtfully, tapping his chopsticks gently on the rim of his bowl. It had been easy to see who his siblings liked the most; Touya had spent half the day laughing his ass off at a very bright girl from the Support Course, Fuyumi had oohed and ahhed over a boy with an electricity quirk and a girl with vines for hair, and Natsuo had whooped with joy whenever the second-place student had tried to blast someone’s face off.

Shouto honestly wasn’t sure, though. He appreciated the intelligence and creativity that he spotted being utilised by a green-haired boy positively drenched in freckles, as well as the excellent but ultimately unsuccessful strategy used by a girl with an anti-gravity quirk. He had been intrigued by the winner’s quirk, but also fascinated by a bright pink girl who could create acid from her body.

He shrugged. “Not sure. I liked a lot of them. Some would make good heroes.” Then, a thought occurred to him, and he smiled. “Actually, I do have one.” Natsuo quirked an eyebrow curiously. “The brainwasher. He was good to watch.”

“The one who looked ready to keel over with exhaustion?” Natsuo queried. At Shouto’s nod, he grinned. “Yeah, I thought he did well too.” With his brother finally done his lunch, they quickly paid and ducked out the door, onto the busy streets of Roppongi.

The walk back home was mostly quiet. Natsuo waited until they were both standing at the door to the stairs to speak again. “I may have been taking the piss to annoy that cop, Shou,” he eyed him, “but she’s not wrong. You probably shouldn’t be smoking.” Shouto rolled his eyes.

“What, you gonna tell Mom? Touya?” he raised an eyebrow. “Fucking snitch.”

Natsuo laughed at that. “I won’t tell them, god knows I can barely go around and act all high and mighty, but I’m just saying.”

Shouto narrowed his eyes teasingly. “Alright. You say nothing of my smoking, I’ll say nothing of the two bottles of whiskey you have stashed under your bed.”

“How do you even…?” Natsuo trailed off and sighed in exasperation, flicking Shouto on the nose. “Of course you know about that. Fine. Done deal. Now come on, Touya left a piece of cake in the fridge that has my name written all over it.”

Shouto gave him an affronted look. “Not if I get my hands on it first.”

Neither of them ended up getting the cake, due sheerly to the fact that Fuyumi managed to hear them racing one another and yelling incoherently up the stairs, and had the piece half in her mouth when they opened the door. Natsuo swore bloody murder, and Shouto laughed himself to tears.

Rei bit her lip as she examined the map. “I had no idea things had gotten so bad.” She murmured. Seated next to her, Malware nodded in disappointment.

“Rates were down for maybe two years after your big mass wipe-out, but they’ve risen since.” She frowned gently at Rei. “About 40% of our requests from around the Tokyo area come out of Saitama.” Rei sat, feeling the breath escape her in an anguished sound. 40%...that means hundreds of calls, hundreds of innocent people living in fear of pain and abuse.

She hadn’t been to Saitama in a long time, probably almost five years, her memory helpfully supplied her with. Her last visit had helped a lot of people, but it clearly didn’t do enough. She could almost feel the phantom brush of soft golden hair under her hands, and the trembling child it had belonged to. That poor little boy had been one of the mildest cases she had come across in the city, and he still haunted her at times.

“I really do need to go back.” She murmured, and Malware just hummed in response. She was been considering it for a while, but this just made it final. “With all the heat on in Roppongi right now, it’s probably for the best.” Her long-time collaborator nodded.

“Probably for the best.” She echoed, tucking her pale hair behind her ears. “You want me to create a heatmap and draw up an addresses list?” Rei threw her a grateful look.

“I would love that, thank you Rira.”

Rira Kishi, known to most of her business partners as Malware, was probably Rei’s saving grace, and the only reason she had been able to maintain her vigilantism for so long.

They had met almost completely by accident; Rira had only been young, perhaps 18 or so, when she had staggered into Rei’s field of vision, looking thoroughly beaten down and defeated. She’d immediately come off as the sort of person who accepted help rarely, and only from those they could trust. Rei had no clue, to this day, why Rira had decided to trust her. She had danced around the young girl for weeks, watching as she dug through dumpsters for trash.

It had been small things at first; leaving out whatever food she could spare, placing a thick blanket next to Rira’s sleeping form, but in the end, it was the piece of scum who had driven Rira to the streets who helped throw her and Rei together.

She still wished she had been home earlier that night, then she could have helped Rira before the other had to suffer any trauma at all. Whenever those thoughts came to mind, though, Rei just did her best to remember that she had managed to help, if only in a small way.

Rira’s abuser – and that night, rapist – had been the first person that Rei had killed. She had been doing some vigilantism at that point, but nothing more than giving them a piece of her mind or taking battered children to proper authorities. But that night, when she had stumbled through the alley to the sketchy apartment that had housed her family at the time, and seen Rira on the ground, a man on top of her as she was screaming and thrashing, her quirk had acted on instinct.

The sheath of jagged, pointed ice had taken the man’s head clean off. Rei had been disturbed more by the lack of fear on Rira’s face than she had been at the man she had just been decapitated. She had pulled off her own jacket, bundled Rira in it, and hurried her into her apartment. Rira – who had, in those early days, only disclosed her surname, Kishi – had stayed with Rei and her children for a month before she could get back on her feet. They had only reconnected later, when the name Widowmaker was one associated with death as well as pain and regret.

They had worked together since; Rira was the one who traced IP addresses so they could hunt down Rei’s next victims, but perhaps her greatest achievement was the Black Eyes Network.

The network had come about as a necessary evil; it was all well and good to patrol and cut down abusers as they attacked their victims, but there were countless others whose partners were more subtle about their abuse, and Rei could never always be at the right place at the right time to take down monsters. Thus, she and Rira had worked together to create the network.

Rira had launched the first functional version of it about six years ago. There was nothing technically illegal about it, which meant the police couldn’t outright prosecute anyone found using it. They had tried, once, to get the network dismantled, but with Rira’s quirk on hand, they’d had it up and running within a few hours.

The network was a sort of online server, similar to many anonymous chatrooms, though a little more high-tech, that primarily acted as a direct method of communication between Rei and the beaten, abused people she was aiming to save. There was no direct input from Rei’s end, of course, but there was a primal understanding among all those that used the network that, should you make abuse allegations and they turned out to be true, somehow, at some point, Widowmaker would show up to remove the problem at its source.

The site had been heavily encrypted, to the point that the police themselves frequently had trouble working out the IP addresses of the people online, much less their locations. Rei had Rira’s help in determining such things, but it had become increasingly clear that the police did not, and they had run into roadblock after roadblock in trying to work it out. The whole creation was a wonderful thing, and Rira’s quirk, Techno, which allowed technology to easily bend to her will, only made the whole process even easier.

Rei moved away as Rira worked, turning to gaze out the window. It wasn’t a nice view, just a narrow alley stuffed with dumpsters with the occasional seedy figure wandering along. It felt good to press her forehead against the cool glass, in any case. She heard Rira hum behind her.

“Be careful in Saitama.” Her friend murmured as she was handed a thick stack of paper that she assumed was her new list of targets. “There’ve been some sightings of that Hero Killer Stain around there, apparently, after he injured that hero in Hosu. Security is bound to be higher.”

Rei nodded. Ah, yes. Ingenium had gone after Stain in Hosu City, and though Stain had reportedly left the hero with a few stab wounds, both parties had walked away relatively unharmed. She was glad for it; she had encountered Ingenium once before when she was only a few years into her vigilantism. He seemed like a good young man and an even better hero. The encounter seemed to have spooked her fellow vigilante, Stain, though, since he had moved base from Hosu to Saitama.

“I’ll watch myself.” She promised, laying a comforting hand on Rira’s shoulder. Her friend was only 24 years old, and yet she held so much seriousness already. With her past, it wasn’t hard to see why. “Take care while I’m gone, Rira.” Malware smiled.

“I will, Rei. Teach the assholes in Saitama a lesson, yeah?”

Rei smiled at her over her shoulder. “Oh, I will, don’t you worry.”

Chapter Text

It had been a long time since Aizawa had visited Saitama, and frankly, if there weren’t a dangerous group of villains crawling around looking to take out high-profile heroes and UA students alike, he probably wouldn’t even be in the city. He had only convinced Recovery Girl to clear him for hero work again the week before, so he knew that any undue injuries would have her sighing in disappointment and levelling one of her impressive glares at him yet again.

Shouta knew that he should probably be at home resting more; the last few months had been incredibly hard on his body and soul, and taking it easy was essentially the only real instruction he’d been given by both Recovery Girl and his co-workers. Between the USJ incident that left his bones resembling powder, and the attempted attack on the summer training camp, Shouta was more than ready to obey those instructions.

He had no idea what it was about Class 1-A that attracted trouble as steadily as flies to honey, but they’d probably put his blood pressure up to frightening levels since they’d started school in April. From villain attacks to select students acting with extreme idiocy, he was just about done, and they had only just started their second term of school.

The USJ had been bad, of course, and if Shouta still woke some nights in a cold sweat, with the feel of the sinister Noumu’s hand on his skull, that was no-one’s business but his own, but he felt like ever since then the world had been out to get his students. The Sports Festival had offered challenges in the form of being forced to listen to quirk-enhanced screaming for the better half of the day, and endure enraged tirades from Bakugou Katsuki that he’d been outmanoeuvred by a student from Class 1-B. Irritating, certainly, but tolerable. Shouta had assumed that, with Bakugou nursing wounded pride and one of his resident problem children nursing wounded bones, things would calm down as his students headed off to internships.

That hadn’t been the case, and he had been more than a little disgruntled to get a call from the Hosu City chief of police to alert him that three of his students had gotten into their minds that fighting a deranged serial killer and self-proclaimed vigilante was a good idea. He had expected that sort of behaviour from the likes of Midoriya – who seemed far too blasé about serious injuries and far too determined to cut ten years off Shouta’s life – and the scrappy, constantly napping Gen Ed transfer, Shinsou – who had a drive to prove himself that bordered on unhealthy, as well as the general appearance of a frustrated raccoon – but he’d been shocked to see Iida getting involved as well. Ingenium’s injuries aside, he’d expected more obedience and common sense from his class’ enthusiastic representative.

From internships, the end of the first semester had been blessedly quiet, and Shouta had hoped that it marked the end of the troubles he would have to fend off for the sake of his students.

Then, of course, the summer training camp. Never before had Shouta experienced such a horrifying, frightening near-miss.

The sight of long fingers reaching for Bakugou from beyond the bounds of a dark, swirling portal had haunted his nightmares for a long time, and Shouta didn’t know if he would ever stop thanking Vlad’s students – specifically, the loud one whose wind quirk had yanked the explosive blond out of reach and into his classmates’ arms – for their role in everything. All of their students had been put on guarded lockdown for days, and though it was something of a relief to have them all secure on school grounds in the new dorms, his blood pressure was again being spiked because of all the teenage drama he now had to deal with on a daily basis.

With everything that had happened in the last few months, Aizawa was more determined than ever to do his part in keeping the city, and by extension, his students, safe. As Nedzu liked to say, when his students were pros, they would face danger every day and preparing them for it as quickly as they could was in everyone’s best interests. Shouta didn’t always agree with that ideology, and the memories of his students’ terrified faces at the USJ only acted as greater motivation to oppose it, but he understood it on a fundamental level. So, on a night when he’d usually be at home, he’d volunteered to patrol, keeping his eyes peeled for anyone or anything of note.

Hizashi liked to say that he’d gone soft, and that he wore his heart on his sleeve for his class this year. He liked to contest his husband’s words via the method of wrapping him up in his capture weapon until he rescinded the words.

Shouta couldn’t always deny it, though. He wanted to protect those kids; they’d been through enough already, and if he could stop a threat dead in its tracks before it could reach them, he would.

He straightened up. Doing hero shifts by night and teaching a class by day meant that he was almost always plagued by fatigue, but right now, he felt completely wired. Something in the air had changed in the last few minutes. It was like the neighbourhood was holding its breath.

Danger. That was what his senses screamed at him. Oddly, though, this danger didn’t feel aimed at him.

A scream in the distance tore the relative tranquillity of the night apart. He was moving before he was even certain of where the sound had come from. His task here might have been to look for any signs or suggestions of the League of Villains, as the biggest active threat to his class, but he could let that fall to the wayside for now.

Rei didn’t remember leaving.

She should. She knew she should; it was the most important thing that had happened to her family in the last decade, but whenever she tried to recall anything from the night they fled or even the weeks immediately beforehand, she drew up a blank. Her children did their best to fill in the dark spots for her, but even now, she wasn’t entirely sure how they had all gotten from Point A to Point B.

She had split her life into two parts ever since they fled. There was Before, which was full of pain and suffering, and After, the part she was in now. After was still scary, sometimes, but she was free. Her children were free. They were allowed to love one another and rest knowing that they had a fighting chance.

They hadn’t had that Before, so even though Rei remembered none of the Leaving, she thanked every single one of her lucky stars for it. She thanked her past self, no matter what twisted mental state she was in. Rei of Before had the mentality to leave, to run when she had once been able to only cower and cry. Rei of Before, though she had the bravery to flee, likely would not recognise the Rei of After. But that was okay. Rei didn’t know what she would be if not for either part of herself, and more than anything, she feared the answer.

Rei didn’t remember leaving, but her children had told her what they did.

The beginning of the end came about on an ordinary day.

Well, as ordinary as anything got in the Todoroki household. Ordinary for them entailed distant screams, cries and the horrific sizzling sounds of a five-year-old boy’s flesh being burned away. Touya was locked away in his room, hands pressing uselessly against the door that his father had taken care to lock before dragging Shouto away. Fuyumi was sat on the end of his bed, eyes wide with earphones securely blocking out the horrible sounds. Natsuo was napping on the opposite side of Touya’s room, and he didn’t know where his mother was.

Another scream reached his ears, and he knew that he must have tensed up because Fuyumi flinched. His twin sister reached out an arm and grabbed his wrist, pulling him back over to his bed so he could sit beside her. She offered one of her earphones, and Touya could do nothing but shake his head. He felt nauseous; his entire stomach was twisting violently, and dark spots flitted across his vision from time to time. Another scream, low and agonised, broke through his reverie.

He felt Fuyumi wipe at the side of his face with her sleeve. He hadn’t even realised he was crying. His twin intertwined their hands, like how they used to walk around as kids. Touya bit his lip and accepted the earphone when she offered it to him again. The soft sounds of her upbeat, pop playlist filtered through his brain, blocking out some of the horror emanating from the other side of the house. It worked for about half an hour.

A scream echoed through the house, loud enough to cut through the sound being blared into Touya’s ears, and even make Natsuo, napping on Touya’s beanbag, stir and sit up. Touya was at the door before his other siblings could even react. There was more yelling now, but he could identify his mother’s voice as well as his father’s. He couldn’t understand what they were saying though; it was all a jumble of angry, deranged yelling. He honestly hadn’t heard his mother this angry in a while, though, and he had to wonder – wonder and dread – what had happened to make her react so. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he almost didn’t notice that the voices had gotten louder. He jumped backwards just in time as the door was thrown open.

His mother was standing there, Shouto wrapped up in her arms. Her eyes landed on Touya, and he could see the moment she started to drift away mentally, how the sight of his face made her feel twisted and jaded. He stepped aside, and her gaze cleared somewhat. She turned to Natsuo and Fuyumi instead. Endeavour appeared in the hallway behind her, a hulking menace.

“Rei-” he snarled, anger in his every molecule, “you can’t-”

“Lay a hand on Shouto and you’ll lose it.” she snapped, voice more venomous than Touya had ever heard it. “Touya, Natsu, Fuyumi, come on, we’ve gotta take Shouto to the hospital.” Touya tipped forwards slightly to see what the damage was. The entirety of the left half of Shouto’s face had been coated in a thin layer of ice, likely from their mother’s own hand. He couldn’t tell what was underneath, but considering both the ice and the nature of Endeavour’s quirk, it was likely a burn of some sort. He kept out of his mother’s direct line of sight. He knew that his appearance – and more specifically, his resemblance to his father – could frighten her at times, and he didn’t want to jeopardize Shouto’s health.

Touya reached out, offering his hand to Natsuo as Fuyumi immediately moved into action. His little brother slid his hand into Touya’s, staring up at him in fright.

“Is Shoucchan gonna be okay?” he murmured as Touya followed his mother and twin outside, ignoring the silent, fuming figure of their father as they went. He squeezed Natsuo’s hand.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine, Natsu.” He murmured, nudging him up into the back of the car before sliding in behind him and shutting the door. Fuyumi was in the front, now cradling Shouto and murmuring words of comfort as their mother drove off, expression oddly empty and still. Touya averted his eyes from her as Fuyumi murmured the smallest question.

“Mama…what happened?” she asked. Their mother was completely silent, for long enough that Touya didn’t think she would ever respond.

“Shouto was training with your father.” She murmured, tone odd and echoey. “your father tried to get him to counteract fire with fire, but Shouto responded with ice out of instinct.”

She paused, and Touya pointed out the window at a brightly coloured building to keep Natsuo’s attention off the conversation at hand. Their mother hesitated, her grip on the steering wheel tightening until her knuckles were white. Touya spotted frost creeping up the sides of the wheel as their mother took a deep breath and continued.

“Your father’s fire melted the ice Shouto created and turned it into boiling water.” The steering wheel was white with frost now. “And the force of the flames flung it into his face.” Touya’s stomach turned over, and he saw Fuyumi start, grip on Shouto tightening slightly as their mother hurled them through a sharp left turn, gaze fixed ahead. Fuyumi cast a look backwards at him expression wide and frightened, and Touya could do little more than stare back helplessly.

Rei slid down the downpipe attached to the side of a building, landing solidly on the ground with her feet tensed beneath her. Her silver kimono fluttered gently around her as the wind carried some of her white hair over her shoulder. Examining the alleyway keenly, she stepped forwards when she confirmed the address on her phone and slipped it into her pocket.

The windows were dark and shuttered, and Rei felt a cold shudder pass through her as she summoned her quirk to her fingertips and approached the door. With the barest twitch of her hands, ice had flooded into the keyhole, solidifying and becoming harder, more akin to permafrost than normal ice. Rei flicked her hand to the side, and the lock clicked open, the ice melting away as she silently opened the door and stepped inside.

The entryway was small and narrow, the floor tiled with dark wood and the walls done in white plaster. Miniscule cracks spread up from the skirting boards to the ceiling as Rei cracked her neck from side to side and lowered her thermal goggles onto her face. She tugged at her gloves, pulling the edges up and flexing her fingers. With a few small motions, Rei was gone. Widowmaker had come to play.

The stairs creaked ever so slightly as she moved up them, but she continued upwards when no-one came to face her or investigate the sounds. Every part of the house was silent, dark and empty. The air was stale, as if the windows hadn’t been opened in the last few days. Widowmaker ran her gloved fingers gently along the walls, eying the dents and scuffs that littered the white plaster.

A low creaking sound from above made her pause for a moment, and she pressed herself against the wall as a shadowy figure moved along the hallway up above, obviously not spotting her against the wall as they continued walking. She stepped up the next few stairs, keeping her ears open for any more sounds. She could hear a rattling noise, like a doorknob being violently jimmied.

“Open your fucking door, Kenichi.” A male voice slurred, aggression increasing with every word. “Or I’ll have your fucking head.” Widowmaker paused at the top of the stairs, pressed against the wall once more. “Come on now~ I know you wanna feel me inside you again…” she suffocated the tide of burning anger that rose up inside her, carefully controlling her breathing. The stench of whiskey nudged at her, and her expression screwed up as the man staggered past her, brushing by with barely a hair of space between them, yet still failed to notice her presence.

She watched the man carefully as he stumbled into a few walls on his way back down the hall before he fumbled with a doorknob and opened a door, staggering in and grumbling out something to someone else.

Widowmaker turned down the hall, eying the direction the man had gone before moving towards the other room, the one he had just failed to enter. There was a sign on the door with the name Kenichi spelled out on it, which made it clear from appearance alone that it belonged to a child. She reached out and once again filled the lock with ice, flicking it open as she carefully swung the door open and stepped inside.

Widowmaker cast a gaze around the room. Her own children had suffered from the poverty they’d endured for the first few years of After, but she had always done her best to keep them happy and well provided for. Whether it was dulled toys bought from a thrift store or letting them paint on the walls to stay entertained, she had let them enjoy their battered childhoods. But this child’s room was almost bare. There was a bed on the other side of the room with the huddled form of a child underneath the covers, and a few toys scattered on the ground, in addition to a single poster about multiplication on the wall, but other than that, the small, worn room was empty. She eyed the small form in the bed, which she could see even from her distance was shaking slightly.

She pulled her thermal goggles up, off her eyes and onto her forehead, and tugged her black mask down to rest around her neck. She would need Rei for this. Widowmaker’s job came later. She cautiously approached the bed, gently sitting on the end, taking care not to touch the boy inside at all.

“Kenichi?” she murmured. The small form froze, and she could almost feel the confusion radiating off the boy. He had been expecting a drunken man with wandering hands and was instead faced with the voice of a woman. She didn’t push or ask again, and simply waited patiently as the top of the covers were pulled down by a pair of small, pale fists. She met a pair of round, dark eyes, staring at her in equal parts fear and bewilderment. She smiled gently, waving her fingers in a friendly manner at her.

“Who are you?” he asked, voice almost painfully quiet. “Do you know my mama?” Rei smiled gently and watched as Kenichi pulled his blankets down a little more.

“No, I don’t know your mama,” she murmured, taking careful note when she saw that that statement, surprisingly, made him relax a little. “Kenichi, who was the man at your door?”

He shrunk back again, blinking fearfully and eyes skimming over to the door in fright. She gently reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, keeping the hold carefully neutral and not even remotely suggestive. Kenichi relaxed a little more, and Rei once again waited.

“He…he’s mama’s boyfriend.” He whispered, fisting his duvet in his hands. “I don’t like him much.” Rei nodded.

“He does bad things, doesn’t he?” she murmured. Kenichi bit his lip, sniffing before he nodded.

“He’s just…mean.” He whispered. Rei nodded, shifting her hand from his shoulder to his head, gently brushing a lock of curly black hair off his forehead.

“I see.” She murmured. “Kenichi, do you like your mama?” the small boy froze, eyes blown wide. She waited quietly as the boy fidgeted again.

“She…she’s mean too.” He whispered. “She told her boyfriend he could…he could…” the boy broke down into tears. Rei opened her arms and he positively dived into them as she gently rubbed his back and ran a comforting hand through his hair. It spoke volumes, well and truly, that he was willing to accept comfort like this from a complete stranger, but flinched at the thought of his own mother.

“I know, darling, I know.” She murmured. “They haven’t been good to you, have they?” Kenichi shook his head against her chest, his tears soaking into her kimono. “Why haven’t people come to take you away yet, if your mama won’t take care of you?”

Kenichi pulled away slightly, sniffing even as he kept his hands fisted in her kimono. “Mama’s bro is a cop, so he tells them not to come.” Rei felt rage flare up again inside her chest as she gently squeezed the small boy in another hug.

“Do you want to live with them?” she asked quietly. Kenichi sniffled, pausing again.

“No.” he whispered. “I don’t want them at all. I…” his grip tightened, “I hate them. I hate mama. I just…” he sniffled. “I don’t wanna stay with her anymore. I want them to go away.”

Rei nodded, running her hand up and down his back. Kenichi abruptly stiffened, and Rei tightened her hold. She had heard it too; the sound of staggering footsteps down the hall, emerging from the room at the end. The boyfriend was back, apparently. Rei pulled away, cupping Kenichi’s face in her hands.

“Little one…” she murmured, wiping away some of his tears with a comforting smile. “Forgive me, for what I’m about to do.” Kenichi blinked at her, uncomprehending. Rei picked up his pillow and handed it to him. “Listen to me, Kenichi. I need you to do something for me, okay?” he nodded, and she smiled comfortingly at him. “I need you to close your eyes and block your ears until I come back and grab you, okay? And I need you to not open your eyes until I tell you. If you know any songs, maybe sing them to yourself?”

Kenichi’s eyes were wide and shocked, but he nodded slowly, and Rei smiled comfortingly at him, squeezed his shoulders and stood up. The boy buried himself under his covers, pressing his pillow down and obviously following her orders. Rei nodded to herself, and pulled both her goggles and mask back on. It was finally time for Widowmaker.

The door swung open, and Widowmaker caught sight of the boyfriend, satisfied, drunken leer in place for exactly one second before he spotted her. Bewilderment crossed his face before his addled mind seemed to take in her kimono, her hair, her mask.

And then, terror set in. He took a step back, hesitant, but Widowmaker didn’t give him time to take another. Ice crusted the carpet beneath her feet and surged upwards in a wave, easily slicing straight through skin, muscle, tendon and bone. She stood on the spot as blood sprayed freely, splattering over her clothing and mask, some of it flecking over the glass in her thermal goggles. She glanced back towards Kenichi’s bed, where the boy was still huddled, protected, under his covers. She could hear him singing to himself, as she had suggested. She turned back to the man.

The top half of his body tilted, sliding off the thick sheaf of ice as his legs fell away from underneath, the two, diagonally sliced halves crumpling to the ground and saturating the wooden boards with thick, dark blood. Widowmaker hummed, melting some of the ice away so she could exit the room and walk down the hall.

The door at the end of the hallway slid open before she could reach it, a thin woman emerging with a confused look on her face. Her gaze landed on Widowmaker as she froze, twitching behind her to fix, with mounting horror, on the bloodied, still-warm corpse of her boyfriend. Widowmaker stepped forwards, fingers twitching as the woman staggered backwards, stammering in horror.

“What sort of mother lets a man rape and molest her child?” Widowmaker hissed, frost forming on her gloved knuckles.

The odd vocal block on the woman seemed to lift, and she screamed in horror, staggering backwards and falling onto her knees as she frantically scrambled away. Widowmaker raised her hands, letting frost overtake the woman’s legs and creep up her torso. She wriggled madly, still shrieking, as Widowmaker let a shard of ice, razor-sharp and long as her forearm, form in her hand.

“Please, please, no, no, no…” the woman babbled.

“It’s little Kenichi you should be apologising to.” She murmured, stepping forwards and slamming the ice shard upwards from her chin up through her head. Blood bubbled out of her mouth and dribbled down her chin as a glazed look overcame her eyes and she crumpled to the floor. Widowmaker straightened up, humming to herself as she looked from the woman to the man, before turning on her heel and approaching Kenichi’s room again.

There was blood splattered across her kimono, as there almost always was, but it was almost invisible in the night, especially against the black flowers embroidered into the fabric. She pressed a gentle, calming hand to the slightly shaking form under the covers.

“Kenichi?” she murmured. “It’s me.” The shaking stopped, and she barely had time to reach out and throw a hand over his eyes when he emerged from under his blankets. “Sorry darling, I need you to keep your eyes shut for now, okay?” she felt him nod against her hand. “Okay. Just give me a minute, then I’m getting you out of here, alright?” he nodded again, and she released him, relaxing when she saw he still had his eyes firmly shut.

It took a few moments of scrounging around to find a piece of paper and a working pen out in the apartment, and another minute or so to jot down a short note for the police. This had become common practice for her over the years since she could hardly explain the situations that she was extracting these children from to the police over a bento and pot of green tea. Folding the note up, she returned to Kenichi’s room and scooped the boy up into her arms.

“Hold on tight to me, okay Ken?” she murmured. The boy nodded, gripping her tightly as she flung open a window, and stepped into open air. A flick of her wrist had large ice structures bursting out from the sides of buildings to effortlessly form her path, dissolving almost as soon as she had crossed each section. Kenichi held tightly the entire way to the police station, even as they stepped down to solid concrete. Widowmaker squeezed him, before setting him down.

“You can open your eyes now, Ken.” She whispered, kneeling down so she was level with him. The boy blinked at her as she held out the note. “Listen to me, I need you to go in there and talk to the police, okay? You give them this note, and tell them that Widowmaker sent you, alright?” the boy nodded, and she reached out and hugged him again. “Forgive me, little one. I hope you don’t view me too harshly in the future.”

She didn’t give the little boy any more time to convince her to stay, slipping into the shadows and watching for a moment as he blinked in surprised before wandering into the police station. She had no way of knowing where his uncle worked, but she had taken a chance and swooped down to a station across Saitama, hoping that his uncle didn’t happen to be working.

Smiling to herself, Widowmaker slipped away, seeking a new victim.

Fuyumi remembered a lot of shouting and screaming, in the days when Before started to turn into After. She’d spent most of it holed up in her room, or huddled at her twin’s side as they made the joint effort to block Natsuo’s ears, or Shouto’s, should their baby brother be allowed near them. The screaming wasn’t new, and neither was the shouting; father shouted in anger, and mother screamed in pain. It had been part of their childhood’s ambience for as long as they could remember.

But mother screaming not in pain, but in anger? That was new. That was different. That, in all honesty, was frightening. The entire day had been marked by yelling, the shattering of objects against the timber walls of their traditional Japanese home, and muffled sobs from Natsuo as he tightly wedged himself between her and Touya.

Their mother seemed frantic and frenetic, like something dangerous had possessed her in the last few days. Fuyumi almost wanted to yell at her.

Stop, please, there’s nothing you can do.

Stop, please, you’re scaring Natsu and Shouto.

Stop, please, he’s just going to hurt you again.

But her silent pleas went unheeded. If mentality was a cord, their mother’s was tightly strung and poised to snap. Touya had noticed it as well, and he’d taken to avoiding her recently. The display of violence that had befallen Shouto and left the one side of his face swaddled in gauze was fresh on all of their minds, leaving everyone tense and twitchy.

Fuyumi ran her hands comfortingly through Natsuo’s hair, humming a low tune her mother had sung to her when they were all younger. On the other side of the house, the sound of glass breaking cracked the air open, spilling forth further tears from her brother, a flinch from her twin, and an enraged sound that Fuyumi assumed but wasn’t certain came from her mother’s mouth.

Fuyumi let Natsuo bury his head in her chest as Touya squeezed her hand. She could see the pain and indecision warring on her brother’s face, and she discouraged him with the barest shakes of her head. Touya wanted to save everyone, carry out what his immensely strong big-brother instincts told him to do, but Touya was also 12, and he would be eviscerated if he dared interfere. Their father had no qualms about burning Shouto, supposedly his favourite. What would he do to children he despised?

Fuyumi didn’t want to know the answer, so she gripped both of her brothers a little tighter, and prayed for the storm to pass soon.

Aizawa landed with a low thump on a small, cramped balcony. The wind caught his capture weapon, stirring it up gently, as he did, and he let the comforting breeze roll through his hair for a moment. He surveyed the small, tightly shut sliding doors that blocked the way between him and the rest of the apartment. This was the place the scream had come from, he was sure of it, but if the culprit was an intruder, they certainly hadn’t come through the balcony.

Sighing and resigning himself to potentially warding off very confused civilians, Aizawa extracted a small lockpick from his pocket and set upon the keyhole. It only took a minute or so of careful manoeuvring for the lock to emit a satisfying click, at which point he stowed away the tools and slid the door carefully open.

Any doubts he might have had were dispelled immediately when he stepped inside. The air was stagnant and stale, not to mention heavy with humidity. That in itself wasn’t too shocking – it was late August, and with summer hanging on for dear life, that was to be expected – but it was the smell that made him go completely still.

The air hung thick with the stench of metal, so overpowering it was like standing in the middle of a steel refinery. There was blood spilt somewhere around here, and since he could see nothing in his immediate vicinity, more likely than not, there was a lot of it. He drew breaths in through his mouth, keeping his every movement quiet and composed. The scream had echoed out from here about ten minutes ago, but it was possible that the assailant was still there. Some villains, if they were twisted enough, liked to get…intimate, with their victims, even the dead.

He moved forwards cautiously, daring to peer carefully around a corner, wincing when he saw a large, still shape at the end of the hallway. He continued forwards, one hand on his capture weapon and eyes scanning the area carefully. Aizawa had been a pro hero for going on 12 years now, and as an underground hero, saw things that most daytime heroes would be physically sickened by. He had a strong temperament and stronger stomach, but once he got close enough to see what the shape was, he felt nausea tickle at his oesophagus regardless.

The corpse of a man lay at his feet, clearly having been brutally shorn in two. His internal organs were scattered about beneath the bulk of flesh that was his torso, blood was splattered messily across the walls and pooling thick underneath him. However, it wasn’t the (admittedly horrifying) sight that made Aizawa’s stomach turn, but rather the structure that had obviously caused it.

A large sheath of ice, probably about a metre and a half tall, protruded from the ground, clearly the work of a quirk of some sort. There were remnants of blood, skin and even intestines hanging from the top of the sheath. Beyond it was a child’s bedroom, window flung open and bed chillingly empty. Hating himself for having to do it, Aizawa carefully pulled on a plastic glove – he’d long since learned to carry them around while patrolling – knelt down and brushed his fingers through the blood.

Still warm. It usually only took about seven to ten minutes for liquid to fall to room temperature. It was recent, very recent. The perpetrator had probably been leaving the building just a minute or two before he’d landed on it.

Aizawa eyed the ice again, cursing. He’d seen it before – any self-respecting hero had – and it wasn’t a good sign.

So, Widowmaker has returned to Saitama. He thought. How unfortunate for me.

He radioed headquarters as he perched himself on the windowsill of the child’s bedroom, informing them of the crime scene as he gazed out onto the city’s skyline, a wide array of dark silhouettes punctuated by small, glowing lights from windows.

“So, it’s Widowmaker’s work, then?” the officer on the other end said, sounding defeated. Aizawa gave the affirmative. “Right, I’ll let Detective Tsukauchi know. Be careful, Eraserhead.”

Aizawa murmured out a response, switched his radio off and shot into motion, scanning for any sign of a woman with the power of the arctic at her fingertips and revenge nestled deep in her chest.

Natsuo remembered little; he was only nine, at the time of the Leaving, so he recalled about as much as his mother did. Ten years did a lot to the memory, especially to moments you were actively trying to forget.

But what Natsuo did remember was this; he was woken from his sleep by his mother, who had Shouto in her arms and shakes rattling her whole frame. Her eyes were gone, completely, her thoughts obviously a million miles away from the moment and Natsuo, trusting and frightened, took her hand when she offered it, and let her pull him out of bed. Touya was standing by the door when they approached, holding it open with fear in his eyes but the unrelenting stubbornness Natsuo had long since come to recognise in him evident in every tensed muscle.

“Mama, what’s going on?” he whispered, somehow knowing even at the tender age of nine when a situation required silence. She didn’t respond, running an absent hand through his hair before ushering him forward. Touya closed the door silently behind them, following with squared shoulders and a grimace on his face.

Their mama led them down the street, almost a block away from their house, to where Natsuo made out the image of Fuyumi, standing next to a beaten-down car with a wary expression on her face. She relaxed when she spotted them, slipping into the front seat of the car as they approached. Their mama handed Shouto to her, before ushering Natsuo and Touya into the back seat. It reminded Natsuo of when Shoucchan had to go to the hospital about a month ago. Was that what was happening? He opened his mouth to ask another question, but Touya’s gentle hold on his arm stopped him.

“Mom needs to concentrate, Natsu. Why don’t you go back to sleep?” Natsuo was confused, and a little scared, but he complied, snuggling into Touya’s side as his big brother shrugged off his own jacket for him to wear as a blanket. Shrouded in fabric and tucked up against one of the people he loved most in the world, Natsuo looked up again.

Touya was crying, but he looked happy, too. Like a massive burden had been taken off his shoulders. Natsuo didn’t understand at the time, but he trusted Touya, so he let his eyes fall shut, the gentle hum of the car engine lulling him further into sleep.

And like that, Before became After, and nothing was the same again.

Chapter Text

Anticipation was a beast clawing at the centre of Aizawa’s chest, working his lungs into a wild frenzy as he dragged in rapid breath after rapid breath. His heart beat out a steady tune, a staccato of tension and mild fear as he dug his fingers into another narrow crack between solid brick and the faltering piping that shot up the wall. Cursing as he felt the metal shudder slightly under his weight, Aizawa pushed upwards, sighing in relief when his hand met a stone ledge. With a low grunt of effort for the awkward position he had manoeuvred himself into, he scrambled atop the building, instinctively sliding his shuttered goggles down onto his eyes.

The wind – a sign of an impending, wild storm – tugged relentlessly at him, making him stumble as he righted himself and his hair was whipped into a frenzy. He narrowed his eyes against the light chill. The rooftops, as far as his keen eyes could see, were bare save a few clotheslines or small balconies. Every door seemed to be latched shut, curtains drawn firmly and open, outdoor spaces completely devoid of life.

Aizawa growled under his breath as he spun in a slow circle, scanning for any sign of a vigilante with a kill streak a mile long. Nothing. He spat out a curse worthy of Bakugou, flicking his radio back on.

Patrolling had never made for a pleasant activity, but had never yet skipped out on completing it; the world of heroics was one that, in his own opinion, should be entered for the sake of saving people and protecting the community, rather than gaining fame and fortune, as so many heroes nowadays tended to do. He was hardly a believer in the bullshit spewed by Stain – saving people was good, and though some didn’t have the purest motives for doing it, death was hardly a punishment for that – but he could appreciate some of the milder takes on it.

It had been harrowing, to hear about what had happened to Ingenium. Even if Aizawa hadn’t had a personal stake in things – in the form of Tensei Iida being one of his oldest, closest friends, even after their careers had taken precedence – just seeing the dark, shattered look in his younger brother’s eyes had made a chill run up his spine. Tenya Iida was a diligent student, a methodical Class Representative and obviously a very caring person, but Aizawa had been put off by some of what he’d seen in his eyes the day after the attack on Ingenium. It had driven anxiety into him long before he’d received phone calls about foolish students fighting dangerous criminals and had to calm down an angry police chief.

Luckily for his sanity, Tensei hadn’t been too badly injured – all things considered, nerve damage to the legs wasn’t a bad way to go out, and he would be able to walk again with physical therapy and a lot of rest, but the close call had been almost too much for Aizawa to stand.

The whole atmosphere around Tokyo and other cities had just been so unusually sinister in the last few months that the fact that Widowmaker was here, now, attacking civilians was less of a surprise than it should have been. It felt more like the strange happenings in Japan recently had building up to something, and Widowmaker was their apex. Aizawa wasn’t exactly delighted that he would have to apparently be on the front lines of tracking her down, but his personal preferences didn’t matter in this world of heroes, villains and the monsters that walked among both.

He had encountered her before, just once, and she had been a force of nature to contend with then, years ago, with far less experience and far more blind rage obscuring her judgement. He wondered, with no small amount of detached horror, how much more capable she would be now. Probably immensely so.

It had been Aizawa’s brief, faltering report that had given the police their first verified, clear indication of what Widowmaker looked like. He hoped she didn’t hold that against him.

Aizawa approached the other side of the roof, kneeling for a moment to scan what streets he could make out in the darkness of downtown Saitama. Still nothing, save for a few drunk, staggering men in their early twenties, and the occasional homeless person curled up to stay warm. Exhaling hard through his nose, Aizawa pressed a hand to his temples, wishing he could ward off his impending headache with sheer will alone. He’d known this would be a long night from the get-go, but he was increasingly feeling like it would be a dangerous one too.

He just wanted to go to bed, honestly, and though that was hardly anything new, something about the desire sat soul-deep tonight. All he really wanted was to creep home and slip under the covers beside Hizashi, lulled by his husband’s ridiculously loud snoring and the purring of one of their many rescued cats. There was a sensation of something deeply cold and heavy spreading through him, resting in his stomach like a leaden weight, urging him to stop and turn around and go home. He wanted to listen, but he hadn’t fought his way through three years at UA – including fighting his way out of General Studies to begin with – to turn tail at the first sign of raw, instinctual fear.

His job was to be a hero, to save people under threat. And though, in his own opinion, domestic abusers could eat shit for all he cared, due process was a vital part of the legal system, and throwing them in prison to stew would probably show them the error of their ways more than killing them without hesitation could. Even if Aizawa could understand the motivations behind it – more so than he could with the ideology touted by Stain – they were legally wrong, and he had an obligation to stop Widowmaker.

Ignoring the fear boiling away in his chest, limbs weighed down by dread, Aizawa got to his feet, and moved onwards.

Another man dropped, blood spilling like scarlet paint from his lips, illustrating the timber flooring beneath their feet with wide splashes as his legs gave out and he collapsed. Widowmaker calmly sidestepped him, turning her nose away when the smell of blood reached it, scanning the sky outside. It was still a vast blanket of inky darkness, and for a moment, she let herself bask in it.

Bringing brutal, final justice to abusers was always a pleasant experience. It had, in all frankness, never been one she imagined she would enjoy. Rei Todoroki had been a timid, quiet and loving woman, but one who was fundamentally weak. Widowmaker was burnished steel that cut down her enemies and society’s most despicable with bold, sure strikes, using a quirk that had always been strong, but underutilised unless for the tending of burns. She had leapt free of the scathing, cruel fire that had enveloped her life and reforged herself into a weapon.

She only wished, sometimes, that she could go back, urge her younger self to run. You can make it. You can survive without him. You become so, so strong, as do your children. And they get to laugh, and smile and hug one another as much as they want. You can be free, and so can your children, if you would just stand up and hold steady rather than letting yourself get knocked down.

She had a feeling her younger self wouldn’t believe the words. Her husband had been so overpowering, so overwhelming, so strong and unbreakable and indomitable that he often came across more as an uncaring god than he did a cruel man. She had cowered before him in fear of being smited, rather than standing tall and refusing to offer him the worship he so clearly desired.

She sometimes wished she could go even further back, take her younger self’s chin as she turned to look at the rich, strong young pro hero her parents had been excited about setting her up with, and told her to run. Turn him down, she would scream. He will hurt you more than anyone else in your life ever has. You think you know the world, but you’ve seen barely it’s smallest corner. He will beat you and break you, and then beat and break your children, until the very suggestion of heavy footsteps will make them nearly wet themselves with fear.

Rei took a deep, calming breath, pulling her phone from her pocket as she continued the exercises, determined to keep her head screwed on properly. She eyed the long list that Malware had provided her with. Countless names, countless addresses, countless crimes. She had to choose just a few, for tonight, anyway. She would be back to cleanse the city further, but for now, she had to be selective.

She skimmed the list, gaze narrowing in on one name, with a note attached to it by Malware.

Muteki Sayoko. She’s been consistently abusing her boyfriend and raping him for a long while. There was an address attached, as per usual. Rei stared at it. Hmm. Rapists. She dealt with those a lot.

There were hands pushing her down, pressing into her shoulders and keeping her head shoved into the mattress, so hard she felt ready to suffocate-

It would be good to show this vile woman a piece of her mind, truly. There really was so much unpurged evil in this city.

Everything hurt and there were stars in her vision, black spots dancing and twirling as she felt blood run over delicate, abused skin. It hurt so much it hurt it hurt it hURT-

Rei took note of the address, carefully orienting herself and setting off at a brisk pace, adjusting her mask and thermal goggles carefully as she moved. She wrapped her hand around a handhold as she climbed a set of stairs.

There was hot breath in her ear, but no words accompanied it. She was still, as much as her body wanted to shudder and shake in protest and in pain and in disgust. She felt used and dirty. The weight on her back, the one bearing her down into the bed, vanished, and she was alone.

Rei withdrew her hand from the metal railing, noting absently that the entire thing had become coated in a thick layer of permafrost. She shook it off. It would melt by morning.

There was a gentle weight in either arm, and she felt like she was fit to burst, heart spilling over with too much love to handle as she gazed down at them. Twins, her doctor had delightedly told her, so many months ago. The reality had been right in front of her for a long time, but now it felt real, solid, unbreakable. A child cradled carefully in each arm; one wriggling boy, who would forever boast at being a whopping 17 minutes older, and a quiet, softly murmuring girl who would forever have to deal with said boasting. Rei loved them so much it hurt.

Rei smiled for a moment, clenching her fists in determination. She despised rapists, even though one had managed to give her the four greatest gifts of her life. If she could help the poor boyfriend of this ‘Muteki Sayoko’ gain the liberation she had, she could rest easily that night.

The address was about twenty minutes away from her current position. With ice forming under her shoes and propelling herself upwards, Rei resolved to make it there in ten.


The movement was so sudden and so brief that Aizawa thought, for a single moment of shocked, baffled hesitation, that he had imagined it. That the small reflection of light off a silvery structure – one that should not be hanging around in downtown Saitama, was just an illusion, a trick of the mind invented by his fatigue and the tension lining his shoulders.

A moment later, though, a slow scraping sound met his ears, so subtle it could have been a mistake even though Aizawa knew it wasn’t, and he knew he was on the cusp of something deadly. He stopped in his tracks, surveying the surrounding area before darting forwards.

Moving over to the edge of the rooftop he was perched on, Aizawa gazed over, stomach icing over with fear when his gaze fell on a woman below. She was clearly not dressed for a casual walk out in the balmy night air; her legs were wrapped in fitted black pants and lace-up, fur lined boots, her hands concealed in fingerless black gloves and a silverly kimono, patterned with black flowers, hid her torso. Her face was concealed by a black biker’s mask, and her eyes by a sleek pair of thermal goggles, but her hair was free, falling straight, waist length and white as snow. He knew her look, and even years after first sighting her, she was still a frightening image.

Aizawa drew back a little as Widowmaker paused briefly, head turning in his direction but her gaze remaining street level. With no-one in her sights to act as a witness to whatever she was about to do, he watched her roll her shoulders and throw her arm out, a swift, fluid motion that spoke of close familiarity with her quirk and thorough training. Ice surged into existence, springing up at ground level and forming under shoes to elevate her. Another few graceful movements of her arms had the woman surging forwards, the ice dissolving into a flurry of snow as soon as it was behind her.

Steeling himself, Aizawa moved forwards, keeping close but not close enough for her to detect him as he tailed her. He tugged his capture weapon up around his mouth as he ran, watching her carefully for the opportunity he would need to strike.

It arose after maybe ten minutes of him cautiously following the vigilante, as she moved to land on the top of a building. With Aizawa a mere twenty metres or so behind her, he adjusted his shuttered glasses, and activated his quirk.

Widowmaker stumbled, shocked, as her own quirk vanished, unable to even disintegrate the ice behind her as Aizawa leapt onto the rooftop behind her. She paused, his footsteps obviously registering as she pivoted to face him. With her face obscured, he couldn’t see any sort of visual reaction, but he heard her hum, a low, curious sound.

“Oh. Eraserhead. I should have picked up on that sooner.” She said, shocking him. Widowmaker never tended to speak to heroes who came close to catching her. Exchanging kind words with children and domestic violence victims was normal, but she had, to his knowledge, never spoken with any form of law enforcement. Whenever she did call the police to report one of her own crimes, it was with a technologically modified voice.

She didn’t sound very threatening; her voice was gentle and calm, if a little muffled by the mask obscuring the lower half of her face. She straightened up, tugging at the silver sleeves of her shortened kimono as he cautiously took another step towards her. “That is an impressive quirk, I will say.” She cocked her head to the side, still not coming off as aggressive, despite her track record. “I presume you are planning on arresting me?”

“That tends to be the plan where you are involved.” Aizawa murmured in response. Widowmaker huffed out a small laugh in return. “You don’t seem worried.”

The vigilante shrugged. “I do not wish to fight you, Eraserhead. And as much as I guess you want to capture me; I would advise against it.”

“You’re rather self-confident.” Aizawa noted. There was little more than three metres of space between them now, close enough for him to judge her stature and body type. She was lean and lithe, but also rather small. The woman couldn’t possibly be more than 5’4’’; physically, she wasn’t very intimidating.

“Not confident, concerned for you.” She said, shocking him further. “I watch the news. I heard what happened at the USJ, and at that summer training camp. I will say, you’ve gained my respect for going so far to protect those children.” Aizawa stiffened, acknowledging the compliment(?) as he pushed back memories of his arm being twisted and wrung like a wet cloth, and of his skull cracking and giving way as it met unyielding concrete again and again. He didn’t ever want to repeat what had happened at the USJ, or what had nearly befallen Bakugou in the forest, that was for sure. Widowmaker tilted her head to the side as Aizawa fumbled momentarily for words.

“Well, I appreciate the sentiment,” he eventually managed, “but platitudes won’t dismiss the fact that I have a duty to bring you in.”

Widowmaker paused, fingers twitching at her sides. “In that case, I apologise.”

She moved so fast that the line of her arm was little more than a blur. She still didn’t have a quirk to fight with, but she seemed to know how Aizawa’s quirk worked, and in the end, that was enough for her to have the upper hand.

He hadn’t pegged her as the sort to carry knives on her person, given that her quirk allowed her to create razor-sharp blades from ice alone, but that preconception was wiped the minute he realised that she had hurled a small blade at him. His reflexes carried him well clear of it, but, as he realised with horror, Widowmaker’s objective had never been to hit him with it. And, as he moved to dodge the knife, he blinked.

The rooftop was gone in an instant, massive spires of ice exploding outwards in the space of milliseconds. A shout of alarm left his mouth as he threw himself to the side to avoid them, one catching his lower leg and another snagging at the base of his throat. Choking in pain as he felt the ice tear through his skin, Aizawa staggered back, struggling to reorient himself as the ice around him shifted and heaved like a living thing. He’d heard Widowmaker’s quirk was terrifying, and impressive on an unusual scale, but this was another level entirely.

Taking a moment to breathe, Aizawa planted his feet firmly, whirling with a curse as the ice to his back shifted, a noise not unlike thunder leaving it as one of the spires closest to him crumbled, and the ice beneath his feet surged upwards. Aizawa used the vertical momentum to propel himself off just as the surface turned to spikes, kicking off the top of another spire with a well-placed strike and sitting there, staring out over the transformed landscape.

The entire roof of the building they’d been standing on looked like it had been covered by a gigantic, blooming flower, each petal made of countless arrayed shards of ice. The structure was so huge that the ice spikes were hanging precariously over the edge of the building, icicles forming along the gutters from how low the temperature had dropped.

Aizawa cursed as he saw nearby lights turning on. Widowmaker’s quirk was hardly subtle, after all. He had to steer this fight away from curious civilians. Though Widowmaker’s track record indicated a hatred of involving the innocent, he had no clue how much control or restraint she would be able to exercise with her quirk, especially if she was using it on as large an area as this.

Movement caught his eye, and he once again leapt from his post as ice exploded upwards to force him off the rooftop. He caught himself on another spire with the help of his capture weapon. Sliding down the spire a moment later, he immediately activated his quirk, hair flying up around his ears when Widowmaker came into view again. She paused, lowering her hand and tilting her head in a way that almost made her look disappointed.

“You’re a very talented hero.” She said simply. “But your quirk has no offensive capabilities.” Fiddling with her belt, the vigilante withdrew another knife, this one designed for fighting rather than throwing, and Aizawa tensed, hands finding the folds of his capture weapon. “I don’t want to fight you, but I will.”

That was all the warning he got before she lunged at him, blade angled for his jugular. For neither the first nor last time, Aizawa blessed his decision to incorporate gymnastics into his training routine as he artfully ducked and dodged away from her. Wielding his capture weapon with deadly accuracy, he snagged the knife from her hand after a few moments of struggling, but Widowmaker simply shrugged it off, withdrew another from her belt, and lunged again.

She wasn’t aiming to kill, that was something he picked up on very quickly. Her strikes were now directed towards his legs, arms, sides, where an injury would be painful and debilitating but not fatal. It was odd, considering how many lives she had taken, that she thought his worth sparing, but it was a bit of a relief as he continued to twist out of reach.

At one point, his gaze was obscured by his own capture weapon, and he found himself being hurled skywards again as Widowmaker used her quirk with brutal efficiency, but the effect was only momentary as he unleashed his own quirk once again, eyes fixed on her, and he dropped back to earth.

Widowmaker was watching him carefully, that much he could tell even with her eyes covered. He gritted his teeth.

“I’m glad to see someone like you protecting children, Eraserhead. Every kid deserves to have someone to protect them, somewhere safe to go.” Her hands clenched uselessly at her sides for a moment, and Aizawa knew he didn’t miss the odd tone in her voice when she said that. Oh, that was something to report to the police, once this was over. It had long been theorised that Widowmaker was a mother, and this was probably as close to a confirmation of that as they would ever get.

Widowmake cocked her head again before she continued, voice kind. “You’re a good man, and for that, I will never try to kill you. But I have no desire to see the inside of a jail cell just yet, and thus, we are at odds.” Aizawa squared his shoulders, eyes trained on her every movement. His eyes itched, begging him to blink. He ignored the old feeling.

She moved again, and Aizawa surged forwards to meet her again, capture weapon lashing out to catch her around the middle, and pin her arms to her side to immobilise her, when a vicious pain shot down his left arm. He barely had time to stare, wide eyed at the knife buried to the hilt in his forearm as his trajectory was thrown off, and rather than snapping around her middle, his capture weapon moved upwards, catching and holding fast on something higher up.

Aizawa cursed in pain, stumbling away as a low thudding met his ears. He looked up hurriedly, reactivating his quirk before he stopped dead and stared.

And, for the first time, his eyes met another pair. Widowmaker gawked at him, eyes blown wide. The trajectory of his capture weapon had yanked her thermal goggles right off her face, and he could now see them lying beside her.

She didn’t have an overly distinct face; her white hair was probably the most outstanding part of it, but his shock seared the image into his brain regardless. Soft grey eyes, a narrow but kind face, with laugh lines around the eyes that indicated she either took a lot of enjoyment in killing, or experienced a lot of happiness outside of her vigilantism. Her mouth and chin were still obscured, but with the main disguise gone, he could fill in the blanks easily enough. He couldn’t get a perfect read on her age, but he could easily guess she was anywhere from her mid-thirties to her late forties, with a few years’ leeway in either direction.

Mostly, though, his gaze stayed trapped on her eyes, deep grey with dark flecks towards the centre, visible only because of the vibrant light of a nearby electronic billboard. They were distinct, and Aizawa didn’t have time to say anything before the thermal goggles had been scooped up again, hurriedly clapped back into place, and the vigilante was raising her arms.

The ice coating the roof dissolved into a thick slurry of snow, and Aizawa couldn’t have used his quirk on her if he’d tried as she turned on her heel and vanished.

A stinging sensation in his collarbone and lower leg, as well as the pulse of pain in his left arm, reminded him that she’d managed to injure him, and he stepped back reluctantly, radioing in once more with the news.

Shouto stirred, a nightmare made of steely fists and burning words retreating quickly as he sat up, blinking in the low grey light of a very early morning. A yawn cracked his mouth open as he shook himself quietly, trying to identify his surroundings.

Spotting the old throw blanket he’d tossed over his legs made his memories flood back as he relaxed. He’d camped out in the couch to marathon a bunch of old movies being shown by a foreign channel, and he must have fallen asleep during one of them. A cursory look at his phone informed him it was 3:36am, and he absently wondered what had woken him.

Nightmares were common to his family, but Shouto rarely woke from them. They only ever got bad enough to jolt him back into consciousness maybe every six months or so. From what he remembered of the dream he’d just awoken from, it was neither bad enough to warrant him waking up, or even bad enough to leave him considerably unnerved after the fact. Yawning once more, rubbing at the sleep that had collected in the corners of his eyes as he swung his feet over the edge of the couch, Shouto stumbled to his feet.

A cursory look around the apartment showed that he was alone. His mother, obviously, was all the way over in Saitama, and his older siblings were all out for one reason or another. Them staying out past midnight and into the early hours of the morning was nothing new, and of the four of them, only Shouto had a curfew imposed on him; unless he was with one of his siblings, he had to be home by midnight. It was a lot more lenient than a lot of kids his age got, but it was still annoying at times.

Shouto rubbed his hands up and down his arms; for late August, it was shockingly cold tonight. Spinning in a lazy circle, he spotted Touya’s favourite leather jacket, and he happily pulled it on, rolling the sleeves up several times so it would fit him. Touya feigned irritation every time, but Shouto had pilfered his oldest brother’s clothes so often by now that it had become common practice. The jacket was a familiar weight over his shoulders as he wriggled his bare toes and willed away the cold.

It would be all too easy to pull off his quirk suppressant cuffs and keep himself warm, of course, but it would also be too easy for him to burn their entire apartment building down, so he decided against it, fetching a chipped mug from a cupboard and turning on the kettle.

The low rumbling was a small source of comfort as Shouto squared his shoulders and rifled through their cabinets, searching for his green tea. He liked to think of himself as a brave person, but with their apartment empty, the air cold and the remnants of a nightmare leaving him a little off-kilter, Shouto couldn’t hide his own apprehension. The fact that it was 3 in the morning didn’t help much either, of course.

Upon finding his favourite tea container empty – which he automatically pinned on Natsuo, the thieving piece of shit – Shouto huffed and turned off the kettle, the rumbling cutting away as silence completely enveloped his apartment. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and Shouto tugged the sleeves of Touya’s jacket down further. He jumped a good half foot off the ground as loud banging and shuffling noises echoed out from the floor below theirs, and he cautiously moved out of the kitchen, eyes on the door as the noises got closer, shouting and authoritative mumbo jumbo joining the mix as the sound reached his own floor.

He jumped again, shuffling backwards a little as he heard next door saying something incomprehensible. He swallowed, and for a moment, time seemed to stand perfectly still as Shouto fiddled with the sleeves of his stolen jacket, rocking back and forth anxiously on the balls of his feet.

Then, a loud, persistent knocking echoed out on his own door, and Shouto felt his heart jump into his throat as the door rattled in it’s frame. He was barely able to register the words, “Police! Open up!” he was so rattled. Sucking in an anxious breath, he glanced around, darting over to his mother’s room. Touya and Natsuo had no real physical evidence of their vigilantism, but if his mother had left any spare costume parts here…

A quick, anxious search revealed nothing obvious, and with the door continually being banged on and shaken, Shouto bit his lip, stepped into the entryway and unlocked the door.

He was immediately stared down by a police officer a good half foot taller than him, expression twisted into something dark that refused to compromise. Shouto wordlessly ducked out of the way as the man charged into the room, looking around with narrowed eyes.

“This is a government approved search and seizure operation.” A more polite officer explained as she stepped inside, throwing Shouto an apologetic smile. “It’s being carried out across select areas in Roppongi. Apologies for the disturbance.”

“Don’t apologise to criminal scum.” The other officer spat, voice filled with disgust. The female officer narrowed her eyes.

“I will apologise to civilians as of yet uncharged with a crime.” She said crisply, throwing Shouto another apologetic look. “How old are you?”

Shouto stared at her, fiddling with his sleeves to hide how badly his hands were shaking. “15.” The officer blinked at that – Shouto was already taller than the average adult, and definitely taller than most people his age, so it was understandable – and the other man grunted, offering neither an apology nor further insults. Shouto pressed his back against the wall, ignoring the low wailing he could hear from down the hall and watched the police basically turn their apartment upside down.

Judging by the name of the operation, this was probably a hunt for illegal weapons and drugs, but Shouto still felt oddly guilty as he watched them, hugging himself to ward off the cold, which had increased tenfold with the officers leaving the door open.

He miserably watched them go through each of their rooms, picking up furniture and opening drawers at random. The female officer was the least unbearable of all of them, shouting out on occasion for her more boorish companions to be careful while keeping a professional distance from Shouto and not attempting to interrogate him. As her companions came lumbering out into the living room again, he found himself shuffling ever so slightly closer to her.

“Well, that seems to be just about it…” she murmured as Shouto reached up to run his hands through his hair, trailing off as she stopped short and stared at him. It took him a very long moment to realise that in reaching up to his hair, his sleeves, oversized as they were, had fallen down, exposing the very clear quirk suppressant cuffs on his wrists.

He saw shock pass through her eyes, closely followed by horror and confusion. He took a step back, hesitant as the other two officers noticed the source of her shock and responded similarly.

Then, because his life truly was shit at times, another officer walked in the door. Specifically, the police officer that he and Natsuo had encountered, badmouthed and threatened on the street about a week ago. Her eyes landed on him with chilling clarity, and he saw her eyes turn cunning.

“Oh my, hello again.” She said, tone clipped but filled with satisfaction. “It’s the little delinquent of Roppongi.” Shouto frowned at her, taking another step back, shoulders hitting the wall. The woman raised an eyebrow, looking at his wrists. “My goodness. So, the quirk suppressant cuffs are a permanent thing, then?” she looked at him coldly. “I’m sure you’re aware what sort of picture this paints, young man.”

The woman turned to the other officers, who were frowning slightly. “We are under orders to take in anyone with suspected involvement in criminal cases, correct?” they all nodded. “Indeed. I don’t know of many people who wear quirk suppressant cuffs, honestly.” She turned to Shouto. “Why don’t you come down to the station with us.” She didn’t say it like a question, even if it was phrased as such, and Shouto realised with mounting horror that he had both literally and figuratively backed himself into a corner.

“If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ll be let go quickly.” The kind officer from earlier assured him. The other woman sniffed, eying him coldly.

“And if he has…” she trailed off, smirking slightly, “well, let’s see then, shall we?”

Chapter Text


Touya had set arbitrary and humorous challenges for Hawks under the belief that the pro hero would, as most people tended to do, give up and dismiss Touya as a pretty but unattainable face. It had happened before, countless times really, so Touya hadn’t expected much else of the pro hero. Fuyumi called him cruel for it – how was he supposed to get to know anyone if he gave them hurdles to jump through to score even a first date with him? – and Natsuo and Shouto both found it hilarious, but Touya had stuck by the method. If someone was interested in him beyond a quick fuck, they tended to prove it very quickly.

Hawks was the Number Three hero in all of Japan, and he had a schedule undoubtedly stuffed full of investigations, crime-fighting and making paparazzi filthy rich. He was swoon-worthy, in the eyes of most of Japan, so Touya wouldn’t have much minded to be nothing more than a quick fuck to him – not many people could truthfully say they had seduced one of the top three heroes in the country, after all – but he was set in his ways, and he’d offered the challenge before thinking about it.

He did curse himself for that; lots of the people who hit on him nowadays tended to be a fair way older than him – people in their thirties and forties were fine, honestly, but he had almost gagged aloud when a goddamn pensioner had sought to cop a feel – and Hawks was actually the same age as him. It felt good to be validated as being attractive to people within his own age range, and Touya was a little bitter that he’d tossed away the chance to slide into bed with a man who was young, attractive and too witty by far.

That, combined with the fact that his mother wanted him to stay out of trouble for the entire time she was in Saitama, had generated just enough nervous energy in him that Touya had sought out additional shifts. If his hands were going to be busy working off his frustrations, he could at least do it tattooing and piercing, and getting paid for it.

Nadeshiko had picked up on his foul mood and let him sketch out designs in the back until he was calm enough to see actual customers, and he’d been fully intending on passing his entire morning like that until she’d rushed in, expression confused but eyes alight with happiness, and cheerily declared there was a delivery for him.

That alone was worth suspicion – Touya certainly hadn’t ordered anything, and he told Nadeshiko as much, but she was unyielding, dragging him into the foyer and giggling as his jaw dropped open.

The delivery man had been very disinterested in the spluttering mess Touya had become, simply handing over the (very pretty) bouquet of flowers he’d been told to deliver, simply waiting for a shocked Touya to sign off before leaving. Nadeshiko had practically glued herself to his side, begging for answers as Touya located the small card attached to it, and promptly turned the same colour as the roses in the bouquet.

This is Day One. You did say five bouquets, right?

There was no signature on it, but Touya remembered the conversation he’d had, and with who, and waved off Nadeshiko with a blush still painted across his face. And, well, if he’d been extra careful in transporting them to the backroom and placing them on his work desk, that was no-one’s business but his own.

And, because Hawks was apparently the single most extra person on the planet, that had become something of a constant. For the next three days, the same disgruntled delivery man showed up at the door of Inkwell and Staples, handed Touya an elaborate bouquet, Touya blushed his way through the rest of the afternoon, and firmly ignored the flower meanings that Nadeshiko was so happy to look up and inform him of.

By the time the fifth and last day rolled around, Touya had four bouquets of flowers resting on the side of his desk, all in pots of water, and he’d attracted more than a little confusion from his co-workers. Nadeshiko, the only other person who seemed to be on shift when he received them, happily spilled the story to anyone within reach.

“Amisaki’s got an admirer!” she would exclaim giddily. “Just look at those flowers! They wouldn’t come cheap!”

Touya bore through it, doing his utmost to hide how much he enjoyed receiving them. After all, he mostly set challenges to distinguish the serious ones from the fair-weather. He’d definitely never been given four bouquets of flowers in four days. He carefully kept the phenomena hidden from Natsuo and Shouto – who would have relentlessly bullied him for information on his ‘admirer’, as well as his mother, who would have just given him some spiel about being safe. He did tell Fuyumi, swearing her to secrecy as she squealed in delight, but that was because she was his twin. Special privileges.

On the fifth day of Hawks’ Adorable Nonsense, as Fuyumi had insisted they dub it, the hero seemed to decide on forgoing the delivery man, sweeping into Inkwell with a grin and perhaps the simplest bouquet yet stowed under his arm. Nadeshiko’s jaw dropped, and Touya herded her out of the foyer at the speed of light as his cheeks burned.

The hero just grinned, looking radiant in casual clothes once again before he did an overly dramatic bow and presented the flowers to Touya.

“My darling.” the blond happily said as Touya took them, reddening further when he noticed that every flower in the bouquet was some variant of rose. Subtle. Touya raised an eyebrow when Hawks straightened up, practically vibrating with happiness.

“I believe I asked for a mixture between a haiku, a pickup line and an animal fact.” Touya said. Hawks grinned victoriously.

“You most certainly did.” The hero dramatically cleared his throat, wings fluttering slightly. “Otters holding hands, to not drift apart at night. Be my otter half?” Touya gawked at him, mentally counting the syllables and deciding to just give up when he realised it matched up perfectly.

“I’m legitimately impressed.” Touya said honestly, which only made the grin on Hawks’ face grow wider. He gave another little bow.

“I do my best.” He said cheekily. Touya shook his head slightly.

“Fine, alright, you win.” He chuckled, holding his hand out. Hawks offered his phone, and Touya added his number to it, texting himself so that he had the hero’s number on his own phone. Hawks pumped his fist happily, grinning.

“Victoryyyyy,” he crowed in delight, bouncing up and down a little, “get ready to be decimated by memes sent at 3am.”

“I await them eagerly.” Touya said, tone dry but humorous. He considered his next words carefully, but eventually decided to just go for it. “I don’t know what your schedule is like, but I finish up at 7.” Hawks’ face somehow got even happier, and Touya knew the answer before the hero had even opened his mouth.

“I can wait.” The blond chirped, sticking his hands casually into his pockets. “If you don’t mind me hanging around here until then?” Touya shrugged.

“Do what you want, honestly,” he said, even as he felt a thrill of happiness pass through him, “it might get a little boring though.”

“With you here? Never.” Hawks punctuated this with a wink that made Touya roll his eyes.

“Corny.” He commented, before moving towards the back room, swinging the door open and ushering Nadeshiko out, ignoring her wide-eyed looks as Hawks followed him inside, whistling. Touya slid into the chair at his own desk, and saw the hero still when he saw the bouquets all in vases, propped up on the side.

“You kept them all!” he exclaimed happily. Blushing again, Touya ducked his head again.

“Well, yeah. They don’t look cheap. I’m not enough of an ass to just throw a gift away.” He pointedly ignored Hawks’ flirtatious grin as the pro hero slunk over to another desk and propped himself up on it, swinging his legs as Touya got back to work.

The hero was surprisingly respectful, only leaning over to comment on the designs or ask questions when Touya was taking a moment to sip some water or rest his hand. And it was nice, talking to the other man. He was cheerful and funny, but clearly also very intelligent. It made conversations with him engaging, even when they were only talking about simpler topics, and Touya had abandoned his designs completely in the last half hour of his shift in favour of talking to the hero.

It was hard to determine what the other man wanted; was he aiming to actually date Touya, or did he just want a lover for a night or two? It was hard to tell just by watching his motions and mannerisms, and his eyes seemed to be permanently guarded at least to a small extent. In any case, it didn’t matter much to Touya; he would know by the end of the night, most likely, and he was honestly down for either.

It was almost a relief when 7 o’clock rolled around and Touya was able to finish his timesheet, grab his thin windbreaker and step outside. Nadeshiko bid him farewell as he closed up the store, with Hawks waiting patiently as Touya stowed the keys in his pocket.

“So, what now?” Touya asked as the winged hero fell into step beside him, the massive height difference between them becoming painfully clear as he had to tilt his chin down to meet his chest to make eye contact. Hawks grinned, wings fluttering a little.

“Well, I’m fairly new to the Roppongi area, so I’d be most delighted if you could show me around. Point out the places where I’m least likely to get food poisoning and most likely to get cheap drinks.”

Touya grinned at that, running a hand through his dyed hair. “Well that depends. What do you like to eat?”

He could almost hear the hero resisting the urge to make a dirty joke there, and smiled as Hawks bobbed up and down, obviously thinking. The hero brightened.

“Fried chicken!” he declared happily. Touya couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him at that.

“Chicken?” he gave Hawks a sweeping up-and-down look. “Really? Isn’t that, like, cannibalism?”

“Hey! I’m not a chicken!” Hawks said, ruffling his wings indignantly even as he suppressed a smile. Touya snickered, raising an eyebrow.

“You sure?” he teased. Hawks smacked him gently on the arm.

“I’m sure.” He said. “After all, chickens can’t fly. I can.”

“Good to know there’s only one distinction between you and a chicken that you can readily come up with.” Touya laughed. Hawks grinned, rolling his eyes fondly before they positively lit up as Touya gestured to the building he’d steered them towards. “They specialise in fried chicken and boba tea.” Touya explained. “So, it’s hopefully to your liking.”

Hawks was practically vibrating in place as they waited in line, happily providing both an autograph and hug to a little girl who squealed in delight upon sighting him. He ordered the largest bucket of chicken they had with so much zeal that the cashier looked mildly frightened, and Touya muffled laughter the entire way through his own transaction. They departed the store with Hawks holding the massive bucket of greasy chicken aloft, while Touya rolled his eyes and sipped at the iced tea he’d bought.

They ended up sitting on a park bench, watching people wander by as the hour grew later, with Touya snagging the occasional piece of chicken from Hawks’ massive bucket, laughing at one another’s light quips. Touya tilted his head back, staring at the vast swath of inky blackness above them. There were no stars out – the light pollution of Tokyo ensured that – but it was calming regardless. He heard Hawks shuffle slightly, and looked over to see the hero smiling.

“You know, I can take you up if you want.” Hawks said, and at Touya’s confused look, he jabbed a finger first straight upwards, and then at his wings. “You might be able to see the stars if you get higher.”

Touya smiled slightly. “As fun as that sounds, it’s probably not a good idea. I get motion sick, and I doubt the best way to end this night is with me throwing up all over you.”

Hawks chuckled. “That’s true.” He lamented. “I’ll get you a sick bag before offering next time.”

Touya liked the idea of that – not being handed a sick bag, gross – but the certainty that the hero seemed to have that there would be a next time in all of this. It made warmth gather in his gut.

“Sounds good.” He chuckled. “So, now that we’ve hunted down some decent food, what’s next on the agenda?”

Hawks hummed, stretching out slightly as Touya did his best to pretend he wasn’t shamelessly eying the inch of exposed skin at the hero’s waist. “Not sure,” the blond eventually said. “Do you have a curfew?”

Touya clicked his tongue, smirking at the hero. “I don’t, thankfully. Do you have an idea?” Hawks grinned.

About half an hour later saw the two of them wandering around the nightclub district, swerving out of the way of laughing drunks, ducking inside clubs just long enough to snag a drink or two before ducking outside again. It felt liberating, and though Touya made sure to remain only tipsy at most, that didn’t stop him from leaning into the heat of Hawks’ body as the pro hero drifted closer to him.

It was getting late, Touya could tell that much just from the sorts of people he could see moving past. As evening slid into late night, the number of people around them surged exponentially. It got hectic enough that Touya found himself offering a hand to the blond hero on his heels, and he ignored the flipping in his stomach when the other accepted it, their fingers intertwining. His whole body was tingling, mind heady and catching on the smallest details around him. He felt anticipatory – he’d been waiting all night to see what would happen, and it finally felt like he was going to find out.

It was like a breath of fresh air when Hawks dragged him into a narrow laneway and pressed their lips together. Touya just exhaled lightly through his nose, grazed Hawk’s lower lip with his teeth and pulled him closer. The nearby thumping of bass melted away, everything else feeling inconsequential in comparison to the unbridled warmth of the man in his arms. They broke apart, both gasping, and Touya watched Hawks lick his lips, eyeing him hungrily.

“My place…” Hawks trailed off, “…it’s not far from here.”

It was an invitation, an indication that the fledgling relationship they had could, if Touya so desired, change into something more, something different. Touya hummed, sweeping his gaze up and down the rumpled, dishevelled hero. He liked Hawks, he really did, and though the idea of pursuing something more permanent with him was appealing, so was the thought of going home with him. Touya was happy for the attention he had now, for the singular focus Hawks had for Touya and Touya alone. The pro hero was handsome, kind, funny, and most of all, burning with warmth where the lines of his body were pressed against Touya’s.

He thought of his family; his mother over in Saitama, his siblings probably all gathered back at home right now. This would not be the first time he spent the night somewhere else, and besides, they could handle themselves.

“Okay.” He whispered, breathing the word into Hawks’ neck, relishing how the hero shuddered.

And when Hawks peeled himself off the wall and turned down another street, Touya followed him.


Shouto flinched at the way the hand on his arm tightened, grip tilting just over the line from uncomfortable to painful as he was frogmarched out of the police cruiser and escorted inside. It was a relief to be inside, in a proper building rather than stuck in the dirty foyer of their apartment building, or huddled in the back of a car, tugging at his sleeves and trying not to look as frightened as he felt.

It was cold in the police station – they clearly hadn’t thought it necessary to invest in heating for this time of year. Shouto wrapped his arms tighter around his middle, suppressing a shudder of cold. For a single moment, he considered pulling off at least one of his quirk suppressant cuffs, if not to use his quirk to warm himself up then to at least have some way of defending himself, but his courage abandoned him as his fingers twitched towards his wrists, and he gave it up.

He felt oddly vulnerable, not only because he couldn’t use his quirk, but also because of how abrupt everything was. He was still barefoot, wearing only a tank top, Touya’s jacket and a pair of dark pants he’d rolled halfway up his calves. His hair was in disarray and the police had been quick to take his phone from him, so he was completely cut off from his family at the moment. Shouto hunched his shoulders, scuffing his heel across the floor. Fuck.

He barely had a minute to observe the clean but almost sterile-looking interior of the station foyer before the harsh grip was back on his arm and he was being dragged away by the smirking female police officer again. He gritted his teeth, turning his eyes down and taking care not to look at anyone as he was hauled into another room, keeping his eyes on his surroundings, and carefully committing the layout to memory.

Shouto was forcibly steered into a hard, metal chair with handcuffs attached to the sides – though he was thankfully not locked into them – with a flimsy table before him. He tried his hardest not to scoff. An interrogation room? For a 15-year-old boy who had been taken from his home under dodgy pretences anyway? The police really were doing their best to enliven the dislike he had for them, weren’t they?

The smirking female officer took a seat across from him, not looking even remotely apologetic for the circumstances he’d been brought there under. He wondered if any of his siblings were back yet; he hadn’t been given the opportunity to lock the front door as he’d been escorted out, and he would be more than a little irritated if they all got robbed for the likes of this smug bitch.

“How the tables have turned, hmm?” she commented. “You looked so confident on the street, and yet now you’ve been taken into police custody, you’ve become very quiet.” She smiled again, and god, if she weren’t a police officer, Shouto would have knocked half her teeth out by now. He scowled in response, and she merely chuckled again, clasping her hands together and eying him across the table.

“We brought you in because of suspicious behaviours, as we told you earlier,” she said, sounding almost gleeful. “Care to elaborate on that?”

Shouto stared her down, fingers scratching at the cold metal of his cuffs. “I want a lawyer.” He snapped. “Since I highly doubt that any of what you’re doing is legally watertight.” The officer scoffed, and as she leant back, he spotted her nametag, which declared her to be named Sergeant Oba. She shot him a sickly-sweet look.

“Actually, young man,” she said, tone clipped, “the government gave us permission to act according to our own discretion during the search and seizure, so we do have right of arrest in this case.”

“I’m sure you do,” Shouto drawled, leaning back in his chair, “but you can’t arrest people for arbitrary reasons, any idiot knows that. Am I being charged with a crime? Misdemeanour? Or are you honestly so immature and insolent that you think someone talking back to you warrants some sort of overnight stint in a prison cell?”

The officer stiffened, the look in her eyes veering into more dangerous, angry territory as she eyed him. Shouto felt dread curl in his gut even as he kept his face carefully blank, wishing more than ever that this would all turn out to be a dream, a situation of immense drama and thrill borne of watching one too many movies before bed. He dug his nails into the thin fabric of the pants he was wearing.

“If you are about done with being disrespectful,” she snapped, looking at him so coldly he felt goosebumps erupt on the backs of his arms, “I have legitimate reasons for bringing you in.” Her gaze fell to his wrists. “After all, not many people your age wear quirk suppressant cuffs as a permanent fixture.” Her mouth turned up at the edges, less a smile and more a twisted display of smug satisfaction. “And I can list the reasons why quirk suppressant cuffs might be assigned to a man of your age, and most of the options on that list are not very comforting to the mind of a law-abiding civilian.” Shouto drew in a carefully controlled breath, ignoring the light flashing on one of his cuffs that indicated he was subconsciously reaching for his quirk.

“I can answer that question easily, officer, if clarification was all you were looking for.” He said, feeling a small burst of glee at the brief shock that passed over her face. “My quirk is highly temperamental and hard to control, especially when my emotions run high. For the sake of my household furniture, quirk suppressant cuffs seemed like the best option.” He paused, eying the Sergeant’s tightly clenched jaw. “Can I leave now?”

Sergeant Oba glared at him over the table. “We have a mandatory holding period.” She said, tone shifting back into sickly sweet even as he saw irritation burrow deep into her eyes and make itself at home. Shouto glared straight back at her.

“Are you going to let me have a lawyer? Because this situation feels like it should have a lawyer present.” He snapped, doing his best to hide his spiking anxiety under aggravation. Oba eyed him.

“Oh, and you can afford one, can you?” she asked, tone silken and nauseating. “Be thankful that I didn’t have you delivered straight to the main holding cell.”

Right, their main holding cell, which is probably full of rapists and drug dealers and whoever they dragged out of Roppongi’s bowels. Shouto clenched his fists under the table, a quiet beeping emitting from his cuffs alerting him that they were actively suppressing his quirk. Oba raised an eyebrow, smiling again.

“Oh my, your emotions are running high, then?” she leant forward. “Perhaps the holding cell would be best, then.”

Touya woke with a pleasant haze coating each of his senses, a bundle of warmth between his arms and a soft head tucked under his chin. All in all, not even remotely a bad way to wake up, and despite not being totally aware of his surroundings, he was completely content to snuggle further into the warm blankets cocooning him in. For perhaps five minutes, he succeeded, sighing happily as his muscles relaxed once more.

That five minutes was up, however, when a quiet, husky voice piped up from under his chin.

“Are you awake?” it murmured. “Because this is very comfortable, believe me, but I am dying to pee right now.” Touya cracked an eye open, humming slightly as the warm bundle in his arms – a person, he realised with a small shock – wriggled slightly. He loosened his grip, and they slipped free, allowing Touya to groan and roll back onto his front, letting drowsiness lull him for a moment as he heard the distant sound of water running. He let sleep relinquish it’s hold on him reluctantly, and yawned, rolling onto his back to rub at his eyes blearily before sitting up.

This was definitely not his apartment, he registered calmly, looking at the fairly bare walls, all pale plaster and devoid of his usual posters of long defunct rock bands. The bed beneath him was also a queen size, something he could never hope to afford for himself, and he stretched out leisurely, tracing the soft sheets with one foot. He heard the door open, and tilted his head in that direction.

Hawks was a sight for sore eyes in his current state. Where Touya had normally seen the hero as all calm, professional poise or sly wit and easy charm, he was almost endearingly casual. His hair was tousled, sticking up every which way, and a toothbrush had been jammed in the corner of his mouth, a few flecks of toothpaste resting on his chin. He was naked save a pair of black boxers, and Touya felt heat stir in his gut when he saw the bite marks and hickeys littered across the hero’s neck and collarbones. It felt oddly nice, to see that he’d left a mark on the hero of their activities the night before. His feathers also looked a little rumpled, wings twitching as the hero yawned. Touya noticed with a jolt that was equal parts mild guilt and arousal that he’d left finger-shaped bruises on the man’s narrow waist.

“Morning,” Touya said, smiling slightly as he finally sat up properly, not missing how the blond’s gaze shamelessly skirted down his bare chest. Grinning properly now, he rolled his shoulders back, letting the blanket fall further down his body, to cling to the v of his hips. He heard a small, unmistakeable trilling noise and laughed softly, his own voice a little croaky as Hawks flushed slightly and yanked his toothbrush out of his mouth.

“Good morning to you too.” Hawks said through a mouthful of toothpaste, pivoting to spit it out in the bathroom sink and rinse out his mouth before returning to the bed, happily sprawling himself out on the edge of it. Unable to resist the urge to do so, Touya reached out and carded his hands through waves of blond hair, a grin slowly taking up residence on his face as he saw Hawks smile softly and press his head almost insistently into the hold.

Touya eyed the clock – 7:21am – not bad, but definitely not ideal, either. He usually slept in later, unless he had a shift, as was the benefit of not having a full-time job. Touya heard a low, warm sound from Hawks’ throat, which was all the warning he had before the hero was sitting up properly, swinging his body with the help of his wings so that his legs bracketed Touya’s.

“Don’t you have some important hero work to do?” Touya asked as Hawks slid down into his lap, shamelessly kicking away the blanket covering him, and bracing his hands on his shoulders. The hero chuckled slightly.

“Oh? Trying to get rid of me?” he teased. Touya grinned, eyes turning devious as his hands wandered back to the blond’s waist, and he held him firmly in place as he rolled his hips upward. The hero let out a small, aborted gasp, eyes widening.

“This is your apartment, hero.” Touya murmured, leaning forward so his lips brushed the shell of Hawks’ ear. “I don’t think I could kick you out, even if I wanted to.” Hawks hummed in response, shuffling to press more insistently down on Touya’s lap.

“I actually don’t have any important hero work to be doing today.” He said, tone positively delighted. “So, unless you have somewhere to be…” Touya smirked, fingers already sliding beneath the waistband of Hawks’ boxers at the words, relishing the way the other man’s eyes lit up.

The sex was a much less energetic affair in the morning than it had been the night before, but Touya had nothing to complain about, more than content to lie back against the pillows and lazily rock up into the hero perched on top of him. He committed to memory every low sigh breathed against his lips, unable to keep his teeth from grazing along sharp, perfect collarbones again when he managed to drive small, breathy moans from the blond. He rubbed gentle circles into Hawks’ bruised hipbones where he could reach, offering a silent apology for any roughness the night before. He was greeted by a light smile and a warm press of lips against his own. Forgiveness came easy from this hero, it seemed.

Afterwards saw them both laying against the sheets, breath coming fast and sated as Touya ran a careful, loving hand through Hawks’ feathers and the hero hummed a quiet tune. It felt…nice. The atmosphere was easy and relaxed, and for the first time in the long time, Touya didn’t feel like anyone was expecting anything of him.

Then, of course, since all good things had to come to an end, his phone rang. Touya jolted; it was so sudden and surprising; and blinked as he leant up, shooting a look at Hawks. The hero waved dismissively, assuring him it was fine to answer as Touya scooped it up and swiped to answer, only registering the contact name when a frantic voice filtered through.

“Nii-san?” the panic in Fuyumi’s voice broke through the calm pervading Touya’s mind, and he sat up properly, expression contorting into a frown.

“Yumi?” he murmured. “What’s up?”

“Where are you?” she asked, tone high and filled with anxiety. She sounded exactly like she did when one of her panic attacks was impending, and Touya felt his back straighten instinctively as he immediately switched into ‘protective twin’ mode.

“I’m staying over at someone else’s house. Are you at home?”

“I’m- y-yeah…” he heard her breathing swerve and catch, and hunched forward.

“It’s alright, Yumi, just breathe in, okay, you remember, right? You can breathe.” He faintly registered Hawks sitting up next to him, frowning as well now.

“I-I…” she trailed off, “No, Touya, I c-can’t breathe-

“Is Natsu there?” he asked. He heard a stuttered, gasped affirmation, and suddenly the sound of jostling as the phone was presumably passed over. He heard Natsuo’s low voice, carefully coaching Fuyumi to put her hand over his lungs and match his breathing pace.

“Touya?” Natsuo’s words broke through Touya’s steadily rising panic like a meat cleaver. “You need to come home, now.” There was a brief shuffling, and more murmuring which was probably Natsuo’s continued attempts to calm Fuyumi down and stave off her panic attack. Touya bounced his leg anxiously.

“What’s going on?” he asked, feeling his stomach turn uncomfortably.

“You’re okay, you’re gonna be fine, Yumi-” he heard Natsuo murmur before his question was answered. “We came home to find the apartment turned upside down. Ichika from next door told us there was apparently a police raid through the whole suburb at like, 2 in the morning or something.” Touya’s stomach sank at those words, but he could tell his brother wasn’t done delivering bad news.

“And…?” he murmured, almost afraid to hear the answer. Natsuo sighed, sounding just as worn down as Fuyumi in that moment.

“Shouto’s gone. The police took him.”

Natsuo may have kept talking after that, but Touya would really never know, since his hearing descended into a haze of white noise once those words registered in his brain. Though he was less obvious about it, both he and his twin were prone to panic attacks, and he dimly registered that one was starting to take hold as he promised to get home as soon as possible and disconnected the call with shaking fingers.

Hawks didn’t ask him if he was okay – having been a hero for several years, the blond undoubtedly knew the signs of panic very well, and didn’t need any sort of manual to dissect the distress on Touya’s face. Without a word, or even a question as to the nature of the call, the hero was off the bed, gathering Touya’s clothes and placing them on the bed beside him with careful hands.

“I-I n-need to g-go home n-now…” Touya stuttered out, shaking as he stood. Hawks nodded, watching with calm, compassionate eyes.

“I’ll get cleaned up and dressed, then I’ll take you.” He murmured, scooping up Touya’s clothes and pressing them into his hands. “It’ll be the fastest option.”

It took the soft noise of the bedroom door shutting behind Hawks for Touya to finally come back to himself, and once he had, he moved like a man possessed, tugging on his clothes in a frenzy and tucking his phone safely into his jacket pocket, running an absent hand through his dyed hair as he did so. He paused ever so briefly to glance in the mirror, eying the miniscule hint of red at his roots. Only a trained eye, specifically looking for the fault would notice it, and Touya scowled. He would have to redo it soon.

He stumbled out into the hallway in a daze, still trying to keep his breathing level and measured. He had to stay calm, for Fuyumi’s sake. God knew his sister was probably freaked out enough already. Hawks sprung to his feet from where he’d been waiting on the couch, hand brushing Touya’s elbow in a small, comforting gesture before he had a plastic bag pressed into his hands, and he was ushered outside.

“What’s the address?” the hero asked, tone low and even and inherently calming. Touya latched onto the sound, focusing his gaze on the warm brown eyes in front of him and keeping it there as he offered the address of their apartment building.

“I’m s-sorry ab-bout t-this.” Touya stuttered out. Hawks shot him a bemused look, before shaking his head slightly and gently taking Touya’s free hand, squeezing his fingers.

“There’s nothing to apologise for.” He assured him. “It’s an emergency, I presume?” at Touya’s nod, the blond shrugged. “Well, who am I to condemn someone for rushing to an emergency?” Touya received a small smile then, as the blond stepped forward, opening his arms. “This is gonna be finnicky, since you’re so tall, but you gotta hold on tight, okay?”

We’ll have no problem there, believe me. Touya thought in a daze as he numbly stepped into the embrace and wrapped his arms firmly around Hawks, one across the back of his shoulders and the other looped under one of the hero’s arms. He felt muscular arms snake around his waist and hold fast, and with a muttered warning that had Touya gripping the bag he’d been given even tighter, they were suddenly airborne.

Flying with Hawks was a strange experience, and Touya allowed himself to spare a moment to admire the sight of Tokyo’s vastness spread out beneath them before Hawks swerved and his stomach reminded him why he tended to walk everywhere. Swallowing thickly, Touya buried his face in Hawks’ shoulder, taking deep breaths and doing his best to stay calm and composed. The trip back to the apartment was blessedly short, thanks to Hawks’ speed, but Touya still found himself doubled over and vomiting once they were on the ground, as Hawks rubbed between his shoulder blades and he wiped his mouth with a shaking hand.

“Sorry.” He croaked as he straightened up, stomach evidently done inflicting agony on him for the time being. Hawks shook his head, smiling.

“It’s really no trouble.” He murmured. “You feeling better?” Touya nodded, gulping in a lungful of cool air gratefully as the cramping in his gut subsided.

“Yeah, thanks.” He cast a look up at the building, scuffing the toe of his boot along the cracked pavement. “I should probably go handle my siblings.” The hero nodded, squeezing Touya’s arm gently.

“Good luck,” he said, “and thanks for putting up with me for so long.” Touya smiled weakly back at him.

“Well, I do have your number, so I can let you know when my next shift is.” Hawks blinked in surprise, but nodded again.

“I await it eagerly,” he said, stepping back and spreading his wings. Touya lifted a hand to wave in farewell as the hero soared upwards, and once the other was gone from sight, he turned and bolted inside.

The first thing he noticed in the foyer was that one too many doors were patterned with dirty shoe marks, obviously having been kicked open recently. One was hanging half off its hinges, splintered wood dangling around threateningly. He spotted a smear of blood on the floor and cursed, hurtling up the stairs rather than risking the shaky elevator. Stepping onto their floor made his stomach twist even more violently than before. One of his neighbours was seated against the wall next to her door, which had obviously been knocked right off its hinges. There were fresh bruises circling her arms, and Touya saw red.

“You okay, Hirabayashi?” he asked. The woman sighed, combing a hand back through her pale hair. He could hear someone – probably Hirabayashi’s girlfriend – moving around inside her apartment.

“Just a lil shaken, Tatsuzo.” She murmured. “Fucking pigs charging in here and ripping everything up.” He grimaced in sympathy and moved on, the door to his own apartment swinging open easily.

Hirabayashi’s description hadn’t been very far off – everything had been toppled over. Their dining table and chairs were laying on their sides, kitchen cupboards hanging open and obviously having been rifled through. He could see new scuffs marks on the wall, and prayed that Shouto hadn’t resisted the police officers that had taken him.

Fuyumi and Natsuo, who seemed to have chosen to sit on the floor rather than try and right their furniture, looked up at his entrance. Fuyumi looked pale and weary, as was typical after a panic attack, but she was clearly not hyperventilating any more, for which he was inherently grateful. Natsuo’s expression was drawn and sharp, and the look in his eyes was sheer agony when Fuyumi jumped up to hug Touya. Touya hugged his twin back numbly.

“What even…” he trailed off, shaking his head as Fuyumi released him, wiping at her eyes. “Why the fuck did the police even do this?” he murmured. Natsuo shook his head as he got to his feet.

“Search and seizure operation.” His brother spat. “Looking for drugs and weapons, undoubtedly. Don’t know why they think it’s fine to do shit like this, though, the bastards.”

Touya swallowed back the taste of bile on his tongue. “And Shouto?” Natsuo sighed, and Fuyumi’s entire body sagged. The four of them fought, of course they did, that was par for the course with having siblings, but they were all willing to die for each other, and having Shouto ripped away from them was devastating.

“Ichika says they took him in for questioning. Seemed to be about the quirk cuffs.” Natsuo muttered. Touya closed his eyes, cursing under his breath.

“What are we supposed to do now?” Fuyumi murmured, eyes wide with fear for their missing brother. Touya hesitated, before his own shoulders sagged and he tugged his phone from his pocket.

“Now, we do the worst part.” He eyed them as he scrolled through his short contacts list, finger tapping on a familiar one. ”Now we tell Mom.”

Chapter Text

Rei flew.

Truly, she moved so fast that the world became a blur under her feet, concrete and open spaces hurtling past her in a daze as her quirk buoyed her up, over any obstacle that lay in her wake. She was uncaring of the eyes that caught on her figure and held fast, at the jaws which slackened at the very sight of her. Her kimono billowed about her knees, hair tossed on a strong current as her hands scrabbled for purchase on rooftops, ledges, anything she could reach that would help her move faster.

Her heart was a jackhammer in her chest, wearing down at her ribcage with the intensity of its beats. She knew she should slow, disguise herself, stay calm and consider her next movements before she did anything rash or foolish, but she could hardly even bring herself to keep drawing breath, eternally afraid that to do so would waste precious time.

Theytookhim theytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhimtheytookhim-

She felt like she was about to be sick.

Rei wasn’t foolish enough to have never considered the possibility of losing one of her children. With the man she’d left behind, it had been a constant source of fear for her, that he would track them down, drag her babies from her arms and put them back into hell. It had yet to happen; Rei had been thorough, in teaching herself the art of disappearing, but even hearing that Shouto was gone, even if it was a temporary measure, that chilled her to the core.

The words of Touya’s phone call churned around in her head, almost senseless on their own. Raid through Roppongi. Police involved. Shouto taken.

Rei had hurt and killed countless people to exact revenge on the world for what she and her children had suffered, though she had yet to exact revenge on the direct source of her pain. She would kill for her children, die for them without even hesitating to breathe. The idea of Shouto with the police, with the people that had, not so long ago, sided with the words of an impressive pro hero over the evidence of abuse placed before their eyes, it made her see red.

They won’t hurt you. I won’t let them. I’ll kill them all if they lay a single hand on you.

Rei hurtled over a train line, the low noise of the machine on the tracks bouncing around her head and descending into a haze of white noise. She needed to get home, needed to talk to Malware, needed to get Shouto back, needed to do a million things and only had a very small amount of time to do them.

He’s my son, you can’t take him from me. Please, please, they’re all I have left. The only thing I care about is them.

There would news reports, later today, about unusual sightings of a woman in a kimono in downtown Saitama, moving like her life depended on it. It would take another day for her vigilante name to be put to the sightings. Rei couldn’t have cared less.

Please don’t hurt him.

Aizawa picked at the stitches in his side, frowning in displeasure at the wound as he begrudgingly tugged his shirt down. This was the fourth time this summer that he would have to have his hero costume repaired for cuts and tears, not to mention the careful washing he would have to put it through to get all of the blood out. It was just another part of being a hero, yes, but it was an incredibly annoying part. Being an underground hero, he hardly had a high-tech agency that would provide for cleaning and repairs for him. Hizashi sometimes managed to sneak his costumes into his own agency’s services, but Aizawa was hesitant to do that. He loved his husband, but he didn’t want to take advantage of services provided by a company that he didn’t then repay in some way.

He sighed again, glad to push open the door of the small consultation room he’d been holed up in for the day and step into the corridor. There was an ache in his body that ran bone-deep, and the desire to sleep was stronger than ever. There was a small, traitorous part of his brain – probably fuelled by his exhaustion – that was urging him to go straight home, to forget about professional protocols, and even the classes he was supposed to be teaching today, and sleep the week through.

Aizawa wanted to listen to it, but his own sense of duty and responsibility kept him rooted to the spot, mentally calculating how long it would take him to get to the police station to see Tsukauchi. He nodded gratefully to a nurse that handed him his discharge papers – this place’s employees knew him well enough now that they never hesitated to let him leave when he wanted – and scribbled down his signature quickly before handing them back. Tucking his hands into his pockets and hoping that the police wouldn’t be against him pilfering a cup of coffee or seven, he set off.

The noise of Tokyo coming to life was like a drill against the side of his skull, but there was little he could other than squeeze his eyes shut briefly and take it, glaring at a particularly loud group of tourists as he jaywalked across a narrow street and took a quick shortcut down an alley.

Thankfully for Aizawa’s sanity, the station wasn’t far from the hospital – a smart move, on the part of the city planners – but his relief didn’t last long. The sliding of the automatic doors gave way to a cacophony of sound, and, startled, he could do little more than come to a complete stop and stare at the chaos that had descended upon the Roppongi police station.

The main holding cell appeared to be full, with more than a few angry-looking people banging at the windows and spitting at any police officers that came close. Countless others were scattered around, some sitting by the desks of assorted officers, others handcuffed and standing with their backs against the wall. There were about five times the usual amount of people in the precinct, and Aizawa couldn’t stop the exhausted sigh that escaped him, shoulders sagging as he tried to manoeuvre his way past.

Tsukauchi’s desk was covered in papers and folders, as per usual, but it held no sign of the man himself. Aizawa clenched his jaw, rubbing his temples as he turned in a slow circle, searching for eye bags comparable to his own and groaning quietly when he saw none.

“If you’re looking for Naomasa, he went upstairs to work.” A detective with some sort of cat quirk said, shuffling papers in his arms. “Said it was too loud here to focus.”

“He’s not wrong.” Aizawa murmured, forcibly folding his arms to resist the urge to reach out and pat the officer, cursing his fatigue once again. “What exactly is going on?” the detective sighed, looking as aggravated by the noise as Aizawa felt.

“There was a search and seizure operation conducted in certain parts of Roppongi early this morning.” He said. “They ended up arresting a lot of people, for probably unsound reasons, so the precinct is packed full right now.” The detective gestured to the room at large. “It’s…aggravating, to say the least, especially considering the officers responsible seem to be taking their sweet time with processing everyone. I know Roppongi can be a rough area, but even then, I doubt everyone here has committed crimes of some sort.” Aizawa nodded in agreement.

“You’d think they would set up a better system for processing people en masse like this.” He mused. The detective rolled his eyes.

“I wish. I doubt the leading detectives will be very popular, once this whole thing is over.” Aizawa nodded, then looked at the man with a raised eyebrow.

“Sorry, I think the night shift has been getting to me.” He held out a hand. “Eraserhead.” The feline officer smiled, shaking his head.

“Detective Tamakawa Sansa. I work closely with Tsukauchi.” Aizawa nodded, relieved when Tamakawa tilted his head to the side. “I’ll help you find Naomasa.”

“I don’t want to distract you from your work.” Aizawa insisted, but Tamakawa merely smiled again.

“Oh please, any excuse to get out of this room is one I’ll happily accept. Come on, I think he’s relocated to the third floor for now.”

Aizawa followed gladly, sighing audibly in relief when the door shut behind them, and the corridor was doused in silence almost immediately. It was a balm for his growing migraine, and he nodded in thanks as Tamakawa held open doors for him as they walked, not bothering to maintain a conversation as they went. Aizawa was exhausted, and looked as such, and he was thankful that Tamakawa had the tact to notice and be considerate of that fact.

Tsukauchi looked just as worn down when they finally located him, sequestered away in a small, dimly light corner of the third floor, with his usual tower of files situated to his right and a whole pot of black coffee sitting on a coaster. Aizawa raised an eyebrow at the latter. Good idea.

“Hey, Eraserhead.” Tsukauchi murmured when he looked up. “I hear you had an encounter with my very favourite person last night.” The detective sounded ready to put his head straight through a wall, which Aizawa couldn’t blame him for in the slightest.

“I did indeed.” He said. “I’ve already spoken to the composite sketch artist. I know I only saw her eyes really-”

“No, no, it’ll help. Any bit of news in this case does.” Tsukauchi said, folding his arms and staring pensively at a small smudge mark on the desk he was appropriating. “I heard that you’ve made a hypothesis about her.” Aizawa grunted, dragging a nearby chair over to slide into it, relaxing his muscles with relief.

“Not so much a hypothesis as a reasoned assumption.” He said quietly. “I know it’s a possibility that’s been explored before, but I am confident in the idea that she has children. Her body language suggested a personal tie to the subject when she brought it up, not to mention the fact that she lingered on the topic itself for so long. It would make sense, too; she goes after child abusers with just as much frenetic passion as she does regular abusers.”

Tsukauchi nodded, plucking up a folder and scrawling a note on the inside. “Well, it sounds reasonable enough to me, so I’ll add it to our official list of presumptions.” He ran a hand through his short, dark hair. “I heard she injured you.”

Aizawa shrugged. “A few stab wounds, nowhere critical. She wasn’t aiming for any major organs; frankly, I don’t think she was aiming to kill me at all, which is probably what kept me from getting worse injuries. She’s a lot faster than I remember her being.” Tsukauchi nodded.

Aizawa looked at the other man, taking in the pallid tone of his skin, and the way his entire body seemed to be struggling to hold him up. “You know, no-one would be insulted if you took the day off.” He murmured. “I doubt you’d get much done today, anyway, and even so, your time would probably be better spent processing all of those people downstairs. This case will still be here when you come back tomorrow, unfortunately.”

Tsukauchi smiled slightly. “I know, but…” he trailed off, shoulders sagging, “it’s hard to describe, but there’s something about Widowmaker that just engenders a sense of desperation. I want this case over and done with, and once again, you’ve provided us with what could be a proper lead, so I don’t feel like I can go and rest now.”

Aizawa heard someone groan behind him. “Just listen to other peoples’ advice for once, Tsukauchi. You look wrecked, and I doubt you’d be much help right now anyway.” Tamakawa said, shooting a reprimanding look at the other detective. “And Eraserhead is right. If you’re so determined to stay, you can help defuse the situation downstairs. A few fights have started breaking out.” Tsukauchi did frown at that.

“Already?” Tamakawa nodded. Tsukauchi groaned. “Shit.” The other man reluctantly got to his feet, putting the files to the side for now. “I really do hate Oba and her team for choosing to do this raid now. They have the worst timing.”

“Agreed,” Tamakawa said as Aizawa got to his feet and followed them, “besides, I heard they didn’t even recover that many weapons or drugs, certainly no suppliers, so the operation was kind of useless, at least on a wider scale.” Aizawa huffed out a small laugh at that, adjusting the cuff of his left sleeve as they went down the stairs.

“You’d think they would do better research before conducting such a big-”

If the room downstairs had been loud before, the sound was deafening now, people hollering and screaming. Aizawa stopped dead, as did Tsukauchi and Tamakawa, gawking at the room. The people being kept there weren’t the only ones yelling now, as Aizawa could distinctly see the police chief yelling at a female officer, who was glaring and snapping back.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Tsukauchi groaned, tipping his head into his hands. Aizawa shot him a curious look. Tamakawa elaborated for him.

“Sergeant Oba.” He said, indicating the female officer. “She’s been trouble since day one. I have no idea what she could have done this time to set the Captain off so badly.”

Aizawa watched for a moment as the captain yelled once more at the sergeant before she huffed and stormed off, looking deeply angry. He raised an eyebrow at Tamakawa, who just shook his head in defeat. Before either of them could speak further, though, there was a loud scream from inside the main holding cell, which cut easily through the cacophony in the rest of the station. Everyone outside the cell went dead still, staring at the locked door.

“Fuck.” Tsukauchi muttered.

Shouto hunched his shoulders in further, pressing his back solidly against the wall. As the sergeant had threatened, he’d been tossed right into the main holding cell in the precinct after he’d refused to bow and scrape like Oba had so clearly wanted him to. Though his pride was fully intact, though, Shouto was somewhat regretting his decision to be so standoffish. He doubted he would have been let go so fast, but he might at least have been allowed to sit and stew by himself in the interrogation room.

The main holding cell was chaotic, to put it in the simplest possible words. It was crammed well over capacity, first of all, and Shouto was just glad that he was small and skinny enough to have scored a seat. Throngs of people were pushing at the door, banging on the windows and yelling at one another. More than one scuffle had started since he’d been unceremoniously dumped in here, and Shouto was frighteningly aware of how many people probably had knives hidden on their person.

He swallowed, wishing he had made tea back at his apartment, even if his preferred type had been all gone – fucking Natsuo – because his throat was starting to resemble the Sahara. Shouto was absently running his tongue around the inside of his mouth, waiting until the tension inside the holding cell reached another crescendo, and another fight broke out.

He picked at his fingernails, wishing he had just resisted the urge to run his hands through his hair. He would have had to start cleaning up the mess left by the police in their apartment, which would undoubtedly be a monumental task, but slinking around complaining about cleaning was vastly preferable to sitting in a police station, surrounded by actual criminals, because of a police officer with a grudge.

At the very least, he didn’t seem to be the only person in the room who hadn’t done anything wrong. There was a tired young woman who looked beyond exhausted, and, if his eyes didn’t betray him, was a few months pregnant. Shouto dug his nails into his palms, uncaring when he felt small bites of pain, almost hoping the action would make him bleed. His heart had gravitated higher with every raised voice in the room, and Shouto had found himself closing his eyes reflexively whenever a tall person went lumbering by, trying to drag in small, narrow breaths and remind himself that he was in Roppongi. He was 15, not 5, and his father wasn’t here.

He could hear someone muttering angrily to someone else, and that was the only warning he had before the tension in the room came to a peak again.

“Fuck off!” one man yelled, jerking an elbow deep into the gut of the man seated next to him. “Gimme space, shitstain.” The other man, who obviously hadn’t been doing anything, as proven by the fact that he was already as squashed up as he could be, scowled.

“Watch your mouth, asshat.” He spat. “I ain’t doing anything, ‘sides, I can’t move anywhere.” The taller man growled, and Shouto found himself shrinking back against the wall instinctively, stomach turning as he felt a hand wrap roughly around his upper arm.

No, there was no-one touching him, everyone absorbed in the disagreement breaking out between the two men. He pressed the soles of his feet firmly against the cold ground, fighting the shudders that wanted to wrack his body as he ran his hands up and down his arms. Nothing, no-one. He wasn’t being touched, except where his legs were being accidentally nudged by the people on either side of him. He swallowed thickly, heart hammering uncomfortably in his chest.

“You really don’t wanna go up against me.” The first man was saying now, chuckling darkly. “Just keep to yourself, and move the fuck over, and I’ll consider letting you walk outta here.”

Shouto’s hands were shaking, and he shoved them into his pockets, sliding his feet out a little further as he tried to stay calm. This was the absolute last place to have a breakdown of any kind, and he sincerely doubted that the shaking, hyperventilating and crying that accompanied one of his panic attacks would be well received in this small, narrow space. He felt someone tap his arm. He looked up to see a woman, perhaps in her mid-fifties, frowning at him.

“You okay?” she murmured. Shouto gulped in another breath, wanting to answer but finding his throat closed and burning. He choked, withdrawing further into himself as he saw the woman frown and murmur something to the young man sitting next to her.

He wanted Touya, Fuyumi, Natsu, his mother. He just wanted to be wrapped up in his family members’ arms and calmed down. He hated that his brain always did this to him.

His vision was starting to spin with dark spots, and he could tell that the people around him had picked up on his panic. It was then, while the many occupants of the cell were slowly becoming aware of someone’s rapid onset panic attack, that the man who’d instigated the argument lost his temper.

Shouto saw a flash of metal – one of those concealed knives he had been worried about – and heard a grunt of pain, sharp and surprised, from the second man, and his hand was on his right wrist. A small slip of metal – in the pocket of the jacket, thank god Touya always had them on hand – and the cuff that kept his right side under control was sliding free. Shouto saw the man twist, bloody knife bared as the man he’d stabbed staggered back in shock, and turn to face the shouting woman – the pregnant one – who had been telling him to leave the other man alone.

His panic spiked, suddenly, and the temperature dropped.

Someone yelled, screaming in alarm at a quirk being used as the man choked in shock, now encased up to the neck in ice. Shouto barely had the time or clarity of mind to clamp the cuff back around his wrist and slide the key into his pocket before the cell door was slammed open, and police were coming in. He felt a hand fist itself in the back of his jacket – real this time, not a trauma-induced illusion – before he was roughly jerked from his seat and hauled outside. A familiar feeling.

Please, I’ll train, I promise. I’m doing my best. I’m sorry.

Shouto felt his feet slip in the pool of blood left by the man who had been stabbed as he, the injured man and the woman who’d been talking to him earlier were all dragged outside. He could hear someone talking inside the cell, undoubtedly wanting to free the stabber from the ice, but it felt like there was static in his ears. Someone was shouting at him, an angry face accompanying the words, but Shouto was blind and deaf to it, his chest heaving as his breath stuttered hopelessly in his chest.

The man was gone, suddenly, and Shouto could do little more than double over, gripping his own forearms as he let the panic attack take over him completely.

Aizawa stared as a trio were dragged from the main holding cell, one drenched in blood.

“Shit,” Tsukauchi muttered. “Did they seriously not check for dangerous quirks before stuffing everyone inside there?” Aizawa watched one of the emerging officers, who tossed a small, bloodied knife to the ground.

“Ironic that a prisoner would attack another with a knife, given this was supposed to be a search and seizure operation.” He said dryly, turning to the two detectives. “The cell shouldn’t be over-capacity, anyway. Any idiot knows that can get dangerous, and fast.” He watched as one officer bent down, yelling at one of the prisoners, who only bent further in on themselves, hands stretching up to cover their ears. Their feet were slick with blood on the soles, and he had to wonder what exactly had happened in there.

“This whole thing is just a big pile of shit,” Tsukauchi said bluntly as a stand-by medic knelt, by the injured man to start tending to the leaking stab wounds in his side. The police officer yelling at one of the prisoners scowled, straightening up and marching off and leaving the non-injured prisoners to their devices. As the officer passed, Tamakawa grabbed him by the arm.

“Sakakibara, what’s going on over there?” he asked. The officer sighed, jabbing a thumb.

“Some guy in the cell stabbed that poor fucker on the ground. One of the others used their quirk on him.” Tamakawa and Tsukauchi winced.

“Is the blood from the stabbing or the quirk?” Tsukauchi asked. The officer shrugged.

“Stabbing. The other one’s quirk just encased the dude in ice.” He said. “I gotta get the Captain. This situation is out of hand.” Tamakawa nodded, letting the man pass as they all looked over at the slumped figures on the ground. The one that Sakakibara had been yelling at – the one who had used their quirk – was sitting on the ground, shaking, with their head buried in their knees. Aizawa frowned, watching as one of the other people dragged outside, a woman with dark skin, shuffled over, placing a tentative hand on their shoulder and murmuring to them.

“Can I not get one minute of peace?” the Captain groaned as he emerged from his office, the disobedient sergeant, Oba, on his tail. He shot the room a disappointed look. “What’s happened now?” Sakakibara quickly explained as the Captain rubbed at his temples, while Oba eyed the prisoners that had been dragged outside, sneering.

“Well, I can add ‘inciting violence’ to his arrest record, now.” She sniffed, saying it mostly to herself. Aizawa followed her gaze to the prisoner seated on the floor. His shaking had ceased, probably due to the comfort provided by the woman next to him, but now that Aizawa looked closely at him…he looked young. Too young to be caught up in something like this. He was distinct anyway, with red and white hair split down the middle. The Captain, having heard the sergeant’s comment, frowned at her.

“According to Sakakibara, he was the one to de-escalate the situation.” He said simply. Aizawa watched the tense line of the prisoner’s shoulders.

“He’s having a panic attack.” He stated simply. “How long have you had them all in that holding cell?”

Oba glared at him. “Not long.” She insisted. “If he can’t tolerate the inside of a cell, he shouldn’t have chosen the path of criminality.” Aizawa rolled his eyes as Tsukauchi walked forwards, obviously to confer with the officers stationed by the door before he too knelt to help calm the shaking man. Aizawa turned to Tamakawa, about to ask him whether there was any paperwork he had yet to complete when Tsukauchi’s voice rang out from the other end of the room.

“Oba? You’re the one who arrested this guy?” Aizawa turned, surprised to see an angry look in his eyes. Oba nodded, folding her arms primly. “Got it. What for?”

“Excuse me, detective?” she said. Aizawa had to try very hard not to properly face-palm, then, as she looked down her nose at Tsukauchi.

“Why did you arrest him?” Oba scoffed at the words.

“I’ve encountered him before, he engages in basic criminality, and I considered there to be suspicious items at his residence, and on his person.” She said simply. Tsukauchi nodded, rubbing his temples.

“Right. I’m assuming by that you mean the cuffs?” Oba nodded, and Aizawa raised an eyebrow as he noted the quirk-suppressant cuffs locked around the guy’s wrists. They clearly weren’t police-issued. Interesting. Tsukauchi turned to Oba, expression openly angry. “Okay. And I would hope, that after years in this precinct, that you would know that the proceedings for offenders can vary depending on their age group?”

“Yes.” She snapped. “And?” Tsukauchi gestured to the prisoner on the ground.

“Oba, this is a minor, but you put him in for processing as an adult.” He gestured to the holding cell. “We put minors in holding cells only as a last resort, and definitely not in circumstances such as these.” Oba stiffened.

“He’s practically an adult, anyway.” She retorted. “I was justified in treating him as such.” Tsukauchi looked at her, clearly not believing her, and turned to the young man on the floor, gently touching his shoulder to get his attention. He finally lifted his head from his knees, and Aizawa felt his stomach turn. That was a fucking teenager, clearly not one who was about to become a legal adult.

“Bullshit,” Aizawa said in response to Oba’s statement before Tsukauchi could speak, gesturing to the kid. “I’m a teacher, I know what kids look like at different ages. He’s not in his late teens.”

“How old are you?” Tsukauchi gently asked the teen, leaning down to hear when the kid murmured an answer back, shooting an angry look at Oba. “15.” He repeated, voice steely. “Seriously, Oba? You arrested a 15-year-old for wearing quirk suppressant cuffs?”

The sergeant didn’t respond, and Aizawa saw the Captain throw his head back, eying the ceiling in a clear, ‘God give me strength’ sort of look, before eying Oba.

“You’re dismissed for the day, Oba, pending a review into this incident.” He said, waving off her immediate complaints. Tsukauchi helped the teen to his feet, and Aizawa felt his stomach twist when he got another good look at his face. He was taller than average, yes, surprisingly so, but he was definitely just a kid. He sighed. It wasn’t even 9am yet, how had his day gotten so ridiculous so quickly?

He registered the time with a groan. He’d have to get Hizashi to cover his homeroom again. Shit.

He was ready to turn to Tamakawa and bid him farewell, and perhaps give Sergeant Oba an ugly look for arresting a harmless teenager on his way out, when his instincts abruptly started screaming. He went ramrod straight, and barely had time to turn to Tamakawa, open his mouth to offer a warning for whatever unknown threat was bearing down on them, when the entire building shook, and the lights all went out, plunging the room into relative dimness.

Then, because Aizawa’s reliability as a teacher wasn’t already on the rocks enough, he felt the temperature drop.

Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station Roppongi station

Rei swept one of her hands forward, ice exploding outwards at her command and slamming into the side of the tall, brick building. She watched with glee as the ice climbed the walls, spiking outwards wildly. She could hear shocked screams down in the street below, but she couldn’t be bothered investigating them. She’d taken care to ensure there was no-one in the way when she’d lashed out with her quirk, and if they didn’t run now, any harm that befell them was their own doing.

Rei sucked air through her black biker’s mask, entirely unused to being out in daylight with her costume on. She should be worried, she knew that, but the only thing running through her mind was pure, unadulterated conviction; she needed to get her son back, needed to show these police why they shouldn’t mess with the woman known as Widowmaker.


Spires of ice burst up from the bank she’d created at the base of the building she’d claimed as her vantage point, spearing into brick, shattering glass and setting off countless alarms within the precinct itself. It would be chaos inside, undoubtedly, but the minute she saw the two-toned head that she’d kissed in farewell just five days ago, she would be able to move with purpose. She sucked in shaking breath after shaking breath.

Shouto. Shouto. Shouto.

He was her baby, her youngest now and forever. No matter how old he got, Rei would always want – always need – to be able to wrap him in her arms and keep him safe. She’d been unable to do that, once, and it had permanently scarred him. She refused to let him be hurt by anyone who dared gather power for themselves and lord over others again. She had to find him, had to protect him, had to keep him safe from every harm the world sought to throw at him.

Shouto. Shouto. Shouto. Shouto. Shouto.

It was a litany in her head; a lament for his absence and a war cry calling for his return. If the police thought they could…if they thought they had the right

Kill them. Kill anyone who dares touch them. They’re my children, mine, not yours. Stay away from them.

There was movement inside before police officers were streaming out, gawking at the ice structure she’d hurled up against the building to make it shake and rattle. She saw their eyes follow the shape of it from the wall to the ground where it had originated, saw them cast their eyes around, searching valiantly for her, and smiled when the first of them spotted her atop the building, yelped in horror, pointed her out.

“Give. Him. Back.”

Aizawa knew he was white as a sheet, but given the experiences he’d had in the last few hours, he felt well entitled to being a little shaken. He could feel the sudden coldness in the air, had heard the same low scraping noise of ice growing on a building that had haunted him just hours ago, and even heard the low, frightened cry of ‘Widowmaker!’ that had been carried from the officers outside to those inside.

“Oh god.” Tsukauchi murmured, eyes blown wide with shock. “Is it really…?”

The building shuddered violently again, the light fixtures swinging alarmingly. Aizawa bit down on the inside of his cheek to stop himself from swearing. Tamakawa, standing about a metre to his left, wasn’t so restrained.

“Oh, fucking shit…” the feline officer muttered, eyes wide with alarm. Tsukauchi reached out, resting a hand on the detective’s arm.

“We’ll be fine if we stay away from the windows, I think.” He said, tone comforting as he nudged the other man backwards a little, frowning as he surveyed the room. “Widowmaker normally doesn’t get involved unless there are abusers, though, so why…?”

Aizawa was thinking the exact same thing; Widowmaker was never the type to go after innocents. One of her targets might have been arrested by police during the raid, but it made no sense for her to pursue someone who was already in custody. Not to mention, she’d been in Saitama just a few hours ago, as had Aizawa, and he’d studied her attack patterns enough when he was younger to know that she tended to stay in areas outside inner Tokyo to ‘purge’ them for a few weeks at a time. Her attacks in Saitama, as he’d learned in the hospital, had been going on for only four or five days now. So why the hell was she here? Widowmaker didn’t attack buildings, or large groups of people, and certainly not in broad daylight. There was something they were missing here.

He heard movement behind him, spotting the teenager that Sergeant Oba had apparently arrested, who seemed intent on making a beeline for the exit. Unthinkingly, he reached out and grabbed the boy’s hand, a warning about the danger already halfway out of his mouth before his whole body went numb.

It was a chance thing, really; Aizawa just so happened to turn and face the boy at the exact same moment that he turned in his direction, both of which happened as a hero outside, obviously having come to deal with the Widowmaker situation, knocked down some of the ice obscuring the exterior windows. It let in just enough light that the right side of the boy’s face was thrown into sharp relief, and Aizawa truly, properly observed the right side of his face.

For a moment, he felt suspended in empty air, thinking blindly that he was back on the rooftop, facing off against the vigilante that was now outside, their eyes meeting across a stretch of ice. He almost felt his healing stab wounds burn with pain, remembered easily for their freshness, and his lungs constricted as his gaze locked onto the boy’s right eye. It was a dark shade of grey, with black flecks towards the centre. They were distinct, but more importantly, they were identical to another he’d seen not long ago. Almost against his will, Aizawa’s grip on the teen tightened as his subconscious came to a conclusion that his conscious mind was still frantically working through.

He has a grey eye, identical to hers. White hair, too.

I am confident in the idea that she has children.

The other one’s quirk just encased the dude in ice.


The teen went to move, and Aizawa locked his hand shut, refusing to let go. He was staring at the kid, taking in every part of the right side of his face. There was a resemblance there, of course. The raid on Roppongi had taken place just a few hours ago, probably around the same time that he had been facing Widowmaker on the rooftop. She was here, now, attacking the police precinct, something she’d never done before, in her eight years of violent vigilantism.

Oh. Shit.

Aizawa really hoped that Sergeant Oba had high employability, because he couldn’t see her keeping her job after this.

The building shook again, and Aizawa tugged the teenager closer, almost unthinkingly.

What has your mother been teaching you?

“Get all of the prisoners into the bowels of the building,” the captain ordered, “we can’t have her breaking any of them out until they’ve been properly processed.” The room was filled with a flurry of activity with those words alone, and Aizawa found his grip on the teen released as another officer seized him and dragged him towards the stairs.

It would have been in everyone’s best interest to let him go. He thought numbly before the building shuddered again, a glass somewhere in the room falling from a table and shattering on the floor. There was a moment of complete silence before he became aware of yelling and shouting outside; more heroes had arrived.

Tsukauchi aptly summarised everyone’s thought process; “This isn’t going to end well.”

Rei wanted to scream as she watched more heroes land in the streets below, eying her with wariness and caution.

Just give him back and I’ll leave you be.

Just give him back.

“Widowmaker! Cease these hostilities at once!” one voice cried out. She turned an apathetic gaze downwards. Hmm. Kamui Woods. She’d seen him around recently; he was a good hero, certainly, but he hadn’t done anything in particular to stand out, in her mind. She didn’t lift a hand to fight him, though. Her eyes fixed themselves back on the police precinct.


She wanted to get inside, to run through the walls and fight and kill until she had her son back. She knew that they had him; a quick call from Malware had been enough to tell her that all people taken in the Roppongi raid had been escorted to the Roppongi police station – as was logical. She felt like her limbs were ready to fall off.

Just give him back. It’s easy. Just open the doors and give me my son back. I’ll never bother any of you again. Please, I need him back. Please.

Rei clenched her jaw as another hero – Yoroi Musha – skidded to a stop next to Kamui Woods. Go away, just go away. I’m only here for one thing, and none of you will get hurt if you just stay out of my way.

She could hear orders being yelled to people down below, and her heart thudded.

I’ll do whatever I must to get him back, please, please just-

“Okay, Endeavour’s en-route.”

Everything stopped working. Her fingers, ready and waiting to use her quirk again, dropped to her sides, and her stomach rebelled so fiercely she had to clamp her mouth shut to resist the urge to vomit. She was still, horrifyingly so.

Endeavour’s coming Endeavour’s coming Endeavour’s coming Endeavour’s coming Endeavour’s coming Endeavour’s coming Endeavour’s coming Endeavour’s coming Endeavour’s coming

Enji, no, no, no, please no-

Rei jerked, her entire body shuddering as everything came crashing back. Far below, everyone jumped, falling into combat stances immediately. She was shaking now, she realised. If she stayed here, Enji would come and he would-

But she was strong, she could fight him-

He was smart he’d know why she was here the only reason she would be here-


This time, when the name rang through her head, it was spat, not murmured lovingly. In her mind, it wasn’t her voice saying it. She sobbed, swaying. No, she couldn’t let Enji see they were still alive, couldn’t let him suspect that one of her children was here, within reach.

The police were awful, but Enji was infinitely worse.

Had any of the heroes gathered around been any closer, they would have been able to see tears rolling down the space between her thermal goggles and biker mask. Rei’s breath rattled when she next drew it, released as a shuddering sob as she turned, readying her quirk to bear her away.

I’m so sorry Shouto, I love you.

I’ll be back for you. I swear on my life, I will get you back.

The building had stopped shaking, and much of the yelling outside had died down, so Naomasa was left to reason that either Widowmaker had been well and truly outflanked and had fled, or all of the heroes who’d answered their distress call were dead.

Naomasa was sincerely hoping for the former of the two options.

Aizawa, standing next to him still, looked shellshocked. Or, as shellshocked as his generally inexpressive face could manage to portray. Naomasa couldn’t tell whether the stark paleness of his face, and the deeply contemplative look he’d borne the last ten or so minutes was because he was in thought, or if he was truly that disturbed by Widowmaker showing up at the precinct. Given that the poor man had fought her not even twelve hours ago, Naomasa couldn’t fault him for either possibility.

They were all tense, waiting in anticipation until a young hero came inside to inform them that Widowmaker had fled, with several heroes giving chase. Naomasa finally let himself relax.

“What the hell was that all about?” Tamakawa asked, his paw pressed nervously against Naomasa’s arm. He was shaking slightly, and Naomasa reached over to rub a slow circle into the back of his hand.

“Sergeant Oba made a bigger mistake than she thought she did.” Aizawa murmured, eying Naomasa and Tamakawa. “Come with me.”

Naomasa was baffled, he truly was, not least by Aizawa’s odd behaviour. This whole day, from the disaster of the raid to the attack by Widowmaker to the underground hero’s strange mannerisms, had been unnerving and bizarre. Naomasa was always in need of sleep, but now more than ever. His confusion was already immense, and he found it compounded further when Aizawa slipped through the bowels of the building, sifting through the prisoners until he located the teenager from earlier, the one Naomasa had talked down from a panic attack, and got him to follow them back into another secure room.

“You know, I’m trying to figure out if you actually know more than you’re letting on, or if you’re just as confused as we are,” Tamakawa said as the police chief slipped into the room as well.

“This had better be important, Eraserhead.” The captain said, frowning slightly at the pro hero. “Widowmaker just attacked us, after all. That requires an investigation.” He eyed the teenager, undoubtedly curious as to what he was doing there. Aizawa rubbed his eyes.

“Frankly, you should fire Sergeant Oba,” Aizawa said, gesturing to the teenager. “She wrongfully arrested a 15-year-old boy, for arbitrary, petty reasons, and then had him processed as an adult and subjected to a highly stressful environment despite being well aware of his actual age.” The captain frowned.

“I’ll have her conduct investigated.” He muttered, sounding impatient. Aizawa talked on, ignoring the man’s attempts to cut to the chase.

“I would like to gain your assurances that, before I say anything further, you will proceed in a legally sound manner, and in a way that respects the rights this young man has.” He again gestured to the teenager, who had gone deathly pale. The captain glared at him, even as Naomasa and Tamakawa alike both nodded and agreed easily.


“Well?” the pro hero fixed the captain with a harsh look. The man huffed, rubbing his forehead.

“Yes, I promise, Eraser. Can this not wait until later? Unless you were absent the last half hour, we were just attacked by a high-grade, extremely dangerous vigilante.”

“Well, of course we were. Of course she attacked us.” Aizawa murmured, turning his gaze to the teen, whose eyes were fixed on the linoleum floor. “You arrested her son.”

Chapter Text

Shouto picked at his sleeves again, fiddling with a loose thread as he firmly ignored the low humming of the car’s engine, and even more deliberately ignored the buildings flashing by through the window. The detective beside him was uncomfortable, obviously not good at dealing with children or teenagers – that much was painfully clear – but the man had been trying his best for a few hours anyway. He’d long since abandoned the attempts at conversation he’d made when they’d first gotten in the car, and though Shouto was relieved to not have to answer questions, the oppressive silence in the car was almost worse.

Really, he was just glad to have gotten some rest. After the verifiable nightmare that had been yesterday, Shouto had expected to lie awake for hours and let his thoughts run wild. But the minute he’d been dragged away from the cacophony and set up in a small, secure room in the precinct, he’d passed out and stayed asleep until he’d been forcibly woken up at about 5 am the next day. It was in part due to him having been put under so much stress in the one day, but probably also because he’d been awake since 3 in the morning. In any case, Shouto did wish he had been able to stay awake, but even he couldn’t deny how good it felt to have gotten a proper night’s sleep.

Even if he had been conscious, though, it wouldn’t have helped much. After the exhausted, semi-homeless looking man had dropped the bomb of Shouto’s parentage – which he still didn’t understand how the other had known – he’d been quickly ushered off while the people in his wake murmured in concern to one another. No-one had seen fit to tell him anything since then, so Shouto was understandably put-off at having been shoved into the backseat of a car and driven away from the police station.

He felt itchy and restless all over, every part of him geared up and ready to bolt even as he folded his legs under him, glaring at the man in the passenger seat who looked ready to lecture him. He had no idea what the police were planning to do with him, but it was obvious that they weren’t going to let him go anytime soon. Even though Shouto himself hadn’t done anything wrong, he was now at the centre of the manhunt focused on his mother, and he had no way of escaping it.

He should have just let himself hyperventilate, watched that man in the cell die, and kept his quirk to himself.

The car slowed to a stop, and Shouto scowled as one of the other men in the car clambered out, shooting one last look at him through the glass before vanishing. The detective still seated next to Shouto eyed him, and he did his best to ignore the gaze. He heard a low sigh.

“Listen, kid…” the man trailed off, shaking his head as he brushed a lock of black hair out of his eyes. “Nothing bad is going to happen to you.” Shouto clenched his hands into fists. “We can’t let you go, and I’m sorry for that, since you actually have done nothing wrong,” the man scratched the back of his neck, “but you’re not gonna get throw into a cell of any sort. We just want to keep you, and everyone else involved in this case, as safe as we can.”

Shouto watched a line of trees slide by his window, drumming his fingers on his leg. “Then what are you going to do with me?” he murmured. The detective jumped a little – probably not expecting an actual response – and sighed.

“We’re taking you somewhere safe and secure.” He said firmly. “I know that you want to be back home, with your mother, but she’s at the centre of a police investigation, so, unfortunately, we can’t do that.” He shot him a look. “Though, if you had other family, we could call them?”

That thought was tempting. It was also a clear trap. Shouto shot the man a light glare, but the detective looked unbothered, chuckling slightly. “It was worth a try.” He murmured.

Shouto slumped back against the seat of the car, watching the world slide by again as he wished he was anywhere else.

“I’ll stand by my suggestion, sir,” Aizawa murmured into the receiver, frowning at the harsh tone of the police chief’s words, “we don’t know if Widowmaker is going to strike again, or if she knows how to track her son in any way. If she does launch another attack, I’d rather not let civilians get caught up in it.”

“I understand that.” The man snapped, tone full of weariness. “But this is a police investigation, and therefore under the jurisdiction of the police. This seems like a thinly-veiled attempt to pass guardianship of this case over to the pro heroes. I respect the work you all do, but my men have done enough hard work on this that they deserve credit for solving it, first and foremost.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself.” Aizawa murmured. “This case isn’t solved yet, and the kid doesn’t seem to want to talk in any capacity. I don’t particularly care about the investigation, frankly; my main concern is the boy himself.”

“Are you insinuating we would not be able to keep the boy under control?” the chief muttered, voice full of warning.

“The fact that your first priority is ‘keeping him under control’ rather than ensuring his welfare, is of concern to me.” Aizawa snapped back. “Regardless of who his mother is, this kid is just that, a kid. He hasn’t committed any crimes from what we know, so he isn’t the sort of person that you would need to ‘keep under control’. Keeping people locked up in cells is conducive neither to stress levels or personal wellbeing. Even if you placed him in a safe house, well, Widowmaker’s well and truly proven that she has an associate well capable of breaking down complex firewalls. That information could be leaked, and I doubt that a few armed guards would be able to stand between a desperate mother and her child, whether she was a vigilante or not.

“I understand your concerns, but it’s clear to me, in any case, that this kid isn’t going to be speaking to anyone about his mother. There’s no point putting him under pressure and interrogating him when you’re going to get nowhere. He has a strong quirk, the incident in the holding cell has proven that enough. Do you really want a volatile teenager with a strong quirk running around your precinct? Or do you want him safely tucked away in a place practically incapable of being breached, which is specifically designed to take care of volatile teenagers with quirks stronger than they can handle?”

The police chief fell silent in the face of Aizawa’s tirade, and he rubbed his temples. “This case is already going to turn into a nightmare, with the publicity on Widowmaker’s attack, sir. Do you really want anyone to know that you’re unlawfully detaining a teenaged boy as well? UA is more than used to fending off attacks from the media, and he’ll be surrounded by some of the most capable heroes in the field. Unless you consider your officers more capable than All Might himself, that is.”

Silence met his words again, and Aizawa knew he had won even before the weary sigh filtered through the receiver.

“I still don’t like this.” He said. Aizawa shrugged.

“I understand, but he’ll be right under my eyes, as well as those of Nedzu. I’m the only one who can counteract what we know of his quirk if those cuffs come off again. If he has inherited his mother’s power, he isn’t someone you’ll want to face in combat, I can tell you that much.”

“That is true.” The police chief sighed. “And what of your own students? You are a teacher, are you not, Eraser?” Aizawa grimaced. Today marked the second consecutive day he would be absent from classes, and he knew his students would be getting antsy and start speculating if they hadn’t already.

“As I said, the campus is secure, and he can stay with the teachers in the dorms if need be. Information is more readily offered in the face of kindness than it is pressure, sir.”

That finally seemed to break down the man’s conviction, and it was a wonderful feeling to finally get the final confirmation he needed. Hanging up was a relief, and sending on a message to the car bearing Tsukauchi and the surly teen telling them to move in the direction of UA was even more so.

It had been an easy decision, in Aizawa’s own mind, what was to be done with Widowmaker’s silent son. Where others had wanted him detained and questioned rigorously, Aizawa had been unflinching in his desire for the boy to be temporarily housed at UA. There was no other reasonable solution, in his mind. The chance that Widowmaker would strike again in search of her son was high, and UA was one of the only places in the city that could withstand such an attack. Not to mention, it would be much better for the boy’s mental health that he be in a relaxed environment with his peers, rather than being stared down at by countless investigators for hours on end.

Tamakawa looked up as he approached, ears flickering slightly. “Has the chief given in yet?” Aizawa smirked slightly, nodding.

“Yes, thankfully, though he wasn’t too pleased to give us guardianship of the kid.” He said. “Seems to think I want to take over the case or something like that,” Tamakawa smirked.

“Scandalous.” He said, rolling his eyes slightly. “Maybe you should, though. You seem to have luck where Widowmaker is concerned.” Aizawa smiled ever so slightly.

“I’m sleep deprived enough as things stand.” He said. “I’d rather not exacerbate the problem.” Tamakawa laughed at that, and Aizawa leant back, pressing his head against the cool concrete behind him. “God, I hope this ends well.” He muttered. Tamakawa smiled a little sadly.

“I’m almost certain it won’t.” he said, “But it’s worth a try anyway.”

Shouto stared.

And stared more. And rubbed his eyes, looked away, and looked back. Nothing had changed.

“Are you sure you didn’t take a wrong turn?” he asked, blinking rapidly as if that would alter the image right before his eyes. He heard a low chuckle, from the dark-haired detective who was in the car with him.

“I’m sure.” He said, tone a lot warmer than it had been before. “We judged this to be the best place to keep you, for the time being. It’s secure, and we also didn’t think it would be right to lock you up when you’ve done nothing wrong. Thus,” he gestured at the tall gates, “you’ll be staying here.”

Shouto turned his eyes back to the gates, staring at the tall, gleaming letters adorned on them. The walls easily dwarfed him, and over the top edges of them, he could see shining buildings packed with massive windows, the tips of swaying, lush trees, and lines of distant, brick buildings. He swallowed. As much time as he spent daydreaming how his life may have turned out, had he not been landed with a shithole father, Shouto had never actually had any sort of expectation that he would ever end up at UA, whether as a student or otherwise. It was a pleasant fantasy, but just that, a fantasy. Standing before the gates made him feel rather like he’d stumbled into some sort of alternate universe, where fathers didn’t hit their kids, and he had a chance at becoming a hero.

“I still don’t get why I’m here.” he murmured as the gate before them was swung open, revealing a man with peculiarly shaped blond hair, orange glasses, and far too much leather in his ensemble. The detective smiled slightly.

“It’s the best place for you right now, I promise.” The detective said, hand gesturing forwards in a way that indicated he expected Shouto to go first. As much as it ground on him to have his back to the man, the detective had given him no reason to believe he should outright distrust him, at least so far, so Shouto gritted his teeth and walked forwards.

We didn’t think it would be right to lock you up when you’ve done nothing wrong. That was a lie, he thought as he squinted at the cameras mounted around the gate, and the countless other small signs that gave away a high-calibre security system. This is still a prison, it just doesn’t look as much like one. He shot the blond man by the gate a suspicious look as he slipped past. He was probably a hero, judging by his getup – their family had never been one to keep up with the numerous heroes running around nowadays, so he didn’t immediately recognise him – but that didn’t mean Shouto trusted him. After all, it was easy enough to hide malice behind a mask of goodwill and talent.

Being inside the gates, Shouto had a far better view of the hero school that had been so easily dominating news headlines since the start of the year. The grounds were lovely; vibrant green grass bracketed smoothly paved walkways, with trees offering shade across the gently sloping ground. He could see the massive wall that ringed the campus stretching as far as the eye could see in both directions, undoubtedly curving around to encompass whatever insanity was contained within UA’s walls. Shouto hunched his shoulders, feeling distinctly out of place in his rundown clothes, quirk cuffs and oversized jacket. This place was one where prestige and talent echoed about, and he felt practically alien in comparison.

Walls of gilt metal and glass didn’t suit the likes of him. He had grown accustomed to watching his step around their apartment building back home, eyes peeled for used needles hidden in underbrush ready to slice at his feet. He no longer stared at the sight of rubbish piled high or broken bottles littering the ground in waves of shattered glints of light. His home was one shoved between dilapidated buildings and occupied by a score of people who could only be described as markedly lower class. And he was comfortable there. But here? He felt the restless itching arise again, begging him to turn tail and run. He might have been born into money, but he definitely hadn’t been raised in it.

The detective gave him a gentle look. “You alright?” Somehow, as kind as his tone was, the words grated on Shouto even more, and he tucked his chin into his chest, scowling at the ground.

“Fine.” He snapped. “So, am I going to be sleeping out in the open, or…?” the detective chuckled slightly, turning away from him to wave over a tall man with wild blond hair and a practically skeletal frame.

“There’s still some discussions about which dorms you’ll be housed in, but you’ll have your own room, don’t worry.” He turned to the emaciated man with a smile. “Hey Toshinori, good to see you.”

“And you, Naomasa.” The man chuckled, his voice deeper and somehow more resonant than Shouto had expected. His eyes, a bright shade of blue, landed on Shouto, and he smiled slightly. “Ahh, this is the, uhhh, newcomer?” the detective – Naomasa, apparently – nodded.

“He is.” He confirmed. “Aizawa said he’ll be coming back soon. Still had some issues to work out with the chief, but they should have put them to rest by now.” He stepped back a little, to allow the taller man to approach Shouto. He bowed slightly, smiling again. As unnerving as it was to see someone so tall be so slender, the man’s smile was kind, and Shouto found himself relaxing almost against his will.

“I’m Yagi Toshinori,” the man introduced himself, smile widening when Shouto hesitantly accepted the handshake he offered, “I’m a member of staff here at UA. I understand this must have been a very strange last 48 hours.” Shouto nodded mutely. The man – Yagi – didn’t look offended at him having not given him a name in response, and his next words stunned Shouto. “Is there anything you want me to call you? I’m not asking for your real name if you’re not comfortable giving it, but I do feel rather against simply calling you ‘newcomer’.” Shouto blinked in surprise.

“Oh, uh, Shouto.” He said, the honesty shocked out of him by the man’s gentle, understanding nature. Yagi smiled.

“Ahh, thank you, my boy.” He said, clasping his large hands together. “Now, I know that we haven’t determined your living arrangements exactly, yet, but I am probably correct in assuming that a shower and some proper food wouldn’t go awry?”

Shouto’s pride, and the insistent stubbornness that his mother always said he inherited from Touya, wanted him to decline, turn down the kind offer and be as standoffish as possible. But the clothes he was wrapped in were sticking uncomfortably to his dirty skin, and the hollow ache in his stomach was making his knees feel a little weak and shaky. He sighed quietly, nodding. Yagi smiled again. “Very well. Let’s see what we can do to get you a little settled in. Is it alright for me to take things from here, Naomasa?”

The detective nodded, smiling. “Absolutely.” He assured him. “I’m going to wait for Aizawa to see how this is going to be worked out.” He nodded to Shouto, smiling comfortingly. “I know this is a lot to take in, but you’ll be well taken care of here.” Shouto just huffed, jamming his hands deep in his jacket pockets as the detective walked away, leaving him with the mystery man Yagi.

“Well,” the man said, clapping his hands together, “shall we get going?” Shouto just shrugged, following him as he walked across campus. He eyed Yagi as he walked. There was something eerily familiar about the man, though he was certain he’d never seen anyone like him before; even most junkies Shouto had met tended to have more meat on their bones. He furrowed his brow as he quietly thought over it.

It was entirely likely that it was just a recollection of scattered characteristics he’d seen on other people – the sheer height was something he’d always associated with Touya, though even his brother would look short next to this guy – and the wild hair was something he’d seen on more than a few pro heroes – ones like Hawks and even Miruko after a large battle. But it somehow felt deeper than that. There was a primal, fundamental part of him that was screaming familiar! familiar! familiar! and he couldn’t puzzle out why. Shouto sighed quietly, eying a massive school oval with a red track hugging the outside.

“Forgive me if this is intrusive, my boy,” Yagi murmured, startling him from his absent observation of the grounds, “but how are you feeling? I imagine this is all a little distressing.” Shouto folded his arms, flicking at a stone with his bare foot.

“Well being here is better than a jail cell, I suppose.” He muttered. “Though even here is kinda uncomfortable.” Yagi frowned slightly.

“Uncomfortable?” he asked. Shouto debated answering, glaring at the ground as Yagi slowed his pace to perfectly match Shouto’s.

“It’s just…this place looks so clean and glamourous and…” he trailed off, gesturing to the area around them before he swept his hands back towards himself, “well, I’m not.” Yagi’s smile softened, and he carefully placed a hand on Shouto’s shoulder.

“Wealth, or lack thereof, isn’t something that the people at UA are interested in,” he said gently, “and our only intention is to keep you safe and comfortable while this situation is figured out. I am sorry to hear that you feel uncomfortable here, but our members of staff will do whatever we can to support you. Dealing with teenagers is something of our speciality, after all.”

Shouto relaxed, nodding. He still had no idea who Yagi reminded him so viscerally of, but he liked the man, at least from what he’d seen so far. There was a deep genuineness to everything he said, and it put Shouto at ease, even though that didn’t seem to be something the man was trying too hard to do. He was being honest, refreshingly so, and he was obviously kind by nature. It assuaged the anxiety that had been stewing in his gut since yesterday, and he nodded again as Yagi squeezed his shoulder and let go.

“Now, why don’t we see what we can do about getting you showered and in new clothes?”

“Hey, Aizawa-sensei! You’re alright!” Aizawa looked up at the cheerful shouts, raising an eyebrow at Kirishima, who’d been the one who had just spoken. Swinging by the 1-A dorms hadn’t been part of his plan for the afternoon, but he’d found his feet leading him there almost automatically. He came to a stop as some of his other students also wandered outside, drawn by Kirishima’s loud words, and exclaimed their own greetings.

He could see some sharp, analytical gazes, searching for any signs of injury on his body. With the sorts of things that his class had endured already, just one semester into the school year, he could understand some of their anxiety over his wellbeing. Still, it was unnecessary, he told himself as he felt his expression soften slightly.

“Yes, Kirishima, I’m fine. Though I don’t know what exactly might have given you the impression otherwise.” The redhead froze, a guilty expression crossing his face before he thought to try and conceal it. Aizawa sighed slightly, fighting a small smile as his students all suddenly decided to avert their gazes, feigning innocence.

“It’s just, ya know, you were gone for a while so-”

“Present Mic, right?” Aizawa interrupted, shaking his head slightly when his students froze again. His husband had always been loud, irrespective of his quirk, and when he was worried about people, he tended to do so very vocally. Even though Aizawa thought Hizashi should be a little more accustomed to him being put in hospital after all these years, his husband was always most concerned when he got hurt, even a little. He also knew, though, that Hizashi only tended to be so concerned and talk about any of Aizawa’s injuries, if he was tucked away in the teacher’s lounge.

Which, of course, meant that his students had been doing some snooping. He would be proud, had they not been so immediately, extremely bad at hiding it. He sighed, waving off Kirishima’s babbled excuses.

“I was in the hospital briefly,” he said, resisting the urge to twitch slightly at the worried looks on his students’ faces, “but my injuries were nothing serious. Definitely nothing worth going eavesdropping around the teacher’s lounge, that’s for sure.”

“Oh! So, you’ll be back in class tomorrow?” he heard another cheerful voice – Kaminari, definitely – pipe up, and noted how the blond had firmly ignored the latter part of his sentence. Aizawa frowned slightly. He’d discussed things with Tsukauchi, but there was a lot of haziness concerning UA taking care of Widowmaker’s son right now. Tsukauchi had agreed that the school was the best place to keep him, and that it would be best to keep Aizawa nearby, lest he remove his quirk suppressant cuffs and unleash an arctic hell upon them all.

But what the kid would do while he was being sheltered here was a question they still had to answer. They could hardly let him wander around by himself, but keeping him confined somewhere also wasn’t an option. He was a volatile teenager, as had been proven by the incident in the holding cell, but the thought of outright restricting his movements, or locking a tracker onto his ankle like one police officer had suggested made Aizawa feel vaguely ill.

He did have one idea, that had been resting at the back of his mind since that morning. It might be insane, and he knew he was already pushing things by keeping the kid here. It was worth suggesting, though he had no idea how successful he would be. Realising he had left Kaminari hanging for an answer, he just shrugged, running a hand back through his straggly hair.

“Maybe.” He said. “There are a few things I need to take care of before I can get back to teaching. It’s nothing serious,” he reassured them as some of his students exchanged wide-eyed, worried looks, “but it is pressing. You’ll know by tomorrow morning if I managed to get everything cleared up.” His students nodded hesitantly, exchanging curious looks. Shit, he had definitely just managed to start new rumours and fuel gossip. He buried his frustration, nodding and deigning to raise a hand in farewell as he walked on, not missing the way some of them eyed him curiously. He kept his hackles raised, ensuring that none of them followed him as he moved.

God, his class had too many problem children to count, and the last thing he wanted was one of them to stick their inquisitive noses into this whole affair before he could give them the all-clear. He had too many troublemakers, too many nosy little brats to take care of.

Bakugou was bad enough, with his spitfire temper and tendency to scream anyone in his immediate vicinity into a tinnitus diagnosis, but others had emerged as more aggravating than he’d initially pegged them as being over time. Midoriya’s blasé attitude around breaking his own bones had already led Aizawa to acquaint the palm of his hand with his forehead more times than he could count. Mina and Kaminari also stuck out as a little too willing to bend the rules and spend their time having fun rather than strictly studying. 

One of the people he had expected to be able to rely on as a voice of reason – Iida – had also proven to be impulsive when he was worked up enough. Even the quiet likes of Shinsou had an underlying edge to him – a desperation to prove himself and be ‘in the know’ since he hadn’t experienced the USJ – that often led to him getting into deep shit with his peers. It was exhausting, and Aizawa had a student less than normal to contend with – he couldn’t imagine what it would be like if he had another rowdy kid on his hands.

But frankly, that was part of what was making him consider his current idea concerning Widowmaker’s son. Class 1-A was strong, yes, and many of them had built up solid friendships with one another, but as a group, they were fractured. Giving them a common cause, a new member, might be enough to entice them into becoming more cohesive and trusting of one another. It was insane, probably, but Aizawa had dealt with villains, Noumu and bloodthirsty vultures (or ‘paparazzi’ as Hizashi he insisted he call them) for the last few months, so taking the new kid under his wing too didn’t seem like much of a challenge.

There was something difficult there, he could tell, and anyone with a mother like Widowmaker had more than a few things to hide, and more than one suitcase of baggage, but Aizawa still wanted to help him. It didn’t ring as reasonable to him that someone with as much control over their quirk as Widowmaker would have a son who chose to wear quirk suppressant handcuffs rather than use their power. It was an odd footnote for any person to have attached to them, and he wanted to know the story behind it.

Of course, the final decision concerning Widowmaker and her son lay with Tsukauchi, as the primary detective on the case. Aizawa certainly wasn’t trying to impose authority of any kind over the investigation. He could only hope now that the police would agree to his prospect.

Besides, even if the kid didn’t bring the class together more, Class 1-A were a good bunch of kids, and they would be able to put Widowmaker’s son at ease if nothing else.

“I mean, it’s a valid idea if nothing else.” Naomasa mused as Toshinori nodded. “I really don’t want to be the one to disrupt the kid’s life any more than usual.”

“Shouto is very withdrawn and reserved,” Toshinori noted, eyes crinkling in concern. “I can understand hesitance when it comes to speaking with police, but his behaviour still rings as a little odd, to me. He’s high strung about something, but I can't for the life of me figure out what it might be.” He shook his head. “The poor boy must be frightened, with everything that’s going on.”

Naomasa nodded, turning to face the small figure standing beside him. “And what do you think? I know this is a bit of an outlandish prospect, but Aizawa did seem keen on the idea. I can certainly see the merit behind it.”

Nedzu tapped his chin with a paw, humming slightly. “It would certainly disrupt Class 1-A, though I suppose that would hardly be anything new. The child is scared, that much is clear to see, and as strange a situation as this is, Aizawa makes a good point. The boy’s education is probably being disrupted. He could be here for months, for all we know. It would be remiss of us to preach about caring for education and learning, whilst actively refusing a teenager from getting one.” He looked up at them both. “Even on a small scale, this boy could be of help. Class 1-A is mismatched in numbers, correct? I know Aizawa has had to jump through hurdles to design hero classes around a group of 19. He would even it out if nothing else.”

Naomasa and Toshinori both nodded, exchanging a look as Nedzu clasped his hands behind his back. “The child has already shown a desire to keep those quirk suppressant cuffs on, so there is little danger of him lashing out with his power. Even if he did, under Aizawa’s eye, he would be rendered useless. He is scared, that much is obvious, and he has been ripped from his home. UA would hardly act as an appropriate substitute, but we can always do our best.” The other two nodded. Nedzu smiled. “It does not bother me if the boy joins in the classes with Aizawa’s students. But before we make any grand plans, why don’t we ask the boy himself?”

It was good to be clean again; Shouto had taken advantage of every hygiene product handed to him. He doubted he’d ever been so spotless – if only because the air in Roppongi hung heavy with smoke and other such things – and as nice as it felt, it only served to tip him off-kilter even more.

He’d been handed a set of clothes; a grey sweatshirt, black pants and underwear, but the sweatshirt was a size or so too big, and one of the sleeves kept slipping down and exposing his shoulder. He cursed slightly, shoving it back up as he bunched up his sleeves.

Shouto bit his lip, skimming his bare foot along the smooth timber floors as he looked from side to side. The teacher he’d met earlier, who he’d since learned was a pro hero named Present Mic, was sitting calmly nearby, grinning when he saw Shouto had emerged.

“Hey listener! You’re finally done!” he jumped to his feet with entirely too much zeal and held out his hands. Shouto hesitantly handed him his towel, folding his arms awkwardly, the cuffs on his wrists clinking softly together. He stared down at them for a moment, musing over the fact that the very thing he’d asked for to keep him out of trouble had ended up getting him in such deep shit.

“What am I supposed to do now?” he asked quietly. Present Mic looked over at him, smiling slightly. It was nowhere near as comforting as what Yagi had managed earlier, but it was an attempt, and he appreciated it nonetheless.

“Well, I know Aizawa and Tsukauchi wanted to talk to you about something.” The hero said. “But beyond that, I’m not too sure, kiddo. You’ve kinda taken us all by surprise here.”

Shouto gritted his teeth. I wasn’t the one asking to be brought here. Don’t act like any of this is my fault. He knew it hadn’t been the man’s intention to come off that way, but the words still rang as accusatory in his head, and he found his expression morphing back into a scowl. The hero seemed to realise he’d pissed Shouto off, blessedly, and simply gestured for Shouto to follow him outside. He did so with a definitive stomping in his step, and jammed his hands in his pockets to further emphasize his annoyance.

He relaxed ever so slightly when he saw Yagi standing in the next room – and hesitantly lifted his hand back when the bony man waved happily at him – but was instantly on his guard again when he spotted the homeless guy – Aizawa? – and the detective, along with a small….bear?

He blinked at the shortest person in the room, averting his eyes after a few curious moments of staring. Present Mic grinned at the others, murmuring something to Aizawa before ducking out another door. Shouto squared his shoulders, frowning.

“What?” he snapped. The small rodent-type thing chuckled, almost making Shouto jump a good foot in the air. He’d heard of and seen quirks that gave their owner an animalistic appearance, but never to this extent. Eying the man now, Shouto had to wonder if it even was a quirk at play – the guy looked a lot like an animal.

“He’s certainly abrupt.” The bear-mouse hybrid murmured to Aizawa, before stepping forwards and bowing to him. “Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met. I am Nedzu, principal of UA. You are Shouto, correct?”

Shouto, still somewhat baffled by the man, and further perplexed by the admission that this was apparently the principal of the most prestigious hero school in the country, could do little more than nod and bow back. “Excellent,” the creature said, smiling slightly, “well, welcome to UA, in any case. I understand your circumstances are not usual ones, but I thought I would offer the sentiment anyway.” Shouto nodded slightly, sticking his hands back in his pockets and letting his sleeves fall down to cover the cuffs.

“I’m sorry sir, but what exactly am I doing here?” he asked hesitantly. Nedzu smiled.

“Ahh yes, that is the eternal question! Well, Shouto, we have been debating what should be done with you while you are staying here with us. UA is the safest place for you, as we’ve already established, but we hardly want you to be sitting about uselessly while you’re being kept here.” the man lifted his head, eyes glittering darkly. “As such, Aizawa made a preposition.”

Shouto turned his eyes from the build-a-bear knockoff and back to Aizawa as the dark-haired man stepped forward, sighing slightly.

“Frankly, I don’t want you running around without supervision,” Aizawa said bluntly. “I do not ever want to restrain you, or keep you locked up; I asked for you to be housed here to avoid such things, but you are also very important to an ongoing police investigation, and as such, you can’t be allowed to roam freely. Now,” Aizawa folded his arms, watching Shouto carefully, “I recommended an alternative.” Shouto frowned at him, eyes shifting to the right as Yagi stepped forward, looking at him gently.

“It was proposed that, while you are being housed at UA, you could join in lessons with Class 1-A, Aizawa’s students,” he gestured to the man beside him. “It would be a way for us to avoid disrupting your education, after all, and from what we’ve heard from the police precinct, you stated that you have difficulty controlling your quirk?” Shouto stiffened but didn’t deny the charge as Yagi gave him another comforting look. “We’re experts here at helping troublesome teenagers with their powers,” he chuckled, “and we would be more than happy to help you, too, if you want that, of course.”

Shouto stared at them. Not only were they volunteering to keep him at UA in the first place, but now they were asking if he wanted to take lessons with Class 1-A? The only thing he knew of the group was what snippets he’d heard off the news; attacked at the USJ, dominated at the Sports Festival, almost had a student kidnapped in the summer holidays. He blinked. Compared to all of that, being the son of a famous vigilante seemed downright normal. He bit his lip.

Really, even though he was hardly used to a full-on, five-day school schedule, Fuyumi would be disappointed if he slacked off in learning just because she wasn’t around to force him to do it. Not to mention the suggestion that they could help him train his quirk…

There was a hand wrapped around his throat, burning red hot. He was blistering, screaming, as the flames ate him alive-

Misusing his quirk, intentionally or not, was something Shouto never wanted to do. He sighed. It would be a nuisance to deal with inquisitive kids his own age, but he was hardly here to socialise, and he could always ignore them if they proved to be especially determined.

Shouto picked at the hem of his sweatshirt, averting his eyes.

“Fine.” He muttered.

Nedzu smiled. “Wonderful! You can move into the Class 1-A dorms tomorrow after you’ve been introduced. For tonight, you can stay here with the teachers.” He turned to Yagi. “If you would, Yagi, we have a lot of things to discuss.” The slender man nodded, smiling at Shouto before following the principal out.

Shouto avoided the gaze of the sharp-eyed Aizawa, and hoped that he hadn’t just made a massive mistake.

Chapter Text

The teachers were hiding something.

It was plain as day, once one took the time to really analyse their behaviour over the last day or two. Things around UA had already been tense when Aizawa had failed to appear in class, and everyone’s levels of anxiety had positively skyrocketed the day after, when he again was nowhere to be found. It had been a massive relief, to see him safe and unharmed yesterday afternoon, even though he’d seen through their charade in an instant. After everything that had happened to their class this year, it was like a bolt of terror straight to the heart to see Aizawa absent from homeroom.

But even with their beloved homeroom teacher back safe and sound, the staff were distracted. Something had happened in the last few days, and Izuku would bet money on the fact that Aizawa’s brief visit to the hospital had something to do with it.

He squinted at Midnight from across the cafeteria, who was murmuring to Power Loader with a small frown on her face. All of the teachers had been flitting back and forth, exchanging long looks and muttering to each other all morning. It was disconcerting, and making him more than a little anxious about what might be going on.

“Uhh, Deku? Are you gonna eat or what?”

“Huh?” Izuku turned back to his friends, where Uraraka and Iida were staring at him in concern, and Tsuyu was poking at her noodles. “Oh, uh, yeah, I am.” He forced some food into his mouth, chewing even as the flavour rang bitter and unpalatable. He swallowed with difficulty, stomach churning as he placed his chopsticks down by his tray and eyed the teachers again. He heard Iida sigh slightly, before his friend leant forward, voice dropping low so that other tables couldn’t hear them.

“I’m sure we’ll find out what is going on soon enough, Midoriya. Until then, don’t worry too much about it. If it was serious, I’m sure that Aizawa-sensei would have told us what is going on by now.” Izuku nodded slightly, failing to suppress the discomfort that curdled in his gut regardless. Iida was right – he normally was – but that didn’t stop his mind from coming up with endless possibilities. Was there another villain attack somewhere? Had the League resurfaced? Was UA being put under stress by the media again? He just wanted to know, but answers, so far anyway, hadn’t been forthcoming.

He forced himself to ignore Midnight and Power Loader, eyes instead landing on a familiar head of wild purple hair, who was looking around with a slightly hesitant look. Izuku himself didn’t wait at all. He knew that, if not pressed, the other would just drift off to sit by himself, and that was the last thing Izuku wanted.

“Shinsou! Over here!” he waved happily to the other boy, who jumped slightly at being addressed directly, before hesitating, eying their table with no small amount of wariness before Uraraka also spotted him, and added her voice to Izuku’s, urging the quiet boy over.

“You don’t need to yell.” Shinsou muttered as he slid into a seat on Izuku’s left, ears tinged pink. “I would have been happy to sit by myself.”

“Yeah, but we wanted you to sit with us!” Uraraka said brightly, making the redness on Shinsou’s ears grow ever darker. Izuku nodded happily as Iida also pitched in his agreement.

Shinsou was the type of person that seemed to be very…uncertain of where he sat in Class 1-A. They’d started the year with a round 20 students, with one being expelled on the first day after coming last in their Quirk Apprehension Test, and another choosing to transfer to the General Course after the USJ incident. Going into the Sports Festival with just 18 students, it had been clear to everyone that the teachers had their eyes trained on hero-hopefuls; they wanted to choose students good enough to enter the hero course that might have been limited by the entrance exam’s layout.

Shinsou had emerged early on in the Festival as a strong contender, and the sort of hero-hopeful the staff were looking for. His brainwashing quirk had helped him blitz through the first and second rounds, and he’d easily defeated his first match-up of the day, a Class B student named Shiozaki, due to his quirk’s exact nature being unknown. Unfortunately for the brainwasher, with the specifics of his quirk out in the open after his match with Shiozaki, he’d failed to utilise it in his next fight against Kaminari. Had the hero course had a full two classes of students, he likely would have stayed in Gen Ed, but their shortage of students meant that even a finish in the Top 8 ensured a transfer.

From then, it was clear that the purple-haired boy felt like he was off-beat with everyone else. Being the only member of their class who hadn’t gone through the USJ made him something of an outsider in terms of instinct and experience, and it was clear that the difference affected Shinsou more than it did anyone else. Moving to their internships, Izuku had been a little unsure of the other boy. He was polite enough, but he purposefully kept everyone in class an arm’s length away. Even the overwhelmingly friendly likes of Kaminari and Kirishima had been unable to coax him out of his shell. It had gotten to a point where everyone had assumed the boy didn’t want anything to do with them.

Then, Hosu had happened, and Izuku had realised how wrong he was about the other.

His desperate call for help, disguised as a simple sharing of his location, had been a long shot from the beginning. So, seeing the purple haired boy careen around the corner and slam the edge of a tall bo staff into one of Stain’s legs had been more than a little surprising. Of every member of his class that was within a reasonable vicinity, only Shinsou had thought to see whether there was anything more to his message. In Izuku’s mind, that had solidified the other as friend material, but the brainwasher had done his best to maintain careful distance regardless. The summer training camp seemed to have finally broken down Shinsou’s lingering reservations about making friends, though, and the fact that he had accepted their invitation to join their table was proof enough of that.

“So, the teachers are acting weird.” Shinsou said, not bothering to integrate himself with whatever conversation had already been in progress. “I can’t be the only one who’s noticed.”

Izuku nodded, glancing over at Midnight again. “Yeah. I just want to know what’s going on. If it was something bad, they’d tell us, right?” Iida nodded.

“I am certain they would!” he exclaimed, hand chopping the air insistently. “In any case, we shouldn’t pry into their affairs! This may be a private matter!”

“That’s true, but I think we have the right to want to know what’s going on. After the USJ and the training camp, I’d like to know if there’s something rotten going on.” Uraraka pointed out. Shinsou nodded in agreement. Iida hesitated.

“I suppose that is understandable.” He conceded. “But if it is something serious, I’m sure we’ll find out eventually.” Izuku opened his mouth, wanting to theorise more about what was happening, but the shrill sound of the school bell cut him off. He slumped slightly before getting up to put away his tray and get back to class. His head jerked up as he saw Aizawa passing down a hallway adjacent to the dining room, with Present Mic chattering away beside him.

“Is Aizawa-sensei back for class?” Shinsou muttered, staring the same direction as Izuku. As much as Izuku wished he knew the answer to that question, there was little more he could say without verging into pure speculation, so he just shrugged and moved on, grinning when Shinsou fell into step roughly beside him.

The rest of the class seemed to have also noticed Aizawa’s presence near the lunchroom, because everyone was abuzz as they filed into the room, eyes widening as they saw their beleaguered teacher standing by the front of the room, for the first time in a good three days. It was a good sight, but Izuku felt his stomach twisting curiously anyway.

Their class after lunch was normally one that had to be subdued via sharp looks and a few reprimands, keen to continue the conversations they’d started previously. But today everyone was quiet, eyes on Aizawa, waiting tensely to see what he would do or say.

“Alright.” Their teacher said after a moment. “So, I’m sure you’re all aware that I’ve been gone for the last few days.” Silence reigned in the room as they openly stared at their teacher. For someone that was so keen to throw logical deceptions at them and leave them with only their wits to scramble through difficult situations, it was unusual that he would be so open. “Even more so,” Aizawa continued, “I’m sure that some of you have noticed that some of the staff have been acting strangely in the last few days as well.” Izuku froze as Aizawa’s gaze locked onto him, before it scampered around to undoubtedly pierce Shinsou. He sighed. “So, I guess I now have to offer an explanation.”

Izuku, becoming aware that he was leaning forward in his seat, leant back with a flush on his cheeks, letting the tension seep from his shoulders as he clasped his hands together, eyes still fixed on Aizawa.

“To put it simply, there have been developments in the last few days that have involved UA. It is nothing major,” he said as the class began to mutter and murmur to one another, “but it involves a case, more specifically a police investigation, that I am involved in. UA has come about as collateral of sorts.”

That was just baffling. Izuku caught the confused look exchanged between Kaminari and Ashido, understanding it completely. The police were involved in something? There was an investigation going on? Was it actually the League again?

“It has nothing to do with villains.” Aizawa cut in as the tension among the class began to build. “The League is as subdued as ever, from our observations, and they are yet to cause us significant trouble this semester.” That allayed a lot of the tension, but absolutely none of the curiosity. Aizawa waited until they had all fallen silent again before speaking again. “Two days ago, the police conducted an early morning raid on select suburbs in Roppongi. It was designed as a search and seizure operation, but they instead came across something different. Specifically, they arrested someone which they later connected to a major case that has long been under their jurisdiction. I have been helping them deal with this person for the last two days.”

“So, you’ve skipped out on teaching us for some dumbass criminal?” Bakugou snapped, glowering at Aizawa. “Great fucking news.” Their teacher, as per usual, firmly ignored him.

“They require special consideration, since they themselves have done nothing wrong.” He swept his eyes over them. “They’ve committed no crimes, none at all, but they hold what could be the key to breaking a major case, so the police are refusing to set them free.”

Izuku blinked. It certainly hadn’t been what he was expecting, but it was immensely comforting to know that nothing hugely dangerous was happening out beyond campus. Aoyama stuck his hand in the air.

“I do not mean to be blunt, professeur, but why not just put them in a holding cell?” Others in the class echoed the question, while Aizawa sighed again.

“Because he’s 15 years old. Younger than the majority of you, I would wager.” He said simply. That shut everyone up instantly. “The perpetrator in question is one of his parents, a powerful vigilante, to be specific. It is neither entirely lawful nor completely moral to keep him against his will, but the police have worked this particular case for a long time. They are unwilling to let him go. I was against them keeping him in a cell, for ethical reasons, so we worked out UA as a compromise.”

“So…wait, this guy is staying here?” Ashido asked, eyes wide.

“That is indeed what I was moving into.” Aizawa sighed. “He stayed in a spare room in the teacher’s dormitories last night, but it was the wish of the other staff that his life be as unobstructed as possible. The purpose of a school is to teach, and it would be fairly remiss of one to neglect the educational needs of even a single teenager.”

The implication of what was going on finally hit Izuku dead in the chest, and he gasped quietly, ignoring Shinsou’s curious look and Bakugou’s low growling ahead of him. Oh. That certainly explained why the teachers had been bustling around so much, and why Aizawa himself had been absent so much.

“In addition to currently being deprived of an education, this boy also has, by his own admission, a volatile quirk. He wears quirk suppressant cuffs to keep it under control. The other staff and I agreed on the fact that, while he is staying at UA, we should do our best to be considerate of his situation and conscious of the fact that he is an innocent party. Thus, while he is here, we will be allowing him to take classes. And, since Class 1-A is the only class that is not filled to capacity…”

“He’ll be taking classes with us!” Hagakure exclaimed, her sleeves moving as she clapped her hands together. “Oh, so we’re getting a new classmate! How exciting!”

Aizawa frowned. “Don’t get ahead of yourselves. We have no clue how long he’ll be housed here, and the fact that he will be in class with you is not an indicator that he will ever be admitted to UA. Besides, from what I’ve seen thus far, he’s not very talkative. He’s here as a courtesy, and because he might be able to round out our numbers for group assignments or study sessions. No more, no less.”

Hagakure wilted slightly at that, uniform crinkling a little. “Yes sir.”

Tsuyu diligently raised her hand. “So, sir, when is this going to be happening?” Aizawa raised an eyebrow at her.

“Now.” He said simply as he approached the door. “Be friendly.”

Izuku barely had time to adjust to that news as Aizawa slid the door open and stepped back, letting someone in. He barely registered that Present Mic was standing outside the door, because his attention was immediately on the teen.

He was tall, much more so than the majority of their class – save a few like Iida, Shouji and Sato – and built with a lean but muscular frame. Though versed in hero work the guy certainly wasn’t, he definitely did some other sort of training fairly regularly.

He had shirked the UA uniform, if he had even been offered one, dressed instead in a long grey shirt, dark pants and black boots, with his hands jammed firmly in his pockets as he avoided everyone’s scrutinising gazes. There were indeed thick, metallic cuffs locked around his wrists, with a line of small, dull lights on each one, and a small furrow that undoubtedly either a hinge or the channel used to open the cuffs. His hair was split half and half; crimson on the left, pure, snowy white on the left. Izuku spotted a small piercing in the lobe of either ear.

And, well, his face…

There were certain guys at UA that most girls seemed to dub as ‘classically handsome’; Yoarashi from Class 1-B seemed to get that a bit, as did Bakugou when he wasn’t actively yelling at people. But this guy looked like he’d been plucked straight from a tale of an elven prince. His jawline was, as Mina would say, ‘sharp enough to cut steel’, and his pronounced cheekbones only helped the effect. A large, mottled red mark, either a scar or a birthmark, obscured his left eye, but it did nothing to dull the fact that he was, easily, one of the most attractive people Izuku had ever laid eyes on.

“This is Shouto.” Aizawa said simply. “Get used to seeing him around.” He indicated a seat at the back of the class, the one next to Yaoyorozu, which had been empty since one of the students in their class had chosen to transfer to Gen Ed. in the days after the USJ. The teen narrowed his eyes briefly, but obeyed, slipping through the rows of seats as 20 sets of eyes followed him, sliding into the seat between Yaoyorozu and Sato, who looked slightly alarmed at the new development.

“Iida, Yaoyorozu.” Aizawa addressed the two. “As the representatives of Class 1-A, I’m expecting you two to do what you must to get Shouto acclimated.” The two of them nodded, with Yaoyorozu shooting a cautious look at the boy to her right. Aizawa sighed again, nodding to Present Mic and sliding the door shut. “Right, let’s get started.”

This was hell.

The tension that had enveloped the room when Shouto had first walked in was yet to disperse in any way, and it was painfully clear that the most uncomfortable people in the room right now were the kids seated to either side of Shouto’s desk. He glanced between them both. One was a tall guy with brown hair who was fidgeting incessantly, and the other was a girl with spiky black hair pulled into a high ponytail.

This whole situation was just strange, and uncanny. Months ago, he’d sat in his living room and watched these kids fight their way through the sports festival, and now he was sitting among them. It was a little uncomfortable. All of these people had strong quirks, and obviously enough talent between them to all have ended up in the hero course. Compared to Shouto, who could barely control his own power without the help of his cuffs, they might as well have been demigods.

Shouto didn’t bother to pay attention to whatever Aizawa was lecturing them through. With no notebooks or stationery to take notes, he wouldn’t remember exactly what was being taught anyway. He shot furtive looks around, eyes lingering on the tall, bespectacled student that had, along with the girl to his left, been instructed to help him out. The guy looked a little like he had a stick jammed up his ass with how straight he was sitting, but harmless enough. The girl seemed a little more timid; she was extraordinarily pretty, but the downward cast of her eyes indicated that she was probably feeling a little unsure about the whole situation.

Yeah, join the club. Shouto thought scathingly as he leant back in his chair slightly, eying the room full of teenagers. This whole situation was strange and uncomfortable, but sitting in this classroom was the strangest, most uncomfortable part of the last few days.

Shouto had never been to an actual school before, after all.

He mostly let the teacher’s words wash over him, lulling him into a state of semi-dissociation and firmly ignoring the cautious looks he was being sent by other kids in the room. It was painfully obvious when they did it; since Shouto was in the last row, pretty much all of them had to bodily spin to get a glimpse of him. He mostly let it slide, but it was only as one student, a girl with short brown hair and pink cheeks, continually looked over at him that he dropped his calm façade and scowled at her.

This is what normal school is like? He looked around curiously. Since Fuyumi had started to offer cheap lessons to kids in their neighbourhood, the time she spent teaching Shouto had reduced drastically, but she always found ways to somehow cram an entire year’s worth of coursework into his brain. Since he only took ‘lessons’ on about three days of the week, Fuyumi had dubbed it unnecessary to give him holidays like normal students would receive. He had assumed that it would mean that he would be behind where his peers would be in a normal school curriculum, but looking at the writing on the blackboard at the front, he realised with a shock that he had already learned this from his sister.

It was all the more reason to zone out, and he could tell that decision wasn’t much appreciated by the tired man at the front of the room. Shouto knew that UA was going out somewhat on a limb to accommodate him, and he would admit that it was unusually considerate of them to want him to receive a typical education, but he couldn’t bring himself to care too much. He had never asked to be dragged out of his home and taken captive, so if they interpreted his behaviour as rude, that was their own fault.

The shrill sound of a bell broke him from his reverie, and he straightened up in his seat, glancing around as Aizawa muttered some final comment and dismissed them. He felt more gazes burning into his skull as the other kids in the room got up and either swept outside or lingered, muttering to one another while very un-subtly glancing at him.

“Good afternoon!”

Shouto turned to see the dark-haired guy – the one whose ass was probably closely acquainted with a stick of some kind – approaching him, expression somewhat stern but not immediately unfriendly. Shouto did his best not to square his shoulders too much, shooting the other a curious look. It took him a moment to realise that the guy was waiting for a response.

“…Hey.” He muttered. The brown-haired girl was standing a little way behind the guy, as was a boy with green hair who was covered in freckles. 

“I am Tenya Iida! I am the Class Representative for Class 1-A. As instructed by Aizawa-sensei, I will be helping you settle in while you are being housed at the dorms.” The guy – Iida – bowed a perfect 90° while Shouto watched him impassively. “Your name is Shouto, correct?”

Shouto nodded, glancing to the side as the girl with the ponytail also drifted over, smiling hesitantly at him. She bowed when she noted his eyes on her.

“Hello,” she said, much more polite and lowkey than the Iida guy, “My name is Momo Yaoyorozu, I’m the Vice Rep.” he nodded. So far, she was his favourite purely by process of elimination.

“Aizawa-sensei has alerted me that a room has been set aside for you in our dorm building.” Iida said, hand chopping the air almost comically. “I would like to escort you there.”

Shouto sighed. He had hoped, if he was going to be stuck at UA for the foreseeable future, that he would be allowed a certain measure of freedom. With this guy around, though, that didn’t seem very feasible.

“Yeah, sure, whatever.” He muttered, getting to his feet and sticking his hands in his pockets. The group that had awkwardly assembled around him were a rather short bunch, he noticed; save Iida, he was taller than all of them. He rolled his shoulders back as he reluctantly followed Iida outside, undoubtedly to the dorms.

The green-haired boy seemed to be examining him curiously, and Shouto couldn’t stop himself from looking over and frowning at him. The brunette girl noticed his look before the boy did, squeaking slightly. The green-haired boy looked up, jumping slightly.

“Oh, sorry!” he exclaimed, cheeks reddening slightly. “Uh, I’m Izuku Midoriya.” Shouto eyed his hair. That was a fitting surname.

“Shouto.” He said simply, turning back to face the front. The brunette girl clasped her hands behind her back, bobbing up and down as she walked alongside Midoriya.

“I’m Uraraka Ochako!” she said, voice bright and bubbly. “And I know that this is only going to be temporary, but welcome to UA!”

“…Thanks.” He muttered, glancing around at the lush grounds around them and doing his best to ignore the small posse of people that had sprung up around him.

“So, do you know how long you’re going to be staying at UA?” Iida asked, watching him curiously. “I assume that if the faculty have considered it necessary to house you here then your situation must not be…ideal.” Shouto clenched his jaw. He had no idea if the teachers had told their students to somehow extract information from him, or if this guy was just trying to be friendly, but he was hesitant to respond either way.

“No clue.” He said, tone short and sharp. “In any case, I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”

Iida blinked, reeling like he had been slapped in the face. “Oh- I did not intend to cause offence,” he said, hand once again imitating a meat cleaver as it chopped up and down. Shouto sighed, turning his head the other way as Iida continued to babble something out. The new position made him lock eyes with the green-haired boy, Midoriya. Shouto’s first instinct was to bristle and snarl again, but it was clear from the other’s facial expression that he wasn’t judging Shouto’s rudeness. He just looked…thoughtful. Shouto felt some of the angry fire in his belly die down a little, and he huffed quietly, facing the front again.

It was a relief to see a dorm building ahead, though some of the feeling was quashed when Shouto saw a few other students in the class hanging around on the stairs and balcony. Their conversations ceased when they spotted him one by one, and Shouto felt his caginess spring up again under their intense scrutiny. He was glad when Iida breezed past them easily, opening the door and immediately pointing out where different utilities were located. Shouto actually made himself pay attention to that, nodding along as the rest of the class filtered in behind him.

“Oh, Iida, we should probably introduce the rest of the class, huh?” the brunette – Uraraka? – said. Iida nodded.

“Ahh, excellent idea, Uraraka.” He said. “If you would all line up-”

“Hey.” A boy with flyaway purple hair and deep eye bags stepped up to him. “Shinsou. So, what’s the deal? Unless you’ve murdered someone, I’m not too interested.”

Okay, forget ponytail girl. This guy was Shouto’s favourite.

“Not yet.” He replied breezily. “I’ll see how the week turns out.” Shinsou smiled slightly, ignoring Iida’s background ranting about maintaining order and keeping to a uniform introductory session. The purple-haired boy jerked his head towards the stairs.

“I’m sure we can introduce everyone eventually.” He said. “Iida, don’t you think we should show him where he’s actually going to be sleeping first?”

That shut Iida up, and the taller boy eventually gave in, nodding along to Shinsou’s suggestion. Shouto followed him more willingly than he had the others thus far, eying the carpeted floors and timber walls. It was a nice building, though he knew his own room would be bare and completely lacking in the character held by the small room he shared with Natsuo. The thought made his stomach twist with homesickness, and he swallowed around the lump that had risen abruptly in his throat. If Shinsou noticed how Shouto’s shoulders suddenly slumped, he was tactful enough not to say anything.

They ended up on the fifth floor, where only two of the rooms had name plaques beside them. Shinsou jabbed a finger at one of the unmarked rooms in the middle, where a key had been hung up outside.

“You’re between Iida and I.” he said simply. “The rooms aren’t bad, though I doubt you’ll do too much accessorising.” Shouto just nodded, staring at the door. Shinsou was silent for a moment. “Listen, I know this is probably rough, but it’ll get better.”

“And you’re the expert on that, then?” Shouto said. He meant for the words to sound standoffish, but they just came out sounding tired instead. Shinsou smiled wryly, before jabbing a finger into his own chest.

“Foster kid.” He said dryly. “I’m familiar with it.”

Shouto’s pride deflated. “Oh…” he hesitated. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”

Shinsou waved a hand. “It’s fine. I know what you meant. I’m serious, though. I don’t know why you’re here, or how serious it is, but this class…” he sighed, “they’re like mould, frankly. Unwelcome a lot of the time, but they do grow on you.” Shouto smirked slightly at the comparison, nodding.

“I don’t suppose it would be acceptable for me to avoid everyone until absolutely necessary?” he mused. Shinsou snorted.

“Well…” he trailed off, “Most people clear out of the kitchen by 9 or so. You could probably find something to eat then.” Shouto nodded, sighing in relief. None of the students had been hostile yet, but he still felt deeply uncomfortable around most of them. He was a little more relaxed around Shinsou, but at the end of the day, these were strangers, and he was an intruder, one being kept here against his will no less. It was no secret that he didn’t belong.

“I’ll do that, then.” He murmured, shifting on his feet slightly. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.” Shinsou murmured, stepping away. “Have fun.”

With that, the other boy turned and went back down the stairs, probably to go talk to his friends. Shouto scuffed his foot against the floor before snatching the key off a hook by the door and swinging it open. The room was bare, but there was a desk and futon, and really, that was pretty much all he needed. Touya’s leather jacket, along with the other clothes he’d worn to the police station, were sitting on the end of the bed. He tugged the jacket on with relief, hugging himself as he ran his fingers over the patchy leather.

His eyes burned, and Shouto sunk down onto the edge of the bed as he pulled the jacket cuffs down over his hands and fidgeted with the edges. He frantically blinked back the tears begging to escape, pressing the heels of his palms into them as he sucked in a shaky breath. He hated this. He hated every single part of this stupid situation. He felt like a little kid, wanting nothing more than to go home and be hugged by his mother, but he would take the blow to his pride if it only meant he could be in their cramped little apartment again.

He wondered what his family was doing. They would have freaked out the minute they found him missing and then unreachable. He knew that his mother knew he’d been taken by the police – the attack on the police station was clear evidence of that. He probably had Malware to thank for that.

His siblings were probably worried – as much as he, Touya, Natsu and Fuyumi bitched at one another, they all loved each other, and the horrifying circumstances that had driven them from their father’s house had instilled deep fear within all of them about any member of their family being taken away.  The fear was especially potent where Shouto was concerned, though. He had always been the target, the focal point of their father’s attention. He was the one that the bastard probably wanted back the most.

Shouto wiped at his face, mouth turning down at the corners when he felt wetness on his palms. God, he needed to calm down. His siblings weren’t here to ruffle his hair and tell him stupid jokes whenever he felt off-kilter or upset. He was by himself, and though the teachers around here, like Yagi, seemed to want to help, he also knew that the police wanted information. Anyone could be trying to get it out of him. Until further notice, he couldn’t trust anyone except himself.

Shouto tilted his head back and let his body flop back onto the mattress, staring at the cracks that spiderwebbed across the ceiling above him. He had to be curious about how they’d gotten there. This building was new – he’d read the articles about UA building new dorms for their students – so it definitely wasn’t from age. This class had some volatile quirks in it, though, he knew that from the sports festival. Maybe someone had already managed to lose control. His wrists burned where the cuffs dug into his skin, and he shuddered slightly as he turned onto his side.

He didn’t want to talk to the people outside, even when his only other option was to stare at the wall and dissociate or have a mild panic attack again. He didn’t trust them yet, and he knew that every one of their conversations would have him at the centre. Better to stay here and let his calm façade unravel than risk it tomorrow, or later on in this ordeal, when everyone else could see him.

It was agonisingly boring, but Shouto was used to staying quiet and keeping to himself. His whole family had refined it to an art. Living under the radar required a strong skill for both, after all. He missed his family sorely just thinking about them, so he just lay on his side and let the sharp pain in his chest ebb away slowly. He wanted to go home, but it wasn’t an option. Shouto bit down on his lip as he forced himself to accept that. The sky outside his window slowly darkened, sun sinking beneath the horizon and staining the sky a bloody red. He wondered if his siblings were maintaining normalcy in his absence. Was Fuyumi still teaching? Had Touya been picking up shifts at the parlour? It made him feel oddly sick to think about it.

Eventually, the faint voices he could hear from below died down, and the sound of light chatter was replaced by the sharp noises of doors slamming shut, and people calling out their goodnights to their friends. Even when the hallways outside fell silent, Shouto lay quietly, waiting.

It was only when the timed lights in the hallway flicked off – undoubtedly signifying that the curfew was now being enforced – that Shouto got to his feet, legs weak underneath him, and eased his door open.

He was careful to keep it open only a crack as he stepped into the dark corridor. Shinsou seemed well-meaning, but he didn’t want to attract Iida’s attention. He had no qualms against the boy thus far, but volume control didn’t appear to be one of his strong suits.

The dorms, already foreign and strange, were downright alien in the darkness. Shouto hugged his own torso more tightly, shuddering as memories of the raid came back to him as he darted down the stairs, not wanting to risk the elevator. Perhaps the police would arrive here too, climb the stairs and drag him further into this nightmare. Maybe another holding cell would be involved.

Shouto paused, pressing a hand to his gut as it rolled uncomfortably. He swallowed reflexively, sucking in a deep breath as he fought the urge to vomit. He had never been a fan of shouting, violence or intimidation. Being locked in the holding cell in the precinct had involved all three, so he supposed it made sense that it would unnerve him so much. Wonderful, more trauma to add to his verifiable treasure trove.

It was even more chilling on the ground floor. With the wide-open living spaces, rather than the narrow corridors, the whole place felt empty, with thick shadows jumping and twisting in his tired mind. Clenching his fists in his older brother’s jacket, Shouto slipped into the kitchen, hand fumbling over the wall until he managed to turn on a small light and look around briefly.

It felt a little wrong to rifle through the drawers and steal other people’s food, but he didn’t really have a choice unless the teachers wanted him to starve, or worse, socialise. Biting his lip, he flicked the kettle on, the deep rumbling a slight comfort as he carefully pried the fridge open.

He stopped short, blinking when he saw a whole plate of food sitting on one shelf. He was about to question why anyone would give up such good-looking food, when he saw a note attached to it, and felt the bottom of his stomach drop out.

For Shouto
Just in case you get hungry! :D

Whoever had written the note had used the wrong kanji for his name, but the meaning was clear, and he felt something like calm settle in his stomach as he pulled it out of the fridge. The food looked good, he wouldn’t deny that, and he felt his mouth water as he tugged off the plastic wrap on the plate and stuck it in the microwave. He scooped up the kettle as a small sound indicated it was done, quickly making himself a cup of tea as the microwave hummed behind him.

His eyes caught on a small pad of post-it notes, and a pen sat by them. It was obvious that it was what had been used to write the note on his food. He bit his lip, considering his next actions for a moment as the microwave hummed behind him.

It wouldn’t hurt.

Izuku crept into the kitchen early the next morning. It wasn’t a typical habit of his; the kitchen was normally inhabited by Bakugou early in the morning, and hence was an environment best avoided. But Bakugou had been coaxed outside of the dorms by Kirishima to spar, so the room was empty.

It had been a small gesture, and probably a useless one. Their class’ newcomer had made it clear that he wasn’t too keen to be there, and given the circumstances around it, Izuku could understand that easily. But watching the guy slip into his room upstairs and not emerge for the rest of the night had made Izuku wonder how he was feeling. Being a veteran of locking himself in his room to quietly cope – it was the only way he’d kept his mother from finding out how bad Kacchan used to be in middle school – he’d instantly been worried. Saving a plate of food from Satou and Tsuyu’s combined efforts that night had just been his small gesture to show Shouto that he was welcome in the dorms and at UA.

He hadn’t expected it to work, but he couldn’t stop the smile that bloomed across his face when he spotted a plate, sparkling clean, sitting in the drying rack by the sink. The entire kitchen had been spotless when they’d left it last night, with every dirty dish in sight packed carefully into the dishwasher. Izuku relaxed, smiling as he moved to the fridge to see if they had any eggs left. So Shouto had eaten after all. Good.

He swung the fridge door open, stopping when he saw a small note attached to the shelf where he’d placed the food. Izuku picked it up, unfolding it curiously, and smiling when he saw the underside.

Thank you.

Chapter Text

At the very, very least, there were no bloodstains on their walls.

Their neighbour Hirabayashi hadn’t been so lucky; the police officers that had manhandled her had bruised her arms badly, but someone had also scratched her leg quite severely. She’d hit the wall when the police had dragged her outside, and her walls now bore a long trail of smeared red. Fuyumi had offered to help her and her girlfriend clean the mess up, but she’d been politely thanked and turned away. Everyone in the building was shaken, so she understood their caution. Fuyumi herself was dealing with the aftershocks of a severe panic attack, even days after the fact.

It felt wrong to be relieved about anything right now, but Fuyumi was glad their apartment’s damage had been temporary and easily repairable. There was a lot of time devoted to righting furniture and rubbing scuffs marks off the walls, and just as much devoted to sitting on the floor, lips bitten between anxious teeth, as everyone tried to keep their heads screwed on straight.

It was hard to stay calm, though, in the face of everything that had happened.

Fuyumi had reacted badly, after the raid, and she knew it. Natsuo had been bewildered and asking her questions, and all she’d been able to do was hyperventilate and call Touya in a frenzied panic. Finding their apartment destroyed and no sign of Shouto had wreaked havoc on her ability to stay calm and focused, and for an entire day afterwards, all of her thoughts had been possessed by what her baby brother was going through.

Their entire family had been through a lot, since the beginning, but their entire family was especially possessive where Shouto was concerned. Fuyumi just couldn’t help it; at 12 years old, she’d been forcibly separated from him, having to sit by and listen to the distant sounds of crying and shrieks of pain. Shouto had been ripped away from under her grasp once, and she’d sworn to herself that she would never let it happen again.

That was a promise she’d broken.

Fuyumi sighed, rubbing at another scuff on the wall before giving it up as a lost cause and standing. With Touya slinking out to go to work and their mother in an apoplectic mood, it had been left to her and Natsuo to clean everything up and keep up the front that their family was untroubled. Frankly, Fuyumi would almost prefer to be out on the streets hunting down criminals just like her brothers did, and she, for the most part, considered herself a pacifist.

Natsuo looked wrecked; the raid and Shouto being taken in had taken a hard toll on him, not least for the fact that he normally would have been at home. He’d been invited out by some friends and taken them up on their offer. He regretted it; she could tell from the look in his eyes every time he looked at the damage strewn around them. Fuyumi regretted that night, too. She’d gone to tour a few universities, and ended up getting deep in conversation with one of the guides from one of them, talking into the early hours of the night at a bar.

It made her angry; not just because her baby brother was gone, though that was certainly the apex of her fury, but because she was feeling guilty for not being home.

I should be able to go out and enjoy my life, without worrying that the police will knock my door down and take my family away. They had no right, none at all, and now Shouto is who knows where.

She frowned, sweeping some glittery, gritty dust from a shattered glass into a dustpan before depositing it in the bin. The current situation was awful, and for more reasons than Shouto being missing.

Their mother had immediately gone to the police station where Shouto would have been kept to set him free, but Fuyumi had come to the conclusion that that move had been their undoing. Before the infamous Widowmaker had shown up, everyone in that police station had been standard scum, lowlife criminals and drug dealers and the other desperate fodder that made up Tokyo’s lower socio-economic bounds. The minute their mother had burst onto the scene, though, the situation had become suspicious. After all, why would a vigilante show up somewhere that the police were already arresting and holding people? Not to attack a target, certainly.

As much as they could drive Fuyumi up the walls at times, the police were smart. They would know that there was something else going on. Somehow, out of the hundreds of people they’d dragged into custody, they’d successfully singled her brother out as the anomaly. That, she was certain of.

How? Every other person arrested by the police who hadn’t been directly linked to an offence of some sort had been processed and let go. Everyone else, who had been charged with crimes of any kind had their names logged on a database, which Malware had been able to access at Fuyumi’s request. Shouto’s name, alias or otherwise, was nowhere to be found. The police didn’t want anyone to know they’d wrongfully arrested a 15-year-old boy, and moreover, they didn’t want anyone to know they still had him.

A small part of Fuyumi had been seized by fear. It had whispered, darkly, that it wasn’t unheard of for prisoners, particularly those from disadvantaged areas or minority groups, to die in police custody and for the police to then hesitate to admit wrongdoing. She’d almost sent herself into another panic attack considering that possibility, and she’d whispered her fear to Touya about two days ago. Her twin had gone still and pale, obviously seeing the merit in such a concern and echoing it himself.

“He can’t be.” Touya had whispered. “He’s a tough kid, and his quirk is strong, even if he can’t control it. He…he’s fine, Fu, don’t say otherwise.”

They’d left the matter at that, and Fuyumi had been smart enough to avoid bringing it up with anyone else. Natsuo was off-kilter and twitchy, and their mother was rapidly approaching another dangerous outburst. She just had to keep her mouth shut and pray that her brother was okay. He had to be. He had to be. They didn’t escape their father just for him to die at the hands of negligent police. Fuyumi refused to believe such a thing could happen.

“Fu.” Natsuo murmured. She gave a little start at the nickname, blinking at him. Natsuo had been subdued all day, but looking at him now, Fuyumi realised that he wasn’t so crushed as she’d originally thought. His shoulders were back, gaze level and dark. He’d been thinking, she realised. All of today, he’d been deep in thought, and now, that thinking was manifesting itself.

“Yeah, Natsu?” she murmured, voice quiet.

“I want to get Shouto back.” He murmured. “We all do, right?”

“Of course,” Fuyumi said, brow furrowing. “Why?”

“I’m gonna do it,” Natsuo muttered, eyes flinty. Fuyumi bit her lip. Her younger brother was capable, with enough sheer spite to carry himself through achievement after achievement, but in the face of police and pro heroes…

“Natsuo, I don’t think-”

“I will.” He said, tone made of so much steel that Fuyumi shut her mouth with an audible click. “Because here’s the thing, pro heroes and police think that they’re a lot slicker than they actually are. They aren’t all clean and polished and perfectly removed from the people they put away like they seem to think they are.” He raised his head, and the light caught his eyes in a way that turned them to cold, harsh silver. “They leave ripples, wherever they go. The same goes for whoever took Shouto.”

Fuyumi said nothing, waiting for him to finish.

“If we can follow those ripples, we can find out where he’s being kept, Fu,” Natsuo said softly. “And we can get him back.” She sighed.

“I know, and I want Shouto back just as much as you do, but I don’t know how feasible it is.” She murmured, tears prickling at her eyes at the thought of Shouto. Natsuo hummed.

“Touya’s got a lot on his plate, right now.” Natsuo murmured. “If he didn’t, I’d be asking him this, not you, because I know you don’t really like what we do.” That was true; as proud as Fuyumi was of her mother and siblings for their strong moral compasses, she didn’t think she had the stomach to go full vigilante herself. “But…please, just this once. We need Shouto back, and soon. Just for a while…can you please be like Touya and me?”

It was a hard price to pay. Fuyumi had always been the softest of her siblings, though Shouto was also tough only on the outside. She had never gone for violence and brutality as a way of solving her problems. It was, according to Touya, her biggest strength. She kept herself firmly above the lowlifes that polluted Roppongi and other areas, killing and maiming at will. She had power in her words, her calm temperament, her sharp intelligence.

But right now, her power came in her anger. Fuyumi Todoroki was a kind person, but she was also fiercely protective of her family, and naturally adaptable.

“You want me to be a vigilante with you?” she murmured. “To get Shouto back?” Natsuo nodded.

Attacking people. Interrogating people. Stalking them and hunting them down and forcing answers out, with force if necessary. It was the antithesis of what she had embodied, most of her life.

But her baby brother had never been at stake this way before.

“I can’t kill people, Natsu.” She murmured. Her brother nodded.

“I don’t really…I mean, Touya does it, if we ever think it’s necessary.” He murmured. “But if it came down to it, I would…take responsibility, for that part.”

“Okay,” Fuyumi whispered. “Okay. Let’s get our brother back, hmm?”

Natsuo nodded, smiling shakily, and they both turned their eyes back to the scuff marks on the walls.

Shouto had wondered, briefly, whether the fact that someone had left him food would make slipping into the common area in the morning less awkward. He was, tragically, incorrect, and he felt the urge to bury his head in the dirt ostrich-style resurface violently when he stepped into the kitchen the next morning.

A half dozen pairs of eyes were on him instantly, digging into his drab clothes – more generally monochrome op-shop pieces, with the addition of Touya’s jacket – and his slight bedhead. Shouto frowned slightly and turned away from their gazes. He hadn’t been offered the school uniform, probably because the staff had correctly assumed he wouldn’t want to wear it. He did wish he had some choice in what he was able to wear, though. A bag of clothes had been dumped outside his door early that morning; all fairly boring, but they fit well enough. Shouto didn’t even know when they’d managed to get his measurements.

“Good morning!” Iida exclaimed, hands moving wildly again. “Did you sleep well?”

Shouto had spent the entire night lying on his side, nausea stirring up his gut at times enough for him to sit up and take several deep breaths to calm himself down. Once the nausea had died down, sleep had still evaded him. He’d ended up spending half the night gazing out the window at the moon as it slowly moved across the sky while catching a few, scattered minutes of sleep. It had been nothing substantial, nothing even close to being enough for him to be functional. Shouto felt dead on his feet, all things considered.

“Fine.” He answered, managing to suppress the yawns that threatened to escape as he spoke. Blinking hard as Iida launched into some sort of spiel about how good that was to hear, and how beneficial sleep was for cognitive function, Shouto found his eyes focusing on one of the students who had formed his non-consensual posse yesterday. He was standing by the stove, his own bedhead even worse than Shouto’s, laughing and grinning at the brown-haired girl. Their names were Midoriya and Uraraka, if he remembered right. As Iida finished up his lecture and urged Shouto to have breakfast, Midoriya turned and saw Shouto looking.

Some of his anxiety seemed to have melted away since yesterday, because the other boy smiled and waved, setting down the wooden spoon he’d been holding on the bench and darting over.

“Maybe don’t start the day with a lecture, Iida.” He said lightly. “He only got here yesterday, after all.” Before Iida could respond, or even Shouto for that matter, he was gesturing to the stove. “Do…uhh…do you like eggs?” Shouto blinked again.

“Oh, uh, yes.” He murmured. Midoriya brightened then, some of his anxious energy slipping away.

“Oh, great! I can put some on for you.” He said cheerily.

“Thanks.” Shouto murmured quietly, moving to lean against the kitchen counter as he watched the rest of the class filter about cheerfully, with some of them throwing him occasional, curious looks. He did his best to ignore them, watching as Midoriya made breakfast. He was much less experienced than Touya was, but probably more capable than Shouto himself. As many times as he had tried to learn how to cook himself, he had a tendency to accidentally set things on fire, even without the use of his quirk, so his siblings tended to assign him dishwashing duty rather than trusting him with any sort of cooking utensil.

He accepted a plate from Midoriya with a low murmur of thanks, not missing how the other boy beamed at him, eyes oddly soft. Shouto slid into a place at the very end of the table, expecting to be avoided by everyone else as he ate. As such, he was more than a little surprised when Midoriya slid into the chair right next to him, and the class’s vice representative – Yaoyorozu – smiled at him and sat across the table, digging into a bowl of rice and fish. Shouto blinked slowly, more than a little surprised at the new development, but didn’t question it, silently going back to his own food.

“So, Shouto, how did you find yesterday’s lessons?” Iida asked as he sat on Midoriya’s other side, hand again chopping the air. “I will be happy to explain any unfamiliar concepts to you if you are having trouble.” Shouto shrugged.

“It was alright.” He murmured, sticking more egg in his mouth as an excuse for not having to talk. Iida nodded, before turning to Yaoyorozu.

“Ahh, Yaoyorozu, did you get the materials I asked you for?” the girl gave a start, before nodding and scooping up a bag that must have been sitting at her feet and handing it to Iida, who bowed sharply and thanked her profusely. Shouto almost dropped his chopsticks in shock when the other boy then handed him the bag.

“Uhh, what…?” he trailed off, blinking when he opened the bag and saw a set of notebooks, stationery and other school supplies staring up at him.

“I noticed yesterday that you didn’t have any materials to write with,” Iida said, voice a little softer. “I could not overlook the possibility of a fellow classmate missing content because they were not able to take proper notes.”

It was a surprisingly thoughtful move, and definitely not something that Shouto himself would have immediately thought of. He nodded, pressing his lips together.

“Thank you.” He murmured. These people didn’t need to be kind to him; he was the son of a vigilante, who couldn’t even control his own quirk. He hadn’t earned a place here, among these elite heroes-in-training. These were the type of people who went on to achieve great things; people like Shouto were designed to slip into the shadows and stay out of sight. His father had taught him from when he was young that keeping his head down and mouth shut was the only way to survive. The kids here existed to raise their voices and stand tall. Shouto didn’t, hadn’t, and never would belong in a place like this.

But…they were kind. They had no reason to be, and the majority of them were still clearly suspicious of him, but these few…they’d been welcoming. They were strange, definitely strange, but he couldn’t sense any ill will coming from them so far. He wasn’t trusting them, not by any stretch of the imagination, but he wasn’t going to be pointlessly wary of them, either. He recalled the plate of food left for him in the fridge.

Shouto softened.

“Honestly…” he shifted slightly, “I’m not up to the same places in the subjects we did yesterday.”

Iida straightened up, looking interested. “I see.” Shouto nodded.

“I think I’m slightly ahead in Physics and English Literature…” he trailed off, flushing slightly, “…but behind in everything else.” Iida smiled at him, the stricter lines of his face relaxing.

“Well, don’t stress about it,” he said firmly. “We can work out where in the curriculum you are compared to the rest of the class this afternoon.” Shouto relaxed slightly, nodding. Midoriya perked up, smiling at him so suddenly that Shouto squinted.

“I can help too!” he said. “I bet this is pretty different from your last school.”

Shouto blinked. “I mean…I’m sure it is, but I wouldn’t really know. I’ve never been to a proper school.”

They all stared at him.

“You...oh! Oh, okay.” Iida said, looking like the thought was hard to process, while Yaoyorozu looked mildly horrified by the prospect. Midoriya was chewing, expression pensive but not judgemental.

“So, you’re homeschooled?” Midoriya asked, swallowing his food and smiling when Shouto cautiously nodded. “That makes sense.” Shouto was baffled by that for a brief moment, before he abruptly remembered something from yesterday, shortly before he’d been escorted in to meet Class 1-A.

“I’m not going to be telling them the fine details of your situation,” Aizawa said, eyes analytical as they studied Shouto. “Because frankly, I don’t think it would make for a very positive first impression. I’m letting them know that your mother is a vigilante, and being sought by the police, but that’s the extent of what they’re going to know.”

Shouto scowled. “Do they need to know anything about me?”

Aizawa levelled a glare at him. “My students have endured multiple villain attacks since the start of the school year. They deserve to know who they’re sharing a classroom with.”

Shouto nodded, drawing his shoulders up a little. They would obviously know that he hadn’t exactly had a typical childhood, given the mother he had, so it made sense that Midoriya wouldn’t be too surprised by his admission. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“Well, as long as we can figure out what you need to catch up on, I don’t see the problem,” Iida said, expression shifting back into encouraging as he got up from his seat. “In any case, we should get going. Class starts soon.” Shouto nodded, reluctantly standing with the rest of them. The eggs had been good, but the prospect of another day spent here made them sit uneasily in his stomach. He slung the bag of notebooks over his shoulder, scratching the back of his neck. He was fully prepared to walk alone, but a simple glance to his side proved that Midoriya had, bafflingly, chosen to stand at his side again.

“I, um, I was going to ask…” Midoriya murmured, rubbing a hand anxiously through his curls and determinedly avoiding Shouto’s gaze. “Uh, are you feeling okay? I mean, I understand why you wouldn’t want to join us for dinner last night, I mean you barely know us and this whole situation must be really weird, but I was thinking that it would be bad if you started missing meals and being stuck here is already distressing enough I guess so I didn’t want it to get worse, so I left you food last night but I wasn’t certain that that was okay with you? I’m fine with leaving food if you don’t want to spend time with us but yeah everyone else was wondering if you were alright and I was just worried that you might have gotten hungry and…” the boy trailed off, eyes going wide. “I’m…so sorry.”

Shouto blinked at him. “What for?”

Midoriya blushed, looking ready to bolt. “I, uh, for the rambling, that is. I do it a lot, sorry.”

Shouto shrugged. His own mother mumbled to herself when she was deep in thought, and Touya hummed irritating, boppy pop songs when he was sketching out new tattoo designs. It was an odd little habit, but Shouto was more than used to the people around him making noise. Since his family had firmly stepped into After, they’d made as much noise as they pleased. After so many years of shut lips and bitten-off sentences, he preferred the sound of pointless, rambling noise over silence in any circumstance. It was a sign they were all still free.

“I don’t mind it at all.” He said honestly, glancing down at his boot-clad feet, surprised when he looked over at Midoriya and saw a slight flush on his face. “…You were the one who left food out for me?”

Midoriya’s face got redder. “Oh, uh, yeah. I was worried when you didn’t eat with the rest of us.” Shouto blinked, turning his face back to face the pavement as a small smile tugged at his lips.

“Yeah, I wasn’t quite feeling up to it,” he admitted. “But thank you for leaving the food. I was getting ready to forage for scraps.” Midoriya giggled slightly, smiling almost conspiratorially.

“I don’t think anyone in our class would begrudge you food.” He said, “But you should join us for dinner tonight in any case. We don’t bite.” Shouto bit his lip, shrugging with a wry grin on his face.

“I’ll see.” He murmured. “We still have to survive the day yet.” Midoriya smiled.

“That’s true.” He mused, smiling at Shouto again in a way that lifted some stress off his shoulders. “Let’s get through the day first.”

Aizawa was tired.

Scratch that. Tiredness was a state of mind and body that he’d been feeling since the age of approximately 13, and he knew it better than he did his own husband. Aizawa Shouta was fucking exhausted.

He wished it was a quick fix; if it was physical exhaustion that plagued him so, he could have just curled up and napped during class that afternoon. But this feeling of bone-deep fatigue was psychological, and he was about done with it. If lobotomies hadn’t been deemed unethical, he would have gotten one years ago, if only to be able to avoid the horror that was having responsibilities and emotions.

“It’s early days, Shouta,” Nemuri said from her desk, throwing him, and the bottle of wine he’d pulled out from his desk and cracked open, a moderately judgemental look. “The kid has high walls up, so you gotta give him time for them to fall down.”

“Still,” he lamented, taking another swig, “it’s clear that he doesn’t want to open up to them at all. He doesn’t trust my students, or me, for that matter.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” Nemuri murmured. “He’s exercising a reasonable level of caution, given his current position. Those kids are curious about him, but they’ve grown a lot since the start of the year. They aren’t going to approach a wild animal if they think it’s going to bite them. His assimilation into the class has to be mutual.”

Aizawa sighed. “I know, but Class 1-A is cautious after so many villain attacks, and Shouto has more walls up than a goddamn maze, so I fail to see how that’s going to work. I’m expecting him to stay away from them, frankly. He doesn’t seem like much of a socialiser.” Nemuri nodded thoughtfully. Aizawa bit his lip, then groaned quietly, shoving his paperwork to the side for now and getting up.

“And where are you going?” Nemuri asked as he slung his capture weapon back around his neck. He growled.

“Class 1-A’s dorms. I should make sure that none of them has started a fight with Shouto yet.” He muttered. Nemuri laughed.

“You might wanna tone down those dad vibes you’re giving off, Shouta.”

“I’m not-” Aizawa bit down on the rest of his sentence as Nemuri cackled. He knew her well, and if bothered trying to fight her, he’d be stuck here forever. He just scowled and stormed out, slamming the door shut behind him for emphasis and pretending that he couldn’t hear how Nemuri’s laughter had gotten louder.

He’d been enduring those ‘Shouta is a dad’ jokes since the beginning of the year, frankly. Ever since the USJ, his colleagues seemed to have all gotten it into their heads that he was, for whatever reason, unduly attached to his current batch of troublesome teens. Which was bullshit. Obviously.

He treated these students the same as his other classes, in his mind, anyway. The fact that they’d been attacked by villains meant that he’d had to step in to defend them more often than he had other cohorts, but that was the only difference. He had still expelled a student on the first day like he normally did, and he still found this ragtag group of 19 as exasperating as he did all other students. Yet the other teachers still went on and on at length about how paternal he’d become.

It was especially unbearable when All Might dared do it, of course – he had no idea how that man hadn’t been straight up called ‘dad’ by Midoriya yet – but what Aizawa really couldn’t understand was how widespread the joke was. It was a mystery to solve another day, though, and he shook the thoughts off as he approached the stairs to 1-A Alliance.

Shouto had been kept out of afternoon classes, that day. Iida had passed on the information that the kid had never had formal schooling and thus would need to be evaluated to figure out where his skill level was for different subjects. It had ended up working out well; while Shouto had been working through curriculums and outlining what he’s been taught already, the rest of the class did their practical lessons. Aizawa had been sincere in his offer of helping the kid how to use and control his quirk, but he’d considered it a little overwhelming to let him join in the class’ hero lessons on only his second day.

The kid wasn’t too far behind on a lot of things. There were some things that Aizawa had noted he needed to be taught, which Iida and Yaoyorozu had been more than eager to help him with, but overall, not bad. For someone who’d never been to a proper school, and had probably only followed a rudimentary home-schooling curriculum throughout his life, he had been educated very well. Aizawa didn’t know if Widowmaker herself had taught the kid, or if it had been someone else, but he was impressed.

He peered in the window for a moment before opening the door, surprised to see the majority of the class milling around in the common area. Usually, from what he’d observed anyway, small groups tended to cycle through the kitchen and make food for themselves or one another before slipping out again. The whole class got together sometimes to make dinner for everyone, but they’d done just that last night, so it was a shock to see them doing so again.

“Hey Aizawa-sensei!” a cheerful Ashido called as he slid the door open and stepped in. “Are you gonna join us for dinner?” she looked so keen, so genuine, and Aizawa suppressed the inexplicable, ridiculous urge to actually stay and spend time with his troublesome students, and sighed.

“I’m only here for a quick check-up, Ashido.” He said. Ashido pouted, but turned back to the rice she was stirring.

“Well you’re missing out on some great curry, then!” she declared. Aizawa raised an eyebrow, and surveyed the room, seeking out any signs of a head of peculiar red and white hair. Ashido looked up from her pot of rice. “If you’re looking for Shouto, Iida dragged him upstairs to work out what he needed to study.”

Aizawa fought a smile at that. That was right on brand for the Class Rep. Ashido hesitated, biting her lip.

“Uhh, sir, does Shouto have a last name? It just feels kinda weird to call someone we don’t know by their first name is all.”

Aizawa sighed. “If I knew what it was, I would have introduced him as such, but he doesn’t seem to want us to know.” And of course, he didn’t; if the police got ahold of his full name, they could cross-reference the quirk registry, look up his parents, and bam, they’d finally have Widowmaker’s real identity. He could easily understand the kid’s hesitance to tell anyone anything, as much as he wished that the other would be less guarded. He eyed Ashido. She was chatty, certainly, but also rather honest.

“What do you think of him?” he asked curiously. Ashido blinked, humming slightly.

“He’s…very quiet.” She said simply. “Really, I don’t know what to think. I understand he’s coming from a difficult situation, but he’s really reserved even despite that. It…” she flushed slightly, skin turning an even more intense shade of pink, “well, I don’t wanna come off as sounding invasive but…I almost get the sense at times that he’s holding his breath. Like he’s scared something is going to happen.”

That made Aizawa stop short. He’d noticed Shouto’s withdrawn nature – it was impossible not to, but that was a way of looking at the kid’s behaviour that he hadn’t thought about yet. Now that he cast his mind back over his interactions with the kid, he could understand where Ashido was coming from. Shouto kept his true feelings locked tightly away, preferring to avert his gaze and bite his tongue. Aizawa had been stupid enough to dismiss that as further caution on the kid’s part.

But fear? That made sense; there was little in this situation that Shouto didn’t have good reason to fear. The fact that he was among completely unfamiliar people probably wasn’t helping to put him at ease. He wasn’t going to try and psychoanalyse the kid to get to the very depths of his fears, but he could try to deal with what lay on the surface. But in order to treat fear, one had to counteract it, and without knowing what the exact source was, Aizawa knew that would be hard to do.

The most I can do is minimise the background anxiety, he thought, minimise the discomfort he feels in this situation. How the fuck am I supposed to do that?

He nodded, setting the thoughts aside for the time being. “I see. Thank you, Ashido.”

Ashido nodded, stirring the rice absently, smiling at him. “No worries, sensei. Now, are you sure you don’t wanna join us for dinner sensei? Class 1-A is pretty good at cooking if I do say so myself!”

Aizawa buried his sudden surge of irritation (affection) and gave her a measured look. “Your rice is burning, Ashido.”

The girl yelped as she noticed, yanking the pot off the stove and poking at the browned rice at the bottom with a pout on her face. Shouta fought a small smile at that and straightened up when he heard murmuring voices on the stairs. Shouto appeared in the doorway, arms folded in a somewhat self-conscious looking gesture, as Iida waved his hands energetically, obviously talking about something to do with study or academics. Shouto saw him quickly, blinking a little in surprise before he forced his expression into something more neutral. Aizawa ignored the twisting sensation in his gut when he saw that. Minimise the discomfort.

“Good evening sensei!” Iida declared, chopping the air with his hand again. Midoriya, who was standing by his side and smiling slightly at Yaoyorozu, had to step back to avoid being bludgeoned. “Are you going to join us for dinner?”

Really, what was it with his kids and them wanting him to stay for dinner? Aizawa repeated the same refusal that he’d offered Ashido, but found himself lingering as the girl began dutifully doling out portions for everyone, assisted by a chirpy Hagakure and grinning Sero.

Shouto was a pale visage that hovered on the edge of Aizawa’s vision, and while Aizawa took care to not look like he was observing him any more than anyone else, he did take careful note of how the boy was acting. He was out among Class 1-A rather than locking himself in his room, which was certainly an improvement, but he hardly looked happy to be there.

Given how closely Midoriya, Yaoyorozu and a tentative-looking Uraraka were sitting to him, he guessed that they had probably been part of the reason Shouto was there. The kid sat with his shoulders bunched up, tension visible in his frame, but the gentle smiles from Yaoyorozu, cheerful comments from Midoriya and casual gestures from Uraraka made some of it leech free. Not for the first time, Aizawa felt gratitude at having such a welcoming class flood him. He decided to call it a night as Iida started to order everyone to line up to deposit their dishes in the dishwasher, waving idly at Ashido as he made his way out.

Minimise the discomfort. He thought. That wouldn’t be an easy task. Shouto already sat apart from the rest of the class, a foreign entity in more ways than one. His circumstances and requirements made him stand as distinctly ‘other’ – any attempt to change that would be difficult. Aizawa already knew that he couldn’t erase the visual differences – the idea of Shouto wearing a UA uniform had been raised earlier that day, and the disgusted look the boy had responded with had made Hizashi choke on his tea.

Aizawa sighed. Even the differences between the kid’s education and the rest of Class 1-A would only do more to drive the wedge. The overflowing kindness of people like Midoriya, Iida, Yaoyorozu and other kids in the class could only do so much if Shouto himself felt like an intruder.

An idea came to him, and he paused in his walk back to the teacher’s dorms, mulling it over.

The risk was high, but so was taking in the son of an incredibly dangerous vigilante, and everything else they did at UA, honestly. It was killing two birds with one stone, in a certain sense, and though it would mean that Aizawa would have to devote more time to getting Shouto up to speed academically, that was already a commitment he’d been prepared to make.

Aizawa tugged his phone free of his pocket, making a face at the critically low battery percentage and making a beeline for his contacts list, scrolling down until the picture for Nedzu – and the attached name, which was not in good taste – showed up. He pressed the phone icon, rushing through the principal’s chirpy greeting to get to the core of his thoughts.

“How would you feel about letting Shouto take part in practical lessons?”