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Touch the Stratosphere

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Tokyo Girl Remains Missing after 4 Days.

Tokyo officers are desperately searching for six-year-old Takahashi Yui after disappearing from her home late Thursday night. The Nakano Police Force states that young Takahashi was last seen outside of her home by a neighbor, Mastsui Ino, around 1:30 in the morning.

“It was strange.” Mastsui stated, “I tried calling out to her to see if she was alright, but she did not even acknowledge me. She just turned and kept walking down the sidewalk. By the time I knocked on the door to alert her parents, she’d just…disappeared.”

Police state that it is possible there could be some nefarious purposes behind Takahashi’s disappearance, but haven’t ruled out the possibility of her being a runaway.

“It’s possible that this could be the result of a brainwashing or sleep manipulation quirk, but low villain activity recently speaks otherwise. Her unresponsive behavior could have been a choice to not reply at all.” Chief Ueno stated in an interview Tuesday, “Several Pro agencies have been notified of the case.”

Despite growing speculation of young Takahashi running away, her mother Akane remains adamant this is the work of a villain.

“My little Yui would not just walk out of home like that.” Her mother explained tearfully, “She’s quirkless. She knows its not safe to be out late at night like that, and she’s even terrified of the dark.”

More on this story as it develops.

2 more Child Disappearances Lead Officers to Believe there is Villain Work.

Two more children, thirteen-year-old Sano Hideyoshi and ten-year-old Arai Akio were reported missing this morning by their families in Nagasaki.

Much like Takahashi Yui, who disappeared from her home in Tokyo a month ago, both Sano and Arai are quirkless. Police believe there is a link to the cases because of this, despite the differing locations of disappearance.

Nationwide search parties have been initiated, and revered pro-hero All Might has stated he is spearheading the case.

“This has become personal for me. It fills me with grief and anger to know someone is preying on such innocent, defenseless children.” All Might stated in an interview, his signature smile growing on his face on his face, “But I am here now! I will find the person responsible, bring them to justice, and bring these children home if it’s the last thing I do.”

Number of Missing, Quirkless Children Climbs to Five, Police Report.

Parents of children who do not possess a quirk are advised to keep watch of them at all times. Most of these children are disappearing at night, seemingly by themselves. Police and pro heroes have surmised that the suspect has some sort of long-range mind control quirk. Lock all doors and windows. Any teens or children who are registered quirkless have a legal curfew of 9:00 pm until further notice.

 

Tearful, emerald eyes watched the words that rolled across the television screen with growing anxiety, the sound of the news reporters debating voices muffled by her frantic thoughts.

THE QUIRKLESS KIDNAPPER: NUMBER CLIMBS TO SIX.”

Midoriya Inko been watching this story unfold for the past few years, ever since the disappearance of the first little girl near Tokyo. At first, she’d figured they were freak accidents or disappearances like everyone else had. But the numbers continued to climb, and all the victims had one thing in common.

Quirkless children.

Her hands shook slightly, her control over her quirk slipping as the freshly made cup of tea currently floating towards her crashed to the ground. As a mother, she felt empathy and heartache for the parents of all the missing children so far. And the fact that this serial kidnapper was targeting quirkless children above all else shook her to her core. Izuku was quirkless. Izuku, her life, her little sunshine…

He was walking around with a target on his back.

She couldn’t bear the thought of her son disappearing from right under her nose, much like the other children had. And though she hated to admit it, she’d even considered pulling him out of middle school now. It wasn’t such a farfetched idea, considering she had a hunch he was being bullied at school already…

But she knew in her heart that Izuku wouldn’t stand for that to happen. Her son’s lifelong dream of becoming a hero was already fragile enough. He clung so desperately to that dream still, despite not being born with a quirk. If she removed him from school, then it would crush any remaining hope he had left in him, and she couldn’t do that to her son. His life was already hard enough as it was. His father was away, he didn’t have a quirk, and he didn’t have many friends in school.

Just a lonely boy with a notebook in his hands and his head full of dreams.

Inko was brought out of her thoughts as she heard pattering footsteps down the stairs, blinking through the blur of tears in her eyes to see Izuku hurriedly making his way down.

“S-Sorry, mom! My alarm didn’t go off, and I’m already running late!” Izuku huffed out breathlessly, a whirlwind of freckles and bedhead hair as he frantically side-stepped the shattered teacup on the floor. He kneeled, wrestling his hero journal into his backpack, “I don’t have time to eat breakfast with you, I’ll make it up later by—”

The boy’s hurried words were quickly cut off by hands gripping tight to his shoulders, a complaint forming in his mouth already before the look on his mother’s face froze him in place.

He’d seen that look before on multiple occasions. A side glance at the TV and the teacup on the floor confirmed his suspicions, feeling a chill run down his spine.

Inko gazed down at Izuku with a frantic look in her eyes, tears already spilling down her round cheeks. “Izuku, promise me you’ll be careful on your way to school, okay? Make sure you stay aware of your surroundings—” she sniffled, her hands raising to cup his cheeks gently, “I know you aren’t helpless, but don’t be afraid to run away if you see anything suspicious. Stay away from any villain fights and close to Katsuki-kun.”

“Huh? But mom, there wouldn’t—”

“Just promise me.” She cut him off quickly with another whimper, “Please...”

Izuku grimaced at both suggestions, scratching the back of his neck nervously. There’s no way he could turn down a villain fight if he saw one, and she still didn’t know that his once childhood friend was now his daily tormentor at school. “Ah… A-Alright. I promise mom. Now I really have to go.” He managed to gently pry his mother’s fingers from his cheeks, giving her a reassuring smile, “I’ll see you later, mom!”

Inko watched him go tearfully, unable to tear her gaze away from him until he was out of her sight. Yes, she knew there was nothing more she could do to protect her son without stripping him of his freedom. She knew she was doing the right thing in her heart.

But it still didn’t quell her worry.

As Izuku briskly walked down the sidewalk, he couldn’t shake the sense of unease his mother’s words had left him.

As the TV had stated this morning, more kids like him had been abducted from their homes. The most recent one was only a town away, which probably meant that whoever was responsible for their disappearance was somewhere nearby.

Despite the feelings of unease and fear that originally bubbled up inside of him, what he felt most of all was anger. He of all people knew how hard it was being normal in a world full of interesting and unique people. The price of his quirklessness was daily harassment from his peers and being treated like glass by the adults. Now on top of all of that, he now was the interest of a serial kidnapper.

Just what did the world have against the quirkless?

He sighed forlornly, shaking his head and slowing his pace down as he approached a familiar street corner. He could see Katsuki waiting for him there, and he felt his insides turn over in dread and fear at just how pissed off the blonde looked.

Despite Izuku and Katsuki’s outright rejection of the idea, Inko and Mitsuki had decided the two of them could walk to and from school together when the disappearances first began. Apparently, the mothers were blissfully unaware of the fact that the two children were no longer buddies anymore, and had decided it was safest for Izuku to have someone with him in light of all the quirkless children going missing.

Safe, was far from Bakugou Katsuki in Izuku’s opinion.

“Deku!” Katsuki snarled as soon as those blazing crimson eyes spotted him, causing the green-haired boy to flinch bodily. He could see those hands already sparking and smoking as the explosive boy sauntered up to him, “What took you so fucking long to get here! If I’m fucking late for school, you better believe I’m gonna drag your useless ass outside and beat the living shit out of you.” His voice lowered to a murderous tone as he leaned over Izuku threateningly.

A droplet of sweat dripped down Izuku’s temple, feeling the heat radiating off of Katsuki’s palms from this close as if daring him to react wrong. This was somewhat of a daily routine for them, and it was torture for Izuku. It felt like he was constantly walking on eggshells around his former friend.

“S-S-Sorry, Kacchan!” He scrambled to stutter out, feeling his arms shaking as they were raised defensively before him, “M-My mom saw the news, and she got worried, so she cornered me on my way out—I promise I would’ve moved quicker if—”

“Shut up.” Katsuki growled, “Don’t try to blame your mom for your stupidness. I know your worthless ass probably just slept in.” He slapped Izuku’s arms away from his face, causing the boy to squeak in surprise and stumble away, “Now come on. I hate having to stand around and fucking babysit you and I don’t want to be late.”

With that, the blonde turned away and shoved his hands into his pockets, walking away with the usual swagger in his step. Izuku swallowed thickly in relief, thanking the stars that he’d managed to not get knocked around this morning.

As the initial fear of confronting Katsuki faded away, Izuku was once more struck with the feeling of unease. It almost felt as if he was being...watched. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and he glanced around the busy street quickly, trying to locate whoever was looking at him.

Fucking hurry up!” Katsuki’s enraged roar was enough to snap Izuku to attention, and without further thought the boy hurried to catch up.

The blue glow of the screens before her were the only source of light surrounding her, just as she liked it.

Something about the ominous, inky blackness lurking at the edges of the room and the occasional click on the mouse in her hand were soothing. With just her data before her to focus on, the maniac squirming, writhing thoughts that occupied her mind could rest dormant. It wasn’t often that she could achieve this calm state of mind, as usually her job filled her with far too much excitement. Here, she could really work.

Biting her lip, the messy, dark-haired woman scanned the screen before her, checking the statistics once more with an agitated look. Her last experiment had failed miserably. While her subject had changed significantly, it wasn’t the results she desired. It would waste precious time to backtrack too much and use her quirk to reverse the effects to try again.

She needed her new test subject. A blank slate.

Her bony, long-nailed hand curled around her phone, dialing a familiar number and holding it to her ear.

It rang twice, before a sneering voice finally picked up, “What the fuck do you want now?”

Ruby red lips curled in a feral smile, “Hello Tomura-kun…” she purred in response, “Put me on the phone with Kurogiri-san.”

“No.” Tomura snapped in response, “I told you last time that we don’t need your fucking help—hey!” The snarl quickly faded from hearing distance, before another voice sounded on the phone, deep and rich, “Apologies, Dr. Darwin. Shigaraki’s words are untrue. What can I do for you?”

“Ah! Kurogiri-kun!~” The woman purred, leaning back in her chair. Violet eyes continued to absent-mindedly scan the screen before her, “I’m calling to tell you that my last subject didn’t turn out as I had originally liked. The child is fine, but the mutation has caused the implemented quirk to be…unstable. I can backtrack and reattempt it once more, but it would be easier if I had another little angel to improve.” She hummed.

There was a pause on the other line, before Kurogiri’s replied, “Understood, Dr. Darwin. I already have a child picked out in Musutafu that I have discovered as quirkless. His name is Midoriya Izuku.”

Dr. Darwin’s eyes widened slightly at familiar last name, her slitted pupils dilating like a jungle cat spotting its prey. “...Midoriya, you say?” A pause, “Alright then, I’ll have Dreameater locate him tonight and bring him out. Do you mind warping the boy here once he’s brought out, as usual?”

“Of course. Sensei will be informed of this as well. I’m sure he is eager to reap the benefits of your results soon.” Kurogiri reminded her.

“All in due time, my friend!” She cooed once more, excitement thrumming beneath her skin, “I’m certain this boy will be my breakthrough. I’m so close, and seven is my lucky number." She winked. "See you tonight.” With that, Darwin hung up, dropping the phone noisily.

Legs shaking with excitement, the woman pushed herself up out of her seat, white lab coat swishing behind her along with her long, dark hair. “Rikku-kun!~ You’re on for tonight!” She cried jovially, locating the pink-haired woman lounging nearby.

She bent down, resting her trembling hands on her shoulders to level with her eyes with the other's bored, uninterested ones. Her lips curved, smile maniac and feral.

“Bring me Midoriya Izuku.”

Exhausted from the day behind him, Izuku shuffled towards his bed.

His wrist stung where Katsuki had grabbed it after school, annoyed with how slow he was walking. He;d snuck behind the closed doors of his room when he got home, quickly bandaging it and finishing up his homework like he normally did. He didn’t need to worry his mom anymore than he’d already had today, considering she drilled him with questions when he got home.

Too tired to even mess around in his latest hero journal or surf the web for today’s villain battles, he slipped under the covers, turning off the light before curling up on his side.

Days like these made him lament his fate. He wished he wasn’t quirkless, and that people didn’t treat him like a fragile being.

He wanted to be seen as hero, more than anything.

Slowly, his thoughts were lost to the blissful reaches of sleep, exhaustion taking over. Within moments, the boy was fast asleep.

Late at night, when the moon was high in the sky and shadowed by the clouds, Izuku’s eyes snapped open.

Instead of the usual vibrant green they sparkled with, they were dulled over, almost glazed looking.

“Come to me, Midoriya Izuku.”

Slowly, he began to sit up in his bed.

Chapter Text

Awareness for the world around him came in blurry bits.

For some reason, Izuku found himself struggling to pry open his eyes. Every sound around him was muffled and warbled, like he was deep underwater. There were voices in the foreground of his mind, harsh, unintelligible whispers grating in his ears, tempting him to sink back further into his unconscious.

Confusion clouded his foggy mind. Was he still asleep and dreaming? Surely he’d be late for school if he didn’t wake soon. But his brain felt like it was filled with cotton, thick and unresponsive to his desires.

He squeezed his eyes shut further, straining his ears to capture the muffled background sounds rather than the whispering in his ear. Clanging sounds, a screech, a beeping noise…was that a voice he just heard?

“…finished studying blood samples last night—”

Blood samples? He didn’t recognize that voice either. Wasn’t he supposed to be asleep in his bed? He could already feel his heart starting to race, and his mind began to shift its focus on the muffled conversation rather than the whispering thoughts. Like submerging from the bottom of the ocean, the pressure and fog over his mind began to gradually lessen the more he listened.

“…to keep his vitals stable during the process.”

That definitely couldn’t be right. No one should be standing in his room talking about his vitals. The beeping noise was getting faster and faster as his panic increased. His mind strained further to listen, pulling him up further from his unconscious—

Something is wrong, something is wrong-

Izuku suddenly awakened with a jolt, gasping for air like he’d surfaced after being underwater too long. Harsh, white lights blinded him momentarily, making him quickly squeeze his eyes shut again. The beeping noise was clear as day now, a steady, fast rhythm.

A heart monitor?

He felt cold even as he was drenched in a sweat, his body trembling profusely and his messy hair sticking to his cheeks and forehead. There was a tight, restraining pressure around his wrists, ankles, and waist, and when he tried to move his arms to shield his eyes, he found that he couldn’t.

Panic building, Izuku finally squinted his eyes open, blinking a few times to clear his blurry vision. Looking down, he could see his own body strapped to a metal table. His wrists were tied down above his head, and similar straps constricted around his waist and ankles. His shirt was gone, and instead his chest was covered with stickers connecting to wires, most likely monitoring his vitals and conditions.

The horrible, dreadful feeling of being trapped like this hit him like a tidal wave, leaving light-headed with terror. He was supposed to be in his room, waking up to his mom coming in and telling him breakfast was ready. How did he end up like this?

Frantically, he began to struggle despite being restrained. His gaze flickered wildly about the room, trying to see past the bright lights and the tears pooling in his eyes, “W-What—”

“Ah, you’re finally awake!~”

The voice and the hurried footsteps headed his way made him jump, and the bright light shining in his face was suddenly moved away from him. He blinked a few times to clear away the bright spots they left behind.

The room around him was a bit darker now, but he could see the face hovering above him as clear as day. She had a gaunt, unhealthy look to her, cheekbones sticking out amongst her ghastly pale skin. Her hair was black, hanging in lose messy strands around her face, long and unkempt. It was her eyes that stood out the most, however. They were big and purple, almost glowing in the darkness. The pupils were vertical and slitted much like a felines, pinned in what he could see was pure excitement. Her lips, ruby red, were curled in a feral smile.

If it hadn’t been for the pristine lab coat she wore, he would’ve thought she might have been someone from a mental institution. The look on her face was absolutely maniac with glee, in the worst kind of way.

The sight of her filled him with unease, and he felt momentarily frozen in place. 

“I was beginning to think that Dreameater used her quirk a little too well on you.  Usually my subjects wake up within a few hours, but you’ve been out for a while.” The woman continued, the deep tones of her feminine voice practically quivering in excitement. There a was a momentary pause, where the woman stared down at him with and unhinged look while Izuku stared back in shock and terror.

“You don’t know how great it is to finally meet you, my dear Izuku.” She cooed softly, voice barely above a whisper. Carefully, she reached between them, making Izuku flinch as she trailed a finger affectionately over his cheek, “Who would’ve thought I’d be graced with a Midoriya as my greatest accomplishment. Just look at those freckles...”

Those words snapped Izuku out of his fear-filled haze, a wave of protectiveness for his mother suddenly coming over him. “W-Wait… How do you know about my family? Who are you?” His voice quivered and rose with each question, trying to tug his arms free, “Why am I h-here?!”

The boy felt his insides recoil in disgust as her bony hand started to comb through his curls, much like a mother would for her child. He jerked his head away, trying to escape the touch.

“My dear boy…” She chuckled fondly, fingers finding his hair once more scratching against his scalp, “I admire your ferocity and bravery. Most of the kids I have brought in here would be crying for their parents right now. It seems I already have the perfect little fighter…”

“You…” Izuku whispered, momentarily breathless with shock, “You’re the quirkless kidnapper.”

The woman hummed softly in amusement, removing her hand and straightening up, “You may call me Dr. Darwin.” She intoned softly, “I hate being labeled as a kidnapper. After all, it’s not like I’m doing something wrong—”

Darwin cut herself off, studying the boy before her for a few moments, “Lets back track a little. You want to know why you are here, yes? And how I know of you?”

Swallowing thickly, Izuku nodded his head a little, afraid for what he was about to hear.

The grin returned to her face, “Let me begin with a little about me, and then we shall get to you.” Reaching behind her, Darwin grabbed a rolling chair and pulled it up close to the table, sitting down in Izuku’s line of sight. Her face was cast in a ghastly glow from the tiny light surrounding them, cloaking the rest of her in darkness.

Wordlessly, the woman reached up and covered her eyes with both hands. A few moments of silence, a soft hiss escaping her lips, and she lowered them once more.

When her eyes fluttered open, they no longer glowed an unnatural violet. Instead, they were golden.

“My quirk… Is DNA Manipulation.” Darwin began softly, “As a child, I discovered this when things I touched began to change. My parents thought I was blessed beyond belief with such an extraordinary quirk. It was something that could save lives…. Change the medical and science field forever.”

“I studied for years, memorizing every single little base pair of every piece of DNA I could get from plants, animals, and people. You see… each strand of DNA is unique and has a special code to it, depending on what it’s for and what cells must be produced.” To demonstrate her point, she reached between them, plucking a strand of Izuku’s hair. She put it into her mouth, swallowing. “My quirk allows me to memorize the code by ingesting it. Once it is done, I can change it to however I wish.”

She paused, eyes narrowing, “I could’ve done so much for the world. Improved people’s genetics, made their quirks better, manipulate their DNA into another to create a perfect being. But instead they saw my vision as a threat to society and humanity as a whole, and my work was forced underground.”

Her gaze slid to meet Izuku’s once again, her smile growing, “But not that it matters anymore. I now work for a much more….esteemed and powerful person. He recognizes my vision and talents, and wants to utilize my creations for his cause.”

The sense of dread returned to Izuku as she reached for him once more, caressing his cheek, “Sweet boy… I’m about to make your life so much better. It must be hard growing up without a quirk in a world full of special people, right?” She leaned in closer, “What if I told you that I was about to change all of that? That I could change your DNA, make you have a quirk?”

Despite himself, Izuku couldn’t help but ponder over this.

All his life, he just wanted to be special like everybody else. He tried so desperately when he was young to breathe fire, or pull objects toward himself telekinetically, even when he knew it was hopeless. He spent so many years trying to drown out Katsuki and his classmate's mocking words, telling him he'd never amount to anything extraordinary.

He wanted to have a chance at becoming a hero just like All Might.

But deep down, he knew this was wrong. This wasn’t natural. He was far from being a science geek, but he knew for a fact that changing someone’s DNA structure—The code for their existence—Had to have some consequences. Not to mention she definitely wasn’t going to set him free after this, considering she said they were going to use him for their cause, whatever that was.

“Speechless?” Darwin mused with a chuckle, bringing him out of his thoughts, “I knew you’d be fond of the idea, just like all the other children were. Of course, they were scared at first, but I know all of you want to have—"

“You kidnapped them, and me! Some of them have been missing from their families for years!” Izuku suddenly found himself yelling, his conflicting thoughts giving away to rage at those words. It didn’t matter right now that he was currently her latest victim, strapped to a table. Nor did it matter that she was about to use her quirk on him to change him.  All he could think about were the devastated faces of the families on TV over the years, of how worried sick his mother should be right now. How dare this woman do what she was doing, stealing them from their families and mutating them! He gritted his teeth, the tears that pooled in his eyes now falling freely down his cheeks, “What have you done with all of them!?”

A hand slammed down on the table he was on, and he suddenly found himself staring into Darwin’s enraged eyes. She looked absolutely livid, pupils pinned and lip curled.

“They don’t have families anymore, and neither do you! You are all mine now!” She snarled, nails scraping on the metal beneath her. Suddenly she reached forward, grabbing a fistful of his hair and causing him to yelp in pain. “I am your creator. I am your mother!”

"Never!" Izuku hissed right back besides the pain, eyes flashing, "You'll never be anything close to being my mother, you monster!"

She dragged his face as close as possible to her own, eye to eye. Izuku could feel her quick breaths against his own face as Darwin tried to calm herself down, “I tried to be nice with you, but I will not stand to be yelled at by an ungrateful little brat. I am doing something great for you! Something amazing!” She laughed, the sound hysteric, “You’ll thank me in the end, just like the rest of them have.”

With that, the woman let go of his hair rather roughly, striding away from the table. Izuku turned his head quickly and watched as she left the room, his own breath leaving him in choppy bursts. The adrenaline from this whole situation was starting to get to him, and Izuku could feel himself trembling once more against the metal table. He felt winded, mentally exhausted despite just waking up not too long ago.

She wanted to change him, to mutate his DNA and give him a quirk.

But how was that even possible with quirkless genes to start with?

As if answering his question, he could hear her clicking heals returning to the room just as quickly as they had left. Along with it, a rattling, rolling sound.

The lights flicked on in the room, and he squinted against the new brightness to see what was going on.

Before him, Darwin had rolled in a massive cage, strapped down to a cart she was pushing. Inside of it was what he could deduct as a large bird of prey. The raptor was massive, probably the largest he’d ever seen. It was covered in an assortment of gray and black feathers, it’s head mostly gray with a crown of three large black feathers on its head. Its beady eye was fixed upon him now, black beak open in an obvious sign of stress.

“I think it’s time we got this project started, considering it’s going to take me a long time to finish.” Darwin mused irritably, turning to Izuku with an unsettling smirk, “Let me introduce you to your new DNA brother, Izuku. The harpy eagle.”

Izuku could feel his breath hitch in fear, looking between her and the bird in disbelief.

DNA Brother?!

“It cost me a lot of money to bring this rare, dangerous creature here.” Darwin hummed, stroking her hand over the cage, “Did you know that harpy eagles have no natural predators? They’re the top of the food chain in their ecosystem, and extremely powerful.” She pointed down to the eagle’s toes, “Their talons can reach up to five inches long, and they use them to grab their prey by the spine and crush them.”

Her eyes flashed with dangerous delight, stalking closer to Izuku, “Imagine what you could do with such a power. What we could do. You would be feared and respected. Sensei would be so pleased to have you by his side, as his pawn. And he’d be pleased with me for creating you.”

She snickered softly to herself, running a hand through her hair and gripping at her scalp, “He’d finally realize just how useful I am and toss that spoiled Shigaraki brat aside. Together, we’d be unstoppable!"

Izuku shuddered, feeling his anxiety building immensely at her unsettling words. He didn’t know who this Sensei person was or what she was talking about, but he wasn’t liking the sound of this at all. Not one bit.

“I can tell you’re confused by my words, but in time you’ll understand.” Darwin sighed softly after a few moments, that scary grin growing on her lips once more. Izuku could see her hands shake with anticipation and excitement as she once more moved closer to the caged eagle, opening up the cage door and reaching inside. The harpy eagle screeched in anger and fear, attacking viciously at her hand with its sharp beak.

But even as the bird now tore into her hand, Darwin seemed unfazed, quickly plucking a few feathers from the birds chest and retracting her hand. She now held them between her bloodied fingers, studying them for a few moments before tilting her head back and dropping them into her mouth.

Izuku knew by now that she was ingesting the birds DNA to memorize its code. And earlier, she’d eaten his hair to have his.

He knew what was about to happen.

“S-Stay away from me.” He stammered out once she'd finished, breath coming in quick huffs from his lips. Any ounce of bravery he’d felt before had vanished once those now-golden eyes settled on him, struggling wildly against the bindings restraining him from the table.

“It’s time we began, my sweet child.” She cooed softly, rolling back her sleeves and reaching into a nearby drawer. She retrieved some odd, circular goggles, placing them over her eyes. “I promise I won’t change your face…or your body too much, but I’ll make the necessary changes we need to. If my calculations are correct, it shouldn't alter your personality too much either... but you may experience a few instinctual changes, so to say.”

 Izuku’s struggling only became more wild and frantic now that she began to walk towards him again.

“S-Stop it! Stay back!” Izuku yelled, his voice raising to a shrill, desperate volume. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want to be changed against his will into some bird-like creature and be forced into what he assumed was villain work.

The closer she stepped towards him, the more he could feel the impending doom of all his hopes and dreams. This woman was about to take away everything that remained of him. If she succeeded, he wouldn't be able to see his mom anymore, and he wouldn't have any chance of becoming a hero. 

The thought was unbearable.

Tears now streamed freely down his cheeks, dripping down his chin and neck as he struggled. “Please, p-please don’t do this!” He begged hysterically between panicked sobs, watching as she loomed over him now, “I don’t want to be changed. I-I’d rather be quirkless than have this!” His voice rose to a shrill volume in his desperation, causing the harpy eagle nearby to start screeching once more.

Darwin gave him a Cheshire smile, shaking her head. “My dear, I’m afraid you do not have a choice in the matter. Just think of how wonderful it will be when you awaken with a quirk of your own.” She paused for a moment, chuckling lowly, “I'll need to be sure to send my regards to Hisashi when all of this is done. Now, hold still.”

Izuku only had a moment to feel shocked at the sound of his fathers name, and he didn't have any time left to question it.

Her hand lowered, hovering right above his left hand. There was a faint glow.

Before blinding pain.

Izuku threw his head back, wide-eyed and screaming at the top of his lungs. The pain was excruciating. It felt like his very cells were ripping apart one by one, like a fire was lit underneath his skin and was slowly burning him from the inside out. His body began to jerk involuntarily against his restraints, muscles convulsing in agony.

Darwin was giggling hysterically as she worked, his struggles only seeming to further excite her. The harpy eagle nearby was screeching nonstop in obvious distress.

The intensity of the pain was starting to become too much for him to bear, and he could feel his vision blurring. Sounds around him seemed to become louder and louder, and even his own screaming was starting to sound deafening. Above all, the eagle’s screeching rattled in his eardrums, making them ring and feel as if they were about to explode.

Briefly, he noticed his forearm starting to turn black, before he himself was lost into the blackness of his unconscious.

Chapter Text

For the first time since he started middle school, his homeroom class was eerily silent.

Not that Bakugou Katsuki would notice though, considering he could hardly hear past the ringing in his own ears.

His morning had started off as it usually did every single day. His shitty mom kicked open his door at the ass-crack of dawn, yelling at him to “Get his lazy ass out of bed and come down for breakfast.” And as usual, he took his sweet time getting up out of bed, throwing on his school uniform, and fixing up his hair. After eating breakfast, he left early like his mom always forced him to, considering he had babysitting duty for a certain freckled idiot.

He waited at their usual meeting place on their block for a total of thirty minutes, his patience growing thinner each second that ticked by. In that moment he’d been convinced that Izuku had slept in again, and his thoughts were consumed with how he was going to beat the shit out of him for daring to make him late once more.

But the minutes continued to pass, still with no sign of him.

Katsuki was about to say fuck it and leave without him, but the sound of his mother’s frantic voice calling his name had him whirling back around. He blinked a few times, lip already curled in a sneer to counter whatever his mom had to say.

“Katsuki.” Mitsuki panted out once she’d reached him, her hands gripping his shoulders. The wide-eyed, fearful look in her usually blazing eyes had him freezing in place. “Where’s Izuku? Has he come up here yet?”

The fuck?

“Of course not, old hag. I’ve been waiting on him for the past thirty fucking minutes!” He quickly shoved his mom’s grabbing hands away, glaring at her, “What the hell is going on?”

Mitsuki paled considerably. Katsuki watched as terror and realization flashed in her ruby eyes. Though he’d never admit it, seeing that look on her face was scarier than anything he could imagine. His mother was a fireball. A rowdy, obnoxious woman with an ever-present shit-eating grin on her lips. This… She wasn’t supposed to look like this.

“Mom, what’s going on?” He repeated, firmer this time.

The woman blinked a few times, and Katsuki was surprised to see tears pooling in her eyes, “Izuku…” She began, her voice no more than a whisper. He took a step back unintentionally, afraid for what was going to come out of her mouth. “Inko called… she found his room empty this morning, and she couldn’t find him anywhere. I thought maybe he was here with you already. Oh g-god… Katsuki, you don’t think—”

The dots connected quickly in his mind, his own realization hitting him in the chest like a sledgehammer. He found himself momentarily breathless, filled with shock, confusion, and denial.

There was no way.

“Fuck that.” Katsuki finally strained out between gritted teeth, taking a few steps back with crackling palms. “Stop worrying. The dumbass is probably already at school. He probably ditched walking to school with me because he’s pissed that I burnt his arm yesterday or some shit.”

“What?!”

Shit. He flinched slightly at his mother’s enraged roar, stopping for a moment. He didn’t mean to admit he’d been responsible for Izuku’s injuries yesterday. Peeking over his shoulder, he spotted his mother now stalking towards him with a murderous scowl, worry momentarily forgotten, “Bakugou Katsuki, don’t tell me you’re still being rough with him!” She shrieked. 

“Fuck, it was an accident. I’ll explain later!” That was a lie. He knew his mom wanted to know more, but now wasn’t the time for a scolding. Every part of him was screaming at him to run to the school and prove her wrong right now. Without another word, he turned and ran ahead, ignoring his mother fuming at him from behind.

There was no fucking way that nerd got kidnapped. It was impossible.

What would some evil kidnapper want with a useless Deku like him?

Everything. A voice in the back of his mind pointed out unhelpfully. He was their perfect target. Isn’t that right?

Katsuki’s mind flashed to the day before, when the two of them had been walking home from school.

“You’d better be grateful I’m still walking home with you despite you being a worthless Deku.” He snarled down at a cowering Izuku, lips curled in a cruel smile, “I bet the moment I ditch your ass you’ll get kidnapped, and no one will ever see your stupid face again.”

Cursing, he came to a stop at the front steps of the school, trying to catch his breath and chase those thoughts away. Sweat dripped down his fingers from his palms, fueling the tiny, occasional sparks that danced on his fingertips anxiously. He didn’t like the way his chest tightened with a foreign twinge of guilt.

Squaring his shoulders, he stormed up the steps, prepared to find Deku and give him the ass-whooping of a lifetime for scaring them all like this.

He was certain he’d find the idiot in their homeroom class, but when he’d violently torn the door open, all he found were a few extras sitting around.

His fury was reaching its boiling point, and the blonde proceeded to stalk through the school’s hallways, checking everywhere else he could find him. Was Deku trying to play some silly game with him? Did he think he could hide from him for long? The thought of such a challenge had his teeth grinding, his palms exploding and popping violently. Students dodged out of his way, eyeing him fearfully.

Unfortunately for him, his search came up emptyhanded. He was very much clouded in an aura of dark rage when he sat back down in class, fully prepared to kill Izuku now.

Any lingering thoughts of this being some stupid game, however, were quickly wiped away the instant the school principal walked in with a grim look on his face.

He barely registered the words leaving his mouth through his own shocked daze, only catching the important words and phrases.

Izuku went missing last night. Izuku was gone.

And even though the principal didn’t address it, everyone knew what this meant. The last six kidnappings all happened in the same way.

“I bet the moment I ditch your ass you’ll get kidnapped, and no one will ever see your stupid face again.”

He’d jinxed it, hadn’t he?

Despite being in a hot classroom and drenched in sweat, he felt as if a cold bucket of water had been dumped over him, numbing him to his core. All around him, his classmates began to whisper worriedly to each other.

“Poor Midoriya….”

“I wonder if All Might is going to make a statement.”

“How did his mom not hear anything—"

“It was only a matter of time anyway… After all, he’s one of the only quirkless people around—”

Katsuki clenched his fists, smoke starting to rise between the cracks in his fingers. Those fuckers, what right did they have talking about him and worrying about him when all they did was laugh at him all day?

But then again, why the fuck should he care either? He was the one that constantly picked on and harassed the freckled teen. He was the one that was quick to stomp all over his worthless dreams.

He was Izuku’s bully.

Katsuki was the one both of their parents relied on to keep him safe from the kidnapper. Considering Izuku was completely useless in a fight, he’d need Katsuki’s amazing quirk to have his back if anyone ever made a grab for him. They’d decided this long ago, when they were younger and their friendship didn’t lay in a thousand shattered pieces.

As much as he despised the task, he couldn’t help but feel terrified and enraged at the thought of Izuku actually being gone. He had failed at the one job he was given by his parents. Failure was not an option for Katsuki. He was supposed to be the best at everything, and always succeed no matter what.

He felt annoyed that Izuku was a victim. He felt angry that he had this responsibility of watching over him and had failed. And for once in his life, he felt a bit of guilt. Guilty that his last parting remarks for Izuku were burns on his arm and scathing words.

All of these emotions made him feel sick to his stomach, confused. He wasn’t used to thinking for someone else’s sake so much, more specifically, Deku's.

He was thankful that his mother called the school not too long after the principal left, requesting to pull him out for the day. He’d rather face his mother’s screaming rage and grief rather than sit alone in his thoughts any longer.

As he gathered his things, he cast a glance at Izuku’s empty desk sitting behind him, a grim reminder of his absence.

His lips twitched into a grimace, and swallowing thickly, he snatched his things and stormed out of the classroom.

 

 

By all means, Midoriya Inko had never lived an easy life. It was a constant cycle of high and low points, all of it seeming to circle endlessly around family. Family was everything to her, from the moment she said her vows with Hisashi to Izuku's first cry of life.

She thought her husband going away to work abroad would be the toughest thing she’d ever face in her life. But now, as she sat in a living room full of police officers, she was certain she was wrong.

The moment she'd opened her eyes this morning, she'd known that something was off. There was a heavy, foreboding air hanging around her home, and every warning bell inside her head was sounding its alarm. As a mother, she’d long since learned that these sorts of gut feelings usually weren’t wrong, and that she needed to trust her instinct. So, the first thing she did when she got out of bed, was go straight to Izuku’s room to make sure he was alright.

When she'd pushed his door open with a greeting on her lips, she'd been met with an empty, ruffled bed.

Instant panic had shot through her like a lightning-bolt. Izuku should be in his bed… He never wakes up this early—

Everything seemed to spiral out of control from there. Consumed with desperation to find out where her son was and why he wasn’t in bed, she’d tore through the entire apartment, calling out his name as she went. When she’d received no response, she’d searched the entire outside of the complex until she dialed Mitsuki through panicked tears.

Surely Izuku must’ve ran ahead to meet with Katsuki? Maybe she’d scared him a little yesterday morning and he was avoiding her…

The minutes ticked by as she'd waited for Mitsuki to call her back, her breath leaving her lungs in erratic bursts. She had to lean against the wall outside her apartment for support, otherwise her knees would buckle. The words of the news reporters over the years echoed in her mind, reminding her of what this all could possibly mean.

“Parents are advised to keep a close eye on their child overnight if they are quirkless.” The news reporter had said, gaze serious as he leaned against the table and looked into the camera, “Police have said that most of these missing children have seemingly left from their beds or homes by their own doing.”

It seemed like she waited there forever, bordering on a panic attack, until Mitsuki finally called. She’d hoped she was going to tell her that Izuku was with Katsuki. She hoped that her baby was safe at school, away from the predator out to get him.

“I-Inko, Izuku’s not with Katsuki! The brat was standing there by himself waiting for him—” Mitsuki’s voice sounded worried, tearful, “You need to call the police right now!”

If Inko hadn’t collapsed to her knees at that moment and began wailing brokenly, she would’ve. Only when her concerned neighbor stepped out of his house and found her babbling hysterically about her son were they called.

Now, her world was drenched in gray. The police and investigators wandered her apartment, gathering evidence and speaking with one another. There was one sitting in front of her, asking questions every now and then to which she only answered numbly. Only the feeling of Mitsuki pressed supportively against her on the couch kept her attached to the world around her, her old friend having come to console her as soon as she could.

She’d already screamed and cried out for her son hours before, to the point where her eyes were now puffy and heavy with sleep. Now all there was left in her heart was a hollowness, aching for her son.

And so, the day continued to pass in a turbulent blur. Many officers came in and out, gathering information and getting statements from her. A few pro heroes stopped by as well to give condolences and promises to find her son. Mitsuki stayed with her most of the day, only leaving to pick up Katsuki from school early and bring them both back there. The blonde boy seemed tense and aggravated when Mitsuki returned with him, silently moving across the room and sitting in one of the armchairs. He hadn’t moved the rest of the day, face in a permanent, thoughtful scowl.

Inko watched as the officers began to decline in numbers around her. Some had left back to their stations, while others went out to corral away reporters that were hovering around the apartment like the vultures they were.

All she could think about, even now, was the oppressive absence of her son and the absence of the number one hero. Surely All Might was going to speak with her, after all he claimed on the news about spearheading the search?

He was the only one she really wanted to talk to right now.

Her baby Izuku was gone. He’d been kidnapped, just like all those other poor children. Wasn’t his hero going to come and save him?

The thought made tears pool in her eyes once more, unbidden. No matter how much she’d tried to stay hopeful that the pros and police force would find Izuku, she knew the chances were slim. The first child disappeared two years ago, and still hadn’t been found. None of the others had been found either. All of their reassurances were futile.

What was she going to do?

“Midoriya-san?”

The voice caused her to look up to meet sad, sympathetic dark eyes. It was a black-haired man, dressed in an investigator’s robe and a hat he’d taken off respectfully when he walked in. He carried himself in a much different way than all of the other policemen in the room, which immediately grabbed Inko’s attention.

“Detective Tsukauchi Naomasa.” He introduced himself with a slight, polite bow, before meeting her eyes again, “It is a pleasure to meet you. I apologize for the loss you are dealing with right now.”

Inko simply dipped her head to greet him, words failing her at the moment. She’d heard that plenty of times today from other officers and pros coming in and out. She didn’t need to hear it again. Beside her, Mitsuki gave him an annoyed look.

Naomasa seemed to frown a little at her lack of response and the looks he received, shaking his head. “Ah… That was foolish of me to say. I know that’s probably what you don’t want to hear right now.” He reached into the pocket of his shirt, presenting her with a business card, “You’ve been visited by enough policemen today and I’m certain you’d like to rest and have time to yourself. I’d like to speak with you in private, as soon as you possibly can, though. I believe my colleague and I can work with you personally to find the person responsible for your son’s disappearance.”

Tears welled up in Inko’s eyes once more, falling in rivers down her round cheeks. This man… Out of all the people she came across today, had been the most genuine. She could see it in his eyes. There was no grim or doubtful look in his eyes, only sympathy and determination. And he wasn't just here to offer empty promises and condolences. He meant business.

For the first time that day, she felt a sliver of hope and trust in this man.

Swallowing thickly past the lump in her throat, Inko nodded, clutching his card close to her. “I-…. I will call you soon then, Tsukauchi-san. Thank you.”

A kind smile graced Naomasa’s lips at that, and he turned to leave.

“W-Wait! I have a question, Tsukauchi-san…before you go—”

Blinking in surprise, the man turned around, watching as Inko fumbled through her tears. Their eyes met once more, and there was a hard, desperate look in her eyes.

“Is All Might going t-to speak with me? Is he going of find my son?”

Naomasa smiled warmly.

 “I can assure you, he will. In fact, I believe you will be speaking with him very soon.”

 

 

Later that night, when she was left alone in the disturbing quietness of her apartment, Inko dialed Hisashi’s number.

She called once. Twice. Three times.

No answer.

Frustrated tears cascaded down Inko’s cheeks as she called a fourth time, pain lancing through her heart. She needed to hear her husband’s voice, she needed his reassurances. She needed to tell him what happened. She needed him to come home.

“Hisashi—” She choked on a sob as she was taken once more to voicemail, “I don’t know why y-you aren’t answering your phone right now. B-But… Something ha-…happened today.”

Inko paused, her gaze roaming around her empty apartment. There was no Izuku sitting on the couch, muttering endlessly as he poured over his hero journal. There was no Izuku helping clean up after dinner in the kitchen. There was no freckled, bright-eyed boy, giving her a hug and kiss goodnight.

She felt her heart shatter in a million pieces once more, any composure she’d tried to maintain all day crumbling away.

“You n-need to come h-home, Hisashi.” She sobbed brokenly, voice hitching, “I-Izuku… Oh God, H-Hisashi our boy’s gone. H-He was kidnapped! It’s all my fault, I d-didn’t watch him closely, even though everyone was warning me to. He just v-vanished right under my nose and I d-don’t know where he is or if he is alright!”

Her voice had risen drastically as she spoke to a hoarse wail, clutching the phone close to her like a lifeline, like it would bring her any closer to Hisashi. “P-Please, please pick up… Please. Please….” Inko begged between anguished sobs, her whole body shaking with the force of each one. Unable to handle it anymore, she ended the voicemail, tossing her phone away from her with a tortured cry.

Never before had Inko felt so utterly alone and miserable.

She sunk to the ground, curling up as she once more lost herself in her grief.

Chapter Text

...

 

1 week

 

Yagi Toshinori, in all his scraggly glory, couldn’t help the wheezy sigh of relief that escaped his lungs the moment he and Naomasa reached the Midoriya household.

Naomasa, his longtime friend, gave him a conflicted glance out of the corner of his eye. “Are you sure you don’t want to go into this as All Might? I’m sure Midoriya-san has been waiting to hear from you in person, under your hero guise more specifically.”

Toshinori grimaced at the thought of bulking up with One for All for the second time today.

This past week had been hell for him, to say the least. Ever since the Midoriya boy had become the seventh missing child, he’d been neck deep in media interviews and police briefings. With each passing day, his frustration and crushing guilt grew. Instead of being out there like he should be, searching for the boy and all the missing children, he was stuck with news castors and cornered by journalists.

And through it all, he had to keep himself buffed up with One for All to hide his weakness from the public eye. Day after day, he had to keep it up for longer than usual, and it was completely exhausting. By the time those vultures finally left him alone, he could hardly stand on his pencil-thin legs. The only thing he could do after that was wipe the blood away from his mouth and curl up in bed to sleep.

As disturbing as it was, media outlets would soon leave him alone once all the shock over the kidnapping died down. He knew eventually they’d leave him be enough so that he could work properly. They’d move onto something else entirely, like the cutest kitten of the day or minor crimes and hero spotlights. That was just the world they lived in, considering people liked to turn a blind eye to the bad things and move on.

But for Toshinori, he could never move on.

He was tortured emotionally, day and night, at the thought of what could be happening to those children right now. Children, who were just like how he’d used to be. Children, with entire lives ahead of them and heads full of dreams, now out of reach from him and going through who knows what.

“Toshinori.”

He blinked a few times, emerging from his brooding thoughts and giving Naomasa a sheepish smile. “Ah… Sorry.” He chuckled softly, rubbing the back of his neck, “I’d actually prefer to be in my real condition for this interview, as Yagi. Midoriya-san might feel more nervous or flustered around me as All Might, and I want her to be as comfortable as possible for this.”

Naomasa nodded in understanding to that, remembering the wreck that woman was just a week ago. He couldn’t imagine how she’d be feeling now, a week later. Without wasting another moment, he rang the doorbell.

“Just a moment!” a muffled voice replied from the other side.

Toshinori listened as shuffling footsteps approached the door, before it finally unlocked and opened wide to reveal Midoriya Inko to him.

Over the years, he’d visited many family members of the missing children. They’d all held an oppressing air of grief and devastation around themselves, but none of them compared to the sadness in those green eyes of hers. There was a certain dullness in Inko’s eyes that not only shone with grief, but also with a recognizable, crushing loneliness. It made his heart squeeze painfully in his chest for her sake, and he had an uncanny urge to wrap that mother up in his arms and protect her from the world.

“A-Ah, Tsukauchi-san!” She greeted the dark-haired man respectfully, giving him a watery smile. Her gaze then turned to look over the skeleton-like man next to him, surprise and confusion written on her face, “And you are…?”

“Yagi Toshinori.” He introduced himself politely to her inquiry, bowing, “A member of the detective force and Tsukauchi’s work partner. I apologize for the late notice of my arrival here.”

Inko bobbed her head in response, giving him a small, nervous smile. Obviously, she was caught off guard by the unexpected visitor, but she seemed fine with it nonetheless. “Nice to meet you, Yagi-san.” She greeted softly, before sidestepping, “Please, come in, I-I have tea ready in the living room.”

 

 

The silence that followed them as they settled down in the living room wasn’t awkward, but rather, more solemn. Toshinori watched as Inko poured tea for Naomasa quietly, nursing a cup of his own between his two hands.

He took a moment to observe the apartment around them, and how quaint and cozy it was. Clearly, it was a home full of warmth and love, considering all the pictures that decorated a nearby wall. More notably, he took notice of the smiling, freckle faced boy featured in most of the photos. His wild, curly green hair was identical in hue to his mothers, and he definitely had her eyes.

“I take that All Might will not be joining us today.” Inko broke the silence with a sad, watery chuckle, making him turn his gaze back to her. His heart squeezed painfully in his chest at the obviously disappointed tone in her voice, making him question for a moment whether he’d made the right decision. Still, he’d rather find time to talk to her another day as All Might than risk her discovering his weakness. He still needed to be a symbol of hope to her.

Naomasa exchanged a look with him, before turning to her with a soft, sympathetic look, “He wanted me to apologize to you for his absence during this meeting. He and the other pro heroes currently have their hands tied up in investigation work.”

“Ah… I understand then. You all are working so hard.” Inko sighed softly, her gaze falling to the cup in her hands.

There was a pregnant pause in the conversation at that point, each of the investigators in the room giving Inko enough time to gather her thoughts before firing off questions. They waited until she was ready, until she lifted her gaze to meet theirs once more.

Toshinori cleared his throat softly. “Do you mind telling us about all that happened that night? Whatever you are comfortable with saying, of course.”

Inko nodded mutely and began to recount the events of that night one week ago. Both Toshinori and Naomasa listened intently as she told them of how nothing out of the ordinary happened that night. Apparently, it was just like any other normal night. Her and Izuku had dinner, and he went upstairs to bed not too long after. It was only in the morning did she know that something was wrong, and she described with pooling tears in her eyes of how she found his bed empty, and how she’d frantically searched for her son.

Naomasa took notes the entire time she spoke, while Toshinori listened on with rapt focus. His own frustration and guilt only seemed to grow more and more crushing on his shoulders. Just like all the other times, the child had seemingly disappeared on their own will. It was almost as if he’d gotten up and walked out on his own, leaving no trace behind of any struggle. His fingers tightened their grip around the tea cup in his hands, shaking.

How were they ever going to catch this person, who covered their tracks so cleanly?

“Thank you, Midoriya-san, for that information.” Naomasa spoke quietly once she’d finished talking. His dark eyes watched her carefully, “Is there any questions you might have for us now?”

Toshinori had expected her to shake her head meekly, or to burst into tears and shoo them away. But he was pleasantly surprised to see her perk up completely, determination shining in her tearful emerald eyes. She set her cup aside, instead gripping the end of her skirt.

“Are there any suspects? How close are we to finding my son?” Inko cut straight to the chase, her voice watery yet firm.

Naomasa seemed to be caught off guard as well, for his eyes had widened considerably. It was a tough question, considering as an investigator he had to keep some information private. Even they didn’t have the authority to relay all their findings to the mother of one of the missing children. They’d need special permission for that.

Surprisingly, Toshinori was the one who spoke up. “I regret to inform you that we can’t give away a lot of information at this time, considering a lot of it is classified.” He began softly after coughing into his hand, “We’d need authorization to give you all the information. However… We can shed a little bit of light on the matter.” He cast a look at Naomasa, who nodded.

“We have reason to suspect that there is a “rat” to say, amongst our trusted figures.” He continued, watching as Inko nodded attentively. “People just cannot tell by looking at someone that they are quirkless. People aren’t even allowed to use their quirks in public, unless it is authorized for work or health issues. Only a person who has access to personal documents on multiple children would be able to know this. We also know that this person couldn’t possibly be working alone, and that there are at least two other cohorts with them.”

“One has already been identified as someone with a powerful mind-control quirk. Considering all the victims were disappearing in their sleep, we have reason to believe that sleep is the key to using their quirk. The other has to be someone with some sort of warp or teleportation quirk. With every case, each of our strongest trackers have been lead to dead ends, some even in the middle of normally busy streets. It was like they’d vanished into thin air, and only a quirk of those sorts could be capable of pulling that off.”

Both men in the room watched as Inko tried to process this information given to her, obviously disturbed by it all. Someone that she trusted Izuku with had gone behind their backs and handed over his information to the kidnapper. The more she thought about it, the more carefully crafted the plan seemed. Multiple people were involved in this act, not just one. They were specifically targeting quirkless children, for an unknown, frightening cause.

But what, exactly, were they doing with those quirkless children. With Izuku?

“My poor baby…” She whispered brokenly, warm tears sliding down her cheeks. She buried her face in her hands, shuddering on a sob, “How are we ever going to find him now?”

Unable to help himself, Toshinori rose from his seat to quickly join Inko on the other couch, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Don’t give up hope yet, Midoriya-san.” He reassured softly, conviction in his voice, “I am he—I mean— We are closer than we ever have been to cracking this case. There are leads we’ve picked up on that might point us in the right direction of where to look next. All of heroes in Japan will keep searching from top to bottom to find them.”

There was so much more he wished he could tell her, so much information he could spill to ease her troubled mind. All of this was so infuriatingly difficult that Toshinori wished for once there weren’t so many rules in the police force. She had a right to know. But at the same time, he knew that for now, the lack of information would keep her safe.

His gaze left Inko momentarily as he watched Naomasa approach, the two of them sharing a look of mutual understanding. He too, wished he could tell her more.

“Midoriya-san, why don’t you show us to Izuku’s room? I’d like to take a few pictures for his file, just to be sure we don’t miss anything out of the ordinary that could be a clue. Would you mind?” Naomasa asked her quietly, hoping to change the subject before Inko got too lost in her grief and worry.

Thankfully, Inko seemed willing to comply, as she nodded her head quickly and wiped her eyes on a tea towel. There was a lost look in her eyes as her mind lingered on the subject a little longer, towel bunched up in her hands. “Y-Yes…right this way.” She murmured quietly.

The two men followed after the portly woman as she made her way up the stairs of the apartment, solemnly silent. They came to a stop outside of a doorway, which Toshinori noted with amusement had an All Might themed name tag on it.

“I apologize for the mess inside of it.” Inko gave a watery chuckle, wiping at her eyes once more with a sad smile, “He’s a bit of a messy boy. Tends to get wrapped up in his head a lot and forgets to clean his room.”

That earned a chuckle from both of them, and Inko took that as a cue that it was okay to show the room now, carefully opening the door.

Toshinori’s knees almost buckled with the amount of emotion rushing through his chest.

The entire interior of the room was decorated with his face.

The walls were completely covered with All Might posters. His smiling face was printed upon his bedsheets and pillows. All Might action figures of all kinds (Even the one’s from WcDonalds' kids meals!) decorated the shelves. Everywhere he looked in the room, he could see himself grinning back.

While Naomasa moved towards the bed to take pictures, Toshinori headed towards the bookshelves with shaking legs. Wide, blue eyes scanned over the various notebooks stacked haphazardly upon one shelf. He carefully picked one up, turning it onto its cover.

Hero Journal No. 12.

“Despite being quirkless, Izuku still hasn’t given up on his dream to be a hero.” Inko’s voice sounded next to him quietly. He hadn’t been aware that she’d followed him. As if granting him permission to look, she carefully nudged open the notebook in Toshinori’s hands, letting him look over the contents inside.

Pages upon pages of detailed analysis on each hero. Mt Lady. Kamui Woods. Best Jeanist. The Wild, Wild Pussycats. Cementoss. Endeavor. Gang Orca. Edgeshot. Ingenium.

“Believe it or not, these first few journals of his are filled with information about All Might.” Inko chuckled softly, pointing to the stack of journals once more, “I know it’s obvious by his room, but he…. H-he really looks up to All Might. Since he was in diapers he’s always wanted to be like him and save people with a smile.” Sadness clouded her gaze again, “Even his doctor told him to give up on that dream, since he’s quirkless. But he hasn’t. He still chases after All Might.”

Toshinori moved, abandoning all thought. The notebook in his hands clattered to the floor, and suddenly Inko found herself wrapped up in those thin arms of his. She blinked in surprise, even as her arms wove around the man to reciprocate the unexpected hug.

“I swear to you.” Toshinori whispered, his voice harsh and wet with tears that now slipped down that skeletal face, “Izuku will be found and brought back home. If I know All Might, I know he will not rest until he is safe again. I swear to you.”

There was so much conviction, so much promise in those simple words, that Inko wasn’t even surprised that tears now fell down her cheeks as well. She whimpered softly, nodding and hugging the man tight in return.

 

 

3 weeks

 

Katsuki didn’t even know what he was doing anymore.

He should be at home, studying for his exam tomorrow in history and stuffing his face with spicy katsudon.

He should be worrying about his own fucking self.

But instead, here he was at some shitty café he’d never bothered going to before. The inside décor was so obnoxiously bright it made him want to gag. But more importantly, the reason he’d never even come close to visiting this place before, was because shitty Deku used to come here all the time.

He’d seen his former friend scurry over to this place plenty of times after school. He’d sit in the booth in the far corner and scribble around in that stupid journal of his while mumbling to himself. He used to think it was pathetic that Deku would be alone all the time in the café, without a friend in the world to come and sit with his weirdo ass.

Now, the foreign sensation of guilt was starting to get to Katsuki’s head. He hated the fact that he was feeling guilty over Deku’s disappearance. He hated that he felt guilty, because he was certain he hated Deku. Why the fuck was he feeling guilty?

Every time he tried to tell himself he shouldn’t give a rat’s ass about Izuku, his brain unhelpfully reminded him of how everyone had counted on him to keep an eye on Izuku. Even if they weren’t exactly best friends anymore, and even if he’d hated it at the time, he wished more than anything that he hadn’t failed at that.

Failure wasn’t an option if he wanted to be number one.

This failure was driving him insane.

And so, here he was, sitting at the café Izuku used to frequent in order to see if he could spot any suspicious characters here. Since his disappearance, he’d taken on his own investigation of sorts, in order to find the missing idiot. Those policemen weren't doing a good enough job, in his opinion. He'd figured out the person who was responsible for kidnapping him had to be someone who knew him, otherwise they wouldn’t have recognized him as a target.

He'd been coming here for days, hoping to catch a clue on someone who might know him or act in a way that suggested they knew him.

So far, his investigation had been for naught. There were no people that seemed suspicious or out of the ordinary. No one mentioned Izuku’s name, or spared a glance at the empty booth in the corner that was usually saved for their “favorite customer”.

There was, however, a young woman who came in occasionally. She had short, pink hair that ended in wispy curls around her chin. Her red eyes were always dull with exhaustion, decorated with dark bags underneath. To Katsuki, she looked like a fucking mess that hadn’t slept in months.

What stood out of him, however, is her choice of seating in the café. After she ordered her coffee with four shots of espresso, she would sit in the booth Izuku used to settle himself in. There, she would quietly sip her coffee, lost in thought. Her shoulders were hunched with what he could read as obvious guilt, like there was a heavy weight on her shoulders.

Last but not least, she would take out a pin and scribble on the table. The fucking vandal. 

He'd come to find after a few visits that she wasn't just scribbling blindly on the table, but carving in letters. Letters that were forming words. 

She then would glance at him, to see if he was watching, before she'd get up and leave.

The door chimed at the café, and Katsuki was brought out of his thoughts and back to the present. There she was, walking in with a raincoat wrapped around her.

Narrowing his eyes, Katsuki hunkered down to observe.

 

 

3 months

 

Inko blinked blearily against the harsh light of the television screen, emerging from the deep reaches of sleep and into the wakeful world. There was a horrible crick in her neck from falling asleep against the couch, wrapped up in Izuku’s bed blanket.

She swallowed against the dryness in her throat, focusing her eyes on the bright screen illuminating the room. She really hadn’t meant to doze off, but the scent of her son clinging to the blankets seemed to have soothed her loneliness enough to lull her to sleep.

Blinking the sleep from her eyes once more, she retrieved her phone from the coffee table to check the time.

2:46 a.m.

Inko would’ve been upset with herself at the time, had she not noticed the notification sitting below. A missed call and a voicemail from an unknown number.

Her brow lowered in confusion and curiosity. It was most likely a telemarketer call, but she figured she’d give it a listen anyway. Sighing softly, she opened up the phone app and played the voicemail.

“…Inko.” Hisashi’s hushed, hurried voice sounded on the other end. “Darling—I’m so sorry I haven’t been able to reach you sooner, I know it’s been rough on your own. I don’t have much time to talk, b-but I want you to know that I’m aware of what’s happened to our boy.”

Unknown voices sounded in the background, along with frantic whispers. Hisashi’s voice returned once more, seemingly more frantic, “I’m coming home to you soon, my dear, d-don’t worry. I can explain everything to you once I’m there, but until then—Whatever you do, do not contact any pro heroes. Do you understand?” His voice grew firmer, desperate, “Stay in the house, try to avoid interviews. I’m trying to keep you safe. Don’t contact them, I beg of you. I’ll be home soon my love--”

The voicemail ended.

Inko’s phone clattered to the floor.

 

 

5 months

 

“Somethings not right.” Dark Shadow whimpered for the fifth time that night.

Sighing heavily, Tokoyami Fumikage looked up from the book propped up in his lap, dark eyes glimmering in annoyance.

It had been quite a while since he and his family had taken a trip to their vacation home in the Kochi prefecture. The little cottage in the dense, lush woods provided a quiet, cozy environment for his family of darkness. They’d be here for a few months, until the summer break was over.

He had thought during this family getaway he would get some well-deserved peace and quiet, but Dark Shadow didn’t seem to keen on letting him have that. For the past few days, since their arrival, the shadow being had bothered him relentlessly.

Apparently, something was going on in the woods. Something bad enough to disturb Dark Shadow.

“Quiet, Dark Shadow.” He mumbled irritably, bookmarking his page as he fixed his gaze upon the shadow creature, “You have been doing this for days. I cannot possibly concentrate with you bothering me about this.”

“Somethings not right.” The whimper came again.

Reaching the end of his patience, Fumikage rubbed a hand down his feathered face. He set his book aside, standing up to join Dark Shadow at the window.

The forest around them was cloaked eerily in darkness, and he had to admit, there was something unsettling about it.

“What is not right?” He questioned quietly, gaze locked onto the woods. The answer he received from the shadow only proved to unsettle him more.

“Something unnatural.”

 

 

Deep within those very woods, in a facility tucked away from sight, Dr. Darwin worked tirelessly.

She loomed over a metal table, observing her latest creation with delight. Several wires were connected to the new appendages she’d finally finished developing upon her subjects back.

“All nerve-stimulation probes are attached, Doctor.” Her assistant murmured quietly from nearby, stepping away from the table, “Ready on your mark.”

“Excellent.” Darwin whispered, eyeballing the unconscious boy on the table like a predator watching its prey. “If this proves successful, all physical modifications will be complete. We can finally move him into the SD tank and make the needed improvements to his mind.”

She leaned closer, petting her fingers affectionately through the matted, curly green hair before her. The woman took a moment to admire the new feathers cresting around the boy’s ears, sick affection in her eyes.

“Come on, my little Izuku. Show me those beautiful wings of yours.” She cooed softly.

Her assistant flipped the switch on the machine when she signaled her too, the machine whirring to life and sending electrical currents down through the wires and into the probes.

Darwin jumped back with a shriek of glee as giant wings expanded upwards from Izuku’s back, fanning out completely from the electrical stimulation.

Big, beautiful, grey and black wings.

Chapter Text

The passage of time.

It was something Izuku didn’t know anything about anymore.

Sometimes, he didn’t even know if he was sleeping, dreaming, or awake. He couldn’t tell the difference anymore, at this point. Everything had become so blurry and unfamiliar.

In the beginning, he knew that she was changing his body like she said she would. He would drift in and out of consciousness, awakening to burning pain in his limbs and fire on his skin. At one point, he was sure he felt a brush of feathers against his skin, or caught blurry glimpses of wicked claws. Another time, he could feel his body being moved, and felt himself being submerged in warm water.

He struggled weakly before those cruel hands put him under once more.

Now, what was in his head had become his new reality. His world was a torrent of vivid dreams, flashes of pain, and distant voices.

For a while, he really liked it here. His subconscious supplied him lush green meadows and peaceful beaches, anything to ease the trauma he’d recently been enduring. It was a far cry from what he was going through in the real world. He’d find himself sitting or laying there most of the time, basking in the peace and quiet these places offered to his already damaged soul.

 Sometimes, his world would shift and he would find himself walking through distant memories in his dreams. He watched with sad longing as he and Katsuki played together as three-year-olds, before quirks or lack of thereof came into their lives and shattered their friendship to pieces. He watched as he and his mother went on a picnic in his 4th year of elementary school, enjoying the sunshine and each other’s presence. He watched himself a year ago as he rushed into the living room with hands full of snacks, bright-eyed and ready to watch the new All Might documentary. His mother was laughing beside him, ruffling his hair and commenting about how long it was getting before pressing up against her son to watch it with him.

These memories made him happy, but they also made him sad. He wanted so desperately to be with his mom, for things to be different between him and Katsuki. But she was so out of reach right now, and his and Katsuki’s friendship was so far gone.

But for now, in the comfort of his own mind, he could pretend for a while that everything was okay. Even if all of this was in his mind, he’d rather be here than back in a world of pain and fear. Maybe he’d died and he was in heaven now.

He could be safe and hide here for a while.

 

 

It was only a matter of time before his memories and dreams began to blend with each other. And what was once all happy, pleasant memories soon shifted focus to the darkest aspects of his life.

Suddenly he was himself as a four-year-old, his classmates gathered around him and taunting him for being quirkless. He sat there just as he had before, frozen in shock and anguish as people he thought were his friends and cared about called him worthless and boring. The adults standing around did nothing to defend or protect him, only scolding the children gently and claiming they were just playfully teasing him. Their lack of action only cut him deeper.

The person that hurt him the most out of all, however, was Katsuki. He watched as those crimson eyes that once looked at him with playful mischief and excitement turn cold with disgust and hatred. Someone he looked up to, cherished as his best friend, now filled his days with painful burns and scathing words.

“You worthless piece of shit.” Katsuki sneered above him as he once more knocked him off his feet. He gazed up at his best friend turned bully with another swell of hurt in his already broken heart, tears blurring his vision. His arms stung with familiar burns, and he could feel a massive bruise already forming on his left cheek.

“Hah! There you go, crying again like a fucking wimp.” The blonde laughed, his lackeys behind him joining in with their snickering. Katsuki punched into his palm, creating a small, threatening explosion, “Maybe next time when you try to defend someone, you remember your place, quirkless deku.”

With a sob building in his throat, Izuku sat up. Katsuki and his lackeys disappearing like clouds of mist, their laughter diminishing into faint echos. The scenery changed around him, and suddenly he was three again. He was sitting in his living room, toys littered everywhere and rain pounding against the windowpanes.

He watched as his father, suitcases surrounding him, embraced his mother in one final hug of goodbye before leaving for work abroad.

Those brown eyes turned on him then, and for the first time in ten years, he looked over his father’s appearance once more. Though his hair was jet black, the two of them shared the same, messy bushiness of their hair, and the same freckles decorated their cheeks.

His father smiled kindly at him, walking towards him wordlessly before kneeling to ruffle his hair. “Bye ‘Zuku. I’ll see you soon, okay? Love you, son.” He chuckled softly.

Izuku couldn’t hold back the tears anymore, feeling them spill down his cheeks in fast, warm rivers. After not seeing him for so long, after all that has happened since then, the pain was unimaginable.

 His father stood again, turning to head back to the door and gather his things.

“D-Dad…Dad wait—” The wheeze escaped his lips before he could even think. It seemed his father could no longer hear him, however, as he paid him no mind and kissed his mother goodbye.

Izuku scrambled to his feet, chasing after Hisashi as the man opened his umbrella and towed the last of his luggage out into the rain. “Dad!” He yelled, sob catching in his throat as he once more attempted to capture his attention. “Dad, stop! Don’t go!”

He could feel the cold rain soaking through his shirt, his hair beginning to hang limply in his eyes. He still pressed on, the agony in his heart growing the farther away his dad walked. His arms pumped against his sides as he ran as hard as he could, trying to catch up to the figure gradually fading away.

“Dad!” He yelled at the top of his lungs this time, voice catching and breaking, “Dad! Darwin mentioned your n-name to me! She said she knows you!” His steps staggered, the crushing reality of that statement weighing heavily on his heart once more. Even if he knew by now his father couldn’t hear him, that this was just a memory, the thought burned in his mind, leaving a sour taste in his mouth. He didn’t want to believe the possibility his father was somehow involved in all of this.

He could barely see Hisashi now, with the rain dripping in his eyes and the endless tears pouring from them.

“What is she doing to me? Why does she know you?!” His voice cracked hoarsely as he fired off the questions, steps stumbling to a stop. Frantic and filled with a confusing mix of anguish and anger, he took off his shoe, chucking it at Hisashi’s disappearing figure. “What have you done to me?!” The final scream left his lips, coming from somewhere deep and broken inside of him.

But his father was already gone, fading away into the busy city around him. Sobbing brokenly, he crouched down and curled in on himself, wishing all of this would disappear and take him back to his happy place from before.

“Poor, poor Izuku…” A sugary-sweet voice above him cooed, causing him to gasp and whip his head back up. Darwin loomed over him, her eyes glowing an ominous red and her signature, crazed smile upon her lips. “How would Hisashi even recognize you anymore in the first place?”

Izuku stared up at her in confusion for a few moments, unsure by what she meant. A glimpse of black out of the corner of his eye caused him to look down in his lap again, and he watched as his hands began to transform into a wicked looking claws, feathers sprouting out of his face.

His whole body began to tremble in fear, eyes wide with terror. He couldn’t move, only watched as he began to turn into a monster. Darwin was cackling in amusement above him, “Yes, yes! You’re now my wonderful creation!”

“This isn’t real, this isn’t real—” He began to hyperventilate, unable to tear his eyes away from his changing hands.

Darwin’s eyes flashed, “Oh but it is. You may be dreaming now, but what will you come to find when you wake up?”

He didn’t want to believe it. He couldn’t take this anymore. With a cry of fear he scrambled backwards, fleeing away from Darwin as fast as he could. Anywhere was fine. Just far, far away from her and what she was turning him into.

 

 

“You seem awfully lost in thought, sweetie.” His mother’s voice sounded softly from behind him.

Izuku startled in surprise, turning his head quickly to look behind him. Ever since everything had gone sour with his dreams and memories, he’d been hiding here on the beach shore alone. The permanent sunset was calming for his frazzled nerves, made him forget for a while.

His mother stood a few feet behind him, dressed in that yellow summer sundress she used to own when he was younger. She looked beautiful, her green hair fluttering in the breeze and a warm, loving smile on her face.

His eyes burned with tears, and he could already feel his lungs tightening. A huge part of him wanted to believe this was his mother, but there was still a small part of his brain that reminded him that all of this was definitely not real. He’d confirmed it by now that he was dreaming all this time. It still didn’t ease his longing, considering this is the first time he’d “spoken” to her in what felt like so long.

“I’m hallucinating again…” He muttered to himself mournfully, turning away.

Soft footsteps came from behind, until she sat herself down on the grass next to him. Izuku wiped at his eyes to clear the blurriness from his vision away, watching as she gazed out into the landscape before them.

“This place is so beautiful, isn’t it dear?” Inko whispered softly, her eyes glimmering with nostalgia, “It reminds me of that day we had a picnic on the beach. We had katsudon, and you collected a bunch of pretty sea shells to give to All Might as a gift. Remember?”

Unable to help it, Izuku gave a watery smile and a nod at that. It was a wonderful memory he cherished dearly, one that made him happy every time he thought about it.

“Yeah.” He responded softly, voice hoarse and soft. He drew his knees up close, wrapping his arms around them. “And you wore that same dress on that day.”

That comment earned a chuckle from her, and she reached over and began to run her fingers affectionately through his hair. The action caused Izuku to freeze. He released a shuddering breath, another tear slipping down his cheek. His mother’s touch was so much more welcomed than feeling Darwin’s bony fingers scratching his scalp.

Inko frowned then, her hand falling down from his hair to cup his cheek, brushing away his tears, “What’s the matter, honey? Why are you crying?”

Hallucinating or not, he caved, leaning into Inko and stifling a whimper in his throat. Words were failing him at the moment, and he knew that if he opened his mouth right now, he would just start sobbing. So he waited, a lull happening in their conversation while the two of them sat and listened to the waves crashing on the shore.

Where to even begin?

“I just don’t know what to do anymore…” Izuku whispered finally after several minutes of silence. He sniffled, wiping away at his eyes. “I know none of this is real... I know you aren’t real but—god, I wish you were really here right now.”

He hiccupped, voice catching. Inko’s hand rubbed his back, urging him to continue.

“Part of me wants to wake up. Part of me wants to face what’s reality now and deal with it. But I’m so scared.” He pressed his hands to his eyes as a new onslaught of tears hit him, trembling, “I-I don’t want to see what I’ve become. Darwin’s turning me into a freaking monster and she’s going to use me for who knows what.”

Izuku’s hand raked up into his hair, gripping at it furiously, “And w-what makes it worse is that she mentioned dad’s name, mom. I know dad h-had something to do with this and its killing me!

“Most of all, I’m scared I won’t ever be the same again… Not only did she say she was going to change me to look and have the abilities of a harpy eagle, but she said she’s going to tweak my mind.” He hiccupped again, more tears spilling down his cheeks, “What if I really do become a monster because of that?”

Inko’s mouth was pressed in a firm line, tears gathered in the corners of her eyes. Despite this, she looked determined, so very sure of herself and what she was about to say.

“I may not be your real mom, but your mind created me here because you wanted to speak to me. You know the truth and know what I’m going to say.” Her hands grasped at his shoulders, “You are only hiding here and running away because you are allowing fear to take over. And because of your fear, you’ve forgotten the most important thing.”

 “Despite everything that is going to change when you wake up, you will always be Midoriya Izuku. You will always be brave, kind, and care deeply for those around you. You will still have the brightest smile, and the cutest face. You will always want to save people in reach, and be the best hero alive.”

Her forehead came to rest against his, closing her eyes with a soft smile. “You will always be Midoriya Izuku. And no one can ever take that away from you.

Izuku’s tears splattered noisily on the earth below him, a harsh, ugly sob ripping from his throat as he gripped at his mother.

She was right, absolutely right.

How could he let himself cave in to his fear like that? What kind of hero was he going to be if he gave up now?

That’s right. He was going to be a hero, no matter what. Even this wasn’t going to stop him.

“Mom… I miss you so much.” He sobbed, eyes squeezed shut and brow furrowed harshly. “I swear to you t-that when I wake up, I’m going to try my hardest to get out of there and come home.”

Inko hummed softly, pulling back so she could meet Izuku eye to eye. “Now there’s my son.” She whispered, hands cupping his cheeks once more to wipe away his tears.

Izuku gave her a watery smile in return, leaning into her hands. He just wanted to stay like this for a few moments longer, taking in whatever he could of the loving force his mother was. She seemed content to do so as well, wiping at his cheeks gently and caressing them with her thumbs until they were dry once more.

There was a piercing cry, a screech coming from somewhere a little farther down the beach.

Izuku turned his head, curious to see where the familiar noise was coming from. Sticking up from the sand was a rather large piece of driftwood, and standing upon it was none other than the harpy eagle. The majestic creature stared at him from afar, crest of feathers high upon its head and fluttering in the sea breeze.

“I think it’s time for you to go, dear.” Inko whispered from his side, causing him to turn back to her. She looked sad, yet determined, a small smile still upon her face, “Whatever happens when you awaken, do not forget who you are.

Izuku blinked. She was gone.

Sniffling, the boy rose to his feet, dusting the sand away from his legs. They felt sore from misuse, reminding him of how long he’d idled here hiding away from his problems.

That wasn’t going to happen anymore. This time, he was going to face them and overcome them.

And just like All Might, he would keep smiling.

With newfound determination, Izuku made his way across the sand towards the harpy eagle. It didn’t move from its spot, even as the boy approached him and came to a stop before it. The eagle merely continued to stare him down in rapt interest, as if prompting him to do something.

“I guess it’s time now.” Izuku whispered to the bird with a rueful smile, reaching out, “Whether I like it or not, you are a part of me now. I will accept you, and I won’t lose myself along the way.”

Carefully, Izuku began to pet the harpy eagle, running his fingers through the soft downy feathers around its head and crest. Surprisingly enough, the raptor didn’t attack his hand viciously like it had attacked Darwin before. It merely clicked its beak a few times in contentment, bowing its head to him and allowing him to do so.

The wind began to pick up, and the sunlight grew blinding around him.

 

 

In a dark, secluded room within Darwin’s lab, Izuku began to open his eyes.

Chapter Text

The first thing he noticed when he opened his eyes, was how incredibly heavy his back now felt.

It was like someone strapped a 20-pound backpack to him and left it there this entire time he was out. All of the muscles back there were screaming and straining in protest to this new, foreign weight.

He blinked slowly, hazy remnants of his dreams fading from the forefront of his mind. A quick look around the room revealed to him that he was in some sort of cell in the lab, sealed in by a wall of iron bars.

Not only did his back feel so weighed down, but there was an itch all over it, pulling at his skin tightly and making him feel uncomfortable. Grimacing, he reached a weak hand to his shoulder to itch.

Three things immediately caught his attention:

One being that his hand was no longer a hand anymore.

Two being the feathers tickling against his fingers.

Three being he nearly speared himself with his fingers--… claws.

Izuku raised his hand to face level to examine it with wide eyes. While his hand still looked relatively hand-like and he still had five fingers, the skin was black and tough, much like on a bird’s foot. The strange, black skin went mid-way down his forearm, turning into fluffy, dark feathers all over his elbow and bicep. Black, sharp talons took the place where his fingernails used to be, glinting in the artificial light of the room.

The sight of his new, unfamiliar arm made panic claw its way up Izuku’s throat. He still felt very out of it and kinda feverish, but the boy managed to wrench himself up into a sitting position. The heavy weight shifted on his back and twitched, seeming to move with his trapezius muscles.

Whirling his head around, he found the source of the heaviness on his back. Amazement and horror filled him all at once.

He had wings.

Gigantic, gray and black wings.

A trembling noise of fright escaped his lips, jumping up in some disoriented, futile attempt to get away from his new body part. He immediately felt himself buckle down on unfamiliar feet, the muscles to strained to support him well.

His eyes zeroed in now on the black feathers covering the back of his legs and over his knees, going down mid-calf until they once more turned into bird like skin. Where there was once feet and five toes, stood gigantic, harpy-like feet. He had three frontal toes and one in the back, each of them adorning 5-inch long, wicked black talons.

He could already feel a panic attack coming on him now, breaths coming out in short bursts. Talons scrabbling against the cement floor, he managed to pick himself up again and hurry to the mirror embedded in the wall nearby. His heavy wings hung limp on his back, primary feathers dragging across the ground.

The image in the mirror was him, but at the same time, it wasn’t.

While his face and chest were left alone (like Darwin promised), the rest of his body was completely foreign to him. From his arms and legs to the powerful wings now implanted on him, he was very much like the harpy eagle. Dark feathers that matched his wings completely covered his back, disappearing down under the back waistband of the gray boxers he was wearing. There were crests of dark feathers sprouting from behind his ears now, perked up and fanned out with the alarm that was currently coursing through him.

Izuku staggered backwards, tears streaming down his face and hiccups leaving his lips. He fell back onto his bottom, clawed hands reaching up to grip at his hair instinctively. Those talons dug painfully into his scalp, and he released his hair immediately, whimpering at the pain. He could feel the blood beading up where they pierced the skin there.

“I’m still me. I’m still me. I’m still me.” He repeated the mantra of his mother’s words over and over between quick breaths, trying to ground himself. Unconsciously, his wings curled around himself, as if to shield him from his terrified thoughts.

Despite all of the physical modifications, he mentally felt the same. There wasn’t any significant thing that felt different about his thoughts or desires. That came as a huge relief, but at the same time, he had just woken up. What if that was to change as well?

“Stop it!” He hissed at himself, chasing those thoughts away once more. Now was not the time to lose himself in his panic! His mother had told him, he would still be Izuku no matter what!

“I wouldn’t move around so much if I were you.” The smug coo came from beyond the cell.

The unexpected voice caused Izuku to leap to his feet on some uncharted instinct, feeling his claws flex defensively. He bared his teeth, pupils pinning and zeroing in on the intruder.

Darwin stood on the other side of the cell, clipboard in hand. Her eyes were now a vivid yellow, alight with wonder and glee.

“I see your reflexes are working well with your heightened fight or flight instincts.” She scribbled down on her clipboard passionately, ignoring Izuku’s heated glare, “I’m so happy to see you awake again, but you really should rest. Your muscles are still too weak to handle the modifications right now.”

Izuku’s anger reached a boiling point at Darwin’s obvious excitement. She was studying him like the lab rat he was, peering at him through the cage and scribbling away. He was suddenly overcome with the urge to lunge at her through the bars and sink his talons into his prey’s flesh. Then he could—

These sudden thoughts caught him off guard, and he immediately snapped out of it like he’d been slapped. His attack posture fell away as he stumbled back, all traces of anger draining with the color from his face.

What the hell was he thinking?!

Panting, his confused and frightened gaze fell on Darwin again, who was merely grinning at him knowingly with that feral smile of hers.

“Rest now. I’ll be back later once you’re properly recouped to group you up with the other experiments.” Darwin tossed at him informatively, turning to walk away. She bounced as she walked, seemingly overcome with giddy glee, “I can’t believe the experiments are finally finished!”

Izuku watched her go wordlessly, frozen in place. He wished he could’ve given her a proper lounge lashing, or even demanded answers. But he was still too afraid of his own thoughts he’d just had.

Was he really still the same after all?

Stumbling towards his bed, he lay back down on it and curled up in a ball, pressing his face into his feathery knees. His wings lay limp against the bed once more, crested feathers on his ears flattened in dismay.

Once more, he took up on his mantra. “I’m still me. I’m still me. I’m still me…”

 

 

Inko could hardly keep herself still, her leg bouncing a mile a minute while she clutched a cup of tea between her jittery hands. Her gaze was locked upon the front door, swirling with a strange mix of anticipation and fear.

Today was the day that Hisashi was coming home.

For years, Inko looked forward to this day with such a powerful longing in her heart. There were many nights where she lay awake in her bed, gazing at the other side that was previously occupied by her husband and wondering if he was thinking of her too. There were plenty of days where she watched Izuku play or do his homework, and thought of how she wished her husband could be here to see how much he’d grown.

This day was supposed to be a day of joy, of reunion. But due to current circumstances, all of that was squashed and shattered to pieces. It felt more like waiting for an important business meeting, or an intense interview.

Her husband knew something about their son being missing. And she’d be damned if she let him come into their home and back into her arms if he was somehow involved.

There was a soft knock on the door, signaling his arrival. Inko’s fingers twitched and tightened around the cup momentarily. This was it.

Steeling herself, the portly woman placed the cup down on the table, rising to her feet and making her way across the apartment floor.

She noticed, as she opened the door, that it was ironically raining outside. Raining like it did the day he left.

Hisashi stood there under the shelter of the front overhang, looking just as strikingly handsome as he always did. His hair was still the same, bushy mess of black hair, but sides and back had been shaved into an undercut look. Glasses were perched precariously over his nose, and there was that familiar, confident smile of his over his lips. It really made his freckles stand out over his face.

“Inko, my love.” Hisashi greeted her breathlessly, stepping forward and opening his arms wide to embrace her, “I missed you so much.”

Inko bit her lip, stomach curling in disgust. She could see now, close up, that his smile was more forced than confident.  Like her, her husband was an open book. There was a definite fear in those brown eyes, and a tenseness about his posture, like a spring ready to snap away.

She knew he going to try to avoid talking about it.

Sidestepping away from the hug, Inko mustered all the strength she had in her to stare him in the eye. Hisashi looked surprised, even more nervous then.

“Hisashi.” She greeted stiffly, forcing her voice not to waver. Her fingers curled into tight fists, deciding to cut to the case. “We need to talk.”

“Wait—” Hisashi blurted, grabbing her wrist, “Can’t I at least take you out to dinner and treat you before we talk about all this? I know I haven’t been around in a while, and you must have been terribly lonely--”

“Hisashi.” Inko’s uncharacteristically cold snap of his name shut him up quickly. Gaping, he watched as his normally timid, sweet wife stared at him fiery eyes. Twisting her wrist in his grasp, she grabbed onto him instead, dragging him towards the dining room table, “Now is not the time to relax. We need to talk about that voicemail you left me.”

Hisashi paled, unable to form any words in his mouth as he allowed her to lead him over to the table. As much as he had hoped to dance around the topic until later and at least comfort Inko a little, it didn’t seem like his wife would give him the time of day to do so. She was ready to pry the answer right out of him. Right now.

He suddenly didn’t know if he could do this anymore. An ugly part of him demanded he put his foot down as the man of the house and run things his way, but he knew that would only escalate the situation further.

After a stiff, awkward few minutes of the two settling down at the table and pouring out tea, Inko looked at him expectantly.

The home was absurdly quieter than he could remember. The last time he was here, his 4-year-old, chatterbox of a son was following him around like a shadow. It was a somber, sad reminder of all that had happened and the guilt inside of him burned like poison.

He stared for a moment at the steam rolling off the top of his cup, fingers curled around it tightly to hide their nervous trembling. He steadied himself, lifting his head once more to peer at Inko through his glasses.

“Before I say anything… I want you to know that it was never my intention for things to work out this way. Never.” Hisashi swallowed thickly against the sudden onslaught of guiltiness, “I truly… truly am sorry this happened, especially to our son, god—

He lifted a shaking hand to his face, pressing it up under his glasses and against his face.

Inko’s lips trembled, already stricken with fear at Hisashi’s reluctance to address the issue already. Obviously, whatever he had to say wasn’t going to be pleasant. Despite her suspicions against her husband for being involved, she reached for his free hand in a moment of weakness, holding onto it tightly to reassure him and herself.

Her small, warm hand against his seemed to do the trick, for Hisashi continued, “Do you remember the company I used to work for? Before I went overseas for research?”

Inko nodded mutely in response. She remembered distinctly the prestigious job her husband had gotten shortly after they married. Considering it was a company that did medical research, they paid him handsomely for working there.

Hisashi rubbed his hand over his face again, before dropping it, “There was a woman that used to work there with me. Her name was Hatsume Kozue, and she had a prodigious quirk that the company planned to utilize in order to advance medicine and humanity’s well-being. Her quirk allowed her to memorize the DNA structure of any living thing by ingesting it, and then, she could change any living thing’s DNA to be like whatever she ate.” At Inko’s confused look, he elaborated, “For example. If she ate a grape, she could turn a dog’s wagging tail into a full-fledged grapevine just by touching it.”

Inko’s eyes widened, momentarily amazed at the thought of such a powerful quirk. She’d heard of some god-like quirks people possessed, but nothing quite like this.

“I was one of the underlings on her research team, as well as Dr. Tsubasa, Izuku’s doctor. Therefore, both of us got to know her well. She was so intelligent and passionate, but even I could see the madness in her eyes. Power like hers tends to take over people if they are unable to handle it.”

“She believed that the power of humanity’s quirks could all be enhanced through DNA modification. Specifically, splicing our genes and inserting animal DNA. That way, people could attain nature’s untapped power that was cut off from humankind, such as a cheetah’s speed or a lion’s raw strength.” There was a distant, uncomfortable look in Hisashi’s eye as he continued, “She proposed that we start experimenting this specifically on…on quirkless children as a starting point, to see how these animal-born powers developed within them as they grew.”

“The company immediately rejected the idea, considering human experimentation is illegal. Plus, the idea of mutating people to have animalistic qualities is…disturbing. It’s not at all like someone born with an animal quirk. At least those kinds of people are completely human by mental standards, but with mutation? Who knows what that could do to the mind? Hatsume was furious at their rejection, of course, but everyone thought that she’d dropped it.”

Hisashi took a shaky sip of his tea, clearing his throat, “But she didn’t. It was like madness took over her, and she was discovered experimenting this theory on her quirkless nephew at her home. She was arrested by pro-heroes. She was only in jail for a few months before she’d somehow escaped though, and she hasn’t been found since. Police believed she had assistance in her escape, that some villain helped her get out.”

Inko felt like ice had been dumped over her in that instant. She remembered seeing this story unfold on the news, feeling disgust at the woman before merrily carrying on with her day and forgetting about it. The first piece of the puzzle had clicked into place now, and she suddenly felt like throwing up, like screaming at the sky and begging that this story wasn’t going to go the way she thought it was going.

Faint with fear, the greenette swallowed thickly and gripped Hisashi’s hand, “What… What does this have to do with our son?”

Hisashi hesitated, drawing his hand away from his wife. Angered at his reluctance, she demanded once more, “What does this Hatsume woman have to do with Izuku’s disappearance?”

Eyeing her uneasily, Hisashi continued, “There were a few people in the company that thought her vision was of good intentions in the first place, and they stayed in touch with her during her time in prison. One of them was Dr. Tsubasa.”

Inko gripped the edge of the table for support, knuckles turning what.

“T-Tsubasa-san? I-Izuku’s doctor?” she wheezed.

Hisashi nodded solemnly, “Yes. He’s still in contact with her today.”

“How do you know this?”

Another hesitation. “I know this… because Hatsume Kozue reached out to me as well. A year after her escape, when I had just left to work abroad.”

“She told me she was carrying on with her experiments under the alias of Darwin. She also told me she knew I had a quirkless son, probably because Tsubasa told her so, that prick.” Hisashi spat, gaze hardening. A hand wound up in his messy hair, gripping the strands, “She threatened to take our son and use him for her experiment if I didn’t gather research for her while I was abroad.” He bit his lip, voice wavering, “And… And I did it for her. For your and Izuku’s safety.”

If it was even possible, Inko paled even more, looking about ready to faint. A strangled noise escaped her lips, and before she could speak, Hisashi frantically pressed on.

“I-… I did it until the reports of missing kids started to blow up and go worldwide. I had no idea she was going to be kidnapping them like that. I… panicked. I got cold feet and backed out of the deal, and… and I figured I could convince you and Izuku to come abroad with me in order to ensure your safety after that. But before I could even suggest the idea to you without causing a panic… They found him. And took him.” Hands trembling, Hisashi covered his face, choking back tears, “God, Inko… I’m so sorry…”

There was a ringing filling Inko’s ears, hardly able to hear her husband as he fought back tears. Her mind was whirring with everything, it all making sense to her now. Her husband’s distant behavior while abroad, her son’s targeting and kidnapping…

It was all apart of this grand scheme some insane woman had. A grand scheme to experiment on quirkless people and turn them into powerful, animal mutants for who knows what purpose.

A grand scheme that her son was now a part of. Her son was being experimented on.

A broken scream, or cry (she wasn’t sure what) escaped her lips, and Inko leapt to her feet. She swung her hand in a downward motion, activating her quirk and sending the tea cup that she had in front of her hurtling towards her husband. Hot tea splashed in his face, the cup slamming against his head as well and sending the man reeling backwards. His glasses clattered to the floor.

“Fuck!” Hisashi hissed loudly in pain, the skin on his cheek burning from the hot tea. His gaze lifted to meet hers, squinting angrily through the tears, “Inko—”

“You!” She snarled, tears of her own streaming down her cheeks. Beckoning her hand once more, a small picture frame flew into it from across the room, and she hurled that at him as well, “You monster! You absolute monster! You betrayed us!”

“I didn’t betray you!” Hisashi protested, voice laced with pain and anger. He raised an arm, trying to block her attack with the frame, “I was only trying to protect you two, please! I had no other choice when she was threatening—”

“No other choice!? You could’ve called, told us to flee to where you were and be safe! You could’ve contacted the pros!” Inko shrieked, her hands curling into fists and cutting crescents into her palms. The china in the cabinet nearby rattled warningly.

“There wouldn’t have been enough time!” Hisashi roared, advancing around the table towards his wife. Smoke curled from the corners of his lips, his own quirk threatening to spring forth in his anger, “By the time you two would be packing her lackeys and whoever the hell she’s working with out there would’ve been here to kill you and take Izuku! I was being watched over there too, you know!”

The man began to pace with great anxiety and boiling fury, short blasts of fire escaping his lips as he spoke, “Don’t even get me started on those pro heroes.” He spat, “If they were told, they’d separate our family and arrest me. Who’s going to provide for you and Izuku then, huh?”

“I can’t believe you, I can’t believe you…” Inko’s furious shrieks dissolved into heartbroken sobs, her whole body trembling with the force of them. Her hands covered her face, hunching over, “How could you do this to us…”

The tension seemed to crackle in the air between them, laced with mounting panic and spite towards each other. Never, in a million years would Inko have guessed her husband contributed to this monstrous cause.

Even if he was being blackmailed, it was something she couldn’t forgive.

There were a few minutes that passed in pause of their argument. Hisashi continued to pace the apartment, huffing and puffing to calm himself down. Inko sobbed brokenly into her hands, overcome with grief at her husband’s betrayal and fear for her son. She staggered sideways to the table, frantically searching for her phone.

“Let’s just… Take a bit of a break to calm down and think this through.” Hisashi mumbled, fumbling around in his pocket for his cigarettes, “I’ll step outside for a little bit, then we can come back and talk about what we need to do next. No talking to the pros or the police, it’s too risky. Perhaps I can talk to Tsubasa and—”

He cut off as he watched Inko, noticing that her phone was in her hand. “What are you doing?” He growled, eyes narrowing.

Inko kept her back to him, unresponsive. She seemed to be whispering. Suspicious now, the man advanced towards her once more, “Inko.” He snapped her name again demandingly.

Finally, his wife turned to face him. Despite the tears in her eyes, her face was hardened with resolute bitterness and determination. “We aren’t going to sneak around with this.” She hissed, lifting her phone to show him, “We’re going to get the help we need.”

Hisashi’s wide eyes roved over the phone screen pushed up into his face. There was a forty-minute phone call currently running on it for someone named Yagi Toshinori.

He realized now that she’d had this phone call running the whole time they had been speaking, most likely hiding her phone in her lap under the table.

“You.” Hisashi seethed, smoke curling from his mouth.  Inko took many steps back, but Hisashi quickly followed, snatching her wrist in a painfully tight grip. His brown eyes had a wild, frightening look of fury in them. “This was supposed to be a private conversation, dear.”

“Yagi-san!” Inko shrieked as loud as she could, trying to wrench her wrist free from him, “Yagi-san send someone to—Ah!” After snatching her phone from her, Hisashi had shoved her to the ground.

The man inhaled sharply, releasing a roar of flames from his mouth and incinerating Inko’s phone in his hand. The bits crackled and fell to the ground from his scorched palms.

“I’m not taking anymore of this shit from you on this, Inko. You know nothing of what can happen, and I’m trying to protect you!” Hisashi snarled, looming over his fallen wife, “It’s time I put my foot down and reclaim my place in this house. We will leave immediately and find a hotel before any of those assholes show up. Then we will figure. This. All. Out.”

Hisashi grabbed Inko’s arm and started to drag her to get up, despite her screaming, indignant protests.

He didn’t get the chance to yank her up further, though. For the front door slammed open with a deafening boom, flying off its hinges and nearly embedding itself into the wall behind it.

Hisashi whirled around, smoke already gathering in his mouth in preparation to spew fire at the intruder. His face quickly turned white, however, when he realized exactly who was standing there.

All Might’s face was devoid of its usual, brilliant smile. Instead, his teeth were bared in outrage at the man before him. His blue eyes blazed in the darkness of their doorway, directly at the guilty man before him.

Hisashi froze with fear, deaf to Inko’s relieved sobbing on the ground. His eyes were fixed on the powerful hero now advancing towards him.

Once All Might came to a stop right in front of them, he loomed over Hisashi with all the dominating authority he could muster.

“Midoriya Hisashi.” He greeted, voice low with warning, “I suggest you unhand your wife now.”

 

Chapter Text


 

 Inko watched with a surprisingly detached look as Hisashi was hauled away in handcuffs. The tear tracks were drying on her face now, making the skin feel itchy and uncomfortable. She wanted to scream, cry, and throw up all at the same time. And yet, she couldn’t even bring herself to lift her arms right now, the shock of it all leaving her feeling completely numb all over.

For the second time this year, her living room was swarmed with police. Once All Might had burst in and put a quick stop to her husband’s forceful actions, the police had followed in minutes after.

As Hisashi was ushered out the door, he cast a look over his shoulder at Inko, miserable and pleading. Not only were his hands cuffed, but there was a flame-resistant gag tied around his mouth to prevent the usage of his quirk. Gone was the raging hellfire in his eyes she’d seen nearly an hour ago, now replaced with something akin to puppy-eyes. He was pleading with her, trying to get her to forgive him.

Inko merely stared on, her set gaze never wavering. She wasn’t going to be a fool to her husband’s deception anymore. He may look miserable and upset now, but if she were to cave into her weakness and bail him out of this, she was sure he’d turn on her in a heartbeat.  

Suddenly, the man that she loved most had turned into a man she could never trust again.

 She knew that once the numbness that consumed her right now fell away, she’d be filled with grief and hurt again, not only to lament her son’s fate as of now but her husband’s betrayal as well.

The reminder that Izuku was currently being experimented on made a wave of nausea wash over her again. She grimaced, pressing her trembling lips together and forcing the thought out of her mind.

A large hand fell gently upon her shoulder, bringing her out of the dark abyss of her thoughts. She blinked a few times, tilting her head up to lock gazes with none other than the number one hero himself.

She still could hardly believe herself that he was here. The man she’d needed the most had burst through her doorway with all the strength and prowess of a hero that ranked higher than all others. She’d awaited her moment to see and speak with him for so long, and she’d started to give up hope he’d ever stop by. But at last, he was here.

There was something so familiar about the kindness in those bright blue eyes as they gazed down at her. It was the type of déjà vu you’d get when you cross paths with someone that reminded you of person you already knew. It filled her with a reassuring warmth, took away some of the numbness that clawed at her soul. She couldn’t help but stare in awe at him for a few long moments.

“Midoriya-san, I am thankful you are unharmed. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get here sooner.” The man spoke in low timbres, obviously intent for her to only here these words and not the nearby police. His voice, though reassuring, shook with underlying frustration and sorrow. Once more, that sense of familiarity washed over her at the empathy he so obviously had.

He seemed so visibly upset. Had Yagi told him what happened on the phone so quickly?

“I’m just so glad you’re here at all,” Inko whispered, slowly lowering her head to break eye contact. She gazed at her hands, curled around each other to quell the tremors, “I-… I don’t know what would’ve happened had you not showed up.”

All Might hummed quietly, nodding his head in agreement. “I was with Yagi when you had the phone call with him. I heard everything.” The hero’s gaze narrowed, watching Hisashi’s retreating form as he was ushered away, “You were very brave, Midoriya-san. Not everyone can handle a situation like that as well as you did. Many would just completely shut down at such a revelation.”

Inko nodded her head, eyes hardened stones of emerald, “Believe me, I wanted to.” She whispered brokenly, the numbing shock settling deeper in her core. “I… Never would’ve imagined Hisashi would take part in this… to subject our son to something like that, god--.” Her voice cracked, a trembling hand rising to cover her mouth.

“But I knew that if there was a sliver of information Hisashi could give on Izuku, then I would take it no matter what. I will always choose my son first, even before him.” Her voice grew uncharacteristically harsh. “He was a fool to think that I would idly listen to his story and go along with him.”

All Might nodded in agreement, feeling a swell of admiration for the strong woman before him. “Midoriya Hisashi will go in for immediate questioning as soon as he is at the police department. Yagi recorded the entire phone call, and Naomasa should be on his way to the station right now. His quirk allows him to tell whether someone is lying or not, so he will be able to confirm if his statements during the phone call are true.”

So blinded by her rage and betrayal, Inko never thought of the possibility that Hisashi could be lying about all of this. But then again, why would her husband craft such an extensive, hurtful lie? There was genuine fear, regret, and anger in his eyes while they talked. The only possibility she could see of him lying was about Izuku’s doctor. Surely he wasn’t trying to throw the trail onto him to cover up for someone else?

Her head was starting to hurt.

“If what he said is indeed true, then we have our first major lead.” All Might continued seriously, bringing her out of her thoughts once more, “Dr. Tsubasa will be arrested and questioned. I’m certain he must know the whereabouts of the children. He is the one apparently directing the perpetrator to the quirkless children, after all.”

Inko nodded, remaining silent as he spoke. Again, she was struck with remorse that she’d been placing her baby in front of this disgraceful monster of a doctor all this time and hadn’t noticed a thing.  All Might quickly took notice of her lapsing into her mournful thoughts, and acted on instinct.

The woman let out a startled gasp as the hero knelt in front of her, earnestly meeting her eyes. “You know what this means, right Midoriya-san?” His signature, reassuring smile curled brightly across his face, and he took her hands, “We’re closer than ever to bringing your boy home. He’ll be home in a matter of days now, I’m certain of it.”

That’s right. Inko thought as she inhaled sharply with a shuddering breath. It was as if his words were breathing the life right back into her. Names were dropped, exposed by her husband. All they had to do was find them and get the answers and location they needed.

Tears were now streaming fast down her cheeks, and the portly woman curled into herself, dissolving into relieved sobs. After months of agonizing torture, wondering if they’d ever find her son again, they were finally getting somewhere. Even if she was losing her husband in the process, there was still a light at the end of the tunnel. One that led to her boy returning to her arms, and to the safety of their home.

All Might stood, watching for a few moments before patting the mother’s back comfortingly. Usually, he was awkward with such actions, but he felt he’d bonded quite a bit with this woman over the past few months, mostly as Yagi. Although no one could tell on the outside, he was fighting back tears of relief himself, ones he was sure to shed when back in his home and in his normal, thin form.

 Izuku was going to be home soon, now that there was hope in finding him.

 

 

Like clockwork, Katsuki shrugged his schoolbag up onto his shoulder and sauntered on down the steps of the school, on his way to the café. He could hear those two extras he usually kept around him calling for him angrily, but he promptly ignored them.

There were more important matters at hand that didn’t include those blockheads.

 It was starting to get rather chilly and blustery outside, autumn having finally settled into Musutafu. Leaves skittered across the concrete pavement, dancing along his shoes as he stomped on by. People were bundling up, hurrying in and out of stores, blissfully unaware of the situation at hand.

Pretty soon, he and his classmates were going to start applying for different high schools and preparing for the entrance exams. If they didn’t find shitty Deku soon, then the nerd would miss his chance of applying to UA. Katsuki knew how bad he’d wanted to go and had been looking forward to kicking his ass at the entrance exam for a while.

On a chilly day like this, that woman was sure to come by.

He’d gone to the café more times than he’d like to admit in these past months, but he felt like he was really onto something with this shady, pink-haired chick. She had come in multiple times over the past few months, and like always, doodled on the already heavily vandalized table. No one else would’ve thought this was suspicious, but Katsuki wasn’t just any other person. He was fucking smart.

The scribbles were actually numbers he’d come to find, hidden amongst the other scribbled drawings there. She’d even kept on glancing at him while she did this whenever he came, with what he could tell was a calculating look in her eyes.

There was just something so fishy about her, something that spelled out trouble.

When he arrived at the café, he was greeted unenthusiastically by the staff. Considering he was a “regular” here now, they’d gotten a taste of the teen’s terrible temper. One of the baristas gave him a sour look as he walked in.

But Katsuki couldn’t give a rat’s ass about them right now. His crimson eyes widened, zeroing in on what used to be Izuku’s usual table.

The pink-haired woman was already sitting there, sipping her coffee and twirling a pen in her hand. Her reddish gaze lifted to meet his, and surprisingly, she smirked. She then started to move like she was going to get up and leave, gathering things into her backpack.

Scowling, Katsuki stormed across the café towards her before she could move a single step, shoving his backpack into the adjourning booth to hers.

“Alright, bubblegum bitch.” Katsuki sneered lowly, leveling the woman with a toxic stare, “What the fuck is this all about.”

She merely blinked, feigning a look of confusion. This only seemed to frustrate him further, and he had to squeeze his hands into fists to prevent them from crackling with explosions.

“I know all of this shit—” Katsuki continued in a snarled whisper, gesturing to the scribbled numbers all on the table, “Has something to do with shitty Deku’s disappearance. I’m not fucking stupid. Somehow, your stalker ass figured out that I’m connected to that nerd, that we’ve known each other since we were kids. And you knew that Deku used to come to this place all the time." He leaned closer, "Since you seem to know so much about the fucking nerd from watching him like a creep, then I have all the suspicion to think that you fucking kidnapped him.”

“Deku?” The woman intoned quietly, innocently. She tilted her head, tired eyes narrowing, “I don’t know anyone named Deku.”

Grinding his teeth together, Katsuki dragged a hand down his face, “Midoriya Izuku.” He grit out the name poisonously, “Now quit dodging the point tell me where the fuck he is, or what all this shit means.”

The woman seemed to stare at him for a few moments, and although the bags under her wine-colored eyes were a clear sign of exhaustion, her gaze was sharp. It struck him that this was his first, close up encounter with her, and he took a moment to memorize her appearance in case it was important. The pink-haired woman seemed to be in her early twenties if he could guess.

Suddenly, she smirked again, leaning back against the bench, “I don’t know, Bakugou. You’re a smart boy, what does all of this mean?”

Katsuki stood up sharply, looming over the girl across the table.

“Cut the games and riddles shit.” He bared his teeth menacingly, “You’ve got five seconds—”

“To what? Tell you everything I know before you blow up in front of everyone here?” Her eyes narrowed up at him challengingly, “Careful there, you know quirk usage is illegal in public. Do you want to get kicked out? Control your temper.”

By then, Katsuki wanted nothing more than to leap across the table and blow this cocky bitch into another dimension. Heat was gathering inside of his clenched fists, feeling miniscule pops within as sweat began to accumulate there. His breath grew ragged, and he leveled the woman with a venomous glare.

But he had to remind himself of the mission at hand. He couldn’t let himself get out of control and risk getting kicked out of here. He knew by now this woman obviously had some information on where Izuku was, and he wasn’t going to let an opportunity like this pass by. Though he’d never admit it, the guilt and anger he felt for not watching Izuku’s back was still eating him alive, keeping him awake at night.

He needed to settle this.

Taking a few deep breaths to calm himself, the spiky-haired teen slowly sat back down. His glare remained as vicious as ever, lowering from her face to the table in front of them.

“Look. I need answers, and I know you have them for me.” He grumbled out lowly, idly tracing some other word on the heavily graffitied table, “You’ve been coming here for months trying to drop some sort of clue, or hint. You can’t deny that either.” He lifted his gaze back up to meet hers again, “I see you sending those creepy fucking glances back at me. And this is Deku’s table. He used to sit here all the time. What are the odds of that happening? After he vanishes, someone frequents at his table and keeps trying to lure someone he knows in to talk?”

She blinked.

“As much as I hate to say it, a lot of people really fucking miss that piece of shit.” Katsuki pointed a finger at her threateningly, rouge eyes blazing, “His mom is all by her damn self and is losing her mind over her missing kid. His dad’s a fuckwipe who decided to become relevant again and stab his family in the fucking back. I—” He opened and closed his mouth, debating for a moment, “And I have a fucking responsibility to help bring his ass back home. So I need you to tell me what a sniveling piece of pink shit like you is doing snooping around and kidnapping quirkless dekus like him.”

Surprisingly, the challenging smirk on the woman’s face falls, and she looks even more tired than ever. The dark shadows under her eyes are accentuated by the glow of the overhead lamp. Her wine-colored gaze falls, mournful.

“It’s true that I have been trying to get your attention for months, kid.” She murmured quietly.

“Then why the fuck did you have to be all secretive and shit? Just who the fuck are you?”

“Because.” She sighed softly, pinching the bridge of her nose, “It’s not something I can just say out loud freely. There’s too many ears around to hear, and I need to be able to protect my back.”

Katsuki leaned in, watching her like a starving jungle cat finding its prey. Finally, he was getting somewhere.

“Dreameater. Just call me that.” She told him quietly, in hushed tones so no one around would hear. The woman then paused for a few long moments, crossing her arms, “And for the record… I didn’t want to kidnap your friend in the first place.”

For some reason, a pained look crossed her face.

She shook her head, bringing a hand up to rub her tired eyes, “It’s… a lot to explain, and I’m not sure you care to hear the story of it all. But this—” Dreameater gestured to the table, “Is your clue. That is all I can really say on the matter. This will help you find him.”

Katsuki lowered his gaze to the table again, focusing on the supposed clue.

 “…Shit, I don’t know. All I see is a bunch of random fucking numbers.” He gruffed out, annoyed. Just what the hell was he supposed to do with a bunch of numbers. There were a few decimal points here and there, which only confused him further. Was it some secret code? Some hidden message to decipher? Maybe he was just fucking overthinking this.

“Help me find him…” He muttered her words under his breath. Numbers to help me find him….

It hit him then, just how much of an idiot he was. The decimals, the numbers… it was obvious.

“Coordinates…” He gasped quietly, head snapping up towards her again, “Are these coordinates—”

He was surprised, however, to find Dreameater had quietly slipped from the booth. He watched as her back disappeared out the front door.

“Oh no you don’t—” Katsuki snarled, snatching his bag and racing after her. He could hear a few store employees yelling at him for running, the doorbell jingling wildly as he forced it open.

The woman was now walking down the street away from him, and throwing all thought of possible danger out the window, Katsuki tore after her.

She tried to quicken her pace, but Katsuki was faster. Once he caught up, he roughly snatched her arm and yanked the older woman into a nearby alleyway, out of sight of everyone. Surprisingly, she didn’t fight him, only leveled him with an expectant, nasty glare.

“Don’t try to slip out on me now, asshole.” The spiky-haired teen snarled roughly, “I’m not done talking to you. We’re not sitting in a public place, so feel free to tell me the fucking truth before I bust out your teeth.”

“You better watch your mouth you little punk, you have no idea—"

“Were those coordinates You wrote on the table? Coordinates to where he’s located?” Katsuki interrupted.

Still glaring intensely, she nodded. There was a dangerous glint in her eye, one that warned of her being a loaded pistol. He was reminded of how he had no idea what her quirk was, which was slightly unnerving, but he pressed on.

“Why in the fuck are you telling me this then? You kidnap him and now you’re trying to help people find him? It makes no sense.”

Dreameater chuckled, dry and humorless, “I didn’t have a choice, you little shit. You have no idea what is happening behind the scenes of everyone’s merry life.” She pointed at herself aggressively, “I got dragged into this years ago because it was a…family matter. And I didn't have a choice.” She gritted out vaguely, “I never imagined it would go on this damn long, so I want to put an end to all of this before my little sister gets dragged into it.”

She began to pace a bit, arms folded in and crossing her chest, “My little sister is getting older now and she’s so fucking talented. She has a gift for building support items and wants to go to UA for it to help heroes out. It’s only a matter of time before she takes notice of her and rips all of those dreams away from her. My little sister has no place in this fucked up villain world.”

Katsuki watched the woman wordlessly, unable to reply at the moment. She didn’t look so threatening anymore, only tired and sad. She shook her head again, the rueful smile returning to her lips, “That’s why I want you to help everyone find where all those poor kids are now. If the heroes show up and tear down that bitch’s plans, then I can stay away and sneak out of it all without further destroying my family’s reputation.”

There was a long pause of silence that passed between them, matching crimson gazes trained on one another. On one hand, it seemed this woman was trying to do the right thing in the end, and was ultimately just someone with their hands tied and no means of escape.

But that didn’t excuse her actions.

“I should be thanking you for helping me find him, but you’re still a fucking villain.” Katsuki gave her a feral grin, threatening, “Don’t think you’re slick or some tragic victim. I don’t care about some dumb family reputation, if you’re willing to get your hands dirty like this, to kidnap, you better be prepared to pay the price for it. I’m reporting your ass to the police.”

Perhaps that was the wrong thing to say, he thought a little too late. He rueful smile turned into a smirk, and she had the audacity to laugh.

“I’m afraid not. I’d rather not risk a loud-mouthed brat like you tarnishing my family name more by getting me caught. I’ll make sure of it.” Dreameater replied with a razor edge to her tone. Her eyes gained that dangerous glint once more. “You see… it’s very important to me that the innocent members of my family get off the hook after all of this is over. It's bad enough that my auntie is causing all of this, but if everyone found out I was involved as well? They'd be ruined.”

He blinked. He barely had time to move or react before the woman was right in front of him, moving in a flash. Katsuki raised his hands, palms crackling in preparation to blast the woman away.

But she was unfortunately too quick, and delivered a swift, harsh blow of her fist to the sensitive pressure point behind his ear. Eyes and mouth wide open, Katsuki could only stagger sideways for a moment before his world began to swim to black. He crumpled to the ground, passed out.

Dreameater loomed over him, face stony. She waited a few moments to make sur he was out cold, before her wine-colored gaze suddenly began to glow a luminous blood red. “Get up.”

Katsuki twitched, and he sluggishly began to rise to his feet. His posture was all wrong, standing like a loosely strung marionette. His eyes were open, but his gaze was glassy and distant like he was in a trance. His face was blank, neutral, lacking its usual scowl.

“You got tired at the cafe, and are now going home. Get in your bed, and go to sleep. When you wake up tomorrow morning, you’ll suddenly remember the numbers you so happened to stumble across in the café in the booth, and report it to the police.” She tilted her head, “They look like coordinates to you. Perhaps it was Izuku who wrote those numbers there, and long ago he had been trying to find his fellow quirkless children. Perhaps he dug a little too deep, and someone had to kidnap him not only to cover their tracks, but include them in their plans as well. You will tell them all of this, and completely forget everything about Dreameater, her family, and her appearance.”

The chilly wind whipped around the alley ominously, silence passing between them. Then wordlessly, Katsuki slowly turned around and began to walk home, gaze still trance-like.

Dreameater grinned to herself, watching the unpleasant boy disappear around the corner of the alley. She turned on her heel, merrily making her way home now as well.

Hopefully, this would all come to in an end soon.

“Don’t you worry, Mei.” She whispered under her breath, tilting her head back to look at the sunset sky overhead, “I won't let auntie steal your dreams like she stole mine.”

 

 …

 

Izuku watched dazedly from his bedside as a moth frantically circled the industrial lights of his prison. Heavy cuffs currently encircled his hands entirely, rubbing uncomfortably against the tough skin there and the clawed fingertips. On his bird-like feet, a weird puddy-like substance covered each deadly talon, preventing them from the possibility of piercing anything or anyone.

Dark circles ringed under his eyes, and the boy’s body wanted nothing more than to curl up on the bed beneath him and sleep away this living nightmare. The shock of discovering the new changes to his body was beginning to wear off, and he had found himself from time to time in crying fits, or shaking from head to toe.

It was all a lot to get used to, to say the least.

He sighed heavily, shifting uneasily on his bed again. Since waking up a few days ago, he’d exhausted himself trying to get used to the new changes in his body.  

Walking around was still a bit of a challenge, even if he was getting a little used to it. But the muscles in his legs and feet were still weak, the unfamiliar ligaments tugging and pulling against equally unfamiliar bone structures. Not to mention, there was a new fifteen-pound weight permanently strapped to his back that knocked him off balance.

The feathers in his wings and on his body itched if the quills were out of place, and he couldn’t particularly shift them fix them without tearing up the skin on his arms with the claws he had as fingernails. The desperate urge to preen himself and make sure every feather was in line drove him insane, and he figured it was just another crazy bird instinct implanted into his mind.

He found himself more often than naught breaking down into frustrated tears at this, staring at his scratched-up arms and ruffled feathers with a gaze glittering with bitterness.

But today, on his third official day after waking up, he wasn’t going to allow himself to mope around and feel sorry for his appearance and new body. One of her assistants informed him that he would be with Darwin and the “others” today as they brought him breakfast, whatever that meant. They’d later come in and put the restraints on his hands and feet. He knew for sure this could be an opportunity to search for means of an escape, so he wouldn’t let his strength slip up today.

“I’m still me, no matter what.” He huffed out once more, the words of his mother like a mantra keeping him sane. He couldn’t count how many times he’d uttered those words over the past few days, but they worked in keeping him calm and level-headed in the midst of his hysteria.

At last, he could hear footsteps approaching his cell, and Izuku immediately became alert, the feathers cresting his ears perking up and fanning out with rapt attention.

A couple of Darwin’s assistants walked up to the barred entrance of his cell, dressed in their lab coats and protective gloves. Unable to help it, Izuku leveled his captors with an intense glare. He could feel something whispering at the back of his mind to attack, but out of fear of that voice, he desperately ignored it.

“Don’t try anything. You will be tased.” One of them warned warily, showing off the cattle prod they had in their hand. Izuku felt disgust curl inside of his stomach at this, at how he was truly being treated like a wild animal in here and something less than human.

After all, Darwin had said it herself. He was to be used as a pawn, an unwilling soldier.

He merely glared silently as they came to his sides, each grabbing an arm as they hefted him to his feet and escorted him out of his cell. His legs shook with the strain of walking, but the green-haired boy persevered through it, tucking his wings tighter against his back to maintain balance. It was good practice to get used to the changes and strengthen the muscles in his legs.

Izuku took a moment to observe his surroundings keenly as he walked. With these new changes, he’d quickly realized in these few days that his eyesight seemed…sharper. He could read exit signs way far away from where he was, as well as the tiny print labeled on posters on the wall. He’d never been able to do that before these changes, so he figured it was another harpy eagle thing.

He could definitely use that to his advantage, so he wasn’t complaining. He made a mental note of every possible exit they passed, filing that away for later so he could remember where to go if the opportunity to escape ever presented itself. Narrowing his eyes further, he observed the outdoor surroundings from windows nearby. They seemed to be in a dense forest of some sort, hopefully still in Japan.

Before long, one of the assistants escorting him slid their access key into a slot outside two large double doors, unlocking them. They entered a large room with walls reinforced with metal, a few tables and chairs scattered about. There were small windows way up high to let in extra light, though they were heavily reinforced with metal bars. The assistants released him, backing away to stand guard near the double doors.

Immediately upon entering, Izuku felt like he couldn’t move, frozen in shock and horror.

He wasn’t the only occupant in this large, spacious room.

There were six others, all ranging children younger than him to teenagers. Though some looked significantly different with animalistic qualities, there was no mistaking who they were. He immediately recognized all of them as fellow quirkless children who’d gone missing over the past few years.

One was heavily restrained near the far wall in what looked to be a full body straight jacket. His yellowish eyes blazed with uncontrollable rage, and he was snarling viciously at everyone around the room. Fluffs of grey fur stuck out of his cheeks and hair. The fangs he had for teeth gave away the fact that he was probably meant to be a wolf, or some other predator mutant. But there was certainly something wrong with his mental state… like he was stuck in a permanent need to kill.

Another that stuck out as wrong was a girl with long brown hair. Her eyes were mismatching colors, and she only had one, rounded bear-like ear sticking out from beneath her hair. It was like she was an incomplete project, as there were random parts of her body that possessed bear-like qualities. She sat eerily still in her chair, gaze distant and unfocused. Her behavior screamed catatonic.

There were two more huddled against the far wall, one with snake-like scales all over his body and slitted eyes. Another, huddled against him, had clawed, paw-like hands and wiry hair over their arms.  set of rounded, dog-like ears were perked up in alarm. They both looked unsure and terrified, and he was startled to hear that when the snake mutant looked at him and opened his mouth, all that came out was a strange hissing sound.

A little girl, younger than him, was sitting in one of the chairs, her knees curled up to her chest. Izuku was surprised to find that she had spots of feathers sprouting here and there out of the skin on her arms and legs, even a few dusting her cheeks. Tiny wings, far too small to lift her body, were curled in tight to her back. She stared back at him, blue eyes wide with surprise. The face was so familiar, one he’d seen on television time after time. He immediately recognized her as the first little girl that had gone missing 2 years ago, little six-year-old Yui.

Lastly, one was striding up to him with a confident swagger in his step. Out of all of them, he seemed to be the most successful experiment besides Izuku, and he didn’t seem terrified of his predicament at all. In fact, he looked rather…happy and content. The older teenager was shirtless, and his hair was a mess of blonde locks that ended at his earlobes. The skin of his arms started to develop the pattern of a jaguar’s signature spots at the shoulder, looking almost like tattoos. The skin gave way to sleek fur at his forearms, and although his hands retained their normal shape and size, wicked, retractable claws replaced his nails at the fingertips. The same spotted pattern and retractable claws appeared on his legs and feet, though his feet looked slightly larger than normal. His ears looked more rounded and had spots on them as well.

“Izuku, right?” The older teen addressed him once he’d approached, his green, slit-pupil eyes narrowing at him. A smirk tugged at his lips, and a long, spotted tail made its appearance from behind his back, lashing slightly.

Although this teen was a fellow captive like him, Izuku found he immediately distrusted him. The contentedness the other seemed to have for this situation unnerved him, and he couldn’t help but see him as a threat rather than an ally. He took a step back, eyes narrowed questioningly.

The boy only smirked more at him, chuckling wryly, “Come on now, don’t be so unfriendly. I have a feeling we’re going to get to be good friends here pretty soon, yeah?” He approached once more, slinging his arm over Izuku’s shoulder, causing the green-haired boy to immediately tense up. The action was almost threatening in a way, like a move that was meant to mock his powerlessness right now and exude authority over him.

He didn’t like this guy at all. Was he really on Darwin’s side with all of this, even after getting kidnapped and experimented on? How was it even possible for someone to feel that way?

“Let's go, little bro. Darwin is waiting for us.” The teen chuckled, forcing Izuku to walk with him in this uncomfortable manner. “She’s got a lot in store for us and a lot to tell you, so we’d better not keep her waiting.” He winked at him.

Steeling his breath, Izuku forced his legs to move with the other, preparing for the worst.

 

 

As his parent’s car rolled up the rocky path towards their cottage, Dark Shadow started getting finicky once more, poking his head out of his chest and growling.

The whole time his family had been on vacation here a few months ago, Tokoyami Fumikage’s spectral companion had been restless in the most unusual way. Dark Shadow kept on insisting that something wasn’t right about the woods and got increasingly more fussy towards the end of their stay.

At first, Fumikage had been heavily annoyed with his antics. But as the days wore on, he too started to become more unsettled by his behavior. Both he and the manifestation of his quirk were no stranger to dark and creepy things, which made it all the more strange that Dark Shadow was afraid of something out there.

Something unnatural, he had told him once before.

He had the inclination to believe that spectral, supernatural beings like Dark Shadow were more akin to any strange phenomenon happening in the world, like a sixth sense of sorts. So he knew without a doubt after the first few nights of this happening that something was actually very, very wrong here.

The thought had been consuming his mind ever since they left, piquing his curiosity. He wanted to know why, and what it was all about if it was bad enough to affect Dark Shadow.

It was now autumn, and the sunset sky overhead cast the canopy of the tree’s in a golden hue, illuminating all of the colorful leaves that were ripe to fall to the ground. Although school had started up again, his parents had decided they’d return to the cottage for the weekend, considering they’d left a few important items there the last time they stayed and needed to retrieve them.

This was his prime chance to investigate further.

As his parents exited the car and walked inside, Fumikage carefully stepped out to follow them, hands shoved into the pockets of his black hoodie. The chilly wind bit at his neck, ruffling the feathers atop his head. He clicked his teeth in annoyance, pulling up the hoodie over his head.

As he approached the steps of the cottage, Dark Shadow suddenly shot out of his chest, pointed like an alert hound out into the woods.

Silence passed between them for a long time, Fumikage watching him with widened, surprised eyes.

“It’s still… still not right.” Dark Shadow whimpered suddenly out of the blue, glowing yellow eyes turning to face him. It pointed a clawed hand out in the woods, “Somewhere over there… Something so unnatural.”

Fumikage felt overcome with uneasiness once more, as well as overwhelming curiosity. Now he really wanted to know what was going on. If it was something so bad, perhaps there was some way he could aid whoever was in trouble?

He glanced towards the cabin for a moment, weighing his options. It was now or never.

“There’s still some daylight left to investigate if we hurry.” He uttered quietly in deep timbres, turning his gaze back to Dark Shadow, “Lead the way, Dark Shadow. Show me where the source of your unease is."

 

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