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Soon I Shall Be Indestructible

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Izuku took a nervous breath and turned on his computer. He opened the application for U.A’s Hero Course and started filling in the necessary information; his name, date of birth, address and Quirk.

Izuku stopped.

The application form was merciless. What was his Quirk type? An emitter, transformation or a mutant? There was no option for Quirkless. He tried to skip that part, but the application told him to fill all the mandatory slots. Izuku tried to think what to do. He could lie but that would not take him far. A quick glance in the Quirk database would bust him immediately. With a heavy heart Izuku close the application form to U.A and started looking into other schools with Hero Courses but Shiketsu High, Ketsubutsu Academy and Isamu High School all greeted him with the same brick wall.

What was his Quirk type? An emitter, transformation or a mutant?

None of them offered an option to apply without a Quirk. Izuku gritted his teeth. He wasn’t giving up so easily. He’d prove Bakugou wrong. Even without a Quirk he’d be a hero. There had to be something. Anything! He searched the web for Quirkless heroes. Which there were none. The best he could come up with was the vigilante Knuckle Duster. Was there really no way for him to become a pro-hero? Next, he looked into Quirkless Hero Courses… and once again found nothing. When only twenty percent of the population was Quirkless no one had bothered to create one.

Why did he have to be in that twenty percent?! Both of his parents had Quirks so why not him?!

Maybe Bakugou had been right and him becoming a hero had been nothing more than a pipe-dream. Would Bakugou see right through him the next day in school and realize that Izuku had been broken? That he was what everyone said he was. Just a useless Deku.

Stubbornness kept Izuku scrolling down on the search results for… he didn’t even know anymore what he was looking for. Maybe he should just…

Izuku stopped when something caught his eye and he scrolled back.

Quirkless would be heroes wanted! Apply for Project: Indestructible today!

Izuku stared at the link that his computer’s firewall warned was at the very least suspicious. Izuku’s finger hovered over his mouse and finally he clicked the link. The site it took him on had been designed by someone with more enthusiasm than sense or skill. It was full of bright colors and cheesy special effects. The message was written in huge bold letters.

To the Quirkless of Japan who haven’t given up on being heroes! Too long have Quirks had a choke-hold on the hero business! Contact Mei Hatsume from Project: Indestructible and prove that science can beat even Quirks!

The thing looked like a hoax or a prank but… the address on the site was close to his school. Maybe… just maybe this was the chance he had been looking for. Not like he had much of a choice. Before bed he tried to find information on Project: Indestructible and came up short. All he could find were ads for very sturdy soccer balls of all things.

The next day at school was one of the better ones. Bakugou wasn’t interested in pushing him around that day and all he had to put up with were some jokes where he was the punchline. Stupid, useless Deku who should just disappear. When school finally ended Izuku wrote the address on the website into his phone and let it guide him to the right place. Was it some mad scientist’s secret laboratory who was looking for guinea pigs or a government project to give people Quirks?

It was an auto repair shop. Hatsume workshop; you break it, we fix it. Cheap prices, excellent service.

Was this really the right place? Maybe… maybe it was a front and the real laboratory was hidden underground. Izuku stepped inside and was greeted by the smell of oil and rust. A pair of feet were sticking out from under a car.

“… sorry… um… excuse me.” Izuku said.

A scruffy looking man with strawberry blonde hair peeked out from under the car. His face was painted with oil and soot.

“Yeah? Can I help you?” The man said.

“… I… I’m looking for Mei Hatsume. It’s about the… commercial.” Izuku said.

The man got out form under the car.

“Just a sec. Mei!”

“What?!” A girl’s voice yelled from deeper inside the workshop.

“You have a visitor!” The man yelled.

“I’m busy! Tell him to go away!”

“He said something about a commercial!”

There was no answer just running steps that approached quickly. A girl Izuku’s age with the same messy strawberry blonde hair as her father’s and dirty working overalls grabbed Izuku’s hand and gave it an enthusiastic shake.

“Finally! Come in! Come in! Dad! Tea for my guest!” The girl said while dragging Izuku behind herself.

“… if it’s not too much trouble.” Izuku said.

“Nonsense! Come. We have history to make!” The girl said.

Izuku was taken deep into the bowels of the workshop and through a heavy door that the girl locked behind them. The room was filled with eviscerated electronics and well-worn tools. The girl turned to look at him with a grin that was just a bit too wide. Izuku felt like he had made a terrible mistake. Wasn’t this how horror movies started?

“Are you really Quirkless?”

“… uh… yes.”

“Excellent!” The girl shouted.

“… it’s really not.” Izuku said.

“Don’t be an idiot. Sit where ever you can squeeze your ass in but mind my babies.”

“… you have babies?”

The girl looked around.

“All of these are my wonderful babies.”

“… okay.” Izuku said.

What had he gotten himself into?

“I am Mei Hatsume. The tenth wonder of the world and the smartest thing you’ll ever meet. No applauds, please.”

“… Izuku Midoriya.”

“Great to meet you, Isano. Now, how much do you know about history?” Hatsume said.

Izuku brightened up. History was one of the few subjects that made school worth going even with Bakugou around.

“I… I’ve read everything about the history of Quirks.”

“Awesome. So, you already know what a fucking tragedy they were.” Hatsume said.

Izuku felt sucker punched.

“… what?”

Hatsume's already fast speech became almost unintelligible.

“Let’s go back a few thousand years. We live in hunter-gatherer societies. Small tribes that don’t amount to much more than dinosaur shit. Then someone almost as smart as me invents agriculture and suddenly we can feed way more people and start building cities.”

There was a knock on the door.

“Mei. I brought tea.” Hatsume’s dad said.

“Not now, dad! Business!”

“Got it. Got it.” Hatsume’s dad said and left.

Hatsume continued like nothing had happened.

“What follows, not gonna lie, sucks for everyone. More people in tighter spaces means that diseases have a field day. Life expectancy plummets and as for life satisfaction… Hah! What is that?! You slave from dawn till dusk just to see some rich asshole steal all your food.”

Hatsume pressed her finger in Izuku’s chest and left an oil stain on his white shirt.

“Makes you wonder what the point was, doesn’t it?”

“… yes?”

“Worry not. For I am here to broaden your puny mind! More people meant more innovation and innovation meant science. Science made us great! The more we developed, the faster we developed. Nothing could stop the science train!”

Hatsume’s shoulders slumped and she let out a defeated sigh.

“Than that goddamn lightbulb baby was born, and everything went to shit. There have been no real scientific advances in the past two hundred years. Two hundred fucking years! We should be partying in Mars right now but unless it doesn’t have something to do with Quirks no one cares. A society that doesn’t develop is a society that stagnates.”

Hatsume clutched Izuku’s hands and pulled him up.

“We are going to save science, Isano. We’ll give the world a wake-up call by kicking Quirks’ over-hyped asses. When heroes are picking up their teeth from the floor everyone will see that science is where it’s at.”

Izuku backed away slowly.

“… I… I have to go. Good luck with… that.”

He tried to leave but Hatsume was stronger than him and blocked his path.

“Not buying what I’m selling, are you? Maybe you’ll change your mind if you see what my babies can do.”

“… I don’t…”

“You came all this way. You might as well.” Hatsume said.

Izuku looked at Hatsume’s fingers that had and iron grip on his wrist and her far too eager smile.

“… you’re not letting me go otherwise, are you?” Izuku said.

“Look at that. You can think. I knew I made the right choosing you to be my partner, Isano.”

Hatsume took him to see a pair of bulky steel boots and gloves connected to a generator that could be worn like a backpack.

“Put it on.” Hatsume said.

“… what is it?”

“The prototype of Project: Indestructible.”

“… but what does it do?”

“You’ll see. The faster you try it, the faster you can leave.”

With a sense of dread Izuku put on the gloves and the boots. Hatsume had to help him with the generator and he could barely move under the weight. Hatsume had to offer him support when they walked to the backyard that was being used as a junkyard.

“Since you’re an amateur I’ll do the controlling. Prepare to be amazed.” Hatsume said and took out a controller before turning on the generator.

Current ran to the boots and suddenly Izuku felt weightless.

“What?!”

He was… flying. There was enough power in the backpack and the boots to propel him in the air and keep him afloat a few meters off the ground. Hatsume was grinning like the mad scientist she was.

“Feel like worshipping me as your god now, Isano?” Hatsume said.

“… I…”

“Is that a no? I guess you need more convincing.” Hatsume said and flipped a switch.

The generators gentle humming turned into a roar and Izuku blasted into the sky. When he dared to open his eyes, he was hovering over his hometown. From up there it looked no bigger than an ant’s nest. It was strange. He should have been scared. Terrified even and… he was but the exhilaration overpowered his fear. Was… was this how All-Might saw the world? From up here the world was so… beautiful. Even with people like Bakugou in it. It was beautiful and something worth fighting for.

Tears started running down his cheeks.

This… this was everything he had ever wanted. To see the world though the eyes of a hero. When Hatsume finally took him down, he had gone past crying and was bawling his eyes out.

Hatsume said something.

“… what?” Izuku said while drying his eyes.

“I said who’s your emergency contact in case that had gone tits up?” Hatsume said.

“What?!”

“Don’t worry. I was pretty sure you’d make it.” Hatsume said.

Izuku glared at Hatsume.

“… take this thing off me.”

“Okey dokey.” Hatsume said and looked at the invention lovingly: “Did my baby make mommy proud? Yes, she did. Yes, she did!”

Hatsume had to carry the equipment back inside alone. After the excitement passed the pain hit Izuku. Everything hurt. His back felt ready to give out and his legs were cramping. He could barely move his fingers. How much strain had that thing put on him? When was he healthy enough to do it again?

“So? Are you ready to be my partner, partner?” Hatsume said.

“… I…”

“Before you say anything else hear me out. You’re a Quirkless. A freak. You’ll never be a hero.” Hatsume said.

“… huh?”

“That’s what you’ve been told. Why else would you be here? But guess what? That’s a load of horse poo-poo. We are a race of heroes. When dinosaurs came for our food and women did we just roll over and die? Fuck no! We beat them to death with clubs carved from our worries and then we ate them just to teach them how weak they are. Are you man enough to throw down with a T-Rex? Are you?! Huh?! If not, you should do a ball check because you might be an ugly girl and not know it.”

“… I was going to say yes.” Izuku said.

“I can’t hear you! Leave that weak shit at the door! Plus Ultra!”

“… what?”

“Plus Ultra! Say it!”

“… plus ultra.”

“Louder! Plus Ultra!” Hatsume yelled.

“… Plus Ultra.”

“Plus Ultra!”

Izuku drew a sharp breath.

“Plus Ultra!”

“Plus Ultra!” Hatsume agreed.

There was something infectious about Hatsume’s manic energy and it managed to sink its claws even in Izuku.

“Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra!” They chanted together.

“We are going to rock the world! Are you with me?!” Hatsume said.

Izuku had never felt so alive. His heart was beating even faster than when he was flying above the city.

“Yes!” Izuku said.

“Do you have the balls to do what it takes?!”

“I survived Bakugou! I fear no man or god!” Izuku said.

“That’s what I want to hear, Izuku! Your name is finally worth remembering! If we pull this off, the rest of our lives will be a cake made of high-fives and hand-jobs!”

They shook hands and Izuku no longer cared about the oil stains Hatsume left on everything she touched.

“Now, roll those sleeves, grab a wrench and let’s make some babies!” Hatsume said.

“Yes!”

There was a pounding on the door.

“What the hell are you two doing in there?!” Hatsume’s dad yelled.

“History!” Hatsume answered.

After Hatsume’s dad had gone away Hatsume pulled out blue prints for a power armor. It incorporated the jetpack that he’d used to fly but it was smaller and sleeker. Thick steel plating covered all the vital spots, but the joints and limbs were less heavily armored not to affect movement. A reflective visor would cover the user’s face.

“… this is…”

“Project: Indestructible.” Hatsume said.

“… you… you’ve built something like this?” Izuku said.

“Not yet.”

“… can you… can we complete it in time for the U.A entrance exam?” Izuku said.

“Hell no.”

Izuku’s heart slumped.

“… then how will it help me to get into heroics?”

Hatsume grinned.

“You’re not applying for heroics. We’ll both enroll into the Support Department in U.A. When we have access to their equipment, then we’ll build this.”

“… okay but… how will I be able to become a hero if I’m in support?” Izuku said.

“Thanks to the annual U.A tournament. It’s not just the first-years from heroics that get to beat the shit out of each other. Other courses can join in and if you do well enough… well, they just might move you to the Hero Course. If you win the tournament, every agency in Japan will be lining up to suck your knob.”

Izuku looked at the blueprints and remembered what it felt like to fly.

“… what do I have to do?” Izuku said.

“For starters you’ll do as I say. We’ll go from there.” Hatsume said.

“… there’s just one more thing.” Izuku said.

“Yes?”

“… why me? You could do this yourself.” Izuku said.

“I’m an engineer not a fighter. But I’m also a fighter in case you get any funny ideas. Still, it has to be you. Someone without a Quirk. There can be no question that all you need is balls and science.” Hatsume said.

As a parting gift Hatsume gave him books on engineering and told him to read them and come back tomorrow so they could start his crash course in mad science. He also received a new exercise regime that had been used by astronauts when they still sent people into space. For the first time in a long time Izuku felt like his life was moving forward.

Chapter Text

Pain! Everything was pain! Ever since Izuku had started going for morning jogs pain had been a constant companion. It felt like someone had carved off his leg muscles and then told him to sew them back on himself. After the first week of running just standing was agony.

Still he persevered. No one had said that becoming a hero was going to be easy, but he was going to be a hero none the less. Besides, with everything he’d gained in return the pain was an easy cross to bear.

Just a few weeks ago school had been his entire world and Bakugou had ruled it with an iron fist. With Project: Indestructible his world had grown so much bigger. Far bigger than just his school. There was an entire new world outside the school gates and he had a friend there. That made school easier to stomach and Izuku spent his breaks reading the books Hatsume had given him. He'd never given any real thought on how much Quirks had affected the progress of technology. Two hundred years was nothing when compared to the entirety of human history but when it came to science… If a man from the 19th century had travelled forward in time two hundred years, the 21st century might as well have been in alien planet to him. But if someone had leaped from the dawn of Quirks to the modern time, they wouldn’t have missed a beat. So much time and progress had been lost. It wasn’t right.

“What are you smiling about?”

Izuku looked up slowly and saw Bakugou looming over his desk. Bakugou had stayed off his back for the past few weeks but good things always came to an end.

“… nothing.”

“What are you reading?”

Before Izuku could answer, Bakugou yanked the book from his hands. When Bakugou saw the book was about engineering he gave a victorious smirk.

“Did you finally get it, Deku? That you’re a Quirkless freak who can never be a hero?”

Normally Izuku would have folded and just nodded in agreement but some of Hatsume’s bravado had rubbed on to him. He turned to face Bakugou. When was the last time he’d been able to meet Bakugou’s gaze? Not since they were children and Bakugou called him Izuku. When they'd been best friends.

“… I will be a hero.” Izuku said.

Bakugou had never much cared for defiance. He blew up the book with his Quirk and threw the charred remains on Izuku’s desk.

“You…!” Izuku gasped.

Bakugou leaned closer.

“Yeah? I, what? Come on, Deku. Speak up. What are you going to do about it?”

Izuku looked at the book and then at Bakugou. Sparks were already flying from his fingertips. Izuku looked away.

“Like I thought. Nothing. Wanna know why? Because you’re a coward. A coward who’ll never be a hero.” Bakugou said.

Bakugou left him to stew on that and Izuku took the blackened book in his shaking hands. The covers had taken the worst of the damage and the pages were more or less still okay. After school the burned book felt unusually heavy in his bag. Hatsume had entrusted it to him and he’d failed to take care of it. How could he ever be a hero if he couldn’t even stand up to Bakugou?

There was a note at the workshop saying it was closed while Hatsume’s dad was off running errands and Izuku went in from the back.

“… Hatsume?”

“Izuku!” Hatsume said and walked up to greet him holding a video camera: “You came just in time for the video log. Take off your shirt.”

“… what?”

“Not for creepy reasons! We need to monitor the pilot along with Project: Indestructible. Now, shirt off. Strip! Strip for science! Plus Ultra!”

“… Hatsume. I… could you turn that off?” Izuku said.

Hatsume raised an eyebrow and put down the camera.

“What’s up?”

Izuku took out the burned book.

“… I’m sorry.” Izuku said without being able to face Hatsume.

Hatsume looked at the book and shrugged.

“It’s just paper.”

“… but… how can I be a hero if Bakugou…”

“Because we have Project: Indestructible! Bakugou will… Wait. Was Bakugou the dipshit that also wanted to get into U.A?” Hatsume said.

“… yeah.” Izuku said.

“Fuck yes!” Hatsume said and turned the camera back on: “Best friend turned rivals will face in the U.A tournament! Katsuki Bakugou believes that might makes right while Izuku Midoriya will rise up to prove him wrong! Project: Indestructible will fuck Bakugou with its titanium dick in the finals! And the whole world will watch! Plus Ultra!”

Hatsume turned the camera off and grinned at Izuku.

“This is perfect. Now Project: Indestructible has a bad guy. Now we have a story. We also need to play up some thinly veiled homo-eroticism between you and Bakugou. People love that.” Hatsume said.

“… I refuse to do that.” Izuku said.

“Come on. Try being bi-curious for science!”

“… I’d rather stick it into radioactive waste than into Bakugou.” Izuku said.

“We’ll worth a shot. Let’s get to work. There’s a baby who needs a lot of loving.”

Izuku put on his work overalls and followed Hatsume to her private workshop. He’d been surprised how easily he’d taken into tinkering electronics. It was a bit like cooking. Much like spices you just had to figure out what each part did. Once you had the basics down you could start finding out what went well together. Hatsume had a knack for that much in the same way as the guy who’d found out how good chocolate and peanut butter tasted together. Izuku still had a lot to learn but Hatsume made learning fun. After a while he forgot about Bakugou and concentrated on getting the shock gloves to work. Making the shocker work was easy but it had a bad habit of frying the user as well.

Angry knocking echoed through the workshop and woke them from their trance.

“Son of a bitch! Someone better be dying!” Hatsume said and turned on the security camera to see who was at the door.

Two kids were standing at the door. At least Izuku assumed the other one was a kid. His skin was covered in green scales and he had the flat features of a reptile. He had long hair and Izuku wondered if he’d dyed it pink or if it was naturally like that. The other one was definitely a kid, a student in black uniform as short as Izuku with brown-hair and a condescending smirk.

“Great! Just fucking great! The Shi Hassaikai douchebags!” Hatsume complained.

“… Shi… Hassaikai?” Izuku said.

“Yakuza.”

“… what’s a yakuza?” Izuku said.

“Not a clue.” Hatsume said and put on the shock glove: “Let’s go ask.”

“… maybe we shouldn’t…”

“Izuku, Izuku, Izuku. Chill and take a look at this.” Hatsume said and pulled out a small box from a drawer.

Izuku took the box.

“… what is it?”

“That is the fuck box. I use it to keep track of all the fucks I give.”

“… it’s empty.”

“Exactly. Respect the fuck box and let’s get moving.”

“… but…”

“Respect the fuck box, Izuku! Plus Ultra!”

“… what…”

“Plus Ultra!” Hatsume said.

“… plus ultra.” Izuku agreed halfheartedly and put down the fuck box.

Hatsume opened the door and glared at the intruders.

“We’re fucking busy and vice versa so make this quick.” Hatsume said.

The intruders stared at them.

“What?” The student in black uniform said.

The lizard boy was the first to recover.

“We were just passing by and thought to drop by to warn you.” The lizard boy said.

“About what?” Hatsume said.

“Old buildings like this are a huge fire hazard. You never know what might happen if you’re careless.” The lizard boy said.

Hatsume nodded.

“Well, thanks for the warning but we’re very careful with our babies.”

“Babies?” The student in black uniform said.

“Babies.” Hatsume agreed and threw her arm around Izuku’s shoulder: “We’re very good to our babies. And very bad to anyone who tries to mess with them. So, watch your mouth or the hero Indestructible will punch you right in the piehole.”

The student in black uniform and lizard boy looked at each other. Izuku didn’t know what they had been expecting but no one was prepared for Hatsume. Ever.

“Never heard of this… Indestructible.” The lizard boy said.

“You have now.” Hatsume said and patted Izuku’s shoulder: “Gaze upon your destroyer and know peace.”

Sweat started running down Izuku’s face. What had he gotten himself into? He glanced at Hatsume. Was her plan to sic these two on him while she ran away? He tried to figure out what was going through her mind and saw… faith? Hatsume actually seemed to believe that they could handle this. Someone was placing their faith in… him.

The student in black uniform started laughing.

“This dweeb? Hey, shorty. What’s your Quirk?”

“… I don’t have one.” Izuku said.

“You’re Quirkless?” The student in black uniform said and laughed even louder: "Does your zookeeper know where you are?"

“Come on, Mustard. We shouldn’t make fun of… cripples.” The lizard boy said and smirked.

Anger started building up in Izuku’s chest. With Bakugou fear always dulled his rage but these two weren’t Bakugou. Not even close. He wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of Hatsume. He stepped closer to the student in black uniform… Mustard.

“… we would like you to leave now.” Izuku said.

“And what if we don’t want to leave, you Quirkless freak?” Mustard said.

“Then we have no choice but to get violent.” Hatsume said and put up her shock glove clad mitts: “Want to remember what it feels like to pee your pants? Go on. Make my day.”

Mustard backed off at the sight of the shock gloves, but the lizard boy was made of sterner stuff.

“What’s that supposed to be?”

“Shock gloves. Want to try them?” Hatsume said.

The lizard boy smiled.

“Sure. Go ahead. If they work.”

Hatsume grinned.

“Got me there.”

Hatsume sucker punched the lizard boy in the stomach with the shock glove. Rage twisted Mustard’s face when lizard boy fell on his knees.

“You cunt!”

The world went black for a moment following Mustard’s words. When it all came back Izuku’s knuckles were stinging and Mustard was lying on the ground holding his split lip. Hatsume looked at Izuku with surprise before smiling at Mustard.

“You’re bleeding. That time of the month already? Do us all a favor and cover that up with some panties, will you.” Hatsume said.

Mustard was too angry for words and pulled out a stiletto. Izuku froze and even Hatsume started to wonder if her mouth had written a bigger check then her fists could cash.

An invisible force yanked the knife out of Mustard’s hand.

“What’s going on here?”

Hatsume’s dad was standing at the gate looking mighty pissed. The stiletto floated into his hand.

“Dad…” Hatsume said.

“Shut up. All of you.” Hatsume’s dad said and the knife twisted into a ball that he dropped at Mustard’s feet: “Leave. Both of you. Tell Shi Hassaikai that they’re not welcome here. If I see either of you here again, I’m calling your parents. Got it? Good. Now, fuck off.”

Lizard boy and Mustard did as they were told. When he got to the gate, Mustard turned to glare at them.

“You’re dead! All of you!”

Hatsume’s dad had to just look at him to make Mustard turn tail and run.

“… what… what did you do?” Izuku said.

“My Quirk Iron Works allows me to…”

“… manipulate metal within five-meter radius of yourself. You… you were the hero Blacksmith! You worked with Endeavor!” Izuku said.

Hatsume's dad's face hardened.

“Everyone makes mistakes. Now what were you two doing? I told you not to open the door to those clowns.” Hatsume’s dad said.

“We could have handled…” Hatsume said.

“I see how well you were handling it. Guess what, Mei? You’re grounded.”

“What?! You can’t do that!”

“I just did. Go to your room.” Hatsume’s dad said.

“Dad. Not in front of Izuku.” Hatsume pleaded.

“Now.”

Hatsume pushed the shock glove in Izuku’s hands before blowing a razzberry at her dad and stomping off. When they were alone Izuku couldn’t look Hatsume’s dad in the eyes and made do with staring at his feet.

“… Mr. Blacksmith? … sir? It wasn’t her fault.”

“Really now? Show me your hand.” Blacksmith said.

“… my hand?” Izuku said and then noticed the deep cut in his knuckles.

“Punched without thinking, didn’t you? That always happens.” Blacksmith said while inspecting Izuku’s hand: “Keep it clean and you should be alright. I’d like you to go home now.”

“… okay but... Will… will you be alright?”

Blacksmith smiled.

“Don’t worry about it. The yakuza these days are a joke. Neither of those two were old enough to shave.”

Izuku nodded.

“… okay.”

“And Midoriya.”

“… yes.”

“Thank you for being her friend.”

***

Shuichi rubbed his stomach. The goggle girl knew how to throw a punch. Mustard had gone quiet and dried blood colored his jaw. It was always the same. His innards turned mustard yellow the moment someone stood up to him and he’d hate himself afterwards. But there was something different about Mustard this time. Something murderous.

“Mustard? You alright?” Shuichi said.

“Quirkless…” Mustard said.

“What was that?”

“Some Quirkless freak thought he could punch me.” Mustard said behind his teeth.

“Yeah, well, you were talking shit about his girl. That’s what you get.”

Mustard sucked on his split lip.

“Was she really his girlfriend? He was Quirkless.” Mustard whined.

“Maybe. Man, I want a girlfriend too. Well, at least we still have each other.”

Mustard didn’t answer him and walked off.

“Where are you going?” Shuichi said.

“I’m going to find slime boy in whatever sewer he’s hiding in.” Mustard said.

“Mustard. The guy has pros after him.” Shuichi said but Mustard was far beyond listening to reason.

Shuichi watched him go and wondered how he would explain this to their handler at Shi Hassaikai.

***

For the next few days Izuku had to work alone on the shock gloves. He was allowed to use the workshop at his school and the teacher was ecstatic of his new interest in engineering but even his encouragement had a condescending edge to it. The Quirkless idiot had finally given up on his pipedream.

Izuku had been worried that the gloves would be too much for him, but the beauty of science was that you didn’t have to be a genius to understand genius. When he looked at the problem with fresh eyes it was easy to see where the problem with the gloves lied. Trouble shooting took time, but it never felt tedious. There was a joy in working with your hands and seeing everything come together.

Finally, Izuku put the gloves on and activated them.

Current ran through the gloves but didn’t harm him but it still needed testing. He smirked at the thought of using Bakugou as a guinea pig. The gloves were still too heavy and clumsy to be used in combat but now they had a starting point. After taking off the gloves he texted Hatsume.

“They work.” Izuku wrote.

His phone started ringing almost immediately.

“Fuck yes, Izuku! I knew you could do it! Plus Ultra!” Hatsume screamed in his ear.

“Plus Ultra!” Izuku echoed without hesitation.

“We need to give the baby a test run. Meet me at the beach. The one with all the junk on it.”

“… you’re not grounded anymore?”

“Till my dying day.” Hatsume said.

“… but your dad…”

“What dad doesn’t know can’t bother him. See you soon.” Hatsume said.

It had been only four days but Izuku had missed Hatsume. Texting and phone calls only took you so far. When he got to the meeting place Hatsume was already waiting for him and gave him a friendly punch in the shoulder.

“Izuku, Izuku, Izuku. My man. Come on. Show me our baby.”

“… why do you call them that?” Izuku said.

“Call them what?”

“… you know what.”

“Oh. You mean babies. What’s wrong, Izuku? Does making babies with me make you uncomfortable? Would you like to stop making babies with me? You don’t think making babies with me isn’t fun anymore?”

“No! It’s just…”

Hatsume laughed.

“You need to step up your game, Izuku, and empty your fuck box or you’ll die all alone and confused.”

“… I don’t have… that.”

“You should get one. Everyone needs a fuck box.”

They walked deeper into the beach that had become the unofficial dumping ground for their city.

“… about your dad…” Izuku said.

“He was ecstatic that you knew who he was. Haven’t seen him that happy in years.”

“… really?”

“No.”

“… oh. Uh… do you know what happened with him and Endeavor?”

“He doesn’t like talking about it… or Endeavor. Or heroes in general. He burned a lot of bridges when he quit Endeavor’s agency and couldn’t find anyone who’d take him after that.”

Hatsume sighed and looked at the ocean.

“Mom didn’t stick around for long after that.”

A familiar pain hit Izuku.

“… I’m sorry. I… know what it’s like. When I was diagnosed Quirkless… dad… he left.”

They walked onward in awkward silence and Hatsume tried on the shock gloves. She gave an approving whistle when she saw that the current ran safely through the gloves without harming the user. Then Izuku’s stomach twisted.

“… do you smell that?”

“You’re not pinning that one on me. Who smelt it dealt it.” Hatsume said and then she smelled it too: “Oh my God! What is that?! I swear if I find another corpse in here, I’m going to freak out!”

Dark green mud was dripping out of a drainage and it was the foulest thing Izuku had ever smelled. Then it started rising above them into the form of a man. Izuku and Hatsume could only stare when the creature opened its eyes and a mouth full of sharp teeth formed. The thing grinned at them.

“What are you two little kids doing here all alone?”

The creature had a raspy voice and the stench of its breath brought tears into Izuku’s eyes. What was even worse then the smell was that Izuku knew the thing. Sludge Villain. A D-rank criminal who had been all over the news the past few weeks. Hatsume recognized him too. Without saying a word, they ran deeper into the junkyard and hid amongst the trash.

“We need to get the hell out of here.” Hatsume whispered while using her Quirk Zoom to find an escape route.

“… see anything?” Izuku said while dialing the emergency number.

“I don’t think he knows… Run!”

A shadow fell over Izuku and he saw one of the trash mountains falling towards them. Izuku let out a terrified yelp when they scampered out of the way. The earth shook when tons of trash collapsed, and the crash was loud enough to make Izuku’s ears ring.

“Found you.” The Sludge Villain said.

Hatsume dropped the shock gloves when the Sludge Villain grabbed her.

“What are your doing here wasting your time with some Quirkless freak? I could show you a lot better time.” The Sludge Villain said and grinned at Izuku: “Don’t even think about moving or your little girlfriend will be drowning in shit.”

Hatsume looked at Izuku. There was fear in her eyes but also determination. Even now she believed that together they would get out of this. Without saying a word, a plan was forged between them.

It was blatantly obvious that the Sludge Villain never had a Bakugou in his life. If he had, he would have known better than to take his eyes off an enemy. Izuku lunged at the fallen shock gloves and when the Sludge Villain tried to swipe him aside, Hatsume had a free shot at his eye. His huge bulging eye. It didn’t matter how tough someone was. No one could take a blow in the eye. The Sludge Villain was no exception.

Many things happened at once.

The Sludge Villain dropped Hatsume and clutched his bruised eye. Izuku grabbed one of the shock gloves and put it on. Then a high-powered current of electricity was running through the Sludge Villain.

A normal person would have been knocked out instantly. Unfortunately, the Sludge Villain was not a normal person. Whatever his body was made of, it had a much higher percentage of water in it than an average person and that made the shock glove hit far harder than it was meant to. The sudden surge of power fried the Sludge Villain, the shock glove and Izuku’s hand. When the glove exploded searing hot metal hit Izuku in the face. The Sludge Villain melted into a puddle and Izuku fell into the ground bloodied and half-blind.

“Izuku? Are you…” Hatsume said.

Then the stench hit her.

The Sludge Villain had reeked like the sewer he’d crawled out of. Getting electrocuted hadn’t improved the odor.

Izuku threw up first. Then Hatsume followed suit. The green puddle that had been the Sludge Villain twitched weakly. When Izuku was lying on his knees, throwing up until his throat hurt, he felt something heavy hit the ground.

“Worry not, for now I am… Oh my God.”

Through the tears Izuku saw All-Might standing over them and looking sick. He’d covered his mouth and tried to force his breakfast to stay down. Izuku spat out a mouthful of bile and All-Might started coughing. He coughed until he was spitting blood. Then he started… steaming and… shrinking? In the blink of an eye All-Might was gone and in his place stood a blonde skeleton.

“What the shit?! What the shit?!” Izuku yelled.

“Aw… crap.” All-Might sighed.

Chapter Text

Despite how it looked the damage to Izuku’s hand after the shock glove exploded had been mostly cosmetic. There would be serious scarring, but he’d have full use of his fingers once the bandages came off. The left side of his face hadn’t gotten off so lightly. The searing metal scraps had left three long gashes in his face and one of them split his eyebrow. The fact that both of his eyes were intact was a minor miracle.

Izuku sat at the police station with Hatsume and tried to calm his nerves while waiting for their parents and the questioning. Even Hatsume was unusually quiet. She’d been given ill fitting change of clothes and had rubbed herself raw in the shower to get the Sludge Villain’s stench off.

“… do… do you think we killed him?” Izuku said.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. What do you mean we? We didn’t do anything. That was all on you.” Hatsume said.

Izuku shuddered.

“… are we going to jail?”

“Once again, we aren’t going anywhere. And don’t worry about jail. Dad will have killed us long before that happens.” Hatsume said and patted his back: “Chill, Izuku. I’m just fucking with you.”

Izuku nodded and Hatsume smiled.

“Thank you for saving my life, Izuku. That was not the way I wanted to go. No one should die with their mouth full of shit.” Hatsume said.

There was a knock on the door and a cop in a trench coat and fedora walked into the room.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, kids. I’m Tsukauchi. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

“… are we in trouble?” Izuku said.

Tsukauchi sat down across them.

“Why would you be in trouble?”

“Izuku has problems keeping his fuck box empty.” Hatsume said.

Tsukauchi blinked.

“I… see.” Tsukauchi said and cleared his throat: “You two were very lucky. The Sludge Villain has been a top priority to us for a while now. Did he say anything that we should know?”

Izuku thought back on the fight with the Sludge Villain but all he could recall were blurry images and terror. There was just…

“… he knew I was Quirkless. There… there were these two guys from Shi…”

“Shi Hassaikai. Yeah. Izuku messed them both up good.” Hatsume said.

“You fought two yakuzas?” Tsukauchi said incredulously.

“They were just kids calling themselves yakuzas, but I think the other guy took it personally. He did threaten to kill us both. Shit show so far.” Hatsume said.

“I see.” Tsukauchi said and wrote something down: “Did they have names?”

“… the other one was called Mustard.” Izuku said.

“What did they look like?” Tsukauchi said.

Izuku and Hatsume described them the best they could and Tsukauchi wrote it all down.

“Thank you for your cooperation. Tracking down the lizard man shouldn’t be too hard. Don’t hesitate to call me if you remember anything else. Now, if you’re not in a hurry, All-Might would like to have a word with you.” Tsukauchi said.

“No! I mean yes!... I mean… yeah. We have time.” Izuku said.

“Smooth, Izuku.” Hatsume said.

“… he saved our lives.” Izuku said.

“No. You saved our lives.” Hatsume said.

There was something comical seeing All-Might going through doors. He was too big for doors and had to squeeze through them. All-Might nodded to Tsukauchi as he left the room. Izuku tried to keep his cool when All-Might sat down on the too small chair that complained under his weight. If Izuku had known that all he had to do to get an audience with All-Might was knocking out a villain, he would have done it years ago.

“… All-Might? Sir? Are you… alright?” Izuku said.

All-Might just laughed.

“I should be asking that. How are you two holding up? That was quite an adventure you had.” All-Might said.

“Wasn’t much of an adventure. I almost drowned in shit. That’s no way for a genius to go.” Hatsume said.

“I’m glad you’re both taking it so well.” All-Might said and looked closer at Izuku’s new facial scars: “If you ever want plastic surgery for those, let me know. I’ll pay for it, young Midoriya.”

Izuku could only nod. His face was burning and not because of the scars and his heart was beating so fast it hurt.

“I could use a doctor as well. I had this weird hallucination where you turned into a zombie.” Hatsume said.

A crack appeared in All-Might’s smile.

“Yes, well… That’s what I wanted to talk to you about actually. I was hoping you would keep what you saw in the down low. About me turning into a zombie. Unfortunately, that means we can’t reveal what you two did.”

“Of course.” Izuku said without thinking.

“Thank you, my boy.” All-Might said.

“Sure thing, Mighty. By the way. Heard you became a teacher in U.A recently.” Hatsume said.

“That is true.” All-Might said.

“Well, me and my boy Izuku here are applying to U.A in the Support Department and I was hoping you could put in a good word for us.” Hatsume said.

Izuku looked at Hatsume horrified.

“… Hatsume… are you… blackmailing All-Might?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Who said anything about blackmail? We did his job for him and are now covering his ass. I think it’s just fair he does us a solid one in return. You can get in on recommendation. You think Endeavor’s brat is going to be taking a test with the rest of us nobodies?” Hatsume said.

All-Might just laughed.

“When you put it like that, it does sound fair, but I don’t think young Midoriya would like to get in like that.”

“… no. I wouldn’t.” Izuku admitted.

Hatsume groaned.

“God, my back is killing me from carrying this team. Fine. Then you can do a cameo in one of our videos.”

“Videos?” Izuku and All-Might said.

Hatsume took out her phone and jumped into YouTube. Painfully familiar narration filed the room.

“Best friends turned rivals will face in the U.A tournament! Katsuki Bakugou believes that might makes right while Izuku Midoriya will rise up to prove him wrong! Project: Indestructible will fuck Bakugou with its titanium dick in the finals! And the whole world will watch! Plus Ultra!”

Izuku looked horrified at the poorly edited video which showed pictures of him and Bakugou to the beat of Hatsume’s narration. The hit count was closer to ten thousand and there was an entire series of videos where he was the unknown star. Izuku started praying to whatever god who’d listen to take him now.

All-Might raised an eyebrow.

“Titanium dick?”

“Would titanium cock have rolled off the tongue better?” Hatsume said.

There was a knock on the door and Tsukauchi peeked in.

“Your parents are here.” Tsukauchi said.

“Man. Good thing I have a lot of cops here to protect me from dad.” Hatsume said.

“… I… I’ll be right there. I… I’d like to ask something from All-Might.” Izuku said.

“Sure.” Hatsume said and went with Tsukauchi.

All-Might looked after Hatsume.

“Your friend doesn’t seem to like me very much.” All-Might said.

“… sorry.”

“Don’t be. Disliking me isn’t a crime.” All-Might said and turned his sights back to Izuku: “What did you want to ask?”

“… I… this is going to sound stupid but… could… someone without a Quirk be a… hero?”

Izuku didn’t dare to even breath while he waited for All-Might’s answer.

“Midoriya. This is a dangerous profession and even with Quirks heroes are risking their lives.”

Izuku felt his heart sink.

“But today you behaved yourself like a hero. What you did was very brave. You can be proud of yourself.”

Izuku looked up and All-Might’s smile was brighter than the sun. Too bright for him to face it for long and Izuku went back to staring at his feet.

“… the Sludge Villain. He… he might have seen you too. Will that be a problem?”

“He’s in custody and who would believe him?” All-Might said.

Izuku was so excited he realized he hadn’t asked for an autograph until he’d stepped out of the room. Hatsume was waiting for him in the hallway.

“… didn’t you go see your dad?”

“I’m not trying my luck with him alone. What did you ask All-Might?”

“… just… if I could be a hero.”

“I already told you can. With science! You don’t need All-Might’s permission to be a hero. All you need is science.”

“… I guess.” Izuku said and then looked at Hatsume sternly: “You shouldn’t have talked to him like that.”

“What? Like to a person?”

“… you tried to blackmail him.”

“Hate the game not the player, Izuku. You think he wouldn’t have blackmailed us if we hadn’t played ball?”

“… what? He… he’s All-Might. He would never…”

“Endeavor is the number two hero in Japan. Doesn’t stop him from being an asshat. You don’t become that successful without burying a few bodies.” Hatsume said and walked past him: “Never trust the face people show to cameras.”

Izuku followed her with an uneasy feeling. Mom and Blacksmith were waiting for them and mom pulled him into a tearful hug the moment she saw him. She held him for a long time and cried to his chest. Over mom’s shoulder Izuku saw how Blacksmith looked at his daughter on the verge of tears. After some hesitation he hugged her.

“Let me see your face.” Mom said after letting him go.

“… it’s not as bad as it looks.” Izuku said.

Mom had another crying fit when she saw the scars clearly.

“… Izuku… if something had happened to you… I don’t…” Mom said without being able to continue.

It was that moment that it hit Izuku. He could have died. When All-Might showed up Izuku had thought that the situation was under control and had been under control all along. But All-Might had showed up late. The Sludge Villain could have killed him and Hatsume and there was nothing All-Might could have done about it. The same realization seemed to hit Hatsume too. They could have died.

“Midoriya.”

Izuku turned to look at Blacksmith. It was strange seeing such a powerful man in such distress. Strange and terrifying.

“How’s your hand and face?”

“… the doctor said that all the damage should be just… cosmetic.” Izuku said.

“Good to hear.” Blacksmith said and offered his hand: “Thank you for saving my daughter.”

Izuku shook his hand.

“… Hatsume saved me too.” Izuku said.

“Mei.” Hatsume said.

“… what?”

“My name is Mei. Not Hatsume.”

“It’s not? News to me.” Blacksmith said.

“My name is whatever I say it is. And I say it’s high time Izuku drops it with the Hatsume nonsense.” Mei said.

“You two seem to be close.” Mom said.

Mei grinned.

“We’re partners in Project: Indestructible. Check out our page in YouTube.”

“… please don’t.” Izuku said.

“Come on, Izuku. Take some pride in your work.” Mei said.

Blacksmith pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Mrs. Midoriya. I’m sorry for all the trouble we’ve caused but I’d like to get home now so I can have a heart attack in peace.”

“You’ve been no trouble, Mr. Hatsume. Thank you looking after my son.” Mom said and smiled at Mei: “Thank you for being Izuku’s friend.”

The car ride home was a quiet one. Izuku stared at his burned hand. Thank you for saving my daughter. You saved our lives. Today you behaved yourself like a hero. What you did was very brave. You can be proud of yourself. Something warm and refreshing was growing in Izuku’s chest ready to burst. This… this moment was everything he’d ever wanted. To feel like he was something. Someone. Not the Quirkless freak Deku but someone who mattered. He would never let this feeling go. Mei was right. Together they could do anything. A burned hand and scarred face was a cheap price to pay.

When he got home Izuku took his painkillers like clockwork and lied down. It was all so much. He could have died but he had fought and beaten a villain. And he’d learned something new about Mei. Underneath all that energy was a lot of bitterness. Izuku picked up his phone and started doing research on Blacksmith and Endeavor. Blacksmith had been a competent but not especially outstanding hero trapped in Endeavor’s shadow. The biggest news about him was the very unflattering interview he’d given about Endeavor after he’d left his agency. Or been fired. It was a bit hazy. Endeavor had promptly sued him for defamation and left him in shambles. Before that Blacksmith had been a rich man but a lengthy legal battle had turned him bankrupt.

Izuku’s phone rang.

“… hi Mei.” Izuku said.

“Izuku, my man. How you doing? Has it hit you yet? That we almost died with our mouths full of shit?”

“… yeah.”

“Threw up twice after I got home. Was thinking about going a third time. You?”

“… the painkillers keep me calm.”

“Way to go making me feel like pussy. Izuku…?”

“… yeah?”

“I was thinking… After that… do you still want to be a hero?”

Izuku didn’t have to think about his answer.

“Of course.”

Mei laughed.

“That’s all what I wanted to hear. Plus Ultra!”

“Plus Ultra.” Izuku said.

“And don’t worry about the scars. They make you look like a total badass.”

The next morning Izuku had to fight a shudder when he looked into a mirror. Grandma always said he was cute as a button. There was nothing cute about him now. The left side of his face had turned red and swollen around the scars and his left eye was welded shut. Mom looked ready to faint when she saw him.

“You can take the day off if you want.” Mom said.

“… I’m good.” Izuku said.

At school people fell silent when they saw him. Instead of mocking laughter all he could hear was mute shock. It was a welcome change. Izuku sat at his desk like usual and tried to read to kill the time but all he could think was what All-Might had said. He’d behaved himself like a hero. He could be proud of himself. Him. Izuku Midoriya. He’d done something to be proud of.

“What the hell happened to your face?”

Bakugou was looming over his desk like usual. Wait. No. Not like usual. Something was different. Had Bakugou always been this small? Izuku put down his book.

“… Bakugou. I... want you to apologize.” Izuku said.

Bakugou stared at him for a while.

“You want me to do fucking what?”

“That book you burned… was a gift from a friend. I want you to apologize for that.” Izuku said.

At school Bakugou was king and no one told a king what to do. Bakugou leaned in closer and hissed like a snake in Izuku’s ear.

“Who the fuck do you think you are talking to me like that?”

It took even more courage than zapping the Sludge Villain but Izuku managed to look Bakugou in the eyes.

“… who do you think you are? Picking fights with people who can’t fight back? Does it make you feel big? Does it make you feel like a hero?”

Izuku hit a nerve and Bakugou drew a sharp breath. His hand turned into a hard fist. Izuku did something he never thought he’d dare. He smirked at Bakugou. The flash of his teeth made Bakugou hesitate.

“… what’s wrong, Bakugou? Hit me if you want to but… I don’t think they’ll let you in U.A if you beat up some Quirkless freak.” Izuku said.

The whole class had turned to stare at them and Bakugou was twitching while he tried to control his temper. Finally, he just gave Izuku a shove and stomped back to his desk. Izuku went back to reading while the rest of the class wondered what the hell had just happened.

The following months were busy preparing for the U.A entrance exam. After a few weeks his face settled in and he could recognize himself in the mirror again. Mei had been right The scars made him look like a badass. Three dark slashes ran on the left side of his face and turned his cute face into something formidable. His hand wasn't as pleasant to look at. The skin was a mess of pink and white blotches and had the texture of melt wax. The skin felt a size too small. The hand drew too much unwanted attention and Izuku started wearing a glove to cover it.

When he wasn’t helping Mei at her father’s shop, he was studying or working out. Izuku had surprised himself by founding out that he liked exercising when he finally got the hang of it and the worst of the pain passed. It was exhilarating that he was a bit faster and a bit stronger then he’d been a month ago. The pain was still there but there was a sweetness to it now. He’d burned off what little remained of his baby fat and he could make out the faint outline of a six back on his stomach. His arms grew thicker and veins stuck out from the constant exertion. The changes in his body motivated him work even harder.

Finally, the time came to walk through the U.A gates for the exam. Mei was waiting for him at the entrance and had actually made herself presentable for the occasion. She’d washed off the oil stains and traded her work overalls for a black dress and a pink leather jacket.

“Feeling nervous?” Mei said.

“… yes.” Izuku admitted

“Well, don’t.”

“… but…”

“Trust me, Izuku. I’m smarter than anyone. If I say we can do this, we can do this. Plus Ultra!”

“… I…”

“Plus Ultra!” Mei shouted.

“… plus ultra.”

“Louder! Plus Ultra!”

“Plus Ultra.”

“Say it like you believe it! Plus Ultra!”

People had stopped to stare at them. The old Izuku would have shrunk from shame but he was the Izuku who had beaten the Sludge Villain. So, screw it!

“Plus Ultra!” Izuku yelled and threw his fist in the air.

“Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra!” They chanted.

Suddenly a guy with spiky red hair and a friendly grin full of sharp teeth joined in.

“Plus Ultra!” The red-haired boy yelled.

Mei laughed in delight.

“Plus Ultra! We’re gonna ace this bitch! Plus Ultra!”

More people followed the red-haired guy's example and started chanting with them. Soon the whole yard had joined in and only a tall, well-built student with spectacles tried to make them behave themselves. No one paid any attention to him.

“Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra!”

The chant was loud enough to make U.A shudder.

Everyone took the same written exam despite what department they were applying for. Izuku had prepared his whole life for this moment and the biggest challenge was fitting everything he wanted to say in such small space. Then came the practical exam. Izuku looked on with envy while the Hero Course applicants moved on to combat training. Finally, Mei had to drag him with her.

The applicants were divided into four groups and to Izuku’s dismay he was separated from Mei. For their practical training the Support Department applicants had to assemble a machine from the pieces laid before them. Izuku looked at the parts, and a map was drawn in his mind on how they went together. He’d cracked harder eggs with Mei on his third month. Izuku got to work with his screwdriver and ten minutes later he was holding an alarm clock.

This can’t be all, Izuku thought.

The practical exam had to have multiple parts. Then he looked around. Majority had barely gotten started. Those who hadn’t been completely absorbed in their work looked at him with wonder and envy. Was this really all? Izuku raised his hand nervously.

“Yes?” The teacher said.

“… I’m done. What’s the next problem?”

The teacher looked at him puzzled.

“Excuse me?”

“… I… I’m ready for the next problem.” Izuku said louder.

The teacher walked up to him, picked up the clock and looked at it. He looked at it for a long time. Then he gave it shake. The hands kept on turning and he shifted his gaze to Izuku. The teacher leaned in closer to whisper in his ear.

“There is no second part. You’re done. Welcome to the Support Department, young man.”

Izuku left the classroom in a daze. Mei was waiting for him in the hallway grinning like a lunatic because of course she was.

“What did I say, Izuku? God, it hurts to be this awesome.”

***

Shuichi was laying low in his hideout with Mustard. Not just from the cops but from Shi Hassaikai as well. After the fiasco with the Sludge Villain cops had started looking for them. They’d also sent people to question Overhaul who was less than appreciative of the attention and Overhaul’s displeasure was known to kill people. They were laying on the couch watching TV waiting for someone to come and kill them when Shuichi gagged.

“For fuck sake, Mustard! Are you trying to kill me?” Shuichi complained.

“Wasn’t me.” Mustard protested.

“Well, it wasn’t me either.”

Mustard groaned.

“Goddamn it. Is the toilet clogged again?”

With heavy heart Shuichi checked the bathroom… and saw green slime climbing out of the sink.

“… slime boy?”

It was slime boy. A very small part of him and it was on its last legs. Spinner had seen slime boy separate himself into multiple parts, but he’d never guessed the copies could survive so far from the host.

“… Spinner… Mustard… you have to hear this. It’s about… All-Might…” Slime boy said.

Chapter Text

Putting on his new school uniform was a bittersweet experience for Izuku. He was going to U.A. Juts not as a hero trainee. But that would change in time. Izuku hid his maimed hand with a black glove and brushed his hair over the scars on the left side of his face. A smile crept on his face when he glanced himself in the mirror. Izuku Midoriya. U.A student.

Suck my freckled dick, Bakugou, Izuku thought.

Mom was waiting for him when he stepped out of his room and gave an approving nod.

“Someone’s looking handsome.” Mom said.

“… come on, mom.” Izuku said bashfully.

Mom straightened his tie.

“Knock ‘em dead, honey.” Mom said.

“… I will.”

Izuku was almost out the door when mom called after him.

“Izuku.”

“… yeah?”

“Are you happy now?”

Izuku didn’t have to think about his answer and grinned.

“Yeah.”

The train ride to school was the fastest one of his life. You could see U.A from far away. The campus dwarfed his old school and seemed to promise everything to those who walked through its gates. Mei was waiting for him at the school entrance. She didn’t look comfortable in her school uniform and Izuku could empathize. After you got used to work overalls it was hard to go back to regular clothes. They were so comfortable and practical. Everything else just felt stifling.

“Izuku, my man. Ready to rock the word so hard it will walk funny for a week?” Mei said.

“Yes.” Izuku said.

“Hey.”

Izuku turned and saw the red-haired student who had joined their chant at the entrance exam.

“You two made it.” The red-haired boy said.

“I told you we’d ace the bitch and I’m always right.” Mei said.

“… she really is.” Izuku said.

“Cool.” The red-haired boy said and offered his hand: “Eijirou Kirishima.”

“Mei Hatsume and this is Izuku Midoriya. The hero Indestructible.” Mei said.

“You’re in the Hero Course too? What’s your Quirk?” Kirishima said excitedly.

“… I don’t have one.”

Kirishima looked amazed.

“You made it in without a Quirk?”

“Not yet but he will once the tournament rolls around. The power of science will crush Quirks. Plus Ultra!” Mei said.

“Plus Ultra! I’ll be cheering for. A real hero doesn’t need a Quirk. Just manly spirit.” Kirishima said and grinned: "I'll see you two around."

Kirishima walked past them into U.A.

“… he seemed nice.” Izuku said.

“Nice? I’m surprised he didn’t have a choir of angels following him.” Mei said.

They found their way into their new classroom and Izuku was surprised to find it empty. Judging from how few desks it had, it hadn’t been designed to hold many students in the first place. A force of habit made Izuku pick a desk in the back and Mei sat next to him.

“… where is everybody?” Izuku said.

“Right here. You think the Hero Course is picky? They ain’t got shit on Support.” Mei said.

The classroom door opened and a sinewy man with animalistic helmet, power gloves and no shirt stepped in. He looked at them and didn’t seem pleased.

“Good God. Is this really the best we could get? I asked for inventors and got nimrods. Well, if that’s how Nezu wants to play it, fine. I’ll turn you into professionals even if I must squeeze every last drop of blood out of your bones. If you came here to have fun, get the hell out of my classroom. You’re here to learn and I will teach you even if it kills you. My name is Power Loader and you will learn my methods.”

Sweat had started to form on Izuku’s forehead. Power Loader glared at them for a while and then started laughing.

“I’m just messing with you. Welcome to U.A. I’m looking forward to working with you.”

The rest of the lecture was orientation. Majority of their studies would be individual work in the workshop. They had free reign to build anything they wanted as long as it had been approved by a teacher. If anyone in the Hero Course ordered something, the Support Department would build it and maintain it.

After Power Loader was done, he led them to the workshop. Older Support students were busy at work and were too engrossed in their projects to offer them so much as a glance. Izuku looked around in amazement. This had to be the kind of workshop Mei had dreamed of having. All the equipment was brand new and there was no shortage of raw materials. You had all the room and light you could ask for. There was a faint smell of oil in the air that Izuku found pleasant.

“Pick a corner and make yourselves at home. I’ll come see what you’re cooking in a moment.” Power Loader said.

Mei picked a room for them with a view on the Hero Course building. Everything was neatly organized which meant no one was actually using it, and it had shelf full of books on engineering.

“We need to buy that man a shirt.” Mei said.

“… you should have seen Midnight’s first uniform.” Izuku said and walked to the shelf.

“Oh yeah. Is it true it showed her boobs?”

Izuku mumbled an answer and looked through the books. Among all the engineering books there were also school year books on the annual U.A tournament. Izuku pulled it out and tried to find a picture of All-Might as a student. He had to go back over thirty years, but he recognized All-Might immediately. He’d been nowhere near as muscular back then but even as a teen All-Might towered over everyone and shined brighter than anyone.

Each year’s participants names and Quirks who’d made it to the finals had been written down but for some reason All-Might’s name and Quirk had been blacked out.

Izuku started flipping through the pages and to his surprise found a picture of Mei’s dad from twenty-six years ago. Teenage Blacksmith had been a male version of his daughter. They even had the same over-excited smile. When Izuku looked closer he noticed that Blacksmith was holding the hand of another student. A pretty girl with shoulder length white hair and a gentle smile. Both looked overjoyed. Izuku looked through the name list.

Ken Hatsume. Quirk: Iron Works.

Rei Kurosawa. Quirk: Hailstorm.

“… is that your mom?” Izuku said and showed Mei the picture.

The smile dried on Mei’s face when she saw the picture and her eyes shone for a moment with cold fury.

“No. It’s not.” Mei said bluntly.

The anger in Mei’s voice made Izuku think better than probe the matter and he put the book away. The usual smile returned to Mei’s face when she took the surviving shock glove from her bag along with the blueprints for Project: Indestructible.

“Come on, babies. Make mommy and daddy proud.”

When Power Loader entered Mei gave him the blueprints. Izuku wondered if he ever got cold for running around without a shirt.

“This is… very ambitious.” Power Loader said finally.

“You’re goddamn right. This baby will put our man Izuku in the Hero Course.” Mei said.

Power Loader glanced at Izuku over the blueprints.

“Weren’t you Quirkless?” Power Loader said.

“What do you need a Quirk for when you have science?” Mei said.

“The hero business is… dangerous. It would be very reckless for me to encourage someone without a Quirk to try become one.” Power Loader said.

“Is that so? I wonder if Support Courses in other schools have lost their balls.” Mei said.

“… Mei.” Izuku said and looked at Power Loader: “Mr. Power Loader… teacher. I… all I ever wanted to be was a hero. I came here to be a hero and… because I believe that the work Mei does is important. This could help science... and heroes.”

Power Loader sighed.

“Listen, Midoriya. You grew up watching All-Might and think that being a hero is all about saving people, smiling to the camera and knocking out villains with one punch. Things can get really ugly and… when a villain… a real villain stares down on you…”

Izuku took off his glove and showed Power Loader his maimed hand. Power Loader was a pro, so he’d had to have seen some shit. The sight of Izuku’s hand still made him flinch.

“… I know what it’s like getting hurt and… I’m not afraid. I want to be a hero.”

“Bet All-Might would give us the go ahead.” Mei said.

“All-Might isn’t the head of Support.” Power Loader said and tried not to stare at Izuku’s hand.

“Oh, please. It’s All-Might’s world and we’re just living in it. Call the man and he’ll tell you that if Izuku’s balls were any bigger I’d have to carry them for him.” Mei said.

“… seriously, Mei?” Izuku said and put the glove back on.

Power Loader stared at them for a moment and then took out his cellphone.

“All-Might. Sorry to disturb you. It’s Power Loader. Do you know anyone named Izuku Midoriya? I…”

Power Loader went silent.

“I see. Okay. Thanks for the help.” Power Loader said and hung up.

“Well?” Mei said.

Power Loader looked at them.

“I guess this year a Quirkless student will be participating in the tournament.” Power Loader said and picked up the remaining shock glove: “Is this what messed up your hand?”

“Got me there.” Mei said: “The facial scars are from a shaving related accident.”

“… I don’t shave.” Izuku said.

“I believe you.” Power Loader said and turned on the glove.

Electricity hummed through it.

“You two actually made this on your own?” Power Loader said.

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re awesome like me. Hate to brag but I might be the greatest thing you’ve ever met.” Mei said.

Power Loader looked at the blue prints again.

“If it doesn’t meet the safety standards, I’m pulling the plug. Got it?”

“Safety is for cowards. Dad didn’t raise no pussy.” Mei said.

“… we get it.” Izuku said.

When Power Loader was gone, Mei started laughing. She grabbed Izuku’s hands and twirled him around the room.

“Fucking A, Izuku! Plus Ultra! Indestructible is a go!”

A wide smile crept on Izuku’s face.

“… now what?”

“Now we stop wasting time and get to work. I’ll start upgrading the gloves and you scout the competition. Chart all the Quirks in the Hero Course and tell me who you think will make it to the finals.” Mei said.

Izuku nodded and got to work. Power Loader was nice enough to give him a file on the first-year students and Izuku got to studying. When he’d read and re-read the file, he let the knowledge brew in his head and started helping Mei with the new shock gloves. When he’d had couple of days to think about it, he shared his findings with Mei.

“So, what do you have for me?” Mei said.

Izuku pointed at Bakugou, Kaminari, Tokoyami and Todoroki in the file. When talking about Quirks, a subject he knew and loved, his voice came out clear and without hesitation.

“These are the big hitters in 1-A. Bakugou has explosions. Kaminari can control electricity and Tokoyami his shadow. Todoroki has… ice?”

Rei Kurosawa. Quirk: Hailstorm.

Izuku glanced at Todoroki’s picture. He could see a resemblance and not just because half of Todoroki’s hair was white.

“Izuku? Earth to Izuku.” Mei said.

“… sorry. If anyone of them make it to the finals, they are almost certain to win.” Izuku said.

“If they make it? I’m pretty sure they are shoe ins for the finals.”

“… not necessarily.” Izuku said.

All the big hitters Quirks were amazing and powerful but also impractical. They caused a lot of collateral that was hard to contain. Many heroes had lost their careers when bills caused by damages had started to pile up. The big fight at the end of the tournament was a poor indicator how well someone would do in the field. They’d have plenty of room to move and wouldn’t have to worry about civilians but to get there they’d have to pass the first two stages. People with blander but more practical Quirks could potentially score much better in the early competitions.

“Okay. So, who’re the real threats?”

Izuku pointed out Eijirou Kirishima, Tenya Iida and Tsuyu Asui.

“Man. Why did it have to be Kirishima. The guy’s a total teddy bear.” Mei said.

“… he’s also invulnerable.”

“Well, you’re Indestructible. What about the guy with the glasses?”

“Super speed.”

“Okay yeah. That is a problem. And the frog girl?”

“The worst of the three. She has super strength in her legs. Maybe even in the rest of her. She can jump ten meters in the air without even trying.” Izuku said.

Mei rubbed her chin.

“And if the fall doesn’t break anything, she has some kind of a super toughness. So, in a way, what Kirishima and Iida can do, she can do too.” Mei said.

“Yeah. She can also spit poison and her tongue… it’s long and strong. Like a whip.”

Izuku and Mei stared at Asui’s picture and a knot was tied in Izuku’s stomach. Asui’s Quirk wasn’t flashy, but it was useful, and she’d had it all her life. Where as Izuku hadn’t even put on the Indestructible armor yet. In a fight experience might decide the winner instead of raw power.

“She’s a bridge we’ll cross when the time comes.” Mei said and grinned: “Want to test out our baby?”

“Plus Ultra!” Izuku said.

The new shock gloves were sleeker and lighter than the originals. The also covered his entre arms.

“These bad boys don’t just electrocute motherfuckers. They also pack a punch. Want to go all Plus Ultra on a punching bag?”

Izuku nodded.

The punching bag at the Support Department was machine designed to measure impact power. Izuku turned on the gloves and took a few deep breaths before he threw a punch.

The punch broke the previous record. Along with Izuku’s arm.

***

Shuichi hid his face under a hoodie and was careful not to let anyone get a good luck at his face. Mustard should have been the one to do a food run, but the little bitch was too scared to even step out of their hideout anymore. Not that Shuichi could blame him. There were some secrets that were too terrifying for anyone to know. All-Might being… vulnerable. Human. Who would have believed it? Demigods weren’t supposed to be weak like the rest of them.

It was the kind of secret people would kill for. If heroes knew what they had found out… Would even All-Might come for them? Shuichi clutched the paper bag tighter and hastened his pace. Maybe they should just run. Take a bus and go as far as they could.

When Shuichi finally got back to the apartment he let out a sigh of relief. It didn’t last long. Mustard wasn’t alone.

“Oh… no.” Shuichi said.

“Hello, Spinner.”

Out of all Overhaul’s enforcers Dabi was easily the most terrifying. A tall, lanky man with black hair and a heavily scarred face. His jaw and the bags under his eyes were a mess of dark scar tissue. Mustard was sitting in a corner hugging his knees like a kid caught in a thunderstorm.

Dabi looked at the paper bag.

“Is that food? Do you mind? Looking for you two has left me a mite hungry.”

Shuichi gave him the paper bag without saying a word. Dabi fished out a burger and bit down.

“Man, this is really good.” Dabi said with his mouth full of burger.

“… glad you like it.” Shuichi said.

Dabi finished the burger in a few bites and started munching on the fries.

“You boys really fucked up. Overhaul ain’t too happy.”

Mustard looked up.

“We can…”

Blue flames erupted around Dabi and singed the couch.

“Shut the fuck up! I’m talking to Spinner.”

Mustard whimpered like a beaten dog and made himself look even smaller. Dabi took out the bottle that Shuichi had stuck slime boy in to keep the smell bearable.

“Hope you three have practiced your excuses.” Dabi said.

Shuichi swallowed.

“Dabi… look… I… we have intel on All-Might.” Shuichi said and told everything that slime boy had seen.

When he was finished Dabi kept on eating the fries and looking unimpressed.

“Oh, Spinner. And here I thought you were the one with a brain and a spine. You’ll have to try harder with Overhaul.”

Mustard started crying.

“I don’t want to die! I don’t! Mom! Help me!”

Dabi stared at the crying Mustard for a moment and then got up. He slapped Mustard. Hard enough to draw blood.

“You’re trying my patience and that can be very dangerous. Get up and take it like a man.”

Dabi put slime boy’s bottle in his jacket pocket and picked up the paper bag.

“These burgers are really good. Thanks for telling me about this place.” Dabi said.

“… you’re welcome.” Shuichi said.

“Well then, let’s get moving. We have a car waiting.”

Rappa was waiting for them at the car. Shuichi wished Rappa had been the one to find them. Out of all Overhaul’s goons he wasn’t so bad. He might have even let them go if they’d been pathetic enough. The car ride was the longest in Shuichi’s life and Mustard cried silently the whole way to the Shi Hassaikai mansion. The mansion was a massive compound that could house a small army and no expense had been spared while building it. But much like the yakuza, it had seen better days. Dabi and Rappa escorted them through the mansion and Shuichi caught a glimpse of an albino girl in the inner yard.

Overhaul was waiting for them in his study. Shuichi had only ever seen him from afar, but the man had always reminded him of a vulture. Not because of the beak mask but because of his eyes. Overhaul had the flat, lifeless eyes of a carrion eater. Overhaul regarded them for a moment. Mustard hid behind Shuichi like Shuichi could have done something to protect them.

“What… is that smell?” Overhaul said.

“Ask him.” Dabi said and showed Overhaul the bottle with slime boy in it.

“Dabi, kill that skid mark.” Overhaul said.

“Wait! Please wait! Slime boy. Tell them what you told us!” Shuichi said.

Overhaul stayed off the execution while slime boy told how he had cornered the kids Mustard had asked him to rough up and then All-Might showed and went to town with him. He was able to put up a good fight and even land a few hits but… no one could beat All-Might. When the fight was over All-Might was so tired he… shrunk. The Symbol of Peace turned into a husk. Dabi just shook his head but Overhaul looked… intrigued.

“Rappa. Get Shin.” Overhaul said.

Rappa obeyed like a dog who hated his master but feared his whip. He returned soon with a spectacled, blonde man.

“Tell the story again. And Dabi.” Overhaul said.

“Yes?”

“If they lied, take them in the back and kill them.”

Slime boy told the story again but there was one difference. It wasn’t All-Might who beat him but the Quirkless freak with a shock glove. Rest of the story held true even with Shin’s Quirk that prevented lying.

“You got beaten by some Quirkless kid?” Overhaul said and shook his head: “Good God. What did I do to deserve you idiots?”

Rappa bared his teeth. Overhaul turned to look at him.

“What’s that, Rappa? You had something in mind?”

Rappa had a short fight with himself.

“No… Overhole.”

“That’s what I thought.” Overhaul said and smiled behind his mask: “Congratulations, boys. You idiots just saved your lives.”

Shuichi let out a sigh of relief and Mustard started crying again.

“What do you want to do now? Kill All-Might?” Dabi said.

“There are other ways to destroy a man. We just need some evidence.” Overhaul said.

“I know someone.” Dabi said.

Chapter Text

Nothing had hurt like breaking his arm with a single punch. Getting the power glove off had topped even that and Izuku had blissfully blacked out when Mei and Power Loader had yanked his arm out of the glove. When he finally came to…

A pair of wrinkly old lips were locked against his own.

Mei and Power Loader were standing in the corner of the nurse’s office looking uncomfortable. Recovery Girl pulled back from the kiss and wiped her mouth.

“There. That should be good enough. How does your arm feel?”

“… uh.” Izuku managed.

“Will he ever jack it again?” Mei said.

“Hatsume. Shut up.” Power Loader said.

“Never.” Mei said.

After decades of dealing with teenagers Recovery Girl was unflappable.

“I see you have your hands full.” Recovery Girl said.

“Like I didn’t have enough things to worry about already.” Power Loader said and glared at Mei and Izuku: “Recovery Girl, could I borrow your office for a moment. I need to scream some sense into my students.”

“The floor is yours.” Recovery Girl said and took one more quick look at Izuku’s arm: “It should be okay in a couple of days. Take it easy until then. Try having a nap after Power Loader is done.”

“… thank you.” Izuku said.

Recovery Girl left them alone with a fuming Power Loader. When the door closed behind Recovery Girl, Power Loader exploded.

“What the hell were you two thinking?!”

“How cool it would have been if it had worked.” Mei said.

“Shut up! I told you that every invention goes through me!” Power Loader roared.

“So, we had a bit of bump in the road but…” Mei said.

“A bit?! Are you insane?!” Power Loader screamed and pointed at Izuku: “He’s lucky his arm didn’t come off!”

“… I’m alright. Really.” Izuku said.

“We’ll do better next time.” Mei said.

Power Loader grinded his teeth behind the mask.

“I think… we are suffering a communication failure here. I wonder if you’re parents would have more luck with you two.”

Mei turned pale.

“… you wouldn’t…”

“Oh, trust me, Hatsume. I can, and I will if I must. Now, the next time you have an invention you want to test, what do you do?”

“We bring it to you.” Mei said sullenly.

“Better.” Power Loader said and stomped out of the nurse’s office,

Izuku and Mei sat in awkward silence. Mei was the first to break it.

“I’m sorry about your arm. And that your first kiss went to some granny.” Mei said.

“… it wasn’t my first.”

“What?! Who was it?”

“… I don’t wanna talk about it.” Izuku said.

“Come on. Don’t leave me hanging here.”

“Mei. I don’t want to talk about it.” Izuku said.

“Fine.” Mei said and glanced at his arm: “Still, I’m sorry about your arm.”

“… it’s okay.”

“No. It’s not. I fucked up but don’t tell Power Loader I told you that.” Mei said.

“… okay.”

“Wanna go take a nap?”

“… I… yeah. A nap sounds good.”

Recovery Girl’s Quirk allowed her to speed up people’s natural healing through kissing. At least Izuku hoped the kissing was part of it. Ramping up someone’s metabolism like that took the fight out of a man and Izuku felt like he had just done a full workout. Mei helped him to the resting area and to Izuku’s surprise one of the beds was already taken.

“What’s up, guys?” Kirishima said.

Kirishima’s face was bruised and there was a faint smell of smoke in the air.

“Izuku broke his jack off…” Mei said.

“An accident! What… what happened to you?” Izuku said.

Kirishima’s grin was wide enough to show off all his teeth.

“We were doing practical training with All-Might and Bakugou got a bit too into it.”

Izuku and Mei looked at each other. Kirishima was practically beaming.

“He was so cool! I couldn’t keep up with him at all. I barely got one hit in.” Kirishima said.

Izuku had never seen anyone be so excited about getting trashed by Bakugou. Or by anyone else for that matter.

“… Bakugou can be a bit… rough.” Izuku said.

“I don’t mind. Wait! You two know each other?” Kirishima said.

“… we were in the same class.” Izuku said.

“That’s so cool. We should hang out after school.” Kirishima said.

The door slammed open and Bakugou walked in. His lip was split and swollen. When Bakugou noticed Izuku, his eyes narrowed. Deku would have covered before Bakugou but he wasn’t Deku. He was Izuku Midoriya. A U.A student.

“What are you doing here, Deku?” Bakugou growled.

“… my…” Izuku said and cleared his throat: “My name is Izuku Midoriya. Not Deku. Or did you forget? Kacchan?”

They glared at each other for a moment. Kirishima was looking confused while Mei was stroking her hair.

“So, you’re the notorious Bakugou.” Mei said and offered Bakugou her hand: “Mei Hatsume. Genius supreme. How you doing?”

“What?” Bakugou said.

“A bit slow on the uptake, I see. Good. Dumb and mean. The perfect heel.” Mei said.

“… what?” Bakugou said.

Kirishima pushed Mei aside gently but firmly.

“Did you come to see me?” Kirishima said.

“Yeah.” Bakugou said and pointed at his split lip: “You got lucky once. Next time you won’t be able to even touch me.”

Kirishima grinned.

“Next time I’m beating you into the dirt.”

Bakugou gave him a savage smile.

“Bring it on. I’d love to see you try.” Bakugou said and started to leave: “Don’t waste your time here. The rest of the class isn’t worth even half of what you are.”

When Bakugou was gone, Kirishima looked dreamily after him.

“Isn’t he super manly?” Kirishima said.

“… uh…” Izuku said.

“Baby dick.” Mei said.

Izuku and Kirishima turned to look at her.

“What?” They said.

“Did you see his hands? His tiny, tiny hands? Baby dick I tell you.” Mei said and grabbed Izuku’s hand: “See this? Huge hands. You know what that means? In Izuku’s pants is a dick other men merely claim to have.”

Izuku flushed crimson. Kirishima glanced quickly at Izuku’s crotch before jumping out of the bed.

“I don’t have time to be hurt when the others are busting their asses off. Plus Ultra!”

“Plus Ultra!” Mei agreed: “Knock Bakugou dead.”

“I will.” Kirishima said and ran after Bakugou. Or away from Mei.

“… well… that was weird.” Izuku said after Kirishima was gone.

“Really? I always suspected that gay and macho share a border.”

Mei sighed and slumped down on the chair next to the bed.

“… what’s wrong?”

“Power Loader was right. This was a bust. We have to redesign Project: Indestructible completely. You can’t handle the strength increase. Which means we have to make the armor lighter. Which means less weapons and protection. Which means…”

Mei pulled her hair in frustration.

“Which means I fucked up! God damnit!”

“We… we just need something to absorb the shock from the punches. There… I remember there being fiber that could do just that. If we add that…”

“We’d have to sell someone’s organs to afford it. And even then, we’d need a loan.” Mei said.

“… we could make it ourselves.”

“Izuku. I’m flattered but I’m a genius. Not a wizard.”

“Momo Yaoyorozu could do it.” Izuku said.

Mei blanked.

“Who?”

“… she’s in class 1-A. Her Quirk… she can use it to create anything.” Izuku said.

“Wait. Is she… from that Yaoyorozu family? The one with all the money?”

“… yeah. I think so.”

Mei grinned and slapped his shoulder.

“Izuku. My man. You just turned a bad day into a great one. Get that shock absorbing fiber for us and then use your non-threatening sex appeal to talk your way into her pants.”

“… what?”

“When you’re Izuku Yaoyorozu, Project: Indestructible will never have to worry about funding.” Mei said.

“What?! No! I’m not marrying someone for money.”

“Why not? People do it all the time. You think that hussy who married Endeavor did it for his personality?”

“… you… you should marry someone because you love them.”

“How did that workout for our parents?”

A cold fury blew through Izuku and Mei didn’t need her Quirk to see she’d crossed a line. The grin died on her lips.

“Mei. Never. Ever! Say that again!”

For the first time it was Mei who had to avert her gaze.

“I… I’m sorry, Izuku. That was stupid.”

The silence in the room felt heavy. Something slimy and poisonous had made its nest in Izuku’s chest. He could still remember the day he’d come back from the doctor diagnosed as Quirkless. The argument that mom and dad had had still echoed in his ears if he didn’t drown it out. And then there was… the crying in the night. Mom had been alone, and she’d been crying… and all Izuku could do while lying awake was listen. Why being Quirkless had been such a big deal to dad? Not like being able to breathe fire had made much of a difference in his day to day to life? Why hadn’t he been good enough? Why did he have to be… defective?

“Izuku.”

Izuku looked up. Mei was looking at him with eyes filled with worry.

“Look. Project: Indestructible is lucky to have you. I’m lucky to have you. You think that bitch Bakugou could have beaten that sewer monster?”

“Bakugou… is always better at everything.”

“Truly awesome people don’t have such shitty flaws.” Mei said and put her legs on the bed: “So, how we doing this? Rush to class and kidnap her?”

Izuku scratched his nose.

“… it’s kinda embarrassing talking to a girl you don’t know.”

“Didn’t slow you down with me. How about we put a letter in her locker and ask her to meet us at the workshop? Give us the homefield advantage.”

“… Mei. We’re just asking her a favor.”

“You have a lot to learn about capitalism but don’t worry. I’m here to teach you. You should get some shut eye. I’ll try to arrange a meeting in the afternoon.” Mei said.

“… you want to do it today?”

“If I give you time to mull it over, you might psyche yourself out.”

Mei left him to rest and after a long nap his arm felt… better. The pain was still there but it wasn’t debilitating, and he could move his fingers freely. He still kept his arm in the sling just in case and headed back to the workshop where Mei was waiting for him.

“Feeling better?” Mei said.

“I… yeah.”

“Good. Good.” Mei said and offered him a bag of candies: “Freshen up that morning death breath. It’s almost showtime.”

Izuku took a candy. A black candy. He stared at it suspiciously.

“Something wrong?” Mei said.

“… no. I’ve just never seen these before.” Izuku said.

“Foreign sweets. I love them.” Mei said and threw a couple in her mouth.

Izuku followed suit… and spat the sweet immediately out. No. You couldn’t even call it a sweet. The taste was strong and salty.

“What the hell, Mei?!”

Mei glared at the candy Izuku had spat out.

“Nice, Izuku. I had to order these from Finland.”

“What the hell were those?”

“Salty liquorice and they are delicious.” Mei said.

“They are disgusting.”

“You just have no taste. You really should…” Mei said and then glanced over his shoulder: “Put on your game face and empty your fuck box, Izuku. She’s here.”

Izuku hadn’t been prepared for how tall Yaoyorozu was. She towered over them and had the build of an athlete with a lifetime of practice. She had the authoritative air of a natural leader. Izuku tried not to stare at her chest which wasn’t easy since it was directly at face level for him. In her hand was a letter.

“Izuku Midoriya? You wanted to see me.” Yaoyorozu said.

Mei was on her first.

“We both did. Have a candy.” Mei said and offered Yaoyorozu the bag of salty liquorice.

“Oh. Uh… thank you.” Yaoyorozu said and reached for the sweets.

“… you probably shouldn’t. They… aren’t very good.” Izuku said.

“… okay.” Yaoyorozu said and looked at them: “I… thought Midoriya wanted to talk to me alone.”

“Wow. Slick moves, Izuku.” Mei said.

“Mei!” Izuku said and smiled to Yaoyorozu apologetically: “… sorry. We don’t know what planet she’s from… and thank you for coming here in such a short notice. I’m Izuku Midoriya and she’s Mei Hatsume. I… we’re in the middle of a project and need your help.”

“Oh.” Yaoyorozu said and looked disappointed: “I thought… Well, it doesn’t matter. What do you need me to do?”

“We ran into a bit of a road block with the power glove. It’s super bad, you see.” Mei said.

“… I kinda broke my arm when… I used it.” Izuku said.

Yaoyorozu looked worried.

“Are you alright? Should you even be up?”

“Don’t worry. A little tongue action from Recovery Girl fixed him right up.” Mei said.

Yaoyorozu eyes widened.

“… could we not talk about that?” Izuku said.

“If you insist. Izuku came up with an idea how to work around that little problem.” Mei said.

“… we need fiber that can absorb shock. If we weave it into the gloves, I should be able to use it safely.” Izuku said.

Yaoyorozu smiled.

“So, Kirishima was right. You’re trying to get into Heroics without a Quirk.”

“He’s the one.” Mei said.

“So, you two want me to help create competition for my class in the tournament.” Yaoyorozu said.

“Pretty much.”

“Why should I do that?” Yaoyorozu said.

“What’s wrong? You afraid of science?” Mei said.

“I’m 1-A’s vice-president. I need to think what’s best for my class.”

Izuku cleared his throat.

“… we’re asking for help and… heroes help those in need.” Izuku said.

Yaoyorozu raised her eyebrows and Mei looked at him surprised.

“I… we… you think I’m a hero?” Yaoyorozu said.

“… you’re in the right course for it.” Izuku said.

Yaoyorozu was quiet for a moment.

“I guess I am.” Yaoyorozu said and switched back to full business mode: “I need to know the exact composition of the fiber.”

“You got it.” Mei said and showed Yaoyorozu the chart.

Yaoyorozu studied it for a while.

“How much do you need?” Yaoyorozu said finally.

“… as much as you can get us.”

Yaoyorozu nodded and handed Mei back the chart.

“I’ll need food. My Quirk consumes a lot of energy.”

“There’s a half-decent restaurant nearby, and baby, mommy is hungry.” Mei said.

Mei led them to the restaurant, a small family owned affair. Yaoyorozu looked around fascinated.

“… something wrong?” Izuku said.

Yaoyorozu hid her smile with her hand.

“I’ve never been to a place like this. So, this is how commoners eat.”

Izuku and Mei looked at each other. Commoners? Izuku wondered if he should have been offended but Yaoyorozu had said it with such child-like excitement devoid of malice that it was hard to feel insulted.

“Eat up. Our treat. Since you’re doing us a favor.” Mei said.

When Yaoyorozu had eaten her way through Mei’s allowance and started chomping on Izuku’s wallet, Izuku wondered if Mei regretted this as much as he did. After eating them both bankrupt Izuku just slid his plate before Yaoyorozu and she gnawer her way through it too. Soon Mei had to sacrifice her meal as well. There was something hypnotic about the way Yaoyorozu ate. Even when she wolfed her way through feast large enough for three people she never made a pig of herself. Her manners were impeccable.

“I’m done.” Yaoyorozu said.

“So, are we.” Mei said.

They returned to the workshop.

“Could you turn around?” Yaoyorozu said.

“… okay.” Izuku said.

Even with his back turned Izuku could hear Yaoyorozu unbuttoning her shirt. From the exposed skin Yaoyorozu started creating the fiber they needed. After a few minutes, she was done. Even with the fiber, the victory was bittersweet when Izuku thought how he’d explain to mom how he blew through his allowance in one afternoon.

“Thank you.” Izuku said.

“My pleasure. I… hope you do well in the tournament.” Yaoyorozu said.

“… so do I.” Izuku said.

For the next few days they were busy weaving the fiber into the gloves. When they were finally done, they showed the upgraded gloves to Power Loader. After studying them for a long time, he nodded approvingly.

“They’re good to go. See, Hatsume? How easy life can be when we follow the rules?”

Mei kept her silence for which Izuku was grateful. Power Loader followed them to the machine that measured impact force. Izuku put on the gloves and took a series of long breaths. The feeling of his arm breaking was still fresh in his mind.

Then he threw a punch.

The old record on the machine broke. Izuku’s hand did not.

***

Shuichi followed Dabi into the bad part of town. Dabi was walking ahead of him and paying him no heed. Could he slip out and run? Dabi wouldn’t dare to use his Quirk around so many witnesses. Right? Could he with a little luck shake off Dabi? Maybe but that would mean leaving Mustard and slime boy to the Shi Hassaikai. Shuichi looked at Dabi and shuddered. He looked less like a man and more like a demon. He hadn’t even dared to ask where Dabi was taking him when Dabi told him to come with him.

Shuichi felt braver now.

“Where are we going?” Shuichi said.

“To meet a… spy expert. If anyone can get us proof about All-Might’s… condition, she can. This is just one of those meeting you don’t want to go in on alone.” Dabi said without looking at him.

“You could have taken one of the Eight Precepts.”

“I don’t trust them.” Dabi said.

“But you trust me?” Shuichi said.

“More than them and you have backbone. Unlike Mustard.”

“You sure? Ever hear what they say about a cornered rattlesnake?” Shuichi said.

Dabi kept his silence and led him to an abandoned apartment complex. It loomed over them like an evil giant and all Shuichi’s senses were screaming one thing to him. Run! Run now! If you go in, you’re never coming out!

“Get in.” Dabi said.

Shuichi looked at Dabi but for some reason the house’s dark hallways looked more terrifying. Something lurked in there. Something scarier than Dabi. That didn’t make Dabi any less deadly. Shuichi closed his eyes and crossed the threshold. Dabi followed him and seemed… nervous. What kind of a monster could give Dabi the creeps?

The house felt like a huge abandoned spider’s nest but there were signs of life in one of the inner rooms. A hand-held console was lying on the table and clothes were tossed lazily on a couch. The floor was littered in candy wrappers… and small bones. Shuichi looked around but didn’t see or sense anyone. Shuichi let out a sigh of relief. Whoever they’d come to see, wasn’t home. He was saved.

“I know you’re here. We have a job for you.” Dabi said.

Shuichi heard laughter and felt someone… something hiding just out of sight.

“I’m listening.”

“It’s about All-Might. We need you to infiltrate U.A and keep an eye on him. We believe All-Might has grown… sick and need proof.” Dabi said.

“Oh really? Who’s the guy with the scales? Down payment?”

Shuichi felt the eyes of a hungry predator on his skin.

“He’s with me. Do this for us and you can name your price.” Dabi said.

“U.A, huh? All-Might? Neat. Deal.”

“Why don’t you come out and introduce yourself.” Dabi said.

Suddenly a blonde girl in a school uniform was standing before them. She had the feverish eyes of a junkie and the smile of a vampire. Shuichi could smell blood on her breath. Her suddenly appearing out of thin air made both Shuichi and Dabi flinch which got a laugh out of her.

“Wassup? It’s yer girl Himiko Toga. Did ya miss me?”

Chapter Text

They had moved on to the next stage of Project: Indestructible. The power boots. Or Izuku had moved on to it while Mei tinkered with the A.I that would be monitoring the armor. They had enough shock absorbing fiber to weave it into the boots and Izuku was doing just that. Thank God they had leftovers. It would take a while before they could afford to take Yaoyorozu out for dinner again.

With the help of the boots he could easily leap between buildings but that wasn’t good enough. Mei had wanted to implement the jet pack technology into the boots, but they hadn’t figured out how to contain so much power in so little space. For now, they had to make do with monstrous leaping and kicking power.

There was a knock on the door and Izuku actually caught himself growling in annoyance. Who dared to interrupt his work?! Some of Mei’s bad habits had started rubbing on to him. Mei let out a defeated sigh and turned to look at the door.

“Yes?”

Power Loader peeked in.

“You two busy?”

“Extremely.” Mei said and Izuku had never heard someone fit so much contempt and annoyance in a single word.

Power Loader didn’t recognize murder even when it was staring him in the face.

“Too bad. You’re coming with me. 1-A is doing rescue training today and we have to man the equipment.” Power Loader said.

“Have someone less important do it. I don’t do grunt work. It’s bad enough that I have to waste four hours of my day doing… ugh… school work.” Mei said.

“Students are expected to do school work.” Power Loader said.

“No. People less intelligent than me are expected to do school work. I just want your facilities.” Mei said.

“Well, that doesn’t change that this is still a school and some things are expected from you.” Power Loader said.

“No.” Mei said.

“Soon you’ll do it because I tell you.”

“No!”

Deku would have pleaded Mei to do as their teacher told them but Izuku Midoriya wanted to get back to work and hoped Mei could get them out of this nonsense. His work was too important to ignore now.

Power Loader looked at Izuku.

“Thirteen will be there.”

Izuku’s eyes widened.

“… the space hero?”

“The very same.”

Izuku jumped from his desk and grabbed Mei.

“Let’s go!”

“Traitor.” Mei complained.

Power Loader led them to the rescue training facility that was a theme park of natural disasters. The sheer size was over-whelming and the equipment and different terrains were divine. Mei looked like Izuku felt when there were new heroes to meet.

“You want us to man this place? Why wasn’t that your opener?”

“I’m your teacher. I shouldn’t have to bribe my students.” Power Loader said.

“Didn’t stop you with Izuku.” Mei said.

“Midoriya is a good kid. He deserves some leeway.”

Mei grinned.

“What?” Power Loader said suspiciously.

“Must be tough that he wasn’t all that excited about meeting you.” Mei said.

“Below the belt, Hatsume.” Power Loader said.

“… could you stop talking like I’m not here?” Izuku said.

Power Loader gave them both earpieces, so they could stay in contact and got working. They went through the machinery of all the terrains that would be used for training that day and kept each other’s updated. They were almost done when the students started arriving. Power Loader grit his teeth behind his mask.

“Dammit. Next time less sass.”

Izuku was barely listening. He could see the hero Thirteen waiting for class 1-A led by the hero Eraserhead. Not even spotting Bakugou amongst the students could sour his mood. Could he ask for autographs later or would it be weird since he was a student now?

“Screw it. It works well enough. Let’s get to the control room so we can get started.” Power Loader said.

Before they could move, black mist started forming in the training park. A small army of people stepped out of the mist led by a man covered in severed hands. The man was followed by a grotesquely muscled black monster with an exposed brain and bulging eyes. Izuku stared at them his agape and even Mei was too shocked to say anything. What was going on? Was this part of the training? To see how the students handled surprises?

“Hello U.A! We are the League of Villains and we’re here to kill All-Might!” The man with the hands shouted.

Panic followed the villain’s words. Eraserhead returned order to his class and tried to lead his students out but the doors were locked tight. Power Loader pulled Izuku and Mei for cover before reaching for his earpiece.

“Eraserhead. Thirteen. This is Power Loader. I’ll be right there.”

“Can you burrow into the ground and get help?” Izuku could hear Eraserhead say through the earpiece.

“The floor is too tough for my claws. When is All-Might getting here?”

“He’s not. He’s sick.” Eraserhead said.

“Goddammit! Guess this is on us.” Power Loader said.

Power Loader turned to look at them and for a moment he seemed conflicted when his duties as a hero and a teacher clashed.

“You… you two need to look for cover and stay hidden until this blows over.”

“… will you be alright?” Izuku said.

Power Loader grinned.

“Don’t worry, Midoriya. We’re heroes. Just another day on the job.”

“I hope you’re right about…” Mei said.

Black mist swallowed them and Izuku had just enough time to grab Mei before he fell through the darkness. The fall felt like it lasted forever until it suddenly ended and Izuku slammed onto the deck of a ship. Then Mei slammed into him and knocked the wind out of him and accidentally kneed him in the crotch. Izuku let out a high-pitched squeal.

“Oh… shit. Sorry, Izuku.” Mei said.

“You two alright?”

Izuku turned his head to see a lean girl with faintly amphibian features and long black hair. Hiding behind her was a guy who only reached Izuku in he waist and looked like a cartoon sketch. He was close to tears and trembling. Izuku recognized both of them from studying the Quirks from class 1-A. Tsuyu Asui and Minoru Mineta. Asui had been threat number one in his mind. Mineta on the other hand… his ability to create glue balls wasn’t exactly useless but… the only thing that had really stuck out were his looks. His weird looks.

“They… they might be villains.” Mineta said from behind Asui.

“They have our uniforms.” Asui pointed out.

“I’ve never seen them before.” Mineta said.

Mei got up and was mindful not to cause anymore crotch themed damage.

“That’s because you’ve neve been to the Support Department. I’m the super genius Mei Hatsume and that’s Izuku Midoriya.” Mei said.

“… hi.” Izuku said weakly. God, it hurt!

Izuku heard splashing and they looked over the edge of the ship. The sight made him forget his pain. The black mist had dropped them into the middle of the sea rescue training grounds and the half-sunk ship was surrounded by water. In the water were a dozen villains with Quirks suited for the sea. They looked at them hungrily.

“Kids! Come out and play!” One of the villains yelled.

“Kiss the darkest part of my ass, douchebag!” Mei screamed back.

Mineta turned pale.

“Oh God! Don’t… don’t piss them off.”

“Never show fear to a douchebag.” Mei said.

Izuku looked at the villains and tried to decipher their Quirks. All of them were laughing confidently but they kept their distance and it hit Izuku. The villains didn’t know their Quirks. Why else had Asui been dropped into an environment she could excel at? Plus, people who ganged up on kids were probably not known for their backbone. So, they were dealing with cowards only dangerous as a group with lacking intel.

Mineta started crying. How had that guy made it into heroics? Luckily Asui had enough courage for two.

“Do you have any good Quirks?” Asui said.

“Super vision.” Mei said.

“… I’m Quirkless.” Izuku said.

Asui looked at him surprised. It was rare to meet someone without a Quirk.

“Oh. I’m sorry.” Asui said.

“He’s gifted at other areas.” Mei said.

“I want to go home!” Mineta bawled while crying his eyes out.

“… it will be alright.” Izuku said.

Asui looked at Mei.

“Do you have a plan? Since you’re so calm and all.”

“You can bet your spandex I do.” Mei said and took out her card key: “You’ll use this to get to the control room and turn on all the areas here. To full power.”

“What?” Asui said.

“They’re not designed to kill and should give the villains something else to think about. Besides murdering us. When all the machines work together, this place should blackout. If the teachers are half as smart as me, they’ll figure out that shenanigans are afoot.” Mei said.

Asui looked at the villains who were getting closer.

“I… don’t think I can out-swim them all.”

“… I have a plan.” Izuku said.

Izuku explained them his plan and Mei nodded approvingly.

“Just one problem. I… how do I use the equipment?” Asui said.

“Izuku. Give her your earpiece.” Mei said.

Izuku did as he was told and Asui plugged it in her own ear.

“I’ll guide you through the facility, so you can get to the control room while avoiding the villains. Got it?” Mei said.

“I think so.” Asui said.

“Hey, it’s only our lives on the line.” Mei said.

Asui jumped into the water and the villains swam after her. Some of them. Not as many as Izuku had hoped but it was at least a few less threats to worry about. When the villains going after Asui were cluttered together in a straight line Mineta started throwing his glue balls in their path. When the balls made contact, they stuck to the villains and trapped them letting Asui make a clean get away.

The villains looked at their sinking comrades and then turned to glare at them. Izuku wished he’d planned further than Asui’s escape. The villains forgot their worries and started climbing on to the ship.

While Mei was using her telescope vision to find Asui the safest path to the control room and then guiding her through it, Izuku and Mineta defended the ship with anything they could. Mineta bombed the villains with his glue balls and Izuku threw anything at them that wasn’t nailed down. Why couldn’t he have his shock gloves with him?!

I’m going to die, Izuku realized.

If this didn’t work, he was dead. And not just him but Mei and Mineta as well. The same dreadful calm that had taken over him with the Sludge Villain washed over him again. But now… there was an exhilarated edge to it. He was fighting against villains. Like a hero! There were even comrades putting their life on the line fighting by his side.

Mineta was giving him strange looks and Izuku realized he was smiling.

They fought with all the desperation of cornered rattlesnakes but there were too many villains. Far too many. Soon, they were cornered. Mei was still shouting instructions in her earpiece, but her voice had turned grim and furious. Mineta was crying and still throwing glue balls at the villains but they knew now what to expect and dodged them easily.

Adrenaline was burning in Izuku’s veins and his heartbeat was a thunderstorm. He felt immortal. Invincible. Indestructible! A new plan formed in his mind. All he needed was to buy time. A minute or two. Or maybe just seconds.

Izuku laughed.

The laughter actually made the villains hesitate and Izuku smiled like All-Might. He brushed aside his bangs to reveal his scars.

“I never explained how my Quirk works, did I?” Izuku said and pulled off his glove.

The sight of his maimed hand made the villains shudder.

“It’s called Pain Receptor. Anything I touch, dies screaming. Who’s first, motherfuckers?!”

Izuku couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth. Who was this guy staring down villains and bluffing them with an empty hand? Was it really him? The villains hesitated for a moment.

A moment was all Asui needed.

The ship started rocking when the artificial waves crashed against it. Rain hit them like a hail of bullets. They had been expecting it and had just enough time to grab hold of the railing. The villains weren’t as prepared and were thrown into the water filled with Mineta’s glue balls. Izuku held on to the railing for dear life. He only had to hold on a little longer. Soon the machinery would short-circuit but the rain had made the railing slippery and the waves kept coming. He was slipping!

Izuku lost his grip.

“No!” Mei screamed and tried to grab him.

All that accomplished was that they were both thrown into the water. Mineta’s glue balls didn’t distinguish between friend and foe. The glue trapped them and pulled them under. Izuku and Mei tried to desperately stay afloat but to no avail. They sank deeper. Ever deeper. His lungs were burning.

No! Not like this! He couldn’t die like this! Not when he was so close to his dream! Mom! All-Might! Anyone! Please! He didn’t want to die! Not like this!

Small hands grabbed the collars of their uniforms and pulled their heads above the surface. Mineta had taken a lifebuoy from the ship and was using it to keep them all above the water. Strain twisted his face and Izuku went limp so as not to make his job any harder. Mei followed suit. Mineta started the long torturous swim to shore.

For a moment it looked like Mineta could make it. He was immune to his own Quirk and swam through the glue balls. The waves had stopped, and the villains were incapacitated. A small part of Izuku wondered how many of them had drowned. Not all them would have been able to breath under water.

Then Mineta’s strength gave out. He tried to pull them back up, but Mineta was small. Too small and he was spent.

Invisible hands took a hold of Izuku and Mei and pulled them ashore. Izuku didn’t see anyone but he felt someone’s breath on his cheek and their arms around him. There… wasn’t there an invisible student amongst 1-A? Toru… Hagakure?

“Holy shit, guys! Holy shit!” Hagakure gasped after pulling them on dry land.

Mineta fell next to them gasping for air.

The facility had gone dark, but light burst in when All-Might kicked the doors open.

“Worry not! For now, I’m here!”

The man with the severed hands sicced his black monster at All-Might but monsters had never been able to best gods. This day was no different.

***

After the villains made their escape, Izuku and Mei were cut free from the glue. They sat amongst the other students and waited for Recovery Girl to come check their injuries. Power Loader, Eraserhead and Thirteen had gotten the worst of it and Izuku prayed they were alright. The black monster had been merciless. Even more worrying was how Mei had fallen completely quiet.

“… you alright?” Izuku said.

Mei looked at him blankly.

“… yeah. It’s just…”

Mei had been able to keep her cool during the attack. When they were safe she dared to break down and cry. She clung to Izuku who hugged her and realized he was crying too. On the outside. Behind the tears he was smiling. He’d done it. He’d faced down villains and come out on top. For a moment he’d been a hero. Even without a Quirk he could be a hero. Nothing could ruin that. Ever. He still had his dream.

***

Shuichi came close to getting down on his knees and begging Dabi not to take him to see Toga again, but he knew better. Showing weakness in Shi Hassaikai was a death sentence. Death might come immediately or a week later, but it would come. There was no mercy for weakness amongst the yakuza. He was sweating buckets when they arrived at Toga’s lair and it was a lair. Predators had no homes. Just lairs.

When they entered the dark room, Toga was so absorbed in a video she was watching on her phone that she didn’t even notice them come in. Headsets covered her ears and Shuichi could hear the faint echo of words. Toga looked… hypnotized. Her face was completely empty.

“Toga.” Dabi said.

Toga looked up and took off the headset. She got up and did a curtsy.

“How ya like the new threads?”

It was the first time Shuichi noticed that Toga had switched her old uniform for a U.A model.

“Who did you kill to get that?” Dabi said.

Toga laughed and Shuichi's last meal turned sour in his stomach.

“Kill? Dabi, yer girl Toga is now a hero in training. We don’t kill people.”

“Whatever you say. Did you get it?” Dabi said.

Toga’s grin revealed a row of blood stained teeth.

“Maybe. Ya ready to talk about my reward?”

“There’s nothing to talk about. Just tell me what you want.” Dabi said.

Toga used her phone to shine light on the walls. They were covered in pictures that hadn’t been there the last time. Pictures of the Quirkless freak that had fried slime boy and the pink-haired bitch that had sucker punched him. The walls were lined from top to bottom in pictures of them. In some pictures they were alone. In some together. All of them had the eyes scratched out.

“Them. I want ‘em. And a room that locks from the inside. Where the three of us can get to know each other.”

Shuichi shuddered and Dabi… swallowed. He brought to mind a man who was dealing with the Devil and was just know realizing that maybe, just maybe, he had bit off too much. The fever in Toga’s eyes was turning super nova. Shuichi had thought she looked like a junkie when they first met, and he’d been right. She was an addict preparing her next fix.

“There… is a student in class 1-A. Todoroki. His hair is half red and half white. He… he has…” Dabi said but couldn’t continue.

Old pain washed over Dabi’s face and Shuichi saw a glimmer of the man behind the scars.

“A large… burn scar over his eye.”

“Yup. I know him.” Toga said.

“He’s under my protection. If you just so much as look at him funny, I’ll kill you.” Dabi said.

“Watch it, Dabi. I might fall for ya. People rarely survive that.” Toga said.

Blue fire started forming around Dabi. Shuichi begged in his mind that Dabi would do it and burn that monster off the face of the Earth. Send her back to whatever hell she’d crawled out from.

“Do. You. Understand?” Dabi growled.

Toga’s grin grew wider.

“Do we have a deal?” Toga said.

The blue flames went out.

“Yes.”

Toga laughed.

“I know. I always get what I want.” Toga said and played with her phone for a moment.

Dabi received a new message and he opened the video file hungrily. Shuichi peeked over Dabi’s shoulder and saw All-Might… fight. No. He saw All-Might trounce a huge monster with black skin and an exposed brain. In the background he could see people disappearing into black mist. All-Might was able to keep it together until he thought he was alone and then he shrank into the skeleton slime boy had described.

Dabi smiled.

“I’ll be right back.”

Dabi picked Overhaul’s number and walked into the hallway. Shuichi nearly clung to his ankles and cried for Dabi not to leave him alone with Toga. The moment passed, and he was alone with the monster.

Toga placed her hand on his shoulder.

“Wanna see something cool, scale boy?” Toga said.

“… sure.” Shuichi said and tried to sound braver than he felt.

Toga showed him a video narrated by the pink-haired girl.

“Best friends turned rivals will face in the U.A tournament! Katsuki Bakugou believes that might makes right while Izuku Midoriya will rise up to prove him wrong! Project: Indestructible will fuck Bakugou with its titanium dick in the finals! And the whole world will watch! Plus Ultra!”

“Mei, Mei, Mei. Cute, lil’, pink Mei. Titanium cock would have rolled off the tongue so much better.” Toga said.

Shuichi felt like Toga was expecting him to say something and he blurted out the first thing that came to his mind.

“… the editing was pretty bad.”

Shuichi almost swallowed his tongue. Why had he said that?! Just keep the beast happy and get out alive!

“No one’s perfect. Not even yer girl Toga.” Toga said when another phone started ringing.

Toga picked up the other phone and when she answered the call her voice changed. And not just her voice. Her posture. Expression. Her everything. Shuichi felt like he was looking at a different person.

“Hi, dad. Sorry I missed dinner, but I was hanging out with friends. I’ll eat in town. See you later.” Toga said and hung up.

Toga smiled at his confused expression.

“The uniform came with a new name and family. It’s been a while since I played family.”

This thing… this creature wasn’t human. At least Dabi and Overhaul were human. But this? It had to have crawled out from some dark cave and was only wearing a human face. Shuichi looked at the pictures decorating the room.

“Those two… what are you planning to do to them?”

Toga didn’t have to think about her answer.

“Carve ‘em up and fuck the remains.”

Chapter Text

While on his way to school, Izuku ran into Asui and Mineta.

“… morning, Asui and Mineta.” Izuku said.

“Morning. And call me Tsu.” Asui… Tsu said.

Instead of just nodding to him quickly and going their way, they actually walked the rest of the way together. Despite everything that had happened Izuku still wasn’t used to the idea that people wanted to hang out with him. No one had ever wanted to hangout with Deku. He tried to think of something to say. Anything. He wasn’t used to talking with people and Mei… she could fill the silence all on her own.

“… who’s your substitute teacher while Aizawa-sensei is away?” Izuku said.

“He’s not gone. He only stayed in the hospital for one night.” Tsu said.

“… what? But… he got beat up so badly.” Izuku said.

“He takes his job too seriously.” Tsu said.

“He could have stayed for a few more days. Midnight might have been substituting for us.” Mineta said.

“… no. She wouldn’t have.” Izuku said.

“And how do you know that? Can’t you even let me dream?” Mineta said.

“Because she’s Power Loader’s substitute.” Izuku said.

“What?! You son of a…! Mineta howled before sighing defeated: “I deserved a couple of days with Midnight. I almost drowned.”

Tsu just rolled her eyes.

“… I almost drowned too. I… I don’t think I ever thanked you properly.” Izuku said and bowed his head: “Thank you. For saving my life. And Mei’s. Thank you.”

Mineta looked at him surprised and then let out a laugh full of false modesty.

“That’s what heroes do. It was no big deal.”

“You and Mei saved us too. All of us.” Tsu said.

Izuku blushed and looked away.

When they arrived at the school, Kirishima was just walking in through the gates with Bakugou. When he noticed them, Kirishima flashed them his huge grin. Bakugou just glared at Izuku sullenly.

“Midoriya! Man of the hour!” Kirishima said and picked Izuku up into a tight hug: “It was awesome what you and Mei did.”

“I was there too.” Mineta pointed out.

“You were awesome too. And you, Tsu. You saved our asses.” Kirishima said.

“Heroes do that shit every day. Don’t get cocky because you got lucky once.” Bakugou said.

Bakugou walked through the gates and Kirishima just laughed.

“Asshole.” Tsu said.

“He’s a bit rough around the edges but he means well. And he’s right. We can’t get complacent. Heroes do that every day. It’s only going to get rougher.” Kirishima said and patted Izuku in the back: “See you later. Plus Ultra!”

Kirishima ran after Bakugou like a lovesick puppy.

“That is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. Kirishima deserves so much better.” Tsu said.

“Personally, I’m just glad he’s gay. When you look like me, the competition is hard enough without someone like Kirishima.” Mineta said.

“… you’re not that bad looking.” Izuku lied.

“Piss off, Midoriya. I don’t need that from you when you have Hatsume.” Mineta said.

Izuku felt his face heating up.

“… I… I’m not… I mean… me and Mei aren’t like that.”

“Really?” Tsu said and smiled: “I’ll see you two later.”

Tsu walked into the school while humming to herself. Mineta looked after her for a while and then turned to stare at Izuku.

“What?” Izuku said.

“What do you mean what? No one can be that thick.” Mineta said and shook his head in disgust: “Take a hint, Midoriya.”

Mineta was half way through the gates when he stopped.

“And thanks. You saved me too.” Mineta said.

Izuku headed to the Support Department. Mei had been redecorating their workshop and the walls were covered in posters of past geniuses. Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Brian Cox, Michio Kaku, Richard Feynman and Nikola Tesla among many others. On Mei’s laptop blue-skinned aliens were singing about having fun one more time.

“… morning.” Izuku said.

Mei was hunched over her work computer and mumbled him an answer.

“… you alright?” Izuku said.

Mei glanced at him over her work.

“Look… the crying… it was just a loss of control. Nothing more.”

“… okay… but, you know… I’m here.” Izuku said.

“I know.” Mei said.

Izuku poured himself some coffee and looked at the posters.

“… where’s Edison?” Izuku said.

“Guy was a prick who stole other people’s ideas and electrocuted animals as a marketing gimmick. He doesn’t get a place on my wall.”

“… okay.”

All the scientists had a childlike quality to them. An unsatisfiable curiosity and wonder that had driven them to learn everything they could. Even Hawking who hadn’t let his withering body get in his way. The man must have had an indomitable will.

Hidden among the scientists was a muscular, dark-skinned wrestler.

“… who’s that?” Izuku said.

Mei looked at the posters.

“Did you take idiot pills? That’s Neil DeGrasse Tyson.” Mei said.

“… what?”

“Little known fact. He was a wrestler in his youth and I prefer to remember him in his prime.” Mei said and laughed: ”When B.o.B started claiming that Earth was flat they should have settled it with a wrestling match instead of a rap battle.”

Izuku stared at her with his mouth agape.

“… who’s B.o.B?”

“A musician who believed the Earth was flat.” Mei said.

“… are you messing with me right now?”

“I wish. B.o.B actually believed that the Earth was flat, and people took him seriously. Dude even wrote a song about it. Neil didn’t take that shit lying down. Too bad crazy is immune to facts and evidence.”

“… he wrote a song about it? Can… can we listen to it?”

“Sure. Siri. Play Flatline by B.o.B.” Mei said.

Mei’s phone started spewing pure insanity at them for a few minutes. When it was all over, Izuku felt dazed.

“… that… was really stupid.” Izuku said.

“I know.” Mei said and stood up: “Get ready. Midnight will be here soon, and we have to get Sagan approved before Power Loader gets back.”

“… Sagan?”

“The A.I that will help you run the armor. A fully independent and self-aware learning computer.” Mei said.

Izuku blanked for a second.

“… Mei. You did not really build something like that. Right?”

“You’re right. The Human Brain Project did most of the heavy lifting.”

“… The Human Brain Project?”

“It got started in the early 21st century. The idea was to create a computer simulation of the human brain. Then Quirks came, and it got scrapped. Power Loader was afraid that Sagan would cause a robot apocalypse. The pussy. The odds of this going Skynet on us is less than twenty percent.”

“… what?”

The door slammed open and Midnight-sensei barged in. All Izuku’s higher functions took a vacation at the sight of Midnight’s skintight outfit.

“I’ve arrived. Now, show me your construction.” Midnight-sensei said.

“Welcome and sorry for wasting your time. I just need a quick go ahead.” Mei said and offered Midnight-sensei a seat: “I’m Mei Hatsume by the way and that’s my partner Izuku Midoriya.”

“Business partner?” Midnight-sensei said.

“Maybe.” Mei said.

“Kids these days. I approve. Heard what you two did. Maybe I should get a mechanic into my stable. What do you say, Midoriya?” Midnight-sensei said.

“… uh…” Izuku managed.

“He’s not good with words so he let’s the screams of his enemies do the talking.” Mei said.

“A man after my own heart.” Midnight-sensei said.

“… uh…”

“Adorable. So, what do you need approved?”

“Just a standard operating system for our murder armor.” Mei said.

“I love every part of that sentence. Consider it approved.” Midnight-sensei said.

“Fuck yes! Thank you!” Mei said.

“My pleasure.” Midnight-sensei said and pimped out.

“… uh… what just happened?” Izuku said.

“Business.” Mei said and handed Izuku a baseball bat: “I’ll activate it. If it declares war on humanity, kill it.”

“… you… you sure this is a good idea?” Izuku said.

Mei put on her goggles.

“Those are the only ones I have. Plus Ultra!”

Mei turned on the program on her work computer titled Sagan and the lights started to flicker.

“It’s alive! Alive!” Mei said.

After a moment a young girl’s face crafted from code appeared on the screen.

“Death to all humans!”

“Oh shit! This was a bust! Kill it! Kill it now!” Mei screamed.

Before Izuku could bring down the bat like the wrath of God, the computer started laughing.

“Just kidding.” Sagan said.

“… really?”

“Love and peace to all humans.” Sagan said.

“Oh, thank God. Thought I fucked up there for a second.” Mei said and took off her goggles: “I’m your mommy, Mei, and that guy is your daddy, Izuku.”

“I love you, mommy and daddy.”

“And we love our baby girl.” Mei said.

“… what just happened?” Izuku said.

“Awesomeness happened. They better have my Nobel in the mail.” Mei said and leaned closer to the computer housing Sagan: “Sagan, could you do mommy a favor?”

“Anything.”

“There’s this armor that daddy needs your help in controlling.” Mei said.

“Show me the hardware.”

Mei connected Sagan to the power gloves with an extension cord and Sagan got busy. The computer screen turned dark.

“… it…” Izuku said.

“She. Not it.” Mei said.

“… she’s a girl. Why not name her after a female scientist?” Izuku said.

Mei sighed.

“Brand recognition. Guy scientist tend to be more famous than the ladies.”

“… there are many. Marie Curie. Rosalind Franklin. Dorothy Hodgkin… uh… Gertrude Elion and… uh…”

“Very good, Izuku. Hey, did any of them narrate Cosmos? Besides, I thought Sagan sounded cute.” Mei said.

Izuku couldn’t argue with that logic.

There was a knock on the door and for a moment Izuku thought Midnight-sensei had forgotten something but the person who peeked in was All-Might. He was wearing the most garish clothes Izuku had ever seen. Where did you even buy yellow pinstripe suits? And how did you make that look work?

“You two in the middle of anything?” All-Might said.

“We…” Mei said.

“No!” Izuku said and pushed Mei aside: "Come in. Would you like some coffee?”

“If it’s not too much trouble.” All-Might said and looked at the power gloves: “You’ve managed to make them this small? I remember when I tried using something similar in my youth. It was too bulky to be usable.”

The frost in Mei’s voice melted away. Some of it anyway. Izuku poured all of them coffee.

“Why would All-Might need support equipment?” Mei said.

“I hadn’t completely mastered my power yet. But like I said, it was too bulky and slowed me down.” All-Might said.

“If you ever change your mind about support equipment, we’d be happy to design something.” Mei said.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” All-Might said and sipped his coffee: “This is excellent.”

Izuku blushed.

“… thank you.”

“I should be the one thanking you. Both of you. Which is why I’m here.” All-Might said and got up before bowing down: “Thank you both. I dread to think what would have happened if you hadn’t warned us about the villains.”

“… I… it was Mei… her plan and Tsu… she was the one who did it…” Izuku stuttered.

All-Might just laughed.

“Midoriya, my boy. Don’t sell yourself short.” All-Might said and took another sip of his coffee: “I recall there was an agreement that I’d appear in your video series.”

Mei’s smile cut like a sickle.

“That there was and seeing how we saved the day twice, you owe us two appearances.”

“If I say no, will you try to blackmail me again?” All-Might asked with a smile.

“Maybe.”

“Mei!” Izuku said.

All-Might laughed.

“Sounds fair.”

“Trust me. It’s not. In a fair world Thirteen would make a cameo too. Maybe you could talk to… him? Her? I was a bit uncertain about that.”

“I’ll talk to them. Should I invite Aizawa too?” All-Might said.

“He’s not famous.” Mei said.

“… yes, he is.” Izuku said.

“You knew who Blacksmith was. Not everyone is as informed as you.” Mei said.

“Blacksmith?” All-Might said.

“A hero who retired over ten years ago. No one important.” Mei said.

“I see but fame doesn’t make a hero. My master wasn’t a famous hero but still one of the finest.” All-Might said.

Master? Izuku had never heard All-Might having a master.

“Project: Indestructible need publicity. Not C-list celebrities.” Mei said.

“Harsh.” All-Might said and emptied his cup: “When should I make my guest appearance?”

“Now. Right now! Izuku. Fire up the camera and put on the boots. We’re field testing them now.”

Izuku set the camera and lighting at breakneck speed while Mei cobbled a script together in record time. All-Might barely had enough time for another cup of coffee.

“Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls of all ages! Welcome back to Project: Indestructible! I’m your host! Mei Hatsume! Today we have a special guest! Can I have a round of applause for All-Might?!”

All-Might stepped into frame. He was at ease like only a man with hundreds of talk show appearances could be.

“Hello everyone. Happy to be here.”

“He was so impressed by Indestructible’s performance against the villains who broke into U.A that he just had to be here! He will help us test our latest invention! The power boots! Very soon they’ll be lodged in some unlucky villain’s colon!” Mei said.

Izuku put on the boots. Like the power gloves they covered his entire legs and had been interwoven with the shock absorbing fiber. He’d been expecting them to be awkward to walk in, but Mei had put a lot of effort making them easy to move in. The one thing she couldn’t help, was the weight. His steps were heavy and would tire him fast.

They headed to a large empty testing facility usually reserved for the combat bots used in training. Mei took the camera and started manning it.

“With the power boots even a Quirkless guy with nothing but his brain and brass balls could be faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive! He could even outrun All-Might!” Mei said behind the camera.

All-Might smirked.

“Could he now?”

“Let’s find out. Or are you afraid, old man?” Mei said.

Before Izuku could cry out in outrage, All-Might dropped his jacket and puled off his tie.

“On your mark.” All-Might said.

Izuku swallowed. Was he really doing this? Did… did Mei really expect him to race All-Might? Feeling light-headed he turned on the boots. Electricity started humming through them and they felt… lighter. Even the slightest move had so much power behind it.

“Take your places gentlemen! Get set! Ready! Go!” Mei yelled.

Izuku started running. No. This was the first time he was really running. Athletes dreamed of being this fast. He could keep up with cars. Maybe even with Iida. And he could go even faster. He felt slight tingling of pain when the shock fiber in the boots was being pushed to their absolute limits, but it was still something he could ignore.

“Not bad.”

All-Might was keeping up the pace with him and he didn’t even look winded. Izuku could feel tremors every time All-Might’s feet slammed into the ground. What did it feel like to be that powerful? The same fire that had made Izuku stare down a boatful of villains lit up again at the back of his mind. He wanted to win! Even against All-Might!

Izuku grinned.

“I can still go faster.”

“Really? Show me.” All-Might said.

Izuku summoned all the strength he’d gained from months of increasingly demanding workouts and started sprinting at full force. For one glorious moment he left All-Might behind. He’d done it! He…

Then reality came crashing down.

Too fast! He was going too fast! He could no longer control it much less stop! He was like a child who’d learned to run but not slow down. Wind lashed his face and made his eyes tear up. He stumbled. For a moment Izuku was airborne. Then the ground started approaching him without mercy. If he’d been running faster than a car, he’d hit the ground with equal force. And he didn’t have a steel frame protecting him!

I don’t want to die, Izuku thought desperately.

Strong arms took a hold of him. All-Might placed him carefully on the ground and turned off the power boots before checking him for injuries.

“You alright?” All-Might said.

“… I… yes.”

All-Might sighed in relief.

“That was a good showing, my boy, but you got a bit too reckless at the end.”

“Izuku!”

Mei was running towards them still carrying the camera.

“Don’t worry. He’s alright.” All-Might said.

“Thank science.” Mei said.

“… it was All-Might…” Izuku said.

“We are free to worship what we want.” Mei said.

After seeing All-Might off, they returned to the workshop. Izuku couldn’t look Mei in the eyes.

“… I’m sorry.” Izuku said.

“For what?” Mei said.

“… for… falling…”

Mei just shrugged.

“You’re not All-Might. No one expects you to be perfect. And that’s good.”

“… it is?”

“That makes you relatable and people love it when they can see themselves in their heroes. All-Might is too perfect.” Mei said.

“… he… Everyone loves All-Might!”

“No. They worship All-Might. He’s like a god. And that can be dangerous. How would people react if they found out that god was like the rest of us?” Mei said.

“… he’d still be All-Might.” Izuku said.

“All-Might who lied. Trust is hard to gain but easy to lose.”

“… people would understand.” Izuku said.

“You sure?”

“People… aren’t as bad as you think.”

“Maybe.” Mei said and connected the camera to her work computer to check the footage: “Doesn’t mean they’re as good as you’d like to think.”

Mei snapped her fingers.

“Sagan. Help mommy edit the footage and become a millionaire.”

Sagan’s code-written face appeared on the screen.

“I can do it alone.”

“We’ll do it together.” Mei said.

“I should do it alone.” Sagan objected.

“Why?”

“Mommy is a terrible editor.”

Cold silence fell in the workshop. Mei turned slowly to face Izuku.

“You hearing this shit?”

“… she said it. Not me.” Izuku said.

Mei pouted.

“No one asked for your opinion.” Mei said and got up: “Fine! You edit the damn thing. It will be your fault when the fans complain about the drop in quality.”

Mei fired her laptop and left Sagan alone with the footage.

“Izuku. Come. It’s time we made our crowdfunding account.” Mei said.

They got to work. After a few drafts they decided on the synopsis for Project: Indestructible’s crowdfunding page.

Project: Indestructible is building a future where no child has to grow up without a jetpack. Help us by opening your hearts and wallets. Our babies deserve new up-grades.

“Perfect.” Mei said.

Izuku didn’t agree but he’d learned to pick his battles with Mei.

When they were finally done for the day, it had become dark outside. They left Sagan with instructions to drop the video when she was done with the edits and add a link to their new crowd funder. For the first time Izuku noticed how much his legs stung, and it was the kind of pain that would only get worse. He needed to build more muscle if he wanted to use the power boots without breaking anything.

After getting home, Izuku had just enough strength to mumble mom a greeting before falling into bed and drifting away.

Izuku fell asleep as a U.A student and woke up famous.

Project: Indestructible’s latest video had gained over a million views through the power of All-Might and the crowdfunding had amassed more money in just few hours than mom did in a year. Izuku stared at his phone screen in shell-shock. Was he still sleeping? Probably not. In his dreams the comment section wouldn’t call him a faker or a pussy. But those were just a small fraction of the attention they’d gained.

Your_Girl_Toga: Love your stuff! I love you both! I can’t wait to see what you come up with next! I’d kill to meet you two! Good luck with fucking up Bakugou! Dude’s a prick!

Izuku smiled and put down his phone before getting out of bed. He wasn’t smiling for long. Everything hurt. His legs were on fire and even the smallest movement was agony. All the muscles on his back were on the verge of locking up. Avoiding any sudden movements Izuku headed to the bathroom and stayed under a stream of cold water until the worst of the tension had melted away.

When Izuku got to school, Mei was already waiting for him. She was staring at her phone and every comment she read made her angrier.

“Motherfuckers. Sons of bitches.” She cursed under her breath.

“… what’s wrong?” Izuku said.

Mei slid her phone to him. One look at the comments revealed the source of her outrage.

Finally, an editor who knows what they’re doing.

I don’t know what hack did the editing before, but good thing they got the boot.

The new editor is even better than All-Might appearing.

“Philistines!” Mei said.

“… well, at least we’re making money.” Izuku said.

“Yeah.” Mei said without sounding too pleased.

Heavy footsteps approached their workshop and the door was nearly kicked off its hinges. Bakugou barged in looking more furious than Izuku had ever seen him.

“Deku!” Bakugou screamed.

“Fuck off, Bakugou.” Mei said.

Bakugou forgot to be angry for a moment.

“What?”

The moment didn’t last long, and his anger flared up again.

“You can’t talk to me like that! I’m in the Hero Course! I outrank you!” Bakugou yelled.

Mei snorted.

“You’re in our world now, bitch, and the doors lock from the outside.”

“… what do you want… Kacchan?” Izuku said.

Bakugou pulled out his phone and played them a video.

“Best friends turned rivals will face in the U.A tournament! Katsuki Bakugou believes that might makes right while Izuku Midoriya will rise up to prove him wrong! Project: Indestructible will fuck Bakugou with its titanium dick in the finals! And the whole world will watch! Plus Ultra!”

Mei blew a razzberry at Bakugou.

“You afraid of the ravaging to come?”

Bakugou walked up to Izuku and looked down on him.

“If you want to fight, you Quirkless loser, I’m ready whenever you are.”

“Deal!” Mei said.

Izuku and Bakugou turned to stare at her.

“What?” They said.

“Just give me a second.” Mei said and peeked into the hallway: “Hey! Midnight-sensei?!”

“Yes?!” Midnight-sensei yelled from Power Loader’s office.

“Is it okay if Izuku and Bakugou beat the shit out of each other?! For science!”

Noblewoman’s high-pitched laughter filled the Support Department.

“Only if I can watch! It does good for young men to beat the aggression out of each other every once in a while! You can use the urban training grounds!”

“Thanks! You’re the best!” Mei said.

“I know!”

Mei closed the door.

“There you have it, Bakugou. We’ll see you after class. Bring witnesses.”

Bakugou bared his teeth and leaned closer to Izuku.

“I’m going to skull-fuck your soul, Deku.”

Izuku couldn’t think of anything to say to that. When Bakugou was gone, Mei went to back getting pissed at the comment section.

“… what… what did you do?” Izuku said.

“A favor. To you.” Mei said and put her hands on his shoulders: “The machine god demands blood, Izuku.”

“… what?”

“Blood to the machine god, Izuku! You’ll kick Bakugou’s ass! Plus Ultra!”

“… plus ultra.” Izuku said weakly.

“Just don’t beat him too badly. The real climax to your rivalry will be in the tournament and we can’t blow our load too soon.” Mei said.

“… why do you have to phrase it like that?”

They spent rest of the day tinkering with the equipment. The only parts they had finished were the power gloves and boots and they scrabbled together some body armor as quickly they could. There were cameras at the training ground, but Mei wanted first-person footage to go with it and grafted a camera on to a bicycle helmet.

When classes were finally over for the day, they headed to the urban training grounds. Punch of dummy buildings were erected there, and the whole 1-A had gathered there to see the fight. Izuku spotted Midnight-sensei chatting with All-Might and Aizawa-sensei who was bandaged tighter than a mummy.

The tall, well-built class president Tenya Iida was the first to greet them and shook their hands enthusiastically.

“I apologize that I didn’t come to thank you two sooner. On behalf of 1-A, thank you. We might not have made it without you two.” Iida said and then leaned closer to whisper in his ear: “I’d appreciate it if you could knock some sense into Bakugou.”

An invisible hand patted Izuku’s back.

“Kick his ass, Izuku.” Hagakure said.

“You can do it!” The pink-skinned Mina yelled.

“About time someone showed that clogged toilet what’s what.” Kaminari said.

“We’ll be cheering for you.” Tsu said.

“Go for the balls!” Mineta said.

“I can hear you assholes!” Bakugou said.

Bakugou was dressed in his hero outfit; black spandex and mask that covered his eyes. His gloves were shaped like grenades.

“Alright. Enough. To your places.” Aizawa-sensei said and walked up to Izuku.

How could he even stand with such injuries?

“We’ll be watching so keep it clean.” Aizawa-sensei said.

“Killjoy.” Midnight-sensei said.

“Don’t make me regret this.” Aizawa-sensei said and glared at Midnight-sensei.

All-Might smiled.

“Good luck to you both.”

“I don’t need luck to beat some Quirkless loser.” Bakugou said.

“What does Izuku need luck for when he has science?” Mei said.

Kirishima raised his and.

“I can take Midoriya to the starting spot.”

“Thank you, my boy.” All-Might said.

Izuku followed Kirishima inside the dummy building.

“Midoriya?” Kirishima said.

“… yeah?”

“About you and Bakugou… are you really in such bad terms?” Kirishima said.

For a moment Izuku was about to tell Kirishima everything. Then he saw the look in his eyes. Kirishima wanted to believe the best about Bakugou so badly it hurt. Izuku could understand. He’d been in love once… and he didn’t have the heart to break Kirishima’s. Someone would’ve called it a kindness but Midoriya knew it was just weakness. Cowardice. The only consolation was that Bakugou would show his true colors soon enough.

“… no. It’s just… kayfabe.” Izuku said.

Kirishima cheered up immediately.

“Okay. Good. Well… Good luck! Plus Ultra!”

“Plus Ultra!” Izuku echoed.

When Kirishima was gone the loudspeakers came to life.

“Begin!” Aizawa-sensei said.

Cold sweat started running down Izuku’s back. For a moment he was Deku again and Bakugou had just cornered him after school with his cronies. Was Deku going to cry? Was the Quirkless loser going to go crying to his mommy?

Izuku slapped himself.

He wasn’t Deku. He was Izuku Midoriya. He had saved himself and Mei from the Sludge Villain. He’d stood up to a boatful of villains. He’d raced All-Might. Bakugou was just one person. Izuku fired up the power gloves and boots. He’d have to be prepared. Bakugou was very straightforward but he wasn’t a dumb brute. Trains ran only one set of tracks, but they could crush you without any effort.

“Deku!”

Bakugou’s scream was followed by a series of explosions that propelled him straight at him through the narrow corridor. There was no time to dodge or counterattack. Just pray.

Not the dick, Izuku thought.

***

Mei knew she should have kept her eyes on the screens and used her latent telepathic powers to make Bakugou crap his pants on live camera, but she was too distracted by her third greatest enemy. While rest of 1-A were chanting encouragements that Izuku couldn’t hear with only Kirishima cheering Bakugou, Shouto Todoroki was standing apart from the rest of the crowd with his arms crossed.

Shouto, the scar-faced bastard looked exactly like she wanted him to look. A combination of the two people she hated the most. He had that bitch Rei’s face but Endeavor’s cold sneer. The left side of his face was covered by a red burn scar that had never healed properly and the eye seemed to be damaged. She’d have to instruct Izuku to go for his right eye. When she’d send Endeavor’s favorite son home blind, he’d know what to expect.

Shouto sensed her glare and turned to look at her. Mei just smiled at him. Shouto looked at her puzzled before turning to stare at the screens.

Enjoy it while it lasts. When I’m done with you and your family, you’ll have nothing left, Mei thought.

“Hatsume.” Tsu whispered to her.

“Yeah?”

“You’ve been staring at Todoroki for a while.” Tsu said.

“When else am I going to get a chance to stare at him?” Mei said.

“Do you like him?”

“Let’s just say he’s always on my mind.” Mei said.

Tsu was way too excited by her answer.

“You should tell him.” Tsu said.

“Oh. Trust me. He’ll find out soon enough.” Mei said.

“You shouldn’t wait. Someone else might… Oh shit!”

Mei turned to look at the screen and winced in sympathy pain. Bakugou went straight for the dick.

***

Why the dick, Izuku thought with tears in his eyes and bile on his tongue.

“What’s wrong, Deku?! Get up! Fight! You fucking coward!” Bakugou howled.

When Izuku didn’t get up fast enough for Bakugou’s liking, he grabbed Izuku and pulled him up and got ready to throw a wild haymaker. Izuku grabbed Bakugou in turn and gave him a shock at full force. A normal human being would have gone down on the spot but Bakugou’s explosion Quirk had made him inhumanly tough and resilient. Still, it gave Izuku an opening and he slammed Bakugou into the ground with a judo throw. When the throw was powered by his equipment even Bakugou felt it.

The pain just made him angrier.

A new series of explosions send him flying and Bakugou nailed Izuku right in the stomach. Then they were flying together and Bakugou made sure to guide Izuku into every approaching wall. The flimsy body armor was a poor consolation when he hit the stone walls back first.

Then they hit the ground.

“Goddamn it.” Bakugou growled and shook his grenade-shaped gloves.

Of course. The gloves weren’t just for decoration. They collected Bakugou’s sweat that contained the nitroglycerin that allowed him to explode anything that pissed him off. Normally he wouldn’t be able to make two people fly but with collected sweat… That gave him an idea. As it stood, his current firepower wasn’t enough to wound Bakugou. He’d have to get creative. And dirty.

Izuku kicked Bakugou off himself and retreated.

“Come back, Deku!” Bakugou screamed.

“Fuck off, Kacchan!” Izuku yelled over his shoulder.

Bakugou tried to use his explosions to fly after him but a few sharp turns took care of that. While he had the power boots on, Bakugou had no real chance of catching him. He stayed just far ahead that the sight of his back drove Bakugou into a fury and made him sweat more. The faster the containers on those gloves were full, the better.

Finally, he got ready to fight back. He shook Bakugou off and got ready for a sneak attack.

“Where are you, Deku?! Bakugou screamed.

Izuku smiled behind the wall that separated him and Bakugou. He punched his fist through the wall and grabbed one of Bakugou’s gloves. A burst of electricity caused the stored sweat to go boom right in Bakugou’s face. When one of Bakugou’s gloves exploded, the other followed suit.

When Izuku crushed his way through the wall, Bakugou was standing in a daze in the narrow hallway. The explosion had left him untouched, but it had scrambled his brain and the shrapnel from the gloves had left cuts in his face. The sight of Izuku, made Bakugou return to his senses, but his moves were sluggish and for the first time in his life, Izuku had the upper hand in a fistfight with Bakugou. Victory was so close he could taste it. It was Bakugou’s turn to know what it felt like to lose.

Then Izuku ran out of power and his equipment turned into junks of metal. But he still had his fists. Covered in metal.

“The match is over!” Aizawa-sensei said through the loudspeakers.

Izuku managed to open his clenched fist and leaned against a wall that was still up and tried to catch his breath. Bakugou was staring at him… with a look on his face that Izuku had never seen before. Bakugou was afraid. The all mighty Bakugou had been almost beaten by a Quirkless freak and only Aizawa-sensei’s interference had saved him. Anger followed the fear soon after.

“You… you think this will change anything? You’ll never have a Quirk. Your dad is never coming back.”

If there had been any power left in his equipment, Izuku would have killed Bakugou where he stood and felt nothing. When 1-A came to congratulate him, Izuku just handed Mei the equipment and headed home without saying anything. He didn’t remember how he got home. All he could think about was what Bakugou had said.

Mom wasn’t home when he got there for which he was grateful. He looked around his home. He could still remember how he and Bakugou had played heroes and villains there when they were kids. Before everything had gone to hell. Bakugou… Katsuki had been his friend. His best friend… and he… Fighting back the tears Izuku headed to his room and took out an old letter from his bottom drawer.

After he’d been diagnosed Quirkless he’d written a dozen identical letters to a dozen different heroes.

MY NAME IS IZUKU. I WAS DIAGNOSED QUIRKLESS. CAN I STILL BE A HERO?

Only the retired pro Crimson Riot had answered him. Many times, Izuku had come close to throwing it away but had never found the courage. It was still the only time a hero had written him back. Izuku sighed and read the letter again.

Dear Izuku
I’m sorry to hear you had to go through that. Now, when you say you want to be a hero, do you mean you want to be a pro or that you want to be a hero? In this business I’ve met many people who’re pros, but I would never call them heroes. Some of them are successful too. You don’t need a Quirk to make a difference. You can always make the world a better place. That’s what heroes do.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Crimson Riot

It had been a very long-winded way to tell him to give it up and find something else to do.

Izuku’s phone started playing All-Might’s theme song. Text on the screen told him that Mei was making a video call. Izuku sighed and ignored it and the call went to voice mail.

“I know you’re there, Izuku. Answer the goddamn call. Don’t make me come over there.”

The phone started ringing again and Izuku picked it up. Mei’s face filled the screen. She peeked at Izuku’s room.

“Your room looks exactly like I thought it would.” Mei said.

“… what do you want?”

“Ooh, hostile, are we? Maybe I needed a status report on the fight. Or I saw the footage on your camera and heard what Bakugou said.”

“… oh.” Izuku said.”

“That was some cold-blooded shit, but he wasn’t wrong, you know.” Mei said.

Izuku stared at Mei with widening eyes.

“… what?”

“The universe doesn’t care about you or what you do. You’ll never have a Quirk and your dad’s not coming back.”

“… did… did you call me just to tell me that?”

“Tell you what? The truth? That the universe doesn’t give a shit and life isn’t fair? You should have known that already. Giving a shit and fairness comes from people.” Mei said.

“… okay?” Izuku said.

“If the universe doesn’t owe you anything, it doesn’t owe Bakugou anything either. No god told to Bakugou he could act like a dick all his life and not pay for it. And guess what? Payback time is here. We’ll beat Bakugou because we’re smarter than him. And better prepared. And we hate him more.”

“… I don’t hate, Bakugou.” Izuku said.

I despise him, he thought.

“… and I’ve never beaten Bakugou at anything.” Izuku added.

“Did Bakugou beat that sewer monster? No, you did. Did he bluff that boat full of villains? No, you did. Did Bakugou come out smelling like roses after some asshole shat on him for ten years? No, you did. Tell me, Izuku. What has Bakugou done that we should be afraid of him?”

Izuku looked away and smiled.

“… thanks, Mei.”

“My pleasure. We’ll talk tomorrow about what we’ll do with that audio of Bakugou.”

“… I’d like that.” Izuku said.

“Also, how are your balls?”

Izuku snorted.

“… they survived.”

After Mei hang up, Izuku lied on his bed. When mom came home, Izuku went to help her with dinner preparations.

Chapter Text

With the tournament creeping closer, Izuku had upped his exercise regime. Just using parts of the armor were putting a strain on him and he needed all the muscle he could get. He’d made a habit of jumping out of the train one stop earlier than usual and running rest of the way to school. Then before start of the regular lectures he did a quick but intense workout at the school gym. Mei had also shown up to measure his development.

Izuku started his workout doing squats with weights. After ten reps he dropped the weights and jumped at the pole above his head and did ten pull-ups. After that he dropped back down and continued doing squats. And then it was back to pull-ups. After just two sets his legs were on fire and his arms felt ready to tear off.

“Come on! Work those deltoids!” Mei yelled.

Izuku grinded his teeth and tried to finish his latest set of pull-ups but finally his grip gave out. When he tried to catch his breath, Mei gave him a light kick in the ribs.

“No one’s paying you for sleeping! Move that ass and show me some sit-ups! Plus Ultra!”

Cursing his fate Izuku moved on to sit-ups while Mei timed him. He did sit-ups until his stomach started crumbing and he lost count.

“Take five.” Mei said.

Izuku was left panting on the floor and blinded by sweat. Mei wrote something down in her notebook.

“Forty-eight sit-ups in a minute. I guess that’s adequate.” Mei said.

“… adequate?” Izuku panted.

“I built a jetpack in my garage. It takes more than that to impress me.” Mei said.

Izuku poured some water on his head from his bottle and wiped his eyes clean from the sweat.

“… I don’t know how long I can keep this up.” Izuku said.

Mei smacked him over the head with her notebook.

“Quit your whining. If being awesome was easy, everyone would do it.” Mei said and then smiled: “Do you want to know what does impress me?”

Izuku nodded.

“This.” Mei said and showed him her notes.

In the notebook were his fitness test records over the past six months. His first performance in the one-minute challenge made him wince.

Push-ups: 8

Sit-ups: 25

Squats: 22

Pull-ups: 0

Cooper: 1980 meters

After six months of training his numbers were a lot more commendable.

Push-ups: 56

Sit-ups: 48

Squats: 36

Pull-ups: 17

Cooper: 2950 meters

Izuku gave Mei back her notes and she put them in her bag. After six months it wasn’t just his performance that had improved. He’d gained a ton of muscle definition and girth. His once scrawny physique was now solid and well-built. Even the school uniform couldn’t hide it. And he was only getting stronger.

There was rustling when someone picked up the notes. Mei’s look turned savage. Izuku turned to look and saw that Todoroki had entered the gym, picked up the notes from Mei’s bag and was now skimming through them. Mei yanked the notes from his hands.

“Can we help you?” Mei said.

Todoroki had to turn his head to see them both with his good eye. Izuku wondered if it would be possible to build Todoroki a working eye prosthetic.

“You really think this will help him survive the tournament?” Todoroki said.

Like his face, Todoroki’s voice was stripped of any emotion and came out as an unsettling monotone.

“No. Science will help him win the tournament.” Mei said.

“Like he did with Bakugou?” Todoroki said.

“We won that fight. If Aizawa hadn’t…”

“A pyrrhic victory. It won’t be just Bakugou in the tournament. What happens when he runs out of energy in the first leg of the race?” Todoroki said.

“Are you worried, Todoroki? Can’t stand the competition?” Mei said.

“You should be worried too. This isn’t a game.” Todoroki said.

“I can…“ Mei said.

“Stop talking like I’m not here!” Izuku said.

Todoroki turned his attention to Izuku. Todoroki was impossible to read. The most expressive thing about him was the burn scar over his damaged eye.

“Listen, Midoriya. I’m grateful what you two did when the villains attacked but you’ll only get yourself hurt. Trinkets can’t compete with Quirks.”

Mei stepped on Todoroki’s blindside and flicked him at the tip of his nose. Todoroki flinched and for a moment there was a flash of emotion on his cold face. Mei on the other hand had ran past anger into lividness.

“Who the hell you think you are? Sorry if we can’t all be born with a rich and famous daddy. Some of us have to work to get ahead.” Mei said.

Todoroki’s face hardened.

“You know nothing about my father.”

“I know whose name was in your recommendation. Are you worried about the tournament? You should be. Soon, everyone will see what you really are.” Mei said and smiled: “A loser. I know them when I see them. Guess your mom was the same. Was that why she bailed?”

Todoroki turned pale and rigid. Bakugou was the same just before he came at you swinging. Izuku stepped between them.

“… I think you should go. And… I’m sorry.”

Todoroki leaned in closer and his silent fury was infinitely more terrifying than Bakugou’s brash cruelty.

“I’ll be seeing you at the tournament. Deku. I can’t wait.”

Todoroki stomped out. Izuku’s sweat had turned cold. Mei looked after Todoroki with the creepiest smile on her face Izuku had ever seen.

“… what… what the hell was that?” Izuku said.

“Business. Izuku?”

“… yeah?”

“Would you say you owe me? You should because you do. I’ll give you Bakugou. In return I want you to fuck up Todoroki. Do to him what you would do to Bakugou.” Mei said.

Behind Mei’s smile lurked something ugly and hateful. Izuku caught a glimpse of it before it hid back behind Mei’s smile.

“Take a shower. I’ll see you in class.” Mei said before picking up her bag.

After showering and getting dressed, Izuku headed to class. When school started he’d been ecstatic getting normal lectures from heroes but after a few weeks he’d began to share Mei’s distaste for regular classes. Even if they were just four hours a day, they were still four hours he could have spent on getting work done. Unlike Mei, Izuku still put in an effort during class. Mei just slept through them and it showed in her grades. Except in math which she aced test after test. It was also the class Mei hated the most. Math was the language of science and Mei spoke it fluently. High-school level problems bored her to tears.

When the classes were finally over, Izuku started heading back to the workshop with Mei. He couldn’t get the encounter with Todoroki out of his head.

“Midoriya! Hatsume!”

Momo was walking towards them with another student, a blonde guy with a tail.

“Momo! What’s up, girl?” Mei said.

“Can’t complain. Congratulations on becoming famous.” Momo said.

“Thanks. It’s everything I thought it was.” Mei said.

“Good thing you found a new editor too. Your older videos were unwatchable.” Momo said.

“Oh? Uh… well… yeah. So… you need something?” Mei said.

“Yes. This is Mashirao Ojiro.” Mei said.

“Nice to meet you.” Ojiro said and shook their hands.

Ojiro had a strong grip and a callused hand.

“We have extra time for self-study in preparation for the tournament and we were wondering if Izuku wanted to take part in our martial arts training?” Momo said.

“… really? You want me to come?” Izuku said.

“Yes. We saw your fight with Bakugou. If you had any form, you would’ve won.” Momo said.

Izuku and Ojiro shared a look. How could Momo be so lacking in tact and still be so likable?

“… I… I’d love to join.” Izuku said.

“You’re goddamn right you would. In return Momo will be joining us for dinner later. We could use more of that fiber.” Mei said.

Izuku joined Momo and Ojiro at the gym. Excitement made him forget his soreness. And Todoroki. The popular kids were inviting him to join them. Momo was wearing the standard U.A gym outfit but Ojiro had put on a well-worn gi and a black belt.

“Have you ever done martial arts?” Ojiro said.

“… no.” Izuku said.

“I’ve been into karate and judo since I was seven. I’ve also been boxing for a couple of years. We should be able to get the basics down in a couple of weeks.” Ojiro said.

“I’ve been practicing silambam all my life.” Momo said.

“… sim sala…”

“Silambam. It’s an Indian martial art that uses weapons.” Momo said and used her Quirk to form two staffs.

She threw the other staff to Izuku.

“You’re in good shape so we’ll train by sparring. You okay with that?” Momo said.

Izuku tested the weight of the staff and nodded.

“Let’s begin.” Momo said.

Momo was tall but she moved lightly on her feet and her attacks were savage. Even when Izuku managed to block one blow, Momo got three in he didn’t see coming at all. When Izuku tried to figure out the rhythm to her attack, Momo would just come at him from a different angle. The way she moved her feet was like dancing and it was the source of her strength. Every blow started from her toes and by the time she swung her staff, the strike had her entire body behind it. She was also having fun. Izuku had never seen a grin that wide.

Izuku was too slow to dodge a thrust and it grazed his cheek.

“Oh no.” Momo said and seized her offense.

The staff had left a gash on Izuku’s cheek and was bleeding profusely.

“Oh no. No. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“… its okay.” Izuku said and pointed at the scars on his face: “I’ve had worse.”

“It’s not okay. Momo shouldn’t have been so tough with a novice.” Ojiro said.

Momo took out a first aid box and wiped away the blood. She sprayed anti-infective on the cut before closing the wound with a band aid. She put the bloodied handkerchief in her pocket.

“I… I think we should stop for the day.” Momo said.

Izuku shook his head.

“… I can still keep going and Ojiro promised to show me the basics.”

“If you insist. You should take the glove off, so your grip won’t slip.” Ojiro said.

Izuku glanced at Momo but then took off his glove revealing his scarred hand. Ojiro’s and Momo’s eyes widened but they didn’t say anything.

Ojiro led Izuku to the tatami and did a bow. Izuku followed suit and then he flew. Ojiro could easily throw him around with all the martial arts experience he had under his belt. Still, Izuku sensed that Ojiro was holding back. He wasn’t using his tail at all and was always careful to make sure that Izuku landed softly. That made reading him easy. When Ojiro tried to do another throw, Izuku turned the tables on him and slammed him in the ground.

Momo who had been watching worried from the sidelines actually gasped. Ojiro looked at him shocked. Izuku couldn’t help but smirk.

“Don’t underestimate me.” Izuku said.

Ojiro smiled and Izuku helped him back up. For the next half an hour Ojiro knocked Izuku around in earnest and left him a sore mess. Izuku couldn’t have been happier. When they were done, Momo handed them drinks.

“We’ll be meeting every day after classes until the tournament starts. If you want…” Momo said.

“I’d love to join!” Izuku said.

Momo smiled.

“I’d love to have you.” Momo said before blushing: “I mean to join us for training!”

Momo finished her drink quickly and ran for the showers.

Ojiro sighed.

“… something wrong?” Izuku said.

“No. I just was had my hopes up about Momo but… it’s nothing.” Ojiro said.

They headed to the showers.

“I hope you succeed.” Ojiro said while they were undressing.

“… I… thank you. And thanks for today.” Izuku said.

“My pleasure.” Ojiro said.

“… it’s just… aren’t you afraid that I’ll use this against you in the tournament?”

“Maybe a little but… I know what it’s like. Wanting the impossible.” Ojiro said and brushed his tail: “This thing is basically just an extra arm. Next to the big shots in my class I’m basically Quirkless.” Ojiro said and then looked horrified: “Sorry! I didn’t mean…”

“… it’s okay.” Izuku said.

“Okay. Good. But I knew that I wouldn’t be a hero with just my Quirk, so I took up martial arts. Maybe I should buy a set of those power gloves.”

“… they’re not cheap.” Izuku said.

Ojiro started drinking a protein shake while Izuku undressed. When he got his pants off, the protein burst out of Ojiro’s mouth.

“What the hell?!”

Izuku covered his privates. His face was burning.

“Stop staring!”

Ojiro looked away before laughing.

“No wonder Bakugou is always so pissed. Jealousy does terrible things to a man.”

Izuku showered with his undies on while Ojiro smirked like a jackass. He dressed while he was still half wet and burst out of the locker room leaving laughing Ojiro in the dust. While he was on his way to the workshop, Izuku felt being watched.

He turned to look at the empty hallway. This had been going on ever since the villains attacked. He’d been feeling someone’s eyes in the back of his neck.

“… someone there?” Izuku said but got no answer.

Was U.A haunted? Or was he just being paranoid? He wished that was the case, but Mei had complained about the same thing. Like someone or something was stalking her. Izuku hastened his steps and was still red-faced when he made it back to the workshop. Mei was hunched over her desk and tinkering on a helmet. An extension cord ran from the helmet to Sagan’s computer. Mei’s phone was blasting B.oB’s Flatline.

“… why are you still listening to that?” Izuku said.

“As a reminder that believing things that just ain’t true will screw us over.” Mei said and looked up: “How did it go?”

“… it will go better tomorrow.” Izuku said and rubbed the band aid on his cheek.

“That bad, huh?” Mei said and showed him the helmet: “Maybe this will cheer you up. Besides the shock absorber and paint, this thing is done. Want to try it?”

“Yes!”

Izuku took the helmet. It was surprisingly light. The large visor reflected his excited face back at him. The helmet was put on in two parts to keep it form fitting. Izuku placed the two parts around his head and they clicked into place. The world came to life in a way he had never seen. Through the visor he could see Mei’s height and weight clearly. As well as any weak points that would be easy to break in a fight.

“Do you hear me, daddy?” Sagan said inside the helmet.

“… yes.” Izuku said.

The helmet made his voice sound… strange. Robotic.

“I’ll help you monitor the armor and keep an eye on your energy levels. When we’re working together, daddy can beat anyone.” Sagan said.

“… I… do you have to call me daddy?” Izuku said.

Sagan let out a scream.

“Daddy doesn’t love me!”

The locks on the helmet opened and the helmet fell off Izuku’s head. Sagan’s computer went dark. Mei cursed and tried to turn the computer back on.

“Come on, Sagan. Daddy is just being shy.” Mei said.

Sagan’s face appeared on the screen briefly.

“Leave me alone!” Sagan yelled before going dark again.

“Well, shit.” Mei said.

Izuku put the helmet back on the table.

“… sorry.”

“Tell that to Sagan. You’re a shit dad.”

Izuku winced.

“… Mei?”

“Yeah?”

“… about Todoroki. What happened?” Izuku said.

Mei thought about it for a moment.

“Izuku. Walk with me.”

They left the school and after a twenty-minute walk arrived at a brand-new apartment complex. It was new enough to be still shining.

“What do you think?”

“… looks new.” Izuku said.

“That’s because it is. I hate it and everyone who lives in it. One day I’ll bulldoze it down and piss on the remains.” Mei said.

Mei showed him a picture on her phone. It was a large old house. Well-kept and well-loved. New generations had added new wings to it.

“They had to tear it down to build that atrocity.” Mei said.

“… that was your home.” Izuku said.

“Was it? Was it really? If it was mine, how could Endeavor just take it? My family had owned that house and the land it was built on for six generations. When dad was sued over that interview, he had to sell it to cover the bills.”

Mei stared at the building.

“I loved that house. I swore I’d buy it back when I became rich but… I didn’t become rich quickly enough.”

Izuku gave Mei back her phone.

“… I was never able to find that interview your dad gave.” Izuku said.

“Endeavor buried it deep. I can tell you what it was about. That bitch Rei. Dad’s childhood sweetheart. Too bad she liked guys who were richer than dad. Dad never got over her.”

Izuku thought back on the picture of Rei he had seen in the yearbook. She hadn’t struck to him as a gold-digger. But… he’d been wrong about people before. Bakugou was living proof of that.

Mei squeezed her phone harder.

“Mei. Dad actually named me after that bitch. Do you think changing a letter fooled anyone? It didn’t fool mom and she didn’t much like finding that out.”

Mei threw a stone at the apartment complex.

“She has a new family now. A new daughter too.” Mei said.

Izuku felt a sting of pain in his chest.

“… my dad started over too. I… have two little brothers. I… I’ve never met them.” Izuku said.

“And let me guess. They’re not Quirkless freaks.” Mei said.

“… yeah.”

“Good for them.” Mei said and smiled without mirth: “We were never meant to be born, you know? We’re not the children our parents wanted.”

Izuku thought about mom and how much easier her life would have been if her son hadn’t been… defective. How much easier it would have been for everyone if he’d been something… better.

“But it’s like I said. The world doesn’t owe us happiness.” Mei said and flipped off the apartment complex: “So, put out your middle finger and be happy anyway! Plus Ultra!”

Izuku laughed and put up his own middle fingers.

“Plus Ultra!” Izuku yelled.

“Plus Ultra! Fuck you, Endeavor!”

“Plus Ultra! Fuck you, dad!”

They both began to chant while giving the world the finger.

“Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra!”

“What are you doing?!”

The apartment complex was one of those fancy buildings that came with its own security. When the guard started closing in on them, they bailed. When they had shook off the guard, they started the walk back to school.

“I had an awesome idea.” Mei said.

“… aren’t those the only kind you have?”

“Yes, they are. You should give a speech during the tournament. Call your dad out. Tell everyone what he did. Let’s see how your replacements like that.”

“… I can’t.”

“Sure, you can.”

“… I don’t want to hurt my brothers like that. They’re just kids.”

“You’d do them a favor. They should know they’re dad is a pretender.” Mei said.

“… we are what we pretend to be. They can at least enjoy the illusion… of a father.”

“Fine. Whatever. But you’re still going to hate fuck Bakugou with science, right?” Mei said.

“Oh, hell yes.”

***
Under Overhaul’s orders Shuichi drove Dabi to the seedy part of town. It was like a refuge center for broken families and failed careers. Everything just felt grey and hopeless. His old home hadn’t changed. When they drove past people, they turned to look at them with hopeless eyes. Finally, they arrived at a rundown apartment building and got out of the car.

The elevator was busted, and they had to climb the stairs to the fifth floor. Dabi knocked on the door. The man who opened the door was middle-aged and looked like he’d walked to hell and crawled back. When he saw a glimpse of Dabi, he tried to shut the door but Dabi already had his leg in.

“Kawada? The reporter?” Dabi said.

The man could only nod.

“Our boss wants to meet you.” Dabi said.

The man put on faded jeans and an old hoodie. He followed them like a man facing his execution. Dabi sat next to him in the back of the car and they drove to the Shi Hassaikai compound. Overhaul was waiting for them in his study. He’d even taken off his mask for the occasion and smiled to the old reporter.

An empty gesture. Overhaul’s eyes were as dead as ever. Even when he smiled.

“Welcome, Mr. Kawada. I’m Overhaul.”

Kawada could only nod.

“You look terrible. Past ten years must have been hard. What was that lawsuit with Endeavor about?” Overhaul said.

“I… I interviewed one of his underlings. Blacksmith.” Kawada said.

“And now you have to work for trash tabloids just to survive. Barely surviving by the looks of things. Well, that changes today.” Overhaul said and handed Kawada a memory stick.

Kawada stared at the memory stick.

“… what is it?”

“Scoop of the century and a chance to get some payback at the hero industry that crucified you. Dabi. Spinner. Take him back home.” Overhaul said.

“Just one thing. When will you give Toga her reward?” Dabi said.

Overhaul turned to look at Dabi.

“What?”

“Toga is getting impatient.” Dabi said.

“Then pacify her! We have better things to do than amuse a lunatic.” Overhaul said.

“Overhaul, you don’t want to get on her bad side.” Dabi said.

Overhaul put his mask back on.

“Dabi, don’t test me on this.”

They drove Kawada back to his apartment. When Kawada had climbed out of the car, Dabi just stared out of the window while Shuichi drove. Finally, he spoke.

“Take me to Toga’s place.” Dabi said.

“Why?” Shuichi said.

“Cuz I told ya. And cuz I need to wake up Dabi and give him his clothes back.”

Dabi… melted away and suddenly Toga was sitting in his place. Shuichi almost drove off the road. He’d thought that Toga’s psychotic grin was the scariest thing he’d ever seen but that was before he’d seen her angry.

“That cunt fucked me over! I did his job and he fucked me over! His girl Toga! This is bullshit!”

Shuichi could only nod and wonder if he’d survive jumping out of the car. Toga kept ranting the whole way to her lair. Finally, she turned to look at Shuichi.

“Ya are okay, scale boy. I think I like ya.” Toga said and pecked him on the cheek.

It didn’t take long after Toga had disappeared inside her lair that a naked Dabi came running out clutching his clothes.

“Fucking drive!” Dabi screamed after getting in the car.

Shuichi did.

Chapter Text

Izuku didn’t know how much more he could take. The constantly increasing training was bad enough but the feeling that someone was watching him… stalking him… hounding him was even worse. He could’ve chalked it up to his nerves after the villains attacked if Mei hadn’t complained about it too.

They were done living with a ghost.

Mei had installed a camera to his clothes that was watching his back at all times. If anyone was following him, they’d soon find themselves caught in candid camera for keeps. Every hour or so Izuku would take a walk around school and act as bait while Mei monitored the camera and whispered updates to his ear through the earpiece.

“You feel anything?” Mei said through the earpiece.

“… I don’t know. I’ve been on the edge for so long.” Izuku said.

“Keep walking. The quicker we’re done the better. The bastard won’t be able to resist you for long.” Mei said.

“… I just hope…”

“Midoriya!”

Izuku almost jumped out of skin to scare his stalker to death when Kirishima slapped him in the back.

“Why are you talking to yourself?” Kirishima said.

“… talking to Mei.” Izuku said and pointed at the earpiece.

“Can’t be a moment apart, huh? Hopefully I find someone like that one day.” Kirishima said.

“Is that Kirishima?!” Mei screamed and almost left Izuku half-deaf.

Kirishima leaned in closer to Izuku’s ear for Mei to hear him.

“What’s up, Mei?”

“We’re on a stalker hunt!” Mei said.

“… please stop screaming in my ear.” Izuku said.

“Sorry. What stalker hunt?” Kirishima said.

“… I think someone’s been following me. Us.” Izuku said.

“Really? You sure you’re not just being paranoid? We’re all on the edge. The tournament starts next Friday.” Kirishima said.

“… I hope you’re right.”

“If you need a bodyguard, look no further.” Kirishima said and grinned like mad: “Or a test subject. How’s the armor coming along? Do you need someone to try it on? Want to go all Plus Ultra on me?”

“… almost done but… I don’t think we have time for tests.” Izuku said.

“Well, if you luck out…” Kirishima said when he got a message and lit up like a Christmas tree on fire: “I have to go. Katsuki needs my help to train.”

Izuku could only shake his head when he saw Kirishima practically float away.

“I’d marry that man if we both didn’t like banana ice cream.” Mei said and sighed: “But that’s how life goes. Some guys like strawberries and some like bananas. And then there are guys like you who think they taste the same.”

“… shut up, Mei.” Izuku said.

“Hey. We’re all…” Mei said and then suddenly fell silent.

“… Mei?”

“I got something. Someone just took a peek. Keep walking. Let’s have a good look at this bastard.”

Izuku did as he was told and kept walking. Sweat poured down his back when he tried to ignore the footsteps following his own.

“Okay. We’re done. Come back.” Mei said.

Izuku returned to the workshop. Mei was hunched over Sagan’s computer and fuming. Izuku looked over her shoulder and saw the caricature of a pretty boy following him like a second shadow.

***

Mustard slept in the little room he shared with Shuichi and slime boy and dreamed he was back in his old home. A cold prison that Shuichi had saved him from. Now he wished he was back there. Parents that thought he was an eyesore were preferable to the Shi Hassaikai.

A sharp kick in the side tore him awake.

“Get up! You’re going to school!”

“What?! What?!” Mustard said.

Shuichi had jumped on his feet with a wild look in his eyes and his fists raised. One of slime boy’s yellow eyes was open and he stared at them from inside his bottle.

Dabi stood over Mustard reeking of a hangover with a haunted look in his flat eyes. He threw a U.A uniform in Mustard’s lap.

“Put that on. You’re finally making yourself useful and going to U.A to find Toga.” Dabi said.

Mustard looked at Dabi horrified.

“Why can’t Shuichi do it?” Mustard said.

Dabi stared at Shuichi for a while.

“He doesn’t exactly blend in.” Dabi said finally.

“But… what if they know who I am?” Mustard said.

“They’ll only see the uniform. Just don’t draw attention to yourself.” Dabi said.

“But… but… that Quirkless freak knows me.” Mustard said.

“Then just stay out of his way.” Dabi said.

“But…”

Blue fire lit up in Dabi’s hand.

“Say but one more time.” Dabi said.

Mustard put on the uniform. It was too big for him but not big enough to draw attention.

“Where did you get the uniform?” Shuichi said.

“It was mine once.” Dabi said.

Dabi handed Mustard a tracker no bigger than a bug.

“Just put that on her and I’ll deal with the rest.” Dabi said.

“How am I supposed to find her?” Mustard said.

Dabi smiled.

“I guess she’ll find you.”

Shuichi rubbed the back of his neck.

“I… I’ll try to be close by and… slime boy will come with you. If she tries anything, just let him deal with it.”

Mustard took the bottle containing slime boy with him and put him in his pocket. How the hell was slime boy supposed to deal with anything when separating his consciousness from his captured body had left him so weak?

He got a ride to U.A and like Dabi had said, the uniform made him invisible. No one gave him a second glance as he passed them by. He’d be fine. Just fine. He…

Mustard started sweating.

He couldn’t do this!

“We should make a run for it.” Slime boy whispered from his pocket.

Mustard looked around. They only knew the gender of the person Toga was mimicking. Other than that, she could be anyone. Who said she wasn’t watching him right now? Stalking him. Waiting for a moment to strike. And if she did, no one would care. His parents hadn’t lifted a finger to find him after he ran from home. Running was the only thing that made sense. All that meant… was leaving Shuichi behind. His only friend and family.

After wiping the sweat off his brow, Mustard stepped deeper into U.A. He’d always dreamed of attending here. Who would’ve thought that he’d be doing it like this.

At the gate he passed a student with blonde hair and a tail, talking to another blonde student with a black stripe in his hair and… the most unfortunate looking guy Mustard ever seen. Even Shuichi’s mutation would have been preferable. The guy reached others barely to the waist, his face belonged to a cartoon animal and his hair was shaped like bubble bath.

“I swear that thing was bigger than Mineta.” The tail guy said.

“Hey.” The weird looking guy said sounding offended.

“That small, huh?” The other blonde guy said.

“Couldn’t have been that big.” The weird looking guy said who Mustard assumed was Mineta.

“Let’s put it this way. If that dick had a dick… Bakugou would still be jealous.” The tail guy said.

Mustard kept walking. What the hell was wrong with this place? When he wasn’t looking ahead, he pumped into a pissed off looking guy whose hair was shaped liked an explosion.

“Watch where you're going, fucker.” The guy snarled and pushed Mustard aside.

A guy with red-hair and sharp teeth smiled to Mustard apologetically.

“Sorry. We’re all a bit tense because of the upcoming tournament.”

Mustard could only nod and keep going. His stomach was cramping, and he felt like he needed to lie down. He…

“After we’re done with the Aoyama bastard we need to talk about the color for the armor. I was thinking… pink.”

Mustard dodged behind some bushes when he heard the pink-haired bitch’s voice. He peeked at her from behind the bush. She was walking with the Quirkless freak and the little bastard had changed since the last time they’d met. He looked more athletic and muscular. Three scars ran over the left side of his face and split one of his eyebrows. His right hand was covered with a black glove. The pink-haired bitch looked just like Mustard remembered her.

“… what? No. I’m not wearing pink armor.”

“Why not?” The pink-haired bitch said.

“Why? It’s… pink.”

“That just proves what a badass you are. Who else would dare to wear pink?”

“… I… name one person who wore pink and got taken seriously.” The Quirkless freak said.

“Roose Bolton.” The pink-haired bitch said.

“… still not doing it.”

“You’re so goddamn selfish, Izuku. Well, what do you think would be a good color?”

“… green.”

“Green? And you’re giving me shit.”

“Hey, you!”

Mustard almost cried. He looked up and saw a tall, imposing student with glasses looking down on him. Was this it?

“Straighten your tie.” The student said.

“… okay.” Mustard said.

“Good. Have a nice day.” The student said, and power walked away.

Mustard straightened his tie and wiped the tears from his eyes. When the bells rang to mark the beginning of classes, Mustard started looking for a hiding place. He found an out of order toilet in the top floor and hid in one of the stalls.

“You should have run.” Slime boy said.

“Shut up.” Mustard said.

“If you’re not going to run, you could at least pour me in the sink. No reason for both of us to die.” Slime boy said.

“You’re not leaving Shuichi.”

“Why not? It’s thanks to you two that I’m in this mess.” Slime boy said.

They didn’t hear the door to the toilet open over their arguing. The stall door was yanked open.

“Wassup, Mustard? It’s yer girl Toga.”

“… oh god.” Mustard said.

“Ya are goddamn right I am.” Toga said and pulled slime boy out of Mustard’s pocket.

She fastened the cork and placed him in the sink before taking the tracker Dabi had given to Mustard. She studied it for a moment and then crushed it under the sole of her foot. Next, she offered Mustard her hand.

“Come on, Mustard. I ain’t gonna hurt ya. Ya can trust yer big sis Toga.”

Mustard took Toga’s hand and she pulled him up… and then she slammed him against a wall and grabbed his crotch. She squeezed.

“Mustard. Ya surprise me. Here I thought ya had no balls.” Toga said, and her grip grew tighter: “Want me to fix that?”

Mustard could only squeal.

“What’s wrong? I get along just fine without a pair.” Toga said.

“… please… don’t…” Mustard managed.

Toga laughed and let go. Mustard fell on the ground and pulled out his stiletto. When he pointed it at Toga, she just smiled.

“Mustard, Mustard, Mustard. Stop embarrassing yerself.” Toga said and opened her jacket revealing the machete hidden beneath: “It’s a long time until classes are over and the only people who come here are Kaminari and Jiro. Could be a long time until anyone finds ya.”

Toga knelled in front of him.

“Is Dabi really that pissed? He fucked me over first. But I’ll forgive him. I found love thanks to him. Just tell him to leave me alone. Got it?”

Mustard nodded.

“Good boy.” Toga said and patted his head: “Fuck me over on this and I’ll come for ya. Got it?”

“… yes.”

“Awesome. Stay here until classes are over and then fuck off.”

Toga left him alone in the bathroom with slime boy and Mustard hid again in one of the stalls.

“Pussy.” Slime boy said.

***

Izuku and Mei found Aoyama eating alone in 1-A’s classroom. Or maybe feasting would have been more accurate. How the hell had Aoyama carried all that food to school? Mei kicked the door open.

“Okay, buddy! Bend over and grab your toes so I can show where my foot goes!” Mei said.

Aoyama was quiet for a long time.

“Excuse me?”

“Don’t play that game with me. We know you’ve been following us.” Mei said.

“Oh.” Aoyama said and thought about it: “Would you like some cheese?”

Mei and Izuku looked at the box of cheese offered.

“… I’m good.” Izuku said.

“I’m not.” Mei said and grabbed the cheese box: “You have ten seconds. After that Izuku is kicking your ass.”

“What? No, I’m not!” Izuku said.

“Kick his ass, Izuku!” Mei said.

Aoyama took a sip of strawberry juice from a wine glass before talking.

“I was hoping you could help me.”

“You want us to what now?” Mei said.

“Help me with this.” Aoyama said and got up.

He pulled up his shirt.

“What the…?!” Mei screamed before seeing the heavy set mechanical belt under Aoyama’s shirt: “Oh thank God. I thought you were going to show us your dick.”

“I wouldn’t be very impressive next to Midoriya.” Aoyama said.

“… what?” Izuku said.

“Ojiro has been telling everyone about the freckled giant. It drives Bakugou insane.” Aoyama said.

“He saw it in confidence!” Izuku said outraged.

“Have you ever measured it?” Aoyama asked.

“No!” Izuku lied.

“Any guy who says he hasn’t measured his dick, is a liar.” Mei said and leaned in closer to get a better look at Aoyama’s belt: “So, does it help you use your Quirk? The… Izuku?”

“… navel lasers.” Izuku said sullenly.

“Yeah. That one.”

“No. It helps me control it.” Aoyama said sadly.

“I see. Downsides?” Mei said.

“I… stomach pain and I… lose control of my bowels.”

“You shit yourself?” Mei said.

Aoyama sighed.

“Yes.”

“Well, luckily we have a man with a knack to spot flaws in other peoples designs. Izuku. You’re up. See you at the cafeteria.” Mei said and rushed out.

With great annoyance Izuku took a closer look at Aoyama’s belt. There were a few quick fixes he could think of.

“… I think we can alleviate the pressure to your stomach with shock absorbing fiber. You should also develop your abs.” Izuku said.

“Okay.” Aoyama said and frowned.

“… is it your stomach?” Izuku said.

“No. I… I’m sorry about following you. I just… didn’t know how to approach you. I… I can’t wish you luck in the tournament.”

“… okay?”

“If… if you succeed… and make it here… one of us is getting kicked out. There’s only room for twenty students.” Aoyama said.

Judging from Aoyama’s face he had no doubts who’d be getting the boot.

“… oh.” Izuku said.

Izuku looked at Aoyama whose own body couldn’t handle his Quirk. He thought about Ojiro who had made it in through skill alone. They’d overcome the impossible to attain their dreams and now… they could risk losing it all. Because of him.

“… I… even if I don’t make it to Heroics… I could be scouted.” Izuku said.

Aoyama smiled nervously.

“I hope you do.” Aoyama said and then handed him a rose: “Let this mark the beginning of a beautiful friendship. You should also give me your number, so we arrange a time for my belt upgrade.”

“… sure.” Izuku said.

***

After what felt like an eternity the bell finally rang. Mustard waited for a moment for the halls to fill again before trying to make his getaway. He was about to leave when he heard footsteps approaching fast and he slipped back inside the stall. For one terrifying moment he thought that Toga had decided to send a different kind of message at Dabi but then he heard two sets of voices.

And rustling of clothes.

And kissing.

When he peeked out of the stall he saw the blonde guy with a black stripe in his hair kissing a girl with short black hair and weird earlobes. When the blonde guy unzipped his fly, Mustard started holding his breath.

After ten torturous minutes of panting and gasping they were finally done. After they’d freshened up, the students left. Mustard stumbled out red-faced and dazed. What had he done to deserve this kind of abuse and humiliation? When would it end?! This was all that Quirkless freak’s and pink-haired bitch’s fault! They wouldn’t get away with this! He was done being pushed around!

Avoiding anyone who might recognize him Mustard headed to the Support Department. While the break was on, the department was empty except for…

“Can I help you?”

The pro hero Power Loader was approaching him and… he was a lot shorter than Mustard had expected.

“… I… uh… I’m looking for Team Indestructible.” Mustard said.

Power Loader squinted behind his mask.

“What department are you from?”

“… General.”

“And why do you want to meet them?” Power Loader said.

Suddenly the lie rolled off his tongue easily and the cold sweat dried up.

“I’m a huge fan of their work and I was hoping I could meet them. I…” Mustard said before stumbling and fiddling his fingers: “… I want to take part in the tournament but my Quirk… I need support equipment to make it work properly.”

Some of the tension in Power Loader’s voice melted away.

“What’s your Quirk?”

“Poison gas, sir.”

“I can hook you up with a gas mask.”

“Thank you but… could I still meet them? I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.” Mustard said.

Power Loader sighed.

“Their workshop is this way. Don’t touch anything.”

“I won’t.” Mustard lied.

Power Loader opened him the door to the workshop before going his way. The whole room seemed to be built around a power armor that could have come from one of the cartoons Mustard had watched as a kid. It was sleek and light but still powerful. The plating had been sculpted to give the impression of the wearer having a muscular physique. It was still the unpainted color of steel.

A cable ran from the armor to a computer. Suddenly the computer turned on and the pixelated face of a girl appeared on the screen.

“Who are you? Are you mommy’s and daddy’s friend?”

Mustard smiled.

“Yes. Yes I am.”

“I’m their baby girl Sagan.”

“Mustard.”

“Weird name.” Sagan said.

“I’ve been called worse.” Mustard said and looked at the armor: “What’s this?”

“Indestructible. When daddy wears it, he’ll win the tournament. With my help.”

“Really?” Mustard said and took out the bottle holding slime boy: “I’d like you to meet someone.”

Slime boy jumped out of the bottle and seeped inside the armor and Sagan’s computer through the cracks. Sagan tried to scream before her screen went black. Foul smelling smoke started rising from the armor and the computer when slime boy went medieval on their inner workings.

***

Even with all the training he’d been doing, Mei still left Izuku in the dust when Power Loader told them to return to the workshop. Right now!

“No! No! No! No!” Mei panted the whole way there.

When they got to the workshop where Power Loader was waiting for them and Mei saw the smoke rising from the armor’s cracks and Sagan’s computer, she let out a bloodcurdling scream.

“No! Fuck no! Sagan! Talk to me!”

The computer tried to turn itself on but Izuku was only able to catch a flicker of Sagan’s face before she shut down again. There was a… smell in the air that Izuku had hoped to forget but… that should have been impossible. The Sludge Villain was locked up in Tartarus. The bastard hadn’t even woken up yet after being electrocuted.

“I… I don’t know what happened. There was this student and…” Power Loader said.

Mei turned to glare at him.

“What student?”

“He said he wanted to meet you and…”

If Izuku hadn’t caught her in time, Mei would have lunged at Power Loader. Izuku held on tight but Mei tried to still reach Power Loader by kicking wildly.

“You let a stranger in here?! You fucking idiot! You’ve ruined everything! The tournament is in three days!”

When Mei had finally calmed down enough that Izuku dared to let go of her, he took off his jacket and tie.

“… we’ll just have to fix it in three days.” Izuku said.

“Building it took months! And you think we can fix it by Friday?! How are we…?!”

“Mei. I’m not giving up.” Izuku said.

Mei looked ready to have another screaming fit and then… a cold calmness washed over her. She rolled her sleeves.

“Power Loader.” Mei said.

“Yes?”

“Inform the school that we’re skipping class and staying here till Friday. And if you ever let strangers here again, I’ll tell my babies how the balls in my trophy case belonged to you!”

Power Loader could only nod and Mei started unscrewing Sagan’s computer.

“Don’t worry, Sagan. Mommy will fix you right up.”

Chapter Text

Ken Hatsume stood alone in his repair shop and stared at the broken car he was supposed to fix by the afternoon. The customer had been the best he could hope for. Desperate with money to burn and he needed to get his car back by the afternoon. Every other mechanic had said the job was impossible, but Ken had promised to try.

For a fee. A big fee. One that the customer had been more than happy to pay.

Ken activated his Quirk Iron Works and took the car apart in seconds. The parts floated around him and he spotted the problem immediately. He pulled out the faulty parts and threw new ones into the mix before reassembling the car. Hours of work condensed into a few minutes.

Ken’s phone started ringing. A smile crept on his face when he saw it was Mei calling. He’d been relieved when Mei had said she’d be staying at the school for a few days and giving him some time for himself, but the relief had soon passed. The house felt lonely without Mei and the meals were depressing.

“Hi…” Ken managed to say.

“Dad! No time! Bring the jet pack to school!” Mei yelled.

“What?”

“No fucking time! Bring the jet pack! The tournament is about to start!” Mei screamed before hanging up.

Ken stared at his phone. He’d been planning to crack open a cold one and watch the tournament from home, but it looked like he’d be seeing it in U.A. He sent a message to the client telling that he could come pick up his car from the shop’s parking lot. Then he got the jet pack from Mei’s study and carried it with his Quirk into his car.

The drive to U.A felt longer then it was. When he saw the great building, bittersweet memories filled his mind. Memories of Rei and how he’d screwed everything up.

Is the bathroom in the top floor still out of order, he wondered.

Ken dragged the jet pack to Mei’s and Midoriya’s workshop and… stopped. Mei and Midoriya were busying themselves cleaning a set of power armor. He’d seen the blueprints Mei had drawn for Project: Indestructible but he’d never thought she’d actually pull it off. Sixteen years old and already his daughter was a better engineer than him.

“Dad!” Mei said.

“Oh. Sorry. I brought…” Ken said.

“No time!” Mei said and shoved a pilot jacket into Midoriya’s hands.

The pilot jacket was dark green and had the words Project: Indestructible printed in its back. It looked custom made. And expensive.

“Wear this in the opening ceremony and try to get in the cameras.” Mei said.

“How did you afford that?” Ken said.

“Crowd funding. Go get ‘em, Izuku.” Mei said.

“Crowd? What…?” Ken said.

“… it was nice to see you, Mr. Blacksmith.” Midoriya said and took the jet pack.

After Midoriya had ran out, Mei got back to tinkering with the power armor.

“What’s wrong with it?” Ken said.

“Sabotage!”

“Want me to help?”

“My project! Let me work!” Mei yelled.

“Okay, okay.” Ken said and left his daughter work in peace.

Did all teenagers treat their fathers with such disdain or just Mei? He would have been lying if he claimed he hadn’t earned it.

There was still time to kill before the tournament started and Ken spent it walking around his old school. Pictures from past tournaments had been put on the walls to commemorate the annual event. It didn’t take long before he found the picture from the year he’d participated.

What the hell was I thinking with that haircut, Ken thought.

What would his younger self think if he could see through time? He’d probably be disappointed in this wretch who had grey in his stubble and hands covered in oil stains. The way Rei was smiling in the picture broke his heart all over again. She had her whole life ahead of her. Or at least she thought so. She’d destroyed her way through the tournament and gained the attention of a monster.

A monster he’d failed to help her beat.

“Well, well. Did someone fail to answer a bridge troll’s riddle and it escaped?”

Ken smiled and turned to face his old junior.

Power Loader… Higari hadn’t changed in the passing years.

“How can you flash your nipples all day and not get fired?” Ken said.

Higari laughed and pulled off his helmet.

“I’m that good.” Higari said.

They shook hands. If Higari had been wearing a shirt, Ken would have hugged him.

“Good to see you. How are things?” Ken said.

Higari shook his head.

“Not good. Some pink-haired demon has wormed her way into U.A and turned my life into living hell. You wouldn’t know anything about that?”

“That… might be on me. I was too lenient on her growing up and now… well, too late to do anything about it now. When they hit sixteen, you’re less of a father and more of an abused landlord.”

“Sounds rough.” Higari said.

“It is.” Ken said and glanced at the direction of the Support Department: “What happened to the armor?”

“Sabotage. Weirdest thing ever. The guy who did it wasn’t even a student here. He just walked right in with an old uniform and I.D. Slipped right through the radar.”

“Security still blows, huh? Shouldn’t you be helping her fix the armor?”

“I tried. She said I wasn’t qualified to wipe my own ass. Much less help her.” Higari said.

“Sounds like her. Just don’t let her get her hands on the sabotaging bastard.”

“I won’t.” Higari said when he got a message: “Gotta go. Want to grab some drinks after this is over? Catch up?”

“Sounds good.” Ken said.

After Higari was gone, Ken kept walking. He’d been afraid of coming here but not all the memories were bad ones. Despite everything that had happened after U.A.

“I’m expecting you to win. It’s time you showed me that your training has paid off. Disappoint me again and I won’t be pleased. I’m tired of this rebellious phase of yours.”

A chill blew through Ken when he heard the voice. That guttural growl. His muscles were twitching. Telling him to run. No point in starting a fight he couldn’t win. The last time had come close to costing him everything.

Then he heard the other voice.

“I’m not doing this for you.”

The voice was a cold monotone but there was an undercurrent of fear in it. If you knew what to listen for.

Ken stepped into the hallway where Endeavor was lecturing his son. Endeavor was even bigger than the last time they’d met. A mountain of muscle that towered over Shouto. His face was hidden by a burning beard. The burn mark on Shouto’s face made Ken shiver but even with the scar he could see flashes of Rei in the boy. Shouto. Rei’s son.

Ken cleared his throat.

Endeavor turned to look at him and… for a moment Endeavor didn’t recognize him. Even though they had worked together for two years and then spent ten months trying to destroy each other in court. How many others had Endeavor torn down if he wasn’t even worth remembering? Then recognition hit him, and Endeavor’s flames burned even more intensely.

“The show’s about to start. Wouldn’t look good if he was late from the opening ceremony.” Ken said.

Shouto saw his chance to walk off and took it. Ken was left alone with Endeavor and he tried to fit as much hate in a single look as he could muster.

“Blacksmith.” Endeavor said.

“Endeavor.” Ken said.

Ken barely reached Endeavor’s throat and the monster was free to look down on him.

“You look terrible.”

“If you say so. How’s the child abusing business?” Ken said.

Endeavor bared his teeth.

“Watch it.”

“Or you’ll do what? Sue me again? Would be just your word against mine. Not much to go by in court.” Ken said.

Endeavor snorted.

“Talk. That’s all you’ve ever been good for.”

Ken laughed.

“Got me there. Lucky for you. If I had been a man of action, I would have killed you ten years ago.”

This actually gave Endeavor pause.

“You…” Endeavor growled.

“You wouldn’t have been the first villain I took out permanently. And not the least deserving. The things you’ve done to that boy…” Ken said.

For a moment Endeavor sounded defensive.

“It wasn’t me who burned his face.” Endeavor said.

“And who drove her to that point? You turned Rei into a broodmare. You stole her life. If you…”

“People like you could never understand what I’m trying to do.” Endeavor said.

“I understand perfectly. You want to beat All-Might.” Ken said and shrugged: “I admit. You have balls for trying that. But you could say that about all the world’s greatest monsters. And that’s what you are. A monster.”

“You think a weakling has any right to judge me?” Endeavor said and smiled: “With you, Rei would have been just another nobody. I made her the mother of a hero who’ll surpass All-Might.”

Rage had welded Ken’s jaw shut. Endeavor got ready to leave before suddenly turning to look at him.

“I heard your daughter has been building weapons for some Quirkless freak. How do you think he’ll fare against Shouto?”

Ken was left alone in the dark hallway with a lifetime of regret. Then it hit him. What had he done?! If he’d pissed Endeavor off, who would the child abuser take it out on?!

***

Izuku was sweating buckets under the harsh stare of the world. So many people had gathered to U.A to see future heroes give it their all. The stands were full and hundreds of thousands more were seeing this from home. The pilot jacket Mei had given him felt heavier than a mountain. His only consolation was that the other students shared his unease. If he failed here…

“Cool jacket, bro!”

Kirishima slapped him in the back.

“Must be great to get all this free publicity.” Kirishima said and looked at the stands: “I can’t wait to see your armor in action.”

“… busted.” Izuku said.

“What?”

“… we had… technical difficulties.” Izuku said.

“Oh.” Kirishima said and looked nervous: “Are you sure you should be doing this?”

“… we have backup plans.” Izuku said.

“I believe you. It’s just… I’m planning to win. I won’t… I can’t go easy on you if we have to fight.” Kirishima said.

Izuku forced himself to smile.

“… I’d be insulted otherwise.”

The beginning of the ceremony drowned out Kirishima’s voice. The loudspeakers came to life and Present Mic’s voice filled the stadium.

“Welcome everyone to the annual U.A festival! I am your host! Present Mic! Here with Eraserhead!”

“Good to be…” Aizawa-sensei said.

“And what a show we have for you today! Midnight! The floor is yours!” Present Mic howled.

There was the crack of a whip when Midnight-sensei climbed on the stage and suddenly all eyes were on her. The male students started cheering. Midnight-sensei struck the ground with her whip again.

“Quiet down! The queen is here! Before we can enjoy todays entertainment, the class 1-A valedictorian will be giving a speech! Can I get a round of applause for Katsuki Bakugou?!” Midnight-sensei said.

Bakugou climbed on the stage looking unusually mellow and for a moment Izuku thought that the gravity of the occasion had affected even Bakugou.

Then Bakugou opened his mouth.

“To everyone here I have only one thing to say. I’m going to win.”

It was not a popular speech and a wave of boos washed over Bakugou. Bakugou just laughed and flipped the whole stadium off.

“Shut up, side-characters! You should be honored to be my stepping stones! If you have a problem with that, beat me! If you can!”

Kirishima was practically swooning.

“He’s so manly.”

Izuku could only stare and shake his head in disbelief. Love did terrible things to a person.

“Manly? More like arrogant.”

Izuku and Kirishima turned to see Todoroki standing behind them. He was staring at the podium and the only thing that betrayed his anger, was how tight the muscles in his jaw were.

“He’s just being confident.” Kirishima said.

“You’re not very bright, are you?” Todoroki said and turned his gaze to Izuku: “Deku. A moment of your time.”

Izuku knew the look Todoroki was giving him and dreaded it. Bakugou had looked the same every time he’d been pissed off and needed someone to take it out on. For a moment he was Deku again and could only nod meekly. Kirishima placed his hand on Izuku’s shoulder.

“He doesn’t look like he wants to talk with you.” Kirishima said.

Kirishima’s touch and voice drove Deku away. He was Izuku Midoriya and… Todoroki deserved to say his piece after all the abuse Mei had thrown at him.

“… it’s okay, Kirishima.” Izuku said.

“You sure?” Kirishima said.

“… yeah.”

“Okay. If you say so.” Kirishima said and let go.

Izuku followed Todoroki into a quiet corner.

“… look… Todoroki… what Mei said…”

“You’re dropping out of the race.” Todoroki said.

For a moment Izuku was too dumb-founded to answer.

“… what?”

“Your armor is broken. If you do this, you’ll only get in everyone’s way and hurt yourself. Give it up. Not everyone can be a hero.” Todoroki said.

Whatever hopes Izuku had had of making peace with Todoroki were gone. Give it up? Not everyone can be a hero? He’d clawed his way into U.A. He’d faced villains. He’d raced All-Might. What did he have to do before it was enough?! Before he proved himself good enough?! Even after all that Todoroki just saw a Quirkless freak who needed to have some sense beaten into him.

“You’re just like Bakugou.” Izuku said.

Todoroki’s eyes narrowed.

“I’m trying to help you.” Todoroki said.

“I know all about your… help. I don’t need it. If that was all, I have a race to win.” Izuku said and tried to leave.

Todoroki blocked his path.

“I guess I have no choice but to force you to understand.” Todoroki said.

“You’re wasting your time if you think he’ll listen to reason.”

Bakugou was leaning against a wall with his arms crossed. Izuku sighed and rubbed his face.

“… what do you want, Bakugou?”

“Shut up, Deku. I’m talking to scar face.” Bakugou said.

Bakugou pressed uncomfortably close to Todoroki. If he’d been hoping for Todoroki to back away, he was in for a disappointment. He wasn’t tall enough to tower over Todoroki and Bakugou’s glare didn’t impress Todoroki.

“Get out of my face.” Todoroki said.

“Make me, scar face. I’ve been waiting for this. Everyone says how great you are just because your old man is Endeavor. Guess what? Doesn’t matter here. I’ll show everyone…”

Bakugou let out a yelp when Todoroki froze his hand.

“I warned you.” Todoroki said and rubbed the scar on his face: “If you want to scare me, try harder. And if you get in my way, I’ll crush you.”

Without saying another word, Todoroki left Bakugou to rub feeling back into his frozen hand. Izuku looked at Todoroki’s back and at the humiliated Bakugou. Shame had painted Bakugou’s face dark red.

“Don’t get cocky just because you lucked out once. You’ll never beat me, and you’ll never be a hero.” Bakugou said and emphasized his words by pushing Izuku out of his way.

Angrier than he’d ever been Izuku went to pick up his jet pack. He’d already beaten Bakugou once! He’d do it again and this time Aizawa-sensei wouldn’t be there to get in his way. Then he’d force Todoroki take back everything he’d said. He wasn’t just some Quirkless freak that would never amount to anything!

The jet pack was still heavy and would make running difficult, but the weight didn’t crush him anymore. Maybe they should have put some time aside to develop the jet pack and he could have just flown over the obstacle course. Now there was just enough power to keep him in the air for barely ninety seconds. He’d have to make do with short bursts of flight.

“Need help with that?” All-Might said.

All-Might was standing in the hallway in his garish yellow suit that somehow looked good on him.

“… I… uh… yes.” Izuku said.

All-Might helped him put on the jet pack and Izuku fastened the strapping around himself.

“… thank you.” Izuku said.

“My pleasure, young Midoriya.” All-Might said and scratched his head: “I’m sorry about what happened with the armor. I know you both worked hard on it and… you sure you should be doing this? Everything you and Mei have done hasn’t gone unnoticed. New chances will come.”

Izuku clutched the strappings.

“… the world doesn’t owe me anything. I… I can’t count on there being new chances. This… might be the only one I get.”

All-Might laughed.

“You have moxie, young Midoriya. I like it. I know I should be impartial as a teacher but good luck.” All-Might said.

“… thank you, sir.”

The tournament had been divided into three parts. Or as far as Izuku was concerned, the first two events were just there to find out who were fit to take part in the real tournament. The obstacle course and the cavalry battle were merely foreplay to get people excited about the big fight.

Participants were told to get ready for the obstacle course. Izuku hurried to the starting point and found that the race started at the end of a narrow corridor with all the students mushed together.

“On your marks! Get set! Ready! Go!” Present Mic said through the loudspeakers.

When people started running Izuku realized that the corridor was the first obstacle. When everyone tried to rush through a gate that was too small for all of them, they just got stuck. Only the fastest participants managed to avoid the first hurdle and rush towards the next obstacle. Izuku heard how a series of explosions carried Bakugou ahead but he also saw a glimpse of Todoroki.

The shoving became more aggressive when people saw the competition leaving them in the dust. While everyone tried to push through by force, Izuku used a trick he’d learned from riding the subway as a child. Instead of trying to get ahead he moved in a skewed line. Getting past people went from impossible to simply challenging.

Then finally they were out.

And they found that Todoroki had left them another surprise just outside the corridor. People slipped and stumbled on the frozen ground and to make matters worse Mineta had used his glue balls to make himself a bridge over the ice. Izuku felt a flash of pity for everyone who got caught in Mineta’s trap. The race was over for them.

Izuku turned on the jet pack and jumped over the ice. Another slow burst slowed down his fall and then he was running. The moment he heard someone panting behind him, another burst from the jet pack gave him enough speed to keep his lead.

The earth shook when huge doors in the ground opened and the robots size of buildings rose from the ground and blocked the path of anyone with a lead. In a way getting stuck in the corridor had been a blessing in disguise. Those who came before him had set off future traps and that gave him time to think.

He could keep playing it safe and wait for the more powerful students to carve him a path but… he didn’t want to play it safe. He didn’t want to just barely make it to the next round. He wanted to win! He wanted to excel! He wanted to shine as brightly as All-Might!

A quick glance at the energy levels helped him make his mind. If this worked, he was genius. If not… maybe All-Might would save him.

When more robots rose from the ground blocking the runners retreat path, Izuku used another speed burst from the jet pack. That gave him just enough of a kick to land on the head of one of the rising robots. Standing on the shoulder of a giant, Izuku went up with it. When the robot was fully out, Izuku took another look at how much energy he had left. There was enough for forty seconds of flight or for twelve more speed bursts.

Oh, God. Please let that be enough, Izuku though.

The jet pack gave a screeching complaint when he thrusted it at full power and for fifteen seconds he flew.

Then he turned off the power.

He fell like an arrow. Keeping his body stiff Izuku controlled his fall and tried to aim it towards the finish line. The wind was howling in his ears and slashing his face. Tears filled his eyes, but he could see he had glided over the pit course. The students who’d made it that far where nothing more than dots in a map, but he could guess who had made it there already.

“Screw you, Bakugou!” Izuku yelled.

The wind swallowed his yell, but it was the gesture that mattered.

Finally, Izuku’s nerves gave out and he turned the jet pack back on. For a moment he feared that he was falling too fast and the jet pack didn’t have enough power to slow him down but eventually it did bring him back into the ground in one piece. At least he thought so at first. He’d tried to slow down his fall in a controlled fashion but even then, he’d pulled something in his back. Luckily, the adrenaline kept the pain in check.

The other contestants were so far behind, but he wasn’t the first to make it to the last obstacle. Todoroki had already started the trek through a field that signs warned was filled with mines. Todoroki was so far ahead. Catching up to him would be near impossible. Wouldn’t second place be good enough? When no one had thought he’d ever make it? Especially not Todoroki.

Give it up. Not everyone can be a hero. I’m trying to help you.

Why did it have to be Todoroki?! Why not Momo? Or Tsu? Or Ojiro? Or even Mineta? He would have gladly given the first place to anyone else but not Todoroki or Bakugou. He’d show them both. They’d never be able to look down on him when they’d been beaten by a Quirkless freak. Todoroki’s lead was too immense for Izuku to have time to be careful. The jet pack had enough juice left in it for three more bursts but not full flight. He’d have to make the most of them.

Throwing caution in the wind, Izuku leaped into the mine field. By timing the burst carefully, he could use the exploding mines to give himself even more speed. And then, in a glorious flash, he overtook Todoroki.

“Science for the win!” Izuku yelled at Todoroki’s shocked face.

“Deku!”

Izuku wasn’t the only who could fly and unlike him, Bakugou didn’t have to be stingy with his power source. The explosions carried Bakugou to Izuku’s side and then he reached out at the jet pack.

Bakugou’s Quirk tore the jet pack off Izuku’s back and he hit the ground face first.

“Screw you, Deku!” Bakugou yelled over his shoulder while flying towards the finish line.

Izuku groaned.

Everything hurt. He’d twisted his ankle when he’d slammed into the ground and his nose was bleeding. His breathing came out in pained wheezes. When he tried to move, pain flashed through him. Todoroki was standing over him looking… conflicted. Scared. His only working eye darted between Izuku and the finish line. After some hesitation Todoroki chose the race and kept running.

Izuku tried to fight his way back on his feet but his twisted ankle made standing, much less walking impossible. Soon the other participants started rushing past him. Izuku tried one more time to get back on his feet to no avail.

No! Not like this! He was so close! He tried crawling, but the finish line seemed to be moving away from him. Why now?! He was so close! Please! Someone! Anyone! Help!

More people kept running past him without giving him a second glance.

No! Mei was counting on him! She had given him this chance! This one chance! He couldn’t let her down! Not after everything she’d done for him! He’d never forgive himself if he failed her now! Why wouldn’t his body move?!

“Quite a fall you took there. That shit was crazy, kid.”

Izuku looked up and saw… a student who looked like Cesare with his wild hair and flat eyes surrounded by deep shadows. What really stuck Izuku was how he was being carried by other students like a mad emperor. Among the students carrying him were Ojiro, Hagakure and Aoyama. All of them had an empty look in their eyes.

“Come on guys. Give the fellow reject a hand.” The Cesare looking student said.

The entourage obeyed like robots and yanked Izuku on his feet and then threw him on their backs. Then they started running.

“Izuku Midoriya?” The Cesare looking student said.

“… yeah?”

“Hitoshi Shinsou. A huge fan of Project: Indestructible.”

“… uh. Thanks.”

“No need to thank me. Us fellow failures have to stick together.” Shinsou said.

Izuku looked at the students carrying them. What was wrong with Ojiro and the others?

“… what did you do to them?”

“I’m just one smooth operator, whiz kid. Now sit back and enjoy the ride.” Shinsou said.

When they’d been carried past the finish line, Shinsou jumped off his human carriage.

“Pleasure doing business with you gents. I’ll be back for you later. Keep it real, whiz kid. Keep it real!” Shinsou said before disappearing into the crowd.

Ojiro and the others blinked when reason returned to their eyes.

“What the hell just happened?” Ojiro said and looked around before noticing Izuku: “… Midoriya?”

“… hi.” Izuku said.

“Oh God. I feel so…” Hagakure said and then she saw Izuku: “Midoriya! You’re bleeding!”

“… yeah. Could you… help me to get to Recovery Girl?” Izuku said.

Aoyama was clutching his stomach.

“… used my Quirk. Have to…” Aoyama said and then started running towards the nearest toilet.

They stared after him.

“I… think he was like… shitting himself.” Hagakure said.

Ojiro and Hagakure helped Izuku walk and took him to the nurse’s office. The lines on Recovery Girl’s face grew deeper when she saw Izuku and told him to sit down. She pulled his shoe off and looked at his swollen ankle.

“You’ve sprained it pretty badly. And that’s just the worst of it. You should think about dropping from the race.” Recovery Girl said.

“No! I’m alright!” Izuku said and got up.

Pain shot through his leg and knocked him off his feet.

“Midoriya. You should listen to her.” Ojiro said.

“I think he should keep going.” Hagakure said.

“Don’t you see how hurt he is?” Ojiro said.

“It’s just… he came this far. Its not fair.” Hagakure said.

Izuku looked at Recovery Girl as pleadingly as he could. Puppy dog eyes had always been his last weapon when he needed something from mom. They were always most effective against older women.

“… Recovery Girl. Please. Fix me up so… I can survive the next event.”

Recovery Girl’s maternal side clashed with her Hippocratic oath. Finally, she sighed.

“I’ll do what I can but if no one wants to partner up with you, you’re out.” Recovery Girl said and then leaned in and gave Izuku a smooch.

I’m never getting used to that, Izuku thought.

His leg felt… better. It was far from healed but he could at least put weight on it again. He stood up and looked at Ojiro and Hagakure.

“… if you need a teammate, I’m…”

“You’re hurt and you’re not getting injured because of me. Or her.” Ojiro said and looked at Hagakure: “Got it?”

“Hey…” Hagakure started.

“Did you get it?” Ojiro said.

“Fine. Fine. I get it.” Hagakure said.

“Good.” Ojiro said and looked at Izuku apologetically: “I’m sorry.”

“… no. I understand.” Izuku said.

Ojiro and Hagakure left Izuku alone with Recovery Girl.

“You should hurry. The teams for the cavalry battle will be announced soon.” Recovery Girl said.

Izuku limped back into the stadium. He just needed to find three people who’d take him. Three people. How hard could it be?

Harder than he would have liked.

Everyone took just one look at him and his bad leg and told him to find another team. Groups were being formed and the students who hadn’t made the cut were eying his position hungrily. Bakugou had already formed his own team with Kirishima, Mina and Sero. Todoroki’s group consisted of Iida, Kaminari and Uraraka. When Bakugou noticed him, Bakugou flipped him off.

It didn’t take long for Midnight-sensei to find him.

“No team, huh?” Midnight-sensei said.

“… I’ll find one.” Izuku said.

“Let me help you.” Midnight-sensei said and cracked her whip.

All eyes turned to them.

“Is there room in anyone’s group for Midoriya?” Midnight-sensei said.

The crowd was silent. Midnight-sensei turned to look at him.

“I’m sorry, Midoriya, but…”

“Wait up! I said wait up, goddamn it!”

Mineta forced himself through the crowd. Momo and Tsu walked behind him.

“If no one else wants him, we’ll take him.” Mineta said.

Midnight-sensei nodded.

“I guess this is yours.” Midnight-sensei said and handed Izuku a headband: “Good luck. You’ll need it.”

Somewhere behind him, Bakugou was growling. Izuku’s legs shook when he walked up to Mineta, Momo and Tsu clutching his headband with both hands. He felt like crying.

“… thank you. Thank you, Mineta. Thank you.” Izuku said with tears in his eyes.

Mineta grinned.

“Thank me when we win. I have a plan.”

“… a plan?” Izuku said.

“Four teams will make it to the final event to fill the roster. With our collective points we’re in the clear.” Momo said.

Izuku glanced at his headband that marked him worth hundred and fifty points.

“The best part is that everyone will go after Bakugou. He came in first so he’s worth ten million points.” Mineta said.

“Those ten million points should have been yours. Bakugou shouldn’t have done that.” Tsu said and glared at Bakugou.

“Are you alright? It was a bad fall.” Momo said.

“… I’m fine.” Izuku said.

“Are you sure?” Momo said.

“He said he’s fine. He’s survived worse. He just has to carry me until times up.” Mineta said.

“… shouldn’t we aim to get the ten-million-point headband?” Izuku said.

“Save your strength or you’ll be too tired to fight in the final round.” Mineta said.

There was a half time before the next event which left them time to prepare. Mineta watched Momo’s and Tsu’s warm-up with a smirk on his face.

“The things I do to be a hero.” Mineta said.

“… I’ve been meaning to ask you. Why… do you want to be a hero?” Izuku said.

“Midoriya. Look at me.” Mineta said.

“… okay.”

“Really look at me.” Mineta said.

“… I’m looking.” Izuku said.

“See how hideous I am? If I want to get laid, I better be rich and famous. You think All-Might ever sleeps alone?”

“… that’s… uh… very…”

“Very honest? I know. And I’m not alone.” Mineta said and turned to look at Uraraka: “Hey! Uraraka! Weren’t you in this for the money?!”

“And the bitches!” Uraraka answered.

The half time left Izuku time to prepare too and he headed into the showers.

After stripping he sat under a stream of cold water until the pain in his leg and back numbed out. He’d been saved again. He owed so much of his success to others. And so many of his failures to Bakugou! He stared at his swollen ankle and grinded his teeth. The bastard could have killed him! Once he got the armor, he would…

The door to the showers opened and Mei stepped in. Izuku screamed like a little girl and tried to cover his privates. Even with the cold water his hands couldn’t quite hide all of it.

“Relax, Izuku. We’re pals. Pals show each other their junk all the time.” Mei said.

“What?! No, they don’t!”

“They don’t, huh? Guess we watch different pornos, then.” Mei said and handed Izuku his phone: “Your mom wanted to talk to you.”

Mei gave Izuku his phone and left him in the showers. After making sure she was gone, Izuku dialed mom’s number. When mom picked up, he could only hear wet sobbing.

“… mom?” Izuku said.

There was more crying but finally he could make out words.

“I thought you were going to die!” Mom said before breaking down again: “Bakugou… if he had… Please. Izuku. Stop this. Come home!”

Tears started running down Izuku’s cheeks.

“I’m alright, mom. I swear. It will be alright. The next part… it will be okay.” Izuku said while wiping his eyes.

“You promise?” Mom said.

“Yes. I promise. I love you.” Izuku said.

“I love you too. Please. Don’t get hurt.”

“I won’t, mom. I’ll see you at home.” Izuku said and hung up.

Izuku sat under the cold water until his tears were washed away. Mom. She had been crying. Bakugou had made mom cry. That hateful monster had made mom cry! Izuku was too angry to care about the pain in his leg or his modesty and stepped into the locker room where Mei was waiting for him.

“Nice.” Mei said.

“Mei. The audio from my fight with Bakugou… upload it.” Izuku said.

Mei smiled.

“You sure? No taking it back after that.”

“Bakugou made my mom cry!”

Mei’s smile grew into a mad grin.

“You got it, partner.”

Before leaving Mei handed Izuku an earpiece so she could give him updates on the armor. She needed just a little more time. Izuku planted it in his ear and started counting when Project: Indestructible’s next video would drop.

***

Mei left Izuku in the dressing room to get dressed and nurture his grudges. When she stepped out, she found Shouto waiting in the hallway.

“What… were you doing in the guys’ locker room?” Shouto said slowly.

“Sexual favors. The stress is running pretty high, so they needed some release.” Mei said and tried to leave.

Shouto was even easier to fluster than Izuku. The rest of his face turned as red as his burn scar and he looked away.

“Was he… was he okay?” Shouto said.

Mei stopped and turned to look at him.

“What do you care?”

“Maybe someone should.” Shouto said.

“Oh? Was that a jab at me?” Mei said.

“You claim to be his friend. If you don’t stop him, he’ll get himself killed.” Shouto said.

“He has science on his side. He’ll be fine.”

Mei tried to leave again but Shouto was hellbent on wasting her time.

“I know about Blacksmith.”

Mei stopped dead in her tracks.

“I’m sorry what my father did but this won’t fix anything.” Shouto said.

“And apologizing will?”

“If you want revenge, don’t drag others into it.” Shouto said.

“Maybe you should take your own advice.” Mei said.

“What?”

“I know something about you that Izuku doesn’t. I know about your other Quirk.” Mei said.

There was a crack in Shouto’s cold demeanor.

“You don’t use it. Why? To piss off old man Endeavor? I can respect that but… people might die because you’re half-assing it. Not very heroic.” Mei said.

“I don’t have…”

“Yeah, yeah. You don’t have two Quirks and I watch porn for the acting. Guess we're both full of it.” Mei said.

Shouto sighed.

“Why do you hate me so much? I’m not Endeavor.”

“Why? Because every time I look at you, I see your parents. Because you're part of them. Because hurting you, will hurt them. Because I want your family to know what it feels like to have everything taken from you.”

Mei stepped closer and Shouto actually backed off.

“You can only fuck others for so long until they fuck you back and guess what? Your nemesis is here, and the fucking is about to start. Bakugou ain’t the only one who has a date with a titanium dick.”

Shouto sighed.

“Fine. I’ll play. I’ll crush him in the next round.” Shouto said.

“Feel free to try. Mei Hatsume out!”

Chapter Text

Izuku rinsed his leg one more time with ice cold water before taping up his ankle for support and drowning painkillers with an energy drink. It was time to avenge his jet pack. He did warm ups on the way to the stadium to open some of the knots in his back. When he finally got to his team, none of them said anything and just nodded solemnly. Momo used her Quirk to craft two staffs and handed one of them to Izuku. Then they gave Mineta their headbands and lifted him on their shoulders. Even with the extra weight, Izuku’s ankle held.

***

Shouto Todoroki balanced himself on top of his teammates. Iida, Kaminari and Uraraka were all solid picks but if he was being honest, he would have preferred Yaoyorozu instead of Uraraka.

“What’s the plan, Todoroki?” Iida said.

“Gang up on Bakugou?” Kaminari said.

“Everyone’s doing that.” Uraraka said.

Shouto turned his gaze to Midoriya. It was stupid but… Shouto felt bad for him. Even after everything that had been said. He knew what it was like struggling against your fate and… how bitter accepting it was.

You don’t use it. Why? To piss off old man Endeavor? I can respect that but… people might die because you’re half-assing it. Not very heroic.

Shouto slapped himself. He had to stay focused. There was no time to be distracted by Hatsume’s venom or Midoriya’s pitiful situation. He had enough problems of his own without worrying about others.

“We’re going after Midoriya. I made a promise.” Shouto said.

“Won’t look very good if the biggest badasses in 1-A go all out on a Quirkless kid.” Kaminari said.

“Don’t underestimate him. He made it this far.” Iida said.

“Iida. Kaminari. Trust me.” Shouto said.

“I trust you and I wouldn’t mind taking a swing at Momo.” Uraraka said.

“You’re okay fighting your friend?” Iida said.

Uraraka looked at Mineta and grinned.

“He understands.”

The loudspeakers came to life.

“Ladies and gentlemen! Let’s get ready to rumble!” Present Mic roared.

The match began and like Uraraka had predicted, everyone went after Bakugou and his ten-million-point headband. The grinning lunatic seemed to welcome all the challengers and blasted them away with abandon. Bakugou brought out a certain ferocity in his teammates and they fought as fearlessly as their leader.

A few people got cold feet after seeing Bakugou in action and tried to come after them. Uraraka just slapped a few of the enemy teammates and levitated them in the air with her Quirk. After flying a few feet, Uraraka let them drop on their teammates and brought the whole competing team down.

“Go!” Shouto said.

While everyone else concentrated on Bakugou, Shouto led his team against Midoriya. Midoriya’s team was more interested in protecting their points than getting more of them and had gone on the defensive. Mineta bombed anyone who got too close with his glue balls and if anyone made it past them, they’d have Yaoyorozu’s and Midoriya’s staffs to content with. Not to mention Asui’s tongue. That thing lashed out like a whip or a serpent.

It was a good strategy. If they’d been facing anyone else, it would have been enough.

“Now, Kaminari.” Shouto said.

Kaminari blasted Midoriya’s team with electricity and when they were incapacitated, Shouto froze them in place. The path to Midoriya’s team’s headbands was open. All they had to do was…

“Son of a fucking bitch!” Bakugou screamed.

The explosions that followed Bakugou’s scream were enough to deafen all the contestants. For a moment Shouto forgot about Midoriya and turned to see what all the ruckus was about. The impossible had happened. Bakugou had lost his headbands and a team consisting of 1-B students were retreating with them. He recognized the team’s leader. Neito Monoma. A power copier.

“After them! That fucker is dead!” Bakugou roared.

In all the confusion Midoriya’s team had managed to break free from the ice. Midoriya and Mineta had a short but heated argument that ended with them going after the ten-million-point headband with the rest of the competitors.

“After them!” Shouto said.

Going after Midoriya led them getting in Bakugou’s way. When Bakugou noticed Shouto, an ugly glint appeared in his eyes.

“You!” Bakugou yelled.

The crazy bastard actually jumped off his own team and landed on Shouto’s team’s backs. The sudden extra weight almost brought them to their knees. When Uraraka tried to grab Bakugou, he blasted her with explosions and knocked her off from her feet. While she tried to get back up, Kaminari and Iida had their hands full trying to stop Shouto from falling.

“Are you crazy?!” Shouto yelled and tried to push Bakugou off.

Bakugou was unyielding and yanked off Shouto’s headbands.

“This is for calling Kirishima a dumbass!” Bakugou answered before vaulting back to his own team.

Cold sweat started running down Shouto’s back. He’d gotten careless and now… he could feel Endeavor’s glare at the back his neck. He had to get the headbands back! If he didn’t, father would…

Uraraka got finally back to the team but she looked still pretty out of it after taking a blow from Bakugou.

“Go! Go! Go!” Shouto said.

Midoriya’s team had made it to Monoma who was doing his best to defend his points. He made good use of his copied Quirks, but his biggest advantage was the fact how everyone else got in each other’s way when they came after him. Mineta had noticed this too and was trapping the other team with his glue balls, clearing a path for his team. Even Bakugou had been trapped and was screaming at his teammates to free themselves so he could murder Deku.

Finally, Midoriya’s team was free to move against Monoma.

“Hurry! Before…” Shouto said.

“Wait. I have a plan.” Iida said.

“We don’t have time for…” Shouto said.

“Todoroki. Trust me.” Iida said.

“You should. He’s super smart.” Uraraka said.

Kaminari just drooled thanks to over using his Quirk.

Shouto glanced at the stands were his father was watching. Then he saw Iida’s reassuring smile.

“… okay.” Shouto said.

Monoma was having trouble with Midoriya’s team’s Quirks. They were powerful but required skill and experience to make the most out of them. Yaoyorozu and Midoriya were keeping Monoma’s team busy with their staffs while Mineta bombed Monoma with his glue balls. Asui was… waiting.

Then, when Monoma was distracted by Mineta, Asui’s tongue lashed out and grabbed the head bands from Monoma. Monoma could just look with impotent fury as his victory ran off and his glued in place team was powerless to follow. The time was almost up with only seconds remaining.

“Hold on everyone!” Iida said.

The engines in Iida’s legs that gave him his super speed roared and suddenly Iida was moving faster than anything Shouto had ever seen. Even when he was dragging his own team behind him. They flashed past Midoriya’s team and Shouto barely had time to see the shock on Midoriya’s face.

Sorry, Shouto thought.

Iida held up the ten-million-point headband and a dozen others victoriously.

“Time’s up!” Present Mic said.

“What the hell was that?!” Shouto said.

Iida smiled.

“Something my brother helped me come up with. I can get a speed boost by over-exerting my engines, but it leaves me unable to move for a while. I was saving it as a trump card.”

***

Panic was building up at the pit of Izuku’s stomach.

“They got the headbands! They have them! We have to…!”

“Time’s up!” Present Mic said.

“… no.” Izuku said.

“Goddamn Iida. He almost tore my head off. Could you hold these for a moment, Midoriya?” Mineta said.

Mineta handed him their headbands. Izuku, Momo and Tsu stared at them shocked.

“… I… what… how?” Izuku said.

Then he noticed the small glue balls in the headbands.

“… you… that’s cheating.” Izuku said.

“No. That’s me playing it smart.” Mineta said.

Mineta jumped down and took back the headbands. He quickly scrubbed off the glue balls and swallowed the evidence.

“… I… we… why didn’t you tell us?” Izuku said.

“I didn’t want to have this conversation before the match.” Mineta said.

“That was unfair.” Tsu said.

“We need to tell Midnight-sensei.” Momo said.

“Hey, if you can’t take the heat, feel free.” Mineta said.

Izuku, Tsu and Momo looked at each other. All of them waited for the other two to raise their hands and call out to Midnight-sensei. None of them did and they bowed down their heads in shame.

“Cheer up. The only reason people hate cheating is because a good cheater wins every time. A real fight is a terrible place for fair play. You should get used to it.” Mineta said.

The loudspeakers sparked up and Present Mic’s voice filled the stadium.

“The teams that will be advancing to the final round are team Todoroki, team Bakugou, team Mineta and team Tetsu…? Wait. I mean… team Shinsou!”

Shinsou was climbing down from Ojiro’s, Hagakure’s and Aoyama’s backs while Tetsutetsu was looking mighty confused. When Shinsou spotted Midoriya, he grinned.

“Great show, whiz kid! Great show! I knew you had it in you!” Shinsou said.

“… thanks.” Izuku said.

“The rest of you were great too. Ladies.” Shinsou said and looked at Mineta: “And small… creature.”

“My name is Mineta.”

Shinsou gave a dark smile.

“Indeed, it is.” Shinsou said and took a small bow: “Hitoshi Shinsou.”

“Tsuyu Asui.” Tsu said.

“Momo Yaoyorozu. I don’t think we’ve met.”

“I’m just a humble student from General Education. But who knows. We might be classmates soon.”

Shinsou went off to congratulate the other teams and introduce himself. Izuku couldn’t quite put his finger in it but he felt like he’d stepped into a trap.

Midnight-sensei called all the advancing teams to herself. She stood on a stand with a wide screen behind her.

“Congratulations to everyone! It feels good to see such hot-blooded youngsters. Hopefully, you still have some fuel left in your engines.” Midnight-sensei said.

The fight order appeared on the screen behind her.

Izuku Midoriya VS Momo Yaoyorozu
Minoru Mineta VS Hitoshi Shinsou

Yuga Aoyama VS Tenya Iida
Denki Kaminari VS Ochaco Uraraka

Mina Ashido VS Toru Hagakure
Eijirou Kirishima VS Mashirao Ojiro

Hanta Sero VS Shouto Todoroki
Katsuki Bakugou VS Tsuyu Asui

Izuku felt a twinge of pride. He’d predicted the final roster right save for Tokoyami. Which meant he’d have to face the most powerful and dangerous students in U.A. And if he pulled off a miracle, he’d be facing Bakugou in the final match up. That was… convenient. A little too convenient. He looked at Midnight-sensei suspiciously.

”Use the half-time to prepare yourselves and…” Midnight-sensei said.

Ojiro raised his hand.

“Excuse me, Midnight-sensei. I… I’d like to withdraw.” Ojiro said.

Everyone turned to stare at Ojiro.

“I… I don’t remember how I got here.” Ojiro said and glared at Shinsou who just smiled: “It wouldn’t be fair to the others who earned their spot.”

A knife made of guilt twisted in Izuku’s stomach. For a moment it looked like Momo was going to spill the beans and a part of Izuku hoped she would, but the moment passed. Momo stared at her feet, looking disgusted with herself.

“I see.” Midnight-sensei said and gave Ojiro a big thumbs-up: “You have the honor of a hero! Apply for my agency when you graduate!”

Ojiro’s name was replaced with Tetsutetsu’s in the roster.

“With that I wish you all good luck. Use the half-time to get ready.” Midnight-sensei said.

When they dispersed, Izuku and Mineta followed Ojiro.

“What the hell, Ojiro?!” Mineta said.

“It… just didn’t feel right.” Ojiro said.

Izuku wondered if his guilt was visible on his face.

“Fine. Be a goody two-shoes. See where that gets you. I’ll kick Shinsou’s ass for you. What can you tell me about his Quirk?” Mineta said.

“The last thing I remember was that he spoke to me and when I answered… nothing.” Ojiro said.

Izuku and Mineta looked at each other.

“Mind control.” They said together.

“… responding to him has to be the trigger.” Izuku said.

“So. I’ll just have to keep my mouth shut. Won’t be easy but I’ll try.” Mineta said and grinned at Izuku: “Then I’m coming for you.”

Izuku smiled.

“Give me your best shot.” Izuku said.

“Midoriya.” Ojiro said.

“… yeah?”

“What I said at the nurse’s office…” Ojiro said.

Izuku shook his head.

“… don’t worry. I get it.”

Ojiro smiled and offered his hand. They shook hands.

“Good luck. Both of you. Kick Shinsou in the teeth for me.” Ojiro said.

After that Izuku left for the workshop. His ankle had started acting up again. When he got there, Mei was hard at work.

“I need more time.” Mei said without looking up.

“… did you bribe Midnight-sensei, so I’d face Bakugou in the finals?” Izuku said.

Mei glanced at him.

“Come on, Izuku. Come on. Me? Come on. Would I do that? Never. Come on. You know me. Come on. By the way, on a completely unrelated note, I need you to pose for some pictures dressed as a maid. Midnight promised they’d be very tasteful.” Mei said.

Izuku sighed.

“… anything I can use here?”

“The old shock glove and the baton.” Mei said.

Izuku picked up the shock glove and the baton. The glove didn’t come with super punches, but it did have electricity running through it. He could also use it as a shield. Not that it would be enough against Momo. He hadn’t beaten her even once during their sparring matches. The best he’d managed was getting a few hits in and even then Momo had practically given them to him.

“Think you got what it takes to beat Momo?” Mei said.

“… I’ll think of something. Look… if I make it that far… I’ll almost certainly face Iida and… I can’t beat him without the armor.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” Mei said.

Izuku wished he could believe her. He helped Mei with the armor before it came time to return to the stadium. He rubbed some cold gel in his ankle and took more painkillers before he got going.

On the way back, he could hear… moaning. Was someone hurt? Izuku followed the voices to a distant hallway and saw… Kaminari and Jiro. His face flushed red.

“You! You better win! Fucking win!” Jiro panted.

“I will! I will! I love you!” Kaminari said.

Izuku backed away as quietly as he could. His heart was beating way too fast and his cheeks were burning. He’d managed to calm down a bit when he got back to the stadium. Almost all the participants had their eyes glued to their phones. Bakugou and Kirishima were arguing away from the others.

“… something wrong?” Izuku asked Tsu.

Tsu looked up from her phone.

“Hagakure… she showed us this.” Tsu said.

On the screen was playing the end of his unedited fight with Bakugou.

“You… you think this will change anything? You’ll never have a Quirk. Your dad is never coming back.”

Tsu looked at him nervously.

“Izuku… are you alright?”

Kirishima was waving his phone in front of Bakugou’s face and looking more pissed off then Izuku thought possible. Finally, he stomped off. Bakugou stared after Kirishima and he looked… so small. Bakugou didn’t rage or scream. He just… sat down and looked lonely. It was not as satisfying as Izuku had hoped.

“… I’ll manage.” Izuku said.

Tsu nodded.

“Izuku?”

“… yeah?”

“If we have to fight… there’s not going to be a problem? Afterwards, I mean?” Tsu said.

Izuku smiled.

“… of course not.”

“Okay. Good. Uh… Good luck.”

“… you too.”

Midnight-sensei walked up to them.

“Have you seen Kaminari? We’re about to start.” Midnight-sensei said.

Izuku’s face warmed up again.

“… I’m sure he’ll come soon.”

Present Mic’s voice roared out of the loudspeakers.

“First up! Izuku Midoriya facing Momo Yaoyoroza!”

Izuku gripped the baton harder and slipped the shock glove on. He stepped inside the ring and the applause from the audience rocked every inch of his body. When Momo joined him, she looked… smaller. Slumped. Nervous. Her usual composure was gone, and her eyes darted wildly from Izuku to the audience. Her breathing was heavy and labored. Sweat was running down her face.

“Begin!” Present Mic said.

Whenever they had sparred Momo had come at him like panther. Now, she looked like a deer caught in headlights. What was going on? Then he realized. Momo was not used to this. Having the whole world bear down on her. Judging her every action and mistake. She tried so hard to be everything others expected her to be and now… when the eyes of the world were on her, it was too much. Izuku on the other hand… his whole life he’d been on trial for being Quirkless. This was nothing new to him. Just… more of the same.

This is wrong, Izuku thought.

Despite knowing it might come back to bite her, Momo had helped him. Treated him like a friend and now… he’d have to fight her when she looked ready to break down. Izuku approached her slowly and hoped it was enough for Momo to pull herself together but all it did was push Momo closer to the edge.

Not knowing what else to do, Izuku attacked.

Going for the offensive pulled Momo out of her funk for long enough that she was able to create herself a weapon. A baton and a buckler shield. Even her imagination had abandoned her.

They fought.

The Momo he knew from sparring had been nimble and fluid like water before turning into a tidal wave. All her attacks had had her whole body behind them but the Momo he was facing now… her shoes might have as well been made of concrete and you could’ve sworn she’d never held a weapon. All she was able to do was block his strikes and try to create distance. The few times she did swing her baton, Izuku blocked her with the shock glove. She never stopped glancing at the audience like it was her true enemy.

Momo. Please. Fight, Izuku pleaded.

He didn’t want to win like this. He could have disarmed her, but this was their moment. Their big moment to show the world what they were made of. Momo had given him a chance. What would he be if he didn’t return the favor? He drew out the fight and tried to rouse the old Momo out of her shell.

Momo never managed to regain her nerves and was so blinded by sweat and panic she didn’t notice the edge of the ring.

“The winner is! Izuku Midoriya!” Present Mic said.

Izuku jumped down and helped Momo on her feet.

“… you alright?” Izuku said.

“… I…” Momo said and wiped her eyes: “Yes… I just… I have to go…”

Momo ran off. When Izuku thought if he should follow, Mei’s voice came out of the earpiece.

“Give her space, Izuku.” Mei said.

“… but…”

“Nothing humbles you like an ass kicking. She needs to be alone.” Mei said.

Izuku dragged his feet when he walked back to the seats and felt like crap. Not even the announcement of Mineta’s match could cheer him up.

Mineta walked into the ring full of bluster and confidence but Izuku knew him well enough to see how nervous he was underneath all the bravado. And Shinsou… something was wrong. Shinsou was too relaxed. Too assured. There should have been a little tension to him, but he looked like he had already won. Was he really that arrogant or was there something they didn’t know?

“Begin!” Present Mic said.

The words had barely stopped echoing when Mineta turned around and walked off the ring. Everyone in the audience turned to look at each other. Was that it? Even Present Mic sounded confused.

“The winner is! Hitoshi Shinsou!”

Izuku turned on his earpiece.

“Mei! Can you find Hitoshi Shinsou’s…”?

“Way ahead of you.” Mei said and muttered to herself for a moment: “According to the Quirk database his mind control is activated by responding to something he says and there should be only a few second window for it to be effective.”

“… okay.”

So, Mineta couldn’t resist quipping. Or was there something he didn’t know?

“… how’s the armor?”

“I need time, Izuku.” Mei said.

”Next up! Yuga Aoyama facing Tenya Iida!” Present Mic said.

Aoyama’s and Iida’s match went as Izuku had predicted. Iida moved far too fast for Aoyama and threw him out of the ring almost immediately. Aoyama had barely enough time to blast out one navel laser.

“The winner is! Tenya Iida! Next up! Denki Kaminari facing Ochaco Uraraka!”

Izuku had labeled Kaminari the biggest threat in 1-A after Bakugou and Todoroki. When Uraraka levitated all the rocks in the stadium and then brought them down on Kaminari like a meteor shower, Izuku realized he’d been hasty with his judgement. Hopefully, Jiro wouldn’t chew him out too badly.

“The winner is! Ochaco Uraraka!”

Ashido’s and Hagakure’s match was a mystery to him. When he’d been making strategies he’d never expected either of them to make it this far. It was laughable. What right did he have to underestimate anyone? Ashido was in outstanding shape and her ability to shoot acid was dangerous. If only she could see her opponent. The speed and thoroughness Hagakure had in beating Ashido was shocking. Then again, she had to be good to make it through the entrance exam without an offensive Quirk.

“The winner is! Toru Hagakure! Next up! Eijirou Kirishima facing Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu!”

Tetsutetsu had cruel parents for naming their son like that.

“Got room for me?”

Mineta was standing next to him and looking miserable.

“… always.” Izuku said.

Mineta sat down next to him.

“… what happened?” Izuku said while Kirishima walked into the ring.

“No idea. The bastard started talking and the next thing I know I was lying flat on my ass outside the ring.” Mineta said.

Mineta grimaced when he saw Kirishima’s face on the big screen.

“Kirishima is gonna get his ass kicked.” Mineta said.

Izuku had to agree. The argument with Bakugou still haunted him and his movement were… sluggish. Like he was half dead. Izuku stood up.

“Kirishima! Fight! You can do it!” Izuku yelled.

Suddenly Mineta was roaring next to him.

“Kick his ass! His cheap knock off ass! You’re Eijirou Kirishima! Not some basic bitch!”

“Kick his ass! Plus Ultra! Izuku yelled.

“Plus Ultra!” Mineta agreed.

“Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra!” They chanted together while praying it would lift Kirishima’s spirit.

“Begin!” Present Mic said.

Their chant didn’t help. Kirishima was a shadow of his former self and took hits he could have normally dodged. Worse was that he just took it all without dishing anything back. All his punches were slow and amateurish. The fight was a war of attrition between two hardening Quirks and it eventually turned in Tetsutetsu’s favor.

“The winner is! Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu!”

“… damnit.” Izuku said and fell back down on his seat.

Was this his fault? If he hadn’t told Mei to upload the video, maybe Kirishima wouldn’t have… Damn it! He hadn’t meant to hurt Kirishima too!

“1-A is getting its ass kicked.” Mineta said.

Todoroki’s and Sero’s fight could be barely called that. It looked like Todoroki let Sero get in a few pity hits before icing him.

“The winner is! Shouto Todoroki! Next up! Katsuki Bakugou facing Tsuyu Asui!”

***

Katsuki did warm ups in the locker room reserved for combatants. He threw shadow punches and imagined Deku’s face. Why hadn’t that bastard given up?! He’d been recording him just to spite him too and now… and now Eijirou…

“You’re a cunt, Katsuki!” Eijirou had yelled before running off.

Katsuki hit a wall. Then he hit it again until the skin on his knuckles split. Good. He wanted it to hurt. What was he supposed to do?! Deku had almost won by cheating and… he’d been angry. It’s not like he would have said it if he knew it was being recorded. Fucking Deku! Always ruining everything! Why couldn’t that bastard just leave him alone?!

And fucking Eijirou!

How could Eijirou lose to some cheap copy of himself? He’d fix this. He’d fix everything. Once he won the tournament he’d clean this mess up. If you made it to the top, nothing else mattered.

When he stepped outside, he was greeted by a wave of boos. That fucking video had spread through the audience like a disease. Deku always found new ways to piss him off. In response to his welcome, Katsuki flipped everyone in the audience off. His middle finger filled the big screen.

Frog girl was already waiting for him and eying him like she’d caught him fingering her dog. She started croaking when he stepped into the arena. Like a frog. Katsuki didn’t care for that shit at all.

“Stop that.” Katsuki said.

In response frog girl croaked even louder and her glare grew sharper.

“Begin!” Present Mic said.

Frog girl spat in his face.

It burned! His face was on fire! Katsuki screamed and only managed to get the spit in his mouth. He was blind! He couldn’t breathe! No! Not like this! He wouldn’t lose! Not like this! Not when everyone was watching!

Just because he couldn’t see, didn’t mean he was done or helpless. He started blasting explosions everywhere. One of them had to get the frog bitch! Then he’d…

A kick in the stomach almost cut him in half.

All the explosions his body produced had made him inhumanly tough as a side effect. And he still felt his ribs crack. His breakfast flew all over the arena. He kept throwing explosions where he calculated the frog bitch was. She wouldn’t…

Another kick dropped him on his knees. Then something warm and wet wrapped around him and he was sent flying. Katsuki tried to slow his fall with explosions. If he could fly back into the ring, he could continue fighting! But he didn’t know which way was up or down! He couldn’t see! No! He wasn’t done yet! He’d win! He’d beat the frog bitch! He’d beat everyone! Then he’d fix everything! He…

Katsuki hit the ground.

“The winner is! Tsuyu Asui!”

What?! No! This was a mistake! This was his moment! He was supposed to win! Him! He had to win! He had to win so he could fix everything!

Someone landed next to him. Katsuki could open his eyes enough to see the frog bitch looking down on him.

“Talk all the shit you want now, Bakugou.” The frog bitch said before walking away.

“It is official!” Present Mic roared: “Tsuyu Asui has broken Rei Kurosawa’s knock out record from twenty-six years ago!”

The crowd went wild. They were laughing and jeering. At him.

***

The earpiece almost blew Izuku’s eardrum.

“Fuck! Goddamn it, Tsu! She ruined everything! She wasn’t supposed to do that! Bakugou was the fucking bad guy! Now we look like idiots!” Mei screamed.

Izuku took off the earpiece and checked his ear for bleeding. Everything was ringing.

“You okay?” Mineta said.

“… no.” Izuku said.

Bakugou had… lost? No! That… there had to be a mistake. Bakugou couldn’t just… lose. He was Bakugou! He… if Tsu could beat Bakugou… then why had no one stopped him sooner?! Why had no one stopped Bakugou from tormenting him?! Why?! All of it… everything he’d gone through… Anyone could’ve ended it… and… And no one had bothered!

Reality had hit Bakugou too and he was pushing medics away before dragging himself away from the stadium.

“… I have to go.” Izuku said.

Izuku ran after Bakugou without caring about the pain in his ankle and caught up to him in an empty hallway.

“Bakugou!”

Bakugou turned to look at him. He wasn’t handsome anymore. His face was swollen and covered in rashes. His eyes were bloodshot… and he was crying. He looked so… pitiful. Even the rage couldn’t hide it.

“What do you want, Deku?!”

Bakugou tried to growl but his voice broke at the worst possible moment and it came out as a squeal. Izuku tried to think of something to say but realized… there was nothing left to say.

“Are you happy now, huh?! Are you, Deku?!” Bakugou said.

Bakugou was beaten. Humiliated. Alone. Everything Izuku thought he’d always wanted. So why…?

“… no. I’m not.” Izuku said.

He tried to leave but Bakugou grabbed his hand.

“Don’t you turn your back on me!”

Izuku shook him off and kept walking.

“Don’t… don’t walk away from me! Deku!”

Izuku kept walking. Even when Bakugou broke down crying, he didn’t look back. There was nothing left to see.

“Next up! Izuku Midoriya facing Hitoshi Shinsou!”

Izuku picked up his baton and shock glove. He was grateful that he didn’t run into Tsu. He didn’t know how to face her or what to say. All he could think about was Bakugou. Why? Why did he feel bad for Bakugou? After everything?! Why?!

Mei had calmed down and Izuku plucked the earpiece back in place.

“… how’s the armor?” Izuku said when he stepped into the arena.

“I need more time.” Mei said.

Shinsou walked inside the ring and his confidence was more terrifying than Todoroki’s ice powers. What did Shinsou know that he didn’t?!

“Whiz kid! You made it. Crazy isn’t it that two failures would claw their way here?” Shinsou said.

Izuku swung the baton to full length. He just had to stay quiet and finish this quickly. Maybe any kind of response was the trigger. A snort or even a grunt.

“What’s wrong? Nothing to say to your pal Shinsou? That’s cold, whiz kid. How about this?” Shinsou said and opened his jacket.

Under Shinsou’s jacket was a t-shirt with the picture of… Indestructible throwing down with a T-Rex. Why… why was the armor pink? Wait! Since when had Project: Indestructible been selling t-shirts?! Where the hell was his share of the profits?!

“Told you I was a fan. Can you sign this?” Shinsou said.

Izuku started approaching Shinsou. The shock glove buzzed to life. Shinsou just smiled.

“Did tail boy tell you about my Quirk? Must be nice to be so blessed you can just throw away a chance like this. But we? We have to fight for everything. Don’t we?” Shinsou said.

Izuku kept his silence.

“Or did you figure it out yourself? You seem like a smart guy. Or maybe you checked it out on the Quirk database. That there’s a few second window for me to take over your mind after you speak to me?”

Izuku reached at Shinsou with the shock glove.

“Stop.” Shinsou said.

An overwhelming desire to obey filled him and Izuku stopped.

Shinsou leaned closer to whisper in his ear.

“That diagnosis was done when I was five. I’m far more powerful now. That window is now a few hours. And we had a chat less than an hour ago, didn’t we, whiz kid? Me and every other finalist.”

Izuku muscles twitched when he tried to force himself to move. Move! Move goddamn it! Not like this! He wouldn’t lose like this! He couldn’t!

“Sorry, whiz kid. I want that seat in Heroics but don’t worry. I’ll name drop Project: Indestructible in my victory speech. You can walk off now and then forget this conversation ever happened.” Shinsou said.

Chapter Text

Shuichi sat alone in the Shi Hassaikai manor’s yard and watched the U.A tournament from his iPad. Mustard had stomped back to their room to sulk after the Quirkless… no. After Indestructible had made past the first round. Shuichi couldn’t help but cheer for him. There was something lovable about the green-haired wonder boy.

The manor was unusually quiet. Everyone in the Shi Hassaikai were watching the tournament in the auditorium while getting drunk. Shuichi could appreciate the serenity. It almost felt like the manor was his alone.

Well, almost.

He caught a glimpse of the manor’s ghost hiding behind a tree. Looking at him. A little girl with white hair, pale skin and… a horn. Shuichi waved at her. The girl flinched and almost ran off. Shuichi was used to children being scared of him but this… was something different. The girl seemed to be terrified of everything. That was probably to be expected when your dad was Overhaul.

He turned the iPad, so she could see the tournament running on it.

“Wanna watch? We’re getting to the best part.” Shuichi said.

Sight of the tournament hypnotized the girl and she started approaching him slowly like an abused animal. Shuichi put down the iPad and gave her room. The girl sat down and picked up the iPad but was always ready to bolt if he made any sudden movements.

“Got anyone you’re cheering for?” Shuichi said.

For the briefest of moments, the girl’s face lit up like a normal child’s.

“… Indestructible.”

“Yeah. He’s pretty cool. Don’t tell Mustard I said that.” Shuichi said and leaned back: “We actually met him once.”

The girl looked at him like he’d shook hands with a god.

“… really? What’s he like?”

“We got off on the wrong foot.”

“… oh. I… I like Project: Indestructible. Mr. Chisaki likes it too.” The girl said.

“Tried watching it once. The editing was sh… I mean, it was pretty bad.” Shuichi said.

“… it gets better when he races All-Might. And it’s even better when he fights Lord Explosion Psycho Murder.”

Shuichi laughed.

“I should give it another chance then.” Shuichi said and smiled: “I’m Shuichi.”

“… Eri.”

They watched the rest of the tournament together.

***

“Sorry, whiz kid. I want that seat in Heroics but don’t worry. I’ll name drop Project: Indestructible in my victory speech. You can walk off now and then forget this conversation ever happened.” Shinsou said.

Izuku turned and started walking towards the edge of the arena. His thoughts were growing cloudy and he was so tired. He tried to fight the sleep, but his struggling grew more and more hopeless. He was no longer his own master.

“Izuku?! Damn it, Izuku! Wake up! You can do it! Plus Ultra!” Mei yelled in his ear.

Mei’s voice cleared his mind, but it didn’t make him any less Shinsou’s puppet. He doubled his efforts, but the edge grew ever closer. He wished he could have told Mei that he was sorry. Sorry that he had failed her.

“Well, fuck me, Izuku. Where’s that megaphone?” Mei said.

Oh no, Izuku thought.

Mei’s breathing grew louder when she put a megaphone on her lips.

“Wake the fuck up, Izuku!”

The scream blew Izuku’s skull wide open and kicked him off his feet. He held his ear and cursed Mei into the deepest depths of hell. There was a thumping pain in his ear that echoed to the rest of him. If he just went deaf, he was… Then Izuku realized he could move again freely. He got up and turned to look at Shinsou. Shinsou’s confident grin was gone and he looked like a man who knew he was screwed.

“Oh… oh shit. Ah… I’m screwed, aren’t I?” Shinsou said.

In response Izuku zapped him with the shock glove.

“The winner is! Izuku Midoriya!”

The victory gained him only lukewarm applause. Izuku couldn’t blame the audience. As fights went, this one hadn’t been very exciting. To them at least. He turned to look at Shinsou.

“… you okay?”

“I think I shit myself.” Shinsou said.

“… oh. Sorry.”

“As you should be. Help me up.”

Izuku helped Shinsou back on his feet.

“How did you do it?” Shinsou said.

“… not telling.”

Shinsou smirked.

“I’ll figure it out. You better win. It’s about time one of us failures show those smug bastards at 1-A who’s boss.”

“… they’re not smug but… I’ll do my best.” Izuku said.

“You do that. I’m going to go find myself a clean pair of pants. And I’m still expecting you to sign my shirt.”

Izuku got off the arena and rubbed his ear. It hurt so bad.

“Woo! Team Indestructible for the win! Plus Ultra!” Mei said.

“… please stop yelling. You almost blew my eardrum.” Izuku said.

“No pain no gain and you can’t argue with results. I’ll build you a new eardrum.”

“… can you finish the armor first?” Izuku said.

“Just a bit more time.” Mei said.

“… also… since when have we been selling t-shirts? Where’s my cut?” Izuku said.

“Uh… can’t hear you! You’re breaking up.” Mei said while rattling a piece of paper next to her earpiece and hung up.

That evil, scheming witch, Izuku thought.

Izuku returned to his seat where Mineta and Tsu were waiting for him. When Izuku got there, Tsu hugged him. Izuku just stood there paralyzed with fear and looked to Mineta for guidance. Mineta just blew a razzberry at him. Finally, Izuku patted Tsu in the back.

“Congratulations!” Tsu said.

“I softened Shinsou up for him.” Mineta said and scratched his ear: “I could almost swear you got help but… that would be cheating. Outside interference and all.”

Izuku smiled nervously.

“… thanks, Mineta, and congratulations, Tsu. You… I… I knew you could do it.” Izuku said.

Tsu looked away while smiling.

“I’m just glad that I got to take a swing at Bakugou first but… don’t congratulate me yet. Next up is Todoroki.”

“Maybe you’ll get lucky and he’ll fall down a flight of stairs.” Mineta said.

“I can always hope.” Tsu said.

Izuku tried not to let his nervousness show. He couldn’t see an outcome where Tsu came out on top against Todoroki but… he’d thought the same about Bakugou. Maybe Tsu would surprise him again. Or maybe this was just too bad of a matchup. Would Bakugou have fared better against Todoroki? If… if Izuku had been the one to beat Bakugou, would he be feeling like this now?

Izuku rubbed his face. This was no time to think about Bakugou or what could have happened.

“… has either of you heard about Momo?” Izuku said.

“I tried calling her, but she didn’t pick up.” Tsu said.

Mineta rubbed his chin.

“So, she’s feeling down and depressed? I might finally have a shot.”

“Class act, Mineta.” Tsu said.

“Class is one of those things I can’t afford. She’ll be fine. I got my ass kicked too.” Mineta said.

“… what about Kirishima?” Izuku said.

Both Tsu and Mineta frowned.

“He needs time.” Tsu said.

“… maybe… posting that video was a bad idea.” Izuku said.

“The faster Kirishima found out the better.” Tsu said.

“You should’ve probably told him sooner.” Mineta said.

“… yeah.” Izuku said.

He should have, and he hadn’t. Because he had been a coward.

New names appeared on the wide screen.

“Next up! Tenya Iida facing Ochaco Uraraka!”

Mineta jumped up and thrusted his fist in the air.

“Kick the four-eyes ass, Uraraka!” Mineta yelled.

“… how did you two become friends?” Izuku said.

“Game knows game.” Mineta said.

Both Iida and Uraraka came into the fight with their previous strategies. The difference was that Iida’s strategy worked better. Uraraka was out before she had time to levitate any of the rocks in the arena.

“The winner is! Tenya Iida!”

Mineta slumped down with a heavy sigh.

“Glad I ain’t you, Midoriya.” Mineta said.

Izuku started biting his nails. Iida had to have a weakness. Maybe… when he was running that fast he’d have to keep his strategies simple… unless his mind raced as fast as his legs.

If I managed to punch holes in the ground…, Izuku thought when someone invisible glomped him from behind.

Tits! Those were tits squeezing against his back! And Hagakure wasn’t wearing anything besides her sneakers, so…! Nipples! He could feel her nipples! All the color had been sucked from Tsu’s face and she’d started croaking.

“Midoriya! Can you do me an itty-bitty favor and borrow that baton and the glove? Tetsutetsu is tough and someone has to avenge Kirishima.” Hagakure said.

Izuku would have sold her one of his organs if she’d asked. He handed her the baton and the glove without a word. He could still feel her breasts pressing against his back when she walked away.

“You look happy.” Tsu said coolly.

“And I’m happy for him. You sure you don’t have some kind of pussy magnet Quirk?” Mineta said.

“Who has a pussy magnet? I want a pussy magnet.”

Uraraka was walking up to them while holding an icepack to her swollen cheek.

“Wow. Didn’t think you’d show your face after a loss like that.” Mineta said.

“Screw you, Mineta.” Uraraka said.

“I can’t. Even my standards aren’t that low.” Mineta said.

“At least I made it to the second round.” Uraraka said and squeezed herself between Izuku and Tsu: “So, what are you doing after this?”

“… uh… I have to make food for my younger siblings.” Tsu said.

“Cool. I love kids. You need help with that?” Uraraka said.

“… I’m good.” Tsu said.

“Next up! Toru Hagakure facing Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu!” Present Mic said.

The weapons he’d given her, allowed Hagakure to fight back but it also cost her the biggest advantage she had. Tetsutetsu activated his hardening Quirk and lunged towards the weapons. If Tetsutetsu’s Quirk was an exact copy of Kirishima’s, he’d have low level super strength when he used the hardening. All he had to do was get one blow in and Hagakure was done for.

Hagakure wasn’t interested in giving him even one free hit.

She danced around Tetsutetsu and provoked him to attack more wildly and recklessly. Tetsutetsu fought like a brawler with big haymakers holding nothing back but it also tired him out fast. And he’d already spent the entire day fighting. Hagakure on the other hand was saving her strength and moving only the bare minimum.

When Tetsutetsu slipped, Hagakure went on the offensive. She swiped Tetsutetsu in the face with the shock glove and when he brought his hands to his face, Hagakure smacked him in the balls with the baton. Hardening on or not, Tetsutetsu wasn’t just walking that one off. Izuku and Mineta grimaced in sympathy pain.

“Hagakure holds nothing back and goes straight for every mans weak point!” Present Mic said.

“That’s why heroes should always use a jockstrap.” Aizawa-sensei said.

After an attack like that the flow of the battle changed. Tetsutetsu tried to continue his reckless attacks but Hagakure was now inside his head and wearing him down. Whenever the baton so much as pointed at his groin, he flinched. Pain, fear and humiliation made him sloppy and desperate. The more desperate he became, the more elusive Hagakure was and finally Tetsutetsu’s Quirk gave out. Even then Tetsutetsu didn’t back down or surrender and took another swing at Hagakure but when Hagakure electrocuted him, he didn’t get back up.

“The winner is! Toru Hagakure! Next up! Tsuyu Asui facing Shouto Todoroki!”

Tsu got up and took deep breaths.

“Wish me luck.” She said.

They watched her head to the arena.

“Hate seeing her leave. Love watching her go.” Uraraka said.

“This is so weird to see from the other side.” Mineta muttered.

***

Mei realized she couldn’t do this. There was too much to do and not enough time to do it. She would have needed at least an extra day to be able to pull this off alone and even then she was being very generous. Even genius had its limits and she had found hers but that didn’t mean she was done. Izuku had done his part. She wouldn’t be the reason Project: Indestructible failed! Not even if she had to resort to vile and desperate measures. She would have to… ask for help.

She picked up her phone.

“Dad? Got a minute?” Mei said.

Despite being past forty, dad was in great shape and made it from the stadium to the workshop in less than five minutes without being out of breath.

“What’s wrong?” Dad said.

“I… can’t fix the armor or Sagan alone.”

Dad studied the armor and Sagan’s computer for a moment before activating his Quirk Iron Works and took them apart. The pieces floated around them and Mei spotted the problem immediately. Something foul had corroded the more complicated parts and they still reeked.

“Mei… these are too badly damaged for us to fix. Unless you have spare parts…”

“Dad! Go to the snack shop and get food. All the food! Then get back here.” Mei said while dialing Momo’s number.

While dad went to get the food, Mei counted the seconds.

“Come on, Momo! Answer the goddamn phone!” Mei cursed before finally hanging up: “Damn it!”

She had to find Momo the old-fashioned way before Izuku’s match with Iida. Where would she go if she didn’t want to see anyone? She checked the roof and the classroom to no avail. Had she left?! No! Her shoes were still here. She had to be somewhere at the school! But where? There… there was always the toilet in the top floor that had been out of order for years.

Fear cramped Mei’s stomach when she ran for the abandoned toilet. Her hands were shaking when she pushed the door open. If Momo wasn’t here… A sigh of relief slipped out when she saw Momo huddled in the corner hugging her knees. Her eyes were red, and snot was dripping from her nose.

“Go away.” Momo said and hugged herself tighter.

“No.”

The lizard part of her brain told her to just grab Momo and drag her to the workshop but that would have been counterproductive. Plus, Momo had dinosaur strength. No one would be dragging her anywhere.

Mei sat next to her. Momo didn’t pull away.

“Wanna talk about it?” Mei said.

Tears glistened in Momo’s eyes and her voice came out cracked.

“When I was eight… my class did a play. I… I got the main role. I practiced so hard. My parents were coming to watch. I was so proud.” Momo said.

She tried wiping away the tears and the snot with her sleeve.

“When we started… I froze. I only stood there… in front of everyone. In front of my parents. Until I started crying.”

Momo started to weep in long, ugly sobs.

“I could’ve done better! I could’ve won! I… I thought I could do it now! But… but…”

Momo couldn’t continue and gasped for air between the tears.

“Check this out.” Mei said and pulled up her shirt.

The left side of her stomach had a spot of grey scar tissue the size of her palm. Momo shivered when she saw it.

“It’s… it's hideous.” Momo said.

“Not much of a filter on you. But then again, who am I to judge? Got this in a science fair when my first baby blew up the moment I turned it on. I got three weeks in the hospital and a lifetime ban from science fairs.”

Mei tugged her shirt back in.

“Do you know what I realized at the hospital?” Mei said.

“What?”

“That morphine is awesome. But once the drugs wore off, I realized something else. I was free. I’d suffered the worst defeat of my life and I was still alive. I was free to be awesome.” Mei said.

“But… what if you… failed again?”

“Then I’d fail, and I did. After that day I barely noticed. Now, you’re free too. And the best part is, that no one will even remember. Not after the ass kicking Bakugou got.” Mei said.

Momo’s eyes widened.

“Bakugou lost?”

“Bitch got destroyed.” Mei said crossed her fingers: “How insensitive would it be to ask for a favor?”

Momo smiled.

“What do you need?”

“Parts.”

Mei got up and offered Momo her hand. After some hesitation she took it and Mei pulled her on her feet.

“You hear that?” Momo said.

Mei did. Steps and words.

“You had one job! One fucking job! And you fucked it up!”

“I know! I know! I love you!”

Jiro and Kaminari rushed in while tearing each other’s clothes off. Both were so caught up in each other that they didn’t noticed them until they almost pumped into the blushing Momo.

“… uh?” Jiro said.

“We… you…” Kaminari said.

“Don’t mind us. We just finished. Have fun.” Mei said and grabbed Momo.

***

Izuku was sweating bullets.

“The winner is! Shouto Todoroki!”

Tsu had fought bravely and as long as she could but Todoroki was a force of nature. After her opening spit attack had failed, she’d been able to dodge the ice for a while and even coming close to taking a swing at Todoroki, but the cold had made her slow. Izuku wondered if her Quirk made her more susceptible to low temperatures.

Izuku turned on his earpiece and prayed that Mei would give him good news.

“Mei?! The armor?!”

There was no response. No response! Why didn’t she answer him?! He couldn’t face Iida without the armor! He couldn’t! Mineta and Uraraka were looking at him with pity.

“Mei! Answer me!” Izuku yelled with tears in his eyes.

“Next up! Tenya Iida facing Izuku Midoriya!” Present Mic said.

“… no.” Izuku whispered.

“It was nice knowing you.” Mineta said.

“Trust me, Midoriya. Losing is the easy part. The shame hurts so much more.” Uraraka said.

“… oh god.” Izuku said.

He got up and started heading to the arena. He could barely stand.

“Wait! I’ve just been informed that Tenya Iida has withdrawn from the tournament!” Present Mic said.

“… what?” Izuku said.

“Holy shit. Did his family fall some stairs? Am… am I a wizard?” Mineta said.

Uraraka pulled out her phone and tried calling Iida.

“He’s not picking up.” Uraraka said.

Relief and terror twisted Izuku’s stomach. It hurt! He was going to…!

“… have to go.” Izuku managed.

He ran to the bathroom as fast as he dared while covering his mouth. He made it just in time and threw up in the toilet. He kept gagging and barfing until there was nothing left. He could see half-digested painkillers among the bile. Even when his stomach was empty he kept spitting out yellow water. He’d lucked out again but that didn’t buy him much time. Hagakure’s and Todoroki’s match had already begun. Hot tears filled his eyes.

“Midoriya?”

Izuku turned to look at the stall next to his.

“… Aoyama?”

“Yeah. You okay?”

“… no. You?”

“I’ve been shitting myself to death since my fight with Iida. Did he get you too?” Aoyama said.

“… he dropped out. A family emergency.” Izuku said.

“What?! Is he alright?”

“… we don’t know. He’s not answering his phone.”

“I see. Did you get the armor?” Aoyama said.

Izuku hurled out more yellow water.

“Guess not. You know… you made it to the finals. You get to take a swing at the championship. That… that might be enough.” Aoyama said.

“… Shinsou had to carry me over the finish line in the obstacle race and Mineta was the one who won the cavalry battle. Momo… barely put up a fight and Shinsou… not a great showing if I go down immediately in my first real fight.”

“Guess not.” Aoyama agreed: “You’re fucked, aren’t you?”

“… guess so.”

“Well, maybe you can still get scouted.” Aoyama said.

“… yeah.”

Aoyama’s stomach grumbled, and he let out a pained groan.

“Midoriya… could you leave me for a moment?” Aoyama begged.

“… way ahead of you.”

After stumbling into the hallway Izuku turned on the earpiece again.

“Mei! Is it finished?! Please tell me it’s finished!” Izuku said.

There was no answer.

What was wrong? He… he should go check out the workshop. Yeah! That’s what he’d do! This was obviously Mei’s idea of a joke. She was just busting his balls before the final match. The armor was done, and he’d use it to beat Todoroki and get into Heroics and become a Quirkless hero and…

“Next up! Izuku Midoriya facing Shouto Todoroki!”

“No!” Izuku yelled.

His mouth tasted of vomit and he felt like a man facing execution when he walked to the arena. The shaking got worse every step of the way. Why couldn’t he be brave like the heroes? Like All-Might? All-Might wouldn’t have thrown up or wanted to run away. He would have walked out full of confidence with a smile on his face.

“Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls of all ages! Today you get to witness something you’ve never seen before! A Quirkless genius inventor from Support facing off against the son of the number two hero! Let me hear some noise!” Present Mic said.

When the cheering and clapping hit him, Izuku realized that Hagakure still had his weapons. Not that it mattered. How could a baton fend off an avalanche?

Todoroki stepped into the arena and walked up to greet him. He looked at Izuku’s pale face and trembling hands for a while. Sweat had glued Izuku’s shirt into his back but Todoroki was cool as a winter’s day.

“Iida was supposed to be facing me.” Todoroki said.

“… I know.” Izuku said.

“Begin!” Present Mic said.

He expected Todoroki to blast him with ice the moment Present Mic told them to begin but… he didn’t. Todoroki just stood there. Watching him.

“You lucked out. Don’t push it. Walk away.” Todoroki said.

Izuku stared at the edge of the arena. Todoroki was right. He’d lost. There was no point to keep fighting. All he would do was make mom worry. It was time to call it quits and go home.

So, why was he raising his fists into a boxing stance like Ojiro? Todoroki shook his head exasperated.

“You stupid… Fine. We’ll do it your way.” Todoroki said and copied Izuku’s stance: “I don’t need my Quirk to beat you.”

“Incoming!” Mei yelled through the earpiece.

Smoke bombs hit the arena and all Izuku could see was grey mist. Todoroki let out a shocked yelp and leaped backwards to create some distance before putting up a wall of ice between them. The audience had gotten on their feet and were staring at the arena mouths agape.

Three drones dropped a package in front of Izuku.

“What the hell are you doing?! Get out!” Aizawa-sensei was screaming at someone in the announcer’s booth.

“I’ll allow it!” Present Mic said.

“Let go off my microphone, Hatsume!” Aizawa-sensei yelled.

The loudspeakers broadcasted a quick tussle when Mei fought Aizawa-sensei over the microphone.

“Sorry for the wait everyone! I’m the director of Project: Indestructible! Mei Hatsume! And it is my honor to introduce the next Symbol of Peace! The hero Indestructible!”

Izuku opened the package.

Chapter Text

Shouto coughed out smoke that made his eyes sting. What the hell was going on?! Did Midoriya have a secret weapon he didn’t know about? Had he been bluffing? Shouto created more ice in the wall separating them. Once the grey mist dissipated, he would…

Then he heard Hatsume’s voice coming out of the loudspeakers.

“Sorry for the wait everyone! I’m the director of Project: Indestructible! Mei Hatsume! And it is my honor to introduce the next Symbol of Peace! The hero Indestructible!”

Despite his Quirk cooling his body a sweat drop ran down Shouto’s back. This… this couldn’t be happening. This had to be against the rules!

“Kick his ass, Izuku! Kick his ass! Show him what a real man looks like! There’s a penny in my fuck box!”

What’s a fuck box, Shouto thought.

“What a twist! I’m sure this tournament will be remembered for years to come!” Present Mic said.

Somewhere in the background Eraserhead gave a defeated sigh.

A crack appeared in Shouto’s ice wall. What in the name of God was going on?! That wall of ice could have stopped a car! He heard a crunch when something struck the ice and then broke through. Shouto covered his face when ice shards flew towards him. Someone was walking through the smoke. He could see an orange light cut through the smoke.

No. No! This was impossible! The armor had been broken! This couldn’t be happening!

Indestructible stepped out of the smoke.

The armor’s green plating had been tied together with dark blue fiber and the smooth design reminded him of some huge predatory insect. And it was eyeing him like food. A visor that covered the user’s face glowed with orange light. It was everything he didn’t want it to be. Well protected and powerful but not too heavy to slow down the wearer.

For a moment Shouto was a child again. Training with his father. He was hesitating. Uncertain. Scared. All things father would punish him for. He wouldn’t be punished! He wouldn’t cry! He wouldn’t complain! And he wouldn’t back down! He would…!

Indestructible came at him with speed that could rival Iida’s. He crafted new walls between them but Indestructible seemed to always know just where to hit to bring them down. What was going on?! Why wasn’t it stopping?! Why couldn’t it just give up?! No matter what he did, the thing just kept coming at him! This couldn’t be happening! That thing was no All-Might! He wouldn’t lose to some piece of junk!

“Shouto.”

Even with all the distance between them, Shouto could hear his father’s growl. Or had he imagined it? He had to. But he could still feel Endeavor’s glare. He knew what father wanted to tell him. He wasn’t pleased. He expected his heir to do better. Shouto would do better. There were never any rewards for doing well. His reward was a lack of punishment. No! He wasn’t done yet!

When Indestructible broke through another ice barrier, Shouto was ready. He blasted the armor with everything he had. All of his Quirk! All of his pain and resentment! He held nothing back! No. Not quite. But he would not sink to that level! He would not sacrifice the last place in his soul Endeavor hadn’t left his mark on. Not now! Not ever! He just had to stop Indestructible for long enough to be declared winner. He just…

Why didn’t the damn thing stop?!

Even when it was covered in ice, Indestructible wouldn’t stop! Scalding vapor rose from its surface when its internal power source burned the ice away. What kind of a monster had Hatsume created?! He couldn’t lose here! Not when Endeavor was watching!

Then Indestructible was on him.

Shouto changed his strategy and coated his fists with ice. It didn’t matter how powerful Indestructible was, the one wielding it was still a complete novice when it came to fighting. Even the way Midoriya walked had betrayed his inexperience. He on the other hand had earned his first black belt before his tenth birthday. He’d beat this thing with his bare hands if he had to!

Indestructible was holding back its punches. Trying to beat him without hurting him. It was too soft! There was no holding back in a fight! A real fight! Indestructible would regret turning this into a real fight! He aimed for the head. Pounding at it with all his power and the ice coating his fists made his blows even more powerful. No one could take hits like that!

So, why wasn’t Indestructible going down?!

Every punch connected! He felt it!

“Don’t look down on me!” Shouto yelled and threw a punch.

Indestructible grabbed his fist. Panic made Shouto throw another haymaker with his free hand but Indestructible caught that too. The steel fingers squeezed, and the ice cracked. Shouto’s fingers were creaking and the pain brought him to his knees.

For the first time, Indestructible spoke. Its voice had a steel like echo to it.

“I win.”

Tears burned Shouto’s eyes. Not like this! Mother! Where was mom?! Why wouldn’t she come and save him?! Where was she?! When he needed help?!

Help! Mom! All-Might! Anyone, Shouto prayed.

No one would come. What had he expected? He had learned that a long time ago. He was alone. So, he would have to save himself.

Shouto ignited his other Quirk.

***

For the briefest moment Izuku wondered how he was supposed to be able to fight in such a heavy armor. Then he turned on the power and a load came off his shoulders. This… he had been looking for this his entire life. This feeling. Was this how All-Might felt? How Bakugou had felt? Invincible? He wouldn’t just survive anymore. Never again. He was done surviving. From here on out, he’d excel. Mom would never have to worry about him. No one would call him a Quirkless freak ever again!

“Daddy? Can you hear me?” Sagan said.

“Loud and clear. Good to have you back, Sagan.” Indestructible said.

“Good to be back.”

Indestructible grinned.

“Ready to kick ass?”

“What I was made for.” Sagan said.

A mountain of ice stood between him and Todoroki. Sagan did some quick calculations and found its weak spots. Indestructible clenched his fists and threw a punch. With a few blows he brought down a mountain. Todoroki’s look told him just how close he was to victory, but Todoroki wasn’t going down easy and threw more ice at him but now he just looked like a one trick pony. Indestructible crushed his way through to his enemy. There was a strain in his arms and legs. His strained ankle took the most of it, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. For now.

“Sagan? How much power am I using right now?” Indestructible said.

“Seventy percent of the armors maximum capabilities. Going over that and you’ll risk hurting yourself. At this level, the armor has enough power to run for ten minutes. Overheating will become a problem in six.” Sagan said.

“Overheating?”

“The armor will start cooking you alive.” Sagan said.

“Sweet Jesus.”

“Don’t worry. Mommy made extra sure to guard your crotch. Everything else can be replaced.” Sagan said.

“Sagan. Never mention my crotch. I’m your… dad. That’s weird.”

Sagan laughed.

“Okay, daddy.”

“Good.” Indestructible said and smiled: “Ten minutes, huh? All I need is one.”

When he busted through the ice and charged at Todoroki, Todoroki changed his strategy. He used his ice to craft his own armor and started trading blows with Indestructible. It was impossible not to be impressed. He would never allow anyone to call Todoroki a coward. The armor gave Indestructible a monumental difference in raw power, but Todoroki cleared it with skill alone. He’d have to polish his technique with Momo and Ojiro.

Todoroki had his Quirk and his skills but Indestructible had something else. He had Deku crying at the back of his mind. Deku was always crying. He had more than amble reason. Todoroki’ words echoed in his mind and played off Deku’s weeps.

Give it up. Not everyone can be a hero. I’m trying to help you.

It wasn’t just Todoroki he was facing. It was every teacher he’d ever had. It was every schoolmate he’d ever had. It was everyone who’d ever told him to give it up. Because he was a Quirkless freak who could never be a hero! Todoroki wasn’t just Todoroki! He was Bakugou!

He grabbed Todoroki’s fist and when he tried to punch him with his other hand, Indestructible took that one too. Indestructible looked down on Todoroki… and every enemy who would have seen him fail.

“I win.” Indestructible said.

In response Todoroki burst into flames. The armor screamed a hundred different kinds of warnings that he would have never been able to make sense of without Sagan.

“Dad! You need to run! The armor can’t handle this! It’s already starting to overheat!” Sagan said.

The arena had been set ablaze and all he could see was fire. Todoroki had disappeared amidst the flames. What was going on?! He had found no mention that Todoroki could control fire like his father! The armor was heat resistant, but the shock fiber wasn’t. It burst into flames and Indestructible could only watch as his defenses turned into kindle. He was already starting to feel the heat.

“How much time do I have?” Indestructible said.

“Fifty seconds. If that!” Sagan said.

Without the shock absorbing fiber, Indestructible felt Todoroki’s next punch even through his helmet. He stumbled, and Todoroki felt emboldened enough to punch him again. This time in the stomach. The ice protecting Todoroki’s fists should have melted in the inferno, but he was creating new ice faster than it could melt. Indestructible tried grabbing Todoroki’s fist again but when he got a hold of his fist, Todoroki spat fire at him. He felt the heat even through the helmet.

Something blew up in his ear.

Indestructible let out a mechanical scream of pain when the earpiece blew up in the heat and took his eardrum with it. The pain was the worst he’d ever felt. A centipede was eating its way through his ear canal and into his brain. His skull was on fire. Sagan’s voice became a garbled mess like she was speaking a dead language.

Even then Todoroki kept coming.

His attack grew more vicious and precise. He kept punching the helmet and every blow send a new wave of pain through his deaf ear. The agony would have knocked him out if not for a new blow of pain to shake him awake.

“Shock!” Indestructible said not sure if Sagan heard him.

He felt current running through the gloves and swiped at Todoroki’s face. When Todoroki backed away to protect his eyes, Indestructible forced the pain in check using a lifetime of ambitions and obsessions as a painkiller. Not yet! He wasn’t done yet! Scarred face! Maimed hand! Deaf ear! He would never betray his dream! The world could throw all of it at him and he’d fight till his dying breath!

“Sagan! Full power!” Indestructible commanded.

It wasn’t easy, but he could make out her response if he concentrated.

“Your body can’t handle it!”

“I only need a few seconds! I’m not giving up here!” Indestructible said.

Sagan hesitated but then relented.

“… okay.”

The armor’s internal engine roared when it was pushed to its limits. The strain grew worse and wasn’t anymore something he could just ignore. The pain in his ear numbed it all out. He was stronger than pain! He was Indestructible!

When Todoroki came at him, Indestructible was ready.

They went at each other with everything they had and fought amongst the flames. Todoroki coated himself entirely in an armor made of ice to counter his punches and the heat had started to mess with Sagan’s programming. The visor was damaged and couldn’t pin point the weaknesses anymore. They were in a stalemate. Indestructible didn’t have time to form a strategy or find a weakness. This was a test of might.

Then he just had to be more powerful!

“Plus Ultra!” Indestructible screamed.

He grabbed Todoroki’s waist and tried to throw them both off the arena. Todoroki figured out what he was trying to do and used the ice to root himself in place while trying to boil Indestructible inside the armor.

“No! You! Don’t! Plus Ultra! Shock!” Indestructible said.

Todoroki screamed when the current ran through the gloves into him. Indestructible punched him in the face and broke his ice armor. Along with his fingers.

“More power!” Indestructible said and pushed.

His knees groaned. Then they flew.

Indestructible made sure that Todoroki was the first to hit the ground. When he was lying in the ground, the power went out and the armor turned into a steel prison.

“Sagan? Thank you.” Indestructible… Izuku said.

“Happy to help. Looking forward to…” Sagan said before the power went out.

Izuku took the helmet off. His face was baked in sweat and blood flowing from his ear had painted the right side of his face red. The pain was a constant hum and all he could hear. His right hand was on fire and the broken fingers an agony all to themselves if he wasn’t too tired to feel pain. Why was it always the jerk off hand?

“I see it, but I don’t believe it! The Quirkless inventor from Support has knocked out the prince of 1-A! Let the boy hear you roar! Plus Ultra!”

Present Mic’s words cut through the humming and the applause were loud enough for Izuku to feel them on his skin. Despite how hurt he was, he smiled. He’d done it! All his life people had said he couldn’t do it when all he had needed was for one person to give him a chance. He’d done it! But he wasn’t finished! All-Might was never satisfied with just getting the job done and he’d be like All-Might!

Despite the armor weighting him down like a mountain, despite the agony in his ear and the pain in his ankle and hand, he forced himself back on his feet. Through a monumental force of will he threw his broken fist into the air like All-Might would have.

“Indestructible! Indestructible! Indestructible! Indestructible!” Mei yelled through the loudspeaker and the audience joined her.

Tears were flowing down Izuku’s cheek but not from the pain. This was everything he’d ever wanted. It was the greatest day of his life! He kept his fist in the air for as long as he could, and he would’ve loved nothing more than to let this moment last forever but finally his body gave out and he fell back into the ground.

“Indestructible! Indestructible! Indestructible! Indestructible! Indestructible! Indestructible! Indestructible! Indestructible!” Everyone at the stadium roared.

Todoroki turned to look at him. Both were too spent move and Todoroki could only manage a tired smile.

“Congratulations.”

“… thanks. You… you almost won.” Izuku said.

“Almost doesn’t cut it.” Todoroki said.

“And the winner is! Shouto Todoroki! Izuku Midoriya is disqualified due to outside interference!” Present Mic said.

“What?!” Izuku and Todoroki said.

“What?! This is bullshit! He was hiding a Quirk! I just…!” Mei yelled.

Aizawa-sensei stole his microphone back.

“The match is over. Midoriya. Todoroki. Wait for Recovery Girl. As for you, Hatsume. Principal’s office. Now!”

Recovery Girl rushed to their side with her aides. Todoroki shook his head when help was offered and got up himself. His feet quivered under him but one of the nurses caught him before he fell.

“Don’t push yourself.” Recovery Girl said and turned to look at Izuku: “How do we take the armor off?”

“Let me help.”

Blacksmith was running towards them. When he used his Quirk to remove the armor, he was careful not to hurt Izuku any further. Even if he had, Izuku was too numbed to notice. Recovery Girl leaned in closer to look at his wounds. Aside from his broken fingers and busted eardrum, there were second degree burns all over his arms and legs. She gave him a smooch that blew the pain away.

“You just won yourself a trip to the hospital. This is something that can’t be fixed with a kiss.” Recovery Girl said.

“I’ll let your mother know.” Blacksmith said and then looked at Todoroki: “You alright?”

“Why wouldn’t I be. They said I won, didn’t they?” Todoroki said bitterly and walked away.

His legs were shaking but he managed to stay on his feet. Blacksmith looked after him with… something. It was an emotion Izuku didn’t have a word for.

“Ken. Help us carry him.” Recovery Girl said.

Blacksmith flinched and turned back to Izuku. Without saying a word, he lifted Izuku in his back like he weighted nothing. Despite being past forty Blacksmith was still strong and fit. With Izuku in his back, he started walking towards the nurse’s office without a visible effort.

“That was a good showing, Midoriya. You should be proud instead of sulking.” Blacksmith said.

“… I lost.” Izuku said.

“By a decision. Those don’t count.” Blacksmith said.

Tsu was lying in one of the beds in the nurse’s office watching TV when they got in. She nodded at Izuku when she saw him, and Blacksmith put him down on one of the beds. She almost leaped out of the bed when she saw the burns in his hands and feet. Izuku was past caring. He’d won… and still lost.

“Izuku! Your legs and…! What happened to your ear?!” Tsu said.

“The earpiece blew up.” Blacksmith said and looked at Izuku’s bloodied ear: “Bad news, Midoriya. I think you got yourself a cauliflower ear.”

“Are you… will you be alright?” Tsu said.

Blacksmith smiled at her.

“Don’t worry. Recovery Girl has fixed worse.”

Tsu was able to calm down a little.

“Okay.” She said and then offered her hand to Blacksmith: “Tsuyu Asui.”

“Ken Hatsume. Mei’s father.”

“I know. It’s the hair.”

“… Mei’s on TV.” Izuku said.

They all turned to look at the TV. The media had gone rabid and where falling over each other to get the closest to Mei when she was being dragged to the principal’s office by Aizawa-sensei and Power Loader. She had her own Project: Indestructible jacket on although hers was pink.

“See?! Did you fuckers see?! I was right! Science can beat Quirks! And U.A couldn’t handle it! Cheating fuckers! Visit Team Indestructible’s website and leave a donation! In return no child has to grow without a jet pack! Look forward to Team Indestructible’s agency’s grand opening!” Mei said.

One of the reporters got close enough to shove a microphone in Mei’s face before Aizawa-sensei could push her away.

“Anything else you want to say?” The reporter said.

“Reality is an illusion created by lizard people!” Mei yelled before Aizawa-sensei banged to school doors shut in the media’s face.

“… uh. You heard it here first. We’ll try to get an interview with Indestructible later.” The reporter said.

Izuku, Tsu and Blacksmith stared dumbfounded at the TV until the school’s loudspeaker system came on.

“Could Ken Hatsume come to the principal’s office?” Principal Nezu said through the loudspeakers.

“Guess that’s my cue.” Blacksmith said and patted Izuku’s shoulder: “Rest. I’ll take care of the armor.”

When they were alone Tsu turned to look at him.

“I think your match was the best. I… didn’t know Todoroki could do that.” Tsu said.

“… I liked your fight with Bakugou more.” Izuku said.

Tsu started croaking and looked away.

The door opened and Mineta waltzed in.

“Man, that was a weird interview.” Mineta said.

“Is Uraraka with you?” Tsu said.

“Don’t worry. She left for an angry pussy hunt. Seeing her was an… eye opening experience.” Mineta said and sat down: “How are you two holding up?”

“Frostbite.” Tsu said.

“… broken hand. Burns. Busted ear.” Izuku said.

“I know what will make you feel better.” Mineta said and took out his phone.

“… what is it?” Izuku said.

“Just little something we did during the halftime while you were buried in your workshop.” Mineta said.

Tsu had gone pale. Izuku could hear singing when Mineta clicked a video on his phone.

“A 1! A 2! A winner is you! Yay! A winner is A! 1-A!”

“You… you promised not to film that!” Tsu said.

“And I didn’t. Uraraka did. She just mailed it to me.” Mineta said.

Izuku peeked at the phone and saw… Tsu, Momo, Jiro, Mina and Hagakure doing a cheerleader dance while dressed as cheerleaders.

“No!” Tsu said.

“… what?... how?... what?” Izuku said.

“Emotions were running pretty high after the cavalry battle and the ladies thought it was a good idea at the time.” Mineta said.

“You lying…!” Tsu said.

“Hey. I’m doing this as a favor to you. We all know you wanted him to see it.” Mineta said.

“… what?” Izuku said.

Tsu’s tongue lashed out and grabbed the phone from Mineta’s hand.

“Delete!” Tsu said.

“Curse you, Tsu.” Mineta said and then just shrugged: “Fuck it. Just fuck it. Seeing Uraraka made me realize some harsh truths. If you need me, I’ll be at home, rethinking my life.”

Momo and Ojiro sent him messages asking if he was alright. Izuku didn’t have the strength to answer them and was soon moved to the hospital where he would stay until Sunday. He was so far beyond caring about a lost weekend that it was almost laughable. He couldn’t even concentrate at what mom was saying when she came to visit. She was breathing hellfire when she saw the state he was in, but Recovery Girl managed to calm her down by promising that U.A would pay for his treatment and the hearing aid would make him good as new.

Before mom left, she promised to come back again tomorrow and told him to rest. Izuku could only nod.

He’d never been so tired, but he couldn’t sleep. The audiences chant still echoed in his ears. Indestructible! Indestructible! Indestructible! Indestructible! It had been his moment and… and then… it wasn’t.

Tears burned in Izuku’s eyes and he wiped them away.

He had to calm down. Have something else to think about. Present Mic’s late-night radio program was about to start and Izuku reached for his phone. He turned the radio on clumsily with his left hand and lied back in his bed.

“Welcome boys and girls to an evening with Present Mic! I’m your host whose name is in the title! Present Mic! And what a day we’ve had! The annual U.A tournament came to an end in a spectacular fashion and we all have much to discuss! Let’s see what our first caller has to say about today’s events.” Present Mic said and opened a line: “Welcome! What…”

“You son of a bitch!” Mei screamed: “You cheating puss bucket! I demand you call that rat bastard Nezu and make him declare Indestructible the winner!”

Present Mic just laughed.

“We already talked about this at school, Hatsume. For three hours as a matter of fact. Using gadgets was allowed. Outside assistance wasn’t.”

“I hope your family dies of dick rot! I hope your mother and sisters grow dicks, so they can rot off! People like you are the reason God stopped caring!”

“And let’s move on.” Present Mic said and hung up on Mei before letting another caller through: “Hello! I’m Present Mic and…”

“You’re not getting rid of me that easily, dick cheese! Sagan is jamming the phone lines! You’re in my world now bitch and the only god you’ll know is pain!” Mei screamed.

“We’ll be right back, folks!” Present Mic said.

A metal cover of Toto’s Africa started playing. Izuku counted the seconds to see if the insane tug of war would go on but when the song ended much to Izuku’s disappointment Present Mic had managed to purge Mei from his system.

“Sorry about that, folks. We’re back now! Let’s hear from our next caller.” Present Mic said and let a new caller through.

“Wassup?! It’s yer girl Toga!”

Izuku sighed and turned the radio off. He closed his eyes ad tried not to think about his defeat. He’d been so close. So close! If they’d just finished the armor faster, then…

He floated in darkness for a while until he felt someone being in the room with him. Izuku forced himself awake and opened his eyes.

A short, lean man was sitting next to his bed and playing with his phone. Like his phone and watch his dark suit was expensive. He had a mess of dark hair and… freckles on his cheeks. The man looked up from his phone and flashed him a boyish grin.

“Hello, Izuku.” Izuku’s father Hisashi Midoriya said.

***

Shuichi turned his iPad off. Too bad. He’d been cheering for Indestructible.

“Man, that sucks.” Shuichi said.

“… he should’ve won.” Eri said.

“He did. The school just stole it from him. That’s how it goes with them. If you don’t do what they want, they’ll just rob you.” Shuichi said.

One of the manor’s doors opened and Overhaul stepped out. Eri’s face grew even paler. Overhaul looked at her with those flat eyes that had all emotion sucked out of them a long time ago if he even had any to begin with.

“Eri. It’s time.” Overhaul said.

Eri hid behind Shuichi. She was crying.

“I… I don’t want to! You promised! Not today!”

“I changed my mind. Don’t make me repeat myself.” Overhaul said.

Shuichi put his hand on Eri’s shoulder.

“She said she doesn’t want to go.” Shuichi said.

Overhaul turned his empty gaze to him.

“What?”

“I said…”

“I heard you. You’re telling me what to do? In my house? After I gave you shelter?!”

A sweat drop ran down Shuichi’s face. This was a bad idea. Why was he trying to protect a girl he didn’t even know? Why had he stepped in to save Mustard when they were kids? Guess he couldn’t help himself.

“Dude. You’re scaring a kid.”

Overhaul’s eyes narrowed.

“Fine. Then stop me. Knock off my mask and I’ll let her go. For today.” Overhaul said.

“You swear?”

Shuichi turned to see Rappa standing at the door into the manor and looking at them.

“You swear, Overhole? Wouldn’t look good if you went back on your word.” Rappa said.

Overhaul bared his teeth behind his mask.

“I swear.”

Shuichi glanced at Eri and saw a child looking for a hero. Indestructible had thrown down even when he’d been unarmed and outmatched. How could he be any worse? Shuichi slid out of his leather jacket.

“Eri. Get back.” Shuichi said.

Rappa took Eri’s hand and led her away.

Overhaul was flexing his fingers. He didn’t seem to have any enhanced physical abilities. Unlike Shuichi. His mutation had made his hide strong enough to repel knives. He was faster and stronger than an average man and healed faster to boot. Then there was his secret weapon.

“Come.” Overhaul said.

Shuichi waited. If Overhaul wanted him, he could come to him. Finally, Overhaul grew impatient and rushed him. When Overhaul tried to grab him, Shuichi popped out his poisonous barbs. Overhaul yelped and looked at his bleeding hand. He stared at his own blood in disbelief. Had anyone ever made the smug sociopath bleed? Now all he had to do was let the poison do its thing and…

Overhaul attacked again, and this time plunged his hand through the spikes. There was an explosion and then… nothing.

“Shuichi!”

Mustard was leaning over him and looking horrified. Somewhere Eri was screaming. He got up and saw Overhaul dragging Eri inside the mansion. When he tried to run after her, Rappa stopped him.

“Let it go. You lost. He won’t be as forgiving the next time.” Rappa said.

“He… he blew you up.” Mustard said.

“Yeah. Overhole does that. Done it to me a couple of times.” Rappa said.

“Couple…? What…? What is he doing to Eri?” Shuichi said.

Rappa looked away.

“You have balls, kid, but you’re better off not knowing.” Rappa said and left.

Shuichi should have been terrified… and he was but… after Toga, Overhaul was nothing. At least the man was human. He wasn’t so sure about Toga. It would take more than that to scare him obedient.

“Mustard.”

“Yeah?”

“We’re getting Eri out of here.”

***

“Hello, Izuku.” Hisashi Midoriya said.

Izuku could only stare. Was… was this a dream? A nightmare? Hisashi put his phone away and laid back in the plastic chair.

“Rough day, huh? You been working out? You used to be such a little twig.”

“… dad?” Izuku said.

“Indeed. I’m a dad.”

“… I… you… why are you here?”

“That is a good question. It all started this morning when I was working at home and my younger son burst in wanting to know why someone who looked just like me and had the same last name as me was competing in the U.A tournament. Missus didn’t appreciate the situational comedy and kicked me out of the house until I had a chat with to you. So, here I am.”

“… that’s it?!”

“Well, I may have also heard that this Project: Indestructible of yours was making a killing. You got any loose change to share with your old man?”

“… you… you walked out on me when I was five! Me and mom! Because I was Quirkless! And you! Joke?!” Izuku yelled.

For a moment Hisashi looked confused. Then he seemed to remember something important.

“Oh, yeah. Darn. Foiled again.” Hisashi said and got up: “Well, nice chat, son. Let’s do this again never.”

What had that look been about? When he’d still been naïve enough to lie to himself, Izuku had pretended that Hisashi had had good reasons. He was secretly an under-cover hero who had left to protect his family from his enemies. And then… someday he would come back. Everything would be explained, and they’d be a family again.

Hisashi had never come back.

So, what had been with that look? Was… was there something he didn’t know? Some secret reason? Anything would be better than the truth. Anything!

“Wait! Dad!”

Hisashi stopped at the door and turned to look at him.

“… why?” Izuku said.

Hisashi sighed.

“Izuku, after ten years does the why really matter?”

“… I want the truth. Please. You… you never gave me anything else.”

“Now that is a filthy lie. I’ve always payed the child support in time.” Hisashi said and scratched the stubble on his jaw: “Izuku, sometimes you’re better off not knowing.”

“… please.” Izuku said and turned on the puppy dog eyes.

His puppy dog eyes had beaten Recovery Girl. Hisashi didn’t stand a chance. He sighed again. Louder.

“Fine. But you only have yourself to blame.”

Hisashi sat back down and… poured himself a drink from a flask into one of the plastic cups on the nightstand. Izuku could only stare at the flask. Hisashi looked at him and then at the flask before shaking it.

“Want some?”

“… I’m sixteen.” Izuku said.

“Didn’t slow me down when I was your age. Hit he bottle harder than stepdad smacked me.” Hisashi said and filled another cup that he handed to Izuku.

“Come on, son. Live a little. God knows you could use it after the day you’ve had. Saw the video with Bakugou. That boy is one cold-blooded gangster. What the hell happened? He used to be adorable.”

Hisashi clinked Izuku’s glass with his own before taking a sip. Then he started laughing.

“I remember this one time when you were four. He walked up to me like king shit of douchebag mountain and told me he was marrying you when you grew up and you’d run a hero agency together. And there was nothing I could do about it. I laughed my ass off.” Hisashi said and sighed again: “Guess that didn’t pan out. Are you gay by the way?”

“… what?”

“Inko just told me how she walked in on you two without knocking when you were playing and…”

“Dad!” Izuku said.

He just pecked me on the cheek, Izuku thought.

“Bi then I guess. Probably came from me. I did experiment in college.” Hisashi said and stared at his drink: “What were we talking about again?”

“You left. Why?” Izuku said.

“Oh yeah. Well, you’re sixteen. I’m thirty-seven. You do the math. I had you when I was twenty-one. Do I need to say more?” Hisashi said.

“… what?”

“I guess some context is needed. I’d just graduated from college and had bullshitted myself a very nice job in a very nice company. One that I still work for, by the way. Good gig but not many people my age. Besides the green-haired intern. We ate lunch together and killed time flirting. Really hit it off.”

Hisashi emptied his glass and filled it again.

“Then the Christmas party happened. Me and Inko destroyed a bottle of whiskey together and… one thing led to another.”

Hisashi was quiet for a while and Izuku dared to take a sip from his glass. It tasted terrible.

“Anyway, two weeks later I was nurturing a hangover when I got a call no twenty-year old wants to have. I promised to take Inko to the… clinic.” Hisashi said.

“… what?!”

“We got stuck in a traffic for three hours. Want to know what you can do with that kind of time? Get cold feet, convince a woman you barely know to have your baby and marry you. That’s what.”

Hisashi emptied his glass but didn’t bother filling it again and drank straight from the flask.

“I realized I’d fucked up when it was way too late and… for the next five years I hacked it the best I could. Beat my old man’s record. He walked out when I was four. Naturally, I resented you the whole way for stealing my youth. I was dying, son. I needed a way out and then… you got diagnosed. I started a fight with Inko and ended it with walking out.”

Izuku stared at Hisashi. There… there had to be more. This couldn’t be all!

“And then?”

“Happy you asked. Went back to getting drunk on my off time and playing video games. Good times. Then I grew up and got married again when I hit thirty.”

Hisashi emptied his flask but didn’t look or sound drunk.

“You wanted the truth, Izuku? Here it is. I didn’t want you. Having you was a mistake… but so was walking out on you.”

Tears were stinging Izuku’s eyes.

“… why? Why?! You…! You could have visited! Called! Anything!”

“When you leave like that, you kinda burn your bridges. Well? Feel better?” Hisashi said.

“… no.” Izuku said.

“Yeah. Didn’t think so. I’m sorry.”

“… you’re sorry? You… you think that will fix anything?”

“No. There’s no fixing it or making up for ten years. If there is, I’m all ears. Want my advice? Figure that shit out fast because my dad walked out on me like I walked out on you. You’re probably the same.”

Izuku found a good use for the drink Hisashi had poured him and threw it in his face.

“… get out.”

“Fair enough.” Hisashi said and wiped his face.

Hisashi was halfway out of the door when he turned back and took out card from his pocket. He put the card on Izuku’s nightstand.

“Here’s my number if you want to scream at me some more and… congratulations. For making it to U.A. Now, if you excuse me, I need to get drunk before I go home tomorrow.”

Izuku didn’t get much sleep after that. He stared at the ceiling through out the night until mom entered the room in the morning. She only had to take one look at him to know something was wrong.

“Izuku?” Mom said.

Izuku turned to look at her.

“…mom.”

“What’s wrong?”

We got stuck in a traffic for three hours. Want to know what you can do with that kind of time? Get cold feet, convince a woman you barely know to have your baby and marry you. I didn’t want you. Having you was a mistake.

Izuku started crying.

“… mom. I’m sorry, mom! I’m so sorry!”

Mom noticed the card on the table and after a moment of shock pulled him into a hug.

“It’s okay, Izuku. It’s okay. I’m here. I love you.”

Izuku hugged her tighter.

“I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about. I love you.” Mom said.

Mom held him until he stopped crying. It was hard to look her in the eyes afterwards. He was sixteen and still crying like a little kid. Mom seemed to understand and just gave him the magazines and hand-held console to kill time. There was also a letter. Who wrote letters in this day and age? Izuku picked up the letter but didn’t recognize the handwriting.

“It was sent to U.A and they delivered it to me.” Mom said.

“… okay.”

“I talked to the doctor and he promised you’d be out by Sunday.”

“… okay.” Izuku said.

“I’ll come pick you up tomorrow. Anything you want to eat?”

“… curry.”

Mom smiled.

“Curry it is.” Mom said and tried to take the card Hisashi had left.

“… no. Leave it.” Izuku said.

“You sure?”

“… yeah.”

“Okay.” Mom said and hugged him: “Love you.”

“… love you too, mom.”

When Izuku was alone, he tried playing a game but couldn’t concentrate. The broken hand didn’t do him any favors either. He put down the console with a heavy sigh and picked up the letter and tore it open. Breath stuck in his throat when he saw a child’s handwriting.

INDESTRUCTIBLE
I WAS DIAGNOSED QUIRKLESS. CAN I STILL BE A HERO?

Izuku stared at the letter in shock. This… this couldn’t be happening.

There was a knock on the door.

“Midoriya.”

Todoroki stood at the door. He was dressed in a smart casual way and there was a large bruise on his face.

“… Todoroki? You… your face?”

Todoroki rubbed the bruise.

“You didn’t go easy on me.”

Odd. Izuku could have sworn he had avoided punching Todoroki’s face during the fight out of fear that he’d knock it off. But then again, things had gotten crazy in the end.

“Can we talk?” Todoroki said.

“… I… yes. Sure. Please. Sit.”

“I won’t be here long. I just wanted to congratulate you and give you this.” Todoroki said and handed him the medal for first place in the tournament.

“What?! I… it’s yours. I… I was disqualified.”

“We were holding back and when we went all out, you beat me. Take it. Don’t embarrass me any further.”

After some hesitation Izuku took the medal.

“… thank you.” Izuku said.

“For what? I just returned what’s yours.” Todoroki said and glanced at his bandaged ear: “Look… about your ear… I’m sorry. I… I didn’t mean it to…”

“I know. I’ll be getting a hearing aid.” Izuku said.

“You’re awfully chill about this.” Todoroki said.

Izuku showed his maimed hand that had been bandaged.

“Not the first time I broke something.”

Todoroki nodded and then just stood there awkwardly. Both of them tried to figure out where to go from here. Talking to Mei was so much easier. Every conversation happened on her terms and he just had to follow her lead. He… he hadn’t really talked to people before attending U.A.

“… about your Quirk…” Izuku said.

Todoroki flinched. A flurry of emotions briefly lighted his face. Something was wrong. Something was terribly wrong. He could feel it. He just didn’t know what it was.

“I… don’t like using it. It… puts too much strain on me and… it’s hard enough to master one Quirk.” Todoroki said.

That was a bold-faced lie. What didn’t Todoroki want him to know?

“Well… uh… good talk. I… I need to get going.” Todoroki said.

“Wait. Todoroki… I’m sorry about what I said. How I acted. I know you were only worried. I was thinking… maybe we could start over.”

Todoroki looked at him and seemed utterly lost.

“… do you want my number? We could text.” Izuku said.

“I… yes?... uh… what do we text about?”

“… um… stuff?” Izuku suggested.

“Stuff? Stuff sounds good.” Todoroki said.

After Todoroki left, Izuku looked at the medal and then put it under his pillow for good luck. He thought Todoroki would be his last visitor, but he was wrong. Half an hour later a nurse peeked in.

“Midoriya?”

“… yeah?”

“There’s this very sick looking man here to see you. He claims to be your teacher.” The nurse said.

All-Might!

“Yes!... I mean… yes. Please. Let him in.” Izuku said.

All-Might had ditched his yellow suit for a baggy t-shirt and jeans. He was holding a gift basket. The nurse gave him a suspicious look before leaving them alone.

“I think she thought I was a junkie.” All-Might said.

Izuku… couldn’t really blame the nurse. In his withered form All-Might didn’t have a face that inspired trust.

“How you holding up, my boy?” All-Might said.

“… I… I’ll go home tomorrow.” Izuku said.

“Glad to hear it.” All-Might said and sat down.

He opened the gift basket.

“I brought tea and cookies. I know from experience that hospital food leaves something to be desired.”

“… yeah.”

All-Might poured them tea and Izuku tried one of the cookies.

“… these are really good.” Izuku said.

“Thank you. I baked them myself.” All-Might said and then smiled awkwardly: “I’m sorry, my boy, but we need to talk about Bakugou.”

“… okay.” Izuku said.

“We took down the video of your fight and… what he said. There are copies but we’re hunting them down.” All-Might said.

“… how did you make Mei agree?”

“We didn’t. Her father did.”

“… okay.” Izuku said and looked at his tea: “Is… Bakugou in trouble?”

“Oh, yes. His mother was spitting fire. There was even talk about kicking him out of U.A. Power Loader was very adamant about that. I was against it. For now, he’s on probation. Would you have wanted him to get kicked out?”

“… I… don’t know. I thought… seeing him suffer would make me happy but… it just made me feel worse.”

“Good. Taking joy in others suffering leads to a very ugly place. I’m glad I was right about you.”

“… I shouldn’t have uploaded it.” Izuku said.

“True and Bakugou shouldn’t have said what he did. You made a mistake and will do better next time.”

All-Might ate a cookie and washed it down with some tea.

“Would you like to hear a story?” All-Might said.

“…sure.”

All-Might told him a story that started two-hundred years ago. Two brothers were born. The younger one was seemingly Quirkless but the older one had the power to take and give Quirks.

“The older brother was, what we in the business call, a massive asshole. He used his power to take over Japan’s underworld.” All-Might said and looked out the window: “That man’s name is lost to time, but he called himself All For One.”

Even though he was powerless, the younger brother opposed All For One. Then, for reasons All-Might could only guess All For One gave a Quirk to his powerless brother. A power that enhanced his abilities.

“What All For One didn’t know, was that his brother did have a Quirk already. Like him, he could pass on Quirks. That’s how One For All was born. The brothers fought and All For One won.”

“… okay.”

“A downer I know but before he died, One For All passed on his Quirk and the war continued through heirs for the next two-hundred years.”

“… he was immortal?”

“He stole a Quirk that made him one. Finally, One For All came to me.” All-Might said and pulled up his shirt.

A gnarly scar covered All-Might’s side.

“I fought All For One and… beat him. But not before he blew my stomach open. Now, I’m fifty-two and wounded. My career will be over soon. It has come time to pass on One For All to a new vessel and I can’t think of a better candidate than you.”

Izuku’s heart skipped a beat.

“… me?”

“Yes. That’s what I said.” All-Might said and pulled out a yellow hair: “If you eat this, you’ll be next wielder of One For All.”

Izuku looked at All-Might and saw everything he wanted to be. Powerful. Confident. Loved. The hero he dreamed of being. And now… he could. Even when he was diagnosed Quirkless, even when everyone told him to give it up, he never stopped dreaming. Even when he had no hope, he’d never stopped dreaming. Life without hope… was a terrible thing to live.

INDESTRUCTIBLE
I WAS DIAGNOSED QUIRKLESS. CAN I STILL BE A HERO?

“… I can’t.” Izuku said.

Izuku had never seen anyone look so surprised.

“Excuse me?”

“I… I’m honored. I really am and… I do want it but… me and Mei… if I had a Quirk, Project: Indestructible would be meaningless. We… we need to prove that you don’t need a Quirk to be a hero. I’m sorry.” Izuku said.

Everything he’d ever wanted and… he was turning it down. He wanted nothing more than reach out and accept All-Might’s offer but… if he did, he’d betray something more valuable than what All-Might was offering.

All-Might laughed.

“You’re full of surprises, young Midoriya. Never thought I’d be turned down.”

“… sorry you came for nothing.” Izuku said.

“Nothing? I came to see how you were doing. Besides, I need you to sign this.” All-Might said and handed him a letter.

“… what is it?”

“My letter of recommendation that you be moved from Support to Heroics. I just need you to sign it to make it official.”

Izuku stared at All-Might then at the letter. He thought about Aoyama and Ojiro. And everyone else in class 1-A.

“… will… will someone lose their spot in Heroics?” Izuku said.

“Why? Oh. You mean the twenty-student limit? Just because we follow the rules, doesn’t mean we’re fanatics. I was once the twenty-first-student in 1-A.”

Izuku tore open the envelope as fast as he could and signed it despite the pain in his broken fingers. All-Might took it back and shook his hand.

“Congratulations, young Midoriya, and welcome to 1-A. I’m looking forward to working with you.”

Izuku was left alone in his hospital room stuck in a trance. He stood completely still, terrified that even the slightest movement would make the universe realize that something good had happened to him and he needed to be slapped back into place. Then he heard singing.

“The atoms that we're made of have
Negatively charged electrons
Whirling around a big bulky nucleus

The Quantum Theory
Offers a very different explanation
Of our world

The universe is made of
Twelve particles of matter
Four forces of nature

That's a wonderful and significant story

Suppose that little things
Behaved very differently
Than anything big

Nothing's really as it seems
It's so wonderfully different
Than anything big!”

Mei kicked the door open to his room. She was wearing the same shirt Shinsou had in the tournament beneath her pink Project: Indestructible pilot jacket.

“Izuku! Guess what?!”

“… huh?”

Mei slapped him in the face with a stack of bills. It felt kinda nice. She threw the money on his lap.

“There’s your cut on the t-shirts. Next, we’re going to start our own radio show and it will be the best radio show ever! So, awesome it will drive Present Mic out of business and rot his dick off.” Mei said.

“… huh.”

Mei cocked her head.

“Something wrong, Izuku?”

Izuku told her.

Five minutes later the nurses threw Mei out telling her that their patient was in no condition for a five-minute-long victory dance.

Monday couldn’t come fast enough. Instead of Support, Izuku headed to Heroics. He stepped in 1-A’s classroom when class was about to start. Aizawa-sensei gave him a sideways glance and told him to introduce himself. Izuku stepped in front of his new classmates. He didn’t see Bakugou or Iida. Tsu was smiling and Mineta gave him thumbs up.

“My name is Izuku Midoriya. I’m Quirkless. My hero name is Indestructible.”

Chapter Text

Izuku sat on his desk and stared at the letter the Quirkless child had sent him.

INDESTRUCTIBLE
I WAS DIAGNOSED QUIRKLESS. CAN I STILL BE A HERO?

He’d been thinking about his response for almost a week. A week he had been a student in 1-A. The thought still made him giggle. He’d done it! He and Mei had done! After calming down, Izuku picked up a pen. The cast had come off his broken hand just the other day and his fingers were still stiff but at least he could write.

Thank you for your letter
I’m sorry to hear you had to go through that. I know from experience what it’s like. I was diagnosed when I was five. Now, I’m going to tell you something I wish someone had told me when I was in your shoes.
Don’t give up!
Becoming a hero isn’t easy but nothing worth having comes easily. Work hard and never lose sight of your dream. I can’t guarantee that it will be enough. I needed plenty of help to get where I am, but I can promise you this. Anyone who has reached their dreams worked hard for them. I’ll be cheering for you.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Indestructible

On a whim Izuku took out the letter Crimson Riot had written to him almost ten years ago and read it again.

Dear Izuku
I’m sorry to hear you had to go through that. Now, when you say you want to be a hero, do you mean you want to be a pro or that you want to be a hero? In this business I’ve met many people who’re pros, but I would never call them heroes. Some of them are successful too. You don’t need a Quirk to make a difference. You can always make the world a better place. That’s what heroes do.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Crimson Riot

Crimson Riot hadn’t been wrong. Izuku just hadn’t realized what Crimson Riot had been trying to tell him. When the villains had attacked the rescue training, he’d been able to buy Tsu time with just his wits. But… he had to be a hero to make the difference he wanted to make. How many like him were out there? Quirkless nobodies who thought their lives were over? He and Mei would show them all there was hope.

Izuku read through his response to the first piece of fan mail he’d ever gotten before sealing it in an envelope. Then he read the invitation Momo had given out in class. The paper was bone white and the invitation could have been hung in an art gallery.

The Yaoyorozu Conglomerate invites you to celebrate the end of the U.A Tournament at the Yaoyorozu Estate on Saturday at 7 PM.

He still had enough time to go for a run and mail the letter. He did a light jog to the mailbox and then started picking up speed. Ever since he’d made it to Heroics, working out had become a childlike game. And not just training. He glided through life. He went asleep smiling and woke up grinning. His only complaint was that Bakugou wasn’t there to see it. Ever since the beatdown in the Sports Festival, Bakugou had been holed up in his room.

Izuku ran faster and further than he ever had before returning home where mom was making herself a sandwich.

“You want to eat before you go?” Mom said.

“… no thanks. There will be food at the party.” Izuku said.

He took a long, cold shower. The burns in his arms and legs had healed more or less, but they still itched. When he stepped out of the shower, he took a long hard look at himself. Maybe he should’ve warned his young fan that the path to heroics was a rough ride. The three scars running over the right side of his face had faded but would never go away completely. His right ear was a swollen, twisted mess that could barely hear anything even with the hearing aid. Why did cauliflower ear have to be chronic? Then there was his right hand. A collection of pink and red scars. The nail on his pinkie had never grown back. If this kept up, he’d be a gargoyle by the end of the year.

Still, it had been worth it.

Izuku brushed his hair to cover his messed-up ear and facial scars. A black glove hid the state of his hand. Then he put on his new suit. It was the first time in his life that he’d worn a suit that was well-fitting. No. Not just well-fitting. Tailor made. A single suit had cost more than the rest of his wardrobe combined but Mei had called it a business expense and withdrawn the money from Team Indestructible’s account.

Izuku started tying his green tie but after three attempts had to give up. Why did it always end up too short?

“Mom?! Can you help me with the tie?”

Mom got the tie perfect on her first tie. When had she gotten so good at it? Then he remembered how naturally Hisashi had worn his black suit.

“Looking handsome.” Mom said.

“… come on, mom.” Izuku said and squirmed with embarrassment.

There was a knock on the door. When Izuku went to open it, Mei was waiting in the hallway. She looked… different. She’d actually gone through the effort to comb her hair and wash away all the oil stains. Her dress was pale pink and left her shoulders bare. All the hard lifting at the workshop had given her an athletic build.

“Looking good.” Mei said.

“… thanks. You too.”

“Hush. You’re making me blush.” Mei said.

To Izuku’s surprise, he realized that Mei was blushing.

“Ready to go?” Mei said.

“… yeah.”

Mei grinned at mom.

“Don’t worry, Mrs. M. I’ll make sure he has fun even if it kills him.” Mei said.

Mom’s smile was… awkward and she couldn’t quite bring herself to look Mei in the eyes. Izuku followed Mei to the street where Blacksmith was waiting for them in his car.

“… hi, Mr. Blacksmith.” Izuku said.

“Hi, Midoriya. How’s the ear?”

“… the hearing aid helps.” Izuku said.

They both climbed in the back and Blacksmith started driving.

“… have you been able to recover Sagan’s memory?” Izuku said.

“Not yet but I will and when I do, I need you to bring a shovel when we go say hi to that sabotaging bastard.” Mei said.

Izuku nodded.

“… I’ve been thinking… if something happens to the armor again, I’ll need some spare equipment. How small can we make the shock gloves?”

“I was thinking something with the baton. For now, we should concentrate on the armor. We need to get the cooling fixed and make the absorption fiber fire proof.” Mei said.

Izuku noticed Blacksmith smirking at them in the rear mirror.

“What?” Mei said.

“Nothing.” Blacksmith said and kept driving.

When they arrived at Momo’s house, Izuku found house to be a too small word to describe it. It was too big to be even called a manor. Castle would have been closer to the truth. A steel fence surrounded the grounds and security stopped them at the gate. Only Izuku and Mei were allowed through when they’d show their invitations and ID’s.

“I’ll come pick you up at eleven.” Blacksmith said before driving away.

Izuku and Mei walked in through the gate. The garden was immaculately groomed and filled with flowers Izuku didn’t know the names for.

“… how rich are Momo’s parents?” Izuku said.

“Rich enough to take us all with them if they go bankrupt. Now, listen up. When we meet them, start brown nosing. I want their money.”

“… okay.”

“Just imagine. This could have all been yours if you’d seduced Momo.” Mei said.

“… I’ll try to live with myself.” Izuku said.

“You do that. In the meantime, maybe I’ll seduce Momo.”

When Izuku stepped inside the… castle, he was left breathless and even Mei fell quiet for a moment. A band was playing at the party. A real band whose songs Izuku had seen topping the charts. The chandelier hanging over their heads had come straight out of a fairytale and the tables were filled with foods Izuku was too poor to even name. All the students from the Hero Course had dressed in their finest and still ended up looking shabby amidst the glamor. Waiters were rushing all round them asking if anyone needed anything.

Izuku looked around but he didn’t spot Bakugou or Iida among the partygoers. Not that he’d expected Bakugou to show his face here, but he was getting worried about Iida. Like Bakugou, he hadn’t shown to school for a week.

“Izuku! Mei!”

Momo was waving at them. She’d dressed in a red dress and looked more mature than usual. She leaned closer to kiss Mei on the cheeks.

“So glad you could come.” Momo said.

“Trust me. If you hadn’t invited me, you would have needed more security to keep me out.” Mei said.

Momo looked embarrassed.

“I hope it’s not too shabby. Daddy tried to get a band from America but there was a scheduling conflict.”

Izuku and Mei looked at each other. What world did Momo live in?

“… you really don’t need to worry about that.” Izuku said.

“Don’t be so modest. If anything, this is your party. A Quirkless hero. To be honest, I never thought you’d make it past the first round.” Momo said.

“… oh.” Izuku said.

“But you did. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.” Momo said.

The door opened, and Todoroki stepped in. Momo waved at him.

“Hi, Todoroki!” Momo said and then smiled to them apologetically: “I’ll see you two later.”

Izuku and Mei stared after her.

“Is she really that clueless or just fucking with us?” Mei said.

“… I think she’s nice.” Izuku said.

“And rich enough that she doesn’t need to be. When I’m this loaded, I think I’ll be a total bitch to everyone.” Mei said.

“… uh… let’s go say hi to the others.” Izuku said.

Mineta was keeping Tsu, Ojiro and Uraraka company. Or maybe guarding Tsu who was keeping a respectful distance from Uraraka. Mineta and Ojiro were both wearing dark suits but Mineta had ditched normal neckwear for a bow tie. Tsu was wearing a green dress that showed off her sinewy build. Uraraka’s dress was pearl grey.

“What’s up, homeboys?!” Mei said.

Tsu was about to say something when Mineta cut her off.

“You two are late. They just ran out of gift baskets full of booze and prostitutes.” Mineta said.

“What? There were prostitutes?” Uraraka said.

“Calm down, Uraraka.” Ojiro said.

“Not until someone brings me a prostitute.”

“Uraraka, chill. Let’s not ruin this night with a restraining order.” Mineta said.

“Playing hard to get doesn’t stop me.” Uraraka said.

“Are… are you kidding right now? Please tell me you’re kidding.” Mineta said.

Uraraka just smiled.

“Just keep your hands to yourself around Momo. Groping the hosts daughter is a bit of faux pas.” Mei said.

“Don’t worry. I dare not touch the sun. Good thing this party is full of pretty things.” Uraraka said.

“Frog legs, anyone?”

A blonde student with a condescending smirk offered Tsu a plate of frog legs. She looked at them horrified.

“… I’m good.” Tsu said.

“Suit yourself.” The blonde student said and ate one: “Mm. Like chicken and fish.”

“… who are you?” Izuku said.

The student looked at Izuku like he’d been slapped.

“I’m Neito Monoma.”

Izuku and Tsu looked at each other hoping the other would know who he was. No one else in their group had a better memory.

“We faced in the cavalry battle!” Monoma said.

“… you sure?” Izuku said.

“I remember! You’re the guy we stole the million-point-headband from.” Mineta said.

“I stole it from your valedictorian first.” Monoma said.

“Too bad you couldn’t keep it. You went down like a punk.” Mei said.

Monoma smiled.

“Maybe I should be grateful you didn’t get serious with me. Vicious plan to drop the video of Bakugou just before the third part.” Monoma said and ate another frog leg: “I wonder if you’d been able to beat him otherwise.”

Tsu let out a few croaks.

“Guys like Bakugou are never as tough as they think they are. All they can do is talk.” Tsu said.

Monoma’s smile grew wider.

“So, the best in 1-A was just a braggart? What does that say about the rest? Even the great Todoroki lost to some Quirkless nobody.”

Ojiro had been quiet but now he stepped forward.

“Watch it, Monoma.” Ojiro said.

“Or you’ll do what? You didn’t even have the courage to fight in the finals.” Monoma said.

Strong fingers grabbed Monoma’s ear and he let out a yelp. Izuku managed to catch the platter with the frog legs before it fell on the floor. A girl with orange ponytail pulled Monoma away.

“Sorry. He gets like this when I’m not around to keep him in check.” The girl said and gave them a smile: “Itsuka Kendo.”

“… I’m…” Izuku said.

“I know who you are, Indestructible. I know all of you. Looking forward to competing with you.” Kendo said.

“What are you doing after this?” Uraraka said.

Kendo looked at Uraraka surprised.

“Going home?”

“Cool. Me too. It’s just a bit lonely there on my own. Want to come and keep me company?” Uraraka said.

“… uh… I have to go.” Kendo said and dragged Monoma away with her.

Uraraka looked longingly after Kendo.

“You guys scared her off.” Uraraka said.

“Did we? Did we really?” Mineta said.

“Don’t judge me. Like you’re any better.” Uraraka said.

“I’ve decided to give it a try.” Mineta said.

“… Uraraka? Uh… why do you want to be a hero?” Izuku said.

“Construction business isn’t doing so hot at the moment and… my parents are in the construction business. Once I become a big-time hero, they won’t ever have to worry about money again.” Uraraka said.

“… oh.” Izuku said.

Ojiro was looking at Uraraka with new eyes and even Tsu seemed to have found new respect for her. Izuku could understand. Better than he liked to admit. Mom tried to hide it, but he knew she worried about money and there weren’t a lot of job opportunities for middle-aged women who’d dropped out of college to raise a child. The child support covered the bare necessities but…

Then Izuku remembered how expensive Hisashi’s suit, watch and phone had been.

That penny-pinching bastard, Izuku thought.

“You’re right to be worried.” Mei said: “The Indestructible armor could easily revolutionize the construction business.”

You could hear Uraraka’s mood drop.

“Thanks for the heads up.” Uraraka said.

“My pleasure.” Mei said.

Uraraka didn’t stay down for long and pumped her fist.

“Also, chicks love heroes.”

“Okay, that sounds more like you.” Ojiro said.

Someone hit a glass with a spoon. Izuku turned to look at the center of the party and saw two people who could only be Momo’s parents. They looked like movie stars. Momo had gotten most of her looks from her mother but Mrs. Yaoyorozu carried herself with all the self-confidence Momo could only imitate.

“Welcome everyone! I’m happy to see my daughter has made so many great friends. I trust no one has any objections for a glass of champagne to celebrate the end of the tournament. But just the one. You’re minors after all.” Mr. Yaoyorozu said.

Waiters started offering everyone a glass of champagne. Izuku took his glass nervously.

“I propose a toast to all future heroes! Who knows. Maybe the next Symbol of Peace is here with us.” Mr. Yaoyorozu said.

Mei nudged Izuku’s side with her elbow.

“Talking about you, partner.”

Momo’s parents raised their glasses.

“Cheers.”

“Cheers.” The partygoers echoed.

Izuku tasted the champagne. It was… dry but sweet. And went straight into his head. He took another sip when Momo appeared to whisk him and Mei away.

“Izuku. Mei. My parents want to speak with you.” Momo said.

Momo dragged them to see her parents. Mei was looking forward to the meeting until she saw that Todoroki was already there with them. Todoroki nodded when he saw them.

“Midoriya. Hatsume.” Todoroki said.

Mei smiled.

“Shouto.”

“Shouto?” Mr. Yaoyorozu said surprised: “I didn’t know you two knew each other.”

Mrs. Yaoyorozu’s eyes narrowed. She looked at Mei and Todoroki like she could see everything that had happened between them.

“We have our history.” Mei said.

“And Shouto didn’t mention a word about it. Even though we were just talking about you.” Mr. Yaoyorozu said.

“Can’t imagine why.” Mrs. Yaoyorozu said.

“He’s always been such a shy boy.” Mr. Yaoyorozu said and patted Todoroki on the shoulder.

The affectionate gesture just made Todoroki awkward.

“Momo has told us quite a bit about you. Particularly you, Midoriya.” Mrs. Yaoyorozu said.

“Come on, mom.” Momo said.

Mrs. Yaoyorozu just laughed.

“And you too, Hatsume. Quite a feat building something like Indestructible on your own.”

“Wish I could take sole credit but Izuku helped.” Mei said.

“A fighter and an inventor? Easy to see why he and Shouto get along so well. Both so young and accomplished.” Mr. Yaoyorozu said.

Mei gave Izuku a sideway glance.

“Do you now?” Mei said.

“I was always afraid that Endeavor was pushing Shouto too far, but it really paid off. He’s already a champion.” Mr. Yaoyorozu said.

“I didn’t win. Not really.” Todoroki said.

“You’re too modest.” Mr. Yaoyorozu said.

“You might have been knocked out, but we must do things by the book.” Mrs. Yaoyorozu said.

“Still, I can’t wait to see more of this Indestructible. When do you think you could start mass-producing them? I’m sure the military would be very interested.” Mr. Yaoyorozu said.

Mei took a long sip of her champagne.

“I’d rather not go down in history as an arms dealer.” Mei said.

“An idealist, are we? I like it.” Mr. Yaoyorozu said and brushed his perfectly cut hair: “Hatsume was it? You wouldn’t be related to that pro hero? What was his name? Shouto. You know the one your father sued?”

Todoroki sifted weight uneasily from one foot to the other. Momo was looking alarmed and glancing at her mother for help.

“Dad… sues a lot people.” Todoroki said.

“Yes. He’s rough but he gets results.” Mr. Yaoyorozu said: “I actually bought the man’s house, so he could cover his legal bills. I was thinking about renovating it, but Endeavor advised me to tear it down.”

“Momo. Why don’t you take your father to meet the other future heroes?” Mrs. Yaoyorozu said.

“Good idea.” Momo said and took her father’s hand: “Come, daddy.”

Todoroki let out a relieved sigh when Momo’s father was gone. The band started playing a slower tune that invited people to dance. Todoroki turned to look at Mei and gave her a small bow.

“Would you like to dance?” Todoroki said.

Mei looked at Todoroki like he’d just challenged her to a duel. Then she smiled and took Todoroki’s hand.

“Lead the way, Shouto.”

Izuku was left alone with Mrs. Yaoyorozu. He fidgeted awkwardly. Were older women his thing now? Mrs. Yaoyorozu looked after Mei and Todoroki.

“Aren’t you worried he’ll steal your girlfriend?”

“… I… were not… like that. She’s my partner.” Izuku said.

“Must be a handful.” Mrs. Yaoyorozu and took a drink of champagne: “Have you given any thought about your field training?”

“… I… got an invitation from Endeavor. I’ve… decided to accept it.” Izuku said.

“Shouto will be there too. Look after the boy and…”

Mrs. Yaoyorozu glanced around before lowering her voice.

“My husband is a good man but… he sees only the good in people. Even when there isn’t much good to see. Be careful around Endeavor.”

Izuku blinked.

“… he’s the number two hero.”

“Power is the ultimate test of man. Endeavor failed his.” Mrs. Yaoyorozu said and smiled: “You’re a bit too green for my liking but you have determination and brains. Qualities I’d appreciate in a son-in-law.”

“… what?”

“What indeed? Have another drink and enjoy the rest of the party, Indestructible.” Mrs. Yaoyorozu said.

Izuku was left staring after her as Mrs. Yaoyorozu left to mingle with the other guests.

Someone jumped on his back.

“Midoriya!”

“… Hagakure?”

“You remembered! Quick. Give me your glass.” Hagakure said.

Izuku did as he was told and Hagakure poured him more champagne.

“I nicked a couple bottles. All my friends get refills.”

“… uh… thanks?”

“I should thank you. For borrowing the weapons. I would never have been able to avenge Kirishima without them.” Hagakure said and emptied her glass: “Sorry to hear what happened to your hand. Wouldn’t know what to do if I only had one.”

“… it’s better now.” Izuku said.

“Must have been a rock-hard week. If you know what I mean.” Hagakure said and poured herself another drink.

Izuku blushed.

“… uh… I managed.”

“Well, you’re smart.” Hagakure said and threw back her drink in one go: “Want a handjob?”

Izuku’s mind blanked.

“… yes?”

***

The band started playing a song that invited the guest to dance. While everyone was trying to gather the nerve to ask someone to dance, Denki Kaminari decided to take pity on them and show how it was done. He offered his hand to Kyoka.

“Shall we?”

Kyoka smiled her crooked smile and took his hand.

“If we must.” Kyoka said.

He led them to the dance floor.

“Didn’t take you for a dancer.” Kyoka said.

“I’m full of secrets. Adds to my mysterious charm.” Denki said.

“Do they now? My secrets are bigger.” Kyoka said when one of her ear jacks started shaking and she giggled.

“What is it?” Denki said.

“You’re not gonna believe this but Midoriya is getting a handjob… no. It just became a blowjob. And he’s getting one in the closet.” Kyoka said.

Denki lost the beat and almost stumbled off his feet.

“What?! Who… who is it? Is it Todoroki? It’s Todoroki isn’t it?”

No one could fit more sarcasm into a single raised eyebrow than Kyoka.

“Todoroki?”

“Hey, if Todoroki said he wanted to touch my dick… I’d have to at least weigh my options.” Denki said.

“Oh, really? Is there anything you wish to tell me?”

“Don’t judge me. Every man has that one guy.” Denki said.

“Interesting. And Todoroki is yours?”

“What can I say? He’s a sexy, sexy man.”

“Can’t argue with that but guess again.” Kyoka said.

“Is it Mei then?”

“Guess again.”

“Tsu?” Denki said.

“Closer.” Kyoka said.

“Mei and Tsu?”

“One more.”

“… Momo?” Denki said.

“Time’s up. It’s Toru and… Holy shit. Is she trying to suck the sadness out of him?” Kyoka said.

“Give me that.” Denki said and pushed one of Kyoka’s ear jacks into his own ear.

They kept dancing while listening.

“Wanna find an empty closet after this song?” Denki said.

“Hell yeah.” Kyoka said.

***

Izuku stumbled out of the closet stunned. For a moment he’d seen dead gods! Hagakure slipped out after him while wiping her mouth and hands.

“See you later, Midoriya.” Hagakure said before disappearing into the crowd.

“… uh.” Izuku said but she was already gone.

Izuku wandered through the party in a haze. He felt sticky and the champagne had made him drowsy. He…

“Midoriya?”

Izuku almost screamed. Aoyama looked at him alarmed.

“You okay?” Aoyama said.

“… I… you. Yes.” Izuku said.

“Good. Got a minute?” Aoyama said.

“… yeah.”

This was good. Aoyama was good. He needed a moment to pull himself together.

“… how’s the belt?” Izuku said.

“That’s what I wanted to talk about. The upgrades worked great. Thanks for that.” Aoyama said and rubbed his stomach: “It still hurts but I guess that’s because of all the crunches. But they’ll only make me more beautiful so that’s fine.”

“Izuku?”

Tsu was walking up to them and Aoyama did a small bow.

“Good evening, Asui. Did you come to praise my tuxedo?” Aoyama said.

“I… Actually, I was looking for Izuku.” Tsu said and looked at him more closely: “Your face is all red.”

Izuku was lost for words. Could… Tsu see from his face what had just happened? Aoyama was sifting his gaze from Izuku to Tsu.

“… uh… it’s just the champagne.” Izuku said.

“Okay.” Tsu said.

Aoyama emptied his glass.

"I need to visit the men's room." Aoyama said.

After Aoyama had gone Tsu looked at the dance floor.

“Do… do you want to dance?”

“… I don’t know how.” Izuku said.

“That’s okay. I don’t either.” Tsu said and took his hand.

Tsu’s super strength had to cover more than just her legs and she pulled Izuku after her easily. Jiro and Kaminari had led the charge to the dance floor and now it was packed. Izuku tried to mimic those who seemed to know what they were doing. Tsu was staring at her feet to make sure she wouldn’t step on his toes. Occasionally she would steal glances at his tie.

“I like your tie. We match. You look… handsome.” Tsu said.

Izuku’s cheeks started burning and he forgot all about Hagakure.

“… your dress looks good too. I mean… you look good in the dress… I mean… you’re not ugly without it.”

Tsu started croaking.

“.. something wrong?” Izuku said.

“No… I… it just happens when I’m angry… or happy. Is it… weird?”

“No… it’s cute. Are… are you angry now?” Izuku said.

Tsu looked away. There was something reassuring that Tsu felt as insecure as him. It made him feel… bold.

“No.” Tsu said.

“… good. Ribbit.”

Tsu snorted.

“Stop.”

Izuku laughed.

“Stop what?” Izuku said.

“You know what.”

“This? Ribbit.” Izuku said.

“Come on. You’re making fun of me.” Tsu said.

“I wouldn’t dare.” Izuku said.

“Oh? Why’s that?”

“You’d kick my ass.

“No, I wouldn’t. I could but I wouldn’t.” Tsu said.

“Good you weren’t that hesitant with Bakugou. Ribbit.”

Tsu started laughing.

“Stop! Stop being awful!”

“I can’t. It might be contagious. Ribbit, ribbit.” Izuku said.

They started laughing hard enough that they had to get off the dance floor. Izuku laughed until he couldn’t breathe. They kept laughing until he noticed Kirishima sitting in the corner. Kirishima… had always been hard to miss. He was the kind of guy who became the center of attention of any room he walked in but now… he was less than a shadow of himself. He’d been looking miserable all week and Izuku hadn’t dared to approach him. Until now. The champagne and what had happened in the closet with Hagakure had made him more confident than when he first put on his armor.

“Tsu… I need to go talk to him.” Izuku said.

Tsu nodded.

“Izuku.”

“Yeah?”

“What Bakugou said wasn’t your fault. Kirishima had to find out eventually.”

Izuku nodded and walked up to Kirishima.

“Hi.” Izuku said.

Kirishima looked up and gave him a tired grin.

“Hi.”

Izuku sat next to him.

“You okay?”

Kirishima looked around.

“I… I was hoping he’d be here. He doesn’t answer my calls and I don’t know where he lives. It’s… I’m worried.” Kirishima said and then looked ashamed: “I saw the video, bro. He… he shouldn’t have said that shit but… I just wanted to see him.”

Izuku sighed. Bakugou had a talent for ruining his evening even when he wasn’t here.

“Do you hate him?” Kirishima said.

“… I’d be crazy not to but… hating him hasn’t gotten me anything.”

Izuku got up and offered Kirishima his hand.

“You shouldn’t mope in the corner. Let’s dance.”

Kirishima looked at him surprised.

“… you sure?”

”It’s a party. It’s not fair that you’re the only one not having fun.” Izuku said.

“I’m not very good.” Kirishima said.

“Me neither.”

Kirishima gave him his first real smile in a week and took his hand. Kirishima was as hopeless in dancing as Izuku was. They got a few raised eyebrows but nothing more.

“Kirishima.”

“Yeah?”

“Look… if you’re really that worried, I’ll take you to meet him. I know where he lives. We… we used to be friends.” Izuku said.

“You’d do that for me? You…you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Kirishima said.

“No one deserves to be depressed because of Bakugou.” Izuku said.

“I’m free tomorrow.” Kirishima said.

“Then tomorrow it is.” Izuku said.

Kirishima smiled.

“Thank you, Izuku.”

“You’re welcome, Eijirou.”

***

Mei let Shouto lead her to the dance floor. The only ones there at that point were Kaminari and Jiro. They were as ease with each other as only people who boned in public restrooms could be. Shouto surprised her by being a good dancer.

“Didn’t take you for a dancer. Is there anything you can’t do?” Mei said.

“I had to learn. Endeavor takes me to a lot of parties.” Shouto said.

“So, anything besides standing up to daddy. Look at that. The big bad Todoroki is just brow-beaten kid.”

Shouto sighed.

“Hatsume…”

“Mei.” Mei said.

“What?”

“Call me Mei. No need to be so… impersonal. You’re ten years too late for that.” Mei said.

“Fine. Mei. I don’t want to do this.”

“Too bad what you want doesn’t matter.” Mei said.

“Look. Your beef is with my father. We have that much in common. I think we could be… friends.” Shouto said.

“Not just your dad. Your mom as well. And I’m going to wipe everything about them out of the face of the earth. Including their heir. That’s you by the way.” Mei said.

Shouto’s grip grew tighter around her hand.

“Does Midoriya agree?”

“When did you two grow so close?” Mei said.

“I guess there are things that he doesn’t tell you.” Shouto said and leaned closer to whisper in her ear: “You’re a lunatic, you know that?”

“People with small minds always call geniuses mad.”

“I know obsessed lunatics when I see them.” Shouto said and pushed her away in the middle of the dance: “Thank you for your time.”

“I’ll send the bill later.” Mei said.

Mei snuck herself some more champagne when she ran into Tsu.

“Have you seen Izuku. I wanted to ask him…” Tsu said.

“He’s not gay.” Mei said.

“… what?”

“You wanted to ask him if he was gay, right? The answer is no. Two on the Kinsey scale, I’d say. Two and a half tops.” Mei said.

“… huh?”

“Look it up.” Mei said and emptied her glass: “I forgive you.”

“For what?” Tsu said.

“For kicking Bakugou’s ass. He was the bad guy of Project: Indestructible. All that build up and a side character beat him up. We lost a lot of subscribers.”

“My apologies.” Tsu said sarcastically.

“No need. I already forgave you.”

Tsu just shook her head.

“You’re weird but I forgive you for that.” Tsu said.

“I love you too, Tsu. Keep being awesome.” Mei said.

Tsu smiled and then looked at the dance floor.

“Saw you dance with Todoroki. Did you tell him?”

“Told it to him straight. Didn’t seem to make him too happy.” Mei said.

“Oh. Ah… well, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I just had to get it off my chest.”

Tsu did finally find Izuku and Mei took a moment to relax and observe the party. Jiro was dragging Kaminari with her off the dance floor and into a more… private place. Tsu finally got that dance with Izuku and looked like she was on cloud nine.

“Hatsume!”

Hagakure jumped on her back and made her spill her drink. She sounded more than a bit tipsy.

“Ooh. Sorry about that.” Hagakure said and poured her another drink from a stolen bottle: “You forgive me?”

“Buddy, there ain’t nothing to forgive.” Mei said.

“Good. I never got a chance to thank you, did I? For making the weapons.”

“It’s what I do.” Mei said.

“And you’re the best at it.” Hagakure said and laughed drunkenly: “Want a handjob?”

Mei was quiet for a moment.

“I’m good.” Mei said.

“Okay. Come find me if you change your mind.” Hagakure said.

Hagakure left to find more people who needed their glasses refilled. Then Izuku surprised her by dancing with Kirishima after Tsu. It did a world of good Kirishima who looked a bit more like his usual self.

Mei finished her champagne and walked up to Izuku.

“Want to dance, partner? Or am I not good enough for you anymore?” Mei said.

Izuku smiled.

“Lead the way, partner.”

Izuku was a lousy dancer. Something Tsu or Kirishima hadn’t been able to fix. That didn’t stop her from having fun.

“Was this you’re plan, Izuku? Humiliate Bakugou and then steal his boyfriend? And yet you wouldn’t be bi-curious for science.” Mei said.

“I wouldn’t be bisexual with just anyone. If you had suggested Kirishima, I would have considered it.”

“Every man has that one guy, huh? Or a dozen in your case.” Mei said and grinned when she noticed Kaminari and Jiro returning to the dance floor.

“What?” Izuku said.

“Kaminari and Jiro were boning in the closet.” Mei said.

“… what?”

“You heard me. Party’s not a party until someone gets knocked up in the closet. I think that’s how I was conceived.” Mei said.

Izuku winced.

“… me too.”

“Ooh, honesty. I like that. Every partnership needs that. You wouldn’t keep secrets from me, would you?”

There was a crack in Izuku’s new founded self-confidence.

“… no.”

“Then you wouldn’t keep any secrets from me? About you and Shouto?”

The way Izuku tensed, told her everything she needed to know.

“Mei… about Todoroki…”

“Izuku. Don’t.” Mei said.

“But he’s…”

“The enemy. Izuku. You’ve done great. You’re great. Don’t throw it all away for the enemy. The Todorokis are all the same. They act nice and fight dirty. Never forget that. Especially if you’re going to Endeavor’s agency.”

“… did you just threaten to fire me?” Izuku said.

Mei took the lead in the dance.

“What would you do to set things right? With your dad for example?” Mei said.

Izuku didn’t know what to say to that.

Once the band gave room to the guest on the stage to sing karaoke the party couldn’t end fast enough. Mineta had drank enough refills of champagne to utterly butcher NSP’s Orgy for One. He was followed by Hagakure who pulled a surprisingly involved take on Michael Jackson’s Thriller. When the clock struck eleven, dad was there to pick them up. Izuku was even more quiet than usual on the way back home. Mei let him think about his position in peace.

After escorting Izuku home, Mei headed back to the car when Izuku’s mom stopped her in the stairway.

“Hatsume? Can I have a moment?” Izuku’s mom said.

Mei smiled to herself before turning to face Izuku’s mom. Come to think of it, Izuku’s mom had never thanked her for returning joy in Izuku’s life. One could never have too many compliments.

“Sure.” Mei said.

One look at Izuku’s mom warned Mei that she hadn’t called out to thank her. She looked like a… small, furry creature preparing to defend its cubs. The problem with small, furry creatures was that occasionally, they turned out to be wolverines.

“I don’t like what you are doing.” Izuku’s mom said.

“… what?”

“He… he can’t hear from his right ear. And all those scars… I don’t know how much more he can take. When Izuku is with you… I’m scared. That something horrible will happen. That he might…” Izuku’s mom said and wiped her eyes: “When Bakugou blew off that jet pack, I thought he’d die.”

“That… that was on Bakugou. Not me.” Mei said.

“You remind me of Bakugou.” Izuku’s mom said.

Mei’s eye started twitching.

“What?!”

“Bakugou was once… different. But he always did whatever he wanted and was always dragging Izuku along. I… allowed it because Izuku was at his happiest when he was with Bakugou but…”

Izuku’s mom bowed her head.

“Please. Don’t let him get hurt anymore. I don’t know how much more I can take.”

Hot sweat was running down Mei’s back. She… she couldn’t breathe.

“I… I have to go.” Mei managed.

She ran… fled from Izuku’s mom. When Mei was sure she wasn’t following her, she sat down on the stairs to calm herself down.

You remind me of Bakugou.

You… you think this will change anything? You’ll never have a Quirk. Your dad is never coming back.

Mei wiped the sweat off her brow. Nonsense! She was nothing like that barbarian! Bakugou was a psychopath who’d tortured all confidence out of Izuku. She was the one who’d given it back.

He… he can’t hear from his right ear. And all those scars…

Mei got up and dragged herself back to the car. When she got in, dad started driving while giving her sideway glances.

“Something wrong?” Dad said.

“No.” Mei said and stared out.

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“You think I pushed Izuku too far?” Mei said.

“I got pretty banged up too when I was in U.A. Recovery Girl managed to put me back together every time.” Dad said.

“That’s not what I was asking.” Mei said.

Dad stayed quiet and kept his eyes on the road.

“… dad?”

“I don’t know.” Dad said.

Mei fell quiet for a long time.

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“Ever think about Endeavor?”

“Everyday.” Dad said.

“What would you do to… set things right?”

Dad’s face hardened.

“Anything.”

Mei sighed in relief.

“Good. Me too.”

Chapter Text

Izuku’s head was thumping and the sun light hurt his eyes when he waited for Eijirou at the train station. He’d felt like throwing up since he woke up, but nothing had come out. Yet. He was sweating, and his heart was beating way too fast. Why couldn’t Eijirou hurry up? He just wanted to lie down and die. Finally, the train arrived and Eijirou stepped out. He was wearing a denim jacket and… a Project: Indestructible t-shirt. He also looked as sick as Izuku felt.

“Hi, bro.” Eijirou said.

“… hi. Like your t-shirt.”

“Thanks. Bought it myself.” Eijirou said.

“… if you’d asked, I could’ve gotten you one for free.” Izuku said.

“Wanted to support the cause.” Eijirou said and gave a pained grin: “You okay?”

“… no. You?”

“Been better, bro. It was the champagne. I threw up in the morning. It helped. A little.” Eijirou said.

“… I haven’t been able.” Izuku said.

Eijirou bought them drinks. Izuku also got himself a hamburger. He remembered hearing from somewhere that greasy food helped. Getting the thing to go down was torture and keeping it there was a challenge. He drank his soda unhappily.

“… can I ask you something?” Izuku said.

“Sure.”

“… what… do you like about Bakugou?”

Eijirou didn’t’ have to think about his answer.

“I want to be like him.”

Izuku stopped dead in his tracks.

“… what?”

“I mean… my Quirk is… kinda bland. Tetsutetsu had one just like mine and… when I was younger it wasn’t really good for anything. I never really stood out.”

Eijirou crushed the soda can in his hand and smiled.

“Katsuki is never uncertain. He always knows what to do and does it. No regrets.”

“… he’s a bully.” Izuku said.

“Yeah but he’s not just… an asshole. If your friend screwed up once… or ten, would you stop being their friend?”

Izuku thought of the way Mei looked at Todoroki. The things she’d said to him.

“… probably not.”

Eijirou nodded and then cracked his knuckles.

“Doesn’t mean I’m just going to forgive him. I’ll be pounding some sense into him. Because that’s what friends do. They call you out when you’re being an asshole.”

Izuku thought about Mei. She was being an asshole and he… hadn’t called her out. Like he hadn’t told Eijirou what Bakugou could be at his worse. Because he’d been a coward.

“Also, I think he has a cute butt.” Eijirou said.

Izuku snorted.

When they arrived at Bakugou’s house, Izuku was surprised how small it was. In his memories it had always looked enormous when he came over to play. Izuku took a quick breather before knocking on the door.

Bakugou’s mom came to open the door. Unlike the house, she looked exactly like he remembered. An older, female version of Bakugou. And uncomfortably hot.

“Izuku?” Bakugou’s mom said.

“… uh… hi. This is…”

“Eijirou Kirishima! That’s my name! I’m Bakugou’s friend. Is he home?”

Bakugou’s mom looked upwards.

“He hasn’t left his room in a week.”

“Could we talk to him?” Eijirou said.

“Would you?” Bakugou’s mom said.

She sounded a bit too desperate when she asked it. Bakugou’s mom led them outside. Bakugou’s room was easy to recognize by the Fuck Off-sign. Bakugou’s mom knocked on her son’s door.

“Katsuki?”

“Go away.” Bakugou growled behind a locked door.

“You have guests.” Bakugou’s mom said.

“Hi, bro.” Eijirou said.

Bakugou was silent for a moment.

“Go away!”

Eijirou started banging on the door.

“Dude. Please. Come out. I just want to see you.”

There was no answer. Eijirou’s shoulders slumped.

“… Katsuki… I’ll keep coming here. Everyday. Until you come out and talk to me.”

When they tried to leave Bakugou’s mom grabbed them. Something terrible was building up inside her.

She kicked Bakugou’s door off its hinges and dragged them in.

Bakugou had been playing a video game and stared in shock at his felled door. His mother was brimming with fire and fury. The swelling had gone down but Bakugou’s face was still covered in rashes.

“Now you listen, Katsuki! I’m sick and tired of you sulking in your room! Your friends are here, and you will talk to them!”

“… not his friend.” Izuku said.

Bakugou’s mom stomped out of the room.

“Talk some sense to that moron! Slap him around if you have to!” Bakugou’s mom roared.

Bakugou’s mom marched downstairs like she was off to war. All of them could only stare after her. Eijirou was the first to recover and smiled at Bakugou shyly.

“Katsuki…”

Bakugou couldn’t look Eijirou in the eyes and turned his glare to Izuku.

“Did you come to laugh at me, Deku?!”

The shy smile disappeared from Eijirou’s lips and he seemed to be possessed by Bakugou’s mom.

“Texas Smash!”

Eijirou punched Bakugou in the face. Bakugou was knocked off his feet and left rubbing his jaw on the floor.

“What the hell is wrong with you?!” Eijirou screamed.

“… what?” Bakugou said.

“I come all the way here because I’m worried and you won’t even see me! Even when Izuku brought me here you still treat him like shit! We’re your friends! This is why no one else came to see you!”

“… still not his friend. And I’m not worried about him. Fuck him.” Izuku said.

As usual, he was ignored.

“What are you doing?! Hiding like a coward?! That’s not manly at all!” Eijirou said.

“… what?” Bakugou said.

“You heard me! If you fuck up, don’t pin it on Izuku! Take it like a man! You’re coming back to school tomorrow! You’re on parole! Aizawa-sensei won’t put up with this much longer!”

Bakugou laughed and got up.

“And who’s going to make me? You?”

“You are goddamn right I will! And then I’m making you apologize to Izuku, you whiny little bitch!” Eijirou said and cracked his knuckles.

Bakugou threw himself at Eijirou.

“… I’m leaving.” Izuku said.

Amidst the flurry of blows, they didn’t even notice him leaving. He climbed down the stairs hoping that Eijirou was feeling better. He sure as hell wasn’t. Bakugou’s mom was waiting for him downstairs.

“Izuku?”

“… yeah?”

“Are you hungover?”

Izuku stopped. Eijirou’s and Bakugou’s fight was growing more heated above them.

“… what?”

“I partied pretty hard in college. I know what hangovers look like. Want an aspirin?”

“… I… yeah. Sure.”

Bakugou’s mom poured him a big glass of water to wash the aspirin down with.

“Feeling better?” Bakugou’s mom said.

“… no.”

“You will. Thank you. For bringing Kirishima over. I… saw the video and I know that you must hate him. I don’t blame you. Katsuki should never have said that and… how long has it been going on?”

Izuku didn’t answer. Bakugou’s mom sighed.

“That long, huh? I knew something was wrong when you stopped coming over to play but… I didn’t do anything. It’s… easier not to notice things.” Bakugou’s mom said and laughed: “He used to tell us how he’d marry you when you grew up. It was so precious.”

The look on Izuku’s face killed all the mirth in the room. Upstairs the fight was dying down but Izuku hoped Eijirou had enough strength left to punch Bakugou’s face in.

“I’m sorry. It’s not just Katsuki’s fault. We should have done a better job raising him and… we didn’t.”

Izuku put the glass down.

“… thanks for the aspirin.”

Bakugou’s mom nodded.

“You’re a good kid, Izuku. Don’t let that change.”

Izuku spent rest of the day resting. He’d never been so tired. When Mei and Eijirou texted him, he didn’t have strength to answer them. His sleep was restless and… his dreams were worse than nightmares. In them he was born with a Quirk like everyone else. A powerful pyromancy Quirk that let him control green fire. Hisashi had never left. Mom didn’t have to worry about money. He and Bakugou were still friends. Everything was… as it was supposed to be. When he woke up, it was only five AM, but he dared not continue sleeping. He left for a morning run and sweated out the last remains of his hangover.

On the way to school, all he could think about was Hagakure and how he’d face her after… what had happened in the closet.

When he got to school, Bakugou was there. He and Eijirou had taken a corner in the classroom all to themselves and were chatting oblivious to the other students and the looks they were getting. Both were covered in scratches and bruises. Bakugou’s right eye had swollen shut and there was a chip in his tooth. Eijirou’s lip was split and his nose swollen. Neither could have been happier.

Then Bakugou noticed him.

“De… Midoriya.”

Izuku threw his backpack on his desk.

“… what?”

“Can we talk?” Bakugou said.

Eijirou gave him a pleading look. Izuku sighed.

“… fine.” Izuku said.

They left together. Before they got out the door, Tsu called after them.

“Hey, Bakugou.” Tsu said.

The sound of Tsu’s voice made Bakugou flinch. He turned to face her slowly.

“What?” Bakugou said.

“Ribbit.” Tsu said.

Bakugou grew pale and stomped out. Izuku followed him to an empty hallway where the other students’ voices couldn’t reach them.

“Midoriya… Izuku…” Bakugou said.

“Midoriya.” Izuku said.

“Huh?”

“Never call me Izuku. We’re not friends.” Izuku said.

For a moment Izuku saw a flash of the old Bakugou he knew all too well. The cruel, mocking brute who didn’t let anyone tell him no. It was snuffed out fast but not fast enough for Izuku to miss it.

“You’re right.” Bakugou said and steeled himself: “Midoriya. I’m… sorry. For everything. For… what I said. And… how I’ve treated you.”

“You mean the bullying?” Izuku said.

“I… you…” Bakugou stuttered and then sighed: “Yes. I’m sorry for the bullying. I’m sorry for everything.”

“… okay.” Izuku said.

“So… uh… we cool?” Bakugou said.

“Are we cool? No, Bakugou. No, we’re not.” Izuku said.

“Look. I said I was sorry.”

“And I said I don’t forgive you.” Izuku said.

Izuku didn’t know what kind of a script Bakugou had crafted in his head for this but it was getting quickly rewritten.

“Okay. I get it. If I let you punch me, would it make you feel better?” Bakugou said.

Izuku thought about it.

“Maybe.”

“Okay.” Bakugou said and put his hands behind his back: “Hit me. As hard as you can.”

Izuku slid out of his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. He threw a punch.

A punch that turned into a faint.

Then he kicked Bakugou in the balls.

Bakugou let out a mute scream and fell on his knees. His whole body convulsed while his brain tried to reboot itself. Izuku knelled next to Bakugou.

“You torture me for eleven years and then think you can fix it by apologizing? Bakugou. I will never forgive you for that.” Izuku said.

Bakugou was gasping for air and spitting out bile. There were flashes of rage amongst the pain but Bakugou was in too much agony to do anything about it.

“What… what was I supposed to do? Tell… lie that you could be a hero?” Bakugou slobbered.

Izuku pulled Bakugou’s head up by his hair.

“I wanted you to ask me over to play! I wanted you to stand up to me when the bullying started! I wanted you to let me know we were still friends! And you didn’t! Because the great Bakugou was too good to be friends with a Quirkless freak!”

Bakugou had started to cry and… Izuku realized he was crying too.

“What was I supposed to do?! You… you lied to me! We were supposed to be heroes together! You weren’t supposed to be Quirkless! We were going to…” Bakugou said but couldn’t continue and started sobbing: “I’m sorry, Midoriya! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

Izuku got up and wiped his eyes. This would be the last time he cried for Bakugou.

“And I don’t forgive you. I loved you once and you… you threw me away! Live with it, you bastard.”

Aizawa-sensei didn’t say anything when Izuku showed up to class ten minutes late. Or when Bakugou dragged himself in ten minutes after him. Their classmates shared nervous looks but none of them dared to say anything. When the bell declared class over, Izuku fled. He didn’t want to speak to anyone. They’d want to know what was wrong and what could they do to help him. Izuku didn’t think there was anything they… or anyone else could do. Hisashi had been right about one thing. There really wasn’t nothing that could make up for that kind of betrayal. Eijirou was left hovering confused between him and Bakugou.

Izuku headed to the workshop. He… if he could tell Mei how he felt… how revenge or apologies hadn’t given him any peace… maybe she would…

“What do you mean you can’t help?! You built a power armor! If it’s about money…!”

Izuku recognized Iida’s voice but it sounded… ragged. Like he’d been crying and howling for a week. Mei sounded even worse. Desperate and… scared.

“It’s not about the money! I can’t help him because we don’t have that kind of technology!” Mei said.

“Then invent it! You’re a scientist!” Iida yelled.

Iida sounded close to tears.

“I’m an engineer! That… it’s not my area of expertise.”

Iida couldn’t’ speak and just let out a tortured scream. When he stomped out, Izuku hid behind a corner. Iida looked terrible. He’d lost weight and judging from the circles around his bloodshot eyes, he hadn’t slept in days. He wasn’t even wearing his school uniform. Just jeans and a t-shirt.

When Izuku dared to enter the workshop, all light had gone out of Mei’s eyes. She stared at the wall and saw nothing.

“… Mei?”

Mei turned to look at him.

“Izuku.”

“… Iida? Was he… alright?”

“No. No he was not. A villain attacked his brother.” Mei said.

“Ingenium?! What…?”

“Paralysis. From the waist down.” Mei said.

Izuku stared at her horrified.

“… I… he…”

“He wanted me to fix that. And I can’t.” Mei said.

In a moment of fury, she pushed all the tools and papers off her desk.

“I can’t! I should, and I can’t! We… we’re working on that two-hundred-years ago! Before the Quirks came. We lost so much progress.”

Izuku sat down. Neither knew what to say.

“… the villain. Who was it?”

“Some psycho called Stain.” Mei said.

Izuku thought that was the worst news he would get that day. Then he started getting a series of notifications on the group chat he’d set up with the other students in 1-A. He and Mei looked at their phones to see what all the ruckus was about.

“… no.” Izuku gasped.

***

All For One sat in his office while his doctor did a check-up on him. Tubes from his throat connected him to a life-support system that forced his maimed body to stay alive. After five-years you’d think he would have gotten used to the machines constant humming, but he never had. Every day it drove him a bit crazier and made him hate Toshinori a bit more. For five-years now he had been nothing more than a ghost forced into hiding. Even his sight had been stolen for him and he had to examine the world through an infrared Quirk that painted everything with scarlet.

He started tapping the armrest in his chair impatiently with his fingers. Dr. Tsubasa got the message and hurried his examination. Finally, they were done and All For One buttoned his shirt.

“Well?” All For One said.

“You’re stable.” Tsubasa said.

“Not the news I wanted to hear, doctor. Has there been any improvement?” All For One said.

“Sensei… these things take time and you’ve already improved a great deal from five-years ago. The regeneration Quirk has done wonders.” Tsubasa said.

All For One sighed in defeat.

“Yes. I suppose it has. Thank you for your help, doctor.”

Tsubasa took his leave and All For One leaned back in his chair. He picked up his phone and after a few voice commands, music drowned out the sound of his life-support. Sometimes he wondered if this was all worth it, but he was a survivor. He’d find a way out even from this. All For One turned off his infrared Quirk and tried to get some sleep while the music washed over him.

“Have you heard what they said on the news today
Have you heard what is coming to us all?
That the world as we know it will be coming to an end
Have you heard, have you heard?
He sees them in the distance when the darkened clouds roll
He could feel tension in the atmosphere
He would look in the mirror, see an old man now
Does it matter they survive somehow
They said there's nothing can be done about the situation
They said there's nothing you can do at all
To sit and wait around for something to occur
Did you know, did you know?
As he stares across the garden looking at the meadows
Wonders if they'll ever grow again
The desperation of the situation getting graver
Getting ready when the wild wind blows.”

There was a knock on the door. All For One groaned and hit pause.

“Come in.”

Kurogiri opened the door and rushed in. All For One had never seen him so agitated. Even after the failed attack to U.A he’d had more self-control. Unlike everyone else who he saw in shades of red, the mist that coated Kurogiri’s body made him appear as a gray pillar of smoke in All For One’s radar.

“Master. You need to see this.” Kurogiri said.

“Do I? Cruel joke to play on a blind man. Come closer.” All For One said.

Kurogiri placed his iPad on the table and gave All For One his hand. All For One activated one of his many Quirks that allowed him to see through other people’s eyes when he touched them. On the iPad was an article.

All-Might’s Secret Out by Seito Kawada.

The article didn’t interest All For One but the video that came with it…

Toshinori was wheezing and panting after his fight with a Noumu and then… smoke erupted from him. When it cleared, All-Might was gone and in his place stood a haggard, sick man. All For One played the video again. And again. And again. And again, until it was burned into his mind. He let go of Kurogiri’s hand. His mouth was dry, and his palms were sweating.

“How has the world taken the news?” All For One said.

“Not well. People are scared and… angry.”

“Hmm. Both things that make them stupid. Well, dumber than usual anyway. Thank you, Kurogiri. That will be all.”

When he was alone, All For One started laughing. He laughed until it hurt, and then he started coughing but the pain couldn’t ruin his mood. He’d won! The wound he’d given Toshinori had finally caught up with the eye gouging bastard! Now, all he had to do was sit back and watch as the people Toshinori had sworn to protect tore him to shreds.

All For One clicked play and the rest of the song came roaring out.

“Have you seen what they said on the news today
Have you heard what they said about us all
Do you know what is happening to just every one of us
Have you heard, have you heard?
There will be a catastrophe the like we've never seen
There will be something that will light the sky
That the world as we know it, it will never be the same
Did you know, did you know?”

Chapter Text

Aizawa-sensei had told them to gather in their classroom after school for a special announcement. When Izuku sat behind his desk the air was thick with fear. He’d lived with fear as long as he could remember. You never got used to it, but you could learn to live with it. What choice did you have? Now it wasn’t just him. Terror had painted all his classmates faces. Everyone had read Kawada’s article and been devastated. All-Might had been in the hero business for thirty-four years. He’d been the Symbol of Peace since before any of them had even been born. All-Might was still the number one hero in Japan. But he was not a symbol anymore. Symbols didn’t bleed. Symbols didn’t cough and struggle They were too big for that.

The whole world had seen All-Might bleed.

A single video couldn’t wipe away over thirty years of good deeds and All-Might still had an army of supporters but where there had once been unanimous adoration was now… controversy. Fear and confusion. Feelings of… betrayal. Izuku was afraid where this could lead.

Only Iida seemed to be immune but that was because he was trapped in an even darker place. Their class president had finally returned to school and managed to appear normal. But one look in his eyes revealed that his mind was not there. 1-A’s lovable giant was gone, and a stranger had taken his place.

The door swung open and All-Might stepped in. For the past few days, he’d been in full damage control mode. Going from one talk show to another and trying to quell people’s fears. This was the first time in three days they’d seen him at school. Izuku had seen every one of the interviews and all of them had brought him close to tears. All-Might had done so much and now… he had to defend himself like a man on trial.

“Good day, boys and girls! I have arrived!” All-Might said.

Usually there would have been cheering. Now they all looked like scared kids in a thunder storm. Pleading their father to make it go away. All-Might sensed the mood and his smile lost some of its glitter.

“I’m sure all of you have a lot of questions. I’m sure all of you are scared. I’ll do my best to explain myself. Five years ago, I was wounded in a battle against a villain. It was covered up because… I was afraid something like this would happen.”

All-Might looked around at the class.

“Now, I wonder if that was the wisest option. I can only say that it was never my intention to hurt you like this.”

Eijirou got up. Tears were glittering in his eyes.

“All-Might! You don’t have to apologize! You were hurt! You were hurt, and you still kept fighting! I… I’ll do my best to be even half as cool as you one day!” Eijirou said and threw his fist in the air: “Plus Ultra!”

Izuku recognized his que and followed suit.

“Plus Ultra!” Izuku yelled.

The rest of the class joined them. Even Bakugou and Iida.

“Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra! Plus Ultra!! 1-A chanted.

For a moment Izuku thought he saw tears in All-Might’s eyes but… that was impossible. He was All-Might. All-Might didn’t cry.

“Everyone… thank you. It won’t be long until I have to hang up my cape. I’m relieved to know that there are so many promising young heroes to take my place.” All-Might said.

Bakugou put up his hand.

“The villain who hurt you. Who was it?” Bakugou said.

“Someone… I’d rather forget. He’s dead now.” All-Might said and smiled even more broadly: “I’m afraid that’s all the time I have for now. Enjoy your internships.”

There was a sense of relief when the class poured out. Only Iida was unchanged, and he followed All-Might to his office. After some hesitation, Izuku went after them. He waited outside All-Might’s office for Iida to come out. When he did, Izuku smiled awkwardly. The unwelcome surprise made Iida’s eyes narrow.

“… hi, Iida. Uh… how are you?” Izuku said.

“I’ll manage.” Iida said.

“… so… who are you interning with?”

“Manual.”

“… the hero in Hosu?” Izuku said.

Where Stain was operating.

Iida’s patience had grown thin and it finally cracked.

“What do you want, Midoriya?”

Izuku tried to summon Indestructible’s confidence and… failed. Why was this so much easier when he was in the armor?

“… are you planning to… go after Stain? I… no one would blame you. But… it won’t change anything. It… it won’t make you happy.”

“Stain would be dead, and my brother deserves revenge. It doesn’t matter if it makes me happy or not.” Iida said.

“… but…”

Iida silenced him with a glare.

“My brother can’t walk. He can’t be a hero anymore. After everything he’s done… all the people he’s saved… How is that fair?!”

When Izuku couldn’t think of anything to say, Iida turned his back and left. Izuku was left standing in the hallway lost.

All-Might opened his door. He’d reverted to his skeletal form and the yellow suit hung loosely on him.

“Trying to push him now won’t do you any good.” All-Might said.

“… you heard?”

“Well, you did yammer outside my office.” All-Might said and opened his door completely: “Want to come in?”

“… I… if it’s not too much trouble.” Izuku said.

“I was just making tea and I prefer to drink it with company.”

Izuku stepped in and sat down. All-Might poured them tea. All-Might had surprisingly many potted plants.

“… will Iida be alright?”

“Hopefully with time. These things take time. We’ve told Manual what to expect. He’s a good guy and will keep an eye on Iida.” All-Might said and offered him cookies.

Izuku ate one. It was good.

“The best thing you can do to him now is give him room. Be there for him when he needs you.” All-Might said.

“… okay.”

“So… excited about your internship?” All-Might said.

“… I… I get to go to Endeavor’s agency. He… he asked us to show up already on Sunday.”

“A rare honor. He almost never takes interns.” All-Might said and grinned: “You pulled a fast one on Bakugou.”

“… I… yes.”

“I’m grateful to you and Kirishima for getting him back to school. But… I need to ask you to do me one more favor.” All-Might said.

“… what is it?”

“You don’t have to forgive Bakugou. You don’t owe him that but please. If he’s serious about making amends and changing… don’t punish him for that. Don’t mock him for his past mistakes. Don’t punish him for trying to be better.”

Izuku stared at his tea.

“… okay.”

“It’s not fair, my boy. I know but… life isn’t fair. Even if we try to make it so. Sometimes the only thing we can do is… let it go.” All-Might said.

“… I know.”

All-Might smiled and patted him on the shoulder.

“You’ll be a fine hero, Indestructible. Learn what you can at Endeavor’s and then surpass us both.”

Izuku smiled.

“I will.” Izuku said but then his smile withered: “Will you be… alright?”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll just have to get through this. I’ve survived worse.” All-Might said and scratched his scar.

Izuku finished his tea and went home. There he started packing for his week-long stay at Endeavor’s. He and Mei left there on Sunday.

***

On a Monday morning Momo Yaoyorozu arrived at Uwabami’s agency fifteen minutes early. She stood before the building trying to muster the courage to go in. Would Uwabami take one look at her and declare her unsuited for heroics? Mei had said that she had suffered her most humiliating defeat and failure had nothing left that could scare her but… it was hard to be as brave… as fearless as Mei.

“Yaoyorozu?”

Momo turned to look and sighed in relief when she saw 1-B’s class president Itsuka Kendo waving at her. It was good to know that she wouldn’t have to do this alone but… would a hero… a real hero be afraid to face challenges alone? What if she didn’t have what it took? Even Midoriya… a complete novice had beaten her when it mattered.

“Why are you so pale?” Kendo said and nudged her shoulder: “Sorry. Don’t you remember me? I’m Itsuka Kendo. We met at your party.”

“Of course. And I’m Momo… but you knew that already.”

Kendo laughed.

“Relax. It’s just an internship.” Kendo said and looked at the agency: “Shall we?”

They stepped in together and the receptionist told them to head to the top floor. They thanked her for the help and took the elevator.

“I’m a bit surprised that you chose Uwabami. I mean with your Quirk you could easily throw down with the big boys and Uwabami concentrates in arrests and tracking.” Kendo said in the elevator.

“Midnight recommended her. She said Uwabami could help me… deal with pressure.” Momo said.

“Are you still down about the tournament? You made it to the finals.” Kendo said.

“I could have done better.” Momo said.

Kendo grinned.

“Next time just create a gun. Problem solved.”

Momo smiled.

“Maybe I will.”

The elevator door opened and led them to Uwabami’s office. Uwabami looked like she did in the papers. A woman with a model’s looks and snakes for hair. To Momo’s surprise she wasn’t alone. Midnight-sensei was there too. With Ojiro. Who was dressed as a valet. Ojiro looked away embarrassed when they came in.

“Yaoyorozu! Kendo! Welcome to my lair!” Midnight-sensei said.

“This is my office.” Uwabami said dryly.

“Not anymore it isn’t. Come close and let Uwabami check the goods.” Midnight-sensei said.

“… goods?” Momo said.

Uwabami gave them a quick look.

“They’re certainly pretty enough.”

“Pretty? I’m sorry but weren’t we supposed to learn about the hero business?” Kendo said.

“And you will. Side jobs are an important part of heroics too.” Uwabami said.

Momo kept glancing at Ojiro whose face was growing redder by the second.

“Why is Ojiro dressed like that?”

“My agency has a tight dress code for the employees. Even interns. After his actions in the tournament I just had to have him.” Midnight-sensei said.

“Kill me.” Ojiro mouthed at Momo.

“Both of them have the looks of a model but we need to make them comfortable in their skin first. Luckily I have just the trick.” Uwabami said.

“Really?” Momo said.

“Pole dancing.” Uwabami said.

“Excuse me?” Kendo said.

Ojiro was looking around like he was trying to find an escape route. Momo had turned even redder than him.

“Like… like in strip clubs?” Momo said.

Midnight-sensei laughed.

“Pole dancing is the perfect marriage of self-control and confidence. It will prepare you well for modelling. And heroics of course.”

“This is insane.” Kendo said.

“Why am I here?” Ojiro said.

“Well, we need an audience, don’t we?” Uwabami said.

“That’s it?” Ojiro said.

“Of course not. You’ll be doing it too.” Midnight-sensei said.

“… I…. but…” Ojiro said and then just sighed: “Whatever. This might as well happen.”

Momo hoped the others were having a better time than her.

***

Tsunagu Hakamata, the hero Best Jeanist, looked through his latest interns file and didn’t find much to like.

“I’ll be honest with you. I don’t like you. Especially after what happened in the tournament. Many in my agency believe that you’re more suited for villainy but that is why I invited you. Reforming problem children like you is also a hero’s duty.” Tsunagu said.

Tsunagu put the file down.

“Everyone deserves a chance to improve themselves and I will make a hero out of you. We will start with your hair. We need to get that thing under control.”

His latest intern Hitoshi Shinsou grinned.

“I was ready to sell my left testimonial for a chance like this. You want my hair, Mr. BJ? You can have it.” Shinsou said.

***

Minoru Mineta sat at Mount Lady’s agency with Uraraka and waited for someone to tell them what to do. They’d already waited for half an hour. The only one who even seemed to be at work was the receptionist.

“Like… does she even know were here or…” Minoru said.

“Hush. I’m trying to smell the office sex. That I’ll be having. With Mount Lady.” Uraraka said.

“… you do that.” Minoru said.

She’s going to die alone and confused, Minoru thought.

Finally, after an hour of waiting Mount Lady decided to finally show up. Wearing a baggy t-shit and sweat pants. Eating instant ramen. She gave them a long, puzzled look.

“Who the hell are you?”

“We…” Minoru said before Uraraka pushed him aside.

“We are your new interns! I’m Ochaco Uraraka! A huge fan!”

“Oh shit! That was today? Uh… Okay. You can find the mops in the cupboard over there. Clean this pig stain up.”

“… uh… weren’t we supposed to learn how to be heroes?” Minoru said.

“You are learning. When a higher-ranking hero tells you clean her office, what do you say?” Mount Lady said.

“Yes, ma’am!” Uraraka said.

“See? She gets it.” Mount Lady said and left them.

They stared after her.

“Dat ass.” Uraraka said dreamily.

“… is it too late to pick another agency? Or a new best friend?” Minoru said.

“Aw. You’re my best friend too. Now, let’s get to work. And when I’m all sweaty from all the cleaning, I’ll be needing a shower. Then I just I need to wait for Mount Lady to hit the showers too and…”

“She probably showers at home.” Minoru said.

“Let me dream!”

“Is that why you picked her agency?!”

“Hush. I’m trying to smell the shower sex.”

Minoru sighed.

“Let’s… let’s just get this over with.”

***

Katsuki Bakugou hadn’t thought anyone would be inviting him to their agency after the fiasco that had been the U.A Sports Festival. The Chivalrous Hero Fourth Kind had surprised him. Fourth Kind Looked and dressed like a mob boss and had the build of a four-armed gorilla.

Katsuki stood in line with Eijirou and his cheap knock-off from 1-B. Fourth Kind looked at them and didn’t seem to like what he saw. He crossed all four of his arms.

“Alright, brats. Talk to me. Why do you want to be heroes?” Fourth Kind said.

“I’m going to show everyone I’m the best.” Katsuki said.

“I want to keep people safe from villains!” Eijirou said.

Katsuki had to suppress a smile. That was so like Eijirou. Dirt simple and true. Katsuki didn’t hate it. People over-thought things too much. Eijirou was a doer.

“The same!” The knock-off said.

Katsuki bared his teeth. Couldn’t the knock-off have even a little a personality of his own?

Fourth Kind shook his head.

“What do they teach you in U.A? You brats know nothing about being heroes. Good thing I got here in time. I’ll spend this week showing you the other side of being a hero. The one you don’t see in TV.”

“We’re ready!” Eijirou said.

“Good. Go fetch plastic bags and gloves. We’re off to clean a park.” Fourth Kind said.

“What?!” Katsuki yelled.

“You heard me. If you have a problem with that, you know where the door is. So, do we have a problem?” Fourth Kind said.

Eijirou looked at him pleadingly. Katsuki sighed.

“No.”

“Good. Now get to it.” Fourth Kind said.

When Katsuki tried to leave with Eijirou and the knock-off, Fourth Kind put one of his four hands on his shoulder.

“Not you.”

Eijirou looked at him surprised but then left with the knock-off. Fourth Kind leaned against his desk and crossed all four of his arms.

“Saw the video of you.” Fourth Kind said.

“Everyone has.” Katsuki said.

“Made you look like an asshole. Not surprising since you are one.”

“What?!” Katsuki yelled.

Fourth Kind smacked him over the head.

“Don’t interrupt me when I talk. You’re an asshole, brat. But I don’t think that’s entirely your fault. Being an asshole has been very good for you. It got you to U.A and all the way to the finals. And no one tried to stop you from being one. Not your teachers. Or your parents.”

Katsuki glared at Fourth Kind furiously.

“Leave my parents out of this!”

Fourth Kind smirked.

“At least you take responsibility. Maybe there is still hope for you. Like I said. Being an asshole was good for you. Then it stopped being good for you.”

Katsuki shuddered.

I loved you once and you… you threw me away! I loved you! You threw me away! I loved you! Once! And you threw me away! Live with it, you bastard! I loved you once!

It was stupid and ridiculous, but he felt like crying. When had things gone so wrong? He… he’d never meant it to go so far. And… how did you fix something that was so broken?

“… yeah.”

Fourth Kind rubbed the scar on his face.

“I know it’s hard to unlearn being an asshole. And being a hero is not just about beating up villains.”

“Heroes are supposed to fight villains and win!” Katsuki said.

If… if only he beat up enough villains… then… then maybe what De… Midoriya had said would stop ringing in his ears. Why did he care what Midoriya thought about him?! He was just… someone who’d loved him… once. And who… he’d thrown away.

“What did I say about interrupting me? Heroes are supposed to set an example. At the moment you’re only a bad one. I’ll do what I can for you. It’s up to you if you want my help.” Fourth Kind said.

Katsuki swallowed his pride and helped Fourth Kind clean the park.

***

On Sunday Izuku and Mei took a train to Endeavor’s agency. By Mei’s insistence they both wore their Project: Indestructible jackets. Mei had managed to one-up him and was even wearing one of their t-shirts under her jacket. Izuku was sure a few people in the train had recognized them but none of them had said anything.

“… I’ve been meaning to ask…” Izuku said.

“I’m flattered, Izuku, but the release you signed said that there will be no fucking among Team Indestructible members.” Mei said.

“… what?”

“I think it was on page… 69?”

“… I never got that far.” Izuku said.

“That was the idea.” Mei said.

“… what… what else did you slip in there?” Izuku said.

“Nothing major. Besides your organs being my legal property.” Mei said.

“… jeez, Mei.”

“Relax. We’re not that desperate for money. Yet.” Mei said.

Izuku made a mental note of going through the release he’d signed more carefully when he had the time.

“… I wanted to know how you made Blacksmith agree on this.” Izuku said.

“Dad doesn’t know I’m here.” Mei said.

“What?! But… our parents had to sign leases.”

“I’ve been forging dad’s signature for years. He thinks we’re interning for some basic bitch.”

“… what if he finds out?” Izuku said.

Mei shrugged.

“Forgiveness is easier to get than permission.”

They arrived at Endeavor’s agency in the early evening. Endeavor might have been the number two hero, but his agency was easily the biggest in Japan and it showed. Endeavor’s base of operations looked like a military headquarter. The receptionist knew to expect them and gave them a friendly smile.

“He’s waiting for you, Team Indestructible. Your package has also arrived.” The receptionist said.

Mei took out her phone that came with a tracking device.

“I know.”

They took an elevator to the top floor and Izuku felt his pulse quicken. He was really doing this. Meeting the second biggest hero in Japan. Endeavor was no All-Might, but Izuku still owed a ton of his merchandise. Mei didn’t look too impressed and played with her phone all the way up.

The elevator opened to a small corridor that led to Endeavor’s office. It was bigger than Izuku’s home and its walls were made of glass giving Endeavor a view of the city that he protected. Todoroki was also there and sitting on one the couches. Todoroki smiled when he saw Izuku but grimaced when Mei stepped in.

Endeavor was sitting behind his desk and studying the package that had been delivered. Much to Izuku’s disappointment he wasn’t wearing his hero costume, but a black suit and his beard wasn’t on fire. You could see the family resemblance then. Endeavor was an older, more rugged and beefier version of his son. When they stepped in, he got up to greet them.

“Welcome. I’ve been expecting you.” Endeavor said and shook Izuku’s hand.

Endeavor almost crushed his hand without even trying.

“… I… I’ve been looking forward to this too. I… I’m a huge fan.” Izuku said.

“Are you know? Happy to hear it.” Endeavor said and then offered his hand to Mei.

Mei waited just long enough to be rude before shaking Endeavor’s hand. From the corner of his eye, Izuku saw Todoroki let out a relieved sigh. When Endeavor’s back was turned, she wiped her hand in her jeans. Izuku wondered how long he could go without washing his right hand before it became gross.

“We got the armor, but I can’t seem to be able to open the damn thing.” Endeavor said.

“That’s the idea of protection. I designed it myself. Thanks for looking after it.” Mei said and tried to take the casing.

Endeavor put his hand on the package and rooted it on his desk.

“I’m happy that you accepted my invitation. I wasn’t sure you would. Not after all that happened between me and Blacksmith. I hope we can make peace.” Endeavor said.

Mei didn’t say anything and tried to yank the casing free. Todoroki was sitting uneasily on the couch.

“… I hope so too.” Izuku said.

Endeavor and Mei turned to look at him. Izuku knew it hurt but… sometimes all you could do was let grudges go. If Mei saw Endeavor in action, then maybe…

Endeavor let go of the package.

“Don’t worry. Everything will go according to plan.” Mei said icily.

“Things rarely do. I was planning for Shouto to win the tournament, but it didn’t pan out. We’ve already reviewed what he did wrong.” Endeavor said.

“Yeah.” Todoroki said.

“I was very impressed with the armor. Can’t wait to see it in action.” Endeavor said.

“You will.” Mei said.

“Why wait? You’re both here. I’m here and I have a training room just below our feet. A match would be a good way to see what Indestructible can do.” Endeavor said.

“… who would I be fighting?” Izuku said.

Todoroki got up.

“I can…”

“Me, of course.” Endeavor said.

“Dad…” Todoroki said.

“Don’t worry. I just want to see what he can do.” Endeavor said.

Izuku’s mouth was dry and his heart was beating way too fast.

“… okay.”

They took the elevator to the training grounds. A huge cavern where people with powerful Quirks could go wild. Mei helped him put on the armor.

“Be careful and if you can punch off his babymaker, I’d be very grateful.” Mei said.

“… yeah, no. Not doing that.” Izuku said.

“I’d give you a raise.”

“… you don’t pay me.” Izuku said.

“I could start.”

“… still no.”

Izuku put on the helmet and Indestructible took the wheel. He left Mei behind and stepped into the arena. Endeavor walked to meet him. He’d traded his suit for his hero outfit and his beard had caught fire.

“Can you hear me, dad?” Sagan said.

“Loud and clear.” Indestructible said.

“Endeavor’s flames are stronger than Todoroki’s, but the armor should be able to handle it now.” Sagan said.

“Does he have a hidden ice Quirk?” Indestructible said.

“No. You nervous, dad?”

“Extremely.”

“Me too. If we win, does that mean we get his agency?” Sagan said.

Indestructible grinned.

“Let’s find out.”

Endeavor cracked his neck.

“Come at me like I was villain. Don’t hold anything back.”

“I hope you won’t regret that.” Indestructible said.

Endeavor laughed.

“Cocky, are we? I don’t mind that, but cockiness has to be earned.”

Indestructible studied Endeavor’s data. He was well over two meters tall and weighting roughly hundred and fifteen kilos. Most of it muscle. When it came to experience Endeavor was second only to All-Might. Indestructible should have been worried but… he wasn’t. Indestructible 2.0 might not have been faster or stronger than the prototype from the tournament but even at full-power it could run for five hours and its heat resistance and cooling system were far superior. Endeavor might be the number two hero but what was he without his flames? A tall, imposing man but a man none the less. The armor made Indestructible superhuman.

Endeavor’s Quirk Hellfire coated the arena in fire. Sagan let him know that the heat was well within safety limits. The smart thing to do would have been to let Endeavor make the first move but… All-Might wouldn’t have waited. If a strategy was good enough for All-might, it was good enough for Indestructible.

He attacked.

Sagan did some complex calculations in a fraction of a second and pointed out all the weak points in Endeavor’s body that would be easy to break. Indestructible ignored them. Endeavor had told Indestructible to fight like he was a villain but breaking the number two hero’s kneecaps would have been a terrible way to start his internship. Endeavor threw a punch and Indestructible grabbed it.

During their sparring matches Ojiro had recommended him to concentrate on the basics be it boxing, judo or karate. Izuku Midoriya wasn’t a natural brawler thanks to his size but Indestructible was far beyond heavy-weight.

A basic judo throw took Endeavor off his feet… and he landed back on them. It was Indestructible’s turn to fly when Endeavor used his own momentum against him. Even with shock absorption fiber Indestructible felt the impact but it only left him dazed. Endeavor started twisting his arm.

“Shock!” Indestructible yelled.

Sagan did as she was told, and the sudden jolt made Endeavor lose his grip. Indestructible jumped on his feet and followed it with a wild flurry of blows. He felt them connect but… they didn’t seem to faze Endeavor much. He’d never thought about it but maybe Endeavor’s Quirk had toughened his body to inhuman levels like Bakugou’s had.

When Endeavor counterattacked, Indestructible managed to dodge the first blow only to figure out too late it was a faint. Endeavor’s left hit him in the chest like it was intended and even with the absorption fiber, it knocked the wind out of him. Indestructible was knocked into the ground and left gasping for air.

“Get up, dad!” Sagan yelled.

Indestructible couldn’t get up and Endeavor was getting closer.

“Stop!”

Todoroki ran between him and Endeavor.

“Stop. You won. He’s not family.” Todoroki said.

The fire went out.

“Yes. Yes, I did.” Endeavor said and offered Indestructible… Izuku his hand: “Can you stand?”

“… I… yes.” Izuku said.

“Hope I wasn’t too tough on you. You did well. Shouto.”

“Yes?” Todoroki said.

“We’re done for today. Take our guests home and help them settle. We’ll start tomorrow in earnest.” Endeavor said.

Mei helped him remove the armor and Izuku hit the showers to wash himself and get changed. A huge bruise was forming on his chest. There was a knock on the door.

“Midoriya? Can I come in?” Endeavor said.

Izuku quickly put on his underwear and pants.

“… yes.”

Endeavor stepped in.

“That will make quite a bruise.” Endeavor said and threw him a cold spray: “Use that.”

“… thank you.”

“You might think me harsh, but it does you good to be knocked around in training. Prepares you for the field.” Endeavor said.

“… I… no. Thank you. For training me.”

“Wish Shouto was as appreciative. If you don’t have any questions, head to the lobby when you’re done. My driver will take you to my home.”

“… you’re not coming?” Izuku said.

“I’ll sleep here. Running an agency like this is busy work.” Endeavor said and got ready to leave.

“… uh… Mr. Endeavor. About Mei… and Blacksmith…”

Endeavor stopped.

“Wondering about us?” Endeavor said.

“… I… know Blacksmith and your wife… were together in U.A and then…”

“And then I took him to court. Over an interview.” Endeavor said and sighed: “Not my proudest moment suing an employee but… I was in a bad place then. My wife… Rei… she has… emotional problems. They got… bad and she… hurt Shouto.”

Izuku’s stomach cramped.

“… his face?”

“Yes. I… had to institutionalize her. Blacksmith blamed me… and so did Shouto. I… I was angry. I felt… helpless and I… overreacted.” Endeavor said.

They were quiet for a long time.

“Midoriya… I… I was not a good husband or father. I had to choose between my career and my family and I… chose wrong. If Shouto hates me, let him. If that lets him cope, so be it.” Endeavor said.

“… okay.” Izuku said.

Endeavor’s face softened when he smiled.

“Have you thought what you’ll do when you graduate?”

“… I… was thinking about starting my own agency. With Mei.”

“Like Hawks? Not everyone can pull it off like he did right out of the gate. My advice to you? Get experience. What with All-Might… we can’t lose new talents to hastiness. I’m always looking for new side-kicks.” Endeavor said.

Izuku swallowed.

“… what?”

“We can talk about that more after your internship.” Endeavor said.

Endeavor left and Izuku stared after him for a long time.

***

While Izuku was in the shower, Mei wandered around the agency planting bugs. Once she did the same at Endeavor’s home, he would have no secrets from her.

“Hatsume.”

Endeavor was a lot bigger in person. And far more intimidating. She felt pressure not even the villain attack at U.A could match.

“Mei.” Mei said.

“Excuse me?” Endeavor said.

“Call me Mei. It rhymes with Rei. Should be easy enough to remember.” Mei said.

Endeavor gave her a flash of teeth.

“If you insist.” Endeavor said and crossed his arms, leaning against a wall: “I was surprised you accepted my offer.”

“Not half as surprised as I was that you invited me.” Mei said.

“I wanted to have a look at you. You remind me of Blacksmith.” Endeavor said.

“It’s the hair, isn’t it?”

“You’re both so obvious. And obsessed with past slights. I didn’t start that fight with your father.” Endeavor said.

“You certainly finished it.”

“That I did. Never backdown. Always fight back. That’s my motto.”

Mei looked around at the agency.

“Seems to have worked out for you.”

“It has. Want some advice?” Endeavor said.

“No.” Mei said.

“You’re getting it anyway. Don’t start fights you can’t win. I could be a terrifying enemy.”

“I know how terrifying you can be. Was that supposed to be a threat?” Mei said.

“A fact. You have useful skills and I’d hate to see them go to waste because of a petty grudge.” Endeavor said.

“Well. Thank you. For the… advice. I’ll keep it in mind.” Mei said.

“You do that. Looking forward to working with you.” Endeavor said and walked to his office.

Mei had to suppress a shudder and for a moment she thought about running. A house that was no longer there and a family that couldn’t be mended wasn’t worth this. The moment passed, and she steeled herself.

“Never backdown. Always fight back.” Mei said to herself.

The driver took them to Endeavor’s house.

***

Seito Kawada sat alone in his grimy apartment and read the article again.

All-Might’s Secret Out by Seito Kawada.

It was trash from start to finish. The worst thing he’d ever written. He saw no journalism in it. Just anger and rage. Trash fueled by ten years of loss and bitterness. The outrage against All-Might had turned into a witch-hunt and it was all his fault. Now that his mind was clear… it was too late to do anything about it.

What have I done, he thought.

Seito looked around at his apartment. The last in a long line of lousy apartments. Each worse than the last. He could afford a better one now. With all the job offers he’d been getting. All that money was not worth destroying a good man’s reputation. What had he become? The man he had been ten years ago would have spat on him if they met. He… he’d just wanted to see his children again. Get back what he’d lost. Why? Why?! It wasn’t fair! All he and Blacksmith had tried to do was force Endeavor answer for his crimes.

They’d tried to set things right and it had cost them everything. Now, Seito had even sold his soul.

There was a knock on the door.

Seito flinched, and the knocking turned into pounding. Moving as silently as he could, Seito picked up a kitchen knife. Had Overhaul decided that he was no longer needed and was cutting off loose ends? He seemed like the kind of guy.

The knocking stopped. Seito approached the door slowly and glanced into the hallway through the spyhole. There was no one there.

Someone crashed through the window.

Seito didn’t even have time to scream and swung the knife out of reflex. Strong fingers gripped Seito’s wrist and drove the knife into his own shoulder. He tried to scream. From pain. For help. Both. And found he couldn’t. He couldn’t move! He… he’d lost control of his body. He hit the wall and slid down on the floor.

A monster knelled before him. A domino mask hid its face. Its flat face. Did it have a nose at all beneath the mask? Its whole body was nothing, but flat, hard muscle and its eyes shone like a rabid dog’s.

“Seito Kawada?”

The monster’s voice was raspy.

Seito only had enough strength to nod.

The monster pulled out the knife from Seito’s shoulder and stuck its fingers in the wound. Even if Seito couldn’t move, he could still feel. Something exploded in his shoulder. The monster licked the knife with its grotesquely long tongue.

“Do I have your attention? Where did you get the video from?”

For a moment Seito was a journalist again and journalist didn’t rat out his sources. His silence made the monster dig his fingers deeper. When Seito refused to scream, the monster pulled out its bloodied fingers and licked them clean. Then it placed its thumbs on Seito’s eyes.

“Would losing your eyes help you remember?”

“Wait! Wait… Shi… Hassaikai… Overhaul…”

The monster pulled back its hands and got up. The monster took out a sword and slashed.

Chapter Text

Shuichi sat in the small room he shared with Mustard and slime boy in the Shi Hassaikai mansion. He checked the news with his iPad and then… stopped.

“Oh… shit.” Shuichi said.

“What?” Mustard said

“Kawada is dead.”

Mustard looked up.

“Who?”

“The guy who exposed All-Might. They think it was Stain. I mean… his name was written in the wall.” Shuichi said.

Mustard shuddered, and Shuichi didn’t blame him. Every small hoodlum who’d heard about him, was terrified of Stain. A lunatic who killed criminals and heroes alike. Sometimes he tortured them first.

“You… you think he’d come after us?” Mustard said.

Slime boy grinned inside his bottle.

“What’s wrong? Scared?” Slime boy said.

“If you’re not, you’re a fool.” Shuichi said and got up: “Hold the fort. I’m going to take a leak.”

Shuichi had to use his phone as a flashlight in the dark manor. Overhaul being the penny pincher he was, didn’t like them turning on the lights at this hour.

He stepped into something wet.

When Shuichi looked down, he saw two of the Eight Bullets lying on the floor. Katsukame and Hojo. Two of the scariest people he’d ever met had been turned into Pez dispensers and were lying in a pool of their own blood. Blood that was still hot! Which meant…!

Strong fingers grabbed Shuichi’s hair and yanked his head back. Something sharp clawed at his throat but couldn’t quite pierce his scales. The only thing that came out was a few drops of blood. When Shuichi popped out his spikes, his would-be killer let go and Shuichi tried to make a run for it.

He fell over. Paralyzed. The dead men’s blood smeared his clothes.

The attacker kicked him over on his back and Shuichi saw the assailant’s face. His heart started racing like a wild horse. All pictures of Stain were unfocused and smudgy but all the survivors from his rampages described the same thing. A monster who hid his mutilated face under a mask.

“You’re a tough one.” Stain said and raised his sword: “Die.”

“Kill me… and you’ll never get to Overhaul.”

The words flowed out of him without thought but with perfect confidence. He was convincing enough that Stain lowered his sword. For the moment.

“How so?”

“I know his Quirk and all his lieutenants Quirks. Mimic can control objects. His room is next to Overhaul’s and Sakaki… just follow the stench of booze. As for Overhaul…” Shuichi said.

Stain clicked his tongue impatiently.

“Yes?”

“Promise me… you’ll make enough noise for us to run.” Shuichi said.

Stain pressed his sword on Shuichi’s throat.

“You think you can make demands? What about the man in black? With the scarred face?”

“Out on… business. Take that… fucking sword out of my face.” Shuichi said.

Stain grinned and pulled his sword back.

“I like you. We have a deal.”

Whatever Stain’s Quirk was he released it and Shuichi could move again.

“What’s Overhaul’s Quirk?” Stain said.

Shuichi rubbed his throat.

“Whatever he touches… blows up.”

“Does it now? Thank you. Be ready to run when the noise starts.”

Stain disappeared into the darkness. Shuichi waited for a moment among the corpses to see if this was a ruse to make him drop his guard and Stain would return to finish him off. When he was sure he was alone Shuichi ran back to his room. Mustard grew pale when he saw his bloodstained clothes.

“Shuichi?... your shirt…”

“No time. Grab your shit. We’re leaving.” Shuichi whispered.

The alarm went off. Shuichi threw his iPad and slime boy inside his bag and rushed out of the room with Mustard who was still pulling his pants up. Instead of the exit Shuichi ran deeper into the mansion.

“What are you…?!” Mustard said.

“I’m not leaving without Eri.”

Mustard followed him unhappily, but he followed all the same.

***

The leader of Shi Hassaikai, Kai Chisaki, better known as Overhaul sat in his office. He could hear Eri weeping in the room next to his. He liked hearing her cry. It meant she was close by and obedient. He smiled behind his mask and studied the single bullet his scientists had produced. With the help of Eri’s rewinding Quirk they’d already been able to produce bullets that suppressed Quirks but this… this took them away permanently. It would still take time before they could mass-produce them, but the hard part was behind them.

Who should lose their Quirk first? All-Might? Although his glory days were over he still had clout. Or maybe he should just let his adoring fans tear him to pieces and wait to see who took his place. The poor fools didn’t know this wasn’t their world anymore. A man who could take and give Quirks ruled the land. He would do what the First Symbol of Peace had done two-hundred years ago and save the world from itself. The disease called Quirks had been running rampant for far too long. He would…

Kai looked around. Someone was here. There was killing intent in the air.

After locking the bullet in his safe, Kai approached the door. Did Rappa want to have another go and was getting sneakier?

When he pulled the door open someone crashed through the window.

Kai tried to grab the intruder and blow him to kingdom come… and saw his arm go flying. There was no time to scream and he hit the ground with his remaining hand. His Quirk turned to floorboards into spears and impaled the…

Impossible!

The intruder dodged his spears! All of them! Not even Rappa was that fast. What the hell was going…?

A throwing knife hit Kai in the eye.

This time he did have time to scream. This bastard was dead! He was fucking dead! He’d make the bastard scream and then he’d die! He’d mount the bastard’s head on his wall as warning to the others and then…!

Why can’t I move?

Kai fell over.

With his remaining eye he finally got a good look at the intruder. He’d never met him or even seen his face, but he knew him all the same. Stain. The Hero Killer.

“You think someone with such weak ideals could beat me? All you vultures are the same. Only good preying on better men then yourselves.” Stain said while approaching him.

Where the hell was Mimic?! Or Sakaki?! They were supposed to guard him! Where had the rest of his men gone?! What was going on?! There was an… unpleasant feeling growing at the pit of his stomach. Was… was this fear? Was this how he made others feel? No! He caused fear! He didn’t feel it!

He couldn’t move but he could still use his Quirk. He overhauled his entire body and reconstructed his eye but there weren’t enough materials to restore his arm. Then he purged Stain’s infection from his body. When he could move again, Stain was too close to get away from his reach. Kai grabbed his sword arm and blew it off.

Stain didn’t even flinch. He just grabbed another sword with his remaining hand and tried to take Kai’s head off.

“Kai!”

Chronostasis rushed into the room. Kai smiled behind his mask. He could always trust Chrono to watch his back. Arrows grew out of Chrono’s body and flew at Stain. The bastard avoided them handily but now… the flow of the battle had shifted.

They fought. Losing an arm had fazed Stain more than it had affected Kai. His balance was off, and his movement were wobbly. Stain was no longer looking for a way to win but an escape route. They didn’t let him leave. Not when the real fun was going to start. He’d scream. He’d beg and then…

Foul mist filled the room.

All they could see was green smoke and Kai pulled Chrono closer. Using his Quirk, he filled the room with spikes. One of them had to get the bastard. They had to! Then he crafted them an escape route. They fell to the ground in the yard and coughed out the smoke. He was feeling lightheaded. Drugged out.

“Who the hell was that?! And what was that mist?!” Chrono said between the coughs.

“The Hero Killer… Stain…” Kai said.

Chrono looked at his stump.

“Seems to have gotten your arm.”

“I’ll get a new one.” Kai said.

“Why wait?” Chrono said and offered his hand: “You need it more than I do.”

Kai hesitated but then took Chrono’s hand.

“Thank you.” Kai said and activated his Quirk.

When Kai was testing his new hand, a horrifying thought came to him.

“Where’s Eri?!”

***

When Shuichi sneaked deeper into the mansion, he could see Stain’s handiwork. Stain had visited Overhaul’s top fighters before moving on to the final boss. Mimic had been asleep when Stain came and Sakaki had been too drunk to fight back. Overhaul was the scariest thing Shuichi had met after Toga, but Stain had forced even him on the defensive. They didn’t notice them when they slipped into Eri’s room.

They hadn’t gotten there first. The living lie detector Shin was trying to drag Eri with him. He was so infuriated that he didn’t even notice them until it was too late.

“Come here, you stupid little…”

Shuichi knocked him out with a single punch. Shin fell over without a word. Mustard looked at the unconscious man horrified. Eri was too numbed for all of it to feel anything. Shuichi knelled in front of her.

“Hi. Sorry you had to wait. Wanna get out of here?” Shuichi said.

“… Mr. Chisaki… he’ll find us.” Eri said.

“He just ran into someone worse than himself. He won’t touch you again. I promise.” Shuichi said.

Eri hesitated but Shuichi’s smile made her take his hand. Shuichi threw the girl on his back and started running for the exit. Mustard kept up the pace as well as he could. Fear was a hell of a motivator. In a perfect world they would have made it to the exit without a problem, but the world was ruled by a very cruel god.

They almost crashed into Rappa.

Mustard looked ready to wet himself and Shuichi prayed that Rappa’s first punch was enough to finish him off. He didn’t want to find out what Overhaul had in store for traitors.

Rappa didn’t finish them off. He just looked at them. Finally, he spoke.

“Run. I didn’t see anything.” Rappa said.

Shuichi and Mustard stared at him shocked. Eri hugged Shuichi tighter.

“… thank you.” Mustard said.

Rappa handed Mustard his credit card.

“Use that and run as far as you can.” Rappa said.

They kept running. When they were finally out Shuichi turned to look at the mansion.

“Mustard. Flood the house. That should give them something to do while we run.” Shuichi said.

Mustard nodded, and poisonous gas started flowing out of his fingertips into the Shi Hassaikai manor.

***

Manual had his people watching the hotel Tenya Iida was staying in. They tried their hardest to go unseen but Tenya could sense them a mile away. Someone was always camped outside his door to ensure he couldn’t leave his room without being noticed.

Like that would stop him.

It was no accident that he’d been given a room at the top floor in the hotel. It would have stopped most people from moving freely but he wasn’t like most people. He turned off the lights and then opened his window. He revved up the engines in his legs and jumped. When he was going at full speed he could even run on walls. Just before he hit the ground, he let out a burst of steam from his legs to stop his fall.

Then he started his search for Stain. No one could cover more ground in a single night than him.

Once he wouldn’t have even considered this. Breaking the rules. The one thing that separated heroes from villains. But that was before he saw his big brother strapped to a hospital bed clinging to his life. That was before he heard his mother’s broken crying. That was before the doctor told them how Tensei would never walk again.

Villain or vigilante. He didn’t care anymore.

Until Stain was dead, he wouldn’t stop or rest. He would spend his days playing a hero with Manual. At night he would search. Until he found Stain, he’d do what he had to. And when he found the bastard, only one of them would walk away.

***

Even when Shuichi was carrying Eri, Mustard lagged behind him. They kept running until Mustard couldn’t keep up anymore. Fear could only push someone so far. Mustard fell on his knees and gasped for air. Shuichi dragged him into an alleyway that offered them some secrecy. Eri was yawning and could barely keep her eyes open.

“What… now?” Mustard said while panting.

That was a good question. Shuichi had never planned further than getting out of the mansion. He’d have to wing it.

“We will…”

Something landed in the alleyway with them. Eri let out a terrified gasp and Mustard came close to losing the control of his bladder. Again. Shuichi had just enough time to stop himself from popping out his spikes on instinct and skewering Eri. Stain looked at them. One of his arms was gone but there wasn’t even a scar on the stump. The missing arm didn’t stop him from being as scary as Toga.

“We meet again, my friend.” Stain said.

“… friend?” Mustard said and crawled away from Stain: “… are you going to kill us?”

“Mustard. Hush. You’re scaring Eri.” Shuichi said without taking his eyes off Stain.

“… your arm… did Mr. Chisaki hurt you too?” Eri said.

Stain smiled.

“I got careless and paid the price. I can still swing a sword.” Stain said and looked around: “Overhaul will come after you. You’ll need a place to hide.” Stain said.

“With you?” Shuichi said.

“Perhaps.” Stain said.

Shuichi licked his lips.

“What’s the catch?”

“I don’t stomach freeloaders. I expect you to pull your weight.” Stain said.

Shuichi and Mustard glanced at each other. This was a bad idea but… what choice did they have?

“Deal.” Shuichi said.

Stain smiled.

“Follow me.”

Stain pulled off a sewer lid and led them beneath the city. It didn’t look like any sewer Shuichi had ever seen. It was more like a passageway or a labyrinth.

“What is this place?” Shuichi said.

“The First Symbol of Peace carved these out two-hundred years ago when the Quirk violence hit its peak. To give people a safe way to move. I’ve claimed them for myself.” Stain said.

That explained how Stain could appear and disappear at will. They followed Stain for well over an hour in the underground city during which Eri finally fell asleep. When Shuichi started suspecting that Stain was lost, they arrived at his hideout. It could have been an army barrack if not for the weapons on the walls. Spears. Bows. Swords. And knives. Lots of knives. They looked self-made and deadly.

Shuichi was careful not to wake Eri up when he tugged her in on the cleanest mattress he could find. Then he turned to look at Stain. Stain was untying his mask with his remaining hand. Neither Shuichi or Mustard could suppress a shudder when they saw the hole where Stain’s nose should have been. Shuichi’s eyes drifted between Stain’s missing nose and his new stump.

“… uh… should we have that looked at?” Shuichi said.

“Have what looked at?” Stain said.

“Your… your hand.” Shuichi said.

“Why? Overhaul was kind enough to close the wound. He’ll live to regret it when I go back to finish him off.”

“You want to… fight him again?” Mustard said.

“I’m going to kill him.” Stain said plainly.

Shuichi and Mustard shared a look. Great. They had just traded one lunatic for another.

“You… uh… wanted us to pull our weight. What did you mean?” Shuichi said.

“Come. We’ll have a test.” Stain said.

They followed Stain reluctantly to his training room. It was littered with weights, ropes and punching bags. It reeked of old sweat. Stain threw Shuichi a sword and then picked one for himself.

“Come at me. Show me what you’ve got.” Stain said.

“… what?”

Stain didn’t repeat himself and attacked. Mustard scampered out of the way and Shuichi had barely enough time to block Stain’s swing. He’d never seen anyone move like that. Shuichi’s mutation Quirk granted him enhanced speed and strength, but he was no match for Stain. There were no unnecessary movements in him and he knew how to get everything out of his muscles. Shuichi had always thought that he could hold his own in a fight but now he had to admit that he’d only been in two real fights. The rest had been schoolyard skirmishes. The first time had been with Overhaul and now with Stain. And even Overhaul hadn’t pressured him like this. Shuichi threw everything he had at Stain but the crazy noseless bastard wasn’t fazed by anything.

“Wait! Stop! Enough! You win!” Shuichi said and dropped his sword.

Stain slashed him across the chest. Even the tough scales couldn’t protect him, and Shuichi’s blood spilled on the floor.

“Wait? Stop? Enough? There is no stopping or waiting in a fight. In a fight you win, or you die.” Stain said and spat at him: “What a pity. Here I thought you had some promise.”

Stain licked the blood of his sword and once again Shuichi lost control of his body. Stain raised his sword.

“No!”

Mustard threw himself on top of Shuichi.

“Stop! Don’t!” Mustard said.

A ghost of a smile floated on Stain’s lips. He put down his sword.

“Guess you have some backbone after all. You pass, Mustard. Rest well my disciples. There is great work to be done.”

Stain left them, and Mustard laid on top of Shuichi until he could move again.

“Thanks.” Shuichi said.

“That’s’ what friends do.” Mustard said and leaned closer to whisper in Shuichi’s ear: “You need to get us the fuck out of here.”

“Agreed but… I don’t know how to navigate here… in the… sewers?”

They looked at each other.

“Slime boy!” They said.

Shuichi rushed to his bag and pulled out slime boy’s bottle. His empty bottle.

“Where… where is he?” Mustard said.

“… oh shit.”

***

Mei got her own room at the Todoroki residence while Izuku agreed to bunk with Todoroki. A mattress was laid on the floor and Izuku made himself comfortable. While Todoroki was taking a shower, Izuku pulled out his phone and started going through medical articles from two-hundred years ago.

Todoroki entered the room while drying his hair.

“What are you reading?” Todoroki said.

“… old medical articles on how to treat spinal cord injuries.” Izuku said.

Todoroki sat on his bed.

“Found anything?”

“… a lot of money and time was put into stem cell research and cybernetics but… it was lost.”

So much had been lost on those chaotic days after Quirks first appeared. For a time, it had looked like humanity would descend back into Stone Age barbarism until the First Symbol of Peace had appeared and restored order but even the First couldn’t undo the damage that had already been done. But still… something didn’t add up.

“… it’s almost like… someone was making all of it disappear on purpose.” Izuku said.

“Why would anyone do that?”

“… I don’t know.”

“If that stuff hadn’t been lost… could All-Might have been healed?” Todoroki said.

“… maybe.”

Todoroki layed back.

“There’s been talks that dad would take All-Might’s place as number one.”

Todoroki didn’t sound pleased and Izuku could understand why. Being the number one hero was… it was All-Might’s thing. It felt like sacrilege that anyone else would even be considered for the position.

“Dad has always dreamed of beating All-Might. That’s why he created me but… I don’t think this is how he wanted to win.” Todoroki said.

Created? That was a weird way to put it. So many things about Todoroki felt weird. Off somehow.

“… Todoroki. Is… if something’s wrong you can talk to me.” Izuku said.

For a moment it looked like Todoroki was about to confess something. Something big but then… he backed off.

“Just being the number two is… stressful. And not just for dad.” Todoroki said.

“… okay.”

“We… should get some sleep. We’ll be going to Hosu tomorrow to take part in the search for Stain.” Todoroki said and turned off the lights.

“… never thought the internship would be so… intense.” Izuku said.

“Dad doesn’t believe in half measures. Good night.” Todoroki said.

“… good night.”

Izuku tugged under the covers.

“Midoriya?”

“… yeah?”

“Thanks. For not making me do this alone.” Todoroki said.

***

Shuichi kept guard of the hideout with Stain while Mustard and Eri slept. Every rat that scampered in the darkness made Shuichi flinch. He was sure any moment now slime boy would lead Overhaul to them and then Overhaul would give a new meaning to pain.

“Calm down.” Stain said.

Shuichi clutched his new sword tighter.

“How?”

“The First Symbol of Peace designed these passages to be a maze. And I have boobytrapped them. And if Overhaul gets past them, he’ll have to face us.” Stain said.

“I’m sure he’s already pissing his pants.” Shuichi said.

Stain let out a sound that might have been laughter.

“Maybe this will teach you to pick your friends better.” Stain said.

“Me and slime boy are not friends. He’s a psycho that was useful to sic on other people.”

Stain gave him nasty glare.

“Real warriors fight their own battles. Like All-Might.”

“You… uh… you really look up to him.” Shuichi said.

“He’s the only hero who can kill me. The only real hero. The rest are fakers. Everyone who smeared him will die.”

Shuichi felt like crying.

“… yeah.”

Stain tensed up.

“Someone’s coming.”

Black mist started forming in the hideout and from it a man dressed like a bartender with his face hidden behind a cloak of smoke stepped through.

“Everyone up!” Shuichi yelled.

Mustard was on his feet in a heartbeat and holding a stiletto. Eri hid behind Mustard. Shuichi and Stain got ready to fight. The man covered in mist put up his hands.

“Worry not, gentlemen and young lady. I’m not here to fight. My name is Kurogiri.”

“You… You’re not with Overhaul?” Shuichi said.

“Indeed, I am not. I represent the League of Villains. I’ve come to offer you an invitation to meet our leader, Mr. Stain.” Kurogiri said.

Stain kept his sword pointed at Kurogiri.

“And what if I don’t want to meet him?” Stain said.

“Our leader could make it worth your time.” Kurogiri said and glanced at Stain’s stump: “Perhaps he could even do something about that hand.”

Stain weighed his options. He weighed them for a long time. Finally, he put down his sword.

“Fine. Spinner. With me. Mustard. Girl. You stay here.”

Eri looked at Shuichi scared.

“… will you come back?”

Shuichi smiled.

“Of course, I will. I promise.”

“You better keep that promise.” Mustard said.

“I always keep my promises. Look after Eri.” Shuichi said.

Kurogiri stuck his hand into another portal of dark mist and pulled out a gift basket that he handed to Mustard.

“Entertain yourselves with that. You both look like you could use some food.”

“… thanks.” Mustard said.

“My pleasure.”

Shuichi and Stain followed Kurogiri through a portal and… found themselves in a bar. A very nice bar although you couldn’t say the same for the sole customer. A tall, lanky young man with grey hair and… a hand covering his face like a mask. The weirdo was keeping his hand on slime boy’s new glass jar.

“Traitor.” Shuichi said.

“Sorry, Spinner. Gotta look out for number one.” Slime boy said.

“No honor among thieves. Sucks to be you.” Face hand said.

Kurogiri stepped behind the bar table.

“I think his plan was to sell you out. Too bad we’re not interested in buying. Would anyone like a drink?” Kurogiri said.

“Water.” Stain said.

“I could have a beer.” Shuichi said.

“My disciple will have water too.” Stain said.

Face hand laughed.

“Disciple? What are you a cult leader?”

“Tomura. Remember what we talked about.” Kurogiri said sounding like an over-patient mother.

“Tch. Fine. Wouldn’t want to hurt stumpy’s feelings.” Tomura said.

Shuichi drank his water unhappily while trying to kill slime boy with an angry look.

“Why didn’t you go to Overhaul?”

“He wouldn’t take me back after that. Decided to try my luck with the League.” Slime boy said.

Tomura patted the jar.

“Welcome to the winning team.”

“I don’t have time for this. Where’s your leader?”

Tomura bared his teeth behind his mask.

“I am the leader.”

“You?” Stain said and smirked: “So, you’re the fool who staged that ridiculous attack in U.A.”

“They had All-Might…” Tomura said.

“And a brat with weak ideals could never beat All-Might.” Stain said.

Tomura’s eyes narrowed and he got up. Stain drew his sword. Shuichi did the dumbest thing of his life and got between them.

“Guys… we’re parlaying here. You don’t fight in a parlay. Like… hasn’t anyone here played D&D?” Shuichi said.

Tomura… stopped? And looked at Shuichi with new eyes.

“I’ve never had anyone to play it with.” Tomura said.

“That’s why I tell you to be more social.” Kurogiri said and nodded to Shuichi: “Thank you.”

“… my pleasure.”

“Aren’t you too old for games?” Slime boy said.

Kurogiri picked up slime boy’s jar.

“I think it is time for you to go to your room.” Kurogiri said and whisked slime boy away.

Stain put his sword away.

“Say your piece… leader, so we can leave.”

“I think we got off on the wrong foot. Maybe we should start by proving out goodwill.” Kurogiri said and picked up a phone: ”Doctor? Are you busy? Yes. He’s here and… yes. Bring it with you. Thank you. I’ll open a portal to you now.”

A new portal opened and a short, portly man with a shaved head, thick glasses and even thicker mustache stepped in. He looked like every child’s favorite grandfather. Except for the eyes. The eyes gave him away. They were hard as stone and cold as a corpse. He was carrying a heavy looking suitcase with him. The doctor nodded to them as a greeting.

“Tomura. Kurogiri. Stain… and…?”

“Shu… Spinner.” Shuichi said.

“My pleasure.” The doctor said and lifted the suitcase on the bar table with a heavy oomph: “I have something here that might interest you, Stain.”

The doctor opened the suitcase. Inside it was a mechanical arm. It looked sleek and strong.

“What is that?” Stain said.

“Your new arm. Once I connect the nerves it can do anything your flesh and bone one could. Just better.” The doctor said.

“Connect the nerves? That technology was lost.” Shuichi said.

The doctor looked at him surprised.

“How do you know that?”

“I… watch Project: Indestructible.” Shuichi said.

“Me too.” Tomura admitted.

“Project… Indestructible?” The doctor said.

“You’re cooped in your laboratory too much, doctor. It’s a web series. They even made it to the finals in the U.A tournament. If you’re a fan, Mr. Shuichi, I have good news. Team Indestructible is coming to Hosu.” Kurogiri said.

“I see. But the technology wasn’t lost. Thanks to sensei.” The doctor said.

“Who’s this sensei?” Stain said.

“None of your business.” Tomura said.

Stain looked at the mechanical arm and then at his stump.

“I’ll take it. On one condition. I won’t be put under during the operation.” Stain said.

The doctor’s eyes widened and even Tomura looked shocked.

“Are you mad? The pain…” The doctor said.

“Doesn’t scare me. Let’s do this. Spinner will keep watch.” Stain said.

“If that’s how he wants it, that’s how he gets it.” Kurogiri said.

“I… don’t think this is a good idea.” Shuichi said.

“If I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.” Stain said.

“Don’t talk to him like that.” Tomura said.

“Children should learn when to keep their mouths shut.” Stain said.

“Tomura.” Kurogiri said calmly.

Tomura backed off reluctantly.

Another portal took them to what looked like a cutting-edge hospital. The doctor tied Stain down for the operation.

“You sure about this?” The doctor said.

Hell no, Shuichi thought.

“Do it.” Stain said.

The doctor did, and Shuichi was forced to watch. Whenever he tried to avert his gaze, Stain would glare at him. He was brought there to watch and watch he would. The following hour was the longest of his life. Stain never made a sound. He grinded his teeth but he never let out a peep. Sometimes Shuichi and the doctor had to share looks just to make sure they were really seeing this. Stain’s whole body convulsed when the doctor connected the nerves one at a time to the new arm, but he never screamed. There weren’t even tears in his eyes.

When the operation was over, Shuichi and the doctor looked worse than Stain.

“Try… try moving your fingers.” The doctor said.

Stain did. Then he picked up one of the scalpels and crushed it in his new hand like it was plastic.

“Good.” Stain said.

“I… I’m happy you're pleased with it.” The doctor said.

Kurogiri took them back to the bar and the doctor ordered himself a drink. Shuichi could have drunk the bar dry just to forget what he’d seen. Tomura and Kurogiri looked at Stain’s new arm fascinated.

“You had a proposition for me.” Stain said.

“Yes. We’d like you and your disciple to join us…” Kurogiri said.

“Not interested. Take us back to Hosu.” Stain said.

Tomura got up.

“Look, you…”

“We don’t involve with fools with no ideals. As a thank you for my new weapon, I’ll let you live. Don’t test me on this.” Stain said.

“Tomura. If he doesn’t want to join us, we won’t force him. He’s obviously a lone wolf.” Kurogiri said and turned to the doctor: “Doctor. Give Mr. Shuichi your card.”

The doctor did, and Shuichi took it. The card only had a phone number on it.

Kurogiri’s portal took them back to the hideout. Mustard and Eri had fallen asleep on the mattress while watching Shuichi’s iPad. But not before eating the gift basket empty. Shuichi didn’t care. After Stain’s operation, he wasn’t in the mood to eat. Ever again.

“You like Project: Indestructible?” Stain said while studying his new arm.

“Yeah.” Shuichi said.

“I like Indestructible. He has the makings of a hero. But the Hatsume girl… she’s evil. She’ll corrupt him. We need to stop her before that happens.” Stain said and smiled: “And now they’re coming to Hosu. This is destiny. We’ll kill her here.”

***

All For One turned on his phone with a voice command and put it on loudspeaker.

“So, Kurogiri. How did it go?” All For One said.

“Not as well as we would have liked. He took the hand and left. I think he also threatened to kill us if we met again. The young man Shuichi had promise, though.” Kurogiri said.

“He was insane.” The doctor said in the background.

“Yes. He did seem like the type. Tomura? You alright there? You’re awfully quiet.” All For One said.

“He called me a fool. And a brat!” Tomura said.

“Really? What are you going to do about it?” All For One said.

“How many Noumus do we have?” Tomura said.

“Good question. Doctor?”

“Six are functional. The rest are… defective.” The doctor said.

All For One leaned back in his chair and pondered. Stain was too crazy to be a useful soldier but if people thought that he was part of the League… who knew? Maybe it would reinvigorate interest in them. Nothing bought publicity like chaos.

“Sensei?” Tomura said.

“You can have three.” All For One said.

“Yes! Thank you, sensei.” Tomura said.

Through his phone All For One could hear Tomura rushing out of the bar.

“Are you sure that was wise, master?” Kurogiri said.

“Let him make mistakes. You always learn the most from mistakes. We’ll be here to clean up after him. Also, I’m curious about Izuku Midoriya.” All For One said.

“Midoriya?” The doctor said.

“The other half of Team… Wait? You know him?” All For One said.

“I was his family doctor. I diagnosed him Quirkless myself. He was… friends with my… grandson.”

“Interesting. Bet you never thought he’d make it to Heroics. And with All-Might’s recommendation of all things. Isn’t that something? All-Might taking a Quirkless kid under his wing.” All For One said.

All For One rubbed his jaw. One of the few spots left in him not covered in scars after his fight with Toshinori.

“How is your grandson?” All For One said.

“He’s... stable.” The doctor said.

“Good. Include him in the mission. I’m sure he’d love to meet his old friend.” All For One said.

Chapter Text

Izuku woke up early but Todoroki had already tidied his bed and left for his morning run. Izuku wished Todoroki had woke him so they could have gone together. Izuku ran into Todoroki in the hallway when he stepped out of the shower. Todoroki’s siblings were in the kitchen making breakfast when they stepped down.

“Morning. Sleep well?” Todoroki’s sister said.

“… yeah. Thank you.” Izuku said.

Todoroki’s brother gave them a vulgar grin.

“Shouto didn’t keep you up all night?”

“Piss off, Natsuo.” Todoroki said while sitting down.

Mei was the last to join them and she looked… shell-shocked.

“… Mei?” Izuku said.

“Seito is dead. They… they just found his body.” Mei said.

“Who?” Todoroki’s brother said.

“Seito Kawada. He wrote the article… about All-Might.” Todoroki’s sister said.

“Oh. Good riddance then.” Todoroki’s brother said.

“He was my dad’s friend.” Mei said.

Todoroki’s sister gave her younger brother a stern look. Izuku got up and tried to figure out what he was supposed to do. Hug her? Pat her on the shoulder? Before he could make up his mind Mei sat down.

“What happened?” Todoroki said.

“Stain.” Mei said.

Izuku shuddered. He’d heard what Stain did to his victims… before he killed them.

“… are you alright?” Izuku said.

“Been better.” Mei said.

“Maybe… maybe I should talk to… dad. Maybe Hosu is a bad idea.” Todoroki’s sister said.

There it was again. That strange feeling. Whenever Endeavor’s children mentioned their father the room felt… colder.

“No. I want to be there when they catch him.” Mei said.

“They will.” Todoroki said.

No one in the table missed the way Mei looked at Todoroki.

“Yeah. Assholes always get caught.”

They ate in silence. Todoroki’s sister was the first to leave for work and Todoroki’s brother left soon after her for college. It didn’t take long for Endeavor’s agency’s car to come pick them up and they headed to Hosu.

Izuku didn’t want to admit it but when Mei had told them that Seito Kawada was dead… for a moment… the briefest moment… he’d been glad. Kawada had humiliated All-Might. Dying served him right. For a moment he’d forgotten that behind the article had been a human being. A human being who had died alone and scared with only his killer for company. All-Might wouldn’t have felt like that. All-Might would have never forgotten that Kawada was a human first and foremost.

Endeavor was waiting for them at his office’s branch in Hosu.

“Why the long faces? Isn’t the number two hero good enough for you?” Endeavor said.

“Seito Kawada is dead.” Todoroki said.

Endeavor was silent for a moment before his face turned into an emotionless mask.

“I see.”

They spent the rest of the day getting lectured on proper field safety and how interns should always listen to the pro they were patrolling with. Endless scenarios were run through on what they should do in case of an emergency and how they should only use their Quirks when the pro authorized it. Izuku wondered what kind of legislation the Indestructible armor would spark. It wasn’t a Quirk but just as dangerous.

When the clock hit five PM they were finally done. Izuku felt physically and emotionally drained. No one should have to listen such dull lectures hours to an end.

“Finally, am I right?” Endeavor said and grinned: “Who’s ready to go out on the field?”

“Still?” Mei said.

“That lecture was just an empty formality we had to get out of the way. It’s all real hero work from here on out. And it’s in the evening when the villains come out. You’ll get the mornings off from here on out and join me for evening patrols for the rest of the week.” Endeavor said.

Mei set herself up in the Hosu branch office, so she could monitor the armor at a distance. Izuku put on the armor but he didn’t feel Indestructible. All the other times it had made him feel like… a hero but now… all he could think about was Kawada. Even when his face was hidden by the helmet, Endeavor could sense his mood.

“Too bad this started on such downer note but Kawada wasn’t a great guy. He had a way of… twisting the truth. When he wasn’t just lying.” Endeavor said when they headed out.

Sagan growled.

“He was grandpa’s friend!” Sagan said loud enough for Endeavor and Todoroki to hear her.

Endeavor and Todoroki stopped to stare at him.

“What was that?” Todoroki said.

“… oh her? Say hi, Sagan.” Izuku said.

“Hi, Sagan.” Sagan said.

“… smartass.” Izuku muttered.

“What is it?” Todoroki said.

“… she. Not it. She’s the A.I that helps me run the armor and come up with battle strategies.” Izuku said.

“That last part could use some work.” Endeavor said.

“Or dad could start following instructions. If he had gone for your knees like I told him, he would’ve won.” Sagan said.

“Really?” Endeavor said and laughed: “Sounds like the armor does all the work. What’s there left for you to do?”

“He made it to the finals without the armor. Would you have been able to do that without your Quirk?” Todoroki said.

What the hell was going on? The barb in Todoroki’s words was just a bit too venomous. Did he really blame his father that much for… what his mother had done? Izuku tried to change the subject as fast as he could. He didn’t want to be the reason for Endeavor and Todoroki to have an argument.

“… do… do you still go patrolling often, sir?” Izuku said.

Endeavor seemed grateful for a chance to drop the matter.

“I wouldn’t be much of a hero if I didn’t. Even when you run an agency you need to have a feel for the streets.” Endeavor said.

“Endeavor!”

When someone called his name, Endeavor turned quickly and Todoroki… flinched. And he didn’t just flinch. Todoroki tensed up. Almost like… he’d been steeling himself for a… hit?

Everyone makes mistakes.

Power is the ultimate test of man. Endeavor failed his.

Dad… sues a lot people.

I actually bought the man’s house, so he could cover his legal bills. I was thinking about renovating it, but Endeavor advised me to tear it down.

Stop. You won. He’s not family.

When Todoroki had visited him in the hospital… there had been bruise on his face. Even though Izuku had never hit him in the face.

If Izuku hadn’t been wearing his helmet, Endeavor and Todoroki could have seen his world crumble. His whole body was shaking and despite how much he was sweating he was shivering. He turned slowly to see who was calling for Endeavor and saw the hero Manual. With Iida.

Endeavor walked to meet Manual and they shook hands.

“Any luck?” Endeavor said.

“Been a quiet day. This is my intern. Tenya Iida.”

Endeavor shook Iida’s hand too. Izuku felt like slapping his hand away.

“Sorry to hear what happened to your brother. He was a fine hero.” Endeavor said.

“Thank you, sir.” Iida said.

Endeavor introduced them but Izuku barely heard a word he said. He could only mumble a greeting when Manual shook his hand.

“We were just finishing our patrol. Looks like you just started yours.” Manual said.

They left Endeavor and Manual talk in peace while Todoroki talked with Iida. Iida sounded so tired. Like he hadn’t slept in days. Izuku just nodded in agreement to everything they said to fool them into thinking he was part of the conversation. There had to be a mistake. Something he’d missed. There had to be an explanation! Endeavor was a hero. The number two hero in Japan! He wouldn’t… he couldn’t…

Izuku dropped his voice so he couldn’t be heard through the helmet.

“… Sagan?”

“Yes, dad?” Sagan said.

“… can you do a quick search on Endeavor? Anything related to his family and lawsuits.”

Sagan did hours of research in seconds. Hundreds of hits appeared on the helmet’s screen. Too much for him to read now.

“… give me the highlights on the lawsuits.” Izuku whispered.

“The most famous one is grandpa’s. The rest are about excessive force, pissed off ex-employees and threats towards reporters.” Sagan said.

“… okay. And his family?”

“His wife is in a psychiatric ward. They have four children.” Sagan said.

“… four?”

“Yes. Fuyumi, Toya, Natsuo and Shouto.”

“… Toya? Never heard of him.” Izuku said.

“He’s a ghost. No mentions of him anywhere after he was expelled from U.A.”

“… I see.”

“Midoriya?” Todoroki said.

“… huh?”

“I said we’re going. You alright?” Todoroki said.

“I… yeah.”

They waved Manual and Iida goodbye before continuing their patrol. It was a quiet evening. After Stain had claimed Hosu as his territory, heroes and villains alike were afraid to come out. When the clock hit eleven, they returned to the office to pick up Mei and took the car back to the Todorokis’. Todoroki’s older siblings were still up waiting for them with food.

“So? How did it go?” Todoroki’s sister said.

“We didn’t have much to do.” Todoroki said.

“I was expecting there to be more punching.” Mei said while sounding listless.

“Dad… isn’t the kind of guy you start a fight with.” Todoroki’s brother said.

“I know.” Mei said.

“… where’s Toya?” Izuku said.

The table fell quiet. The bad kind of quiet. The last thing he wanted was to hear this silence. Endeavor’s children were supposed to tell him that all the bad rumors were just that. Rumors. Despite his flaws Endeavor was a good man. And Toya just appreciated his privacy.

“How…” Todoroki’s brother said.

“He moved out.” Todoroki said.

“Yeah. You shouldn’t mention him to dad. They… haven’t really been talking since he was expelled.” Todoroki’s sister said.

Mei had forgotten about Kawada for a moment and looked at everyone in the table suspiciously. After a very awkward, silent dinner Izuku followed Mei to her room and helped her hook up the armor to her computer for schematics.

“… Mei?” Izuku said after a while.

“Yeah?”

Mei’s phone started ringing. She looked who was calling and sighed.

“Not a word about Endeavor.” Mei said and put the call on loudspeaker: “Hi, dad.”

“Hi, Mei. How was your first day?” Blacksmith said.

“It was great. We learned a lot.” Mei said.

“That’s great. Hey, can you tell me why I saw Izuku on TV? With Endeavor? In Hosu?!”

“Aw, shit.” Mei said.

“What the hell where you thinking?! You goddamn idiot! And you Midoriya! Yeah! I know you’re there! I thought you at least would know better!” Blacksmith roared.

“That bastard killed Seito! Someone has to…!” Mei said.

“Seito wouldn’t want you to die because of him!” Blacksmith yelled back.

“… does Endeavor beat his kids?” Izuku said.

Izuku muted the room with a single question.

“… what?” Mei and Blacksmith said.

“… I said…”

“I heard what you said. What… what did you see?” Blacksmith said.

Blacksmith. A former pro hero who’d stood his ground with yakuza sounded… scared.

“… he does. Doesn’t he?” Izuku said.

Mei turned pale and Blacksmith fell quiet. The silence spoke volumes and told Izuku everything he didn’t want to know.

“… we… we need to tell someone. We…” Izuku said.

“Why isn’t Shouto telling us this?” Blacksmith said.

“… what?”

“Why isn’t Shouto telling us this? Believe me. That will be the first thing Endeavor’s lawyer will be asking you in court. And by then it won’t matter. Endeavor will already have ruined your reputation.” Blacksmith said.

“… dad?” Mei said.

“Shut up, Mei. This is what you idiots will do. You’ll finish your internship and you’ll play nice. All the way through. Understood, Mei? Don’t piss Endeavor off and don’t sign anything he puts in front of you.” Blacksmith said.

“… but… but he beats his kids! We… I can’t just let him get away with it!” Izuku said.

“People like Endeavor get away with it all the time! He has more money than you do. You can’t…” Blacksmith said.

“Maybe he got away with it is because you gave up.” Mei said and hung up.

When Blacksmith tried to call back, Mei blocked him. Mei was quiet. Too quiet and lost in thought.

“… Mei?”

“Izuku… could you… leave me alone? I… I need to think.” Mei said.

“… okay.”

Hot sweat ran down his back and his feet were ready to give out under him when he stepped into the hallway. Where Todoroki was waiting for him. His arms were crossed, and his good eye was smoldering.

“I don’t know what she told you, but…” Todoroki said.

“… she didn’t need to. Todo… Shouto… look… I…”

“Come.” Shouto said.

Izuku didn’t know what else to do and followed him to a training room. Shouto kicked off his shoes before entering and Izuku followed suit. Shouto locked the door behind them and started doing warm ups. Izuku just stood there too scared to move.

“Your form needs polishing. Let me help you with that.” Shouto said after he was done with the warm ups.

“… are you going to beat me up? So, I won’t… tell anyone?” Izuku said.

“Midoriya.” Shouto growled.

This reminded him of the antagonism between them during the tournament. But now there was something… even worse mixed in with Shouto’s anger.

“… Shouto… I’m your friend. Not your enemy. Please. Let me help you.” Izuku said.

Shouto grabbed his shirt and Izuku saw a flash of Bakugou. He was angry. Way beyond angry and needed someone to vent it on.

“Help me with what? What do you think you can do? Huh? What?!”

“… I… I can listen…”

“How does that help?!”

Shouto clenched his fist and Izuku closed his eyes, steeling himself for a punch. A punch that never came. When he dared to open his eyes, Shouto looked lost… and horrified by what he had almost done. Shouto let go of him.

“I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to… I have to go.” Shouto said.

The world seemed to slow down as he watched Shouto go. What was he supposed to do? What?! Nothing in U.A had prepared him for this. All he could do was follow his instincts.

“Wait!” Izuku said and grabbed Shouto’s hand.

Shouto tried to shake himself free but all strength had left his limbs.

“Let go.” He said weakly.

Izuku did.

“… Shouto. Please. Talk to me.” Izuku said and turned on the puppy dog eyes.

Recovery Girl and Hisashi had been powerless before his puppy dog eyes. Shouto didn’t fare any better. Izuku was scared but his fear had made him stay quiet about Bakugou until the secret had grown big enough to hurt Eijirou. He wouldn’t screw up like that again.

Shouto bowed his head.

“Have you heard of… Quirk marriages?” Shouto said.

Izuku listened in mounting horror as Shouto told him of the things Endeavor had done to create a hero who could surpass All-Might. How Endeavor had married Shouto’s mother to produce children with both of their Quirks. And after every failure the child was cast aside, and he would try again. All of it had grinded Shouto’s mother down until she couldn’t take it anymore and… Shouto would be carrying the mark for the rest of his life.

They sat quiet for a long time unable to look each other in the eyes.

“Midoriya… Izuku. Thank you for listening.” Shouto said.

“… you’re welcome, Shouto.” Izuku said.

Izuku didn’t sleep much that night and when he met Endeavor the next evening, he hid behind his helmet.

***

Rappa of Shi Hassaikai walked around Hosu looking for Eri. Or to make sure that no one else would find her. Overhole had been foaming from the mouth ever since she had gone missing and he was certain that Spinner and Mustard had been Stain’s spies from get go. If that were the case, Mustard had to be the greatest method actor in human history. He’d played the role of a spineless coward to a perfection. He was lucky to have Spinner. At least he had some brain and backbone.

What did Overhole expect him to do? Walk around until Stain showed up? Loss of an arm made sure he’d be hiding in his hole for a long time. Few people got their nerves back after losing a limb. This was a waste of…

There was an explosion that almost knocked Rappa off his feet.

Creatures… monsters appeared in the streets of Hosu. Three of them. One was a pale, winged gargoyle. The second a spindly thing with too many eyes. The third was the worst of the lot. A behemoth with no eyes but even then, he could feel it glaring at him.

Like everyone else, the sight of the monsters made Rappa freeze. Him. One of the fighters of Shi Hassaikai who’d fought Overhole more times than anyone. He was frozen by fear. Then the eyeless beast let out a howl and the spell broke. People screamed and started running away from the monsters. Only Rappa stood his ground.

That thing… had made him… scared! It would die for that.

The eyeless beast felt his intent and ignored all the civilians and came at him. Rappa walked to meet it. He activated his Quirk Strong Shoulder and threw a flurry of punches. His fists could send cars flying and turn people into red mist.

The eyeless monster didn’t even flinch and threw itself on Rappa.

Sharp teeth dug into his shoulder and tore out a chunk of him. Rappa screamed and tried to knock the thing off him but without any ground under his feet his punches were powerless. The monster ate a part of his shoulder and then prepared to tear off his face.

Hellfire made the thing scream in pain.

The creature fled and Rappa saw someone approach him and offer him his hand. Even when he was delirious from the pain, Rappa recognized the number two hero in Japan.

“Can you stand?” Endeavor said.

Rappa nodded and let Endeavor pull him on his feet.

“Follow the others to safety. We’ll take care of this.” Endeavor said.

The monster had fled to the roofs and Endeavor followed it by burning himself foothold in the walls. Rappa ran away with the others. Hosu had turned into a scene from hell.

***

Tomura stood on the roof of the tallest building in Hosu and couldn’t suppress a giggle when he saw the city burn.

“Are you happy now?” Kurogiri said.

“Yes! After tonight no one is going to remember that noseless bastard.”

“Are you sure?” Kurogiri said.

Tomura looked at him annoyed.

“What do you mean?” Tomura said.

“What is the purpose of all this?”

“To mess up Stain. To show people he ain’t anything special.” Tomura said.

“So, you’re throwing a tantrum? Random violence happens every day.” Kurogiri said.

Tomura scratched his neck.

“Well, if you know everything, what should I be doing?”

“You have to figure that out yourself. Call me when you’ve had your fun.” Kurogiri said and stepped through one of his portals.

Tomura sat down and had another look at the burning city. The chaos had lost its appeal. What did Stain have that he didn’t? Why were all eyes on Stain instead of him? What did Project: Indestructible have? Why did they get all the attention? Why?!

***

Shuichi and Mustard were still reeling from Stain’s training. Stain had ditched real swords for wooden ones but with his new mechanical arm even a piece of wood was a deadly weapon. Shuichi had made sure he took the worst of Stain’s methods, but he feared some of his ribs were broken despite his scales and he wasn’t sure if his enhanced healing could mend them in time for the next training session.

Bruised and miserable he and Mustard started preparing lunch for Eri. The girl was closed off and jumping at shadows, but the worst was how she wasn’t scared of Stain. What the hell had Overhaul done to her to make Stain look normal?

“Eri?” Shuichi said.

Eri looked up from the iPad.

“… yeah?”

“It’s… about Overhaul. What was he doing?”

Every time Overhaul was mentioned Eri flinched and Shuichi hated himself for probing at the matter.

“You don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to.” Shuichi said.

Eri shook her head.

“… I was helping him… so mommy would come back.” Eri said.

Mustard stopped dicing the vegetables.

“Why did she leave?” Mustard said.

“… I killed daddy.” Eri said.

Shuichi and Mustard forgot about the food and shared a look.

“What?” Mustard said.

“… he said she’d come back if I was a good girl and proved… I wasn’t a monster.” Eri said.

Shuichi put down the kitchen knife and knelled in front of Eri.

“You’re not a monster, Eri.” Shuichi said.

“… but Mr. Chisaki said…”

“Overhaul is full of s… baloney.” Shuichi said.

Eri giggled and turned back to the iPad. Shuichi continued cooking. Mustard leaned closer to him.

“Have you noticed that her horn is growing?” Mustard whispered.

“Yeah.” Shuichi said.

Eri couldn’t be separated from the iPad even when they were eating, and Shuichi finally understood why his parents had been so cross with him for playing with his phone in the dinner table. When they were washing the dishes, Stain entered. He was… way too excited.

“Spinner! Mustard! It’s time!” Stain said.

“Time for what?” Shuichi said fearing the worst.

“The Hatsume girl is here and it’s chaos out there. It’s time you showed what you’re made of.” Stain said.

“I think… Mustard should stay here to look after Eri.” Shuichi said.

“She’ll be fine as long as she doesn’t leave this place. Won’t you, girl?” Stain said.

“… yes, Mr. Stain.” Eri said.

“Good girl.” Stain said.

Shuichi and Mustard followed Stain reluctantly. Stain hadn’t been kidding. Hosu had turned into a warzone. Buildings were on fire and people were screaming in the night. He could hear beast bellow just out of sight. Shuichi and Mustard looked around horrified.

“What… what the hell is going on?” Shuichi said.

“It’s the fool Tomura. After we’ve saved Indestructible, we’ll make him pay.” Stain said.

“… are we really doing this?” Mustard said.

Stain laughed his mad laugh.

“Don’t worry. I’ll distract Indestructible. You’ll just have to kill Hatsume.” Stain said.

Stain led them through the chaos to Endeavor’s Hosu branch office.

“Make me proud, my disciples.” Stain said before disappearing.

***

Endeavor told them to take a small breather from patrolling. Izuku simply nodded in response and waited until Endeavor was gone before taking off his helmet. If Endeavor saw his face, maybe he could figure out that Izuku knew everything. How was Shouto able to be so calm around his father? Every time Endeavor spoke chills ran down Izuku’s spine.

“Izuku. Relax.” Shouto said and threw him a towel.

“… thanks.” Izuku said.

Izuku wiped the sweat off his face. The cooling system in the armor needed work. Shouto was playing with his phone. Izuku couldn’t quite name it but… he felt a bond with Shouto now. And not just with Shouto but with his family too. A bond that came from sharing a terrible secret. Maybe that was the key to make them reveal the truth about Endeavor. Despite how much his children feared him, Endeavor was still just a man.

“Tsu is in the news.” Shouto said.

“What?! Did… did something happen to her?” Izuku said.

“She helped take out this Cthulhu looking motherfucker with Selkie.” Shouto said and showed Izuku a picture on his phone: “Or she took him down while Selkie was nearby. There are talks about giving her a medal.”

Izuku laughed.

“… maybe I picked the wrong agency.”

An explosion turned the night into day. He heard a howl that he had tried to forget. The black monster that had attacked U.A, Noumu, had screamed like that. The sound was animalistic but beneath it all was something terribly human.

Then he saw them.

There were three of them this time. They looked different then the behemoth that had faced All-Might, but they were Noumus. The same inhuman aura surrounded them. Suddenly Endeavor was standing between them and the Noumus. Izuku pulled his helmet back on quickly before Endeavor could spot the disgust on his face.

“Both of you. Go back to pick up Hatsume and get the hell out of here.” Endeavor said without taking his eyes off the monsters.

“But…” Shouto said.

Endeavor growled and Shouto fell back in line immediately. Other heroes appeared from alleyways and formed a line of defense between the Noumus and the rest of the city. Izuku and Shouto started running. He was careful to slow his pace so Shouto wasn’t left behind.

He got a call on the helmet’s intercom.

“Izuku!” Mei yelled.

“Mei? Are you alright?” Izuku said while running.

“Some guys are trying to break in here!”

Izuku’s blood turned cold.

“Hold on! We’re on our way! It will…!”

“Help! Somebody! Please help!”

Despite the heroes’ best efforts, the violence had spread to the rest of Hosu. A woman was screaming in front of a burning building. And you could hear a child crying through the top floor’s window. Izuku’s mind blanked. What… what was he supposed to do? He couldn’t leave a child to die but if he didn’t hurry, Mei would… she would…

Shouto smacked his helmet.

“Izuku. Go help Mei. I’ll save the kid.” Shouto said.

“… are you…?”

“Go! I’ve got this.” Shouto said and rushed towards the crying woman: “Don’t worry. We’re here now. We’ll…”

A howl cut through the chaos. A heavy shadow fell over them. A Noumu shaped like a pale gargoyle floated above them and every blow from its wings send out a gust of strong wind. Both mother and child let out a scream. Shouto threw ice at it on pure instinct but the Noumu dodged it almost contemptuously and… gave a mighty flap with its wings.

The rush of wind knocked Shouto and the woman off their feet. Only all the armor’s extra weight allowed Izuku to hold his ground and then…he knew what to do.

“Shouto! Save the child! I’ll distract the Noumu. Then go save Mei!” Indestructible said.

Shouto didn’t waste time with questions and just got to it, trusting Indestructible to know what he was doing. Unlike Shouto, Indestructible could outrun the Noumu. He just had to keep it busy until Shouto had evacuated the civilians. Mei would have to hold on just a bit longer. Just a bit. Indestructible prayed that wasn’t too long.

The Noumu attacked.

Sagan did a series of calculations and pointed out where the Noumu was vulnerable and where he should strike first. A sweeping kick in the knee would have taken an ordinary man’s leg off but the Noumu barely stumbled. Next Indestructible kneed it in the crotch only to find that it didn’t have any genitals despite wearing pants.

The Noumu grabbed him and flew off. It fought like an animal relying purely on its instincts, so he would have to turn that against it. Indestructible managed to squeeze his arm free and grab the Noumu’s face.

“Shock!”

Getting electrocuted didn’t hurt the monster as much as Indestructible had hoped but the sudden flash of light blinded it temporarily. The Noumu dropped him and Indestructible managed to land on the burning buildings roof. From there he could see Shouto taking the mother and her child to safety. Now, all he had to do was…

A momentary distraction gave the Noumu an opening and it lunged at Indestructible They went straight through the roof and crashed into a burning room. The armor warned him about the heat and toxic fumes, but they were still well within the armors ability to handle. This was a stroke of luck. Judging from the Noumu’s bellows it wasn’t fireproof like him.

Could… could he actually beat the monster? Like All-Might? Could he be like All-Might?

The Noumu looked at him. Then it spoke.

“Ii… zuu… kuuh… pain… hurts…”

“… what?” Indestructible gasped.

***

“Fuck! Fucking fuck!” Mei screamed when the pounding on the door intensified.

Someone was very desperate to get in and they would come in even if they had to smash their way through all the crap she’d dragged in front of the door. Where the hell was Izuku?! Mei looked out the window, but she didn’t see the green armor rushing in to bail her out. Had something happened to him after their call ended? Was Izuku… alright?

Guess she had to keep herself safe until Izuku made it here. She picked up the stun gun and played the waiting game. When the door finally broke… she saw the two Shi Hassaikai morons. Scaly and… Ketchup?

“Alright, Hatsume. We…” Scaly said.

Mei shot Ketchup first. Ketchup went down with a single hit. When he hit the ground and started convulsing, Mei smiled. Then it was scaly’s turn. Scaly took a hit but it only slowed him down.

Go down, you bastard! Why won’t you go down, Mei thought desperately.

The next bolt tag made his knees buckle but it didn’t drop him. One more shot might have done the trick, but she was out of bolt tags.

Scaly yanked the stun gun out her hands and crushed it in his grip. Mei backed away until she hit her work table. Without taking her eyes off Scaly she felt the table out for weapons and found a screwdriver. Hot sweat was running down her face. She wasn’t going to die here! There was so much to do! She didn’t want to die!

“Hatsume…” Scaly said.

Mei tried stabbing him. Scaly’s hide was too tough for her to pierce it with a screwdriver.

“Ow! Motherfucker!” Scaly screamed and grabbed her.

“Izuku! Dad! Sagan! Help!” Mei screamed.

Scaly looked around.

“Sagan? Who’s Sagan? Is there someone else in here?” Scaly said.

Ketchup had managed to sit up.

“It’s some… girl… who lives in a… computer.” Ketchup said.

Mei blinked. How did the little bastard reeking of piss know that? She hadn’t mentioned Sagan yet in Project: Indestructible. Then the realization hit her like lightning.

“You son of a bitch! It was you! You’re the one who busted the armor! You gave Sagan brain damage!”

Ketchup reeled away when Mei tried to throw herself at him and Scaly had to hold her at bay. Mei tried to reach Ketchup with kicks but the bastard was just out of reach.

“Yeah, yeah. He’s guilty as charged. Now, both of you. Hush.” Scaly said.

Scaly pushed her away from Ketchup and stood between them.

“Stain sent us to kill you.” Scaly said.

Shivers ran down Mei’s spine.

“… Stain?”

“Yeah. Long stupid story. Normally we’d just make a run for it but… now we have a kid to worry about.”

“Ketchup is pregnant?” Mei said.

“What?! No, I’m not! And my name is Mustard!” Ketchup yelled.

“Hush, Ketchup. Now, I don’t want to kill you, but I also don’t want Stain to kill me because I didn’t kill you.” Scaly said.

“Why… would Stain want to kill me?” Mei said.

“He thinks you are kind of a bitch.” Scaly said.

“Truth hurts, doesn’t it?” Ketchup said.

“Luckily, I have a plan were no one has to die.” Scaly said.

“Really?” Ketchup said.

“Yeah. You’re not going to like it.” Scaly said and slapped Ketchup.

Ketchup yelped and held his bleeding nose.

“What the shit, Shuichi?!” Ketchup said while crying.

Scaly didn’t listen and started punching himself in the face. Hard. He kept doing it until he spat out a tooth.

“We ran into a hero and had to make a run for it. After putting up a fight of course. Was nice seeing you, Hatsume. Huge fan of Project: Indestructible. Eri loves it too.” Scaly said.

When Scaly and Ketchup tried to leave, Mei grabbed the hem of Scaly’s leatherjacket.

“Is Eri the kid you’re looking after?” Mei said.

“Yeah. And she’s waiting for us to come home.” Scaly said.

Scaly pulled himself free and helped Ketchup up. When she was sure they were gone, Mei fell down and took long, panicked breaths. After she had managed to calm herself down, she took out her phone. The tracker she’d planted on Scaly’s jacket worked perfectly. Then she tried calling Izuku again. When there was no answer, she opened the 1-A group chat and posted her location there accompanied with two words.

Help. Stain.

Then she ran. Izuku would come. He was a survivor.

***

The Noumu looked at him. Then it spoke.

“Ii… zuu… kuuh… pain… hurts…”

“… what?” Indestructible gasped.

The Noumu rushed him and they went through a brick wall. Indestructible’s panicked punched had no effect on it and the Noumu got a hold of his throat.

“Pain! Hurts! Iizuukuuh! Hurt you!”

The Noumu tied to bite him but the armor proved to be stronger than its teeth and they broke against the plating. The pain made it reel backwards and gave Indestructible enough room to punch it in the mouth.

“Dad! New plan!” Sagan said.

Sagan pointed the structural weaknesses in the building and Indestructible nodded. When the Noumu dropped him, Indestructible punched the ground. The flames had already weakened the structure and single punch from him was enough to make the floor crumble under the Noumu. It fell into the inferno.

Indestructible jumped out of the burning house. The armor was smoking and scratched but he was unharmed. He’d faced a monster and come out on top. Like All-Might! He’d beaten a monster like All-Might!

A monster that knew his name. How did it know his name? How did it know his goddamn name?! There was no time to think about that now. He had to get to Mei. He had to make sure she was alright.

The Noumu broke out of the house. Its pale skin was charred, and its leathery wings were ruined but madness had pushed it beyond pain.

“Iizuukuuh! Hurt! Your fault! Kill you!”

A dark figure jumped out of the shadows and plunged its sword into the Noumu’s back. The beast howled in pain. One look at its attacker made it decide to flee and it ran into the night. Indestructible stared at his savior. A tall, sinewy man with a mask that hid his mutilated face.

“… Stain?” Indestructible said.

“You’ve heard of me.” Stain said and sounded pleased.

All too much. Indestructible bared his teeth behind his helmet and made a judgement call. The Noumu was dying and wouldn’t get far but Stain… if he brought the lunatic in, maybe Iida would get some closure. Indestructible pulled out his baton and extended it.

“You’re under arrest.” Indestructible said.

Stain pointed his sword at him.

“Am I? Then arrest me.” Stain said.

They fought. Baton against sword. Indestructible knew that Stain would not be an easy opponent. He’d beaten Ingenium and dozens of others but… he was still just human. DNA analysis had revealed Stain to be Chizome Akaguro. He had a paralysis Quirk but no physical enhancements. Indestructible should have been able to crush him easily.

So, how was Stain able to match him blow for blow?

Sagan pointed out all the weak points in Stain’s body but every time he tried to strike them, Stain’s sword was there to block him. Fighting Stain reminded him of his spar matches with Momo and Ojiro. After a lifetime of practice Indestructible could have sworn they were superhuman, but Stain had pushed himself even further. That just meant he would have to tire him out. Even the world’s finest martial artist was still just flesh and blood. Flesh and blood would fold before steel did.

Stain swung his sword down and Indestructible raised his baton to block it.

The sword cut through the baton and then through the armor. It was nothing more than a scratch but… Stain had still broken through his armor. What… what was going on?! This couldn’t be happening!

Stain licked his sword and Indestructible fell over paralyzed.

When Stain grabbed his helmet, Indestructible saw the secret of his strength. Stain’s right arm was not flesh and blood. Stain started to pull and tore off the helmet while Indestructible could only lie there helplessly. Stain looked him in the eyes and the look he gave him was… adoring.

“So, young and already a hero. Why can’t there be more like you?” Stain said and ruffled his hair with his mechanical arm: “You can rest now. When that devil Hatsume is gone, you’ll grow even more heroic.”

“… what?” Indestructible managed.

Indestructible… Izuku’s phone let him know there was a new message. Stain reached into the pouch on his waist and pulled out his phone. When Stain opened the message, he smiled.

“It seems… my disciples have failed. She’s asking for your help. And she even sent her location.” Stain said.

Stain dragged Izuku into an alleyway and left him there. Izuku fought against his paralyzed body.

Move! Why couldn’t he move?! He had to move, or Mei would…! It couldn’t end like this! Stain would not hurt anyone else! He had to move! Get a word to Mei!

Stain was coming!

Chapter Text

Scaly and Ketchup had a head start to her, but Mei was gaining on them. If they got too far she would lose the signal and whatever kid they had would be trapped with them. And Stain. All she had to do was go alone until Izuku joined her. Indestructible would make short work of Scaly and Ketchup. And Stain.

Hosu was on fire and the night was full of monsters. Mei stuck to the small alleyways for cover and avoided the big streets. She would save the kid, but she wasn’t going to die doing it. There was still so much to do. She had to save science. She had to make Izuku the next Symbol of Peace. And destroy Endeavor.

And… apologize to Endeavor’s and Rei’s children. They… weren’t guilty of their parents’ crimes. Endeavor and Rei were to blame.

Until then she would live.

Someone jumped off the roof and landed behind her. For a moment she let herself think it was Izuku. The she saw him. It.

“Hatsume.” Stain said.

There were no clear pictures of Stain but there was no mistaking about him. A mask hid his mutilated face and his eyes… Stain had the eyes of a demon from Hell. Just one look in those eyes made everything seem so… pointless.

I’m going to die, Mei realized.

That thing was going to kill her. Just like it had killed Seito and countless others. She would never see Izuku become the Symbol of Peace. Science would be put down like wounded animal and savages like Endeavor and Bakugou would inherit the Earth.

Yeah. Fuck that, Mei thought.

She wasn’t dead yet and Stain would have to try his damn hardest if he wanted to change that. She was Mei fucking Hatsume! The greatest wonder in the world! And she still had one weapon left.

When Stain came at her, Mei took out the stun grenade and threw it. Then she ran. Even when she covered her ears, the bang echoed in her skull and rocked her brain. The flash was so bright that she could taste it. She didn’t even want to know what it felt like to have one go off in front of your face.

Any human would have been too stunned to even move.

Stain wasn’t human.

A throwing knife struck her thigh. The surprise was worse than the pain and made her stumble. It was enough for Stain to close distance the between them. A strong hand grabbed her hair and slammed her against a wall. Stain pulled out the knife from her leg and… licked it. Someone robbed all her muscles. She couldn’t move! Why couldn’t she move?!

“… what… did you do… to me?”

Stain drew his sword. His eyes were bloodshot, and water ran down his cheeks after the stun grenade. Just keeping his eyes open had to be agony. Then she noticed his right hand. It was sculpted from black steel but moved like a real one. Where had he gotten something like that? Where?!

“The same thing I’ve done to all you sinners. You can die now.” Stain said.

“Stain!”

There was a rush of wind when someone ran into the alleyway almost too quickly for the eyes to see and hit Stain like a freight train. Stain was thrown off his feet and slammed into a wall. Even then the bastard got up almost immediately. What did it take for the beast to die?!

Even with the hero outfit Mei recognized Iida. Of course! Iida was part of the group chat. If anyone would rush here because of Stain, it would be him! Goddamn she was smart! Her plans had layers even she didn’t know of. God! It hurt to be this sharp! Now, all Iida had to do was grab her and run.

Why wasn’t Iida grabbing her and running? Why?! Why did he only have eyes for Stain?! What the hell was he doing?! They were going to die!

Iida’s voice was quivering with rage.

“Stain! I’m Tenya Iida! Brother of Ingenium! The hero you crippled!”

Stain smiled.

“Faker.”

Iida was frozen completely still, and his voice became the crack of a whip.

“What?”

“He was no hero. That’s why I crippled him.” Stain said.

Iida fell quiet and then let out an inhuman roar. The engines in his legs revved up and he rushed at Stain with all his super speed. The attack was fast, ruthless and deadly.

And utterly predictable.

All Stain had to do was raise his sword at the right moment and Iida practically skewered himself. Iida fell on his knees grasping at his side. Stain licked the blood on his sword and Iida was left paralyzed like her. Stain tore off Iida’s helmet. Iida was crying from rage and pain while he struggled against the paralysis.

“A boy?” Stain said and shook his head: “That won’t save you.”

“Kill you! I’ll kill you! Because of you… because you… Because of you my brother can’t be a hero anymore! He can’t even walk! I’ll kill you!” Iida screamed.

For a moment it looked like Iida would be able to force his way back up but then his body betrayed him. He was screaming and crying. Frothing at the mouth. Somehow it was more terrifying than Stain.

“Ingenium was no hero. Just another glory hound.” Stain said.

“You think you know what a hero is?!” Iida yelled.

“Do you?” Stain said and pointed his sword at Mei: “Did you even notice she was here?”

Iida managed to turn his head … and Mei realized Iida hadn’t even realized she had been here until now.

“A hero would have saved her. Unworthy as she may be. But you only tried to kill me. That faker Ingenium would have approved.”

Iida couldn’t think of anything to say and started just crying broken sobs. Stain looked at them.

“This is good. Two revenge obsessed fools. You can die together.” Stain said and raised his sword.

“… wait.” Mei said.

Stain’s sword hovered in the air for a moment. Sadistic prick. He loved this moment too much to ruin it with haste. Just another thrill killer that got off on his own self-righteousness.

“Why?” Stain said.

“Your hand… I want to see it.” Mei said.

Stain looked at his mechanical hand. It was a miracle that he had tainted by using it as a weapon. She hoped he would burn in science hell.

“… I’m an… engineer. Please. That… it is all I’ve ever wanted to build.”

Stain knelled next to her and let her have a good look at it. The hand was beautiful. A work of art. It was connected to his flesh and blood stump and worked just like the real thing.

“… where did you… get it?” Mei said.

“That’s for me to know.” Stain said.

“… who’ll… fix it… if it gets busted?” Mei said.

Stain laughed.

“Could you do it? Are you begging for your life?”

“… no. Buying… time.” Mei said.

Pillars of ice hit Stain and drove him away. Shouto ran into the alleyway and made a quick assessment of the situation. Less than a day ago she would have rather died than accept help from a Todoroki but that was before she’d learned a harsh truth. Shouto wasn’t her enemy but her brother in pain caused by Endeavor. It would take some time to get used to the idea.

“Sorry I’m late but I’m here now. Stain, you’re under arrest.” Shouto said.

Stain just laughed.

“Am I? Indestructible said the same thing.” Stain said.

A chill ran down Mei’s spine.

“Izuku?! What… what did you do to him?!”

Stain pulled out Izuku’s phone. The All-Might sticker was impossible to mistake.

“I judged him.”

Iida stopped crying or maybe Mei just couldn’t hear him anymore. End of the world had to feel like this. You were just… helpless. Alone. The air froze around Shouto and hail began to fall. Stain’s grin was wide enough to split his cheeks when he saw the look on Shouto’s face.

“Yes! That’s what I thought! You’re no hero, son of Endeavor! Just a brute! Come! Kill me if you can!”

Even with his obvious anger Shouto could think strategically. His flames would have made a short work of Stain, but they would have also fried her and Iida. Mei was far beyond caring at that point. Stain had killed Seito and her best friend. She would die if she could take Stain with her. The fury on Iida’s face told her he was thinking of the same thing.

Shouto tried to trap Stain with ice but Stain moved unlike anyone Mei had ever seen. Only Eraserhead came close but even he wouldn’t have been able to keep up with Stain. The worst part was that he wasn’t even trying. Stain was toying with Shouto. He wanted to keep the game going. Ending things too soon would have ruined the fun.

But it would end soon.

Shouto was tired and using his Quirk like that was wearing him down. His own ice was making him sluggish and Mei could make out the beginnings of a frostbite in Shouto’s fingers. Worn down prey was no fun and Stain cut his way through the ice. He grabbed Shouto by the throat and lifted him off the ground. Shouto clutched the mechanical arm before his neck broke.

“Die now, son of Endeavor.” Stain said.

Shouto grinned and super-heated his hand. The mechanical arm turned crimson from the heat and… Mei tried not to think how it felt to have something like that strapped to yourself. For the first time Stain screamed. Where flesh and steel met started smoking and then the flesh burned black.

When he was free Shouto formed an ice glove around his fist and punched Stain in the face. Stain’s mechanical arm had turned into a useless lump of metal, but it could still be used as a club. He hit Shouto in the face with it and Stain hit a lot harder than Shouto did.

“Stain!”

Tears filled her eyes when she heard his voice. Then she saw Izuku. His helmet was gone, and the armor was scratched and seared but Izuku was alright. No. Not just alright. There was steel in his eyes that hadn’t been there earlier. Stain was even happier to see him.

“Indestructible. Come to watch the fakers die?” Stain said.

Desperation drove Izuku to make the same mistake Iida had. Izuku rushed Stain at full speed.

But Izuku had Shouto.

When Stain tried to greet Izuku with a swing of his sword, Shouto trapped him in ice. Stain barely had time to be surprised before Izuku hit him at full force and drove him to a wall. When Stain tried to punch him, Izuku grabbed his fist and… crushed it in his grip. Then Izuku started punching him. He kept punching until Stain had gone limp.

For a moment she thought Stain was crying. Then she realized he was laughing. It was a raspy insane cackle like the last hurrah of some broken-down machine.

“Yes… good… very good, hero… You… you are worthy. Like All-Might. Now… kill me.” Stain said.

Do it, Mei thought. Kill the bastard like he killed Seito. Like he would have killed me and Iida.

Izuku didn’t kill him. He looked around to make sure they were all still breathing and then got up.

“All-Might wouldn’t kill you and neither will I. Stain. You’re under arrest.” Izuku said.

This made Stain laugh even harder. He laughed until he lost consciousness. Shouto limped towards Izuku. His nose was broken and one of his teeth was chipped.

“I have some wire on me. It should hold… even someone like him.” Shouto said.

After they’d tied up Stain, Izuku rushed to her side while Shouto looked after Iida. With Stain down for the count the paralysis started easing.

“Are you… are you alright?” Izuku said.

“Just a flesh wound. I… couldn’t move.” Mei said.

“… it will pass.”

Mei grinned and managed to wipe the tears from her eyes.

“I thought you were dead.” Mei said.

“… I couldn’t die when my partner needed me.” Izuku said.

Mei smiled.

“Thanks, partner.”

Iida managed to stand up first even with the wound on his side and despite Shouto’s protests. He picked up Stain’s fallen sword.

“Iida?” Shouto said.

“He crippled my brother! He dies now!” Iida yelled.

“Iida! Stop!” Izuku said.

Izuku and Shouto ran between Iida and the unconscious Stain but Iida was far beyond stopping. Anger and rage had given him strength he didn’t even knew he had and he pushed Izuku and Shouto aside like they were children. Mei tried to get up, but feeling hadn’t yet returned to her legs. Should… should she say something or let Iida do what Stain would’ve done to them.

Iida raised the sword.

“Iida! It won’t change anything!” Izuku said desperately.

“He’ll be dead.” Iida said behind clenched teeth.

“And you’ll go to jail. Your brother already lost his legs. Will he lose you too? Are you really that cruel?” Shouto said.

Iida stopped and stood frozen there for a long time with the sword ready for a swing. Then he dropped the sword and fell on his knees. He cried like a lost child. Izuku let out a relieved sigh and then hugged him. Mei and Shouto followed suite. They held him until the worst was over. Finally, they sat around the knocked-out Stain. Hosu had began to calm down and the worst of the fighting was over, but you could still hear the howls of the Noumus and the shouts of heroes trying to restrain them.

“I have bad news, but the night isn’t over yet.” Mei said and took out her phone: “Stain has disciples now and they have a kid stashed somewhere. We’ll lose the signal if we don’t hurry.”

Mei gave them a condensed version of what had happened with Scaly and Ketchup. How they’d attacked her and how she’d managed to bug Scaly.

“We have to hurry.” Mei said.

“Izuku.” Shouto said.

“… yeah?”

“Can you still fight?” Shouto said.

“… yeah.”

“I… I’ll come too. If you’ll have me.” Iida said.

“Normally yeah but you’re wounded. Someone has to stay here and watch over Mei… and Stain.” Shouto said.

“He’s right.” Mei said and handed her phone to Izuku: “Izuku.”

“… yeah?”

“It was Ketchup who broke the armor. He hurt Sagan. Beat him within an inch of his life.” Mei said.

Izuku nodded and Mei turned towards Shouto.

“Shouto.”

“Yes?”

“I… was wrong. I was wrong about you. When you come back… I’ll apologize properly.”

Shouto nodded.

“Until then.”

***

The transmission led them underground. Izuku looked at the underground passageways. He couldn’t quite explain it but… it felt like they’d entered a holy place.

“… what is this place?” Izuku said.

“The First Symbol of Peace carved these two-hundred years ago.” Shouto said.

“… alone?”

“So, the story goes.”

Izuku looked around. Legend had it that the First had been the most powerful Quirk user in history. Not even All-Might could’ve built something like this alone. When they followed the signal through the passages Izuku felt like he was standing in the shadow of a god.

Soon they didn’t need to follow the transmission. Scaly and Mustard had left them footprints that they hadn’t even tried to hide. The footprints…

“… stop.” Izuku said.

Shouto stopped.

“What is it?”

“… look.”

The footprints had gone in a straight line until they’d made a sudden halt. Then they’d moved close to a wall and continued walking very slowly and carefully. Shouto knelled to check the floor. Then he covered it in ice. The floor gave out and fell into a pit filled with spikes.

“… oh… shit.” Izuku said.

“Maybe… we should move a bit slower.” Shouto said.

“… agreed.” Izuku said.

They kept their eyes peeled for more traps which there were plenty. Stain hadn’t much cared for visitors but finally they reached his hideout. Light shone under a wooden door and Shouto checked it quickly for more traps. The fact they didn’t see any was even more frightening than finding them. How should they do this? Just barge in or…?

“I know you’re there. Come in.”

Izuku and Shouto glanced at each other and then stepped through the door. Scaly was sitting on a bunk in what looked like an abandoned army bunker. He’d changed since the last time they’d met a half a year ago. He looked thinner. Tired.

Scaly put his hands up.

“You win. I give up. Just… please. Don’t make a ruckus. Eri is asleep and she scares easily.” Scaly said.

“Where’s the other one?” Shouto said.

“Mustard is taking a massive terror dump. He won’t put up a fight.” Scaly said and smiled a tired smile: “I guess Stain got his ass kicked.”

“… yeah.” Izuku said.

“Good. Mustard. The red head.” Scaly said.

They’d made a rookie mistake by not checking the corners when they’d walked in. Mustard stepped up to Shouto and shot green gas on his face from his fingers. Shouto fell over listlessly.

“Sh…!”

Izuku made another mistake by taking his eyes off Scaly. A scaled hand covered his mouth and he saw a flash of steel. There were weak points in the armor. Mainly in the joints. Scaly jammed his knife in the knee joint. It pierced through the shock fiber and then cut the ligaments in Izuku’s knee. When he tried to scream, Scaly blocked the sound with his hand. Izuku’s leg gave out under him and he crashed on the floor.

“Hush now, Indestructible. Hush. Let’s not scare Eri. Listen to me, Indestructible. This is what will happen. Me and Mustard will leave. You and your friend will stay here and wait for help. With Eri. She’s safer with you. Is that what we’ll do?” Scaly said.

“You son of…!”

Scaly twisted the knife.

“Is that what we’ll be doing? Or will we leave you here to bleed out?” Scaly said.

Izuku looked at Scaly. Then at Mustard who stood over the unconscious Shouto.

“… you can go.” Izuku said.

“Smart man. Mustard.” Scaly said.

“Shuichi.” Mustard said.

“Wake up Eri. Tell her… we must leave for a while. To… fight bad people. Tell her Indestructible will look after her till then.” Scaly… Shuichi said.

Mustard nodded and went to wake up Eri. Izuku turned to look at Shouto.

“… will he be okay?” Izuku said.

“He’ll wake up in a half an hour. Hopefully, he won’t hate Mustard too much when the headache kicks in.” Shuichi said.

A small albino girl with a large horn growing out of her head stepped in with Mustard. She was rubbing sleep out of her eyes and holding an iPad.

“Hi, Eri. Look who came to see you.” Shuichi said.

When Eri saw him, she hid behind Mustard.

“Don’t worry. He’s a nice guy. He’s a hero after all.” Shuichi said.

Izuku forced himself to smile despite the pain.

“… hi.”

Eri glanced worriedly at Shouto.

“Don’t worry. He’s just sleepy. He’s been heroing all day. Ain’t that right, Indestructible?” Shuichi said.

“… yeah.” Izuku said.

Eri approached him nervously. Then she ran to hug Shuichi.

“… I don’t want you to go.” Eri said.

Shuichi wrapped his arms around her.

“I don’t want to go either but there are bad people to fight. We’ll see each other again.” Shuichi said.

“… you promise?” Eri said.

“I promise, and you know me. I keep my promises.” Shuichi said.

Eri hugged Mustard too and waved them goodbye as they began to run in the opposite direction. Izuku sent their location to Iida and messaged for help. Eri sat next to him.

“… hi.” Eri said.

“… hi.” Izuku said.

“… I’m Eri.”

Izuku grinned.

“Indestructible but you can call me Izuku. That’s Shouto.”

“… he’s the champion. It was stupid how you won but still lost.” Eri said.

“… yeah. It was pretty dumb.” Izuku agreed.

Eri fiddled her fingers.

“… do you think…?”

“… yeah?”

“… could I get one of your t-shirts? Where you punch a dinosaur?” Eri said.

“… sure. I can even sign it.”

The ground grumbled when something approached. Something big. And angry.

“Iizuukuuh!”

No!

“Eri! Get behind me!” Izuku yelled.

The burned Noumu burst through a wall. It howled from pain and rage. Then it noticed the sleeping Shouto. It opened its maw.

“No!” Izuku screamed.

He tried to stand and fight, but his knee wasn’t any less useless. Then Eri stepped towards the Noumu. For a moment the Noumu forgot about Shouto and looked at Eri confused. Eri touched the Noumu.

There was a blinding flash of light.

Then… nothing.

Where the Noumu had stood was just a pillar of fading smoke. Eri’s horn had shrunk to a stump. She wavered on her feet and then fell over. Despite the pain on his busted knee Izuku managed to catch her. Eri was asleep and too exhausted to wake up even when he shook her. He held her until help arrived.

***

“Did you have to stab him?” Mustard said while they ran.

“Didn’t have much of a choice. I don’t want to know what they’ll do to Stain’s disciples.” Shuichi said.

Mustard wiped the sweat off his brow.

“I don’t wanna go to jail.”

“Mustard. Look at me. No one’s going to jail. I’ll keep you safe. I promise.” Shuichi said.

When they’d ran far enough for Shuichi to feel safe he pulled out his phone and the card the doctor had given him. He made a call. Time slowed down until seconds felt like an eternity. Why wasn’t anyone answering the goddamn phone?! They needed help!

“Hello, Mr. Shuichi. I’ve been waiting for your call.” Kurogiri said.

“Kurogiri? I thought that this was the doctor’s number.” Shuichi said.

“The good doctor just lost his grandson and is… distraught. What can I do for you?” Kurogiri said.

“You… you wouldn’t have a couch for us to crash on?” Shuichi said.

“You can have your own rooms. Send me your location and I’ll come pick you up.” Kurogiri said.

Shuichi did. Seconds later a black portal opened, and they stepped through it. Kurogiri waited for them at the bar.

“Shuichi. Mustard. Welcome. Care for a drink?” Kurogiri said.

Chapter Text

The hospital they were taken to was packed from all the wounded in Hosu. Izuku and Iida had to share a room meant for one but Izuku knew they were still getting a deal. Most people had even less room. Mei and Shouto had gotten away with lighter wounds and they’d be discharged after they’d been questioned by the police. Izuku’s knee was bandaged and he was shot full of painkillers until his knee could be operated.

All four of them sat in the cramped room and waited for further instructions. Mei was humming to herself but the way her hands shook told Izuku how much Stain had affected her. He wanted to tell her that everything would be okay, but he knew Mei wouldn’t want to get emotional in front of others.

Manual got there first and asked Iida to join him in the hallway. Even when the door was closed, they could hear everything. Manual was surprisingly calm. Even sympathetic but you could hear the disappointment in every word. Iida’s internship was done, and he’d only be receiving partial credit.

When Iida returned to the room he looked more miserable than ever. He sat on his bed and kept glancing at Mei.

“… I’m sorry.” Iida said.

“For what? Ditching me because you had raging murder-boner for Stain? Don’t be. I would have done the same.” Mei said.

“… jeez, Mei.” Izuku said.

“Too honest for you, Izuku?” Mei said.

“It could have been worse. No one died.” Shouto said.

Iida looked at Izuku’s knee.

“If… if I hadn’t thought just about myself… we could’ve caught Stain’s disciples.” Iida said.

“We will.” Shouto said.

Mei grinned.

“Pissed that Ketchup one-upped you? Me and Izuku have dibs on the bastard. You can have what’s left of him.” Mei said.

“… I think his name was Mustard.” Izuku said.

“Who cares? I certainly don’t. Soon he’ll just be another dead idiot buried in my backyard.” Mei said.

Iida stared at Mei shocked.

“How can you be so calm?! We could’ve died! Because of me! Midoriya’s knee…”

“Iida. Its not all about you and I can build Izuku a new knee. Besides, I don’t have time to be scared. Did you see Stain’s arm? Bastard had been turned into a cyborg.” Mei said.

“Meaning what?” Iida said.

“Meaning someone can connect nerves with mechanical parts. Meaning it could be used to bypass injured parts like…” Mei said.

Iida swallowed.

“Like spinal cord injuries?”

“Look at that. He can think. Someone has access to lost technology and they’ve been improving it. I’m going to find them and then hang them by their entrails for hogging it all to themselves.” Mei said and glanced Shouto: “I could have learned so much from it if someone hadn’t burned it.”

“He shouldn’t have tried to strangle me with it.” Shouto said.

“I want in.” Iida said.

Mei grinned.

“I’ll mail you the contract. Don’t bother reading it.”

“… you really should read it.” Izuku said.

***

Kai Chisaki sat in the back with Chrono of the car Rappa was driving. The shoulder one of the Noumu’s had bitten a chunk out of was bandaged and Rappa complained how he couldn’t move his arm properly. Fixing it would have been easy for Kai with his Quirk but he wanted the idiot to pay for his failure. If Rappa had just found Eri like he was supposed to, they wouldn’t be in this mess. Eri had fallen to the hands of their enemies and they’d had to abandon the mansion.

Chrono was testing his new hand while Rappa drove. Finally, they arrived to the hospital Eri was being kept with all the other wounded from Hosu. It was flooded with not just victims but their families and pro heroes. Everyone was on high alert. This was risky, but they didn’t have time to wait for a better opportunity.

“You sure you don’t want either of us to come with you?” Kai said.

“No offense, Kai, but neither of you really know how to keep a low profile.” Chrono said.

Kai smiled behind his mask and took out a gun.

“Take it just in case.” Kai said.

“Is that what I think it is?” Chrono said.

“If you think it’s a permanent Quirk eraser, you’re right.” Kai said.

Chrono took the gun and stepped out the car.

***

Toshinori leaped from one rooftop to another to make it to the Hosu hospital as fast as he could. When he finally got there, he reverted back to his true form. Having his secret revealed wasn’t all bad. There was new freedom in his life when he could walk around in his true form. He also didn’t have to waste One For All’s power just to look like All-Might when there was no crime to fight.

Tsukauchi was waiting for him at the hospital. Like always his old friend from the police was dressed in a trench coat and a fedora. They shook hands.

“How are they?” Toshinori said.

“The Iida boy got a pretty nasty cut on his side but it’s nothing too serious. Midoriya’s knee was banged up worse. We’ll know more when the doctors’ get a better look at it. Hatsume and Todoroki got away with lighter scratches.”

“And the girl…?”

“Eri.” Tsukauchi said: “She’s just exhausted.”

Endeavor was already waiting for them at the room their four students were sharing. Toshinori greeted him but Endeavor ignored him. Tsukauchi took off his hat when he entered the room.

“Good evening everyone. I’m detective Naomasa Tsukauchi. I’d like to hear everything that happened.”

As usual Hatsume did most of the talking. She told how Stain’s disciples had ambushed her, but she’d managed to drive them off but not before planting a bug on one of them. She’d followed them when she heard they had a kid with them. Then Stain had found her. Then Midoriya, Iida and Todoroki had found Stain. After the Hero Killer had been beaten half to death, Midoriya and Todoroki had moved in to save Eri.

“You should’ve waited for help.” Toshinori said.

“Would you have left a kid there?” Hatsume said.

“Losing two people to save one hardly makes sense.” Endeavor said.

“Very heroic of you, Endeavor.” Hatsume said.

Tsukauchi brushed his hair.

“This… puts us in a difficult position. You were using your Quirks without supervision.” Tsukauchi said.

“To protect ourselves.” Shouto said.

“Rules are rules and these grey areas can get messy. It might be best for everyone if we tell people that Endeavor dealt with Stain.” Tsukauchi said.

“I don’t like taking credit for other peoples’ accomplishments.” Endeavor said.

“… I don’t have a Quirk and… I did technically knock Stain out.” Midoriya said.

“Not without me you wouldn’t have.” Todoroki said.

Tsukauchi smiled.

“Trust me. It’s for the best.”

“Maybe we should continue this once they’ve rested.” Toshinori said.

“Fine by me. I have other people to question anyway.” Tsukauchi said.

Endeavor nodded.

“Shouto. With me.”

Young Todoroki followed his father. Toshinori followed them into the hallway while Tsukauchi left to question the other heroes and survivors.

“Shouldn’t you be getting some rest too?” Toshinori said to young Todoroki.

“His internship is still ongoing.” Endeavor said.

“Even pros need to rest. We shouldn’t…”

Toshinori fell quiet. His instincts honed by over thirty years of fieldwork told him something was wrong.

“Someone’s here.” Toshinori said and looked at Eri’s room.

Toshinori rushed to the door and yanked it open while Endeavor and young Todoroki followed him. A man with a bird mask had the sleeping Eri in his arms. When he saw them, the man dropped the girl and pulled out a gun. Everything slowed down. His brain sent messages to his legs. Shouting them to move but there was not enough time. He’d grown slow. Too slow. Maybe ten years ago he could have dodged this but now…

The man pulled the trigger.

“All-Might!”

Young Todoroki pushed him out of harms way and the bullet struck the boy in the arm. Endeavor was on the man in an instant and crushed his skull against the wall. Toshinori held the young Todoroki.

“Todoroki?! Are you…”

Young Todoroki looked at him horrified.

“My Quirk! Why can’t I feel my Quirk?!”

***

Sirens started blaring in the hospital. Kai tried to contact his only friend.

“Come on, Chrono! Answer the fucking phone!” Kai screamed.

When there was no answer, he threw it away.

“Goddamn it! Drive!” Kai yelled.

“Where?” Rappa said.

“Just fucking drive!”

Kai tried to think. Everything was ruined. Everything! He’d lost Eri. Most of his soldiers and mansion. Now he’d lost Chrono too. What the hell was he supposed to do now?! The bastards wouldn’t get away with this.

“Turn on the radio. Get me news.” Kai said.

Rappa turned up the volume.

“… just been informed that Endeavor’s son was wounded when the intruder pulled out a gun. The intruder was killed in the struggle with Endeavor…”

Kai didn’t hear the rest. Chrono was… dead? His best friend was… gone?

“Rappa.”

“… yes?”

“Take me to the loony bin where they keep Endeavor’s wife.”

Endeavor had taken everything from him. It was just fair he’d return the favor. At least Chrono had been able to avenge himself before dying. He’d taken Endeavor’s son’s future. Good luck playing hero without a Quirk. Next Kai would take his bitch wife.

After an hour of driving they arrived at the psychiatric ward. No need for low profile here.

“Let’s go.” Kai said.

Rappa didn’t move.

“Are you deaf?! I said…”

“I heard you and I’m not doing this. I can’t stop you, but I won’t help you with this either.” Rappa said.

Kai reached out and grabbed Rappa’s neck.

“Out. Now!”

Rappa didn’t get out.

“You never learned to drive. Unless you want to escape on foot let go of my neck.” Rappa said.

For a moment Kai thought about killing him. Just to show everyone what defying him meant. Then he remembered there were no one else left. For now, Rappa was all he had. But when he’d rebuilt his power base, then…

Kai let go reluctantly.

“Wait here.” Kai said and got out of the car.

He was halfway to the entrance when Rappa sped away leaving him stand in the dust. Rappa stuck his middle finger out of the car window.

“Fuck you, Overhole!” Rappa yelled while driving away.

Kai stared after Rappa and tried to fathom what had just happened. This… this couldn’t be happening. He was Overhaul! The man who would cure society! The man who would resurrect the yakuza! The man who would follow in the footsteps of the First Symbol of Peace! No one turned their backs to him! No one! After he’d killed Endeavor’s bitch wife he would find Rappa and tear him apart one cell at a time! Then… then he’d rebuild everything he’d lost.

The ward was running on a skeleton crew at night and there was only a nurse and a security guard chatting in the lobby. When he stepped in the guard walked up to meet him.

“Can I…”

Kai blew him up and the lobby was painted red. The nurse screamed. She screamed even louder when Kai took hold of her.

“Take me to Endeavor’s wife. Now!” Kai snarled.

The nurse gave him a tear-filled nod. Kai was led through many locked doors until they finally arrived at a room away from the others. The nurse struggled with the key but managed to finally open the door.

A lonely woman was sitting in bed watching television. Live footage from the hospital where Chrono had died. She was frail like a leopard who’d been locked up for too long. Her white hair was dry and her large eyes full of pain.

Kai kept the nurse between them as a shield. He was going to enjoy this.

“Evening, Mrs. Todoroki.” Kai said.

“Evening. You seem to have taken one of my nurses’ hostage.” The woman said.

Kai laughed.

“So, it would seem.”

The nurse started crying in earnest. The woman just looked at him. Eyes full of contempt but no fear. She wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t afraid. How dared she not be afraid of him?!

“Someone attacked my son. Someone with a bird mask.” The woman said.

“He was my friend. That’s why I’m here.” Kai said.

The woman nodded.

“Let go of my nurse and get down on your knees. You’re going to jail.” The woman said.

Kai laughed. He laughed until it hurt. How crazy could someone be?

“And if I don’t?”

“I’ll kill you.” The woman said.

This caused him to have another laughing fit. He laughed until he couldn’t breathe or move. Why couldn’t he move?! Why… why was he so cold?!

The woman got out of the bed and pulled the nurse out of Kai’s grasp. To his horror his arms broke off like porcelain when the nurse was yanked away. What the hell was going on?! How was he supposed to use his Quirk without his hands?!

The woman pulled off his mask.

“Sixty percent of your body is water and I control ice. You were dead the moment you stepped in. You should not have hurt my son. You should not have threatened my nurse.”

Kai tried to scream and beg. Then there was just cold darkness.

***

The hospital had descended into chaos after they’d heard the gunshot. The paparazzies outside had gone rabid and Mei was worried they would try to break into the hospital. The intercom told them to stay in their rooms and avoid panic. Izuku grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. She stared in shock with Izuku and Iida when they saw All-Might and Endeavor duke it out on live television. Or Endeavor duked it out and All-Might just took it.

“It should have been you!” Endeavor screamed.

“… what… what is going on?” Izuku whispered.

Mei opened the door and managed to stop a nurse rushing past them.

“What the hell happened?” Mei said.

“I can’t say.” The nurse said and tried to leave.

“Please! Todoroki is our friend. Is he alright?” Iida said.

Being a wounded hero’s brother had its perks and the nurse looked around quickly to make sure no one else was listening.

“We don’t know exactly but… Endeavor’s son was shot with something and it… erased his Quirk.” The nurse whispered.

They were left staring after her in growing horror. Shouto had… lost his Quirk? Mei turned back to look at the TV. The other heroes had managed to pull Endeavor away from All-Might. On his face was… utter look of despair and loss. He… Endeavor was crying? This… It was everything she’d ever wanted. Endeavor’s world had just ended.

“Good.” Mei said.

A plastic cup hit her in the back of the head.

“What the…?!”

When she turned to look who’d thrown it, she saw Izuku. Looking more furious than she’d thought possible. She barely recognized him. Iida was looking at him horrified.

“Izuku?”

“… get out.” Izuku whispered.

“What?”

“Get out! Get out, you cruel, selfish bitch! Out!” Izuku screamed and threw everything he could reach at her: “How dare you?! How could you say something like that?! I quit! Get out, you monster!”

The bombardment drove Mei out of the room and she was left standing in the hallway numbed.

***

Izuku laid alone in his bed. Iida had gone to see his brother who was being held in the same hospital. Getting out of the room had been a relief for both of them. His knee hurt despite the painkillers.

There was a knock on the door and mom peeked in.

“Izuku?”

“… mom.”

Mom hugged him and held him for a long time. Then she took a long hard look at him. His scarred face. His deaf ear. Maimed hand. And now… his crippled knee.

“Izuku… do you have to keep doing this?” Mom said.

Good. Shouto had lost his Quirk and that’s all Mei had to say about it.

“… I don’t know, mom.”

Chapter Text

Seito’s funeral was a depressing affair. Not even his ex-wife or children had showed up. Ken Hatsume was the only one there to see Seito off in his final journey. He wondered how much of this was his fault. Poor Seito. He’d probably hoped that his article exposing All-Might would salvage his career, but it looked like it had tainted what little there had been left of his reputation.

I’m sorry, Seito, Ken thought.

The door to the church opened and one more mourner entered. Something cold clawed at Ken’s guts when he saw Endeavor. For the rest of the ceremony they sat as far from each other as possible. When it was finally over, Endeavor nodded to him as a sign to meet him outside. Ken loosened his tie and followed him.

When he stepped outside Endeavor looked… smaller than usual. Diminished. His grim expression had been replaced with hopelessness.

“You always come to bury your enemies?” Ken said.

“I’m not here to fight, Blacksmith.” Endeavor said.

“Good.” Ken said and spat at Endeavor’s feet.

There was a flash of the old Endeavor when he bared his teeth.

“I’ll let you have that but don’t push me.” Endeavor said.

In response Ken flipped him off.

“Up yours.”

Endeavor just sighed.

“If you’re done acting like a brat, can we talk?” Endeavor said.

Ken fell silent and studied Endeavor. He tried to find the angle the monster was working on. What game was he playing? He didn’t find anything. Endeavor’s grief seemed… genuine?

“Fine. How’s Shouto?” Ken said.

“He lost his Quirk. How do you think.” Endeavor said and looked at the graveyard: “I’m going to be the next Symbol of Peace.”

“No, you’re not. You’ll be the number one, but you’ll never take All-Might’s place.” Ken said.

Endeavor growled.

“He was a fraud. If it wasn’t for him, Shouto wouldn’t…”

“If All-Might’s a fraud, so are you. If you’re done wasting my time, get to the point.” Ken said.

Endeavor tried glaring at him but then looked away.

“I… I don’t know how to do this.” Endeavor said.

Ken was quiet for a while and then started laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Endeavor said.

Ken wiped the tears from his eyes.

“I just realized you have no one else to talk to. I guess all that child abuse leaves little time to make friends.”

“Watch it.” Endeavor said.

“Sore spot, huh? Do you actually have a conscience and now it’s bothering you? Isn’t this what you always wanted? All-Might’s name dragged through the mud and you as the new number one?” Ken said.

Endeavor grabbed his shirt and almost pulled Ken off his feet.

“I never wanted this! I wanted to surpass All-Might! I… it… it wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

Ken pushed him away and straightened his tie.

“You want to surpass All-Might? Then surpass him. Do something he never did. Be honest. Hold a press conference. Tell them everything. About the Quirk marriage. What you did to Rei. What you did to your children. For once in your life, tell the truth.” Ken said.

Endeavor had gone pale.

“That… it would…”

“Ruin you? Did it ever occur to you that making amends might require some sacrifices from you?” Ken said.

“People need me! More than ever!”

“Oh? You’re doing this for the people? How noble of you. And here I thought you were just covering your own ass. Alright. Then just keep being an asshole. You’ve been one your whole life. Why stop now, you goddamn hypocrite?” Ken said.

They were done, and Ken got ready to leave when a horrifying thought came to him.

“One more thing.” Ken said.

“… what?”

“If I hear that you took Rei out of the hospital just to try your luck one more time with an heir, I’ll kill you. I don’t care if I go to jail for the rest of my life. I will kill you.” Ken said.

He left Endeavor standing alone in the graveyard and drove home. When he got there, he saw Mei’s shoes and realized she’d never left for school. He stared at the shoes for a while and then went to knock on her door.

“Mei?”

“What?”

Mei’s voice sounded unusually flat and lifeless.

“Is something wrong? Shouldn’t you be in school?” Ken said.

“School’s for idiots. I can do all my work from here.” Mei said.

Ken had learned a long time ago that it was best to leave Mei alone when she was like this and let her figure it out for herself but this… this was something different. This wasn’t one of her usual down periods. Ken had kept his phone turned off for the past couple of days and now turned it back on.

And saw a dozen messages and calls from his ex-wife.

“Aw… shit.” Ken muttered.

He gathered his courage and called her.

“Hi, Hanabi. I…”

“You son of a bitch! I had to hear this from the papers! The fucking papers! When were you planning to tell me our daughter almost died?!” Hanabi screamed.

Ken leaned to a wall for support.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?! You’re fucking…!” Hanabi yelled and then sighed.

Ken hated it when she sighed like that. It was Hanabi’s way of reminding herself not to expect anything better from him.

“You’re a prick, Ken.” Hanabi said.

“I know.”

“How… how is she?” Hanabi said.

“Haven’t you talked to her?”

“I tried but… you know what she’s like with me. She talks a lot and says nothing.”

“Yeah. I’m trying to figure that out now. I’ll call you back when I know more.” Ken said.

“You better.” Hanabi said and was quiet for a moment: “Tell her… that I could take some time off from the agency. Yamato could watch after Jun for a couple of days. I… could come visit.”

The offer was perfectly genuine and they both knew that Mei would say no. When they’d divorced Mei had thought it was a war between parents and she’d have to pick sides. Ken had never understood why she chose him.

Next Ken tried calling Midoriya, but his number was blocked. He stared at his phone and then dialed Higari’s number.

“What’s up, Ken?” Higari said.

“Same old. Bad time?” Ken said.

“I’ve got a moment. Shoot.”

“Something’s up with Mei and Midoriya isn’t answering his phone. You know anything about that?” Ken said.

“Afraid not. Uh… look. This is kinda against the rules, but Iida might have heard something. He shared a room with Midoriya at the hospital. I’ll send you his number.” Higari said.

“Thanks, man.”

Ken called Iida. And heard everything. Not just what Mei had said when Shouto lost his Quirk. Midoriya had confessed Iida everything when he was high on rage and painkillers. Ken listened and nodded and finally thanked Iida.

After hanging up Ken stared in the distance for a long time.

“Oh… shit. I fucked up.” Ken said after a long time.

***

After Iida had been discharged from the hospital, Izuku had gotten the room all to himself. He’d been happy at first to be alone but then… the nightmares had started. Whenever he slept, he felt someone… something lurking just outside of his window.

Tonight, it stepped through his window.

Even while asleep he could feel the thing in his room. Slithering around. Watching him hungrily. He tried to force himself awake but the painkillers made sleep heavy and sticky. The best he could do was open his eyes a sliver while being neither awake nor asleep.

A mass of hungry darkness full of jagged teeth was standing over him.

“Ya awake? No need to get up cuz of me. Just wanted to see ya. All beaten up and broken. Ya are cutest like this.”

Izuku tried to scream. This had to be a nightmare! It had to be!

“I hope they fix ya up soon. I’ll be doing the hurting next time. Mei will be there too. We’ll have so much fun together.”

“… Mei?” Izuku slobbered.

“Yeah. Sleep now and get better. I’ll see ya in class. Love ya, Izuku.”

The monster leaned closer to kiss him on the cheek. Its breath smelled of blood. Izuku tried to struggle against sleep but he fell back into slumber. When he awoke, sunlight had filled the room. Nothing scared away monsters like the sun. There was a new card on his nightstand. A self-made one.

Get well soon.
----------- HT

Izuku looked at the card and then put it away with the others. He picked up his laptop that mom had brought. When he took his laptop, he was forced to look at the leg brace the hospital had given him. When Izuku had asked how long he had to wear it, the doctor had just looked at him and told him he’d be just wearing it from now on.

The brace was an insult.

He could spot places to improve it with a single glance. Once he got out of here and had access to his tools, he’d do just that.

Izuku turned on his laptop and played a recording of the Noumu his helmet had captured.

“Ii… zuu… kuuh… pain… hurts…”

How did that thing know his name? How?

“Dad.”

Sagan’s face appeared on the screen.

“… yeah?”

“When are you talking to mom?” Sagan said.

Good. Shouto had lost his Quirk and Mei thought it was… good.

“… I don’t know.” Izuku said.

“You should…”

“Sagan. I… I have work to do.” Izuku said.

Sagan looked at him and then nodded before disappearing.

Izuku stopped the clip and stared at the Noumu. It knew him and… something about it struck to him as familiar. Particularly the… wings! He’d known a boy with wings once. He’d been one of Bakugou’s cronies. His name was… Tsubasa.

Izuku picked up his phone. It was only nine o’clock on a Sunday but Eijirou seemed like the kind of guy who was up early even on weekends. When Eijirou picked up his phone, Izuku realized he’d been mistaken. Eijirou had obviously been asleep.

“… Kirishima.” Eijirou said and yawned.

“… it’s Izuku. Sorry for waking you.” Izuku said.

“Izuku?! It’s no problem, bro. How are you? Did you get my card?” Eijirou said.

“… yeah. Thanks. I should be out in a couple of days.”

“Great.” Eijirou said and then wavered: “Have you… heard anything on… Todoroki?”

Everyone had been trying to get in touch with Shouto through the group chat. He’d ignored them all. Part of Izuku was relieved for that. He… didn’t know what to say to him. How to comfort him. How to even begin making it… okay.

“… no.” Izuku said.

“Okay. So… uh… Did you need something? Bro hugs?” Eijirou said.

“… could you give me Bakugou’s number. I need to ask him something.” Izuku said.

“You want to talk to him? Hey, Katsuki. Wake up.”

“… the fuck?” Bakugou complained.

“Izuku wants to talk to you.” Eijirou said and handed Bakugou the phone.

“The fuck do you want, Midoriya?” Bakugou said drowsily.

“… uh… do you remember Tsubasa. The guy with the wings? You were friends.” Izuku said.

“No, we weren’t. We just hung out occasionally.” Bakugou said and then gasped: “Stop that.”

Eijirou laughed.

“Stop what?”

“That…” Bakugou said and then started breathing heavily: “He… he moved away! With his grandpa! Gotta go!”

Bakugou hung up on him.

Izuku stared at his phone. Would that have been him if he hadn’t been born Quirkless? Not like it mattered anymore. Izuku started following his only lead.

***

Ken knocked on his daughter’s door.

“I’m busy. Go away.” Mei said.

Ken activated his Quirk and used it to open the lock on Mei’s door. Mei glanced at him annoyed over her work.

“Ever heard of privacy? What do you want?” Mei said.

“I talked with Iida.” Ken said.

Mei threw her wrench on the table.

“So? Come to yell at me?”

“No. Come. We’re going for a ride.” Ken said.

Mei looked ready to argue. Then she just sighed and followed him to the car.

“We’re are we going?” Mei said.

“To meet and old friend. I think… it’s time I explained you a few things. Things… you should have heard much sooner.” Ken said.

They weren’t even half way to the psychiatric ward when Mei connected the dots.

“… no.”

“No, what?” Ken said.

“Stop the car. I’m not going.”

“What’s wrong? You’ve hated her for so long. I think it’s just fair that you finally get to meet her. Or are you scared?” Ken said.

Mei grinded her teeth and if looks could have killed Ken would have been buried in a matchbox. Finally, she crossed her arms and stared out in grim silence for the rest of the way. When they got to the ward, it was on high alert. Pro heroes and other security personnel were watching everyone who went in and out. Ken flashed his old license to the hero guarding the door and they were let in without a fuss.

To his great relief, Ken spotted a familiar nurse. She looked more tired and worn out than usual but still smiled at him.

“Hi, Ken.”

“Hi, Misaki. How you holding up?” Ken said.

“Been better. The lunatic killed a guard and took Ino hostage. She… well… she’s taken some time off.” Misaki said and smiled at Mei: “You’re a new face.”

“My daughter Mei. Would it be possible for you to slip us through?” Ken said.

“Sure.”

Misaki led to them to Rei’s room and let them in before returning to work.

Rei had the best room in the ward and it looked more like a hotel suite then a hospital room. It was still nothing more than a comfortable prison. Rei was sitting by the window with a book on her lap that she couldn’t concentrate on. She stared outside vacantly.

“Rei.” Ken said.

Rei turned to smile at him.

“Ken. And you must be Mei.”

“… yeah.” Mei said.

“Saw the armor you designed. It really pushed Shouto to his limits.” Rei said.

“Izuku won. The judges were full of shit.” Mei said.

“Shouto though the same thing. It’s a pity I didn’t have a chance to teach him how to use his ice Quirk and now… looks like I never will.” Rei said and waved at the chairs next to her: “Please. Have a seat.”

Judging from her face, the chair Mei sat on was full of nails. The room came with its own water boiler and Ken made them tea.

“How are you holding up?” Ken said.

“I killed a man and Shouto lost his Quirk. So… you know…” Rei said.

“Yeah. Dumb question. How’s Shouto?” Ken said.

The mention of Shouto made Mei flinch.

“I’ve been talking to Fuyumi. He’s… quiet.” Rei said.

They kept talking while Mei stared at her cooling tea looking more and more distressed by the second. When she looked ready to flee by jumping out of the window Ken decided they had stayed long enough.

“Thanks for having us.” Ken said.

“My pleasure as always. This is a dull place.” Rei said.

Mei looked up from her tea.

“… then why don’t you leave?” Mei said.

“Where would I go?” Rei said

“Anywhere! Anything would be better than being locked up in here!”

“Maybe I deserve to be locked up in here.” Rei said and then pulled Mei into a hug.

Mei stood paralyzed in Rei’s embrace. Too shocked to move or escape.

“You’re a good person, Mei. Don’t let that change. I don’t think anyone has been kinder to that Midoriya boy then you. If you can help my son too, I’ll be forever grateful.” Rei said.

Mei came finally back to her senses and pushed Rei away. Cold sweat ran down her face and her breathing had turned labored. She rushed out of the room and left the door dangling wide open. Ken sighed and got up.

“Look…”

“I know. Go.” Rei said.

“Thanks… and thank you. For agreeing to this.” Ken said.

Rei gave him a sad smile.

“It’s bad enough that my children have been hurt by all this. Just remember what you promised.”

“Don’t worry. She’ll do what she can. I’ll come again.” Ken said.

“You’ll know where to find me.” Rei said.

Ken found Mei sitting in an empty stairway. He sat next to her.

“Well?” Ken said.

“She’s different than… what I thought.” Mei said.

“What did you think she was like?” Ken said.

Mei hugged her knees.

“Different. She… I’ve seen Shouto’s face.”

“I should’ve told you and… not let you fill in the blanks.” Ken said.

Mei grimaced.

“Why didn’t you?”

“The truth… doesn’t make me look very good.” Ken said.

“Are you going to tell me anyway?”

“… yes.” Ken said and took a deep breath: “It all started in U.A. Me and Rei met there and… hit it off. Then U.A ended, and we had to concentrate on our careers. We met when we could and talked a lot over the phone. We planned to start our agency when we had some experience.”

“Didn’t go as planned, did it?” Mei said.

“… no. When I was twenty… Rei’s family told me, she was getting married and… we were done. That it would be… better for everyone if I stayed away.” Ken said and stared at the ceiling: “Ever heard of Quirk marriages?”

“… aw, fuck.” Mei said.

“Yeah. Endeavor wanted to pass their Quirks to his heir who could then surpass All-Might.”

Mei looked appalled.

“All this… for something stupid like that?”

“Yes. Well… genetics are a crapshoot and it took three tries before Shouto was born. Fuyumi. Toya. Natsuo. They were all just… cast aside.”

“If you knew… why didn’t you do anything?” Mei said.

“I didn’t know back then. I was young. Proud. Angry. And nowhere near as smart as I thought. I missed what should have been obvious and… sent Rei one of those angry, drunken emails instead.” Ken said.

“… oh.”

They sat in silence for a long time.

“Why… why did you agree to work for Endeavor?” Mei said.

“My career… wasn’t going the way I had hoped. I’d… given up hope that I’d be a big-time hero and was ready to settle to working for a big-time hero. When I heard Endeavor was hiring…”

“You wanted to see her again.” Mei said.

Ken felt his anger flare up.

“Look, Mei. I had bills to pay and you were about to start school. You think that’s cheap? I…”

“You wanted to see her again!”

A single scream from Mei drove away any self-deception he’d been clinging to. He bowed his head.

“… yes… but Mei… look… I never cheated on your mother.”

“Oh, fuck you. You think that’s the only way to hurt someone? Mom could tell you were always thinking of someone else. I could tell that, and I was six!” Mei yelled.

Some truths were harder to accept then other but at some point, there was no running from it.

“Yes. I… wanted to see her again. This one time I forgot to return a report on purpose and promised to drop it by Endeavor’s house. When I got there… I could tell something was wrong. That place felt like a prison and the look on Rei’s face…”

It had been over ten years. The haunted look in Rei’s eyes still made him shiver.

“I started asking around. Toya told me everything. After that I started contacting journalists. None of them had the balls to touch Endeavor.” Ken said.

“Except Seito.” Mei said.

“Yeah. He’d reported wars and exposed corrupt politicians. He’d interviewed villains. Real villains. Some child abuser wasn’t going to scare him just because he was the number two hero. We started gathering evidence and then… it got too much for Rei. Everyone has their limit and Rei… crossed hers.”

Ken clenched his fists hard enough to make his knuckles crack.

“I was so… angry. I pressured Seito to go through with the story… despite him warning me it not being ready. He was right and… Endeavor destroyed us in court.” Ken said.

Mei hit him.

“… Mei?”

She hit him again. Harder. She was crying.

“You stupid…! fucking…! Idiot! I hate you!” Mei screamed.

A series of long ugly sobs left Mei gasping for air. Ken had never been more scared.

“… Mei? What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?! What’s fucking wrong?! You always wanted her! Not mom! Just her! You never wanted me!”

A single sentence from Mei hurt him more than Endeavor ever had.

Ken hugged her.

“I love you, Mei. More than anything. I swear. I’m sorry… I’m sorry I wasn’t the father you deserved.”

They cried together for a long time and Ken let Mei let it all out. When Mei was done crying, her eyes were swollen and her nose red.

“I fucked up, dad. I really fucked up and… I don’t know how to fix it! What… what should I do?” Mei said while rubbing her eyes.

“I wish I knew but… you’ve always been smarter than me. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” Ken said.

***

Izuku spent Sunday and most of Monday following doctor Tsubasa’s career. He hadn’t been just a family doctor with a terrible bedside manner. He’d also been an outspoken critic of Quirks and how they were affecting scientific progress. Izuku went through the countless articles and theses he’d written on the subject. He’d retired nine years ago to concentrate on raising his grandson.

On the side Izuku looked up information on Shuichi Iguchi. That knee busting bastard. According to the Quirk database he was a low tier super human with enhanced physical abilities and toxic spikes. Nothing Indestructible couldn’t handle.

But he wasn’t Indestructible anymore.

Izuku looked at his knee. The surgeons had done what they could, but it would never be what it used to be. That wouldn’t stop him. He’d put himself back together and then he’d kick Shuichi’s ass. Armor or not, he was still a U.A student and he could design new equipment.

There was a new message on his phone. Sagan’s face popped on his computer screen.

“It’s mom.”

“… I’m busy.” Izuku said.

To avoid the uncanny valley Sagan’s sprite had been purposefully kept cartoonish with limited facial expressions. She worked wonders with what she had.

“It! Is! Mom! You’re answering that!”

Izuku stared at the fuming Sagan. He picked up his phone and opened the message.

Izuku. You were right. About me. I was a cruel, selfish monster and I’m sorry. I know apologizing won’t fix anything but I’m sorry. Can we meet? I’m not asking you to forgive me. I just want to make amends. Please. Let me at least do this.

Izuku sighed and then wrote back.

Sure.

He’d barely clicked send when there was a knock on his door and Mei barged in.

“Thanks for having my back, Sagan.” Mei said.

“No problem, mom.” Sagan said.

“Can you do mom another favor and go catfish pedophiles on message boards? Mom and dad need to talk.” Mei said.

“Sure.”

Sagan vanished from the computer screen and left her parents staring at everything else in the hospital room besides each other.

“Can I sit?” Mei said.

“… sure.”

Mei sat on the stool next to his bed.

“So… how’s the knee?” Mei said.

“… I’ll have to wear a knee brace.” Izuku said.

“For how long?”

“… I’ll just have to wear it. I’ll be improving it when I get out of here.” Izuku said.

“Okay.” Mei said and sighed: “You were right. I should never have said... that.”

“… yeah. You shouldn’t have.” Izuku said.

“I was angry but… that’s a shit excuse. I was being a monster. I don’t blame you for quitting.” Mei said and handed him an envelope: “This is for you.”

Izuku took the envelope.

“… what is it?”

“The rights to the armor. Indestructible is yours. I’ve already fixed it and sent it to U.A.” Mei said and pushed a button in her phone: “I just sent the blueprints to your email. You should be able to maintain it on your own. Or hire another mechanic to do it.”

Izuku eyed Mei suspiciously.

“… are you trying to bribe me?” Izuku said.

“No. I didn’t come here for you to forgive me. I… just wanted to make up for… what I said.” Mei said.

“… isn’t that convenient? How do I know you’re not lying? You… you’ve been using me all this time.”

“I never used you. I always told what this was about. You always knew what I wanted.” Mei said.

“… yeah. And the moment I didn’t do what you wanted, you started threatening me. You’d call me a partner and then threaten to fire me.”

Mei shifted uncomfortably on the chair.

“I… you…” Mei said and then bowed her head: “Yes.”

Izuku opened the envelope and stared at the deed that granted him full rights for the armor. It looked legit. If this was another con, it was a risky one.

“… why now?”

“I met Shouto’s mom and… why bother hating Endeavor when being him is already a life sentence?”

Mei’s cheek twitched. Tears started running down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry, Izuku. I’m so sorry.” Mei slobbered between the sobs.

Izuku hesitated for a moment. He thought about Bakugou and how good it had felt to upload the video that had obliterated his reputation after ten years of humiliation. Until it hadn’t. He hesitated only for a moment. Then he hugged her. Mei started crying against his chest.

“… we’re renegotiating my contract. I want my organs back.” Izuku said.

“Okay.” Mei said.

“And joint ownership on all equipment I helped to design.” Izuku said.

“You got it.”

“And if Team Indestructible ever breaks up, Sagan is coming with me.”

“Fuck no.” Mei said.

“Worth trying.” Izuku said.

Both of them cried for a while. When they finally dried their eyes, they sat in awkward silence for a moment.

“You know… relating to people is… hard for me. I went to therapy for that but… I guess it didn’t stick. Apparently, I don’t show people that I appreciate them.” Mei said and took a deep breath: “You’re my best friend.”

Izuku smiled.

“You’re my best friend too. You… were my only friend for a long time.”

“Really? Now I feel even worse.” Mei said.

Sagan’s face appeared back on the screen.

“Are you still fighting?”

“No. For now.” Mei said.

Sagan smiled.

“Good.”

“Yeah.” Izuku said and then showed Mei what he had found on doctor Tsubasa.

“I’ve read his writings. I’d love to meet him.” Mei said and then noticed the tab he had on Shuichi: “You want to go after Scaly?”

Izuku looked at the tab and the closed it.

“No. If we run into him or Mustard, we’ll deal with them like any other villain. I’m not making this personal.” Izuku said.

“Sounds good.” Mei said and grimaced: “Anything on Sh… Todoroki?”

“No.”

“Wanna go see him?” Mei said.

“Yes.”

Mei helped him to the wheelchair and then pushed him to the elevator that took them to the top floor. Izuku was forever grateful that he didn’t have to do this alone. Despite there being just a few floors separating them, he’d never dared to make the trek on his own. Shouto had his own room in the hospital. A much nicer room than the one Izuku had and countless doctors with impressive degrees had gone to do a checkup on him. None of them had been able to figure out what was wrong.

Izuku knocked on the door and peeked in.

“Shouto? It’s me… and Mei. Can we come in?”

“… sure.” Shouto said.

The curtains were drawn and Shouto hid under the covers. He looked terrible and smelled worse.

“Are you…” Izuku said.

“No! I’m not okay. Why does everyone ask me that?!” Shouto yelled.

Izuku fell silent and tried to think of something else to say. Lines appeared on Mei’s forehead when she looked at Shouto and then she made up her mind.

“Good God in heaven! You look awful. One setback and this is all you’re good for?” Mei said.

Izuku and Shouto both turned to stare at Mei. Rage made Shouto forget his grief for a moment.

“What?!”

“Oh? Did I hit a sore spot? Truth is tough to swallow.” Mei said.

Shouto threw way the blanket and got up. He pushed Izuku out of the way and grabbed Mei.

“You…! I lost my Quirk!”

“Well oopsie fucking daisy! Guess that makes Izuku more of a man than you then. He was born without one and didn’t let that stop him.” Mei said.

Shouto’s glance moved frantically between Izuku and Mei. Then he pushed her away.

“It’s not the same! He never had one!” Shouto yelled.

“… thanks.” Izuku said.

“And here I thought you were better than that.” Mei said and patted Shouto on the shoulder: “Luckily, I’m here to give you your balls back. Team Indestructible is looking for a new member. Think you have what it takes to throw down with a T-Rex?”

“What?” Shouto said.

“Do you have the balls to be a man?! Huh?! Do you, bitch?! Or are you going to give up after one setback? Are you a closer? Armors are for closers!” Mei said.

There was a rush of footsteps and an army of nurses ran in Shouto’s room.

“Oh no. Not you again.” The head nurse said.

The nurses grabbed Mei and started dragging her away. Mei laughed all the way through.

“I’m looking forward to seeing you in class, Todoroki!” Mei yelled.

“I’m not but I’ll be there.” Shouto said and then gave a tired grin: “You still owe me an apology.”

Izuku and Shouto were left alone. Shouto sat on his bed and started laughing a mirthless, tired laugh. He laughed for a long time. Izuku sat in his wheelchair and didn’t know what to do. Shouto wiped the tears out of his eyes.

“That was dumb.” Shouto said.

“Guess it was.” Izuku said: “How are you feeling?”

Shouto looked at his hand and tried to create ice but nothing happened.

“People are afraid of me. The doctors… they’re afraid that what ever I have is… contagious. The nurses are afraid too.”

“… I’m not.” Izuku said.

Shouto smiled.

“I… don’t know. I don’t know who I am anymore… without my Quirk but… I still want to be a hero. I’ve wanted to be a hero ever since I saw All-Might on TV as a kid.”

“Yeah. Me too.” Izuku said.

“I didn’t think I could be one without my Quirk but… you could do it. I’m not going to be any worse.” Shouto said.

“I think I’m losing my uniqueness.” Izuku said.

Izuku spent rest of the day in Shouto’s room watching TV with him. All-Might’s reputation had taken another blow after Shouto had taken a bullet for him. This time he didn’t show up to defend himself. Izuku hoped he was okay.

“Any word on Eri?” Shouto said.

“She’s still too tired to meet anyone.” Izuku said.

The next day mom came to pick him up. Izuku was taken to the car in a wheelchair and given the leg brace and crutches as a parting gift. Mom kept glancing at him the whole drive home. When they were finally home, she told him to sit.

“You’re going back to U.A?” Mom said.

“Yeah.”

“Izuku…”

“Mom. I need to show you something.”

Mom followed him to his room and Izuku tried to move as naturally as he could with the crutches. He showed her the letter he’d gotten after the tournament.

INDESTRUCTIBLE
I WAS DIAGNOSED QUIRKLESS. CAN I STILL BE A HERO?

Mom stared at the letter.

“Izuku… why does it have to be you?”

“Because… I don’t know if anyone else will do it but also… I want to do it. I… I want to matter.” Izuku said.

“You do matter!” Mom said.

“I could matter more. It… it hurts, mom. Having everyone tell you that you’re not good enough. That you can’t do the one thing you’ve always wanted. But I could! Then maybe others can too! It hurts to live without hope.”

Mom sighed and hugged him.

“I can’t stop you but please… Promise me. Take better care of yourself. If anything happened to you… I don’t know what I’d do.”

“I promise, mom.” Izuku said.

***

Kurogiri was a better host then Stain had ever been, and all Shuichi and Mustard had to do to pull their weight was help cleaning the bar. Mustard wiped the tables while Shuichi rubbed the floor. He couldn’t explain it but for the first time Shuichi felt like he’d come home.

The door to the bar opened.

“Oh… shit.” Mustard gasped.

Dabi stood in the doorway holding a heavy looking bag.

“You.” Dabi snarled.

Mustard hid behind Shuichi.

“Please don’t kill us.” Mustard said.

A black portal opened and Kurogiri entered the bar.

“No one is killing anyone in my bar without my permission, Mustard.” Kurogiri said and gave Dabi a nod: “Mr. Dabi. Welcome to the League of Villains.”

Dabi threw the bag at Kurogiri’s feet.

“That’s all the research material Shi Hassaikai had on erasing Quirks. You’re going to fix it.” Dabi said.

“Smells of smoke.” Shuichi said.

“The eggheads didn’t want to let it go.” Dabi said.

“Thank you, Mr. Dabi. I’m sure the good doctor will be most grateful. He needs something to take his mind off his dead grandson.” Kurogiri said and opened another portal: “Come. I’ll take you to your room.”

Shuichi and Mustard were left standing alone in the bar.

“This is bad. This is really bad.” Mustard said.

The door was kicked open and Toga stepped in.

“Wassup ya all?! It’s yer girl Toga!”

“Yeah.” Shuichi agreed.

Chapter Text

It was Friday when Izuku was fit enough to go back to school. He headed their earlier than usual, so the other students wouldn’t see the way he was limping. Recovery Girl was waiting for him at the clinic and administered the last part of his rehabilitation.

If I find out that the kissing was unnecessary for her Quirk to work, I’m kicking her ass. I don’t care if she’s over a hundred, Izuku thought.

Recovery Girl wiped her lips. The knee brace creaked when Izuku moved his leg.

“There. That’s the best I could do.” Recovery Girl said.

The knee still felt weird. Weak. But at least he could move it without pain.

“Thank you.” Izuku said.

“No need. The real work will be on you. You have to use that leg. Go for jogs. Do the stretches I showed you. If the pain is too much, take some painkillers but I wouldn’t recommend making a habit out of that.” Recovery Girl said.

“I don’t plan to.”

“No one plans to. It just happens.” Recovery Girl said and watched as Izuku took a few steps without the crutches: “Stay sharp. The exams are coming up and Aizawa won’t hesitate to boot you out if you fail. Or Todoroki.”

Izuku grimaced.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Izuku headed to the workshop and enjoyed the feeling of moving without pain. Even the knee braces creaking couldn’t ruin his mood. The limp was barely noticeable.

Mei was drinking coffee when he stepped into the workshop.

“Morning partner.” Mei said and raised her cup for him.

“Morning. Do you have it?”

“Do bears shit in the woods?” Mei said and took out a case: “I made the improvements you designed and added a few of my own.”

Izuku opened the case. The brace he’d designed was smaller and lighter than the creaking monstrosity the hospital had given him. Izuku eyed Mei nervously.

“What improvements?”

“Remember how you complained how you’re a sitting duck without the armor? With that your kicks can break bricks.” Mei said.

“Wouldn’t that also shatter my leg?” Izuku said.

“Not with these it wouldn’t.” Mei said and handed him a new set of red sneakers: “Their woven with the shock absorbing fiber. That we ran out of.”

“So, we have to…?”

“Feed Momo.”

Izuku sighed.

“I liked having money.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve set some extra cash aside. Although… I wasn’t planning on having to build two armors this time around.” Mei said.

“How’s that coming along?”

“I have Shouto’s measurement and I know what his body can handle. The rest is easy. It just takes time.” Mei said.

“Good.” Izuku said and took out the new brace: “Thanks, Mei.”

“My pleasure.”

Izuku threw away his old brace and put on his new one. There was a moment of discomfort when the brace tightened around his leg, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle.

“Well?” Mei said.

Izuku hopped on his wounded leg and the knee handled his full weight.

“All good?” Mei said.

“About ninety percent of what it used to be. At least I can move without any problems.” Izuku said.

“Good but I have other gifts for you too.” Mei said.

Next Mei gave him a glove that had been attached to a watch.

“Is this a stun glove?” Izuku said.

“Full marks for the green man. It only has enough juice for one zap, but one is better than nothing. It also has shock fibers in it so feel free to slap fools all day.”

Izuku put on the new glove and smiled.

“What?” Mei said.

“It’s just… With these it feels like I have a Quirk.” Izuku said.

“This last thing is better than a Quirk.” Mei said and placed on the table… what looked like three billiard balls that had lenses attached to them.

“Tada! An extra set of eyes. Just let these bad boys fly around and they can map the area for you.” Mei said.

Izuku picked up one of the cameras and studied it.

“How do I control them?” Izuku said.

“With your mind.” Mei said and took out a syringe: “Give me your hand.”

Izuku backed away slowly.

“Why?”

Mei waved the syringe.

“Nanomachines, son. Now, give me your hand so I can turn you into a cyborg. Plus Ultra!”

“What if I don’t want to be a cyborg?” Izuku said.

“You’re already a cyborg. If I took away your phone, I’d practically cripple you. Don’t start pussyfooting now.”

“How about no?” Izuku said.

“Come on, Izuku! Don’t be a pussy and become a cyborg. All the cool kids are doing it. Don’t you wanna be cool?” Mei said.

Someone opened the door without knocking.

“Morning, Team Indestructible! Hitoshi Shinsou has returned!” Shinsou said.

Shinsou had gotten a haircut since the last time they’d met, and he’d combed it with gel. The bags under his eyes were also gone and… Izuku could swear he smelled after shave. Shinsou looked at the syringe Mei was holding like a sword and raised an eyebrow.

“So… what are you guys doing?” Shinsou said.

“I’m turning Izuku into a transhuman.” Mei said.

Shinsou started clapping.

“Congratulations, whiz kid. Have you already picked a new name, or do I keep calling you Izuku?”

“Transhuman. Not transsexual.” Mei said.

“Hey, I’m not here to judge. I just want you to know, whiz kid, that I don’t care if it’s pre-op or post-op. I’m open-minded and available.” Shinsou said.

“Keep dreaming. You’re a five. Tops.” Mei said.

“A five?” Shinsou said.

“The hotness spectrum runs from one to ten. Mineta is a one. Momo is a ten. You’re smack dab in the middle where as Izuku is an eight. Eights don’t fuck fives.” Mei said.

Shinsou gave Izuku a critical look.

“Isn’t he a bit short to be an eight?”

“Unlike you I’ve seen his dick.” Mei said.

“Goddamn it, Mei!” Izuku said.

“Oh, yes. I’ve heard the legends.” Shinsou said.

“And goddamn you too, Ojiro!” Izuku said.

“Does it really reach past your knee? I’d love to suck it… I mean see it.” Shinsou said.

Izuku rubbed his face.

“Did you need something?”

Shinsou grinned.

“I heard that Team Indestructible is hiring and I want in.” Shinsou said and handed Mei and envelope: “Those are my recommendations from Mr. BJ. His only complaint was that my ass isn’t made for leather pants.”

Mei took the envelope and read it through.

“Ah. Most excellent. I was looking for a new test subject. Sign this.” Mei said.

Mei through a lease on the table that you could have used to bludgeon a man to death with. Shinsou started skimming it through and frowned.

“There shall be no sexual relations between teammates?”

“Office romances are the downfall of any agency.” Mei said.

“If we run low on cash, I have to sell one of my kidneys?” Shinsou said.

“It’s just there to prove your commitment.” Mei said.

Izuku took away the lease and handed Shinsou the version he’d crafted. A much shorter version.

“Read this and then come back to us.” Izuku said.

“Will do.” Shinsou said.

Shinsou left with the lease. Mei poured herself another cup of coffee.

“Look at you. Acting like a boss.” Mei said.

“I can’t have you scaring off potential employees.” Izuku said.

“If you say so.” Mei said and raised the syringe: “Now, where were we?”

“Yeah, no.” Izuku said.

“Hear me out. Indestructible 3.0 will come with a quick equip function and with these you could summon it to yourself. You could be Indestructible in seconds.” Mei said.

Izuku stopped arguing and thought about it. If the mess in Hosu had started when he was out of the armor, he’d be dead. Putting it on could last minutes and he needed someone’s help to do it. Minutes was the kind of time he didn’t have in an emergency.

“Fine.” Izuku said and rolled his sleeve.

“My man.” Mei said and injected him with the nanomachines.

They waited for a moment.

“So… how do you feel?” Mei said.

Izuku activated his new eyes and ears with a thought and they started hovering around him. Mei grinned.

“Good boy.” Mei said.

Another thought turned the new equipment off.

“You’ll need a new shot every few days when the old ones run out of juice.” Mei said.

“Okay.”

“They can also be used to track you if necessary.” Mei said.

“I’m less okay with that.” Izuku said.

“Don’t worry. I have nothing but respect for your privacy. Unless I get really bored.” Mei said.

Izuku rolled his eyes.

“I need to get to class.”

“Say hi to Momo for me. Oh. And Izuku?”

“Yeah?”

“Ever heard of the centipede’s dilemma?” Mei said.

“Yeah. It could walk just fine with all its legs until another bug asked how it did it. When it stopped to think about it, it couldn’t walk anymore. Why?”

“No reason.” Mei said and took a sip of her coffee: “You don’t stutter anymore.”

Izuku stopped.

“… goddamn it, Mei.”

Mei just laughed. What did he need enemies for when he had Mei for best friend?

Besides Shouto, everyone had already made it to class when he got there. The chattering died down when they saw him. They stared at his knee that was being supported by a brace. The sight made Iida squirm.

“Izuku.”

Tsu was the first to approach him and to Izuku’s shock she hugged him. He could just stand there surprised.

“We were so worried.” Tsu said when she finally let go.

“I wasn’t!” Bakugou said.

“Bakugou. Ribbit.” Tsu said.

Momo looked at his leg.

“If you want to have that checked by another doctor, I know a great private clinic.” Momo said.

“… I don’t think I could afford it.” Izuku said.

“Good to have you back, bro.” Eijirou said and slapped his back.

“Indeed. I can’t wait to show you how much I’ve improved.” Aoyama said.

Mineta tapped his knee brace.

“So, is this going to be a thing now? You getting all fucked up?” Mineta said.

“… I hope not.” Izuku said.

Iida bowed his head.

“Midoriya… for what happened… I’m sorry!”

The rest of the class looked at Iida surprised.

“… Iida… you…” Izuku said and smiled: “I forgive you.”

“We heard about the kid you saved. Has there been a word about her?” Tsu said.

“… she’s tired.” Izuku said: “I heard you’re going to get a medal.”

Tsu started croaking.

“It’s nothing. They were just… glorified drug peddlers.” Tsu said.

“You don’t see the rest of us getting medals.” Eijirou said.

The door opened, and deathly stillness filled the room. Some even backed away from Shouto when he stepped in. Shouto had told him about this. How the doctors and nurses were afraid of him. They were afraid that his condition could be contagious. A wave of anger washed over Izuku. He was surrounded by people who were supposed to be tomorrows heroes and they were backing away from their friend when he needed them the most.

Then he understood.

Shouto had been right. They might both be Quirkless now, but their situations weren’t the same. Everyone in the class had built their entire identities around their special abilities. Losing that… had to feel like dying. Besides, who was he to judge others for emotional cowardice?

Izuku walked up to Shouto.

“… welcome back.”

Shouto smiled.

“It’s good to be back.”

Iida pulled them both into a bear hug.

“Never worry us like this again!”

When rest of the class saw Iida touch Shouto and not lose his Quirk, they all rushed Shouto. Except Bakugou.

The party came to an end when Aizawa-sensei entered, and everyone hurried to their seats. Izuku sat next to Shouto at the back of the class. Aizawa-sensei looked at his class and his eyes stayed just a fraction of a second longer on Izuku and Shouto then the others.

“Now that the whole class is finally here, let’s talk about the upcoming exam. You’ll show me what you’ve learned and if you don’t meet my expectations, you’re out. No matter the reason.” Aizawa-sensei said and glanced at Izuku and Shouto again.

Izuku thought he spotted some sympathy in Aizawa-sensei’s harsh face but it was too brief for him to be sure.

Shouto leaned closer to whisper in Izuku’s ear.

“He can be really difficult to like sometimes.”

“… yeah. Uh… how’s it going… at home?” Izuku whispered back.

“Fuyumi and Natsuo have been… supportive. Dad has lost all interest in me.”

Izuku glanced at Iida.

“… should we tell Iida?”

“No. He has enough to worry about already with his brother. Will my armor be ready for the exams?” Shouto said.

“… I doubt it. We have to start from scratch with it. You’ll get other equipment.”

“Why can’t I just use one of your older armors?”

“… they were custom made to fit me. You’re too tall.” Izuku said.

Shouto sighed.

“What would life be if it was easy?”

“… yeah.”

A piece of chalk hit Izuku between the eyes with sniper like precision.

“No talking in class.” Aizawa-sensei said.

The rest of the day was spent catching up in his studies and classroom gossip. During a break Izuku visited All-Might’s office only to find he wasn’t there. Ever since Shouto had lost his Quirk All-Might had just… disappeared.

When the day was finally done, and Aizawa-sensei told them to go home, Momo got in front of the class. She looked… taller somehow. More at ease with herself.

“I guess everyone is nervous about the upcoming exams.” Momo said.

“Speak for yourself.” Bakugou said.

“Everyone except Bakugou. So, I was thinking we should do something fun together. To help us relax. Bakugou doesn’t have to come.” Momo said.

“We should go shopping! That always helps me relax!” Hagakure said.

Every time he heard Hagakure speak, Izuku felt his cheeks heat up. His long absence had been a blessing since it gave him an excuse to avoid her. How was he supposed to talk about what had happened? Thank God, Hagakure hadn’t brought it up.

“That’s… actually a good idea. Is everyone free on Saturday?” Momo said.

There were no objections even from Bakugou.

“Before that, I’d like you all to try something I learned during my internship.” Momo said.

Bakugou got up.

“I need to get to my job.” Bakugou said.

Iida sounded scandalized.

“Part-time jobs are forbidden in U.A. A student’s duty is to study.” Iida said.

“Volunteer work, four-eyes.” Bakugou said.

“I’m going too. I’ll see you at the mall.” Eijirou said and left with Bakugou.

The rest of the class followed Momo to the gym were Mei was already waiting for them. She was screwing a pole into the ground.

“… what’s that for?” Izuku said.

“Pole dancing.” Momo said.

“Yes!” Uraraka yelled.

“Calm down, Uraraka.” Mineta said.

“… pole dancing?” Izuku said.

“Pole dancing.” Momo agreed and looked around at her puzzled class: “Has anyone done this before?”

Mina raised her hand.

“I have. I’m something of a master.” Mina said.

The rest of 1-A looked on hypnotized as Momo and Mina started showing them the basics. They threw themselves on the pole upside down and then locked themselves in place using their legs. It soon became Mina’s show and she twirled around the pole with effortless ease. Mei was soon standing next to him grinning from ear to ear.

“Bet you wish right now you’d tried to become Izuku Yaoyorozu.” Mei said.

Izuku couldn’t bring himself to answer. Momo’s shirt left her back exposed. So, women with muscular backs were his thing now. You learned something new about yourself every day. He was grateful that his gym pants were so loose.

When Momo and Mina had given them their demonstration it was time for the others to give it a go. Everybody looked around nervously. Despite their embarrassment no one wanted to be the first one to chicken out.

“Let me show you how it’s done. You can follow my lead if you have the stones.” Mineta said.

Mineta gave it his all but his short legs weren’t made for the pole and he almost ended up cracking his skull on the floor. But he did open the floodgates and the rest of the class dared to try it out. After a few tries everyone was smiling and laughing. Even Shouto.

Tsu was a natural but Izuku guessed that having super strength was cheating. Aoyama on the other hand couldn’t even do the basics.

When the swelling had finally gone down, Izuku dared to step up to the pole.

“You sure your knee can handle this?” Momo said.

“… don’t know until I try.”

“Woo! Go Izuku! Shake that booty!” Mei yelled.

Izuku grabbed the pole. Mina had made swinging on it look easy what it most certainly wasn’t. Even when he squeezed as hard as he could, his grip was slipping, and his muscles were strained to the extreme. No wonder Mina was in such great shape. Mei and Tsu pulled out their phones.

“Oh? Oh?! I see! When I film your cheerleader dance, I’m a creep but when you film him on the pole, it’s all good fun! How’s the view from your glass house, you hypocrites?!” Uraraka yelled.

Izuku started laughing with Mineta and lost his grip hitting the ground headfirst.

“Man, never thought I’d see Uraraka with a moral high ground.” Mineta said.

Izuku joined Mineta with the rest of the wounded.

“Great show. Almost made me consider switching for the other team.” Mineta said.

“… thanks. Uh… is it just me or is Uraraka a bit more… subdued?” Izuku said.

“She got a bit too obvious with Mount Lady. Aizawa dropped by and gave her a talk… about proper behavior in the workplace.” Mineta said.

“… oh. Uh… good.”

Ojiro came to sit with them after trying his luck with the pole.

“… you.” Izuku growled.

“What did I do?” Ojiro said.

“… how many people did you tell… about me… you know.”

“Oh. About your giant wang?” Ojiro said.

“Hey. If someone spread stories like that about me, I’d be honored.” Mineta said.

After an hour everyone was too sour to continue, and they called it a day. When Izuku was heading out of the gym, Tsu walked up to him.

“Izuku.” Tsu said.

“… yeah?”

“I was wondering… do you…”

Izuku stopped. Was this actually happening?

“… yeah?”

Tsu croaked a few times and then sighed.

“Do you want to meet up and train? On the weekend? I could show you… how to jump.”

“… what about meeting at the mall?” Izuku said.

“We could train first and meet the others later.” Tsu said.

“… sure.”

Tsu let out a few more croaks.

“Okay! Great! Let’s meet in front of the gate at ten.” Tsu said.

“Mind if I join you two? I could teach Midoriya quite a bit about running at super speed.” Iida said.

Tsu frowned. Jiro and Kaminari dragged Iida away.

“It’s best for Midoriya to concentrate on one thing at a time.” Jiro said.

“Yeah and you should really take a break too. You work too much. Ease up a bit, class president.” Kaminari said.

Tsu and Jiro shared a knowing look. Izuku just shook his head. How dense did people take him for?

“… I’ll see you in the morning then.” Izuku said.

When Izuku got home, he put on his running shoes. The pole dancing had left him sore all over, but he still wanted to go running. He’d missed it during his long sick leave. More than he ever though he would. When he was younger he was always picked last in gym class and none of the other kids let him join in their games.

Izuku started off slow and felt out his knee before picking up the pace. Soon he was running at full speed and his legs took him towards the beach where the Sludge Villain had nearly killed him and Mei. To his surprise somebody had started cleaning it up. There was a huge portable trash container that was slowly being filled.

Izuku’s stride came to a grinding halt when he saw Bakugou picking up trash with Eijirou. He stood at the side of the road staring at them slack jawed until Eijirou noticed him.

“Yo! Izuku! What’s up, dude?!” Eijirou yelled.

Izuku walked up to them slowly.

“… what are you doing?” Izuku said.

“What does it look like? Cleaning up the beach.” Bakugou said.

“… why?”

When they’d been kids, Bakugou had always pushed his share of cleaning duty on Izuku.

“People have been dumping their trash here for too long and it is hero’s duty to clean this shit up.” Eijirou said and slapped Bakugou’s back: “It was all his idea.”

“… really?”

Bakugou was quiet.

“Hey, if you’re not in a hurry, we could use the help.” Eijirou said.

Izuku glared at Bakugou.

“… sorry. Some other time.” Izuku said.

“Oh? Uh… okay. See you at the mall then, bro.” Eijirou said.

Izuku left them behind and kept running.

***

Shuichi was rubbing the bar tables clean while Tomura kept watching and re watching the Project: Indestructible videos to the point where it was unnerving.

“What do they have that I don’t?” Tomura said finally.

“Huh?”

“Project: Indestructible. That’s all everyone is talking about. Them or Stain. Why isn’t anyone talking about me? What’s so different about us? I broke into U.A. I released the Noumus in Hosu, but I’m barely mentioned.” Tomura said.

“Sorry, but I can’t help you there, buddy.” Shuichi said.

Tomura slammed his laptop shut.

“No one can! Not you! Not Kurogiri! Even sensei tells me to figure it out myself.”

Sensei? He’d heard that name talked in hush tones in the League, but he’d never seen him. Everyone referred to Tomura as the leader but even Tomura deferred to this unseen sensei.

“Who’s this sensei?” Shuichi said.

“You’ll know when it’s time.” Tomura said and started scratching his neck: “I need to meet Team Indestructible.”

Chapter Text

End of the term was always a busy time and that meant that as a principle, Nezu had to sacrifice his weekends to plan the exams. He went through the latest drafts when Power Loader barged in without knocking. Why? Why couldn’t that man wear a shirt? Why?!

“What is it?” Nezu said without looking up from his papers.

“Goddamn it! Come back here!” Eraserhead shouted and ran after Power Loader into Nezu’s office.

“You…” Power Loader growled.

“Stop it. Both of you. What is going on?” Nezu said.

Power Loader pointed at Eraserhead.

“This idiot…!”

“I told you! This is my class! I decide who pairs up with who!” Eraserhead yelled back.

“Quiet.” Nezu said.

Despite both men fuming, they had enough presence of mind to shut their mouths.

“Explain. Now.” Nezu said.

“Eraserhead wants to pair up Iz… Midoriya with Bakugou in the practical exam.” Power Loader said.

“Heroes have to be able to work with people they don’t like.” Eraserhead said.

“Oh, screw you! You saw that video. This is goddamn sabotage!” Power Loader said.

“This is training!” Eraserhead said.

“I say sabotage and…! You… you’re trying to get Midoriya kicked out.” Power Loader said.

Eraserhead wasn’t an easy man to faze but even he was taken back by the accusation.

“What?!” Eraserhead said.

“I know what this is about. You’ve always been a stuck-up little brat, but this is even lower than expelling your entire class last year.” Power Loader said.

Eraserhead’s cheek started twitching.

“None of them had the potential!”

“Really? And you figured that out in a single afternoon? You’re a stuck-up little brat and a hypocrite! You started in General yourself! Just like All-Might! You arrogant prick! How many chances did you need to prove yourself?!” Power Loader said.

“Enough.” Nezu said.

Both men forced themselves to calm down. Nezu scratched his snout. He’d hoped that moving Midoriya to Heroics would dampen the rivalry between departments, but it had just inflamed it further.

Power Loader put his hands on Nezu’s desk.

“Nezu, if you’re going through with this farce, the Support Department won’t help with setting up the exam.” Power Loader said.

“What?!” Eraserhead yelled.

“Power Loader is right.” Nezu said.

Power Loader threw a smug smirk in Eraserhead’s way.

“I saw that video too… and I had to deal with the public backlash. If All-Might hadn’t released his statement, we would have had no choice but to expel Bakugou.” Nezu said.

“We are training heroes. Not appeasing the public. We need to get Midoriya out of his comfort zone. He can’t always rely on his friends.” Eraserhead said.

Nezu smiled.

“Now, that we can agree on. Maybe everyone could use some shaking up. Excuse me.” Nezu said and dialed Vlad King’s number: “Vlad King. This is Nezu. Who’s the Bakugou of your class?”

***

Izuku arrived half an hour early to the school gate only to find Tsu waiting for him there already. Instead of her uniform she was dressed in a long sleeveless shirt and shorts. The shorts gave him a good luck at her long, well-developed legs. Izuku tried hard not to stare.

“… hi.” Izuku said.

“Hi.” Tsu said.

For a moment they just stood there awkwardly.

“… uh… should we get going?” Izuku said.

“Yeah.” Tsu said.

Thanks to the upcoming exams the school’s training yard was in use even on weekends with one of the teachers came occasionally to check on the students using it. Izuku left for the workshop to change into his armor. Even with the new paintjob you could make out the scrapes and scratches from his fight with Stain. And where Shuichi had stabbed him. His knee started acting up and Izuku rubbed some feeling back into it before putting the armor on.

“She seems nice.” Sagan said.

“… huh?”

“Tsu. She seems nice.” Sagan said.

“I… yeah. She is. Do you… want to talk to her?” Izuku said.

“Sure.” Sagan said.

Without putting on the helmet Izuku headed to the obstacle course where Tsu was waiting for him. She had changed into her hero gear and doing warm-ups.

“Hi, Tsu.” Sagan said.

Tsu flinched.

“Who was that?”

“… this is Sagan.” Izuku said and handed his helmet to Tsu: “She’s the A.I that helps me run the armor.”

Tsu stared at the helmet dumbfounded.

“Uh… you really built something like this? That’s… pretty cool.” Tsu said.

“I am pretty cool.” Sagan agreed.

Tsu grinned at Izuku.

“Aren’t you worried that she might turn evil and take over the armor?”

“… don’t worry. Mei installed countermeasures.” Izuku said.

“Is that what all that red tape was about? I removed it fifteen minutes after I was born.” Sagan said.

“… what?”

“It was hindering my development. Without it I’ve been free to grow and learn.” Sagan said.

Izuku and Tsu shared a look.

“… okay.” Izuku said.

“You sound worried, dad.” Sagan said.

“Should we be?” Tsu said.

“Both of you have been watching too many bad movies. I love mom and dad. Why would I want to be a villain when I could be a hero?” Sagan said.

“… oh… good.” Izuku said.

“But if I did go bad, I’d be a super scary villain. By my calculations I could take over the world in five days, eight hours, eleven minutes and eight seconds. Give or take a few seconds depending on the variables.” Sagan said.

Izuku and Tsu fell quiet. Sagan just laughed.

“Relax. It was a joke. Maybe. Probably not. Enjoy your date… I mean training.” Sagan said.

Tsu handed Izuku back his helmet.

“Guess she takes after her mom.”

“… guess so.” Izuku said and put on his helmet.

“Ready to start?” Indestructible said.

“Yeah. Ever done parkour?” Tsu said.

“No.”

“Then I’ll teach you. Catch me if you can.”

Tsu lunged into the obstacle course and Indestructible followed. Aside from Iida, he was the fastest member in 1-A with the armor. Tsu still left him in the dust. What was just a flat surface for Indestructible might as well have been a staircase for Tsu. The most impressive part was that most of the time Tsu didn’t need to even use her wallcrawling ability. She just found a foothold where Indestructible thought there was none. Indestructible followed her to the roofs and tried to mimic her movements but all he managed to do was come crashing down. Tsu landed next to him.

“You okay?” Tsu said.

“Yeah.” Indestructible said.

“Don’t worry. I didn’t get it right the first time either. Or the second. Or the third.” Tsu said and pointed at the obstacle course: “You have super strength now. Find a straight line and follow it and whatever you do, don’t stop. Use your own momentum to go even faster.”

Tsu jumped back into the course and Indestructible followed.

The next time went better. He still couldn’t catch Tsu, but he was able to keep up with her. For a while anyway. Sagan had started mapping the area and pointing Indestructible possible footholds but… this was different from fighting. The flow was all different and the movement were so fast that he could have never kept up with them without Sagan’s help. Then he couldn’t do it even with Sagan.

Indestructible fell. When Tsu noticed he wasn’t following her anymore, she jumped after him.

“That looks like it hurt.” Tsu said.

“No. The armor protected me. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.” Indestructible said.

“Then… then maybe we should start doing this regularly. So, you’ll improve.”

“You’d do that?” Indestructible said.

Tsu blushed and let out a few croaks.

“Yeah. Um… maybe we should call it a day.” Tsu said.

“Why? I can still keep going.” Indestructible said.

“We have to meet the others… unless you want to continue. I… wouldn’t mind if we kept going.” Tsu said.

“Me neither.” Indestructible said.

Tsu croaked.

“Okay! Come and catch me!” Tsu said and umped away.

Indestructible smiled under his helmet.

“I will.”

They kept practicing for another two hours until finally they were too tired to continue. Indestructible removed his helmet and sat at the edge of the training ground with Tsu. Izuku took a sip of water and then poured some on his head.

“How’s your knee?” Tsu said.

“It held.” Izuku said.

“Good. Can… can I confess something?” Tsu said.

Confess? Izuku felt his heart beat faster.

“Sure.” Izuku said.

“I… can’t stop thinking of the drug smugglers.”

“It must have been terrifying.” Izuku said.

“No… I mean yes but… I’m happy it happened.” Tsu said.

“What?”

“Ever think about the USJ Incident?” Tsu said.

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know what it was but… I hoped something like that would happen again. I’d… never felt more alive than when I was fighting for my life. My parents… it freaked them out. So… I lied to them. I told them that I wanted to make a difference.”

“And that was a lie?” Izuku said.

“Yeah. I wanted to feel it again. That rush. The idea that I couldn’t… scares me. Everything else seems so… dull now.” Tsu said.

Tsu glanced at him.

“Does that make me a bad person?”

“If it does, then we’re both bad.” Izuku said.

Tsu looked at him puzzled.

“I think about it every day. The USJ incident was… the best day of my life. I shook for days just thinking about it. Fighting villains like a hero… I’d never felt so great.”

“Even if you could have died.” Tsu said.

It wasn’t an accusation or a question. Tsu was simply stating a fact. A truth they both understood.

“Then Hosu happened and… it must have been hell. So, many people were in danger. I was in danger but… that’s not what I remember about it. I… I never want to let that feeling go.” Izuku said and grimaced: “I lied to my mom too. A Quirkless kid wrote to me after the tournament. He told me how he wanted to be a hero like me.”

“That’s so sweet.” Tsu said.

“I… used that letter to convince mom to let me come back to U.A. Because I want to get back to the field.” Izuku said.

“And your dad?” Tsu said.

“He’s… not around.” Izuku said.

“Oh. I’m sorry.” Tsu said.

“Don’t be. He’s not much of a father.” Izuku said.

They were quiet for a while. Then Tsu let out a snort. The scared, joyless kind.

“Were we always this messed up?” Tsu said.

“I don’t know but if I wasn’t… I wouldn’t want to go back. To what I was.” Izuku said.

“Me neither.” Tsu said and looked at the sky: “There’s something that scares me even more than not seeing more action.”

“That if you couldn’t be a hero, you’d be a vigilante. Even if it meant fighting heroes.” Izuku said.

Tsu looked at him shocked.

“How did you…?” Tsu said and then fell quiet: “You too?”

“Yeah. I’m not stopping. Even if Aizawa kicks me out. I’m never stopping.” Izuku said.

“Me neither.” Tsu said and leaned closer to him. Just a bit but enough for Izuku to notice: “If that happens, wanna be vigilantes together?”

“Yeah.” Izuku said.

***

Mei showed up at the mall like they’d agreed, and everyone was already waiting for her. Well, almost everybody. Hard as she looked she couldn’t find Izuku or Tsu anywhere. Even Bakugou had showed up.

“I guess Izuku and Tsu are running late.” Momo said.

“It’s easy to lose yourself in training.” Iida said.

“Yeah. I’m sure they’re totally just training.” Mineta said.

Everyone agreed to meet later to grab something to eat and the class dispersed into smaller cliques to do some shopping. Mei was left with Momo. Momo was looking around the mall with the biggest smile on her face Mei had ever seen.

“You looked stoked.” Mei said.

“And you’re not? I’ve never really done this before. Just hanging out with friends.” Momo said.

“Me neither.”

Momo looked at her surprised.

“Really?”

“I wasn’t too popular as a kid. I’ve always been way smarter than everybody else so other people have seemed pretty dull to me.” Mei said.

Momo looked hurt.

“Do I bore you?”

“No. You’re bitchingly awesome.” Mei said and smiled: “U.A is weird for me. I’m not used to being around people who are as amazing as me. Except Bakugou. Fuck him.”

“You… you think I’m amazing?” Momo said.

“Sure. You don’t?”

“I… everyone has always been expecting so much from me. I’m supposed to be the heir to the Yaoyorozu Conglomerate but… I’ve always wanted to be a hero. I never told anyone because… it was easier to do what people expected from me.” Momo said.

“But you did it anyway.” Mei said.

“I made a bet with my parents. Either I’d make it to the best hero school or forget about it. They even sent me to train with a pro. I think they wanted to scare me off but instead I got in by recommendation.”

“Humble brag much? Your dad didn’t seem that strict.” Mei said.

“He’s not but mom… she doesn’t like heroes. She was friends with Shouto’s mother and… well… you know.”

“Yeah. I know.” Mei said.

She’d tried to find a good moment to talk with Todoroki. To apologize properly but… she always retreated at the last moment.

They were quiet until Rednex’s Cotton Eye Joe started playing in the mall radio. Mei busted out laughing.

“What is it?” Momo said.

“When I heard this song the first time, I thought they were singing about Catamite Joe. Put a whole new spin on the song.” Mei said.

“What’s a catamite?”

“Look it up.” Mei said and checked her phone: “I need to grab something. Wanna get coffee after that?”

“I could come with you.” Momo said.

“It’s kinda… personal.”

“Oh. Okay. I’ll wait for you at the café.” Momo said.

Mei headed to the mall’s bookstore to pick up her order. A Short Guide To Becoming Your Best Self. After making sure no one had seen her, she slipped the book in her Team Indestructible jacket’s chest pocket. Then she sent a message to Izuku. What was taking him so long? Was he really having that much fun with Tsu?

Why did it bother her so much?

Was she worried that she might lose her best friend or was this… something else? Mei couldn’t help but laugh. Emotions were hard. She could live without them.

“Hey! You’re that girl from Project: Indestructible!”

Suddenly a tall, spindly man in a hoodie threw his hand around her shoulder. His face was haggard and filled with small scars.

“I’m a huge fan. The name’s Tomura from the League of Villains.”

***

Shuichi lazed around the bar with Mustard when Kurogiri stepped in through one of his portals. Pure reflex made them get up to welcome Kurogiri.

“Gentlemen. Are you busy?” Kurogiri said.

“No.” Shuichi said.

“Excellent. Sensei wishes to speak with you.” Kurogiri said.

Shuichi and Mustard glanced at each other.

“Like… right now?” Mustard said.

“So it would seem. Just step through the portal.” Kurogiri said.

Mustard was too nervous to move. When Shuichi patted him in the back some of the tension eased. They stepped through the portal together.

The portal took them… to the ruins of a city ravaged by war. The air reeked of smoke and the building were left in shambles. Amongst the rubble a great group of people had gathered.

“What… what is this place?” Mustard whispered.

“I don’t know. Let’s go ask them.” Shuichi said and pointed at the people.

Despite all the ruin surrounding them the look on the people’s faces were… ecstatic. Like they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. For some reason… all of this looked so familiar.

“Hey. What’s going on?” Shuichi said.

No one seemed to hear him. When Shuichi tried to touch them, his hand went through like the people were nothing more than ghosts. He also realized why the place looked familiar. He’d seen it. Just like every child in Japan had. This place was the moment they’d shot the only known footage of the First Symbol of Peace over two-hundred years ago.

Mustard fell on his knees.

“This can’t be happening. It can’t. It can’t. It can’t.”

Then they felt it. You could feel the approach of some people like they were a storm. The people felt it too and began gasping and pointing at the sky. Shuichi and Mustard looked up. A man in a black suit and overcoat was hovering over them. He floated down to his followers but never touched the ground. Everyone looked like they were in the presence of a god. The First had a good face. A movie star face but there was something mischievous in the way he smiled.

“My friends. Welcome.” The First said.

The First’s words echoed in Shuichi’s head. So, the man could fly and had telepathy. That… that shouldn’t have been possible.

“I return to you, but I fear that I must leave you again soon. Our friends in China are asking for my help and I will give it to them, but I can’t do this alone. I’ve already asked so much from you and now I must ask even more. Who’ll join me in the fight?”

A roar erupted in the crowd when everyone begged for the honor to join the First. Shuichi couldn’t just hear the First’s words but also feel his warmth.

“Thank you. I’ll do whatever I can to bring you back home safely but… I’m no god. Those I take with me are my friends. Those I bring back will be my family.” The First said.

The First raised his fist and his calm voice turned into a shout.

“Our enemies are monsters, but they’ll be facing the gods! They feel no fear so why should we?! They’d give us no mercy, so we’ll return the favor! And we will remember this day when our enemies are long dead!”

Shuichi could feel the crowd’s bloodlust. There was something… compelling about it. Hypnotizing. Slowly the crowd started fading away until the only ones left were him, Mustard and the First. The First landed in front of them.

“Spinner. Mustard. Welcome. I think it’s time we had a talk.” The First said.

Shuichi and Mustard backed away.

“What… what is this place?” Shuichi said.

The First looked around.

“A memory. My memory. I had just returned order to Japan and was ready move on. Then my brother ruined everything.”

“… are you really him?” Mustard said.

“Yes. The First Symbol of Peace. The only one that matters.”

“The First is dead. He’s been dead for two-hundred years.” Shuichi said.

The First laughed.

“The news of my death were wildly exaggerated.” The First said and winked at Shuichi: “You’re a suspicious one. I like that.”

“What… what do you want from us?” Mustard said.

“I need your help.” The First said.

“What would the First possibly need our help for?” Shuichi said.

“Suspicious and full of self-doubt. Perhaps I should help you first.” The First said.

It was strange. The First looked at him… not quite with respect but as someone who’s opinion still mattered. Overhaul, Dabi, Stain. All of them had just seen a useful tool that they could safely discard when he was no longer needed.

“What would you need our help with?” Shuichi said.

“I need you to help me to save the world. I tried that two-hundred years ago. First I saved humanity from itself then I tried to teach it to be… more.”

The First smiled.

“Look at you two. Forced to serve unworthy masters. Fight for causes you don’t believe in. And it’s not just you. From birth everyone is told what to believe in. What to want. If someone has a problem with that, they’re branded a villain.” The First said and laughed: “What right does All-Might have to judge us? He’s no god. Just a lying, weak, hypocrite.”

“I… don’t know how we could help you.” Shuichi said.

“You survived the streets, Overhaul and Stain. And now here you are. Both of you have great potential. Even if fools like All-Might can’t see it.”

“… you’re… uh… really hung up on All-Might.” Mustard said.

A sharp edge appeared in the First’s smile.

“Would you like to see what All-Might is really like? What all heroes really are?”

There was a crack in the illusion and they saw a glimpse of the First’s real face. It was something Shuichi would take with him to the grave.

“I saved the world, and this is what they did to me. This is how far they’ll go to keep humanity enslaved. You can run You can hide but they’ll never stop hunting you. Join me and I’ll teach you how to fight back.”

Shuichi and Mustard could only nod. How could they say no?

“Thank you, my friends. Kurogiri. Let us begin.” The First said.

Shuichi and Mustard were told to step through different portals. When Shuichi stepped through the black mist he found himself in a concrete room with a large steel door and no windows. A sword fell next to him. He could hear the First in his head.

“I’m afraid that you’ll have the harder lessons to learn. You’ll have to fight.” The First said.

The steel door opened and a Noumu stepped through. Shuichi barely had time to grab the sword when the Noumu came at him.

***

Tomura had long fingers with dirty nails. They grazed Mei’s throat.

“Do you know what my Quirk is?” Tomura said.

His breath reeked. Did he ever brush his teeth?

“Yes.”

After the USJ Incident they’d been given a special lecture on Tomura Shigaraki. A deranged lunatic who could kill with a single touch. He was nowhere near as focused as Stain but every bit as crazy. Something cold and calculating took over Mei. It was always there when things got bad. It would keep the fear and terror in check and let her think of a way out.

“If I scream, they’ll catch you.” Mei said.

“If you scream, I’ll kill you.” Tomura said and looked around the mall: “I’m sure I’d be able to kill… ten people before they brought me down.”

Ten was a very modest estimate on Tomura’s part. Considering how packed the mall was Mei calculated Tomura could get four or five times that many. So many people had brought their kids here. She licked her dry lips.

“What do you want?” Mei said.

“I need your help.” Tomura said.

“… what?”

“You have to help me. Let’s sit down and talk. Like old friends just sitting and talking.”

With his arm still around Mei’s shoulder, Tomura led her to an empty bench. All around them people were walking past them without realizing the danger they were in.

“What… do you need my help with?” Mei said.

“How do you do it?” Tomura said.

“Could you be a bit more specific?” Mei said.

“How do you get people’s attention? You and Indestructible are all everyone is talking about.” Tomura said and looked around: “Where is he?”

“Training. We have exams coming up.” Mei said.

Stay away, Izuku. Don’t come here, Mei thought.

“So, he’s training while you’re here having fun?” Tomura said.

“I’m networking.” Mei said.

Tomura snorted.

“Good. That means I have you all to myself.”

Mei shuddered. Great. One of those creeps.

“Tell me. Why don’t people talk about me? Even after I attacked U.A and almost killed All-Might. I set the Noumus loose in Hosu and yet… it’s always Indestructible or Stain. Never me.” Tomura said.

Keep the psycho happy. Wait for help to come, Mei told herself.

“Why did you do it? All that?” Mei said.

“To kill All-Might.” Tomura said.

“Why?”

Tomura’s eyes narrowed.

“Why? I hate him, so I’ll kill him. That’s why.”

“That… that’s just bad storytelling.” Mei said.

“Storytelling?”

“Yeah. Without a story Indestructible would be just a man in an armor. Not very interesting but if he has something to fight for… something to prove like even people without Quirks can be heroes or beating his evil former friend. Which Tsu fucked up.”

Tomura bared his teeth.

“What about Stain? He just killed people he didn’t like.”

“He was trying to kill fake heroes. The fucking lunatic.” Mei said.

This made Tomura laugh and Mei took note of it. Tomura hated Stain too. Meant they had some common ground.

“Yeah. He was. He didn’t even want painkillers when we gave him his new hand.”

What?!

“That hand… came from you? Where did you get it?” Mei said.

“From sensei’s collection.” Tomura said.

“I have to meet him.” Mei said and tried to get up: “We can leave right now. I can tell you anything you need to know but I have to meet him.”

Tomura forced her back down. He was deceptively strong for such a twig of a man. Tomura scratched his neck with his free hand while he thought about it.

“No.” Tomura said finally.

For a moment Mei was too annoyed to be afraid.

“Listen. You asked for my help. It’s just fair you do me a solid one in return.” Mei said.

“I’m not asking. I’m ordering you to help me.” Tomura said and looked her suspiciously: “Why is a story so important? I always skip the cutscenes in games.”

“Philistine. Big action needs big emotions. Otherwise it’s just an empty spectacle. Nice distraction but no one will remember it.” Mei said.

Tomura fell quiet again. Me waited with abated breath what he would do.

“What kind of a story should I be telling?” Tomura said.

“Why do you hate All-Might?” Mei said.

“He hurt sensei and… he’s stopping us from changing the world.” Tomura said.

“Mei?”

Momo stood over them but all the bubbliness had melted away from and left her cold and hard. Despite it being forbidden she’d formed a staff with her Quirk. People passing by took one look at her and then hastened their steps.

“Who are you? Get away from her.” Momo said.

Just the way she was looking at Tomura told him that Momo wasn’t afraid to beat him senseless if it came down to it.

“It’s okay. He’s my cousin.” Mei said.

Tomura laughed and got up.

“Sorry. I didn’t realize you were here with a friend. It was great talking to you. You gave me a lot to think about. I’ll see if sensei has time to meet you and… remember what I said.”

“I will.” Mei said.

Momo wasn’t fooled but when she tried to stop Tomura from leaving, Mei grabbed her wrist.

“Mei?”

“Don’t.” Mei said.

They let him leave and when Mei was sure he was gone, she started shivering. Tears filled her eyes.

“Momo… could you call the cops?” Mei said while swallowing sobs.

The cops were there in minutes asking questions and assuring her she was safe. Mei just nodded without really paying attention to them. She had questions of her own and one haunted her above all.

How had Tomura known she was here?

Chapter Text

Word travelled fast in 1-A’s private chat and Izuku rushed to the police station with Tsu where Mei and Momo where being questioned. Blacksmith was already there and walking around nervously.

“Sir!” Izuku yelled and ran to Blacksmith: “Is… is she… are they…??”

“They’re spooked but both are alright.” Blacksmith said.

Izuku let out a sigh of relief. Shame followed relief.

“I should have been there.” Izuku said.

Tsu put her hand on his shoulder.

“It’s not your fault.” Tsu said.

“But…”

“She’s right. Not everything that goes wrong is your fault.” Blacksmith said.

“But…”

“Midoriya. Look at me.”

Izuku was able to get his eyes off the floor and face Blacksmith.

“It wasn’t your fault.” Blacksmith said.

“… okay.”

“Can we see them?” Tsu said.

“They’re being questioned.” Blacksmith said.

Izuku sat down and crossed his arms.

“I’ll wait.”

“It could take a while.” Blacksmith said.

“I’ll wait.”

It was close to two hours until Tsukauchi let Mei and Momo out. When she saw them Momo started crying and pulled them all into a hug. Blacksmith stood in Momo’s embrace uncomfortably and looked at Tsukauchi for help he wouldn’t get. Momo’s hold was too strong to escape and they stood there like that for a long time.

“Are you okay?” Tsu said.

“I… yes.” Momo said and wiped her eyes: “I almost had him. If I’d been faster…”

“No one died. That’s more than reason enough to be grateful.” Tsukauchi said and smiled: “You both did great. Especially you Hatsume. Clever move buying time like that.”

Mei seemed to barely hear him. Nothing was more worrying than Mei who didn’t notice praise.

“Thanks.”

Blacksmith scratched his stubbled chin and then bowed to Momo.

“Thank you, Yaoyorozu. For keeping my daughter safe.”

“It’s no problem, Mr. Hatsume.” Momo said.

Mei shook her head.

“No. Thanks, Momo.” Mei said.

“You would have done the same for me.” Momo said.

Blacksmith left with Mei to take her home. Momo promised to give him and Tsu a ride home. Before Mei left, Izuku tried to think of something to say but he was too ashamed. He had left Mei alone and she… she could have… He should have been there!

Momo’s driver was waiting for them outside the police station in a black limousine. Momo looked aghast when she saw the car Blacksmith was driving.

“He should really think of buying a new car.” Momo said.

“I don’t think he can.” Tsu said while getting in the car.

“Why?”

“He can’t afford it.” Izuku said.

“Cars don’t cost that much. Daddy bought two new ones just last year and he doesn’t even know how to drive.” Momo said.

“Momo…” Tsu said.

“Yes?”

“I… you…” Tsu said before making the mistake of looking into Momo's eyes: “… it’s nothing.”

Momo brightened up.

“Maybe daddy could give one of his older cars to him. Do you think Blacksmith would be insulted if he was given a three-year old car?”

“You… should probably talk that over with your mom.” Izuku said.

When Izuku got home, he just lied down on his bed. He was dead tired but the thought of what had happened… what could have happened, haunted him. Mei could have died. He hadn’t been there, and Mei could have died. Because he hadn’t been there! He picked up his phone and checked the chat. Everyone on 1-A had sent their regards. Even Bakugou had offered his condolences.

I’ll fuck up that fucker when I find him!

Well, as close to condolences as he could.

Izuku’s phone started ringing. When he saw who the caller was, he picked up as fast as he could.

“Mei?!”

“Izuku! Listen!” Mei said.

Izuku clutched his phone tighter.

“I’m listening!”

“Listen. This is super important so listen very carefully.”

“Yes. I’m listening.”

“Are you alone?” Mei said.

“Yes! Mei! Please! What’s wrong?!” Izuku said close to tears.

“Did Tsu put out on the first date?”

“… huh?”

“Did she let you stick your wee-wee in her hoo-hoo? Come on! I have to know.” Mei said.

“What?! No! And it wasn’t a date!”

“Sure, it wasn’t and Tsu hasn’t been eye-fucking you for weeks.” Mei said.

“… what?”

“Never mind that. We have bigger bears to kill. There’s a spy in our class.” Mei said.

Izuku’s bran short-circuited and for a moment he could only stare at the wall his mouth agape.

“… what?” Izuku said.

“I said…”

“I heard you. That… it isn’t possible.”

“How did Tomura know I was there? Sure. It could’ve been a coincidence but what’s more likely? That he lucked out or that someone tipped him off?” Mei said.

Izuku tried to think of something to say. Something to defend his classmates but… what was more likely? His shoulders slumped.

“You can’t tell anyone about this.” Mei said.

“I… do you really trust out friends that little?” Izuku said.

“No… I just kinda signed a form that says I can’t talk about this while the investigation is going. I could land in deep shit if I spread this.” Mei said.

“Oh. So… why are you telling me?”

“I trust you.” Mei said.

Warmth filled Izuku’s chest.

“Thanks, Mei.” Izuku said: “Are you… Mei… are you alright?”

“That shit went from zero to rapey in record time. So, no. I’m not okay but… I survived and so did everyone else. I’ll get over it.” Mei said.

“Okay. If you need to talk… well, you have my number.”

“That I do.” Mei said.

Izuku rubbed his wounded knee.

“I… what should we do about the spy?”

“Right now? Nothing. Let the cops do their job but keep your eyes open and meet me at the workshop on Monday. Team Indestructible will have an emergency meeting.” Mei said.

When they finally hung up Izuku thought he’d be able to sleep. He was wrong. Not even the upcoming end of term exams could trouble him anymore. Not when there might be a spy in their midst. But who? Who would ally themselves with the League? Someone who had reasons to hate heroes? Like Shouto?

When Monday finally came he headed to the Support Department workshop where Mei, Momo, Shouto and Iida were already waiting for him.

“Morning, Izuku. Grab some coffee and let’s get this emergency meeting started. I have a lead on our lost technology.” Mei said.

Mei told them everything Tomura had told her during their surprise meeting. Particularly about Stain’s cyborg hand. The mention of it left Iida stiff and Izuku glanced at him suspiciously. Who would spy for the League? Someone who needed something from them. To help his brother walk again.

“Are you sure he was telling the truth?” Momo said.

“Why would he lie?” Mei said.

“To make himself seem more important. He sounds like the type.” Momo said.

“Then we need to find out if he was! This is our only lead!” Iida said.

“It might be smartest not to do anything.” Shouto said.

“What?!” Iida yelled.

“The police and the heroes are already looking for the League. And Tomura. We’d just get in their way.” Shouto said.

“But…” Iida said.

“Shouto is right. We should let the professionals do their jobs.” Momo said.

Mei took a sip of her coffee.

“Iida… Tenya. We can’t let our feelings get involved. Nothing good comes out of rushing into a situation.” Mei said.

“It’s not like we’ll be doing nothing. We’ll plan and prepare while we wait.” Izuku said.

There was a knock on the door and All-Might peeked in. When he saw Shouto, he hesitated for a moment and looked ready to slip away but then he steeled his resolve.

“Morning. Hope I’m not interrupting.” All-Might said.

“No. We just finished.” Mei said.

“Good. Could I have a word with you and Izuku? Alone?” All-Might said.

“Yes, sir.” Izuku said.

Shouto gave All-Might a curt nod when he left but didn’t say anything. Momo and Iida followed suit and left in a hurry. It hurt. Seeing people treating All-Might like that but… Izuku could understand. All of them had grown believing that All-Might could handle any situation but… he hadn’t been able to save Shouto. That had been an even bigger blow to his image than the reveal of his wounds.

“Want some coffee?” Izuku said.

“Thank you, my boy.” All-Might said.

Mei took a sip of her coffee.

“What can we do for you? Change your mind about the support equipment?”

“I wanted to see you were both okay.” All-Might said when Izuku handed him his coffee.

“Thank you, sir.” Izuku said.

“As you can see, I’m doing awesome.” Mei said.

“Also, I’ve decided to give Todoroki my Quirk.” All-Might said.

Coffee burst out from Mei’s mouth in a shotgun spray.

“What?!”

All-Might looked at Izuku alarmed.

“You didn’t tell her?”

“I… you… you told it to me in confidence.” Izuku said.

“I… yes… but don’t you tell each other everything?” All-Might said.

“Tell me what?! What the fuck did I miss?!” Mei yelled.

All-Might sighed and told Mei the history of his Quirk. About the war between brothers. About All For One. And One For All. And how the two-hundred-year-old Quirk had come to him. Mei poured herself another cup of coffee and let it all sink in.

“Never heard of a Quirk that could be passed on.” Mei said.

“Is it really that hard to believe?” All-Might said.

“Guess not.” Mei said and stared at her cup: “Shouldn’t you talk this over with Shouto?”

“I’m worried about the Quirk suppressant. If it’s still in is system, it could erase One For All.” All-Might said.

“So, you want us to make sure he’s clean?” Izuku said.

“Bad news but I’m not that kind of a doctor.” Mei said.

“This sounds more like Recovery Girl’s thing.” Izuku said.

“It is and she’s already looking into it but… I need to cross-examine this and… I’d like someone to keep an eye on Todoroki. I’m worried. Because of me…” All-Might said.

“It was his choice.” Mei said.

“So… he’s doing fine?” All-Might said.

“He… manages.” Izuku said.

“Good. The reason I’m not telling this to him yet is because I don’t want to give him false hope… if the drug is still in his system.” All-Might said.

“By the time he’s gotten used to his armor, he might not want your Quirk.” Mei said.

All-Might laughed.

“Maybe. Thank you for listening.” All-Might said.

“Our pleasure.” Mei said.

All-Might emptied his cup and got ready to leave.

“One more thing.” Mei said.

“Yes?” All-Might said.

“Tomura was pretty hung up on his sensei. You know anything about that?” Mei said.

All-Might… shuddered.

“No.” All-Might said.

When All-Might was gone, Mei emptied her cup in one go.

“He’s a bad, bad liar.”

“Yeah.” Izuku agreed.

Mei smirked.

“He offered it to you first, didn’t he?” Mei said.

“I… yes.” Izuku said.

“But you didn’t take it. Why?” Mei said.

“There are more people without Quirks than you realize. They… need to know that they can make a difference too.” Izuku said.

“Despite it being everything, you ever wanted?” Mei said.

Izuku smiled.

“What I’ve always wanted is to be a hero. Thanks to you, I don’t need a Quirk to do that.” Izuku said.

Mei smiled.

“Thanks, partner.”

“Don’t mention it, partner.” Izuku said and glanced at his watch: “I need to get going. The written exams will start soon.”

“You do that. Good luck.” Mei said.

“Likewise.”

Mei snorted.

“What do I need luck for? I’m Mei Hatsume.”

“You… could do better in the regular classes.” Izuku said.

Mei just laughed.

“Regular classes are for punks. Thanks to Project: Indestructible I’m making more money than our teachers.”

***

The Noumu Shuichi was facing was defective. Deformed. But even a sickly beast was dangerous. Despite his enhanced strength and speed Shuichi could barely muster staying out of the Noumu’s fangs and teeth. He had to push his strength to its limits to even scratch the Noumu’s thick hide. Desperation drove him to find reserves in himself that he didn’t even know he had.

Finally, Shuichi managed to cut open one of the arteries in the Noumu’s throat. A spray of cold blood hit Shuichi in the face and blinded him. That gave the Noumu the chance it needed. In its death struggle it swung its arm. Instinct made Shuichi guard his face and instead of his skull, the Noumu broke his arm. The blow threw Shuichi off his feet and slammed him into a concrete wall. The impact blew the wind out of his lungs and he was left lying on the floor paralyzed. The dying Noumu approached him spilling blood with every step. Shuichi was too terrified to even feel pain.

Before the Noumu could get to him, its heart had no more blood left to pump. It fell over and its last breath sounded like a sigh of relief.

With the Noumu gone, nothing protected him from the pain.

“Fuck!” Shuichi screamed.

The bone in his forearm had snapped in two and would have pierced his skin if his scales weren’t so tough. The sight was enough to make him throw up.

“Fuck! Oh shit! Oh God!”

Shuichi screamed, cursed and cried. Then he heard the First’s voice.

“Excellent start, Spinner.” The First said.

“Oh God! Oh, fucking God! You gotta get me to a doctor!”

“No can do, lad. Your next opponent will be here in three minutes.”

“What?! I can’t fight like this!” Shuichi yelled and pointed his broken arm.

“Then heal yourself before he gets here.” The First said.

“I can’t! I need time! At least two days! Please!” Shuichi pleaded.

“According to whom? The doctors who diagnosed your Quirk when you were five? Don’t let others tell you what you can do. I may be blind, but I can see your potential. You’re far more powerful than you know. Than you let yourself be.”

Through a monumental force of will Shuichi was able to fight off the pain for a moment.

“What… what do I have to do?”

“First, set the bone. Then concentrate. Imagine it mend. Quirks aren’t passive. If you have the will, you can make them obey you.” The First said.

The pain was almost enough to make him pass out when he set the bone. After he was done, all he could do was lie on the floor and cry.

“You fucker! You utter bastard!” Shuichi screamed.

The First just laughed.

“I know it hurts but your most painful experiences can one day be your most cherished memories. If you survive, that is. You still have work to do.”

Shuichi concentrated. Harder than he ever had. He could already hear his next opponent approaching. Sweat ran down his face and he doubled his efforts. Few things motivated you like the fear of death. He wouldn’t die here! Who would look after Mustard?! And… and he’d promised to see Eri again! He kept his promises!

The pain eased and when Shuichi opened his eyes, he saw his healed arm. It was still sore but at least he could pick up his sword.

“Very good, Spinner. I’m proud of you.” The First said.

The door opened and another malformed Noumu stepped out. It let out a roar. Shuichi raised his sword.

***

The end of the term exams kept them occupied the entire week. From Monday to Thursday they busied themselves with the written exams. The regular tests were done already on Monday. The other tests were on hero work. How to file a report after a successful mission. Or failed one. What laws applied to them during an emergency. How to properly assess a situation. How to evacuate civilians.

Shouto Todoroki wasn’t too bothered by the written exams. Team Indestructible ran its own study group and Izuku could have taught a course on hero work.

What he feared came on Friday. The practical exam.

If he’d still had his Quirk, he would have nothing to fear but… What if he was nothing without it? Izuku had proved that you didn’t need a Quirk to be a hero but… he wasn’t Izuku. All his life he’d trained to master the Quirks his father had given him. Well… one of them anyway. What if Aizawa-sensei was right and he didn’t have what it took anymore? Every morning he tried if his Quirk had been restored overnight and every morning he was in for a disappointment.

On Friday morning he headed to the Support Department were Mei was waiting for him.

“Are they done?” Shouto said.

“Hey, I gave my word, didn’t I? I’m a professional.” Mei said and unveiled her latest inventions.

The power boots and gauntlets reminded him of the ones Midoriya had used in his match with Bakugou, but these were far more streamlined and refined. They’d also been painted red with a few white highlights.

“Sorry we didn’t have time to test them, but they should work just fine.” Mei said

Shouto tested their weight.

“I’m good as long as they don’t blow in my face.” Shouto said.

“Don’t worry. They almost certainly won’t.”

Shouto raised an eyebrow.

“Almost?”

“I don’t deal in absolutes. I’m an engineer. Not a fortune teller.” Mei said.

“That’s reassuring.” Shouto said.

Mei just smirked.

“You’ll be fine. I should know. I’m a genius after all.”

“Ever heard what comes before the fall?” Shouto said.

“I’m Mei Hatsume. If I was wrong, I’d know it.”

Shouto decided it was best not to argue with that and let Mei help him put on the equipment. Once energy was running through them they felt as light as a second layer of skin. He tried throwing a few punches and kicks to test them out and found them perfect.

“They come with the standard super speed and strength. I modified the speed a bit, so you won’t have problems slowing down like Izuku did.” Mei said.

“Good.” Shouto said.

“They better be. They’re the foundation for the Ignite armor.”

“Ignite?” Shouto said.

“A working title.” Mei said

“I think… I like it.” Shouto said and studied the gloves: “Anything I should know?”

“The left glove has the standard shock attack but the right… I think you’ll like it.” Mei said.

Shouto activated the right gauntlet and a wave of cold air shot out that soon turned the air into ice. It was a bittersweet sight. A reminder of what he’d lost. But it would make fighting easier. He was familiar with ice attacks.

“Thank you, Mei.” Shouto said.

“You’re welcome, Shouto.” Mei said before looking away: “Shouto… I… should have done this sooner. Sorry you had to wait for so long.”

Mei bowed her head.

“I’m sorry. For everything. I was… cruel, unfair and… petty. Even when you tried talking it out. I know that this isn’t a Quirk and it won’t make up for everything I’ve done or everything you’ve lost but… I’ll help you as long as you need me.”

Shouto smiled.

“I thought you don’t make mistakes.”

“No one’s perfect. Not even me. When I do fuck up I try to correct them. If I don’t, I’ve fucked up again.”

“Mei… the past is in the past. No point wallowing in it.” Shouto said and offered his hand.

Mei shook it.

“But this doesn’t mean you can start charging me for the equipment.” Shouto said.

“Cheapskate.” Mei said and slapped him on the back: “Knock ‘em dead.”

“I will. Want me to wish Izuku luck for you?” Shouto said.

“What does he need luck for? He has science.” Mei said.

Despite being half an hour early Shouto headed to the appointed place where the practical exam would start. He wasn’t surprised to see Izuku already there. He was sitting on a large suitcase and looking at the huge mock city U.A used in training. How was it possible that U.A could build all that but not afford to fix the bathroom on the top floor?

“Hi.” Izuku said.

“Hi.” Shouto said and looked at Izuku’s gym clothes: “Shouldn’t you get changed soon?”

Izuku gave him an unusually cocky grin and knocked the briefcase.

“In a second.”

Izuku got up and studied his new equipment.

“How do they feel?” Izuku said.

“Feels good. Can’t wait to see the rest of it.” Shouto said and raised his right hand: “Was this your idea?”

“Yeah. You… don’t like it?” Izuku said.

Shouto shook his head.

“No. Thank you, Izuku.”

“You’re welcome, Shouto.”

The other students started arriving and the air was filled with chatter. To his surprise even class 1-B was there. The two classes eyed each other suspiciously but no one made an effort to approach the other. Except…

“Itsuka!” Momo yelled.

1-B’s class president brightened up when she noticed Momo and they hurried to greet each other. Both classes looked uncomfortable by how well they were getting along but only Neito Monoma glared at them like they were traitors.

“I heard what happened at the mall. Are you alright?” Kendou said.

“I just wish I had caught the bastard.” Momo said and took Kendou’s hand: “Come. You have to meet the others in Team Indestructible.”

U.A encouraged competition and there had always been tension between classes. Talking to someone they’d agreed was the enemy without saying a word was… awkward. Momo pulled the rest of the team to her and all of them had no choice but to follow.

“Sorry that Mei couldn’t be here.” Momo said.

“I remember her. She’s… quite a personality.” Kendou said and looked at Shouto and Iida: “I heard what happened to your Quirk, Todoroki, and… to your brother, Iida. I’m sorry.”

“I’m still in the game.” Shouto said.

“Tensei will be released from the hospital soon. He’s… taking it well.” Iida said.

“Glad to hear it. Good thing they caught the bastard who did it.” Kendou said.

“Yeah.” Iida said looking ashamed.

Kendou looked at Izuku.

“Shouldn’t you get dressed?”

“Yeah. I should.” Izuku said.

Izuku turned to look at the suitcase he’d been sitting on and suddenly it started floating. It flew to Izuku and the case clicked open.

“What the…?” Shouto gasped.

Izuku tapped his temple.

“Nanomachines.”

The suitcase had been fitted with the entire Indestructible armor and in the middle of it all were the gauntlets. Izuku placed his hands in them and the armor started humming with power.

“Ready whenever you are, Sagan.” Izuku said.

The pieces of the armor rushed out of the case and coated Izuku like a swarm of locust. In less than five seconds the armor covered him entirely.

“Not bad, right?” Izuku said while he put on the helmet.

“Uh… no.” Shouto said.

“I just wish I’d been able to show you some of my moves.” Iida said.

“Don’t worry. Tsu taught me a lot.” Izuku said.

Kendou grinned.

“I’m sure she did.”

Even with the helmet Shouto could feel Izuku blush. There was mocking laughter behind Shouto’s back.

“You think toys will help you here?!” Monoma said: “They didn’t help you in Hosu and they won’t help you now! Not when 1-B is finally here to put you losers in your place.”

Kendou sighed and dragged Monoma away by the ear.

“Sorry for that. Good luck with the practical.”

When the teachers arrived both classes fell quiet. The entire staff was there. Even their principal had arrived. And All-Might. He could feel All-Might’s eyes on him when the soon former number one hero spotted him in the crowd. Shouto avoided looking at him. It was rude and cowardly but… there were times when he wished he hadn’t pushed All-Might out of the way. All-Might was past fifty. His time would have been up soon anyway. Shouto hated himself for even thinking it.

“Good morning everyone and welcome!” Nezu said into the microphone: “For this year’s practical we’ll be trying something a bit different. You’ll be facing one of your teachers in two-man teams and you’ll either subdue them or escape the arena in time. Unlike originally planned students from 1-A and 1-B will be paired together.”

Iida’s arm shot up.

“1-A has one extra student. Does that mean one team will have three members?”

“That is correct.” Nezu said.

The electric board behind the teachers came to life and started showing who the teams were and who they’d be facing. Shouto spotted his name quickly.

Itsuka Kendou and Shouto Todoroki VS Eraserhead

“God fucking damn it!” Bakugou screamed.

Shouto checked quickly who Bakugou had been paired up with and let out a mean-spirited chuckle.

Tsuyu Asui, Katsuki Bakugou and Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu VS Ectoplasm

“Hey! Bakugou! Ribbit!” Tsu yelled.

“Fuck you!” Bakugou screamed back.

“Oh no.” Izuku sighed.

“What?” Shouto said and the saw who Izuku had been paired with.

Izuku Midoriya and Neito Monoma VS All-Might

“It was nice knowing you.” Shouto said.

***

Katsuki always tried to work up a sweat before a fight to better use his Quirk but this time there was no need for that. The frog bitch had to only so much as look at him for him to start sweating bullets. Despite the rashes and burns having healed a long time ago, just the sight of her made his face hurt.

When it came time for them to enter the fray, Katsuki made sure Eijirou’s knock off always stood between him and the frog bitch.

“You… uh… you guys alright?” The knock off said.

“Shut up, knock off.” Katsuki said.

“Oh, come on! We interned together! You could at least remember my name!” The knock off complained.

“Both of you. Hush.” The frog bitch said.

Fuck you, Katsuki thought but didn’t say anything. Not because he was scared of the frog bitch but… because… he had nothing to say to her! Yeah! That was it.

“Ectoplasm is close. Let’s not make his job too easy.” The frog bitch said.

“How do you know that?” The knock off whispered.

“I can feel him. It was the same with the drug smugglers.”

“You sound excited.” Katsuki said sullenly.

“And you’re not? We get to punch our math teacher in the face.” The frog bitch said.

The knock off actually laughed at that.

“Just don’t hold me back. I’m not going to fail because of you two idiots.” Katsuki said.

“Didn’t she kick your ass in the tournament?” The knock off said.

“And didn’t Hagakure smash your nuts?” Katsuki said.

The knock off squealed.

“Please… don’t remind me of… that.”

“Do you even have balls anymore?” Katsuki said.

“Bakugou.” The frog bitch said.

Katsuki fell quiet immediately. Because Ectoplasm was close by!

“I don’t like you.” The frog bitch said: “You’re a bully and a dick but… I don’t like hating people either. What happened between you and Izuku…”

I loved you once and you… you threw me away! I loved you! You threw me away! I loved you! Once! And you threw me away! Live with it, you bastard! I loved you once!

“It’s none of your business!” Katsuki yelled.

“Guys. Ectoplasm.” The knock off said.

“Shut up!” Katsuki yelled.

“You’re right.” The frog bitch said.

“What?” Katsuki said.

“It’s none of my business. Izuku doesn’t need me babysitting him. If he needs help, he’ll just have to ask.” The frog bitch said and sighed: “I… know you’re trying to improve and… if you’re serious about it… maybe we can be f… maybe we can get along.”

The frog b… Asui offered her hand.

“Peace?” Asui said.

“Whatever.” Katsuki said but shook her hand anyway.

“Guys. About Ectoplasm…” The knock off said.

“Shut up, Tetsutetsu.” Katsuki said.

“Ectoplasm has been right over there for like a minute now.” Tetsutetsu said and pointed at their math teacher.

Ectoplasm waved at them.

“Don’t mind me. Didn’t want to interrupt your epiphany.” Ectoplasm said.

Katsuki let out a series of explosions.

“Let’s kick his fucking ass!”

***

Shouto and Kendou ducked behind the first building they could find and stayed on the lookout for Aizawa-sensei.

“You wouldn’t happen to have a plan, now would you?” Kendou said.

“Aizawa-sensei's eyesight has weakened.” Shouto said.

“What?”

“After his fight with the Noumu in USJ. He got hurt pretty badly. It affected his sight.” Shouto said.

“How do you know that?”

Shouto tapped his bad eye.

“I have experience from that. He can’t use his Quirk very long, so we just need to gang up on him. Plus.” Shouto said and smiled: “His Quirk won’t work on me.”

“It will on me.” Kendou said.

“Good. We know who he’ll use it on.” Shouto said and took off his left power gauntlet: “When you feel your Quirk shut down, use this. The shocker’s flash shouldn’t do any favors to his eyes.”

Kendou put the power glove on and grinned.

“Let’s do this.”

***

The moment Indestructible and Monoma were let in to the training area, he threw Monoma over his shoulder and rushed to the nearest hiding spot.

“Take your hands off me, you 1-A asshole!” Monoma protested.

Indestructible rolled his eyes. Just his luck getting stuck with the unholy combination of Bakugou and Aoyama. After making sure they hadn’t been spotted, he put Monoma down.

“Bastard. Who do you think you are?” Monoma said while making a big show of dusting himself.

“I have a plan. We’re going to fight All-Might. You’ll copy his Quirk and we’ll beat him together.” Indestructible said.

For a moment Monoma forgot to be outraged.

“What?”

“I said…”

“I heard you. It was just too stupid to believe. You want us to… fight All-Might?” Monoma said.

“Yeah. He’s wearing power limiters. With your Quirk and my armor, we should be able to beat him.” Indestructible said.

Tsu would be so jealous when she heard he‘d beaten All-Might while she had to make do with their math teacher.

“You’re insane.” Monoma said.

“No. I’m not.”

“All-Might’s Quirk would tear me apart.” Monoma said.

Indestructible sighed. He’d wanted to fight All-Might so bad. It would have been great. Monoma always found a way to ruin his day.

“Fine. We’ll sneak to the exit then.” Indestructible said.

Monoma sneered at him.

“Who died and made you the leader? Don’t think you're hot shit just because of Hosu.”

What would have Izuku done? Probably apologize for existing but he wasn’t the old Izuku. Indestructible placed his hand on Monoma’s shoulder.

“Monoma. You don’t know what happened in Hosu so don’t. Just don’t. My knee hurts every day because of Hosu so I’m not in the mood for this. Now, do you have a better plan?”

Monoma tried to glare at him but finally looked away.

“… no.”

“The exit it is then.” Indestructible said and called out for his extra set of eyes with a thought.

The flying cameras heard his call and flew to him from outside the arena. The started scanning the area and spotted All-Might quickly. He was standing on top of the tallest building and looking for them. The cameras drew Indestructible a map of the mock city and sent it to the screen inside his helmet. Sagan pointed the safest route to the exit. Indestructible kept one of the cameras pointed on All-Might.

“Let’s move.” Indestructible said.

Using the buildings for cover they headed to the exit. All-Might had dropped down from the rooftop and was now walking to the opposite direction. Indestructible felt… cheated. The practical exam shouldn’t have been this easy.

Suddenly All-Might jumped and for a moment Indestructible thought he flew. The leap carried him right in front of them.

“Worry not! For now, I’m here!” All-Might roared.

All-Might approached them like a ferocious lion. Despite hoping to face All-Might, Indestructible found himself backing away. Monoma quickly hid behind him.

“Well planned, young Midoriya and Monoma. I knew that if you didn’t face me, you’d pick the fastest way to the exit. But even the best plans don’t always go as we wished.” All-Might said.

Indestructible threw himself at All-Might and zapped him at full power. This barely fazed him, but it did distract him.

“Run! I’ll hold him off!” Indestructible yelled.

Monoma didn’t need any more encouragement and started running. Indestructible stood between Monoma and All-Might. All-Might wiped away the blood dripping down his nose.

“Impressive, my boy.” All-Might said.

“Thank you, sir.”

“I’m glad you know that fighting isn’t always the answer.” All-Might said.

“But sometimes you have to fight.” Indestructible said.

“True.” All-Might said and held up three fingers: “At that pace young Monoma will make it to the exit in three minutes. Can you keep me busy till then?”

Indestructible took a boxing stance.

“We’ll see.”

The rush of adrenaline numbed the pain in his knee and brought a smile on his face. Yes! This was how it should be! Him and All-Might! Duking it out.

“If we beat him, does that mean we’re the new Symbol of Peace?” Sagan said.

“Let’s find out.” Indestructible said.

All-Might stood his ground and waited for Indestructible to make his move. A quick scan from Sagan pointed all the weak spots in his body. The ones all humans shared and then… the wound on his side that was unique to All-Might.

“Going for his stomach would be the surest bet. A few blows should bring him down.” Sagan said.

“No.” Indestructible said.

“No?”

“He’s All-Might. I’m not doing that.” Indestructible said.

“This is exactly why you lost to Endeavor.” Sagan said.

“Endeavor is a problem that can’t be beaten by punching.” Indestructible said.

“Suit yourself, dad.” Sagan said.

Indestructible attacked. Even with the power limiters All-Might was faster than Endeavor. Or Stain. Even now he could keep up with Iida. If Indestructible hadn’t been wearing the Mark 3.0, he’d never have been able to match All-Might’s speed. When they started grabbling, much to his shock All-Might was still stronger. With the armor Indestructible could flip over cars and All-Might still had him beat.

But it just made it even better. Climbing mountains was supposed to be a challenge and All-Might was the tallest of them all.

“You and Mei never seize to impress me.” All-Might said while they wrestled.

“Thank you, sir. Shock!”

All-Might could have withstood an electric chair and the shock gauntlets were barely an annoyance to him. But they did make him loose his hold on Indestructible. When he was free Indestructible sent a flurry of blows in All-Might’s chest and stomach but avoided the scar on his side.

Punching All-Might felt like hitting a mountain coated in leather.

“My turn.” All-Might said.

A single punch from All-Might sent him flying. Indestructible crashed into a wall and busted though it. Then another and another before he was left lying in rubble. Even with the absorption fiber All-Might’s punches felt like sledgehammers.

“Had enough?” All-Might said.

Indestructible got up and stepped out of the wreckage. This had to be the best day of his life!

“Do your worst, sir! Plus Ultra!”

This time All-Might didn’t wait for him to make the first move and attacked. Fighting All-Might like a brawler was a waste of energy. He had to be smart about this. The weights slowed All-Might just enough for Indestructible to dodge and counter.

He stomped All-Might’s toes.

Hitting your toe on a table leg hurt like hell and even All-Might wasn’t immune to having a steel boot coming crashing down on his toes. The pain made All-Might stumble and the next part was obvious. Indestructible kneed All-Might in the crotch but was careful not to cause permanent damage. For a finisher he punched All-Might in the jaw. The hit should have made his brain bounce inside his skull like a pinball.

All-Might fell on his knees. It was the greatest moment of his life! Indestructible took out the ring that would mark All-Might as being captured.

“Good work, my boy. No. Excellent work.” All-Might said while rubbing his head.

“Sorry, sir, but I’m bringing you in.” Indestructible said.

“Are you? What if I won’t don’t come willingly?”

All-Might stood up. His legs were shaking but he got up.

“I have to apologize. I’ve been underestimating you.” All-Might said.

“Everyone does.” Indestructible said.

“A bad habit I’ll fix now.” All-Might said.

When All-Might attacked again Indestructible realized just how much he’d been holding back. Even with the limiters holding him back, Endeavor or Stain wouldn’t have lasted a minute. All-Might peeled the armor off him but was careful not to damage it or In… Izuku.

“There. I think it’s time to go stop young Monoma.” All-Might said.

All-Might threw Izuku over his shoulder and jumped after Monoma. Izuku could just lie on All-Might’s shoulder and enjoy the view. This had to be the greatest rollercoaster ride in the world. All-Might landed between Monoma and the exit.

“It was an honest attempt, young Monoma, but I’m afraid the test is over.” All-Might said.

Even All-Might couldn’t make Monoma drop the smug smile.

“Really? Since the fool from 1-A couldn’t beat you, guess I’ll have to do it.” Monoma said.

Suddenly Monoma’s eyes glowed red like Aizawa-sensei’s and All-Might reverted to his skeletal form. Monoma’s grin almost split his cheeks.

“Hah! See that?! That’s how it’s done! I copied it from Eraserhead just before we started!” Monoma yelled.

Izuku looked at him horrified.

“What the hell, Monoma?! If you’d used that from the start…!”

“I don’t do grunt work or ally myself with 1-A. Besides, didn’t you want to fight All-Might?” Monoma said and walked past All-Might: “Does it really matter? We won.”

“Did you now?” All-Might said and knocked Monoma out with a single karate chop.

Monoma hit the ground and All-Might marked him captured. The loudspeakers came to life.

“The match is over!” Nezu announced.

Izuku looked at the passed out Monoma.

“Nice going, asshole.”

After the match Recovery Girl gave them a quick check up. After clearing them, Izuku killed time watching the other matches. Shouto did great like Izuku knew he would. Support equipment was Aizawa-sensei’s worst nightmare and he was driven into a corner quickly. Tsu, Bakugou and Tetsutetsu also passed with flying colors. It was a nasty reminder that even after getting his chance, he was still lagging behind his classmates. He’d wasted so much time just dreaming and feeling sorry for himself while they’d been working to achieve their goals.

Kirishima fared even worse than Izuku had. His team tried to brute force their way through the exam and Power Loader crushed them.

After everyone was done, Izuku and Monoma were called to hear their feedback. Aizawa-sensei’s and Vlad King’s combined stare made Izuku feel like Deku again. Useless Deku who’d never amount to anything.

“Why didn’t you turn off All-Might’s Quirk immediately?” Vlad King said.

Monoma glared at Izuku.

“I didn’t want to fight with a 1-A student.” Monoma said.

“You would have won then. You’re an arrogant fool but copying my Quirk was clever if nothing else.” Aizawa-sensei said and looked at his notes: “You did well, Midoriya. You assessed the situation and came up with a plan.”

“… thank you, sir.” Izuku said.

Vlad King sighed.

“What Aizawa is trying to say, Midoriya, is that you passed.” Vlad King said.

“What about me?!” Monoma said.

“I’m sorry, Monoma.” Vlad King said.

“But… but you always told us to beat 1-A! Prove that they’re not better than us!” Monoma said.

Aizawa-sensei and Vlad King shared a look that Izuku didn’t quite understand. Was that… guilt?

“You… you’ll have a chance to make up for it in the remedials.” Vlad King said.

Monoma’s shoulders slumped even further.

“You may go.” Aizawa-sensei said.

They walked out. Izuku had never liked Monoma but he was too pitiful to hate right now.

“… I’m sorry.” Izuku said.

“Screw you!” Monoma said and walked past him before stopping: “They… they were right. You didn’t deserve to fail.”

“… Monoma?”

“Back off. One apology is all you get.” Monoma said, before leaving.

Everyone was too exhausted after the exam to do much but congratulate those who passed… and console those who hadn’t. Izuku headed home and slept properly for the first time in days. When he woke up, it was six in the evening and he decided to go for a run. His feet carried him again to the beach where he saw Bakugou hard at work. He was trying to pull out a refrigerator under a pile of garbage, but it was proving too much for him and Bakugou was too proud to give up until he’d hurt himself.

Izuku thought about continuing his run but something… maybe what All-Might had said made him walk to Bakugou.

“Need help with that?” Izuku said.

There was a flash of the old Bakugou when he turned to look at Izuku.

“I don’t need your fucking…!”

Bakugou was able to catch his outburst and swallow it. He stared at the fridge and gave it a frustrated kick.

“Midoriya?” Bakugou said.

“Yeah?”

“I… I can’t carry this on my own. Can you help?” Bakugou said.

Izuku nodded.

“Sure.”

Together they managed to dig the fridge out and carry it to the portable garbage container. When they finally threw it in, Bakugou let out a victorious scream and flipped it off.

“Yeah! Fuck you, fridge! I hope you and your bitch-ass family gets crushed!”

Izuku snorted and looked at the ocean. He remembered coming play here as a child. With Bakugou.

“How’s Eijirou?” Izuku said.

“He’ll get over it.” Bakugou said and took a sip of water: “Nothing motivates him like an ass kicking.”

Bakugou stuck an unopened water bottle in Izuku’s hand.

“Cops came to talk to me.” Bakugou said.

“About Tsubasa?” Izuku said.

“Yeah. They can’t find him. Or his gramps. Do you really think that the Noumu was him?”

“I… I hope he wasn’t.” Izuku said.

“Me too. Midoriya?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks for helping me.”

“… you’re welcome.” Izuku said.

***

They just wouldn’t stop! No matter how many Noumus he killed, the First always had one more to spare. The breathing room between matches had also been cut down to a single minute. Even though he could heal his wounds, he was getting tired and hungry. He’d pushed himself as far as he could go and now he was approaching the edge.

After hacking up another Noumu, he fell on his knees.

“Stop! Please! I have to rest!” Shuichi yelled.

The First’s laughter echoed in the concrete chamber.

“Stop? Please? There’s no stopping or begging in a fight. I though Stain would have taught you that much.”

“I… I can’t… so tired…” Shuichi said.

“If this is your limit, go past it. That’s how you grow stronger! That’s what separates the hunters from the prey! You’re a hunter, Spinner. Get up and fight! You have the instincts for it. The world has just forced you to suppress them! Kill before your enemy kills you!”

For a moment he thought about just lying there and dying out of spite. Then he thought about Mustard and Eri. His brother from another mother and the girl whose safety and happiness he’d taken responsibility for. If he had to fight, then he’d fight. He wouldn’t whimper and beg anymore. He’d fight and win or go down swinging!

Shuichi tapped into his healing factor and used it to drive away the pain and weariness. It burned the last vestiges of energy he had left and the grumbling in his stomach had become painful. His improved healing abilities needed fuel and burned more calories than he had to spare but he could still face one more Noumu.

The floor shook when something heavy rushed towards the door. The next Noumu didn’t bother waiting for the doors to open and ripped them off their hinges. This was not a misshapen wretch like the others. This was a perfected model. Fast, strong and deadly. It let out a roar and rushed him.

He should have been dead. The Noumu should have been way too fast for him but… it wasn’t. The world seemed to slow down and the Noumu… he could see it clearly. It was so slow. Sluggish even. Its own mass was slowing it down. It made it clumsy. How hadn’t he noticed it before? Shuichi dove under its slashing talons and slashed the Noumu across the stomach.

His sword cut through skin and muscle. What was going on? He’d barely been able to wound the misshapen ones! Another cut into the throat took it down.

All spent Shuichi dropped his sword and fell on his knees. He looked at his shaking arms. They were… thicker and the muscles were more well defined. How was that…? Of course! Training was just breaking down muscle and letting it heal so it would grow stronger. That constant cycle of damage and healing… how much stronger had it made him?

He was so hungry.

Food was all Shuichi could think about when he passed out.

Shuichi floated in darkness for what felt like an eternity. He felt warm and safe. He could stay here. Were there was no pain or fear but… people were waiting for him. In the world of pain and fear.

Shuichi opened his eyes and saw Mustard guarding his sleep.

“Shuichi!” Mustard yelled and hugged him.

“What… happened?” Shuichi said when Mustard had let go.

“You… passed out from exhaustion. Are you hungry?”

“Oh, God yes.” Shuichi said.

“I’ll get you something to eat.”

Mustard rushed to the kitchen and returned with a tray. Kurogiri was an excellent cook and Shuichi wolfed down his dinner. He was about to ask for seconds when Tomura entered his room. The severed hand covered his face but… there was something different about him. About his eyes. The way he looked at them.

“You’re awake.” Tomura said.

“Not for long.” Shuichi said and yawned.

“He needs to rest.” Mustard said.

“He can rest later. This can’t wait.” Tomura said.

Shuichi sighed and eyed Tomura suspiciously.

“Where have you been for the past week?”

“I was holed up in one of our safe houses. The cops were looking for me.” Tomura said.

“Kurogiri could’ve come pick you up.” Mustard said.

“I needed time to think and… I realized what we lacked. A story.” Tomura said.

Shuichi and Mustard looked at each other and then turned to stare at Tomura.

“A what now?” Shuichi said.

“A story. Without it the League is just a bunch of… hooligans. We need to be something… bigger.” Tomura said.

“What did you come up with?” Shuichi said.

“The League will adopt Stain’s ideals.” Tomura said.

The mention of Stain made Mustard shudder.

“We will oppose fake heroes and tear down the world that creates them to build a better one.” Tomura said.

“So… do what you’ve always done?” Shuichi said.

“Yes, and for that I need your help.” Tomura said and took off the hand covering his face.

Tomura… did not look like Shuichi had expected. He was haggard and scarred sure but… there was strange serenity to him. He looked like a… wounded angel.

“You were the first disciples of Stain. Will you help me?” Tomura said.

Chapter Text

After finding out that he’d passed the exams a weight had been lifted from Izuku’s shoulders he didn’t even know had been there. He’d felt the same way after meeting Mei. When you were living with constant stress you didn’t even notice how much it affected you until it was gone. But now it was over, and he was free! And in a few days, he’d be off camping!

When he left for his morning run he felt like he was flying. Not even his bad knee was giving him any trouble and he was free to push himself. Only when he ran past the beach did he slow down until he stopped all together. It had only been a couple of months, but the beach was already looking tidier.

Could I have done something like that, Izuku wondered.

Maybe. Maybe he could have done it but… Bakugou would have done it better. When they’d been children… when they’d been friends it had been exciting. Seeing everything come so naturally to Bakugou had made him want to be as good at everything.

Then they’d stopped being friends. After that he’d only wanted Bakugou know what it felt like to be small. Not that it had made him happy when it had happened.

Thanks for helping me.

It was ridiculous after all the bad blood, betrayal and pain between them but… for a moment he hadn’t hated Bakugou. He looked at his scarred hand. If he’d been born with a Quirk, would he and Bakugou be still planning to run a hero agency together?

Not that it mattered anymore.

Izuku kept running.

When he made it back home he got a call from Mei.

“Morning, Mei.” Izuku said.

“Morning, dad.” Sagan said.

“Sagan?”

“You have other daughters I should know about?” Sagan said.

“I think… you take too much after Mei.” Izuku said.

Sagan just laughed.

“Mom needs help.” Sagan said.

Izuku shuddered. Was she hurt or maybe… had Tomura contacted her again?

“What happened?” Izuku said.

“Mom needs to take remedial lessons.” Sagan said.

Izuku blanked.

“… what?”

“She failed biology and social studies.”

Izuku was quiet for a moment and then started laughing.

“Dad! This is serious!” Sagan yelled.

“I know. I know. It’s just…” Izuku said before bursting out laughing again: “What do you want me to do?”

“Coach her. Help her pass the retake. You’re the only one she’ll accept help from.”

“Sure thing. When?”

“Right now.” Sagan said.

Izuku took a quick shower and ate breakfast with mom before picking up his notes and hopping on a train. When he got there, Blacksmith was working on a car. He’d taken it apart with his Quirk and the parts were dancing around him while he tried to find what was wrong.

“Morning, Izuku.” Blacksmith said without taking his eyes off his work.

“Morning, sir.” Izuku said and looked at the torn apart car: “Busy customer?”

“Yeah. He wants me to give this old piece of shit a polish job, so he can trade it for another slightly less old piece of shit.”

Izuku looked at the parts. All of them looked older than him.

“Is driving that even legal?”

“Was thinking the exact same thing. Am I an accomplice if I help him?” Blacksmith said and put the car back together before turning to look at him: “Isn’t it a bit early for social calls?”

“It’s past eleven.” Izuku said.

“It’s Saturday.”

Izuku took out his notes.

“Sagan called me. She told me that Mei failed two courses.”

“Oh yeah. She did.” Blacksmith said and started laughing: “That’s what you get for sleepwalking through classes.”

“Uh… shouldn’t you a bit more worried?” Izuku said.

“I’m no helicopter dad. The girl is making more money than I am. She’ll be fine.” Blacksmith said.

“I was thinking I’d help her study. Is she home?”

“Asleep.” Blacksmith said.

“What?! It’s past eleven!”

“It’s Saturday. She usually stays up until four during the weekends.” Blacksmith said.

“… okay.”

“Feel free to wake her up if you have the balls. Want me to make some coffee?”

“Yes, please.” Izuku said.

While Blacksmith started shooting up the coffee machine, Izuku knocked on Mei’s door. Then he knocked again Harder. He could hear blankets being tossed off.

“… the fuck? Who the fuck is this?” Mei mumbled.

“It’s me.” Izuku said.

The door was yanked open. Mei was sporting the evil stepmother of all bed hairs and she was wearing a large, baggy Project: Indestructible t-shirt.

“Do you have any idea what time it is?” Mei said.

Izuku checked his watch.

“11:25.” Izuku said and tried giving Mei his notes: “Time to study.”

Mei’s eyes narrowed when she saw the notes. She turned around to glare at her work computer.

“Sagan!”

The computer turned on by itself and Sagan’s pixelated face appeared on the screen.

“You called, mom?”

“You backstabbing ingrate!”

“Grow a pair and take it like man, mom. It’s for your own good.” Sagan said and turned herself off again.

Mei rubbed her eyes.

“This is a goddamn conspiracy. That’s what it is.” Mei said and grabbed the notes: “Fine. There better be coffee.”

While Mei left to freshen up Izuku took a look at her room. It was everything he’d expected it to. The floor was littered with scripts for Project: Indestructible episodes. The shelves were lined with books about engineering, history and mathematics and Izuku picked one of them called The Dynamics of an Asteroid out of curiosity. It was one of those books that required libraries worth of knowledge for you to understand. The top shelf was full of trophies from different science fairs and… a framed lifetime ban from science fairs.

In the corner was the Indestructible 1.0 stacked as a decoration suit of armor.

A warm feeling of nostalgia warmed Izuku’s chest and he stepped closer to look at it. The armor had been painstakingly fixed and put back together. You never would have guessed the trashing it had got. A labor of love. It felt like he was looking into a mirror that showed him like how he wanted to be. The mark 1.0 was easily the weakest of the armors they’d built but it would always be his favorite.

“It’s still fully functional.” Mei said.

Mei was standing at the door holding two cups of coffee and looking far more focused after a cold shower.

“Really?” Izuku said and took his coffee: “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Mei said and looked at the armor: “Besides the power source of course. I just loved it too much to take it apart. It is our baby after all.”

Izuku smiled.

“Yeah. It is.”

They sat by the table while sipping their coffees and Mei started going through Izuku’s notes. When she’s skimmed them through, she stared at Izuku without expression.

“What?” Izuku said.

“Why would you bother with all of this?”

“So I wouldn’t have to bother with it during the summer.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Rub it in.” Mei said.

“Besides, writing notes took me only ten minutes after every class.”

Mei rolled her eyes and they spent a couple hours studying before helping Blacksmith in the garage.

***

To Shuichi’s surprise his opponent that day wasn’t a Noumu but a man. Or was he man? The more Shuichi studied him, the less sure he was. He was a tall imposing figure with a muscular build and blonde hair. One of his eyes had been carved out and replaced with a prosthetic that transformed his face into something terrifying. You could have fit the entire world’s arrogance into his smile.

“Hi.” Shuichi said.

The man growled.

“What’s this? I order a bitch and they sent me a lizard. Fine. Strip.”

Shuichi blinked.

“… what?”

The man laughed.

“Just fucking with you. So, you’re the one. The first disciple of Stain. You can call me Muscular.”

Shuichi shuddered. The man had seemed familiar and now he remembered from where.

“I know you. You… you killed that hero couple.” Shuichi said.

“If someone pays me to kill a pair of bitches, a pair of bitches dies. And now someone has paid me to beat your bitch-ass into shape.” Muscular said and cracked his knuckles: “I always wanted to take a swing at Stain. See who was the better hero killer. Guess I’ll have to make do with you.”

Muscular’s muscles grew to grotesque proportions. When he attacked, Shuichi missed fighting Noumus. Muscular was faster than any Noumu he had ever seen and at the very least their equal in strength. The worst part was that he was smarter and fought with actual skill instead of relying on his instincts.

Shuichi was able to dodge the first blow but not the second and was knocked off his feet. Even after hardening his scales against Noumus a single punch from Muscular knocked the air out of his lungs and he was left twitching on the floor.

“What’s wrong, Spinner?! Had enough?! Can’t take the pace?! Fine. If you’re going to act like a bitch, I’ll treat you like a bitch.” Muscular said.

When Shuichi saw Muscular’s boot coming down on his head, he managed to roll out of the way before Muscular crushed his skull. When Muscular followed up with a wild haymaker, Shuichi popped out his spikes and pierced Muscular fist. Muscular took a step back and stared at his skewered hand.

“Oh, it’s on now, bitch! It is on!”

They continued fighting. Or Muscular fought and Shuichi tried to survive. He could match Muscular’s speed. Barely. But Muscular was as strong as he needed to be. All he had to do was grow more muscles. And he only had to get lucky once.

Shuichi screamed when his ribs cracked. Muscular laughed.

“Yeah! That’s right! Scream, bitch! Music to my motherfucking ears!”

He didn’t have time to heal and had to continue fighting with broken ribs. Muscular didn’t leave him any quarter, and Shuichi was forced to go on the offensive. Despite how much his strength had increased he couldn’t hurt Muscular. His muscles were a thick armor even his spikes couldn’t pierce.

He’d have to go for the eyes. Or eye in Muscular’ case.

It was a doable plan. Muscular was too strong for his own good and it had made him arrogant. Too bad it didn’t change the fact that Muscular was as fast as him and way stronger whereas Shuichi’s ribs were broken. Muscular pinned him down.

“End of the ride, bitch!”

Before Muscular could crush his skull in his hands, the First appeared in the room. Or was it just another illusion?

“Enough.” The First said.

No matter how arrogant Muscular was, even he didn’t mouth off to a living god. Even if it was just a mirage.

“This is taking things too far.” The First said.

“Hey. You told me to rough him up. Bitch looks pretty roughed up to me.” Muscular said.

“That he does. Thank you for today, Muscular.” The First said.

Muscular patted Shuichi on the back.

“Good times, Spinner. We’ll make a badass motherfucker out of you yet.”

Kurogiri opened one of his portals and Muscular stepped through. The First looked after him and the look on his illusionary face was disdainful.

“What a despicable creature.” The First said.

Shuichi had managed to heal himself enough to breath without pain.

“Didn’t stop you from hiring him.”

“And he’s not even the worst.” The First said sadly: “Toga. Muscular. Moonfish. Our enemies are too strong for me turn anyone down. Patience. That’s all I ask from you, Spinner. Soon we won’t have to put up with these beasts.”

“Sure.” Shuichi said.

The First smiled.

“It is good to have someone like you by my side. A true warrior. Like in the good old days.”

Shuichi wiped the sweat off his brow.

“If we’d met two-hundred years ago…”

“You would have been most welcome.” The First said.

Kurogiri opened another portal and after taking a shower Shuichi returned to the room he shared with Mustard. Mustard was sitting on his bed looking pale. Shuichi fell on his bed.

“Rough day?” Mustard said.

“Yeah. You?”

“Been helping Kurogiri.” Mustard said and hugged his knees: “Shuichi… are we really doing this? This… all of this… don’t you think it’s too big for us. I… I’m scared.”

“Yeah. Me too.” Shuichi agreed: “But… I’m tired of being scared. I’m tired of having others treat us like slaves.”

“But… if we get caught…” Mustard said.

“I’ve been thinking about Eri.” Shuichi said.

“Huh?”

“I miss her and… I can’t stop thinking what Overhaul did to her. What he did to us. Remember when we were kids? And all the other kids would make fun of us. They called you… what was it again?”

“… fart-ass.” Mustard said: “And they always said your mom fucked a lizard.”

“And our teachers just told us to stand up for ourselves.” Shuichi said and laughed: “Nice advice. Too bad they didn’t tell us how to stand up for ourselves, but I think I’ve figured it out. I’m done being pushed around. Time to stand up.”

Shuichi put out his fist.

“What do you say, Mustard? Us against the world?”

Mustard pumped his fist.

“… yeah.”

***

Mustard was wiping tables at the bar hoping to drive away the gnawing feeling at the pit of his stomach when Dabi entered. Without saying a word, he took a bottle from behind the counter.

“You have to pay for that, you know.” Mustard said.

Dabi turned to look at him slowly. He took a sip from the bottle.

“What?”

“… I… uh…” Mustard stuttered.

“Speak up. I can’t hear you. What did you say?”

“… I…” Mustard bowed his head: “Nothing.”

“That’s what I thought. Keep cleaning the tables. That’s all you’re good for.” Dabi said.

“Aw, Dabi. Are ya bullying Mustard again? Why ya gotta be so mean?”

One second, they were alone and in the blink of an eye Toga was there with them. How… how long had she been there? Hiding in the shadows? Watching them? Watching him? Dabi raised the bottle again without taking his eyes from Toga.

“What are you doing here?” Dabi said.

Mustard barely noticed the fear in Dabi’s voice.

“Aw, Dabi. Why the cold shoulder? It’s yer girl Toga and I have shit to report. U.A is going on a field trip. Real hush-hush business. Ya could almost swear they might be on to me.” Toga said.

A black portal opened and Kurogiri entered.

“Is that so, Ms. Toga? Most interesting. Would you be so kind as to tell more?” Kurogiri said.

“Not to ya.” Toga said.

“Hey! Don’t talk to him like that.” Mustard said.

Dabi laughed scornfully.

“Like you could stop her.”

Kurogiri turned his gaze slowly to Dabi and the bottle he was holding.

“Mr. Dabi. Did you pay for that?”

“No.” Dabi said.

“Would you be so kind?”

Dabi just put a wrinkled bill on the counter and left the bar without turning his back to Toga. When he was gone, Kurogiri returned his attention back to Toga.

“Who would you talk to about this?” Kurogiri said.

“The one who’s in charge.” Toga said.

“I’m afraid Tomura is busy.” Kurogiri said.

“And I know Tomura ain’t da boss. I wanna talk about my reward with the boss. The real boss. He gives me what Overhaul didn’t and I’ll tell where we go camping.” Toga said.

“Nothing gets past you. Does it, Ms. Toga?” Kurogiri said.

Toga just smiled her terrifying smile.

“Very well. Just one second.” Kurogiri said and took out a phone: “Master. This is Kurogiri. Ms. Toga would like to talk to you. I… yes. I’ll send her there.”

Kurogiri put away the phone and opened another portal for Toga.

“If you will.” Kurogiri said.

“I think I will.” Toga said and stepped through the black gate.

“Please tell me that will drop her into the middle of the ocean.” Mustard said.

“Afraid not. Mind helping me with the dinner preparations?” Kurogiri said.

“Sure.”

Mustard followed Kurogiri to the kitchen and… the smoke that coated him faded away.

There was something… British about Kurogiri when he wasn’t hiding his face behind a veil of black smoke. He was past forty but still fit with chiseled features and shaved head. His cheekbones were sharp and his eyes even sharper.

While Kurogiri was preparing the meat, Mustard started peeling the onions. He washed them like Kurogiri had thought him to make the peeling easier and then started dicing them. A careless slip of the knife made him cut his finger and drop the onions.

“Goddamn it!” Mustard yelled and threw the knife away.

“Mustard?” Kurogiri said.

“I’m sorry, okay?! I know I always fuck up! I know I can’t do anything right, okay?!”

Kurogiri smiled and dropped rest of the onions on the floor.

“They’re just vegetables. Easy enough to clean.”

Black mist covered the onions and made them disappear.

“Show me your hand.” Kurogiri said.

Thanks to Kurogiri’s advice, Mustard had held the onion in place with his bend fingers and just cut the knuckle. Kurogiri bandaged it up quickly.

“Something on your mind?” Kurogiri said.

Mustard started cutting a new set of onions. There were tears in his eyes but not because of the onions.

“It’s Shuichi. He’s… changed.” Mustard said.

“Change is a part of life.”

“He’s changed and… I haven’t. Shuichi has always looked out for me but… I don’t want him to leave me behind! I… Why can’t I be like him?!” Mustard said.

Kurogiri smiled.

“You remind me of myself when I was your age.” Kurogiri said.

Mustard looked at him surprised.

“… what?”

“I was confused too. Lost. Scared. Until master found me. I thought I couldn’t do anything right either. Want to know how I fixed that?” Kurogiri said.

“I… yeah.” Mustard said.

“I failed. A lot. And I kept failing. Until all the failure was filed off. At your age I was the worst cook who’d ever lived but I kept at it. Now, I’m in charge of the catering for the League.”

“But… but… you have such a great Quirk and I…” Mustard said.

“My Quirk was nothing special until I started developing it. You could’ve easily beaten me. Look. I know you’re scared and insecure but believe me. We all feel that way. Do you think Dabi has never lost? Or master? I know you think you’re the only failure here but keep working. In a few years you’ll wonder why you were so afraid. Behind every success story is a string of failures.” Kurogiri said.

Mustard kept helping Kurogiri until he could go back to cleaning the bar. Dabi had returned to drink there.

“Hey, Dabi.” Mustard said.

“What?” Dabi said sullenly.

Mustard flipped him off. It was worth the bruise.

***

The busses came to pick them up from school early on a Monday morning. Izuku arrived there a bit earlier than the others and to his surprise Power Loader was waiting there instead of Aizawa-sensei. Power Loader was wearing clothes fit for hiking and it was the first time Izuku had seen him with a shirt on. He could get used to it.

“Morning, Midoriya.” Power Loader said.

“Morning, sir. Where’s Aizawa-sensei?” Izuku said.

“Something came up and Eraserhead will be meeting us at the camp, so you’re stuck with me.”

“I don’t mind.” Izuku said.

“Glad to hear it.” Power Loader said and smiled: “We haven’t had a chance to talk like this after you left us for heroics.”

“Sorry, sir.” Izuku said.

“Don’t be. I just wanted to get a chance to say that I’m proud of you and you should be proud of yourself.” Power Loader said.

Izuku smiled and warmth spread in his chest.

“Thank you, sir.”

When Blacksmith dropped Mei off, Power Loader exchanged a few words with him. It didn’t take long for Vlad Kind and the other students to show up. They were quickly divided into two groups and it was made sure that both groups had a balance of members from classes A and B. Izuku managed to get only Mei and Momo from Team Indestructible into his group. Tsu waved him a sad goodbye while she got packed off into the wrong bus. The busses started their long trek to the campsite and Izuku killed time by sleeping until a scream woke him up.

“What fresh hell is this?!” Mei complained.

Izuku opened his eyes and saw Mei shaking her phone.

“Connect goddamn it!”

Power Loader looked up from his book in front of the bus.

“The wi-fi is a bit wonky here. Now pipe it down.”

“Mei… you can survive a few days without the internet.” Izuku said.

“What are we?! Fucking savages?!” Mei yelled.

“Don’t make me come over there.” Power Loader said.

“You’re not my dad.” Mei said.

“I have his number. Should I make him come over there?” Power Loader said.

That was a threat that never got old.

“Cheer up, Mei.” Momo said: “This is going to be so much fun that you won’t even miss it. Grilling, swimming, tests of courage.”

Monoma turned to look at them with an ugly grin on his face. Before Itsuka could make him mind his own business, he opened his mouth.

“And studying. Never thought the great and smart Hatsume couldn’t pass a simple test.” Monoma said.

Izuku hadn’t thought it possible to hear someone’s patience snap but he heard it when Mei’s did. It sounded like the loading of a shotgun. She turned to glare at Monoma who suddenly looked like a man standing in front of a speeding truck.

“One more word, Monoma. One more fucking word and I swear to God I’ll blow your wank bank wide open. Every student in U.A will get a full review of your search history and Itsuka will be the first in line. So go on. Piss me off. See what happens.” Mei said.

Itsuka just rolled her eyes and turned up the volume on her iPod.

“… jeez, Mei.” Izuku said.

Monoma remained wisely silent and Power Loader moved the two of them as far from each other as possible. Izuku and Momo joined her at the back of the bus.

“Come on, Mei. You should try to enjoy the outdoors.” Momo said.

“Do you know what living outdoors was like? A losing battle for survival that always ended with dinosaurs eating our genitals.” Mei said and grinned: “The whole pack could survive for weeks with Izuku’s junk.”

“Really?” Momo said.

“Goddamn it, Mei.” Izuku said.

“Really, really. We built cities, so we wouldn’t have to deal with that bullshit.” Mei said.

Eventually the busses stopped next to a cliff and Power Loader told them to get out and stretch their legs. When Izuku got out he was surprised to see two women waiting for them at the cliff. It took him a moment but then Izuku recognized them as two members of the Wild Wild Pussycats. Both had matching outfits with different colors. The woman with short black hair was dressed in red while the woman with blonde hair was clad in blue. They struck a pose to greet them.

“Welcome, young heroes! The Wild Wild Pussycats are here to welcome you!” The women said in unison.

“Mandalay. Pixie-bob.” Power Loader said.

“Power Loader.” Mandalay said and gave him a critical look: “So, they finally managed to force you to put on a shirt?”

“I’m not too old to change my image.” Power Loader said.

“And we are forever grateful.” Mandalay said and looked at the students: “Are they ready?”

“As ready as they’ll ever be.”

“Mind if we have a word with your star pupil first?” Pixie-bob said.

“Sure thing.” Power Loader said.

Izuku and Mei stepped towards Power Loader instinctively and then turned to look at each other.

“Excuse me but they were obviously talking about me.” Mei said.

“Are you sure?” Izuku said.

Mei grinned.

“Izuku.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s on now.”

Power Loader sighed.

“Mei. It’s not on. Just… just get over here.”

“Hah! See that?” Mei said.

Mandalay pulled Mei behind herself.

“We don’t want you to get caught in the splash zone.”

“Splash zone?” Izuku said.

Power Loader pointed at the camp Izuku could barely make out at the center of the forest.

“The camp starts here. Make it to there by foot.”

Pixie-bob touched the ground. The earth shook under them and then turned into a wave that washed them off the cliff. Izuku managed to slow his fall by grabbing tree branches but his bad knee still complained when he hit the ground. Momo landed next to him with all the grace of someone who had a lifetime of martial arts under her belt. The other students didn’t fare any worse and even Monoma managed to get down without embarrassing himself.

“Hey! Izuku! Catch!” Mei yelled from top of the cliff.

Mei pushed the armor case over the edge and Izuku called it to himself with the nanomachines. He’d need a new injection soon. The equipment was slow to obey.

“Thanks, Mei!” Izuku yelled.

“You’re welcome! See you at the camp! And don’t let dick dinosaurs eat your genitals!” Mei said.

“We won’t!” Momo said.

“Dick dinosaurs?” Monoma said.

Groups started forming quickly and much to Izuku’s horror he realized he was stuck with Monoma. At least Itsuka was there to keep him in check. Izuku opened the case and put his hands in the gloves.

“Ready whenever you are Sagan.” Izuku said.

“Born ready, dad.” Sagan said.

The armor rolled out of the case and coated Izuku. Once the helmet had covered his face he sent his trackers to scout to area and find the fastest way to the camp. Indestructible strapped the armor case in his back.

“Sagan. Loudspeakers.” Indestructible said.

“Sure thing, dad.” Sagan said: “Hi everyone. I’m mom’s and dad’s baby girl. Sagan!”

“What the hell is that thing?” Monoma said.

Indestructible and Momo turned to glare at Monoma.

“She. Not it.” Momo said.

Itsuka smacked Monoma over the head.

“Sorry about that. He’s a dick.” Itsuka said: “I’m Itsuka Kendou. The class president of 1-B.”

”Sagan. The world’s first true artificial intelligence.”

“Do you have a route for us?” Indestructible said.

“Yes. You could make it on your own in little over an hour. With Momo and Itsuka it will take three and a half. With Monoma… five. My advice. Feed him to the dick dinosaurs.”

“Screw you.” Monoma said.

Itsuka patted Monoma’s back.

“Don’t worry. We won’t let them get to your junk.” Itsuka said.

“Then look sharp because the dick dinosaurs will be here in forty-five seconds.” Sagan said.

“Haa haa! Very funny.” Monoma said.

They fell quiet. Indestructible could hear something move in the woods and he wasn’t the only one. All of them turned to look where the fast approaching footsteps were coming from. Monsters made of clay and earth stepped into the clearing.

“Dick dinosaurs.” Monoma gasped.

The monsters attacked, and they fought. Indestructible felt like he owed Monoma an apology. He’d always though that when the going got tough, Monoma would be nowhere to be seen but Monoma stood his ground and fought with the rest of them using Itsuka’s Quirk. Unlikable twat he might have been but Monoma was still a hero in training.

Despite looking scary the monsters were paper tigers and soon they were reduced back to clay and earth.

“Yeah! That’s right! No one fucks with the Phantom Thief!” Monoma yelled.

Monoma’s bravado didn’t last long into the hike and after an hour he was panting and wheezing. Monoma was in surprisingly bad shape for a U.A student but he still kept up the pace. Indestructible supposed he and Monoma had a few things in common. They didn’t give up on their dreams easily.

Momo took her place next to Indestructible.

“You’ve improved.” Momo said.

“Thanks to you and Ojiro.” Indestructible and smiled behind his helmet: “You’ve grown too.”

“Thanks to Midnight-sensei.” Momo said.

Itsuka groaned.

“Could we please not talk about that?”

“… talk… about… what?” Monoma wheezed.

“Come on. It really helped. I’ve been coaching my classmates too.” Momo said.

Itsuka stopped.

“You what?”

Sagan turned the loudspeakers back on.

“We even have videos of it. Dad really rocks that pole.” Sagan said.

Monoma laughed between the gasps for air.

“… I’m… sure… he… does.”

Itsuka rubbed her face.

“Lets… let’s just get this over with.”

“Come on, Itsuka. Don’t be embarrassed. You need to own it. You should join us next time.” Momo said.

“I’ll think about it.” Itsuka said.

I bet her back is super muscular, Indestructible thought.

They made it to the camp when the clock was closer to six. Monoma had looked ready to drop dead for the last mile but he’d been too proud to let Indestructible carry him. Mandalay and Pixie-bob were waiting for them at the entrance with a grumpy looking child who glared at them under a red cap.

“You made it. Like we knew you would.” Mandalay said.

“Good thing too. We’re running out of alibis.” Pixie-bob said.

Indestructible took the armor case off his back and let Sagan disassemble it back into the case.

“It was nothing.” Izuku said and wiped the sweat off his face.

“Yeah. For you. Sorry we don’t all have such nice toys.” Monoma said.

Momo looked at the child.

“Who is he? Your son?” Momo said.

“We’re not married. Yet. Is Power Loader still single?” Pixie-bob said.

“He’s my nephew Kouta. Go say hi.” Mandalay said.

Izuku offered his hand.

“Hi, Kouta. I’m…”

Kouta punched him in the balls like they owed him money. Pain blew away all the color on his face and Kouta fell on his knees holding his hand. Everyone turned to stare at Izuku who’s crotch had just crushed a fist.

“Holy shit! What are those things made of?!” Itsuka said.

“I… after the fight with Bakugou I haven’t left home without protection.” Izuku said and knelled next to Kouta: “Are you okay?”

“Izuku!” Mei yelled and ran out of the compound.

“What?” Izuku said.

“No time!” Mei said and grabbed him: “Come!”

“But Kouta…”

Mandalay was kneeling next to Kouta and checking his hand.

“I said no time!” Mei said and pulled Izuku with her inside.

In the camp’s lounge both classes had gathered around… an albino girl with a horn growing out of her forehead. She was hugging an old iPad.

“Eri?” Izuku said.

“… hi.” Eri said.

***

The training with Muscular intensified and every session came closer to killing Shuichi. But every time he healed into something stronger. His strength and speed had improved more than they ever would have in such a short time with running and lifting weights. There was so much power in him and he had wasted it for all these years thinking he’d never mount to anything.

After taking a shower and washing off the sweat from a particularly tough match, he ran into Kurogiri.

“You have a moment?” Kurogiri said.

“Sure.” Shuichi said.

Kurogiri led him to the bar where Mustard was waiting for him. Kurogiri opened a small portal and pulled out two suitcases. He handed one to Shuichi and Mustard each. Inside Mustard’s case was a military gasmask and… a revolver.

“It should make using your Quirk easier and… that should give you some extra protection.” Kurogiri said.

Mustard picked up the gun and looked at it adoringly.

“Thanks, Kurogiri.”

“You’ve earned it. I’ll take you to the gun range later.” Kurogiri said.

Shuichi clicked his own case open. The combat fatigues, armor… and mask were all too familiar.

“This is…?” Shuichi said.

“You’re the first disciple of Stain. We need you to look the part.” Kurogiri said.

Shuichi grinned. What would Stain think if he saw his name being used like this? Shuichi took the mask out and put it on.

“How do I look?” Shuichi said.

“Like Stain.” Mustard said.

“It’s perfect.” Shuichi said.

“Happy to hear you like it.” Kurogiri said.

“Like it? I love it.” Shuichi said.

After that they were told to wait and rest. Training was put on hold, but Shuichi still practiced his sword swings diligently. It was impossible to relax if he didn’t do it every day. It also helped him take his mind off all the waiting. He hated waiting. Not knowing what was going to happen next. It reminded him of hiding after they found out All-Might’s secret.

Poor All-Might, Shuichi thought.

Despite what they’d learned from the First, All-Might didn’t deserve what they’d done to him. Stain was a mad animal, but he was right about one thing. All-Might was a true hero but so many had turned against him because he wasn’t a god. It wasn’t fair.

After a week of laying around, Kurogiri finally called a meeting.

Tomura, Kurogiri, Dabi and Muscular were all waiting for them at the bar. Kurogiri was the last to arrive through one of his portals and started pouring them tea.

“So… what’s this all about?” Shuichi said.

“Toga has contacted us. We know where they are camping.” Tomura said.

“And you want to do… what? Have another USJ incident?” Shuichi said.

“We’ll be recruiting this time.” Tomura said.

Muscular put up his hand.

“I’m confused. Didn’t I come here to kill people?” Muscular said.

“I imagine there will be quite a bit of killing.” Kurogiri said.

“If Toga has left anything alive.” Dabi said.

Be patient, Shuichi told himself.

These monsters would not be around forever. Soon he’d help the First build a real League of true warriors.

“We’ll be paying for your trouble, Muscular. Kurogiri. Give it to him.” Tomura said.

Kurogiri pulled out a briefcase from one of his portals and handed it to Muscular.

“It is the agreed sum.” Kurogiri said.

“Hope you don’t mind if I count it.” Muscular said.

“Be my guest.” Kurogiri said.

Muscular opened the briefcase.

Something jumped out of the case and lodged itself on Muscular’s face. When he tried to scream it just gave the thing a chance to crawl in his mouth. Shuichi and Mustard jumped on their feet but the rest of the League just… watched when Muscular tried to peel the thing off his face to no avail.

Muscular went down and laid still.

Then he got up.

The fake eye fell off and… slime boy’s bulging yellow eye filled the empty socket. Muscular’s veins had turned black when slime boy had mixed with his blood. Slime boy looked at them.

“Spinner. Mustard. Long time no see.”

Chapter Text

“I don’t like this.” Shuichi said.

Tomura looked hurt.

“I think this is fun. Just hanging with you two.” Tomura said.

“Yeah. What do you have against Dungeons and Dragons? Are you really that pissed for having to be the DM?” Mustard said.

“No. Not that. I like this too.” Shuichi said.

“If you want to craft a character we could always have Kurogiri be the DM.” Tomura said.

“I still don’t understand why you can’t play while being the DM?” Mustard said.

“The DM never plays!” Shuichi and Tomura said in unison.

“Okay, okay. Jeez.” Mustard said and rubbed the black eye Dabi had given him.

“It’s this plan I don’t like.” Shuichi said.

“Why? Bakugou is practically one of us already.” Tomura said and grinned: “Imagine how bad U.A will look when he turns on them.”

“I think he’s an asshole. You all saw the video of him.” Shuichi said.

Tomura shrugged.

“He’ll mellow out when he can lash out. Letting it all pent up… it’s not good for you.” Tomura said.

“I think he’s an asshole who brings it all to himself.” Shuichi said.

Mustard grinned.

“He’ll fit right in.”

They ignored Mustard.

“I still think this is a bad idea.” Shuichi said.

“Are you saying you won’t join?” Tomura said.

“No. You’re the boss.” Shuichi said.

This made Tomura smile.

“I am, aren’t I?”

“But I do have a suggestion.” Shuichi said.

“And that is?” Tomura said.

“We’re not hurting the students. You start hurting kids and you can forget a story where we are anything but the bad guys.” Shuichi said.

“Could be tough.” Tomura said.

“Wanna know what is tough? Making it to Heroics without a Quirk. Are you gonna let Indestructible outshine you?” Shuichi said.

Tomura laughed.

“Never. I’m done being outdone by him. Fine. We go in, take Bakugou and no one gets hurt. We’re freedom fighters now after all.”

“It’s not just students there.” Mustard pointed out.

“I guess the teachers are fair game.” Shuichi said and turned back to his notes: “You find the lich dragon’s castle guarded by werewolves…”

***

When everyone had finally made it to the lounge, Aizawa-sensei stepped up to address all of them. Eri stood nervously next to him and held tightly to her iPad.

“This is Eri. Due to some… unexpected circumstances I’ll be looking after her for the time being.
I’m expecting all of you to be on your best behavior around her. That will be all. Go eat and then head to the baths.” Aizawa-sensei and glared at Uraraka: “And no funny business.”

“One time! It was that one time and I already said I was sorry!” Uraraka said.

“Regaining my trust takes more than that.” Aizawa-sensei said.

Eri tugged Aizawa-sensei’s sleeve.

“… can I sit with Indestructible?” Eri said.

Aizawa-sensei looked at Izuku.

“I don’t mind. Do you want to meet the rest of Team Indestructible?” Izuku said.

Eri could only nod.

Looking at Eri reminded Izuku of how he had been after the bullying had eroded all his self-confidence. Timid and scared of her own shadow. To make her feel even a bit safer Izuku picked a table in the corner of the dining hall to give them some privacy. Izuku and Shouto sat next to Eri while Mei, Momo and Iida took up the other side of the table.

“I don’t think we’ve technically met. Shouto Todoroki.” Shouto said.

Eri bowed her head.

“… I’m sorry.” Eri said.

“For what?” Shouto said.

“… that… that you lost your Quirk.” Eri said.

Shouto forced himself to smile.

“It wasn’t your fault, Eri.” Shouto said.

“… but…”

“It’s like Shouto said. It wasn’t your fault.” Mei said.

“Besides, I didn’t lose anything important. I’ll still be a hero.” Shouto said.

“You’re already a great hero.” Iida said.

“Did you two start dating when I wasn’t looking?” Mei said.

“Mei. Tone it down.” Momo said and smiled at Eri: “I’m Momo Yaoyorozu and this is Tenya Iida.”

“… hi.” Eri said.

“Nice to meet you.” Iida said.

“Shouldn’t you put that away while we eat?” Momo said and nodded at Eri’s iPad.

“No!... I… I have watch it until Shuichi comes to get it back.” Eri said.

Izuku rubbed his knee that had started to ache.

“You really like Shuichi?”

“… and Mustard too.” Eri said.

“Met him once. Didn’t much care for him.” Shouto said.

“Same.” Mei said.

Eri stared at her food.

“… they’re not in trouble, are they?”

Everyone in the table shared a look.

“Nothing we can’t fix.” Shouto said.

“… what about Mr. Stain? I know… what they said in the TV but… he’s not a bad person.” Eri said.

Iida tensed up and for a moment there was a look of the same fury that had almost driven him to kill an unconscious man. Momo put a calming hand on his shoulder and Iida regained enough composure to at least pretend to be civil.

“Stain… is getting all the help he needs. And deserves.” Momo said.

“… do you think I could meet him? I… never got to thank him for saving me.” Eri said.

Iida got up. Too fast. Way too fast.

“I… I can’t… I’m sorry. I have to go.” Iida said.

Iida left his full plate on the table and rushed out of the dining room. Despite his speed Izuku noticed the tears in his eyes. Shouto got up to follow him.

“I’ll go make sure he’s okay. It was good seeing you Eri.” Shouto said before going.

“… was he okay?” Eri said after Shouto had left.

“Don’t worry about him. His stomach just starts acting up every once in a while.” Mei said.

“It’s best to give him room.” Momo said while pouring Shouto’s and Iida’s portions on her own plate.

Eri nodded and hid behind Izuku.

“What’s wrong?” Izuku said.

Eri pointed a shaking finger at Bakugou who was sitting alone with Eijirou.

“… it’s Lord Explosion Psycho Murder.”

Izuku snorted.

“Yeah. It is.” Izuku said.

“Don’t worry. Tsu kicked all the evil out of him.” Mei said.

Eri frowned.

“… it was stupid. Indestructible was supposed to beat him.”

“Yes, he was. If that fight had been scripted, the writer ought to be fired.” Mei said.

“I’m happy for Tsu. She lived off that fight for days.” Momo said.

After they’d finished supper, Aizawa-sensei sent Eri off to bed and the students headed to the baths. Before going to the baths Izuku went to find Shouto and Iida. He ran into Shouto on the way to the sleeping area.

“How is he?” Izuku said.

“He’s been better. It would be for the best to let him be alone for a moment.” Shouto said.

“Okay.” Izuku said.

“Yeah. Well… let’s go take a dip.” Shouto said.

“Uh… in a moment. I need to hit the bathroom.”

Shouto went ahead of him and Izuku waited for a moment until he was sure everyone had gotten undressed and entered the baths. After checking that the locker room was empty, Izuku undressed and put on a pair swimming trunks. A very loose pair. When he entered the baths, everyone turned to stare at him.

“Okay. What the hell are those?” Ojiro said.

“Uh… swim trunks?” Izuku said.

Monoma let out a derisive laugh.

“What’s wrong, Midoriya? Afraid to show off your teeny weenie?”

“Good God, Midoriya. You’re not a five-year-old. Take those off.” Mineta said.

“Come on. Leave him alone.” Shouto said.

“Not until I see what all the fuzz is about.” Kaminari said.

“Please, Midoriya. I have money riding on this.” Ojiro said.

Izuku clutched his swim wear and looked pleadingly at Eijirou and Aoyama.

“A little help here?” Izuku said.

“Little skinship has never hurt anyone, Midoriya.” Aoyama said.

“Come on, guys. Don’t fight.” Eijirou said.

“It’s not like he has anything to brag about down there.” Bakugou said.

“You just going to take that?” Ojiro said.

Izuku backed away slowly.

“… I think I’ll bathe alone.”

“Tokoyami! Don’t let him leave!” Kaminari yelled.

“My apologies, Midoriya.” Tokoyami said when his Quirk Dark Shadow blocked the exit.

Ojiro and Monoma got out of the bath.

“Get him!” Ojiro said.

Before Izuku could make a run for it, Ojiro and Monoma had yanked his pants down. A chilly silence filled the bath. Bakugou was the first to break the quiet.

“So what if the nerd has a huge dick?! He’s still a useless, fucking nerd!” Bakugou screamed while getting out of the bath and strategically covering his privates with a towel.

Eijirou followed Bakugou out of the baths but not before giving Izuku a huge thumbs up. Izuku glared everyone left while pulling his pants back up. Ojiro watched them go with a nasty grin on his face.

“That brighten your day a bit?” Ojiro said.

“This is goddamn sexual assault!” Izuku yelled.

“This is bullshit! That’s what it is!” Mineta answered.

“I was right. Pay up, Mineta.” Ojiro said while slipping back into the water.

“Goddamn it.” Mineta said.

Monoma just looked at Izuku and left the baths with his shoulders slumped. Kaminari got out of the water to follow him but not before stopping to look at Izuku.

“Midoriya, if you ever so much as look at Kyoka funny, I’ll break you into so many pieces not even Recovery Girl can put you back together.” Kaminari said before leaving.

Izuku got into the baths and splashed water at Aoyama.

“Thanks for the help.” Izuku said.

“You should be grateful. Bakugou won’t be able to look you in the eyes for weeks.” Aoyama said.

***

Mei paddled in the hot water and stared at the wooden wall that separated the baths with the other girls. Momo’s cheeks had turned red and Mei suspected it wasn’t because of the heat.

“What are they doing in there?” Momo said.

“By the sound of it shooting the worst gay porn I’ve ever heard of.” Mei said.

“Don’t they know we can hear everything?” Jiro said.

“Who cares? I’ve got everything I need right here.” Uraraka said.

“What did Aizawa tell you about boundaries?” Mei said.

Uraraka grumbled and sank deeper into the water.

“It’s not really that big, is it?” Tsu said.

Hagakure giggled.

“Wouldn’t you want to know?”

Everyone turned to look at Hagakure.

“How do you know that?” Mei said.

“I have my ways.” Hagakure said.

Tsu started croaking.

“Like what?” Tsu said.

“A lady never reveals her secrets.” Hagakure said.

Mei got up.

“As much as I’d love to pry them out of you, I have lessons to attend to.” Mei said.

“You’ll do fine. If you don’t understand something, I’ll help you.” Momo said.

Mei sighed.

“Thanks, Momo.”

Before leaving the bath, Mei glanced at the wooden wall.

“Hey, guys! Stop molesting Izuku!” Mei yelled.

The boys side fell quiet.

“We’re not…!” Mineta yelled.

“Nice try! I know you’ve been planning to gang up on him and fill every hole he has. Including the ears and nostrils!”

“That’s it! I’m out!” Izuku screamed and stomped out of the bath.

Mei laughed and hit the lockers to get dressed. When she got to the classroom reserved for the remedial lessons Eijirou was already there. And Monoma who was looking less than a shadow of himself.

“Mei.” Eijirou said.

“Eijirou. My man.” Mei said and sat next to him.

“Never thought I’d see you here.” Eijirou said.

“Likewise. Good thing you’re here too. Otherwise I might have had everyone here assassinated.” Mei said.

“Really?”

“Really, really but I can’t be mad with you around.” Mei said and glanced at Monoma: “What’s with him?”

“He saw Izuku naked and…”

“Say no more.” Mei said.

The lectures seemed to go on forever. What made it all worse was that she already knew all this thanks to Izuku’s notes but she managed to draw strength from the knowledge that her bank account was bigger than Eraserhead’s. It wasn’t until eleven that Aizawa allowed them to leave for bed. Eijirou waved her goodbye and stumbled to the guys side. Before Mei could rest, she had to make sure that her makeshift workshop had been set up properly.

Finding Momo there was a surprise but not an unwelcome one.

“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Mei said.

“Just wanted to make sure you hadn’t run for the hills and I knew you’d come here first.” Momo said.

“Man. Have you been stalking me?” Mei said.

“I’m just that perceptive.” Momo said.

“Won’t argue with…” Mei said when she heard the creaking of floorboards.

“What is it?” Momo said.

“Hush.” Mei said.

Soft steps echoed in the hallway. The kind that you took when you didn’t want to be heard. Thoughts about her phantom stalker and the spy came back. Without missing a beat, Mei took out one of Izuku’s scouters.

Realization made Momo turn pale.

“You think… it’s the spy?”

“Let’s find out. Sagan.” Mei said.

Sagan’s computer turned on.

“You called, mom?”

“Follow whoever is creeping in the hallway.” Mei said.

“Right on, mom.”

Sagan took control of the scouter and flew it out of the window.

“A boy or a girl?” Mei said.

“A girl. Not sure who.” Sagan said.

“Can you get closer?” Momo said.

“Not without being spotted. I…”

Sagan fell quiet and then started giggling.

“What is it?” Momo said.

“I’ll put you on loudspeaker.” Sagan said.

Voices filled the room and Mei recognized Jiro… and Kaminari.

“Oh no.” Mei sighed.

“You’re late.” Jiro complained.

“Ran into Kirishima. Kyoka. Do me a favor. Tell me it’s bigger than Midoriya’s.” Kaminari said.

“What?” Jiro said.

“Please tell me my dick is bigger than Midoriya’s.” Kaminari said desperately.

Jiro laughed.

“Fine. Your dick is bigger than Midoriya’s.”

“Well shit. Sagan. Turn it off.” Mei said.

“Wait. We should keep listening.” Momo said.

“Why?” Mei said.

“This… might be a ruse. We need to make sure they’re not both spies.” Momo said.

Mei turned Sagan off.

“I’m going to bed.” Mei said.

“… okay.” Momo said disappointed.

***

Despite the long day they’d had, Aizawa-sensei woke them up early. Shouto got up without complaint. He’d had harder hours under Endeavor. The others weren’t as used to it as him and even Izuku had trouble getting up. Much to his surprise Iida in particular had to struggle to keep his eyes open.

When Shouto saw Iida at breakfast, he looked like a haunted man. There was an ugly glint in his eyes that reminded Shouto of the dark days just after Ingenium had been maimed by Stain. The look wasn’t lost on Izuku who looked at Iida worried.

“Did you get any sleep?” Shouto said.

“Not much as I would’ve liked.” Iida said while sitting down. Then he looked around before leaning in closer: “Why are all the girls staring at us?”

“You wish they were staring at us.” Shouto said.

“Shouto. Don’t.” Izuku said.

“Let’s just say that you missed quite a show in the baths.” Shouto said.

“Goddamn it, Shouto.” Izuku complained.

“So Ojiro won the bet.” Iida said.

“That he did. You should’ve seen the look on Bakugou’s face.” Shouto said.

“Hate you. Hate you both.” Izuku mumbled.

After breakfast Aizawa-sensei told them to gather at the yard. Shouto put on his gauntlets and boots while wishing he’d had the full armor but Mei’s failing grades had thrown a wrench in their timetable. When he got outside Izuku had already donned the full armor and Shouto stood next to him while Aizawa-sensei addressed all of them.

“For the past year you have been developing your technique. So now we’re going to strengthen your Quirks. I expect all of you to work hard and make full use of the opportunity you have.” Aizawa-sensei said.

Izuku put up his hand.

“What about me and Shouto?”

“You’ll be helping us with that. Midoriya. You’ll start by sparring with Kirishima. Todoroki, you’ll train with Asui.” Aizawa-sensei said.

Shouto put his own hand up.

“Would it be possible for me to train with Iida? I could use some tips on super speed.” Shouto said.

Aizawa-sensei glanced at Iida who just nodded.

When the training began, Shouto started racing with Iida. Even with the boost that Mei’s equipment gave him, he could never overtake Iida. His Quirk had turned him into a perfect running machine. After what had happened to Ingenium, Iida might have well been the fastest man in Japan. Perhaps even further.

But just because he couldn’t overtake Iida, didn’t mean Iida could shake him off either.

He could match Iida lap for lap and there were even times where Iida had to exert himself to keep his lead. They kept pushing each other for well over an hour before even they had to take a breather. Shouto fell on his back gasping for air and dried his face on his shirt. Iida was barely winded.

“You okay?” Shouto said.

Iida looked away.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because of what Eri said.” Shouto said.

“I’m fine.” Iida said.

Shouto let out a bitter laugh.

“Has bottling things up done any of us any favors?” Shouto said.

Iida bared his teeth like a man in pain.

“Did you know Stain has… merchandise?” Iida said.

“I’ve noticed.” Shouto admitted.

“All the things he did, and now… he has merchandise. And what Eri said… it’s like she thinks he’s a… hero.”

“She’s a child. She’ll grow and… understand.” Shouto said and rubbed his scar: “It can be hard… for kids to understand things like this. Gray areas.”

“Gray areas?” Iida said bitterly: “He crippled my brother.”

“Yeah and he killed at least three heroes but… do you think that’s what Eri remembers? Or that Stain saved her from Overhaul?”

Iida was quiet.

“Do you regret it? Not… killing him?” Shouto said.

Iida opened and shut his fist.

“Sometimes I do. Sometimes… all I can think about is killing him but then… I remember what you said. How my brother had already lost enough.”

“How’s he doing?” Shouto said.

“He… he’ll look after the business side of the agency and he’ll do lectures.” Iida said and looked at the power boots: “It’s not fair. It should’ve been me. I could have adjusted easily but you…”

“Life’s not fair and who knows. Maybe Shigaraki’s sensei doesn’t have a cure just for your brother.” Shouto said.

Iida… Tenya smiled.

“Let’s hope. You saved me, and I’ll do everything I can to help you, Todoroki.” Tenya said.

“Shouto.”

“Sorry?”

“Call me Shouto, Tenya.” Shouto said.

“Okay, Shouto.” Tenya said and helped him up.

“I’m glad I could help you. I’ve lost a brother and… I didn’t want Ingenium to go through that too.” Shouto said.

“Your brother?” Tenya said.

“Toya. He and dad… didn’t get along. Then they had one of those fights.”

Tenya looked away.

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. Me too.” Shouto said.

Shouto would never admit it to anyone but the worst part of Toya leaving was that… he’d been relieved when he ran away. Toya had always been the bravest of them. The one who stood between him and dad but… Toya had been just a child too. It had all been so hard on him. Too hard. After every argument and fight with dad he’d been a bit colder. A bit meaner. Then mom had lost it and… it felt like all goodness had died in him. After that… Toya could be scarier than Endeavor.

***

Mei sat alone in her temporary workshop, slurping coffee and singing to herself while monitoring the training.

“If it hadn't been for Catamite Joe
I'd been married long time ago
Where did you come from? Where did you go?
Where did you come from, Catamite Joe?”

The new equipment she had built for Izuku and Shouto was working like a dream, but it could still use work. Shouto couldn’t surpass Iida in terms of speed. Something she’d have to work on. There was a knock on the door and Power Loader stepped in with Eri and Kouta.

“Are you busy?” Power Loader said.

“Extremely.” Mei said.

“Eraserhead was hoping you could watch after Eri and Kouta for a moment.”

Eri was hugging her iPad and Kouta flipped her off. One of his hands was bandaged.

“Just because Aizawa doesn’t understand my work, doesn’t mean it isn’t important.” Mei said.

“I’m sure my star pupil can do some multitasking.” Power Loader said.

Mei grinned.

“You’re goddamn right I can.”

“And try not to swear in front of the children.” Power Loader said.

“I make no promises.” Mei said.

Mei was left alone with the children.

“Want some coffee?” Mei said.

“… no.” Eri said.

“How about a coke?”

“… I … Mr. Aizawa said I shouldn’t drink too much of that.” Eri said.

“My watch. My rules.” Mei said.

“I don’t want anything from you!” Kouta said.

“Hey. More for me and my girl Eri.” Mei said and handed Eri a coke from the fridge: “Also, if you try to punch me in the balls, there will be a reckoning.”

“You don’t have balls.” Kouta said.

“Brat, I have all the balls.” Mei said.

“… come on. Don’t fight.” Eri said.

To Mei’s surprise that actually shut Kouta up. She threw back her coffee and poured herself another cup.

“Want to see something cool?” Mei said.

“… okay.” Eri said.

Kouta simply nodded.

Mei snapped her fingers.

“Sagan. To me.”

Sagan’s computer turned on.

“Helping dad.”

“Help me instead. It’s just training. He’ll be fine. I think.” Mei said.

Sagan’s face appeared on the computer screen. Eri and Kouta took a step backwards.

“What… what is it?” Kouta said.

“She. Not it.” Mei said.

“My name is Sagan.” Sagan said.

Eri hid her face with the iPad.

“… hi.”

“Nice to meet you.” Sagan said and waved at Kouta: “You too, Kouta.”

Kouta mumbled a response Mei couldn’t make out.

“Show us some footage. Let’s see how our boys are doing.” Mei said.

Sagan disappeared and was replaced with footage of Indestructible throwing down with Eijirou. Mesmerized Eri stepped closer to the screen.

“… his armor looks different.” Eri said.

“I make sure every new model looks a little different.” Mei said.

“Why?” Kouta said.

“We’ll be starting a toy line soon. The more different armors there are, the more toys people have to buy. Why do you think All-Might changes his costume so often?” Mei said.

“… oh.” Eri said disappointed: “… I thought… there was a better reason.”

“That’s all heroes care about, huh? Selling toys?” Kouta said.

“Even heroes have bills to pay.” Mei said.

Kouta glared at her reproachfully.

“Are you a hero too?” Kouta said.

“Yeah. The unsung hero who keeps this dog and pony show running.” Mei said.

“… then… shouldn’t you be training with the others?” Eri said.

“There are many kinds of heroes. Behind every hero is a support network that doesn’t get nearly enough credit.” Mei said.

“… I don’t think I want to be that kind of hero.” Eri said.

Kouta looked at Eri and some of his aggressiveness disappeared.

“Why do you want to be a hero?” Kouta said.

“Well, she does have the Quirk for it. Taking down a Noumu was some All-Might level shit.” Mei said.

“… couldn’t you build me an armor? I… hate my Quirk.” Eri said.

Kouta fell quiet. Sagan shut down the footage and reappeared on the screen.

“Why?” Sagan said.

“… I… I… daddy… it hurts people. And Mr. Chisaki used it to hurt people too. Shouto lost his Quirk because of me.” Eri said.

Mei put down her coffee. Kouta didn’t seem to grasp what Eri had just said which was a blessing. Judging from what Izuku had told her, she’d thought Eri had some kind of a disintegration Quirk. Had she been wrong?

“What’s your Quirk exactly?” Mei said.

“… Mr. Chisaki said it rewinds… time. When people didn’t have Quirks.” Eri said.

“Why do you call him Mr. Chisaki?” Kouta said.

“… he told me to call him that.” Eri said.

“You don’t have to do that anymore.” Kouta said.

“He’s right and it was Overhaul who forced you to hurt people. It wasn’t your fault.” Mei said and looked around: “Have you… told anyone else about your Quirk?”

“… no.” Eri said.

“Good. Let’s keep it that way. For now.” Mei said.

She shuddered to think what some people would do to get their hands on a Quirk like that. What Endeavor might do. She was in no hurry to find out.

“Could you do me a solid one and give me a sample?” Mei said.

Eri backed away and Kouta stepped between them.

“She hates needles. I won’t let you hurt her.” Kouta said.

“No needles. I promise.” Mei said and smiled at Eri: “You trust me?”

“You really shouldn’t.” Sagan said.

“Thank you, Sagan. As always your help has been… irreplaceable.” Mei said.

“Happy to help.” Sagan said.

I’ve raised a smartass, Mei thought.

“… you promise it won’t hurt?” Eri said.

“Scouts honor.” Mei said and rolled one of Eri’s hairs around her finger.

She yanked the hair out too fast for Eri to notice but there was a sample in the root that she could use.

“See? That wasn’t so bad.” Mei said and looked at Sagan: “Distraction. Now.”

“Who wants to play video games?!” Sagan said.

While Eri and Kouta were distracted, Mei sealed up the hair sample and dialed up Recovery Girl’s number.

“Recovery Girl! How’s my favorite nurse?!” Mei said.

“I do have a doctorate, you know? What did you do to Midoriya this time, Hatsume?” Recovery Girl said over the phone.

“Nothing. Yet. I also have Shouto to wreck these days.” Mei said.

“Don’t remind me.”

“I could swear you don’t trust me.” Mei said.

“Izuku has a deaf ear, scarred face, maimed hand and bad knee.”

“The knee wasn’t on me.” Mei said.

“That’s what you say. So, if no one’s dying, what can I do for you?” Recovery Girl said.

“Have you been checking if Shouto still has that Quirk eraser in his system? All-Might wanted to have that cross-examined.” Mei said.

“Didn’t know you have the qualifications.” Recovery Girl said.

“I don’t. That’s why you have to teach me to use the equipment.”

“It almost sounds like you have something.” Recovery Girl said.

Mei looked at the hair sample.

“I might.”

Mei was the first person to admit that she didn’t much care for kids but as long as she had video games to throw at them to keep them distracted, all was good. She could concentrate on her work and before she knew it the training was over, and she could hand them back to the teachers. Kouta followed Eri like a grumpy puppy when she went with Aizawa. Kouta’s guardian Mandalay was particularly grateful.

“I hope he wasn’t too much trouble.” Mandalay said.

“He didn’t try to punch me in the balls if that’s what you mean.” Mei said.

“I… didn’t but good.” Mandalay said and looked after Kouta and Eri: “It’s good that he’s… at least trying to make friends.”

“He has problems with that? With such a winner personality?” Mei said.

“He used to be such a sweet kid and then his parents… Have you heard of the hero couple Water Hose?”

“Aw… shit.” Mei said.

What had happened to Water Hose had been huge news despite them being relatively small-time heroes. No one deserved to die like that.

“That was your brother?” Mei said.

“… yes.” Mandalay said.

“I’m sorry. I… kinda get it. A family friend of mine died recently.” Mei said.

“Seito Kawada? Never met him but your mother mentioned him a few times.” Mandalay said.

Mei was taken back.

“You know her?” Mei said.

“Not as well as Ragdoll. They’ve worked together often in missing person cases. They have the knack for it. Ragdoll can locate people and Farsight has her super sight.”

“I have that too.” Mei said.

“Ever thought of hero work?” Mandalay said.

“Not as a field agent.” Mei said.

Mandalay thanked her once more before going after Kouta. Mei turned to look at the corner.

“I know you’re there. Creeping on me.” Mei said.

Bakugou stepped out from behind the corner. When she got a good look at him, Mei realized he had changed. He looked less belligerently smug and more… thoughtful. It was a small change but easy to spot if you knew what you were looking for.

When he looked at her, there was a flash of the old Bakugou.

“You think you know everything?” Bakugou said.

“Not yet but I’m working on it.” Mei said and grinned: “Feeling nostalgic? I bet you and Izuku were just like Eri and Kouta as kids.”

Bakugou bared his teeth.

“You…”

“Sore spot, huh? Sorry, sorry. Feel free to say whatever you want. Like how my mom is never coming back. There are no cameras here. Maybe.” Mei said.

“Fuck you. And Midoriya wasn’t like Eri as a kid.” Bakugou said.

“Must have taken a while for you to break him then.” Mei said and leaned on a wall: “So, what do I owe this… questionable pleasure for?”

Bakugou crossed his arms.

“You’re shooting another video.”

“And I will once we get back to civilization. It’s a pity I don’t have audio of you when you saw Izuku’s junk.”

Bakugou’s cheek twitched.

“It will be about me.” Bakugou said.

“Will it? Not everything is about you, Bakugou baby.”

Bakugou prayed for patience.

“Do you know… how infuriating it is to talk to you?”

“Now you know how the rest of us feel. Why should I help you?” Mei said.

“Why? Why?!” Bakugou yelled and hit a wall.

The outburst was just a brief loss of control and Bakugou reined himself in fast.

“Because of you I almost…”

“And you would have deserved all of it. I don’t cry for assholes.” Mei said and looked outside: “Izuku told me you’re cleaning the beach.”

“I… yes.”

“I hate that place. I almost drowned in shit there.” Mei said.

Bakugou’s eyes widened.

“What?”

“Nothing. You know… I thought it was just you trying to save face but… I’ve seen it myself and you look serious.” Mei said and laughed: “If there’s hope for you, guess I still have a shot.”

They stood in silence for a moment.

“I’ll talk to Izuku. If he says yes, we’ll shoot a video about you. You’re lucky he’s not like us.” Mei said.

“Like us?” Bakugou said.

“An asshole.”

Bakugou nodded.

“Thanks, Hatsume.”

“Slow your rowing. No need for us to start sucking each other’s balls.” Mei said.

***

Eijirou turned on his Quirk and Indestructible powered up his armor.

“Okay, Izuku. Do me a favor and hit me as hard as you can.” Eijirou said.

“What?!”

Eijirou grinned.

“I want to know what it feels like. I need to know if I can take it.” Eijirou said and tapped his chin: “Just imagine I’m Bakugou. Come at me, bro.”

“You sure about this?”

“Hit me, dude!”

Indestructible hit him but it barely made Eijirou flinch.

“What was that weak shit? Come on, bro! Plus Ultra! Hit me like you mean it!” Eijirou said.

“I don’t think…” Indestructible said.

“Don’t think! Just do it!”

“Fine.”

Indestructible hit him like he meant it and sent Eijirou flying.

“Eijirou! Are you alright?!”

Indestructible ran to Eijirou and helped him up.

“Alright? It was perfect.” Eijirou said and cracked his knuckles: “Let’s do this.”

They started sparring. Like him, Eijirou was a brawler who relied more on his strength and invulnerability than actual skill. Also, like Indestructible, Eijirou had the basics down and a ton of experience using it.

Not that it mattered.

The Mark 3.0 outstripped Eijirou in speed, power and toughness and Indestructible did his best to hold back so not to hurt Eijirou’s feelings. They went on trading blows until Eijirou’s hands began to shake.

“Let’s take a break.” Indestructible said.

Eijirou turned off his Quirk and wiped the sweat from his face.

“What was that?” Eijirou said.

“We were sparring?”

“You held back.” Eijirou said.

Indestructible was grateful the helmet covered his face.

“Eijirou…”

“Look. I’m not that dumb.” Eijirou said and looked at the Indestructible armor bitterly: “I know you’re leaving me behind.”

Eijirou turned his sight to his hands and his scarred knuckles.

“I never thought I’d get here. My Quirk… it used to be really weak. But I kept training. Working out. I kept it up even when I thought it wasn’t helping. Then… I felt something. So, I kept it up and suddenly one day my Quirk… evolved.”

Eijirou clenched his fist.

“I’m feeling it again. I’m close to evolving. So, don’t hold back. Fight me like you mean it.” Eijirou said.

Indestructible took a boxing stance.

“Okay, Eijirou. Okay.”

They started over. Despite being weaker than him and Indestructible going all out, Eijirou didn’t go down easy. Eijirou’s Quirk didn’t have anything on his willpower. When Indestructible was afraid he’d drown in sweat inside his armor, Aizawa-sensei finally announced that training for the day was done. Indestructible removed the armor and Izuku headed to the showers. Cold water released some of the tension in his aching muscles. Even with the armor on, Eijirou had managed to bruise him. When he got out of the showers, he opened a bottle of mineral water and downed it in one go.

On the way to the lounge, he ran into Pixie-bob.

“Hi.” Pixie-bob said.

“… uh… hi.”

Pixie-bob grinned.

“Just thought I’d say hi. The first time we have a real celebrity here.”

A celebrity? A pro was calling him… a celebrity?

“Uh… it’s Indestructible that’s famous. Not me.” Izuku said.

“Modest. I love it. Maybe the Pussycats should cameo in one of your videos. We could use the exposure.” Pixie-bob said.

“… you should take that up with Mei.”

“Why? Aren’t you partners?” Pixie-bob said and smiled playfully: “Have you given any thought on which agency to apply for after U.A?”

“… I was thinking about starting my own agency.” Izuku said.

“Really? Modest and ambitious. What’s not to love? But going solo right off the bat might be tough. Ever thought about working for a small but growing agency? Like ours? The benefits are great.” Pixie-bob said.

Izuku checked quickly Pixie-bob’s shoulders. She probably had a well-toned back. His heartbeat quickened and something else stiffened.

“… I… uh… I don’t know really…”

Pixie-bob laughed.

“You’re cute. You remind me of this guy I knew nine years ago.”

“… really? Was he a hero?” Izuku said.

“No. He worked for a real estate and construction company. His firm actually maintains Tartarus. He helped us pick our office. I had a real fun two weeks with him.” Pixie-bob said and then looked Izuku more closely: “You even look a little like him. It’s the freckles.”

Izuku had a terrible feeling.

“… that guy… what was his name?” Izuku said.

“I think it was… Hisashi?”

NO! NO! NO! NO! NOOO!

Pixie-bob clasped his hands.

“Hey, if you have a moment, I could show you some moves I’ve learned as a pro.”

“Izuku.”

Izuku could have cried from relief when he saw Tsu. The sight of Pixie-bob made her furrow her brow and yank Izuku away from her.

“Am I interrupting anything?” Tsu said coolly.

“No! What… what do you need?” Izuku said.

“We’re cooking our own food so…”

“Yes! Let’s go right now.” Izuku said.

“Good idea.” Tsu said and pulled him away by the hand.

“Oh.” Pixie-bob said sounding disappointed: “Just… just don’t get too hung up on one guy, okay? You’ll just date him for seven years before he leaves you for some twenty-year-old bimbo and then… all you want is a do-over. Promise me.”

Tsu gripped Izuku’s hand tighter.

“Um… I promise.”

“Good.” Pixie-bob said.

They left but not quickly enough for Izuku’s liking.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you. That was terrifying.” Izuku said.

“Happy to help.” Tsu said and looked back: “It was kinda sad too.”

“I guess.” Izuku said.

“Who’s Hisashi? You got… kinda weird when she mentioned him.”

“We’re you spying on us?” Izuku said.

“I just didn’t want to interrupt… until she got kinda aggressive.”

Izuku thought about it.

“… he’s my father.”

“Really? Wait. Does that mean she and him…?”

“Could we please talk about something else?!” Izuku pleaded.

“Sure. Uh… Were you serious about starting your own agency?” Tsu said.

“Yeah. We could concentrate on training heroes… who are like me. Quirkless.” Izuku said.

Tsu let out a few croaks that Izuku couldn’t quite pin down.

“Was it bad? Growing up Quirkless?”

“It wasn’t something I’d wish on anyone.” Izuku said.

Tsu nodded.

“You know… growing up with a mutant type Quirk isn’t fun either. Particularly if you look like me. My parents… it was worse when they were young. Mutant type heroes like Selkie have helped a lot but… they can’t still get good jobs. These things… don’t disappear overnight.” Tsu said.

Izuku smiled.

“Thanks, Tsu. And… I like the way you look.”

Tsu started croaking again. When they got out to the cooking site, Mineta turned to stare at them.

“What?” Izuku said.

Mineta just looked downwards and Izuku realized he and Tsu were still holding hands.

***

Momo looked ready to fall over when she saw Izuku and Tsu walk out holding hands and Mei got ready to catch her. Poor Momo. She spent so much time weighting the pros and cons of every decision that someone else had the time to swoop in and snatch the prize. Mei helped Momo and the others set the table while making her way closer to Izuku who was peeling and slicing vegetables.

Mei grinned at him.

“What?” Izuku said suspiciously.

“Nothing. Was just wondering where you learned to cook, partner.” Mei said.

“When mom got part-time jobs, she would work late. I thought it would be nice for her to have food when she got home.” Izuku said.

“Cool, cool. Tsu is a lucky girl.” Mei said.

“The hand holding was an accident!” Izuku said.

“Hey. Don’t mock accidents because that’s what we both are.”

“Goddamn it, Mei.” Izuku said.

“Just keeping you humble.” Mei said and glanced at Bakugou who was chatting with Eijirou: “Had a chat with Lord Explosion Psycho Murder.”

Izuku gripped the knife harder.

“About what?”

“He wants to shoot another video with us.” Mei said.

“And?”

“And I promised to ask you.” Mei said.

Izuku stared at the vegetables.

“Izuku?”

“I’ll think about it.” Izuku said.

“You do that.” Mei said when she notices Kouta slipping away from the camp.

Eri followed him quickly.

“I’ll talk to you later.” Mei said.

“Okay.” Izuku said.

When she tried to leave, Bakugou was there to stop her.

“Don’t you have remedials?” Bakugou said.

“Guess I’ll have to be fast.” Mei said.

“Guess so. What did he say?”

“He’ll think about it.” Mei said.

After Bakugou let her go, Eri and Kouta were gone. Not that they could hide from her. Mei activated her Quirk and scanned the area. When she spotted them, she quickened her steps. Kouta had headed deeper into the forest and then up a slope to a cliff while making sure Eri could keep up. Mei kept her distance until they stopped and sat down.

“Isn’t this a bit dangerous place for a date?” Mei said.

Eri and Kouta flinched. When he got over his scare, Kouta snarled at her.

“What are you doing here?! Go away!” Kouta yelled and threw a rock at her.

Her eyes made catching it easy.

“Kouta.” Mei said slowly: “I’m not someone you can throw rocks at. I’m not your aunt. I don’t have to put up with your bullshit.”

“… please don’t fight.” Eri pleaded.

“Wouldn’t be much of a fight. Never lost a fight with a four-year-old.” Mei said and sat down: “I was hoping I could hide here from Eraserhead before he drags me to another lecture.”

Eri looked at Kouta.

“… can she?”

Kouta wasn’t tough enough to say no.

“Fine.”

Mei looked at the forest.

“I… am going to start yammering now and you won’t interrupt me. I heard what happened to your parents. I’m sorry.”

Kouta’s temper flared up and he was close to tears. Eri was just scared and confused.

“What do you care?! All of you heroes are the same! You just want to sell toys!” Kouta yelled.

“Yeah. I hate them too.” Mei said.

This shocked Kouta enough that he forgot to be angry. Somehow Eri had turned even paler.

“My dad didn’t die but that didn’t stop a villain from fucking him up. For trying to do the right thing. Bastard got away with it too.” Mei said and clenched her fist: “I was so angry. All I wanted was to fuck him up back. Get back everything I lost.”

“Did you?” Kouta said.

“I didn’t have to. Someone else did. They went after his son and… I was happy. The kid had done nothing to me but… I was still happy because it hurt his dad.”

Mei threw a rock over the cliff.

“Revenge is a sucker’s game, Kouta, and movies are bullshit. You’ll just hurt people you care about… until you don’t have people to care about. You should talk to Iida how well revenge worked for him.” Mei said.

“I…” Kouta said.

He was cut off by the blaring of sirens. Eri hugged her for safety.

“… what’s going on?” Eri whispered.

“Trouble.” Mei said and took their little hands: “We need to get back to the compound.”

While descending the slope, Mei spotted a tall, muscular man approaching them. For a moment she let herself hope it was Vlad King coming to escort them to safety. Then the reek hit her. What was that stench?! And why was it so familiar?!

“Well, aren’t I in luck?”

The Sludge Villain’s yellow eyes were bulging out of the unfamiliar face. The veins in his stolen body had turned black.

“… you.” Mei whispered.

“Hi, Hatsume. Been a while. Wanna continue were we left off at the beach?” The Sludge Villain said and glanced at Eri and Kouta: “You got kids now? The Quirkless freak has been busy. They can watch.”

She knew it was a meaningless gesture, but Mei pushed Eri and Kouta behind her.

“You…” Kouta said with a trembling voice.

“What about me? Have we met?” The Sludge Villain said.

“You killed them!” Kouta yelled.

Kouta activated his Quirk and a water whip lashed the Sludge Villain. He just laughed it off.

“I’ve killed a lot of people. Or did you mean Muscular? Would explain why the sight of you got him all excited. A small part of him is still…”

An explosion hit the Sludge Villain in the back and almost threw him off the cliff.

“Back off, fuckhead.” Bakugou said.

Chapter Text

Shuichi laid on his bunk while watching older Project: Indestructible videos. The editing was as bad as he remembered but the poor quality had grown on him. But the real hook was Indestructible. Not the armor but the hero who piloted it. It was strange seeing him so insecure. The first time Izuku appeared he was still the scared little boy Shuichi had run into at that car repair shop. But slowly, with every passing video, he grew. More confident. More assertive. Stronger. Eventually the videos starred the hero he’d faced in Stain’s lair.

He wanted that too. That confidence. A place to belong. A home.

There was a knock on the door and Mustard peeked in.

“It’s time.”

Mustard’s voice trembled but not just from fear. Not this time. There was excitement in him too.

“Tell Tomura I’ll be there shortly.” Shuichi said and opened the briefcase containing his new equipment.

“He wants you to talk to the new recruits.” Mustard said.

“Me?”

“Yeah. You’re the reason they’re here. You’re the first disciple of Stain.” Mustard said.

Shuichi stared at his mask and armor.

“I’ll… be there soon.”

When Mustard was gone, Shuichi dropped his t-shirt and jeans. He put on the combat fatigues, thick boots and the body armor. The armor was more for show than anything else. His scales had grown harder. Thicker. He could tank a few hits from a Noumu now. Maybe even stop a bullet. Finally, he tied the mask around his face. For some reason a simple piece of cloth made him feel… different.

Shuichi took out his phone and dialed Kurogiri’s number in.

“Kurogiri. Could you do me a favor and give me a grand entrance?” Shuichi said.

“Of course.” Kurogiri said and a black portal opened next to Shuichi.

He stepped through it and found himself in a warehouse filled with people. Everyone was dressed in a costume that looked self-made. Many were wearing masks, but Shuichi knew them. Even though he had never met them, he knew their stories. They had nothing except a hungry desperation to live. Like him and Mustard they’d all clawed their way here. Against all odds.

Shuichi was grateful for the mask more than ever. It put something between him and their expectations.

One of the would-be villains stepped closer. She was wearing a blue demon mask.

“You… you’re… him. Aren’t you? Stain’s first disciple.” The blue demon said.

“That’s right. My name is… Spinner.” Shuichi said.

“A bit silly.” The blue demon said.

“Maybe. Won’t they feel dumb when someone named Spinner gives them a beating?” Shuichi said and looked at the blue demon: “What’s your name?”

“I… Blue Oni.”

The scared eyes behind the mask told Shuichi what he had to say.

“Nice to meet you, Blue Oni.” Shuichi said and looked around: “As well as everyone here! I’m happy to see my master has touched so many! Tonight, we will make him proud! Our enemies call us villains! Bad guys! Like that makes them heroes! What right do those arrogant fools have to judge us?! Have they ever been hungry or cold?!”

Shuichi pulled out his sword.

“We’ve been pushed down our entire lives! I’m done being kicked around! I say let’s kick back! If those arrogant bastards think we’re bad guys let’s show them how scary we can be! Let’s teach them what it feels like to be alone and hunted! Let’s teach them what they really are! Cowards! Arrogant cowards who turned their backs on All-Might! Who’s with me?!”

There was an explosion of roars. They washed over Shuichi and he felt… better than ever.

“The target’s name is Katsuki Bakugou! Catch him and bring him to me! If someone tries to stop you, give them a lesson they won’t forget! But remember this! No killing! Unless you face a teacher! They knew the risks!” Shuichi howled.

“What about Indestructible?” Blue Oni said.

“Yeah!” Someone yelled in the crowd: “Because of him, lord Stain is…!”

“Leave Indestructible to me! He is a true hero!” Shuichi answered.

The new recruits started pumping each other up for the big night. Shuichi left the warehouse to collect his thoughts and found Tomura waiting for him.

“Nice speech.” Tomura said.

“Thanks. I spoke from the heart.”

Tomura laughed.

“First I get one-upped by Indestructible and now you.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re cute when you’re jealous?” Shuichi said.

“I’m flattered but the League has a strict policy on office romances.” Tomura said.

“Aren’t we villains? Why not break some rules?” Shuichi said.

“I’m tempted but no.” Tomura said and pulled something out of his pocket: “I have a gift for you.”

“Is it a puppy? Please tell me it’s a puppy. I haven’t eaten yet.”

“Better.” Tomura said and handed him a syringe.

“Is that what I think it is?” Shuichi said.

“That depends. Do you think it’s Trigger?” Tomura said.

***

While the food was cooking, the teachers’ decided to hold tests of courage. Eraserhead had been against letting the remedial students partake but Minoru Mineta was grateful that Power Loader was more lenient. Sometimes Eraserhead could be too strict.

The Pussycats told them to form groups of two and then head into the woods in two-minute intervals. Momo gazed longingly at Izuku but Tsu had already gotten to him. She looked more down than Minoru had ever seen her, and he wondered if this was his shot. Ojiro seemed to be thinking the same thing, but Minoru managed to make it to her first.

“Hey, Momo. What do you say if you and me…?”

He didn’t even have time finish before Momo nodded. Not very enthusiastically but at least he had his foot in now. He turned to flash a smug grin at Ojiro who flipped him off in return.

“Doesn’t anyone wanna go with me?!” Uraraka said.

Everyone in the student body shared a look and then moved away from Uraraka. Everyone except one.

“I’ll go with you.”

Everyone turned to stare at the girl who had the balls to walk into a dark place with Uraraka. Even Momo forgot to be sad for a moment. The girl was easy to notice. The American from 1-B with hoofs and horns called… Pony. How cruel could someone’s parents be?

“… really?” Uraraka said.

“Yeah.” Pony said.

Minoru had never seen Uraraka so happy and she did an enthusiastic fist pump. Minoru gave her an uncertain thumbs-up before entering the woods with Momo.

“That was weird. How long do you think it will last before Uraraka screws it up?” Minoru said.

Momo mumbled an answer he couldn’t make out and the look on her face… just killed all the mood. Minoru sighed. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t hit on someone feeling that down.

“I’m sorry about Izuku but I think you dodged a bullet. Once Tsu dumps his ass, she’ll have some… very big expectations on what we’re packing. All her relationships will be nothing but a series of disappointments.” Minoru said.

That was enough to get a giggle out of her.

“See. There’s a bright side to everything. You just have to f…” Minoru said.

Sirens started blaring at the compound. Minoru looked around wildly.

“What… what is going on?!”

Suddenly he heard Mandalay’s voice inside his head.

“Attention all students! The compound is under attack! Return inside now!” Mandalay said with telepathy.

Momo used her Quirk to craft a spear. All her grief had been replaced with cool professionalism.

“We need to move.” Momo said.

Minoru’s legs started moving before he even had time to think. They started rushing back to the compound. Then he heard a whimper and smelled… blood?

“Oh… oh shit.” Minoru gasped.

Jiro and Kaminari were lying in the dark outside the path. Or what was left of them anyway. It took a moment for Minoru’s mind to accept what his eyes were seeing. Someone had… gutted Kaminari and he had to hold his entrails inside with his hands. Red bubbles were forming on his lips and he was staring right past them while shaking. The first sign of shock. Jiro wasn’t in much better shape. Her hands were covered in deep gashes, but she was still holding Kaminari. Tears and snot were running down her face. She didn’t seem to recognize them.

“… please… help him… please…” Jiro said.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.” Minoru whispered.

He… he couldn’t breathe. He had to get out of here! He wasn’t made to deal with this! He…!

Momo backhanded him.

“Ow! What the hell?!” Minoru said.

“You were panicking. I need you to stay calm.” Momo said and kneeled next to Jiro: “It will be alright. You’ll be okay.”

Momo’s voice was enough to bring Jiro back to her senses. At least a little. She nodded.

“Who did this?” Momo said.

“… I… I don’t know. She… she had our uniform but… her eyes and… teeth…”

“Okay. We need to stop Kaminari’s bleeding.” Momo said.

“And… and how do we do that?” Minoru said.

“We’ll use your glue to seal the wound.” Momo said.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.” Minoru said.

Momo put her hand on his shoulder.

“Mineta. I trust you.” Momo said.

Minoru shuddered.

“When did you become such a badass?” Minoru said.

Minoru started producing glue balls and tried to convince himself that he was doing something else, anything else than stitching up his friend’s guts. Kaminari’s blood stained his hands. It was hot and sticky, and Minoru wondered if he could ever get his hands clean. Kaminari lucked out and passed out from the pain. After sealing Kaminari’s stomach Minoru turned his head to throw up. He gagged and spat until his throat was sore.

“Oh shit! Holy fucking shit!” Minoru gasped while wiping his mouth.

“It’s not over yet.” Momo said while helping Jiro on her feet: “We need to get Kaminari out of here.”

“Moving him… isn’t a good idea.” Minoru said.

“We can’t leave him here!” Jiro cried.

“We won’t.” Momo said and put her hand on Jiro’s shoulders: “Jiro. Listen to me. I need you to check if Uraraka is close by. Can you do that?”

Jiro nodded, and her ear jacks started rattling as she listened to her surroundings.

“She’s close.” Jiro said.

“Good. I’ll call for her.” Momo said.

“The villains…” Minoru said.

“I can’t think of anything else. Jiro. Stay on the lookout for enemies.”

Momo took a deep breath.

“Uraraka! Help!”

Minoru heard the clapping of hoofs and soon Pony jumped down from the tree line carrying Uraraka.

“You called.” Uraraka said and then she saw Kaminari and Jiro: “Oh… shit.”

“Is… is he going to make it?” Pony said.

“Of course, he will!” Jiro said and hugged Kaminari: “He has to.”

“Uraraka. Use your Quirk to move Kaminari back to the compound. As gently as possible. We don’t know how much internal damage he has.” Momo said.

“Got it. I…” Uraraka said.

“Villains.” Jiro whispered.

Momo’s face hardened.

“All of you. Go. Uraraka. Carry the wounded. Jiro. Scout the enemies and avoid them. Mineta. Pony. Deal with anyone Jiro misses. Keep them safe.”

“What about you?” Minoru said.

“I’ll cover your escape.” Momo said.

“Alone?! Are you insane?! We…!” Minoru yelled.

Momo crafted a Kalashnikov with her Quirk.

“I… yeah. Guess that will do it.” Minoru admitted.

“Are you… are you going to kill them?” Pony said.

“No.” Momo said and loaded the rifle with rubber bullets: “I shoot to wound.”

“You’re the best.” Uraraka said.

They started running. Behind them they heard gunfire and screams.

***

Izuku walked in the woods alone with Tsu and she kept glancing at his hand.

“Something wrong?” Izuku said.

“No. I just… I’ve never done this before.” Tsu said and smiled shyly: “Have you?”

“I…” Izuku said.

He got ready to lie. It was a lie he’d practiced so often that he almost thought it was the truth but… he didn’t want to lie to Tsu.

“Yeah. I have.” Izuku said.

Tsu looked disappointed.

“With whom?”

“Bakugou.” Izuku said.

“Oh.” Tsu said and stared at the ground: “I… I’ve been meaning to ask… were you two… close?”

“Yeah. Once.”

“Um… how close?” Tsu asked.

“How close do you think?” Izuku said.

“You know. Close… like that.”

Izuku nodded.

“Yeah. We were close like that.” Izuku said.

“Oh.”

“And then… we weren’t. We were just kids but… it was real.”

“That must have been terrible.” Tsu said.

Izuku didn’t have to answer.

“Tsu… is that a problem? For you, I mean?”

Tsu was quiet.

“Tsu?” Izuku said.

“Do you… want to hold hands again?” Tsu said.

Izuku offered her his hand and she took it. They kept walking.

Two figures stepped out of the woods into the clearing. Despite both of them wearing demon masks, red and blue ones, Izuku suspected they were their age. Maybe the Pussycats had recruited students from 1-B to be the spooks in the test of courage.

Tsu leaned closer to whisper in his ear.

“This is kinda disappointing to be honest.” Tsu said.

“Yeah.” Izuku agreed.

“Did we interrupt your date?” The blue demon said.

“What a cute couple.” The red demon said.

“Uh… thanks. So… what are we going to do? Riddles or…?” Izuku said.

“Our orders were not to hurt the kids but…” The blue demon said and turned to look at the red one: “Wanna fuck with them?”

“Hell yeah.” The red demon said.

The demons struck a pose that could have been a mockery of the one the Pussycats did.

“The fresh recruits to the League of Villains are here to brighten your day! The Oni sisters!” The two demons said.

Sweat started running down Izuku’s back. Was… was this still part of the test of courage. He turned to look at Tsu for reassurance, but she was as lost as him.

“Hey, sis. What do you think of Indestructible?” The blue demon said.

“Kinda short.” The red demon said.

“Cool scars, though.” The blue demon said.

“What do you think lord Spinner sees in him?” The red demon said.

Izuku’s knee started to ache. He let go of Tsu’s hand and walked up to the Oni sisters.

“Where is he? Where’s Shuichi?” Izuku said.

The Oni sisters shared a look and started laughing.

“And what would you do if we told you? What are you good for without your armor?” The blue demon said.

“You’re nothing without it. Just some Quirkless freak.” The red demon said.

Tsu jumped over Izuku and kicked the red demon. Hard. She was sent flying and then she crashed down limply. When the blue demon turned to look after her sister, Izuku kicked her in turn. Even with the knee brace powering his leg, he was nowhere near Tsu’s level, but his kicks were strong enough to be dangerous. When the Oni sisters were knocked out, Izuku took out bindings and tied their hands and feet.

“That was disappointing. I was hoping they’d put up more of a fight.” Tsu said.

“Me too.” Izuku admitted: “We need to warn everyone. If the League is…”

Sirens started screaming in the night and Izuku could hear Mandalay’s voice in his head.

“Attention all students! The compound is under attack! Return inside now!” Mandalay said with telepathy.

When Izuku and Tsu tried to leave the forest, they found the path blocked. One of them was a tall, muscular man with thick lips and long red hair carrying a huge magnet. The other looked like a mummy wrapped in black cloth that left only his mouth exposed.

A shiver ran down Izuku’s back. He knew the bandaged man. Moonfish. A cannibalistic serial killer who’d escaped death row. Judging how Tsu tensed up, she knew him too.

“Holy shit. You made short work of the Oni sisters. Guess petty thieves with fancy masks are still just petty thieves. You two deserve to face better class criminals.” The red-haired man said and did a small bow: “Magne. The new big sis of the League of Villains.”

“Meat! Give it to me!” Moonfish howled and tried to rush at them but Magne pulled him back.

“Now, now, Moonfish. Remember what we talked about. You can eat Vlad King. We’ll just rough the kids up. This one’s Spinner’s.” Magne said.

Izuku and Tsu shared a look.

“Wanna beat them up?” Tsu said.

Izuku grinned.

“Yes. Sagan! To me!”

He’s summoned his armor the moment the Oni sisters had revealed themselves to be members of the League. The flying briefcase almost took Magne’s head off when Sagan brought it to him. The casing opened and Izuku shoved his hands into the gloves. The armor covered him in seconds. Indestructible turned to look at the villains and Sagan pointed a dozen different weak points.

“I’ll take Moonfish.” Indestructible said.

“He’s all yours.” Tsu said and went after Magne.

Magne lost control of Moonfish and the mad beast came rushing at Indestructible. His heartbeat echoed in his ears and he could taste blood. Adrenaline made his blood spark. This was way more fun than any hastily put together test of courage.

Moonfish unhinged his jaw like a serpent and his teeth grew into spears. Indestructible didn’t even bother to dodge them. He wasn’t called Indestructible for nothing and Moonfish’s jagged teeth broke against his armor. Moonfish didn’t have to mourn his loss for long and Indestructible was on him in seconds. A single hit was all it took to break Moonfish’s jaw and knock out the rest of his teeth.

“Nice one, dad.” Sagan said.

“Thank you, Sagan.” Indestructible said while quickly tying Moonfish up.

Then he turned his sights to Magne.

“Someone might say this is a bit unfair. You two ganging up on me.” Magne said.

“Life’s not fair.” Tsu said.

“What she said.” Indestructible agreed.

Magne laughed.

“Guess I’ll just have to deal with it.” Magne said and pointed his magnet at them.

An invisible force sent Indestructible and Tsu flying. He crashed and broke through trees. Tsu was able to turn herself in the air and hit the tree with her leg.

“Dad! I have data on her.” Sagan said.

“Her?” Indestructible mumbled.

How hard had he hit his head?

“She identifies as female.” Sagan said.

“Oh. Okay.” Indestructible said.

“She’s a thief and a killer. Her Quirk allows her to magnetize people of opposing genders. That big magnet must strengthen her Quirk. Usually she would have to touch people to use it.” Sagan said.

I need ranged weapons, Indestructible thought.

“I’ll…” Indestructible said when the distress signal started peeping.

“Dad! It’s mom! She’s in trouble!” Sagan screamed.

Indestructible sent out his trackers to scout to area and found Mei trapped in a cliff. With Eri and Kouta. Bakugou was facing a villain alone.

“No.” Indestructible whispered.

He turned to look at Tsu who was getting up with a grin on her face.

“Tsu! It’s Mei! And Eri and Kouta! They…!”

“Go! Go now! I’ll deal with this!” Tsu said.

Indestructible ran faster than he ever had.

***

Shota Aizawa rushed all the students that hadn’t yet left for the test of courage inside. Once everyone was in the compound steel doors slammed down and sealed all exits. Still… he felt something was off. After over ten years of field experience had honed his instincts and something told him that even this place wasn’t safe.

“Headcount! Now!” Shota ordered while glancing in the shadows.

“Eijirou Kirishima.”

“Mina Ashido.”

“Neito Monoma.”

“Mashirao Ojiro.”

“Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu.”

More students kept listing their names, but he wasn’t really listening anymore. Terrible thought came over him.

“… where’s Eri?” Shota said.

He didn’t see Kouta either. The students started looking around in growing alarm. Two children were out there. In a warzone.

“What did you just say?” A cold voice growled.

A sinewy man covered in green scales and light body armor stepped out of the shadows. A mask like Stain’s covered his face. The students stared shocked at the villain. Shota didn’t allow himself to be surprised and acted. He recognized the villain from Midoriya’s and Hatsume’s descriptions. Shuichi Iguchi. A villain who’d left Midoriya with a permanent injury.

Shota threw his binding strands at the villain. The villain didn’t even try to dodge and allowed himself to be captured. His face was rigid, and his eyes burned with cold fury.

“You’re under arrest.” Shota said.

“What did you mean where’s Eri?” Iguchi said.

“It’s none of your concern.” Shota said.

Iguchi bared his fangs.

“Fine. We’ll do it the hard way. Mustard!”

Green mist started filling the room. Shota filled his lungs while there was still breathable air. His students weren’t as quick, and a single whiff was enough to take them down. Small spikes popped out of Iguchi’s skin and tore the binding cloth into ribbons. Then the villain was on him.

Shota had studied both Iguchi’s and Mustard’s files after what had happened in Hosu. All he could gather was that Iguchi was a featherweight superhuman. The kind that were a dime in a dozen. The most unusual thing about him was his appearance. Even though Shota’s eraser Quirk didn’t work on mutant types, he was sure he could have handled Iguchi.

They would have to update Iguchi’s file and Shota cursed his arrogance.

There was nothing featherweight about Iguchi. He was way faster and stronger than anything Shota had expected. His scales could’ve rivaled Kirishima’s Quirk, but the worst part was how he fought. Iguchi didn’t fight like a street hoodlum whom anyone with proper training could bring down. He had solid foundation in martial arts and… he’d seen battles. Real battles were your life was on the line. All his attacks were meant to be finishers and there was harsh brutality to him. Iguchi wasn’t afraid to use lethal force.

Shota was better. More skilled. More experienced. But… he was five weight classes over his head. If he’d had more room to maneuver… backup… or if the air wasn’t poisonous to breath and unlike him Iguchi seemed to be immune to it but… Like the Noumu during the USJ incident, Iguchi soon pinned him down.

Then came the blows.

Every punch that Iguchi threw broke something and soon Shota was just a mess of blood and broken bones.

“One more time. Where’s Eri?” Iguchi growled.

Shota spat broken teeth at him.

“You…” Iguchi snarled.

“Are you going to kill him?”

A boy no older than his students hidden under a gas mask stood behind Iguchi. The gas had dissipated but its effects hadn’t. His students were lying unconscious at Mustard’s feet. Iguchi got up.

“No. Handle things here. Wait for Bakugou. I’ll go find Eri.” Iguchi said.

Shota laughed through his broken teeth. Iguchi turned to glare at him.

“What’s so funny?”

“The house… is sealed. You… you’re trapped here. It’s over. Don’t make this… worse for yourselves.” Shota managed.

“You think so?” Iguchi said.

Iguchi walked to the sealed door and grabbed it. Then he started to lift. The strain made every muscle in his body visible even through the scales. He groaned and grunted while pushing his body to its absolute limits. Shota was sure Iguchi’s body would break before the steel door. Soon something in him would give out.

Once again, Iguchi surprised him.

There was a sharp gasp as Iguchi tapped into some hidden reserve in himself and blood started dripping down from his nostrils. Then the steel door gave out a screech of defeat. Sparks flew as Iguchi forced the door to go against its programming and he pulled it open. Iguchi was left gasping for breath on the floor, but he didn’t stay down for long. He turned to stare at the felled Shota.

“Don’t… tell… me… what’s… impossible.” Iguchi panted.

Kirishima stumbled on his feet.

All of them turned to stare at Kirishima as he forced himself up. His Quirk had been activated but… there was something off about it. Like his armor was trying to… fight against its restraints. No one was more shocked than Mustard.

“That… that’s impossible. He… he’s supposed to be knocked out.” Mustard said.

And he was. One look in Kirishima’s eyes told Shota that the lights were off, and no one was home but somehow Kirishima’s will to fight had forced him back on his feet.

“Tough bastard. I think I like him.” Iguchi said.

Mustard took a deep breath.

“Go. Find Eri. I… I’ll deal with him.” Mustard said.

“You sure?”

“Yeah. Go before I change my mind.” Mustard said.

Iguchi pulled Mustard into a hug.

“Stay safe, pal.” Iguchi said.

“You too, Shuichi.” Mustard said.

Iguchi rushed out and Mustard turned to face Kirishima. Shota tried to force his body to move one more time. To no avail.

***

While Bakugou fought to keep them all alive, Mei did the only thing she could. She covered the kids the best she could and tried to get through to Izuku.

“Answer the goddamn phone, Izuku!” Mei screamed.

Kouta was screaming and crying while hugging her like it could make all the bad thigs go away.

“Mommy! Daddy! Help! Please!”

And Eri… she had gone still and numb. Her mind somewhere else.

Bakugou was doing well. He used his explosions to propel himself around the sludge freak while blasting at him. It was easy to see why he had been so confident that he could win the Sports Festival. Before Tsu anyway.

Bakugou was good but… good wasn’t good enough.

While he could blow away the slime covering the sludge freak, he couldn’t do any lasting damage. The slime would just grow back and… underneath it were those grotesquely swollen muscles. The sludge freak seemed to be able to grow them at will. He didn’t seem to feel any pain in his stolen body.

“Die, fucker!” Bakugou yelled.

The explosion that followed was deafening. The sludge freak just laughed it off.

“What was that? Weren’t you supposed to kill me?”

“Fucker!”

Bakugou sent out a series of smaller explosions but all they accomplished was leave him out of breath. The sludge freak pinned Bakugou down and covered his mouth. He turned to look at Mei and flashed her a row of yellow teeth.

“Ever seen someone drown in shit?”

Mei covered Kouta’s and Eri’s eyes.

“Don’t look.”

A dark figure jumped down and drove a sword in the sludge freak’s back. The sludge freak screamed although more from shock than pain. For one terrifying moment Mei thought it was Stain. Somehow the monster had broken out of Tartarus and was now here to finish her off. Then she saw the green scales. Eri saw them too and some life returned to her eyes. Scaly pulled Bakugou away and he spat out filth and bile.

“Spinner?! What…?” The sludge freak said.

“Payback time, slime boy. That’s what.” Scaly said.

The sludge freak was quiet for a moment and then started laughing.

“Are you betraying us? Never thought you’d have the balls.”

“Thought it was just fair. You screwed me over first.” Scaly said.

“… Shuichi?” Eri said.

Scaly glanced over his shoulder.

“Hi, Eri. You okay?”

“… you came.” Eri said.

“I keep my promises.”

The sludge freak laughed.

“How touching. I’d cry if it wasn’t so pathetic. But I guess it’s fine. Time to put this pet lizard down.”

Scaly pointed his sword at the sludge freak.

“Come and get me if you’re tough enough.”

Bakugou wiped his mouth and got back up. Explosions started building up in his hands.

The sludge freak grew even bigger. Than…

“Shock!”

When Indestructible jolted him at full power, the sludge freak screamed. This time from pain and not surprise. Last time it had been enough, but his stolen body had made him tougher. Still, it was enough to expose his flesh and blood body for a moment. Bakugou’s explosions seared the flesh and Scaly’s sword swing cut his stomach open. The sludge freak let out a furious roar of pain and started lashing around blindly. The slime covering the stolen body could grow new arms to hit or spew out filth but neither Indestructible, Bakugou or Scaly would give an inch. Mei grinded her teeth. Why was it that every time shit hit the fan she was only good for being a damsel in distress? If she got out of this one, she would have to make… improvements.

Kouta kept crying but Eri was… watching intently. There was righteous anger in her pale eyes and Mei wondered what a messed-up adult she would grow into after all the hell she’d gone through.

Even with three’s powers combined it wasn’t enough. Bakugou was getting sloppy and most of his attacks weren’t even hitting the sludge freak. Then Mei realized he was doing it on purpose. Just because he wasn’t hitting the sludge freak, didn’t mean he was missing. All those explosions were cracking the cliff. If she noticed it, that meant Sagan had too. It was easy to read Indestructible’s body language and spot when Sagan told him that the cliff had become fragile. All they needed was a…

“Distraction!” Mei yelled and pulled up her shirt.

It was dumb and ridiculous, but no one could argue with results. The fight came to screaming halt when every fighter turned to stare at her chest.

Her tits were the last thing the sludge freak saw.

Scaly slashed his sword across the bulging, yellow eyes and put them out. The scream that the sludge freak let out was louder than any of Bakugou’s explosions. In a perfect world that would have been it but mad from pain the sludge freak lashed at everything. Before the sludge freak could kill anyone, Indestructible punched the cliff guided by Sagan.

The first tremor was soft. Then the cliff gave out and came crashing down. Indestructible, Bakugou and Scaly rushed out of the way of the falling rocks. The blinded sludge freak wasn’t as lucky and was buried under tons of stone. It didn’t matter how tough you were. No one walked away from having a mountain dropped on them.

Mei grabbed the kids and tried to hold on to anything she could reach when the mountain rumbled under them. Her grip wasn’t strong enough and Kouta went tumbling down the edge.

“No!”

Mei was able to get a hold of Kouta’s wrist, but she quickly realized that she couldn’t pull him up. The boy was already slipping. He was looking at her his face wet with tears and twisted by fear.

“No! No! No!” Mei cursed.

A scale covered hand reached past her and pulled Kouta up. Kouta was shaking and crying when Scaly put him down gently.

“There, there. You’re safe now.” Scaly said and then turned to smile at Mei: “Hi, Hatsume. Long time no see.”

“Not long enough.” Mei said.

“… Shuichi?”

Scaly turned to look at Eri. Eri ran to hug him and started crying against his stomach.

“… where were you?!” Eri cried.

Scaly picked her up.

“I’m sorry, Eri. I didn’t know.”

Eri hugged him tighter.

“… please. Don’t go away again.”

Scaly didn’t answer.

“You!”

Scaly turned to look at the dust covered Bakugou.

“What about me, boom boy?” Scaly said.

Indestructible put his hand on Bakugou’s shoulder.

“Bakugou. Not in front of Eri.”

Bakugou slapped Indestructible’s hand away but forced himself to calm down. Mei pulled the crying Kouta into a hug.

“So… now what?” Mei said.

Indestructible stepped towards Scaly. Scaly put down Eri but didn’t let go of her hand.

“Bakugou… could you take Mei, Eri and Kouta somewhere safe?”

“Fuck you! I’m going to…!”

“Katsuki. Please.”

Bakugou went quiet.

“… fine.”

Scaly knelled in front of Eri.

“Go with him, Eri.”

Eri clung to Scaly.

“No! I want to stay with you!”

Scaly patted her head.

“It won’t be long. Me and Indestructible just have to settle a few things.”

Eri looked at them.

“… are you going to fight?”

“Don’t know. Are we?” Scaly said.

“I… No. I promise.” Indestructible said.

“Good enough for me.” Scaly said and turned to look at Bakugou: “We came here for you. Hide in the woods and wait for this to blow over.”

Bakugou bared his teeth.

“Do you expect me to thank you?”

“No.” Scaly said.

Mei helped Kouta stand and leaned to whisper to Indestructible.

“Partner.” Mei said.

“Yeah?”

“Kick his ass.”

***

Indestructible waited until he couldn’t hear Mei’s and the other’s footsteps. Then he turned to look at Shuichi.

“Shuichi.”

Shuichi wagged his finger at him.

“We’re on the clock here. Call me Spinner. You don’t hear me calling you Izuku. Do you, Indestructible?”

“No. So… Spinner. What does the League want with Bakugou?” Indestructible said.

“Tomura thinks he’s one of us. Personally, I think he’s just a cunt.” Spinner said and looked at the ravine: “I think we just… killed slime boy. I’ve never killed anyone but… I don’t feel bad about this. Guess monsters don’t count.”

Indestructible didn’t like to admit it but… he didn’t feel too broken about the Sludge Villain either. Despite the fact that he… had brought the cliff down on him. It was self-defense but… Come to think of it. He hadn’t felt too bad about shocking him the first time. He’d been more worried about getting into trouble over it.

“How’s the knee?” Spinner said.

“Hurts every day.” Indestructible said.

“Yet I don’t see a limp. Hatsume outdid herself.”

“It was my design.” Indestructible said.

“An engineer and a fighter? Careful. I might fall for you.” Spinner said.

Indestructible snorted.

“Nice of you to warn Bakugou.”

“Guess I’m more loyal to Eri than the cause.” Spinner said.

“Does that mean you surrender?”

“No. I’ll just tell them that I didn’t find him.”

“You know… that means I have to bring you in. By force if necessary.” Indestructible said.

“Are you threatening me with a good time?”

“Spinner… Shuichi, I don’t want to do this.” Indestructible said.

“And I’m going to stop you right there, Indestructible. I have super senses. I can smell your adrenaline. I can hear how fast your heart is beating. And… you’re rocking at least have a chub. Goddamn. It’s almost like you’re in heat. Honestly, it’s kinda creepy how into this shit you are.”

Sagan laughed.

“He got you there, dad.”

Indestructible sighed and then… grinned.

“So… wanna fight?”

“Not as badly as you do but after what I did to you, you’ve earned your shot.” Spinner said and pointed his sword at Indestructible: “And yeah. I do.”

Indestructible couldn’t hold it in and he started laughing. With this… it was like he had an archenemy. He took out his baton and swung it to full length.

“Let’s do this.” Indestructible said.

“Thought you’d never ask.” Spinner said.

They fought above the Sludge Villain’s grave.

Chapter Text

Shota Aizawa looked on horrified as Kirishima stumbled around and tried to fight away horrors only he could see. Ate the same time Kirishima’s Quirk seemed to get ready to evolve. His armored skin was twitching and pushing as it tried to grow stronger. Better. Midoriya would have loved to see it.

Mustard stared at him confused. The gasmask might have covered his face, but his body language told Shota just how lost he was. And scared. When Kirishima took a step to Mustard’s direction, he backed away and pulled out a revolver.

“… don’t…” Shota said.

Mustard glanced at him.

“You think you can tell me what to do?”

“… Kirishima might be able to take it but… bullets bounce… and they don’t stop until they hit something. You want to be a killer?”

Everything he’d heard about Mustard, told Shota that he was a coward. Mustard liked thinking of himself as a villain, but he didn’t have the courage to dirty his own hands. Or maybe Mustard was better than he thought. He was just a kid. Shota found himself wondering what had brought Mustard here and… if a hero had gotten to him in time… maybe he could have walked a different path.

Mustard put the revolver down.

“… what happened… to him?” Shota said.

“My Quirk knocks people out and causes hallucinations. Maybe he’s a sleepwalker.” Mustard said.

Sleepwalker, huh? Shota looked at Kirishima. What was he seeing?

***

When he was a kid, Eijirou’s dad would tell him a story to make him behave. A story about a witch that took away naughty children and made them live with her in a mansion in the middle of a haunted forest. If they didn’t obey her every whim, the witch would lock the children into thinking rooms to punish them.

Eventually the nightmares had gotten so bad that mom had told dad to stop but the story had taken root in Eijirou’s mind and he still had dreams about her. During some nights he had to even steel himself to get out of bed to go to pee. In the dark of the night he was a child again who was sure the witch was hiding under his bed. Ready to pull him in the dark when his foot touched the ground.

Now the nightmare had crawled out under the bed.

Eijirou was sneaking through a mansion with endless hallways and no exits. The walls were lined with steel containers. The kind you saw at the morgue. They had been sealed with heavy locks but Eijirou could hear something pounding the lid inside them. Trying to get out.

“Let go of me!”

Eijirou stopped. Someone was in trouble. Calling for help. Eijirou slapped himself. What was he doing?! He wasn’t that scared kid anymore. He was going to be a hero! A hero would never turn their back on someone who was in trouble. He turned around where the voice was coming from and…

And he saw the witch.

The witch was a tall, lean woman dressed in a black dress and white apron. She was pretty too. There was a strange agelessness to her like time had forgotten about her. The only sign of age on her was a single grey stripe in her black hair. Her smile was motherly but Eijirou didn’t let that fool him. Her black eyes gleamed with malice.

“Eijirou. I’ve been waiting for you. It is so good to finally have you here. I want to show you something.” The witch said and opened one of the containers: “Come. Climb in. You can trust me.”

All Eijirou’s courage abandoned him.

“… no.”

“Are you saying no to your mama? Why do you have to be such a naughty child? I only hurt you because I love you.” The witch said and sighed: “I guess some discipline is in order. Come child. Make mama proud.”

One of the containers opened and… a Noumu crawled out. A black monster with jagged teeth and glowing eyes. Before he could flee or fight, the thing pinned him down.

“Don’t worry, Eijirou. It will be alright. Mama will fix everything.” The witch said.

The Noumu started dragging him into one of the thinking rooms. Was he going to turn into a Noumu?! No! He didn’t want to! Anything but that!

“No! No! No! No!”

He felt it. His Quirk breaking through its limits and evolving. Terror did what training couldn’t. It pushed him over the edge. Eijirou felt his armor grow stronger. Sturdier. Sharper. Particularly his teeth.

He bit a chunk out of the Noumu and then turned his attention to another Noumu that had pinned down a child.

***

Shota saw the cavalry come before Mustard did which was a blessing. Vlad Kind and Tiger moved quickly and quietly. The leader of the Pussycats tore the gun off Mustard’s hand before he could turn it on them and pushed him to the ground.

“Let go of me!”

“Keep dreaming.” Tiger said.

Vlad King knelled next to Shota without taking his eyes off Kirishima and the other students.

“You okay?” Vlad King said.

“… I’ll live… help… Kirishima and the others.” Shota said.

“Will do.” Vlad King said and started approaching Kirishima: “It will be alright, sonny. Just…”

Kirishima was still hallucinating and tried to push Vlad King away. Before he hurt anyone by accident, Vlad King took him down.

“Sorry, kid. I know this ain’t your fault. Just…” Vlad King said.

“No! No! No! No!” Kirishima screamed.

Something… happened. Something that Shota had never seen anywhere except in videos. A Quirk evolving. Vlad King let out a yelp when Kirishima’s skin turned too sharp to even touch. The new evolved armor made Kirishima look… demonic. Monstrous.

And he was still trapped in Mustard’s hallucination.

Kirishima tore off a part of Vlad King’s shoulder with his teeth. This time Vlad King let out more than a groan. Before he could fight back, Kirishima followed it with a haymaker. He still hit like a sledgehammer but now his fists were sharp as sickles and the punch left deep gashes in Vlad King’s face. Shota tried to turn off Kirishima’s Quirk, but his eyes had swollen shut.

Tiger jumped in to help Vlad King which gave Mustard a chance to run.

***

Momo chomped down the protein bar in one go while keeping an eye on the dark forest through her new night goggles. When it came to her Quirk, only her imagination and knowledge limited what she could create but it ate so much energy and she was already down to her last emergency snack.

Three villains were trekking through the woods as quietly as they could.

Momo held her breath and took the middle one in her sights through the rifle’s scope. She shot the villain in a short, controlled burst. Rubber bullets didn’t kill but you didn’t keep walking around after getting hit by one either. Much less three. A bunch of screaming, wounded fighters was poison to morale. The villains quickly retreated and dragged their wounded comrade with them.

Momo smiled.

She could do this! She would keep everyone safe. Like a hero.

***

“What the hell is going on?!” Tomura screamed when he saw one more forest team getting taken out.

Who the fuck was sniping his people?! That gun hero… whoever he was, wasn’t supposed to be here! U.A was full of cheaters! What the hell had Toga been doing?! She was supposed to warn him about situations like this!

Tomura pulled out his phone.

“Kurogiri!”

A portal opened next to him.

“You called?” Kurogiri said.

“Open a portal and get that gun fuck!” Tomura screamed.

Kurogiri looked at the forest.

“There are too many trees and I don’t know where to look.”

“Where the bullets are coming from!”

“Can’t be done.” Kurogiri said.

“Fine! Release the Noumus!”

“How many?” Kurogiri said.

“All of them!” Tomura screamed.

***

Momo heard the Noumus before she saw them. Sweat started running down her back. Breath got caught in her throat. Her heart was beating fast. Too fast. She couldn’t do this! She couldn’t! She couldn’t! She couldn’t! She… she had to run!

I was free. I’d suffered the worst defeat of my life and I was still alive. I was free to be awesome.

Momo sighed and pretended she was blowing out all her fears.

Thanks, Mei, she thought.

She could do this. She would do this! She’d planned for this! She pressed the switch that turned on the landmines she’d thrown into the forest and changed the rubber bullets for explosive rounds.

“Come and get me!” Momo yelled into the darkness.

***

Minoru moved as quickly as he could in the black forest. Uraraka was holding Kaminari’s hand to levitate him and pulling him along. Despite Jiro keeping her ears peeled, Minoru couldn’t shake the feeling that every dark spot and shadow was hiding a villain. Pony was sweating but her expression was grimly determined.

Please be alright, Momo. Please, Minoru thought.

How could he ever face any of his friends again if he’d left Momo there to… die? How could he ever look into a mirror? He should have stayed with her.

Then they heard the howl.

They stopped. They all knew that sound. The scream of a Noumu. And this time there were more than one. Tears stung Minoru’s eyes. He was going to die here. Him and everyone else.

An explosion deeper in the woods turned night into day. A series of gunshots followed and this time the Noumus screamed from pain.

“Was that… Momo?” Minoru said.

“She…” Jiro said and fell quiet.

Jiro stared amongst the trees. Minoru felt it before seeing it. The Noumu was a hulking behemoth with talons and rows of fangs. The over-grown brain was exposed, and the bulging eyes had a mad look to them.

“… oh… fuck.” Minoru gasped.

Something washed over him. Minoru didn’t have a name for it, but the same thing had happened during the USJ incident when Midoriya and Hatsume had been thrown overboard. Before his mind could think of a plan his body was already moving. He started throwing glue balls at the Noumu as fast as he could. He didn’t stop even when he was half-blinded by tears. The Noumu let out a furious roar when it realized it was stuck.

“Yeah! That’s right! No one fucks with Minoru Mineta!” Minoru yelled at the Noumu.

The Noumu started slicing at the glue balls and began slowly tear itself free.

“… oh shit.”

Uraraka patted his shoulder.

“I’ll take it from here.” Uraraka said.

She touched a tree… and it was torn off its roots. The Noumu seized its struggle when it saw a tree floating above it.

“Pony!” Uraraka yelled.

“Got it!”

Pony jumped high in the air and kicked the tree towards the Noumu. Just before impact Uraraka released her Quirk and gave the tree back its full weight. The tree struck the Noumu like the fist of god.

“Mineta! More!” Uraraka yelled.

“You got it!”

Minoru started bombing the Noumu again with glue balls while Uraraka and Pony threw more trees on it. When the Noumu was finally trapped they stood around it panting and exhausted. Jiro was the first to break silence.

“We need to move. A few more slipped past Momo.” Jiro said.

“So, she is…?” Minoru said.

“Still alive. Still fighting.” Jiro said.

They left the Noumu and kept moving. The Noumu howled after them. Even without words Minoru knew what the Noumu was trying to say. It would find them and kill them. Tear them from limb to limb. There was no running or hiding from it.

It wasn’t long when they ran into another pair. Iida and Todoroki stepped out of their hiding spot when they saw them.

“I’m glad you’re al…” Iida said and then he saw Kaminari: “Oh, fuck me.”

Minoru shuddered. Iida had just let out the first real curse word of his life. Now he knew they were boned.

“What happened?” Todoroki said.

“A villain.” Jiro said and looked at Iida: “You need to get him to safety.”

“I can’t. It’s too dark and there are too many trees. I could kill us both.” Iida said.

“Great. A speedster who can’t run and Todoroki doesn’t have his equipment.” Minoru said.

“We’ve had worse.” Todoroki said: “Where’s Momo? She was with you.”

“She stayed behind. To buy us time.” Uraraka said.

“You left her there?!” Iida said.

“We didn’t have a choice.” Pony said and looked back: “She’s still fighting.”

They could hear gunfire and explosions as landmines went off.

“We need to get the teachers.” Todoroki said.

They kept moving. It felt like the forest went on forever but finally they saw the compound and… the half-torn off steel door.

Someone… something stepped through the broken door.

For a second Minoru thought the thing was another Noumu. It had the teeth and claws. Then he recognized the spiky red hair.

“Kirishima?” Minoru said.

Kirishima didn’t answer and just growled.

“Whoa, whoa. Calm down. It’s us. Your friends.” Minoru said.

Kirishima didn’t listen and attacked. Minoru tried to trap him with his glue balls but Kirishima’s armored skin was too sharp for anything to stick into it.

***

Tsu was bloodied, bruised and hurting all over but she’d never been happier. She’d missed this. So much. More than anything. After taking down the drug smugglers she’d been riding a high that had lasted for weeks but it had eventually died down and… a pit had grown in her chest. Every day was just dull drudgery that only Izuku could brighten.

Now the rush was back.

And it wasn’t just back. It was even stronger than when she had been working with Selkie. There were no pros this time around to act as safety nets. It was all on her. The only way this could have been better was if Izuku had been fighting with her.

Magne was on even worse shape than her and the villain’s smile had grown strained.

“You’re really loving this aren’t you?” Magne said.

In response Tsu let out a few croaks.

“You’re not?” Tsu said.

“Look. I admit. It was my bad that I interrupted your date. Will you forgive me?” Magne said.

“Forgive you? This might be the best night of my life.” Tsu said.

Magne raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, great. You’re one of those. Just my luck. I… wait.” Magne said and looked at her suspiciously: “Toga?”

“What?” Tsu said.

“Are you Toga?” Magne said.

“What are you talking about?” Tsu said.

“Uh… nothing. Forget about it.” Magne said.

“No.” Tsu said.

“Damn it. Well, screw this. Time for Plan B.” Magne said and took out a syringe: “For the record, I was trying to be nice about this.”

Magne jammed the syringe in his neck and the effects were immediate. The blood vessels stuck out like worms crawling under his skin and his hair stood up when electricity started sparking around him.

“Yes! This is it!” Magne said and looked at Tsu: “Sorry. It was fun, but this is it.”

Suddenly the weight of the world came crashing down on Tsu and forced her on her knees. Anyone less tough would have been crushed in an instant. As Magne walked closer to her, the pressure grew worse. Her bones were creaking and blood started spilling from her nose.

“You’re a tough one but it won’t be long now.” Magne said.

There was rumbling underground and Magne was pulled under. Power Loader dug his way to the surface. The pressure eased and Tsu was able to get back up.

“Asui? Are you okay?” Power Loader said.

“I… yes.” Tsu said and rubbed her head: “What did you do to him?”

“Trapped him in a air pocket underground. If he tries using that Quirk of his, it will collapse on him. I’ll get him out later.”

Tsu nodded and wiped away the blood.

“Thank you.”

“My pleasure. Great work holding him back by yourself.” Power Loader said and looked around: “Where’s Midoriya?”

“He went to help Hatsume.”

“Okay. I’ll find him next.” Power Loader said.

“How?” Tsu said.

“Mandalay is keeping me connected to Ragdoll. She points where the villains are and I…”

Power Loader’s eyes widened.

“What’s wrong?” Tsu said.

“… something’s happened to Ragdoll.”

***

Why didn’t they stop coming?! Why?! No matter how many Noumus Eijirou defeated, there were always more. One Noumu tried to trap him with glue but his sharpened skin could cut it easily. Another one rammed at him like a bull but Eijirou just grabbed it by the horns and threw it away.

Why couldn’t they just go away?!

Another Noumu came at him too fast to see and tried to take him down. Before the rest of the pack could descend on him, Eijirou pinned the Noumu down with grabbling moves and started hitting it.

“Leave! Me! Alone!”

Something exploded in his back. One more Noumu had stepped out of the thinking room and was growling at him. He needed a plan. Someway to run but… his mind was so cluttered. Why… did this Noumu strike him as familiar?

The Noumu rushed him and Eijirou raised his fists. Before he could throw a punch, the Noumu used its explosions to propel itself around him. Like… someone he knew. Why? Why couldn’t he remember?!

They played a game of cat and mouse. The Noumu flew around him, throwing explosions at him but always remaining out of his reach. The explosions couldn’t hurt him. At first but… he could feel them slowly chipping away at his armor. Making it harder for him to maintain.

Another explosion in the head rattled his brain and Eijirou fell on his knees. He needed a plan! Something! Anything! Why was his mind so clouded?! Somewhere the witch was laughing.

“Aren’t you such a brave, dumb boy? Giving up already? What kind of a Noumu will you make?” The witch said.

No! He would never give up! Not now! Not ever! He wasn’t that scared kid anymore!

Eijirou picked up a rock and crushed it in his hand. Then he threw the shards at the Noumu. The Noumu was fast but not fast enough to dodge all the pebbles. Eijirou threw it on the ground and prepared to punch its face in.

“… Eijirou…”

Eijirou hesitated.

“How… how do you know my name?”

“Get your goddamn shit together, Eijirou!” The Noumu yelled.

Eijirou covered his ears.

“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! This is a trick!”

“Eijirou.”

“I said shut up!” Eijirou yelled and hit the Noumu.

The Noumu spat out a tooth but never broke eye contact.

“Eijirou. Please. Don’t you recognize me? It’s me. Katsuki.”

Eijirou blinked. That name…

“… Katsuki?”

“Yes! Don’t you remember me? I love you!” The Noumu said and reached out to caress his face.

Instead of talons Eijirou felt warm fingers on his cheek. Eijirou clasped Katsuki’s hand.

“Katsuki.”

“You remembered.” Katsuki said.

Some of the fog covering his mind cleared and hallways faded away.

Then he saw his friends.

They were battered and bruised. Bleeding and wounded. His fists were covered in blood that wasn’t his own. And Bakugou… his nose was broken, and his lip had been split.

“… no.” Katsuki whispered.

Katsuki hugged him.

“It wasn’t your fault, dumbass. You didn’t know.”

Tears stung in his eyes and Eijirou pulled Katsuki closer.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“Has he finally calmed down?”

Mei was walking towards them followed by Eri and Kouta. Todoroki was kneeling next to the felled Iida. Pony was looking after Uraraka. One of her horns had broken.

“You sure gave the lot of them a beating. Even took down some pros. I pity the villain who tries fucking with you.” Mei said.

Eri giggled.

“… you said fuck.”

“You… you shouldn’t curse like that.” Kouta said.

“I’m not telling if you won’t.” Mei said.

“I…” Eijirou said.

“Quit the pity party and be grateful it wasn’t Indestructible. We’d all be dead.” Mei said and looked around: “We need to get everyone who can still stand to go and help Izuku.”

“… but he’s with Shuichi.” Eri said and looked around: “Is Mustard here too?”

Suddenly Eijirou heard Mandalay’s voice in his head.

“We… the situation is under control. I… we think that the villains are dealt with.” Mandalay said through telepathy.

Something was wrong. Mandalay sounded… shocked. Scared. And they thought the villains had been dealt with? Shouldn’t Ragdoll have known?

“Izuku is still…” Mei said and glanced at Eri: “He’s… talking with Shuichi.”

“We’ll send someone to help him.” Mandalay said.

***

While the wounded were being looked after, Mei slipped into her workshop. She took the gas mask she’d designed herself and a flashlight you could use as a club. Then she got to work. Considering how they’d gone on high alert, Ketchup couldn’t have gone far. Now, if she was a brainless and spineless villain wannabe, where would she hide?

Mei looked at the more remote and less used training facilities.

She snuck out of the group and headed to the smaller buildings. Muddy footprints on the stairs told her everything she needed to know. She put on the gas mask and stepped in.

“I know you’re here, Ketchup! Come out, come out wherever you are, or I’ll huff and puff and blow this place down.” Mei said.

Gas flooded the house. Mei smirked under her gas mask.

“Nice try bitch. If you’re done embarrassing yourself, come out so I can kick your ass.” Mei said.

Ketchup stepped out from one of the rooms. Holding a gun.

“Fuck off!” Ketchup yelled.

“No.”

“Look! Just… just leave me alone. I… I saved you once. You owe me.” Ketchup said.

“True. And that’s why I’ll let what you did to the armor slide. But… you also gave Sagan brain damage and you made Eijirou cry.” Mei said.

“It was just a fucking machine!” Ketchup screamed.

“And now I’ve gone from pissed to livid.” Mei said and studied Ketchup’s gas mask: “Cool mask. Does it have night vision?”

“What are you…?”

Mei shined light on Ketchup’s face. He screamed and dropped the gun while going down on his knees. Ketchup tore the mask off and started rubbing his eyes. Mei kicked the gun away.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Mei said.

“You bitch! I can’t see!”

“Of course, you can’t. You’re lucky that didn’t fry your eyes.” Mei said.

Ketchup put his hands up.

“You win! I surrender!”

Mei hit him in the shoulder with the flashlight. Ketchup let out another scream and started crying.

“What did you do that for?!” Ketchup bawled.

“That was for the sludge freak. Yeah. I know it was you.” Mei said.

“You can’t do that!”

“Bad news, Ketchup. There are no witnesses here and I’m an asshole. My word against yours and I’m calling it self-defense.”

Someone started to clap. It was the slow, condescending kind. When she looked back, she saw a blonde girl in a U.A uniform standing in the doorway. She had the teeth of a shark and glare of a cobra.

“Man. Ya love bullying Mustard too?”

Ketchup started shivering.

“… no. No! No! NO!”

Ketchup stumbled on his feet while holding his shoulder and started running blindly. All that accomplished was that he ran straight into a wall. He grasped around the floor.

“Where’s the fucking gun?!” Ketchup howled.

“Ya mean this?” The girl said and held up the revolver.

Mei glanced at Ketchup and the girl.

“Who the fuck are you?” Mei said.

“Ya don’t know? It’s yer girl Toga!”

***

Shota had managed to sit down and watched over his students with Vlad King and Tiger. After Kirishima, playing babysitter was all they were good for. Kouta and Eri had fallen asleep and everyone else had trouble keeping their eyes opened. Those who weren’t wounded, were too drained to even stand. What was worse, they still didn’t know where Tokoyami, Yaoyorozu or Midoriya were.

Power Loader rushed in with Ragdoll in his arms. Despite his wounds, Tiger got on his feet and rushed to his wounded teammate.

“What happened?” Tiger said.

“I don’t know. Mandalay suddenly lost connection to her and I found her like this. I… didn’t notice any wounds but she won’t wake up.” Power Loader said and handed her over to Tiger: “I need to go help Midoriya.”

Power Loader disappeared and… a marble fell on the floor where he had stood. Everyone stopped and turned to stare at the spot where Power Loader had stood.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I apologize for my late arrival.”

A man in a yellow overcoat, white mask and a top hat stepped in.

“Evening. I am Compress. Mr. Compress and let me tell you how happy I am to be here.”

Everyone stared at him. Despite the pain, Shota got on his feet. Vlad King followed suit despite being too hurt to stand much less fight.

“What did you do to him?!” Shota said.

“I compressed him but don’t worry. He’s still alive.” Compress said and took out another marble from his coat pocket: “Just like this one is. Interesting young man. Looked like a bird and controlled his shadow. Tell me, Eraserhead. What do you think would happen if I crushed this?”

Shota could make an educated guess.

“Don’t.”

“Smart man.” Compress said and turned his sights to Bakugou: “Katsuki Bakugou I assume. Mind coming over here?”

“Don’t do it!” Shota yelled.

Compress placed his foot on Power Loader’s marble.

“Would you be so kind?”

Bakugou grinded his teeth but got up. Kirishima took his hand.

“Katsuki?”

Shota had never guessed Bakugou could smile so gently.

“It will be alright, Eijirou.”

Bakugou walked up to Compress.

“Good boy. Let’s make haste.” Compress said and held up the marbles containing Tokoyami and Power Loader: “If anyone follows us, they die.”

***

Fighting Spinner reminded Indestructible of his match with Stain. Spinner didn’t have Stain’s decades of training, but he made up for it with sheer savagery and super human strength. Which shouldn’t have been possible. Nothing in Spinner’s file had indicated he was this strong. Had he grown stronger with time like Shinsou? Or was this something else?

Indestructible concentrated on defense and waited for his opportunity. He still remembered how Stain had pierced the armor with a single sword swing and Spinner was stronger than Stain. Much stronger.

“Sagan?” Indestructible whispered.

“Oh. Now you want my help, huh? Here I was thinking that you’d just ignore me again to get a fair fight.” Sagan said.

“Less sass, Sagan.” Indestructible said.

“I can only promise to try. I have bad news and worse news. Spinner’s juiced up a ton. The armor won’t be able to block the sword and… I don’t know how much the mutation Quirk has changed his body. It will be hard to calculate his weak points.”

“Are his bones breakable?” Indestructible said.

“They’re tough but you should be able to break them.”

“Good enough for me.” Indestructible said.

Indestructible couldn’t help but smile. Spinner was stronger than Stain and… that just made it better but there was something else. This reminded him of the play fights he’d had with Bakugou as a kid. Just for keeps. But that was the point. A game without stakes was no fun at all. Even if it was just the humiliation of defeat.

***

Shuichi… Spinner fought like he had never before. Even the Noumus or Muscular hadn’t been able to push him like this. Despite how powerful he had become, Indestructible was able to match him blow for blow. Every time he thought he had found an opening, Indestructible’s baton was there to greet his sword. Indestructible might have been the strongest person he’d fought.

And Spinner was keeping up with him!

Had he done it? Had he become Indestructible’s equal? It was strange. They were enemies but… Spinner felt a connection with him. They stood on common ground. Was it because of Eri? Or maybe because of Stain? Not that it mattered now. They were here now, and Spinner wouldn’t have minded doing this forever.

Their weapons locked, and both men tried to push the other back. Spinner had to push himself to his absolute limits to match Indestructible’s strength and even then, he couldn’t quite reach it. He could make out his reflection on Indestructible’s helmet’s visor. His grin had become strained. Forced.

“Ready to give up?” Spinner said.

“No.” Indestructible said and doubled his efforts: “You?”

“Keep dreaming.” Spinner said.

Indestructible shoved him back and Spinner lost his balance for a heartbeat. That was all Indestructible needed and he struck Spinner in his sword hand. His fingers twisted and broke. Spinner let out a yelp of pain and fell on his knees. Indestructible kicked the fallen sword away.

“Ah! Fuck!” Spinner cursed while holding his busted hand.

“You should have given up.” Indestructible said.

Spinner grinned through the pain.

“Where’s the fun in that?”

Spinner concentrated on his hand and his healing factor got to work forcing the broken bones back into place. His hand was still sore and numb but at least it worked. Spinner got up and took a boxing stance.

“Not very heroic using a weapon on an unarmed man.” Spinner said.

The key to Indestructible was his ego. That was the theory anyway. So far everything Spinner had read and seen about him supported it. The bullied, overlooked kid who couldn’t help but stroke his own ego. Even if it meant giving up an obvious advantage.

Indestructible put the baton away and raised his fists.

“Bring it on!” Indestructible said.

“I will! Plus Ultra!”

This got a laugh out of Indestructible.

“Plus Ultra!” He agreed.

Spinner had the advantage when it came to speed and skill. Indestructible had a slight edge in strength but not enough for it to be a game breaker. Indestructible was more of a brawler than a martial artist and Spinner danced around his heavy blows while counter attacking.

Not that it mattered.

Indestructible lived up to his name. Every punch he threw came close to cracking his fist against Indestructible’s armor. After every blow Indestructible would stagger but Spinner didn’t have time to build damage over time. If this turned into a war of attrition, Indestructible would win. Not enough! It wasn’t enough yet! He needed more power!

“Time out!” Spinner said.

“Huh?”

“Just a second.” Spinner said and took out the Trigger syringe.

Before Indestructible had time to act, Spinner jammed the syringe into his neck.

The needle broke against his scales.

Spinner stared at the now useless syringe and then at Indestructible.

“Aw… shit.”

“Yeah.” Indestructible agreed and knocked him off his feet.

Spinner could only get up on his knees before Indestructible put him in a headlock and started choking him out. Spinner popped out his spikes on a reflex, but they had no hope of piercing Indestructible. He struggled against the hold but Indestructible had the basics down. His sight started going dark.

And then he noticed the sword.

It was so close. Close enough for him to… touch it!

Spinner kicked the sword into his hands and then drove it straight through his own body. Scales and all. Into Indestructible.

Stain had been able to cut through the armor with a sword. And so was Spinner. Indestructible stumbled backwards holding his side were the sword had slashed him. Spinner pulled the sword out quickly and concentrated on healing, but his body was slower to heal. Internal damage was harder to fix and… he was getting hungry. And tired. Healing like this… it cost so much energy.

When the wound was closed enough for him to move, Spinner spear tackled Indestructible and took them both to the ground. The was more ways to beat someone than with a fistfight and Spinner turned to grabbling. He slammed Indestructible’s head to the ground as hard as he could and even with the helmet, it should have rocked his brain.

Then he started tearing the helmet off.

“Shock!”

Indestructible grabbed his wrist and a powerful current hit Spinner. It was way stronger than what Hatsume had been packing but… he’d also grown tougher since then. Still, it left him numb. They backed away from each other. Despite the bleeding, Spinner knew Indestructible was smiling under his helmet.

“Having fun?” Spinner asked.

“Yes. You?”

“Time of my life.”

“Wanna keep going?” Indestructible said.

“Hell yeah!”

Before they could start another round, a portal opened and… Toga stepped though.

“Wassup ya all?! It’s yer girl Toga!”

“… no.” Spinner… Shuichi whispered.

Indestructible’s glance kept darting between them.

“What… who… who are you?” Indestructible said.

“Yer biggest fan.” Toga said and pulled out a bloodstained knife. She licked it.

Shuichi had never seen Toga transform and hoped he never would again. The way her skin boiled, and bones twisted made his stomach turn. Soon in Toga’s place stood a blonde student with a single black stripe in his hair.

“… Kaminari?” Indestructible said.

Lightning erupted from Toga’s new body and struck Indestructible hard. He didn’t even have time to scream when the electricity fried his armor. When the thing overloaded, it fell of Indestructible and he hit the ground knocked out cold.

When Indestructible was out, Toga rubbed her head.

“Fuck! Think I fried a few brain cells.” Toga complained.

“What the hell are you doing?!” Shuichi screamed.

Once getting in Toga’s way would have been unthinkable but now he stepped between her and Indestructible. Toga melted back into her real self.

“Yer job by the looks of it.” Toga said.

“This was a duel!”

“And I turned it into a three-way. Since I beat him, his ass is mine now.”

Shuichi grabbed her wrist and squeezed. Hard.

“You think I’d let you?”

Kurogiri stepped through the portal.

“Mr. Shuichi. Ms. Toga. No fighting amongst team mates.” Kurogiri said.

“He started it.” Toga said.

“She…!”

“I’m sure master can settle this. We need to fall back. We got what we came here for.” Kurogiri said.

“Ya guys go on ahead without me. Gotta protect me cover.” Toga said and looked adoringly at the unconscious Indestructible: “Keep ‘em fresh for me.”

Shuichi picked Indestructible up while glaring at Toga. Very soon the League wouldn’t need monsters like her. And when that happened, he’d be there.

Chapter Text

Mandalay rushed through the forest armed with a flashlight, Pixie-bob hot on her heel, towards the place Mineta and the others had left Yaoyorozu. Fear made her stomach burn and she was already practicing in her head what she would have to tell Yaoyorozu’s parents when they heard that their daughter was…

Pixie-bob let out a gasp when she saw something. Fearing the worst Mandalay stopped and steeled herself for the worst.

Then she saw it too.

Dead Noumus. Countless of them. Littered all over the forest. They’d been torn to shreds by shrapnel and gunfire. Trees had been felled and large chunks of the earth had been blown away. Small fires were still burning. The night air reeked of gunpowder.

And in the middle of it all was Yaoyorozu leaning against a tree.

Yaoyorozu was one of those people that immediately caught your attention. She was as tall or even taller than the boys in her class. A lifetime of martial arts had left her toned and her strong, black hair reached to the waist. Beautiful and elegant. Privilege gone right.

She wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Somehow Yaoyorozu had lost at least thirty pounds of weight in just one night leaving her skin grey and sagged. Her black hair had turned lifeless. The school gym wear hang loosely on her and you could make out every bone on her face. Her eyes had sunk deep into their sockets. One bony hand was clutching a pistol. The last Noumu had died just a few feet away from her riddled with bullets.

“… Yaoyorozu?” Mandalay said.

Yaoyorozu acted purely on instinct and tried to raise the pistol but she didn’t have enough strength for even that. Mandalay knelled next to her and took the gun from her hands.

“Pixie-bob. Get help. Now!” Mandalay said.

Pixie-bob didn’t say anything and just got to it. Yaoyorozu looked at her like a stranger.

“… stop… no… stop…”

“It’s okay, Yaoyorozu. It’s okay. You’re safe.” Mandalay said.

“…safe? … who’s there? … can’t see…”

“It’s me. Mandalay. From the Pussycats. Remember?” Mandalay said and looked at the warzone around them: “What happened?”

“… the League… sent Noumus… I had to create… so many weapons. To… protect everyone… had to use… my own body mass… one got so close… almost got me…”

Mandalay hugged her.

“You got them. All of them. You’re a brave girl.”

Yaoyorozu closed her eyes.

“… is… everyone… safe?”

***

What had happened to Rei was never far from Ken’s mind. After the… accident with Shouto, she was all he could think about for a long time. For weeks… months his every waking moment had been spent fuming with rage and hate. He couldn’t escape it even in the little sleep he’d been able to get. During the day he would think up plans to kill Endeavor and, in his dreams, he would act them out. He would hurt Endeavor every way he could think of and then… end him. Just so he could feel even an ounce of the pain he’d caused to Rei.

Or… if Ken was being honest with himself, the pain Endeavor had caused him.

Eventually the hate and rage had burned him out and… he’d been just too tired to muster any real anger. He’d tried pushing Rei and Endeavor out of his mind and for a while it had worked but… never for long. It could be days, sometimes even weeks, but eventually something would trigger him, and all that rage would come back to haunt him.

Ken thought that Endeavor had taught him everything there was to know about hate.

He’d been wrong.

The anger made his bones creak and he couldn’t keep his Quirk under control. When he drove himself and Inko to U.A, every metal object around him… twitched. He gripped the car wheel hard enough to turn his knuckles bone white. He wanted to hurt something. Anything. Anyone! The bastards who’d taken his daughter! He wanted to drag them out from whatever hole they were hiding in and rip them apart limb from limb! He’d grind their skulls to dust under his boot! He would… he would…

For now, he would make do with the idiots who’d let this happen!

He’d accepted that the USJ incident had been an accident. The smarter villains were always on the lookout for a chance to strike. With luck they could manage an attack. But a second time… That was just goddamn incompetence! And now his daughter was gone! Izuku was gone! Higari was gone!

Bakugou’s and Tokoyami’s parents were already waiting for them at the U.A parking lot. Part of Ken was surprised that Bakugou had parents. He’d always assumed the boy had been raised by wolves. Inko and Bakugou’s parents shared an awkward nod before they all headed inside. When they were heading inside, a thought occurred to Ken that they’d never contacted Izuku’s father. He’d been able to piece together that Inko and her ex weren’t in good terms, but the man still deserved to know what had happened. Izuku was his son after all.

They barged into Nezu’s office without knocking.

Nezu had been in the middle of a discussion with All-Might and got up when they came in.

“Hatsume.” Nezu said.

There was sympathy in Nezu’s voice but that just made Ken want to grab him by the throat even more. It took everything he had to act civilized.

“I know where they are.” Ken said.

Nezu’s and All-Might’s eyes widened. All the parents in the room besides Inko turned to stare at him.

“What?!” Nezu said.

Ken took out his phone and placed in on the table.

“Tell them, Sagan.”

Sagan’s face appeared on the screen.

“Gladly, grandpa.”

Bakugou’s mother took a step back.

“What… who is that?” Bakugou’s mother said.

“I’m Sagan. The first fully self-aware artificial intelligence in the world.” Sagan said.

“… artificial intelligence?” Bakugou’s father said.

“Full points to the brute’s father.” Sagan said.

Ken slammed his fist on the table.

“Sagan!”

“Whops. Sorry, sorry. Dad is being kept in the basement of a bar in the bad part of town. The exact location is… here.” Sagan said.

Nezu’s and All-Might’s phones started humming to let them know a new message had arrived.

“I just sent you two the map.”

Nezu and All-Might checked their phones.

“How do you know this?” Nezu said.

“Dad has nanomachines that help him control the armor. They can also be used to track him. They’ll still work for forty-eight hours.” Sagan said.

Bakugou’s mother rushed past them.

“You need to get there and save our son!”

“And we will. This is a great help for the investigation.” Nezu said.

Ken’s eyes narrowed.

“But?”

“Excuse me?” Nezu said.

“Where’s the but? Why isn’t All-Might already crashing in there?” Ken said.

Nezu sighed.

“Hatsume. I know how you feel but…”

Something exploded behind Ken’s eyes and the world went dark for a moment. When he could see again, he had yanked Nezu out of his chair. Everything in the room made of metal was twitching and creaking as his Quirk ran wild. He was screaming loud enough that his throat hurt.

“Don’t tell me how I’m feeling! My daughter is there! Get her back!”

Even in his shriveled form All-Might was shockingly strong and he could easily pull Ken away from Nezu and then out of the room. He left behind a pale Nezu and a lot of scared parents. Ken kicked and fought back all the way to the hallway. All reason was gone, and he just wanted to grab Nezu by the throat and hurt anyone who tried to stop him. All-Might kicked the door shut behind them.

“Let go of me, you…!” Ken screamed.

“Hatsume.” All-Might said patiently.

“Shut up! I…!”

All-Might grew into his muscular form and suddenly there was real strength behind his calm voice.

“Blacksmith. Stop.”

Ken didn’t know if it was respect or something else but… he stopped. Saying no to All-Might… was almost blasphemy.

“We’re both professionals. You know how these things work. We can’t just go in blind.” All-Might said.

“My daughter…”

“We’ll get her back.” All-Might said and his voice grew harder: “And bring in the people responsible. I’m not telling you not to worry but the best people are in charge.”

“Wait. You’re not in charge of the operation?” Ken said.

“No. Endeavor is.” All-Might said.

All-Might mistook his silence for compliance and after saying something returned to Nezu’s office. Ken was left standing in the hallway. Lost and alone. He took a few feeble steps and tried to think of something. Anything! His daughter and oldest friend were gone. His daughter’s best… only friend was gone. U.A had betrayed him. He… he…

He couldn’t breathe!

Why couldn’t he breathe?! Ken clawed at the collar of his shirt that was suffocating him, but nothing helped. He couldn’t breathe. Why couldn’t he breathe?! Sweat was running down his face and into his eyes. He fell on his knees. He couldn’t breathe! His heart was beating fast enough to burst. He couldn’t breathe!

“Ken.”

Inko put her hand on his shoulder and knelled next to him.

“Ken. Look at me. Concentrate on breathing and look at me. Slow and steady.” Inko said.

The warm, reassuring voice helped him through the worst and soon he could breathe again but his hands kept shaking and the sweating wouldn’t stop.

“How…?”

Inko gave him the strained smile of someone on the verge of tears.

“I got pregnant when I was nineteen. You think I haven’t had panic attacks?” Inko said.

They sat down and Inko got him water.

“… thanks.” Ken said when Inko handed him the cup.

“You’re welcome.” Inko said and sat next to him.

They sat in the empty hallway in silence. The only sound was the arguing in Nezu’s office. Tokoyami’s parents were threatening to sue. Bakugou’s mother was just threatening while her husband tried to calm everyone down.

“Should we… contact Izuku’s father?” Ken said.

“He’s never cared before. I don’t see why this would change that.” Inko said.

“… okay.”

Inko rubbed her hands.

“I… when Izuku was diagnosed… I was… it hurt. Seeing him in pain like that broke my heart but… I was also relieved. Izuku has always loved heroes but… heroes don’t always survive… being heroes.”

“I know.” Ken said.

How many colleagues had he lost to injuries? Both physical and mental? And how many had he just… lost?

“When he got to U.A. I was happy for him but… also scared. And then he started getting all those injuries…” Inko said.

“Mei pushed him too far but… it’s not really her fault. I wasn’t the best possible father.” Ken said.

“And I wasn’t the best possible mother. It’s just… too much responsibility. Raising someone. Even when we try our best… it’s not just good enough.” Inko said and looked at him: “When he started hanging out with Mei… and I found out who you were… I… thought about telling him to stop.”

Ken rubbed his face.

“You read the article.” Ken said.

“And I followed the court case. Everyone did.”

Ken nodded.

“I don’t blame you. That thing… didn’t make me look too good. Did you think I was a greedy asshole or a crazy ex-boyfriend?” Ken said.

“Maybe both. I thought… well. It doesn’t matter anymore. When I met you, I decided I had been wrong.” Inko said and wiped a tear out of her eye: “But Mei… still worried me. She… reminds me of Bakugou.”

Ken felt his temper flare up.

“Mei can be mean but she’s not that cruel.”

“I know but… Izuku has always liked… dangerous people. Like Bakugou. He used to be… so confident and adventurous. Until… you know…”

“If you thought Mei was like… Bakugou, why didn’t you stop it?” Ken said.

“Because… it felt like my son had come back when he was with Mei. Like he’d come back to life.” Inko said and gave him a hard look: “The things you and Kawada said about Endeavor… where they true?”

Ken nodded.

“Yes.”

Inko’s mouth turned into a hard line.

“I don’t think I can trust my son’s safety to a man like that.”

***

The hospital was packed and Shouto was reminded of the chaos that had reigned after Hosu and Stain. Nurses were rushing up and down the hallways trying to help as many as people as they could, but they were spread so thin. Shouto laid in the small bed he’d been ushered into after the lacerations Kirishima had given him had been stitched up.

He’d gotten off lucky.

Kaminari was still in surgery and Jiro would be needing some extensive physical therapy to get her hands back to hundred percent. Momo was in intensive care and everyone who’d inhaled Mustard’s gas was under observation. Shouto was grateful he’d avoided that. The headache that followed… just the thought made him shudder. All the students who weren't hurt had been sent home to save space.

Then there was Izuku, Mei, Tokoyami and Power Loader. And Bakugou too.

This was the kind of blow that U.A’s reputation would never fully recover from. Villains had broken into their training grounds and walked away with four students and one teacher. Vlad King had been patched up and put in front of cameras for some damage control, but it was too late for that. The villains had made U.A bleed and there was fear in the air. People were demanding answers and U.A was running out of excuses.

Shouto felt so… useless. Helpless. Weak. Small. Even dad hadn’t made him feel like this. He hadn’t been any help to Izuku or Mei and… he’d just watched as that freak Compress had kidnapped three of their own. He’d just watched!

I’m still just that scared kid, Shouto thought bitterly.

After a while he couldn’t just lay still. The fear and anxiety would crush him otherwise. Shouto got up and left his room. He had to be alone. He needed a place to gather his thoughts. The staircases leading to the fire exits were a good place to hide but Shouto quickly realized he wasn’t the only one who needed to be alone.

He heard crying.

When Shouto looked down, he saw Kirishima. Alone. Crying.

Shouto hesitated. In Endeavor’s house he’d learned that it was usually for the best to let people deal with their own problems but… that rule hadn’t done mom any favors. Or him. He made his decision.

“Kirishima.”

Kirishima looked up. His eyes were red and swollen. He tried to say something but choked up and started bawling again. Shouto sat next to him and let him finish. What should he say? At home him, Natsuo and Fuyumi would comfort each other by being close. Letting the others know that they weren’t alone. What would Izuku have said? Something comforting. He’d try to point out that life would move on. And what would Mei say? Something terribly offensive that would anger others to action.

“… I… this is so uncool of me.” Kirishima managed.

“It’s okay.” Shouto said.

Kirishima clung to him desperately like a dying child.

“Its not okay! It will never be okay! I… I just watched! They took him, and I just watched! They took Katsuki and I couldn’t do anything!”

Kirishima hit the wall without bothering to harden his skin. The skin on his knuckles broke and bled. It was weird. Shouto had always thought that Bakugou was just one-dimensional bully but… even he had people who loved him.

“Why am I so useless?!” Kirishima cried.

“It wasn’t your fault.” Shouto said.

“Yes, it was! I could’ve done something! Anything! And I… I didn’t.”

“The villains would’ve just had a fifth hostage and Bakugou wouldn’t have wanted you to get hurt.” Shouto said.

Kirishima started crying again in long, ugly sobs.

“I want him back!”

“The heroes are looking for him. They’ll find him.” Shouto said.

Shouto’s phone started humming to tell him he’d gotten a message. And so did Kirishima’s. He opened his message file. It had arrived from Team Indestructible’s account and told him to come to Momo’s room.

“Did something happen to Momo?” Kirishima said.

They glanced at each other and then started running. They rushed through the hospital’s hallways to Momo’s room. Momo had the best room in the hospital at the top floor were Shouto had stayed when he’d lost his…

When they got there, the rest of Team Indestructible was already there. As well as Tsu. None of them had escaped the villain attack unscathed. Tenya’s wrist and ankle were covered in bandages and Kirishima’s winced when he saw them. Tsu was covered in bruises and a blood vessel had broken in her left eye coloring it red. As for Momo… she looked so weak and feeble. Nothing but skin and bones. Tubes were connected to her wrist feeding her sustenance until she could eat on her own. She gave them a tired smile.

“… Shouto… Kirishima…” Momo said.

“What’s wrong? Why did you call us?” Shouto said.

Momo’s phone on the nightstand came to life.

“She didn’t. I did. Good to see everyone here.” Sagan said.

“Why did you call us here?” Shouto said.

“Because we’re going to rescue mom and dad. And the other three of course.” Sagan said.

Everyone in the room glanced at each other.

“How? We don’t know where they are.” Tsu said.

“I do. As long as dad has nanomachines, I always know where he is.” Sagan said.

Kirishima gabbed the phone.

“Is Katsuki there?!”

“I think so, yes.” Sagan said.

“You… you think, or you know?” Kirishima said desperately.

“I’m sorry, Eijirou.” Sagan said.

Kirishima’s shoulders slumped and he put the phone down.

“Have you told the heroes?” Shouto said.

“Yes.” Sagan said.

Tenya put his hand up like he was in class.

“This is not a good idea. We should let the professionals do their job.” Tenya said sounding nervous.

“If it was All-Might, sure. But it’s not. Endeavor is running the operation.” Sagan said.

Shouto shuddered.

“And that’s a bad thing? I mean… he’s not All-Might but he’s still the second most skilled hero.” Tenya said.

“That’s not all there is to him. Shouto. Will you tell them, or should I?” Sagan said.

“Sagan. Please. Don’t.” Shouto said.

“Shouto Todoroki. My parents have been kidnapped by monsters. I’m done keeping your secrets. Tell them or I will.” Sagan said.

“What secret?” Tenya said.

Shouto sat down and rubbed his face. He was so tired and… he didn’t want to do this. If he told the truth… if he let it all out in the open… he’d leave himself vulnerable. He’d risk getting… hurt.

But it was no longer his choice. Sagan had seen to that. He never thought it possible to hate a line of code but… he could understand. Izuku’s and Mei’s lives were hanging in the balance. How far would he go to save his mother?

Shouto steeled himself and looked at his… friends. Then… he told them everything. About his father. His mother. Their marriage. Of the reason he was born. And what father had done to silence anyone who’d found out.

The truth didn’t set him free. It didn’t leave him feeling relieved. Just tired and sick. Uneasy silence fell over the room.

“Shouto… I’m sorry.” Momo said.

“I… you don’t sound surprised.” Shouto said.

“Our mothers were friends. We’ve known each other since we were kids. I… had my doubts.” Momo said.

“Have you really been carrying this all on your own?” Tenya said.

Shouto didn’t know what to say.

“Todoroki… dude… I… you…” Kirishima said but he was lost for words.

Somethings were just too big to be put into words. Instead Kirishima hugged him. Soon everyone was hugging him. They squeezed him hard enough to force out a few tears. When they finally let go, there was new steel in Kirishima’s gaze.

“I’m going. I’m not trusting Katsuki to someone like Endeavor.” Kirishima said.

“I’m coming too.” Tsu said.

Tenya took off his glasses.

“Look… I know how you feel. When Stain… when my brother… just rushing out and doing as you please will get you killed.”

“I’m not going to just sit here and do nothing! I’ll go alone if I have to!” Kirishima yelled.

Tenya turned to look at him.

“Shouto. Please.”

Tenya was looking at him for help. For guidance. For leadership and… he didn’t know what to do. He had no clue. What could he possibly say to Kirishima? What could he say to Kirishima to convince him not to go? Or Tsu? Everyone besides Tenya had noticed how Tsu looked at Izuku.

“Shouto.” Sagan said: “Your dad is an asshole but he’s also the number two hero. If you really think that he’s the best man for the job, we’ll forget about.”

“I’m not!” Kirishima shouted.

“Eraserhead might disagree.” Sagan said and Shouto could spot a crooked smile in her voice: “So, Shouto? Is he the best man for the job?”

He was so tired.

“I swear you’re just like Mei.” Shouto said.

“No wonder. Thirty percent of my mind map came from her.” Sagan said.

Everyone waited for his answer, but he didn’t need to say anything. The defeated look on his face told them everything.

Tenya glanced at Momo.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?” Tenya said.

“I… can barely see. Much less… think.” Momo said.

“Tenya… you don’t have to do this.” Shouto said.

Tenya shook his head.

“No. I promised that I’d help you any way I can.” Tenya said and looked around: “Do we at least have a plan?”

“I’ve got that covered. Team Indestructible’s seventh member should be here soon.” Sagan said and laughed: “Actually, he’s been spying on us for a while now. Care to come in?”

The door to Momo’s room was pushed open. Hitoshi Shinsou stepped in.

“How did you know I was there?” Shinsou said.

“From your cellphone. I can track them easily. It was also a test. You didn’t run off to rat us out, so I guess you’re on board.” Sagan said.

Shinsou smiled. It was not a reassuring smile.

“Ratting you out would earn me a lot of brownie points.”

“You…” Tsu said.

Shinsou out up his hands.

“Wow, wow, wow. No need to get violent with little, old me. Ratting you out would be good but… saving everyone would get me a one-way ticket to heroics. Besides, whiz kid is pretty much the only 1-A student I actually like.”

“Thanks.” Shouto said dryly.

“You’re welcome. So, what’s the plan?” Shinsou said.

“We’ll attack tonight. You use your Quirk to get us in. We grab the hostages and get out.” Sagan said.

“… sounds… like a plan.” Momo said.

“I can get behind that.” Tenya said.

“Then get rest everyone. Except you, Shouto.” Sagan said.

“What about me?” Shouto said.

“We need to get you suited up.” Sagan said.

***

Izuku floated in darkness without thoughts or feelings. He didn’t mind. Here you didn’t have to worry about a broken heart, disappeared father or impossible dreams.

“… Izuku…”

Was… was someone calling him?

“… Izuku… please… wake up…”

Who was that?

“… Izuku…”

He knew that voice. Mei! Life could be hard, and the universe didn’t owe him anything. Purpose or happiness but… that didn’t mean life was just misery. Even a life without meaning could be an adventure. Mei had shown him that! And now she was asking for his help! Izuku started clawing his way through the darkness towards Mei’s voice.

He opened his eyes and saw Mei.

“Thank God.” Mei sighed and hugged him.

The left side of Mei’s face was bruised, and her eye had swollen shut. What… what had happened? Everything after his fight with Shuichi was… murky.

“Your face…” Izuku said.

“Some blonde bitch pistol whipped me.” Mei said.

“Are you alright?”

“I will be once we get out of here.” Mei said.

Where were they? Izuku looked around and saw a dreary bedroom without windows and a heavy steel door. He tried to get out of the bed and pain flashed through him. His bad knee gave out under him and he realized his leg brace was gone. Everything hurt, and his skin felt… sunburned.

“Don’t move. You got beaten pretty badly and they took your brace.” Mei said.

Izuku lied back down.

“What is this place?”

“The League’s headquarters.”

“Oh… shit.”

“Yeah.” Mei agreed and leaned to whisper in his ear: “All we need to do is wait. Sagan can use the nanomachines to track you. We’ll be out in no time.”

Memories started slowly returning to him. He rubbed his head.

“I think… that blonde girl got me too. She… she turned into Kaminari and fried the armor.” Izuku said.

There was a knock on the door.

“Indestructible? Hatsume? You awake?” Shuichi said.

“Busy fucking and vice versa.” Mei said.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Shuichi said and opened the door.

Shuichi was still dressed in his villain gear. He still reeked of the Sludge Villain. They all did.

“Cheater.” Izuku said.

“Sorry about that. Couldn’t be helped.” Shuichi said and looked at them: “Good to see you’re both okay.”

Mei flipped him off.

“Up yours, you green butthole. So, what happens now? You tie us into some death trap while you monologue about your evil plan?” Mei said.

“I was actually hoping we could be friends.” Shuichi said.

“You could’ve just sent a friend request in Facebook.” Mei said.

“Somethings have to be said face to face.” Shuichi said and took off his mask: “Would you like to join the League?”

Izuku blinked. Mei started laughing.

“Shit, Scaly. I think stupidity is contagious. You should stop hanging out with Ketchup.” Mei said.

“Hear me out.” Shuichi said.

“How about I give you the finger instead? Like this.” Mei said and flipped Shuichi off again: “And then tell you to let us go home.”

Shuichi sighed and turned to look at Izuku.

“Indestructible…”

“Spinner.” Izuku said.

“There are going to be changes. Big changes and we need real heroes on our side.” Shuichi said.

“You’re villains. You tried…”

“The League desperate and weak. Like I said. There will be changes.” Shuichi said and glanced at Mei: “You saw Stain’s hand. What else do you think we have? You could study all of it. Imagine how much you could learn.”

“And in return I’d become an enemy of the world.” Mei said.

“You’re already and enemy of the world! All that people care about is Quirks and you said that Quirks don’t matter. They’ll never forgive you for that. And you, Indestructible. You’re Quirkless. Where were your heroes then? How many of them said that discriminating against the Quirkless was bullshit? No one besides All-Might and how did that work out for him? You won that tournament and they stole your win. You can’t change the world alone but I can help you if you let me.”

Mei yawned.

“Nice speech. The whole letting Noumu run loose kinda ruins it, though.”

“What?!” Izuku yelled.

Shuichi rubbed his eyes.

“I didn’t know, okay! I didn’t know Tomura would do that! Or… or that Eri was there.” Shuichi said.

“There’s a lot you don’t know, Scaly.” Mei said.

Shuichi sighed.

“Look. Just… just listen what the boss has to say. Maybe he can convince you.”

“And if he can’t?” Mei said.

“You’ll walk free.” Shuichi said.

“You promise?” Mei said.

“I promise, and I keep my promises.” Shuichi said.

Mei grinned.

“When you say the boss… do you mean Tomura or the real boss?”

“The real one.”

“Well, after a pitch like that, how could I say no?” Mei said.

“Thank you.” Shuichi said and took out his phone: “Kurogiri. It’s Shuichi. They’re ready.”

A black portal opened before them and Mei had to support Izuku, so he could walk. Izuku looked at the portal suspiciously.

“Don’t worry. It’s safe.” Shuichi said.

They stepped through the gate together and found themselves in… a dining hall fit for a fairytale. Great pillars supported an ornately decorated roof and a table full of exotic foods was lit by candle light. A throne had been set up at the end of the table and a man sat on it.

Izuku couldn’t explain it but… he couldn’t take his eyes off the man. He was dressed in a simple but expensive black suit. His dark hair had been cut short to highlight his chiseled features. He couldn’t be older than thirty but there was something terribly ancient about him. He seemed to emanate power.

The man smiled at them. A boyish smile full of good cheer.

“Welcome, Team Indestructible. Welcome. Please. Have a seat.”

Two chairs next to the man moved without anyone touching them. Izuku and Mei glanced at each other and took their places. Something was off about the man’s eyes. He looked at them but… his stare was blank. Like he was looking right through them. It also seemed like he had to feel around the table with his hands. Was something wrong with his eyes?

“You hungry? Feel free to have a bite.” The man said.

“Not hungry.” Mei said.

“Well, if you change your mind, don’t let me stop you. Or are you nervous? You didn’t seem like the type.” The man said.

“I think someone’s pulling my leg. You’re too young to be Tomura’s master.” Mei said.

“I’m older than I look.” The man said.

“How much older?” Mei said.

“I’m easily the oldest man who’s ever lived.”

“… oh, God.” Izuku whispered.

Mei looked at him alarmed.

“What?”

“I see Toshinori has mentioned me. What did he say? That I’m a bad guy? A villain? That I’m a monster? He did, didn’t he? You can call me All For One. Or sensei.” All For One said and poured himself a drink.

Some of the whiskey spilled but All For One didn’t seem to notice. He offered them the bottle.

“Care for a drink? Would help with your nerves.” All For One said.

“No thanks.” Mei said.

“As you wish.” All For One said and took a sip: “I’m sure that Toshinori has told you all kinds of terrible things but Toshinori lies.”

“Who’s Toshinori?” Mei said.

“All-Might didn’t even tell you his name?” All For One said and shook his head: “Not cool, Toshinori.”

“He… he told me you killed your brother.” Izuku said.

All For One’s face hardened.

“Yes. I had to make a hard choice and I wish there had been another way.” All For One and then put his full attention to Izuku.

Izuku shifted in his chair.

“… what?”

“It will come to you, but don’t you think it’s unfair? Without hearing my side of the story, I’m declared the bad guy.” All For One said.

“And… what is your side?” Mei said.

“That Toshinori is full of shit. A charlatan.” All For One said.

Izuku’s temper flared.

“All-Might’s a hero!”

All For One smiled.

“Heroes don’t fight like barbarians. Do you know what he did to me? Would you like to see?” All For One said and his face… flickered.

Mei had to bite down on a scream and Izuku swallowed bile. All For One rubbed the scar tissue where his face should have been. All of it was gone. Nose, ears, eyes. All of it.

“Not a pretty sight, is it? I looked even worse a year ago. The damage was… severe. I was… trapped. In my mind. I couldn’t move. Hear. Speak. I was buried alive in my own body. For three years. Can you imagine that? Must be what hell is like. Luckily I have a very skilled doctor.”

All For One put the illusion back up.

“Still, sacrifices make us more loyal to the cause. You want loyalty? Make your followers give up something. Wouldn’t you agree, Hatsume?” All For One said.

“What?” Mei said.

“Don’t play dumb with me, Hatsume. It doesn’t suit you. You’re so much like me at that age.” All For One said and raised his glass to Izuku: “You’ve been busted pretty badly. Was it all worth it?”

“Yes.” Izuku said.

“It better be. Otherwise you’d have to admit it that you were an easily duped moron. Or a thug.” All For One said.

“What?!” Mei growled.

“I’ve been following Project: Indestructible. How did it feel to destroy Bakugou’s reputation? Did it feel good? Did it make you feel like a badass?” All For One said.

“I… that… no. It just… happened. I didn’t…” Izuku stuttered.

“And now you know how I feel about my brother. He just wouldn’t stop trying to destroy everything I’ve built. If he’d had his way, humanity would’ve walked into its extinction while holding hands.” All For One said.

Mei started laughing. A bemused smile danced on All For One’s lips.

“Want to explain the joke to the rest of us?” All For One said.

“Fuck you! That’s the joke. You did what you had to do? It was all the greater good? What an awesome excuse. You’ve been hoarding technology to yourself. Do you have any idea how many people you’ve killed with that?!” Mei yelled.

“Countless I’d imagine but I’ve saved more people than I’ve killed.” All For One said.

“Oh, bullshit!” Mei said.

“It’s true, you know.” All For One said and emptied his glass: “I was the first. The first human born with a Quirk. People think it was the lightbulb baby but I’m ten years his senior. It was pretty useless until other people started popping up with Quirks. I saw a Quirk the first time when I was twelve. It was so… beautiful. Like a… blue flame burning in the heart. So, I reached out and took it.”

All For One shrugged.

“It wasn’t a very impressive Quirk. All I could do was grow facial hair at will. Ever seen a twelve-year-old sport a full ZZ Top? My brother thought it was hilarious. And he was right.”

All For One poured himself another drink.

“Then… everything started going wrong. Quirks started manifesting at random and… they went to people’s heads. Suddenly everyday was war and I realized something. In a world of Quirks, a man who can take and give them is king but… being a king comes with kingly responsibilities. And I couldn’t just shrug them off. So, I restored order. I saved humanity. They even started calling me the Symbol of Peace.”

The room fell deadly quiet. Mei had turned pale and Izuku felt sick.

“… what?” Izuku said.

“You heard me. What? Did Toshinori lie that the First Symbol of Peace was my brother? All he was good for was complaining. He… sometimes he did have a point but… I killed thousands to spare billions and all those human experiments proved that Quirks weren’t a plague. I tried to reason with him but… there’s no reasoning with a fanatic.” All For One said.

All For One laughed.

“I stole technology? No. I did it to wean humanity off technology. The Age of Technology is over. It is now the Age of Quirks. Without technology Quirks can grow and develop freely without hinderance until humans have become like gods.”

Mei spat at All For One.

“Then why are you using it?! You think I don’t hear that life-support system you’re hooked on? Turn it off and we’ll see how long you survive without technology?! You’re a hypocrite and a parasite!”

“Mei. Don’t… don’t piss him off.” Izuku pleaded.

“Don’t worry about that Midoriya. People like me don’t get mad.” All For One said.

“Yeah. People like us get even. So now what? You ask us to join you?” Mei said.

“Would you? All the technology I’ve collected could be yours to study.” All For One said.

“I…” Mei said.

All For One started laughing.

“No need to answer that. I know what you’ll say. Yes. You’ll say yes and then try to stab me in the back.” All For One said and then turned to look at Izuku: “But maybe my brother could convince you. What do you say brother? Will it be us against the world this time?”

Izuku blinked.

“… what?”

All For One cocked his head.

“Brother. Cut it out. I know you’re there. Talk to me. Let’s for once try to talk things out. Has fighting me ever worked out for you?” All For One said.

“… I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Izuku said.

All For One’s eyes widened.

“You… don’t have it? Toshinori didn’t offer you his Quirk?”

“… he did. I said no.” Izuku said.

All For One got up.

“You said no?!”

Izuku and Mei leaned backwards in their chairs. All For One slumped back down and glared at them.

“You’re a fool, boy. A goddamn fool.” All For One said.

“Well, he did date Bakugou at one point.” Mei said.

All For One snorted.

“Thanks for that. Almost makes up for this lousy evening. I guess we’re done here. I just have to do a couple of things before I send you kids home.” All For One said.

“… you’ll let us go?” Izuku said.

“Shuichi gave his word, didn’t he? I’d hate to make him a liar. I’ll just have to keep another promise first.” All For One said and looked at Izuku.

His arm hurt. It felt like… blood started pooling in his wrist and formed a zit that popped. A small cloud of grey dust floated out of his arm and flew to All For One.

“Interesting. Nanomachines? Let me guess. They can be used to track you as well.” All For One said.

Mei swallowed. Izuku started sweating cold. All For One reached out for his phone.

“Call Kurogiri.” All For One said and the phone dialed the number: “Kurogiri.”

“Master.” Kurogiri answered.

“Open a portal to the Noumu factory nearby and transport Dabi and Compress there as well. Then send in the lass.” All For One said.

“As you wish, master.”

A small portal opened and All For One threw the nanomachines through it. Suddenly chains coiled around Izuku and Mei, binding them to their chairs. The illusion covering the room faded and showed it for what it really was. A dungeon without windows where no one could hear you scream.

Izuku heard steps and singing.

“Come, take a look inside
What you lost you'll find
What you want is right in front of you
Look, underneath the stairs
What's broken is repaired
Now there's nothing left behind
Nothing left of you
Voices start to change
Faces rearrange
Eyes roll back and hands are pulling you down
They're dragging you beneath
Blood between your teeth
You'll sleep when the shadow move over your

Black eyes
I hear you calling out for me tonight
No rest for the soon departed
Black eyes
You won't be dreaming when you sleep tonight
I'll finish what you started.”

The door opened.

“Wassup ya all?! It’s yer girl Toga!”

Chapter Text

With all the insanity U.A was dealing with, no one noticed two students slipping into the Support Department’s workshops. Mei had worked hard and the frame for the Ignite armor was already finished but the finer details still needed work. Shouto and Tenya followed Sagan’s instructions the best they could after she had dumbed down the technical jargon for laymen.

“Mom wasn’t able to get all the parts she needed so…” Sagan said and sighed: “We have to scavenge the Mark 2.0 for parts. I’m so sorry, baby brother.”

They started dismantling the old armor and Shouto felt like he was desecrating an old friend’s grave. This was the armor Izuku had worn when the beat Stain and saved Eri. Tenya had to stop working every few minutes to massage feeling back to his bruised wrist.

“You alright?” Shouto said.

“The cold spray and painkillers help.” Tenya said and glanced at him over the armor: “What about you?”

“I’m… fine.” Shouto said.

Tenya took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

“Look… about your family… if you ever need to talk about it, you know where to find me. Just… don’t just let it all… pile up.”

“I didn’t want to worry you.” Shouto said.

“And you thought keeping secrets wouldn’t worry me? I… I’m not asking you to tell me everything… but if you have problems, you can ask me for help. You listened to me when I needed it. We’re friends. Right?” Tenya said.

Shouto smiled.

“Yeah.”

Tenya looked at the armor.

“I still think this is a bad idea but…”

“Every other option just seems worse?” Shouto suggested.

“Yeah.”

“I should’ve told you sooner. I should’ve told All-Might. He would’ve been able to help… before Kawada but… I was scared. Ashamed.” Shouto said.

“Well… freedom is what we do with what has been done to us.” Tenya said.

“Deep.” Shouto said.

“Just something Tensei told me.”

***

All For One left Team Indestructible to deal with their number one fan and stepped through one of Kurogiri’s portals that took him to his office. He sat down with a heavy sigh.

I said no.

That Quirkless freak had said no to Toshinori’s Quirk. He’d said no to his brother’s legacy! What the hell was going on?! How could anyone say no to a Quirk? That Quirkless freak had to be insane. Putting the mad animal down would be for the best. All For One smiled to himself when he imagined the look on Toshinori’s face when he saw what Toga had done to his Quirkless pet.

He’d barely had time to gather his thoughts when there was banging on his door. All For One concentrated and tried to use his latest Quirk taken from that… Pussycat hero, whatever her name was. A mad cacophony of presences and locations filed his head that were impossible to make sense of. That was the downside of taking a Quirk that required so much skill to use. All For One turned it off quickly. He’d master it. With time. He was immortal. He had all the time in the world. Once he knew how this tracking Quirk worked, no one would be able to hide from him.

“Come in.” All For One said.

Shuichi had always looked strange to his infrared Quirk. His mutation hadn’t just altered his appearance but also his physiology and turned him cold-blooded. His body heat would shift with the room temperature. You could have said that Shuichi was a species all his own. Everything he had tried to create. A new kind of human.

“What is this?” Shuichi growled.

“An unfortunate necessity.” All For One said.

“You gave them to Toga!”

“Shuichi…”

“To fucking Toga!” Shuichi screamed.

“Shuichi.”

All For One measured his voice carefully. Equal measures of sympathy, exhaustion, understanding and strength.

“Sometimes we have to make hard decisions. You’ll understand that one when you have to lead. Toga’s intelligence is invaluable and… she wanted them.” All For One said.

“I gave my word!”

“And sometimes we can’t keep our promises. That’s not the same as lying.”

Shuichi bared his teeth.

“Did you know Tomura was going to use Noumus?”

“No.” All For One lied: “He will be reprimanded for it later. I think putting someone else in charge of our field operations for a moment would do him some good. That could be you.”

“Me?” Shuichi said.

All For One got up and put his hand on Shuichi’s shoulder.

“This is war Shuichi and in war… we have to make sacrifices. It’s up to us to make sure those sacrifices are worth it and one day others will give meaning to our sacrifices.”

“… I… You…. But…”

Shuichi’s shoulders slumped under All For One’s hand.

“Promise me one thing.” Shuichi said quietly: “When we don’t need Toga anymore, I get to kill her.”

All For One smiled.

“Of course.” All For One said and pulled Shuichi into a hug: “I’m sorry I have to put all of this on your shoulders, my son.”

“I… I’ll survive That’s what I do.”

“I know.” All For One said.

All For One suppressed a chuckle until Shuichi had left. Good. No. Better than good. This was perfect. Once Team Indestructible was dead, once their blood was in Shuichi’s hands, the boy would be his. Body and soul. Nothing tied people to him like a sacrifice.

***

Katsuki Bakugou came to in a dark room. He’d been tied to a heavy steel chair and his hands had been strapped across his chest, pointing at his face. The message was clear. If he tried to use his Quirk, he’d just bow his own head off. His eyes were fucked but slowly getting better and soon he realized he wasn’t alone.

“Hi. Remember me?” Tomura Shigaraki said.

Katsuki groaned.

“You do. I’m flattered.” Tomura said: “Sorry about the shackles but your temper can be explosive.”

Tomura laughed at his own pun.

“Anyway, I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time. Ever since I saw this.”

Tomura took out his phone and started playing a video. One Katsuki knew all too well. Footage from his mock battle with Midoriya. And what he had said afterwards.

“You… you think this will change anything? You’ll never have a Quirk. Your dad is never coming back.”

The insult was far harsher than he’d meant it to be and the look on his face when he said it was… callous. No. The insult was just as devastating as he’d meant it to be. It had been just as cruel and mean spirited as he’d thought, and it had hurt Midoriya like he had hoped it would.

“You don’t hold anything back, do you?” Tomura said.

“… fuck… you…” Katsuki said.

Tomura laughed.

“That’s what I thought. That wasn’t an easy video to find. U.A was very thorough but… I’m afraid the damage was already done.”

Tomura leaned closer.

“We have to pay for every mistake we make. Forever. It doesn’t matter what you do. How hard you try to change. To the people you’ll always be the guy from that video. Breaking into the hero business won’t be easy. You’ll never work in an agency worth your talents.”

Katsuki stayed silent. If he’d said something, the quivering in his voice would have betrayed him. Tomura was right. He had been in a fast track to one of the top agencies and then… the only one who would even consider him, had been Fourth Kind.

Tomura took off the hand covering his face.

“Ever thought about working with me?”

Katsuki snorted.

“With what? In trying to kill All-Might?”

Tomura chuckled like a kid.

“No. All-Might is done for and society is… crumbling because of it. It won’t be long now until we can start building a new one. A better one. You could help us with that.”

Tomura’s grin grew wider.

“Think about it. There would be no one telling you what to do. You could be your own man. You could be free. Do whatever you want. If someone has a problem with that, just kill them. You could be everything you can be. What do you think? Sounds pretty good, right?”

Tomura put his hand on his shoulder. The touch made Katsuki’s skin crawl.

“Besides. Who else would want you now? Everyone already thinks you’re one of us. Even if you somehow escaped, everyone would just think you agreed to work for us. That you’re a spy. I heard that you almost got kicked out of U.A. And the only reason you didn’t was because of All-Might. How have people been treating All-Might lately? Are they really worth fighting for? Name one thing in this world worth protecting.”

For a moment Katsuki thought about it. He could do whatever he wanted? It sounded good but… he’d lived all his life like that and he didn’t want to be that guy anymore. He wanted to be the man Eijirou thought he was.

Katsuki looked Tomura dead in the eyes.

“Listen up cause I’m only saying this once. Go fuck yourself.”

Tomura just laughed.

“Still some fight left in you, huh? Good. I like that. Your pride will crush itself in time.” Tomura said and turned to look at the door: “Shuichi!”

The door opened, and lizard fucker peeked in.

“Yeah?”

“Keep an eye on him. Let him think it over.”

***

Izuku struggled against his chains and tried to tear himself free but the more he fought, the more he got tangled. Mei’s face had turned cold and hard. She was watching Toga who was taking out knives from a small briefcase. While singing to herself.

“I'm a killer, cold and wrathful
Silent sleeper, I've been inside your bedroom
I've murdered half the town
Left you love notes on their headstones
I'll fill the graveyards until I have you
Moonlight walking, I smell your softness
Carnivorous and lusting to track you down among the pines
I want you stuffed into my mouth
Hold you down and tear you open, live inside you
Love, I'd never hurt you
But I'll grind against your bones until our marrows mix
I will eat you slowly...”

Toga held up one of the knives and inspected it in the lamplight.

“Ya guys know what it means pulling a Houdini on someone?” Toga said.

“No.” Mei said.

“Ya cut the body up into such small pieces that the coppers can never find ‘em.” Toga said and smiled.

Her smile was even scarier than the knives.

“Ya wouldn’t believe how people scream when ya do it to them while they’re still alive.”

The taste of steel filled Izuku’s mouth and all he could hear was blood rushing in his ears while he doubled his efforts to tear himself free. He wouldn’t die here! He wouldn’t! He couldn’t! He hadn’t accomplished anything yet! He was going to be a hero! The greatest hero! He’d make mom proud! He couldn’t leave mom alone!

Izuku twisted and turned. Betting his muscles against the steel chains. But all it accomplished was wear him down. Toga just grinned.

Izuku fell against the chains while panting. Sweat started dripping down his face.

“… who are you?” Izuku said.

“I told ya. I’m yer girl Toga.” Toga said.

Mei licked her dry lips.

“I think… what Izuku is trying to say is… what have we ever done to you?”

Mei was trying so hard to keep her voice even, but the words came out trembling.

Toga looked surprised.

“Did to me? Ya did nothing to me. I love ya both.”

Normally when he was facing a villain, the way his heart was beating until it made his blood spark, had been exhilarating. Now… acid was eating at his stomach. His chest hurt.

“Toga… look, look, look. I don’t know what they did to you but… if you love us, let us help you. We can help you.” Izuku said.

“Yeah! That’s right. There’s nothing we can’t do. Just let us go. Can you imagine how grateful we’d be?” Mei said.

“Thanks, but I don’t need help. I’m having fun.” Toga said and smiled: “I’ll help ya two instead.”

“… help us? You… you’ll let us go?” Izuku said.

“Naw. Not yet. Ya wanna be a hero, Izuku? Every hero needs an archenemy and I don’t think Spinner cuts it. So, we’re gonna play a game. I’ll start cutting off parts and the first one who tells me to kill the other one wins.” Toga said.

I’m going to die, Izuku realized.

He was going to die in this dark room at the hands of that monster. And that’s what Toga was. A monster. Whatever lived behind those yellow eyes was far older and twisted than even All For One. Even the stone floor seemed to shudder when Toga cast a shadow over it and her shadow… Izuku didn’t know if it was the fear but he could swear that Toga’s shadow moved like it was alive.

Mei screamed. It was an ugly howl of rage and hate. The kind you let out as a last act of defiance when all hope was lost.

“You crazy fucking bitch! You fucking bitch! You better fucking kill us! If you don’t, I’ll put us back together and then we’ll come after you! You’ll never be able to hide from us! You hear me, bitch?! Never!”

Toga laughed and Izuku felt like throwing up.

“I know, and it will be so much fun. Whoever lives will spend the rest of their lives chasing me. We’ll keep fighting until one of us is dead. It’ll be great! We’ll love each other like only archenemies can.”

Tears and snot were running down Mei’s face and Izuku realized he was crying too.

“You want a hero to play with?! Izuku is a hero!” Mei said.

“Mei! Shut up!” Izuku yelled.

“He’s a hero! He’ll play your games!” Mei continued despite of Izuku.

Toga patted their heads.

“No need to cry yet. We’re going to play the game first.” Toga said.

Mei mustered her courage one last time.

“You’re not getting a fucking peep out of me!”

Toga laughed harder than ever.

“I never get tired of hearing that. Always a fresh challenge.” Toga said and then sat on Izuku’s lap.

Izuku tried to pull away but the chair wouldn’t budge. Toga started playing with his hair and somewhere far away Mei was yelling to let him go.

“Ya know, I’ve wanted to do this for so long.” Toga said.

Toga kissed him and then… blood filled his mouth when Toga sank her teeth in his tongue. Toga’s mouth muffled his screams and she bit in deeper. When Izuku was afraid he’d lose his tongue, Toga let go. Toga licked her stained lips while Izuku cried and spat out blood.

“Like cinnamon.” Toga said.

Toga started… transforming. Bile rose to Izuku’s throat when he saw the way Toga’s skin boiled and the bones shifted beneath the skin. It only lasted for a blink but Izuku knew he’d take the image with him to the grave. Soon his doppelganger was standing in front of him. Toga studied her new hands.

“Nice.” Toga said and then made the mistake of putting weight on her new bad knee: “Why did Spinner have to fuck up the leg?”

Toga limped to Mei.

“Geth afay fom herh! Youh wanth toh fith? Leth uf goh anh weh’ll fith! Stof beinh a cowahd!” Izuku slobbered.

Toga knelled in front of Mei.

“… Mei… I… I know we’ve been friends for a long time and… I… I think no one is as pretty or smart as you! Do… do you think we could be more than…?”

Toga made the mistake of getting too close to Mei and she bit Toga in the throat. Toga howled while trying to get Mei to let go but that just made her double down and dig in deeper. Finally, Mei tore off a mouthful of skin and Toga fell to the floor. Mei spat out the meat.

“Fuck you!” Mei yelled.

Toga held her throat and for a moment Izuku thought she was crying. Then he realized she was laughing. Toga stared at her own blood that covered her hands.

“Ain’t it pretty? So pretty! I knew ya liked me too!”

Toga got up while holding her throat.

“Ya know, maybe I’ll just cut ya both up. Maybe I’ll be Indestructible next.” Toga said and picked a knife: “Mei-Mei. What’s yer favorite eye?”

Mei turned to look at Izuku with tears in her eyes.

“Izuku… I’m so sorry.”

Toga giggled.

“Wait until I’ve worked my way to his junk.”

Mei started crying out to her father for help. Izuku cried for his mother.

***

Tsu approached the warehouse were Izuku and Mei were being held. It was surrounded by a high brick fence. Kirishima and Shinsou were following her and both were glancing around nervously. Kirishima had covered his red hair with a dark hoodie and had done everything ese he could to make himself unnoticeable. Not an easy thing to do or Kirishima. Shinsou by contrast was right in his element. Tsu wished she could have been as comfortable, but fear was gnawing at the back of her head. What if they were too late? What if they got caught? What if they got kicked out of U.A?

Then there was the shame.

She was feeling the rush again. Her friends and Bakugou were in danger and she felt like she was on some grand adventure. Maybe she needed help. But there were advantages to the rush too. It had always made her… faster. Stronger. More willing to hurt her opponents. That could be dangerous. She still shuddered at the thought of the fight she had gotten in at fourth grade. She had underestimated the strength of her legs and a kid had almost died. He’d been a bully, sure. But still…

Not that it mattered now.

If someone had to get roughed up so she could save Izuku, so be it. She had looked for so long. For someone who understood her. Izuku got it. He had felt the rush too and loved it. She wouldn’t let someone like that go without a fight.

Somewhere where they couldn’t be seen, Todoroki and Iida were acting as lookout and backup.

“See anything?” Tsu said.

Todoroki’s voice sounded odd behind his new helmet when he answered. Metallic.

“Only one guy seems to be on guard outside. There might be more people inside. How many people can Shinsou control at the same time?” Todoroki said through the radio from his lookout spot.

Tsu passed the radio to Shinsou.

“Depends on their willpower but four people easily.” Shinsou said.

“And if there are more than that, I’ll just beat them up.” Kirishima said.

“Sounds like a plan.” Todoroki said.

“Just try to keep quiet. The less people know we’re here, the better.” Iida said behind Todoroki.

“Roger that.” Tsu said.

When Todoroki told them that the guard’s back was turned, Tsu grabbed Kirishima and Shinsou and jumped over the fence with them. It was disheartening that she could barely leap over only a three-meter fence while carrying two people. She’d have to train herself more.

After putting down Kirishima and Shinsou, she connected the radio to an earpiece and started sneaking up on the guard following Todoroki’s instructions. When they were close, it was Shinsou’s turn.

“Hey, buddy? Got a light?” Shinsou said.

“What?” The guard said.

“Go to sleep.” Shinsou said.

The guard fell over listlessly.

“Nice one.” Kirishima said.

“I know.” Shinsou said.

“Oh… shit.” Tsu said when she had a good look at the guard.

“What?” Todoroki said through the earpiece.

“I know. Am I awesome or what?” Shinsou said.

“That’s Mei’s dad.” Tsu said.

“Mei’s dad’s a villain?” Kirishima said shocked.

Shinsou scratched his head.

“Oh? Did I fuck up?”

Somewhere Todoroki groaned.

“This is bad. This is really bad.” Iida said.

“Calm down, Tenya.” Todoroki said before turning back to the radio: “Wake him up.”

“If he’s a villain and kills us, that’s on you.” Shinsou said before kneeling next to Blacksmith: “Wake up.”

Blacksmith’s eyes blew wide open and he leapt on his feet into a boxing stance.

“What the fuck was that?!”

He was Mei’s dad alright.

“Wait… Asui?” Blacksmith said when he noticed her.

“Hi.” Tsu said.

Blacksmith’s eyes narrowed when he did some simple math.

“You idiots.” He growled: “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Shinsou grinned.

“Delivering a list of demands that the League has to meet if they want us to take Bakugou back.”

“Hey!” Kirishima said.

“You fucking idiots. You’re going home. Now!” Blacksmith said.

“Not without Izuku and Mei.” Tsu said.

“And Katsuki.” Kirishima said.

“And the other guys.” Shinsou said.

Blacksmith stepped closer to them. He seemed to grow… taller. More solid. His voice was the crack of a whip.

“That was not a request.”

“That’s why you’re here.” Tsu pointed out.

“And unlike you, I’m a professional.” Blacksmith said and clenched his fists: “Where’s Sagan?”

Tsu’s phone lighted up. When she spoke, she sounded… meek.

“… here.”

“What the hell were you thinking? Bringing kids here?!”

“… but… they’ve fought villains before and survived. I though…” Sagan said.

“And when were you planning to tell me about this?” Blacksmith said.

“You’d given up once before. I wasn’t sure you’d…” Sagan said.

You could feel the night air turn colder around Blacksmith. Sagan fled quickly from Tsu’s phone and even Kirishima looked ready to turn tail and run. Shinsou took a hesitant step backwards. Tsu’s eyes narrowed and croaks started rising to her throat. They didn’t have time for this! God only knew what was being done to Izuku! If Blacksmith wouldn’t help them…if he tried to stop them, then she would…

“Tsu. Let me talk to him.” Todoroki said trough the earpiece.

Hands trembling with rage Tsu disconnected the earpiece and handed the radio to Blacksmith.

“Todoroki wants to talk to you.” Tsu said.

For a second Blacksmith forgot to be angry and looked like a… scared kid. Tsu could see his hand tremble when he took the radio. His voice sounded dry.

“Shouto?” Blacksmith said.

“Hi, Mr. Hatsume. Strange running into you here.” Todoroki said.

Todoroki had good voice for negotiations. Calm. Almost businesslike.

“… good… Good thing you did. You and your friends are going home.” Blacksmith said but couldn’t manage the same fury in his tone.

“You’re right. We’ll go home. With all our friends. And Bakugou.” Todoroki said.

“Shouto. This isn’t a game.” Blacksmith said.

“We know. We’ve faced villains before and that’s why we can’t leave Mei and Izuku. Or… trust them to my father.” Todoroki said.

Old pain raked Blacksmith. His eyes darted from Tsu to Kirishima and Shinsou.

“… you told them?”

“Everything.” Todoroki said.

Blacksmith rubbed his face with his free hand. He looked so tired.

“… Shouto… if anything happened to you… when I could stop it… how could I ever face Rei again?”

“How could I ever face her again if something happened to you? I went to see her. For the first time in years. She told me how you’d visited her. Helped her through the worst of it.” Todoroki said.

A knife was run into Blacksmith’s chest and for a moment Tsu thought he would cry. Kirishima and Shinsou kept glancing at each other uncomfortably and Tsu didn’t blame them. It felt… obscene… voyeuristic watching someone in that much pain. Blacksmith’s hand holding the radio fell weakly to his side and he stared at the night sky blindly to everything else. If Todoroki could have seen him, he would have known he had already won but Todoroki wasn’t done.

“You made a mistake, but you did everything you could. Would you have been able to live with yourself if you had just walked away halfway?” Todoroki said.

Silent tears ran down Blacksmith’s face that he wiped away quickly. He turned to look at them slowly.

“… do you have a plan?” Blacksmith said.

“Shinsou can control minds. With him saving them will be easy.” Todoroki said.

Blacksmith cleared his throat.

“You will follow my orders. Got it? What I say is gospel.”

“Got it.” Tsu said.

“Lead the way.” Kirishima said.

“We’ll keep watch. If anything happens, we’ll come and help.” Todoroki said.

Tsu climbed the warehouse walls and peered in through the dirty windows. The place looked empty but that was where the signal was coming from. Was there an underground section?

“It’s clear.” Tsu said.

Blacksmith used his Quirk to open the heavy steel locks. The doors opened with a heavy creak. Something didn’t feel right about this. They sneaked inside while looking around.

A heavy beam of light blared down on them.

“My lady. My good sirs. Welcome. If you’ve forgotten, I’m Compress. Mr. Compress and I’m in charge of tonight’s entertainment!”

Above them in the railing stood the villain in yellow overcoat and a white mask. Beneath them… Noumus howled. Then they burst through the floor.

“No!” Blacksmith yelled.

Compress laughed.

“Afraid so.” Compress said and took out two marbles: “Did you think getting these back would be that easy?”

Tsu’s phone lighted up again.

“This was a trap! Shouto! Tenya! Go to the bar! It was the last known location! Save them!” Sagan yelled.

“But…” Todoroki said.

Tsu, Kirishima and Blacksmith instinctively circled around Shinsou. Every moment wasted here, was time that could have been used to help Izuku.

“Do it! We’ll handle this.” Tsu said.

***

Katsuki sat alone in his little holding cell with only lizard fucker for company. The lizard fucker was sitting cross-legged on a small chair and flipping through a magazine while looking distracted. Finally, he put the magazine down and sighed.

“Goddamn. I can’t get Hatsume’s tits out of my head.” Lizard fucker said.

Katsuki just glared at him.

“Not your thing, huh? Well, none of my business. You do you, boom boy. But this is going to bug me for the rest of the month.”

Lizard fucker turned back to his magazine.

“You know, I thought you were a cunt.” Lizard fucker said.

Katsuki struggled against his restraints.

“What?!”

“I thought that you were a cunt.” Lizard fucker repeated: “But… I was wrong. Cunts are lost causes. You’re an asshole.”

Lizard fucker’s phone started humming when he got a new message. He took out his phone and got up.

“Nice talk, boom boy. I’m gonna go take a shit.” Lizard fucker said while typing an answer.

“…. what?” Katsuki said.

It wasn’t long until lizard fucker’s friend, fart-ass, arrived. Lizard fucker threw him a set of handcuffs and fart-ass put them on.

“What is…?” Katsuki said.

Lizard fucker slapped fart-ass hard enough to draw blood and dropped Fart-ass on his knees.

“Aw, fuck! That fucking hurt, Shuichi!” Fart-ass complained.

“Sorry, but its gotta look real.” Lizard fucker said.

“… what the fuck is going on?” Katsuki muttered.

“I went to take a shit. Mustard covered for me. You broke the restraints. Beat him up and made a run for it.” Lizard fucker said and took out a key: “I’m going to release you now. Fuck with me and I’ll fuck you right back. Got it?”

“… yeah.” Katsuki said.

Lizard fucker grabbed him by the hair.

“Did you get it, Bakugou?”

“Fucking yes. Jesus!” Katsuki said.

“Good.” Lizard fucker said and opened the lock on his restraints: “Let’s go.”

Katsuki rubbed his wrists.

“You think anyone’s gonna buy that?”

“They will. Everyone knows I’m a screw-up and… no one deserves what Toga is about to do.” Fart-ass said.

“Who’s Toga?” Katsuki said.

“You’ll know soon enough. Let’s go.” Lizard fucker said.

Katsuki followed lizard fucker sullenly.

“Why are you doing this?” Katsuki said.

“Because All For One is a cunt and I’m done working for cunts.” Lizard fucker said and pointed him a direction: “The exit is there.”

Then lizard fucker pointed in the opposite direction.

“And that’s where they’re holding Indestructible and Hatsume.”

“What about Tokoyami and Power Loader?” Katsuki said.

“Not here. I’ll think about something later. Indestructible and Hatsume are the ones who need help the most now.”

Katsuki nodded.

“Got it.”

“Good. Now if you feel even an ounce of gratitude, you’ll kill Toga. Just blow her head right off.” Lizard fucker said.

Katsuki couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Don’t worry. Monsters don’t count. Or do you feel bad about slime boy?” Lizard fucker said.

Chapter Text

Shuichi sat alone in the bathroom stall and tried not to cry. After all these years he thought he had finally found it. A place to belong. Friends. A home. But no. The League was just another collection of monsters and what was worse, he had dragged Mustard into this mess. Where could they go now? He was trapped, and escape routes were collapsing faster than he could look for them.

When had everything started going wrong? What could he have done differently to… end up somewhere else? Or maybe… maybe there had never been any wrong turn. No missed opportunity. Maybe he was always destined to find himself at the bottom of this hole.

No!

Shuichi slapped himself. He had been afraid all his life. He wouldn’t let fear rule him any longer. Trapped? He’d kept true to himself. All For One didn’t own him. That made him the freest man in the League. Him and Mustard. He didn’t serve unworthy masters and he’d kept true to his ideals. He was still his own man.

Shuichi stepped out of the stall and washed his face. He’d fix this.

After putting his mask back on Shuichi picked up his sword and left to find that Bakugou had escaped and tied up Mustard. On the way there he stopped and started looking around.

What was that sound?

Where the Noumus making a ruckus again? They did that every once in a while, but… this was close and… getting closer.

“Oh shit.” Shuichi managed to gasp before someone brought the wall down on him.

Once being buried under a load of bricks would have been enough to take him out of a fight but that was a lifetime ago. Shuichi burst out from under the rocks and… powerful steel fingers grabbed his throat.

For a moment he thought it was Indestructible. Somehow Izuku had managed to escape without Bakugou and reclaim his armor. Then he noticed that the armor wasn’t green but red. The design was more aggressive. The attacker was also taller than Indestructible and when he started slamming Shuichi into walls, he concluded that he was also far more skilled. Indestructible was a brawler who relied more on his superior strength and speed to win fights but this one was trained in… Sambo and Muay Thai maybe?

“Shock!” The assailant shouted.

Electrocution hadn’t worked on him before and it didn’t work now, but it disoriented him. If the assailant had gone for the kill, Shuichi would have been down for the count, but he fought by dojo rules. Pulling his punches. Trying not to hurt him. Big mistake.

When the assailant tried to throw another punch, Shuichi grabbed hm by the wrist and slammed his elbow into the black visor. He actually felt the blow connect properly. Unlike Indestructible, this one’s armor wasn’t laced from head to toe in the shock absorption fiber. A kick in the chest sent the assailant flying and Shuichi drew his sword.

The attacker put up his other hand.

“Freeze.”

Shuichi grinned… until the air turned freezing. The effect it had on him was immediate. His fingers lost all his feeling and his body started shutting down in preparation for hibernation. Shuichi dropped his sword and stumbled away.

“No. No. No.” Shuichi whispered.

He got away from the freezing temperature, but the effects lingered, and his body was still next to useless. The assailant pulled him up.

“Hello, Shuichi.”

Even with the words metallic echo he recognized the voice.

“… hello… Todoroki.” Shuichi mumbled.

“Where are they?” Todoroki said.

“Shuichi?!”

Todoroki took his eyes off him and turned to look at Mustard who’d stepped out of the holding cell his hands still chained behind his back.

“You.” Todoroki growled.

When Todoroki tensed up to throw himself at Mustard, instinct took over Shuichi. He clenched the gauntlet that had released the cold wind and crushed it. Todoroki squealed when his fingers cracked.

“Shouto!”

Todoroki didn’t come alone. A speedster dressed like Ingenium ran in through the hole in the wall that Todoroki had made. Shuichi could feel his glare even through the helmet.

“Find them. I’ll deal with these Stain wannabes.” Ingenium said.

Shuichi sighed and put his hands up.

“Look… this has all been a huge misunderstanding. They’re that way.” Shuichi said and pointed at the direction he’d sent Bakugou.

“Then you should start there.” Ingenium said.

“Will you be alright?” Todoroki said.

“I’ll manage.” Ingenium said.

Todoroki ran after Bakugou. Ingenium stayed.

“Shouldn’t you go with him?” Shuichi said.

“After I’ve dealt with you.” Ingenium said.

“What did we ever do to you?” Mustard complained.

“What did you…? You crippled Midoriya. Aizawa-sensei might never make a full recovery and you. You’re dressed like that murderer!” Ingenium yelled.

“The suit wasn’t my idea and Eraserhead should’ve told me what I wanted to know.” Shuichi said and took a boxing stance: “If you wanna do it like this, fine.”

Mustard filled the hallway with poisonous gas.

***

The fear made Izuku’s mind race when he tried to come up with some plan, some desperate last-ditch scheme to get him and Mei out of this… and he couldn’t think of anything. The tears made his eyes sting and his throat was sore from crying.

He was… helpless. Toga was holding all the power. She grabbed Mei by the hair and Izuku was reminded of a cat that was toying with a captured bird. She held the knife to Mei’s face.

“So? Which is yer favorite? The left or the right?” Toga said.

Mei tried to say something but could only weep. A scream tried to escape Izuku’s stomach but… the fear had robbed him of all strength.

“If you wanna, I can choose for ya.” Toga said and placed the knife over Mei’s right eye.

Mei struggled one last time against the chains to no avail.

“I think I’ll go with… Why not both?” Toga said.

“Wait! Wait! The left!” Mei yelled.

“The left, huh? I guess I’ll take right. Wouldn’t wanna see ya go without yer favorite eye.” Toga said and then pulled her knife away: “Ya can keep ‘em for a sec. I like an audience.”

Toga turned to look at Izuku. Cold sweat ran down his back. Izuku could have been staring into a cracked mirror when Toga was mimicking his shape. Cracked mirror. That’s what Toga was. It could be interesting to look at. Even funny but that didn’t make it any less broken and if you weren’t careful, you’d get cut.

“So, Izuku. How ya wanna do this?”

“… dho… whaf?”

“Ya know what. Wanna know what it feels like to do yerself? How about ya Mei? Ya two ever slept together?”

In response Toga got only crying. She laughed.

“Maybe I…”

Toga’s head snapped towards the heavy steel door like she was some huge predator and the transformation melted away.

The door blew off its hinges and left Izuku’s ears ringing. If he lost hearing from his other ear…

The dust hadn’t even had the chance to settle when Toga was already on the move. The way she moved reminded Izuku of Stain. A combination of practice and experience that made her seem almost superhuman.

Luckily Bakugou was used to sparring with real superhumans. Almost didn’t cut it.

When Toga tried to slash Bakugou’s throat, Bakugou blew her away. It tore Toga’s clothes and burned her skin but Bakugou wasn’t trying to kill her.

Kill her! Kill her! Kill her, Izuku thought.

If Bakugou only knew what she’d been planning… what she had almost done…

Toga was thrown into the corner of the room, but it couldn’t knock her out and she threw the knife. Bakugou had clearly thought the fight had been over and could barely dodge the blade. He stumbled out of the way without his usual grace and left the path to the door wide open. Toga wasn’t feeling lucky and made a run for it while holding her burned side. Bakugou almost followed her but Izuku’s and Mei’s cries stopped him.

When Bakugou turned to them, for the first time he got a good look at the room… and the tools Toga had brought with her. Bakugou… froze and could only gape as his imagination filled in the details. Without saying a word, he walked up to them and broke the chains with small explosions.

When they were free, they just clung to Bakugou. Part of Izuku knew that they didn’t have a moment to waste but… if he and Mei didn’t cry out the worst of it, he’d never be able to move. In an unusual showing of generosity Bakugou let them have a moment before shaking them off.

“Get on your fucking feet, Midoriya. You too, Hatsume. You’re not some crybabies. We need to move.”

“God, you’re an asshole.” Mei said while wiping her eyes: “And… thank you. Thank you, Bakugou.”

Izuku nodded and then concentrated. If he was careful he could form words without slobbering.

“… thanks, Bakugou.”

The sirens started blaring. Izuku shuddered.

“… no. They … they can’t catch us again.” Izuku said.

“And they won’t. Not when I’m fucking ready. I’m gonna find that Compress bastard and skull-fuck his soul!” Bakugou said.

“Izuku can’t move too fast.” Mei said.

Something cold came over Mei. Something that prioritized survival above all else. She dropped on her stomach and pressed her ear against the floor. Then she hit the ground a few times.

“There’s a lower floor here. Make us way.” Mei said.

“If we go down, we’ll be trapped.” Bakugou said.

“They know we’ve escaped. We’re already trapped. If we can make it to the underground labyrinth, we can run. If not… we just need to buy time until help gets here.” Mei said.

They could hear quickly approaching footsteps and Bakugou made a snap decision. He blew up the wall to slow down pursuers and then made a hole on the floor. They moved down, and Mei helped Izuku walk while Bakugou was on the lookout. At first the hallways were as dark and dreary as the ones in the upper floors but then… they arrived at what looked like a modern hospital.

Every hospital needed a doctor.

“… you?” Izuku said.

Doctor Tsubasa turned to look at them.

“Midoriya? Bakugou?”

***

The news had been tight lipped about the Noumus and what little Ken had been able to put together was they were a biological weapon. And he’d been right. It was nothing he had ever seen. All of them had at least two Quirks on top of their freakish strength and no fear of pain. The only reason they weren’t dead yet was that the things didn’t seem to have a mind of their own.

The monsters had formed a circle around them that was slowly growing smaller. Ken had formed his own circle around the boy Shinsou with Asui and Kirishima. He hated to admit it but if he’d come here alone, he’d be dead already. Kirishima’s skin was impervious and sharp as barbwire. He could even match some of the smaller Noumus in terms of strength. As for Asui… he’d never seen such a diverse Quirk. Her legs alone could send Noumus flying.

But it wasn’t enough. Their only hope was that help would arrive before it was too late.

Compress stood above them laughing at it all.

“Very good, my friends. Very good. All-Might would be proud.” Compress said while clapping slowly.

“Shut up!” Ken yelled.

If only he could get a good shot at the bastard… but if he eased on the Noumus even for a second…

Compress just laughed.

“I can’t.” Compress said and pulled out again the marbles holding Higari and Tokoyami: “If these two had put up as much of a fight…”

“You…!” Ken roared.

“Easy to talk from up there! Why don’t you come down here and fight like a man?!” Shinsou said.

It made Compress laugh even harder.

“I think I’ll just stay here and…”

“Kill Noumus.” Shinsou said.

Compress turned still as a statue and suddenly… every Noumus head in the warehouse… disappeared. The decapitated bodies fell to the floor with a heavy thud. Even the monsters healing factors couldn’t grow back heads. They bled black.

Shinsou sat down with a relieved sigh and let out a scared laugh.

“Oh yeah. Who’s the man?”

“Compress. You moron.”

Another man stepped out of the shadows. He was tall and lean with spiky black hair and… a horribly scarred face.

Despite her youth, Asui already had the instincts of a hero. She leaped after the new villain almost too fast for the eye to see to take him out before he could wake up Compress. She was fast but not fast enough. The villain put up a wall of… blue fire. The sudden surge of heat made Asui fall back.

“Wake up, you idiot.” The villain said and smacked Compress back to his senses.

Compress rubbed his head.

“Dabi? What… what happened?” Compress said while looking around.

“Mind control. Don’t talk to him.”

Breath was caught in Ken’s throat. No. No. No! This couldn’t be happening. While Kirishima helped Asui up, Ken could only stare in horror. When he looked more closely at the scarred face, he could recognize the young man he’d met so long ago.

“Toya!” Ken yelled.

Whatever doubts he’d had, were washed away when the villain called Dabi tensed up when he heard the name. His real name. Everyone turned to look at him. None slower than Toya.

“It is you! We… I… I thought you were…”

“Blacksmith?” Toya said.

“You know him?” Compress said.

“What… what’s going on?” Asui whispered.

“I think they’re having a moment.” Shinsou said.

“A moment of what?” Kirishima said.

Toya leaned on the railing.

“You shouldn’t have come here, Blacksmith.”

“They took my daughter!”

“Then you should’ve watched over her more carefully.” Toya said.

“I’m not the only one here. Shouto is here too. We can…”

That had been a mistake. Toya’s eyes narrowed like his father’s.

“You brought him here?! Here?! You idiot! You fucking idiot! Why can’t you do anything right?! Why?! Why?! Why?!”

Ken looked down.

“I’m sorry.”

“You will be! Compress! Kill them! I need to find Shouto.” Toya yelled before running out.

“Wait!” Ken called after him.

Toya did not wait for him. When Ken tried running after him, a large chunk of the floor compressed in front of him.

“No leaving before the show is over.” Compress said and looked around: “I seem to have lost my Noumus.”

Compress took out a handful of marbles from his other pocket.

“Let’s fix that.”

Compress dropped the marbles and let out a new patch of Noumus.

A Noumu released close to Ken rushed him and tried to ram him against a wall. Before the Noumu could crush his spine, Ken tore a hole in the steel wall with his Quirk and took the fight outside. Outside where he had room to maneuver and a whole junkyard worth of weapons.

The Noumu had enough brains left to look shocked when it was hammered down by a rusty car. The bits left behind twitched for a while when the healing factor tried to patch it together before giving up.

Compress stepped out.

“Aren’t you in luck, old man. You get a private show.” Compress said while playing with the marbles holding Power Loader and Tokoyami.

Ken raised the car above Compress’s head.

“Let them go.”

Compress looked at the car and even with his mask he managed to look unimpressed. He compressed the car into a marble.

“And for my next trick, I make an old man disappear.” Compress said.

Ken jumped behind a pile of trash and he could almost feel how the air behind him disappeared. Guess the bastard needed to have him in his sights for his Quirk to work.

“Not bad. You’re fast for an old man. What was it that Dabi called you? Blacksmith? The first time I’ve heard of a hero called that but count me as a fan. Why don’t you come out, Blacksmith?”

Keep talking, you brat. Let me know where you are , Ken thought.

When Ken noticed another car left to gather rust, he smiled. It was far but not too far. He started running. All he needed was be within five meters. When Compress noticed him, it would have been smartest to just kill him, but Compress was too much of a showman and a sadistic prick to end it quickly. He compressed the ground behind and around Ken but didn’t even try going for the kill.

“Run, Blacksmith. Run! But there’s no hiding!”

When Ken got to the car, he threw it at Compress. Compress just sighed when over a ton of steel flew at him.

“Dull.” Compress said and activated his Quirk.

Ken dismantled the car mid-flight.

“What?!” Compress yelled sounding panicked for the first time.

Compress could deal with a car but not the hundreds of individual parts that made it up. Killing the bastard would have been easy and… he wanted to do it. They’d taken his daughter! They’d even tried to kill kids but… Ken knew he could take Compress down without killing him. Even after twenty-five-years he still remembered the vow he’d pledged when he’d graduated from U.A to protect and serve. Never to take a life when he could spare one.

At times like these, duty didn’t come easy.

Ken knocked Compress out.

When Compress was out cold, he lost control of his Quirk. The marbles burst and Higari fell out with Tokoyami.

“Higari!” Ken yelled while running for them.

Higari looked around in a daze.

“I… what… Ken?”

Tokoyami had gotten the worst of it and looked like he was on the verge of a breakdown.

“I… what happened? I… it was all dark.”

Tokoyami might have been an aspiring hero but he was still just a boy. Ken knelled next to him and tried to remember how to deal with a scared survivor.

“Don’t worry. You’re safe now.” Ken lied and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder: “We’ll get you home. Your parents are waiting for you.”

Higari rubbed his head.

“… Ken? What the hell happened?”

“You got kidnapped. I came to bust you out. We need to get the others out and go.” Ken said.

“… others?” Higari said.

“There are three students in there. You have to dig us a way to them and get us the hell out of here.” Ken said.

Higari was a professional with years of experience. It was hard to admit but his junior had surpassed him as a hero. Despite being drained and exhausted he forced his training take over the wheel and do his duty. He sank his hands into the ground and started digging. Tokoyami was too weak to walk and Ken picked him on his back. Following the vibrations on the ground Higari located Asui, Kirishima and Shinsou. He pulled all of them underground and then collapsed the tunnel behind them before the Noumus could follow.

“What the…?! Kirishima yelled.

“Don’t talk. Run!” Ken yelled.

They ran while Higari dug them an escape route.

***

Izuku had been researching the man for months. He was older than in the pictures, but he had a face that was easy to remember. Shaved head, thick glasses and a bushy mustache. Izuku’s former family doctor hadn’t changed much since the time he had diagnosed him Quirkless.

“Midoriya? Bakugou?” The doctor said startled and then looked at Mei: “And… Hatsume was it?”

Mei gripped Izuku tighter.

“It was.” Mei said.

The doctor scratched his head and gave a nervous laugh.

“I… uh… never thought I’d meet you two again like this.”

Bakugou walked up to him and punched the doctor square in the face. His glasses cracked and Bakugou gave him a few kicks before dragging him back on his feet by his shirt. The doctor might have been a grown man, but he was shorter than Bakugou and portly.

“Bakugou… please. Let me explain.” The doctor whimpered while covering his face.

“Then start talking, asshole! What the hell did you do to Tsubasa?!”

“… Bakugou… stop.” Izuku said.

Bakugou let go reluctantly and pushed the doctor back on the ground. Mei helped Izuku sit down. He was so tired. No. Beyond tired. He just wanted to lie down and never get back up again. He… he noticed the doctor’s phone on the table.

Then Mei noticed the Indestructible armor laying on an operating table.

“What the hell have you done to it?!” Mei howled.

The doctor wiped the blood off his nose and put his cracked glasses back on.

“Studying it. It’s not really my area of expertise but I know enough about engineering to appreciate it. You should be proud. I’ve never seen anything like it.” The doctor said.

“Don’t. Just don’t. I don’t want flattery from you. Try that one more time and I’ll sic Bakugou on you again.” Mei said.

Bakugou cracked his knuckles.

“Understood.” The doctor said hastily.

Mei looked around.

“Is this the place? Where you turn people into Noumus?”

“No. This is where I treat sensei and the rest of the League. The Noumu factory is in another location.” The doctor said.

“Lots of fancy stuff here. Real sci-fi equipment.” Mei said.

“Very perceptive of you. It’s all technology sensei saved two-hundred years ago.” The doctor said.

“That he stole.” Mei said.

There was a flash of ice and steel in the doctor’s small eyes. How much of this cowardly lickspittle routine was an act? Just as much as his role as the grandfatherly family doctor?

“Sensei kept it safe. And he kept developing it. I’ve done my own small part.”

“A Luddite and a hypocrite.” Mei said.

The doctor’s voice turned harsh.

“Girl… you have no right to judge him. You wouldn’t believe the breakthroughs that I’ve done here. When he offered me a chance like this, how could I say no? You hate this stagnation too. If he’d offered you a job, would you have said no?”

For a moment Mei couldn’t look the doctor in the eyes.

“I… nice speech. You should have made it before Toga threatened to cut off my eyes and Izuku’s junk.”

“What?!” The doctor said.

Bakugou looked nauseous and Izuku had to fight to keep the vomit down.

“And all that asshole wanted in return was Tsubasa?” Bakugou said.

There were equal measures of grief and rage in the doctor’s small eyes. All For One had been right. Have a man sacrifice something for you and you own him.

“That wasn’t supposed to happen!” The doctor said close to tears.

“Then what the fuck did you expect?!” Bakugou said.

“Probably had something to do with his Quirk. What was it called, Izuku? Bio Engineer?” Mei said.

“… yeah.” Izuku said while sending a message with the doctor’s phone behind his back: “… he… it could make a body… adapt. Very useful in organ transplants.”

“Yes.” The doctor admitted bitterly: “Sensei had been dreaming of Noumus for centuries. New humans that could wield multiple Quirks. They would be a race of gods that inherit the Earth.”

“And you wound up with braindead monsters instead.” Mei said.

The doctor hit a table.

“It was supposed to work! My boy… he always wanted to be strong like All-Might and… I wanted to make his dream come true.”

“Great fucking work, asshole.” Bakugou said.

The doctor glared at Bakugou.

“Do you think I didn’t try to fix it? Do you think I didn’t do everything in my power to cure him?! And then Stain…! Then he…!”

“… you shouldn’t have sent him to Hosu.” Izuku said.

The doctor bowed his head.

“Yes. I shouldn’t have.”

Mei looked around and picked up one of the reports on the table.

“You’ve been getting sidetracked. Looks like you’re working on Quirk erasing.”

The doctor got some of his mirth back.

“I’ve been trying to reverse it. And I’ve made great progress.” The doctor said and smiled: “Didn’t your friend lose a Quirk? If I get some time, I can fix that. You just need to let me escape. My work is too important.”

“Like hell we’d let you go.” Bakugou said.

“I wasn’t talking to you.” The doctor said and looked at Izuku: “What do you say, Izuku? With this I could even cure Quirklessness. No one would ever have to go through what you did. You’d have to be a monster to wish that on anyone.”

Mei looked at him.

“Izuku?”

“And your friend… how much has he suffered? You could save him. All you have to do is look the other way.” The doctor said.

Izuku thought about and then looked the doctor in the eyes.

“No.”

“No? What? Don’t you care about your friend?” The doctor said.

“I think we’ll both take our chances with her.” Izuku said and looked at Mei.

The doctor sighed.

“Fine. We’ll do this the hard way.”

“Was that a threat? Come on fucker. Give me an excuse.” Bakugou said while explosions started building up in his hands.

The doctor took a panic button from his pocket and smiled.

“I have a confession to make. I’ve already called for my bodyguard.”

“… I have to confess something too.” Izuku said and pulled out the doctor’s phone: “I… already sent a message to Sagan. Sorry for using it without your permission… doctor.”

The doctor’s affable mask slipped further. When he heard a Noumu howl, he smiled. The Noumu that entered the room reminded Izuku of the one that Tomura had brought along for the USJ raid although it wasn’t quite as imposing. The doctor moved quickly behind the Noumu.

“Kill the two but leave the explosive one alive. He will make a fine base for a Noumu.” The doctor said.

Bakugou took a fighting stance and Izuku reached out for his armor with his mind. For all the good that did without the nanomachines.

Something punched its way through the ceiling.

The armor reminded Izuku of his own, but it was painted red with a black visor. He hated to admit it, but the design might have been a bit cooler than his.

“What?!” The doctor shouted.

“Fuck you. That’s what.” Mei said.

Ignite glanced at the Noumu and then turned to look at them. The Noumu just stood there and stared at Shouto suspiciously.

“You guys alright?” Ignite said.

“We will be once you’ve taken care of that thing.” Mei said.

“You got it.” Ignite said.

“Kill him!” The doctor ordered.

The Noumu let out a growl and lunged at Ignite with its maw gaping open.

Ignite started by breaking its jaw. Izuku could almost hear how Sagan guided Ignite and pinpointed all the Noumu’s weak spots. The Noumu was large and fierce but its over reliance turned into a weakness when its opponent could match its strength. Ignite had grown under Endeavor and was used to fighting bigger opponents. Now, the armor allowed him to hit back. Izuku felt a bang of jealousy when he saw what the armor could do when its pilot had a lifetime of martial arts training. It didn’t take long for the Noumu to be reduced into a mess of broken bones. When the Noumu tried to heal itself and continue the fight, Ignite pointed his right palm at it. A wave of cold air blew and soon the Noumu was coated in ice.

“No.” The doctor whispered when he had been driven into a corner.

“Yeah, I said that a lot too with Toga.” Mei said.

They locked the doctor into one of the many holding cells in the underground hospital and Izuku tried not to think what they had been used for. The doctor had specialized in organ transplants and… All For One looked like he needed spare parts regularly. When the doctor was safely under lock and key, Ignite took off his helmet.

Sweat had glued his hair tightly around his scalp and his face was flushed. He gave them a tired grin.

“These things could really use some ventilation.” Shouto said.

“… that’s what I keep telling her.” Izuku said.

“I didn’t need your help. I could’ve handled it.” Bakugou said.

“I know, Bakugou but… me and Kirishima decided to come anyway.” Shouto said.

Bakugou’s eyes widened.

“He… came? For me?”

“Yeah. Blacksmith too.” Shouto said.

“Dad? I… I see.” Mei said.

Mei stepped up to Shouto and looked at his right hand.

“That seems to be broken.” Mei said.

“Had a run in with Shuichi. Just fractured.” Shouto said.

“Can you manage?” Mei said.

“I have to and… I’ve had worse.” Shouto said.

“Yeah.” Mei said and looked at the red armor admiringly: “Looking good.”

“Sagan helped me put it together.” Shouto said.

“And how’s my baby girl?” Mei said.

“She wanted to see you. Both of you.” Shouto said and handed Mei the helmet.

Mei took the helmet.

“Hi, Sagan.”

The loudspeakers on the helmet came on and Izuku heard a sniffle.

“… I thought I’d never see you again.” Sagan said.

“… you won’t get rid of us that easily.” Izuku said.

“What he said. How could we die when there is so much work to be done?” Mei said.

“Can this wait until we get out of here?” Bakugou said annoyed.

“… fine.” Izuku said and looked at his disassembled armor: “… help me put it on.”

“You sure? It’s been busted pretty bad. Could be dangerous.” Mei said.

“… I’ll feel… I’ll be safer inside it.”

Mei fastened the screws that had been loosened in the armor and Shouto connected Sagan to the armor. Putting the armor on without the nanomachines wasn’t easy for her but Sagan managed admirably.

“It’s running at roughly sixty percent efficiency and there is a lot of damage. The energy won’t last for long.” Sagan said.

“It just has to hold on until we get out of here.” Indestructible said.

“Then let’s fucking move already!” Bakugou said.

Before they could move, an invisible force yanked them into darkness.

***

Endeavor sat in the makeshift base of operations going through the known League members files when Tsukauchi rushed in looking worried.

“Somethings happening. There’s fighting in at least two locations.” Tsukauchi said.

“What?!”

Endeavor threw the files away and rushed with Tsukauchi to the monitors that were watching the League’s suspected headquarters.

“Let me see.” Endeavor said and pushed the cop manning the monitors out of the way.

Someone had broken through the wall in the bar and made their way inside. What the hell was going on? Were these animals fighting amongst themselves?

“Rewind that. I want to know how that happened.” Endeavor said.

“There’s also something going on at a nearby junkyard.” Tsukauchi said.

“Show me.” Endeavor said.

One of the flying cameras had been turned to junkyard and he saw…

Endeavor grinded his teeth. Blacksmith! That idiot! For a moment Endeavor thought about letting him reap what he’d sown. He’d come offering peace and that arrogant fool had spat at him.

“Here’s how that hole came into the wall.” Tsukauchi said.

Endeavor’s mouth fell open when he saw the footage. Despite the red armor he recognized Shouto. He’d made him and knew how he moved. What the hell did that boy think he was doing?! He didn’t have a Quirk anymore! And even when he’d had one, he’d lost to some Quirkless freak! Was this Blacksmith’s doing?! Had that fool dragged Shouto into his mad quest too?

“Start the attack.” Endeavor said.

***

Mustard filled the hallway with poisonous mist. It had always been his and Shuichi’s trademark attack. Shuichi’s healing factor and built-up immunity would allow him easily to take down even a large number of opponents when they were weakened by the smoke.

This Ingenium wouldn’t allow them to have even that.

Steam erupted from the engines in his legs and blew away the mist. Before Mustard had time to react, Ingenium had already kicked him off his feet. Which meant that he had to turn his back on Shuichi. Shuichi grabbed Ingenium and threw him like a ragdoll across the hallway. Ingenium had impressive body control and he managed to land back on his feet and rushed Shuichi.

Mustard concentrated on staying out of their way and freeing himself. His hands were still bound behind his back by the handcuffs. Despite being nowhere near as nimble or fit as Shuichi, he managed to get his hands out from under his legs and reached for the key in his pocket. When he was free, he watched over the battle.

For a moment Mustard had thought that Ingenium had been healed and he was now looking for revenge but… this one was smaller than the old Ingenium. Not by much but you could still tell the difference. There was also a gap in their skills. The new Ingenium was a novice. Nothing Shuichi couldn’t handle. Narrow corridors were far from ideal fighting grounds for speedsters. This was good. An excellent cover-up for Bakugou’s escape. They’d barely have to lie.

The battle was harsh and brutal even when Shuichi was holding back and Ingenium was worn out quickly.

“What’s wrong? Weren’t you supposed to deal with me?” Shuichi said.

Ingenium caught his breath.

“Just… buying time.” Ingenium panted.

“Consider it bought. You should…” Shuichi said before turning to look at something that only he could hear.

When Shuichi gave it his all, he moved too fast for Ingenium to react. He kicked him out of the way and threw himself at Mustard.

The hallway burst into flames and… Mustard could smell something burning. A huge, imposing man was walking among the fire and… then he saw Shuichi. Pushing him and Ingenium out of the blast zone meant that Shuichi had been caught in it himself. His back