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Waking up in the middle of the night was a common enough occurrence for Izuku; blaring alerts frequently sent him running out the door with his hero costume in one hand and his shoes in the other. Crises of all flavors caused his phone to scream and Izuku dutifully answered every time, no matter who or what was on the other end of the line.

Izuku still instinctively reached for the usual culprit as he threw off his bed sheets to the tune of sirens instead, moving on autopilot while his toes found homes in his slippers. He unlocked the device only to be met with dozens, dozens of missed calls and notifications that certainly should have already roused him with how high he kept the volume. With the sirens going off right outside and without time to fully process what the alerts were or how he could have missed them - was his phone on silent? - Izuku stumbled out of his room, trying to shake the cobwebs and sleep from his groggy brain as he shifted into hero mode.

His entire house was as dark as expected after midnight, but brightly colored lights from the open windows bathed the walls in strobes of red, guiding Izuku’s way as he hurried down the stairs, his feet keeping time with the furious pounding on his front door and in his ribcage. Everything felt off, like walking through water in a dream. Something was wrong. His house wasn’t on fire, but maybe there was a gas leak, or some other emergency in the neighborhood? Was he being evacuated?

Izuku hit the ground floor and came to a dead stop. The front windows cut red squares across his vision, flashing.

His hands were empty.

Where was his equipment case?? He always kept it by his bedroom door, ready to grab on the way out and never far if he really needed it. Like he might right now. Had his sleep-addled self really just missed it in his mad dash to get downstairs?

Before Izuku could contemplate going back for it, his front door burst open in a shower of splinters, propelled into his genkan by a battering ram held by two uniformed police officers. They were quickly followed by a swarm of at least a dozen more, with just as many gun barrels pointed at Izuku as if he were some kind of threat.

A voice barked out, “Midoriya Izuku, you are under arrest for murder,” and, oh, a threat was exactly what they thought Izuku was.

“Wh-what?” was all Izuku could manage to stutter out before his arms were grabbed by several sets of hands, wrenched behind his back and wrapped in cold metal with a loud click. 

Handcuffed. At gunpoint. By the police??

The reflexive urge to dodge that grab had been strong, but Izuku schooled himself to just let it happen. His doormat days may have been far, far behind him, now with his fighting instincts and skills honed to an edge, but it would have been a mistake.

He was certainly no stranger to skirting the law, to finding loopholes, and to taking matters into his own hands. But loopholes were one thing, resisting arrest was another; it was no gray area that would only earn him a slap on the wrist. Fighting this many civil servants would result in excessive injuries if Izuku were to really retaliate, even if he was careful, and he might not even escape.

So he relented, letting himself be marched off of his sleepy property through the eerie midnight mist, past his front lawn filled with police, heroes, and sidekicks, all with their weapons and quirks trained on Izuku, and stuffed into the back of a maximum security transport vehicle.

The handcuffs around his wrists were heavy. Over his shoulder, reflected against the seat, was a glowing light that signaled their true purpose: quirk-suppressants.

Izuku had been in enough scrapes to remain confident in the face of the worst dangers, but this was uncharted territory. It wasn’t a villain or training exercise. These were the real police, real heroes, arresting Izuku. His blood was pounding in his ears as ice rose along his skin, his head spinning; everything had happened so fast.

He was entirely lost. Rudderless without a compass, steering wheel, or any kind of blueprint for this situation, he could only stare at the metal floor under his slippered feet as the road rumbled by underneath. 




Izuku floated through the next several hours like he was barely awake. And really, it felt like he wasn’t: the entire series of events so far had been and continued to be completely surreal. Surely he was still sound asleep and this was some awful nightmare. He had been on the other side of these proceedings many times, dragging villains and petty criminals into custody like it was his job - because it was. But this time it was Izuku who stood in handcuffs while a sidekick, a promising young woman he had eaten lunch with the previous week, booked him. At the time, she had been overly complimentary in her praise of Hero Deku. 

Now she wouldn’t even look at him.

His questions were met with steely silence or harsh demands to be quiet. So Izuku held his tongue, and his heavy heart.

They put him in an interrogation room and cuffed him to the table. Izuku knew what would come next: left there alone for hours. It was a deliberate tactic to get him to break easier when they finally came to talk to him.

Izuku just wished he knew what it was he was supposed to confess to.

He was tired and hungry and the steel chilled the skin of his forearms until it sank into his bones, but all he could do was wait.

Eventually, after an hour or a day, the door opened, and a welcome figure stepped through. Relief washed over Izuku as he recognized Detective Tsukauchi, but the relief was short-lived when Izuku saw the expression on his haggard face.

“Not how I’d hoped to see you next, Midoriya,” the detective said, his voice low and rough. It was the middle of the night - morning? after all.

“Tsukauchi-san, there’s been some kind of mistake,” Izuku said, glad to finally have someone he knew would listen to him. The word murder had been thrown around over his head since he was arrested, but that couldn’t possibly be right. The only villain death Izuku had on his record was from years ago, during a building collapse that Seismiss had herself caused, and Izuku had tried to save her, nearly lost his own life— 

The sharp whap of paper on metal snapped Izuku’s attention back to reality as a file folder landed on the desk in front of his shackled hands. Tsukauchi made no move to do anything else with it, so Izuku tentatively flipped open the manila folder, pulling his left hand against the bolt to get enough slack for his right. What greeted him was a picture of a man he knew, someone Izuku had recently become quite familiar with.

“We know he was a suspect, but this was a gross breach of conduct, Midoriya. Even the wildest loopholes of your license won’t fit this.”

Izuku felt his forehead crease, the words not lining up into anything that made sense. “For requesting to be on his security detail..?”

Tsukauchi’s eyebrows shot up. “Security det— for killing him, Midoriya!”

Mouth falling open, Izuku’s own eyebrows mirrored the detective’s. Geodesic was dead? Failure settled heavy across Izuku’s shoulders; this was exactly what he had wanted to prevent. After months of tracking a series of similar murders, Izuku had finally found someone he suspected would be the next victim. Too little, too late. Izuku failed to save them.

But— Wait— Killing him? Tsukauchi was insinuating that.. Izuku killed him? That’s what he had been arrested for!? In an absurd way, it was almost a relief, despite the fact that this man had died before Izuku could protect him; Izuku wasn’t being brought up on new charges for old collateral damage, it was just a mistake. If Geodesic had been killed, Izuku was a suspect just because of his involvement with the investigation. Once Izuku confirmed he didn’t do it, once they found the actual person responsible, this would all go away.

“Tsukauchi-san,” Izuku said, a bizarre sort of laugh in his voice, “I didn’t kill him.”

The detective looked instantly troubled, which in turn made Izuku’s gut churn. Tsukauchi could always tell when Izuku lied. Stating the truth to him should end this entire charade, and allow Izuku to go home and go back to bed.

Tsukauchi turned to a monitor embedded in the wall off to Izuku’s right, and after a brief period of fumbling with a remote, the screen lit up. What it showed looked like a television broadcast: Geodesic giving a speech at a podium piled with a half dozen microphones.

“Look,” Izuku tried to explain, only half watching the recording. “Geodesic was not a suspect, but a potential target. I was afraid this might happen, which is why I wanted to protect him - but I can assure you I wasn’t—” 

Izuku’s words were cut off as Izuku appeared on screen.

In a flash, Hero Deku, in full costume and flashing green sparks, leapt on top of the man at the podium and snapped his neck.

On what must have been live television.

Izuku stood up, the chains at his wrists keeping him from backing away from the horrible footage as much as he wanted to. The audio had been reduced to screams. Izuku’s heart was going haywire in his chest, white static covering his entire body.

Impossible.

Impossible.

“That’s not me,” Izuku said weakly, his mouth dry.

“Please sit back down. Where were you last night?”

His knees threatening to give out anyway, Izuku sank back into the metal chair.

Where had he been? Izuku had gotten home late and turned in early; all of the exhaustion of working this case on top of his regular hero work had finally caught up to him and he passed out right after dinner. The next thing he knew, he was being arrested.

“At home. In my house.”

Tsukauchi angled his head to the side. “All night?”

“Yes,” Izuku responded.

“Can anyone verify that?”

Izuku lived alone. He didn’t even have a dog or a cat that could have talked to Koda to corroborate his story.

“No,” Izuku said quietly. He licked his lips. “B-but that’s still not me.”

“It is,” Tsukauchi said flatly. He reached down to the pile of papers on the table and flipped aside the glossy file to reveal a series of evidence photos taken in Izuku’s house. Shoe prints on the windowsill under an open window. His hero costume, discarded on the floor instead of neatly packed in its case, a scattering of dark stains across one shoulder.

“There were no lights on in your house from the hours of 18:00 to 00:08, when you were found and arrested. Are you telling me you were home that entire time?”

Izuku’s stomach tightened. It wasn’t that crazy to go to sleep at eight o’clock, Kacchan did it all the time! But anyone who knew Izuku knew he was a night owl, and his electric candles burned all night long. “Yes, I was asleep,” Izuku said, voice small. He knew he was innocent, so why did he feel so uneasy? “But I didn’t— I didn’t do this! The footage must be doctored, someone is setting me up—” 

“I’ll tell you what happened, Midoriya,” Tsukauchi interrupted. “You left your house at 20:30 to arrive at the public address just after 22:00. You killed Geodesic, then fled from police and heroes, leading them right back to your house. They watched you slip into your second floor window, and then they arrested you minutes later. Tell me, Midoriya, how could that be someone else?”

Tears welled up in Izuku’s eyes as he stared down at the damning photos in front of him. “I d-don’t know,” he said. “But I don’t remember any of that.”

“I believe you.”

Izuku looked up and his heart skipped a beat. “You— You do?”

Tsukauchi’s nostrils flared as he exhaled slowly. “I do. I know you aren’t lying - It’s true you can’t remember. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t do it.”

The minor surge of relief Izuku had felt at the detective’s first words sank into the floor, replaced by dread. He balled his hands into fists, the chains clattering against the metal tabletop. 

“You’ve been working very hard, haven’t you? Two full-time jobs, from what I hear. Regular hero work and the serial killer case, right? Midoriya, am I right?”

Izuku clenched his teeth together. His whole world felt like it was about to give out from under him with what Tsukauchi was insinuating. “Technically, yes, but I can handle it—”

“And it’s been very stressful. Why, there was just another murder this month. On top of the hostage situation at the bank you were injured in.”

“It was a very minor fracture—”

“You finally, after months of dead ends, got a break in the case. And then your request to get close to this suspect was denied. That must have just been the cherry on top of a shit sundae, huh?”

Izuku blinked. He didn’t even know it had been denied. And the man hadn’t been a suspect! Before he could say as much, his mouth half opened, Tsukauchi cut him off.

“Tell me, have you had blackouts before? Lost time?”

Izuku let his jaw click back shut and shook his head. Blackouts? What? Like, getting drunk? Izuku couldn’t say he never drank, but the occasions when he did were few and far between, and always with a designated teetotaler to ensure no property damage caused by a rogue flick of a superpowered quirk.

“Mm, okay. Midoriya, I believe that you don’t remember. I believe that you blacked out, and unconsciously took out your frustration and rage on the man you’d been targeting, whom you thought committed all these heinous murders, and enacted your inner desires of vigilante justice.”

“No!” Izuku yelled, his heart in his throat, his entire body shaking. “I wouldn’t! I didn’t!”

Right?

Did he.. Did he really do this? Did he completely snap, murder someone in cold blood, and not remember any of it??

“Admit it, Midoriya. You don’t remember and so you can’t say for certain that isn’t what happened.”

Izuku’s nails dug into his palms. “I—”

The door burst open, slamming violently against the wall with a loud, reverberating bang that startled both men in the room. Standing in the doorway, furious and imposing at seven feet tall despite being so thin and so many years removed from his prime, was Izuku’s mentor, idol, and hero.

“A-All Might!”

“What is the meaning of this?” All Might shouted, not even looking at Izuku but boring his fearsome gaze directly into the detective standing across the table. “Why wasn’t I called? Did you deliberately hide him in this obscure precinct?”

Izuku turned his head back to Tsukauchi. He suddenly realized that he had no idea where he even was; he assumed it was just his local precinct, and had been too out of it to make note of any details that might have told him otherwise.

Tsukauchi sighed, crossing his arms. “Toshinori, you cannot be involved in this case. Conflict of interest.”

“But that doesn’t apply to you, right? I expected better.” All Might turned his piercing blue eyes on Izuku. “You, have you asked for a lawyer? A phone call? A glass of water?”

Izuku swallowed. Right, he should really have known not to speak with the detective without a lawyer, even if the man was an old friend.

“No, sir,” Izuku said meekly, dropping his eyes back to his bound wrists. Even after years of being a professional hero, Izuku still felt like a child in All Might’s presence.

The sound that All Might made was equal parts resigned and exasperated. “Midoriya-shounen,” he said with a shake of his head, reinforcing that he still on some level viewed Izuku like one, too. He redirected his ire back to Tsukauchi: “Are you charging him with something?” 

“Yes,” the detective responded, and Izuku’s stomach hit the floor. “Are you here to act as his legal counsel? We can head to arraignment now if so.”

“He needs an actual lawyer,” All Might said.

Tsukauchi seemed unfazed, tilting his head in Izuku’s direction. “One will be appointed for him.”

“You know as well as I do they aren’t any help!”

“Wait,” Izuku said, his voice shaking. “Is this— is this actually happening? I’m being charged with murder?”

Tsukauchi motioned to a pair of officers hovering just outside the doorway, turning to fix Izuku with a flat stare. “Yes.”

And Izuku’s whole world shattered.

The officers unhooked Izuku from the table and pulled him out of his seat. 

Just like when he was initially processed, Izuku passed through the arraignment in a daze, barely able to focus on what was said to him or what was asked of him. Maybe he really had lost his mind; he was certainly losing his grip on reality.

Murder. He was being charged with murder, and would be remanded without bail until his trial. His trial for murder. For a crime Izuku couldn’t even remember committing. How could he possibly defend himself? Should he, even, if he really did it? Izuku knew murderers belonged in prison, and if Izuku was a murderer, then that was where he belonged, too.

What would his mother think?

What would the world think?

..What would Kacchan think?

Chapter Text

The camera zooms in on a flashy young man, smiling as he delivers an announcement to a crowd of rapt onlookers. Then, quick as lightning, a blur of green enters the frame. Hero Deku snaps the man’s neck.

Katsuki rubbed his eyes in slow, frustrated circles. It was a futile attempt to manually scrub the lack of sleep out of them, after god only knew how many hours of doing this. Being able to focus on the screen had become a struggle. He’d seen the footage dozens of times already, and as numb as he felt now there was still something that sliced into his breastbone when he watched it. It didn’t feel real, and Katsuki looped through every stage of grief each time he pressed play.

“You’re gonna make yourself sick,” Sero said as he leaned over Katsuki’s desk to grab an empty, stained paper coffee cup and wag it at him. “And, you need to sleep. You’re not even part of the investigation.”

“Am now.”

“No shit?” Sero sounded incredulous, which Katsuki did not appreciate. “They let you on?”

“Private investigation,” Katsuki said absently, his eyes still on the frozen image of Deku about to murder someone. He glanced up at Sero, who was now looking incredulous, too, and his hackles rose. “The fuck is with that face?”

Sero rolled his eyes. “Dude. They’re gonna take your license if they catch you poking around.”

“He didn’t fucking do it.”

“Bakugou..”

The laptop screen snapped shut with a little more force than necessary. “Been over this already. There’s just no way in hell Shitty Deku is capable of this shit. You know it, I know it. Something stinks.”

“Even if that’s true, what good are you gonna do if you get arrested, too, huh?”

Katsuki fished around for a slip of paper he had thrown into the back of his top desk drawer. It was just about the only thing in there, the whole piece of furniture spartan and free from clutter. The same could not be said for Sero’s dumb desk in their shared office, overflowing with his own branded washi tape, dispensers, pens and stickers and all kinds of office supply garbage.

That he never even used.

There were only so many hours in the day and Katsuki devoted most of them to brutal, physical hero work, on top of charity events and general hero PR nonsense. He barely even saw his desk. Not that other heroes didn’t also do those things, but Katsuki knew his limits, and maybe that’s why he hadn’t fucking snapped and killed anyone yet. 

No - Katsuki shook his head. He couldn’t think like that. Regardless, Katsuki stuck to standard hero work, leaving the paperwork and investigative bullshit to the nerds.

Until now, anyway.

He handed the certificate to Sero. “I’m not stupid, you fucking worrywort. Got clearance to do my own shit.”

“Jesus,” Sero swore, reading over the curly script under gold embossing that backed up Katsuki’s claim. “You’re really serious about this, then?”

“Hah?? I’m always serious, Soy Sauce Face,” Katsuki said, making a point to overly emphasize the nickname. Although he’d been using his closest friends’ actual names for years, he’d occasionally dip back into old habits when people got too chummy.

The one exception was, of course, Deku. Deku was still and would always be Deku.

That’s just the way it was.

Sero grinned. “Yeah, sure you are. You want help? I mean, I know you’re too proud to accept any, but I figured I’d ask.”

“That shit doesn’t work on me anymore,” Katsuki hissed, knowing for a fact that it definitely continued to work on him all the time. He tried to ignore Sero’s annoying presence looming over him for as long as he could before he finally relented, scowling. “Fine, asshole.” 

He yanked over his notepad and wrote down a number in quick, harsh strokes before tearing it off and handing it over. “Get yourself a shitty piece of paper, too, and then we’ll talk.” 

Still grinning, Sero saluted before exiting their office. 

Katsuki watched him go, his fingers drumming a rhythm on his desk. Sero might seem like an idiot, and he was one, but he’d gotten a job at the same agency as Katsuki all the same. He was a good fighter, a decent officemate, and although Katsuki would never say it out loud, a great friend. One of a handful that had aggressively befriended him at UA, when he’d arrived without any intention of making any.

Without any intention of keeping the only one he’d arrived with.

Not that they had been friends.

Katsuki huffed out a sigh, turning back to his computer and opening it back up, the footage still paused mid-murder. There must have been something he was missing. Something no one else saw.

Something only Katsuki could see.

He pressed play.

Speech. Sparks. Snap. Rewind.

Speech. Sparks. Snap.

Rewind.

Again, again, again.

Speech. Sparks.

There. He paused it, scrubbed it back and played it forward again.

There was.. something wrong. Aside from the obvious, which was Deku murdering someone, One For All itself looked off. It was barely noticeable, but Katsuki had seen Deku’s inherited quirk up close for years and it never looked like this. The green sparks were there but the pattern.. The pattern zagged where it should zig, and he couldn’t even fully explain it to anyone else but Katsuki knew it was wrong.

He worked his jaw left to right in time with the video slider as he ran it forward and back and forward and back. Now he wasn’t even sure. Had he just imagined it? Was it just an anomaly, easily explained as a product of the mental break that drove Deku to this?

The fact that Deku was so stupid as to go right back to his own house didn’t sit right with Katsuki; even if he’d lost his marbles, surely he’d have had even the barest shred of common sense left to run, or at the very least turned himself in when he’d realized what he’d done. 

Simple. Easy. Solved: Deku wasn’t the one in control of his actions.

It’s not like that was even a far-fetched idea. Although very rare, mind and body control quirks definitely existed - they had gone to high school with a dead-eyed fucker who had one, even.

Shinsou Hitoshi: An asshole with a chip on his shoulder the size of a rat. Creepy with a complex, a great combination. He had faced off against Deku time and time again in their first year at UA like they were some kind of destined rivals.

Feh. Bullshit.

Katsuki’s lip curled reflexively as he pulled up Shinsou’s file, met with a heavy-lidded stare that gazed out of the computer screen with unmasked disdain. Yeah, this fucker had always been bad news, but Deku seemed to get along well enough with him, like a dumb dog that doesn’t know when to stop following an angry cat around. Katsuki grimaced. He didn’t like the parallel.

Strongest mind control quirk on record, and Deku was a trusting idiot who would have let his guard down around him.

Why, though?

Katsuki’s brows drew together. Why, indeed. What motive could Shinsou have had besides ‘because he felt like it’ or ‘because he’s a gross fucker’ or ‘because Katsuki just doesn’t like him’? As far as Katsuki knew, Deku and Shinsou didn’t have much contact these days beyond the occasional team-up when their agencies were on the same beat.

As far as he knew. When was the last time Katsuki had even seen Deku? The murder case had taken all of Deku’s free time, and Katsuki.. Was Katsuki just fooling himself, stubbornly refusing to accept something he just hadn’t been around to see happen?

No, it had to be something else, like Shinsou— 

Katsuki sighed.

Shinsou being the most famous mind control quirk user that also knew Deku was the only connection, and it was a tenuous one.

Scrolling down Shinsou’s profile, Katsuki clicked through to archival footage. Conveniently, it had both his most recent and his oldest fights featured. And his oldest on record was the Sports Festival their first year at UA.

Katsuki pressed play.

Present Mic’s booming voice announced the two competitors and the rules as they squared off across from each other. Christ, Deku was so tiny. He was still short as an adult, but nothing like this little twig. It was still a wonder he had gotten this far in the tournament, scrawny and small without any control over a quirk that wrecked his own body almost every single time he used it.

The match started, and Shinsou was already talking. It didn’t take long for him to say something that set Deku off, and Deku couldn’t help running his mouth in return. With the benefit of years of perspective, Katsuki could admit it was, frankly, much more like something Katsuki would have done at the time.

He didn’t know whether to be annoyed or proud.

Seeing that it immediately resulted in Shinsou brainwashing Deku, Katsuki settled on being annoyed.

And there it was: Katsuki paused the video on a closeup of Deku’s face. Slack jaw with dead, empty, eyes. He arranged the windows so it was side by side with the footage from the other night.

Katsuki pressed his lips together. Unless Shinsou’s quirk had developed into something entirely undetectable, it wasn’t it. The Deku that was snapping someone’s neck was clear-eyed and snarling. 

After checking that the villain in Shinsou’s most recent video was affected in much the same way, Katsuki slumped his face into his hand, held up by an elbow on his desk. Feh. A dead end and a waste of time.

But. Just because Shinsou hadn’t controlled Deku, didn’t mean he couldn’t know something about it. He was an expert on the subject, and consulting with experts was something Katsuki was expressly allowed to do as a private hero investigator. Katsuki pulled Shinsou’s contact information up.

Maybe this wasn’t a waste of time after all.




The bright, puffy clouds outside cast slow-moving shadows across the window, but none of them compared to the one that darkened Katsuki’s face as he glowered down at his laptop.

“You know, as much as I love staring at you, at some point you have to say something.”

Arms crossed with his expression sullen, Katsuki only deepened his scowl. “I don’t trust you,” he eventually said.

“Oh I’m very used to that,” Shinsou said with a shrug, his deep voice crackling through Katsuki’s headphones. “Look, I agreed to talk with you. I can’t control you remotely, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“No shit. That’s why this is a fucking phone call, not a coffee date.”

Shinsou smiled, pulled tight and tired under heavy eyes. “Alright, Mr. Big Shot Private Investigator. What do you want to talk about? I’ll put on my most trustworthy face.”

Katsuki exhaled slowly through his nose, working his jaw back and forth. There wasn’t any point dragging it out, he was the one who wanted to talk to the fucker. “You know this is about Deku.”

The smile disappeared. “Figured. It’s all anyone can talk about these days.”

It’s all Katsuki could think about, too.

“I wanna know if he was being puppeted.”

Shinsou’s expression didn’t change. “You think I did it.”

This would have been a risky move, going directly to a suspect. If Shinsou was the culprit and the cause of Deku’s downfall, letting him know that Katsuki was onto him wasn’t smart.

And Katsuki was very smart.

“No, I actually don’t. Did you?”

“No.” Shinsou inclined his head slightly to the left. “Do you think I would say yes if I did?”

Katsuki’s fists curled tight against the edge of his keyboard. He’s not sure what he would have done if the answer had been yes. “Tch. Maybe you’re just that arrogant.”

“I’m not you, Bakugou,” Shinsou said with a sly grin. “Although I think we have more in common than you realize.”

Katsuki sneered. “Gross. Can we get back to Deku?”

“Sure. I’ve seen the footage. It could have been mind control, yeah. He looked normal. There’s usually a tell, though it can be easy to miss.”

Usually a tell. Like Deku’s dead eyes during his match against Shinsou. And maybe the green sparks that didn’t move right? Could that have been One For All trying to fight back, or signal that it wasn’t being used by the right person?

“But surely the investigation would have ruled it out already. You’re the first person involved to call me, even.”

Hairs rose along the back of Katsuki’s neck. That was certainly interesting. Even if Shinsou wasn’t a suspect, Katsuki would have thought he’d at least have been questioned, or consulted, just as Katsuki was currently doing.

“They really think he just did it, hah,” Katsuki muttered.

“Seems that way, yes.” Shinsou leaned in toward the camera, his eyes lit up eerily by his screen. “You know, I told you, we’re more alike than you think. Everyone thinks we’re more suited to villainy than heroism, but it was golden boy Midoriya that fell first.”

Katsuki could feel his teeth straining not to crack as he squeezed them together. “The fuck is this? You don’t know fuck all about him.”

“You misunderstand. I mean, you and I, we’d be in Tartarus right now had we done the same thing. No one would even bat an eye. We’d serve our time and everyone would forget about us. But Midoriya, his fate will be much worse.”

Skin prickling, Katsuki licked his lips, the energy that preceded a fight, a storm, crackling along his arms, despite the friendly skies and his opponent being on the other side of the city. “Explain.”

“A fall from grace is the hardest fall of all, and one the general public is dying for. They’ll eat him alive. It’s already happening.”

“The hell are you telling me this for?” Katsuki snapped. “Like I don’t already know!? Like I don’t see what they’re saying about him—”

“They mean to make an example of him. Why do you think no one called me? Why the investigation isn’t even looking at other suspects?”

Katsuki inhaled sharply, blinking rapidly, acidic barbs fizzling out on his tongue. 

“Bakugou. I want to help. Bring me on.”

Running a hand down his face, Katsuki sighed. Was he just collecting these idiots now?

“How do I know you’re not just gonna fuck me over the second I say shit to you?”

“You don’t. But I have skills much more suited to getting the intel you need versus blowing things up.”

Fuck.

Katsuki really hated that he was right.




While he waited for the two newest members of his former team of one to get certified, Katsuki made a visit he had been putting off. It felt weird walking down those halls again, though he couldn’t say he was a complete stranger to them since he graduated; trips to his alma mater for various PR appearances were common enough that he was used to the starry-eyed looks from the tiny little first-years.

But he usually wasn’t alone when he visited UA, and the eyes that avoided him now as he passed only underscored the absence at his side.

He rapped a knuckle on the half-ajar door that he came to a stop at. On it hung the faded brass plaque of a man who had come to the school as a temporary teacher over a decade ago.

“Ah, Bakugou-shounen,” the warm voice from within called. “Come in, take a seat. I’ve just finished making a pot.”

Katsuki slipped inside and shut the door behind him. He hadn’t been a shounen in years, but he expected All Might would still be calling him that his whole life. Katsuki didn’t mind; he was always going to be Kacchan to some people, too.

Hopefully for a long time on both counts.

“Oi, shoulda let me do that, old man,” Katsuki groused as he sank into All Might’s equally ancient couch, the same one he’d sat on as a teenager, letting his knees fall open.

“Please. Making tea is just about the only thing these old bones can do properly these days, let me have this. I have some for you to take home, as well.”

Katsuki clenched his jaw as he watched the former Number One totter around his office. He still packed a powerful voice and a commanding presence, but Katsuki could see how frail he’d gotten. The chunks missing from his organs certainly didn’t help. Neither, Katsuki surmised, had the stress of the last few days.

All Might handed Katsuki a cup and a sizable packet of loose leaf before taking his seat across the low table between them. His bright blue eyes cast a glance to Katsuki’s left, and Katsuki realized he’d sat at the far end of the couch, as if leaving room for someone else.

The elephant in the room, as it were.

“So,” All Might said, picking up his own tea in large, bony hands that made the cup look like a little girl’s toy.

“So.” Katsuki let the vapors linger for a moment before taking a sip. It was the same green tea All Might had been drinking since Katsuki had first gotten to know him as more than just a hero, and Katsuki was grateful for the gift nestled in his jacket pocket, so he could make it at home. It tasted warm, earthy, comforting. A memory in liquid form, calling back the dozens of times he’d sat in just this exact place to meet with All Might and Deku to talk about One For All. He put his cup back down on the table. “What the fuck?”

The laugh that shook All Might’s chest was bitter and without mirth. “I don’t know. I just don’t know. It still feels like some kind of horrid nightmare I’m waiting to wake from.”

“But he didn’t do it.”

All Might grimaced. “Bakugou-shounen, I’m afraid all the evidence points to the contrary—”

“Bullshit. I know you don’t fucking believe it.

“..I certainly don’t want to,” All Might said slowly. “But the human mind is.. A temperamental thing. It’s certainly possible. And I can’t..” he trailed off, staring down into the steaming drink in his hands. “I can’t rule out that One For All was somehow responsible. It wouldn’t be the first time the quirk has had unforeseen effects on Midoriya-shounen. He’s had impeccable control for years, but it’s really a quirk with a mind of its own. Several minds.”

Katsuki hadn’t even considered that. Was the mind control coming.. From inside? “What happens to it now?”

Shaking his head, All Might sighed. “I don’t know. If he’s convicted, we could arrange a transfer, if he’s even willing to let it go. But if it was the cause, I.. I’m not sure it should be passed on. But neither would I want it to stay a danger to Midoriya-shounen, even in prison. It’s a conundrum I don’t have an answer to.” He took a long draught of tea before placing his cup back on the table in front of Katsuki’s. “I understand you’re conducting your own investigation.”

“Yeah. You still his counsel?”

All Might shook his head. “I’m afraid both the police and the commission have been very adamant that I not be involved at all. They probably wouldn’t be happy we’re talking if they knew.”

“Tough shit. I’m licensed to talk to people now.”

Chuckling, All Might grinned, thin and wan. “That isn’t a free pass. You have to be careful, Bakugou-shounen. I presume you are trying to prove his innocence?”

His fists clenching over his knees, Katsuki bit down on a sarcastic reply. No, I’m tryna fuck him over more, sounds like me, don’t it?

Katsuki nodded instead. All Might nodded in response, picking up his cup again, and they fell into a silence that wasn’t quite comfortable.

It’s not like there was any special reason Katsuki was doing this. More like, why the fuck wasn’t everyone else? Yeah, all Deku’s shitty friends gave perfectly worded PR statements where they didn’t outright condemn him, but none of them seemed to care enough to do anything to get him out of it. Why the fuck did that fall to Katsuki? Because he’d known him the longest? Was the highest ranked hero? No, none of those things should have precluded any of Deku’s fawning squad of other heroes from doing the exact same shit. But they didn’t. Oh, they supported him, all right. Sympathized that he had a mental breakdown and wasn’t that just so very tragic.

No one else thought he didn’t actually do it, though. Not enough to challenge it. Even All Might was listening obediently to his superiors.

That was the grip the hero commission had on society; not even Katsuki was immune to it. A villain is labeled and the heroes put them away. That’s it, end of story, no questions asked.

Even if the villain was a hero.

Especially if the villain was a hero. 

Katsuki saw their pitying looks, passed over beer glasses as they expressed their shock in hushed tones. ‘Who could believe that all the stress had finally gotten to him,’ not ‘Someone else is responsible for this.’ Katsuki supposed that it made sense. When Mockingbird went cuckoo a few years ago, kidnapping and torturing a fellow hero he had a vendetta against, no one said he must not have actually done it. There had been even less evidence than the live video that Deku had stacked against him.

The narrative was just, oh, so sad, another promising hero with their career ruined.

Richer, more bullish, more connected heroes often skated through scandals unscathed, but murder wasn’t something you could easily brush off. Deku was going to take the fall for it, and hard.

“What do you know about the case Midoriya-shounen was working?”

Katsuki shrugged. “A bunch of people turning up long dead inside their posh-ass homes. Stuffed in their fridges.”

All Might made an unpleasant face. “Yes, it’s quite grisly. Midoriya-shounen was working himself to the bone trying to solve it to prevent future deaths, while the police seemed.. Content to wait for more bodies to turn up.”

Yeah, Katsuki knew that, too. The case had consumed Deku, completely taking over his life until he barely had any left. On top of already working a full-time job as one of the highest ranked heroes, he would leave patrols only to go right into investigative work on this serial killer case. Katsuki hadn’t been quiet about what he’d thought about that. How was Deku supposed to be worth beating if he beat himself with overworking and sleep deprivation?

But as they saw each other less and less, Katsuki had fewer and fewer opportunities to say anything about it.

“As I know it, the investigation is on hold until they find a replacement. They’ll likely have to do a full audit of everything he’s done, too. It might be worth looking into.”

Katsuki’s eyes narrowed. “The hell would I do that for?”

Footsteps sounded in the hallway, and All Might waited for them to fade after they passed by. “It might help you understand his mindset, what he’s been doing. Or people he came in contact with. If you are looking for a villain outside of Midoriya-shounen’s own mind, they could have been along that trail.”

A loud chime sounded, and All Might startled. “Ah, the warning bell,” he said. He attempted a smile. “Must be nostalgic for you.”

Standing, Katsuki downed the rest of his cooled drink before returning it to the table. “Have to get outta here anyway. Thanks for the tea.”

His fist had already closed around the door handle when All Might spoke up again, saying, “You know, I thought I could visit him while he’s on house arrest, but I’ve been told he’s only allowed visits from his lawyers and.. next of kin.”

Katsuki’s grip tightened around the cold metal in his hand.

He turned it, opened the door, and walked out without another word.

Chapter Text

“Your fridge is already stocked, and you’ll get weekly food deliveries.” 

The woman overseeing Izuku’s transfer and subsequent house arrest barely looked at him as she explained, standing outside his newly replaced front door like she was welcoming him to a bed and breakfast and not delivering him to a glorified jail cell.

“Weekly?” Izuku asked faintly. It was the first word he had spoken in what felt like days. His eyes cast back over his neighborhood, at the pleasant and crisp nearly-spring day beaming aggressively back at him. Couldn’t it have at least been raining, to match the mood? Having this be his last whiff of freedom was almost insulting. “How long is this going to last?”

“Could be a while. Big backup in the courts as always.” She pointed at the thick manacle around Izuku’s right ankle. “I’ll reiterate. Do not attempt to remove the monitor, or get it wet. It will deliver an electric shock to your system that will render you unconscious. This will also happen if it goes outside these walls after you first enter.”

Izuku had been on the receiving end of those kinds of zaps before courtesy of Kaminari, and he wasn’t keen on experiencing that again. But more distressing than the threat of being electrocuted was the fact that, just like the other restraints he had been in, it completely deactivated his quirk. It made him feel empty and small in a way he hadn’t in years. 

The warden unlocked Izuku’s handcuffs, and her accompanying guards forced him into the open front door at gunpoint. He didn’t struggle or resist, but they harshly shoved him to the floor across the threshold regardless.

“You will receive daily check-ins at six a.m. sharp. If you don’t answer the door within sixty seconds, you will be considered hostile. The phone line in the kitchen has been rewired into a service line for medical emergencies and maintenance issues; don’t abuse it or you’ll be moved to a less hospitable location. Have a good day.”

Izuku could only stare up at the woman and the guards from his crumpled position on the floor as the door slammed shut, sealing out the daylight. A heavy, newly-installed lock clicked into place - from the outside.

Their footsteps grew fainter until Izuku was left alone in silence.

“Great,” he muttered, flopping onto his back like a starfish. He looked upside down into his old home and new prison, where he would live for some indefinite time until potentially being shipped off to another, more permanent one. It was a fairly large house, one that Izuku had insisted he purchase for his mother when he had saved enough of his sizable hero salary. It’s not a place he would have ever chosen for just himself; Izuku was happy to give most of his earnings away, setting aside the bare minimum for a modest living - and a slightly-more-than-modest amount of rare hero merch.

But his mother wasn’t going to live in a crummy little apartment if Izuku could help it.

So here it was, the fruit of his labors: a comfortable place to come home to, to store his merch and the occasional trophy, to do his laundry and catch a few hours of sleep before rushing back out to do it all again. And now it was also a large jail cell that he was imprisoned in.

Wrongfully imprisoned.

Izuku had to trust that the truth would come to light and this would be resolved and cleared up before long. Of course, that’s what he had thought when he had first been arrested; while he got his wish of just wanting to go home, this wasn’t quite what he had had in mind.

Izuku pulled himself up to his feet, kicking off his dirty slippers that weren’t ever meant to go outside and exchanging them for a clean set. His shoes were missing from the genkan, likely taken as evidence, which made sense if he had been wearing them the night he.. Well, no sense just sitting around moping. 

He shuffled through the house, making note of things here and there that had been removed or changed, wondering if he’d ever get them back.

If the house would ever feel the same, even if he got acquitted.

After the cursory tour concluded, he returned to his living room on the ground floor, lingering in the entryway. His phone was among the confiscated items, so Izuku’s only access to the outside word, aside from the emergency line, was the television, looming like a threat against the far wall.

He sat down on the couch and turned on the news.

It was expected, but still made his stomach sink, to be greeted with his own face.

Izuku felt lightheaded. It was like a trainwreck, where watching was horrific but he could not look away. And so he sat there, frozen in place, and watched his name, his career, and everything about his life get dragged through the mud. Watched censored footage of the attack. Watched respected journalists report it as fact.

People.. People really believed he had done this?

Changing the channel, hoping to find a friendly perspective, Izuku only found more of the same, no matter which program he picked. The most sympathetic takes pitied him, calling for better mental health regulations for heroes, but they didn’t think he was innocent.

Really? Really? Surely someone, somewhere would posit that a third party was involved— 

“In light of the alleged murder by former Hero Deku, many are calling for investigations into the closed cases he had been an acting detective on, and also his hero record, UA itself and the former Symbol of Peace, Hero Deku’s mentor, All Might—” 

Izuku turned off the television, heart racing. He stared at his own faded reflection in its dark grey surface, muted greens and faded blacks. A poor facsimile of himself that was now as close to the real thing as the flesh and blood he could feel. He buried his face in his hands.

Coward.

He was beginning to see the real ramifications of what had happened; it wasn’t just his own life that had been ruined. Everyone else he had ever worked with, who had ever trusted him, would now come under scrutiny for letting a villain exist in their midst for so long.

Izuku wasn’t a villain. He wasn’t!! He never would kill someone completely unprovoked, and it would take a lot of provoking to get him anywhere near that point.

Even if it had been Izuku’s body, it wasn’t Izuku.

But.. Plenty of convicted individuals had severe illnesses that contributed to their crimes and that wasn’t any kind of free pass. Why would Izuku be any different? Izuku still did this, didn’t he? 

You did this.

Izuku did this.

According to records obtained by our affiliate, the working hours Deku logged were well beyond the maximum allowed for combination field and desk work. His supervisor did not return our calls— 

He saw the signs. He was warned, countless times, by his friends and colleagues. Slow down, you’re going to make yourself crazy! But Izuku just brushed it off. His mental and physical health had just been currency he could spend in order to accomplish his goals faster. He just never considered what would happen when the bank account ran dry.

Sources close to the accused say he had been exhibiting signs of mental illness that had gone unchecked for years. He would often zone out, talking to himself, in what was described as an almost fugue-like state. His self-destructive behaviors were evident since high school— 

If he had just listened: listened to his mother when she had told him to quit, listened to his friends when they told him to ease up. Listened to Kacchan when he had said Izuku was worthless, all those years ago.

Maybe he wouldn’t be here now.

 


 

The first day flowed into the second, third, and fourth seamlessly. Even if Izuku had been allowed to open the first floor windows, now locked and blacked out from the outside, he wouldn’t have wanted to. It was better this way, sitting in the dark, reflecting on his mistakes. The only thing that marked the cycling of each day was his regularly scheduled check-ins just after dawn, which he suspected were just to verify whether or not he had managed to escape - or killed himself. He vaguely wondered why he was being left so unattended when his supposed mental instability was what landed him here in the first place.

Residual heroic privilege, he supposed.

It was his own home but he’d spent time as a prisoner in literal dungeons that had felt less claustrophobic.

He ran his hands slowly down his face, dragging the grease along his skin that had built up from days of abstaining from bathing. What was the point? Why bother trying to be a functioning member of society, when Izuku no longer had any place in it?

But with nothing better to do, Izuku pushed himself off the couch - that had already formed an Izuku-sized divot in one cushion - and made his way to the stairs and up to the second floor bathroom to shower. He didn’t relish the time spent alone with his thoughts, but nor did he want to incur additional penalties when the warden checked up on him.

Izuku stopped by his bedroom for a clean set of clothing, and for the box of plastic wrap he had placed in there so that he could safeguard his ankle monitor from getting wet. He peeled off a sheet and dutifully wrapped it around the chunky cuff several times. It was not unlike the (many) times he had broken limbs and needed to prevent his casts from getting wet and gross, but Izuku would have much preferred a broken limb. Or two. Or all four, honestly. He’d trade this situation for another week in a full body cast or another month in a coma in a heartbeat.

Such a trade wasn’t an option. Izuku wasn’t a brave hero who got injured in the line of duty. He was apparently the kind of menace to society those men and women put their lives on the line to stop.

A gross one, too, that really needed to shower - if only because, what else was there for him to do?

He finally made it back to the bathroom. With a sigh, he peeled off his sweaty clothes, marinated in several days of despair, and dropped them into an unceremonious heap in the middle of the floor. 

But when Izuku went to hit the button to turn on the hot water, the digital display was blank. Like the whole system was off.

“Hah,” Izuku laughed, because of course, just his luck! Years lived in that house with nary a blown fuse to fix and it fell apart the minute he was incapable of taking care of it himself.

Unless.. It was intentional?

Was this all just an illusion, a dollhouse they stuck him in that gave the appearance of civility but was truly just a prison cell with better wallpaper?

It wasn’t even going to be a good shower. Even with the plastic covering, Izuku would have had to keep his right leg stuck out awkwardly away from the water the entire time, lest he get it wet and shock himself into oblivion. It’s not like he could take a bath afterward and actually relax.

Groaning, Izuku redressed himself in his dirty clothes, leaving his ankle swaddled, and headed downstairs to call the ‘service line’. Wouldn’t turning his hot water off constitute inhumane treatment? Okay, that was a tad dramatic, but Izuku really hoped it was just a mistake. It’s not that he would die without hot showers, but it was an added insult to an already miserable situation.

The man on the other end of the service line was very polite but assured Izuku that his hot water was, in fact, on and operating normally.

Were they really just messing with him?

Frustration just beginning to clip at Izuku’s tone, he pulled the weird, ancient phone as far as the cord would allow so he could turn the sink faucet and check again that no, in fact, it wasn’t.

Izuku snatched his hand out of the scalding stream that splashed down into the stainless steel basin below.

“Hello? Midoriya-san?”

Izuku stared stupidly at the steam rising before him, the telephone receiver sliding down his cheek to rest at his chin.

He glanced at the display next to the sink, hooked into the same heating system, now with hot water indicated as ON. It had been dead, hadn’t it?

“Midoriya-san?”

“Yes,” Izuku said hoarsely, clearing his throat as he pulled the phone back up to his ear. “Yes, you fixed it, it’s back—”

“I didn’t do anything, Midoriya-san. It’s been on the entire time we’ve been talking. Sometimes those newer systems can be a little temperamental, I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t apologize,” Izuku said automatically, still staring at the running water in front of him. He shook his head. Newer tech, more bugs. Just because it had never happened before didn’t mean it was anything out of the ordinary. “I’m sorry to bother you.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you, Midoriya-san?”

Yeah, could you turn back the clock a few weeks?

“No, thank you.”

And the line disconnected.

Izuku hung up the phone and turned off the water. He stood there, watching the residual droplets splatter against the metal until they slowed to a stop. 

“This is silly,” he muttered to himself. “Getting worked up over nothing.”

He trudged back up the stairs again, asking himself did the system not actually glitch? Did he imagine it? Maybe it was just broken on the second floor.

But when he got back to it, it was lit up, cheerfully displaying that his hot water was turned on. An unpleasant feeling washed over him. Why did this bother him so much? It was just a hiccup in the programming. It definitely wasn’t some kind of confirmation that he couldn’t trust his perception.

Izuku stepped out of his dirty clothes again and sat down to clean himself. He closed his eyes, letting the hot water drench him, surrounding him in a steady buffer of noise that unfortunately did very little to drown out his racing mind. Already an ever-present nuisance when he was just drifting around aimlessly, now while sitting within the loud silence of the rushing water he couldn’t do anything else but listen.

You can’t trust yourself.

Did he just not see it was on?

You did this.

What was the last thing he remembered from that night?

You can’t trust yourself.

How could he just not know?

You did this.

By the time his fingers started to prune, Izuku had rubbed the skin of his arms raw.

He hung up the shower head and grabbed a towel, completely on autopilot, his mind elsewhere. Izuku reached for his clean clothes next - only to find none where he had left them.

His fist curled tight over empty air.

Only the dirty clothes he had just been wearing sat in a crumpled pile on the bathroom floor. The set he had brought in from the bedroom was missing.

Had they been there before he started showering?

He had brought them in there before he went downstairs, right?

You can’t trust yourself.

Tying the towel tight around his waist, Izuku walked swiftly down the hall into his bedroom, his heart rate beginning to pick up. He threw open the closet, to find the regular assortment of labeled shirts and hero merch that he had multiple copies of (because he can’t wear an item if he only has one). Running his hand down the front of the nearest t-shirt, Izuku tried to recall what he had pulled out of the closet previously. Had it been this one? Another one?

Izuku swallowed.

It was fine. He must have just thought about getting the clothes, but hadn’t actually picked them up, and got distracted by the water thing that had definitely happened.

With shaking hands he dressed himself, feeling no better now that he was clean than when he was wallowing in a pool of sweat on the couch in front of the television. The fabric felt more like putting on a paper towel than a cozy set of pajamas, which he childishly wished he could curl up in. Bright yellow, red and blue, soft cotton and a hint of lavender from his mother’s fabric softener. Just a child in a poor imitation of his favorite hero’s costume, stars in his eyes and a stupid dream in his head.

Sitting on the edge of his bed, Izuku carefully unwrapped the plastic shield from the ankle monitor, frowning at it as it blinked up at him. Such a small, unassuming piece of technology and yet it robbed him of something that had become such a large part of his life. No ordinary quirk, but one passed down through generations with unimaginable weight and power attached. Could any man-made device really contain it?

And what would become of it now?

He knew the day he’d have to pass down One For All was always on the horizon. The quirk was only his to borrow, shape, and use, but never to keep forever. Still, he had hoped he would be passing it on to a protégé after retirement, or entrusting it during a final battle when Izuku knocked at death’s door for the last time. Not handing it over with his personal effects in exchange for a prison jumpsuit.

There was only one person Izuku would want to give it to, if it would even be accepted.

And then what?

Izuku was more than his quirk, or lack thereof. He hadn’t been just quirkless, he wasn’t just One For All. 

But without everything else, too? His job, Kacchan, his friends?

He didn’t know what that looked like.

Sighing, Izuku wrapped his arms around his middle. What now? He could try to watch something else on tv, but even his favorite programming subject, heroes, was tainted and would be difficult to stomach. Besides, the masochistic temptation to check the news would be too strong, and heaven forbid they started showing interviews with people that knew him. He could only imagine what everyone must be saying. ‘Oh, he was such a nice boy, we’re completely shocked’ ? Or, ‘we always knew he was destined for failure, surprised it didn’t happen sooner’.

‘Should have known his place and never tried to play hero, like the quirkless idiot he knows he is’.

Maybe he could dig out a pack of cards and play solitaire.

Although he had nowhere to be, Izuku still habitually checked his bedside clock anyway, frowning. It was much later in the day than he had thought it was, having barely done anything besides watch television and take a shower. Sitting around doing nothing for days on end must have been what was messing with his head and concept of time.

He stood up. There was no use sitting around feeling sorry for himself! At the very least, he could do something actionable, like a few hundred push-ups or establish some semblance of a routine.

Or check on that darn water heater.

The main system was in the laundry room on the ground floor, and where Izuku should have just gone first instead of calling the service line. He didn’t know the full extent of what had been done to his house while he was off getting arrested, so it made sense at the time to suspect it had been related.

He was pretty sure there was an error log he could access, and it should have recorded losing contact with the second floor client.

But when Izuku entered the room at the back of the house, all thoughts of checking the system flew out the covered windows, as he was presented with a set of neatly folded clothing sitting on the counter next to the washing machine.

Certainly not out of place in his laundry room, but also definitely the same clothes he had originally brought with him when he first went to shower.

Izuku lifted the bundle up, mind racing.

It’s where Izuku should have just gone first instead of calling the service line.

Is that.. What happened? Did Izuku come in here first, reboot the heating system, and then go call the service line?

It was much later in the day than he had thought it was.

Izuku didn’t remember doing that.

Tell me, have you had blackouts before? Lost time?

He also didn’t remember murdering anyone.

Admit it, Midoriya. You don’t remember and so you can’t say for certain that isn’t what happened.

The material crumpled in his fists.

You can’t trust yourself.

Dark spots bloomed on cotton.

You did this.

Izuku did this.

Chapter Text

On the surface, it was straightforward: a string of murders, with victims discovered roughly once a month, and what they all had in common was that they were rich. But they weren’t robbed - very little if anything was reported as stolen from their lavish homes. Some sick fuck had a grudge against the upper class and was targeting them one at a time, leaving them to be found days, sometimes weeks later in their own refrigerators.

None of them had mind control quirks.

“Also, they’re dead.”

“Technicality,” Shinsou said from where he was lounging on Katsuki and Sero’s office couch, idly flipping through a hero magazine. “Marked deceased and actually dead are two different things. A mind controller worth their salt could fake their own death, easy.”

Of course, Katsuki didn’t expect the answer to be that obvious.

“Sure, fine,” Sero conceded. “But they still don’t have any relevant quirks. I don’t know, shouldn’t we be looking at villains? What about what’s-his-face, Gaslight?”

“Gasbag,” Katsuki corrected absently, opening the box of files Sero had dropped on his desk.

Shinsou shook his head. “Gaslight. Not his style: too flashy, too public. He robs banks and makes everyone forget it happened, he doesn’t kill people.”

“I mean, neither does Midoriya. You know who does kill people? Whoever’s killing all these people.”

Katsuki scowled into the nearly empty box. “Two birds with one stone. This is it?”

“It’s all the files they would release to me,” Sero said with a vague gesture over them. “There’s some more digital stuff, but Midoriya probably kept a lot of paper notes.”

No, Katsuki thought as he leafed through the box’s paltry contents. No, there was hardly anything here! “Where’s the nerd’s notebooks? No way he didn’t have a whole shelf of them on this shit.”

“Dunno, man. Evidence, maybe? Good luck getting in there, though.”

“I can help with that.”

Sero turned to shoot a look back over his shoulder at Shinsou. “Don’t do anything illegal, man. C’mon.”

“Hey, I have connections, that’s why I’m here.”

“Connections to brainwashing the security guard at the evidence lockup?”

Stretching languidly, Shinsou stood up and tossed the magazine back onto the coffee table. “Something like that.”

Sero groaned. “We’re all going to lose our licenses.”

“Only if I get caught,” Shinsou said with an oily grin. “And I never do.”

“There’s a first time for everything,” Sero said under his breath as Shinsou left their office. Frowning, he pulled a handful of files out of the box on Katsuki’s desk and waved them over his shoulder. “You really trust that dude? I’ve never gotten a good vibe from him.”

“Deku did. Good enough for me.”

Katsuki tapped his fingers against the edge of the box, silently weighing the odds of this being worth the effort. Should they be focusing on known villains with mind altering quirks, like that Gasbag fucker? It’s what he had originally intended to do, but his visit with All Might had sent him barreling down this path before he had even realized he’d taken the first step.

He felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck, and glanced up to see Sero staring at him. “What. Why do you keep giving me these fucking faces?”

Fluttering, shuffling papers took Sero’s attention as he made an exaggerated show of busying himself with reading. “Because,” he said lightly, “You’re the only one who’s doing his own investigation for Midoriya. Just seems curious, is all. Especially considering where I know you can go and where you also haven’t been.”

“Don’t start.”

The look on Sero’s face, lips pressed together and eyebrows raised, told Katsuki that he did want to start, really wanted to needle Katsuki like he always did, play him like a fiddle and tease out his insecurities with clever wordplay and reverse psychology hidden behind a dopey smile. But instead he just clicked his tongue, and motioned with the paperwork again. “What do you need from me? I’m gonna be trash at trying to pull anything from this.”

Katsuki plucked the files out of Sero’s long fingers, smacking them against the side of his head for good measure. “Yeah, probably, dipshit, since you’re tryna read this upside down. How’d you even manage to graduate, anyway?”

“Hey!” Sero rubbed at his hair as if it hadn’t only been a few pieces of paper. “I’ll have you know I’m effortlessly charming when trying to weasel my way into makeup tests.”

“Tch. You’re lucky you can fight,” Katsuki muttered. He let the folders fall open onto his desk. It was hardly even informative, just a brief of Deku’s assignment from over half a year prior. Maybe there would be some clue in Deku’s notebooks, but Katsuki didn’t think there was anything here. “You’re good at the internet shit though, so poke around and see what you can dig up.”

“Man, if only all my homework had just been ‘the internet shit’.” 




Bz-Bzzt.

“Heh, is that a phone in your pocket, or—”

Katsuki shot Sero a baleful, silencing look as he dug out his phone.

Mindfucker: Got them.

That was fast.

Some kind of unpleasant feeling wormed its way through Katsuki’s stomach as he read and reread the words. He knew that was going to be what happened. Shinsou wasn’t going to fail.

The notebooks made sense to look into; they were sure to be a thorough, if meandering, record of what Deku had been doing over the past few months. Katsuki had been the one to bring them up, because he knew they existed, because he knew Deku.

But now faced with the looming reality of reading them, he felt odd. Katsuki wasn’t nervous about it. He wasn’t! He had no problem with it, he was just.. impatient. Besides, it’s not like anyone else could do it.

...

Like fuck Katsuki was going to let anyone else do it!!

Katsuki’s grip tightened on his phone. What was that reaction?

Why?

Just because it was Katsuki’s investigation?

Or because.. He felt some kind of ownership over the notebooks?

Over Deku?

No! Fuck that. Katsuki was just the best person for the job. There wasn’t anyone better. Because of Katsuki’s intellect, not his history with Deku.

It had nothing to do with their relationship.

Right.

Katsuki found himself absently tapping around his phone, eyes roving over notifications without reading them, anxiety mounting as the time dragged on. What if what he found in the notebooks wasn’t any hint of a third party at all, but a descent into madness?

Deku was no stranger to working himself ragged, had done it for years without putting much of a damper on his mental state. He couldn’t have just snapped.

Right?

The door to the office opened and Shinsou stepped in over the threshold, carrying a large carton and a smug expression.

Katsuki supposed he’d find out soon enough.




Tomorrow: go grocery shopping. I know I’m eating too much junk food but I just don’t have time to cook. Well, not that I really ever cook but mom was always on my case about it and not only was she right she’s probably yelling at me right now. You’d think I’d be most embarrassed by her potentially seeing it, well I mean it’s silly to think she can but if she can she’s definitely mad, but really I’m just glad Kacchan hasn’t been by recently. Well, not really, but you know. He’d blast me through the wall if he saw what I was eating.

That’s for fucking sure. Katsuki shook crumbs out of the spine of the notebook, just one of several, dutifully and dubiously procured just as Shinsou had promised, now spilling out of a box on Katsuki’s kitchen table in his apartment.

Today: I thought I had enough time to swing by the official unveiling of Eraser Head’s statue but I got caught up, again. I sent him a text, though I really wish I could have been there. Oh, he just responded— Heh, sensei didn’t even go to the unveiling. I can’t say I’m surprised.

This wasn’t helpful. Katsuki snapped the notebook shut and dropped it into the pile with a groan. He leaned back in his chair and ran his hands down his face, staring up at the ceiling. Fuck. There had to be something in here related to the murders Deku was working, but it might take him all night to find it.

Katsuki snagged another notebook as he stood up, tucking it under his arm as he moved over to the stove. Another coffee might give him a heart attack but he at least needed a cup of tea while sorting through this shit. Maybe a shot of whiskey. Or two.

After pulling out All Might’s packet of loose leaf from the cabinet, Katsuki let the pages fall open while he waited for the water to boil. In this notebook it was much of the same: errant thoughts and laundry lists. But just before he tossed this one aside too, he noticed that the back pages had tight paragraphs of nearly illegible scrawl crunched into the edges. He squinted at them.

I think I'm starting to go a bit mad. I thought I finally found a more meaningful connection between the murders but it doesn't make any sense. 

A-ha. Jackpot.

And also, ugh. Great fucking word choice, Deku. 

How could the suspects have been suspects if they were already dead? It must just be a coincidence. I'm seeing clues where there aren't any. I wish I could ask Kacchan, I bet he could figure it out, but gosh.. I don’t know. I could just talk to him about it. I’m gonna talk to him about it.

Katsuki frowned. Deku never reached out to him about this. Right? Had he? Had it been an ignored text, a muttering storm on a joint patrol that Katsuki just tuned out? Katsuki stalked back over to his table and fished around for the notebook dated directly before this one. Just like the others, it was a lot of nonsense, with clumps of chicken scratch in the margins.

Okay, here's something. I think. Most of the victims reported being stalked, or followed. I thought this must be the killer but their descriptions don't match. They're likely disguising themselves. Maybe a glamour quirk.

Glamour quirk? Had someone just taken Deku’s appearance and outright framed him? Katsuki gnawed at his lip. That wouldn’t explain all the other evidence stacked against Deku. This wasn’t just someone else posing as him; the police chased him directly back to his house, found the victim’s blood in his house - found Deku’s DNA on the victim.

This is weird. The Professor’s description of his stalker sounds just like Kika. But she was long dead before he reported it. Although she hadn’t been found until afterward.. Maybe the coroner got the time of death wrong?

These names jumped out at Katsuki. He paused for a moment to retrieve a manilla folder from his work bag, stuffed inside despite his insistence that he wouldn’t bring the work home with him. Though if anyone believed that while he carried out a crate of notebooks, that was on them.

Flipping it open, Katsuki thumbed through a few pages until he landed on Roderick Cameron. In his early seventies when he died. Retired support hero and professor. Photographic memory quirk with a latent mutation that gave him eerie goat eyes with square pupils. Honestly, all of him looked like a goat.

Katsuki laid out all of the victims across his table until he saw a demonic looking woman, with purple skin, white hair, and horns. Kika. An alias, her full name redacted. Or as Katsuki knew her: Blackout. She was a stealth-based, underground hero almost no one had even heard of until an injury she couldn’t recover from forced her into the spotlight and an early retirement.

These were the people Deku was writing about. Retired heroes, the both of them. That stung; although Katsuki had always imagined he’d eventually go out in a blaze of glory, knowing only a few retired heroes meant he knew how hard it was to even survive that long. Those that made it to retirement deserved it, with what little was even left of themselves to retire with. And then to be murdered in their homes, when they were just trying to live out the rest of their days with what semblance of peace could still be found amongst their ghosts and grievances? It wasn’t what they deserved.

Okay, this can't be a coincidence. Kika reported being followed by someone who sounds just like Miss Dahlia. But she was also dead before the report!

Dahlia, Black. Not a hero at all, but an heiress with a penchant for all things macabre. Maybe she might have appreciated her gruesome end, though Katsuki guessed that wasn’t likely.

So not just heroes. People with Black in their names? But then what about the old goat?

Katsuki grabbed another of Deku’s notebooks from the pile, heart racing, pieces of some puzzle manifesting, floating just out of reach. Surely Deku would have made these easy connections; Katsuki needed to stop trying to jump ahead and just read what the nerd had already put down. But before he could flip all the way to the back, his own name caught his eye in the middle.

The new rankings went up today. I’m doing okay, but Kacchan keeps climbing higher, and I’m so, so proud of him. He’s really become the hero I always knew he would be. Nothing could make me happier! Well, that’s a little bit untrue - I still selfishly want to stand by his side. Maybe someday he’ll accept me as his hero partner, though I still have a long way to go to prove myself to him. I’m going to keep climbing though, keep pushing forward! For him, for All Might, for me! Plus Ultra!

Katsuki’s vision shook, flickering over the words again and again as if they’d change shape or meaning or offer him some clarity if he just read them a little differently this time. Partner? Partner?? Why was he just seeing this now, these silent words that were somehow far too loud, while Deku was awaiting trial for murder? He’d never heard shit from Deku about this. Right? Had he just missed it, missed the opportunity, slipped away along with all the cancelled morning runs and declined event invitations? Packed up in these pages as Deku lost himself in them, folded and sealed tight, while Katsuki couldn’t have even had the decency to realize— Nevermind if Katsuki would say yes, was he even fit to—

The kettle screamed.

“Fuck!” Katsuki shouted, the well-worn notebook falling from his fingers in his rush to turn off the stove. 

“The hell is this shit,” Katsuki hissed, his voice straining as he stood panting over the rattling water kettle. Katsuki had wanted Deku’s notes on his investigations, not.. not this!!

He licked his lips, focusing on going through the mechanical motions of preparing tea in a futile attempt to keep his mind off the stupid garbage he just read. Whatever! He knew Deku had ugly stars in his eyes - had for years. It didn’t mean anything.

Katsuki returned to the box of notebooks with his cup of steaming tea, the unassuming stack of stationary suddenly more daunting than it had been a few minutes ago. He hesitantly picked one up at random, leaving the previous one on the floor.

We really fought tonight, me and Kacchan. Oof, my hand hurts just writing this, but I have to get it down. We broke curfew and we got in trouble but I’m ecstatic, it was like a cloud burst. Something really changed between us; it finally feels like we can actually talk to each other. I thought we might never get here. I’m crying just writing this, it’s ridiculous.

There were faded water marks all over the page.

It’s like I can finally breathe.

“Bullshit, this is all.. Bullshit.” Katsuki scrutinized the cover. Dated to their first year at UA - as if Katsuki didn’t know the exact day of that entry itself. God, there must have been dozens of these notebooks; Shinsou hadn’t just gotten the recent ones. He got all of them.

In all of these pages were likely Deku’s most private thoughts, and any other time Katsuki might have revelled in the opportunity to read the nerd’s fucking diary. But what good would that do if Katsuki couldn’t tease Deku about it in person?

Katsuki’s calloused fingertips brushed over one, in much worse shape than the others, its edges singed and pages crumpled with water damage. 

“Damnit,” he swore softly, grimacing. 

He had much more important shit to find. Katsuki moved past it to a cleaner looking notebook that looked the newest. Unlike the previous books, the case-related notes he found were front and center instead of being crammed into corners:

This might be nothing but it’s the only lead I have. Geodesic, a local celebrity, posted online a few weeks ago about a potential stalker. It was a glib comment with lots of memes and emoji and he doesn't seem to be taking it seriously and nothing has come up since, but it’s the only lead I’ve got. I’m going to see if he’ll talk to me.

Wow okay Geodesic is really something. I didn’t expect to get through but I just got off the phone with him, and it was wild. He kind of reminds me of Aoyama-kun, but meaner? Doesn’t matter. He assured me it wasn’t a real stalker, but just a joke. That he’s used to, ah, ‘cougars’. But he gave me a description of her anyway:

Taped to the notebook was a little piece of pink paper, with markings on it he recognized as Ashido’s branding. On it was written a hastily scrawled description:

Older woman, red hair, big sweaters. Freckles. Bad shoes?

Even though he was pretty dismissive, I’m going to request to be added to his security team (celebrities all have security teams, right?) and see where that gets me because I have this gut feeling he might be next. I didn’t tell him that. Am I grasping at straws, here? I don’t know. I’m at my wit’s end, I feel like I’m losing it. I just want to punch something. That’s awful. I shouldn’t think like that. I’m fine. I’m just tired. It’s just that so many people are dying and I feel like it’s my fault? I should be able to stop this. That’s what I’m here for. If I miss another murder I don’t know what I’ll do.

Grimacing, Katsuki turned the page. Didn’t look great for supporting a clean bill of mental health. The final entry in the most recently dated book was barely legible, just a smudged scrawl.

It’s all finally caught up to me I can’t keep my eyes open. I’ve never been so tired. I barely ate dinner it’s not even Kacchan’s bedtime - Can’t think straight. I’ll pick it up in the morning.

And then, nothing.

Which is exactly what reading these notebooks had given Katsuki.




“Oof, you look like hot garbage. Rough night? Stay up late with a good book?” 

Katsuki flipped Sero off in lieu of a proper greeting, but it was half-hearted even for him. He knew the jab was true; he felt like hot garbage, too. The fucked up part was that Sero was the one coming off an asscrack-of-dawn patrol. They had agreed to meet up outside their agency as they swapped shifts to touch base, but Katsuki didn’t have much to report. Not anything he wanted to share, anyway.

“I didn’t find shit about anyone that had beef with Deku, aside from whatever fuck he was tryna catch. If we solve these murders and they had nothing to do with it, we’re shit out of luck.”

“I mean, it would at least help clear Midoriya, so they don’t bring new charges against him for it,” Sero said, rubbing at his eyes.

Katsuki pulled a sour face. “The fuck else would he get charged with? Mishandling the case?”

“No, like, how some people think Midoriya did all the other murders, too.”

“What?!”

Sero blinked. “Uh, yeah. Haven’t you, like, searched his name at all? The crack theories are like the third result. You’re a pretty bad private investigator, huh?”

Katsuki resisted the urge to explode Sero’s stupid flat face. “Don’t act smug when you just looked it up yourself, asshole. I will end you,” he seethed, pulling out his phone.

“Probably shouldn’t, kind of a bad look these days.”

“Die.”

Half smirking, Sero waved at an intern heading through the front doors as she shot them both concerned looks. “Well, when you put it so nicely.”

A buzzing sang loud in Katsuki’s ears as he skimmed through recent gossip headlines until he found an article that fit the bill; it wasn’t from a particularly reputable news source, but he knew it wouldn’t be long before the regular networks picked it up.

It’s Always The Cute Ones: Hero Deku’s Double Life

Formerly the investigator for an ongoing serial killer case, and now the prevalent conspiracy theory was that Deku had been the killer all along. Katsuki grit his teeth. Bullshit. Bullshit! If that was even true, which it wasn’t, why the fuck would he out himself on live television? 

The most popular answer: a split personality, where he didn’t even know he was investigating himself. His Mr. Hyde persona finally came out of the shadows, which still aligned with the more measured theories about having had a mental break. Incendiary, absurd, and yet garnered thousands of hits and comments from armchair investigators convinced they were right.

“Dude, they’re not true. I doubt he’d just be on house arrest if they thought he was some serial killer.” Sero stretched his long arms over his head, yawning. “Well.. unless they just don’t think that yet.”

“Fucking hell,” Katsuki hissed. Now instead of just being on the hook for one murder, Deku was at risk of being charged with at least six?

Katsuki scrubbed at his face. He had to go patrol for the next several hours with this shit rattling around in his skull. “Hah, okay. Let’s find this fucker. Get some sleep and we’ll pick it up tomorrow.”

On the surface, it was straightforward.

A series of unsolved murders with clues that Deku had already found, which Katsuki just needed to follow, and hope they didn’t lead him right back to Deku at the other end of the line.

Chapter Text

There was one room in the house that Izuku never went in.

Tucked away in the far west end of the ground floor, on the other side of the living room and down a hallway on the left, the second bedroom’s door always remained closed. In truth, Izuku hadn’t opened it in years.

Even though the room’s former occupant was the whole reason Izuku even bought this house, she had refused the master bedroom and insisted on the more modest space. It had its own attached bathroom, which the master didn’t, so in the end Izuku relented and let his mother take the downstairs bedroom.

It was still a huge upgrade from their cramped Musutafu apartment, and Izuku was happy he could finally give her the comfort she deserved after putting up with the stress and heartache of his entire injury-and-disaster-prone life. Although it didn’t have nearly the same amount of memories as the apartment he grew up in, her touch was evident everywhere: furnishings he would never have picked, decor that served no purpose but to look nice.

When she died, Izuku knew he had to sell the house. 

He just never got around to it.

And the door stayed closed.

It wasn’t like Izuku had any reason to go down that hallway, anyway. It was just the closed door, a second staircase, and another entrance to the house that he also never used, now barred up from the outside. So the hall remained dark, and Izuku stayed on this side of the light, still surrounded by memory and heartache that closed in on him in equal parts hurt and comfort.

Now that their shared home had become a reversed halfway house, it was too late to sell. Izuku didn’t know what was going to happen to it when he got put away; would the bank repossess it? He had paid off almost the entire mortgage already, given his sizable salary as a high-ranking hero, but what would happen to his assets when he was in prison? Izuku itched to research this side of the justice system he never personally had any involvement with. He didn’t have any internet access, but he did have a lot of reference books that might have an answer.

It was as good a use of his time as anything else. The television screen was dark and cold, and Izuku had no intention of changing that. He’d even unplugged it to help curtail the urge to turn it on.

He drifted over to his bookshelves, scanning them for his general justice encyclopedias. Although he’d gone through courses on law enforcement when he was in hero school, they were fairly broad and didn’t really go in-depth. Heroes weren’t expected to get law degrees; the majority of them fought villains and helped civilians, and that was about it. 

A few years into his career of kicking and punching, Izuku developed a reputation for his analytical skills, and found himself getting involved in investigative work more and more. It wasn’t much at first, but Izuku still bought a full set of reference books so he could do his best to uphold the law exactly as it was written.

Consciously.

He knew he had a whole book about the prison system, but when Izuku’s finger moved past the spines it should have been wedged between, it wasn’t there. Izuku frowned. Admittedly, it had been quite a while since he had touched any of these books, given how much quicker it was to do a general search on the internet, or even use the digital resources he had access to as a hero. It must have been misplaced, or perhaps confiscated by the police when they cleared his house as a crime scene.

Crime scene. The hairs on his arms rose, an unpleasant current running across his skin. Certainly being here was better than in a dingy detention center or jail cell, but on top of everything else, Izuku had to reconcile the blood he brought home, smeared across the windowsill like a cat dragging in a bird.

There were other books, but he was too anxious to just read for pleasure, and his current drive had just been snuffed out.

Maybe he should see if he had anything on psychotic disorders.

Izuku decided he didn’t even want to see if that book was also missing. 

Instead, he wandered over into the kitchen. This day had barely begun but already Izuku wanted to go back to bed. Without any kind of schedule, he might as well just sleep the last of his relative freedom away.

Intending to get some food and then just burrow back into his bed, Izuku paused with his hand over the fridge door, something in his periphery catching his attention. Izuku leaned back until he could just see around the entrance to the second floor stairwell. Had he left the lights on upstairs? Izuku was usually so good about energy conservation from gentle and not-so-gentle chiding drilled into him over a lifetime of living with his mother. But the hallway light on the landing at the top of the stars was indeed still on, illuminating an empty space and a pleasant painting of a waterfall. 

Since his windows were covered, he relied on electric lighting more than he used to. It was unusual, sure, but certainly not unheard of for Izuku to miss hitting the lights once in a while when he left a room.

He had a lot of things on his mind, after all.

So what if he didn’t remember the last time he even turned that light on? This morning, surely? It was likely just so mundane he didn’t register a specific memory of it. Nothing to get worked up over. He was getting increasingly jumpy with every passing day and he needed to pull himself together.

But.. Why even fight it? Wasn’t it better for Izuku to just accept that he had had some kind of mental break, versus the alternative of knowingly committing murder? But maybe you didn’t do it. But maybe he did.

Izuku pulled open the desolate fridge and grabbed the leftover rice, made several days ago and pushing it in terms of freshness. He was a decent cook on a good day, maybe relying on conbini and junk food a little too much when busy, but here in this timeless place he had a tendency to just eat food raw. Turning on the rice cooker once every few days was about as much as he could manage beyond that.

He sunk his teeth into a ball of rice, hardly worth calling an actual onigiri. He wrinkled his nose. It tasted funny; the rice they had supplied him with was unmarked, and Izuku assumed old or low-quality. Leaving it sitting in the fridge for days certainly wasn’t helping.

Something he couldn’t shake above everything else was the fact that he was here, in his own house, after killing someone with no memory of it. He should be in a psychiatric hospital, in a mental ward, a high security prison. Not here. Not home.

Why?

If this really was just a perk of being a hero, it didn’t seem like a well-thought-out one. No matter what his history, Izuku shouldn’t be here by himself, flinching at shadows and squeaks. If he was so far gone he killed someone in his sleep, why were they leaving him alone? Sure he cleared their psych evaluation, but was that really sufficient?

How had he cleared the psych eval?

As Izuku chewed and let his mind drift, his eyes slid across past the range, over the countertop, to the knife block that had been emptied before his arrival.

Except.

It had one black handle sticking out of it.

Izuku choked down the bitter rice and squeezed his eyes shut. It wasn’t real. He was imagining things; it was the stress, the situation, the crack in his mind leaking everything out. But when he looked again, the knife was still there, a proverbial and literal sword in the stone. 

His feet carried him across the kitchen tile until his fingers wrapped around the smooth handle. He drew it out, its blade gleaming under the overheard lights.

They had removed all of the knives. They had. They had told him they would, that they were removing anything categorized as an overt weapon.

So where did this come from?

It must have been a mistake. An oversight. Maybe the.. Cabinet shadow hid this one, and it got missed. Yeah, that had to be it. 

..Did he see it there at any point in the last few days?

Izuku swallowed the sob burgeoning in his throat. He couldn’t remember. Nothing ever lined up right and he couldn’t trust his own mind even if he did remember it.

Lunch forgotten on the counter along with his appetite, Izuku returned to the living room. He would have gone upstairs, but the light he was trying to ignore still kept him on the first floor. Stupid, paranoid, and childish, but Izuku elected to nap on the couch instead of crawling into bed where he’d be more comfortable. The couch was fine. He’d slept on it plenty of times before, there was nothing different about this one. Besides literally almost everything.

Izuku groaned, pressing his face into the couch cushion. Sleep, he told himself. Just stop thinking and pass out.

But he couldn’t get the knife out of his thoughts.

It hadn’t been there before, he was sure of it. Had the warden slipped it in during his last check-in? Why? Was she trying to get him in trouble? Trying to help him?

..Trying to help him do what?

One single knife, even in the hands of a man proficient in hand-to-hand combat, wouldn’t do much against the armed guards that showed up every day.

It would only be useful against Izuku’s own skin.

Shivering, Izuku curled in on himself, digging his fingernails into the stiff upholstery with a crunching, popping sound. No, no, that was insane. Just his vivid imagination running with wild theories like it always did. He had been arrested, but he hadn’t been convicted. No one was trying to.. Make him..

Izuku swallowed.

It’s just life in prison ahead of you anyway, his poisonous thoughts whispered. You’re quirkless again. Useless.

No!!

The ever-present anxiety in Izuku’s chest tightened like a vice. He’d never.. He’d never considered it, before. Even at his lowest, when the bottom of the barrel had nothing left to offer but singed paper and scraps, when a sneering lip curled over dangerous words, Izuku had no intention of taking his own life. And he didn’t now, either.

No, it wasn’t that serious. It couldn’t be. Izuku was in a bad spot, what with the whole charged with murder thing, but he wasn’t there yet.

..Yet?

Izuku whimpered into the pillow pressed against his face, a high, reedy moan that would be outright embarrassing if anyone heard, but in the isolation of his own home-cum-prison he just let it out. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This wasn’t his path in life. He was a hero, damnit!!

You wanna be a hero so bad? I’ve got a time-saving idea for you.

Hah. Okay. So that’s what was happening now.

The pressure in Izuku’s chest turned into something else, some other kind of uncomfortable squeeze, an ache he hadn’t allowed himself to feel in a long time. An ache that was even more purposeless now, even more of a dead-end yearn. 

When Izuku’s mother died, left with no living relatives, it hadn’t even been a question of whom Izuku would designate as his legal next of kin. Although certainly All Might had been somewhat of a parental figure, and Izuku had many peers that he could call bosom friends, there just wasn’t anyone closer to Izuku than the person he picked.

They had shouted and stomped around and called Izuku gross, but in the end accepted it. It didn’t make them brothers or married or anything like that, but for legal purposes they could make executive decisions concerning Izuku and his assets should Izuku become incapacitated or die.

On high-security house arrest, the only visitors allowed, under extreme restrictions and supervision, were family members. For better or worse, in Izuku’s case that meant only one person.

But Kacchan.. Kacchan hadn’t visited.

Izuku had purposefully tried to put it out of his mind as much as he was able, focusing on just about anything else besides the fear, the likely reality that Kacchan had accepted Izuku’s guilt and written him off forever.

It was just too much to bear.

Any challenge was surmountable as long as Kacchan was at his side. Although the veritable end of his lifelong dream, Izuku could still soldier on through this trial and inevitable imprisonment if Kacchan was still willing to talk to him.

..Who was Izuku kidding? Kacchan wouldn’t associate with murderers, villains.

Izuku had just selfishly hoped that, since he hadn’t yet been found guilty, Kacchan hadn’t yet given up on him.

He wasn’t ready for that. There was so much he still wanted to do.. So much left unsaid. The whine turned into a sob, and Izuku smothered it with fabric. Pointless, fruitless, weak.

But he couldn’t keep it in if he tried.

Tears soaked the material pressed against Izuku’s face, damp and uncomfortable and a fitting bed for him to lie in until he finally cried himself to sleep.




It’d been weeks since Izuku had even a drop of alcohol, but he felt like he woke up completely hungover. Admittedly, sleeping on the couch usually left him a bit disoriented, especially if the sun went down during his naps. He blinked heavy eyelids at the ceiling, trying to clear the dregs of sleep - before realizing he had absolutely no reason to, and let his crusted eyes slip back shut. If he wasn’t ready to be awake, he didn’t have to force himself to be. No plans, not going anywhere. The only thing he had to even remotely worry about was— 

BANG BANG BANG.

Jolting upright, Izuku swayed, his body not quite ready to catch up to the signals his brain was sending. He got his wobbly feet under him before even registering why he was standing; no one should be knocking at his door, aside from the warden for dailies. And he wasn’t due until the next morning - with a quick glance at the digital clock under his television, it looked like midnight.

BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG.

“Midoriya Izuku, you have ten seconds to answer this door, or when we open it you will be treated as hostile.”

Izuku practically leapt over the couch in a mad scramble to get to the entryway, skidding socked feet across carpet and hardwood with static fish-hooked into every single one of his pores. Ten seconds was an exceedingly generous amount of time and nowhere near necessary for Izuku to make it across one room and a hallway, but panic and a desperate need to exhibit good behavior propelled Izuku into his front door like a cannonball. 

He slapped his palm against the wood in the requisite signal just before the door flew open to reveal the warden’s unimpressed, sour look staring right back at him, along with the unmistakable light of dawn. A flick of her eyes took in his disheveled appearance for just a moment before pushing past him into the genkan.

H.. how? He had gone to sleep in the middle of the day, barely a few hours past his last check-in! It couldn’t possibly be the next day already! 

She breezed through on her regular circuit, barely paying Izuku any mind, glancing over the scattered pillows around the couch and Izuku’s empty plate on the kitchen island.

And suddenly, Izuku remembered the knife.

His brain was still somewhere back trying to muddle through how this wasn’t the right time for a check-in, now rocketed forward into the present by the black handle still sticking up from the— 

Except, it wasn’t.

The knife block was empty.

As it had always been.

Right?

The warden droned through her standard spiel, with some new additions: touching on something about punctuality and cleanliness, but Izuku wasn’t listening. His focus was dialed in on what was practically a flashing dotted outline around where a knife handle used to be.

Didn’t he put it back into the block?

Did he?

Izuku couldn’t remember.

He had no clear memory of slipping it back into its designated slit.

What did he do with it?

It could be a weapon against his wardens.

No, no, Izuku wouldn’t have done that. He wouldn’t have.. Concealed the knife.

“Midoriya,” the warden said without looking directly at him, “Everything seems in order down here. Why didn’t you answer the door promptly?”

Izuku gestured limply to the couch, across the threshold into the living room. “I was asleep?”

The woman pressed her lips together. “Midoriya Izuku, we are here at the same time every morning. Ensure this lapse does not occur again.” She spun on her heel, marching up the stairs to the second floor while Izuku dumbly stood by the front door. One of the guards that had followed the warden inside moved to pat him down, and Izuku let him, too disoriented to even care.

He squinted at the digital numbers over the stove, and it offered him the right time: just a few minutes past six. The other clock must not have been midnight, it must have gotten reset.

Because.. because Izuku had unplugged it. He’d unplugged the entire power strip that the television was attached to.

When had he plugged it back in?

The warden’s clipped footfalls galloped down the stairs in a quick, staccato rhythm until she reached the ground floor. Without offering anything related to her second floor assessment, she breezed right past Izuku to the door.

“See you tomorrow,” she said, her voice flat and without any of the cheer that usually accompanies such a statement, as she walked right out the door before it slammed in Izuku’s face.

Izuku looked from the door to the kitchen to the couch, from the blinking green zeroes to the blacked out windows, from the missing slot in his bookshelf, the grains of rice on his counter to the light still left on over his stairwell.

To the steel blade hidden somewhere out of sight.

“Yeah, okay,” he said to no one, licking dry lips, something buzzing under his skin, growing stronger and stronger, more insistent, until it peaked, cresting over a marked crescendo that suddenly cut out to nothing.  

“Hopefully.”

Chapter Text

“Bullshit.”

Sero made no attempt to hide his rolling eyes. “What did you expect, man? I told you it had already been cleared.”

The two of them headed down the dingy stairs of a crappy apartment building, having just left finding a big fat nothing within one of its little yellowed boxes. A brat, a high schooler - just some internet troll that liked to harass people from behind the safety of his screen. Had an alibi and a really pissed-off mom.

When Katsuki compared Deku’s notes with what his team had dug up on Geodesic, one thing jumped out: a stalker had been in both the notebooks and the late celebrity’s case file. Which, of course, should have been the first suspect on the official investigation’s list, too.

If they were the same person.

(And if they were even entertaining other suspects.)

“No, dumbass,” Katsuki grumbled as they pushed out the heavy front doors, scowling as the ancient, cracked paint flecked away on contact. “This little shithead wasn’t the right person.”

“How d’you figure? They traced all the messages back to this kid. Ohh, can we get yakiimo?”

Katsuki grabbed the collar of Sero’s vest and yanked him away from the admittedly great-smelling food truck, keeping them walking along the crowded sidewalk. “Focus. Doesn’t match the description, or the pattern. The other stalkers weren’t threatening their targets, just following ’em.” 

Sero looked mournfully back over his shoulder before snapping his head forward, incredulity painted across his features. “So what if it doesn’t match some pattern, what does it matter? This is the kid!”

“I ain’t got a lot to go on, alright??” Katsuki hissed. “I have to trust Deku.”

“Dude.”

Sero disappeared from Katsuki’s periphery.

Katsuki’s feet slowed to a stop. His nostrils flared while he took a deep breath, then turned back over his shoulder to glare. “What?”

Sero’s mouth twisted. “Man, I hate to say it, but like, what if they are right about him? Look - don’t blow me up, just hear me out,” he said quickly, hands raised in a defensive gesture. He moved closer and dropped his voice. “I know we don’t wanna believe it, but what if it’s, y’know, true? Yeah, I don’t think he’s consciously a serial killer, but really: what if he didn’t know he was? What if all these notes, all these ramblings—” Sero mimed writing in a notebook, “Are from some split personality, and he was, like, killing these people and didn’t even know it. And then you’re treating the diary of a madman as real clues, as a legit pattern.”

“So what if I am?!” Katsuki retorted, his volume rising.

Letting out a long, rattling sigh, Sero dropped his arms to his sides. “Well, what if what we find doesn’t clear his name? What if it just.. Confirms it?”

Katsuki turned back, angling for the potato truck they passed. Fuck it, he was pissed off now, and he might as well be on a full stomach. “Then I’ll still have given him a fucking chance,” he spat over his shoulder. “It’s what he’d do for anyone else, and you know it.”

Catching up to Katsuki with long strides, Sero bumped him with an elbow. “What he’d do for you, maybe. Dunno about anyone.”  

“Die. Two, please,” Katsuki said to the yakiimo vendor, pretending not to see her skeptical look as he handed her his money.

Maybe someday he’ll accept me as his hero partner.

Yeah, whatever it was that existed between Katsuki and Deku was.. Well, it was something. Childhood friends turned soured acquaintances, turned rivals, teammates, friends - a long and bumpy road with literal and metaphorical blood and tears spilled between them. Oil and water always in the same bottle, the two of them were a matching set that never seemed to separate.

Until now.

And maybe there was something more, something that drove Katsuki to refuse to accept what was being fed to him about this presence that had always been in his life in some way or another. Maybe he just knew something everyone else didn’t.

Whatever it was, whatever reason was really driving him forward - like a dog with a bone, Katsuki wasn’t about to let go.

“Alright, boss,” Sero said as he cradled the piping hot potato in his hands. “I’m game, you know I’ll go down the rabbit hole with you. What did Midoriya’s notes say about Geo’s stalker, if they aren’t the crappy kid currently getting chewed out by his mother?”

Sinking his teeth into the soft, steaming flesh, Katsuki dug the pink sticky note out of his breast pocket with his free hand. Sero took it from him, frowning.

“This is it?”

“Ahn,” Katsuki confirmed around his food before swallowing, the burn sliding down his throat. “Notes also called her a cougar. So she’s like, what, thirty?”

Sero gave Katsuki a look.

Katsuki bristled. “What?”

“We’re almost thirty, bro,” Sero said lightly, squinting at the paper in his fingers. “Huh. I think I know who this is.”

Nearly choking on his yakiimo, Katsuki felt his pulse spike. “No shit??”

“Yeah,” Sero said, handing back the note. “Bea something.. Cinne, I think her name is? A bit of an eccentric recluse but certainly rich and redheaded. There’s this website that catalogues all the weird shoes she wears for some reason? I don’t know, Kaminari is really into it. He’s been bummed there hasn’t been an update in a while.”

Katsuki dropped his food wrapper into a trash can, wiping off his hands, pointedly ignoring the tabloid headlines in the newsstand next to the yakiimo truck. 

“Y’know where she lives?”




This was more like it.

“Sir, we provide our residents an unmatched level of privacy, and I simply cannot allow you to just— just barge in without having been invited!”

The posh, lavish highrise fit the profile far more than some crummy apartment building.

Katsuki flashed his license, and the man trying to stop him from entering the polished marble lobby paled considerably.

“We’re not here to cause trouble,” Sero said as he fished out his own identification. “We just want to talk to her. When was the last time you’ve seen her?”

“W-well,” the manager said, signalling to the front guard to stand down and ushering Katsuki and Sero to follow him into the building, “As I said, our residents’ privacy is one of our priorities, and we do not track when they come and go. I’d have to ask all of the shift guards, as I have not personally seen her in weeks.”

Something odd wriggled in Katsuki’s stomach. The pattern, the pattern of stalkers and victims and stalkers turned victims— it fit, and it was both a positive sign that he was on the right trail and a very, very negative one.

They rode up the gilded elevator in silence.

When they reached their destination, their escort knocked on the door, clasping his gloved hands together to sing-song, “Bea-san, Bea-san I am terribly sorry to disturb you.” He waited a beat, his fingers squeezing together. “There are two, ah, gentlemen,” he said with a quick glance back at the pro heroes, “Here to see you.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes and tried to keep the frustrated noise from huffing out of his nose. These fancy fucks, really.

After a few moments of strained silence, the man knocked again. “Bea-san? It’s Diedrich. I can just tell these men to leave—”

“Open the door.”

Diedrich looked at Katsuki, aghast, like Katsuki had just asked him to toss a baby down the garbage shoot. “I beg your pardon, I will do no such thing.”

Katsuki stepped forward, letting his bulk and height tower over the smaller man.

“Oh, here we go—” 

“Open the fucking door.”

“Bakugou—”

“I will not be bullied—!”

“Dude, ah, sir, look, we’re investigating a serial killer—”

“A what?!”

“Door. Now.”

“You’ve probably heard of it, it’s—” 

“The door, open it!” Katsuki bellowed, slapping his open palm on the wood, making a bang so loud anyone inside would have surely heard it - and the door swung open.

All three men stared at it together.

“..She.. she w-wouldn’t leave it unlocked,” Diedrich stammered, and Katsuki grabbed him by the arm and pulled him roughly away from the entrance, putting his body between the manager and the dark void.

“Stay here,” Katsuki growled, jutting his chin at Sero who was already moving to cover Katsuki with his weapons - his elbows - at the ready.

Katsuki slipped in through the crack between the door and the jamb, cocking his ear to listen as he moved deeper into the disgustingly enormous penthouse apartment. It was dim, just the light from around the edges of curtains leaking in across the shiny, dark wood flooring, but it outlined the furniture scattered through the vast space that seemed to go on forever. Only his own breathing and Sero’s light footsteps reached his ears; still the hairs along his skin rose in a chorus of wrong wrong wrong.  

It fit, it fit— had this woman been stalked by the goat that died before her, only to become the next stalker herself? Was it a spirit of possession, moving through its victims and leaving only bodies and no other trace?

All of the previous victims had been rich. Had their deaths go unnoticed for weeks before being discovered in their own homes, in their— 

“Where were they found, again?” Sero whispered behind him, but he was already staring into the large, open kitchen. He knew.

Katsuki crept forward, heart pounding, until his hand, itching to blow something up, landed its sweaty palm on the refrigerator handle.

“We don’t have to do this, man, we should call it in.”

“So call it in,” Katsuki said from between clenched teeth, as he wrenched open the door and a body toppled out.

“Fuck! Fuck, man, fuck,” Sero swore, skidding backwards on the tile and fumbling out his phone. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he kept chanting as he tapped on it with shaking hands, the low light of the device casting ghastly shadows over the poor, dead woman crumpled at Katsuki’s feet. Although her pallor and rigidity already told him what he needed to know, Katsuki crouched down to confirm it, finding no signs of life.

Shit.

People died in their line of work all the time, civilian and hero alike, and this certainly wasn’t the first lost life either of them had encountered. But usually it was casualties during large scale disasters or collateral (or intentional) damage during villain attacks. Just finding dead bodies wasn’t a common occurrence by any means.

Even through the shock and the horror Katsuki’s buzzing brain could only focus on one thing: what did this mean? What did it mean for the case, for Deku? 

This directly tied Geodesic to the serial killer case. If Deku had been killing people and leaving them dead to be found days, weeks later, getting away with it, why murder the last one in public? In his hero costume, on live television?

And what was this stalking crap? Deku couldn’t have been doing that.

They're likely disguising themselves. Maybe a glamour quirk.

At some point Sero turned on the lights, and Katsuki let his training kick in and take over, propelling him through the lavish apartment to confirm that they were alone. Glancing over piles of dirty dishes covering otherwise pristine countertops, discarded alcohol bottles on leather couches, and general rubbish all over the lacquered floor. Like someone had partied at a hotel room and left the aftermath for room service to take care of. But the place was empty: no hostiles or friendlies, no more dead bodies.

Just one, and she left Katsuki with more questions than answers.




When Katsuki got licensed for operating as a private investigator, finding a dead body wasn’t something he had expected he would wind up doing. While it certainly confirmed he was doing something right, it also had the unfortunate side effect of putting Katsuki in the headlights when he had been trying to fly under the radar.

Trenchcoat - or Tsukauchi - the lead detective in Deku’s case, had been pretty furious when he caught wind of it, to say the least. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what Katsuki was trying to do.

But rather than pulling any strings to suspend both of Katsuki’s licenses, Tsukauchi allowed him to keep digging - as long as he reported back directly. Katsuki got the feeling it was a pretty big favor from the grizzled detective.

Especially if Shinsou’s suspicions about the Commission trying to make an example of Deku were true.

While Katsuki agreed to the deal, he kept some of his cards close to his chest; the direct connection to Geodesic stayed between him, Sero, and the pink sticky note in his pocket. The line of gasoline connecting the other murders to Deku didn’t need Katsuki’s help to light it.

He also didn’t want to give up the notebooks just yet.

Because of the investigation.

So as far as anyone else knew, it had just been a lucky guess: a local rich weirdo Sero happened to be familiar with, that hadn’t been seen recently.

Katsuki had to tread lightly.

“Oh, sick, I love mysteries. You seen that one with the baby? Or like, was it a toy? A doll? Spoopy stuff.”

It made sense, Katsuki kept telling himself as he rubbed circles into the blooming ache in his temple, to talk to her. The same as talking to Shinsou about mind control, talking to Utsushimi about glamours made sense.

They hadn’t had much contact since high school, when they had to take their remedial license course together, but she readily agreed to meet with Katsuki over drinks before he had even finished asking her. At least, Katsuki was pretty sure that’s what she had said. He still barely understood half the words that came out of her mouth.

“This is real life, not a television program,” Katsuki grit through his teeth. 

Utsushimi looked mildly offended, placing a hand across her chest. “This was real, too, babe! Or based on it, or something, yeah,” she said with a wave. “Ohh what about the bloody stairs one? What’s your big brain on the owl, I think it’s wack, but like, totally valid?”

Running a hand down his face, Katsuki looked to the bar ceiling for the patience he never had on a good day, let alone after losing the past few to red tape and bullshit after finding a fucking corpse. “I’ll pay for all your drinks if you can just fuckin focus for five minutes, you psycho.”

“Oh, babe, you were already footing my dime,” she laughed, wiggling her fingers at the bartender with a wink. She blew her a kiss, and a little bouquet of hearts blossomed out of the smoke in her hand. The bartender turned away, her cheeks red. “But I’m super serious face now,” Utsushimi said, turning back to Katsuki. “Pinky’s honor.”

“Unbelievable,” Katsuki muttered. He drew in a measured breath, choosing his words carefully. “When you imitate people, how easy is it? Can you do it immediately, or do you gotta study them first?”

Placing one finely manicured finger over glossy lips, Utsushimi tilted her head to the side, looking at Katsuki with a vacant expression he figured must mean she was actually thinking. “I can mix up anything I can think of as soon as my eyes land, but they’re just a picture, y’know? They aren’t bona fide. I’d have to really friend someone to really be them, yeah?”

She flicked her wrist in a flash of smoke, and the twin-toned visage of an old thorn in Katsuki’s side sat in front of him, an uncanny smile sparkling at him.

“Is it me you’re missing, Bakugou?” she said, in a perfect imitation of Todoroki’s voice, and Katsuki groaned. 

“Or is it me, Kacchan?”

Katsuki’s heart froze. For a moment, just a moment, he let himself be fooled: the face of the man he’d been chasing, fighting for, now just inches away for the first time in forever. But as soon as it came, it went, the smile all wrong, the eyes missing that sparkle that only ever seemed to shine when Katsuki was looking right at them.

“Take that off,” Katsuki hissed, eyes darting around the dark room. “You’re gonna get fucking arrested, y’know he’s on trial for murder?”

The vision dissipated into the woman he came in with once more, a shocked expression just a hair less vapid than her resting airhead face in its place. “Far out, really? I didn’t think the little bean sprout had it in him.”

“He doesn’t,” Katsuki spat, clenching his hand around his glass. “He’s been controlled, or framed, or something.” 

“Oh, snap!” Utsushimi exclaimed, snapping her fingers together. “This is the one with the Jekyll and Hyde guy, yeah? He was trying to solve all the crimes he was committing! Man, what a great twist. Fetch.”

“Fucking hell,” Katsuki swore, smoke curling around his whiskey. “Deku doesn’t have a glamour quirk. How could he have been turning into all these extras?” Maybe extras was a little harsh for murder victims, but Katsuki’s already low store of politeness was completely empty.

“Turning into them? Like that bird who took the license test for me?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know, but it ain’t her. That nutcase’s been in Tartarus for years.”

“Then some other bird. And bean sprout is just Jekyll, and Hyde turned into him.”

The noise of the bar faded away, and Katsuki closed his eyes. Yes, it was what he was beginning to suspect, but it didn’t add up with the physical evidence that Deku himself committed the final murder. Were there.. Two villains involved? One that was the serial killer, and one that controlled Deku? Was the latter covering for the former? If Katsuki couldn’t even find one of these fucks, how was he going to find two??

Assuming, of course, it wasn’t just Deku, somehow, with Katsuki on a wild goose chase following the diary of his childhood friend who’d completely lost his mind.




Katsuki came home to an empty apartment and that damn stack of notebooks once more. He’d pored over them again and again, searching for anything Deku could tell him from the recent past, and studiously ignoring everything not-so-recent.

But now there were new notebooks. These were filled with a different, harsher set of strokes: Katsuki’s neat and efficient lettering that detailed everything he had found, along with all of his theories. It was not lost on him that he had slipped into that pair of red, chunky shoes right after their previous owner had vacated them. Deku’s case was now Katsuki’s, and it was a puzzle he intended to solve.

And Katsuki would not fail.

This last victim Deku had nothing on beyond the description from Geodesic - which made sense, since no one knew she even was a victim at all. Her time of death was estimated well before Deku had been arrested, and even before Deku’s phone call with the deceased celebrity. 

If she had already been dead when ‘she’ was stalking Geodesic, then the serial killer must have been taking the identities of their victims.

And Deku was catching on.

Which meant the killer had a motive.

They had ample reason to want to take out the detective hunting them. But why not just kill him? 

As if they could. Deku was pretty fucking hard to kill.

Toga Himiko was the obvious suspect, and it would certainly fit: killing her victims and using their blood to imitate them while picking the next one. But, she’d really have no reason to stalk her future targets; Toga could change into whomever’s blood she consumed instantaneously, like how Utsushimi could mimic anything with a glamour. Maybe Toga would have done it to more effortlessly act the part of her disguise, but it was a moot point if she was still in prison.

So, someone else with a mimic or copycat quirk of some kind. Although still rare, they were more common than mind control, and not for the first time Katsuki wondered why Deku did it was the first conclusion everyone came to, and stuck with. What if the real killer had impersonated him, led the police back to where Deku slept unaware, and then slipped out undetected?

Katsuki had said as much to Tsukauchi, but was informed that the house had been completely surrounded: no one could have gotten out through their detection. The house then remained guarded while Deku was booked, up until and through his house arrest. No one but Deku came or went from that building.

“Like no one’s ever slipped through detection before,” Katsuki grumbled. He knew a literal invisible woman; he wasn’t ruling it out.

Yawning, Katsuki drummed his pencil against the table. It was late, and although the whiskey he’d had at the bar earlier had pretty much worn off (it took a lot to get Katsuki even a little tipsy), just enough remained in his system that had him look between his options of bed and potential mistake and then reach for the older backlog of notebooks.

I have so much to say and don’t even know where to begin. The past several days have been a whirlwind. The training camp.. Was a disaster. I almost don’t even want to write about the actual training because it seems so pointless. I’ll run through it briefly.

Yeah, this was probably a mistake.

That night.. Fuck. Definitely a low point for Katsuki, and his memories of Deku weren’t much better. Even all these years later they’d never really talked about it. And now this might be the only chance Katsuki would get, one-sided as it would be.

Skipping down a bit, Katsuki found where the action started.

I fought a man named Muscular. It was the hardest fight I’ve ever been in, and I’ll be honest I am pretty sure I almost died. I really thought I was going to. I was able to win by going beyond what my body could handle, with my quirk, because I needed to save Kota-kun.

This must have been how Deku got so fucked up, covered in blood with his arms destroyed.

And Kacchan.

Katsuki’s teeth pressed together. 

They took him. I knew, I knew they were after him and I still couldn’t stop them. If I hadn’t destroyed myself, I could have reached him when he was taken. He told me not to, but.. Had my body not given out, I would have. I would have followed him through the portal.

“And died, you dumbass,” Katsuki hissed. His eyes flicked farther down the page.

It couldn’t have been me. I know Kacchan wouldn’t accept my hand, and I just couldn’t risk it. We’re not there yet. We might never be. 

Katsuki’s heartbeat was the only sound in his apartment.

What the hell? This was.. He shouldn’t be reading this. These were Deku’s private thoughts, not meant for Katsuki to see. And it was old shit, they were.. They were past all this! Katsuki went to close the book but his eyes caught on what he had skipped over: 

I’ve never felt anything like that; I can barely remember it, it’s like I blacked out. All my physical injuries felt like nothing and all that there was left was.. failure. Loss. I’m only able to write this coherently because he’s safe now. I’d never have forgiven myself if something.. If something really happened to him, all because I can’t manage my quirk. 

I can’t imagine a world without Kacchan.

Fuck. Fuck. Katsuki snapped the notebook shut with a little too much force, pushing himself away from his kitchen table, his skin buzzing. He was right, this had been a mistake. Wasting time with his head in the past wasn’t going to help Deku now, shut up on house arrest like a damn villain. Forget a world without Kacchan, Katsuki was about to face a world without Deku. Katsuki knew the trial was likely to get expedited, and once it began, if Katsuki didn’t have the right suspect, Deku was screwed.

Katsuki needed to solve this shit, like, yesterday.

But even so, Katsuki forced himself to turn in for the night. He had given Deku enough shit for losing sleep over this case, and now Katsuki was the one with circles under his eyes and too much caffeine in his blood.

It was Katsuki following the nerd’s footsteps now instead of the reverse, as it had always been once upon a time, but he couldn’t match them that closely. Working himself into a frenzy with sleepless nights and unmitigated stress might just take him down the same path - and Katsuki did not fancy being put on house arrest in his small, utilitarian apartment. He teased Deku about his posh living when he’d bought that house, but it certainly must be making for a better jail cell.

At least, he hoped it was.

Chapter Text

Okay, now Izuku really looked like he had gone crazy.

The entire back wall of his living room, next to the bookshelf with the normal amount of books, was a warzone of sticky notes and scattered office supplies. All of Izuku’s used notebooks had been confiscated, most regrettably, but he still had plenty of pens and paper to construct a new narrative for himself, to help him figure out exactly what was going on. Whatever functioning part that was left of his crumbling sanity needed, needed to logic through it. Izuku was done crying himself to sleep. Well, for now. In all likelihood he’d slip back into a fog in like an hour, but for now, he had a task, a goal, and he aimed to complete it.

“Okay,” he said aloud, scribbling a few final words and pinning the missive to his wall. It was divided into four columns, for his four possible theories. “Let’s go through it again. One, I’m crazy. Well, talking to myself and saying ‘let’s’ as if I’m not just talking to myself is already a point against me.” Izuku wrote that down and added it to the first column. “I killed Geodesic. I don’t remember it, but I did it. Several things have happened during my house arrest that support this theory,” Izuku said, beginning to pace, gesturing like he was delivering a lecture. 

“Things have moved around that I don’t remember moving. I lose track of time. I sleep too much. Clear indications of some kind of mental illness or disorder. I black out, or maybe sleepwalk, and don’t remember any of it.”

Izuku scrunched up his nose. Although this seemed to be the most likely of his theories, it was his least favorite. Because it meant that yes, he had killed someone. Even if he hadn’t been in his right mind, that wasn’t exactly a comfort. Whether he spent the remainder of his life in an institution or a prison cell made very little difference to Izuku.

“Two. I’ve been knowingly set up. The Commission, Tsukauchi-san, the police - they’re all lying to me. This has all been fabricated: doctored footage, planted evidence. I.. don’t actually have anything to support this,” Izuku said with a grimace, looking over the short second column. “Other than I don’t remember even leaving my house that night - which is also a point for column A - and the knife that couldn’t have been there without being planted. And I definitely did see it and it isn’t there now but I did not hallucinate it. Well, for this theory, anyway.

“Three. I’ve been unknowingly set up. That is, Tsukauchi-san and the others don’t know about it. There’s some villain involved, pulling the strings. They made me kill Geodesic, or framed me. Possibly like Shinsou-kun; obviously wasn’t Shinsou-kun because of course not and also I would remember talking to him before he put me under. But who? It could be related to any villain I’ve previously put away or fought in the past. Or just one that doesn’t like me. These last two theories might have overlap: the knife is still unexplained.” Izuku balled his fists. “Knife, framing, possible impersonation. I don’t have to say who that sounds like.”

“Four. This house is haunted.” Izuku stopped pacing, throwing his hands out like he was entreating someone to wait, just let him explain. “I know this one is crazy. I know. I know! But the water heater. The knife appearing and disappearing. Missing stuff I don’t remember moving. Plugging the power strip back in when I deliberately unplugged it because the news is a black hole I am trying not to get sucked into. I mean, it’d likely be a quirk, not a literal ghost - but also maybe I was possessed, and the presence made me commit murder, and is still here, messing with me.” Sighing, Izuku slumped to the floor, pulling his legs under him to sit cross-legged. “I guess this is really just column A again.”

He flopped backward, splaying out onto the hardwood and staring up at his scattered sticky notes. “It’s just the two options, isn’t it. Either I’m crazy and I did it, or I’m not crazy and someone else is responsible.”

How could he prove the latter when the former would just be what they’d throw back in his face? Any claims he made against someone else would be easily dismissed as a delusion his ill mind had concocted, especially if the claims were against the very people who had put him here.

He’d just spent hours drafting and pinning up a conspiracy board like it would actually accomplish something. Who could he even go to with this?

Next week he’d be meeting with a new lawyer; maybe he could lay out his theories for them, since his regular representation had dropped him like a bag of rocks when Izuku got arrested.

Izuku couldn’t blame them. The kind of lawyers that Izuku needed for a murder trial were not the kind that he had employed.

After several fairly catastrophic events in his youth, Izuku led a pretty routine life as an adult, as a hero. The villains bent on world domination were gone, and what was left of hero society in their wake picked itself back up and soldiered on. Izuku was part of that, and not to brag but he was an exemplary hero. He barely even needed lawyers; they smoothed over collateral damage done to the odd flower shop or cafe windows that Izuku got thrown through, but that was about it.

The counsel he’d been assigned had negotiated Izuku’s house arrest, which at the time Izuku was grateful for. Now he was beginning to think he would have been better off elsewhere.

Tartarus, maybe.

Izuku’s gaze drifted up over his notes. He should probably take them down before the next check-in. If he was being set up, he couldn’t let the warden know he suspected that.

And if he was just crazy, none of it made a difference.

He drummed two fingers against his chin. “Five. I’ve been kidnapped by villains pretending to be the proper authorities, and this isn’t even my house. Is that it? Did I solve the puzzle?”

Izuku closed his eyes, listening to the refrigerator hum from the other room.

“Six. I died, and this is hell. Or purgatory.”

Groaning, Izuku pulled himself up to his feet. Eight, it was a dream. Nine, he was in a coma. Ten, it was an elaborate prank gone way too far. Why stop there? Why not just list off every conceivable alternate reality, anything that wasn’t just Izuku is crazy, and a murderer.

“..Eleven, I forgot seven.”

Great.

“If I am crazy, I need help,” Izuku croaked, glancing back down the hallway to his mother’s room. It tugged at his heart. Why couldn’t he have been haunted by his mother’s ghost? It’d be an overbearing and fussy haunting, sure, but he seriously doubted she would have made him kill anyone.

But she would have been happy for him to be stuck at home with her.

Before he could pin ‘mother’ under the ‘haunted’ column, a muffled and squeezing creak sounded over his head. Like it had come from the second floor hallway, directly above him.

Bum. Bum. Bum.

Izuku couldn’t hear anything over his own heart in his ears.

“It’s just the house settling, Izuku,” his mother used to say, squeezing his shoulder reassuringly. But that wasn’t this house - it was his grandmother’s, and Izuku was a child, a child that had been used to people walking above him in their little apartment, used to the cats that romped back and forth at odd hours of the day. His grandmother’s house had creaked and groaned and made all kinds of sounds with no input from foot or paw, and it scared little Izuku.

This house, this only-a-few-years-old house, didn’t really have the same things to say.

So what was that?

I was just kidding, mom, Izuku thought. He crept lightly over to the stairwell, falling back on his stealth training as he ascended the steps. He slowed his breathing down until it was almost painful.

Crazy. Set up. Villain. Haunted.

Curious.

“..Unless you are trying to help me,” he mouthed silently, peeking out onto the landing, to the right toward his bedroom, then back to the left past the bathroom, past the linen closets and the study, toward the second stairwell at the end of the hall that led back down to his mother’s side of the house. Nothing. No one. Did he imagine it? Although it would still support his unfavorable theory about being crazy, most everything else in that column was something Izuku must have done but just couldn’t remember properly. The lights left on. The clothing he thought he grabbed. The murdered man. Pure hallucinations were rarer, like the knife.

But I held it. I felt it. The knife was real.

Izuku did a quick sweep of the second floor, finding nothing out of place. He double checked, opening closets and cabinets. He rifled through stacks of towels. He looked in the tub. He opened the toilet.

“Okay, now you’re just being ridiculous,” he muttered, rubbing at both of his temples. The dull throb in the front of his skull that still lingered from his couch hangover was growing more annoying, and this ghost hunt wasn’t helping. Izuku just wanted to go back to sleep - even though it must have been hardly lunch time.

As if on cue, Izuku’s stomach gurgled, and he followed it back down the stairs to the kitchen in search of food and something for his head. He flipped open the medicine cabinet that was hung over the unnervingly empty knife block.

Most of it had been cleared out, like the knives, but he was allowed to keep a few painkillers and basic over-the-counter medications in limited quantities. Fishing around for something to help the headache, Izuku pulled out the packets he was looking for and shook an open one into his palm. Popping two pills into his mouth, he gracelessly replaced the unopened packets, accidentally knocking over a bottle of sleep aid. It bounced and clattered, like it was light and almost empty.

That had been a full bottle the last time Izuku had used it.

It was one of the few things they had left untouched. Izuku would take it infrequently to help with sleepless nights, but he certainly hadn’t had any need for it here; sleep was just about all he did. He was like a cat, sleeping through more hours in a day than not.

Izuku wrapped his hand around it, pulling it down from the cabinet. He unscrewed the cap and peered into the bottle. Maybe a quarter of the pills were left.

Had he been..

Taking them?

Izuku’s mouth felt dry. Forgetting whether or not he turned on a light was one thing. Losing track of time without windows, sure. But now, this.. What the hell? No wonder he’d been so disoriented, if he’d apparently been popping sleeping pills like candy! Could it have caused him to hallucinate? Did it explain the water, the knife? He rolled the bottle to read over the side effects, frowning. Headache, drowsiness. It wasn’t even really a sleeping pill, which is why he was still allowed to have it, but taking anything in excess could have still had adverse effects. 

Was this causing his memory problems?

The headache currently knocking at his skull?

Had it caused.. Everything?

No, no, it was a harmless thing! Practically a vitamin! Izuku didn’t even take it regularly!

The bottle cracked in his palm.

Without thinking, Izuku turned to the sink, upending the rest of the bottle into the basin. The pills scattered like snowflakes, or perhaps more like hail, clattering around the metal. Izuku turned on the tap and watched the pills fizz and dissolve in the rush of water. He shakily placed the bottle onto the counter, distantly registering the fact that he was not supposed to flush medications into the water system - but he really couldn’t be bothered. If he had been blacking out and taking any kind of pills without his conscious knowledge, he needed to get rid of them.

He felt sick. His stomach soured, sweat beading on his forehead, and Izuku didn’t know if it was just nerves or something else. He just took that painkiller - was that the only one he had taken? Today? This week? Was he at risk of some kind of overdose?

“Calm down, breathe,” Izuku said, gripping the edge of the sink for support. Everything had a rational explanation. It did. It did! Maybe it hadn’t actually been a full bottle. If Izuku couldn’t trust his memory about a murder he had committed, how could he trust anything he remembered? What had he really been doing? Had he been consuming anything else without his conscious knowledge?

Wait.

Something tickled in the back of his mind from what was apparently the previous day: a lone container and not much else.

Fumbling over to the refrigerator, Izuku wrenched it open, and his heart sank. It was practically empty, pretty much just the old rice with a thin film of plastic wrap over it.

“What the hell is going on,” Izuku said breathlessly. He hadn’t been stocked with all that much food, but he’d had hardly any appetite, so he’d barely been eating. At least, he couldn’t remember eating! But if he had been, maybe that’s why he wasn’t hungry.

Izuku let the fridge door shut and pressed his forehead against it. Great. He wasn’t supposed to get more food for a few days, how was he supposed to explain this to the warden? Would they just let him starve if he admitted he accidentally ate all of his food already?

“It’s not my fault,” Izuku ground out through clenched teeth. “I shouldn’t be here alone. I’m clearly having dangerous lapses in memory. They knew this! It was.. It was Tsukauchi-san’s whole theory about how I k-killed Geodesic but wasn’t able to lie about it.”

Pressing both hands on either side of his face, Izuku bit back the sob of frustration that threatened to erupt, seizing in his chest. Who was this other Izuku? Who was sharing his brain and his body part-time and making Izuku take the fall? When had he cracked and split into two? One that was just him coming apart, and one that was cutting the seams?

Was it One For All? Morphing into something unrecognizable? One of the former holders, manifesting irregularly and maliciously? Izuku glanced down at his ankle. The manacle wrapped around it disabled his quirk entirely, wouldn’t it be suppressing that too?

Could One For All resist it?

Or had he really just done this himself?

Izuku thought back, back before the conspiracy board in his living room, back before that horrible night, to the case that put him in contact with Geodesic in the first place. It had consumed him almost completely the longer it went on unsolved, spending more and more hours trying to find any tiny bit of information that could point him to the right answer. He still took on routine patrols and responded to every emergency bulletin. Izuku had assured everyone he could handle it, but now it was hard to ignore the evidence that he couldn’t.

Had the late nights, stacks of coffee cups and dead ends truly caused this? Was Izuku’s overeager attitude and desire to help everyone his ultimate undoing?

Maybe it wasn’t even new.

Civilians he couldn’t save, friends and colleagues who’d lost their lives, world-ending battles he ground himself into the dirt to win, sometimes only getting by on dumb luck. Izuku had a fully stamped passport of trauma before he graduated high school. Before he’d even made it out of his first year.

Izuku pushed off of the humming appliance. He knew there didn’t have to be some grand reason. He could have just developed a disorder, or had it in some capacity all along. Although he did not know specifics, he knew at least schizophrenia tended to present in one’s late twenties, and that’s exactly where Izuku was. 

Although he’d cleared the psych eval, he felt like he needed to take it again.

It couldn’t wait until morning. But his hand hovered over the phone as he reached for it; if he was being set up, this was a bad move. If he wasn’t.. And he was actually a danger to himself.. Could he risk it?

What should he do?

What would Kacchan do?

The ache in his chest at just the mere thought of Kacchan was a painful throb he’d never really gotten used to feeling, no matter how many times it happened. Kacchan wasn’t here, Kacchan hadn’t visited, Kacchan shouldn’t have been to whom Izuku turned right now but of course it was. Couldn’t trust his own damn mind, so maybe the little voice in Izuku’s head that spoke in a lower, gruffer register would be more helpful.

Of course, ‘Kacchan wouldn’t be here in the first place’ wasn’t helpful. ‘Kacchan would break out’ was a good visual, bursting out of the walls in an explosion of flame and fury, but Kacchan wasn’t such a flagrant rulebreaker. Nor was he stupid: even Izuku knew he wouldn’t get far trying to escape the amount of security that surrounded his house.

But would Kacchan just sit here and go crazy?

Would he trust the authorities that put him in here?

Would he make this phone call?

What’s the point? No one cares about you. Your life is over. Die in here or in prison, it doesn’t make a difference.

That wasn’t Kacchan’s voice.

Clenching his jaw, Izuku picked up the phone.

Only to have silence greet him when he pressed it to his ear.

Frowning, Izuku jiggled the latch in the cradle, like he’d seen in old movies. Nothing. He looked at the receiver as if he had any capability to discern what could be wrong with it. Just as he was about to put it away, he saw it: there was nothing between it and the rest of the phone. No cord. Something he distinctly remembered the bizarre, analog device having had attached to it.

Could he seriously not catch a break, here?

Okay.

Izuku slammed it against the wall, marching back over toward his notes. Time to go through the columns again.

Crazy. Set up. Villain. Haunted.

Some combination of all four??

Another point for column A.

But when Izuku got back into the living room, there were points for every column: four notes stuck across the whole board, in dark red letters:

KILL YOUR SELF DEKU

And they were written in Izuku’s handwriting.

Chapter Text

“This is everything we have on every single one of these poor sods,” Katsuki barked, smacking his hand against one of the boxes of files they’d laid out on the conference room table. Use of the space for private work wasn’t exactly sanctioned, but since it wasn’t on agency time they shouldn’t catch heat for it. “Something connects them. We need to find it, and where it leads.”

He held up a photograph. Red hair, big sweater, weird shoes. “And she’s our missing piece.”

Shinsou pulled a box toward him. “What do we already know about her?”

“Bea Cinne, 54, retired psychologist,” Sero chimed in, reading over her file. “Invested in some offbeat startups that blew up a few decades ago and she’s been living off it ever since. Pretty reclusive, kept mostly to herself, but was a bit of a local celebrity for her clothing choices. Had a quirk that turned her skin red in sunlight, though that just sounds like a sunburn to me? Oh, yeah, it’s called Sunburn.”

“Any other psychologists?” 

“No,” Katsuki answered. “Each victim had a different profession, with the exception of a few former heroes. But those were all different specializations, departments, agencies. Only thing they all seem to have in common is wealth.”

“Isn’t that just it, then? Seems like they were all targeted for their money,” Shinsou said flatly, tossing aside one file for another.

Katsuki nodded. “Yeah, you’d think. But nothing was stolen - at least nothing obvious. Houses largely intact, superficially trashed. Bank accounts untouched.”

“Just sending a message? Class warfare? Eat the rich, that kind of thing?”

“Don’t sympathize too much with the murderer, Eye-bags.”

Shinsou grinned, his hands up like he’d be caught.

“Midoriya’s not rich,” Sero continued, as he peered into a box of bagged mail taken from Bea’s penthouse, where it had piled up next to the door, unopened. “Not more than any of us. But he was hunting the killer. So they took him out.” 

It was solid enough to be plausible, but it didn’t really help them. Katsuki rolled his shoulders in an attempt to alleviate the tension that never seemed to go away. “If we have the why, how does it get us the who?”

Leaning back in his chair, Shinsou looked up at the ceiling, as if he might find the answer written on its tiles. Or he was just bored. “Well, what do the rich have in common? Yachts? Horses? 401ks?”

Sero held up a piece of mail. “Country clubs?”

Katsuki narrowed his eyes at the gold, curling script stamped on the envelope. “Junk mail,” he said dismissively.

“Nah, it’s a membership renewal,” Sero said as he flicked it across the table. “Kinda weird though, right? Didn’t peg her as the type.”

The word Sero had used to describe this last victim several times had been ‘reclusive’, which didn’t exactly scream going out on the town or hobnobbing with other socialites. But those kinds of places catered to an elite crowd, and so did the building she died in.

And she would have had to leave her penthouse sometimes, right? Hard to follow someone who never left their home.

It might have been one of the only places the killer would have had the opportunity to do so.

Frowning, Katsuki read over the name of the club: Moss Izelee. The name was familiar - had he seen it in one of Deku’s notebooks? Crunched into the corners next to a shopping list he wouldn’t ever fulfill?  

“Call this place. See if any of the others were on the guest list.”

“Based on what?” Shinsou asked incredulously. “Should we see if she had any ice cream club punch cards, too?”

“Thanks for volunteering,” Katsuki said, handing the envelope over.

Shinsou rolled his eyes, but still stood up to make the phone call in another room.

“So, uh,” Sero casually began when Shinsou had left, “There’s been some water cooler chatter I’m hearing. People think we’re meddling too much, and we should just let the trial shake out; if he’s innocent, he’ll be proven innocent.”

Oh, Katsuki was well aware. The reactions to Deku’s arrest ranged from shock to disbelief, but even his closest friends wanted their privacy respected during this difficult time. They had to trust that if it wasn’t true, the truth would come out in time.

What, by itself?

“Fuck’s sake. Like the system’s never failed anyone. Besides, we’re solving these other murders. Not the one they got Deku for, unless it just so happens to be the same fuckin’ asshole. Next.”

Sero ran a hand through his hair. “More importantly, it sounds like there are some powerful people we’re really pissing off.”

Katsuki flipped open one of his own notebooks, clicking his pen. “What else is new?”

Half of Sero’s mouth curled up in a lopsided grin. “Like, they want to shut this down, dude.”

“Must be doin’ somethin’ right, then.”

They were definitely on thin ice; even with tentative permission, whatever leverage they had wouldn’t mean squat if the Commission wanted Katsuki and his team locked out. But if they had to move their operation to Katsuki’s apartment instead of the agency’s conference room, so be it.

They’d have to throw him in jail to get him to stop.

“Hey.”

Katsuki looked up, and Sero’s expression was serious.

“I’ll be straight with you, for once. It’s not like you do it this way. Sneaking around, using Shinsou’s quirk to acquire this shit?” He gestured over the boxes on the table. “This is basically lying, dude.”

The grip on Katsuki’s pen tightened. He hated lying, and being accused of it felt like treason. At what point had the ends starting justifying the means? How far was he willing to go for this?

For Deku?  

“Well,” Shinsou said as he came back into the room, holding up the envelope he had left with, and the tension dissipated. “You must have all the luck, because this might actually be something.”

Katsuki looked up, surprised. It was worth a phone call for sure but he hadn’t really expected it to be a direct hit. “The others all belonged to that fancy ass club?”

“No. None of them, besides the last woman. She was a regular there; she liked to feed the ducks? But - one of the victims was a guest. Roderick Cameron, the last one on record before her and Geodesic.”

“A guest?” Sero asked. “Like, ‘bring a friend to your golf game’ kinda guest?”

Shinsou shrugged. “Sounds like they let you test drive if you’re rich enough. They wouldn’t tell me if they had ever been there together at the same time, but did tell me he had only started guesting shortly before his death - And that Midoriya had visited to talk to them about him, too. It’s more of a connection than we’ve found on anyone else.”

“Okay,” Katsuki said slowly, tapping his pen tip against the top of his notebook. Deku had shown up there, was this the right track or one that had already been investigated and cleared? Deku wouldn’t have known about Bea at all, but he might have thought the visits were irregular. “That hypothetically connects two victims back-to-back. Can we find something that links him to the one before? Blackout?”

“Hasn’t that been what we’ve been trying to do this whole time?”

Katsuki had to resist throwing his pen at Sero’s head. “Use the new information, numb nuts. Goat-face guested at the redhead’s club, and recently. That was probably our killer, marking her. So where did ‘Blackout’ mark him? Where was his regular haunt, before he got axed? A joint they both wouldn’t be out of place in.”

Sero reached across the table for Roderick’s box. “Um, he was a support hero, right? Also retired? Maybe they both were JARH members.”

“Blackout? Sitting around playing shogi and drinking tea with a bunch of old heroes? I can’t see that,” Shinsou scoffed. “She was retired but she was young. No way they ran in the same circle.”

“So,” Sero said, holding up Roderick’s profile and pointing at the Japanese Association for Retired Heroes logo stamped on it, “I shouldn’t call them?”

Shinsou flipped up Kika’s in return, raising an eyebrow: no logo.

“He’s right. She wouldn’t have been a member; that woulda been an obvious connection, and someone would have noticed,” Katsuki muttered. 

Deku would have noticed.

There had to be a reason Deku had flagged the country club visitation as something to look into. The old goat wouldn’t have had it anywhere in his records; the impostor would have wanted that to be difficult to find. But Deku found it anyway. It’s just that he was hauled off for murder before he could do anything with it.

Drawing lines across his notebook page, Katsuki laid it out.

BLACKOUT → ( ? ) ← GOAT

GOAT (GUEST) → MOSS IZELEE ← REDHEAD (MEMBER)

REDHEAD → ( ? ) ← GEODE  

? DEKU ? 

It should be simple. Just fill in the blanks.

With what?

The connection the Professor had to Blackout would be presumably similar: something not in their records.

Or just not in her records.

BLACKOUT (GUEST) → ( ? ) ← GOAT (MEMBER)

Katsuki circled the word guest.

“Call the geezer club anyway. Sure, she ain’t a card-carrying member - but maybe ‘she’ was looking into becoming one someday.”




A country club, a retired heroes association, an upscale speakeasy, an apothecary bar, a jazz club, a cigar lounge. Members and guests that were members of places with guests, all the way back to the first victim and a dead end.

Where the dead started.

The connection was linear: the killer moved from one establishment to the next, using the borrowed credentials of the previous victim to gain access as a guest, visitor or potential new member. They picked a new target and moved on a month or so later, all while the body they were using was already dead.

The pattern broke with Geodesic and Deku. Trying to chase the villain out that end of the chain was futile; Geodesic was a member of dozens of elite clubs and private establishments. But if they could find the source - a name, a relevant quirk - that should be enough to exonerate Deku.

So who were they? 

Logic would indicate it was someone who guested at the cigar lounge, where the first victim was a member.

Not every piece of information was available just over a phone call. And while in-person fighting was something Katsuki was great at, this kind of reconnaissance required a more delicate touch.

Or three.

“Babe, you look so yum. Bark bark bark.”

Katsuki was already regretting this.

He wasn’t much of a people person, though - unlike Sero, Shinsou and Utsushimi - whom together might have combined into the most charming person on the planet. Utsushimi, because she was just so bubbly and confusing, Shinsou because he literally charmed people. By brainwashing them.

And Sero was just, well, Sero.

“This is ridiculous,” Katsuki grumbled, resisting the urge to adjust the fancy waistcoat he wasn’t actually wearing, courtesy of Utsushimi’s glamour. The leather couches they sat in, like the cigar lounge they were inside of, reeked of smoke - and not the good, post-explosion kind. Katsuki hated it.

“Suck it up, wonder boy. You’re the one who wanted to do it this way.” Shinsou grimaced, glancing down at the loud purple tie on his chest, hands in his pockets.

Sero grinned, hooking his thumbs into his fake suspenders. “We’ll get more information faster if we can talk to some of the folks here without raising suspicion. Management has already given us everything they can, since their impermanent records from over six months ago have already been expunged.”

“See what you can dig up, but stay sharp. There’s a chance this fucker is still here. It might not have been the pattern yet; they could have been a member.”

“Or never here at all,” Shinsou drawled.

Katsuki frowned. Yeah, that’s what he was afraid of. The first victim, a man by the name of Bai Fujio, spent a lot of his time at this private lounge before he ‘moved on’ to start frequenting a jazz club. But without a victim before him to link to this particular establishment, there was no guarantee this place had anything to do with the murderer at all. It could have been another club, or no club at all.

“Snooze, can we lift off already?” Utsushimi brushed a hand over her cocktail dress, and it glimmered like diamonds.

Katsuki waved them off and watched his team disappear into the rich, dark colors of the lounge, trusting them to handle what he could not. He was really just there for extra muscle, if shit went south.

With nothing to do but wait, Katsuki reached into an inner pocket and pulled out a leather-bound book. He’d been carrying it with him for days, unable to bring himself to read it, but something in his gut told him it was now or never. He ran a hand over the cover. It wasn’t leather at all, it was just the glamour, hiding the burned and water-damaged edges of a notebook that was well over a decade old.

Katsuki huffed out a sigh, and opened it.

Gigantification, huh? It’s a common and quite powerful quirk, but could the threat of public property destruction limit its use? Well.. depends on whether or not she can manipulate her size at will.

There’s no precedent but there’s no harm in trying. It’s my dream.

Hmph.

ALL 

MIGHT!

Katsuki squinted at the large letters scrawled across the page. Was this All Might’s real fucking signature? Shitty nerd had this goldmine the whole time??

I don’t know if I can write in this anymore.. It had a run-in with Kacchan’s Explosion. He’s amazing. And an idiot.

..That’s— that’s really all he wrote about that?

I can be a hero. I earned this. I’m gonna be here no matter what.

I’ll show you, Kacchan.

Swallowing around a dry throat, thick with the smoke that lingered in the air, Katsuki closed the book. He wasn’t proud of the Kacchan in these pages, but he’d spent most of his life since working to become one he could be.

Deku, with stars in his eyes and an impossible dream in his stupid, thick skull, didn’t kill anyone. Katsuki believed that more than ever, and he was going to find out who did.

It’s what Deku would do for him.

It’s what Katsuki will do for Deku.

That’s just the way it was.




“Hey, boss. You want a fancy cigar? It’s about all I can get for ya, unfortunately,” Sero said with a sigh as he slumped back down onto the leather armchair across from Katsuki, his gangly limbs splaying out, somehow not incongruous with his dapper disguise. 

Katsuki shook his head. He didn’t smoke.

“No one I’ve talked to has anything interesting to say. Half of them didn’t even know Bai, or weren’t even members yet when he was killed.”

Glancing at the old-fashioned clock that hung over the bar told Katsuki that the chances of getting anything useful that night were winding down.

Especially when Shinsou walked up next without any trace of his slick smile.

“Nothing to report. One guy seemed a little dodgy, but he wasn’t hiding anything.” He looked down at his fingernails with feigned nonchalance. “I checked.”

“Shit,” Katsuki hissed, gripping the soft arms of his chair. Was this all just a waste of time? Should he just start threatening people??

Just as he was about to get up, Utsushimi materialized out of nowhere in a candied swirl of smoke, dropping into and draping herself across Katsuki’s lap. “This was lit, babe! We should do this more often. Love some juicy spy work, very classic black-and-white. Have you seen the one—”

“Camie,” Sero cut in, “Did you find anything? You’re killing us. Well, mostly him.”

Katsuki felt like his eyes were popping off of his face.

“Oh!” Utsushimi exclaimed, pulling out a cocktail napkin from her dress. It had a number and a lipstick mark pressed onto it. “I got the digits of the barmaid, high score.”

“This wasn’t a fucking hookup opportunity,” Katsuki hissed, ready to shove the woman in his lap to the hardwood floor, but she stopped him with finger to his lips.

“Babe, I keep telling you, it’s so much better when you shut up.” She waved the napkin in Katsuki’s face, the other arm looping around his neck. “Barmaid babydoll isn’t just a good time for me. You should gab with her. Wink wonk.”

Swiveling his head, Katsuki looked back toward the bar. The lounge also served alcohol, though with a very limited range, with the focus of the establishment being on smoking. Through the haze and the flares of low lights, he could see a woman with curling ram horns and bright hair that ignored gravity staring daggers back across the room at him, before quickly averting her dark eyes.

Fuck it.

If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.

Standing, Katsuki relocated his ditzy teammate to another leather armchair before weaving his way through a few patrons on his way to the bar. His prickly demeanor didn’t win him any favors in the majority of situations that required tact and a delicate, deft hand, but Katsuki wasn’t inept. He could talk to one fucking woman.

He jut his chin up at her as he approached. “Whiskey, neat.”

She cocked her head to the side. “House?”

“No,” Katsuki said, leaning on the bar. “Most expensive shit you’ve got.”

“That’s a seven thousand yen shot, Bakugou-san,” she said with a smile.

Katsuki narrowed his eyes. “Don’t remember giving you my name. You got something worth that much?”

“I know you, Bakugou Katsuki,” the woman practically purred, smiling, as her hands that more resembled a large monster’s claws busied themselves with pouring his drink. “Been quite an admirer of yours. You’ve never beat around the bush, you get right to the point. I like that in a man; I don’t like much else.”

“Don’t need no fuckin’ flattery,” Katsuki grumbled. “You got shit I wanna hear?”

“There it is,” she said with an even bigger grin, too many teeth in a mouth that was too wide. She pushed the glass across the bar. “That signature charm. And surely Bakugou Katsuki is a generous tipper.” Her long eyelashes fluttered at him.

After a long moment glaring at the bartender while she guilelessly simpered back, Katsuki relented and pulled out his wallet. It was for Deku, after all.

He put his money down.

The nerd could pay Katsuki back later.

“Not many of the regulars know him now, but I knew Bai. Funny thing, he was. Some kind of tech genius turned investor after he made his money shifting cryptocurrency. But boy could he play a fiddle.” She paused, glancing sideways down the bar, idly running her claws along it with a rag. “Shame what happened to him. Always wondered how his old friend took it, but he stopped comin’ years ago.”

“His friend?”

“Mmn. Had a real close friend that often showed up with him to the lounge.”

Katsuki’s ears perked up at that. “Ah?” he asked, bringing the whiskey to his lips. Fuck. He didn’t know if it was seven thousand yen good, but it was good.

The bartender’s hair curled around her face just like the smoke that filled the room. “Ah. Real lust for life, that one. Indulgence might as well have been his middle name. Booze, cigars, food. If it was expensive, he wanted it. Last anyone had heard, he spent his whole fortune on it, then vanished.”

Her piercing gaze stopped Katsuki before he could take another drink.

“You ever meet someone that sends shivers down your spine, Bakugou-san?” she asked quietly, her voice even and her eyes deadly serious. “Someone who smiles and says all the right words but there’s something sick in it you can’t quite put your claws on?”

Katsuki swallowed, the ambient, jazzy noise of the lounge drawing to one singular, hyper-focused swirl around this woman’s face.

“There a reason you kept this information to yourself?” he asked, his voice low. “If this fucker was such bad news, and his buddy wound up dead?”

She shrugged one shoulder, and the spell was broken - the sound returning to a lively hum. “The fridge under the bar is too small for me, Bakugou-san.”

Figured. Nothing puts a target on your back quite like spilling secrets.

“And you’re tellin’ me now, because?”

Her expression darkened.

“Thanks for the tip,” she said, her right hand swiping up the money that Katsuki had placed on the bar. “Have one on the house.” 

She slid a wrapped cigar across the polished surface toward Katsuki before gliding away to take another patron’s order.

Katsuki still didn’t smoke, so he should have had little interest in the offering that he turned over in his hands.

Except, of course, for the handwritten address on the label.




“Sus,” Utsushimi whispered, pulling out her phone to snap a picture of the ramshackle building they had just pulled up to, that inexplicably matched the address on the expensive cigar. In quite literally the middle of nowhere, down a long and winding driveway and nestled in a thick copse of bare trees. The only thing that could make it more unsettling would have been bones hanging from them.

“This really where he lived?” Katsuki asked, killing the engine and stepping out, closing his car door as quietly as possible. He checked the address again, touching the plaque on the bent mailbox, faded numbers revealed by the swipe of his thumb. Yeah, it was the right place. “Guess he really did lose all his money.”

“Maybe it was a summer home,” Shinsou murmured, coming up behind Katsuki.

“Okay, game time,” Katsuki said. “Sero, you stay here and cover us. You two, with me. We’ve got a potential shitbag villain in here, stay frosty.”

Sero saluted, fake snapping his fake suspenders one last time before they dissolved, along with the rest of their disguises, revealing their hero costumes underneath. Leaving the glamours up this long was just a flex; like a switch had been flipped, Utsushimi’s demeanor shifted, putting away her phone and melting away into the woods around them. Still just a glamour, perhaps, but nearly as effective as invisibility.

Shinsou pulled out his voice mask and affixed it to his face, nodding at Katsuki. 

Katsuki walked up to the front door and knocked.

And waited.

And waited.

“Hello, listener!” Shinsou called out, his voice sounding suspiciously like Present Mic’s. A risky choice, since he was still an active hero, even if he spent the bulk of his time these days focusing on his radio show and running sweepstakes. “You’ve won the grand prize! Come out here and claim it!”

Katsuki raised an eyebrow, and Shinsou shrugged. Still, no one answered.

They didn’t have a warrant. Katsuki couldn’t just break down the door, unless he had probable cause.

“Babe,” Utsushimi whispered, materializing from his right. “Peep in the windows. Gives me the wooblies.”

Katsuki rounded the corner of the house, coming up to a gap in the curtains offering a glimpse into the front room. He leaned forward, peering into the darkness, only a slice of fading sunlight offering him any visibility.

But it was enough: orange hair, sweaters, bizarre shoes, bright red skin - countless photographs of the woman Katsuki pulled out of a refrigerator, all over this fuck’s walls.

Well, that was probable cause enough for Katsuki.

The door lock gave way with a snap, flooding the entryway with sunset, illuminating a grisly shrine of the dead. Photographs, newspaper clippings, bank statements, all surrounded with copious hand-written scribbles. Blood type, sex, gender, pronouns, eye color, skin color, hair color, hair style, hair texture, weight, height, vocal range, quirk. Medical history, dental records, speech patterns, gestures, gait, posture, various skin imperfections, scars, habits, diet, education, IQ, precise skeletal structure, blood vitamin and mineral levels, sexual partners. This woman’s entire life under a microscope, laid out as grim wallpaper.

“Holy fuck.”

And it wasn’t just her - as they moved through the house, the shrine continued but the subjects changed. The Professor, Blackout. Dahlia and Bai, and the man between their murders. Complete with obituaries and articles questioning whodunnit. 

At the end of a long hallway held the final piece of the puzzle: Geodesic.  

Katsuki frowned. It should have been a slam dunk: this wasn’t just the serial killer, this directly connected him with Deku’s televised incident, well beyond just a few lines on a pink sticky note. But Geodesic’s impact on the decor was minimal compared to the other victims, almost as if the killer had started to construct it and gave up part way through.

When Kasuki pushed into the last room in the house, he knew why.

The walls in that room were overwhelmingly dominated by one color: Green.

Deku.

Photographs of him from high school. Middle school. Baby photos. Recent selfies that Katsuki knew were never posted anywhere. Photocopies of Deku’s hero license and complete record. Dazzling smiles and gruesome injuries, surrounding Katsuki in a lifetime that he had been inextricably a part of, yet interwoven with details he had been completely blind to.

“Bruh,” Utsushimi said breathlessly, pulling her phone back out to snap pictures again. “I can’t wait to watch this one.”

Shinsou followed her in. “Damn,” he swore, the sound robotic through his vocalizer. “Well, this is the guy. But the place is empty; we gonna wait for him to get back?”

Katsuki’s fingers brushed over a picture of Deku and his mother, taken in front of the house they had just purchased. Hero Deku Moves in With Mom read the headline under it. But what was missing from all of the clippings were Hero Deku Charged With Murder, Geodesic Killed on Live Television by Hero Deku, or Hero Deku Disgraced: A Career Called into Question. Absolutely nothing relating to his arrest or anything after it.

Turning around and pushing past his companions, Katsuki slipped back into the hallway. Geodesic’s shrine, small as it was, also held nothing relating to his death. All of the others had them, obituaries and various speculations, save for the redheaded woman who had only just been found the other day.

“No, fucker hasn’t been here since at least the arrest. He ran.”

Or.. Or.

—the real killer had impersonated him, led the police back to where Deku slept unaware— 

The flash from Utsushimi’s phone lit up the darkened hallway, searing dozens of images of the dead man behind Katsuki’s eyelids. “What now? We don’t get to tango with any baddies? Bummer.”

—no one but Deku came or went from that building— 

Fuck.

Pulling out his own phone, heart racing, Katsuki scrolled to Tsukauchi’s number. “Call this in,” he said, tapping the screen, shoving the device into Shinsou’s hands. “And then we gotta go. Now.”

Katsuki retraced their steps back to the door, wrenching it back open as he heard the phone ring.

From outside.

The line of people standing there were backlit by a half dozen headlights, their shadows stretching across the overgrown lawn to Katsuki’s feet at the door. Tsukauchi, police, heroes.

Sero, on the ground and in handcuffs, a bleeding gash across his forehead and his mouth covered with his own tape.

Katsuki’s blood boiled, and his hands shot out reflexively, a curse on his lips and a spark in his palms. But they fizzled before they could even heat up, as an all-too-familiar face stepped forward out of silhouette.

“Sensei,” Shinsou said levelly from behind Katsuki, and Aizawa fixed him with his glowing stare, too.

“Really didn’t want to respond to this call,” said their old, haggard, former teacher. “Didn’t expect this from any of you.”

“Oi, listen to me—”

“No you listen,” Tsukauchi spat, the lines of his face drawn tight. “I personally vouched for you, for all of you, and imagine my surprise when I get a call from evidence and all of Midoriya’s notebooks are missing, along with his toxicology results, and half the damn crime scene!”

What.

What??

The notebooks, yeah, but they didn’t fucking touch anything else!

“We—” 

“Don’t try to lie to me. You were stealing evidence!” Tsukauchi emphasized this with a shaking, accusatory finger in Shinsou’s direction. “Conducting this farce of a separate investigation to skirt under our noses.” He pointed next at Sero, still crumpled on the ground. “Enlisting other heroes without proper licenses.” Utsushimi this time, before his focus returned to Katsuki. “And now breaking and entering? To what, plant your stolen evidence at someone else’s feet? This is unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable.”

Katsuki licked his lips, itching to fight as the officers closed in on them. Out of the corner of his eye he saw another once-friendly face: dark, angular hair and long earlobes. Jirou, standing there with her arms crossed and her expression troubled. Explained how they got snuck up on without hearing jack shit. There were others, too - old classmates he couldn’t name and some he wished he didn’t remember. But it didn’t matter. Katsuki had the answer, he just had to explain—

Shinsou already had his hands out, and Utsushimi too. But Katsuki couldn’t, he couldn’t.

He never visited. Not once. If he had just fucking gotten over himself— He might have figured it out sooner, he could have been there now—  

“Bakugou, it’s in your best interests to come quietly.”

“No,” Katsuki snarled, ripping his hand away as someone tried to grab him. “No, look in the fucking house, it’s the guy—”

Something wrapped around him and he twisted, howling, screaming, as more hands and bodies swarmed him. “Aizawa!” he roared, struggling toward those red eyes as he was pulled away, his quirk still locked in his arms. “Deku— he’s in fucking danger— let go of me! Fuck! I have to— Deku!!”

And then everything went black.

Chapter Text

Crazy.

Crazy crazy crazy crazy.

That’s what Izuku had been telling himself was the most logical, most likely explanation, as much as he hated what that meant: that he had actually killed someone and had only himself to blame. The words in front of him seemed to only reinforce it, sending a chill scraping down his spine with jagged nails.

He pulled down the last note on the board, its paper dry between his fingers, ink wet. It should have been the grisly nail in his coffin; there was no denying this was his own handwriting.

But when would Izuku have written this? He had just been standing here minutes ago. Could he have possibly lost time between going upstairs and to the kitchen? 

More importantly: why did it say Deku?

Certainly, it was a nickname he’d borne heavily in childhood, now carried easily as his hero name since high school. And it meant something entirely different growled through the adult set of teeth whose predecessors formed the first version.

It just wasn’t what Izuku referred to himself as, in his own thoughts.

So if Izuku had written this, was it just a further indication of his completely fractured mind? 

Could there actually be a ghost?

Or..

..Was someone else in the house?

That was impossible, right?

The paper crumpled in Izuku’s palm. He wasn’t going to kill himself, at any rate. No, now Izuku was angry. Ghost, crazy, or other, Izuku was tired of circling the drain and tearing out his hair, beating himself up for a failure he couldn’t even remember. He was going to get to the bottom of this, and it didn’t involve the bottom of a bottle of pills or poison.

If Izuku was in danger in this house, either from himself or some external source, he needed to alert someone. With the service line out of commission, his next option was the guards that surrounded his home around the clock - but they weren’t exactly easy to contact. Izuku’s ankle monitor would electrocute him if he tried to leave the walls of his house, and the guards would be on the very outer perimeter of his property. Izuku grimaced. He’d have to scream to get their attention, and even then they might not even hear him, given the distance and the soundproofed walls. Once a smart idea given Izuku’s unfortunate tendency to invite particularly.. loud.. guests, now it was definitely a detriment to his current situation.

And what might alerting the guards bring down on his head?

Izuku couldn’t even be sure the guards would help him. Set up wasn’t off the table.

And neither was ghost, or villain.

Or crazy.

Ugh.

“Okay,” Izuku muttered, rolling the paper in his palm. The west side yard was the shortest distance between the house and the street, so his best bet was to go through there. He wouldn’t be able to open the side door, but there was a window on the second floor landing he could probably yell through or bang on, even if he couldn’t open it. If all else failed, breaking it would certainly get the attention he wanted - though it might bring other consequences.

The crumpled ball of paper bearing his name hit the floor as Izuku turned, marching toward and down the darkened corridor off his living room.

But before Izuku could reach the far end, something tickled his periphery and his feet slowed, coming to a stop just in front of a closed door. A door that he’d shut years ago after he’d made the bed and emptied the wastebasket for one last time after his mother passed away. And yet, there was light coming from beneath it.

It was a coincidence, surely.

The light wasn’t a strong one. It wasn’t like the overhead lamp was on or anything like that. The police must not have blacked out that window properly when they refit his house for his detainment. Izuku never came down this hallway, so he just never noticed.

Just another unexplained anomaly in a string of perfectly reasonable things driving Izuku crazy.

Izuku slowed his breathing, willing his heart to stop setting records in his chest as he reached for the handle, wrapping his fingers slowly around it. Holding. Waiting. Twisting.

A shadow flickered at his feet. A trick of his eye, his mind, something else?

That was impossible, right?

Slowly, slowly. Even more slowly the knob turned, a bead of sweat rolling down between Izuku’s shoulder blades.

 

Click.

 

The door ripped out of his hand, flying open in an explosion of dust and smoke, enveloping him in suffocating white clouds of particulate. Gasping, doubling over as he coughed and sputtered on the substance he’d inhaled, Izuku spun blindly, the thick air stinging his eyes and throat. He staggered back into the living room, his hands fumbling along the wall until he fell out of the dust to his knees.

Get up, get up, Izuku commanded himself, but whatever he had inhaled was choking his lungs, making him dizzy and faint without proper oxygen. He wheezed, trying to get clean air as he crawled away from the west wing, his mind too focused on just breathing to register the footsteps behind him.

Until he turned, gazing through watery, bleary eyes, to see himself step out of the fog.

No, no that didn’t make sense, that couldn’t be— 

But it was. Same build, same clothes, same shock of wild and dark green hair. And although this Izuku had his respirator and goggles on, Izuku could see his own eyes glaring down at him through them.

Had his splintered mind manifested as a completely separate entity?

“Wh-who,” Izuku rasped, the air feeling like shards of glass in his lungs.

“I’m you, obviously,” the man replied, before casting a gloved hand out toward Izuku, showering him in another burst of white powder.

This time Izuku tried to dodge it, but his reflexes were hamstrung by the first hit and a bulk of the material still managed to cling to his hair and clothing. What the hell was it? Whatever it was, the less of it he came in contact with, the better.

“Barium chloride,” Other-Izuku said by way of explanation, as if reading Izuku’s mind. Was he reading Izuku’s mind?? “Highly toxic. Wouldn’t recommend breathing it in. But extremely useful in recreating your little sparky green lightshow.”

No, this wasn’t Izuku’s psyche taunting him, but a real, physical impostor. One that slipped the missing knife and phone cord out of the pockets of Izuku’s stolen shorts.

“Toga Himiko,” Izuku grit through clenched teeth, his fingers curling against the hardwood floor, nails scraping lines in the varnish.

The laugh that rose was a perfect imitation of Izuku’s: light, jovial and completely unnerving coming from someone else. “Oh, love her work. Big fan,” he said as he lunged, knife flashing.

Izuku rolled out of his reach and scrambled away on all fours, trying to pull himself up to his feet. But the toxic chemical sat heavy in Izuku’s lungs, slowing his movements to a fraction of what he was capable of. Something slipped around his neck and yanked, and Izuku toppled backward to the ground with a thud.

A foot came down to slam against Izuku’s windpipe, pinning him to the floor.

“And you’re a big fan of mine. Been following me for months. So I followed you back!”

Izuku’s eyes widened, staring up at this spectre in disbelief, forgetting for a moment his perilous position. This was..?

A mirror set of eyes narrowed down at him. “But I wasn’t supposed to get stuck in this cheap-ass house, living like a poor rat,” he snarled, shifting his weight forward to restrict Izuku’s airflow. “Why wouldn’t you off yourself? Your life is ruined, you have nothing left to live for! Just end it already! Fuck, I have to do everything myself, I hate that.” He leaned down, pressing the blade of the knife against the soft skin on the inside of Izuku’s left wrist, as Izuku’s hands wrapped around the man’s ankle.

The edges of Izuku’s vision darkened as his air supply cut off, having already been struggling to draw in oxygen. 

This man..

This man was the person Izuku had been hunting?

The one who killed all those people??

With a strangled howl, Izuku twisted, throwing his attacker off-balance and off of his neck. The phone cord cut into the skin of this throat but Izuku managed to get his fingers under it to slip it over and off his head, though he had not escaped the steel that had sliced into the flesh of his arm. Shoving against Other-Izuku in a slide of blood and stinging powder, Izuku wrenched himself onto his feet, spinning to deliver a solid kick to the fake’s midsection. 

But his opponent caught his foot, flipping Izuku over the back of his couch. A sharp pain burst in his elbow as he landed that lit up his entire arm. Groaning, Izuku tucked it against his chest.

“You think I don’t know what moves you’re gonna make, Deku? I know everything about you. I am you!”

That wasn’t true, this man wasn’t Izuku. But he moved like him, even if Izuku didn’t typically use weapons. Whatever quirk the copy had was very impressive. And with Izuku suffering from some mystery toxin seeping into his body, and without his quirk, he was at a major disadvantage.

Izuku just missed the coiled cord that sought to loop around his neck again as he rolled back to kick up, launching himself onto his feet. Immediately dizzy from the rush, Izuku swayed and stumbled against the couch, catching himself on unsteady and injured arms and narrowly avoiding another attempt to lasso him, as if Izuku were some kind of stray dog or loose cattle.

Fighting defensively wasn’t going to work; the more time elapsed, the slower and woozier he got, and if Izuku slipped up just once, he’d get a noose necklace and a blade between his ribs. No defensive outcome resulted in the imposter losing.

The next attack wasn’t a slash or a swing, but a returning kick that landed square into Izuku’s stomach, a more successful variant of what he had just attempted, sending him skidding backward, tearing a rip across the top of his couch as Izuku fought to remain upright.

Offensively wasn’t a great option, either. Even if the copy couldn’t perfectly predict Izuku’s moves, Izuku couldn’t even execute them properly.

He circled the couch, keeping the furniture between them, flipping the coffee table into the villain’s path as Izuku shuffled backward. The man easily kicked it out of the way, not slowing his advance at all.

This wasn’t sustainable.

Izuku couldn’t fight him here, without a weapon and with a handicap. Izuku needed to run, regroup, and restrategize.

As Izuku rounded the end of the couch he had started at, he dug his fingers into the fabric, pulling it along with him toward the bookshelf and his conspiracy board, a board whose answer was ironically pinned under the SELF note in the villain column.

The man stabbed his knife into one of the cushions. “Stop it!” he hissed. “You’re just delaying the inevitable! Lie down and bleed out!”

Grabbing the couch from the back and lifting it, Izuku shoved it forward, slamming it into his mirror image and causing him to backpedal rapidly as Izuku pushed him across the living room, chasing him back into the darkened hallway he had come out of. With a twist, Izuku jammed the bulky furniture into the entrance. Izuku might not have a quirk but that didn’t make him defenseless - although the effort caused his vision to dip to black for a terrifying moment, and his damaged elbow shrieked in protest. 

It wouldn’t take much for Other-Izuku to dislodge it, so real Izuku spun on his heel and bolted, his lungs working overtime through the sandpaper and gravel they were wrapped in.

Which way? 

The front door was pointless and the laundry room would only sign his death warrant, so Izuku careened around the stairwell and scampered up to the second floor, ignoring his injuries and using his hands to help propel him quicker, his heart thudding in his throat. He needed to get over to the west side of the house to that window on the landing as fast as possible: back across the hallway and to the far end.

Nearly knocking the waterfall painting off its nail as he skid gracelessly onto the second floor, Izuku banked sharply left to start running down the hallway.

Only to see himself step out of the west stairwell and block his path.

Shit!!

Izuku had hoped he’d be followed instead of cut off, but the fake predicted exactly where he’d go. Pulling up short, Izuku reversed direction and booked it. His socked feet slapping against old faded rugs, he didn’t stop until he flew into his bedroom, slamming the door shut behind him. He had no lock, but the door blessedly opened inward and he was able to drag his desk across and in front of it just in time for the wood to shake and rattle as his double slammed against it, attempting to force his way inside.

On top of the desk went the chair, a bookshelf and his entire bed, before Izuku fell back on his ass in the center of his room, winded and exhausted and trembling. Ostensibly it was barely even a fight, but Izuku felt ill, his vision swimming and his heart beating irregular patterns that jockeyed with his labored breaths.

BANG BANG BANG.

“You’ll die in there anyway,” Izuku’s own voice drifted through the wood. “Wouldn’t you rather I make it quick? I’ll write you a glowing suicide note.”

Izuku pressed a shaking hand to his throat, feeling his pulse beat an aggressive march against his wet palm.

Wet?

Pulling his arm away, Izuku looked down to see the slash on his left wrist, covered in red. He squeezed his other hand around it, which sent shooting pains up from his elbow. A fast rhythm pushed against his fingers. In all the chaos since the blade bit into his arm, Izuku had completely ignored the life dribbling out of him. How much had he already lost? With any luck the cut missed major veins, but it was still bleeding profusely, and Izuku wasn’t exactly doing great in the luck department.

All he could do for now was wrap it up and hope for the best. His elbow was probably fractured, too, but there wasn’t anything he could do about that. It could still bend, it just hurt. Izuku was used to pain.

He pushed up onto his feet, already feeling more unsteady and woozy than the last time he was upright. Izuku didn’t know anything about barium chloride but if these symptoms were getting worse, he needed to get medical attention as fast as possible.

Izuku just hoped it was possible at all.

Yanking a long sock out of a drawer, Izuku hastily made a makeshift bandage, tying it tight with his teeth. Ugly, but serviceable. For good measure he fished out a sheet of the plastic wrap he usually used for his ankle monitor and wrapped that around it, too. Although it was too late to do anything about the many bloody handprints stamped across his furniture and smeared along the walls. He could only imagine what his living room looked like.

SLAM.

Jolting, Izuku stepped back away from the door automatically. He shouldn’t be scared of his doppelganger more than he would be of any other villain, but it was still unnerving to see his own face staring back at him. Like when he watched himself kill someone on live television.

Except, of course, it wasn’t Izuku.

He didn’t have the freedom to feel any relief at that. Izuku needed to move.  

There was one window in his bedroom, but there was a reason it hadn’t been his first choice, being just about as far from the edge of his property as it could possibly be on this end of the house. And there was one other thing.

Shifting aside his patterned All Might curtain enough to peer through the glass, Izuku frowned. Even through the tinting, he could just see the shadows of the tree that he knew was pressed against the east side of his house, completely covering the window in thick foliage. He banged on the window with his right fist, but it barely made any sound, the force stymied by his busted elbow and the soundproofing. Setting his jaw, he switched to his other, also injured arm, with much the same result.

It wasn’t just a few superficial injuries in his arms that were doing it. He could feel his strength sapping away, his muscles barely listening to him anymore. His condition was rapidly deteriorating.

And when he tried to call out, his voice was a hoarse whisper, more of a facsimile than the actual fake’s on the other side of the door.

Izuku slid down to his knees. He felt dizzy, and weak, but he had to figure this out. It would take all his remaining strength, but he could probably break the window by throwing something into it. Of course, it was very likely it would set off his ankle monitor’s electric shock, and getting knocked unconscious could lead to death at his doppelganger’s hands before anyone else arrived.

In his current state, it might just kill him.

“I can get through this door, you know.” The words were low and guttural and of course still in Izuku’s voice. “You’ve, what, piled up your furniture against it? Not much of a defense. If there’s one thing I’ll give your gross body, it’s strong. So I’m strong. How are you enjoying the rapid onset hypokalemia? Professor Square-eyes had all kinds of juicy chemistry shit for me to take when I was him. Really came in handy.”

Shivering, Izuku cradled his injured arms on his thighs. He should never have run, he should have just fought the villain downstairs. Now he was probably going to have to fight him anyway, in a worsened condition.

WHAM.

Izuku flinched.

“I hope it hurts. I hope you suffer for every fucking minute you trapped me with you in this godforsaken shithole.”

Trapped him? Izuku did? This.. this villain killed at least a half dozen people and framed Izuku for murder, causing Izuku to be put on house arrest, and was blaming Izuku?

..And this was a great house!

“How did I trap you?” Izuku croaked. If his evil twin allegedly knew so much about Izuku, maybe Izuku could learn something in return. Something he could use.

“By being such a fucking high profile hero that they kept this trash heap surrounded from the moment I dragged this shitty body back here,” came the reply, dripping with disdain. “Blackout helped me hide from the police, but it’s not enough to slip through the perimeter.”

Blackout? One of the victims, the stealth hero— 

She was in on it? No— If the villain had turned into Izuku, he must have turned into all of his other victims, too.

So..

“You have her quirk??”

Did he have One For All??

“No, you horrible plebeian, I learned her. She was more than a flashy fucking quirk. She had the best stealth training in the world and a gorgeous house. Went after her because my landlords kept catching on, kept noticing me studying them and reporting it. Studied her, memorized her, became her, killed her. And now I’ve almost forgotten her, because I can’t fucking refresh! Because I’m trapped here!”  

Izuku’s head swam, trying to piece the words together into the right places. If this impersonator had a quirk that could.. Learn from people, and he learned Blackout’s stealth training.. 

How’d The Professor still see them? Geodesic, too?

“I know what you’re thinking, Deku. I’m you, remember? Trying to figure out how they caught me when you didn’t even notice me tailing you? Hmm?”

Well, not exactly— 

“Why don’t you mull it over for a little bit? You’re not going anywhere. I’ll let your disgusting body break down for a while, and come check on you later tonight. Do me a favor and kill yourself before then?”

Soft footsteps retreated away from the door, and Izuku was left alone with his heartbeat. 

He exhaled, long and stuttering, but just breathing hurt and it brought him no relief. His shaking limbs were unable to even wrap themselves around his chest as a modicum of comfort. The silence, the stillness, after such a fraught burst of adrenaline, was unnervingly peaceful as he crouched in the darkness of his bedroom, only marred by the sounds coming from his rattling lungs.

He had to get out. He had to escape. But how could he? For all he knew, the mimic was still sitting outside his door. Removing the barricade would be removing the only defense he had; even if the copy said he could break through, it was better than just an open entryway.

Why don’t you mull it over for a little bit?

As aggravating as it was to comply, Izuku couldn’t stop himself from doing just that. If this learning quirk gave the villain the ability to copy Blackout’s stealth training enough that he had been able to avoid Izuku’s detection even in his own house, then Roderick Cameron should never have reported being followed by someone who matched Kika’s description.

From what Izuku could remember about Blackout from the information that came out after her retirement, she had excelled at staying in someone’s periphery and blind spots. Those who knew her described her as a shadow no one could ever be sure they had really seen. Her quirk had amplified that, but as Other-Izuku had said, it wasn’t the bulk of what had made her an amazing hero.

An unparalleled one, until she faced off against a villain who could identify her by scent.

And Roderick Cameron.. had a photographic memory quirk and goat eyes, which meant he had a field of view of almost 320 degrees and would remember everything he saw. So he also would have been a terrible match for Blackout, especially without her actual Darkness quirk.

Izuku groaned as a wave of malaise pulsed through him. What the hell was he doing?? What did it matter how the villain was able to stalk his targets, or how one of them detected him regardless of stolen stealth training? Both Kika and Roderick were dead! And Izuku was about to be, too, if he didn’t figure out how to survive being trapped on house arrest with a villain version of himself that was trying to kill him.

Think, Izuku! Think!

What should he do? What can he do? What would Ka— 

No. There was only Izuku here, Izuku and a villain version of himself.

What was the villain doing right now? Gone to get other weapons? Gone to escape? 

What would Izuku do? 

If Other-Izuku hadn’t been able to escape the house previously, which is what he clearly desired, it was unlikely he would feel confident doing so now. It would be a showdown until one of them was subdued or dead, or the morning alarm went off and the warden knocked on the door. 

Leaving Izuku to suffer the effects of some kind of chemical poisoning until he was too weak to fight back was the villain’s best course of action.

Great.

The window was real-Izuku’s only option. He had to break it, had to risk whatever alarms or zaps would fry his system, for a chance at alerting the guards and getting help, getting out. If he could stay awake through it, maybe he could even climb down the tree.

Izuku gripped the windowsill with bloody, slippery fingers and slowly, agonizingly slowly dragged himself upright. The locks and bolts would be impossible to jimmy, but as far as he could tell, the glass hadn’t been reinforced in any way. He could break it. He knew he could. 

Casting around for something to aid his goal, Izuku’s gaze landed on his second bookshelf - the one not currently blocking the door. There sat a trophy with Izuku’s name on it. Staggering over to it, Izuku lifted the object in both hands, grimacing at the effort it took. The base was weighty and solid, and Izuku could probably swing it into the glass.

Bracing himself, steadying his labored breathing as best as he was able, Izuku did just that, using the momentum of crossing the room to help arc the object into the blackened pane.

Crack.

The hit had landed true, the base ricocheting off the surface and out of Izuku’s numb fingers. It had barely made a sound but still a hairline split the window, fracturing out in an angled web of splinters across the slick surface. 

No alarms sounded, no electrifying shock burst out from Izuku’s ankle. 

Izuku stood on bowed and shaking legs, panting, dizzy and lightheaded from the effort. It hadn’t shattered the window, but a second hit probably would.

But as he reached to retrieve the trophy he faltered, crashing down to the floor and losing his grip on consciousness before he hit the carpet.




BAM BAM BAM.

“Still alive in there?”

Izuku jolted awake, pins and needles coursing through his skin. He peeled an eye open, the word groggy not even beginning to describe how he felt. It took a minute to piece together exactly where he was, the dim light from the edges of the door and the blacked out, cracked window barely illuminating his ransacked bedroom.

Memories came flooding back, for once crystal clear and without any doubt. Izuku couldn’t stop the breathy, pained groan that slipped through his dry lips as he tried to roll over, sharp pains shooting up through his arms.

“Well, that’s disappointing.” 

Yes, Izuku was still alive, but he felt like death, or something close to it. A brief flash of fear lanced through his vertebrae; was he going to die here? In his own bedroom, surrounded by bright smiles as a mockery of his lifelong dream, unable to save even himself?

What of One For All? Would it die here with him? Had Izuku been the wrong choice after all?

And what about.. Well. Izuku supposed that didn’t matter anymore. It was never going to happen in any reality, let alone this one.

“Did you figure it all out? Connect all the pieces? Solve the mystery? Congrats, hero.”  

Izuku’s head was pounding. He could barely put one thought next to the previous, let alone handle whatever it was this villain was saying to him. And yet, he continued:

The volume of the voice behind the door spiked, yelling, “You were my next study, Deku, not that flashy wannabe pop star! I knew you’d caught on. I studied you, learned you. And I hate you.”

BAM.

“You’re the worst one I’ve ever memorized. Do you know how much of your life is just the word ‘Kacchan’ on loop?”

Izuku blinked. Kacchan. A sharp pang stabbed in his chest, and Izuku hoped it was just the longing, and not something new from the poisoning.

“I knew I was no match for you physically, but I knew you’d do something stupid when a stalking story landed in your lap. And you played your part beautifully.” 

WHAM.

“Except for the minor detail where learning you didn’t help me predict this crummy house getting fucking surrounded! I was supposed to leave you high and dry with the check but I got stuck with it instead!! I’ve had to slink around like an animal while you slept. I didn’t even bring enough roofies with me for more than the first night - those are great, something I learned from Dahlia. The sleeping pills you have are weak!”

Izuku swallowed dry, his anger beginning to bubble through the heavy blanket of illness draped over him. “You,” he wheezed, his voice barely coming out, “were drugging me?!”

“No shit, dumbass. Crushed those into your rice, dusted your other pills with anything that looked fun. Hope you didn’t take any of those!”

The painkillers he had taken before their altercation felt like a bowling ball in Izuku’s stomach. His heart fluttered and his head felt light; was it the mystery that laced the ibuprofen, the barium chloride, or a placebo effect?

“..You were trying to make me think I was crazy,” Izuku said, choosing to focus on anything but the burgeoning nausea and panic. He felt his blood boil hot under his skin. “And to kill myself!”

“I can’t exactly walk out the door in your goddamn body with guards swarming the place, so I needed you out in a body bag. But it’s not like I can just kill ya, it’s gotta look like you did it, or they’ll know I’m here, and they won’t do as shitty of a job sweeping the place as they did the first time.” WHAM. “And it’s all fucked up now! You piss me off so much! Couldn’t have just let me live my life, and now it’s ruined!”

“Live your life?!” Izuku ground his teeth together. “What about the p-people you killed? What about their lives?”

BAM. The door shook, and an additional crack of light from the hallway sliced in.

A green eye pressed into the gap, along with a sliver of a smile Izuku never wanted to see on his own face. The mask and goggles were gone, removing any final doubt that Izuku was looking at a perfect copy of himself.

“Death is just the tax they pay so I don’t have to pay anything at all.”

A perfect copy in looks only.

“Why??” Izuku asked, demanded. How could someone treat life so callously?

“It’s what I deserve,” came the response through bared teeth. “Why should I have had to suffer in squalor and poverty while Fujio got to keep his wealth? Why should anyone get to live a life of luxury while I was supposed to give it up?”

Fujio - Bai Fujio, the first victim. Were they friends? Rivals? Izuku wracked his fuzzy brain to come up with his list of suspects surrounding the first murder, anyone who might have had a copy quirk. Though, if this person was able to assume identities, he could have been anyone.

As if on cue, the villain said, “My quirk lets me be whoever I want. And I simply choose to be those who have the things I once had - things I want, things I am entitled to.”

Izuku was used to villains who wanted to destroy or remake the entire world, angry at the injustices they had suffered at the hands of an uncaring society. Villains who had been left behind by the systems that only protected the rich and stepped on the most vulnerable.

This man.. This man was no such person: presumably one of the most privileged, taking lives because he couldn’t fathom being anything else.

“You kill people for selfish, brief material gain,” Izuku rasped. He struggled to get himself onto his feet, blessedly staying conscious, his whole body feeling like it’d been pumped with both lead and helium.

The door’s opening widened, furniture groaning as it shifted, a chair toppling to the floor. “Sure. And now everyone’s gonna think you do, too.” 

Pulling his arms up defensively, Izuku winced at the shooting pains in both limbs, the ache that dug its claws through his tendons and bones. Punching wasn’t going to be a great option, and kicking was equally tenuous. He looked around; was there anything he could use as a weapon? His eyes landed on the trophy, discarded under the window from his attempt to break it.

“You stopped watching after the first few days, but I didn’t. All my handiwork that you were tirelessly following? Losing sleep and sanity trying to solve? Guess who all thinks you were the killer the whole time.”

He closed a grimy fist around the trophy’s column. Although he tried to be humble about his accomplishments, Izuku was still proud of the life he led. He was a good person. A hero.

“I’m not. You did this.”

“Did I?” The other voice purred. “How can you be so sure? Can you trust your own memory?”

“Shut up,” Izuku tried to yell, but it came out strained and thin. “You just.. Admitted to all of it!”

“And who am I, Deku? I’m you.”  

Izuku shook his head, his vision lagging with the movement. “No, I’ll explain it was a doppelganger—”

“Just like I’m sure you explained the night of the arrest, right? How’d that go over for you?”

The copy reached an arm through the gap. The gloves were gone now, too, and Izuku could see his own scarred hand shove at the bed with an alarming amount of force, flipping it over to land back into the bedroom with a resounding crash that reverberated in Izuku’s skull.

“Not that it matters. You won’t get a chance to explain anything; I’m the only Deku walking out of this house alive.”

Nearly too fast to track, the villain burst through the door, leaping over the desk and landing like a cat just feet in front of Izuku. He straightened up, drawing out the same weapons as before.

Izuku stood his ground. His grip tightened on his trophy even as his breathing faltered, his body on the verge of completely shutting down. He would not fall here. Not to anyone. Not even to himself.

Now would be a great time for One For All to deliver a miracle, Izuku thought, reaching deep within himself to wake up his quirk. His copy didn’t have it, and it could be Izuku’s final gambit, even if his weakened body would likely not sustain it. 

But although he could sense it sleeping in his core, it did not respond to his desperate call.

And when his mirror moved, Izuku could not match its speed, and he found himself noosed and leashed like a dog, toppled to the ground even as he grappled with himself. Izuku’s back hit the carpet with a thud, knocking what little wind he had left out of him completely. 

It was over in an instant, he hadn’t even put up a fight.

The cord tightened dangerously around Izuku’s neck as he writhed, his vision flickering to the point of making Izuku feel as if he were underwater, like the struggle with his double was taking place far away, far above. He could still distantly feel the cold, sharp edges of the heavy trophy in his fingers - useless, just like the person it lauded.

A sharp pain blooming in Izuku’s shoulder brought him back to the surface, and he cried out as the blade that sunk into his flesh twisted and ripped free, a gush of warmth erupting from the wound after it. The manic, green eyes above him didn’t seem to care how little this would look like a suicide. They just wanted Izuku to suffer.

And to die.

“Goodbye to the worst body I’ve ever had,” the blurry collection of green and freckles crowed above him, stretching their mouth in a deranged grin. “I look forward to my next, much better acquisition, and the look on your precious Kacchan’s face when I tell him I killed you before snapping his neck with his own two hands.”

Izuku couldn’t tell you exactly what happened next. A shower of light and shards of glass and pain, as he threw the man who would dare to say such a thing through his window in a roar and a crash of screams. 

But the cord that wrapped around Izuku’s throat was held in tight fists, and he was ripped off of his feet and straight out the hole in his wall, jagged glass edges drawing long lines of pain through his clothing and across his skin as he went. A loud, piercing siren wailed as the last part of his body, his right ankle, passed through into moonlight.

It wasn’t the first time Izuku had been electrified but it still didn’t prepare him for the jolt that ran through his body, turning his world white and sharp. The unbearable sensation was supposed to knock him out but instead it persisted, feeling like an eternity stretched over a single second.

Something surged within him in response: an old, comforting warmth of power that sparked through his bones, running down his leg to evict and destroy the source of the pain entirely.

One For All had returned to him in a glorious rush - but it was too late. Izuku’s drained and battered body couldn’t do anything but fall. The last thing he saw was his own face, twisted and anguished, staring back at him as he rocketed through snapping branches and slapping leaves to the ground below.

Chapter Text

If Katsuki could have put his head in his hands, that’s where it would be.

Instead he hung it, low against his chest, heavy with the weight of failure. He shouldn’t have been surprised that his cavalier actions landed him in a jail cell, but that and its implications, ramifications, mattered very little to Katsuki. Right now, there was a very real chance that all of his work to prove Deku innocent had gone down the drain along with the blood of the very man he had wanted to save.

If he had just listened: listened to Sero when he had told him to do it by the books, listened to his friends and colleagues when they told him to wait. Listened to Deku when he had asked for help without words, listened to what it really meant when they legally became family.

And now, no one would listen to Katsuki.

Not that he could even talk.

He was bound, in chains and in quirk suppressants, in a muzzle that curbed his screams, and left in a plain gray box in a plain gray building.

Bullshit. It was all bullshit and it was all Katsuki could do to stop himself from leaking out through his eyes until he, too, disappeared down the drain.

He didn’t know how long he’d been in there. Enough time for Katsuki to step through every slot of the puzzle until it fell apart into scattered cardboard pieces. The solution was right there. It had been there the whole time. Or it would have been, if he could have put aside his fear to see it. To see him.

The sound of the door opening pulled Katsuki’s head up off of his chest. To his surprise, it wasn’t Tsukauchi but Aizawa standing in its place, flanked by two guards that immediately crossed the room and began removing Katsuki’s restraints. Katsuki’s heart flipped in his chest.

Aizawa held up his hand just as Katsuki’s ability to speak returned. “Save it. I’ve been to the house; you were right. Come with me.”

Katsuki could have only moved faster if he had used his quirk, on his feet and out the door before his brain had a chance to catch up. “The hell— I was right? So Deku—”

“I said save it,” Aizawa repeated, taking off briskly down the hallway, Katsuki keeping pace at his side. “We can talk after.”

“After? After what?”




It was cold.

Katsuki hated the cold, in general; his quirk relied on sweat and sweat relied on heat. But there was always an extra level of iciness about the steel walls and innocuous square panels in this particular place, an ache that sunk into your bones and stayed there long after you’d left. Katsuki could count on one hand how often he had been in there, and could only pray it wouldn’t exceed two in his lifetime. He expected it would never feel quite this cold again.

“Midoriya Izuku,” the woman said, her voice tired and flat. She unlocked one of the square panels and pulled it open, revealing it to be an elongated drawer sat into the wall.

The wall of the morgue.

Katsuki hissed, turning his face away briefly as the body came into view. He took a few measured, deep breaths before looking back down at the pale face of a man with dark hair, freckles, and what should have been a sunshine smile.

“Idiot,” Katsuki muttered, feeling heat build behind his eyes. Couldn’t wait. Couldn’t fucking wait for Katsuki to just figure it out, had to go and get himself killed. What a joke. What a farce.

“Excuse me?”

Swallowing, Katsuki clenched his jaw. “Yeah. It’s him.”

“You’re sure?” the woman asked, searching Katsuki’s face from behind square rims.

“The fuck you mean, I’m sure?” Katsuki grit out. He told himself he could handle this, but he was about to fall apart. After all the stress, the investigation, the sleepless nights, the trail through notebooks and murder victims, the relief at finding the truth, falling short at the finish line, Katsuki had wound up here, and Deku had wound up dead. It was so absurd he could not believe it; if he believed it, he’d collapse in a howl of anguish and beg for it to not be true.

The woman sighed. “Please, just look again.”

He didn’t want to, but he did. Soft, round cheeks dotted with goofy spots he’d had his whole life. Wild hair laid out in tangled, green waves. 

A lot of people say the dead just look like they’re sleeping, like they could wake up at any moment. Deku didn’t look like he was just asleep. His eyes were closed, sure. But his lips were blue, his skin was pulled unnaturally tight and he was as still as a statue. If Katsuki were to envision Deku in death, he supposed he would look just like this. Only, Katsuki didn’t have to envision it anymore.

He pulled the thin plastic sheet back from Deku’s torso, revealing a garish wound, open and raw and the size of grapefruit. Deep gashes and other injuries lined his arms.

“Cause of death?” he asked quietly, although Katsuki could probably take a guess that it was the fucking hole in his chest.

“After falling out a second story window, the victim suffered a severe electric shock and was impaled by a foreign object—” she paused, reaching over to pull a bagged item out of a box, holding it out to Katsuki. Through the plastic he could see it was a trophy with Thank You, Hero Deku engraved on the plate, and his chest tightened. “—that crushed several ribs. The heart and lungs were lacerated, sustaining physical trauma resulting in cardiac arrest and organ failure. Was pronounced dead on arrival.”

Katsuki flipped the sheet back up over Deku’s chest that should have been rising and falling but was literally deathly still, frozen around his final breath.

“It’s him,” he said through his teeth. 

The woman slid the drawer back into the wall, and Katsuki watched the deceased face of his childhood friend disappear into darkness, vanishing entirely with a loud click.

“Then I’m afraid what I have to say next might not be good news,” she said.

How could it get worse?

“There were two of him.”




Katsuki didn’t think it was possible for the rest of the hospital to be colder than the morgue, but the chill in his bones wouldn’t abate as he breezed down its hallways, the echo of his shoes ringing like gunshots.

Two. Two Dekus. Of fucking course. Katsuki had been tracking a serial killer that took the appearances of its victims, and Deku was the final one. He had suspected the fucker had been in the house but hadn’t considered he’d still be disguised.

“Why didn’t you tell me that first?!” he had all but howled. He’d just identified Deku’s dead body, only to be told he might still be alive??

“Because I didn’t want to influence you, and there was a chance you’d see a difference we couldn’t.”

He could still be alive.

“There hasn’t been a determination which one is the real one.”

Deku didn’t die.

“The ankle monitor, which theoretically was only on the real Midoriya Izuku, was destroyed during their struggle. No identifying mark left behind on either of them.”

What?

“And since the deceased hasn’t reverted back to another form—”

Wait— 

“—which is typical with transformation quirks—”

Stop—  

“It’s most likely that this one was, quite unfortunately, the real Midoriya.”

Just as quickly as his hope had been restored, it was snuffed out.

“But there is still the other one to deal with.”

And turned back into a more familiar emotion: anger.

One Deku survived but if he was a fake, Katsuki was about to make that number zero.

Aizawa’s presence outside the morgue had done little to quell that anger.

“I went directly to Midoriya’s residence after you were taken away, but when I got there, both him and his doppelganger had just gone out the window. Two Midoriyas, plus the copious evidence from the house you found, put the pieces together for us.”

Too little, too fucking late.  

“But that’s not all.”

Katsuki’s feet slowed as he turned down the last hallway, a familiar face at the far end outside of a heavily guarded room.

“Bakugou-shounen,” All Might said as Katsuki approached. The words sounded like a sigh, and the man looked like he had aged ten years since the last time Katsuki had seen him. And All Might wasn’t exactly the picture of youth to begin with.

If there were words Katsuki wanted to say, he couldn’t find them. All Might’s long arms drew him into a hug he couldn’t even pretend to be mad at. He was already mad at so many other things.

“You seen him yet?” Katsuki mumbled into All Might’s shoulder. They separated, and All Might shook his head.

“I’m afraid they won’t let me see him. Either of them.” All Might nodded at the door. “But both have been positively, medically identified as Midoriya-shounen.”

Katsuki clenched his jaw. “Where’s Trenchcoat? Can’t he just make him tell the truth, or whatever the fuck he’s good for?”

All Might wrung the fingers of one hand with the other. “He also cannot see him. Everything is chaos right now. You spoke with Aizawa-kun?”

Yeah, he had.

“I’m guessing you didn’t actually steal any evidence?”

It would have been easy, convenient, to get away with it, but Katsuki wasn’t that kind of person. He owned up to nicking the notebooks, and it earned him and his team a suspension from active hero work, but Katsuki didn’t care. The rest had been spirited away by the very people who were supposed to be seeking justice and truth. Shinsou had been right. Those fuckers were so ready to lock Deku up and throw away the key, they never even gave him a fair chance.

But why? Did they know they had shut him in with a murderer? Were they just bitter that heroes, particularly Deku, had been doing their jobs better for years, embarrassing them, making them obsolete as they took on more and more police work - and they were happy to get rid of him?

“It’s going to take a while to untangle exactly how deep and high up this goes,” Aizawa had sighed. “But for now, you have more important things to worry about.”

“Ah,” Katsuki affirmed. “Told me the lid’s blown off some huge corruption shit, and some government suits have taken over. And that I’m only a little fucked, else I wouldn’t be here now.”

The smile that tugged at the corners of All Might’s mouth was a touch rueful. “Yes, you shouldn’t have taken those notebooks, but I’m glad you did. All charges against Midoriya-shounen will be dropped. He’d be nearly free to go, if..” he trailed off, his shoulders sagging. If he was alive was left unspoken. Gesturing down the hallway, where a handful of men and women were arguing with each other, he said, “It’s like a chicken with its head cut off. Just getting you here was a nightmare, but—” he placed a heavy hand on Katsuki’s shoulder. “Since he is still a positive match, as his legal next of kin, right now you’re the only one allowed to see him.”

Katsuki swallowed. “They said it’s the clone, All Might,” he said, his voice quiet and unsure. “That the dead one wouldn’t still be Deku with Deku’s DNA if he wasn’t actually.. Deku.”

All Might didn’t meet Katsuki’s eyes. He dropped his volume in turn, glancing at the guards. “That does seem to be the most likely outcome, yes. If this Midoriya-shounen has his quirk, he is genuine. I don’t need to tell you why. But that will be difficult to determine while he is still being treated as a possible suspect. And if he doesn’t have it..”

“Then the fucker in that room is the one that killed him,” Katsuki said through his teeth.

The fingers on Katsuki’s shoulder dug in, hard. “Yes. It would be.”

“I’ll kill them right back,” Katsuki seethed.

“Please, Bakugou-shounen,” All Might said, his voice shaking. “If I must bury one of you, please don’t make me see the other behind bars. If all that’s left is his memory, we must respect it. Do not do anything he wouldn’t.”

A wry smile threatened Katsuki’s face. If the situation were reversed, he knew no one would be safe from Deku’s wrath. As if realizing that himself, All Might continued, “He wouldn’t want you to throw your life away.”

The smile turned down just as quickly, as Katsuki squared himself, turning to face the guarded hospital room.

“No promises, old man.”




Don’t be fooled. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be fooled.

Katsuki steeled his spine as the room’s solo occupant turned their green-topped, bedraggled head to face him in the doorway. Lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to a half dozen machines, thick manacles tying his wrists and ankles to the railing.

“Kacchan,” he croaked.

Fuck.

Fuck.

He’s good, that’s for fucking sure.

But was he definitely the fake? Or was there really a chance, however slim, that this was Deku?

Katsuki’s heart throbbed. He had a strategy, and he had to stick to it.

“Don’t call me that,” Katsuki hissed, fists clenching as the door clicked shut behind him.

The unmasked hurt in the man’s eyes was visible even from across the room. But it quickly morphed to fear, as he began struggling against his restraints. “No, no,” he tried to shout, though his voice was breathy and weak.

To say Katsuki’s heart sank would be an understatement. Any hope he had that this was the real Deku vanished; here was a villain that knew he’d been caught, that knew his reckoning had just walked in the door.

But the anguished sob that tore from their throat stopped Katsuki in his tracks as he stepped forward.

“Not Kacchan, please, no,” the man choked through bared teeth, his brow furrowed, tears budding in furious eyes. “Why? It wasn’t enough to kill all those people, you had to take him from me, too?”

“The fuck are you on about?” Katsuki snapped, his pulse thrumming. The words coming out of this fake Deku’s mouth didn’t make any sense. He was accusing Katsuki of being the murderer, somehow?? “I didn’t fucking kill anybody!” Throwing his hands wide, Katsuki let off sparks of frustration, of intimidation, of whatever the fuck emotion was flowing through his veins.

But though fake Deku looked shocked, he didn’t look scared.

“That.. that was real?” he asked breathlessly. “Real Explosion? You actually used your real actual quirk, it wasn’t just a firecracker or something?”

Katsuki bristled defensively. How dare this fuck compare his quirk to a child’s toy. He deliberately showed his open, empty palms before setting off a barrage of localized explosions - not to attack, yet, but to show without a doubt that it wasn’t some cheap parlor trick.

“Kacchan!!” Deku cried, his smile wide, his voice pure joy, and for a moment Katsuki forgot. 

He hardened his heart against it.

“I said keep that name out of your mouth,” Katsuki grit out. “Stop acting like you’re not a murderer.” 

The fake’s expression clouded with confusion until he looked down at the binds on his wrists. “Oh,” he said softly, before turning those intense green eyes back on Katsuki, in an imitation so perfect it hurt. “Kacchan, I can explain. I didn’t kill him, there was an impostor, he drugged me and must have stolen my costume and committed the murder as me, and he led the police back to my house! But he was still there, somehow, he was able to utilize Blackout’s training to hide, and he was still in the house when I got put on house arrest, and—”

“Fuck, you do that, too,” Katsuki muttered under his breath.

The fake’s words themselves were a breathy, jumbled whisper that Katsuki could barely parse but they were Deku’s signature, speedy ramble all the same. 

Katsuki strode across the room to loom over the man in the bed, just to get a better look, he told himself. They were in bad shape; Deku must have done a real number on him. Covered in bandages and his face looked rough, like he was sick. It made something funny flip in Katsuki’s stomach to see someone who looked exactly like Deku look like this.

He wanted to take him home. What an odd impulse. Wanted to.. Take him home and draw a bath and put on a pot of All Might’s special tea and cook some fresh vegetables and indulgent katsudon and yell at the nerd for not taking care of himself properly. He wanted to fall asleep listening to steady breathing emanating from a chest full of life, wake up the next day, and not have to worry anymore that the grains of the hourglass were running out faster than he could refill them.

But Katsuki couldn’t bring home a corpse.

The word storm had trailed off while Katsuki approached, but picked back up as soon as he came to a stop, squeaky and strained but spilling out all the same.

“—was hiding in the house the whole time and making me think I was crazy, and we both went out the window and he must have escaped but I swear, Kacchan, it’s someone with some really powerful doppelganger quirk, and, and! He was the one killing all those poor people, you know the case I was working—”

“Shut up!” Katsuki snapped, and the fake looked shocked for a moment, but the expression quickly hardened into determination.

“No! Kacchan, listen to me! I didn’t kill Geodesic—”

“Geo— Who gives a fuck about him?” Katsuki yelled, feeling the zips of fury boiling under his skin. “You killed Deku, you piece of shit!!”

“I— what?” came the breathy response from the man below him, blinking rapidly, his hands frozen flexed open. He looked down at himself, as if he expected to see a different body lying in the bed. “I am Deku!”

Stand firm. “Deku is in a metal drawer in the wall in the basement, after you shoved one of his trophies through his fucking chest. They confirmed he was the real one, and you’re the fake, so you can stop pretending now, you shitty excuse for a Xerox machine.” It was a bluff, a lie that sat heavy on his tongue, but Katsuki needed to make it, to get the villain to confess. “I know all about you and your trail of bodies. It ends here.”

“No! You think I’m— Kacchan, please, it’s me! I’m not the impostor!” Tears welled up in those big green eyes, and he started shaking in his restraints. “Come on, Kacchan is s-smarter than this,” he warbled. “Aren’t I on quirk suppressants right now? How could I be someone else?” 

“Fff— The same way Deku’s body didn’t turn back into anyone else when he died, I guess!!” Katsuki shot back, his voice breaking where it wasn’t supposed to. Neither made any sense. How could the fake keep his form through either suppressants or death? Katsuki had to keep pushing, had to find the truth— 

“Ask me anything, Kacchan,” Deku’s voice said, suddenly drained of whatever was causing him to rasp loudly over the words. It dropped low and quiet, but somehow stronger, more firm. “Ask me something only I’d know. Kacchan knows me better than anyone else.”

An interrogation was certainly what Katsuki would have done in any other similar situation, but there was one big problem with it now. “Any right answer could just be part of the quirk! You memorize shit about the target and then become them. I’ve done my fucking homework. The fake would know everything about Deku.”

Green curls shook side to side. “Not everything, Kacchan. Yes, that was why he was stalking his victims, and why some of them reported being followed by people who met the descriptions of his previous victims. But, Kacchan, it’s only what he could learn through observation. He messed up when he was trying to trick me; he doesn’t have my mind.”

He hiccuped. “So ask me. Ask me about how I almost got expelled on our first day at UA. Ask me about when Kota-kun punched me at training camp and you smiled. Ask me about when I got drunk on my twenty-fourth birthday and you carried me home. He wouldn’t know those things!”

“The.. notebooks,” Katsuki said slowly, his heart flexing oddly in his chest. “If you— The villain, was in Deku’s house before the attack, if he had access to the notebooks, he could know all that shit. Deku wrote it all down.” He clenched his jaw. “And I read them.”

The man with Deku’s eyes widened, and his face reddened. His mouth opened and closed a few times, matching his twitching fingers held firm in their thick cuffs. But soon enough they curled into fists, face set with determination again. “N-not everything. There were things I n-never wrote down. Like. Like, okay. When you cr-cried after our first battle training exercise, by the front gate. And when you told me you f-felt responsible for All Might’s retirement. Those weren’t mine to record.”

..It was true. There had been no mention of the aftermath of that first exercise, when Katsuki had lost and Deku first told him about his borrowed power. And everything about their fight at Ground Beta was just about Deku’s catharsis, and his outlook on their relationship. He hadn’t recorded any of Katsuki’s anguished confession.

“You know what’s also not in any notebook? How you gave me the name Deku, but didn’t stop using it even when I changed what it meant. How you bump my shoulder every time you walk past me. How you bring over food on the anniversary of my mother’s death every year even though I never asked and you never offered. How you have always been pushing me, in one way or another, and how despite everything that’s ever been rocky between us I know I can always count on you!!”

He took a deep, rattling breath, his chest heaving.

“I don’t need to write those things down because I could never forget.”

Katsuki sank down into the chair next to the bed, his knees suddenly feeling like they couldn’t hold him anymore.

“And despite how often you call me an idiot - which I know doesn’t have any real insult behind it - I’m not stupid. I never wrote down anything overly explicit about One For All, as much as I really wanted to because oh my god I have had so many things to say about it, because I can’t risk someone else reading it. Kacchan, he didn’t know about One For All. He didn’t have One For All, Kacchan, he faked it with some kind of chemical powder.”

The air caught in Katsuki’s throat. Sparks that zagged when they should zig— 

Deku blinked, and a wet line ran down one cheek. “Do I need to give you One For All, Kacchan? Is that the only way you’ll believe me?”

Gripping his hair in his fists and staring at the floor, Katsuki fought against the static in his skull. “Why’s the dead body still Deku, then?”

The sound of clinking pulled Katsuki’s head back up, and he could tell immediately that Deku was trying to bring his hands up to pinch at his lip, his brow furrowed in concentration.

“From what I can gather, since he was using his previous victims’ bodies to stalk his next ones, probably whether he wanted to or not, the transformation wasn’t a temporary quirk activation, but a permanent change. He might have been rearranging his DNA, his whole self, to match his targets entirely - minus quirks and minds. Aizawa-sensei probably wouldn’t be able to revert it with Erasure either, since there’d be nothing to revert to. So it is my body in the m-morgue, but it’s a replica.”

Deku’s eyes slid over to meet Katsuki’s gaze. They looked sad, sick and tired, but they were unmistakably Deku. “Maybe we’d be impossible to tell apart, except for One For All. But I don’t think I need to show you that I have it. You know it’s me. Kacchan believes me.”

Katsuki couldn’t fathom a life without Deku - truly without Deku, not just locked away in prison. Just coming to terms with the possibility of losing Deku to a life sentence was something Katsuki had already staunchly refused to do.

He had seen the body on the metal drawer. Felt how cold and empty the world was when it was his reality. He certainly didn’t want to go back to that.

“Fuck, I wanna,” Katsuki pushed out, his voice a strangled whisper, grimacing. “Because then you’re not fucking dead.”

Something like some kind of ugly laugh shook Deku’s hospital bed, and although the corners of his mouth were turning down, there was a form of smile on his face. “Kacchan cares about me that much?”

Katsuki felt his cheeks warm. “Fuck off, of course I don’t want you to fuck off and die! Shut up!” He pushed his palm against Deku’s face with an audible whap. “I’ll have you know I solved your shitty murder case for you, dumb Deku. Maybe you wouldn’t have been framed if you’d asked me for help.”

Twisting unsuccessfully away from Katsuki’s hand by virtue of being pretty firmly tied in place, Deku huffed. “A little late for that now.”

Katsuki moved his hand up to tousle Deku’s messy hair. “Shitnerd.” 

“Hey!” Deku yelped, glaring at Katsuki with one visible eye, but it quickly turned into something more curious. “Kacchan was really working my case? Why?”

“Ahn,” Katsuki intoned affirmatively. “To try t’figure out what really happened to your dumb ass that landed you in jail. Knew you didn’t fucking do it, so.” He retrieved his hand, lifting his arm in a shrug.

Deku dropped his gaze to his blanketed lap. He swallowed, blinking rapidly. “Oh. That’s.. Huh. Wow, that is— I mean, I thought— Well, I was able to watch some of the news, and I thought everyone believed I did it,” he finished quietly.

Katsuki scowled. “Hmph. More than I’d like, probably less than I thought,” he said. He’d been so caught up in it, anything less than a public outcry looked like acceptance to him. Katsuki had been furious, figuring them for cowards, but that was ultimately unfair. Especially for the others in their line of work, it would have been a big risk to come out against law enforcement without any concrete evidence. There was an audience of witnesses, live video and a blood trail, and the dirty authorities were more than willing to throw Katsuki in jail for sticking his nose just a little too close to the truth. “Besides. S’not really their fault. Some fucks were pretty fucking dead-set on making you a patsy.”

“Huh?”

“I ain’t got the whole story, but shit’s rotten,” Katsuki said, shaking his head. “Looks like someone, a lot of someones, were happy to let you take the fall without trying too hard to find the truth. Destroyed evidence and everything, tried to get me arrested. Well, I did get fuckin’ arrested, but that part doesn’t matter. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they had their hooks in the news outlets, too, blocking anything sympathetic.”

“Oh,” Deku said, barely audible. “That’s bad. Like, really bad. That level of corruption is unfathomable, who else might have gotten falsely accused, had their stories suppressed?”

With a pained noise, Katsuki rubbed a fist across his eyes, clearing away any sweat that had built up. Little shit’s first priority was always everyone but himself. Even now.

“I did suspect it wasn’t normal procedure, even early on. Two of my four potential explanations were that I had been set up or that there was a villain involved. Guess it was both. Of course, the top theory was that I was just crazy, and that kind of eclipsed the others as it went on. Gosh, can you imagine if I had actually had a legitimate illness that contributed to me killing someone, and they just left me alone in there?”

“The fuck?” Katsuki spat. “You didn’t have a shrink, or meds or some shit?”

Deku shook his head.

Goddamnit. Katsuki should have visited, and something oily curled in his stomach at the thought. Regret, guilt. He should say something, he should apologize— 

“What was yer fourth theory?” he asked instead.

“Ah. Ghosts.”

“Pff,” Katsuki snorted. “The fuck happened in that house?”

Deku sighed, dropping his head back against the pillows. “A lot. The villain was messing with me the whole time. Stuff went missing or got moved around and I thought I was doing it. I got drugged, then poisoned. Had to fight myself. Got stabbed. Fell out a window.” His eyes slipped shut. “And you said he’s.. Dead?”

—his lips were blue, his skin was pulled unnaturally tight and he was as still as a— 

“Yeah. Big fucking hole in his chest, courtesy of a Hero Deku statue. You didn’t do that?”

“I guess I did. I was holding the trophy.”

Katsuki looked down at his hands. They were heroes, they’d both been in fights that resulted in fatalities. And when it was kill or be killed, well there really wasn’t any other option. Still, it never felt good to take someone’s life - even if they were trying to take yours. Or in Deku’s case, had already technically taken it.

Deku raised his head and opened his mouth like he meant to say something, before shutting it again, his gaze skittering away. Katsuki caught the motion in his periphery and looked up. “Spit it out, Deku.” 

“Oh, ah,” Deku said, and it sounded like a struggle. “It’s just.. Did you, um. Know you could v-visit? Me? O-on house arrest, that is— you know what, it doesn’t matter, you were busy—”

“Deku.”

Deku flinched, biting his lip. He wouldn’t meet Katsuki’s eyes.

Frowning, Katsuki laced his fingers together, resting his elbows on his knees and looking at the floor. There was no use trying to avoid it any longer. He’d grappled with the reason he refused to make that trip, and it all boiled down to fear. And Katsuki hated admitting to being afraid. But.. Katsuki needed to face it; Deku deserved to know.

And Katsuki needed to apologize. 

“I knew. I ain’t got a good reason, but here it is: didn’t need to hear you tellin’ me you didn’t do it - already thought that. But if it was the opposite.. If I saw with my own eyes you’d lost your shit.. Fuck. Couldn’t face that. Meant it was real, and you’d be. Well. Gone. Outta my life for good. I’m.. I’m fucking sorry, Deku. I shoulda visited.” 

“You’re right, it’s not a good reason.”

Katsuki looked up to see Deku’s serious visage and his back muscles tensed, bunching up slightly, waiting for the inevitable rejection though he hadn’t made any proposition.

“But I understand, Kacchan. I.. can’t stand the thought of losing you, either.”

“Tch,” Katsuki groused, relaxing, feeling warm. “Sap.”

Sputtering over something between a laugh and sob, Deku said, “Yeah, p-probably. I’m a little emotional right now.” He visibly swallowed. Something like fear flickered in his eyes. “D-did.. I mean, how much did you— my, um—”

Ah.

“Most of it,” Katsuki said bluntly, even as Izuku paled. No use sugarcoating it. “Though I wanted to skip a lotta the boring parts. The fuck was with detailing shit like traffic patterns? No one wants to read that.”

“Ha, yeah,” Deku said, pointing his gaze at anything else but Katsuki.

Fuck it.

“Answer’s yes, by the way.”

That green gaze snapped back. “Wh—”

“Partners. You, me. Someone’s gotta clean up this shit, might as well be us. Anyone else’d fuck it up.”

“Oh,” Deku breathed, eyes shining, before setting with that old familiar determination. “Kacchan.”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s do it.”

Katsuki grinned. “Sure. You’re still chained to the bed, though.”

Groaning, Deku threw his head back against his pillow again, squeezing his eyes shut. “Kacchan, I’ve had.. a really bad week. Weeks? I’m sick and tired and I j-just want to go home. But that house, I.. Even if they let me, I don’t know if I can.”

Shrugging, Katsuki said, “So you come home with me.”

Deku’s eyes flew wide open. “Wh— Really?”

Katsuki’s ears felt hot. “..Or All Might, or whatever!!”

What had he just offered?? For Deku to come live in his tiny-ass apartment? Well, it’s not like he could let the nerd live in a hotel or some shit, after what he just went through!

He coughed into his fist in an exaggerated show of clearing his throat. “Gotta get all this identity shit cleared up, first. And even if you ain’t in the morgue you still look half dead, so your ass ain’t leaving this hospital for a while anyway.” He averted his eyes, looking out the window, his face feeling like it was on fire. “But yeah, when you’re discharged, you don’t have to.. go back there.”

The familiar waterworks started shimmering, threatening to dribble down Deku’s round cheeks. Yeah, it was Deku all right.

“K-Ka-ch-chan!!”

Katsuki crossed his arms and hunched his shoulders up to ears. Why was this suddenly embarrassing!?  “If you’re a fake, I’ll kill you!!”

Deku smiled, big and bright and wobbly. “You’d better!”

“HAH? You want me to kill you?”

“I mean, if I’m a clone, I’d expect nothing less!”

Katsuki slapped his palm against Deku’s face again. He wrinkled his nose; now it was wet.

“Kacchan,” Deku said by way of protest, tugging at his restraints, still unable to escape.

Standing and kicking the hospital chair away, Katsuki gave one last shove against Deku’s cheek. “Alright, shitty nerd. I’ll be right back.”




He held it together until All Might’s arms had enveloped him once more.

“It’s him,” Katsuki choked out, held against All Might’s chest in that cold hospital hallway, and the pressure around him increased.

“Stars,” All Might breathed. “You’re sure?”

It was those arms that squeezed the tears from the corners of his eyes, and not the days and days of stress, worry and horror finally coming to an end. No, Katsuki was doing just fine. He definitely could have stood on his own two feet without someone else holding him up.

Katsuki nodded stiffly.

He hadn’t realized just how close he’d just come to losing Deku. Really, actually losing him. Even when Katsuki had looked at the corpse in the morgue, so sure of what he was looking at, he hadn’t really accepted it. Refused to. Had he known the truth, deep down?

Or would he just never accept it, when the time came for real?

“I’m so proud of you, my boy.”

Katsuki’s heart squeezed. What had he done to deserve that? “Feh. For what? I was too late.”

“No, Bakugou-shounen. You solved it.”

“They woulda figured it out when there were two of him.”

All Might pulled Katsuki out of the embrace and held him by the shoulders, his blue eyes blazing. “It would have been another nail in his coffin of guilt. Without you finding evidence of a doppelganger that targeted him, the same people that deliberately obstructed his chance at justice might have also presented this as further proof of his villainy. Said he had just split in twain.”

Katsuki swallowed. “He coulda died.”

“Yes. But he did not. And he will get his life back, because you did not give up on him.”

Disentangling himself, Katsuki scuffed his fist across his nose. Well. He supposed that was all that really mattered, in the end. Deku would get his life back, and Katsuki would still have him in his. And Katsuki was gonna make damn sure not to take that for granted anymore.

All Might glanced back down the hallway, where that group of men and women were still arguing.

“Now. Let’s go make that happen.”

 

The End


Chapter Text

“And, it wraps back around to just off the genkan through this door here, which is super cute,” the real estate agent, a short woman in a bright teal suit, explained while sliding open the hidden pocket door to lead Izuku and Katsuki back where they had started. She ushered them through, following after, her jewelry rattling against the binder in her arms with each step. “Which concludes the tour, mhm! What do we think about this one?”

It was a lovely house. Not too big but not cramped, lots of natural light. It checked every box on the list, and should have been a slam dunk. Izuku glanced at Kacchan, standing by the door with his hands in his pants pockets. He seemed his usual level of surly, which meant he probably liked it. Izuku should have liked it, too. He had no good reason not to.

“It’s— It’s very nice, Gamu-san,” Izuku said, feigning a smile. ‘Let’s make an offer’ could have come next, or even ‘Let me think about it’, or anything more than a weak show of politeness. But Izuku kept his mouth shut, uncharacteristically unforthcoming, feeling his energy drain into the polished floorboards.

Gamu smiled back, tight and thin, her oval nose scrunching up for a moment, fluffy pink ears wavering without wind in what Izuku assumed must be irritation. He felt awful; she had already shown them so many houses and here he was showing lackluster enthusiasm for yet another. But her chagrin only lasted a moment before she beamed genuinely up at him. “Well, if it’s not perfect, it’s not perfect, Midoriya-san! I’ll need to turn over some stones, but I’m confident I will find you a place you’ll fall in love with!”

“Oi.” Kacchan spoke for the first time since the tour started, pulling their attention. “We’ll discuss and get back to ya. C’mon, nerd, let’s grab some food.” He jut his chin up toward the door.

“Of course!” Gamu chirped. She shuffled some papers out of her binder, handing them over to Izuku. “Here’s the listing. Get some dinner, talk it over. Call me once you’ve given it some thought. In the meantime, I’ll keep looking! We’ll find you your dream home.”

The papers crinkled in Izuku’s fingers. He bowed down low, feeling an uncomfortable heat prickle along his cheeks. “Thank you, Gamu-san, I really appreciate it.”

Kacchan stepped into his shoes and pushed out the front door without another word, and Izuku hurried to do the same, following him out into an early summer evening and to the car.

“What did you have in mind?” Izuku asked as he buckled his seat belt. “We don’t have too much at home but we could stop at the market right off the highway up here—” 

“Was thinkin’ we’d go out, actually,” Kacchan said, his tone casual, as he put the car in drive and pulled it out into the road.

A wave of cold washed across Izuku’s skin. Going out to restaurants was.. Not exactly something Izuku was currently comfortable with. “Um,” he said, fiddling with the seat belt strap across his chest. “C-can’t we just pick something up?”

“Relax, nerd,” Kacchan said. “Not at any extra’s shitty diner. Bubblegum back there made me think of sugar guy, n’ haven’t been to his joint in a while.”

Ah. Satou’s. Izuku didn’t exactly relax, but his anxiety eased up a bit; Satou had gone to high school with them. He had transferred out to a culinary school after their first year and went on to run a fairly successful restaurant as both its head chef and occasional bouncer. If there was anywhere Izuku could trust, it was Sugarman’s, known to most for its desserts and to a few, its discretion.

It would be okay.

They would go get dinner, Satou would probably bring out an extra mochi for them, and they would talk about the house.

He looked down at the listing sitting crumpled on his lap. It was well within budget. In the desired neighborhood. Had all the must-haves. A perfect house for a perfect life.

Just not for Izuku.




The restaurant smelled amazing.

It looked amazing, too, as always. Dark wood and bright lights, enough patrons to make the atmosphere feel lively but few enough that it still felt intimate and comfortable.

Izuku didn’t even know that Sugarman’s had katsudon on its typically-limited menu, but when their server listed it among the specials Izuku immediately ordered it. Kacchan ordered a spicy curry, as expected, but Izuku frowned when he asked for a drink with it.

“Kacchan, you’re driving,” Izuku said, his tone more of concern than admonishment. Sure, Izuku could drive them home, but he anticipated that this meal would be exhausting and he wasn’t looking forward to operating a vehicle on frayed nerves.

The fact that a simple dinner conversation could do that to him at all, and that Kacchan was even considering alcohol when a few months ago he barely drank, were both their own levels of distressing, but now wasn’t the time for that. Izuku would probably be drinking as often as well if the very prospect of losing coherency didn’t lace icy fingers of fear through his ribs.

Instead of scowling or cursing or telling Izuku to not tell him what to do, Kacchan just closed the menu, saying, “Water’s fine,” as he handed it back to the server.

A small gesture, but appreciated nonetheless. Izuku mouthed a thank you and Kacchan shrugged it off.

Izuku looked around the dining room while they waited, letting the low hum of nearby conversations soothe him. This was nice. There was enough background chatter to drown out his own, and no one was paying any attention to them. “Did they always have specials?” he asked, absently running a finger along a raised line on the inside of his left wrist. “I don’t remember there being any.”

“Dunno. Probably.”

Snapping his eyes back across the table, Izuku’s words tumbled out in a rush: “Probably as in you think you remember them or probably as in you think there could have conceivably been specials but you also don’t remember them?”

Kacchan’s nostrils flared. “I don’t remember them.”

Izuku took a measured breath and exhaled, slowly. Stupid. “Sorry,” he said quietly. He’d spent all that time in that house fighting against believing he was crazy, only for the end result to make him more paranoid than the lie.

“S’fine. What was wrong with this one?”

“Huh?”

“The house, Deku,” Kacchan said, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. “That place had everything you wanted. What spooked you?”

Izuku flinched. “W-well, maybe Kacchan didn’t like something, I wasn’t going to speak for both of us—”

“Deku. I can live in a tent and y’know it. What was it?”

Dropping his eyes to the tabletop, Izuku lightly scratched a fingernail across its lacquered surface. He felt incredibly childish and silly, and now he really didn’t want to say it out loud. But Kacchan wasn’t going to let him off the hook. “The bedroom doors didn’t have locks on them,” he mumbled. He braced for rolling eyes, for being called an idiot; it was what he deserved. But he got nothing of the sort.

“We’ll get locks.”

Yes, of course, that was rational, reasonable. “I— I know we could, it’s just— the very thought of it, just thinking about locks on doors as a concept made me feel like I was going to fall out of my skin, I—”

“You talk to Woodchip about this?”

“Wood Chime, Kacchan,” Izuku said, correcting the professional name of their therapist. A support hero herself, she specialized in trauma related to heroics, and they both saw her separately as well as together. 

Kacchan curled his lip. “She’s gettin’ too chummy. Thinks she knows me now or some shit.”

“How did yesterday go, by the way? You didn’t mention anything.”

“Fine,” Kacchan said, rolling his shoulders. “Don’t think I’m ever gonna really get your dead mug outta my head but we’re working on it. Oi, don’t change the subject.”

Oops. Caught. “I have not yet talked to her about this.. Particular trigger, no.” He’d been having door-related nightmares for a while, where doors never seemed to fit in their door frames when he closed them, like they were too small or not cut correctly, so they’d never properly latch and he’d be completely defenseless against an oppressive threat on the other side that he just knew had his own face— 

“Deku. Breathe.”

Izuku inhaled sharply, his blurry vision coming back into focus.

Before he could say anything or apologize, their food arrived. It looked delicious and it smelled even better. Izuku’s mouth watered, eager to dig in.

Until his eyes landed on the fluffy bed of rice that the golden fried pork was nestled on top of.

It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s fine.

He hadn’t had proper katsudon in ages, it hadn’t even crossed his mind that it had rice even though of course it had rice. It’s not that Izuku couldn’t eat rice, he ate it all the time! But it always seemed to taste funny now, a little wrong, and with Izuku already at his limit after an exhausting day - of doing nothing - he wasn’t sure he could stomach it.

Chopsticks entered Izuku’s field of vision, skillfully snagging a few grains of rice. Kacchan lifted them to pop into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed, before returning to his own meal. “S’fine.”

Groaning, Izuku ran a hand up over his forehead and into his hair. Tears of frustration burned behind his eyes. Of course the rice was fine. “Why is everything so much?” he said through clenched teeth, his voice just shy of strangled. “How am I supposed to go back to active duty if every third thing sets my teeth on edge?” 

It usually wasn’t anywhere near this bad, but tonight seemed to be a constant domino chain knocking into bigger and bigger tiles.

Kacchan slurped down a large mouthful of curry. His spoon that clattered against his bowl as he dropped it sounded loud between them. “Can’t rush this shit.”

A wry smile pulled up half of Izuku’s face, pausing his breakdown. “You’re one to talk. Haven’t we been rushing this?”

“This is making up for lost time,” Kacchan said, gesturing between the two of them before pointing only at Izuku. “That is gettin’ yer head on straight. Two very different things, shitnerd. Y’Can’t. Rush. It.”

Izuku deflated. Kacchan was right, of course. It had only been a few months since Izuku got out of the hospital, and everyone told him it would take time to get back on his feet - more time than he was used to for a typical injury, even the bad ones. That didn’t make it any less frustrating.

His throat felt tight. “It’s just, there’s so much to do and I’m not doing any of it,” he whispered.

“Bullshit. You do more from behind a desk than half the agency can do on the field and you know it.”

The sudden throb in Izuku’s chest was surprisingly welcome, his cheeks warming. “Th-that’s not very fair to Sero-kun, Utsushimi-san and Shinsou-kun. They’ve been instrumental to our operations.”

“Yeah, well, they’re in the other half.”

“Ah—”

“But that don’t change what I said, Deku.” Kacchan’s eyes burned, intense and serious, right through Izuku’s defenses.

Izuku wrapped an arm around his face. “Kacchan complimenting me is embarrassing,” he mumbled.

“Tch,” Kacchan clicked his tongue. “Don’t get used to it.” 

Anyone else might have thought that meant Kacchan would never do it again, but Izuku knew it meant the opposite: don’t get used to it, may it always be special. Kacchan had nothing to worry about. Izuku could never be used to it because it would always do something funny to his heart as long as he lived.

“Eat your food, you’ll insult Satou.”

Izuku hurried to grab up his chopsticks, giving quiet thanks over the dish before digging in. It tasted as good as it looked and smelled, and Izuku was halfway through before he realized he was eating the rice without issue.

Everything was okay.

More than that, he felt truly blessed. It was a bit wild to think those were words Izuku could use, after he’d gone through hell and barely managed to come out the other side, where what greeted him was nothing like what his old life had been. A good life. It had been a good life with his dream job, structure and order and just the right amount of chaos. And it was gone.

Yet, as he sat there in that restaurant, reflecting on exactly where his life was now, blessed was exactly what came to mind. Even with the new challenges and his slow recovery, what he had ultimately gained made it bearable. Made it worth it.

Made Izuku realize that maybe he could have an even better life, now.

By the time they finished eating, after a quiet meal filled with comfortable conversation, Izuku felt pretty good, his earlier anxieties melting away to memory. They weren’t gone, but they didn’t need to run the whole show.

“I think we should make an offer,” he said after their plates had been collected.

Kacchan raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

Izuku nodded. “It really was perfect. I can call Gamu-san in the morning.”

“Thank fuck,” Kacchan grumbled, wiping his mouth on his napkin. “Tired of tryna squeeze all yer shit into my tiny apartment.” His eyes narrowed, regarding Izuku with a calculating look. “Which doesn’t have locks on the bedroom doors either. Has that been fucking with you?”

Shrugging, Izuku returned to tracing the scar on his left wrist, and the bustling sounds of the restaurant faded away. All of the little things that spiked his anxiety, reminded him of the time he spent trapped in his house with himself, never seemed to register when he crossed that threshold into Kacchan’s apartment. 

Izuku’s house.. it had been home once, but even without the arrest and upsetting events that happened during it, when Izuku’s mother had passed she had taken a part of that with her. Izuku still called it home just because it was all he had.

From the first day Kacchan had brought him home from the hospital to his apartment, it had been just that. Home. Izuku didn’t have a good reason for that - Kacchan had a particular brand of inhospitable hospitality, and Izuku could count on one hand how many times he had been inside the apartment previously. But, even so.

“It’s Kacchan’s. That’s enough for me.” 

Kacchan snorted. “Y’know, the new place is gonna be, too, nerd. Ours.”

Izuku smiled, running his fingers over the back of his left hand to rotate the metal band around his third finger. It was a little crooked, a little rough, having been forged quite literally by hand. But it was enough; it was perfect. It was theirs.

“Yeah, I guess it will be.”