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Ruination

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He starts his morning with tea. Unexpected. Black, no milk no sugar no time brush his teeth. He starts his morning with tea at exactly 7:55 am, dresses quickly, simply. Black shirt, short sleeves, no undershirt. Plain underwear, sweatpants. Note: Kacchan dresses with purpose, like the world waits for him. Unsurprising. Quick breakfast, toast. Naughty, Kacchan. A hero needs a nutritious breakfast in order to be useful, Kacchan, you’ll never be number one that way. A shame. You won’t be number one either way.

He says hello to the hero he shares his apartment with: red hair, loose and unspiked. Sharpened teeth, spread in a wide and easy grin. Bright, red eyes, the match to Kacchan’s if they were harder. Hero name: Red Riot. Chosen in order to pay homage to old-fashioned hero Crimson Riot. Sees ‘manliness’ as a virtue, perhaps this is why he gets along with Kacchan. The epitome of manliness, ha. Real name: Kirishima Eijiro. He met Kacchan in high school, when they shared a row in Class 1-A at Yuuei. They got along almost immediately, strange for Kacchan. Is likely the only human being in existence who can 100% stand Kacchan’s demeanor. Genuine. I hate him.

Kacchan used to hate tea. 

He walks to work. Of course he walks. Hates buses, too crowded. Hates a lot of things. Did hate. Still hates? Make note to confirm. Learn his patterns. Learn him . Scratch that last note. He does not walk to work, he jogs. Don’t need to learn him, been learning him for years. This is just a refresher-course. Signs: furrowed brow, pursed lips, grinding teeth. There are tiny veins in the creases by his eyes. Conclusion: Irritation, combined with high blood pressure. Kacchan should watch his sodium intake, or he’ll die early. Heroes often die early. Just not because of sodium. Zero incidents on the way to work, a modest building. 

Just kidding. It’s gaudy, full of windows, an office worthy of the Number Two Hero Ground Zero. Bright colors paint “Zero Point Office” over the uppermost balcony. Kacchan employs thirteen people here. Two secretaries, both women. Quirks: minor telekinesis and breath that turns into colored bubbles. Useless. One poor, overworked Human Resources coordinator, hand in hand with Public Relations. They seem panicked most of the time. I don’t have to wonder why. On the way into the building Kacchan yells at a woman who lets her dog use his bushes as a bathroom, and she leaves in tears: I can see the PR coordinator through the window shake his head and pull a pad of legal paper from his desk. The other nine are sidekicks. Classy, Kacchan. You’re a big man now, lots of underlings. Do you bully them the way you used to bully me?

Note: Kacchan must be more charismatic than he was. Half his sidekicks look at him in awe, the other half with respect. Common Quirks, nothing too flashy, but at least they still have one. For now.

One of the younger villains will put the cameras in once Kirishima leaves. I don’t remember his name,  he’s weak, unimportant. Trash. He won’t last long if he doesn’t follow directions well and asks questions--I’ll take the memory from him later, one of the few Quirks I can use fairly well. Turns out it helps to know what it’s like to be invisible.

Back to Kacchan. Don’t wander, remember what you’re here for, don’t waste time or space thinking about extras. This is my show: his smirk his frown his condescending sneer, all the different expressions of his mouth betray exactly how he feels. Tsk Tsk, Kacchan, heroes should control themselves more.

Note: Kacchan is still terrible at self control.

His hero costume is modified from when he was in school. Sleeker, the grenade casings on his forearms revised and reworked to be more efficient. The outside is strong enough to withstand Kacchan’s full power without marks, there’s not a trace of residue on the dark green metal. No, not metal. Something else, metal would be too heavy, get too warm. Not plastic, it would melt. Some mix of alloys, likely new. Can store up to 30% more sweat. 

...How gross to think about.

Support items made by Mei Hatsume, magnifying Quirk called Zoom. The crosshairs in her eyes can see up to five kilometers away when she focuses, but it isn’t useful for more. Strange girl, eccentric. Very popular among pro heroes these days. Note: stop by her workshop, maybe she has tricks to borrow. New technology. It’s always a struggle for the League to keep up with heroes in the regard. She seems to be very...inventive.

She is a sidenote. Unimportant in the big picture. I’m no artist but I can paint this, know where this scene is going. Kacchan is impressive at work--he’s quick, efficient, brutal. On his rounds he sees a bank robbery, and by the end of it the perpetrators are sped to jail á la ambulance. He has no mercy for them, even when they realize who he is and sink to their knees, Signs: eyes wide hands shaking voice high and wheezing through closed lungs. Conclusion: they are absolutely terrified of the demon before them, all burning eyes and burning hands and burning skin, once he gets those hands on them. I can smell their flesh from here. The smell of burning human is difficult to describe to anyone who hasn’t smelled it but it is like copper and rubber and sin have joined. It caresses my nose like an old friend.

Evening training. Note: Kacchan likes to train with his shirt off. Can he detonate his Quirk from other sweat, or just the sweat on his palms? He’d be a full-body explosion. A Nova. Accurate, supernovas collapse after they explode, into shriveled balls of mass, like Kacchan will collapse once I’m done with him. He’s my singularity, the point I always come back to. It’s irritating, the only way to escape a black hole is to either be faster than light or never be caught in the first place. Luckily, I am much, much faster than him. Kacchan’s light won’t escape me.

Evening training: Kacchan trains with his shirt off and every muscle strains. He’s rigorous, thorough. The work he does would likely leave my body aching--we’re built differently, Kacchan and I. He’s broad where I am slim, bright where I am dull, loud where I am quiet. I have my share of strength, but I carry it in my core, not draped across my shoulders like a mantle of muscle. If he caught me, Kacchan could snap my arms in two, but Kacchan won’t ever catch me. It’s no doubt that eventually, I’ll catch him. He’s already walking through tangled threads, silk woven in a net so fine he won’t even feel it until it’s already digging into his skin, delicate fibers slicing into his fingertips. It doesn’t matter if I’m weaker than him, once he’s caught I’ll still devour him, black widow venom in his veins.

He showers and heads upstairs. Dinner is simple. Kirishima makes food, beans and rice with tomato. Kacchan complains about it being tasteless, and adds a quite frankly startling amount of hot sauce. He drinks a cup of tea afterwards, sits in the half-twilight and sips slowly, watching the streets. His eyes reflect the smoke. Jasmine tea, gentle. Bed is simple. He strips to boxers and lies down, not bothering to set an alarm. How confident, Kacchan. To be able to wake up in time every morning.

 

You really shouldn’t leave your windows open when you sleep, Kacchan. You don’t know who may be watching.

Chapter Text

He starts his morning with tea. 7:53, steaming, no milk no sugar no time to brush his teeth. Bad habit, Kacchan. You’ll need your pearly whites when you’re old. Dresses quickly, simply. Same outfit as yesterday. Toaster is broken, he gets irritated and just sets off an explosion near his bread. Kirishima scolds him. Are they together romantically? Unclear. There’s no affection I can see, to be expected. Kacchan would be rough even with his lovers.

The toast ends up being a little burned. Kacchan eats it anyways. 

He jogs to work. Same route. He looks in the windows of the windows he passes, and I wish I had a magnifying quirk so I could see his face, but alas, I don’t have access to such a thing. From this distance it’s a bit hard to tell if the pitch of his eyebrows and the pucker of his lower lip is general anger or interest in whatever he sees. Kaccan pauses for a moment in front of a music shop. Interest, then. He squints a little bit as he stares at the guitar in the first window, red, sharp edges and laquered wood. Six strings, electrical output. Kacchan likes music. He likes guitars. Or he likes someone who likes guitars, Kacchan would never stop like that if it weren’t for himself or someone important to him, but before anything else can happen a fan is bold enough to approach and he snarls him off. It’s a teenage boy, freckles, wide green eyes and high-collared uniform and Kacchan almost flinches, the movement violent as he backs away. Sorry friend. No autograph for you.

Note: Kacchan remembers me.

That gives me an idea. Scribble it down, not here, no, somewhere else. There. Kacchan likes red still. His jacket is red today, and his underwear. His shoes are white though. How boring, Kacchan. You should put some style on your feet, it might make you look sharper. Not that it really matters, when you’re in your costume and on your rounds. Vigilance is key, Kacchan. How are you expecting to move up if you can’t even spot me, lurking in the shadows here? I bet Number One Hero Shouto would be able to see me. He might like a little time in the shade. I can see the sweat on your forehead, Kacchan, you must be working hard.

I like watching you work, Kacchan. It’s not quite poetry, something rougher. There’s a particular set in his jawline, snarl ready to break free, a certain tilt to his chin as he sets to moving. He has a rescue mission today, something interesting. A construction site accident, the fasteners on a steel girder softened, angle slightly off, the whole thing’s toppled. They’ve trapped a worker, woman, from the sound of her voice, young. Truly an accident this time, hands off, I’ve been a good boy. Nothing to see nothing to hear but her screams, high and terrified, and the murmurs of the crowd, whispers that she’s so unlucky, the only one stuck.

I can imagine what it must be like to be her, inside a cave of steel and rock, unable to see unable to breathe. She must be bleeding, leg trapped beneath debris and aching oh so deeply in her bones, ears ringing. It would seep into her clothes, the tang of dust and metal and iron on her tongue.

I can imagine what it must be like to be her, broken and wondering if she’ll live through this, unable to move unable to help herself. Useless. 

Kacchan is methodical. He moves almost like a machine but I can feel the glee radiating from him, even from here. Naughty, Kacchan. Heroes shouldn’t be so happy to destroy things, even when saving. You’ll scare the children, Kacchan, make them cry. There’s a system to these things, piles of steel and tools like jenga blocks. Pull the wrong one and it all falls down, on some poor girl. Can you hear her labored breathing, Kacchan? It shudders and shakes with every explosion you set off. Signs of fear in the tremelo of her calls. You could end her, Kacchan, if you wanted. But that isn’t your style, is it? Not anymore, at least.

He melts through the girders one by one, slowly. Small, continuous explosions in his palm. Note: Kacchan has learned how to control his Quirk. It’s fine-tuned now, ready for almost any situation. He’s very effective as a hero. Far better than I would be, I must admit. I don’t think I ever really wanted to be a hero though. I just wanted to prove I was worth something. I just wanted to be seen. 

Funny, how now I live to be invisible. Behind the scenes, puppeteering. I can’t do my job in the open, but I don’t need to be anymore. So much has changed since we last saw each other. Well. Since you last saw me. So much will change, by the next time we see each other. When you see me, I’ll be able to taste your fear, I swear on it. I can imagine it, not sweet like the woman Kacchan is rescuing, no, something sour, broken. Scratch that last note. It would taste like something sharp, tangy on the tongue. Bitter. 

Note: Kacchan has terrible bedside manner. He yells at the woman to stop crying as he lifts her from the debris and hands her off to EMTs on standby, grip tight, movements rushed.  

She bursts into new tears, ears twitching. A monkey Quirk. Useful, for construction work at least. Good at climbing, prehensile tail strong and thin. She reminds me almost of the rainy season hero, Froppy, the frog girl. A friend of Kirishima’s, and by extension a friend of Kacchan’s, although he likely wouldn’t call her such. Kacchan likely doesn’t have many friends. 

Lunch is plain, a sandwich on wheat bread, vegetables layered on top of each other. Undoubtedly made by Kirishima. It seems like Kirishima cooks everything for them. Kacchan must not be very good. The afternoon is boring. Kacchan clotheslines a handbag thief on his way home. I suppose a hero is never off duty, but at least it gets interesting from there. The man refuses to go down, pulls out a Taser and arcs electricity to Kacchan’s shoulders, but little does he know Kacchan trained with Chargebolt, another hero with a lightning based Quirk. I know. I know every step Kacchan has taken since we left each other. Since I left him . I know Kacchan doesn’t wear a single piece of metal. I know Kacchan fights harder when he’s provoked, nastier. I know that Kacchan’s will is stronger than the batteries of a man-made Taser, such a tiny thing compared to his strength, Kacchan would break it with his fist. Quirk unneeded. I know. I know everything there is about you Kacchan, the way you punch him in the jaw, right fist extended, is so familiar to me.

I know you, Kacchan. Do you still know me?

Evening training: he shudders with the weight of it, muscles twitching in his arms. The force of him is explosive, pent up energy sending sparks along his palms and singing equipment, already spotted black and burning. I wonder if he can smell the plastic melting, if he knows how easily his strength can become a weapon. He could break me so easily, even as a child, pointed words and fingers. How much more destructive is he now, grown and heaving? How easy would it be for him to look me in the eyes and face what he’s done? He could be strong enough for that, or double over, mirror shards of him shattering across the floor to reflect to miniscule starbursts of pain in his knuckles, scraped across concrete floor, the pain in his lungs as he fails to find a full breath.

Dinner eaten, lavender tea. His face is wreathed by steam and smoke and he is almost beautiful, staring at the night sky. Quiet, for once. As he lies sleeping it is all I can do to keep from reaching out to wrap my fingers around his neck. Quiet, forever.

Chapter Text

He starts his morning with tea. 7:55 am, on the dot, no milk no sugar, no teeth brushing, increasingly nasty in my opinion. It’s rather amazing how Kacchan wakes up, like his body is made of clockwork. It makes me want to open him up, look inside to see how he works. I’d pin him down, peel the skin back from his shoulders and stomach, muscle in layers. There’s so much more there than people think, the strings of tissues bound together in thick coils. How much would he bleed, if machines bled? Would it just be water and oil, smears of black against my gloves as tiny threads catch against gears, the smooth coil of copper wire for intestines and iron plating where his heart should be, whirring into oblivion? I could take it in my hands and crush it, the smallest adjustment destroying an entire ecosystem of artificial intelligence. But no matter what he looks likes, no matter what he acts like, face so thin and severe, a mask of singular emotions, Kacchan is only human, his bones so fragile and insides so red, red as his eyes, red as my shoes.

That’s almost better, to be human. To feel the beating of his heart against my fingers and squeeze in time, keep him from cardiac arrest with my fingers so he could stay awake, watch my face through hazy blackness as he came to know the infinite ways of karmic mercy and destruction.

I’d love to see the face Kacchan would make, when I broke him open like an egg to taste the yolk, the marrow of his bones. The yolk is where all the nutrients are, but also all the fat--I’d have to trim some of him in the process, I’m sure. He’d try to resist the pain of it, red-faced and grunting until he had no choice but to scream. Eyes rolled back, voice broken, slack-jawed. I’d see the veins in his neck strain until they almost popped, pulsing against my fingertips. My gloves would leave streaks of himself against his skin, such strong colors against the paleness of his throat. Paint that, Da Vinci, a true masterpiece.

It would take so little effort to crack his sternum, hit in the right places. Snap xiphoid process cartilage into his stomach and watch him cough on the sudden intrusion, see if it would cut his liver when I pressed hard enough. He’d be breathing blood then, like I have been for the last eight years. Life tastes so sweet on your tongue, Kacchan, drink it long enough and you get addicted to the smell, to the drowning of it. The nurses at school always tell you with nosebleeds, tilt your head back, let gravity press the capillaries down. But the blood will slide down your throat so easily then, clog your lungs until it seems like air no longer exists and the taste of death bubbles in your throat. Dying isn’t pretty Kacchan, but pain is, I promise you that. You’ll look so pretty, insides spilled over my fingers, wrapped like ribbons.

Have you heard of the string of fate, Kacchan? Tying together people who are meant to be in this world? I don’t believe it exists, but if it did, I’d tie myself to you, Kacchan, seal your fate with mine, eviscerated love.

...Your fate is already sealed though. It has been since I first laid eyes on you so many years ago. It only took this long for Her to whisper these ideas in my head, for you to pay. She’s such a friend to fools, and oh you’ve been a fool these years, so young and tirelessly clinging to the idea that you were right, you’ve always been right. But Fate is so, so fickle, Kacchan. The ultimate form of foolishness is to pin your future on any kind of hope. You’ve avoided this for so long, Kacchan, now it’s time to pay your dues. Blood isn’t the only payment, though, Kacchan, promise. Money won’t do any good, no, not those metal disks and worthless sheets of paper, printed in your name and sitting in a bank account. The cost of life is something so much harsher. I had to learn that early, thanks to you, you get to learn it now, thanks to me. 

That’s the only part of revenge I hate. It’s so messy, so broken. I couldn’t stand to dirty myself like that for anyone but you, Kacchan. You deserve this. I’d carve myself into your memory, into your body, so that even when the scars healed over you’d keep a piece of me inside you. And then I’d wash myself so thoroughly not a speck of you remained, scrub my skin raw and red and aching and utterly clean, for once in my life. Not a speck of the filth that is you, that is the world.

Ah, I’ve been muttering again, scribbling such useless notes. It has to do with Kacchan though, so I’ll keep them.

How does Kacchan style his hair like that? It stays in the shape of an explosion all day long. Look at him, morning, noon, night, fighting criminals or working out. Is it held that way by the pure tension of his skull, generated by scowling so harshly? It may be natural, it's always been the same. Look through the notes. There was a period for about two and a half weeks where his hair was tamed. When? High school, year one, after the sports festival. Such a gaudy thing, I remember watching on the television screens back home, with Kurogiri. They all used such flashy quirks. It gave me my start though, so I knew who to target, who to love. I found my best man through that festival, a year or so later. Despair makes friends of us all, and he has such a lovely voice, my Shinsou. Back on track, no more side-notes. I’m so easily distracted today. Where was I? Tea? No, he’s at work now. Yes! Hair.

High school, year one, apprenticed to Tsunagu Hakamata, better known as Best Jeanist, then the number four hero, for two weeks. Such a strong willed man, known for his flashy elegance and good manners, although not the most fashionable of men. Only he would literally wear jeans up to his nose. Now retired. Still wears the jeans though, unfortunately.

Quirk: Fiber Master, the ability to control fabric. Very useful, very well managed. He always had great technique, and hated Kacchan. I did too, then. But hate is such a raw emotion, I’ve refined it now into something sharper, smarter, better. You have to plan to make these kinds of things work, Kacchan. What products did Best Jeanist use in his hair, to make it stick? I good strong comb and gel, lots of gel. He must have, shellacked Kacchan’s head into a hard shell of hair, neatly parted to the side. It stuck that way, even after the internship ended, for several days. Either he used very, very strong gel, or Kacchan just didn’t wash his hair for several days. Considering his current hygiene habits in regards to teeth-brushing, I wouldn’t be surprised, but your cleanliness has been put into consideration, Kacchan, and I am severely concerned. 

Maybe I should gift you a bar of soap. And some toothpaste.

At least he showers after evening training. I’m a bit concerned there too, Kacchan only ever seems to train for strength. Today was a leg day, everyone always complains after a leg day but no, Kacchan doesn’t say a word. Why keep such a pointless routine if it isn’t a stretch anymore? The Kacchan I know would never plateau, he’d always keep reaching for more, the highest, the best. When did you get so complacent, Kacchan? In your body, in your mind. Where are your dexterity exercises, your stretches, flexibility, the care in every step the strain in every inch of your body as you use pieces of yourself you’ve never used before. There must be some weak spot, some vulnerability. You’ll never get anywhere if you just build your body, Kacchan, and not your brain. You used to be so smart, where’s your thinking cap now? You graduated with honors, third in your class, I know there’s a strategy in there somewhere. A natural genius they called you. I must be a hard-working one then. 

I’ll find it, Kacchan. The place where you’re weakest, your Achilles heel. I’ll watch you until then, even when you lay with your head on your pillow, dreaming of fire and brimstone I will keep my eyes on you, waiting for the right moment. Drink your tea beneath the stars and think of me, if you can, if you would. You won’t know a thing until the snake has already struck you, won’t remember your wrong-doing until there is poison in your veins and you can hear the devil singing for you, Kacchan, such amazing grace.

How sweet the sound of your sin.

Chapter Text

He starts his morning with tea. 7:54, this morning, no milk no sugar, no time to brush his teeth. I wonder why he always drinks black tea in the morning, but a different kind every night? Note; research this later. Don’t get distracted. Plenty of side commentary yesterday, today is to recover. Kacchan gets dressed quickly, still. He’s so terribly efficient in everything that he does, white shirt, short sleeves, no undershirt over black underwear and sweatpants. Sweatpants look absolutely terrible on you, Kacchan, I don’t know why you insist on wearing them. Baggy, unflattering, and made of a polyester mix that feels absolutely terrible. You really need to start caring about your public image, Kacchan, it’s a wonder the paparazzi haven’t made fun of you yet.

Remember: the last reporter that took Kacchan by surprise needed a new camera...and a new pair of slacks. He did not return to work for weeks, and the photos he took were never published. Really, Kacchan? You can’t scare off everyone who asks you things you don’t like, presents you in the weakest light.

It’s time to turn the spotlight on, Kacchan, not yet, not yet, but soon. Your shadow goes so long, the brighter the light the deeper your darkness. Let me be the light that blinds you.

There’s a tale they tell across the sea, in another country. It’s about a boy, before the time of Quirks, with wings of wax and feathers. Humans have always dreamed of flying, even the ones who had no chance. But this boy. He loved the sun as well, and in his arrogance, believed it loved him back, despite being nothing but a star. He flew too close, reached too far, and the sun melted his wings to break him when he fell, dashed him on rocks and turned dust red with fragments on his bone. You’re flying now, Kacchan. Let me be the star that burns you.

He jogs to work. Toast again, Kacchan? Soon it won’t be just Kirishima yelling at you to have better nutrition. It’s hard work to take down villains and petty criminals, I’m sure. It’s admittedly difficult work sometimes to keep ahead of you heroes. I haven’t seen him take any form of public transportation in the time I’ve been watching him. Speculation: Kacchan truly does still hate buses. Perhaps because it’s too crowded. Kacchan has a thing about crowds, he’s not good with publicity. Funny, then, that he chose one of the most public professions in existence. Did you just want to be seen too, Kacchan? Like me? Tired of hiding, tired of pretending, tired of being ignored. We all want the world to love our best selves, hide away the troubled bits. No one wants us when we’re broken, so you break everyone else, don’t you Kacchan? So strong, so harsh, the world would break against you rather than the other way around, wouldn’t it, shattered against your fist and hollowing it’s cheeks with the pain. Not everything that hurts you can be broken Kacchan, the best way to protect yourself isn’t always violence, because then you end up destroying everything that could help you too. It’s a dangerous edge between unreachable and alone, one you walk every day, Kacchan.

You’re a good hero. Strong, smart. If you were a little more idealist, a little less cynical, a little more open, a little less like barbed wire, you’d be a great hero. But asking you to change yourself is hopeless, isn’t it? Then you wouldn’t be the same Kacchan I’ve grown to know, to love, to hate, to follow follow follow. All this work, wasted. The Kacchan I’ve come to know, so determined, so passionate, so hollow hollow hollow.

Before lunch is so boring. He has a traditional boxed lunch today, rice with cut vegetables, omelette rolls and pickled beans. Kacchan doesn’t eat the beans. He’s never liked pickled things, even though they’re so common in Japanese food. Obviously Kacchan did not cook this, there’s a message laid out on the rice in carrot strips in crooked, jagged lettering that bids Kacchan to “Smile!”. Kacchan does not smile. Kacchan does, however eat the message rather than ignore it, stabbing the rice with his chopsticks to break the lines. Irritation. His motions always get choppier when he’s at a loss, a a few more teeth, a few more lines in his forehead.

Note: Kacchan likes omelette rolls. He eats them first, quickly.

After lunch is interesting. After lunch? Scratch that last note. During lunch in interesting. He’s interrupted twenty minutes into his break by a villain crashing through the front window. It’s almost impressive how quickly Kacchan scarfs the rest of his food down. I vaguely recognize this villain, a two-bit has been that is both exceedingly rude and has been trying to join the League for months. I may or may not have an idea why he’s here. Oops, forgive me, won’t you Kacchan? It looks like he got a little desperate after the ultimatum we gave him last week. Something about no more chances. One way or another that will be true. This is his last shot, looks like he’s gone for you. Bold move, daring. I like it. Too bad I absolutely hate him.

What’s his name? I forget, unimportant. Scum. Quirk barely worth mentioning, nothing more than hardening his hair into spikes. Like a human hedgehog. It’s nothing before Kacchan’s fist, upper body twisted with the swing of his shoulders. It doesn’t matter if the spikes pierce his skin, Kacchan is stronger, fast, better. Just like he always wants to be. Such a foolish choice. Close combat is Kachan’s specialty, honed to a blade. He spars regularly with a man who can harden his skin past steel, the pain of needles is nothing compared to the pain of his skin, scraped to nothing, aching knees and bruised ribs.

This guy is small fry, and amid the screaming and the crash of glass, splintered shards casting rainbows, I can hear the familiar burst of an explosion. The villain soars through the hole in the window and hits the pavement so hard I can hear bones crack, his spine arching in pain as he partially impales himself on his own spikes, Quirk too slow to deactivate. What a pity, pity, pity, Kachan. You should toy with him longer. I can see the burned skin across his chest, edges of his shirt smoldering as they wither away. He’s bleeding Kacchan, can you smell it? Now is when you can break him, break yourself. Or are you too principled now? Have you changed that much, Kacchan, that you would let him go so easily? Police are almost here, Kacchan. Even if one of your secretaries didn’t call them, I did. Gave them my name, lie rolling off my tongue so easily. Gave them your address, dipped in honeyed truth. There’s panic in the streets, people pointing and shouting. You’re under the spotlight now, Kacchan. See the red and blue.

Kacchan towers over the villain when he jumps from the shattered hole, careful not to scrape himself on the landing. There’s a trickle of smoke drifting from his palms and oh, poor child, you were so utterly stupid to attack Kacchan in his home. This is his territory and there is such a gleam in his eyes.

But how disappointing, to have the stage all set and yet not taken advantage of. Kacchan lifts the villain roughly by his shoulders, flips him to his stomach before twisting his arms for the handcuffs. The police are here already, I should have called them sooner so they could watch how brutally Kacchan fights. No, I should have called them later so I could watch what Kacchan decided to do next, without the eyes. That can be a stepping stone, a mini goal. What do they call them, in games? Sub quests. This is my sub-quest now, Kacchan, to see your face crumble when presented with impossible situations.

How will you crumble?

There’s a face in the crowds, green hair, freckles, wide eyes. I can tell the second Kacchan spots it, his spine ridgid, shoulders set. Signs: muscles tense, breathing short, eyes widened, fist momentarily relaxed. Conclusion: surprised to see my face, from all those years ago. Just a split second, not too much, just enough to make him doubt. There’s a hint of confusion in the pinch of his brow. Good girl, I thought she might be getting bored. It’s a good thing we saved those samples from so long ago, the very beginning. There’s a use for everything, Mom always told me. I knew those habits wouldn’t steer me wrong. Even if Kurogiri told me it was gross to keep a jar of my blood, didn’t understand it was a tool and not a keepsake.

Besides, Kurogiri is the gross one, always leaving dirty dish towels in the cabinet. One use is enough to ruin it, I keep telling him, but no, he always insists on using the same one several times. What’s the point in washing dishes if they just get dirtied by the cloth you use to dry them? And dishes, Shigaraki is the worst with dishes. He doesn’t care at all if he leaves them everywhere, absolutely disgusting. It doesn’t matter if he can disintegrate the crumbs, he still needs to pick off the ashes. And what if he disintegrates part of the plate too? It’s terribly inconsiderate of him, he’s the reason I have to vacuum four times a week. No one else does it right.

I like your tea choice tonight, Kacchan. Chamomile with a hint of orange, very calming. I suppose you’d need it, after such a long day. So many surprises for you. So many surprises yet in store. Sweet dreams, don’t get in trouble while I’m gone tonight. I’ve got a guest to pick up from the county jail, he's performed such grievous offences against me and mine...and cleaning up might take a while.

Chapter Text

He starts his morning with tea. 7:34, Kacchan had nightmares last night. I’m so disappointed, I wanted to watch him toss and turn. It gives me so many questions. Note: watch Kacchan sleep more often, so I can catch him in the act. What faces did he make, covered in sweat, chest heaving, did he cry out? Was he silent? I want to know, I need to know. What does Kacchan look like in pain? I’ll find out soon enough.

Shigaraki stole my notes from yesterday. Jerk. I...retrieved them. Gently, I swear. Scouts honor. I was never a boy scout, but moot point...I like to think I would have been a good one. He didn’t like what I wrote about him, forgive the ragged edges. It’s been repaired, to the best I can remember.

Kacchan spends a long time nursing his tea this morning. Always black. No sugar, no milk. He’s moving slowly this morning, doesn’t brush his teeth even though he has time. It’s like he’s moving through a fog, dressing quietly. He doesn’t even snap at Kirishima with his usual force, making the other man frown. Kirishima manages to sneak up on Kacchan while he’s absentmindedly munching on his toast and presses a hand to his forehead to test the temperature, a difficult move unless you’ve done it a few times before. Kacchan tends to run a bit hot, but Kirishima moves with practiced ease, even dodging the underhand swing Kacchan sends his way in response. The sound of Kirishima’s laugh is raw, strangely infective. It tugs at the side of my face, makes me feel like lifting my head a few centimeters higher. I still hate him.

I can tell from here, thirty feet away and watching through binoculars, even, that Kacchan isn’t really sick. There’s no flush to his cheeks, no stagger in his step. He’s just a little stuck, distracted, ears of cotton. Oh dear Kacchan, I wonder whatever could have shaken you so?

He doesn’t even make it out the door today before the phone rings. How fortunate that I’m a forward thinking person, and had the wires bugged. Technology is so handy for those of us who can’t use Quirks, although non-Quirk related equipment truly progresses at such a slow rate. Women like Mei Hatsume are a blessing, for everyone involved. I wonder if she knows how often her designs have been copied, stolen, modified, from the bodies of heroes or otherwise. I like to watch them in action, sometimes, analyze how the equipment refines the Quirk. Note: I still need to find a way into her lab. The last person I sent was chased off by her security system, the damn woman is a maniac with her inventions. It’s a miracle he made it back in mostly one piece. But where was I? Wires. I have enough to get by.

Enough to hear the crackly voice on the other side, introducing itself as Tanama Haruka. A woman. Police. They want Kacchan’s help on a case, they have three burn victims and residue on the walls, and would like to pull him in as an expert. I’m no fool, I know that the Number Two hero wouldn’t normally agree to help on a police case, especially not Kacchan. Maybe he’s still dazed, maybe he’s not paying attention, but either way a grunt that sounds sort of like acceptance makes its way out of his mouth and suddenly Tanama is telling him they’ll expect him at the station at his earliest convenience. Happy to work with him. He looks a bit bewildered as she hangs up briskly and I have to catch myself to keep from laughing. Tricked so smoothly, Kacchan, you certainly are dull today!

He has to take a bus to the station and grumbles the whole time. In costume too, how gaudy Kacchan. A few students point at him at whisper, and I see a few camera flashes, but no one is brave enough to approach him for an autograph. Shame, I would have liked to see that. He’s in a mood today.

The amusement stops when Kacchan gets to the station because I can see the photos from where I’m perched, and I recognize those burn patterns. Severe, third-degree burns in the survivors, a few bodies burnt to almost nothing, caused by an extremely hot flame very quickly, likely pure blue. Photos of the residue on the walls are black, relatively little smoke and burned in strips rather in starbursts. Widespread, definitely Quirk-based. Note: apparently Dabi has been getting bored too, it’s not enough to give Himiko some tasks, following Kacchan around in public with my old face. I need to give her babysitter something to do too, or he does things like this , screwing up my plan. He’s too valuable to lose here, not when he’s been a part of us for years now, always reliable, a personal stake in the whole business.

I’ll be having a talk with him when I return tonight. When the cat goes out, the mice at home mind their business, as it were--we still have jobs to do, to prepare, there is a Project in place that he should not . Be. Ignoring.

Schedules are extremely important. You’d think after all these years he’d respect that.

Truly, honestly, I hate to interfere in the work the police do. Like to be a good boy, to keep my hands out of it. For the most part they help keep things quiet here, help weed out the trash. If they’re spending time in a prison cell, they likely aren’t worth the League’s time. In a way, they help us, despite being rather annoying. And it really is such as hassle, there’s so much paperwork. Dabi’s complicated things by leaving survivors, physical evidence. Although, the survivors, suffering from extreme burns on more than 70% of their bodies, are currently in medically or otherwise induced comas to keep them from moving and tearing off their skin grafts, so I suppose they’re a moot point. I’ll have to take care of them too. Honestly, this boy is a man now, my senior even, and he still makes such messes for me to clean up.

Not that it’s hard, of course. I have fail-safes in place for my most important people, for situations like this. I’m used to cleaning things up, a tidy mind is a good one. Fortunately, I don’t even need to leave Kacchan’s side--keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn’t give the police any compromising information. There’s nothing I can do about the files they already have--not until later, when they’re out of his hands, but I can take care of the rest from here. A few phone calls and a quick text message later, and in three separate hospital rooms nurses are injecting oxygen bubbles into the IV drips of three separate patients.

I get the confirmation pictures on my phone a few minutes later, the flatlines monitor and a flurry of nurses surrounding each bed. The way my phone vibrates bothers me, but it’s better than having it ring and let Kacchan know someone is here, far closer than he should be.

Kacchan arrives at the house in question to find it burning to the ground, no evidence remaining. A few words with Dabi reminded him to finish what he started. By the time they get back to the office, their files will be gone. Himiko is useful for more than just scaring Kacchan--she’s rather good at impersonating voices as well. It’s kind of funny, actually, how frustrated Kacchan is by the whole scenario. They way he stomps on the ground is comedic, over-done, trite, absolutely boring. Such a predictable reaction, Kacchan, the way you yell and threaten the nearest officer. Blaming Tanama isn’t going to make anything change. Refusing to take the blame won’t make anything change.

You’re good at that, aren’t you Kacchan?

Talented at letting other people take the blame, be hurt by your reactions. It’s never your fault, always a waste of your time. Ultimatums don’t hurt anyone but yourself, Kacchan, unless you’re willing to follow through on them, and I doubt you are.

You never have enough resolve to go through with anything important, not like me.

Go on, Kacchan, glimpse ‘me’ through the crowd again on your way home. Shudder and shake and suppress it all you want, convince yourself I’m not really there over a cup of valerian root tea. Do your best to stay still through the night. Things are changing for you Kacchan, slowly but surely. I’ll make sure they do. The first time you fail at a job, the small disruptions in your life, the little signs that not everything is how it should be. I’ll set you on edge, Kacchan, primed to explode, pull the pin and watch you stutter with the force of a bomb that can never go off in just the right time, the right place, to fix everything. Watch yourself become useless, Kacchan.

 

Drown yourself in hope a cup of lemon balm tea might soothe your insomnia, stop the dreaming.

Chapter Text

He starts his morning with tea. 7:58 am, black. No milk. No sugar. No time to brush his teeth. He’s running a bit slow this morning, takes the time to make it but not savor it, downing the cup. Tea is the only thing I’ve seen Kacchan cook this week. He dresses quickly, plainly, black sleeveless shirt and a pair of cargo shorts. It’s warming up today, although likely Mother Nature is playing a cosmic trick, and tomorrow will be cold again. Don’t fall prey to spring fever, Kacchan, a hero can’t afford to take sick days.

Days like this remind me of spring cleaning. We used to clean together, do you remember Kacchan? On our knees, running dust cloths across the floor until we bruised, fingers aching and knees indented with the crease of floorboards. The smell of lavender scented laundry detergent and windex. I use unscented detergent now, the better to blend in. I pick up the smells of other people, other places, smoke and mint and the spices wafted from a shop downtown. I don’t know what I smell like anymore, have to go home and scrub myself clean in the shower every night to clear away the smell of everything else, and when I’m done nothing is left but a raw sting and something clean. Kacchan smells like smoke too, but headier. Woodsmoke, something burning in the summertime, something unexpectedly homey. It’s mixed with pepper and something nutty, raw. I remember leaning into it as a child, remember it shifting into something so acidic, like a fork left in the toaster, short-circuiting and wrong . It’s so faint now, beneath the lavender in your clothes, Kacchan, like you’re hiding meat left too long in the freezer, ice-crusted but rotting. If I lean in now, just a little further, I bet it’s still there, still inexplicably warm but that is too close, any closer and you’ll know I’m here Kacchan and I can’t have that, not at all.

Can’t get close to Kacchan, fall back, remember what happened the last time he saw me. Too close, too close for comfort. He makes it hard to breathe, in the worst way. It’s better, when he doesn’t know I’m here. I’m in control of this, know where he is and what he does, every second of the day. When I can predict him, track the movement of his knee when he taps his leg impatiently at the toaster. Never get close again, not close enough for him to touch not close enough for him to see. Can never see me like this, until I want him to. Oh god do I want him to see me, the heart of me, tangled like frayed yarn. All my edges going, fuzzed out as if I’m not really there. Only the core of me is solid, Kacchan, built around you and what you did to me. My shape is your reflection, the result of so many years wear and tear and strain solidified into something twisted. Where will I go once you’re gone Kacchan?

I’ll find a place. I always do. Where I belong is tucked inside the ordinary things, the curve of your tied shoelace, the wisp of smoke off your slightly burned toast. You live inside the extraordinary, Kacchan, the flashy and loud. Where will you go once the ordinary is all you have left?

I used to look at you with such envy. You were my world, Kacchan. The sun revolved around you, blessed you with everything I ever wanted and a smile to match. God that smile. I used to smile too, so bright and wide my teeth ached with it. God my smile. Where did it, go, where has it been, when did you stop smiling at me like I was worth your attention, started sneering at the dirt beneath your feet? When did I stop smiling, lost my heart lost my drive, started flinching, kneeling at your feet. Something precious has been lost here, the Quirk is to blame. The joint inside my pinky toe the jolt inside my skin the twist inside your lungs that stole the breath of kindness from your lips it’s the Quirks fault. It gave Kacchan power and the power swallowed him, tried to swallow me but I won’t let it.

Scrub my floor with bleach until my knuckles bleed, the skin will grow back stronger and the world will be a little cleaner, just a little, the world will be in control, just a little. If I can hold it in my hands and wring the life from it like soap from a sponge I can subdue it. Quirks are the same as every other tool in this world, just a little less fairly distributed. Some get strong Quirks, some get weak, and some get absolutely nothing, they can’t be bought or earned but they can be given, can’t they? Given and taken away, ripped from the soul of your soul and I learned that the hard way, Kacchan, the joint inside my toe the start of all this.

The joint of a toe the rip of a shirt the spark in your hand. Cruelty entered your smile and it never left, made a home in you. What’s made a home in me, the result of this mess?

I need a new heart, Kacchan. You broke mine so long ago, I don’t know where the pieces went. But I think I like it this way, where I can feel the missing piece of me pressed against my lungs, against my spine. It reminds me to breathe sharply, think quickly, no excess fat to trim. It’s fine like this. It’s better to be broken, the path I’ve chosen is full of shrivelled people, and the more shards of me they can gather the easier it will be to stab me later. It’s better, that they’ve nothing to find in the first place. Scrubbed raw.

Hollow.

The day goes by so quickly when Kacchan works. It seems a little lonely. Boring, almost. The life of a Pro Hero, boring. It’s so monotonous, wake, eat, patrol, eat, patrol, train. Catching variations of the same villains, if they can be called such. The same petty crimes. Maybe a break will do me good, the Project continues. But back to the notes. I’ve missed almost the whole day in my ramblings, there was too little happening. Not much to miss. But he’s heading home, tired, drooping.

Evening training: Kacchan strips his shirt and I can see every vein in his throat, working in his jaw. He works without a spotter, so confident, so proud. The muscles in his arms strain when he lifts, weight settled against his chest before it rises. Weight settles on his chest as the night goes on, makes him shift in his chair and on his feet as he showers. Note: Kacchan still like the off-brand soaps, shampoo coarse and functional. It smells like ocean breeze. Ocean Breeze does not smell like ocean breeze. It smells faintly like the wind, mostly like cleanliness. This is good. This can be worked with. Kacchan cleans himself gently, almost, but efficiently. He misses nothing, not the arch of his foot not the space behind his ears. But it is not thorough enough. I ache to wash my hands, even the thought of all the things he’s touched today, dust and dirt and blood and germs makes my skin crawl.

He sits and sips a cup of passionflower tea, staring at the stars, and I want to grab ahold of him, scrub the skin raw until he bleeds from it. Only when every inch of him has been ruined will I know that he’s clean.

Chapter Text

Unfortunately, other duties keep me from my notes, but what an opportune time for a break. Perhaps a few days away will return me to my senses. Return me to my place.  Everything has its place, remember, don't forget, never forget. I have my roles as well, my little rules and jobs and structures, where I belong. Don't forget. Kacchan changes everything, he always has. I almost don’t want to leave. But there are Projects to prepare for. Note: assign rookie villain Nacht to watch Kacchan. He will have full access to cameras and knowledge of daily routine. He will not have access to my previous notes. How impudent, to think he’d earn that insight. No, these are for me, my preparations, he will need to find his place alone. His notes will be entered here later, by my hand.

 

Name: Nacht. German in origin, but only in name. The man himself originates from northern Hokkaido, he is used to the dark and the cold of winter. It runs in his bones, he’s promising. This will be a test for him, if he does well I remember his name. If he does poorly, I will forget even the drops of his blood, leave it soaked into the earth to grow nothing but snowdrops.

Quirk: darkness. The ability to bring a cloak of absolute blackness into the world, sphere shaped, centered on him, and roughly ten feet in diameter on automatic activation. With concentration it can be extended to double its original size, or reduced to a mere five feet. It must be centered on the user, it cannot be attached to objects or remotely activated, such a pity, the one downfall. It is blinding, in more than one way, a blanket of complete sensory deprivation for all but the user, depriving everyone in it’s range of sight, touch, smell, sound, anything that may ground them to this world. A useful Quirk. A delightful Quirk. If I could, I would use it myself, certainly have use for it. I do hope he’ll put it to use well. If not, then he doesn’t need it. Although truthfully, if he doesn’t use it well here, if he doesn’t succeed here, then he won’t have much use for anything at all, will he? Be a good boy, Kacchan.

 

We will see how this plays out.

Chapter Text

How could I think watching Kacchan’s life was routine? It’s so boring without him, it’s not right that someone else is there, in my place. Sullying him with their eyes, their ears, their nose. They do not know Kacchan they way that I do, do not have the need to, this is my project . But the Project needs to be readied--observation will be completed, one way or another.

Chapter Text

The notes left by Nacht were absolutely useless. I have removed them from this book, as it would compromise the integrity of my writings thus far, or afterwards. He fouled them, absolute garbage.

 

Nacht will be punished. Just as in his namesake, night is coming .

 

Chapter Text

He starts his morning with tea. 7:53, no milk, no sugar, no time to brush his teeth. I was right. A few days away have returned me to normal. No more sidetracking. No more tangents. Focus is key here, focus on Kacchan and his disgusting hygiene habits. He dresses quickly, simply. Black shirt, short sleeves, sweatpants over plain underwear. Note: he wears an undershirt this time, one of Kirishima’s. Kacchan owns no undershirts. It’s plain, white, what they call a wifebeater. He is on good enough terms with Kirishima to borrow his clothes without asking. Just as expected, the temperature has dipped, Kacchan shivers ever so slightly at the breeze drifting through his window. Seeing such a human reaction is strange, he even has goosebumps.

Kirishima had someone come and fix the toaster while I was gone. Review of the tapes confirms it to be Chargebolt: real name Kaminari Denki. The electricity man, so much stronger than anyone had expected. He controls electrical power and can generate it, the only restriction being on output...too much of a burden overloads his system and causes a power outage in his brain, a human vegetable. As he’s trained his control over the quirk has grown stronger, allowing him to extend his boundaries. The human body operates off electrical impulses after all, and once he learned to control them...well, he would have made a good villain. It’s a shame we didn’t go after him sooner, while he was still useless. Break them to build them. He works in a team with Earphone Jack, the Hearing Hero, built during their school years. Note: look into Earphone Jack later. She is an impressive hero in her own right, average Quirk but smart. They operate well together, smooth. She supports him when he overuses his quirk, he supports her when they take the advantage. They balance surprisingly. Chargebolt is apparently also a deft hand with the tools running off his electricity. It only took him twenty minutes to fix Kacchan’s toaster.

Kacchan seems to appreciate the unburnt toast. It’s still not nutritious, but at least it isn’t charcoal. Kirishima seems to appreciate it as well, especially when he manages to convince Kacchan to spread peanut butter on it.

He jogs to work. Nothing unusual happens on the way there, aside from the usual stares. No one approaches him. Kacchan has a reputation of being prickly, his rough nature remains as steadfast as ever. But he still has fans, these people certainly respect and admire him despite his rudeness. This change is...nevermind. I have promised myself not to get sidetracked today. You will not get rid of me so easily, Kacchan, no matter how distracting the correlation between your furrowed brow and popularity is. Note: research it later. If the information given by our younger recruits is correct, the bad boy trope is still popular among teenagers. This must be the biggest reason, aside from his skills. It’s impossible for Kacchan to have softened over the years. I won’t believe it.

Kacchan’s patrols are rather boring, routine. There’s a jewelry store being robbed as he goes by. What kind of thieves rob a jewelry store in broad daylight? Criminals these days are slacking off, lacking in muscle the one place they need it most, not even fit to be called villains. They obviously aren’t professionals, and despite that fact that there are four of them and only one Kacchan, he takes them down with ease. What are you doing, tangling with a job the police could handle? Their flashy Quirks are the only problem, but Kacchan incapacitates them quickly, before they can be activated. Surely the police haven’t grown so lax that such a small group of troublemakers would cause them problems?

...then again, I did sneak into the local jail so easily, found the scum, punished him. Make note of that, look at their security measures. I may not prefer to interfere, but it’s foolish to ignore your options, Kacchan, remember that. Preparation, planning, connections, this is how you win a war. Use your resources wisely, move pieces around, know your pawns from your rooks and knights. You can’t be afraid to use, them, Kacchan, everything is the same in the end. People are just bones with a little bit of fight in them. And this is war, it’s already started Kacchan, even if you aren’t aware, and I’m making my moves. Can you see them? Can you hear? Hush now Kacchan, listen for the clues, or this will be far too easy. Couldn’t leave you to the amateurs, no, you’re too good for them, but don’t make me regret taking this job myself, Kacchan. Too bad you’ve always been strong. You never learned to watch your back. Even when you’re strong, you watch, Kacchan, wait for the moment someone could take you down and set a trap, never let your pride blind blind you confidence shake you. Snakes whisper, Kacchan, too bad you never learned to listen.

It’s a quiet evening on the way home. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, but nothing lost either. When did you get so careful, Kacchan? And yet still so careless. You break things so easily, have you broken something important yet?

Evening training: Kacchan does not take his shirt off to train. Scratch that last note, he takes off his shirt, but leaves the undershirt. How rude, Kacchan, that doesn’t even belong to you. It will get disgusting, sweat stained and soaked with your scent. I hope he plans to wash that, it’s truly inappropriate. No one wants to deal with the mess that is Kacchan’s clothes after he is done training, even Kacchan. Perhaps this is why he usually strips to bare skin. Note: He keeps Kirishima’s undershirt on. Why? His face is red with effort, straining, lines of veins in his throat and forehead. He breathes in sharp puffs of air, like he can’t catch a full breath. I’d love to strike him in the chest, watch the air he keeps so carefully stored there rush out to leave him destabilized, weights falling to his chest. Would he crack his ribcage with the force of the fall?

Kirishima made lasagna for dinner. Extra cheese. Kacchan used to hate cheese, or rather, he used to hate excess amounts of it, claiming it clogged his throat, but he doesn’t complain at all when Kirishima sets the lightly steaming casserole dish in front of him. In fact, he digs right in. He takes seconds. I do not like that. At least the lasagna has vegetables, mushroom and spinach layered between the noodles. Kirishima is smart in making sure Kacchan’s diet remains balanced. He controls this part of Kacchan’s life. I don’t like that.

Tonight he drinks a white tea, unprocessed, unfiltered. Perhaps because he wants to feel pure, white tea is original, unfermented, unoxidized. Different from other teas. Softer. He always drinks a different kind at night. Sits outside his home and looks at the stars. Smoke always floats around his face in the evenings, wreaths his cheekbones and lingers against his eyebrows. Changes his faces, rounds it out into something strangely gentle. This is a different Kacchan from my childhood, one who reflects and knows stillness, who savors each sip of tea and breathes slowly. His face is blank. Note: study Kacchan’s faces more. Is this peace or thoughtfulness? I cannot tell. I do not like that. It’s true that as time passed Kacchan has changed, people always do. Look at me. This Kacchan is a stranger, I do not like him as much as the old one--the one I understand. Come back to me, or I’ll bring you back myself, grab you by the hair and drag you with me.

Once, somewhere in a book, I read that if you hear the past speaking to you the only thing you can do is run. But what if the past doesn’t just speak? What if it lives inside your eardrums, taps itself against your shoulders, digs it’s fingers in the notches of your spine like a handle, crawls inside your throat so that you breathe the thought of it. What if the past speaks in your own voice, Kacchan, can you still run? What if that past is me? Look me in the eyes, Kacchan, if you can, deny that everything you’ve done is coming back to you with every passing day.

I'm waiting for you, Kacchan, preparing. Everything is noticed, everything is written, don't think you can escape from someone you don't even know is here. The diary tells. Your little quirks, your little Quirk, it’s here inside my head, I know. I know. All these years later, I've come for you Kacchan, don't blink.

Chapter Text

He starts his morning with tea. 7:54 on the dot, no milk, no sugar, no time to brush his teeth. At least he’s drinking tea and not coffee. Marginally better. Somehow his teeth remain straight and white, no stains to be seen. It’s almost a miracle, if such things existed. Nothing would make me laugh more than a God who used their power to keep Kacchan’s teeth shiny. Wiping only the smallest of transgressions clean, how ironic. How fitting. Kacchan dresses quickly, plain white shirt, short sleeves, shorts. The weather seems to have made up it’s mind after yesterday’s dip. Warm it is. He doesn’t wear an undershirt today. Note: watch for pattern here. Does he wear them on certain days? Is it some unspoken system of permission? Does he just not like them?

The undershirt from yesterday is still in the laundry basket, stiff with sweat. It’s dry by now but I can imagine how it smells, that would never happen at home. Unlike the League, Kacchan and Kirishima seem to employ absolutely zero scent concealing products, not even air fresheners. Most of their housework is lacking, aside from the kitchen. When he’s done cooking, Kirishima washes every pan immediately. The one thing about him I can admire: he takes care of his tools.

Toast, again. Does Kacchan like toast, or is he lazy? He must like it to a degree, or he would refuse to eat it. Kirishima seems eager to cook breakfast, but Kacchan still eats toast. Note: investigate further. Bread preferences as well, Kacchan alternates between white bread and wheat, not on every other day but every few. Leaving out the three days I was unable to watch Kacchan, he’s eaten toasted white bread four times so far, and toasted wheat bread the other four, including today. However, judging from the pattern of his eating habits, I can extrapolate to say that Kacchan ate toasted wheat bread on two of those days, and white on one, bringing the total to white: five; wheat: six. 0.45 repeating indefinitely compared with .54 repeating indefinitely. A slight preference for wheat toast over white. Would he also eat rye bread? Maybe not, Kacchan doesn’t like rough grains. He prefers processed, it’s easier to digest and takes less energy. At least, that’s what Kacchan believes. I’m not sure it’s true. Remember to look into that. Keep a tally, remember to check tomorrow. Personally, I find white bread irrelevant to the world, it has no nutritional value whatsoever.

The bread is not the important part. It’s the why. Why alternate, why toast? Understanding comes in pieces, patience.

He jogs to work, like usual. In fact, there is nothing unusual about this day so far. There is a child who’s Quirk manifests unexpectedly in the street and Kacchan is called for containment. A strange choice, Kacchan is a combat-specialized hero, not a rescue specialist. Perhaps he is chosen more for his reputation and his face than his skill, although he deflects debri with ease. It seems to be a transformation type Quirk, Water Body. The girl slipped through her father’s arms when her legs accidentally transformed and hit the ground. In the shock and pain, she hit her older sister while flailing, causing onset of panic, and for the Quirk to go out of control. Child likely does not know how to control her Quirk in the first place, it’s wild and unformed, not even maintaining the shape of human limbs as it flails. It’s a strong Quirk, powerful, but unrefined, new, the ropes of water strike the ground and break the road, causing panic.

This is a difficult one, Kacchan. A panicked child, a worried father and older sibling, the eyes of civilians in the street and your fellow heroes. Can’t harm the child, no, she doesn’t know what she’s doing, tears streaming down her face as her own body goes out of control. You’ve never felt that way, have you Kacchan? Like your life was spinning, falling, confusion etched so deep in your heart you couldn’t even tell where it all began and where you ended, like you were an accessory to your own body. There’s a bit of freedom in that detachment, Kacchan, but it’s so much better when you know where you’re going. So much harder, but only at first.

In the end, Kacchan’s little more than an accessory himself, another hero, with the aid of the child’s father, succeeds in calming the girl down. A rising star, I’ll keep an eye on her.

Name: Siren, the Singing Hero. A student of Midnight, 18+ hero with the Quirk Somnambulist, which puts people to sleep with even the slightest whiff of her scent. Note: Her abilities would be useful, she’s no weaker for retirement. Scouts first. Siren is young, even younger than Kacchan. Newly graduated, no more than eighteen herself. She must have a twisted personality to have survived being so well trained by Midnight. She has feathery protrusions on her arms colored in black and green, not full blown wings but enough to slow her falls, and a beaklike mouth with sharpened teeth. Her costume resembles Midnights, drawing obvious inspiration from her teacher, but is more modest, allowing for free movement without the 18+ restriction. Quirk: Siren’s Voice. By singing, she can influence people to do her bidding, it seems to be especially effective on members of the opposite gender judging from the dozing gentlemen in the crowd after her voice wove through the air, lulling the child. A lullaby, then. I must explore her abilities later.

Kacchan himself is not immune, his eyes drooping with the swoop of her voice. His head nods to his chest then jerks up again, eyelids fluttering. He bites his lip to stay awake, harsh even to himself. It leaves the imprint of teeth in his lips, shiny indentations edged in white. He can barely pull himself together long enough to check in with Siren that the situation is taken care of before his steps are faltering again. She offers a small apology in the form of a smile and pats his shoulder in understanding.

He jerks, ever so slightly, when he glimpses Himiko’s transformed face through the crowd, a split second of wide awake eyes tinged with surprise before he’s drowning again.

Kacchan has to take the bus home, nodding off against the wall and pinching his own leg. It’s a struggle to watch him struggle, to know I didn’t create his hardship. He collapses on the floor inside the doorway, where Kirishima finds him an hour later and drags him into bed. There is no evening training. There is no dinner, happily prepared and grudgingly eaten. There is no tea, no staring at the stars. What will it mean for you, that this routine is broken, that there is uncertainty in your life? Will it be easy, brushed off your shoulder tonight and resumed tomorrow like nothing has happened? Or will it change something within you, plant some seed of doubt that things just aren’t going as planned, that for just a moment the world you’ve built so methodically is broken? Remember the face you saw, Kacchan, for just that moment. Remember how it felt to see that face, after so many years, let it follow you.

I hope it follows you into your dreams, Kacchan. Twists, changes. I hope you see it bent in fear. Remember the me of long ago, a coward, a fool, this is how I’ve frozen. I want to laugh at your face when you realize, slow and drowning, again and again. You’re in for such a delicious surprise.

Chapter Text

Kacchan is surprisingly peaceful when he sleeps. His eyelids flicker slightly as he dreams, the lines across his forehead and under his chin smoothed over. He seems so much younger without his frown, almost like a teenager again, and it’s only now I realize exactly how well he’s aged. Ten years isn’t long until I look at how he’s grown. Kacchan would be rather dignified, if he took the time to groom himself in the morning. Brushed his teeth for once, smoothed back his hair and wore something other than sweatpants or his hero costume. I’ve found that a distinguished jawline always makes knees knock, and the hint of silver already showing in his light blond hair doesn’t hurt. It takes me back to when we were both a little younger, less sure of ourselves. How uncomfortable.

Both then and now he sleeps sprawled across his bed, arms flung under pillows and legs tossed between blankets, plain black boxers wrinkled from his knees to his waistline. When he breathes, it’s in short bursts, rushing through his cheeks. It’s strange, how peaceful Kacchan is when he sleeps, even when he’s having nightmares. It’s much more boring than I expected, difficult to tell from his normal dreaming. There are no whimpers, no screams, no crying. Just that short, panting breath. The way he curls in on himself, ever so slightly, is almost as delicious though. Normally Kacchan sleeps spread-eagled, arms thrown wide and legs crossed, feet hanging off the edge of the bed. He moves around a lot in his sleep, as restless there as he is awake, constantly shifting. Sometimes he mutters things, too soft for me to hear, too quiet to understand, but the sound is constant, soothing. It shifts between dissatisfied grumbles and half-sighs, the only sound of contentment I’ve ever heard Kacchan make, a sound that never seems to escape him when he’s awake and glaring at the world, holding it at bay, at arm’s length. That kind of vulnerability is nice, the loose, languid way he controls his space, dominates it in sleep, makes a stark contrast from the sharp forcefulness in his voice and eyes, the way he seizes control when waking. There is nothing easy about Kacchan when he is awake, but at least everything about Kacchan seems easy when he’s asleep.

Not when he has nightmares, though. Then, he draws himself in tight, holds his wrists in front  of his nose to feel the breath ghosting over the skin. He doesn’t wrap his arms around himself, no, but he pulls his knees up to his chest and crosses his ankles, holds his body tight. There is no domination of space, just the instinct to make himself small. To protect his vitals.

This tiny break in his bravado, the suit of arrogance he wears. It gives me shivers, makes me bite my lip because it would be so good to watch him cry, but this is infinitely better. Even in sleep he tries to hold himself together, even in sleep he fails. I hope his dreams are colorful, violent, I hope the image of them paints across his eyelids, that he see them every time he blinks. I hope they give him headaches, the red of it too vivid to ignore, I hope he wants to wake up, struggles in the horror of running away but not getting anywhere. Blood pounding in his temples and echoing along his spine, leaving traces of heat and pain like sharpened fingernails digging into flesh. The bite of it lingering against his bones and coating his tongue, sliding down his throat when he breathes. I hope he’s stuck inside them, in the worst scenes he can imagine. I promise you, Kacchan, I’ll come up with something worse for you.

At least you can dream, even if you suffer nightmares. Often I cannot sleep at night, my body shakes, uneasy, my eyes ache, raw. When I do sleep, I only see black, for seconds at a time before waking, like no time has passed at all. At least I never have nightmares.

My brain never stops, Kacchan. I’m always thinking, always looking, always breaking things down and putting them together with my eyes. Always breaking you apart inside my head, looking at the bits and pieces of you and how they fit together, trying to understand. To know. It never. Stops. But you wouldn’t understand that, no. You shut down sometimes, Kacchan, just start move on instinct. The way you fight is like that, movement for movement’s sake, pure reaction. You’re not a stupid fighter, no, nor a lazy one, but it’s habitual, ingrained in you. You don’t think when you fight, Kacchan, someday that will get you killed.

Kacchan slept in today, 9:43, he still starts the morning with tea. He’s bleary-eyed and slow, still pulling himself from the darkness. I can imagine how heady his limbs must be, still bearing the aftereffects of Siren’s Quirk. She’s a strong one, with a smile like a whip. Needs to learn to better regulate her Quirk, if it can take a hero like Kacchan out for an entire day.

Note: look at Siren’s training regiment with Midnight. It must have been brutal. I wonder if they both have a sadistic streak, or if Midnight trained her disciple in the opposite direction?

Black, no milk, no sugar, but he brushes his teeth slowly. Buying time. He doesn’t want to head to work. Doesn’t eat breakfast, starts to greet Kirishima and pauses when there’s no Kirishima to greet. Of course. He’s already out on his rounds, Red Riot bravely protecting the masses and bringing smiles to children across the city. You don’t think in your routines, Kacchan, they’re ingrained in you, habitual. Someday that might get you killed. It’s interesting to see the small changes slowly take effect, to see him stagger in the realization. So slow, Kacchan. Such a shame. It makes the game longer for me, easier, since I know you’ll be in the same place when I return to you, truly like a piece on the board. You’re meant to be the opposing side, Kacchan, you need to make some moves of your own before too long. Maybe now, now that you’ve finally realized how unsettling it is to have your system shift, you’ll recognize the smaller changes in your daily life. Maybe this war can begin in earnest.

One can only hope.

Kacchan does not make it to work that day. He tries, drags himself up the stairs after washing his tea cup by hand in the sink and setting it to dry, uses an abundance of soap and spends extra minutes rinsing the suds away. I approve. When he raises his arms it is in staggered, jerking motions, as if his joints are being pulled by strings. That would be lovely, to have Kacchan on hooks, to have him nodding at my say so. He is no machine, is still human still fighting, but he could be a wonderful puppet, oh yes. Pull the soul from him, leave him dangling, bring him to his knees in front of me and let me wind him up. I’d tie his elbows and knees so gently, so he couldn’t even feel the bite of wire digging into his skin when I pulled him like a marionette. Take each step slowly, Kacchan, never raise your head unless I say so.

Yes sir, yes sir, nod in time to my heartbeat. Yes sir, yes sir, cry in time to my fingers, counting the measure of your worth to me.

But no matter what I do to him in the end, Kacchan would never follow my bidding. Not easily, at least. He’s too willful, too bright, too uncontainable. There is nothing that could stop Kacchan, once he puts his mind to it, nothing except me. I will stop him in his place, cradle his very essence in my fingers, and he would still not obey. Obedience is foreign to Kacchan, he bends even the rules of being a hero to his own needs, drives his own path. I admire this about him, it is simultaneously his most redeeming and his most irritating feature. He is unbearably stubborn. Perhaps this is why only Kirishima can truly stand Kacchan, he sees Kacchan’s stubbornness as manly, his determination and loyalty as steadfast as stones buried in the earth. Such a lapdog.

Gracefulness is foreign to Kacchan’s limbs, leaves him halfway up the stairs, a mix of half-hearted motion and gangly tangled elbows. He pulls off yesterday's shirt and kicks his sweatpants off his ankles, but never manages to pull on new clothes, simply collapsing into bed again. 1:34 in the afternoon, sun streaming through his windows. It took him four hours to make tea, drink it, wash his cup, and travel back upstairs to bed. There is no dinner, no evening tea, no stargazing. Kirishima is met with silence when he returns home, panics for a moment before finding Kacchan upstairs. I've never considered Kirishima's fear before, but it's almost as pretty as Kacchan's. Of course the Chivalrous Hero cares for Kacchan, he cares for everyone, but that special kind of concern is saved for special people, close friends, family. I know. It's been a long time since someone looked at me that way. He looks at Kacchan’s sleeping form with a strange sort of smile, and drags the covers up over his waist, legs thrown haphazardly across the mattress. He runs his fingers through Kacchan's hair, puts a glass of water on his bedside table, and rests his hand against Kacchan's forehead, for just a moment. Checking for fever. He won't find one though, Kacchan's worries are all inside his head. I'll make sure of it.

A few minutes after Kirishima leaves, Kacchan pulls himself into a ball. He doesn’t make a sound, but I can hear him crying from here. It tastes like over-sweetened coffee and panic on my tongue. Delicious.

Chapter Text

He starts his morning with tea. Early this morning, 5:34, he slept poorly last night, woke often. The tea seems to help his shoulders relax, breathing in the steam, no milk, no sugar, no teeth brushing. He sits in the same place for an hour before Kirishima wakes up and finds him. Kirishima is gentle today, prodding. He asks Kacchan if he’s eaten yet. A shake of the head. He asks Kacchan if he ate yesterday. Another no.

If you were paying attention like me, Kirishima, you’d already know these answers. He didn’t eat at all yesterday, asleep when you left home asleep when you came back. When would he have made something, you know Kacchan doesn’t cook. You’re not as good a friend as you think, Kirishima, forgetting about the effects of Siren’s quirk. I truly dislike that boy. His hair is annoying too, so bright. Although, when I think about it, no one in the League cares for their hair as much as he does, dye or no. Shigaraki’s is a tangled mess, Dabi just has bedhead all day, and Himiko can do her strange little buns in less than ten minutes. Kurogiri….well...he has no hair to fuss with. A good thing too, he always tells me. It’s so troublesome to have to style and clean and care for overall, a real hairy situation. You’d think for a vaguely man-shaped villainous mist creature, Kurogiri would have a better sense of humor, but no. It’s all strange commentary and food related puns, and I really don’t understand. It’s a good thing his jokes annoy Shigaraki, so he doesn’t make them that often. It ruins the ominous aura he’s built over the years, Kurogiri is better off saying mysterious one-liners and cleaning dirty glasses in the back for intimidation factor. That reminds me, I need to buy everyone new combs. Shigaraki keeps disintegrating his, not on purpose, he says, but it’s definitely on purpose.

Back to Kacchan, which means back to Kirishima, who’s being very vague today. Tells Kacchan to give  him  a call, it’s been a while since  they  talked, it would help, it always does and it’s frustrating being out of the loop. I shouldn’t be, I should  know  but they don’t give me a name, give me a name who is it, but Kacchan says no, he’s fine, and I can see Kirishima’s shoulders drop ever so slightly. He taps Kacchan’s bicep lightly, reminds him that he’s always there. Of course you are. You live together. If only I were so lucky...but I suppose this isn’t much different.

Watching him like this is close enough. Closer than he thinks.

Kacchan stops to brush his teeth today, methodically scrapes plaque from somehow spotless teeth, even takes the time to gargle mouthwash, mint. His breath will smell like spearmint all day, a strange blue residue on his tongue and in his sink. Obviously I can’t smell it from here, perched tens of feet away, but I can imagine. I have a good imagination. Kacchan dresses simply, like usual. Black shirt, short-sleeved, small steps. Shorts, just below the knee, tan colored. He does not borrow an undershirt, although he does squeeze Kirishima’s shoulder when he heads out for the morning. His fingers linger. Why? Kirishima hands him his toast, wheat, remember, wheat seven now white five, and Kacchan actually smiles. It’s small, and awkward, and almost looks more like a grimace, but the edges of his lips lift and the smile Kirishima offers back is brilliant. There’s peanut butter on it again.

Jogging to work at a brisk pace, Kacchan arrives a little early. He has time to change slowly, chewing the last of his toast. Taking a breather.

Good, because he gets a call about half an hour in, straightening papers around the office. It’s a lead from the police, Tanama again, but this time she wisely talks to Kacchan’s secretary. Good girl, she’s learning. Maybe she’ll be some fun later on. They have a lead on a smuggling ring that’s been building in the city and would like Kacchan to look into it with a few of his sidekicks, maybe find some more information. Smart of her, Kacchan’s PR accepts the job for him, he can’t refuse this way, can he? You’re surrounded by devious thinkers, Kacchan, maybe it would do you good to be a little more of a critical thinker.

Kacchan is actually quite a good strategist. He spreads his sidekicks out, sends them each to different parts of the city to look for clues while he scours the most recent lead. Kacchan knows their Quirks, knows them, somehow they’re all placed to best utilize their abilities. It’s impressive. But Kacchan is still the first to find something, to follow the trail like a bloodhound, nose to the ground. The clue is in the walls, messages disguised as graffiti and directions hidden beneath layers of paint, bubbled letters and coded images. He’s a sharp one, Kacchan, Number Two for a reason. There’s no doubt he earned his spot, not with demonstrations like this. He shows his worth every second of the day, brain quick, feet quicker. Once he knows the pattern, knows where to look, series of purple dots here and red lines there, cartoon arrow pointing at a sprayed-over stop sign that really points at alleyways, and Kacchan is golden. It’s a clever system true, one that took me a few moments to figure out, but the trick is simple enough. Color associations to make maps on the very walls of the streets you navigate, a handy tool to reference. Once Kacchan finds their base he sends a radio message to his sidekicks, tells them the secret and the task to hunts down any contacts they can find in the city. He’ll do the rest. Such a lone wolf, Kacchan, even with an army behind you, you still wouldn’t bring yourself to protect anyone else’s back, would you? Remember, Kacchan, you used your brain to find the map, you used your nose to find the rot. But those things leave you in the thick of it, you don’t think when you fight. I warned you, Kacchan, don’t complain when this ends poorly.

He doesn’t call for back-up or let anyone know where he is. Of course, it’s easier to charge in alone. No one to worry about. No one to blame. How will you handle this, Kacchan? They say coal become diamonds under pressure. Will you leave my fingers black when i reach to touch your skin, or are you starting to glitter?

When he reaches the doors, Kacchan is a steamroller. No one can stop him, watch guards silences with crushed throats, crumpled to the ground as they struggle to breathe. I haven’t seen Kacchan kill anyone. Not yet. That will change. He fights like a whirlwind, still leads with that familiar right hook and throws his whole body into the motion. Disregards distance, timing, the second he’s close enough Kacchan swings the first body he reaches into a hold, throwing him over his shoulder. It’s reminiscent of martial arts, although not exactly the same. I can see elements of basic moves in how he fights. Judo in the way his fingers curl, grappling techniques pulling bodies into locks, arms out of joints, so forceful I can hear the crack from here. It leaves them groaning on the floor, twisted. Karate in the way he spreads his feet, maintains balance, steps through the middle and punches from his gut. He’s gotten stronger there, more precise, his arm lands straight with a solid line from his knuckles to his elbow, centering mass. An explosion helps accelerate his force, he’s learned to use them in other places than his palm. Tae Kwon Do in the way his stance lengthens sometimes, swinging his feet above his head in wide kicks, pulling his center of gravity down and under. He tears through them like wet paper, the sound of cracking bones and tearing cloth, the smell of burning flesh echoing in my nose.

He isn’t careful when he fights, a blend of different styles carrying him through each motion, it’s not a hard fight but there are so many and only one of Kacchan. Such a pickle you’re in now, surrounded, this is what you get when you don’t think things through, when you don’t make plans.

A knife through the side and the scrape of your chin on cement, lucky blows landing wide but still hitting hard enough to make him wince.

It’s a drug ring, of course they’re doped up. Did you forget the details, Kacchan, before you went running? So careful with your men, this time around, not so careful with yourself. You can take down so many before the police get here, but in the end you’re still only one man. Only one hero. Thirty down in less than fifteen minutes, true, but that doesn’t mean anything with some of them elude you, when you have to chase them through the city, bleeding, aching, regretting. Kacchan curses and thumbs a button on his radio, contacts the police with his location.

Rooftop dancing was never meant to be your occupation, Kacchan. Although you do look so pretty falling.

He walks home from the hospital, holding his side carefully, and Kirishima berates him as soon as he steps in the door. Of course he knows, he saw it on the news, or did he? Did the hospital call jhim, did Kacchan’s PR, it wasn’t Kacchan himself. If they did call, why did Kirishima wait for Kacchan to get home instead of coming to get him? Maybe he knew it would happen this way, maybe he knew kacchan wouldn’t accept his help even if he came, would insist on walking home despite himself. What else does Kirishima know about Kacchan, that maybe I don’t? These long years of living together, and I only now start to question why Kirishima, why this place, why this work...so slow, so foolish of me to overlook such simple questions. I’m almost disappointed in myself. No, I am disappointed in myself. Teacher would expect better. Kurogiri would expect better. I know which one is more important: only one of them is dead. The living raised me, the living could still raze me, for all my knowledge now. There are some things it’s not enough to just  know .

It’s cold tonight. The temperature drops even when the sun is still hanging low in the sky, twilight sending stars to say hello. Kacchan sits inside today, perched on a chair at the kitchen table. He’s wrapped in blankets and sips a mug of tea, rose hips. A mild flavor. The steam still rises, curls around his hair and steams the window so I cannot see his face, cannot see his eyes. The outline of him is hazy, blank. Sometimes I wonder Kacchan, what is the point of it? When you stare at the sky, ask silent questions of the stars, so slow and blank and broken, I don’t understand what fascinates you so.

 

Tell me Kacchan, what do you see?

Chapter Text

He starts the morning with tea. Running a fever with a stab wound and he still wakes up, 7:54, back on schedule. It seems nothing stops him except his strange sleeping patterns. I’ve noticed Kacchan wakes often during the night, it takes him an average of twenty minutes to fall asleep again. He does not turn about during these restless moments, if it were not for the fact that I was watching and his shift to sudden stillness it would be unnoticable. He stares at the ceiling, face smudged in the dark and breathing shallow. What face does he make? I do not know. I hate being unable to see, if I could I would take a night vision Quirk. They’re rare, though, tricky, hard to find. Besides, body-modification Quirks have...interesting consequences, when mixed with a body like mine. Painful.

Kacchan nibbles at his toast, white, we’re back to wheat: seven, white: six. They’re almost even, but not exactly. He’s bruised, I can tell by the way he moves his arms carefully, slowly, the shuffle of his feet against linoleum designed to be gentle on his muscles. He fell from four stories yesterday, chasing the last of the drug ring across rooftops. He caught them all, but the consequence was broken ribs. Three. Not enough to make him stop moving, but dangerous, a double break in one sending risk of bone fragments in his lungs. Fortunately not. Unfortunately? I want to see more of Kacchan in action. I want to see more of Kacchan in pain. I cannot get the image out of my head, of Kacchan wheezing, bleeding, unable to pull in a full breath of air. Conflicted. Always Kacchan’s fault, only he can get me this concerned, this riled up, this confused. If it weren’t for Kacchan I could be a perfect villain. If it weren’t for Kacchan, I could be the perfect friend. Soon I’ll be at least one of those things, he won’t stand in my way, I won’t let him. I want him out of my head, this is the way, this is the project .

Kirishima insisted last night on calling Recovery Girl from Yuuei, using special dispensation as the Number Two hero. Secretly, of course. Kacchan almost wouldn’t let her anywhere near, only let her heal as much as she needed to to get him up and running again. Still sapped his energy, made him take a day off. He’s a professional, apparently when you run your own office you can decide your days off. Kirishima also takes the day off, despite not having as big an operation as Kacchan. He works solo, no office, no sidekicks. How rare.

Note: Kirishima may be one of the only ‘true’ heroes in existence. Fortunate? Unfortunate. There is no perfection in me, not yet, but he’ll still have to struggle against a ‘true’ villain.

He stays home to care for Kacchan. He’s stubborn, hard, like his Quirk would suggest. Unbreakable Mode is a force to be reckoned with, one I wouldn’t want to face myself. It is good to watch Kirishima, I need to pay more attention to him. There are many kinds of heroes, many ways to take them down. Look them in the eyes from straight ahead, weave from behind and catch them off guard. You need to be careful with the smart ones, plan. Earnest ones like Kirishima are easy to deal with. They make a living off being trusting, off being trustworthy, they fall for the big eyes and the hunched shoulders, the quiver in my voice and the shadows on my cheekbones. I’m small, thin, all wiry muscle, but they don’t need to know that. Direct their gaze to the bruises on my knees and the tremble in my fingers, how I twitch. Use habits to my advantage, play the victim. They always fall for it. I’m almost disappointed. Kirishima is strong, yes, don’t come head-on, play with his mind make him question make him useful. He could be very useful, pulled this way and that without even realizing. The trouble is Kacchan, who’s smart, Kacchan, who would find the pattern and cut the web, take Kirishima away from me. That’s why Kacchan goes first.

Kacchan drinks chrysanthemum tea today, lounging in the living room while he heals, slowly, under his own power. Recovery Girl helped, he will be on the streets again tomorrow, running patrols like always. No interruptions. No problems. Cupfuls of chrysanthemum tea, brewed by Kirishima, Kacchan’s normal black morning brew wrestled away and replaced every few hours. The cup isn’t even broken when they’re done, although a few drops of tea have sloshed over the edge to hit the carpet. It’s good that Kirishima cleans it quickly. Otherwise it would stain. What a novel concept, Kacchan, getting rid of the evidence before it can stain you. You haven’t had much practice, i know, your hands are almost black themselves, dripping with your guilt.

If he were a woman, Kirishima would make a good mother. I’ve decided. He frets over Kacchan like a child, wraps blankets around his shoulders to sweat the fever out and lays cool clothes over his forehead despite Kacchan’s protests. Kacchan never attacks Kirishima. Why?

Why does he not raise his fist why does he let Kirishima fuss why does he not cuss Kirishima out more than usual why does he leave the cloth on his forehead why does he eat the porridge Kirishima brings instead of finishing his toast why does he let himself be covered in blankets why does he sit close to Kirishima on the couch why does he smile at the silly show Kirishima has put on to pass the time why does he let Kirishima touch him so casually why is he letting his guard down here even in his home Kacchan is on edge and waiting, like a good hero, why does Kirishima spend so much time with Kacchan, the biggest jerk I’ve ever known why does he take care of Kacchan like they’re friends. Kacchan has no friends, he can’t, he never has. Ever since he was a child, Kacchan has been a ringleader, the one everyone followed, he had groupies not friends.

 

So why?

 

Why Kirishima? I don’t understand. There are many things I’ve seen, these past few days, I do not understand. The look in Kacchan’s eyes at night, the tilt of his head in consideration, the tiredness in his bones, but most of all Kirishima. The man with sunshine in his veins. Why does he stay by Kacchan’s side? I need to take time to categorize it. Analyse it. I will write my findings in tomorrow’s notes.

Chapter Text

He starts the morning with tea. 7:56, black, no milk no sugar no time to brush his teeth. Kacchan wastes no time today, he’s brisk, efficient. He must be feeling rushed, need to get make into his regular routine after such an irregular week. Signs: quick, hurried hands and a slight shuffle to his step, fingers running through his hair and scratching at a spot on his knee. He’s fidgeting, can’t sit still, brushing through the motions. Conclusion: Impatience. Kacchan wants to move on, get back to his tea and his toast and his simple clothes, white short sleeved shirt with tan shorts today. He never wears printed shirts. Is this because there is nothing he particularly likes, or a request from his Public Relations representative, so that he isn’t supporting anything and therefore can pick up more sponsorship deals? Well, non-fashion related sponsorships. If it is a request from PR, Kacchan doesn’t have any reason to follow it, the old Kacchan would never even consider bending to someone else’s needs, rules, desires. The old Kacchan would have worn what he wanted and been loud about it, rude, foul, dirty.

Kacchan is still loud, rude, foul, dirty, as evidenced by the way he berates a woman on the street as he jogs to work, her crumpled water bottle left on the side of the road. Not for long though. She picks up the bottle silently and carries it with her to the nearest trash receptacle, Kacchan’s wary eyes on her like a hawk. He waits. Just like me. Kacchan is impatient, but he waits. Like me. Yes, he is still all those things, but I have been watching and thinking and the Kacchan now is different from then. Of course, I have been slow.

First: Kirishima. The evidence. It all belongs to him.

Kirishima is not scared of Kacchan. He looks him in the eyes and ducks beneath his fists with a smile. Case one is this morning. Kirishima made Kacchan’s tea, the one thing he usually steeps himself, and Kacchan drank it. He trusts the red haired hero.

Case two is yesterday, the day before, all the days since I started watching all the days I didn’t pay attention. Kirishima shares casual touched with Kacchan, doesn’t flinch away, treats his wild swings and aggressive nature as teasing, as a game. He ruffles Kacchan’s hair he taps his shoulder he sits next to him on the couch, at dinner, he does not maintain distance. Kirishima pays attention to Kacchan in little ways, like it is absolutely normal. The solution is simple. Put it together.

When did Kacchan change? I’m sure it was when he met Kirishima. The boy who made friends with everyone, the boy who touted manliness, the boy who grew into a man that looked Kacchan in the eyes and laughed with him. Look closer, see all the little touches se all the tiny nods and subtle smiles, review your notes, why didn’t I write more about him? Too focused on Kacchan, too narrow-minded, I didn’t think it was important. Everything is important, never forget. Everything is connected, never forget. There is something here, something vital. They do not sleep together, they do not kiss, they do not hold hands. There is something less than lovers here. Kacchan lets him close Kacchan lets him touch Kacchan lets him laugh and gives him smiles Kacchan is happy to live with him. There is something more than strangers here. Friends. What a strange concept, For Kacchan. How else have you changed?

I know. I have so much I’ve missed but I know, now. I just wasn’t looking. How foolish. He is gentler now, in tiny ways, barely noticable. But he is still the same. Kacchan still hasn’t learned, he still reacts with violence. I imagine hero work hasn’t helped. Maybe he can have a friend now, but it works because of Kirishima, the one who puts in all the effort, I’m sure. I’m looking through the lens now, Kacchan. The spotlight getting brighter, free weights in your training room getting heavier. You can’t run away from this.

Reacts with anger, reacts with violence, why? Why are you always so angry, Kacchan? I want to taste what’s underneath, pull it from your bones. There’s something hiding there Kacchan, now I see. Now I wonder. You make me so curious. What does it look like inside your heart, red and aching? If I cut it open will tears spill out among the blood? I bet it would be easy, to pin you down, to pull it from your chest, I imagine it so often, Kacchan, but no, that is not the project. Hurting you like this is too easy, I want something harder, something that will last. I want to crawl under your skin, live there, make you live with me. Make you think of me in every breath you take, carve my name into your bones and scratch fingernails against the inside of your stomach, so no matter what you eat you never feel full. I want to linger in you, watch you crawl.

Today, Kacchan does mostly clean-up work, simple operations, and the press arrives as he’s finishing up, wiping excess sweat from his shoulders on the side of the road. They snap pictures of his muscles, of his hair, of the snarl tugging on his lips. A reporter asks Kacchan how he felt, stuck at Number Two hero for the last two years, no more rising in the ranks after his initially swift debut eight years ago. Kacchan scowled at him, gave the middle finger, how vulgar, but there was something behind his declaration, the angry words he spits, the threats he makes that he’s coming for Todoroki Shouto’s position, that someday soon he’ll overtake him as Number One. There is something behind his bravado, echoed in his eyes, it shines and I cannot tell exactly what it is but I know it, have felt it, a peculiar kind of desperation hidden behind outbursts. Animalistic, the press will say later, strong, respect on their tongues and in their fingers, unbreakable resolve. I’ll turn that respect to disdain. I want to expose that fear, Kacchan, the one you keep so well hidden, I want to dissect it, understand it, take it apart, take you apart, in front of everyone. What is at the core of you Kacchan, what has always been there, underneath the violence? What makes you smile at the powerless, like you are an avenger, like you are in charge, where does the need to dominate, the pleasure in hurting, come from? You haven’t changed at all, Kacchan, don’t pretend.

Go home, stomping feet against the ground. Drink your fancy teas, Ashwaganda and Golden Root, smile for the crowds in that half-broken, half-gaping way of yours, ready to swallow them. What are you so hungry for, Kacchan, that you can’t get? You’re starving, but they are too, flashing lights and greedy fingers, they want to sell your image, feed their own hope. I asked you what you were looking at, when I should have asked what you were looking for. I know, Kacchan, I know.

Do you?

Chapter Text

He starts his morning with tea. 7:56, no milk, no sugar, no toothbrush. At this point it’s obvious he’s not in the habit, only does it when he’s trying extra hard, has extra time and needs a task. Note: Kacchan is always busy, always moving. He doesn’t like to be without a purpose, rarely sits still unless he’s tired. It’s predictable now. Honest. Somewhat admirable. Only somewhat.

Kacchan dresses quickly, simply, grey shirt with short sleeves and cargo shorts over plain boxers. It seems like Kacchan doesn’t have any colorful or festive clothes at all, the only things I’ve seen him pull from his wardrobe are plain shirts like this, plain sweatpants or shorts like this. Perhaps Kacchan is lazy, perhaps there is a reason. He greets Kirishima, toast in hand. Wheat again. We’re becoming unbalanced now, nine to six. Significant preference against white toast. There seems to be no pattern here, in his otherwise organized life. Just the toast, same meal, different bread. I wonder why he doesn’t order this as carefully, why only this is random. Refer to Notes: Day Eleven. The bread is not important, it’s the why. I’m not any closer to figuring it out, almost a week later. How frustrating. But there have been other developments, other realizations. Almost as satisfying. No, More satisfying. I have answers now, I have a picture in my head, not one I painted but one I took, there’s a difference, remember that. I don’t get to paint pictures, I am an observer. So watch. It is not the time to act, not yet, be patient. Be a good boy. I will be, promise.

Jogging to work is simple, boring, same route as usual. No, shouldn’t call it boring, nothing about Kacchan is boring. Everything he does is fascinating, in it’s own way. But work, yes, this is better, I’ve designed something special for today. Sorry, sorry, promised to keep my hands out but I couldn’t resist, it’s just this once. And technically, I haven’t done anything myself, just pulled some strings, talked to a few people. It’ll happen. I just need to watch. Slips into his hero costume with ease, practiced. Of course. Rounds begin like normal but there’s a slight commotion today, one meant to catch Kacchan’s eye and it does, so very nicely. Three large men, dressed in dark clothes, acting suspiciously. He watches them drag a woman into an alleyway, young, mid-twenties, business attire, vaguely pretty, likely on her lunch break. One puts a hand over her mouth, skin turning slimy. It must smell horrible, if the way she screws her nose up and clamps her mouth shut is any indication, unwilling to let it in her mouth, effectively silencing screams. There’s panic in her eyes, legs kicking but the second man has a series of snake-like extra limbs emerging from the base of his spine and wraps them around her waist and thighs, trapping her against his back.

Do you remember, Kacchan, how that felt? So long ago, mud sliding down your throat, unable to move of your own accord, unable to breathe? I saw you, then, saw the terror in your eyes and I couldn’t save you, no one could except All Might. Really, who would want to help you, Kacchan, foul as you were, as you are, except All Might, the hero who saves everyone but the least of us, smiles for everyone but the least of us? She has the same terror in her eyes now, the same desperation, remember Kacchan.

Kacchan leaps down into the corner, landing on top of the third villain as he’s reaching for her, I can hear the crunch of bone from here, a sickening crack as his elbow bends unnaturally. His head hits the ground, hard, and his eyes close. Kacchan rips the woman free of the other two, tears streaming down her face. Kacchan is not gentle, he is quick, tearing her free and leaving slime on her clothes, tears in her jacket where the threads have come loose, wrapped in the villains arms. The force of his grip puts bruises on her wrists, but she’s free now. She’s free, for now, and stumbles partly out of the alley before her knees give out and she sinks against the brick. Her sudden appearance and the sound of Kacchan fighting with the other villains draws attention, rubberneckers turning to stare, the call put in for the police. I didn’t have to call them this time, good. It’s been long enough, they’ll arrive at the best part.

I can’t wait. Sirens flashing, blue and red getting closer. The light narrows on you Kacchan, remember the stage.

It’s easy to force the villain with snakes limbs into submission, he’s lower class, weak, but the slime-covered villain puts up a fight. He takes too much time and everyone is staring now, you’re not paying attention now, Kacchan, you never think when you fight. Someday it might get someone else killed, like her, like this woman, standing now on shaky legs, ready to run, but too late, too late. The third villain, the one with the broken arm, is awak now, eyes open, bones creaking. He ignores the pain, pulls a knife with his good hand and holds it to her throat, pressing his body against her back, teeth razor sharp, and calls your hero name. How does Ground Zero feel, turning from his fight to see a hostage he’d just saved? Kacchan crashes into the villain, too fast, too hard, can’t control himself and as he falls the knife flashes, cuts into her throat.

There is blood and Kacchan flails and the villain is bleeding out, smirk on his face. I can’t hear what he croaks, but I know, I know because I made sure they would be here, wanted to know how this played out. Smuggling ring, gone free now, other two fled this one dying, he won’t tell a thing. You’ve lost your lead, Kacchan, and there’s a girl on the ground bleeding out too. Who will you save, they’re staring Kacchan, think quick.

He chooses her, of course, he chooses her, like a good hero, lifts her head to wrap his hand around her neck, stop the bleeding with pressure. It leaks between his fingers, can’t stop, won’t stop, and he crouches there until the ambulance arrives, a few minutes behind the police.

Blood is on his hands and Kacchan can’t seem to stop staring. He’s seen his share of blood, undoubtedly, but this was a mistake, wasn’t it, Kacchan? Blood you spilled, blood you failed to protect. You saved her, but you were careless, weren’t you? You saved her, but all those other girls are lost now, all your fault, too impatient.

Eyes wide, breath fast, staring at his hands, Kacchan is slow to wipe them off, slow to clean, slow to go home. He goes through the motions of evening training, sits on his bench, weights in hand and stares at the wall, thinking. What are you thinking, Kacchan? Are you thinking of the feeling of her pulse against your fingers, fast and frantic as you tried to hold her life inside her, the warmth of her blood in your palms, the flutter of air in her throat as she choked on herself, tried to draw in breath and failed? Are you thinking of her face, the nameless woman with the bright blue eyes, ripped jacket and terror as hands wrap around her throat. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t struggle. In a world full of Quirks, you never expect the simple, do you Kacchan, the violence human hands can bring, the flash of a knife. Are you thinking of her face, the moment the blade cut into her skin, or are you thinking of the villain’s face, the delight lighting him from inside, glee as he realizes that his friends have gotten away, that he’s about to die? Are you thinking of the smirk across his lips, the gravel of his last words, the chill against your spine, sweat cold and unusable?

Or are you thinking of my face, barely glimpsed through the crowds, a flash of green twisted into horror and disappointment? My face, young and fresh, exactly as you remember, but looking at you like you were a burnout instead of the sun. She does such good work, knows just the right time to appear. Are you thinking of the look in my eyes, Kacchan, only there a moment, are you questioning your senses? Because I couldn’t possibly be there, I know, not like that. You still think I’m dead, Kacchan, but you’ll learn. I know.

I know. Promise, it’s coming.

Kacchan is staring at the stars again, recovered enough to sit outside, warm enough to do so without a blanket or jacket of any kind. He looks quieter today, haunted, ghosts in his eyes and the way he breathes. Slowly, evenly, with a hitch in the middle. The tea he drinks seems warmer than usual, there’s more steam. It curls around his cheekbones to soften them, makes him look even younger. Searching. On the edge of something, almost, not quite ruined. We’re getting there, I promise you Kacchan. We’ll get there, eventually.

Ginger tangerine rooibos. The ginger adds a bit of spice, the tangerine sweetness with an edge, I know, I’ve had this tea before. I remember the smell of it, low and soothing, from back in the beginning, when I was still used to sleeping at night and suffered from long hours, stars awake brain awake always overthinking. I’m still thinking now, but not overly. I’ve had practice. It’s been a long process, coming here. Setting up. I’ve been secret for so long but the game is starting now, ten years after the gun signalled the beginning of the race. You didn’t think there was any competition, did you, Kacchan, worked hard but slacked off, stopped running and settled for a walk. I’ve been behind you all this time, not at the starting line, no, but building the foundation. Little moments, little twists, missing people. I’ve spent my time wisely, Kacchan, building homes for all the children who never become heros. The moment you turn to look at me again will be the moment I’ve caught up, the moment you register me close to you, blinking in surprise, you’ll be left behind Kacchan, your turn to catch me, if you can.

Interesting, Kacchan, that you’ve chosen this tea tonight. I wonder if you know its effects, if it means something for your other tea choices in the past. I’ve recorded them, I’ll check. Look at your own notes, Kacchan, put the dots together, I’ve given you hints, catch me if you can. Please.

But looking at the evidence, I’m so disappointed...I doubt you can, Kacchan. At least, not before it’s too late.

Chapter Text

He starts the morning with tea. 7:53, no milk no sugar, no time to brush his teeth. He always drinks black tea in the morning, no additives, sweeteners, or alterations. At night he drinks something different, no repeats so far, as far as I know. Three days, missing notes. I wish Nacht were still alive so I could punish him again. Those three days are important, I need them. I will do without them. But why does Kacchan drink different teas at night? What do they mean, what do they do? I asked yesterday, the rooibos. There’s something here. Notes, here:

Jasmine Tea; it has healing properties. Antioxidants, help fight damaged cells, yes, but usually a relaxant. Mental and physical, the smell helps lower heart rate and calms the senses, improves cardiovascular health and joint pain.

Lavender Tea; anti-inflammatory, good for body and mind, meant to reduce anxiety. Especially in women. Kacchan is not a woman though. Dampened effects.

Chamomile with Orange; the chamomile itself is what’s effective. Orange is for flavor, the tang it gives is nice or it wouldn’t have been used. The chamomile is caffeine-free, natural muscle relaxant. Has a positive effect on sleep and soothes nerves. Research shows it also acts as an antibacterial and controller for hyperglycemia, diabetics. That isn’t Kacchan’s problem, obviously, but it’s interesting, put it in my notes for future reference. If Sensei were still alive, he might find it useful. He had many health problems. But no, focus, Kacchan. Specifically, Kacchan’s tea, today. Chamomile is well known for reducing anxiety symptoms, may relieve depressive symptoms as well through it’s relaxing properties.

Valerian Root Tea; supposedly one of the best teas ever discovered in terms of calming oneself. It has a historical background, been around a while. Hippocrates, father of modern medicine. Well, not really, modern medicine has advanced fairly quickly. He prescribed it as a cure for insomnia in the 4th century. Today we know more. Treats stress, fear. But kacchan didn’t drink it alone, he had two cups of tea that night. Lemon Balm Tea; terpenes from citrus. Cause relaxation, to fight against insomnia, but cold sores too. I’ll remember that. It’s handy in winter. Shigaraki suffers from terrible cold sores. It would be better if he learned a skin care routine, moisturized, used the chapstick Kurogiri always buys for him, but no. Somehow the chapstick always ‘accidentally’ gets lost, falls from his pocket, is left somewhere, was disintegrated when Shigaraki was being clumsy. Kurogiri always buys more, we would save money if Shigaraki would only accept his fate. Helps heartburn and Alzheimer’s too, how useful. I’m definitely having Shigaraki drink some, perhaps it will improve his memory. Remember the chapstick. Anti-anxiety when combined with Valerian Root, good job, Kacchan, you’ve done your research. Or Kirishima has? No, Kacchan. Kirishima doesn’t drink tea, doesn’t care. Kacchan does all the work here, it’s something he cares about. Promotes relaxation and deep, peaceful sleep, reduces stress, irritability, nervousness, and depression. Maybe you should drink it more often Kacchan, it would make you calmer, more approachable.

Passionflower Tea; can be found in compressed version in a medicine called Oxazepam. However, concentrations can cause overdose symptoms, drowsiness, headaches. Relaxant, again. Stay with the tea.

White Tea; uncured, unfermented. Most potent anti-cancer properties of all teas, especially processed leaves. Associated with purity, harmony, due to their naturally dried and often organically harvested nature. Traditionally from China, the lore is fascinating: picked only a few times a year, when bai hao, white down, grew on the fresh shoots, which wither to stop oxidation. Delicate, fancy, I approve, but no, can’t get sidetracked.

Rose Hip Tea reduces inflammation and lowers risk of heart disease, fights cancers and detoxifies your body. I remember Mama mentioning it once. So many health benefits, strengthens immune system, clears skin, eases pain...but Kacchan doesn’t drink enough, not regularly, no great effects. These things are gradual, but he only takes it once, a different one each night. Can he not make up his mind or is there purpose here? I’ll continue.

Chrysanthemum Tea; another healthy drink. Prevents sore throats and reduces fever. Note: In Korea, it’s known for medicinal uses but also as an energizer or pick-me-up.  It’s used in many different places. Western medicine, treats circulatory illnesses or disorders. China, again, said to clean your eyes and your liver, reducing symptoms caused by stress.

Ashwaganda Tea is rare, I wonder how Kacchan got his hands on it. It’s traditional, thousands of years old, from Indian medicine. Kacchan’s borrowing from across the whole globe, similar needs similar results. He’s not restricting himself, but then, Kacchan never really has. Supposedly promotes a feeling of wellness and vitality, read it off the box Kacchan keeps on his counter. Oops, I think that’s cheating, if it isn’t my own research. Oh well. What matters is what else it says, meant to clear the mind, reduce ‘severe stress and nervous exhaustion’.  Of course, as a hero I’m sure Kacchan has a lot of stress, but he also drank Golden Root tea that night, also known as Rhodiola Rosea Root or Roseroot, regulating hormones to improve your mood. Anti-anxiety, much like chamomile. It tastes almost bitter to me, when I tried it. Of course, I don’t usually drink teas, not anymore, Maybe I’ve just lost my taste for them. Maybe it’s because I don’t see the point anymore. Kacchan though, he hasn’t given up, not yet. He tries so many different kinds, he’s looking for something special. Something specific, something common. He’s running out of teas to taste, poor thing. Maybe once he does he’ll stop running away and choose.

California Poppy Tea; comes from a flower. That’s different, it uses the seeds. Not an herb. Can be dried into tea for headaches, but it also makes you drowsy, ready to sleep. Helps with insomnia and nervousness. It’s an extract too, can be added to any tea for a more effective dose, but Kacchan sticks with the tea. Because the extract is too bitter, or because it’s too effective? I know the feeling of wanting to fall asleep, but being afraid of losing too much at night.

I’m not sure Kacchan feels that way. Watch his eyes, normally so sharp, droop at night. No, Kacchan is relieved to go to bed, peppermint tea ridding him of stress and headaches, any pesky symptoms of illness. Menthol means it’s a muscle relaxant, it brings vivid dreams, chases away insomnia. Boosts concentration. Concentrate, Kacchan.

Rosemary Tea; calming. Mostly used in regards to it’s scent, reducing stress and anxiety responses.

Now we’re somewhere familiar, ginger tangerine rooibos. I’ve used this before, drank this before, it’s the one that sparked my interest. Headaches, insomnia, asthma, eczema, bone weakness, hypertension, allergies so many different uses. So many bits and bobs that help the brain settle, help your limbs feel heavy. Caffeine-free too, and low in tannins. If you brush them afterwards, Kacchan, it won’t stain your teeth. I know you have problems with that, but I didn’t, so why are your teeth just as sparklingly shiny as mine? It’s almost unfair, Kacchan, I swear. You’re disgustingly unfair, with your bared teeth and flashing eyes, blaming everyone around you. I was wrong before Kacchan, you do blame yourself, you just don’t acknowledge it. Deep inside, it’s all need for hibiscus tea, lowering high blood pressure, full of minerals antioxidants and vitamin C, treating anxiety and curing liver disease, you’re stressed Kacchan, I know, but downing different teas won’t fix your problems, especially if you don’t drink them regularly. You’ve so many suggestions and can’t settle for one, have to take them all, have to try them all. How unsurprising.

There’s a pattern here, I know. I see it. It’s so clear now, the secret he’s keeping, not anymore. I just had to put the pieces together, it’s laid out in front of my nose. But for all the different kind he drinks, Kacchan has never touched green tea. I wonder why. It is because he doesn’t like the taste, or because the color of it reminds him of something else, someone else, and matcha sours on his tongue to something bitter?