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i couldn't whisper when you needed it shouted (ah, but i'm singing like a bird 'bout it now)

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Consciousness hit Ochako like the frightening force of the ground, when the gravity returned.

Had the gravity returned for her?

She opened her eyes to find blinding light and shaking earth.

She blinked leadenly, not quite remembering where she was. Only knowing it by the curling dread and sickness in her stomach.

Someone's scream roused her and her eyes snapped open. ( Battle. Her brain whispered. War.)

She had to move. Move now.

Ochako pushed her right hand into the ground, and then her left. Except her left hand felt nothing beneath it.

And she felt nothing inside her hand.

She looked down and saw nothing where her hand should be, or her arm, except a sea of sticky, filthy red.

Ochako probably should have screamed, screamed and wailed and cried and panicked, but the only thing she felt was a flat despair, because she didn't think she knew how to use her quirk with one hand.

Her hero career was over.

That absurd and terrifying thought leeched so much of the fight out of her, and she fell flat onto her back.

Move. You need to move. Her brain chanted, but her head was now so very dizzy. You can't work that bland office job from a casket, Ochako. What would mom and dad think?

Ochako closed her eyes, feeling the tears welling up, dust and smoke and iron filling her nose as she inhaled sharply.

When she opened her eyes again, they were met with swathes of navy blue fabric, and eyes of the brightest, glistening gold.

Himiko Toga was standing over her broken body.

Ochako felt all the breath leave her chest all at once.

She laid there very still, and Toga likewise did nothing, seemingly transfixed by what she had found.

There was no movement at all, apart from the rhythmic swaying of Toga's scarf.

Ochako willed herself to do something, anything, but her body felt detached from her mind, and her mind from whatever was left.

Toga's mask was bunched around her neck, but it didn't matter. Her mouth betrayed no expression.

"You're bleeding, Ochako-chan." Toga said. Her tone was strange.

Maybe if Ochako was thinking clearer she might have considered the pitch of it and puzzled it over, but right now she was dizzy and the shock pulsed over her vision, and all she could hear was threat.

You need to move, Ochako! She told herself, and she willed her body in a direction away from the other girl. The predator in a teenage girl's skin, she thought as her vision pitched and her stomach along with it.

Every movement spoke the dull whisper of pain and the heavy shout of lead in all her limbs (and what was left of one of them), and her eyes swam in black. She coughed, though she wasn't sure on what.

She could hear the fighting rage on in the distance somewhere. Or maybe it just sounded distant to her ringing, glitching ears.

By the time she opened her eyes again (she had closed them), Toga's face was hovering over her's, eyes glittering wet behind a curtain of cracked glass.

Ochako made a distressed sound, some attempt to speak, but it only devolved into a fit of coughing again.

"Shhhhh," Toga cooed. "You're very weak right now, Ochako-chan." She ran a hand over Ochako's hair. "Wounded little bird…" She mumbled.

Ochako wasn't sure if she moved. She was very sure she didn't make any noise again. She barely felt the touch of Toga's fingers. The only sensation was the numbness growing all around her.

Toga leaned in close to her ear. "You don't have to say anything, Ochako-chan." She whispered. "I'll fix everything for you, ok? That's what friends do, don't they?"

She didn't wait for a response, which was just as well since Ochako didn't think she could answer. Everything was getting so cold. She couldn't even shiver.

Toga carefully removed Ochako's helmet, catching bits of broken glass before they could settle on her skin.

Then Toga disappeared from view. Distantly Ochako felt her touching her arm, and then nothing at all.

Ochako watched the sky, pale blue being choked by clouds of smoke, wondering if she was going to die here. Staring up into a cold, unfeeling horizon. She wanted to close her eyes and remember that crisp shade of blue in that case, instead of Toga's face, and the boney pale yellow of her untidied hair.

But she couldn't do it. Because the prospect of her death, in all honesty, made her feel nothing at all. Nothing but numb.

So her eyes fixed on the sky, and she didn't move, or say anything, or think anything, really. Her head was so full of fog, like those aching, polluted clouds.

There was no one and nothing in this moment. Did the fighting stop, she wondered? All the noise around her seemed so far away, as to not be noise at all. Was there ever any to begin with?

She couldn't move. She didn't want to, she realized. She hoped Toga would drink up all her blood very quickly and then all the tiredness and the buzzing would finally be over.

Her eyelids fluttered.

And then there was a jerk of her body that felt miles off.

She managed to turn her head and realized Toga was wrapping something around her arm, very, very tightly. Her tongue was sticking out of her mouth in concentration. Like a little cat.

Toga pulled at her scarf, which Ochako realized was fluttering jaggedly in the air, and tore some more off. She wrapped it around the end of Ochako's arm, like swaddling an unruly kitten in a blanket.

"There, no more blood leaking out! Not so much anyway." And Toga tilted her head. Maybe there was some disappointment in her face, Ochako wasn't sure, and didn't really want or care to figure it out.

Then Toga reached for something around her mask, and Ochako blinked heavily before opening her eyes to a large needle. The kind that Toga had stuck deep into her flesh before.

Ochako did make a noise at that, but Toga was already plunging it into her vein with an unnervingly fluid, practiced motion.

"We're the same blood type, Ochako-chan, did you know that?" Toga said, and her voice shone like sunlight through crushed glass. Beautiful and gentle in its biting danger and brokenness.

Was it always like that, Ochako wondered? Had she just not seen before now?

Threat still lingered in her mind, but it was so far away and so empty.

Ochako wasn't sure how long they were there, everything felt so light and drifting.

The cold and numbness was still present, and the buzzing dizziness, but it wasn't spreading as fast. Or maybe at all.

It was all over her, but it wasn't digging into her.

Probably because of this, the world felt slightly more in focus when Toga hooked her arms under Ochako's and pulled her to a sitting position, and then dragged her across the ground. The sensation and sound of gravel across her skin, held back by her suit, was ringing softly in her head.

Ochako closed her eyes, too tired to think over what was happening, only wishing she could sleep, and then wake up far away, to a world that made sense.

Maybe she could bring this new impression of Toga with her, if she wanted to.

The focus slipped and flickered and Ochako did nothing to stop it.

"Look at how good she's doing," she heard Toga mutter in her ear, her voice sweet and soft. "Look at how brave she is, brave little bird...little bird with a broken wing…"

Ochako felt Toga's voice in her own fluttering chest. The words were warm among her ribs. She didn't know why they felt warm.

Why she held to them in the churning sea of black.

She felt her back pressing into Toga's chest. It was definitely her. Her scarf fell into her hair. It smelled like blood and flowers. Toga was stroking her hand gently.

"You're going to fly again, little bird, I promise you will." She whispered. "I'll make sure of it. Toga-chan and Ochako-chan will fly away from here together, ok?"

Ochako didn't know what that meant. Maybe it didn't mean anything. But it was warmth in an endless tundra of shuddering cold.

She faded in and out. Fragments of awareness passed across her eyes and then shattered into nothing. Moving. Being carried. Dust. Noise. Toga's soft words, unintelligible to her dizzy brain. Then quiet, and dry air with no smoke in her lungs.


The last thing Ochako remembered before it all went completely dark and empty and silent was shining red eyes beneath a curtain of ghostly white hair, and some twisting thready voice passing some sort of judgement over her.

But she found she didn't care, because Toga was holding her hand.