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forsaking the sun

Chapter Text

“You had one job, Katsuki,” his mother told him when he was nine. She’d started to get angry, but then ran a hand through her hair and flopped down on the living room sofa and sighed.

He was supposed to take the trash out. He was going to, too, except he’d gotten distracted by the cat he’d seen slinking around the corner of their house, whiskers twitching and gray ears flattened in suspicion.

And then he’d set the trash bag down and followed after it, because hey, he was nine. He was a fucking dumbass when he was nine, but who wasn’t?

Anyway, he’d followed after the gray-eared cat and she’d gone into an alleyway, and he’d gone after her. She was probably hunting and he was probably disturbing her, but he was nine at the time and didn’t really care.

He just wanted to pet her, maybe, to play with her a little because he’d been begging his parents for years for a pet and they always said no because of Dad’s shitty allergies and Mom’s obsession with being a neat freak which he unfortunately took after (like everything else, he got everything from his mother, fucking everything). Of course the cat hadn’t let him because who in their right minds would want a grubby nine year old putting their hands on them? Katsuki wouldn’t.

But the point was, he wanted to pet the cat and he forgot to take the trash out, and if that wasn’t enough, it turned out that particular alleyway was a favorite hangout spot for those two sixth grade dipshits, Awase and Ken’ichi. They were fucking around, smoking or eyeing up girls or something, Katsuki was nine and he didn’t really care, and they spotted Katsuki immediately.

Apparently they still held a grudge from the time Katsuki had blown up their new handheld game because they’d poked fun at his absolutely badass skull t-shirt (no one did that and lived to tell about it, especially not two sixth grade dipshits) and so they decided that now was as good a time as any for payback. And of course Katsuki wasn’t just going to stand around and let that happen, so he whipped out his quirk and let off a few warning blasts.

Like he said though, they were dipshits. Stupid ones. They didn’t know what was good for them and so they kept coming at him like they thought they could take him.

They couldn’t, obviously, never in a fair fight, but then that goddamn motherfucker Ken’ichi thought it was a good idea to bring up the point that Katsuki had been following the cat, so naturally it must be his cat.

And then Awase, with his big, ugly, jeering face picked up the cat by the scruff of her neck and turned his fingers into a pair of fucking scissors, which was a shitty quirk if Katsuki ever saw one, and told Katsuki he was gonna cut her tail off.

It wasn’t even his goddamn cat.

But it pissed him off so fucking much that he didn’t even notice when Ken’ichi snuck up behind him and pinned his arms behind his back and held him there so Awase could do his best to beat the shit out of him, or something. He’d yelled and cursed at them and told them he was gonna blow their asses sky high if they didn’t let him go, and they’d sniggered their ugly dipshit laughs and Awase punched him in the stomach.

It fucking hurt, and Katsuki doubled over, gasping. He was gonna kill those motherfuckers, he was gonna murder them until they couldn’t walk.

And he did, because Ken’ichi’s grip loosened when Katsuki had bent double and he was able to twist one arm free.

He brought it up in Ken’ichi’s face and set off an explosion, not strong enough to blow his face up but enough to singe it. Those assholes were lucky he was so skilled with his quirk, otherwise they would’ve both been six feet under. Ken’ichi had yelped and jumped back but Awase kept coming so Katsuki had no choice but to murder him, too.

Awase swung with one fist and clipped Katsuki’s jaw, but Katsuki set off an explosion to his gut and stomped on his toes and then kicked him in the kneecaps as hard as he could. Awase crumpled.

Ken’ichi came back for more, since he was a fucking moron, and they brawled it out in the alleyway for a good five minutes longer while the cat quietly slunk away, forgotten. By the time Katsuki had beaten Ken’ichi satisfyingly black and blue and was sporting a good number of cuts and bruises himself, the cat was long gone.

He hauled himself back home, ignoring his nosy neighbor Mrs. Kobayashi when she asked him what on earth had happened, and then thought to himself, oh shit the trash, I forgot to take the trash out oh shit—

By then it was too late. The trash was already outside, neatly sorted, and fuck, now his mom was gonna be pissed. Especially when he walked inside looking like he’d gotten run over by a god damn truck.

“Katsuki!” His mom yelled threateningly from the kitchen when she heard the door open, and he braced himself, grimacing. “What the hell! Where’d you go, huh?! Your father had to get up to take out the trash because of your lazy ass, his back is killing him and you made him get up—”

She came out of the kitchen to greet him at the front door, spatula held menacingly in one hand. They already had dinner, so he didn’t know why she was still holding it. Probably thought it made her look more intimidating or some shit. It didn’t.

Well, maybe it did, a little. He glared at her and stomped on past to the sitting room where his father was sprawled out on the sofa with a heating pad on his back. Her face went from furious to shocked to pissed off.

“What the fuck, Katsuki! Your face! How the hell did you get into another fight, you damn brat?!”

He scowled and snatched a tissue from the kleenex box to scrape at the blood crusting beneath his nose. “There were two dipshits and they were gonna murder a fucking cat.”

His mother’s face did a complicated thing while his father looked on, somewhat passively. Katsuki glared back.

“You were taking the trash out,” his mother said slowly. “How’d you run into two brats?”

He said, “I followed the cat.”

His mother’s face did that complicated thing again, and she set the spatula down on the TV stand. “You followed the cat.”

He glowered at her resolutely and didn’t say anything else.

“Dear,” his father said softly from the sofa.

His mom rubbed the bridge of her nose. She ran a hand through her hair and closed her eyes and flopped down on the living room couch.

She said: “You had one job, Katsuki.”

It’s really fucking funny, the memories his brain decides to throw back at him when he’s practically an inch away from death. There are fingers closing around his ankles and then a massive force yanking him down, down, so hard that his head slams into the ground and he blacks out for a second.

Literally, he blacks out. His vision goes completely dark and his limbs go limp and he flops, like his mother had six years ago, onto the rubble below.

Then his eyes shoot open and he gasps once, heaving, and sets off the biggest explosion he can.

Dust billows up everywhere, and he’s not sure if he hit any of those motherfuckers but at least he can use this cover to run, to get away as fast as he can. He fucked up. God fucking damn it, he fucked up—

You had one job, Katsuki! His brain screams at him, except this time it’s in his own voice and the consequences are a hell of a lot worse than a detention after school for fighting and a two week grounding with no video games.

The cloud of dust makes it hard to see, but if Katsuki squints hard enough, he can see Kirishima and Deku and Iida growing farther and farther away, Kirishima’s face twisted in horror as he looks back. He probably can’t even see Katsuki anymore.

Maybe if he tries again, he can make it—he can fucking do this, it shouldn’t be this hard—fuck, his arms are numb and tingling. He overused his quirk, his muscle fibers feel like they’re literally separating from his bones.

He chokes on the dust and sets off another explosion anyway. It’s weak and gets him about two feet in the air before sputtering and dying out. Katsuki’s ass meets the dirt hard enough to send a painful jolt up his spine.

“Fuck,” he hisses, and starts crawling out of that fucking dust cloud even though he feels pathetic doing it. He can’t see Kirishima or Deku or Iida anymore. Maybe if he can get to All Might—shit, All Might is over there fighting the creep with no face. Maybe he can still get away before these fuckers find him again.

Something warm and wet is trickling down from the side of his head. He puts his hand to it and his fingers come away bloody. His skull is throbbing—if he has a concussion, he’s screwed. There’s a god-awful ringing in his ears that refuses to go away.

There are voices behind him calling out, rough and angry. He places one of them as that Shigaraki guy, and another one—that’s the girl with the knives. Katsuki’s heart pounds out of his chest. He’s not scared, dammit, he’s faced shit like this before and come out on top.

A flash of metal whizzes past his ear and impales itself in the ground a centimeter away from his hand. The knife girl says, “I’ll flush him out! Don’t worry, I’ll find him!”

“Fuck,” Katsuki mutters again, and staggers to his feet. He’s gotta run, it doesn’t matter where. Out of the dust cloud, away from the battle and out of All Might’s way—there’s gotta be some pros around here somewhere.

“No need,” a dry voice hisses behind him, and Katsuki whips around and sets off an explosion.

He doesn’t even think to lessen the power behind it this time to make sure he doesn’t accidentally murder someone, just aims and fires. He’ll toast this fucking hand-face. He’ll turn him into ashes—shit, is his heart supposed to be rattling his rib cage this hard?

Shigaraki screeches once and staggers back. The hand covering his face falls to the ground, charred black. The fucker’s face is red and blistering around the edges, hair singed and smoking. Katsuki can smell burned flesh.

It’s awful, the worst thing he’s ever smelled in his life and he thinks he might actually vomit, but the need to get the hell out of there overrides his urge to puke. Katsuki staggers away from Shigaraki, who’s hissing and screaming and clutching his burned face like he’s gone mad. He looks fucking deranged. Katsuki chokes on his own air and stumbles back, holding up a hand in warning.

“Sensei!” Shigaraki screams in a garbled voice, and lunges towards him anyway. Katsuki throws himself out of the way of those five outspread fingers. He knows at this point what they’ll do to him if they touch him.

His dust cloud is finally starting to clear. Katsuki glances around frantically. Through the haze, he can just make out All Might’s figure as he gets thrashed by that no face villain. That shouldn’t be happening—that’s not fucking right. That can’t be All Might.

Dimly, he registers that there are other bodies lying about, still and unmoving. A denim clad figure is settled on top of a pile of wreckage, limbs sprawled at awkward angles. Further back is Mt. Lady’s gigantic form, face-first in the dust. And on his right—

“Fuck,” Katsuki gasps, and just barely manages to throw himself out of the way before the masked marble villain latches onto him with a dirty, gloved hand.

The dust cloud is gone and the villains are regrouping, surrounding him on all sides. Shigaraki is still raving like a lunatic, clawing at his burned face and screaming for his sensei, but the others, knife girl and the magnet woman and the marble man and—freaking japanese Deadpool are all there and closing in, and—fuck.

“Stay back,” Katsuki says as fiercely as he can, but his bravado is fading away. One quick glance towards the skies tells him that Kirishima and Iida and Deku are long gone—they probably crash landed somewhere nearby, they couldn’t have gotten too far.

A small, selfish part of him hopes that they’ll come back. Katsuki squashes it.

“Stay back,” he spits again threateningly, when Knife Girl edges in too close. She grins dizzily at him, all canines and white teeth and glittery eyes.

“I wonder how your blood tastes,” she croons, and slides a knife from under her sleeve.

Fuck this. He means it—fuck this. He’s not letting them take him a second time. His arms feel like they’re going to fall off but Katsuki jerks his palms up to face outwards and lets loose the biggest explosion he can pull off.

His ears ring.

“Sensei!” Shigaraki shrieks as Katsuki runs, weaving on his own two feet and gagging on his own smoke. “Sensei, wait!”

The other villains are shouting, attacking, furious—the one with the magnet quirk lunges for him and grabs Katsuki’s forearm. Her fingers tighten around his flesh hard enough to bruise and he swears he hears his bones creak in her grip. His eyes widen. It’s gonna snap—

“Sensei!” Shigaraki is practically sobbing breathlessly, wrinkly gray hands outstretched towards the fucker without a face. No Face tilts his head in his direction and says—

“Go. Take the boy with you.”

Magnet’s sneering face leers down at him. This isn’t fucking happening.

“Fuck you!” Katsuki yells raggedly, and unleashes a barrage of explosions against Magnet’s rock solid gut. “Fuck you, son of a bitch, fucking let me go—”

“Feisty!” Magnet jeers. Katsuki grits his teeth and slams his palm as hard as he can over and over into the villain’s stomach, but hardly manages to singe a hole through her damn shirt. His explosions are weak as shit right now from how exhausted and in pain he is, and there’s nothing else he can do.

“Bakugou!” All Might calls to him desperately, and gets laid out so hard by No Face that Katsuki swears he sees a tooth fly out his mouth.

“All Might!” He screeches. His own voice sounds raspy and broken and so inhuman, he can hardly believe it’s his. All Might coughs up blood and bile and—this isn’t fucking happening.

Knife Girl and the marble villain are closing in and he struggles, giving up his pride to thrash like a wounded animal caught in a trap. This is wrong, all wrong on so many levels. Fuck, he’s fucking—he’s—

“Alright, that’s enough out of you,” the marble villain says, and claps a hand over the back of his neck.

Terrified.

Then it all goes dark.

Chapter Text

Kirishima stares down at the tiled floor, shiny in the harsh white lighting of the police station, and doesn’t say anything.

Beside him he can feel Midoriya trembling, and beyond that Iida is clenching his fists, and beyond Iida, Todoroki and Yaoyorozu bite their tongues. In front of him is the policeman, chewing them out for their stupidity.

Kirishima doesn’t say anything.

He’s oddly hollow—he thinks maybe he burned through all his rage and terror fighting Iida to let him turn back, Bakugou needed him, he needs us Iida, fuck you, let me go—

There’s an empty spot on his left.

He hardens his fingers and squeezes them into his palms. The skin breaks, the blood wells up, and the policeman’s lecturing grows further away.

It was a crazy plan—crazy fucking stupid, maybe. Maybe it was because they’d acted a second too late, or the villains were a step too close, or Bakugou’s reaction time was the tiniest bit delayed—but whatever it was, it’d failed. Bakugou hadn’t gotten five feet off the ground before he was dragged back down and had his head bashed into broken concrete.

Kirishima doesn’t—fuck, his throat is closing up—he doesn’t even know if Bakugou is still alive.

At that moment, he would’ve given anything to trade quirks with Bakugou. At least then Bakugou could’ve hardened and saved himself from head trauma, or brain injury, or maybe death.

He decides he doesn’t want to go there.

“—your teacher is on his way,” the policeman is saying. “He’s very displeased.”

Midoriya stiffens. So does Iida. Todoroki and Yaoyorozu stare guiltily at the floor.

Kirishima just braces himself. He doesn’t know how much he can handle Aizawa yelling at them right now. Maybe if it had all paid off, if Bakugou was standing there beside him, he could’ve taken the consequences, but now he just feels empty and awful, like he’s folding in on himself and his lungs are too deflated to breathe.

“We’ve also notified your parents,” the policeman tells them, crossing his arms over his chest. “They’re coming to take you back home afterwards.”

“Do you even have any leads on where the villains took Kacchan?”

The room goes silent. Kirishima’s head snaps to the side. Midoriya’s voice is shaky, but his expression is resolute.

The policeman shifts awkwardly from one foot to the other and uncrosses his arms. “Kid—”

“Do you?” Midoriya asks again, this time more firmly. Iida gapes at him and Yaoyorozu winces, bringing a finger up to her lips. Todoroki is strangely unaffected, watching Midoriya with steady eyes. “Anything at all?”

The policeman sighs deeply and rubs his temple between his thumb and forefinger. “It’s too hectic out there right now for us to know anything for sure. We’ve got a crisis on our hands right now, but rest assured—”

The door to the police station bangs open and they all jump. Kirishima’s heart leaps to his throat, thinking for a second that the villains are back, that the creep with no face somehow broke out and came looking for them.

Then a gust rushes in and Aizawa’s scarf flutters as he descends on them with unbridled fury. They all shrink back on instinct, and Kirishima’s eyes dart back to the floor. He can’t bring himself to look at his teacher.

“Sensei—” Iida begins, but Aizawa cuts him off, voice thick with rage.

“What the hell were the five of you thinking?”

Iida opens and closes his mouth. There’s nothing any of them can say in their defence. They don’t have Bakugou. There’s no point.

The policeman looks back and forth between them and their teacher before nodding once and backing out of the room. Aizawa barely acknowledges him. Kirishima’s never seen him this angry.

“You threw yourself right into the thick of things. What did you expect to accomplish? You knew the pros would be here. Did any of you stop to consider that your interference might actually make matters worse? What if the villains had captured another student? What if you’d been killed?”

“Kacchan needed a way out,” Midoriya whispers, even as he stares at his shoes. Kirishima envies him. He’s so devoted, towards a person he doesn’t even like.

And Kirishima—Kirishima can’t bring himself to speak a single word.

Aizawa is far less impressed. “And you failed spectacularly at giving him one.”

The words cut like a cold knife. Kirishima shudders at the steeliness in his teacher’s voice. He knows they failed. In his mind’s eye, Bakugou’s skull meets the concrete and stains it a bloody red.

“You need to hear that,” Aizawa says harshly. “Because this class seems to make this mistake over and over again— you especially, Midoriya. Your bullheadedness and refusal to think things through is going to kill you and everyone around you. The only reason—”

Midoriya flinches hard. There are tear tracks running down his face to match Kirishima’s. They’re both crying and it’s awful, it’s not the time.

Aizawa notices and exhales slowly, like he’s in pain. He brings a hand up to his forehead and rubs it slowly. There are lines in his face, Kirishima realizes. Aizawa looks so tired.

“The only reason I’m not expelling the lot of you is because at this point, it’s safer to keep you in school where the pros can keep an eye on you,” Aizawa says finally. “And you need to continue your training on how to properly defend yourselves. Now, especially.”

What about Bakugou, Kirishima wants to ask, but the lump in his throat betrays him. Yaoyorozu beats him to it.

“And Bakugou, Sensei?” She asks, eyes red but voice surprisingly steady.

“We’ll continue the search for him, of course,” Aizawa replies heavily. “For as long as it takes to find him.”

Find him.

Not rescue him.

The implications of that are enough to make Kirishima sick. Bakugou’s head is slick with blood against the concrete, pulsing and red and dribbling down his brow, running into his eyes—

“Go home,” Aizawa says. Kirishima hears the regret in his voice. “When your parents come for you, go home. And stay there.”

Katsuki hits the floor in a tangle of limbs. He rolls onto his hands and knees, crashes into a stool, and vomits.

His throat fucking burns. He retches, arms shaking as he tries to hold himself up. Smoke poisons his body from his own explosions and he can’t quit heaving, rib cage expanding and contracting in time with the pounding in his head.

His surroundings filter back to him in waves. There’s movement, agitated clanging, shouting. There are legs all around him, feet moving. Another body is on the floor next to him. Scarred face, black hair—Dabi. It’s that other villain. He must be unconscious.

“I’ll kill him!” Shigaraki screeches above the din, and Katsuki can’t help it when he jolts, head snapping up as the interval between his breaths comes faster and faster. “Move—get out of the way, I’ll fucking kill him!”

The legs part as the villains scramble to the sides. No—no, stay there, don’t fucking move— he can’t defend himself right now. Katsuki shoves himself off his hands and knees and falls back onto his ass. His arms are numb and trembling from exertion and his legs are so wobbly that he doesn’t think he could stand if he tried.

Fuck, he needs to though. He needs to stand, and—and fight like he was doing before, before he was shoved inside a marble and that warp gate villain’s quirk swallowed them all whole. He needs to, he needs to get up—

His head throbs like nothing else though, and a wave of dizziness hits him like club to the stomach. Katsuki swallows down the nausea and tries not to vomit again. The foul smell of the acidic bile he puked up before drifts up to assault his nose, and he gags.

He probably is concussed. And on top of that he’s a fucking mess, tacky blood drying on his hands and in the creases of his eyelids from where it ran down his head.

The dim, yellowed lighting of wherever the hell they are is nearly impossible to see clearly in, but he can make out low ceilings and thick stone walls. There’s a counter at his back, lined with wooden stools, and for a second he thinks they’re back in the same shitty bar they started in. But it’s different—the air is thick and dusty, heavy with must, and there are no windows at all. Just one solid metal door that looks like it could withstand more than a little brute force.

But before he can puzzle out where the hell they’ve dragged him this time, Shigaraki’s livid face crowds his vision. Savage red blisters bubble around his jaw and temple, but Katsuki can’t find it in himself to take any satisfaction in mangling the sick fucker. He leans away, tightening his jaw and scowling to hide how fucking scared he is right now.

The pros and All Might are long gone. He’s been teleported by that cloudy-quirked motherfucker to god knows where—they could be in the middle of nowhere. How the hell are they supposed to find him this time? How are they gonna—

“You,” Shigaraki hisses, rancid breath filling Katsuki’s air. “This is your fault! You couldn’t have just listened, played your damn role—you’re a pawn. I hate it when my players don’t do what I tell them to! It’s not fair!”

Someone needs to give this shithead a reality check—life’s not a freaking video game—but Katsuki’s not gonna be that person. Not when those hands are edging closer and closer to his throat. Shigaraki gets a hold of him for a few seconds, he can say goodbye to his vocal cords. Any longer than that and his whole throat will be crumbled to ash.

“Sensei gave himself up for me,” Shigaraki continues. “For you.”

He stabs a finger against Katsuki's chest. Four more and there’ll be a hole in his heart. Is he gonna fucking die? Is this it? His mom and dad are probably out of their minds right now. He grimaces, wondering if they’re watching the broadcast, frantically searching for him on screen. Probably.

Unless they’re not, the small, ugly voice in the back of his head says, because Mom always said that you’d always get what was coming to you if you kept up that behavior, if you kept being a disappointment—

Shut the fuck up, he tells it silently. God, it sounds like fucking Deku’s voice. Right now he’s gotta concentrate on what’s in front of him, on where he is and how the fuck he’s gonna escape. It’s hard, though, when his vision is swimming in and out of focus and every single movement feels uncoordinated and jerky.

“Shigaraki,” one of the villains says uneasily. It’s that magnet villain, standing there with one hand fiddling around the hole he singed in her shirt. “If you want him alive, you can’t kill him, hm? Goes against the point of capturing him, don’t you think?”

“Shut your mouth, Magne,” Shigaraki snarls, whipping his head around to glare at her. Magne, Magnet. Katsuki was close enough. “I’m not a kid. I’m not stupid. I’m angry.”

He’s angry. Katsuki watches as another finger taps down against his chest and swallows down the dust in his throat. He can’t cough. If he does he’ll jarr Shigaraki’s hand and then two fingers will become five and he’ll become nothing.

“You didn’t deserve Sensei’s sacrifice,” Shigaraki bites out, digging his fingers into Katsuki’s chest. “You weren’t worth it.”

“I didn’t ask for it,” Katsuki sneers back. His palms scrape against the concrete floor below, cracked and dry. If he’s got no more sweat in reserve, he’s done for. It doesn’t help that the villains haven’t bothered to give him a drop of water in the three days they’ve had him. “The pros were coming for me either way, you crusty piece of shit.”

Then he braces himself. Maybe it wasn’t the smartest choice, poking at the fucking lunatic with disintegration fingers, but before Shigaraki blows another fuse and decides to crumble him where he sits, they’re interrupted.

“Not anymore, they’re not.”

Both Katsuki and Shigaraki glance back. That green lizard villain with the stupid fucking knife sword is staring down at his phone, a strange expression on his face. Only now does Katsuki register the sound playing from it, a rapid-fire reporter voice speaking frantically over the chaotic background noise.

“What?” Shigaraki asks, a little too loudly. “What is that? A broadcast? A livestream?”

“Live news,” the lizard villain says slowly. He’s still got that shell-shocked look on his face, and it sets off a bad feeling in Katsuki’s stomach. “I pulled it up the second we got here.”

Shigaraki stands abruptly, and Katsuki stifles his sigh of relief. “Give it to me.”

The lizard villain wordlessly hands it over. Shigaraki plucks it up between his thumb and forefinger and holds it to his face, red eyes reflecting the blueish light of the screen.

Katsuki watches as his face goes through a series of complicated expressions. The volume on the cell phone is too low for him to hear clearly, but he picks out a few phrases: ‘failed rescue’ and ‘Symbol of Peace’ and ‘defeated’. His heart races. Is she talking about All Might? Or that No Face villain?

A loud groan from beside him scares the ever-living shit out of him, and it’s all he can do not to jump. The scarred villain, Dabi, is starting to stir, face scrunching in pain as he cracks open an eye. It’s unnervingly blue, almost a little familiar, and then it’s meeting Katsuki’s own and oh shit—

He scowls down at Dabi and refuses to look away first. Dabi blinks a little in surprise when he sees him and struggles to prop himself up on one elbow.

“Hey, you,” he says, far too casually for someone who’d just been sleeping on the floor. Katsuki wants to rip his fucking throat out. “Guess the pros failed, huh?”

“Choke and die,” Katsuki hisses venomously. Dabi doesn’t even flinch.

“Cranky, huh?” Then he winces. “Oh shit, my head. Damn, the hell did that pro even do to me?”

He sits up and stretches his arms behind his back, nodding in satisfaction when there’s a loud pop from his spine. Katsuki curls his lip and looks away. “So, what’s the deal? How’d we escape all those pros?”

“The boss—” Magne begins, but is cut off by a sharp hiss from Shigaraki.

“Quiet,” he says, eyes still fixated on that tiny cell phone screen, and something in his voice sounds almost frightened. No, not frightened—disbelieving. It’s fucking unnerving. The hair on the back of Katsuki’s neck stands on end.

Then Shigaraki starts to laugh. It starts off low and scratchy before turning into a full-blown cackle. Katsuki’s blood turns to ice. If he’s happy, then something bad must have happened. To All Might, probably. His stomach turns, and he wonders if All Might is a mangled sack of flesh right now, pounded out like a slab of meat by No Face.

The rest of the villains watch apprehensively, like they’re just as aware as he is that their leader’s a fucking nutjob. Shigaraki is practically bent double, clutching the phone with four dangerous fingers, pinkie just barely extended. The lizard villain watches with slight panic on his scaly face.

“All Might,” Shigaraki wheezes, and Katsuki freezes. “Sensei, he—”

Shigaraki dissolves into another round of manic laughter, and Katsuki’s gut clenches painfully.

“What?” He asks before he can stop himself. His voice is hoarse and croaky. “What the fuck happened, huh? What fucking happened to All Might, what—”

Shigaraki turns to him, red eyes gleaming and lips twitching with mirth. He thrusts the screen towards Katsuki and grins, teeth bared unnaturally wide.

“The Symbol of Peace,” he says, “is dead.”

Blood pounds in Katsuki’s head. He’s not serious—he can’t be fucking serious, All Might can’t be dead—

Before he even registers what he’s doing, he snatches the phone away from Shigaraki, fingers fumbling with the volume button. The reporter’s terrified voice reaches his ears moments later, horror set against a background of wailing sirens.

“—seems All Might is pointing towards the crowd now! Is he singling someone out? Is he—ah!”

She cuts off as the skeleton on the screen opens its mouth and speaks.

“You’re next,” it says, and Katsuki can’t quite comprehend what he’s looking at. Where’s All Might? Where’s the villain? What’s going on?

That skeleton is wearing All Might’s clothes.

Shigaraki is laughing again. “Look at that! He’s become so weak! Sensei was right, he was right! The Symbol of Peace is dead!”

“That’s not All Might,” Katsuki says. Maybe it’s the shock finally catching up to him or maybe it’s the steady, throbbing pulse of his head, but his voice sounds detached, like a fucking robot. Like he’s on the outside looking in.

Even as he says it, though, he knows it’s not true. The strangest thing is, it doesn’t really surprise him. Actually seeing it hurts, of course, but tiny pieces of information that he’s picked up on over time suddenly click into place, and a lot of shit makes sense.

Deku probably knows, already. Deku’s probably somewhere, bawling his eyes out right now. The thought makes Katsuki sick. He wonders if All Might was pointing at Deku.

You’re next.

God, it makes so much fucking sense.

Shigaraki stops laughing and looks at Katsuki. “You know what this means, don’t you? Look what you’ve done. Look! Look!”

“Shut the fuck up,” Katsuki says. His body is fucking betraying him, shaking like a leaf, like he’s some little fucking kid.

“He came to rescue you,” Shigaraki gloats. The blisters on his face strain to pop from the size of his grin as the corners of his mouth stretch from ear to ear. “And now he’s a sack of bones. A sack of blood for the vultures to pick at. He’s a stick, I could crumble him in seconds!”

“It is kinda your fault, kid,” Dabi tells him, and Katsuki grits his teeth. He knows what they’re trying to do to him, he’s not fucking stupid. “I mean, you could have just accepted our invitation the first time around, and the pros wouldn’t have had to come after you like that. The whole world thinks you’re no good, anyway.”

Shut the fuck up, Katsuki wants to say again, but he remembers the reporters at the press conference and how they’d all jumped to the worst assumptions of him and how maybe if Aizawa had agreed with them instead of giving them a tongue-thrashing, the pros wouldn’t have had to risk their lives to come save him, and Best Jeanist would have been okay, and All Might wouldn’t be—

“You’re not gonna fucking guilt-trip me into joining you,” he scoffs instead, and balls his fists at his sides. “I’m still gonna murder every last one of you.”

They all look far too amused by his proclamation for their own good. Shigaraki reaches down to tap a finger against Katsuki’s forehead and says,

“We’ll see.”

They’ll see.

Chapter Text

They take him to a small room down the hall and leave him there.

He’d struggled initially, lashing out and cursing, but with every movement waves of pain stabbed through him. His explosions had fizzled out in his palms from the lack of sweat, from the lack of water in his body, and besides, using his quirk had caused so much agony in his abused forearm muscles, he’d nearly passed out.

They’d tossed him in and told him not to try to break out.

“It’s underground,” the masked fucker had said helpfully. “This whole base is underground. You blow through the walls, the entire room comes crashing down. I heard being buried alive isn’t the most pleasant way to go.”

He couldn’t see his mouth through that stupid fucking mask but Katsuki was almost positive he’d been smirking, and in that instant he was sure he’d never hated anyone more in his entire life. But he could begrudgingly admit that what he’d said made sense; it explained the cool, musty air and the utter lack of windows or light aside from the artificial bulbs.

Being underground was going to complicate things.

“I’m gonna need food and water,” he’d snarled at them before they slammed the door, in as demanding a tone as he could so it wouldn’t seem like he was asking. “Are all of you so fucking stupid that you forgot basic human needs? No wonder your plans fall through half the fucking time.”

The masked fucker had straightened his shoulders in surprise, like he’d just remembered, and sent Deadpool to go get what he’d requested. Katsuki had settled against the wall, rubbing at his forehead. His head fucking hurt.

The food and water comes a couple minutes later, when Deadpool re-enters and carefully sets the tray down at his side, what a fucking gentleman, then backs out of the room. The door slams shut and the room plunges into near darkness aside from the shafts of light from the small, grated window at the top of the door.

He doesn’t touch it for a few minutes despite how hungry and thirsty he is, resting his head against the cool stone wall to try to ease up the throbbing. Fuck. He wants to bash it against the wall, split it open to release the aching pressure.

He’s definitely concussed. What did Recovery Girl say, that time when she’d stopped by their class to give a basic rundown on first aid? It had been a few weeks ago, in Aizawa’s classroom. He’d been slumped over his desk, exhausted from overtraining the day before, and the thunderstorm raging outside. The entire class had been sleepy and unfocused from the overly warm building and the steady sound of rain beating on the window. It seems like it all happened ages ago.

She’d talked about head injuries. She’d mentioned something—something. He can’t remember.

Fuck, he just wants to sleep.

Sleep! His eyes shoot open. That’s what it is—he shouldn’t go to sleep. He needs to stay awake for a little while, to make sure he’s not getting worse. It’d be better if someone could wake him up periodically, but he doubts the villains plan on doing that. Between the eight of them, they probably couldn’t keep a plant alive for a week.

He just needs to keep himself up, then.

Katsuki picks up the tray and stares at it. Cold, clumpy rice in a bowl. A glass of water. A cucumber—just a whole ass cucumber, probably unwashed. And a mint. Who the fuck made this? Knife Girl? Deadpool? Maybe—he shudders—Shigaraki? It’s probably all the creepy hand fucker knows how to make anyway. His warp gate butler probably does everything else for him.

He wonders if it’s drugged. Shigaraki probably wouldn’t think to do it, but he wouldn’t put it past Dabi or that masked fucker to slip something into his food. Katsuki lifts the tray to his nose and sniffs the rice. It smells normal.

Maybe it’s an odorless drug? He puts a little rice on his tongue and waits about a minute. Nothing. Katsuki tentatively swallows.

When nothing else happens for five minutes, he decides to just go ahead and eat it. Maybe it’s his water that’s drugged, or maybe he just didn’t swallow enough for it to have any effect, but at this point—fuck it. He’s so hungry that waiting around is making him dizzy.

The fuckers didn’t give him anything for three days, just kept him unconscious or chained up. Katsuki’s not sure how his body didn’t give out on him before this point.

He only realizes how thirsty he really is once the water is in his hand. His stomach clenches painfully as he gulps it down, and then it’s gone. It’s not enough. He needs more water to make more sweat, he’s powerless without his sweat. His hands are scraped and dry, cracked from his explosions. It’s not enough, god fucking damn it—

Katsuki digs his nails into his arms and squeezes hard enough to draw blood. Calm down, he needs to calm down. He’s not gonna accomplish shit if he’s panicking all over the place like this.

He draws in a few deep breaths—well, as deep as he can get them, and closes his eyes. He’s in a shitty situation. It’s already been established. Now he’s gotta figure it out.

He slides the empty tray towards the door. It hits the metal with a loud clang and bounces back a few inches. No one comes to the door, but he doesn’t expect them too.

They’re fucking stupid, for not guarding it, but the door is the only way out of here and Katsuki’s method of escape wouldn’t exactly be subtle. Maybe they’re not that stupid. Whatever.

“Shitty ass league,” he mumbles to himself, and settles back down on the hard dirt floor.

There’s a small bathroom adjoined to the room he’s in, since as the masked fucker eloquently put it, “None of us wanna clean up your mess.” Which is humiliating, but also a relief because at least he doesn’t have to go in a corner like some kind of animal, or bang on the door every time he’s gotta do his business.

But that’s all there is to this place. It’s four by five meters at most, and completely empty. And once he’s explored the bathroom, poked around at the dingy looking toilet and the sink that just barely trickles tepid, metallic-tasting water, there’s nothing for him to do to keep his mind occupied. And he can’t fall asleep. Not yet.

Katsuki pulls his knees up to his chest and buries his head in his arms. Normally he’d hate looking so pathetic, but no one is around to see him right now and besides, he’s too strung out to care.

A wave of dizziness and nausea hits him all at once, and he groans, drawing even tighter into himself. Stupid head, stupid fucking concussion, shitty-ass injuries—

God, he hates feeling like this. He tries to let his mind wander, instead. Maybe it’ll help distract him, even for a little.

For some reason, Kirishima’s face is the first thing that pops into his head. Well, the face he’d been making as he’d flow overhead, rocketing through the sky with Iida and Deku like twin boosters on either side. He had looked terrified. It was unsettling.

Why had he looked like that? Was it because of the villains? Or maybe the sheer stupidity of their plan, since it could have easily gone wrong. It did, technically, since it’d utterly failed.

Maybe it was because of him.

The second he thinks that, Katsuki scoffs. Sure, he and Kirishima are—are a little more than acquaintances at this point, but that’s it. Katsuki’s not even sure he would call him a friend, though Kirishima might say otherwise.

Still, risking your life like that for someone you’ve known for only a matter of months is senseless. Even if Kirishima thinks of him as someone more than a vague acquaintance from class, it wouldn’t be enough to inspire some shitty rescue like that.

Actually, he’s not sure why any of them came. Deku, maybe, since he’s always poking his nose where it doesn’t fucking belong, but Iida? And he’s pretty sure that had been Todoroki’s ice there, too. It doesn’t make any sense. They should’ve known the pros would be there. What the hell did they think they could do that would make a difference?

“Fucking nosy classmates,” he whispers to himself. It sounds loud in the emptiness of the room, and it hits him then that he’s really all alone now, with no one coming to save him. No one knows where he is.

Will his parents demand that the search be continued? He thinks they will, probably, since even though he and his mom fight all the time and his dad is a fucking pushover, they still, they still love him, they wouldn’t just let him go like that—

But will anyone even come? He’s not so sure anymore.

If that was—if that was really All Might on the screen, then. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t fucking know.

All Might’s true weakness has been revealed to the entire world. Just the mention of his name before was enough to send shivers down even the most hardened villain’s spine, but now his status has taken a significant hit.

A faint memory resurfaces, from maybe ten—eleven? Years ago. He’s walking home with Deku from school, with a bloody nose and a split lip and a grin to rival All Might’s, because he’s just beaten up a second grader who was huge, totally huge. And Deku is chattering excitedly beside him, talking a mile per minute about how cool he was, of course he was, and Katsuki remembers smugly parroting something that his teacher, or his mom or dad, he can’t remember, quoted at him once:

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Deku stares at him with huge green eyes, and says, “You’re so smart, Kacchan.”

He is.

He was.

There’s an unpleasant burn behind his eyelids right now. Katsuki squeezes his eyes shut and runs his hands through his hair, grabbing it in fistfulls.

The world is gonna be in chaos. All Might’s impenetrable figure has finally crumbled. It’s a huge fucking blow to the heroes, and an enormous morale booster for literally every villain out there. Even the strongest can fall—god, he’s so fucking stupid.

He can already foresee it. Villainy will be on the rise, the heroes and police force will be swamped with taking them down, and All Might is probably permanently out of commission. Kamino district is in ruins, and hundreds, if not thousands of people are either dead or wounded.

No one’s gonna waste their time looking for one fucking kid who’s already gotten himself kidnapped twice. Three times, if he counts the sludge villain, and four if he counts No Face’s trick with the black slime.

Four times—he’s so fucking pathetic, goddammit. He tightens his grip on his hair and ignores the pain that lances through his head from the pulled strands. He let himself get taken four times, and each fucking time he’s been saved by All Might.

Raw guilt claws at his chest. Who the hell does he think he is, demanding so much of All Might’s time and energy? What has he ever done to deserve it?

Fuck, it is his fault, just like Shigaraki said, like the scarred, purple villain said—he shouldn’t have been so fucking weak, shouldn’t have let himself get taken so easily. All Might shouldn’t have had to come to his rescue. Again.

He thinks of All Might’s frail, skeletal body on screen, swimming in his hero suit with blood running down his chin and hair falling limply to frame his bone-thin face—and thinks my fault, it’s because of me, he shouldn’t have had to fight that No Face asshole, shouldn’t have had to get his face pounded into the dirt—

Katsuki’s eyes snap open and his head shoots up. He’s heaving in air like a dying fish. There’s not enough of it in the room. Fuck, no, he can’t let himself slide down that slope, he’s letting himself play right into the villain’s hands, he’s doing what they want—

But it’s like they’re right, because everything they said makes so much sense now that he thinks about it, it really is all because of him—if he’d been stronger, this all could’ve been avoided. If he’d been training, really training, then Deku shouldn’t have shot so far above him. He could’ve saved himself, goddammit.

His breathing is getting too damn fast. His head pulses so heavily, he swears he sees bursts of color flash in front of his eyes. This is no good, he needs to get himself together, he can’t be falling apart at a time like this.

He curls his hands into fists around the fabric of his pants, struggling to slow his breathing. His cheeks feel hot and wet—fuck, he can’t be crying, too. It’s all too much. A sound escapes his mouth; his heart skips a beat and he claps his hand over it, eyes wide. Shut up. Shut up, shut the fuck up.

Breathe. He’s gotta breathe slowly. Katsuki keeps his hand pressed over his mouth and inhales a stuttered breath through his nose. He nearly chokes on the exhale. All Might.

He yanks his hand away, gasping. His head feels like it’s gonna fucking explode. Breathe, he’s gotta breathe normally. Why is it so fucking hard?

He falls forward onto his hands and knees, fingernails scrabbling at the compact dirt. His situation, All Might, Kirishima’s terrified face, Deku’s huge fucking eyes—it’s all too much. It’s too much—too much. He’s taking in too much oxygen.

His head, for all its pounding, suddenly feels light and far away. Darkness crowds the corners of his vision like a vignette, and the next breath of air he sucks in is painful.

Recovery Girl doesn’t need to be here to explain this one to him. He’s hyperventilating. He’s gonna pass out. Stop it, he tells the darkness creeping in from the corners, and when it doesn’t, please stop, he can’t fall asleep now, he needs to stay awake—

It comes for him anyway.

U.A. decides to implement a dorming system.

It’s the best way, Principal Nedzu announces at the second apology press conference, to keep the students safe. Parents are free to pull their children from school if they see fit, but he highly advises that they remain for their own protection.

Naturally, there’s a bit of an uproar. Kirishima understands why. All Might’s legacy is done for, the heroes failed to recover the abducted student, and the League of Villains has gone from a minor nuisance to a significant threat with a personal vendetta against a certain Class 1A. Now U.A. expects the people to place their trust in its hands again? A lot of people find that laughable.

Thankfully, Kirishima’s parents don’t. His mom and ma are actually all for the idea. They seem to like Aizawa after listening to his statements during his scarce media appearances, and decide that he’s someone worth trusting to protect their son.

He finds out later, through the class group chat, that not all of his classmates are as lucky. Ojiro texts them mournfully that his parents aren’t letting him return to U.A. until everything gets sorted out. Aoyama says the same thing. Mineta’s parents have pulled him from the program entirely, and quite honestly no one is too upset about that.

Aside from those three, the rest will be staying at the dorms, but a lot of his classmates’ parents are still hesitant. Midoriya tells them all shakily that his mother nearly pulled him out of school before All Might helped change her mind. Yaoyorozu had to beg her parents for hours to convince them that she’d be safer at U.A., and Tokoyami admits that his parents had only agreed out of necessity in order for him to learn to fully control his quirk.

It’s sobering, how fast things have changed. Just a few weeks ago, U.A. was the most impenetrable fortress the heroes had. Now it feels like a last resort.

Ashido pulls him aside on move-in day, as they’re all lugging boxes of belongings up to the dorm rooms. It’s a scorching hot day, with only a faint breeze to help ease the heat. They stand beneath the shade of a tree and wipe the sweat from their foreheads as they watch Iida shout directions and Sero discreetly flip him off from behind his luggage.

Ashido doesn’t say anything right away, just passes him her water bottle and shakes her head when he tries to give it back. Kirishima uncaps it and pours some water into his mouth, swishing it around once before swallowing.

Aizawa and the Class 1B teacher, Blood Hero, stand a distance away, supervising with sharp eyes. Aizawa glances towards Kirishima and Ashido and Kirishima raises a hand in acknowledgement. After a second, Aizawa gives him a small nod and turns to watch Uraraka as her boxes float by above her head. She trudges after them, eyes downcast. No one has much energy. It’s only partially due to the heat.

“This isn’t right,” Ashido says quietly. Kirishima quickly looks at her. Her posture is limp and slumped, like the littlest push might send her to her knees. It’s the most subdued Kirishima’s ever seen her. He presses his lips together and stares down at his feet.

She wraps her arms around herself and squeezes tightly, shoulders hunched. “He should be here with us, y’know?”

The lump in Kirishima’s throat that never really left returns with full force. He hasn’t been able to get Kamino out of his head since it happened a week ago. So far, there’s been no news. The police say the trail is cold.

“Yeah,” he agrees thickly. “I know.”

“We—we’re a squad,” Ashido tells him a little desperately, like she’s trying to convince herself of something. “We were supposed to stick together, right? Me, you, him, Sero, and Kaminari. Y’know, go through the years together.”

In the distance, Midoriya slowly carries a box up the steps. Kirishima looks back at Ashido. Her face is crumpled all wrong, eyebrows turned up and wrinkling her forehead while the corners of her lips pull down.

“I know,” he says, for lack of anything else to say. Words can’t break through his wall of guilt.

Ashido sort of laughs, but it sounds wrong. It’s too short and forced and a little bit panicked. “It’s weird, you feel me? Like yeah, we’re not in any danger right now but the atmosphere’s so heavy. Everyone’s so quiet, y’know? Huh?”

“I know.”

“It’s just.” She wrings her hands, pinches the end of her shirt. “Usually we’re pretty loud, and stuff, because Bakugou’s always yelling at someone and Sero’s telling his,” she sniffs, “shitty jokes, and it’s—it’s, y’know? You feel?”

He feels it. He probably feels it more than anyone else here. Kirishima doesn’t think he’s smiled once in the last week. He doesn’t really deserve to.

“It’s too quiet,” Ashido says again, and her eyes are shiny. She sniffs loudly and wipes her face on her sleeve. “Kirishima—”

She doesn't need to say it.

“C’mere,” he tells her, and holds his arms open. Ashido sort of folds herself into them and wraps her own arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder. He feels wetness trickling over his collarbone, and dammit, he’s always been a sympathetic crier.

“I, I hate this,” Ashido wails, and Kirishima’s too busy sniffling in her arms to say anything. Which is fine, because he probably shouldn’t anyway. They just hold each other, squeezing fiercely. It’s a good thing they’re both the touchy type.

“It’s just,” she continues between sobs, “how am I gonna look at his empty seat in class, huh? How am I gonna do that? How’re you and Sero and Kaminari, how is everybody gonna—”

“Dunno,” he chokes out around the lump, and squeezes his eyelids shut. He’s dripping tears and probably snot onto her shirt, but he knows she won’t yell at him. Not yet, at least.

“It’s so weird,” Ashido sniffles again. She’s gripping him tightly enough to throttle him, but it’s okay. “I mean, how can someone you know like that just disappear? You get it? It’s like, you get to know them and they’re always there and it feels like they always should be there, y’know? And then suddenly they’re gone? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t get it.”

Kirishima would probably be blabbering too if he could speak right now. He gets what she’s saying. They’re both the incoherent type. He lets out a sound that’s passable as an ‘uh-huh’.

“And it’s worse than if he was for sure dead,” she’s saying, “because we don’t know what the hell happened to him, so you just kinda sit here wondering, y’know? And I think up all these really horrible scenarios and it makes it worse because any one of them could be true, but you just don’t know.”

Kirishima swallows the lump with difficulty and says, “Ashido.”

“Hm,” she mumbles into his shoulder, curly hair brushing the side of his neck.

“I’m sorry.”

She freezes for a second but doesn’t lift her head from his shoulder. “Why?”

“Because I couldn’t do anyth—”

Ashido pulls back and holds him at arm’s length. Her mouth is quivering and her eyes are puffy underneath, but instead of being red, they’re just a shade of black. Like she was wearing mascara and it ran down. “Don’t say that. It’s not your fault.”

Kirishima steps away from her, upset. Her hands fall back to her sides. “Don’t tell me that! I wasn’t there when it mattered the first time, and I couldn’t do anything when it mattered the second time! And now, with everything you’ve been saying, I feel like that’s on me, okay? Bakugou is somewhere with god only knows what happening to him, and I’m—”

Ashido takes a step back, horrified. “Kirishima, I didn’t—that’s not, you’re not—”

Kirishima shakes his head, swiping at his eyes with the back of his hands. The tightness in his chest is erupting out of him like a volcano, and he doesn’t know how to stop it. “He’s my friend, okay? And I couldn’t do a thing to save him. You know what we did nearly the entire time we were there? We hid. Like cowards. And when we finally did work up the nerve, you know what? It was too late.”

Ashido stares at him open mouthed, tear tracks streaked down her cheeks. “The pros couldn’t even—All Might couldn’t even—”

He knows—dammit, he knows! But it doesn’t matter, not if he can’t accept it. And he can’t. He won’t, not until Bakugou is back.

“Look,” Kirishima tells her softly. His heart squeezes painfully. “No matter what you say, I’m gonna feel responsible. Even if I know I shouldn’t, I’m gonna, okay? It’s—it’s personal. The guilt. So—so you trying to reason with me isn’t what I need.”

Ashido doesn’t say anything for a long minute, and Kirishima’s afraid that she’s angry. He won’t blame her if she is. But then she bites her lower lip, eyes filled with fresh tears.

“Okay,” she whispers, and he nearly sighs in relief. And then, “Kirishima?”

“Yeah?” He asks tiredly. His whole body feels wrung out, exhausted.

Ashido holds out her arms to him. Kirishima lets her wrap them around him, and then she’s squeezing him and sort of rocking him back and forth. It feels safe, comforting. He decides he can let himself cry.

“He’s gonna come back, okay?” She whispers. “For sure. Got it?”

“Yeah,” he finds himself agreeing. “He will.”

Chapter Text

Bakugou Mitsuki slams both fists down on the front desk of Musutafu’s police department waiting room and hisses, “Where’s my son?”

Aizawa Shouta holds back a wince. She’s not angry at him—she’s not even looking at him right now, but the fury and desperation and fear tinging her voice is enough to stir the guilt that’s been festering inside of him since last week, when twenty-seven students became villain fodder and one of them vanished in a wispy purple mist. Aizawa’s a logical man. Logically, it’s not his fault. Someone tipped the villains off, a traitor in the heroes’ ranks. There isn’t much he can do about that.

But still—it was his class. His and Vlad’s. And being able to protect only thirteen of their students from harm is enough to leave a bitter taste in his mouth.

“It’s been a week,” Mitsuki is practically spitting at the cowering receptionist. Her husband rests a pleading hand on her shoulder, and she shrugs it off. “My son is in the hands of one of the most dangerous villain groups out there, and you’re telling me that you’ve got no leads?”

“I’m just a receptionist,” the frightened young man tries to tell her. “I don’t deal with that sort of thing, but please ma’am, if you’d take a seat until your appointment time I’m sure we can get it sorted out…”

She’s having none of it. “I don’t have the fucking time to take a seat! You think my kid’s got time to spare? Every second you incompetent shitheads spend wasting away in your office chairs is a second more than he should have to spend with villains. For fuck’s sake, it’s been a week—”

It’s probably a good time to intervene. Aizawa exhales in relief when he sees Tsukauchi Naomasa step out from one of the back rooms and wave him over.

“Bakugou-san,” Aizawa cuts her off gently. The receptionist shoots him a look full of gratitude. “The detective is ready to meet with us now.”

Mitsuki blinks and looks over at him. Aizawa’s struck by how weary she looks, beyond all that anger and aggravation. Her mouth pulls down at the corners, shoulders slumping. Her husband, Masaru, immediately places a comforting hand on her back, but she pulls away from it, posture straightening.

“About damn time,” she snaps, and stalks towards him. Masaru trails after her, looking equally exhausted. He catches Aizawa’s eye as he passes and gives him a small nod that he’s not quite sure how to interpret—he would have thought the man would have been angry with him for failing to protect his child.

Tsukauchi waves them all in to the small back room and shuts the door behind them. Aizawa sits down at the table beside Tsukauchi while the Bakugous settle in across from them. Mitsuki crosses her arms over her chest and scowls at them expectantly. “Well?”

Tsukauchi sets a thick manila folder down in front of him, but doesn’t immediately open it. “I’d first like to thank you both for your cooperation—”

“Skip the pleasantries,” Mitsuki says impatiently, waving her hand. “What’s the word on my son?”

“Dear,” Masaru whispers. She ignores him.

Tsukauchi just nods pragmatically, unaffected by her attitude. “Of course. I understand your concerns. Rest assured, however, that we are doing everything within our power to track down both the League of Villains and Bakugou Katsuki. I promise you that we won’t cease investigations until they are both found.”

“Huh,” Mitsuki says, and it’s hard to tell exactly what she’s thinking. She’s like her son in that way—unless it’s anger, there’s not a whole lot of emotion on her face. Aizawa can’t help but see Bakugou in the chair across from him. It doesn’t help that he’s a carbon copy of his mother.

Masaru leans forward in his seat, clearly eager to do some damage control. “May I ask what you’ve found? The last time we were notified, we were told there were no leads.”

Tsukauchi nods and opens the file, pushing it towards them. Aizawa squints at it. From what he can make out...it looks like lists of addresses. “At our police department, we do our best to get our hands on as wide a variety as we can of analyzing quirks. It works wonders in cracking even the coldest cases.”

Mitsuki stares down at the lists, then looks sharply back up at Tsukauchi. “You know where they might be?”

“We’re working on it,” Tsukauchi tells her placidly. “Given what we know about Kurogiri, the warp villain’s quirk, they could theoretically be anywhere around the world. However, granted what we also know about the League of Villains, they’re heavily based in Japan. It’s very unlikely that they’ve left the country.”

“So you’re telling me you’ve still got to comb the whole damn country?” Mitsuki mutters. Her eyebrows dig deep grooves between her eyes, and for a second she’s the spitting image of her son.

“Not exactly,” Tsukauchi says, leaning his forearms on the tabletop. “What we’ve done is taken note of every abandoned building and hideout—it’s an impressive list, and too broad for us to work with. So we narrowed it down to those in cities with higher crime rates and shadier quadrants, places where they were more likely to blend in. From there, we deduced from the League’s previous movements that they’re heavily centered in or around Tokyo. Bordering prefectures receive the highest investigative priority.”

“That’s still a lot to work through,” Masaru says, looking somewhat doubtful. He pulls at his mustache hesitantly. “Couldn’t this still take months of investigation?”

“We’re working in collaboration with several other departments around the country,” Tsukauchi says gently. “This is a top-priority case. We’ve also released the names and faces of your son and the League to the public and are encouraging people to come forward with any sightings they believe to have witnessed. Since the League is likely laying low for the time being, there have been few reports, but eventually they’ll have to surface. In the meantime, we’ll continue to move forward with our investigation.”

Mitsuki’s lips twist in displeasure, but she doesn’t interrupt Tsukauchi as he continues to talk. She’s clearly still not satisfied, and rightly so.

Even to Aizawa, it sounds more bleak than promising. The villains have the frustratingly easy capability to vanish without a trace, and even if they were discovered, they could still warp away at a moment’s notice. The heroes also don’t have the element of surprise on their side anymore—the villains will be wary, expectant. Especially after losing their leader.

And it’s different this time in other ways, too. There’s no tracker to follow, no captured villains to interrogate besides the boss, who isn’t talking. The heroes don’t even know if the kidnapped victim is still alive.

Aizawa chews on the inside of his lower lip. Before, the League had taken Bakugou because they thought he’d be fit to join their ranks. But he’d obviously made it clear that he had no intention of doing so. Logically, that leaves with the villains with two options: forcing him to join them through whatever means—brainwashing, torture—or killing him to make a statement.

Aizawa is beginning to think they might choose the latter.

But—if they wanted to do that, they would have made it public. A video, a broadcast of a live execution—something where the world would be able to witness the heroes’ failure. And right now, news of the League and Bakugou Katsuki has been maddeningly dark.

So there’s still the possibility that they’re trying to convince him to change sides. He might still be alive. And unless Bakugou agrees, which Aizawa has doubts that he’ll do even to save his own life, they’ll kill him. The heroes are working on a limited clock.

He knows Tsukauchi must be thinking the same thing, but the detective tactfully doesn’t mention it to the family. It’s best not to drop that on them while there’s still hope of recovering their son. Aizawa thinks they might figure it out on their own, though—Bakugou obviously received his shrewdness and deductive skills from somewhere. The looks on Mitsuki and Masaru’s faces tell him that they’re not too far from arriving at the same conclusion Aizawa has.

Tsukauchi runs through the basics of the investigation for a while longer before closing the file and promising them that he’ll contact them immediately with any further news. He offers a consoling hand, which Masaru shakes politely while Mitsuki frowns and takes it hesitantly. The pinched expression remains on her face as she stands with her husband and tucks her purse under her arm.

Aizawa lingers after they’ve left and shut the door behind themselves. He turns to Tsukauchi, who’s standing there with his arms folded loosely over his chest. “What are our prospects looking like?”

Tsukauchi sighs and slowly sits down on the edge of the table, bringing up one leg to cross over his knee. His fingernails tap a quick rhythm on the wood and he says, “They’re not so good.”

Aizawa exhales deeply and runs a hand through his hair. “This investigation is most likely going to proceed slowly, isn’t it?”

“There’s really no other way at the moment,” Tsukauchi says grimly. “I wish we had better leads than what we do now, but even with our entire analysis team studying the League’s patterns, there’s not much to work with. They’ve only started seriously moving recently. The only base we’ve discovered so far has been the one in Kamino. And the discovery and capture of their boss throws a wrench in a lot of what we’ve assumed of the League so far. They’re more organized than we thought—it’s going to be more complicated than before.”

Aizawa thinks of Bakugou, alone somewhere in an unfamiliar place, and grimaces. “I’m worried, Tsukauchi. I don’t know how much longer they’re planning on letting him live—hell, we don’t actually know if he’s even still alive. One of my students who was there at Kamino told me they saw him receive a serious blow to the head. They may not have broadcasted an execution because he may already be…”

Tsukauchi shakes his head. “For now, we’re just going to have to move as if he’s still alive. There’s no way to confirm that, and besides, I’ve also heard of your students’ reckless escapade.”

He smiles a little at that and Aizawa rolls his eyes. “Those kids are lucky to have survived.”

Tsukauchi taps his fingernails against the wood one more time, consideringly. “The student who claimed to witness that didn’t exactly have the best vantage point. From what I’ve seen and heard of their stunt, he could have very easily mistaken the severity of the blow. Apart from that, we know the League wanted the boy alive at that point in time, so I doubt they would have hurt him recklessly. In my opinion, the League hasn’t chosen to reveal anything yet because they’re still trying to persuade Bakugou Katsuki to join their cause.”

“And yet we don’t know that for sure,” Aizawa points out.

“And yet we don’t,” Tsukauchi concedes. He smiles thinly. “I know it’s hard for you, having this happen to one of your students. Bear with us. We plan to cooperate with you heroes to the fullest extent to bring the League down.”

“Thank you, Tsukauchi,” Aizawa says tiredly, and prepares to leave the room. “I’ll fill in the rest of our staff on what’s been disclosed.”

He’s exhausted. This whole week has been a blur of late nights and strained eyes as he struggles to keep up with his students as well as the ongoing investigation. Hizashi keeps telling him he’s going to crash and burn soon enough, and for once, Aizawa agrees. Even still, he’s going to be stubborn about it—doing nothing in this situation is not an option for him. He’ll get some rest when he finally keels over his coffee cup.

Right now, he needs to go check on his kids. Move-in day was earlier today, and he has to make sure they’re all safely settled in. UA has upped its security more than it ever has in its long history, but with the way things have been happening lately, he can never be too careful.

Aizawa trudges out of the back room and into the lobby. The receptionist nods to him once and he nods back, but just as he’s preparing to leave, two other people catch his eye.

Mitsuki and Masaru are still standing there, obviously waiting. They look up when they spot him, and something flashes across Mitsuki’s face as they both begin to head over. Well, Aizawa should have been expecting this. This is when she goes off on him for failing to keep her kid safe even though UA had sworn up and down the training camp would be heavily protected. Aizawa sighs and braces himself. Whatever he gets, he supposes he deserves.

He inclines his head towards both of them carefully. “Bakugou-san.”

Mitsuki’s eyes rake him up and down for a few seconds before she speaks. “Aizawa-san. You’re Katsuki’s teacher, right?”

Aizawa nods slowly. “Yes. I’m his homeroom teacher, and I also oversee the students’ physical and quirk training.”

Mitsuki’s eyes flick to his face, glance towards his scar. She opens her mouth and Aizawa prepares to be torn into, readying empty apologies and assurances in his mind.

“I want to thank you.”

Huh?

It isn’t easy to catch Aizawa by surprise, but he wasn’t expecting gratitude, of all things. His eyes widen fractionally, and she catches notice of it.

“For what you said at the press conference, I want to thank you. It was real good of you to say that about my brat. ‘Bout how he’s just an impatient little shit, not some no-count villain. That’s when I knew UA was really handling him right.”

Well, her wording is slightly off, but she’s sincere. Aizawa swallows down the shock and bows slightly. “I only said what I knew was the truth. He’s the way he is because he’s got drive and passion. You can’t be a hero without that.”

Mitsuki nods, smiles a little. “Damn right, you can’t. So, yeah. I’m glad you pointed that out. I was kinda scared for a bit, about how those shit reporters were gonna tear into my kid, ruin his future. You have my thanks.”

He still can’t quite believe that they’re not furious with him. He’s trained himself to expect that reaction after all these years of teaching. His expulsion rates and unconventional training methods have earned Aizawa hundreds of phone calls from enraged parents, demanding his resignation or retirement. His brain is still trying to comprehend that the parents of the kid who’s been kidnapped under his watch are actually expressing appreciation.

“...Of course,” he hears himself say. “I would do no less for any of my students.”

Mitsuki snorts. “I’m sure.”

Masaru steps forward and speaks for the first time since Aizawa came into the lobby. His voice, Aizawa notes, is surprisingly soft for such a large man. “Aizawa-san, please. I’m asking you because I trust you, to save our son. Can you do that?”

Even though Aizawa has long since planned on being part of the next retrieval team, there’s a flare of determination at the man’s words. He places a firm hand on Masaru’s shoulder, and when he replies, it’s with the hard voice that Hizashi always claims gives everyone the chills.

“I promise you,” he says steadily, “that I will always, always, protect my students.”

Katsuki wakes up, but doesn’t open his eyes.

Maybe, if he keeps them shut for long enough, something will happen. Maybe the fuckers will think he’s dead and finally take him out of this shithole of a cell. Maybe he’ll just fall back asleep, which is honestly fine by him at this point. Maybe, just maybe, if he’s lucky, he’ll by some miracle find himself in a hospital bed, with that shitty antiseptic smell and his parents’ faces by his side—

Katsuki's eyes fly open, and he stares at the gray ceiling above his head. Hah. He wishes.

He slowly sits up, body aching in strange ways from having slept on the hard floor for god knows how long. It’s hard to keep track of the days in here, when there’s no windows to gauge the passing of time. Even his meals are incredibly inconsistent—he’s not sure if it’s because they’re deliberately trying to throw him off, or because they genuinely forget to feed him.

Whichever it is, it’s still fucking with his head.

If he had to guess how long it’s been, he’d say—maybe a week? Give or take a few days, but judging by the greatly reduced pain in his head, he’s had some time to heal. He still feels like shit, though, from the stunning lack of sunlight and a proper meal and the dirt floor that offers zero relief even when he’s asleep.

Katsuki grimaces and rubs at his forehead. He knows he’s not doing too well. He’s lost weight—not a whole lot, but he can see it in the thinness of his wrists and the narrowness of his waist and the slight sunkenness in his cheeks when he runs his hand over his face. It isn’t fucking good. He has to keep up his strength if he ever wants to escape from here, but his attempts to maintain some kind of physical activity in his cell is heavily thwarted by the bone-deep tiredness caused by lack of proper nutrition, sleep, and Vitamin D.

God, they’re not—they’re not even doing anything with him. They just leave him in here, day in and day out like they forgot they kidnapped him in the first place. He was expecting something, like—like interrogations or hell, even torture, but nope. He just sits here on his ass, rotting away like a wilted plant left out of the sun for too long.

Maybe that’s their goal—to leave him in here with no insight on what the hell’s supposed to happen to him so it can eat away at him until he goes fucking insane from the anxiety of it all. Then when he’s all good and paranoid and jumpy, they can fucking—fucking brainwash him, or something.

Katsuki rests his head against the wall and snorts. It’s not even funny. It’s actually probably working.

And that’s worrying, dammit. He’s gotta escape from this place before he loses his fucking mind. Except it’s not that easy. Not if he’s underground in some foreign place with absolutely no bearings.

He’s got a very vague outline of what the layout of this place even looks like, but he hasn’t been through it enough to form anything concrete in his head. He knows there’s the bar, where they’d first dropped into when No Face used his shitty quirk to help warp them there. There was one door to that room, which led out into a hallway. The hall had branched off in two or three places, but the villains had just taken him straight down it to the end and locked him in this tiny room.

He’s probably in a storage room, or something, even though it’s obviously bare. The question is, where the hell is the entire place located?

Katsuki closes his eyes and thinks, which is a hell of a lot easier when his mind isn’t clouded over with the pain of a fresh concussion. If he’s in a bar that’s underground, then it’s probably some seedy establishment. Which means, he’s most likely in a city right now, specifically one of their red light districts.

So, if he can just bust his way above ground...he’ll probably find people. If he’s in the red light district, they also probably won’t be too eager to help him, but he’s not above stealing a phone for an emergency call and some money for a train ticket.

It’s definitely the biggest chance he’s had in a while. There was no way he could have pulled an escape off when he first got here, with his brain pounding out of his skull and his forearm muscles throbbing from overuse. And if he waits any longer, he’s probably not gonna get any stronger than the way he is now, if they keep feeding him sporadically like this.

So logically, if he makes his move soon, he has the highest odds that he’ll likely ever get.

Katsuki tries to swallow down the dryness in his mouth and fails. He hasn’t used his explosions yet since the first day, allowing his arms time to heal and regain strength. He hopes that hasn’t made them too suspicious—they were probably expecting him to put up a lot more resistance. That’s probably why there’s always a guard at his door, usually Dabi or Magne or Deadpool, whose actual villain name is Twice, he’s learned. They don’t usually talk to him, although sometimes Twice will try to start up a conversation like he thinks they’re friends until his alter ego switches back on and reminds himself to shut up. It’s weird as hell. Or sometimes Dabi will taunt him through the door, putting down UA and blabbering on about what a failure the heroes are—shit that Katsuki doesn’t care to listen or respond to.

He thinks it’s Magne who’s out there now, her hulking shadow partially blocking out the dim light shafting through the grate at the top of the door. Katsuki grimaces. She’s one of the worst to deal with, mainly because of her stupidly large size. If he’s not smart about how he plays it, she’ll pin him in seconds and he’ll be helpless.

At least it’s her instead of Dabi, though. That purple fucker won’t even hesitate to try and roast him with his blue flames, which are hot as hell. Katsuki has to admit that the guy is strong, and good with his quirk. His fire is even comparable to Endeavor’s, who Katsuki has seen in video footage using blue flames on more than one occasion. It’s a scary coincidence, a villain having the same quirk as the number two hero. At least they’re both dirtbags that he can feel justified in hating.

Twice would definitely be the easiest to manage, but Twice takes his shift last, which means Katsuki would have to wait longer than he wants to before making his move. He can’t risk that.

He knows there are times when some of the villains leave the building—even though he hasn’t been let out of his cell, he can still hear when things are going on. When Shigaraki is arguing with Kurogiri down the hall, or that shitty Knife Girl, Toga, is pitching a fit, there’s usually stomping footsteps up what sounds like a set of stairs and a door slamming distantly.

So there’s at least one exit here, probably down one of the branched out portions of the hallway. He’s got no idea which one, though, because the sounds he hears are too distant to gauge it. That girl from his class, with the earphone jacks—shit, he’d kill to have her quirk right now.

He’s just gonna have to wing it and hope he picks the right one on the first try. And he’ll have to make his move when a few of the villains aren’t around, preferably Shigaraki and Kurogiri. Those two are his biggest problems, as well as Dabi.

Fuck, he’ll probably die, won’t he?

Or maybe—maybe if he fails, which is a very distinct possibility, they’ll stop going so easy on him. Maybe they’ll start torturing him for real, or even kill him if they’re pissed enough. Or maybe they’ll—

“Oh my god, you fuckhead,” Katsuki whispers to himself, quietly enough that Magne won’t hear from outside. He tilts his head into his hands and scrunches his hair in his fists. He needs to snap out of it. How the hell is he supposed to call himself a hero if he can’t think himself through one shitty situation?

He thinks back to the full blown meltdown he’d had on the first day, when he’d found out about All Might, and curls his lip in disgust. He can’t do that again, he can’t be that weak again. He can’t afford to.

Speaking of disgust—ugh, it’s how he feels right now. His hair is filthy, full of dust and grease, and his face and skin feel grimy and nasty from dried up sweat and from wearing the same clothes for probably over a week. He tried to clean himself up as best he could with the tepid, metallic sink water in his tiny bathroom, but the slight trickle from the faucet was too useless to accomplish much.

And these fuckers won’t let him out of his cell to clean up.

There, perfect, that’s another motive for him to break out of here as soon as possible. If he has to spend another day in the same filthy clothes he was kidnapped in, he’ll explode. Literally.

Katsuki lets out a breath and lifts his head from his hands. He’ll act soon, before the villains decide they’re sick of keeping him locked up and actually try to do something. But for right now, he listens for the sounds of moving feet and raised voices, anything to determine which heads he’ll have to bash in when he makes his escape.

All that’s left to do is wait.

Chapter Text

Meet me after class, Midoriya’s note reads.

Kirishima glances up from his textbook and risks a look towards Midoriya while Aizawa’s facing the board. Midoriya catches his eye and gives him a small nod before almost imperceptibly tilting his head towards the back of the classroom. To Todoroki.

Kirishima nods back and tears his eyes away from the vacant seat in front of Midoriya. It feels wrong there, like Bakugou’s only sick and will be out for a few days. Kirishima swallows and waits until he’s sure Aizawa isn’t paying attention before reaching quickly across the aisle and sliding the note to Sero.

Sero gives him a puzzled look and Kirishima mouths, Todoroki. Sero’s eyes widen momentarily, and he glances down at the folded note with suspicion. Kirishima knows he’s wondering if they’re planning another crazy stunt, but Sero thankfully doesn’t question it. Instead he sighs quietly and twists in his seat to pass the note off to Tokoyami.

Kirishima gives him a small grin in thanks, which Sero returns with a hesitant shrug. Ah, well.

“Kirishima,” Aizawa’s voice says irritably from the front before Kirishima has time to straighten in his seat and refocus. Kirishima jumps guiltily and snatches up his pencil, training his eyes on the board. “Pay attention. I only have time to go over this once.”

“Sorry, Sensei,” Kirishima mumbles, resisting the urge to check whether or not Tokoyami handed the note off to Todoroki yet. Aizawa narrows his eyes at him, then sighs and returns to the board, lifting his chalk to scrawl something down next to the diagram he’s drawn.

“In hostage situations like these, most heroes often choose to…”

Kirishima feels himself drift back out of focus. The notes he’s taken swim across his page as he moves his pencil in aimless doodles on the margins of his notebook. He knows he should be paying attention, especially when the discussion today is ironically relevant, but his ability to concentrate is disturbingly gone.

He wonders what Midoriya wants to discuss with them—he’s assuming that the note will also be passed to Yaoyorozu and Iida, the two others who were part of their tossed together rescue squad. Maybe he wants to form another one? No, probably not. They’ve got nothing to go on this time, and neither do the pros. Although, if Midoriya somehow knew something and wanted to attempt another rescue, Kirishima wouldn’t hesitate to agree, consequences be damned.

Rustling and movement around him jerks Kirishima from his stupor. He blinks and looks up to see his classmates rising from their seats, stuffing books and pencils into their bags. Ah, class must be over. He glances down at his notes, and feels his face fall. He hasn’t written down a thing. He’ll have to see if he can get a copy from Yaoyorozu.

From his row, Midoriya clears his throat audibly. Kirishima glances over at him and presses his lips together in acknowledgment before bending to retrieve his bag from under his desk. He hurriedly packs up his things, but before he can follow Midoriya out of the classroom, Aizawa holds up a hand from the front of the room.

“Kirishima.”

Kirishima freezes, hands on his bag. He sees Midoriya stop near the entrance, shooting him a worried look. Kirishima grimaces and jerks his head at him in a go on motion before answering. “...Yes?”

Aizawa waits until Midoriya has gone and the classroom is empty before replying. “Come over here, please.”

Kirishima swallows and makes his way to the front, bag slung over his shoulder. He hopes he’s not in too much trouble. Aizawa probably caught him zoning out during the lesson.

Aizawa sighs and sits on the edge of his desk, fiddling idly with one of his sleeve cuffs when Kirishima approaches. Kirishima stares at his teacher’s face and is stricken by the dark bags beneath his eyes, so deep and purple that they look like bruises. Just like Kirishima’s. He bites the inside of his lip in guilt and lowers his head. Aizawa is probably more exhausted by all of this mess than any of them are, and Kirishima is causing him trouble.

But when Aizawa speaks, he sounds more concerned than angry. “Are you feeling alright?”

Kirishima’s head snaps up in surprise. “Huh?! Oh—yeah, I’m good. I’m fine. Uh, how about you? You look, uh, tired.”

He winces at his own inability to shut up, but Aizawa just waves him off. “How I’m doing is none of your concern. I’m here to be worried about you, not the other way around. So I’ll ask you again: how are you coping with things?”

“Um.” Kirishima’s gaze wanders back to his feet. In truth, he’s not so good. He spends all day worrying and stressing—about Bakugou, about his classmates, about the League of Villains and the safety of his family, about becoming a hero with all this going on—and all night lying awake tripping over his own guilt.

“I’m fine,” he says.

Aizawa’s hand finds his shoulder and squeezes it briefly. “Kirishima.”

Kirishima gulps and meets his teacher’s eyes. “I’m—I mean, I’m...not okay. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” Aizawa replies readily. “Nothing is your fault. You had no more control over the situation than I did.”

“Yeah,” Kirishima replies. His head wants to buy it, but his heart doesn’t.

“I can refer you to someone, if you’d like to talk about it. You can also talk to me too, I guess, but I’m warning you, I’m not much of an expert.” There’s something like humor in Aizawa’s voice, which is as unfamiliar as it is jarring. Still, it’s sort of comforting, and Kirishima’s lips curve into a half-smile.

“I might...sure,” Kirishima says, adjusting his grip on his bag. “Sensei?”

“Hm.”

Kirishima clears his throat and tries to steady his heart that’s suddenly racing. There’s a high chance Aizawa will shoot down what he’s about to ask. “Actually, I think it would help me if—uh, see, the next time the pros form a rescue squad, I’d...like to be part of it. Um, formally. With your permission, I mean.”

It’s quiet. Aizawa stares at him for so long, Kirishima starts to get nervous. Was that too forward of him to ask? But he’s glad he got it out there—if there’s any possibility of him having a real chance to save Bakugou this time, he wants it. Even if he’s still just a first year student. Aizawa will probably tell him no, anyway, or laugh in his face about how stupid that is, how he’ll just get in the way of the pros or slow them down.

“I’m—it’s something I need to do,” Kirishima explains hurriedly. “I can’t call myself a hero if—if I can’t even save my best friend. And I can’t let him down again. I have to be there, you gotta understand.”

But Aizawa isn’t regarding him mockingly, or looking at him in surprise. Instead, he’s eyeing Kirishima consideringly. “That might be possible.”

Kirishima’s eyes widen. Is Aizawa serious? Does he actually mean that? He was expecting to be immediately turned away, but Aizawa actually looks contemplative. “Wait, really? You’d let me do that? For real?”

Aizawa rubs a hand over the scruff on his chin. “I take it you didn’t read everything in your dorming contract.”

Kirishima freezes. “I, uh...I did, I just maybe wasn’t—wasn’t paying the most attention.”

Aizawa sighs heavily. “At least you’re honest. In truth, it wouldn’t have been possible at any other time other than this year, but circumstances for you first years have made it so we’ve had to make some changes to our teaching system. Times have changed, villains have become more active. For you to become successful as heroes, you’ll have to be tested in more hands-on, challenging ways than our previous students ever have.”

Kirishima’s not too sure about what Aizawa’s getting at, but he’ll accept whatever challenge UA wants to throw at him. He nods eagerly. “I’m ready for whatever it is.”

Aizawa snorts, running his fingers through his hair. “No you’re not. None of you kids are, but like I’ve said, things have changed. So it’s up to us to prepare you for those changes, whether you’re ready for them or not.”

“Oh.” Kirishima tries to nod. “Well, I’ll still do it. I’ll do whatever it takes to become a hero.”

Aizawa sighs longsufferingly and shakes his head. “We’re going to be starting formal internships early. Normally, we don’t allow students to intern until their second year, after they’ve taken their provisional license exams, but this year we’re moving both of those events up. You’ll have the opportunity to intern with a pro hero as long as you pass the exam, and if you do, you’ll also be able to legally partake in missions that are more dangerous than what you’ve ever encountered before. Although, you kids have already had a taste of that. It’s why we believe you need to gain proper experience earlier on.”

Kirishima’s heart speeds up in excitement. “Is that even allowed? Sensei? Won’t the public be against it, since Bakugou’s still missing and the last villain attack was only a week ago?”

“The public will probably be in uproar,” Aizawa replies bluntly. “They’ll hate it. UA’s reputation will take another hit, but our goal is raise a successful generation of future heroes, not to shine up our public image.”

It’s definitely noble of them, sacrificing the public’s faith like that. Kirishima’s just elated that it means he’ll finally have a chance. “So you’re saying that if I wanted to, I could sign up for the rescue squad.”

Aizawa nods. “If he still hasn’t been retrieved before you receive your license and internship. You’re one of the few that actually has that opportunity. In the dorm contracts, we included a form for your parents to read over and sign, giving you permission to take part in first year internships. Yours agreed, as did a few others in your class.”

Kirishima’s curiosity is peaked. “Who else?”

“I suppose you’ll find out when internship offers go out,” Aizawa says simply. “Or you can just ask them yourself, I don’t care. Now go, I have papers to grade.”

It’s hard to contain his excitement as he leaves the classroom, heart beating in anticipation. This is it. This is his opportunity to succeed where he failed twice before. If—no, when he encounters Bakugou again, Kirishima swears it on his life that he’ll actually make a difference. He won’t be useless the way he was before.

He pulls out his phone to text Midoriya and ask where he went, but sees he’s already got a text message telling him to meet him in the empty classroom next door. When he enters, Todoroki, Yaoyorozu, and Iida are predictably there, standing in a semi-circle around a desk with Midoriya sitting on it. Midoriya catches his eye and hastily waves him over. “Kirishima! Is everything okay with Aizawa?”

Kirishima nods, hurrying over and dumping his bag on the desk besides Midoriya. They’ve got five minutes of passing time between classes and his talk with Aizawa already used up about two, so whatever Midoriya wants to say, he’s got to say it fast. “Fine, we were just discussing some—stuff. That’s all.”

“We have three minutes before Mic-Sensei’s class starts,” Iida reminds them helpfully. “What did you want to discuss, Midoriya?”

Midoriya looks around at all of them and swallows determinedly. He looks pale, Kirishima notes. Actually, he’s looked a little unwell for a while now. He mentally kicks himself for not singling it out before.

“I wanted to ask the four of you whether or not you’ll be allowed to participate in the upcoming internships,” Midoriya says in a rush, like he feels hesitant about saying it. His hands squeeze the edge of the desk. “Because, if you can...ah, I don’t want to assume or be too forward or anything like that, but I just figured that all of you would want...another chance…”

His voice trails off towards the end, and he looks up at them guiltily. “I mean, it’s how I feel, I’m not saying you have to feel the same way. It’s just that—”

“Midoriya,” Todoroki cuts him off. “I think I can speak for all of us when I say there’s not a day that goes by when we don’t regret how everything turned out. You’re not alone in this.”

Midoriya frowns, his lower lip trembling slightly. “I was just—”

“If it’s about a second chance to succeed where we didn’t before, then I already decided on it.” Kirishima’s surprised to hear his voice come out so firm. “I’m going. That’s actually what Aizawa was just talking to me about. My parents signed the form, so I’m going for sure.”

Midoriya’s grip on the desk tightens even more, and he lowers his head.

“Thank you,” he whispers, so quietly that he’s almost inaudible. “I didn’t want to do it by myself. I’m glad you’ll be there, Kirishima.”

It’s quiet for a second. Midoriya sniffs and drags a hand over his eyes before pulling in a shuddering breath and looking at the rest of them expectantly. Todoroki clears his throat.

“There’s still the provisional license exam to pass,” he reminds them. “But once that’s over, so long as I make it through, I’m in. My old man signed that form in a heartbeat.”

The smile that splits Midoriya’s face is infectious, and Kirishima sees for the millionth time what’s so great about him. The kid’s tenacious as hell, and it draws people to him in a surprisingly similar way that Bakugou draws others to himself.

Iida clears his throat next, looking somewhat awkward.

“My parents refused to let me participate,” he says, shifting on his feet uncomfortably. “I am sorry. But after the Hosu incident, they told me that I was too reckless of a thinker. They want me to wait until my second year to intern, as is tradition. I apologize, Midoriya, but I will be unable to accompany the four of you this time.”

“Three of you,” Yaoyorozu mumbles. She’s staring down at her shoes like she’s ashamed. “I’m not allowed to participate, either. I already told you I had to fight my parents to even be allowed to stay at UA. My parents were angry when they found out the school was moving up the formal time for internships.”

“Ah,” Midoriya says, and even though he’s trying very hard not to show that he’s disappointed, Kirishima can tell. It feels wrong to know that Iida and Yaoyorozu won’t be there this time around. After what they’d been through together before, imagining themselves split apart is upsetting.

Still, it’s not as if it’s their fault, and even if they had decided on their own not to take part, Kirishima wouldn’t be able to find it in himself to be angry with them. It’s understandable that not everyone is as willing to recklessly throw themselves into things as he is. Kirishima feels a stab of guilt, because in some ways, he’s also only doing this for himself, to prove to himself that he’s capable of being a hero and to lift the weight of his previous failures off his chest. Of course, he’s also worried about Bakugou, but…a part of himself really just wants to validate his own sense of self-worth.

He cringes. It sounds awful in his head. He just won’t ever mention it out loud.

“I know a couple others have agreed,” Midoriya is saying softly, pressing his palms together. “Uraraka and Tsuyu are both going to accept internships if they get their licenses. They, um. They say they feel guilty about not coming along before. This time they won’t have to though, since it’s with the teacher’s permission.”

Kirishima nods, wondering if any of his friends are going to be allowed to intern. He considers asking them, but...what if they feel like he’s pressuring them? He decides to just let them mention it to him themselves.

“So that’s five of us for sure, huh?” He asks Midoriya. “As long as we all get our provisional licenses.”

“Yeah, from what I know,” Midoriya says, looking up at him. “I haven’t talked to anyone else who I’m not close friends with, so I’m not sure about the rest of the class, but I guess we’ll find out.”

They all stand there quietly for a moment, caught up in their own heads, and Kirishima’s mind flashes suddenly back to that police department they stood in over a week ago, overcome by their failure. He clenches his fists, reflexively hardening his palms to avoid slicing through his own skin. The next time they’re all together like this, it’ll be different. He swears it.

The bell rings suddenly, loud and jarring, and they all jump. Iida’s look of shock and horror is almost comical as he scrambles towards the door, the engines on his calves stuttering to life. “We’re going to be late!”

“Ah! I’m sorry!” Midoriya apologizes profusely, leaping off the desk and nearly jostling Kirishima. He grabs his arm, steadying him, and Kirishima grins.

“Woah, thanks.”

Midoriya pauses then, all of a sudden, still gripping his arm as Todoroki and Yaoyorozu move on past. Kirishima stops too in confusion, glancing down at the hand on his forearm. Midoriya’s grip tightens briefly, squeezing. “Hey, what’s wro—”

“Thank you,” Midoriya whispers fiercely, so that the others who are already halfway out the door won’t hear. Then he pulls Kirishima into a tight hug.

Kirishima is only frozen for a second before he wraps his arms around Midoriya’s middle just as firmly. Midoriya’s face presses against his shoulder as he mumbles, “I’m glad you’re coming.”

“Me too,” Kirishima replies tightly, feeling something in his chest constrict. But it’s less painful this time than it was before, because he’s actually going to be doing something. He’s gonna be making a difference.

Midoriya lets go and steps back, giving him a wobbly grin. He grabs his bag from the desk and swings it over his shoulder, hurrying towards the door. “Come on, we’re already late.”

Kirishima retrieves his own bag and hurries after him to Mic’s class, steeling his resolve. They’ll make this work, the students and the pros. The next time they encounter the villains, maybe it’ll be different.

Maybe it’ll be them who’ll have to watch their backs.

Katsuki leans his head against the slight crack where the door meets the wall and listens.

He’s had to wait longer than he wanted to before making a move, because the shitty villains apparently decided they weren’t ever gonna fucking leave, but now, maybe three or four days later, it’s gone suspiciously quiet. He presses an ear against the door and strains to hear something, anything at all, but it’s quiet.

All he knows are two things—Magne’s shift as guard should have been over a day ago, and Kurogiri, Dabi, the lizard villain, and Twice are all mysteriously absent. He hasn’t heard their voices in a while, and in a building this small, that most likely means they’re gone.

Shigaraki, the crusty fucker, is still here though, and so is the shitty marble villain and Knife Girl, Toga. Those three plus Magne means that there’s only four villains in the hideout, fewer than there’s ever been at one time. It’s almost too good to be true.

He can’t help but wonder where the others are, though. What the hell would they be doing, away from their hideout? Maybe they’re trying to split up, throw the heroes off their tail. Because yes, Katsuki has to tell himself firmly for the hundredth time, the heroes are definitely looking for him. Maybe he’d thought they wouldn’t even bother during his shitty meltdown he’d had a while ago, but now that he’s not in full-on panic mode, he knows how irrational he was being. The heroes had placed a large amount of priority on his retrieval the first time around—it isn’t going to suddenly change now that he’s been taken again. If anything, it will have gone up.

He already knows the villains want him to take the blame for everything, so that his morale will maybe crack and he’ll suddenly choose to switch from good to evil. It’s not gonna fucking happen, even though—

Even though he does still feel guilty as hell.

Katsuki forces himself to swallow as All Might’s tattered figure comes to mind. Yeah, he did that. Maybe he didn’t do it directly, but All Might...All Might shouldn’t have had to become like that on account of him. The guilt still claws its way through his chest and up his throat.

It’s not gonna make him think that he’d be better off as a villain, but it does make him feel like shit.

Katsuki swallows again and presses his head against the door even harder. He can figure out all his feelings once he busts his way out of here. Talk it out with someone, have a heart to heart with a therapist or some shit, whatever. Or he can just keep quiet about it. He doesn’t think he could handle acknowledging out loud that he’s the reason All Might’s reign is over early.

He can hear Magne shifting in her seat a few feet away from the door and a few pings that sound like they’re probably coming from a game on her phone. Good. It means that they’ve started paying less attention to him, probably don’t recognize him as a real threat. He hasn’t done shit since they’ve had him, hasn’t given them a reason to suspect him. Maybe his lack of resistance was a cause of suspicion before, but now they probably think he’s tearing himself up over the guilt, slowly switching over to their side like some weak-willed little brat.

They can dream.

It’s time for him to move. Even though it would be preferable for Shigaraki to be absent as well, he’s got no idea when or if the man plans on leaving any time soon. And if he waits too long and the other villains come back, he’s screwed.

At least Kurogiri’s not here. He’s the biggest obstacle, with his stupid fucking warp gates. Any attack Katsuki blasts at him from a distance, he can just redirect it back. And unless Katsuki’s able to get in close, which probably wouldn’t happen, he would just get recaptured.

So this is it, then. This is when he’s gotta do it.

Katsuki takes a deep breath to steady himself. The door to his room hasn’t ever been opened unless it’s to shove a tray of food inside, so he’s going to have to do some pretty convincing acting. It’s not his strongest point.

He slowly gets to his feet, the water inside his stomach sloshing. He’d done his best to force as much as the nasty, metallic-tasting water from his bathroom sink down his throat as he could a little while ago, and it made him feel just as sick as he’d thought it would. Hopefully it doesn’t impair his fighting too badly.

He can hear Magne shift in her seat again. Katsuki takes another deep breath, and bangs on the door with his fist.

Metal screeches against the floor as Magne jumps, startled. He hears low cursing from outside, the rustling of clothes, and an annoyed voice. “What, kid?”

“Oi, open the door,” Katsuki rasps, loud enough for her to hear but hopefully not loud enough to bring what’s left of the League of Villains running. His voice is hoarse and gravelly from disuse, but that will probably actually help his case.

Magne snorts. “Go siddown, kid. Shigaraki’ll see you when he’s good and ready, m’kay? He’s busy now. Take a nap.”

Apparently he’s been busy for over an entire fucking week. Katsuki almost shakes his head in disbelief. What the hell do they actually want him for? Unless they do have a reason, and they’re just dealing with other shit right now, like making sure they don’t get caught by the fucking police now that their presence is such a huge deal. It would help explain why half of their vanguard force is missing from the hideout.

Katsuki bangs on the door again. “Hey, open the fucking door. I don’t feel—”

He cuts himself off, makes a few gagging sounds for effect. He can hear Magne shifting outside, standing up from her seat. “Kid, what the fuck?”

“I don’t feel ri—” Katsuki says, and then shoves his fingers down his throat.

The effect is immediate. The metallic water that’s been churning in his stomach comes surging back up. Katsuki yanks his hand out of his mouth and drops to his hands and knees, vomiting all over the floor. He sucks in a wet breath of air, chest rattling, and vomits again.

There’s a muttered “Shit” from outside, and then Magne’s scowling face appears in the grate at the top of the door. Katsuki forces himself to glance up at her, sweat beading on his forehead and pooling in the palms of his hands. The way his limbs are trembling isn’t faked. Katsuki tries to steady himself, and vomits a third time for his trouble. Maybe he shouldn’t have drank that much of the putrid water.

“What the hell did you do?” Magne asks, but makes no move to open the door. Katsuki lowers his head and closes his eyes, gritting his teeth. He’s gotta make it more convincing.

“I don’t fucking know, I—” He dry heaves this time, gagging at the sour taste in his mouth. “I—”

“Oi, kid.”

Katsuki ignores her and focuses on dropping to the floor, curling onto his side and clutching his stomach like his life depends on it. The convulsions aren’t too hard to fake, when chucking his guts up already hurt so bad.

“Oi, kid!”

There’s more muttered curses, and then the jangling of keys. Katsuki stifles his exhale of relief. She’s not calling the other villains to join her from wherever the hell they are. Probably thinks he’s too weak to try anything with her.

He keeps his eyes squeezed shut as he hears her heavy footsteps approach. She doesn’t close and lock the door behind her. Dumbass.

A shadow falls over him as Magne crouches at his side. “Oh, fuck. Tell me you’re not dying. Shigaraki’ll be pissed.”

Katsuki lets a pained wheeze hiss out from between his teeth, and then—it hurts his pride so fucking much to do it—whimpers like a little fucking kid crying over a stomach ache. He hears Magne’s sharp intake of breath as she reaches for him, one large hand gripping his shoulder, and—

Leaving her torso exposed.

Katsuki’s eyes snap open and he leaps into action. In one fluid motion, he rolls up onto his knees, tearing his shoulder out of Magne’s grasp and instead grabbing her own, forcing her off balance from her sloppy crouch. Then he slams his other hand into her stomach and lets off a muffled explosion.

If there’s one thing his quirk isn’t known for, it’s stealthiness. Which is why Katsuki’s been working on that, for months now in secret. No one else needs to know that his quirk is anything less than perfect just the way it is, but it’s how he’s begun to develop something that’s less loud and explosive and more like a heat-packed, forceful punch. It’s still not anywhere near as strong as he’d like it to be, since it’s incredibly hard to stifle his own explosion while still retaining force, but at this close of range? It’ll do the trick.

Katsuki bares his teeth in satisfaction as Magne lets out a choked gasp, hands flying to her abdomen. She opens her mouth like she’s about to scream and he grabs the sides of her head, twisting his fingers up in her hair and smashing his knee into her temple.

Magne silently drops.

Katsuki stands there for a second, partially stunned, heart still racing with adrenaline. He can’t fucking believe that worked. If he had been even a second too slow, she would’ve gotten her hands on him and ended it all right there.

A singed, burning smell fills his nose, and he forces his eyes down to Magne’s torso. The burn is messy and bloody, her shirt torn and blackened. Little bits of flesh and blood are spattered across the floor and across Katsuki’s face and arms. If it had been any stronger, he might’ve killed her. Even though she’s one of the villains who freaking kidnapped him, he still gets a sick feeling thinking about it. He’s a hero, not a murderer.

Okay, enough. He needs to go before someone figures out something is wrong and comes to check it out. He doesn’t think his explosion was too loud, especially pressed up against Magne’s stomach. Still, he needs to—

“Get the hell out of here,” Katsuki whispers to himself, tearing his eyes away from Magne. Nausea churns in his gut. He’s never hurt someone that badly before. The blood on his skin feels like it’s burning holes through it. What if she doesn’t live? What if the wound gets infected? What if the other villains don’t bother to—

He leaves Magne lying in the pool of his vomit and creeps out the door, head still swimming. He’s probably just light headed from throwing up so much before. Dammit, this isn’t good. He needs a clear head to fight his way out. Katsuki presses a hand to his temple and breathes in. It only helps a little.

Okay, first things first. He runs through his game plan to help distract himself.

Figure out where the exit is. It’s not straight down the hall; that just leads to the bar. There’s three other doors clustered near the door to the bar. One looks dingy and is marked with a sign that reads ‘Bathroom’. So, probably not that one. The other two are plain, wooden. Innocuous.

Think about it. He inhales fully, lets it out. Magne’s blood itches as it starts to dry. It can be washed off.

The other two doors must lead somewhere further than just a single room, because otherwise the villains would have probably heard the short scuffle between him and Magne. Since they haven’t come running, he’ll assume that they’re somewhere farther back. Unless they left? No, he’d heard them slowly filter into one of the rooms about ten minutes before he’d made his move. They’re probably still here.

He slowly moves towards the first door. His footsteps sound too loud, his blood pulses in his ears. Everything is too loud. They’ll hear him coming from a mile away.

Holy fuck, calm down.

“Stay calm, you idiot,” Katsuki breathes to himself. Smile, he thinks he hears in All Might’s voice. What, now? When there’s no one else around? Stupid.

Outside the first door, he pauses and listens. There’s nothing except for the sound of his own controlled breathing. Unless the villains are all just sitting there staring at each other silently, they’re probably not in there. Katsuki digs his teeth into his lower lip. He should probably open the door fast, just in case. If he moves too slowly, they’ll notice and he’ll lose time. Right now, he needs the element of surprise on his side.

“Just fucking do it,” he mutters, and grabs the doorknob to yank it open.

His heart just about jumps to his throat as he readies his stance, but the room is completely empty. Katsuki squints around. It looks like...a kitchen? There’s no other doors in there, no adjoining rooms. Just a normal sized kitchen, with a refrigerator and a stovetop and an oven that looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in years. Fucking disgusting, but what else would he expect?

So that means they’ve got to be in the other room. But then, why the hell is it so goddamn quiet? Shouldn’t he be able to hear something, anything? Hell, the sound of their breathing? But it’s like the building is deserted besides Magne, which makes no sense because he heard them go into one of these rooms and as far as he knows, they’ve never all left the hideout like this.

A bead of sweat trickles down his face, and he hastily wipes it off. Alright, whatever. He’ll just get in there, bust in some heads, fight his way to the exit. The exit’s gotta be in that room, right? How else would they fucking get in and out?

He silently shuts the door to the dingy kitchen and moves towards the other one. Gritting his teeth he jerks it open, grimacing when it squeaks loudly, and prepares to blow everyone away, but—

Empty.

What the fuck?

This room looks like some kind of lounge, with ratty old sofas and a old TV set that’ll probably fall apart if someone breathes too close to it. There’s a coffee table in the middle with a few half-full mugs sitting on it, which means they were here, and recently, but where the fuck are they now? Katsuki scans the room wildly. There—there’s another door. It’s hanging half-ajar, and—he squints at it—looks like it leads down yet another hallway. And down that hallway—more doors? More rooms? How big is this place?

Most establishments definitely aren’t this big. There’s a slow, sinking feeling in Katsuki’s stomach that he’s trying to ignore. If it was just an underground bar, then it should’ve just been one building. There should be stairs leading up and out of here. Instead, the hallways just look like they lead to different places—different buildings.

Holy shit. This isn’t some underground hideout. This is an underground maze. There are adjoining buildings everywhere.

And no exit in sight. Fuck, that’s absolutely against safety regulations, but somehow he doubts that very much legal activity goes down in these joints.

Okay, fine. This is fine. He’ll just have to search the place, figure out where the exits are before he runs into anyone. The League is probably roaming around somewhere, but as long as he’s out of here before they get back—

A noise behind him.

His heart plummets and he whips around just in time to hear the toilet flush from inside the room marked ‘bathroom’. His heart pounds wildly, and if he was watching this scene unfold from a movie screen, it would probably be funny. Except, it’s not a movie and the door is creaking open. The masked villain steps out, hands still adjusting the waistline of his trousers with his head bent down.

“Shigaraki, are you back? I thought I heard something from the kid’s room, we should probably check—”

Fucking shit, the time to act is now. Bakugou scrambles back to put some distance between himself and the inevitable shitshow, jerks his palms up, and detonates. Fire roars from his hands, the resounding boom rattling the walls. Fuck, that was too much, it was too much—that noise is enough to startle anyone within a mile vicinity. And he hadn’t been holding back, what if he’d killed him, he’s not a fucking murderer—

The masked villain pops up from the floor with a snarl, hands clenching and unclenching. He’d condensed himself into a fucking marble to avoid his blast, the shithead. Bakugou squashes the tiny seed of relief at the fact that at least he isn’t dead, and looses another explosion, this time far more controlled. It’s still loud enough to raise the dead, and this time the fucker just nimbly dodges.

“How the hell did you get out? Oi, what the fuck did you do to Magne? Come here, you damn kid!”

“Like hell!” Katsuki yells back, and blows up the floor at their feet. Dust and smoke billows up like a mushroom cloud, and Katsuki turns heel and runs. If the villains didn’t know he was out before, they do now. He needs to get the hell out of here before more of them show up.

He bolts into the room and through the open door down the second hallway. He can hear the masked villain coughing behind him, but doesn’t risk looking back. Focus on what’s ahead. Another door at the end of the hallway, two others flanking it on the perpendicular walls. Try those two first.

Katsuki skids to a halt and yanks open the first door, disregarding stealth. He doesn’t have time for that anymore. An explosion already sparks at his fingertips as he jerks his head from side to side, searching. All he sees are stacks of cardboard boxes, some old, dusty crates. It’s another storage room, like the one he was being held in. “Dammit!”

He can hear the masked villain’s voice yelling as he scrambles for the next door. Not at him, though—the villain charges out of the dust cloud, stowing a cell phone away in his pocket. Fuck, Shigaraki’s probably on his way.

The door to this room is locked. Katsuki’s heart leaps—locked means they don’t want him in there, right?—and he blasts off the doorknob with a forceful explosion before kicking the door in. It’s a bare bones room, with uncovered piping still lining the walls and the skeleton of a wooden countertop against the far wall, and—holy shit, are those stairs?

“Get back here!” The masked villain snarls from behind him, and Katsuki springs towards them, heart beating madly. This is it, this is his window out.

A hand suddenly snags the back of his shirt, far too close to the back of his neck, to where Dabi had wrapped long, spidery fingers around his nape and yanked him through a disappearing warp gate. The flashback washes over him like freezing ice down his back, gut-wrenching and fearful. Katsuki feels his breath stutter in his chest, then stop.

For about half a second, there’s no other sound than the blood rushing to his head. Then—

“Get the fuck off me!” Katsuki hears himself scream. He hardly registers what he’s doing until it’s over, but then he’s got the masked villain’s wrist in his left hand, wrapping his fingers loosely around it, like he always does when he’s using an explosion in close range.

Then there’s screaming, except it’s not from him. Blood spurts from the open wound as flesh squelches and splatters, fragile bones splintering and breaking away. The masked villain’s hand thuds to the ground in a spray of gore that sizzles against Katsuki’s skin. His blood joins Magne’s.

Katsuki cuts off the strangled sound trying to escape his throat and doesn’t stay to watch the masked villain fall to his knees in agony, clutching at the messy amputation. The stairs, the stairs, they’re right fucking there and all he needs to do is get to them. C’mon, c’mon—

—that makes two people he’s mutilated with his quirk. God, he’s always known what his quirk could really do—he’s got fucking bombs for hands, nitroglycerin at that. His explosions are meant to maim, not burn. Not fucking singe. And yet that’s all he’s ever done, all his life, against any human opponent he’s ever faced. Discounting All Might and Kirishima, of course, since they were practically made to withstand his quirk, but against everyone else, he’s had to reign them in. Human flesh is fucking fragile. Even Deku’s flesh will tear against the fully-fledged force of a fucking nitroglycerin bomb.

It’s been his mantra for as long as he can remember—impactful force, not implosive force, stun, not kill—and he just tossed it out the window. Katsuki tries not to choke. Fucking hell, he really could kill people—

His foot only just meets the first stair before slicing pain in his left calf trips him up. He stumbles and falls, rolling to break up the impact and hissing in pain. A knife sits impaled into the wood of the stairs he’d just been trying to climb, coated in his blood.

“Ah, ah, ah,” a sickeningly sweet voice rings out from the doorway, over the muffled sound of the masked villain’s screams and Katsuki’s ragged breathing. He shoves himself up off the floor, ignoring the burning twinge in his leg. The cut’s deep, but not unmanageable.

Toga stands in the doorway, several more knives curled loosely between her fingers. She flashes him a dizzying smile, sharp white teeth glinting in the dim light. Behind her is Shigaraki, and even with the hand covering practically his whole face, Katsuki can tell he’s pissed. His stomach drops. Don’t show it, don’t show it—

“Someone called and told us you’d been baaaaaad,” Toga sings, stretching out her vowels around her pointed grin. “What’d you do to Mr. Compress, huh?”

Then she pauses for a moment like she’s just realized something, and her smile chillingly vanishes. “What’d you do to Magne, huh?”

“Fuck off,” Katsuki grits out, hands sparking. “I’m blowing this joint.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” Shigaraki says, and Katsuki’s so busy keeping his eyes on the hand fucker that he forgets the masked villain isn’t unconscious just yet.

He doesn’t register what’s happening until suddenly a marble is whistling through the air towards him. Katsuki tenses and lifts a hand to swat it out of the way, but by then it’s not a marble anymore. It’s the entire fucking wooden countertop, crashing towards him and slamming him back into the floor. Wood splinters around him as he gasps for air, the wind knocked out of him. His ribs are badly bruised, if not cracked or broken, and he can’t prevent the moan that escapes him.

The masked villain stands with his good arm still extended, panting. Underneath that shitty mask, Katsuki knows he’s glaring. “You stupid fucking kid, my fucking hand.”

“Can I bloody him up a bit?” Toga asks excitedly, brandishing her knives. “He deserves it! He’s been bad.”

Shigaraki regards him coldly through his mop of greasy hair. “How dare you hurt my underlings? I needed them, you damn brat, I fucking needed—”

Katsuki doesn’t wait for him to finish. His ribs scream in protest, but he grits his teeth as the recoil of his blast to dispel the wreckage around him jerks his entire body. Splintered wood flies everywhere as the villains dive for cover, not that there’s much in this empty room. The masked villain crumples down in a corner and doesn’t get back up as blood from his mutilated wrist pools around him. Unconscious.

Wheezing, Katsuki stumbles to his feet, body fighting him all the way. He’s just gotta get up those damn stairs.

“I’ve got him!” Toga yells from across the room. She’s not smiling anymore. Her face and sweater are bloodied, splinters of wood sticking out from her flesh like porcupine quills. She hurls a knife that Katsuki manages to dodge only because he preemptively threw himself towards the stairs and out of the way.

Shigaraki is back on his feet, too, and on his way towards Katsuki. His fingers are flexed dangerously at his sides. Fuck, fuck, shit—

“Still want him alive, Shigaraki? Hm?” Toga asks, twirling a blade at her fingertips, and for an absolutely heart-stopping moment, Shigaraki doesn’t answer. But then—

“For now,” he rasps out. “But you can bloody him up for me. That’d be good.”

“Perfect!” Toga squeals, and doesn’t miss with her next knife. It catches him across his face, a narrow slit across his left cheek that burns like a bitch.

Fucking—what do they expect him to do, stand there and take it? Maybe his full power explosions are out of commision for right now—he doesn’t think he could pull one off without passing out from the pain in his ribs—but he can still fucking fight.

They’re blocking the way to the stairs at this point. Toga grins and holds up her next set of blades while Shigaraki just stands there, hands open and ready. The bastard’s not even gonna attempt getting near him, fucking coward. Katsuki grits his teeth and drops to the ground as the first few knives fly over his head, and then rolls as several more slam into the wooden floorboards, impaling themselves deeply and sticking handle up. Then he pops to his feet, ribs groaning in complaint, and blows up the floor.

Blinding his opponents with his surroundings—that’s something he remembers Aizawa had suggested to him at one point during his training. He’s had a lot of reason to make use of it lately.

Dust and smoke billow up around him, and he instinctively ducks low to the ground when he hears Toga’s indignant shriek. Knives come whizzing through the cloud. One catches him in the side, a quick, neat slice, while another cuts deeply into his right bicep, and it’s all he can do not to gasp in pain. That’s the downside to this technique; he can’t see where his opponents are either.

Whatever, he can deal. He knows their general direction, anyway, and that’s all he really needs to know.

Katsuki stays low to the ground as he runs forward, ignoring his screaming ribs, until he can vaguely make out two silhouettes in the dusty haze. Then he shoves his hands outward and lets them detonate.

Dirt and plaster fall from the ceiling and he swears the walls shake, but Toga and Shigaraki are down—they’re down! He can make out their crumpled forms on the floor and clenches his fist in silent victory before lunging for the stairs. He takes them two at a time, gripping his sides with his arm and praying he’ll make it out of here before he passes out. Katsuki’s running on an adrenaline high, mostly, and once he crashes, he doesn’t think he’ll be able to get back up.

Shit, the door is right there. He’s right there, he’s almost out—he just needs to find someone, anyone, call the police, call the heroes. They’ll come. They’ll definitely come—

His hand is on the doorknob when the stairs turn to nothing beneath his feet.

How, he thinks stupidly, numbly, but by the time he sees Shigaraki with his hands outstretched, fingers splayed on empty air where the stairs had once been, it’s too late.

Katsuki slams back into the floor below.

The crack he hears in his ribs is explosive, blinding. He opens his mouth to scream, but nothing comes out—just a silent hiss of air, an agonized wheeze. Fuck, it hurts, it hurts— he can’t fucking move. Oh, god. His limbs feel like they’re trembling but when he looks, they’re stiff and still.

Fire burns through his entire body, and for a split second he wants to die. Just fucking kill him already, anything to make it stop. God, he can’t fucking move, he can’t function. How in the hell did Deku ever accomplish the shit he did when he was broken like this? Katsuki can’t imagine anything worse.

He can’t do anything when Shigaraki staggers to his feet and approaches him, can’t even speak. Every breath he takes is utter hell. Shigaraki kneels at his side, face bloodied and twisted into a snarl. The hand that usually covers his face is gone, knocked aside at some point during the fight and leaving Katsuki full view of Shigaraki’s fury. His hands reach for Katsuki, and Katsuki’s heart slams into his ribcage. Shigaraki’s going to kill him and he can’t even move to defend himself.

But Shigaraki’s hands stop just short of Katsuki’s face, and then one of his long, dry fingers reaches down to brush something away from his cheeks. Only then does the wetness on his face register—oh god, he’s fucking crying. Maybe it’s just from the pain at this point. He can’t fucking tell.

Shigaraki’s head tilts to the side, and the fury in his eyes is replaced by a sneer. His lips twist upward viciously as he grabs Katsuki’s face with four of his five fingers and wrenches it up towards his. Katsuki can’t stifle the pained cry that escapes him in time.

“It was a good try, Kacchan,” Shigaraki hisses cruelly, twisting up the nickname that Deku’s used for him for years. Katsuki’s throat closes up and his eyes burn. He was so fucking close. “But not good enough.”

Then he slams his head into the floorboards.

It’s been two weeks since the Kamino incident when Aizawa gets the call from Tsukauchi.

He’s walking down the halls of UA with Hizashi, balancing a coffee cup in one hand and a stack of graded tests in the other, when his cell phone rings. Hizashi glances at his pocket and immediately takes the papers and mug from Aizawa, who nods once in thanks and fishes his phone out. When he sees it’s from Tsukauchi, he stops dead in his tracks.

“Shouta?” Hizashi asks, brow wrinkling as he stops beside him, but Aizawa holds up a hand and answers.

“Hello?”

“Eraserhead,” Tsukauchi says without preamble. His tone makes Aizawa pause.

“...Did you find something?”

“We may have a lead,” Tsukauchi replies, voice tinny over the phone. “Chiba prefecture, in one of their shadier districts. Locals reported hearing explosions going off from an underground labyrinth that was once a mainstay for gangs and yakuza. The place was apparently shut down by the cops years ago, so—”

“So he’s there,” Aizawa breathes, and Hizashi stiffens, raising his eyebrows.

“So we’ve given it investigative priority in order to confirm it since there have been no actual sightings,” Tsukauchi says firmly, “and we’ll be organizing a team for a second raid. As a UA teacher, it’s really best that you remain at the school to help defend it, but I’m willing to extend this offer to you if you’d like to be a part of it.”

He’d sat out the last time, too, to make sure the other kids were safe. But UA’s changed—the kids will be here, in the dorms and under the direct security of all the other teachers and staff. Aizawa thinks he can afford to be away for just one night.

“I’ll be there.”