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We Don't Need No Fuckin' Heroes

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  “Hey, he went this way!”

  Izuku darted down a familiar alley, one that the kids that picked on him never went down because of the grime and the awful smell of rotting food. He rushed to his usual hiding space only to slam into a red-haired teen already crouching there.

  “....uhhhh...” Izuku went quiet, muttering incomprehensible nonsense under his breath. He'd never seen anyone else in this alley before, so why did he have to run into someone now of all times? "....um....I.... huh."

  The other boy was quiet, icy blue eyes boring holes into his head from under tired lids. He had dark purple bags- no, those were scars, under his eyes. Izuku pushed his way into the small inset in the alley wall, not caring that he was in the other boys' personal space.

  “ Hey, wait just a minute, fuck off.”

  But Izuku did not fuck off. Instead, he sat down right next to the stranger and pulled his backpack into his lap. He tried his hardest not to stare at the mottled dark purple scars on their face and arms, and the bruises that nearly matched them in color and size. Instead, he took deep shuddering breaths, trying to get his breathing under control as another set of explosions went off near the entrance of the alley.

  "Didn't you hear me? I said, fuck off-

  “Where the FUCK is that useless damn Deku?!”

  Another set of explosions and sadistic laughter caused Izuku to pull his knees and bag tight against his chest, unconsciously trying to make himself a smaller target in case they came down the alley.

  “I think he went down here!”

  Izuku froze. Oh shit. They were in the alley. They were in the alley they were in the alley they wereinthealleyFuckFuckFuckFu -

  His panic was cut short when the red-haired teen stood abruptly, and was that smoke seeping from out of his stitches?! That's not normal, is it? The stranger stepped out of the literal hole in the wall, waves of blistering heat radiating from their body.

  “Oi, what the fuck do you want, mhn?” His voice was hoarse and rough, as if he was speaking after gargling gravel. And while there was almost no inflection, he still sounded... bored?

  “And who are you, huh? What’s this to you, scarface?” Kacch- no, Bakugou, sounded like he was snarling, like an angry animal trying to prove itself to its pack. A wild dog attempting to establish dominance. But a wild dog can never hope to fight a wolf.

  Izuku didn’t dare peek to see what was happening, but he recognized the near hysterical laughs of Bakugou's lackeys. Two kids that were just about as angry as Bakugou, but nowhere near as aggressive without him to guide them.

  “It’s nothing to me." A swish of fabric and another crunch of gravel.

  “What? Are you mocking me, fuckface?” Bakugou sounded angry. Then again, he always sounded angry lately.

  There was a sigh, one filled with indescribable exhaustion and a hiss of flame. “Just go on and get the hell outta here, go find someone your own age to fuck with.”

  “Fuck you, you damn ugly bastard!”

  The hiss of flames grew into a thundering roar, a flickering blue light playing off the parts of the alley that Izuku could see, and the heat was scorching even from where he was hiding.

  “Alright, fine, we’re going.” A scuffle of three pairs of feet, “come on, I’m sure he’s around here somewhere.”

  A moment passed, or maybe an hour, Izuku couldn’t tell over the roaring of noise inside of his skull. “Oi, you alive down there?” A scuffed shoe kicked at his red sneakers, black ash transferring from one to the other. “I think I scared them off, so, uh, shit, I’m really no good at this kinda thing.”

  Izuku looked upwards into eyes of ice. "...I’m, uhh, I think I’m gonna just sit until I know they won't come back.”

  The scarred and bruised teen shrugged, “makes sense, I’d probably have done the same thing if I had the chance back then.” He rubbed at the dark scars on his face and had an expression that spoke volumes to his regret. “Has that blond kid been messing with you for a while, then?”

  Izuku nodded. “Kaccha- Bakugou has been bullying me for a-a while now.” He couldn't call Bakugou by a nickname anymore, it didn't feel right. Especially not that this stranger had seen what he was doing.

  “Shit, I hate kids like that.” The teen stepped backed into the small space in the wall and sat back down next to Izuku. “So, why does he do it?”

  Izuku cast his gaze to the pavement, worried he would lose his now companion with his next works. “It-Its because I'm quirkless.” That's it, he waits for the sound of disgust, but it never comes.

  “So, you're saying its cuz he's a piece of shit?” The red-haired teen grinned, teeth bared in a mockery of a real smile.

  Izuku turned to look at the teen, then nodded. “I guess you could, uh, you could say that.” Nobody had ever called Bakugou out on his actions before, only said that 'boys will be boys' as if that solved anything.

  The scarred teen rolled his ice-blue eyes in derision. “Hell, what's a kid that age even doing picking on people? He's what, twelve?”

  “He's fourteen!” Izuku knew he sounded like a whiny child, but that's what he was for fuck's sake!

  The other teenager scoffed, "huh? And you're what, ten ?!"

  "I'm fourteen too, j-jackass!" Izuku didn't know what prompted him to curse, it seemed like the right thing to do given the flow of the conversation.

  “Really now? Sure about that? You both seem pretty small.”

  “Hey, that's un-uncalled for.” Izuku rolled his eyes, picking up on the subtle tone of sarcasm. "Side's you're not even that old either."

  "Fuck off, I'm older than you by two years!"

  Izuku smirked, "but you act just like a fourteen your old, though."

  “Hmph.” The red-haired teen slumped against the wall, somehow relaxed in this strange situation. “What's your name, kid?”

  “Why do you want to know?”

  “Well, I can't keep thinking about you as ‘kid' now, can I?”

  “Fair enough." Was it though? Izuku didn't think this is how people were supposed to make friends. "It's Midoriya Izuku.” Izuku held out a hand to try and make a good second impression. Definitely not how you make friends, but when did Izuku ever do anything the right way?

  "Well then, Midoriya." The red-haired teen clasped his new compatriot's hand in his own. “You can call me Dabi.”

  Maybe hours passed, or maybe it was only moments, but the two sat in companionable silence, watching the shadows on the alley wall stretch and grow.

  Dabi stood suddenly, stepping out of the hideaway and into the darkness of the alley. "So, Midoriya, need me to walk you home?"

  "...that's probably a good idea, my mom doesn't like when I stay out late."

  "Well that's good, it means she cares." Dabi's tone had changed from bored to... thoughtful? Izuku wasn't sure, but he sounded almost regretful. What did Dabi regret? "Count yourself lucky, right there."

  "Yeah, I do every day." Izuku stood and swung his bag back onto his back. "It's this way."

  "Oh, Dagobah Beach is out this way, too, isn't it?" Dabi ran a hand through his red hair, looking like he was seriously mulling something over.

  Izuku glance over at his new... friend? "Yeah, it is. Why?"

  "Hmph. That place is a dump. We should hang out in it."

  "..." Izuku frowned. "You know, normally when people say something is a dump, they don't say they want to hang out in it."

  "'Normally?' What's that? Sounds boring." Dabi shrugged, "no one else ever goes out there, right? So it's a cool place to hang out without worrying about... explosive interlopers."

  "That's a way of putting it." Quiet fell over the duo again, and the light was from the setting sun turned the world a soft, hopeful orange, a color befitting the mood that hung over both of them. It was nice. Peaceful. They passed houses which turned into smaller houses, and those smaller houses turned into cramped apartment buildings until they stood at the doorstep of their destination. "Well, this is me. Thank's for walking me back."

  "Give me your phone." Dabi put out an expecting hand, making little grabbing motions.

  "Why?"

  Another dramatic roll of ice-blue eyes. This is going to happen a lot, isn't it? "Why do you think? So I can put my number in it, and we can meet up again. I don't want to wander around in gross alleys if I want to hang out."

  Izuku snorted, based on how little he knew about Dabi, he could still picture the red-head getting lost in alleys just because he wanted to hang out. "Alright."

  Dabi tapped at the screen, personalizing his contact name and ringtone. "There, that wasn't so hard, was it?"

  "I'm going inside now." Izuku wanted to roll his eyes, wanted to say something equally sarcastic, but more than anything, he wanted to get some sleep. It had been an emotional day.

  "Cool, text me in a couple hours, I'll be online by then." The older teen jogged off in the direction he had come from, casually waving as he left. "Later, hater."

  "...I'm not a hater..." Izuku waved back at the retreating figure in the distance, turning back and unlocking his apartment door. "That was weird, right? Whatever then."

  He stepped inside, taking off his shoes and putting them aside. "I'm home, mom!"

  "Izuku, where were you?" His mother's' voice floated to him from the kitchen, the sound of pots and pans rattling a quiet accompaniment to her words. "You didn't get into any trouble, did you?"

  Izuku laughed, him getting into trouble? No way. "No, but I think I made a friend today."

  "Oh really, that's wonderful!"

  Their conversation faded into a calming buzz, Izuku telling his mother a highly edited version of the events that had happened after school, and his mother telling him about her own day in return.

  The routine of the night blurred into a comfortable easiness, it's always so easy to lose yourself in the nothingness. And sooner then Izuku realized, he was already up in his room almost precisely two hours after getting home. Izuku pulled his phone off of his bedside table. He snorted when he opened the messaging app and saw the new contact name. He really had made a new friend that day, didn't he?

 

[Unnamed Chat]

 

*Midoriya Izuku* is online.

 

Midoriya Izuku: This is Midoriya.

Izuku.

Thanks for not letting Bakugou beat me up.

 

*Dabi* is online.

 

Dabi: No prob

 

Midoriya Izuku: You get home alright?

 

Dabi: Yea, I'm indoors dont worry about me

        Was cool meeting you, Midoriya

        Get some sleep

 

*Dabi* is offline.

 

*Midoriya Izuku* is offline.

 

*** * ***

 

[Unnamed Chat]

 

*Dabi* is online.

 

*Dabi* has changed the chat name to [Crime?]

 

Dabi: Yawning is just your body's 20% battery warning

 

*Midoriya Izuku* is online.

 

Midoriya Izuku: WTF

 

Dabi: The person directly in front of you is also the person furthest behind you

 

Midoriya Izuku: Dabi, it's 3 am

Go to sleep

 

Dabi: Sleep is like a trial period for death

 

Midoriya Izuku: I haven't even known you for an entire day.

And you go and do this.

I have so many regrets.

 

*Midoriya Izuku* is offline.

 

Dabi: Why do people say that quitters never win, but then they tell people to quit when theyre ahead?

        Oh, I see how this is then

        rude

 

*Dabi* is offline.

 

*** * ***

 

  It’s cold inside and out this early in the morning. It’s always cold during fall. Dabi shivers and pulls his stolen jacket tighter around himself. He wonders for a moment what would happen if he went back home. Would they welcome him back into the family? Or turn him away with words such as ‘failure’ and ‘disappointment’ following him the entire way?

  Dabi scoffed, breath freezing in front of him. He knows already which one it would be. There was no point in dwelling on useless fantasy.

  But maybe he needed to find a new dream. A new family.

  Without prompting his thoughts traveled back to the kid who had quite literally run into him in a dark alley the week before. That kid had been so easy to talk to. He didn’t even know why he had faced that kids bully for him, he had never done that sort of thing for anyone but family before.

  Maybe that meant something, but Dabi wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be. With a sigh he pushed himself back to his feet, wincing at the cold that had seeped into his bones during the short amount of sleep he had gotten. He pulled out his phone, checking the time. 3:15 am. Just like every other time he had woken up with panic on his mind. He didn’t want to remember when waking at three had become routine for him, but the habit had stuck with him for all these years.

  Sure, he knew when the habit had started, his little brothers' nightmares sending him to the one place he felt safe, but he didn’t want to remember. Sometimes your memories only linger to hurt you. And that memory stung like a fresh wound, even after all this time.

  Dabi shivered again, sparking a small flame in his hand in a useless attempt to warm himself again. He had thought that sleeping in the abandoned apartment complex would keep the chill of the air out of his bones, but he had been wrong. Winter was fast on the approach, and a small, morbid part of him hoped that he wouldn’t be able to find shelter one night and would freeze.

  He grimaced, letting that thought shed itself away from his mind like a snakes scales. He extinguished his flame, hating how the blue flames transitioned to a familiar orange as they cooled. Trying not to let the feeling affect him he sent out a message to his newest friend.

 

[Crime?]

 

*Dabi* is online.

 

Dabi: An Egg salad is just a chicken salad tht’s really underdone

 

*Midoriya Izuku* is online.

 

Midoriya Izuku: So this is a constant thing with you then

Well, there are worse things I guess

 

Dabi: If the ground suddenly turned invisible

        but the bugs and everything that lived in it didnt

        that would be terrifying

 

Midoriya Izuku: Thanks for that Dabi

Now I’m going to have nightmares

I’m going back to sleep

 

*Midoriya Izuku* is offline.

 

  Dabi shoved his phone back into the pocket of his stolen jacket. He had gotten so used to talking to his brother at three in the morning that it actually felt wrong to not talk to someone that early. And the little tidbits of information that were true but weird to think about had always helped his brother get to sleep, and now Dabi just couldn’t stop doing it to whoever would listen.

  He knew it was an annoying habit, but Midoriya hadn’t told him to knock it off, so until he did, Dabi would keep doing it. Dabi dragged a hand through his hair grimacing at the feel of built-up grease. He’d have to find a way to shower soon, sleeping outside really wasn’t great for hygiene. He brushed off the most noticeable of the grime that stuck to his clothes and stepped out of the abandoned building onto the icy air of the morning.

  There was a restaurant a few blocks away that would put out the last night's leftovers in boxes for garbage pick up, and Dabi planned on getting there before the cleanup crew could. Free food is free food. A few years ago if someone told him he would be sleeping in abandoned buildings and eating garbage, he would be hard-pressed to believe them, but now he could pinpoint the exact moment he had started down the path that led him here. He thought back on this fact as he walked, the streets almost empty, the only people on them being those with situations similar or worse than his own.

  He shoved his hands into his pants pockets, hunching his shoulders and trying to look less imposing. With his hair color and scars he was always standing out in a crowd, and with the few people on the street, he felt like he stuck out even more. He wished he had stolen a hoodie as well, but grabbing the jacket off the clothesline at his old home without being seen had been hard enough. But it was worth it, even if there was no insulation or lining. And the wind cut right through it like a freezing knife. The short sleeves kinda defeated the purpose of it being a jacket, too.

  Alright, so maybe it wasn’t worth it. But it would be when he punched his worthless fathers face in while wearing it.

  Dabi smirked, feeling the tug of the staples against his scars. Thinking about kicking his father's ass always put him in a better mood. He glanced around the alley he was in, not even sure if he was even walking in the right direction anymore. This is why he couldn’t multitask, he’d get lost far too easily.

  With a frown on his face, Dabi checked his phone for the time. 3:46. He’s been walking for over thirty minutes, and he’s pretty sure his destination is ahead. Maybe. He’s not sure anymore. Maybe it was back that way?

  Dabi sighed dramatically, glad there was no one around to see his failing. He pulled up a map of the area on his phone, checking his location and his destination. “Are you kidding me?” Angrily he jammed the phone back into his pocket. He hadn’t gone the wrong way, but he had somehow ended up behind the building instead of in the small alley at the side of it. It wasn’t even a big mistake, but Dabi was tired and hungry, so it might as well have been the end of the world.

  Directionally dyslexic. Dabi wondered if that was a real thing because that would really explain a bit. With just a few steps he was where he needed to be, but he shouldn't have gotten turned around in the first place.

  He peered into the boxes piled up in the alley, grabbing anything that looked halfway edible and shoving anything that wouldn’t make a mess into his jacket pockets.

  Once he had his haul, he turned back the way he came, wanting to be inside if he was going to eat. His thoughts wandered as he walked, but he made sure to keep an eye on where he was going this time, not wanting to get lost again.

  He pulled a protein bar that had expired a year ago out of the jacket pocket and opened it, incinerating the wrapper as he walked, ash falling from his hand and floating away on the ice cold wind. Dabi thumbed through the news app on his phone, glancing over new hero debuts, Quirk regulation law votes, the latest of the Hero Killers victims, new innovations in technology. There was also an article on Endeavor, but before he could read it the 15% warning on his phone popped up, and the app closed out.

  Maybe that was a good thing, he didn’t want to start his day angry. Dabi slipped into the narrow alley behind the abandoned apartment building he was squatting in and climbed in through the broken window, barely managing not to fall flat on his face once inside. “Nice, good job me.”

  Dabi made his way over to the sleeping bag in the corner that had served as his bed the night before, pulling the stolen food out of his pockets and putting it in a faded black backpack. His phone charger was still there, and he plugged his phone in, setting an alarm for two hours later, settling into the sleeping bag to get some more sleep.

  Who knew what the day would bring later?

 

*** * ***

 

  It's been almost an entire week since Izuku had literally run into Dabi, and once again he finds himself in a similar situation. Him running away from Bakugou and his gang, Dabi standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Izuku's starting to notice a pattern. But now is no time for patterns, not while Dabi is sprawled across the ground and Izuku is trying to drag him along with him by the wrist. "Get up, they're still following me!"

  "What the fuck even is your life, Midoriya?" The older teen rolled back to his feet, grabbing his backpack off the ground and was off again, long legs almost easily matching Izuku's pace.

  "Complicated in a million ways!" The boy in question was now barreling down the street at his top speed, turning corners and hopping down sets of stairs at the last possible second.

  "Fucking hell, where are we even running to?!" Dabi would never admit it, but he was starting to have a little bit of trouble keeping up with the kid. It was a bit scary just how fast the little fucker could run, but after seeing that Bakugou kid, Dabi sort of understood.

  "The beach, they won't go there!"

   Their conversation dissolved into heavy breathing and the loud slam of footsteps on the pavement. The entrance to the beach turned junk-yard was just ahead, and both of them have never been happier to see a pile of garbage before. Once their shoes hit the sand, they slowed down and meandered their way through rusted out washing machines, finding their way to a clearing surrounded by what looked like toaster ovens.

   Weird.

  Izuku settled down on a heavily dented espresso machine, taking off his backpack and setting it in the sand.

  Dabi however, was not faring as well as his friend. The scarred teen was standing with his hands planted on his knees, trying to get his breathing back under control. "How the hell are you, fuck, hold on." He took a few more deep breaths, finally sitting down on a toaster oven and leaning back onto the pile of rusted metal behind him. "How the hell, damn, how are you so fast?"

  "The thing about growing up bullied is it makes you fast. You learn just how fast you need to run to avoid people, you learn how to do everything in double time." Izuku spoke dispassionately, almost like he was bored. In reality, he was simply resigned to the fact that his life had spiraled out of his control.

  Dabi shrugged, "alright, I guess that makes sense." He leaned forward, running a scarred hand through his red hair and frowned. Sooner or later he'd have to do something about that. The color almost made him sick at times. With a shudder, he pulled himself out of his quickly spiraling thoughts and back into the present. "But if you're so fucking fast, why don't you ever fight back?"

  "I just, I just don't know how, you know what I mean?"

  "I could, I dunno, maybe teach you?" Dabi leveled his gaze at his companion, not expecting the manic bout of laughter that came next.

  " Haha, fuck, what? He-haha-HA!" Izuku wiped tears of mirth away from his eyes, violent gasps of laughter shaking his slight frame. "You lost your breath after running less than two miles, how are you gonna teach me how to fight?"

  Dabi frowned, struggling to not join in the laughter. "Hey, one, uncalled for. Two, I'm actually really fucking good at fighting, so fuck you."

  "Alright then, sounds like a plan." Izuku blinked, thinking over what he had just said. "Wait for just a second..." He laughed, "so we're clear, I'm not agreeing to the fucking part, just the teaching me to fight."

  "...you agreed to that real fast."

  Izuku shrugged, "well, what have I got to lose?"

  "Self-respect?" Dabi rolled to his feet, tossing off his backpack and his jacket, letting them rest on the blocks of metal that surrounded small clearing.

  "Self-respect? What's that, sounds boring." Izuku followed Dabi's example, pulling off the top half of his school uniform and pushed himself to his feet. "So what are you waiting for? Show me the way, sensei."

  "Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into?"

*** * ***

 

  It had been a few hours now, and Izuku knew what Dabi called 'the bare minimum.' He knew how to throw a punch, and how to kick, and he knew the weakest points of the body, but he still had a long way to go. His arms and legs ached, and his knuckles were sore, but the pain didn't feel like it usually did. Instead of the burning pain that he had grown accustomed to in the past years, he felt pleasantly numb.

  He had earned this pain. Won the bruises and the bloody knuckles by his own ability.

  "And remember, you don't just have to punch or kick. Fucking bite the little bastard if you have to. Throw some rocks at him. Do whatever it takes to protect yourself."

  "Thank you, sensei."

  " No. Do not." Dabi grinned, the past few hours, the little brat had mocked him by calling him 'sensei' at almost every opportunity. He would never admit it, but it was almost funny. Almost. Dabi picked his jacket out of the mangled pile of metal, dusting off the flakes of dust and tiny specks of sand. He pulled the jacket on and leaned down to grab his backpack, giving it the same treatment as his jacket. It had been a while since he had had so much fun when training.

  Then again, maybe he had never had so much fun when training. The way his father had thought of training was nothing like how it felt to train for fun, and this time around Dabi had found himself actually enjoying the familiar movements and steps. He was dragged out of those thoughts, however, by the sound of someone repeatedly calling his name.

  "Hey, Dabi?"

  "What."

  "You don't have a place to stay, do you?" Izuku was careful with his tone, keeping back the flood of worry and the sickening taste of fear that rose up every time he thought about Dabi's living situation.

 Dabi blanched, trying to keep his voice from betraying his emotions. "How did you come to that conclusion?"

  Izuku waved his phone at him. "You always say you'll be online, or you'll be inside, or that you're not in the rain, but never that you're home." He frowned, "and you're always awake at three am, every day."

  "I..." Dabi didn't know what to say. He didn't know what he was supposed to say. "No, I... I have a place to stay.” He took in a breath trying to steel himself for what he would have to say next. “I just can't go back there again."

  “Oh.”

  “That place isn’t home to me anymore.” And with that, Dabi felt something break inside of himself. Something he thought he had gotten rid of a long time ago. The small slivers of hopefamilyhome shattered into nothing, floating off like ashes in the breeze.

  Izuku pulled his backpack on, turning away from his friend. "Then I guess you'll have to stay with me for a bit, then, won't you."

  That wasn't a question. It was a statement. An undeniable truth. Dabi could feel the obvious power and weight of the words. If he refused... he wouldn't have the ability to refuse, would he?

  "Why?" Dabi kept his voice as flat as possible, trying not to let the doubt be heard. "You barely know me, why would you take me in?"

  "That's what friends are for, isn't it?" Izuku didn't look back, knowing that his friend needed a moment or two to work through this on his own. "So, what do you say?"

  Dabi fell silent, he tried to speak, but the words just wouldn't come. His throat felt tight, and his eyes burned with unshed tears. Why was he being shown such kindness? He didn't deserve it, so why?

  Izuku checked his phone once more, putting it back into his pocket before stepping forward on aching legs. "Come on, my mom's making baked tonkatsu for dinner."

  Dabi grinned, blinking the tears out of his eyes and following his friend out of the piles of metal. "Whatever you say, Midoriya." He had a feeling that he would be following the other teen for a long time from now on out.

 

*** * ***

 

  "Shoes and jackets off at the door, and try not to track too much sand in."

  "Mhm." Dabi was quiet, he’s been quiet the entire way back from the beach. He wasn't sure how he was supposed to act in this sort of situation. It had been a very long time since he had had any friends, and even then, they weren't really friends, just people that were impressed by who his father was.

  "Hey mom, I'm home!" Izuku toed off his shoes and stepped into the small apartment living room, tossing his backpack onto the couch. "I brought a friend over for dinner!"

  "Oh, is that why you told me to make extra?"

  "Yeah, he's the one who's gonna be staying over for a bit, too." Izuku pulled on Dabi's sleeve, not succeeding in dragging him out of his own mind, before giving up and walking towards where he assumed his mother was. "Are you in the kitchen?"

  "Yes dear, bring your friend, it's about time I met them!"

  "Well, Dabi, let's get this over with." Izuku's words sounded like they should have been resigned, but contrasted with the bright smile written across his face. "You ready for some of the best cooking of all time?"

  Dabi ignored the two questions, trying not to get too comfortable in a place that seemed to radiate warmth and comfort from every angle. "How did you know I would come over?" On that note, how did he know he would be staying over? How did Midoriya know anything about that?

  "You were just going to, that's it." Izuku shrugged, he didn't have any other answer for him. "Come on, you need to meet my mom."

  "Hmm." Dabi pushed down the sudden fluttering of anxiety in his guts, he was no good at introductions. Most people would get freaked out by his scars before he even had the chance to say hello. What if she was scared of him and his scars, or even worse, what if she pitied him?

  But his worries were unfounded. Izuku's mother, a small woman with hair the same color as her sons, was glaring at the oven with a ferocious intensity that would strike fear into the hearts of the bravest heroes and even All Might himself. If she used that glare correctly, criminals would probably turn themselves in just to escape the possibility of her wrath.

  Izuku frowned, "Mom, why are you glaring at the oven?"

  "I put the pork in a little too late, so it's not finished yet, but everything else is already ready." At the mention of the glare, her expression immediately melted into a broad smile that brightened up the room with its intensity. Dabi immediately saw where Izuku had gotten his genial attitude from.

  "Okay then." Izuku pushed Dabi forward from where he had been awkwardly trying to hide behind him. "This is Dabi, he's the one I told you about."

  "Oh, I'm so glad my little boy made a friend! I'm Midoriya Inko, Izuku's mother." The woman was soft, not in any way that Dabi could explain, but she just was. Soft. Warm. Everything you think that a family should be. "He's not very good at making friends, you know."

  "I'm just fine at making friends, mom!" Izuku rolled his eyes, an expression he had already picked up from Dabi, but the motion was offset by his soft smile.

  Inko turned to her sons' friend, jokingly brandishing a spatula. "Now, don't you believe a word he says, dear."

  Dabi stayed silent, words all stolen away from him with the strength and depth of his shock. This was all just too much for him to process. The sheer force of the warmth of the tiny family sent him reeling mentally, and there was nothing to tether him to the earth.

  "Well now that introductions are out of the way, I'm gonna go change out of my uniform." And with that, Izuku was darting out of the kitchen, leaving Dabi behind to the overwhelming warmth.

  This is awkward. Dabi wasn't sure how he was supposed to direct the conversation without a buffer, and he was sure that staying silent would just be weird, and he didn't want to be weird. Not that he had much choice in that, but he didn't want to do it on purpose.

  "You're the first friend he's made in almost three years, you know?"

  Dabi shrugged, trying to place that tidbit of information into the puzzle that was Midoriya Izuku. "Well, I just hope I'll be a good one."

  "I'm sure you will." Inko busied herself with the oven, getting the rest of the meal ready.

  Dabi smiled awkwardly. He must look an awful sight, he knew his smiles were never that great looking, to begin with, but with the scars…  Well, he didn’t like smiling much anymore.

  Silence fell in the kitchen, but unlike the silence that had surrounded his own family life, this one was warm and comfortable, like a woolen sweater softened with age. It was... nice. Dabi wasn't sure that was the right word, but nobody had ever called him a genius. Actually, most people called him the opposite.

  "Can you help me set the table, Dabi?"

  "Huh?" Dabi was startled out of his musings, staring in surprise at the green haired woman smiling up at him. "Oh, yeah, no problem."

  Inko pointed out the plates and silverware, and Dabi was almost shocked at how easy it was to settle into a place like this. Setting the table was such an ordinary thing, and it was something that he never thought he would have. He carried the plates and utensils out to the small table, noticing as he walked how there were three matching chairs, but one of them was on the opposite side of the room.

  He set the table quickly, grabbing the other chair once he was done. Why wasn't the chair at the table? Was there only the two of them living here? Whatever it was, Dabi didn't really know or even care. He just wanted to spend time with this little family as long as he was welcome to. As long as they would have him. Maybe forever if he could.

  He found a soft smile pulling its way across his face, only noticing it was there by the tugging in his stitches. A light tap at his shoulder redirected his attention to the wide smile of his friend. “Looking a little wistful there, Dabi.”

  “No, I wasn’t.” Dabi turned headed back to the kitchen to help Inko set up the meal, “just… thanks, for this. You know what I mean.”

  “Yeah, I think I do, Dabi.”

 

*** * ***

 

  The rest of dinner seemed to drag on but also seemed to simultaneously pass by in a blink of an eye. Dabi was still reeling from everything that had happened since he had woken up that morning. How he went from eating actual garbage and sleeping in an abandoned building, to staying in a real home and eating a meal made with love and care.

  And now here he was, wearing borrowed clothes and was clean and well fed for the first time in weeks. Part of him was sure he was dreaming, and he didn’t ever want the dream to end. But his dream wouldn’t feature a bedroom plastered with All Might merchandise, that much he was sure of.

  “You lost in thought over there?” Izuku looked up from where he was setting up the spare futon, grabbing the pillow and throwing it at Dabi.

  “What, no, I’m good.” Dabi caught the pillow, turning it over in his hands the same way he was turning the thoughts over in his mind.

  Izuku frowned, he knew something was on Dabi’s mind, but he didn’t want to pry. “Do you want to talk about it?”

  “No, not really.” Dabi sighed, pushing his hand through his hair, the red locks still damp from the shower. “But I probably should.”

  Izuku settled on his bed, turning expectantly to Dabi. “I’m listening.” He was always listening, and would always try and be there for a friend.

  “I just…” Dabi sat on the futon, legs crossed, still holding the pillow. “I never thought I’d ever end up with anyone caring about me ever since...” He trailed off, not sure how to impart the weight of his feelings. “I can’t go back to my family, not after what happened. After what that bastard did…”

  “What happened.” Izuku’s words took on a flat tone, one that Dabi didn’t notice, to caught up in a wave of past regrets.

  “My father is… not a good person, even though he’s called a hero.”

  “If your father is who I think it is, then-

  Dabi snarled out his response, anger from his past boiling up anew. “That flame faced fuckwit only had kids because he wanted to create someone who could surpass All Might!”

  “What do you mean?” Izuku didn’t want to know where Dabi was going with this. He already didn’t like Endeavor, but if what Dabi was saying was what he thought…

  “What do you know about quirk marriages?”

  Those words sent warning bells ringing in Izuku's mind, weren't quirk marriages illegal? “I know they’re supposed to be outlawed.”

  “Yeah, well, that’s how it’s supposed to be, but that’s not how it is.” Dabi paused, giving himself time to breathe, trying to steady himself before he could continue. “My father always wanted to surpass All Might. That was the one thing that drove him, and drove him to take possession of my mother.”

  “What do you mean by possession?” A sick knot had made itself present in Izuku's gut, and he wasn't sure if he was feeling disgust, fear, or hatred. Maybe a mix of all three with a splash of pure rage.

  “That firefuck basically bought her from her family so he could try and create a perfect child to surpass All Might,” Dabi spoke quietly, teeth gritted against the years' old emotional pain. “That bastard didn’t care about her, didn’t care about my two older siblings, and doesn’t care about my little brother.” The ‘he doesn’t care about me’ went unsaid, but the implications were there. Dabi tightened his grip on the pillow he was holding, trying to control the shake in his voice.

  “He tried to train us, and it was… it was bad .” He couldn’t find a better word, his mind too busy flashing to memories of broken bones and long-term hospital stays. “And when my brothers quirk manifested… fuck, I-I tried to shield him from that life, but I-I, I couldn’t.”

  “I couldn’t protect him….” Dabi’s voice wavered and his vision blurred with unshed tears. He scrubbed a hand across his face, cursing himself internally. What was he even doing? Why was he pouring his heart out to someone he barely knew or talked to outside of texts? As he sat there questioning himself, he missed the exact moment that a pair of warm arms wrapped around his shoulders. He only knew they were there when he collapsed into them.

  “You might not have always been able to help as much as you wanted, but you were there for him, Dabi.” Izukus words were kind, soft, what he hoped Dabi needed right now.

  “But was that really enough? I couldn’t get him out of that house, I couldn’t do anything!” Dabi felt the dam holding back years of repressed feelings crack, shatter, and crumble down, letting the tears rush forward as sobs shook his shoulders.

  “You did what you could,” Izuku knew his words weren’t enough to help his friend, so he just held him, letting the tears soak his shirt. He silently vowed that if he ever had the chance to punch Endeavor in the face, he would take it, the consequences be damned.

 

*** * ***

 

  It’s been a few weeks now, and Izuku still isn’t used to Dabi’s presence in his life. It’s a bit of a disconnect from how he acts when he’s out on the town. Out there it’s like he’s putting on a front, all disinterested frowns, and snark, but when he’s inside… Well, Izuku will never get used to being shaken awake at three am just to be told ‘the movie Ratatouille is pretty much a mecha anime’ or ‘throwing snowballs at a snowman is like throwing steaks at a cow.’ Or the really weird music. Nor will he get used to his mother trying to teach Dabi how to cook. He’s not any good at it, but he’s determined.

  And when he’s teaching him to fight he’s the same, bad jokes and shitty dance moves blending with the lesson in the same way the multiple fighting styles he teaches him mix.

  These dualities dominated Izuku’s thoughts as he walked home from school when an idea popped into his head. He turned down a busy street, entering the first store he saw, coming out less than ten minutes later with his acquisition. A box of black hair dye.

  He walked the last leg of his journey with pep in his step, not even needing to run to avoid Bakugou this time. Once home he toed off his shoes and tossed his backpack onto the couch, listening to a steady stream of curses coming from the kitchen. If he ever used that kind of language, his mother would cry, but whenever Dabi did it it was just fine for some reason!

  “I’m home!”

  “Yeah whatever, welcome back, Izuku.” Dabi had started calling him by his first name after the night he had cried in front of, and on, him. It was a bonding moment, so it just made sense to do so. “Your mom had to go back to work, something about an ‘all hands on deck’ situation.”

  “Oh, alright.” Nothing that Dabi had just said explained the cursing Izuku had heard, but he knew better than to ask. Because if he asked, whatever explanation he got would make no sense at all. “So, am I cooking dinner then?”

  “Nah, she made dinner already, it’s in the fridge if you’re hungry.”

  “That can wait, I got you something.”

  Dabi followed Izuku into the living room, a small smile quirking his lip. “Oh, what’cha got?”

  Izuku brandished the grocery bag at him, pushing it toward his friend and watching Dabi’s face light up when he saw the box of black hair dye. “Oh, hell yeah!”

  “I just thought about it on the way home, seemed like a good idea.”

  “So, you’re helping me with this, like, right now.” Dabi laughed, the thought of erasing his most obvious connection to his father lighting up his face with a genuine smile. “Thanks, Izuku.”

  “No problem, Dabi.”

  Once Izuku had changed out of his school uniform, the two of them were in the small bathroom, Dabi sitting on the edge of the bathtub, getting ready to dye hair. Not how either of them saw their day going. “So, you might want to take off your shirt.” Izuku pulled on the thin set of plastic gloves that came in the box, set aside the shower cap that was inside it and set about opening and mixed the dye with the developer, wrinkling his nose at the acrid smell.

  “So that’s how it is then?” Dabi grinned mockingly, tossing his shirt into Izukus' face.

  “Shut up, I don’t want to stain that shirt.” Izuku rolled his eyes, shoving a brush into Dabis' hand. “Brush your hair, ‘cuz I’m not going to.”

  “Rude.” Dabi set to work, artlessly brushing his red, soon to be black, hair.

  “You’re such an ass, why do I even want to be your friend?”

  “My tragic backstory and three am wisdom?” He set the brush down, grinning up at his friend.

  “Alright, I guess that’s good enough.” Izuku stepped up with the bowl filled with prepared dye. “Now this is gonna be interesting.”

  “Hell yeah.”

  Izuku pushed back Dabi's hair, only to stop with surprise. “Why is your hair so fluffy?”

  “Shut up, it’s not fluffy.” Dabi frowned, fluffy is a word for cats, not for people.

  “It really is. And soft too!”

  “Why do people think you’re nice? You’re evil,” he lamented his fate, this green haired demon was going to kill him with embarrassment.

  Izuku laughed softly, working the dye into the tips of Dabi’s hair. “Dabi, I think that you might be my best friend.”

  “What, really?” Dabi tried to keep the surprise out of his voice but failed. How could Dabi of all people be his best friend? He’s awful if he did say so himself.

  “Yeah, you’re the person I talk to most, except for mom, we’re always hanging out, you wake me up at three am every day just to tell me random facts. So let's face it, you’re my best friend.” Izuku finished with the hair dye, having made sure that it was worked into every bit of Dabi’s hair before grabbing the shower cap. He wasn’t sure why people were supposed to cover their hair when dying it, but rules are rules. He was gonna look great, Izuku was sure of it. And if he didn’t, well, Izuku was pretty handy with scissors.

  Dabi seemed to think over what had been said, huffing out a small laugh. “Oh shit, I think you're right. And looks like you're stuck with me as yours too.”

  “Thanks, then.” Izuku grabbed a washcloth and dampened it, wiping away the stray bits of dye that had gotten onto Dabi’s skin.

  “No problem, Zuzu,” Dabi smirked, looking terribly smug for someone sitting on the side of a bathtub with no shirt and a shower cap.

  “Seriously, Zuzu? Really?” Izuku debated the ethics of drowning Dabi right there and then, but he didn’t feel like hiding a body.

  “That’s what you get for being my friend.”

  Izuku sighed, smile betraying his real feelings, “guess I better get used to that, then.”

Chapter Text

  The park is cold this late at night.

  What time is it anyway?

  Izuku doesn't know; he only knows that after a nightmare like that he can't go back to sleep. Instead, he just sits quietly on the swing that's much too small for him and stares up at the stars.

  They're so beautiful, but so far away. And so much space in between. What is it like up there among them? Is it as cold as it feels from here? Is it as beautiful as the old science fiction stories promised?

  He knows the basic elements that make up a star, the essential physics about them, but this feeling of longing when he looks up at them? He doesn't understand that. But then again, does anyone, really?

  If it weren’t for quirks, humanity would be up there right now, living out their days amongst the rest of the stardust.

  There's the crunch of sand behind him, and he whirls around in his seat on the swing, his green eyes meeting cat-like pupils in pools of reflective yellow. “...uhhh, hi?”

  “Hi!” There was a girl in a middle school uniform with a split lip and a dark bruise on her cheek and dark rust-colored blood stains on her cardigan. “Who are you?”

 “Midoriya Izuku, what about you?” Izuku didn't even see the point of not giving this stranger his name, worst case scenario he gets murdered, best case, he ends up with another scary friend. He gripped the chains of the swing with freezing hands, the cold chasing away the pain in his split and bloody knuckles.

 “I’m Toga Himiko, what are you doing out here so late?” The girl smiled, long incisors glinting in the pale moonlight.

 “Well, I got into another fight at school, and I ended up having a nightmare." Izuku shrugged, staring out at the stars, trying to capture that feeling that he just couldn't seem to pin down lately. He wanted to feel peace, but he could tell something was building up, and he didn't want anything to do with it.

  "I just needed to get out for a little bit, you know what I mean?” In another universe, he would be in a near panic just speaking to a girl, but in this world, he has a bit more confidence in himself than that.

 “Yeah, I do.” The girl- Toga, hopped into the swing next to him, shoes scraping in the sand underfoot. "It's so pretty out at night! But not as pretty as the color red..."

 Izuku blinked away the vague sense of fear that had settled over his mind at that statement, pushing forward with the conversation. Maybe he was going to get murdered tonight. Oh, well.

  “So, Toga-chan," Izuku noticed the almost giddy smile that appeared on his new companions face with the honorific. "What are you doing out here so late?”

  Toga drew shapes in the sand under the swing with her feet, not looking up, but Izuku could still see the frown that twisted her features. “My parents locked me out.”

 “Well, I can stay here with you then!”

  Toga blinked in confusion, cat-like eyes filled with uncertainty and light, reflecting the stars up above. “Why would you do that for me? Don’t you know you’re supposed to run from monsters?” She sounded angry, almost bitter, but that wouldn't deter Izuku.

 “And what makes you a monster, Toga-chan?”

 “M-my quirk.” Toga stared at her feet, smoothing the sand underneath them.

 “Oh, yeah? What about it?” Izuku tried to sound bland, and keep the excitement out of his voice, but he was always curious about different quirks.

 “I… I drink blood!”

 “Oh?” Izuku shrugged, putting on a disinterested air. “Psh, so what! There are lots of scarier quirks out there!”

 “But people say it’s a villains quirk! Because it’s blood!”

 Toga sounded so heartbreakingly confused, and Izuku just wanted to help the best he could. “Well, Vlad King uses his own blood to catch villains, and that’s a bit scarier than just drinking it. Besides, blood isn't scary, it's just part of life.” Blood-related quirks might seem scary, or even villainous, but they were more common than you might think. “Why do you need to drink blood for your quirk anyway?”

 “If I drink blood I can turn into that person.”

 “That’s so cool! You could be an infiltration expert, or you could be able to get people to let their guard down and then extract information!” Oh, a quirk like that had so much potential! Every quirk had potential, but most people just refused to see it. Too set in their ways to give anything a chance.

 “Really? You think I could be a hero?!” Toga smiled widely, a deep blush settling over her cheeks.

 “Of course, why wouldn’t you be able to be a hero?”

 “Everyone just thinks I’ll be a villain.” Toga shrugged, gently touching the bruise on her cheek. “No one’s ever said I could be a hero before…”

 “What, never? Whatever, they just don’t know what they’re talking about.” Izuku frowned, who would tell a kid they couldn't be a hero? Oh, wait, he knew exactly what kind of people would do that...

 Toga spoke softly, her voice almost lost in the rustling of the leaves and the crunch of sand. “Can I really be a hero?”

  Izuku kicked his feet off the ground, letting the swing finally be used for its proper purpose. “Well, why the hell not? You can be anything as long as you fight for it.” He let his momentum carry him, closing his eyes and just feeling the motion of the air and the energy of the night.

 “What about you, Midoriya-kun? Do you want to be a hero?”

 Izuku let the momentum carry him through the next few swings, thinking carefully about his answer.  “I’ve always wanted to be a hero, but lately… I’m not sure if I still want to be one. But, I’m still figuring it all out!”

  “Oh,” Toga sounded thoughtful. ”Well, I hope you figure out what you want to do!” She smiled, fangs flashing once again, but not in a way that was a threat. “Who did you get in a fight with?”

 “Oh, just a bully.” Izuku didn’t have the time or the energy to explain exactly what the dynamic between he and Bakugou was. But bully… yeah, that seemed like the right word. “But I did win, so that's good. Its the first time I've won a fight for a very long time.”

  “Well, red’s not a good color on you, so you better keep winning!”

  “I’ll do my best, just you wait and see!”

  A comfortable quiet fell over the two middle schoolers, and for the first time in a long time, the two kids were allowed to be just that. Finally allowed to be kids without needing to fight for the right to exist in a world that only wants to push them down.

  Neither of them knew how long they sat on that swingset, staring up as the stars slowly faded into the soft light of the dawn. Time seemed to stretch into infinity, while simultaneously speeding into nothingness.

  It was still dark when the first notes of birdsong broke the spell of silence and Izuku looked over at his newest companion. Toga was still sitting in the swing, and from a distance, it would have seemed like an ordinary girl resting, but Izuku could hear her faint snores and see her coming closer and closer to falling off the swing.

  “Toga-chan?”

  His question was met with a small snore and the clank of the chains securing the swing.

  “Toga-chan, it’s morning, you should really wake up…” He trailed off, realizing belatedly that this girl was a deep sleeper. He grinned as a reckless idea formed in his mind. No, not a reckless idea, it was a stupid idea. A Dabi idea. Before he could stop himself, he was channeling his inner Dabi, reaching out a hand and with a strong push and a shout of “WAKE UP TOGA-CHAAAAN!” and in an instant, his new friend was facedown in the sand.

  “I’m up, I’m up!” Toga blearily took in her surroundings, eyes immediately fixing on the green-haired boy who had pushed her into the sand. “Why am I on the ground?”

  “These things happen sometimes.” His bland tone was offset by the wide grin spread across his face, and Toga couldn’t help but smile back.

  “Well, help me up!”

  Once the two of them were righted, and the sand brushed from their clothes, Izuku pulled out his phone. “Can I get your number? I had a nice time talking to you, and we could meet up again anytime you want.”

  Toga nodded, entering her contact info into the phone. It had been a while since anyone had wanted to have her phone number. And it had been even longer since someone had just wanted to talk.

  “Great!” Izuku stomped the feeling back into his numb legs, “I’ve got to go home, but I’ll text you when I get there!”

  “Alright, bye Midoriya-kun!” The blonde watched as her new friend jogged off, and she sighed, turning in the direction of her parents' house. She had school tomorrow and should really get some sleep. Besides, the door would be unlocked by now, but she didn’t know if she wanted to go back. She wanted to go with her new friend, the boy who looked terrible in red, but she would make do with the second best option, just as she always did.

 

*** * ***

 

  Izuku jammed his hands in his pockets, wincing at the sting in his knuckles. That fight had left its toll on him, but it was worth it. The rush of the adrenaline, the satisfaction of finally standing up to Bakugou and winning had been intoxicating. Part of him wanted to feel it again, but he would never seek out a fight with Bakugou, but he was sure that one would still come to find him. He had told Dabi about the fight but hadn’t shown him the state of his hands. Ah well, he could always clean them up later.

  “Fuck, it’s cold out.”

  In the few months since Dabi had been living with him and his mother, Izuku had picked up on his swearing habit. He understood why Dabi did it, swearing was fun, and it really livened up a sentence. But Izuku shook that thought from his mind. He was trying to distract himself from what had happened the night before, but he needed to face it on and understand what had happened.

  The nightmare. It hadn’t been anything new, just the usual shunning by his schoolmates, and being told he would never amount to anything, but it had been a long time since he had had one. He wasn’t sure what had set it off, the only thing he had really done differently was getting in that fight. Oh.

  The fight. He had never won a fight before, that had to have something to do with it, right? But that rush of adrenaline when he had driven his knuckles into Bakugou’s face had been overwhelmingly satisfying. The pain the followed immediately after, not so much. They never showed how much punching people would hurt you in the movies.

  Maybe he was afraid that this fight would be the first step to his downfall. He couldn’t be a hero with a police record, after all. So he would have to be careful.

  Izuku walked the last block to his apartment, turning over the events of the fight in his mind. Bakugou always led with a right hook, and his fighting style was sloppy, untrained. Maybe he could use that to his advantage next time. Part of Izuku was looking forward to the next time, while the more rational side of him hoped and prayed he wouldn’t run into Bakugou ever again. But if that ever happened then, it would be the day that hell froze over.

  He pushed those thoughts out of his mind pulling his keys from his pocket, unlocking the door just as the first rays of the peeked over the horizon. Izuku was exhausted, but he still had to go to school in… He looked at the clock on the living room wall. It was 5am already? He had to be ready for school by 8:30! Izuku shed his shoes and pulled off his coat, thankful he was still wearing his pajamas.

  Carefully stepping over a still sleeping Dabi, Izuku climbed back into bed, grabbing his phone off the nightstand and sending out a message to Toga before he went to sleep.

 

[Unnamed Chat]

 

*Midoriya Izuku* is online.

 

Midoriya Izuku: Hey! It’s me!

Midoriya!

It was great meeting you last night Toga-chan

We should do that again sometime, but maybe not so late!

 

Toga: Yeah, that could be fun, Midoriya-kun!

 

Midoriya Izuku: Were you able to get back inside?

 

Toga: Yep, they unlocked the door!

        I’ll talk to you later Midoriya-kun!

        Goodnight!

        Or morning...

 

*Toga* is offline.

 

Midoriya Izuku: Sleep well, Toga-chan

 

*Midoriya Izuku* is offline.

 

  Izuku put his phone back on his nightstand and pulled the blankets up to his chin, slowly relaxing into the soft arms of sleep. He dreamed peacefully, his mindscape painted with bright blue and soft yellow intermixing with forest green.

 

*** * ***

 

  Toga Himiko was often called an unusual girl. That is when people weren’t saying she would be a villain, or she was a vampire, or that she was creepy. The consensus always landed on strange and unnatural.

  But she was used to it. Those disparaging words had followed her ever since her quirk had manifested. It might have been a complete accident that she had found out how her quirk worked, but that didn’t stop people from speculating what kind of monster she would be when she grew up.

  Even her own parents got in on it. But they had never cared before her quirk manifested, so she was just used to it. She didn’t really have any friends either, but who needs friends anyway? At least, that's what she told herself.

  Himiko would love to have friends, but most people didn’t want to be around the girl who drank blood and was obsessed with the color red. She sighed, kicking at rocks as she walked home from school. The only person who had been kind to her for almost two years was that boy from the day before that she had met in the park. The one who looked terrible in red. Midoriya Izuku.

  She let a small smile show on her face, that boy had said they were friends and that she could be a hero! She really did like heroes. But didn’t everyone?

  Himiko skipped the rest of the way home, stopping just outside her parents' door. She knew the door was unlocked, but she didn’t want to go inside, not with how cold they always were. They weren’t warm, not like family is supposed to be. Besides, what kind of parents would lock their own child out at night? Himiko sighed, hands coming up to grasp the straps of her red backpack. She stared up at the sky, watching small birds fly above her.

  Would they miss her is she was gone? Would they pretend to be caring parents for once in their lives or would they not even report her missing? Himiko frowned, all this thinking about what it was that she really wanted was making her so confused. Sure, middle school was supposed to be confusing, but not like this. It’s supposed to be awkward romances and drama filled friendships, not a family that never wanted you treating you like dog shit.

  With a sigh, Himiko opened the door, heading straight for her room, locking the door behind her.

She dropped her backpack onto the floor and flopped onto her bed, clutching a pillow to her chest. She just didn’t see the point in staying somewhere she wasn’t wanted. But where was she supposed to go?

  Who would want her?

  For a moment she entertained the thought of living in that abandoned apartment complex in the center of the district, but that would never work. It’s far too cold for that this time of year.

  The sound of a text message rang through her thoughts, directing her out of her useless daydreaming. Himiko grabbed her phone from her skirt pocket, thumbing into the messaging app.

 

[Unnamed Chat]

 

*Midoriya Izuku* is online.

 

Midoriya Izuku: Hey, it’s me!

Did you get enough sleep after getting home?

I sure didn’t!

 

Toga: No, I really didn’t get enough

         But it was okay, we just had review work today

 

Midoriya Izuku: Oh, that’s good

My English class had a pop quiz, so…

I did not do well

 

Toga: English just makes no sense!

         There’re just no real rules!

 

Midoriya Izuku: Right?

Then there are ‘garden path sentences.’

They’re just worded so that you'll read them wrong!

That’s the only reason they exist!

 

Toga: Wait, what?

         Why would they do that?

 

Midoriya Izuku: Who knows?

But if you see the sentence

“The old man the boat.”

That’s a correct sentence.

Technically.

 

Toga: Wow, english really is stupid.

 

Midoriya Izuku: It sure is.

All of the rules are lies.

 

Toga: Haha, what even is english

 

Midoriya Izuku: A horrifying gutter language

that stabs other languages in random alleys

then goes through their pockets and steals loose vocabulary.

 

Toga: … okay.

         That was descriptive

 

Midoriya Izuku: Well, I’ve had a bit of practice with saying things like that.

I have a weird friend who likes to wake me up at 3am and say things like

The opposite of a fortune teller is a historian.

 

Toga: They sound… fun?

 

Midoriya Izuku: That’s a word for him alright.

Hey, random subject change, do you want to hang out sometime tomorrow?

It doesn't have to be tomorrow

Or at all

I mean if you don’t want to, that’s okay

 

Toga: Oh, that would be great!

         How about tomorrow after school in the park where we met?

          You can introduce me to your weird friend.

 

Midoriya Izuku: Oh no

You two are going to get on like a wildfire

 

Toga: Is that a good thing?

 

Midoriya Izuku: Sure, why not.

Alright, I’ve got to start my homework

Text me later!

 

*Midoriya Izuku* is offline.

 

Toga: Bye-bye, Midoriya!

 

*Toga* is offline.

 

  Himiko clutched her phone to her chest, a deep blush of excitement rising on her cheeks. She was going to meet friends! More than one! It had been years since she had done anything like this! With a smile on her face, she rushed through her schoolwork, not even geometric sequences could get her down, even though she was barely passing.

  Time passed quickly, and she didn’t even hear her parents come home, not that they would have said anything to her anyway. For the first time in a long time, she was happy while she was home. A small bit of warmth had made its nest in her heart, and she would gladly carry it forever.

 

*** * ***

 

  Izuku put his phone on his desk, ignoring for a moment the chemistry homework sitting in front of him. “Hey Dabi, you want to meet that girl I told you about?”

 From behind him on his bed, Dabi piped up, voice muffled. “The one from the park?” He didn't move from his face down sprawl across Izuku’s bed, one of his legs dangling over the side and onto the floor.

  “Yeah.” Izuku frowned at the homework in front of him, erasing a previous answer to replace it with the correct one.

  “How do you know she’s not a murderer, Zuzu?”

  “Well, there’s only one way to find out!” Izuku grinned widely, no trace of nervousness or fear in his smile.

  Dabi pushed himself up onto his elbows and stared at Izuku, his jaw slack from shock, before shaking his head slowly. “You’re crazy. You have the self-preservation instincts of a street pigeon.”

  “Wow, rude.”

  “You are far too trusting.” Dabi couldn’t believe that Izuku hadn’t managed to get inducted into a cult yet. He was almost exactly what cultists were looking for, just has too much faith in people. The scarred teen moved into a seated position, this conversation too confusing to follow while lying down. “Either that or you have balls of steel.”

  “‘What? No, it’s just... it’s easy to tell what people are going to do?” Izuku shrugged, trying to find a way to put his thoughts into words without sounding like he really was crazy. “Like, you can tell by body language, by their clothes, their jewelry, that kind of thing. Does that make any sense?”

  Dabi shrugged, “no, not really. But it’s just kind of an instinct thing then?”

  Izuku made a vague gesture with his hands, trying to visualize what he was saying. “No, it’s not like that, it’s… more of a ‘the dots are here, just connect them’ sort of thing. Anyone can do it, you just need to practice.”

  “Oh! Like Sherlock Holmes.” Dabi sprawled back across the bed, setting his socked feet on Izuku’s pillow and ignoring the glare he was being sent.

  “What?”

  “An English literary figure from the eighteen hundreds,” Dabi said nothing else as if his statement explained everything.

  “Dabi… that’s from over two hundred years ago, how would I know that.” Izuku frowned, that was pre-quirk literature, and it was English literature at that. “No, actually, how did you know that?”

  Dabi shrugged, “I’m allowed to have hobbies.”

  “Okay then.” That answered nothing, and somehow Izuku was left with more questions than before. Still waters run deep, or something like that. “But back to the original question, do you want to meet her?”

  “Well, where are you two meeting?”

  “The park a block from here.”

  Dabi nodded, “nice, we can look like delinquents.”

   Why would we want to… Izuku blinked away his confusion, Dabi could say the strangest things sometimes. “Alright then, just meet me there after school tomorrow.”

   “Whatever you say, Zuzu.”

  

*** * ***

 

  Things seemed off at school the next day. Izuku can hear the whispers of rumor follow him through the halls and the classroom. The fact that he had held his own then won a fight against Bakugou the day before had been the talk of the school, and people weren’t sure what to think. Some people were convinced he was on the edge of a mental breakdown and was going to stab somebody, while others thought he was suicidal. But everyone seemed to agree that Midoriya Izuku was to be even more avoided than he already was.

  But none of that bothered him, he was too busy looking forward to introducing his friends to each other. At first, it had seemed a little odd that they had appeared to attach themselves to him so quickly, but when you need something, you grab it and don’t let go. And Izuku didn’t mind being the thing that people needed. It actually made him feel like he meant something to the world. Even if it’s not a lot, it’s something.

  A loud crackle of explosions caught his attention. From across the schoolyard, Bakugou was glaring at him before the explosive blond turned his head and stalked away. Izuku paused, dumbfounded. Bakugou hadn’t tried to fight him.

  Maybe hell had frozen over. He would have to check the news for that when he got home.

  Why hadn’t Bakugou tried to fight him? Then again, he hadn’t so much as looked at him yesterday… what was going on?

  Izuku shook his head, trying to sort his thoughts back into place. He still had few hours left at school, but now that he had seen that little display he wasn’t sure he would be able to focus. Did Bakugou want to fight him again? Was he planning something? What did that all mean?

  And all the rest of the day, that was the only thing on Izuku’s mind. No matter how he looked at it, he couldn’t figure out what Bakugou had wanted, he just didn’t have enough information to be able to connect the dots. Izuku frowned down at the paper in front of him. When did he get passed this? When did Geometry class even start? It was English just a moment ago, wasn’t it?

  With a sigh, Izuku started on the work, mindlessly solving equations, not noticing the red-eyed glare attempting to burn holes into his skull. If looks could kill, Izuku would be a smoldering pile of ash crumbling into nothingness by now.

  When the final bell rang, Izuku was off like a shot, practically buzzing from an equal mix of excitement and abject terror.

  “Oi, shitty Deku! Where the hell do ya think you’re going?” The voice was commanding and rang from behind him sending those who could hear it to a safer vantage point. People may want to watch a fight, but they don’t want to get caught up in it.

  Great. Just what he needed. Izuku froze in place, his mind almost rattling from the speed it was racing. Taking a deep breath to try and focus, Izuku pasted a wide, fake grin on his face and spun around to face his tormentor. “Why Bakugou, I didn’t see you there! What can I do for you?”

  “Tch!” Bakugou sneered, showing more teeth than was necessary. “What the fuck was that about last time?”

  Izuku paused before answering, wondering if riling up Bakugou was a good idea. Well, he wouldn’t know until it happened. “Could you be more specific?”

  “You stupid fuck-” Bakugou was cut off in the middle of his cursing by the loud blasts of his own explosions, creating a very odd image when the explosions synced up with his speaking. Izuku found his mind wandering the longer that Bakugou was ranting. What if people spoke in explosions? How would you know if they were angry or not-

  “Hey, I’m talking to you, you fucker!” In a blur of motion, Bakugou had his hand twisted in Izuku’s collar, small explosions popping from his other, still open, palm. A snarl was still on his lips, a dark bruise painted over his jaw in the exact size and shape of Izuku’s fist. “Who the hell do you think you are trying to start shit with me?”

  Izuku panicked internally, trying to keep a level head. He grabbed Bakugou’s sleeve, making sure his grip was tight and pulled, he grit his teeth as he steeled himself to punch his explosive opponent in the kidney. He swung with his left, his fist making contact, and with the hand still gripped in Bakugou’s sleeve, he flung him forward and away from himself creating distance and the advantage if this turned into a chase.

  “Maybe you should take a good look at who started things this time, Bakugou!” Izuku took a step back, lowering into a fighting stance, his hands still raised before him, ready to fight or flee, at the next opportunity. “If you come at me, I’ll fight back, but I won’t start anything!”

  Bakugou gritted his teeth, small explosions coming almost constantly now. “You stupid… what the fuck are you saying, you shit eating useless Deku!”

  Izuku really had no clue what he was doing, but he knew he needed to do it. “I’m not going to let you beat me down anymore, you try anything, and I’ll fight back. I won't let you push me around, but I’ll never seek out a fight with you without reason.” He lowered his fists and took an affirming breath before continuing. “If we ever fight again, it’s because of something you did.” Izuku spun on his heel, walking away as Bakugou absorbed his words.

  He really hoped they had gotten through to him, but he was sure that they hadn’t. But only time would tell. Besides, he had more important things to worry about.

  “Deku!” From the sound of his voice, Bakugou wasn’t following him, but Izuku wasn’t going to look back, he had done enough of that already. “Don’t you walk away from me, you prick!”

  But he did exactly that. He walked away, head held high. And Izuku kept walking, letting the outcries of his tormentor fade as he went his own way.

  The walk to the park was already short, to begin with, but with his head buzzing with the magnitude of what had just happened, it passed in the blink of an eye. He walked over to the swingset he and Toga had met at, and slung his backpack off, leaning against one of the legs of the set, and sat into one of the swings, slowly decompressing from the scuffle.

  “Midoriya-kun?” Izuku gripped the chains and leaned back in the swing, almost parallel to the ground, staring up into familiar cat-like eyes. “You really came!” Toga smiled widely,

  “Of course I did, Toga-chan!” Izuku held his position on the swing, “I would have been here earlier, but I got in a little of a scuffle.”

  Himiko sat into the swing next to Izuku’s own. “Oh, no! What happened?”

  “I think I made a mortal enemy.” Izuku frowned, he really hoped he hadn’t, but he would deal with things as they came.

  “That’s not something normal middle schoolers are supposed to do, Midoriya-kun!” Himiko laughed, this boy was fun and was so cool! Just like a real hero to have a mortal enemy!

  “Normal? What’s that, sounds boring.” Izuku attempted to shrug from his position on the swing, but it didn’t really translate from his angle. He had definitely stolen that line from Dabi, but screw it, it was a versatile line.

  Himiko glanced over at Izuku, confusion drawing its way across her face. “Why are you sitting like that?”

  “I don’t really know. Sometimes I just do things.” Izuku tried to shrug once again before he pulled himself back into a normal seating position. It was the truth, sometimes it was like his body just moved of its own volition.

  “Oh, okay.” Alright, so maybe Midoriya was a little odd, but that was even cooler! “Didn’t you say your friend was gonna met us here?”

  “Yeah, I’m not sure where he is.” Izuku stood and turned in place, looking around the park to try and spot Dabi. He’s surprisingly sneaky for someone so tall. “Huh. Well, he gets lost really easily, so who knows where he is.” He might be on his way, or he might have ended up in Russia somehow.

  “Should we look for him?” Himiko jumped up from her swing, ready to help Izuku search.

  “Nah, he’ll show up eventually.” Izuku waved a hand towards a tree with a wooden bench underneath it. “Do you want to sit over there, it’s probably more comfortable than the swings.”

  “Sure thing,” Himiko grabbed her backpack off the ground, brushing the dirt off the red fabric. “So one of my classmates was talking about the Quirk Singularity theory, and I didn’t get what they were talking about.”

  “Oh, that’s the theory that as more generations pass and more quirks get mixed and merged they’ll sort of naturally become an uncontrollable force that will only cause chaos for the users and those around them.”

  “Well, that’s a terrifying thought!”

  “It really is.” Izuku sat on the bench, putting his backpack back on the ground. “But there doesn’t seem to be any basis behind it. Yes, quirks get more complex through the generations, but that complexity makes them substantially weaker in some cases. And the more complex a quirk, the less likely it will be passed on.”

  “You know a lot about this kinda stuff!”

  Izuku took an affirming breath, he had to tell her. He couldn’t be sure how she would react to being told her new friend was quirkless, but it had to come out and sooner was better than later. “Hah, yeah, when I was younger, I really hoped I would have either of my parents' quirks, but I’m in an ever-shrinking percentage.” He shrugged, avoiding eye contact. “I’m quirkless, so I thought the next best thing would be to try and understand how quirks worked.”

  “Wow, that’s really…” Himiko frowned, trying to find the right words. “That makes sense if you really want something and you can’t have it, you try to learn how it’s supposed to feel.”

  Izuku nodded, getting the feeling they were both getting different meanings out of the same thing. His own meaning was just straightforward and empty fact, while Toga looked like she was using his words to reconcile some emotional turmoil. Izuku really didn’t know much about Toga, only that she didn’t have friends, and didn’t have a good home life but still tried to keep her head up above the dark waters that were the world.

  “I’m gonna try and text Dabi real quick, he’s probably lost.” Izuku pulled out his phone and tapped out a quick message, and less than a second after it was sent he heard a distinctive beep coming from the tree branches above the bench. “What the hell?”

  “What is it, Midoriya-kun?”

  “I’m not sure, but if it’s what I think it is…” He trailed off, standing up and turning to peer into the tree branches, eyes barely making out a suspiciously human shape in the darkness of the leaves. “Oh. Are you fucking kidding me.”

  “Midoriya-kun? Is something wrong?” Himiko climbed to her feet, turning to look into the branches, trying to see what her friend was staring at with such intensity. She narrowed her eyes and tried to look through the dark leaves, but couldn’t make anything out.

  Izuku bent down and picked up a medium sized rock from under the bench, testing its weight in his hand before throwing it.

  “OW.”

  “I knew it.” Izuku sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. He shook his head, flopping back into his seat on the bench. “Well, I found Dabi!”

  “What.” Himiko continued staring into the branches, confusion rising ever since Izuku had thrown a rock into something in the tree. “Wait, your friend has been in the tree this entire time?!” Her voice rose into a small shout, disbelief making its way through her mind. A person. Was hiding in the tree. What was happening? What had she gotten herself into?

  “Hey, I can hear you, you know!”

  “Then come down and do something about it!” Izuku's voice rose to match Dabi's in volume, drawing odd looks from passerby.

  “I can’t…” Neither of the teenagers on the ground could hear what was said after that, Dabi’s mumblings lost to the rustling of the leaves.

  Himiko climbed up and stood on the seat of the bench, able to finally make out a dark shadowy figure perched on a branch. “Why?”

  “I’m stuck.”

  Izuku pressed the heels of his hands against his eyelids until he saw bright lights dancing in the darkness. He should have known something like this would happen. “What, Dabi, why are you like this?”

  “I don’t think I got hugged enough as a kid.”

  “Hey, me too!” Himiko had climbed onto the back of the bench, one hand braced against the trunk of the tree to help her keep her balance. “Hi, I’m Toga Himiko, nice to meet you!”

  “Uhhhh,” Dabi clung tighter to his tree branch, not sure what was expected of him. “I’d try to shake your hand, but if I move, I might die.”

  “Well, that’s no good!” This guy’s weird, but if he’s friends with Midoriya, he can’t be that bad. “Why did you climb up there anyway?”

  “I wanted to know if I could, turns out I can.”

  As the conversation unfolded above him, Izuku sat and leaned forward until his forehead rested against his knees. This is fine. There’s nothing insane going on here, and he has no regrets! None, nope, not one! He wasn’t worried that he was slowly going crazy, he was fine. Just fine.

  “Hey, Izuku, help me down.” Dabi’s bored voice broke his little mantra, pulling him back into the insane reality he had somehow made his life. “I hate it up here.”

  “No way, dumbass. You got yourself up there you get yourself down.”

  Himiko turned her cat-like gaze onto Izuku, “wow Midoriya-kun! That was heartless.”

  Dabi nodded, knowing the small motion couldn’t be seen in the shadows thrown by the leaves. “Mhm. He’s like that all the time. Looks like the nicest person in the world, but he’s really the devil.”

  “I’m the devil, Dabi?” Izuku shook his head, slowly standing back up, climbing onto the bench next to Toga. “What would make you think that?”

  “Well, less than five minutes ago you threw that rock at me.”

  “Okay, but I’ve eaten your cooking, so I think we’re even.”

  “Wow, brutal.” Himiko giggled, shooting Izuku a look of approval. The guy in the tree was right, Izuku could be so deceptively evil amongst his kindness! “So, how is Dabi, that’s his name, right? How is he getting down?”

  Dabi spoke loudly, tone barely showing his amusement. “You can ask me what my name is, Izuku isn’t my keeper!”

  “Don’t listen to him, I’m half of his impulse control.”

  Himiko tilted her head, catlike in her actions. “So what’s the other half?”

  “Whether or not he’ll look cool doing something.”

  “Hey, that’s a lie, don’t listen to him!” Dabi clung tighter to his branch, shouting down at them had almost been enough to distract him and break his grip. He really didn’t want to get to know the ground at a personal level unless it was the only way down.

  “You’re stuck in a tree, you have no room to talk!”

  “Hey, c’mon…” Dabi didn’t have a comeback, Izuku was right. The scarred teen sighed, leaning to look down at how far the ground was. Oh, nope, that’s too far.

  “Dabi, if you jump-

  Dabi shook his head, clinging to the branch like it was his only lifeline. “NO!”

  “Dabi, it’s not that far!”

  “It is! It really is!”

  Amidst their shouting, Himiko had figured out a path up the tree, one that she would actually be able to use to get back down, as well, and had quietly climbed the branches until she was next to her prey. “Hi!”

  “Holy fuck!” Dabi jolted in surprise, almost letting go of his branch. “How did you get up here?”

  “Wait, what?” Izuku looked over to see empty space where the cat-eyed girl had been before. “Toga-chan, how did you get up there?”

  “Easily!” Himiko smiled an overly sharp smile, sending chills down Dabi’s spine.

  “You’re both awful, I just want to get down.” Dabi regretted even being born at this point.

  Izuku hopped off the bench, walking around the tree. “Dabi, if I stand under that branch, I might be able to catch you.” The keyword was might. If he couldn’t... Well, it wasn’t even eight feet, he’d be okay, right?  

  “Oh for fuck's sake…” Dabi unwrapped his fingers from the branch, looking down at Izuku before looking over at the happily grinning girl sitting next to him. “Can you show me how you got up here?”

  “Sure, that’s a better option than falling.”

  “Please don’t say falling, I don’t want to jinx this.” And with those words, the jinx was affixed.

  Izuku circled back around to the bench, wondering where his life had gotten so weird that watching Himiko talk Dabi through climbing out of a tree wasn’t even a surprise.

  Himiko frowned down at Dabi as she watched him try to follow the path she had taken up the tree. “You need to be a little more to the left!”

  “I am going to the left!” Dabi was about a quarter of the way down the tree now, he couldn’t jump off and stick the landing, so he slowly inched his way through the branches, testing their strength before putting his weight onto them.

  “That’s your right!

  “Oh.”

  Well, Izuku was right, they got on like a house on fire. A thump drew his attention, and he saw Toga already on the ground, brushing bits of moss and bark off of her clothes. “Did you just jump out of the tree?”

  “Yep, easy as getting up!” Himiko said that as if she hadn’t dropped down almost six feet with no effort. “We should do this again, but maybe not let Dabi climb a tree!” Maybe not let Dabi do anything without supervision.

  Izuku raised his eyebrows at her chipper attitude, that jump was a serious power move, and she hadn’t even realized it. He felt a new level of respect for the blonde girl and knew they really, really, needed to hang out as a trio again.

  “FUCK!”

  A loud thud and the bright flash of blue flames pulled their attention to where Dabi was. Or more importantly, where he wasn’t.

  “...screw you guys.” Dabi was no longer in the tree. Instead, he was flat on his back staring up into the branches where he had spent the better part of two hours. “You two suck.” Dabi frowned, reigning his flames back in, he didn’t want to burn his hoodie, this one wasn’t found in a dumpster and actually fit him.

  “Holy hell, Dabi are you alright?” Izuku leaned over his friend, searching his face for any sign of pain.

  “That was a big drop Dabi, are you okay?”

  “No, I’m dead, leave me for the crows,” Dabi snarked, pushing himself into a sitting position and rubbing at his sore back. He looked up at the two worried faces and found himself smiling softly, stitches and scars hiding the expression from anyone who looked.

  “Oh, he’s being sarcastic, he’s fine.” Izuku rolled his eyes, bending to grab Dabi’s hand and pulled him to his feet. His gaze turned serious, “are you really alright though?”

  “Yeah, I’m fine.” Dabi turned to look at the blonde girl who had bested him in tree climbing. “So, now that we’re on equal footing.” He smirked at his pun, ignoring Izuku’s pained expression, and held out a hand, “I’m Dabi.”

  “Toga Himiko!” Himiko clasped Dabi’s hand with her own, grip much stronger than either of them had expected. “Great to meet you.”

  “Yaaaay.” Izuku pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes closed. “Oh god, what have I done? Am I… an idiot for doing this?”

  Dabi and Himiko exchanged a glance, laughing silently at the display of misery that Izuku was making. This was fun, and would definitely need to happen again. And if the two of them had anything to do with it, it would happen often.

 

*** * ***

 

  The three of them talked until the sun started to go down and Dabi was falling asleep in the grass and Himiko was almost ready to join him.

  The blonde girl yawned loudly, showing more fang than was necessary. She checked her phone for the time, standing when she saw how late it was. “Well, I’ve got to get going, but this was fun!”

  “Mhm.” Dabi nodded, eyes closed as he rested on the grass.

  Izuku smiled, trying to keep back a yawn of his own. “Yeah, it really was, Toga-chan.”

  “We should do this again, so text me!”

  “I’ll make a group chat, we can figure things out there.”

  “Alright then, bye Midoriya-kun, bye Dabi!”

  “Bye, Toga-chan.” Izuku waved goodbye, finally letting himself yawn.

  “Yeah, bye, or whatever.” With those words, Dabi pulled his hood up and hid his face in its shadow, not letting either of the others see the smile that was stretching his staples and scars.

  Izuku picked up his phone and opened the messaging app, preparing a new chat.

 

[Unnamed Chat]

 

*Midoriya Izuku* has created a new chat.

 

User *Dabi* has been added to the chat.

User *Toga* has been added to the chat.

 

*Dabi* has changed the chat name to [Can I get a, uhhh, Crime?]

 

Dabi: There, thats better

 

Midoriya Izuku: Why is crime always your go to?

Nevermind, I don’t want to know.

 

Toga: This is going to be fun!

 

*Midoriya Izuku* is offline.

*Toga* is offline.

*Dabi* is offline.

 

  “Alright, let’s get going Dabi.” When there was no response, Izuku paused, looking down at his friend. “Dabi?”

  A quiet snore came from Dabi’s slumped form, and Izuku sighed. Of course, he was asleep. Izuku crouched next to him, shaking his shoulder gently to wake him up. “What time is it?”

  “Late. C’mon, let’s get going.” Izuku stood, picking up his backpack and sling it over his shoulder.

  “...’kay.” Dabi stumbled to his feet, following Izuku as the two of them headed home, worn out but happy.

 

*** * ***

 

[Can I get a, uhhh, Crime?]

 

*Dabi* is online.

 

Dabi: The opposite of a nightmare is a daystallion

 

*Toga* is online.

*Midoriya Izuku* is online.

 

Toga: W

         What?

 

Midoriya Izuku: Ah, another one of the 3am Dabi-isms

I should have warned you.

 

Dabi: Do you think fish get thirsty?

 

Toga: So this is a normal thing?

 

Midoriya Izuku: Its…

It’s a Dabi thing.

 

Toga: I don’t think I want anything to do with Dabis thing

 

Dabi: Damn Vamp bitch, thats's cold

        Hold up

 

*Dabi* has changed *Toga* to *VampBitch*

 

VampBitch: Wait, what

                  You can change people’s nAMES???

 

Midoriya Izuku: Damn it Dabi

Look what you’ve done

Cursed

 

Dabi: sorry?

 

Midoriya Izuku: You’re not sorry you punk

 

VampBitch: Izukun, your name is too long!

 

Midoriya Izuku: Oh no

 

VampBitch: Oh yes

 

Dabi: Zuzu, I’m so sorry

 

Midoriya Izuku: Excuse me

What did you just call me

You fuck

 

Dabi: Oh shit

         I didn't think about this being a group chat.

         Oops.  

 

VampBitch: ZUZU??!!

                  THATS SO CUUUUTE!!!!

 

*Toga* has changed *Midoriya Izuku* to *ZuZu*

 

Dabi: im so sorry

        Please forgive me

 

ZuZu: I let you meet my mother, and you go and do this

How dare you!

I painted your nails you deep fried fuck!

Betraitor!

 

Dabi: Zuzu, I’ll do anything!

 

ZuZu: You can

ROT

IN

Heck

 

VampBitch: Heck

 

ZuZu: HECK

 

Dabi: ...heck?

 

ZuZu: Did someone say something?

Or was it just the wind?

There any ghosts in the chat?

 

Dabi: I said I was sorry, what more do you want?!

 

ZuZu: I feel a ghostly presence

Quick, grab the holy water

Too bad Dabi isn’t here to see this.

 

VampBitch: Cold as ICE

 

*Dabi* has changed *ZuZu* to *Izuku*

 

VampBitch: Dabi you’re no fun!

 

Dabi: Pls forgive me

 

Izuku: You are forgiven

For now

But if you do that again, i’ll skin you alive and

wear your scarred hide as a jacket

 

Dabi: Zuzu, you’re terrifying, did you know that?

 

Izuku: Thanks!

 

Dabi: I’m so scared

 

VampBitch: Me too

 

Izuku: You should be!

 

*Izuku* is offline.

 

VampBitch: So…

                  Zuzu, huh?

 

*Dabi* is offline.

 

VampBitch: ghosted

 

*VampBitch* is offline.

 

*** * ***

 

  It’s the third time they’ve all met up like this, and even a dump like the garbage-filled beach seems beautiful when shared with the right people. The weirdly comfortable vibe they all shared had only grown with each meeting, and they were what outsiders would call ‘uncomfortably close.’ But those people are just haters.

  They have a small bonfire burning, not that Dabi had any part in helping with that, and Izuku brought more junk food than any sane person would ever eat, but you can bet that the three of them will make that disappear before the sun comes back up.

  The mood is subtle, peaceful and quiet, they had talked for hours until the moon came up. About nothing and everything, even trying to interpret international policies before giving up and just staring at the sky, pointing out the constellations they knew. They had found out Dabi wanted to hunt ghosts, and Himiko hated the last five interpretations of Dracula, and Izuku wanted to meet All Might. It was nice. Something that all of them really could get used to.

  “Do you think that pigeons have feelings?”

  And there goes the mood. Nice going, Dabi.

  Izuku turned his head slightly to stare incredulously at Dabi, who was just staring up at the stars as if he hadn’t said something completely ridiculous. “Why are you asking?”

  “Because I told a pigeon that it was fat once, and I wanna know if I hurt its feelings.” Dabi had a look on his face that was the definition of bland, as though he had no emotional investment in his own story. “I don’t want to hurt its feelings!”

  “...” Izuku turned back to staring at the stars, not even dignifying what Dabi had said with a response.

  “What if it was insulted?” Himiko piped up from Izuku’s other side, sitting up to look at Dabi while Izuku covered his face in frustration. “What if it was insulted, and it’s plotting revenge on you?”

  “Oh my god…” Dabi shook his head, bringing his hands up to cover his mouth in shock, not caring that his hands were covered in sand. “Oh no, what have I done? Zuzu, save me!”

  “One day that pigeon is gonna come for you with an army of birds, and you’re gonna get reverse storked!” Himiko flopped over onto Izuku so she could poke Dabi in the face, frowning as she brushed sand from his cheek. Izuku just sat there, accepting his fate.

  “Reverse storked?”

  “Birds are gonna carry you off into the sky to kill you, the exact opposite of the stork bringing a baby to people.” Himiko kept a straight face as she spoke, before bursting into high pitched giggles at the thought of thousands of pigeons dragging Dabi off into the sky.

  “Oh.” Dabi's voice was soft, mind filled with vivid avian imagery.

  “You know,” Izuku sighed, pressing his hands over his eyes hard enough to see spots. “Just when I think you two can’t get any weirder, you go and get weirder. Or maybe it’s that you’re getting stupider.” He must have done something truly awful in a past life to deserve this, that was the only explanation for what was happening.

  “Aww, that’s so sweet, Zuzu!” Dabi rolled onto his side to grab Izuku in a sand-covered hug, and Izuku just shook his head in exasperation, hands still covering his face. He didn’t want to see this nonsense.

  Izuku sighed, “you can shut fuck the up, Dabi.”

  Himiko laughed from her position on Izuku’s chest, trying to pry his hands away from his face. “Oooh, Midoriya-kun said a swear!”

  “You can shut fuck the up, too, Toga-chan.”

Chapter Text

  The classroom was in chaos, and Izuku feels like an island of calm within an ocean of madness. The moment the homeroom teacher had announced high school plans, everyone went wild, showing off their quirks with no regard for the safety of those around them. Izuku leaned back in his seat, arms crossed over his chest and leveled a blank glare up to the front of the room.

  Since Bakugou had leaped onto his desk like a damn animal and started shouting about ‘surpassing All Might’ or something like that, he had tuned out the noise, wondering if he should begin supplementing the training he was getting from Dabi with another source. Maybe capoeira? Mainly just for the cool flips. 

  “Oh, you’re also going for UA, aren’t you, Midoriya?”

  The room fell silent, nobody daring to say anything as they turned to look at the green haired teen. In another reality, they would have turned on him, howling like a pack of rabid dogs, but here, he had a reputation as an unsavory individual. He was used to it, getting caught fighting almost twice a week. Anyone who used to bully him didn't try anymore, other than Bakugou. Not after he sent the first three away with sprained wrists and broken noses. There were even rumors going around that he was a gangster, and while that was a ridiculous concept, he didn’t try to stop the story from spreading.

  Low chatter filled the room, confusion tingeing the collection of voices. He ignored the stares and ignored Bakugou when he started screaming like a madman, letting loose explosions the entire time, drowning out his own cursing. With a raise of Izuku’s eyebrows being the only sign he had heard anything at all, he uncrossed his arms and laced his fingers behind his head as he tipped his chair back onto its hind legs, watching as the classroom grew almost silent again at his display. Power play, Izuku thought, yawning lazily to show just how much he didn't care. He reminded himself to thank Toga for inspiring him later.

  But internally, he was screaming, knowing he's going to have to deal with Bakugou getting into his personal space once again. Ever since he had told him that he wouldn't start a fight, it was as if the explosive teen had been seeking out any reason to fight him. If Izuku hadn't won the majority of the time, he would be getting tired of it.

  Izuku’s mind wandered as the teacher spoke, and he let it roam wild. He had good grades, and none of the teachers really cared what the quirkless wonder did in their classes. As long as he didn’t start anything, he was ignored. That was a problem all in its own, but Izuku didn't really care anymore.

  He knew UA was impossible, but he had a dream. And sometimes dreaming means doing something you know you can’t succeed in, but still trying it because you need to.

  Before he knew it, the class was over, and Bakugou was doing exactly what Izuku had known he would. "Oi, Deku!"

  Izuku sighed, standing, unbuttoning and removing the jacket of his school uniform. He folded the black fabric, putting it into his backpack along with his hero analysis notebook just in case this came to blows. The school year was barely started, and he didn’t plan on needing to replace his uniform. “Oh, how can I help you, Bakugou?” Izuku braced his foot against one of the support bars on his desk, putting together a plan in case of danger.

  Bakugou snarled, red eyes wild. “Don’t give me that fake nice act, what the fuck are you doing, thinking you can apply to UA?!” His lackeys muttered behind him, yet they immediately fell silent when Izuku locked his gaze on them, green eyes unreadable.

  “Well, I was thinking that free will was a generally well-understood concept, but if you need me to explain it to you-

  “Shut the fuck up!” Bakugou let loose a small grouping of explosions, but he didn’t move towards Izuku at all. The past few weeks he had lead exactly how fast Izuku could turn things to his advantage. “You don’t even have a quirk, who the hell do you think you are to try and be a hero?”

  “I would say ‘a good person,’ but you don’t look like you would understand that concept on even the most basic level,” Izuku smirked, he was going to enjoy this. Bakugou got sloppy when angry, and he was far too easy to rile up.

  “You fucker!” And with that, Bakugou launched himself forward, and Izuku shoved the desk as hard as he could with the foot that was braced on it, sending it straight into Bakugou’s thighs, knocking him off balance and onto the floor. “What the fuck was that?!” His followers stared over at him, and he cut off their concerns with a growl before they could even voice them.

  “Are you alright, Bakugou, the desk just moved on its own!” Izuku picked his backpack off of the floor, swinging it onto his back. “If you’re all good, I’m going to get going. Places to go, people to see, I’m sure you understand.”

  "Don't walk away from me, you bastard!"

  He turned to the door, walking fast enough to get himself to a safe distance without looking like he was running away. The sound of loud shouting and explosions echoed after him in the halls, but as he left they faded into the distance. That was interesting, Bakugou hadn’t chased after him. Izuku sent out a message into the group chat, saying he was on his way. He didn’t tell them about what Bakugou had said.

  But part of Izuku believed what had been said to him. Without a quirk, he would have to work twice as hard to get half as far as everyone else in this society, and while he could keep that pace up now, things would only get more difficult as he got older.

  Izuku gritted his teeth, raising a fist into the air in a symbol of defiance. He wasn’t going to listen to those who would drag him down; he would be a hero, no matter what he had to do. He'd be the best hero, just you all wait and see. Determination driving his steps, he set foot down the dark underpass, not seeing the sludge bubble up out of the manhole cover behind him until it was too late.

   A villain? Izuku clawed at the sludge forcing its way down his throat, fingers passing through its liquid body. I can’t breathe. His thoughts were slowing, and his body was sluggish, but he continued to fight, reaching above his head to land a solid punch into something that felt suspiciously like an eye. Take that, bastard!

  “You little piece of shit!” The villain had reeled back, unintentionally giving Izuku a moment to breathe before they redoubled their efforts to kill him. "But don't worry, I'll make this quick."

   Well, at least I went out fighting. Izuku felt himself fading, oddly calm as his lungs burned and his body numbed. He heard voices through the sludge that had entered his ears, but he didn’t understand it, falling into unconsciousness with what felt like a heavy wind rushing over him.

 

*** * ***

 

  Izuku woke suddenly to someone leaning over him and repeated slapping to the side of his face. On instinct he kicked upwards, catching someone in the side with a decent impact, causing them to straighten up with a loud, “Hey!” The voice was… familiar?

   Who the fuck... Izuku rolled to his feet, wide eyes taking in the sight before him. “What the fuck... All Might?!”

  The number one hero had his trademarked smile plastered across his face. “Language!” The hero ran a hand over their crested bangs, “apologies, for getting you caught up in my villain hunt, young man!”

   "Holy shit, what?" Izuku’s jaw dropped as he listened, dumbfounded, to All Might give a rendition of what had just happened, holding up two plastic bottles filled with the sludge that had made up the villain that had attacked him.

   Wait. How the hell did he get the villain into the bottle? How did a villain that size fit into only two two-liter bottles? He had so many questions.

  “Now I must bring this fellow to the authorities! You can catch me again on TV!” All Might dropped into a crouch, ready to make one of his high-velocity leaps when Izuku felt himself rush forward.

  And they were off. Izuku gritted his teeth, immediately regretting his entire life up to and beyond this point. Assuming he would live past this, that is. Izuku glanced down at the rapidly shrinking cityscape, and he slammed his eyes closed, not wanting to puke on himself, All Might, and whoever was in the splash zone below.

  “H-y, n--” All Might’s words were lost in the force of the wind, but Izuku could assume he was saying something along the lines of ‘let go,’ or ‘are you insane.’

  “If I let go, I’ll fucking die!” Izuku struggled to have his voice heard over the wind, but judging from the look on the heroes face, he had heard him.

    In an instant, the forces of gravity dragged them back to the surface of the earth, All Might making a clean landing on the roof of a midsized apartment complex. “Are you trying to get yourself killed, young man?”

  Izuku steeled himself, hands wadded into tight fists. He interrupted the hero mid-sentence. “Can someone become a hero without a quirk!” He didn’t ask the question so much as he shouted it for the world to hear, quite literally yelling it from the rooftops.

  “Without a quirk?” All Might paused, trying to find the best words to let the teenager down easy when he felt the immediate effect of his wound, steam pouring off of his form, muscles withering into almost nothing and his bangs falling back to their natural position.

  “Huh. What the hell?” Izuku watched the process before him, having fallen silent at the first sign of the steam. This was something he didn't understand, and he did love a good mystery, after all. He stayed quiet as the steam, or was it smoke? cleared away, a withered figure remaining in place of the number one hero. His mind whirring, Izuku tried to connect the dots.

   “So my hypothesis on the time limit was right…” he mumbled under his breath, too quiet and fast to even understand himself. He just didn’t know how right it was. Yet. “So, is this the effect of the mystery fight,” he asked, remembering the week-long disappearance over two months after his last documented fight.

  All Might stared incredulously at this child, this quirkless child, who just by looking at him seemed to know his secrets. He slumped and slid down into a seated position against the railing enclosing the rooftop. “Five years ago an enemy did this to me,” he lifted his shirt to show the mangled twist of flesh that made up his left side. “My respiratory system was nearly destroyed, and my stomach had to be removed. I can only do hero work for about three hours a day, and what you see now is all that remains the rest of the day.”

  “You mean the fight after Toxic Chainsaw? Because it couldn’t have been them, you were still working almost full days until a few months after that fight.” Izuku narrowed his eyes, trying to connect the dots in front of him. There were just so many unknowns, and he loved it. “Besides, the scar pattern doesn’t match the wounds made famous by Toxic Chainsaw.” Toxic Chainsaw was famous for ripped, shredded, flesh and this was a puncture wound. A large one, but still a puncture wound.

  “...you know your facts.” All Might wiped away the trail of blood that leaked from his mouth, trying to put into words exactly what he needed to say. “A hero is always ready to risk their life. Without a quirk, can one become a hero? No, I would have to say. It’s not a bad thing to dream. However, you need to be realistic, kid.”

  Izuku saw the man he had considered a hero speaking, but he didn’t hear the words over the rising wave of emotions rising in his mind. He didn’t know what he was supposed to feel, but the emotion that pushed itself through his mind with the most urgency was anguish.

  He didn’t see when All Might had left him on that rooftop, too caught up in the roaring flames consuming the dream he had carried for almost his entire life. What those fires burned away and left behind in its place was a shriveled, charred, mockery of his passion. But Izuku wasn’t sure what he even had left now. What was he supposed to do?

  He was supposed to be a hero, so what would he do now?

 

*** * ***

 

   “It’s not a bad thing to dream. However, you need to be realistic, kid.”

   Fuck that. Izuku gritted his teeth as he walked, hands clasping the straps of his backpack in a white-knuckled stranglehold. Why had All Might not just said what he was really thinking? Why did he try to hide what he meant behind his meaningless words?

   You can't be a hero.  That was the gist of it, right?

   Izuku didn't even know what he had been expecting from that conversation. He had already known what the answer would be. He’d know that for a while now. He’d already known that his dream would be crushed before it even had the chance to form. But those words still weighed heavily on his heart as he trudged through the streets.

   Sure, he knew already that couldn’t function on false bravado alone, but he needed to find something to replace the bright dream that had fueled him for so long. Had to find something to strive for. Izuku sighed softly, pulling out his phone and sending out a message to the only friends he had and he felt some of the anger in his heart lift as he read the replies on the group chat.

 

[Can I get a, uhhh, Crime?]

 

Izuku: I got held up, but i'm on my way,

I should be there in about 10

 

Dabi: whatever, I don't care

 

VampBitch: Don't be such an emo bitch, Dabi. See you soon, Zuzu!

 

Izuku: Boy have I got a fuckin story

to tell the two of you when I get there

 

   Izuku closed out of the group chat, smiling a little when he thought of seeing Dabi and Toga after such a shit day. He could always count on them to believe in him. The teen pulled a shaky breath into his lungs, trying his best to compose himself when he heard a loud, familiar explosion where he was supposed to meet with his friends. Panic settled itself down into his chest as he rushed forward, skidding to a halt at the sight of the crowd of people and news vans surrounding the street the trio often visited to waste time at arcades and cafes.

   The slime monster from earlier was there, surrounded by heroes who were… just standing there. Why weren't they doing anything? Where did those explosions- oh. OH! OH SHIT!

   Bakugou was in there, trapped in the sludge. Drowning. Izuku knew it was only moments before it would be too late. Why are the heroes just standing there?

   Overtaken by a sudden burst of movement, Izuku found himself pushing through the crowd and past the heroes, pulling his backpack off and flinging it at the one weakness he knew about, the sludge villains eyes. In the same motion, he reached into the back pocket of his pants and grabbed the gift he had been planning to give to Toga. A black butterfly knife.

   He flipped open the blade and jumped forward, pushing himself towards his goal by leveraging his weight on Bakugou's bent knee. In one fluid, horribly satisfying movement, the knife was driven straight into the villains floating eye.

   An ear-shattering scream rang through the street, and Bakugou was forcibly ejected from the slime, and he lay coughing on the pavement, Izuku standing in front of him, knife still clenched in his hand. He gritted his teeth, not understanding this need flowing through his blood, this passion blooming in his heart. In his focus, he couldn’t hear the shouts of the heroes, didn’t hear the angry, hoarse shouts of the boy he had saved, didn’t see the shaded figures of his friends at the mouth of the alley. Didn’t see anything but the villain in front of him and the bright blossoming thrill of the fight.

   The villain thrashed, screaming in pain again, and Izuku glanced down at the blade of the knife. Ew, gross. Still pinioned on the blade was one of the villains' eyes, empty and unseeing, oozing from where it had been stabbed straight through. Izuku pushed one of his legs behind himself, strengthening his stance in case he had to rush forward again.

   So busy trying to protect someone that he was sure that he hated, he didn’t see the approach of the number one hero until the wind pressure from All Might's Detroit Smash slammed him against the hard exposed brick of the closest buildings wall. Bile rose in Izuku’s throat, and he quickly got back to his feet. As rain suddenly began to pour down from the air pressure change, he flicked the eye of the villain off the blade and wiped the gunk coated knife against his pants leg to try to clean it, twirling the blade closed with an unnecessary flourish and shoving it back into his pocket. He turned to leave, only to come face to face with a group of heroes and police officers with looks of horror and disgust on their faces.

   For fuck's sake! He didn’t say that of course, able to feel the weight of the gazes of everyone around him. It was a heavy weight, and in any other world it would have crushed him, but not in this life. Izuku turned to leave, already knowing what was coming next.

   A heavy hand landed on his shoulder, and Izuku turned to face the officer who had grabbed him. He raised his eyebrows in mock curiosity, “how can I help you, officer?” Rain weighted down Izuku’s hair, but he kept his gaze steady and waited for the response he knew was coming.

   “...you… you’re going to need to come into the station with us.”

   “Oh? Is there a problem, officer?” Izuku knew what he had done, but the adrenaline high was so much more than he had ever experienced before. So engrossed in the feeling, he missed the moment that a pair of handcuffs were closed around his wrists, and an officer began to lead him away. A loud shout pulled his attention towards the crowd, dozens of people shouting out when they saw the police leading him away.

 

“What the hell are you doing?”

“You go, kid!”                                                                  “Let him go!”

                         “Yeah, let him go!”

“He saved that kid!”                                                             “He’s so young!”

“The heroes were just standing there-”                                     “Why didn’t the heroes do anything?”

                             “He’s a real hero!”

“What’s happening?”                                   “This kid risked his life to save someone!”              "What, seriously?"

     “Live from the scene of the latest villain fight-”

 

   The voices overlapped, and Izuku turned to the wall of cameras and reporters, and raised his cuffed hands the best he could, flashing a ‘V’ for victory at the cameras and followed it with a wide grin. I’ll show you a fucking hero. I'll show you all.  He kept his head held high, following the path the police officers made in the crowd, ignoring the dozens of questions being yelled at him by the reporters and cheers of the civilians.

   Izuku kept his gaze forward, letting the media whip itself into a frenzy over the idea of a child being punished for trying to save a life while the heroes did nothing. He felt the weight of the glares from the pro heroes' and the familiar burning of Bakugou’s constant angry stare, but he doesn’t worry about anything until he’s seated in the back of a police car. Are they going to call my mom?

 

*** * ***

 

   Tsukauchi Naomasa likes to believe that after spending over ten years on the force that nothing could surprise him anymore. But this… He looked over the report that had been written up, then looked through the window into the interrogation room. The level of violence against the rampaging villain couldn’t have been caused by this child, could it?

   The detective sighed softly, he still had to conduct an interrogation, but he hadn’t been expecting a kid. Hadn’t been expecting over a dozen people to be protesting outside, all holding posters calling for their release from custody either, but sometimes life throws you a curveball.

   Thankfully they had managed to bring the kid in before the crowd came, but now the video of the kid standing up to a villain was already all over the internet, and everytime someone took it down, someone else re-uploaded it. This kid was making allies around the globe, and Naomasa really hoped nothing would come of this social media nightmare. But when did that sort of wishing ever work?

   As if he knew he was being thought of, the teenager in the interrogation room cast their gaze to the one-way glass, staring intently almost exactly where Naomasa was standing. For a moment, the detective swore they were looking him in the eye, but that was impossible. Naomasa glanced over the list of charges.

One count of public quirk use.

One count of assault with a deadly weapon.

One count of assault resulting in grievous injury.

   All in all, not a good combination. However, the first count would probably be waived on account of them protecting another person from harm. As for the other two, he would get to the bottom of that. Naomasa closed the file, stepping out of the observation booth and entering the interrogation room.

   “Ah, I’ve been expecting you.” Midoriya Izuku smiled knowingly, eyes unreadable. “Was my file really that interesting, or were unsettled because of my age?”

   Alright, that was weird. Naomasa felt a wave of discomfort roll over him, was it an effect of this kids quirk? There wasn’t anything in the kids' personal file about a quirk like that. There wasn’t really anything at all. But that didn’t matter right now, he had to start the interrogation.

   “You may call me Detective Tsukauchi, or simply, Detective.” He pulled out the chair on the opposite side of the table, sitting down and opening the file, reading out the charges. “One count of public quirk use. One count of assault with a deadly weapon. One count of assault resulting in grievous injury.”

   Izuku schooled his expression into a bland facade, hiding his surprise. Did they really think he had a quirk, or were they testing him? Did cops even do that? “Sounds about right.” Screaming internally, he tried to force himself to be confident. Someone other than himself.

  “State your name and age.” Naomasa needed to establish a baseline, making it easier to tell if what was being said was the truth or not.

  “Midoriya Izuku, fourteen,” Izuku spoke, his mind distant, thinking still about what had happened on the rooftop.

  Truth. Naomasa leveled his gaze at the kid in front of him. “What was your motive in your assault on the sludge villain?”

   The question pulled his focus onto the detective, a man who might be the living embodiment of every detective stereotype ever. “He had Bakugou for over forty-five seconds you know? And after forty-five seconds, you drown.” Izuku stated what he knew was the truth, not yet knowing the detective's quirk. But it was probably some sort of heightened perception. “Besides, the only one allowed to beat Bakugou up is me.”

   Truth. Naomasa blinked, the kid was telling the truth, but he hasn't actually answered the question. “What was your motive?”

   Izuku shrugged, cuffed hands spreading as far as the chain would allow. “I didn’t have one. I saw someone dying, saw the pro heroes standing around doing nothing, and my body just moved of its own volition.”

   Truth. Naomasa scribbled a note in the boys' file, moving onto the next question. “Did you intend to cause injury to the villain?”

   “Well, I did pull a knife on him.” Izuku frowned, “when this is over and done with, can I get that knife back? It was a gift.”

   Truth? Again, the kid had managed to dodge the question while simultaneously making Naomasa uncomfortable. “So you did intend to injure him?”

   “Drowning isn’t a good way to die, your lungs burn for air, but each breath you take only makes it worse. Then you slowly start to lose your senses until your brain ceases to function.” Izuku plucked at his handcuffs, letting them clunk on the metal of the table. “I wasn’t going to let them drown anyone else today.”

   Anyone else? There was another victim? Why wasn’t that in the file? And horrifyingly, truth.

   Izuku spoke before the detective had the chance to ask his question, looking him dead in the eyes with an unreadable expression. “The other person they tried to drown was me. Less than an hour before I stabbed them.”

   Truth. Oh, that’s really not good. Naomasa quickly wrote down that bit of information, this would definitely affect the villains sentencing. “Where were you attacked?”

   “Outside of Aldera Junior High. Ask All Might, he was there.” Izuku smirked, enjoying the look of surprise on the detective's face.

   What? Truth, but, what? Naomasa wrote that in the file as well, he and Toshinori were going to have a conversation after this. “Did you purposely seek them out in an attempt at revenge?”

   Izuku shook his head, “tempting, but no. I was going to meet my friends and happened to… stumble across the incident.”

   Truth, with the complicated questions out of the way, the easiest bit of information to clear up should be the account of the public use of a quirk. “Now, onto your quirk use-

   “Heh, what?” Izuku laughed quietly, shoulders shaking with the effort of staying quiet.

   “Your quirk-

   “Hah! Good one.”

   “I’m sorry, I don’t see what’s funny.”

   Izuku snickered, bringing his cuffed hands to his face. “Of course you don’t, lie detector.” He was almost certain the detectives quirk dealt with lies, but he could still be wrong.

   Naomasa sighed, closing the file and placing it aside. “Why don’t you enlighten me.”

   “Wait, does that file really not say?” Izuku's laughter had stuttered to a halt, confusion painting itself across his features. Did the police really have that bad of bookkeeping? “What does it say under my quirk registration section?”

   “It says nothing.” The section of his quirk was blank, and Naomasa really didn’t see what was so funny.

   “Oh, so it’s not a problem with the file, it’s a problem with you.” Izuku froze the moment those words left his lips. Why was he insulting a detective? What the hell was even happening today? Maybe he was in shock. He did almost die, after all.

   “Excuse me?”

   Izuku shrugged, deciding to run with the rude delinquent act. “Your reading comprehension must be terrible.”

   Naomasa narrowed his eyes, was this kid saying what he thought he was saying? “So about your quirk-

   “Ain't got one, don’t need none,” Izuku smirked, channeling his inner Dabi. “A bit rude of you to assume I had one, too. Prejudiced or somethin’?” Maybe that was a bit much.

   Truth. The detective picked up the file and scribbled a final note. As far as he could tell, this was an open and shut case. Add a warning flag to the kids' record and send him on home to his mother, and maybe have a home visit to make sure it’s all clear on their end.

   "Oh, detective." Izuku raised his eyebrows, actually having a question he wanted to ask. "I've got a request."

   "And what would that be?"

   "Can I get a copy of my mug shot? I'm sure my friends would love it."

   What. Naomasa looked up in surprise, was this kid kidding?

 

*** * ***

 

  While Izuku was being led away in handcuffs, Dabi and Toga were staring with shock at the events that had unfolded in front of them. Izuku, their friend who never started fights, who was the shoulder they could cry on, the nicest, most caring person they knew, the person who they could always depend on, had just stabbed someone. In the eye. On live television. In front of assorted pro heroes, and even All Might.

  What was happening.

  The three of them were just supposed to hang out at the arcade, not get arrested!

  Dabi blinked from the shock of what he had seen. “Toga?”

  “So I wasn’t seeing things?” Toga had a look of confusion mixed with shock on her face, but those two feelings were eclipsed with worry. “That really happened?”

  “Yeah… I need to make a call.”

  “Who are you calling?”

  “Izuku’s mom.” Dabi pulled out his phone, trying to figure out what he was supposed to say to her. “She probably saw what happened on the news, but I’m gonna call anyways.”

  “Oh, we should probably go see her, make sure that she’s alright after seeing that on the news.” Himiko shook her head, blonde hair bouncing as she did. Seeing that had been terrifying, but seeing Izuku with that manic smile on his face had been almost just as scary.

  “You’re right.” Dabi nodded, dialing the number for Inko’s cell phone.

One ring. “C’mon, pick up please.”

Two rings. What if she’s at work? What do I do then?

Three- “Hello?” Dabi let out a sigh of relief. Oh, thank god.

   “Midoriya-san? It’s Dabi, are you watching the news?”

“No, I just got home from my shift.”

  Dabi frowned, glancing over at the news trucks. “Well, I’m not sure how to say this, so I’ll just say it. Izuku got arrested.”

“What?!”

  “There was a villain attack, and he kept them from attacking Bakugou, but he… he stabbed the guy.” Dabi could still feel disbelief, and he turned to look at the screaming crowd.

“Oh my god.”

  “Yeah, that was my reaction.” Dabi turned away from the mounting chaos, grabbing Toga by the wrist and walking towards the apartment he had been calling home for the last couple months. “Toga and I are coming over to make sure you’re alright and wait with you for the cops to visit.”

“Thank you, Dabi… Oh god, they’re replaying what happened on the news.”

  Dabi frowned at the pain in the woman’s voice, but he wasn’t sure what to say. Toga, however, took that decision away from him at the same time she took his phone.

  “It’ll be okay, Midoriya-san! I’ll stay on the line with you until we get there if you want!”

“Oh, thank you Toga, but I need some time to think about this.”

  “Well, that’s okay too! But don’t worry, we’ll be there soon!”

“That really means a lot to me, thank you. The both of you.”

   Himiko smiled, but her eyes still showed her nervousness. She nodded, hanging up after Inko did. “She’s really worried.”

  Dabi snorted, grabbing his phone out of Togas hand. “I get it, you know? I mean, Izuku did stab a guy.”

  Himiko nodded, finally managing to pull her wrist out of Dabi’s grasp. That was too close to them holding hands and no thanks. “Where did he even get a knife from?”

  “Wait.” Dabi was surprised, and that translated into him tripping over his own feet and almost falling over. When he had righted himself, he turned to Toga, “are you saying that you didn’t give it to him?”

  “What, no? I don’t have any knives.” Himiko shrugged, she would like to have knives, but for some reason, that was one of the few things her parents actually paid attention to. Maybe they thought she was gonna murder them... Not like she hadn't thought about it before.

  “Huh, you look like you’d have knives.”

  Himiko narrowed her eyes and frowned, “oh yeah?”

  “Yup.” Dabi shrugged, shoving his hands into the pocket of his hoodie. “It just made sense.”

  “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

  “That you’re a scary bitch.” It was the truth. Toga could be terrifying if she tried to be. And sometimes when she didn’t try to.

  “Oh, okay!”

  Dabi kept his eyes forward as they walked, but he could still feel the weight of the negative mood growing with each step. He knew what he had to do. He took a deep breath and... “Skittles are basically jellybeans with leveled up defense.”

  “What?!” Himiko turned her head to stare at Dabi, who was somehow keeping his face blank. “Why would you say that? I mean, it’s true, but why would you say it?”

  Dabi smiled softly, the expression lost in his scars and staples, and he wished for a moment that he had any real social skills. He didn’t know how to really fix a situation, only how to distract from it. No matter what he did, he couldn’t do what Izuku could when it came to these kinds of things. But instead of that, he said, “the first dude to hear a parrot repeat something must have thought he was losing his fucking mind.”

  Himiko laughed, her heart warming as she understood what Dabi was trying to do. “Thanks, Dabi, I really needed that.” A smile stayed on her face as the rounded the last corner to the Midoriya apartment.

  “Mmh.”

  The two fell silent, walking up the stairs to the door. Dabi grabbed the handle, pushing the door open. “Midoriya-san? Are you alright?”

  “You’re joking, yeah? There’s no way she’s ‘alright.’”

  “...you, shut up.”

  Dabi pulled Toga forward by the hand, the two of them ending up in the kitchen, finding Inko cooking. That’s weird, right?

  “Midoriya-san?” Dabi stepped forward carefully, “are you feeling alright?”

  “Well, my son just got arrested, so I’m going to have to say no.”

  “Yeah, that was a stupid question,” Dabi mumbled. He frowned, unsure how he was supposed to handle this. “Um, if you’re cooking, I don’t know how much help I’ll be.”

  “I can help! Cooking always helps me destress!” Himiko chimed in, once again yanking her hand out of Dabi’s grasp. “What are we making, Midoriya-san?”

  “Katsudon.”

  Oh. Dabi and Toga shared a look. They both knew that katsudon was Izuku’s favorite, so if she was making katsudon she must be really worried.

  Himiko smiled widely, breaking out the heart-wrenching mood that had fallen over the duo. “Well, I’ve never made it before, but show me what to do and I’ll try my best!”

  “I can mix things?” Dabi shrugged, the kitchen was not his area of expertise. “Or wash dishes.”

  Inko smiled a shaky smile at the two teenagers, knowing they were just trying to get her out of her own head and out of the spiraling mood she had found herself trapped in ever since she had heard about what had happened. She nodded, tears dripping from her eyes as she turned back to the pots and pans on the stovetop. “Toga, you can help me with the vegetables, and Dabi, if you could set the table for me?”

  “You’ve got it Midoriya-san!” Himiko grabbed a utility knife from the block, turning to the cutting board and her victims. I mean, her vegetables.

  Dabi cast a wary glance at the blonde girl as he took bowls and plates out of the cabinets. “Sure thing, Midoriya-san.”

  The two teenagers sat to their assigned tasks, doing everything they could to help the woman who had helped teach the two of them so much about what it meant to have a family. It might not have been ideal circumstances, but they still managed to feel the warmth of the kitchen sink into and settle into their hearts. They would do anything to make sure that the source of that light and warmth never faded.

  Anything they needed to.

 

*** * ***

 

  Izuku fiddled with his handcuffs, trying to get comfortable in the back seat of the police car as he was driven back home after spending more time than he had wanted to at the police station. At least they had looked at his bruises from the impact with the wall. “So, detective, about the knife?” Izuku caught the eye of Detective Tsukauchi in the rearview mirror.

  The detective sighed, regretting the fact he had had to do anything involving this case. “It’s in the bag. With your phone and backpack.”

  “Nice.” Izuku frowned, “and the mug shot?”

  Naomasa tightened his hands on the steering wheel. Why had he volunteered to do this again? What was wrong with him? “Also in the bag.” He should have made Sansa do this.

  Izuku nodded, glancing out the window and seeing familiar landmarks. “Even better.” He would never say it, but he was nervous about facing his mother after this. What would she think? Her darling boy had a police record now, but he couldn’t bring himself to feel bad about that. “You’re gonna be the one doing the little home visit, aren’t you, detective?”

  “Yes.”

  “Hmm.” Izuku frowned, his eyebrows drawing together. He wasn’t exactly a fan of the idea of the detective coming into his home and looking through his life trying to figure out where it had all gone ‘wrong.’ Nothing had gone wrong. “Me stabbing that guy wasn’t my mother’s fault if that’s what you might be thinking. It wasn’t because of my home life or anything like that.” His mind suddenly flashed to the extra futon in his room and a pink sleeping bag in his living room. Huh, maybe something had changed, but this wasn’t the fault of his friends.

  Naomasa glanced into the rearview mirror, this kid… Was he trying to protect someone? The detective smiled softly, this kid might be a violent little punk, but he wasn’t a bad kid.

  Izuku’s frowned deepened the more he thought about the home visit. They weren’t going to blame his mom, would they? They couldn’t. Izuku’s thoughts spiraled quickly down into darkness, and he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. He didn’t know what was going to happen. He hated not knowing. Part of him was terrified that what he had done would make everything he loved disappear, but he knew that was ridiculous. It was, wasn’t it?

  His home life wasn’t typical, but it was good. But people looking in from the outside wouldn’t understand that. They would see a single mother and a violent kid. And that’s all they would see.

  “We’re almost there.”

  Izuku startled out of his darkening thoughts, glancing out the window and watching the park he had spent so much time at pass by. “Mhm.” He fiddled with the handcuffs, wondering for a moment if he should learn how to pick locks. He probably should, it would be a useful skill to have.

   Naomasa frowned, the negative energy almost tangible. What was going on in that kids mind? He took the last turn, pulling into the parking lot of the small apartment building and shutting off the engine once he had parked. It really didn’t look like much, small, rundown, but still leagues away from what he had expected.

  “You ready, kid?”

  Izuku unbuckled his seatbelt, taking longer than he would have liked with the handcuffs restraining his movement. “As I’ll ever be.”

  Naomasa exited the car, opening the back door once he had closed his own. “Then let’s go.” The detective followed the handcuffed teen to a perfectly normal looking door. Naomasa knocked, and the door was opened by a worried woman with features almost exactly like the teen. “Midoriya-san?”

  “Come in.” Inko Midoriya tried to keep her voice from wavering at the sight of her son in handcuffs, and she ushered the two through the door, down the hall, and into the living room.

  Izuku stayed quiet, plucking at his handcuffs listlessly. The conversation between his mother and the detective had faded to background murmurs, his mind racing with the implications of what he had done. He had a criminal record now. He really couldn’t be a hero even if he miraculously gained a quirk.

   Guess All Might was right. Izuku managed to bring his focus back to reality, but he still felt like he was in a haze. An observer, not a participant. Movement and sound coming from the kitchen pierced the fog, just the slightest bit, and he glanced over to see two familiar people staring from around the door. What the…

  He glanced back to see his mother and detective Tsukauchi still deep in conversation, just quiet enough that he couldn’t hear them, before he turned back to the kitchen and waved awkwardly to his friends, handcuffs hindering his movement. Dabi and Toga just stared at him as if he had lost his mind. Izuku didn’t blame them. He turned back to the conversation about him, feeling like he really should have been paying attention. He might be brilliant, but that didn’t stop him from acting like an absolute idiot half the time.

  -just need to conduct a home visit to conclude our investigation, then he’ll be returned to your custody.”

  “Whatever you need, detective.” Inko lead the detective away, answering questions as they walked, leaving Izuku to stand awkwardly in the middle of the empty living room. But he wasn’t alone for long.

  Almost the instant his mother had lead the detective out of the living room, Dabi and Toga were rushing to his side, looks of worry on their faces.

  “Why did you stab the guy?” Himiko had to ask. It had been on her mind ever since she had seen it happen. And where had Izuku even gotten a knife?

  “What the fuck, Zuzu, why did you do any of that?” Dabi asked his question, even though he already knew the answer.

  Izuku ignored their questions, too surprised to even understand them. “What are you two doing here?”

  “We called your mom to tell her you got arrested.”

  Dabi nodded, “yeah, not a conversation I wanted to have.”

  “Huh. How did she take it?” Izuku raised his eyebrows, wondering for the hundredth time in one day what the hell was happening.

  “Not well.”

  Dabi rolled his eyes at Toga’s answer. "'Not well,  you mean bad.”

  Himiko sighed, pushing Dabi with her shoulder. She turned back to Izuku, having one more question for him. “Why the hell did you even get involved?”

  “Yeah, that’s a good question, you should answer it.”

  Izuku sighed, shrugging slightly, handcuffs clinking with the movement. “Nobody else was doing anything, and he was dying. I had to do something.”

  Dabi scoffed, “oh my god, you’re such a fucking hero.”

  “Can’t be one now, I’ve got a criminal record.” Izuku frowned, hating how he had already accepted that as his reality. However, the next words he heard snapped him out of that state of shock.

  “That’s pretty badass,” Dabi smirked, truth be told, that really was pretty cool. His friend was a real-life delinquent.

  Himiko nodded, yellow eyes shining brightly. “Has knives and is a criminal? Nice.”

  “You guys are weird.” Izuku shook his head, flopping onto the couch, cuffed hands resting in his lap. He thought about what he had been told after the interrogation, that he would still have the arrest on his record but the fact that he was a quirkless minor kept him from being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. He never thought that he would one day find a use for being quirkless, but it looked like he had.

  The trio turned to the hallway, watching the two adults come back into the living room, detective Tsukauchi tucking a notepad into his pocket before pulling a small set of keys off of his belt and walking over to Izuku. Izuku lifted his cuffed hands expectantly, a blank expression on his face as the cuffs were unlocked. “You stay out of trouble now, you hear me?”

  Izuku rubbed his sore wrists, trying to ease the irritated skin. “Loud and clear, detective.”

  Detective Tsukachi turned back towards the front door, taking his hat off of the hatstand. “I’ll be putting my final report in now. And I mean it, I don’t want to see you down at the station again.”

  Izuku nodded, playing the part of the good boy. “Don’t worry detective, I’ll stay out of trouble.”

  “Good.” And with that, he was gone, Inko Midoriya closing the door behind him.

  Izuku sighed, looking at the family that still surrounded him. Now if he could only figure out a way to explain all of this to his mother.

Chapter Text

  Izuku stared at the ceiling of his bedroom, trying to get last nights conversation off of his mind. He and his mother… the conversation had not gone well. It wasn’t even the fact that he had stabbed someone, his mother had been more upset over the fact that he had jumped into the middle of a fight that even the pros were avoiding.

  He sighed, pressing the heel of his palms to his eyes until he saw white dots floating in his vision. What was he supposed to do? He had even gotten the ‘I’m not mad, just disappointed’ speech, and he felt so bad about it! Especially because he couldn’t bring himself to feel guilty about what he had done.

  But even though he didn’t feel guilty, he still felt disgusted. Stabbing the villain might have worked, but it was so… gross. There were probably better words for it, but it was just gross. Maybe he should feel worse about the fact that the villain was permanently disfigured, but he couldn’t bring himself to feel bad for someone who had such a lackadaisical attitude towards murdering children.

  Izuku rolled over onto his side, struggling to get comfortable enough to sleep. He swore he could still feel the electric buzz of adrenaline burning beneath his skin, but that wasn’t possible. Idly, Izuku wondered what time it was, the lack of windows in his room working against him. He reached over to his bedside table and grabbed his phone, tapping the screen to check the time. 2:36 am. He was tired, it was late, so why the hell couldn’t he sleep?

  He played the events of the day over and over in his mind, trying to pick out the point where it had lost all sense of reality. The fight after school. Almost dying. Being shot down by All Might, he still wasn’t over that, by the way. The return of the slime. And his arrest.

  As far as he could tell, everything seemed to break down with the first appearance of the sludge villain. But he didn’t have anyone to blame for that.

  Izuku glared at the phone in his hands as though it could explain what was happening to him. But it couldn’t, it was only a phone. But it could give him news updates, and Izuku took advantage of that, thumbing into the news app, almost dropping his phone onto the floor in shock when his own face stared back at him with the banner ‘trending story’ underneath it.

  He was trending? Huh. That’s weird, right?

  Out of curiosity, Izuku tapped on the article, blinking in surprise when he saw that it was in support of what he had done. His eyebrows pulled together in confusion as he scrolled down the page, reading words that condemned the heroes and praised him. They didn’t even know who he was, and they thought he had done something good?

  Ridiculous.

  Izuku closed out of the app, roughly shoving his phone back onto the table. He had disfigured someone on live television, and people were praising him. Calling him a hero. Is that what it means to be a hero? Using brute force to win and being applauded for the resulting carnage?

  Is that what he had dreamed of being for so long?

  With a shake of his head, Izuku forced himself out of his bed and to his feet, stumbling over to the light switch and flicking it up, bathing his room in harsh fluorescent light. He glared around his room, taking in the proof of his idolization of violence with a sneer. He wouldn’t idolize those who used violence just for fame while they let children drown and die in front of them. Izuku turned to the door, stalking his way to the closet in the hall, grabbing a cardboard box and returning to his room, roughly tossing anything hero themed into it. Goodbye heroes, goodbye dreams, goodbye naive Izuku.

  Once his shelves were clear, Izuku turned to his walls, almost every spare inch plastered with his obsession. He would have to be a little more careful removing these, he could probably still sell them for at least half of their value.

  “What the hell are you doing now?” Dabi stared blearily out from his covers, too tired to understand what was happening. Everyone had had a good cry last night, and he was still out of it.

  Izuku glanced down from where he was standing on top of his desk. “Doing away with childish things.” He carefully removed the tape from the posters corner, glad that he had put paper between the tape and the poster. He could definitely sell this one.

  Dabi glared up at him, pulling his blanket up to his chin. “Well, okay. Can you do it quieter?”

  “Revolutions aren’t quiet.” Izuku rolled up the poster, shoving it under his arm and going after the next one.

  “Okay.” A moment passed, and what Izuku had said finally settled in. “...wait, what? What does that even mean?”

  Izuku waved a hand in a dismissive gesture. “Go back to sleep, don’t worry about it.”

  Dabi shook his head, too tired and confused to understand what was happening. “No, I’m pretty worried. What the hell is going on?”

  “I met All Might yesterday, did I tell you that?”

  “No?” Dabi was pretty sure he would remember hearing about that.

  “And I asked him if someone without a quirk can become a hero.” Izuku frowned at the third poster of All Might, remembering vividly what words had been traded. “Want to know what he said?”

  Dabi didn’t like where this was going. Izuku looked so angry, but he sounded far too calm. “What did he say?”

  “He said ‘no.’ ” Izuku rolled up the second poster, stepping off of his desk and onto his chair. “That I couldn’t be a hero. I knew what was going to be said, but hearing it was an entirely different thing.” He placed the rolled up posters into the same box, looking at the now bare wall. Three more to go. “And if that wasn’t enough, after seeing how people reacted to what I did… what I did was unforgivable. But people loved it.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “They liked the violence, enjoyed the fact that I mutilated someone.” Izuku rolled up another poster, “and that’s wrong.. It’s sick..”

  Dabi nodded, he’d seen how people would applaud the man he had once called a father. Even when someone had been burned alive, they would still cheer and call him a hero. He pushed himself up onto his elbows, giving up on going back to sleep.

  “I don’t think I ever really wanted to be a hero. Not the way society sees them.”

  “Then what did you want to be?”

  Izuku sighed, “someone that saved people. But I guess that’s not what a hero is anymore.”

  Dabi grabbed his phone, glaring at the time. 2:57 am. It was way too early for a discussion on the hero philosophy. Sure, Dabi would usually be up by now, but not by being woken up by a madman ranting about false heroes.

  “And the thing is, I’m not the only person to make these points! So many other people have, and they were ignored because they were considered to be ‘pro villains,’ instead of just being called decent people!” Izuku rolled up the last of the posters, taking in the bare white walls. There was nothing left. Had his obsession really ran so deep? “And one of the worst things about that is the fact that this society essentially manufactures villains as a byproduct of quirk laws.” Izuku continued to rant, rummaging through his closet, throwing out everything that was even slightly hero related to the floor.

  As Izuku rambled, Dabi typed out a quick message to Toga, too tired and confused to reply to Izuku with anything but little hums of agreement.

 

[Unnamed Chat]

 

Dabi: I know this isn’t a 3am drop of wisdom,

but Izuku is going on a really scary rant.

I’m so confused.

 

VampBitch: What’s the rant about?

 

Dabi: The philosophical problems of heroes in our society

 

VampBitch: Oh.

                  That sounds intense.

 

Dabi: Intense?

You mean terrifying.

I have the fear

 

VampBitch: Good.

                  Did he already talk about how society manufacturers villains?

 

Dabi: Oh, no

Not you too

 

VampBitch: If you don’t like it, do something about it

 

Dabi: Maybe I’ll get a part time job

Just so I don’t have to deal with this nonsense

 

VampBitch: You mean society's flaws?

                  But sure, nonsense works too

 

Dabi: Fcuk it, I’m looking for a job now

Have fun going back to sleep

 

*Dabi* is offline.

 

VampBitch: Have fun no longer being one of the uninformed sheep

                  Fight the power

 

*VampBitch* is offline.

 

  Dabi listened as Izuku’s rant slowly dwindled into angry huffs, and he pulled up a site with local job listings. Maybe he could find something to keep himself busy and make a little money on the side. He clicked on the first offer he saw, setting an alarm to remind himself to go in for an application the morning once Izuku went off to school. “Zuzu, this is a fascinating discussion, but please, please, go the fuck to sleep.”

  Izuku popped his head out of from his almost empty closet, hands filled with clothes emblazoned with hero symbols. “Alright, give me just a minute, I’m gonna fold all of this.” Izuku ran back out of the room, coming back moments later with another cardboard box. He folded the clothes as quickly as he could while making sure they weren’t just rolled up into a ball before he shoved them all into the box, flicking the light back off and jumping into bed.

  Dabi sighed from his place on the futon on the floor, almost able to feel Izuku’s manic energy from where he was trying to sleep. Even if he did manage to get sleep, it was still going to be a long day when he woke back up.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Holy hell, they let him come back to school?”

  “Didn’t he get arrested?”

                                                     “Shouldn’t he be in prison?”

  “Should he even be allowed to walk around like this?

  “Why is he here?”

  “I heard that the guy he stabbed is like, half blinded now.”

“Really? That’s so scary!”                       “So intense!”

“God, that was badass, though, just jumped in there.”

                         “It’s pretty creepy that he just had a knife, isn’t it?”

“I wonder what he’s gonna do next. You know he’s just gonna get in trouble again.”

 

  Izuku shoved his hands in his pockets, the stares and whispers following him ever since he had walked into the school door. Part of him preened at the attention, his ego stroked over the fact that so many people were moved in some way by what he had done. But the rational side of him listened to their words, the fear they felt towards him.

  Were they right to be afraid? Izuku scoffed, walking to his classroom, too wrapped up in his thoughts to see how the crowd parted before him, nobody wanting to get on his bad side now that people knew what he was capable of.

  “Oi, Deku!” Just what he needed right now, Bakugou trying to explode him for no good reason.

  Izuku turned, hands still in his pockets, a forced air of calm surrounding him. He hadn’t expected Bakugou to confront him after what had happened. “What.”

  Bakugou clenched his fists, jaw working as if he was trying to eat his own words before he could say them. “I… I didn’t need you to save me!”

  “Oh, alright.” Izuku shrugged, turning back to the classroom door, ignoring the small crowd that had gathered around them hoping to see a fight.

  Bakugou snarled like an angry wild dog, crowd fueling his rage. “Don’t you walk away from me!”

  “Why?” Izuku continued walking, adrenaline already rising. “We’re going to the same class.”

  “I didn’t need a quirkless freak like you to help me, I could have taken care of that guy myself.” Bakugou’s volume rose, anger evident in his words, his posture, his entire being. Hell, there was even anger within his anger, like some sort of rage onion.

  “Oh, yeah, we all saw how well that was working out.” Izuku fell silent immediately after saying those words. He had just gotten arrested, he didn’t need to go instigating another fight so soon. Maybe next week, but not now.

  “You goddamn… Fuck!" Bakugou let loose a small cluster of explosions, stepping past Izuku and into the classroom. “This isn’t over.”

  Izuku raised his eyebrows in curiosity. It sure felt over, so what was all of that about? Well, whatever it was, it could wait for a while. He had class and after that… well, who knew what would happen now.

  With the ring of the bell, Izuku stepped over the threshold, ignoring the way the classroom fell silent as he entered. He slung his backpack off of his shoulders, letting it hit the floor with a loud thud, and he settled into his seat, pulling out his newest hero analysis notebook before shoving it back into his bag with a pang of disgust running through his gut.

  He turned half of his attention to what the homeroom teacher was talking about, something about the effects of quirks on architecture, the other half of his mind pleasantly blank. Usually, during class, he was all false bluster and barely concealed anger, but today he was calm. Cold. Frozen in place and unsure of his future.

  Somehow, that was worse than his normal life.

  “Midoriya, are you paying attention?”

  Izuku shrugged, might as well tell the truth. “No.”

  The teacher raised their brows, frown on their face and textbook in their hand. “Oh. Well, try to pay attention from now on, alright?” Huh, usually they wouldn’t be so forgiving. Maybe they thought he would bring a knife to school if they weren’t.

  Izuku nodded, flipping them a thumbs up. “Sure thing, boss.”

  A small titter ran through the class at his display, nobody ever talked to the teachers so casually before, and the look on their face was priceless. Izuku grinned sharply, scribbling down notes as the teacher continued with the lesson. The material changed from quirk adaptive architecture, to geometry, and to pre-quirk politics. Something about the peace between North and South Korea. Izuku zoned out again, staring at the ceiling out of sheer boredom. He still had almost ten months left of this, how the hell was he supposed to survive this nonsense after everything he had done in the past day alone?

  The ring of the bell signaling lunchtime broke him out of his thoughts, and he grabbed his phone and his lunch from his bag, looking up the location for the closest pawn shop as he ate. He could get a reasonable price for most of that merchandise, but as for the clothes… well, he was sure the homeless resource center could use them more than he could.

  “Why did you do it?” Izuku lifted his head, catching the eye of one of his classmates, noticing the rest of them crowding around behind them in a rough semicircle.

  “Hmm?”

  “Why did you save him?” His classmate, the girl with the horns, asked him again.

  Izuku laughed, the sound icy cold in the small bubble of quiet that surrounded him. “Should I have let him die?”

  “You got arrested though, was it worth it?”

  Izuku cast his eye to where Bakugou sat with his lackey’s, their conversation audible even where he sat. He imagined what it would be like without him there. He frowned at that thought, his body going cold with fear that that could have been his reality. “Yeah, it was worth it.”

 

*** * ***

 

  This was getting old, and it hasn’t even been one day.

  Izuku cast a glare towards the small cluster of people watching him, hating the way they shrank back from his gaze. He was used to being avoided, not stared at like a wild animal in a cage. Each of his movements sent people skittering out of his space, but any moment he was still, they would come creeping back.

  With a loud sigh, Izuku kicked his feet onto his desk, staring at the clock and waiting until he could leave. He just wanted this all to be over and done with, was that too much to ask?

  The moment the bell rang, Izuku was out of class so fast he almost left an afterimage in his rush to get home. Familiar landmarks were passed by in a blur, and he breezed through the empty apartment, his mother still at work and Dabi doing god knows what. He grabbed the box of merchandise and posters from his room and pulled up a map on his phone, navigating his way to the pawn shop. He was going to get everything he could from this useless box of broken dreams.

  He walked into the pawn shop with a box of merchandise and came back out with a two person tent, a hunting knife, and 49000 yen. Apparently, those action figures were limited edition, and the pawnbroker hadn’t asked why he wanted the knife.

  Tent tucked under his arm and new knife in his pocket, Izuku headed back home, a strange lightness in his chest. He glanced up at the still bright sky, pulling out his phone and checking the latest news.

  Repairs on the Tatooin station from a villain attack, new scandals in the government, recent attacks by the Hero Killer, someone graffitied the Endeavor Hero agency… Izuku mentally gave kudos to whoever it was that had pulled that one off. But the Hero Killer, that wasn’t good. How long had he been active now? Almost four years and nobody had even come close to catching him?

  Izuku shook his head, hair falling over his eyes. Stain had some interesting ideas about heroics, but in the end, his actions would still be completely wrong. He was so obsessed with heroes and their convictions that he couldn’t see that it was society fueling the problem.

  His mind on that subject it was almost no time at all when he stepped up to the door of his apartment. Izuku grabbed his keys, unlocked the door and stumbling inside, putting the tent in the closet in the hall. “I’m home,” he called out to the still empty apartment, taking off his shoes and setting them beside the door. “‘How was school?’ Oh, it was terrible!” He conversed with himself, wondering for a moment if that meant he was losing his mind but decided that must have happened sometime in the past. Izuku walked down to his room, taking out the days homework before glaring at it when he saw it was already completed.

  With a click it hit him. He was frustrated. At himself. At the world. At everything and at nothing. “Fuck!” He turned to the shelf full of analysis notebooks and with a sweep of his arm and a shout filled with impotent rage, they were scattered across the floor. “...damn it. God damn it! Why am I so angry?"

  But he knew the answer to that already. He was angry because he knew what was wrong and he couldn’t do anything about it. He felt useless in the grand scheme of things and was lashing out because of it. Izuku scrubbed his hands over his face, trying to get his breathing back under control to no avail. Anger still flowing through his veins he booted up his computer, determined to find out how he could do something about this feeling of disappointment and listlessness.

Alternatives to Heroics

  1300 results.

  Izuku raised his eyebrows as he scrolled, anger slowly fading to determination and drive. He sifted through articles comparing heroics to the police department, to the medical field, to a few that recommended villainy, until he found what he was looking for. “Licenceless Heroes, a Throwback to an Earlier Era. The Vigilante and the Subsequent Creation of the Heroics Industry.”

  Vigilantism? Izuku shrugged, it was worth looking into at the very least.

Chapter Text

*Almost Two Months after the Sludge Incident*

 

 It’s been a while since Izuku’s minor break with reality, and he’s pretty sure he’s got a handle on things once more. Maybe. He did make his friends show up to his school just to watch him fight Bakugou, after all. And he’s still so angry, but that anger is fueling his new drive. The new direction his life is going to take.

 Vigilantism.

 He’d spent the last few nights staying up late and consuming all the information he could. Studying past vigilantes and their techniques. Finding people who could get him the gear he needed. And the icing on the cake, he had found someone who would make him a costume. Whoever Black Box was, he owed them big time.

 He was driven. He would succeed in this, even if it wasn’t heroics, it was something that fit him a little better. Something that he could-

 “Izuku, are you feeling alright?” Himiko turned to face her friend, a frown on her face, the light wind twisting in her hair.

 Izuku stared up at the roof of the schools main building, his mind blissfully free from confusion for the first time in the weeks since what he was now calling ‘the villain incident.’ He closed his eyes, taking a calming breath. “I’m fine, why are you asking?”

 “You’ve been quiet. Well, quieter than usual.”

 “Oh, I’ve just been doing some thinking.”

 Dabi chimed in, a distinctive smirk quirking his lip. “Is that a good thing?”

 “Maybe. Maybe not.” Izuku wasn’t sure if he should tell his friends about his research. Would they support him in possibly becoming even more of a criminal than he already was? He knew they wouldn’t turn him in, but would they stay with him in this? “I guess time will tell.”

 “That’s not very convincing, Zuzu.”

 Izuku shrugged, letting himself enjoy this moment of quiet before he did what he came here to do. “It is what it is, Dabi.”

 Dabi rolled his eyes, “so, why are we lurking behind your school?”

 Izuku had texted the two of them to come to his school for a meeting but still hadn’t explained why. But he was getting to that. He had a pretty good reason to call them here after all. “Bakugou challenged me to a grudge match, and I need you two to chant ‘fight, fight, fight,’ until I get a crowd,” Izuku said this matter-of-factly as if it was a normal request.

 “What.” Himiko blanched, frozen by the sheer lunacy of that statement.

 Dabi blinked in confusion, not sure if he had heard his friend correctly. But he had. “And you say I have no impulse control.”

 Izuku grinned, jostling the others. “Come on, it’ll be cool.”

 “Okay, good enough for me.”

 Himiko gasped, feigning disbelief. “Dabi, you too?” She shrugged, immediately agreeing to the insanity. “Alright, fine, I’ll do it too.”

 Izuku grinned, stepping out from around the building into the courtyard, his friends trailing behind him and circling around, stopping at a safe distance. He caught the eye of a certain explosive blond, their two lackeys lurking some ways behind him. “Bakugou, I’m glad you came.”

 “Fuck you saying, Deku?” Bakugou jerked his chin towards the two that were strangers to him. “Who the hell are they?”

 “My hype team.” Izuku tossed the jacket of his uniform to the side, black fabric fluttering to the ground as he slid into a defensive stance. “Let’s go Bakugou, bring it on!”

 With a roar, Bakugou shot forward, bringing his right hand forward in his distinctive right hook. Izuku lunged to the side, spinning and pushing Bakugou as he moved, Bakugou stumbling a few steps before regaining his balance.

 Himiko jumped up and down, quickly getting into the spirit. “Fight, fight, fight!”

 Dabi rolled his eyes, joining in on Toga’s chant. “Fight, fight, fight, fight!”

 Izuku duked under a clumsily thrown haymaker, catching Bakugou in the kidney before jumping back out of his reach, a wild and reckless grin on his face. “Come on, Bakugou, give me all you’ve got!”

 A few students from other classes heard the commotion, their attention captured by the chanting and Bakugou’s wild screams of rage. “Fight?”

“There’s a fight?”

“Is it Midoriya and Bakugou?”

“Yeah, they’re really going at it!”

“Do you think Bakugou will win this time?”

“Please, he hasn’t won for weeks.”

 Egged on by the commentary, Izuku rushed forward, taking a substantial hit to the jaw just to give himself the chance to drive his knee into Bakugou’s stomach. When he folded over to clutch at his guts, Izuku slammed his fist into his back, sending him sprawling to the ground. “Get up, damn you! I thought you said you wanted a fight!” He circled, eyes sharp and his mouth still set in a wild smile, blood running down his chin. “That’s why you asked me here, isn’t it?”

  "Fight me like a man, loser!" Bakugou let loose a set of rapid-fire explosions, smoke and dust rising in the air and obscuring his vision.

  Izuku dodged the cluster of explosions from where Bakugou lay in the dirt, ears ringing from the noise as he stepped forward. "Is that it?"

“Damn, Midoriya’s fast.”

“Right, and he used to be so scared all the time, what do you think happened?”   

“I don’t know, but I like it.”

 Izuku squatted down next to where Bakugou still lay on the ground, a nauseous look on the blonds' face. “Do you want to tap out? I’ll let you tap out.”

 “F… fuck you, stupid Deku.” Bakugou slowly clambered to his feet, tiny explosions erupting from his palms. “You think you’re better than me?” He snarled, the will to fight still flowing through his veins. He wiped a mess of spit from his lips, trying to keep himself moving the best he could.

 “No, but if you keep fighting like this, I’ll be smarter than you.” Izuku sighed, letting his hands rest loosely at his sides as he spoke, pushing himself up out of the squat without using them. “You want to be a hero; you need to start thinking like one. Violence won’t solve all of your problems.” He really wanted to get through to him, but it might be too late. If Izuku couldn’t be a hero, the least he could do is make sure Bakugou was a good one.

 “Dammit, are you trying to preach to me now?” Bakugou blasted forward, explosions from his palms only adding to his speed. Izuku dodged just in time, one of the blasts catching him in the arm and burning him. “Fuck you! You can’t look down on me!”

 “I’m trying to help you!” Izuku dodged the artlessly flying fists of the boy he had once called his friend. Had once called his entire world. He dodged and ducked, and then, he struck. An elbow to the diaphragm, knocking the wind out of his opponent and a well-timed kick to the thigh sent him crashing to the ground in a heap once again.

 He didn’t get back up.

 Bakugou lay on the ground, defeated. It was just one in a long string of defeats at the hand of someone he thought was below him, but this one felt different. More important than the rest. Symbolic somehow.

 He was on the ground, defeated, with someone stronger than him looking down at him. But unlike how Bakugou had always fought, Izuku didn’t look angry. He didn’t look proud or happy. He didn’t laugh about what he had done. Didn’t join in with the cheers of the crowd. He looked… strange.

 He looked sad.

 Defeated.

 As if he were the one beaten to a pulp, not Bakugou.

 The crowd had dissipated when it became clear that Bakugou was down for the count, and Izuku held out a hand in a gesture of goodwill. “Bakugou.”

 “Fuck you.” Bakugou batted the hand away, a look of frustration painted across his features as he finally climbed back to his feet. “I’ll beat you one day, Deku; you can count on that.” He clutched at his stomach, staggering away with determination in every fiber of his being. With a frown on his face, he turned on his heel and headed home, pain visible in every step.

 He wouldn’t be fighting anyone for a while, not just held back by his injuries, but too caught up in his internal struggle.

 Izuku sighed, a small smile making its way across his face as his opponent limped away. “Yeah, I’m sure you will.” He slumped down to the ground, the impact from the head punches finally catching up to him.

 “Holy fuck Izuku, what was that?!” Himiko rushed to her friends' side, yellow eyes wide in shock.

 Dabi followed close behind, a look of pride on his face, though it couldn’t be seen through his scars. “I can’t believe you won. Do you two fight that hard every time?”

 Izuku wiped away the fresh blood pouring from his mouth and nose, teeth bared in a bloody grin. “Yeah, about once a week. Before I started winning it was more than that. I think he’s starting to realize he can’t beat me and it’s pissing him off.” He grabbed onto Toga’s arm, hauling himself up to his feet.

 Dabi shook his head in amazement at his friends' antics. “Fuck me, if I knew that’s why you were always asking for me to teach you I would have been helping you get stronger.”

 “I don’t need the strength so much as I do speed .” Izuku shrugged, spitting a mouthful of blood on the ground. “It’s better to spread out the damage and make them slow down then just focus on brute force.”

 Dabi grinned, understanding what Izuku meant. “Like how Toga is brute force?”

 “Yeah, Toga is scary strong.”

 Himiko frowned, crossing her arms over her chest. “It’s not scary!”

 Izuku shook his head, immediately regretting the rapid movement. “You can squat over three hundred pounds, it’s scary.”

 The blonde scoffed, a grin making its way across her face. “Not my fault the two of you are weak noodles.” Besides, all of her strength was in her legs, her arms were basically useless.

 “‘M not a noodle.” Dabi ducked his head, only managing to make Toga laugh at him.

 Izuku chuckled, “Dabi, you’re a noodle. An evil noodle.”

 “I fucking hate this family.” Dabi crossed his arms, his grin an odd juxtaposition to his posture. “Zuzu, are you sure you're alright? You look like shit.”

 “I'll be fine, I can just walk this off.” Because everyone knows you can just walk off a mild concussion.

 “Really?” Himiko sighed, Izuku really did look bad in red, but maybe that’s why she liked him. “You’re an idiot.”

  Dabi's eyebrows shot up in surprise at Toga's blunt statement. Usually, she was more subtle with her insults. “Damn, just go there why don’t you.”

  Izuku waved off the words, “no, she’s right, I’m an idiot.” He wiped most of the blood from his face, dried streaks and a blossoming purple bruise on his jaw showing his hard-fought victory. “Let’s go do something fun.”

 “More fun than watching that fight? You’re a tough act to follow, Zuzu.”

  “Aww, thanks Dabi!” Izuku stretched his sore arms, trying to loosen his shoulders back up as he lead his friends off of school grounds and past the remaining students. “We should go graffiti Endeavors agency with hyper-realistic portraits of All Might or something.”

  Dabi chuckled, imagining the look that would be on his father's face at that. “Oh man, he’d hate that, we should do it.”

  “Or, we could tp the agency.” Himiko grinned, miming throwing rolls of toilet paper at the buildings they walked past as they wandered.

  “Even better.”

  The three chattered on about different ways to torment Endeavor as they walked aimlessly, sending glares out at anyone who stared too long at the marks from the fight that were left on Izuku’s face. Maybe their friendship was weird and imperfect, maybe they were all broken people, but together their rough edges were smoothed, and they felt like they belonged for the first time in a long while.

  “Do you think I would get arrested if I punched Endeavor in the face?”

  “What.” The image of Izuku, tiny five foot four Izuku, squaring off against the six foot four Endeavor. How would that even work? He wouldn’t even be able to reach his face to punch it!

  “Like, would they even arrest me?”

  Himiko laughed, also trying to figure out how that would work. He’d have to jump down at him off a building or something. “They’d probably give you a medal. You’d be doing god's work after all.”

  Dabi nodded, “mhm, taking out the trash.”

  The conversation fell into silence as they walked, looping back towards the garbage-filled beach they had come to love. Even from blocks away, they could hear the sound of the sea. Constant. Perpetual. The one thing that would never change until the end of the world.

  The opposite of humanity and heroes.

  And these three, these broken and tormented three, they were going to be the best damn heroes the world had ever seen.

 

*** * ***

 

  Less than a week later and Izuku thinks he’s ready to put his plan into motion. Maybe. First, he needed to meet his mysterious benefactor. After all, what sort of vigilante would he be without mysterious benefactors lurking in the darkness?

  He glanced around the shadowed alleyway, feeling that he had achieved some sort of circular symmetry in his life at this. “Hello?” His voice was swallowed up by the bricks and the grime, sounding so small in the slowly growing darkness of the twilight. “I’m Midoriya, from Off the Record? I’m here to meet Black Box?” His source for gear had given him this address, was he early? He’d been trawling underground networks searching for illegal support gear and uniforms, and had come across someone who said they could give him what he was asking for.

  But maybe they had backed out of the deal. He didn’t even know who this guy was, and with those thoughts, Izuku traced the handle of the knife shoved in his back pocket. Just in case. He was hanging out in a dark alley, after all.

  “Oh, sorry, I was on the phone with my weed guy, so, you’re the one who needed the shit?” The man who stepped out of the shadows was short, almost as short as Izuku, but he was broad, built like a damn tank. He pulled a cardboard box out from behind him, opening it just enough for Izuku to look inside. “So, I got three throwing knives, two sets of tonfa, and these, oh, you’re gonna love these. Getting these here was difficult, but I’m sure it will be worth it. Remember, these babies are only to be drawn if you intend to use them.”

  “Alright, I’ve got it.” Izuku knew what was coming. He had asked for more deadly weaponry, for emergencies, but now that it was really happening, he couldn’t control the rapid hammering of his heart within his chest.

  Black Box pulled out a second box from seemingly nowhere, opening it with an unnecessary flourish. “First, we have a standard sawed-off .12 gauge double-barreled shotgun. I call it the ‘go away’ gun. Makes it all go away! And then we have this little number, carries only five shots, but able to kill bears with only four, straight from America with love, the Super Ruger Redhawk Alaskan.” Black Box grinned, tattoos flexing with the movement of their jaw. “So, what do you think, kid? Do you love it, or do you love it?”

  “I love it.” Izuku stepped up, worries all forgotten with the glint of the pale lamplight off the gun barrels and the boxes of ammo. “What about the rest of the gear?”

  “Ah, the uniform.” Black Box lifted a single finger, looking as though he was attempting to impart profound wisdom. “Not costume, never a costume.” He pulled out a third box, again from nowhere. “And there she is!”

  Izuku opened the box, lifting the reinforced fabric, testing the weight. “It’s perfect.” He plucked the armored green hoodie from the box and ran his fingers over the bullet emblazoned on the left side of the chest and the target stitched onto the back. He had added the target just for the aesthetic value, and now, running his fingertips over it, he could feel that the entire back panel was reinforced with not only kevlar but also a supplementary metallic weave. “This is amazing!”

  “As I thought it would be. With the firearm legislation in this country, you should only be running into people with bladed weapons, but it will stop small caliber rounds.” Black Box laughed, smile not matching the emotion in his eyes. “You know, I used to be a hero once. But I went too far when trying to save someone, and I can’t ever go back now.” He shrugged, palms spread wide, seeming to be without a care in the world. “So, I’m glad there are kids like you keeping the real heroics alive.”

  Izuku frowned at that information before grinning wildly. “I’ll show everyone a real hero.”

  “That’s the spirit.” Black Box pushed the boxes into Izuku’s hands, stepping back into the shadows. “There’s a list of resources in with the backup uniforms, medics you can trust, information suppliers, and the like. And you always know how to contact me, Midoriya.” And with that, the mystery man was gone, invisible to prying eyes.

  Boxes in hand, Izuku turned to leave, mind filled with his dreams of the future.

  He was going to be a hero.

  No, not a hero.

  He was going to be more than that.

  He was going to be a vigilante.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Fuck, it’s the cops!”

  Okay, so he hadn’t expected to become a vigilante so quickly. He had only met with Black Box the day before, and he hadn’t even had a trial run yet! But here he was, faced with a duo of villains running away with an ATM hoisted between them.

  There had to be a better way to make money than boosting ATM’s. Hell, even Dabi was able to get a job. Sure, Izuku didn’t know exactly what it was, but if Dabi could get a job in this town, almost anyone could.

  But back to the matter at hand. He didn’t have his gear, and he also had Toga and Dabi with him… but this could work to his advantage. Maybe. But he would just have to try and see how the cards fell. He jumped in front of the approaching duo, calling out his plan as he moved. “Dabi, you trip and hold the one on the left, I’ll take the right! Toga, watch for the cops!”

  Without argument, they flew into action, Dabi casually tripping the thief on the left sending them sprawling across the pavement, ATM crashing down beside them. Dabi raised a hand in a threat to keep them down, deep blue smoke pouring from stitches on his wrist, a warning of the heat to come.

  Izuku pulled out his trusted butterfly knife, glad he had decided to buy Toga one that hadn’t been used in a crime. “Stop right there!”

  The thief backpedaled, not expecting to almost be stabbed in the chest in the middle of a heist. They raised their hands up in surrender, black eyes blinking in confusion, gaze darting to their fallen and captured comrade and back to the knife-wielding boy in front of them. “Alright, alright, you got me…” Their voice was feather light, an odd juxtaposition to their menacing appearance.

  “Izuku, it’s the police!” A police officer rushed down the street, cat ears flicking forward as the bell around their neck jingled with every step. “We’ve got to go!”

  “You two, go, I’ll take the blame!”

  “But you can’t get arrested again!” Dabi frowned, tension visible in his jaw as he saw the rapidly approaching police officer. He clenched his fist, gritting his teeth as he made to leave. “Fuck, we’re talking about this later, Izuku!”

  “Go already!” Izuku folded his knife and put it away as his friends ran, lifting his hands in surrender as the officer skid to a halt, taser in one hand and a set of cuffs in the other. “I’m not resisting arrest, but you should probably deal with those two first.”

  Less than a second after Dabi and Toga were out of view, about five other officers burst onto the scene, batons, and cuffs at the ready. Izuku kept his hands raised, watching as the two criminals were cuffed and carted off, victims in a society obsessed with heroics. Well, Izuku wasn’t sure if they were victims of society or not, they might have just been knocking over ATMs for kicks. Some people are weird like that. Take Izuku for example, he’s an adrenaline junkie and loves a good fight, that’s just how he is, so he wasn’t in any position to judge others.

  Izuku let the cat-headed officer put the set of cuffs on him, listening as his rights were listed off and he was lead to the backseat of a police cruiser for the second time in less than two months.  Guess this was his life now. Sweet, just what he wanted. He grinned slightly, glad that this time there were no crowds to pick up on his story.

  The drive to the precinct was quick, the cat-headed officer, Tamakawa Sansa, his mind reminded him, was almost hissing at the wheel, muttering about ‘two getting away’ and ‘damn vigilantes.’ Izuku raised his eyebrows in surprise, trying to figure out how to play this when it hit him like a sledgehammer.

  Denial.

  There were no cameras on the street, and if Officer Tamakawa was the only cop who saw Dabi and Toga run off, he could play this as lying villains trying to cover up the fact they got caught by a quirkless kid. As for the cat, I mean, cop, he would just deny any allegations of accomplices.

  He could work with this. This was no problem at all.

   Oh shit, what about mom? I can’t deal with that speech again.

  

*** * ***

 

  “I was the only one there, I swear it,” Izuku spoke as soon as the door opened, not even looking to see who was coming to take his statement.

   Lie. Naomasa narrowed his eyes, having just entered the interrogation room only to be shouted at, lied at, by a familiar face. Midoriya wasn’t even being charged for anything yet, but he was already ruining his day.

  The detective pulled out a chair from the opposite side of the table, settling himself down as the officer who had brought him in followed him into the room. “So you’re saying you were working alone?” Naomasa is slowly dying, being killed by a disrespectful delinquent that had already been here one too many times.

  “That’s what I’m saying, yes,” Izuku smirked, loving how frustrated the detective was getting. He knew he was lying and couldn't do anything about it, he couldn’t even prove that he was lying! “I worked alone.”

   Lie. Naomasa sighed, glancing over at the officer beside him, their cat ears flicking in irritation, frustration shining in lamp-like yellow eyes. “Are you sure about that?”

  “Can you prove I’m not telling the truth?”

  “No, but-

  “Then that’s my answer. I worked alone.”

   Lie.

  “He’s lying!” Sansa slammed his gloved hand onto the table, metal shaking under the force of the blow. “I saw them running away! A girl with blonde hair and a man with scars, they were working together.” The last of his words turned into a rasping hiss, sharp teeth showing behind a raised lip.

  “The other two that we brought in corroborated the story, but without evidence…” Naomasa rubbed his temples, his day getting exponentially worse than it had been all week in less than an hour.

  “Yeah, you also can’t prove that I pulled a knife on that guy, maybe they got scared by my intimidating face!” Izuku put on the most innocent expression he could muster, the effect marred by the fading bruises on his face, or maybe they added to it. People love to coo over injured animals, so him using puppy dog eyes should have the same effect, right?

  Or maybe not, judging from the glare the two were sending him. Izuku sighed, rattling the cuffs on his wrists.

  Naomasa turned to Tamakawa, voice filled with regret. “Well, he’s a minor, so can’t hold him for more than forty-eight hours without charging him for anything.” Yeah, it had been less than two hours already, but he really didn’t want this to get out to the public, the police department didn’t need a repeat of last time.

  “Wait, you’re just going to let him go? Just like that?”

  “Well, there will be another arrest on his record… but yes.” Naomasa unhooked the keys to the handcuffs from his belt, unlocking the cuffs and letting them clack against the table. “Midoriya, you’re free to go. I’ll escort you out.”

  Izuku popped up out of his chair, a grin on his face, not at all surprised that he had gotten away with it. “Thanks, detective, it’s been a pleasure, but I’ve got stuff to do.”

  “I’m sure you do, Midoriya.” Naomasa opened the door to the interrogation room, following the green-haired teenager out of the room. “I’m sure you do.”

  Izuku pulled out his phone, sending a message in the group chat.

 

[Can I get a, uhhh, Crime?]

 

Izuku: I’m free, bitches

 

Dabi: HE LVES

        lirves

        LIVES

 

VampBitch: Damn, that was fast!

     

Dabi: Meet us at the beach, we all need to talk

 

*Dabi* is offline.

*VampBitch* is offline.

 

Izuku: Oh shit, alright

 

*Izuku* is offline.

 

*** * ***

 

  “So, how was the police station?” Himiko smiled, pulling Izuku to the boards of the pier, the three looking out at the grey clouds crowding the sky up above.

  Izuku shrugged, “terrible, someone was reheating fish, and it was super nasty.” He could smell it from the interrogation room, and could still smell it when he had been escorted out of the precinct.

  “Okay, that’s not what I was expecting you to say.”

  “Yeah, and I didn’t expect them to let you out already,” Dabi spoke, the first time he had said anything since Izuku had joined back with them.

  “Well, they didn’t have any evidence that I did anything, so here I am.” They hadn’t even called his mom. He counted himself lucky in that area if his mom gave him that disappointed look he would start sobbing, no doubts about it. Izuku looked out over the ocean from his seat on the pier. The slight trek was worth it for this view. “What did you want to talk about.”

  Dabi frowned, shoving a bundle of something into his hands. “This.”

  Izuku looked down, green fabric with a bullet patch staring back up at him. Oh. Oh no. “When did you find this?”

  “Please, I might act like a moron, but I’m not stupid.”

  Himiko sighed, frowning slightly at the secret Izuku had been hiding. “Were you going to tell us?”

  “I… I was, I promise.”

  “Really?” Dabi scoffed, irritation and something unreadable in his eyes. “When? Once you got yourself killed?”

  “No, I just…”

  The scarred teen ran a hand through his hair, “fuck it. If you want to go and get killed, that’s your prerogative, but you’re not doing it alone.”

  What? Did that mean…

  “Look, I hate the job I got. It’s awful. And if quitting it means I can keep an eye on you, it’s worth it.”

  “Dabi, I don’t…” Izuku railed off, unsure of how he was supposed to continue. Or how he was supposed to feel.

  Dabi rolled his eyes, trying to hide his own worry. “Whatever idiot, don’t read into it too much.”

  Himiko grabbed Izuku by the shoulder, forcing him to look at her and take his gaze off of the darkening horizon. “Izuku, why did you feel like you need to do this?”

  “If I can’t be a hero, I’m still going to do everything that I can to help people. Even if that means going out and breaking the law. Because sometimes, what’s legal only gets in the way of what’s right.” Izuku’s voice was steady, but he could feel hot tears sting and drip from his eyes as he spoke, caught up in a tidal wave of emotion.

  “Alright, I guess we’re all in this together, then? All of us in it for one common good?” Himiko grinned, wiping at her own eyes with the overlong sleeve of her cardigan.

  Dabi nodded, “it sure looks like that.”

  “Heh.” Izuku chuckled, running his hands over the material of the hoodie on his lap. “What are we going to call ourselves?”

  Himiko looked over at him with a smirk, obviously thinking up names that were ridiculous just for the hell of it. “That’s a really good question. We should come back to that later.”

  “So, do you think the person who made your hoodie could make me a jacket?” Dabi didn’t think that his jacket would offer much protection for crime fighting. Too old, and it certainly wasn’t knife proof.

  “Want it like the one you already have?”

  “Yeah.” Dabi paused, “but it should be stab proof. And flameproof.”

  Himiko raised her hand as if she was asking a question in class. “Can they make me something cute?”

  Izuku laughed, wondering how a knife proof cardigan would even work. “I’ll find out. But I’m sure they can.”

  The conversation falls into a comfortable quiet overlapped with the sound of the ocean and the wind. It’s nice, sitting on the abandoned pier with people who wanted the same things he did. Friends that he could share his secrets with and they would share their own in return.

  Izuku interrupted the quiet with a question he had wanted to ask earlier, but couldn’t at the moment. “Wait, Dabi. Where do you work?”

  “I don’t want to talk about it.”

  “Is it embarrassing?”

  “Yes.”

  “Well, what is it?”

  Himiko piped in with her suggestion, “is it McDonald's?”

  “Worse.”

  Izuku frowned, how does one get worse than McDonald's? “Is it Taco Bell?”

  “Burger King?” Himiko added her own idea of what was worse.

  “No, and sort of.”

  “What?” How is that an answer?

  But Himiko understood what Dabi meant. “Wait. Is it the Burger King with the fucked up sign?”

  “Oh” Izuku chuckled, “you mean the one that says Kurger Bing?”

  Himiko shrieked out a laugh, “Dabi works at Kurger Bing!”

  “Dabi works at Kurger Bing!”

  The two chanted that phrase back and forth, laughing about the idea of their friend working in fast food. Did he have one of those stupid hats? Did he work in the drive through?

  Dabi shook his head at the others antics, hiding his smile in the darkness that had finally fallen over the skyline. “I hate you both so much right now.”

 

*Three Months after the Sludge Incident*

 

  After that night where Izuku’s plans for his future came to be known, the three had started working on fight training as a group, wanting to be able to work as a cohesive unit. For an entire month, the three worked together, and Izuku even stopped chasing hero fights to focus on his goal. Besides, he couldn’t learn anything from those fights that was actually practical for him. Too many quirk dependent fights. Instead, he started watching demonstration videos of martial arts, even going so far as to attempt some of the moves and mix them with what he already knew. He wasn’t very good at it at first, but he was getting there. Slowly but surely he was learning how to hold his own.

  But for all their planning, practice and gear, the first run with vigilantism as a trio did not go great. They had thought that beginning with stopping small crime would be easy, but they were proven wrong when Dabi managed to trip over his own feet, and they only caught the thief because they fell over from laughing too hard.

  The second time was… also not great. Himiko found a sledgehammer in one of the piles of garbage on the beach and insisted that it would be her new weapon. Yes, it was a good weapon, and she wielded it well, but the abject terror that she struck into the rest of the trios hearts didn't seem like a fair tradeoff. There was something very wrong with her managing to keep up an innocent smile while threatening to bash someone's kneecaps in.

  And as for the third time, well, the less that was said about that, the better. The only thing you need to know is that it’s a good thing Izuku knows how to stop drop and roll.

  And between these and future escapades, Izuku threw himself into his schoolwork, managing to wrestle his way to the third place in grades in his class. Dabi may have said he was quitting his job, but he didn't, keeping himself busy and getting paid to make fun of the Burger King franchise with the fucked up sign that he worked at. As for Himiko… she had built herself a castle on the beach made out of burnt out appliances and she would yell at people from in it. So they all had something going on. Some of it a little weirder than the rest, but still. It was something.

  Tonight is the fourth time they’ve gone out like this, following a string of break-ins along the border of what used to be the industrial district. The area used to be wealthy but went to pot quickly after the industrial companies pulled out of the neighborhood to chase cheaper contracts overseas. So the community was plagued with small-time crime, and the police did virtually nothing about it. But what else is new in a failing district?

 And that’s where our intrepid vigilantes come in, clad in clothing that made them look more like thugs than anything else, and with the weaponry, they would fit right in with the criminal element. With the exception of Himiko of course. She still had an oversized cardigan, and her hair was still tied up in messy buns, and even the bloodstained sledgehammer couldn’t offset that level of adorable.

  Izuku pulled the hood of his hoodie down, getting a good look at what was in front of him. The same dark red truck that had been seen at each location of a break in was parked outside of a burnt out building that had once been a home. This must be the place they were hiding out in. He pulled his bandana over his mouth, signaling for Dabi to light up the building so he and Himiko could just pick them off as they came out the door.

  A crude move, but it should work.

  With a roar of flame, Dabi light the building up, sending smoke billowing up into the night sky. Izuku adjusted his grip on his tonfa, and Himiko adjusted hers on her sledgehammer. There were only three people inside, so this should be easy.

   "What the hell, who started this fire?"

   "Get out, the roof's about to come down!"

   Shouting came from the building, chased by the criminals who had made it. Izuku rammed the end of a tonfa into the stomach of the first criminal, who doubled over and vomited over their own shoes. Gross. Izuku wrinkled his nose in disgust as he smacked them over the head, knocking them out and into the puddle of their own puke. Double gross.

   Himiko laughed at that display, having dropped her sledgehammer in favor of kicking the thief before her in the face, knocking them to the ground. "Eww!" She kicked her chosen target once more, breaking their nose and sending a spray of red blood down their face. "Ooh, pretty."

   "Please stop doing that, it's so weird." Dabi was holding the last thief by their collar, forcing them to call the police on themselves with a threat of a flaming fist to the face. "Is that it? Are we done?"

   Himiko pulled a coil of rope from the hidden pockets of her cardigan, tying the three thieves to one another. "I dunno, are we?"

   "Looks like it." Izuku shrugged, reattaching his tonfa to his belt. "So, who want's Kurger Bing?" 

 

*Five Months after the Sludge Incident*

 

  Izuku’s birthday has come and gone, and with its passing, he’s only ramped up his training. Sure he knows he’s not the best at what he does, but what he does is practice throwing his knives until he’s within an inch of where he’s aiming. As for the guns… he still hasn’t had the guts to pull them yet. He knows that one day he’ll have to, have to use them for their only purpose, but until then, they’re just the last line of defense he has. One that he hopes he’ll never have to use. But he will. After all, what kind of story would this be without a bit of murder?

  Besides, he’s not sure he can handle the kickback yet.

  And somewhere along the way, Himiko has started staying in the apartment with no explanation for why. But she doesn’t need one. After all, what kind of friend would Izuku be if he wasn’t there when he was needed?

  The trio is out late, following a rumor about a gang operating out of an old warehouse somewhere in what used to be the industrial district. Running drugs that were supposed to work like Trigger, but with much more addictive side effects. Izuku had been following the police reports almost religiously, building the image of what they were up against.

  Only one truck. No firearms. Production of the drug was taking place within the warehouse, as there would be volatile chemicals. Less than ten people, with what would be called weak quirks. But with the drug, they would be more formidable.

  “What if I just fucking walked in there like, ‘yo, you got any drugs?’” Dabi had already made a habit of joking while they were out on patrols. It was fun, and when he did it in front of the criminals, it was even better. “What do you think, should I do it?”

  “Dabi, are you an idiot?” Himiko hefted her sledgehammer onto her shoulder, trying to keep from laughing at the imagery.

  “Yes, but I don’t see why you’re asking.”

  “Shut it you guys, we’ve got company.” Izuku peered around the corner of the warehouse beside the target, watching as two men in leather jackets approached the grime and soot coated building and stood to the side, lighting up their cigarettes. “Two incoming, Toga, you’re up.”

  “You know, you can just call me Himiko. We’ve known each other for almost two years now.” Himiko adjusted her grip on her sledgehammer, prancing forward stealthily. That shouldn’t have been possible, but she somehow did it. She snuck up behind them, dropping the sledgehammer in favor of kicking one of them in the back of the knee and into their criminal partner. She moved in a flurry of flying fists and powerful kicks, taking them down efficiently and ruthlessly.

  “Aww, they look so nice all painted red!” Himiko picked he sledgehammer off the ground, and pulled a coil of rope out of the hidden pockets on the inside of her cardigan, tying up the unconscious drug dealers. Whoever it was that Izuku got this from was a miracle worker, pockets, stab proof and it was cute? So great.

  Dabi walked up at just the wrong moment, and he now wanted to be as far away from this as he could. “Creepy, Himiko, really creepy.”

  “Thanks, Dabi!”

  “When the two of you are done over here, we do have a drug ring to take down.” Izuku pulled the green bandana that hangs around his neck up to cover half of his face, not wanting to be able to be recognized or described to a police sketch artist. “Alright, Dabi, you’re going to go in through the front door, make as much fire as you can to cause a panic. Toga and I will go in through the back and block their exit then join in the fray, get it?”

  “Got it.” Dabi stretched his arms, loosening his shoulders up in preparation for a literal firefight.

  “Good.” Izuku pulled his set of tonfa from the utility belt he had locked around his waist. He gripped the rubberized handle of the weapons, making sure the metal was resting properly against his forearms. “Ready to roll, Toga?”

  “Let’s go, Izuku!” The trio split up, Dabi rounding the corner to the front door at the same time Izuku and Himiko rounded the one to the back. The loud roar of fire acted as their cue, and Himiko took her sledgehammer to the back door in a wild swing, destroying the lock, the door swinging wide from the force of her blow.

  Inside was chaos. Blue fire licking the walls and the ceiling, criminals screaming and those with offensive quirks throwing quills, small blasts of water, and any object they could lift with their mind.

  With the chaos covering their movements, Himiko and Izuku made quick work of the first three drug dealers, leaving only ten to take down. Himiko hefted her sledgehammer and rushed forward towards a dealer who looked like she was made from stone or metal. “Ooh, this is gonna be fun!”

  “Please don’t do that when you have a sledgehammer!”

  Izuku slammed his tonfa into the chest of one of the dealers, sending them staggering back a few steps with a small trail of vomit running down their face. When they rushed back forward, they were met with a swing to the kneecap and a sickening crunch sending them to the floor with a howl of pain. Izuku winced, not having meant to hit them that hard. But it wasn’t like he could apologize without seeming like a dick, so he just turned to the next dealer and started swinging.

  A blast of flame to his left drove the next dealer to the ground, and Izuku pressed the advantage, knocking them out with a quick strike. Eight left. No, make that seven, Himiko had finally taken down the dealer with the hardened skin.

  Five. Dabi took two out at once with a quick blast of flame, leaving them sprawled on the floor, clothes, and hair slightly singed.

  The trio quickly rounded on the remaining drug dealers, dodging clumsy punches and kicks. Whoever these people were, they had no fight training. Izuku smacked one of them across the face with the metal of his tonfa when he saw the gas mask hanging around their neck.

  It suddenly made sense why they couldn’t fight, they were the actual makers of the drug. Izuku fought back a smile behind the bandana, it was common courtesy not to laugh in the faces of people you were punching. And with a few more strikes, they were all down, and Izuku was digging in the pockets of the closest fallen dealer, cursing the gloves on his hands as he pulled out a phone with a cracked screen.

  As Izuku used the borrowed phone to call in the crime, Dabi and Himiko were tying up the unconscious criminals with rope from the hidden pockets in Himiko’s cardigan.

  A loud scrape of metal across concrete drew Izuku's attention, and he dropped the phone onto the floor, not hearing the voice of the dispatch officer as they said they were sending squad cars to their location.

  “You damn bastards…” The woman with the metal skin had pulled themselves back to their feet, clutching their side as they fumbled with a gun in their hand, aiming at the closet of the trio. She stepped forward towards her target, preparing to fire. “You’ll pay for this, you little bitch.”

  “Himiko, look out!” Before he could stop himself, Izuku dropped his tonfa with a loud clatter and pulled one of his throwing knives, throwing it in a fluid motion only for it to ricochet off the metal skin. The woman turned, taking her aim off of Himiko. “Oh, you wanted to die first?” The woman steadied her hand, taking aim. “Say your prayers.”

  “Izuku!” Dabi and Himiko ran forwards when a loud gunshot stopped them in place.

  “...you...little bastard.” With a massive slam, the woman dropped, the gun still clutched in her hand. Izuku stood stock still, eyes wide, staring at the weapon in his hands. Smoke rose gently from the gun barrel, and Izuku dropped to his knees, unable to take his eyes away from the growing pool of blood under the corpse of the drug dealer he had killed.

  “Izuku?” Himiko ran forward to her friends' side, not even noticing when she stepped into the blood puddling across the floor. She dropped down beside him, pulling him into a tight hug. “Izuku, it’s alright, you’re alright.”

  Dabi kneeled at his other side, hands gentle at his back. “Izuku, look at me, you did what you had to.” His voice was soft, trying to impart his words to his friend. “She would have killed us all, you did what you needed to do to survive.”

  Izuku stayed still, staring in shock as the blood spread slowly across the floor, permanently staining the concrete. His mind was filled with static, forcing him further down under the weight of the atrocity he had just committed.

  Murder.

  He was a murderer.

  Killer.

   Monster.

  Hero?

  “Izuku!” His friends pulled him to his feet, and he swayed unsteadily as he stood. “Pull yourself together, the cops are on their way!”

  With those words, Izuku jammed his revolver back into its holster on his belt, shakily making his way over to the destroyed front door of the warehouse, nearly falling as he bent down to pick up the bent knife he had thrown. He didn't think of the spent shell casing still in the chamber, too caught up in his crime.

  Crime scene, his mind whispered as he moved. You’re fleeing a crime scene. “...alright, let’s go.” High on the edge of a mental breakdown, Izuku stumbled out into the night air and ran. Killer.

  They ran, ran as fast as they could, leaving a few bloody footprints behind them as they went, a small trail that would never lead back to them. Sirens sounded in the distance, and in the morning this would be all over the news.

 

*** * ***

 

  Izuku stared up at the ceiling, his hands aching from where he had scrubbed at the imaginary blood that coated them.

  He had killed someone tonight.

  Sure, they were a drug dealer, but that didn’t mean they deserved to die for their crimes.

  He tossed and turned in his bed, unable to get comfortable. He didn’t deserve to get comfortable, did he? He had taken a life tonight, he didn’t deserve comfort. He settled onto his side, shoulders shaking with barely restrained panic.

  “Quit moving around, I’m trying to sleep down here.”

  “...sorry.” Izuku rolled back over, staring into the darkness of his room, listening to the breathing of his friends. They were alive, alive because of him.

  Because he had killed someone. “I’ll try to be quieter.”

  “Fuck, just shut up, you two!” A weight dipped on his bed in the dark and pressed up against his back. A hand smaller than is own moved to his hair, gently petting. “I know you’re worried about shooting that criminal, but if you hadn’t, we’d all be dead.” Himiko pulled Izuku close to her, cuddling against him like he was a stuffed animal.

  “...I know, but I just-

  “Stop making excuses and accept that you did what you had to!” Another weight settled in his bed, this time settling against his chest. Too warm to be anyone other than a certain flame quirk user. “Now you two just be quiet and let me sleep.”

  The three fell into a deep sleep, Izuku wrapped up in an odd combination of being spooned by Himiko and having Dabi tangled up in his arms. It wasn’t something that a normal group of friends would do, but in the past year they had ascended above being normal, and their friendship had evolved alongside them.

  It was nice. In a weird way.

  But wasn’t that just his life these days?

 

*Ten Months after the Sludge Incident*

 

  Today would have been the day Izuku would take the Entrance Exam to get into UA. He also would have broken over fifteen bones in less than one minute. So maybe it’s a good thing he didn’t know anything about that alternate reality.

  Instead of dreaming about being a hero these days, he’s filled with images of a dead body dropping to the concrete surrounded by a pool or red. He hasn’t pulled a gun since that night. He’s not sure if he can. But he’s sure he will again.

  In this world, Izuku is different, breaking not his bones, but his heart. And instead of breaking his bones, he’s sitting on the beach once again, arguing about what they’re going to call their trio once they start going after real crime. Sure going after small-time criminals was good, but they wanted to do more. Go after real criminal organizations. Rumor had it that there was an entire league of villains out there. Even a remnant of the Yakuza. But first, they had one target in mind.

  The Hero Killer. Stain. He was first real criminal they were going to after. The first that had caught the attention of the heroes. Making their mark on the world. Their introduction. An advertisement of their ideology.

  A billboard, if you would.

  But before that, they needed a name. Something to send fear into the hearts of criminals with just a whisper in the darkness.

  “We’re not calling ourselves the Three Musketeers.” Really, Izuku had no idea how Dabi knew all of these pre-quirk literary references. It was weird.

  “Alright, how about the Crimebusters?”

  Himiko shook her head, blond hair falling over the frown on her face. “Isn’t that from an old comic book?”

  Dabi rolled his eyes dramatically, caught in another reference. “Fine, Himiko, it is. How about the Ghostbusters?”

  “No way!” Himiko wasn’t sure what Dabi’s obsession with ghosts and cryptids was about, but this was too much. “We can be The Weirdos!”

  Izuku pressed the heels of his palm into his eyes, trying to hide his smile. “You two being weirdos I can see.”

  “Wow, rude.” Dabi chuckled, this entire conversation too amusing to be serious. “How about the Anti-heroes.”

  Himiko frowned, not liking the implications of the name. “Nah, makes us sound too much like villains.”

  “You two are awful,” Izuku sighed, shoving one of his hands through his green hair. “At this rate, we’ll be the terrible trio.”

  Dabi grinned lopsidedly, “the Terrible Three?”

  Himiko nodded, a smile spreading across her face. “Yeah, I like it!”

  Izuku rolled his eyes, humor in his green eyes as he threw his hand up in exasperation. “Fuck it, we’re the Terrible Three!”

  Himiko leaned across Izuku to poke Dabi in the face as she questioned him. “So, Dabi, why do you like ghosts and such so much?”

  Dabi shrugged, “I don’t know, it’s just cool that there could be something else out there. I also like conspiracy theories.” He batted away the blonde's hand, smacking it back into Izuku’s face. Izuku did nothing to stop this.

  “Conspiracy theories?”

  “I don’t believe any of them, but it’s funny.” Dabi shrugged, “I like debunking them, too.”

  “What’s your favorite?” Himiko expected something like ‘the moon landing was faked’ or ‘the earth is hollow but-

  “Space is fake.”

  What.

  “All of space. It’s all fake!” Dabi snorted with laughter, trying to keep his face serious. “Like, all of the space programs are lying to you! Space, the moon, all of the stars and planets, it’s all a lie!” He laughed loudly, shoulders shaking from the force, “imagine it! All of it’s fake! All the satellites and telescopes up there, all lies.”

  Who would even believe that?

  Izuku frowned, not understanding how anyone could think that. “What about meteorites that land on earth?”

  “All part of the ruse!”

  Himiko just sat there with a shocked look on her face, trying to understand this insanity.

  “You know, when you said you liked conspiracy theories, I wasn’t expecting that.” Izuku shook his head, green curls bouncing with the movement. “I expected something like ‘lizard people run the earth’ or ‘bigfoot is an alien.’ But not that.”

  “How about this one, the moon doesn’t exist, it’s just an elaborate hologram put there by persons unknown.” He chuckled, “who did it? Even the theorists don’t know!”

  “Wait, people actually believe this nonsense?”

  “Yep.”

  “God, how stupid can they get?”

  “I tried telling people the earth wasn’t hollow, said that I had been digging for days and haven't hit any air, but they just said I needed to dig deeper.”

  Izuku raised his eyebrows, “okay then.” Now he just had even more questions about Dabi. But at this point, he was too afraid to ask any of them for fear of what he might find out.

  Graduation was coming up soon, for both Izuku and Himiko, and they all knew that if they applied to a high school, they wouldn’t be able to keep up their, uh, night job. Neither of them was sure they wanted to be high school dropouts, but to pursue a brighter future, they would be. Besides, Dabi was a high school dropout, and look how he ended up!

  Now if only Izuku knew how to tell his mother about this.

  He couldn’t lie to her. He couldn’t just disappear in the night and leave her to worry about him.

  He had to tell her, but how is he supposed to tell he’s been going out almost every night the past eight months and beating people into the ground? How does he tell her the spare cash she’s been finding hidden around the living room came from the wallets of criminals? He loved her too much to just leave, but telling her might just hurt her more.

  “Guy’s, I’m gonna tell my mom before we leave.”

  Himiko turned to him, surprise in her eyes. “What? Izuku, are you sure that’s a good idea?”

  “Yea, that seems like it could backfire, Zuzu.”

  “I know she won’t try to stop me, but I can’t just disappear on her.”

  Dabi shrugged, “alright, when are you gonna do it?”

  Izuku stood, brushing sand from his pants. “I’ll go now, there’s still two weeks until graduation, I want to make them last.” He turned, leaving his friends to sit in the twisted metal on the beach as he walked home, thinking about what to say.

  He shoved his hands into his pockets, ignoring the stares he got from people in the neighborhood. They didn’t matter, the only people whose opinions mattered to him was his family. He passed Bakugou’s house and pushed down the conflicted feeling that rose in his chest when he did. He couldn’t think about that right now, he had someone more important to think about. He walked faster, sky brightening as the day began in full. Izuku wondered for a moment, how Bakugou was doing in the exam.

  Pushing that thought away, he approached his home. Taking a deep breath, steeling himself for the conversation to come, he unlocked the door and walked inside, “I’m home!”

  “Oh, Izuku, I thought you were going out with your friends today?” Inko was cleaning, using her quirk to dust the highest shelves in the living room.

  “Mom, I need to talk to you.”

  She paused in her cleaning, lowering the duster back into her hand. “Oh, what’s wrong Izuku?”

  “You know how I’ve been spending a lot of time out on the beach lately…” He trailed off, trying to put his feelings into words. “We, well, we haven’t been spending time on the beach. I mean, we were, but then-

  “Izuku, is this about your vigilantism?”

  “...” Izuku’s jaw dropped, had his mother just said that? How did she know? How?

  “I’m not stupid, Izuku, I saw the signs.” Inko frowned, disapproval in her eyes. “And I found the guns.”

  “Oh.”

  “I don’t approve, but, I’ve seen the news reports.” She had to admit that her son and his friends had been effective in their crime-stopping. “I can’t say that I understand why you’re doing this, but I won’t stop you. I won’t turn you in, either.” There was no way she could do that to her own son, no matter how strange his after-school activities could be.

  “I’m going to have to leave, you know that?”

  Oh, she knew. She knew her son would have to fly away from her on wings soaked with the blood of criminals and made from the steel of knives and shotguns. He would leave to be an avenging angel of shadows, the protector of the grey space between light and dark, inhabiting the place between night and day. Unwanted on either side.

  “I know.” Inko wiped the tears that fell, heart filled with twisting pride and sorrow. She had to let him go. “I know.”

Chapter Text

  Himiko doesn’t want to leave, but she knows she has to. This place, this wonderful warm place that she has called home for the past five months, she never wants to leave this place. But she still rolls up her sleeping bag, picks up and folds all of her clothes and puts them all into her backpack. She sighed softly, brushing her blonde bangs out of her face. Looking around at the empty walls of the bedroom she shared with her two best friends, she turned off the lights on this chapter of her life and stepped out of the room and the apartment she loved.

  Dabi wasn’t sure how to feel about this. Leaving feels wrong, somehow. He’d been staying here for over a year, and it was the only home he had ever known since he was a child. His bag had been packed ever since he had moved in, always expecting to be forced to leave, but now that it was time, he didn’t want to go. He wanted to cry, scream at the unjustness of this situation, but he said nothing, instead, casting his eyes to the floor as he stepped outside into the early morning light.

  It’s early, and Izuku knows he has to leave. The past two weeks just didn’t seem like enough time for him to show how much he really cared. There were still so many more things he wanted to say, so many things he wanted them to do together. But there was just no more time. He wiped at the tears running down his cheeks, trying to make himself stop crying to no avail. He had even set up a schedule to call to let his mother know that he was alright, and he was certain that that’s something vigilantes just don’t do. Izuku pulled his backpack over his shoulders and slug a duffle bag over his right. He adjusted the handle of Himiko’s sledgehammer sticking out of the bag, the tent, laptop, sleeping bag and vigilante gear all hidden inside, along with some necessities, and he stepped out the front door into the next stage of his life.

  “This doesn’t feel real, does it, Izuku?” Himiko stares at the sky as they walk into the parking lot, barely managing to hold back her own tears as she looks back at the morning light painting the apartment in soft yellows.

  “Not really.”

  “Mhm.” Dabi nodded, “I guess it’s time to go, isn’t it?” He gripped the straps of his black backpack, knuckles white from how tight he was holding them.

  Himiko laughed, “yeah, we’ve got to set up base camp.” The blonde nudged Izuku with her elbow as they walked, trying to lift the mood that had fallen over the trio.

  “Don’t call it that.” Izuku shook his head, blinking the last of his tears from his eyes.

  Dabi smirked, “how about The Batcave?”

  “Or that.”

  “Dracula’s castle?” Himiko mimed biting someone like a vampire, a grin on her face.

  “What is wrong with you two?”

  “We’re friends with you, let’s start with that.”

  “Damn, Vamp Bitch.”

  “Did you just…” Did he just call her by her name from the group chat? In real life? Izuku shook his head, clearing that from his mind. “Okay, not the weirdest thing you’ve said Dabi.”

  “I don’t even know what the weirdest thing I’ve ever said actually is.”

  “Ha!” Himiko smiled, sharp teeth catching the rays of the early morning sun. “So, Izuku, how did you find out about this place?”

  Izuku shrugged, it wasn’t much of a story. “Well, I was looking for cheap apartments, and apparently this place still has water and power, but the rent is super low because people think it’s haunted.”

  “Oh, hell yeah.” Dabi grinned, pumping his fist in the air energetically. “I’m gonna catch a ghost.”

  “No, you’re not.”

  “Fuck you, Zuzu, you can’t stop me.”

  “We’re only going to be staying there for a few months until I can put together a plan to take down Stain.” Izuku rolled his eyes at Dabi’s enthusiasm. “And then I’ll start putting together info on the Yakuza. From my first online probes, they call themselves the Eight Precepts of Death.” He rolled his eyes at the sheer edginess of the name.

  Himiko drew her eyebrows together, an indescribable look on her face. “Wow, pretentious much?”

  “Mhm.”

  Izuku waved away his friends comments. Well, Himiko’s comment, and Dabi’s indecipherable noise. “But they’re not important right now. What’s important, is gathering information. I don’t want us going into this thing blind.”

  “I guess we should start with mapping the attacks and seeing how much time was in between each one.”

  “Good thinking, Dabi. Himiko, you got any ideas?”

  “Um, try to find how his appearance affects crime rates?” She frowned, tapping her finger against her chin in thought. “Because I don’t think criminals would slack off if they thought that heroes might get killed. They’d go hard or go home.”

  “Oh, yeah, good plan.”

  Izuku nodded, typing the ideas into his phone as the trio walked into the train station. “I’ll start writing that all up once we get there.” He pulled out the money he had set aside for their passes and bought three one way tickets to Hosu. Money had been surprisingly easy to come by lately. Gangsters and thugs kept pretty full wallets.

  “Where is the apartment anyway?” Dabi hadn’t thought to ask for the past two weeks, just leaving the planning to Izuku. It was easier that way.

  “Um, well, since I was looking for a place not crawling with heroes, and cheap, it’s out in Hosu.” It wasn’t a great area, but as he had said, it was cheap. “The only hero office out there is Ingenium, and he’s rather chill with vigilantism if you believe the stories online.”

  Himiko raised her eyebrows, “wait, Hosu?” She dragged the others through the train station, pushing her way through the morning crowds. “You mean the place where those other vigilantes are?”

  Dabi perked up, he hadn’t heard much about the other vigilantes out there, but the conspiracy theories about them were hysterical. Like how Knuckleduster was an alternate version of All Might from the future. “Is that why you chose it?”

  Izuku held his phone in front of his face, attempting to hide his expression. “Maybe.”

  Himiko rolled her eyes, ignoring her friends' horrible attempts at acting. “Speaking of vigilantes, whatever happened to Knuckleduster?”

  Dabi shrugged, pretending he wasn’t interested in the conversation, “No clue, he just vanished. But the others are still around. Maybe we’ll get the opportunity to ask.”

  “Yeah right, what are the odds of that?”

  The odds of that were just as low as the trio ending up in the same train car as Bakugou. In other words, it was a guarantee. “Shit, you guys, hide me.” Izuku ducked his head, avoiding those familiar blood red eyes.

  “What?” Dabi looked over the crowd, understanding when he saw explosively spiky blond hair. “Oh.”

  “I haven't talked to Bakugou since I beat the shit out of him, he can’t see me running off with a giant backpack and duffle bag, he’ll get the wrong idea.” Izuku wasn’t sure what kind of idea it would be, but it wouldn’t be a good one. So he ducked behind Dabi, pulling Himiko forward to flank him in an attempt to hide from his mortal enemy. “Now just stay there.” He pulled out his phone, checking how many stops until Bakugou would be getting off the train to go to UA. 4 stops and 45 minutes.

  He could deal with that. Right? Nothing was going to go wrong.

  As if sensing Izuku’s discomfort, Himiko asked, “do you guys watch BattleBots?”

  “What?”

  Her question had worked to diffuse the tension in the trio, the atmosphere shifting from worried to semi-comfortable in a moment.

  “Because I love BattleBots. The intensity, the robot carnage. Sparks and oil flying everywhere. It’s great.”

  Dabi and Izuku shared a glance, then shrugged. They hadn’t expected that from Himiko, it didn’t seem to fit her cute aesthetic, but it certainly wasn’t the strangest thing about her. “I’ve never watched it,” Izuku admitted. For some reason, he felt ashamed of that. He didn’t even know why.

  “Yeah, neither have I.” Dabi not knowing about things was expected. Less than two years ago he was living outside like an animal, he was allowed to not know things.

  “Oh, well, when we get there I’ll show you some clips from the last season.” Himiko grinned, casting her gaze across the train car for a moment, checking on Bakugou’s movement. The explosive teen was glaring over at the trio, a faint glimmer of recognition in his eyes. “Shit.”

  “What?”

  “Bitchboy is looking over at us.” Himiko tugged off her cardigan, shoving it over Izuku’s head in a weak attempt at a disguise.

  “What the fuck?” Izuku pawed at the cream colored fabric, managing to remove it from his face. He did need to breathe, after all. He shoved the bundled up cardigan back at the blonde girl in a huff. “What was that for?”

  “Hiding,” was the only word she gave him as an answer. Himiko shoved him into the empty seat behind him, temporarily hiding him behind the crowd of people in the aisle. But once those people were gone...

  An idea crossed Himiko’s mind, “Dabi, sit on his lap.”

  Dabi frowned, shaking his head in disagreement. He was very against this idea. “Uh, do I get a choice in this?”

  “Nope.” Himiko grabbed Dabi by the back of his jacket and pulled him down, “just accept your fate.”

  “I hate this.”

  Izuku piped up, his voice muffled by the fabric of Dabi’s jacket. “How do you think I feel, Dabi? You weigh a ton.”

  “Did you just call me fat?”

  “...” Izuku chose not to answer that question for his own personal safety.

  “Why is this happening?” Dabi protested his fate but did nothing to fight against it. “I did nothing to deserve this! I did nothing wrong, why am I being punished?”   

  “I did nothing wrong either, Dabi.” Izuku turned his face to the side, not enjoying the taste of Dabi’s jacket. It tasted burnt. How did it taste burnt, it was a new jacket! "But we're still suffering."

  A sharp stop at the next station sent Dabi bouncing off of Izuku’s lap and onto the floor. Izuku’s eyes locked onto Bakugou’s, only for the connection to be blocked by Himiko jumping in front of Izuku and spreading her arms wide. “LOOK, A DISTRACTION!” She shouted, pointing at the opposite end of the train car, pulling Izuku to his feet and running to the open door of the car, pushing their way through the crowd just to hop on the car behind theirs. “Base!”

  Izuku ran his hands through his hair, the movement awkward with the duffel bag weighing him down. “We left Dabi behind!” He just knew that Bakugou had seen him, there was no way he hadn't. 

  Himiko waved away Izuku’s concern, trying not to laugh at the shrill pitch his voice had taken. “He’ll be fine.”

  “Are you sure? This is Dabi we’re talking about.”

  “Hmm.” Himiko shrugged, “well, he’s probably dead then.”

  A loud shout from outside the train car drew their attention to Dabi pushing his way through the crowd of people attempting to board the train car. “You guys just left me there!” Dabi had an exasperated look on his face, gripping tightly to the straps of his black backpack. “I almost got exploded by that little fucker!” Bakugou had not been happy to see Dabi, screaming and letting loose expletives and tiny explosions in the same breath. But Dabi was used to running from his problems, and he had done so once more.

  “But did you?”

  “No, but-

  Himiko rolled her eyes, cutting him off. “Alright then, glad that’s over with.”

  Dabi’s jaw dropped in shock, “hot damn, Himiko.”

  “Sometimes life’s like that.”

  Izuku shook his head, “well, it shouldn’t be.”

  The trio fell into a comfortable quiet, the trip out to Hosu passing in almost no time at all, the rays of the morning sun slowly strengthening. They stepped out of the train car onto the platform, taking in the grey cityscape.

  Izuku pulled up the map on his phone, grabbing Dabi’s sleeve and pulling him as he walked, Dabi doing the same to Himiko, the three of them forming an odd chain of people as they moved through the city. With no warning at all, Izuku stopped, Dabi running into his back and Himiko running into Dabi.

  “What is it, Zuzu?”

  “We’re here.” Izuku gestured to a building, a supposedly haunted building, that looked perfectly normal. No cobwebs, no flickering lights, no bleeding walls, just an ordinary apartment complex.

  Dabi sighed in disappointment, “ah well, guess it was too much to ask for a haunted apartment building.”

  “Tch!” Himiko scoffed, rolling her eyes at Dabi’s expression. “Don’t look so down, maybe there are ghosts in the basement!”

  “Yes!” Dabi perked back up, adjusting the straps of his backpack. “I’m gonna catch a ghost on camera!”

  “Why are you like this?” Izuku shook his head before turning to Himiko. “And why are you encouraging him?” He took a deep breath before the others could answer, moving to open the door. “Well, let’s get settled in before any more nonsense happens.”

 

*** * ***

 

  Moving into the apartment had taken no time at all, the people in the neighboring apartments almost overly helpful, even going so far as to gift them their unwanted furniture.

  “If you kids need anything, just ask!” Their new neighbors, a man with a bleached blonde mohawk and facial piercings, and an entity with a surgical mask waved as they went back to their own apartments, and it was quiet in the building once more. Well, as quiet as it could be with the constant groaning of the walls and rattling of the pipes.

  Izuku turned back to the half-furnished apartment, stepping inside and closing the door behind him. “So, what do you guys think?” He gestured around the studio apartment, the only things that were separated from the main room were a small bathroom and a closet. But hell, the rent was cheap. Cheap enough that with the money from the last little gang they had busted up would be enough to last for a few months. “Good find, or a good find?”

  “Not bad, Izuku.”

  “Yeah, good find.” Dabi slung himself over the old couch, somehow taking up the entire thing in his sprawl. “I’m gonna take a nap. Night.”

  “It’s not even noon yet…” Himiko dropped her bag to the floor, pulling out her sleeping bag and setting it up next to the coffee table with only three legs. “Oh well, guess I’ll join you.”

  “Yeah, fight the power. Nap when you want to,” Dabi muttered, slowly falling asleep. “Mhhn.”

  “Alright, you two sleep, I’ll set everything up then.” Izuku rolled his eyes, his tone sarcastic as he unzipped the duffle bag and started setting up their gear. Laptop went on the coffee table, sledgehammer went into the closet along with all of the uniforms. Guns and ammo went into the half kitchen that was against one wall, the same with the knives. He dropped his own sleeping bag off next to the couch, pausing to stare in surprise at how quickly the others had fallen asleep. They’re like cats, he thought. Very large, stupid, cats.

  Izuku picked up the key the landlord had given him, “I’m gonna head out and get a feel for the neighborhood.”

  The only response he got was a muffled snore and the sound of a rustling sleeping bag. “Alright, I’ll be back in a bit then.” Izuku stepped out the door and locked it behind him, heading down the hall and the stairs until he was outside the shabby building. He pulled out a notepad, one of many that he always seemed to have on him.

  He wasn’t looking for anything in particular but took down points of interest, such as a rusted-out truck on bricks that looked like it had been there for months. Or a piece of graffiti that depicted a certain flame hero as a flaming garbage bag with his face on it. Izuku snickered and took a picture of the art, sending it to Dabi before continuing his wandering. He patted his pocket, checking for his wallet. While he was out, he might as well pick up some food.

 Izuku turned into the nearest corner store, grabbing a basket and filling it with random junk food as he walked through the aisles. More instant ramen than was healthy, a few bags of chips, some energy drinks, fare too many sugary snacks and one apple. He had to at least attempt to buy something healthy.

  Checking out with his supplies was easy, Izuku was almost expecting the store to be held up by thieves with the way his luck ran lately. Izuku almost laughed at how simple and mundane it was, but he didn’t want to jinx it.

  The walk back to the apartment was brief, Izuku only got lost once before he managed to reorient himself. Up the stairs and down the hall, unlocking the door, and Izuku was back.

  Dabi and Himiko were still asleep, the laptop playing some American movie in the background as they slept.

  Izuku smiled softly, snapping a picture before unloading the junk food onto the kitchen counters. He checked the time, 12:45 pm. Well, there wasn’t really anything else he needed to do. With a shrug, Izuku set an alarm for the morning and stepped over to the couch, sitting down between the two and joining them in sleep.

 

*** * ***

 

Beep

Beep

Beep

Beep

  Izuku shot up to his feet, knife already in his hand, only to sigh with relief when he saw that the noise was just his phone.

  “Turn it off!”

  “Oh, my god, make it shut up!”

  Izuku ignored Dabi and Himiko’s shouting, picking up his phone and shutting off the alarm. “That better, you babies?”

  “Much, thanks.”

  “Mhmp.” Dabi attempted to roll over to go back to sleep, only managing to fall off the couch and onto the floor instead. “Fuck!”

  Izuku rolled his eyes, heading to the kitchenette and grabbing an energy drink off the counter. “It’s five am, you should be up anyways.” He finished his sentence by popping the can open with a hiss of carbonation and chugging almost half of it in ten seconds.

  “Dude, those are so bad for you!”

  Dabi’s voice was muffled by the floor, but he could still speak. “Yeah, it’s like pouring gasoline on your liver then lighting it on fire.”

  Izuku shrugged. “Well, let’s see how many of these I can drink before I have a heart attack.”

  Himiko looked over at Izuku with concern painted across her face, disbelief making itself known when Izuku just turned the can upside down and quaffed the second half in no time flat. “You’re insane.”

  “Probably.” Izuku put the empty can in the sink and picked up a bag of chips, opening it and tossing a few in his mouth. “So, today is a research day.”

  Himiko shook her head in disagreement, “actually, I’m gonna try and sign up for online classes.”

  “Do it, get learnt.” Dabi was still speaking into the floor, and it looked like he had no interest in moving from his place under the coffee table.

  Izuku wanted to ask if Dabi meant to say that, but it was safer to just assume that he had. “Alright, I’ll start on this then.” He picked up his phone and walked over to one of the cork boards built into the wall. This was perfect for his planning. “Hey guys, this wall is mine, ‘kay?”

  Himiko nodded from her place on the scuffed up couch, opening Izuku’s laptop. She started searching for classes she could take online, she didn’t want to end up like Dabi. And speaking of Dabi… Himiko looked across the room, only to drop her jaw in shock. What was she even looking at here?

  In the few minutes that had passed, Dabi had set up the tent in the corner of the room and a hot plate in front of it like a campfire. He was currently trying to brew coffee over it. But she was pretty sure that coffee wasn’t supposed to light on fire like that...

  She closed her jaw with a snap, still staring as the scene unfolded. “What are you doing?”

  “Camping, what does it look like?” Dabi stared over at here, ice blue eyes attempting to convey innocence.

  “Well,” Himiko smirked, the expression mostly just a flash of sharp teeth. “It looks like you’re being a jackass.”

  “Rude.”

  “You can’t camp inside, Dabi!”

  Dabi gestured at the camping supplies surrounding him. “Then what the hell am I doing, then?”

  “Being an idiot.”

  “So cruel.” He held his hand over his heart, acting as if her words caused him injury.

  “Will you two stop-” Izuku cut himself off when he had turned to reprimand the two, staring in shock at the spectacle before him. Himiko was attempting to smother Dabi with his sleeping bag, and Dabi just seemed to be lying back and accepting his fate. “What the fuck… what in the name of god are you two doing?” He looks away for less than five minutes...

  “Murdering Dabi.” Himiko was cheerful, not relenting with her efforts.

  “Getting murdered.” Dabi’s voice was muffled from the thick material of the sleeping bag, but he still managed to sound bored.

  “Oh, okay then. Do it quieter.” Izuku turned back to the corkboard, pinning up a map of Tokyo, the only city the Hero Killer had operated in.

  “Fuck, that was cold, Zuzu.”

  “Izuku, what the hell? I thought you actually liked Dabi!”

  Izuku stayed quiet, lost in the wild flow of his own thoughts. The protests of his friends were nothing but whispers as he worked, placing pins in the map to signify the hero killers known kills. There was quite a bit. Seventeen kills, and over twenty critically wounded. Four per prefecture, then he would move on. Now if Izuku could just understand what influenced his movements…

  The world seemed to fall away as Izuku strung up and pinned up more points of interest. There were so many dots, but it was difficult to connect them all in the right order. And most of them were his exploits, nothing about the man himself.

  “Fuck!” Izuku threw his notebook onto the floor, his steadily mounting frustration making it impossible for him to focus. “There’s hardly anything about him out there!”

  He braced his hands against the wall, leaning down and taking a deep breath in an attempt to level himself back out. Focus. He had to clear his head and focus.

  “Zuzu, want a cup of coffee?” Dabi held up a steaming mug, a worried look on his face.

  Izuku shrugged, stepping over into Dabi’s impromptu campsite and settling himself on the rolled out sleeping bag. “Why not, I’ve got to take a moment to collect myself.”

  “Are you sure you want to drink that, Izuku? It was on fire!” Himiko looked over at them from her spot on the couch, shaking her head in disappointment.

  “Aww, come on, it was only on fire a little!”

  “You know, when people say coffee can taste burnt, they don’t mean it got lit on fire.” Izuku steeled himself for what he was about to do and took a sip of the offered beverage. It actually wasn’t bad to his surprise. “Not the worst it could get.”

  “Should you be drinking that, Izuku? You just drank that energy drink.”

  “Well, if I die, I die.” Izuku shrugged, feeling his heart rate slowly begin to tick up now that his attention had been drawn to it. “Besides, I want to get productive today.”

  Dabi nodded, jerking his head towards Izuku’s info board. “Yeh, you’re getting all ‘A Beautiful Mind’ over there.” It was almost unsettling how much work had been done in such little time. It really was a good thing Izuku wasn’t a villain.

  Izuku narrowed his eyes, “is that another weird reference?”

  “Maybe.”

  Himiko laughed from her position on the couch. “Nerd.”

  Dabi shrugged, “true. So, how much do you bet that Stain is connected to the League of Villains somehow?”

   Izuku shook his head, frowning slightly at even the concept of that team up. “Nothing, their ideals are all over the place. No drive. No focus. Stain is all about conviction and idealism.”

  Himiko groaned, “ugh, that sounds gross.”

  “Well, our convictions are kinda all over the place too, if you think about it.” Dabi had been wanting to bring this up for a while but hadn't really known how to broach the subject without sounding like he was complaining.

  “What, do you think we should strive to be some sort of symbol? A beacon?” That sounded a bit too heroic for Izuku's tastes.

  “Well, sort of. People are going to interpret our actions like that anyway, so we should get ahead of it while we can.” 

  “I don't want to be anything like the symbol of peace." Izuku shook his head sadly, "I don't want to be a hero, Dabi.”

  “We don't have to be symbols of peace.” Besides, Dabi was pretty sure people didn't actually fear the symbol of peace.

  Himiko piped up from the couch, her idea odd, but still valid. “We could be symbols of violence!”

  Dabi shrugged, seeing the worth in Himiko's statement. “Yeah, what she said.”

  Himiko rested her chin in her palm, “besides, we're nothing like the heroes, Izuku.”

  Izuku's brow furrowed, not seeing what she meant. “Hows that?”

  “We're more proactive, hunting down crimes before they can even happen, while heroes are more reactive. Waiting for villains to come out to the open.”

  Dabi nodded in agreement, “and that's another thing, we hunt down criminals, heroes go after villains. There's a difference.”

   Izuku refilled his coffee cup from the still burning pot. “Ugh, can we not talk about this right now, I don't want to get too into it while doing research.”

 "You know we're right, Zuzu."

 "Yeah, just accept it!"  

 The two traded quips back and forth, and Izuku picked his phone back up off of the floor, looking over the information he had collected with a fresh eye and clearer head. He started with the statements given by those who had been injured, slowly collecting points of data. Izuku climbed back to his feet, keeping the cup of coffee held tight in his hand.

  For almost five minutes straight he stood stock still, his steady consumption of coffee the only proof he was still awake. “So, Stain. Horrifyingly tall, black hair and… no nose. Okay. That’s not weird at all.” Izuku muttered as he poured over the reports, piecing together an image from the bits of information he could find on the hero killer. “I’m sure lots of people don’t have a nose.” The green haired teen pinned that piece of information onto the board and took a step back, looking over what he had.

  Himiko frowned, looking up for a moment before going back to work typing up an essay for acceptance into her online classes. “Wait, why doesn’t he have a nose?” This was too distracting, she was trying to think about why she deserved a place in this program, not about how someone could lose their nose.

  “I… I don’t know.” Izuku shrugged, looking up from his notebook to attach another pin to the map on the corkboard. “I’ll keep searching to find out. Maybe I’ll find out a secret or something.”

  “You might find out who he really is, too.” Dabi scrolled through articles about the hero killer on his phone, eyebrows raising when he saw Conspiracy Cover Up! Stendhal is Stain?  “Oh? Conspiracy? Yes please.”

  He tapped the link, eyes widening in surprise at the amount of research this writer had put into this. Even the quirk analysis. And the disappearance of Stendhal and the subsequent appearance of Stain less than three months later? That wasn’t a coincidence. “Izuku?”

  “Yeah?”

  Dabi shoved his phone into Izuku’s face, a sharp smirk reshaping his scars. “I think I’ve found something.”

  Izuku read quickly, scrolling as fast as the page would load. With a wide grin on his face, exposing too many teeth, he looked up from the article Dabi had found. “So, Stendhal is Stain.” This was good, they had a substantial lead now.

  “Sure looks like it.”

  “Any more intel on Stendhal?”

  Dabi flicked through the notes he had made, frowning a little at his awful handwriting. “Well, his quirk needs him to ingest your blood.”

  Himiko raised her lip in disgust, “gross, go on.”

  Izuku and Dabi frowned at her, wasn’t that a bit hypocritical? She used blood for her quirk too!

  Dabi shrugged, continuing to read off the information he had tracked down. “There’s really not much to go on, but,” Dabi flipped to the end of his notepad, staring at the circled name written in red ink. “I do have a name.”

  “Holy shit, Dabi!” Izuku pumped his fist in the air in excitement, this was more than he could have asked for!

  Himiko grinned, “so, who is he?”

  “Well, I searched the online quirk registry for blood-based quirks for men aged in their late twenties to early thirties, and found one match.” Dabi set the notepad on the table, tapping the circled name. “He’s Akaguro Chizome. Quirk: Bloodcurdle. It causes temporary paralysis based on blood type.” And those seventeen dead and twenty-three wounded would definitely argue that it was effective.

  “Shit, alright. So don’t get stabbed.” Izuku chuckled, “but if you do get stabbed, don’t let him get the knife back.”

  Himiko rolled her eyes, leaning closer to read Dabi’s notes. “What’s his specialty?”

  “Close quarters combat.”

  “Known weapons?”

  “One katana, and about ten different knives.”

  “Shit. So we’re going to have to go long range.” Izuku’s mind flashed to the two fitting weapons for that. He could put Stain down for good, but it wasn’t his place to decide if he should live or die. “Himiko, Dabi… this is going to get bloody, are you two alright with that?” What he was really asking was;  Will you stand by me if I kill him? But he couldn’t make himself say those words. Will you stay by my side as I soak myself in even more blood?

  Dabi nodded, willing to do whatever he had to do to help save others. “Yeah, I get it. I’m with you till the end of the line.” He smiled, action lost in his scars, but the others knew how he felt.

  “We have to stop him, even if it means…” Himiko’s voice faded out, but her eyes still glimmered with determination. “I’m in.”

  They all knew what they were going to have to do to win this.

 

*** * ***

 

  Less than a night later, the three are out canvassing the neighborhood, chasing rumors of the Hero Killer’s presence as they hunted down criminals. They had a plan, they had the conviction, and they had the necessary force to take him down, but they still had to track him down. Unfortunately, that was proving to be more difficult than they had anticipated.

  “So, no Hero Killer in Hosu yet.” Izuk sighed, running a gloved hand through his hair, irritation flashing through his mind.

  Dabi shrugged, kicking at rocks on the street as he walked. “He’s been out of the papers for a few weeks, but he should be here or in Kamino ward in Yokohama within the next month.”

  “Plenty of time to practice and get ready then.” Himiko was hitting the rocks Dabi kicked, using her sledgehammer as an improvisational golf club.

  “Mhm.”

  Izuku pulled out his notepad, marking down potential places for the hero killer to strike, comparing each dark alley to the other. There were a weird amount of alleyways in Hosu, almost like it was built to host crime noir stories. He stifled a laugh at that thought, tucking the notepad back into the pocket of his armored hoodie. Izuku kept a sharp eye on the streets, he was hoping to catch sight of the vigilantes he had heard about in the area.

  Sure, Knuckleduster hadn’t been seen in a few years, but there was still the Crawler and Pop☆Step. How anyone managed to pronounce the star in her name was beyond him. But aside from that, he really did want to meet the vigilantes he had heard about.

   Dabi kicked another rock into the street, the scraping sound of his shoes accompanying the ping of the stone hitting metal somewhere in the distance. "We need cover names."

   "What?" Izuku looked back, not seeing the point to an alias.

   "Well, we can't keep using our real names if we're going to be symbols."

   Izuku sighed, "Dabi, I don't want to be a symbol."

   "Even if we aren't symbols, we should still use code names."

   "I'll be Vamp Bitch!" Himiko had to admit that the name was starting to grow on her. Like a particularly swift fungus.

   "I can just still be Dabi." Dabi shrugged, the name had started as an alias in the first place, so there was a sort of irony to making it both his name and code name.

  Izuku rolled his eyes, "well, I don't care about mine, but it's not going to be Zuzu."

  "How about Knife?"

  Izuku shook his head frantically, "no way in hell."

  "Gun?"

  "That's worse!"

  Dabi bent down and picked up the next rock, tossing it back and forth from one hand to the other. "Well, I'm out of ideas."

  Himiko smacked the rock out of Dabi's hand, tossing it up and swinging at it with the sledgehammer. "How about Target? You have that target on your back, so it works!"

  "If it makes you shut up, then fine." Izuku sighed in exasperation. This seemed a bit too much like heroics. Code names, creeds, being some sort of a symbol...

  A flash of movement caught his eye, three figures with black fabric and bird masks. Yakuza? They were supposed to be out in Mustafar, not Hosu. Izuku stepped forward into the back street they had entered and signaled Dabi and Himiko, two fingers in the air, a call to follow.

  “What you got, Target?”

  He ignored the codename, “yakuza.” He fell silent, stepping lightly, avoiding the broken glass on the asphalt. They had probably already noticed him, but he wasn’t taking any chances with his luck.

  “What?”

  “Here?”

  Izuku nodded, adjusting the bandana that covered half of his face. He shifted and tightened his grip on his tonfa, following the figure with the mask and fur collared coat. “Hey, yakuza!” He pitched his voice low, words coming out as a growl. “I’m talking to you!”

  “Oh, what’s this then? Heroes?” The figure stopped, barely turning their head over their shoulder to take in the visual of the trio who had followed him into the narrow street. “What do you want, heroes?” The other two that were with them moved to flank, one of them barely the size of a stuffed animal, and the other in a hooded coat that left their entire face in shadow aside from the beak of their mask.

  “Well, one, we’re not heroes. Two, we want to know what you’re doing here, yakuza.” Izuku struggled to keep the low pitch of his voice, half sure he was shredding his vocal cords. But he sounded intense, so it was worth it. Maybe.

  “Aren’t we allowed to just walk peacefully?”

  “Not when you’re criminals you aren’t.” Izuku tried not to laugh at the irony of this situation. Three illegal heroes facing off with three gangsters. He especially had no room to talk, what with his own extensive crimes. “I’ll ask again, what are you doing in Hosu?”

  Izuku’s mind raced, why had he followed them? Why had he confronted them? What the hell was he thinking? But that’s just it, he wasn’t thinking. It’s as if his body was being driven by its own desires, a desire to seek justice at all costs, even if it killed him. Maybe he was more like the heroes than he thought. But heroes wouldn't start fights in the middle of the street with gangsters. He wasn't a hero. He couldn't be a hero.

  “Boss, want me to... take care of these punks?”

  The man Izuku would eventually come to know as Overhaul waved away the concerns of his subordinates. “No, let’s see how this plays out.” He stepped forward, amber eyes full of disdain. “What is it that makes you better than me in this sick society?”

  Izuku’s eyebrows raised in surprise, what exactly did he mean by sick society? Was he talking about hero culture? “I didn’t say I was better than you, I just wanted to know why the Eight Precepts of Death has their leader strutting around downtown Hosu like he owns the place.” Shit. Here he goes antagonizing people again. Maybe that was his quirk, annoying people until they wanted to kill him.

  “How do you know about…” They trailed off, eyes narrowed. “I see, you’re one of the sick. Those infected with the Hero Syndrome.”

   Is this guy crazy? Izuku lowered his stance, not liking the look he was getting or the killing intent he could feel from where he stood. He heard Dabi and Himiko do the same behind him, the three of them getting ready in case this turned bloody. Which it would. It always did when Izuku was involved.

  “And you think that makes any sort of sense? Maybe you’re the one who’s sick, buddy.”

  Izuku glanced back at who had said that internally laughing at Dabi trying to act casual in this insane situation.

  “Yeah, what he said!”

  This time it was Himiko, the blonde hefting her sledgehammer to punctuate her words.

  Izuku grinned behind the bandana, teeth bared and fire of determination in his eyes. “Well, you heard them.” He raised his fists, adjusting his grip on his tonfa. “I wasn’t looking for a fight, but if you’re willing to give me one, I’ll take it.”

  “How heroic of you.” Overhaul glanced back to his own subordinates, not his team, his subordinates, to tell them to keep back.  

  Izuku didn’t see when he moved forward.

  Izuku didn’t see when Overhaul removed his gloves.

  Didn’t see when his fingertips grazed his exposed wrist...

 

Pain.

Overwhelming pain.

nothing

Pain agony pain

nothing

Pain.

nothing

 

  When the nothing faded from his mind, Izuku lay shaking on the ground, trying to catch his breath over the waves of pain that still wracked his body and the screaming that’s both from his mind and his friends.

  What the hell was that?

  That nothingness… That emptiness that nothing could enter or leave, that feeling he couldn’t comprehend without feeling a sense of dread fall over his mind.

  What was it?

  Did he… die?

  Izuku pushed himself up onto his hands and knees, vomit spilling from his lips to the bloodstained asphalt below him. Was there always blood on the pavement?

  “I didn’t kill you this time hero, but the next,” Overhaul set back off down the street, pulling his gloves back on. “You won’t be so lucky.” His words faded out of Izuku's mind as he slipped back into the nothingness, slumping over in the center of the street.

Chapter Text

Izuku! Izuku, look at me!

You’re going to be alright, okay? You have to be alright!

Izuku, don’t you leave me like this!

...Izuku!

Please wake up, please you can’t do this…

don’t go, please

just keep breathing, we’ll get you fixed up

don’t you die on me Izuku…

...just hold on

keep holding on

 

 

  “Fuck, fuck, is he breathing still?” The two had practically dragged Izuku back to the apartment, blood gushing from his wounds, staining their clothes and skin a faded rust color. “Oh my god, what do we do?”

  Himiko propped Izuku’s unconscious form against the edge of the bathtub, making sure he was steady before turning and slapping Dabi across the face. “Dabi, calm down, you can’t help him if you’re hysterical!” She turned back to Izuku, stripping away his shredded hoodie to inspect the damage. It was… horrific. That’s the only word she had to describe it. The cuts spiraled away from his right wrist like a crimson spiderweb, running over his entire back and ending at his left shoulder and hip.

  Dabi just clutched the cheek that had been hit, continuing to panic. “What do we do?!”

  “Get me as many clean rags as you can and soak them.” Himiko was used to dealing with cuts, but never of this magnitude. But she still had to try. Izuku was her world; she had to do something. “And then help me clean out the cuts on his chest, he collapsed, and I’m worried about infection.” She was strangely calm, but she could feel panic pressing up against the thin bubble of rationality in her mind. I have to stay calm, stay calm for Izuku.

 “What, we can’t deal with this ourselves!” Dabi still did as he was told, pulling towels and rags from the bathroom cabinets and soaking them in the sink.

  “Well, we can’t take him to a fucking hospital,” Himiko paused, grabbing the first aid kit from beneath the sink and one of the rags that had been soaked, cleaning the collection of lacerations on Izuku’s chest. “Can you stitch wounds?”

  Dabi nodded, slowly calming down, but panic still written on his face. “Yes, but this is… this is really extensive damage. I don’t know how much I can do.” I don’t know if I can help him. He took a breath to steady himself, panic threatening to grow in his chest once again. “I’ll do my best.”

  “Good.” Himiko nodded, cleaning the blood away from the cuts, laser-focused on her efforts. “You start cleaning up his arm.”

  Dabi set about doing as he was told, on the verge of tears. Izuku’s arm was a tattered mess, but the cuts were odd. They should have gone clean through to the bone, but it was like they had reformed just enough to keep him alive. He was going to need to be stitched back together like a patchwork doll if he didn’t want them to reopen, though.

  Himiko tossed her last towel into the sink, only needing to clean up Izuku’s back now. “Dabi, keep the pressure on that cut and pass me another towel.”

  “Here.”

  The two worked in silence, the fear and panic an almost tangible presence in the air. In minutes or maybe hours, they were finished. There was only one thing left to do.   

  “Alright, it’s time for the stitches.”

  Dabi nodded, holding the curved needle and nylon suture he had never thought he would actually have to use it when it had been added to the first aid kit. “Alright, you might not want to watch…”

  “I’m staying.”

  “Okay.” Dabi took a breath, steadying his hands as he carefully pierced Izuku’s skin, piecing him back together with tiny bits of nylon that should never have to protect someone's life. It was hard work, simple interrupted stitching, a technique that helped distribute the tension in the line. Knowing Izuku, he would try to throw himself into the middle of a brawl the moment he could stand, and ripping stitches is a very painful experience that Dabi knows about first hand.

  Hours later, Dabi’s hands cramping from the small repetitive motions, and his work is done. Izuku isn’t falling apart, but he hasn’t woken up yet. “I don’t know what else to do.” Dabi knows his voice sounds weak and lost, but he just doesn’t know how else he can help now.

  A small hand pats his shoulder, and Dabi all but collapses against Himiko, shoulders shaking from barely held back sobs and exhaustion. “We just have to wait now.” Himiko joins Dabi in his tears, hers' silent compared to his quiet sobs. “We can only wait.”

 

*** * ***

 

  Izuku doesn’t know where he is, the last thing he remembers… why can’t he remember what happened? All he can remember is that all-encompassing pain, then nothing. Nothing.

  He struggles to open his eyes, the first thing he sees is blood. So much blood. His own blood.

  On his arms, his chest, soaked through his jeans, spread across the tile of the bathroom.

  When did he get in the bathroom?

  Scratch that, when did he get off of the pavement?

  The next thing he sees is the stitches holding his shattered skin together. Black against tan against so much red.

  Stitches in the pattern of broken glass, across his right arm, his chest, his back. He can feel them, tiny stinging pains within the deep burn of the wounds they hold closed. His limbs weak and heavy with exhaustion, he lifts his arm to inspect the damage.

  Whatever that quirk was, it took him apart and put him back together with surgical precision. There’s not an inch of his arm and torso that wasn’t shattered, but a sick, morbid part of himself appreciates the artistry of his own destruction. But even thinking about the man who did this floods his mind with pure rage, the anger as red as the blood, his blood, that now stains the streets outside.

  He grits his teeth, hissing with the pain of moving, struggling to get his feet beneath himself. He grabs onto the edge of the sink for balance, not seeing the blood-soaked bandages and rags lying in the bottom of the bowl, too fixated on his own anger. Izuku takes a shaking step, poking his head out of the open door, coming face to face with Dabi and Himiko.

  “Iz… Izuku?”

  “Zuzu? Oh my god.”

  “We thought you were going to die again!”

  Again? He had… died? More than once?

  Izuku stares, eyes empty as the weight of what had happened hit him like a blow from a two-ton sledgehammer. He drops down to his knees, mind spinning frantically, trying to understand what this meant. He had died, but he was still here. And that nothingness. Was that all there was to life, to death? Existence simply ending once you kick the bucket?

  He had never believed in an afterlife, but knowing that there was nothing afterward was different somehow. “...there’s nothing.”

  “What?”

  “Zuzu, what do you mean?”

  “After you die…” his voice was a harsh rasp, like dull steel scraping on rough stone. “There’s nothing after you die.” He chuckles softly, mind frantically hopping from anger to apathy, to despair, to hysteria. “There’s nothing.

  “Izuku.” Dabi hadn’t called him by his full name in a while, but he hopes that it would be enough to help pull his friend out of this madness. “Izuku, look at me.”

  Izuku pulled his gaze from the floor, staring up at his friends with eyes soaked with tears and a face soaked with blood.

  “You’re alive right now, and that’s all that matters.”

  “...right. I’m alive.” Izuku laughed, the sound dry, almost acidic. “I shouldn’t have… I shouldn’t have gone after them. I should have read the situation better, I should have seen this coming-

  “Izuku, are you seriously trying to blame yourself for being killed ?” Dabi shook his head sadly, crouching down beside his friend and pulling him close. “You idiot.”

  “You couldn’t have seen this coming.” Himiko joined them on the floor, mentally noting that this was the third time this has happened with them all ending up on the floor like this. “But we’re gonna help you get through this.”

  Izuku laughed, his mind properly clear for the first time in months. No anger clouding his thoughts, no existential dread. He hadn’t felt like this since before he had been told he couldn’t be a hero. “You two were right. It’s all so clear now.”

  “What do you mean?” Himiko kept her hand in Izuku’s hair, gently petting him like a small animal. “What’s clear?”

  Izuku shrugged, wincing slightly as the movement pulled his fresh stitches, pinpricks of pain shooting through his torso. “Even if I don’t want to be a symbol, we’re still going to be symbols. Beacons to those lost in the darkness of real crime. Not a symbol of peace, but of war.”

  “A symbol of war?” Dabi raised his eyebrows, that phrase had a certain… threat to it. War means violence and destruction, and even death. Was he ready to get into this sort of situation?

  On the opposite side of Izuku, Himiko’s thought process closely mirrored that line. But she knew she was able to commit to this. She had been ever since people had told her she would be a villain only for her quirk, then from her fascination with blood. “Did you mean violence or war ?”

  Izuku smiled, the effect horrifying on his bloodstained face. “Oh, this is a war.” At long last, he had steeled his convictions, he was no longer being tossed about by the whims of his own angry mind. He was going to be a hero, but not the sort who will swoop down and save the day. He was the one lurking in the shadows willing to do whatever it takes to save lives. “This is a war, and we’re going to fucking win it.”

 

*** * ***

 

  Less than a day into Izuku’s recovery and he’s already wanting to tear out his stitches from sheer frustration. They itch. Sure, itching means they’re healing, but he hates looking down and seeing his skin look like it’s been fragmented. And throwing himself into his research hadn’t helped at all, it had only added to his hyperfocus, letting him consume information at inhuman speeds, and now he couldn’t do anything to follow up on it!

  He surreptitiously scratched at the stitches on his collarbone, his constant movement putting them at a bit of strain.

  Dabi called at him from the opposite side of the room, still sitting in his makeshift campsite. “Stop scratching, Zuzu!” He turned back to the hotplate, glaring at it as his ramen slowly built to a boil.

  “Dabi, I’m losing my fucking mind right now, if I don’t scratch, I might die.” Izuku had died and lived to tell the tale, so he was allowed to joke about it. Right? “I’m super serious right now,” he said, putting on his least serious face, the one all fifteen-year-olds seem to know. “I might die.”

  Himiko looked up from the laptop, typing up a paper for her online health class. “Dude, why are you joking about dying?”

  “Yeah, that’s pretty fucked up.” And Dabi knew from fucked up, his jokes never got quite so morbid though.

  Izuku shrugged, hand spread wide. “Unhealthy coping mechanisms?”

  “Okay, that makes sense.” Himiko turned back to the laptop, skimming her paper and sending it off with a half-hearted prayer.

  Dabi shook his head, the ends of his hair almost falling over his eyes. “Alright, but seriously, that’s messed up.” He brushed his hair back, he really needed a haircut soon.

  Izuku sighed, “sure, it might be messed up, but it’s keeping me from pulling my stitches out with my teeth. How long do these have to stay in? Not long, right?”

  “At least fourteen days. Fourteen for your back and chest, and about a week for the arm, so let’s just say two weeks.” Dabi rattled off the information he had learned in the hospital, glad that the worst moments of his life could be used to help others.

  “Seriously? I might fucking die of frustration by then!” Izuku balled his hands into fists, pressing them to the sides of his head. “Can I at least scratch them?”

  “Nope, you don’t want to irritate them. Don’t want to scar up too bad either.”

  “Ugh, I already look like shit, the scars would just make it worse.” He poked at the black nylon holding his skin together, a frown on his face. He was going to scar, and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

  “Want to know how I got these scars?” Dabi couldn’t help using that quote to get their attention, but he also wanted his friend to understand that your scars don’t define you.

  Nobody was expecting Dabi to say anything, let alone offer insight into his past.

  Izuku nodded, scared that if he spoke the spell that had washed over the trio would be broken.

  Dabi took the silence as his cue to continue. “Well, as you know my home life was shit at best, and hell at the worst.” He shrugged, a small smile on his face at his maudlin humor. “But when my father started training my little brother, I made it my mission to get in his way every time. I made it my life's purpose to take every punch that was meant for Shouto, and I was pretty good at it too.” He scoffed, rolling his eyes. “And about three years ago, Shouto had just turned twelve, and my father had decided I wasn’t going to get in the way anymore.”

  Dabi went quiet for a moment, a hand tracing the scars on his throat. He remembered every moment of that day. Every second of his struggle until his mind couldn't handle the pain from his own quirk and collapsed.

  “He tried to kill me. And I went critical. Fight or flight response. All my power all at once, but I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t have the training to deal with the heat yet, and I burnt myself down.” A small flame flickered over his hand, not blue like they had so often seen of him, but a brilliant, clear orange. 1200 Celsius. The flames transmuted to the familiar blue, the fire itself shrinking, but the corona of heat rising. Over 1600 Celsius.

  The flames went out almost as soon as Dabi had created them, the implications of what he had done sinking into the other like heat from a bonfire into their bones. Dabi had essentially cremated himself to try to protect his brother. Then he had renamed himself after what he had done...

  Silence took itself to rest over the room, and none of them wanted to break it.

  Izuku rubbed at his stitches guiltily, not able to feel like his disparaging remarks about his own scars had been callous now that he knew… well, now that he knew what he knew. He stood, moving to sit next to Dabi on the sleeping bag rolled out in front of the tent. He didn’t say anything, but he was at least there. It had taken real courage to tell that sort of secret, even to your friends, and Izuku wanted to be there for him in any way he was needed.

  Himiko looked up from the laptop once more, a small smile on her face. “You’re a good brother, Dabi.”

  “Whatever, Vamp Bitch.”

 

*** * ***

 

  If Izuku doesn’t manage to die from itchiness, Himiko and Dabi might kill him in his sleep. It hasn’t even been a week, and he’s already acting like a hyperactive pomeranian, even going so far as to start rolling on the floor out of boredom. He even deep cleaned the apartment! It was actually quite gross, the bathroom especially. All those blood stains.

  But enough about that, those thoughts only go down dark and twisting paths that lead to awful things better left unseen.

  Izuku was currently sprawled across the couch, looking through the news on his phone. Apparently, there had been an attack by the League of Villains on UA. Why they would do that was beyond him. “So, what to do until the next appearance of Stain?”

  “UA Sports Festival.” Dabi didn’t look up from his own phone, currently engaged in a debate with flat earth theorists. He was not winning.

  Himiko shook her head at the two idiots she had somehow befriended. “What?”

  Dabi shrugged, typing out a counter-theory to the flat earth theory. “We can make weirdly specific bets and rake in the cash.” Why is there no flat mars theory, he typed, a grin on his face. “Get that money.”

  “Well, why not.” Izuku shrugged, “it’ll be something to do until these stitches can be taken out.”

  Himiko sighed heavily, “we should acquire a police scanner.”

  “Why?”

  “That way, when we do take on Stain, we can get the cops to cart him off once we’re done.” Or at least bring a bodybag. But that wasn’t a guarantee. Who was she kidding, with Izuku around, Stain didn’t stand a chance.

  “Alright, we’ll do that after the sports festival.” Izuku settled into the couch, preparing for a power nap. “Honestly, some low key gambling will be nice after all that’s gone on.”

  “You said it Zuzu.” And with that, the curse was affixed.

Chapter Text

  “Do you think I’m too confident?” Izuku leaned back to stare a the ceiling of the train car, frowning slightly.

  Himiko glanced at him from her seat across the aisle. “What? I mean, yes, but why are you asking?”

  “It seems like we might be rushing into this thing with Stain.” Izuku rubbed at the scars on his wrist, a bad habit that he had formed from scratching at his stitches. “I mean, we know everything there is on him, but it doesn’t seem like we know enough.”

  Dabi shrugged, “there’s not much else we can do to prepare though.” He crossed his arms over his chest, staring out the window and watching the scenery whip by.

  “I know. I've mapped out every dark alley and every rooftop surrounding those alley’s, mocked up escape plans, even tracked down security footage of some of his attacks, but it doesn’t seem like enough.”

  “Is this about you dying?”

  “I guess. Sure, my convictions and motivation have never been more resolute, but thinking about dying again…” Izuku shook his head, trying to get that feeling of nothingness out of his mind. He had planned for just about every scenario to take Stain down, he was just scared of the possibility of death. Not worried about his own life, but for Dabi and Himiko. If something happened to them… well, he wasn’t sure what he would do, but he would be out of ammo by the end of it.

  Himiko shook her head, her hair was worn loose today, sending her spiky bangs to hang over her face. “Izuku, don’t think about that, we’re going to the Sports Festival to get away from those thoughts for a little bit.”

  “Sure, but I still can't stop worrying.” And his fears were rational, Stain was fast, almost too fast, and they would have a limited amount of time to take him out from long range before he could close the gap. “Worrying and antagonizing people is what I’m good at.”

  “You mean best at,” Dabi quipped, grinning lopsidedly.

  “Wow, rude.” Izuku rolled his eyes, kicking his feet up onto the empty seat beside him.

  “Dabi, let’s play I Spy!”

  Dabi rolled his eyes, “alright I’ll go first. I spy something… train.”

  Himiko put on a thoughtful face, taking a long pause before answering. “Is it the train?”

  “Yep.”

  “Alright, my turn!” She smiled and clapped giddily. “I spy something Izuku!”

  “Hmm.” Dabi couldn’t keep the laughter from his voice, “is it Izuku?”

  “Yeah!”

  “Nice." He leaned across the aisle to hit her with a high five. "I spy something tree.”

  Himiko gasped, pretending to strain her brain. “Is it a tree?”

  “Yes, it is.”

  “Oh my god,” Izuku groaned, “if you two don’t stop it I’m going to jump out of the train while we’re going over a bridge.”

  “Damn, again with the death jokes.”

   Himiko frowned, putting her hands on her hips. “Not cool, not cool at all.”

  “I love you two so very much, but you make me so fucking frustrated.” He shook his head, straining to keep the grin off his face, worries forgotten. “You’re so great, but you just make me so mad sometimes.”

  Dabi pulled him into a one-armed hug, “aww, Zuzu loves us!”

  “So sweet!”

  Izuku rolled his eyes so hard he was sure they were about to fall out. “For fuck’s sake.”

 

*** * ***

 

  This stadium… this is just excessive. There’s no reason to have a stadium this large, ever. Izuku shook his head, this is insane. And there were heroes everywhere, but he wasn’t worried about being arrested, too busy thinking about how wild he could make his bets and still make money off of them.

  “So, first bet?”

   Izuku chuckled, he had a pretty good idea what might happen. “Well, the freshman representative is Bakugou, so I say he’s going to insult everyone in the speech.”

  “Oh, I believe it.” But nobody else would. Money here we come.

  Izuku waved down a UA business course student with a ticket sticking out of her hatband, scribbling his bet down at one to two odds, then pressed a wad of cash into their hand. “Are you sure about this bet?”

  “Definitely.”

  The business student shrugged, putting the money in an envelope and pinning the ticket to a small clipboard with a cork backing. “Your loss, buddy.”  

  Izuku wandered back to his friends, stripping off his hoodie and putting it on the first empty seat he saw. “Who do you think will come in first for the first round?”

  “My brother. Sorry, but Bakugou’s not quite at his level.”

  “Yet.” Izuku might hate Bakugou’s guts, but he had to admit he was strong and talented with his quirk. He wrote the second bet down and waved the bookie down once again. The odds were ridiculously steep on this one, but it was a shoo-in. “Second round is probably going to be a team event, so what about that?”

  “Huh, I’ve got no clue.”

  “Yeah, Bakugou is good at seeing how to work with others in his own messed up way.”

  “Same thing with Shouto.”

  Himiko groaned, bored with the conversation. “Ugh, I don’t know either of them!”

  “There’s just too many variables at play here.” If Izuku knew their quirks that would be a different story. Then he could figure out team configurations and go from there. Ah well, he could place more bets after the first round anyway. The three settled up against the railing, their jackets in the seats behind them. “But after the first round, we can find the bookie again. They’ll keep taking our bets because they’ll think we’ll be easy money. But if I win that first bet, we'll be set.”

  Dabi shook his head, “it’s such a good thing you’re not a criminal.” 

  “I thought I was a criminal.”

  “You two shut up, the classes are coming out!” Himiko jumped up excitedly, watching as the classes were announced, first the hero course, then general studies, then support and lastly, business. “That’s a lot of people!” And with eleven classes competing, about twenty to a class, two hundred and twenty didn’t seem like a lot, but if it’s people...

  A crack of a whip over the pa system drew everyone's attention to the podium. The R Rated Hero, Midnight, was apparently the referee this year. “Silence!”

  The crowd obeyed, filled with rational fear of a woman with such talent with a whip. As anyone would be.

  “Would the freshman representative come up to the podium, Bakugou Katsuki, it’s time for the athletes' oath!”

  There were murmurs of discontent from the cluster of students, most of them unhappy with the idea of the representative only being chosen because of a score for the hero course entrance exam.

  Bakugou strode up to the podium, hands jammed deep in his pockets, a deep scowl on his face. He grabbed the microphone from the stand, “the Athletes' Oath…" He scoffed, turning his thumb down, "I pledge to be the number one. I'm gonna beat all you losers. I’m gonna win it!” He kept his face stone cold. “Not for you, not for fame or glory, but to prove that I deserve it. If you’re listening… I’m going to prove that I’m going to be a real hero. So I’m going to win this. Victory is mine, and I’m going to take it.”

  There was a roar of dissent from the entire student body, and Izuku grinned, laughing quietly. He had really made an impact on him, hadn’t he?

  Izuku sighed softly, letting the sounds of the crowd wash over him as the students prepared for the first stage of the festival. He watched in one of the large screens as they counted down the timer to the beginning.

  An obstacle course. That shouldn’t be so- holy hell, those are giant robots. What the fuck.

  That’s just excessive. Who does this?

  Who asked for this?

  Izuku glanced over at the others, the two of them wrapped up in what they were watching, cheering on some students while laughing at the antics of others. This was nice, he could get used to it.

  With a loud crack, a sheet of ice covered a few of the giant robots, and Dabi grabbed Izuku’s arm, pulling on him excitedly. “That’s Shouto!” He smiled freely, looking overjoyed just to be able to watch his brother freeze robots on live television. “He’s gotten so strong!”

  Alright, Izuku had to agree that it was really cool to see.

  They turned back to the screens, Izuku closely following the two-toned head of hair he now knew was Todoroki Shouto. Oh, and right there behind him was Bakugou, flying over the robots, mouth wide in a scream. Most likely cursing.

  While Izuku was tuning the events on the screen out, Dabi was screaming internally. He was just in awe of Shouto’s strength. So much ice, and all at once too! He grabbed onto Himiko’s sleeve, shaking her back and forth in his excitement. “Look at him go!”

  “Look!” Shake, shake, shake. “Wow!”

  Himiko just accepted her fate, speaking calmly even though she was sure her brain was bouncing around in her skull at mach speed. “Damn, across that highwire like a champ.”

  She couldn’t believe this school. Giant robots, highwires, what would be next, a minefield? No, that’s just going too far. A flash of something pink and cute bounced across one of the screens, and Himiko was captured by a manic energy as a girl that was more gadget then human bounded across the gaps in giant boots.

  Amazing.

  This girl, if she got into the tournament, she was going to exploit someone to hell and back, and Himiko would literally bet on it.

  

  There’s a minefield.

  A minefield.

  Are you serious?

 

*** * ***

 

  As the second event got into full swing, Izuku stalked up to the business student, manic glee in his eyes. Payday. He put out his hand expectantly, and they paled, fear in their eyes.

  “Um, well, quite a lot of people took those bets, you see…” They trailed off, shoving three envelopes bulging with cash into his hands. “They’re not very happy about it. You should run once this is all over.”

  That, that was a good idea. Izuku nodded, rushing off with his hands full of unearned cash. He was too scared to turn around and see if anyone was watching him run away like a coward. But he didn’t care, he had his money, that’s all he wanted out of this.

  Himiko blinked at him languidly when he dropped into the seat with his hoodie. “Oh, you came back.”

  “Where’d Dabi go?”

  “Somewhere he could scream in excitement. Or maybe he got kidnapped.” Himiko shrugged, Dabi was impulsive, it could be either one. “I think he went to the bathroom.”

  “Alright, well, here’s your cut.” He passed one of the envelopes over, watching as her eyes widened in shock.

  “Holy hell.” She snickered, trying to stifle the sound behind her hand. “Does this mean you’re me and Dabi’s sugar daddy?”

  Izuku grimaced, “please never say that ever again.”

  “Don’t say what?” Of course, Dabi would come back at the most inopportune of times.

  “That Izuku’s our sugar daddy.”

  Dabi shook his head, a look of horror on his face. “Oh, he’s right, don’t say that.” He plopped down into the seat next to Izuku, kicking his feet onto the railing and watching as the teams of students attempted to maul each other in the cavalry battle. “So, are you giving out money or something?”

  Izuku passed him one of the remaining envelopes, eyes still on the battle down below as it wrapped up in the final minutes. Bakugou and Shouto each had their own teams, but with the ten million headband it was a set match, the players just didn’t know it yet. His gaze wandered over the other teams, some guy with purple hair had forced his team into servitude somehow and was getting people to just hand over their points. That’s interesting.

  And just like that, it was over. Shouto still in first place, and Bakugou glaring at him as if he had just told everyone that he knew the secrets of the universe, but wouldn’t share them. For all Izuku knew, that could be what was going on. But what Izuku didn’t know, is that Bakugou had seen those flames amidst the scuffle for the headbands, and he wanted to know the truth behind it.

  And he would.

  As the next stage is being set up, Izuku finally relaxes for the first time in two weeks, laughing out loud with his friends, watching students take part in the interim games. Something with giant balls rolling around and knocking people over. Entertaining as long as you’re not part of it.

 

*** * ***

 

  The kid with purple hair has a brainwashing quirk. Izuku had perked up in his seat at the mention of that, quirks like that were rather rare and very specialized. He had sent his first opponent, a girl with some form of growth quirk, out of the ring with just a few words. And next, he would be going against Todoroki Shouto who had just frozen his opponent into a damn glacier.

  That’s not exactly a good matchup.

 

“And now for something totally different! This matchup is just wrong, the powerhouse of the Hero Corse known as Todoroki Shouto, versus, the brainwashing darkhorse, Shinsou Hitoshi of General Studies!”

“What did I say about keeping your own judgments out of the announcing?”

“And onto the match!”

 

  Shinsou rolled his eyes at the commentary, everyone was underestimating him. And this damn lucky bastard in front of him… people with quirks that society loved. At the ring of the bell, he spoke, trying to make an opening for his quirk to work. “Must be nice to have everything handed to you on a silver platter.”

  Todoroki looked furious as if he wanted to speak, his jaw working frantically as he ground his teeth. If he hadn’t been warned before the match by Ojiro, he would have responded. But instead, he summoned a column of ice, not as large as the one he had used against Sero, but still a decent size, freezing his opponent in place.

 

“And Shinsou Hitoshi of general studies is unable to move. Todoroki advances to the next round!”

 

  Todoroki thawed the pillar of ice, Shinsou turning his back and stalking away the moment he was free. He didn’t follow him, focusing on the final goal. He knew was going to have to fight Bakugou, and after sharing his past with him, he knew he couldn’t use his flames, even as a last-ditch effort.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Guys, I’m gonna be right back, okay?”

  “Mhm.”

  “We’ll be here.”

  Izuku left his seat, practically flying down the stairs as he ran. He needed to ask about that kid's quirk. He just couldn’t help it. From around the corner, he saw a head of gravity-defying purple hair, “hey, Shinsou, right?”

  The other teenager turned around, eyes red from lack of sleep or unshed tears. Either one was a possibility. “What.”

  “I wanted to congratulate you, you did a great job getting this far, and I’m sure you’re going to be an amazing hero.”

  Shinsou stood stock still, his jaw slack. “I… thank you.” He wiped at his eyes, “um, who are you?”

  “Oh, right!” Izuku laughed, “I’m Midoriya Izuku, and my social skills are lacking.

  “Heh.” Shinsou smiled awkwardly. “Thanks, Midoriya.” This guy was as bad as he was with talking to people, and he just looked trustworthy somehow.

  “Wait, one question before you get back to your classmates!”

  Shinsou shrugged, “alright?”

  “Uh, your quirk, is it verbal based? Or does it rely on eye contact or something entirely different?”

  The purple-haired teen blinked, taken aback by how straightforward he was being. Most people were more indirect about their questioning, either from fear or something else. But he knew it was almost always fear. “It’s verbal. I need someone to respond to me to make it work.”

  “That’s amazing.” Izuku grinned, “you really are going to be a great hero, Shinsou.” He turned, able to leave now that his curiosity was satiated. “It was nice meeting you!”

  “...yeah, you too.”

   I wasn’t too weird, was I, Izuku wondered as he walked down the hall back to his seat, the smell of something burning stopping him in his tracks. He could overhear the sounds of the next fight taking place, but that burning. It was a familiar smell, one that he had grown to know over almost two years, but it was foreign at the same time. Suddenly, it clicked in his head what he was smelling.

  Endeavor was here.

  And he was speaking to someone. What was he saying?

  Izuku stepped up to the next corner, catching snippets of conversation. The words that rang out the most were ‘disgrace,’ ‘stop rebelling’ and ‘left side.’

  He was speaking that way to his own son. Izuku knew what sort of man Endeavor was, but hearing it first hand was different. His hands clenched into fists, and he ground his teeth in frustration. There was nothing he could do to stop this, he couldn’t exactly punch a pro-hero in the face out in the open like this. But it dawned on him, he could stop this.

  As Endeavors voice grew louder, saying some bullshit about trying to prove a point with freezing half of the stadium, Izuku cleared his throat as loud as he dared and stepped around the corner into a tangle of tension that would break any knife that tried to cut it.

  “Am I interrupting something?” He screamed internally, terror shaking his core just from the absolute hate in the number two heroes eyes. “It feels like I’m interrupting something.” He shaved his hands into his pockets to hide the tremble that ran through them, the worst idea popping into his head.

  He didn’t know that this was the second time Endeavor had tried to intimidate Shouto into using his quirk in less than twenty minutes, but if he had, he would have done something much stupider.

  Izuku slouched, ignoring Endeavor’s silent seething, and put on a dopey grin. “Oh hey, you’re that kid with the ice quirk! That’s fuckin’ sweet man.” He laughed, hoping he was selling this. “Everyone was like, whoa, that kid’s quirk is so powerful, like the damn ice age, he’ll make it to the top for sure!”

  A shadow loomed over him, and Izuku felt the cold embrace of death. “We were having a private discussion.” The voice was that of the devil itself, and Izuku swore the shadow had horns.

  “So I was interrupting something! Man, you should have told me!” Izuku kept up his shit eating grin, watching as Shouto managed to slip away in the middle of the nonsense. Good. “Well, I’ll get on going then!” He practically ran around the corner, chest heaving with the effort of keeping his heart from bursting out of his ribcage.

  He pressed a hand to his chest as he scrambled back to his friends, what is wrong with me. Why am I like this, his thoughts continued on that note just as he saw Bakugou lend a hand to help up an opponent.

  What.

  As the dust from the fight settled, he saw that it was the girl with the gravity quirk. That must have meant that Bakugou had fought her and won, and was offering to help? That last bit just didn’t make any sense! This meant that Bakugou had gone through personal growth! Izuku stared in shock, not hearing his friend ask why he looked so flustered.

  He was kind of proud of Bakugou in a weird way. Yeah, he hated his guts, but this was amazing. He couldn’t wait to watch him fight against the final opponent in the last round. He glanced up at the screen. Oh, with the way things were looking, that final opponent was going to be Todoroki Shouto. Well then, maybe UA doesn’t need a stadium after this.

 

*** * ***

 

“And it comes down to this, the two most powerful students in the Hero Course, the explosive Bakugou against the frozen Todoroki. This match is sure to be one for the ages!”

  “You ready for this you half and half bastard?” Bakugou cracked his knuckles, rolling his shoulders as the countdown to the match ticked to zero. “I’m going to give it my all. You should too.” He didn’t recognize this feeling in his chest. It was warm, slowly unfurling as he let loose a small burst of explosions that were immediately countered by ice. And only ice.

  Todoroki stayed quiet, fighting as if were a particularly boring job. One he had never wanted. Without even moving, he sent a sheet of ice over the arena, attempting to freeze his opponent in place.

  A loud blast shattered the makeshift trap, sending shards of ice flying high, even reaching the people seated in the middle of the stadium. Bakugou snarled, “‘m not gonna make it easy for you!” Todoroki was only using half of his damn quirk, did he think he was better than him or something? “Fight me with your fucking flames, you stupid fucker!” A loud explosion punctuated his sentence, more flash bang than power, but it got the attention he needed.

  “I will never use my flames in combat.” Todoroki glared, sweeping his arm and creating a wall of ice to punctuate his point.

  “Then get ready to eat cement.” Bakugou launched himself forward over the wall of ice, explosions powering his flight, then with one hand raised above his head, he let loose a blast that sent him dropping out of the sky straight onto his opponent's shoulders. “Fight me like a real man, damn it!”

  “Get the hell off me!”

  “Make me!” Bakugou used the force of his blasts to drag them both backward, slamming Todoroki onto the ground, unable to counter with his ice without injuring himself. He launched himself back to his feet, grabbing the collar of Todoroki’s gym clothes and yanking him back to his feet. His teeth bared in a snarl, he shouted into his face, “fight like you mean it!”

  “I will never use his power!” He pulled himself out of Bakugou’s grip, fighting to keep his shivering to a minimum. “I’ll prove myself using only my right side!”

  Todoroki slammed his ice-covered hand into Bakugou’s jaw, but instead of jumping back, Bakugou leaned into it, slamming his knee into his Todoroki’s stomach, unconsciously mirroring a fight he had lost so long ago.

  “You’re only hindering yourself! Do you think you can be a hero like this?!” He remembered someone who had screamed words like that in his face while he beat him into the dirt on a weekly basis. “I don’t give a fuck what your reasons are, use your fucking quirk to its full potential or you will never be a real hero!”

  His hands shaking not from the cold, but now from rage, Todoroki let loose the largest blast of ice he could with his stamina, eyes widening in shock and horror with how easily it was destroyed. “What are you trying to do? Did my father pay you off or something? You’re pissing me off!”

  “I don’t give a fuck about your shitty old man, he isn’t you! And you’re not him!” Bakugou punctuated his words with explosive punches, dialing back the power to try and make this a battle of endurance.

  He knew he was breaking through to him, but he needed to make it, so his flames were the only option. The ice was steadily weakening, but that wasn’t enough. “If you want to be a fucking hero you have to give it your all, all the damn time!”

  “Shut up!” Todoroki jumped back, narrowly avoiding an explosion to the face. He froze his right hand into a solid mass of as much ice as he could muster, using it as both shield and weapon. He couldn’t focus, his entire world was shifting, spinning on its axis. Spun from the force of his opponents blows and his words. But mostly the expression on his face.

  His words were full of rage, but his eyes.

  They were so sad.

  “Your power isn’t his you useless fuck! It’s yours!”

  When had he forgotten what sort of hero he wanted to be? Why was this angry boy able to cleave through his emotional armor with only a few expletive-filled sentences? All at once, he understood, and his flames burst free.

  “I… I thought you wanted to win? Dammit, why are you trying to help me?”

  “Because that’s what heroes do.” Bakugou had a crazed look on his face in the heat of the flames. “Now come on, give me all you got.”

  “You’re insane.” Todoroki stared in shock, eyes wide as he sent blast after blast of flame at his opponent who dodged each and every one of them.

  “Certifiable.” Bakugou launched himself forward, no longer holding back. He had gotten him to use his flames, and now, the battle could really begin.

  But he knew it wouldn’t take long. Even with the strength of his fire, Todoroki was tired and was slowing down. And with all those factors, it was only one punch that ended it. One explosive punch, all of his power put behind it, all of his will and his drive to succeed.

  One punch to the chest, launching Todoroki out of the arena and into his own broken ice and slamming Bakugou into the ground with enough force to fracture his wrist.

  The stadium was roaring with shouts of outrage, screams of shock, murmurs of fear, Endeavor screaming his sons' name, and cheers for both of the students.

 

“And Todoroki is out of bounds! Nobody could have seen this coming! That fire and ice, those explosions! Bakugou Katsuki of class 1-A is the First Year Winner of the Sports Festival!”

 

  Bakugou ignored the sounds of the crowd, standing back up on shaking legs and stepping out of the ring. “Hey, that was a good fight.” He held out a hand, thinking about how Deku had once done that for him. “You’re gonna be a great hero one day. But not as good as me.”

  Todoroki stared at the hand being offered to him, slowly reaching out to grab it, hauling himself back to his feet. “Like I said, you’re insane,” he said, a faint smile on his face that the cameras couldn’t pick up but it didn’t mean it wasn’t there.

 

*** * ***

 

  As the roar of the crowd died down, Izuku listened to students from other years talk about their results. Apparently one of the third years had broken almost all of their bones in their arms so they could win. Toogata or something. That just seemed like going too far, no matter what the circumstances were.

  Izuku grinned, seeing Bakugou up on that podium… and he wasn’t screaming in rage like he had expected him to, he was smiling. He looked happy, well, looked as happy as someone as facially challenged as him could be. Izuku couldn’t help but feel a little proud. Bakugou was going to be a great hero one day, he was sure of it.

  Beside him, Dabi felt the buzz of an alert from 'Conspiracy, ’ a website that didn’t actually post conspiracies, but the name was enough to keep people from digging into their sources. He pulled out his phone frowning down at the screen, then pocketing it as he stood. “We’ve got to go back to Hosu, now.”

  “What?”

  “Why?”

  “Stain just took down Ingenium.”

Chapter Text

  They should have warned Ingenium that Stain might show up in Hosu. They should have warned every hero they could. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. But it was too late for hindsight now. It was too late for most things.

  Ingenium was hospitalized, and rumor had it that he would never be able to work as a hero again. Out of all the heroes Stain could have gone after in Hosu, he had to go after Ingenium. And the only question was why?

  Why Ingenium? Ingenium was a good hero, he was dedicated, and people, heroes and the public, all trusted him. He was more than a good hero, he was a good person. But to Stain, he just wasn’t good enough.

  And that right there was the kicker.

  To Stain, no hero would ever be good enough other than All Might. And that idealism just isn’t realistic. People, heroes, have off days, they have moments of weakness, and they are flawed. The world Stain wants is a utopia, an impossible pipe dream, the ravings of a madman. Not every person can be as infallible as the Symbol of Peace.

  All across the city and the nation, heroes are finally banding together to try and catch him, and even further away there’s one teenager that’s letting their hatred lead them to ruination.

  But those people aren’t going to connect to our story yet, and besides, our intrepid trio of vigilantes has been working up their own plan to take out Stain. Mapping out every alley, the ingress points of the main roads, times of Stains last attacks, and even hero patrols. And it infuriated Izuku to no end that Endeavor would be in Hosu, hoping to improve his standing with the community by bringing in the Hero Killer. And in another world, he would have. And in yet another, the Hero Killer would be taking him down with the rest of the hero system.

  From the cluster of sleeping bags on the floor, Himiko threw a wadded up sock at his head. “Izuku, go to sleep, it’s too late for Stain to attack, it’s just not his method.”

  Izuku gave a last once over to the information board, “I know, I’m just frustrated.” He turned to the sleeping bags that made up Dabi’s indoor campsite, kicking his shoes off and climbing into the green sleeping bag between the others. “We should have-

  “Well, it’s too late for that, so stop worrying about it.” Himiko shifted in her sleeping bag, the fabric rustling in the dark. “Stain will still be there in the morning.” And wasn’t that a messed up concept, you can hunt down a murderer later, he’ll be there!

  And with thoughts like that slowly fading out of his mind, Izuku fell into a dreamless sleep, knowing that he would be woken up at three am. But until then, sleep.

 

*** * ***

 

  A series of light taps to the side of his face woke him up, and Izuku already knew what was coming, staring up at the ceiling and then Dabi’s face as his friend leaned over him.

  “Wouldn’t it be ironic if you died in a living room?”

  As you can tell, it’s three am.

  “The fact that there’s a stairway to heaven and a highway to hell says a lot about the anticipated traffic flow.”

  Izuku groaned, trying to cover his ears with his pillow. “Dabi, if you don’t shut up I’m going to smother you.”

  “Do it.” Voice rough with sleep, Himiko attempted to push Dabi to shut him up, but only succeeded in slapping Izuku in the face.

  “Yeah, do it, I’m not afraid to die!” Dabi raised his middle finger, and waved it at Himiko, glad it was too dark for her to see what he was doing.

  “You’re only saying that because Himiko isn’t the one threatening you.”

  Himiko nodded in the darkness. Her voice still a growl, she agreed. “He’s right, so don’t make me threaten you.”

  Dabi rolled his eyes, climbing back into his own sleeping bag, no longer looming over Izuku in the darkness. “Fine, I’ll go to sleep, just one more thing!”

  “Ugh, what is it.” Izuku sighed, it was always too early for this.

  Dabi chuckled, trying to stifle the sound. “Somewhere out there is a tree exactly your age.”

  “That’s it, time to die.” Izuku pulled his pillow out from under his head and sat up, ready to end this.

  “Izuku,” Himiko grabbed the green haired teens shoulder, holding him back from murdering his friend.

  “Yes?” Izuku stopped pillow in his hands.

  Himiko let him go, settling back into her sleeping bag. “Kill him quietly or you’re next.”

  “Right.” Izuku rounded on Dabi, who had started laughing sometime earlier, the sound almost hysterical in the slowly lightening darkness in the room. “Death is coming, just accept it.” He lifted the pillow, tempted to just hit him with it when Dabi interrupted his line of thought.

  “Wait, wait, wait!” Dabi was attempting to block the pillow, still laughing quietly. "Wait!"

  “What.” Izuku lifted the pillow, this was Dabi’s chance to apologize, but if he says something stupid... Well, Izuku was not above smothering him.

   “There is an alternate universe where a towel randomly duplicates so fast it destroys humanity.” Dabi laughed loudly, the sound bouncing off the walls and rattling around the room and Izuku’s brain.

  With those words, Izuku lost the will to do anything. “I hate you so much sometimes. Why am I your friend? Why do I hate myself.” Izuku climbed back into his sleeping bag, ignoring Dabi’s protests. “I’m going back to sleep, wake me up when I’m dead.”

  “Goodnight, Izuku.” Himiko rolled over in her sleeping bag, settling back to sleep.

  “Goodnight Himiko. You’re my only friend now.”

 

*** * ***

 

  “Himiko, where did you get this police scanner?” Izuku gazed at the mid-sized black box of plastic and metal in his friend's hand, watching as she clipped the device onto her belt. The trio was gearing up for patrol, ready to inspect every ditch in this town and check under every bench if it meant finding Stain.

  “From the police, duh.” She said this as if it was obvious, not as if her having somehow acquired a piece of police equipment out of nowhere was strange. She then waved another black piece of plastic at him, these ones being simple police radios, which she handed to the others. “I also have these!”

  “How?” Izuku asked again as he clipped his new piece of equipment to his utility belt, making a new home for it next to the holster holding his pistol.

  She waved away his question, “please, do you really want to know?”

  Izuku nodded, “you’re right, I really don’t want to know.” The things Himiko did were not meant for the faint of heart.

  Dabi raised his hand as if he were in a classroom, “I want to know.”

  Izuku shook his head, slapping his hand over Dabi’s mouth so he couldn’t ask questions. “No, he doesn’t, he really doesn’t.”

  As the three bicker and gear up, there are rumors on the streets below as the sun slowly begins to move from its highest point. With the appearance of Stain in Hosu, the Terrible Three aren’t the only ones trying to track him down. Whispers in the shadows speak of the League of Villains and their interest in recruiting the Hero Killer. After all, that level of fame and power would be valuable to an organization that craves the limelight.

  Geared up with weapons and uniform, Izuku felt like he could take on the world. Like he could fight Endeavor and win. He only didn’t say All Might because while he was confident, he wasn’t completely stupid. If he tried to fight All Might he would lose. Hell, he might even die.

  “You should trade your sledgehammer out for something more practical.” It was lucky the last criminal they had run into had accelerated healing or their leg would have been permanently useless. She can’t go around maiming people all the time, it’s not a good image for anyone to have.

  “Hmm, I’ve been thinking about it.” Himiko hefted said sledgehammer onto her shoulder as she walked, considering her options. “Maybe a lead pipe.”

  Izuko rolled his eyes, adjusting the green bandana that hid his identity. “No.”

  “A two by four?”

  “Also no.” And an absolutely horrifying image as well.

  “A baseball bat with rusty nails in it?”

  Dabi’s jaw dropped as he listened to the exchange, his expression one of fear and horror. “What is wrong with you?”   

  “Come on, it’d be cute!” Himiko argued, still hanging on to the idea of the baseball bat.

  “No, it would not be.” Dabi shook his head, those were post-apocalypse weapons, not something a sane person would ever use on a regular basis.

  With a smirk hidden by his bandana, Izuku nodded. “I agree with her, it’d be cute.”

  “You two are insane.”

  Himiko laughed, shifting the grip on her sledgehammer. “Maybe, but I still think a baseball bat would be nice.”

  Izuku shrugged, “how about stick fighting? Like escrima sticks.” But instead of wood, maybe something a little more sturdy. “But you could have them be able to be joined into a single quarterstaff.” More distance, more opportunity. And maybe a few knives as well, just for variety.

  “Oh, I like it!” Himiko nodded, smiling brightly. “Yes, let’s do that! Call your broker!”

  Izuku shrugged, “sure I’ll contact Black Box when we’re done with the patrol.” It was quieter than it had been last week, criminals all but forced underground with the Hero Killers presence Izuku kicked at rocks, thinking about that fact. It was unexpected, but with Stain around heroes were on their best behavior, and criminals don’t like dedicated heroes.

  And speaking of criminals, Izuku didn’t think they were going to run into anymore this patrol. There just weren’t that many out in Hosu, the population density wasn’t suited to it, criminals were more likely to move to the larger cities chasing a bigger score. At this point, he was tempted to just ask random people if they had seen any weird things that were going on in town. Just run up to a little old lady and ask if they’d seen any suspicious activity lately. Other than them, of course. Izuku snickered, the imagery almost too much for him to handle.

  Dabi seemed to share his feelings, “Vamp, is there anything crime related on the scanner?” On the scanner, he says, as if the police scanner isn’t still a weird thing to have.

  Fiddling with the dials, Himiko frowned. “No, but someone reported that they saw a black warp gate a few hours ago and that two people went into it.”

  “Alright, we’ll stay out for a little longer then.” Izuku frowned, a black warp gate… the League of Villains had someone with a warping quirk. Why the hell was the League out in Hosu? Then it clicked. Just like everything else, this had something to do with Stain. “We should be on the lookout for anything League related.”

  Dabi scoffed, “why the hell do they call themselves that?”

  “What?”

  “Why call themselves ‘the League of Villains,’ that’s how you get found out and taken down!” He rolled his eyes, “at least try to be subtle about it.”

  Himiko nodded, understanding Dabi’s point. “Like how money laundering goes through at least two different shell companies first.”

  “Right,” Dabi shrugged, “I just think it’s lame they’re just so straightforward with it.”

  Behind Izuku’s bandana he wore an expression of confusion, “wait, do you two want villains to be better at villainy?”

  With a vague gesture, Dabi waved off his concerns. “What, no! I’m just saying that they could be better at it. Don’t advertise your villainy.”

  Nodding along, Himiko added her own opinion. “Exactly, it’s just like they’re half-assing it. Use your full ass!”

  “Full ass!” Dabi shouted, ignoring the odd looks he was getting from the people the trio passed.

  Izuku didn’t get it. Were they trying to encourage the villains? He shook his head, “and you two say that I’m weird.” He looked up at the bridge where the rains crossed over, a blurred something catching his attention. Loud explosions rang out through the city with no warning, followed by screams of anger and pain.

  In less than a moment, the center of Hosu was transformed into a war zone, inhuman creatures pulling everything into a state of chaos.

  “What the fuck!” Dabi turned around, taking in the madness before pulling himself together. “Vamp, what’s the scanner say?”

  Himiko listened to the snippets of conversations, switching between channels. “Three unknown villains, multiple quirks… people think it’s the League.”

  Izuku frowned, just what they needed on top of this Stain nonsense. “Shit.” How were they supposed to deal with something with multiple quirks?

  “One of them is down, Endeavor took it out.” Is that even something he’s allowed to do? He’s not legally allowed to do that, is he? Himiko shrugged, that was a debate for later. “So, there’s chaos in the streets because of the League, we should hurry up and find Stain, he would use this to his advantage.”

  Izuku nodded, pulling his hood up and attaching his tonfa to his belt to free up his hands to grab something a little more deadly if it came down to it. “Alright, let's move.”

  They set off at a run, heading towards the middle of the chaos, not caring if they ran into heroes on the way. They were on a mission, the heroes could deal with it.

  In the middle of the madness, there were two horrific creatures with exposed brains rampaging, shrugging off the attacks from the heroes as if they were nothing, dealing out destruction with every passing moment.

  “What the hell….” Izuku’s jaw dropped, whatever these things were they were wrong. An abomination against nature and what some people would call god. “This is…”

  “It’s sick.” Dabi finished his sentence, sending a blast of blue flame at the closest of the creatures, freezing in shock when the blue flames barely made a dent in its defense. “What the fuck.” He stared at the blue flames that still enveloped his hands, they had never not been enough before. What were these things?

  Himiko grabbed their sleeves and pulled them forward, shouting to be heard over the noise. “C’mon, we’ve got to find the hero killer before it’s too late!”

  “Did you say the Hero Killer?” A hero with a blue patterned costume looked at them with fear in his eyes. “Please, you have to find Tenya! He’s just a student, but he went looking for him!” Manual was too caught up in his panic to see that the three weren’t heroes, or maybe he knew but didn’t care, worry eclipsing legality at that moment. “Please!” He didn't know why he had turned to this literal child, but amidst the chaos, they were calm. He didn't know that the only reason they were calm was that the chaos that was surrounding them was nothing compared to the chaos within him.

  Izuku nodded, eyes full of anger. “We’ll go.” He couldn’t promise anything. With this chaos, it would be almost impossible to track Stain down, but they could try. “Let’s go!” 

  The three rushed off, the sounds of chaos fading behind them and the sound of shouting growing before them. They tore through the streets, hoping to whatever god was listening that they would get there in time. That they wouldn’t be there only to identify a body.

  The sound of a revving engine, the hell is that about, let them know they were on the right track, and Izuku grabbed the one thing he knew would make this quick from the holster of his utility belt.

 Almost running past the alley, Dabi grabbed him by the collar to pull him back. Faced with the scene before him, Izuku tried to tamp down on his anger. Stain. A pro hero, and the student they had come to find. Stain had left the hero slumped against the back wall, barely breathing and blood soaking their costume. And as for Stain… His foot holding the teen in white armor in place, he licked blood from the battered edge of his katana and Izuku stepped forward, unable to just wait and see how this would play out.

  He didn’t hear Himiko radio for police support at their location and didn’t hear the sounds of the chaos in the city, his entire world narrowing down to just one alleyway.

  “Oi!” Izuku shouted, catching the attention of the three people in the alley. He racked his shotgun, the sound echoing and bouncing off the bricks, the threat, and intention clear in just that one sound. Keeping it aimed level at his target, he stood in the mouth of the alley, his two friends on either side of him, their shadows cast forward from the light of Dabi's blue flames. “I’m going to have to ask you to step away from the heroes, Stain.”

Chapter Text

  Izuku kept the shotgun raised to his shoulder, “don’t make me repeat myself Stain. Step off.”

  “This doesn’t concern you.” Stain narrowed his eyes, black hair and red scarf eerie in the blue glow of Dabi’s flames.

  “Doesn’t it?” Izuku shook his head, glad that the snarl he wore couldn’t be seen. This wasn’t the face of a hero, but one of a rabid animal seeking a fight. “Saving people is what heroes do, isn’t it?”

  “Oh?” Stain grinned, his teeth stained with the blood of innocents. “And is that what you are?” He sounded casual as if he wasn’t literally stepping on the hopes and dreams of a future hero. As if he wasn’t holding a weapon that had destroyed so many lives.

  Izuku kept the barrel of the shotgun trained on his target, his finger loose and ready on the trigger. “No, we’re not heroes.”

  “We’re better.” Dabi stepped forward, arms encased in blue flame.

  Himiko nodded, readying her sledgehammer. “And we’re going to stop you and save those you’ve tried to kill.”

  With a grin on his face, Izuku raised his eyebrows. “So then, Stain. Or should I say, Stendhal? Whatever it is you call yourself, we’re not going to let you continue.”

  At the mention of Stendhal, Stain seemed to feel genuine shock, before that fell away to a sinister grin as he raised the battered blade in his hand. “So be it.” With a blur of motion, he launched himself forward, expecting to sink his sword into the hooded teen before him.

  Izuku lifted his arm to block the attack, staggering back a few steps from the force behind it as the blade skidding down the material of his hoodie which resisted the attempted slice. While the blade couldn’t cut him, the strength of the blow sent pain shooting up his arm. Izuk grimaced, trying to keep himself from making a sound of pain.

  “Is that is?” Izuku swung the shotgun up, double barrels in Stains face before the Hero Killer jumped back from imminent death. “Dabi, light him up!”

  “With pleasure.” Dabi lifted a hand, blue flames blossoming to life then exploding with the force of a grenade. Bright light filled the alley, driving Stain back a few steps as fire licked at his hair and scarf. Another blast of flame had him ducking, attempting to block the fire with his arm.

  Without a word of warning, Himiko rushed forward as the flames blossomed, sledgehammer held low to the ground before she slammed it into the steel that covered the toe of one of Stains boots, denting the metal and crushing half of his foot with the force. The moment the blow made contact, Himiko darted away again, much faster than anyone had anticipated. She stooped and grabbed the kid in white armors leg, dragging him with her as she ran.

  “Aaaaaaah!” She dropped the armored teen to the ground, an excited blush over her cheeks. “I almost died!” She laughed, the sound almost lost in the sound of the fight, “wow!”

  Blinking in surprise Izuku almost dropped his shotgun, trying not to laugh and to focus on the killer in front of him. This is supposed to be a serious fight with a dangerous killer!

  A killer that was hopping on one foot and clutching at their broken toes while cursing. Sure, he couldn’t run now, but this was just wrong. Izuku lost the battle with his laughter, letting loose a few high pitched giggles that were thankfully lost under the roar of Dabi’s next blast of flames. He adjusted his hold on the shotgun, tightening his finger on the trigger. He had never purposefully taken a life, but he didn’t feel the fear he had the first time. He felt calm. Too calm. Calm with a hint of hysteria.

  Izuku shook the idea of laughing from his mind, pulling the trigger without a second thought, the shotgun just an extension of his desires.

  It’s hard to describe the sound of a shotgun blast, especially when the sound echoes so many times in such a small space. It’s not a boom, and it’s certainly not a bang, but it’s something else entirely. But whatever it is, it’s loud. Overly so.

  And the sound of a bullet tearing through flesh… well, Izuku doesn’t want to be able to describe it. But a shotgun shell ripping through someone's thigh sounds much different from a bullet from a revolver making its way through someone's torso.

  If the sound the weapon makes is bad, then the sound the one who’s shot makes is worse. Not the sound of being shot, but the sound that escapes them even when they try to tamp down on it. The tiny sound of pain that they can never entirely silence.

  A loud blast of flame followed the gunshot, breaking the strange mood that had fallen over the battle. No, not a battle. The one-sided slaughter.

  Another blast of flame from Dabi kept Stain from making any sort of movement to escape. Not that he could with only one working leg, the other mangled with shattered and crushed bones. Ducking under the flame, Izuku raised the shotgun over his head, slamming the stock into Stains jaw, knocking him back a step only to do it again. If he could keep him off balance, this would be over in moments.

  It was obvious that Stain was slowing down, the pain mixed with the blood loss beginning to catch up with him. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t still one of the best killers out there. And he proved this by moving so quickly Izuku almost couldn’t see it and certainly couldn’t stop it, the movement only stopping when there was a hunting knife sticking out of Izuku’s thigh, sunk so deep into his muscle he swore the tip was dragging across his bone.

  Izuku threw himself backward, dropping his shotgun, Stains hand missing the knife by mere centimeters as a blast of blue flames caught the Hero Killer in its center and a sledgehammer thrown with surprising speed, and accuracy caught him in the ribs.

  “Fuck!” Izuku gritted his teeth and wrapped his hand around the hilt of the knife, pressing the other against his thigh and slowly pulling the knife out, blood running freely from his wound and soaking into his jeans. Izuku panted, shaking as the pain making his vision to go white at the edges before he launched himself forward once more. His eyes unseeing as he screamed, from pain, frustration, rage, and another emotion he didn’t want to identify as the reclaimed knife in his hand slowly sunk into something solid of its own volition over and over and over again.

  His eyes flicked upwards, seeing blood pour from around the blade sunk into the left side of Stains chest. Izuku let go of the knife, stepping back and pressing his hand to the bloody wound on his thigh, shaking from the pain. “This is the end of the line, Stain.” He panted, breaths harsh in the now dark alley.

  Stain staggered back, blood dripping from his lips as he leaned against the rough brick of the alley wall, a bloody hand wrapping around the knife that had made its new home in his heart. “...well, I didn’t see that coming.” He coughed, the sound wet, staining his hands with his own blood. “Heh, taken down by vigilantes.” Stain laughed, breaths slowly becoming a harsh rasp, blood bubbling over his lips with each inhale and exhale. “Looks like there’s… real hero.. heroes out there other than All… might...” His head slumped forward, breaths going shallower with every passing second as the bloodstain on his chest spread further with each heartbeat.

  Like this, he looked human, not the monster that lurked in the darkness. Injuries having sliced away every bit that made him larger than life, turning him into something that everybody could understand. Burnt and battered, skin and bones shattered. Horrifyingly human.

  Himiko stepped forward, “I contacted the police, they’re on the way, and they’re bringing heroes, but…” They won’t be necessary, will they? She knew this was going to be the outcome, but seeing it with her own eyes was something completely different. “Well, we should get out of here while we can.”

  Izuku nodded stiffly, still clutching at his steadily bleeding thigh. “We need to make sure, shit, make sure Native isn’t dead.” A wave of pain almost sent him to the ground, but he breathed through it, trying to force his way through the agony. He had to keep going, needed to be a symbol to the underworld. He staggered to where his shotgun lay, picking it up and slinging it across his back into its holster, ignoring the blood painted across the wooden stock and the barrel.

  “Right,” Himiko walked to the back of the alley, picking up her now singed sledgehammer as she went. She leaned over the hero, pressing her fingers to his throat to try and find a pulse, ignoring the heroes protests that he was fine. “He’s alive!” She pulled him to his feet, helping the hero out of the alley and keeping up her chatter the entire time.

  “Heh.” Izuku chuckled, shaking his head before turning back to Stain’s almost dead form. “Well, Stain… want to end it, or just wait it out?” He gestured to the revolver on his belt, hoping his message was clear.

  Stain narrowed his eyes, looking like he was carefully contemplating his words. “...end it.” The one who had struck him down might not be All Might, but this drive, this teamwork and this burning desire to save others even at the expense of their own life... He could deal with this vigilante being the one who sent him to the other side.

  “Alright.” Izuku nodded, drawing the revolver with his bloodstained hands, pulling back the hammer and pressing the short barrel to Stain’s temple. “Anything you want to say?”

  The dying man laughed, blood spraying with the sound. “Keep it up, hero .”

  “...so be it.” Izuku chuckled, finger tightening around the trigger. He didn’t even hear the gunfire, too lost in the words of one deadman to another. Blood sprayed across the alley wall and splattered back across his face, soaking into the fabric of his bandana. Stain's corpse slumped down to the ground, blood pooling around the fatal wound and spreading across and soaking into the cement, representing his name and all of his sins.

  Smoke slowly rose from the barrel of the revolver, blowing into nothing as Izuku holstered the weapon and turned back to the mouth of the alley. “How long until the cops show up?”

  His question was answered immediately with flashing lights and the shout of both officers and heroes. “Oh, well okay then.” He frowned, “which heroes are with them?”

 Himiko peeked out of the alley before jumping back in shock. “A whole lot of them. Endeavor, Manual, um, there’s a lot of them. And news crews…” Her voice lowered, fading out of hearing. She steadied Native, the pro hero still unable to stand on his own.

  And at the mouth of the alley, Dabi was helping the teen in white armor stand, showing a side of himself so different from what had been seen in the fight. “Are you alright, kid?”

  “I’m…” Tenya didn’t know how he was feeling. He didn’t know these people, yet they had jumped in to save him without a second thought. And they had done so much better than he had. He hadn’t even been able to put a scratch on the Hero Killer, and one of these strangers had managed to kill him. “I don’t know.”

  “...” Dabi scratched at his scars awkwardly. He wasn’t qualified for this sort of conversation, instead focusing on keeping the kid upright. “Why did you hunt him down?”

  “My brother.” Tenya cast his eyes onto the dirty pavement. “He attacked my brother.”

  Dabi frowned, “Ingenium.” God, they really should have warned him.

  “Yes, he’s…” Tenya forced himself back into silence. He didn’t know this person, why should he spill his story to him? With a hiss, he clutched at the wounds on his arm, blood staining his armor red.

  “Tch.” Dabi scoffed, “just don’t do it again.” He lead the kid out of the alley, waving back at Izuku. “Target, we’ve got cops!”

  Izuku was jolted out of the plot hatching in the back of his mind, and while it wasn’t the brightest idea, it would prove something to everyone who was out there. He grinned behind the blood-spattered bandana, leaning down and grabbing Stain’s corpse by the collar, falling into step behind the rest of the Terrible Three and the heroes that they had saved.

  And let the show begin.

 

*** * ***

 

  Outside of the alley is madness, with the heroes and the police forming a rough semi-circle around the entrance, their weapons and quirks ready to fire away. And behind them, ambulances and emergency crews backed up by over three news vans, reporters and cameramen already recording.

  The moment Dabi and Himiko stepped from the alley supporting the injured heroes, a loud cheer rose from the crowd, cameras focusing on the bloody forms of the day's saviors. Still shrouded in shadow, Izuku prepared himself for his grand entrance, rolling his shoulders back before stepping into the light and listening to the barrage of questions fall silent to be replaced with only one.

“Is that the hero killer?”

  Behind the bandana, Izuku smirked, focusing on his goal.

  Endeavor.

  Izuku stalked forward, dragging the stiffening corpse behind him and stepping right in front of the flame hero, dropping, no, not dropping, throwing the battered body of Stain down at his feet. At that action, the quiet that had fallen over the crowd shattered, questions shouted at him by reporters, police officers, and heroes alike.

  Ignoring them all, Izuku stared up and glared into the eyes of Endeavor, defiance, and anger rolling off of him in waves. “Take a good hard look, Endeavor. Look at what heroes created and then couldn’t kill.” He gestured to the cooling corpse, stab wounds in the chest and a bullet in his head.

  That image would play on repeat on every news station in the country. The Hero Killer struck down by a veritable nobody, his bloody reign of terror put to an end by one of their own blades. The broken corpse of a killer with the one who killed him standing over him with blood from the fight still on their face.

  Izuku stared Endeavor down, snarling behind the bandana, speaking clearly, making sure his words were heard by all that were listening. “I hope you’re proud of yourself, hero. ” He spat out the word hero like it was poison, watching as Endeavor fumed angrily as he spoke. “You can’t even take down one man, so how could you ever protect anyone?”

  The flames in Endeavors hands grew along with the man's anger. “You have no right to speak to me that way, criminal.”

  “Don’t I?” Izuku scoffed, pushing his way through the pain and keeping a wary eye on the flames in the heroes hands. “We’ve both got blood on her hands from today's events.” In his case, it was a bit more literal, but they had both taken lives. Izuku had struck Stain down, and Endeavor had burnt that thing to ashes, they were both killers.

  “You’re going to have plenty of time to think about that while you’re rotting in prison.” The Flame Hero frowned, this was supposed to be his victory. He was supposed to be the one who took down Stain, was supposed to show his son how to be a hero. But this vigilante had stolen that from him. “Make this easy on yourself and let the police take you in or I will bring you in by force.”

  Izuku turned away, ignoring the threat of arrest to speak to the news. He took a breath, rolling his shoulders back and trying to project an aura of confidence. With the attention of the crowd on him, Dabi and Himiko passed their heroes to the paramedics, making their way to stand behind Izuku in a show of strength.

  With his friends backing him up, Izuku began. “The word hero must be restored.” Behind the bandana, he grinned, all teeth and hunger. “This is a warning for every criminal out there. If you attack the innocent, we'll put you down. If you lurk in the shadows, we're already there. If you think you'll get away with what you've done, you're dead wrong. We might not be heroes, but we don't need to be.” Izuku glared at the wall of cameras. “We're no symbol of Peace, but we’re one of War. We’re the Terrible Three, and we've got a message for everyone watching.” He raised a hand and pointed to the lenses recording his every word. “You're next.”

  With a flourish, Izuku spun on his heel and forced his way through the crowd, leaving behind the screamed questions of the media, the orders of the police, and the shouts to stop of the heroes. So loud the outcry, he didn’t hear the sound of heavy wingbeats until it was too late, talons clawing at the fabric of his clothing, stabbing into his already bleeding thigh and lifting him into the sky.

  Mind wrapped in panic, Izuku’s body moved on instinct, drawing the knife that had started all of this and flicking open the black blade, plunging it repeatedly into the clawed foot of the creature that had a grip on him. He didn’t care how high up he was, didn’t care where it was trying to take him, he just wanted it to let go.

  And it did, Izuku dropping through nothing for moments before slamming down to the rooftop below him, two figures already there and standing above him.  

 

*** * ***

 

  “Shit!” Himiko shouldered her sledgehammer as she forced her way through the crowd, dragging Dabi behind her.

  “What the fuck!” Dabi threw a blast of flame at the creature with the exposed brain when he saw Izuku lifted away. “What is that thing?”

  Behind them, the crowd roared, news crews capturing the scene before them and the struggle that Izuku put up.

  Himiko and Dabi ran after the fleeing figure, hoping to god that they were going the right way. They ran, leaving the police and Endeavor in their wake, turning corners and following the steady trail of blood that was left behind. The blood was either from Izuku or that thing, and they hoped and prayed that it was the latter.

  That thing that had grabbed Izuku, the creature with an exposed brain, that was one of the League of Villains goons. It was all good fun to make fun of the League’s name, but this just got personal, and both Dabi and Himiko swore that they would burn the whole world to get Izuku back in one piece.

Chapter Text

  Izuku lifted his face off the pavement, glaring up at the two villains before him, ignoring the sounds of the sirens below in the city and the sound of the news choppers up above.

  The League of Villains. Izuku knew they had a warp quirk, and those things that had attacked the city had come out of virtually nowhere. But his only question right now was why. Why did the league attack? Why did they drag him out here? In a general sense, what the hell did they want?

  Why was this his life?

  “What the fucking shit,” is what he said instead. Izuku pushed himself to his feet, ignoring the still bleeding wound on his thigh and the new stabs that surrounded it. He really shouldn't have pulled out that knife in his thigh. “What the hell, you wanna fucking go?” In his hands, he still held the butterfly knife, and he brandished it angrily. “We can go right now!”

  He was tired, he was completely out of it, and he could tell his movements were becoming sluggish, either from the pain or from blood loss. He didn’t really want to know. But most of all, he was pissed off.

  “Who the…” The villain, Shigaraki Tomura, Izuku’s mind supplied, scratched at his neck frantically, the binoculars he was holding cracking and decaying into nothing the moment all five fingers made contact with the plastic. “Why did you...”

  Shigaraki frowned, “why did the Nomu grab you?” The Nomu hadn't been ordered to take anyone, but maybe… maybe it still had some memories left. “Who even are you?” This was a new player in the game. One he didn’t want.

  Izuku took a small step back, wanting to put as much distance between himself and scary hands as he could. The creature that had brought him here was staring at him with its one remaining eye, unblinking and uncaring as blood poured from the head wound and deep cuts on its clawed feet. He didn't know why it had grabbed him, and he really didn't plan on sticking around to find out. He didn't know who it used to be.

  “Just a vigilante, but don't worry about me yet. Worry about me later.” He took another step back, adjusting his stance subtly, having a hard time focusing. “Well, this has been fun, but I’m gonna go. Hero Killer and all that.” He knew he wasn’t making sense, but when did he ever make sense?

  Izuku kept the knife in his hand, hoping that for once in his life the situation would not turn to shit. But luck was not in his favor, nor had it ever been.

  The villain stopped scratching at his neck, affixing one crimson eye on him from behind the hand, mask? that was on his face. “Who the hell do you think you are? The Hero Killer…” He muttered, voice filled with hate. “Why does everyone care so much about the hero killer?”

  Izuku frowned, this guy sounded like a whiny child, what was his problem? “Well, he was kind of cool, right?” He shrugged, wincing at the pain radiating from the bone-deep bruise on his arm from where that first blow had connected. “Had a creed and all that. People are into that.”

  “Had?” The black mist covered villain, oddly well dressed, spoke for the first time.

  Behind the bloody bandana, Izuku’s jaw dropped. They thought Stain was just down for the count, they didn’t know. “Oh.” Before he could stop himself, he found himself laughing, the sound hysterical over the sounds of the winding down chaos. “Oh!”

  “What’s so funny, brat?” Shigaraki narrowed his eyes, he didn’t much like where this conversation was going. He scratched at his neck, ragged fingernails drawing blood.

  “Hah.” Izuku chuckled, the force of his laughter pulling at his wounds. “Didn’t you hear? The hero killer is dead.” With that, he launched into another volley of heavy laughs, clutching at his sides. The thought that he might be going into shock occurred to him but was beaten back by his mounting hysteria.

  Snapping back out of it, Izuku straightened up, leveling the blade at Shigaraki. “And as I said, I’ll be going now.” He rushed forwards, feinting with the black blade before reeling back and punching the villain in the jaw, knocking him off balance and back a step. Izuku jumped back, avoiding the inky black portal that had opened in front of him and stood on the edge of the rooftop, eyes bouncing over his surroundings and taking in anything he could use to his advantage. There were some things, but it would be risky. Just how he likes it.

  Shigaraki tilted his head to the side, rubbing at his jaw and advancing, hand outstretched. “There’s nowhere to run, little killer.” He had to have this one. They had killed the Hero Killer, he had to kill them. They worked outside the rules, they couldn’t be allowed to stay. “You can’t break the game like that.”

  “There’s always somewhere to run.” Izuku had a plan, he just hoped the fall to the next rooftop was shorter than it looked. And softer. “There's always somewhere. You just need to be brave enough to go there.”

  Or stupid enough. And he was sure one of them. Izuku grinned, snapping the knife closed and leaning back over the edge, letting gravity take him into its grasp.

  While still in the air, he twisted and turned, slamming to the next roof and taking the impact in his shoulder and hip, sluggishly clambering back to his feet and limping as fast as he could over to the fire escape. He slung his leg over the edge and dropped down to the metal structure, whimpering from the pain. Making his way down was slow, pain mounting in his body with each and every step down the structure.

  By the time he was at the bottom, his vision had whited out at the edges, narrowing down to a small pinprick. He shoved the ladder on the escape down, the metal grinding and flaking rust with the movement. But it still moved, and Izuku made his way down and off the fire escape, forcing himself to keep moving, the sounds of the two villains fading, Shigaraki loudly complaining and the subtle sounds of warp gates opening and closing behind him. They weren't trying very hard to chase him, so he must not have been the creature's target. But they were still chasing him, so he kept moving, thoughts fading as he went.

  Why had it grabbed him? In this world, he would never know exactly what that thing was. Who it used to be. Would never know the story behind the Nomu with red wings.

  And maybe that was a good thing, Izuku had enough death on his conscious for more than one universe.

 

*** * ***

 

  Moving through the city was slow going, his limp growing heavier with each step and his mouth dry from his panting. The sun was setting, and darkness was making its way through the streets. Izuku shook his head to try and clear it, pulling out his phone to check the time. 7:49 pm. He stopped walking, a realization breaking over him as he glared down at the newly cracked screen.

  He still had to call his mom. “Damn it, Midoriya, why are you so stupid.” He rolled his eyes so hard he was worried they might break, pressing on his moms' contact and listening to the ring. He was willing to bet that other vigilantes didn’t call their mothers after making it onto the news.

One ring.

Two ri-

“Izukuuu!”

  Izuku winced at his mothers' worried tone. She must have been watching the news. “Hi, mom.”

“What was that?”

  “Ugh. Hold on.” Izuku pulled down the bloodstained bandana. “Can you hear me now?”

“Yes, dear. And really, the hero killer, Izuku? You couldn’t have made your public debut with someone a little more low profile?”

  “Hah!” Izuku chuckled, immediately regretting it as pain flared up throughout his body. “Well, you know me, always needing to do better than everyone else.” He smiled softly, a pang of homesickness ringing through his heart. “How have you been, mom?”

“Well, I’ve been worried! But aside from that, I’ve been great honey.”

   She sounded sad, and she was. Her boy had left the nest to carve a crest of blood into the world of heroes, walking a path that was dangerous and rocky, and impossible to ever get off of. But she was proud of him. She shouldn’t be, but she really was.

  Thankfully, she didn’t know the extent of her sons' injuries or she would be much more worried than she already was. She would be heartbroken if she knew how much he had been put through in the pursuit of a better world.

  “Have you seen Bakugou lately? How’s he doing?” What he really wanted to ask was if he suspected anything. Because Bakugou might be a bit wild at times, but he was smart as all hell.

“Oh, he’s just fine. Mitsuki and I have been doing lunches together.”

   Izuku smiled, “that’s great.” He was glad his mother had someone to spend time with. Frowning slightly, he looked up from the pavement. He was completely turned around. He had no idea how to get back to the apartment, and he had no idea where he even was. There was a large bloodstain on the pavement, so he had been over this place before. But with exhaustion settling over him, he wasn’t sure if he was coming or going.

  “Hey, mom. I’m gonna go, I need to get back to the apartment.”

“Alright honey, stay safe now. I love you!”

  “Love you too, mom. Bye bye.” He hung up, staggering back to lean against the nearest wall and opened the group chat.

 

[Can I get a, uhhh, Crime?]

 

Izuku: I live

Libed

Come find me

 

Dabi: Zuzu! Where are you?!???1

 

VampBitch: Yeah, where the hell are you?

                  We split up to look for you!

 

Izuku: No clue.

There’s a gians bloodstain thout

halp

 

Dabi: Are you okay?

 

VampBitch: I don’t think he’s okay

 

Izuku: I thinks Im dead

Vry dead

 

Dabi: I see him!

        He’s by the internet cafe

 

VampBitch: omw

 

*Dabi* is offline.

*VampBitch* is offline.

 

Izuku: yeee

 

*Izuku* is offline.

 

  Izuku shoved his phone into his pocket, listening as Dabi shouted out to him from down the road. He waved with a bloody hand, trying to take a step forward only to collapse onto the pavement, vision fading out and pulling him off the brink of his mind and into the darkness of unconsciousness.

  “Stay with me, Zuzu, we’ve got to get you back so we can stop the bleeding!” Dabi kept talking, murmuring promises beneath his breath while trying to pull his unconscious friend up to his feet. “Why the hell did you take out the knife?”

  “There you are!” Himiko rushed to his side, helping Dabi pull Izuku upright and slinging one of his arms over her shoulders. “Let’s go.”

  Dabi nodded, the two holding Izuku between them and carefully making their way across Hosu back to their apartment building, the few people out on the street crossing it to avoid them. He scoffed, watching as people skittered from one patch of light to another, so scared of the dark both external and internal. So he was feeling a bit introspective, he had just seen his best friend kill a man then almost die himself, so sue him.

  The moment they made it back to the building, Himiko almost kicked the front door down in her rush to get up the stairs. Izuku uttered in his dream state, his mind an unknown expanse behind closed eyelids. “We’re almost there, just hang on Izuku.”

  With a flurry of motion, the trio was inside their own apartment, and once again, Izuku was unconscious on the bathroom floor. Dabi set to work pulling off his shoes and pants while Himiko grabbed the first aid kit, dropping it with a gasp when she saw the wounds on his thigh.

  One solid stab wound, and over five smaller punctures from the top to the bottom of his thigh, ripped slightly from the force he had been pulled off the ground by that thing. His leg was a mess of blood and torn flesh, but at least he had stopped bleeding as much as before, the floor of blood now a slow ooze.

  “I can’t stitch this.” Dabi looked up, worry written across his face. “This wound is too deep, it’s still bleeding, I can’t do anything with it.” He shook his head, biting down on his lip softly as he cleaned the ragged wounds. “The smaller ones will be fine, I can dress those. But this…”

  Himiko nodded, “alright, what can we do, then?”

  “....you two can shut up,” Izuku muttered, eyes still closed as he slowly came to, wincing at the tug of the rag Dabi used to clean the blood from his injuries. “You’re gonna have to cauterize it.” He mimed lighting a fire, eyes still glazed over.

  Dabi shook his head. “No way, I’m not doing that.” He wasn’t going to make Izuku like him. He just couldn’t. He finished wiping away the blood and grit, crossing his arms over his chest when he was done. He couldn't use his quirk on him.

  “Well, you can’t stitch it, and you can’t risk it reopening if it heals on its own.” The knife had missed everything major, but it still couldn’t be left on its own. Izuku shrugged, slowly shaking off his exhaustion. “You’re gonna have to do something.”

  “You might not want to be here, Himiko.” The smell of burning flesh wasn’t the worst part, but the sound… well, the sound was indescribable, there were just too many facets to it. Dabi grabbed the first aid kit again, taking a moment to find what he needed. A pack of scalpels, while not quite what would be used in this situation, it would work just fine. He lit a small fire on the tips of his fingers, flames quickly changing from orange to blue and heating the scalpel he held in his other hand until the metal glowed red.

  At the sound of the hiss of flame, Himiko shook her head and darted out of the bathroom, covering her ears. She hadn’t even heard anything yet, but she already felt sick. There was no way in hell she could stay in there if just the thought of it was making her feel so queasy.

  Back inside the bathroom, Izuku pulled his belt out of the loops of his jeans, biting down on the leather and nodding to give Dabi the go ahead.

  The sound of branded flesh isn’t easily forgotten, but no matter how much time is between the times you hear it, you always forget just how graphic it is. The hiss and sizzle of cooking meat don’t even compare, but it’s what people always use to describe it. It’s different than that. More subtle, but more awful. Searing.

  Izuku bit down harder on the belt, muffling his shouts of pain as Dabi continued to work, closing up the deepest wound in minutes that felt like hours. Sweat poured down his brow and Izuku untied the bloody bandana from his neck just so he could use it to wipe the sweat from his face. “...fuck.”

  Dabi stayed quiet, cleaning and bandaging the last of the injuries before standing, silent, and turning out of the room. Izuku watched him go, watched as he washed his hands in the kitchen sink, grabbed his sleeping bag off the floor and climbed into the tent. With a sigh, Izuku pulled himself to his feet, limping forward, stripping off his uniform as he went and dropping it into a pile on the floor.

  “Is it over?” Himiko still had her hands over her ears, sitting on the couch and watching a compilation of cat videos with the sound off. She pulled one hand away, looking up to see Izuku slumped over in front of the coffee table. “Izuku! You’re not dead!”

  “I lived, bitch,” he joked, smiling weakly, raising his middle finger to the sky.

  “Are you calling me a bitch?” She uncovered her other ear, relief making a smile break across her face.

  Izuku shook his head, keeping his finger raised. “Nope. God.”

  Himiko blinked at him, before shrugging and going back to her cat videos. “Makes sense.”

  “My life plays like the absolute worst anime.” He chuckled, “like a rip-off of a rip-off. Just terrible all around. I’m gonna…” Izuku trailed off, pointing to his sleeping bag, staggering off in its general direction.

  “You do that then.” Himiko started the video back up, letting the cats of the internet pull her back into their spell. “Night, Izuku.”

  “G’night.” Limping over to his sleeping bag, Izuku grabbed it and slipped inside of the tent, setting up next to Dabi. The two of them were going to have to have a talk about what had just happened, but not now. But it would have to happen soon.

 

*** * ***

 

  When three am came and went without Dabi waking them up with his musings, Izuku knew that talk had to happen now. He had woken up expecting to be told some new nonsense, but when it didn't happen he grew worried. Outside the tent, Himiko kept quiet, already awake but knowing that she didn’t have the words to help Dabi with this.

  Izuku sat up in his sleeping bag and reached over to shake Dabi’s shoulder gently. “Dabi.” When he didn’t get a response, he did it again. “I know you’re awake.”

  “...what.” Dabi glared at the fabric of the tent, pulling the sleeping bag up to his chin. “What do you want, Izuku.”

  “I’m sorry.” He knew how Dabi felt about using his quirk like that, he knew what had happened the last time he used his fire to try and help someone, and how he only used it to hurt now. “I shouldn’t have…” He went quiet, trying to find exactly what it was he needed to say.

  “Excuse me?”

  Izuku shook his head, glad the darkness hid the expression on his face. “I'm so sorry, Dabi.”

  Dabi sat up and turned to glare at Izuku, blinking away tears that he didn't even know were trying to fall. “Why are you apologizing to me,” he spat angrily, trying to understand this. “I burned you! You're never going to be able to get rid of that! And it's because of me!

  “I shouldn't have made you do that, I didn't think about how much it would…” he paused, trying to find the right words. “I didn't think about how much it would hurt you.”

  “What? What are you saying?”

  “I knew you didn't want to use your quirk on me, but I still made you. I’m so fucking sorry, Dabi.”

  “Stop apologizing! I should be the one who's sorry!”

  “No, you shouldn’t be.” Izuku squeezed his friends shoulder, hoping he was being understood. “You're my best friend, Dabi, and I could never hate you for this.”

  And with those few words, Dabi could feel the walls holding back his emotions crack. It didn't break, but it was enough. He wiped at the tears that fell before making up his mind and grabbing his friend in a fierce hug.

  Izuku matched the embrace with equal force, trying to keep himself from crying as well when he felt the damp of his friends' tears soak into his shirt and felt the subtle shaking of his shoulders. With that, he let himself go, the two of them letting themselves finally process the events of the entire day in that moment.

  “Is this a private sobfest, or can anyone join?” Himiko peeked into the tent, brushing tears and sleep from her eyes.

  Izuku lifted one of his arms, letting her climb under it and join in the hug. “Come one, come all.”

  The three let themselves cry themselves out, falling back into sleep wrapped up in each other's arms. While they slept, the world moved on, their exploits of the day before spreading across the nation and the internet. The news would be talking about them for days, and

  But while the world turned, and continued to move on, they were still. Still and safe with each other.

Chapter Text

Vigilante Trio Take Down Hero Killer!

Who are the Terrible Three?

Shakeup in Hosu, Vigilantes Vow to Vanquish Villains!

Exclusive Footage of Vigilante Battle with Hero Killer!

 

  Shouto turned off the television, shaking his head at the sensationalist news. Vigilantes had taken out the hero killer and that’s all anyone seemed to want to talk about. That and how ineffective the heroes had been in the situation.

  That was what his father had gone to Hosu to do. But his victory was snatched away from him by vigilantes. Shouto supposed there was a sort of poetic irony in that, going so far out of his way to make an attempt just to not even have the chance to try and fail.

  Of course, the moment he was back home he almost destroyed half of the training room out of sheer frustration, so that was interesting. Lots of yelling and fire. Shouto couldn’t exactly train in a room that didn’t have a floor anymore, so he had to thank the vigilantes for that as well.

  Going without training until the end of the internship would really give him time to think. Shouto needed to think about what he had been told, he had used his flames in combat during the sports festival and still lost. And he had enjoyed using his flames, that part of himself he had sworn he would ever use again. With a frown on his face, Shouto let a small flame blaze over the tips of the fingers on his left hand, the orange flames stirring up some old memory he thought that had killed and buried so long ago.

  “Fire isn’t always that scary,” he murmured, letting the flame extinguish in a haze of smoke. He had heard those words once, such a long time ago, but now he could barely remember where he had heard them or who had said them. He only remembered flames so bright blue it hurt to look at, and hair redder than his father's.

  Shouto shook his head, the memories scattering and fading away like light spreading across running water. He had started to use his flames again, but he was still a little frightened of them. He scoffed, he shouldn’t be afraid of his own power, but he just couldn’t help it. Fire had taken so much from him, and he would have to use his own fire to take it back. He had gone to see his mother after the sports festival, but he still couldn’t begin to make sense of his own swirling and conflicting emotions.

  There was another round of loud yelling from the training room and Shouto shook his head. His father really wasn’t over this. It should have been funny, a grown man throwing a tantrum like that, but it was more terrifying than anything else. Another loud bang of something being thrown across the destroyed gym shocked Shouto right out of his seat, heart racing. He paced the room nervously, trying to get his heart rate back down to normal.

  He needed to get out. He needed to just go, and get out of the house for a while. Shouto patted at his pockets, looking for his phone and keys. Finding them, he crept out of his room, making sure his steps were light enough not to be heard as he made his way down the hall. The moment he made it to the living room, he let himself walk normally, the flooring was thicker here and didn’t carry noise as well.

  “Fuyumi.”

  His sister jumped, looking up from her phone with wide eyes. “Oh, Shouto! I didn’t hear you come in.”

  Shouto felt bad for startling her, but he was too used to moving without making a sound to start changing that now. “I’m going to go out for a little bit. Meet a friend.” He wasn’t actually going to meet a friend, but he just needed to get out. Maybe he would get some cold soba and people watch. “I’ll be back in a few hours.”

  “Alright, well, I’ll message you if he starts asking where you are.”

  That was one thing the two of them had in common. They never called Endeavor their father, even if it made it harder to refer to him. Endeavor was only ‘him’ or ‘the bastard’ or simply ‘Endeavor.’ It was almost funny, the way they managed to dehumanize him in their eyes, the same way he had them.

  With that on his mind, Shouto pulled on his shoes and grabbed his jacket from its place by the door and set out to try and clear his head while he still could. Hands shoved deep in his pockets, he stepped out, a frown on his face as he walked. He had chosen Endeavors agency for his internship to try and learn about why he was such a powerful hero, but all he was learning was that the media could be swayed with just one nice speech from a stranger covered in blood.

 

*** * ***

 

  None of them can believe it.

  They’re a media sensation. The video of their official debut keeps being taken down then being put back up almost hourly, and the news has been running the footage nonstop. With dozens of fan sites and blogs dedicated to them from just one video, it’s almost terrifying.

  “We should make a Hero View account.”

  “Dabi, that’s a terrible idea.” Izuku looked up at him from where he was doing some stretching on the floor. Besides, only losers actually followed Hero View.

  Himiko nodded, “I agree with Izuku, it’s a great idea.”

  “I didn’t say that!” He glared up at the two idiots he called friends, going into another set of pushups.

  “Doing it now!” Dabi opened the laptop, navigating to Hero View and prepared to set up an account.

  Himiko grinned, “yeah! Spread the good word!”

  Izuku rolled his eyes so hard he thought they might fall out of his head. “You two are terrible.”

  “Thanks!”

  “Thanks!”

  “You’re both idiots, and I hate you.” When had the word terrible gotten a new meaning? “Seriously, you’re awful.”

  Dabi rolled his eyes, fingers flying over the keyboard of Izuku’s laptop. “Account is set up. The Terrible Three are now online!” He flashed Izuku a mocking thumbs up, receiving only a raised middle finger in return. “Wow, rude.”

  Himiko frowned, looking over the new account. They were already gaining followers and they hadn’t even put anything up yet! “Won’t people be able to track us down now?”

  “Nah, I connected it to my Conspiracy account, and that gets bounced off three different cell towers and crosses a few different networks, and the main server bank is offshore, so,” he shrugged, his devotion to conspiracy theories finally being used in day to day life. “Virtually untraceable.” The people behind Conspiracy were dedicated to remaining anonymous.

  “Thanks, I hate it.” Izuku glared, trying to focus on his workout, tentatively stretching his mangled thigh. He had to get back into fighting shape fast, no matter how much it hurt. But he pushed through the pain, dropping down to complete another set of pushups, sweat dripping from his brow and to the floor.

  “That should be the first video.” While Izuku had the cuteness factor of a puppy for his face, he had the workout regimen and body of a badass. “Just a full hour of Izuku working out.”

  “Mhm,” Dabi nodded. “People would love it.” And maybe he was a little jealous of his friends' devotion to fitness, he was far too unmotivated to even do half of that workout.

  “What nonsense are you two spouting now?” Izuku didn’t look up, pushing through the shaking of his elbows to complete the tenth pushup, dropping to the floor and rolling onto his back once he was done, immediately transitioning into easy stretches. “Don’t make me come over there!”

  “Oh, it’s nothing at all.” Himiko waved away his concerns, already planning out a way to turn them into a permanent media sensation.

  Dabi grinned, showing far too many teeth. “Don’t worry about it.”

  “That just makes me worry more!”

 

*** * ***

 

  Going out on patrol is weird now. People recognize them, and they ask for pictures, hell, Himiko got asked for an autograph. It’s just weird.

  Izuku isn’t sure if he likes it, this sort of hero worship. He’s a fucking murderer , and people want him to pose with them, holding a gun to their head or a knife to their throat for a picture. No way in hell was he going to do that. Maybe it’s time to get out of Hosu. Go somewhere a little more underground and just throw himself into the criminal element.

  But as much as he hates their newfound fame, having a reputation as the team who took out the Hero Killer has made it a lot easier to work. Information is freely given, criminals stop fighting back, and the best part is that nobody calls the police, or worse, heroes , on them. And getting new gear had been easy too, new knives and such being almost given away to the “New Heroes of Hosu.”

  Too bad they weren’t really the intense badasses people seemed to think they were.

  Izuku stopped, turning to glare at Dabi, more specifically, the camera he was holding. “Dabi, what in the name of god are you doing?”

  “Recording the patrol, what else would I be doing?” Dabi turned the cheap camera to Izuku, zooming in on his bandana covered face. “Target, do you have anything to tell your fans?”

  Izuku rolled his eyes, then shrugged. “Don’t do drugs, eat your broccoli. Uh, stay in school? Don’t be a dropout like me and Dabi, or your life will go to shit and you’ll get shanked in the face and die.”

  “Wow, edgy.” Dabi turned the cheap camera onto Himiko, “and what about you, Vamp Bitch? Any advice for the viewers?”

  Himiko twirled her new quarterstaff, the metal glinting in the yellow of the street lamps. “Isn’t this staff super cute?” She twisted the two ends in opposite directions, splitting it into two short sticks. “And look!” She swung the two pieces of metal, miming fighting an opponent. “So cute. But not as cute as these!” Himiko pulled a pair of handcuffs from her pockets, twirling them around her finger before putting them away again.

  Dabi blinked, turning the camera to capture all of her movements. “Not advice, but okay.” He turned the camera to face himself, “Alright, this is Dabi with the Terrible Three, and remember. We might not be heroes, but we don’t need to be.” He stopped recording, turning the camera off and shoving it into his jacket pocket. “So, what do you two think about that going up as the first video?”

  “I don’t care. I think it might be a bad idea though, people will want to be like us and they really shouldn’t.” Izuku shoved his hands into his hoodie pockets, scowling behind his green bandana.

  Himiko twirled her rejoined staff in her hands, “I think it’s great!”

  “Good, because it’s going online once we get back.”

 

*** * ***

 

  Dabi grinned from his place behind the camera, “Target, what’s your take on the current hero system?”

  Izuku pulled up his ever-present bandana and turned partially towards the camera, eyebrows raised. “Do you want to get into this? Let’s get into this!” He turned away from the latest information he had pinned up on the wall, stepping towards the camera as he mumbled under his breath.

  “Dabi, why? Why do you hate yourself?” Himiko looked up from the laptop, shaking her head at the latest nonsense the two boys were getting into.

  “Is it really so hard to believe that I just want to hear Target’s opinions?” Dabi put on a half-assed innocent look, not able to make it convincing in the slightest.

  Himiko raised her eyebrows, turning her gaze back to the laptop. “Yes.”

  Dabi slapped the hand that wasn’t holding the camera over his chest, clutching at his heart. “Damn Vamp Bitch, that’s cold.”

  Izuku scoffed, drawing the attention back to him. “Are we doing this or what?”

  “Go right ahead, Target.”

  “A hero was first defined as someone who was admired for bravery, noble qualities, and outstanding achievements. A role model. An ideal. A savior. Not a warrior.” Izuku ran a hand through his messy hair, shaking his head in disdain. “The word hero needs to be reclaimed, taken back to its roots. When did being a hero go from saving lives to stopping villains?”

  “Go on, Target.” Dabi laughed, he loved it when Izuku got all fired up over philosophy. Unless it was at three am. That’s Dabi’s time to shine.

  “Well, I won’t get into how society manufactures villains yet, but societal flaws are something I will be getting into.” Izuku raised a finger, “the deepest issue, the idolization of violence!” He nodded sagely, ignoring the giggling from behind the camera. “What do heroes do when faced with your standard villain? First, offer a chance to turn themselves in. Next, straight up murder them!”

  Himiko pitched in from the couch, “oh yeah, didn’t Endeavor kill someone recently?”

  “That he did, Vamp Bitch!” Izuku grinned behind the bandana, “one of the individuals that attacked Hosu was killed by Endeavor.” Through hours upon hours of research, Izuku knew the things that attacked Hosu weren’t even human anymore, but the general public didn’t know that. And it would be easy to twist the facts because of that. “And what child in this society doesn’t want to be a hero? What sort of lesson does murder send to the children!”

  He struggled to keep from laughing, he really was going with the ‘think of the children’ bit. It was crude but effective.

  “Not a good message, I bet,” Dabi spoke up from behind the camera, agreeing not for the first time with Izuku’s philosophy.

  “And you would win that bet!” Izuku spun on his heel, arms flung wide. “Heroes only exist for the spectacle of the fight! Popularity and fame! Vapid idolization by the media!”

  Himiko and Dabi stared in awe as Izuku continued, almost shocked by how charismatic he could be. It really was a good thing he wasn’t a villain.

  Finishing his ranting, Izuku leaned in close to the camera, needing to say one more thing before he ended this. “Remember, we’re not heroes, but we don’t need to be.”

 

*** * ***

 

  Back in UA, it’s a madhouse with the announcement of finals. It’s been a few weeks since the end of the internships, and Shouto has made up his mind on the matter of his flames. He would use them, but as a real hero should. Not to harm, but to save. Maybe Bakugou had something to do with that, but he would never admit that even on pain of death.

  Were he and Bakugou friends? Enemies? He wasn’t sure about either of them, and he was too afraid to ask at this point.

  But the events of the internship still weighed heavily on his mind, and the upcoming finals only added to that weight. He wasn’t sure how well he was going to do, and that scared him.

  “Oi, half and half, what’s that look about?” Bakugou kicked his chair, sending it scooting across the floor a few inches.

  Shouto looked up in surprise, shrugging half-heartedly when he saw who it was. “Oh, it’s nothing.”

  Bakugou narrowed his eyes, “really.” He didn’t believe him, but he wasn’t going to call him a liar in the middle of class.

  “Well, no, but…” He trailed off, not sure what he was even trying to say. The internship, the vigilantes, the new student, the finals, he just had so much on his mind he didn’t even know where to begin.

  “This about your shitty dad?” Bakugou dropped down to sit next to him, glaring daggers at anyone who dared look his way. “Want me to kick his ass?”

  “No, it’s just the finals, I think.” As much as he liked the idea of Bakugou kicking his Endeavors face in, he didn’t think he would actually survive that fight.

  “Oh, well, you’ll do fine. Better than the rest of these jackoffs.” Bakugou nodded, a smug look on his face.

  “If you say so.” Was this Bakugou’s version of being supportive? Shouto sighed, he just felt so anxious and weird about this. “What do you think it’s going to be?”

  “Well it ain't gonna be fucking robots, you can bet on that.” He jerked his chin over towards the classes newest student. “Gotta keep the playing field level for our resident brainwasher, right?”

  “Hmm.” Shouto nodded, glad for the distraction from his thoughts. He hadn’t actually had a real conversation with Shinsou since the sports festival, but he didn’t think the other teen was holding a grudge against him. At least he hoped he wasn’t. He wasn’t the best at reading social cues. But he wasn’t the worst, especially compared to his new companion.

  “Hey, brain drain!” And there was the proof he needed that Bakugou was worse with social interaction than he was.

  Shinsou glared at Bakugou, raising his middle finger in response. “What.”

  “You better do well on the final, get it?”

  The purple haired teen stared back in shock, not used to Bakugou’s brand of support. “Alright, I’ll do that.”

  “Good.” Bakugou crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in his seat. He didn’t know how he was supposed to support people other than yelling at them, and he wasn’t about to change his style now.

  “What the hell was that about?” Shinsou looked over at Shouto with shock on his face.

  Shouto shrugged, “who knows. He’s just like that sometimes.”

  Shouto wasn’t sure if he had made another friend or not, but he had all but forgotten why he had felt so anxious. He let the conversations of the rest of the classroom wash over him, and while he might not be ready to be a hero yet, with the support of those around him, he would get there.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Everyone thinks you and Dabi are gay together.”

  “So?” Dabi glanced up from his phone, he never really read the comments on the videos he put up.

  “Yeah, Dabi’s not that bad.” Izuku shrugged, “well, that’s a lie. But he has some redeeming qualities.” Izuku rolled over in his sleeping bag, his workout had been a little more intense today and he was really feeling it.

  Dabi rolled his eyes. Getting Izuku to give a compliment was like pulling teeth. “Like what?”

  “You’re not a little bitch, I guess.”

  “Oh.” Guess that’s a good as it was going to get.

  “You got anything else to say that’s nice about Dabi?” Himiko raised her eyebrows, that didn’t seem like a compliment at all.

  “What, do you want me to write an essay about how great Dabi is? Fuck that, I’m tired!” Izuku dropped his head back down onto his arms, closing his eyes. “I guess he smells nice sometimes. Like a bonfire. Or a burning corpse.”

  “What.” Dabi sat up, staring over at Izuku in shock. “You can’t just say something like that then go back to sleep!”

  “Eat a dick, Dabi.” Izuku closed his eyes, pretending to sleep as Dabi shouted at him. “Now go away, I’m asleep.”

  “What did you mean by that?” Dabi leaned over his friend, confusion painted on his face. “Izuku, come on man, don’t do this to me right now!”

  “I’m sleeping!”

  Himiko frowned, most people wouldn’t say that bonfires and burning corpses were things that smelled nice. Maybe there was a grain of truth in all of those comments on their videos. Either that or Izuku was just weird. Who was she kidding, Izuku’s always been weird. And his friendship with Dabi was even weirder if she was being honest.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Oh my god! You! It’s the, you’re the Terrible Three!”

  There’s a lizard. Izuku isn’t sure what else to describe them as, just that they’re a lizard. A lizard wearing their merchandise and hopping around in front of them as if they had springs in their feet. “Uh, yeah. That’s us.”

  “I’m Spinner, I’m like, your biggest fan!” The lizard, Spinner, stared at them with starting pink eyes, an odd juxtaposition to their green scales. They grinned, teeth far too human to belong to a lizard. They had a sledgehammer strapped to their back and wore a hoodie that looked almost exactly like Izuku’s.

  “Okay…” Izuku glanced to Dabi for back up, only to see that Dabi and Himiko were leaning on each other and laughing at Izuku’s suffering. “So, Spinner, is it?”

  “Well, it’s actually Iguchi Shuichi, but Spinner is what I go by.” The lizard shrugged, running a hand through their also pink hair. How does a lizard have hair? Izuku doesn’t really want to know.

  “Not half bad for an alias,” Dabi muttered.

  Himiko nodded, “at least Spinner chose his own, not like Target.”

  Izuku shook his head, “so what can we do for you, Spinner?” He wasn’t sure how to deal with fans yet. Especially ones that were this devoted.

  “Can I get an autograph?” He held out a target patterned notebook and a sharpie. “And a selfie?” He held out his phone, a half hopeful look on his face.

  Dabi stepped up, elbowing Izuku to make him drop the look of shock he just knew was on his face. “Anything for a fan!” He wouldn’t admit it, but this sort of thing could be downright fun at times.

  “Sure, why not,” Izuku shrugged, taking the sharpie and scribbling down his alias and drawing a sloppy target next to it.

  “He’s a lizard,” Himiko muttered as if the others hadn’t noticed by now.

  “Alright lizard, get over here and squeeze in for a photo.” Dabi grabbed their phone from their hand, opening the camera function and pulling everyone close.

  “It’s Spinner!” Spinner let the scarred teen manhandle him into the frame for the photo, just happy to meet his idols.

  “Whatever you say, lizard.” Himiko grinned, showing her sharp canines as the photo was taken.

  He sputtered in protest, not understanding the game they had going on. “It’s Spinner!”

  Izuku snorted, “it’s lizard now. Just learn to deal with it.” He clapped his hand to the man's back, trying not to laugh at his misfortune. “Those two are terrible, you get used to it after a while.”

  “Aww, he said we’re terrible.” Dabi grinned mockingly, pretending to swoon. “How sweet.”

  “I’m so touched,” Himiko mimed wiping tears from her eyes. “This means so much to me.”

  Izuku shook his head and turned back to the fanboy. “I still don’t get why they act happy when I call them terrible.”

  “Well, thanks for the autograph, and the picture.” Spinner took his phone back from Dabi, struggling to keep from smiling like an idiot. “I just think that it’s super cool what you’re all doing. And the video about hero philosophy? Amazing.” He nodded, eyes almost sparkling.

  “Uh, alright.” Izuku was glad the bandana helped hide his awkwardness. He really didn’t know what to do in this situation. They had a diehard fanboy, what the hell is that even about? “Just remember-

  “We’re not heroes, but we don’t need to be!”

  Dabi, Himiko, and Spinner all shouted the words in unison, eerily reminding Izuku of a cult chant. Oh no, he hadn’t started a cult, had he? “...right.” He smiled uneasily, patting the lizard on the back. “Stay out of trouble now.”

  “I will!” Spinner bounced on the balls of his feet, waving as the trio left.

  “That was weird, right?” Izuku turned to the others as they walked, trying and failing to keep the confusion out of his voice.

  Himiko nodded, “oh yeah, super weird.”

  Dabi laughed, “well, you better get used to it, we’re fucking famous.”

 

*** * ***

 

  “So, they loved the video of Izuku working out, and the top video is the hero philosophy rant, but want to know what people seem to love more than both of those?” Dabi grinned, navigating through the account to the archived videos.

  Himiko leaned forward in curiosity, “what?”

  Dabi chuckled, scrolling over the videos thumbnail and starting it. “This. I got this on camera when Izuku kicked me in his sleep and then... Well.”

  The video was dark, and the timestamp in the corner said 5:13 am. In the shadows, Izuku rose from his sleeping bag like the walking dead, shambling over to the hotplate with the coffeepot and starting it, staring silently as it brewed. The camera shook, as Dabi had tried to capture exactly what was happening.

  “Mh, perfect,” Izuku muttered, picking the coffeepot off the hotplate and watching the steam rise. “Bottoms up.”

  Himiko paused the video, turning to Dabi with a look of shock on her face. “Tell me he didn’t.”

  “Just watch.” He continued the video, and the two of them stared on in horror as on the screen, Izuku started drinking an entire pot of coffee straight from the pot, not even waiting for it to cool down. Not even four minutes later, he was finished, setting the now empty pot onto the floor and standing up and stumbling out of frame. The video stopped there, but it had captured enough in those five minutes.

  Dabi shrugged, “I was too scared to stop filming.”

  “Yeah, I can see why.”

  “Izuku doesn’t know that I saw that.” Or that now over eleven hundred strangers had seen it. “I don’t think I’m going to tell him.”

  “No wonder he always smells like coffee.” Himiko shook her head, uncertain if she was impressed or terrified. Maybe both, and for good reason.

   "Mhm." Dabi nodded, "coffee and gunpowder."

 

*** * ***

 

  “What is this. Is this supposed to be me?” Izuku glared at the racks of merchandise, amusement and anger intertwining in his gut. “Why?”

  He ignored the camera Dabi had pointed at him, instead continuing on with his rant. “People shouldn’t like what I’ve done! I’m a killer, not some sort of idol. ” He picked up the minifigure of himself in a cutesy pose with his tonfas raised and crossed in front of him. “Alright, it is well made, but it shouldn’t have been made in the first place!” He grumbled under his breath, trying to hide the heat that was rising in his cheeks.

  “But they’re so cute!” Himiko picked up another minifigure, this one with a smoking revolver and blood spatter on its bandana. “Just adorable.”

  Dabi grinned, absolutely loving this. “Just like you.”

  “Fuck off, I’m not cute. I’m hardcore.” Izuku shook his head, gesturing to the pins, wallets, and bandanas that were decorated with targets, flames, and mini sledgehammers. “This is just nonsense. People just want to be our fans because it’s ‘edgy’ and ‘dark’ and we’re all ‘mysterious.’” Izuku rolled his eyes, shoving his hands into his pockets as they walked. “Most people aren’t really our fans, they’re just going along with the trend because it’s the cool thing right now. And they shouldn’t. Nobody should be our fans.”

  They walked through the crowded mall, the camera picking up the way people parted before them and made no movements to call the authorities. Taking that as proof of his point, Izuku gestured around them, “case in point. People should be trying to call the police, not just be letting us walk through a public place like it’s no big deal.” Hell, he could probably kill about thirty people in this fucking mall before anyone would think to do anything. “Stop being our fans! Stop being idiots!” He grabbed the camera from Dabi, turning it off then shoving into Dabi’s jacket pocket.

  They had gone to the Kiyashi ward mall to try and wind down after the latest media storm surrounding UA and heroes in general. And as much as Izuku hated to admit it, the public seemed to react positively to their presence. As if they were somehow reassured that with the Terrible Three around nothing bad could happen.

  But bad things will happen whether they’re around or not. Villains are always lurking in the shadows, even in places like this.

  “Well if it ain’t Target and the Terrible Three! Badass!”

  Izuku recognized that voice. From the Hosu attack. Raspy and dry. He tensed up, wrapping his hand around the hilt of one of his knives, his eyes flicking around for openings as he tried to signal Dabi and Himiko without alerting the civilians while an icy cold hand wrapped around his throat. “Let’s talk a bit, Target.”

   Izuku pressed the tip of his knife into Shigaraki's ribs, digging it in slightly. "Yeah, let's talk a bit, Shigaraki."

Chapter Text

“Well, if it isn’t Shigaraki Tomura. How’s the League?” Izuku struggled to keep his tone casual and conversational, acting as if this wasn’t a mutually assured death if either of them slipped up in the slightest. His smile was tense and shakey beneath his bandana, his mind jumping from bad to worse to god-awful possibilities.

 “Holy shit, is that a knife?”

 “Uh, yes?” Izuku raised his eyebrows, did this guy really think he wasn’t going to pull a knife on him after he grabbed him? In the middle of a crowded mall, no less? Did he not know who he was, he has a reputation to uphold!

 Shigaraki’s eyes widened in shock. “What the hell!” This wasn’t how villains rolled, but he knew next to nothing about vigilantes. For all he knew, this was a normal Tuesday.

 “Don’t make a scene or I’ll fucking gut you.” Izuku dug the tip of the blade into Shigaraki’s ribs a little harder, just to get the threat across.

 “Holy shit.” The reality of what was happening suddenly sunk in and Shigaraki just wanted to take back his hand from the vigilante's throat and run but he couldn’t. He had fucked up, but he had to try and work with this. “This isn’t what I had planned.”

 Izuku cocked his head to the side, both to emote and to try and loosen the grip the villain had on his neck. He didn’t want this creepy bastards hands anywhere near him. “Well, what did you have planned?”

 Himiko nodded, hands clenching into fists in futile, half aborted movements. “Yeah, someone with a face as fucked up as yours doesn’t just go to the mall.” She wanted to grab her staff and just crack it across Shigaraki’s face, but she couldn’t do anything with this crowd around.

 “Wow, really? So rude.” Everything was spiraling out of Shigaraki’s control, he hadn’t planned for any of this. Was he going to die here? Why hadn’t he brought back up? His fingers twitched, but he didn’t dare move with the knife pressed against his ribs shifting slightly each time he so much as blinked. “I really was just going to the mall.”

 “He’s lying, Target, gut him.” Dabi narrowed his eyes, trying to keep flames from lighting on his hands.

 “We’re in public, let’s go somewhere a little more private.”

 “Hold on, you can’t kill me without me killing you!”

 “Nobody’s dying today, shut your stupid fucking mouth.” Izuku steered the villain away from the crowds with the tip of his knife, pulling them into a more secluded area. “Won’t you have a seat?” He gestured with the knife, forcing Shigaraki to sit on the bench and Izuku sat beside him, Dabi and Himiko still standing in front of them, their arms crossed.

 Izuku crossed his legs, taking a moment and letting the tension grow. “So. What did you want to talk about?”

 The villain raised his eyebrows, unsure if he had heard the question properly. “...”

 Dabi’s jaw dropped, “seriously, are you just asking him what he wants to talk about?”

 “Yeah, that’s not normal, even for you.” Himiko knew Izuku was weird at times, but this was really pushing the limits of weird and starting to border on crazy.

 Izuku rolled his eyes, “what, do people not have sit-down chats with their enemies?”

 “No, they really don’t.”

 “Well, alright.” Izuku shrugged, muttering the next words, “but they really should, it’s usually very enlightening.”

 “Am I getting murdered here, or what?” Shigaraki was beginning to feel a little irritated, this entire situation was spiraling out of control. He had grabbed the vigilante on a whim and now he was paying for it.

 “Well, that depends. Do you want me to murder you? Because you shouldn’t joke about murder, I was murdered once and it offends me.” Well, technically he had been murdered three times, but that was beside the point.

 “Excuse me.”

 “You’re excused,” Izuku smirked, understanding that he was in control of this situation now.

 “You were murdered?”

 Himiko nodded, gesturing between Dabi and herself. “Yeah, we both saw.”

 Shigaraki had nothing to say to that. This vigilante that he thought was a nobody, they weren’t just playing outside of the game, or outside of the rules, they were playing around with the games very code. Everything that this game was supposed to be, he was tearing it down and people were worshiping him for it. “...why do they do it?”

 “Hmm?”

 “Why do these people all act as if there’s nothing that could hurt them? As if they’re safe from the dangers of reality?”

 “Morals, I suppose.” Izuku shrugged once more, a slight frown twisting his lips. “The majority of humanity always seems to swing towards the light.”

 This was a little more philosophical than Izuku had been expecting, and if it wasn’t the philosophy of heroes and their violence, he wasn’t exactly familiar with it. But he knew enough to get by. “Shared values, concern for others, the role of darkness, these sort of philosophical concepts have been around since prehistory. What you define as villainy, has always been in the minority, ever since the dawn of man.”

 “...oh.”

 Dabi chuckled, still tense with the reality of the situation. “I think you just went way over his head, Target.”

 “Think of it this way, people don’t follow the laws simply because they’re the law, they do so because being moral is so ingrained into basic human, and instinctual, behavior that it’s almost impossible not to do so.” Izuku frowned, trying to simplify his statement. “A pack animal doesn’t go against the pack without a reason, that’s not how the laws of nature work.”

 “I don’t think he gets it,” Dabi crossed his arms, his tone slightly mocking.

 Himiko rolled her eyes, “what is wrong with you? Why are you explaining philosophy to a villain? Are you crazy?”

 “I’m just trying to entice and inspire!” Izuku gestured grandly with his empty hand, “it’s all part of the game.”

 “So, crazy, then.”

 Shigaraki glanced around the vigilante trio. “Am I being murdered, or am I still being explained philosophy to?” He didn’t want either of them to happen, but one was a much better option.

 Izuku frowned, “why, did you have a question?”

 “Vigilantes this. Target that. You’re all they’re talking about. Why? Why is that? Everything I’ve done is being swallowed up by your fame.” The villain subconsciously loosened his grip on Izuku’s neck, too busy thinking about what had been vexing him. “Why is nobody looking at what I’ve done? No matter how much you puff yourselves up, aren’t you just destroying what you don’t like? What’s the difference between you and me?”

 “The difference between us?” Izuku sighed, was this really what the villain had wanted to know?

 ”People love symbology, the forms of the good and all that.” Izuku gestured vaguely with the hand that didn’t have a knife in it. “They just like to believe that people doing good things, means there is a greater force of good out there in the universe. We, my team, would be a lesser form of the good, while say, All Might, would be considered a greater form of the good.”

 “I guess you could say that I started out by watching All Might, that greater form of good. And we’re not just destroying what we don’t like, it’s about living with an ideal. Not giving up, not letting anything stand in your way.”

 “...” It all made sense now. Shigaraki suddenly got why the damn vigilantes had been so accepted. It was as if a jumble of nonsensical dots suddenly formed a clear line. “So it’s all about All Might?” He dropped his hand from the vigilante's throat, standing suddenly. “I’m so glad we were able to chat! Thank you, Target, for your inspiring words.”

 “Wait, hold up.” Izuku stood, signaling for Dabi and Himiko to stand down. They couldn’t fight in a place like this, too many people could get hurt. “Shigaraki, what is your ultimate goal?”

 He didn’t hear how the name seemed to carry over the crowd, whispered on the lips of everyone there.

 “My goal?” The villain turned, his expression manic. “To create a world without All Might! Starting today, I’ll call that my creed.” He turned back and pushed into the crowd, slowly disappearing, like a shadow in the darkness. “Next time we meet, one of us won’t be walking away.”

 Izuku blinked, putting away his knife before looking back to the others. “Did that really happen, or am I actually going crazy?”

 Himiko gritted her teeth and punched Izuku in the arm with as much force as she could. “What the hell! Why would you just talk to a villain like that! Are you trying to get killed?!”

 “Ow!” Izuku rubbed at the bruise he knew was already forming on his arm. “What the fuck?”

 Dabi stepped forward and grabbed Izuku by the hood, dragging him out of the bench and towards the exit. “We’re placing an anonymous tip to the police about that guy, and you!” He pulled Izuku around to face him, letting the smaller teen finally see the worry that was on his friends face. “You are never doing that again! You hear me?”

 “Yeah, I hear you.” He sighed, running his hand through his hair. “I really fucked up, didn’t I?”

 “You’re damn right, you did!” Dabi smacked his hand against the back of Izuku’s head, “idiot.”

 Himiko shook her head, both in disappointment and shock. “You inspired a villain! Who even does that?”

 Izuku shook his head, “I really don’t even know anymore.” But he had a feeling that no matter what he had done, he would have run into Shigaraki no matter what. He just didn’t know just how right he was.

 

*** * ***

 

 “It’s three am, so you know what that means!” Dabi lifted the camera, letting the heavily shadowed sleeping forms of his friends come into frame. “Time to drop wisdom on these idiots.” He zoomed in on Izuku’s half covered face, leaning over his friend. “Hey, hey, Zuzu. Target, wakey wakey.”

 Izuku didn’t open his eyes, already knowing what was coming. “Dabi, you fucking touch me and I’m gonna take my foot and shove it so far up your ass that you will thank me when it comes out of your mouth.”

 “What does that even mean? Oh god, what does that mean?” Dabi almost dropped the camera with how fast he jumped back into his sleeping bag. He wasn’t going to risk it, even if he had no idea what that might mean for him. “Seriously? What does that mean?”

 Himiko sat up, hair hanging over her face, “it means that if you two don’t shut up, you’re going to fucking die by my hand.” She snorted, “and Izuku’s foot. Up your ass.”

 “Hell, I was just going to say that shirts are weird.” Dabi turned the camera back to himself, grinning slyly in the dark.

 “What.” Himiko glared, though it couldn’t be seen from under her hair. “What do you mean, how are shirts weird?”

 “I mean it, shirts are weird, you put your body in one hole, and it comes out three!”

 Izuku pulled the pillow out from underneath his head, sat up and swung it, smacking Dabi in the face. He said nothing, just sat there with his eyes closed and repeatedly smacked his friend in the face with a pillow. And all of it was caught on camera. Well, mostly caught on camera. The camera that Dabi had now dropped onto his lap and the only things in the frame were half of his face and the ceiling.

 “Hey, come on! It’s true!” Dabi didn’t try to avoid the hits, he just let it happen. He was used to it by now.

 Himiko brushed her hair away from her face, grabbing her own pillow. “Well, how about this one. Every time you wear your favorite shirt it dies a little bit.”

 “Why would you say that!”

 Izuku sighed, “the sound of nature, that everyone loves, is just the sound of horny animals.”

 Dabi and Himiko went quiet, turning towards Izuku, who just grabbed his pillow and laid back down as if nothing had happened.

 “Dude. Not cool.” Dabi shook his head, a look of shocked disgust on his face.

 Himiko nodded, still too tired to understand what was going on. “Yeah, that’s just… it’s true, but you shouldn’t say it.”

 Izuku ignored their protests, shoving his pillow back under his head and rolling over. “Go to sleep, you heard nothing.”

 “You were on camera!” Dabi waved the still recording camera at him as if it could help.

 “Sleep.”

 Dabi turned the camera back to himself, rolling his eyes and shaking his head slowly before stopping the recording. “G’night Zuzu.”

 “Night fuckwit.”

 Himiko laid back down, smiling softly. “Shut up, or I’ll kill you both.”

 

*** * ***

 

  Izuku pinned up more research onto the board, listening halfway to the news playing in the background. People were trying to figure out the quirk of his alter-ego. But they hadn't once theorized that he was quirkless.

  "It's obviously not mutant type, and we've never seen anything that could point to a transformation, so it's either something mental or an enhancement. Like an analysis quirk, or advanced intelligence."

  "Please, it's obviously some sort of general enhancement quirk, the strength and stamina alone prove it!" Izuku laughed out loud, the strength and stamina were from years of training, not a quirk but a skill. He sipped at his coffee, scribbling down the latest movements of the League.

  "No, if you look at his movements patterns in the videos, it's something reflexive, or perhaps some sort of speed quirk." Izuku rolled his eyes, his speed was just a natural talent, he wasn't even that fast, but it was surprising how fast he was if you weren't expecting it.

  "Maybe we're looking at this wrong. His weapons, all of them are a bit unconventional, yes?" Izuku turned his attention towards the broadcast, wondering where they were going with this. "A weapon mastery quirk would explain all of this!" With a loud snort, Izuku spat out half of his last sip of coffee in surprise. Were they kidding? Weapon mastery quirks were extraordinarily rare, and they just assumed he needed a quirk to use his gear. He shook his head, trying to force the grin off his face.

  "Perhaps it's a regeneration quirk, he manages to come back to his patrols almost immediately after grievous, life-threatening, injuries." With a roll of his eyes Izuku turned back to the board, he didn't need a regeneration quirk when he had sheer force of willpower. Or maybe it wasn't willpower, but stubbornness and stupidity.

  "Whatever his quirk is, it must be strong, I mean, he did take out the hero killer after all."

  He shook his head, sipping his coffee. Part of him wanted to do a video and come out as quirkless, but he needed something with a little more flair than that. Maybe after a fight, or on live television. But of course, there would be people who wouldn't believe him and would swear that he had to have a quirk. After all, if eighty percent of the world did, he must too, right?

  Izuku sighed, stepping into the kitchen and refilling his now empty coffee mug. He had been doing research all day while Dabi and Himiko canvassed the neighborhood for information, and had almost nothing to show for it aside from a possible location and a few possible new members of the league. But nothing concrete.

  However, the fact that Moonfish had escaped from prison all but screamed 'League of Villains' and the sightings of the villain Muscular were even worse. The career villain Mr. Compress could be dealt with, but taking down the genius would be difficult. Whatever it was that Shigaraki was planning, he was boosting the ranks of the League with some serious heavy hitters, and Izuku wasn't sure what he was supposed to do about it.

  Neither of the two killers would be able to stand up to a shotgun round to the face, and neither would the magician, but he didn't want to kill unless it was absolutely necessary. The last resort of a desperate man.

  He looked over the notes, trying to find a hole he could exploit. A weakness of any sort. But from what he could see from what he had collected, there was nothing to do except wait for them to make the first move. But that just wasn't an option anymore.

  Izuku couldn’t help but think that if Stain had managed to get his own message out into the world, the League would be gaining more traction than this, but this was still bad. For fuck's sake, they were recruiting serial killers and full on super villains! He ran a hand through his hair and sighed, taking a sip of his coffee.

  Working out the plan to take down Stain had been almost easy compared to this shit with the League. And it was only going to get harder from here on out, he just knew they were going to target the UA students again, it just made the most sense out of all of the nonsense he had collected. Izuku turned from the board and walked to the couch, setting himself down in front of the laptop and the still running news reports.

  Until Dabi and Himiko got back, he might as well take some time to catch up on current events. Can’t fall behind the rest of the world just because he’s stressed, after all.

 

*** * ***

 

 “I heard a child shout ‘Praise Satan’ and I’ve never been more frightened.” Izuku turned halfway towards the camera, squinting against the bright July sunlight that was in his eyes and glaring across his face. He was thankful for the bright light, though, it was helping keep his face from being recorded in full. He hadn't managed to have his entire face be recorded yet, only small glimpses and at one point, half of his face. But the consensus on what people had managed to see was 'plain.' He blinked owlishly in the light, “seriously, what even?”

 Dabi rolled his eyes, leaning against his friend's shoulder, slowly setting more weight on him. “Just because you think penguins have nothing to do with demons doesn’t make you right.”

 “It was just a penguin documentary, it has nothing to do demons!” Himiko rolled her eyes, the three of them had taken some time out of the day to go to the theater and the only thing running was documentaries. She had a feeling that Izuku had already known that though. “Seriously, the two of you are going to drive me insane one day.”

 “Short drive.”

 Himiko rolled her eyes, staring at the people who walked by as Izuku and Dabi bickered on beside her. School was out for the summer, and all the teenagers crowding the streets made it a bit harder to get from place to place without being recognized, but they still managed. Probably because Dabi's face was terrifying, Izuku was 'plain' and Himiko had the sort of look that made people uncomfortable enough to not stare. They had gone online in May, and it was already July, but there was no sign that support for them was cooling in the slightest. If anything, it was only heating up, people wore their merchandise openly, and just from where she was leaning against the side of the theater she could see three people wearing ‘Target’ hoodies and four with more subtle merchandise. Pins, and backpacks and such.

 “You know, I’m glad I bought this taser.” Izuku’s voice interrupted her count, directing her attention back to the conversation going on beside her. “Good purchase.”

 “Why did you buy it?”

 Izuku shrugged, “I had some extra yen and just went with my whim.” He adjusted the taser on his belt, its holster nestled between his pistol and an emergency first aid kit. “You know, just live in the moment.”

 Dabi shook his head then brushed his hair back. “I don’t think that’s how living in the moment works.”

 “Yeah, that’s just being impulsive,” Himiko laughed. Izuku was one of the most impulsive people she knew, she shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore.

 “Mhm.” Dabi nodded, leaning back against the theater wall and soaking in the sun and turning the camera on himself. “Alright, this is Dabi of the Terrible Three, and remember-

 The three of them spoke in unison, “we’re not heroes, but we don’t need to be!”

 He shut off the camera with a grin, shoving it back into his pocket. “I love you guys.”

 Izuku nodded, “love you too, Dabi.” But his words were slightly muffled, Dabi having set more than half of his weight onto his shoulder, and was basically just leaning up against his chest at this point.

 “Yeah, love you too crispy fuck.” Himiko turned, hiding her smile.

 It was nice, these moments of calm between the madness of vigilantism and their daily lives. Sure, sometimes they might border more on villain then vigilante, with the stealing of wallets and weapons from the criminals they apprehended, but they were proud of what they did.

 A commotion from the main road drew her attention away, and all Himiko could think was, oh my god, please tell me that's not what I think it is.

 But judging from the wide grin on Izuku’s face it was what she thought it was. Criminals in action never failed to bring a smile to his face.

 “Seriously, Izuku you might be cursed,” Himiko sighed, screwing together the two halves of her staff as she spoke.

 “No, I think this is because Dabi kept screwing around with all that ghost stuff.” Seriously, messing with ghosts has consequences. Consequences such as being turned into a literal trouble magnet. "He's cursed, not me."

 Dabi waved his hands in front of himself, denying all allegations. “Hey, don't try to shift the blame onto me, you're the one that's cursed!”

 Izuku yanked up his hood and pulled his bandana up over his nose, grabbing his tonfas from his belt. “If I am cursed, well, I'm having a hell of a good time with it.”

 "Are you saying you're blessed with a curse?" Himiko joked, adjusting her grip on the staff.

 Izuku shook his head, "not quite. How about... blursed."

 “Alright you two,” Dabi stepped around the corner, lighting his hands on fire. “Showtime!”

Chapter Text

  It’s almost funny how unprepared these criminals are, how uncoordinated in their teamwork and communication. As far as Dabi can tell in his rush through the crowd, this was a bank heist gone right, but then became a heist gone wrong the moment they got outside. Bickering and fighting amongst themselves like children as they attempt to flee the scene. Well, not like children, at least children know how to work together.

  More like very stupid wild animals. 

  Hell, they aren’t even keeping an eye out for any law enforcement! Dabi snorted, not that the police or heroes were even on hand to deal with such petty crime, but it was the principal of the matter!

  Getting to the criminals was a bit harder than Dabi had expected, trying to shoulder his way through the throng of people. The blue flames he had burning over his hands helped, but not enough.

  Izuku rolled his eyes, clearing his throat and throwing his shoulders back in an attempt to project confidence. “Oi! This is Target, coming through! Move it or lose it, people!” Izuku’s loud shout parted the crowd almost immediately, creating a path that ended right where the criminals would be. He rushed forward,  tightened his grip on his tonfa, reeling back his right arm and ramming it into the stomach of the closest criminal with as much force as he could muster.

  The criminal staggered back a half-step, vomit bubbling over their lips as they tried to lift a bladed hand in their defense. Izuku ducked back from the blades, raised his left arm and slammed the shaft of the tonfa into the bank robbers jaw, sending them sprawling to the ground where they just lay there groaning. They didn’t try to get back up.

  Izuku turned from the result of his work, watching in awestruck horror as Himiko brutally attacked the next criminals' knees and shins and he winced sympathetically when she drove the end of her staff into their crotch with more force than was strictly necessary.

  “And down you go!” She cheered, twirling her staff with a flourish and blowing a kiss into the observing crowd just to rile them up. The crowd cheered loudly in response, the way any sane person does when a cute girl knocks out a two-hundred-pound man with what amounts to a long stick. Himiko rummaged in the secret pocket of her cardigan, pulling out a bundle of long zip ties and wrapping one of them around the criminal's wrist and cinching it tight. She passed one to Izuku, and he did the same to the criminal he had knocked down, grumbling under his breath about his lack of support from the crowd.

  Dabi rolled his eyes, sending a blast of flame towards one of the criminals, lighting their pants ablaze. Not what he had intended to do, but it was amusing nonetheless. He watched them from the corner of his eye, ducking a sloppily thrown haymaker from the fourth robber and responding with a stiff jab to their solar-plexus with a still flaming hand. With a fierce kick to the side of their knee, they went down hard, clutching their injuries. Dabi turned his attention back to the criminal whose pants were still on fire, laughing softly as they suffered. They tried to put out the fire with their quirk, sending weak streams of water over the blaze that persisted through their efforts. Dabi snorted, raising a flaming hand in warning, giving them a chance to surrender.

  A chance they gladly took, raising their hands and letting Himiko zip tie them, probably enjoying it.

  The crowd clapped, raising their cellphones high to catch everything and immortalize it on the internet. Izuku grinned behind his bandana, raising two fingers in a ‘v’ for victory, still holding his tonfas and ignored the way Himiko was posing beside him. However, watching Dabi scowl and pretend he wasn’t affected by the compliments and praise being thrown his way was perfect.

  Izuku took a bow, and the trio made their way back through the thinning crowd, leaving behind the captured criminals for the authorities.

  The authorities that were now surrounding them, moving through the crowd with purpose, their weapons, and handcuffs at the ready, prepared to capture the vigilantes who had made such a splash in the past few months. Ready to take down the three who had brought so much attention to the hero industry and its flaws.

  Well fuck.

  Maybe Izuku really was cursed.

  What else was going to go wrong now?

  Izuku cast his gaze over the closing net of law enforcement, looking for any way out and finding nothing. They had brought well over twenty officers, there was no way out. “Looks like this might be it,” he glanced to Dabi and Himiko, gauging their reactions. Dabi only shrugged, letting the blue flames wrapped around his hands flare up then go out in a haze of smoke. With a nod, Himiko lowered her staff.

  “You might be right, Zuzu.” Dabi nodded, expression tight. He didn’t want to end this, didn’t want to stop this wild ride he had been on ever since he had met Izuku, but there was no choice anymore.

  Himiko sighed loudly, blowing her bangs back from her forehead in frustration. “Well, we went out on top.” Went out adored by all, but also despised by the authorities. Like legends do.

  They couldn’t fight their way out of this one. They were outnumbered and outgunned, and if they tried to fight they couldn’t contain the collateral.

  There was no other choice, and Izuku raised his hands in surrender, heart dropping down to the bottom of his shoes as bile crawled up his throat. The crowd was all but screaming around them, lights from phones flashing, capturing the moment in eternity.

  The moment true heroes fell.

  One of the officers raised a bullhorn, clearing his throat before speaking. “This is the Hosu Police Force. You three are under arrest for multiple counts of assault, assault with a deadly weapon, and vigilantism, and one count of homicide. Keep your hands in the air, surrender your weapons, and come quietly.” Three officers collected the zip tied criminals while a few of the other officers pushed the crowd back to a safer distance, opening up a large circle of space around the nearly captured vigilantes.

  The words were heard from every corner of the crowd, but to Izuku they were only the tolling of a death bell.

  “Alright, we’ll come quietly,” Izuku called out in response, wrestling with his tumultuous emotions. It had just been a simple bank robbery that they had stopped, how did it come down to this?

  Izuku steeled himself, taking the first step forward, ignoring the cries of the crowd. The pleas for him to stop, and the acidic jeers that were thrown at the police.

“Fuck off, they’re real heroes!”

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Fuck you pigs!”

    “Don’t turn yourself in! The world needs you three!”                               

“Resist!”                                                     “Just run away!”

“Fuck the police!”

“They’re not heroes, but they don’t need to be!”

                “Suck it cops!”

“Yeah!”

“Don’t do it, dudes!”                                                                  “Keep the Three Free!”                            “We love you Target!”

                                                             “Fight the good fight!”

“Fuck this bullshit!”

  There was a sound in the air that cut through the rumble of the crowd, over the murmurs of the vigilantes who were slowly losing their will to fight. It wasn’t a whistle, and it wasn’t a howl, but it was the indescribable sound of something, or someone, hurtling through the air at high velocity. A feat only possible by one person. One hero.

  Izuku stiffened, and when he glanced beside him, so did Dabi and Himiko, the two of them picking up on his posture change almost immediately. Things were about to somehow get even worse than they already were.

  With a heavy slam and the sound of cracking pavement, they landed. Izuku grinned widely behind the bandana, things had come full circle now hadn’t they? The person who had inspired all of this, the vigilantism, the violence, the fury he felt towards heroes in general, All Might was here to see its end.

  How poetic.

  “I may be a bit late, but it’s all right now. Why? Because I am here.” All Might stood in all his spandexed glory, bright cardinal colors and just loud in every sense of the word. An omnipresent force of nature, and one that wasn’t exactly appreciated by his current audience.

  Izuku rolled his eyes and the trio ignored All Mights introduction to the police officers and the hush that rippled through the crowd, the vigilantes too busy attempting to have a conversation with only their eyes to hear anything around them. Izuku tilted his head and shrugged, adjusting his grip on his tonfas and throwing his shoulders back.

  Dabi grinned, letting his hands flare back up in roaring blue flames. “Let’s give them a show to remember, yeah?” This was their last stand, the last rallying cry with the whole world watching.

  “Fuck it, let’s give make it one for the ages!” Himiko nodded, unscrewing her staff into two pieces and adjusting her stance. She was going to give this her all, show the world that the Terrible Three won’t give in so easily.

  Izuku stepped forward, clearing his throat, playing up the role he had been given in this game. He was Target, the vigilante. He had to be meaner than everyone else, stronger than everyone else. He had to be more bite than bark and not hesitate to draw blood. But more than anything else, he had to believe it.

  He pulled back his hood, letting the crowd see the wild look in his eyes. Izuku spread his arms wide, “ah, the number one hero has arrived! And here I thought he only fought criminals!” His voice veritably oozed a dark charisma, and he turned towards Dabi, watching as a smirk spread across his scarred lips.

  “But we are criminals. Sorta. Kinda. Maybe. We’re vigilantes.” Dabi kept his voice bland, slouching forward and letting the flames on his hands dance up his arms and over his shoulders.

  Himiko gasped loudly, putting as much drama into her words as she possibly could. “Oh no! I don’t want to be a criminal!” She pouted, eyes bright with humor.

  All Might shifted awkwardly in front of the trio, not quite certain of what was happening. He knew he had shown up to this a little late, but this was not standard villain behavior. This was just weird.

  But he kept up his trademarked grin. He had over forty minutes left as All Might, and he wasn’t sure how he was going to need to use them. “This is your chance to surrender, villains!” He pointed at the overconfident green haired individual, recognizing that they were the leader of this little trio that had become such a thorn in the side of the law.

  Izuku threw a rude hand signal in All Might’s general direction, gesturing grandly as he spoke. “Bitch please, we just went over this, we’re vigilantes, not villains!” A part of Izuku died and went to both heaven and hell over the fact that he had just called All Might a bitch, and he struggled to keep from falling to the ground with laughter.

  Dabi chuckled, playing up his reactions. He stroked his chin thoughtfully, “I don’t know, we did take that guys wallet.”

  Himiko nodded sagely, “and those knives!”

  Izuku shrugged, lifting his tonfa, “eh, let’s just fight and get this over with.” Behind the bandana he grinned, knowing that they would lose this, but they would go down fighting.

  Together.

  “Let’s light it up!” Dabi grinned as he swept his hand forward, a plume of blue flame surging and surrounding the number one hero. As the blaze rose, he concentrated his flames, trying to do what he had only seen a few times before. He forced the fire into a simple spear and lobbed it with as much force as he could, flames spiraling off of the shape as it flew and landed before the hero he was facing down.

  Izuku cheered, “damn Dabi!” He laughed, amazement lighting up his eyes at the sight of those flames. Izuku knew that compared to the other he wasn’t going to be much good in a fight against All Might, but it was worth it just for that moment. As the flames died down he rushed forward, keeping one arm up as a guard as he traveled low to the ground, possible scenarios playing through his mind. The only course of action was attack and retreat, and Izuku reeled back his left arm, spinning the tonfa in his grip to maximize his range and went for the knees. Pressure points and vital joints, his mind supplied.

  He struck and leaped back, noting with satisfaction the small step back he had forced All Might to take. Another spear of flame flew over his head along with a large rock and Izuku followed the two projectiles, recklessly lashing out once more just to leap back again.

  This fight was unwinnable, he knew that, but he still had to try. He had to do this and had to follow through. He knew that All Might was going easy on them, hell, he could end this all in one punch if he really wanted to. But that was it, the fact that he was going easy on them became the only thing Izuku could focus on, fueling his will and drive as he ducked a telegraphed punch and viciously slammed both of his tonfas into the one weak point he had seen.

  The weak point he had been shown so long ago.

  The only sign that Izuku had even made an impact was a barely noticeable drop of blood at the edge of All Might’s ever-present smile, and a responding punch that sent the vigilante sprawling to the ground, skidding across the pavement.

  As flames filled the air once more, Izuku rolled back to his feet, wincing as he felt his ribs begin to bruise. Izuku holstered one of his tonfas, picking up a handful of sand and gravel in his now empty hand. He had the formations of a plan, and he rolled his shoulders as he cleared his throat. “Last ditch effort, make a break for it!” Izuku rushed forward, throwing his handful of gravel at All Mights face the moment he was close enough, immediately turning heel and running in the opposite direction, Dabi and Himiko already ahead of him.

  Behind the rapidly retreating vigilantes, All Might wiped the last bits of the sand and dirt from his face and chest and gave pursuit, rushing forward with speed that the trio could never hope to counter. The hero turned to face the team, pulling back his fist to end this with one blow.

  “Texas Smash!”

  It was like things were happening in slow motion. Izuku didn’t know what he was doing, only that he needed to do it. His body just moved on its own.

  He rushed forward, pushing past Dabi and Himiko to try and keep them away from what he knew was coming. Izuku watched in a sort of detached terror as the blow fell and he pulled his friends behind himself, keeping the tonfa he was holding raised as an impromptu shield. He threw his other arm back, shielding them from the brunt of the force with his own body. He felt his already bruised ribs strain under the wind pressure, almost creaking in protest, and a series of sharp pains blossomed into being along his unguarded side, his ribs snapping like dry twigs under the sheer power of the Texas Smash. The power of a hit that didn't even need to connect to shatter bone.

  The wind pressure from the hit tore the bandana from his face, shredding his paper-thin disguise and baring his face for the entire world to see. Izuku gritted his teeth from the pain and glared back at All Might. Blood seeped from between Izuku’s teeth, running down his chin and staining the pavement below.

  Izuku snarled at the hero before him, pushing Dabi and Himiko further behind himself, blind to anything but the need to protect those dear to him. He didn’t hear the screaming of the crowd, didn’t see the look of horror on the face of the police and the hero, only felt a final surge of adrenaline fill his veins, and he all but growled in his ferocity. He bared his teeth in a last-ditch attempt at intimidation, the effect heightened by the blood staining them and the green eyes almost glowing with hatred.

  From the outside, it was quite the picture. Nobody had realized exactly how young the members of the Terrible Three really were, but now… Now that the number one hero had Texas Smashed a teenager in the face, the world would know.

  They were just kids really.

  Kids that had taken down the Hero Killer and terrorized much of the criminal underworld into submission. Kids that had seen the wrong in the world and sought only to make it right by any means necessary.

   But the focus was only on one of them right now, the flash from cameras and phones capturing the image of someone that had jumped in the way of what was considered the worlds’ most dangerous punch to protect their friends. And what an image it was, the bloody and battered body of a boy acting as a shield against an unstoppable force, only trying to protect those they loved.

  As these revelations passed over the crowd, Izuku’s brain was all but screaming at him, adrenaline the only thing keeping him on his feet through the pain as Dabi and Himiko desperately tried to get him to respond. Izuku was too out of it to feel the handcuffs snapped around his wrists, and was too out of it to tell when he was carted off to the back of a police cruiser, his blood staining everything he touched as they stripped him of his weapons and the last bit of his dreams.

  Everything faded to black as he lost consciousness, knowing things were only going to get worse from here on out.

 

*** * ***

 

  Across the city, hours away in a small house back in Musutafu, Bakugou Katsuki glared across the table at the interlopers into his home. “What are you extras doing here. Go home.”

  Todoroki Shouto blinked back at him lazily, he hadn’t been invited, he had just shown up. “No.”

  “Is that the newest issue of Wired magazine?” Kirishima Eijirou picked up the magazine, thumbing through the covers. “Huh, they have a new piece on data mining in here.”

  From the kitchen walked Shinsou Hitoshi, a glass of water in his hand. “Huh, never thought either of you would read Wired.” He settled down at the table, shooting Bakugou a smug look over the glass.

  “What’s that supposed to mean, you dick?” Bakugou slammed his hand down onto the table, the opened bags of chips bouncing from the force. He didn’t invite any of these fuckers, but here they were. Eating his snacks and touching his stuff. They were worse than the others, you know, the pink one and the annoying blond. “I’m allowed to read things!”

  “Yeah, but not things that, you know…” Shinsou smirked and waved his hands vaguely. “Things that smart people read.”

  “You don’t have to be smart to read Wired,” Kirishima pitched in, still looking through the magazine. “It’s all watered down anyways. Made to be more accessible to the general public. It’s a good thing, anyone can read Wired!” He grinned, flashing sharp shark teeth and went back to the article.

  Todoroki nodded, reaching for the bag of chips. “Yes, besides, Bakugou has the third highest grade average in the class, remember?” He was sitting comfortably in fifth place in the class, while Kirishima, who was now thumbing through his phone and nodding randomly, was fifteenth.

  “Oh yeah, guess your delinquent act made me forget all about that.” Shinsou grinned, he himself being in the fourth position in the race for good grades.

  “I’m not a fucking delinquent.” His mind flashed to what he imagined a delinquent to be, and the image was far too familiar for his tastes. He shook the laughing green eyes from his mind, crossing his arms and muttering, “I’m not a delinquent.”

  “Sounds like there's a story there, bro!” Kirishima looked up from his phone with curiosity in his eyes, but his mood dimmed when he saw the conflicted expression on Bakugou’s face. “Did you know a delinquent? What happened man?”

  Bakugou scowled, clenching his fists. “Nothing, it’s nothing, dammit.” The explosive teen shook his head, rattled by the ghost of his past. Hell, he didn’t even know where Deku was anymore, his mother just said that he was out of town, or working, or that he was following the path he had chosen. He didn’t like not knowing what had happened to him. “There’s no story to tell.”

  “You knew someone who we reminded you of with our conversation.” From across the table, Todoroki stared levelly, heterochromatic eyes narrowed in thought. “I’m sorry if we dredged up uncomfortable memories.”

  With a shrug, Bakugou decided to let them know something, not the entire story, but enough to know something important about him. “Well, it’s not an uncomfortable memory so much as my own failing.” He frowned, smoke rising from his clenched fists. “Deku, Midoriya is the reason I’m not an unrepentant bastard.” He scoffed humorlessly, releasing the tight fists he had been holding.

  Shinsou leaned forward in his seat, curiosity piquing his interest and cutting through his aloof act. “What did they do?”

  Bakugou laughed, smiling for the first time since this conversation had begun. “He kicked the absolute shit out of me almost every week for eight months straight.”

  Across the table, the jaws of everyone listening dropped in shock. Someone had been able to fight Bakugou and win for eight months straight. It was just inconceivable.

  With a snort at the expressions his unwanted guests were wearing, Bakugou nodded. “Believe it.” He uncrossed his arms, relaxing finally. “Before that all started I was on the track to being a hero still, but I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons. I was angry all the time because I thought I was better than everyone else. I treated him like garbage and he just...” He frowned down at the wood grain in the table, remembering the horrible things he had said to people, the things he had done and gotten away with just because he had a strong quirk. “But Deku, he set me straight. By kicking my ass to the fucking floor every time I tried to start something.”

  He looked up from the table, worry on his face. “You won’t tell anyone this, will you?”

  “Spreading secrets is unmanly.” Kirishima nodded, wiping away the traces of tears from his eyes. That little glimpse into his friends' life had gotten to him and he wasn’t afraid to admit it.

  “Heh,” Shinsou laughed quietly. “Secrets are meant to be kept, right?”

  With a slight smile, Todoroki nodded in agreement. “You understand how I feel about secrets.”

  “Thanks.” Bakugou slumped down in his seat in relief, feeling as if a pressure had been lifted from his chest. “There’s more to that story, but I don’t know if I can talk about it.” He shook his head, the action acting as a dismissal of the topic.

  Shinsou read the action for what it was, immediately changing the topic. “Hey, what do you think about the training camp that’s coming up?”

  With a small frown, Kirishima picked up on the topic change energetically. “Well, aside from the fact that I’m in remedial lessons, I think it’ll be fun!” He grinned, “but I’m gonna do my best!”

  “We’re going to be working with the other class, though. Aren’t we?”

  Dramatically rolling his eyes, Shinsou said the words that were on everyone’s mind at the thought of working with 1-B. “Ugh, Monoma.”

  “Tch.” Bakugou shook his head in irritation, “what is that guy's problem?”

  “Who knows.” Kirishima glanced down at his phone, perking up when he saw what was trending. “Hey, turn on the news, there’s been a vigilante sighting in Hosu!” Those vigilantes were so damn manly with the way they didn’t care for the attention of the mass media and only wanted to do good for the sake of good.

  “Hmm, alright.” Bakugou picked up the remote from the table, clicking on the TV and changing the channels until he found one playing shaky cellphone footage from the most recent fight. He hadn’t looked into the vigilante trio much, but those two looked familiar, he could swear he’s seen them somewhere before.

  Todoroki raised his eyebrows in curiosity, “the Terrible Three are still in Hosu?” He thought that they would have moved on by now, followed the crime back to its root.

  “Holy shit, the cops are there!” Shinsous’ cursing caught the attention of the others, and they all shifted in their seats to get a better look at the footage as the situation escalated.

  The four watched on in shock as All Might arrived and then fought with the vigilante team. At the final blow, Bakugou leaped up from his seat, the chair skidding backward from the force of his movement. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Deku, quirkless, go-nowhere Deku, was Target. He was a vigilante. He was a murderer. But above all else, these people all called him a hero.

   Bakugou glanced around the room, he couldn’t tell them that he knew Deku, he couldn’t deal with that. He wasn’t even sure what it was that he was feeling right now. His hands were shaking, but was it from fear? Frustration? Anger? He just didn’t know. He didn’t know what he was supposed to feel.

  He shook his head, swallowing his emotions down, “that son of a bitch.”

  It looked like he had never known anything about anything in the first place. 

 

*** * ***

 

“Fuck, that’s the vigilante leader?”

“Far as we know, yeah.”

“Son of a bitch, this’ll be easier than we thought.”

“Can’t believe he’s the reason we’ve been under so much scrutiny.”

“Yeah, I can’t wait to teach them a lesson.”

“Now Nakano, we need to make it look like an accident remember?”

“Oh, I remember Kobo. This prick’s been a thorn in the side of the law for months.”

“Don’t do too much damage now, he still needs to be conscious once you're done with him.”

“Don’t worry, he’ll live through it.”

  Izuku all but jolted back out of unconsciousness, panic overlaying his emotions. Everything is cloudy with dulled pain and confusion, and from behind his eyelids, Izuku can tell the room he’s in is bright. He tugged on the cuffs locking his arms behind his back experimentally, trying to keep his movements to a minimum. There was no telling what was going to happen now, and Izuku wasn’t going to press his luck with this. Izuku kept his breathing even, trying to take stock of his injuries. Broken ribs and a few bruises. Better than he could have hoped for in a fight against All Might.

  As far as he could feel, his ribs were wrapped and he wasn’t wearing the shirt he had come in with. And they had emptied the pockets of his jeans, but he could feel the lockpick set in his boxers and the folding knife he had in his sock was still there. Not that either of those would do him any good like this. But it was good to know that he still had them. Just in case.

  “Oi, we know you’re awake!”

  There was a loud slam and someone kicked the chair he was cuffed to, shoving it across the floor a few inches. Izuku blearily opened his eyes, squinting in the harsh light from the lamp on the table. He took in his surroundings, an interrogation room with two unfamiliar cops. Not detectives, just uniformed officers with expressions that spoke volumes to how screwed he was. He glanced at their badges, noting that they didn’t have their names on them.

  He had a bad feeling about this.

  The closest officer scowled and dropped a thick folder onto the table, opening it to the first page. “This is a full confession to the crimes you’ve committed.” They slammed a pen down onto the paper, uncapping it with clawed hands. “You’re going to sign it.”

  Izuku snorted, this was just what he needed right now. This was some serious fucking bullshit if they thought he was going to just take the fall for everything without fighting back they had another thing coming. Besides, he wasn’t going to sign unless he knew what had happened to Himiko and Dabi. “Fuck you, I’m not signing anything.”

  The other officer sneered, exposing razor fangs. “You’ll sign this eventually. That’s a promise.” They turned the pages past those of the confession until images of Izuku’s weapons and gear staring back up at him. “So, Midoriya Izuku. Age fourteen, and two prior arrests.” They shared a look with their partner, nodding subtly. ”Where did you get your support gear?”

  “Your mother.”

  His head snapped back from the force of the hit, and he felt the sweet metallic tang blood fill his mouth. Izuku straightened back up, rolling his head forward and cracking his neck before he spat the mouthful of blood onto the tabletop. “Was that it? That all you got?” He glared up a the officer with the claws, their knuckles reddened from the hit to his jaw.

  “Dammit, this isn’t how we were gonna play this out!” The fanged cop dragged their partner back, pulling them to converse in the corner, voices hushed. Izuku tried to listen in, but his head was still fuzzy from just coming out of unconsciousness and he lost focus halfway in. He wiped his chin on his shoulder, smearing the blood that was there across the clean fabric. His eyes flicked down to the folder on the table and he looked over the photographs of his equipment, he blanched when he saw things that were being kept in the apartment. Frustration cut through the fog on his brain as his jaw worked furiously. They had gone through his things, hell, they even had the damn coffee pot photographed!

  Fingers snapped in front of his face, and Izuku glared up at the officer with the fangs. “Hey, you gonna sign that confession if we uncuff you, or do we have to make you do it?”

  “Please say you aren’t gonna do it.” The officer cracked their knuckles, claws flashing in the bright light as Izuku’s stomach dropped. So they were just jumping straight to the beatdown then. Lovely.

  Izuku bared his blood-stained teeth and snarled out his words. “Fuck. You.”

  Another hit, this time to the already cracked ribs, and Izuku’s vision went white, pain becoming his entire state of being as he unconsciously tried to curl around himself. The cuffs kept him from moving too far, and the hand grabbing at his hair wasn’t exactly helping. A low voice growled in his ear, whispering words about signing the confession that Izuku could only interpret as nonsense. He didn’t care what was said, he wasn’t signing that confession until he knew what had happened to his friends.

  With enough force to send the chair he was cuffed in to the floor, the clawed officer slammed their fist into his face once again, and Izuku hit the floor, further irritating his re-injured ribs. As Izuku sat there in a daze on the floor, the door to the interrogation room blew open, slamming into the wall so hard it dented.

  “What in the name of god is going on in here!?”

  Izuku looked up through the blood, catching a glimpse of a tan coat and two pairs of shoes and not much else before his eyes shut once again.

  “Uh, sir, well…”

  “The confession, he wouldn’t…”

  Someone lifted the chair back up, and Izuku cast his gaze forward, eyes focussing on his saviors. A pair of familiar faces in the middle of this mess. Izuku gritted his teeth through the pain, glaring up at the detective who had been the one to deal with him the last two times. “You here to join in on beating down the quirkless kid?” He spat another mouthful of blood onto the table, recoiling in horror when he saw one of his teeth in the red puddle.

  Detective Tsukauchi stepped forward, glancing to Officer Tamakawa Sansa who had lifted the chair Izuku was still cuffed to off of the floor. The detective studied the new injuries on Izuku’s face, not looking forward to hearing about what had caused them. “What happened in here, Midoriya?”

  The officer with the fangs looked up in surprise, not expecting the turning of the tide. “You’re going to believe him?”

  “He’s got two priors, you can’t trust him!” Claws flashing, the other officer slammed their fist onto the bloody table, knuckles red.

  “The two of you shut the hell up, what in the hell were you doing? No, don’t answer that, you’re both going to the chief's office right now and I will have your badges for this.” Detective Tsukauchi shook his head, wearing a combination of shock, anger, and disbelief on his face. “Tamakawa, get them out of here.”

  The cat-headed officer nodded, yellow lamp eyes glaring at the two uniformed officers, following them out the door as his ears flicked back in irritation.

  “Midoriya?” Naomasa leaned over the bloody teen, worried when he didn’t get an answer. “Midoriya, can you hear me?”

  “...’m fine.” Izuku breathed through the pain, trying to keep himself from succumbing to it. He had to know what had happened. Too busy trying to focus, he missed the next question he was asked, missed the question and the sound of his re-cracked ribs grating against one another.

  “Hey, kid!” When he didn’t get a response, Naomasa stepped back, noticing for the first time the blossoming bloodstain across the teenagers' side and their blank gaze. “Shit.” He ran out the door of the interrogation room, “we need a doctor in here!”

  Izuku panted through the agony, feeling as it slowly got harder and harder to breathe. His vision swam, but he pushed through it, he needed to know that they were alright. He couldn’t give up, he had to be stronger than this. Sure, he knew his ribs were probably shattered now, but he wasn’t going to give in.

  He glanced up when he heard rushing footsteps approaching the door, but his mind couldn’t make the connection between the white coats and the pain in his chest. The moment the cuffs were unlocked from his wrists he jumped up, trying to make a break for it, but hands shoved him back down.

   Naomasa leaned down, trying to see if he was still conscious. “Midoriya! Look at me, this is doctor Sukyan, she’s going to help, alright?”

  Izuku nodded, gritting his teeth as he was moved onto the gurney and the doctor cut off the blood-soaked shirt to asses the damage.

  “Two cracked ribs, three completely broken and one’s open compound. Internal bleeding, a bruised lung, and liver.” They glanced up, shock on her face as she continued listing injuries. “Fractured jaw, missing upper left canine, multiple contusions and lacerations to the face...” She trailed off, looking back at the detective who had brought her in. “I’m going to have to report this to the chief.” She didn’t mention that the report would be on the public record and would probably be spread across the internet less than an hour after it was filed. And if it wasn’t she might be the one who would put it there. And she didn’t need to say that because the detective already knew. But that wasn’t important right now, using her quirk she slowly knit the broken blood vessels back together and let her patient fall back into unconsciousness from the drain on his energy.

  Once the teen had slumped back onto the gurney she stood up straight, turning to face detective Tsukauchi. “I can’t do much here, I’m going to have to take him down to the clinic to reset his ribs and try to get his tooth back in.”

  “Doctor Sukyan,” Naomasa paused, what he was about to ask wasn’t proper procedure, but it would be the right thing to do. Everything about this situation felt wrong, especially with what he had walked into. He had to try to do something right at the very least. “Doctor, once he’s there, the two others that were brought in with him need to be able to visit.”

  The doctor nodded, the two nurses pushing the gurney out the door. “See you soon then, detective.”

 

*** * ***

 

  Dabi paced in the small interrogation room, cuffed hands held up to his chest as he glanced to the one-way mirror periodically. He was worried, it had been almost two hours now since they had been arrested and nobody had tried to speak with him since then. He didn’t know where Himiko was either, and he wouldn’t admit this to himself, but he was terrified about what would happen next. This wasn’t how he wanted things to end, the three of them split up and separated like this.

  He stopped his pacing and stepped over to the one-way glass, glaring as he tapping on it angrily, rattling the reflective material in its frame. “Hey! If you’re out there then fucking talk to me already!” He slammed the flat of his hand against the glass, “hey! Fuck!”

  He turned back to the table that was bolted in the middle of the room and kicked it, not managing to shift it an inch. “Fuck this shit,” he muttered, slumping down into the closest of the chairs, leaning back and staring at the ceiling.

  The opening of the door pulled is attention from the ceiling, and he leveled his gaze onto the trenchcoated detective who had opened it. “I’m detective Tsukauchi, you need to come with me.”

  Dabi stood, glaring at the detective, “where are my friends?”

  From behind the detective bounced a familiar head of blonde hair and Himiko looked over to Dabi with wide eyes. “Dabi! You’re alright!” She waved, cuffed hands limiting her movement. “I was so worried.” Yellow eyes flicked to the detective then back to Dabi before she stepped forward and grabbed the other teen by the arm and pulled him out the door.

  “What’s going on?” Dabi fell into step beside Himiko, letting the detective lead. “What happened?” Is Izuku okay? Is what he wanted to ask, but he was scared to find out that something had happened to his friend.

  Himiko nodded, understanding the hidden meaning behind his words. The fact that Izuku wasn’t there meant something had happened, they both knew it. But not knowing was a dark presence that fell over their minds and needed to be cleared.

  “There was an incident,” Tsukauchi didn’t elaborate, letting the words hang in the tense quite as he leads the way to the stations' clinic. In all honesty, he only stayed quiet because he didn’t know what he was supposed to say now. He hadn’t ever run into a situation quite like this before in all of his years on the force. Sure there were sometimes altercations, but never unprovoked violence against a suspect in an attempt to force a false confession.

  This was going to reflect badly on the police force, and some of that blame would hit the heroes as well. But Naomasa couldn’t bring himself to feel bad about that, in a way he felt responsible for what had happened. He had been the one to deal with Midoriya the past two times, he should have done something to keep the kid from going off the rails like this. Maybe if he had reached out sometime before the kid wouldn’t be a killer and none of them would be in this mess.

  He stopped outside the door of the stations' clinic, taking a calming breath when he saw the worry on the faces of the teenagers turn into a thinly veiled panic. “As I said, there was an incident. But I didn’t tell you the details.” Naomasa opened the door as he spoke, “the doctor was able to repair the injuries, but the fact that was even injured changes things. After you see him we will take your statements and you will be put into protective custody to prevent another altercation.”

  Himiko and Dabi nodded, stepping through the door before freezing at the sight before them. Izuku was sitting shirtless in a hospital bed, one of his hands cuffed to the side with his ribs heavily bandaged and mottled bruises painted on his skin. “Oh, hey guys!” He grinned loopily, pointing to the IV drip in his arm. “They gave me the good drugs.” He waved, eyes widening in surprise when Dabi and Himiko launched themselves at him, climbing onto the bed and clinging to his side with cuffed hands. “Oh, energetic much?”

  “What happened?”

  “Are you alright?”

  The two continued firing questions at him too rapidly for him to answer or for him to even understand what was being said. Izuku laughed a little, wrapping his free arm around them and holding them close. “I’m all good, they even got my tooth back in!”

  Dabi whirled around to glare at detective Tsukauchi who had moved to the corner of the room in an attempt to give the trio some space while they reunited. “He got his fucking tooth knocked out?”

  Joining in on the glare, Himiko turned, “who did this?” If she found out who they were she would paint them red in an instant for hurting her friend like that.

  Naomasa raised a hand in acquiescence. “Officers Nakano and Kobo are no longer employed with the police department for their actions.”

  “Hmm.” Dabi nodded, turning back to Izuku. “Good.”

  Himiko buried her face back into Izuku’s chest, mindful of the wrapping around his ribs, and let herself relax for the first time since they had been brought into the station.

  Izuku looked over their heads, making eye contact with the detective still hiding in the corner. “Detective, what happens now?” When were they being locked up, and where?

  “Well, first we need to finalize the incident report and file the arrest warrants, then we can move on to the protective custody placement until arraignment.” They couldn’t be placed in the prisons, they had sent to many people there and made too many enemies. They would either get killed or would be ‘dissapeared’ out of there by people sympathetic to their cause. “And after that, your case will go to trial.”

  Izuku nodded, eyes narrowed. He knew they were going to be treated harshly by the justice system, he’d been making a mockery of them for months now after all. And as the only one with a prior criminal record, he was going to be put away for a long time, especially with the murder. He was probably going to get a life sentence, there was no way they would try to rehabilitate him. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to go down without a fight. He wouldn’t claim to be innocent, but he was going to work and twist the laws as hard as he could.

   He grinned sharply, sending a chill down the detective's spine. What mess was this going to turn into now?

 

*** * ***

 

  Midoriya Inko paced the small living room, glancing at the phone every so often as she waited for it to ring. After what she had seen on the news she knew it wouldn’t be long until the police called her, but she still couldn’t help but feel the anxiety that she did. She had known that her son would be taken in one day, but when she had seen that look of pure hate in his eyes it was as if her heart had broken.

  Heroes had let her son down and inspired him at the same time, but she hadn’t known just how much he had been hurting from it. To go so far as to throw gravel in the face of All Might, while hilarious and effective, he must have been hurting badly from carrying around that hatred.

  She turned to the phone, minutes ticking by as she continued to pace and stare, trying to tamp down on her emotions with no success. With a shaking hand, she wiped the tears away from her eyes. She would get through this, she had to.

  While she was drying her eyes, the phone rang, and she scrambled to reach it, answering before the first ring was finished. “Hello?”

“This is Detective Tsukauchi and I’m calling about Midoriya Izuku and his arrest.”

  Inko took a breath to collect herself, not ready for what she knew was coming. “This is his mother.”

“Three hours ago your son was taken into custody by the Hosu Police Department, and I’m calling to inform you that while in custody he sustained several injuries and will need to be placed into protective custody for his protection.” The line went quiet, the only sound that of turning pages. “I will have a cruiser sent to your location in the morning to bring you to see him.”

  Inko almost dropped the phone to the floor with how badly she was shaking, fresh tears making their way down her face. “Thank you for informing me, Detective.” Who had hurt her son? How had this even happened? “I’ll be here.”

  The line went dead, and Inko dropped down to the floor, not trying to hold back her tears. The only family she had, not just her son, her entire world was going to be taken from her and she didn’t know if she would be able to take that. She didn't know how she would make it without them.

 

*** * ***

 

  Inside the back of the police cruiser, Inko sat and observed the crowds as they drove. There were just so many people, all of them with a sign or a banner of some sort proclaiming their love for the Terrible Three and her son. She felt almost proud that her son could inspire so many people with his actions. But she kept the smile from her face as the cruiser rolled through the crowd and to the Hosu Police Station.

  The streets surrounding the police station are full of people with hoodies and signs, chants and rallying cries thundering off the concrete and echoing through the city as the sun shone above them. “Free the Three!” seemed to be the main one, most likely because of the rhyming. The leader of the group seemed to be a large man with a lizard quirk dressed in Terrible Three merchandise and carrying a sledgehammer and a megaphone which he used to rally people around him. Dozens of roads were blocked by the sheer amount of people marching through them, and the news has been covering the march for hours now. It’s all anyone online is talking about, and they’re gaining more supporters by the second. The entire country knows what’s happening, and more people are pouring into Hosu every hour.

  From the holding cell Izuku, Dabi, and Himiko can hear them shouting, the sound lifting up their downed spirits just a bit. Izuku glanced up to the barred window above his head, an idea forming in his head of how to rile the crowd up even more. He stood from his reclined position on the bottom bunk, rolling his shoulders and shaking out the cramped muscles. “Dabi, lift me to the window.”

  “Why not.” Dabi shrugged and stood, stepping to the window and bracing his feet, clasping his hands together to act as a makeshift step.

  Izuku stepped into Dabi’s hands, climbing his friend like a staircase, grabbing onto the metal bar of the window and hauling himself up to look out at the crowd. The moment he could be seen, the crowd raised its volume to deafening levels and Izuku shoved his free hand through the bars, raising two of his fingers in a ‘v’ for victory, prompting more shouting before dropping back down. “Thanks, Dabi.”

  “Mhh.” Dabi slumped back to his previous position on the opposite bunk, folding his arms over his chest and letting Himiko play with his hair.

  Himiko cracked a small smile, burying her fingers in Dabi’s hair once more. “You two are so weird.”

  "Yeah, you're right about that." Izuku kept quiet. He was nervous, his mom was apparently coming to see them, and he didn’t know how he was supposed to react. Or what he was supposed to say and do. Was she disappointed in him? The not knowing was starting to get to him and the anxiety from that was making him feel sick. He dropped back onto the bunk, staring at the ceiling and counting the cracks there.

  They had all given their statements yesterday, and there was enough evidence against them to find them guilty on all counts. And there was nothing that they could do about that, it was just a fact.

  The sound of multiple footsteps in the hallway caught his attention and the trio perked up, staring at the barred door in anticipation.

  “Izukuuu!”

  Izuku leaped up from his spot, rushing to the steel bars and pressing himself against them. “Mom?” He glanced behind her to Detective Tsukauchi before he turned back to his mother, reaching through the bars to grab her hand.

  Dabi sat up in surprise, “Midoriya-san?” He was almost surprised that she had actually come, but he shooed that thought away. Not every family was as dysfunctional as his own had been.

  “Hi, Midoriya-san!” Himiko waved excitedly, jumping up and bouncing over to the bars.

  “Oh, Izuku. I was so worried!” Inko wiped tears from her eyes and shook her head sadly. “I was worried about all of you so much.”

  “Mom, I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have…” Izuku went quiet, blinking the tears from his eyes as his mom patted his hair through the bars.

  “I’m not upset Izuku, I just wish you had been more careful.” She smiled gently through the tears, hugging her son the best she could through the steel separating them. “But I’m glad that you’re all alright.”

  Izuku sniffed, wiping his tears on the back of his hand. “I just got so angry and I blinded myself with my own emotions.” He shook his head, disappointed in himself.

  “Midoriya-san, I, well. Thank you for coming.” Himiko stepped up and joined in on the hug, holding tight to the family she had made for herself before grabbing Dabi’s hand and dragging him into it as well. “You’re more of a mom to me than my own ever was.” She buried her face into the embrace, not letting anyone see her cry.

  “Himiko, you’re family too,” Inko turned slightly, “and you too Dabi.”

  Dabi looked up, blue eyes bright with tears before he nodded and hid his face in Izuku’s hair before mumbling quietly, “thank you.”

  “I hate to break up a family moment like this, but I have something to talk to you three about.”

  All four of them turned as one, looking for the source of the high pitched voice, eyes locking on a trio odder than they had ever seen before, a dark-haired man that looked like he had never slept a day in his life, a skeletal blond that Izuku recognized as All Might, and a large rodent of some sort. “Am I a mouse, or a dog or a bear? None of that matters! I’m Principal Nedzu of UA, and I have a proposition for you.”

Chapter Text

 “You’re not a dog, or a mouse, or a bear.” Izuku looked the principal over a few times, noting their ear shape, fur density, tail length, and slowly connecting the dots on the animal with a quirk. A rarity, but not unheard of. Izuku raised his eyebrows, coming to his conclusion. “You’re a rat. Furred tail, eye color, and size, ear shape, opposable thumbs, it all points to rat. Most likely a laboratory spec- mph!”

 Dabi slapped his hand over Izuku’s mouth, pulling him close to him to preventing him from making any sounds other than muffed mutterings. He didn't want to offend their ticket out of jail. “Sorry about him, he’s an asshole.” He kept his hand over Izuku’s mouth, grinning winningly at the rodent who was giving them an option other than rotting in prison. “You said you have a proposition for us?”

 Nedzu nodded, the motion strange to see on an animal, and gestured towards the exhausted looking man with dark hair. “As you know, UA has come under attack by the League of Villains multiple times and with their most recent appearance in Hosu-

 Izuku pulled Dabi’s hand away from his mouth, letting his friends arm rest on his shoulder as he interrupted the principal, “actually, it was in the Kiyashi Ward Shopping Mall.” He frowned, remembering that encounter with the villain. “It was just Shigaraki, but he was still there after Hosu.”

 The principal narrowed their eyes, an odd spark glinting in the deep black, and Izuku felt as if he had passed some sort of test he hadn’t even known that he was taking. “As I was saying, the students of the hero courses have become targets of the League, and it was brought to my attention by Aizawa that you three have had run-ins with them before.”

 “What, you want us to be the advance guard for a bunch of high schoolers?” Izuku laughed harshly then grimaced, grabbing at his still healing ribs. “Oof. Whoever said laughter is the best medicine never had a broken rib.”

 “Heh.” The dark haired man grinned slightly from behind his hair, stepping out from behind Nedzu. “And yes, that’s exactly what we want you to do. You’re going to be the guard for my students, unless that’s a problem?” His grin only widened, the expression the true essence of terrifying, showing too many teeth. Izuku had the impression of a predator hunting a wounded beast, and he had no intention of being his prey.

 Nedzu gestured grandly, mania gleaming in his beady black eyes. “You will be watched over by the teachers and the pro-hero team who will meet you at your destination. This will serve as both your protective custody and one of the aspects of your rehabilitation.”

 Izuku glanced over at his mother, who nodded almost imperceptibly from where she stood beside detective Tsukauchi before she was lead back out of the hall, setting up her own protection. Izuku sighed once she was gone, running a hand through his tangled hair. “Alright, I’m in, I guess. Dabi, Himiko? Any concerns?” If his mother thought this was a good idea he was going to go for it and make it work. And it would be good to get out of the city for a while, at least until the media frenzy cooled down.

 Dabi shrugged, putting back up his apathetic charade in front of the strangers. “I go where you go, Zuzu.” He patted Izuku’s shoulder, letting his hand rest there gently.

 “You two… at least figure out how this is supposed to work before agreeing!” Himiko rolled her eyes in exasperation at the two idiots she called friends. She sighed, narrowing her eyes once she turned to the rodent who had made the tantalizing offer. “You said this would be part of our protective custody, but after this training camp where’s the permanent location going to be?”

 Nedzu bounced in his shoes, “why, UA of course!”

 “Tch.” Izuku’s lip twisted into a sneer, he didn’t exactly like the sound of that. “Excuse me? Are you insane?” UA. The most illustrious hero academy. He really shouldn’t have agreed to this so quickly. Was it too late to just ask to stay in jail? They weren’t going to have to go to school, were they?

 Himiko nodded, “yeah, what he said.” While she didn’t want to stay in jail, she understood that this would just be trading one prison for another. And staying at UA of all places… But they did have a great academic program, maybe she could transfer her credits over.

 Compared to the others, Dabi just stayed quiet, the only thing he thought of was that he might run into his brother. How was he even supposed to speak to him? Hey, it’s your brother, you know, the one our father said was dead? Haha, life’s funny, right? So how are things? That would never work out.

 All three of them had their own personal reasons to be uncomfortable with the idea of spending their days surrounded by heroes, but they all could agree that it was unexpected. Why did they even want them there? Other than the fact that they knew who was in the league, they had no other value.

 Suddenly, it clicked into place in Izuku’s mind. They did have a value to the heroes.

 Public opinion.

 “Heh.” Izuku laughed, doubling over and descending into uncontrollable giggles mixed with gasps of pain. He straightened back up, one hand pressed to his ribs. “You just want us to get the public back on your side! You don’t care about rehabilitating vigilantes, or our protective custody, or anything like that, you just want the fucking marching to stop.” He made a mental note to thank Spinner next time he saw the lizard, those protests he had been leading outside the precinct had really worked in their favor. And in less than thirty-six hours, too.

 The dark-haired man, Aizawa, shrugged unenthusiastically. “It’s the only logical response that would appease them.” He honestly couldn’t bring himself to care about the vigilantes, but the public all but worshiped the ground they walked on and had been screaming for them to be released ever since they had been arrested the day before. “The public attitude towards the heroics industry has… shifted in the past month.”

 “Hmp. And the fact that I got the shit kicked outta me by the police had you guys all up in a panic, huh? Can’t put us in prison because we might disappear or maybe die.” Izuku grinned, the expression all teeth and aggression. He spat the next sentence, the words laced with deadly sarcasm. “What’s next? Press conferences and PR stunts? Are we going to have to go on the talk show circuit?” If he had to do interviews, he would tell them every damn dirty detail about how his hero had shot down the dreams of a child. He wouldn’t hesitate to tear down the hero industry on live television. He all but growled as he waited for an answer, eyes narrowed.

 The rodentine principal smiled sadistically, sending chills down the spines of the vigilantes. “If it comes down to it.” And it would come down to it, he would make sure of that. So he loved seeing humans suffer, it was just who he was.

 “Oh.” Dabi unconsciously stepped closer to Izuku, as if his friend could protect him from the threat of the media. Putting up random videos of their exploits on the HeroView account was fine, but actual interviews… that thought was terrifying.

 Himiko leaned against the steel bars of the cell, yellow eyes staring ahead blankly before she snapped her focus to the hero course teacher. “Which heroes are going to be keeping us in line?”

 Aizawa shrugged apathetically, wishing he didn’t have to deal with any of this nonsense. But it was too late for him to back out now. “There’s me, Vlad King, and the hero team the Pussycats.”

 Himiko smiled, the expression lighting up her face at the mention of the Blood Hero. “Oh, Vlad King is so cool!” She really was a fan of the hero, ever since Izuku had told her about how he used his blood to do hero work she had begun to accept her own quirk.

 Ignoring Himiko’s giddy expression and Izukus’ continued low growling, Dabi chimed in with a question of his own. “Will we get our gear back once we’re there?”

 Aizawa blinked slowly, taking his time to answer. “You will get your costumes-

 Izuku interrupted the hero, his tone harsh and words clipped as he raised up one finger, mimicking the gesture of his gears supplier. “ Uniforms . Not costumes, never costumes.”

 The hero shrugged once more, he himself didn’t care about the terminology, but the vigilante obviously felt strongly about it. “You will get your uniforms once you’re released into our custody, and your weapons will be returned to you once we reach the training camp location.”

 “Hmp.” Dabi nodded, satisfied with his answer.

 “Sounds good to me.” Himiko crossed her arms over her chest, anticipation for their release filling her gaze.

 “Yeah, looks like this is a done deal. However,” Izuku smirked, his eyes dark. “I have one more question.” He turned the edge of his knife sharp grin to the skeletal form of All Might, the hero still standing a ways behind the principal and Aizawa. His grin grew more deadly when he saw the hero shrink in on himself under the weight of the expression. “What’s he doing here?” His words were laced with toxic venom, nobody on his side knowing what he meant by it, and those on the other side only knew part of the story.

 “Um, well, I…” The hero went quiet, a pained look on his face. “I was hoping to speak to you, privately if I could.” He kept his shadowed eyes fixed to the floor, keeping his warring emotions from breaking to the surface. He felt so guilty about so much, and in a way, he felt responsible for the direction the kids' life had taken.

 Izuku raised his eyebrows skeptically, unsure if he even wanted to speak to the hero who had shattered his dreams yet at the same time inspired his reign of terror. “Really.” He scoffed, rolling his eyes. “And you thought I would just agree to that?” He shrugged, he didn’t really have anything to lose, did he? “Alright, I’ll play along, but on one condition.” Izuku leaned against the steel bars, forcing an air of casual disinterest.

 Aizawa held up a hand, preventing the other hero from responding as he eyed the vigilante with suspicion. “And what would that be?”

 “I know his poorly kept secret, so it’s only fair that I get something out of this. Make this whole thing easier in the long run.” He grinned, enjoying the discomfort that fell over the three UA staff members. Izuku knew the secret of All Mights injury was actually quite closely guarded, but if he could exploit the knowledge he had about that secret to get something for himself out of this deal, he would use it no question. And honestly, he didn’t need to deal with more secrets. “A team that trusts, triumphs, or something like that. So sure, we can have our chat.”

 Dabi squeezed Izuku's’ shoulder gently, concerned for his friend. “Zuzu, you got some repressed rage going on buddy?”

 “My rage isn’t repressed, it’s accepted wholeheartedly,” Izuku quipped, keeping his dark glare leveled on the hero before him. “Besides, I hate keeping secrets. So, what’s it gonna be?”

 The blonde nodded, waving away the protests of the others as he stepped up, wiping a trickle of blood that dripped from his lip. “What do you want, young Midoriya?”

 Izukus’ expression went dark and he dropped his aloof act, his words serious for the first time since this conversation had started. He rested his forehead against the steel bars, letting the words spill out. “I just want one thing. Promise me that if this all goes wrong, they won’t get blamed for any of this. If this whole thing fails, I want to be the only one to take the fall.”

 “What?”

 “Izuku, no.”   

 Izuku ignored his friends' protests, “can you do that for me?” He ignored the desperate pleading tone that his voice had taken, his words cracking and breaking like glass as he spoke them. “Please, promise that you will do this for me.”

 “I… alright.” Toshinori nodded once more, the teens' words sending his already troubled mind into a wild frenzy. He had thought that the self-sacrificing quirkless boy that had asked if he could be a hero had changed to something dark and twisted, but now it was obvious that he had been wrong. That heroic potential was still there, just different now. More nuanced and realistic.

 “Good.” The cell door clanked open and he stepped out, turning back to Dabi and Himiko with wet eyes. “I’ll be back in a little bit, don’t worry about me.”

 Dabi sighed, dragging a hand through his hair. “I always worry about you, Zuzu.”

 “Yeah, you’re our family,” Himiko nodded, sitting back down on the bunk and watching as Izuku headed down the hall. “Come back soon, 'kay?”

  Izuku smiled weakly, “I’ll always come back.”

 

*** * ***

 

 “So, what did you want to talk about, All Might?” Izuku kicked his feet onto the table, drying the last of the tears from his eyes while leaning his chair back onto its hind legs. He put on an air of disinterest, trying to put back up his emotional walls after that moment of vulnerability. “What can I do for the number one hero?”

 “You didn’t tell them about my injury?” Toshinori sat on the opposite side of the table, folding his hands.

 “Tch.” Izuku rolled his eyes and shook his head in disappointment, “don’t insult me, I’m good at keeping secrets.” He tilted his head back, staring at the ceiling as he mulled something over. “Then again, Dabi might figure it out on his own. I bounced ideas off him when I noticed the pattern in your public appearances change. Dabi might not act like it, but he’s a smart guy.”

 “Oh.” Toshinori nodded in understanding, it had been a while since he had had friends that he was that close with, close enough that he could speak freely about just about anything. “Thank you, Midoriya.” He glanced down at his clasped hands, trying to find the words to fit his needs.

 Izuku interrupted his internal musings by letting the front legs of the chair slam back onto the floor, the sound bouncing off the walls of the interrogation room. Honestly, Izuku was starting to get sick of interrogation rooms, and that wasn't a problem he had ever seen himself having. “So, do you have a regular name I should call you? Because if I’m right in my theory and I almost always am, you don’t have much time left as a hero, do you?” If he had tracked things correctly, All Might had less than an hour a day now.

 “You’re right.” Toshinori bowed his head slightly, hating that he was growing weaker by the day. “I suppose you can start calling me Yagi Toshinori.”

 “Huh.” Oddly normal for the name of a hero, but then again, Izuku didn't have any room to talk. Izuku shrugged, “alright then, Yagi-san, what did you need to talk to me about?”

 “I wanted to apologize.”

 “Hmm. For breaking my ribs or for crushing my dreams?” Izuku deadpanned to the ceiling, fighting to keep a smile from breaking over his face. He was having a little bit of fun now, messing with the heroes head.

 “For…” Toshinori coughed blood into his hand, patting down his pockets with the other in search of tissues. “For both, I was careless both times we met, and if things had gone differently-

 The vigilante interrupted him with a sneer, “if things had gone differently, like say, if you had told me I could be a hero, I’d probably be delusional. You know, thinking I could stab people in the eye and still be called a hero.” Izuku shrugged once more, still staring at the ceiling. “But then again, people still want to call me that, but at least I don’t agree with them.”

 “I’m sorry that things came to this.”

 “Don’t be sorry, I don’t want your empty apologies. I’m living my life on my own terms, and I’m fucking loving it.” He cracked his knuckles, stretching his arms over his head and frowning at the popping sounds in his shoulders. “Then again, I am a two-time murderer, so I’m not sure how much weight my words carry.”

 “Two time?” Toshinori knew what had happened with the Hero Killer, but he hadn’t heard about there being a second killing. He had been too afraid to read the boys criminal record, scared of what he might have influenced. He cast his gaze down to the tabletop, “who was the second,” he asked hesitantly, unsure if he was crossing a line.

 Before he could stop himself Izuku admitted, “Stain was the second. I never knew the name of the first.” And he had never tried to find out, the guilt and shame of his first kill preventing him from seeking the truth.

 Toshinori looked up from the table in surprise, taking the chance he was being given to understand the teen in front of him. “What happened, if you don’t mind me asking.”

 “It was before we relocated to Hosu, months before Dabi managed to get a solid lead on the Hero Killer.” Izuku kept his gaze focused on the ceiling, forcing through the heavy emotions that clouded the subject of his first kill. “We were going after a gang that was trying to replicate Trigger, but the shit that they were producing was horrifyingly addictive. And the police didn’t give a shit, the industrial district wasn’t their problem.” He sighed, closing his eyes and reliving the bloody scene that still visited him in his nightmares. “We had taken down the entire crew, but one of them got back up. She was going to go after Himiko, and I just reacted.”

 Toshinori wasn’t sure what he had expected, but it wasn’t this. The guilt and shame were almost tangible, and the regret in the boys' voice was heart-wrenching. To become a killer at fifteen, it was unimaginable the circumstances that would create that.

 Izuku dropped his chair back to all four legs, swinging his feet off the table. He leveled his gaze onto the hero across from him. “This little chat changes nothing, I still don’t like you, not as All Might, and not really in general either. I wouldn’t say that I despise you, but it’s damn close to it.” He narrowed his eyes, searching for the words to explain how he felt before deciding to just not explain himself. He didn’t owe anyone an explanation for anything, especially not for his feelings. And he had had over a year for those feelings to fester in his mind, he wasn’t going to let them out anytime soon or there would be no taking them back.

 “Oh.” The fading hero hadn’t expected to be told that he was hated by a teenager, but when he thought about their encounters, he understood the sentiment. He hadn’t made a very good first impression, hadn’t acted the way a hero should. And then he had broken the boys' ribs. And that was filmed, so nobody would ever forget. “I understand. And thank you for listening. I wish things could have been different.”

 “Whatever.” Izuku stood, jamming his hands deep into the pockets of his jeans, his shoulders hunched as he left the room, an officer outside the door waiting to escort him back to the cell. “You might wish things were different, but I don’t.”

 

*** * ***

 

 “You know All Might, had that boy done things just a little differently, he could have been your successor.” Nedzu watched as the hero coughed up blood at his words, confusion painted across his face. “But a simple thing such as making friends changed everything. The right people in the wrong places.”

 “He could have been...?” Toshinori couldn’t imagine what that boy would be like as a wielder of One for All. He had seen them fight, and he was almost savage in his violence. But effective. The hero sighed, not wanting to entertain those thoughts for any longer than he already had. “But he’s not, it’s pointless to think about what might have been.”

 “But it’s so very interesting to think about how things could have been different.” The principal had a thoughtful expression on his pointed face, “are you going to introduce the three of them to your protege?”

 Toshinori shook his head, blond bangs falling over his eyes. “If I don’t have to I won’t.”

 Nedzu nodded, knowing that it would be necessary in the end. There were a lot of things that they didn’t want to do that would be necessary. “I guess we’ll see what happens when it happens.”

 The principal and the hero walked back to the lobby of the police station, meeting up with Aizawa as the three of them waited for the vigilantes to be surrendered into their custody. Once that was done they would make a stop at UA then be on their way to the training camp. Aizawa wasn’t exactly looking forward to this, but he would still go along with the principals' plans.

 “So that was Target and the Terrible Three?” Aizawa didn’t see how that angry teen was the one behind the vigilantes' bandana and the leader of the team. Target was efficient, intelligent and powerful, but that quirkless boy in the cell was just angry. Angry, snarky, and desperate to protect others. So maybe Aizawa could see how Midoriya and Target were one in the same. But that didn’t mean he had to like it. “Why are we taking them in?”

 They just seemed so different from who they were when in costume, but at the same time, they didn’t change at all. Reckless, sarcastic, impulsive, but calculating and thoughtful. Just a bundle of contradictions in every teen. And wasn't that just a typical aspect of teenagers, and he wasn't even being paid to deal with these ones. He already had twenty of them to keep in line, and adding these three would be like throwing a lit match into a barrel of gunpowder.

 Nedzu gestured widely, small paws attempting to convey the ideas he was dealing with. “That boy might not look like much, but he has potential. The world of heroics is changing, and that boy and his friends could lead the future of the industry or destroy it entirely.”

  The three teachers watched as the trio of vigilantes were lead into the lobby, still joking around with each other while in handcuffs. They were going to be heroes whether they wanted to be or not.

 

*** * ***

 

  “We need to talk to the lizard.” Izuku gestured with his cuffed hands as they left the lobby of the precinct, pointing towards the milling protesters outside the door.

  Aizawa blinked, not understanding the words that had just been said. “What.” He held the door open as they stepped outside, shaking his head in confusion, dark hair falling over his eyes and hiding his expression.

  Himiko bounced on the balls of her feet, jumping in circles around Izuku. “The lizard!”

  “Yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve seen the lizard,” Dabi added, scanning the crowd for green scales. It had been almost a month now, and it was weird to not see their number one fanboy on an almost weekly basis.

  Thankful that his hair hid his confusion, Aizawa asked, “who are you talking about?” He wasn’t sure if he even wanted to know, but these kids were impossible to understand. He already regretted agreeing to this venture. He regretted a lot of things.

  “The lizard!” The team shouted in unison, all of the pointing towards a single figure in the crowd. A figure holding a bullhorn and leading a chant.

  “Target? Dabi? Vamp?” Spinner turned when he heard the nickname he had been saddled with, pink eyes widening in surprise when he saw the Terrible Three pointing at him. He jumped the police barricade and ran forward, not seeing the look of pure frustration that was being sent his way by the hero escorting the vigilantes. “You guys are getting out?”

  Izuku nodded, raising his cuffed hands high with a v for victory. “You did it, buddy! Your protests worked!” He smiled up at the scaled man, watching as their expression shifted to one of delight under the praise.

  “They, they did!?” Spinner grinned widely, the only thing that was keeping him from clapping with glee was the megaphone he was still holding. But that didn’t stop him from flinging his arms around the trio, pulling them in for a slightly cold hug. “I’m so glad!”

  “Oof, careful lizard!” Dabi pulled back slightly, trying to avoid getting a megaphone to the face. “We don’t all have scales.”

  Himiko grinned up at Spinner, “have you been polishing your scales lately, they look good!” She watched as he somehow blushed, the scales on his cheeks darkening in color.

  Spinner ran one of his hands over his hair awkwardly, “no, I just shed recently.”

  Izuku laughed under his breath, Spinner was a good fan, but he was just so awkward. “Hey, you got your phone on you?” He ignored the protests of the hero who was trying to wrangle them back in and ignored the shouting of the crowd beyond the barrier.

  “Yeah, why?” Spinner tucked his megaphone under his arm and pulled out a smartphone with a scratched case and cracked screen, holding it out to Izuku.

  “Let’s get one more photo in, then you put it online and spread the news that we’re back on the streets.” He flashed him a thumbs up, pulling Dabi and Himiko in for the picture. “Get on in here, Spinner.” Izuku adjusted the angle of the phone once Spinner was in position, making sure that the precinct and the protesters were both in the shot. “Everyone say, ‘No Heroes!’”

  “No heroes!” The four grinned at the phone, Izuku throwing up a victory symbol, and Dabi flipping the bird while Himiko used both her hands to make finger guns.

  Spinner took a few shots, making sure he had the lighting perfect. “Thanks! I’ll put these online right now!” He tapped through the apps on his phone, bouncing in place slightly as he uploaded the pictures to his Twitter, captioning them with ‘#theThreeareFree’ and ‘#TargetandtheTerribleThree.’ He might not be the most original, but he had enough followers that it didn’t really matter. The lizard shoved his phone back into the pocket of his hoodie, grabbing the megaphone once more. “What now?”

  Izuku shrugged, “now you go and lead your people.” He gestured towards the crowd and the crowd looked back expectantly. But they weren’t searching for answers from the vigilantes, the crowd wanted answers from its leader. “Keep doing what you’re doing here and find a cause you believe in. Because we all believe in you.” Izuku smiled softly, watching as understanding dawned on Spinner's face.

  Spinner nodded excitedly, “I’ll do my best!” He ran back and jumped the police barricade, directing the crowd with the megaphone in his hands.

  “I know you will, lizard.” Izuku turned back to the waiting hero, finally ready to leave Hosu now that he no longer had unfinished business. But this wouldn’t be the last time he would be in the city, but until then, he and his team had a job to do.

Chapter Text

 The moment the handcuffs were unlocked, Izuku rubbed at his irritated wrists in minor dissatisfaction, running his fingers over the red markings left behind from the metal that had rested there for the past forty hours. “Thanks,” he said dispassionately, combing his fingers through his tangled hair. He couldn’t wait to take the longest shower of all time and scrub off the smell of police station, hospital and jail cell. He kept a wary eye on the tired looking hero who had escorted them onto the school grounds, not blinking as they unlocked the cuffs on his friends. Izuku was sure he had seen them before, but he wasn’t sure where.

 Once the three of them were free from their restraints, Aizawa lead them through the gates of the school and to the main office. Apparently, even though they weren’t going to be going outside without being heavily supervised and guarded, they still needed school ids. Izuku thought it was idiotic, and the entire time they were walking he made sure to reiterate that point as many times as he could, annoying Aizawa, Dabi, Himiko, and even himself.

 “Oh my god.” Dabi pressed his fingers to his temples, trying to keep himself from doing something violent to his friend. “Zuzu, shut your fucking face before I shut it for you!”

 Izuku shrugged, continuing to push the subject further, well aware of the potential danger to his shins and knees. “I’m just saying-

 Dabi glared, kicking at Izuku’s foot. “Well, just quit saying!”

 “I just think it’s stupid!” Izuku jumped back avoiding Dabi’s kicks with a surprising amount of dexterity and grace.

 “You're stupid,” Dabi countered, trying to keep the glare on his face from falling into pieces from the force of the laughter he was holding back.

  Seeing that the hero who was escorting them was doing nothing, Himiko stopped, turning to glare at the two, who immediately fell silent and shrunk back under the power of her stare. “If the two of you don’t shut up, I’m going to kill you both, and nobody will blame me. And they will never find the bodies.” Aizawa glanced at the blonde with an almost impressed look before heading into the main office and missing the next events.

 Izuku rolled his eyes dramatically, quickly recovering from his moment of terror. “Himiko, if you kill me I will murder you.”

 She glared back at him, just daring him to try it. “How?” Himiko narrowed her eyes, yellow stare growing in intensity with every passing moment.

 "With a... knife?" He questioned, voice unsure.

 Himiko barked out a laugh, "a knife!"

 Dabi laughed, slinging his arm over Izuku’s shoulder. "A knife!"

 Izuku clenched his fist, holding in front of his face in a parody of intensity. "Yeah, with a knife!"

 The three of them collapsed into a fit of laughter, leaning against one another as they waited outside the office for the hero to return. Izuku patted his pockets, looking for a phone that hadn’t been returned to him yet before remembering that fact. He sighed, glancing at the clock on the nearest wall. 6:45 am.

 It really was just incredible that they hadn’t even been in jail for more than forty hours and they were already getting back into the swing of things. None of them had expected this, and honestly, Izuku had thought that he would be rotting in jail for years for his crimes. After all, he was the only one with a real criminal record, he was the only one who could actually be tied to anything they had done.

  He frowned, letting his thoughts lead him down the path he often tried to avoid. If they had stayed in jail and had no way out, no chance for freedom, he would have signed that confession, no hesitation. If it came down to it, he would take the fall. And he couldn’t bring himself to worry about that, or worry about how easily he would give up his own life for his friends.

  Dabi nudged him with his elbow, drawing him back out of his thoughts. “Zuzu, stop thinking so loudly.”

  “Right, right.” Izuku rolled his shoulders, wincing at the quiet crunching noises his joints made as they slowly loosened up. He kept an eye on the office door, taking the opportunity to finally remove the lockpick set from his boxers. Izuku grimaced at the feel of the plastic, it was disgustingly moist and warm. With a look of disgust, he pocketed the kit before bending down and reaching into his sock for the knife that was still tucked there. Once the blade was in his pocket, he let himself relax fully. He could defend himself if he needed to, and just that thought alone helped.

  Himiko stared at him with a look of horror mixed with disgust. “How long was that in your pants?” Any amount of time was too long, but she just had to know exactly how disgusted she should be.

  Izuku thought back for a moment, then he shrugged, “since we went to the theater.”

  “That was in your underwear for two fucking days?”

  “...yeah.” Izuku nodded, just as disgusted as Himiko was. “So gross.”

  Dabi looked at him with a look of disappointment and confusion. “Why didn’t you take it out earlier?”

  “When would I do that, while I was getting the shit kicked out of me by the cops, or while I was getting my ribs fixed?” Izuku kept his face bland, adding comedic value to his words.

  “Point.” Dabi nodded, then leaned back against the wall before laughing quietly. “Whips are just boneless swords.”

  “What!?”

  “Nooo!”

  "What is wrong with you?"

  Their continuing exclamations of disappointment and Dabi’s laughter were cut off by the office door opening. The three of them fell silent almost immediately, watching as Aizawa stepped out, three id cards in his hands along with a manila folder. He handed them the cards wordlessly, and Izuku laughed when he saw the photo that had been used.

  Dabi looked at the card from over his shoulder, “is that your mugshot?”

  He nodded, shoulders shaking with laughter. “Yeah, it is!” He chuckled, putting the card into his back pocket.

  “That’s great.”

  “Alright, you three come with me, and we’ll get you geared up and ready to go.” The hero flipped the folder open, reading as he walked.

  The three followed him quietly, trying to memorize the layout of the building before giving up. The building was over three stories and had hundreds of rooms, there was no way in hell they could map it from memory just by walking through one floor. Instead of trying to memorize the layout, Izuku turned his focus to the names of the rooms that they passed. 1-C. 1-D. 1-E. So on and so forth.

  Once they were at the teachers' lounge, however, things took a turn for the entertaining when Present Mic stepped out of the door and almost ran face first into Aizawa.

  “Aizawa, who are these little listeners?” Present Mic looked up from his clipboard, watching as the three teenagers following his friend all turned to face him at once, an odd look on their faces. He hadn’t been informed about principal Nedzu’s plan, but there’s no time like the present.

  Aizawa turned to his colleague, coworker, and friend, an explanation at the ready. “They’re the vigilantes we’re taking into custody, you’re helping get them to the dorms.”

  “Yo!” Izuku grinned widely as he interrupted the last part of the hero's explanation, stepping forward and extending a hand in greeting. “Hey, what’s up, I’m Midoriya Izuku, but you can call me Target.” He clasped hands with the hero, just loving the look of discomfort that made its way across his face once he realized exactly who was shaking his hand. But even more than that, he loved the tiny look of approval he saw on Aizawa’s face. He kept up his grin, interrupting the hero to do his introduction himself had been a small power move, but it looks like it had paid off, Aizawa hiding a smirk behind the loops of his capture tool.

  “Present Mic. But you know that I’m sure!” Yamada laughed awkwardly, glancing over to Aizawa in a desperate plea for rescue. His plea went ignored.

  “Is your hero name short for Presentation Michael, or Presentation Microphone,” Dabi asked, his tone bland and conversational.

  Himiko didn’t wait for the answer before chiming in with a question of her own. “You know how bike is short for bicycle?”

 Dabi frowned, not liking where this was going. “Yes?”

  “What if mic was short for micycle.”

  “Wha- shut up.” Dabi shook his head, turning back to watch the awkward staring match Izuku seemed to have pulled Present Mic into without asking and was currently winning. “Zuzu, leave the hero alone.”

  “But I’m winning!” Izuku continued with his prolonged eye contact, watching the Voice Hero squirm uncomfortably under the weight of his gaze. “Seriously though, Present Mic, your quirk is super cool. Constantly incomprehensibly bass boosted.”

  “Thanks?” Yamada wasn’t sure what was going on, but he had the feeling that if he looked away, he would lose much more than a staring contest. Maybe his kidney.

  From the sidelines of the odd scene, Aizawa just watched as everything unfolded, the vigilantes' interactions giving him more insight into who they were as people. Midoriya put on a brave front, always trying to force himself to act stronger and tougher than he really was. It wasn’t true confidence, just his overinflated ego. As far as Aizawa could tell, the boy was really just kind and protective but was still cocky. Driven by his emotions and impulses to do what he thought needed to be done with no regard for his own safety.

  Then there were the other two. Aizawa watched as the scarred teen and the blonde girl got into a mock slap-fight, laughing the entire time. Dabi put on the act of a disinterested apathetic teen, but there was turmoil there. He could be just as impulsive and emotional as Midoriya, he just hid it better around people he didn't know or trust. And he was secretive, hiding a past that was already catching up to him.

  And as for Toga, surprisingly she seemed to be the only sane one in the trio. Aizawa had read her files, and her fascination with blood, while disturbing, outside of a fight it didn’t seem to affect her in the slightest. She was confident in her quirk and abilities, too. However, she seemed to be somewhat distanced from her own emotions, and with her distance, she balanced out the emotional decisions of the others, she kept a cool head at most times and in turn they supported her when she lost herself in her emotions.

  Aizawa let himself observe them for a moment longer before stepping forward, clearing his throat to catch their attention. He would be able to observe them later at the training camp. “I have to speak with the principal.” He handed Yamada the manila folder, letting his friend glance through it for a moment. “They’re your problem now.”

  “What!” Yamada was not qualified for this, he didn’t even know what this was! “Wait! Don’t leave me like this!” The Voice Hero glanced to the side, looking at the horror that was waiting for him, the vigilante trio all waving back at him as if they weren’t awful and terrifying.

  Aizawa said nothing, turning on his heel with his hands in his pockets as he headed to the principal's office to organize the release of the vigilantes' personal possessions. He could have sent the vigilantes to find the dorm on their own, but he didn’t want the school to be burnt down. And sending Yamada to keep them in line was barely a step above that. Aizawa smirked slightly, the protests of Yamada following him down the hall as he left him to his fate.

 

*** * ***

 

 Yamada smiled awkwardly at the trio, looking over the folder Aizawa had given him. “Alright, let’s get going!” He lead the trio out of the main building and towards the newly built dorms, not looking back for fear of what he might see. To his surprise, they stayed quiet, following him and taking in everything they saw. In no time at all, they were outside the dorm building for class 1-A. “Welcome to Heights Alliance!”

 “Yeah!” Izuku cheered and applauded enthusiastically, the claps petering out when he realized he was the only one doing them. “You two suck.”

 “Thanks for the support listener!” Yamada opened the main door, showing off the common areas of the first floor with a sweeping motion. “The common rooms! The kitchens, the baths, and the laundry rooms are all down here. Your rooms are on the second floor, so on we go!”

 The four of them piled into the elevator, the silence awkward but not uncomfortable. But all of them were still relieved once they could leave.

 Yamada pointed out the first three rooms. “So, you three are the only ones on the second floor. Then these three rooms are yours.”

 Izuku shook his head, hands in his pockets. “We only need one.”

 “Excuse me?”

 Izuku waved off his concerns, raising a question of his own. “You’re excused. Is there a gym here on campus?” He flexed, frowning down at his bicep. “I need to up my workout, or I’ll stagnate.”

 “The three of you can’t be serious about the room,” Yamada wasn't sure why they wanted one room, but he knew how teenagers could be. 

 “We are,” Dabi said, tone almost bored as he stepped up behind Izuku, one of his hands wrapped around his bicep, admiring the muscle he had built up over the years fighting crime.

 Himiko shrugged, leaning onto Izuku’s shoulder. “Why, is there a problem with that?”

 “You can’t all stay in the same room!”

 Izuku rolled his eyes at that, they would all end up in the same room anyway, it’s just how they worked. But if they insisted on it, they would play along. “Alright, whatever.” He nudged Dabi and Himiko with his elbows, the three of them sharing a look, conversing without words and nodding in understanding. “Did the police drop off our shit?”

  “Your things are in the common room,” Aizawa stepped up from behind them, startling Yamada out of his protests. “Get cleaned up and dressed then we’re out of here.”

  Izuku saluted sarcastically, “sir, yes, sir!”

  “Tch.” Aizawa grabbed Yamada and lead him back to the elevator. “You have one hour. Meet me back downstairs.”

  Once the two heroes were gone, Izuku turned to the others. “So, you ready for this?”

  “I was born ready,” Himiko nodded, a deep blush of excitement spreading across her cheeks.

  Dabi shrugged. “I wasn’t. But I’m ready now.”

  Izuku grinned, “then let’s do this shit!”

 

*** * ***

 

 “Sweet, they washed my uniform.” Izuku sniffed the armored hoodie, noting that there was no trace of detergent or fabric softener. Just how he liked it. He pulled off his shirt, grabbing the first t-shirt from the box and pulling it over his head. He turned to Dabi and Himiko, gesturing to his shirt, “what do you think?” He ran a hand through his still damp hair, waiting for a reaction.

  Himiko read the text, “it just says ‘generic pop culture reference.’” She rolled her eyes, going through the boxes until she found her hairbrush.

  “That’s more subversive than usual. Nice going.” Dabi flashed him a quick thumbs up, still toweling off his hair as he grabbed his own clothes.

  “Thanks.” Izuku pulled on his hoodie, zipping it up halfway. “It’s new.”

  “I can tell, it doesn’t smell like you yet,” Dabi said, not even realizing he was speaking. Once he realized what he said, he pretended he hadn’t said anything, but he knew that wouldn’t work for long.

  Izuku narrowed his eyes, his gaze filled with confusion and something that could quickly turn to anger. “Are you saying I stink?”

 Dabi backtracked, “no, I’m just saying that it smells like a shirt.”

 “Dabi likes how you smell.” Himiko grinned evilly, sharp teeth threatening. “One time I saw him wearing one of your regular hoodies that you had just put into the laundry basket.” She hadn’t said anything at the time because she needed blackmail material. But now she had more than just that.

 “Wha-” Izuku dropped his utility belt in surprise, fumbling as he bent to pick it back up off the floor. “What?”

 Dabi shook his head, damp hair falling in front of his eyes. “No, you didn’t!” He turned to Izuku, “she didn’t!” But she had.

  Izuku shrugged, “Dabi, it’s not a problem if she did, you know that right?”

  “Oh, good.” Dabi sighed in relief softly. “But she still didn’t.” But she had.

  “Sure, whatever you say, Dabi.” Izuku nodded, signaling that this line of conversation was over. He pulled on his new boots, the red leather still slightly stiff as he adjusted the laces. He ran his fingers over the steel toe with the small spikes just above the sole. He had asked for boots like Stains, and he was pleasantly surprised with how they had turned out. But Black Box had never disappointed him.

  “Izuku, can you braid my hair?” Himiko looked up from under her bangs, frowning slightly as she continued to brush the blonde locks. She sat in the closest chair, making sure Izuku would be able to reach her easily.

  “Yeah, no problem.” He finished lacing up his boots, standing up and stepping over to help. “Just a basic braid, or do you want something more complex?” Izuku took the brush from Himiko’s hand, separating her hair into three sections.

  “Just a basic braid.” She brushed her bangs back out of her eyes, frowning once she saw the first of many split ends. Usually, she could just put her hair up into the two buns, but it was getting longer now, and she would need a haircut before she could go back to that style.

  Izuku carefully worked the blonde tresses, making sure not to accidentally make the braid too tight or too loose as he got to the end. “Hair tie?”

  “Here.” Himiko pulled her hair tie from her wrist, handing it back over her shoulder.

  “Perfect.” Izuku secured the tail of the braid, flipping it up over Himiko’s shoulder jokingly. “All done.”

  “Thanks, Izuku.” Himiko stood, grabbing her own belt from the table and wrapping it around her waist.

  Izuku nodded, looking over at the others and grinning slightly at the sight of the uniforms. They really were getting back out there. This was really happening. “We all geared up and ready to go?”

  Dabi brushed down his jacket, “you know it.”

  Himiko nodded, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Let’s kick some ass!”

  “Hm.” Izuku rolled his eyes, “it’s gonna be a few hours before we can kick some ass.” They had to be driven there first. Not something any of them were looking forward to.

 The three of them filed out of the building, the door locking automatically behind them with a loud click. Dabi jumped down all the stairs in one jump, landing heavily at the bottom with a wild grin on his face. “Do it,” he yelled, trying to get the others to follow along with his bad ideas.

  Himiko turned back to the door, giving herself a running start and landing a few feet in front of where Dabi had. “I win!”

  Izuku just chuckled softly, walking down the stairs like a normal person. “Never change, you two.”

 As the three of them waited for their escorting hero to return, they sprawled out on the grass, soaking up the early morning sun. They watched as the first birds flew across the lightening sky, and as the clouds burnt away under the heat of the sun. It was quiet and calm, the cherished moments between the insanity.

 Until Dabi broke the silence by saying something horrifying.

 “I want a Cthulhu body pillow.” He said this as if it was a normal thing to want.

 “No, you don’t. What the fuck.” Izuku shook his head, he wasn’t surprised, but that didn’t mean he wanted to hear that.

 Himiko nodded, agreeing with Izuku’s sentiment. “That’s awful.”

 Dabi rolled his eyes, elbowing Izuku in the bicep. “Hey, at least I don’t have a knife kink.”

 Izuku glared and smacked Dabi in the chest, knocking the air from his lungs. “I told you that in private!”

 “Or a gun kink,” Himiko added, sitting up and leering sharply in Izuku’s general direction.

 He threw his hands up in the air, exasperated. “And that too!” Izuku sighed, shaking his head, somehow with both irritation and fondness in the motion.

  The trio missed the look of horror on Aizawa's face as he made his way towards them. He had heard everything, but he wished he had heard nothing. Over the years he had heard Midnight say some terrible things, but that was Midnight, and these were children.

  But he carefully cleared his expression, not willing to show how rattled he was by those words. Aizawa stepped forward, the early morning sun throwing his shadow across the trio. “Get up, your being driven there separately from my class.”

  Izuku rolled up to his feet, stretching lightly. “Good, it’s too early to be surrounded by teenagers.”

  As much as Aizawa agreed with that, he said nothing, just leading the trio out to the main gate and to the waiting car.

 

*** * ***

 

 Watching the scenery whip by, Izuku hummed under his breath, slowly transitioning to the lyrics of the song that had been stuck in his head for hours now. “I’m fresh to death, I’m in the zone, I check my head, but-

 Dabi kicked him from where he sat, glaring at him in a way that was somehow soft. “If you start singing that shit I will end you.”

 Izuku scoffed, returning the kick with one of his own. “Just because it’s not that emo crap you and Himiko like, doesn’t mean I can’t sing it.”

 The scarred teen rolled his eyes, “you can’t sing it because your singing voice makes me want to burn my ears out.”

 Izuku’s jaw dropped, he had never been so insulted in his life. “...it’s not that bad.”

 “It is.”

 “No, it can’t be!”

 “I’m not lying! Himiko, help me out here.” Dabi glanced to where the blood drinker sat in the seat in front of him.

 Himiko turned in her seat and nodded, breaking the tie. “It really is.” She kept her arm across the back of her seat, watching Izuku’s reaction to her words.

 “Well fuck you too, then.” An evil smirk made its way across his lips, and Izuku watched as horror filled the eyes of his friends. They couldn’t stop him from expressing himself. He swayed in place, putting emphasis on the movement of his shoulders. He unzipped his hoodie and tugged at the neckline of his shirt, miming as he sung, “I’m wearin’ some bling-bling made by Gucci, ridin’ a 3 oh 5, Ferrari-

 “No!”

 Himiko covered her ears, glaring at Izuku. “Don’t you dare!”

 “You’re the worlds worst rapper.” Dabi shrugged, rethinking his words. “Alright, not the worst, but still.”

 Himiko shook her head in disappointment. “Why is your taste in music so different from what everyone expects? You look like you would like punk or metal. But no, you have to like hip-swing, and other things that should not be combined with hip-hop. Even pop would be better than this!”

 “You can’t stop me from being myself!” Izuku stomped his foot dramatically, the steel toe and the red leather of the new boots adding weight to the movement.

  “If this car ride doesn’t make me sick, your singing will!”

  Izuku stopped his dramatic thrashing, turning to Dabi with slight worry on his face. “Wait, do you get carsick?”

  “Yes. Don’t make a big deal out of it.”

  “Can I do anything to help?”

  Dabi shrugged, “not really. If I puke, I puke.” There wasn’t much to it, if the road had too many sharp turns he would get sick. “Distractions help a little bit.”

  Izuku and Himiko shared a look before the two of them turned back to Dabi, a horrifying expression shared between them.

  “Oh, we can be distracting,” the two said in unison, sharp grins only growing as Dabi looked on in worry.

  The scarred teen hid his face in his hands. What had he gotten himself into now? “Oh no.”

 

*** * ***

 

  The moment the car pulled onto the side of the road, Izuku ripped off his seatbelt and all but fell out of the door while dropping down on his hands and knees and kissing the dirt. “Oh, thank fuck,” he murmured, ignoring the way Himiko and Dabi pointed and laughed. After about an hour in the distraction, the three of them had moved beyond their normal bantering into a contest to see who could annoy each other the fastest.

  Turns out Dabi is much better at being a nuisance than Izuku or Himiko had ever given him credit for. They knew he could be irritating at times, what with his ramblings and awful pearls of wisdom, but he had transcended to a whole new plane of existence this time. If Izuku never heard another pick-up line in his life, it would still be too soon.

  He ignored the prancing of two members of the Wild Wild Pussycats on the opposite side of the cliff, pushing himself back to his feet and brushing the dirt off the knees of his jeans. Izuku took a step forward, stumbling and landing straight in the dirt, his legs tingling from having sat still for so long.

  “Smooth as sandpaper covered in glass,” Dabi said, a bit mockingly as he bent down and helped Izuku back to his feet once more.

  “Whatever, I’m still cooler than you,” Izuku muttered, once again brushing the dirt from his clothes.

  Himiko nodded, helping Izuku with his brushing. “He’s right, you know.”

  While Izuku thanked his lucky stars for managing to survive that nonsense, the driver popped the trunk of the car, freeing their gear. The two vigilantes that actually used weaponry grabbed their gear, Izuku eyeing his tonfa and firearms for any damage as Himiko experimentally spun her staff. Once Izuku’s utility belt was loaded up, he made his way over to the railing, settling into place beside Dabi.

  Izuku grinned, “too bad Dabi isn’t cool enough to have a weapon.” His voice carried, Himiko laughing where she stood.

  “Tch.” Dabi rolled his eyes and turned to watch the bus carrying the hero students pull up. His heart dropped when he realized exactly what this meant.

  His brother was on that bus, and he knew that there was no way that Shouto would recognize him like this. And a tiny part of him almost didn’t want to be recognized. If he wasn’t recognized, if he wasn’t seen for what he was, he wouldn’t need to dredge up his past and risk being rejected.

  “Dabi, you alright?” Izuku nudged him in the bicep with his shoulder, watching as the students unloaded off the bus.

  “I’m fine.” Dabi cleared his throat, struggling to keep the emotion from his voice. “Don’t worry about me.”

  “Dork, we always worry about you.” Himiko leaned against his other side, rolling her eyes fondly. “It’s just what we do.”

  “...thanks.”

  Leaning against each other, letting them support their friends while they too were supported, the Terrible Three just watched on in near silence as the hero students milled about, all twenty of them reacting in surprise when they finally noticed the three interlopers standing casually near the railing.

  “Aizawa-sensei, who are they?” Izuku didn’t recognize the one who asked the question. There was no way that he would be able to forget someone with hair that red and spikey.

  Aizawa sighed under his breath, wishing that this could just be over and done with already. He wasn’t being paid to introduce people. “Those are your bodyguards for this trip. They’ll be on the lookout for members of the League of Villains while you’re training.”

  Izuku felt more than saw the twenty pairs of eyes turn to him, four sets of them lighting up in recognition. While the rest of them knew who he was, only those four really knew anything about him other than what had been spread across the news and the internet.

  But their scrutinizing gaze was interrupted by the two members of the Pussycats finally making their entrance, having been biding their time for dramatic effect. Izuku had to give them kudos for that, they knew how to make an entrance.

  “Lock on target with our sparkly eyes! While our cute, cute, stingers sting! Wild, Wild, Pussycats!” Mandalay and Pixiebob kept up their pose as Aizawa explained why they were there.

  Mandalay pointed with a clawed glove to the base of one of the distant mountains. “We own this whole area, and your lodge is at the base of that mountain!”

  A sinking feeling spread through the hero students and the vigilantes, none of them liking where this was going. Among the students, they questioned why they had stopped, why they weren't still going.

  “Right now, it’s 9:30 am. If you make it early, you might make it around 12.” Mandalay grinned sadistically, continuing with her announcement as the students tried to turn and run away. “All you kitties that don’t make it by 12:30 won’t get any lunch!”

  As the earth flowed beneath them, and the entire cliff seemed to move, Aizawa said only one thing. “Sorry kids. Your training camp has already begun.”

  The only thing Izuku thought as the cliffside collapsed under everyone and he felt gravity take hold of him was, is it too late to ask to go back to jail?

Chapter Text

  As Izuku pondered the possibility of dying at the tender age of sixteen, he fell through the dirt and rock filled air, concentrating, he tuned out the shouting of the students and listened to the announcement Mandalay gave. Survive and fight your way through the forest of magical beasts. Wonderful.

  Izuku landed with a thud onto something moderately soft, instantly rolling back onto his feet and scanning his surroundings.

  “Ow.” The person and it was a person that he had landed on, and Izuku couldn’t make himself feel bad about that. They stood, brushing themselves off and working their shoulder. “Don’t I get an apology?” The hero in training look at him with distrust in his yellow eyes and Izuku didn’t blame them. He knew what he looked like to outsiders. A violent, murderous thug with no morals.

  “Whatever.” Izuku looked over the rest of the teenagers as they stood and they slowly brushed themselves off. He didn’t see Dabi or Himiko anywhere, but he wasn’t worried. They knew how to take care of themselves. “If you’re not hurt, you don’t need one.”

  “Wow, you’re pretty rude, aren’t you?” The highschooler shook his head, brushing dirt from their blond hair. “I’m Kaminari Denki.”

  “Target.” Izuku rolled his eyes, clearing his throat, this wasn’t the time for introductions, he needed to take control of this situation. Or at least figure out what was going on. “Is anyone dead, or badly injured,” he called out, not even sure what he was supposed to be doing here. But if he was supposed to keep these kids safe, he should probably keep them from being too badly injured as well.

  “Just a few scrapes and bruises over here,” was the response he got from Bakugou of all people. There was an unidentified emotion in his red eyes, but now wasn’t the time for reconnections.

  “Good.” A deep pitched rumble from the earth reminded him that this was essentially a test for the heroes in training, and he let his hand rest on the hilt of his hunting knife. “Heads up, you’ve got incoming!”

  As the first of the dirt beasts rose from the soil, Izuku stepped back, watching and letting the students attempt to reason with the brainless creature before they attacked. He had to admit that they were strong, all of them with good quirks that they had adapted to suit every situation they could come across.

  Kaminari turned back, electricity crackling over his hands as he faced down the next creature. “Wait, you’re not going to help!?”

  “Fuck no!” Izuku might be surrounded by heroes in training, but that didn’t mean he was going to act like one of them. “That ain’t my job!”

  “Watch your language, it’s unbecoming!” The one with engines in his legs, Iida, kicked through the head of one of the dirt beasts, somehow offended in the middle of the chaos.

  Izuku stifled a laugh behind a gloved hand, only a hero would be able to sound so affronted by a bystander saying the word fuck in the middle of such violence. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he muttered under his breath, not expecting his words to be heard over the sounds of the ensuing battle.

  But as was his luck, someone heard them. A girl with what appeared to be earphone jacks for her earlobes snorted and responded with a sarcastic comment of her own. “Watch your fucking language, that shit’s unbecoming!” She grinned before jamming one of the jacks into the next earth beast and shattering it from the inside with explosive sound.

  Izuku laughed loudly, the sound harsh and unexpected even to himself. “Nice one.” He shot them a quick thumbs up, nodding in approval of her destruction. “Bass boosted.” He turns back, looking for Dabi and Himiko in the chaos. He hasn’t seen them since they had fallen, and he was starting to worry a little with the appearance of the dirt beasts. Yes, they can take care of themselves, but he always worries.

  With a shrug, he turns back to watching the carnage unfold, a hand still resting on the hilt of his hunting knife, fingers tapping anxiously. He had a feeling something was going to happen soon, he just didn’t know what.

 

*** * ***

 

  If Dabi had been feeling anxious before they fell earlier, now he was damn near in a state of panic. When he had gotten separated from Izuku and Himiko, he hadn’t been that worried, but then he had seen who he was with. And now he was having some trouble keeping his fire under control, the rumbling of the earth getting closer as he tried to control his emotions.

  He avoided looking into familiar heterochromatic eyes, instead taking stock of who it was that he had landed with before giving up. He had no clue what he was doing, and he didn’t know any of these kids quirks. “Uh, if any of you don’t have an offensive quirk, raise your hand.”

  Surprisingly, they obeyed him, somehow knowing that he was almost an adult seemed to make them view him as an authority figure. A boy with purple hair and a girl with the largest ponytail he had ever seen in his life both raised their hands and a beat passed before a boy with a tail followed suit. The only ones left were his brother, an absolutely massive boy with multiple arms, and a boy with a… bird head. Alright, that’s normal, he’s seen weirder things.

  Dabi took a breath, channeling the confidence Izuku always displayed in any and every situation he was in. “Alright then, let’s figure out a plan of action because teamwork makes the dream work!” He grinned awkwardly, not missing the way the students flinched at the warped expression. He sighed internally, wishing his face wasn’t so terrifying. "So, what can you all do?"

  “I can make weapons.” The girl with the ponytail stepped forward, a lengthy blade emerging from her forearm.

  Blinking in surprise for a moment, Dabi nodded. “That’s good, can you make a few blades and such, everyone should have one. Don’t just rely on your quirk, that’s a good way to hurt yourself.” He lit up his fists in blue flames, turning towards the rumbling, the earth breaking open and creatures of soil pouring out of the cracks. “Oh, and so you don’t need to ask later, I’m Dabi. Nice to meet you all,” he said, throwing a ball of flame at the closest creature. The creatures head erupted in blue flame, the little bits of moss and grass all but exploding from the heat as the soil itself melted together, and the creature slumped back to the ground it had risen from.

  “Badass,” one of the students whispered, the one with the purple hair. Shinsou twirled the knife he was given, waiting for the opportunity to use it. “I guess that’s just how you are when you have experience.”

  Tokoyami nodded, Dark Shadow wrapped around him like a serpent, the crow-shaped shadows head resting upon his own. “Indeed, a battle-hardened warrior is much different than a student.”

  Ojiro shrugged, the tufted end of his tail twitching. “But that’s why we’re here isn’t it? To get on that level.” But he was still willing to admit that seeing someone wield that much power so easily was a little cool.

  Dabi shook his head, barely overhearing their conversation over the crackle of his flames and the sounds of fighting. “You kids are weird.” He grinned, throwing another fireball at the approaching hoard of dirt beasts as the rest of them jumped into the fray.

  “Your quirk.”

  “Gah!” The quiet voice at his shoulder almost made Dabi jump straight out of his scarred skin. “Fucking hell!”

  Shouto blinked up at him, orange sparks surrounding his left arm as small bits of frost flaked off his right. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” His voice had almost no inflection, and it almost broke Dabi’s heart to hear it. What had happened while he was gone?

  “Well, alright then.” Dabi steadied his voice, trying to keep himself from breaking down right then and there. His own brother didn’t recognize him. He swiped a still flaming hand over his face, pressing away any trace of emotion. “What did you need?”

  “Your quirk is very similar to my own.” Shouto raised his flaming left hand, comparing the flames and their locations in his mind.

  “Uh, I guess it is.” Dabi shifted uncomfortably, glancing aside to watch the boy with multiple arms literally wrestle one of the dirt beasts to the ground, ripping its head straight from its body. “Holy hell.” He turned back to Shouto, blue flames still wrapped around his hands. “Did you have something else to say?”

  Shouto narrowed his eyes, looking like he did have more to say. “I’m not sure yet, but I’ll come back to you if I do.” He turned away, launching a volley of ice at the next dirt beast, the creature shattering under the force of the attack.

  “Right.” Dabi cleared his throat, rubbing his watering eyes with the back of his hand. His mind was screaming at him to call Shouto back and admit who he was, to reconnect, to do anything, but he couldn’t. He was too afraid. A coward. A disappointment. A failure. But he couldn’t say any of those things. He just had to do what he could, even if it broke his heart.

  “Let’s keep moving, people!” He moved forward, leaving his group of six students forward. He could reconnect later. At least he hoped he could.

 

*** * ***

 

  Almost half a mile away from where the other two groups had landed, Himiko brushed the dirt from her hair, thankful that her braid hadn’t come undone. She tucked her staff under her arm, looking over her new comrades in arms. “Alright, everyone okay?”

  “I’m alright,” a girl with pink hair and startlingly black and golden eyes helped up a boy with blond hair and purple eyes.

  “And I, as well.” The boy full on sparkled, posing his hands dramatically. “Aoyama, at your service.”

  “Um, okay…” Himiko blinked, unsure how to respond to something like that. She shrugged, turning to the other four that had fallen with her. “You all alright,” she asked, watching as they brushed themselves down.

  “All good over here,” the girl, Himiko recognized her from the sports festival, she was the one with the gravity quirk, she helped up a girl with frog-like features, the two of them sticking together once they were standing.

  “Us too!” The last two, an invisible girl, and an extremely muscular boy with dark hair turned to face her, and Himiko’s stomach dropped when she realized that they were looking for guidance. From her of all people.

  She smiled nervously, waving to her temporary teammates. “Uh, hi, I’m Toga, but you can call me Himiko!”

  The frog-like girl blinked slowly, seeming to put off a calming energy. “Call me Tsuyu-chan.”

  “Oh, that’s so cute!” Himiko smiled, relaxing slightly as the others introduced themselves.

  The girl with the gravity quirk waved, “I’m Uraraka.”

  “Call me Ashido!” Grinning widely, the pink girl dripped acid from her fingertips, the soil eroding where it landed. Himiko took a small step back, that quirk would be useful, but she didn’t want to get in the way of that if she could help it. “Whoops!”

  “Hi, I’m Hagakure,” the invisible girl waved in excitement, both of her uniform sleeves moving rapidly. Or at least Himiko thinks she waved. She’s invisible, there’s not much she can do about that.

  Standing head and shoulders above them all and looking slightly out of place amongst the rest of them, the muscular boy nodded, “Sato.”

  “And I’m Aoyama!” Again, the boy sparkled, and Himiko wasn’t sure if that was from his quirk or if she was hallucinating.

 Himiko nodded, trying to commit their names to memory as she turned and peered through the trees. “So, looks like we’ve got to get to the lodge from here. And I heard something about magic beasts?” She wasn’t sure what that meant, but it was probably something to do with fighting. She shrugged, adjusting her grip on her staff. “Let’s go, then!”

  “Yeah!”

  The group of seven set off, walking in the same direction they had been thrown, all of them on guard, not trusting the rumbling of the earth underfoot.

  “So, what are the classes like at UA?” Himiko really did want to try and transfer her credits from the online school over to UA if she could. Just the prestige of graduating from UA would all but guarantee her a job in the field of her choice. But deep down, she still wanted to be a hero.

  “Hard,” Ashido nodded, wiping away imaginary tears. She had been in the nineteenth place in the class, and she was going to have to do remedial classes once they made it to the lodge.

  Hagakure jumped, her entire uniform shifting with the movement, making her impossible to miss. “Very hard!”

  Uraraka shrugged, while she didn’t have amazing grades, she was still doing rather well. “They’re not that bad, you guys!”

  “Kero, they’re just very fast paced and a little intense.” Tsuyu nodded thoughtfully, one finger on her chin.

  “Sweet.” Himiko grinned, fangs flashing in the low light. She stopped, holding the others back for a moment. The rumbling under the earth was louder, the soil almost rippling. “Do you guys hear that?”

  The rumbling grew, the earth splitting into multiple chasms as creatures of dirt and stone crawled forth and thundered towards them.

  Himiko’s jaw dropped, so those were the magic beasts. Wonderful. Himiko readied her staff, bracing her stance and raising her guard. “Ashido-chan, acid!”

  “On it!” Ashido stepped forward, acid spraying from her palms and melting the first earth beast down to a puddle of molten soil and stone. “Eww!”

  “Yeah, that’s pretty… ew.” Himiko dodged a swipe of one of the claws of the next beast, blocking the blow with her staff and leaning into the attack, slowly pushing the claws away from her face. Her voice slightly stained from keeping the claws at bay, she called out to the one person whose quirk was perfect for this sort of work. “Uh, Uraraka-chan, if you can float them, get as many as you can then the rest of you can take them out easier.” With a grunt, she pushed the creature back further, pulling her staff back and smashing it across its face in one smooth movement.

  Jumping back from another swipe of the claws, she landed next to the others, staff held up in preparation for anything.

  “Right, here we go!” Uraraka slapped her hand across the closest creature sending it high into the air before letting it drop back down, shattering it on impact. She moved on, going after the smaller and quicker creatures while Ashido and Aoyama took out the larger and slower ones. As the creatures were held in the air, Sato and Hagakure began to dismantle them from the claws up, dirt and rock flying in every direction. Himiko grinned, joining in on the carnage and chaos, swinging her staff wildly.

  The seven of them continued to move, cutting a swath of destruction through the forest as they did. As long as they kept working together, they would join back up with the rest of the group in no time at all.

 

*** * ***

 

  Hours into the battle, after the three groups had managed to regroup, the chaos is slowly calming down a little bit. The appearances of the awakened earth easts have slowed, instead of appearing dozens at a time, there’s maybe four or five rising up at once. Izuku is still only watching from the sidelines, feeling the animosity the others are sending his way. Dabi and Himiko had been leading their own little warbands once they had regrouped, and Izuku couldn’t help but feel proud of them.

  “Deku, what the fuck are you doing here?” Bakugou’s voice wasn’t raised, but it carried through the momentary calm in the battle reaching everyone who could possibly hear it.

  Izuku shook his head, dirt falling from his curly hair. “You think I want to be here, Bakugou? I just didn’t want to go to jail, and look where that landed me!” The vigilante scoffed, rolling his eyes dramatically. “Surrounded by high schoolers. And hero ones at that. Should have chosen jail.”

  Bakugou frowned, “I thought that you wanted to be a hero.” His words were filled with confusion, as long as he had known the green haired teen, he had always said that he would be a hero. But if he had given up on that… What could have made him give up on that dream?

  Izuku shrugged, “I did. More than anything.” But things were different now, and if he had the chance to become a hero, he wasn’t sure if he could take it. He didn’t think that he deserved to be a hero. But he would have to wait and see.

  “Why. Why did you do…” The explosive teen gestured to the weapons and uniform of the other, barely hiding the anguish in his eyes. “Why did you do all this?”

  “I got told to give up on my dream by someone I used to idolize.” Izuku kept his explanation vague, hoping to get Bakugou off of his case by evading his questions. “But I didn’t.”

  “Who was it told you to give up.” It wasn’t a question, and Izuku wasn’t going to get a choice in whether or not he answered it. If Bakugou was right about who he thought it was, then there was going to be hell to pay when he saw All Might again. “Damn it, Deku, don’t ignore me!”

  Izuku shook his head, pulling the bandana around his neck up and over his mouth, wiping at his eyes as he did so. “Don’t worry about it.” He turned to walk away, ignoring the explosions behind him. He had gotten good at ignoring the things that made him feel anything other than anger.

  “Deku!” Bakugou’s shout was drowned out by the appearance of another earth beast. And this time, Izuku threw himself wholeheartedly into the fight, slashing wildly as he poured every bit of anger and despair into each and every blow, the creature falling back to the ground in pieces before it was even fully formed.

  Izuku’s hands shook with emotion, and he wiped at his damp eyes with the back of a gloved hand, marching forwards towards the lodge. He ignored Dabi and Himiko calling his name and just kept walking through the forest, forcing his feelings back down, deep into the recesses of his mind and locking them in the dark where he wouldn’t have to see them. But he would have to face them sooner or later. His emotions, his fears, his past, and his future.

Chapter Text

  Izuku is exhausted. Well, everyone's exhausted, it's been almost seven hours since everyone was dropped into the forest of hell, and nobody's had a damn thing to eat. Usually, he had a few snacks and such in one of the pouches on his belt, but he honestly hadn't thought he would need any. That'll show him to not plan to be thrown off a cliff.

  He’s calmed down a bit from when Bakugou had tried to talk to him, but now he's not sure how to apologize for his outburst. If he even is going to apologize. He hadn’t exactly made a good first impression with the hero students, and for some reason that rubbed him the wrong way.

  It wasn’t that he wanted their approval, no, he didn’t want that. It just felt like he had lost something he used to have, a bright spark that got extinguished so long ago he doesn’t even know when it was lost or what extinguished it.  He doesn’t want to go back to being who he used to be, but he wants to try to make a change for the better, to find a new spark. But until he can find one, he’ll just keep pushing through on false confidence and charisma until something knocks him down onto his ass.

  As they stumble into the clearing, the cheery voice of Mandalay. “Oh, you all made it!”

  Almost in unison, all twenty students and the three outsiders glared at the awaiting heroes, grumbling voices overlapping.

  “Little over two hours my ass.”

  “I’m going to starve to death!”

  “What was the point of all that?”   

  “I could eat a horse and a half.”

  The two members of the Pussycats waved away their concern with catspaw gloves. “To have figured out my awakened earth beasts so quickly…” Pixie-Bob grinned hungrily, “you all did better than expected. Especially you five.” She gestured to three of the hero students before also pointing out Dabi and Himiko. “You worked well together and didn’t hesitate, who knows just how high you’ll go from here! I call dibs!”

  “You can’t call dibs on people!” Izuku snorted, he knew why he wasn’t included in the ‘best of’ highlights selection. He had been pissy and rude, and absolutely uncooperative until the very last minute, and he only joined in in the fray because he was pissed off. Not exactly hero potential.

  “Why you!”

  As Pixie-Bob attempted to prevent Izuku from saying anything else offensive or rude, Aizawa turned to Mandalay with a question. “Was Pixie-Bob always so… hyper?”

  Mandalay shrugged, catspaw gloved hands spread wide. “Well, she’s just a little excitable, being of marrying age and all.”

  “Speaking of marrying age,” Izuku barely managed to duck the catspaw glove about to cover his face, dodging while pointing to the small child that had been at the cliff earlier on. “Oof. What’s up with that? Is he one of yours?”

  Mandalay shook her head, waving the boy in question forward. “Oh, no, this is my nephew. Kouta, come say hi. They’re going to be your neighbors for a week after all.”

  “Hey, I’m Target, what’s up?” Izuku all but swaggered up to the kid once they were closer, putting out his fist for a bump, the brim of the boys' hat hiding his expression. If Izuku had seen the look on his face, the vigilante would have reconsidered his actions. Hell, he would have turned tail and ran back into the forest of death, but it was too late for that, Kouta's fist was already in motion, and his aim was true and his arm strong.

  “Hrk!” Izuku's vision whited out for a moment as he stumbled back onto his ass, curling over his damaged testicles and pride. “Hrrrk.”

  “HA!” Dabi laughed out loud, the sound infectious and carrying over the horrified hero students, slowly sweeping others into its wave until over twenty people were pointing and laughing at Izukus' plight. “Holy shit, that’s hilarious! You deserved that, man! Act like a dick, get punched in the dick!” He high fived the kid that had sent his friend to the ground, “nice one, slugger.” Kouta glared at Dabi, one of his hands still clenched in a threatening fist.

  Weakly lifting his hand, Izuku flipped Dabi off before slumping back into the dirt in a pathetic moaning heap.

  “Wait!” Himiko pawed through the pockets of Dabi's jacket, ignoring his protests as she pulled out the cheap camera. She waved at Kouta excitedly, “do it again! Do it again, I want to record this!”

  Kouta turned his back on them swiftly, stomping away in the opposite direction, snarling back over his shoulder, “I don’t want to fuck around with a bunch of idiots who want to be heroes."

  As Kouta stormed off and Dabi and Himiko crowded around Izuku, prodding him with their feet, Bakugou snorted with barely restrained laughter. “Kid thinks he’s an adult.”

  Shouto responded, his voice bland and devoid of any humor. “Hmm. Reminds me of someone I know.”

  The explosive teen glared, raising one of his fists. “Hey! At least I don’t keep my emotions bottled up like a little-

  “It was a joke. Calm down.”

  “Oh, alright.” Bakugou relaxed almost immediately, rolling his eyes as if he hadn’t even been bothered in the first place. “It wasn’t a very good one, so you should work on that.”

  From his position on the ground, Izuku heard Aizawa instruct the students to get their belongings from the bus and head to the dining hall once they were settled into their rooms. With a low groan, Izuku rolled back to his feet, grabbing Himiko's shoulder to steady himself. “Holy shit, that kids’ arm is strong as fuck.”

  Himiko pressed her hand to her lips, muffling her laughter. “Are your, uh, are your balls still there?”

  Izuku laughed, wincing as he did so. “I don’t know. I’m too scared to check.” He turned to Dabi, a malicious glint in his green eyes. “Do you think you-

  Dabi cut him off before he could finish that question, not liking the look he was being given. “No. I’m not checking your balls for you.”

  “Yeah, Izuku. That’s not something you do when surrounded by adults!” Himiko gestured to the three heroes that were still present, all of them wearing looks that varied from absolute horror to curiosity, to apathy. “That’s not something you do at all.

  “If someone punched you somewhere sensitive I would help you out if you asked,” Izuku grumbled, pushing through the pain until it faded to a dull throb.

  “I know that, but like I said, you don’t do that when surrounded by adults.” Himiko sighed, shrugging indifferently. “Alright, tell you what. Next time I get punched in the tit and I need you to check on it, I’ll ask.”

  “Hooray,” Izuku cheered monotonously, rolling his eyes.

  Aizawa shook his head in disappointment, utterly defeated by this mistake he had made in agreeing to any of this. “If you three are finished doing… that. Follow me, and I’ll show you to your room.”

  “Are we done,” Izuku asked, only to be facetious of course.

  Himiko nodded, “I think we’re done.”

  “Yeah, we’re done.” Dabi covered his face with his hands, not quite sure what was happening anymore.

  Izuku nodded, making to follow the exhausted hero. “Alright then, we’re done. Lead on.”

  Aizawa hid his exasperated expression behind his capture tool, “follow me.”

 

*** * ***

 

  After spending so much time in the forest, it’s nice to be indoors, even if it is only for a moment as they stow away their gear. Izuku debated taking off his hoodie, but the armored layering of the material felt necessary if he was going to be surrounded by people. To compromise, he left in unzipped, but that was as close as it was coming to ‘off.’

  He turned, stopping when he saw what shirt Dabi was wearing. “Is that my shirt?”

  Dabi looked down at the writing on the white t-shirt, reading ‘casual shirt.’ He looked back up at Izuku and shrugged. “No, it’s not.”

  Izuku threw his hands into the air in disbelief. “It is, that’s my shirt!”

  Before the two of them could get into it, Himiko stepped between them, an exasperated look on her face. “Not anymore it’s not.”

  “... I liked that shirt,” Izuku grumbled, unbuckling his utility belt and tossing it onto the closest of the three futons. “If you wanted one of my shirts, you just had to ask.”

  Dabi chuckled, “it’s not yours though.”

  “It was before you got your hands on it.”

  “Well,” Dabi shrugged, smirking slightly. “You heard Himiko, it’s mine now.”

  “It doesn’t even fit you right!” It was just on the safe side of too snug and barely long enough to reach the belt loops on Dabi's jeans.

  Dabi crossed his arms, looking smug. “It’s comfy.”

  “Whatever.” Izuku rolled his eyes, jamming his hands in his pockets and ducking his head to hide the smile that was on his face. “Let’s go eat and get this over with.”

  “Wow, you’re sure excited,” Himiko said sarcastically, keeping pace with Izuku's and Dabi's quick strides with her own skips and hops. “I’m so hungry I would kill for something to eat!”

  Izuku shared that sentiment, he was absolutely starving. “I believe you.”

  The three of them slipped into the dining hall, managing to avoid being noticed as they sat at the closest table, Himiko and Dabi sitting on either side of Izuku. Dabi grinned at the student he had sat next to, the explosive blond glaring back at him, but not bothering to say anything to him. With the lack of social pressure, the people surrounding them not interested in conversation or anything other than the food, the trio relaxed by increments until they had their guards down fully, trusting the students not to try and murder them with a bowl of rice or a chopstick.

  The food looked amazing, bowls of perfectly cooked white rice, plates piled high with vegetables and meat, steam rising in the air and filling the room with the smell of a home-cooked meal. They quickly set in on the meal, loading up their plates with everything within arms reach, eating enough for over three people each.

  After his third plate full of food, Izuku took a moment to breathe, losing focus as his mind began formulating ideas on how to do his job here as best as possible.

  “Deku, are you alright?”

  The question jolted Izuku out of his wandering thoughts, pulling him back to the present. He looked up, ready to glare at whoever had called him by that. “Excuse me?”

  Uraraka blushed heavily, not sure what she had said wrong. “Oh, Bakugou called you Deku, is that not your name?”

  The green-clad vigilante stared unblinkingly, his eyes unreadable but on the edge of hard. “No, it’s an insult.”

  “O-oh, well it’s kinda cute! It sounds like ‘dekiru,’ you know, ‘you can do it!’” Uraraka smiled, one fist raised high.

  Izuku rolled his eyes, “well, it’s still an insult, so I’d prefer if you don’t call me that.”

  Dabi sighed, smacking Izuku in the back of the head. “Damn Zuzu, don’t be a dick, she’s just being nice.”

  “Sorry,” he grumbled into his chest, barely loud enough to hear.

  From his other side, Himiko jabbed him with her elbow, digging the point of it into his ribs. “Apologize better than that, Izuku. You ass.”

  “I’m sorry for acting like a rude jerk when you were just trying to see if I was hurt.” Izuku's voice was monotone, but his face looked like he had bitten into a lemon and then chipped his tooth on a rock embedded into the flesh of the fruit. Pained and sour.

  Uraraka laughed, waving away his insincere words. “That’s alright, I wasn’t offended.”

  Dabi sighed, “sorry, he’s a jerk.” He turned back to Uraraka, wanting to clear up any miscommunication. “He's really not that bad, it's just that he's not a huge fan of nicknames.” With one exception, of course. But Dabi couldn't say that he didn't want to have to explain the dynamic that he and Izuku had going on.

  “Other than the one you gave him.” Himiko snorted when both Izuku and Dabi glared at her for daring to speak the truth. She turned to Uraraka, still grinning. “You can call him just about anything.” She shrugged, loading up another plate of meat and rice as she talked. “Just don’t call him Zuzu. That’s Dabi's name for him. Nobody else gets to call him that.”

  Himiko stared across the table with wide eyes, trying to express just how unbelievable this all was. “I called him Zuzu once, just once, and he ignored me for six hours. I was sitting right next to him, too.”

  Izuku shook his head, shoving a heap of rice into his mouth so he wouldn’t be tempted to say something snarky. He knew it was true, but other people didn’t need to know too.

  “I guess Zuzu and I just have a more profound bond then you two do.” Dabi grinned, slinging one of his arms over Izuku's shoulders, pulling him against him. “See, he’s not even stabbing me!”

  Himiko laughed, almost choking on her mouthful of food. “Lucky.” She leaned up against Izuku's other side, sandwiching him in between herself and Dabi with more force than was necessary.

  Izuku just sat there, accepting his fate as he was slowly crushed between them.

  “How sweet,” Bakugou snarked, the first thing he had said to any of them since Izuku had stormed away.

  On the opposite side of the table, Tsuyu tapped her chin with the tip of her finger in thought. “I often say what’s on my mind, I’m told I can be a bit blunt.” She blinked slowly before gesturing over all three of them. “Are the three of you dating?”

  This time Himiko really did choke on her food, half-chewed rice spraying across the table in her surprise.

  “What!?” Izuku all but shrieked in response, his trio now the only point of everyone's attention.

  Himiko coughed, clearing her throat of any rice she might have inhaled. “No way, these two?”

  “Tsuyu-chan, you can’t just ask people that!” Iida chopped the air with his hands before adjusting his glasses awkwardly and stuttering out half completed apologies to the Terrible Three.

  Bakugou rolled his eyes from where he sat beside Dabi. “Wow, there’s being blunt, then there’s being invasive.” Even he didn’t understand what those three had going on, and he had seen them in settings that could almost be called casual. He had long since given up on trying to comprehend the trio, and he honestly didn’t care enough to try.

  “I hate to say this,” Dabi began, pulling the rooms focus onto him. “I mean it, I really do hate to say this, but blast boy is right. That’s a really personal question.”

  “Mhm,” Himiko nodded in agreement, not moving from her position at Izuku's side.

  “If you’re all done staring,” Izuku said, not raising his voice, but still commanding the attention of everyone, “we’d like to finish eating now.”

  There was half a beat of silence before the dining hall went back to its normal volume level, everyone talking amongst themselves about anything other than what had just happened. Besides, every single one of them was going to try and find out the answer to that question later on, so there was no use speculating.

  As the meal wound down, the hero students slowly got to their feet, staggering around in exhaustion as they prepared to bathe and then finally get some much-needed sleep.

 

*** * ***

 

  The vigilantes waited for the hero students to clear the room before standing and heading towards their room. But before they were halfway there, Aizawa stepped up beside them with a request.

  “Keep an eye on Mineta,” were the only words Aizawa said as he pointed in the direction of the baths before walking away from the trio and going to his own room.

  “What,” Dabi asked, spreading his hands wide in confusion. He didn’t even know which one Mineta was, how was he supposed to keep an eye on him? Why were they keeping an eye on him? What did he do?

  Izuku rolled his eyes, already walking towards the entrance to the baths, pulling his hoodie off as he went. “I’m fucking exhausted, if I go in hot water, I will fall asleep and drown.” But he didn’t stop walking, even if he was trudging to his doom, he was too tired to care.

  With a shrug, Himiko followed his lead, pulling her cardigan off over her head. “I heard some of the girls say he was a pervert, so he’s probably going to try and spy into the girls' bath.”

  “Gross,” Izuku frowned, thinking about what he was supposed to do before his hand landed on the taser hooked onto his belt. He could just electrocute him if he tried anything, or was that overkill? Well, even if it was overkill, it was the only idea he had other than stabbing them or beating them, and he was sure that neither of those would go over very well. “I guess we’ll see you in the room later, Himiko.”

  “Ugh, why can’t we just do this together too?” She stopped, putting up her hand in thought. “You know, maybe the three of are dating, we do every single thing together!”

  “I’m too tired for this,” Izuku admitted, hating that he had to say that he was too tired to think properly.

  Dabi nodded, “we’ll figure this out later.” He made his way towards the baths, pulling his shirt off over his head as he went.

  “See you two in a bit, then.” Himiko gave them a jaunty wave as she headed into the girls' side of the baths.

  “Hmm.” Izuku nodded, the movement so minuscule you could barely tell he had moved at all. Following Dabi's lead, he stumbled into the boys' side of the baths, grabbing a towel and stowing his clothes away in the closest locker. He tied the largest towel around his waist before steeling himself to bathe with a bunch of strangers.

  Once inside the hot springs, Izuku and Dabi were met with almost complete silence as everyone turned to stare. Well, everyone other than Bakugou, of course, the explosive teen couldn’t care any less about their arrival.

  This was awkward. Izuku only had his towel to preserve his dignity, but that’s not what was awkward about this. Everyone was much more interested in the scars that started at his right wrist and spiderwebbed across his entire torso. He set down his other towel, his taser wrapped up in the cloth. “Everyone get a good look?” He glared at anyone who he felt had stared for too long, and as everyone made themselves busy with not looking at him, he sat at the edge of the pool, dangling his legs in the relaxing heat.

  His own scars catching just as much attention, Dabi sat down beside him. He slipped down from the edge and into the hot water, settling in place. Once he was comfortable, Dabi called out to the students, “oi, which one of you is Mineta?”

  Almost in unison, all the students pointed at a small teen with purple orbs on his head. The one now identified as Mineta was muttering as he leaned against the wall between the two baths, his expression one most would describe as ‘distasteful.’

  Dabi glared in Mineta's general direction, “don’t be a perv and I won’t light you on fire.”

  Izuku chuckled, taking off his towel and slipping into the water and letting the heat work the knots out of his muscles. He closed his eyes for a moment, letting himself relax before his eyes snapped open once again when the conversations his appearance had interrupted started back up again. With a soft sigh, he leaned back against the edge of the bath, staring up at the sky as he let the conversations wash over him in soft waves.

  “What we seek is beyond this wall.”

  “What are you going on about you fucking midget?” Izuku sat up straight, ready to drag himself out of the water and kick their ass if he needed to.

  “Even now it can happen when the gods smile down on us.”

  Izuku didn’t hear the rest of what was said as he climbed out of the bath, wrapping his towel back around his waist, eyes widening in shock as Mineta began scaling the wall with more speed than he had thought possible. “Get back down here you little freak!”

  Before Izuku had the chance to grab his taser, Mineta was pushed back down from the top of the wall, falling back as Kouta glared down at him. “Learn what it means to be a decent person before trying to be a hero.”

  While Mineta fell and on the other side of the wall, the girls congratulated their new hero, Kouta lost his balance, tipping backward and coming crashing down to earth.

  As Kouta fell from the wall, Izuku leaped forward, skidding to a stop and catching the small boy just inches from the hard ground. He stumbled back, collapsing onto the rock, his legs too unstable to support his own weight. This kid had almost died just because that fucking pervert couldn’t control himself.

  Adrenaline still pumping through his veins, Izuku forced his way to his feet, cradling the unconscious Kouta while grabbing his taser from his second towel and firing it straight into Mineta's chest. Sure, it was too late for that now, but they were supposed to be a hero in training and they almost killed a child with their irresponsible actions. As Mineta lay twitching beside the wall, Izuku stormed away with Kouta in his arms, planning on having a very important discussion with Aizawa once he made sure that Kouta was alright. With any luck, Mineta wouldn’t have the opportunity to put someone's life in danger like that ever again.

 

*** * ***

 

  It’s already 5:30 am when the hero students are finally awoken for training, and Izuku had been up for almost two hours now, going over possible plans of action with the heroes on site with the rest of the trio and having a very enlightening conversation with Aizawa. He grinned over his steaming cup of coffee, enjoying how everyone was eyeing his alert attitude with distaste. Izuku raised the cup mockingly, “morning.”

  “How are you so awake!”

  He took a sip of the cheap weak swill the Pussycats called coffee, grimacing at the overly bitter taste. “I wake up at four every day, this is nothing.” After he first woke up at three, he would wake up again at four, then Himiko would be up at five, and Dabi at six. They had a decent system going on, all of them working together to make sure the others actually got out of bed. “Besides, I have a job to do here, remember? Constant vigilance or something.” He went back to his coffee, wishing he had taken Pixie-Bob up on the offer of sugar or creamer of some sort. It truly was awful.

  The students paled slightly, the threat of the League of Villains cutting through their half-asleep haze. With the excitement of the trip to the lodge, they had almost forgotten why the Terrible Three were there. Somehow they didn’t view them and the heroes on the same level. Heroes were normal, and vigilantes weren’t. And anything that’s not normal, is dangerous.

  With a sigh, Izuku set down his cup of coffee, catching the eye of his friends as they walked up to the group of students, pausing before they took the last step. Izuku waved indifferently, and the duo joined in with the others, socializing as if they had been longtime friends.

  Izuku stood and folded the notebook shut, putting it in his pocket as he stretched, his back popping and cracking. He picked up the empty coffee cup and crumpled the weak paper in his hand before throwing it away. Squinting slightly in the brightening light, Izuku looked around for Aizawa, needing to inform the teacher about his plans for the day.

  When he spotted him giving instructions to his class, he made his way over to where he was standing. Izuku had his hands in the pockets of his hoodie as he sauntered up to the perpetually exhausted hero, ignoring the sounds of the students beginning their first day of training. He raised a hand lazily in greeting, “oi, Aizawa.”

  Somewhere within the sea of students floated out a, “don’t be so disrespectful to our teacher!” Izuku had a feeling that it was Iida, what with the whole ‘watch your language’ incident.

  “Respect is earned, not given.” Izuku shot back then rolled his eyes, getting back on track. He waved the sheet of paper with the hastily copied map of the forest on it. “So, Aizawa, I’m gonna scout out the forest trail a bit, check and map potential ingress points and such. Be back in a bit. Maybe thirty minutes” He turned to go before he stopped, speaking over his shoulder, “I can handle this on my own. If you wanted to keep Dabi and Himiko around with the students, of course. For moral.”

  And he knew that all of the pros wanted the others to stay with the heroes in training. They were likable, they had potential, and they seemed to fit into groups easily. Izuku might be feared and respected, and he might have his dark charisma fuelled by his beliefs that compelled people to listen to him, but he wasn’t likable in the same way that they were.

  “Shinsou, go with him.” Aizawa waved the purple haired boy forwards, trying to convey the idea that if the vigilante made a break for it, he could stop him with his quirk. “Be back before an hour is up.”

  “Sure thing, boss.” Izuku nodded, turning to follow the trail into the forest. “Oh, and make sure you keep Himiko busy, is she’s bored she’ll end up biting someone.”

  Himiko's jaw dropped as she tried to deflect his accusation. “That’s not, I don’t. That happened once!”

  “Alright everyone, back on track. Bakugou, try throwing this…” The rest of Aizawa's words were lost as the distance Izuku covered grew, but the shout of ‘Die,’ and the following explosion couldn’t be missed if he tried to ignore it.

  The odd duo walked in silence until they passed the first trees, Izuku growing more uncomfortable by the second. “Sooo,” Izuku stretched the vowel until it was weird to continue, putting his hands up and lacing his fingers behind his head as he walked. “I’m guessing Aizawa wants you with me as a backup plan, you know, if I try to run off. Guess he doesn't know that I already know how your quirk works.”

  “Seems like it.” Shinsou wished he could be training with the others, but with the way his quirk worked this sort of training setup wouldn’t work for him. He went quiet, something he was far too familiar with, and he thought about what would even be necessary for him to train his quirk.

  “You would need quite a lot of volunteers if you were doing quirk training, huh?” Izuku had reached the same conclusion as the brainwasher, the deck of society really was stacked against those with mental quirks. “How about this, once I’m done with this,” he pulled out the map and flapped it in Shinsous’ face, “you can brainwash me and we’ll see what happens.”

  “Uh, alright?” Shinsou had never had someone voluntarily be brainwashed before and he wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to do or feel about that.

  Izuku frowned as he scribbled notes down on his map. “Can you make me do a cartwheel?”

  Shinsou glanced at Izuku in surprise, wondering why he was being asked this. “Are you already able to do a cartwheel?”

  “Who knows, I know how, but I’ve never tried.” He shrugged, looking up the steps of a cartwheel was very different from actually doing one. “It’ll be interesting to see if you can make people do things they normally can’t.”

  “You know, I’ve never tried to do something like that.” Shinsou ran a hand through his gravity-defying hair sheepishly. For all his talk about society's negative view of quirks like his own, he hadn’t actually experimented with his quirk that much.

  “Hmm.” Izuku nodded, internally screaming at the lack of security measures in the forest. Sure, it was the outdoors, but there weren’t any pitfalls, any snares, or anything that could sound the alarm if there was an intruder of any sort. There should at least be a tripwire or two.

  “What are you doing, anyway?”

  “Losing even more faith in the hero system,” he responded blandly, now glaring around the forest as he saw more and more ways an intruder could make it to the main lodge without being seen. “There’s going to be an event tomorrow using this trail, so I’m looking for weak points. And boy are there plenty of weak points.”

  “Oh.” For a moment Shinsou had forgotten exactly who he was talking to, but the reality of the situation hit him like a ton of bricks. This wasn’t a hero class student, this was a cold-blooded killer, brutal in his efficiency. It was almost scary how easily he could talk to him, especially when he remembered Midoriya's kind words at the Sports Festival.

  “Yeah, ‘oh,’ sounds about right.” Izuku shook his head, scribbling down ideas on how to make the Test of Courage safer. He just hoped that the heroes would use them. He didn’t say another word, and Shinsou didn’t ask another question, the two of them walking in silence as they made their way around the trail.

  Shinsou's eyes were drawn to the deadly weapons attached to the other teens' belt, and he never felt like he had been so wrong about someone in his life.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Why doesn’t he have to train too?” Ever since Izuku had gotten back from his survey, that seemed to be the only question anyone had for him or anyone else. Except for that half hour where he had been working with Shinsou, turned out Izuku could do a cartwheel, the questioning was nonstop.

  “Because I’m not a student!” It wasn’t even lunchtime yet and he was already at critical irritation levels. After hearing all of class 1-A and then all of class 1-B all ask him the same question almost made him miss being beat up by police officers.

  “Exactly,” Aizawa nodded at his response, that was enough of an answer for him.

  “Why are the others training?”  He doesn’t even know or care who’s asking at this point, he just wants it to stop.

  “Because they want to get better, but there’s just nothing that I can learn here that applies to me.” Izuku looked up from the map he had almost completely covered in scribbles from his short jaunt through the forest. “Not everyone learns the same way.” He turned back to his notes, frowning slightly. He didn’t like the idea of anyone moving through the forest at night, even if it was for a camp activity. Especially if it was for a camp activity. There were too many ways things could go wrong, and Izuku couldn’t even begin to calculate them all.

  He was going to have to talk to the heroes about the whole ‘Test of Courage’ or whatever it was. Honestly, he would prefer if they called it all off, but he knew that wouldn’t fly.

  With both the hero course classes training at the same time, Izuku was having a hard time thinking and was on the verge of snapping each and every time someone asked why he wasn’t training with them.

  “He should at least try to train with us. Just once would be nice.” The irritating blond from 1-B glared in his direction before a girl with orange hair slapped him on the back of his head.

  But it was too late, the words had already been said.

  Izuku rolled his eyes, slapping down his pen and standing, rolling the kinks out of his shoulders and back. “Alright, fine.” He pulled off his hoodie, laying it over the map and his notebook so they wouldn't blow away. With a long-suffering sigh, he stepped into the middle of the group, with no warning he dropped into a defensive stance and raised his fists. “Like I said, not everyone learns the same way! So, who wants to go first, then? No quirks, just fists!”

  At his declaration of quirkless combat, the students hesitated, not used to this sort of fighting. They had expected the leader of the Terrible Three to have some impressive and flashy quirk, but they hadn't seen even a hint of what his quirk might be.

  When no one stepped forward, Izuku threw his arms into the air in irritation. “Seriously? All that complaining and nobody’s going to make good on it?” He pressed his hands to his face and groaned, the sound of footsteps on the hard dirt pulling him out of his exasperation.

  “I’ll spar with you.”

  The voice was familiarly flat, but it wasn’t Dabi. Izuku looked up, taking his hands away from his face and a lopsided grin spreading across his lips when he saw exactly who it was that had agreed to fight him. “Ah, this is perfect.” He dropped back into his previous stance, purposely leaving his guard weak on his right side as Shouto raised his fists.

  Izuku bounced lightly on the balls of his feet, watching as Shouto took in his lack of defense on his right side. “Someone give us a countdown,” he called to their audience, listening as Dabi and Himiko counted down in unison.

  “Three.”

  “Two.”

  “One.”

  “Fight!”

  Izuku charged, leading with his right and switching at the last second to catch the kick Shouto aimed at the ‘unguarded’ side of his ribs. With a firm grip on the leg of the other, Izuku pulled as he stepped back, pulling Shouto along with him and keeping him off balance as Izuku rapidly slammed his fist into the inside of his thigh.

  He ducked one of the strikes aimed for his jaw, but took a solid hit to the chest, knocking the breath from his lungs and causing him to loosen his grip enough for Shouto to slip away and land another kick to his shin. Izuku grinned, bounding forward and managing to land a solid left hook to Shouto’s jaw, receiving a punch to the shoulder that had been intended for his face.

  The fight was fast-paced, but Izuku was faster. He had to admit that Shouto was amazingly trained, but he didn’t know how to fight dirty and didn’t expect the sort of moves that Izuku would pull. Izuku took another hit, this one to the jaw, feeling like it was rattling his brain.

  As the fight continued, Izuku began incorporating any moves he could that leveled out the playing field. With a feint to the left, he grabbed Shouto's shirt collar and pulled him in close, tossing him to the side and following the throw with a swift spinning axe kick to the shoulder, sending him sprawling to the ground. Before he had the chance to get back up or roll away, Izuku all but pounced, landing with his knee against Shouto's throat and one of his hands pulled back in a fist. “Yield?”

  Shouto stared up at him, the barest hint of shock in his heterochromatic eyes. He nodded, “I yield.”

  Izuku climbed off of Shouto's chest and lent his opponent his hand, dragging Shouto back to his feet. He turned to the students circled around his little display, “alright then, any more questions? Can I do what I came here to do?”

  Dabi and Himiko clapped, cheering enthusiastically at his victory. They joined Izuku, brushing him down and fussing over him in general.

  “Get back to work everyone.” Once the students were back at work, Aizawa turned to Izuku, head tilted slightly. “That throw followed by an axe kick, where did you see that step sequence?”

  “So you are Eraserhead. Thought so, but I wasn’t sure.” Izuku grinned, wiping the sweat from his brow. Ever since they had met at the police station, he had been trying to figure out exactly which hero he was, but now that he knew, it all made sense. “I saw a few videos of your fights online, and I incorporated some of your moves into my own style once I got them down.”

  “Good.” Aizawa had been surprised to see his own moves used by a literal child who had never seen him fight in person before, but he was interested now. The vigilante had copied them almost perfectly and they had only seen a video. Imagine if he could actually teach them his techniques... Sure, he fought like an absolute psycho, every motion unpredictable, but he was still effective and somehow efficient in his movements. Aizawa nodded as Izuku went back to his seat on the bench and buried himself back in his work. “Keep it up.”

  “So, what did you think?” Dabi sat beside Izuku, leaning against his shoulder lightly.

  “About Shouto?” Izuku shrugged, “he’s good. Got skill, but he needs to learn to improvise.” He hadn’t expected his fakeout with the dropped guard, either.

  “Yeah, you fight dirty,” Himiko added from where she was leaned against Dabi, the two of them steadily adding more weight to their leaning.

  “Well, it works, doesn’t it?”

  “Hmm,” Dabi nodded, closing his eyes and enjoying the sunlight. “Wake me up when it’s lunch, kay?”

  Himiko patted his hair as Izuku worked. “Sure thing, Dabi.”

 

*** * ***

 

  Almost an hour after lunch and Izuku might have regained some faith in the hero industry with his last conversation with the Pussycats. To his surprise, they had agreed to add more security during the Test of Courage by having Aizawa patrolling the forest during the event. Along with their presence, Pixie-Bob was going to have her awakened earth beasts roaming in the forest surrounding the trail that was going to be used.

  Izuku was actually feeling pretty good about this, maybe it wouldn’t end badly just like everything else he touched. He leaned back on the bench, watching as Himiko fangirled over Vlad King, the pro hero steadily getting more uncomfortable the more excited Himiko got. By the time she was hopping in place, the man looked like he would rather be dead than anywhere near her. Izuku didn't want to see how he would react when she started bouncing around him in circles.

  And a few meters away, Dabi was training his flames alongside Shouto, trying to explain how to raise the temperature to his level. Izuku watched as he lit up his hands in orange that slowly transmuted to that familiar blue blaze.

  “See, you gotta feel it,” Dabi said, extinguishing the flames wreathing his hands.

  “I don’t understand.” How was Shouto supposed to feel that? That was far too vague and confusing.

  “Uh,” Dabi ran a hand through his hair, trying to find a way to explain what he meant. “Well, what do you feel when you use your fire?”

  “Burning?”

  Dabi opened his mouth to speak, but the words just didn’t come out. He took a breath, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “That’s not a feeling, that's an action.”

  Shouto blinked up at him calmly, “well, maybe I feel burny.”

  “Still not a feeling.”

  “I don’t really know, it’s sort of… freeing?” Shouto lifted his left hand, small flames dancing over his fingertips. “It feels light, like a weight I’ve been carrying went away. Almost like floating.”

  “Huh. Focus on that feeling and try to make it lighter, if you can. Spread that feeling as far as you can.” Dabi didn’t feel a lightness, he felt a warmth, an overwhelming heat that grew under his skin until it exploded with the fury of hell itself. He lit up his own flames, letting the heat spread through his entire body. He blinked sparks out of his eyes, small orange flames growing in size over every scar on his skin.

  Shouto's eyes widened in surprise when he saw the flame placement, but he wasn’t willing to believe his own theories yet. He lit up his own flames, the fire licking up his arm and winding down his torso and leg until the flames were all but pouring from his skin. He gasped when the flames wrapped around his arm began to burn a bright white, and he accidentally shut them down from shock.

  “Nice, you’re getting there.” Dabi grinned, flames still dancing over his face.

  “Hey, your flames look like Endeavors!” The blonde from class 1-B said this as if it was something to be proud of.

  With no warning at all Dabi rushed off, an indescribably pained expression on his face.

  “You son of a bitch!” Izuku jumped off the bench, storming over to the offending student and slamming his fist into their face with no remorse. He kicked Monoma for good measure, stepping over his prone form to run after Dabi. “Dabi, wait up!”

  Monoma lay on the ground, clutching his jaw and stomach, looking up in fear when a shadow fell over him. Himiko glared down at the copycat, a small knife in her hands. She wasn’t going to hurt him, just make sure that next time he would think before he spoke.

 

*** * ***

 

  Izuku followed Dabi into the room they had been staying in, the lights turned off. He stumbled over the futons spread over the floor, tucking and rolling when he tripped, barely avoiding landing on his face. “Dabi?”

  “Do they really?” Dabi's tone was as bland and emotionless as ever, but his voice hitched on the last word, all his pain leaking through in those two syllables.

  “What?” Izuku moved towards Dabi's voice, feeling around as he crawled, not wanting to fall again.

  Dabi sniffed, doing away with his apathetic mask. “Do they really look like his flames?”

  “No, no they really don’t.” Izuku reached out blindly, his hand landing on Dabi's knee. He patted it gently, “your flames are beautiful. Sort of soft, if that makes any sense. They’re always so bright, even when they’re so bright, it hurts to look at they look nothing like his.”

  Dabi cleared his throat, his hand making its way to Izuku's shoulder. “Thank’s Zuzu, I needed to hear that.”

  Izuku nodded, “we should go, Himiko has probably killed that kid by now.”

  “Heh.”

  “Like, he probably deserves it, but that’s not up to me.”

  “You’re a good friend, Izuku.” Dabi left his hand on Izuku's shoulder, squeezing gently.

  Izuku didn’t say a word in response, only pulling Dabi close and holding him tightly, not wanting to ever let go. But he had to eventually. They still had to get back to the rest of them and get the rest of the day over with.

 

*** * ***

 

  Hours after the training session has ended, and Himiko managed to talk her way out of trouble for threatening Monoma with a knife. Still in disbelief from hearing that, Izuku climbed the pathway after dinner, following the trail of Kouta's footsteps as he made sure not to drop the container of curry he was carrying. “Kouta? I brought you some dinner. It’s curry.”

  “Go away, I’m not hungry!” Kouta had his fists balled at his side, his shoulders shaking with barely restrained emotion.

  The vigilante took a step forward, holding out the boxed up meal and shaking it slightly. “You need to eat, so I’ll just leave this with you.”

  “I don’t want it!” Kouta wiped at his eyes, the shadow of the brim of his hat hiding what Izuku suspected to be tears. “Just leave me alone.”

  Izuku sighed, scrubbing his one free hand over his face. He wasn’t good with kids, he had no idea what he was supposed to say or do around them. “Your parents, they were the hero duo Water H-

   Kouta glared up at him from under the brim of his hat. “Don’t talk about them!”

  Apparently, that had been the wrong thing to say, but Izuku pressed on, stepping closer to the angry kid that reminded him so much of himself. “Everyone talked about heroic their deaths were. Praised their bravery and all that. But people forgot that it’s supposed to be sad, too.” He sighed, pushing his hand through his hair.

  “Yeah, they protected people, but people seem to ignore the fact that they died doing it.” Izuku shook his head, sometimes he hated humanities ability to always see the best in everything. He shrugged, sitting down next to Kouta, dangling his legs off the edge of the cliff-face. “I never understood that. The way people love heroes, but even more than that, they love to see them fall, fail, burnout in a ‘blaze of glory’ and die trying to save the day. It makes me sick.”

  The boy nodded, lip quivering. “...it’s so dumb. People playing hero and villain, killing each other just because they can. ” Kouta wiped his eyes, not wanting this veritable stranger to see him cry. “And even with their stupid quirks, they still die! They still end up like, like that, and their quirks don’t help them!”

  Izuku stayed quiet, letting those words hang there in the cooling night evening air. They needed to be said, but they also needed to be answered.

  “I’ll tell you a secret, kid.” Izuku stared up at the darkening sky, understanding why Kouta would hide out up here. It was peaceful, and the only one who could judge you was the neverending sky. “You’re not the only one who hates this whole quirk based society. Hell, I’m one of them, too.”

  Kouta glanced as Izuku, his surprised expression hidden beneath the brim of his hat. “You too?” He hadn’t thought that anyone else shared his feelings.

  Izuku nodded, “yeah, I’m part of that shrinking twenty percent.” He gestured vaguely towards the steel toes of his boots. “I’m quirkless, used to be called being normal, but now it’s the opposite. And people don’t like what’s different.” Izuku shrugged once again, he had made his peace with his quirklessness long ago and if he could use his unique viewpoint to help someone else, he was willing to share his story. “Quirks aren’t all there is, you know? A strong quirk doesn’t make someone a good person. And a good person doesn’t need a strong quirk.”

  Kouta balled up his fists on his lap, his eyes burning and his throat felt dry. “I hate this,” he murmured, his voice growing stronger as he continued. “I hate how everyone they, they act like their quirks are the most important thing! They act like being a hero is the most important thing anyone can be, but they're all wrong!”

  “Yeah, but you need to know that you don’t have to be a hero to save people.” Izuku glanced to his side, noticing that Kouta was watching him intently, following and holding onto his every word. “There’s a lot of options out there. You could study law, and save people that way, or even psychology. I’m sure there’s a need for therapists in this shit world.” He paused, watching the birds settle into the trees before continuing. “Then again, there’s the most difficult route, the one of the original heroes.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Medical professionals. Those people who save lives and most of the time nobody even knows their name.” He snorted, covering his mouth with his hand to try and keep his laughter in. “Sometimes, they even wear masks!”

  Kouta laughed weakly, “...thanks. For, you know.”

  “Sure thing.” Izuku leaned back, looking out at the first dozen stars slowly appearing in the dark sky. He hadn’t noticed when night had fallen, too focused on other things. He patted Kouta on the head, spinning the boys' horned hat around with a grin. To his surprise, the kid didn’t protest his actions. “Make sure that you talk about your anger. Sure, once it’s out, it doesn’t go away, but you can understand it better.”

 Kouta nodded wiping the tears he hadn’t even known he had shed from his face. “I’m sorry for punching you in the nuts.”

  Izuku chuckled, raising a hand in forgiveness. “Don’t worry about it, I deserved it.”

  “How do you know so much about,” Kouta waved his hands vaguely. “All of this?”

  “I was as angry as you were, once,” Izuku shrugged concomitantly. “But I kept my anger locked up and it festered and infected everything I did. I was just so angry all the time, every little thing just pissed me off.” Things that used to make him happy only made him angry, things that were beautiful pissed him off even more for daring to try to make him feel something other than that all-consuming rage.

  Kouta nodded in understanding, far too understanding for a child his age. “How do you get back to how you were before?” He looked down at his hands, clenched in fists on his lap. He didn’t want to stay like this, but he didn’t know how to change.

  Izuku kept his gaze fixed on the treetops as he tried to find the words to explain. “You don’t. You can’t go back, but you can move on.” He just had to find a way to move on. Both of them did. “Just take each day as it comes, but make sure to talk to people about how you feel.”

  “...thanks, again.”

  “Don’t worry about it.”

Chapter Text

  “Do you think I can hunt Bigfoot in this forest?” Dabi pointed at the thickly clustered trees, the trio sitting on the cliff beside Kouta's hideout and watching as students scurried around on the ground below, preparing for the Test of Courage. “Like, do you think he’s out there?”

  “I think Bigfoot is only an American thing,” Himiko answered, looking down at her fingernails and debating whether or not she wanted to use any polish on them. Maybe a nice red.

  “What about the Hibagon?”

  She shook her head, “I don’t think this is the right terrain.”

  Dabi shrugged, not wanting to give up on his hunt for cryptids. “They’re supposed to live in forests like these, so it could be out there!”

  Izuku sighed, covering his face with his hands. “Stop it with your pseudoscience, you two.”

  “Cryptozoology is not a pseudoscience!” Dabi answered, fists clenched on his lap.

  Izuku looked at him in disbelief, waving his hands vaguely. “Yes... Yes, it is, that’s literally the definition.”

  Dabi rolled his eyes. “You just don’t have any sense of wonder.”

  “Tch.” Izuku tilted his head back, grinning slightly. “Let me guess, you believe in aliens too?”

  Dabi raised one finger as he explained, “well, they’re not considered cryptids, they’re residents. They’ve been sighted long before cryptozoology was a field of study. Besides, it’s egotistical to assume that humans are the only species in the universe.” Dabi sighed dreamily, staring out at the treetops. “If I had an EMF detector I would be out there looking for phantom cats.”

  “Seriously, you believe in the so-called ‘alien big cats’ as well?” Izuku threw his hands up in disbelief, “what don’t you believe in?”

  “Reptilians and things that are supposed to live inside the hollow earth. Hollow earth theory is just nonsense anyway.” Yes, he liked conspiracies and cryptids, and the supernatural, but that didn’t make him stupid.

  Izuku chuckled, “so you believe in ghosts, cryptids, and aliens, but the hollow earth is too much?”

  Dabi nodded, “hollow earth theorists are idiots. There’s not any evidence for the theory.”

  “But there’s evidence for cryptids?” Izuku couldn’t believe in something he couldn’t prove and couldn’t see.

  But Dabi had an argument to back up his beliefs, he had plenty of them. “Explain all of those worldwide sightings of Black Shuck! The same description of a spectral dog with red eyes seen on every continent!”

  “Okay, that’s weird, but there should be an explanation.”

  “What about the same shared myth about merpeople? Or the Megalodon?”

  “Sure, they’re the same everywhere, but that doesn’t mean they’re real.” Izuku had to admit that was weird, especially with how old all those myths were. But that didn’t prove anything.

  Dabi continued to list off similar myths around the world, there was too many of them for it to be a coincidence. “Or the similarities between Bigfoot in America, the Yeti in the Himalayas, the Almas here in Japan and in Korea, the Yeren in China, or the Yowie in Australia?”

  “Fuck, that’s just… okay, there might be something there.”

  “And bringing it back to the spectral cats, those have been spotted from South America to Europe, and even here!” Dabi grinned, he had spent hundreds of hours looking into this, he knew what he was talking about.

  “Huh, they might be, no, no! You’re not dragging me into your nonsense!” Izuku ran his hands through his hair, refusing to believe what was being said. “There’s a rational explanation for all of this!”

  Himiko listened to their argument passively, staring up at the darkening sky. “What about the shared myth of giant serpents? From the Amazon to Australia, and even here.”

  “...goddamnit,” Izuku muttered, shaking his head, his hair hanging over his face. “I hate how you’re actually managing to convince me.”

   Himiko and Dabi shared an understanding look before shouting in unison, “the truth is out there!”

  Izuku pressed his hands to his face, hiding away from the insanity. “I hate this fucking family.”

  “Well, that was weird,” Kouta snuck up behind the Terrible three and sat down next to Izuku, dangling his legs off the cliffside. “You three are supposed to be adults, what’s wrong with you?”

  Izuku shrugged, leaning back on his hands and staring out over the treetops. “Hey, I’m not an adult, I’m only sixteen.”

  “I’m almost seventeen,” Himiko added with a jaunty wave.

  “What about him?” Kouta asked, pointing to Dabi curiously.

  Dabi replied, “I’m only two and a half years older than Izuku.” He was going to be nineteen, but he wasn’t an adult. He was nowhere near responsible enough to be an adult.

  “You’re an adult then,” Kouta said, doing the math in his head.

  “Not even,” Izuku laughed, watching as Dabi scowled but didn’t argue with him.

  Himiko grinned, “yeah, look at him, does he look like an adult?”

  “I guess you’re right,” Kouta nodded in agreement, going along with the joke now that he understood it. “No way is he an adult.”

  Dabi rolled his eyes, crossing his arms in a huff. “Screw you guys, I can totally be an adult!”

  “Prove it,” Kouta said, staring up under the brim of his hat.

  “Taxes?”

  Kouta nodded in mock approval. “Alright, he’s an adult.”

  “Wait, shit, I didn’t want to be an adult! You tricked me,” Dabi yelled, the sound of his voice carrying over the forest, setting birds in flight.

  Izuku snickered, covering his mouth with his hand in an attempt to muffle the noise. “You got tricked by a literal child.” He turned to Kouta, spinning the boys’ hat backward as he asked, “Kouta, how old are you?”

  “I’m five,” Kouta said, not bothering to put his hat back to normal.

  “You got tricked by a five-year-old. Good going.” Izuku paused, a questioning look on his face. “Wait, you’re seriously only five?”

  “Fuck you, I don’t need to explain myself.”

  “Ooooh, my god!” Himiko giggled, offering Kouta a fist bump while Dabi just pointed and laughed.

  Izuku rolled his eyes, leaning back even more as he stared at the darkening evening sky. “Damn, now I’m the one getting insulted by a child.”

  The Terrible Three and Kouta sat up on the cliffside and talked idly, watching as the sun crawled across the sky and the birds began to take rest in the trees. Soon the Test of Courage would be starting, and while Izuku still didn’t approve, if someone attacked there would at least be a warning. Too bad the ex-vigilantes weren’t allowed to participate, they weren’t students after all. But it really was a good thing they weren’t involved, they would have crushed the competition. For almost thirty minutes there was peace and quiet, then that calm was shattered.

  There was an ear-splitting shriek that carried through the forest and continued to screech until it was forcibly shut down and Izuku leaped to his feet in a panic. That was the alarm from one of the traps he had set up, traps that wouldn’t be set off by wildlife or the awakened earth beasts. There was only one thing that could mean. The League of Villains had found them.

  “You guys…” He pointed out over the forest, what he could see in the spaces between the trees, a thick haze was spreading, choking out the forest. There was a shifting of rocks down the cliffside, someone was coming up, and they were coming fast. “Shit.” Izuku grabbed his hunting knife, thinking about who the League had on their roster. “Grab Kouta and run, now.”

  “Tch.” Dabi rolled his eyes, lighting his hands up in blue flame, ready to set alight whatever dared to attack. “We’re not leaving you up here alone, whatever comes at us, we face it together, remember?”

  “We’re the Terrible Three, we don’t split up,” Himiko added, assembling her staff as she stood behind Izuku.

  “Fuck.” Izuku pulled his bandana up from around his neck, settling it into place and taking a deep breath to steady himself. If he was facing villains, he was going to do it as Target, not as Midoriya Izuku. And as Target there was nobody else he would rather have covering his back. He glanced to the side as the grinding of rocks came closer, waving Kouta back. “Kouta, stay behind us, alright?”

  Kouta nodded, obeying him silently as Izuku flipped the knife in his grip before changing his mind and sheathing it. Instead, he drew his revolver from the holster on his hip and pulled the hammer back, ready for a shootout. He wasn’t taking any chances with whatever villain might be approaching. Four shots could take down a bear, no human could stand a chance. So busy arming themselves and preparing for a fight, they didn’t hear Mandalay's Telepathy announce the villains' arrival.

  With a crash, whoever had been making their way up the cliff leaped the rest of the way up, slamming back down to earth before the armed trio. The figure was large, imposing with the rabid energy that seemed to flow off them in waves, cloaked and masked, their identity concealed.

  Izuku's mind tried to make the connection on who this was, taking in their size, speed, and strength. “Muscular,” he muttered, raising his revolver to shoulder level and taking aim. “Don’t let him augment, Dabi, light him up the moment he tries.” Physical attacks wouldn’t work, but they had planned for something like this.

  The flames on Dabi's fists glowed brighter, the blue flame shrinking back as it began to burn hotter. “Got it, boss.” Dabi raised one hand, tracking the villain for any sign of movement. Izuku had said that it was Muscular, and the plan they had gone over for the psychopath was to literally cook him alive to prevent him from being able to use his quirk. It was disgusting and brutal, but as with all of Izuku's plans, Dabi knew it would work. “Just say the word, and he’s toast.” He grinned at his terrible pun, narrowing his eyes.

  Muscular cocked his head to the side, pulling off his mask and throwing off his cloak. “I tried searching for a good vantage point, but wouldn't you know it was already occupied!” The villain grinned viciously, rummaging in his pockets as he talked. “Hey, you’re that kid. You’re on Shigaraki's kill list, right at the top! And you two are right behind him! Well, ain’t this my lucky day!”

  “If you mean bad luck, you’re right.” Izuku snapped back, keeping the muzzle of his revolver trained on his target. “What does the League want,” he asked, not expecting an answer.

  “I’m going to kill you anyway, so I might as well.” The villain shrugged, changing out his prosthetic eye for one that was completely black, the difference between his real and fake eye adding to his rabid appearance. “That kid that just joined the hero course and the explosion kid. Shigaraki has some kinda interest in them. Says they have potential. But you three,” the villain cracked his knuckles, a manic grin on his face. “You’re on the kill list, remember?”

  As muscle fiber began to emerge from the villains' skin, Izuku shouted, “Dabi, now!” He ducked down, an explosive plume of blue flame shooting over his head and engulfing the villain. The moment the flame tapered off he jumped back up, pulling a knife with his free hand and throwing it into the pillar of flame that was the villain, trying to gauge how much muscle he had been able to augment.

  When there was only a dull thud and a shallow grunt of pain from the flames, Izuku cursed. Muscular had been able to augment more muscle than he was confident he could shoot through. “Dabi, plan B!”

   As another plume of flame was launched forwards, Izuku and Himiko both darted underneath it, Himiko using her staff to attack the places that the muscles created by the villains' quirk didn’t cover. With swift, controlled jabs, she went after his knees, elbows, wrists, anywhere the bone was closest to the skin.

  Muscular swiped blindly, the muscles created by his quirk charring and withering away under the heat of the flames. While Himiko kept him off balance and spinning in circles, still blinded by the flames coating him, Izuku snuck up behind the villain, raising his revolver and taking a deep breath as he gently squeezed the trigger.

  It wasn’t so much the sound of the gunshot that proved Muscular was dead, more the sound of his corpse slumping down to the ground and smoking as it continued to burn. Himiko poked at the smoldering lump of flesh, making sure that he was really dead.

  Dabi let the flames on his hands go out, reaching back behind him to grab Kouta's shoulder, trying his best to comfort the boy. “Let’s get where it’s safe, alright?” He picked Kouta up as carefully as he could, adjusting the terrified boy in his arms.

  Kouta only nodded into his shoulder, too afraid to speak. Twice in three days, he had come too close to death than any child should, and it had an impact on his still-developing mind. He knew who that villain was, the one who had killed his parents, and these three had killed him as if it was easy. How had the villain managed to kill his parents? It just wasn’t fair. Kouta wiped his eyes, trying to keep himself from crying.

  “It’s alright to cry,” Dabi said quietly, following behind the others. “Sometimes crying is the only thing you can do, and that doesn’t make you weak.” He shrugged, ignoring the damp from the tears soaking into his shirt. “It just makes you human.”

  “...it’s not fair.” Kouta buried his face into Dabi's shoulder, clinging to him tightly as the fire user walked faster. “Why did he, why did he get to…” his words were lost under the quiet sound of his tears, but he was still understood.

  “Pick up the pace, you two,” Dabi grumbled, using his free hand to dry his eyes as he pushed past Izuku and Himiko, practically jogging back to the lodge. He hated seeing kids cry, and he hated that he was part of the reason for those tears.

  Himiko tucked her staff under her arm as she quickened her steps, “right.”

 “Look,” as they ran, Izuku pointed to the spaces between the trees, the thunderous roars of Pixie-Bob’s awakened earth beasts ringing out from the trees. “The smoke’s dissipating.” He holstered his pistol, drawing his hunting knife once again. Whoever it was that had been creating that smoke was gone now, but there was still an unknown number of villains out there.

  As they drew closer to the lodge, planning on having Vlad King keep Kouta safe, the sounds of fighting and chainsaws from behind them almost pulled them back. But they had to keep going.

  Aizawa and Ragdoll were back at the midpoint, and the rest of the Pussycats were at the beginning of the loop with students still on the trail. While Izuku had faith in the fighting skills of the heroes, he still wasn’t sure who else was working with the League other than Moonfish and Mr. Compress. But he banished those thoughts from his head as they ran through the trees and into the clearing.

  He and Dabi reached the door at the same time, pounding on the wood so hard it shook in its frame. The moment Vlad King opened the door, Izuku bolted in the direction of the fighting while Dabi explained what had happened.

  Once Kouta was safely indoors, and under guard, the trio was back on the warpath, running towards the closest sound of fighting with new inspiration fueling their steps. They weren’t going to let the villains get away with making a child who had already lost so much cry.

 

*** * ***

 

  The scene they arrived into was chaotic, one villain keeping both Mandalay and Tiger on the defensive, Pixie-Bob lying prone in the dirt, a bloody wound to her temple what had sent her there.

  Ducking a flying fist, Mandalay shouted out to Tiger, “I finally contacted Ragdoll, she and Eraserhead ran into another villain, but they’re on their way here!” Whatever villain they had fought had destroyed her cat communicator, but Ragdoll and Eraserhead had managed to rig it back together well enough to send out a message.

  “Mandalay, Kouta’s safe!” Cutting into the fight, Izuku drew and threw one of his many throwing knives, the blade sinking into the villains' calf, sending them down to one knee and giving the heroes a chance to push back. “They’re after Bakugou and Shinsou, tell everyone!”

  “Right!” Mandalay nodded, and Izuku heard her voice flood his mind. “One of the villains goals has been made clear. Students Bakugou and Shinsou, avoid battle as much as you can. If you’re injured or alone, stay where you are!”

  Now that Magne was injured, Tiger steadily began to beat them back, each one of his cat combat moves landing, a final strike to the jaw sending them crashing to the dirt. With his quirk, Tiger wrapped one of his arms around the villain, restraining them and preventing their escape.

  Kicking away the iron bar the villain had used to fight, Izuku stepped close, pulling his throwing knife from the villains' calf, not caring if they lost blood. He wiped the bloody blade on the leg of his pants, listening to the shouting still coming from the forest.

  Drawing his revolver, Izuku stepped in front of the captured villain, oddly calm. “So, another three-time killer, eh?” Magne wasn’t as famous as the others, but she still made headlines, after all, most people didn’t have a record of over twenty-three attempted murders.

  Magne stared up at the kid with a gun, it suddenly clicking that this kid was at the top of Shigaraki’s kill list. This kid had somehow taken down Muscular, and she had the feeling that that revolver was involved. The revolver that was currently in her face. “Woah, kid, you gonna shoot me?”

  "Maybe." Izuku shrugged with one shoulder, keeping the revolver level as he stepped forward closing the distance, watching fear creep into the villains' gaze. “Wouldn’t be the first time I killed a woman.”

  “Izuku, stop. She's already captured, you don’t need to do this.” Himiko laid her hand on Izuku’s shoulder, not trying to pull him back, but just acting as an anchor for reality. She just hoped it would be enough to hold him through his internal storm.

  With a manic grin, Izuku jammed the muzzle of the revolver against Magne's temple. “Don’t I? Wouldn’t it send Shigaraki a bigger message if I killed two of his new recruits?”

  While the pro heroes questioned Izuku’s words beside them, not daring to grab the weapon in Izuku’s hand, Dabi gently took ahold of Izuku’s wrist, looking him in the eyes as he softly spoke. “Don’t go too far, Izuku. Don’t go where you can’t come back from.”

  Izuku took a moment to hesitate, staring the captured villain in the eye before yanking the revolver back and holstering it with shaking hands. “...what’s wrong with me? I almost,” he took a shuddering breath, dropping into a squat and holding his head in his hands. “I was going to… fuck.”

  Himiko kneeled down beside him, keeping her hand on his shoulder. Keeping her anchor. “But you didn’t.”

  Izuku nodded, wiping his eyes before standing once again. “There are still villains out there, let’s get to work.” He turned back to the villain, a question on his lips. “How many more are in your little team? Muscular doesn’t count, and neither does the one with the gas. I think the earth beasts got that one.”

  “Three more, and that thing Shigaraki gave Mr. Compress.” Magne didn’t see the point in lying, she was captured. But she would be out soon enough, after all, what’s the point of having someone with a warp quirk if they don’t have your back?

  “Moonfish and Mr. Compress.” Izuku nodded, running through the strategies he had made for those two, not liking having to deal with both at once. “Who’s the other one?”

  “He’s insane. Like, completely crazy.” Magne shrugged the best she could while wrapped up in Tiger’s arm, which when she thought about it, it was totally gross. Like a messed up noodle. “I think he makes clones? I wasn’t paying attention.” She had been more interested in talking up Kurogiri in hopes of getting a free drink. She hadn’t been successful.

  “...” Izuku looked like he wanted to say something, but he hadn’t been expecting this villain to be so open and honest in her opinions. “Well, alright. I’m guessing the ‘thing’ is a Nomu?” Because why would something Izuku was involved with ever be easy?

  Magne nodded, loving how level-headed this kid was being. Why couldn’t more men be like this? “Yep.” She didn’t like the Nomu, but she had to admit it was useful if extremely creepy.

  “Wonderful,” Dabi grumbled, still holding Izuku’s wrist. “Why not, right?”

  “Alright, Magne. One killer to another,” Izuku pulled down his bandana and grinned sharply. “Thank you.” He turned to leave once again, pulling his bandana back up, putting on his game face. There were still villains that needed stopping and heroes that needed saving.

 

*** * ***

 

  The trio ran towards the closest sound of battle, passing Uraraka and Tsuyu as they moved down the trail, the two students running back to the lodge, the sound of screaming spurring them all to move faster. “Shit,” Izuku panted out, wiping sweat from his brow as he continued moving, jumping off the trail and diving into the forest, taking the shortest path to the sounds of the fighting. “I fucking told them this would happen.”

  Powering through the cramping him his legs, Izuku jumped over a fallen log, movement in the shadows ahead catching his eye. With a yelp, he ducked, pushing Himiko and Dabi back when he realized the movement was the shadow. He caught their attention and raised a finger to his lips, pressing against the cloth of the bandana as he tried to quiet his breathing.

  The clawed hand of Tokoyami’s quirk sliced through the air where Izuku’s head had been before slowly retreating. Izuku picked up a clump of dirt and threw it as hard as he could, the dirt exploding against the trunk of a distant tree. With an ungodly shriek, the clawed hand returned, slicing through the tree like it was nothing.

  Izuku kept his voice low, Himiko and Dabi leaning in to listen. “It’s reacting to sound, pick up as many rocks and sticks as you can, then throw them randomly to distract it and go.

  The three busied themselves with loading their pockets with rocks, wondering how a fight for their life turned into using sticks to trick a bird made out of shadows. Once they had a dozen or so rocks and sticks each, they began running again, stopping and throwing their distractions at random, keeping the slicing claws from ever getting too close. The trees, however, were not as fortunate.

  With a thud, Izuku ran face first into the back of one of the students, the one with more arms than were really necessary. Shouji looked like had gotten into a fight with a bear and lost, scratches and bruises covering every inch of visible skin, blood running down one of his arms in heavy streams.

  “Shit,” Izuku flipped open one of the many pouches on his utility belt, pulling out a roll of bandages, a roll of gauze and a small bottle of rubbing alcohol. Keeping his voice level, he said, “clean that up, then explain what’s going on.” He passed off the supplies, Shouji immediately cleaning dirt from a deep slice in his arm.

  “There was a villain,” he began, wincing as he splashed more rubbing alcohol over the cut. “I came to his defense, but that very act triggered the quirk he was trying to control.”

  “Which villain, the one with the teeth or the one with the magician schtick,” Himiko asked, helping Shouji wrap the bandages around the cleaned wound.

  Shouji tied off the bandage, rolling his shoulder back as he checked that the bandage was secure. “The one with the teeth.”

  “Wonderful.” Izuku threw his hands into the air, grumbling under his breath the entire time. “Moonfish is just who I wanted to deal with.”

  Dabi nodded in agreement, their plan for Moonfish was essentially ‘run screaming in the opposite direction while firing wildly over your shoulder and hope to god that you hit him.’ Moonfish didn’t have a distinct fighting style, didn’t have any predictable patterns and was certifiably insane. The ultimate nightmare scenario amongst nightmare scenarios.

  “If you want to get past this point,” Shouji began, keeping quiet as he pointed to the source of the chaotic shadows and the screaming. “We need to do something about him first.”

  Inside the rolling shadows and slicing claws, was a scene that wouldn’t be out of place within the darkest of horror films or the most destructive of demolitions. The quirk had taken control, slicing through the surrounding trees and rocks, shrieking loud enough to reverberate through the earth itself as it tried to completely overcome its master trapped within the chaos.

  “...holy shit,” Izuku breathed, mind racing to find a solution. “His quirk is weak to light, right?”

  “Yes, Dark Shadow is easier to control in the light.”

  “Want me to light it up?” Dabi brought a smattering of sparks to his fingertips, glowing orange in the darkness.

  Izuku shook his head, a plan coming together in his head. “No, I’ve got an idea, but none of you are going to like it.”

  “Oh no, I already don’t like the sound of this,” Himiko shook her head, brushing her bangs away from her face before leaning in close. “Alright then, let’s hear it.”

  Behind his bandana, Izuku grinned manically, his plan absolutely insane, but if it worked, well, the phrase ‘killing two birds with one stone’ came to mind. “Alright, so he’s going after sound, right?” Once everyone had nodded, he continued, the low light casting odd shadows across his face, creating an almost villainous appearance. “If we do what we did earlier, making other noises away from ourselves while we move, we can use this to our advantage by leading him to where Bakugou and the rest are fighting Moonfish.”

  The group took in his words, Dabi breaking the silence with a whisper. “You’re completely insane, let’s do it.”

  “This is completely unnecessary,” Shouji muttered with one of his replicated mouths, but the look in his eyes betrayed him. He wanted to save as many as he could. “But I will follow you.”

  Izuku pulled down his bandana, the closest he could get to a symbol of trust, and nodded. “Alright, Shouji, you ready to see how vigilantes roll?” He rolled his shoulders back, picking through the pouches of his belt once again until he found something that was perfect for this. A handful of fireworks he had picked up on a whim. He passed the explosives to Dabi, and once Shouji had shouted for Tokoyami to give up control to Dark Shadow, they were off, running through the forest at their top speeds, tossing sticks, rocks, fireworks, anything that would make a loud noise became a projectile.

  Minutes that felt like hours crawled by, swipes of inky black claws coming too close for comfort more times than was healthy, and if Izuku didn’t die in this forest, he was going to have a new respect for birds of all sorts. Ahead of them, a steady chant of ‘flesh, flesh, flesh,’ let them know they were headed in the right direction. And even better, the sound caught the attention of Dark Shadow, the rampaging quirk recognizing the voice of the villain who had injured Shouji, shrieking in sheer delight at the prospect of destroying that which had harmed their friend.

  “On the count of three, duck!” Izuku kept running, pushing through the burn in his muscles as they finally approached the fight. “One!”

  Dark Shadow screeched, lashing out wildly when they caught sight of Moonfish.

  “Two!”

  The sound of Moonfish’s tooth blades slicing through the ice and trees whipped Dark Shadow into a frenzy unlike what they had seen before, the glowing eyes of the quirk wild and the clawed hands sinking though everything they touched like it was softened butter.

  “Three!”

  In unison, the four ducked, Dark Shadow soaring on over their heads, one entity containing the sound of an entire battlefield. It screamed as it lashed out, claws slicing through the blades, trees, and ice all at once. With a roar, it slammed its clawed hand into the villain, striking them down with one blow.

  And while that one blow was enough to stop the villain, it wasn’t enough to satisfy the beasts thirst for blood. As Moonfish tried to rise once again, Dark Shadow struck them down, repeating the blows until they lifted the villain and began to thrash them back and force like a wild animal tearing into their prey. All the while the quirk screamed about how they were superior to the villain in every way, shouting until they dropped them to the ground from above the tops of the trees.

  As the villain lay broken and bleeding, teeth knocked from their head, and on the verge of unconsciousness or even death, Izuku nodded at Dabi who immediately lit himself up in flames and stepped forward. With a single well-placed pillar of blue flame, Dark Shadow began to shrink down, its strength sapping away with every flicker of flame.

  Once the quirk was manageable again, Izuku stepped up, a guilty look on his face. “Sorry for, you know, literally using you as a tool, but it worked, yeah?” He held out his hand, helping Tokoyami back to his feet. “No hard feelings?”

  “I’m… I’m sorry. You saved me.” From myself, went unsaid, but his meaning was understood. “I’m so sorry, my heart wasn’t prepared for this. The moment Shouji was injured, I let my anger give Dark Shadow control, and I only spurred it on in its mad frenzy. I gave it my own rage, and I couldn’t stop it.”

  “You can tell us all about it later, that’s what you would say, isn’t it?” Shouji nodded, patting Tokoyami on the shoulder as Izuku motioned for everyone to circle up.

  “Alright, so they’re after Bakugou and Shinsou, I’m not sure where Shinsou is, but he’s smart, he’ll be fine.” Izuku ignored the questions that were tossed in his direction, brushing them off with a disinterested wave. “Now that Moonfish is down, Magne should be out for the count, that one with the gas is down, and Muscular is dead, only Mr. Compress and his Nomu are left. Well, and the clone guy, but I haven’t seen him yet. So we need to stick in a formation that they can’t break. Bakugou,” Izuku pointed at the explosive teen, a contemplative expression on his face.

  “What, what’s the plan?” Bakugou didn’t like that Deku was the one coming up with the plan, but he had to admit that he was more experience with things like this.

  “You’re going to go in the front, I know it seems counterintuitive, but it should work.” He nodded thoughtfully, continuing to lay out his plan. “Because you won’t actually be in the front, you’ll be in the middle, because the Three are going to be the advance guard.” They weren’t going to risk going through the forest, even though the trail meant it would be easier to be spotted, it also gave them more room if it came to a fight.

  Shouto blinked slowly, going over the plan that had been made up on the fly. “That’s actually a good idea.”

  The moment that the rest began to agree to go with Izuku’s plan, Bakugou growled out, “I don’t need to be guarded.”

  Izuku shrugged, “fine then, go it alone, have fun getting kidnapped.” He rolled his eyes, pushing Bakugou until he was in position. “Just go along with it, and I’ll take you out for ice-cream later or something.”

  “Heh.” Dabi pushed past the group, getting into his own space as everyone sorted out their roles in the squad. “Ready?”

  Izuku pulled his bandana back up and grabbed his tonfa, “honestly, with a setup like this, we could even take down All Might.” Raising one arm in the air, he signaled them forward, “move out people!”

  With that, they set back down the trail, not walking, but not running either, all of them too tired to exert themselves any more than they already had. Somewhere in the forest, there was still the sound of garbled shouting and the rumble of chainsaws, and Izuku shuddered to think of what might be making them. As they rounded the curve in the trail, Izuku heard an odd rustling in the treetops, and he glanced up, taking in a flash of a golden tan coat within the leaves.

  So Mr. Compress was here.

  Izuku slowed down slightly, letting the group of students begin to close the gap between their teams. “We’ve got company,” he said conversationally as if someone's life wasn’t on the line. “Treetops, right side. Keep your head up and move carefully.” He had a feeling that the final twist in this little game was coming soon, and he didn’t like that he might not be as prepared as he had thought he was.

  The two groups now back as one, Izuku did a quick headcount, nobody was taken, but he just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was coming. As the group made their way into the clearing where the Terrible Three had left the Pussycats, they found themselves walking into a scene that could work as every mass battle scene in cinema ever.

  “Holy shit,” Izuku whispered, trying to track the chaos, unsure where he was even supposed to begin. “What did we miss?”

  The villain that made clones had been busy, over a dozen copies of the villains they had already defeated were in a heated battle with the entire team of the Pussycats and Eraserhead. The heroes were already bruised and bloody, and now they were fighting on the edge of exhaustion, their moves getting sloppier the more they were pressed. Each time a clone was defeated, another would replace it, keeping the heroes on the defensive, slowly pushing the line.

  “Shit.” Izuku glanced back to the treetops, the figure of Mr. Compress staring back at him, the villains white and black mask a death heads grin in the night.

  “I wasn’t able to find the other one, but young Bakugou is our first priority. I’ll be taking him with me, taking him to a stage where he can truly shine!” Mr. Compress called out to them from the trees, gesturing grandly, ever the showman.

  “Tch,” Izuku knew how to play this game, the game of grandeur and idealistic speeches. It was a diversion tactic, the same as magicians patter. Meant to get you emotional and break your guard. This wouldn’t work on him, he was the king of emotional manipulation. “How about you come down off your soapbox before I take that alternative path you’re about to offer and shove it up your ass?”

  The villain cocked his head to the side, seeming to weigh Izuku’s words. “You’re a showman just like me, you understand how important misdirection is.” As he spoke, the revving of the chainsaws started once again, nobody having noticed when they stopped. The only problem was their location, the revving of the saws wasn’t back in the forest, it wasn’t by the heroes, it was behind the ragtag team of ex-vigilantes and hero students. “Nomu, bring him to me!”

  Whirling around a second too late, Izuku saw the hand of the brain-dead beast close around Bakugou’s throat, pulling the boy back from the group and towards the villain who had commanded it. With that as their cue, the rest of the villains began to fall back, the clones falling away into puddles of slime and the inky black of a portal opening in the center of the clearing, the remaining villains disappearing into its depths.

  “And so the curtains close on this act, but the second act will be far greater than anyone has ever seen!” With a grandiose gesture, the villain dropped from the treetops onto the shoulders of the beast that had a struggling Bakugou in its grip. The Nomu weathered explosion after explosion, not flinching as its flesh was seared and began to ooze black blood.

  The warp gate spread across the ground like an oil slick, pulling the Nomu and his hostage into it. Mr. Compress waved to the heroes as the gate slowly began to pull him in. “And with that, I’m beckoned backstage, thank you! Thank you, you’ve been a wonderful audience!”  He bowed grandly, doffing his hat as the gate closed fully.

  The heroes rushed forward to where the gate had been, but they were too late.

  All of them were too late.

  They had failed, Bakugou was gone.

 

*** * ***

 

  Not even an hour after the villains had fled, Izuku had all but demanded an audience with the teachers at UA, claiming that they had to get ahead of this thing before the media got their fangs into it. Now back at UA, the Terrible Three's injuries bandaged and healing, the ex-vigilantes and the heroes have come to a conference, Izuku attempting to think his way out of a situation that even Nedzu was having problems with.

  “When Izuku gets deep in thought, things get weird, just letting you guys know beforehand,” Himiko said to Present Mic while sitting on the edge of the table and watching as Izuku knocked his head against the wall repeatedly.

  Dabi nodded, sitting on the other end of the ‘U’ shaped table, looking on indifferently as Izuku began to talk to himself. “Yeah, one time I interrupted him while he was thinking and he stabbed me with a fork.”

  Himiko frowned, she had never been stabbed by Izuku for surprising him before. She had been punched, but not stabbed. “When was this?”

  “Before Stain-

  Izuku whirled around, glaring at Himiko and Dabi, silencing them with just a look. “Will the two of you be quiet for one moment!”

  “Sorry.”

  “Yeah, sorry Zuzu.”

  “Alright, alright, think, think, think,” Izuku muttered under his breath, pacing back and forth in the conference room filled with heroes. “We can spin this in your favor, just need to think. ” He tapped his knuckles against his forehead repeatedly, trying to jump-start his brain. “Fuck, shit, dick, ass-

  Taken aback by Izuku’s sudden change in demeanor, All Might asked, “can you please stop cursing?”

  “I’m thinking!” Izuku snapped back, suddenly freezing in place. “Oh. Oh, that’s fucking perfect. I’m a genius.” He rushed to the whiteboard at the front of the room, clapping to grab the attention that he hadn’t lost in the first place. “Alright, we need to spin this in UA's favor before the media gets their hands on what happened, yes?” He nodded to himself manically, eyes sparkling with barely restrained excitement.

  Nedzu nodded, curious about where this line was going. “Yes, this kidnapping will reflect badly on the school.”

  “That’s why you don’t make it about the hero school, you make it about me.” Izuku grinned, spreading his arms wide. “Bakugou and I used to live on the same street, it’s not a big jump from neighbors to childhood friends, is it?”

  “You’re suggesting we try to play this off as the League making a personal attack against Target, not UA.” Nedzu grinned, glad he had found someone willing to be just as ruthless as he was. “Take the heroes out of the equation entirely.”

  “Indeed!” Izuku nodded, “I’m a genius at playing the media game, remember?” He grinned sharply, reminding everyone exactly how he had gotten to where he was. “I’m a fucking murderer, and those people out there in the media worship me!” His gaze was manic, and his words oozed that same dark charisma that pulled people in every time.

  Aizawa shrugged, “this could... this could actually work.” He was actually quite surprised, he hadn’t thought that Midoriya would be willing to help UA in the slightest.

  “Of course it will work, people love me!” The ex-vigilante picked up one of the markers for the whiteboard, uncapping it and writing out his plan. “So, we know that the League of Villains is steadily losing what little of their popularity they had because of what I used to do, and we know that Shigaraki seems to have a real problem with me on a personal level. Probably cuz I punched him in the face.” He shrugged, capping the marker again. “So we just spin it as this kidnapping was going after me only, trying to draw me out. Keep the school out of it, focus on that lovable killer!”

  The opening of the door cut through the sounds of agreement bouncing around the room as a worried and disheveled Detective Naomasa stepped inside. “There’s only one problem with your plan.”

  “What is it, detective?” Izuku's eyes went cold, glittering with barely restrained malice. "What's wrong with my plan?"

  "The problem is that it's no longer a lie."

  "What are you saying?"

  “Bakugou Katsuki wasn’t the only person the League abducted.” His gaze was still on the floor, his expression guilty.

  “No. No, you don’t mean that.” Izuku’s stomach flipped anxiously, trying to find some other meaning to Tsukauchi's words. “Say you’re just fucking with me, please?”

  Tsukauchi took off his hat, crumpling it in his hands, his expression one of regret and guilt. “I’m sorry.”

  “You son of a bitch!” Izuku launched himself forward, climbing over the table between them and grabbing the detective by his coat, slamming him up against the wall. “You were supposed to keep her safe! You were supposed to make sure this never happened!” He fisted his hands in the material of his coat, pushing the detective again. “How?” Izuku's voice broke on the word, and he barely managed to restrain his sob. “How could you let this happen?”

  The closest of the heroes scrambled out of their seats, hurrying to try to keep Izuku from becoming a cop killer, only for Himiko and Dabi to bar their path, arms crossed.

  “Midoriya, please let go of Detective Tsukauchi,” All Might asked from where he stood, not daring to try and force his way past the ex-vigilantes friends.

  But Izuku didn’t listen, too caught up in a wave of emotion. “You bastard,” Izuku snarled through his tears, shaking Tsukauchi angrily. “This is your fault!”

  Tsukauchi nodded, “I know.”

  “You promised to protect her!”

  “I’m sorry.”

  “Sorry doesn’t fucking cut it!”

  “Izuku, let him go, alright?” Himiko laid a gentle hand on Izuku’s shoulder, drawing his attention away from the miserable looking detective in front of him.

  “Alright,” Izuku nodded, slowly unclenching his fists and dropping them to his side before collapsing to the floor, covering his face with his hands and muffling the sound of his crying.

  Aizawa stood, asking the question that was on everyone's mind. “Detective, what’s going on?”

  Detective Tsukauchi stepped up to the front of the room, clearing his throat before beginning, his voice shaking slightly as he spoke, “as of two hours ago the League of Villains abducted Midoriya Inko from her protective custody.”

 

*** * ***

 

  “You’re taking us with you. This isn’t me asking, this is me telling you. You’re taking the Terrible Three on your little hero raid. I don’t give a fuck if it’s not procedure, or even if it’s illegal, it’s happening.” The words, it’s the least you can do, went unsaid, but they were implied in his harsh tone and fierce glare.

  Izuku kept his gaze level, not breaking eye contact with the uncomfortable All Might. He was in his true form, trying to save his energy for the fight that was coming. “I, that’s not up to me.”

  “Isn’t it,” Izuku replied, growing more irritated with each moment that passed. At this point he didn’t care what the repercussions of his actions would be, Bakugou and his mother had been missing for almost three days, he was going to do everything he could to get his mother back. And Bakugou too, if it came down to it.

  The ex-vigilante scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re still the number one hero, aren’t you? That title must hold some kind of weight, right?”

  What good were a title and rank if you couldn’t use them to help?

  “It’s against the law.”

  “Fuck the law. Back at the police station,” Izuku paused, running his hands through his tangled hair. “Didn’t I already say that I would take the fall? If this goes sideways, blame it on me, I don’t fucking care, just let me help!”

  “I know that you’re frustrated and that you’re no fan of mine.”

  “That’s an understatement,” Izuku snapped, baring his teeth.

  “But I can’t agree to your terms.”

  “You stupid fuck.” Izuku clenched his fists and gritted his teeth, glaring at the hero as he tried to keep his anger in check. “You can’t even be a hero for a whole hour, and you think you can tell me what to do?” He scoffed, shaking his head. “I might hate you, but I still respected you. Not anymore. I didn’t expect this from you. But I shoulda known, you’re just like the rest of them.” Izuku turned away, storming down the hall.

  The Terrible Three was going to be a part of that raid whether they were invited or not.

Chapter Text

  Izuku stormed back into the room all three of them shared, fuming after his little chat with the fading hero, the walk back through the halls not helping him to cool down in the slightest. The raid was happening tomorrow night, and he was going to be a part of it, that was a guarantee. “Dabi, how much is left in my bank account,” he asked as he opened his laptop, putting together a haphazard plan of action on the fly. “I’ve got some people to pay off.”

  Not even needing to look up the account, Dabi responded. “Over three hundred thousand yen.” It said quite a bit that Dabi was the one in charge of Izuku's finances, but they didn't read into it too much. Even if they should have.

  “Good, I'm gonna need it.” Izuku nodded, fingers flying over the keys on his laptop as he logged back into Off the Record, his account untouched for over a year now. “Look up any theory about who’s behind the League of Villains, the heroes might not be inviting us, but we’re going to make this party a real blast once we gatecrash it.”

   "Sure thing, Zuzu." Dabi cracked his knuckles, ready to dive into the deep end of the conspiracy theories that surrounded the League of Villains. One of the most popular was that it was run by an immortal who stole the quirks of others, but that was just impossible, wasn't it? There were just some things that even Dabi wouldn’t believe in.

 

[Off the Record, Private Chat]

 

Midoriya: Black Box, it's me again.

Long time no see.

I need more equipment.

 

Black Box: Damn kid, it’s been ages.

                 You’re a big shot now, what could the ‘hero of the people’ need from old Black Box that he can’t get on his own?

 

Midoriya: Don’t call me a hero.

And I need explosives.

Shaped breach charges.

C4.

Anything that goes boom.

Big boom.

 

Black Box: When you want equipment, you sure go all out, don't you?

                 Say no more, I have just the thing.

                 Meet you outside the main UA gate in three hours.

                 And why shouldn’t I call you a hero, that’s what you are, isn’t it?

 

*Black Box is offline*

 

  Izuku logged back out of Off the Record before he could respond to that, navigating to a website he had first only heard about in rumors. He just hoped he could find what he needed there after being away for so long.

  Disguised as a gaming forum, ‘Hack and /’ was legendary, a real who’s who for hacktivists of all sorts. Script kiddies go to ‘Hack and /’ when they need new code, it’s where white hats go to find those in need of their help, and where red hats go to find their latest targets. Information is traded if you can find it and if you can pay the price. And above them all, there was one hacker that people only whispered about on the most private of servers, every message heavily coded and strictly on a closed network, of course.

  But like the devil, you say their name in full, and they appear.

 

[*Target* has Created a New Chat]

 

Target: Power of Love.

I need your help.

 

   It felt wrong asking for help from the power of love, intangible concepts weren't supposed to work like that, and he had the feeling that's why the legendary hacker had chosen that name. He snorted, imagining people the hacktivist went after cursing the name Power of Love with complete sincerity. A truly ridiculous image. Less than a minute after he sent the message, he had a response lighting up his screen, and his heart leaped into his throat from his nerves.

 

Power of Love: The vigilante Target

                        You know, I thought the heroes at UA would have you on a tighter leash after your last kill. But that villain had it coming didn’t he, working with the league like that.

                        I’m sorry to hear about your mother and your friend.

 

  Izuku knew better than to ask how Power of Love knew his personal information, they were called the best hacker alive for a reason after all.

 

Target: Thank you.

I need you to find two locations in the Kamino ward.

Abandoned or empty buildings that have had a recent surge in electricity use.

Or non-residential buildings that have had police reports of suspicious activity in the last two months.

Can you do it?

 

Power of Love: do gravitational waves echo?

 

Target: I don’t know, do they?

I am not smart.

 

Power of Love: Yes, they do. It was a rhetorical question, I don’t ask if you can do your job when I already know that you can.

                         I’ll have this in less than an hour

                        Don’t go anywhere

 

*Power of Love* is Unavailable for Further Conversation

 

  This was happening. This was really happening, Target had friends in low places, and those friendships were paying off in gold now. If gold were explosives and the locations of everyone who had ever pissed him off. Izuku rubbed his hands over his face trying to work the feeling of exhaustion out of his eyes, grinning lopsidedly as he realized that his plan was actually working a small bit of adrenaline boosting his heart rate. After tonight he was going to have everything he needed to be able to get his mother back and take down the League at the same time.

  From his place beside the bed, Dabi scooted across the floor until he was beside Izuku, a frown pulling at his staples. “Uh, almost every theory seems to say the same thing.”

   Already not liking the sound of that, Izuku rubbed at his temples, attempting to prevent the headache he knew he would end up with for even daring to enter the world of conspiracy that Dabi lived in. “What does it say?”

   “Two-hundred-year-old supervillain. Every one of them,” Dabi glanced down at his sloppily written notes, frowning slightly. “Well, every one of them other than three. But those three are just… outlandish.”

  Izuku didn’t like the idea of a two-hundred-year-old power-stealing villain as the power behind the throne, but if that was the most common theory there had to be some truth to it. “What do the other three say?”

   Dabi shrugged, not even he believed the theories those three believed in. “That they’re being paid by the government to kill off heroes that aren’t performing up to standard.”

  Izuku blinked slowly, trying to process that concept. “Alright, well that’s nonsense.” Why would the League go after All Might if they were a government funded black ops group of some sort? Izuku might hate the guy, but he had to admit that All Might was always performing well above standard. Hell, he had set the standard, and he still went beyond it.

   “Yeah, complete nonsense.”

   From the bed, Himiko asked, voice rough with sleep, “so, two-hundred-year-old villain?” She sat up, stretching her arms above her head, her blonde hair covering her face. “Does that count as a cryptid?”

   Dabi shot an acidic look at the grinning blood drinker, Himiko only grinning lazily in response. “Two-hundred-year-old villain,” Dabi shook his head, hating that the most ridiculous theory was the one that was true. “I’m gonna look into the Urban Legends tag and see if we can find out some more about this ‘All for One.’” He leaned against Izuku’s shoulder as he typed in keywords into the Conspiracy search, tags such as ‘villain,’ ‘immortality,’ and ‘All for One.’ He’d get to the bottom of this if it was the last conspiracy theory he ever dissected.

   “You do that.” With a sigh, Izuku slumped down, trying to make sense of the rapid ups and downs the last hour had taken. “Fuck, two-hundred-year-old villain.” Izuku felt exhausted suddenly, this wasn't what he had been expecting. He didn't know what exactly he had expected, but it wasn't this. “Tell the crazies at Conspiracy that Target owes them one.”

   “Hmm,” Dabi nodded distractedly, frowning at the screen of his phone as he scrolled through thousands of results.

   To Izuku, facts and truth were his religion. He didn’t have room in his life for faith or blind trust, he couldn’t live his life the way that others did. The way that heroes did. He sighed, running his hands through his tangled hair, his fingers catching on the knots in the green curls.

   The last thing Black Box had said reverberated in the hollow space in his heart where his blind faith and trust had lived once before it had died so long ago. It reverberated where his foolish dream had once been. “The Hero of the People,” were people really calling him that? He suddenly remembered what he had thought after the fight with the villain that had started this all. I’ll show you a fucking hero. I’ll show you all.

   And what he had said when he had first met Black Box. I’ll show everyone a real hero.

   Izuku wasn’t sure he recognized the feeling swelling in his chest, like a warmth filling his body. He didn’t even realize that he was crying until the tears dripped down onto his hands, shocking him out of his thoughts. He was surprised and happy and a little scared and all of this just from being called a hero by the public.

   Maybe he had never given up on his childish dream, maybe he had only been fooling himself all along. He hung his head, chin almost touching his chest as he fisted his hands into his hair. He really was an idiot, wasn’t he? He hadn’t changed at all since all of this had begun, he was still the same kid who dreamed impossible dreams and wanted to save the world.

   “Remember what Dabi said when you first got arrested?”

   Izuku blinked the tears from his eyes, his gaze blurry when he turned to face Himiko where she sat on the bed the three of them all shared. “What?”

   “‘Oh my god, you’re such a fucking hero,’ remember?” Himiko smiled softly, brushing her hair from her face. “I’ve never told you this, but… you’re my hero too. Cooler than Vlad King in my book, the only boy, the only man, who looks bad in red.”

   Chucking softly, Izuku wiped away the fresh tears that rolled down his cheeks. “Himiko… that’s so,” he thought over his words, trying to figure out exactly what he wanted to say. “That’s so fucking gay.” The moment the words were out of his mouth, Izuku all but slapped his hands over his face in frustration. Shit, that’s not what he had wanted to say at all, why was he like this?

   “Is that really what you wanted to say,” Himiko asked, barely holding back her laughter.

   “No. No, it's not.” Izuku’s voice was muffled under his hands, but he didn’t remove them from his face, far too emotional to trust himself not to say something else stupid. “... thanks, Himiko.”

   “You’re welcome, hero.”

   “You know,” Dabi glanced up from his phone for a moment before going right back to scrolling. “He’s right, that was pretty fucking gay.”

    Himiko rolled her eyes, flipping Dabi off, “shut up, bitch.”

   Izuku laughed quietly in surprise, finally removing his hands from his face. “Did you just call Dabi a bitch? Rude.”

   “No, she’s right, I’m a bitch.” Dabi just shrugged, still leaning comfortably against Izuku’s shoulder.

   “You know, most normal people wouldn’t be alright with that.”

   “Normal? What’s that, sounds boring.”

   “World’s worst catchphrase right there,” Himiko snarked, lying back down at trying to get back to sleep. “You two come to bed soon, alright?”

   “Yeah, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to sleep tonight.” Izuku stared at the screen of his laptop, watching the seconds crawl by as he waited for Power of Love to get back to him. “I’ve got to meet Black Box in,” he checked the time, figuring out how much time was left before their meeting. “About two and a half hours.”

   “I don’t think I can sleep.” Dabi waved his phone in the air, a horrified look on his face. “This ‘All for One,’ there are some terrifying things on here about him. How am I supposed to sleep when I know that he once ripped someone's spine out with his bare hands?” The worst thing was that most of the articles had very reliable sources and were heavily fact-checked. There really was a two-hundred-year-old villain running around and stealing quirks, trying to control the nation like a puppet master lurking in the shadows. “I’m worried that now I know too much and they are gonna get me.” He turned until his face was hidden in Izuku’s shoulder while he still scrolled through the articles.

   “Who the fuck is ‘they,’” Izuku asked, not acknowledging the weight that had begun to lean on him more heavily as their conversation continued.

    “Them,” was the only word Dabi gave in response, looking up from Izuku’s shoulder with his blue eyes wide and wild. “You know?”

   “No, I don’t know.” Izuku shook his head, slightly worried for Dabi’s slowly disappearing sanity. “I don’t think I want to know.” He didn’t give a fuck about them, but if Dabi was worried, Izuku was worried.

   “Good.” Dabi nodded, eyes not losing their wild energy. “Good, it’s safer that way.”

   From the bed Himiko leaned up onto her elbows, sleepily watching as Izuku and Dabi collected information. “You know, one day he’s gonna come in with a tinfoil hat, and I’m gonna have to act like this is normal. I’m just gonna say right now that I know this is coming, alright?” She nodded, flopping back down to the bed and trying to get some sleep. Just because Dabi and Izuku never slept didn’t mean she had to join their insomnia club.

   “Yeah, I know,” Izuku ignored Dabi’s muffled sounds of protests, turning his attention back to the screen of his laptop, a message popping up almost immediately.

 

[Unnamed Chat]

 

Power of Love: Ooh, that was almost a challenge for me! But the police have terrible firewalls.

                        Two locations, the first is a warehouse which as seen an exponential spike in electricity use. And multiple shipments of what appear to be medical supplies.

                        The second is anon-residential building that people have seen and reported over 200 counts of suspicious activity. There’s a bar on the first floor, all but verified to be skeevy. There’s some very weird electrical activity in there too, but it’s on a closed network, and the rest of it seems to be analog. There are some things even I can’t do.

                        But, I’m going to send you the security footage that will prove that’s where they’re keeping both your mother and your friend.

 

Target: Holy shit

This is better than what I could have thought to ask for

I can’t thank you enough

 

Power of Love: You just keep up the work, Hero.

                         Well, and you can transfer thirty thousand yen to me through your Conspiracy account.

 

*Power of Love* is Unavailable for further conversation

 

  The next message was a video file titled with the addresses of both locations that Izuku opened immediately, the outside of a grungy building filling the frame.

   Izuku watched at the darkened windows of the bar brightened from within before the familiar wispy black of the warp gate made itself seen inside the room, the villains from the attack on the camp spilling out of it along with an unconscious Bakugou. As the video played, Izuku scribbled down the two addresses and a rough outline of his plan. He had less than twenty hours until the heroes were going on their own raid and he needed to get his plan rolling before they could. As he wrote, he kept watching the video, his heart leaping into his throat when the second warp gate opened, and he saw the familiar green of his mother's hair. The pen in his hand snapped under the force of his grip, blue ink dripping down his hand and splattering over the paper.

  He wished he had been able to do something more to protect his mother, but it was just another fact now that he wasn’t able to control. He couldn’t deny the facts, he just had to make his own facts now. The sharp shards of plastic from the shattered pen began to dig into his palm, small drops of blood mixing with the blue ink.

  Izuku glared blankly ahead, the video running its course until he was staring at a black screen for who knows how long. He certainly didn’t know.

  Gentle fingers unclenched his fist, taking the mangled remains of the pen and using a damp cloth to clean up the bloody mess that was his palm. “You gotta be more careful, alright?” Dabi shook his head as he threw away the destroyed pen and the bloody rag. He picked up the blood-splattered notepad, reading the plan Izuku had written down and grinning slightly. This was ambitious, but when did Izuku ever do anything by halves? “You can’t fight if you destroy your hands, so watch what you’re doing.”

  Numbly, Izuku nodded, emotionally drained after the day he had willingly put himself through. But the day wasn’t over yet, he still had to meet Black Box in, he glanced at the clock, blinking in surprise. He had to meet Black Box in less than thirty minutes, he had been zoned out for almost two hours. Izuku staggered to his feet, working the pins and needles out of sleeping limbs. “I’ll be back in a little bit, alright?” He grabbed his phone, opening the app for his bank account and sending off the thirty thousand yen to Power of Love.

  “Don’t get caught, yeah?”

  “Hmm.” Izuku flashed a quick thumbs up before grabbing a rope and heading out the door, creeping down the halls of the dorm, he kept himself on the lookout for the few heroes who stayed on campus this late. He mumbled to himself as he walked, not even noticing the sound of his voice as if was absorbed by the carpeted floor. “...stupid heroes, can’t believe I’m gonna be one of them one day.... they don’t even know how to manipulate the media. Idiots.” He kept grumbling, opening the window and climbing through it instead of unlocking the door. They would expect the door, not the window. Nobody ever expected someone to go through the window.

  Izuku shook his head once he was outside. He was starting to sound like Dabi with his paranoia. The world wasn’t out to get him, the only ones out to get him were maybe the heroes, but that was doubtful. Ducking behind a bush, Izuku kept a wary eye on the open spaces of the campus as he darted to the next bush and then bolted until he was at the north wall. Shimmying up the closest tree, Izuku made his way out and over the branches until he was over the wall. Keeping his arms and legs wrapped around the branch, he slung himself until he was hanging from the branch like a very weird sloth. He pulled the rope from around his neck and tied it tight.

  “Kid, what are you doing?” Black Box seemed to appear from nowhere, shadows pooling around his feet.

  “Gah!” He dropped down in surprise, twisting in the air and landing in a crouch, wincing at the impact in his knees. “Long time no see.” He brushed himself down casually, acting as if he hadn’t just fallen from almost ten feet up.

  “Hmmph.” Black Box grinned, tattoos shifting with the movement of his jaw. “So, breach charges, C4 and I got some other stuff you might be into.” The ex-hero pulled a duffle bag from the shadows cast onto the wall, unzipping it with a flourish. “Alright, twelve bricks of plastic explosives, detcord, and two satchel charges. The satchel charges are both nine kilo’s each, but they can breach reinforced concrete, so it’s a fair trade-off on the weight. Got about twenty detonators and blast caps in there, and two wireless triggers.” He zipped the bag back up, passing it off to Izuku. "I also included three single frequency communicators, you know, since your team is heroes now the might need to speak across a distance."

  “This is perfect.” Izuku nodded, taking the bag and putting it by his feet while he pulled out his phone and brought up his bank account. “How’s seventy thousand sound?”

  “Works for me, kid.” Black Box leaned against the shadowed wall, thumbs in his belt loops while Izuku transferred the funds into his account. He was making a profit on this anyway, he could afford to take the pay cut. “You’re going after the League of Villains, aren’t you?”

  Izuku nodded, waiting for the transfer to complete. “They kidnapped my mother.”

  “Be careful, they’re working with some fucked up bastards over there.”

  “I will.”

  There was a beep from Black Box’s pocket, and the broker nodded, “see you around, Target.” Without even a whisper, they sank back into the shadows, vanishing without a trace.

  Izuku hefted the bag of explosives onto his shoulder and grabbed onto the rope, pulling himself back to the branch with less speed and grace than he would have liked, but he was being weighed down by almost seventy pounds of explosives, he was allowed to be slow.

  Once he was back on the branch, he untied the rope, looping it back around his neck and all but dropping out of the tree onto the maintained grass of UA’s lawn. On his way back to the dorms he had to struggle to keep himself from breaking into a sprint from sheer excitement. His heart was pounding in his chest, and his blood sang with giddy joy.

  Tumbling in through the open window, he all but ran back to the room, slamming the door behind him once he was inside. He carefully set the bag next to the door and shut down his laptop, stepping over Dabi and climbing into bed.

  “What’s in the bag,” Dabi asked, looking up from his phone with a slightly worried expression. Whenever Izuku came back with a mysterious box or bag, he was always terrified of what might be in it. It could be money, it could be guns, or it could be fifteen pounds of cocaine.

  “Eighty pounds of explosives,” was Izuku’s answer, his voice muffled as he pulled off his hoodie and tossed it to the side.

  “Oh, that’s… good?” It was better than the other options, that's for sure.

  “Very good.” Izuku pulled the blanket up to his shoulders, Himiko's arm snaking around him in her sleep. “Come to bed soon, we’re going to war tomorrow.”

  “Yeah, give me a minute.” Dabi rolled his eyes, kicking off his jeans and socks before turning off the light and stumbling across the room to the bed, all but falling into the comfortable circle of Izuku's arms. It was going to be a long day tomorrow, and the three of them were going to be in the thick of it.

 

*** * ***

 

  The train ride to Kamino ward was just about the worst that any of the three had ever been on. A truly awful experience. And waking up early to make sure they got there before the heroes did hadn’t been any fun either. It had been hard enough sneaking off of the UA campus, there were far too many trees involved, but the difficulty was steadily growing the further they went.

  Izuku was half certain he saw some of the UA hero course students on one of the other cars, but that wasn’t his problem. His problem was the duffle bag stuffed full of explosives and making sure that nobody thought he was suspicious. Then again, most people thought he was suspicious even if he wasn’t dressed in his uniform, the duffle bag was just the latest in the list of suspicious things about Izuku.

  While on the train, Izuku had run through the plan about fifteen times, and he was feeling confident, but he couldn’t shake that one doubtful voice in his head. But he just shrugged off his worry and hid behind his false bluster and bravado just like always. “So, you remember the plan, yeah?”

  Dabi rolled his eyes fondly, “Zuzu, we went over this well over twelve times, I remember.”

  “Yeah, Dabi and I are going to the warehouse with one of the satchel charges, some detcord, and some C4 to take out the Nomu factory.” Himiko ticked off the stages of the plan on her fingers while Dabi nodded along. “Then you’re going to the bar to blow the wall and cause a scene. And when they try to flee, we’ll already be at the warehouse to head them off.”

  “And then the pros show up, and we book it once mom, I mean your mom and Bakubitch are safe.” Dabi pretended not to notice his slip up, hoping that the others didn’t notice it either.

  The only proof that Izuku had heard Dabi’s slip was a sharp grin, but he didn’t say anything, only nodded as Himiko continued to talk through the plan Izuku had created in less than half an hour on almost no sleep. The plan was convoluted and banked on the villains panicking, but if the heroes were going to show up the villains would definitely panic. Hell, even he would panic if a bunch of heroes showed up and blew up one of his walls. But then again, Izuku wasn’t as brave as he acted. Fake it 'til you make it, right?

  The trio made their way through the growing crowds, wondering what had everyone out on the streets until they saw what was causing the commotion. The television screens that usually only aired the news and hero themed advertisements were playing the distraction that UA had planned as the cover for the raid.

  On the television screens, principal Nedzu, Eraserhead, and Vlad King were holding a press conference and discussing how the attack had been a personal attack against the vigilante team the Terrible Three, specifically the leader of the team, the so-called “Hero of the People,” the one most people only knew as Target.

  Izuku snorted as he passed by the crowds watching the press conference unfold, pulling up the hood on his uniform and ignoring the whispers of the crowd once they realized who he was. So he was good enough to help the heroes save face but not to work with them? He saw what they were about, as long as you can do something for them they want you around but the moment that you showed an original thought, you were out.

  The conversations of the crowd washed over him and broke like ocean waves, the tide of the public's favor steadily shifting.

“Wait, the villains took Target’s mom? That’s messed up even for a villain.”

“Yeah, they said earlier that they attacked the camp and took his childhood friend.”

“The kid’s a vigilante, what did you expect?”

“Yeah, didn’t he say in his speech that he was going after the League of Villains next?”

“How did they even find him? Didn’t he get arrested?”

“Do you think he even knows they’re targeting him?”

“Poor kid.”

“Yeah, he’s just trying to help people!”

 

  Izuku grinned, the shadows cast by his hood hiding his almost feral expression from any passerby. As long as he got caught on camera fighting even just one villain tonight, there would be immediate calls for the Terrible Three to be licensed as authentic heroes. He had run the numbers on that happening dozens of times, he knew what he was talking about. He was a master of manipulation, and he really shouldn’t be as proud of that as he was.

  He walked with his head high, the whispers of those who saw him left behind as the trio made their way towards the midpoint between the two locations. Izuku wanted to try and scout out the entire area before making a move. Actually, it hadn’t even been his idea, it was Himiko’s. Something about ‘you can’t just run in blind and blow everything up, no matter how fun it might be.’ And Izuku had to agree with her, he really did have a bad habit of just running into trouble head first.

  So now they were taking the high ground, climbing a rusty fire escape and standing on random rooftops until they got a good overview of the city. Kamino ward had more abandoned buildings and a higher crime rate than anywhere they had been before, but they weren’t here to fight random thugs in alleyways or to search out drug dealers in their lairs.

  In all honesty, the three of them really did wish they had more time here, who knows what the place would look like if the Terrible Three were allowed to do what they did best. Sure, it would be bloody and violent, but if something is worth it, you fight for it will all you have. Reaching into Dabi’s jacket pocket and ignoring his sounds of protest, Izuku rummages around until he found the pair of binoculars he had stashed there sometime in the weeks before.

  “How many of your things do you put in Dabi’s pockets,” Himiko asked, watching the events unfold with a slightly worried expression. Why didn't Dabi take the things back out of his pockets?

  “I don’t even know,” Izuku answered, using the binoculars to get a closer look at the warehouse Himiko and Dabi were going to try and take down. “Alright, there’s no security at all in that warehouse, so taking out those things should be easy enough.”

  “Got it.” Dabi unzipped the duffle bag of explosives, removing one of the satchel charges and about five bricks of C4 and a few feet of detcord. “Ready Vamp Bitch?”

  “Don’t forget the detonators,” Himiko grabbed the detonators blast caps and the wireless trigger, hiding them away into the secret pocket of her cardigan.

  “Or these.” Still using the binoculars, Izuku reached into one of the pouches of his utility belt, pulling out the communicators and holding two of them out. “Let me know when you get there, yeah?” The words ‘stay safe,’ went unsaid, but they were still heard.

  Dabi nodded, patting Izuku’s shoulder before turning back to the rusted out fire escape. “Don’t worry, we’ll be careful.”

  “You be careful too, kay?”

  Izuku only nodded once in response, his worried expression hidden in the shadows cast by his hood. The moment the others were off the rooftop, Izuku tucked the binoculars away and stepped up to the edge of the roof. He jumped from one roof to the other, taking the high road before he could only take the low road. Standing on the rooftop across the street from the dilapidated building that was his destination, Izuku took a deep breath, pulling up his bandana and putting on his game face.

  He climbed down the fire escape and stepped out of the alley, slinging the bag of explosives off his shoulder while putting in the communicator. Switching the device on, he pressed his finger to the piece of plastic and metal, “I’m at the bar, should be about,” he glanced down at his watch, checking the time against the timeline he had set up. “Should be about ten minutes by the time the heroes get here.”

“Got it.”

“Got it, boss.”

  Izuku looked over the wall of the bar, figuring out how to link the explosives for maximum effect. He unrolled the length of detcord, shaping the entrance he wanted to create and placing the satchel charge in the center with C4 at every corner and around the edges.

“Target, we’re here.”

"This place smells like a rotting corpse,”  from the sound of it, Himiko was speaking with her nose pinched, and Izuku barely managed not to laugh at the sound of her voice.

  “Wait for my signal, then let’s get this party started.”

"Got it.”

  As Izuku set up the detonator in the final charge, the sound of multiple vehicles approaching his location urged him to move faster, syncing the detonator to the trigger in his hand. If the heroes were coming, he wanted to make an impact and prove once and for all that he didn’t need to do things their way. Izuku straightened up, waving jauntily to the surrounding heroes. “About time you showed up, I’ve been waiting forever!”

  He all but sauntered up to the line of heroes, grinning widely behind his bandana. “Told you I’d be here, didn’t I?” He grinned up at All Might from behind his bandana, "how's it going you uncanny valley looking cock-wit?" God, he had wanted to be able to insult the number one hero for so long, but he wasn't going to have very many chances from now on. And now he had plenty of reasons to do so. "Anyone ever told you your costume makes you look like the American flag went on a cocaine-fueled bender down Mexico way, then threw up on your chest the morning after?"

   All Might didn't answer, only turned towards Detective Tsukauchi questioningly, the detective covering his face with his hands in frustration. He should have known that Midoriya would end up here, the kid managed to get into the thick of every fight with no problem at all.

  “What is the vigilante doing here?” Endeavor all but snarled the words, this vigilante had almost broken the hero system, and now he was just walking free as if he hadn’t done anything wrong.

  “Shut the fuck up, Endeavor.” Izuku followed his words with a raised middle finger, he was going to put on a show, that’s all the heroes expected of him after all. Words and violence. “Not everything is about you, you flame faced fuck.” Give the people what they want.

  Endeavor fumed, the flames on his face growing along with his irritation. “You little-

  “Shush, we’re about to witness the birth of a new era today.” Izuku gazed pointedly at All Might, the hero growing uncomfortable under his weighted stare. “Heroics will never be the same after the events of tonight.” He spun in place, arms wide. Suddenly stopping, he raised the wireless trigger for the chain of explosives high, the heroes getting a good look for the first time at the plastic explosives and detcord decorating the building wall.

  His jaw dropping in shock, All Might pointed to the wall and the explosives that graced it. “Are those explosives!”

  “Indeed, they are!” Izuku kept up his manic energy, drawing in his audience. “Good eye, All Might!” He nodded, pointing to the explosives strapped to the wall. “That’s over fifty pounds of plastic explosive all rigged to blow on my signal.”

  “You can’t expect to get away with this level of violence,” Toshinori was horrified, he hadn’t thought that this kid would go to terrorist tactics, but it appeared he had been wrong.

  Izuku shrugged and flashed his gaze to Edgeshot, the ninja-themed hero ready to take him down in a moment. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Izuku raised the hand holding the trigger once again, letting the heroes get a good look at the deadman’s switch. “I drop this, and the wall goes up before you’re ready for a fight. I’m part of this raid now, whether you like it or not. All I wanted to do was help save my mother, but now…” Izuku shrugged again, hands spread wide as he tried to feign nonchalance. “Now I’m fucking pissed off.

  “Let him stay, he’s a powerful asset.” Edgeshot wasn’t who Izuku had been expecting to vouch for him, especially after he had wanted to take him down, but hell, he hadn’t been expecting anyone to vouch for him. But the hero had a point, it was better for Target to stay on the side of the heroes and work towards the same goal than to be the loose cannon he usually was.

  Nodding his thanks, Izuku turned back to face the bar, steeling himself for what was about to happen here in the fading light of day. He tapped the wireless communicator in his ear, still getting used to the feeling. “You guys ready,” he asked quietly, hoping the device could pick him up with how quiet he was being.

“Loud and clear, boss.” Through the tinny speaker of the communicator, Dabi’s gravelly voice sounded absolutely hysterical, and Izuku barely stifled a laugh behind his bandana.

“Let’s go Target, I can’t wait to paint this whole building red!”

  Izuku shuddered, feeling as if someone has just walked over his grave. Himiko could be terrifying at times. “This is why you’re not allowed to have knives, Vamp.” He sighed, glancing back to the heroes as they moved into their positions for the upcoming battle. Thankfully Endeavor was going to be staying outside as the last line of defense, but hopefully, it wouldn’t come to that. “Alright you two, I’m just finishing up here. Thirty seconds in the countdown.”

"Yeah, be careful, Target.”

“Don’t get killed!”

  Ignoring the heroes preparing for the battle behind him, Izuku stalked up to the main door of the bar, drawing his tonfa with his one available hand and slamming on the metal with the shaft of his tonfa. “Oi! Shigaraki! I know you’re in there!”

  There were whispers behind the boarded up windows, but the absolute best thing that Izuku heard were the words, “...how the hell did he get here?”

  Izuku looked back, receiving a confirmation nod from the police officers working with the heroes. It was time.

  The ex-vigilante grinned, dropping the dead man's switch to the ground, triggering the explosion of a lifetime as the device fell.

  Over fifty pounds of explosives went up all at once, almost half of the building shattering under the force of the blastwave as the targeted wall fell away in a pile of red dust. The entire city block glowed brightly from the red light of the explosion, the flaming cloud of destruction visible from every point of the city.

  Less than five kilometers away, the warehouse wall was breached, and bricks of C4 were being set up around the tanks holding the Nomu, the creatures unable to defend themselves from going up in a ball of fire.

  Following the heroes that rushed through the destroyed wall, Izuku gripped his tonfa tight as he watched Kamui Woods wrap the villains in strong branches. “Mom!” His plans dropped from his mind and he ran to his mother's side, jumping over the captured villains and using his free hand to remove the rope that was tied around his mother's wrists. “Oh my god, I was so worried!” He blocked out the sounds of the villains struggling against the bindings created by Kamui Woods and the sounds of the heroes speaking, instead just holding his mother tight.

  Pulling back from the embrace, he looked her over for any trace of injury before all but dragging her towards the door and away from the chaos that was behind them. “You’ve got to get out of here, the police should be coming in soon.” He glanced over at the heroes, All Might had Bakugou, and the villains were trapped, this was it.

  “You little bastard!”

  Behind him, there was the sound of dust falling to the floor and yelling from the heroes. Izuku whipped around, tonfa raised, blocking the hand that was aimed at his face. As his tonfa disintegrated under the deadly grip, Izuku’s hand landed on the closest thing he could use as a weapon. Hefting the barstool above his head, Izuku swung wildly, cracking the villain across the face with the legs of the stool, sending him reeling.

  “Mom, you need to go!” Izuku swung the stool again, mind jumping to those videos of lion tamers in prequirk entertainment. “I’ll be fine, the cops are outside!” He continued to push Inko towards the door, all but shoving her at the police while fending off the crazed leader of the villains.

  Shigaraki was getting desperate, his escape route was unconscious, the heroes were mocking him, the rest of the villains were pinned down, and the damn vigilante who had been a thorn in his side just kept coming back. “You little…” Shigaraki scratched at his neck frantically, blood running down his skin under the assault of his fingernails. “You’re dead! I hate you!”

  Thick black liquid sprang into being behind him, the smell like a rotting corpse as Nomus pushed their way into being. Droves of them appeared, black liquid slicking the floor as they breached the plane of reality and made themselves seen. Some of them appeared dead, their burnt and charred corpses dropping to the floorboards with a sickening slap, but enough of them were living to wreck the havoc Shigaraki had desired.

  Shit!” Izuku slammed the barstool into the side of one of the Nomu, the metal bending around it and having no effect on the mindless creature.

  Within a moment, things had gone completely sideways, the villains were being evacuated, and Izuku whirled around, trying to find Bakugou only to see the same black sludge spring into being and completely coat the explosive teen.

  “No!” He dropped the barstool, running forward through the chaos, grabbing Bakugou’s hand only for him to slip out of his grasp once again. “GOD DAMN IT!” He dropped down to his knees, slamming his gloved fist against the floor before pressing his finger to the communicator. “Guys, they teleported.”

“...”

“...”

  “Guys? Are you alright? Dabi? Himiko?” There was no answer, and Izuku staggered back to his feet, taking in the chaos in the street below while All Might fought the last Nomu’s that were inside. Nomu’s were everywhere outside, flooding the street and fighting the police and Endeavor, but they would be dealt with soon enough. Endeavor was a piece of trash, but he was strong and good at what he did. Izuku turned back to the heroes that were still inside, stepping up to All Might.

  “All Might. Please,” Izuku pulled down his bandana with shaking hands, knowing his words always seemed more sincere if people could see his face. “Take me with you to the warehouse. Himiko and Dabi, I can’t get ahold of them.”

  “I-

  “All for One.” Izuku knew it was a gamble, but he had a feeling the hero and villain were connected somehow. He just didn’t know how. “He’s the one that's pulling the strings. I'm not letting him take them from me.”

  “How do you…” The hero shook his head, brushing his questions away. “Alright, I might not like this, but they’re going to need all the help they can get over there.” All Might nodded, offering Izuku his arm before he made his leap towards the warehouse and the end of heroics as the nation knew it.

 

*** * ***

 

  The moment All Might landed, Izuku dropped and sprinted across the hollow pit that used to be half of a city block, wildly searching for Himiko and Dabi in the chaos. “Dabi! Himiko!” He didn’t see them anywhere, the heroes who had been involved in the warehouse raid scattered across the crater floor. As villains were brought by the same foul black liquid that had vanished them, Izuku tried to see if he could find Bakugou in the bedlam.

  All Might threw himself into battle with the villains' mastermind, each hit from the two setting off sonic booms from the sheer speed and force behind them.

  “...Zuzu?”

  Izuku spun to face the sound of his name, seeing Dabi and Himiko trying to move a blood-soaked Best Jeanist away from the fighting.

  “What the hell happened to him?” Izuku pulled out bandages and gauze from the pouches of his belt, pulling open the heroes denim shirt and getting a good look at the wound. “Fuck…”

  “All for One.” Dabi shook his head, adjusting his grip on the barely conscious hero. “That guy’s not human.” With just one blow he had almost eviscerated the number four hero, that villain wasn't human, he was a monster.

  Himiko took the medical supplies from Izuku, keeping up the pressure on the wound in Best Jeanist’s stomach. “Izuku, go get Bakugou out of there, we’ve got Jeanist.”

  Izuku hesitated, he had been in a near panic with worry when he couldn’t contact them, and now they just wanted him to walk away? They just wanted him to leave again? But when he turned, he could see Bakugou fighting four villains at once, staying on the defensive against their onslaught.

  “Go, we’ll be fine.”

  “...goddamnit.” Izuku unsheathed his hunting knife, sprinting back towards the fighting while a group of UA students did the same from behind a half-collapsed wall. “What the hell?” The ex-vigilante shook his head, powering through his confusion and kicking the closest villain in the kneecap as he slashed at the others with his knife, creating an opening for the students to grab Bakugou. “Crazy fucking kids!” Izuku grinned and laughed loudly as he fought, no longer holding back for Bakugou’s safety as he slashed wildly at Magne, determined to get revenge for the villains kidnapping his mother and Bakugou. He sliced at the villains' hands, preventing her from activating her quirk and stopping the students' rescue attempt.

  And he wasn’t the only one who had the idea to stop holding back, the fighting between top hero and ultimate villain escalating by the second.

  Izuku ducked a punch, kicking the villain in the abdomen, sending them stepping back, retching while he jumped back to dodge a metallic whip passing his face by mere inches. While he was off balance, the other villains were escaping through the warp gate and barely managed to stop himself from following them, forcing himself to back off, knowing he couldn’t win this fight. He sheathed his blade as the last villain disappeared through the warp gate, instead turning to aid in the civilian evacuation. There were hundreds of people who had been caught in the initial blast radius of the villains' power, less than there would have been had many of them not evacuated with the first explosion of the night.

  As he helped others leave, he shouted to those that remained, “Oi! If anyone can walk, help others before yourself!” He hefted an elderly man to his feet, sending him off before turning back to the fight that still raged on in the center of the crater.

  It was absolute insanity, punches capable of leveling entire city blocks being thrown about as if it was nothing. Izuku’s fingertips traced the grip of his revolver, and he wished that he could do something more to help. Shaking those thoughts from his head, he headed back to the injured heroes, passing a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a handful of gauze to Mount Lady, the growing hero cleaning her battered knuckles with a grimace. Izuku continued to hand out medical supplies from his belt while his gaze constantly flicking back to the fight that continued in the center of the crater.

  With a combination of impossible punches followed by an iconic Detroit Smash, All Might shattered the mask of All for One, sending the villain to the ground with a single strike.

  Too far away to hear the words that were being traded, Izuku couldn’t pull his gaze from the fight, knowing in his gut that this was going to be the end of the era of All Might. He looked up, the sound of news choppers overhead sending a sinking feeling through him as the fading hero was hit with enough force to send him flying. This wasn’t how he wanted heroics to change. Not like this.

  Izuku watched as the villain climbed back to his feet, arms spread wide as he spoke words that were lost in the distance and wind. Another of those hits that had shattered the city was sent All Might's way, the hero barely weathering the blow, forced to shift to his true form, his skeletal appearance captured on camera for the entire world to see.

  His fists balled at his side, Izuku watched as the villain continued to monologue, trying to break the spirit of the unbreakable with whatever words he said. Izuku gritted his teeth, shouting out something he had never thought he would ever say. “Goddamnit! Win All Might! Win you stupid fuck!” Words that might be harsh, but still carried encouragement. “You can’t lose, damn it!”

“Win All Might!”

“You’re a hero, so save the day!”

“Kick his fucking ass All Might!”

“You can do it All Might!”

“Save the day, All Might!”

 The world watched as the hero managed to keep himself on his feet, only one arm the same arm of the number one hero. Everyone could only watch as the other heroes managed to distract the villain long enough to evacuate the last of the civilians and they could only watch as the villain's arm morphed into a grotesque mockery of a limb, too large, too twisted and too sharp.

  After all of the build-up, it only took two strikes to lay the villain low, only two strikes for the world to lose the Symbol of Peace. Only two strikes to bring about the end of heroics as the world knew it. The heroes had won, but at what cost? The end of peace? 

 As the world around them erupted in chaos, reacting to the loss of the Symbol of Peace, the hero a hero no longer, just another man. Izuku, soaked in blood and covered in rubble, just held his little family close to him, laughing in relief. They had done it. They had won the first battle of many, they were bloody and battered but still standing.

 Izuku pulled down his bloody bandana, wiping dirt from his face as he spoke. “So," he grinned, euphoric from the fight, adrenaline singing in his veins. "Who wants Kurger Bing?”

 "Are you kidding me." Dabi just dropped his head into his hands, groaning at the running joke at his expense.

 "Dude, come on," Himiko shook her head, wiping the blood from her cheek. "Not cool."

 "Fuck you guys, I'm hilarious." He jerked his head to the side, "come on, let's help clean this mess up."

 

*** * ***

 

  It had been hard to get the heroes to agree to this little talk, but it needed to happen. It needed to happen, or Izuku was going to make it happen. And the event of the last week had taught the heroes that Izuku shouldn’t be underestimated.

  Izuku settled into his seat, staring through the partition at the villain who had caused so much chaos and carnage. But he didn’t care about the destruction, or the villain recruitment, or even the creation of those Nomus. He only had one question on his mind. “Why did you take my mother,” he asked his voice icy cold. "What do you want with me?"

 All for One tilted his head to the side curiously, scarred face offering more insight then he was aware of. “Ah, a visitor.”

 “Tch,” Izuku rolled his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest in irritation. “You're not fooling me. You know who I am, so answer me.”

 "It's so very hard when you can't see who you're talking to."

 "Cut the bullshit, you and I both know you ain't blind." Izuku glared, watching as his words sunk in.

 The villain shrugged, almost disinterested. “I see you're a manipulator as well." Something about this boy was so very intriguing. He was an enigma, multifaceted and unable to be defined.

 Izuku slammed one of his hands to the tabletop, resplitting his healing knuckles. "Just answer the question, fuck face." The thick smell of copper filled the air, unnoticeable to Izuku, but far too obvious to the villain.

 All for One grinned, tasting the tension and copper in the air. The smell of burnt ozone that seemed to roll off of the ex-vigilante in waves. The smell of pure hatred. Rotting dreams. "It was Shigaraki Tomura's idea. He seems to think you're his mortal enemy.” All for One had to admit that he hadn’t understood Tomura’s choice in enemies until he had seen the boy show up with explosives and a snarl that was more suited for a wild beast than a human.

 He understood now. His disciple had made a good choice in his enemy.

 Izuku stood, snarling out his next words. “Well, I don't give a shit about what he thinks. That's not what I want. That's not my future.” He turned to leave, the villains' words ringing out behind him.

 “The future of this world is changing, and you're the one who's changing it.” As the door closed, All for One grinned, the darkness closing around him once more. “How very interesting, Midoriya Izuku. How interesting.”

Chapter Text

 It’s been a few days since the raid and Izuku has a bit of news. He’s not sure if it’s good or bad, but he knows that it’s news. But before he shares that news with Himiko and Dabi, he has to beat Himiko in Mario Kart. Again. For the thirteenth time in a row.

 His mother is safe, her protective custody being overseen by Detective Tsukauchi himself, Izuku having asked him to do so as a personal favor. Apparently, the two of them got along quite well, but Izuku didn’t want to know about what they talked about, he just wanted her to be safe, even if it meant increasing their distance.

 They’d finally unpacked all of the boxes of things from the apartment; the police had even dropped off their furniture for them, too. It was a bit of a tight fit, but they had managed to squeeze everything into the one room. Well, it technically wasn’t just one room, Izuku had taken Himiko’s old sledgehammer to both of the walls when they had gotten back from the raid, turning three rooms into one in less than an hour. Aizawa had not been happy, but he couldn’t do anything about it. He had just called maintenance to make sure that there were no rough edges, but that was it.

 Besides, Izuku had made sure they weren’t load bearing walls and everything. He knew what he was doing. Sort of. He had watched half an episode of House Hunters, that was enough, right?

 Next to him on the chewed up couch, Himiko leaned in to ask, “so, they’re gonna have all the students on campus from now on?”

 “Mhm,” Izuku nodded, lifting his Gamecube controller each time he turned as if it could somehow help him beat Rainbow Road. “Yeah, Nedzu said something about there maybe being a leak in the staff or the students. They should all be moving in here by tomorrow.” He was glad that Nedzu had trusted him enough to inform him of his plan, but he also had a feeling that he was only told to prevent him from making a scene if he found out later. “All twenty of them.”

 “Sucks. I wish we could have the place to ourselves for a while longer.” Himiko frowned, not looking away from the screen as she spoke. She wasn’t going to lose to Izuku again; she just couldn’t. “Why were you called into that meeting anyway?”

 Izuku grinned, glad he could finally share the news now that he had a lead in for it. “You know how you’re getting to move your online credits over?”

 The blood drinker glanced at him from the side of her eye, immediately looking back at the flashing colors on the screen. “Yeah?”

 Izuku pointed his chin at a lounging Dabi, the fire user draped across both Izuku and Himiko’s legs. “And how Dabi gets to live here for free even though he doesn't go to school?” And even though he was too old to go to school?

 Himiko nodded, wondering where he was going with this. “Uh huh.”

 “Why do I get to live here?” Dabi waved in Izuku’s direction, pulling his hand back almost immediately when Izuku glared at him while snapping his teeth. His hand tucked safely against his chest; he asked again, “well? Why is that?”

 Izuku shrugged, his eyes glued to the screen as he began his final lap. “I’m the new media relations teacher and team tactics instructor.”

 Dabi sat up straight, almost hitting Izuku in the face on his way up. “WHAT?”

 “Really!?” Himiko all but squealed as she dropped her controller in surprise, turning to Izuku with a wide grin.

 Izuku leaned all the way across the arm of the couch, holding his controller high and narrowly avoiding having Himiko and Dabi grab him by his shoulders and start shaking him vigorously. Grinning, he ignored them for just long enough to cross the finish line, winning for the thirteenth time in a row. He threw his controller into the air, pumping his fists above his head in joy. Yeah! Me!”

 “Zuzu.”

 “Hmm?” Izuku looked down to where Dabi was sprawled across his lap, Himiko right behind him. He managed to resist reacting with a wince to the numb feeling spreading through his legs, but just barely. Just Dabi would have been fine, or just Himiko, but both was just too much. “What?”

 “You’re gonna be a teacher.” Dabi’s eyes were wide with awestruck horror; he had lived with Izuku for almost two full years, he knew all of his bad habits. “A teacher?”

 “I guess.”

 Dabi shook his head, not believing what he was hearing. Izuku, the same Izuku who once tried to shove him into the fridge for no reason at all was going to be a teacher. “Are they insane?”

 “Probably.”

 Himiko snorted, “if they knew half of the things you’ve done…”

 Simultaneously, Dabi and Himiko flashed back to a nights patrol that had started out normal but had somehow ended with Izuku chugging a Red Bull and jumping into a trash can with wheels and trying to use it like a skateboard, his reign of terror only stopped after crashing into a parked car and breaking its windshield. That Izuku was going to be teaching impressionable high schoolers. The future was doomed. It’s the end times.

 “Amazing,” Himiko whispered, her eyes filled with conflicted wonder.

 “He’s going to traumatize them.”

 Izuku threw his hands up in faux outrage, “I’m right here.”

 But Himiko ignored his protests, turning to Dabi with a grin. “I bet that one of the heroes are going to cry on the first day.”

 Dabi nodded, grabbing her hand and shaking it firmly. “You’re on. Wait, hero student or actual hero?”

 "Either." 

 With a sigh, Izuku covered his face with his hands. “You’re both sitting on me, how are you managing to ignore me?”

 “Carefully,” Dabi said, adjusting his position until he was perched on one of Izuku’s legs and Himiko was on the other.

 Himiko shook her head, her answer almost the opposite of Dabi’s. “Easily.”

 Izuku flopped back onto the couch, tilting his head back and staring at the ceiling. “You both suck.” But he didn’t do anything to remove the two from his lap, just letting them sit there and grin at him unsettlingly until they were interrupted by the sound of Himiko’s stomach growling.

 The fanged girl frowned, “I’m starving.”

 “Me too, what’s in the kitchen?”

 With a shrug, Izuku tried to remember what was in supply, “I think there are some leftover burgers in the fridge.” If there wasn’t, there was always rice and eggs in stock. They better not have to share their groceries with the hero students, if any of them drank Izuku’s energy drinks or coffee he might become a four-time killer.

 Dabi sighed, running a hand through his hair, frowning slightly at the length of the locks. “I still can’t believe that you actually went to Kurger Bing after the raid.”

 “I said I was going to.” Izuku kicked up the leg that Himiko was on, not even straining as he lifted her weight. “And that’s why I have the ankle monitor now.” He hadn’t been making a break for it, but the heroes weren’t going to take the risk of him leaving campus again anytime soon after what he had pulled. He had barely managed to convince Nezu that joining the raid had only been his idea and he was the only one with the ankle monitor because of his argument.

 Himiko hopped off of Izuku’s leg, stretching her arms above her head and heading towards the closest door. “I’m gonna grab some food before I die, you guys want a burger if there’s any left?”

 Izuku shrugged, reaching over and running his hand through Dabi’s hair. “Sure, but don’t heat it back up, that’s just nasty.”

 Dabi leaned into the touch, nodding in agreement to Izuku’s statement. “Yeah, cold burgers aren’t great, but reheated burgers are just… sin.”

 A few minutes after she had left, Himiko called through the door from the hallway, her voice both frustrated and curious. “Izuku?”

 “Yeah?”

 Himiko opened the door, a frustrated look on her face that wasn’t offset in the slightest by the plate of burgers. “What day is it again?”

 Izuku glanced at the stained calendar hanging on the wall; the current day circled with red pen. “Sunday, why?" His eyes widened in shock as he realized why Himiko was asking him about the date. "Oh shit!” The hero students were moving in today not the next. Izuku jumped to his feet, dropping Dabi to the floor in his hurry to get out the door. “Dabi put on some pants, we’ve got students coming!”

  “What?” Dabi shot up to his feet, stumbling forward and searching through the closet for a clean pair of pants, his last clean pair having been lost in a brutal battle with a burrito. “I thought they were coming tomorrow!”

  “Well, I fucked up on the date!” Izuku frantically ran his hands through his hair, trying to tame the green curls before stopping, why was he trying to impress a bunch of high schoolers? He shook his head, just pulling on a half clean hoodie from the laundry pile that barely managed to pass the sniff test and his ratty pair of red sneakers. He reached down to adjust his ankle monitor, the plastic of the band sticking to his skin. “So, let’s go meet the new neighbors, yeah?”

  “Seriously, Zuzu?” Dabi zipped up his jeans, shaking his head in disappointment when he was what Izuku was wearing. “That’s the impression you want to make?”

  “Please.” Izuku rolled his eyes, deciding to let the others in on the absolutely awful first impression he had made already. “When I got dropped down during the camp I didn’t help them fight at all.” He shrugged, pushing up the sleeves of his hoodie, exposing the scars on his right arm. “Those kids all fucking hate me already. One of them called me a dick in the first five minutes I was there.”

  “I’m eighty percent sure that you have a secret quirk that just makes people hate you.” Dabi pulled on his shoes, almost falling over in the process.

  “I agree.” Himiko set down the plate of burgers on the table, not wanting to have to go back for them again after they got this over with. “It’s like an awful curse.”

  Izuku shrugged, “I’m just talented like that.” He stretched, his back crunching as he leaned down to touch his toes. “But wouldn’t that just be my luck?”

  “Right? I swear you’re like a fucking trouble magnet.” Dabi clapped his hand on Izuku’s shoulder, frowning when he saw the stain under his hand that was either coffee or blood. He really hoped that it was from coffee, but it really could be either one. Pulling his hand back and surreptitiously rubbing his palm on his jeans, he turned to the door. “Let’s go haze the newbies.”

  “Yeah,” Izuku cheered joylessly, perking up only when he said, “I’m gonna traumatize them!”

  Himiko sighed, following them into the hall and rubbing her temples, trying to prevent the headache that she knew was coming. “Seriously, what is wrong with you two? Is this a man thing?”

  Dabi shook his head, “nah, it’s just an idiot thing.”

  “Yep, we’re idiots,” Izuku had his hands shoved deep in his pockets before he suddenly perked up, slapping Dabi in the arm while running ahead. “Race you there!”

  “You’re on!”

  “Izuku, Dabi… nevermind, you won’t learn.” Himiko hid her small smile, watching Dabi and Izuku race each other down the hall, Dabi somehow managing to look lazy even when running while Izuku was almost literally bouncing off the walls. “Idiots,” she muttered fondly, following them out the front door to greet the hero students once again, this time on more even footing and as equals.

  Well, as close to equals as they were going to get to be.

  “Aizawa-sensei, why are they here?” Why are they here, again?

  The air over the students was heavy, Aizawa having just told off the students that had mounted their own rescue operation and interfered with the heroes. All twenty of them now knew that they had come inches from expulsion and it was only because the world needed more heroes now that All Might had retired that had kept them from being sent home for good.

  Aizawa didn’t acknowledge the ex-vigilantes; instead, he began explaining their presence to the hero students. “They live here, and as of next week, Toga Himiko will be joining the General Education Department with shared Hero Course classes. But that doesn’t mean they’re here to have fun. Midoriya will be reporting directly to me if there are any problems or if he feels there might be any problems.”

  At the mention of his name, Izuku stepped down the stairs and into the sunlight, a slight grin on his face as he raised a hand in an informal greeting. Izuku saw this as his opportunity to lighten the mood and make sure he was respected as the top dog and ultimate authority around here. “Yo, what up. Midoriya Izuku here, aka Target, aka,” he lifted the leg of his jeans, showing off his ankle monitor, “House Arrest, for the next month. And your watcher for who knows how long! Who’s ready for this?”

  Rolling her eyes at Izuku’s constant need to make an impression, Himiko stepped up. “Ignore him; he’s just hungry.”

  “Starving, actually.” Izuku shrugged, jamming his hands in his pockets and managing to lean back onto nothing.

  “...I’m going back inside,” Dabi said, moving to leave, Izuku following him almost immediately. The students knew they were being watched now and that’s all Izuku had really cared about.

  “Just because I can’t see you doesn’t mean I’m not watching!” Izuku waved jauntily, following Dabi back indoors, leaving Himiko with a crowd of confused students and an already exasperated Aizawa. Just what she wanted to deal with.

  “I’m so sorry, he’s…” She sighed, “he’s just always like that.” The blood drinker shook her head and turned to follow the others, missing the look that Bakugou was sending at Izuku’s retreating form. “See you again soon, I guess.”

 

*** * ***

  

  “Targe- Midoriya? What are you doing in the staff room?”

  “I guess this was a long time coming, yeah?” Izuku sighed, leaning against the wall of the staff room, holding the lesson plan he had been writing when he had walked in. But this needed to happen. “So, what can I do for the number one, I mean, former number one hero?” He had hoped that by working on his lesson plan he could avoid conflict for the rest of the day while the hero students were moving in, but now he saw that conflict would always come to find him.

  “You’re the new hire that Nedzu was going on about?” Toshinori didn’t know if he could work with this kid and he thought he could get along with just about everyone. And he had gotten along with most people until Midoriya Izuku came onto the scene. “I thought they only employed heroes.”

  Izuku shrugged, tossing his folder onto the closest table. “Yeah, media relations and team tactics.” He knew that UA only hired heroes, but he had something in the works just for that. The ex-vigilante crossed his arms over his chest, glaring up at the retired hero. “But you didn’t answer my question, what can I do for you?”

  “I… I want to fix things. I don’t want this animosity between us.” Toshinori wrung his hands, not sure how to deal with someone who genuinely disliked him. He just wanted to fix things.

  “Really? You did break my ribs on camera, sooo,” Izuku shrugged again, reveling in the look of discomfort his former idol wore. “Then you brushed me off when I asked to help with the raid. And you saw how well that worked. Things have changed in the year since you destroyed my dreams. I’ve changed. Not sure how you mean to fix that, Yagi-san. Somethings happen that can't be fixed. And some things, well, they shouldn't be changed.”

   Toshinori nodded, he didn't want to change the boy, he just wanted to change the dynamic between them to something more... sustainable. “I know that I tried to apologize, but I was wrong to try and sweep away all your problems with me with one apology.”

  “Hmm, you know,” Izuku paused, thinking over his words. “You sound more… genuine this time around, if that makes sense. I mean, I still fucking hate you and don't respect you in the slightest, but I won't try to like, trip you when you’re walking down the stairs or anything.” It would be much more fun to pull a chair out from under him instead. Or maybe just loosen the joints of his chair and let nature take its course. Izuku fought back a grin at the thought of making the former hero fall on his ass in front of the other staff members.

  “Thank you?” Toshinori didn't think he should be thanking the ex-vigilante, but he wasn't sure what else he was supposed to say.

  “You’re welcome,” Izuku said, tone sarcastic as always. “And I guess that I also hope that we can move forward as colleagues, but this, animosity was it? It’s not something that can be removed; it has to be built over.” He picked back up his lesson plan, tucking it under his arm and walked over to the coffee maker. “These sort of things take effort on both ends, so I have to ask,” Izuku grabbed a green mug and filled it with coffee, moving to leave the staff room. Before he exited, he stopped, letting his next words hang in the air long after they were said and he was gone. “Are you trying to fix things because you want to? Or because you think you’re supposed to?”

  Once Izuku was gone, his words still lingering in the still air of the staff room, Toshinori sighed, pushing back his blond bangs with a shaking hand. “...I don’t really know anymore.” 

 

*** * ***

 

  “This fucking blows,” Kaminari leaned back on the couch, glancing towards the main door.

  “Can’t believe he’s snitching on us to Aizawa-sensei,” Sero said, arms crossed.

  Kirishima nodded, “right? Why are they even here? Didn’t they get arrested?”

  “Are they staying in the dorms? I know it’s not nice, but I don’t really want Midoriya in the same building as the rest of us.”

  “Isn’t he a murderer,” asked Mineta, unfortunately, he was being given another chance. But he was on thin ice, even one complaint and he was out for good. “Why is someone like that allowed on campus?”

  Bakugou all but stomped into the common room, taking down the last of his empty boxes before going back up to bed. “You fucksticks better shut the hell up about Deku.” He was the only one allowed to talk shit about him, that’s just how things were.

  “Aw, Kachaan, I didn’t know you still cared.” Izuku tucked his lesson plan under his arm, taking a sip of coffee as the students began to settle back down after nearly jumping out of their skin at his sudden appearance. He hadn’t even used the door, how had he gotten in?

  What they didn’t know, was that he had come in through the window just so he could scare them all shitless.

  “Tch.” Bakugou rolled his eyes, stalking out of the room. He wasn’t ready to talk to Midoriya, not yet. “Whatever, I’m going to bed.”

  “Goodnight!” Izuku said smugly, then gestured to the others with the half-full coffee mug, “why aren’t you all getting moved in? You’ve been here about,” He glanced at the clock on the wall, raising his eyebrows in surprise. “You’ve only had about four hours; you can’t seriously be done already.”

  Shinsou shrugged, “we are, the girls all got help from your girlfriend.”

  “Himiko isn't my girlfriend. ” Izuku pushed down the need to vomit, did they really believe they were dating? “How did you all get done so fast, then?”

  “The scary looking guy helped the rest of us move all the boxes upstairs,” Shinsou continued, the others all too scared to speak so casually to a three-time murderer. But Shinsou knew Midoriya a bit better than the rest of them did. He was a good guy; he wasn’t as terrifying as he seemed. “Made everything go by much faster.”

  Izuku said nothing to defend Dabi, the description was right, he was scary looking. “So, that’s it then? I can go and finish up my shit now?” He gestured to the folder under his arm, not answering the curious gazes of the students. My students, he thought. Oh god, I’m a teacher now. Just wait until they find out.

  Coming through the door that Bakugou had left though, the girls made their way into the common room. “Did you guys finish up your rooms?” Ashido was followed by the rest of the girls, Himiko following them and chattering animatedly with Yaoyorozu. About what, Izuku didn’t want to know. Probably the chemical composition of random objects or blood, or whatever girls talk about. He doesn’t exactly have a standard reference point for this.

  Kirishima stood, gesturing to the couch and offering it to the girls who turned it down. “Yeah, the scary dude helped!”

  “‘M not scary,” Dabi muttered, coming out of the kitchen with a glass of water and standing behind Izuku, resting his chin in his green curls.

  “You’re a little scary, Dabi,” Izuku said, not trying to remove Dabi from where he was resting.

  Ashido waved to get attention back on herself, “Well, I was thinking, and we were all talking about it, so… We should have a competition to see who has the best room!”

  Izuku, and Himiko all shared a look, while Dabi and the blood drinker also shared a look, almost able to hear the others think the same thing. This is a bad idea.

  But their thoughts went unsaid and unheard, the students all excited to see the sense of taste in decor that their classmates had.

  Izuku sighed and shook his head, dislodging Dabi before following the cluster of students and wishing he had more coffee than just half a mug. While Himiko and Dabi got involved in the judging, Izuku hung back, for the first time feeling like he really didn’t belong with the students. He just wasn’t the same as them, while they all managed to get along comfortably, he had to work for every friendship he had. With a sigh, he just watched as they began to argue about how if it was a contest it had to be between all of them.

  Frowning, he realized it was Mineta who made that argument. So the little pervert hadn’t learned a thing, had he? Izuku was going to have to have a serious talk with Aizawa about removing Mineta from the class before the licensing exam. Either move him down to General Education or expel him completely. Personally, Izuku would like to dropkick him off the roof of UA, but he had a feeling the heroes wouldn’t appreciate a murder on campus.

  Izuku shook himself back to alertness, they had come back to the common room, and half of the boys were glaring at Sato for some reason. Were they done now? Could he work on his lesson plan yet, he needed to have it done before he could start teaching. Thinking about the timetable he was planning, he turned to the kitchen, heading to the fridge and pulling out an energy drink. When he came back to the common room, the attention of just about everyone was on him.

  Turning away from Izuku and towards Dabi, Shouto just looked blandly at him for a moment before asking, “where are you staying?” He was curious about the ex-vigilante, and he was sure that the theory on his identity was right, but he didn’t want to believe it. If it was true, what did that mean for the two of them? For the family?

  “The second floor, we’ve got everything set up down there.”  Dabi looked slightly uncomfortable, he really needed to have that conversation with Shouto, but he wasn’t sure how to lead into it. Little did he know, the thought in Shouto’s head closely mirrored his own.

  “We had everything from our apartment sent by the cops, even the furniture,” Himiko added from behind him, dragging Tsuyu and Uraraka forward towards the elevator. “Come on, you need to check out what Izuku did!”

  “Yeah, it is pretty cool.” Dabi shrugged, following the group and grinning when he saw the pained look on Izuku’s face. “Come and check it out.”

  Izuku shook his head, cracking open the can in his hands and taking a long drink before following them back to the second floor. “You two are just… the worst sometimes.”

  After an uncomfortable elevator ride where they found that over thirteen teenagers can still fit in one elevator, they were there.

  “You all ready for this,” Himiko asked, resting her hand on the doorknob.

  “Why not.” “Yeah!” “Sure.” “I guess it could be interesting.” “Let’s see how criminals live!” “I wonder if it’s anything like a prison.”

  Himiko threw the door open to the chaos within, the students all gasping in shock at the sheer size of the room. “See, it’s so cool.”

  Inside the enlarged room was the sort of setup you would expect in a studio apartment. Hell, at one point it had been the setup of a studio apartment. The bed was just a king size mattress sitting on the floor, the bedding an assortment of dark colors, sheets, blankets, and pillowcases all from different sets. Barely managing to contain it all, was that old green tent. But before that, was the chewed up couch and a red beanbag chair sitting in front of the marble-topped coffee table, the plate of cold burgers sitting next to a very nice three person tea set. Beside those, were the Gamecube controllers, the flatscreen the Gamecube itself was connected to hooked up on the wall, still showing the start screen for Mario Kart.

  The farthest wall was covered in one continuous bookshelf filled almost to bursting with things such as the Anarchist Cookbook and everything from fiction to The Poisoner's Handbook. The lowest shelves were filled with the weaponry the trio used, and all of the ammunition Izuku had bought.

  Beside the horrifying tent-slash-bed setup, was a hotplate and a coffee pot that had definitely been on fire more than the one time back in the apartment. One of the walls had a computers desk with Izuku’s laptop and an assortment of video cameras next to it. A few standing lamps and end tables filled the gaps in the space, but it was just an odd assortment of things. A chaotic variety of things that just shouldn’t go together but had been forced into the same space anyways.

  Thankfully the walls were blank, but soon they too would be filled with three different clashing styles.

  Managing to fight off his fear and confusion, the first to speak was Kirishima. Pointing at the sledgehammer leaning against the wall, Kirishima asked, “did Midoriya knock down two walls?”

  Dabi nodded, “yeah, he did. There wasn’t enough space for all of our stuff in just one room.”

  “Hold on,” Uraraka said, looking thoughtful. “The three of you stay in one room?”

  “Isn’t that a little… wrong?” Kirishima asked, not seeing the look of irritation Izuku made at that.

  “Oi,” Izuku handed the half-empty can to the closest student, pushing up the sleeves of his hoodie and stepping forward. “You wanna fight about it?”

  “What! No fighting!” Iida put out his arm, blocking Izuku from moving forwards while chopping the air violently with the other.

  “Mrgh.” Izuku rolled his eyes, taking the energy drink back from Tokoyami and pushing his way past Iida and into his room. “Leave, I’ve got shit to work on.”

  “Well, time to vote,” Ashido said energetically, pulling attention back to herself. “To the common room!”

  Filing back out of the room, Himiko and Dabi followed the students, leaving Izuku alone with his thoughts and a half-finished lesson plan. “Goddamnit,” he muttered, this isn’t how he had wanted to start things, but it’s not like it could get any worse, right?

 

*** * ***

 

  “Heyo, this is Present Mic, and you’re listening to Put Your Hands Up Radio! So it’s a Monday, and you know what that means, listeners! Guest stars! Yeeeah!” Present Mic was all but climbing on the table in the radio room, microphone in his hand as he made his announcements. “Today we’ve got the latest social media superstars, the vigilantes who everyone knows and loves, the Terrible Three!”

  Izuku nodded, leaning forwards slightly to make sure his voice was picked up by the microphone in front of him. “Thank’s, Present Microphone.”

  “Present Mic,” the voice hero corrected.

  “Presently Microphone.”

  “Present Mic. 

  Grinning, Izuku continued, “Presentation Michal.”

  “Present Mic. 

  “Of course. Mresentation Pichal.”

  Himiko slapped Izuku’s arm, “Target, stop, you’re killing him.”

  Dabi shook his head, watching the exchange with wide eyes. “No, keep going, I’ve never seen someone make a face like that before.”

  Present Mic sighed, regretting listening to Nedzu about having the ex-vigilantes on the show while the hero students were working on super moves. “ Anyway, we’re going to do introductions, chat a bit, then answer listener questions!”

  Izuku smirked, “what a radical mood.”

  “Don’t… don’t do that.” Present Mic shook his head, signaling the production manager to start taking calls after the initial interview. “Let’s get started, tell me something about yourself!”

  Putting on his game face, Izuku managed to swagger even while sitting, playing up the false confidence. “I’m Target, and I’m an adrenaline junkie. I’ve got no social skills, but I don’t fuckin need them, I’m famous! People love me!”

  “Don’t be so cocky.” Himiko rolled her eyes, knowing what game they were playing now. “Vamp Bitch here! I love the color red and cute things like kitties and Targets' knives!”

  “Dabi,” was all Dabi said by way of an introduction before continuing. “I like cryptozoology, and I saw a demon once, but nobody believed me.”

  Izuku rolled his eyes, the damn demon story again? Really? “Because you didn’t see a demon!”

  Himiko gasped, "maybe he is the demon!”

  “No, he’s… no,” Izuku said, shaking his head. “Dabi isn’t a demon.”

  “I’ll prove it!”

  “What? How?”

  “...I’m not a demon.”

  “Holy water!”

  Izuku stood, slamming his hands on the table, the two of them riffing off each other and winding the other up in their act. “Don’t do that!”

  “Guys, I’m not a demon.” Didn’t Dabi suffer enough without being accused of being a demon?

  “I’ll find a priest!”

  “What? No! Get an exorcist!”

  “I’m not a demon!”

  Interrupting them before they could spiral entirely into madness, Present Mic nodded to the production manager on the other side of the glass. “Let’s take some questions from the callers!” With a flip of a switch, they were connected with the first caller. “Thank you caller number one, do you have a question for our guests?”

“Yeah, hi, I just wanted to say that you guys rock and that everyone out here in Hosu loves you!”

  Izuku nodded, “thanks, I love you too stranger! Hosu rocks!”

  “Alright, next caller!” This was going well, maybe it wouldn’t be a disaster. “You’re on Put Your Hands Up Radio, what’s your question?”

“Hey, Terrible Three! Hi from Kamino! Great work out here, by the way. So, you’re always joking around in your videos, how long have you all known each other?”

  It was a reasonable enough question, but it wasn’t being asked to ordinary people.

  Dabi crossed his arms, leaning back in his seat. “I’ve known Target for two years, and I regret every moment of it.” If Himiko and Izuku were going to be dramatic, he would be too. He has jokes, just you wait.

  Izuku flopped into his own chair, rolling his eyes fondly. “Please, Dabi, you love me!”

  Chiming in with her answer, Himiko leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table as she talked. “I’ve only known the two of them for about a year and a half, but we just, like, connected, you know?”

  “Unfortunately,” Dabi snarked. “But yeah, we all just clicked after I fell out of a tree and they did nothing to help me.”

  Present Mic gasped, not believing that anyone would be that cruel. “What, that’s terrible! Thanks for calling in, listener! Now, moving right along. Alright, next caller!”

“What are your guys' quirks? Like, it’s obvious Dabi’s is fire, but nobody’s seen Vamp or Target’s quirks.”

  Himiko answered first, knowing Izuku was going to have to make a maze out of his words for his answer. “Well, mine is called Transformation, so it’s not really useful in a fight. Besides, it leaves me naked when I use it...”

“Oh, that’s… huh. What about you, Target?”

  “Well, it depends on what you consider a quirk, really. Some people would call my analysis a quirk, or my speed, but that's just skill.” Izuku had been working on how to answer questions about a quirk without actually announcing his quirk status to the world. He needed to keep enemies in the dark as long as he could. “Some would say my stamina is a quirk or my charisma. Hell, Dabi and Vamp say my quirk is to antagonize people until they want to kill me! I just don’t put a lot of stock in quirks, I guess. A strong quirk doesn’t make a good person and vise versa.”

“Oh, thanks I guess?”

  Present Mic “Next caller, you’re on the air!”

“Dabi, you said you like cryptids, so do you have a Conspiracy account?”

  The flame user nodded, “I do. I love the Urban Legends tag, and it’s actually been helpful on some of our… hunts.”

“You should follow me! I’m CryptoCurrentSea!”

  Dabi grinned at the microphone, leaning forward excitedly. "You’re CryptoCurrentSea? I loved that breakdown you did on Flying Rods and how they couldn’t be photographic artifacts! And that global Hellhound expose? Amazing.”

“Thanks!”

  “Thanks for calling in, let’s move on to the next caller!” Present Mic let his guard begin to relax, this was going great! “You’re on Put Your Hands Up Radio, what’s your question?”

“I’m just calling to say that I love Vamp Bitch!”

  “Aww, how sweet,” Himiko cooed, a deep blush rising on her cheeks.

  “Next caller!”

“This one is also for Dabi. What’s your Conspiracy handle?”

  “It’s uh,” Dabi hung his head before mumbling, “EatMyAsh. Sorry.”

“Wait a minute; you’re EatMyAsh? The guy who’s always debunking the really crazy theories and doing so much work around the web? Oh my god, I’ve been following you for months! What’s your favorite theory?”

  “Thanks?” Dabi was thankful that nobody could see the blush burning under his scars, but from the way Izuku was smirking at him, he could tell. “And uh, my favorite theory is one of the big ones. Not fluoride in the water or microphones in our ovens. I like Fake Space. All of space, it’s all fake! The moon? Fake! The stars? Fake! Planets? Fa-”

  Cutting him off before he could really get going, Present Mic switched to the next line. “Okay, next caller! You’re live with Present Mic and the Terrible Three!”

“Vaaaaaamp! Oh my god! Who does your hair?!”

  “Target does my hair!”

“How cute! You're like, besties then?”

  “Yep!”

  “Absolutely adorable,” Present Mic drawled, “thanks for calling in!” He switched to the next waiting caller, “and you’re live with the Terrible Three, what’s your question, listener?”

“I got a question for the whole team. As a vigilante, what are the funniest things you've seen happen with criminals?”

  Dabi grinned freely, reminiscing about their time in Hosu. “Well, one time a drug dealer tried to hide inside a safe and ended up locking himself in it.” The guy had been in there for almost two hours before Izuku had managed to use Himiko’s sledgehammer to bash the lock off.

  “I still like the time someone saw Target and tried to run away only for their pants to fall off!” Himiko stifled a laugh that one always got her.

  Shaking his head, Izuku chimed in, “I like that one too. But my favorite would have to be one of the earlier ones. Back when we were first getting started and before we made a name for ourselves.”

  “You talking about… that?”

  Izuku nodded, “yeah, the guy who kept asking if I worked for Target. You know, like the store!” He threw his hands up in mock outrage as the caller laughed nearly hysterically.

“Thanks! You guys rock!”

 

“Dabi’s daily wisdoms. Where do those come from? Is there a website or something?”

  “Those are all him, my friend!” Himiko was all but climbing on the table in her excitement, her energy managing to rival Present Mic regarding sheer power.

  Izuku nodded, glancing at Himiko with a slightly worried expression on his face. “Yeah, he's some kind of idiotic genius, ya feel me?”

  Dabi rolled his eyes, “thanks, guys. I sure feel loved,” he snarked.

 

“Do you guys like memes?”

  Dabi shrugged, “I like surrealist memes, Welcome to Nightvale, I Am A Fish, just absolute absurdism. That  sort of thing.”

  “I'm more a fan of vaporwave. Like, on the edge of surreal but more abstract .” Himiko thought for a second before adding, “I also like Classical Art Memes. Like, old paintings with text from Twitter or Tumblr.”

  “I like to use memes wrong and make Dabi and Vamp cry.” Izuku chuckled, stretching his arms above his head, the crunching of his back able to be heard on the airwaves. “I also like t posing and overreacting to things.”

 

“What's the weirdest wisdom Dabi has ever dropped?”

  “I think I have to go with ‘Islands are the opposite of lakes.’” Izuku shook his head, smiling softly. “It's true, but you never think about it.”

  “And you shouldn’t say it either,” Himiko added, the two of them smiling like idiots while Dabi covered his face with his hands, his cheeks burning.

  Literally. They were literally burning.

 

  Questions continued on like that for almost fifteen more minutes, the ex-vigilantes all joking around with each other and even with Present Mic. But things being perfect wouldn’t make for a good story now, would it?

 

“I’ve got a question for Target.”

  “Hit me with it, what’cha wanna know?” Izuku kicked his feet up onto the table, lacing his fingers behind his head and projecting the persona of the wild young thug that everyone loved. Apparently, he appealed to the ‘urban demographic’ and was the most popular in both middle and low-income areas.

“I’ve watched all of your videos on hero theory and how heroes should stop trying to be symbols or act as though they’re moral authorities and all that. So I have to ask; what are your opinions on All Might? You know, before he retired?”

  Seeing the look on two of the Three faces, Present Mic shook his head, “oof, bad question caller.”

  “Yeah, Target doesn’t really like to talk about All Might.”

  “He’s got some real opinions on that guy.”

  Izuku shrugged, remembering his promise to himself that if he had the chance to share every detail on how All Might had torn his dream to shreds, he would take it. Now was his chance. “No, no, that’s a good question. People want to know, and I give the people what they want.” He stretched languidly, taking a moment to build suspense. “Honest opinion on All Might? Man was a great hero, yeah, but he’s kinda… a massive dick.” Izuku grinned sharply, taking his feet off the table and leaning in close to the microphone, his voice oozing a sickening sort of dark charm.

  “Let me tell you the story about a little kid who never understood why he dreamed of being a hero, but he still did. Kid looked up the All Might, the greatest hero, yeah? But there’s a reason people say not to meet your heroes.” He paused, letting his words sink in for the thousands of listeners. “I asked if I could become a hero without a powerful quirk, and do you want to know what he said?”

“...what did he say?”

  The ex-vigilante took a deep breath, wondering if whipping the public into a frenzy so soon after All Might’s retirement was a good idea, but he had started down this path, and he was going to follow it through damn it. “He said, ‘it’s not a bad thing to dream. However, you need to be realistic, kid.’”

  There was silence on the callers' end, and the incoming call lines were blowing up, hundreds of people calling in at the moment that the meaning of his words was registered. Izuku just grinned sharply, leaning back in his seat, ready to say the words that would act as nails in the coffin of his dead dream. “But that didn’t stop me; I went on to save a life that day. A villain in the shopping district of downtown Musutafu had captured a boy with an explosion quirk, and I wasn’t going to stand for that. And that’s the beginning of my story, stabbing a villain in the eye to save my enemy.”

  His dream might be dead, but a dream can’t be resurrected without being dead and buried first.

  The lines continued to blow up before Present Mic leaned over to the microphone, still staring at Izuku in shock as he announced, “that, that’s going to be it for questions today, be sure to write in with requests for guests and don't forget to Put Your Hands Up!” He signaled for the broadcasters to cut the feed, a bouncy beat coming through the speakers and playing in the airwaves as the interview ended. Yamada rubbed his hands over his face, “that went well.”

  “It really did, didn’t it.” Izuku kept up his sharp grin, sharing a knowing look with Dabi and Himiko. They knew what game he was playing, the careful game of media manipulation. If things went right, they would be up for hero licenses in the next exam. Less than two weeks to force the heroes to accept him through charm and brute force.

 

*** * ***

 

  “So, you’re probably wondering why you’ve been called here.”

  They had been called into Principal Nedzu’s office, the three of them faced with the rodent in charge and both Aizawa and a very uncomfortable looking All Might.

  Izuku kicked his dirty shoes onto the desk, enjoying the glare he received from Nedzu. “It’s because of what I said on air, isn’t it?” He had kept on eye on the things being discussed for the past few days, and in the top ten trending topics was the revelation that All Might had shattered a child's dream and that child had gone on to become Target. In the top twenty was the fact that Target was the same child who had stabbed a villain in Musutafu.

  Izuku knew what was coming now.

  “Let me guess, I’ve whipped the public into a frenzy again, and you need us to shift public opinion back to your favor?”

  Nedzu nodded, paws pressed to the wood of his desk. “Exactly. I haven’t seen someone get the public so mad since Endeavor insulted All Might on television almost ten years ago.”

   Izuku's jaw dropped, and he raised his hands in protest, waving them about angrily. “Whoa, don’t insult me by comparing me to that prick!”

  “Yeah, that’s just rude. To compare anyone to Endeavor…” Dabi shuddered, Izuku could be scary and maybe a bit cold at times, but he was still a good person. He wasn’t anything like that firefuck.

  “Endeavor is a piece of shit, and you can quote me on that,” Himiko's eyes were fierce, filled with a simmering rage that she would really love to let loose on the new number one hero.

  “As nice as it is that the three of you share my opinion on Endeavor, we have an offer for you.” Aizawa shook his head, his arms crossed over his chest. “We were reached out to by the licensing committee, you three have an opportunity that has literally never been given to anyone in your situation before.”

  “There was a petition started by a ‘Spinner?’” Toshinori said hesitantly, an excited wave rolling over the three teenagers.

  “The lizard!” “Spinner!” “Let’s make a video to thank him!” "Love that guy." "Good lizard." "He's the greatest."

  The retired hero continued, speaking over the teenagers' excited murmurs. “Anyway, in less than two days it had over three hundred thousand signatures, and with the massive shift in public opinion, it’s been decided that the three of you will take the same test as the rest of the hero students. And even if you don’t pass, you’ll be licensed, but this needs to look legitimate.”

  Dabi’s jaw dropped as he realized exactly what this all meant. “Holy shit, I’m gonna be a hero? I didn’t even go to high school!”

  “You’ll be a great hero, Dabi,” Izuku patted his friend's shoulder before letting a self-satisfied smirk make its way across his face. Is plan was working and was doing so faster than he had ever expected. “And you will too, Himiko.”

  “I’ll be a great hero! Maybe I’ll bring back the sledgehammer…” Himiko tapped her fingers as she thought about how she would be able to carry both her staff and her hammer.

  “Maybe you don’t bring back the sledgehammer.”

  Ignoring Izuku’s protest, Dabi turned to Himiko with an idea. “Use it as a super move, that would be so cool!” Hey, I didn't say it was a good idea, now did I?

  “You two are going to make me jump right out the window.” Izuku sighed heavily, eyeing the window and wondering how hard he would have to jump to actually manage to hurt himself. “But with my luck, I’ll still live.”

   Himiko rolled her eyes, throwing her hands up in disbelief. “See, you’re bringing back suicide jokes, why can’t I bring back the sledgehammer?!”

  “Fine, bring back the sledgehammer!” Izuku pressed his hands to his face before giving up and shrugging half-heartedly. “See what happens when you break a villain's kneecaps on television.” Less than a beat later, he changed his opinion. “Oh, who am I kidding, you’re adorable, people would love it!”

  “Thanks!”

  Aizawa cleared his throat, drawing attention back to himself. “If we could get back to the subject at hand?”

  “Of course.” Izuku nodded, lacing his fingers behind his head, the uncaring image complete. He had his feet up, just now seeing the paperwork that was crumpled under the dirty heels of his shoes, he was in ripped jeans and a stained hoodie, and he looked like he had been sleeping outside for a week. Perfect. “So you want us to what? Go on the talk show circuit, do interviews with other heroes, maybe work with someone All Might used to work with? After all, I never got a formal apology for my ribs.”

  “I hate how perceptive you are, but yes, that’s about the gist of it,” Aizawa answered, leaning back against the wall, a dark expression on his face. He would rather be training his students right now, not somehow gaining three more of them.

  Izuku frowned, thinking about how this was going to play out. “Are we going to train with the hero students? Get them used to our presence?”

  “Also yes. I want them to be able to trust you completely.”

  “Shit, that,” Izuku rubbed his clasped hands against the back of his neck, a regretful look on his face. “I might have screwed that up already; those kids fucking hate me.” And scaring them like he had on Sunday hadn’t exactly helped his case at all.

  Himiko nodded, she had taken a poll! “It’s true, half of them hate him, the rest are scared of him.”

  Picking up where Himiko left off, Dabi continued to explain the students' feelings. “The only ones who aren’t scared of you are Bakugou, Sho- Todoroki, Shinsou, and Jirou. And I think that Iida and Uraraka just feel bad for you. They think you’re some traumatized and tormented soul that just needs more friends.” Dabi scoffed as if he wasn’t more than enough of a friend for Izuku. But he brushed that thought to the side; he knew he could be a bit... possessive of Izuku at times. He wasn't reading into it. But he really should.

  “I think I would prefer if they just hated me.” Izuku turned back to the principal, “I only have one request for interviews and such. No Endeavor.”

  “Thanks, Zuzu.” Dabi wouldn’t have been able to function if he had to interview with Endeavor in the same room, he would probably burn down the building around him without even using his quirk.

  Izuku nodded in acknowledgment. “I know, I don’t want you to have to be near that bastard unless it’s absolutely unavoidable. If I see him, I can’t guarantee that he won’t get shanked.”

  “Alright, that can be done.” Nedzu nodded, committing the request to his infallible memory. “No Endeavor.”

  “And the first hero to hero chat needs to be someone just as, if not more, popular than us.”

  Himiko leaned forward; she had an idea of who they should meet first. “I say Hawks. He’s charming, funny, and closest to our age.”

  “Nice choice, Himiko,” Dabi high-fived the blood drinker, leaning so far over the arm of his chair he almost fell out of it.

  “Thanks, Dabi. It was either him or Mount Lady. Or maybe Kamui Woods. The two of you could bond over tragic backstories.”

  “Tch.” Dabi crossed his arms in irritation. “Forget I said anything nice to you, you’re a bitch.”

  “Thanks, Dabi.”

  Stopping them before they could really begin to bicker, Izuku interjected, “bitches, think of the opportunity we’ve been given right here!”

  Himiko’s brows drew together in confusion as she leaned over to ask Dabi, “did he just call us bitches?”

  “He did.” Dabi shrugged, “but he’s right, we’re just being bitchy. We’re being given the chance to help reform the heroics industry for the better! Take the spotlight off of the fame and riches and instead turn it onto the problems that have been plaguing lower income areas! We could help find better solutions for homelessness and unemployment! We could highlight the problems that arise from the saturation of the hero market! The societal impact of calling every two-bit crook a villain!” By now, Dabi was all but standing on the seat of the chair, his ice blue eyes shining with passion as he continued to speak.

  Izuku just stared up at him with a broad grin; he loved how passionate Dabi got when it came to societies lack of caring for the underprivileged. He really understood this, Dabi had lived through those same hardships, he knew what he was talking about when it came to it. “Bravo! Bravo!” Izuku clapped wildly once Dabi had reached a stopping point, sitting up and applauding as a deep red blush appeared in the spaces between Dabi’s scars.

  “...shut up.” Dabi hopped off of the chair, sitting down and squirming uncomfortably under the impressed stares from the school staff. Keeping his gaze locked on his own shoes, he mumbled his thanks. “Um, yeah… thank’s for giving us the opportunity? Really appreciate it,” he murmured, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly while his cheeks began to burn literally.

  Himiko stood, pulling Dabi to his feet after her. “Thanks, we really appreciate it!”

  Izuku dragged his dirty shoes across the desk as he stood, leaning back down to shake Principal Nedzu’s small paw from across the desk. “Yeah, thanks. I really appreciate this… unexpected offer.” He turned to leave, a sharp grin twisting his lip as he followed Himiko and Dabi towards the training area. They had a lot of work to do and less than a week to pull it all off.

  Aizawa sighed, running his hands through his hair.“That boy has been playing us for fools, hasn’t he?”

  “Hmm. He really has been, ever since he started this, we’ve all been one step behind, he’s only going along with this plan because he knows something we don’t.” Nedzu frowned, there wasn’t often something he couldn’t figure out, but this teenager was one of those things. “Midoriya Izuku has set his sights much further ahead than just UA.”

  “What’s he planning,” Toshinori asked hesitantly. “What does he want?”

  Nedzu stepped his paws, looking down at the crumpled and stained papers on his desk, the criminal record of Midoriya looking back up at him. “Now that? That is something that even I don’t know.”

Chapter Text

  “Do you hear that?” Kirishima looked around the common room, trying to pinpoint exactly where the sound was coming from.

  Kaminari nodded, joining the search from the couch. “I do, what is that?”

  “It sounds like screaming.”

  “And that burning smell? Do you think there’s a connection?”

  Chiming in with an observation of his own, Sero turned towards the source of the sound. “The screaming is coming from the girls' dorms, but that’s not a girls’ scream.”

  “What is going on over there,” Kaminari asked, his eyes wide with worry. “Should we do something?”

  “It’s probably nothing you guys.” Izuku just kept his eyes glued to the screen, leaning with the flow of the track in Mario Kart. “I wouldn’t worry about it.” He knew what it was, and there was really no need to worry.

  “Yeah, Deku is right.” Bakugou scowled, “don't worry about it.” Bakugou did not know what it was, but he could deal with any threat on his own. He didn't need to worry. Besides, he was too busy worrying about how he was going to begin the conversation he needed to have with Deku.

  Before the others could get up to investigate, the ding of the elevator sounded, the door opening and a loudly screeching Dabi rushed through them, a bundle of smoking sage in one hand and a rosary in the other. “This place is haunted!”

  He looked around the room before going back to waving the sage above his head, eyes wide and wild. While the students settled back down then immediately perked back up once they realized what had been said, Izuku just sighed.

  “It’s not haunted, Dabi, you’re just paranoid because you didn’t sleep last night.” Izuku looked away from the screen, he had brought out his Gamecube and was taking on all challengers on Mario Kart. He’d beat almost half of the class now, and he had to admit it was an efficient bonding tool. The students were still wary, but more relaxed around him. But they wouldn't fully relax unless he shared his backstory and there was no way in hell he was doing that. Some things you just don't share.

  “I didn’t sleep because I had a weird dream!” After throwing the smoldering sage down onto the table and pocketing the rosary, Dabi plopped down onto the floor, sitting between Izuku’s legs and leaning back until his head was able to rest comfortably on the other teen's thigh. “So, it started out normal, yeah? But then-

  Cutting him off with a loud groan, Izuku grumbled, “please show me where it says that I fucking care?”

  “Hold on, I think it’s in here somewhere…” Dabi jammed his hand into his pants pocket, pulling out a fistful of crumpled papers, rummaging through them until he found a canary yellow post-it note with Izuku’s signature scribbled on one side. He flipped it over, reading the other side, “‘sorry for stabbing you with a fork, I was acting like a dick. I promise to listen to Dabi’s weird dreams for at least five minutes every day.’” Dabi waved the paper around for a moment, everyone in the common room having stopped what they were doing to watch the scene. “Remember, you were crying when you signed this because you stabbed me?”

  “Well, shit.” Izuku shook his head, eyes still focused on the screen and beating Shinsou on Bowser's Castle. “Plus Ultra, then.”

  Dabi leaned back onto Izuku’s thigh, gesturing with his hands as he tried to convey the dream he had had the night before. “So, anyway, it started normal, yeah? But then, everyone turned into giant spiders! But I was the only person who wasn’t a spider, but I guess this was normal because I wasn’t freaking out? Then all my teeth fell out, so that was traumatic, and all the spiders started cross-country skiing, four skies, and four poles each, that was nice symmetry.”

  He shrugged, not seeing the horrified looks on the faces of those listening. The only one not phased by his dream was Izuku, but he's been dealing with this for over two years now, he's built up an immunity to insanity. Dabi continued, his hands animated as he wrapped up his dream well within the five-minute mark. “But I guess I pissed off the spiders, and then they started chasing me through an infinite bathroom until I managed to drown them with a shower.”

  “Dude, what the hell.” Shinsou dropped the controller into his lap, staring at Dabi with a look of worry. “At the camp, I thought you were super cool, you know, a badass with battle experience, but now… are you actually crazy?”

  “No, this is normal for him.” Izuku just stared at the screen, taking advantage of Shinsou’s momentary distraction to pass him and cross the finish line.

  Shinsou didn't even notice that he was losing until it was too late, his controller completely forgotten in his shock. When he saw that he had lost, he just shook his head and patted Izuku's arm sympathetically. “I’m so sorry that you have to deal with this.”

  Izuku shrugged, setting down his controller beside him and letting his hands rest on Dabi’s shoulders. “That’s not all, see this shirt he’s wearing? That’s mine.”

  “I know you got this just so I could take it.” Dabi plucked at the shirt collar, shrugging once again. “That’s why it says ‘I’m a dirty shirt thief.’”

  “That’s true.” Izuku shrugged, he had also made sure it was the right size too, but he wasn't going to admit it. “He’s honestly lucky he’s too much of an idiot for me to get mad at.”

  “Hey, I’m not an idiot, and you know that.”

  The two continued to bicker back and forth, the others in the room clustered at their side and watching them like a zoo exhibit.

  “This is weird. It’s like…” Kaminari gestured vaguely, not sure how to explain his thoughts.

  Kirishima managed to put it into words, finally realizing exactly where he had seen this dynamic before. “It’s like watching your parents flirt.”

  Kaminari nodded, watching as the two continued their weirdly violent flirting. “Yeah, that’s an apt description.”

  “Like, it’s gross but sweet.”

  “It’s also terrifying,” Sero added, wincing when Izuku put Dabi in a headlock.

  “Wait, does this mean 1-A has its very own couple now?”

  “Shh, let those two figure it out themselves.” Himiko snuck out of the kitchen, startling the entire group. “Let nature take its course.”

  Ignoring the audience that had surrounded the couch, Shinsou tapped on Dabi’s arm, the fire user sprawled across the sofa and Izuku's lap. “Why were you in the girl's dorms?”

  “I was helping Jirou and Ashido with some nail decals.” He held up one of his hands, showing off black and pink nails with tiny skull decals. “See, they did mine too.”

  “They trust him not to be a creep, that's why,” Izuku added, packing up his Gamecube and getting it ready to put away in the room.

  “Yeah, I'm trustworthy.”

  Izuku rolled his eyes, “sure.” Turning to the crowd that was still watching his every move, he just shook his head. “Don’t you all have training to get to in an hour?” He didn’t mention that the trio was joining them as of today, but he wanted to make an entrance after all. He needed to keep them off guard for maximum effect.

 

*** * ***

 

  “What’s up class one ayyyeee!” Izuku made both of his hands into finger guns, drawing out the ‘aye’ as long as he could until it began to get weird. Over fifteen seconds. Once the laughter turned into irritated groans, he stopped, adjusting the box he had tucked under his arm. He hoped he hadn’t damaged anything in his quest for cool entrances.

  “Wait, why are you training with us,” asked Shinsou, the brainwasher pulling on the gloves of his hero costume, a directional speaker around his neck, similar to the one used by Present Mic.

  Izuku shrugged, “I’m getting used to my new gear.”

  “What new gear,” he asked blandly, he had a hunch about what was happening, but Shinsou wasn’t sure if he wanted to be right about this.

  From the platform he was training on, Kirishima asked, “wait, why do you even have gear?”

  “Heroes get gear, that’s it.” He turned to Dabi and Himiko, showing them the box of secrets. “Anyway, I went to the support department yesterday because I had an idea that just wouldn't leave my mind.”

  Looking at the mystery box, Dabi nearly had flashbacks to the last time Izuku had brought a mystery package. Last time it was explosives, what was it now? “Zuzu, I’m scared.”

  “And you should be.” Izuku opened the box, pulling out a monstrous pair of brass knuckles. But there appeared to be something very unusual about these brass knuckles. Too large and too heavy. “Check it!”

  Realizing what he was seeing, Dabi grabbed one of the abominations from Izuku’s hands. He looked at the welded seam and the small pyramids of metal covering the square front. “Is that my meat tenderizer?” He had been wondering where it was since breakfast the day before.

  Izuku shrugged, a smug grin on his face that he did nothing to try to hide. “Maybe.”

  “You welded half of a meat tenderizer to brass knuckles.” Dabi stared at Izuku in disbelief, that was just insane, who makes a meat tenderizer into a weapon? Scratch that, he knows exactly who does that, he lives with him after all.

  Izuku grinned, eyes gleaming excitedly, “I call it the face tenderizer!”

  “Of course you do,” Himiko muttered, rolling her eyes and tucking her staff under her arm before taking the other piece of weaponry for a closer look. “Oh, that’s surprisingly heavy.”

  “Isn’t it?”

  “I wish you hadn’t murdered my meat tenderizer, but,” Dabi shrugged, handing back the heavy metal horror piece, “that’s amazing.”

  Himiko ran her fingers over the slightly sharpened points, thinking about what sort of damage they could do. “It’s beautiful,” she said, begrudgingly giving it back to Izuku.

  Izuku nodded, the image of his new weapon had been haunting his thoughts for days. “I mean, I can’t really do super moves, so… more weapons!” Izuku put the face tenderizer back in the box, showing off his other gifts from Hatsume Mei. That girl was crazy, but she made amazing gear. “I got an amped-up stun gun and a new pair of tonfa too, this one has a little something extra, but you’ll see that soon enough.” He had a few more ideas in the works, but apparently what he was asking for need a few more permits before it could be constructed.

  All he asked for was something that could take down walls, but he had a feeling he was going to get a lot more than that. Actually, he hoped he got more than he was asking for.

  From her platform Ashido called out, “what do you mean, heroes get weapons?” Not waiting for an answer, she went back to working on her acid stream.

  “Yeah, you’re not a student here!” This was added by Kaminari, the electric user watching the trio suspiciously. He didn’t trust Midoriya one bit, especially after he hadn't gotten an apology for almost crushing him back at the training camp.

  “Please, there are a lot of other ways to become a hero then just going to school for it. One way you can become a hero is by being famous.” It wasn’t how he had wanted to become a hero, but he wasn’t going to turn it down.

  Izuku set down the box of new gear, adjusting his utility belt and making sure all of his medical equipment had been replenished. The empty space in his holster was was weird, but he had room for the new stun gun now, so that was alright.

  Tacking it on as an afterthought, Izuku jerked his thumb towards the door. “Oh yeah, Mineta, Aizawa wanted to talk to you about something.” He pulled up the hood of his uniform, hiding the smug grin he wore as the tiny pervert left.

  He was finally getting rid of that fucking rat. He had had Dabi and Himiko take down statements from all of the students and had brought them to Aizawa. And maybe he had threatened to take the grievances straight to the media if there wasn’t immediate action. Say that the school was harboring a dangerous environment for their students and that they were essentially condoning that sort of behavior.

  Maybe he shouldn’t be so willing to be a media whistleblower, but it worked, so that was enough about that.

  He stepped up to the base of the cement platforms filled with hero students and clones of Ectoplasm. Gripping his new tonfa, he signaled Cementoss to raise a collection of cement training dummies in a semicircle while Himiko and Dabi each began their training with a clone of Ectoplasm.

  Watching as Himiko incorporated different elements into her training, Izuku glanced to the side, only to nearly fall back in shock when he looked back to see that Himiko was gone. “What the shit?”

  Suddenly from behind him, there was a tap on his shoulder, “Izuku!”

  “Gyarg!” This time, he really did fall in shock, Himiko moving to stand over him with a toothy grin.

  “Did you see me disappear?”

  From his place on the cement, Izuku just looked up in shock. “How the fuck did you do that?”

  “Please answer, I’m terrified,” Dabi added, his hands still on fire as he approached, watching Himiko warily. He hadn’t known that she could do that. What else could she do?

  Himiko helped pull Izuku back to his feet, trying to explain how it worked. “I’ve been practicing that for a while, but I didn’t even think about using it for a super move.”

  Still gripping Himiko’s hand, Izuku looked at her with wide eyes, “what was that? You just vanished!”

  “As long as I can stop breathing and thinking, I can just blend in! But not thinking is hard,” the blonde pouted, worrying her lip with sharp canines and blushing from the praise and attention.

  “How the hell did you even realize you could do that,” Dabi asked curiously, not thinking wasn't something he believed that Himiko could even do. She was still going to school for a reason after all.

  “Back before all,” she gestured to the two other and herself. “You get what I mean?”

  “Mhm,” Dabi nodded, immediately understanding.

  “Yeah…” Izuku patter Himiko's shoulder in a way he hoped was comforting. He had met the girl after she had been locked out by her parents, after all.

  Himiko didn’t like to talk much about her relationship with her parents, and right now she had actually begun paperwork for her parents' legal rights to be suspended. But the fact that she had learned how to erase her presence because of her upbringing said more than she actually put into words.

   Shaking off the negative cloud that had fallen over them, Izuku grinned widely. “Well, that’s amazing though, how long can you keep it up?”

  “As long as I can hold my breath. Well, and as long as I can go without thinking. It’s just so hard!”

   “Well, that’s super cool, but we should probably get back to training, Ectoplasm is giving us a look, and Aizawa should be back soon.”

   Himiko nodded, blonde bangs bouncing. “Yeah, but I just wanted you to see that!”

   Dabi shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets. “And I was terrified about what I had just seen.” Or more about what he hadn't seen.

  “Let’s get a Terrible before we go, yeah?” Himiko put out her hand, palm down and raised her eyebrows. “Just one?”

  “Ugh, fine.” Izuku rolled his eyes, placing his hand on top of Himiko’s.

  Once Dabi added his hand to the stack, Himiko began the countdown, “One!”

  “Ugh,” Izuku sighed, seeing that this wasn’t going to stop unless he participated. “Two,” he said, pulling up his bandana with his free hand to hide the pleased smile that he was wearing.

  Dabi shrugged, “three?” He wasn’t sure what was happening, but he was having a good time.

  “Terrible!” Himiko cheered, tossing her hands up in excitement, and with that, Himiko skipped back to the platform she had been training on, almost immediately sparring with the clone of Ectoplasm, trying to figure out how to shift from the staff to the sledgehammer smoothly. So far she was able to make the switch but not without dropping one of the weapons.

  Dabi meandered back to his own area, trying to see if he could manage to sustain the flame spear he had used when they had all gotten arrested.

  There was an explosion from Bakugou’s platform, louder than the others by far, and the sound of cracking stone. Izuku struck the training dummy with his tonfa testing the weight when he heard a shout that stuck out in the general disarray of training.

  “Shit, look out below!”

  “All Might, look out!”

  Izuku dropped the new set of tonfa he was training with, his body moving of its own volition once again. He turned and started running, he was the closest one, he couldn’t stop the rock, but that didn’t matter. Breaking into a sprint, he crossed the distance and lunged. Using his shoulder, he shoved the retired hero out of the way, the rock barely missing the two of them.

  “For fuck's sake!” Izuku stood, brushing himself down before bending down and yanking Yagi-san back to his feet. Turning away from the former hero, he shouted up to the explosive teen that had nearly caused a death. “Bakugou, be more careful!” Spinning on his heel, he practically snarled, his face obscured in the shadows cast by his hood as he glared at the other. “And you,” he pointed his hand shaking with either irritation or worry, “don’t fucking die, it would be bad for my image if you die and I’m there to see it.” Ah, so it was irritation with a pinch of worry and a tad bit of fear.

  He shook his head, walking back to his training area, “die on your own time.” Picking up his dropped tonfa, he attached them to his utility belt, heading for the door. “I’m out of this fucking shit show.”

  “Izuku, get back here,” Himiko called from her platform before jumping off the concrete ledge and landing in a crouch next to Dabi.

  Dabi shouted after him, “Zuzu, you can’t leave, we haven't sparred yet!”

  “I’ll be back in an hour, I need to chill, so I don’t take my rage out on you!” As he walked out the door, Izuku pulled on the adapted brass knuckles, squaring his shoulders as he headed out towards the back of the campus to the forest to go punch some trees.

  “How sweet.” Dabi rolled his eyes, lighting his fists back up in blue flame, launching a blast at the Ectoplasm clone he was training with, nearly melting the poor thing. “Let’s give him about ten minutes then send Aizawa after him.”

  “Damn Dabi, that’s just cruel.”

  “What, it’s just a clone,” Dabi gestured to the puddle of goop that used to be the clone. "See, it doesn't even feel pain!"

  Himiko rolled her eyes, Dabi could be really dense at times. “No, I meant the thing you said about Aizawa.”

  “Oh. Well, Izuku’s a big boy, he can handle being told off.” Dabi knew that Izuku had been having issues with anger management lately, and by lately he meant for the past year. Maybe having someone he actually respected talk to him would get him to try to get help. “Besides, he might not act like it, but he actually respects Aizawa. Something about underground heroes being the only true heroes left.”

  “I have a better idea.” Himiko grinned, an evil glint in her eye. “You know how those two,” she gestured discretely towards two of the hero students. “They think Izuku just needs more friends?”

  “Oh my god, you’re the devil.” Dabi thought about it for a moment before shrugging. “Two birds with one stone, or whatever the americans say.”

  “What are the birds in this situation?”

  “Well, either Izuku kills them both and then is calm, or they see he doesn’t want more friends, and he insults them until they go away.”

  “Or they actually get along…”

  Dabi shook his head, “fuck out of here with that, he’s my friend. I saw him first!”

  Himiko stared at Dabi with worry, “dude. What the fuck was that?”

  “Shut up Vamp Bitch.” Dabi crossed his arms, small blue flames appearing on his hands.

  “I’ll shut up for now, but I think you and Izuku need to have a real conversation soon.” She reached up to pat Dabi’s shoulder reassuringly before turning and bouncing off towards the students. “Hey, Iida-kun! Uraraka-chan!”

  “...dammit.” Dabi stood, dumbstruck. Himiko was right, something in the dynamic had changed, but neither he or Izuku had even noticed it happen. He really was in deep, wasn’t he?

 

*** * ***

 

  “Damn. Heroes! Fuck!  All. The. Same!” With every word he said, Izuku punctuated it with another strike to the tree before him, the bark tattered and worn away, exposing the pale flesh of the living wood. “Idiots!” He slammed the face tenderizer into the tree once again, the metal pyramids sinking into the wood and holding fast when he tried to draw back again. He threw up his other hand in exasperation, roughly jerking his trapped hand free once more.

  His fingers still in the rings of the weapon, he pressed his hands to his face, breathing deeply through the smell of wood and sap. Settling down on the ground, he leaned back and rested against the mutilated tree, thinking about what had gotten him so worked up.

  All Might. Or Yagi-san, whatever he was supposed to call him now. He didn’t even care.

  Sighing, he lightly thunked his head against the bark, trying to work out the root of his problem. He hated the retired hero, didn’t he? If he hated him, why had he been so worried that he might die on his watch?

  As much as Izuku hated him, All Might was still the hero that had inspired him so long ago. So much of Izuku’s life was built around that inspiration, and no matter what, he was still connected to his past and connected to the retired hero. And now he was working with him, just what he needed.

  No matter how much he hated him and didn’t respect him, he still didn’t want him to die. He didn’t want the man to Plus Ultra himself to the grave.

  With a groan, Izuku hauled himself back to his feet, feeling emotionally drained, his head too light without his anger weighing him down. He needed to get help, he couldn’t keep blowing up at every little emotion he felt. Halfheartedly, he threw another punch into the pulpy mess he had made of the tree trunk, dropping his hands to his sides when he only felt empty.

  “Midoriya! Your friends sent us to find you!”

  Slowly turning to face the source of the voice, Izuku groaned loudly once he saw who it was. “Oh, I didn’t know they hated me. They could have just said so.”

  Uraraka waved awkwardly, an honest smile on her face, “Toga-chan said that you were upset about having to save All Might-sensei, but you were so cool! Like, you just ran right in without a thought!”

  Izuku stopped almost his entire state of being, processing what he was being told. “Uh, I don’t… okay?”

  “Yes, I must say that I misjudged you.” Iida adjusted his glasses before extending his hand, “I’m Iida Tenya, and-

  Izuku just stared at the hand being offered to him for a moment before he registered what had been said. “Wait… Tenya? As in the guy from Hosu and the Stain… thing?” He shook his head, grinning slightly while still ignoring the hand that was awkwardly extended. “I should have been paying more attention, I didn’t even realize it was you.” He hadn’t been reading about the others involved in the incident, too busy tracking his own success. He hadn't made the connection from 'Tenya' to Iida Tenya to Ingenium. He might be a genius, but he wasn't exactly smart at times.

  “Ah, yes, that was me.” Iida adjusted his glasses, not managing to hide the embarrassed look on his face as he did so.

  “Huh, how’s the arm? You were bleeding pretty badly.” The Stain incident had been what prompted him to start carrying medical supplies, something he should have been doing much earlier.

  Iida stretched the arm in question, thinking about how the ex-vigilante had shown up just in time to save his life, not just his arm. “It’s fine, just some scarring.”

  “Heh. Small fucking world, huh?” Izuku grinned, hands still loose at his sides, and his attitude relaxed before he narrowed his eyes slightly and continued his line of questioning. “The two of you are the ones that think I just need more friends to mellow me out, aren’t you?”

  “Yeah, sorry,” Uraraka brushed her hair back awkwardly, he cheeks painted a deep pink.

  With a stiff nod, Iida confirmed Izuku’s question. “Yes, that would be us.”

  “Why did you apologize, I’m not mad. Just wondering why you think that.” Dabi and Himiko were good enough for friends, and they’re all he really needed, right?

  “I mean, neither Dabi or Himiko really influenced me much, kinda the other way round. I’m the bad influence. I’m the one that dragged them into all this vigilante shit, so,” he shrugged, leaning against the mutilated tree. He gestured vaguely, prompting the others to explain their line of thinking.

  “Well, um, whenever your friends aren’t around you seem to be, I don’t know, upset?”

  “That’s because they’re idiots and I worry about them,” the teen said blandly, finally pulling his bandana back down around his neck. “Don’t you worry about your friends?”

  “Of course! But a hero should also believe in their friends' capabilities!”

  “Have you seen Dabi? I need to worry about him because he might end up in Russia because he took a wrong left turn in Hosu!” He shook his head, a look of disbelief tinged with terror, “I’ve seen Dabi get lost in a four-room apartment.”

  He had actually gotten lost in the kitchen of all places, the one room with a nearly open floor plan and he had gotten lost in it.

  “What about Toga-chan,” Uraraka asked curiously.

  “I don’t need to worry about her,” Izuku said bluntly. “She’ll be fine no matter what she does. I saw her take down an eight-foot drug dealer with one kick, she can take care of herself.” But that didn’t mean he didn’t worry about her. He was just a worrier, that’s all.

  His expression a mix of awe and fear, Iida stuttered, “that, that’s quite impressive!” He hadn’t thought the unusually chipper blonde to be capable of such a feat of strength.

  Izuku nodded, “isn’t it?” Everyone always underestimates Himiko.

  Grinning slightly, he pushed himself off the tree, standing straight and rolling his shoulders back. “Thanks for coming to check on me, you two are alright.” He walked past them, heading back to the training facility. “Now come on, this is the last day of training before the exam, and I expect you two to pass.”

  He didn't mention that he was going to make their lives a living hell once the did, but they would figure that out soon enough.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Young Bakugou, I know you want to continue training, but we have some questions for you.”

  Bakugou ignored the presence of Aizawa and Nedzu, turning the full force of his attention to the near-skeletal form of the former number one hero. “So it's true then?”

  Fidgeting uncomfortable under the weight of that glare, Toshinori could barely think let alone answer that question even if he knew what it meant. “Excuse me?”

  “You told Deku to give up on being a hero?” Bakugou hadn't wanted to believe it when it had been hinted at back in the forest, but now it was an undeniable truth. All Might had told him to give up on his dream and turned Deku into a vigilante.

  “I-

  “Tch.” Bakugou crossed his arms, leaning back in his seat. “Should have known it.” He shrugged, a smug look on his face, “it didn’t work though, did it? You tell him to give up, and he still saves lives. Even yours.” That was just like the damn loser, always trying to help people with no regard to his own safety. A part of him, a tiny part, was proud of that nerd for going out and saying fuck the haters and making it in his own way.

  Toshinori said nothing, Bakugou was right about this. The retired hero had made a mistake in his judgment of a quirkless boy who only wanted to save others.

  Aizawa broke the tense silence, leaning forward in his seat with a question of his own. “How do you know Midoriya and the others?”

  “I don't really know the others, just Dek- Midoriya. We grew up in the same neighborhood… then I became a bit of, a bit of a bully.” Bakugou kept his tone bland, devoid of emotion and matter of fact. He wasn’t going to sugar coat it, he had almost become a monster even with Izuku's... help. “If it weren't for him kicking the hell out of me almost every day I'd be even more of a bastard.”

  The explosive teen sighed, slowly loosening his posture. “He kept me from becoming a monster, even if his methods were… flawed.” Maybe flawed wasn’t the right word for it, but it was better than ‘violent and nearly deadly at times.’

  Aizawa hesitated before asking the next question, unsure of how the teenager would react. “Has he ever expressed any attitude that would suggest-

  “Wait.” Bakugou shifted in his seat, uncrossing his arms and gripping the arms of the chair tight enough for the wood to creak in his hands. “You trying to say he might be a villain? Tch,” he rolled his eyes, not believing he was being asked this. “Deku might be a violent thug and all that, but he's not a villain. He always wanted to be a hero, even when we were both kids.” he shrugged loosening his grip on the chair and settling back once again. “I don't know what changed, but he grew a fucking backbone about two years back.”

  That was a lie, he knew exactly what had happened, but he wasn’t going to snitch. He didn’t like that he was being questioned about this as if he was a witness to a crime. Like they were trying to build a case against those three after they had promised them they would be heroes.

  It wasn't right.

  “So you don't know anything about his motivations or goals,” Nedzu asked, paws steepled and expression unreadable. He could tell that Bakugou was keeping things from them, but if he pushed the teen too far, he would explode both literally and figuratively. They would have to be careful.

  “I only know that he wants people to be the best that they can be. Even if he has to knock sense into them himself.” Bakugou stood, signaling that this line of questioning was over with a scowl. He turned to leave, only looking back once the door was closing behind him.

  “And just one more thing. Midoriya always gets what he wants, when he wants it.” He let those words set in, stalking away back to the training room.

   He and that loser were going to need to have a talk, and soon.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Yo, Dabi! You dye your hair man?”

  His eyes wide, Dabi turned to face the one who had said that, seeing a rapidly approaching redhead. “What?” How could anyone tell?

  “Your roots are coming in.” Kirishima jogged to catch up with the fire user, keeping pace once he had. “What brand of dye do you use, I can give you some tips on touching up the color!”

  “Shit.” Dabi hadn’t noticed when he was in the bathroom that morning or the night before. “How noticeable is it?”

   Kirishima frowned slightly, staring at Dabi's hair before speaking. “It’s pretty noticeable, your hair is really red, huh?” It was a familiar shade of red, too, one that he was sure he had seen before.

  Dabi shoved one of his scarred hands into his hair as if he could just push the color away again. “Damnit.”

  “Dude, are you alright?” Kirishima looked up at the other teen with worry in his eyes. “Do you need me to find Midoriya or Toga?” He wasn’t sure what sort of relationship the three had, he wasn’t sure he even trusted any of them, but that didn’t mean he liked seeing one of them look so distressed.

  “I’m fine.” Dabi shook off the other teens' concern, one of his hands still fisted in his hair. Barely keeping his voice steady, he muttered, “I lost track of the last time I dyed it, and I’m out of dye.” Hell, he wasn’t even sure if he would be able to buy more, he wasn’t exactly supposed to leave campus without supervision.

  Kirishima thought over that for a second before suddenly getting an idea. “Hey, maybe Yaoyorozu can help!”

  “Oh, I didn’t know she could do that.” From what he had seen, Dabi had only thought she could create weaponry and such, he wasn’t a quirk expert like Izuku was. “...thanks.”

  “No problem bro!” Kirishima grinned, sharp teeth somehow radiating pure sunshine. “You’re not the only one who dyes their hair around here!” He tugged on his own red hair, the red broken up with barely a millimeter of black at the root. “We’re opposites!”

  Dabi cracked a grin, the expression nearly lost in the staples and burns. “Heh, guess we are.”

  The two went looking for Yaoyorozu, not seeing the hidden form of Shouto around the corner, a look of shocked horror on his face as everything fell into place. He was right in his theory. He was right about everything.

  He kept quiet as they passed his hiding place, slowly sliding down the wall and fighting to regulate his ice, frost slowly spreading up his arm.

  What was he supposed to do now?

  That was his older brother, his brother who had nearly given up his own life just to protect him. The brother he thought had been dead until only last month.

  What was he supposed to do?

Chapter Text

  “Damnit, Dabi, just go in there.” Dabi paced the hall in front of the dorm room, running his hands through his still damp and freshly dyed hair, trying to work up the confidence to talk about what he had been feeling lately.

  “Just go in there and talk to him. Just,” Dabi shook his head, hand on the doorknob and trying to figure out how this would go. “Just go in there and say that you would die for him. That he’s the most important person in your life. Sure, that’ll go well, not creepy at all.” He pulled his hand back and turned to leave, immediately turning back and slamming through the door before he could talk himself out of it.

  “Hey, Izuku.” Izuku nodded in greeting, not looking up from the paperwork he was reading through. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

  Izuku closed the folder, setting it on the coffee table and patting the couch beside him. “Sure Dabi, what’s up?”

  “I… shit.” Dabi dropped to the couch, staring at his knees, too self-conscious to look to see the worried expression Izuku wore. “I think we have a problem.”

  “Are you alright? Is something wrong?”

  “No, well, yes.” Dabi sighed, leaning back and covering his face with his hands in frustration. “Well, it's not a problem, but I don't know what else I'm supposed to call it. I mean-

  “Slow down, what’s wrong?” Izuku watched Dabi from behind his mess of green curls, worried about what could've gotten him so stressed out.

  “Nothing’s wrong, but it’s not… forget it. This was a bad idea.” He stood to go, only for Izuku’s hand to snag his sleeve before he could leave.

  “Dabi. Hold on,” Izuku frowned, glancing over to the tent where he knew Himiko was sleeping before standing up and leading Dabi to the one room on the second floor that hadn’t been combined with the other three. He had a feeling this conversation needed privacy, and that was something they wouldn’t get with Himiko around. “Whenever I have something on my mind it helps to talk about it. I don’t want to push you, but, I don’t want you to bottle this up if it’s hurting you.”

  The moment the door was completely closed, Dabi sat in the middle of the empty room, drumming his fingers on his knees before slowly speaking. “Did I ever tell you that you were the first friend I had that cared about who I was and didn’t just care about who my father was?”

  “Dabi, just tell me what’s going on, you’re freaking me out.” Izuku sat, crossing his legs and scooting until he faced Dabi.

  “I don’t even know how to explain this.” Dabi shrugged, “I’m not good at this sort of thing. Talking to people about my problems.” Ever since he had left the Todoroki household, he hadn’t gotten any better at it either. And maybe he had gotten used to being around Izuku and gotten used to how the other always seemed to know what he was thinking. “I think it, this, all started when we first met. I don’t know what it was, but I just trusted you. And I’ve been trusting you ever since.”

  “Dabi… that makes no sense at all. I trust you, you trust me, that’s just how we work.” Izuku shrugged, he wasn’t sure if he knew what was going on, but he didn’t like seeing Dabi in a state like this. It felt wrong.

  Dabi chuckled, his anxiety beginning to die down. “What about Himiko?”

  Izuku snorted, failing to hold in a laugh. “She’s there too, not trusting either of us not to end up killing ourselves doing something stupid.”

  “Heh.” Dabi grinned before his voice took on a slightly more serious tone. “You know that you’re the most important person in my life, right? And that scares me. Before you came along, I had resigned myself to probably dying in a hobo fight.”

  “That’s morbid.”

  “Isn’t it?” Dabi shook his head, gazing resolutely at his knees as he tried to find the words to explain how he felt. “I don’t want this crazy ride we’re on to ever stop, I love the absolute insanity of it, you came into my life and just… upended everything I thought I knew.”

  “Dabi-

  Dabi cut him off, not sure that if he stopped he could start up again. “Those two who just think you need more friends… I know you wouldn't ditch me for them, but what if you did?”

  “I would never do that!” Izuku was shocked that Dabi would even consider that as a possibility, he knew that he would never leave him right?

  Dabi shrugged, trying not to show just how nervous he really was. “I know, but just thinking about it makes me jealous. And for no reason at all! I know that for the past two years we've spent almost every second of every day together, and I never want things to change, but…”

  “What?”

  “...but I do. I do want things to change. I don’t even know how, or why, but I just feel it.”

  “Dabi, just,” Izuku sighed, patting Dabi’s knee and letting his hand rest there. “Just tell me what’s going on.”

  “I love you,” Dabi muttered, casting his gaze to the floor and waiting for the inevitable backlash.

  Izuku grinned, “I love you too, you know that.”

  “Not like. Not like that. I love you, and not in a friendship way.” Dabi shook his head, his hair falling over his eyes. “Not in the way that I love Himiko, either.”

  “...” Izuku just blinked blankly, the meaning of Dabi’s words slowly sinking in. “Oh.” He didn't know what he was supposed to say; he had never planned for something like this in any of his criminal research.

  “Yeah, ‘oh.’” Dabi wiped his eyes with the back of a scarred hand, patting the hand Izuku had left on his knee before pushing it away. “It, it’s alright if you don’t, you know, but I just had to tell you before this killed me.”  Dabi stood to go, leaving Izuku in the middle of the room. “I’ll, I’ll see you in the morning.”

  “Dabi, wait.” Izuku stood slowly, keeping his eyes on the floor before slowly raising his head, doing nothing about the conflicted tears that pooled in his eyes. “I’ll never stop loving you; you know that? And, while I don’t know why you would willingly tie yourself down to someone as fucked up as I am, but, I’m… I’m glad you would.”

  “Izuku, that’s…”

  “Super fucking gay, I know.”

  Dabi shrugged, pushing his hair from his eyes. “I was going to say ‘sappy,’ but alright.”

  “Heh.” Izuku grinned, finally wiping the tears from his face. “Ha!”

  “Mhm.” Dabi fought off a smile of his own, the pressure over this that he had been feeling in the past few days all but evaporating.

  Once Izuku's laughter died down, he only had one question. “Why me? Himiko isn’t crazy, and I’m sure there are hundreds of people that would literally kill just to go on a date with you.”

  “Well, none of those people are my hero.”

  “...” Izuku froze, smiling broadly as he walked up to Dabi and hugged him, picking him up and spinning him. Dabi knew how much he liked being called a hero, even if he pretended to hate it.

  Dabi slapped Izuku’s shoulders, not enjoying this in the slightest. “Hey, put me down!”

  Izuku stopped spinning and lowered Dabi enough that he was back on the floor, but he didn’t let go. “You really do love me, don’t you,” he asked, his voice muffled by Dabi’s shirt.

  The fire user nodded, “yeah, but I think I’m starting to regret it now.”

  “Too late, no take backs,” Izuku joked, not letting go of Dabi. “You're stuck with me.”

  “Lucky me.”

  “Hey, you chose this.”

  “I did, didn't I,” Dabi said blandly, slowly returning the embrace he was caught in. He hadn't expected things to go this smoothly, but he wasn't going to question it. Maybe things were looking up for him now.

 

*** * ***

 

  The night before had ended with more tears than Izuku was willing to admit to, but it wasn't like he was the only one crying in the end. Once he and Dabi had gone back to their room, Himiko had burst into laughter that turned into tears, unable to stop laughing at the embarrassed look on her friends’ faces. Thankfully, they had managed to get to sleep with relative ease, the new revelations changing nothing in the dynamic within the trio. Somehow, the three of them always knew it would come to this.

  Standing in the kitchen, Izuku sniffed, rubbing the last of sleep from his eyes with the back of his hand before adjusting his grip on the two pans he held in his hands. Walking over to the elevator on the boys’ side of the dorms, he pressed the call button, stepping in the moment the doors were open and ascending to the fourth floor.

  Stepping back out of the elevator, he grinned sadistically, rolling his shoulders back before slamming the pans together as hard as humanly possible. “UP AND AT EM HEROES! YOU'RE WASTING DAYLIGHT!”

  “What the fuck,” Bakugou stomped out of his door, the hair over his face barely hiding the fire in his eyes and his voice was deadly calm. “What the fuck are you doing. Deku.”

  “Good morning, Bakugou! It is now five thirty am and time for everyone to get up! Up! Up!” With each ‘up,’ Izuku bashed the pans together, a collective groan rolling through the floor. “My work here is done,” Izuku grinned, watching the doors open and students stagger out. “To the next floor!”

  As the elevator door began to close, Bakugou shouted, “you’re an absolute monster, Deku!”

  “Love you too,” Izuku called cheerfully, pressing the button for the next floor. “Hurry up and get ready, there’s breakfast in the kitchen!” Once the door was closed completely, Izuku let himself laugh quietly. He was actually having fun for once.

  “How do you know that psycho again?”

  “Don’t. Just don’t ask.”

  Once he was on the fifth floor, Izuku repeated his actions, yelling loudly until the first student emerged from their room, Todoroki glared with a gaze that could strip paint. But he didn't have a chance to voice his complaint before Izuku began to slam the pans together again, grinning mockingly. “What? I can’t hear you!”

  “You,” his words were cut out by a cacophony of banging. Shouto balled his hands into fists, he didn’t know what it was about Midoriya that made him so mad, but it was too early to deal with his antics. “You fucking SUCK!”

  “Don’t be a little bitch, Todoroki!” Izuku smashed the pans together one more time before heading back to the elevator. “Everyone get down to the kitchen before six, breakfast is ready, and we’re all rolling out early.”

  At the third floor, Izuku barely managed to stop the tirade that Iida was about to launch in by throwing a half-eaten granola bar at his face. Izuku wasn’t sure how old the granola bar was, or how it had gotten into his pocket, but he had to admit it was a good distraction tactic. While he was waking up the boys’ side of the dorms, Dabi and Himiko had already woken up the girls, and probably not by screaming at them. And they probably weren’t throwing garbage at people either.

  The second floor was rather entertaining as well, Tokoyami, Aoyama, and Shinsou all emerging from their rooms at the same time as if they had choreographed the movement. Izuku was almost certain he would be killed by a combination of brainwashing, shadows, and sparkles, but he wasn't taking that chance, only smashing the pans together twice more before quickly retreating into the elevator and heading back to the ground floor to return the pans to the kitchen.

  “Izuku, what the hell were you doing over there,” Himiko asked, watching Izuku apprehensively, not trusting the manic glint in his eyes.

  “Waking everyone up, what else would I be doing?” Izuku set the saucepans on the counter with a clatter, walking straight to the coffee maker.

  Dabi chimed in, not looking up from his bowl, “I don’t know. Causing chaos?”

  “With saucepans?” Izuku shook his head, attempting to put on an air of skepticism and hoping they didn't see through his ploy.

  “Alright, good point.” Himiko nodded, thinking about the possibilities here. “You can’t exactly cause chaos with saucepans.”

  “Himiko, this is Izuku we’re talking about, he can cause chaos with anything.” One time Dabi had seen him throw a banana at a jogger, so when it came to Izuku, anything was possible. Thankfully it wasn’t just a random jogger, but a data broker who sold personal information on politicians for blackmail purposes, so no real harm was done.

  “You’re right.” Turning with an accusing look in her eyes, Himiko stared at Izuku, who immediately hid his grin behind his coffee mug. “What did you do with those saucepans?”

  Staggering into the kitchen and grabbing a bowl of Oyakodon, Bakugou rubbed at his eyes and all but snatched the bottle of hot sauce that Izuku offered him. “That son of a bitch woke everyone up by smashing those pans together while screaming.” He added an impossible amount of hot sauce to his food, shoving the bottle back into Izuku’s hands before stumbling back out of the kitchen.

  Himiko shrugged, going back to her breakfast. “Sounds like Izuku.”

  Dabi nodded thoughtfully, that sounded about right for Izuku. “Yeah, what did you expect?”

  Izuku just grinned over his coffee cup, watching as Bakugou’s expression slowly changed from irritation to rage.

  Thankfully, his potential explosive outburst was interrupted by Uraraka, the gravity girl bringing back her empty bowl. “That was amazing, who cooked?”

  Izuku and Himiko both pointed to Dabi, but Dabi didn’t respond, only sipped at his coffee and avoided the surprise that swept through the approaching students at this revelation.

  “What, one of us needs to know how to cook, and it’s not going to be me,” Himiko snarked, rolling her eyes. And it certainly wasn’t going to be Izuku, Himiko had seen him eat cheese he had found behind the refrigerator.

  “But, how does he know how to cook?”

  “Yeah, it's not what you expect!”

  “He looks more like he would make poison, not food.”

  “Oi, stop freaking out, and everyone get ready.” Izuku chugged the last of his coffee, checking the wall clock before filling himself a second cup of coffee. “We’re leaving in thirty minutes.”

  “Why so early?”

  Izuku walked out of the kitchen, the cluster of students parting before him. “Don't worry; I have a plan!”

  “I already don't like this plan,” Shinsou muttered, shaking his head.

  Calling from the common room, Izuku shouted, “now you're learning!”

  Shinsou sighed, trying not to get caught up in the madness and failing. “...why is he in such a good mood?”

  Dabi snorted, “guess.”

  “Because he's managing to make the entire class miserable?”

  “Yep.”

  Ashido gestured between Himiko and Dabi, a perplexed expression on her face. “You two are really, like, down to earth, but Midoriya-kun might be insane.”

  “Uh, hold on to that thought for a minute. So, when you were speaking of the entire class,” Kirishima looked around the room, noticing the one missing person. “Where's Mineta?”

  Izuku peeked back in the kitchen, shrugging while finishing off his second coffee. “I had him expelled for being a pervert.” He ignored the cries of outrage, rinsing the mug and placing it in the dish drain.

  “Wait, he's been expelled?!” Kaminari’s jaw dropped in shock, he really hadn’t seen that coming. He hadn't really seen any harm come from what he did, maybe expulsion was an overreaction.

  Other students chimed in with their protests, but there was a definite lack of objection from the girls. They knew what Mineta was about and while it sucked that he was losing his chance at a future as a hero, the rest of them were better off for it.

  “If he was that bad don't you think the girls would have said something about it?”

  “You can't do that!”

  “Too late, I already did.” Izuku’s expression was dark, a threat to any that might cross him. “UA might not care, but I have a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment. Next person won’t just be expelled.” The protests fell silent as the students realized what he meant.

  “Nice going, Deku.” Bakugou ignored the tension in the air, talking around a mouthful of chicken and rice. “Bout time someone did something about that little shit.”

  Nodding graciously, Izuku accepted the praise before heading back to his room to grab his gear for the test. “Thank you.”

  The moment he was gone, the students began to whisper amongst themselves, unsure of what they had just learned.

  “Wait, Midoriya can expel us?”

  “I still don’t get why he’s in the dorms.”

  As the hero students speculated, Himiko and Dabi shared a look, they knew why Izuku was there, but they didn’t want to spoil the surprise. The students would learn in due time, but knowing Izuku, he was going to have to make an entrance.

  In minutes, the last of the students finished eating, picking up their bags and meaning out the door and towards the bus. Already there was an exhausted Aizawa, the underground hero taking a quick head count before letting them begin to load the bus. Once the bus was packed, Izuku popped through the door carrying the duffle bag that had once held explosives, already changed into his uniform, bandana hung around his neck.

  “Midoriya, you’re nearly late.”

  “Don’t worry Aizawa; I was just getting my new gear.” Izuku hefted the bag in one hand, miscellaneous weapons and his utility belt stashed inside. “Sides, I already had someone scramble the outgoing ping on the ankle monitor and hack the towers that receive the signal, so I could just leave if I wanted to.”

  “Someone hacked… never mind.” Aizawa shook his head; he didn’t want to get into that. Anything that involved Midoriya became a tangled mess, and he wanted nothing to do with it, especially if hackers were involved. Clearing his throat, he waved the ex-vigilante to his seat, waiting for the twenty-two teenagers to settle down. “Alright, the ride should only be about forty minutes with the streets as clear as they are. Now,” he turned to the bus driver, “let’s go.”

  Almost as soon as the bus started moving, Izuku shifted until he was sitting on his knees, leaning over the seat in front of him and saying, “Himiko, you smell nice. Like knives and pride.”

  “Thank’s, it’s actually the smell of blood and ramen!”

  “It’s great.”

  Dabi rolled his eyes, poking Izuku in the side with his phone. “Hey, Zuzu, I’m buying something with your money.”

  “Alright.” Izuku pulled the hood of his hoodie up until his face was cast in deep shadow and took out his own phone, still leaning over the back of the seat. “What are you buying?”

  “...a Hello Kitty Roomba.”

  “Okay, that’s weird. But go ahead.” Izuku shrugged dismissively, going back to the media appearance itinerary he and Himiko had worked up for the upcoming weeks. “Just know that I’m going to tape a knife to it.”

  “Nice.” Dabi typed in the payment information, using Izuku’s account and setting up two-day shipping. “Hello Killer Kitty.”

  “That’s terrible,” Izuku shook his head already knowing how Dabi was going to respond.

  Dabi nodded, leaning back in the seat and continued building his online cart. “Thanks.”

  “I know what you two are doing,” Izuku said, gesturing to Dabi and Himiko. “You’re only pretending terrible is a compliment because that’s the team name, but it’s not getting to me.”

  “Sure,” Himiko said, grinning with far too many teeth.

  “Mhm.”

  “It’s not,” Izuku protested, the look in his eyes completely undercutting his words.

  “Whatever you say, Zuzu,” Dabi smirked, the expression lost in staples and scars.

  With a nod, Himiko pretended to agree. “Yeah, sure thing.”

  Izuku sighed, hanging his head. He just couldn’t win with these two, could he?

 

*** * ***

 

  The bus pulled up to the curb in front of the examination arena, the parking lot and surrounding streets surprisingly empty in the early light. Almost as soon as the door was open, Aizawa pulled his sleeping bag out of seemingly nowhere, zipping himself in. “We’re here, get out,” he zipped the bag up to the top, covering himself completely, so his next words were muffled. “Midoriya has the rest of your instructions, listen to him.”

  Izuku grinned as the attention of the students turned to him, terror in the eyes of the class as they realized what they meant. Target was in charge now, and they had seen what he was capable of. Quickly, the students filed off of the bus, leaving behind their bags, knowing they would be back within the hour.

  Glaring up at the bright sun, Ashido asked what everyone was thinking. “Why did we have to get here an hour early?”

  “This!” Izuku began to hand out the papers he had been working on, he had wanted to give 1-A an edge and had been working on the handouts for almost two days and had even contacted Power of Love for some insider information on the exam itself. “Right here are the quirk registration records of everyone who is taking this exam with us.” He continued to pass the papers around, worried mumbling surrounding him from all sides. “Memorize it, make a plan and then destroy it. And don't forget to read the section on U.A. crushing. Get it?”

  “Got it,” Bakugou nodded, already thumbing through the papers. He wasn’t going to turn down something that would give him a head start on those who already knew what his quirk was.

  “Isn't this cheating,” asked Ojiro, his tail twitching nervously as a few others began to voice their own concerns.

  “Please, is it cheating to study for a test?” Izuku rolled his eyes, not believing the pushback he was getting on this. He was trying to help them, why didn’t they want to take the easy route to certain victory? “No, it's not. Now, we've got an hour, read this, eat something, then meet back when you're done,” he said authoritatively, hoping this would be the end of it.

  “This feels kind of… wrong,” Kirishima said hesitantly, still accepting the packet and looking it over even with his concerns.

  Iida nodded, refusing to take the papers. “Yes, I can not in good conscience accept this if it is against the rules!”

  Apparently, that was not the end of it.

  “Fuck, you guys are uptight.” Izuku shook his head, massaging his temples as he explained. “Fine. I'll talk you through how I put this together. All of the schools competing are public knowledge, the students of those schools hero courses are also public knowledge. And quirk registration records? Can anyone guess what I'm about to say?”

  Kaminari hand shot up in the air, waving excitedly. “Oh, me, pick me!”

  “Yes, Kaminari!”

  “They're also public records?”

  “Correct, well done,” Izuku pulled a roll of stickers from the pocket of his hoodie, picking off a small lightning bolt and sticking it to the electric user's shoulder. “Good job!”

  “Wait, you have stickers!?” Ashido bounced on the balls of her feet excitedly, not caring at the funny looks she was receiving from the rest of the class.

  “Only for those who can answer my questions at random points in the day.” Izuku was pretty sure that this was something teachers did, maybe not high school teachers but still something that they did. Perhaps preschool teachers.

  But the stickers were a good distraction tactic, and he had managed to avoid more questions into the legality of his ‘research.’ Yes, most of the information was available to the public, but information on the exam itself was closely guarded.

   Some of the information on the registry was a bit vague, and the only thing that could supplement it was medical records. And certain people could even have their information removed from the public quirk registry, that's what Izuku had requested. Now instead of people thinking he was quirkless, they just thought he was classified.

  “Aw, man,” Kirishima shook his head in disappointment. He didn’t know why he wanted a sticker, he just did.

  Hagakure's sleeves moved rapidly, and Izuku just assumed she was trying to be noticed. “Yeah, I wanted a sticker too!”

  “Mhm,” Shinsou nodded, crossing his arms. He wasn’t going to get as excited as the rest, but he did still want a sticker.

  Bakugou rolled his eyes, “Deku, what the fuck, we’re not babies.”

  “Fine, no stickers for you,” Izuku stuck out his tongue mockingly, shoving the roll of stickers back in his pocket, prompting a cascade of protests from nearly half of the group.

  “Hey, you can't do that!”

  “Don’t punish us for Bakugou’s mistake!”

  “Group punishments are against the Geneva Convention!"

  “No fair!”

  “Too bad. Now,” Izuku turned on his heel, “disperse!” He had seen a recent review for a promising takoyaki shop that traded in more exotic flavors. There was a rumor floating around that they even used octopus that was ‘quirk sourced.’ Izuku wasn’t sure if that still counted as cannibalism, but he was definitely curious about the flavor.

  With that, the students began to meander away, reading the packet while conversing amongst themselves and trying to figure out the best methods to deal with each possible opponent.

  “Hey, where are you three going?” Shinsou followed the three, hands in his pockets as he barely managed to look casual. He knew Bakugou, Kirishima and Todoroki were off doing their own thing, and Uraraka and Iida seemed to have made some sort of vow not to try to talk to Midoriya when he was around his friends. And Shinsou wasn’t exactly friends with the others unless you counted late night and early morning insomnia sessions with Tokoyami.

  “‘Everybodys Takoyaki.’” Izuku shoved his hands in his hoodie pockets, looking up at the lightening sky as he walked, Himiko and Dabi trailing behind him. “See, they don’t have an apostrophe in the name, so it either belongs to everybody, or it is everybody.”

  Dabi nodded, “Soylent Green is people.”

   Izuku shot him a sidelong glance, “is that another weird pre-quirk reference?”

  “Yup.”

  “Loser.” Izuku elbowed Dabi in the side, shaking his head fondly. Perking up once he saw the telltale sign, Izuku began to jog towards the stand, excitement almost tangible. “Holy hell.”

  Dabi rolled his eyes, just watching as Izuku ordered and barely listened to the conversation Himiko and Shinsou were having, nodding along whenever he felt it was necessary. He didn’t want to jinx himself, but, he was happy.

  Tapping on his shoulder to get his attention, Himiko grinned. “Hard to believe, isn’t it?”

  “Hmm?”

  “That we’re gonna be heroes.”

  “Yeah.” But that wasn't what was hard to believe. It was hard to believe that he was here, he was with people who loved him, and he was happy. He was home. But he couldn't say all that, so instead, he just nodded.

  “Yeah, we're gonna be heroes.” His voice was wistful as he just let himself bask in the warmth of the moment.

  “Oh, there's a corner market, I need some snacks!” Himiko tugged on Dabis sleeve, dragging him behind her.

  Shinsou shrugged, following the two as Izuku struggled to catch up and not drop his takoyaki. “I could go for a coffee about now.”

  From behind them, Izuku shouted, catching the attention of the few dozen people on the street. “Wait up you dicks!”

  Inside the store was quiet, nearly radiating the odd energy that all twenty-four-hour convenience stores seem to have. As if they're neither natural or man-made.

  As soon as Izuku was in the door, he grabbed a basket and started filling it with just about everything he could get his hands on. He loved the ephemeral feeling of places like this, it felt like there were no expectations and no consequences.

  “This says ‘taco pasta salad,’ and I have no idea what that is but I need to eat it.” Dabi picked up the small container, passing it to Izuku who only shrugged and added it to the basket.

  Shinsou watched in horror, “Dabi no!”

  “Dabi yes.”

  The brainwasher took the container back out of the basket, pointing out the expiration date in worry. “That's over a week old!”

  “So?” He had eaten worse, what was the problem here?

  Himiko shrugged, picking up a half crushed cup ramen and inspecting the ingredients list. “Let him; I saw him eat out of an actual garbage can once. Didn't even take the food out of it, just climbed in there with it. Wasn’t even his garbage can either, just a random can on patrol.”

  Izuku nodded, grabbing an armful of exotically flavored energy drinks. “I watched him try to cook bacon on his chest once. While he’s resistant to his own flames, he is not to boiling bacon fat.”

  “That’s awful!”

  Izuku shrugged indifferently. “Yeah, he screamed, and then my mom came into the kitchen to see bacon plastered on him while he’s trying to climb into the fucking sink.” He snorted, trying to hold back a laugh at the absolutely nonsensical memory.

  His cheeks literally on fire, Dabi couldn’t hide his blush from those around him. “Zuzu, I’m going to punch you so fucking hard one day.”

  “I’ll be waiting.”

  “You know, I was worried that you two acknowledging things would change the dynamic, but I’m glad it hasn’t.” Himiko shrugged, pushing past them and heading towards the snack aisle. “You’re both still idiots.”

  Izuku grinned, heading up to the register with his loot. “Thanks!”

  “Yeah, thanks,” Dabi said blandly, seeing the familiar figure of Shouto watching him from outside the store window. He froze, watching for a moment. “Hey, I’m gonna head back.”

  “Don’t get lost,” Izuku called, waving at him distractedly while the cashier rang up his purchase.

  Himiko rolled her eyes, “Don’t die!”

  “I don’t know what’s wrong with your friends, but, bye?” Shinsou gestured awkwardly, half a wave and half a shrug, before getting pulled back into his discussion with Himiko.

  “Mhm.” Dabi left the store, walking past his brother, the other taking a moment to begin following him once again.

  “Hey, Dabi. And I know that’s not really your name,” he muttered the second half, not even caring that he could still be heard. Shouto kept his head down as he caught up to the taller teen. Struggling to keep his voice level, he said as calmly as he could, “we need to talk once this is over.”

  With a shrug, Dabi responded, “yeah, we really do, don't we, Shouto?” He continued walking, heading back to the testing grounds. He kept quiet, not sure how to even begin to talk about everything that had happened since he had disappeared. But as he had gotten used to, he said nothing and neither did Shouto.

  They were more alike than they thought, made of the same glass and molded in the same fire. But while one had used the heat and pain of their life to reshape the glass they were made of into something new and continuously sought out more that would change them. And the other had used the same heat and pain to turn their glass into an impenetrable armor, keeping out both love and hate all the same.

 

*** * ***

 

  Some ways behind the two brothers, Himiko, Izuku, and Shinsou, were heading back to the arena, Izuku carrying four full bags of snack food, energy drinks, and impulse purchases.

  Himiko kicked at rocks as she walked, skipping every so often. “I love it when people call me ‘hun,’ it’s such a nice feeling.”

  Izuku shrugged. “Someone called me shithead once, is that the same thing?” He aimed a fierce kick at the next rock, spiked steel toes of his boots sending the stone skittering across the pavement and onto the curb and into the group of people that had been following him with cell phones raised, hoping to get a picture of the legendary Target and Vamp Bitch.

  “No I’m sorry, it’s actually pretty different.” Himiko barely choked back a laugh, always easily amused by Izuku’s antics.

  Leaning over slightly, Shinsou asked a question that had been burning in his mind for the past few days. “Was he always this weird?” Shinsou compared the version of Midoriya that he had met at the sports festival to the one he knew now, but he just couldn’t connect the two.

  “Yeah, but he didn't always show it.” Himiko thought back on the past two years, the adventures that had shaped all three of them, but Izuku the most. “He used to act a bit weird, but, this is a new level recently.” He could only get stranger from here on out.

  Shinsou shoved his hands into his pockets and watched as Izuku tried to kick a rock, but instead, he nearly tripped, shooting the people watching him from the sidewalk a thumbs up from around his grocery bags. “So this is the new normal then?”

  “Yeah, you just learn to accept the crazy along with the good.”

  Izuku rolled his eyes, the grocery bags swinging with every step he took. “You know that I can hear you two, right?”

  “Yep, what you gonna do about it, huh?” Himiko playfully shoved Izuku, sending him forward. “You gonna fight me?”

  Izuku’s mind blanked, the only word that came to mind was, “uh, knife?”

  “A knife!”

  “Yeah, with a knife!” Izuku grinned, nudging Himiko in the shoulder with his own shoulder, sighing contentedly. He proud of how far he had come, and he was proud of his friends for being able to reach out and grab their dream right alongside him.

  And maybe he was proud of the hero students too, but he would never admit that, even on pain of death.

  “Holy shit.” Himiko stopped dead in her tracks, not daring to join the rest of the group. She didn’t know if she could push her way through the other arriving high schoolers from all around the city, over a thousand and five hundred in total, more people than Himiko had ever seen in her life, all pouring into one building.

  “Damn, that’s a big crowd.” Izuku ignored the dozens of phones that were whipped out of people's pockets at his appearance, excited whispers and unabashed pointing flew through the other examinees. He pushed through the crowd, not caring that he ran into people, and the people he ran into didn’t stick around for an apology once they saw who had run into them. They knew Target’s reputation, and they didn’t want to become just another statistic.

  “Hold on; I need to put this away.” He made his way to the bus, while Himiko and Shinsou slowly approached the meet point, Dabi and Shouto already there, the two teens avoiding each other's gaze, uncomfortably fidgeting the entire time.

  “Wow, that looks awkward,” Shinsou muttered, not sure what he was interrupting but knowing he didn’t want any part of it. “How do I ignore that? I can’t be expected to carry a conversation with that going on beside me.”

  “Hmm.” Himiko nodded, blonde bangs bouncing over her eyes. “I get it, this is just… I don’t like it.”

  Sure, she knew what was going on; she knew that the two needed to clear the air, expose the secrets and lies that had been keeping the brothers apart. But now wasn’t the time for an emotional reconciliation, there were too many things to do. The future hinged on their success.

  Well, not really, but it sure felt like it at times.

  Shinsou and Himiko stood awkwardly next to the two, making forced small talk before giving up and joining in the silence, just watching as other test takers passed them by.

  Steadily, the hero students began to return, clumping within the flow of traffic, and not one paper they had been given still in hand. Already they were discussing strategies amongst themselves, trying to match the students from other schools with the picture and quirk review that they had read.

  Once Aizawa arrived, the tired hero did a quick headcount, sighing loudly at the suspicious absence of a large personality. “Where is Midoriya,” he asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

  As a reply, Dabi and Himiko both pointed to the bus in unison before flipping Izuku off across the distance. Yes, he couldn’t see them, but it was the principal of the matter.

  “Hold up, I’ll text him.” Dabi pulled out his phone, shooting off an expletive-filled text before somehow leaning back onto thin air. A ping of a received message rang out, and he glanced at the screen. “He’s on his way, he had to get his new kit.”

  Aizawa’s eye twitched, the loops of his capture tool raising threateningly. “Why are you three like this,”  he said flatly, wishing he had never become a teacher.

  Feeling he had spent enough time to be fashionably late, Izuku shrugged before hopping out of the bus and heading to where the class 1-A students were gathering. He finished hooking up his belt, the brazenly flaunted weaponry catching the attention of nearly everyone around him. Even the stupidest of students had the common decency to not walk around with half of an armory strapped around their waist.

  “What up homies,” Izuku said flatly, expertly dodging Himiko’s hand as she swatted at his head. “Missed me, bitch.”

  “Next time,” Himiko narrowed her eyes, “next time.”

  Dabi snorted, fighting back a laugh. “Fuck him up Himiko.”

  "Wow, I feel so loved," Izuku deadpanned, a sparkle in his eye.

  “Are you done?” Aizawa stared unblinkingly, waiting for Izuku to calm himself.

  “Tch,” Izuku scoffed, folding his arms over his chest and fisting his gloved hands, the leather creaking as his fingers flexed. “I'm never done, boss.”

  A vein in Aizawa’s temple throbbed, he really wasn't being paid enough for this. “Anyway, today is-

  He was cut off by a passing student loudly calling out, drawing attention to the celebrities amongst them. “Holy fuck, it’s the Terrible Three!”

  Izuku grinned, raising a victory v above his head, basking in the awe and wonder that spread through the crowd once again. He was just giving the people what they wanted; he didn’t see anything wrong with that. If he needed to play his part, he would.

    “Anyway,” Aizawa glared at the students that passed by, just daring them to draw attention once again. “Once you pass this test and obtain your provisional license, you will no longer just be potential heroes, you will be fledglings. You will be semi-pros. So give it your absolute all and don't hold back.”

  While the hero students circled up, Izuku nodded at Himiko and Dabi, the three huddling close as Izuku just said, “let's fuck shit up, yeah?” His hand landed on the grip of his stun gun, his fingers drumming on the textured rubber excitedly.

  “Hell yeah.” Himiko put out her hand, palm down. “Down from three?”

  “Might as well,” Dabi put his hand on top of Himiko’s, and the two just stared at Izuku until he sighed and added his to the top.

   “In three.” Izuku smiled crookedly, beginning the countdown. “Three.”

  “Two,” Dabi said, the barest hint of emotion entering his voice.

  “One!” Himiko cheered, throwing her hands up in the air as they all shouted in unison,“terrible!”

  An echoing “PLUS ULTRA,” rang out behind them and Izuku turned over his shoulder, glaring at the class.

  “Excuse me, do you mind? We were having a moment.” The words fizzled and died as soon as they were said, losing all energy in the face of the spectacle before him. “What the shit.”

  The trio of future heroes watched as the most heartfelt apology of all time ended with a Shinketsu student bowing lower than necessary and slamming their head into the ground, all while the other students in their group scolded him for joining class 1-A in their cheer. All in all, not something that anyone had expected, but at the same time, not the strangest thing they had seen.

  “U.A. to the east, Shinketsu to the west,” Bakugou murmured while the interloper remained in his bow.

  Blood trickling down his face, the Shinketsu student straightened, “I just wanted to try and say it once! Plus Ultra!” The teen that they would soon come to know as Yoarashi Inasa continued in his exuberant outburst. “I must say that I love U.A!”

  Himiko pointed, “that dude bleedin.” Her fingers twitched at the sight of all that red just running free.

  Yoarashi continued, not hearing Himiko over his near shouting levels of intensity. “It’s an absolute honor to be competing against you all at U.A! And also against you, the most hotblooded vigilantes!” He grinned manly, “the best of luck to you all.”

  “Hey,” Himiko called out, finally getting his attention, “you’re bleeding!”

  “Blood? I'm bleedin? It’s all good, I like blood!”

  Himiko all but vibrated in excitement, a deep pink flush high on her cheeks. “I like blood too!”

  Izuku blinked slowly, horror dawning over his features. “Oh god no, I can't handle this.” He pulled out a small bottle of sanitizer and a cloth from his belt, shoving them in Yoarashi’s direction. “Too upbeat, go away,” he made a shooing motion, breathing a sigh of relief once the Shinketsu student was ushered away by his classmates.

  “That guy…” he trailed off, he had read the academic files on Yoarashi, and he had to say they didn’t do him justice. Just knowing just how powerful someone's quirk was didn’t compare to facing them in combat.

  It appeared Aizawa shared his sentiments, a worried look making its way across his face before quickly being suppressed behind his mask of apathy. “It would be best if you all just tried to avoid brawling with him.” He quickly spread the news of how Yoarashi had been the top recommended student but had declined admission for unknown reasons.

  The entire group nodded and speculated amongst themselves, throwing around wild theories while Izuku stayed quiet, thinking through the plan the trio had put together. It should work still, and it would be effective. But something about seeing the human side of even one of his opponents, not just the facts and truths that ruled his life, it had rattled him.

  From somewhere behind him, a chipper voice pulled him from his musings, “Eraser? Eraserhead is that you!”

  Aizawa turned, his face twisting into an expression of despair and horror.

  Approaching the group was pro hero Ms. Joke, leading a group of her own students. “I saw you on tv and at the sports festival, but it’s been years since we’ve been face to face like this!”

  Izuku snorted loudly, poking Aizawa in the arm, continuing to snicker when the hero just twitched in response. “Yo, boss, you alright? Look like you just aged twenty years.”

  Ms. Joke grinned broadly, gesturing between herself and the exhausted hero. “Let’s get married!”

  “No thanks,” Aizawa deadpanned, the expression on his face darkening by degrees.

  “No thanks?!” Ms. Joke laughed, the sound high and rapid, like some sort of laughter gatling gun. “Good one!”

  “I see that your sense of humor is as unamusing as always.”

  “Come on, if we got married we could build a family around eternal laughter and unending joy!”

  “I would rather be dead.”

  Tsuyu tapped her chin, her expression thoughtful. “You two seen rather close.”

  “We used to work in agencies that were close together!” The pro grinned, turning away from Aizawa as if her words were secret. “You know, help each other out, and then the love blossomed!”

  “Lies and slander,” Aizawa said deadly, his face hidden in the loops of his capture tool.

  Ms. Joke laughed uproariously, waving her students forward from where they had stopped. “See, I told you it would be funny to mess with him!”

  “So, these are your students?” Aizawa listened as the students were introduced, discreetly sizing them up while one of them made it their mission to shake everyone's hand.

  Izuku scoffed, pulling his bandana up and stomping away while the high schoolers all played nice. He didn’t have the luxury of wasting time on social niceties, he still needed to get used to half of his temporary gear, he hadn’t even been allowed to bring his throwing knives and his shotgun? That was right out.

  He snarled at any test takers who approached him, not caring about his image. As he waited, his fingers drumming on the replacement he had managed to get for his shotgun. It wasn’t anything close to the same, but the students didn’t know that.

  For all they knew he had walked in with a deadly weapon with the intent to use it.

  He forced his way to the center of the room, a malevolent aura almost rolling off of him in waves, clearing a circle around him. The only ones who dared enter his personal space were Dabi and Himiko, the two having had the same thought once they had seen Bakugou almost bite the Ketsubutsu students head off. After that, they had quickly geared up, joining Izuku in mere minutes.

  After all, they had come here for a reason.

  They weren’t here to make friends or have fun, they were here to work.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Ahem. Is this thing on?” The announcer at the far front of the room tapped on the microphone before beginning. “Um, my name is Mera, and I’m an officiant from the Hero Public Safety Commission. My favorite type of sleep is NREM sleep. Good to meet you all.” Mera sighed through the microphone, or perhaps he yawned, Izuku didn’t have a good view from where he was standing.

  His mutters about his desire for sleep were barely said, but still, they were heard by all that were there. “Alright, well then, let’s begin this provisional license… thing.”

  A wave of concern swept through the crowd, those who could see the officiant could tell he was moments from passing out on the podium and snoring through the microphone. Or maybe he was moments from death by sleep deprivation, they were both viable options.

  With a yawn, Mera continued, “there are one thousand five hundred and forty of you taking this exam, we will start with a little exercise to cut down your numbers.”

  Murmurs of disbelief broke out, but the announcement continued. “In today's era, we are said to be living in a hero saturated society. Ever since the arrests of the Terrible Three, there are many who question the state of the heroics industry.” At the mention of the Terrible Three, the whispers started again, this time excited, accompanied by pointing and secretly taken photos.

  “To put your life on the line, yet not expect compensation, is the new expectation of civilians. In any case, whatever the motivation, many heroes have dedicated themselves to protecting the public from harm. All of you who gain a license here today will be pushed into those rapids, those who cannot keep up,” Mera paused, long enough for people to wonder if he really had fallen asleep before he continued. “It is relentless, and once you fall behind, you may never catch back up.”

  “Therefore, you’re being tested on your speed! The first hundred to pass these conditions will move on, the rest of you will go home.”

  “Hold on, that’s barely five percent!”

“Bullshit!”                  “Are you serious?!”                                                                   “This is ridiculous!”

  “That’s just not fair!”                           “You’re kidding!”

  “How is this real?”

  “Well, yeah, there’s a lot of upheaval in heroics recently. This is just the hand you’ve been dealt.” Mera shrugged, raising the sensor target in one hand and the ball in the other. “And now for the conditions. These. Three targets per examinee, you may place them as you wish, but they must be visible and exposed. Each examinee with also have six balls. If a ball hits the target, the target will light up. If all three targets are lit, you lose. The individual who lands the third hit will be credited with the takedown, even if they didn’t take out the first two targets. Two takedowns and you pass, that’s it.”

  A worried murmur rippled through the crowd, tinged with panic and fear. Izuku just shook his head and jammed his hands into his pockets, he needed to keep his focus, he couldn’t afford to get caught up in emotion. Even if he didn’t need to pass to get licensed, he still needed to win. Not for the licensing committee, not for U.A., but for himself.

  He needed to prove that he was good enough to stand fully in the light.

  “Now, once the expansion is complete, balls and targets will be distributed to you all, we’ll start one minute after you’ve all spread out.” The joints of the walls began to creak and open, examinees watching with worry. “You should all be able to find terrain that works for you, I think.”

  “Make the most of what you have and do your best!”

  With an earth-shaking slam, the walls came down, revealing the false city, the artificial mountain, the manmade river. It was spectacularly excessive, and something that Izuku considered a waste of resources and time.

  The moment he had his targets and balls, Izuku signaled for Dabi and Himiko to follow, heading towards the low, tightly clustered buildings on the outskirts of the fake city, the small alleys and close rooftops reminiscent of the back alleys of Hosu. Familiar ground.

  Behind him, most of class 1-A did similar, heading in all different directions in pairs, or groups of three and four. Except for Shouto and Bakugou, the two of them taking the path of the lone wolf.

  Well, Bakugou was trying to take the path of the lone wolf, but that plan was ruined before it was put into action by Kirishima running after him.

  “Hey, I’m sticking with you three,” Shinsou had a ball in each hand, targets on his chest and legs, nervously looking over his shoulder.

  “Fine.” Izuku affixed his own targets, one on each side of his chest and the other over his heart. In one hand he held a single tonfa, in the other, he gripped a ball, getting used to the size and weight of it. “Just stick with us, and we’ll get you through this.”

  “Duh, that’s why I’m here.” Shinsou rolled his eyes, "I literally just said that."

  Over the intercom, there was the signal to start, and with a roar of thundering footsteps and shouts, improvised battle cries in the heat of the moment, the mission had begun.

Chapter Text

  “Hi, mom,” Natsuo bent down, pulling his mother into a tight hug. “I heard that Shouto was taking the licensing exam today, so I called Fuyumi, and we planned a little get together.”

 Rei smiled softly, returning the embrace, patter her sons back before letting him go. “How’s your work been going?”

  “It’s been great, working with good people, but I just hate working with the legal department. Don’t like having to jump through hoops to do my job.” Natsuo shook his head, pushing snow white hair off his forehead. “But you know, it’s worth it.” It was too bad that he couldn’t really talk about his job, after all, those who worked to find and prosecute heroes who had done wrong couldn’t exactly brag about the casework.

  “Well, as long as you’re happy.” Rei didn’t want her oldest son working himself to the bone for a job he felt obligated to do. “I’m glad you two came to visit today.” She was worried about Shouto taking the exam, but she was more concerned about how he might push himself too far in his trying to pass.

  Fuyumi smiled before she perked up, remembering something that she had been told during her last visit. “Mom, tell Natsuo about the flowers.”

  “What flowers.”

  “See, the,” Fuyumi pulled on Natsuo’s sleeve, pointing out the flowers. “See, those flowers.”

  “Oh, that’s really pretty, what is that?” The flowers were a soft yellow-orange, clusters of three blossoms not yet bloomed and thin leaves below them.

  “It’s a daylily.” Rei stroked the leaves softly, “once each flower blooms, it lasts for only one day before it falls. Some of the strains only bloom at night for a few hours.” But the world was better for that little bit of beauty they brought into the world.

  Natsuo frowned, “are they from him?”

   “That's what the nurses thought at first but then,” Rei sighed, lifting the letter that has been wedged into the middle of the clump of flowers. “They told me a boy with black hair dropped them off the day before and told them to make sure I got them today.”

  “Huh. I wonder who it is,” Fuyumi wasn’t sure who would be sending their mother flowers, but she wanted to know their motive. If it wasn’t Endeavor, then who was it?

  “We could wait here and then ambush them,” Natsuo grinned, moving to sit beside his mother. “Make them tell us.” He punched his palm softly, nodding as if it was the greatest idea since the wheel.

  “Natsuo, that's a terrible idea!” Fuyumi shook her head in mock disappointment. “Besides, they probably signed the letter.”

  “Right, right.” It wasn't like they had much family out there other than Endeavor, the only other sibling they had was Shouto, right?

  Natsuo and Fuyumi watched as their mother opened the envelope, avoiding the ink stains.

  The envelope was smudged with soot, and the writing on the outside was shaky and almost hard to read. The letter itself was heavily wrinkled as if it had been crumpled and thrown away before being fished from the trash and smoothed back out. Parts had been crossed out and rewritten, while some of the mistakes had been left alone.

  But what the words said overruled any mistake that had been written.

 

      Hey. Dear Mother Mom

      Rei.

  I would have written ‘mom,’ but it feels weird to write mom, especially since I haven't seen you in over nearly eight years. Things have been alright for me lately, I mean, I’m not homeless anymore, so that’s a plus. I was eating out of dumpsters and such, but I’ve been inside for over two years now, so there’s that.

Maybe I shouldn’t have left, but I couldn’t stay

  Two friends, too. Well, one of them is more like an ened frenemy, she’s just awful and bites for no reason. Rude, right?

  I’ve been on the news a few times, so that’s pretty wild, right? At least public opinion on me and my friends is higher than firefuck fire face can ever hope to be. I’m actually taking my hero license exam, an if the nurses give you this letter in time, it’s today.

  Do you get the news in there? If you do you’ve probably seen me on there a few times, but you probably didn’t recognize me.

  Shit, I hope you didn’t recognize me. I’ve changed a bit since you’ve last seen me, and certainly not for the better. I’m a bit of a mess right now. And I’m never gonna get better, either. Sorry.

  Not sure why I’m apologizing, I mean, you’re my mom, I feel like I’m just supposed to feel bad about screwing up my life. So, sorry, I guess.

  Have Fuyumi and Natsuo been visiting? I know Shouto is, but are the others? I’ve been sending flowers and hanging out outside the hospital like a weirdo. So there’s that.

  Not really brave enough to come in, last time I was in the hospital it was from nearly dying, so… yeah. Not a fan of hospitals

  You should meet my friends, they’re crazy. And stupid. Stupider than me at least. Maybe I’ll bring them along with me, you know if you still want to see me. I think Izuku wants to be a rapper, but I really don’t want to know, but I’m sure he’s gonna drop a mixtape in the middle of a fight one day. Sure, it would be good for the team and for PR, but seriously, I think I would fucking die. Either he wants to be a rapper or a politician, and both of those options are bad.

  Better than his other idea, I mean, he wants to fight Endeavor. Like, a street brawl. But, I’m not sure that’s a good image for a hero to have, picking fights with other heroes. Then again, Izuku once stood on top of a building while shouting about the government, so really, anything goes.

  I think you would like Himiko though, she's a little wild, but honest. And by honest, I mean she will not lie to you unless its to be sarcastic. But other than that, she’s great. I'm half certain she might try to murder me, but it could be worse, I guess.

  I’ll come visit as soon as I can, tell you all about what I’ve been up to.

  Once I get my license, I’m gonna come visit, I swear. So brace yourself for the mess that I’ve become.

  Not really sure how I’m supposed to end this so,

      Thanks for reading, Dabi

      Ryouta

 

  “Oh, haven’t heard from Ryouta in so long.” Rei clutched the letter to her chest, a small smile on her face. She hadn’t known how much her second son had suffered, but just knowing that he was alright and living his life how he wanted to was enough for her.

  Natsuo and Fuyumi shared a worried glance. What exactly did this mean for the family? If Ryouta was still alive, where had he been?

 

*** * ***

 

  “...oh my god.” Fuyumi leaned against the closed door, trying to push down the shock and horror that mixed in her chest. She slowly slid down the door, resting her head on her knees.

  “Fuck,” Natsuo pushed his hair back from his face, sharing a glance with Fuyumi. “He's still alive?”

  “Endeavor lied to us.” Fuyumi tried in vain to stop her tears before giving up and taking off her glasses and letting them flow freely. “He lied, and we just believed him.”

  “You saw what he had written? Before he wrote his name?” Natsuo sat beside his sister and patter her back comfortingly.

  “Dabi,” Fuyumi wiped at her tears, “he wrote ‘Dabi.’ You know what that means, right?”

  Natsuo nodded, he couldn’t believe what he had read, but there was no doubting it now. “Our brother was a vigilante. And a successful one, too.” He had heard about the vigilante known as Dabi, but he had never made the connection. He didn’t think there was even a connection to be made.

  “But he’s alive. He’s alive, and we didn’t even know about it.”

  “This is some soap opera shit,” Natsuo muttered, thinking about the nine years the siblings had lost because of their father.

  “Not funny.”

  Natsuo shook his head, leaning back against the wall and staring at the ceiling in the hospital hall, watching the lights flicker. “Well, we can’t exactly just waltz onto the U.A. campus and say, ‘we know who you are,’ so what’s the plan?”

  Fuyumi wiped her face, putting her glasses back on. “We just have to hope Ryouta reaches out to us first.”

  “That’s it?”

  “That’s all we can do.”

Chapter Text

  “Hey, Target,” Dabi tapped on Izukus shoulder as the group rounded the corner, coming face to face with another group of examinees.

  “What.”

  “Smile.”

  “Is that that stupid fucking camera?” Izuku gripped the tonfa tighter in frustration, hating how he actually thought it was funny. “Dabi, what the hell.”

  “Come on, smile!”

  “People can't see my face, how will they know?” Izuku sighed exasperatedly, ducking a poorly thrown ball and sending a lethal glare at the one who had thrown it.

  “They'll just know, alright?”

  Izuku fought back a grin, thankful that most of his face was hidden behind the green bandana. “This is stupid; we’re not here to have fun.”

  “Yeah, but we might as well, right?”

  “Unbelievable.”

  Shinsou dodged a ball thrown at his chest, disbelief on his tired features. “Uh, guys, is this really the best time?”

  “No,” Izuku snapped, hooking his tonfa around one of the examinee's necks and pulling them towards him to kick them in the stomach.

  “Yes,” Dabi countered, launching a blast of flame at the group of examinees before them.

  Himiko twirled her staff, bringing it down on the nearest competitors knee and sending them jumping back out of range. “This is normal, get used to it.”

  Shinsou shook his head, “I don't want to get used to it, this is terrible.”

  In unison, Himiko and Dabi responded with, “thanks,” Shinsou subtly edging away even in the middle of the brawl.

  Further into the artificial city, there was yelling, something about heroes, hot blood, and over all of that was the sound of fighting. Almost immediately after that, an announcement rang out, “one hundred and twenty examinees are out! One hundred and twenty examinees taken out by a single examinee!”

  Inspired, Izuku grinned behind his bandana, forcefully grabbing onto the examinee he was fighting, pulling them too close for them to attack with their quirk. “One down,” Izuku shouted, wrenching one of the examines arm behind their back, using their own balls to activate their targets before shoving them away.

  “Damn Zuzu, that was brutal.”

  Himiko shook her head, shifting her grip on her staff, “I think you mean ‘beautiful.’”

  “You only liked it because they’re bleeding.”

  “Fair point,” Himiko nodded. And herself inspired by Izuku’s takedown she lunged forward, cracking her staff across one of the examinee's jaws, sending them reeling as she continued her assault. Deep purple bruises formed wherever she struck, and she began to target their joints, going after the wrists, elbows, and knees, causing them to drop their balls which she quickly scooped up and lobbed back at them, her aim true. “One down, one to go!”

  “...holy shit,” Shinsou muttered, he knew the Terrible Three had been effective in the work, but he hadn’t seen anything other than their fight against All Might. Seeing the sheer violence up close and personal was a whole different experience. And the two hadn’t even used their quirks and had been training in quirkless combat for nearly two and a half years. How was he supposed to compare to that?

  “Impressive, aren’t they,” Dabi nudged the brainwasher with his elbow, stepping up and letting blue flames twist around his hands, raising his flaming fists up, preparing to send out a blast of heat and fire that would destroy any opposition.

  Izuku and Himiko shared a nod, flanking the group of examinees and blocking their retreat. There were eight of them left, enough to pass all four of them in one go.

  Blue flames washed over the group, superheating the balls they had in their hands, causing them to be dropped. Ducking under the lingering flames, Izuku scooped the dropped balls in his gloved hands, the heat barely registering as Himiko grabbed her own remaining balls, taking aim and letting them fly.

  With his hands still on fire, Dabi lazily strode forward, nearly casual as he tagged the closest person before moving on to the second.

  “I feel like this is really anticlimactic,” Shinsou muttered before he took advantage of the opportunity and got in his own two takedowns from those who were captured. “I mean, I barely did anything.”

  “That’s, you know…” Dabi shrugged, listening to the announcement at the four of them passing. “It is what it is.”

  “It just feels like it should be more, you know what I mean?” He knew the other students in his class were being targeted because of their association with U.A., but since he had only recently been moved into the hero course, nobody recognized him as a U.A. student. And of course, everyone just wanted to avoid the Terrible Three, meaning those eight other examinees were the only ones who even dared to come near them, and that had just been an accident.

  “Hey, there’s always the rescue portion, so,” Dabi picked at the target still attached to his jacket, wishing he had put it somewhere else. “Let’s just go to the anteroom and chill until then. And get these fucking targets off me,” he muttered, giving up on attempting to remove the device.

  “But Dabi,” Himiko grinned wickedly, sharp teeth gleaming. She skipped forward, leaning heavily against the fire user, pausing for effect before continuing. “I thought you wanted Target on you.”

  “You fucking, just,” Dabi scowled, unable to hide the flames on his face. “Just shut up,” he grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest.

  “Toga-kun, that’s not cool,” Shinsou shook his head, stretching his arms over his head as the group headed back to the anteroom.

  Dabi chuckled, “Shinsou, it’s alright, she’s not like, bullying me or anything.” Looking at their interactions from the outside didn’t exactly paint a pretty picture, but in reality, it wasn’t anything problematic.

  “What’s this I heard about bullying?” Izuku popped up beside the three of them, his bandana pulled down around his neck.

  “Where were you,” Dabi asked, spotting a small stain of blood on Izuku’s sleeve. “What did you do?” He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know, whatever it was, it was probably awful.

  “I, uh,” Izuku rubbed his neck awkwardly. “I broke someone’s nose. And someone's finger.” He glanced away, his expression pained, “and I might have fractured someone's kneecap.”

  “Holy shit.” Himiko looked at Izuku with respectful horror, when Izuku came for something he didn’t hold back.

  “What, I’m used to fighting criminals!” Izuku threw his hands up, rolling his eyes. “Everyone else is just fragile.”

  “Or maybe you’re just going too hard on them,” Shinsou said, not believing that Izuku would go that far in an exam.

  “Psh, no way.” Izuku pulled down his bandana, showing off a wild, nearly rabid grin. “Go big or go home.”

  “Guess it’s time to go big then,” Dabi muttered, Himiko nodding in response.

  They had to go big, there was no way in hell they were going home.

 

*** * ***

 

  Back in the anteroom, almost the moment they had gotten their targets taken off, the Terrible Three found a wall to lean against, Izuku glaring threateningly at any of the examinees who looked his way for too long. Beside him, Himiko and Dabi were quiet, until Himiko broke the silence with a question.

  “So, Izuku.”

  “What about him.”

  “No getting touchy when it’s bedtime. That’s too close for comfort, go to the other room if you’re gonna do that.”

  “Himiko, dude.” Dabi shook his head, slightly disappointed with Himiko’s reaction. “It’s not like that.”

  Almost innocently, Himiko asked, “isn’t that what people do in relationships?”

  “Oh shit, I’m not qualified for this.” Dabi tugged at his hair, looking around for help. “Oh my god, I need an adult.” He paused a look of horror dawning in his eyes. “Oh fuck, I am the adult.”

  “Dabi, are you okay?” Himiko watched as Dabi went through the entire cycle of grief in moments, the older teenager nearly panicking at the thought of being an authority figure.

  “Just fine, just having a crisis,” he said blandly. “Oh jeez, alright. So in a relationship, it doesn't need to be physical. It’s mostly emotional, do you connect with them? It doesn't even need to have a sexual component.”

  “Wait, I thought that’s why people get into relationships?”

  Dabi pressed his hands to his face, “oh my god, I’m not ready for this!” He shook his head but didn’t remove his hands from where he was hiding behind them. “Um, no, it’s not. Sex and that kind of thing isn’t the goal; it’s building a happy, loving relationship that’s, uh, fulfilling and makes you want to better each other and yourselves.” He wasn’t exactly the most qualified person to be explaining this, but he couldn’t see Izuku even trying to do the same. Izuku would probably just scream and run away.

  “Oh, well, I guess I get it then.” Himiko kicked at the floor, thinking about what she had just learned. Living as she had for so long hadn’t given her the best of knowledge on how people worked.

  Dabi dropped his hands to his sides, “I want to ask how you lived your life not knowing how relationships work, but your answer would probably just depress me.”

  “You’re probably right.”

  “Hooray,” Dabi muttered, rolling his eyes, unsure of what he was supposed to say now.

  “Back on the topic of Izuku,” Himiko chirped, not seeing the problem with having this conversation while surrounded by strangers and her future classmates.

  Dabi groaned loudly, once again covering his face with his hands. Why was this happening to him, hadn’t he suffered enough in his life?

  “He’s insane; you know that, right?” Himiko knew from insane, and Izuku? A few cards short of a full deck. Not the brightest crayon in the silverware shed. “Like, full on, insane in the membrane, insane in the train?”

  “Himiko, not now.” He might appreciate the blonde’s use of memes, but this wasn’t the right time for it. This wasn’t even the right time for this conversation. “You think I don’t know he’s a bit fucked up? I’ve been living with him for nearly three years, I fucking know.” He had seen… things. No rational person can climb a drainpipe as quickly as Izuku could, and no sane person would even want to try to do the same.

  Himiko pointed at Izuku, the green haired teen currently checking his weapons only to get distracted with a handful of rocks he found in one of the many pouches on his belt. “But like, what’s the appeal there, he’s just… like a wild animal in a human suit.” A collection of basic instincts playing at being a person.

  Dabi wasn’t going to try to refute that; it’s not like it wasn’t right or an apt description. “Close enough, but he, fuck this is cheesy, he doesn’t see my problems, just the good. He’s always there, and like, he doesn’t mind my shitty jokes or random wisdom.”

  “That’s the most important thing,” Himiko said sarcastically.

  “It really is.” Dabi shrugged, “he might act like he hates them, but once in a while he comes back with one that’s just awful, and it’s amazing.”

  “I just don’t get it though.” Himiko worried her lip with her sharp canines, nearly drawing blood. “Yeah, Izuku might be the greatest person to walk the earth, but a relationship?”

  Interrupting the conversation, Izuku leaned to the side and into Himiko’s shoulder. “You two know that I can hear you, right?” He watched them with wide eyes, concern, and confusion on his face. “I’m standing right next to you, I heard everything. Why are you like this.”

  “I can hear you too, you dumb fucks,” Bakugou snapped, his arms crossed over his chest. Where the hell did Deku get off on flaunting his relationships in his face?

  “Me too!” Kirishima couldn’t hide the embarrassed look on his face; it just wasn’t right to listen in on somebody’s personal conversations like that.

  Jiro nodded, “everyone can hear you.” Everyone was also pretending that they weren’t listening in, but that was beside the point.

  Dabi just paused for a moment before giving a one-shouldered shrug and turning back to Himiko. “So, as I was saying before we were interrupted, relationships are built on mutual trust, similar interests and evolve with shared experience.”

  While Himiko was talked through her crisis, Bakugou just rolled his eyes. “Dabi’s the fucking love guru, who saw that coming?”

  “Not me,” Jiro shook her head, watching as more members of class 1-A filed through the doors of the anteroom.

  Kirishima tried to avoid looking at the disaster of the Terrible Three, he didn't like listening in to private conversations. “This is really weird.”

  “I wish they would stop, this is very uncomfortable,” Izuku said, jamming his hands into his pockets. “Besides, the second part of the exam is coming up, and it’s focus time.”

  Almost as if on cue, the screens in the anteroom lit up, and the announcement began. “Ahem, alright everyone.” The screens showed the field that had been used for the first half of the test, the fake city and mountain now empty of test takers. “If I may direct your attention to the screens, we can get the second half of this exam started.”

  Within a heartbeat, over a dozen explosions razed the battlefield, collapsing the city, the mountain, redirecting the flow of the fake river and filling the entire field with rubble and dust.

  “Ungh.” Izuku could feel the blast wave from the explosions deep in his bones, he needed to know what they had used to take everything down.

  “Izuku,” Himiko asked, giving him a sidelong look.

  “Yes?”

  “What was that noise about?”

  “I just… I really want the explosives they used to take this down.”

  “Oh. Ew.” Himiko wrinkled her nose in disgust, shaking her head in disapproval, her blonde bangs bouncing back and forth with the movement.

  “What!”

  Himiko just shrugged, a sharp grin twisting her lip. “I didn’t know you also had an explosives kink.”

  “I don’t!” Izuku waved his hands in front of himself rapidly, trying to deflect the accusation while Dabi just laughed at him.

  “Suuure.” Himiko rolled her eyes dramatically, still grinning. “I really believe that.”

  Izuku threw his hands up, not believing he was being burnt like this. "Come on, tell me you don't get a little riled up for a good explosion!"

 "Nope."

 "Yeah, no." Dabi looked at Izuku with faux disappointment. "That's just you."

  Blissfully unaware of the idiocy that was happening amongst the examinees, Mera continued with his announcement. “In this stage, you will be acting as on-scene heroes and conduct rescue operations at a disaster site.” The announcement continued, explaining the roles of the people spreading across the field.

  “Holy shit. It’s just like Kamino,” Izuku muttered, suddenly realizing why the exam had a rescue portion. The time of solo heroics was over, and the time for teams was now.

  Well, the time for teams was in ten minutes, but that was beside the point.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Y’all ready for this?” Izuku offered Dabi and Himiko a sip from his energy drink, shrugging when they looked at the can with thinly veiled disgust. He took a long drink, crushing the empty can in one hand once he had his answers.

  Dabi looked down at his hands, trying and failing to keep sparks from snapping into life on his palms. “No.”

  “No, not really.” Himiko shook her head, watching the seconds tick down to the second half of the exam.

  “Me either.” Izuku rolled his shoulders back, rezipping his hoodie and adjusting his belt. “So, Dabi, I’m so proud of your brother,” he said sarcastically, rolling his eyes.

  “What did he do?”

  “Apparently he made an enemy out of Inasa. I missed it while I was running to the snacks, but I overheard part of it. Guess they're enemies. Not even rivals, straight up hate, I guess.” He had only seen part of their altercation on the way back from the bus, but what he had seen had definitely not been a new development between the two.

  Dabi slapped a hand to his forehead, groaning loudly. “Oh my god.”

  “How, it’s only been ten minutes!” Himiko wasn't sure how that was possible, but she hadn’t really been paying attention to anything, too busy trying to work out the feelings that had been stirred up during the break. Something about Dabi’s words had really resonated with her, but she needed to get a grip on herself and push those feelings down until later.

  In response, Izuku just shrugged, making a vague sound. “Udumhn. No clue.”

  “Should I ask?”

  “Dabi, do you really want to know?”

  “Yes?” Quickly, Dabi shook his head, making up his mind almost immediately. “Wait, no. No, I actually don’t.”

  “That's probably for the best, your bro is intense. Oh.” Izuku unwrapped a protein bar, speaking as he ate, “I tell you guys about the thing I did back at the sports fest?”

  Dabi narrowed his eyes, not sure where this was going. Wasn’t sure he wanted to know this, either. “What did you do?”

  Izuku raised a hand, waving away Dabi’s accusing look. “Hey, don't look at me like that, blame firefuck. He was being a dick, so I played the fool and annoyed him while Shouto walked away in the distraction.”

  “...” Dabi had seen some stupid things in his life, but somehow Izuku managed to top every one of them every single time. “Wow. How are you still alive?” He wasn't even surprised at this anymore, but that didn't mean he liked that it was happening.

  Himiko sighed, brushing her bangs back. “I have no words, everything you do is nonsense.” But something made her chest feel tight at the thought of Izuku putting himself in danger without her or Dabi around.

  Dabi kicked at Izuku’s shin to catch his attention, getting a scowl in return. “Why didn't you say this earlier?”

  Izuku shrugged, trying to convey just how much he didn’t know. “I really don't know, you both know that I really only think ahead for patrol, everything else its just goin’ with the flow.”

  Dabi just blinked, brushing that off and changing the subject. “You know after this thing is done, and after you and Bakugou probably end up fighting it out, you and Shouto should talk. You two would probably get along pretty well.”

  Brushing down his hoodie from any bits of dirt and dust, Izuku asked, “why, is he also a moron?”

  “You're not a moron Izuku,” Himiko rolled her eyes, not understanding why Izuku always had to be so casual with his self-deprecating, dramatic and depressing jokes.

  “Look at me, Himiko. Just, look at me.” Izuku gestured to himself, from his spiked steel toe boots to the mess of his green hair, “I’m a fucking moron, I just play at being smart.”

  Dabi nodded, he had seen so many examples of Izuku's idiocy it wasn't even funny. “It’s true, one time at the beach, he tried to surf down a pile of trash using an ironing board.”

  “Oh.” Himiko drew her eyebrows together, frowning slightly before asking, “did it work?”

  “It’s best not to ask him about that,” Dabi said, attempting to brush off Himiko’s curiosity.

  “So it didn’t work?”

  Dabi shook his head slowly, fighting back a grin. “Nooo.” It had ended with Izuku nearly breaking his nose against a rusted out oven, and the ironing board had nearly hit Dabi in the face. He had been over ten feet away from the crash, but he still almost got taken out by Izuku’s nonsense. “Most things he does don’t work. Unless he’s planned it, he’ll end up hurting himself. Come on, you know this.”

  ‘Hmm, yeah,” Himiko nodded, turning to Izuku with a question that had been on her mind for the last few minutes. “Hey, Izuku, can we-

  A siren rang out through the anteroom and over the field, ear-splitting and ringing through the air even once it had stopped. “A terrorist attack by villain organization has destroyed the entirety of X City, and the collapse buildings have trapped and injured a great many. With the damage to the roads, first responders are delayed. The onsite heroes must lead the rescue efforts until they make it.”

  The walls of the anteroom began to come down, splitting at the corners and opening into the field. “Save as many lives as you can, even if it’s just one.” The 100 remaining examinees all stood tense, ready to rush the moment they were given the signal.

   “START!”

  Izuku sprinted forward towards the destroyed city, Himiko and Dabi hot on his heels. Over a dozen of the other examinees passed them almost immediately, but the three paid them no mind, skidding to a stop before the first person they saw.

  Pulling up his bandana, Izuku easily slipped into his more confident persona. He took a quick look at the scene, connecting the points together to get most of the picture. “Alright, we’ve got one injured, preteen, head wound and erratic breathing.”

  “You gotta save him!” The actor cried out through their heavy sobs and fake tears, pointing to the collapsed building behind him. “My grandpa, he’s over there, he got crushed!”

  “Don’t worry kid, we’ll get him out of there, but you’re first.” Izuku counted his lucky stars that he carried first aid kits with him ever since he had died.  He pulled out a roll of bandages, pads of gauze and antiseptic spray and set about cleaning the fake wound. “Any nausea, trouble breathing, numbness?” The ‘injured child’ shook their head, loud sobs fading into hiccuping breaths.

  Idly, Izuku wondered where they got their acting training. It was a bit over the top but still very convincing. They were good at their job. Too bad that the job shouldn't even need to exist, just the fact that the HUC existed was evidence enough that heroics needed to be reformed.

  Dabi tapped Izuku on the shoulder, “check to see if he’s able to walk, then onto the next.”

  Izuku nodded, “alright kid. You able to stand?”

  “Uh huh.”

  “Aight, let's get you to the med center then we’ll get your grandpa.”

  "I'll take him," Dabi said, not wanting to see what would happen if Izuku dealt with another kid.

  The ‘injured child’ continued to wipe at their crocodile tears as Dabi scooped them up into his arms and made his way back to the transformed anteroom, jogging lightly. Behind him, Himiko and Izuku climbed over the rubble to track down the ‘grandpa’ that had been crushed.

  “So, what did you want to talk to me about,” Izuku asked as he shifted the rubble, bracing himself against an unstable wall.

  “Is this really the best time?” Himiko’s stomach flip-flopped anxiously, she didn’t want to drag up the feelings she hadn’t even known she had been repressing. Couldn’t they do this later?

  Izuku shrugged, tossing aside broken boards and two by fours. “Nope, but is there ever gonna be a better one?”

  “You’re fucking ridiculous.”

  “Come on, Vamp, you can talk to me. I’m your partner, what's the problem?”

  “That.” Himiko shook her head, tossing broken cinder blocks aside as she talked. “That’s the problem. You and Dabi are both my partners, my best friends, but none of us act like we’re just best friends.” She brushed the dust of crumbled bricks off of her hands, peering into the collapsed building to look for the ‘grandpa.’ “I'm not saying I want things to be like a relationship, but parts of this are. And I don't, I don't hate it. I don't want things to change too much, but I like things how they are, I just… I don't want to lose the two of you, even if its just to each other.”

  “Oh.” Izuku blinked slowly,  “Okay, I wasn’t expecting that.” He went back to moving rubble, shrugging slightly.

  Himiko stared in disbelief before realizing that that's just how Izuku is. “Did you react the same way when Dabi confessed?”

  Izuku nodded, a blush peeking over the bandana. “Yeah, I did actually.”

  “God you're so fucking stupid, I can’t,” Himiko leaned down to peek into the darkness between the broken and collapsed walls, she pulled a flashlight from her belt, shining it into the inky black shadows. “Wait, I think we found the grandpa.”

  “Damn, how did he get in there,” Izuku muttered, hanging onto the concrete sides of cracked walls and he leaned down into the small tunnel that leads down into the ground. “Just hold on, sir we’ll get you out!”

  “How,” Himiko whispered. “He's like, ten feet down!”

  “You've still got rope, yeah?”

  “Of course, you know I love tying people up.”

  Izuku just stared blankly before shaking his head and muttering, “creepy. But help me tie it around my chest and waist to make a harness, then help me rappel down.”

  Himiko chewed on her lip thoughtfully, thinking over the words. “That, that might actually work.”

  “Great.” Izuku set down his tonfa and his replacement shotgun, wrapping the offered rope around himself as Himiko helped with the knots. “You're really good at knots,” he muttered, slightly worried about how Himiko might have acquired such a skill.

  “Please, this is me, I’m good at everything.”

  Izuku grinned behind the bandana, rolling his shoulders back and pulling the ropes tight against his chest. “Careful with the ego, we don't need a second Target running around.”

  Rolling her eyes, Himiko put the finishing touches on the makeshift climbing harness. “Hmm, could be worse. Could be better too, but there's no time.”

  “I leave to save someone, and I come back to bondage.” Dabi carefully picked his way through the rubble, fighting against the smirk on his face. “Exciting.”

  Izuku waved, “hey Dabi, want to help Himiko tie me up?”

  “No?”

  “Wow, rude.” Izuku rolled his eyes exaggeratedly, pretending to be disappointed even though he was actually thankful. “I would help Himiko tie you up.”

  “I don't want Himiko to tie me up.”

  “Are you sure, she's good at knots!”

  Himiko scoffed, tossing the end of the rope at Dabi. “Hold on to that,” she said, and the moment Dabi had a secure grip on the rope, she pushed Izuku over the edge with a vicious grin. “Whoops.”

  “Himiko, you biiiitch!” There was a muffled thud from the darkened crevasse followed by a shouted “Ow!”

  “So, did the two of you… talk?” Dabi wrapped the rope around his arm until there was no more slack and he held it in a vice-like grip, feeling the vibrations in the strands from Izuku’s movements.

  Himiko nodded, brushing her bangs out of her face and leaving streaks of brick dust behind. “Yes, we talked. And I, I get it now. Why I was acting out. I didn't even realize how jealous I was getting until, fuck, until less than an hour ago. Hell, I was jealous of you of all people.”

  “Wow, thanks.” Dabi rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, leaning back on a half-destroyed wall, still keeping the rope held tight. "So glad you think so highly of me.”

  Kicking at the rubble, Himiko said quietly, “I'm sorry for acting like such a bitch earlier.”

  Dabi shrugged, “whatever, it’s no big deal.”

  “It is though, I mean, like you said, the relationship the three of us has evolved and I didn't even notice until it made me mad enough to lash out like I did. I thought the two of you were an obvious match, I didn't even think about myself.” She sighed, slumping against one of the few walls that were still standing. “I was angry that you had figured it out before me.”

  “Fuck, the three of us are a mess.” Before Dabi could get into any introspection, there was a tug on the rope followed by very colorful shouting from the hole Izuku had been pushed into. “Help me pull him up, we can talk about this later.”

  “Good. That's what I like about you, Dabi. You and I can actually put things on hold, but Izuku,” Himiko pulled on the rope as hard as she could, barely breaking a sweat at the combined weight at the end. “Izuku will make you talk about things right in the middle of fights and such.”

  “Hah!” Dabi grinned, continuing to haul the load while laughing quietly. “We need to have bitching sessions where we can just complain at each other about all the stupid things he does.”

  "Do you think it's a bad thing that Izuku is the most important person in our lives? Like, we both owe him everything. But he's also somehow also the most hated?"

  "Nah, it's fiiine." Dabi shrugged, "sometimes you love someone so much that you also hate them. But you don't actually hate them."

  Finally back at the top, Izuku popped his head out of the tunnel of rubble. “Oi! Stop complaining about me and help me with this old guy!”

  “Sure thing,” Himiko skipped forward and grabbed onto the harness she had made, hauling Izuku out of the mess before she grabbed onto the rope tied to the man pretending to be a victim of crushing. The fake blood on their limbs was enticing, but it was wrong. The wrong color, wrong texture, wrong smell. She licked at the red staining her fingertips, shaking her head in disappointment.

  It even tasted wrong.

  Dabi watched in disgust, taking a step away from the blood drinker. “Dude, gross.”

  “What, it’s fake!” Himiko stuck out her tongue, stained with the red dye of the paint on blood, prompting Dabi to take another step back.

  “It was on the ground!” And on a person, but it had been in the dirt! 

  “Please, I’ve seen you eat chicken that fell on the ground, you have no room to talk!”

  “At least it’s food!”

  "It was raw!"

  Izuku shook his head, slinging the ‘victim’ over his shoulder and into a fireman's carry, jogging them back to the transformed anteroom while Himiko and Dabi continued to bicker while searching out and aiding more of the ‘injured.’

  At the anteroom turned medical center, Izuku handed the ‘injured’ off to the onsight staff. Turning back before he was escorted away, the elderly man spoke softly, “I must say, I never expected to meet you in person, Target.”

  Izuku jolted in surprise, he didn’t think he would meet a fan here of all places. “What?”

  The man smiled and patted IZuku’s shoulder before leaving, speaking over his shoulder. “You got my son arrested, I never thought I would get the chance to thank you for that.”

  Izuku was ushered away before he could ask what that meant, why would they thank him? He had most likely ruined their sons' life, why would they thank him? He took a shaky breath, turning and leaving while Himiko and Dabi each brought in another ‘victim.’ Waiting for them on the perimeter of the medical center, Izuku pulled up the sleeve of his hoodie, checking his watch and nodding once he saw the time.

  In less than five minutes, Gang Orca and his henchmen were going to stage an attack, and Izuku just hoped that nobody was going to get hurt too badly.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Oh, the pain! Our arms! Please, save us!” Maybe not all of the HUC workers had great acting skills, but these two were far below the standard.

  Bakugou snarled at the two, wasting no time with them before brushing them off. “Shut the hell up and save yourselves!’

  Izuku barely managed to choke back a laugh, punching himself in the thigh to try and keep from making a fool of himself. “Oh my god, Bakugou how are you so bad at this.” He couldn't believe he had been lucky enough to witness the disaster that was Bakugou interacting with ‘civilians.’ Izuku pushed his hood back and wiped the sweat from his brow, the trio making their way towards the ingress point, turning back and helping the ‘victims’ with each chance they got. Gang Orca wasn’t exactly their top priority at the moment.

  Before he could leave, Bakugou snagged Izuku's sleeve. “What the fuck are you playing at, Deku.”

  Feigning ignorance, Izuku asked calmly, “what do you mean, Bakugou?”

  “We both know what you’re capable of, why are you putting on this fake nice act for all these people.” The words, ‘they aren’t worth it,’ went unsaid, but they still hung in the air as if they had been pinned there. Heavy words that needed to be acknowledged before they would fade away.

  Izuku just shook his head, pushing past Bakugou, his eyes hard and filled with an unidentifiable emotion. “Later, Bakugou. We can talk about this later.” Anyone else he would have stopped to talk to them about their problems, but he knew that if he and Bakugou began talking, it would end in blood and broken bones.

  Dabi scowled at Bakugou as the trio put distance between themselves and the explosive teen. He tapped Izuku’s shoulder, not sure how the other would react. “Zuzu, you good?”

  “I’m… I don’t really know.” Izuku pressed his hands over his face, sighing loudly. “I got thanked for getting someone's son arrested.”

  “So, not good?”

  “I’m just confused about why.” Izuku crossed his arms over his chest, tugging at the rope that still hung around him. “I ruined their kids’ life, why would they thank me?”

  Himiko grabbed Izuku’s hand, squeezing it softly. “It’s because you kept them from getting deeper into crime, that’s why.”

  Dabi shook his head, pretending not to be thankful that Himiko was able to help in this emotional sort of conversation. “Nerd.”

  “Crispy chicken,” she shot back, sticking out her tongue before turning back to Izuku and continuing her explanation. “You might have ruined their year, but you didn’t ruin their life. You probably got them out of crime for good.”

  Izuku wiped at his eyes, giving Himikos hand a quick squeeze before letting go. “We’re gonna end up crying like little bitches before the end of this, aren’t we?”

  “Yeah,” Himiko nodded, smiling with a flash of fang.

  “That’s a guarantee on my end; I’ll cry right now if you want me to.”

  “Dabi, that’s a weird fetish,” Himiko snarked, watching as Dabi’s cheeks burned with blue flame while he tried to fend off her accusation.

  Izuku sniffled, pulling down his bandana before he grabbed both of his partners and pulled them into a tight hug. “You guys are fucking stupid, and I love you both to death.”

  “If you don’t stop squeezing, it’s going to be literal!” Himiko smacked Izuku’s arm repeatedly, tempted to grab her staff and use that instead of her hands.

  “This is fine; you’re not crushing me at all,” Dabi said, his voice strained from the force of the embrace.

  Izuku only squeezed them harder for their protests, “Accept! My! Love!”

  As the three bickered, drawing attention to themselves, an explosion on par with the ones that had destroyed the field rang through the chaos and the rubble, the wall of the stadium shattering from the force of the blast. Panic quickly took hold on those who weren’t prepared for this, the only group unaffected was class 1-A and of course, the Terrible Three.

  Izuku dropped Dabi and Himiko, the three of them sharing a look before Izuku pulled up his bandana over his face and grabbed his replacement shotgun. “Let’s go.”

  Flipping the mental switch, they began to move as one, heading towards the new entrance that had been made, the three of them now all business, no play.

  They weren't the only ones who had the idea to go after the hero playing villain, the earthquake kid, Izuku remembered him from the handshaking fiasco outside the stadium, was already on the scene, trying to break up the formation of Gang Orca’s henchmen. A ways behind the trio was Shouto and Inasa, the two ignoring each other while racing to confront the challenge.

  Izuku skidded to a halt before the forces of Gang Orca and the dozens of henchmen at his command. “Dabi, give me a flame cyclone and trap me in it with Gang Orca. Vamp, get the earthquake kid out then start picking off the henchmen. Don't get shot with the cement guns and if you can take a gun then go for it.” Izuku racked his replacement shotgun, checking on his stock of beanbag rounds. Ten, less than he wanted, but good enough. He wasn’t going to use more than three, anyway. “Let’s do this!”

  With a sweep of his hand, Dabi brought up a wall of flame that he pulled around until it surrounded Gang Orca and Izuku. He couldn't see through the thick haze of blue; he just had to trust that Izuku wasn’t going to hurt himself. Keeping up the wall with one hand, he lobbed smaller blasts at the henchmen who dared even look in his direction.

  “Ooh, bloody!” Himiko said in a sing-song tone, cracking her staff across the face of the closest henchman, a spray of red gushing from their mouth and nose as they stumbled back. “So pretty in the light!”

  She continued to bash and smack any of the henchmen who dared approach her, sending ripples of fear through their numbers. Fighting like a woman possessed, she cut down their group, every movement sending her sledgehammer thumping against her back from where it was strapped. It was freeing in a way that she hadn’t felt since Hosu.

  No stakes, no real danger, just violence and the spray of blood.

  She fought her way to where the earthquake kid, she really needed to find out his name eventually; she couldn't keep thinking of him as ‘earthquake kid.’ She fought until she reached him, pulling him up by the wrist and pulling him away from the fight. “Are you okay?”

  “I'm fine, let me help!” The teen placed his hands flat on the earth, sending brutal shockwaves through the ground and shattering the earth beneath the feet of the henchmen.

  “Okay, but if your brain rattles out of your head don't blame me!” Himiko grinned, swapping her staff out for her sledgehammer and brushing her bangs from her face before she threw herself back into the chaos around them all.

  Inside the column of flame, it’s almost calm, the only sound from Izuku's harsh pants against the heat and dryness. Desperate to counteract the heat, he pulled his bandana down his neck, breathing heavily as he tried to make the first strike. But he can see the fire affecting Gang Orca just as badly, his skin drying and losing its sheen, going dull and flat. If he doesn't strike soon, Gang Orca can use a supersonic wave to destroy the flame column.

  Making up his mind, Izuku leveled his shotgun at the hero’s chest, firing and watching as the round expanded in the air before slamming into the hero at ninety meters per second. Even someone of Gang Orca’s stature wouldn't be able to control the muscle spasms from a blow like that.

  Before the hero could do anything, Izuku ducked under where he knew the next attack would come from, spinning behind the hero and firing again, sending him stumbling forward a single step. As he stumbled, Izuku quickly slung his shotgun across his back on its strap, reaching onto his belt and grabbing the specialty tonfa he had brought. The thick and deceptively sweet scent of rot flooded his senses as he pressed on the button embedded into the handle, custom lighter fluid spreading across the porous metal on the weapons surface, thick drops falling in near slow motion as it coated the shaft. Dipping the bars into the flame, the dancing blue light quickly spread over the weapon, wreathing his forearms in an azure blaze.

  He couldn't use them for long, not because of a lack of fuel, but because he liked not burning to death. Already he was sweating unbearably, the heat from the cyclone and his weapons each compounding upon the other.

  Izuku struck quickly, driving a flaming bar into the back of Gang Orca’s knee before jumping back and avoiding a clawed hand that swiped at him with startling speed.

  The two traded near missed blows, too caught up in the scuffle to feel the earth rumble under their feel or see the top of the flame cyclone whip about wildly, wind thrashing the blue flame. Izuku unsuccessfully dodged a swipe of claws, three thin cuts on his face beading with blood that soaked into the bandana and quickly dried out in the heat. Ducking a supersonic attack, the pillar of blue flame exploded in a chaotic mix of an orange blaze, ice, and wind. Fragments of rock and concrete flew into the air, raining back down on the earth like divine judgement.

  Unlike the rest who were close to the blast, Izuku was only spared being throw by sheer luck, the rope attached to the makeshift harness looping and tangling around a warped girder that refused to be budged. Cursing, Izuku tried to clear his head from the high pitched ringing while he untangled himself from the girder. Once free, he whipped around wildly, trying to find Himiko and Dabi within the chaos. In his desperate search, Gang Orca and his henchmen continued towards the other examinees, destroying nearly everything in their path.

  “Izuku, quick!”

  Himiko’s voice cut through the haze and Izuku immediately broke into a sprint, powered by fear and anger. He skidded to a halt, dropping his burning tonfa to the ground once he saw what had happened. “Shit, Dabi, are you alright?”

  “Uhh, I’m pretty far from alright, boss.” Dabi pulled his hand away from the side of his head, his fingers coming back dripping with blood. He tried to sit up, hissing in pain before going quiet once he realized his leg wasn't supposed to bend like that. “Well, shit,” he muttered, pressing his hand back to the blood that was spreading through his hair while Himiko helped him sit up.

  “What happened,” Izuku asked quietly, desperate rage lighting in his eyes as Himiko pointed towards Inasa and Todoroki with a shaking hand. “Really,” he muttered, yanking his bandana over his mouth and picking back up his tonfa, the heat of the flames nothing to him right now. “Himiko, keep Dabi stable. I’ll be right back, this isn’t over yet.”

   Himiko said nothing, helping Dabi into a more comfortable position while she waited for someone to come and help move him back to the medical center.  

  “Inasa. Todoroki.” Izuku’s voice was a rough growl as he rounded on the two rivals while they uselessly chipped at the cement covering nearly half of their bodies. It was as if they were clueless to the danger they had put everyone in and Izuku snapped, unable to contain his rage. “What the fuck is your damage, you idiots?!” He shoved his still flaming tonfa into the faces of the two, his eyes wild and his breathing unsteady. He wanted to hurt them, hurt them the way that Dabi had been hurt because of them, but now isn't the time. Gang Orca was getting further away with each passing moment, and the exam wasn’t over yet.

  If they weren't going to act like heroes, then it was up to him.

  Ignoring the silence he got in response, Izuku rounded on Inasa, glaring up at the wind manipulator, “you're going to help me.” His tone was lifeless, leaving no room to question his words.

  Inasa nodded wordlessly, wisely keeping quiet in the face of an enraged killer.

  “On my signal, use as much force as you can to get me above Gang Orca, then cut the power.” Izuku stalked away towards Himiko, not feeling the searing pain from the heat that he held in his hands.

  Blue flames licked up the sleeves of his hoodie, trying to burn the flame resistant material. Quietly, Izuku spoke, tone seething with rage. “Vamp, grab the rope and hold on.”

  Himiko did as she was ordered, not saying anything. She knew better than to say anything to Izuku when he was like this. The last time she had seen him go quiet and deadly like this had been the night he had killed Stain in a fit of rage turned mercy killing.

  “Once I’m in the air, wait until the wind drops off, then pull me back down as hard as you can.” Izuku crouched down, leaping off of the pile of rubble and shouting hoarsely, “now, windbag!”

  Powerful gusts of wind cut the distance between himself and Gang Orca in half in seconds, and Izuku felt that same mix of emotions he had felt only once before. Soon Gang Orca would reach the makeshift medical center that had been the anteroom, and Izuku crossed his tonfa before himself and snarled against the wind. He screamed his intent to the world, the sound bone chilling to those who knew the meaning behind it.

  Deadly Intent.

  Gang Orca turned and looked up to seek out the source of the screaming, and he took a step back once he realized what it really was. The one who had been going after him like a rabid animal was now flying at him, a simple rope tied around him as a harness kept him from going too far. And the one holding the line, the girl who had taken out so many of his henchmen with brutal efficiency, had a nearly feral look about her as she gripped the rope and pulled down with all her strength. Like a stone, Target dropped down, his tonfa crossed over his head, blue flames roaring around the metal rods and up over the ex-vigilantes shoulders.

  The hero playing villain took another step back, but he was too slow, flaming tonfa crashing down upon his head with over two hundred pounds of force aided by gravity and the strength of Vamps rage.

  Simultaneous with slamming his tonfa down, Izuku kicked out with spiked boots, narrowly missing the hero's face before he landed in a crouch, snarling up at the hero from behind his bandana.

  Once again, the sound of a siren rang over the field, catching the attention of everyone. “Uh, if I could have your attention?” The crackle of the speakers halted nearly all movement on the field, everyone listening in. “All stationed members of the HUC have been rescued from the crisis area.” Mera’s voice barely hid his exhaustion as he wrapped up his announcement with, “this may be selfish of me, but I must bring these provisional license examinations to a close!”

  “It’s over?” Izuku pushed himself back to his feet, glaring over his shoulder at Inasa and Todoroki. For a moment he looked past them, his gaze setting on Himiko and Dabi before he saw red, grinding his teeth in his rage. “No, this isn’t fucking over!”

  “Target, stop.” Gang Orca pulled Izuku back by his shoulder, keeping him from trying to slaughter the two teens he had set his sights on. “You won't solve anything like this.”

  “I know that! I just want them to learn, damnit!” Izuku snapped, snarling behind the bloody bandana as he smacked the hero’s hand away from his shoulder. “Their petty argument could have killed Himiko and Dabi!”

  Gang Orca knew that Target had played a role in the raid on the League of Villains, but he knew that they were still a child, prone to irrational emotional outbursts. He also knew that no matter what the boy had done here today he still would have been licensed. Even with his passing a guarantee, the boy had gone above and beyond, helping as many people as he could, giving advice to others, using reckless strategies that worked in ways they shouldn’t have.

  He shook his head, letting the teen go, knowing it wasn’t the best decision, but he knew that they wouldn't go as far as they had said they would.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Holy hell, I think Izuku’s about to kill your brother,” Himiko said as she walked into the room, flopping into the chair beside Dabi’s bed and pulling out her phone.

  “Well, he had a good run.” Dabi grinned, unsuccessfully dodging Himiko’s punch to his shoulder. “Ow!”

  Himiko rolled her eyes, “at least try to act worried when I say Izuku is going to kill people!”

  Dabi shrugged, “why, he’s not actually gonna.” Unless it was Chisaki, then he would. Probably very violently.

  “I know that, but we should at least pretend to be concerned,” she muttered, scrolling through the articles that had been published within the last hour, nearly all of them focusing on what the Terrible Three might be doing out in Takoba.

  “These painkillers are too strong for me to worry about anything right now,” Dabi mumbled, cradling his head in his hands.

  Himiko shook her head, looking away from the bandages wrapped around Dabi’s head. She flicked his hand, prompting a scowl. “How’s the leg?”

  “A little sore, but it’s all good now.”

  “Tch, all good now?” Izuku grumbled from the doorway, leaning against the side of the door jam and scowling in. He dropped his duffle bag off his shoulder and beside the door, crossing his arms as he stared into the room.

  “Oh, hey, Zuzu.”

  “Really, all good now?” Izuku repeated before he stomped through the door and sat on the edge of the bed. He pulled a crumpled paper from the pocket of his hoodie, looking it over. “A'ight, let’s see. You had a grade three concussion, says you were unconscious for almost a minute once they got you in here. Oblique fracture of the tibia and fibula, oh, and apparently you pulled over thirteen of your staples.”

  “Is that my file? Where did you get that?”

  Izuku waved away Dabi’s concern, “doesn’t matter.” He folded the paper into a sloppy plane, tossing it in Dabi’s direction. “What I’m trying to say is, you’re not ‘all good now.’ If it wasn’t just luck that you didn’t hit something harder than the dirt you could have been killed by those two idiots!”

  “Hey, careful who you call an idiot.” Dabi grabbed the plane from his lap, unfolding it and reading it in disbelief. He hadn’t thought that he had been injured that badly.

  Izuku rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll try to not insult people who could have killed you!”

  “Well, I didn’t die, so what’s the big deal?”

  “What’s the big, you should at least care that you almost died!”

  “You never do!”

  “I’m not normal!” Izuku stood, running his gloved hands through his hair, dragging dust and blood through his curls. He smacked his hand over his chest, trying to emphasize his point. “I’m not someone that should be imitated. Just because I don’t give a fuck about my own life doesn’t mean I don’t care about yours!”

  “Hold on. Dabi, don’t say anything. Izuku, shut up. Tensions are high, and I’m not going to just let the two of you yell at each other. I won’t!” She had dealt with enough people yelling in front of her for an entire lifetime.

  Himiko stood, stepping up and roughly grabbing Izuku by the shoulders, shoving him back to the edge of the bed. Once he was seated, she looked him dead in the eye, “are you trying to blame yourself for Dabi getting hurt?”

  “No!” Izuku hung his head, slumping his shoulders under the weight of Himiko’s gaze. “I just should have know something like this would happen.”

  “You are blaming yourself!” Himiko glared down at Izuku, shaking his shoulders slightly. “You can’t control every situation, even if you want to.”

  “You think I don’t know that? I might be a self-aggrandizing idiot, and even I don’t think I can do everything. But does that mean I shouldn’t try?” Izuku glared back up at Himiko, all but daring her to call him out on his words. “Should I not try to do everything I can to-

  “Izuku, shut the hell up,” she snapped, not caring if she offended him.

  “...”

  “I know you’re worried, I know you blame yourself and that you think you should have seen this coming, but you just have to trust that things will be alright. Just trust us.”

  “That’s… Himiko, I’m trying! I just-”

  From his place in the bed, Dabi called out, “hey, come one, it’s not that-”

  “Shut up, Izuku.” Himiko glared at Dabi daring him to say another word, “Dabi, you’re not allowed to talk either.” She turned back to Izuku, shaking him slightly. “Izuku, you’re still angry, you’re not thinking straight. All of us are riled up still and we need to take a minute.”

  “Himiko-

  “Shut up, the two of you. I know that you care about us, that you do trust us, but you need to do it better. You need to have some faith in us, alright?” The blood drinker sighed, releasing her vice-like grip from Izuku's shoulders. “No ‘I’m trying’ or ‘I can’t.’ You just need to do it. No more sorry.”

  Izuku hung his head, looking down at his knees with a chastened frown. “I, I’m sorry.”

  “Don’t apologize, just do better.” Himiko frowned, looking at the paper in Dabi’s hand. “Actually, if you want to say sorry you can apologize for stealing Dabi’s medical chart from the desk.”

  “It wasn’t on the desk. And that’s not all I took,” Izuku muttered, digging around in his pockets for a moment.

  Dabi narrowed his eyes, scowling sightly. “What else did you take, Zuzu.”

  Izuku grinned, pulling three badges from his pocket. “I also took these!” He turned the badges before handing them over, keeping his own hidden. “Didn’t think you would want to deal with the crowd.”

  Himiko shook her head, Izuku could be an absolute idiot but still thoughtful. She took her badge, looking over the photo. Somehow in her photo, she still managed to look bloodthirsty and almost rabid. She looked over to Izuku, watching as his shoulders shook. There was only one thing that he would find that funny on his license. “They used your mugshot on yours, didn’t they?”

  “Yeah.” Izuku nodded, trying to stifle his laughter and failing. “It’s hilarious.”

  “You find weird things funny.”

  “Oh my god, I look like a murderer creeping in the shadows,” Dabi muttered, the combination of his scars and the dark background washing out the rest of his face. At least they hadn’t tried to find out his name, just Dabi for his name, and Dabi for his alias. That’s all he needed.

  “Let me see.” Himiko didn’t try to contain her snort of laughter as she grabbed the plastic card from his hand. “Oh my god, that’s awful.” She shook her head, handing back the licence with a giggle. “You look like a corpse.”

  “Hey, it’s true, but only I can say it,” Izuku said, finally beginning to untie the rope harness. “Himiko,” he gestured to the rope, prompting a dramatic eye roll, but still she moved to help him.

  Dabi took his licence and tucked it into his wallet. “You two are mean,” he grumbled, throwing off his blanket to get out of bed. Freezing in place, he stared down at his legs before looking back up and loudly asking “Where are my pants.”

  “How would either of us know that,” Izuku muttered, taking a picture of his licence and sending it to his mother.

  “You know, Izuku, I’m surprised you don’t have an extra pair of pants with you.” Himiko thought that Izuku prepared for every situation, he carried over three first aid kits and has firecrackers in his pockets. Why not pants?

  “Why would you think that? Is it because it’s true,” Izuku asked, kicking at his duffle bag before shrugging as if everyone carried extra pants with them.

  “Wait, you do have extra pants?” Himiko had been joking about Izuku having extra pants; she hadn’t thought it was an actual possibility.

  Dabi didn’t care that Izuku had extra pants, he wanted to know what had happened to his own pants. Who took them in the first place? “What happened to my pants?”

  “Blood.” Was the only answer Izuku gave before he unzipped the duffel bag and threw a pair of black pants at Dabi. “I’m going back to the bus.” He picked up the bag full of weaponry and extra gear, jammed his hands in his hoodie pockets and left, still too agitated to deal with people. But he didn’t go back to the bus like he said he would, instead, he stood outside the door, leaning against the wall and staring up at the ceiling as if he could change its composition through sheer force of will.

  He needed to get control of himself, he couldn't risk failing an official mission if he flew into a rage like that again. But he knew he would do it again. And again. If he ever saw either Himiko or Dabi hurt again, he wouldn’t be able to keep himself in check. He wouldn’t want to keep himself in check.

  The two of them were his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.

  With a sigh, Izuku closed his eyes, listening through the thin door of the infirmity as he slowly came down from the adrenaline rush of the fight.

  “I have some of your blood,” he heard Himiko say, the blood drinkers voice unusually bland. Oh no, Izuku thought, not liking the idea of Himiko running around and pretending to be Dabi. But at the same time, he sort of did want to see what would happen. Whatever it was, it would be chaos.

  “Gross.”

  “I’m gonna use it,” Himiko continued, and Izuku barely stifled a laugh.

  “Okay.” Dabi paused before he asked, “what are you gonna use it for?”

  “Who knows. Probably in class, though.” Himiko paused, and Izuku heard her move closer to the door before she continued. “Show up and see if anyone questions it.”

  “Please don’t wear your uniform on my body.” Izuku could hear the frown in Dabi’s voice before he said, “skirts are not for me.”

  “Oh I will wear the uniform,” Himiko taunted, prompting a laugh from Izuku. He really didn’t want to imagine Dabi in Himiko’s clothes, but it seemed he wouldn’t have to.

  “Please don’t, you’ll traumatize everyone.”

  “That’s the point.” There was a pause before Izuku heard Himiko kick at the door before asking, “are your pants on yet, can we go?”

  “No, I'm just gonna walk out there in my boxers and traumatize all of those nice people with my fucked up scars.”

  “Okay, sounds good to me.”

  “I don’t like how you were so willing to go along with that.”

  “You're not going to like a lot of things that I do.”

  “Oh, I already don’t, and you know that.”

  As the two continued their conversation, Izuku’s phone rang, and he quickly picked it up as soon as he saw his mother's picture come up on the screen. “Hey, mom,” he answered, finally leaving the hallway. “You got my text, yeah?”

   “I did! Oh, Izuku, I’m so proud of you!” Just from the sound of her voice, Izuku could tell that she was tearing up. He wiped his eyes as he listened to her excitedly talk about how proud she was, the brick dust from his gloves streaked his face as he shoved his way through the thinning crowds outside the stadium. “You’re going to be amazing, Izuku. I wish I could be there.”

  “I wish you could be here too, mom.” Izuku blinked back his tears; he couldn’t cry right now, no matter how much he wanted to. “I wish that you could see how far I’ve come.”

  “Promise me that you’ll be careful, okay?”

  “I promise.”

   “And that you won’t get hurt?”

   “I can’t go that far, mom.”

   “I know, but promise that you’ll try?”

   “I’ll try.” Izuku cleared his throat, glaring at anyone who dared look in his general direction. He needed to change the subject, if he kept talking about promises he was going to break down in the middle of the crowd, hold nothing back. And wouldn’t that be media worthy, Target crying like a child in the middle of the city.

  Izuku sniffled, wiping more brick dust across his face. “How are you? How’s the new apartment? Do I need to make a fuss about it?”

   “It’s fine, not as nice as our old apartment.” Then again, nothing could really compare to the years of memories that had stuffed that small apartment to bursting. Nothing could compare to the warmth of a home. Not a thing. “Detective Naomasa visits me every day, and the security detail comes in for lunch every day, too.”

   “Mom, you’re not supposed to have lunch with them, they’re just doing their jobs.”

   “I know, but it’s been getting hot out, and they need something to eat and drink!”

  Inko sounded so genuine, and Izuku wondered how he hadn’t managed to inherited that from her. That honesty. He shook his head, “they’re not your friends, they’re the police.” Izuku didn’t like that the only people she mentioned spending time with were the officers who were paid to keep her safe. “Are you still visiting with Bakugou’s mom?”

   “Of course, Mitsuki and I see each other once a week. We get lunch and catch up.” Inko paused before she continued, her voice filled with emotion. “She worries about you and Bakugou, you know.”

  “So do I,” Izuku muttered, shaking his head. He and Bakugou needed to have a talk, and it needed to be soon. “I love you, mom.”

   “I love you too, sweetheart.” Over the phone, Izuku could hear the sound of her wiping her eyes. “You take care of yourself, okay?”

  “Okay.” Izuku nodded even though she couldn't see him through the phone.

   “And tell Dabi that I’ll send him a copy of my recipe book, alright?”

  “Alright.”

   “And let Himiko know that I found one of her sweaters behind the couch while I was packing, I’ll have one of the officers bring it over.”

   “Okay.” He nodded again, laughing to himself at the idea of his mother using the security detail as her personal delivery force. Izuku went quiet, his throat dry as he choked out a small “I miss you.”

   “Oh, Izuku.” Izuku could hear the tears in his mom's voice, his vision went blurry, and his face burned with the tears he was barely holding back. “I miss you so much.”

  “I, I’ve got to go,” Izuku stuttered out as his chest went tight. “I’ll call you again soon, alright?”

   “Be careful, Izuku!”

  Izuku hung up, holding his phone to his chest while he tried to force back his tears. He roughly dried his eyes as soon as he saw Dabi and Himiko in the crowd, putting on a brave face for the rest of the world to see. So busy pretending to be the persona he had created and hidden behind for the past two years, he didn’t see the look Bakugou was giving him from across the way, but he would know what it meant soon enough.

Chapter Text

  Izuku is still angry, and it’s been hours now. The exam is over, nearly everyone had their licenses, and Izuku can’t get the thought that things could have gone so much more wrong out of his head. People could have died. Died in a damn test of all things.

  He knows that it’s not his fault, but he still can’t help but try and blame himself. For nearly three years he had been in control of every situation he had been in, but just one wrong move, one stupid fucking grudge, had almost killed the most important people in his life. And it wasn’t something he had done; it was an uncontrollable variable.

  And he needs to have a talk with that variable right about now.

  He had already cornered Inasa moments after the exam had ended, and he knew his words had made an impact. Or maybe it was the still flaming tonfa he had threatened him with that had made an impact. Whatever it was, it had worked. Threats of violence or words, it didn’t really matter to him as long as the end result was what he wanted.

  But there was still another to deal with.

  Shouto Todoroki might have failed the exam, but Izuku doesn’t think that that is enough of a punishment. The darkest parts of his mind hiss that he deserves the same pain he had caused, but he swiftly stomps those thoughts into submission.

  He scratched at the bandages wrapped around the healing burns on his forearms; pain dulled to nearly nothing after a visit to Recovery Girl. In the heat of the moment, Izuku hadn’t even noticed the second-degree burns from the flames and hot metal he had held onto for far too long. But now, just like the rest of his scars, he can’t keep himself from scratching at them.

  A bad habit he was certain he could never bring himself to break.

  He wasn’t sure where Himiko was, she had said something about staffs and knives, and he had tuned her out after she started chanting the word ‘stab’ over and over again. There was a reason he didn’t want her to have knives, but it seemed like she was going to get her own no matter what he thought about it.

  Probably from Yaoyorozu, that girl was too nice. Too bad her kindness was probably going to get Izuku stabbed in his sleep.

  Izuku sighed, exiting his quirk analysis notes and closing his laptop before he stood, stretching his arms over his head and wincing at the cracking sound in his shoulders. He really wasn't a fan of sitting around and not being active. With another overly dramatic sigh, he glanced around the empty room before crossing to the door and heading out.

  The hallway was empty, just as it always was, everyone either in the common room or visiting those on the upper floors. Not like anyone would come onto their floor in the first place, not unless they needed something.

  Izuku ran a bandaged hand through his messy green curls, his fingers briefly tangling in the mess of his hair. He was so tired, the multiple ups and downs of adrenaline and the subsequent crashes had taken more out of him than he had expected.

  He needed to get back to the gym, up his workout and train harder than ever if he hoped to cut it in the big leagues. The whole world was watching, and they all think he has a quirk, he doesn't want to prove them wrong. Not yet.

  That could come later.

  As soon as he was out of the elevator, Izuku breezed through the common room, grabbing Shouto’s shirt collar and dragging him behind him and out the front door as the rest of the students watched on impassively, too caught up in the Super Smash Bros tournament to really care.

  Once the two were outside, Izuku pulled them both around the corner and away from prying eyes before he released Shouto’s collar, shoving him to stand in front of him. “Todoroki Shouto,” Izuku drew in a breath, trying to calm the sea of red that swam up before his vision the moment he had seen the other. “You and I need to talk.”

  Shouto brushed down his shirt, working the wrinkles around the collar out frowning at the flecks of dried blood that had been transferred from Izuku’s bandages. “Talk about what?”

  “‘About what,’ he asks.” Izuku glared, clenching his burned hands into fists. Barely keeping from shaking, he snapped out his next words, not missing the full body flinch of the other. “What the hell do you think we need to talk about?”

  Shouto took a step back at the white-hot anger in the other's eyes. He had only seen one other person capable of such wrath, but this was different than his father. This anger was deeply personal, not like his fathers’ detached rage. Shouto raised his hands in an unconscious attempt at defense. “I didn’t mean for that explosion to happen.”

  “But it still did,” Izuku growled back, prodding Shouto in the chest for emphasis. With a quick shake of his head, he pulled back the leash on his anger. He wasn’t going to escalate this, no matter how the conniving and sneering voice in the back of his mind whispered for him to.

  Blind to Izuku’s internal struggle, Shouto only hung his head, offering another flat apology. “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”

  Izuku shook his head slowly, “I don’t want you to apologize to me. Apologize to Dabi; he’s on crutches until tomorrow.” With a smirk undercut with his ever-present anger, he added, “Himiko keeps kicking them out from under him, and that’s on you.” Izuku prodded the other teen in the chest for emphasis once again before scowling and leaning back against the wall of the dorm. Recovery Girl had said something about Dabi being too exhausted to safely heal completely, and Izuku had to admit that that stressed him out.

 Shouto rubbed at the spot he had been jabbed, wondering if he was going to end up with a bruise from it. “Oh.” He couldn’t identify the emotion that he felt, seeing this stranger, this killer, get more emotional about his brother's injury than he did.

  And he had been the one to cause it; he should feel something! Anything at all. But he couldn’t; if he began to feel, he wouldn’t be able to keep himself from the inevitable breakdown.

  Izuku rolled his eyes, “I don’t even care about an apology, I only want you to promise you won't lose control like that again.”

  “I don’t know if I can,” Shouto admitted, staring past Izuku’s shoulder. He didn’t want to look the other in the eye, too afraid of what he might see there. Emotions he was scared to face, preferring to keep them under thick layers of ice.

  “What happened? What made you lose your cool?” Izuku had already gotten the story out of Inasa, his threats of violence setting the truth free. But he needed to hear Shouto say it; he needed to know that he understood what he had done wrong.

  “I was just… that idiot was trying to piss me off!” Shouto shook his head, his left hand unconsciously reaching for his scar. “He just kept saying I was never going to be worthy of being a hero.”

  Izuku blinked, watching Shouto’s hand. “You let your hatred of your father blind you.” Izuku might not know how it feels to hate someone that intensely, but he knew how it felt to fly into a blind rage just from a few words. Ever since he was four years old, he's known how to hate, and that hate has seeped into every fiber of his being and every fraction of his soul.

  “That bastard has nothing to do with this,” Shouto snapped, jerking his hand back down to his side, not seeing the sparks beginning to rise from his skin.

  “Are you sure about that?” Izuku pointed to Shouto’s left hand, drawing attention to the sparks and tongues of flame licking their way up to his elbow. “Nothing to do with this in the slightest?”

  Shoto shook the flames out on his hand, clenching it into a fist before gritting his teeth. “Of course not, I don’t care about what he thinks.”

  Izuku was quiet for a moment before he asked, “you think you’re the only one who hates Endeavor?” He kept his voice low, watching as confusion played across Shouto’s face.

  Shouto frowned, what was Midoriya talking about? Most people disliked Endeavor, but he didn’t know many people who actively despised him. Other than Inasa of course. People didn't know what he had done; they had no reason to hate him. “Excuse me?”

  Tossing his burnt hands up, Izuku continued, anger fueling his words. “I hate that bastard with a fucking burning passion! Everyone who watches my videos know that I hate him! If I could stab him and get away with it, I would!”

  Izuku would do a lot worse than just that if he could get away with it. If he had it his way, nobody could accuse him of anything because there wouldn’t be any evidence to use against him. There wouldn’t even be a corpse.

  Shouto narrowed his eyes, patches of frost spreading up his right arm. “What the hell do you think you know? You don’t know anything about my family.”

  “You sure about that?” Izuku rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. It was time for Todoroki to know what Izuku knew. This was a long time coming, a secret that was no longer meant to be kept. With a cocky grin, Izuku countered, “I have been living with your brother for the past three years.”

  Shouto could swear he could feel his heart stop in his chest. He couldn’t move, thunderstruck by the knowledge that Midoriya knew that Dabi was Ryouta Todoroki. His brother had shared his past, his secret with a damn stranger instead of reaching out to his family. He could only stare in silence, the implication of the information sending him reeling.

  Was his family not enough? Didn't he trust them?

  Izuku took in Shouto’s horrified expression and waited for a moment before he continued. “What, you thought I didn’t know?”

  “Then you know what happened,” Shouto whispered, his words catching on the lump in his throat. His eyes widened, seeing the other in a new light. “You know that Ryouta-

  “Don’t you fucking say that name!” Izuku grabbed Shouto’s shirt collar, twisting the fabric in his burnt fist and glaring up into heterochromatic eyes. “He cast off his past, what gives you the right to try and use it to chain him back down?”

  Shouto did nothing about the fist clenched into his shirt, only shouting back at Izuku in response. “He’s my brother!”

  “And he’s my best friend and partner in everything! He’s my family. I would kill for him. I have killed for him.” And above all else, he would die for him. In a way, he already had in Hosu. Died for his family and his justice. And he would gladly do it all again.

  Izuku released his grip on Shouto’s shirt, pushing the other back a step to emphasize his next words. With a glare to accompany, he said, “if he doesn’t want anyone to use that name, I’ll make sure nobody ever does.”

  “...” Shouto remained motionless as he processed the threat. Had he just been threatened with death? Over his brothers’ name? Just what sort of relationship did the two have? He had known they were close, but he didn’t think that they were that close.

  Shouto stayed quiet for a moment, watching as Midoriya came down from his built up anger. He had something he wanted to ask, but Shouto wasn’t sure if he would even get an answer. But it couldn't hurt to try. “How did you even meet him?”

  With a snort, Izuku smiled, the expression bittersweet and stained with the memory of the twos first encounter. “I literally ran into him.”

  Not believing what he had heard, Shouto just stared blankly. “What?”

  Izuku laughed, leaning back against the whitewashed wall of the dorm building. His memory of that day was as vivid as ever. “Yeah, I almost fell.”

  “Wait, you're serious," Shouto asked, holding up a hand to try and prompt Izuku to explain himself.

  Closing his eyes, Izuku tilted his head back, reminiscing about that day from nearly three years back. “I was running from Bakugou and was gonna hide in a dirty alley;" he snorted, tone joking as he explained. "After all, nobody ever wants to go search the alley that smells like rotting flesh. And boom, there he was. Hiding in my spot.”

  “...” Shouto cast his gaze to his shoes, scuffing the first while he asked, “has he been happy?” He didn’t wait for an answer to his first question before he asked his next. “Should I, should I try to reconnect with him? Or should I stay away."

   His tone went bland; he didn't let the ache in his heart be heard, he couldn't take it. He wasn't even sure if he wanted to hear the truth. "You and Toga are his family now, and I don’t want to ruin whatever it is he has, I just-

  “Todoroki Shouto, you listen to me, and you make sure you remember this.” Izuku grabbed Shouto’s shoulder roughly, forcing the other teen to look up from the ground and meet his eye. “Your brother still cares about you. Not a single fucking day passes where he wishes the two of you still acted like a family.” He let go of Shouto and put some distance between the two of them, not sure if he would be able to keep from pulling the other into a hug at the lost look on his face.

  Shouto said nothing, the edges of his vision going blurry with tears as he tried to swallow down the sharp pressure in the back of his throat.

  “He misses you, understand?”

  The taller teen shook his head, roughly swiping a hand across his face. “I didn’t even know he was still…" Shouto went quiet, chest heaving as he tried and failed to force himself to speak.

  “Still what?”

  “Still alive. Endeavor told us all that he was dead.”

  “Excuse me?” Izuku’s heart all but stopped in his chest, and his voice was ice cold. Barely keeping his voice from shaking in his fury, he asked, “did you just say that Endeavor, your father, told you that your fucking brother was dead? Am I hearing you right?”

  Shouto nodded, not trusting his voice.

  Izuku shook his head, tangled green curls falling over his face and hiding the rabid look in his eyes. He slapped his hands down onto his thighs, not missing the way Shouto flinched at the sound. “That’s it; I have to take this to someone. He can’t fucking get away with that, you understand me?”

   With a halfhearted shrug, Shouto asked, “who’s going to do anything? He’s the current number one hero; nobody can do anything about it.”

   Izuku smirked, the expression twisting his normally bland and plain features into something fearsome. “Who said I was going to do something legal?”

   Shouto could feel the menacing aura radiating from the other teen, but he didn't want to get his hopes up. “But you're a hero now; you can’t break the law!”

  “Just watch me.”

  “What are you going to do?”

  “Break into his house, maybe accidentally find something.” Izuku shrugged with one shoulder, an idea taking form. “Or I can get in contact with a hacker, release some documents Endeavor doesn’t want the world to see. Medical records, maybe doctor some tax forms.”

  Shouto scoffed, “you think you can take him down like that? He’s a piece of shit, but his legal team-

  “Is of no consequence.” Izuku rolled his eyes, Shouto really was naive, wasn’t he? “I’m not taking him to court; I’m going to put him on trial by public opinion.” Spread propaganda and seed distrust amongst the masses.

  “I know that you’re angry, but you can’t seriously think that this will work.”

  Again, Izuku rolled his eyes, he was nowhere near the peak of his rage. “Oh, I’m always fucking angry. Every goddamn thing sets me off.”

  Shouto kept quiet, watching as the vigilante turned hero barely kept a leash on his emotions. He knew how it felt to only feel anger. No, not only anger. But the anger was always there, simmering in the background of every moment. Tainting each encounter and experience with its toxic runoff.

  “But trust me, I know how to play this game. I would rather just shank him and get this over with, but as you said, I’m a hero now." Izuku laughed, the sound cold and almost poisonous in the warm air. "But that’s not going to stop me from acting like a dick.”

  “Why do you do all this?” Shouto gestured to Izuku’s messed up hair, the torn clothes, the nearly permanent glare that nobody outside of his team had seen lift.

  “You know that little voice in your head that tells you not to do bad things? Yeah, I don’t have that.”

  “Don’t joke around.” Shouto frowned, this couldn’t really be who Midoriya was, could it? “Why do you treat everyone like they're not worth your time,” he asked, not even expecting a real answer at this point.

  Izuku didn't like this line of questioning, and he immediately put up his defensive walls.

  No, not walls, sharpened shields that cut into his own fragile heart in the same time as they protected it.

  He sneered, bricking up his facade of false confidence and swagger. He couldn't afford to let anyone else in. “They’re not. Only Dabi and Himiko are worth my time. Everyone else is just an extra.”

  “Do you really believe that?”

   “Does it matter? I have a reputation to uphold.” Izuku shrugged, he wasn’t even sure if he was pretending anymore, he had lied for so long he was starting to believe it. Maybe he really was the monster that people made him out to be. “People want me to be a cruel bastard, so that’s what I am.”

  “Isn’t it hard?” Shouto watched as Midoriya put himself down but still kept his head high. There was something odd about the vigilante turned hero, he just couldn’t put his finger on it. “How do you keep pretending to be what you’re not?”

  “Who said I was pretending?”

  “...” Shouto shook his head, “I don't believe you're as much of a bastard as you pretend to be.”

  “Tch.” Izuku shrugged once more, tilting his head and studying the other teenager intently. “Believe what you want, that doesn't make it true.”

  “You’re trying to push people away, aren’t you?” He might not understand Midoriya’s motives, but Shouto thought he might know what he was doing. “Are you scared you’ll hurt them?”

  “Shut the fuck up, Todoroki, you don’t know anything about me,” Izuku snapped, hating how it seemed all Todoroki’s could just cut to the heart of an issue without a problem. “I’m just a self-aggrandizing righteous prick, nothing more than that, okay?”

  “You can’t fool me, Midoriya!”

  Izuku said nothing; instead, he just turned and walked away, the tense feeling in his chest replaced by something lighter, as well as something heavy and dark festering deep in his guts. Yes, he now had closure, but he also had a new drive. The need to see Endeavor brought down from his pedestal and cast to the earth, down to hell where he belonged. A drive that was always in the back of his mind was now front and center.

  True heroics reform could only start once the old guard was replaced with new blood. There was a long way to go, but Izuku hoped to start the process soon. The sooner, the better.

 

*** * ***

 

  “Hey, what’s up Terrible Three fans! It’s Dabi, coming at ya from the teams new home base” Dabi waved enthusiastically at the camera, nearly dropping it in the process. Fumbling to keep it steady, he continued with his intro. “As you all know, ever since we were arrested, we’ve been in protective custody. And that means no apartment! But that didn’t stop us from making this like the old base. Not like home, though.” Nothing would ever compare to how the place the three had called home felt. But it was too late for that sort of thinking.

 Brushing off those thoughts, Dabi shrugged, standing from his seat on the couch and wobbling slightly from the weight of the brace on his injured leg. He put back on a fake smile, not that the expression could even be interpreted through his scars and staples, and he continued with his monologue.

  “And guess where it is? That’s right, UA!” Dabi turned the camera, panning over the room and the three clashing aesthetics. “Most everything is the same, same couch and tent, same coffee pot.” He zoomed in on the scorched and stained coffee pot sitting on the hotplate, somehow menacing even though it was inanimate. “I think it’s possessed with chaotic energy, but nobody believes me.”

  Dabi shivered, shaking away the chill in the air. “Enough of that. Now,” he paused, grabbing one of his crutches before crossing the room and folding back one of the tent flaps. He zoomed in on the lump on the bed before pulling off the blanket and getting one frame of Himiko sleeping before the blonde sat straight up and hit Dabi with her pillow as hard as she could. Dabi tried to duck but instead tripped over his crutch, stumbled back and landed on the floor in a heap. “Mother fucker!”

  Himiko sat in the darkness of the tent, yellow eyes all but glowing with malice. “Out!”

  From the floor, Dabi lifted his camera and focused on Himiko’s glare through the tents opening. “Say hi to your fans!”

  Himiko launched the second pillow through the tent flaps, missing Dabi by a mile, but still sending a message. Just in case her violence didn't convey her intent, she shouted, “I’m going to kill you!”

  “Try it!”

  Himiko rolled out of the tent, blonde hair a mess over her face as she glared at Dabi with as much anger as she could muster this soon after waking up. “I just got in the goddamn bed, what do you want?”

  “Well, first of all, where were you earlier?”

  Himiko paused for a moment before she muttered, “...knives.”

  “You're not supposed to have knives, Zuzu said so,” Dabi said, finally picking himself up off the floor.

  Brushing most of the hair away from her face, Himiko continued. “Well, I wanted one, so I asked Yaoyorozu to make me one.” Himiko shrugged before reaching back into the tent and under her pillow, pulling out a stiletto blade. “And she did.”

  “Whoa!” Dabi turned the camera away, keeping the blade out of frame. He turned the camera back to himself, including the future viewers in the secret. “Alrighty, let's keep this thing between us, our little secret. Don't tell Zuzu, okay?” Dabi turned the camera back before joking, “just don’t stab me in my sleep.”

  But was he really joking?

  Sliding the knife back under the pillow, Himiko put her hand over her heart. “Oh, I would never!”

  “Good.”

  Himiko’s expression didn’t change as she continued, her eyes still bright and sincere. “I would stab you when you were awake because I want you to know that I’m the one killing you.”

  “Oh…” Dabi could swear his blood ran cold at the innocent smile Himiko wore. He shook the goosebumps away, “stop smiling like that, it's terrifying.”

  “Then why did you wake me up from my nap, what could possibly be worth dying over at,” Himiko grabbed her phone from her charger and tapped on the screen, frowning at the time displayed. “What could be worth dying over at three in the afternoon?”

  “I want you to go on an adventure with me to find the perfect ramen,” Dabi said in all seriousness. Why would he ever joke about food, he’d eaten out of garbage cans, he cares more about food than anyone else he knows.

  Himiko blinked, trying to work through Dabi’s words. “What,” Himiko asked blankly, blinking blearily from behind her blonde bangs. “What the hell are you talking about, you crispy fucker.”

  “People online say that there's a ramen shop that only appears to the worthy!” There wasn't even an agreed upon location; it could be anywhere and nowhere. A conspiracy he could chase down and prove.

  “Fuck no; I’ve seen this episode of Space Dandy, and I'm not looking for the Ghost Ramen with you!” Himiko shook her head, shaking her bangs out of her eyes. “It ain't worth it,” she grumbled, climbing into the tent and flopping back onto the bed, pulling her blanket tight around her shoulders. “Stupid idiot, not gonna fuck with no aliens,” she grumbled into her pillow as she tried to get back to sleep.

  Dabi sighed, prodding her with his crutch before he climbed in after her and shook her shoulder. “Come on! Where's your sense of adventure?”

  “My sense of adventure lives with my common sense, okay? They're married.” Himiko rolled her eyes before sighing heavily. “Besides, I know that if I go with you, we’re going to end up getting chased by rabid fans or villains and will never get to actually eat any ramen. We’re not anime characters, this is an anime free zone.”

  “Fine, I’ll guess I’ll just sit here and be bored then,” Dabi said as he rolled over to stare up at the canvas of the tent.

  “Good.” Himiko was quiet for a moment before she asked, Himiko sat in the quiet of the tent for a moment, the only sound in the enclosed space the sound of her own breath. She opened an eye and watched “are you still recording?”

  “Yep.” Dabi nodded, his camera still rolling, only picking up the interior of the tent and the sound of breathing. It didn’t really matter what he got on tape, the teams' fans would eat it up and beg for more.

  “Oh, okay.” She pulled her blanket tighter around herself, trying to prevent herself from asking Dabi more questions, but in vain. She couldn't resist. “You got any plans for pranks?”

  “Yeah, you know I do.” He always had pranks in mind. “I just need a way to get forty-five live chickens.”

  “Nice.” Himiko wasn't sure what Dabi’s planned prank was, but she didn’t really want an explanation. She wanted to be as surprised as everyone else, just for the plausible deniability, of course.

  “Ugh, I'm bored,” Dabi sat back up, struggling to exit the tent with one working leg and without dropping the camera. By the grace of whatever god was watching, he managed not to smash his face onto the floor and only kicked Himiko twice on the way out. “I'm going to go pester the hero students, have a nice nap.”

   “...” Himiko shook her head, debating the ethics of kicking Dabi in the head before she gave up and settled back into the bed with the only remaining pillow. “Don’t do anything I would do.”
  “Got it, do everything and anything,” Dabi said, picking up his crutch from where he had dropped it.

  “...okay, just don’t get killed.”

  Dabi grinned, shooting Himiko a thumbs up with his free hand, not that the blood drinker could even see the gesture. “Hah, no promises!”

  Without missing a beat, Himiko responded, “I’m not going to tell Izuku that you said that, he would congratulate you on your morbid humor.” Izuku’s jokes about death were bad enough; she didn’t need both of them doing it.

  Dabi rolled his eyes, hobbling out the door and down the hall, camera rolling the entire time. He kept the camera aimed at the floor, the only thing that it picked up through his journey was the carpet, his feet, his crutch and a few frames of the baseboards in the hallway and elevator.

  In the awkward quiet, he found himself wishing that there was some sort of elevator music, just to make things less uncomfortable. As soon as the doors opened, Dabi lifted the camera, passing the kitchen and avoiding the glare of a certain explosive teen. He didn't think he would even know what to say to Bakugou, and it seemed that the blond shared the feeling, both of them turning away from the other.

  Meandering his way to the group of hero students, Dabi didn't even try to hide his grin at his own joke. “Hey, what’s up fellow kids?”

  Shinsou didn’t look away from the screen, busy trying to prove his mettle in Super Smash Bros. “How’s the leg,” he asked blandly, more worried than his tone let on.

  “It itches,” Dabi answered, honesty his only real option. “There are two rulers in there now, I was trying to scratch an itch, but,” he shrugged, not explaining any further. Instead, he just tapped on the brace with the crutch, hoping that would explain it enough. It was embarrassing, after all.

  “When are you getting it healed,” Kirishima asked, eyes wide as he watched the game unfold.

  “Tomorrow, Recovery girl says I need more rest.” But Dabi didn’t really see rest in his future, not with the conversation he had planned.

  Her hands deftly manipulating her controller, Jirou backed Kaminari's character against a wall and set to work Falcon Punching his Pikachu to death. She glanced up for a moment, catching a glimpse of the camera before returning to her efforts. “Are you recording everything?”

  “Yes,” Dabi said blandly, panning the camera over the group before turning it back to himself. “You guys seen Izuku anywhere?”

  Shinsou glanced away from the screen, too engrossed in the game to really focus. “Yeah, he grabbed Todoroki and dragged him out the door by his shirt about,” he frowned, estimating how many games ago he had seen him go by. “Fifteen minutes ago. I think.”

  Dabi shrugged, he had a feeling he knew what the two were talking about. “Huh, alright.”

  He adjusted his grip on the camera, looking into the lens. “So, that’s all the hero students I can find right now, not sure where the rest of them are, but whatever.” He grinned, remembering what he had been planning on saying before getting bored and deciding to track down the hero students. Aiming a victory v at the lens, Dabi continued, “I’m dedicating this video and all future videos to the Terrible Threes number one fan. Spinner, keep on keepin on, alright? Hope to see you soon, dude.”

  He nodded, finishing up the video with a closing line before stopping the recording and turning off the camera. “And remember, we’ll be heroes, so you don’t need to be. We’re not like your normal heroes; we’re better.” He had been working on the new tagline for almost three hours, and so far he thinks it’s pretty good, but then again, he could be wrong. He's not the best judge of these sort of things.

  Not even pretending that he hadn't been listening in, Bakugou snorted, standing near the kitchen door with his arms crossed and a sneer on his face. “‘We’re better,’ seriously?”

  “What, we are,” Dabi countered, pocketing his camera and crossing his arms defensively.

  “It sounds kinda conceited,” Kirishima added, still watching the game, wincing as Kaminari’s Pikachu was kicked off of the level. “Ooh, better luck next time, dude.”

  “Does it?” Dabi shrugged, conceited wasn't the worst thing he could be called. Besides, Izuku had cultivated the persona of a conceited jerk; he would probably love it. “Eh, oh well.”

  The sound of the front door opening grabbed the attention of nearly everyone in the room, but most of the students quickly averted their gaze from the glare Izuku responded with. Behind him, heterochromatic eyes downcast, Shouto followed him inside, letting the door swing shut with a slam that rattled the paintings on the walls.

  Finally noticing the attention directed his way, Izuku somehow managed to put even more force behind his glare. “What,” he snapped, shaking everyone from their silence. “Fuck off,” he grumbled, staring at the kitchen and its single occupant with a focused gaze.

  Most everyone didn't dare to look and see what it was that had Izuku so focused. They knew his reputation and didn’t want to get between him and his goal.

  Using the shift in attention to his advantage, Shouto walked straight up to Dabi. From behind his shoulder, he quietly spoke. “Dabi, we need to talk.”

  Nearly jolting out of his skin from shock, Dabi shook his head, “fuck, stop doing that!” Dabi grabbed at his chest, feeling the thud of his heartbeat slow back to its resting rate. “Gonna give me a damn heart attack.”

  Shouto pointed towards the door he had just come back in. “Meet me outside.”

  Dabi nodded, adjusting his grip on the crutch and on his thoughts. “Yeah, give me a minute, I have a hard time on the stairs with this crutch.”

  Shouto said nothing, afraid that if he spoke, he would end up having this conversation in front of all his classmates and anyone who could hear him. Instead, he just left the common room, heading back outside into the dimming sunlight as the sun slowly began to sink.

 

*** * *** 

 

   “Sho- Todoroki?” Dabi squinted in the steadily darkening landscape. He hadn’t really paid much attention during the first tour the trio had had of the campus, and now he was regretting it. But then again, this wasn’t the sort of place he did best in; schools had never been his favorite places, preferring to learn by experience. Stumbling over a rock, at least he hoped it was a rock, he cursed under his breath. “Where are you,” he wondered aloud, slowly adjusting to the dark.

  “Over here.” Shouto raised one hand, waving Dabi over to where Izuku and Shouto had had their own conversation less the fifteen minutes before.

  The two stood in uncomfortable silence for a moment, neither of them sure how to begin.

  Dabi sighed, running his hand through his hair and leaning against the whitewashed wall, taking the weight off his injured leg. He closed his eyes, quietly asking, “so, you figured it out, didn’t you?”

  He had known this was coming, had dreamed about this moment almost as soon as he had left the hospital, his burns still fresh. But now that it was here, now that it was time, he didn’t feel ready.

  “I did, I didn’t want to believe it at first.” Shouto kept his eyes on the ground, not trusting that his brother would still be there if he looked back up. “Everyone thought you were dead,” he said quietly, his words almost lost under the sound of his own heartbeat.

  Everyone had mourned, had accepted Endeavors’ words as the truth and tried to move on.

  But nobody had really moved on; they couldn't. How were you supposed to mourn your own family, someone you thought would always be by your side.

  Dabi opened his eyes, trying to keep his voice steady. “Huh, so he went the death route, did he? Thought he might pull some shit like that.” Dabi shrugged, scratching at his scars absentmindedly, feeling numbed by the dead nerves “I’m not dead; I just ran away from the hospital. I couldn’t take it there, and if I had stayed… I’m sure I would have been trapped there forever.”

  If he had stayed, he would never have been allowed to leave; he would have gone mad within the first few days. Even so, the smell of antiseptic and the washed out white hospital walls still made him sick after all this time.

  “Dabi, I… I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say.” Shouto sighed softly, surreptitiously wiping at his eyes, trying to keep the tears that threatened to form at bay. “It’s been almost four years since I’ve seen you, there's just been so much.”

  Still staring up at the clouds scurrying across the darkening sky, Dabi just shrugged. “Yeah, not really sure either.” He hadn’t really thought about how this conversation would go, only knowing that it would happen eventually.

  “Ryouta-

  Dabi cut Shouto off with a shake of his head, ignoring the sour feeling in his gut at the sound of his name. “Don't call me that.” He couldn’t take it.

  Shouto’s eyes were wide, confused and desperate to know why his brother wouldn’t act like they were even family. “But that’s who you are; you're my brother!”

   Was this his fault? What was he supposed to do?

  Wiping his hand across his eyes, Dabi closed his eyes, shuddering from a chill that hadn’t come from the warm air of the outdoors. “I'm your brother, but I,” he sniffed, pressing the heel of his hand against his eyes until he saw stars. “I just can’t be Ryouta anymore.”

  “Is this because of Endeavor,” Shouto asked, already feeling like he might know the answer to his question. Didn’t everything always come back to that bastard?

  “That fire fuck doesn't matter to me,” Dabi grumbled, shrugging off his conflicting emotions. “I just… I can’t be who you want me to be. Too much has happened. I've changed. Maybe I’ve changed too much,” he said, whispering his last words.

  Shouto stood in silence, unsure of his position in his brothers' life. He knew that things couldn’t go back to how they had been before, but a part of him had wished that they could. “Things can’t go back to normal, can they?”

  “I don’t know. I don’t know if I want it to.”

  The two brothers went quiet, the only sound passing between them the ambient noise of the outdoors at the sound of breathing.

  Shouto spoke first, breaking the silence with a question that had been burning in his mind ever since he had realized who Dabi was. “You were the one sending flowers to mom, weren't you?”

  “Yeah, I still am, too,” Dabi nodded, his expression almost fearful as he continued to speak. “I don’t know if I can go see her, not like this.” He had promised that he would visit, but he was scared. Of rejection, that he would disappoint, that they wouldn't be able to reconnect. He was just scared.

  Shouto stayed silent, knowing he had nothing of any substance to say. He hadn’t known that Dabi had been just as afraid as himself, scared of rejection, scared of becoming familiar with others, and afraid of what they were capable of.

  “I’m sorry,” Dabi whispered, voice laced with years old exhaustion and emotions so old and tangled they were no longer identifiable. “I’m so sorry, Shouto.”

  “What?” Shouto stared incomprehensibly, trying to figure out what he was apologizing for. He hadn’t done anything wrong, had he?

  Dabi rubbed at the staples under his eyes, the metal always just on the edge of too warm, trying to take the edge off of his troubles. He elaborated on his apology, not able to look his brother in the eye. “I’m sorry for just leaving like I did.”

  “Are you trying to apologize for almost being killed?” Shouto just continued to stare; he wouldn’t have thought that anyone would be able to be that self-sacrificing. How was it even possible for someone to blame themselves for something so out of their control?

  Ignoring Shouto’s question, Dabi continued, unable to stop himself from airing his regrets that had been festering in the back of his mind for years now. “I should have been there for you.”

  Shouto threw his hands up, interrupting for the second time. “How, you were in the hospital!” He couldn’t believe Dabi’s ability to take every problem on his own shoulders and blame himself for things that weren’t his fault in the slightest.

  Shouto might no longer recognize him, but in a way, he hadn’t changed at all.

  Dabi shook his head, “I could have gone back; I could have taken you with me.” And he had thought about it; it had been the only thing he had thought about in those early days on the street and on the run. His one true regret.

  He swallowed around the sharp lump in his throat, barely managing to force the words out into the air between them. “Things wouldn’t be great, but you would have been out of that place.”

  Living on the streets, having to struggle just to survive with the bare minimum, but he would have done anything to keep his brother safe. No matter how bad it would have been, it would be better than living in that house with that bastard. Training.

  Dabi hung his head, letting the first of the tears he had been holding back flow freely down his scarred face before he roughly swiped them away with the back of his hand. “I’m sorry.”

  “Ryou- Dabi,” Shouto corrected, the two contradicting images of his brother slowly settling into one single truth. Yes, this was his brother, but Ryouta? No, this was Dabi, and he had to accept that.

  This was Dabi, and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

  Shouto scuffed the toes of his shoes in the dirt, kicking up dust clouds that quickly settled back down while he did nothing to hide the bitter smile playing across his face. “You always were overprotective, weren’t you?” He didn’t wait for an answer to his rhetorical question before quietly adding, “I’ve missed you.”

  Dabi snorted, barely choking back his laughter. Shaking his head, he muttered, “I’ve missed you too.” Those words couldn’t even begin to encompass just how much he had missed his brother, but they were the only words he had.

  No matter what he did, he just wasn’t cut out for conversations about emotion, always choosing to fall back on jokes and insults instead of letting anyone see that he cared. The past three years hadn’t changed that in the slightest.

  His eyes closed, Dabi tilted his head back, leaning heavily against the wall and his crutch. With a lopsided grin, he said the only thing he could think to say. “You ever think about how ironic it is that you can draw on an eraser?”

  “What the fuck.” His face blanking in surprise, Shouto fought back a wild burst of manic laughter, tension bleeding out of his shoulders. He sighed, closing his eyes for a moment before asking, “you’re still doing that?”

  Dabi shrugged, still wearing a lopsided grin. “Old habits, you know?”

  “Heh,” Shouto shook his head, fond memories cropping up and quickly changing his perception of Dabi once again. Early mornings, late nights spent hiding in the dim light of the bedroom, hushed words keeping the real darkness at bay. “Yeah, I know.”

  Dabi took a moment, waiting out the silence before deciding to break it. He made his decision to speak while looking up at the oranges and reds that were streaking through the clouds. “I know that I’ve missed a lot of milestones, but, will you… will you let me try to be there from now on?” He shook his head, afraid of what the answer might be. “I know I’ll probably fuck things up and make mistakes, but will you let me try?”

  “Of course, I do," Shouto huffed out a laugh, glad to hide his real emotions behind a wall of anything other than what he was really feeling. "I have to try and make up for breaking your leg, don’t I?”

  “What, no, this is no big deal!” Dabi gestured to the brace on his leg, trying to wave off Shouto’s concern.

  Shouto paused, head tilted slightly to the side before he continued. “If that’s no big deal, then instead we can bond-

  “Nice,” Dabi interrupted, still grinning until he saw the look on Shouto’s face. “What’s that look for, I don’t like that look.”

  “As I was saying,” Shouto said, picking up where he had left off. “We can bond by you explaining the nature of your relationship with your friends.”

  Dabi felt his heart all but stop in his chest, and he dropped his crutch, too busy pressing both hands over his eyes until he saw spots. “...oh shit,” he muttered, not even sure if was joking when he asked; “is it too late for me to run away again?”

   Shouto narrowed his eyes; there were some things you just don't joke about. "Not funny."

   "I'm not joking."

 

*** * ***

 

  “Bakugou,” Izuku muttered, jerking his chin up in a greeting before shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his jeans. The two of them stood in silence, minutes crawling by as the rest of the students began to head back upstairs for bed.

  Izuku watched dispassionately as Shouto Todoroki left through the front door, Dabi following him moments later. Their conversation had nothing to do with him, but he still worried. Still hoped they would get what they needed from it.

   Blinking lazily, Izuku turned back to his first enemy, seeing the scowl on Bakugou's face lift by degrees before slamming back into place.

  “Deku, meet me outside, we need to talk,” Bakugou said quietly, his words almost lost in the background sound of the common room. As soon as he was done speaking, he walked out the front door, leaving Izuku standing stiffly in the middle of the kitchen before he followed.

  Bakugou walked with purpose, his own hands in his pockets as he followed a path he had taken many times before on nights just like this.

  Sometimes it was all just too much. Overwhelming.

  Izuku kept quiet, following Bakugou towards one of the practice battlegrounds. He kept his mouth shut not because he had no words, but out of the fear that if he began to speak, he wouldn't be able to prevent himself from escalating everything. It was all he was good for, anyway.

  Too busy keeping his mouth shut, Izuku nearly missed when Bakugou stopped walking, the explosive blond staring up at the artificial buildings around them. Barely keeping from running into Bakugou’s back, Izuku swayed in place before stepping back to a neutral distance.

  Izuku looked around at the empty city block, taking in the excessive size of the place he had been lead. He took one hand from his pockets and gestured to the vacant concrete buildings and flat asphalt. Fake telephone poles and parking meters. He knew UA had money to burn, but this was just excessive. “Fuck, what is all this?”

  Bakugou kept his head down, not meeting Izuku’s eye as he clenched his fists, knuckles and fingers bleaching white. “Battleground Beta. It’s where the first heroics class was held. And the first time I won in a fight at UA.” His tone was bitter, that of someone who had just ingested poison.

  Regrets, anger and the bitter taste of panic.

  Raising an eyebrow, Izuku watched as Bakugou continued to avoid looking in his direction. “You don’t sound very happy about winning,” he said slowly, both hands back in his pockets as he stepped a bit closer to the explosive teen.

  “Because none of those extras are a real challenge for me. It was always you that actually made a fight a fight.” Bakugou shook his head, finally looking up and meeting Izuku’s gaze. He shrugged, trying to find the right words to explain what he meant. “All the rest, yeah, they're good, but they're not great.”

  Bakugou sighed, forcing his hands to release from the white-knuckled clench of his fists. He knew what the fights in training were missing. They were just training. They weren't real. They don’t pound his face into the ground then tell him he needed to change or he would never be a hero.

   Nothing here could compare to what he and Izuku used to have.

  Authenticity. Genuine hatred and a lifetime of shared memories driving them to be the best.

  The blond shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest in a defensive gesture. “It just makes me sick thinking about it,” he all but growled, watching Izuku’s bland and unchanging expression.

  He fucking hated that empty look; it was just wrong on Izuku’s face. Wasn’t Izuku always the one who was more emotional than anyone else? It used to be tears and smiles; then he had that look of confidence, a cocky smirk on his face and a mocking look in his eye.

  This blank look was wrong, Bakugou decided, making up his mind to force a reaction out of the other at any cost.

  Izuku shook his head, not quite understanding where this was going. This wasn’t exactly how he had seen this playing out. “Bakugou, what are you talking about?”

  Bakugou gestured between the two of them, a confused and angry look on his face. Frustration. “We, you and me, we used to fight for a reason. You wanted me to fix myself, and you were willing to kick my ass to make sure of it.”

  Bakugou knew that it was fucked up, but those fights were some of his fondest memories from middle school. They were real.

  “Okay?” The bland expression didn’t shift, Izuku’s uncaring mask firmly glued in place by his own ego.

  “These fights have no purpose,” Bakugou said, trying to lead Izuku to his point. Trying to get a rise out of him in any way he could.

  “...” Izuku just shrugged, hands still in his pockets. To him, a fight is a fight is a fight. It's all the same, he would go just as hard in training as he would in a real fight. 

  Within reason, of course.

  Bakugou couldn't take the antipathy any longer, temper blowing up the way it always did. “God damn it! What’s the point of me having this quirk if I still can’t be as good as you?!” The blond threw his hands up, glaring at the bland and boring expression of his rival. The only one who had ever really cared about his actions. “Quirkless, worthless Deku, you've always been looking down on me!”

  “Wait.” Izuku’s eyebrows drew together in confusion, and he pulled his hands from his pockets in a half-hearted attempt to fend off Bakugou’s accusations. “I’m not-

  Bakugou shook his head, glaring at Izuku with every bit of ferocity he generally kept restrained. “Don’t lie to me! Ever since that sludge villain,” he snorted, thinking back even further to when Izuku's ego had begun. “No, ever since you won that first fight, you’ve been looking down on me!”

  Izuku shrugged, his eyes cold and his voice absolutely venomous. “You're right,” he said, his hands loose at his side as he took a step towards Bakugou.

  He might as well tell one truth, even if he was living out his life with more lies than he had ever wanted to.

  “What?” Bakugou watched Izuku warily, not backing down as the other advanced.

  Izuku continued, words pouring from a place of anger and darkness, picking up in speed and specifically selected to do the most damage. “I had been looking down on you. You acted like a piece of shit, so that’s how I saw you. Did you really believe I ever actually liked you?”

  Bakugou’s hands clenched into fists once again, arms shaking with barely restrained anger. “... Do you even care?” He snarled, lip curling as he spat his bitter words out. “Did you ever care?”

  “Care?” Izuku stopped in place, only a few steps from where Bakugou stood. Did he care about Bakugou? Or had his own impossible dreams forced him to focus on the one person he knew would be able to achieve them? Had he been doing this all for his own sake?

  Was he really that much of a bastard all along?

  Bakugou continued, oblivious to Izuku’s internal line of questioning. “About my dreams? About how much I’ve changed? About anything?” He scoffed, rolling his eyes and unconsciously adjusting his stance, knees bent and feet shoulder width apart. “I didn’t want to, but you made me a better person, and now you’re not even looking at me!”

  Izuku watched as Bakugou prep