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bird, cage, & song

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Izuku wakes up in a basement.

It’s dark, just the barest amount of light coming from a slit window near the ceiling, slashed by rows of metal bars. Not on the window, but between Izuku and it: he’s inside a large cage, like he’s an animal. Livestock.

Wincing, Izuku’s hand comes up to his forehead automatically and he can feel something wet and tacky. He’s bleeding.

Great.

His head is pounding, vision blurring when he tries to sit up. Fog and pain cloud his memory but he knows he’s taken a bad blow; Izuku wouldn’t be surprised if he’s concussed. But although it continues to weep, the cut is relatively shallow, and Izuku is otherwise uninjured. He manages to pull himself onto his knees.

He’s in a cage in a basement with a head wound. Can’t do much about the last two without doing something about the first.

Izuku uses his hands to rise up onto unsteady legs. He feels like he’s been hit by a truck, one hand pressed to his temple to stem the red leaking out. 

The air down here is damp, but that doesn’t tell Izuku anything. Basements often are.

They don’t usually have livestock cages in them, though. It doesn’t even seem like it’s locked, or latched shut at all. Izuku reaches forward with his unoccupied hand. 

He feels the charged air under his palm a fraction of a second too late.

The jolt travels through his body like a tidal wave, frying every nerve and turning Izuku’s entire world white and quiet. 

A high pitched whine eventually breaks through the silence: it’s Izuku, his face pressed against cold concrete. He tries to move but his limbs won’t listen, twitching uselessly and painfully. His tongue feels thick in his mouth and his pulse beats off-rhythm, loud in his ears. 

But besides his drumming blood, Izuku hears something else.

“Oi, Deku!”

Izuku’s heart would leap if it wasn’t currently struggling to pump correctly. He’d know that voice anywhere, that rich caramel poured over gravel.

Kacchan!

Groaning, Izuku rolls onto his side, his whole body feeling like pins and needles. 

“Get up, idiot.”

Izuku blinks, trying to focus his bleary eyes through the electrified bars at the figure standing on the other side. They’re backlit by the stairwell light that wasn’t on before.

“Kacch,” Izuku forces out. His mouth feels numb.

“Yeah. It’s me.” 

The silhouette sharpens. Lean and slender, an explosion of wild hair, narrow shoulders, feathers.

Izuku’s eyes widen in horror and Kacchan’s voice starts laughing.

“Mockingbird,” Izuku grits through his teeth.

“In the flesh!” the man says, still using Kacchan’s stolen sound. 

“What have you done with him!?” Izuku snarls, his hands curling, fingernails scraping the hard floor.

“I think you should be much more concerned about yourself, De-ku,” the villain says, slipping a few lengths of black satin out of his pristine, pinstriped pants pockets.

Izuku swallows, painful and dry. He expected something like a knife, something the avian villain has been keen on using in the past. He isn’t sure what to expect with this. 

With a rubber-gloved hand, Mockingbird opens the large cage door without incident.

Izuku wills himself to heed the false Kacchan’s words, still sounding in his ringing ears, to get up. It might not have been real but Izuku holds onto it like a lifeline. But his body, already weakened from the head wound and whatever put him in this basement, is further incapacitated by the electric shock that took an expedited trip through his flesh.

Mockingbird’s polished shoes clip against the floor as he approaches. 

He crouches down over Izuku’s prone form. “We’re gonna have a little fun, nerd,” he says, sliding silky material through blood and over Izuku’s eyes, and everything falls to darkness. He’s still using Kacchan’s voice, and Izuku shivers; those words are so close and so wrong. 

Rubber runs along Izuku’s shirtsleeves and down his bare arms until they reach his wrists, awkwardly flopped on the concrete. 

“What should I do with these?” 

Tight grips encircle both of Izuku’s forearms before wrenching them behind his back. He resists, the crackle of One For All brimming under his skin in spurts as he tries to imbue his limbs with its power. Izuku should have no trouble fending off a villain like Mockingbird. The sharp-beaked smooth-talker isn’t a physical fighter. His strength lies in deception and trickery; he usually leaves the brute strength to others, like his partner.

Still, he easily holds Izuku’s weakened wrists together behind his back, and Izuku can’t shake him off. 

“I know you’re a good boy,” that rich timbre purrs, “And would listen to your Kacchan telling you to leave the blindfold on. But I’d like to have some assurance.” He begins tying something to one of Izuku’s wrists, presumably the same cloth that blinds him. Izuku yelps as he’s yanked backward by his arm sockets, dragging him across the floor on his ass. His arms are pulled up awkwardly and tugged sharply. “Keep these held up. I wouldn’t move much, if I were you. I don’t know if your heart can take another shock.” 

Said heart slams against Izuku’s ribs. As far as he can tell, he’s sat with his back facing the stairwell, up against the bars of the cage. He can feel the hairs along his forearms rise, the source of static tickling him from every side.

His arms must be threaded through the bars, and tied together on the other side.

“W-wait,” Izuku says, his tongue finally catching up to the situation. He can’t pull forward, or even drop his arms to rest. His shoulders already ache from holding them hovering in place. How long will he have to hold them like this? He can’t see. He’s weakened, injured, and tied to the bars of a prison that could electrocute him with one wrong move, a move he cannot even be sure that he’s making.

The door to the cage slams shut, reverberating through Izuku’s bones.

“Wait, please!” 

Sharp footsteps quickly recede, moving away and across the room, changing to the dull thud of wood as they ascend the basement stairs.

Izuku is alone again.

Shit.

Shit, shit shit! 

The material around his wrists shouldn’t be enough to hold him, but Izuku can’t risk getting zapped again. Even if he survived, he’d likely just fall right onto the bars while getting fried and that would be the end for him.

All he can do is wait.




Eventually, the footsteps come back.

Two sets, this time.

One that is that same, sharp clip, and one that sounds off: shuffling, dragging. Wrong.

And there’s another voice. Izuku’s heart sinks when he recognizes it. 

“Let.. go of me,” that voice slurs, as the mismatched footfalls reach the bottom of the stairs. “M.. Midoriya? Midoriya!!”

“I’m okay!” Izuku yells, a little too quickly, and without much truth, in a rush to reassure his friend he’s still alive. “I’m okay, K-Kirishima-kun.” 

“Oh good, you know each other,” Mockingbird says, finally using his own voice - or what Izuku assumes is his own voice. “That makes this easier.”

Izuku cranes his head around carefully, keeping his arms steady, but he still can’t see anything. Can’t see anything, in a room with a voice mimic. “This is a trick,” Izuku spits. “You could just be using his voice.”

Mockingbird laughs, and it sounds like a cat. “You catch on quick for an idiot,” he says, dipping into Kacchan’s voice again. “But that’s the game, isn’t it? I could be. You don’t know. You have to guess!”

“Bastard,” Kirishima’s voice growls. “Keep his voice out of your beak!”

“Hah?? But you love when I use it, Shitty-hair!”

Izuku’s head spins. It sounds just like Kacchan and Kirishima-kun. But he knows that’s not Kacchan. Mockingbird blindfolded him just for this, surely that means Kirishima is also a fake.

“I’ll explain how this works, hero,” Mockingbird chirps. “You tell me whether you think this—” there’s a shuffle and a grunt, “Is really your friend. If you say it’s not and it is, I kill him.”

A chill crawls along Izuku’s spine, still too close to the electrified cage.

“If you say it is and it’s not, you suffer the consequences, and I bring in someone else. If you’re right.. well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” 

Izuku clenches his fists, arms shaking with the effort to keep his arms steady. His breathing is shallow and strained, fear and panic beginning to overtake his rational brain. This isn’t real, it can’t be happening! Did Mockingbird really have his friends down here? 

What were the limits of his quirk, again?

“What the hell? Of course it’s me, who else would I be!?”

He needed to hear their real voice within the last day— Recordings weren’t enough— How long had Izuku been down here?

The footsteps— A next victim— The risk— 

“Choose, Deku.” 

Real? Not real?

Everything points to Kirishima being a fake: the blindfold, the mimicry, the whole setup means Izuku has no reason to believe Mockingbird. But if Izuku’s wrong, and it really is Kirishima behind him, he’ll have condemned him to death.

Izuku can’t risk that. 

“Make your choice, or I’ll make it for you - and you won’t like what I pick.”

“Real!” Izuku shouts, his voice cracking. He’s probably wrong, but he’d rather suffer the consequences himself than cause someone to lose their life. “Kirishima-kun is h-here.”

Although what about that ‘someone else’? 

There’s an indecipherable noise behind him, followed by the approach of sharp footsteps. The cage door creaks to Izuku’s right as it must be opened. He can’t help the flinch as a rubbery finger hooks under his blindfold and drags it up over his bloody forehead, the hairs on his forearms crackling as he drifts a little too close to the center bar that his arms hover precariously around.

Izuku blinks against the explosion of light, the dark basement now illuminated by a single overhead light that casts long shadows in every direction. 

The feathers around Mockingbird’s eyes crinkle as Izuku tries to focus on him. “Look and see if you’re right.”

Swallowing, Izuku turns his head slowly to look back over his shoulder. There, just in front of the stairs, is.. 

“Kacchan,” Izuku whispers.

It’s not what he expected at all.

No, no— 

Bound and gagged and glaring, Kacchan’s arms are trapped within heavy steel and his face is wrapped in a contraption that only lets his piercing eyes shine through.

“Do you like it? I went vintage.” 

And yes, it eerily reminds Izuku of the restraints they put Kacchan in when he won the Sports Festival their first year at UA. Kacchan struggles in them silently.

“You were wrong, though,” Mockingbird tuts, one hand ruffling Izuku’s hair, the rubber catching on and tearing at the strands. “Should have gone with your first instinct!”

No. Izuku doesn’t regret putting Kirishima’s life above his own, even if it wasn’t even in jeopardy. And he doubts he would have escaped whatever is coming had he guessed correctly, anyway. “Let him go,” Izuku pushes out. 

“Oh, okay, bro!” Mockingbird hoots in Kirishima’s voice. “I mean, since you asked. Of course I’ll do it. Very manly.” His cackling fills the space, reverberating around the basement. “Nnno,” Mockingbird drawls, turning Izuku’s head to look up into golden, hooded eyes. “You both get to face consequences.”

Izuku’s heart is working overtime, sending blood shooting through his veins at a breakneck clip. “N-no, just me, you said—”

“I said I wouldn’t kill Kirishima, hero,” Mockingbird says, like he’s explaining to a child. “And he isn’t here.” Dropping Izuku’s face, Mockingbird comes around to the other side of the cage, taking Izuku’s arms into his gloved hands. Instinctually, Izuku relaxes, his trembling muscles finding some small relief in the transfer of weight. “I’m going to untie you,” Mockingbird says softly. “And then I’m going to..” 

Mockingbird hums. It’s a pleasant, musical trill, and Izuku feels anything but pleasure at hearing it. “Well, it wouldn’t be very fun if I just told you, would it?”

Izuku feels the pressure around his wrists disappear, just before they’re grabbed and he’s shoved forward. With a crack, Izuku’s jaw connects with the floor, and a sharp burst of new pain flares across his face. He wasn’t able to get his arms under him fast enough without risking hitting the cage on the way down. Before he can push himself off the ground, Mockingbird is over him. 

Izuku’s head snaps back as his hair is snagged, and he’s dragged out of the cage like a sack of flour. He’s too disoriented to stop it, though his brain screams at him to fight back. His limbs are unrestrained, his quirk is unsuppressed. Injuries are minor.

Fight!! Back!! 

Once he’s sure they’re clear of the electrified bars, Izuku flails, trying to connect anything with his attacker’s legs. But Mockingbird jumps lightly out of the way, and Izuku’s scalp twists painfully, rough concrete scraping his skin raw as he’s pulled up onto his knees to find himself staring up at Kacchan, seated before him, gagged, in his heavy restraints.

“I don’t mind you being a little feisty, but you might want to think about the consequences.” Mockingbird emphasises this by shaking Izuku’s head by his hair in Kacchan’s direction. The threat against Kacchan is left unspoken. The villain releases his grip in favor of binding Izuku’s wrists behind him again. 

Kacchan’s eyes are like brands as they burn into Izuku from above.

Breath catching in his lungs, Izuku begins to speak when stars explode in his right eye, and his head whips to the left. He can’t process it before he’s hit again, the rubber glove smearing blood across his face. 

“God, that feels good,” Mockingbird says. His shoes echo a circle around Izuku as he comes around to Izuku’s left side.

Izuku knows it’s coming but the blow to his left cheek sends him reeling over to the right. This one reverberates in his jaw, from what is likely a fracture. He groans, righting himself on wobbly knees. It’s certainly not the first time he’s been punched in the face. He can endure this, if these were the consequences.

Peering through blood and bruises, Izuku looks back up at Kacchan. It’s harder to make out but the picture is clear: Kacchan is still glaring, but he isn’t struggling anymore. It’s shrewd; he can’t break through the restraints and is conserving his energy. But Izuku can tell it’s taking everything in him to quell that rage.

Izuku is the one in a better position to save them both. 

Although it doesn’t feel like it when he’s socked in the face again, and again.

His fists tighten, straining against his binds. He is struck so many times that Izuku loses count, dizzy and nauseated as the room blurs around him, until Izuku can no longer see anything at all. 

“There,” Mockingbird croons, and Izuku feels his chin lifted and head turned back and forth. Something touches to a swollen eye and Izuku winces, hissing in pain. “Now I don’t need to blindfold you!”

Izuku tries to suppress an undignified noise as his face is prodded. 

“Time for round two,” Kacchan’s voice snarls, and Izuku’s heart freezes in his chest.

Footsteps travel away from him and Izuku hears a clink and a clatter, followed by a steady stream of expletives.

“FUCK you piece of shit birdbrain asshole fucker I’m gonna rip out all your—” 

Slap.

The words are replaced with a low, guttural growl.

“Now now, that’s not part of the game. Misbehave and your Deku will face more consequences.”

“The fuck? You already beat his fucking face in!”

“Oh dear, so I did. Then I wouldn’t recommend causing more harm, hm?” 

Izuku’s stomach feels tight. He might have a small window while Mockingbird is distracted; he’s sure he can break the cloth tying his wrists together, but then he’ll have to fight blind, disoriented and injured. And Mockingbird can use Kacchan’s voice.

His options are limited. 

Izuku works his wrists apart slowly, wriggling them against each other as subtly as possible. The fabric gives, ever so slightly, and Izuku stills. He could slip his hands free, but he chooses not to. It’s too risky. But he’ll be ready. Ready for the perfect moment - if he can stay conscious.

His face feels like one giant bruise, and it throbs with every pump of blood sent through his swollen, broken skin. Wetness dribbles down his cheeks and it must be blood, as it feels like no tears can escape past his sealed eyelids. It hurts. A lot. But Izuku is used to pain, and he forces himself to push through it and focus on what he can hear unfolding in front of him.

“It’s simple. Deku just has to pick which one of us is the real Kacchan,” Mockingbird says with his signature mocking lilt to the name. “If he gets it wrong, I kill you. If he gets it right, hm. Maybe I’ll let one of you go, how’s that sound?”

“Fuck off,” Kacchan spits.

“HAH?? You fuck off! Deku, don’t fall for that shit!” he snaps right back.

Izuku’s head spins. It’s already begun. Both voices came from the same direction. Had Kacchan responded first, or was it a trick? How is Izuku supposed to pick?

And if he gets it wrong..

Both voices overlap, screaming obscenities at each other. Izuku can’t even tell one sentence apart from the next. 

Is Mockingbird waiting for him to say something?

Izuku swallows, copper sliding down his throat. He says, “Whoever can answer my questions correctly is real.” 

“I’m sorry?” Mockingbird’s voice returns, moments before a harsh shove to Izuku’s chest sends him toppling to the floor, where his injured face slams into the concrete. He groans, unable to pick himself up enough to relieve the pressure on his wounds. Mockingbird snarls, “I must have forgotten the part where you get to change the rules! You don’t get to tell me what to do!!”

Izuku spits blood as a shoe connects with his stomach.

“Leave him the fuck alone, you shitty turkey!” Kacchan yells. 

“No, I don’t think I will,” Kacchan’s voice also says, too close to Izuku’s ear. “You broke the rules, De-ku, so now we get to play a different game.”

Izuku knows it isn’t Kacchan, he knows it, he knows it— 

But he sounds so real and Izuku is blind, dizzy and in pain. Dread swirls in his stomach as the gravel in the voice at his ear, that he knows is from a black beak and not Kacchan’s lips, still sends shivers running down his spine.

“This game is called, I hurt you a lot using Bakugou Katsuki’s voice while he watches.” 

Hurt him.. with his voice? Or just while using it— 

Another blow to his middle curls Izuku into a fetal position.

“Shitty nerd’s a piss poor, pathetic excuse for a hero. Thinks he can rub shoulders with me? Tch. Isn’t fit to lick the shit off my boots.”

Oh. Both, then. 

Mockingbird isn’t even wearing boots, but it’s still what it feels like when something wide, hard, and flat presses against Izuku’s neck. 

“Glkk!!” 

“This is where you belong,” Kacchan’s voice growls above him. “Beneath me.” The sole holds him softly at first, just pinning Izuku against the ground, but gradually increases in pressure as Mockingbird’s weight bears down.

“Oi, knock it off!!” 

Kacchan’s laugh echoes around them. “Yeah. Knock it off, Deku. Give up. Fuck, I’ve wanted to do this for so goddamn long.”

Izuku struggles to stay conscious as his blood flow is restricted; a fuzzy, unpleasant tingle fades his world of pain to a background hum. 

His fingertips are numb.

He feels his limbs jerk erratically, and distantly registers them as death throes. Now is when Izuku should be fighting back, slipping his hands free to grab at his assailant, turn the tide back in his favor.

But Izuku just feels tired. 

Like drifting off to sleep, Izuku’s body sinks into static. The sounds of Kacchan shouting are muted, far away. As if he is (they are?) in another room.

Izuku stops moving.

Until the weight on his neck disappears, and Izuku gasps, fighting to return the oxygen to his brain. His whole body shakes. Someone is saying something; Kacchan is screaming, but so is Kacchan, and Izuku chokes on a sob. He needs to get up and fight but he can’t even move, the signals misfiring on the way from his concussed, oxygen deprived brain to his fatigued limbs. 

Suddenly, Izuku is airborne, his equilibrium tipping and sending him into vertigo.

“Don’t pass out on me yet, nerd! I only just got started!”

It’s not Kacchan it’s not Kacchan it’s not— 

But the explosion that resonates in Izuku’s bones sure sounds like him. 

Izuku hits the floor for the umpteenth time, by some miracle only landing on his hip and elbow. Pain flares in both points of contact, but it’s nothing compared to everything else. He can’t even lift his head, though he’s not sure why he would; Izuku still can’t see anything. 

There are more noises: clanking, grunting and muffled expletives, before Mockingbird’s true voice shrieks, “Oh, you’re very clever, are you? Guess you can’t play by the rules, either. That’s it. You die, now.”

A snap punches through the air, much like a switchblade. 

“No!” Izuku croaks.

“Any last words for your pathetic puddle of a partner before I slit your throat to spill out and join him in the dirt?”

It’s horribly quiet for a moment.

“Fuck, Izuku, I’m.. I’m sorry - for everything, how I’ve treated you, for all of this. I love you.” 

Izuku’s blood feels like every cell has split into a shard of ice. 

“You’re— You’re not Kacchan!” he shouts, his conviction firm, his voice strained but sure.

There is a tiny piece of Izuku that might wish the words that spilled from his lips are wrong, but he knows within his heart that they are not. But still he loosens the silk at his wrists further, ready to shoot off a blind last resort.

Clap.

Clap.

Clap.

“Very good, hero!” 

Footsteps return and Izuku flinches as his battered face is cupped in gloved hands.

“Did I lay it on too thick? I was really looking forward to your return confession so I could laugh at you.”

Izuku’s heart squeezes. Mockingbird is still using Kacchan’s voice. There are knotted feelings Izuku holds hidden away about his oldest friend - and maybe someday, in a much different conversation, some of the things Kacchan had said could come up, with much different words to express them.

But surely never.. love.

And not like that. 

Izuku knows Kacchan. Knows that faced with death, Kacchan would sooner flip off the devil than dwell on regrets he might not even have.

But if that wasn’t Kacchan, what happened to him? Had Mockingbird killed him already??

Izuku’s pulse throbs in his wounds. 

Rubber runs along Izuku’s cheek and he hisses, the noise turning into a shout of pain as his swollen right eye is forcibly peeled open. Everything is blurry and too bright, and it hurts like hell. Izuku tries to pull away but his efforts are weak and he’s held firm. 

“Look,” Mockingbird says, craning Izuku’s neck to look up. The image still doesn’t focus entirely, but he can see Kacchan, still bound to the chair, and with what looks like the silencer wrapped around his face again.

Izuku’s vision blurs further as tears well up. They’re involuntary - from his lids being held open - but they still feel the same as they spill down his tattered cheek.

Izuku’s face is released and his eye seals shut, returning him to darkness.

But what was the explosion he heard? Just Mockingbird, again, mimicking sounds? 

“Well, I did say I might let one of you go if you got it right, didn’t I?” Mockingbird’s shoe taps several times next to Izuku’s face. “But who?” The footsteps recede, moving across the room and away from Izuku. “It would be merciful to let Deku go, don’t you think, Kacchan? Mm, yes, I could drop him off at a hospital and then come back to have fun with you. You’re fresh as a daisy!” Mockingbird laughs. “But wouldn’t it be hilarious if I let you go instead?” 

There’s a shuffling and a clanking, and Izuku hears the footsteps and dragging move even farther away, toward what he assumes is the stairwell.

“Of course, you’re not going to a hospital. Yes, I’ll let you go. But where? Home? Off a cliff? Decisions, decisions!’ 

“Kacchan!” Izuku cries out. No, no! If Mockingbird takes Kacchan away, there’s no telling what he’ll do! Izuku has to act, now! He has to save Kacchan!

Something stirs within him, pushing past the nausea and the pain and the panic, and One For All finally, finally responds.

A warm current of power wraps itself around and through Izuku, stinging and soothing his injuries as it flows across his skin. He slips his hands free from the loose tie at his wrists, and immediately catapults himself forward, honing in on the only other sounds in that basement. He knows he has an equal chance to hit Kacchan, the wall, and Mockingbird, but it’s a risk he has to take, and he puts literal blind faith in One For All to guide him.

With a howl and a crash he makes contact with something solid, a searing burst exploding in his left shoulder. There’s no time to care, to think, as he grabs and scrabbles and kicks with his waning strength at anything he can grab a hold of, aiming punches at the indignant squawking and tearing at anything else he touches, fingers sliding over skin, metal and feathers. 

Something grabs him, something hits him, something blazing hot burns a stripe across his hip, and Izuku feels One For All flicker out in his veins as he stumbles and struggles.

His back hits a wall moments before his skull, and everything winks out to nothing.




“—eku, Deku. Fuck, Deku, c’mon.”

A soft moan slips out of Izuku’s lips as he tries to open his eyes, and can’t.

Wh.. where? Where is he? What’s going on?

Something shifts under him and sends a rush of horrid pounding through his entire head. The wave of nausea that follows has him twisting, upending the contents of his stomach in a rush of bitter acid. His face feels like it’s been flayed and his body feels like mush, and vomiting isn’t helping the situation but he can’t stop it.

Something rubs across Izuku’s back. 

Izuku’s poor overworked heart knocks at the roof of his rib cage. The basement, the cage, Mockingbird, Kacchan— 

“Shit. Fuck. You fucking.. fuck. We gotta go, Deku.” That voice, that voice— 

“No,” Izuku protests weakly, pushing at the arms around him. But it’s as effective as swatting away a bear with a feather, and Izuku cries out as he loses contact with the ground and rises into the air. He used everything up in that last attack, his limbs don’t listen and his shoulder shrieks in agony.

“Oi, cut it out!” 

Izuku’s mind spins as wooden floorboards creak far below. The stairs? Is he being carried away? He inhales sharply, bracing for what he knows will be a pathetic attempt at an attack, when the sweet, smoky scent invades the one nostril not closed up by swelling.

“..K-Kacchan?” 

“The fuck else would it be,” rumbles from the chest Izuku is pressed against. “Stop talking, dumbass. Look like you’ve been through a fucking meat grinder. Gross.”

The sob that constricts Izuku’s entire being is painful but born of relief, and he goes lax in Kacchan’s arms. 

He knows they cannot possibly be safe yet, but he finally loses the fight to stay conscious, and the last thing he remembers is the shuddering crack of Kacchan kicking open the basement door.




A steady beeping sits over muffled, distant noises: scuffles and squeaking of hallway linoleum and a low murmur of passing conversation.

Izuku blinks a few times at the ceiling before shutting his eyes, the bright white of the sunlit room far too blinding to handle. His face feels tight, like it’s covered in bandages, but the swelling has gone down enough that his eyelids function again.

Izuku’s in a hospital.

“I’m always waking up here,” he whispers, his voice raw and his throat dry.

“Better here than the morgue.”

Cracking his eyes back open, Izuku rolls his head to see Kacchan sitting off to the side of his bed, staring back with a familiar scowl.

Izuku smiles, and it hurts. “Kacchan,” he breathes. “You saved me.”

Kacchan snorts. “Sure, I carried yer carcass outta that shitty dungeon.” He holds up his right hand, covered in swaths of white. “But couldn’t’a done that if ya hadn’t knocked into us like a fucking bowling ball and gotten my arm free. Idiot. Coulda gotten yourself killed.”

Letting his head roll back into his pillow, Izuku keeps smiling, even though it still hurts. Nothing else matters now that Kacchan is safe. “I couldn’t let him leave with you.”

“Coulda gotten me killed, then!” Kacchan snarls.

“I know,” Izuku says quietly. “But it was a risk I had to take. Mockingbird would have done it anyway.”

It falls to silence between them. Izuku’s smile slips, but he’s not unhappy, content to just sit in a comfortable quiet with his friend.

Eventually, Kacchan speaks.

“That fucking quirk of yours, shitty Deku,” Kacchan grumbles, crossing his arms and tilting back dangerously far in his chair. “What a piece of work.”

Izuku frowns. One For All had certainly acted out before, but he couldn’t remember anything recent. “What? What did it do?”

“Oh, just turned into a fuckin’ light show once you passed out. Your skin lit up like a Christmas tree. Thought it was gonna fry me, but it—” Kacchan cut himself off, looking away. If Izuku didn’t know better, he’d say Kacchan was blushing.

“Kacchan?”

“Wrpmiwrm,” Kacchan mumbles.

Izuku blinks. He knows he’s taken a lot of hits to the head, but he had previously still been able to comprehend speech. “Huh?”

“It wrapped me in some kinda shitty warmth, you weirdo,” Kacchan spits. “Like some fucked up green force field.”

He gestures at his neck with his thumb. “Bullet-face was upstairs, and he shot at us, but it bounced off. I blew him away but I would have a hole in my throat if it wasn’t for your shitty quirk.” 

Izuku’s mouth falls open. One For All could do that??

“So, yeah. You weren’t completely useless after all, I guess.”

Izuku sinks into his pillows, closing his eyes, and sends a silent thanks to his quirk, to his predecessors. If they protected Kacchan while he was unconscious, he couldn’t be more grateful.

What a rough ordeal.

Being beaten up wasn’t even what made it bad - Izuku has gone through worse and been far more banged up after the fact. But Mockingbird using Kacchan’s voice against him, the false confession, the tricks—

Izuku bolts upright, swaying with dizziness, and Kacchan immediately shouts at him, “Oi, stop that!” He grabs Izuku’s flailing limbs, pressing him back down, but Izuku pushes back.

“Kirishima-kun!!” Izuku rasps. “Mockingbird would have needed to hear him within the last day, he’s—”

“Fine. Wasn’t even with us down there, was just on patrol the same time we got nabbed.”

Izuku sighs in relief, melting back into the hospital bedding again. “Thank goodness. Mockingbird had mentioned bringing in someone else; Guess he just meant Mech Tech?”

“Probably.”

“And what happened to those two?” Izuku knew Kacchan had escaped, but had the villains gotten away as well?

“In custody, they were still out cold by the time the extras got there,” Kacchan says. He grins. “Threw the turkey into his zappy bird cage. A little overdone after roasting but the fucker lived.”

Izuku winces. That cage hurt, a lot.

Kacchan leans in a little too close, his gaze a little too intense. “You seriously feelin’ bad for him? After he pounded your face into pudding?”

The proximity and the scrutiny make Izuku’s face feel warm. “N-no,” he stutters.

“Tch,” Kacchan sneers, pulling back. He can read Izuku like an open book. “Yer a bleeding heart, and a nerd.”

Yeah, he is.

Izuku smiles again. This is nice.  Everyone is safe, the villains have been apprehended. Him and Kacchan are chatting like old friends. Everything is fine.

“How’d ya know he was the fake?” Kacchan asks quietly.

Everything is not fine!!

“Huh?” Izuku asks, breathless, his heart suddenly kicking up a drum line against his ribs.

“When he said all that sappy shit.”

Izuku swallows. “B-because he said all that sappy sh—stuff.”

Kacchan scowls, the creases between his eyes folding into knots. “And I’d never say any a’ that garbage.”

Why is it so loud in here? Izuku’s face feels like it’s on fire. This is just a normal conversation, they’re just discussing facts. So why is he panicking??

Izuku doesn’t agree or deny it, just lets Kacchan’s words hang between them. Of course Kacchan would never say that stuff!! Izuku unequivocally was able to determine that voice was the fake, it was just completely out of character—

“Maybe,” Kacchan starts. He clears his throat. “Maybe that ain’t always gonna be true,” he says, his voice low and gruff, his eyes down and his cheeks tinged pink.

Izuku can’t breathe, can’t think. What is Kacchan saying?? That he wants to be.. what, softer? Romantic? To— other people–

“To you, dumbass,” Kacchan growls.

“Whuh,” Izuku says, very intelligently, before slapping his hand over his mouth. A high-pitched squeak slips out behind it. What?? What???

The chair clatters to the floor as Kacchan abruptly vacates it, standing. “HAH? If you don’t feel the same just fucking say so!” he roars.

“Of course I feel the same way!!” Izuku yells back, matching the absurdly high volume. They are screaming at each other in a hospital; it’s ridiculous and inappropriate and Izuku doesn’t care.

“Great!” Kacchan snaps. “It’s settled!”

“I guess it is!!”

They’re still shouting!!

A nurse pops his head into their room, giving them both a wary look. “Everything okay in here?”

Izuku wilts a little, feeling sheepish, but it doesn’t override the giddiness bubbling in his chest. “Y-yes, we’re fine, sorry,” he says.

The man narrows his eyes, but leaves.

“So,” Izuku ventures quietly, and Kacchan turns back to look down at him in the bed. “What now?”

“First, you get better and get outta here. Second, we go out.” Kacchan crosses his arms over his puffed out chest, looking very pleased with himself. Izuku bites down on a smile.

“Third,” Izuku adds, the memory of fake words flitting through his mind, that he knew without a doubt were false, that now had the potential to be true. He tentatively reaches out a hand, and Kacchan roughly takes it. “We, um, come up with a new way to identify each other.”