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2039 A.D.

 

The Midoriya Household

“This is an emergency news broadcast. Please stay inside and away from windows and doors. A large and bulky humanoid creature has appeared in Musutafu that is around eight feet tall. I repeat, stay inside and away from windows and doors. I’m being told the latest casualty count is 157 with 234 injured. It has been two days since the creature arrived. Authorities are sending heroes to help, but many are hospitalized and unable to perform their normal duties.

What we do know is that the creature is not from earth. When hit, it oozes a purple sludge that has a chemical composition of elements not found on our planet. The creature fell from the sky, and did not appear to take any damage from the impact. If you know anything that may help take down the creature, we urge you to call the number at the bottom of your screen.

Stay indoors. I repeat, stay indoors. This is an emergency news broadcast. Please stay inside and away from windows and do—”

Midoriya Inko turns off her television, grabs her son, and hides in a closet. With her phone held close to her chest, she hugs Izuku tight and cries.

-x-

Nearby, Bakugou Katsuki crowds with his own family in their innermost bedroom. For the first time in a long time, all are quiet.

Katsuki shakes with the force of his sobs.

No one holds it against him.

-x-

“Get in!” Todoroki Enji shouts at his children, one hand holding open the closet door and the other pointing angrily at the space inside. Shouto’s siblings enter before he does, scrambling in last. It’s no surprise when Enji locks the door behind them.

“Dad!” Shouto shouts through the closet. He’s standing right up against the door while his siblings cower farther back. “Why aren’t you helping?”

Enji’s sighs, annoyed, and Shouto can see the flash of fire from under the door.

It opens.

“Because I have to ‘protect my family’. Now shut up and stay quiet.” A big hand plants itself on Shouto’s chest and shoves him back easily. The door shuts loudly just as Shouto hits the ground hard, narrowly avoiding a fall onto his siblings. “Don’t even think of trying to burn your way out.”

Shouto doesn’t dare.

“Where’s mom?” Shouto asks.

The harsh thump on the door serves as his answer, and Shouto decides he’s already tried his luck enough for one day.

He stays quiet.

 

Downtown Musutafu

The skies of Musutafu are pink. It’s sunset and it’s raining, cold droplets falling down onto the heroes below. Tall buildings rise all around them in massive metal structures of gargantuan proportions with any semblance of foliage long forgotten. Bright screens line building walls, advertising the latest perfume or action movie depending on the minute. Where there aren’t screens there are brilliant neon lights, accentuating the sharp angles of architecture in hues of blue, green, red, and purple. The end result is a faint, electronic glow that drowns out any remaining daylight, replacing it with an artificial sun that many have grown to worship.

Horns come from all directions, but the sound of feet hitting pavement is the most prominent, especially since those footfalls are followed by even louder steps, thunderous ones that strike fear into every passerby, even the heroes that are designated to protect them.

People try not to think about what the creature resembles the most. It would give it too much power if they did. They think it bleeds, but there’s a purple substance that drips out of it when it’s hit, and the ooze falls with the consistency of snot from the multiple natural tears across its body The creature never appears fazed in the slightest at any hit, and nothing is working. No distractions, no guns, no explosions. It’s almost like the monster is designed to break the human race, and given that everyone is cowering in fear, it’s working.

And then it roars—

What the fuck is that thing?”

“Holy mother of god.”

“Oh shit oh shit oh shit!”

Aizawa can see and hear the panicked civilians from anywhere, but from where he’s perched atop an old light pole he has a bird’s eye view of the situation.

That’s where All Might and Nana Shimura come in.

The former is standing on a balcony of on of the local megacorporation’s buildings, somewhere between the twentieth and the thirtieth floor. Nana mirrors him, doing the same on a building right across the crowded street below them. The two are ready to jump if needed, and judging by the screams and rapid movements of the crowds below, it’s looking like they’ll have to.

On the ground, Present Mic is trying to run crowd control and failing.

“Remain calm! Heroes are on! Their! Way!” Present Mic shouts, activating his quirk. In a city corridor like this one, surrounded by buildings dozens of floors high, Mic’s quirk echoes. It should help them. It should calm the people. But they only seem more frantic and panicked, not swayed by Mic’s efforts in the slightest.

Mic looks up to Aizawa, saying, “This isn’t working! We have to try something else!”

Aizawa hears him through their in-ear communications systems and Mic can barely see him make one curt nod. “I’m looking into it.”

“The monster is getting closer!” Nana shouts through the systems, startling the other three. “Headed to your coordinates with three blocks to go.”

“Make that two blocks,” All Might adds with dread. “I’m coming down.”

All Might doesn’t wait for confirmation because it’s not up for debate. He shifts his feet, takes a deep breath, and steps off the building like he’s done it a million times before. With all the instances he and Nana have spent using Musutafu as their parkour playground when they want to see some real daylight, it’s easy as pie to do one twenty story jump.

He lands with a thoom! far enough away from the crowds to make sure no one gets hurt. Then, he quickly moves out of the way, running to catch up with Mic and Aizawa as fast as he can. Nana isn’t far behind, using All Might’s crater as a landing pad of her own, then following in his footsteps to meet up with the others.

Around them, pedestrians move like an anxious swarm of bees, not running in any specific direction other than away from the oncoming creature that is—

“One block away,” Nana updates, looking behind her back to check on the pedestrians while she runs then facing forward once more. The creature is almost in her sights, and she’s not looking forward to their first meeting.

Some people trip on the smooth ramps of the curbs, or get caught behind the disposal bins that dot every corner, ready to take in and vaporize anything from an old candy wrapper to the latest cell phone.

“Nedzu!” Aizawa shouts, his earpiece picking up his words and radioing them back to their headquarters at U.A. Scarves unwind. Eyes turn red. Aizawa drops from the light pole like a cat, landing onto the grating below without a sound. Water vapor curls around his feet amidst the raindrops that spatter them, and despite all the liquid, Aizawa hasn’t broken a sweat. “I’m growing impatient. We need a plan, now.” His scarves wind their way back into their resting position, and Aizawa turns to find Mic, droplets dripping down his face and eyes squinted in determination.

On the other side of the communication apparatus and back at U.A. Headquarters, President Nedzu is typing away furiously on not one, but three computers, doing his best to estimate the times of arrival of the other heroes. His own brain works in tandem, cruising at hyperspeed in the darkness of the room, desperate for any semblance of a plan that will bring his men and women home.

This isn’t fair.

“You need to distract it,” Nedzu exhales. He hadn’t wanted to say that. He’d wanted to outline a plan, something to defeat this thing. But he doesn’t know how.

The four heroes nod from their separate locations and then wait for the creature to arrive.

It comes bounding down the street, crushing cruising pods and disposal bins, damaging and toppling light posts, and breaking the informational glasses on the first and second floors of buildings.

When it finally gets to the heroes, it’s roaring again, letting out an awful mix between a growl and a chirp! That sets everyone’s bones on edge.

“I’ve got this one,” All Might says, and the other three voice their approval.

All Might feels his quirk rise in his muscles, a ripple of pure strength pulsing through him like a heartbeat, and it builds and builds and builds until—

“TENNESSEE SMASH!”

The resulting shockwave knocks a few civilians still standing by to take a step back and Mic continues to usher them away.

But it doesn’t affect the creature. It merely looks down at All Might, and if not for All Might’s deft dodging, he would have been hit by a punch from the creature that may very well rival his own.

“It didn’t work.” Nana elbows All Might when he returns to her, falling back until he has a better plan.

“Well, if guns and bombs can’t take it down, then this shouldn’t surprise us as much as it does,” Aizawa says. “We have to try something else.” He then jumps out, eyes red and scarves blazing, floating, winding, twisting, and gives everyone in the area, and the creature, his best imitation of a ribbon dance.

He moves left and spirals his scarves, letting them overlap to form double helixes of deadly white fabric before leaning right to do the same thing. All the while he’s moving from the ground up a light pole, across a transportation pod, and then returning back to where he’d been before.

“Get them out!” Aizawa shouts, jumping, his scarves rippling the motion as the creature now attempts to swat at the fabric. “I’m not going to be able to do this forever!” Paws move through the air then, thankfully missing cloth. Aizawa can’t breathe a sigh of relief, but there’s a part of him that knows he would if he could.

Mic moves quicker than All Might or Nana then, shifting his feet to pivot towards what’s left of the crowd, shouting at his top volume for any nearby civilians to—

“Run! Now! Go!” He all but shoves the last two people away. Aizawa’s deadly dance is continuing, and the creature is clearly becoming frustrated. With its lack of success in beating Aizawa’s game, it’s not surprising.

The hero’s capture weapon shoots out again, and he performs a more daring twist, flicking one of the ends in a whiplike motion. The creature bats at it, and Aizawa lets it, but what Aizawa hadn’t planned for retractable claws that could sink right through the fabric.

Aizawa doesn’t panic. He doesn’t freak out. He doesn’t scream out of surprise or fear.

But he comes close.

He makes a split second decision as the creature starts pulling him forward. Aizawa turns on a small hard light blade he keeps on his person at all times and cuts right through the scarf, freeing himself from the creature’s grasp.

He runs back to the group, paranoid the creature will come after him but not daring to show it.

“We need a new plan, Nedzu!” Mic yells. His hair is beginning to falter in the rain, the singular, sharp blond spike beginning to droop. He’s grateful his speaker systems are waterproofed, but the rest of his costume isn’t doing so well in the continued onslaught of water. Near to him, Aizawa’s hair looks exactly the same as it always does.

Terrible.

“The plan remains,” Nedzu orders, face green from the screens before him. “Distract. You’re supposed to be heroes now do your jobs.”

The heroes stand a little straighter. They’re the best of the best. They’re the best the world has to offer.

All Might doesn’t realize how much he’s objecting to Nedzu’s orders until he’s yelling at him to come up with new ones.

“It absorbs my punches! We need a better plan!” All Might argues. “Distracting it won’t cut it! If I can’t—”

“This isn’t about you!” Nedzu scolds, hands fully off of the keyboard now, fingers curled in focused frustration. “You aren’t alone in this so stop acting like it!” He pauses, and All Might is reeling a bit to the point that Nana almost places a hand on his shoulder. “Now, put on that smile that you’re so known for and save these people!

All Might feels the rain falling on his face. Looking down he sees the red, white, blue, and yellow of his costume and he can feel the criss-crossed lit fibers that overlay those colors in a calm glow. He sees Mic, whose worry is only evident by scrunched brows, and Aizawa, who is ever efficient, examining the cut end of his capture weapon for long-term damage.

Then he sees Nana, who’s smiling as bright as the lights around them, and he knows that he wears the same smile. It’s unbreakable, passed onto him as smoothly as One for All. He remembers the faces of those that ran by him only minutes ago, the frantic nature of the crowd below him and Nana, and he remembers how the creature he’d punched wouldn’t give in and wouldn’t back down.

He remembers he’s the best.

But he also remembers he’s part of a team that will go to the ends of the earth to back him up, just as he would do for them.

.All Might takes a quick breath, steadying his nerves and shouting, “Yes, sir!” All Might can’t see Nedzu, but if he could he’d see a new look of determination, of grit, of hope.

“Yo, Eraserhead!” Mic kicks a disposal bin, foot hitting the side of the dented metal container with a bang! It gets Aizawa’s attention as planned, head shooting up and eyes glaring at Mic within seconds. All Might and Nana punch things and Mic yells, But when it comes to making and executing plans, Aizawa knows better than all of them. “You got a plan?”

Aizawa’s eyes relax. “I can make one. Just give me a second.”

Aizawa takes in the creature’s position, it’s size, it’s stature, it’s general weight, and it’s density. While he has to guess on several of those things, he’s quite good at filling in the blanks. It looks like the creature has ears, eyes, and a mouth to roar with. He doesn’t know if it feels pain, but judging by its reaction to All Might’s blow earlier, they can bank on the idea that it might not feel it at all, not like humans do.

But he’s sure it has its limits. Everything does.

So Aizawa reasons that if the creature has ears then it might have eardrums, which could be shattered by Mic’s quirk. If the creature is distracted enough by the blow or hearing loss, then All Might and Nana could jump in and distract it further by throwing punches. Finally, if the creature is weak enough, Aizawa can wrap it up in a nice little bow and hand it to Nedzu.

But Nedzu had said to distract, not attempt to incapacitate.

Aizawa huffs in annoyance, suddenly wanting to kick a disposal bin himself.

“Eraserhead, incoming!” All Might’s voice breaks him out of his own head and Aizawa understands why immediately, as the creature has fixed its gaze on him and has shifted forward, all but stalking towards Aizawa until Aizawa notices it. Several strides later and Aizawa is narrowly missing a swipe of claws, diving and rolling out of the way. A scarf shoots out and wraps around a traffic pole and Aizawa uses it to run forward and fling himself over the creature and back into the safety of the rest of the group. As long as the creature is focused on them and not the rest of the city, everything would be fine.

Hopefully.

The creature stares at them and roars.

“Shit, what is that?” Mic’s arm flies up to shield himself in the wake of the sound.

Aizawa moves into action, paying little attention to Mic’s exclamation, and finally shouts orders the others can follow. “Mic, get ready to yell. All Might and Nana, I want you two to hit it while it’s down. Aim for its head. On the off chance that it’s weakened enough by all of that, I will capture it.”

Nedzu takes no time at all to voice his opinion, and it’s exactly as volatile as Aizawa had expected it to be. “Eraserhead,” Nedzu draws out his name with more than a hint of warning attached to the end of it. “The four of you are not strong enough. Especially not the four of you alone.”

Nedzu isn’t wrong. Aizawa is essentially working quirkless since his quirk is useless against an alien creature, and Mic can only yell. All Might and Nana are their only real firepower, but when it comes down to it they’re just two humans with super speed and super strength and can be killed as quickly as the rest of them if hit in the right place at the right time.

“You don’t know that.” Aizawa stands up for his fellow heroes. “And these people need saving. You said it yourself. And Nedzu, right now its focus is on us not them and we need to use that. Besides, it’s just a contingency if the creature gets weak enough. I repeat, it’s a contingency.

“Eraser—”

Stop.”

At least ask the others! Do they too share your plans?”

Nana and All Might exchange glances, nodding to one another. “Nana and I are all for it,” All Might says without hesitation.

“It’s all clear with—” Mic starts, but abruptly the rest of his words are taken from his throat as a sharp and calculated hit descends on it. There’s a flash of purple behind him as his remaining air is punched from his gut, exiting his lungs as a rough wheeze. The hero goes flying, landing on his back roughly and skidding on pavement. He tries to catch his breath, taking into stock that several of his ribs are most certainly broken, judging by the excruciating pain he feels when he can finally drag in a breath again. In front of him, the creature that had knocked the wind out of him stands with its back to Mic, not even paying attention to the Voice Hero anymore.

This newcomer is a striking humanoid who’s tall, haunting, and dark. It wears a sharply cut suit, much like one that the heroes could find on Earth. None of them can see its face, but they can see an apparatus that’s attached to the lower half of its head that shields more than the mask that covers the rest. It’s most certainly a breathing device, which tells the heroes something they hadn’t wanted to know.

It’s an alien too. An alien that looks like them.

“Oh my god,” Nana breathes, inching closer to All Might instinctively just as he does the same. Mic at this point has begun to sit up, but he can’t stand and his attempt to do so ends up with him on the ground again.

The new creature turns to Mic.

“You bast—”

Mic coughs and it makes his ribs scream. Then his heart starts thumping wildly in his chest. If he couldn’t even finish a sentence, that meant that his quirk—

“Ah,” the new creature says to Mic, who is close enough to hear the chuckle escaping its lips. “Seems as if I’ve weakened you a little too easily.” The cruel laugh stops and its voice grows cold. “Of course, that was my intention.”

Mic’s stomach drops as it turns back to the rest of the heroes and throws out its arms. “Hello to all! Just so we’re clear, you shall call me All for One, and this,” the figure gestures to the monster closest to him, now heeling upon hearing the voice of its master. “Is my Noumu.”

All for One approaches the creature he calls Noumu and pets it.

The Noumu absolutely purrs.

“Noumu likes this planet, as do I. You humans are quite… compatible I see.”

Mic coughs, trying to ask—

All Might straightens. “Why are you here? What do you want from us?”

All for One pauses, holds All Might’s gaze. The silence drags, everyone waiting, until finally All for One answers.

“What do I want? I want this planet. I want your service. I want your worship. But no, most of all, I want you, All Might and you, Shimura Nana.

All Might and Nana freeze solid. The two think the same thing in unison.

He couldn’t be the All for One, could he? Not here, not like this, how could that have

Before All Might can retort back and ask a follow up question, or Nana can at least clarify what is going on, All for One makes everything worse by continuing to talk.

“Now, I’m thinking we want to have some fun. What’s an arrival on a new planet if there isn’t a party to accompany it?” All for One continues stroking the Noumu and the creature loves it. “And Noumu here is lonely, after all…”

Oh god, please no, Aizawa says silently, catching All for One’s implication immediately. They couldn’t even handle one, there’s no way they could handle—

Something drops.

Another scream.

The dull noise of another hitting the earth and leaving a mark.

Noumu.

Noumu.

Noumu.

Until there are nine alien creatures moving around and surrounding the group.

Aizawa actually gulps.

“Where’s Midnight when we need her,” Nana says under her breath, now standing back to back with All Might and preparing for the worst. “I don’t like these things conscious.”

“Pretty sure you wouldn’t want them unconscious either. Eraserhead, the plan might still work,” All Might grasps at straws. “It could take out one or two at least, and that... that might be enough of a distraction.”

“Nedzu,” Mic whispers, teeth clenched and finally standing. “Where. Are. They?”

“I’m on it,” Nedzu tells him, and Mic can hear the typing as he struggles not to cough again. “They’re not close enough.”

“Well how much—” Mic loses the fight against an incoming hacking fit. “How much time do we have?”

“Three minutes to arrival, one until they’re in comm range. We aren’t suited for a fight against aliens. I advise you wait—”

“Nedzu, we don’t have much of a choice. If we die, we die.”

The silence that follows is heavy. “Well then, I wish you the best of luck. Just be careful,” Nedzu finally tells him. “Please.”

Mic grits his teeth, sees an opening while All for One is seemingly distracted, and runs. Mic can’t see it, but All for One smiles under his mask. Mic makes it to the rest of the heroes, and Aizawa is with him immediately, standing close enough to guard him while he coughs again.

“Can you activate your quirk?” Aizawa asks quietly.

“I don’t know,” Mic says, voice barely passing for a rasp after he’d coughed so hard. “But I have to try.”

Aizawa gives him a curt nod and the two mirror All Might and Nana, standing with their backs to one another and ready to fight from any direction.

Nedzu can’t see Mic and Aizawa’s nods, but the silence tells him everything he needs to know. “Eraserhead! We’re up!”

Aizawa meets his eyes, and Mic angles his body to get a vantage point for the nearest Noumu. Aizawa readies his scarves and All Might braces himself while Nana’s skin seeps purple lightning. Both of them grin and for the hell of it, Mic and Aizawa grin with them.

Mic opens up his mouth, screams, and everything burns.

PLUS ULTRAAAAAAAA!”

The world hums and his whole body vibrates with the force of the channeled blast that hits the nearest Noumu and several around it. The one that received the direct hit cries out, though its screams isn’t nearly as deafening as Mic’s quirk. Mic doubles over, the force of the scream having almost taken him out too because holy fuck does his throat hurt.

“CALIFORNIA SMAAAAAAASH!” All Might yells as he punches the alien, a full power blast radiating outwards enough that everyone in the vicinity can feel the force of the shockwave. It’s no tiny hit, yet the Noumu only budges a foot, if that. So All Might moves to his left, because he knows that Nana is right behind him with her own quirk activated to its maximum.

“MONTANA SMAAAAAAASH!”

A convergence of purple lightning crackles and pops, and then makes contact with the Noumu in a flurry of lightning strikes that are enough to brighten the area. Thunder follows in their wake, the boom shaking All Might’s bones due to proximity alone and causing his ears to ring.

“You’re going to make me lose my hearing one of these days,” All Might laughs and smiles wider as she finishes up her flurry of blows.

But the Noumu hadn’t moved more than a foot again.

Nana fights the urge to frown. “Well, gear up, because I’m about to try now,” Her voice is strong, but there’s a note of unease and worry of a fear that only All Might can detect. It isn’t as if she’s unable to sense his terror as well.

But they’re heroes.

So they smile.

All Might understands the meaning of her words immediately, his wavelengths perfectly aligned with hers. He steps in front of her and charges a punch.

The Noumu roars.

“Mic!” All Might shouts. “Can you hit it again?”

“Roger that!” Mic says, voice stronger than before.

The blast does cause All Might to consider wearing earplugs from now on, but it does cause the Noumu to reach a state of distress powerful enough that Nana and All Might can do their worst.

“MONTANA SMAAAAAAASH!” All Might rushes forward, superspeed fueling his initial hit. He makes contact and the Noumu’s skin—if one could call it that—ripples from the impact.

Then, as fast as he’d arrived, he moves away, and Nana shouts from behind him, “NEW YORK SMAAAAAAASH!”

Come on, time it right, All Might thinks, mentally crossing his fingers. You’ve got this, Sensei.

Her fist, colored purple from lightning, hits the Noumu in the same place All Might had made contact with seconds before. Her hit moves to chase All Might’s, the lightning tracing the contours of the Noumu’s temporary injury. The electicity snaps and the Noumu makes one noise of discomfort. The thunder hits and All Might is sure his eardrums are going to shatter.

“We need you to hit it again, Mic!” Nana says for the both of them. All Might doesn’t protest because he’d been about to suggest the same thing.

“You sure?”

“Yes, do it!” Both All Might and Nana shout in perfect unison.

PLUSSSSSS ULTRAAAAAA!” It’s strong and clear, and All Might and Nana can feel it in their bones, cells humming.

The Noumu cries out again, flinching backwards just enough to give All Might and Nana another chance.

Nana goes for its eyes, aiming to blind it, and All Might goes for the back of its neck.

“CONNECTICUT—” All Might begins, fist strong and firm.

“—SMAAAAAAASH!” Nana finishes, both fists drenched in a lightning storm. She holds them out, then brings them together, crashing into each side of the Noumu’s skull and feeling a wet squish of something between her hands.

At the same time, All Might strikes a solid punch to the back of the Noumu’s neck, aiming for the closest thing it has to cervical vertebrae. The combined shockwaves from the two hits throw off the Noumu, and while it is still relatively unmoved, it’s reeling and distracted by All Might and Nana’s combined assault.

Perfect, All Might thinks. Their plan might work after all

Nana is on his wavelength. “Eraser, you can—!”

“—On it!” Aizawa shouts, cutting her off. His eyes burn red, and he sprints forward, his scarves flying out and rippling in his wake. Aizawa moves faster, a terrifying oscillation of deadly fabric fluctuating behind him as he runs.

He’s trying not to think about what the other Noumu are doing to their targets. Civilians are dashing away, trying to escape the creatures but are so often not quick enough. Men and women are trying to rush past, aiming to get inside their transportation pods, only to have them crush and ripped apart before they can lock the doors. The streets are torn up, glass store windows decimated, and there’s too much blood everywhere.

And the police are not—

And the Noumu are—

And the screaming. Such screaming.

It’s never been this bad before. Aizawa has faced villains who could turn into the ones he loved, villains who were all encompassing slimes, villains who could shatter an entire nervous system with the flick of a wrist, but to say this is the epitome of bad would be an understatement.

Aizawa finally reaches the Noumu, and only anger is inside him when his scarves move around its body. They twist and turn, guided by Aizawa constantly inverting and reverting his gravity field.

This is for the people you’ve killed, the ones I couldn’t save, and may you never hurt anyone ever again, Aizawa thinks, winding the scarves around his forearms. He begins to pull them taut, but eyes stare back at him.

Movements become more ordered.

The scarves fly apart.

“I thought you took those out!” Mic shouts.

“I did!Nana shoots.

The creature’s dark hand wraps around the back of Aizawa’s neck and Aizawa scrambles, trying to escape its grip, too shocked at the creature’s recovery to think at full capacity.

The hold on his neck tightens, and then next thing Aizawa sees is the ground as his face slams into the pavement. Then the Noumu is on top of him and Aizawa can’t even try to move. A hand is dragging his head up by his hair and another hand holds him down by the arm, claws digging into his skin, their prickle far past painful.

The footsteps are slow as they approach him and dread coils in Aizawa’s gut.

No, no no, Aizawa thinks helplessly.

“Wait, Aizawa, come in, Aizawa!” Aizawa hears Mic’s broken voice on the comms but he can’t muster any strength to reply.

It’s quiet anyway. Everything is quieter now.

Except for its voice.

All for One stares down at him, and Aizawa does his best to breath evenly. He’ll be damned if All for One sees how afraid he is. “Aizawa Shouta. Eraserhead. Quirk: Erasure. Very nice,” All for One says.

“You won’t—” Aizawa starts, but the claws entwined in his hair tighten. His head comes up, and then it comes down. There’s a sharp hit to the back of his skull right before his vision dims.

“I won’t what?” All for One taunts, daring him to speak again. He crouches down closer to the hero.

Despite Aizawa’s frustrations and his stubbornness to not let anyone threaten him into not doing anything, he’s far from stupid. He ends up lying there and trying not to think too much. The world is turning grey and Aizawa really doesn’t mind it as much as he thought he would.

“Hmm? Nothing?” All for One continues speaking, but Aizawa is finding it hard to hear him.

“Shouta, I know you’re there, and I know you might not be able to talk, but just listen to me,” Midnight’s voice is clear and steady, easier to focus on than his enemy’s taunts. “We are coming to save you. Do not close your eyes. Do not pass out. I repeat. Do not close your eyes. Do not—”

Forehead meets pavement. A bloody nose.

Another sharp hit to the back of the head.

Dim turns to dark.

Everything feels like it’s coming from a cloud and he’s not anywhere anymore. He feels rough hits to his body but they don’t hurt. There’s a slicing feeling and something warm and wet dripping down his side and his face. There’s a snap in his arm and a crunch in the other. But he can’t feel it because he’s just not here right now.

He can’t hear All for One’s taunts about taking his quirk.

He can’t hear its threats about bringing more Noumu.

He can’t hear how this isn’t the real invasion.

But he can hear Mic’s screaming. He can always hear Mic’s screaming.

“Aizawa, you might not be able to hear me, and I know that and I’m sorry!” Mic’s voice crackles through what’s left of the heroes’ communication system. “But the other pros are here! We’re going to save everyone! It’s going to be okay!”

Aizawa’s world shuts down and he loses consciousness.

-x-

It’s not okay.

“Aizawa, breathe! Please breathe!” Mic has his hands on Aizawa’s chest doing compressions as best he can before Recovery Girl gets there. “Don’t you die on me!”

Aizawa’s eyes don’t open and his pulse remains still.

“Aizawa, come! On!” Mic yells, activating his quirk because he doesn’t know what else to do.

He can’t be—he can’t—no, not—

Aizawa’s first breath is broken and choked. The second one is far too wet and ends up with a coughing fit and a pool of blood on the ground.

But he’s alive.

“You… you came back. How?”

“I can always hear your screaming you big idiot,” Aizawa answers.

Mic doesn’t ask Aizawa for permission when he hugs him and it doesn’t matter that it’s an incredibly painful embrace for the two of them because they’re both alive. They survived.

“I’m going to sleep now,” Aizawa’s voice is muffled against Mic’s shoulder.

Aizawa doesn’t bother fighting the darkness, letting it welcome him peacefully.

He doesn’t hear Mic’s frantic yelps of protest.

 

Recovery Girl’s Field Office

The next time Aizawa wakes up he feels the casts first. They cover both of his arms, carefully held in twin slings. His face is also wrapped in bandages and he can feel that his scarf is gone along with his goggles.

But his eyes aren’t covered.

And his eyes are open.

“What—I can’t—I can’t see.” Aizawa’s voice shakes.

“It’s temporary,” Recovery Girl’s voice reaches his ears. “There’s a 98% chance you’ll recover fully.”

“And the 2%?” Aizawa asks quietly.

Recovery Girl is quiet.

Aizawa realizes he doesn’t want to cross that bridge before he gets to it. “How are the civilians?” he chokes out instead of pressing.

“1435 dead, 2578 injured and counting,” Mic answers far too quickly

“And the Noumus…?”

Mic is the one who answers again. “Gone.”

Aizawa’s world stops.

“How?” his voice would have been louder but it hurts to breathe so it’s more of a weak rasp.

Mic still hears him anyway. “While you were, you know, being attacked—” Mic hates saying it but Aizawa knows it’s the truth. He’s never been one to sugarcoat. “—All for One went on a rant about how this wasn’t the real invasion. How every life lost was a message to how powerless we were against him, and how destroying you was a message of how useless heroes were,” Mic pauses, eyes suddenly wide. “Then they left through the nexus. We tried chasing them down but when we got in, there was nothing. It thought it killed you.”

Nexus? They left through the nexus? How do aliens have compatibility with the internet like humans do? How can they go inside it like we can? Aizawa’s brain moves too quickly for him to keep up with and he lets out a groan.

“I was unaware aliens had a nexus,” Midnight states, casually twirling her ever present whip.

“I mean if they’re compatible with it like we are,” Mic reasons. “Then it would follow that they could use it like we do.”

“But how can they go inside of it? They’re not like you two,” Aizawa gestures to All Might and Nana who possess perfect nexus compatibility because of their quirk, One for All. But they are also the only people that hold the qualifications for being a synapse, a title given to someone with such an attribute. “There’s no way they’re like you two.”

“They do have quirks.” Midnight says from close by. “So it’s possible.”

“It’s reality,” Mic adds roughly, now thoroughly pissed off at the situation.

All Might quickly exchanges an uneasy glance with Nana. He coughs to get everyone’s attention. Within a second, all eyes are on him. “We haven’t been entirely honest with you about the origins of our quirk.” He exhales sharply, and sits up straight.

Nedzu puts down his teacup with a sharp clink on the other side of the comms, and everyone can hear it, knowing what it means. He’s always gentle because Nedzu uses bone china tea sets. It’s a gesture none of those in the room have ever been a part of and it’s disconcerting to everyone except for All Might, who’s too focused on what he has to say to truly notice. “Excuse me?

“All for One is the other half of One for All.” All Might speaks the words quickly, just needing to get the words out. “It’s not the name of an alien, it’s the name of a quirk.”

“Your quirk is from an alien?” Midnight exclaims before Nedzu can say anything.

“No! God no!” Nana shakes her hands, trying to dispel that thought. “He’s an alien who has it! My predecessor didn’t tell me how they received One for All, they just passed it on to me and left.”

“We do know the original user of both quirks was a human,” All Might says.

“It just got into the hands of an alien overlord somehow,” Midnight says, skepticism thick in her voice.

“Yes, actually,” All Might glares at her. “And it wasn’t our fault.

“And now we have to get it back,” Nana explains. “Or risk the consquences.”

“Or erase it from existence,” All Might suggests the alternative and Nana nods.

“Or contain it. Is there anything else we should know before I start asking the questions?” Nedzu says, a loaded question.

Nana and All Might exchange nervous glances again, and twin exhales are heard. “Yes,” Nana’s voice is soft. “There is one thing. All for One possesses the ability to take other quirks and steal nexus compatibility.” She regrets saying the words as soon as they leave his mouth because of the frantic reaction from the rest of the heroes.

“Are you kidding me?” Midnight exclaims, dropping her whip and throwing her hands up in the air.

Mic turns his head away, “Holy shit, All Might.”

“Please tell me you’re lying.” Nedzu stands up despite not being physically present with the others, tea forgotten.

“I wish we were,” All Might explains far too calmly given the gravity of the situation. “We thought All for One was lost. While Nana and I’s quirk can stockpile nexus compatibility—which is how we are both synapses and can move through the nexus so easily—All for One’s can give and take quirks and use compatibility like currency.”

Aizawa voices the collective worry of the group. “So it’s entirely possible that All for One’s army is composed entirely of synapses.”

All Might and Nana nod slowly, inwardly flinching and hating that they feel the need to.

“So if we have an alien race that has quirks and perfect nexus compatibility, where does that leave us?” Midnight asks.

“Fucked.” Mic says with a dark laugh.

Aizawa chuckles and it hurts. “I think I need a hospital.”

Mic nods and All Might picks up Aizawa and carries him away.

 

Two Weeks Later

Recovery Girl’s Permanent Medical Office

The bandages come off and all Aizawa sees is blurriness. There’s a fuzzy cloud where Mic should be and Aizawa wants to sharpen the image, but finds that it doesn’t work.

Before Aizawa can say anything, Recovery Girl is talking. “I’m sorry. The hit damaged part of your oculomotor nerve,” Recovery Girl explains. “I can help you heal many things, but nerve damage isn’t one of them.”

Aizawa can barely breathe. Mic’s reassuring hand is suddenly on his arm and it anchors him. Someone, something to hang onto. Something real.

At least he can still feel.

He then realizes that Recovery Girl is still talking. “Fortunately, it only hinders your ability to focus—”

“That’s not fortunate!” Aizawa spits. “I can’t see goddamnit!

It’s the most emotion Recovery Girl has ever seen from him and she cringes, taken aback.

“Shouta,” Mic’s voice is quiet—a rare occurance—and Aizawa has to listen to him. “We have a solution.”

“Well, spit it out!” Aizawa turns to look at him, but there’s just a vague dark grey remnant of where Mic should be. He shouts out of frustration and no one blames him for it.

Mic remains calm despite the circumstances. They just survived an alien invasion. He can get his friend through this. “There’s a surgery you can have. It will take your current oculomotor nerve and replace it with a new electronic one that works exactly the same. Unfortunately your pupil will have to go with it, as will your iris, but they’ll be replaced with ones that are even better than the ones you had before the attack.”

Aizawa swallows. Robot eyes? “W-what does that mean for my quirk?”

There’s a silence and it kills Aizawa inside. He can’t see what they’re doing. He can’t see what’s happening. He can’t see.

“We don’t know,” Mic says the words, and Aizawa feels like throwing up.

“Mic, in three seconds I want you to scream as loud as you can.”

“Shouta, I don’t think that’s a good idea, you could just test it with your hair and—”

“Three,” Aizawa ignores him, and feels for where Mic should be and looks right at him the best he can. “Two,” Aizawa attempts to activate his quirk. He sees a familiar flash of red, and maybe it will—“One.”

The scream that fills the room nearly shatters Aizawa’s eardrums.

“Fucking dammit!” Aizawa screams and turns to where he last heard Recovery Girl speak. She hasn’t moved. “I’ll do it. I don’t care. Just fix this please. I can’t live like this.

“I’ll go get the paperwork right now,” she says, already hurrying away. “Mic, stay with him.”

“Wouldn’t dream of doing anything otherwise.”

Aizawa shouts again, hating the situation and himself for letting the Noumu win.

No.

The Noumu did not win. He will show the Noumu that they do not belong on this world, in this solar system, or in this universe. Mic rubs his arm, trying to calm Aizawa down. He’s breathing heavily and can’t hide his shaking. Mic knows his efforts are most likely futile, but he’s going to do all that he can.

“You know, those eyes are going to look pretty rad.”

“I don’t care about that,”

“I know.”

“Then stop talking,” Aizawa tells his friend.

Mic shuts up with an audible click!

 

One Month Later

Nedzu’s Office

The president’s office is large enough for the aforementioned and several others, but not for the president and an entire council.

“We should run it through the military,” Tensei suggests, head leaning over the shoulder of Midnight, who doesn’t appear to mind given the circumstances. “If we run it through something private we wouldn’t be able to afford it. We’re talking about a multibillion dollar project.”

“You think the government would be up for that, Mr. President?” Midnight stares right at Nedzu, not afraid to put him on the spot.

“We don’t have a choice,” Nedzu says. “It’s our job to protect the people, both the government and the heroes, public and private, and I, like you all, believe that this program is the best way to do it.”

The program is a protocol for recruiting young students, pairing them together based of specialized mental and physical criteria, and sending them on interstellar reconnaissance missions to find All for One before All for One comes back for them. It’s a simple idea, but implementation requires the building and use of thousands of experimental designs for space travel and the research for many more. It’s a massive undertaking, but with humanity on the edge of a knife blade, this is their best chance at prevention.

There’s silence for a while, as if no one knows what else to say. Mic is happy to distract with less important aspects of the project. “We still don’t have a name for the program,” he says.

Aizawa, still wearing his casts, steps forward in the cramped space. He blinks, cybernetic pupils dilating and constricting naturally.

“We’ll call it the U.A. Initiative,” he says. It’s not a suggestion. “If we’re going to train people to save the world, we might as well call them heroes.”

 

 

2049 AD

 

The U.A. Initiative’s Exam Facility

“Deku, you brat get back here!” Bakugou Katsuki shouts while running after his unwilling partner. “We’re supposed to be a pair right? Save the fucking universe and that shit? You have to work with me, right?” Katsuki mocks.

He’s chasing Midoriya Izuku down a broken street, the simulation in night mode so that sight lines are dim and short, and there’s wreckage from a transportation pod that had been torn open and shattered glass everywhere from multiple sources. One light pole flickers, and Katsuki stalks forward, slower now, because Izuku is closer to him.

“Pairs don’t use their quirks on each other maliciously!” Izuku ducks into a faux alleyway and nearly slips on an piece of aluminum foil. It’s even more dimly lit than the main street and a pink glow settles on Izuku’s face as he runs under a long neon light tube embedded into the wall of the alley. It leads to a fake door that doesn’t work, twisting into the words Dance Club. “Nearly taking out my shoulder with an explosion because I still call you ‘Kacchan’ counts as malicious, Kacchan!”

In the control room for the simulation, Nedzu presses a single yellow button. A robot Noumu is released and it immediately makes a beeline towards Katsuki and Izuku’s coordinates. Other robots had been situated around the artificial metropolis, but none of them had crossed Katsuki and Izuku’s paths, yet.

This should get them in line, Nezdu thinks, not even worried about their lack of cooperation.

It would be willing soon enough.

“Are you sure you want to pair them?” Aizawa asks the President, voice unsure. He’s also in the control room, being that he’s one of the few chosen to observe the entrance examinations to the U.A. Initiative. Nedzu, on the other hand, is responsible for giving the physical and mental acuity tests that all rising high schoolers are required to go through and use them to pull out the best and the brightest. Once he has a list of those students, he puts them into pairs and slates them for training.

“Oh I’m positive,” Nedzu zooms in a high-resolution camera on the boys who are oblivious to the robot monster closing in on them thanks to their useless arguments. Katsuki slams an explosive fist into a brick wall, and leaves a small crater in the side of the building. Izuku flinches, clearly fighting the urge to cower. “Those two are some of the brightest I’ve ever seen. If they can settle their differences and work together I have no doubt that they would be the greatest pair the Initiative has ever seen.”

Meanwhile, Izuku is standing up straighter, planting his feet, and making the terrifying decision not to run.

“Deku!” Katsuki’s voice gets louder as he yells at Izuku, who notices the other boy has finally stopped running away. “Shitface motherfucker—”

Izuku takes a deep breath, and for the first time in a long time, stands up for himself.

Kaachan, I’m not playing your games anymore!” Izuku’s voice is shaking . “If we’re going to be a pair you need to act like you’re a part of one!”

Katsuki notices the robot Noumu first, and after seeing the sheer size of the beast he realizes he has a new priority.

It’s exactly the side and shape of the first Noumu that the heroes encountered ten years ago, meaning that it has four legs, an exposed brain, and a generally humanoid physique. It’s just nine feet tall and far too muscular along with being equal parts metallic and robotic.

He needs to stop this thing now and chances are, if these twisted exam proctors have designed this exam the way he thinks they have, Katsuki is going to need Izuku to do it.

Ugh.

“You said it yourself earlier!” Izuku is rambling, a defense mechanism meant to keep Katsuki occupied while he thinks of an escape plan. Katsuki can’t let that happen now. They have to fight this thing and Katsuki’s view of the robot Noumu is getting more vivid as the mechanical beast is getting closer, stalking towards them with surprising stealth. They have to make a plan now. “Deku—“

“Kacchan!Izuku taunts back before Katsuki can finish. “My name is Izuku. Not Deku. Stop calling me that!

Fine!Katsuki grows impatient and a little frantic.

Frantic enough to give into Izuku’s wish. “MIDORIYA MOTHERFUCKING IZUKU LOOK BEHIND YOU!” Katsuki barks out the command without thinking and thankfully Izuku turns.

Izuku turns.

“Oh,” he says, finally seeing the artificial alien that’s towering over both of them.

Izuku appropriately screams.

 

Chapter Text

One Hour Earlier

The U.A. Initiative’s Grand Auditorium

Izuku had been waiting years for this moment. Saving the universe hadn’t always been his dream, but then again the Noumu hadn’t always been his enemy. Izuku had been young during the first invasion, but not young enough to forget how scared his mother had been. The fright in her eyes had remained long after the Noumu had left the stratosphere.

So In the years after, Izuku had watched the U.A.Initiative build itself from the ground up. By the time it had been fully established, Izuku had already begun preparing for his chance to join. So when President Nedzu finally calls his name, Izuku is beyond ready to hear who he’s paired with.

“Midoriya Izuku and Bakugou Katsuki,” Nedzu announces to the crowd.

Izuku had not been ready for that.

His stomach drops when Nedzu says the words, the knots previously present tightening painfully. Izuku wants to throw up. Kacchan? Of all people he’d been paired with Kacchan?

“Todoroki Shouto and Kirishima Elijiro,” Nedzu calls. “Uraraka Ochaco and Iida Tenya.” The list goes on, but Izuku can’t hear anything. Not anymore. All knows is the blood rushing in his ears and the anxiety in his belly. To make matters worse, Izuku is pretty sure he can feel Katsuki’s eyes burning holes into the back of his head.

The pairing ceremony crawls after that. Between Izuku’s sense that Katsuki is currently thinking up a million ways to kill him and his own nerves, Izuku is far from ready when President Nedzu tells them to pair up.

Izuku had trained hard, worked hard, and gone beyond what was expected of him. Being born quirkless hadn’t yielded a promising future, but being someone with ridiculously high nexus compatibility that made him practically a synapse? He stood a chance at being a hero.

Izuku could be a hero.

But now Katsuki, his partner, is rushing up to him with a familiar anger in his stride, fully intent on making things physical.

Katsuki grabs him by his uniform and pushes him up against the wall the second Izuku falls within his reach. One strong fist balls the fabric of the uniform and a low growl leaves Katsuki’s throat.

“Why did I get paired with you, huh, Deku?” Katsuki growls. “What did you tell them? People without quirks aren’t supposed to even have a chance at getting paired, let alone get a fucking spot in the Initiative!”

He shakes Izuku and Izuku’s head bumps against the wall hard enough to feel the impact but not enough to bruise. He straightens up, doing his best to formulate words while preparing to do something he’s never done before recently.

Fight back.

He pushes Katsuki off of him with arms that were not that strong in years prior. Izuku gives him another push to err on the safe side and then catches his breath,

“I have nexus compatibility,” Izuku bravely looks up, having the nerve to meet Katsuki’s burning gaze. “I’m not useless if I can sync with the nexus faster than you can think about my name.”

Izuku’s warning is Katsuki’s crimson eyes narrowing. Then, he’s grabbed by the shoulders and slammed back so hard his vision goes spotty for a nanosecond. He groans and then Katsuki’s face is far too close to his own.

“I’ve got a score of ninety-nine point five out of one hundred,” the other boy says proudly. “I find it hard to believe someone as useless as you could beat that.”

Izuku can’t hide the laugh he lets out, but he stops it just as quick. “Ninety-nine point nine,” Izuku spits back. “Now let me go, Kacchan.

“I don’t believe you,” Katsuki says immediately.

“Doesn’t matter. It’s still true.”

Katsuki is not fond of his offhandedness. “You’re gonna fucking prove it to me you little shit.” The wall presses firmly against Izuku’s back.

“I will,” Izuku’s voice remains calm for once in his life and no tears threaten the corners of his eyes.

Katsuki’s hands tighten on his shoulders, impatience in their grip. “When?”

“Soon,” Izuku tells him, and finally makes a move to make Katsuki let him go. Katsuki resists him briefly, but he knows they’re both on an agenda. “Now, we have monsters to fight.”

“I’m still going to kick your ass.” Katsuki threatens. “You’re still useless.”

Izuku smiles when his face is out of Katsuki’s view because he can’t wait to prove him wrong.

We’ll see about that, won’t we?

 

Present Time

The U.A. Initiative’s Exam Facility

“Deku!” Katsuki’s voice gets louder as he yells at Izuku, who notices the other boy has finally stopped running away. “Shitface motherfucker—”

Izuku takes a deep breath, and for the first time in a long time, stands up for himself.

Kaachan, I’m not playing your games anymore!” Izuku’s voice is shaking . “If we’re going to be a pair you need to act like you’re a part of one!”

Katsuki notices the robot Noumu first, and after seeing the sheer size of the beast he realizes he has a new priority.

It’s exactly the side and shape of the first Noumu that the heroes encountered ten years ago, meaning that it has four legs, an exposed brain, and a generally humanoid physique. It’s just nine feet tall and far too muscular along with being equal parts metallic and robotic.

He needs to stop this thing now and chances are, if these twisted exam proctors have designed this exam the way he thinks they have, Katsuki is going to need Izuku to do it.

Ugh.

“You said it yourself earlier!” Izuku is rambling, a defense mechanism meant to keep Katsuki occupied while he thinks of an escape plan. Katsuki can’t let that happen now. They have to fight this thing and Katsuki’s view of the robot Noumu is getting more vivid as the mechanical beast is getting closer, stalking towards them with surprising stealth. They have to make a plan now. “Deku—“

“Kacchan!Izuku taunts back before Katsuki can finish. “My name is Izuku. Not Deku. Stop calling me that!

Fine!Katsuki grows impatient and a little frantic.

Frantic enough to give into Izuku’s wish. “MIDORIYA MOTHERFUCKING IZUKU LOOK BEHIND YOU!” Katsuki barks out the command without thinking and thankfully Izuku turns.

Izuku turns.

“Oh,” he says, finally seeing the artificial alien that’s towering over both of them.

Izuku appropriately screams.

Katsuki ignores it. “Well don’t just stand there, do something Mr. Almost Perfect Nexus Compatibility!”

Izuku almost prefers Deku to that. “Kacchan, do you want to win or lose?”

“Win, you idiot! What type of fucking question is that?”

“Then you’re going to need to listen to me.”

Katsuki is quiet. His hands smoke, but otherwise nothing happens.

Izuku takes that as an invitation to continue. “Move, I’ll take right, you take left side of that alley.”

Katsuki does as he’s told, running to the end of the alley and turning left, leaning against the wall to hide just out of sight of the robot Noumu. Izuku does the same on the right side, and Katsuki can see a possible direction this plan is heading.

But if there’s something Izuku’s not, it’s predictable.

“I’m going to serve as a distraction. I’ll lure it this way. If you can follow it from behind and plant an explosion right around where the junction of thoracic and cervical vertebrae would be on a human, then we might be able to paralyze it.”

Katsuki growls. “In Japanese please, dumbfuck.”

Izuku remains calm.“Between the shoulder blades.”

“And you still have to take into account the—”

“—shock absorption and regeneration I know,” Izuku says. “But we just need to get it down so we can hit it. If you can do one explosion there, and then another, it might expose its inner workings and we can fry those.”

Okay that Katsuki could get behind.

“Alright, fine, Deku.” Katsuki says. “Tell me when.”

Izuku waits a moment, and then takes a deep breath and lets it out before jumping out into the middle of the alley.

“Giant Noumu creature!” Izuku announces his presence and Katsuki cringes. “Come and get me!”

The focus of the creature shifts, and Katsuki watches Izuku back up—prepared to run for it—until the Noumu passes by Katsuki. It’s too focused on Izuku to see Katsuki come up behind it, making it all too easy for him to land an explosion right where Izuku had told him to.

The robot falls and Katsuki lands his second charged explosion on top of the exposed circuit board of the Noumu and it ceases all motor functions.

“Okay, gonna be honest, that was almost too easy,” Izuku says. “I was expecting more of a fight.”

“Me too,” Katsuki says, slightly confused.

“Good Job, Kacchan!” Izuku’s face, bright and shining, smiles as he holds up his hand for a high five.

“Shut up, Deku.” Katsuki says, but loosely high fives him anyway.

 

The U.A. Initiative’s Master Control Room

I was expecting more of a fight.”

Izuku’s voice comes through the monitor of the entrance exam control room. Nedzu, Aizawa, Present Mic, Midnight, and several other pros are huddled around the monitors, eagerly watching the pair.

“The kid isn’t wrong. That was kind of easy, Nedzu,” Mic says, also amazed at how quickly the robot Noumu was taken down.

“Maybe it was, but that hadn’t been the goal,” Nedzu explains. “Midoriya found the weak point and exploited it. In this case, that was the fact it was a robot. He knew he had to beat it, but there was no rule on how he had to beat it.”

“He did get Bakugou to listen to him, so they might make a good pair after all,” Midnight says.

“And that was the point of this experiment,” Nedzu says.

“They still need work,” Aizawa brings up, visibly not impressed.

“It’s going to be you who does the working you know,” Nedzu says. “You and Mic.”

“We know,” the pair says.

Mic moves forward, squinting at one of the screens. “I am eager to see how they fare in the nexus-based portion of the exam. They might be good at the physical aspect, but with the tension the two of them have in fighting one another, forcing them to work together across two planes might prove difficult.” Mic says.

“I’m sure they’ll be fine.” Nedzu sips his tea.

 

The U.A. Initiative’s Exam Facility

Katsuki and Izuku stare at the nexus terminal in front of them.

“Well, are you going to go in or will I?” Katsuki tells him, arms crossed.

“No no, I’m going,” Izuku gathers his thoughts. “I was just gathering my thoughts, that’s all.”

“Well hurry the fuck up and patch in. I’ll fight the idiots who come in here and try to stop us, and you solve that damn puzzle so we can move on,” Katsuki says angrily. “I fucking hate you, but you don’t get to hold me back. Now patch the fuck in.”

Katsuki herds his partner over to the terminal and pushes him onto it, wishing he was a synapse so that he could drag Izuku in there himself.

Izuku nods and holds out his hand towards the computer. He lets his fingertips land on the machine, his touch feather light while he feels around for a nexus port, a place much like a USB or thunderbolt port except that when contacted it leads to nexus syncing. Izuku finds it, places his middle finger directly on top of it, and feels the first spark of a nexus connection.

Holy hell, this one is going to be easy.

Izuku smells the number nine, tastes the color pink, hears something spicy and silver, and then it feels like everything is stretching and imploding all at once. Just when it’s almost too much, Izuku is in.

With a rush, he stabilizes his vibrations, matching the frequency of the nexus terminal easily. He logs it mentally for later use, just in case he needs to patch into this terminal in the future. He lets the nexus appear before him, just how it always does, in a network of crossed lines that spring out in all directions.

Izuku’s spawn point is foreign, but he can handle it. Around him, there are small glowing pulses that run along the cubic grid around him.

Izuku focuses on one of them and grabs.

The nexus creates movement without resistance. It's wind without a breeze to follow, and Izuku owns it, navigating by moving along the grids and using the cubic constructs to progress to different locations. He only knows he’s going fast because the displacement of his current XYZ coordinates registers easily in his mind every few seconds. It’s the easiest way to navigate the nexus, especially when he’s patched into somewhere he’s never been before. Izuku starts counting down, focusing, and when the numbers in his head burn X52, he flies off the grid, locates another high-speed pulse, grabs it, and continues to travel.

Y52.

He flips grids.

Z52.

Izuku cuts off his thoughts, reaches the location of the equation he has to solve, and stops.

He tastes colors and hears flavors again, and tries not to think too much about the hangover he’s going to get when he fuzzes out. He sometimes forgets he’s a human in a decidedly non-human construct of binary circuits and electrical currents.

“Young Midoriya.” A voice calls his name over the dub in the background. The voice is expected, but somehow always sudden, even though Izuku had known it for the years following the first invasion.

“Just the nexus intelligence I’m here to see,” Izuku replies, sighing. “Hey, Toshi-san.”

“You don’t have long, Young Midoriya.”

“I know,” Izuku says. “The U.A. Initiative sent me here because there’s something that needs solving. Do you know where I can find it?”

“Of course.” The NI brings the problem forward.

Izuku thanks it and starts working the equation.

 

The U.A. Initiative’s Exam Facility

Katsuki hears Izuku sigh, crossing his smoking fingers that he’d reached the puzzle, equation, or whatever it’s supposed to be.

Katsuki tries not to think about how the nerd hadn’t been lying to him. All throughout school Katsuki had been the fastest. He’s still contemplating just what might make Izuku so special when the other boy sighs again, still calm and not stressed.

A good sign.

Katsuki knows others will be arriving soon. There’s only one terminal and Izuku and Katsuki had passed the first part of the exam in flying colors, meaning that they had definitely made it here first. But while they might be ahead now, they won’t be alone for very long.

Katsuki is prepared.

 

The Nexus

Izuku is hurriedly running binary calculations in a nearby grid and graphing linear equations on another. He’s in the act of taking a partial derivative from a multivariable equation when Toshi-san tells him, “there’s someone else here, Young Midoriya, you have to leave.”

“What?” Izuku is worried at hearing that, scared even. He’s supposed to be alone. If he isn’t, that means that Katsuki—

“They aren’t human,” The NI tells him.

That’s even more worrisome.

“Are you sure they’re not another student?” Izuku asks, refusing to remain anything but calm, “Like me? Are they part of the U.A. Initiative?”

“No. Not like you. They’re different.” The NI doesn’t sound happy like it normally does. “And you need to go before they get here.”

Izuku would beat a fist if it wouldn’t reduce his efficiency.

“Well tell me what the hell is going on!” Izuku is panicked now. He’d run into other switchers in the past; some that could keep him from fuzzing out. He’d lost days to rogue switchers. Days.

But if someone else is here, Izuku just has to work faster. He can’t afford to get stuck. It would kill his and Katsuki’s score, and Izuku can’t let that happen. He needs the Initiative.

 

The U.A. Initiative’s Exam Facility

Katsuki sees Izuku’s body go rigid and hopes that he hasn’t run into too much difficulty when another potential pair runs through the door. They don’t come in stealthily, thinking they are the first.

Of course, they're wrong.

“Bakugou?” The first one—Kirishima Eijirou—says.

“The one and only,” Katsuki replies, flexing his muscles and letting sparks play on his palms, cracking and popping like miniature fireworks. He’s humoring them. It buys Izuku time and all Katsuki has to do is charge up a strong explosion to kick the shit out of them when the time comes.

“You got paired with Midoriya I see,” Kirishima points to the very unaware Izuku, who is still rigid and tense.

“And you got paired with Strawberry Shortcake apparently,” Katsuki points to the person next to him. How did they even get—

Kirishima makes the first move and suddenly jumps towards Katsuki.

Katsuki laughs and feels fire start to light in his palms.

Incapacitate, not kill, he reminds himself, remembering his self-imposed training. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Not permanently, at least.

Hit their limbs, not their spine. Punch at their sternum, not their neck.

Katsuki charges up an explosion and hits Kirishima straight in the bicep, then again at the same spot. The other boy has a hardening quirk, which makes things difficult, but Katsuki hits him again and again, and soon, Kirishima is caught off guard enough that Katsuki can land a knee in his solar plexus, knock the air from his lungs, and leave him gasping on the ground.

Todoroki looks at him in faint shock.

“You’re going down, Snowcone.” Katsuki cracks his neck and Todoroki does the same.

They circle one another.

 

The Nexus

“I have three identifications,” the NI announces.

Izuku shudders. This is bad.

“Say it already!” Izuku shouts. He’s run the derivative. He just has to graph it with the others and find the intersection of the lines. Simple. Easy. It’s just taking him too damn long because he’s panicking.

“Wait, now there is only one,” Toshi-san corrects.

“You need to tell me what the hell is happening right now!” Izuku demands.

“The only one I have now is Shigaraki Tomura,” The NI says.

“Who the heck is that?” Izuku asks. “They shouldn’t be coming this close. These are school grounds.”

There is a beat before Toshi-san answers seriously, “Young Midoriya, you need to leave. I’m serious.”

“But I’m not done, yet. Toshi-san, calm down. Are they a rogue switcher?”

“I can’t tell you what they are, just that they’re not good.”

Izuku thankfully finishes and passes the completed equation off to Toshi-San, who tosses it upwards effortlessly all while keeping his focus on Izuku.

“Leave, now,” Toshi-San urges.

“Okay, okay!” Izuku laughs. “Stop scaring me, alright?”

“This is a very serious—Young Midoriya! Watch out!”

“Watch out for wh—”

Then Izuku sees it. A hand. A physical hand. In the nexus. About to grab his near-physical foot.

“There’s a synapse here!” Izuku yells.

“I know!” Toshi-san shoots back. “We’ll deal with that later. Just avoid the hands!”

“There’s more?

Izuku dodges the first one, but sure enough, another comes into view. He moves away without issue. But then a third hand suddenly grabs his leg and pulls.

Izuku feels a sudden shove from behind and fuzzes out.

 

The U.A. Initiative’s Exam Facility

Katsuki is panting when Izuku returns screaming to the physical plane.

“Get it off of me!” Izuku yells, squirming around the floor close to the terminal. “Get it off! Kacchan! Help me!”

Katsuki peers his head around looking for a threat, but sees nothing. “There’s nothing there, what the hell is wrong with you?”

Izuku seems to realize this several heartbeats later and he stills, looking up at an angry Katsuki. “There was a synapse there! It felt like there was a hand on my leg! A physical hand! And it felt like it was pulling me back into the nexus even after I fuzzed out! I was so—”

Katsuki is having none of it. “That’s impossible, everyone knows that. Now did you find the damn puzzle or not?”

Izuku speaks quick and to the point, and his voice trails off when he sees Todoroki and Kirishima unconscious on the ground. "I solved it…"

Katsuki sees his reaction and acts accordingly. “We should go.”

Izuku offers a wordless nod, thoughts of the phantom hands quickly forgotten.

 

The U.A. Initiative's Master Control Room

“You’re still thinking about pairing them permanently?” Midnight exclaims, not entirely on board with Nedzu’s plan. She has both hands on her hips and is just shy of angry.

In front of her sits the U.A. Initiative’s High Council, composted of the pro heroes Present Mic, Eraserhead, Midnight, Thirteen, Ingenium, and Gran Torino plus President Nedzu. They meet once a year to whittle down pairings.

“You saw how well they worked together once they got it through their thick skulls that they needed to!” Nedzu defends, trying to get her to brush it off so that they can move on to discuss the other pairs. “They’ll be fine.”

“You keep saying that, but Bakugou might kill Midoriya if they bicker hard enough!” She’s standing now, palms splayed on the table in front of her. “Not to mention Midoriya doesn’t have a quirk to fight back with!” Midnight says. “It’s not that simple, Nedzu!”

“That’s why we have training. So they can learn to control themselves and not ‘kill each other’” Nedzu says calmly while making sure to add the appropriate air quotes. He pours himself more tea. To Midnight’s surprise, he prepares an extra cup and holds it out to her. “Tea?”

She grumbles, but accepts it. It isn’t like she can refuse. “I’m not supporting this, just so you know.” She takes a sip. Chamomile and lavender. Of course.

“You’ll change your mind,” Nedzu says. She’s about to reply back when Mic stands up, walks over, and calmly drapes an arm around her shoulders.

“Hey, Midnight,” Mic moves towards her in the control room gently, paying mind to ensure she doesn’t spill her tea in the process. “Aizawa and I got this one taken care of. We’ll make sure they don’t murder each other,” Midnight shoots him a skeptical side eye. “Just remember Eraserhead has his scarves and his quirk.”

Aizawa clears his throat and activates the mentioned quirk for emphasis. His scarves float up around him, surrounding his form in dramatic spirals of fabric. After a few seconds, his eyes return to their regular color and his scarves fall into place on his shoulders once more.

The display seems to placate her a little and a sigh escapes her lungs. If Aizawa can’t control them, no one can. She sips her tea. “They still have to say yes to the U.A. Initiative. They don’t have to go through the gate if they don’t want to.”

“We’ll see, won’t we? Something tells me they’re going to accept, though.” Nedzu says. “Now, do you have thoughts you’d like to share on the Todoroki-Kirishima pair?”

“Yes,” she says. “I actually like them.”

“They’re fine, with me. Lots! Of! Potential!” Mic says, changing positions three times over the course of his statement and ending the motions with jazz hands.

“They’re fine with me. Lots of potential.” Aizawa echoes flatly from next to him. Mic holds his position for a few more seconds just to make a point.

“They clash, but it’s in a way where they can push each other to be stronger,” Tensei leans back in his chair, arms crossed. “Personally, I think that’s a recipe for success.”

“I agree with what Tensei said,” Thirteen adds. “As long as they can keep the balance, I’m in support of it. I also strongly believe that they will keep that balance.”

“I’m a little skeptical of Endeavor’s kid,” Gran Torino hops up on his chair and crouches. “His fatal flaw is that he doesn’t want to be like his father—”

“Can’t imagine why,” Midnight says without thinking.

Gran Torino almost chokes but keeps talking. “And that’s causing him to neglect the development of half of his quirk. But I do believe that Kirishima will bring that side out of him, if no one else beats him to it. He needs some pushing, but I support it.”

They continue like this, going through each of the pairs. When all is said and done, the only pair that is debatably unstable is the Bakugou-Midoriya pair, but they also have the most potential.

The pairs that passed paired testing are announced later. Izuku can’t believe he and Katsuki made it, but Katsuki just scoffs and says, “of course we did, you idiot.”

        

Coordinates Unknown

He’s going to find her. He has to find her.

It’s been years now. Years.

Toshinori moves around the spacecraft, searching for something he can eat as a meal. He would have to refuel soon, which meant facing Aizawa and giving him another update that she’s still gone and he hasn’t found her and he probably never will find—

No.

Hope isn’t lost yet. It never is.

Toshinori smiles.

Nana, I’m still coming for you. I promise.

Toshinori presses on, pushes too far, and screams for the thousandth time that day.

“All for One! Where are you, you bastard! Face me!” He yells into the nexus, the spacecraft, and into the void of the unknown.

Nana, I’m still coming for you. I promise, he repeats to himself. It’s the only thing keeping him sane.

Toshinori collapses from exhaustion, forced to patch out of the nexus, and sleeps.

Then he wakes up and does it all over again.

Chapter Text

The U.A. Initiative’s Decision Cortex

Izuku and Katsuki stand in front of what many of the students had come to call the Gate of No Return, named so for that which all of them know: once one crosses the threshold, they’ve pledged their lives to the U.A. Initiative: the training, the deployment, and whatever lay in between. Space exploration alone is scary business. Add in hostile aliens that wanted one dead into the mix with obtaining reconnaissance intelligence as a requirement, and walking across that threshold becomes quite the commitment.

“Seven years,” Katsuki says. “That’s a long time, Deku. I can’t believe I’m actually doing this with your worthless ass.”

“I mean you don’t have to,” Izuku says cautiously, cringing internally at Katsuki’s words. He should be used to them by now, but he’s not. “But I know as you do that you want off this planet just as much as I do.” He doesn’t know why just yet, but Katsuki is running from something. Everyone in the Initiative is.

Katsuki gives him a look of incredulity. “You saying I’m a coward?”

“Not at all! I’m sorry!”

Katsuki steps closer to Izuku. “I’m far from it, Deku.”

 

Two Months Ago

A Club Named Revolution

Katsuki unfolds the note that had appeared on his pillow several hours before, stifles a growl, and reads it.

 

Be there at midnight or I’ll make you and neither of us wants that.

-S

 

Katsuki huffs and angrily crumples the note, tossing it into the nearest waste bin. He looks up at the pink sign above him. Revolution, it reads.

“Welcome back, Katsuki,” he grumbles to no one and swings open the door.

The club is bright with blue, green, and purple neon lights strewn across the ceiling and others with similar coloring dimly light the floors. Screens decorate the walls, displaying everything from news channels to nexus replays to conspiracy documentaries. Nearby several people are patched in to terminals, clearly enjoying what this part of the nexus can offer.

It’s a big club, so it takes a few minutes for Katsuki to find the place he’s looking for. After walking straight for a bit, he steps up onto a raised platform. He wears a long, black asymmetric coat with a collar that’s high enough to brush the spikes of his hair. His boots are tall with thick, sharply angled soles and they pound the lit tiled floor as he walks. Crimson eyes fix on the man that Katsuki never wants to meet again and sure, he’d consistently given Katsuki a channel for his nexus compatibility and his quirk, but Katsuki is done.

Gone.

Out.

Katsuki slides into the booth, calmly leaning back and propping his feet up on the table. The man before him pays the action little mind.

“Lord Explosion Murder in the flesh,” the man known as Slime addresses him, his eyeliner too thick for Katsuki’s liking. “Haven’t seen you in a while, you rogue switcher you.”

It’s because I’ve been studying for the fucking entrance exam from hell, asshole, Katsuki answers silently.

Slime twirls five mechanical fingers, his steel hand glimmering in the pink neon around them. He’d gotten the replacement a while back after a bad run in during a job. Katsuki remembers watching him activate his quirk, turn into an ugly grey slime, drop the hand and then take it back up again when he’d returned to human form.

It doesn’t matter what I lose. I have the money to get anything replaced, he’d said. Isn’t that great? When you’re ready you too should consider cybernetic enhancements like mine. Could be that favor I owe you.

Katsuki suppresses a shiver and forces himself to focus on the present.

“You just never thought you’d get me to come here again. Now either shut up and watch me leave or tell me why you called me here.”

Slime answers without missing a beat. “I have a job.”

Katsuki removes his feet from the table and slams his fist down, activating his quirk in the process. The firecracker-like pop alerts anyone near them that Katsuki is back. He chars the tabletop, but Slime runs the club. Katsuki knows that he’ll fix it. It isn’t like this is the first time and with Katsuki’s current luck, it won’t be the last.

“I told you, I’m getting out, which means no more jobs, dumbass.” He stands up, and makes to leave.

Slime’s sickly voice stops him. “What if I told you it was for one mil. Even after I take my cut.”

Katsuki turns his head slightly, making sure that Slime can hear him. He doesn’t hesitate. “I said, I’m out.”

What if I told you it was Endeavor?”

Katsuki freezes and then unfreezes. “No, Slime!”

“You don’t work for anyone else! You have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a real job! You can make it in this world without me, Katsuki.

Katsuki’s eyes narrow, but he doesn’t turn around. “I said no. I’ll find a way.”

Slime crosses his arms behind Katsuki. His cybernetic arm is most prominent, just for show. “Then tell me, what are you going to do?”

Katsuki almost laughs. Almost turns around, holds out his arms, and screams “I’m going to get out of here, leave your worthless ass behind, and go to space!” because Katsuki wants so desperately to prove that he’s more than the life he made for himself in the underworld. That he’s good enough to be the best.

No.

He is the best and he’s going to prove it during the U.A. Initiative entrance exam. He’ll be paired with the best partner and they’ll be the best team. They’ll take on All for One and his army of Noumu, and Katsuki will—

“Save the fucking universe.” Katsuki’s voice is far quieter than it normally is. He punctuates with a low laugh.

He takes a step and then keeps walking, strong and proud. Slime is screaming at him, trying to reverse his decision.

“The Initiative will never accept a runaway like you!”

Watch me, Katsuki thinks, explosions ringing behind him, covering up the sound of Slime’s nonsense. With no last look at Revolution, he shuts the door.

 

Present Day

The U.A. Initiative's Decision Cortex 

Izuku gives Katsuki a sad look. “There’s nothing left for me here.”

“Yeah yeah, you can do this without a quirk, blah blah blah,” Katsuki mocks, trying to lift Izuku’s mood. “I get it. Let’s just do it already.”

It takes a moment, but then Izuku is smiling that golden smile of his that Katsuki isn’t hating as much as he used to. “We’re going to space, Kacchan!”

Katsuki thinks back to the life he’s leaving and then one he’d left, of the family that never got the chance to congratulate him, send him off, or tell him they’ll miss him because he never gave them the chance. “Just remember seven years is a long time, Deku. When we come back the world is gonna be a different place, and I’m not just talking about the environment.”

Izuku understands. “I’m a little worried about my mom, but Kacchan, come on, we get to go to space!” Izuku grabs him by the shoulders and Katsuki wants so badly to be missed. He shakes off the feeling as quickly as it comes and chooses to forget about it.

“We might die while we’re there,” Katsuki says, idly realizing that he isn’t going to get the chance to say he’s sorry if he doesn’t make it home. He has to live through this. He has to live through this.

Never once had Katsuki ever thought he would have regretted running away from home.

“We might survive, too.” Izuku points out.

Katsuki shakes his head, contemplating, then nods. Deep down, he knows he’s already made this decision. Being paired with Izuku had been a shocker, but the two had made it though the exam and passed in flying colors. Katsuki isn’t stupid. The Initiative knows what they’re doing, and if the Initiative wants them together, then Katsuki will follow. Even if they fight and bicker, Katsuki knows that it’s only through Izuku that he will achieve his goals.

“Let’s go,” Katsuki says.

They nod to each other once, and without hesitation, they pass through the Gate of No Return.

It slides behind them soundlessly.

 

Central Compartment of the Transition Rocket

Cadettes enter the transition rocket through a hatch in its side. The door is small, but within it there’s enough space to hold ten pairs plus teachers with a small amount of room to spare in case of emergencies. The rocket will take them to space, where their training ship and pair ships wait on standby.

“I swear if you say that something I do is manly one more time, I will freeze your mouth shut,” Todoroki threatens quietly as he squeezes through the door. Kirishima follows shortly behind him.

“God, that’s manly.”

Todoroki almost doesn’t hear it.

Almost.

Todoroki turns, raises his right hand, and feels the always-present bone-deep chill grow stronger, increasing until he can let it—

The chill is suddenly gone and his fire doesn’t burn.

“What the—?”

Todoroki sees eyes staring back at him with pupils that have pale blue concentric rings that oscillate around the redness at their core.

Oh shit.

“Don’t use your quirk to harm another student, no matter how pesky they may be,” Aizawa says flatly. “Understood?”

Todoroki nods. It’s slight, but it’s enough for Aizawa.

He blinks, the redness fades, and Todoroki walks back over, slightly hanging his head, to where Kirishima is standing open-mouthed and shocked.

“We’re not talking about it.” His voice is back to the stoic, calm nature it normally is despite his posturing.

“Or what? You’ll freeze my mouth shut?” Kirishima tests.

Todoroki reigns in every response that’s telling him to just freeze his shoe to prove a point.

Before he can, another pair joins the two on the spacecraft. Todoroki can hear bickering even before the two step into the rocket, and he figures out quickly that the newcomers must be the Bakugou-Midoriya pair. Everyone had heard about them. They’d been publicized to all hell on every news channel in the world upon accepting their invitation into the Initiative. They’re the pair with one that has near perfect nexus compatibility and the other that is the childhood-best-friend-turned-bully who has a quirk that is incredibly ill-suited for this kind of pair dynamic.

It’s a miracle that Izuku isn’t covered in burn scars and bruises by now.

Or he is and Todoroki can’t see them.

“Kacchan! It doesn’t matter who boards the rocket first! Stop it!” Izuku shouts, voice preceding him.

“Then move!” Katsuki’s unique shout booms throughout the cold metal walls, floor, and ceiling of the ship. Kirishima flinches.

Izuku clambers into the rocket, ducking his head to get through the door. He wears—like the rest of the pairs—a jumpsuit with the U.A. Logo sewn onto it. With the “U” scooping below the neckline and the “A” directly below it, both portions lit and emitting a cool glow. The sleeves are long, with bars of white surrounded by a single red line, building to a hexagon at the shoulder. Sewn within the space is an embroidered patch that designates Izuku as a student.

On the backside of the jumpsuit is a single “U” that is situated right above the shoulder blades. The glowing portions are meant to serve as identifications in the nexus, being that they’re interwoven with copper to translate into the realm. All students wear black combat boots that the jumpsuit is tucked into, and it gives every pair a uniform look.

Katsuki follows close behind him, dressed the same, and shoves Izuku forward a few steps so that he’s not directly blocking the entrance anymore. Kirishima and Todoroki are noticed a few breaths later, and Katsuki seethes.

“Hey, shitstains, seems we got put on the same team,” Katsuki practically spits, but he knows he would surely have to clean it up so he refrains. “As long as you stay out of my and Deku’s way, we will—”

“Excuse me,” Aizawa is sick of Katsuki’s act already. “No one will be staying out of anyone’s way. From the moment you stepped onto this rocket you became part of a group, a unit, a team. Twenty people constitute Team 1-A which makes ten pairs. You all are the top ten pairs that passed the entrance exams. And you four,” Aizawa gestures to both pairs. “—constitute the top two of those ten,” he pauses to be dramatic and the pairs hold their breath. “Don’t make us regret it.”

Todoroki and Katsuki are the only ones who don’t gulp.

“Now, make yourselves at home. It’s going to be a while before we lift off.” Aizawa points to the door leading not to the outside world, but to the their seats in the rocket. “The other pairs will be arriving shortly.”

-x-

“HEYYYYYYYYYYYYY!” Present Mic, dressed in a U.A. jumpsuit like the rest of them but looking way better somehow, announces his presence to Team 1-A. “I’m aware that you ten pairs are ready to get! To! Outer! Space! Am I right?”

The twenty kids jump up and down, still enjoying the perks of terrestrial gravity. Aizawa leans against the wall, tired and worn out from the day.

“Well, that’s fine, but there’s some things I have to go over first! One, Eraserhead and I will be your teachers. Others may pop in if we need them, but we are the captains of this ship. That means no matter what, you do what we say, because we are in! Space!”

The ten pairs before him nod.

“Two, no fighting! I know some of the pairings are…” Mic glances over to Katsuki and Izuku, who are doing their best not to come into physical contact with one another even though the area where they all have to stand is very small. “…tense, but the Initiative paired you for a reason, so Get! Over! It!”

“That means you, Bakugou and Midoriya,” Aizawa specifies from the side and Mic shoots him a look.

Izuku turns red and Katsuki’s hands smoke, but otherwise the two don’t say anything.

“Good! Any questions? No? Great! Time for take-off!” Mic instructs all of them how to strap into their chairs and Aizawa slouches into his. Mic straps himself in last and he can see that many of the kids are nervous. The two teachers sit separately from the students, close to where all of the control systems are.

“Hey! I remember when I was going through my first take-off,” Mic says to the nervous crowd. “It was scary and unfamiliar, but now that I’ve been doing it for years it’s no big deal.”

“You’re also not going to actually die,” Aizawa adds, fiddling with on of his straps. “It might feel like your eyes are in your stomach, but I assure you, they aren’t actually in your stomach.”

“Not helpful, Shouta,” Mic chastises. “You need to tell them that it’s just like a really intense centrifuge ride. Did any of you kids ever ride Mission Space at Disneyland?”

One of them raises their hand. Iida Tenya speaks, partner to Uraraka Ochako. “It’s my favorite ride, sensei!”

Mic smiles, flipping switches that will put him in contact with Mission Control back at U.A., a massive sub-facility that controls all of the ships currently in space—whether on recon missions or explorative or training—that also serves at Nedzu’s home base. Mic and Aizawa swear the president never leaves, but given neither of them have been on earth for longer than enough time to train another class, they can’t be certain their suspicions are correct. “Well it’s just like that. Imagine you’re back there, riding that fun ride, and we will be weightless in space in no time!”

“What does being weightless feel like?” Another student-in-training, Kaminari Denki—half of the Kaminari-Jirou pair—asks.

Aizawa shoots his gaze at Uraraka before she can put her hand on the boy.

Uraraka and Aizawa have a silent stare down, and Uraraka ends up relaxing her gaze and giving him a reluctant nod of understanding.

Aizawa blinks.

“It’s hard to explain, just everything is floaty inside,” Uraraka tells him. “You’ll see. It’s fun once you get past the nausea.”

“Paging Mission Control!” Mic says through the receiver before Kaminari can ask any more questions. “Team 1-A is good for lift-off, roger.”

Nedzu’s voice is on the other side. “All clear, Team 1-A, standby for lift-off.”

“Nedzu, good to have you back on earth for us,” Mic says. “Hope all is well,”

The engines fire, and a deep thrum can be heard. Mic can see some of the students start to panick, so he keeps talking, keeping his voice smooth and steady.

“All is good here, good luck up there,” Nedzu encourages.

“Hey, kids!” The kids perk up. “Say hi to President Nedzu!”

That distracts most of them. It would do for now.

Another engine primes.

“Hi, President Nedzu!” The team says in unison with shakey voices.

“Hey!” Nedzu says to them. “Ready to save the universe? Because that’s what you’re going to do!” Some of the kids smile upon hearing it. “Good luck to all of you! Plus Ultra!” Nedzu’s voice quiets after that. “Mic, I’m going to have to go dark now. Radio if you need anything once you’ve broken the stratosphere. We will be here every step of the way.”

“Just like always. You really are the best. Thanks, over and out,” Mic says. “Now, who’s ready for lift-off?”

All twenty of them cheer now and even Aizawa grins a little, though his is more out of sadism than excitment.

It starts as a low bumping noise, a quick thump thump! as valves open and close, pressurizing and depressurizing different parts of the rocket. The team can feel the bumps and the thumps, and the whole group knows that things are really about to happen.

Then, an impossibly low frequency noise fills the compartment, and Jirou Kyouka blinks a few times. “Mic-sensei, what’s that noise?”

“Just the first engine lighting up! Nothing to be worried about. It’s all part of the process!” Mic shoots back without hesitation.

The bumping and the thumping turns into a rumbling and a shaking, and it’s getting loud. The main engine lights and it gets worse and then they’re moving away from the launch pad, and heading into space.

Kirishima screams.

“Shut up, shitty hair!” Katsuki yells. “You’re stressing the rest—“

Katsuki is cut off by an immense amount of g-forces suddenly on his body. The rest of the team is also shocked into silence by the pure intensity of it, feeling as if their body is three times its weight and being pushed back into their seats.

Following the build there is a big bang! That scares the shit out of half the team and makes Aizawa and Mic crack smiles as they remember the first time they had experienced it too.

“Just the rescue system being jettisoned, kids, no big deal.” Mic reassures right before the next bang! That happens as the four straps on the booster separate. Finally, there is one last bang! When the nose faring detaches and comes off. The rapid fire banging clearly rattles a few of the team, but otherwise they’re not nearly as bad as Mic and Aizawa had been preparing for.

“You can see out the window if you want!” Mic says, gesturing to the few windows around them. “You know, if you want to see earth as we fly away from it.”

Katsuki keeps his eyes to the floor, fighting nausea, and Izuku can’t stop staring. Uraraka is as happy as she can be, making whopping noises as they go.

“Prepare for second stage separation!” Mic shouts back.

The team hardly has time to brace themselves before there’s another bang! And then the g-load drops. It goes to about half of what it had been before, and there is a collective sigh of relief right before the third stage engine lights, then it’s building up again and there’s a feeling of being pushed forward.

“Just a little longer!” Mic calls back.

There’s a final bang! with a rough jerk and the kids scream more out of surprise than fear, and then there’s nothing. They’re floating, feeling as if they’re upside down.

The whole process from lift-off to reaching orbit—where the training ship is waiting with all the pair ships—had taken eight and a half minutes.

 

Day 1

Flight Deck of the Dauntless

The USS Dauntless is a hexagonal structure that is more reminiscient of a beehive than a typical spaceship. The bottom three “cells” form the cargo hold, the four above it house sleeping arrangements, and the top three connect to form the flight deck. At the rear are six variable specific impulse magenetoplasma rockets (VASIMR) that can turn and rotate to move the spacecraft. The thrusters are accessed through hatches at the back of each row, along with oxygen units, fuel components, and other life functions such as food and drink.

The first time the team is free from their seats and weightless makes Aizawa and Mic both laugh. Once the pairs have moved into the Dauntless through the same hatch they’d entered through, Todoroki floats around like he’s home and Uraraka isn’t far behind him. The two of them start chasing each other around the flight deck and the teaching pair doesn’t try to stop them. The other pairs are taking advantage of the lack of gravity, pushing off of walls to see how far they can fly, or attempting to crash into one another. Others opt to simply enjoy the sensation of floating.

“Kacchan this is so fun!”

“Deku, you piece of shit, don’t go so far away!”

Watching Izuku glide while Katsuki flounders in his wake is one of the funniest images that Aizawa would ever thought he’d see.

Kirishima won’t stop pushing off of things and crashing into others. He’d been instructed not to use his quirk unless strictly necessary, so he’s actually taking the hits as he moves around the ship.

Thank goodness the flight deck is so huge.

“Hey, Uraraka!” Iida calls out to her and she pauses in her latest Todoroki chase to listen to her fellow student. “What happens if you use your quirk here?”

Mic and Aizawa immediately exchange glances. Not being sure, they’re about to tell her not to try when they notice that Todoroki is walking on the floor of the flight deck like there’s normal terrestrial gravity.

“Okay, that’s cool,” Mic says.

Todoroki gives him a thumbs up.

Mic and Aizawa engage the six gravity generators—two per level on diagonal corners—later on, making sure the kids know not to take the feeling for granted. The students slam to the floor, and Uraraka is back to making people float. Todoroki is, again, her primary victim.

Aizawa’s voice comes to them through the intercom once they’re all standing. “Food is in the back. Bunks are second level. Everything is labeled. Don’t fuck it up. Welcome to the Dauntless.”

 

Rear of Second Level of the Dauntless

Kirishima is all but jumping up and down when they make it to the Dauntless’ onboard kitchen.

“We get to have actual space food, in space!” he says excitedly. “This is so manly!”

“We haven’t even left earth’s gravitational field,” Katsuki says.

“Before long we will.” Todoroki says, grabbing a vacuum-sealed package of rice, and getting to work rehydrating it, grabbing the hot water gun from its home on a shelf and sticking it into the tube on the side of the pouch without batting an eye. It takes a few minutes, but before long, Todoroki has cut open the pouch and is eating the rice inside, face stoic and flat as always.

“Where did you learn how to do that?” Kirishima asks.

“My father taught me,” Todoroki answers, voice deadpan.

Todoroki remembers all of the space camps he’d been sent to as a child after the first invasion. If there had been any preparatory program available, Todoroki Enji’s kid had been in it. When it came down to it, that had meant that Todoroki hadn’t made any friends, or had time to develop any social skills besides those required for the U.A. Initiative.

So when Todoroki had been paired with Kirishima, things had been… tense.

 

Several Days Ago

The U.A. Initiative’s Exam Facility Auditorium

“—Todoroki Shouto and Kirishima Eijiro,” Nedzu moves on to the next pair and Todoroki can’t breathe. Kirishima? Kirishima?

Who in the flying fuck is Kirishima?

He’s supposed to be paired with Yaoyorozu Momo. That’s what his father had told him. She’s one of the best and he is the best, despite what the results of the exam had been. Todoroki is just shocked now that his father’s plan hadn’t worked out at all.

Which excites and terrifies him all at once.

Todoroki’s fingers curl under his chair so hard they turn white and frost leaks from his fingertips, freezing the bottom of his chair in seconds. He doesn’t know what this means. He needs to—

“Hi! You must be Todoroki?” A boy with spiked red hair stands above him, offering his hand. A wicked smirk is smeared across his face and Todoroki honestly doesn’t know what to think of him.

“Yeah,” Todoroki says quietly. “That’s me.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you! And whether you like it or not, we’re going to be bros! We’re going to save the world and do cool space stuff!” Kirishima has the nerve to sit down in the chair next to him—which squeaks like it hasn’t been oiled in years—and elbows him. “Right, bro?”

Todoroki turns his head slowly, heterochromic eyes gradually meeting Kirishima’s own, and something about how Kirishima can’t see all of Todoroki’s face due to his hair sets the red-haired boy off a little. He forces a smile before finding a new angle he can use to talk to his partner.

“Okay then! Well, that’s a manly scar you got there! I think it’s kinda cool,” Kirishima says. “I’m not going to ask you how you got it—” Kirishima leans in closer to him as if he’s about to tell a secret. “—Because some people don’t like to talk about them.” He leans back. “But yours looks really cool.”

Todoroki is at a loss for words. He hates his scar. What it means, how he got it, everything it’s associated with. He hates all of it.

But someone likes it? Thinks it’s cool?

“Thanks,” Todoroki says, voice a little absent with a whole lot of shock.

It’s a start.

 

Present Time

Rear of Second Level of the Dauntless

“Deku, do you know how to do this?” Katsuki grabs the hot water gun and another freeze dried package of rice.

While Izuku had read how-to’s, numerous blog posts, and official information concerning the U.A. Initiative, he’d never actually done any of it until now. He assumed that Todoroki, being the son of one of the top benefactors of the Initiative, probably had been going to Pre-Initiative camps for years and gotten personal how-to-be-an-astronaut lessons from his father.

Hilariously enough, with all the money the Todorokis give to the Initiative every year, Enji had never once been invited to join the Council.

“No, we should let Todoroki teach us,” Izuku suggests.

And that’s how Todoroki taught two pairs how to reconstitute food. By the end of the day he’d taught nearly ten pairs how to eat in space. Yaoyorozu smiles at him while he’s showing Shinsou how to rehydrate a package of rice.

At least they’d ended up on the Dauntless together.

-x-

Breaking Earth’s orbit is a maneuver that Aizawa and Mic have undergone many times.

“You think it would be less nerve-wracking by this point,” Mic hits the first switch, priming one of their side thrusters in addition to the back ones, with four in total. They plan to fire the four in tandem but at different levels of power to shoot the Dauntless out for orbit and towards the outer planets.

“Only for you,” Aizawa puts down his tablet having done the calculations and pulls up one of the main console screens, a sheet of bulletproof glass that a hologram of data can be projected on. “Engage thruster alpha to 3.25746, beta to 7.42353, gamma to 8.76545, and omega to 3.43452.”

“Roger that, Eraser!” Mic gets to work setting the thrusters. “Our fuel lines are intact and oxygen readings continue to be strong.”

“How about our ion thrusters? Still active and running?” Aizawa switches screens and starts typing. In front of them is the broad dome of the earth, and they’re flying around it at thousands of miles an hour.

Mic has shifted to take over the screen Aizawa was at a second ago, biting his lip, a sign of nervousness that Aizawa is used to. He always gets this way, but Mic is one of the most brilliant pilots Aizawa has ever known, in addition to being his pair-mate. He can always handle the pressure.

“Still strong. Might have to restart one in a month or two, but it can handle the shift.”

“Good, you ready?”

Mic turns to him, cocks a grin. “You bet your ass.”

In sync, the two begin flipping switches and entering final numbers. Without a word, Mic looks to Aizawa for final permission and presses the small yellow switch that begins the shift.

“Hang onto something, kids!” Mic says over the ship’s intercom, more of a casual warning than anything.

All the kids hear is a boom! and a bang! And then the ship is flying out of orbit. While the sounds cause slight alarm, there’s no noticeable movement beyond a slight change in g-forces that Uraraka notices, then the others after that.

“Deploying electric sails,” Aizawa announces.

“Roger that, all clear,” Mic shoots back.

There are eighty tethers of highly thin metal wires that are let loose gradually from their respective compartments on the outside of the middle of the ship. Each one is equidistant from the next, with fifteen on each side of the large hexagonal shape that makes up the ship. The tethers move out until they form a large circular “sail”, though it’s more like an elaborate electrical spiderweb with a radius of twenty kilometers.

The sail utilizes the solar wind, or the output of electric and electromagnetic particles that are emitted from the sun every second. Since Aizawa and Mic are aiming to leave the solar system as soon as possible, riding the solar wind and utilizing gravitational slingshots are their best options.

“We are officially out of Earth’s orbit, and headed towards the outer planets,” Mic announces. “Yes, that’s Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and a planetary body called Pluto. No turning back now! Not that you really could anyway.”

Mic laughs when he switches off the microphone, and Aizawa continues clicking away, adjusting the thrusters to propel them away from Earth at the proper trajectory.

“You didn’t have to say that,” Aizawa chides.

Mic chuckles. “Oh yes, yes I did.”

“Just make sure we’re ready for the gravitational slingshot around Jupiter. We’ve got a while, but we can’t afford to make mistakes.” Aizawa looks up from the monitor to see Mic nodding at him. Aizawa folds up the glass and cancels a few programs, no longer needing them.

Mic rapidly flips one screen into the wall and then folds another on top of it. “Yeah, and be ready for the next slingshot around Uranus, blah blah blah. I know the drill, buddy.”

Aizawa glares at him. “The system is back in auto.”

Mic isn’t affected by Aizawa’s facial expression in the slightest. “You are free to move about the cabin,” Mic says, bumping his partner in the arm.

Aizawa’s lips turn up into a faint smile and Mic knows he’s won.

-x-

Their sleeping arrangements are on the second deck and after the pairs move quickly down a ladder to the second level at the back of the ship.

They’re faced with a hallway that turns twice in the middle, and on either side are six bunk rooms each, with two of them accessed through the corners created by the turns in the hallways. At each end of the floor, in unused spaces are the generators that keep the gravity on the ship through an artificial magnetic field that runs beneath their feet.

The rooms themselves are small, with one bed built into the wall on the left and right sides. There is space above, below, and at the foot of the beds that can be used for storage. Farther down is a small bathroom with a sink and a shower accessed through a sliding door.

Each pair gets a single room. Mic and Aizawa have one to themselves as well and a final spare room remains to house any guests.

Katsuki and Izuku are assigned one of the rooms in the corner, and Katsuki immediately takes the bed closest to the door that doesn’t have any floor to ceiling storage at the foot of the bed. The bed itself is extra long and Izuku doesn’t argue with him, gladly taking the bed that backs up to the gravity generator. On the other side of the wall and closest to Izuku are the Mina-Tsuyu pair. On the other side, and closest to Katsuki, is the Todoroki-Kirishima pair.

“We need to lay down some rules first,” Izuku says bravely, setting down his bag of belongings on the bed. He’d brought all thirteen of his notebooks on space travel and quirks amidst a few other personal items like pens, pencils, and an extra notebook. His mother had slipped in a small tube of frizz tamer, insisting it’s for ‘when Izuku saves the universe and has to go on national television’.

Izuku says his next words very carefully. “When one of us goes to bed, the other quiets down. Is that okay?”

Katsuki, as much as he dislikes Izuku, can’t help but agree to that, not wanting Izuku to ruin his sleeping patterns.

“Okay, fine, anything else?” Katsuki doesn’t want him to continue, but is rather curious as to what else the stupid nerd wants.

Izuku is clearly uncomfortable with the situation, being that he’s looking at the floor and in the bathroom which just so happens to be the point where he’s the farthest away from the other boy. “If we have anything to do in the middle of the night, no exploding me if I have to be the one to wake you up, and no exploding to wake me up either.”

Katsuki is a little less agreeable to that, but agrees nonetheless.

“Alright, you got that too, anything else?”

“No, that’s it!” Izuku says quickly, then startles, realizing he has one more thing. “Oh wait!”

Katsuki turns on him and explodes a small firework worth of quirk in their small shared space.

Izuku doesn’t want to say the words he says next. “No quirks in the room…?” He phrases it like a question, like he’s asking for permission, because he knows Katsuki will be reluctant to agree.

Outside of their space, Aizawa and Mic stand close, monitoring the situation and being ready to bust in and stop Katsuki from hurting Izuku.

“We should make him stop,” Mic says, hearing another pop-pop-pop! of Katsuki’s quirk. “The situation is escalating.”

“No,” Aizawa says, though his scarves are at the ready. “Not yet. We need to see if they can work this out, even if there’s a risk, part of Nedzu’s deal with pairing them is that we were responsible for making sure they worked out their differences before being deployed. It might happen now. We don’t know yet—“

“Deku! There’s nowhere to run! Now die!”

“Okay, that’s not good,” Mic says, but Aizawa sighs, already commanding the door to slide open by slamming the purple button that controls it. The door’s panels slide apart horizontally, and Aizawa’s scarves fly in before he can. Within seconds he has Izuku and Katsuki wrapped up like mummies, blue and red eyes set on Katsuki to erase his quirk to prevent further damage. He doesn’t want anyone harmed by a teenager’s out of control quirk.

“I’m already sick of using my capture weapon today,” Aizawa is impatient. “Stop fighting. You two are better than this because you’re here. Pairs fight, but they don’t fight each other. And you, Bakugou, listen to your partner when he’s talking sense. No quirks in the room and no quirks against your teammates. That includes within your own pair. Izuku, it takes two to fight. You both got it?”

The two nod, and Aizawa blinks and lets them go.

-x-

Find their ship.

Destroy them before they can destroy you.

I won’t let it happen again!

Shouta! Shouta!” A voice yells. Aizawa startles, shakes the hands off of his arms, and takes a bleary look around him. Nearly the whole team is there, crowded around their room that’s central and situated directly apart from Todoroki and Kirshima’s. All Aizawa sees are worried looks and tired eyes. Mic is closest to him, and it’s clear that Mic’s hands had been the ones trying to stabilize him.

“Aizawa-sensei?” Uraraka asks, voice small. Iida is behind him close by. “Are you okay?”

“Just a bad dream, Uraraka, don’t worry about me.”

It’s pretty clear that the whole team is going to worry about him from that moment forward.

Mic later explains Aizawa’s role in the first invasion to those who hadn’t been obsessed with learning everything about it growing up. In other words, everyone except for the Bakugou-Midoriya pair and Todoroki.

“And he came back?” Mina asks.

“Well, if he didn’t that would let All for One know he’d beaten him,” Mic explains.

The kids listen with rapt attention to the rest of Mic’s version of the story.

“But where’s All Might?” Hagakure brings up the obvious.

Mic sighs and tells her how they haven’t seen All Might in years.

Izuku is already somewhere else.

Chapter Text

Day 2

Dauntless Training Room

It’s the next day that Aizawa and Mic start them on basic training.

They’re standing in a big room—about a quarter size of a warehouse—that’s situated under the flight deck and far away from the ion thrusters. It’s on the first level, and is directly behind the cargo hold.

The students are lined up in their normal training room by pair, and Mic and Aizawa stand before them, dressed in the standard issue attire for captains. It’s not much different from the student’s, but the captains have official Initiative patches sewn within the white hexagonal areas at the top of their sleeves that designate their rank.

“We’re going to test the limits of your quirks,” Aizawa says. “Mic and I want to see what we’re starting with.”

Izuku freezes, and Aizawa sees him do it. While Aizawa would normally address the issue, Mic steps in first, and Aizawa has no problem with it. “Midoriya, don’t worry. We’ll see what you can do later. That nexus compatibility score might as well be your quirk!”

Izuku beams a little. Hearing that he had anything close to a quirk in a real hero’s eyes had been something he’d waited his whole life for.

Mic fully takes over, clapping his hands and moving to center stage. “Alright! First we’ve got a simple! Ball! Throw! Just throw the ball as hard as you can, and then we’ll record the speed and distance! The person who throws the slowest—”

Aizawa interrupts him. “—gets sent back to earth,” Aizawa says, voice deadpan, eyes flat, and every student freezes. They think he’s serious.

Mic waves him off. “Stop doing that, Eraser! You’re going to freak them out too much.”

“It’s a tough world.”

“Yeah, but it’s not always tough,” Mic counters. “Don’t make every second tense. Just most of them.”

The students are still frozen.

“He’s just kidding. He couldn’t send you back if he wanted to,” Mic wves a hand and points it at Katsuki. “Bakugou! You’re up first!” Katsuki, never backing down from a challenge, snaps out of his stupor and takes the softball from Mic’s hands. It’s standard size and Katsuki finds solace in it. He knows how to throw this.

“I might break the ship,” Katsuki tosses the ball up and down several times, testing its weight. “How are you going to avoid that?”

“The far wall you’re aiming for is shock absorbent,” Aizawa answers, unimpressed. “No matter how hard you throw it, once it hits that material, the momentum is absorbed and the velocity is zero. Now, throw it.”

Katsuki lets out a small growl, but takes his place, pulling his arm back and then flinging it forward, letting an explosion fly from his palm right as he lets the ball go to propel it towards the wall at dizzying speeds.

At least three members of the team let out an audible “whoa”.

Todoroki is the only one who isn’t impressed.

Izuku is both simultaneously horrified and excited, because on one hand, Katsuki is his partner. But on the other, Katsuki is going to be constantly close to him, because he’s his partner. Izuku tries not to think too hard about being on the other side of that softball.

Either way, he is impressed like the rest of them.

Izuku, once he snaps out of his gawking, grabs his thirteenth notebook and gets to work scribbling down new notes about the applications of Katsuki’s quirk. He’d estimated it may prove useful in propulsion of objects, but he hadn’t expected to see it—

“Oi, Deku, what the fuck you writing?” Katsuki crouches down to where Izuku sits on the metal floor.

“New information about your quirk! You just taught me so much!” Izuku still scribbles, much to Katsuki’s annoyance. Katsuki wants to snatch the notebook right out of his hand and burn it to crisp again, but he also doesn’t want to face an angry Aizawa again so he refrains.

“Why?”

“For when the Noumu come back. Now that we’re a pair I have to amplify my strategizing.” Izuku explains. “You can read my notes later, if you’d like, but we will be ready, Kacchan.” Izuku’s eyes spark with little known determination, and Katsuki is surprised.

Katsuki eyes the singed edges of the notebook and almost feels bad about it.

“Midoriya! Stop doodling and get over here!” Aizawa yells over at him. “The Noumu won’t wait for you to finish your essays.”

“C-coming, Aizawa-sensei!” Izuku scrambles to his feet, and without thinking, hands his notebook and pencil to Katsuki, who holds them also without thinking. He quickly realizes what Izuku has done, and he drops the notebook on top of Izuku’s yellow pack and turns to watch his scrawny partner throw a ball three feet.

Okay, he throws it ten feet.

“Hey, I’m sure you make up for it in nexus compatability.” Kirishima is next to Izuku, placing a firm hand on his shoulder, aiming to comfort him.

“He does,” Katsuki comes up behind him. “Now get your hand off of him, stalactites for hair.”

Kirishima laughs and removes his hand, dismissing Katsuki without being affected by his near constant anger. “You and your nicknames, Bakugou. While ‘stalactites for hair’ isn’t very manly, I’ll take it! You’re very creative.”

Katsuki eyes the red-haired boy and notices that his hair is still spikey, even after they’ve been here one night. “How did you even get hair gel on a spacecraft?”

“It was one of my personal items. I won’t have it for long, but I figure I can at least be the old me for a little while longer. Midoriya brought his notebooks and I brought my hair gel. That’s all there is to it.” Kirishima unconsciously touches one of his carefully constructed spikes to remind himself it’s still there.

Kirishima doesn’t tell him about the hair dye.

The other students move through the competition, going by pair. Kirishima, while not throwing his ball as far as Bakugou, is only five kilometers per hour behind him. Todoroki propels his with a fiery blast, so his is on par with his partner’s. Iida’s goes moderately fast but far, while Uraraka somehow sends hers an infinity distance. Her throw had moved at a constant velocity that had remined unchanged despite artificial gravity having been taken into account. Her throw is still far from the fastest.

When the other seven pairs are done—Sato and Sero don’t throw theirs very far, along with Mina, Shinsou, and several others—Aizawa sends the pairs to their nexus lab, a room with twenty-four terminals situated around the room in a semi-circle. There’s enough for the ten pairs along with four extras, so all of Team 1-A plus the Aizawa-Yamada pair can go inside the nexus at one time.

Aizawa patches in first, and Mic instructs the students to patch in next. He patches in last, joining Aizawa on the other side after making sure that he’s able to take in a tablet that monitors the main systems on the Dauntless. If something goes wrong, Mic will know.

Izuku tastes teal right before his bones feel like six and it takes him a nanosecond to notice that he can sense Katsuki patching in with him. He quickly realizes it’s due to them being so close in frequency, but since he hadn’t had a chance to see Katsuki’s nexus skills during the entrance exam he hadn’t forseen this.

Katsuki’s nexus signature appears next to his own, a glimmering, pixelated formless ghost that feels like him. It’s like fire and smoke, but because it’s the nexus, Izuku feels it as images of shooting reds and oranges that burn behind his vision like fire in a calm familiarity.

“What are you staring at, Deku?” Katsuki’s electronic vocal manifestation sounds foreign to him, surprising Izuku and when he speaks, Katsuki’s signature fluctuates in and out a few times, the nexus equivalent of blinking, indicating surprise.

“I’ve just never seen you in the nexus before,” Izuku says, taking in the flame that is Bakugou Katsuki. “It’s cool.”

Katsuki’s signature reduces briefly and then returns back to its former size in what can only be a scoff. “Yeah, sure. Shut the fuck up. We should join the others.”

As if on cue, Uraraka’s vocal manifestation reaches Izuku’s ears easily. “We’re over here, Deku!” she says. He startles, but turns his awareness to her direction.

There’s a group of the signatures, each one representing a student of 1-A. They shimmer and blink, small clicks and thrums heard below the chatter, indicating avid conversation and vivid expression.

Izuku loves the nexus.

He grasps a point on the X-grid, intersects Katsuki’s form with his own to grab and then the two are moving towards the group. They don’t have to go far, as the nexus mostly overlays reality, but riding the grid is easier than floating over, the nexus equivalent of walking.

“Alright, some of you have nexus quirks,” Aizawa’s voice in the nexus is equally as bored as that in the real world. “Some of you just have compatibility on par with a quirk.”

Kirishima nudges Izuku’s signature, briefly overlapping it in a flash of burnt orange and green. “That’s you dude!” Izuku’s signature turns slightly pink, blushing, but fortunately Kirishima doesn’t see it, too focused on their teachers.

Aizawa sounds slightly more interested than normal. “We want to see what your nexus quirks do, in real time, not just an entrance exam test where none of you had worked together with the other person. So, who’s up first?”

Iida Tenya comes forward without hesitation. “Sensei, I can travel fast along the grid. Shall I demonstrate?”

Aizawa talks quickly. “Go.”

Iida focuses on a point, and grabs. Then, instead of merely letting it drag him, he takes control of it, bends it, and then becomes the pulse.

Then Iida is flying, moving along the grid at inhuman speeds, hitting a circuit and doing the same with it that he’d down with the grid, then turning and returning to the rest of the group by shifting to the general grid once more.

They can all hear his screams of glee reverberate throughout the nexus.

“Next,” Aizawa says, after Iida returns to them.

Izuku takes mental notes the entire time, fully planning to write them up when he fuzzes out.

It’s when Todoroki gets a turn that things get… interesting.

Todoroki’s right side shifts colors to an ice blue and then he shoots part of that blue forward. The color leaves him, and his regular nexus signature remains behind. A distinctive wave of cold settles over the group. Then, he does the same with his left side, a red color shifting and taking over the area with a feeling of hot. He alternates and while it’s mild, it’s still intense enough to make many of the kids question their perceptions of the nexus reality.

Now that Katsuki sees it, feels the colors that Todoroki is sending out… he knows those colors. And he should have known, what, with his father being Todoroki Enji and all—

“You fucker!” Katsuki shouts, and the noise echoes through the nexus so loud that it glitches. His words are aimed right at Todoroki, who turns to look at him. Katsuki lets off several explosions, vibrating the nexus in mild waves of force enough to make Todoroki move backwards. “You were Endeavor’s special little guardian, weren’t you?”

Todoroki’s signature glitches. “I don’t know what you’re talking—”

“Bullshit!” Another pulse. “A year ago you forced me to fuzz out because I was trying to break through your dad’s wall of sentries because he’s a corrupt asshole and I haven’t forgotten it!”

“Kacchan, I’m not sure—” Izuku is moving forward, automatically moving between the two boys. He might not be able to block both of them or take a direct hit, but he can try. The grid behind him shifts green, several pulses moving in tandem past him.

“Shut up, Deku! This is bigger than you.” Katsuki’s signature turns as red as his eyes, crimson flaming behind the U.A. of his standard-issue uniform’s copper lettering. “And I know you remember me because I’m the only one who’s gone that far before you put up such a firewall that no switcher could get through unless they mastered how to break the encryption!” Todoroki had beaten Katsuki that day, and he’d never forgotten it. Never had the strength to try and best him again and he hated it.Todoroki is silent and none of the others interfere because the two need to resolve this on their own.

Maybe.

Todoroki organizes his signature a little too forcefully, and does what he’s trained to do. “Endeavor is a company that strives to—”

Katsuki cuts him off, mechanical voice cracking and popping as he raises his volume. “You can’t convince me! You were funneling charity funds into your own bank account and heroes were being put out of work because they couldn’t afford to save people! That means people were dying you two-faced candy cane motherfucker.”

Todoroki can’t breathe. He knows that Endeavor is messed up. He knows that his father is a bad person, but one individual, one rogue switcher like Katsuki had never stood a chance. Not against Endeavor, no matter how good his nexus skills may be.

And Katsuki has amazing nexus skills.

Todoroki snaps and his voice crackles. It’s not me! That’s my father! And you can’t fight him! No one can!

Izuku suddenly thinks better of being between them, since he doesn’t want to get pixelated anytime soon. He backs up, moving next to Kirishima who overlaps his signature with Izuku’s to reassure him that he made the right choice. Both remain silent.

Katsuki smiles from the other side of the nexus. “So you do admit it? That your old man is corrupt? That he needs to be taken down?

Todoroki makes a frustrated noise and Katsuki is hit with a wave of cold as the cool blue color hits him. “I’m not admitting shit to you! I’m here. I’m in the Initiative. They let me in, so I deserve to be here, and I don’t deserve to have you make any sick, twisted accusations.”

Katsuki and Todoroki’s signatures have met halfway between where they’d been before. Kirishima and Izuku meet gazes, wishing they could both do something but neither knowing how to actually stop what’s happening.

“I can’t believe a fucking rogue switcher like you got in here on recommendations,” Katsuki’s voice is low. He’s decidedly not giving up and primes a nexus pulse, the energy flaring yellow and oscillating near his signature where a hand would normally be. A single dot of red burned in its center, the color seeping into the rest of the sphere like tendrils, swirling. “That’s cheating for someone like you—”

There’s a flash of blue and red where Aizawa’s signature occupies space.

“Be quiet now, students,” The cool purple bands of his scarves in the nexus flurry around his strong signature. Two blue dots glow, aimed at Katsuki to silence him and his quirk. Katsuki’s sphere dies, the vibrations reabsorbed into the nexus harmlessly. “Recommendations are valid. And, whether or not Endeavor is corrupted,” he eyes Bakugou pointedly. “Todoroki is part if this team just as much as you. I was hoping you would work out your differences now, but it seems I was wrong.”

The lines of Aizawa’s scarves fall around him and the blue eyes don’t burn as bright.

“Now please, finish demonstrating your quirk, Todoroki,” Aizawa falls back, and Katsuki returns to his place next to Izuku, brooding and quietly seething.

 

Several Hours Later

The Nexus

If one could sleep in the nexus, Aizawa would be doing so. Mic himself even looks tired, but they have a schedule to keep. They can rest later.

Mic does the talking, letting his partner take a breather. “Now, Eraser and I thought long and hard about whether or not we would try to teach you all this next skill now or later, after say, a little more teambuilding.” It’s clear that Katsuki and Izuku are once again the subject of the teacher’s scrutiny, especially when Mic’s attention is so clearly on them. Last night’s incident hadn’t helped. “But we decided we should try given the urgency of Earth’s present state of emergency and if everything goes wrong, then it goes wrong, and we will deal with it.

“One of the most important things you learn before you go into the field is how to work in tandem. And I don’t mean slightly in tandem. I mean finish-each-other’s-sentences in tandem. I mean you-kno- the-sentence-before-they-say-it in tandem. Movements, thoughts, all of it should be so predictable that you won’t even have to think when you’re in a fight.

“When all of you were being chosen as pairs, President Nedzu looked at your mental and physical acuity tests. On those tests were questions that assessed certain thought processes which we then could use to pair you. After paired training, those we deemed fit for this training were given the choice to go on.” Mic finishes.

Izuku’s heart stops. Thought processes? He’d been paired with Katsuki because of thought processes? Izuku can’t even fathom why, because Katsuki is harsh and mean to him. How does that make them compatible?

“We believe in you,” Aizawa says. “You’re the future of the human race. But we need you to listen to us and put aside your differences, because this is so much bigger than you. Hell, it’s so much bigger than all of us.”

The weight hits Izuku like a pound of bricks. He’s here.

Katsuki is also clearly feeling it, but he doesn’t show it on purpose. Izuku has been in the nexus enough times to know that the slight swelling of his signature is akin to pride.

“Yamada and I have been paired for years,” Aizawa drifts over to the front of the group to move next to Mic. “For those of you that don’t know, we were the second pair to be a part of the Initiative.” Izuku had known this, but for some in the group, this is the first time they’ve heard such a thing. “Nedzu paired us, and we were forced to work out a lot of kinks,” Aizawa looks over to his partner. “A lot of kinks,” he repeats for emphasis.

That’s why they don’t interrupt each other, Izuku mentally notes, planning to write it down later, wondering if he would ever be that way with Katsuki.

“Now watch closely. Our nexus forms can meet, and as long as there is some overlap, you can let the vibrations and the beat of your nexus signature sync up with theirs—and they shouldn’t be off by much, this is part of the reason you’re compatible as pairs—and then you’ll be able to predict them almost uncannily, as long as you trust the other to overlap completely.”

Aizawa’s form overlaps with Mic’s in a motion that is well practiced, the kind that comes from years of experience and technical know how. There’s a brief pixelated flash before the two turn back to the crowd, signatures combined and completely overlaid.

The Aizawa-Yamada pair speaks together, voices overlapping as much as their signatures. “The important thing is not to fight it. Secrets won’t last long here anyway, so don’t try to hide anything. It may seem volatile now, but if you want to save the world, it won’t be volatile for very long.” It’s clear that Aizawa is the one talking at this point though Mic’s vocal manifestation is still heard. “Got it?”

“Yes, Sensei!” The kids shout.

“Alright, go wild,” Aizawa says, releasing them and de-syncing from Mic in yet another practiced motion.

“Geez, Eraser, what is it with you and scaring these kids?” Mic asks him.

“I’m just preparing them for what’s coming,” Aizawa replies. “Nothing more, nothing less. You know how fucked up it is out there.”

Mic sighs. He can’t argue with that and chooses instead to focus on the pairs.

Izuku doesn’t even know where to start with Katsuki. How is he going to convince him to sync with him? Katsuki doesn’t want anything to do with his head, let alone his own… Izuku is just going to have to—

“Hey, you wanna defeat All for One, right?” Katsuki asks, signature drifting around Izuku’s in a slow circle. It’s not intimidating but it is distracting.

Izuku turns around in a circle himself, addressing Katsuki while he continues to move. “Of course I do.”

“So do I. He’s a fucker that deserves to die. So I’m going to hold out my weird electronic hand, you’re going to grab it, and we’re going to do this.” Katsuki extends his signature and pulls it back when Izuku makes a move to grab it. “If you judge me, I will kill you.”

Izuku can’t believe this is happening. He nods quickly.

Then he takes Katsuki’s hand.

The syncing process isn’t what Izuku had been expecting. Izuku can feel every part of his own signature, but there is a presence of something else there that rides in the gaps between his converted binary code. A current flows, a torrent of a flaming aura meeting a green one and moving back and forth in a stereotyped wave until the two are linked. The first think Izuku picks up on is a singular emotion coming from his partner.

Rage.

He almost laughs. Of course. This is Katsuki he’s syncing with. His partner is the king of rage.

“I think we did it,” Izuku squeaks and is surprised to find that Katsuki’s sharp voice moves with his. It reminds him of the shock he had felt when he would breathe helium in science class. He would have expected his voice to be the same it always is and be so surprised when it had sounded so different.

Except that this isn’t helium, it’s Katsuki.

“Deku, stop being so damn scared.” Katsuki takes over, but Izuku finds himself unable to fight saying the words as well.

“I’m not scared!”

Katsuki pauses, inviting Izuku to think about what he—they—had just said. Izuku can’t see Katsuki’s glare, but he can feel it and somehow that is so much worse. Izuku gets the message quickly after that and remembers that they aren’t supposed to have secrets. “Okay maybe a little, but you’re scary, Kacchan!”

Okay, hearing ‘Kacchan’ in Katsuki’s voice is an interesting experience. Izuku tries not to laugh again. He’s ninety percent sure Katsuki knows but is choosing not to say anything. Instead, Izuku can feel Katsuki’s signature abruptly shift is relative vibration.

“Well calm the fuck down. It’s annoying, and what the fuck are you—”

Izuku feels his own signature jerk and start glitching. “—it’s not me, Kacchan!”

The two can’t keep up the sync. Izuku gets his own arms back first, then his legs, and then Katsuki is shoving him away, dying to get rid of the feeling of a partial sync. Katsuki continues distancing himself from his partner. “Stupid Deku, you can’t even—”

“Fuzz out! Fuzz out!” Present Mic screams, suddenly between the two. “Midoriya! Bakugou! Fuzz. Out. Now!”

“What’s wrong?” Izuku asks, moving away from Katsuki and closer to his teacher.

“There’s… there’s…” Mic is having difficulty talking, and Izuku takes into account that Aizawa isn’t here. “Somehow, a Noumu on this ship! We need to get to a safer place! Fuzz out!”

“Oh fuck,” Katsuki says, then looks to what he believes to be his weaker companion. “Deku, come on! What the fuck are you doing?”

Izuku, without thinking, doesn’t ask before he grabs Katsuki’s arm and fuzzes the both of them out. The world goes out of focus, and everything turns blurry, then it’s back to the physical plane as the two leave the electronic realm.

When they finally are all out of the nexus, Mic is trying to herd them towards their rooms. While they would be safer behind reinforced steel doors, Katsuki isn’t having any of it and neither is Izuku. Kirishima and Todoroki also seem uninterested in the prospect of hiding, though Uraraka and Iida are currently arguing as to whether or not they will do what Mic says or not.

Izuku catches up to Mic. “You can’t leave us in our rooms, Aizawa-Sensei can’t fight one of those things alone! You know that!”

“You obviously haven’t been paying attention to him since the first invasion,” Mic says seriously. Izuku fights the urge to take three steps back. “What matters is you’re not ready to fight yet!” Mic shoots. “I don’t want to risk losing any of you!”

Katsuki hates that he has to say it but he knows Izuku won’t. “But you’ll risk losing the other half to your pair to a Noumu?”

Mic freezes, but quickly regains his composure. “Look, what’s between Eraser and I stays between Eraser and I,” he levels his gaze at the pairs. “Now go to your bunks and wait for orders.”

“Nope! Not happening! Come on, Deku!” Katsuki grabs Izuku’s arm without his permission and starts running full speed away from Mic and towards the increasingly loud banging they’re hearing.

Izuku tries to ignore the feeling that a firecracker had just ignited in his hand. It’s quick and fleeting, enough that Izuku can convince himself that it had never been there at all.

The place where they’re headed is the flight deck, the cockpit, the control center, the one place a Noumu should not be.

“How did it get in here?” Aizawa shouts and then realizes Mic is back with all of the kids. “Get them out, Hizashi!” He dodges the Noumu’s blow expertly, flipping backward off of one of the consoles and landing neatly on the ground.

“They wouldn’t let me!” Mic says, urging the pairs to stay back with his arms, willing them to stay put or go back to their rooms like he’d ordered them too. “They’re feisty, Eraser!”

The Noumu is a bipedal one, much like the one that had taken Aizawa’s sight in the first invasion. But that means that Aizawa knows how to deal with it. He takes a measured guess, leans to his right, and twirls his scarves like ribbons, exactly how he’d done during the first attack.

“It must have come through the terminal!” Iida shouts, Uraraka with her back against his. “There’s one in here, right?”

Aizawa’s sigh is loud enough to be heard across the flight deck. “Goddamnit, how do even the Noumu get one hundred percent compatibility!” He jumps a little farther away, and the Noumu follows him, distracted. Aizawa is prepared for the creature’s next strike and he misses in with ease.

“Hello, hello. Been a while, boys?” All for One’s mechanical, alien voice sounds through the intercom of the ship. The voice is everywhere, coming from above, below, in front of, and behind the pairs and the teachers.

The Noumu freezes and settles down on instinct. Aizawa also ceases his movements, perplexed and dumbfounded. The others have similarly stopped moving, but haven’t become statues in their places.

All for One continues, voice haunting. “Seems like Eraserhead got my present, or rather, the Noumu got his. We’ve all been wanting to finish what we started ten years ago, haven’t we?”

The Noumu purrs again,and Aizawa wants to scream, willing himself to calm down and not throw himself back there again. He’s been through too much therapy to let that happen.

Not again, not again, not again.

And All for One keeps talking, and Aizawa can remember the screaming, the anguish, the pain. “But, it really is—”

No. Aizawa is here and he’s now. Not then. Now.

“Mic!” Aizawa snaps out of his frozen state and ignores All for One’s intimidating monologue. He isn’t going to be fooled this time. “Mic, Remember that thing we talked about?”

“Yeah!”

“Do it!”

Mic takes one look at the Noumu, one look at Aizawa, a final one at the kids, and then says, “Cover your ears!” a second before he screams.

He yells at the frequency that the nexus runs on, causing anyone who’s patched in to fuzz out, and preventing any further attempts using the terminal. It’s temporary and painful. Because it’s so damaging to the ears, Mic can’t do it on a large scale without severely harming anyone around him and himself.

All for One’s electronic scream ripples through the nexus and dies when the connection shatters. The Noumu continues yelling long after All for One’s voice had left them.

Good, you better scream you fucking bastard, Mic thinks.

In the midst of the scream, Aizawa, with all of rage he experiences every time he sees a Noumu, assaults the creature with his stronger capture weapon, white lit stitching spiraling, and pulls it to the floor before choking it. Carefully, he pulls out a hard light blade, unleashes it, and decaptitates the Noumu, not taking any chances.

It quiets with a thump!

“Uraraka,” Aizawa says, chest heaving and eyes still on the dead creature below him. “Help me dispose of this. We’re heading to the airlock.”

“Y-yes, Sensei.” She scrambles over, hesitating before the fallen creature. Aizawa glares at her. “I just killed it. You can touch it once.”

Uraraka gulps and places a hand on the Noumu. Only a second passes before she releases it from artificial gravity and begins to feel nausea stir in her stomach.

“Over this way,” Aizawa leads. “Mic, watch the kids. We’ll be back.” Once Aizawa and Uraraka and the Noumu are through the next room’s door, Aizawa commands it to slide shut.

“Well, that was interesting,” Kirishima breaks the silence and attempts to also break the awkwardness produced by their teacher killing one of the aliens they’re attempting to wipe out. “Didn’t know Aizawa-sensei could do that.”

“After the first invasion,” Mic begins. “And after Eraser recovered, he was understandably angry. All of that energy went into training and research, so that he would never be caught off guard again.” Mic’s voice is serious and this isn’t lost on the students. “Sometimes I wonder if he needs me, you know, as the other half of his pair—”

Aizawa’s voice comes through the same intercom that All for One had taken over minutes before.

“—we’re still on the intercom. Mic.” Aizawa says and Mic turns red. “And stop getting all emotional, you know how the program works. Of course I need you, you idiot.”

Mic is clearly embarrassed that he’d suggested such a thing. “Okay, that aside, I’m going to go get started on my report to Nedzu and see if we need to take any actions. You all go get some rest, eat, just do…something.” Mic waves his hands, shooing them off to their own devices. “I’ll let you know when you need to come back, but for now distractions are beneficial.” The pairs know he’s not just saying it for their sake.

The kids nod.

“And one more thing,” Mic’s voice gets serious again. “Under no circumstances are you to go into the nexus without my approval.”

Once Mic sees the kids nod, he grabs Aizawa, pulling him aside. “We need to call Thirteen now. Our systems are compromised.”

Aizawa nods, noting the dim lightning of the Dauntless’ hallways, and the purple lights that accent the grey and purple walls. “It will take a few days, but we can do it. If not, our nexus terminals might prove to be an issue.”

Mic’s eyebrows shoot up. “Could that be for the best? If All for One can’t get through the nexus then he can’t come after us or the kids.”

“We need those systems because they’re our secret weapon too,” Aizawa counters, starting to pace in the small area. “But…” Aizawa suddenly gets an idea and attempts to formulate it. “…you might be able to scream the systems into blocking them. You manipulate vibrations—”

“—so I could shift the vibration of what it takes to sync so that All for One has a more difficult time coming after us! That’s brilliant!”

Aizawa’s lips turn up in the closest thing to a wry smile that Mic will ever get.

“I try.”

 

Several Days Ago

The Nexus

“Young Midoriya,” Toshinori calls. He can see the boy’s signature floating around the nexus. It’s a little scattered and the movements are irregular. He must have just patched in.

“Just the Nexus Intelligence I’m here to see,” Izuku replies, sighing. “Hey, Toshi-san.” Something warms Toshinori’s heart to hear that, but he tries not to focus on it too much.

It’s by chance the boy is here when he is at all. Something had always drawn him to the boy, yes, but Toshinori hadn’t patched in to see him, he’d patched in to search for All for One. Again. Young Midoriya had just shown up.

But he keeps feeling eyes on the back of his neck.

Something is wrong.

“You don’t have long.”

“I know,” Izuku says, oblivious to the true meaning of Toshinori’s words, “the U.A. Initiative sent me here because there’s something that needs solving. Do you know where I can find it?”

Toshinori? Find something in the nexus? It seems as if he can find everything except for All for One. Or Nana.

“Of course,” Toshinori searches around the area for a few seconds before a string of numbers all jammed together in a literal ZIP file comes into view. He sends it drifting towards the boy.

Izuku actually thanks him and starts working the equation. Toshinori takes a protective position around him, scanning the environment. It doesn’t seem like a Noumu and it certainly doesn’t feel like All for One, but there are other beings not on the side of good that could hurt this boy (and Toshi, but he likes to ignore that). All for One has too many allies for Toshinori to keep up with.

Sometime in the middle of it the feeling of dread and not being alone becomes ten times worse and Toshinori decides he can’t wait any longer. “There’s someone else here, Young Midoriya, you have to leave.”

“What?” Izuku’s voice is too absent for Toshinori’s liking.

“They aren’t human.”

“Are you sure they’re not another student?” Izuku asks, refusing to remain anything but calm, “Like me? Are they part of the U.A. Initiative?”

“No. Not like you. They’re different.” They’re evil and dark and I don’t know how to warn you. “You need to go before they get here.”

Toshinori all at once wishes he’d never taken a liking to the boy because now he’s attached and if All for One—or any of his minions—gets to him, Toshinori doesn’t know what he’ll do.

“Well tell me what the hell is going on!”

There. There’s the panic Toshinori had wanted five seconds ago.

“I have three identifications,” he says suddenly. Two of them feel like Noumu.

Toshinori shudders. This is bad.

“Say it already!” Izuku shouts.

“Wait, now there is only one.” Toshinori corrects himself. The Noumu signatures are… gone? And the one that’s left… it’s not All for One.

As if All for One would go after someone on a training mission. A test. But why was it interested in the boy in the first place? This isn’t the first time this has happened. Toshinori has been protecting Izuku long before now.

“You need to tell me what the hell is happening right now!” Izuku demands.

And I need to know too, kid, Toshinori thinks. “The only one I have now is Shigaraki Tomura,” Toshinori says with dread. He’s close. Too close. Too damn close.

“Who the heck is that?” Izuku asks. “They shouldn’t be coming this close. Isn’t this ship protected?”

Toshinori tries to figure out a way that he could warn him of Shigaraki and his hands…

But there isn’t time.

“Young Midoriya, you need to leave,” I can seal up the terminal after you.

“But I’m not done, yet. Toshi-san, calm down. Are they a rogue switcher?”

“I don’t know what they are, just that they’re not good.” Toshinori regrets lying to Izuku immediately. But in some ways it’s true, really. Shigaraki isn’t a human anymore. A human twisted into something worse. He’d been quirked one too many times and then there’s the hands—

“Leave, now,” Toshinori urges, fighting an instinctual shudder. No one should have that many hands.

“Okay, okay!” Izuku laughs. “Stop scaring me, alright?”

You need to be scared! He exhales sharply. “This is a very serious—”

Then Shigaraki is there. He’s passing through Toshinori’s form before Toshinori can make it physical enough to block him, to fight him, and then he’s headed right for Izuku. Toshinori screams with empty lungs. Some synapse he turned out to be.

Fuzz out, kid! Fuzz out!

A hand grabs Izuku’s leg and pulls.

Toshinori gives him a shove, mustering up every bit of physicality he can.

Izuku fuzzes out and Toshinori wishes he could sigh in relief.

The hand tries to follow him, but Toshinori concentrates hard enough to materialize from a complete binary form into full physical form, something that had taken years of using One for All to figure out how to do. Toshinori grabs onto the hand after riding a pulse and Shigaraki makes an inhuman noise of grief and chases after it.

Then, while Shigaraki is distracted, Toshinori places one materialized palm close to where Izuku had left, and activates his quirk to one hundred percent. He screams in the void of the nexus, and the pixels burn colorless with static. The block to the terminal won’t last long but it will last long enough for Toshinori to chase Shigaraki away.

“Shigaraki! Leave!” Toshinori yells. He can only vaguely make out the villain’s signature, but he can certainly make out the twelve hands attached to his body. It makes the villain easier to follow.

Shigaraki’s broken voice finds Toshinori’s ears a few seconds later. “Make me!”

Brat, Toshinori thinks. He’s done this enough times to know that Shigaraki seriously enjoys underestimating him. The villain realizes the mistake of his words too late, because within seconds he’s flying across the nexus at ridiculous speeds.

“One day he’ll learn,” Toshinori says to no one but himself. “Or not.”

He fuzzes out.

Chapter Text

Day 3

Dauntless Flight Deck

Everyone is gathered and ready at attention while Mic carefully watches them. Aizawa is busy fiddling with some controls that are in charge of the one of three docking mechanisms that run the ship’s ability to connect to other ships. It allows a ship to receive visitors, which, when a ship’s nexus terminals are compromised, gives them the ability to be able to repair them.

It’s with no small feat that a person dressed in a traditional space suit normally used for space walks enters the flight deck. None of them have heard of this hero before, except for Katsuki and Izuku. The latter is attempting not to fanboy wildly.

“This, is the Pro Hero Thirteen,” Aizawa introduces. “They will be repairing our nexus systems.”

Izuku elbows Katsuki and whispers to him. “Their quirk is black hole! That’s why they have to wear the suit!”

Katsuki shoos him. “I know, dumbass, now shut up. I’m listening.”

Thirteen then explains what they will be doing to the nexus systems and how the pairs are invited to watch. No one refuses.

Thirteen leaves a week later.

 

Day 4

Dauntless All Purpose Room

They’re introduced to more intense nexus training several days later after everything with the Noumu and All for One calms down. Mic and Aizawa pull each pair individually to explain their next task.

“What do you all know about the nexus and compatibility?” Aizawa pulls up Izuku and Katsuki’s training profiles on an oversized tablet. They’re in an all-purpose room in the ship, sitting in the only three chairs in the room. There’s a table, but it’s pushed into a corner.

“Well?” Aizawa looks to Izuku this time. “What do you know? I need to know where to start.”

Izuku describes what he does once he patches in, including his synesthetic responses and his nexus perception. Katsuki adds on a short summary of his own experiences.

These are all things that that Izuku and Katsuki are sure Aizawa already knows, but the teacher doesn’t stop them. Instead, he nods his head and takes notes.

“You two know more than most, so it shouldn’t be too hard to work with you. Mic!”

“Yeah?” Mic answers.

“Display hologram fifty-two dash one nine.”

“Displaying hologram fifty-two dash one nine,” Mic echoes before loading up the three-dimensional image and projecting it across the entire room. Due to its placement, Izuku, Katsuki, Aizawa, and himself are inside of the detailed hologram.

“Whoa,” Izuku says from under his breath, elbowing Katsuki in the side as if the other boy doesn’t see what he’s looking at.

“What does this look like to you?” Aizawa asks.

The hologram is a large three-dimensional grid with intermittent pulses of light trailing down the X, Y, and Z-axes. There are a few floating objects scattered about. It’s clearly electronic and looks exactly like—

“The nexus,” Katsuki answers, sure that he’s right. “It looks like the fucking nexus.”

“Exactly, good work, Bakugou,” Aizawa whips out a presenter with a laser that has adjustable wavelengths so that he can point to different holographic objects in the three-dimensional space. The laser settles on a pulse and tracks it, the hologram adapting to move with it. The hologram shows a third person perspective of the event, and the pulse switches to another axis and then shifts one more time to stop at a point. There, is the equation that—

Izuku catches on. “Is this my…”

Aizawa smiles and nods in acknowledgment. “This is a recording of your performance during the paired nexus portion of the entrance exam, Midoriya.”

“That’s awesome.” Izuku watches as the hologram shows the solving of the equation—without seeing Izuku—and then sees the solution fly upwards.

“While you are correct,” Aizawa affirms and Izuku beams. “There are a few jagged portions where you staggered and hesitated. Here,” The hologram rewinds, pauses and then rewinds again. “And here.” It happens again and then Aizawa lets the footage continue until it hits another spot. “And here.” He finally finishes. “What happened?”

Izuku answers honestly. “Those delays happened when Toshi-san—my Nexus Intelligence—was telling me someone else might be around. Katsuki was on the outside and my NI was telling me something troubling that almost compromised the exam.”

“…your Nexus Intelligence?” Aizawa asks, stylus down on the tablet.

“Yeah, my NI,” Izuku starts explaining and he’s a little perplexed. “I guess that isn’t considered normal here?” He looks to his partner. “Kacchan?” Surely he’s not alone in this.

Katsuki shakes his head because he’s hearing this for the first time too. “Don’t look at me! We never talked about anything like that.”

Izuku turns back around to Aizawa, sighing. “Toshi-san appeared after the first invasion when I was first learning to patch in. He helps me with navigation and said he was an inhabitant of the nexus and I looked up what that meant and he came out an NI.”

“Do you know the NI’s full name?” Aizawa asks him, glancing at Mic. They’re both thinking the same thing.

Toshinori.

“No, just told me to call him Toshi-san.” Izuku answers. “He’s been helping me navigate quicker and patch in and out faster.”

Dammit, the Aizawa-Yamada pair thinks in unison.

“Midoriya, does this have anything to do with why you patch in so rapidly? Even with such high compatibility?” Aizawa asks him, tablet at the ready.

Izuku reddens slightly and Katsuki scoffs, crossing his arms and looking away. “It helps, yes.”

Mic speaks up, taking the tablet from Aizawa without asking and scrolling through the footage. ”Your synesthetic response must be terrible—”

“—it is,” Izuku confirms, not caring that he’s interrupting the hero.

The teacher doesn’t seem to mind and lets it slide. “Hang on a minute. I need to restructure your training.”

“Nexus training?” Izuku points to himself and Katsuki before Mic can get too involved in his writing. “What else is there to know? We both know how to patch in and fuzz out and we’re both very good at it.”

Aizawa quirks a brow and draws the attention of the pair. “Ah, you are now?”

Izuku knows it’s a trap but replies anyway, unable to stop his reply from sounding like a question. “Yes?”

“Together?” Aizawa presses.

“Yes?” Izuku is dreading Aizawa’s next words.

“Really? You two can patch in, together, at once, in unison, while occupying the same space?” Aizawa tells them. “Can do it more than just the barest bond we all did earlier?” Thankfully Aizawa doesn’t wait for Izuku to say anything else and just assumes that Izuku is already eating his words. Aizawa’s eyes narrow and the sarcasm dissipates. “I’m referring to full on inside each other’s heads. More than feelings and emotions, I mean thoughts.”

Izuku still doesn’t answer, gulping. Katsuki actually speaks, skepticism thick in his tone but needing to confirm his suspicions. “That’s not possible. Even if it was, the two of us couldn’t overlap too much without risking a loss of our sync.”

Then Izuku says quietly, “Is it possible, Aizawa-sensei?”

“With scores as high as both of yours are, you bet your asses,” Mic answers for Aizawa, handing the tablet back to his partner for review. “Izuku, you’re nearly a synapse already and that should pull your combined compatibility into creating some semblance of a true pair bond.”

Izuku raises his eyebrows. “There’s no way we could patch in together. We have to stagger it as it is, and even with separate terminals there’s too much of a risk,” Izuku says. “Our base vibrations would have to be nearly identical in order to do it in unison and ours aren’t—”

“—similar enough?” Aizawa cuts him off. Izuku lets it happen. “You two have nexus compatibility scores within 0.04% of each other. According to Mic and I’s calculations, that’s within the acceptable range of being able to patch in together. Any difference in base vibration won’t matter once you’re both synced with the vibrations in the nexus. The important part is syncing up your vibrations at the same time so you can successfully occupy the same,” Aizawa takes a breath. “Well, we think so at least.”

“You think?” Izuku asks, excited by the prospect of patching in simultaneously with Katsuki but also cautious about entertaining the idea because he’s starting to get the idea that it hasn’t been tested yet.

“There isn’t anyone in the current program with scores as high as yours are before. It’s just a theory I have with a few other of my colleagues back on Earth,” Aizawa says. “We were going to test it on the Mirio-Tamaki pair but we never got the chance.” The mood in the room dropped for a few seconds. “You obviously don’t have to try if you don’t want to, but I’ve done the calculations—”

“—oh we’re trying,” Izuku cuts him off. “Right, Kacchan?” Izuku mentally crosses his fingers that Katsuki will say yes. Fortunately, luck is on his side because Katsuki, who has been sitting open mouthed for the last few minutes, finally says, “you bet your ass we are!”.

The pair turns to their teachers. “So when do we start?” Izuku asks.

“Right now,” Aizawa and Mic say together with wicked grins on both of their faces.

-x-

Neither Katsuki nor Izuku expected Aizawa’s modifications to their nexus training to include a virtual reality headset instead of a genuine interaction with the nexus.

Aizawa had already anticipated their protests. “I want to make sure you can work together before the two of you patch in. This will require a lot of coordination and you need to practice first,” Aizawa explains. They’re in a room that’s outfitted with a wireless virtual reality setup. Katsuki and Izuku wear small VR headsets with blacked out and reinforced acrylic visors to keep light out and sensors are placed around the room to track their movements.

Izuku mumbles something inaudible and Katsuki aims to elbow him because he had understood it. Predictably, he misses. The screens are showing something akin to a desktop background but it’s three dimensional and they can’t touch it.

“We’re ready when you are, Aizawa-sensei,” Katsuki says, stifling his thoughts while trying to urge Aizawa to hurry the fuck up already.

“I’m going to start you on simple course. The simulation is structured like the nexus’s grid, so the idea is that the two of you need to move to the same coordinate together from the start. The adapted VR setup reasonably simulates movement in the nexus even if it can’t replicate the ‘feel’ of it,” Aizawa explains, loading up the program on a tablet. “Imagine it’s a video game. That might help.”

The course appears in their headsets in a matter of seconds. Katsuki and Izuku are represented in the artificial world by small orbs of light that hover within a grid that’s modeled after the nexus itself. It takes some time before Katsuki and Izuku get the feel of the controls of the ‘game’, but when they do, they realize it has the potential to be quite fun.

“On three, we’ll get on the line directly in front of me,” Izuku says.

“Sounds good.” Katsuki prepares himself.

“Okay, one, two, three!” Izuku shouts in the room.

They grab different lines due to a matter of perspective and the game gives them a GAME OVER.

Katsuki flips up the informational ‘glass’ of his headset and his eyes settle on a scribbling Aizawa. “That was a communication error. Don’t count that.”

“I’m counting everything,” Aizawa says flatly. “It’s my job.”

Katsuki groans quietly and Izuku asks, “can we restart the game, please?”

Aizawa finishes taking his notes and resets it.

This time around Katsuki and Izuku grab the right line, but they don’t do it in unison and they can’t keep up with each other long enough for the game to register success. Another GAME OVER.

“Have you tried working together?” Aizawa asks, the barest hint of sarcasm in his voice.

Katsuki is so not in the mood, barely reigning in his normal snappy replies and equally sarcastic references. Instead, he states the obvious.

“We do,” Katsuki grits out. “We’re a pair.”

Aizawa grows serious. “I know that, but you’re not working together here. You’re both trying to sync up grabbing lines at the same time, but neither of you are getting feedback off the other to do it properly.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Izuku says, now irritated like Katsuki.

“You two are thinking of this like you’re still two separate people. When you patch in together, the idea is that you’ll occupy the same space and in theory be momentarily fused into one entity,” Aizawa explains. “You need to move with one another. You’re standing far apart even in this room. Get closer.”

“What?” Izuku says.

“Get closer to each other,” Aizawa says. “Physically. Try touching shoulders. You’ll be more in sync if you can feel when the other person moves.”

“Why didn’t you start with that?” Katsuki says after taking a few steps closer to Izuku.

“Because I thought you’d be smart enough to figure it out,” Aizawa shoots back.

In lieu of replying—because he recognizes that anything he says will get him nowhere—Katsuki angrily flips down the acrylic on his headset and focuses. Izuku nudges him slightly and Katsuki returns the action.

Katsuki fights the urge to punch a wall when they fail again. “There’s delay with the controls,” Katsuki states. “It’s taking me too long to get to the line and by the time I need to merge with Izuku he’s already gone.”

Izuku adds his own qualms to Katsuki’s. “And because I can’t sense where Katsuki is in the space of the game, because I can’t feel my surroundings like I normally do, I can’t regulate my speed,” Izuku brings up. “Why can’t we just try this in the nexus where we will actually be doing this?”

Aizawa is remarkably unfazed by the pair’s apparent frustrations. “Because I can’t just hit game over and reset the nexus. In addition, patching in is taxing on anyone’s psyche and damaging orver time. I’d like to minimize that.” Aizawa pauses to give the pair a few seconds to grasp what he had just told them. “If you can master this simple course outside of the nexus, you’ll be able to have some idea of what to do once you’ve patched in for real. We still don’t know what’s going to happen when you’re in there, so at least knowing you two can work together will eliminate one variable from the equation.”

The pair doesn’t say anything immediately. Aizawa’s logic is remarkably sound and leaves no room for argument. Additionally, the pair is exhausted and doesn’t feel like countering the Aizawa’s condescension. So, while Katsuki is rubbing away the dents in his forehead created by the headset, Izuku is contemplating whether or not to put his back on.

“How much more time do we have today?” Izuku asks, turning the equipment over in his hands to idly view it from different angles.

Aizawa glances at the top bar of his tablet screen. “About an hour. But you both have done plenty today if you want to stop.” The teacher gives them enough time to take in his words before suggesting what he actually wants them to do. “Although, if you want to give it another go…”

Katsuki and Izuku, fueled by a new sense of determination, turn to each other, nod once, and put their headsets back on.

They don’t succeed until the next week. It takes constant practice during all training hours—eight for sleep, eight for training, and eight for miscellaneous tasks such as chores and eating—and leaves little time for any of the other team members to see them, but they get it done.

After they master the first, Aizawa moves them on to a more rigorous course and then demands that they master it without being in physical contact with one another.

It takes another two weeks to beat it.

After Katsuki and Izuku master most of Aizawa and Mic’s courses, he puts them in separate rooms with no contact with one another either physical or otherwise. It causes Katsuki and Izuku to predict one another’s moves by instinct alone. This too the pair masters in time. When Aizawa and Mic finally think the pair is ready to patch into the nexus and trying out the theory for real, Katsuki and Izuku have been on the ship for three months.

 

Day 90

Dauntless Nexus Lab

They rejoin the rest of the team for basic nexus syncing. They’re supposed to do what everyone else is doing, but Katsuki and Izuku are free in the nexus for the first time in months.

They can try a complete sync. Not a partial one like everyone else. A complete sync.

Izuku experimentally moves part of his signature—no, his and Katsuki’s signature—and Katsuki moves with it. They’d moved it together. Not one dragging the other, both of them together. At once. As a pair. This is nothing like the vocal overlap. Katsuki fills the gaps that Izuku’s signature leaves behind. Together the two are a singular near-solid structure that’s just shy of a synapse.

It’s incredible.

“Kacchan!” Izuku squeaks. An echo of Katsuki’s voice chases it. He’s hoping the other boy feels the same way, that it worked and that Katsuki isn’t going to hurt him when they de-sync because Izuku is inside of his head.

Katsuki catches onto the last part.

“You’re afraid again. Calm the fuck down. It’s annoying.” Katsuki can feel it, a low thrum of social nervousness that moves into the thought of Kacchan, don’t hurt me.

Fucking. Weird.

Katsuki doesn’t shake his head—he doesn’t want to risk de-syncing for a useless gesture—and keeps moving with Izuku, who decides to further test Mic and Aizawa’s pair bond theory.

Do you want to shift forward? Izuku thinks, not entirely wanting it to be true.

Katsuki’s reply comes at the speed of thought. Holy fuck, I can hear you, dumbass.

Well shit.

-x-

It only happens during complete overlap.

“Oh thank god,” Izuku says, de-syncing so that they’re only slightly connected. Pair bonding had been exhausting for both of them. “You’re so angry, Kacchan.”

“You’re nervous all the time. That’s just as bad, shitstain. And it’s distracting. And annoying. And you can’t fucking fight an alien like that. Useless piece of—”

“Do you wanna try again?” Izuku has no fear in interrupting him. He could take a hit if one came his way.

Katsuki is already moving to sync completely again before he can answer out loud.

Abso-fucking-lutely you fucking nerd, he says once they’re fully synced again.

When it seems like everyone has synced with their partner, Mic and Aizawa quickly do the same without batting an eye and speak as one. “We want you to practice movement. Start slowly and then—Bakugou! Midoriya! Not yet!”

The aforementioned pair is flying around the nexus, fully overlapped again, hopping gridlines and switching rapidly. While Mic and Aizawa are both impressed and pleased at their results, the pair still has to obey them.

Aizawa de-syncs with Mic and lashes out with his capture weapon and all at once sets his gaze on the boys, forcing them to de-sync before wrapping his scarves around them. He only lets the pair go after he’s dragged them back.

Aizawa fixes Izuku and Katsuki with a blue-eyed glare, red pinpoints shining in their center, unblinking. “Not. Yet,” Aizawa warns.

Mic is waving his hands from behind Aizawa’s intimidating form. “Good job, kids!” He hisses from close by. Aizawa shoots him a death glare but otherwise says nothing. It’s not like he can disagree.

“You’re lucky I’m not grounding you on the ship to do nothing but chores,” Aizawa tells them. He waits a few seconds before releasing them and Izuku and Katsuki behave themselves for at least the next few hours.

Izuku feels fire in his palms again, but like before it’s gone before long.

Chapter Text

Day 91

Dauntless Training Rooms

After three months, their curriculum remains fairly similar. The morning starts with celestial navigation. Present Mic is the leading expert in the field, so naturally he teaches it.

“Can anyone tell me what that star is? Right over there?” Mic sets his laser pointer out the window of the ship and settles it on Polaris.

“You can’t be serious.”

“How does he expect—”

“It’s so far away.”

There’s so many!”

“Kids, you’ll learn all of these stars.” He moves the laser pointer around. “Because you’ll want them when you’re lightyears from home and need to know where exactly you are.”

Aizawa wishes he could have their collective groan as a ringtone.

After celestial navigation is over, the pairs move onto pair ship maintenance with Aizawa. He teaches them the ins and outs of spaceship engines, plasma and ion thrusters, control centers, electric sails, and anything else the teacher deems necessary. Aizawa’s class is the most objectively boring to the team, but it’s arguably the most important.

In the beginning, they teach them the basics. They practice eating in space, living in space, and getting used to the ups, downs and all arounds of space.

 

Day 121

The Bakugou-Midoriya Pair's Bunkroom

Izuku fiddles with the sheet on his bed, failing in making it. He had to know. He has to know.

“Kacchan?” His voice is quiet.

Katsuki stops in the process of making his own bed. They’d just woken up and Katsuki is already losing his patience. “Yes?”

“What happened to you?”

Katsuki freezes. “What happened to me what, Deku?”

“I—I mean, you disappeared when we were in middle school. I didn’t know where you went and no one would answer me when I asked.”

It’s an innocent question, really, and Katsuki sighs. He should have known Izuku would ask him eventually. “I ran away from home, okay?” Katsuki explains. “Things got bad, and I ran. This fucker who calls himself Slime found me, and turns out my nexus compatibility and my quirk were both useful to him. I didn’t know any better, so I followed until I didn’t anymore. And now I’m here. But, if you’re really curious, I’ll tell you. Conveniently you get to learn how I met Icyhot…”

 

One Year Ago

The Nexus, Basement of Revolution

“Slime, push me through, we have to be almost there.” Katsuki speaks. Yellow fades in around him. He’s fuzzing out, barely drifting. He has to be close. He can’t go much longer. Explosions flicker in his vision as he moves faster. He can hear the golden sounds again and Slime’s presence at his ear feels sweet and sour, like old meat that’s been left out too long. The grid is changing colors too, becoming more opaque, and one of them was the color of seventy-nine.

Synesthetic response.

He hated it.

X79.

Line up the rest.

Color 7, 34, 55, 79.

Y79.

“I need an ETA,” Katsuki commands.

Slime’s voice responds immediately. “I estimate we have 3.52 seconds before arrival.”

Katsuki flings himself off the grid as quickly as he can when he sense he was there. An explosion radiates in his wake, propelling him forward at high speed. He flies through the void for a nauseating amount of time before he focuses enough to stop.

X79, Y79, Z79.

And was that—

How could there—

Who in the flying fuck had—

There was a sudden pulse, a radiating vibration that hits Katsuki like a wave. It lands once, and then makes contact with him again and again and again.

Heat. Cold. Heat. Cold.

The feelings are matching up to the proper senses. No synesthesia.

What the fuck?

Everything starts going blurry, and something in his vision shatters.

The explosions appear in his vision again as he scrambles to get a grip on reality, and he can’t stop himself from fuzzing out.

Katsuki curses.

 

Todoroki Tower

“There’s someone else here,” Endeavor tells his son from the other side of the nexus.

“What?” Todoroki’s vocal manifestation is worried, scared. The void, the matrix, the grid, it’s supposed to be empty if they’re doing their job right. Todoroki is a rogue switcher, but his father would never let him call himself that. But given how much money Todoroki has brought into the family and the ways by which he has gained that money, he certainly meets the qualifications.

Endeavor answers quickly. “A human. I sense their presence.”

“Are they like me?” Todoroki actually dared to hope. “Do they have a nexus quirk?”

“No. Not like you.” Todoroki would have iced a wall if he had one. “Different. A rogue.”

Endeavor didn’t say anything else. Silence.

“Well tell me what is going on!” Todoroki is panicked now and so sick of this.

Less than a year and then I can apply to the Initiative, he reminds himself, and somehow finds the strength to keep moving forward. Todoroki knows he’s risking a lot just if he stays around the nexus. His father isn’t talking to him and he doesn’t know whether this switcher has a dangerous quirk or not and it’s just not worth it.

“I have to leave,” Todoroki says. He can’t risk it.

“Shouto, we aren’t done yet!”

“I’m leaving,” Todoroki repeats.

He fuzzes out and braces himself for Endeavor’s wrath.

 

Basement of Revolution

“What the hell was that?” Slime shouts, “You didn’t switch long enough. Have you lost your game?”

Katsuki bristles, how dare—

“Slime, I fucking swear if you so much as—”

Bakugou—”

“It’s Lord. Explosion. Murder. You don’t have the right to call me by that name!” Katsuki snaps back, shoving himself out of the chair. It falls to the ground with a clatter.

“That’s such a stupid name.” Slime crosses his arms, leans against the doorframe, glares at Katsuki who glares right back. Explosions crack in his palms.

“So is Slime,” Katsuki counters, but Slime is already back to controlling the conversation.

“I paid you a lot for this work. Up front too. Seriously, what happened back there?” Slime is repeating himself. Katsuki is sighing. He’s pissed. Maybe more so than Slime.

“I said, I don’t know,” Katsuki says, voice uncharacteristically calm.

It freaks Slime out.

This whole thing has left Katsuki more at a loss than when he’d first patched into the nexus. When Katsuki had first gone in, he hadn’t known what to expect. He had been a boy who had to adjust from being a physical being to an entirely binary construct in a world strewn with programs, switchers, viruses, and aliens.

The nexus ran all of the data of the universe.

Slime had wanted Katsuki to steal some of that data from Endeavor, a mega corporation based in Musutafu. They claimed to supply heroes with the needed funds to operate their agencies, but Slime believed it was much more than that, that it was corrupted. Katsuki believed something had been up with Endeavor since he’d first known of the company’s existence, but he hadn’t looked into it nearly as much as Slime had. Slime believed Endeavor needed to be taken down and Katsuki had no issue joining up with him. Stealing Endeavor’s data hadn’t been a complicated thing and in theory, would have been easy, especially for a switcher like Katsuki. Someone just hadn’t done it yet.

It shouldn’t have surprised him, really, when he had found someone guarding their data..

And now, he’s just tired.

Slime waits.

“Someone else was there.” Katsuki says, finally making some sense of what had happened to him, “Someone guarding Endeavor’s data. They had some quirk that hit me with hot and cold blasts that fucked with my syneasthetic response. They were powerful. Too powerful.”

“What?” Slime exclaims. He stalks towards Katsuki, and the boy doesn’t flinch, “We’ll go in again. If someone else is fucking stopping me from getting that data so help me god—”

Katsuki laughs. It’s dead.

Slime is not impressed. “What are you laughing at?”

“I’m done. This is it for me. Find another switcher who will do your dirty work.”

Katsuki all but dashes out of Revolution.

He runs for a long time. He knows that eventually his past will catch up to him, that he will have to meet with Slime again, but he’s going to hold that off as long as possible.

And who knows? He might make it into the Initiative before Slime can find him.

Then he never has to talk to the bastard ever again.

 

Present Day

The Bakugou-Midoriya Pair's Bunkroom

“—I left, got out,” Katsuki notices then that Izuku is speechless. “Quit judging me asshole!” Katsuki crowds into his space, points a finger because he can’t use his quirk.

“I—I’m not judging you!” Izuku squeaks. “I’m just glad you’re out. And I’ve never known a rogue switcher before.”

“Well now you fucking do, whoop de doo,” Katsuki backs up, jazz hands out to either side of himself. “And the Peppermint dickwad is one too. I’m amazed he was allowed into the Initiative.”

“I’m kinda amazed you were too, Kacchan.” Izuku says, regretting the words as soon as he says them.

Katsuki’s eyes burn. “Well they don’t know so don’t tell them and if I find out you did, I don’t care what anyone says, you will burn.”

“Deal!” Izuku shouts, voice high and sharp, more out of fear than anything else. “Not a word!”

“Good.” Katsuki makes to start cleaning his bed, but Izuku stops him, a gentle poke on his shoulder from a safe distance.

“Can you tell me what it was like? Like, more stories? You have to have some crazy hacks.”

Katsuki gives up on his bed, and turns to face Izuku, face a little calmer.

“I’ll tell you more over breakfast.”

Izuku is far too giddy for Katsuki’s liking, but then again, Izuku is is too much for Katsuki’s liking.

But Izuku isn’t that bad. Not really. Especially when Katsuki is talking about some of his greatest achievements that he’s never told anyone about and Izuku is listening to him like it’s the most important thing in the universe.

 

Day 174

Dauntless Fighting Complex

The robot Noumu come into play several months later. Aizawa and Mic are pleased to release the monsters that the group thought they had been through with since the entrance exam.

Predictably, Team 1-A isn’t pleased, but they can’t do much about it.

 

Day 201

The Bakugou-Midoriya Pair’s Bunkroom

“Deku, I told you not to get your clothes on my side of the room!”

“It was only for a moment, Kacchan!” Izuku yells as Katsuki grabs his shirtsleeve, pulling him so that he’s between Katsuki and the storage cabinets.

Several explosions ring out, lighting up the small space briefly. “I told you not to do that!” More sparks fly as Katsuki takes a step forward further into Izuku’s space, crowding him against the drawers.

“Stop it!” Izuku’s face suddenly grows more fearful and he dives into automatic deflecting mode, not afraid to beg. “Stop it, please! You always do this, please just, it won’t happen again I promise… just don’t hurt me!”

Katsuki’s hand pauses.

Izuku is scared, but he’s always scared. Or is he just scared around… oh no.

Oh no, Katsuki thinks because where he’d grabbed Izuku’s shirt, the skin of the other boy’s shoulder had been inadvertently revealed and oh no, that had never been, no no no…

A burn scar, not too big, but big enough that it covers the skin just behind Izuku’s collarbone.

Had… Katsuki had put his hand there and… back before the Initiative in middle school… and then he had told Izuku to kill himself because he never had a chance at the Initiative… and that hadn’t been the only places Katsuki had burned because if that burned him then… oh no, oh no no no no no…

And he had been wrong. So wrong. Because now they’re paired and they’re the top pair and Izuku is practically a synapse and Katsuki would be lucky to run support… and… and…

And Izuku is crying, begging him to stop as a reflex. He’s shaking and cowering in fear of the person who is supposed to protect him, not harm him.

What has he done?

Katsuki drops to his knees—which is no small feat in such a cramped space—with his forehead to the floor in front of Izuku, tears pricking in the corners of his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Katsuki says. It’s loud enough for Izuku to hear. “I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I told you to kill yourself. I’m sorry I scarred you.” Katsuki feels the tears well up and fall and he can’t hide his sniffles. After everything he’d put Izuku through, he could stand a little humiliation. Above him, Izuku has clapped a hand over his mouth in shock. The other is flattened against the wall to provide some kind of support.

Katsuki is apologizing to him.

Katsuki is apologizing to him.

Izuku doesn’t know what to do. What, with Katsuki crying on the floor, on his knees…no, Izuku is amazed. He never thought this day would come. He thought he’d lost his childhood friend forever and that he was stuck with this version of Katsuki for quite possibly the rest of his life.

The boy on the floor continues. “I’m sorry for every mean thing I’ve said to you. I’m sorry for calling you ‘Deku’ even though you seem to like it now. I’m sorry I shoved you around and made you feel like shit enough to fucking have to beg me not to hurt you,” Katsuki’s voice breaks. Izuku remains frozen, still unsure of how to react and what to do. His nails scratch soundlessly at the metal walls of their room.

Izuku’s tears finally break free when Katsuki moves on, streaming down his face more in relief than out of surprise. “I’m supposed to be the other half of your pair, and I don’t even deserve that. I never did, not with how I treated you. So please, if you forgive me, I will do my best to be the person I used to be, the person who was your best friend, the person who valued you as an equal because you are one,” Katsuki pauses when his voice breaks again on the last word, but finds the courage to put in one final apology. “I’m so fucking sorry.

“No,” Izuku says and Katsuki fights back the instinctual urge to cuss at him. “Not who you used to be. I want the you who’s grown and matured to be a better person.”

Katsuki is quiet. He… he can do that.

“And I forgive you.” Izuku tells him. “But don’t… please don’t go back on this.”

Katsuki dares to peek his head up at Izuku, who seems impossibly tall from where Katsuki is on the floor. “I won’t. I promise you I won’t.”

“Then get up, and please, give me some time to get my clothes back on my side of the room.”

“T-take all the time you need.” Katsuki gets up slowly, and backs away from Izuku as much as he can. Izuku, pulls his shirt back over his scar, sees Katsuki looking at him, and smiles to hide the awkwardness.

  

Day 220

Dauntless Space Walk Lab

By the time seven and a half months have passed, the team has completed medical and survival training, and it’s time to do their first space walk as a pair.

“Kacchan, let me back in!” Izuku bangs on the airlock door. He still has several hours left on his oxygen tanks, but Katsuki’s jokes are not appreciated. From close by, Uraraka, who is comfortably working a rubik's cube in space to practice her hand dexterity, gives him a wave. He can’t see her smiling through the reflective coating on her helmet, but he can imagine that it’s there.

“Kacchan!”

“Just making sure you’re awake,” Katsuki says into their shared radio channel. “Opening airlock now.”

Izuku breathes a sigh of relief, and the airlock door slowly raises up. Izuku clambers inside, and Katsuki closes the door behind him. When the second door opens, Izuku unscrews his helmet and glares at Katsuki.

“You can’t do that!” Izuku says, pointing one gloved finger at him. “That’s not cool.”

“It was just a joke, Deku.”

“Not. In. Space,” Izuku says, and to his surprise, Katsuki listens.

“Okay, that… that’s fine. Won’t happen again.”

Izuku leaves the cargo bay feeling a little bit more on even feet with the other half of his pair.

-x-

“You can’t eat the last of the ice cream!” Kaminari all but screetches.

“It’s not for me,” Katsuki says, tossing the packaged food to a very surprised Izuku.

Wide green eyes stare back into crimson ones.

“That’s not an apology.”

Katsuki leaves the room.

 

Day 225

The Todoroki-Kirishima Pair's Bunkroom

“Hey man, at least give me a warning!” Kirishima told his partner, who was rapidly ripping off his sweat soaked shirt to change into something dry. Kirishima is in the middle of pulling his hair back in a ponytail after noting that his roots look horrible.

Todoroki looks at him, eyes flat. “No. We’re a pair, and we’ve been here for most of the year, so get over it.”

Kirishima swallows. He hadn’t been expecting that. So naturally he runs over and envelops him in a bear hug. Kirishima flies off of his partner a second later in a burst of heat and cold. “What the fuck, dude? It was just a hug? I’ve definitely hugged you before.”

Todoroki sighs, “Just… stop… Kiri, There’s something I need to tell you.”

“And what’s that?”

“Do you know who my dad is?”

“Yeah, Endeavor. CEO of Endeavor, which is only one of the most powerful companies in the world. I’m not stupid.”

Todoroki flinches. “Yes, exactly,” he says. “And now I need to tell you what he did to me so that you don’t actually set me off again. I should have had this conversation months ago, but that didn’t happen and now we’re here.”

“Go on,” Kirishima urges.

“Okay,” Todoroki says. “I have several older siblings, but I was the child he considered his…success, because quirk marriages, you know?” Kirisihima exhales sharply but doesn’t interrupt. He had his suspicions. Todoroki continues. “Well, turns out he was also wanting me for my nexus compatibility, something that he also favored in my mother.”

 

Ten Years Ago

Todoroki Tower

“Shouto, get back here right this instant!”

Shouto is young enough to still cower in the presence of his father, and it’s impossible for him to not to be intimidated.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, anything, please, just don’t make me go back there, I’m too—“

A sharp slap to the side of his face silences his protests. It burns.

“Shut up and stop your begging. I hate it when you do that.” Shouto cringes. “Now, you’re going to get up off your ass, go into the nexus, and deflect anyone who tries to steal our data.”

“You don’t have to!” Shouto shouts, jumping up and out of reach while Enji is distracted. Shouto is backing up and doing it fast, because he needs to talk without being stopped. “There are other guards that aren’t me. You don’t have to throw me in there with them!”

Shouto’s back hits a wall and he feels the heat from nearby flames.

“You are my greatest creation, Shouto.” Enji’s voice is quiet. Soft. Not booming like it normally is.

It sets Shouto on edge..

“But that reputation is falling and you can’t beat All Might when he comes back if you can’t defend against any nexus invader.” Shouto braces himself for a blow, his arms coming up to block his face instinctively. This is when they usually come. When he can’t measure up to his father’s expectations. To his shock, nothing hits him.

“Don’t make me regret it.” Enji tells Shouto as if he had been reading his thoughts. “Now, get back to work or this fist will be best friends with your face. I haven’t marred it up in a while.”

Shouto’s heart pounds, but he doesn’t show it. I’m not strong enough for this.

He wanders over to the nexus terminal and places his hand on it. After feeling the thrum of the nexus and syncing with it, he escapes his father, but only for a little while.

 

Present Day

The Todoroki-Kirishima Pair's Bunkroom

“And that’s it, that. I don’t do well with hugs. Human contact scares me because I expect to be hit—”

It’s then that Kirishima chooses to interrupt him. “That’s why you’re a good fighter!”

“Exactly,” Todoroki says, grateful that Kirishima isn’t treating him like an injured animal. “My senses are supernatural, almost if I had a second quirk.”

Kirishima laughs. “Multiple quirks belong to the Noumu, dude.”

“Good point.” Todoroki smiles at him, the barest hint of a laugh behind his lips.

Kirishima’s voice is cautious when he says his next words. He knows Todoroki has a troubling past—one that many would be unable to endure—and while he doesn’t need the details, he also knows that nderstanding them might help their partnership. “Is there anything else I should know?”

Todoroki’s answer is immediate and he’s quick to suggest an alternative, wanting to get off the topic as quickly as he can. “No, but we should check and see if there are any snack rations left today. Iida usually gets them all and I’d like to stock up.”

“Sounds good to me!”

They don’t find snack rations.

 

Day 236

Flight Deck of the Dauntless

“We’re going to host a little competition,” Aizawa explains to the pairs gathered before him and Mic. Aizawa had spent the morning with Mic, searching through readouts sent to them and hunting for Toshinori’s location. He looks more disheveled than normal, though his hair is tied back in a bun, so he’s at least trying to look decent.

“You think we haven’t competed enough already?” Kirishima says, gesturing to his pair. Todoroki slyly points in the direction of Katsuki and Izuku, who refuse to acknowledge the situation.

“No,” Mic speaks up, stepping forward, his blonde hair pulled into a half ponytail as his face strethes into a suspicious grin. He wears a uniform like the rest of them. “This is… different.”

“I’d suggest you start practicing your nexus skills, and practice with and without your quirks,” Aizawa hints with a smile that’s even more devilish. Mic elbows him, like he had given too much away.

“Get to it, future heroes!” Mic yells.

 

Day 247

The Nexus

Izuku’s grabbing onto a nexus pulse when a plate shatters from next to him. He dodges the pixelated shards that fly in his direction and continues moving forward. Another blue pulse is ahead of him, and he’s determined to get to it. He tastes lemon as he makes the switch, and a tang of copper follows close behind.

A form tries to pass his own and Izuku presses farther forward, flipping grids when an obstacle lies in his way. It’s jarring at such high speeds but Izuku can manage. He’s built to switch.

Something close by goes boom! and another nexus plate shatters from next to him. The form that had tried to pass him earlier attempts to overtake him again.

He stalls. Izuku knows that signature anywhere.

“Kacchan!” He yells. “You have to make sure I’m with you!”

“Follow my lead, Deku! If you can’t keep up then why are you here?”

Surely he doesn’t mean that, Izuku thinks, and pushes on through the obstacle course that Mic and Aizawa had set up for the pairs.

All they have to do is race through it and the first three pairs that win go through to the next round.

Another form passes by him.

Then another.

The plane turns teal in some areas, red dancing on the edges and pure blue on the fringe.

Izuku presses on, grabbing onto an X pulse and urging it to go faster as much as he can. It’s a green gridline, his favorite kind.

Katsuki finishes the race before he does, and Izuku manages to sneak in right behind him so that they can take first place as a pair. The Todoroki-Kirishima pair and the the Uraraka-Iida pair are next, taking second and third place, respectively.

“This is like the entrance exams all over again,” Aizawa comments under his breath.

“Tell me about it,” Mic agrees.

-x-

Izuku realizes it right before he says it. “See, that’s the thing, you aren’t using your whole quirk.”

An ice bolt comes Izuku’s way and he dodges, lightning fast reflexes saving him from losing right away. “What gave you that idea?” When he’d come into the virtual nexus arena he hadn’t expected to win, but that doesn’t mean that he’s going down easy.

Todoroki’s signature is loose in front of him. Izuku’s signature might be stronger, but he’s still quirkless and something is off about Todoroki’s nexus interactions. They’re staggered and only reliant on his right side, which means that—

Izuku wants to whack himself upside the head. “You’re holding back nexus compatibility, aren’t you?”

Todoroki freezes.

Izuku smiles. “Don’t you get it? Everyone here is going after this with everything they have, and here you are, not using half your quirk and not using all of your compatibility.”

“I use what I need to—”

Izuku presses on. “What’s your score? Your real score?”

“Ninety-nine point three!” Todoroki shouts angrily and Izuku dodges a freezing blast, only to turn and nail Todoroki with a well placed strong punch to the closest thing to a gut a signature can have.

“Then prove it! Your signature should be more than just a cloud of pixels! You’re better than this!”

“Why are you so hell bent on making me better?” Todoroki swirls around, then fires himself towards Izuku, frozen pixels spinning off of his twisted signature like shattered droplets.

Izuku is determined to talk before Todoroki reaches him and ends the match.

He musters up all the energy he can and screams at the top of his lungs.

“Because you looked like you needed saving!”

The nexus explodes into a bright blue light that devolves into deep waves of silver thunder. When it settles, Izuku’s signature stands tall but not firm enough. He sways once and then falls.

“Todoroki Shouto is the winner!” Mic congratulates him. “Now, let’s see how Uraraka Ochaco and Bakugou Katsuki fare against one another!”

When it’s later announced that Todoroki and Bakugou are the final two competitors, no one is surprised.

-x-

Todoroki is still breathing hard when Katsuki steps onto the arena to stand across from him. His body is working over time to restore his body temperature to Todoroki’s version of homeostasis. His signature is far from stable, flickering in and out like a broken candle flame.

Katsuki, save for the slight soreness in his shoulders that he can feel all the way to the other side of the nexus, is doing fine.

“You don’t look too hot, Peppermint.”

“Sure don’t, Bakugou,” Todoroki punctuates with a particularly violent glitch.

Todoroki comes after him with his trademark ice-wall move, building up spikes of ice to hopefully trap Bakugou.

It doesn’t work.

But there’s something else nagging Todoroki. Midoriya’s words hadn’t just been something Todoroki had wanted to hear in the moment, they’d been what he needed. Now everything seems so trivial. Katsuki’s piercing stares don’t seem to affect him, and his advance appears inconsequential.

Todoroki laughs, realizes at the last second his sudden thoughts could also be the result of improper temperature regulation while in the nexus, and passes out.

Three seconds later, Katsuki is screaming into the void, “Fight me, you son of a bitch! Fight me, you coward!”

Izuku has to physically drag Katsuki out of the nexus himself. Again.

 

Day 250

Training Room on the Dauntless

One hit.

Two hits.

Seven hits.

Twenty-four.

No.

NO.

Katsuki punches the bag one last time and flops down on the floor, alone with his thoughts. No one had really given him a good fight tonight, except for maybe Uraraka, but still, she’d lost consciousness because she was exhausted from using her quirk, not because of anything Katsuki had done.

And Todoroki makes Katsuki’s blood boil. He’d been itching for a fight, a real fight, and he hadn’t gotten one. He’d wanted a real fight with someone who had trained as much as he had—

Footsteps.

“Kacchan?”

Katsuki sighs, turning on the blue mat beneath him to see his partner standing there. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s just that, well, it’s been a few days, and you haven’t been sleeping well, and I kinda know you better now so I’mgonnagoonawhimandsaythis—

“Slow down!”

Izuku takes several steps forward. They’re in one of several Dauntless training rooms. This one is equipped with a punching bag in one corner, free weights on shelves built into the wall and strapped into place, and a large mat in the center of the room meant for sparring, which is exactly what Izuku plans to use.

“Spar with me,” Izuku says bravely.

Katsuki’s eyes widen for a second, but it’s slight. “I’ll blast you into a pulp!”

“I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions, Kacchan.” Izuku walks to the mat, puts one foot back, and raises his fists, already taking a defensive stance before Katsuki can get up off the floor.

“Deku, you’re being an idiot.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

What happens next could hardly be called fighting. It’s a deadly dance of Katsuki aiming to land a blow on Izuku, while Izuku somehow always dodges his blows. When Izuku retaliates and comes after Katsuki with a well placed punch, Katsuki deflects, then goes back on the offensive.

By the end of the first few minutes they’re circling one another like wild animals and then Katsuki is back with the first move, throwing an explosive fist that Izuku blocks and then twists Katsuki’s arm behind him with the remaining momentum. When he completes the move, Izuku pushes him away, and Katsuki whirls, staring at him with wide eyes.

“Where did you learn to do that?”

Izuku points at Katsuki. “From the best. I’m just getting better at reading you, I guess.” Izuku shrugs his shoulders. “And it seems you’re getting better at strategy, though you’re still very… offensive all the time.”

Katsuki debates trying to punch him again to prove a point, but he’s sure that right now he wouldn’t be able to catch him by surprise even if he tried.

Guess we really are compatible, Katsuki thinks and Izuku echoes the thought.

Chapter Text

Day 386

Hallway of the Dauntless

Izuku is tired.

It’s the bone deep tiredness that one gets after they’ve run a marathon plus the fatigue that comes from too much studying, like cramming for a final. Izuku is mentally and physically exhausted in more ways than one, and all he wants to do is sleep.

Katsuki had run off to pass out in their room the second they’d escaped training. Many of the others had done the same, leaving Izuku alone, slouching against a wall.

“I can’t find her, I told you, I can’t find her.”

“You can’t give up. You do this every single time you see me. You can’t give up. We have the next trace signature. There’s hope.

Izuku’s ears perk up, and he’s pretty sure he’s hallucinating, because that voice sounds a lot like…

“You’re better than this. You’ve been searching for ten years and I know you, Toshinori. You’ll search for ten more! Now, what did people back home used to call you? I want to hear you say it.”

Toshi-san. He sounds like Toshi-san.

But without the electronic qualities produced by the nexus, Toshi-san sounds a lot like—

Izuku rounds the corner.

“All Might.”

“Oh my god,” Izuku says under his breath.

And promptly passes out.

 

Infirmary of the Dauntless

When Izuku wakes up, he sees the purple light strips in the ceiling and three faces staring down at him. There’s a haze in Izuku’s mind and he feels like he needs to sleep for a month, but everything comes flooding back to him in one big rush and All Might All Might All Might is here AllMightAllMightAllMight—

“Kid, you okay?” Toshinori asks him, voice exactly how Izuku remembers it from old TV recordings that he would watch with his mother. It’s just quieter and smaller now. Like the blonde man next to his infirmary bed. But he’s definitely All Might. Izuku has stared at the hero long enough to recognize those eyes, that hair color, and those cheekbones anywhere.

“Y—yeah,” Izuku disregards his own health and tries to sit up. A large hand gently shoves him back down. Izuku doesn’t try again. “I just can’t believe it’s you, All Might. It’s really you.”

Toshinori cringes at the name. “No one has called me that in a very long time, and no one will again until I get her—” Toshinori takes a breath. “Until I find a friend of mine.” Mic scoffs close by.

“Toshinori, you’re being stupid if you think he’s not going to ask you about that,” Aizawa warns. “This student is our future strategist for the top pair in the country, second only to your pair.”

“Oh I know, I know Young Midoriya very well.”

Aizawa cocks his head to the side, and invitation to further explain what’s going on.

Toshinori turns his head to Midoriya. “You know exactly who I am. I’m Toshi-san.”

“B-but Toshi-san is an NI!” Izuku blabbers. “He’s an artificial construct that sounds like you and has your name, and...”

Toshinori shrugs. “Nah, kid, I’ve been patching into the nexus and protecting you for years. All for One is after your nexus compatibility, just like he was after my partner’s. I was just hoping you would never have to know.”

“To late now, Toshinori,” Mic says helpfully. He tries to keep his voice steady but soon fails. “Because you left out that detail!”

“There’s more?” Izuku asks, trying to sit up again. This time the heroes—both present and former—let him.

“Look, everyone calm down. I’ll explain. But first, Young Midoriya, I need to tell you about my predecessor, mentor, and long time friend, Shimura Nana…”

 

Ten Years Ago

Flight Deck of the USS Intrepid

“This is the stupidest idea we’ve ever had.” Nana laughs, cleaning one of her hard light weapons, a Wakasashi that had been given to her by her own predecessor. It emits a cool purple glow when activated, and serves as a handy light source in a pinch.

“But isn’t it the stupid ones that sometimes work the best?” All Might picks up the scattered rags that Nana is discarding, placing them in a waste bin, then moves to the nexus telemetry console, assessing their progress towards All for One’s location.

Nana turns off the blade and locks it in the armory, quickly getting to work on running numbers at another console. “We do know better than most how quickly stupidity turns into bravery.”

All Might’s eyes flicker across the screen, analyzing numbers and converting them into coordinates. He smiles. “On that note, it looks like we only have a few hours left before we reach All for One’s trace signature,” he announces.

Nana puts one hand on her hip and turns to look at him. “Slipspace generators and plasma thrusters are some of the best things the human race has ever come up with.”

All Might nods. “Second to bacon and coffee.”

Nana hums in approval and then says, “you ready?”

All Might puffs up into his hero form. “Are you ready?”

Nana goes full cowl, purple lightning rippling over her body. “Ready as I’ll ever be.”

-x-

They come across All for One close to the edge of the solar system. It’s a trip that normally would have taken them 196 years if they hadn’t had plasma thrusters.

But they’d been stupid, not brave, to travel all this way alone.

They’d been stupid, not brave, to board an alien spacecraft alone.

They’d been stupid, not brave, to think that they had a chance.

And now they’re surrounded by too many Noumu to count, with All for One and its successor leisurely moving towards them.

“We didn’t think you would come after us so soon!” All for One says, suit as perfectly tailored as when the Noumu had almost taken Aizawa’s life and killed countless others. “But we’re glad you’re here.”

All at once All Might remembers what this creature had done to earth. The lives it had killed, the people it had injured, and how it had nearly taken the life of Aizawa.

“TERRA FIRMA SMAAAAAAASH!” All Might yells, moving at superspeed towards All for One without thinking. But All for One has its right hand in the air, palm exposed to All Might, and something sharp, white, and pointy is sticking out towards him.

“Toshi, no!” Nana’s voice breaks through his thoughts and she jumps, purple lightning in her wake, to block the bone spear from getting to him.

All for One gives a nod to Shigaraki, whose hands detach from his body and raise.

“Nana!” All Might tries to run towards her but he finds that he can’t. Something clamps around his right arm, then his left, and finally he looks down to see twelve strong hands wrapped around his limbs and pulling him back towards a nexus terminal.

Before All Might can even manage a real struggle, All for One is dragging Nana by her cape to get some distance from All Might. She limps behind him, weakened by the poison that coats All for One’s bone spears. Somewhere along the short walk, Nana falls, unable to hold herself up any longer.

“Let go of her, you bastard!” All Might yells. Part of him knows it’s in vain. The other part keeps pushing him to fight harder.

Nana can’t even move as she’s dragged, but All Might can hear faint noises of pain emanating from her every time All for One jerks on her costume, just to make sure she’s still awake.

“She’s going to suffer a little.” All for One drops her and she falls, landing on her side with little self-preservation. She curls in on herself, and All Might can tell she’s crying, something he hasn’t seen often.

All Might quits moving so he can catch his breath. His voice is ragged. “What are you going to do to her?”

Shigaraki answers instead of All for One. “Wouldn’t you like to know, human scum.” The hands tighten their hold a little and then All Might is slammed into the floor on his back. He cranes his neck to the side so he can see Nana and she can see him. Her gaze is weak, but it’s there.

Then her face splits in pain as another spear drives itself into her arm.

“Don’t get comfortable now,” it says, and when All for One removes it, she screams.

“Let me go, you damned bastards!” All Might charges up One for All and tries to fight off Shigaraki’s hands, but they don’t budge. Shigaraki chuckles from close by and All Might wants to hit him more than words can convey.

“See, you come onto my ship,” All for One places his foot on Nana’s leg, and then there’s a snap just below the knee followed by a scream and a cry. “And try to kill me.” A spear pierces her abdomen and she sobs. “And you think I’ll let you go? Either of you?”

All Might is speechless. His mouth opens, but no words come out.

All for One chuckles and shakes its head. “No, no I won’t.”

A bone spear appears, this one bigger than the last, sharper. Nana knows what’s coming, meeting All Might’s eyes with something akin to pride.

All Might feels a poke in his head. Nana reaches out through their One for All pair bond and All Might’s thoughts meld with hers perfectly over the short distance.

Don’t worry about me, she says through the bond. I’ve taught you enough that you can learn the rest. You always were smart.

No, no you don’t get to do this! All Might screams through the connection, synapses increasing in frequency to account for All Might’s volume.

She continues. It’s going to be okay. I’m glad I chose you. It’s one of the few things in my life I don’t regret.

All for One witnesses their exchange, seeing it for what it is. “You know what, on second hand, I might not kill her at all. You’re both synapses, aren’t you?”

Neither All Might or Nana is about to give up anything.

“I’ll take that as a yes. Have a nice journey home, All Might.” All for One picks Nana up in its arms.

“Wait! What are you doing with her?” All Might screams. All for One walks away quick, breaking their pair link by leaving All Might’s immediate proximity and disappears, a twisted laugh reverberating off the metal walls in it wake.

Shigaraki looks down at Toshinori. “And now you’re all mine,” he laughs.

Toshinori screams, feeling a familiar lightning burn beneath his skin and kicks out at Shigaraki. He attempts to fight off the hands but the fingers digging into his skin so hard that it hurts make that difficult, even for him.

However, it must have broken his concentration because next thing All Might knows is that the hands are loosening and he can fight Shigaraki off. He throws off the last of the appendages, and makes to throw a super powered punch.

But there’s a hand at his side, and something burns, hurts, twists, and dies.

Toshinori fights a scream, getting in one weak hit before Shigaraki bolts, shouting, “Kurogiri! I need a gate, now!”

“No!” Toshinori feels bile rise in his throat as he sees black dust fall from his left side. “Don’t run away from me! Come… Back…. Here…” Toshinori’s breathing is a wheeze and Shigaraki is gone in the nexus before All Might can reach him.

He thinks about trying to find a terminal, but everything is so fuzzy and floaty that All Might just wants to sleep and dream and escape.

Toshinori Yagi lays down on the cold floor of All for One’s ship and succumbs to the darkness.

 

Present Day

Infirmary of the Dauntless

“—and then I woke up in my ship close to Alpha Centauri with no idea how I got there and hardly enough fuel to get home. But don’t call me All Might anymore. Toshi-san is fine.” Toshinori finishes.

Izuku is amazed.

Aizawa picks at his fingernails having heard this story many times before. Mic is always excited to hear it again so he’s listening with rapt attention.

“But in all seriousness, Young Midoriya, unless you’ve got a plan and are willing to risk your life, you need to get out,” Toshinori tells him.

Izuku sits up straighter. “I’m here to risk my life, and I’ve definitely got a plan.”

The other three exchange glances. Then Toshinori turns to Izuku. “I’m not sure she’s still alive.”

Izuku’s eyes take on a wild gaze, and a green fire burns at their core. It’s a look of determination and drive, of tenacity and relentlessness.

“She is,” he says. “And we’re going to find her.”

Chapter Text

Day 387

Misc. Dauntless Closet

Aizawa slides open the door to the spaceship’s equivalent of a hall closet, shoves Mic inside, and then closes it, the metal panels of the door clicking behind them.

“The Bakugou-Midoriya pair needs to be deployed now,” Aizawa says.

“They’re not ready, Shouta!”

“It doesn’t matter. We have a signature for All for One and our ship is the only ship in the sector.”

“We could get a group to come to us, there’s a way! We aren’t going into this blind!” Mic argues back.

“We won’t be going in blind. These are the best and the brightest pairs of the entire Initiative. You saw how they fought the robot Noumu, how they work in the nexus, and most of all, you’ve seen how the Bakugou-Midoriya pair is our hope for this war!”

That pair fights too much!” Mic exclaims, voice a harsh whisper.

“But you can’t deny that when they work together, they work together.”

“Shouta. We. Can’t.”

“But All for One is here.”

There’s a knock at the door and both heroes jump.

“It’s me, Toshinori,” Toshinori says through the door, Aizawa unlocks it and the two step outside to join the other. “I couldn’t help but overhear, and I’m with Aizawa on this one.”

“Of course you are,” Mic crosses his arms, grumbling. “Blind assassination missions are your area of expertise.”

The silence after that is so loud that the three can hear the kids laughing on the other side of the ship.

“Hizashi…” Aizawa says quietly, noticing how Toshinori is visibly red now.

Mic cautiously looks up at Toshinori and promptly takes a few steps back.

Toshinori takes one long stride forward. “Don’t. You. Ever say anything like that ever again.” He warns, voice low and quiet enough to have Mic imagining what it would be like to be on the wrong side of Toshinori’s fists. He would never do anything to him, but Mic still thinks about it in that moment. “She does not deserve your snappy comments and accusations. Shut. Up. Yamada.”

Mic gulps and does what he’s told.

Aizawa is determined to bring the subject back to where it should be. “Looks like the kids are in the big leagues now,” Aizawa says. “Mic, want to help me ready the pair ships?”

Mic nods, and uses Aizawa’s out to get as far away from Toshinori as he can while things cool down.

“Hey, I need to ask you something,” Aizawa looks to the taller blonde, who’s looking more gaunt than ever these days. Tired and worn. “And you don’t have to answer, but I need to ask.”

Toshinori crosses his arms. “Yes?”

“Have you found a successor?” Aizawa’s voice is quiet, and Mic breathes in harshly.

There’s silence for a long time before Toshinori speaks. “I’ve thought about this for a long time and ignored it for longer. I’ve been searching for someone who maybe has a quirk that would work with One for All, with compatibility that would couple with it. Someone with a strong heart and a conviction for good that rivals my own.”

More silence. Mic and Aizawa wait.

“But no, I haven’t.”

Aizawa doesn’t hesitate before replying. “May I offer a suggestion?”

“Be careful what you say,” Toshinori answers.

Aizawa is always careful. “Look right in front of you.”

Toshinori is confused and Aizawa plans to fix that. Who have you been protecting from All for One all these years? Who is the lead of the top pair in the Initiative? Who passed out when they met you because they look up to your ideals and your morals so much?”

His teal eyes widen. He’d been an idiot—

Toshinori all but laughs out of joy. “Midoriya Izuku!”

Mic elbows Aizawa softly, keeping his oath of silence for the time being. Aizawa suppresses a smile but doesn’t hide how pleased he is.

Toshinori, on the other hand, is grinning like an idiot.

“Gentleman, I have to go take care of something,” Toshinori says right before he fast walks to the second deck far quicker than someone in his condition should be able to.

-x-

Toshinori makes it to Izuku and Katsuki’s bunk room quickly. Remembering Aizawa’s words, Toshinori speeds up a little more, tapping on the door. The L-shaped panels slide apart over the course of a few seconds and Izuku is there, sleepy eyed and still in his standard issue pajamas.

“Young Midoriya, I need to ask something of you,” Toshinori begins.

Izuku perks right up, grogginess vanishing and tiredness forgotten. “Anything! Anything at all.”

Toshinori is suddenly very glad that he’s dealing with a fanboy.

“Why do you want to be a hero?” It’s a loaded question, but Toshinori needs to know.

“Because I want to save people with a smile,” Izuku blushes slightly, but Toshinori ignores it. “Because I want to give people hope, a light that won’t burn out, a reason to keep going. I want to inspire people like me, those that are quirkless. There isn’t anyone like that right now, and there’s a need. I want to fill it.”

Aizawa had been right.

Toshinori continues, taking a deep breath to brace himself for what he is about to say, for what he is about to give up, confess, and tell.

“My quirk, One for All, it’s an inherited power.” Izuku looks confused, but a quiet gasp can be heard a second later. “I reieived it from my predecessor, Shimura Nana, and she received it from hers,” Toshinori explains, stepping into the small space as the doors automatically slide shut behind him, a blue LED indicator showing that they are closed and locked if needed. “There are eight of us, and I want you to be the ninth.”

Izuku stops breathing.

“Midoriya Izuku, I want you to be my successor.”

It takes everything in Toshinori not to freak out while he waits for Izuku to reply. What if Izuku says no? He will have given up his greatest secret for nothing, and he will be left without a successor.

Izuku pales. He isn’t worthy of this. There’s no way that All Might himself would ever think he’s worthy of his power. Izuku is weaker than most of the people on the ship. He’s not number one in things other than nexus compatibility, and more importantly, he’s quirkless.

“W—why me?” Izuku finally asks, eyes downcast tracing the lines of on of the lit polygons on the floor of the room.

Toshinori sighs. “I’m not going to lie to you. We’re running out of time. I’m running out of time,” Izuku’s face falls slightly and Toshinori so badly wants to make it rise again, but he knows that isn’t going to happen for a while. Not while he says this. “It’s too complicated to explain, but I’ve watched you for years, and you have what it takes. You have the analytical skills to make the right decisions in battle, and your nexus skills are off the charts. Becoming a synapse won’t even be a leap for you.” Izuku’s eyebrows raise. “But the truth is that I’m dying.”

Toshinori can’t believe how quickly it happens, but within two second Izuku’s eyes are filled with tears.

“No, no, my boy, it’s—” Toshinori doesn’t have the right words. He know he doesn’t. He’s always been bad at this sort of thing. “—my reality. And I need to pass on my torch before I go. I can’t use it anymore, and All for One needs to be defeated. I’m giving you the best chance at doing that and I believe you’re the only one who can handle it.”

Izuku freezes, taking it all in. Toshinori couldn’t be serious. There’s no way. Izuku’s quirkless. Katsuki has high nexus compatibility and a powerful quirk. Becoming a synapse wouldn’t be a big jump for him either, so why—

The older man catches onto Izuku’s reluctance. “I’m offering to give you what you want most. Why aren’t you taking it?”

Toshinori can hardly believe it, but Izuku cries harder and tears stream down his face. “Because I’m not worthy of this!”

“You got into the Initiative. You’re half of the top pair. Young Midoriya, you can be a hero.”

Izuku collapses on the floor and Toshinori lets him. It takes a bit for Izuku to form a coherent thought and the other waits. They don’t have all the time in the world, but Toshinori is content with giving him some of it.

Izuku sobs for a while, but he eventually calms. His breathing becomes more even until only sniffles remain.

“Y—yes,” Izuku says the words so quietly Toshinori almost doesn’t hear them. “I’ll take it. If you want me to, I’ll take it.”

Toshinori smiles and pokes Izuku’s back. “Stand tall. A hero need not be on the ground. Not for this.”

Izuku shoots up with renewed vigor. To Izuku’s surprise, Toshinori plucks one blond hair from his head and holds it out to him between two fingers.

“Eat this,” Toshinori gestures to the hair. “It will take a little while to set in, but you need to ingest my DNA, and something tells me you don’t want to drink my blood like some vampire.”

Izuku’s face twists into something akin to shock and bewilderment because this is not what he’d been expecting.

“I’m not trying to fool you Izuku,” Toshinori shakes it. “This is it.”

You’ve got to be kidding me, Izuku thinks, suddenly questioning all of his life’s choices.

He eats the hair anyway.

 

Day 388

The Bakugou-Midoriya Pair's Bunkroom

One for All doesn’t feel any different. Izuku hadn’t known what to expect, but he had at least expected something to have changed.

He’s looking in the mirror of the bathroom when Katsuki gets impatient.

‘Hey, shitty nerd, you’ve been in there for fifteen minutes, what’s your deal?” Izuku can hear his foot tapping in annoyance, and a single small pop! can be heard. It’s not large so Izuku doesn’t feel the need to report it, but it means that Katsuki is holding back the fact that he’s pissed.

Oops.

“It’s nothing, just seeing if space has done anything to my, uh, face muscles?” He phrases it more of a question and mentally kicks himself.

“You’re so weird,” Katsuki says. Without warning his hands are fisted in the back of Izuku’s shirt, hauling him away from the mirror and out of the bathroom. Izuku catches angry crimson eyes right before the door slides shut in his face.

Izuku trods bock over to his bed, climbing up to sit on it.

Again, he wonders to himself, why has nothing changed?

But expectations often don’t match up with reality.

Izuku sighs, hops down from the bed, takes note of his schedule, and starts his day.

 

Day 389

The Bakugou-Midoriya Pair's Bunkroom

Izuku feels something flickering beneath his skin when he wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. It’s only there for a second, but it’s so powerful that Izuku is far from believing it had been only an effect of the dream.

All for One’s hand, covering his face, a black sludge suffocating him. He screams, but nothing—

Izuku shakes his head to rid himself of the memory, but can’t deny the feeling of raw energy that had been running through his veins.

“Oi, Deku, what’s your deal?” Katsuki’s voice drifts over to him, and of course he’s awake. Katsuki is a notorious light sleeper, as Izuku had learned through multiple interactions in the middle of the night.

“N-nothing, Kacchan. Just a bad dream,” Izuku answers because it’s all he can say. Katsuki can’t know—

“Well don’t cry about it,” Katsuki rolls over. Izuku is grateful he doesn’t pry.  

“I wasn’t going to!” Izuku says to Katsuki’s back. All he gets is a muffled grunt. Izuku sighs. “Night, Kacchan.”

It’s quiet, but Izuku can faintly hear Katsuki reply. “Night, nerd.”

Izuku wakes up three more times that night and Katsuki wakes up with him. Katsuki ignores him after the first, but Izuku notices his irregular breathing, upset that he keeps waking the other boy up. He thinks about apologizing, but it’s clear that Katsuki doesn’t want to talk to him.

And still, Izuku can’t ignore that trace feeling of lightning burning just beneath his skin.

 

Day 390

Kitchen Area of the Dauntless

“Kiri, please give me my food,” Todoroki’s voice is tired as he holds out one hand.

“And if I say—”

“Shitty hair, give him the goddamn food,” Katsuki orders, crimson eyes narrowing.

“Okay, okay, geez. Don’t you mess with Midoriya sometimes?” Kirishima hands the food over to Todoroki as he says it, and Todoroki takes it, eating the contents immediately before Kirishima can take it from him again.

Katsuki’s answer is narrowing his eyes even further.

“Alright then,” Kirishima clicks to fill the silence, and thankfully, Midoriya enters the area.

“Morning!”

“There’s no sun here,” Katsuki says dryly, sipping a cup of instant coffee that is lukewarm at best.

Midoriya lightly claps him on the back. “Whatever you say, Kacchan!” he proceeds to rummage through the compartments to find some rice and rehydrates it with ease. He’s about halfway through the bag when Katsuki takes it from him.

“Kacchan!” Izuku makes to take it back, but Katsuki moves it out of the way, continuing to keep it out of Izuku’s reach.

Katsuki looks directly at Kirishima. “Happy?”

“Uh, yeah…?” Kirishima shrugs, not sure what to say in the situation.

“Give it back!” Izuku lunges for his breakfast and again, it is moved out of the way.

“Can’t, shitty hair thinks I need to mess with you more. He makes it sound like it’s a pair thing,” Katsuki says it like he has no choice. Izuku knows he has a say in this, and he’s not having it.

Fine, if he wants to fight dirty, then I’ll fight dirty, Izuku thinks right before he jumps on Katsuki. He feels a unique fire in his veins, and something in his vision crackles red, and he is so close to his food.

Then it’s yanked away again and Izuku goes careening into the reinforced metal wall on the far side of the ship fist first.

He dents them.

Profusely.

Katsuki’s mouth drops and the others aren’t much better. The former’s eyes glance between Izuku’s uninjured hand and the divot in the wall. Katsuki can tell Izuku is afraid to look at his hand as he avoids it as long as possible.

What Izuku eventually finds—after five quiet seconds—is no bruising or bleeding. Instead, he discovers that nothing has changed.

He’d just dented a spaceship and gotten away without injury.

“Well, uh, that was interesting,” Izuku’s voice is far from steady and his face is red.

“No shit, dumbass,” Katsuki says, then gives Izuku the food that he’d punched a spaceship for. He eventually finishes his own, but by that point its cold enough that he has to heat it up again. Katsuki knows for a fact that one can’t punch solid, reinforced metal like that and not break a hand or induce bleeding. He’s got experience to back it up. Despite thinking over what he believes to be every possibility, he can’t figure out is how Izuku had done it. His partner is quirkless. Izuku is quirkless.

Right?

He only wishes that the one thing that makes sense isn’t a quirk.

 

Day 392  

The Bakugou-Midoriya Pair's Bunkroom

Katsuki finally voices his suspicions several days later. He sees a blonde man duck into his and Izuku’s bunkroom after knocking twice and Katsuki opts to stay outside.

Meanwhile, Izuku is reading through the day’s notes in his bunk when he hears the two knocks at his door.

“Toshi-san!” Izuku yelps when he sees the older man and lets a wide grin settle on his face..

“Yes, hello, Young Midoriya.”

Toshinori’s voice isn’t as bright as it normally is, and Izuku notices. “Is something wrong?”

“They’re deploying you early,” Toshinori explains. “We have a trace signature for All for One and the Dauntless is the only ship around for thousands of kilometers,” Toshinori pauses before continuing. “This is our chance to defeat him.”

Izuku’s face is nothing but serious and his smile is gone. “What do I need to do?” He says, closing his notebook and getting out of his bunk. His feet hit the floor soundlessly.

“I need to show you how to use that power of yours.” Toshinori holds up a balled fist fo emphasis. “It’s been a few days and Aizawa informed me of your, uh, misstep in the kitchen area.”

Izuku’s face turns red all over again. “I—I that was an accident, and I—wait is that your quirk?

“It’s yours,” The older man nods. “But I need to show you how to use it, because it’s not safe—”

“You shit!” Katsuki suddenly screams, sliding open the door and barreling inside, slamming Izuku into the back of the door by his collar. The whole thing is all too reminiscent of old times. “Pairs aren’t supposed to keep secrets you asshole!”

“Kacchan, wait—!”

“No waiting, Deku. How long have you been hiding this?” Katsuki gestures to Toshinori who has grown silent upon the intrusion due to shock.

Izuku feels tears brimming at his eyes, and he tries to blink them away. Not this time. Not this time, he thinks. Things are different now. Kacchan is different now.

Katsuki shakes him once. Hard. Izuku’s head slams back against the wall. “Answer me, you fucking crybaby!”

At the display of violence, Toshinori steps in. “Young Bakugou, I don’t think—”

“You!” Katsuki fixes Toshinori with a burning glare and surprisingly it stops the older man from moving further. “Shut up!” he turns his attention back to Izuku. “Deku, answer me.”

“J—just a few days. N—not long.” Izuku answers as quickly as he can, flinching reflexively when Katsuki’s hands tighten in his uniform. He won’t hurt me. He’s just scared. “I was planning on telling you! I promise! I just didn’t know how!”

“You could have told me before now. I’ve known you all my life!” Katsuki laughs and while his hands loosen, Izuku doesn’t dare try to move. “You hid it pretty well, you quirkless nerd.” He spits his words and Izuku cringes, not sure how to address it. There is so much wrong, so much that’s misunderstood.

Izuku takes a deep breath and lets it out, squinting his eyes shut. “I only got it a few days ago. That’s why I messed up the other day.”

“He doesn’t know how to use it,” Toshinori explains, trying to help. “I need to teach him. So that he doesn’t hurt you or anyone else.”

If it had been possible, Katsuki’s eyes would have narrowed further. “Since when should my partner listen to you?”

Toshinori shakes his head, deciding that it’s better to show rather than tell. He puffs up, muscles bulging beneath his clothes and fixes All Might’s signature grin across his face. “Because it’s my quirk, and your partner is my successor.”

Katsuki’s hands tighten out of reflex and it has nothing to do with keeping Izuku close to him. “You—you’re…” Izuku watches Katsuki lose his voice and it’s not something he sees often, if ever.

Toshinori doesn’t answer right away, instead filling the room with steam as he returns to his normal form. He coughs up a copious amount of blood that has both boys screaming. Katsuki jumps away from Izuku to move farther away from Toshinori and Izuku isn’t far behind him.

“Toshi-san!” Izuku exclaims.

“What the fuck, old man!” Katsuki shouts far too close to Izuku’s ear.

The rest is a mess of screams that Toshinori can’t make out from one another.

“Are you okay?”

“Don’t fucking die in our room!”

“Ahhhhhh!”

“I’m serious about the dying thing!”

“All Might can’t die!”

“Stop yelling, Deku!”

“K-kacchan!”

When Toshinori can finally breathe again, he stops the two from yelling further, not wanting Mic or Aizawa to get involved. “I’m being treated for it! No need to fear!” Toshinori cleans up the resulting mess with a handkerchief and the two boys are too shocked at how candid the former hero is about the situation that they can’t speak for a long time. Izuku and Katsuki are crowded against each other on the far side of the room against the door that leads to their bathroom and neither plans on moving anytime soon.

“Now, where were we—” Toshinori starts as if nothing has changed and he hadn’t just coughed up an unnatural amount of blood.

Katsuki interrupts, his breathing heavy. “One question, old man.”

“Go on,” Toshinori says, not even bothering to address the insult.

“I want in on the training.” Katsuki says. “If Deku and I are a pair, then we train as a pair.”

Toshinori and Izuku both cock grins of similar magnitude, and while Katsuki wants to die at the thought, in another world he would be smiling too.

 

Day 395

Dauntless Training Room

Izuku closes his eyes and charges a fist, aiming for the punching bag that hangs in front of him. It’s made of a highly absorbent material that can handle hits using One for All, in addition to other powerful strength quirks.

There’s the red glow in the corners of his eyes again followed by the burning beneath his skin that itches to be released. He rears back his hand, feeling the surge, and—

Nothing.

His hand hits the bag uselessly and Izuku notes that he’ll probably have a bruise from that later.

He knows full well that red eyes are staring at him. “Aizawa-sensei, what is it now?” He can also feel the eyes of the rest of the team who are all too interested in One for All and its effects. It’s supposed to be a private practice room, but there’s one small window that every other occupant of the ship is taking turns using.

Aizawa nods to Toshinori, silently handing over the conversation to the expert on Izuku’s quirk.

“You can’t channel the whole of One for All into a single part of your body. You’re strong, but you aren’t that strong. Instead, you need to spread its power throughout your whole body so that not one part takes on the power of the whole quirk. It’s the difference between falling on your arm and doing a shoulder roll. You’re better off distributing the impact, so to speak.”

Izuku hears Toshinori’s words, but he can hardly conjure up One for All in his arms. Making sure it flows everywhere seems impossible.

His voice is quiet when he speaks. “How am I supposed to do that?”

“Focus on that feeling of power coursing everywhere, not just in your arm. It will be hard to maintain, but I believe in you, kid.” Toshinori says, then comes up with an idea. “Ever microwaved an egg?”

Izuku tilts his head. “You can do that?”

Toshinori laughs. “Nevermind, close your eyes. I’ll guide you through it how my predecessor taught me.”

Izuku closes his eyes and waits. Toshinori’s voice comes a few seconds later.

“Try to feel your arms and gain awareness of them.” The order is gentle and Izuku follows it, focusing on how his arms and hands feel, trying to encompass on staying in touch with every part all at once. “When you can do that, do the same with your legs,” Izuku tries to extend his awareness and after a few troubling seconds, finds it easy. He’s trying to grab every cell, and it’s surprisingly natural.

Toshinori continues when he feels Izuku is ready. “You’ll find that by the time you get to the rest of your body, it’s a buzzing, thrumming pulse. The deeper your focus goes, the more it will start itching under your skin,” At this point, Toshinori is narrating everything Izuku is experiencing. “You’ll know when it’s time to set it free. Keep the awareness and you’ll keep One for All going. Then you can smash things.”

Izuku feels One for All settling in his bones and lets it come to the surface, a vibration of energy that’s swirling, moving, and constantly changing. Before long, he can’t keep up with the movements so he lets go, the abstract sensations having their way, getting faster until they release.

In arcs of green lightning.

Izuku opens his eyes and looks down at himself to see that he’s covered in electricity, sparks and bolts originating and ending on his skin, brightening and darkening his vision.

So this is what it’s like to be a synapse, Izuku thinks, amazed.

He feels like the nexus looks, holding up his hands while watching sparks arc from one to the other, his eyes wide.

“…holy shit.” Katsuki whispers from his place behind the punching bag.

Izuku then turns, grins, and hits the bag as hard as he can.

Katsuki goes flying across the room. He’s saved from crashing only by sheer reflex, letting off several explosions in the direction he’s headed to cushion his fall. He won’t say it, not where the public eye can see, but he’s not only impressed, but proud.

Several hours later, Katsuki and Izuku are fighting against fake robot Noumu in the training quarters. Katsuki sets off explosions as a distraction, and Izuku takes them out with a SMASH! to the face in true All Might fashion.

 

Day 398

Training Room of the Dauntless

Team 1-A is crammed like sardines inside one of the training rooms on the ship. It’s during their free time, and Aizawa and Mic are not too intent on supervising them.

Of course, they are far from believing they aren’t being watched, and, of course, that won’t stop them.

“They’re deploying us soon,” Izuku begins, a notebook in his hand. Katsuki stands close to him, a clear acrylic board next to him. He has a white marker in his hand, ready to outline the plan that Izuku has laid out for the group. “And I have a plan to take down All for One and every single last Noumu, if you’re with me.”

“I’m with you,” Todoroki says automatically and Kirishima joins in with him.

Iida and Uraraka are next, voicing their agreement through shouts of approval.

Shinsou voices his pair’s opinion which is also positive, and signs the equivalent while he speaks. Kouda claps his hands and gives two strong thumbs up.

The rest of the pairs are with Izuku and Katsuki before long, and the former breathes a massive sigh of relief. Izuku nods to Katsuki, and they begin telling the rest of the team their plan.

“All pairs except for the Kaminari-Jirou pair will follow Katsuki and I into the ship for a stealth attack,” as much as you can be with eighteen people, Izuku thinks but doesn’t add. “After Katsuki hacks through All for One’s nexus shield, Jirou and Kaminari will break off with a nexus charge. They’ll deposit it in the main control center of the ship and set it off, blowing the ship from the inside out.”

The whole room quiets.

Kaminari swallows.

Loudly.

Jirou speaks for both of them, moving close enough to her partner to touch shoulders for moral support. They both understand the implication of Izuku’s words. “Midoriya, your plan better work.”

Izuku nods quickly. “It will. And you know I’ll do everything to get you out.”

“We trust you,” Kaminari says strongly, arm around Jirou now. “The mission comes first,” Kaminari suddenly cracks a smile. “But so help me god, if I have to die for you, I will haunt you so hard.”

“Get ready for audio issues from the afterlife,” Jirou adds with a giggle right before high fiving Kaminari with a loud slap!

Izuku exchanges a glance at Katsuki—who is doing his best to avoid laughing—and the diagramming begins.

Izuku detaches a tablet from a nearby table, flipping through windows rapidly with multiple fingers and flagrant hand gestures.


He turns the tablet around and points. It’s a schematic of All for One’s ship. “I pinpointed where All for One’s terminals are through x-ray and nexus telemetry. After cross-analyzing the terminal’s locations in the nexus I was able to map them to the ship, and that’s where this blueprint comes into play.


“There’s a room that looks to be out of the way of the rest of the ship, like a forgotten or old terminal. From my quick experiments in the nexus back on the Dauntless, no one has patched into it in months, possible years, I couldn’t exactly tell. Kacchan will hack the terminal and then we will have a way in,” Izuku flips to another window and turns the tablet back around. It’s a zoomed in map of the room. “If I can fuzz everyone out here,” Izuku points. “Then we can fan out into that hallway and carefully,” He looks to Katsuki. “Start looking for All for One. As long as we stay in contact over the comms, we will be fine.”

 

Day 401

Flight Deck of the Dauntless

“I’m going.” Toshinori insists, storming into the room where Aizawa and Mic are checking over the Dauntless’ systems.

“No, you can’t go,” Aizawa automatically replies without looking at him, shifting the angle of the electric sail by a fraction of a degree while he does so. “Mic, you got the other?” Mic gives him a thumbs up, adjusting the other sail by the same degree and Aizawa gets back to his work.

Toshinori is having none of it, leaning directly into Aizawa’s field of vision. “Why?”

Aizawa suddenly turns on him, system check paused. His gaze is not forgiving. “Because you’re sickly and you’re dying.”

“But she’s my partner and it’s my fault All for One has her! I’m getting her back whether you like it or not, Shouta!

Aizawa’s eyes flare red and his scarves float, automatically intimidating the other man. “This is not a rescue mission! It’s a mission to kill All for One. If Nana happens to be there we will take her back. That’s how this works.” Aizawa’s voice is stern and doesn’t allow room for argument. “I’m captain of this ship and as long as you’re on my ship you follow my rules and I say you’re staying here! That’s an order, Yagi.

Toshinori huffs, but knows Aizawa is right. He hates it. He doesn’t have much time left as it is and can only use One for All in short bursts.

“I hope it’s worth it,” Toshinori says as he leaves.

“It is,” Aizawa replies, but Toshinori is already gone.

 

Day 407

Pair Ship Docking Bay Aboard the Dauntless

The pair ships are much smaller than the Dauntless, but function in a similar way, being powered by four VASIMR plasma thrusters and an electric sail.

However, there is one major functional difference. The pair ships are designed to link up with one another. Since all pair ships are built into the shape of one long hexagon, multiple ships can link up like cells in a beehive and still function as normal.

Inside the ships is a single hexagonal hallway at the front of the spacecraft. This is where control systems are kept and maintained . The hallways are on one end, and the engine access is at the other. Once in the hallway, one side houses training quarters the whole length of the small ship. On the opposing side are sleeping quarters and other life functions such as food, drink, a shower, along with anything else the pair may need while on mission. In addition, a single gravity generator that services the ship is found on this side of the spacecraft.

Pairs enter through a hatch that opens up into the middle of the hallway, and it only allows room for one person to go through at a time, which means that once again, Katsuki is not about to let Izuku board their pair ship—appropriately named the USS Defiant—first.

Izuku understands this before it becomes an issue, and lets Katsuki have his way. He follows in after him, peeking his head up into the hallway before scampering inside, boots making hard contact with the tough metal grating of the floor. It serves as ventilation for the heating and cooling systems and steam comes up from the machinery below them. The hallway itself glows a faint purple, much like the hallways on the Dauntless. Circuit-like veins run along the walls in blue and are dotted at intervals in green. These lights alternate with interlocking hexagons with purple outlines that are laid out in asymmetrical patterns that are more reminiscent of an organic molecule than a beehive.

Izuku takes it all in, the lights, the sounds, the aesthetic. “This is ours,” he says, wonder in his eyes. “This is our spaceship.” The emphasis on the last word is not lost on Katsuki.

“Yeah, yeah,” Katsuki dismisses his words but they both know he feels the same way. “Get to the flight deck. We don’t have all the time in the world.”

Izuku is already moving towards the front of the ship before he can reply to Katsuki. He’s using the railing—clearly meant to keep them from side-stepping into a drop-off where all the regulation systems are kept beneath their feet—to guide his steps as he walks backwards.

“Aizawa-sensei did say we had fifteen minutes. We could explore the rest of the ship if you wanted?” Izuku suggests harmlessly, shoulders up and eyes hopeful.

Katsuki is amused by the idea, but only entertains it briefly. “Stick to the plan, Deku. If you come up with it you better damn well stand by it.”

“Roger that, Kacchan,” Izuku says, giving him a sharp nod before turning around and walking into the small room that constitutes the Defiant’s flight deck.

There are two chairs and a small amount of space behind each that allows for swivel room. In front is a large window that curves to give the pair a 180˚ view of the space before them. Projected onto the glass are informational displays and system readouts.

Katsuki takes the first chair he grabs, not bothering to ask if Izuku has a preference. Izuku takes the other without question. “Looks like it knew we were coming,” Katsuki grins through gritted teeth as the display lights up, already running he system checks that Katsuki had planned to start.

“Looks like it did.” Izuku straps in and Katsuki does the same, finishing the last of the buckles in a few minutes time. “Now all we have to do is wait.”

 

Fifteen Minutes Later

Defiant Control Room

The disconnect from the training ship is loud but not jarring. The mechanisms that held the Defiant to the Dauntless run off hydraulics, and when the ships are released, a large amount of energy is emitted as well. The resulting blast serves to propel the Defiant and other pair ships away from the Dauntless and into outer space.

“Alright, shitnerd, oxygen systems clear on your end?” Katsuki immediately begins running new system checks to get them done and over with.

“Roger that, Kacchan, and yes they are,” Izuku happily checks the readouts from the engines and is pleased to see that all four plasma thrusters are running smoothly. “Engines are green. Electric sails at rest.”

“Good,” Katsuki tells him and his hands move away from the consoles once the rest of the support systems are deemed stable. “Now, I’m hungry,” he starts undoing the buckles to his chair. “You can find me by the food.”

Katsuki awkwardly clambers out of the control room and into the hallway. Izuku can hear his uneven steps as he tries to figure out his footing. The gravity generator on the Defiant is significantly smaller than the one on the Dauntless, and it will take a few days before Katsuki and Izuku fully adjust.

“Last door on the right, Kacchan!” Izuku yells when Katsuki’s footsteps stop and continue before stopping again.

“I know where the fucking food is!”

Katsuki hadn’t known.

 

Two Hours Later

Constellation Training Room

“Be careful using your quirk in here!” Kirishima narrowly dodges a wall of ice that had been headed straight towards him. He’d hardened in response, but thankfully it hadn’t been needed. Yet.

Todoroki shoots another wall in Kirishima’s direction, and with the size of the training rooms Kirishima has distance but not much area available.

He dodges, but ends up cornered in the center of the room between two ice walls.

“They adjusted the walls and the floor to accommodate for the extreme heat and cold of my powers and the shock of yours. So this ship can handle us.” Todoroki smirks and throws another wall, but Kirishima is done waiting around.

He hardens a fist, and like he’s done a few times before, holds it out in front of him, braces, and yells as the ice wall makes contact.

It shatters.

“Good job,” Todoroki grins harder, wiping the sweat from his forehead. “Now, come at me with your full strength.”

Kirishima laughs, thinking back to the nexus games and Midoriya’s… pep talk. Yes. He will call it that. “How can I say no to that invitation?”

What happens next is a flurry of hardened arms meeting ice. Todoroki covers his arm in cold crystals again and Kirishima’s own arm is aiming to punch him. Todoroki blocks, but the ice he has shatters. He coughs, frost coming up from his lungs in visible puffs.

“You okay, buddy?” Kirishima is well aware of his partner’s weaknesses, so he notices and backs off a few feet.

Todoroki takes a few seconds since he realizes he’s been given some and then straightens up again, coating his arms in ice once more.

“Bring it on.”

Kirishima screams as he comes forward, feigning a punch that he knows Todoroki will block. Todoroki does, Kirishima uses his leg to sweep Todoroki’s own out from under him. The other boy can’t stop his fall, and Kirishima is on him in an instant, fist coming fast towards the other’s head.

It makes contact in the ground next to Todoroki, the percussion of the hit making Todoroki’s ears ring.

“I win,” Kirishima says with a wicked smirk.

Todoroki lets his head fall back in defeat. “This time.”

“Look, you’ve won the last three times because you’ve trapped me in an ice wall! Let me have this!” Kirishima playfully argues.

“And you didn’t fall for that this time which was part of my plan,” Todoroki tells him.

“Oh.” Kirishima’s voice goes down a few notches in volume and he climbs off of the other boy, standing up and holding out his hand. “Thanks. I—”

A flashing light and a beeping noise alert them to another ship attempting to communicate.

“Oh boy,” Todoroki says under his breath as Kirishima moves to slam the green button that will accept the connection.

“This is the Todoroki-Kirishima pair hailing from the Constellation.” Kirishima recites the procedural script, somewhat excited to use what he’s learned.

Of course, the person on the other hand does not share the feeling..

“Yeah yeah, this is the Defiant and you know who’s on board.” Katsuki’s voice comes over the intercom that links him and Izuku to the other pair’s ship. “Hey, Kirishima, I’ve got a plan.”

“You know, I recall it was Midoriya’s plan—”

Kirishima, there is a plan.”

Kirishima straightens and looks sideways at Todoroki, whose face is bathed in a calm purple glow. “Roger that, Bakugou, what does the plan have in mind?” Kirishima slams the purple button that opens the door. Once the two panels have finished sliding out of the way, the two are headed towards the control room. Within seconds, Todoroki has double checked all systems and has pricked his ears for his partner’s conversation.

“Operation: All Star Team Up—and yes, I still hate that name,” Katsuki quickly adds. “Is about to shine. Izuku believes it’s time to go ahead with the plan, and I’m…” Katsuki can’t believe he’s about to admit it, but finds it easy to do so. “…Agreeing with him.”

“Ah, Shouto?” Kirishima turns to Todoroki, who cocks his head to the side, considers, and then straightens up.

Todoroki gives the barest hint of a nod and Kirishima smiles. “Good with me.”

“Alright. Operation All Star Team Up is officially a go!” Kirishima shouts loud enough to make Todoroki, Katsuki, and Izuku flinch.

 

Dauntless Flight Deck

Aizawa is staring out the window, hands behinds his back, while Mic is casually reading out the coordinates of the different pair ships. That is, until their coordinates start moving closer to one another. They’d been waiting for this.

“It’s happening!” Mic says excitedly, watching as the Defiant and the Constellation nearly overlap their coordinates. Nearby, the Helion and the Elysium are moving in.

“It’s just as we suspected then,” Aizawa tells him, back still turned. “Good. We will see how long it takes all of them to link up.”

“All of them?”

“Yes, with Midoriya on board, something tells me no pair will be left out.” Aizawa turns, finally facing Mic. “This is All for One we’re talking about. Those kids are going to need every bit of luck they can get.”

“And when will we join them?”

“Soon.”

In truth, Aizawa is scared for all of them. But it isn’t his job to tell them ‘no’ anymore and it isn’t his duty to protect them any more than his other comrades. They look out for each other because this battle can’t be won alone. Izuku’s plan might have been to have the kids perform the extraction and assassination, but Mic and Aizawa aren’t about to let them dive headfirst into an alien spacecraft without a little backup.

Mic reads his thoughts, as usual. “Shall I set the coordinates towards the trace signature then?” Mic asks, hand poised dramatically to hit the ‘run’ key on the navigational route he’d just created. He’s clearly expecting Aizawa to agree with him, and in reality already knows he is.

So Aizawa merely looks at him, looks at the console, and then back at Mic.

“YEAAAHHHHHHHHHH!HH!” Mic shouts as he hits the key. Aizawa is unimpressed like always. “Sorry, buddy.”

“S’ okay,” Aizawa slurs, too busy focusing on his sudden lack of hearing to conjure up complete words. “I’m going to go deaf because of you.”

“I know.” Mic winks. “But you’ll stay with me anyway.”

 

Defiant Control Room

Back on the Defiant, Katsuki and Izuku are strapped into their seats and paying attention to every little detail of their ship and the Constellation.

In order to link up ships, at least one outer claw must be actively hooked into the other ship’s corresponding hook. Within the claw is a small hatch that one pair can use to board another pair’s ship. The claw also provides structural support during a linkage, and one pair ship can be linked to up to six other pair ships at a time. The claws are labeled A-F, corresponding with each side of the hexagonal ship. Claw A is above the right side of the control room, and the letters move clockwise from there.

Izuku is manning the controls for linking up the two ships, and Katsuki is all too happy to be shouting orders at the other boy.

“Deku, engage claw E! Torsion 4, be ready on my count for connecting!”

“Roger that!” Izuku shouts back.

“Kirishima!”

“Yes!”

“Engage claw B, get ready to connect on my mark! Torsion 4!”

“Roger that, Bakugou!”

“Okay, 3…2…1…go!” Katsuki yells into the comms, and Kirishima and Izuku kick into action.

Izuku all but slams the ‘connect’ button and Claw E glides forward, attempting contact with the Constellation’s Claw B. Kirishima is no better, hitting his own ‘connect’ button to engage his claw as quickly as possible.

The two claws don’t completely miss each other, but they don’t make their mark either. Izuku’s claw glances off of Kirishima’s, and the attempt is a failure. While they’d practiced extensively with this maneuver, they’ve only practiced it in simulations about the Dauntless’ virtual reality rooms.

Katsuki will be writing some choice words in his comments section on the Initiative’s yearly survey. He hopes there isn’t a charcter limit.

Katsuki is grumbling from his place at Izuku’s left and is holding back insults. It isn’t Izuku’s fault that Katsuki continually scored significantly higher than him in the simulations, but it’s Katsuki’s fault for not taking the controls from the beginning.

If you can’t see it done right, do it yourself, Katsuki thinks and takes in a breath, steeling himself to avoid losing his patience because he knows he can’t afford to lose it now. Not when they have to link up not one, but ten pair ships.

“Let me do it.” Katsuki gestures for Izuku to slide him the screen that he’s using the run the controls, which he does. They glide over and stop in front of him, and Katsuki begins adjusting the parameters of Claw E on the glass, muttering about how Izuku had messed up everything by 0.0001% to no one but himself.

“Kirishima, we have a change of plans,” Katsuki announces when he’s done talking to himself to get out his frustrations. “I’ll be working the claw. Tell the Peppermint Prince to work the other one. He’s better than you at it and we both know it.”

 

Constellation Control Room

“…Roger that!” Kirishima gets out before sliding his own screen towards Todoroki, who really, really does not want to do this right now. “Here you go Peppermint Prince.”

An ice wall comes up between them, and Kirishima is knocking from the other side, not wanting to use his quirk in such a small space unlike some people.

“Hey, you gotta let me talk to you!” Kirishima’s voice is muffled.

Todoroki smirks before saying, “I can hear you fine.”

“Come on, dude!”

Without looking at the other boy, Todoroki places his left hand on the ice, melting it until it’s a puddle of water headed towards the nearest drain. It’s only then that Todoroki slowly turns his head towards Kirishima for dramatic effect, and finally says, “Don’t you ever call me that ever again.”

Kirishima gulps.

“You ready yet, dumbfucks?” Katsuki snaps over the intercom.

Todoroki sighs, knowing Katsuki will never call him by his real name. Though, he prefers ‘dumbfuck’ to ‘Peppermint Prince’. “Yes, let’s get this over with.”

 

Defiant Control Room

Izuku never fails to forget that Katsuki is intelligent. What he does forget is how he can still use that intelligence to be something other than an asshole. Thanks to Katsuki and Todoroki’s joint efforts the Defiant and the Constellation are linked and secured. On top of that, it only took one try, and now Kirishima and Todoroki are standing in the Defiant’s hallway, laughing with Katsuki and Izuku. It’s a little crowded, but the ship could hold several more people easily.

“Could you imagine if we all went to high school together?” Kirishima asks. He’s leaning against one of the secure metal railings with one hand wrapped around one the supports in the ceiling. “Like instead of fighting aliens and training we would just be going to class and learning.”

“It would be dramatic.” Todoroki says. “Bakugou here would be the bully of the school—”

“Hey!” Katsuki pushes off from the rail across from Kirishima, then thinks better of objecting and falls back, crossing his arms over his chest. He’s not wrong.

Todoroki continues despite the attempted interruption. He’s the only one not leaning on some part of the ship, perfectly okay with standing. “—and I’m sure Midoriya and I would still be friends, even if it would have started a little rough.” He says the words with a hint of hesitation, almost as if he doesn’t completely believe them to be true.

Izuku puts a stop to that immediately. “Oh absolutely.” Izuku leans against a wall support that’s opposite of Kirishima and Todoroki. “

“You say that as if it isn’t dramatic out here, when we’re far beyond the outer ring of our own solar system,” Katsuki brings up, not bothering to look at anyone.

“Plus ultra!” Kirishima dabs.

Todoroki’s lips turn up in a wry grin, eyes flashing to Kirishima’s and back in approval. “I mean, you aren’t wrong, and you and Midoriya take the cake for drama.”

Izuku doesn’t dare speak, but Katsuki’s twisted laugh says it all. “As if you and licorice hair over there haven’t had some spats.”

Todoroki thinks about the time that Kirishima turned up his workout music loud enough to disrupt his sleep. The resulting argument had turned into a quirk vs. quirk battle the next day in training.

Todoroki then thinks back to the time he’d secretly frozen Kirishima’s underwear while Kirishima had been showering, just because he’d used Todoroki’s shower soap without his permission. Really, Todoroki would have shared if Kirishima had just asked but no, Kirishima had to go chaotic on him and steal it.

The yelp Kirishima had let out in the private confines of their quarters made everything worth it.

“Maybe we have,” Todoroki says with a sneaky smile.

“Oh quit looking like that, fuckface,” Katsuki snaps, noticing then that Izuku is raising his hand to speak. “This isn’t a damn classroom! What is it, Deku?” Katsuki asks.

Izuku pulls out his notebook, flipping through pages and pages of quirk and training notes, until he lands on a page with a diagram of ten ships and a ton of arrows. “We should get to work linking the other ships while solar conditions are ideal. There’s a solar storm well out of our flight path.” He points towards a shaded portion that’s on the outskirts of the page. “But the waves from it will make it more difficult to link up. Not impossible, but we should just… do that now if we can.” Izuku then flips the page, pointing to a diagram of all ten pair ships linked with dozens of lines radiating outwards representing a joined sail. “If we can get everyone linked, we can deploy the sails and ride straight to All for One’s trace signature on the increased influx of electric particles.”

“He’s right,” Kirishima says, pointing to the control room. “Bakugou, we gotta get going dude. Todoroki? We’re gonna need you to start stacking.”

Todoroki is already moving towards the control room, stepping past Kirishima and Midoriya to get to a clearer path. The action alone conveys his agreement. He raises his right hand, beckoning for the others to follow. When all is said and done, Todoroki is sitting in Midoriya’s chair, Bakugou is in his normal seat, and their partners are behind them.

“Alright, lets do this.” Katsuki says, and brings up the controls. “This is the Defiant hailing to the Helion, do you copy?”

“That we do!” Comes Uraraka’s cheerful voice from the other end.

Eight hours later the crew of the Constellation, Helion, Elysium, Hiraeth, Serendipity, Sygyzy, Phosphene, Denoument, and Parcosm are gathered in the central hallway of the Defiant. They’re dressed to fight in a war. Team 1-A knows they’re going to try their best to win, even if that means they won’t make it out alive.

“I’m not ready for this,” Kaminari says when Izuku starts walking up to the terminal.

Their team leader sighs. “Neither am I, but we have to do it anyway.” Izuku reaches the terminal and looks over his teammates, allies, his friends. “Now, who wants to go first?”

-x-

Toshinori hadn’t taught Izuku anything about being a synapse, telling him that it wouldn’t be much different from his normal experiences and he’d easily get use to the physicality aspect.

Toshinori had been wrong.

The syneasthesia is so much worse to the point that Izuku almost throws up. He tastes blue as hard as he can before he hears what yellow sounds like, all while his whole body feels like it’s exploding and being stretched violently. It’s easily the quickest he’s ever patched in, but it’s by far the most instense. In less than a second, Izuku is in.

Having a completely physical form in an electronic realm is far more wild than Izuku could have anticipated. He can see his hand in surprising clarity. He can move his fingers.

…and that brings on another syneasthetic attack.

Shit, Izuku thinks, trying to collect his thoughts and get his bearings. The plan hinges on his abilities as a synapse. His team needs him.

Izuku snaps his fingers and feels something sweet. It’s dizzying, but Izuku does it again, and again, and again.

He’s jumping before long and riding gridlines to further desensitize himself. When he’s ready, he checks his watch and finds that it’s been three minutes. The others are waiting.

So this is the different 0.05% makes, Izuku thinks, clapping his hands for good measure. He almost enjoys the rainbow that floats through his ears.

He can’t wait to sync with Katsuki.

-x-

Everyone had been in the nexus.

But not everyone had been dragged through the nexus.

Todoroki has fun with it, laughing as Izuku pulls him along an x-line. Izuku jumps lines and shifts over—switching like a pro—and both boys hear something gold along with the force of the switch.

“Izuku you should do this with us more often,” Todoroki tells him. “It’s kind of surreal to be physical in the nexus.”

Izuku is smiling when he prepares Todoroki to be sent out. “Perks of being a synapse.”

Izuku drags everyone else thrugh the nexus until they’re all together again, moving towards All for One’s ship carefully. When they get to it, All for One’s ship is a pink and green construct in the nexus with sharp edges and smooth angles that’s almost metallic in nature. A hexagonal force field that flashes a broken shade of orange surrounds the craft.

“Kacchan! You’re up!” Izuku shouts, staring at the ship. The name Tempest is burned into its side.

“I’m getting to it!” Katsuki moves forward, and his signature makes close contact with the field. “Give me a minute and be fucking quiet.”

Izuku nods and judging by the sudden calm of the red flare Katsuki normally has, the other hears him.

Katsuki feels a fuzzy noise in his skull, a dull thrum of the vibration of the shield.

Great. It’s a difficult one, Katsuki thinks.

Katsuki focuses on his own vibrations, and shifts them first to the frequency of the shield, making the shield think he’s an extension of itself, and then Katsuki abruptly shifts his vibration to the opposite frequency of the shield with a sudden pop! fueled by one of his trademark—and very calculated—explosions.

When the shield begins to disintigrate, Katsuki flips his vibration again, back to the one of the shield itself to stop the degradation. The shield immediately stabilizes and Katsuki can only hope that no one on the ship had noticed.

They usually don’t.

“I fucking love punching holes in shields.” Katsuki backs up, moving closer to Izuku. “You’re welcome. Now let’s get going before someone notices, because something tells me these fuckfaces won’t be friendly.”

Katsuki doesn’t bother warning them that he’s moving into the ship until he is, making a beeline for the terminal that Izuku had pointed out earlier. Izuku naturally follows Katsuki, gravitating towards his partner. It’s as instinctual as breathing.

Katsuki’s signature floats over to Izuku’s form. “Deku, equipment?”

Izuku immediately hands over a keyboard and a nexus screen, a clear construct that can display information inside the nexus. The keyboard is infused with copper, appearing in the nexus like a crossed network of lines in the proper shape. When it’s jacked into the screen, it works like any other computer.

Katsuki types faster than anyone can keep up with, slamming the keys with codes learned from years of experience.

Defense systems disarmed.

System protocol active.

System protocol terminated.

System protocol restarted.

Engaging temporary administrative login.

Katsuki enters in a long string of symbols and numbers that only he knows, setting up a temporary account on the terminal.

“Fucking alien tech is fucked up,” Katsuki’s voice crackles a little as he says it. “I’m running the terminal off my machine. We should be able to use it now. So you’re up, Deku.”

Izuku smiles and does his worst.

Todoroki is flying through the terminal as fast as Izuku can make him, smiling and laughing as he moves at superspeed along the grid of the nexus. His signature is the brightest it’s ever been and his normal white and red energy is now a spinning like a double helix. Todoroki lands neatly on the other side of the nexus.

Kirishima, on the other hand, screams as he flies. “This is so manly! It’s like a rollercoaster but better!” His signature is pulsing like lights at a rave and the raw crimson color of his signature is consistently changing.

Izuku laughs once Kirishima is stationary again. “I do my best.” He points to the nexus gate of the terminal above them. Todoroki is waiting for you.”

Izuku fixes his eyes on the terminal and gracefully prepares to toss Kirishima up along a Y-Line to exit the nexus.

Izuku returns to the Defiant and sees the other eight pairs waiting to be transported. He shakes his head to rid any negative thoughts that are trying to tell him that he can’t do this.

Because he can.

He smiles and calls on One for All. The red lines that crisscross across his body in the nexus glow brighter, One for All outlining his form in vibrant crimson and burning with dynamic intensity. Green lightning traces over the red and then strays, sparking and cracking, reflecting the power he possesses.

Izuku wants to laugh.

This is awesome.

“Get in a line, this is happening now,” Izuku says, and then all he sees are signatures forming themselves into an organized row.

One by one he moves them through the nexus and onto the Tempest and there isn’t a single person that thinks the experience isn’t fun.

If Izuku’s being honest, he’s having the time of his life.

Kaminari and Jirou pause by the exit to the Tempest and Izuku does not hold out his hand like he has done for the others.

I believe in you,” Izuku says. “Plus ultra.”

“Plus ultra, Midoriya,” Kaminari’s signature flares in farewell and Jirou mirrors him, headphones whishing around her form in spiraling patterns, blue light trailing behind them. If the Kaminari-Jirou pair can control everything in the ship, then the pair can destroy everything in the ship.

Despite the pair having already turned their back, Izuku waves in their direction before exiting the nexus.

 

The Tempest

The inside of All for One’s ship is green. There are green lights everywhere: on the walls, on the floors, and on the ceilings. Some purple lights are present, but only as accents. The walls are metal, but there’s biological components that none of the pairs can rationalize. They move slightly, shifting in and out relative to the pairs.

The walls, they’re moving,” Mina says.

“Is this ship breathing?” Kirishima adds, voice unsteady at the discovery.

“I might supply a hypothesis!” Iida asks before looking to Izuku for permission to continue. Izuku nods and Iida continues. “It might be living, and as such whatever ‘it’ is might be able to recognize our presence.

“Oh my god,” Uraraka elbows Iida once he’s done talking. “Guys, I have a really bad feeling about this.”

“No shitIKatsuki exclaims.

“No, I mean a really bad feeling,” she insists.

“You’re going to have to be more specific.” Katsuki narrows his eyes.

“I think… I think this ship is a Noumu.”

Everyone freezes and the only movement is the regular breathing in the walls.

“We need to move,” Katsuki says, quieter this time. “Deku, stay close to me.”

It’s not up for debate, because Katsuki grabs Izuku’s arm and yanks him against his side. Izuku can only barely hear the sigh of relief that Katsuki lets out at the contact.

“We aren’t splitting up. No fucking way. Let’s go, shitnerds,” Katsuki orders and no one bothers to object. If the ship really is a Noumu, splitting up is the last thing the pairs need to do.

 

The Distal Nexus

Kaminari and Jirou catch a line into the Tempest close to where Katsuki had punched through the shield. It takes them directly into the nexus’ systems, but only gives them control of the most basic function: taking signals to the main system, something they can’t access from their current coordinates.

Yet.

It would be great if they could quit hitting walls that pulse with what can only be living energy.

“What the hell is this stuff?” Kaminari pokes it, and it squishes, something that should not happen in the nexus.

“I don’t know,” Jirou moves over to him, and her headphones also make contact. “It’s almost like how Midoriya’s hand felt when he pulled us through.”

“Weird,” Kaminari says, and moves forward. Then, abruptly as he had shifted he stops and turns around to face his partner.

“No,” Jirou says before he can speak. “It’s not.”

“But it could be!”

“That is not a living creature with perfect nexus compatibility and it’s not a Noumu!”

Kaminari’s signature flares in all directions, urging her to think about what she had just said.

“Oh my god,” Jirou’s voice is so quiet that Kaminari almost can’t hear her. “Kami, we gotta keep moving.”

“You had me at ‘oh my god’.”

 

The Tempest

The pairs are creeping through one of many octagonal hallways. There are no railings and the floor is flat, lit with green and accented with purple, and steam seeps up from the grating below them. The walls pulse on either side of the pairs and there isn’t a single person that isn’t terrified.

Izuku and Katsuki take the lead and Todoroki and Kirishima bring up the rear. Iida and Uraraka keep track of the pairs behind Izuku and Katsuki. Dark shadow is out and ready, enjoying the dimmed light of the alien spacecraft, though even he is not immune to the fear that permeates the group.

“We need to find its head,” Iida says. “If this—” He gestures to the ceiling. “–is a Noumu, then we need to find its head. Then we can destroy it. Bring down the ship and we bring down All for One.”

“But if this is a Noumu, who knows what will happen when we hit it!” Uraraka hisses back at her partner.

“It might be worth finding out,” Izuku says, still being diligent to their surroundings. So far they haven’t seen anyone or anything, which is concerning in some ways but fortunate in others. “But there is one other option. Listen.” Izuku suggests. “There’s one other organ that we know Noumus have. Since Noumus bleed, they have to possess a—”

They hear the rhythmic breathing automatically, but upon further concentration they notice something beyond the noise. It’s quiet, but it’s something that they can follow.

Ba-Boom Ba-Boom Ba-Boom.

—heart.” Izuku finishes, both pleased and horrified at the results of his hypothesis. And then I can find out where Nana is, he silently adds. He checks his watch, noting that there’s still time.

“Are you kidding me? The fucking ship has a heartbeat?” Katsuki explains loud enough that Izuku’s own heart almost catapults out of his chest.

Izuku elbows him so hard that he has to take a step back. “Keep it down, Kacchan!” Izuku points an angry finger at him and red lines flare across his body. Katsuki does not attempt to defy him after that. “We need to follow it. And if—”

Tsuyu clamps a hand over Mina’s mouth right as she screams, letting out a muffled sound that everyone can still hear.

Izuku, Katsuki, and the rest of the pairs turn around only to see two familiar figures.

Present Mic stands with a finger to his lips to urge the kids to calm themselves. Aizawa stands next to him, passive as ever but still alert. “We thought you could use some backup.”

“You could have shown up sooner!” Sero whispers.

“Hey,” Mic says, voice so quiet that it’s almost cringe worthy. “We can’t control how fast an electric sail moves us. Thanks for the shield opening, Bakugou.” Katsuki raises his hand in a wave and Mic nods. “Good, well let’s find its heart!”

 

Thirteen Minutes Ago

“Toshinori, after you drop us off, you come right back to the Dauntless, you hear?” Aizawa tells him, Mic in hand. The three are next to a nexus terminal, waiting for Toshinori to patch them all in and take them to the Tempest.

Toshinori nods and squeezes Aizawa’s hand. “Ready?”

“Ready.”

 

Present Time

The Distal Nexus

Kaminari mumbles quietly. If he’s too loud, a Noumu could hear him. At this point, he and Jirou are so far into the belly of the beast that if they’re discovered, they’re dead.

“We’ll make it,” Jirou’s headphones spiral in front of her, straighten, then shift abruptly, pointing in a different direction. “This way.”

Kaminari switches lines with her, following down another rabbit hole of circuitry. He’s the hacker. She can get them there.

Kaminari and Jirou both guess that’s why they’d been paired.

They shift again, and their switches are getting shorter. They must be getting close.

Jirou’s ear jacks hit a wall that isn’t pulsing with living energy and blue light ripples out from the point of contact.

Ba-boom ba-boom ba-boom

She pries the jacks loose easily. “This is it.”

“We’re here?”

“We’re here.” Jirou’s headphones retract, and her signature softens as if she is resting, but Kaminari knows that’s not true. She checks her watch. “Plenty of time to spare.”

Kaminari relaxes minutely.

“But Kami, there’s something else.” Jirou’s words have him more tense than before, her words stopping him dead in his tracks.

“What?”

“I think we found its heart.” Jirou’s signature angles upward and her headphones move in the same direction, pointing. “Listen.”

Kaminari does as he’s asked.

Then he hears it.

Ba-boom ba-boom ba-boom

“Oh god.”

Jirou realizes she needs to distract him because she doesn’t need him overthinking things. “Hey, Kami?”

Kaminari’s voice is high and weak when he responds to her. “Hmmmm?”

“Don’t think about that right now. We have to start hacking because,” Kaminari can hear the grin in her voice. “We’ve got some systems to kill.”

 

The Tempest

BA-BOOM BA-BOOM BA-BOOM.

We have to be getting close,” Katsuki says, his voice slightly higher than normal. Only Izuku notices. “I don’t have great vibes about this place and that heartbeat is really freaking me out.”

“We’re going to be okay, Kacchan,” Izuku reassures him, though it’s hard while in a giant alien spacecraft that is also alive. “We’re going to be okay.”

“Whatever you say, Deku,” Katsuki says and grows quiet once more, breathing steadily to the best of his ability.

That’s when they see it. A large room that’s divided into four compartments. Each half consists of two vertical chambers that, when combined, are about eight stories tall. The areas aren’t seperated and lead up into two central pipes that work to pump air in and out of the room to ventilate it. The whole room pulses violently, the ceiling and top areas contracting first and then the bottom ones come after. Together, the heart of the ship moves in a rhythmic motion.

The pairs are situated in the back of the room and only Midoriya is peeking his head out to survey the area. There appear to be two more exits to the room. One is on the left and the other is on the right. Directly across from the pairs is a massive window that looks out into space and serves as one large informational display of system readouts.

Izuku then notices the single figure standing at the central console. The second he takes in the suit and the mask he realizes who he’s staring at.

All for One.

Katsuki notices Izuku’s startle and pulls him back with both hands.

“That’s All for One!” Izuku attempts to shrug off Katsuki’s grip but it only tightens as Katsuki becomes more concerned that his partner is going to charge in without a plan and get himself killed.

“I know, but we have to think about this! You can’t go rushing off without the rest of us just because you have All Might’s powers!” Katsuki’s words sting, and Izuku mentally flinches. “Now tell me, is there anyone else there?”

Izuku’s voice is subdued. “Not that I saw.”

“Check again,” Katsuki orders and releases his grip. Izuku swings his head around and carefully peeks back into the room.

Only to see the words HELLO MIDORIYA IZUKU plastered across the informational screen.

Izuku’s stomach drops as a shudder fights its way down his spine. To his horror, All for One turns around, looking at Izuku for the first time. “It’s good to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you, seen so much. And your nexus compatability…. Good stuff, that is. Now, come here.

Izuku isn’t about to bend to that. “What makes you think—”

There’s a roar from behind them and all the kids turn on their heels to see a Noumu stalking up to them. Before they have time to react, Kirishima is bracing himself next to Todoroki, ready to fight. Todoroki holds out his right hand, aiming a wall of ice in the Noumu’s direction, cold waves rippling outwards until they hit the creature. It’s caught off guard by the ice, but still doesn’t flinch. The blow had hardly been anything to look at, but the shock isn’t what Todoroki is going for.

Another wave shoots out, more concentrated than the other, and the Noumu is fighting the ice, but slowly it’s losing the battle. It takes a minute, but Todoroki soon has the Noumu encased in a layer of ice that Todoroki can then place his hand on and further cool down.

It takes another thirty seconds, but the Noumu is soon frozen solid.

“Kiri, do your worst,” Todoroki says, and hears a scream before the block of ice and the Noumu within, are shattered into pieces. To Todoroki’s right, Kirishima mimes blowing dust off of his fist and deactivates his quirk.

“Nice work dude!”

Todoroki is not amused. “I’m not here for your puns, we have to move on, I hear more—”

Then there are too many Noumu, crowding the pairs and shoving a few to the floor. Sato is having his face growled at and Sero is not too far away. Kirishima and Todoroki have been knocked to the floor and trapped by two Noumu. Iida has Uraraka shoved into the wall to protect her from a single Noumu. Shoji and Ojiro had previously been poised to fight but a Noumu has both of them flat against the floor, growling into their faces.

Shinsou and Koda are stuck between two Noumu. The pair is back to back, and trying not to look too scared. Tokoyami, Yaoyorozu, and Dark Shadow are backed into a corner, and Yaoyorozu is attempting to guard all of them with a staff against two Noumu. Mina, Tsuyu, Hagakure, and Aoyama are crowded by three Noumu who have the four on lockdown. Finally, Mic and Aizawa are surrounded by three Noumu, and one of them is sniffing Aizawa. Aizawa can’t hide a shudder, and he fights back the urge to fight because he knows it will end badly. Katsuki is staying close to Izuku, and is surprised that no Noumu are daring to come close to either of them.

Perhaps the weirdest things of all are the differences between the creatures. Several have wings, one is closer to a snake, another is uncomfortably tall, one has too many legs, and the rest have a wide variety of other deformities. It seems like there isn’t a specific kind of Noumu but that Noumu is the name given to this vast array of creatures.

The only pair not cornered by a Noumu is the Bakugou-Midoriya pair. Izuku is shocked and confused at his situation until he sees All for One step onto center stage and raise one finger, beckoning Izuku forward.

“I said, come here.”

Chapter Text

The Tempest

“Midoriya Izuku and Bakugou Katsuki,” All for One’s voice is smooth. “I was hoping I would get to meet you two.” It pauses, taking another step forward and putting its hands together. “Looks like today is my lucky day.”

Behind them, several of the students make to move to protect the pair that is the subject of All for One’s focus. Kirishima actually shifts forward and the Noumu closest to him growls, moving close, and Kirishima freezes once more.

“All for One,” Izuku says in reply. “I was hoping I would get to meet you,” he cocks a wicked grin, feeling the itch of One for All beneath his skin, ready to strike. “Looks like today is my lucky day.” Izuku wishes he could move forward and smack its mask off of its face, just to see what lies beneath. Then he would kill it for everything that it’s done.

He thinks about it. Lightning would arc across his skin in a green lattice, and the red lines that would spark and trace themselves around his form once, then twice, then three, four, five times…

Then he would scream, the yell enormous in the cavernous space. “JUPITER SMA—!”

There’s a strong hand on his arm pulling Izuku back. He could shake it off and he’s in the act of doing so when he realizes it’s Katsuki. Izuku hadn’t noticed that he’d moved slightly forward in the midst of his murderous daydream.

“I swear you have no sense of preservation,” Katsuki says from under his breath, low enough for only Izuku to hear.

I don’t, Izuku thinks.

But All for One’s attention is still on them, evil and menacing, dark and cruel. Something white and pointed emerges from All for One’s right hand, seemingly from nothing. It flicks its wrist once, and the spear embeds itself in the floor with a twang! Above them the heart of the ship ominously continues it’s thumping, loud and clear.

The next one is not as kind, aimed towards Izuku and Katsuki and the rest of the group behind them. It goes flying, and Katsuki grabs Izuku without thinking, shoving him out the way and then diving to the floor to miss the spear.

“They’re bone spears, idiot! One of his quirks is that he can create them!” Katsuki says while he moves quickly, helping Izuku up the second he can, not even bothering to keep his voice down.

“Good, good,” All for One says and Izuku really wants to punch the alien. But then another spear is pointed at him and he has less than a second to drop to the floor before it goes sailing over his head, thankfully missing the rest of the students. “If you were smart, you’d run.”

Izuku and Katsuki think the same thing, moving away from the students in order to shift All for One’s focus to a point where Katsuki and Izuku’s dodging won’t put them in danger. It’s clear that All for One is focused on them and not the others.

They crowd close to a wall with several glowing green veins traced on its surface. It moves with the rest of the room and Katsuki and Izuku would be lying if they said they’d gotten used to it.

“Not a chance, fuckface.” Katsuki spits and ducks after seeing that All for One is retaliating not with words but with violence. It doesn’t surprise Katsuki when a bone spear comes towards him. Better him than the other pairs or, more importantly, Izuku.

This time Katsuki isn’t fast enough, the spear making contact with Katsuki’s forearm, embedding itself in the space between his bones.

“Kacchan!” Izuku yells, fearing the worst. But Katsuki doesn’t fall. He doesn’t stagger. Instead he waves off Izuku, so glad that it hadn’t been his partner and that Katsuki had been taught proper medical training. He leaves the spear where it is despite wanting to yank out something that once belonged to an alien overlord. He will take care of it later.

“Quit looking at me and look at All for One you idiot!” Katsuki hisses.

Izuku does as he’s told, but his shock remains. The spear hadn’t been poisoned like the one that had hit Nana, which means one thing: All for One isn’t trying to kill them.

Yet.

Izuku voices his realization. “It’s not trying to kill us! It’s trying to weaken us! The spears aren’t poisoned!” Izuku shouts loud enough for his partner to hear. “All for One is after something else!”

Katsuki keeps is eyes on All for One, but wishes he could have looked at Izuku while he says his next statement. “It wants your quirk and your nexus compatibility because you’re a fucking synapse! If you’re dead then it can’t have either!”

Izuku blinks. Of course, it all makes sense now. If All for One could weaken him enough so that he couldn’t move, then it could try to take his quirk and steal his nexus compatibility.

“It won’t get my quirk,” Izuku says with newfound determination in his voice. “I will die before that bastard gets ahold of it.”

“But your nexus compatibility is up for grabs—“

“And that’s our only escape route off this ship.”

Katsuki finds himself nodding. “We don’t know what All for One will do to you to convince you to hand One for All over to it,” Katsuki finishes, horrified at the implications. He can’t let that happen to his partner. They’re a pair, and Katsuki wants to keep it that way. It’s ride or die now. If Katsuki is going to do the former, he’s doing it with every inch of his being and with all the beats of his heart. If Katsuki must do the latter, then he will do it with a grin on his face and a middle finger to the sky.

All for One grants them a slow clap and the sound reverberates due to the nature of the room. “Looks like you two are just as smart as I thought you were,” All for One says, then flicks its wrist at impossible speed.

Before Izuku knows it, a spear buries itself in his right shoulder. He cries out more from shock than pain.

“Dammit,” Izuku says while he rights himself. “We need a plan.”

“No shit, Sherlock!”

The others are still trapped by the Noumu, and the possibility of any of their fellow pairs getting ripped to shreds makes both Izuku and Katsuki sick.

“Darlings, I need you,” All for One whistles and to Izuku and Katsuki’s horror, six Noumu come from the door to the left of Izuku and Katsuki into the room, the thick metal door sliding apart and then back again, not open like the doorway the pairs had arrived through. They hadn’t even made it into the room.

Then there’s an unbelievably loud roar that seemingly comes from every direction.

“Don’t let them escape,” All for One tells the ceiling, the ship, the Noumu that had just growled at them. “Tell me if they do and tell me where they go. More importantly,” it addresses the six Noumu around it and then points one long finger at Izuku. “Bring that one to me.”

Shit shit shit, Katsuki thinks. I can’t protect him against six of them!

Then there’s a growl, and the right side door is opening. The Noumu shift to protect their leader from the oncoming threat and Izuku can’t even fathom what it could be. There’s already too many Noumu and Katsuki is standing next to him, frantically assessing all of the threats that surround them.

But it’s not a threat. It’s the opposite.

A familiar blonde figure steps through the smoke in the door, and All for One actually takes a step back, not out of fear, but shock. The newcomer is grinning, bright and proud, and wearing a hero uniform that Izuku had never thought he would see in person.

“All for One, I am here.” All Might grins harder and levels his gaze at the villain. “Don’t you dare hurt them.”

The Noumu step forward, growling as they stalk towards the hero. All for One moves with them, and All Might stands tall, avoiding the instinctive desire to cower in fear and covers it with that trademark grin that he’s so well known for.

All for One stops and laughs. “All Might? Is that you? It’s been a while. Ten years, actually, if I recall.

Don’t forget about all the times you went after Young Midoriya in the nexus, All Might thinks but doesn’t say. He shrugs. “Something like that.”

“But I hear this whole time…” All for One begins, voice twisted through the mask. “No, I’ll ask you. What have you been up to, hero? ”

All Might narrows his eyes. “Imagining ten million different methods to put you away for good.” All Might neglects to tell him about the fifty million ways he’d imagined killing him.

All for One throws its hands up to either side, gesturing loosely to the area around them. “What, no hero work? Surely you managed to save one person? Just one?” All for One mocks. All Might visibly cringes, unable to mask the urge, not with how much it hurts. “No. This whole time,” One of the Noumu sneers at him. “For a whole decade.” There’s a rustling behind the overlord, the sound of an opening door, and the residual steam in the air is too dense for All Might to see what’s going on behind his enemy immediately.

But then he sees that it’s not just a Noumu that’s moving through that door.

“For ten years of your miserable, pathetic life…”

It’s not a Noumu that’s making such a helpless whimper of pain.

“You’ve just been doing one thing…”

It’s not just a Noumu that moves to stand next to All for One, broken and crying.

All Might isn’t frozen, but All for One directly blocks his path to the skinny figure, his friend, his mentor, and his brain just stops functioning entirely.

He thought she was dead.

He thought he would never find—

All for One puts its hand on Nana’s shoulder.

“Looking for something, All Might?”

-x-

Izuku stares at the situation unfolding in front of him. While he’d never seen a picture of Shimura Nana or been given a description of her, there was no doubt in Izuku’s mind that the woman the Noumu is dragging in its grasp is Nana. Nana, who is so thin that Izuku gets nauseous thinking about when she must have last eaten something and she’s so pale that he’s sure that all she’s seen is darkness. She’s not even trying to fight the Noumu hanging onto her, just struggling to keep up with it. She trips and falls, too weak to stay up for long, and lets out a cry as she makes impact with the metal grating that makes up the floor of the spacecraft. The Noumu doesn’t blink before it hauls her to her feet and keeps going, making a beeline towards All for One.

Katsuki takes notice of Izuku’s fixation. “Deku, what the fuck are you doing?” He whacks his partner in between his shoulder blades, but Izuku doesn’t look away. He can’t afford to.

Izuku sees that All Might has the entirety of All for One’s focus, which means that not only is he not watching Katsuki, but he’s not watching Izuku either. All for One had lost interest in the synapse he’d wanted so badly until a few seconds ago.

Interesting.

Izuku takes in his surroundings without looking at Katsuki and tells him, “I’m planning, there’s an opening.”

“What?” Katsuki says, hope in his voice. “To kill All for One?”

Izuku sees Nana again, tired, weary, sick. “No, to save the girl.”

Katsuki wants to punch something but refrains, especially since what he had wanted to punch had been Izuku. “We have to kill All for One, we can’t be wasting time—”

“It will get what’s coming to it,” Izuku interrupts him with ease, voice oddly steady. “Now, listen very carefully. If everything works, we might be able to take out All for One too…”

-x-

“Toshinori!” Aizawa yells over the comms. “Toshinori!

“What?” All Might’s voice is too quiet for Aizawa to hear, so he shouts louder this time.

TOSHINORI!”

“WHAT?!”

Don’t go after her. I know you, do. Not. Go. After. Her! That’s an order! I don’t care how rogue you’ve been, that’s an order!” Aizawa commands. “You will die!”

“It’s Nana, Aizawa, I have to—”

The alien overlord suddenly cuts in. “All Might, who are you talking to? Because it certainly isn’t me.” All for One is not amused by All Might’s conversation.

Before All Might can answer, there’s a sudden burst of quick footsteps headed towards the villain, and an explosion rings out.

DIE!” Katsuki screams, flying towards All for One and going way too fast.

“Young Bakugou!” All Might screams.

Izuku is already running towards the other pairs.

 

Several Minutes Earlier

The Tempest

“You can’t be serious, this is never going to work, you haven’t even mastered your fucking quirk!” Katsuki does his best not to yell, wishing he could grab onto the collar of Izuku’s jumpsuit and pull him onto his tiptoes. “There’s no fucking way! I’m saying no.

“But he’s distracted and we have to try!” Izuku hisses.

Then Izuku smiles, and Katsuki realizes he’s lost and sighs in defeat. Izuku always had been better at stretegizing than him, so if anyone is going to improvise a plan to defeat All for One it’s going to be Izuku. “Okay, shitnerd. Go for it.”

 

Present Time

“—DIE!” Katsuki comes flying through the explosion that had paved his path and All for One narrowly dodges the blast to land a hit on Katsuki’s spine. The boy staggers but straightens despite the pain and does his best to get All for One to move closer to him and away from Nana.

The overlord produces a bone spear and before Katsuki knows it, he’s got one hand blocking the hit with an explosion headed towards All for One.

The spear never arrives.

Katsuki glances at his hand, looks around him, and figures out quickly that he’d incinerated the spear in midair with his quirk.

Katsuki smiles wickedly. Time to get started, he thinks.

“Go to hell you alien fucktard,” Katsuki says, holding one hand out in front of him and using his other to brace it, unleashing an explosion that hits just to the right of All for One.

“Missed me!” All for One all but cackles.

Far from it, bastard, Katsuki thinks.

Katsuki glares, gearing up to fake anger—it’s not hard—shouting a loud and vengeful, fuck!”

Follow the plan. Follow the plan, he reminds himself. Izuku needs him. He can do this.

Katsuki dodges another bone spear, not needing to waste an explosion on it this time. All for One still lands another hit, though, and Katsuki lets himself stumble a little for dramatic effect and gears up to fire another.

Repeat.

-x-

“Now, Kirishima!” Todoroki shouts, relaying Izuku’s signal, the ice leaving his fingertips as he begins to warm himself with his left side. He can feel the urge to cough up frost getting stronger, his lungs feeling the burn of too much ice within them.

Kirishima happily plays his familiar role, hardening a foot, jumping and kicking at the frozen Noumu before them, his custom iron boots working to shatter it into thousands of pieces thanks to his—literally—rock hard reinforcements.

He pretends to dust off his hands again and gives Todoroki a thumbs up.

Nearby Iida is distracting the Noumu by speeding around it. Then, when Uraraka sees an opportunity, she touches the creature, causes it to rise up, and then drops it back down. She repeats those two actions until it’s unconscious or too weak to continue. Finally, she removes her hard light blade from her pocket, switches it on, and decaptitates the Noumu like Aizawa had taught her. After that, she promptly throws up, stands, and gets ready to deal with the next one.

Aizawa and Mic are tag teaming their Noumu much like they did during the first invasion except this time, they’re better.

Mic waits until he can get the Noumu between him and a wall—so that he doesn’t risk hitting anyone else with his quirk—and then yells, activating his power. While the alien is distracted, Aizawa comes from behind, wraps his scarves around the Noumu and pulls them tight. Mic moves in, his own hard light blade in hand, and severs its head from his neck much like what Uraraka had done. After the first invasion, the pair doesn’t take any chances.

The three pairs move down the line, assisting Sato and Sero so that Aizawa and Sero can tie up the Noumu while Mic decapitates it.

Mina and Tsuyu are working to burn and distract their Noumu, respectively. Aizawa and Sero take over, and the Noumu is quickly disarmed and killed. Close to them, Hagakure is weaving through the Noumu, easily using her hard light blade to slice through the creature’s brains, saving Shinsou and Kouda, and then Shoji and Ojiro.

Dark shadow rises and hisses, which momentarily scares their Noumu. Yaoyorozu makes quick work of the alien, killing it easily while making sure Tokoyami is kept safe and away from immediate danger.

“Looks like we still have six to take care of.” Mic points towards the Noumu closest to All for One.

“Six?” Mina gets into a running position and Tsuyu does the same next to her. “That’s nothing.”

Explosions continue in the distance, and the pairs fight on.

-x-

“You fucking bastard, just die already!” Katsuki yells. Throwing another explosion, he’s realizing his acting doesn’t need as much help. He’s starting to get tired.

Deku, hurry the fuck up.

-x-

Izuku is concentrating.

The lightning under my skin, feel it move and pulse and flow. Once it’s spread to every corner of my body, let it shift to the surface and break free, Izuku thinks as he centers himself, trying to focus amidst the chaos around him.

The first green spark and flash of red in his vision has Izuku breathing a sigh of relief. The second has him inhaling in preparation and the third is full cowl.

He’s ready.

He waits until Katsuki can meet his eyes. His partner had been waiting and Izuku is happy to give a discrete nod. Katsuki gets the message, looking away from his partner to continue distracting All for One. He moves, shifting the overlord’s attention until All for One’s back is to All Might. The action finally gives All Might an opening.

All Might doesn’t like being helpless, no matter how weak he is.

To Katsuki’s relief, All Might acts how Izuku had predicted he would and runs directly towards All for One’s back.

“UNIVERSE SMASH!” He yells, making contact with All for One’s spine.

But even with the force of the blow All for One hardly staggers, turning on All Might with the glare of a thousand fiery suns as Katsuki is forgotten. All Might’s face is one of horror.

Izuku starts running.

“Not as strong as you used to be, hero,” All for One taunts, facing All Might fully. “You thought you could beat me with that?”

All Might sees Izuku and suddenly realizes his plan. He knew he’d picked a smart one.

“No,” All Might grin is wide, looking right at Izuku. “But he can.”

All for One figures it out, but it's too late. Izuku is already in the air, one supercharged fist pulled back as he screams, “TERRA FIRMA SMAAAAAAASH!”

Izuku’s fist is in its face, knocking it off his feet and leaving it reeling.

They have All for One.

They have All for One.

The overlord is grinning while it clutches its face and Izuku, All Might, and Katsuki, all wonder why until they realize they’d forgotten about All for One’s most loyal apprentice: Shigaraki Tomura, a nexus genius and a synapse that’s an expert at pulling and pushing people in and out of the electronic realm.

Three meters away from the small group is a nexus terminal, one that Shigaraki has no problem jumping out of. Hands fly out in all directions, planting themselves on the chests of anyone who stands in his way and pushing.

He grabs All for One first. Shigaraki is strong when his own inherent strength is combined with the power of his extra, disembodied hands. The Noumu holding Nana follows All for One and Shigaraki into the nexus terminal, and Nana’s distant scream echoes out of the terminal.

“No!” All Might chases after them despite knowing his efforts are in vain.

Izuku dashes, doesn’t blink, grabs Katsuki, and dives in after Shigaraki.

Todoroki and Kirishima link hands and grab Katsuki’s outstretched hand and jump, following Izuku and Katsuki without hesitation.

Tokoyami and Momo run, Dark Shadow yelling whoops of glee as they move through the portal, forms gaining access to to Izuku’s perfect nexus compatibility through Kirishima.

Mina hops on Tsuyu’s back as she grabs Tokoyami’s hand, and they leap.

Mic moves forward then, stopping Shoji from grabbing Tsuyu’s hand and breaking the link to the synapse.

“Stay here,” Aizawa orders. “We need to keep this area clear of Noumu so that they,” Aizawa gestures to the terminal. “Can get out safely. Got it?”

“Yes, Aizawa-sensei!” The team repeats back.

“All Might, you need to stay here too,” Mic reminds him once he spots the older man inching towards the terminal. There’s a warning in his voice and it’s not lost on All Might.

All Might thinks about it and considers. He could stay here, fighting with the students, but he would never forgive himself if Nana doesn’t survive this.

“You know how much Nana means to me.” All Might says, taking another step towards the terminal despite Aizawa’s silent warning.

“All Might you can’t.” Aizawa says again, taking two steps forward. All Might takes three back. He’s almost there. Aizawa abruptly realizes he’s not going to be able to stop him. If All Might so much as touched the terminal he could patch in within the space of a heartbeat, a privilege Aizawa doesn’t have. “You don’t have to do this. Those kids will save her. Izuku will save her. Trust me.

All Might realizes he already made the final decision in this situation years ago. For the first time since she had been taken, he has a chance.

“Mic, Aizawa, young warriors—” All Might begins.

“No!” Aizawa raises his voice, moving forward to try and stop him, scarves flying out as All Might reaches terminal, one hand moving towards it. “Don’t you dare!”

“—I’m sorry.”

All Might makes contact, jumps, and the electronic plane welcomes him.

Chapter Text

Ten Years Ago

The International Space Station

Toshinori sits in Recovery Girl’s office in the International Space Station. It’s tiny and cramped, but she doesn’t need much space to do her work. He’s meeting with her in secret, his ship docked outside. The crew knows something is up, but what little they know they’ve already been sworn into secrecy by Nedzu himself.

“Toshinori,” she says. “How many times have you patched in since she disappeared?”

“I’ve lost count.” He says quietly.

“Your nexus vibrations are spotty,” she removes her hand from where it had been resting on Toshinori’s forearm, a place she often used to sense the subtle vibrations present in those with Nexus Compatibility. For Toshinori, they also matched his regular, physical vibrational level due to his quirk. “You’re losing strength.”

Toshinori gave a mental halt. “What does that mean for One for All? Am I going to lose it?”

“It means it’s time for you to pass it on, dear. Because you’re not going to be able to maintain your hero form much longer and you won’t be able to patch in soon enough.”

“I’m not ready for that!”

“Doesn’t matter, you don’t have a choice,” she counters.

“How soon?”

“Years. Not many. More if you quit patching in so much. Less if you do.”

Toshinori sighs.

 

Five Years Ago

The International Space Station

Toshinori again sits on the patient bed in Recovery Girl’s room on the ISS. The crew is new, but she remains.

“Toshinori, you’re running out of time. Down to four hours now, and patching in takes much longer. Your nexus compatibility is suffering,” she explains.

“I have to keep going,” he says. “She’s out there.”

“You’re being stupid.”

“I know.”

“What are you going to do if you can’t save her?”

Toshinori pauses to think and then says, “There is no ‘can’t’. As long as I am here, there’s hope.”

Recovery Girl sighs. She never could stop him.

 

Two Months Ago

The International Space Station

They wheel him in onto the ISS on a stretcher. Recovery Girl is running as quick as she can because Toshinori is barely breathing.

She gets to him and gives him a big kiss on the forehead, hoping it’s enough.

“He flatlined for five minutes,” one of the medical technicians says. “We tried defibrillation but it didn’t work.”

“Then how did he come back?”

“We don’t know.”

Nexus vibrations. If Toshinori used all of his base vibration to fuzz out, then he’d flatline externally, which means he’s run out of time, Recovery Girl concludes. It only happens with synapses and she only knows because she’s dealt with them for most of her life.

“I’m not questioning it. Wheel him back closer to my room. I’ll keep an eye on him. Thank you, gentlemen,” she requests.

“But he’s flatlining—” a technician objects.

“He’ll be back,” she fixes him with a stern glare. “Trust me.”

As if to make her point, Toshinori’s heart comes back online in a weak but steady rhythm. They comply after that and a barely conscious but recovering Toshinori is wheeled away and soon awoken with a few light but chiding slaps to the face.

“You can’t patch into the nexus anymore,” she says.

Toshinori’s heart speeds up. “And if I do?”

“You won’t be able to fuzz out again. You’ll be stuck there, you’ll flatline here, and most importantly you won’t come back.” She explains. “It happened to one of your predecessors, so don’t push yourself too hard or I can’t save you!”

“But I have to—”

“Look for her in this world!” Recovery Girl says. Toshinori sits up. “And stop looking like a sick puppy. You’re All Might for heaven’s sake.”

“I am not him,” Toshinori grits his teeth. “Not until I save her.”

“Whatever you say, dearie,” she says, shaking her head.

 

Present Day

The Proximal Nexus

Izuku feels the tug and the pull of the nexus, pushing him too much all at once. He hears the color seven and tastes the sound of green, and then the XYZ grid of the nexus fills his vision, shooting out in all directions like a cubic spider web of intricate Technicolor lines. The circuitry of All for One’s systems are interspersed with more solid signatures. Like the Noumu in real life, the fragments of the Noumu in the nexus beat, amplifying the already present thumping.

He’s in.

The second their forms stabilize, he can feel Katsuki attempting to move away from his signature. Not far, but far enough away that Izuku can’t sync with him. The crystalline network of naturally reddened pixels is the only indicator that Katsuki is still present before Izuku.

“Kacchan, we need to sync,” Izuku says, slightly annoyed.

“Fuck no, we need to fight.” Katsuki’s signature flares outwards in a familiar anger, the red intensifying briefly. His voice cracks, goes static and less dynamic. Izuku can hardly make out his words. “And I really think we need to be apart for that!”

Izuku’s own body glimmers, and the red lines of One for All brighten and dim once, Izuku’s own version of impatience.

“We’ll be able to! But I want you at my side for this. If we combine Explosion with One for All we can take All for One down.” Izuku charges his crimson-traced body with pixelated green lightning, exclusively to make a point to Katsuki that he has a quirk and isn’t worthless to Katsuki. They’d made a lot of growth in the last year, but change doesn’t happen overnight, not in Katsuki’s actions and not in Izuku’s well-ingrained patterns of thinking.

“I am not your sidekick,” Katsuki says and Izuku rolls his eyes. That hadn’t been what he’d meant at all “If anything you’re mine.” Katsuki’s signature flickers again and Izuku crosses his arms, disappointment clear. It’s told by the slouching of his form and there’s a hint of desperation in Izuku’s voice. This is All for One.

“Kacchan, please.”

Katsuki’s form freezes.

He doesn’t like it when Izuku begs. Not anymore. It isn’t supposed to happen anymore. Katsuki knows that. He’s not an idiot.

Well, fuck, Katsuki thinks and accepts his fate.

Katsuki floats over to Izuku, intent obvious as he shifts coordinates to line up his signature with Izuku’s own. Izuku’s red lines flicker in gratitude, and Katsuki relaxes slightly.

Slightly.

The signature extends and Izuku reaches out and takes it, letting it overlap with his own. The two boys focus on matching the other’s vibrations, and after Izuku sees a flash of crimson that burns behind his eyes, he knows Katsuki is there.

Hey, Deku? Katsuki asks, their pair bond open.

Hmmm?

Go fuck yourself, he says. 

Izuku knows he’s far from serious and smirks, knowing Katsuki can feel it, Welcome back, Kacchan.

It’s then that Izuku and Katsuki see Nana and All for One in the distance, along with Shigaraki and the Noumu that had dragged Nana into the nexus. Purple lines much like Izuku’s crimson ones, move across the surface of Nana’s signature, their glow weak.

All Might appears next to Izuku, his own form laced in yellow energy that burns as bright as his smile, which is vague but readable on his form. Behind them, Momo and Tokoyami have synced, Dark Shadow before them. Nearby, Mina and Tsuyu have synced as well, and Todoroki and Kirishima have opted to stay apart as per their chief fighting style to defend the Noumu.

“What’s the plan, boss?” Kirishima calls out, a wicked grin evident in his voice. His vaguely reddish form shines strong from next to Todoroki’s bi-colored one. The white side still burns a little brighter than the red side, despite Izuku’s efforts during the games.

“Get our fucking asses in gear and take down the alien fucktard!” Katsuki takes over the majority of his and Izuku’s shared voice, but the voice still sounds like a combination of the two because technically it is.

I hate it when you make us cuss like that! Stop it! Izuku’s inner voice screams.

Okay, Katsuki would be lying if there isn’t a part of him that likes teasing the other boy. Just a little.

And I hate it when you don’t cuss! Katsuki shoots back.

At this point Izuku figures out what’s happening and decides not to play Katsuki’s little game. He moves, and Katsuki screams in his head. Holy shit, your response sucks!

Don’t even get me started, Izuku tells him. You’ll get used to it.

“Looks like there are Noumu on the way,” the Mina-Tsuyu pair says before Katsuki can talk back to Izuku. “Twelve now, but there’s probably more. We don’t even know how many All for One has.” Their blended pink and green signature spirals nervously.

They’re the best of the best. The best that the world has to offer.

And they can defeat these things, because they know how.

The Noumu move forward, and the pairs get ready to fight them, All Might included.

“Go, Midoriya!” the Tokoyami-Yaoyorozu pair shouts, electronic voice stretching much farther than necessary thanks to Dark Shadow’s relay. “We got these covered!”

Izuku hesitates, not liking the idea of leaving his fellow pairs with not one, but twelve Noumu. Katsuki catches on to his hesitation and is having none of it.

You wanted to save the girl, right? Katsuki plays the angle Izuku is most weak to, and it works.

Kacchan—

You can save her now, and you can defeat All for One, Katsuki tells him, inner voice steady. We have to move. How much time do we have?

Izuku and Katsuki check their electronic watch manifestation, a hologram on Izuku’s signature where his wrist should be.

Enough, Izuku says internally, even though he knows Katsuki had seen it the second Izuku had.

 

The Distal Nexus

“Were running out of time.” Jirou glances at Kaminari, the detonator in her hands. Kaminari has his hand outstretched in front of him, ready to prime the systems for explosion. After he sets off a web of electrical current, Jirou would use the detonator—a device specially designed to travel in the wakes of Kaminari’s quirk—to chase his sparks and set off an explosion that would detonate the ship from the inside.

But they’re running out of time and both of them can only pray that the others are keeping up with their end of the plan.

“I hope Midoriya knows what he’s doing.” Yellow sparks dance nervously on the periphery of Kaminari’s signature.

“We can do this Kami, I know we can,” Jirou reassures.

“I know.”

 

The Proximal Nexus

Shigaraki Tomura is fast in the nexus. With his hands, he can grab onto lines and ride the pulse grid at speeds that rival Ingenium. Shigaraki is fast enough to catch anyone he wants.

Or fly past the Bakugou-Midoriya pair so fast that they can’t see him.

Hands clamp around the Mina-Tsuyu pair to immobilize them, and then Shigaraki’s own hands are wrapped around their signature—minus one finger—and then he’s pulling them them to an improvised gate, forcing them to fuzz out.

On the other side of the portal is a room with a locked door. Without a synapse, they’re trapped, and Shigaraki’s plan succeeds.

Back in the nexus, Shigaraki gives his accomplice a thumbs up.

Kurogiri, you’ve never been more useful. Shigaraki smiles,and his hands return to him, finding their homes easily and without resistance, spinning around his nexus form violently.

He goes back in for round two.

-x-

Izuku and Katsuki turn around and see what had flown past them. To their horror, they find Shigaraki—with hands oscillating around him—headed towards the Tokoyami-Momo pair, whose backs are to the villain as they fight off a Noumu, Dark Shadow’s nexus manifestation roaring something awful in its face, distracting the alien in a roaring match.

“Tokoyami!” Katsuki and Izuku shout. “Get the fuck out of the way! On your six!”

Tokoyami and Momo turn around and see Shigaraki and Dark Shadow lets out a small shriek of fright because Shigaraki’s nexus form isn’t just scary, it’s terrifying. His hands are enough to make anyone take a step back, even a creature of the darkness himself. They fly out in all directions from his form in a deadly dance that traces something akin to the connecting threads of a spiderweb. The result is something looking far too physical,

“Come quietly and I won’t make it hurt,” Shigaraki tells them, one of his hands shooting up to the grid. A line pixelates, destroyed, and Tokoyami and Yaoyorozu’s synced eyes widen without resistance from either party.

“His quirk!” Izuku and Katsuki’s voice breaks through the Tokoyami-Yaoyorozu pair’s horror. Katsuki lets Izuku take over and their voice more resembles the green haired boy than the spikey blonde. “It decays things. Anything! Including you!”

Shigaraki smiles without using his eyes and gets the bright idea to echo his master’s words from before. “If you were smart, you’d run.”

“Not a chance in hell,” Dark Shadow speaks for the group right before something shatters into a million pixels not too far from them.

Kirishima and Todoroki are performing the nexus equivalent of how they defeat Noumu in the overworld.

There’s a frigid wave of cold that radiates out from where Todoroki’s coordinates are, and it’s followed by another, and another, until their next target is frozen in a crystalline and digital pattern of ice white pixels. Kirishima hardens his signature and where his arm should be is an area that’s shifted into strong polygons of rock hard force and potential.

The waves of cold cease and Kirishima comes zooming up behind Todoroki.

But Todoroki doesn’t move.

In the blink of an eye, Kirishima, in fighting form, moves though Todoroki, snapping into sync with him. Then together with the force of Todoroki’s continued ice to keep the Noumu cold, and Kirishima’s fist of rock, the two punch the creature. The Noumu shatters and pixelates, evaporating into dust that will be reabsorbed into the rest of the nexus.

They de-sync and move to the next Noumu and repeat the process. Something like ice frosts briefly on Kirishima’s right side, but it dissapears just as fast.

Izuku and Katsuki abruptly realize that someone is missing.

All Might! They scream to one another in unison.

-x-

All Might throws another failing hit, yellow pixels streaming in the wake of his fist, and All for One shoves him to the ground with a kick to the back. He flies through several gridlines, coughs up blood, and gets up slowly. His enemy lets him, far too amused by the whole situation and clearly not considering the possibility that All Might could be a real threat.

Then again, when All Might can only be in his hero form for a few seconds at a time, he’s hardly a challenge and more of an annoyance. All Might stands up, trying to ignore his screaming muscles and how much it hurts to breathe.

“Do you not learn?” All for One says. “You’ve lost and you’re dying! I won’t even have to be the one to kill you, you’re probably going to keel over and expire before I get a chance to kill your friend here.” All for One considers All Might, who is moving up the gridlines so that he’s on equal ground with the other. “But that would be no fun.” All for One kicks him again and All Might skids backward. By the time he’s up again, All for One has brought forward one Noumu to flank its left and another on its right. All Might remembers why he’s here because he suddenly sees Nana next to a third Nomu where All for One threatens her with a bone spear.

All Might doesn’t dare move.

Yet.

The hero’s voice is raspy when he speaks, still broken from the coughing fit he’d experienced earlier. But he still yells as loud as he can, despite the risk of another. “Why would I ‘learn’ when you’re hurting those I care about? There’s no learning. It’s called not accepting defeat!” All Might shouts back at it, smile broad on his face. Praying he makes it in time, he rushes forward, aiming to tackle All for One to the ground. But the alien had seen him coming, and dodges out of the way. All Might crashes to the grid below him again and he hears a cry of pain from Nana.

All Might hadn’t saved her. He hadn’t saved her again.

For the first time ever, All Might realizes he’s fighting a losing fight and he’s in way over his head. He can’t win this, not with how much that monster is predicting his moves and fighting him so efficiently.

Or, All Might has to face that he really is too weak for hero work, that Recovery Girl had been right when she'd said that he needed to find a successor.

He needs to trust Young Midoriya.

It shakes All Might off, and All for One knocks him to the ground. In full view of the hero, All for One produces another bone spear, drags Nana out of the Noumu’s grasp, and wraps one arm around her, pointing a bone spear directly to her throat.

Izuku and Katsuki see all of this as they approach the situation.

Izuku thinks about it and takes everything in. There’s three Noumu, and all are physically unoccupied. All for One has Nana in its grasp, but as much as it’s threatening Nana, its front is exposed. All Might is out of its direct path, so if they make a beeline, they should be able to hit it. It would knock Nana back as well, but it might let go of her out of shock which would make her all the more easier to catch and them to escape.

Behind them, they hear a shriek, and a brief glance back reveals that the Tokoyami-Yaoyorozu pair is another victim of Shigaraki’s plan.

Now it’s up to Kirishima and Todoroki to hold him off and keep him distracted.

Todoroki meets eyes with the pair briefly, gives a quick nod, and syncs then de-syncs with Kirishima once more.

Izuku begins. You know what we should—

Deku, I’m in your fucking head. I see your plan. Let’s just do it already.

Izuku smiles. Thanks, Kacchan.

Izuku feels fire in his palms that’s not his own, and he activates full cowl, his humanoid form glowing green with the energy produced and the ever-present red lines brightening to a blinding extent. Katsuki’s fire meets his lightning in a dance of flame and electrical potential.

Katsuki would be lying if he said that it isn’t the best feeling in the entire world. To feel such strength bubbling under the surface and to know that there’s a glow that’s coming from Izuku and only Izuku. It’s incredible, and Katsuki wouldn’t trade it for the world, wouldn’t trade Izuku for the world.

Ready? Izuku asks.

Ready, Katsuki replies without hesitation, and braces himself, letting Izuku takes the wheel and trusting him with it.

The nexus is movement without resistance, wind without a breeze to follow, an odd place where things don’t make sense, not really.

But One for All knows the logic of it. One for All is built for the nexus.

No.

The nexus is built for One for All.

Izuku doesn’t even need a gridline to move, doesn’t need any surface, he just flies, and Katsuki wants to scream because it’s so fucking fast. His senses are crossed so hard that they’re tangled and Katsuki doesn’t even know what he’s supposed to feel anymore, just what he’s supposed to do.

Izuku’s arm is synced perfectly with his own and in the blink of an eye, an explosion is lit and firing, and he knows full well that they will make contact with All for One right as it detonates. They both know the limits of their quirks, and that’s what makes it beautiful, when All for One is literally blown off of its feet and sent tumbling backward, head over foot, over and over again.

Before Katsuki and Izuku can metaphorically breathe, there’s a disturbance in the nexus close to them. It doesn’t shock them that it’s Shigaraki moving towards them at blinding speeds. Further glancing results in seeing Kirishima and Todoroki had been dragged away too, freeing up Shigaraki so that he can make a beeline right for Izuku and Katsuki.

Who are right where All for One had been, and right where Nana is.

Without warning, Izuku flies off the plan, desyncing himself from Katsuki, and Katsuki’s form flickers in confusion.

“What are you doing, dipshit?!” Katsuki yells, a trace amount of green lightning flying across his signature. He’s moving towards Izuku, who is moving just as quickly backward and keeping an eye on Shigaraki, in an attempt to re-sync with him. “We have to—”

Izuku insists, frantic and frustrated, but resolute. “Save her! Save her dammit!” Izuku points at Nana, the fire in his palms lightning and diminishing once more. “You said we could save the girl, now do it!”

Izuku feels One for All flood his veins and he glows again, picking up Nana and throwing her towards Katsuki as hard as he can, trusting that his partner will catch her.

Izuku can’t see it, but he does, and from where he stands, Shigaraki attaches one hand to Izuku’s ankle, and then the grid from under him is swept away, and he’s being dragged at dizzying speeds through the nexus. He tries to throw off the hand, but he can’t lean forward far enough to even touch it, even with the power of One for All.

He sees the gate ahead and Izuku doesn’t want to know what’s on the other side, but he also knows he doesn’t get to decide that.

“You’re going to die, kid,” Shigaraki says to him, voice calm and quiet. Without warning, he laughs uncontrollably, maniacally, because the prospect of killing Izuku might be the greatest thing that will ever happen to him.

Izuku freezes. Somehow the Noumu wanting to kill him hadn’t been this bad. But this was a human with a quirk who wanted him dead.

And he couldn’t stop them. Izuku couldn’t stop him.

And Shigaraki was ahead of Izuku, flying before him, aiming to get through the gate before he did, and Izuku wouldn’t be able to stop Shigaraki from placing one hand on him and disintegrating every bone in his body. He might be able to stop him from getting the whole thing, but not without losing a limb, or his stomach like All Might, or his head…

“Deku!” Katsuki’s voice rings out. It’s quiet from how far away Katsuki is from him now, but it’s enough to switch the tracks of Izuku’s thinking. “You’re not allowed to give up!”

No, Izuku thinks to himself, kicking himself into action. I have people counting on me. Kacchan is counting on me. The other pairs are counting on me. The teachers are counting on me. Nana is counting on me.

All Might is counting on me.

He believed I was worthy of this quirk, of this power, and I can’t let him down. I can’t let any of them down.

Izuku does what All Might does best.

He smiles. Even though he’s afraid, he smiles.

So he shifts, letting the hand pull him and not resisting it. Carefully, he pulls back the leg that isn’t in Shigaraki’s grip and does his best to keep the other one unlocked, ready to kick. He pulls his arms close to his chest, lets One for All spark in his veins, feels the lightning cover him, and waits.

What Izuku had thought to be a nexus gate doesn’t feel like a terminal at all. Passing through it feels cold and dark and it tastes like silver and black, like tar and rotten chicken and lime.

When the synesthesia starts to lessen, Izuku’s foot makes contact with Shigaraki’s chest. The air leaves the villain’s lungs in a rush and he flies back against the wall in the small space.

He must have been planning to catch me, Izuku thinks and then notices that all around him are the other pairs that had been taken. To his further shock, the ones who had stayed back with Mic and Aizawa are also in the room. Izuku doesn’t even want to think about how they’d been brought down, as Shouji is limping, leaning on Shinsou who sports two black eyes.

But Shigaraki is getting up, having survived the blow and runs towards Izuku. He tries to dodge, but Tsuyu is in the way and there’s nowhere to go, not with how little room he has. He’s backing up, trying to put some distance betweent them while knowing he won’t be fast enough.

A hand closes around Izuku’s left forearm, and it turns to dust, traveling up past his elbow, and then—

Whack!

Shigaraki’s eyes close and his hand disconnects from Izuku’s arm. He crumples to the ground at Izuku’s feet and those around him automatically move back from where the villain had fallen.

Uraraka is standing behind Shigaraki’s unconscious form and staring at his arm, horrified. The hand that had been formed into a fist shifts to point. “Izuku! Izuku!”

Izuku looks at his arm, sees it, and decides he has to worry about it later. It’s not bleeding, so it can wait. It has to wait.

He’s too shocked to do anything else.

Izuku looks at his watch, and sees that they have less than a minute.

He can only pray that Katsuki and Nana make it out.

“Come on! We have to go! This ship is going to blow in thirty!” Izuku yells, holding out his remaining hand.

“But Midoriya,” Tsuyu looks at the stump of his arm nervously. “Your arm—”

Izuku fights down the urge to cry. Not yet, he says. Not now.

“We have to go. Grab my hand and hang on tight,” he orders, shaking his hand. “Unless you want to die in a fiery ball of death.”

It’s enough for Tsuyu. She grabs onto Izuku’s hand with all of her might, and the others follow, grabbing onto hers until everyone is in a neat line behind the synapse. Izuku sees a terminal in the room, makes contact with the nexus port through his forehead—“Izuku, that’s crazy!”— and after mentally crossing his fingers that the others do as they’re told and hang on as tight as they can, he jumps in and runs.

 

The Proximal Nexus

Izuku moves quickly, one foot on a nexus pulse and then when he can’t move any quicker he shifts to another. Without air resistance the others can hang on and follow, but not much more than that. He can hear their screams of worry, horror, and glee as he jumps from one pulse to another, One for All thick in his veins.

“Fifteen seconds!” Izuku shouts. “Hang on!”

He grits his teeth, shifts One for All into his legs, green lightning flickering in his wake, and speeds up.

Something itches at his left side, and to his surprise, Izuku sees that he has an arm there. It ripples with energy, glitching, but Izuku can move it.

Good to know, Izuku thinks, grinning as he gets an idea.

-x-

Katsuki stalks over to All for One’s fallen form, the Noumu around it parting ways for Katsuki without guidance from their leader. It stirs, much to Katsuki’s disgust. He primes an explosion, palm aimed in All for One’s direction, just to be safe.

All for One looks up at Katsuki. “You don’t have the guts.”

“To what? Kill you?” Katsuki nudges it with one steel toed boot. It makes a noise of discomfort and Katsuki somehow isn’t overcome with glee at the prospect.

“Yes,” All for One rasps out, coughing. “You aren’t strong enough.”

“I don’t have to be.” Katsuki swings back one leg and kicks All for One right in the face, knocking it out cold.

“Kacchan!” Izuku’s familiar voice calls out. “Ten!”

Katsuki shifts into action and focuses on Nana and All Might but remembers he doesn’t have the nexus compatibility to escape even if he can get a hold of them. He needs a synapse, especially one to move that fast, and Izuku is already gone, and—

“I'm here, Young Bakugou,” All Might says, standing tall in his hero form as he effortlessly swings Nana carefully over one shoulder. “Consider saving you my last act of heroism.”

Before Katsuki can object, he’s being thrown over All Might’s other shoulder and moving faster than he can blink. Faster than Izuku. Faster than—

Katsuki wants to throw up.

 

The Distal Nexus

“We’ve got five seconds,” Jirou looks at her partner and gestures to the detonator. “You ready?”

Kaminari takes in what counts as a breath. “Does it matter?”

Jirou’s soft smile is the last thing Kaminari sees before his vision goes white and he tastes pink as hard as he can, sending out a shockwave.

He can vaguely feel the pulse of the detonations from distant circuits of the nexus, individual grid lines and circuits turning white before pixelating soundlessly.

Jirou embraces him in one big hug and blinding light envelops them both.

-x-

“The explosions, Deku!” Uraraka shouts from behind Izuku as he jumps to another pulse. Flares of light are flashing behind them. “Kaminari and Jirou! They—” she holds back the itch of tears. “We have to move faster!”

Izuku suddenly takes another leap, landing on the next pulse with both feet and catching a circuit. He switches lines, turning back into the ship, away from their escape, and towards the source of the explosions.

“Deku, what are you doing?” Uraraka screams, helpless to change their flight path. “Deku! Can’t you hear me? What are you doing?”

“I said, hold on!” is all Izuku says to that.

Uraraka tightens her grip.

-x-

Izuku’s super-powered hand hits Jirou’s signature hard enough to pixelate her form slightly. In her shock, she only hugs her partner tighter, too overwhelmed by the brightness of the explosions and the full force of One for All to do anything else.

Then the Kaminari-Jirou pair is held fast in Izuku’s left hand with the rest of the pairs attached to his right. Izuku is just beginning to worry about Katsuki when All Might catches up to them.

“Young Midoriya, I am here!” All Might tells him, then presses on. They’re so close. Izuku relaxes, but only a hair. All Might has both Nana and Katsuki over his shoulders, the latter too scared to be upset.

They rush out, pixelated remnants chasing them until they’re out of the range of the detonation, pulses radiating as a shattered grid collapses in their wake..Izuku has to close his eyes and run on blind faith that he will make it to the terminal on the Defiant when the light grows bright enough to blind. His muscles are burning and he’s sure Uraraka is breaking his hand.

But they get away.

 

The Far Nexus

Even when they’ve made it, no one can believe that they’re still alive, that the plan worked, and that they saved the world. Not yet.

The Defiant is far past the range of the explosions as per the plan, but it’s only when he’s right up next to it that he finally allows himself to slow down.

They’d done it.

“Izuku,” Uraraka carefully releases his hand and Izuku flexes it with a grimace. “I’m sorry.” Izuku doesn’t know what exactly she’s apologizing for and he doesn’t plan to ask her to specify.

“We need to get out of here,” Izuku holds out the hand she’d released, urging her to hold it again. “Take my hand.”

Her signature saddens, shrinking in size and darkening slightly. It flares once—the closest thing she can give to a nod—and Izuku grasps her hand. Without much effort at all, he moves her through the terminal. She crashes through, landing harshly on the other side, but she knows that comfort isn’t a priority. When Iida nearly falls on top of her a second later, she’s sure of it.

Back in the nexus, Izuku throws Mic and Aizawa out together. He moves onto Shouji and Shinsou next, then Mina and Tsuyu, and by the time All Might and Nana are the only ones left he’s ready to collapse.

There’s also a dull pain in his left arm that he refuses to think about.

He turns to All Might, who has Nana draped over his arms. She’s barely conscious when All Might hands her over to Izuku. “You’re stronger than I,” All Might tells him. Izuku doesn’t fight him on it because he sees the older man’s usual yellow lights are but a faded ghost of what they once were, and Nana’s purple ones are stagnant. He shifts her form until the other synapse is carefully laid over his shoulder. She stirs, but settles shortly after.

Izuku turns back, right hand outstretched. “All Might, come on. I can patch you out with her. It’s okay.”

That’s when Izuku notices that there’s a pixelated tear in his eye.

Something is wrong.

“I can’t, Young Midoriya.” The tear falls, fracturing into digital pieces somewhere close to All Might’s feet.

Izuku’s heart stops. “What?” His vocal manifestation is soft, weak, and not strong enough for this.

All Might hadn’t wanted Izuku to find out about it this way. He never wanted him to find out at all. But All Might knows he has no choice at this point. He had to save her. But in the end, he hadn’t. Izuku had.

“One for All is too weak in my bones and my body can’t patch out anymore.” He remembers Recovery Girl’s words. “This was my last card to play, kid. I won’t be leaving with you.”

Izuku’s outstretched arm drops at the same time that tears prick in his own eyes. They fall. All Might wouldn’t fuzz out with them. He would stay here, forever.

“No, you can’t. There has to be another way.” Izuku cries, desperation evident. “You can’t do this! The universe needs their symbol of peace! You’re All Might for crying out loud!” Izuku’s body is shaking now, both with sadness and anger.

“Kid, I haven’t been the symbol of peace for a long time. We’ve been over this.” All Might sighs.

Izuku’s voice is too quiet. He knows he can’t change this. “But you saved her.”

“No,” All Might corrects. He moves forward, closer to Izuku, gestures to Nana. She’s dimly aware of the events that are unfolding. “You saved her.” All Might sounds like he’s accepted defeat, something Izuku never thought he would hear. “Don’t you get it? You’re the symbol of peace now, Young Midoriya. Not me. Not anymore.”

Izuku can’t breathe. He lost that ability several sentences ago.

“Take her and go,” All Might says. “I’ve said my goodbyes.”

There’s a sudden cough, electronic and twisted, that comes from the woman hanging over Izuku’s right shoulder. “Toshi,” Nana rasps, not shifting anything but her head. Izuku turns around enough that she can see him. “You aren’t saying goodbye to me, you goof. I’ll be back, and so will Midoriya, right, Midoriya?” Her voice is stern despite her current state and Izuku finds himself snapping up in response.

“Y—yes, Nana-sensei!” Izuku stutters and it sounds more like a robotic cough than a nervous slip of the tongue. Then, he turns around back so he can give his full attention to All Might. “But what about you? What will you do?”

All Might laughs, grins. He knows how to answer this. He’s known for a long time. “The nexus needs a protector. Someone to watch over its circuits.” All Might is relaxed, at peace. “I’ll be that guardian. Now go, Young Midoriya,” All Might points to the terminal that leads to the Defiant. “Your destiny awaits.”

It takes everything in Izuku to say his next words without choking up. “T—thank you, All Might, for everything.”

“Things are going to be alright, Young Midoriya.” All Might looks at Nana, and she grins weakly from Izuku’s arms. ““I’ll see you soon.”

“See you soon, Toshi,” Nana says.

“See you soon,” Izuku echoes.

He leaves the nexus.

 

The Defiant

Izuku fuzzes out so quickly that it’s almost like a glitch. He appears without warning, stumbling as he arrives with Nana carefully balanced. Todoroki is suddenly there, taking her from him, and the second the weight is dropped from his body, Izuku collapses.

The pain in his left arm is unbearable and the ceiling swims above him, lights dancing in a way that he knows is wrong.

“Deku! Listen to me, stay awake.” Katsuki is in his face, shouting at him as he slaps his cheeks harshly. “Don’t you dare leave me, you hear?”

“Kacchan?”

His eyes flicker shut and he doesn’t want to open them. Maybe it’s better this way.

Katsuki’s voice rattles in his skull again.

“Izuku!”

He flatlines.

 

Two Hours Later

Sleeping Quarters on board the Defiant

Izuku comes to, the dim light of the room making it easy to open his eyes. The first thing he sees is Katsuki, staring at him with a look of worry on his face. For the first time in a long time, Izuku doesn’t expect his partner to yell at him.

Not that he would mind, though. It’s just Katsuki.

“Oh thank god.” Katsuki breathes a sigh of relief and Izuku sees his dirtied Initiative issued uniform and realizes that the other boy hasn’t changed.

Izuku clears his throat. “You never left.”

Izuku is right. Katsuki hadn't. Not when Izuku’s heart had stopped beating and Kaminari had to resuscitate him, not when Todoroki had to cauterize what was left of his arm, and not when Aizawa had ordered Katsuki to get some sleep himself.

No, Izuku is his partner. He would go to the ends of the universe for him. He would die for him.

Katsuki sighs. “I’m your partner, idiot. Plus, who is going to make sure you don’t do something stupid again?”

“Stupidity is only a hair away from bravery, you know. It saved us,” Izuku counters immediately. It’s just like Izuku to be so self-sacrificing. Hell, Katsuki knows he would have gladly lost his other arm and done it with a smile if he had to.

“This time,” Katsuki says, but there’s a grin attached to it.

Izuku laughs and it moves his left bicep. “Ow,” Izuku says, eyes shifting. Katsuki wants to stop him from seeing it, but he knows that’s not happening. Izuku is already staring at it in horror. “T—that actually h—happened. It’s g—gone.”

Izuku sees the world start to go dark again, but Katsuki is slapping him in the face. “Oh don’t you even think about it, you little brat! Stay with me! I’m not going to go through losing you again!”

Izuku’s darkness disappears at the thought and his right arm comes up to bat Katsuki’s hands away. Without warning, Katsuki alerts the others of his updated condition. “He’s awake, fuckfaces!” Katsuki shouts to the door.

“Kacchan,” Izuku can’t stop looking at his amputated arm with tears in his eyes. “I don’t know… I know… I don’t know what I’m going to do…”

Katsuki exhales and drops to his knees next to the bed. “We’ll get you a new one.”

“H—how? I can’t afford—” Izuku doesn’t know the first thing about cybernetic enhancements, replacements, or well, anything of the sort.

But his partner is an expert.

Katsuki just puts a finger to Izuku’s lips and grins like the Cheshire cat. “Trust me. I know a guy.”

 

Three Months Later

The Midoriya Household

It takes a long time before the pairs are back on Earth and it takes longer to explain everything that had transpired. They had to tell everyone why All Might isn’t with them anymore, how All for One was actually taken down, and everything about Izuku: how he obtained One for All, the plan for the attack, and why he’s missing an arm. It takes even longer to get home and get through the worst amount of paperwork, news interviews, book interviews, and other interviews that Izuku has ever seen. By the time the whole situation has died down, Izuku just wants to sleep for a century.

You saved her. Don’t you get it? You’re the symbol of peace now, Young Midoriya. Not me. Not anymore.

Izuku tells his mother goodnight, and makes his way to his room.

I’ll be back, and so will Midoriya, right, Midoriya?

He changes his clothes and slips into All Might pajamas, just like old times before he’d joined the Initiative.

The nexus needs a protector. Someone to watch over its circuits. I’ll be that guardian. Now go, Young Midoriya. Your destiny awaits.

Izuku closes his eyes, and finally, finally rests.

Chapter Text

Two Months Later

Revolution

Katsuki waits until Izuku is in a better state before he takes him to Revolution. He swore he’d never come back, but he of all people should know that nothing is set in stone.

Izuku is dressed in a dark wool wrap that his mother made for him. It goes around his left side in a way that hides his arm, which is covered in bandaging so extensive that he needs Katsuki’s help to change his dressings. Most of the gauze is to make sure he doesn’t start bleeding again, despite Todoroki’s cauterization of the area. Otherwise, Izuku is his typical self. His hair is left unkempt and the rest of his outfit is dark with green accents.

Katsuki holds his hand with interlaced fingers as not to lose his partner while leading him through the vast club. He knows that the lights and the smoke can be overwhelming, and he knows Izuku falls into that category, especially in his current, vulnerable state.

They end up at the booth Slime always sits at and slide in to seat themselve across from him. He’s dressed in a sharply cut suit today and his cybernetic arm holds a cigar. Purple smoke trails up from its tip, and Izuku tries not to betray his awe.

Slime breaks the silence first. “Well, didn’t think I’d see you back here, Lord Explosion Murder.”

Izuku can’t hide the urge to laugh and cackles.

Katsuki elbows him into silence with a well-placed hit to the ribs that rips the air from Izuku’s lungs instantly. “I’m only here because you own me a favor.”

“Just one, yes,” Slime clarifies, cigar snuffed out and forgotten. He twirls his fingers and notices Izuku is eying his arm and the fingers on it. “Interested, boy?”

“It’s Deku, not boy,” Katsuki corrects. “Show him, Deku.”

By this point he’s recovered from Katsuki’s hit and Izuku does as he’s told, knowing he needs to follow Katsuki’s lead in order to get what he needs. He lets the fabric that covers his left side fall from his shoulder and reveals the bandaged stump. Slime actually inhales, gasping in shock.

“You really were injured in that fight,” Slime’s eyes slide from Izuku’s arm to Katsuki’s eyes. “Let me guess, you want me to fix it.”

Katsuki’s hand moves to Izuku’s to squeeze it once in reassurance. He’d give him a high five if they hadn’t needed to remain calm to save face. Katsuki grins wickedly, “How did you know?”

 

Three Months Later

The Todoroki Household

“I’m going,” Shouto says, an acceptance letter to the space program to man the International Space Station in his hand, wrinkled and close to being torn. “And I already went farther than I thought I’d be in the Initiative already. You can’t take this from me.”

“You’re still under my roof, Shouto!” His father tells him, standing far too tall for Shouto’s comfort, but at this point in his life he’s used to the intimidation. That doesn’t mean he’s immune, though. “You’re still underage!”

“When I signed the pair forms and when you signed the pair forms, I legally became an adult. If I could go to deep space and die, then I could die an adult. It’s a special case that I’m proud to fall under.” Shouto reasons, taking a subtle step back. Enji doesn’t notice, too focused on his own words.

The number two hero fumes.

“It means I’m leaving,” Shouto says, as if he hadn’t connected the dots before. “And you can’t stop me.”

“What do you mean by that exactly?” Enji knows the answer before he asks it and he doesn’t like it.

“I mean I’m leaving this house. I’m leaving you. I’m doing what I want for the first time in my life. Space?” Shouto points to the skylight in their roof. “The world up there? The realm that thrives off of the unknown? That is my home now. Not here. Not with you.

“Shouto, don’t you dare.” Endeavor takes several quick steps towards his son, aiming to grab him by his collar to shake some sense into him, but Shouto is much smaller than he is, and deftly dodges.

“Noumu are harder to fight than you,” Shouto tells him, voice calm as he keeps an eye out for any sudden movements on the part of his father that would keep him from leaving. “Bye, Dad.”

He doesn’t look back.

 

The System

He meets Katsuki in a nexus club known as The System. He’s wearing a dark coat, high boots, and a cowl that hides the bottom half of his face with a hood that conceals his hair. Low beats can be heard through the club, a poor attempt at replicating the pulse of the nexus. Many are drinking or smoking with vapor leaving their mouths in puffs of Technicolor that change according to the user’s preferences. Before the Initiative, Todoroki would never have come to a place like this. But after knowing Katsuki, it’s far from foreign.

He slouches up to the bar, where Katsuki sits, dressed in all black except for a collar on his coat with lit red edges that’s popped up and unzipped. Todoroki takes a seat on a bolted stool next to the blond, observing the black tips on the spikes of his hair.

“I like the hair. It’s not a bad look for you,” Todoroki greets.

“Hello to you too, asshole,” Katsuki takes a sip of his drink. “But thanks.”

The corners of Todoroki’s mouth turn up slightly and then move back into his resting stoic expression. “I have what you asked for.”

Katsuki looks him up and down, and Todoroki sure enough removes a single hand from one of his pockets. In the hand is a hard drive with a matte silver finish and three teal LEDs at one of the corners. Two are lit, and Katsuki isn’t sure what they indicate.

Katsuki reaches his hand out, and Todoroki hands it over to him.

“I didn’t fill it up, but I got what I could before my father came home.” Todoroki points to the lights on the drive. “That should be enough.” .

Katsuki slides the drive into his own pocket. “When do you leave?”

“Five days,” Todoroki can’t wait.

“I’ll release the data on the sixth, then,” Katsuki says, and when Todoroki makes to leave, Katsuki taps his arm. Todoroki turns his head ninety degrees over his shoulder. “Stay for a bit, this place makes a mean cheeseburger. Ever had a cheeseburger, Half and Half?”

Todoroki rotates fully, not ofended by the harless insult—Katuski had mellowed out a bit over the course of their adventure. He takes enough steps back that he can sit on the stool. “No, but I’m open to trying.” He smiles again, and Katsuki knows he’s won.

Just then, Izuku comes rushing over, a dark leather coat zipped up under a tall fabric scarf that almost covers his mouth and chunky red combat boots adorning his frame. Fingerless gloves cover most of his hands, and his green hair remains disheveled and uncovered.

“Kacchan! There’s a lady over there with a circuit tattoo on her face that glows different colors when her moods change! And there’s another woman who has razors in her fingers. It was so cool! They retract like a cat’s claws! Her name was Molly, I think? I can’t remember now, but there’s so many people with—” Izuku catches sight of his friend and his eyes light up, a look that Katsuki is grateful to see because it means he’s recovering well from everything that had happened on mission.”—Todoroki!”

Todoroki holds up one gloved hand and waves it, smiling lightly. “Hey, Midoriya.”

Izuku skips over to the other boy. “What are you doing here?”

Katsuki shoots Todoroki a look and Todoroki understands. Todoroki and Katsuki’s goals aren’t something that Izuku needs to know about. They don’t involve him, so he doesn’t need to be involved. It’s for Izuku’s own protection because he already has so much to deal with right now.

Todoroki acts normally as if he hadn’t just gotten a trademark death glare from Bakugou Katsuki himself. “I figured I would meet you two for dinner, Bakugou woudn’t shut up about how good The System’s cheeseburgers are so here I am.”

Izuku nods in understanding. “They’re really good.”

“Hey, uh, Midoriya?” Todoroki asks hesitantly, and Izuku knows exactly what he’s about to say. Everyone is asking these days and contrary to what most would think, Izuku doesn’t mind one bit. “Can I see it? You know? Your… ?”

“…arm?” Izuku finishes for him and Todoroki nods in lieu of speaking. In response, izuku unzips his coat and gives it to Katsuki, who takes it with a grin. He loves watching people react to Izuku’s arm. They’re all different, but at their core they’re always amazed and Katsuku loves seeing that. Izuku rolls up his shirt sleeve until it’s about halfway up his bicep, right where Shigaraki had finished disintegrating it.

Before Todoroki is a green gleaming cybernetic arm. With elements of black and interspersed red stripes of embedded fiber optic lights to mimic the aesthetic of One for All within the metallic green plating, it’s a sight to behold. The fingers are almost lifelike, made of tiny connected sections of overlapping green metal plates. Izuku twirls the fingers and they’re so similar to his real ones that Izuku can’t tell the difference sometimes.

Todoroki’s mouth drops and Katsuki grins from his place next to Izuku.

Then Izuku rambles. “I have to clean it almost every day, and it’s actually waterproof, but it’s got to be oiled every now and then and Kacchan actually does that part because he knows how, and he’s way better at it than I am and…” Izuku’s voice drops to a mumble and Todoroki is too amazed to care. Katsuki has gotten used to it.

“it’s wicked,” Todoroki finally says.

Izuku gleams, smile as bright as the sun.

“So what’s it like syncing with a synapse, Bakugou?” Todoroki asks Katsuki point blank.

Katsuki grins with the force of a dying star. “It’s fucking amazing. Never felt anything like it.” He pauses before continuing. “Synesthesia is a bitch though.”

“Can’t imagine,” Todoroki shakes his head. “Kiri and I are getting better at resdidual quirk use after our de-syncs in the nexus. We’re up to ten seconds now.”

Izuku’s face lights up and he bounces next to Katsuki. “Oh! Kacchan is still trying to keep One for All going for longer than a second. The mental fortitude it takes is way more intense than me maintaining Explosion.”

“I’m getting better though. Your quirk is weird, Deku,” Katsuki nudges his playfully. “But I like it. Can’t wait to hit something.”

“Oh, you’re going to love it,” Izuku promises and notices Todoroki is laughing. “What are you laughing at?”

Todoroki calms. “All of this. The fact we aren’t facing a direct threat to our species anymore and can go enjoy cheeseburgers.” Todoroki gestures to the menu.

Katsuki gives them approximately five seconds before he pulls them back to reality. “Speaking of, we need to actually order those, dipshits.” Katsuki waves over a woman who has long and voluptuous blonde hair with bangs. Like Izuku she also bears a near full cybernetic arm. The only difference between Izuku’s and hers is that hers is painted a bright shade of yellow. She whips out a small tablet, glowing magenta stylus ready in her hand.

“Looks like I’m not the only one that got disarmed,” the woman says with a wink, looking pointedly at Izuku’s robotic arm.I lost mine trying to save my girfriend from her ex-boyfriend who had a really sharp katana.” She gestures to her cybernetic arm. “The rest is pretty obvious.” Then she brings them back to their current task with ease. “Now, how may I take your order?”

-x-

Five days later, Todoroki leaves for the International Space Station with Kirishima.

Six days later, Katsuki leaks the data that Todoroki had given him.

Seven days later the leak gets back to Endeavor and his past finally catches up to him.

Eight Days later, Todoroki Enji is arrested.

Nine days later, Todoroki Enji is put on trial and sentenced to a life in prison.

Ten days later, Todoroki Enji figures out that his son had been the one to leak the data.

Eleven days later, Todoroki and the crew of the ISS celebrate with tea that Endeavor had finally been taken down.

Twelve days later, Katsuki and Izuku start hero school, and Katsuki leaves behind his life as a rogue switcher, for now.

 

The Bakugou Household

Katsuki rings the doorbell, hoping it’s the right place.

He can hear the door unlocking.

It opens.

“Mom?” Katsuki says when a face appears in the crack of the door, disbelief and wonder strewn across her face.

The door flies open.

“Katsuki!” Bakugou Mitsuki shrieks and tears spring forth without a beckoning. She wraps her arms around her son, and Katsuki can hardly breathe. He doesn’t care, though, because she’s still here, which means that—

“Dad?” Katsuki calls into the house when he sees a tall shadow sillhouette one of the back windows. The shadow moves forward and fast and then another set of arms is wrapped around Katsuki.

“Katsuki, Katsuki, Katsuki,” Mitsuki cries, then abruptly steps back after her husband moves away. Her demeanor is hardly scolding. “Where have you been? We saw you and Izuku on the news, you saved everyone! I just… I don’t know.. what did—”

Katsuki cuts her off, falling back into old habits too easily. He holds up a hand. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” he tells her, and she seems to believe him, if only for the present. “Turns out being so far away from home really makes you want to come back to it.”

Mitsuki hugs him again, nearly knocking the wind out of Katsuki on impact. “Just don’t run away again. Please.”

Bakugou Mitsuki never begs for anything.

Katsuki takes her seriously.

“Never again,” he exhales. “And that’s a promise.”

He hugs her back.

“Just know I moved in with Izuku,” Katsuki tells her. “I thought it was better that I stick with him while he and I are both recovering from everything that had happened. He’s my partner. We’re a pair, and neither of us want that to change.”

Mitsuki looks confused until her face lights up. “I’m so glad you found someone, Katsuki!”

“No mom!” Katsuki’s face grows pink and horrified. “It’s not like that! We’re partners, but not those kind of partners. It’s—we’re—there isn’t a name for people like us and I don’t care to make one. We’re just…. Us.” Katsuki has finally calmed down and Mitsuki follows shortly after.

“So you don’t love—”

The redness is back. “No!” Katsuki can feel anger rising from within him. “What did I just say?” Katsuki sighs, wiping his eyes and settling on a definition she might be able to understand. “Deku and I are partners. We would go to the ends of the universe for each other, and we have. We would die for each other. He has too much of me at this point—and I have too much of him—to walk away without severely causing a metal break. You don’t need romantic love to get this close to someone.” Mitsuki isn’t showing the early signs of interrupting, and Katsuki realizes he might have won this time.

Katsuki continues. “And it’s not just Deku and I that are this way. It’s normal for pairs. Pairings are designed to bring the most compatible people together. If we didn’t become close, something would have been wrong with the system,” Katsuki explains and Mitsuki’s face is showing that she’s starting to understand. What Katsuki is telling her is important and she seems like she’s getting it. “The people Deku and I fought with, they’re close like we are. None of us have chosen to break the bond and something tells me none of them ever will.”

“Did they tell you that you’d end up basically bonded for life?” Mitsuki finally asks, voice small.

“Of course not,” Katsuki scoffs. “We weren’t guaranteed a return trip, and if we got one, it wasn’t supposed to have been in one piece. ‘For life’ could have been as little as a few months. We were attacked during one of the first days we were in space. It was a miracle we survived that.”

Mitsuki embraces her son suddenly.

“I don’t care what you and Izuku are. I’m just glad you got to save the world and come back to me. Live where you want. Earth, space, anywhere. Just don’t stop talking to me unless another program takes it from you, okay?”

Katsuki hugs her back and it’s far from reluctant. “Okay, I can do that.”

Katsuki will never tell her that he’d been crying against her shoulder in that moment.

He always had been good at hiding his emotions from her.

 

Six Months Later

U.A. Academy Training Grounds

Midoriya Izuku and Bakugou Katsuki go on to become full time Pro-heroes. It's the easiest decision of their entire lives.

“Deku, on your six!” Katsuki shouts as a precise explosive blast flies past Izuku’s ear to make contact with something directly behind him.

Izuku flips around, doing a complete one-eighty, and sees an artificial villain attempting to sneak up and ambush him.

Izuku cocks a grin. “MERCURY SMASH!” he screams, shattering the robot instantly, One for All amplifying the inherent strength of his cybernetic arm.

Nana strides up after the small amount of smoke clears, fanning away what remains with one hand. She’s still significantly weak and recovering from a decade of malnutrition, but she’s making a recovery and is strong enough to teach. “I’m going to have to tell Nedzu to either make stronger robots or ask me to teach you all a different training regimen,” she looks to what’s left of the practice villain and gestures to the pieces. She picks one up and drops it. “Because this is getting to be ridiculous.”

The Bakugou-Midoriya pair—one of many who had stayed together after the Initiative had been disbanded—smirk in unison.

“Oh don’t get too cocky now, you two,” Nana crouches down to examine the robot. “This would have killed a villain who didn’t have… shock absorption.” Nana has to pause before she says the words, the wounds still fresh. “And we need to incapacitate, not kill.”

The words ring a little harder with the two and they nod. “Understood, sensei,” they say in unison.

An even larger robot suddenly appears behind Nana. It makes a crater where it lands, and Izuku and Katsuki simultaneously realize that it had jumped from the top of the nearest building: a skyscraper twenty stories tall that’s angular and almost exclusively made of glass. It glows a cool shade of blue in the growing dark around them. The sky is hard to see from so low to the ground, so everything that isn’t up a dozen stories of more is cast in an electronic glow of advertisement screens and LED lights on buildings that serve as a valid light source. Even Yuuei isn’t immune to the effect.

The robot rears up on what should be it’s hind legs, and lets out an odd mechanical roar that makes Izuku and Katsuki’s ears ring.

“Now,” Nana says with a smile that rivals All Might’s. “Let’s try that again.”

 

The International Space Station

Todoroki and Uraraka sit in the common area of the spacecraft, enjoying the last of the Katsudon. It had taken some convincing to get chopsticks up into space with them, but it had worked and now all of their meals were easier to eat.

“I didn’t think that we all would get approved,” Uraraka comments, pausing to finishing her rice. They’d been in the station three earth days, and since the station only needed four people to pilot it, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that two of the top pairs in the Initiative had been accepted. “Like I know we—”

“Uraraka! Todoroki!” Iida comes barreling down the station’s hallway, moving too fast for either of them but appropriately for himself. “I request assistance on checking the oxygen valves!”

“I’ll go,” Uraraka volunteers, quickly disposing of her trash in the proper waste containment unit.

“Thank you, Uraraka!”

And then they are off.

Todoroki finishes his food alone. When there is no more rice left in the meal pouch, he disposes of it like Uraraka had. He opts next to move around the station. Wandering tends to clear his head and he always needs a little of that. Plus, he needs to locate his partner anyway, so he might as well kill two birds with one stone.

It takes a few minutes but he finds him in a corridor on the other side of the station. His partner is currently staring out a small window.

Todoroki announces his presence in a way that he hopes Kirishima will understand. It’s hard to predict him some days—being that Todoroki is so bad with people and words and social skill—but he thinks he’ll hit the mark on this one.

“You know, it’s super manly to man the ISS.”

Todoroki hears a quiet laugh from Kirishima and knows he’s won.

“I’m not worried about that,” Kirishima drops his head. “We saved the world, maybe the universe, and everything is better now. People are rebuilding what was lost, and hope is restored for the first time in years. I just… I wish things had been different. That none of it had ever happened. The invasion caused so much pain, Shouto.”

Todoroki sighs and recites a phrase his mother had often told him when there were no words left to say. “The world is cold, but it’s beautiful.”

Kirishima can only nod.

 

The Nexus

All Might drifts as he often does these days. Signatures float, harmlessly patching in and fuzzing out. There have been no signs of villains in a long while, and All Might is okay with this. It means he gets to rest.

“Toshi,” Nana’s voice breaks his concentration, and All Mights eyes track a familiar purple signature along a y-line. “I told you I’d be back.”

“Sensei!” All Might exclaims and the yellow lines that trace his signature burn a little brighter. “How’s the boy?”

“Midoriya is well. One for All suits him. You chose the right one.”

“Well, I always was a little smarter than you gave me credit for—”

She whacks him upside the head.

“Ow!” All Might immediately clutches the offended area but knows he should have seen it coming.

“I never said you weren’t smart, I just said you could be incredibly stupid sometimes.”

Realization dawns on All Might’s face. “Okay, I’ll give you that one.”

Nana grins. “Midoriya is starting to get it, you know, the whole ‘symbol of peace’ thing. We might be close to a breakthrough.”

“He’ll accept it one of these days. I just hope—”

Before All Might can finish his sentence a sudden green signature appears in the nexus. It’s far too bright and solid to be anyone less than a synapse and the green it possesses is unmistakable.

“Well, speak of the devil,” Nana says quietly.

“Midoriya! My boy!” All Might gets out before Izuku collides with him in a One for All infused hug. All Might emits yellow lightning in response, hugging him back. “How have you been? How’s the arm? What are you and Young Bakugou doing? How are the others?”

Izuku turns to Nana at the onslought of questions and she does nothing but laugh at first. It’s clear that Izuku doesn’t know what to do and his face betrays the scrambling going on in his brain. “You waited a while, kid. He wants some answers.”

Izuku blushes a light shade of pink and the lightning dies from his signature. “Kacchan and I are training to become heroes.” All Might doesn’t let on that Nana has been telling him everything. “Nana-Sensei is a good teacher.”

Nana laughs again, bright and strong. “I try.”

“And Todoroki, Iida, Uraraka, and Kirishima returned to space to man the ISS and Shinsou and Kouda are doing research on the Nomu. Jirou and Kaminari moved to the carribean to teach surfing lessons, far away from any nexus terminals. They don’t ever want to go back and I don’t blame them after what they had to do. I don’t know much about the others. As close as we grew, the final fight with All for One burned out so many.”

All Might’s face grows somber, and his eyes track a purple pulse to pass the time. “Brushes with death make people do crazy things. We all know that.”

“I wish I could tell you that you were wrong,” Izuku tells him. “But I can’t, and I hate it. All for One took so much from us. Even though he’s dead and everyone is saved, Nana still lost ten years of her life, you lost your ability to patch out, and I lost my arm.” Izuku’s green lightning briefly flickers to life and dies a moment later. All Might reaches out a hand and places it on his shoulder. Nana does the same on his opposite.

“But we have each other now, and we’re here for you Izuku,” Nana speaks for her pair and All Might offers up one of his classic hero-worthy grins.

“I need to go,” Izuku says. “My mom and Kacchan are waiting for me. It’s dinnertime.”

Izuku gives a salute, and Nana and All Might both wave goodbye as he moves closer to the terminal.

“Wait!” All Might calls and Izuku halts on instinct, turning. “Tell your mother I said hello.”

Izuku salutes. “You got it!”

Without another word, he fuzzes out.

 

Nine Months Later

The Midoriya Household

“Hello, and welcome to Channel 52 News! I’m here reporting that a villain has been taken down by the former number one pair of the U.A. Initiative. Bakugou Katsuki, a hero-in-training with an amazing quirk to generate explosions in his palms is supporting Midoriya Izuku, a boy whose quirk so closely resembles that of All Might that we are all wondering again just where the former Pro-hero is now.” The first news anchor says. The other takes over flawlessly.

“You know, Kiyoshi, I know it’s a little early to call it, but there’s always that first time. You see how Midoriya is always grinning? How the people at the scenes of these incidents are always clapping and unafraid? Well, I think it’s safe to say that we have a new Symbol of Peace.”

It catches Midoriya Inko so off guard that she can’t reach her tissue box in time before the torrent begins. Katsuki sits on the couch next to her and wraps one arm around her shoulders.

Nearby, Izuku watches them, having heard everything, and feels his own eyes burn.

You saved her. Don’t you get it? You’re the symbol of peace now, Young Midoriya. Not me. Not anymore.

Izuku smiles and the tears start falling. Maybe you’re right, All Might.

He takes up the mantle and never looks back.