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Ryū

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A plate sailed through the air and shattered against the wall, the impact wobbling a plant pot off its stand to scatter soil across the carpet. An enraged scream followed suit.

“Come on, guys! Katsuki, Eijirou...let’s just calm down!”

“Fuck you!”

Another plate went flying.

Ryū, hunched over at the kitchen table, dropped his pen to clap both hands over his ears as he watched his parents scream at one another, their faces red and arms waving madly. Getting any more of his math homework done seemed too good to be true now, so he packed up his stuff and slid out of the chair he’d been melted into for the past two hours.

“You’re so - so - ugh! So controlling!” 

“Well maybe if you weren’t fucking nagging me all the time I’d get a moment to myself, Eijirou!”

“Maybe if you watched your temper, I wouldn’t have to keep doing it, Katsuki!”

“Guys, for fuck’s sake, chill! How did this even start?”

“Stay out of it, dumbass!”

“Hey, don’t talk to him like that! Denki, babe, leave this to me.”

“I’ll talk to him however I like! And don’t boss him around!”

“Ha! You’d both be lost without me!”

“That’s rich! I guess you’re lucky I don’t have anywhere better to be and he’s an idiot -”

"Hey!"

“Oh, really!?”

“Yeah! Eat shit!”

Scowl deepening even further, Ryū slammed his bedroom door shut, putting as much force behind it as he could muster. Stupid parents. Did they ever shut up?

“Again?” Aki asked. He was stretched out on his bed, sheets tangled around his legs as he flipped lazily through a well-read wrestling magazine. “That’s, what, the third time this week?”

Ryū threw his stuff down onto his own bed on the other side of the room. His own sheets were Crimson Riot themed, but seeing his dad’s face...it didn’t fill him with confidence - the feeling that he could do, be, anything - like it usually did. Instead, he just felt..

"Ugh."

He fell face-first onto the bed.

“They’ll get over it soon,” Akio said, but Ryū wasn’t so sure. Parents were supposed to argue as much as his own did - at least, from what he could tell from watching his friends’ families. He’d stopped going over to Michiko and Kagami's houses recently, though - seeing everyone else happy when he was so miserable just pissed him off even more.

They sat and listened to the screaming through the wall, three voices cracking with anger, hurt and a whole mash of other emotions. He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling.

“That’s what you said last month. And the month before that, and the month before that and the month -”

Akio threw the magazine down. “Look, what do you want me to say? That everything’s fine? Well, it isn’t!”

“...I hate you,” Ryū sniffled angrily.

“Fine,” Akio launched up, grabbing his phone from where it lay charging on the bedside table. “Fine, if you’re going to be such a baby then I’m going out.”

“What? That’s not fair! You can’t leave me here with them! I’ll come too!”

“Grow up, Ryū - the world isn’t fair.” He slipped out the door and shut it firmly. Ryū scrubbed angrily at his nose - why was his family so stupid?

The shouting dipped and a moment later, the front door slammed hard enough the whole apartment shook. Silence fell, but a moment later there was a knock at his door.

“...It’s me...can I come in?” Papa’s voice warbled on the last syllable.

“Hmph.” Ryū picked at a loose thread on his pants. “Whatever, I guess so.”

A tall, hunched figure shuffled inside, head bowed pathetically. Papa was still in his black and yellow hero costume, though it was now singed at the shoulders. Ryū let him collapse on the bed with a groan.

“Aw, your old man’s a mess...”

“Stop fighting then,” Ryū said. His voice cracked a little. “It’s so stupid.”

Papa laughed wetly, dropping his face in Ryū’s lap. “You sound just like Katsuki.” That didn’t seem like a good thing. “Just like...Aw, crap.” His shoulders trembled. “Oh, Ryū, I didn’t come in here to cry like this, I promise.”

He tutted but dropped a hand into his father’s hair anyway.

“What kind of parents are we? This is all such a mess. And Katsuki and Eiji...they don’t seem happy here anymore. Not like they used to.”

“Who cares about what those idiots think?"

Papa sat up and took him by the shoulders, expression deadly serious despite the tears staining his cheeks. “Ryū, I love you,” he said. “I love you and your brothers so much. You know that, yeah?”

“Tt,” Ryū turned his head away. “I guess.” He hesitated for a moment. “Why can’t you just dump those losers and find someone else? They're so mean to you."

“It’s not that simple, kiddo. Your dads...they love us, you know? Things are just...hard right now. You’ll understand when you’re older.”

Ryū slapped his hands away, scowling. “Understand what? Why you’re all so dumb? And I'm not some stupid kid anyway; I'm nine years old!"

“Don’t be like that; we’re still a family.”

“Really.”

“Aw, come on, buddy. You still have your brothers - you still have me.”

“They treat you like trash."

Papa recoiled as if Ryū had burnt him. “I didn’t realise you were so upset by all this...”

“It just...it makes me angry to see you upset all the time! It's not fair."

“Heh,” Papa managed soft, wobbly smile. “There’s my sweet boy. See, when I say you’re just like your dad, I don’t always mean that in a bad way; he can be sweet too.”

“Yeah, but - but not all the time! I hate it that you think I’m like him!” He thumped a fist on the bed. “I hate that!”

Papa ruffled his hair despite the loud huff he gave in protest. “It’ll all work out,” he said. “You’ll see, my fierce little dragon.” His faint smile drifted a little. “Looks like it’s just us for dinner again tonight. What do you say we order pizza?”

Ryū managed a scowl, though it was half-hearted at best. “Whatever.”

 


 

They were on their third slice each, settled on the couch with the TV playing in the background when the front door handle jiggled. Ryū, slice halfway to his mouth, frowned in irritation.

“I wonder who that is? It’s nearly nine, after all...”

Ryū chucked his box on the coffee table. “I’ll get it,” he grumbled. “So fucking lazy.”

“Hang on a sec,” Papa said as Ryū fiddled with the chain on the door. “Ryū -”

He twisted the lock and cracked the door open.

A woman stood in the hallway, so pale and gaunt she looked like a skeleton come to life. Her eyes bulged in their sockets, red veins beside pinprick irises so tight the colour was indiscernible. He looked her up and down, eyeing the normal-looking skirt, blouse and high-heels combo, the bright pink nail polish and matching lipstick smeared across her slack mouth.

“Who the hell are you?”

“Ryū, get back!”

Her mouth lurched further and a black, oily fog seeped out, tunnelling into the apartment and completely surrounding him. Ryū, frozen solid, could only cry out as his breath was sucked from his lungs, as the world went quiet, as everything he knew, everything he found comfort in, came to an end.

 


 

Blood pounded in his ears. Familiar faces swam in and out of focus, but nothing made sense. Lights flashed, the world swung and something buzzed beside his ear. Akio was there, his face so, so close, eyes wet and face bright red. He was speaking, but Ryū couldn’t hear anything. Why couldn’t he hear anything? How did he get outside and where was his papa? They'd been eating pizza, he was sure of it. Until...where was that woman, the scary one who'd been at the door? He couldn't - he couldn't remember anything after that.

“Akio,” he said. Or, at least, he thought he did.

His brother, who was usually sensitive and trying too hard to be cool, was stroking his hair back from his face. They had similar hair - the same colour, the same style and length. Lots of people commented on how they looked so alike, so much like siblings. Akio had always hated that, but Ryū liked it, liked being like the older brother he looked up to so much...

He blinked.

Akio was gone.

Ryū tried to sit up, to find him. Where was he? Why was everything so dark? 

He was outside - by the steps of their apartment building, wrapped in his brother’s leather coat - his favourite leather coat - like a straight-jacket. Ryū kicked, panic growing as he failed to escape, the dark closing in on him. He thought he was yelling something, but it was all so quiet. It was scary.

He wanted Akio - he wanted his big brother - he wanted - he wanted -

There was light. Light was - everywhere. It danced and waved in his field of vision, just out of reach. Ryū struggled, grunting and panting. Finally, he threw his body and overbalanced.

The ground rushed up to meet him, cruel gravel against his face, knocking the wind away, stealing what little breath he had left. He was free - the coat fell to the ground.

Ryū kicked it away and stood - he tried to stand - the ground came back and the light was so bright. Where was everyone?

“Akio?” he called, mouth so painfully sore. It felt as if he’d gargled a cup of gravel and washed it back with some bleach. “Aki, Aki, please -” He looked.

Fire engulfed their apartment building, swelling up and out to the night, plumes of black smoke rippling the air. He could feel the heat, could taste the burning.

They lived on the sixth floor, but the fire had already ravaged down to the second, orange-yellow through shattered windows. People were everywhere, clambering on the street in their pyjamas, holding babies and cats and dogs and anything they could carry - crying, yelling, pointing up at the blaze with fire in their eyes, mouths agape, fearful.

Ryū was only nine years old, but he wasn’t stupid.

He knew Akio was fine - he’d seen him.

But the voice, the little voice that told him to sneak a snack before dinner and hide mouldy cups at the back of the wardrobe and blame the mess on his brothers - it whispered, it dared, it said -

What if?

Ryū was running, he was stumbling, his feet skidded and slipped on the wet sidewalk. A pro with a water Quirk was attempted to man the blaze single-handedly, but it was big, too big, and nothing could tame the raging beast now. It would simply have to burn itself out.

He shoved aside people, neighbours and friends he might’ve been able to name and talk to any other day - but this wasn’t any other day and they weren’t Akio.

The water hero was trying to urge people back from the building, corralling them into the road, away from danger. Ryū forged towards him, mouth sticky with smoke. His fingers stretched, arm reaching for that fireman coat, those luminescent yellow stripes, lips cracking -

Sound.

Ryū stumbled as noise slammed into him in a wave of pure power.

It was the wail of sirens. The swell of people, screaming and yelling and crying, just holding each other as the world burned. It was the crackle, the roar, of the flames, of burning death.

Of a familiar voice.

“Get the fuck out of my way!”

He shoved through the crowd, knees scraping the ground as he scrambled between legs and bare, soot-stained feet. A car was half on the sidewalk, half on the road, doors open and engine still running, and by it, white-faced and choking, doubled over in shock, was Papa.

A hand caught his arm and lifted him off the ground through the sheer virtue of determination. Ryū was swung around and they ran - ran right over to the car, where he was bundled in shaking arms and clutched so tight he felt sick.

“Oh, fuck, oh fucking Christ - Ryū, Ryū, baby, you’re okay, it’s fine, shhh -” Papa sobbed and they sunk to the ground. Ryū clutched his sooty, ash-stained shirt, coughing and coughing until Papa tilted him to the side so he could be sick.

They watched the fire together, the crowd spilling back until they could see every flame and every move unfiltered, the smoke pouring from the entrance to crest a brutal fight.

Dad was screaming, head thrown back in agony as Number 6 hero Cellophane kept his flailing arms taped to the ground and Number 2 hero Frostburn corralled the flames back with ice. He didn’t look hurt - there was no blood, why was he screaming, why did he look so scared -

Ryū breathed in the ash, the smoke and dust.

It hung in his lungs like a curse, like a promise - one that said grow up, Ryū - the world isn’t fair.

“Akio,” he rasped. “Where’s Aki - where’s -”

“Shhh, it’s okay, baby; Daddy’s going to fix everything, it’ll all be fine - close your eyes, just close your eyes -”

“No, let me go, let me go -!”

Feet pounded on concrete and someone skidded down beside them. “What happened?! What the fuck is going on!? Denki! Denki, sweetheart, talk to me!”

“Eiji, do something, do something, God, Aki...Aki, my baby...”

“No,” Baba whispered and he screamed across the road: “Bakugou, where’s Akio - where is he!?”

Dad roared. “Let me go, fucker, that’s my son -” he sobbed a red-hot breath. “I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you!”

“Where the fuck is our son!?” Baba was off across the road, lips peeling back from his teeth and skin hardened into Unbreakable. “ANSWER ME!”

“It’s too late,” Cellophane was panting desperately as he tried to keep Dad on the floor. “Kirishima, the flames are too big -” Baba lurched towards the blazing building. “You’ll be incinerated! They’re too hot, too strong - he’s already gone, I’m sorry, so fucking sorry; Akio is -”

Ryū was standing. Papa was crawling after him, heaving and crying, but his feet carried him forward - so fast the world blurred, the heat beat his skin, voices called wildly - he couldn’t stop - it was as a force outside his control was puppetting him, keeping him on course. Sweat poured off his face as his sneakers slapped the sidewalk -

Frostburn lunged for him, but Ryū ducked and slid, stumbling up the steps to the door, hand meeting blackened wood, the lick of flames at his fingertips, unholy screams of agony and terror and his name the final sound before all that was left was the roar of hell.

 


 

Burning.

Screaming.

Light, light, light sting.

No pain - warmth. Hot warmth, kind warmth.

Open eyes.

Aki.

Brother.

Mine.

Fear. “We’ve gotta go, Ryū, we’ve gotta -” Coughing. “Where are you?”

Scream at fire, angry at fire, hurting brother, hurting mine, not fair not fair not fair -

Brother gone, brother asleep. Touch. Touch on arm(?), touch on something. Comfort, soft soft, hot, protect.

Pick up brother in mouth; why mouth so big?

Run. Running. Running.

Wall. Scream at wall; bad wall! Soft, soft, no Ryū, it’s okay, calm down - good brother, nice brother. Stroke stroke, gently. Hit wall, careful brother. Wall fall. Wall gone.

Pick up brother in mouth; why mouth so big? Jump; why jump so high? So fast?

Screaming. Running - people. So loud, so loud.

Falling, falling. Small, soft, break.

But...

No break.

Brother, brother touch, brother protect, good brother - Aki - Akio -

 


 

“AKIO!”

Ryū peeled his eyes open. Everything hurt and it was cold enough his breath froze in his mouth. He trembled, teeth chattering. Fire still flickered overhead, rushing and smoking. A soft weight lay beneath him, grip tight and unrelenting. He pushed himself up, staring at Akio’s lax face, his soft eyelids and parted mouth. It was a familiar sight, a safe sight.

Papa was there, still crying hysterically. He bodily picked them up and into his lap, rocking backwards and forwards with tears dripping down his crumpled face.

A blanket came out of nowhere and draped around them, scratchy and well-worn. He looked up - Cellophane was crying, and then Dad was there, Baba too, everyone crying except for Ryū, who was too cold and too lost to do much of anything.

“Holy fuck,” Baba said. He was usually the one who told Dad off for swearing. “Oh my god, I can’t believe that just happened - I can’t believe -”

Akio groaned and his eyes fluttered open. He squinted. “Ugh. What...happened?”

“Don’t ever fucking do that again,” Dad snarled from where he sat slumped against the kerb, bits of Cellophane’s tape still wrapped around his arms and legs. He made no move to come any closer. “Knocked twenty years off me, Christ -”

“Aki,” Papa sniffled. “Are you alright, baby?”

“Papa,” Akio grumbled. “I’m okay.” It took a moment. He looked down at his hands, then moved the blanket aside. His face flamed red as he squeaked. “My clothes!”

“We’ll buy you a whole damn shopping mall,” Baba said. Ryū realised he was sat in the tatters of his pyjamas too, but he kept very still and very quiet.

“Nevermind clothes!” Dad demanded. “Look at this!”

They looked. The ground, where Akio had landed, cushioning Ryū’s fall, was misshapen and dented inwards in the vague impression of a small body. An Akio-shaped crater.

“Whoa...did I do that?”

“You got your Quirk!” Baba said, looking blown away. “Oh my god, Aki, you saved your brother with your Quirk!”

“Just like you, Eiji,” said Papa.

“I’m so proud! Does your skin feel different?”

“No?”

Papa picked up a piece of rubble and whacked it against Akio’s arm where it proceeded to break cleanly in half. The pieces tumble back to the sidewalk to awed silence.

“Cool,” Akio breathed.

Ryū turned to the side and vomited up tar.

 


 

Chapter Text

The entrance of U.A. High School towered before him, mere steps away, and there was no one stopping him from simply walking inside. He had done it. He had -

“Ryū-chan! Are you nervous? I’m so nervous!”

Kagami’s face was tinted red from the sun and his eyes practically sparkled. His hair, dark pink at the moment, stuck to his forehead with sweat. He'd decided to jog to meet them to 'warm-up' for the Exam, which sounded awful, but Ryū was used to it. Kagami was an athletics freak, despite what his relatively skinny stature and bubbly personality might say otherwise.

“Don’t call me that.” Fourteen was way too old to be called '-chan', even if they had done so for as long as he could remember. It seemed a lot like social suicide to go into high school with a nickname more fitting for a toddler than a prospective Pro Hero.

“Don’t call you what?” Michiko sing-songed. “Is something the matter, Ryū-chan?” His pair of tagalongs burst into giggles, and Ryū tolerated it for a few moments before heading inside.

A decision he immediately regretted upon seeing the face waiting to greet them.

“Oh, hello!” Uravity said, flustered. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here today, Ojiro-kun!” She completely glossed over Ryū, which was just fine by him.

“We’re trying out for the hero exam, Iida-san. U.A. sometimes accepts last-minute applicants at the door.” He smiled. “If the entrance guard is nice enough, that is.”

“Is that so? Well, do your parents know you’re here, Ojiro-kun? Training to become a hero is a big decision and I don't want you to make it lightly. This goes for all three of you."

Ryū turned away. He knew she was only saying that because she thought they didn't have what it took to make it as Pro Heroes. Kagami's Quirk wasn't combat-related, Michiko's was untrained to a high degree due to her always skipping Quirk Lessons in middle school, and Ryū's was just plain shitty. She probably thought they wouldn't even pass the Entrance Exam, let alone make it in three years as debut Pros. Stupid Uravity. What did she know? The opinion of the fourteenth-ranked Hero was not one he cared about. He didn't care what any of those Pros thought of them.

“Iida-san,” Michiko interrupted. “Here’s my invitation.” She handed over the email print-out. “How’s Taku-chan, by the way?”

“Much better now, thank you,” Uravity seemed to drift into a motherly haze. “So cute and still such a mama’s boy, though don’t let my husband hear me say that; he wanted a little boy so desperately to dote on and now Takuya’s wanting to spend all his time with me -” Ryū zoned out.

Thankfully, Kagami soon picked up a pass from the little table Uravity had laid out and handed it to Ryū, then took one for himself. They hurried down the hallway whilst Michiko, the sacrificial lamb, kept Uravity occupied. Ryū, despite his lingering annoyance about the nickname that seemed to be going nowhere soon, was glad the three of them were friends. No way would Uravity had let Ryū in if he'd been by himself without Kagami and Michiko there to soften the blow or distract from his face. He sincerely doubted Uravity had even recognised him after so many years.

The large auditorium where the welcome presentation was scheduled to occur had already begun to fill up with people, so Ryū and Kagami quickly found a pen and completed their passes with the correct information. They were then directed to sit near the back and Ryū slumped into his seat, his stomach twisting up tightly with nerves. He couldn’t believe their stupid, haphazardously thought-up plan had actually worked. Michiko joined them, slotting into a seat just as the lights dimmed and focused in on the stage.

A man waltzed out, hands planted heroically on his hips. Ryū couldn’t see much from his position, but he didn’t need to. A shocked wave of whispers rippled across the crowd and then a hush as the man raised a hand with a beaming smile. Kagami gasped like he was in some overdramatic, low-budget K-drama.

“Ryū-chan,” he hissed, shaking Ryū arm wildly. “Isn't that you know who?”

Red Riot’s face, grinning madly, appeared on the giant screen above the stage, displayed for all to see in crystal-clear high definition. The first time Ryū had seen that fucker in person in years and it was at some dumb speech he was about to make. Typical. Red Riot's voice came amplified from the microphone tucked into his shirt collar, big, booming and full of genuine cheer: “Hey, guys! I'm Red Riot and I'm here to welcome you all to the opportunity of a lifetime! Who's ready to show us what they're made of!?"

Everybody cheered. Well, everybody except Ryū, Michiko and Kagami. Ryū because he fucking hated Red Riot with every fibre of his being and Michiko and Kagami because they were good friends. They knew how pissed he'd be if they let out even a peer of happiness at being in Red Riot's glorious presence.

“Yeah! Let’s get this thing started then!”

The lights dimmed, Red Riot's face disappeared from the big screen and a picture of U.A. famous logo faded in with a cue of dramatic music instead. The audience held their breath.

“U.A. High School,” a deep voice narrated. It was familiar. Very familiar. “The top Hero school in the country, home of famous Pro Hero alumni such as Frostburn...Ground Zero...” there was a dramatic pause as the music peaked. “And me!” A giant man in green and black jumped onto the stage, grinning a megawatt smile as everyone went crazy. “Number 1 Hero Deku! If you work hard and put in your all, I know you can make it like I did!”

Ryū closed his eyes. Kagami and Michiko hung onto Deku's every word, eyes shining. He couldn't hold it against them for liking Deku. It seemed everyone did - they thought the sun shone out of his ass or something like that. Ryū didn't care so long as they left him out of it. He decided that if the rest of the presentation was going to be as dull and drawn-out as the beginning was shaping out to be, he had plenty of time for a nice nap before the day actually started...

 


 

“Ryū-chan~”

“Wow, he looks so sweet when he’s unconscious. Here, let me take a picture!”

“Michi-kun! You’re going to get in trouble for that.”

“Pfft. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him.”

A bright flash of light fizzled through Ryū’s eyelids, multicoloured spots dancing in the black. He peeled them open to find Michiko caught red-handed with her phone still pointing in his direction. He shot her a dirty look. Why was he friends with those two idiots again?

“Er. Hi?"

Ryū snatched the phone and deleted the blurry picture of him laid back in his chair, eyes half-open and brow furrowed. The auditorium was emptying fast, people grouping in little cliqués of familiar faces. Ryū couldn’t relate - none of his classmates beside Kagami and Michiko would ever bother trying out for U.A. - they only accepted the best of the best and with so many potential hopefuls training for years...it had become the unobtainable dream for most. Ryū still wasn't sure what his game plan would be, but he knew Kagami had made a deal with a few other examinees on a forum to team up depending on what the practical aspect consisted of. 

“It’s time for the entrance exam,” Kagami said, hands trembling. “I'm so nervous! I don't get how you can sleep at a time like this, Ryū-chan. Aren't you scared too?”

Ryū thought about it. “No,” he said. It was (mostly) the truth - he’d studied long and hard for the written exam and felt well-prepared for any question he might be given. The physical portion perhaps not so much, but there was little he could do about that for the time being beside keep a keen eye on his competition.

“Of course you're not,” Kagami's hair faded from jaunty purple to a nervous grey. “Well, what about you Michi-kun? Please tell me I'm not the only one!"

“Meh,” she said, shrugging. They joined the crowd and let it carry them along. “Not much I can do about it now, is there? Besides, Mom said all the questions are really self-explanatory and I shouldn't overthink them.”

“Well, my mom nearly failed the written portion,” Kagami said glumly. “Not that she’d be able to help me even if she hadn't - they think I’m at volleyball practice today.”

Ryū tuned out their conversation, sizing up the students surrounding him. A few had mutation Quirks - extra limbs, strange hair and skin colours; there was even one girl with a head full of leaves and two wooden tree trunks sticking out of her shorts in place of legs. Unfortunately, the competition he really had to look out for were people with non-visible Quirks; in an exam setting he was at a disadvantage from those with mental enhancements, whilst the physical exam would require, presumably, speed and strength, alongside all-important strategy.

“Oh man,” a boy said as he bumped Ryu's shoulder in the shoving crowd. His hair, interestingly enough, was made entirely of water, bright blue and sloshing about as he moved. “This is so crazy. I can’t believe we’re actually here!” He grinned, eyes sparkling. “Are you excited too?”

Ryū stared at the hand he had been offered. “No.”

The boy’s smile wilted a little, hair dripping little water droplets on his shirt. “Well okay, but -"

“Leave me alone.”

“W-What?”

“Oh no!” Kagami had apparently overheard that last part. “Better do as he says, kid - our friend is such a grouch!”

“Don’t call me kid,” said the boy. “You look the same age as me anyway.” He offered a smile. “I’m Ishikawa Shiro.”

“Ojiro Kagami, at your service! And this is Michi-kun!”

“Kagami!” Michiko cried. “Stop introducing me like that!” She smiled nervously at the boy - Ishikawa. “Tetsutetsu Michiko is my name!”

“It’s nice to meet you, Tetsutetsu-kun,” Ishikawa said. “And, uh...you are?”

In the face of being introduced by that awful nickname again, Ryū sucked his teeth. “Kaminari Ryū.”

“Wow, that’s practically a hello hug from him."

The girl on Ishikawa’s other side - dressed in a black jumpsuit with messy blonde hair spilling over he shoulders - looked over, having obviously been eavesdropping. “Kaminari? As in Kaminari Denki, also known as the electric Pro Hero Chargebolt?”

"I've never heard of him," Ishikawa said thoughtfully. Ryū liked him a little more for that.

She grinned proudly. "Well, I’m Ground Zero’s number one fan, so I've read all I can about him. He and Chargebolt were married at one point, you see, so that's how I know.”

Ryū, murderous rage increasing with every word out of her idiot mouth, felt his palms go itchy and hot. “Why the fuck would you want to be the fan of that piece of shit?”

“Hey, what’s your problem?” she demanded, arms folding. “I was just trying to make conversation! Where do you get off being so rude to people, huh?”

“Ryū-chan’s always like this,” Michiko said. “He hates people talking about his family, especially his dad.” She slapped a hand over her mouth not half a second later, but the damage had already been done and the blonde girl was already waving her arms in excitement like a distressed seagull.

“What!? Your dad is Ground Zero?”

Of for - Ryū, ignoring Kagami’s scrambled assurances and Michiko’s calls for him to come back, stormed to the front of the queue, pushing a tall boy with dark blue hair out of the way.

“Um, excuse me, pushing into queues is against the U.A. code of conduct -”

The rescue hero Creati appeared in the doorway, dressed in a formal navy pantsuit. She clapped her hands and silence quickly fell over the hallway despite the angry glares the lecturing boy was still sending Ryū, who couldn't care one iota about the whining of some dumb, rule-abiding nerd.

“Okay, everybody,” she said. “The written portion of the exam will now commence and I advise you to answer every question, regardless if you are sure of the answer or not. Does everybody have what they need? ...Yes? Okay, then; good luck!”

Ryū was the first into the room and took the seat closest to the door. He had already filled in his details by the time Kagami and Michiko shuffled past with nervous smiles. His chest, tight with nerves, eased significantly. After all, if those two idiots of his could get in, then Ryū would have no trouble.

 


 

The exam was scheduled to take two hours. After one, the nagging boy left, muttering to himself, but seeming well at-ease. Then went the irritating Ground Zero fangirl, who was grinning widely. Ryū, who was on the last page, slammed his pen down and stood up, chair screeching on the wooden gym floor. From where she sat invigilating at the front, Creati let out a warning ‘shush’ as Ryū left the room. He was tempted to glare at her, but decided against it just in case she had a hand in the paper marking.

The fangirl and the know-it-all were chatting in the hallway and sharing a box of apple slices. Ryū sneered at them. He felt like he was surrounded by a bunch of snot-nosed five-year-olds.

“Oh, it’s you,” said the girl coolly. “You think you’re so special just because of who your parents are, huh? Well, Iida-san is the son of the first Ingenium, so don’t think you’re the only one!”

Ryū ignored them. He took out his phone and opened up the text messages. There was one from his grandmother, asking if he could pick up some rice on his way home, and another reminding him that the steps needing sweeping too.

“And another thing,” she continued. “I saw you push in line and that was totally uncool, not hero-like at all; I don’t see why you want to come to U.A. so bad if that’s how you behave -”

“I'm sure he won't bother us anymore,” the boy - Iida - said a little nervously. So he was the son of the first Ingenium, huh? Not much to boast about in Ryū's eyes; being the son of a former-Pro Hero surely couldn’t be counted as having ‘famous’ parents, especially when his father had been forcibly retired by an injury. Good heroes didn’t lose their fights, after all.

“Hmph. You may do well in the physical exam, Kaminari-sama,” she said scathingly. “But I bet you’re ego showed enough in the written portion the teachers will know you’re not Hero material.”

Ryū, despite wanting to drive his fist into her face, kept a bland expression. He ground his teeth together. She was half-right, at any rate - any unneeded violence would not look good on his application. All he needed to do was keep a clear head for the next few hours and he’d be home free.

U.A. wouldn't know what to do with themselves by the time he was done finished.

 


 

Michiko exited through the main doors right before the exam finished, sweating heavily. She looked crushed. Ryū, who had sat in silence as more and more people trickled out, stood up. She threw herself at him clinging to his sleeves as she grew teary-eyed.

“Ryū-chan,” she muttered. "I failed, I know I failed!”

“Calm down." People were staring, but he didn't care. Michiko was always like this in public, so he'd gotten used to it. “You studied, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, but -”

“But nothing. The questions were simple - even you couldn’t fail them.” When she put her mind to it, Michiko could get good test results - near to the top of the class. The only problem was her tendency for procrastination. Kagami was the one they needed to worry about; he was a total airhead and got easily distracted by the smallest things. 

“I guess so...Ryū-chan, you really know what to say to make me feel better. I wonder how Kagi-chan did...” Her eyes lit up, her upset all but forgotten already. “Oh! I can ask him later. I think we’re in the same physical arena!” She pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. “Group C...yeah, I’m sure that’s the one he said!”

“Physical arena?”

“Did you forget your name badge!?” Michiko gasped. “Oh no! Ryū-chan, what are you going to do? Will they even let you take part?”

“They better,” he said and thankfully, Creati came out to split everyone off into their different groups. Ryū waited for a moment to pull her aside, but when he did, it was to be met with a disapproving frown.

“Kaminari, was it? I went to school with your fathers, you know. We were classmates and often studied together. I haven't spoken to them in some time, but I have fond -"

“I lost my name badge.”

“- memories of - excuse me?”

“My name badge,” he repeated. “I lost it, so I don’t know what group I’m in.”

“Oh,” she flustered, clearly caught off guard. "Where were you sitting?”

“In the aisle. Thirtieth row.”

“Ah, a late entry!” She checked the clipboard she was holding to her chest. “That would be...Group D! W-Well, good luck out there, Kaminari-san! I’ll be rooting for you.”

“Thanks,” Ryū said flatly. He joined the back of the crowd on their way to his arena. Stupid Pros.

 


 

From what he gathered via eavesdropping, the physical exam consisted of a large maze filled with ‘civilians’ and ‘villains’. Their goal was to make their way through to an exit whilst showing off their rescue ability, navigational and strategy skills, and physical prowess, to the teachers watching on hundreds of moveable cameras. They would have ten minutes to rack up as many points of possible during this time - taking down villains and rescuing civilians. Ryū was...semi-confident.

“Let’s do this!” someone yelled and there was a murmur of enthused agreement.

Ryū, hands planted flat on the ground and legs straight, rolled his eyes at that.

“Prospective students!” a voice said over the speaker system. They were crammed into a small, dark, windowless room so the noise echoed with a squeal of feedback. A few people covered their ears, but a short, well-muscled boy with antennae doubled-over, clutching his head with a grimace. Enhanced hearing? That would be useful in this maze exam for sure.

“Good luck out there!” the voice was male, but not one he recognised. “If you do your best you’ll surely succeed, kids, so get out there and kick some butt! PLUS ULTRAAAAA!”

An air-horn sounded and the far wall fell like a stone, disappearing into the floor. There was a stunned silence and then the crowd surged forwards, carrying Ryū with them in a mad dash for freedom. He managed to catch himself on a corner, clinging on until everyone had passed. His eyes adjust to the dark eventually, but anyone with night vision would be at a huge advantage.

They were in what seemed to be a large warehouse; along the walls and ceilings were outcroppings and ropes of varying size, height and length, having been built with distance-fighting Quirks in mind, whilst the ground wad padded with drains, small tunnels and many hand-holds in the walls. It looked like a more-advanced version of the place where he and Kagami had gone to play laser tag the year before.

Ryū immediately scaled wall he was leaning on for a higher vantage point. The first thing that drew his attention was a scuffle occurring a few rows away from him - a cloud of smoke puffed into the air amidst grappling figures. Elsewhere, someone screamed a cry for help and he leapt into action, hopping from wall to wall. Civilian? Fellow examinee? Either way he'd get some points for helping them.

When he hit the ground, Ryū went straight into a roll and leapt onto the back of a man in a black coat and orange mask. He had a glowing purple knife in his hand that he swung wildly back at Ryū in an attempt to slice him. A woman in a white coat and blue mask was huddled against the wall, sobbing loudly.

The villain caught Ryū's arm and threw him over his head and against a wall, where he lay, entirely prone. His vision wobbled and his ears pounded with blood. That...hadn't gone to plan.

“Sorry, kid!” the villain called over his shoulder as he ran off.

“Oh no,” the civilian sniffled. “Are you alright?”

Ryū, staring at the glowing purple slice on his arm, shook the fog from his head. “Yeah, I'm fine. Now, come on, we've got to go.” At least maybe he’d earn some rescue points from that pitiful display...

She let him help her to his feet and shuffle over to a section of the outer wall with a door labelled ‘Rescued Civilian Exit’. “Good luck!” she called as it swung shut behind her.

Okay. One point. He couldn’t let his fall at the first hurdle faze him!

Ryū took off into the maze, weaving deeper than before. He cut past a group of people who seemed to have teamed up and skidded around a corner to come face-to-face with another villain, this one holding a rather large mallet with yellow paint dripping from the head. The colour had to mean something. Purple, now yellow...perhaps it helped calculate points? He wished he'd paid more attention in Deku's speech.

“Ah,” the villain hissed, yellow mask glowing faintly in the dim light. “Another attempt to fight me, hm? Give it a try, little boy!” She lunged for him and, barely managing to dodge her, Ryū bounced off a nearby wall. He caught the handle of her mallet, fingernails digging into the flexible rubber and shoved it back at her with all his strength. It caught her in the side of the neck and he ripped the mallet away as she hacked and coughed.

A yellow handkerchief that he hadn't noticed before hung from around her wrist. Was that how they calculated the number of villains defeated? He grabbed it and took off, not waiting around to find out. Useless weapon tucked under his arm, Ryū climbed another wall and hopped closer to the centre of the maze. He had two points, at least; one for the rescue and one for the fight. But two points would never be enough...

“How many is that, Sou-chan?”

“Fifty!” There was a yelp. “Make that fifty-one!”

Ryū growled, heaved the mallet over his head, and leapt. He hung airborne for a moment, stumbled when his feet hit the floor and brought the rubber weapon down on the head of an unsuspecting villain guarding a cluster of civilians. Dazed, the man stumbled and Ryū swept his legs out from under him.

He dove for the handkerchief around the villain’s wrist, fingertips barely skimming blue before something heavy shoved him away.

“Thanks!” a boy with pink hair held the handkerchief aloft, smiling like an idiot. At first place, Ryū had thought it was Kagami, but when he looked closer, he saw the smug, self-satisfied look the other boy wore and knew his friend would never look so arrogant. He would also never steal a point from another examinee. The pink-haired shitface had a few dozen handkerchiefs hanging from his wrists. That was so many points already.  “That makes seventy!” He added the blue handkerchief to his collection as the villain lay prone on the ground, twitching.

“That’s mine!” Ryū snarled, scrambling to his feet. "I earnt that!"

“Uh, nope! It's all mine, see?” He held his arm up. “Tough luck, buddy!"

Snarling deep in his chest, Ryū launched himself at the other boy, whose eyes widened and arms pinwheeled as he attempted to stumble out of range.

“Woah, wait!” he yelped. “Don’t touch me -”

Ryū smacked him across the face, his vision blinded by rage. Who the fuck did this guy think he was, stealing from somebody who only had two points when he was already at seventy -

“Give me my fucking -” another punch, “- fuck you -”

“Let go, let go, you don’t understand -” the boy shrieked. His hands, held up in a weak attempt to shield his face, began to glow, blue peeking through the skin and lighting up the thready veins in his fingers.

Ryū hesitated, but that was all it took for the glow to stretch into a flare and send spots dancing in his vision, the burning of heat corroding any anger into blind confusion. Shit. He saw what was happening before he felt it - his fist, still raised, began to burn a sickly shade of brown that travelled up his arm and under his sleeve. The face of the other boy lit up in streaks of yellow and orange, reflecting in wide, horrified eyes.

Ryū scrambled backwards, hitting the wall and clutching his head, the pressure so tight in his ears he was sure his brain would leak out between his fingers. Everything was burning red-hot, itchy and prickling under his skin. It felt like his Quirk, but he couldn't control it - couldn't get it to stop -

“I’m sorry!” the other boy cried out. “Please, just try and calm down!”

 


 

Kirishima Eijirou took a long, refreshing sip from his bottle of ramune and reclined even further back in his chair. The control room where they monitored the entrance exam was small and rather claustrophobic with no windows and only a large wall of television screens to light where they sat, but, despite that, he was really enjoying himself. Seeing all the new Hero hopefuls always took him back to his own days at U.A., how nervous he'd felt for his own exams.

Yaomomo was at his left, tapping her fingers on her cheek with nerves. He wondered what had gotten her so worked up.

“Wow, did you see that?” Ochako gasped. “Student 1047 just lifted four people at once!”

“1047?” Oshiro Yui, a fearsome woman with short brown hair and wide, heavy-lidded eyes echoed, glancing at said monitor. “That’s Suneater’s boy. It makes sense he would be just as powerful; I believe his Quirk is called..." She referenced her paperwork. "Ant."

“That would explain the antenna,” Momo murmured. “He has nearly eighty rescue points already - clearly a strong contender for the Hero course.”

There was a mumble of agreement from the rest of the staff. Eijirou grinned to himself. Togata and Tamaki-senpai's son? He hadn't seen his old fellow intern since Fat Gum's retirement party, but he knew they had two little boys. Had they grown up so much already that the youngest was already applying for U.A.? Damn, how time flew! It felt like just yesterday he and Katsuki were -

“Lots of promising faces this year,” Oshiro pointed out, interrupting his train of thought. “And many of them are the children of current Pros - another Iida, a Tokoyami -”

“0208!” Ochako clapped her hands, eyes sparkling. “Oh, she’s the daughter of Real Steel and Big Fist! Just look at her go!”

At the sound of his best bro’s name, Eijirou perked up. His eyes scanned the monitor and finally landed on a young girl with giant metal hammers for hands. Her hair was a familiar shade of silver and she had long, curly eyelashes. That was Tetsutetsu’s little girl for sure. He’d had no idea she was trying out for U.A., but with a Quirk like that, he doubted she'd have trouble!

“A Tokoyami, did you say?” Kobayashi Rin, the newest member of staff, asked. This was the first time Eijirou had heard him speak all morning. “A Quirk like that is well-suited to the dark environment of the maze...”

“Let’s take a closer look,” said Oshiro. She enlarged one screen until it took up all the other monitors. A boy with pale pink hair was perched on a ledge, eyes shining with glee. There was no sign of anything like Fumikage’s Dark Shadow. Eijirou couldn’t help but be a little disappointed - a Quirk like that would’ve been formidable, as Kobayashi said. “On his application form he listed his Quirk as ‘Power-Up’.” There was no sign of any bird-like features on his appearance either. Had Tokoyami and Shoji adopted?

Tokoyami-kun leapt off-screen and it took a moment for the camera to follow him, but when it did Eijirou sucked in a gasp.

A villain was prone on the ground and young Tokoyami held a yellow handkerchief aloft as he stood over his takedown. However, it was the other boy present that had Eijirou so shaken. He'd know that messy black hair and that murderous scowl anywhere, even after all these years.

“Oh,” said Ochako said, blinking slowly. “I saw that boy this morning at the entrance. I didn’t manage to catch his name, but he helped Tōru and Mashirao's son sneak in with -”

“What the fuck does he think he’s doing!?” Eijirou cried, throwing himself to his feet. His bottle of ramune toppled over and splashed onto the carpet. “I can’t believe Denki was stupid enough to let him try-out - “

“Kaminari?” Ochako did a double-take. “Wait, Kirishima, is that -?”

“Kaminari Ryū,” Oshiro filled-in helpfully from her clipboard. “A last-minute examinee.”

“He was the third person to finish the written exam,” Yaomomo added. That was what she’d been so surreptitious about! She’d known his son was here and not told him; Ryū was going to get himself killed out there and now Eijirou was stuck in a tiny box of a room simply watching it all go to shit! How did he - he'd never give permission for his little boy to be a Hero. Call him a hypocrite, but having Aki here was bad enough.

“He shouldn’t even be allowed to apply, let alone participate in the physical test!”

“He has as much right to do so as anyone else, Red Riot. It’s not up to you what he can or can’t do -”

“Bullshit,” he slammed his hands down on the desk, “I’m his father!”

Yaomomo cleared her throat. “Looks like we have a slight problem."

Eijirou dragged his eyes back to the monitors and what he saw made his blood run cold.

Ryū had Tokoyami pinned to the ground and was punching him with pure murder in his eyes, teeth bared and flashing deadly white. A murmur went across the room and the back of Eijirou’s neck prickled hotly with embarrassment...what had Denki been teaching him? Actually, he looked less like Denki and more and more like Katsuki with each passing moment. Eijirou felt a pang on his chest, right where his heard was. If only Katsuki was here to see this.

“Oh dear, I can see the family resemblance,” Ochako worried.

On-screen, Ryū stopped his attack and reared backwards with his face twisted in...shock?

After a few torturous seconds, Eijirou found out why. Ryū began to glow supernova; light cracking his skin, a sun imploding, cracks and fissures of fire. He fell against the far wall with his head bowed deep between his knees as the screen became more and more obscured with blinding light.

“Look at that!”

“Should we intervene?”

“Kirishima-san? Is this usual?”

“Of course not!” Eijirou practically yelled. He felt sick to his stomach. “Ryū’s Quirk only makes him fireproof, not - not this!”

“He isn’t able to control or summon fire?” Oshiro clarified, picking up her cell phone.

“No!”

She pressed a button and held the phone up to her ear. “Hello? Yes, I know you’re on break but we have an examinee out of control.” There was a pause. Ryū continued to burn brighter and brighter until even the monitor was simply a smear of light. Eijirou had to shield his eyes.

“Thank goodness he didn't inherit Bakugou's Quirk,” Yaomomo muttered. “I’d hate to see what would happen if Tokoyami had amplified that."

Oshiro hung up. “Eraserhead’s on his way.”

 


 

Tokoyami Jin was made for greatness.

Sure, he’d been so nervous that morning he’d thrown up in the bushes outside, but that was because academics weren’t his strong suit and he needed to pull ahead in the written exam in case his Quirk lost him points in the physical portion. After all, Power-Up afforded him the ability to make other people’s Quirks more powerful, but it didn’t really do anything for his own abilities. Fumikage had even suggested he consider trying for the Support Course instead, but Jin would not be swayed. Maybe he couldn’t make it as a Pro by himself, but Duos were becoming more and more popular with the public rankings - all he needed to do was find himself a partner.

He’d tried scoping out the potential earlier, but no one had seemed inclined to answer any of his questions about their Quirks, probably assuming he was trying to one-up the competition. One girl with a teleport Quirk had introduced herself, but his power wouldn’t help much there. He needed a powerhouse.

This short guy had seemed promising at first. Abrasive, arrogant - he seemed almost the perfect candidate. Well, until he had seen the other boy’s Quirk in all its glory.

“Hey,” he tried, shuffling a bit closer. “Just calm down, alright?”

Shorty’s eyes shot up and they looked like twin portals into the fiery pits of hell. His skin continued to burn yellow and white, lettings off waves of heat and lighting the entire area around them. The villain had shuffled away at some point.

If Jin was to give it a name, he thought ‘Lightbulb’ was fitting - glowing skin, a warm aura, and extremely mundane. It was aesthetically awesome, he’d give him that, but a let-down in every other conceivable way. Why was he even bothering to try out for the Hero course? There’s no way a Quirk like that would make a Pro Hero and with Shorty's personality, the Support Department seemed unlikely too.

“What have you done to me?” His voice sounded like he’d gargled a cup of broken glass and gravel. Jin took a sensible step back, hands up.

“I amp up the Quirks of people who touch me, but it should wear off in a minute or two,” he explained. Hopefully. Most people were sensible enough to stop touching him when he asked, so he didn’t have much experience with actually using Power Up on strangers. That was why he was at U.A., after all.

“FOUR MINUTES REMAINING!”

Jin stared at the other boy, torn. He needed more points; he wasn't sure how many any other examinees had, but he wanted to fetch as many as he could manage in the ten minutes.

However, he couldn’t just leave this guy alone...right?

He shook his head. No. He was a hero, not some cowardly villain! “Hey, hey, come on. Time’s nearly up and we need to catch ourselves some more points!”

"I'll take it from here." A deep voice came from above them and Jin craned his neck up. A dark-clothed figure with a tangle of black hair was looming on the wall above them, yellow goggles obscuring their eyes. Familiarity niggled at the back of his mind. Goggles, all-black costume, deadpan voice...no way.

“Eraserhead?” He gaped. “I thought you retired!” Fumikage had told him all about his former homeroom teacher, but he'd never expected to actually meet him!

The ex-Pro, expression still frustratingly blank, grunted. “I did.” He jumped and landed mere feet away with his hands in his pockets. “There are three minutes remaining of the exam. If you hurry, you might be able to get a few more points, but try not to use your Quirk again or I’ll just get dragged back down here.”

Jin looked at the brightly-lit boy, eyeing his furious snarl and firey skin, the cracks of molten lava peeking out from his t-shirt, then nodded and took off into the maze. He had villains to beat, after all, and a Fumikage to make proud!

 


 

Aizawa Shōta was sick of his former students coming back to haunt him. He felt no shame in admitting they made up the best class he had ever taught - but could they not go a month without interrupting his semi-retirement? Was that too much to ask?

One year Kaminari was going berserk in a woodland area and needed Shōta to erase his Quirk, and the next Midoriya was holding a birthday party for his son and insisting all the former U.A. teachers simply must go. Would he ever be able to escape them? Hizashi, who was no help at all and even more incorrigible now that he had fully retired to focus on his radio show, kept giggling about it and practically wet himself every time Shōta's phone beeped with another summons.

Then, the U.A. entrance exam. He’d stayed on-campus every year in sheer expectation of something going wrong and, unfortunately, had yet to be proven otherwise. There was always some examinee or another who got too cocky or overworked themselves and needed to be stopped. It just so happened that a lot of these students were the children of his own bunch of irritations.

The worst had been the current members of 2-A; whoever had decided that letting two boys with Quirks called ‘Decay’ and ‘Cremation’ pair up were clearly unqualified to be teaching. Shōta had lost count of the number of times he’d been called out to deal with those two problem children - who would’ve thought that Midoriya and Todoroki could make such an evil little brat?

However, if their son was bad, Shōta didn’t even want to think about the product of Kirishima, Kaminari and Bakugou.

He’d met their middle son, a 3-A student, and he seemed...fine and, though hot-tempered, generally not very dangerous. However, he hadn’t held out much hope of that continuing on for the next one. When was he ever that lucky, after all? Lightning only even struck the same place once, after all.

When Oshiro - a brilliant teacher with a sensible head on her shoulders - had called, Shōta had been laid out on a bench in the courtyard, napping peacefully in his favourite sleeping bag (it came with a snack pocket). She hadn’t provided much explanation, but when he reached the assessment maze, Shōta found he hadn’t needed one. A burning spot of light was emanating from an area to the west and he’d dropped in to find one boy stood over another on the floor, who was glowing like an angry firefly.

He sent the hang-on away, obviously the cause of the incident in some way, and turned his attention to the other kid. There weren’t many discernible features, but he figured ‘boy’ purely because, from experience, they seemed to cause him the biggest headaches. Girls were more sensible.

Kneeling beside him, Shōta activated Erasure, hair lifting away from his shoulder and eyes already beginning to itch from the dry air. That bright light wasn’t helping, but thankfully it bled away after a few mere moments.

The kid - a boy, after all - had a short mess of black hair, though that could’ve just been from sweat, pale skin and was dressed head-to-toe in black. He was skinny - probably didn’t eat enough - and quite short, would probably be the smallest in a room of teenagers. He didn't look like any of Shōta's former-students just yet, but he wasn't sold yet. Somehow it always led back to that troublesome batch.

“Can you stand?”

The boy groaned. His head wobbled and then lifted from his knees, eyes fluttering open in a slow blink. His irises were bright red and remained unguarded for a moment before scrunching up in a furious glare.

“That fucker,” he muttered to himself. “Stupid cheat -”

Shōta straightened up, releasing his Quirk. The boy remained un-glowing as he also stood on wobbly legs. “You’re out,” he said impassionately. “U.A.’s staff have decided that you’re unfit to continue with the exam -”

“What!?” his eyes popped. “That’s unfair! I have just as much right as anyone else to compete -”

“Sure, but you’re Quirk-affected and won’t have enough time to get the necessary points anyway. You only have two - everyone else has upwards of sixty.” He felt a bit bad crushing the kid’s dreams like this, but not everybody could be a Hero and besides, there was always Shiketsu High. Giving up entirely was also an option.

“But I can still -”

“Come on, kid,” he tossed over his shoulder as he navigated to the exit the ‘villains’ used; they were film-extras hired out by the school for any hostage or round-up situation and were a royal pain in the ass. Shōta had even had to confiscate a bag of villain markers from them when he’d seen them trading colours. The whole point was that each person was marked with a difficulty rating - it wouldn’t be fair to give a student one point for taking down a three-point villain, would it? Personally, he thought the robots were a much better idea because they didn’t talk back or demand sick leave, but Hitoshi had decided to crack down on grant spending and who was Shōta to question his own son? “Let’s get you checked out by the nurse.”

Reluctant footsteps trailed after him as yells and explosions rang in the air, joyful yells and friends calling out their scores to one another. He held the door open for the boy and watched him shuffle through, head downcast. Ah, well at least he had time to focus his studies on something more attainable. Better that than washing out at eighteen when no agencies would reasonably sign him on. A glowing Quirk would be useful in rescue situations, but that was what flashlights were for.

The hallway was brightly-lit and silent save for the buzzing of the electricity. Shōta watched the boy tremble with suppressed emotions and sighed. He was too damn old for this shit.

“What’s your name?”

The boy looked at him, eyes accusatory. So he wanted to play it like that, huh?

“I used to teach here, you know - I’m well-practised in dealing with sulking kids and, I hate to break it to you, but not everyone can be a Hero. It’s not even all about the Quirk - I’ve had students with weak abilities later rank in the top ten, and those with incredibly powerful Quirks end up washed-out failures.”

“Like Ground Zero?”

Shōta stumbled over his words a little. He supposed Bakugou was a good example of, hm, a singularly-minded Hero, but he was the Number 3 ranked - definitely not what one would call a ‘failure’. “What makes you say that?” he asked lightly. The boy snarled.

“Just experience. There’s more to making it than power or attitude or whatever you think.”

“Sure,” he said, trying to divert them back on topic. There was something... “But Ground Zero is a successful Hero. What makes you so hate him so much?”

“He’s a deadbeat,” the boy said. They came out the hallway and stopped by the room the staff were observing the exam in. He could hear Kirishima and Uraraka whispering heatedly. The couldn’t be a good sign.

“ONE MINUTE REMAINING!” echoed down the corridor from the maze.

“Just look at this exam,” he continued, gesturing behind them. “The rules are unfair - ripe for someone to take advantage of them. How can you assess Hero ability when people can steal points from one another with no consequences?”

“I don’t make the rules, kid.” He had a good head on his shoulders. Might actually do well in Shiketsu if he got in...

“No,” he said. “No, you don't.”

Kirishima shuffled into view, eyes flitting nervously about. His former-student now stood taller than him by at least ten centimetres, body packed with hard muscles and dotted with scars, but Shōta couldn’t help but still see that cheerful, down-to-earth boy; the one who befriended the rest of the walking shitshow that was Class 1-A (and part of class 1-B whilst he was at it).

“Hi, sensei.” He looked at the glowering boy. “Um, hi buddy.”

Shōta wet his lips.

‘Buddy’?

“Red Riot,” the boy said flatly.

“Tough luck on the exam, but, you know, being a Hero isn’t every -”

Uraraka fell into the doorway, smiling nervously. “Kirishima!” she said loudly. “There you are! The exam’s nearly over; only thirty seconds left!”

“Uravity,” the boy said. He was tapping his fingers against his leg in an inconsistent rhythm. “Are you a teacher here?”

“Um, I sure am! It’s nice to see you again, Kaminari-chan!”

Kirishima winced and Shōta made a thoughtful noise as it all fell into place.

Red eyes, scowl, that violent temper...

“Do you think I could watch the end of the exam with you then? It’d like to see what I’m missing.”

“Oh, sure, sure!” she said. “That’s alright by me. Kirishima?”

“If you want to,” Kirishima said. He looked very uncomfortable. “But after, maybe -”

The kid - Shōta really needed to find out his name because there was no way he was putting up with a teen ‘Kaminari’ again - ducked past Shōta and stood next to Uraraka in the doorway, hands deep in his pocket. On-screen, kids were scrambling desperately to get a few last-minute points and the staff were making fast notes as they watched.

Kirishima flexed his fingers and sighed, scrubbing at his spiky red hair; he’d never grown out of dyeing it, not even when the Crimson Riot-branding outgrew the new generation of Hero fans. Clearly, there were some deep, underlying issues there that Shōta was not going to touch with a ten-foot pole. He was done with the drama his former-students seemed to drag around with them.

“So how does it work?” the kid asked Uraraka. “Can they really just take points from each other and claim them for their own?”

“There’s more to it than that, but essentially yes,” she explained. “Players are scored on how many villain markers they finish with on their person, disregarding how or where they got them. It’s to give students with non-physical Quirks an advantage!”

“Wow,” he said flatly. “Just like that?”

“Just like that!” She pumped her fist. “Oh, look!”

An irritating buzzer sound bounced around the school, piercing and just this side of painful. Shōta yawned and wished for his bed. He was just wondering if he could leave now that the kid was in the care of his old man when Oshiro stood up.

She clapped her hands. “Alright, I’ve been keeping track and it looks like we have our top-scorers; Watanabe Reina with ninety-six points, Ishikawa Shiro with ninety-eight, and Oyama Tomiko managed to collect one hundred and seven points, earning her the clear top spot in villain markers alone -”

“Um, excuse me?”

Oshiro stopped. The room turned as a collective to look at Bakugou’s clone spawn. Shōta had a bad feeling.

“It’s the boy that attacked another participant,” someone muttered.

“Red Riot, what's going on here?” Oshiro asked. She hated to be interrupted. “Do try and keep your son under control - he shouldn’t even be here for this.”

“My name is Kaminari Ryū,” the kid said and Shōta finally had a name to put to his smug little face. “And Uravity told me that it doesn’t matter how you get points, only that whatever you end the exam with is your score. Is that true?”

“Ryū," Kirishima said nervously.

“Yes...but, young man, you only collected two points and I’m afraid that won’t be efficient enough to accept you at U.A. even if you were to obtain a reference from -”

“I don’t need a reference.” The kid pulled his hands out of his pocket and Shōta sucked in a half-impressed, half-annoyed breath. He didn’t need to feel his belt to know that the bag of markers he’d confiscated from the ‘villains’ earlier was now gone. How could he have missed that? The brat must’ve stolen it when he barged past to stand with Uraraka! “I have thirty villain markers, and since the black ones seem to be worth the most,” he offered a small smile. “I guess that puts me in first place.”

This kid...

“Woah, did he seriously play us like that?”

“Crazy!”

“Kirishima, your kid is a total schemer! How’d he do it!?”

Shōta slunk off down the corridor, hands in his pockets. He needed a damn nap.

 


 

Chapter Text

“Oh dear, are you off to school already? What shall I do with myself now?”

Ryū double-knotted his shoelaces and offered a half-hearted smile. His grandmother, despite being only in her sixties, had succumbed hard to a memory-deteriorating illness and had to have someone with her nearly all the time in case she did something stupid like putting food in the oven and then forgetting it. Again. Typically, that role fell to him, but now that summer was over and he’d be gone most of the time they would have to hire someone to come and check on her at different intervals throughout the day if his grandfather couldn’t afford to take the time off work.

“Kawaguchi will be by to check on you in a few hours, alright?” he reminded, tugging his jacket on over the itchy U.A. uniform. Kawaguchi was the next-door-neighbour who’d offered to come and see Obaa-san before work, during lunch and after work whilst Ryū was gone, though only on a temporary basis. It was the best they could do at the minute. “And my number is by the phone in the kitchen.” Not that she’d remember to call him if there was an emergency.

“So thoughtful,” his grandmother smiled. She was sunk into her armchair and probably - hopefully - wouldn’t move much throughout the day. There would be less chance of her getting into trouble that way, though she seemed to be surprisingly lucid at the moment. All summer he’d felt like she was finally doing a little better, her deterioration stagnating into something manageable. She even remembered his name, could hold actual sustained conversations. “Come here, let me give you a kiss.”

Despite the unbearable urge to run out the door, across town, and all the way to his new homeroom class at U.A. High School, Ryū obligingly let her press a light kiss on his cheek. He even returned the favour.

“Have a nice day, dragon. If you behave I’ll even show you my work when I get back.”

“Goodbye!” she called airily as the front door shut behind him.

The smile slid off his face as he unlocked his bike and peddled out into the quiet streets of Musutafu. He could see U.A. looming in the skyline, a silver speck on a canvas of muted creams and greys. It was a lovely day - the sun was barely cresting the sky and yet the air was already warm. An early start always got him refreshed for the long day of dealing with Kagami and Michiko’s antics.

“Ryū-chan!”

This was no exception, it seemed. He braked hard, nearly flipping directly over the handlebars as Michiko threw herself in front of his bike with her arms spread wide.

They came face-to-face. “Good morning,” she said cheerily, as if he hadn’t nearly just run her over at considerable speeds. “Are you excited for our big day!? I could barely sleep last night I was so pumped - my parents and I ended up just watching old cartoon re-runs. What was your evening like?”

Ryū had cooked dinner for his grandmother and helped her get ready for bed. He’d ironed his uniform, shined his shoes, laid out his pre-packed bag, and then gone straight to bed at eight o’clock.

“It was fine,” he said. His grandparents didn’t even have a television, let alone allowing him to stay up watching it. “Where’s Kagami?” He’d spent a lot of time over at Michiko’s house because his little sisters were getting to that age where they liked to annoy him, and Ryū had half-expected their (usually) pink-haired friend to sleep over on this big night too. Luckily, Michiko’s parents were laidback about both he and Ryū staying at their house on a regular basis.

“Didn’t you watch the news last night? Invisible Girl was injured in a fight, so Kagi-chan had to rush right home and watch his sisters.” Ryū slid off his bike and began to slowly push it up the hill with Michiko strolling along beside him. Why she hadn’t brought her own bike was a mystery to him.

“Really?” Kagami’s mother worked rescues, where the chance of injury was significantly less than could be found on front line Hero vs villain fights. “Is she alright now?”

“I think so? He’s still coming to school today, so it can’t be that bad. I think he would have texted us if things were going downhill.”

“Hm,” he said and that was the end of that.

Michiko kept up a running commentary on their walk, of course, but other than that it was relatively quiet. Ryū tried to imagine what their classes would be like - he hadn’t been worried about getting accepted, obviously, but where they’d place him...that was less certain. If they saw his actions as too villainous then he could’ve been dumped in shitty General Education or something, despite his score. Thankfully, when he’d watched Deku announce him as achieving first place in the entrance exam, those thoughts had all been put to rest. Even if he did hate Deku.

“I won’t who’s in my class,” Michiko rambled. “I wish I was with you and Kagami, but this is a good opportunity to make friends, I guess, and besides -”

Ryū was in Class 1-B with Kagami, whilst Michiko was 1-A. This wasn’t ideal, but better than having to deal with both of them at the same time. They liked to feed off each other’s crazy energy to annoy him and get even more hyperactive.

“Wow!”

He realised Michiko had slowed to a stop several feet behind him and followed her line of sight. U.A.’s main gates lay open before them, only a few students milling about so early in the morning. One, a girl with short, dark brown hair and giant metal contraptions that covered her lower legs and feet, waved as she spotted them both gaping like idiots.

“Hey, firsties!” she bellowed from her spot on the front steps. “Good luck!”

“Thank you!” Michiko called back, before turning to Ryū with dazzling eyes. “Ah, Ryū-chan, everyone here is so nice!” Fuck, she was so naïve it practically hurt him sometimes. “I hope you like your classmates, too; you can be a bit prickly, you know, but I think more friends would do you some good!”

“Would you quit yelling? It’s too early for this.” Friends? Fuck that.

“Oh, sure thing! Hey, I wonder who our homeroom teachers are going to be - I hope I get Uravity - or Source! She’s so smart and cool. Who do you have your fingers crossed for?”

Ryū thought about it for a minute.

Uravity would be an easy teacher - she was gullible and easily distracted. Creati irked him, but he could survive her too. He didn’t know the names of the other homeroom teachers, but could only hope one of them wouldn’t be Red Riot. Even just thinking that loser’s name made him cringe. If he was in that fucker’s class...despite his dream, Ryū decided he’d contemplate dropping out. No dream was worth putting up with that agony for three years.

“Tt. All that matters is that I’m the best in the class.”

Michiko laughed, dimples popping in her cheeks. “Why am I not surprised?”

 


 

 

1-B’s classroom was directly beside 1-A’s, and Michiko waved a little sadly as she disappeared through the ridiculously large doorway. Ryū tried the handle, nervous despite himself. The people inside would be his classmates for the next three years. If he made them hate him all straight away he’d be in for a pure hellish time. Michiko was right in that he could often be seen as ‘prickly’, but he didn’t know how to keep up a ruse of friendliness for that long. Should he tone it down a little, or stay true to his real personality? Establish a completely fake identity as a good guy?

The handle twisted under his fingers and the heavy door swung open to reveal a classroom with a single occupant. He couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed; he wanted to suss out his competition right away before they could return the favour and get a leg-up. Those nerves were for nothing.

His fellow early-riser, a girl with light brown hair twisted up into a bun with two long pieces of hair framing her soft, serious face, didn’t look away from the notebook she was writing in. Okay. Good.

Ryū shuffled into a seat at the back by the window, rapid heart rate decreasing exponentially. He could keep an eye on everyone in the class from that position, and no one could stand behind him. He was unpacking his books and pens when the door once again opened. Let’s do this , he thought.

“Hey, hey!” It was another girl. She had long, thick black hair streaked with pure white. “Takagi! It looks like we’re in the same class, huh?”

“I guess so,” the bun-haired girl said quietly. Ryū could only see the back of her head, but it sounded like she was smiling. “Congratulations, Imai-san.”

Imai’s gray eyes took in the room and eventually landed on Ryū, who sat at his desk with a glare in an attempt to ward her off. Apparently, no luck there, because she practically lit up with excitement and scrambled across the room to stand in front of him.

“Hiya! What’s your name?”

Ryū looked her up and down. Her uniform was lopsided and the tie missing, and she was still smiling despite how long it was taking him to reply. He decided to keep that silence going, hoping that maybe she would just fuck off and leave him alone.

“Oh, a silent-type, hm?” Or not. “Well, that’s alright. I’m Imai Nene, but you can call me Nene-chan, if you’d like! Takagi and I went to middle school together, in case you were wondering why we were so friendly.”

The bun-hair girl stood up and bowed formally. “And I’m Wakana Takagi. I hope we can become friends over this coming school year.” Well, she was better than the damn Imai girl, at least. Even though he was constantly stuck with two of them, Ryū wasn’t a fan of peppy types.

Before he could reply - though Ryū had no idea what he would’ve said anyway - another classmate joined them. A boy this time, tall with shoulder-length curly brown hair and a single green eye. The other was covered by a leather eyepatch that made him look like a pirate or edgy anime character. He looked uncomfortable when they all turned to stare at him, a nervous smile cracking across his face.

He also bowed, though it was more of a head-bob than anything.

“Uh, hello? Am I...interrupting?”

“No!” Imai cried, clapping her hands under her chin. “This is perfect timing! What’s your name?” Ryū zoned out as they went through the boring introductory routine again.

The boy, Goro Senri, decided to sit two seats to the right from Ryū and even offered a smile when he looked at him. Ryū, unimpressed by his classmates so far, turned to look out the window. Kagami was in his class and he needed to hurry up and arrive already so he could take over the conversations on Ryū’s behalf.

Ryū must’ve zoned out, because, when he blinked, there were at least another six people in the room, some chatting and others simply by themselves. No one had sat next to, or in front of, him. The girl he recognised from the entrance exam with tree-trunk legs and leafy hair was there, but she was talking to...oh fucking christ. What was his luck?

“Well met, Matsumoto-san,” It was that guy from the written test - the son of the failed first Ingenium. That Ground Zero fangirl better hope she wasn’t in this class too, or Ryū would shoulder-toss her right out of the window and down into the All Might-themed fountain below, first day of school be damned. “I was quite surprised to find out that I - you!” All eight people in the room turned to follow his finger, which, unfortunately, was pointing right at Ryū.

“Iida-san?” asked the tree-girl.

“The boy from the written exam,” Iida continued, glaring. “I’m surprised you were accepted here at all with the way you were behaving, Kaminari-san! You must’ve fooled the examiners with your charisma!”

Ryū didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted at that. Iida thought he was charismatic? That was a new one.

“Woah, Kaminari?” gasped Imai. “Like Ground Zero’s old partner?”

Ryū felt a vein on his forehead throb. What was with people and bringing that shitstain up around him?

“Did something go on between you two in the exam?” Wakana questioned softly. She seemed like a peacekeeping sort, the kind who conflicted with the gung-ho typecast of a typical Hero course student. “I’m sure whatever it was can be…smoothed over, maybe?”

“I find that highly unlikely,” Iida sniffed, like Ryū was a particularly disgusting piece of shit he’d discovered on the bottom of his shoe and tried unsuccessfully to scrape off on the sidewalk. “His attitude is unbefitting of a U.A. student, especially if he’s planning on representing our school as a Pro Hero.” Ryū merely stared at him, dead and unimpressed. “See? He won’t even acknowledge us!”

“Kaminari-kun, please try and get along,” Imai requested sweetly. “I just know we can all be good friends if you try!” She pumped her fist dramatically. “I hope that’s okay! Plus Ultra, right?”

The door opened and stayed open, held there by a man with long blonde hair clipped back in a ponytail. “Well, well,” he said. “You know, class won’t begin for a while, but you all get extra points for promptness!” He was wearing a hideous mauve shirt with a pink cardigan over the top. “Everyone, please...take your seats!”

Ryū didn’t recognise this man, but that wasn’t surprising since he didn’t really follow any Pro heroes in the news, except in passing. It didn’t seem likely with his skinny, un-muscled-looking frame that he was popular, but Quirks could be deceiving.

“I am your homeroom teacher,” the man explained once they had sat down. Like that wasn’t already entirely self-evident. “But don’t be afraid to come to me with any issues you may have settling into U.A., alright? I’m delighted to be teaching 1-B this year, especially when I saw all your sweet little faces looking back at me.” He smiled, eyes closed and hands resting over his heart. Ryū wanted to gag. What was wrong with this guy?

“Uh, sir?” Imai’s hand went up. “I thought all the teachers at U.A. were Pros, but I don’t recognise your face at all! Are you an Underground Hero?”

“Of sorts! I mostly provide rescue help or assist with work-sensitive situations.”

The door cracked open and in shuffled a trembling girl with short curly brown hair and a very large chest. She covered her face and bowed deeply. “Sir, please forgive my tardiness! I believed our lessons began at eight-thirty, but it appears I was incorrect -”

“No, they do! I’m just getting to know my future students, you see. What’s your name?”

“T-Toda Nodoka, sensei,” she said, blushing. “From Bokara Junior High in Shizuoka!” She sat down beside Matsumoto in the front row. “My classmate, Egami Noriko, is just behind me!”

Indeed, a second later, a plain-faced, angry-looking girl with wavy blonde hair entered, huffing and puffing. “Sensei,” she said shortly, sitting down and beginning to unpack her bag without another word. Perhaps, out of anyone, she would be the best option to team-up with. She seemed to know how to keep her mouth shut, at least. Now that everyone was present, Ryū found he was decidedly unimpressed with them all.

More and more people trickled in, nearly all of them blustering a mortified apology when they saw Kobayashi standing at the front of the room. He waved them off with a quick word and, finally, when everyone had taken their seats, homeroom began.

First came roll call.

Ryū recognised a few names and faces; the Iida boy, Kagami (who was marked down as ‘absent’ because he had yet to arrive), and, to his further annoyance, the boy who’d tried to befriend him during the exam day - Ishikawa Shiro. Water hair.

When Ryū’s name came up, a few people glanced back at him in curiosity, whilst others (like Iida and Matsumoto) were irritated and didn’t fail to make this known.

Kobayashi smiled at them all, hands clasped over his heart. “Welcome, Class 1-B! I hope you all have an amazing time here with me and go on to achieve great things in the coming school years! Are you ready to begin?”

“Yes, sir!” Imai rocked in her chair. “Quirk assessments, right? I read that in Creati’s biography.”

“Ah, no. We’ll be going to orientation!”

Ryū, still with an empty seat beside him, sunk further in his own chair. What was with this school and making people listen to boring speeches?

 


 

 

He dozed through orientation, which was a painful three hours long. Red Riot showed up at one point and Ryū spent that entire section of it trying to roast the Pro Hero alive with just the heat of his glare. Unfortunately, Red Riot remained whole and irritatingly cheerful - inspiring cheers from the other students with his ‘heroic’ speech. What Ryū wouldn’t give for a villain with long-range sniper rifle to make themselves known...

At some point, Kagami stumbled in. Heads turned in his direction, but he quickly shuffled into a seat some three rows ahead of Ryū, who was squished beside a starry-eyed Imai and a sulking Egami, with his feet up on the back of the empty chair in front of him despite the disapproving tuts from his classmates. Especially Iida, the stick-in-the-mud.

“And now for a special guest!” Red Riot announced and Ryū perked up. Maybe they’d finally gotten onto a topic worth listening to! A famous scientist? A specialist come to tell them about how to best use their Quirks? “Give a big round of applause for a U.A. alumni, someone I’m sure you’ve all been dying to see...Number 3 Pro Hero GGGGGGGROUND ZERO!”

His stomach dropped out.

Imai squealed and a wave of cheers and claps spread across the room. Ryū closed his eyes and tried to focus on breathing. He could feel his Quirk burning at his fingertips; it surely was visible in the darkness of the auditorium. Don’t draw attention. Don’t let him know where you’re sitting, don’t show weakness. It was bad enough seeing Red Riot, but now Ground Zero was here too? Some first day of a new start this was turning out to be...

The cheered cranked up a notch and Ryū peeled his eyes open when Imai nudged him with her elbow.

“Kaminari!” she whispered. “It must be amazing to see your dad’s friends up there on stage, huh? He went to school with Ground Zero and Red Riot, right?”

Failing to unstick his tongue from the roof of his mouth, Ryū stared at Ground Zero’s face projected above the stage in massive proportions, finding himself unable to answer her. The Pro wasn’t wearing his costume, just a casual t-shirt and baggy jeans, but the trademark Ground Zero-ness was kept the same through the visibility of his annoyed scowl, spiky hair and striking red eyes.

“Hey,” he said gruffly.” Everyone settle down; I can’t hear shit over all this yelling.”

Ryū hadn’t heard Ground Zero speak in years - he changed the channel every time the Pro did a radio interview and, well, they didn’t have a television. That voice brought up a lot of shit he didn’t want to think about, that he’d been repressing from Red Riot’s presence.

“I know, very exciting, right?” Red Riot fist-pumped. “What do you have to say for yourself, GZ?”

Ryū gagged, face twisting in disgust; those fuckers were parading themselves around with a nickname whilst - whilst he -

Ground Zero crossed his arms. “Welcome to U.A., brats. Don’t ruin this place’s reputations and fight fucking dirty, alright?” There was a pause as his words sunk in.

Someone screamed.

“Woo! Plus Ultra!”

“PLUS ULTRA!” the whole room echoed as one, save for a solitary outlier, because Kaminari Ryū would cheer for Red Riot and Ground Zero when hell froze over.

 


 

 

After orientation was lunch. Ryū sat alone, because there was enough space in the cafeteria that no one was forced to sit with him so they didn’t. It might’ve been the aura of disdain he was giving off, but was most likely because they’d all already made tentative friendships and didn’t want to risk losing that by sitting with a stranger and coming across as disinterested in said friendships.

Which was understandable, if annoying. After all, how was he supposed to one-up his classmates if he didn’t know anything about them?

He spotted Michiko at one point, but she was laughing with a group of 1-A students at a packed table on the other side of the room so he didn’t even bother trying to sit with her. His lunch was vegetable rice and a carton of milk which, if not exactly tasty, was very filling; they’d most likely be participating in some form of physical activity in the afternoon, so he needed to keep his energy levels high.

“Is this seat taken?” A girl with long brown twintails set her tray down opposite him. “I won’t cause you any disturbance, I promise.”

Ryū looked her over. She wasn’t giggling or smiling or doing anything else he would classify as ‘annoying’ so he grunted. He thought she might have been in his class, but he wasn’t sure. It wasn’t like he’d paid much attention during the register, after all.

“Thank you very much,” she said, sitting. Her lunch looked a lot more appetising then his, with a large serving of softomen, miso soup and vegetables. She even had some sort of Western-style desert with colourful sweets and crackers. “I’m Shiomi Chiaki.”

“Kaminari Ryū.” She didn’t seem to recognise his name, or at least made no indication of doing so, and the conversation ended there. They ate in silence for the rest of lunch and Ryū was so used to the never-ending chatter of Kagami and Michiko that he found her silence refreshing enough to initiate conversation first as they packed up their food trays. “What class are you in?”

“1-B,” she said. Her voice was even, calm. He appreciated it immensely. “Before you ask, my Quirk is Shielding and it allows me to create energy barriers that I can direct within a fifteen-foot radius of me.”

A powerful Quirk...The name suggested they were force-fields by nature, but could she also use her ability defensively too? He’d have to keep an eye on her during the physical assessments to find out.

“I’m in 1-B also,” he said as they walked to class together.

“And your Quirk?”

“My skin is fireproof and I can let off heat of up to 60 degrees celsius from any part of my body.”

“Oh? That sounds like it would be very useful for certain rescue scenarios,” Shiomi said diplomatically. “I look forward to being your classmate, Kaminari-san.”

“Likewise,” he said and meant it. He had no plans on being a rescue hero, but it didn’t hurt to let her think otherwise, to allow everyone underestimate him.

They separated to go to their desks, but Ryū left with a little more hope for his sanity over the next three years, because at least some of his peers were tolerable.

“Oh, hey Ryū-chan!”

Some.

“How’s your mom?” he asked as he sat at his desk. Kagami had, unsurprisingly, taken the empty one beside him. Kagami’s mother - “Call me Toru-san, Kami-kun!” - was a kind woman, even if discerning her facial expressions and body language remained impossible. In fact, Kagami would be a lot more tolerable if he’d inherited his mother’s Quirk because then Ryū wouldn’t have to look at his cheerful fucking face all day.

“She’s improving,” his hair fizzled to a burnt orange colour, which usually happened when he was sad or worried about something. Usually schoolwork. “The doctors think she might be released tomorrow, but they want to keep a closer eye on her condition because operating would be impossible if something turned out to be wrong with her insides. Dad says she’ll be fine, though. Mom’s gone through worst stuff than a little fall and made it through. Thanks for asking, though, Ryū. You’re a good friend under all that grumpiness.”

“Whatever. At least you’ve dropped the ‘-chan’ now.”

Kagami grinned. “Oh, I forgot! Forgive me, Ryū-chan!”

Why was he friends with this guy again? Ryū thought not unkindly.

“Alright, everybody shut up,” a droning voice ordered. “I’ll be taking you through your afternoon today so get used to this face. You’ll be seeing it a lot over the next few years.” A man with wild, crazy purple hair and a wrinkled shirt and tie stood at the front of the room, arms crossed. He was tall, crazy tall, about 190 centimetres.

“Who the heck is that?” Kagami’s nose wrinkled as he whispered across the aisle.

Ishikawa asked what everyone was thinking: “Hey, where's Kobayashi-sensei? I thought he was our homeroom teacher, sensei!”

The man sighed, fixed them all with a glare underlined by bags so well-established they could be designer. “He doesn't teach practical lessons, so...here I am.”

“Are you a Pro?”

“I'm the principal.”

Everyone immediately straightened up. This guy was the principal of U.A.? He looked weak as hell! His Quirk must've been something else to get him that position. Obviously non-physical, so an Emitter type? Psychological?

“Wait,” A girl with short, rainbow-coloured hair, gasped dramatically. “I know you! You're the Underground Hero Purple Haze!” That was a stupid Hero name. What did that say about his power? Could he create purple fog? Knock people out?

“Good eye,” said ‘Purple Haze’. “Now everyone get dressed into your PE uniforms because it’s time for your Quirk Assessment and I don’t want to be here any longer than I have to.” He walked out of the room.

 


 

 

Shinsou-sensei - as it turned out his name was - took them out to the training grounds, which was really just the area in the middle of the one-mile running track. 1-A was there too, but they kept to the other side of the grass and were merely blurry figures in the distance. Ryū thought that, whatever they were doing, faintly screaming and yelling, sounded exponentially more fun than the stretches Shinsou-sensei had them doing.

’Stretches’ being Shinsou-sensei scrolling on his phone whilst laid out on the grass whilst most of them stood around talking. Ryū, uncomfortable in the bright blue PE uniform with its obnoxious white stripes, stood off to one side out of the way of everyone. He didn’t want one of them trying to talk to him when he needed to focus on how they were all doing.

He eventually drops into a set of lunges deep enough that his knees skim the ground. Kagami, who had shuffled over at some point, follows suit with a cheerful laugh. Ryū works out with the drive of success and the knowledge that it will only get him closer to his goal, but Kagami works out because he, for some unknown fucking reason, enjoys it immensely. At least they have the activity in common, if not the methodology behind it.

“I’m excited, but nervous at the same time. My Quirk isn’t useful for physical stuff, so I want to be an Infiltration Hero,” Kagami said to Imai. Not surprising those two loud-mouths would get along. “You know undercover stuff!”

“That sounds amazing! I think it’s pretty sweet you know what you wanna do already, Ojiro-kun! I haven’t even thought about it yet...”

“Well, what’s your Quirk?”

“It’s called Skunk. Pretty self-explanatory, actually; I can hear and smell really well, but my vision isn’t too great in the day. That’s why I wear contacts. I’m immune to all forms of poisons that I know of, and I can do the spray thing too! It comes out of my mouth, though, so don’t get any funny ideas!”

“And the claws,” said Wakana.

“Oh, yeah!” She held up her hands and in the place of fingernails were thick black claws. They looked like they could do some real damage, though the ends were blunted. “Good for digging.”

Wakana smiled. “What can you do, Ojiro-san?”

Kagami grinned sheepishly and said: “Well, it’s not as impressive as yours. It’s...” His face bubbled and shifted until another Imai stood in front of them, Kagami’s larger PE uniform hanging loosely off her smaller frame.

Imai squealed and shook Wakana’s arm.

“Wow,” said Ishikawa from the floor, mid-calf stretch. “That’s amazing!”

“Really useful for undercover missions!”

“Awesome Quirk, Ojiro-san!”

Blushing furiously, Kagami slid back into his normal face. “Aw, you guys are so nice! I’m sure your Quirks are just as amazing!”

God, what a bunch of suck-ups. When would the real challenge begin?

A round of introductions starts and though Ryū didn’t care about the people themselves, he kept a close eye on any mentioned Quirks because, well, they’d come in handy later.

“It depends on what everyone else can do,” he said, rolling back to a standing position from his toe-touch. “I know at least five have Quirks that will help them during the test.

“Alright!” Shinsou-sensei called from his sitting position. “Laps! Make it three.”

“Are you ready, Kaminari-san?” Shiomi stood beside him and though she was frowning, her posture seemingly relaxed and almost confident. “My Quirk isn’t too useful for physical feats, but I trained hard over the summer. We can run together if you’d like.”

“Hmm.” She thought briefly. “Well, I’m sure both Shinsou-sensei and Kobayashi-sensei aren’t expecting us all to excel straight away. This is why we’re here, after all. To learn.”

Ryū, though he could see the logic in what she was saying, felt a stirring of annoyance in his stomach. Shiomi was smart, but she didn’t understand; he had to be the best, had to win because there was no other option if he wanted to -

After a moment’s hesitation to see if there were going to be further instructions and with none presenting themselves, everybody took off, scrambling to get a head-start. Ryū, teeth gritted, joined the pack with Shiomi keeping a steady pace at his side.

 


 

Ryū stared up at the holographic scoreboard presented above his head. Twenty names ranked each student from first to last place, with their overall points beside it.

In first was, surprisingly, the nervous girl who’d been ‘late’ to class. Her Quirk seemed very powerful from the brief glimpses he’d gotten - something to do with time alteration, as one second she’d been at the starting line, and the next halfway around the track. This had continued through the training exercises.

Then Ishikawa, who, by coming third in the entrance exam and placing second in Quirk assessment, had registered him as one of, if not the biggest, competition Ryū had to concern himself with.

Kagami had come fifteenth from his sheer dedication to training over the summer alone, and Shiomi tenth as her force fields had been extremely beneficial to her in the long jump and grip test.

“Don’t worry, Ryū-chan,” Kagami whispered at his shoulder. “I’m sure you tried your best and I don’t think you’re going to get expelled or anything.”

Shinsou-sensei, who had been surveying them with bored eyes, zeroed-in on the pair. “Expulsion?” he repeated. “Well, you can’t say it doesn’t make sense. This is U.A.’s Hero course and if you can’t make the cut on day one, then maybe this isn’t the place for you, hm?”

“No!” Imai gasped. “You can’t expel Kaminari-kun, Sensei! He’s a member of 1-B now and we all need to stick together!”

“I don’t know, Imai-san,” said snobby Iida. “If Sensei this is the best decision to make -”

“Hey, hey,” Shinsou-sensei interrupted, scratching the back of his head. “I didn’t say I would. I want to hear what Kaminari has to say for himself anyway. Your dad is Chargebolt, right? I didn’t see you use your Quirk at all during the exercise; is it electricity?”

Ryū, completely aware that the entire class was standing around him, listening intently for either gossip or pure information (out of misplaced concern or malice, he couldn’t be sure) shook his head.

“No, sir,” he said. “My Quirk is non-physical and works best in non-combat scenarios. Because of this, I’m hoping to become a Hero who specialises in fire and entrapment rescue rather than one-on-one combat. It didn’t benefit me in this assessment, but rest assured that I will train hard to catch up to my peers in physical performance.”

A few people mumbled at that and Kagami stared at him through narrowed eyes. He knew Ryū was bulshitting entirely. Rescue Hero? Yeah right.

“Huh,” said Shinsou-sensei. “I like a student who knows their limitations and uses that to their advantage.” He turned on his heel and the holographic ranking board flickered away with one click of a button. “Now, everyone, go get dressed into your uniforms so I can dismiss you home.” Some people followed him, but a few stayed behind and, as soon as he was out of earshot, Imai lit up.

“Wow!” Her eyes sparkled. “That’s so admirable, Kaminari-kun! I wish I had my life all planned out like you already!”

“It was pretty impressive how you explained it to Shinsou-sensei,” her friend Wakana, the girl whose Quirk ‘Authority Figure’ allowed her to project her voice and compel people to obey simple commands, nodded in agreement. “You’re very well-spoken.”

“Yeah,” said Kagami, frowning. “He sure is.”

“Maybe we misjudged you,” said Matsumoto. Iida was huffing beside her. “What do you say we have a fresh start?” She looked at Iida pointedly. “Kentarō? Yes?”

“Oh fine,” Iida grumbled. “If Kaminari agrees to it.”

“Kaminari?”

Ryū nodded. They shook hands.

“Ugh,” said a high-pitched voice. “What is wrong with you all?”

Everyone turned to look at the little outsider of their group. A girl with long brown hair and ugly bangs cropped high on her forehead sneered at Ryū as if disgusted to even be in his presence.

“This loser should’ve been expelled,” she went on. “I don’t know what that crazy old man was thinking! People like you should never be allowed to attend U.A. with the rest of us.”

“Excuse me!” Iida said, looking highly offended on Ryū’s behalf. “Shinsou-sensei is the principal of this school - please deign him some respect! Speaking of your classmate in such a manner is also -”

She giggled insultingly. “Like I care! You’ll be gone soon too, whatever your name is, and then everyone will realise what a waste of time you were.” She moved past Ryū, wiggling her fingers in his face. “Bye-bye, weakling!”

They watched her walk away, humming to herself.

“Maybe you’re not so bad, Kaminari,” said Matsumoto. “In comparison to her.”

If that girl thought she was going to become his school bully or whatever, then she had another thing coming. He didn’t have time to pretend to be bothered by her.

“He grows on you,” said Kagami. “Eventually.” He nudged Ryū’s shoulder. “Now, let’s get changed. Michi-kun wanted to walk home together and we don’t want to keep her waiting!”

 


 

Chapter Text

“Obaa-san,” Ryū called as he kicked his shoes off by the front door and slid his slippers on. “I’m back!”

There was no reply so, frowning in concern, Ryū made his way through the kitchen and into the living room. It was unlike his grandmother to not respond when he got home unless she was asleep, but she didn’t usually drift off during the day...

He slammed to a stop in the doorway, gut sinking down to the floor.

“Ojii-san,” he said, mouth half-open, “I wasn’t expecting you back so soon.”

His grandfather was a tall, grey-haired man. At one point it had been a sunshiny yellow, though Ryū had never been around to see it and had only heard of this fact through his grandmother. Actually, the thought of his intimidating relative with hair like that seemed completely ridiculous and he was glad he hadn’t seen it.

“How was your first day?” his grandfather asked. He was sat straight-backed on the couch beside Ryū’s grandmother, who was smiling serenely to herself. “Did you work hard?”

Ryū racked his brain for a coherent thought. There was no way in fuck he was telling him he’d placed last in the Quirk assessment. “Yes, sir. We spent most of the day receiving introductions from the teachers.”

“Ah,” his grandfather said stiffly. “I remember those. Is Nedzu still the headmaster?”

Ryū thought of the purple-haired slack-off who’d had the weird idea to call himself ‘Purple Haze’. “No. I believe he retired sometime last year.”

“A shame.” There was a pause. “Well...won’t you make us some tea? Then you can tell us all about the work you’ve been doing recently.”

“Oh,” Ryū said and then: “Yes, sir. Obaa-san, would you like lavender or mint?”

His grandmother stared, smiling with vacant eyes until his grandfather nudged her.

“Shinju,” he said gently. “Tea?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Yes, tea would be lovely, thank you, Hayato. I do wonder when Ryū will be home, though...”

“I’m here, Obaa-san. I got back just a moment ago.”

She grinned, showing her the gaps where her missing teeth should have been. “So you did...How was your first day?”

 


 

 

Ryū shut his bedroom door and leaned against it.

His room was small, with a single tatami taking up the far wall, a window to the right looking out over the neighbour’s sparse garden, and a thin wardrobe to the left. Above his bed was a shelf with a handful of books, his aloe plant, and a cinnamon-scented candle, and if he stood in the middle of the room he could reach out and touch all four walls without moving his feet.

His grandfather was stressful. That man was kind and loved his family, but also found it hard to know what to say. Ryū hardly even saw him with how often he travelled for work, though he knew that was also in part out of the fear of seeing his wife deteriorating.

They’d eaten dinner around the kotatsu and talked for a brief while, but luckily he’d been excused after that. He must’ve looked more exhausted than he thought.

He changed into his pyjamas, set out his futon and laid back on it. He stared at the low ceiling.

Fucking last place. He was better than that, better than those losers who’d beat him, but if they thought that meant he’d give up? Fuck them too.

His phone, still in his pocket, vibrated. When he finally forced himself to check who it was bothering him and what they wanted, Ryū found an unwanted text waiting.

 

 

 

Michiko Tetsutetsu 💪

Heyyyyy wanna come to the ice cream parlour after class tmrw?? Some of 1-A wanna go and i told kagami id ask since he said you failed hardcore in the quirk thingy today - that sucks :( u kno what makes it better tho?? ICE CREAM!! what do u say?

Ryū, already tired, glared at his phone. Why did he hang around this girl again? She only ever irritated him and didn’t seem to know him well at all - what part of his personality suggested he would enjoy eating ice cream with some wannabe heroes who would probably hate his guts?

 

 

 

Michiko Tetsutetsu 💪

Heyyyyy wanna come to the ice cream parlour after class tmrw?? Some of 1-A wanna go and i told kagami id ask since he said you failed hardcore in the quirk thingy today - that sucks :( u kno what makes it better tho?? ICE CREAM!! what do u say?

No.

He turned his phone off and plugged it in to charge for tomorrow. Day two at U.A. and all he had to do was improve on his last place score. Shinsou-sensei had seemed impressed with his improv, but that wouldn’t hold him over much longer. He had to get as many teachers on his side for the upcoming years and if that meant doing a little sucking-up or playing possum, then fine. He was nothing if not adaptable, after all.

Sure, he had to contend with the snippets of interaction people had already had with him, but those could be easily brushed aside as a one-off or simple nerves. And that girl, whatever her name was, though she’d seemed intent on establishing herself as the main bully of this little...whatever, had come in handy. He had now established himself in the class as rude, but better than others and that was possibly a good place to settle.

Impress his teachers, coast along with his classmates and generally stay under the radar. He wanted to exist without any expectations at all and remain a side-character in the view of the school so that, in the future, soaring to the top would be much easier. In order to do that he needed to maintain a level of success - somewhere around tenth place.

And, well, he knew who’d gotten that in the Quirk assessment test already, didn’t he? He needed to get Shiomi alone and ask for her help.

 


 

 

Ryū got to school even earlier than he had the day before in order to avoid Michiko and Kagami, who would only ruin his plans with their obnoxious chattering. He took his seat in class, set out his books and stationery, and waited. According to the schedule they’d been given at the end of the previous day, after homeroom the first class they had was Literature with Uravity.

He’d made a list the day before of the teachers’ names and linked them with their hero titles and agencies that morning after staking out the school’s website and alumni page, but that hadn’t been necessary for this particular teacher. He was familiar with Uravity in the way distant acquantainces were, but clearly, she hadn’t recognised him when they first met at the school exams. That could be played to his advantage - as he was, Ryū was, rather to his chagrin, forgettable.

The door opened.

“Yeah, but I told him that, Deku!” Uravity said as she barged in, dumping a pile of papers on the desk. “Tenya is very stubborn and sometimes I - oh!” she twirled around. “Hello!”

Ryū looked at her and then at the hulking man in the doorway sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck. He was wearing an obnoxious green suit that clashed horribly with his hair.

“Looks like one person if eager for your class, at least,” he chuckled. “Have you been here long?”

“Not particularly,” Ryū said flatly. He didn’t like this guy at all, no matter how anybody else felt about him.

“Well, uh, it’s nice to meet you!” Deku flashed a blinding smile that crinkled his eyes. “How are you finding U.A.?”

“It’s fine.” He’d decided he had to coast, not make friends.

“The lesson doesn’t start for nearly an hour even after homeroom, Kaminari-kun,” Uravity pointed out. “Why don’t you run out and grab some breakfast?”

“Wait!” Deku’s eyes bulged and he did a double-take. “You’re Kaminari’s son?”

“Deku,” Uravity said. “We’re not really supposed to -”

“You’re Kacchan’s son?”

Ryū, for once, nearly laughed. Oh fuck - he’d forgotten all about that stupid nickname -

“Alright!” Uravity yelped. “Time to go!” She pushed Deku out of the room. “Come on, Deku, let’s go! Enjoy your morning, Kaminari-kun!” The door shut again.

Ryū waited a moment and then stood up. He walked over to her desk and picked up the papers she’d left behind. Then he took out his phone and began to manually photograph each one. Adults were predictable, even if they were pros - all loved a good bit of gossip and, nowadays, half of the charting pros had been in the ‘famous’ 1-A class together. It wasn’t any surprise that they latched onto news of the kids of their ‘friends’, especially when one said kid remained rather mysteriously absent from the others.

He reorganized the papers and then sat back down at his desk with the phone open next to him. Like Uravity said, he had an hour before class started and that was enough time to start looking at the Literature syllabus for the next term. He could cover the bulk at home, but what they’d be looking at in this first lesson should only take him twenty minutes...

 


 

Kobayashi-sensei was back for homeroom and acted just as odd as he had the morning before. Why couldn’t they have a normal teacher? Normal teachers didn’t sing the register.

However, after that Literature got him off to a good start. Their first topic - introductory influences - required a short piece to be written by each of them according to the information they already knew. This was to establish with Uravity where they were all starting off. Ryū, who had read her entire syllabus and lesson plan for the next four weeks, neatly mapped out the largest areas of progression; from the Nara period in which kanji was first established with works such as the Nihon Shoki, all the way to postwar literature deeply influenced by the fighting, such as Umezaki’s Sakurajima, a short-story about a disillusioned and sceptical Navy officer stationed in a base located on the Sakurajima volcanic island. He made sure to credit his sources; a long, rambling academic journal he’d found on his phone, and never quote anything Uravity had written enough that she’d notice.

He wanted to coast, and that meant excelling in the academic side of school and simply passing in the physical portion. If he could establish himself as the ‘brain over brawn’ type, people would overlook his ability to win in a true combat scenario.

Uravity collected the papers at the end of the lesson and promised she’d mark them by the end of the week. Most of his classmates bemoaned their attempts in the corridor and even Kagami fretfully divulged his failure to even finish the activity, but that only meant Ryū’s plan was coming together perfectly.

The rest of the day followed suit; though he didn’t have an opportunity to gain such an upper hand like he did in Literature, Ryū still pulled ahead through the sheer virtue of the amount of time he’d spent studying over the summer. Sure, some subjects (like English) he wasn’t the best in, but that was what homework was for. If he went above and beyond with that, his teachers would definitely see him striving to improve.

Another good note was that he didn’t see hide nor hair of Red Riot all day because he taught ‘Hero Training’. Ha! Like you needed to be qualified to do that.

As he was packing his stuff at the end of the day, Ryū felt a presence at his side.

“Hey, Ryū-chan!” said Michiko. “Still wanna come with us and get ice cream with us?”

Ryū looked over her shoulder at the group of students chatting in the hallway. They looked happy and eager to head out. He scowled.

“No,” he said and that was that. Ryū shouldered his bag and marched to the door with Michiko trailing after him like a neglected puppy.

“Aw, come on! Kagami’s coming, right, Kagi-chan?”

“Right!” Kagami blocked the doorway with his body, hair fizzling from pink to turquoise and back again. “Can’t your grandmother wait a little bit longer for you to get home?”

Ryū normally rushed home to check on her and they knew that. What they didn’t know was that his grandfather was back and so he didn’t need to hurry.

“I’m busy.”

He’d keep that little fact to himself.

“Please? It’ll be fun to get to know some more people, right? Kagami says the people in your class are really nice, and so are 1-A, so maybe -”

“Michiko,” he said, stopping to look her dead in the eye. “I’m not coming. Give it a rest.”

“Spoilsport,” muttered Kagami.

“Ugh, fine,” she finally relented. “But you guys are still coming over this evening, right? My mom said she’d make yakitori and everything!”

“Duh,” said Ryū. What kind of fucking question was that?

“Of course!”

“Then I’ll excuse you,” she tells him, flipping her long side-ponytail. “This time.”

 


 

 

Michiko’s house was a small two-story with a paved front-yard, bracketed by identical houses on either side. Her bedroom, which looked out onto the street, was the only room lit by a yellow glow. He rang the bell and waited for a whole minute before trying the handle.

It opened - they really needed better security - and Ryū tucked his shoes into the rack by the door and hung up his jacket. He could hear humming in the kitchen and headed towards the source of the noise.

Kagami saw him in the reflection of the window above the sink and yelped, a plate slipping through his soapy fingers. Luckily, an enormous hand shot out to grab pillow its fall.

“Careful there, Ojiro-kun,” Michiko’s mother said cheerfully. She had the same bright teal-blue eyes as her daughter. “We wouldn’t want another mess to clean up, after all.”

“Sorry,” Kagami muttered, red-faced.

“Ryū-kun, welcome back,” she said warmly. “Is the doorbell not working again?”

“No,” he said, lingering in the doorway. Michiko’s parents were too damn friendly for his liking. They creeped him out with all their smiling and - and their laughing. It was totally unsettling. “How are you, Tetsutetsu-san?”

“Please,” she insisted, “How many times have I told you to call me Itsuka? I’ve known you for years, right? You’re my little girl’s best friend.”

“One of my best friends,” Michiko reminded as she trampled downstairs. “Kagami too!”

“Yes, yes,” Itsuka-san rolled her eyes. “You know what I meant. Now, would you like something to eat, Ryū-kun? I made dinner but these two have already had theirs because apparently ice cream isn’t enough to fill you up for a few hours.”

“No, thank you. I’ve already eaten.”

“Great!” Michiko said loudly. “Come on, guys, let’s go up to my room now!” She took Kagami’s arm and dragged him to the stairs with Ryū trailing behind. “Thanks, Mom!”

She slammed her bedroom door shut behind them and threw herself down on the bed, which, like the rest of the room, was decorated in cutesy animal faces and pastel colours.

“Alright. Let’s get serious. Ryū! Tell me you have some good news.”

Ryū hefted the large bag he’d dragged up the stairs. “Check these out.” He emptied the bag onto the bed, fabrics of varying colours spilling across Michiko’s lap.

“These are amazing!” Kagami practically squealed. “Is that one mine? Please say yes!”

“Yes.”

“Ahhh!”

Kagami swept his outfit up. “Can I put it on?!”

“Please do,” Michiko begged. He swanned out of the room. “Oh, Ryū-chan, you’re the best. I can’t believe you made mine yellow too - just like I asked.” She patted his elbow. “Such a good friend.”

“Tt,” he jerked his arm away. “Obviously. Now put yours on before I leave.”

Kagami re-entered the room with a cry, hands planted on his hips. His eyes were wet with tears and his hair its usual dark purple-pink.

“This is too much, Ryū-chan,” he sniffled. “You must’ve spent hours on this.” He twirled the loose scraps fabric bunched around his waist. “Even if this bit is kind of -”

“Fuck you, it’s meant to be that way,” Ryū snapped. He grabbed the two sections and hauled them down beside Kagami’s legs, twisting around his legs and then fastening them to the little buttons at the knees. “Watch.” He then undid this, brought the two pieces up and over Kagami’s shoulder to clip under the outfit’s hood.

“Oh,” Michiko gasped from her bathroom, where she was hiding in wait to make her own dramatic entrance. “It’s multi-wear. You can change how you wear it depending on what you need.”

Ryū had spent quite a few days designing that aspect of Kagami’s outfit. The trousers were fairly loose, dark blue and tucked into tall black boots. The top half, gray and also sleeveless, had a hood and a dark grey belt. The loose pieces of fabric hanging from shirt could be wrapped around varying parts of Kagami’s body and clipped at the many clear buttons to adapt the look. They could be detached and slid onto the arms to attach at the shoulders and form sleeves, removed entirely, used to restrict the loose nature of the trousers, form shoulder holsters, etcetera etcetera. The hood also came off, and underneath the whole outfit was a separate suit of constricting, but breathable, black fabric to act in place of Kagami’s binder, provide an emergency second outfit, and that was also relatively bullet-proof thanks to the kevlar woven into it.

“You really thought of everything,” he marvelled. “Ryū-chan, you’re the best.”

“Alright, alright,” Michiko huffed. “My turn now!”

Her outfit was simpler. Bright yellow - Ryū had stuck to her request despite feeling sick every time he’d had to look at the nauseating fabric - and as obnoxious as her personality. A high neckline on a plain bodysuit carried down until cutting off at her elbows to allow her Quirk to be used and disappearing into knee-high boots. Besides the colour, the whole thing would have been extremely bland were it not for the fact that both her footwear and the open-face helmet on top of her head glittered a gleaming silver.

“Ahh! Oh, you look awesome, Michi-kun!”

Michiko activated her Quirk and, to an outsider, the design would suddenly all make sense. Her Quirk - Hammer Time - allowed Michiko to turn both of her arms into shiny silver hammers of varying sizes that could withstand quite extreme force and also dish it out just as good. The material of her boots and helmet matched her forearms - which just met the ends of her sleeves - perfectly.

“We need to get a picture like this,” she intoned seriously. “Ryū, put yours on right now and I’ll get my mom to take a picture, okay?”

Ryū, who was still oozing with satisfaction at both outfits being a hit, for once didn’t complain at being bossed around and grabbed his own costume. He changed quickly in the bathroom.

What he’d made for himself wasn’t as fanciful as Michiko’s and Kagami’s outfits simply because he couldn’t think up a design that would suit him, but he already found himself quite attached to the black bodysuit with fire-resistant steel-toed black boots, and thick knee and elbow pads in a deep, dark red.

Kagami and Michiko were both waiting eagerly when he opened the door but drooped as soon as they saw him, grins disappearing.

“Oh,” Michiko whimpered. “It’s boring.”

“No pizzaz at all.”

“You look so forgettable...”

“I hate it.”

“Well, it’s alright, but nothing special.”

They crowded him in and chorused, like a horrifying eldritch hivemind: “What gives, Ryū-chan?”

“Black is my colour.”

“...Yeah, can’t deny that.”

“We have to show my mom! MOM!” Michiko hollered out of her door. “WE’RE COMING DOWN, SO BE READY FOR WHAT YOU'RE ABOUT TO SEE!”

“My ears,” Kagami whimpered, though they both dutifully followed their female friend downstairs and back into the kitchen. Itsuka-san was sat at the table and she wasn’t alone. Tetsutetsu-san was there too, nursing a cup of black coffee in his hero costume. He looked exhausted, dirt and grime smeared on his face and in his grey hair. Michiko didn’t take after him much at all except for personality-wise.

“Dad!” she cried, twisting him in a hug. “You’re home!”

“Hey, tough girl,” he laughed, sounding tired even then. “What’s all this?” He looked over their outfits. “Are these your new hero costumes?”

“Yeah!”

“Wow wow,” Itsuka-san said, smiling. “Look at you guys! These are amazing.”

“Ryū-chan made them,” Kagami nudged him eagerly.

“I didn’t even know you could sew, Ryū-kun.”

“Aren’t they awesome, Dad?”

“Turn,” Tetsutetsu-san twirled a finger in the air and Michiko complied eagerly. “It’s perfect, kiddo. Good job, Ryū-kun! You really have an eye for this kind of stuff, huh?”

“He’s a real fashion designer!”

Itsuka-san rolled her eyes fondly, though of course she was used to Michiko’s ways after raising her for fifteen years. Ryū was too, but that didn’t make her any less exhausting.

“Let him speak, Michiko,” she scolded. “You need to pay attention to poor Ryū-kun or he’ll just sit around being spoken-over by you all!”

“Sorry, Mom,” Michiko said sheepishly.

Ryū nodded politely. “Thank you, Itsuka-san, but it’s no trouble. Michiko just likes to talk more than I do.”

“Yeah, Ryū-chan is quite shy, especially at school,” Kagami joined in. “Most of our classmates think he’s a total grump, though.”

“That’s not a surprise,” Michiko snorted. She slung an arm around Ryū’s shoulders. “You and I are the talkers, Kagi-kun, and Ryū is the thinker! Wait...I like this pose. Mom! Take our picture!”

“Take our picture what?”

“Take our picture, please!”

Itsuka-san giggled and took out her phone. Kagami crowded in on Michiko’s other side and she put her arm around him too.

“Okay, ready? Say cheese!”

“Cheese!” Kagami beamed, flashing a peace sign.

“Cheese!” Michiko yelled.

“Cheese,” Ryū said flatly.

The camera flashed and Tetsutetsu-san leaned over to look at it. “Alright! You kids look totally awesome! Send it to me, babe; I wanna show all the guys at work!”

“Yes,” Michiko whispered, fist-pumping. “That’s sure to get our names out there, guys!”

“Oh, send it to my parents, please, Tetsutetsu-san!” Kagami begged. “They can show everyone at their agency too!”

“Sure thing, kiddo,” he grinned, displaying his razor-sharp teeth. He looked at Ryū, then averted his gaze quickly. Ryū winced internally - for a second he’d been scared that Tetsutetsu-san was going to ask after his own parents too, but the pro clearly remembered the situation quick enough to stop himself. Thank fuck.

“Oh, fu - fudge!” Kagami gasped. “It’s nearly seven already?! I told my dad I’d be home by quarter past and I still need to change back!”

“Don’t worry, Kagami-kun,” Itsuka-san said. “I can drive you.”

“Babe,” Tetsutetsu-san said, looking at her. “It’s late, you shouldn’t be driving -”

“In my condition? I’m not an invalid, you know!” she snapped, glowering at him.

Tetsutetsu-san cowered a little but shook his head. He put his hand on her large stomach. “Think about little Masuka, huh? I know you can handle yourself, but she’s so fragile in there...”

Itsuka-san looked at him for a long moment and then sighed. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll heat your dinner up for when you get back.”

Kagami bowed. “Thank you, Tetsutetsu-san!” He ran upstairs. “I’ll be really fast!”

“What about you, Ryū-kun? Would you like a ride as well?”

Ryū stared at Tetsutetsu’s haggard face, the grime hidden in every wrinkle and fold and the large bags under his eyes. Kagami’s house was in a completely different direction to his own, as Michiko’s was in the middle of them both.

“No, thank you.”

“Are you sure?” Itsuka-san pressed, frowning. “It’s dark outside already and I don’t want you getting into trouble on the way.”

“He’ll be fine, Mom,” Michiko said unconcernedly. “No one will want to mess with this face!” She squished his cheeks. “So angry...”

Itsuka-san slapped her hand away. “Leave the poor boy alone, Michiko! Honestly.”

“Ouch! ...Hey, you can test run your costume on the way,” Michiko suggested. “To see how it moves. Don’t worry, I’ll bring your clothes to school tomorrow.”

That was...a good idea, actually. Ryū nodded again.

“I’ll see you in the morning.”

“By the big oak tree, right? Bring your bike, Ryū-chan!” she yelled after him as Ryū went into the hall and slipped his shoes and jacket on. “Bye!”

“Bye, Ryū-kun,” Itsuka-san and Tetsutetsu-san called as the door swung shut behind him.

Ryū sucked in the cold air - why the fuck was it so cold in April? - and stare down the path to the dark street. The nearest working streetlight was a few hundred feet away, so he turned and craned his neck up at Michiko’s bedroom window. He could see Kagami flailing about with his costume stuck over his head.

He tutted and checked his phone. There were no messages or missed calls, so he guessed his grandparents had already gone to bed. Fortunately for Ryū that meant there’d be no one wondering where he was until at least six-thirty when he was supposed to be making breakfast.

Zipping up his jacket, Ryū pulled the hood up and took off at a brisk jog. The store closed in about twenty minutes, but if he got there on time Nakano-san usually gave him all of her leftover produce at a heavily discounted price.

The store was located in one of the most rundown areas of Musutafu called the Sakiya District. It was a tiny place, with just two aisles past the checkout desk, but every nook and cranny were cram-packed with items and goods. Nakano, the elderly woman who owned the store, sat hunched over at the register writing a letter.

She frowned at him as he came in, highlighting the dozens of thick wrinkles covering her face. She had two sharp fangs for incisors and her grey hair continued down around her jaw and under her sweater.

“Kaminari-chan,” she said. “Haven’t seen you in a while. Nice costume.”

“I’ve been busy.” He grabbed a basket and began packed it full of groceries; vegetables, bread, milk, and enough rice to feed a small army. There was a display of ugly little keychains up the front, from little mice to puppies and kittens. They were light-up and on sale.

“Ah, it was your first day at U.A., right?” she hummed. “You know, my granddaughter actually started there too...”

Ryū wracked his brain for anyone with the name Nakano but came up empty. Though, that wasn’t surprising given how little attention he paid to what everyone was saying in class, or when they were introducing.

“Don’t know her? I suppose you’ll meet eventually. Her name’s Souma; Nakano Souma.”

“I’ll keep an eye out,” he said, hefting his basket onto the counter. “Two bags, please.”

“You do that,” she eyed him down the bridge of her nose and looked over his purchases. “2500 yen.”

Ryū checked his pockets, actions getting more urgent as time went on. Eventually, he sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Ugh, I’m so stupid!” He looked at the little digital clock on the wall above her head. “There’s not enough time to go all the way home and back...”

“No money?”

“No,” he groaned despondently. “I’m sorry. I had all these coupons for today and I was going to bring them in, but Obaa-san really needed milk and I -”

“Hm,” she said. “Bring them in tomorrow evening. If not, I’ll send my grandsons around to your house and then there will be trouble, alright?”

Ryū sighed in relief and began packing up his groceries. “Thank you, Nakano-san. You’re a real lifesaver.”

“Yeah, yeah,” she waved a dismissive hand. “Now get out of my store, Kaminari-chan.”

He grabbed a bag in each hand and hauled ass before she could change her mind.

As he walked down the dark sidewalk, underneath flickering street lights guiding his way, Ryū smiled to himself. He rubbed a thumb over the two little animal keychains he held tightly in his fist.

Thank you, Nakano-san indeed.

 


 

Chapter Text

“Alright, boys and girls,” Kobayashi-sensei clapped his hands. “Hero Training! Are you ready?”

“Yes, sensei!”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Are we getting our costumes yet?” Imai asked. “I’m so excited for mine. It has stripes!”

Kobayashi-sensei pulled out a remote and pressed a button. The wall beside his desk began to move, revealing a dozen pods with names on them. Ojiro and Kaminari were notable empty when everyone lunged forward to collect their things.

“Hey, what gives?” Ishikawa asked. “Where’s your stuff, Ojiro-san?”

“Right here!” Kagami pulled a bag from under his desk. “Ryū-chan made it for me!”

A few people turned to look at that, murmuring amongst themselves. Ryū sunk further in his seat, as he hadn’t moved to join the others up at the front. Kobayashi-sensei, who had been watching off to the side, smirked.

“Kaminari,” he said. “Impressive. There are hidden depths to you after all.”

Ryū scoffed internally but kept his face blank. He grabbed his own bag and stood up, eyes averted.

“Let’s get to the locker rooms!”A boy who was entirely purple; his hair, eyes and skin, whined. “I wanna put my costume on already!”

“Alright, Mineta. Calm yourself, please.” Kobayashi-sensei shook his head. “But I suppose we should go before any more of you freak out. I’ll page the principal and get this show on the road!”

 


 

“Wow, Kaminari,” Iida said, staring him up and down. “You look very...hm.”

“And you look like a bore,” Ryū said, not even turning in his direction. “What else is new?”

“We may have come to a truce,” the taller boy huffed and puffed. “But don’t think for one second that means we have to be anything other than cordial!”

Kagami giggled to himself. “Ryū-chan? Cordial? You’d have more like getting him to smile, Iida-kun! Besides, he doesn’t mean anything by it; it’s just that he has O blood.”

“So? Blood type personalities are all just media nonsense,” Matsumoto said. Her outfit was, unsurprisingly, tree-themed, with lots of greens and browns, and her tree-trunk feet completely on-show as she wasn’t wearing footwear. “Surely you know that, Ojiro-san.”

“Please,” Kagami said, beaming at her as his hair bled a dark red. Ryū recognised that look in his eye, unfortunately. He shuffled over. “Call me Kagami.”

She looked his up and down, frowning. “Alright, Kagami-san. You’re very forward.”

“Yeah, I’m just like my mom,” he shrugged. Matsumoto was called away by a girl with a short rainbow-coloured bob that flicked out at the ends. Her Costume was as equally nauseatingly colourful.

“Your mother,” Iida said stiffly. “She’s Invisible Girl, correct? The Stealth Hero?”

“That’s her.”

“My uncle is Ingenium; I believe they went to school together.”

“Oh right! Yeah, I thought your surname sounded familiar. There’s a bunch of us from their class at U.A. currently, yeah? You, me, Ryū here, Ashido and Tokoyami in 1-A., and quite a few older students as well.”

“I suppose it’s not terribly surprising; they were all the same age, so likely to have children at around the same time. My father is retired and spends most of his time at home so I was lucky to receive his one-on-one attention, but I can imagine it would be hard to see your parents risking their lives on a daily basis.”

“I mean...I guess? I don’t really think about it much because, well, that’s the way it’s always been. Besides! My dad is super-tough and a great fighter, and you can’t even see my mom coming most of the time! They hardly ever get hurt.”

Well, apart from the other day, which had led to Tōru-san being hospitalised.

“Kaminari? Your father is Chargebolt if I remember correctly. I haven’t seen him in the news recently, but I heard no rumours of his retirement either. Is he well?”

Ryū, who had, up until this point, been pretending to not listen to their little chat, rolled his eyes. What was with this guy and bothering him so much? Couldn’t he take a hint?

“Ah,” Kagami said delicately. “Ryū-chan doesn’t like to talk about his family, Iida-kun. I think we should just change the subject...”

“Are you still here?”

It was that try-hard girl - the one with the ugly haircut. She sauntered over, hands on her hips. Her outfit was hideous; a clash of striped hot-pink socks, red-check skirt and yellow leather jacket, all paired with chunky high-heeled boots and a smear of black lipstick spread wide in a sickly grin.

“I would’ve thought Shinsou would wise-up after sleeping on yesterday, but apparently not. Unfortunate, but I won’t feel bad beating you in training this morning, weakling. You must be used to it anyway, huh?”

Kagami frowned at her, stepped to Ryū’s side. “Hey,” he said. “That’s not very nice.” Iida, watching the interaction from the sidelines, also looking quite concerned.

“Stay out of this,” she said sweetly. “You’re next on my list with a Quirk like that.”

As his hair bled grey, Kagami shuffled his feet. “My...Quirk? Why are you being like this? We don’t even know you...”

“Yes, this is quite inappropriate!” Iida joined in. “You should respect your fellow classmates, even if you have conflicting personalities or beliefs. Being a Hero is all about adapting to any given situation -”

“Oh, can it,” she snapped. “Why should I listen to you? Your just the kid of some waste-of-space, crippled ex-Hero! Not even dirt beneath my boots.” She ground one black leather toe into the dirt and looked at Ryū again. “You’re worse than that because at least this loser’s Quirk is useful for something. I overheard you in the corridor the other day; how is being fireproof gonna help you, huh? What, are you going to take people’s burnt food out of the oven? Fix their kotatsu?”

“Ryū-chan’s Quirk is very versatile!” Kagami jumped in. Despite being scared of this girl and hurt at her words, Ryū knew him well enough to know he wouldn’t just sit back and watch the interaction go down. “What the hell is your problem?”

The girl completely ignored him, as if he wasn’t even there. Her eyes, a sickly pale green, stared into Ryū’s own, full of burning hatred. “You’re pathetic and, well, being fireproof only extends so far, right? You’re not invulnerable, and I will find your limit and beat you with it,” she leant forward to whisper, in a venomous hiss: “Bakugou.”

Ryū, who, up until this point, had been nonplussed by her words, felt his stomach clench. His hands, which were held loosely at his sides, flexed up into fists. She smirked at his reaction, eyes flickering down at the movement, and shoved past him. So unbalanced from her words, Ryū fell on his ass in the dirt and watched her skip away.

“Kaminari, are you alright?” Iida rushed over, offering him a hand.

In an odd moment of vulnerability, Ryū slapped it away and scrambled to his feet. His heart was still racing and he couldn’t stop staring at the girl as she attempted to goad the boy with the long, curly hair and the eyepatch - Goro Senri.

Iida humphed, but withdrew his hands. He clearly wasn’t too offended, however, as he said: “How rude. I thought she might’ve just been in an unfortunate mood yesterday, but clearly that girl has some deep-rooted issues she needs to confront.”

“Yeah, she’s...crazy,” murmured Kagami, still frowning. Obviously, her words had quite deeply struck him.

“I see you’ve met Hotaru.”

Ryū turned and looked up.

And up.

And up.

The other boy, who stood at around 180 cm tall, had messy white hair and matching eyes without pupils. This made his gaze very unsettling, which Ryū discovered when he found it focused entirely on him. He was wearing a red waistcoat over a grey shirt and black slacks, an ensemble entirely unsuited to Hero Training or any sort of running at all.

He stuck his hand out. “Kurosawa. A pleasure.”

Ryū looked at it but reluctantly returned the handshake. “Kaminari.”

“I’m Ojiro and this is Iida,” Kagami jumped in, but Kurosawa didn’t even look in their direction.

“It’s nice to finally make your acquaintance. I look forward to working alongside you in the future, Kaminari.” He finally released Ryū’s hand.

Taken aback, though he would never admit it, Ryū nodded slowly. “Likewise.”

“Well,” he smiled slightly. “Good luck and, please, pay no attention to Hotaru. She possesses an inferiority complex larger than her forehead...which is to say, quite large.”

Kagami choked on his own spit as Kurosawa walked off. Iida, struck-dumb, looked between them all with his mouth slightly open. Not so easily fazed, yet feeling like he was, Ryū flexed his fingers and forgot all about that ill-meaning girl; he didn’t care about her. All he wanted to know, what he yearned to discover, is who the fuck that boy was.

 


 

Hero Training was boring. They spent half of it running laps whilst Shinsou-sensei looked at his phone and the other half playing a weird game of tag, wishing they were still running laps. Ryū gave up halfway through, sick of having people touch him, and sat on the grass. The principal, besides grunting, didn’t even acknowledge his presence.

Then, at lunch, Ryū found himself at a table with Shiomi, Kagami, Iida and Matsumoto. The latter two seemed to have accepted him into their fold now, whilst Kagami and Shiomi were just the most tolerable of all his classmates; her being quiet and him being simply familiar.

“My Quirk is called Rooted,” Matsumoto explained. “It gives me similar qualities to a tree, though not all of them. I can shoot my leaves from my head as projectiles, though not a large amount, and my legs and feet, as you’ve probably noticed are made of bark.”

“Oh, like Kamui Woods?” Kagami asked around a mouthful of soba. “The old Pro.”

“Similar,” she said. “I can’t control my body to that extent, but I can anchor my feet to the ground and grow my legs at a rate of one inch per three seconds. Hence the name.”

“That’s crazy cool, Matsumoto-chan! What’s the tallest you’ve ever gotten?”

“Ten feet.”

“Awesome! My Quirk is Mirror Rorrim and you probably saw me use it the other day, right? Well, I can copy anyone, but I can’t make faces up or mash them together, and I can only hold a reflection for thirty minutes at a time.”

Iida, whose lunch was surprisingly Western, looked intrigued. “What about your hair? I notice that changes colour quite regularly.” Shiomi seemed interested in finding out more too; Ryū supposed she wanted an insider look at everyone’s Quirks just like he did.

“Oh, yeah, I can do whatever I like with that, but it mostly depends on my mood,” as if to prove his point, Kagami’s hair went hot-rod red. “See?”

“Truly fascinating,” Iida smiled. “I find Quirks to be an under-researched topic in the scientific community, you see; they’re only getting stronger with each generation and I believe that, at some point, people with reality-changing Quirks will become the norm.”

“Wow, really? I get where you’re coming from; a lot of people’s Quirks aren’t like their parents’ at all.”

“Only surface-level,” Iida explained. “Take, for example, my own family. My father, as you know, possessed speed-enhancing engines on his arms, whilst my mother, who isn’t in the Hero business, has enhanced perception. My Quirk is called AMP and allows me to replicate any move or action that I see, but only for five minutes afterwards. Superficially, this is a combination of their Quirks, but a few generations ago I was far more likely to end up with an exact copy of one or, say, speed-reading.”

“Oh, I see...” Kagami said thoughtfully. “It’s evolution. You, know you’ve really put a lot of thought into this, Iida-kun!”

“Only in my spare time,” he smiled bashfully. “I know you’ve expressed your opinion to avoid the topic of your family, Kaminari-kun, but I have to say your case interests me especially. Your father’s Quirk is electricity, correct? But you possess no electrical powers that I know of but are fireproof and able to radiate light and mild heat. Are your other parent’s powers fire-related?”

“Iida-kun,” Kagami said quickly.

“No, it’s fine,” Ryū said, surprising even himself. “Their Quirk is dermal-related.”

“Well, that...explains nothing. Are you adopted?”

“Kentarō!” Matsumoto hissed, wide-eyed. Even Shiomi was wincing. “You can’t just ask people if they’re adopted!”

“Really? My apologies then, Kaminari! I meant no offence.”

Ryū shrugged. “None taken.”

“So chatty today, Ryū-chan,” Kagami marvelled. “And barely grumpy at all! You must’ve had a nice night after you left Michi-kun’s house.”

“I notice you two are close friends,” Matsumoto said. “Along with Tetsutetsu from 1-A. Have you known each other for a long time?”

“Since we were babies,” Kagami shrugged. “Our, uh, parents were close friends and since we were born around the same time they kind of just brought us up together.”

Unfortunately. Ryū often wished his parents had been loner nobodies with no friends and no friends’ children to force him to associate with. At least then maybe he’d have some damn peace and qu -

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

The cafeteria grew silent as heads turned towards the alarms ringing on the walls. A few people stood up, and others began to whisper.

“Alright, people!” An older girl with short dark-brown hair stood up on a table, yelling screaming to be heard over the noise. It was the one with metal skeletons over her legs and feet. “Freshmen follow me! Everyone else follow your designated evacuation plan! Be calm, be sensible, and leave your stuff here!”

Ryū stood up when Kagami nudged him. Their table - himself, Shiomi, Kagami, Iida and Matsumoto - dutifully joined the other first years to follow the older, in-charge girl out of a side door. She kept up a running stream of reassurance, as quite a few students looked ready to wet themselves in fright.

“I wonder what’s going on,” Kagami whispered as they bumped shoulders in the hallway. Ryū didn’t recognise this section of the school, though that wasn’t too surprising seeing as he’d only been at U.A. for a handful of days in total. “This is...spooky.”

“It’s the breech alarm,” Matsumoto said. “It goes off when someone enters the school grounds with force - the closer the beeps are together the more dangerous the villain is.”

The gaps between the beeps of the alarm had been less than a second.

“Kagami! Ryū!” A hand waved wildly above the sea of people and Michiko’s face squished between two shoulders. They both dove forward to pull her up beside them. She was wearing her Hero Costume too, face white beneath her helmet but cheeks flushed red with anxiety. “I’m so glad I found you guys...I lost Souma-san and Tokoyami-kun in the rush to leave and I wasn’t sure who anybody was and -”

“Michi-kun!” Kagami shook her. “Get a hold of yourself! We have to stay calm in the face of danger, remember? The teachers will deal with whoever’s causing all this panic.”

“They are Pros, after all,” Iida added. “Some of them are still ranked and Eraserhead is the Head of Security, so there’s surely no Quirk that will stop them!”

Ryū, who was not superstitious, but also believed in the value of keeping your mouth shut, felt a shiver run up his spine. He’d watched anime with Michiko and Kagami, heard them gossiping about their shōnen mangas - he knew that you never hoped or claimed that things would be better than one could assume. It just never ended well. Which is why he was not surprised when all the lights in the hallway went out and the beeping siren trailed off into silence. Someone whimpered.

“What’s happening?” Michiko whispered, voice catching a little.

“Shh!” Iida ordered and then, hypocritically: “Everyone keep calm!”

“Shh!” someone hissed and this was obviously followed by a river of more shushes, each more irritated than the last.

“My, my!” a voice called, interrupting the shushing argument. A spotlight illuminated the ceiling and the figure crouched upside-down upon it; a woman, clad in all-black with a mask that covered her entire face. “What do we have here? New students ripe for the taking!”

“Who the hell are you?”

“Yeah, are you a villain? You can’t fight us all at once, you know!”

“Hm,” she said. “I suppose you’re right...lights!”

The room went black and someone screamed a high-pitched cry of terror. This freaked the entire crowd out and they began to merge toward, pushing and shoving in a desperate attempt to escape whatever attack they were blind to see. Ryū, to his ire, was a head-shorter than nearly everyone else and immediately lost any sense of where he was, bodies closing in around him vice-like.

“Ryū-chan!” Michiko’s voice rose above the crowd, but she sounded far away now and he guessed Kagami had been dragged away with her. He had no idea what had happened to Iida, Matsumoto or Shiomi either, but felt himself hoping they had managed to stay within the flow of people and not ended up crushed under-foot.

Then, as if the gods had heard and decided to spite him, Ryū’s short-stature got the better of him and he was swept off his feet, squished between two bodies and then dragged to the floor. Ryū cried into the dark, shoes and feet trampling across his back in a relentless stampede of pure panic.

He tried to call out, but intermingled with the screams and yelling of a hundred panicked teenagers, his voice was a mere drop in the ocean. And it was dark, completely pitch black, so he had no hope of anyone spotting him trapped underneath them. A blow caught him in the back of the head and stars danced in his vision, right before a particularly heavy student, one who must’ve weighed five times his size, stood directly on his back and lingered for just a second.

His breath caught and then refused to come back, each new pressure on his back only stealing more oxygen for his lungs. He lost sight of which way was up and, fortunately, just as everything began to fade in and out, the weight on top of him was entirely gone and the corridor was silent.

Heaving and coughing, Ryū scrambled to his knees, bent-double. He spent at least a good few minutes just trying to breathe and when he finally managed to even out his sense, he found himself alone in the hallway. The double-doors leading outside were still gently swinging, casting the occasional light beam across the linoleum floor.

“You too?”

Ryū swung around to find a boy with short, dark-coloured hair some distance down the corridor behind him. He was lying on his side, holding his head.

“We should get out of here,” the other boy said, stumbling to his feet. “That villain might still be around.”

“You’re kidding,” Ryū said, but he stood up as well. He shuffled down the hallway, ribs sore and ankle throbbing. He’d have some truly ferocious bruises the next day, surely. The boy caught up to him at the door.

“What do you mean? That was fucking nuts!”

“That,” he said. “Was Uravity, dumbass.”

They burst out into the sun and Ryū clapped his hands over his eyes to let them adjust to the brightness. When he turned to look at the other boy, however, he found himself entirely wrong-footed.

“Dumbass? Who the fuck are you calling dumbass, stupid?! You got trampled just like I did!” She stuck her hand out. “I’m Akamine Miyuki. What do I call you, fucker?”

Ryū sucked his lip. “Kaminari Ryū.”

The girl, Akamine, had short dark-red hair slicked back on one side with bangs covering a brown eye on the other. She had a lip piercing and a row of them on her right ear too, and was wearing a silver hooded cloak over a black leather vest and blue jumpsuit.

“Nice to meet ya. Now, where the hell is everybody?”

Ryū surveyed the training grounds where they’d come to train with Shinsou-sensei and now found themselves. There was not a soul in sight, but there were several sets of tyre tracks on the ground, disappearing off into the trees lining the grounds, which he pointed towards.

“Oh,” she said. “Good eye, Kaminari. Let’s go check it out!”

She ran off and he, with nothing better to do, followed.

He didn't like this Akamine girl and he didn’t want to have her along either, but he needed to find his...friends. If he were to call them that! They didn’t deserve the title; useless losers getting themselves kidnapped! What kind of heroes-in-training were they?!

Ryū, who was now suitable pissed at Kagami and Michiko, broke into the trees after Akamine and they ran in silent tandem, shuffling and in pain. His ribs were sore, yes, but it was the ankle that had him cursing. Those always were a bitch to heal-up from.

He nearly went head-over-heels when an arm shot out to stop his progress and just about managed to catch himself on a nearby tree. Akamine held a finger up to her lips and they peered through the bushes together.

Some of their classmates, about twenty or so, were tied up on little clusters in a clearing, with some gagged and others bound more securely, probably to combat different Quirks that may help them escape. A masked man in a lame black costume was patrolling up and down, muttering to himself, whilst two more - also with masks - watched on. There was no sign of the vehicle that had made the tracks they’d seen, nor the rest of their fellow students.

“What’s going on?” Akamine whispered. “If that villain was Uravity, are these ones also teachers?”

“That one there is Red Riot,” he pointed at one of the watching goons. “But I don’t know who the one next to him is.”

“And the angry guy?”

Ryū gritted his teeth. “...Ground Zero.”

“Oh shit,” she groaned. “This must be some kind of training exercise. Fucking...kidnap escape or something! That must be why they had all us freshmen go a different way to the older kids.”

“This is so dumb,” he muttered.

“What do we do, Kaminari? I don’t think they planned on any of us being uncaptured.”

“Wait,” he hissed, just as two more people emerged from the bushes. One, a giant of a man, was immediately familiar. “That’s Deku.”

“You’ve got to be shitting me,” she groaned. “We can’t take all of these Pros at once!”

“Hey, you’re Deku!” Kagami, because of course it was him, yelped. “Untie us!”

“For fuck’s sake,” Ground Zero snapped, ripping off his mask to more outraged cries. “Welcome to Kidnap Training.”

“Your aim is to escape,” Red Riot said as the others took off their masks too. “And our aim is to stop you. Whatever it takes!”

The unidentified guy had mismatched hair couldn’t belong to anyone other than Number 2 Hero Frostbite, and Ryū knew their chances were nil. Him and this annoying girl against the top three heroes, along with who knew how many others? Totally unfair.

“This is unfair!” a girl with deep brown skin and black sclera with glowing-green irises, shouted. “We’ve only been at U.A. for three days!”

“Quit yapping!” Ground Zero snarled at her. “Shit happens, you damn brat; and no villain’s going to let you off just because you’re kids!”

Deku cleared his throat awkwardly. “He’s right. Villains won’t go easy on you and we can’t either. We have to put our all in, but I know there’s a reason U.A. chose you to be the next generation of heroes, so let us see it!”

Crickets.

“What now?” someone mumbled.

“Come on, guys!” Red Riot clapped his hands. “You’re the culmination of 1-A and 1-B! Surely you can think of something!”

“All of us...” Iida said. His hands and feet had both been bound and he was lying beside a hog-tied Matsumoto. “But what about...?” His head swung eagerly around.

“Hey, villains!” Imai, clearly getting into the game, yelled, “What have you done with Kaminari-kun?!”

“Oh, yeah!”

“He’s not here?”

“I don’t see him...”

“Kaminari?” Red Riot gasped like a complete moron. Ground Zero had stopped pacing and they were looking at each other in a way they probably thought was meaningful, but really just came across as pretentious. Or something.

Sighing, Ryū nudged Akamine and leaned over to whisper: “What’s your Quirk?”

“Rubber Band,” she replied just as quietly. Her wrist flopped inhumanly, extending down until it lay prone against the forest floor. “My body is like elastic. I can stretch pretty damn far before I start cramping, too.”

“Good,” he hefted a medium-sized rock and threw it at the back of Frostburn’s head.

The Pro Hero let out a startled noise as the rock cracked against his skull, crumpling to the ground like a sack of potatoes. Deku, standing close by, went pale.

“Shōto!” he cried out like an idiot, running forward. This guy was to be the Number 1 Hero? He acted like a hormonal teenage with no self-awareness at all!

Red Riot immediately hardened his skin, jumping to stand at Ground Zero’s side as they scanned the area for attackers. Deku checked on Shōto briefly and then headed straight for Ryū and Akamine’s hiding spot.

“Trip him,” he advised before throwing himself out of the bush and rolling between the Pro’s legs. Deku over-compensated and stumbled, at which point Akamine stretched her arm out to hook right in front of his calves. He fell directly on top of her and she yelped.

Ryū lit his palm as hot as would go and watched Michiko’s binding disintegrate as soon as he wrapped his fingers around it. She leapt to her feet just in time to meet Red Riot head-on, metal fists clashing against hardened forearms.

Ground Zero let out a yell of rage as Ryū stumbled to his feet just as an explosion ripped through the air towards him. He felt the heat against his face, but when he peeled his eyes open Ryū found himself sealed within a semi-transparent blue dome.

“Kaminari!” Shiomi stood behind him, her hands raised. “Get out of the way!”

Not being an idiot, Ryū threw himself to one side just as the forcefield broke under the force of Ground Zero’s explosions. He landed beside another group of tied-up students and with a glance at Michiko losing the fight against Red Riot, set to work releasing as many people as he could with his red-hot hands.

“Good timing, Ryū-chan,” Kagami gasped as he rubbed his wrists. “But how did you slip away when they caught us?”

“Let’s discuss this later!” Iida suggested, eyes also on the fighting. “We have to defeat these villains before they gain the upper-hand!”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think Frostburn is going to stay down much longer,” Ishikawa said, hair dripping puddles on the floor in his anxiety. Just as he’d said, the split-haired Pro was stumbling upright, grasping his bleeding head as icicles burst across the dirt at his feet. “Anyone know what defeats fire and ice?”

“Amajiki!” a girl covered in thick brown fur called. A muscular boy with two fleshy antenae poking out from his hair looked up from where he was freeing people. “Can you help Tetsutetsu?”

“Got it,” he shot to his feet and promptly tackled Red Riot to the ground, Michiko piling on top of them to keep the struggling man pinned.

Imai, claws glinting in the dappled light peeking through the trees, jumped closer to Ground Zero and opened her mouth. A mist of clear liquid sprayed out and hung in the air the furious Pro promptly breathed in. He went white and then green, doubling-over to vomit. A few people made disgusted noises, but Imai looked very satisfied with herself.

The girl nodded to herself. “You two keep Ground Zero down,” she pointed at Imai and Matsumoto, “We’ve got to -”

Iida tackled her to the ground as a ball of flame shot through the air and disappeared off into the trees, which then lit up in a plume of red and yellow. Frostburn, blood dripping into his burning eyes, lips pulled back in a snarl and fists raised, stared them down.

“Ouch,” he said and another fireball was shot their way.

Ryū saw the heat approaching and only had to raise his hands before hot steam burst into the sky. Ishikawa had extinguished the fire with ease and more liquid lifted from his hair to join the wobbling mass floating in front of them.

“I can’t hold this very long!” he called, voice dripping tension even as he directed the water to block another fire attack. Ryū caught a flash of green in the reflection of its surface and turned just in time to see the boy helping Michiko pin Red Riot be swept off his feet and thrown across the clearing.

Deku, chest heaving and crackling with green lightning, stood over Michiko with his eyes ablaze.

“That is enough!”

Michiko punched him in the dick.

Ryū winced, but wisely took the opportunity to free the remaining students tied-up near him, before, Imai, grinning like a madwoman, let out a ferocious bellow.

“Attack!” she yelled and, as one, the collective students of Class 1-A and 1-B swarmed forward to attack the Pros.

Ryū surveyed the scene before him like a general surveyed their troops; those restraining the furious Ground Zero and the squirming Red Riot, Michiko trying to keep Deku down and the people surrounding Frostburn as Shiomi and Ishikawa provided shielding from his fire attacks. The frost was kept at bay by the bratty girl, ‘Hotaru’, whose entire head was engulfed in one giant flame.

A presence appeared at his side.

“Kaminari,” Kurosawa said, hands in the pockets of his slacks. “Interesting tactic. I heard you were intelligent, but still...managing to take down the top two Pro Heroes in one fell swoop is no minor accomplishment.”

Ryū looked at him. What the hell did this guy want now?

Pupil-less white eyes met his own red and the other boy smiled. His lips were so pale they were almost invisible against his skin.

“I’d like to make you a deal.”

“A deal.”

“So suspicious,” Kurosawa chided, still smiling. “Don’t worry; it’s a good one.”

 


 

Chapter Text

Ryū stood at the back of the grouped-together Class 1-B on the grass outside U.A.’s side entrance. The sun was was still high in the sky and there was a crisp April breeze rustling up his trouser leg.

“So,” Red Riot was rubbing his chin. “That was an...interesting exercise, for sure!” He had blood in the crevices of his fingernails and speckled on his bare chest. “It...didn’t exactly go as planned, though.”

“But we beat you,” Imai said and a few people murmured their agreement. “Isn’t that all that matters?”

“Well. It’s...yeah.” He sighed, evidently having given up. “...I guess so.”

“Awesome!” Ishikawa pumped his fist and turned to look at 1-A, who were grouped up a little further away with Deku and Frostburn. “Hear that, guys!? We won!”

Everyone cheered. Red Riot was rubbing his face in exasperation. Ryū felt zero pity for him, as he was clearly one of the ‘geniuses’ behind the whole event. He was an idiot and clearly hadn’t changed at all.

“W-Wait!” Deku spluttered, waving his hands. “We still need to pick a group MVP!”

“Oh, well that’s easy!” Kagami said and Ryū jabbed him with his elbow, shaking his head wildly. “I think it should be -”

“Akamine came up with the plan,” Ryū said quickly.

“Really?” Imai looked his over and then clearly decided that made the most sense. “Good job, Miyuki-san! That was amazingly quick thinking!”

Akamine looked at Kaminari and he looked back. She nodded slowly.

“Thanks, but I don’t need a fucking medal or whatever. Just knowing I won is enough for me.” She still allowed their classmates to gather around her in congratulations, however, so clearly it didn’t upset her that much.

Kagami rested his elbow on Ryū’s shoulder. “Oh, Ryū-chan,” he bemoaned. “Why didn’t you take the credit you deserved?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Shiomi said as they watched Akamine bask in the attention, Class 1-A coming over to join in the excitement. “Kaminari just clearly doesn’t want any praise from Red Riot.”

Said Red Riot was patting Akamine on the back, beaming wide like a proud father. Ryū felt physically sick at the sight of his happy fucking face. Ugh. What an asshole.

“Huh.”

“Kaminari.” All three of them turned to find Frostburn standing nearby, a bandage covering the bloody gash on his forehead. “Nice throw.”

“I forgot about that,” Kagami groaned, covering his face. His hair went bright blue. “I can’t believe you hit Frostburn in the head with a rock.”

“I can,” Shiomi said.

“Yeah, me too,” Michiko put in as she joined them. “I think Ryū-chan would hit lots of people in the head with rocks if he could get away with it.” Well. She wasn’t wrong.

Kagami thought for a moment. “True.”

“Your strategy needs work. Without your friends there, we would have defeated you very easily.” Deku, who had joined them, cleared his throat. “But it was still an admirable attempt,” Frostburn finished.

Deku nodded and smiled at him, adding: “Tetsutetsu-kun, you managed to keep Red Riot down and that is no small feat. Good job! And you, what’s your name?”

“Shiomi, sir. Shiomi Chiaki.”

“Well, Shiomi-kun - I know how hard it is to keep Ground Zero at bay, so well done for helping your classmates!”

She bowed. “Thank you, sir.”

Deku looked at Ryū and seemed to falter a little. “Kaminari-kun -”

The bell rang.

“Oh, would you look at that?” Michiko laughed awkwardly, grabbing his arm. “Time to get dressed into our uniforms and go home! Come on, Ryū-chan, we don’t want to be late for swimming club!”

“Thank you, Deku-sensei,” Shiomi said, bowing again. “Frostburn-sensei.”

“Yes, thank you!” Michiko dragged him away as quickly as she could get away with, peddling them back towards the changing rooms. As soon as they were out of sight, just the two of them tucked into a corner, she patted his shoulder. “You okay?”

He nodded once.

“Why don’t I believe you?” she muttered to herself. “Ryū-chan, give me something to work with here; I thought you’d be happy about kicking ass like that, but you seem so sad...is this really about what that girl, Shiomi, said? Are you embarrassed in front of...you know who?”

“I’m not embarrassed,” he spat, incensed. “I hate him!”

“I know you do. I just...don’t know what to do about it. He’s our teacher! We’ll have to speak to him at some point.”

“Maybe you do,” he said. “But I’ve spoken to him enough times to last until I die, and look at all the good it’s done me.” All alone...no...

She must’ve read his unspoken message. “Hey, you’ve got me? And Kagi-kun and your new friends. Shiomi, right? And I’ve seen you hanging out with that Iida boy too. Look. There’s a reason humans need interaction; it’s so we don’t go, like, crazy.” Leaning forward like a crazed weirdo, she bracketed him against the wall so he had no place to run, and loomed down. “I know you hate Red Riot, but come on! Where’s that no-shits attitude, huh? Why are you letting talking about him bother you?!”

Ryū blinked. For fuck’s sake, she was actually right.

Why was he letting Red Riot and his stupid haircut affect how he felt? That asshole had nothing over him and didn’t deserve to make him feel upset!

“Fuck him,” Ryū snarled.

“Yeah, fuck him!” she echoed, grinning. “That’s the spirit.” Michiko stood back and slapped him on the shoulder. “Alright, let’s get ready and hit up the store on the way home; I’m in need of celebratory slushies!”

“Pass,” Ryū said.

“Aw man, how come?”

“I have shit to do.”

Hands tucked under her chin, Michiko leaned forward. “Wow, Ryū-chan. I hope one day I’ll be half as responsible as you...Well, wish your grandma a good day for me at least!”

He nodded and she disappeared into the changing room.

Ryū leaned against the wall with his head in his hands.

What the fuck was his life.

 


 

 

Ryū walked alone after school, Michiko and Kagami having broken off into the shopping district soon after leaving U.A., but that was no big deal. Most of the time Ryū simply preferred his own company anyway. It was much quieter at least, and he didn't have to put up with them attempting to get him to join their boring conversations.

When he reached the Sakiya District, Ryū took a shortcut to the large convenience store he’d never actually patronised. It was far too expensive for his tastes, and he knew a few Pro Heroes shopped there as well; it wouldn’t do to run into them unprepared. He stood outside for a moment, merely watching the customers coming and going about in their boring little lives, toting screaming children and bags ladened down with shopping.

Then, when he was sure nobody would notice, he hopped the short fence at the side of the store into the dark, fetid alley between it and the apartment block next door. Then he pulled a discarded wooden crate over to the dumpster and climbed carefully on top of it.

He hefted the lid, reached in and pulled out a handful of coupons from the giant pile inside. A few were stained and damaged, so he cast those away and made sure to pick the new-looking ones. Those he pocketed before closing the dumpster, putting the crate back and then climbing over the fence once more. A woman with a pram stared at him, wide-eyed and Ryū merely nodded, disappearing into the crowd of tourists admiring the Deku statue displayed outside.

He jogged to Nakano-san store and found her sat behind the counter once again, counting the money from the register.

“Ah, Kaminari-chan,” she said. “Glad you made it.”

Like he had a choice.

Ryū dumped the coupons on the counter. “Here you go,” he said. “Sorry I forgot them yesterday.”

She eyed him down the bridge of her hooked nose. “Hm,” she said. “Well, make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’m lenient on you because I know your family situation but don’t take advantage of that. I have my limits and I don’t like to be played.”

He cursed internally. She was onto his scam. He had to play it cool to stop her calling him out on it. “Of course, Nakano-san,” he said. “Actually, I think I met your granddaughter today. Souma, right? Does she have fur like yours?”

Nakano-san’s eyes sparkled with pride. “Yes, she does. Her Quirk is just like mine, you know, more so than any of my other grandchildren. I suppose that’s why we’re so close.” She looked at him knowingly. “How are your family? I haven’t seen your grandmother come in here with you in a while...”

Great. Just what he didn’t want. “Well,” he hesitated. “She’s just busy. My grandfather is still away on business just a lot, so it’s just us at home. That’s why I always fetch the groceries for her.”

“You’re a good boy, Kaminari-chan.” She seemed to really mean it, surprisingly. “Despite what your personality sometimes suggests. Just try and keep on the right track at U.A.; I’d hate to see you on the news one day because you got into trouble.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he bowed shortly. “Have a nice evening.”

“Hm...you too.” She watched him leave with a thoughtful on her old, weathered face, lined with wisdom. “You too, kid...”

 


 

 

Izuku stared thoughtfully at the freeze-frame of Kaminari-kun’s small, sharp-angled face twisted with some unnamed emotion as he threw a rock with deadly accuracy at the back of Shōto’s red and white head. He looked like a regular student in his ID photo, short and barely taking up much of the frame, hardly the kind of kid who would take something out of hurting a Pro Hero.

And yet...

He had. The video still clearly proved it, if the way he’d stood by at the end when Izuku, Shōto, Kirishima and Kacchan had been swarmed by his fellow classmates hadn’t done so already. It had all been very...calculated. Very precise, with no hesitation at all in his actions.

Izuku, though he was still a bit sore from little Tetsutetsu’s punch, didn’t feel bitter or like the exercise had been a failure. Sure, it had been...unorthodox, but that was good for prospective heroes. What wasn’t so great was the apathy with which he had approached the situation, the eye-rolling and blank expressions in the face of immediate danger as far as he was concerned.

Kirishima, standing beside him with his hands on his hips, also surveyed the images with an air of concern. Izuku wouldn’t have been able to see it had he not already known the other man as a close friend for over two decades. He was tapping his foot relentlessly and his happy-go-lucky grin was dropping a little at the edges. Just a bit, but enough to show that there was something seriously eating at him.

“He barely used his Quirk,” Izuku pointed out and it was true. Apart from disintegrating the ropes binding his peers, Kaminari hadn’t used his Quirk at all. Sure, it wasn’t the most powerful, probably one of the weakest in the year, but that didn’t explain why he’d so naturally avoided needing to rely on it; there had been no delay, no moment’s pause where he contemplated activating it. Almost like...well, it reminded Izuku of when he’d first inherited One-for-All; the brief moments when he’d entirely forgotten he had a Quirk at all.

But Kaminari didn’t have One-for-All, had gotten his Quirk when he was nine years old, a perfectly normal age for the recent generations of children. He’d had six years to grow accustomed to it and yet it still seemed an after-thought to him.

That, paired with his cold apathy, the clear glee he got from acts of violence and success, painted a very worrying picture indeed. One that needed further investigating for sure.

“What do you think?” Hawks, who had been monitoring the training exercise, asked, giant red wings tucked carefully against his back. “Weird, huh?” He’d retired a few years ago under mysterious circumstances and refused to explain why - Izuku was sure it had something to do with the burns on his face, but he would never bring it up after Shōto had so quietly, so hesitantly, asked him not to. Obviously, Endeavor still had his hand in the veritable Pro Hero door, despite having been retired for nearly a decade now.

“Yes,” Izuku said thoughtfully. “It is strange. His plan was clearly well thought-out and he knew exactly how to distract me from the fight just long enough for them all to gain the upper-hand. That I would instinctively try to help Shōto if I saw him injured.”

“One of your biggest weaknesses,” Hawks marvelled. “He’s a smart kid, then. Now I see why he was placed in the Hero course.”

“Well, that and he placed first in the entrance exam,” Momo-kun pointed out. She had also been monitoring the exercise, though seemed less surprised at how it had all played out. “I think calling him ‘smart’ would do him a disservice, though. His mind is clearly extremely analytical and he seems to think fast on his feet, as well. He played the rules against us and managed to steal villain markers from Eraserhead’s belt in order to score as many points as possible without actually physically completing the exam itself.”

Izuku, though he hadn’t been there for that, had heard all about it from Ochako. She’d been embarrassed by the situation and having been so easily played. Izuku had tried to assure her that she couldn’t have known. Kacchan was very smart, yes, but rarely played his cards close to his chest and neither Kirishima nor Kaminari could ever be referred to as ‘scheming’.

“Well,” she said. “If he’s going through a period of turbulence at home, perhaps this might be him releasing his aggression onto others as a way to de-stress. We might need to bring in Kobayashi in order to discuss this further -”

“Hold up,” Shinsou said. He’d been looking at something on his phone, which he now set down with a grumble as rubbed his tired eyes. “This is all getting out of hand. Clearly, the kid’s just ruthless; his personality is just that sort and we can’t condemn him for acting in his nature. After all, we did preface the exercise with ‘whatever it takes’. He participated within the guidelines in this, and the entrance exam, situations, so I’d hardly call it fair to investigate him like a criminal.”

“He’s not a criminal,” Momo-kun dismissed. “But I am still concerned at that level of violence from a fifteen-year-old boy. Kirishima? What are your thoughts on the matter?”

Kirishima chewed his lip, red eyes still staring at his son’s face angry blown-up on the screen. “I think Katsuki and I need to have a talk.”

“Perhaps Kaminari would benefit from being there also?” she suggested. “He is the boy’s main carer, after all.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I guess. It’s just...”

“I know you haven’t spoken in a long while, Kirishima-kun,” Izuku said hesitantly. He hated seeing his friend so torn-up as he so visibly was at the sight of his son, but it was important they get this issue sorted quickly. “But maybe now is the time to initiate contact again? Akio-kun may...benefit from this as well.”

“Yeah,” he said again.

 


 

 

Ryū shuffled his feet on the way home, lost in his mind. In fact, he was so caught up in his revolving thoughts of that creep Kurosawa, what the annoying ghat girl had revealed about her knowledge of his private life, and how to approach Shiomi about gaining her help, that he didn’t notice the motorbike parked in the driveway of his house until he nearly walked straight into it.

He stared at the shiny black metal, the gleaming chrome. There were flames painted down the side, and a shiny helmet hooked over the handlebars. He looked up at the house and could, only very faintly, hear the sound of voices through the open kitchen window.

His heart sank down to his toes, though it admittedly didn’t have very far to go, and his palms began to burn. Ryū flexed his fingers with a frown because, well, he usually had much better control of his Quirk that that.

He let himself in and toed off his shoes, hanging his jacket up and trying to sneak upstairs without anybody noticing him. Apparently, he was unsuccessful because his uncle, whom he really didn’t want to see, stuck his head in the kitchen.

He was a big guy, tall and muscled, with short black hair and bright yellow eyes. He would be the very model of a Pro Hero if one were to disregard the fact that his Quirk was basically useless and he owned a flower shop.

“Oh, heya Ryū!” he beamed. “I thought that might’ve been you. Why don’t you come in and join us in the living room?”

Ryū, who was well-trained in following his family’s dumb orders, obliged.

His grandmother was sat on the couch with a teacup and her usual dreamy smile, whilst his grandfather sat at the kotatsu with Hibiki, who was his cousin. She was a few years older than him, black-haired and brown-eyed, and they were nothing alike.

“Hey, hey, little cousin!” she said upon seeing him.

Ryū dropped into a neat bow. “Ojii-san, Obaa-san, Oji-Daiki, Hibiki-kun; how was your day?”

“Oh, lovely,” his uncle Daiki smiled, joining Obaa-san on the couch to hold her hand. “We were just talking about you, Ryū-chan; wondering how your schooling is going on top of your other responsibilities, that sort of thing.”

“Very well, thank you.”

The man in the armchair by the window was his great-grandfather, a tall, striking figure, with cold orange eyes and slicked-back grey hair. He was well into his nineties and still functioned better than his daughter, maintaining his position as CEO of a prestigious law firm.

He spoke up: “and of your short time at U.A.? I’ve always found it quite a fascinating institution.”

Ryū could think of a million and one things he’d rather be doing that regaling his time at school to his family, including getting those now yearned-after celebratory slushies with Michiko and Kagami. But he couldn’t think of anything that would convince him to voice those feelings allowed, and so he merely sat with his cousin at the kotatsu and started to talk. He left out all the embarrassing parts, of course, but no one needed to know that.

After the long talk, which lasted well into hour-territory, Ryū was excused. Well, nearly. Not before his great-grandfather rose from his chair like a vampire from a coffin, and directed him into the kitchen. He stood tall, suit freshly-pressed and a tight counterpoint to Ryū’s sweaty, oversized uniform.

“Have you been taking your medication?”

“Yes, Kurou-sama,” Ryū said quickly, but, unlike most people, this man was not easily fooled by him.

His eyes twinkled momentarily and then his hand shot out viper-fast to shove Ryū’s shoulder. He fell back against the counter with a grunt, found two orange eyes burning into his own from an inch away, felt hot breath on his mouth.

“I hate it when you do this,” Kurou-sama said coldly. “I hate liars.”

“I’m sor -”

The hand grabbed him again, but it lingered and nails dug through his uniform and down to skin. “Don’t be sorry,” he demanded. “Be better. I don’t like to be disappointed, and right now you’re disappointing me, Ryū. You know how I feel when that happens.”

He hated a lot of damn things.

“I’ll be better.”

Kurou-sama’s fingers twisted cruelly. “I suppose it’s the least you could do. You know, without me you’d be all alone; I feed you, I clothe you, I house you. What more will you ask of me?” He sighed. “You’re always so demanding, Ryū. So much like that horrible man you call a father...If my daughter wasn’t so forgiving, you’d be gone by now, do you understand? Perhaps you ought to be around more, attend to her needs better because, well, she’s confided in me that you’re leaving her unattended, that she feels unsafe. Is that what you want?”

Ryū loves his Obaa-san. She struck a chord in his cold, dead heart that no one else seemed able to do. Perhaps it was because she was so weak and unable to hurt him, but either way he despised the thought of causing her grief or upset. If she’d been feeling unsafe because of him ...it must relate to the day before. He knew he shouldn’t have gone to Michiko’s house, but his grandfather had been home and the risk seemed minimal -

“No,” Kurou-sama said softly. “No, you love my daughter, don’t you? She takes good care of you here and you her, am I correct? How would you feel if this was no longer possible? If you were forced back in with your wretch of a father? He wouldn’t provide for you like I do, would he?” Ryū didn’t respond and he found himself shoved against the counter once more, the unforgiving surface grinding into his spine. “Would he?”

“No, sir,” Ryū whispered, hyper-aware that the rest of his family were mere feet away in the living room.

“You know, it’s such a shame you’re so difficult, Ryū. You’d have real potential if you were to open up a bit more.” The hand slid up his neck to the side of his head. “Why are you so standoffish, hm? Why so cold all of the time?”

“I’m sorry.” He knew his face was most likely chalk white, that his eyes were wide and dilated. “Please.”

“See? There it is again. Stop fighting me, Ryū. Stop being so inconsiderate; don’t you want to make me happy?”

“I do….I do, Kurou-sama.”

Kurou-sama smiled.

“Good.”

 


 

 

Ryū was walking down the street. It was dark and he’d forgotten his shoes, his jacket. The shirt and pants of his school uniform did nothing to protect him from the cold April weather. His tie was missing.

He’d been at home, at...school? Michiko was there. No. Hibiki...why was his cousin popping into his head? Something felt off, very wrong.

He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, staring at the gates of U.A., the shadowed building looming behind it. A single light was on in one of the windows and a few vehicles were parked out the front, most notably a shiny red sports car. He hated it.

Did he? Whose car was that?

He looked around. Why the hell was he here?

He stared at the gates of U.A., the shadowed building looming behind it. A single light was on in one of the windows and a few cars were parked out the front, most notably a shiny red sports car. But something was wrong. He -

Running, feet against the rough ground, stones cutting fragile human skin, branches everywhere, dark - He stopped. He was in a wooded area and it was so dark, so empty. Blackness all around him, the howl of a thin breeze. Ryū stumbled forward, his feet gave out and he found himself rolling down a grassy slope.

He stared up at the forest canopy, the inky night peeking between the leaves, and asked himself why the hell he was in the middle of a park. His head, which usually clear and ruthlessly analytical, felt...odd. Like a milky film had bubbled up within it and blocked any coherent thoughts from forming.

Stop.

Ryū startled so violently he tripped over himself as he scrambled to his feet. His feet, still bleeding and sore from his uncoordinated run through the trees, stings when they touch the damp grass. “Who said that? Is somebody there?”

There was no immediate reply until, suddenly, I am here.

Heart ratcheting up another notch, Ryū spun around once more. But there was nobody in sight. Where the fuck was that whispering coming from? Was he finally going crazy?

Don’t be scared...You’re not crazy...

The voice, if it could be called that, was deep. It rumbled through his bones and down into his very being, thick and so very clearly inhuman. He realised, very quickly indeed, that it was coming from directly within his head.

Okay. So he was crazy. He was crazy and hearing voices and in the middle of the fucking woods. Wheezing, Ryū scrambled in his pockets for his phone, but came up empty. He was all alone.

All alone except for -

Except for me.

He raked his shaking fingers through his hair as he debated the merits of talking to the voice inside his head and what that said about his willingness to hear-out his delusions. Fuck. He was just like his dad, somehow. How did that even work, they weren’t even biologically related and he’d inherited his craziness -

I can prove it...

Ryū laughed a little hysterically, but he nodded anyway. What was the point in arguing, really? “Okay, voice inside my head,” he cried, throwing his arms out. “Prove me wrong! Prove that I’m not some crazy kid talking to himself, at night, in the middle of who the fuck knows where!”

Look up.

Despite the large part of his brain demanding, screaming, that he do the exact opposite of what his new little tag-along demanded, Ryū looked up. A teardrop of sweat ran into his eye and he blinked it away just in time to see the grinning face staring back at him. He barely had time to take in the deathly white skin, tangled black hair and a mouth that stretched unnaturally ear-to-ear before scrambling back, falling hard onto his ass. He screamed, high and filled with terror.

Oh no, the voice said softly. How a voice that deep and rumbling managed to sound soft was incomprehensible. I’ve frightened you. That wasn’t my intention...

He stared resolutely at his hands, refusing to let his eyes wander back up to the nightmare suspended above him. He was mute.

You can’t ignore me, Ryū. I’m real and I’m not going anywhere...There’s no need to fear me...I would never harm you...

“How the fuck do I know that? You’re just - you -”

A tentative touch slithered across the bottom of his feet and Ryū peeled his eyes slowly, dreadfully, off his hands and up his legs. The thing was crouched in front of him, looking vaguely more humanoid, with one finger touching the bloody cuts on the soles of his feet.

Watch, it said and his skin began to tingle, then warm considerably. It felt like when he used his Quirk, but focused on just the bottoms of his feet. After just a moment, the warmth disappeared and he yanked his legs away from its grasp. He stared at them, pulse throbbing. Where just a moment there had been blood, had been cuts still littered with small twigs and stones, was...clear skin. Not a blemish to be seen. He poked his foot and felt no pain, nothing to indicate that just a second before it’d been in quite a state.

“What the fuck,” he said.

Okay. He might still be crazy. Probably still was crazy, but there’s no denying that his feet, which had definitely been injured just moments before, were now entirely healed. He hadn't done it himself; he didn’t have a healing Quirk and there was no one else around who could have helped. No one except -

Except for me, it said again.

He risked a look. The thing, still grinning madly, still with skin as white as death, long black hair in tangled knots and glowing red eyes staring unblinkingly at him, tilted its head.

“What the hell are you?” he whispered, voice cracking a little.

I am your Quirk, Ryū. it said, crawling closer until they were a mere breath away and Ryū could see his own reflection in its terrifying eyes.

I am Kiyo.

 


 

Chapter Text

Ryū stared at the creature, taking in that horrifying smile once more.

“Uh,” he managed. “What?”

I am your Quirk, it repeated. I am Kiyo.

“Yeah, I got that part - just, how can that be the case? My Quirk is Magma.”

Maybe before. But we are a team now, don’t you see? It leaned forward at that, emphasising its words with a tilt of its head. We can be so much better than that.

“A team?”

Yes. And I can give you what you want...

What the hell did this thing know about him and his wants? If it really was his Quirk, it was weak as hell anyway, so why should he listen to it?

Weak... it said, sounding amused. We are not weak. We are powerful and can use this to get what we want, it paused dramatically, still unblinking. To WIN.

Ryū sat back a little. He did like to win...maybe this creature - his Quirk - was onto something after all? If it could help him be the top of his class at U-A, and eventually the most successful pupil in the whole school...well. Maybe he could work with this.

Excellent, is said, backing away. Let’s go home then.

“What? We can’t!”

It sounded pissed. Why not?

“Because I can’t just come back with some terrifying monster trailing after me! My family will call for the Pro Heroes straight away!”

But I am your Quirk.

“Yeah, but that hasn’t stopped them before,” he said darkly. “Pros think they can do whatever they want just because all these losers worship them like gods; label people just because of their Quirks - powerful, weak, good, evil. It’s all bullshit.”

Ryū is strong, it said, making an odd rumbling sound deep in its chest, which was thankfully covered by some filthy grey rags. Its feet, however, were bare. Ryū thought it looked somewhat like one of the homeless drug addicts he’d seen loitering around in the Sakiya District. Mean, though.

“Mean? Fuck you! I can be nice!” he snapped.

Ha! I will believe that when I see it.

“I’ll prove it to you, beast,” he wobbled to his feet and crossed his arms. “I’ll be the nicest fucking guy you’ve ever met. Now hurry the fuck up! We need to get home before someone wakes up and see you.”

It made an odd jerking movement similar to a shrug. If Ryū is so concerned...

“Damn right I’m concerned,” he muttered as they marched back through the trees. “Being seen with a freaky thing like you is going to ruin my entire plan...”

 


 

 

The house was dark when he got home. They’d walked for upwards of an hour and there was now no one out, so it was at least past one am. It wasn’t surprising his family was already tucked up in bed, but Ryū still felt a little bitter they hadn’t even noticed that he was gone.

He tried the front door but it was locked. Fortunately his room looked over a small sakura tree, which Ryū scaled without any help from his...Quirk. From Kiyo. His bare feet were so numb from the cold he couldn’t even feel the rough bark scraping against them as he inched along a tree branch to his window.

He carefully slid it open and crawled inside, dropping down onto the floor with only the tiniest noise. Ryū nearly had a heart-attack when he turned and found Kiyo perched on the window ledge, still smiling with that eerie ear-to-ear grin.

“You can’t be in here!” he whispered fiercely, not willing to touch it in an attempt to push it back outside. “What if somebody sees?”

I am always here, it said back, rasping voice dropped to a quiet hiss.

Always? “What do you mean?” he asked. If this thing truly was his Quirk, then surely it had been present since he manifested his abilities. Which, if he was understanding it correctly, meant that it’d been following him around for years without being noticed. Horrifying, true, but also... “You’re invisible?”

If you want to put it like that.

“Well,” he glanced at his door, imagining his sleeping family members tucked around the house. His uncle’s motorbike had still been parked outside. “Come in, then. Quickly.”

He shut the window after it and unrolled his futon onto the tatami. He quickly changed into his pyjamas and laid down in the dark. It was too risky to try and brush his teeth this late, and his sweaty, grimy skin would have to wait too.

Kiyo settled up on top of his wardrobe, glowing red eyes watching him unblinkingly as Ryū swallowed down two pills from his medicine bottle.

“Must you stare like that?”

Yes.

He stared at the plain ceiling.

“This wasn’t what I had in mind when I wished for a stronger Quirk, you know.”

We are very strong.

He hummed and let his eyes slip closed.

“I swear, if this is all some concussion-induced nightmare...”

Concussion maybe, it said as he slipped into sleep. Nightmare? Not for you.

 


 

 

Ryū woke up and blinked slowly. The sun was barely peeking over his window ledge, casting pinkish rays on the wall as he stretched and sat up. The spot above his wardrobe was empty and Ryū, despite expecting it, felt a swell of disappointment. He really had conjured up a new and equally terrifying aspect of his Quirk...

He could hear movement downstairs and so, still heavy-hearted, Ryū snuck out of his room and into the bathroom next door. Luckily for him his grandparents had paid for a Western shower to be installed some years ago, so he quickly managed to wash all the grime and dirt off before anyone was any wiser.

He was also fortunate to have a spare uniform, as the one he’d been wearing the night before was a lost cause. Ryū dressed and grabbed his school bag. His phone was nowhere to be found even after five minutes of looking, so he dragged himself downstairs.

His grandfather was stood in the kitchen preparing breakfast.

“Good morning, Ojii-san.”

“Oh...hello, Ryū,” his grandfather said, looking quite surprised to see him. “I wasn’t expecting you home this morning. Hibiki said you were staying at a friend’s house.”

Fuck.

Mind racing for an explanation, Ryū nodded. “I was going to. But...Kagami-kun’s mother was injured in a villain attack and they had to rush to the hospital to check on her...I got home quiet late last night.”

“Oh that is unfortunate. Wish her mother a quick recovery when you see her at school,” his grandfather bid, returning to the mackerel he was grilling over a dancing blue flame.

Ryū scuffed his shoe. “Kagami-kun is a boy, Ojii-san.”

His grandfather smiled good-naturedly. “Ah yes...My mistake again. Well. You best get going to school,” he added. “You don’t want to be later, after all.”

“I haven’t had -”

“Respect your elders, Ryū,” a voice said behind him. “If your grandfather wishes you to head to school now, then you must do so.”

“Good morning, Mori-san,” his grandfather nodded. “How did you sleep?”

“Very well, thank you, Hayato.” Kurou-sama was already dressed for work in a crisp black and grey business suit. “In fact, I think I shall leave for work now.” His yellow eyes slid down to Ryū’s hunched shoulders. “Would you like me to take you to school today?”

No.

No fucking way in hell.

“How very kind,” his grandfather said, clapping Ryū on the shoulder. “What a lucky young man you are today, grandson. Make sure you thank your great-grandfather for going out of his way like this for you.”

Ryū nodded. “Thank you, Mori-san,” he said blankly.

Kurou-sama smiled the smallest amount. “Go put your shoes on then.”

Ryū, who was no idiot, went and put his shoes on.

He sat in the front seat as he was directed to and stared out of the window.

The ride was silent the entire way to school, though as it was so early they got there a good thirty minutes before any other students would begin to arrive, Kurou-sama turned the engine off. They idled outside the deserted front gate and he turned in his seat, the leather squeaking at each movement. There was a short silence.

“I’m very unhappy with you this morning, Ryū,” Kurou-sama said softly. “You came home quite late last night and I heard you climb in through your window. Does that seem safe to you?”

Ryū stared resolutely at his lap. “No, sir.”

“No,” Kurou-sama repeated. “And what would I have done if you’d fallen and injured yourself, hm?”

“I...don’t know, sir.”

“I’d have been very upset. You don’t want to upset me, do you?”

“...No, sir.”

Kurou-sama placed a hand on his knee. “Good,” he nodded and Ryū saw it out of the corner of his eye. “Good...Ryū, thank you for yesterday,” he continued softly. “And I’m sorry I got so angry. It’s only...I did miss you so these last few months. I think we need to spend some more time together. You can come and stay with me for a while, give poor Shinju and proud Hayato-san a break. Would you like that?” He started to rub his hand in small circles.

Another long, loaded silence. He could feel Kurou-sama’s eyes on him. His skin was crawling with bugs, with the tense atmosphere now inside the car. His throat, on the other hand, was dried shut and he couldn’t have spoken, even if he had wanted to.

“No? Well, I have to say that makes me quite upset. You know how I feel when you ignore me, Ryū. It’s very rude to ignore your elders when they ask you a question,” Kurou-sama snarled and just like that his nails dug cruelly into Ryū’s knee, tight enough that it went numb very quickly. After a beat, he sighed and relaxed his grip. He looked tired. “Why do you do this to me? All I want is for you to be happy...Won’t you thank me?”

“Thank you,” Ryū said so quietly it felt like a mere exhalation.

“So lovely,” Kurou-sama smiled. “You remind me of your father when he was your age, though, of course, you don’t look anything like him. That pale skin, those eyes staring up at me...sweet boy, I think tonight -”

A fist rapped on the driver’s side window. Ground Zero stared back at them, his own merchandised bag slung over his shoulder. He was frowning. Kurou-sama sighed like he was heavily put-upon and took his hand away to roll down the window.

“Hello, Bakugou. Nice morning, is it not?”

“Yeah, yeah. Mori, right? Since when do you drop the kid off at school?”

“It’s an early start at the firm this morning, and he did ask so nicely, but this is not a regular occurrence, no.”

Ryū sunk in his seat as Ground Zero turned his attention to him and asked awkwardly, still scowling: “You...alright, huh?”

His teeth were still tightly clamped together.

“Teenagers,” Kurou-sama said after a pause. He ruffled Ryū’s hair. “You know how boys can be! Speaking of boys, how are both my other great-grandsons, Bakugou? It has been so long since I last saw them, after all.”

“Akio’s in his third year now, just got his offers for agency sidekick jobs once he graduates. Fucking crazy,” Ground Zero smiled a little. Ryū scowled at his knees.

“And Raiden? He must be, hm, twenty-one by now? So grown up.”

“Twenty-two in a few weeks,” Ground Zero corrected. “Kid’s working for some up-and-coming ‘paper doing investigative journalism.”

Ground Zero shuffled his feet a little, head turning away. “And...how’s Denki?”

The strap of Ryū’s bag ignited in his palms.

Kurou-sama cursed softly as Ryū wrenched his hands away and watched the strap smoulder and char in his lap. The car immediately stank of burning leather and smoke, tiny plumes of it still dancing in the air. Mortified, Ryū slid further down in his seat. Where the fuck was Michiko to serve as a distraction when he needed her? Where the fuck was anybody when he needed them?

“Be careful,” Ground Zero warned him. “Shit like that makes people think you don’t have control over your Quirk.”

Kurou-sama ruffled his hair again, though this time with a little more force. “I think it’s just all this excitement, Bakugou. Ryū, why don’t you head on inside now and I’ll pick you up after school. How does that sound?”

Ryū blinked. “Thank you, Mori-san,” he said, undoing his seatbelt. “Have a nice day.”

He climbed out of the car, damaged satchel in hand. Neither of them commented on the fact that he slammed the door as hard as he could get away with, nor that he stormed off without another word. Ryū could feel eyes on his back, however, eyes that promised a night he wouldn’t ever be able to gouge from his mind.

 


 

 

Class was boring. They received an evaluation piece each in homeroom, apparently written up by Deku that very evening. Kagami’s was a double-sided page written in tiny kanji. Ryū’s was...not.

 

Kaminari has good analytical abilities and uses the setting to his advantage. However, he works without considering the ramifications of his actions on others; his attack on Frostburn could have put his captured classmates at risk, so he would benefit from further team-building exercises and training.

Ryū had re-read his evaluation twice, feeling a nervous tingle in his stomach.

He’d gone overboard. He knew that bid with Frostburn had been both a risk and too heavy-handed, but the criteria of the training had been ‘whatever it takes’. Ryū had given too much credit to the heroes - despite their fancy words they were and always would be delusional, with a strict divide between good vs. evil. Deku had picked up on it; had clearly labelled him as the ‘ruthless’ type and while that wasn’t wrong, it hadn’t been what Ryū was going for. In fact, the opposite. He’d been meaning to get a moment with Shiomi and ask her about flying under the radar, but clearly, that plan was out of the window. He needed a new one, he needed to go in -

Guns blazing.

His knee slammed into the bottom of his desk and Oshiro-sensei stopped mid-sentence as he classmates all swivelled in their seats to look at him with intense confusion.

Ryū bowed his head. “Apologies, Sensei.”

“Keep focused, Kaminari-kun!” Oshiro-sensei reminded sternly and the class resumed.

Kagami leaned over. “Are you okay, Ryū-chan?”

“I’m fine,” he said stiffly and after a moment of intense observation, Kagami returned to his notes. Ryū, however, tried to look over the entire room without it being obvious. There was nothing out of the ordinary that he could see...but he could’ve sworn -

Hey, stupid, look out the window.

Crawling across the grass down below was a white-skinned figure wearing filthy grey rags, with a long tangle of black hair swaying gently in the wind. An ear-to-ear grin.

Holy fucking Christ he hadn’t been imagining it the night before. There really was some crazy beast claiming to be his Quirk following him around. Unless, of course, he was just having some sort of mental breakdown, which, he supposed, was sort of likely too.

Kiyo - if it really was the monster from before - crawled forward and began to scale the building, hooking its fingers and toes into the edges of the windows. Ryū watched its ascent with a measure of dread and when it finally came face-to-face with him, he winced. The face was even more horrifying in the daytime; joker’s smile, greyish-white skin, unblinking red eyes...truly the stuff of nightmares.

I think we got off on the wrong foot, Ryū. I’m your Quirk and there’s no need to be afraid of me. Besides, it peered in at his classmates. No one else can see me besides you, so it’s not like I’d risk doing anything that would leave me all alone again, right?

It was much more...talkative now.

Well, I feel nice and energised now. A decade without anyone to talk to or good food to eat can take a real toll on the body, you know? I’m just excited for the future.

Excited for what?

To help you win, Ryū. To make us the best Hero in U.A., to fuck up some people we hate, to finally get some damn good food! I don’t know. Lots of things. Life!

Oh fuck. It was worse than he’d thought - this hideous beast, this terrifying creature that now seemed to be permanently attached to him…

Was a damn girl.

Didn’t you notice before?

I am Kiyo, Ryū. I am the very vision of a woman scorned.

But why? He was a boy, why the hell would his Quirk be -

Because I am the sum of my parts and my parts are, it hesitated for a brief second, predominantly female. It’s simply just a matter of taste.

Right. Great.

A hand touched his shoulder and Ryū jerked away with his arm raised.

Kagami, mid-sentence, stared back at him with round, startled brown eyes. “The bell rang, Ryū-chan. It’s time for lunch. Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah,” Ryū said, shoving his stuff into his bag. He could see Kiyo in his peripheral vision. “I just didn’t get much sleep.”

“I thought you seemed tired. Those bags under your eyes don’t look good, you know? How are you going to get a date with your face like that?”

“Fuck you! I don’t want a date. I want to be the damn best.”

“There’s my Ryū-chan! We were starting to worry you lost your spark these last few days,” Kagami beamed. “You were so unmotivated, especially in class and that’s not like you. I’m glad you’ve perked up a bit now.”

“Yeah,” he said again as they arrived at the cafeteria. Michiko waved them over to her table, where she was sat with Iida, the furry girl from the day before - Nakano-san’s granddaughter, and -

“Hey!” the pink-haired boy said. “You’re that bratty kid from the entrance exam, right?”

Oh fuck no.

Michiko let out a loud forced laugh. “Tokoyami-kun! You’re such a jokester! Haha - let’s sit down now.”

“Come on, don’t be like that! It was all part of the spirit of things, huh? Best man wins and all that! Truce?” He held a gloved hand out amicably and Ryū stared at it with a disgusted twist to the corner of his mouth.

“Ah,” said Kagami.

He dropped his hand after a few moments of inaction and shrugged.

“Fair enough,” he - Tokoyami, apparently - said. “I can see why you’d be pissed, but, man, come on! You scored the highest out of everyone in the exam! You must’ve had something going for you. I thought your Quirk was pretty weak at first, and yesterday in the rescue training exercise you didn’t even use it, but clearly, it has to have more to it than that to score you first place!”

This motherfucker -

Iida stammered a little. “Perhaps a change of subject is in order?”

“Good idea, Iida-kun,” Michiko nodded fiercely. “The...um! So, did you hear about what happened with Amajiki-san this morning?”

Nakano-san’s granddaughter, who had acted so sensibly in the training exercise, spoke up: “...Who?” She had a fang poking out of her mouth on one side. Ryū took out his textbook for the next class and began to go over his notes.

“In our class!” Michiko looked at her like she was insane. “Amajiki Yuri, you know? The boy with the,” she gestured vaguely at herself, “muscles.”

“Ah yes,” Nakano said flatly, gold eyes flat. “Of course.”

“Oh,” Michiko tutted. “You know who I’m talking about, right Ryū-chan? You like big guys.”

Ryū didn’t look up from his textbook. “Fuck off.”

“Wow, Kaminari, fifteen and you’ve already decided your type? Brave,” Tokoyami-fuck said admiringly. “Me? I like big-chested girls!”

Matsumoto shrieked and smacked him over the head. “What the fuck is wrong with you, eh?! You can’t just say that in front of us!”

“Yeah, Tokoyami-kun! Besides, no girls are going to like you with a perverted attitude like that!” Michiko pointed out. “Most of us like a gentleman.” She smiled. “Like Iida-kun.”

Iida went tomato red. “O-Oh! That is very kind of you to say, Tetsutetsu-san! I believe all people should be treated with equal amounts of respect and not fetishished for their bodies -”

“Okay, okay, White Knight,” Tokoyami grumbled. “I get it. What’s your type then? Nerdy girls?”

“It’s inappropriate to talk about -”

“Yawn! Tetsutetsu?”

“Nice,” she said. “Not creepy or anything, with a good head on his shoulders. Not too tall and has to be willing to not treat me like some damsel! Oh! Most importantly I need someone who finds my friends just as cute as I do!”

“Aw,” Kagami squealed. “Michi-kun~! That’s what I want too! A girl who likes me for who I am and wouldn’t want to change me. Plus she has to be funny. How awful would it be if she was a total snore? No, thank you!”

“That’s pretty cool, Ojiro-san,” Matsumoto smiled. “That you’re not so focused on looks.”

“Thanks, but what about you, Matsumoto-chan? What’s your kind of boy like?”

“I like bad girls. Leather jackets, motorbikes, that kind of stuff.”

Iida, really and truly, let out a loud gasp. “Honoka-san!” he chided. Wow, first name basis already? Those two must’ve really hit it off in the past few days.

“Oh calm down, Kentarō,” she rolled her eyes. “You’re such a sensitive guy.”

“Sensitive!?”

“So long as they’re not breaking the law I don’t see any harm in it,” Michiko said. “But I didn’t know you liked girls!” She waggled a finger at her side ponytail. “What do you think of my hair then? I always wondered if it made me seem a bit childish and you can finally tell me what other girls really think!”

“I don’t speak for all lesbians, Tetsutetsu-kun,” Matsumoto chided. “But...I think it looks fine. It’s very you.”

“Yeah, totally your aesthetic, Michi-kun!” Kagami said. “It’d be really weird if you change it now! Like if Ryū-chan started smiling all the time.”

“Fuck off,” he said again.

“So sweet,” Michiko teased.

“Seriously, though,” Tokoyami said, apparently never shutting the hell up. “I would’ve never pegged you as a bl kind of guy, Kaminari. You play it super straight...Uh, pun intended, I guess.”

“Really? I think it’s pretty obvious,” Michiko said. “Ryū-chan is such a kuudere; cold, frosty exterior but a warm, marshmallow-y centre. He needs a nice big guy to balance him out.”

“Someone tall,” Kagami suggested.

“Contrasting colours,” she added. “What goes well with black and red?”

“Pfft, who cares about that? Ryū-chan has expensive tastes and would want them to be smart above all else. He hates people who aren’t super brainy like him.”

“So a tall, serious guy who’s smart and can compliment Ryū-chan’s grumpy personality… Does such a person exist?”

“Hm,” Iida said. “That sounds remarkably like an older student I know.”

“Wow, really? Who?”

“Sasuke,” he said. “Midoriya Sasuke.”

Michiko’s eyes practically rolled out of her head. “Midoriya? Like Number 1 Hero Deku and Number 2 Hero Frostburn, Midoriya? They have kids?”

“Of course,” Kagami poked her. “Don’t you remember, Michi-chan? They used to go to the big meetups our parents had. Sasuke is the older one with green hair, and Haruka is the younger one with red hair. Lots of freckles all around.”

Sasuke and Haruka?” Tokoyami chortled, blue eyes scrunched up in pure mirth. “What were Deku and Frostburn thinking?!”

“Like you have room to talk,” Matsumoto muttered. She rolled her eyes. “And why are we even talking about this in the first place? Kaminari is right here.”

Michiko waved a dismissive hand. “He doesn’t mind. Do you, Ryū-chan?”

Ryū grunted.

“See? Besides, Ryū-chan doesn’t talk much. He’s the cool, silent type. Has been ever since we were little.”

“Kagami-san said your parents were friends, right? That’s why you’ve known each other so long,” Matsumoto said.

“Yeah, exactly. Kagi-kun, Michi-kun and Ryū-chan; best-friends!”

“I was born first,” Kagami said smugly.

“But I was only six days later! We’ve been together ever since - our moms were super duper close since they became pregnant together.” Michiko pulled a face. “That’s not as gross as it sounds.”

“Poor Ryū-chan was seven months late to join us. He’ll never be able to catch up to the same level of our amazing bond,” Kagami wiped a fake tear from his cheek. “So sad.”

“Indeed, it’s admirable you’ve managed to stay so close about all these years,” Iida said, the sarcasm flying right over his head. “Despite the clear personality differences. The only people I have stayed close to our my cousins and that’s most likely just through familial obligations.”

“Wow, Iida-kun,” Michiko marvelled. “Did you swallow a dictionary?”

“DICTIONARY!?” Iida’s eyes rounded as he let out a cry of fury. “HOW DARE YOU INSULT -”

“Wow, wow, what’s going on here, eh?”

A girl with shoulder-length curly pink hair and matching heavy-lidded eyes leaned over Iida’s shoulder. Two others were stood behind her, both near-identical with black hair and blue eyes. The girl on the left had bangs that covered half her face and the one on the right was slouched with her hands in her pockets. All three of them were wearing the little pin on their uniform that identified them as General Education students.

“Can we help you?” Matsumoto asked disapprovingly. “It’s rude to eavesdrop, you know.”

“Oh really? Well, sorry, but I can’t help it! It’s my Quirk, you see; gossip perception! I always know the juiciest piece of gossip in a hundred metre radius, you see, and one of you is letting off a great big one, so I just figured I’d come over here and ask! You never know what people are hiding - well, I do, but most normal people don’t - so I like to give them an opportunity to get it off their chest! It doesn’t always make sense, though, since I don’t get any context for what I hear, and whatever’s going on overhear is complete nonsense to my ears - we tried figuring it out, but none of it added up, so I decided to -”

“Talk much?”

Iida went red. “Honoka-san, you can’t say things like that!”

Ryū, who was now entirely fed-up with the weirdos that had decided to hang around him, packed up his stuff. He was hungry, but hadn’t had time to make lunch that morning, nor did he have any money to buy something. Watching his classmates eat was just torture. He would have more luck finding somewhere quiet to study outside, away from these losers.

“Ryū-chan, where are you going!?” Kagami wailed. “Don’t leave us!”

“We miss you already!” Michiko howled as the cafeteria door swung shut behind him. Ryū sighed as he trekked down the empty hallway. He really did prefer being by himself, though he could tolerate his ‘friends’ in small doses if the mood was right. He was well-practised at that after over ten years of being around them.

He slipped into the closest bathroom and shut himself in a stall.

Ryū was just finishing up his business, in the process of doing up his pants, when he heard the bathroom door slam open. He paused as the person, presumably a boy, as this was the boys’ bathroom, snarled incomprehensibly and kicked the door of a stall a few down from Ryū’s. He listened to him pace the room and then the splash of a sink turning on.

He sounded upset, but also angry. Should Ryū make his presence known?

There was no one around to judge him for not offering a helping hand, but...if he were to gain a reputation as Ryū Kaminari, really a good guy deep down - or, as Michiko put it, a “cold, frosty exterior but a warm, marshmallow-y centre” - that would be very beneficial to his future plans...would stop people alienating him in fear of his blank expressions.

But he also didn’t want to get in the way of this guy with how angry he sounded.

Just as Ryū was resolving to unlock the door and leave the bathroom like a normal person, the strange sniffled a wet sigh. Oh for fuck’s sake. The muffled crying continued for several seconds, followed by a cracking “fuck” that sounded...very deep for a student in their first year. Was this an older boy? Why was he crying in the bathroom and not being comforted by his friends?

A phone rang, a cheery little beeping tune that sounded like a midi of something out of an anime theme. Plastic clattered on porcelain.

“Hey,” the other boy said. He definitely sounded older, with a deeper raspy voice either due to the crying or just how he naturally sounded. “I’m in the bathroom by the cafeteria...Hm. Why? Well, it’s not any of your business what I’m doing here, is it!? No, don’t question me, you idiot! I’ll see you here in a minute and don’t take a second longer than that or I’ll get impatient and do something I regret...” Beep.

Another pause and then another sigh.

“Stupid idiot,” he muttered. “Why does he always have to intrude on my business? It’s so hero-like of him and I hate it! Just like Deku.”

Ryū stared at the stall doors, still sat on the toilet lit. He tucked his feet up with him so that if someone peered underneath they wouldn’t see his feet. He was...there was something very wrong going on here.

“Stupid Deku,” the muttering continued, followed by a consistent scritch-scratch sound that he couldn’t place. “Stealing away my main cast because he’s so selfish - I must get rid of him once and for all.” Scritch-scratch. “Yes...killing Deku would solve all my problems...”

The door opened again and heavy footsteps sauntered into the room.

A deep, slow voice spoke up. “What was so urgent you had me come all the way over here? I was eating.”

“You do what I tell you! You have no manners at all, arguing back with me like that,” the first guy snapped.

“Have you been crying? Your lips are all chapped.” The second guy snorted a laugh. “Well, more than usual anyway. Haven’t you ever heard of chapstick?”

“Shut up. I haven’t got time for you. We need to find Resonate and we need to find her now. I’m getting sick of just hanging around this dump all day.”

Resonate? That sounded like a Pro Hero name...

“Yeah, yeah, I’m working on it. There are a lot of girls out there called Neri, you know. It’s a popular name for kids with sound Quirks. If you helped it might go a bit faster.”

The first guy snarled angrily, though that seemed to be his default state. “This is sidekick work. I’m doing more important things than sniffing down some brat. Get Yamada to help you if you’re so stuck.”

“Maybe I will.”

“Then hopefully you’ll leave me alone and finally get this fucking finished. Is it so hard to do as you’re told? I ought to kill you right now.”

“Oh yeah?” Ryū, who up until this point had been listening with rapt curiosity, blanched. That certainly did not sound like the rest of the conversation, and reminded him horrifyingly of - “You wanna fight, big guy? Well...bring it.”

A wet sound.

They were kissing. Oh, fucking hell they were kissing, Ryū was going to be sick - he could feel the bile in the back of his throat and he wobbled precariously on his toilet throne. His shoe slipped on the lip and smacked against the wall of the stall. His blood froze to ice as all noises stopped. His heart was in his mouth, pounding against his tonsils. He listened to the soft footsteps approach and stared at the red sneakers that came into view under the door.

“Who’s in there?” the first guy whispered hoarsely. “Looks like we have a little spy on our hands... Why don’t you open the door and come out to say hello?”

Ryū shuffled back. He squeezed his eyes shut, holding his breath as fingernails gently scratched at the lock on his door. He didn’t want to see them come for him, their terrifyingly real faces.

The smell of burning reached his nose and Ryū’s eyes shut open just in time to see the door simply...disappear. Where one moment it had been, the next all that was left were a few wisps of dust floating down to the floor.

A boy with long pale blue hair stared back at him, red eyes wide and cracked skin spread in a horrible grin. He was wearing a second-year uniform and was tall and thin with very little muscle definition.

“Oh look,” he said in that low, whispery voice. “An NPC sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. I wonder what he heard...”

Another boy joined him, also dressed in the uniform and also exceedingly tall and thin. He had long, straight red hair with bangs and heavy-lidded turquoise eyes that stared at Ryū apathetically. The freckles across the bridge of his nose and cheeks did not take away from his intimidating aura.

“Dumb kid,” he said gruffly. “Guess we’ll have to get rid of you now.”

“I didn’t hear anything,” Ryū said quickly. “And even if I did I wouldn’t tell anybody what it was - it’s none of my business what other people talk about, after all.” Or when they kiss.

“You’re smart, so it’ll be a shame to get rid of you,” the first guy said thoughtfully. “But I won’t lose sleep over it.” He slunk forward and Ryū, with nowhere to go, pushed himself back even further on the toilet seat. What an embarrassing place to die. A hand extended towards to his face.

Ryū looked at the other one, who was merely watching impassively. There would be no help there. Fuck, fuck, fuck - his hand shot out and closed around a wrist much larger than his own, fingers burning red hot, light escaping in a burst of white.

The older boy gasped, the smell of burning skin thick in the cramped stall. Ryū slammed a foot into his leg and wiggled under his arm, not letting go until the very last moment. Apathy replaced by cold fury, the other one reached for him, blue eyes enraged.

“You little cheat! Get him, Haru!”

A fist closed in the back of his shirt and Ryū found himself dangling in the air like a sad kitten, legs flailing. The other one, Haru, stared back at him, lips pulled down into a snarl.

“Feisty thing, aren’t you?” He too held out a hand, bringing it close to Ryū’s face, fingertips grazing his chin. “But your heat won’t compare to mine.”

Blue flames burst across his vision, flickering in the sterile bathroom lighting. The sensation merely tickled and Ryū watched the confusion line the older boy’s face. This...wasn’t looking good, but if his Quirk was fire then it wouldn’t affect Ryū at all, so the only person he had to worry about was -

“Ouch,” a cracked, snarling face was shoved into his own. “You’re going to pay for that!”

The door, once again, flew open, though this time it was paired with an inhuman shriek. Ryū hit the floor in time to catch a glimpse of Kiyo, crawling across the ceiling on her hands and feet with her mouth spread open from ear to ear like a black cavern.

“What the fucking shit is that!?” Haru threw himself against the sinks, blue flames dancing up his arms. “Tezuka - “

EAT she howled. EAT THEM UP

She scrambled down the mirror, which broke under the power of the sharp black claws replacing her fingernails. The shards rained across the floor into tiny reflective fragments.

“Kiyo -” Ryū managed and she leapt onto Haru’s back with a sudden mouthful of a thousand razor-sharp teeth, ready to rip open his jugular. “No!” His whole body itched like a scab not yet fully healed and the tiles around him began to warp and crack.

The sinks blackened under Haru as he fell back against them. The other boy, Tezuka, lunged forward and tangled his hand in the rags hanging from Kiyo’s skeletal body. She screeched again as they began to disintegrate.

Ryū, with lack of a better option, stumbled to his feet and shoved Tezuka with an elbow to his side. They hit the floor and Ryū ended up squashed between the older boy and the tiles, a leg shoved right into his stomach.

“Kiyo!” he grunted and she pushed Haru to the ground, landing on the tiles beside them.

Ryū Ryū Ryū

“Dumb beast!” Tezuka howled thrashing on top of him. “How dare you attack us -”

She caught his foot and pulled him off. How the fuck was nobody else hearing this? Tezuka hit the wall and slid down, pale blue hair falling into his face.

Is Ryū alright? Is Ryū OKAY? Her voice glitched on the last word, coming as a subsonic rumble that Ryū could see reverberate out from her cavernous mouth. Eat, eat, eat

“No eating,” he gasped. “No, fucking Christ -”

“Is that your Quirk?” Haru, slumped against the sink, asked, turquoise-coloured eyes wide in both shock and fear. “It obeys you?”

Ryū puffed up a little. Yeah, fucking take that, dumb losers! “Yes, she does. So - so don’t mess with me and we won’t have a problem!” He stumbled to his feet and crossed his arms as cooly as he could. “I was never here and it’ll stay that way if you want to keep your faces the way they are!”

Tezuka snarled. “Cheating NPC...I’ll get you back for this...”

Ryū threw the bathroom door open and slid out into the empty hallway, Kiyo on his heels. She was still panting and snarling, dripping drool all over the floor. He could hear running footsteps.

“Quick,” he urged. “You need to -”

Yes, she said just as Deku slid around the corner. Why the hell was this guy always at U.A.? He wasn’t even a teacher for fuck’s sake. He slowed to a stop and Ryū realised he probably made for an odd sight, just standing in the middle of the hallway.

He pointed at the bathroom. “I think someone’s fighting in there,” he said helpfully. “I heard lots of noise on my way out of the cafeteria.”

“Thank you, Kaminari-kun!” Deku said. “Please get out of the area!” He ran over and kicked open the door with so much ridiculous force it flew off its hinges and smashed through two stalls.

Ryū, who was very pleased with himself indeed, if a little shaken up, didn’t want to stick around. He could only hope both Haru and Tezuka kept their mouths shut, but they would if they knew what was good for them. At least he'd be out of the equation then, even if they now had him on their radars. It didn't matter, though; they were on his, too.

He looked at Kiyo, staring at her burning red irises and the way she eyed the bathroom like it was a bento containing a particularly tasty rice and meat dish.

“So, what the fuck was that all about?”

Eat? she asked sheepishly.

“Yes,” he snapped. “Eat.”

 


 

Chapter Text

Kiyo, unsurprisingly really, was unforthcoming. She stared at Ryū with those glowing red eyes and that razor-sharp grin, and offered what he could only describe, on a disgusting beast creature that was, as a...shrug.

A shrug.

Hungry, was all she would elaborate.

“Yes,” he said as they made their way outside to an empty courtyard lined in blossoming sakura trees and neatly trimmed hedges. “But - you were going to eat them. I heard you.”

Surprised…?

“Of course I’m fucking surprised! What do you think would happen to me if my Quirk went off and decided to eat two other students?” She stared at him, nonplussed. “Well, I’d be arrested and it would be all your fault.”

Couldn’t help it. They were so mean to my Ryū...so angry and violent. They were going to hurt you.

“We don’t eat people,” he stressed. “I’ll be expelled, no doubt about that and I don’t plan on getting kicked out for the sake of some new dumb aspect of my Quirk. Especially one that doesn’t even seem to be fucking useful!”

So rude. I am extremely useful, thank you very much.

“Oh yeah? So far all you’ve done is freak me the fuck out, cause me to look like an idiot in front of my whole class and attack some pissed-off older students.”

In the process of saving you.

“Inelegantly,” he sniffed. “Besides, I can look after myself.” And had been doing so for quite a few years, actually. “I don’t need you butting your nose into my business.”

The ear-to-ear smile extended a little and Kiyo let out a loud hissing sound as a long forked tongue slithered out of her mouth. It flicked from side to side and then disappeared back into her mouth.

Fine. So ungrateful.

He watched her turn and crawl up the wall, bare feet and hands easily clinging onto the sheer surface. She shoved at the window and it opened with a gust of cold wind. Ryū felt a bit bad. If she really was his Quirk, then -

Good luck surviving without me, she snarled as she disappeared outside. Little brat.

 


 

Katsuki reclined back in his chair with a glass of ice water in his burning hands. He was stuffed into the corner of the teacher’s lounge, half-graded papers scattered around him. Not his own, of course; there's was fuck all anyone could do to convince him to become a teacher. Not in a million years.

But Eijirou, somehow, enjoyed it. Or seemed to. He didn't work full time, but even acting as an aide during training exercises at U.A. a few times a week was more than Katsuki could stomach. The only reason he'd helped out some was, he'd easily admit, to further his own selfish desires.

Mainly the one where he wanted to see his fucking kids some more. Was that too much to ask? Rai was off living his life, having cut-off nearly all contact save for the occasional email or text message, Akio was mainly focused on school and his friends and Ryū...well. Katsuki didn't know what to do with Ryū. The kid was too much like himself, from what tiny scraps of evidence he'd seen. Unfortunately, Katsuki didn't really know much more than that; nothing about the kid’s favourite foods, his hobbies, his friendships. It all escaped him.

Denki had insistent on cutting-off all contact. He and Ryū had moved in with his parents and, though Katsuki and Eijirou had been permitted visits for a few months, they had eventually petered off. Even Akio stopped hearing from them, which, though he'd never admit it, being so headstrong, had affected him quite deeply.

Fuck knew why Denki was being like this, though. Something must've been deadly wrong if he'd through separating their family was worth it, but fucked if Katsuki knew what that important something actually was. After all, they hadn't spoken in...five years now. A long ass time to go unaware of someone's motivations.

He'd been surprised to see Mori, though. Denki’s grandfather had, from what he knew, never really been around very often. Katsuki knew he worked as a lawyer for some big company, but not much beyond that as Denki had always remained tight-lipped on the subject of his family. They'd only met his parents a handful of times in all the years they'd been married and one of those had been at their wedding. From what Katsuki could remember, his mother was just as ditsy and blond as him, whilst his father was as uptight and stringent as Iida.

Why had Mori dropped Ryū off at U.A.? It had been bothering him all morning, and Katsuki couldn't get the brat’s face out of his head. He'd looked so...empty. As a teenager his own expressions had always been very angry and a kid who took after him so heavily looking blank was weird. Eijirou and dumb Deku had suggested the same at the staff meeting the night before, but then again, they were getting soft on the students now, especially since their own spawn were attending U.A. (Katsuki was too but he'd never admit to mellowing out like that).

‘Concerning’ was how they'd labelled him. ‘Violent’ and ‘risk-accepting’ was also mentioned. Katsuki couldn't see how either of those were really a problem. He'd been a shithead as a kid, sure, but didn't regret most of what he did. Heroes needed to be tough and make decisions. Risk-accepting sounding like a fucking great thing after all the coddling people were doing now. Who knew teenagers still needed to be treated like babies?

“Yo, Zero,” Hawks sing-songed. “You still in there?”

“Fuck off.”

“Thinking about your clone, huh? He reminded me a lot of you in that video, so I can see why Deku was pretty wigged about it; rivalry is still going strong, I take it. Still. Don't know how I'd feel if my little egg went all...Rambo like that. None of us expected them to be so intense in the first go so maybe that was our bad. Guess it's hard to see your babies grow up, right? And you have three. I'd definitely not survive through that many hormones!”

“Deku’s an idiot,” Katsuki snarled, pissed just thinking about him. “He treats them all like babies. They'll be eaten alive when they get their licences.” Maybe literally with how some Quirks were presenting now... “Haze is just as bad.”

“Shinsou? Nah, he's doing his best, man! None of us planned for Nedzu to just retire like that, but, I mean, he must've been planning it for a while if he made provisions for him to take over. And it's only his first year; so what if the entrance exam was a flop? There's always the next batch. Why don't you help him plan it if you’re so worried?”

“Because it's not my fucking job to do his! Dumbass should've thought of this before he took up the position. Don't think I haven't seen him having them run pointless drills outside, either. Exercise routines are great, sure, but shit in the first week for motivation. He needs to put them through their paces and weed out the kids with no potential.” The teaching curriculum this year was a total joke as far as Katsuki was concerned.

“Bro,” Hawks said, like he was a fucking teenager or some shit. “Chill.”

“CHILL?! Fuck you! Don’t tell me to ‘chill’ you bird-faced freak -”

Eijirou stuck his head around the door. “Katsuki. Babe. My kids are trying to learn out here.”

“Yeah, learn a whole lot of nothing...” He sunk down in his seat anyway. Katsuki was done with arguing with his husband for the most part as it was ‘unhealthy’ according to the nosy bitch that was their marriage therapist. Eijirou winked and disappeared again.

Hawks made a whipping sound and Katsuki went purple with rage as he erupted into a fiery hailstorm of insults.

“You chicken-lickin’ motherfucker! Who the fuck do you think you are, taking the piss out of our fucking amazing -”

Knuckles rapped on the door and Katsuki winced. But only a little. Fuck, he had already forgotten about Eijirou’s request to keep the noise down and now he really was in the shit house -

“Hey, Hawks,” Deku said cheerfully as he took up most of the doorway with his hideous costume bulging with over-the-top muscles. God knew what Icyhot saw in this still-pathetic nerd. “Have you got a minute?”

“Sure thing,” Hawks, who was unfazed by Katsuki’s raging, grinned. “What’s up, kid?”

“It’s about Kei,” Deku said nervously, rubbing the back of his neck like he wasn’t the fucking Number 1 Hero of the entirety of Japan. “Have you seen him this morning?”

Hawks took his feet off his desk. “No,” he drew out. “Why? Has something happened?”

Waving his hands, Deku shook his head rapidly. “No no! I’m sorry I worried you, but there’s been an incident with Haruka and, of course, Tezuka Shin. Usually, when something like this happens, Kei isn’t far behind, so...”

“You thought he might be involved. Well usually I’d agree with you, but he’s at home today; there’s a flu going around our apartment building and I think he caught it over the weekend. What happened? Another fight?”

“It’s strange,” Deku said. “I found him and Tezuka-kun in the bathroom by the cafeteria and it appears they destroyed it for no reason...but they weren’t helpful in explaining why.”

“That is weird. Zero? As our resident hothead, do you have a clue about what set them off?”

“Eat shit,” he growled half-heartedly. “I still don’t see how a kid like Haruka can come from you and Icyhot, two of the biggest losers I know.” The kid was a total badass as far as Katsuki was concerned, though maybe a little too impulsive for his own good. “Maybe they had a fight.”

“Maybe,” Deku said, though he didn’t seem to really be considering that as an option. Which made sense when you thought about the fact that Haruka and his friend were always arguing. “Well, sorry to be a bother. I was just worried when I didn’t find Kei-chan there.”

“Yeah, no, the kid’s fine. He probably would’ve been right along with them if he wasn’t off sick, so don’t feel bad for assuming,” Hawks said dismissively. “What are we going to do with them, eh? High tempers in Pros aren’t exactly sort-after traits and sometimes I think the three of them are worse than ol’ Zero here ever was.”

“Can it, sky-rat,” he replied. Deku’s kid was a nightmare. The first one, Sasuke, was more like Icyhot, quiet and too fucking mysterious for his own good, even having inherited heterochromia from him.

Haru, full name Haruka, was also a bit like that. He looked mostly like that shitbag Endeavor, but with all the charm of a particularly insistent serial killer; cold and dead-eyed, smug and a little bastard when he felt like it (which was most of the time). He lacked empathy with victims in hero training and often decimated exercises with no eye for collateral damage. Katsuki, who had heard enough from Deku over the years, knew that a lot of people were concerned about him and what he might do were he to get his official licence and begin patrolling Japan without someone keeping a close eye on him.

Tezuka Shin, the creepy-ass best-friend of Deku’s brat, was arguably worse. A warped sense of self-righteousness mixed with immaturity, arrogance and ambition did not a good hero make, really. Katsuki was bad, but not that bad. From the stories he’d been told, he wasn’t sure how the kid was still a student. His parents surely had a big pull with the school donors to keep him around.

“I sent them along to the Piper,” Deku scrubbed a hand over his tired eyes. Late night patrols were clearly taking a toll on him. “But Shinsou will need to hear about this and you know how tired he’s getting with it all.” He sighed. “Not that I blame him.”

“Kids, am I right?” Hawks agreed. “Way harder than I thought they’d be, to be honest, and I can’t lie and say I would’ve chosen to have Kei if I knew what I was in for.”

Deku sat down on Oshiro’s desk, which strained under his weight. “I love Haruka and I love Sasuke...it’s just...really hard.” He looked at Katsuki with glittering eyes. “Kacchan, please don’t say you’ll hold this against me...that I’m being ungrateful...”

“Tt,” Katsuki scoffed. “Like you don’t already know how fucked my brats are. Two of them I haven’t seen in years and the one who stuck around hates my guts.”

“Aki? No way! He doesn’t hate you, Kacchan!”

“What do you know?” Katsuki said without any real heat. The bitterness had all but faded from him after all this time, really. “I was never good with kids and I definitely shouldn’t have had any.”

“Don’t say that,” Hawks gently kicked his chair leg. “Look at how awesome they turned out! Two in U.A.? That’s a thing to be proud of for sure!”

“Maybe,” he said noncommittally.

The bell rang. “That’s lunch,” Hawks slapped his thighs as he slid to his feet. “Good luck convincing Shinsou about Haru-kun and Tezuka-kun. I know how much of stiff he can be.”

“Hitoshi-kun is fine,” Deku smiled. “It’s Shōto that I’m worried about. He’s been really upset recently about Haru and I’m afraid this will push him over the edge.”

“Icyhot will be fine. Kid can’t get any worse than Endeavor and he put up with that asshole for years.”

“Yes,” Deku sighed. “That’s what I’m worried about.”

“Come on,” Hawks said, patting Deku on the shoulder. “Let’s get you outside to Hero training, big guy. You can show us a thing or two about one on one fights, okay? Get some tension off your shoulders.” He smirked. “Not that Frostburn doesn’t help with that anyway.”

Deku flushed across his cheeks. “Hawks!” But he smiled and followed him out of the room, anyway. “Bye, Kacchan! I’ll see you after class finishes!”

“Whatever,” Katsuki grunted and then he was left all alone.

Again.

 


 

Ryū didn’t see Kiyo the rest of the day. He kept an eye out for her, but not a single glimpse of tangled black hair, or filthy grey clothing, or a terrifying teeth-filled grin, could be found. He felt some kind of way about dismissing her like that, but there was no way he could apologise. It just felt too weird. If she was his Quirk she’d eventually just make her own way back anyway, right?

Saki-sensei, also known by her Hero name Lady Blacksmith, gave out a worksheet for homework and Ryū completed it whilst he sat by the front gate. Michiko gave him a funny look when she and Kagami walked past, but they were too busy chatting with Iida, Matsumoto, Nakano and Tokoyami to come over and ask what he thought he was doing.

He waited for a good half-an-hour and then, bored out of his mind now that he’d finished his homework, Ryū took out of his phone and called his grandparents house. The line rang and rang, before eventually reaching their voicemail. His grandmother was usually very good at answering, especially when he called at the end of the day to say he’d be late, etcetera, so for her to not pick up...hm.

After a while, he heard a loud group of people approaching from inside; the tempo of happy voices and the crunch of stones underfoot. A gaggle of older students appeared around the corner and a brown-haired girl stopped when she saw him sat crossed-legged on the grass like a homeless bum. “Hey, are you okay?”

He jerked a nod, eyes on his lap, hoping against hope that she’d simply fuck off and leave him alone without -

“Sayaka-kun, are you coming or not?” Another boy joined her. He had spiky blonde hair and a long obnoxious orange scarf. “Oh hey there! Are you a first year?”

“Don’t be stupid; he’s too small to be any older than that. Did your parents forget to pick you up?” she asked kindly. “You can borrow my phone to call home if you’d like.”

Ryū took out his own phone in the hopes that doing so would convince her to leave him the hell alone.

But, alas, he wasn’t lucky enough for that.

“Guys? Are you -“ two clunky boots moved into his peripheral. “...Oh.”

A hot flush spread across his cheeks and down the back of his neck. He was sure they could hear his racing heartbeat.

“You know each other?” The girl asked. “I can...woah. Are you alright? You look really pale all of a sudden!”

“Um,” he cleared his throat. “So. What are you...doing here?”

A short silence ensued in which Ryū, who had yet to look up, found his entire body paralysed with horror. He did not fucking need this right now.

“Wow. Uh, you two...know each other?”

Ryū cracked his knuckles. He jerked his head up. Piercing yellow eyes set against deeply tanned skin and messy, overgrown black hair, stared back at him. Older, yes, but so familiar it cut deep into the untouched parts of his soul, the places he’d kept buried for years.

 


 

The sun beat down on Ryū’s face, hot and unyielding. He let himself bask in its warmth, knowing his Quirk would protect him from any of the dangers that came from not wearing sunscreen. He loved the heat, especially when lying on the grass like he was. It felt like one of the only places he could ever be peaceful, nestled away in the park by his house. He could hear other kids laughing on the playground not far away, the bark of one dog chasing after another and the rustle of leaves in the sweet summer wind.

“Hey!”

He opened his eyes, eyes focusing on the sun-lit figure leaning over him with their hands on their hips. Ryū sat up with a yawn. He’d nearly fallen asleep lying there and being disturbed was not something he was enjoying right at that moment, to be honest.

“What do you want?”

Ryū was ten. These kids, all four of them, were two years older than him. Even had they not been, he was sure they would’ve been taller either way; the doctor had said Ryū was very small for his age and unlikely to get much bigger anytime soon. No, it wasn’t their height that bothered him.

“You think you can tell us what to do?” the ringleader, a boy with four eyes and an extra pair of fingers on each hand, scowled. His name was Bushida and he was a renowned bully at Ryū’s school. Everyone steered clear of him and his little gang. “You really are an idiot!”

“Yeah,” the girl on the left said. She had no outward presenting Quirk, but was stocky and leaning on a gleaming silver scooter. “Shut your mouth, Bakugou.” Her round moon of a face was stained red from the sun, beads of sweat gathering on her forehead.

“Don’t forget, Hashi,” Bushida smiled cruelly at Ryū. “It’s Kaminari now.”

The other girl, also without a visible Quirk, chuckled. “Oh yeeeeeah,” she said. “And you know what that means.”

“I always did think your family was weird,” Hashi spat. “Freakish.”

“Yeah yeah,” said the last boy. He had a row of spikes as a mohawk and slitted pupils. “I mean, who has THREE dads, huh? So damn gross.”

“Fuck off,” Ryū said, feeling like his body was going to shake right out of his shoes. But not from fear. From fury. He hated people like this, and even more so he hated the subject of his stupid ass parents. “At least MY parents want me.” Well...one of them.

The smirk on Bushida’s face slipped right off. “What did you just say to me?”

Everyone in the neighbourhood knew about Bushida’s family; that his mother had only ever married his father because he was a wealthy businessman often away for his job. That she had numerous affairs and felt nothing for her only child; never attending a single parents’ evening or school function. Ryū had seen the older boy sitting alone whenever the students’ families were invited to the school for some party or another. At least his papa had always shown up to those even if da - Ground Zero and Red Riot didn’t.

Ryū didn’t care either way, but he knew Bushida was very sensitive about it. It would’ve been hypocritical of him to judge him seeing as his own family was now spread out in ruins around him and had been for the last six months. He wasn’t sure he’d prefer them to stay together just for appearances, however, and was just glad he and his papa could settle into their quiet little apartment together. He’d even gotten his own bedroom. But he missed sharing with his brother

“Come on, Bushida,” the other girl, Ikeru, said, frowning at Ryū in a disapproving way. Like he was the one who’d gone too far, who’d crossed an invisible line in the sand. “He’s not worth it. Just some dumb kid.”

Bushida, either ignoring her or simply unable to hear through the red cloud, stalked towards Ryū with murder in his eyes. Ryū, who had never ran away from a fight before, stared up at him without a tremor. Bushida fisted his hands in his shirt and lifted Ryū clean off his feet.

Hot spit hit his cheek and Ryū was thrown unceremoniously onto the short, well-managed grass, tailbone ringing with pain at the heavy landing. His pride stung most of all, however.

The older boy stood over him, face twisted hideously with pure contempt. His fists were flexing rhythmically. ““Don’t you fucking talk about that,” he snarled. “Don’t fucking say anything about my parents! You don’t know NOTHING about me, you freak.”

“Oh, so you can talk about me?” Ryū launched himself to his feet. “But I can’t talk about you?”

“Go fuck yourself, Kaminari,” he hissed in a deathly whisper. “Don’t talk about my family.”

Ryū sucked his teeth. “I’ll do whatever I want.”

“Let’s go,” Hashi said, grabbing his shoulder and attempting to pull him away. “Come on, let’s just get out of here.”

He shook her hand off, staring at Ryū with eyes full of hate and some other unnamed emotion. His foot swung back and Ryū braced himself a split second before it smashed directly into his face. He cried out, curling away from them with his hands over his throbbing nose and cheek. It was painful and, more than that, it was humiliating.

Bushida crouched down. “Not so tough now, are you?” he whispered so that the others couldn’t hear. “Your brothers kept you well looked-after, but now they’re gone and there’s no one left who gives a shit about what happens to you.”

“Fuck...off,” Ryū managed around the blood spilling into his mouth.

Laughing, Bushida grabbed his hair and wrenched his head back so far his neck felt as if it might break at any moment. His extra pair of eyes, black and beady, stared unblinkingly at him. “Pathetic,” he spat. “No wonder they left you.” He stood up. “Let’s find something better to do, guys. This kid isn't worth any more of our time.”

“See you around,” the unnamed boy laughed, aiming a kick at Ryū’s undefended legs. He barely felt the impact. “Ha! Oh my god, what a loser.”

Ryū waited until their laughter fizzled out of earshot and then curled up into a little ball under the heat of the unjudging sun. He felt the grass prickle at his throbbing face.

A wet trickle descended down his cheek.

And then a few more.

It was the last time Ryū cried in a long, long time.

 


 

“Yeah. I mean...he’s my brother.”

 


 

Chapter Text

The girl did a double-take. “What?!” she practically screamed. “Since when?!”

“Since forever,” Akio said. “I guess.” He scrubbed at the back of his neck, black hair fluffing up even more. He looked like a try-hard punk, especially with the line of piercings in his ears and the black-painted nails. “What’s up, Ryū? It’s...been a while, huh?”

Ryū stood up, shouldered his bag and marched off down the road. Surely whatever Kurou-sama would dish out onto him for not waiting around for his ride wasn’t worth even being in the nearby vicinity of that shitbag. He didn’t deserve a single second of Ryū’s attention.

“Hey! Wait up!” he could hear rapid footsteps pounding down the sidewalk after him. “Ryū!”

Ryū, who was not in any sort of mood to deal with irritating ex-family members, walked a little faster, picking it up to a light jog. He felt dumb running from some loser, but Ryū wasn’t above feeling dumb sometimes. He did hang out with Michiko and Kagami, after all.

“I just want to - ugh!” Ryū could hear Akio kick the tree he had just passed by. “Don’t just walk away like that!”

“Come on, Aki,” the girl called. “Just leave him. He’s just some dumb kid.”

Ryū, stung by her comment despite not even knowing her name, kept up his pace until he was around a corner near a copse of trees. He sat behind a large bush, kicking his shoes off and burying his sock-covered toes in the blades of dewy grass. His heart, still pounding in his ears, slowed a little.

After a few minutes, he heard them trooping past.

“-years,” Akio said. Ryū could glimpse his bright white shirt through the leaves of the bush, the flash of a grey blazer and red tie. Black hair.

“That’s crazy. And he never tried to...email or anything? Text?”

“No. I guess his dad wouldn’t let him.”

“He’s your dad too, Bakugou,” the tall blond boy pointed out, hands in his pockets. They’d come to a slow stop right beside Ryū’s resting spot. Just his luck, really.

Akio scoffed. “Not anymore,” he tossed his head back, spiky black hair falling away from his forehead for a moment and then flopping back down again. Ryū spotted the frown tugging at his lips. “Why would I want to be associated with some deadbeat loser like that?”

At that, Ryū’s face grew hot and, a red haze taking over his vision, he charged through the bush and hit the sidewalk. His face was surely steaming, his eyes flashing with uncontained anger. What right did this fucker have to talk about his dad like that?

“Shut up!” he was yelling, but the words felt very distant. Like they weren’t truly coming from his mouth. “You don’t have a right to talk about him like that!” Akio was staring at him, was flushed and dappled with ill-temper. He looked. Very familiar.

He licked his lips. “You were spying on us?”

“Bakugou,” the girl said, but she was just standing there. Just watching. They were always just... watching.

“Huh? Well, he is!” Akio kicked a piece of paper at him, the worksheet Ryū had been doing not half an hour before. “It’s not like he stuck around any longer than he had to! What kind of guy just cuts off all contact like that, huh!? Just...leaves?”

Ryū hefted his satchel off his shoulder. He was barefoot, so he clenched the handle and threw it, the angle of the arc sailing straight over his head. Akio dodged to one side, face twisting. “He had no choice!” Papers scattered across the ground, books and pens and Ryū’s empty bento box from the day before. He was still desperately hungry.

Akio spat on the ground. “There’s always a choice!” The blond boy tried to come between them and Akio shoved him away, stumbling. “Stay out of this.”

“No, come on, dude. He’s just a dumb kid.”

Ryū screamed wordlessly. It - “You don’t understand - none of you understand!”

“What is there to ‘ understand’!? That he loved you more than he loved us, so that’s why he left!? Yeah! Real fucking - difficult!”

“I hate you!” He snatched the bento box from the ground and threw that as well, where it hit Akio’s shoulder and then bounced down to the floor with a metal clatter. Not a second later, hands fisted in his blazer and Ryū was swung into the air. His feet, far from the ground, kicked pointlessly out at Akio’s chest. He shoved at his hands, scratching and screaming.

Akio threw him back against a low wall, face still red-cheeked, eyes blazing empty. He could feel the concrete against his back where his shirt had ridden up, the scrape of it against his skin.

“Bakugou -” the girl pulled at Akio’s shoulder, but it was no use against his Quirk and he simply shook her off like she was a particularly annoying bug.

Let go of me!” Ryū yelled, still scratching and kicking like a feral cat. He fucking hated being grabbed like this, being touched and manhandled by some - some - “Let go! Get off!”

“Akio! Leave him!”

“Hey, what’s going on!?” a man had stopped his car haphazardly at the side of the road and was half-leaning out of the driver’s side window. “Leave that kid alone!”

Akio heaved him back and slammed him into the wall once more, hands vice-like on his shoulders. Ryū, who knew he had no chance of escaping him with sheer force, last-resorted to his Quirk and heated up his fingers as they lay hung uselessly in the air.

“Fuck you,” he gasped and, as he’d hoped, Akio growled back at that.

“What the h -”

He was cut off as Ryū shoved his fingers in his mouth, pressing his fingertips up into the soft palate where the skin was the most sensitive.

Akio’s teeth chomped down on the second knuckle and Ryū then realised what a humongous idiot he was. He made a noise, closer to a strangled yelp than a real scream, and wrenched his arm back.

Unfortunately, that did nothing but tug painfully on his shoulder, which made a sad grinding sound and shot agony all the way across his shoulder blades and upper back. He made another sad little noise and his vision fizzled like television static.

Then he was on the ground, clutching his bloodied, throbbing fingers and trying to keep his arm as still as possible whilst doing so. The intervening civilian man had his hand up and Akio was drifting lazily through the air as his legs kicked wildly. It looked like he was yelling, but as he was surrounded by a pale blue bubble, any noise was muted.

“Are you okay?” he asked Ryū.

“Kaminari-kun!” a girl came running around from the other side of the car, long blade twin-tails flapping behind her. She dropped to her knees at his side. “Are you okay? What happened?” She looked over her shoulder at Akio. “Do you know that boy?”

Ryū sucked in a pained breath. “Shiomi,” he said. “Stop talking.”

She nodded. “Right. Dad!” she told the man. “Can you keep him that way until we get back inside the school grounds?”

The man, Shiomi’s father, nodded firmly.

“We’ll come with you,” Akio’s useless friend said. It was the girl, as the boy was mysteriously missing. “Amajiki-kun ran on ahead to find a teacher!”

Ryū was pulled to his feet and led gently along by Shiomi, who chatted quietly with her father. Akio bobbled along next to them, still in his blue bubble, and he looked pissed.

Shinsou-sensei met them at the main doors. He was holding a remote control and a small bag. He also looked pissed.

“Bakugou,” he said. “Kaminari. What is going on here?”

“Sensei,” Shiomi said. “We saw, uh, Bakugou attack Kaminari-kun first. He made the first move!”

“An upperclassman attacking a student in their first year is reprehensible!” Shiomi’s father said. “What kind of heroes are you training hero that they’d do this in their final year of schooling?”

“Not this kind, I assure you, Shiomi-san,” Shinsou-Sensei said firmly. “This matter will be dealt with appropriately.” He nodded at Akio. “Please release him.”

Shiomi’s father did, but not without a stern frown in the older boy’s direction. Akio dropped but landed on his feet. He immediately opened his mouth, but Shinsou-sensei got their first.

“My office,” he said. “Now.”

“But the boy’s injured!” Shiomi’s father protested. “He needs a doctor!”

“One will meet us there. Thank you for your help, Shiomi-san, Shiomi-kun. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”

Ryū, allowing Shiomi to pat his arm comfortingly and even mustering a tight, ingenuine smile for her, trailed after Akio as he marched behind Shinsou-sensei.

That had not been how he’d imagined his long-awaited reunion with his older brother as a child. There had been a lot more violence than eleven-year-old Ryū had dreamt of. Fifteen-year-old Ryū was not upset, though - just disappointed. Why couldn’t one of his family members just be normal for once? Was that really too much to ask for?

A tall man with neat red hair and hazy blue eyes like chips of ice was waiting for them. He must’ve been the school nurse, which was further supported by the white + on armband. He smiled thinly at them.

“Bite wounds to extremities,” he mumbled. “Lacerations to back, pulled muscles, half-dislocated left shoulder. What on earth have you done to yourself, young man?”

“And what about me?” Akio asked bitterly. “My mouth is still sore.”

“First degree burn,” the man dismissed. “No worse than a day in the sun. Just try not to eat anything citrusy and it should heal within the next day. You, on the other hand,” he pointed at Ryū. “Sit.”

He sat in front of Shinsou-sensei’s desk and watched the man pull out...a flute of all things. He lifted it to his lips, which he wet, and then began to blow.

Ryū didn’t remember much after that.

 


 

 

He opened his eyes and blinked.

The face hovering above his own blinked back.

“What the fuck are you doing,” he said.

Shiomi sat back and he shuffled upwards in what he could now see was a hospital bed. Presumably in the hospital room of U.A., though with his luck who really knew; it could end up being the hideout for the most villainous evildoer in the whole of Japan and he wouldn’t feel a lick of surprise.

“I thought I’d sit with you,” she said, looking at him like he was a bit touched in the head. “Since no one else wanted to.”

“Ouch,” he said flatly.

He looked out the window and, to his horror, it was nearing dark. Had Kurou-sama been informed of the incident or was he...still waiting? Ryū didn’t even want to consider what would happen if that were the case, but all he knew is that it wouldn’t be good. Not good at all.

“What happened?”

“You got into a fight,” a man swanned in through the door. It was the red-headed guy from before. The one with the - “The Pied Piper,” he said. “U.A.’s nurse. I make sure dumb kids like you keep all their parts attached and in...relatively good condition. You, however, seem to be on a crusade to mess with that. What on earth compelled you to get into a fight with a third year student?”

“He’s my brother,” Ryū said, like that was a good reason to get into a fight. Well, to him it was, at least.

“Brothers?” Shiomi asked incredulously and the ‘nurse’ finally noticed her.

“You again?” The Pied Piper raises an eyebrow at her. “Go home, kid! It’s too late to be here for no good reason.”

“Yes, Piper-san,” Shiomi stood up and dusted off her uniform skirt. “I hope you feel better soon, Kaminari-san.” She smiled softly. “See you tomorrow.”

He grunted and she left.

Good. Ryū didn’t have time for visitors, for - for friends. He threw the blankets off and swung his legs out of the long, skinny hospital bed.

“All fixed?” The Pied Piper asked as he watched Ryū inspect the paper-thin white hospital gown he was now dressed in. “Yes, you’re uniform was quite ruined after I was done with it. I have a spare one for you over there. Dress quickly and you can still make the last bus.”

Ryū dressed at a moderate pace. He buttoned up his new uniform, which was about two sizes too big for him, and opened the door. He felt like an uncertain idiot and he hated it. What the fuck was wrong with this school and its teachers fucking getting involved in his business like this?

“You’d probably be pleased to know that the older boy you were fighting has been taken into a meeting with the principal and his parents, and put on a two-day suspension.”

Ryū was sort of glad about the latter, but the former...not so much. What was with those two assholes and being in his vicinity lately? It’s not like they’d been doing it over the last five years!

“This way, please.” Ryū trailed after the man, eyeing the long bag he had strapped on his back. Clearly it was where he kept that flute, the one that had knocked Ryū out and healed his injuries.

The Pied Piper held the door open for him, revealing the front gates dappled at dusk, street lights circling yellow domes of luminosity onto the sidewalk. There was no silver car idling in sight, no stern yellow glare awaiting him - he was royal and truly fucked. A bus flew past.

“Guess you missed it,” the nurse said, not looking very bothered about leaving a student without a way home late in the evening. “Do you live far?”

Fifteen minutes on his bike. About half-an-hour on foot, less if he ran.

“No,” he hiked his bag higher on his shoulder and headed down the steps. “Sayōnara, sensei.”

“Sayōnara,” echoed the Pied Piper, disappearing back inside. The door made an audible locking sound as it swung shut and then Ryū was left all alone.

Again.

Hands tucked into his pocket, he set off. He passed the grassy area where Akio - that piece of shit - had attacked him with his loser friends, and rounded a corner under a streetlight. However, he was startled to a stop when his eyes focused in on a man leaning against the wall, smoking a red-tipped cigarette. An expensive, two-door, blue car was parked in front of him, neatly tucked against the curb. The headlights were off, but the engine was running.

The smell of tobacco hung in the air, along with the faint whiff of cologne. He didn’t know how he hadn’t noticed it before, now that the scent was so prominent and choking.

The man looked up, the cigarette lighting the planes of his face. He took it out of his mouth.

He looked familiar, but Ryū couldn’t quite make out his features in the limited light and his black hair was too common to place. Then he shifted and the streetlight illuminated his eyes enough to reveal a pair of extremely distinctive rectangular-shaped pupils.

It was Ariyoshi-san, who worked with Kurou-sama at his legal firm. Ryū had never met him personally but had seen them talking outside the house before and knew the man had even suggested the brand of tea his grandmother still enjoyed.

“Did I startle you?” he asked. “It’s quite dark out.”

“Yes,” Ryū said. “So I have to go home.” His feet stayed firmly rooted to the ground, however. How was he supposed to speak with the only man ever friendly enough with his Kurou-sama to visit the house several times just to chat? All adults he knew seemed to expect different levels of formality and it was confusing as hell.

“Well, that’s why I’m here, Ryū,” he explained. “To collect you for dinner.”

Why? “Why?” He’d never even spoken to Ariyoshi-san before, let alone been driven home by him from school. Not for his three days at U.A., and certainly not back at middle school. The only person who’d driven him then had been Kurou-sama (not including the distant memories of his estranged family, of course). “I can walk -”

“No, no,” Ariyoshi-san said. He dropped the cigarette and ground the flame away with his shoe. Ryū could no longer see his rectangular pupils. “I insist.” He gestured at the idling blue car. “Hop on in.”

Ryū got in the car. He sat in the passenger’s seat with his bag at his feet and hands in his lap. The leather seats also smelt of cigarette smoke and cologne, alongside peppermint or perhaps liquorice. A little Hawaiian hula-girl was stuck to the dashboard and she swayed as Ariyoshi-san climbed into the driver’s seat, adjusting the mirrors and clicking in his seatbelt.

Houses flashed by as they drove down near-empty streets, keeping to the residential areas to, presumably, avoid the late-evening traffic. Ariyoshi-san reached over to turn the radio on, which was playing some slow, drowsy jazz song.

At one point they passed Michiko’s house and for a moment Ryū could imagine he saw his friend standing in the window, laughing and wrestling with her father. Then the road flashed past and they were turning into Ryū’s, speeding down towards the little two-story place he lived with his grandmother and grandfather. The lights were on downstairs, his uncle Daiki’s motorbike still parked outside.

“We passed my house.”

“Be respectful,” Ariyoshi-san said, still focusing on the road. “Your grandmother didn’t bring you up with bad enough manners to question your elders.”

“But I live back there,” Ryū twisted around in his seat, staring back down the road, though his house was already out of sight. “Number 117.”

“When Mori-san told me you were a quiet boy, I didn’t think that meant you’d ask so many questions.”

It wasn’t a question - it wasn’t a question -

This guy was crazy. Ryū felt sorry for him, sorry that he’d ever agreed to get into the car in the first place, and pity that he seemed to have nothing better to do than pick up his friend’s great-grandson late home from school.

“Where are we going?”

“More questions,” Ariyoshi-san said to himself. “Keep quiet.”

“Wh -”

“Keep quiet.”

He shut his mouth with a quiet sound, listening to the sad jazz and watching the houses whizz past at increasing speeds. They were pushing forty miles an hour and speedometer was only climbing higher by the second. After ten minutes passed it was at nearly seventy.

“You’re very handsome,” Ariyoshi-san said. “But I’ve always thought so.”

Ryū stared mutely out the window.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” he could see Ariyoshi-san looking at him out of the corner of his eye. “Boyfriend?” he pushed coyly.

“No,” he said. “I really need to get home.” He didn’t recognise this neighbourhood anymore; not the houses, not the street names and not the stores they were passing. He just wanted his bed.

They slowed to a gradual stop and made a right turn into the entryway to a small play park. There were no children playing, not a single soul in sight. The parking lot was empty and Ariyoshi-san parked his expensive blue car in a space next to a copse of trees. He turned the engine off, leaving only the small light from the radio to provide visibility.

He looked over.

“Take your clothes off.”

Ryū was very cold. The heating was on in the car and it was only April, but his fingers and toes, tucked underneath his satchel, were so so cold. He didn’t turn his head, didn’t stop looking out the window at the jungle gym and the swings and the slide. He hadn’t been on a slide in years, but could remember his brothers coaxing him down a big one near their house, gleaming silver under the summer sun as he whimpered and clung to the rails at the top. “You can do it, Ryū,” they said. “Just go! Before you get frozen!”

He was sure the sentiment applied now. Now, as a large hand came to rest on his leg, right where Kurou-sama’s had that very morning. But he hadn’t been able to go down the slide, and eventually, his dad had come to fetch him, laughing as he plucked Ryū from his metal tower. His sharp teeth had been comforting then, his calloused hands and crimson hair as familiar as could be.

And he couldn’t move at this moment either.

“Do as I say,” Ariyoshi said softly. “Take your clothes off.”

Ryū undid his tie and it slid down between his seat and the handbrake, disappearing into the dark. He unbuttoned his shirt, but only managed a few buttons before Ariyoshi’s hand was drifting up his stomach and shoving up below his ribs. Fingers caressed across his skin, feeling the goosebumps that arose at the pang of disgust. He felt sick, felt like he always did under the attention of his -

Ariyoshi continued to rub his chest and then pressed their lips together. To Ryū, his mouth felt very wet, very smooth. Like the skin of a eel, the pressure hard and forceful. He wanted to pull away, but he was pinned against the door and the seat, and he wanted to scream but he was too aware of what would happened when he opened his mouth. His first kiss had been with a girl in his middle school, a girl whose name he could no longer remember. She’d smelt like strawberries, though, and they had stood under a cherry blossom tree not far from school. He’d turned her confession down, but she’d sat with him at lunch, not bothered by his silent disposition and scathing looks. She’d moved away at the end of the year and then he’d sat alone again. Ryū remembered thinking that being alone was the worst thing that could happen, that all his problems stemmed from how alone he truly was.

As Ariyoshi undid his belt, his pants, Ryū wished to be alone with all his might.

Ariyoshi pulled away and, just like his mouth, his face was wet and shiny in the light from the wing mirror. He was sweating heavily and the tobacco/cologne smell of the car mixed with the body odour until Ryū truly believed he was going to be sick.

“Pretty boy,” Ariyoshi panted. “So pretty.” He rubbed Ryū’s cheek, up into his hair and across his eyes, fumbling in his haste. “So small. How old are you again?”

Ryū was empty of words.

Ariyoshi took the back of his neck and shook. “How old are you again?”

“Fifteen,” he said like a breath.

“Mmm,” Ariyoshi gasped. “So fresh.” He leant down, wet mouth sucking on Ryū’s neck as his hand kept his head twisted to one side. “I want you, Ryū. You’re all mine.” He began to kiss at his pulse point, his adam’s apple, teeth making a brief appearance before Ryū was going to the little place he sometimes went, the house where he was all by himself with no one to touch him, no one to bother him or say things he didn’t want to be said. He was close to going, could see the walls materialising, but then there was a tremendous bang.

Ariyoshi pulled away with a noise, a cry of surprise. “What the fuck was that,” he asked, clearly to no one in particular. “What -”

There was a screeching sound, a squeal of metal that sounded like a fork being dragged down a plate magnified by a thousand. The car began to shake and Ryū looked up, shirt still up under his armpits, trousers undone and tie missing. His face and neck were wet from Ariyoshi’s blubbery mouth.

The roof began to twist back, began to detach from the windows and rent the metal hinges from their sockets. The windows cracked straight across, threads of lines spreading across them. The cold night air fetched in, filling the car with a great inhale.

When the entire roof was gone, peeled away like a can of tuna, a white face met them, a long mouth and red eyes. A clawed hand reached inside and swept Ariyoshi up. The man shrieked and squealed.

Ryū, Kiyo snarled. He had never felt so glad, so relieved to see such a horrifying creature looming down at him with unblinking eyes and an ever-grinning mouth. Ryū.

He gasped as Ariyoshi kicked and screamed, clawing at her hands as they held tight to his throat. Ryū didn’t even know what his Quirk was, but it didn’t appear to make much difference for him, as Kiyo leant closer and huffed a wet breath right in his face.

“Stop -” Ariyoshi screamed, but it was too late as, with a harrowing growling sound, Kiyo leant down and bit off his head. It disconnected cleanly at the shoulders and the rest of the body swiftly followed into her gaping maw.

Eat, she said.

 


 

Chapter Text

“You ate him,” Ryū said as he sat on the pavement beside Ariyoshi’s mauled car. He, very pointedly, did not think about the body resting within his Quirk’s belly. Somehow she looked just as skeletal as she usually did. “Fucking hell, you can’t just -”

Just what? Save you? If I hadn’t then he would have -

“I know,” Ryū snapped. His hands were still shaking. “I know what would’ve happened. But that doesn’t mean - do you know what will happen when they trace this back to me?”

She made a low, scraping sound that was probably supposed to be a laugh. When. If. It wasn’t you, Ryū. The rest of the world thinks your Quirk is fire and he wasn't burnt, was he? You can just claim some...hideous -

“Terrifying.”

Exactly. Some hideous, terrifying beast came along and gobbled him up. Her long tongue slid out and over her lips. And he was delicious.

“Great,” he wobbled to his feet. “Alright.”

Are you okay, Ryū? You looked...sad.

Ryū croaked a laugh. “I’m used to it,” he said, which was oh so true. “I’m just tired, Kiyo.”

Well, she said. Let’s go home, then.

His legs were shaky from just standing, let alone walking however many miles Ariyoshi had driven him out into the middle of nowhere. He wasn’t even sure if he wanted to go home anyway. Not if Kurou-sama would be there waiting for him. “I don’t think I can. My legs -”

She crawled over to him, peering up. I can help us, she explained. I can take control.

“‘Take control’? Take control of what?”

Of us, Ryū. Of you.

He shuddered. “You mean you’d possess me?”

NO, the bellow was so loud he fell onto his ass. No. I would never hurt Ryū. You are my everything. I would take us home, would tuck us into bed. Make sure we’re safe.

Bed. Being snuggled up in his bed sounded...

“Alright,” he said, because he was completely crazy. “Okay. Do...yeah, go ahead.”

Kiyo crawled even closer, until they were nose-to-nose. She huffed and red eyes stared into red eyes.

Blink, she said and he did.

Then, mercifully, blissfully, there was nothing by white.

 


 

Kaminari Hibiki loved her family. They were kind, sweet, and very funny. Her father owned a flower shop, which she worked at on the weekends and after school, and her mother, who had been a woman focused on her career and not her family, did them the biggest kindness and stayed out of their lives. She had a cat, Sakura, who was a little white persian with big blue eyes. Their neighbour was looking after her whilst Hibiki and her father visited her grandparents and cousin’s house.

Her grandmother was practically senile at the young age of fifty-nine already, and her grandfather remained uptight and scatter-brained. Despite this, she loved them dearly. Her cousin, little Ryū, with the black hair amongst their blondes that made him stick out like a sore thumb and red eyes in a family comprised entirely of yellow, was too cute for words. He was tiny and quiet, and reminded her of a grumpy little kitten. Of her Sakura. She’d never tell him that, of course, but she felt that way all the same.

But, unfortunately, Ryū was also a bit of a handful, as cute and loveable as he was. Her great-grandfather often complained about her beligerant he was and, despite taking care of their Obaa-san, Hibiki couldn’t disagree. He was a lot like Katsuki-san, a lot like Eijirou-san. As for Uncle Denki? ...Maybe a little? It was hard to tell with how quiet he was.

Stretching as she shuffled up the stairs - it didn’t seem fair that she was delegated to the couch, but Hibiki wasn’t going to say anything about it to anyone -, Hibiki headed down the hall to the bathroom. If she could get there first then the hot water was all her’s -

Ryū’s door flew open and smacked against the wall with a tremendous bang. She jumped about a foot in the air and stared at him aghast, her heart racing. What the hell?

“Uh,” she managed. “Good morning, little cousin. What’s with the rush?”

He stared at her. “Hello, human female. I require food now. Feed me...please.”

Her brain was no longer processing correctly. Had she gone insane? Was this some weird pod person planet or what?

“Um...what?”

“Useless,” he muttered, stalking past her and downstairs, whispering to himself under his breath. Hibiki, shower all but forgotten about by now, followed at a slow distance.

He went into the kitchen and opened the fridge, staring into it for a few seconds and then slamming the door. After a second, he opened the door again and began to root inside. Hibiki, who was lingering in the doorway, watched in horror as he pulled out an entire fish. It dripped water and oil across the floor as he carried it over to the counter.

Ryū tilted his head back, lifted the fish and slid the whole thing into his mouth with a audible gulp. He didn’t even chew and Hibiki watched it slide down his throat.

She managed a strangled yelp and, choking, Ryū spun around with wide eyes, his teeth bared as slimy fish oil slipped down his chin. He swallowed again and then frowned at her. “What do you want?”

“W-What’s wrong with you?” she managed. “That was a raw fish, Ryū! You’ll be ill!”

He looked her up and down, then turned back to the fridge. He opened it and, as Hibiki stood there like a dumbstruck idiot, pulled out a plastic-wrapped chicken that she knew her grandfather was hoping to have for dinner. He lifted it to his mouth and, something motherly taking over her, Hibiki leapt forward to slap it out of his hands.

The chicken hit the floor with a wet sound as he made an ugly growling noise, teeth snapping a hair’s breadth from her arm. She grabbed his shoulder and shook him a little.

“What's wrong with you? Ryū, are you sick? Have you taken something?” She couldn't imagine her little cousin ever getting involved with drugs, but he was a teenager, so she wouldn't be totally surprised...

Still growling, he pulled his arm away. “Stupid human.” Then he frowned thoughtfully. “Cousin?” He eyed her cautiously. “She’s our cousin? But she's so...blonde.”

“Hey!” After the insult had sunk in, Hibiki caught up with the rest of what he had said. “Ryū,” she told him carefully. “Who are you talking to? Who's ‘our’?”

“I'm not Ryū, I'm Kiyo. Ki. Yo. It's not hard, is it, dumb human cousin?”

Kiyo.

“What,” she said, “the fuck.”

 


 

Tetsutetsu Michiko. Oldest daughter of Real Steel and Battle Fist. Soon be an older sister. A first-year student at U.A., and best friend of Kaminari Ryū and Ojiro Kagami.

The last fact was something she was now regretting just a bit. A smidge.

“And then,” Kagami sniffed a pathetic wet sniffle. “And then she - she did it!”

“Yeah,” Michiko said.

“She puked on me!” He wailed, hands clasped over his face. “Oh, I feel so bad for you, Michi-kun; you have no idea what you're getting into with your new baby sister!”

“I'm sure it was an accident,” she said, still staring down at the empty text inbox of her phone. “Just stress.”

“We’re all stressed,” he whined. “But Mom’s back now. Dad says she might've caught a bug at the hospital and passed it onto the twins, but -”

“Well, there you go. Mari’s too sweet to do anything like that on purpose.”

“It was Mayu.”

“Mayu, then. Both are too cute to puke on their big brother on purpose.”

“You'll find out,” he said darkly. “Little siblings are evil.”

“Ryū’s not evil,” she pointed out. “He's a little brother.”

Kagami’s head swung wildly, eyes bugged-out. “You can't talk about that,” he hissed. “As far as he's concerned, Ryū-chan is an only child.”

“Ryū-chan,” she emphasised. “Is a brat.”

“Michi-kun!”

“What? I'm not saying we don't love him, Kagi. We love him despite being a brat, but that doesn't mean he isn't one,” she checked her phone once more. “I mean, look at us; hanging around hoping he'll show up to walk with us. Damn kid has us wrapped around his little finger.”

“We’re the same age.”

“Nah, we’re older by a bit, so he's like our little baby, you know? Helpless and in need of protection.”

“You do realise he threw a rock at a Pro hero, right? And I distinctly remember when we were little and he went through that biting phase, too. Wouldn't exactly call that helpless.”

She flapped a hand. Poor Kagami. He simply didn't get Ryū sometimes, but that might be just because their friend was so...aloof. Cold. He'd always been like that, but not to the same extent as recently. “Potato, tomato. My point still stands.”

“Well...I guess you're right in that regard. Where is Ryū?” His eyes scoured the street. It was busy, but there was no sign of a short boy with black hair and a U.A. school uniform. Not even in the bike lane. “We're going to be late for homeroom at this rate.”

“He'll be here,” she assured. “I spoke to him before school ended and he said we'd walk together.”

“Maybe his grandfather is giving him another ride.”

“Ugh,” Michiko felt a bit sick at the thought. “That creep. I hope not.”

“Really? He seemed so nice! He's married to Shinju-san, so he must be doing something right to end up with an angel like her.”

“First? Ew. Second, I think you mean Mori-san, Ryū-chan’s great- grandfather; he's the one with that drives him in sometimes. You know, tall, wrinkly, with those creepy ass eyes -”

“Oh,” he pulled a face. “That guy. Yeahhhh. I see what you mean now.”

“Weird, right? I always hated taking to him when he went over to Ryū’s house, especially if Hayato-san and Shinju-san aren't around. Gave me such gross vibes.”

“You think he's, like, one of those...little girl lovers? You know, into teenagers or something?”

Michiko thought about it. “Well…I dunno. I'm not a little girl, and I didn't really meet him until we we’re like twelve or thirteen. I think Ryū-chan would've said something if he was like that, especially if I was coming over, so probably not.”

“But where's his wife, huh? Ryū-chan’s never mentioned his great-grandmother, has he?”

“Maybe she died. It's not that strange to think about. He's really old and you know what Shinju-san’s like.” She waved a hand in front of her head. “A bit.”

“Fuzzy.”

“Yeah. Exactly.”

“Do -” he cut himself off.

“What?”

“I don't like to speculate -”

“Oh, you're thinking about Denki-san,” Michiko realised. Oh man. “Yeah, I mean, I guess. Ryū-chan doesn't really like us to talk about it, though...”

“But we can talk about his family? His brothers and great-grandfather?”

“It's different, Kagi. Ryū loved his dad, but those guys? Maybe not so much. He's pretty particular about who he likes.”

“I guess.”

“We’re on the list,” she assured him. “I bet he'll be here any minute to prove it.”

They both looked around, but there was no sign of Ryū.

“Any minute.”

 


 

Hibiki sat on the couch, hands all tucked up in her lap. Ryū, or, well - opposite her was the thing that looked like her baby cousin. Black hair, red eyes, that little scowl. It looked just like him, but apparently...was not.

“So,” she said again. It had been awful quiet for the last few minutes and she was just glad the rest of their family was still asleep.

“Like I said,” the...thing inside her cousin said like she was a particularly slow idiot. It clearly thought she was. “I’m Kiyo.”

“Kiyo,” she repeated. “You’re my cousin’s...Quirk.”

“Yes.”

“May I...speak to him?” How did - what was - Hibiki felt like she was definitely out of her depth here. “To Ryū.”

The thing grunted, rolling Ryū’s eyes. At least that was familiar.

“Suppose,” it grumbled. “So demanding.”

Ryū’s eyes popped wide, his jaw unhinging. It was disturbing to watch and Hibiki was about to tell him not to bother when a blackened mist poured from his mouth, thick and vicious. It swirled through the air and settled upon the ceiling like a menacing little cloud.

Shaking himself a little, Ryū - hopefully - looked around. He seemed very confused. “Hibiki, what happened?”

“Who,” she said, “is Kiyo?”

“I take it you’ve met, then.”

“Yes, we’ve met! What the hell is going on, Ryū? Since when does your Quirk - a fire-related Quirk, might I add - give to some sort of horrifying alternate personality that eats entire fish raw and can possess your body and,” she gestured wildly at the angry cloud, “and turn into that!?”

“Well,” he replied. “If it helps, I didn’t know she could do that either.”

“It doesn’t help.”

“Oh. Hm,” he examined the fog thoughtfully. “Kiyo is a recent development.”

“He’s gone crazy,” Hibiki muttered to herself. “Ryū, have you been taking your medication?”

“See, that’s the thing; I think that medication has actually been suppressing Kiyo.”

Her jaw rolled open. “You think you’ve been taking Quirk suppressants!?”

“Quirk dampeners, but yes. It’s a theory I’ve been working on lately. I stopped taking my pills a few days ago and then, miraculously, Kiyo reveals herself. Doesn’t seem like a simple coincident to me.”

“But Ojii-san buys them for you and he’d never do that. He loves that you’re training to be a Hero - he’d never do anything that would make doing so any harder for you!”

“Ojii-san,” he said softly. “Yeah. But I wasn’t thinking it was him.”

Hibiki wracked her brain and - “Mori-san? That’s crazy! He loves you, Ryū!”

Ryū’s entire face twisted up at that. He went a shade or two paler, his eyes averting like she’d said something particularly heinous. Ryū had become quite adverse to words intimacy, so it was probably that.

The cloud twisted down into a little balloon that bobbled around Ryū’s head. He batted at it, looking annoyed. “Leave me alone,” he snapped. “Stupid beast.”

Stupid Ryū, the cloud, somehow, said. It’s voice, now that it was no longer coming from her cousin’s body, was quite a bit more terrifying; deep and gravelly, snarling down to her very bones. UNGRATEFUL.

“Fuck off.” Then he looked at Hibiki and seemed to remember where he was.

“So not the strangest thing about this,” she managed. “Let me get this straight. You think that Mori-san - our great-grandfather, by the way - has been tricking you into taking Quirk dampening drugs that made everyone think your Quirk is actually just a weak fireproof, heat and light producing one, when in actual fact it’s your terrible monster alter-ego that has a personality and the ability to possess your body.”

“Yes.”

“And it can turn into a...fog-thing.”

“I guess so.”

“Anything else?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, besides the unhinging the jaw thing, the...raw-meat eating, can she do anything that will help you at U.A.?”

He looked at her very strangely. “You’re not going to call the police?”

“I mean. No? You’re my cousin, and, besides, why would I? You haven't done anything wrong.”

The cloud, Kiyo, laughed like gargling gravel.

“Yeah,” he said, still looking at a distant spot high up on the wall. “Yeah, thank you. I don’t really know what she can do; I’ve seen her climb sheer walls and I think she’s pretty strong. I think the more she eats the stronger she gets.”

“That explains the fish,” she said. And the chicken.

“Yeah,” he said again. “And I think she can turn invisible.”

“That also explains why no one but me has noticed her.” Hibiki thought for a moment. “They haven’t, right? I feel like U.A. would’ve sent a letter home if that had been the case.”

“You’re the first,” he shrugged.

“Alright,” she clapped her hands. “Ryū and...Kiyo. Let’s get you to school.” He looked a bit sick. “Or...not to school? I’m twenty now, you know. I can call you in sick if you’d like.”

He seemed to be seriously thinking about it and that sorted things for Hibiki. They weren’t super close, but she knew the face of a needed mental health day when she saw one.

“You go get dressed,” she decided. “I’ll do the same, and then we’ll go get some ice cream.” He looked uncertain, glancing at the door. “We don’t need to tell Ojii-san. Or Mori-san.” She needed to look into this paranoia he had about their great-grandfather drugging him. “Come on! We can get strawberry? I know it’s your favourite!”

“Fine,” he grumbled, but she knew he was pleased about it really. Deep down. He stood up. “Kiyo. Come on.”

The cloud bubbled and wisped, then, as it went to follow Ryū at of the room, disappeared completely. Hibiki could only watch in awe because, well, if this was Ryū’s real Quirk then he’d do some amazing things at U.A. for sure.

 


 

Igarashi Akami loved everything about her life.

She had a beautiful home in the central district of Tokyo (though she, unfortunately, got to spend very little time there), a wealthy fiancé (who she, unfortunately, saw very little of, and often got into fights with), a car (which she, unfortunately, didn’t drive very often in the ease of public transportation) and a stable career (which gave her stress lines, very unfortunately).

Yes, everything was turning out splendid.

Her job, which she truly loved, was as a social worker. A special sort of social worker, actually, not like the usual boring sort. She worked exclusively with the children of villains and heroes. Much more the former than the latter, but the odd case would present itself.

One of her odd cases was a boy she’d been overseeing for close to six years now. He’d caused her no end of sleepless nights fretting over what might happen to him. She couldn’t really say she found his company enjoyable the dozen times they’d spoken (not that he’d said much at all!), but he was sort of...charming in his own grumpy little way. She supposed that came with the territory of being the child of heroes; a sense of suspicion, that was.

It had been over a year since she’d visited him for his home check, and, since they were well overdue, Akami had decided to make this one a surprise visit. She booked herself into a hotel not far from his grandparents’ house, slept well and then called for a taxi to take her there. Which it did, and she arrived at eleven o’clock sharp.

The house was clean on the outside, no different to the ones around it, though there was a motorbike parked in the driveway she’d never seen before. Were there guests staying over at the property?

She rang the doorbell and waited.

After a minute of waiting, when she was considering calling the number she had on file, the door opened. A tall, handsomely-muscled man stared back at her, the distinctive gold eyes giving him away immediately, if the fact that his black hair had a yellow lightning bolt on it already hadn’t. He was dressed cleanly, which she appreciated.

“Can I help you?”

“Hello,” she said perfunctory, holding her hand out. “I’m here to see Kaminari Ryū. I’m his social worker.”

“Oh!” he shook her hand right away, a nice strong grip. “I’m Kaminari Daiki, you see; his uncle.”

“Igarashi Akami. May I come in?”

“Of course!” he stepped aside to let her in and Akami did. She examined the kitchen closely, but it looked as she remembered; clean and well-ordered, a plate of Western-style biscuits cooling on the counter. “Sorry for the confusion; I didn’t know to expect you.”

“This is a surprise visit,” she strode into the living room and found the grandmother sat at the kotatsu with a half-eaten bowl of plain noodles in front of her and a pair of discarded chopsticks. “Kaminari-san,” she said, “a pleasure to see you again, no doubt.” Last time she had seen the boy, his grandmother had not been present and Akami realised she had been remiss not conducting a home visit sooner; she hadn’t actually seen the grandparents for three years now. Ryū had always met with her at a park nearby, a place he clearly felt quite comfortable.

The grandmother, Kaminari Shinju, slowly turned to look at her. Her blonde hair was, as of yet, unmarred by white or grey threads, but wrinkles lined her eyes, a clear sign that she’d had a life full of smiling and happiness. A few of her teeth were missing, but the rest were clean and straight, which was...odd. Akami would have to check with Ryū that he didn’t have any dental problems.

Her yellow eyes blinked slowly and then she turned back to her bowl, staring down into the steaming water.

“I’m sorry, Igarashi-san,” the uncle said nervously. “But my mother suffers from quite severe memory loss, so it’s unlikely she’ll be able to respond to you.”

Akami...didn’t know about this.

“Why was I not made aware?” she demanded, thinking furiously. “That fact that Shinju-san is unable to care for him -”

“Hey, I don’t know much about Ryū’s social work or anything, but my father, Hayato, is still around to -”

“Don’t you understand, Daiki-san?” Akami cut over him. “Your mother is Ryū’s primary caregiver. She is listed as his emergency contact, the fulfiller of any needs he may have; she is to ensure he is well-fed, clean, goes to school, supports him emotionally - the fact that she is unable to do any of these things is extremely concerning to me because, unless the situation has changed and I have not been made aware of that either, Hayato-san works away for long periods of time, correct?”

“Well, yes -”

She took out her phone. “I’m afraid I have to call my office,” she told him and she was. He seemed like a nice-enough man caught up in a family affair he didn’t really know much of anything about. “If Ryū has been living here, alone, and having to act as the sole carer for his dependant grandmother, then my duty as a social worker, his social worker, is to report this gross error of judgement.”

“Please -”

“Daiki? Is something the matter?” a tall man in a black suit with striking orange eyes came down the stairs. He looked to be in his eighties or nineties. “Oh, a guest?”

“Igarashi Akami,” she said, having no time to shake his hand now. “Are you a resident of the property?” She damn well hoped not, otherwise, that would be another thing to add to her list that no one had informed her about.

“Oh no,” he chuckled. “I’m just here for the week, visiting my daughter, her son and my great-grandchildren.”

She took Ryū’s file from her handbag and leafed through for his family tree. Daiki-san was listed and above Shinju-san - “Mori Kurou?” she confirmed and he nodded once, but it was a proud nod. “Well, as I just informed Daiki-san here, I’m going to be contacting my head office now to report several breaches in the agreement we devised, especially with regards to Ryū safety and what is required of his primary caregiver - that is, his grandmother.”

“Breaches?”

“Were you aware that Ryū was living here, often for long stretches at a time, with no one but your daughter, whom he had to look after? Because, clearly, she is incapable of caring for herself, let alone a teenage boy.”

“I was,” he admitted. “But Ryū is a...strong character. I believe him able to handle to stress and emotional strain that may come with a commitment like that.”

“Mori-san,” she said sternly. “Ryū is a fifteen-year old boy. He isn’t capable of consenting to become a full-time carer, especially for the woman who the courts entrusted to look after him. Children are often tasked with providing care for their elderly relatives, but not alone, and not for a child like Ryū. He isn’t ready to take on a task like that.”

“I think he is.”

“Well, you’re wrong,” she informed him bluntly. She had no time for men like this, people like this, that thought they could boss her around and tell her things with no factual backing all because no one had ever thought to question them before. Called them out on their bullshit. “Ryū is a fragile and emotionally-sensitive boy with a history of traumas that mean he requires one-on-one support from his primary caregiver, a stable home environment and room to develop into a young man. This was all outlined in the agreement writ by the court who granted his grandmother custody and, at the time, she was willing and capable of providing all of these things. Now, at this moment in time, she is not.”

“But -”

“Hence,” she stressed, “this situation has changed. His safeguarding officer, my boss, has to be informed immediately and should’ve been however long ago it did.”

“Igarashi-kun,” he tried once more, advancing on her a little. Akami stood her ground. She had faced off with child-abusers and villains who had committed the most heinous crimes. This man? Didn’t scare her one single bit. “Perhaps we can come to some sort of agreement. Ryū is happy here, he enjoys caring for my daughter and uprooting him would be disastrous for his future career as a potential Pro Hero.”

Akami felt her breath catch. “Excuse me?” Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no -

“My nephew is a student at U.A. High School,” Daiki-san explained and he looked very proud indeed of this information. “Just like my little brother, his father. He started just this past Monday.”

“He’s at school now? Training?”

“Uh, yes.”

“At U.A.,” Akami confirmed faintly. This was more dire than she had thought, had even considered. “Please call Hayato-san back home to the property immediately,” she ordered Daiki-san, the oblivious uncle. “My boss should be here within the hour once I call her, but I also need to get in contact with the local police department.”

“The police!?” Daiki-san gaped at her. “Is that really necessary!? My father -”

“Not to arrest him,” she said, though that was a possibility later on, “to collect Ryū as soon as possible.”

“But he’s a school like I told you! Perfectly safe,” but Daiki-san looked unsure now. “Right?”

“Ryū’s court-mandated therapist strictly outlined in his safeguarding paperwork that enrollment in any form of Hero school, especially U.A. High School required an emotional and mental wellbeing check beforehand, performed by any psychiatric professional, but signed off by her, and there is nothing in his folder about that being completed, sir! There has been a gross miscarriage of justice for this boy and I will not stand for it. Somebody, most likely several somebodies from what I have been seeing, have not fulfilled Ryū’s basic care requirements and I would like to find out why.”

He took out his phone and stumbled from the room. “I-I’ll call him right away!”

Seething, Akami took a deep breath. Ryū, who had been done wrong by so many people now over his young life, deserved better than her righteous anger compromising his case. “Mori-san,” she said after a moment. “Any further complaints?”

“Complaints? No, of course not. I want only the best for my great-grandson,” the old man said, smiling in memory. Akami felt her hair prickle something fierce as he smiled at her, orange eyes burning with some unnamed emotion. “But surely there is another option. After all, I don’t think calling your boss is...completely necessary, correct?”

“Yes,” she stared him down, unafraid of whatever monster she was about to unleash. Akami had faced off with child-abusers and villains who had committed the most heinous crimes and she was now beginning to think this man was both. "It is."

 


 

Chapter Text

Akami sat in tense, unsure silence, hands folded neatly in her lap. She was kneeling at the kotatsu beside Shinju-san who, despite the fact that she was supposed to be Ryū’s primary caregiver, was absolved from the most guilt simply because of her mental condition. Her notes were spread in front of her and she read them over and them again to avoid the figure of Mori-san sat quietly in the corner. He was clearly very worried about his great-grandson and Akami was sad just looking at him. Poor thing.

It had been close to an hour now and the cup of green tea Daiki-san had made her had long ago gone ice cold. Miraculously, just as she was beginning to drag, there was a chime as the doorbell rang.

Daiki-san, hunched over awkwardly on the couch with twitching hands, sprang to his feet. “That must be my father!” he said eagerly. “I’ll fetch him right away!” He ran back into the kitchen and Akami heard muffled voices.

A moment later, Daiki-san trailed back in, wide-eyed with Akami’s boss on his heels, a woman who only ever introduced herself as -

“Miso,” she said to Daiki-san. “Like the soup.”

Miso-san had long brown hair tied back in a strict ponytail, tanned skin and always wore black reflective sunglasses, even indoors and even in the dead of night. Her black pantsuit was neat and her ID badger was clipped at her breast. She looked the same in the picture, same clothes, same sunglasses, same expression, even though it had been taken many years ago. Akami, rightly so, was terrified of her.

“Miso-san, a pleasure,” Mori-san greeted, rising with his hand extended. “I’m -”

“Igarashi, where’s the boy?” Miso-san asked, ignoring him completely. Why was she being so rude to this poor old man? Akami had found him nothing but helpful and cooperative, just eager to sort this whole problem out. Perhaps he’d make a good candidate for a transferal of custody? Thoughts wandering, Akami jumped up from the kotatsu and dusted off her skirt.

“Yes,” she stammered. “Yes, well that’s the thing. He’s, um. He’s at school.”

“Hm, well that’s not too surprising, is -”

“At U.A.!” Akami burst out with, horrified even as she was doing so; she was interrupting Miso-san, the scariest woman she’d ever known! “Ryū is a Hero in training there!”

“Ah,” Miso-san said. “Igarashi, call the police.”

Akami nodded quickly. “I already have, ma’am; they should be collecting him right about -” her pocket rang. “This must be the officer I spoke to!” She grabbed it, tapped to accept the call and held her cell phone up to her ear.

“Is this Igarashi Akami, the caseworker of Kaminari Ryū?” a gruff, no-nonsense voice asked. It certainly was not the lovely officer she’d spoken to earlier.

“Speaking.”

“This is Detective Ishikawa with the Musutafu General Police Department,” he said. “We were called to U.A. to collect the boy in question, but it appears he never arrived for class this morning. They were preparing to call home and report him absent when we arrived.”

Igarashi felt her heart stop. “O-Oh?” she managed. “Was he present yesterday?”

“Yes,” Detective Ishikawa said. “And that’s not all.”

She had a very bad feeling lurking in the pit of her stomach and Akami never disregarded a bad feeling. “What happened?”

“There was an...altercation,” he said. “Yesterday after school. The boy, Kaminari, was involved in a fight with an older student. He was injured and healed by the school nurse, who allowed him to walk home straight afterwards. By then it was late, at around seven, so the nurse, well, he was the last member of staff to see Kaminari on campus.”

Bad, bad, bad feeling.

“Thank you for letting me know,” she said professionally. “Was there anything else?”

“The student,” he said. “The one that Kaminari fought with; apparently his name is -”

Could this day get any worse?

“- Bakugou. That’s all I could get from the principal, but I figured it was enough of a connection, both of them being Pro Heroes, that is...”

“Alright,” Akami said and she was impressed with how composed she sounded.

He cleared his throat. “Look, I really have to get going now, some idiot dumped his car abandoned near a kids’ park and some parents are getting concerned. If you need to file a missing person’s report -”

“No, no,” she said. Not yet, at least. “Thanks for all your help.”

“Hope you find the kid,” he said. “He’s classmates with my boy, so...I’m sure he’ll turn up.”

“Yes,” she said. “Me too.” She cut the call and eyed Miso-san, who was waiting impatiently with her arms crossed. “He never turned up for class.”

“That’s not good.”

“What?” Daiki-san gaped. “But he - I - “

“Did either of you see Ryū this morning before he left for school?” Igarashi asked, looking between them. “Or even last night?”

“No, I went to bed early,” Daiki-san fretted. “Grandfather?”

“As did I,” Kurou-san said and she felt another pang of sympathy for him. Clearly, he was just tied up in the mess through pure happenstance and she felt indebted to help him find his great-grandson and give him as much custody as she could get. They obviously had a close bond with one another, after all! “I dropped him off at school yesterday and I was supposed to pick him up, but he didn’t come out on time so I left.”

“Alright,” Akami said thoughtfully. “The detective I spoke with says that Ryū got into an argument with an older student,” she leaves out that bit about his half-brother for now, “and was taken to the nurse’s office. The nurse healed him up and was the last person to see Ryū as he left to catch the bus home. This was at around seven o’clock.”

“So no one has seen this boy since yesterday,” Miso-san said, folding her arms. “What about his friends?”

“I’m afraid I wouldn’t know much about that,” Daiki-san said.

“Well, what do you know?”

“I -” his eyes lit up. “My daughter - Ryū’s cousin - would know who Ryū is friends with! They’re close to the same age and if anyone would know where he might be, then she would!” He checked his watch. “She’s probably still in bed! Let me fetch her.” He trampled upstairs.

“My only great-granddaughter,” Mori-san explained sadly. “I only have four, you see, so we’re all very close. Hibiki is her name; it means echo.”

“Irrelevant,” Miso-san said. Why on earth was she being so rude to this harmless gentleman in particular? Then Daiki-san came running back downstairs, eyes bugging out of his head.

“She’s not in her room - her purse is gone and so is her phone. I haven’t seen her since yesterday evening either!”

“They might’ve gone together,” Miso-san theorised. “Call her.”

Daiki-san did, but the line simply rang off to voicemail.

“How old is your daughter?” Akami asked. She was now theorising a pair of teenagers who’d simply run away together to escape. ‘Escape what?’ was the question, however.

“Twenty.”

“Has there ever been any sign of a sexual relationship between Ryū and Hibiki?” Miso-san asked.

Mori-san went white. “What?” he said and then it seemed as if a red cloud had descended over his face. “Ryū would never -”

“Hibiki,” Daiki-san said firmly, “would never do such a thing either. Besides,” he cleared his throat a little awkwardly, “I was under the impression that Ryū prefers the company of other...boys.”

“Ah,” Akami said. She and Miso-san exchanged a look (though it was a tad hard with Miso-san’s sunglasses in the way); they both knew exactly what the other was thinking. A fifteen-year-old boy and his twenty-year-old cousin, both missing and having not been seen since the night before. Around fifteen hours now. There was really only one decision to make. “I’ll make the call.”

She dialled the main number for the Musutafu General Police Department and was put straight through to an officer. “Hello, yes? I’d like to report a missing person. Or, well, two missing people potentially.”

“May I take their names?” the officer asked. “As well as ages, general physical description and last known location and timestamp. And their Quirks, please.”

She put the phone on speaker.

“Kaminari Hibiki,” Daiki-san said shakily. “She has long black hair, fair skin, brown eyes and is about 170 cm. She’s twenty, has a tattoo of a lightning bolt on her left hand, and I last saw her in her room at around...eight o’clock last night. She was wearing her nightgown.”

“And her Quirk, sir?”

He glanced around the room and then chewed his lip for a second. “Her Quirk is called Déjà-vu and it allows her to, uh, force another person to relieve a specific memory.”

That was...a tad unnerving to here, Akami could admit.

“Alright, sir,” the officer said. “Is she with the other missing person?”

“We don’t know,” Akami said, “But it’s possible as they are cousins. The other is a boy, fifteen, and named Kaminari Ryū. He was last seen at seven o’clock last night leaving the grounds of U.A., at which he is a first-year Hero class student. He was wearing his school uniform and is,” she checked her file, which had been updated by his doctor very recently, “152 cm tall. He has short black hair and red eyes, pale skin, and his Quirk is called Magma. It enables him to produce heat and light from his skin and makes him impervious to fire.”

“Alright,” the officer said again. “I’ll send out a notice to all our on-duty officers for them to keep an eye out and ring you back if we find out anything or require any more information.”

The call ended and Miso-san clapped her hands. “Let’s find out who this kid is friends with,” she said. “Igarashi, you’re with me. One of you get in contact with the grandfather and get him back here pronto.” She swept out of the room.

Akami smiled comfortingly at Mori-san, who was sweating with clear nerves, “Thank you for your time,” she said. “We’ll find them.”

“Yes,” he said as she followed after Miso-san. “I’m sure you will.”

 


 

They got to U.A. and were met at the main gate by a tired-looking purple-haired man in his mid-thirties. He introduced himself as the principal and led them onto the grounds, up the steps and into the school.

“Kaminari’s in 1-B,” he said, “under the teaching of a new teacher, Kobayashi Rin. From what I’ve seen and heard, he’s doing well and is hoping to become a rescue-specialist hero when he graduates. He’s hard-working and has a strong character; I don’t imagine he’d run off and miss class for no good reason.”

“Neither do we,” Akami said curtly. She still couldn’t believe that Ryū was a student at this place; it seemed so... different to what she would have predicted for him. “Does he have any friends?”

“Two that I know of,” he explained. “One in his class and another in 1-A.” They stopped outside a classroom and he knocked, poking his head inside. “Tetsutetsu, with me.” There were a few ‘ooh’s from the other children and a chubby-cheeked girl shuffled out, bug-eyed. She was fidgeting anxiously and it only got more intense when she saw Akami and Miso-san standing before her.

Tetsutetsu was tall, yes, but she was well-muscled too; gray hair pulled back in a side ponytail and blue eyes friendly and approachable. She was wearing the school uniform, of course, but Akami got the impression that she was a kind girl who liked to help people. And, well, her impressions were never wrong. She still couldn’t believe that not one person she’d met so far had given her to heebie-jeebies.

“Don’t look so scared,” Shinsou told her. “You’re not in trouble.”

“What’s this about, sir?”

“Hang on,” he said and they walked along a door before he, once again, knocked and leaned inside. This time he asked for: “Ojiro.”

Ojiro was a boy with messy pink hair, brown eyes and a sharp, eager face. His tie was undone and hanging loosely against his breastbone, shoelaces tied neatly in two knotted bunnies. He looked at Tetsutetsu for reassurance and the two pressed shoulders, leaning against one another. If Ryū was friends with these two it was clear they were very close.

“Kaminari Ryū,” Shinsou said. “Have you seen or heard from him this morning?”

“Ryū-chan?” the girl, Tetsutetsu, asked and why did that sound so familiar? “Noooo...is - is something the matter? Are you the police?"

“No, no,” Akami reassured them. “We’re his caseworkers. We’re just wondering why he didn’t show up for school today.”

She scowled. “So are we. He was supposed to meet us at the corner by the ice cream parlour, where we always meet, but he never showed! Because of him, Kagi-kun and I were late for homeroom!”

Akami tried to think of a way to break the news to them gently, but before she could, Miso-san opened her mouth and said: “He’s left school yesterday after getting into a fight, at around seven, and no one has seen him, nor his cousin, since.”

They both gaped at her.

“W-What?” the boy, Ojiro stammered. “Ryū-chan’s missing?”

“Yes,” Shinsou said. “Are you sure you haven’t heard from him?”

“No! I mean, yes! I’m sure I haven’t heard from him!” Tetsutetsu insisted, “He hasn’t answered any of my texts in days!”

“Mine neither.”

Akami frowned. “Did you have a fight?”

“No, so that’s why it’s weird! I don’t think he as reading them anyway, because they still just said ‘sent’ instead of ‘read’. Maybe he’s just been...busy. I mean, since Monday he’s been a bit...” They exchanged a complex glance full of idiosyncrasies Akami couldn’t yet decipher. She was sure now that they were definitely best friends who were very close.

“Off,” they said in unison.

“Alright,” Miso-san sighed. “Well, this was a dud. Let us know if you hear from your friend, alright?” She handed over her business card. “Thank you for your time.”

“Wait!” the boy called as they turned to go and Akami turned, hoping they had miraculously come up with some sort of new lead. “You said his cousin is gone too, but...I have her cell phone number.”

“Her father’s already -”

“She has a second phone. That not many people know about. I don’t even think Ryū knows she gave her number to us, but it was only because she worried we might not be able to get in touch with either of them.”

“In case something bad happens,” Tetsutetsu explained furtively. “You know. At home.”

“That’s,” Shinsou said. “Concerning. Why was she so worried about that being an issue that might come up?”

Akami wanted to know that too.

“Um...” Ojiro trailed off. He looked at Tetsutetsu, as if for reassurance. “I don’t know if we can -”

“Ojiro,” said Shinsou sternly. “Keeping information from -”

“Alright!” Tetsutetsu cried, throwing her hands up. She was sweating a little and her pupils were dilated. “It’s - it’s Mori, their great-grandfather or something. I think he’s a bit...mean, you know? A bit...hot-headed.”

“He’s freaky,” Ojiro added. “You know, staring, weird looks...saying some stuff that isn’t what people normally say. I once heard him say -”

Tetsutetsu sucked in a sharp breath. “Kagami, don’t.”

“I don’t think he knew I was there, but he was on the phone. This was, I don’t know, a few months ago. He said that Ryū-chan was, uh. A ‘little minx’, which I thought was weird. That’s weird, right? But then he laughed at something the other person said and. Ugh. He called - he called Ryū a...‘temptation’!” He looked physically sick at having to repeat the scenario in his own head, let alone out loud and Akami was completely thrown off kilter.

But Mori-san had seemed so - so genuine! And Akami’s instincts had felt so at ease around him; she always trusted her gut and it had been telling her that he was nothing but a concerned, well-meaning old relative who wanted nothing more than to find his great-grandchildren. To hear that he might’ve been...well, there was no evidence, but the conversation Ojiro had overheard, if it was accurate, was certainly incriminating enough that she’d have to follow up on it.

“It was brave of you to come forward with this information, Ojiro, Tetsutetsu,” Shinsou said and he looked at Miso-san, tired purple eyes heavy with emphasis. Ojiro took a pen out of his pocket and wrote down the number for Ryū’s cousin’s secret second phone, hanging it over to Shinsou. “Let’s call the station.”

“Yes,” Miso-san sighed. “Igarashi?”

Akami took out her phone and dialled the police station. She spoke to the two children, Ryū’s helpful friends, as the line rang, with a gentle smile that held as little of her nerves as she could manage: “Thank you. Both of you. You can go back to your classrooms now.”

“I think I need to go the nurse’s office,” Tetsutetsu said quietly and Ojiro patted his arm.

“I’ll take you, Michi-kun,” he comforted and, when Shinsou nodded in approval, they set off down the hallway at a slow, steady pace, whispering heatedly. At one point, Ojiro glanced over his shoulder at them, but then the phone was answered and Akami returned her attention to it.

“Hello, yes, I called earlier to report two missing persons and I’d like also bring up a case of suspected abuse. Friends of Ryū Kaminari, the fifteen-year-old, report a possible inappropriate sexual relationship between the boy and a relative.”

“Who is this relative? Ma’am, do you think he might be connected to the disappearance?”

“I don’t know,” she said honestly. “But there’s something not right about this. About the relative.”

“And his name?”

“Mori Kurou. The great-grandfather.”

 


 

“Are you freaking out like I’m freaking out?”

Michiko ran her hands through her hair. She’d taken her ponytail out and not put her scrunchie back in again. She was too...kerfuffled to do so. Too...worried. Why was Ryū such a troublemaker? He was always getting himself messed up in something or another, but it was always dangerous, and Michiko and Kagami, as his friends, had a certain obligation to help him not...die.

Or get seriously maimed.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, I am.”

“Let’s go,” Kagami said and when she blinked at him, he laughed. “What? Did you think I really wanted to go sit on a bed with a sick bucket for an hour or two? No, idiot. Come on, let’s go find ourselves a Ryū.”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

 


 

Akami waited impatiently at the main steps of U.A. High School, clutching her purse to her chest. Miso-san was talking on her phone back inside and Shinsou was with her, keeping an eye on her with his hands in his pockets. Clearly, he’d decided that she was the one worth checking up on and Akami was...not.

As she stood there, trying not to tap her foot or think of poor Ryū, God knows where and with God knows who. If he was even...

“Ugh!” she threw her hands up. How had she been so foolish? How had she been so swayed by Mori? Her gut was never wrong, but he’d been so charming, so concerned for Ryū! How could she have been so blind!?

“Miss, are you okay?”

She startled, hands falling from where they’d clutched into her hair. Her purse dropped to the floor and Ryū’s file spilt across the ground, papers scattering everywhere. Gasping, she reached for a piece that flew up into the air.

A fist caught it for her and she looked up from where she was crouched, hair now a complete mess. Three people stared back at her, one a boy in a school uniform and two in matching black suits. Red hair, blonde hair, black hair...

“Why do you have a picture of my kid?”

She stood up and dusted herself off, flustered. The piece of paper the teenager was holding was Ryū’s main information sheet, the cover page of his case file. Attached to it was the photo she’d taken when she’d first become his social worker - five years ago when he was only ten. Small and pale, he stared at the camera with empty red eyes and no smile. His shoulders were hunched and there was a bruise smudged on the edge of his jaw. Akami had been meaning to get a new photo for a long time, but Ryū would never let her take one and, well. She had more important things to worry about, to be honest.

“Kirishima-san, Bakugou-san,” she greeted because of course, it was them. Of course. “I’m Igarashi Akami. Ryū’s social worker?”

“Yes,” Kirishima said, blinking rapidly. “Yes, of course - why are you -”

“What are you doing here?” Bakugou demanded. “Did something happen?”

“No!” she said instinctively and then: “Well. Yes. We...think so.”

“You think so?”

She scowled a little. “After your fight yesterday,” she said, giving Ryū’s half-brother, whose name had escaped her at that moment (he glared back at her), “the nurse here sent him home late, at around seven. But he...never came home. We declared him a missing person a little while ago.”

“Oh,” Kirishima said.

There was a pause.

“WHAT THE SHIT DO YOU MEAN HE’S FUCKING MISSING -”

 


 

“So,” Michiko said as they peddled, leaning down further on her handlebars. “Where to first?”

“Let’s take his route home,” Kagami suggested, keeping up alongside her on his own purple two-wheeler. Her’s was a much more respectable bright, sunshiney yellow. “Keep an eye out for his bag, phone, really any of his stuff!”

“Sure, and anything we think might be suspicious! Ryū always goes the same way if he’s trying to go straight back to his house, and if it was late he would’ve stuck to the sidewalk and not cut through the park so -”

“He would’ve gone straight past your house! Do you think he’d show up on the security camera by your driveway?”

Michiko hit the breaks and her bike skidded to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk, startling a woman pushing a stroller beside them. She shot them a dirty look and continued on with her fat little baby still fast asleep. It took Kagami a moment to realise she’d stopped and he screeched to a halt a little ahead of her, twisted around on his seat with a sneaker dropped on the concrete for balance.

“What’s wrong?”

“Ojiro Kagami,” she grinned. “You’re a genius!”

 


 

Michiko heaved a sigh of relief when she saw the driveway of her house mercifully empty. If her mom and dad found her home after skipping school...they would not be happy campers, let her put it that way.

She fished her house key out of her pocket, glad she kept it in there and not her school bag - which was still hung on her desk back at U.A. - and unlocked the door. They kicked their shoes off and ran into the kitchen, which was where her dad’s laptop sat on the counter, plugged-in and charging.

After booting the computer up and putting in her dad’s very predictable password - itsukamichikomasuka - so she could open the security system hooked to the camera outside their front door, Michiko scrolled back through the day for any sign, any glimpse, of their missing friend.

“I don’t see him today,” Kagami, a comforting weight pressed against her side, said. “Not his bike, him on foot, and I don’t think any of those cars belong to his great-grandfather either.”

“His car is silver,” she said. “I remember because, you know.”

“Silver’s your favourite colour,” he said thoughtfully. “Well, go back to last night. If Mori dropped Ryū off then it wouldn’t be that weird for him to pick him up either, especially since Ryū wouldn’t have his bike.”

They watched the tape wind back, cars flickering past and the lights getting dimmer and dimmer.

“If he left around seven, then...there!” Michiko slapped the spacebar and the video returned to real-time, the clock pushed back to seven fifteen. A blue car drove past, but the streetlight right outside her house was still broken, so it was hard to make out any details. What they could see, however, was a smaller figure sitting in the passenger seat, the side closest to the camera. In the driver’s seat was a larger figure, clearly a man. Any other details were obscured by the darkness.

“The timeline fits,” he said. “But Mori’s car is silver, not blue.”

“Ugh.” Michiko sat on the kitchen table, chin in her hands. She felt defeated before they’d even reached the first hurdle. “What are we supposed to do now?”

“I dunno.” Kagami hit play and watched the video run, the time tick on past eight and on towards nine. “Maybe we should - wait! Look!”

Michiko dove off the table and pressed her face up close to the laptop screen as a tiny person walked past, stumbling and zig-zagging. “That’s Ryū! That’s him, I’m sure of it!”

“But where is he going?” Kagami looked as confused as she felt herself. “He would’ve passed his house to go by yours if he’s heading in that direction. I don’t...get it.”

“He looks drunk,” she said, though Ryū didn’t drink alcohol as far as she knew. “Look at him, Kagami. He’s stumbling and walking really slowly. Maybe’s he’s hurt or - or confused.”

“Maybe.”

“He could be going to your house,” she suggested. “Or back to school.”

“Why would he do that? It’d be much easier to knock here and besides, he’d know you were home. Your lights are on, I can see it in the footage, and your dad’s car is on the driveway.”

“School then. I can’t think of anywhere else he would go.”

“Maybe he was looking for help? That would make sense if he was injured or someone hurt him; all our teachers are Pro Heroes so Ryū would know they’d keep him safe.”

“Okay,” she said. “Okay...so that’s our big theory, right? Well, how come he didn’t get to U.A. then? We rode the way here and we didn’t see him or his stuff.”

Kagami looked at her seriously. “Foul play. It’s the only explanation. Look at him, Michiko, he’s clearly walking like that because he’s hurt or drugged or something and he wouldn’t do that to himself. No; some caught him on his way home and did whatever it is they did and Ryū went looking for help, probably to U.A., but on his way there this person caught up with him and did...something. Something not good.”

Michiko took a moment to think that over. “Do you think he’s dead?”

Eyes crinkling up and mouth twisting to one side, Kagami made a thoughtful, considering noise. “...No. No. And if he is ...are you...okay with what might happen?”

“Like?” she asked even though she knew exactly what he meant.

“Michi-kun, Ryū’s our best-friend and friends look out for each other. Are we. If he’s hurt or - or whatever, then I can’t say I won’t -”

“Then we take this into our own hands,” she replied. “Simple as that. Ryū’s our best-friend, like you said, and we need to find him. No matter what.”

“Good. Where to first?”

“Ryū’s house,” she said. “We need to find out why he didn’t go there for help.”

 


 

Chapter Text

“So,” Kagami said. “It looks like Creepy McCreepy is still home.”

“Yeah, so there goes that theory,” she eyed the silver four-door parked on the drive. “At least he’s not off somewhere...doing some bad stuff.”

“Maybe he just did it all last night,” Kagami replied darkly. He leant his bike against the wall and marched up the front path. “C’mon, let’s knock.”

“Kagami,” she hissed, but he ignored her. Michiko had no choice but to drop her bike and follow, her eyes fixing nervously on the front door as knocked a tune with his knuckles. “What is wrong with you?”

“Well, it’d be suspicious if we knocked,” he said.

“We did kn - ohhhh.”

Standing in front of her was now that social worker - Igarashi. Her short brown hair was tucked behind her ears and her gaze was as stern as Michiko remembered. The only problem was the clothing; Igarashi had been wearing a smart shirt and skirt with flat shoes, whilst Kagami was in...his U.A. school uniform. He took off his blazer and threw it behind a bush just as the door opened.

A tall man with black hair blinked back at them, panting. It looked like he’d run all the way to answer the door and he glanced behind ‘Igarashi’ in eager excitement.

“Are - did you find them, Igarashi-san?! Is my daughter alright?”

“Um, no,” Kagami replied a nervously. “We came to look around Ryū’s room.”

“Oh. Well...of course,” he looked at Michiko just standing there, obviously very confused. “Is this...one of Ryū’s classmates?”

“Tetsutetsu Michiko,” she said. “I’m his best friend, actually.”

“I thought she could help me look around. See if anything looks out of place.”

“Of course,” he repeated. “Come in.”

Michiko, who couldn’t believe that had actually worked, trailed after Kagami into the house, toeing off her shoes and on some slippers and keeping an eye out for her friend’s slimeball of a relative.

Ryū’s grandma was in the lounge, sitting on the couch with a blanket over her lap. She was staring into the middle distance, her expression completely vacant. Michiko felt a chill run up her spine; she had known Kaminari-san when she was younger and she had been so kind and vibrant; doting on Ryū like any good grandmother did. Now she was just a husk of a person and it was really a sad sight to see. She couldn’t imagine how Ryū must feel looking at his grandma, reminiscing over all the memories they shared together.

They went upstairs and into Ryū’s room, which was painfully small. They didn’t come over often (hadn’t done so for over a year now), but it was basically the same as she could remember; a tatami mat and futon, a small wardrobe, the window and Ryū’s shelf of things.

“We can take it from here,” Kagami said and he promptly closed the door in the man’s face. Michiko really needed to find out his name for their investigation. But first...

She stood on his tatami, careful to keep her feet away from the actual futon itself, and studied the single shelf Ryū seemed to keep his prized possessions on. There were some books, some were for school and the rest were practical guides to various forms of design such as metalwork, leather crafting and big one on hand stitching. She picked up the single candle and sniffed it.

“Cinnamon,” she revealed.

The aloe plant was...just an aloe plant.

And that was it. There was nothing else worth investigating.

Kagami, still the social worker lady, opened the wardrobe and pulled a face. “So black,” he bemoaned. “Does he not own any other colours?”

Michiko joined him, peering under his shoulder and into the cramped depths of Ryū’s fashion cave. Unfortunately, it was very boring. One school uniform at the end, two pairs of black pants, two pairs of black jeans, two black shirts, two white shirts, a black hoodie, a grey hoodie and his Hero uniform. Or a spare one, maybe. She wouldn’t be surprised that Ryū had made two. There was a shoe rack at the bottom - one set of school shoes, a pair of black boots, two pairs of black sneakers and some white running shoes - and medium sized box.

“Depressing,” he said. “Let’s snoop.”

So Michiko took the box out and sat on the floor with it in her lap. Kagami sat opposite her, awkward in his...adult body.

“Now,” she said. “Normally I wouldn’t do this, but the situation sort of calls for it, so let’s see what dirty little secrets Ryū keeps hidden in here.” She paused. “I think it goes without saying that the contents of this box should remain in the room with just us, right?”

“Of course. Unless we, you know, find something...illegal or creepy or whatever. A clue.”

“Yeah,” she replied. Michiko took off the lid and they peered inside.

The first thing she noticed was a small photo album and an unopened letter with Ryū’s name on it. She decided those two were none of their business and put them to one side. The only other things in the box was a leather book, a weird glass statue and a stuffed and worn red dragon.

“Oh,” Kagami said and he sounded very disappointed. “None of this looks very helpful.”

“Ah ah ah!” Michiko waggled a finger. “Don’t make assumptions yet, my lovely assistant. Look here, at this.” She took out the statue and held it aloft. “See?! It’s -”

“A dragon,” he sighed. “I’m sensing a theme here.”

“Well,” she replied. “At least he’s consistent. Do you think this is his diary?”

“Probably. Should we...read it?”

Michiko thought for a moment, torn. “Yes,” she decided. “If Ryū can hate us later then at least he won’t be dead.”

 


 

“Kirishima-san!” Akami called over Bakugou’s screaming and hollering, as the pair watched him pace around in tight, angry little circles. “Kirishima-san!” They’d at least been sensible enough to send their older son off to class, not that he looked very pleased about going.

The red-headed Pro Hero turned to look at her, still seeming quite confused about the news that his estranged youngest son was considered a missing person. “Sorry,” he said. “Did you say something, Igarashi-san?”

“Yes,” she said sternly because was not the time for dallying or getting emotional. “Do you have a contact number for your ex-husband?”

“My...ex-husband?”

“Kaminari-san,” she stressed and for a second he merely stared at her like she was crazy. To be honest, Akami felt a bit crazy, caught up in this situation when all she had expected was a simple, routine home visit. It was a damn good thing she’d come when she did, however, or else who knew what would happen to poor Ryū. That boy had gone through too much in his short life and Akami was determined to find him and give him a safe, happy place to live or so help her!

“Is he...can’t you find him?” His face was chalk white underneath his dark summer tan. “Is he...not at home?”

Akami sighed into the ether. “Sir, I have no recent home address for him. I have no way of knowing whether he’s at home, which is why I need to get in touch via phone.”

Kirishima still stared back at her, red eyes wide and confused. “Excuse me? Didn’t you say - you’ve been at their house, you said so earlier! You did a home visit!”

“At Ryū’s grandparents' house,” she said slowly because was there something wrong with this man? Was he injured? Why was this so hard to comprehend?

“Yes,” he said and looked over at the still-raging Bakugou. “Katsuki, I think I’m going crazy or something. Please help me understand what’s going on!”

Bakugou shut his mouth and stomped over. “What?” he demanded. “What now? Is someone else fucking missing too? My other kids too, maybe?”

“Sir, you need to calm down,” she said flatly. God damn this ridiculous family. No wonder Ryū was so reticent all the time if this was what he had to put up with! “Like I’ve been trying to explain to your husband -”

“They can’t find Denki,” Kirishima implored, grabbing onto the other man’s arm. “She wants his phone number to call and see if she can figure out where he is, but apparently he might be at home -”

“Well, if he’s at his house why don’t you just go check? The damn kid might well be there too!” Bakugou said and then he eyed Akami suspiciously. “What kind of social worker are you, huh?”

“A good one,” she replied frostily because Akami would put up with a lot of things, but not someone insulting her professional abilities. Social care work was her life and let no other sane soul argue otherwise. “Like I’ve been saying, we don’t know where Kaminari-san lives so we can’t check on him. I doubt Ryū knows where he lives either, so it’s unlikely he’d be there anyway.”

“How...how would Ryū not know where he lives?” Kirishima implored. “Please explain yourself, Igarashi-san. We only want to find our son.”

“Where he lives?” she repeated. “Kirishima-san, I think you might be confused; Ryū lives here in Musutafu, but Kaminari lives somewhere in Tokyo if the records are still correct.”

“But - but -” Kirishima looked at Bakugou.

“Explain,” he demanded. “Clearly.”

“Explain what?” Akami finally cried, completely exasperated.

“Why the hell my kid is living so far away from his dad, that’s what!” Bakugou yelled back. “Why you don’t have their home address and why the hell a fifteen-year-old is allowed to live, apparently, in a strange city all by himself!”

Akami, for not the first time in the day, was stunned. “I. Kirishima-san, Bakugou-san, are you. Were you not made aware?” Oh for God’s sake, really?! Was this how this was going to play out? What kind of slap-dash custody arrangement had gone on here?!

“Aware of what!? Lady, you better get talking or else I’ll -”

“Kaminari Denki signed away the custody of his son over three years ago!” she burst out, flushed and panting.

“Excuse me?”

“What?”

The pair of them were staring at her, frozen, like she’d taken off her head and started dribbling it in figure eights around them.

“Ryū’s the ward of his grandmother,” she said a bit more calmly. This was, after all, fresh and apparently rather shocking, news to them. “I witnessed the custody transfer myself. Kaminari-san came into our office and requested that Ryū be removed from his care because he didn’t feel like he was fit for sole custody. We offered help in whatever way we could provide it, but...he refused. I had no choice but to offer custody to his grandparents, and they accepted. The last time I’d visited Ryū had seemed very happy there.”

“No choice?” Bakugou hissed. “What about us, huh? We’re his parents, biologically his parents, so why the fuck wouldn’t you come to us!?”

“Sir,” she said, because she knew they were shocked but she also knew what had led to this set of circumstances in the first place. “You waived your rights. You agreed to assign full custody of your son to Kaminari-san and, in the process, you gave up whatever say you might’ve had when it comes to what will happen to him in the future. As far as I, and the government of Japan, are concerned, your opinion matters about as much as a that of a complete stranger on the street. Those are the repercussions of forfeiting custody rights, and yet you have the audacity to yell at me when I inform you otherwise?”

“You -”

“Everyone involved in this entire situation has done Ryū a complete disservice,” she continued sternly. “It’s arrogant of you to storm into this and demand information, demand some sort of apology, when you haven’t even seen, let alone spoken to, your son, your fifteen-year old son, in over four years! So don’t yell at me and don’t criticize the work I have done, that you should’ve been doing, keeping your child safe and happy. If there ever any chance of you being reassigned custody of him, believe you me I would’ve been the first one knocking at your door. But Ryū’s grandmother was the only person willing to take him in and she should be commended because otherwise, we’d be looking for a very different boy.”

“If you’re so great at taking care of him, then where the fuck is he!?”

“When I said everyone had done Ryū a disservice, I meant it, Bakugou-san. I thought, as we all did, that placing Ryū with his grandparents was the right decision to make and, whilst at the time it might have been, it’s clear to me now that he could’ve been better off staying in the foster system after all.”

“What,” Kirishima said before Bakugou could open his mouth, “is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that there is information I am unable to disclose to you, but that worries me very deeply about the situation your son might be in when we find him.” A police car screeched through the main gate and came to a stop in the parking lot, lights blaring. She stared at the mountain of a man who climbed out, bushy salt-and-pepper beard and all. “Information that gives me no choice but to make Ryū a ward of the state as soon as we find him.”

 


 

“This is awesome,” Hibiki sighed into her chocolate, whipped cream-topped milkshake. Ryū still had his bowl of strawberry ice cream in front of him, but she’d already worked through her own. She was a damn fast eater. “Wall climbing? Super jaws? Does that not sound like some sort of crazy comic book hero to you or what?!” Either that or Ryū’s appetite was bad enough he was avoiding eating his favourite sweet treat.

“Or what,” he muttered sullenly, grabbing a napkin off the tray their food had come on. He started to tear it into long white strips. “You wouldn’t be so happy about all this if it was you with some crazy monster following you around.”

“Probably not,” she allowed, “but it’s not me, it’s you! And your Kaminari Ryū, goth kid extraordinaire! Who else better for some demon spirit animal?”

He rolled his eyes a bit. “I’m not a goth, and Kiyo’s not an animal. She’s...something.”

“Still a demon, I bet. Is she...here now?”

She watched with bated breath as he looked around the small ice cream bar, eyeing the red leather boots, the row of stools at the front counter. It was all very Western style, but that just made it cool. “Yeah,” he said. “Trying to steal that weird girl’s ice cream.”

‘That weird girl’ was a young woman with bouncy pastel purple pigtails and a pair of obnoxious, pink, heart-shaped glasses perched on the end of her nose. She was wearing a pink dress and white knee-high boots. A total lolita type.

Hibiki couldn’t see Kiyo, but she now knew that was par for the course anyway. She couldn’t imagine a cloud trying to steal someone’s ice cream, however.

Honestly, she would kill for a Quirk like Ryū’s. Her own Déjà-vu was...depressing to have. Either it fucked with her or with other people and there was really no other alternative. She always put herself down as Quirkless on her CV at any job interview simply because it was easier and ‘true’ when taking into account that she hadn’t even used Déjà-vu in over five years.

“Can’t you all her off?” she worried. “Quirk use is still illegal in public.”

“My Quirk is invisible,” he said, “and - ”

His bowl of ice cream slid across the table and off the edge, hovering in mid-air for a moment as the cold treat disappeared with one wet slurping sound. Then the bowl clattered back to the table, completely empty.

“I hope you didn’t want that.”

“It’s fine, I didn’t really. Kiyo, you can’t just -”

I can do whatever I want, that hair-raising voice insisted. No one will stop me.

Laughing nervously, Hibiki finished her drink and fished her purse out from her handbag. She counted out the bill and left it on the table, before wiping her hands on a non-shredded napkin. “Come on. If you want I can drop you at school for afternoon classes?”

Ryū sighed and slid out of his booth seat as well. “You should,” he told her, “I don’t want a tardy day already.”

“It’s fine,” she shrugged. “Whatever you want, cousin. I’m sure they’ll understand when I - ohmygod I forgot to ring them.”

“What?” he asked weakly. “Hibiki, you promised you would! They’re going to think I’m skipping class!”

“Well, I mean, technically you are...”

“Hibiki!”

“Alright, alright. I’ll ring them as soon as we get outside; I’m sure they’ll understand if I explain that it was my fault.”

Nevertheless, Ryū hurried her to the door, chewing anxiously on his lip. It was clear he really cared about this school, about what his teachers would think of him, and Hibiki couldn’t help but be proud of him. His middle school had not been honoured with the same respect and it was nice to see him actually passionate about something other than being angry at the world.

She grabbed her phone, looked up the number for U.A. High School and was set to dial when a loud, insistent ringing noise bounced down the street. Hibiki looked up only to yelp and dive out of the way of a kid on a bike.

“Ryū-chan!” the kid, a girl with long silver hair that Hibiki was shocked to recognise as Ryū’s friend Tetsutetsu, let said bike clatter to the sidewalk and then threw herself on Hibiki’s cousin, clinging tightly to his shoulders. “Holy fuck!”

“What?” Ryū asked, clearly befuddled as another kid, this one a boy with pink hair, dropped his own bike and joined the impromptu hug-fest. It was Ojiro. What were these kids, Ryū’s friends, doing out in the street during school hours? “What’s going on?”

“We found you!” Ojiro cried, tears slipping down his cheeks. “We’re so glad you’re not missing anymore!”

“Missing?” Hibiki gaped, feeling way out of her depth. Not that she didn’t normally, but still. “What are you talking about?”

“We - we were so worried about you Ryū-chan!” Ojiro wailed, clinging on even tighter.

“Get a hold of yourself!” Tetsutetsu snapped and she released the indifferent Ryū to smack ‘Kagi-kun’ over the head. “You might not remember us, but I’m Tetsutetsu Michiko and this is Ojiro Kagami.”

“I remember. But...what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in school?”

“Some lady came with Shinsou-sensei to get us from class,” Tetsutetsu explained. “She said you were missing, Ryū, and so was your cousin.” She looked at Hibiki. “You, I guess.”

“Huh,” she shook her head a little to get her wits back. “Who was this woman?”

“We, uh, didn’t get her name,” Ojiro said sheepishly. “But I gave her your number, your, uh, other number.”

“What other number?” Ryū looked at her in suspicion. “What the fuck is going on? Who told you I was missing, huh?”

“The woman, Ryū! She had short brown hair and brown eyes and she was with another lady wearing su -”

“Sunglasses?”

“Yeah. So you do know them?”

“My case worker,” Ryū grumbled. “Igarashi Akami and my safeguarding officer, Miso-san.”

Hibiki snorted. “Like the soup?”

“Yes.”

“Why would she be looking for you? Did something happen?”

“I doubt it. It was probably just time for my unannounced home visit.”

“Those still happen?” Tetsutetsu asked.

“They will until I turn eighteen,” Ryū explained surprisingly patiently. “To make sure I’m in a...safe environment.”

“Oh no,” Ojiro went pale. He looked at Tetsutetsu with an unreadable look. “Michi-kun...”

“We, uh, did something you might not be too happy about, Ryū,” she mumbled. “Please don’t hate us?”

Hibiki did not have a good feeling about where this conversation was going.

“What.”


 

“Detective Ishikawa,” the mountain man said gruffly, holding out a large hand for Akami to shake. “Were you the lady I spoke to on the phone?”

“That’s me,” she replied, returning the handshake. His fingers dwarfed her own and Akami felt a tad flustered. Men like this certainly weren’t her type, but there was something about him. He was wearing reflective glasses and stuck between him and Miso-san, Akami felt like she should’ve brought her own eyewear. “Igarashi Akami. I’m Ryū’s case worker and this is -”

“Kirishima Eijirou,” the spiky-haired man said, also shaking Ishikawa’s hand. “I’m Ryū’s father.”

“His biological father,” she added quickly. “That’s why the situation is, ah, delicate. The gentleman over there, Bakugou Katsuki,” said Bakugou was being calmed down by...was that the Pro Hero Uravity? “is the other, but Kaminari Denki is his former-step-father and the man we believe may have further information on Ryū’s whereabouts.”

“I’ve heard weirder, believe you me,” the detective shrugged. “Fortunately, I’m already up-to-date on the situation; we got in contact with Kaminari-san on the way here.”

“Really?”

“You did?” Kirishima demanded, leaning forward eagerly. “Is he okay? Does he know where Ryū is?”

“Yes and no. He says he hasn’t seen the boy since he signed over custody three and a half years ago. This was to the grandparents, correct?” Akami nodded. “Yes, he said all ties were cut. He agreed to let his residence be checked just in case and a local officer will head over and do so shortly.”

“But when he comes down - is he coming down? -, he might know where Ryū is, right? They’ve always been close.”

“Kaminari-san declined any further involvement,” Ishikawa revealed a tad awkwardly. “He agreed to the property search but said that he’s quite busy at the moment. We agreed to let him know the outcome of the case, however.” His head turned towards Akami, so he was probably sizing her up from behind his sunglasses. “If that’s alright with you, that is.”

“I...don’t understand. That’s not like Denki - Ryū is his son! Our son! He wouldn’t just stay out of it if he found out he was missing!”

“That’s is what happened.”

“Kirishima-san,” Akami soothed. “It’s been years since they last saw one another and Kaminari-san was told by the judge to cease further contact for the good of Ryū’s mental health. It’s more than likely that he’s simply upholding the court instructions, rather than a lack of concern.”

“A judge couldn’t keep me away from my kid,” the Pro said darkly and Akami had had just about enough of these two.

“Well, clearly it did,” she snapped. “Now are you going to complain or are you going to listen to what Detective Ishikawa has to say?”

Kirishima visibly restrained himself, a vein in his forehead throbbing like a little drum. “Sorry,” he gritted. “Please...continue.”

“Well, like I said, we contacted Kaminari-san, but I’d put good money on nothing coming out of his house search,” Ishikawa explained. “He was too genuinely surprised over the phone - emotions like that can’t be faked. My main concern is...the information you provided me over the phone, Igarashi-san.”

“What information?”

“Maybe we should discuss this in private,” the detective suggested to her. “Kirishima-san, I’m legally unable to give you any details yet pertaining to an ongoing investigation, but -”

“No, no, no! Ryū is my son! Sir, please -”

“It’s out of my hands,” he replied apologetically. “Igarashi-san, if you would...?”

Akami let herself be led away a small distance and almost immediately Ishikawa took out a pen and a small notebook. “Would you mind going over the details you explained on the phone once more?”

She nodded shortly. “Yes. Two students, Ryū’s best friends, were removed from class to see if they had any clue as to his whereabouts. When speaking to them, Tetsutetsu-kun -” she watched him write, “that’s ‘Tetsutetsu Michiko’ and ‘Ojiro Kagami’ - they revealed to me, my boss and Shinsou-san, the principal here at U.A. as to a possible...inappropriate relationship between Ryū and his great-grandfather, Mori Kurou.”

“What kind of inappropriate relationship?”

“Sexual comments,” she said. “They didn’t go into much detail but described stares that lingered too long and overhearing a phone conversation with some...disturbing content. Mori apparently called Ryū a ‘minx’ and a ‘temptation’.”

“Have you had concerns about any of his conduct in the past?”

“No,” she said, “but, then again, I’ve never spoken to him before. I had no knowledge that Ryū even saw any members of his extended family. He was present when I arrived for my home visit and Ryū was revealed to be missing. He was shocked, what I believe to be genuinely, and very concerned.”

“But during those interactions did you sense any sort of...inappropriateness? Strange comments or actions?”

“No,” she admitted again. “Which is why I found it so startling when Tetsutetsu-kun and Ojiro-kun revealed what they had overheard. I usually have quite good instincts for things like that; it’s why I’m a social worker in the first place.”

“We’ll question him, but I can’t promise anything. We can’t take any further action without proof, a confession or the boy confiding in us. Or until Ryū is removed from the home and made a ward of the state and you guys decide to bring a case against him. Sexual abuse is notoriously hard to prove, especially in male-on-male cases and for teenagers. They’re often unwilling to admit to what’s happening due to the risk of stigma from their peers.”

“You don’t need to tell me,” she said. “I don’t see it often, but I see it enough.”

“As for the boy’s whereabouts,” Ishikawa explained, scrubbing a big hand through his salt and pepper hair, “We have officers searching his home and looking into that phone number you gave us. Is there any chance the cousin is behind this; involved somehow?”

“I’ve never met her and can’t speak as to her personality...but her Quick is called Déjà-vu and it can force people to relieve certain memories - could that has anything to do with Ryū’s disappearance?”

“Hm, I doubt it, but we’ll look into it regardless. The great-grandfather is next on my list and he’s supposed to be on his way here. At the moment we’re looking at this as a possible runaway but suspicious circumstances and -”

“Ryū wouldn’t run away,” she stressed. “He’s too loyal. He would stick it out with his relatives even if they did the most despicable things to him. It’s the way he’s always been.”

“Hm,” he said again. His head turned ever so slightly in the direction of Kirishima, who was watching them nervously from a short distance away, and Bakugou, who was sat on the stairs with Uravity at his side. “They act unusual? I know they’re Pros, but...well, I’ve seen more surprising things in my time.”

“Kirishima-san and Bakugou-san? I find that extremely unlikely; they haven’t seen and spoken to Ryū, before when he started school here on Monday, in five years. If they wanted to do anything they would’ve done so in the time where they’re least likely to be considered suspects, no? I have a bad feeling about Mori, though. Something he said rubbed me the wrong way.”

“What did he say?”

“Well...nothing awful but in the circumstances, the situation, it was an unusual thing to come out with. I told him we’d find Ryū, alive, and he said ‘I’m sure you will’, which I think you’ll agree is...odd.”

“It is, but being odd isn’t illegal and I can’t arrest him for that.”

“...I suppose.”

“And Red Riot? Is what he said correct? Is he the boy’s biological father? I was aware he had a son who attended here, but I thought that was the older boy with whom Ryū got into a fight with last night; Bakugou.”

“Yes, they’re brothers. From what I understand of the situation, Red Riot, Ground Zero and Chargebolt were involved in a three-person relationship and between them had three children via gene manipulation. Ryū is biologically the son of Red Riot and Ground Zero, but when they divorced from Chargebolt, the latter was given custody for around two, three years before handing over rights to his mother.”

Ishikawa sighed, rubbing his stubbled face. “What a shit show,” he muttered. “And the older sons?”

Akami took out Ryū’s folder and flipped to the corresponding page. “Bakugou Akio,” he read out. “I believe he’s the son of Red Riot and Chargebolt, if Ryū’s folder can be believed. He’s seventeen and in his third year here; he’s in the custody of Kirishima-san and Bakugou-san, who are still together. The other,” she looked at the single line of text at the bottom of the page, more of a footnote than anything, “should be nineteen, twenty now. I don’t know where he lives, but it’s not with them. His name is...Bakugou Raiden, I believe.”

“Strong names. Bakugou Raiden; thunder and lightning explosion? Sounds like the kind of kid you wouldn’t want to mess with and you say he’s twenty? I’ll ask Red Riot how to get a hold of him. Thanks for your help, Igarashi-san. I can tell you care about the kid, Ryū, quite a lot. This a personal case?

“I let him down,” she admitted quietly. “I put off his home visit and now this? I owe it to him to find him a safe and stable household. He’s back in my care as soon as he’s found well and alive.”

“Hopefully,” the detective said and then, with a parting nod, he headed back over to Kirishima-san. Akami could only watch him go, still with that foreboding feeling curling in the pit of her stomach.

 


 

“Dad-dy!” a little voice whined, high-pitched and insistent. “I wanna have pancakes too!”

“Not for lunch, sweetheart,” the girl’s clearly exhausted father said, not looking up from his cup of straight black coffee. His wife, sat at his side and opposite their colourfully-dressed, wide-eyed and awake daughter, was nearly falling asleep in her rice.

Hizashi looked up from where he was wiping the counter down, scrubbing at a persistent little stain from someone’s red wine during night hours. Probably the expensive 1000¥ one too. Sat on a barstool on the other side of the counter, Touma stared back at him with those big dark eyes, completely guileless.

“You gonna ask me for pancakes, huh?”

Touma blinked back at him and then stuck his thumb in his mouth. He hummed a bit but that was all Hizashi got. That was all he ever got, actually. He reached over and tousled that long, silky blonde hair, sighing.

“Not talking still?” he asked rhetorically. “Three is a big number, kiddo. Long time to keep quiet too, you know. Lots of interesting words out there, just waiting for you to open up your mouth and say ‘em...?”

Smiling around his thumb, Touma shook his head and Hizashi sighed again. He went back to his counter scrubbing and the door behind the bar opened not long after, bringing with it the smell of American french fries and cooking grease. He made a mental note to ask the cleaners to take a longer look at the ovens when they came in for clean-up in the morning.

“Hey,” Hizashi glanced up as his glasses slid down his nose a little. He’d traded in his brown sunglasses for regular old specs, and now he felt...old. Like someone’s dad. “Everything okay? You shift doesn’t end for another hour.”

“I gotta go, Mic,” Kaminari begged. “Someone’s wrong back home - Ryū’s gone missing.”

“Ryū? That’s...one of your boys, right? The one with your parents?” Hizashi vaguely remembered him, back when Kaminari had first come to work at his place, but now the memory was taken over by the sweet-faced little monster in front of him. He had other kids to worry about than the one Kaminari didn’t see anymore. “I’m really really sorry, but can you keep an eye on Touma instead? I know I did this last week with the - the rent too, but it’s important and -”

“Of course,” he said. “What? You think I’m going to complain about spending time with my little listener?” he winked at Touma and he giggled silently. “Thanks for all your help in the first place.”

“Mic, you were the one to get me back on my feet and give me a job,” Kaminari said as he pulled his apron off and grabbed his coat and keys from the employee locker beside the bar. “I’ll be back by tomorrow evening at the latest and take Touma off your hands so you and Aizawa can go out for that big anniversary dinner you had planned, alright? An office is going to come by and check out my room later, if that's alright..."

“Don't sweat it and don't either if you can't make it back in time,” Hizashi said honestly. “You’re doing me a favour by being here anyway. Shōta’s not exactly going to complain about spending time with Touma. He’s still so busy at U.A., security and all that, that he rarely gets any time off as it is.”

“I’ll hurry him when I get there,” Kaminari hopped the bar and patted Touma on the head. “Okay, kiddo, I’m off for tonight. We can watch the rest of our movie the day after tomorrow, yeah? I’ll bring you some gummies.”

“Oh, you hear that?” Hizashi sing-songed as Touma craned on his stool to watch Kaminari leave. “Your favourite.”

“Bye!” Kaminari called and the door swung shut behind him. He jogged quickly out of sight.

Touma made a little sad noise and Hizashi sighed again, tossing his long hair back. “One day, bud,” he said. “We’ll get something out of you yet, just you wait!”

 


 

Chapter Text

“Well,” Kagami hedged. “We spoke to that lady - Igarashi, yeah? - and she was really convincing, super trustworthy I think, so I kind of -”

“Maybe -” Michiko added in, twisting her fingers nervously.

“- told her about your situation.”

“My...situation,” Ryū rolled the word around in his mouth, practically tasting it. It was bitter and he didn’t like it, wanted to just swallow the whole situation down and label it just a negative dining experience.

“With your great-grandpa,” Michiko mumbled. She couldn’t even make eye contact now. “And stuff.”

“You know?” Hibiki whispered conspiratorially and Ryū felt his heart skip, his pulse thunder right up into his ears.

“You know?” he demanded harshly, his clenched fists trembling at his sides. Oh fuck. “Hibiki, it’s not that it sounds like -”

“So he is drugging you,” she said to herself. “Have you two have seen this happening?”

“Drugging?” Kagami and Michiko echoed.

“Do they know about Kiyo?”

“Who’s Kiyo?” Michiko cried, throwing her hands up. Given that they’d been standing in the street the whole time, with a pair of bikes dumped haphazardly behind a parked car, they were drawing quite a few stares and concerned looks.

“...Oops.”

“Can I talk to you,” Ryū managed, still shaking. “Both of you.”

“We’ll be right back, miss cousin,” Kagami said and he and Michiko followed Ryū into the alleyway beside the ice cream parlour, tucking their little huddle behind a dumpster so that Hibiki couldn’t see.

“He’s drugging you too?” Michiko immediately demanded. “Ryū, why the fuck didn’t you tell us -”

“Tell you what?” he demanded. “That my - he makes me take Quirk dampeners?! That’s not illegal, Michiko -”

“It is if they’re not prescribed!” she snapped back, fire in her teal blue eyes and a fierce scowl on her face. “So tell me, have you been to a Quirk doctor lately?! Huh?”

“Fuck off,” he snarled.

“Guys,” Kagami pleaded, shoving himself between them. Ryū hadn’t realised they’d gotten so in each other’s face, so close their noses were close to touching. His chest was heaving. “Guys, quit it. Ryū, we’re just worried about you; we’re your best friends, we can tell there’s something wrong -”

“Nothing,” he enunciated slowly, “is wrong.”

“Liar!” she yelled and she shoved Kagami out of the way. His hair fizzled black as he fell against the dumpster, lips parted in shock. “Tell the truth, Ryū! We saw you on the security camera at my house last night! You were walking past and you were hurt, so don’t give me that bullshit!”

Ryū, to his horror, swallowed a tight knot in his throat and felt his eyes burn. Christ, he was getting teary-eyed; he was trying not to cry like a little fucking baby. What was wrong with him? It wasn’t any big deal, he could barely remember it, barely feel anything anyway...

“Stop it.”

“Michiko, this isn’t the way to go about it,” Kagami said and he struggled back to his feet, looking a bit nervous, “Ryū, please, we just want to help -”

“Well I don’t want you help!” he found himself shouting, his eyes closed to keep the burning away. He couldn’t even look at them. “Leave me the hell alone, okay? It’s none of your business!”

“It’s entirely our business!” she screamed and there she was, shoving him back. Ryū hit the wall and, against his will, against the little rational voice inside his head, a hiss of pain escaped from between his clenched teeth.

Michiko’s steam of anger whistled from her like an over-boiled kettle dumped in a bucket of ice and she seemed to deflate, her shoulders sinking. “Are you hurt?”

“No,” he said, but Kagami was at his side, hands wobbling uncertainty in the air before he took him by the elbow, turned him in a neat circle, his breath puffing on the back of Ryū’s neck.

“What is this?” Michiko said and she was there to, clinging to his shoulder with a shaky hand. Then fingers pushed his hair up, right where the back of his shirt began and he heard them both inhale. Ryū was sick, he was bowing his head, he was - he didn’t know what he was. “Ryū? Ryū-chan, what is this?”

That cutesy nickname really got to him and before he knew it and could think rationally, Ryū was pulling away, face turned away in...shame or something. He swallowed again and sucked his teeth all at once. His mouth was so dry and he wished he’d finished his stupid ice cream when he’d had the chance.

He hadn’t seen it, but he knew it as there, could feel it crawling across his skin like lice. Like - like fingernails. He shivered as Michiko got to close, breathed on it.

“We’re telling the police,” she whispered so quietly on the three of them could ever possibly hear.

Ryū felt the ice rush down his spine and he was knocked free of whatever trance he’d been in. He spun and knocked their hands away, baring his teeth. “Don’t you dare.”

“Dare what?” Her lip curled. “Look out for my friend? Our friend?”

“Michiko, stop! Can’t you see you’re upsetting him!?”

She took another step towards him and Ryū was crowded up against the dumpster, his back dumping against the rugged bricks. He sucked in another breath and then she was there again, taking up any and all breathing room, pupils dilated. “NO!” she yelled right in his face. “Tell me! Admit it! Admit it, admit it, admit it, admit it -”

“Stop!” Ryū shoved her, but she only stumbled back a few steps before coming at him with her fists raised. He must’ve made some sort of noise, a yelp, because then a hair-raising, demonic voice roared from atop the dumpster.

EAT Kiyo shrieked and she was on top of Michiko then, her mouth wide, her teeth prime and red eyes glowing that sickly flame colour. Kagami started screamed, stumbling back and Michiko let out a terrified squeal as teeth bared down on her neck.

Ryū got his wits about him and blindsided Kiyo just as her teeth closed down. As they tumbled off his best friend and onto the dirty alley floor, said teeth chomped onto air and she howled in anger.

NO EAT she pushed him back, but Ryū clung on tight, digging his nails into her body. It was the first proper time he’d touched her - his Quirk - and she felt like a skeleton, like leather stretched tightly over a wire frame. It was gross. BAD BOY

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!?”

“Ryū!” Michiko’s oversized metal hand swung in and swatted Kiyo down the alley like a misbehaving fly and she stood over him with her fists raised defensively. “If you wanna get to my friend then you’ll have to go through me!”

“Let’s run!” Kagami suggested and Ryū didn’t have a moment to think before Michiko was hauling him up as they sprinted back towards the street. He managed to toss a glance over his shoulder and saw Kyio scampering after them on all fours, long tongue lolling out of her mouth like a wet garden hose. She looked truly ravenous.

Hibiki was reading a small black book when they sped out, but she dropped it as soon as she saw their faces. “What?” she asked but then Kiyo was there and a whole lot more people were screaming. Ryū was dragged behind a car, by Michiko’s and Kagami’s bikes, and his friends crouched beside him, white-faced.

“What is that thing?” Kagami gasped for air. “Did it say eat?”

“Yeah, so -” Michiko was cut off as Kiyo leapt onto the roof of the car, denting in the roof, and stared down at them, licking her lips.

Give him to me, she said in a gravelly, deathly whisper. Give me him.

Kagami clung tighter to Ryū’s arm and they shuffled backwards very slowly.

NOW she howled and once again, Kiyo became acquainted the backhand of Michiko’s metal wrath. She crashed through the window of the ice cream parlour and the people inside scattered like mice, hiding under tables and on the floor. Kiyo, however, completely ignored them.

“Hey, kids!” A bald guy with technicoloured eyes hollered from the nearby doorway where he was hiding. The street was all but empty now. “Get out of there! Run!”

But it was too late, Kiyo crawled out of the broken window, bits of glass protruding from her skin like Christmas decorations. She didn’t looked affected by it at all, however. They watched her prowl around the other side of the car and for a moment there was silence.

“Wait,” Ryū tried, but then Michiko was screaming right in his ear and he couldn’t think. A taloned hand closed around his ankle and he was dragged under the car, kicking out instinctively. His friends clung onto his arms, but his Quirk was too strong. The tarmac dragged against his back like nails on a chalkboard and Ryū cried out at the sheer intensity of the pain.

Then light flooded back in as he came up on the other side of the car and she hefted him into the air upside down. She breathed rank breath in his face and let out a disgruntled growl.

“Kiyo, stop,” he gasped as she sniffed him all over, paying special attention to his face and neck. “They’re friends, they just don’t understand!”

“Let go of him!” Michiko yelled and her bike sailed through the air and smacked Kiyo in the side. She dropped Ryū to the ground and his head spun as he body throbbed. As the world tried to right itself, a yell of excitement split the air from the hiding civilians.

“Leave the boy alone!” a deeply annoyed voice ordered sternly. “What makes you think you can bother me on my day off, beast?”

Ryū craned his neck and spotted the giant man standing in the middle of the street wearing a neatly-pressed black business suit. He was pretty hard to miss, actually. Especially since half of his face was scar tissue and the other was...familiar, to put it lightly.

“It’s Endeavor!” Michiko said and then she flipped off the car and smacked the dazed Kiyo into the ground with a well-placed, metal-fisted, karate-chop. “Hyah!”

“In the flesh,” the former-Pro said. “Stay out of this, girl!”

“Yes, sir!” she replied, hauling Ryū up and power-throwing them across the road to hide beside Kagami, who was now with some old man behind a big green delivery truck. “Wow! So cool!”

Endeavor’s body blossomed in flames, a halo of them befalling his head and beard.

He looked...very dumb.

 


 

“Um, sir?” one of the new deputies interrupted nervously. “Detective Ishikawa?”

Seisui scowled a little. “What is it?” he asked, incredibly aware that at any moment Red Riot could clam up and refuse to give over any more details, having realised that he’d been loose-lipped and shared too much.

The deputy, whose name escaped him, glanced at Red Riot, who was frowning anxiously as he waited to hear what the man had to say.

“Go ahead,” Seisui ordered and the deputy swallowed.

“Sir, there’s been a reported sighting,” he explained, “not too far from here. An officer rang in to say she thinks she saw the missing boy, Kaminari, outside an ice cream parlour with an older girl and two other teenagers, a boy and a girl. They were arguing.”

Seisui could’ve heaved a sigh of relief. With how this case was playing out...he’d been expecting a body find, not a potential home-safe story. He grabbed his radio and called for backup, heading straight for his patrol car. There was no time to lose.

“Wait! Detective!” Red Riot jogged alongside him. “I can come, I can help -”

“No,” he barked. “Stay here!”

“Like hell we will!” Ground Zero yelled and there he was at Red Riot’s side, as angry as he always looked on TV. Not a great guy to have around in an emotional crisis, clearly. “He’s our kid!”

Seisui, frankly, didn’t have time to argue. “Fine,” he said, sliding into his seat and bucking himself up. “Get in and stay quiet.” They got in the back seat and the social worker piled in at the last minute, squashing herself between the two big Pros.

“Ryū’s my case,” she panted, clearly having run after them. She was clutching her pink purse in white-knuckled fingers. “I’m seeing this through until the bitter end.”

“More for you, lady,” Seisui said and then he gunned the engine.

They screeched off the school grounds and, as the principal stood on the sidewalk and watched with his hands in his pockets, two other patrol cars kept tight up behind Seisui’s. He spun the wheel on a corner and hit the lights, the red and blue keeping any cars on the road out of his way.

His radio fuzzed.

“- villain attack!”

He pressed the response button. “What was that? There’s bad signal right now. Over.”

“- unknown assailant - children - a zombie - you copy?”

He was getting a reply ready when he rounded another corner and had to hit the breaks. They stopped hard enough he heard his tag-alongs hit the plexiglass divider, but Seisui didn’t have time for that. He scrambled out of his patrol car with his gun at his side.

The former-Pro, now retired to Seisui’s knowledge, Endeavor, was aiming fireballs at a...truly awful creature that looked straight out of a horror movie. It was curled over like a hunchback with long, thin limbs that ended in black talons, over which white skin was taut and glossy. It was wearing filthy rags but no shoes and had a long tangle of thin black hair hanging down its back.

“Stay back,” Endeavor ordered him, holding up a hand and Seisui wasn’t about to argue with him. This was above what they paid him for down at the precinct.

“Oi!” Ground Zero charged into the fray, though he wasn’t exactly dressed for a fight. “Endeavor, what are you doing here, huh?!”

“Trying to enjoy my lunch break,” the man responded, obviously irked. “But my licence is still valid for another six weeks, so I thought I’d...help out.”

The creature, if it could be called that with its unholy appearance, scurried down a mauled car and onto the street. It stared at them unblinkingly. Its eyes were red, with slitted pupils and it had a black gaping maw for a mouth, from which razor-sharp teeth and a long pink tongue could be seen.

“I think it might be fire-resistant, however,” Endeavor explained. He shot a cannonball of flames down the street and it engulfed the creature, which shrieked. However, a moment later the fire fizzled out and it was still standing there, looking even more demonic. Its eyes seemed to be glowing. “Yes, I would think so.”

“Endeavor, are there kids here?” Red Riot asked, head swinging in all directions as he joined them. “Black hair, short, red eyes -”

“The one that thing is after?” the former-Pro asked. “Yeah. He ducked behind a car earlier. Haven’t kept an eye on him, though.”

“We need to get him out of here! Katsuki, if it’s immune to fire then it stands to reason it wouldn’t be affected by your explosions either,” Red Riot said. “You think Hardening will do anything?”

“No,” Endeavor said flatly. “Wait for Deku or whoever random is a ranked Hero these days to turn up.”

“Hyuh?!” Ground Zero spluttered, stomping his foot. “I’m Number 2, you old fucker! I’ll kick that freak’s ass!”

Endeavor snarled. “Be my guest.”

 


 

“Ryū,” Michiko shook his shoulder urgently. “Ryū-chan!”

“What?” he snapped. “What now?” Ryū was mad at the moment, especially at his dumbass friends and he didn’t want her fucking things up anymore. It was her fault they were in this mess in the first place!

“What should we do?” she asked with a whimper in her voice filled with fragility. Ryū had forgotten they’d only been training for a few days. So much had happened in his reality, after all. “What is that thing?”

“Your Quirk seems to fend it off,” Kagami suggested. He had a long red graze smeared up one side of his face. It looked like road rash. “Or it at least bought us some time to run.”

“But what about all the civilians? They’ll be left here.”

“It’s not focusing on them,” he pointed out. “It actually just seems really interested in Ryū.”

They both looked at him. The old man looked at him. What the fuck was that guy even doing with them? Ugh.

“What’s it doing?”

Ryū stuck his head out from beside the truck, eyeing his Quirk prowling the street with her mouth wide open. Endeavor was facing off against her, fire dancing across his shoulders and down to his hands. They had their eyes fixed on one another and he couldn’t imagine much would distract them.

Then a car pulled up and three guys stumbled out. One was in a police uniform, big and with sunglasses and a beard, and the other two were his biological shitstains. They gawked like idiots and began talking to Endeavor, who was still pissed. Ryū was now getting the feeling that was actually just his neutral expression.

Endeavor threw a fireball at Kiyo, which she took to the face with a nonplussed shriek. When it fizzled out, she shuffled forwards on all fours, muscles tensing. Ryū could tell she was going to go in for a charge soon. He wanted to shout out and tell her to give it a rest, but that would tell everyone that he knew her, that Kiyo was his Quirk. The same Kiyo that had damaged public and private property alike, threatened civilians and tried to eat his friends. Something like that would not look good on his school record.

“Alright,” he said. “Kagami, you can do this.”

“Do what?”

“Be me,” he said. “Get out there and be a distraction.”

“Huh!? I can’t do that; are you crazy?”

Michiko looked between them, then swept Kagami up by the back of his school blazer and tossed him out into the road. He tumbled and came up with Ryū’s face, disgruntled and directly in Kiyo’s path. Ground Zero, who had been readying an explosion, had to divert the fiery ball up into the sky to avoid hitting him.

“Now what?” she hissed and Ryū shimmied around the truck to watch Kagami scramble to his feet with an awkward yelp.

Ryū? Kiyo asked curiously, prowling closer.

“Um, good monster? Good zombie!” Kagami waved his hands, backing away with a pale face. Ryū didn’t like seeing himself looking so weak.

“Leave this to the Pros, boy!” Endeavor barked.

“Ryū!” Red Riot yelled and Ryū was not. Fucking. Happy. How dare that fucker say his name like that; like he was so damn concerned? “Get away from him!”

All three charged forward, Endeavor with fire spiralling from his palms, Ground Zero using an explosion to launch himself into the air and Red Riot activating his Hardening Quirk. He was the first one to get there and swept ‘Ryū’ under one arm, rolling to the side just as the other two landed with a powerful blast of heat.

Kiyo screamed and lunged at Ground Zero, snapping her teeth. He swiftly stepped back and ducked under a swipe from the sharp black claws now replacing her fingernails. Endeavor came at her with a kick and she tumbled back a few steps, flames trailing in her wake.

“Woo!” Michiko threw her arms in the air. “Now that’s what I call a fight!”

Ryū snarled at her, but could only watch helplessly as the two ‘Pros’ thoroughly trounced his Quirk. They tossed her about, firing off explosions and shots of fire with ease. Kiyo, though unaffected by the actual heat, was moved by the force of the attack and she eventually ended up pinned against a car on the other side of the street.

“Give it up!” Ground Zero howled. “You’re fucking weak against us!”

Hopping onto the roof of said car, she stared back at him and licked her lips.

Ryū? She asked and Ryū got the impression he was the only one who could hear her because no one else reacted to the strange question. What the hell was she on about?

Her eyes roved the Pros and across the street. She obviously saw something, because then he leapt straight over their heads and began charging down the street, looking a lot like a scuttling spider. Only...more terrifying. A helicopter roared overhead. Great. The media.

“Hey!” Ground Zero yelled and he ran after her, loosened tie flapping in the wind, but Kiyo paid no notice. Ryū watched her run, but a second later she disappeared out of sight behind another truck. He swore and debated his options for barely a second before making a decision.

“Ryū-chan, come back!” Michiko called urgently, but Ryū was already barreling down the street, the wind in his hair and shoes barely skimming the ground with how fast he felt like he was going. His hair actually needed a cut if the way it flopped back on his head was any indication. “Ryū!”

“Fucking losers,” he muttered. Kiyo was fighting Red Riot now, scrabbling with him on the ground whilst Kagami watched with his mouth wide open and ass firmly planted on the dirty sidewalk. “Hey!” Mid-run, Ryū yanked his shoe off and threw it as hard as he could.

Said shoe hit Kiyo in the side of the head and she jerked around to probably attack him but froze as soon as their eyes met. Red Riot took the upper hand and twisted her stick-thin, white arms, pinning her shoulders against the ground.

“What the fuck?” Ground Zero said and Kyio brought a leg up and kicked Red Riot right in his chest. He grunted, but his skin was hardened so he managed to cling onto her. Kiyo let loose another angry shriek. Did she ever make any other sounds?

Ryū save Kiyo! she implored of him. Kiyo is Ryū’s Quirk!

“For fuck’s sake,” he said, taking off his other shoe and throwing that one as well. This time it hit Red Riot right in between his eyes and, almost reflexively, he shut his eyes. Kiyo then proceeded to crane her neck up and shove his head into her mouth, biting down with those razor teeth.

Ground Zero made a strangled shout and threw himself into the fray. Endeavor was just watching and Ryū felt exactly the same way. They stood and watched Ground Zero shove his hand into Kiyo’s mouth together, pulling on Red Riot’s hardened spikes of hair in an attempt to dislodge him from certain death.

Kiyo gurgled around Red Riot’s head, drool dripping down her sunken cheeks and spat him back out again. Rocks, she growled in disgust. I don’t like rocks.

Red-faced, Ground Zero yanked Red Riot back and they fell on their asses, just like the dumbstruck Kagami. Kiyo turned to him and crawled on top of Kagami protectively.

Well, Ryū knew it was protectively, but no one else did because Kagami started panicking, kicking and yelling in an increasingly higher-pitched voice. Ugh. What the fuck was he doing to his image as a cool, collected kind of Hero!?

“Let him go!” Red Riot yelled. He actually looked concerned. “He’s just a kid!”

Roaring, Kiyo stared at him with hot-rod red eyes for a moment, then turned her attention back to Kagami, who was still thrashing about. She picked him up, but froze. Ryū took a sensible step back, however, he was just as surprised as everyone else when Kiyo threw her head back and belched a throatful of flames, the light dancing across the sharpness of her face and the jawful of teeth spread from ear-to-ear. Kagami properly started screaming then, his hair and face bleeding back to normal.

“Fucking shit!” Ground Zero yelled, shoving Red Riot off of him. “What is this dumb thing!?”

WHERE IS HE? she snatched Kagami up into the air and, claws curling around his fragile throat, lunged at him, ready to bite down. GIVE HIM TO ME NOW, LYING HUMAN THIEF AND I WILL MAKE YOUR DIGESTION A QUICK ONE

Ryū liked Kagami. He thought they were ‘friends’ and tolerated his company in small doses. He was also useful, especially for more covert plans. It would... upset him if something were to happen to his pink-haired friend, so Ryū took the situation into hand.

His feet moved, his body tensed and then feet left the ground not a moment later. Ryū landed on Kiyo’s back, hooked his arms around her face and legs around her waist and activated his Quirk.

Well, his other Quirk.

 


 

The train had TV. Okay, sure, the first class compartment was the best. Denki normally just rode in the regular one (on the rare occasion when he had to go back to Musutafu), but the only ticket left had been the most expensive kind and, obviously, he’d had to get back as quick as possible so it wasn’t really an option to wait for three hours and get the next train, even if the tickets were much cheaper and -

The TV. Right.

The five or so other people around him looked up as a news broadcaster with beautiful blonde hair appeared on screen, sat at her desk against a swirling blue background.

“Breaking news,” she said. “A downtown fight has broken out near XXXX and Number 2 Hero Ground Zero is on the scene alongside husband Red Riot, also a ranked Hero at Number 10!” She paused dramatically. “And I’ve just heard word that the retired legend Endeavor is also making an appearance!”

The couple across from Denki started whispering and he scowled at his lap. Great. Just what he needed. What the hell did Katsuki think he was doing, fighting crime whilst their kid was missing?

The screen cut to an over-ground view clearly shot from a news helicopter. Down below, a street was in chaos. Civilians huddled behind vehicles along the road, glass littered the ground outside a store and further down, a group of people were crowded around. Spiky blond hair, well, that was Katsuki - the big guy was obviously Endeavor.

Was that...spiky red hair as well?

“Ei,” Denki whispered and the elderly man next to him shot him a weird look. Right. He was talking to himself again.

Eijirou was facing off with a - a woman? He thought it might’ve been, but she did mostly looked skeletal so was it some kind of monster instead? Someone’s Quirk, maybe? There was a child as well, lying on the ground behind the monster and -

Denki’s phone slipped right from his hands and clattered on the floor of the compartment. People jumped and he managed an apology as he bent down to fetch it, never taking his eyes off that tiny television screen. He felt ravenous for a glimpse now, wishing desperately that the camera was just a tad bit closer so he could see him some more.

It was Ryū, he was sure of it. Even after all these years, he’d recognise his baby’s black hair anywhere. It looked like he wasn’t wearing shoes for some reason, but the black t-shirt and jeans were very familiar because he’d always dressed like that, very monochrome-esqué, even when he was small.

“No reports yet on who that boy might be,” the reporter said. “But it appears he is wearing a U.A. High School uniform! If he’s a student, why is he not in school? Is this all down to a lapse in the prestigious U.A.’s famed security measures?”

Denki was awash with emotion. His baby was a student at U.A.? Why had - he - the officer had never mentioned that to him on the phone! He’d simply said ‘at school’ and Denki had never thought that Ryū would try and go there, he was always so sweet, never really spoke about becoming a Hero or taking after them -

He watched with horror as his little boy started wiggling about under the monster, mouth opening and closing in fear. It turned to look at him, then all movement ceased. Denki could hear his heart in his throat, pounding an anxious rhythm. The train compartment was just as quiet, as all eyes fixed on the television screen.

Tossing its head back, the monster opened its mouth to let loose a plume of fire and Ryū started screaming, it was obvious even with no sound and Denki gripped his phone so hard he was sure the screen would break and warp. Then the view of the camera was blocked by the flickers of red. When it cleared again, Denki was stunned to see the creature was no longer holding his son, but another boy with...pink hair?

Was that...was that Mashirao and Tōru’s son? Man, he was so big now. Denki knew his Quirk, though the name escaped him, allowed...Kagami? It allowed Kagami to replicate the appearance of someone else. If he had done that for Ryū...then where was his real son?

Katsuki, who had Red Riot half-fallen on his lap, shoved him off and scrambled to his feet. He yelled something and an explosion popped between his hands. But the monster picked Kagami up by the throat and opened its mouth wide. The reporter was speaking rapidly but Denki couldn’t hear a word of what she was saying.

Then another player entered the scene, a blur of black, of movement and then a small figure was clinging onto the back of the monster, limbs wrapped around it. Denki had a moment, maybe half a second, but it was enough. This was his son. His real son.

Hanging on the back of the horrible monster trying to eat his friend.

Denki’s phone spluttered in his hands as a dazzle of sparks fizzled between his fingers. It died a moment later, but he couldn’t bring himself to care as he watched the camera zoom in on Ryū’s determined little face, the furrow between his brows so much like Katsuki and the grit of his teeth so much like Eijirou.

Then a light exploded on screen and for a heart-stopping second he thought Katsuki had simply blown everybody up. That, of course, was ridiculous, because when the focus on the camera came back, he could see Ryū crowned in a halo of light, the brightness pouring out from his skin like he was a mini sun, a mini supernova.

“That’s some Quirk!” the reporter said. “In addition to the shapeshifting teenager, it appears a younger middle school boy has decided to help! His Quirk appears to be some sort of light emitting ability and look!” Denki could do nothing but look, frankly. “The creature appears to be vulnerable to it!”

Indeed, the monster was writhing at Ryū’s hands, screeching loud enough to be heard from the helicopter circling high above. Denki was sweating like a pig. He should be there.

Eijirou punched it right in the gut and it fell back with Ryū still clinging to it. He caught Kagami and tossed him back to Endeavor, who proceeded to drop the boy on the ground in annoyance. That old shit would never change, huh?

The beast fell onto all fours, bucking and trying to pull Ryū off. Katsuki was trying to get in there with an explosion, but it was too much of a risk with Ryū in the middle of everything, so, unsurprisingly, he seemed to settle for yelling obscenities. Eijirou was more helpful and he wrapped his arms around Ryū’s middle and peeled him off the creature. It shot right into Denki’s heart to see his ex holding their little boy after so long. Especially since he wasn’t so little anymore.

Ryū kicked and thrashed, slipping in Eijirou’s grip. The monster caught his ankle and tried to pull him back. A murmur spread across the train compartment at this and Denki chewed anxiously on his lip, foot drumming an uneven beat on the floor. Why was it so fixated on him?

They both pulled at the same time and Ryū’s face went an awful shade of white. The light that had dimmed across his skin, came back at full force, much stronger than Denki could remember him showing before. Then again...it had been a long time since that happened.

The creature pulled, hard, and Denki’s heart raced. His leg was going to break, it was going to get dislocated if they kept that up - Katsuki leapt on the monster’s back just like Ryū had and they such a mirror image of each other it made him sick with melancholy. He lit it with a truly beautiful explosion to the neck and Ryū was released by those horrible black claws.

Sensibly, Eijirou, still carrying Ryū under one arm, snatched Kagami up and dragged the pair of them away just as another, much bigger, explosion rocked the ground. A bloom of light billowed up, smoke trailing after it and when the camera zoomed in, Denki watched a car flip through the air and roll, crashing into a store across the street.

Prone on the ground, the creature attempted to drag itself to its feet and then Endeavor was there with a fireball to its skull. It fell still at long last and the people sat around Denki cheered.

“And they’ve done it!” the reported said excitedly. “Ground Zero and Endeavor have taken down the creature, whilst Red Riot ensured the safety of the two boys! Truly the most admirable of Heroes!” She appeared back on screen, beaming. “More on the situation later, but now the weather!”

The train compartment proceeded to return to their lives as if nothing had happened at all.

Denki’s heart was still pounding and he tapped his foot even faster. Just another hour and he’d be there. And he could see Ryū and Akio again.

Truly, it couldn’t come fast enough.

 


 

Chapter Text

Ryū sat in the back of a police car, watching the conversation going on a few meters away, the wild gestures and furious expressions. He couldn’t hear them, obviously, but he got the gist of what they were saying.

“I’m so dumb,” Red Riot said, waving his hands. “Everybody look at me; King Dumbass!”

“Fuck off,” Ground Zero barked back. “I’m the dumbest and everyone knows it! Like hell, you’re going to beat me for the title!”

“Oh yeah!?”

“Yeah!” Stomping his foot, Ground Zero smirked. “And I’m the ugliest too.”

Red Riot looked truly hurt. “No way, you know I’m the ugliest, man. You always tell me so.”

“Well, I lied.”

He gasped. “No!”

“Yes! What are you gonna do about it, huh?”

“I’m gonna kick your ass - !”

“Fuck,” Ryū said and he averted his eyes swiftly, amusing daydream fizzling away as the two fuckers started - ugh - kissing. Right in front of everybody, too. Did they have no shame?

He tried the door again, but it was still locked. Grumbling, Ryū sunk down into the footwell and tucked his knees up under his chin, head resting back against the seat. This was just what he needed right now. His whole body hurt and he couldn’t even decide which part was the worst.

“- Ryū?”

He glanced up and saw Red Riot peering in through the window. Ryū caught the worry on his face as he searched the backseat, then did a double-take when he saw him crammed down in the footwell. He jerked his head away, scowling. What an asshole, pretending like he cared or something.

Knuckles rapped on the glass window. “Buddy? You okay? Want me to come in?”

His gaze stayed firmly rooted on the back of the seat in front of him, eyes burning painfully. Why Lord why. Did the universe hate him or something?

One of the doors in the front opened and he held back his groan of dread as the driver’s seat groaned when someone slid inside. A face peered through the plexiglass, dark eyes filled with genuine concern. Okay. So...not too bad.

“Hello, Ryū,” Igarashi said softly. “Feel good down there?”

He grunted.

“Good, that’s good. Are you hurt, maybe? Do you need to see one of the paramedics?”

Probably. “Later,” he managed.

“Alright,” she replied easily. “Let me know when you’re ready.” They sat in silence for a bit. “I was watching from in here, you know. With Detective Ishikawa, the large gentleman with the beard and sunglasses? He was a witness, so you don’t need to go to the station for questioning or anything. That’s good news, right?”

He shrugged. Who cared, really? Station, no station...it all ended up the same in the end.

“And your principal, Shinsou, he wasn’t concerned about the public Quirk use either. U.A. students are permitted to use their Quirks for self-defence even when they haven’t got their licence, and I would definitely class what happened here as self-defence.”

He shrugged again.

“I spoke to your friends; Tetsutetsu-kun and Ojiro-kun,” she continued. “They’re great kids. Have you known them for a long time? It’s just, you’ve never mentioned them before.”

“Since we were born. Our...they were friends.” Don’t think about that, idiot.

“It’s nice to have friends, Ryū. They can help us through some tough things,” she hesitated. “Are you...going through some tough things at the moment, Ryū?”

“Isn’t everyone?”

“Well, yes, I suppose so, but some more than others, I think.” He could see her watching him carefully, brown eyes filled with only genuine concern. “Where were you this morning?”

“I don’t want to talk about that.”

“That’s fine,” she replied. “No problem with that. But you will have to talk eventually, Ryū. A lot of people have been looking for you today.”

“Why?” he asked, irritated, and that was the burning question. IT had been bothering him the whole time, actually.

“Why?” she asked incredulously. “Ryū, nobody had seen you since yesterday evening and you didn’t turn up to school! They - we were worried something awful had happened.”

“Hibiki saw me,” he grumbled. “We went to get ice cream.”

“Ice cream?” she sat back in her seat and the leather groaned and squeaked. He heard her sigh, a long exhale of exhaustion. “Alright,” he knew she would be trying to calm herself at that, “okay, that’s...fine. I’m not angry with you.”

Ryū huffed loudly. He wanted her to know he was pissed off. More pissed off than usual, at any rate.

“I know it might seem that way sometimes; that everyone is out to get you, but believe me, must of us just want what’s best. Now,” she said, “tell me about last night. I know you didn’t come home and if something happened -”

“Nothing happened. Can’t you just...let it go?”

“You know I can’t,” she said softly. “Talk to me.”

“About what.”

She sighed again. “We’re going round in circles, Ryū. You’re fifteen now. Am I going to have to come out and ask it to your face?”

He gritted his teeth. “I guess so.” Don’t you dare, don’t you dare -

“Ryū, sweetie,” she hesitated briefly and then: “Has anyone in your family ever acted inappropriately towards you?”

 


 

Ryū opened his eyes to complete blackness. There was silence too, the deep, oppressing kind that immediately got your heart rate going. Sweat burst across his brow and his pulse beat double-time in his throat. Goosebumps burst across his skin as a sudden huff of breath ruffled his hair. There was someone breathing directly down the back of his neck.

He strained in his restraints, but he could hear the rattle of metal and feel stiff, unforgiving wood beneath him. Was he...tied to a chair?

“Good morning,” the person said. It was a man with a deep voice and he sounded...mean. “I was hoping you would join me soon. How was your nap?”

Ryū’s breathing was speeding up, his chest jerking rapidly against the chains. He couldn’t remember how he’d gotten here, who this man might be or why he had tied Ryū to a chair. The last thing he could remember...They’d been out for dinner at his dad’s favourite Western-style restaurant...he’d had pizza and cake for dessert, but by then it had been late so the buses had stopped for the night. Dad had decided they would walk home because it wasn’t far and then...had someone attacked them? Is that why he was tied to a chair? If so, where was his -

“Where’s my dad?” his voice cracked a little.

“Don’t you recognise my voice?” The man ignored his question and hRyūe could hear his footsteps as he circled the chair, shoes clicking on the floor. His steps were faint over the thunderous drumming of Ryū’s heart. “I know we only met that one time, but,” a hand grabbed his chin and Ryū cried out, trying to pull away, “it hasn’t been that long.”

“I don’t -” his inhales were becoming harder and harder to even out, “I don’t know -”

“You don’t know?” the man repeated mockingly. His nails dug into Ryū’s cheeks, holding his face still. “Pity. I thought I had made more of an impression than that.”

“Where’s my dad?” Ryū asked again and the blindfold grew wet against his face, with tears and with sweat. His tongue was sticking to the roof of his mouth. “Who are you?”

“You’re boring me already,” the man said and he let go. Ryū let his chin drop, shoulders hunching as much as he was able. He wasn’t sure what to think, what to do -

Pain exploded across his face like a gunshot and Ryū gasped and choked on his tears. The man had slapped him - hit him - what was going on? It hurt a lot and he couldn’t stop the sobs from coming then, the jerks that shook his body in fear. He didn’t care what this guy was saying, he just wanted to go home.

“Oh, stop that,” the man sighed. “Children, honestly. This is why I don’t deal with them. Too...snivelly for my tastes. You’ll be much more interesting later on.”

Ryū just cried quietly, trying to keep the noises in as much as possible to avoid making the man angry again. So he didn’t hit him anymore.

“Look, just tell me what I want to know and I’ll free you,” he explained. “It’s very simple, really.”

“...And my dad?”

The man sighed again. “Yes, yes. Of course.”

“Okay,” he sniffed. “I’ll tell you whatever...whatever you want to know.”

“Perfect,” Ryū jumped as the man clapped his hands together. “Tell me, do you know a man named Mori Kurou?”

Ryū thought. He thought long and hard but eventually shook his head. “No,” he said nervously into the dark. If the man wanted to hit him again he’d never see it coming. “No, I’m sorry.”

“Not surprising,” he didn’t sound very angry, though. “That doesn’t really matter. What I really want to sink into your tiny little brain is that Mori is a very important man, do you understand? I don’t want to hear of you causing him any trouble.”

“I won’t!” he cried, still having no clue as to what was actually going on. “I p-promise!”

“Stop crying!” A fist hit Ryū’s chest and he cried out as the chair overbalanced, his back slamming against the wooden slats as it toppled to the ground. His kicked his dangling legs, sobbing hysterically as he felt the man stand over him.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m s-sorry!”

“Quit that!” the man nudged him, hard, with the toe of his shoe. “I hate bratty kids like you. So spoiled and weak. And a Quirk like that? Truly the scum of the earth.”

Ryū was glowing, his Quirk was peaking around the edges of the blindfold, beautiful like his dad told him. He always called Ryū a little firefly, the brightest star in the sky to guide him home on the very worst days of his work as a Hero.

This man was so mean, just a big bully and Ryū hated him.

“You’re pathetic,” the man said very quietly. “A sad little boy crying out for his daddy to come and rescue him.” A hand grabbed the front of his shirt and lifted him off the ground, the chair legs scraping on the floor. “Now, you listen to me very carefully, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Good,” the man sounded like he was smiling. “I want you to do everything that Mori-san says when you meet him, alright? He’s going to keep you nice and safe from people like me, yes, but in exchange for you keeping him...happy.”

“Happy how?” he sniffed again. He would do anything now to just see his dad and go home.

“You’ll see,” the man laughed. “But, this bit’s also just as important...I’m going to let your daddy go, okay? And you can go home together and be just as happy as you were. But you’re a brave boy, Ryū. Quite clever, I think. Put it this way; you keep Mori happy and I’ll keep daddy happy. Do you understand? Tell me you do.”

“I understand,” he whispered.

Laughing heartily, the man let him drop back to the floor, the chair clattering loudly, his back still sore and his face still stinging.

“Good,” he listened to the man walk across the room. “I’ll let you be on your way, then. See you in a few years, kiddo.”

 


 

“No. No, none of them have ever done anything...like that.”

 


 

“Well, why not?” Michiko pressed, crossing her arms in protest. She wasn’t moving for anything and they couldn’t make her! “He’s our friend!”

Heaving a great sigh, the officer scrubbed a big hand over his beard. “Kid,” he said. “Just give it a rest, would you? I’m not going to let you go through.”

Michiko pouted, but then someone cleared their throat so she was torn away from another attempt to wrangle the police officer into helping her. “Tetsutetsu-kun?” A tall female officer with wire-rimmed glasses stared down at her. “Please come with me.”

She sighed a little. “But I want to see how Ryū is! He really got tossed around by that thing and I saw -”

“I insist,” the officer said and Michiko reluctantly trailed after her, ignoring the big, bearded officer’s pleased grumble. “Right this way.”

“Where are we going?” she asked as they rounded a police cruiser. “What...uh-oh.”

“‘Uh-oh’ is right, young lady,” Itsuka said, arms crossed above her big belly and foot tapping impatiently on the ground. At her side, a pair of pale blue gloves were also crossed in an imitation of the same angry pose. Kagami stood at his mom’s side, shoulders hunched shamefully. “What were you thinking?”

“They clearly weren’t thinking at all!” Tōru-san’s gloves waved angrily. “I am so...argh! You are grounded for some many weeks, believe me!” She wagged a finger in Kagami’s direction and he winced, ducking his head even further. “I thought you knew better than this, Kagami!”

“I’m sorry, Mom,” he muttered.

“Skipping school?” Michiko’s own mother said. “Why would you think that was a sensible thing to do, Michiko? The police had the entire situation under control and by sticking your nose where it didn’t belong,” she gestured to the damaged street around them, “look what happened!”

“But,” Michiko tried. “We were just worried about Ryū! They said he was missing!”

“Yeah, are we supposed to just sit around and wait for him to turn up?” Kagami joined in. “He’s our best friend!”

“Of course he is,” Mom said. “And we understand you were worried, but that’s no excuse to go off running the streets without telling anyone where you were!”

“You’re lucky no one was seriously hurt,” Tōru-san added. “Very lucky.”

“Mom -”

“Ah,” Michiko’s mother shook her head sharply. “I wouldn’t argue if I were you. The one-month grounding you’re both getting could be much worse if you continue to talk back, young lady.”

Michiko deflated. “Okay,” she mumbled. “Sorry, Mom.”

“Sorry,” Kagami echoed.

Mom sighed and then grabbed Michiko by her shoulders, pulling her into an awkward, but tight hug around her bulging stomach. “It’s alright,” she said. “So long as you’re alright.”

“I’m fine, Mom,” Michiko said and it was the truth. “It’s Ryū-chan I’m worried about.”

“Hm,” Mom said. “Well, let’s see what’s going on, shall we?”

All four of them trooped back over to the big police officer, who was now drinking a cup of coffee. He raised an eyebrow.

“Battle Fist,” he said respectfully, “Invisible Girl. Is everything alright?”

“The other student also involved,” Mom said, “Kaminari Ryū, may we see him?”

“I’m afraid not,” the officer said. “As I told your daughter, Battle Fist, the boy is being seen-to at the moment by his social worker and their conversation is strictly confidential. After that, he’s off to the hospital. You could visit him there?”

“Kendō! Hagakure!” a red blur ran over, sweaty and over-dressed. Red Riot cracked a nervous smile. “How...are you guys okay?”

“Kirishima,” Mom said a little stiffly. Michiko cringed at the awkwardness. “We’re fine, thank you.”

“Well, have you seen Ryū then? Is he okay? No one will tell me where he is.”

“He’s speaking to his social worker,” the officer explained again. “Can’t let you interrupt them at the moment, Red Riot.”

“But...I’m his dad,” Red Riot looked a little lost, as grimy and bloody as he was. Michiko hoped that most of it belonged to that...monster thing. Most of it. “I need to -”

“No can do,” the officer cut him off. “Sorry.” He even looked a bit genuinely sorry.

A car door slammed and then raised voices approached. Michiko leaned around the big police van just in time for Ryū to come storming towards her, eyes burning and fists bunched up at his sides.

“Oh dear,” she said. Michiko caught his arm, ”Ryū-chan, what’s the matter -?” He shook her off and kept going.

His social worker, brown hair messy and clearly a bit overwhelmed, hurried after him with a big folder in her hands. “Ryū!” she called. “Come back here!”

“What happened?” Red Riot demanded to know. “Is he okay?”

“It’s fine,” Igarashi puffed. “I expected this could happen.” They watched Ryū stomp over to an ambulance and sit on the back, legs dangling and muttering to himself. “He’s...going through some turmoil at the moment.”

Michiko looked at the big bags under her eyes and her friend’s angry scowl. “I’ll go talk to him,” she said.

“I don’t think -”

“It’s alright,” Kagami said helpfully. “She’s like his therapist.”

Her ego inflating up at that, Michiko hurried off before anyone else could protest. She sat beside Ryū in the ambulance and swung her legs, whistling.

“What,” he demanded after a moment of the same, repetitive tune.

“Oh,” she faked surprise, “Fancy seeing you here! What a coincidence!”

“Cut the shit. What the fuck do you want?”

Michiko let her head rock back, huffing a lock of silver hair out of her eyes as she stared at the metal ceiling of the ambulance. “Sorry I pushed you,” she offered. “Earlier. I just got a bit worked up.”

“A bit?”

“I worry about you,” she admitted. “You’re like my...brother, or whatever. I don’t like seeing you upset and you were...in the alley you looked really upset. Like you were going to cry.”

“I don’t cry,” he spat, still refusing to look at her.

Michiko snorted. “Yeah, genius, that’s why I was worried. But, I mean...you used to cry, remember? When we were younger. You’d cry and laugh and smile like a normal kid and then you moved in with your grandparents and -”

“Stop it,” he mumbled. “I don’t want to talk about any of that shit.”

“Well, tough,” she said. “Look at all these people. Cops, Pros, my mom. There’s no way you can just make everyone forget about it.” She poked him and he shook her off with a grunt.

“Don’t you get it? Everyone does forget. They always do.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s his Quirk, Michiko,” his breath caught a little and then steadied out. “I just - it never works. I can tell anyone, whoever I like, and he just makes it,” he clenched his fist and then let his fingers splay out, “poof! Disappear.”

“Are you talking about -”

He growled and shot her a brief glare. “You know who I’m talking about.”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “Yeah, I do, buddy.”

 


 

“Come on, come on, come on,” Denki murmured, staring out of the taxi window at the buildings rushing past, getting more and more familiar the closer they got to his parents’ house. It had been years since he’d been there, but all the major landmarks and apartments looked the same to him as they had way back then.

“We’re nearly there, sir,” the driver said, glancing at him in the rearview mirror, even as they slowed to a stop behind a traffic jam. “Looks like there’s some sort of road block up ahead.”

Denki sat it out another minute, but after barely moving, took out his wallet and tossed far too many Yen notes into the front. “Keep the change,” he said, grabbing his bag and stumbling out of the car. “I’ll be faster on foot!”

He ran, hopped a low fence and cut through an alley, before having to stop and catch his breath. Man, he was out of shape after all this time off...probably time to hit the gym again if only a mile of running had him panting like a dog left out in the sun.

“Excuse me,” he mumbled as he nearly bowled over a teen in a hat pulled low and big black jacket. “Hey, hey!” Denki came up to a fenced-off area, a cluster of police cars and ambulances further down the street, blocking off the view for the media clustered around said barricade. A young officer with long blonde hair looked at him nervously. “Miss,” he tried, “I’m a Pro Hero, I need to get through -”

“Have you got any ID?” she asked. “If not, then I’m sorry but I can’t let you pass.”

Denki rummaged in his bag. Then he checked his pockets. Then he looked in his bag again. “I must’ve forgotten it,” he said. “I was in a rush to get here; my son, he’s in there, I need to know if he’s okay -”

“Sorry,” she said again, looking more confident but also genuinely apologetic. “I can’t let you in, sir. I can radio for a more informed officer to come over and speak with you, if you’d like, however.”

“No! No, no, you don’t understand,” he spluttered, waving his hands frantically. “I’m Chargebolt, right? Can’t you see it?” Denki struck his signature pose, one hand tucked lazily in his pocket and the other held half-up in a casual point, grinning with his eyes closed. “Yeah?”

She looked him up and down, eyes lingering on his face. “Sorry,” she said a third time. “There’s...nothing I can do.”

Denki slumped, dropping the pose entirely. “Alright,” he shuffled away a few steps, risked a glance over his shoulder to see her turning her attention to a reporter getting a little too close for comfort, then bolted. His tennis shoes beat the sidewalk, arms swinging, bag bouncing against his leg, as she yelled after him.

“Hey!” someone else joined in the chase. “Hey, you - come back here!”

Unfortunately for them, Denki had no plans of giving up anytime soon. He reached the buzz of people, ducked around a police cruiser and ran straight into somebody. Landing right on his ass, Denki had a moment to feel out of breath before arms hauled him to his feet.

“What the hell,” the female cop was saying, “Why’d you, ugh - what on earth compelled you to do that -”

“You’re under arrest,” the other guy said, “Put your hands behind your back and quit resisting!” Denki found himself shoved up against the cruiser and sharp metal dug into his wrists.

“Woah, chill!” he wiggled, trying pointlessly to pull away. “I’m just looking for -”

“Denki?”

Well.

That’s just great.

“Katsuki,” he panted. “Hey! If you could -”

“Back off!” Katsuki snarled, hauling the male officer away. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Arresting a Pro like that, huh?”

“A Pro?” the female cop said and when Denki swung around with the handcuffs still dangling from one wrist, he saw she was actually shocked. He didn’t blame her, to be fair, but it still stung. “You’re...really Chargebolt?”

“Yeah,” he said, a little irritated. “And I wanna see my kid.”

“Oh!” it seemed to dawn on her. “Yes. Uh,” she looked at Katsuki, who was still fuming and nearly tomato-red. “I’ll...leave you to it.” She and the male officer left, gossiping furtively.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Katsuki asked, but it wasn’t angry sounding. Not really.

“I saw what happened on the news,” Denki explained. “Is Ryū alright? I couldn’t find anything about his condition online -”

“Are you fucking with me?”

“And I -” Denki stopped. Blinked rapidly as he digested that remark. “What?”

“You heard me,” Katsuki stomped closer and poked him with one angry finger, hard. “Why the fuck would you think coming down here is a good idea?”

“Why - he’s my son, Katuski! Why would you even ask that!?”

“I don’t know, how about because you left ‘your son’ with your parents and fucked off to Tokyo!” Katsuki yelled, shoving him back against the cruiser. “How about that, huh!?”

Denki eyed him. “I don’t have to answer to you.”

“Oh yeah?!” He shoved Denki again, his eyes burning infernos. “How about our kid? And don’t even get me started on the other two; you haven’t fucking seen Aki in years!”

“This,” Denki stressed. “Has nothing to do with that. You’re no model parent either. I know for a fact you wouldn’t even be here bothering if Ryū wasn’t at U.A., okay? And don’t even try to argue with me on that.”

“Well, don't you talk like you know shit about me,” Katsuki hissed. “A lot of stuff has changed since you fucked off, Kaminari. Including the fact that you ditched our son at your parents’ house and didn’t give enough of a fuck to tell any of us!”

“It had nothing to do with you, Bakugou,” Denki shot right back. “You signed those papers just like I did. Ryū is none of your business.”

“It’s clear to me,” a stern female voice, “that Ryū has been far from anyone’s business for a while now.” A short woman with short brown hair and a rumpled suit stood off to one side. “This is not what he needs right now.”

“Igarashi-san,” Kaminari said, straightening up and clearing his throat. He hid the dangling handcuff behind his back. “Long time no see?”

“Hm. Kaminari-san, I suggest you leave before I have you removed. You have no reason for being here.”

“Hah!” Katsuki barked triumphantly.

“This is nuts! There’s no way I’m leaving - Ryū is my son -”

“Not anymore,” she said coldly. “As far as the government is concerned, Ryū might as well be an orphan.”

That struck him deeply, too deeply to really name. All Denki could say was that he felt a cold trickle run down his chest, pooling in his gut. “But -”

“Please,” she said, rubbing her face and now looking very tired indeed. “Don’t make this any harder for him. He’s had a tough time. There are some things...it really would be best if you left. If you both left.”

“I,” Denki said, looking at Katsuki defeated expression. It was strange seeing him giving up so easily. “Alright,” he relented. “I’ll go.”

“Thank you,” Igarashi seemed genuinely grateful, even smiling a little. “This is better for Ryū. You’re making the right decision.”

“Yeah,” Denki said, but he didn’t believe a word of it. After all, what could be better for Ryū than being with his family?

 


 

“Mweh,” Ryū waggled a chubby fist, staring up at Denki from his crib with big crimson eyes shining with a guileless love. “Nyadadadada - afoo!” A spit bubble popped at his little pout.

“Hey, buddy!” Denki scooped him up and breathed in his milky baby smell, pressing his cheek against that satin-soft black puff of hair. “You’re so chatty this morning! Did you miss Papa then? Did you? Did you?”

He carried his baby out into the hall, sticking his head into the master bedroom and smiling at what he found. Katsuki was tucked up on one side, snoring away and his expression smoothed out in peaceful sleep. Eijirou was on the other, laid out on his back with an arm tucked up underneath his pillow. Squished between them were two little blanket lumps, and a tiny bare foot stuck out against Eijirou’s leg.

Denki padded over and clambered up the bed, squishing between Katsuki and the bigger of the two lumps. He laid Ryū gently on his bed, making sure he was propped up and then peeled the blanket back just a little. Drool spreading across the mattress underneath his squished cheek, Akio shifted and his black hair spread around his face like a spiky little halo. He was wearing his favourite Deku pyjamas, the ones Katsuki and Eijirou were not the least bit sour about (as demonstrated by their week-long sulk after Mina brought him back from a sleepover wearing them).

“Mm,” Eijirou mumbled. “Baby, that you?”

“Yeah,” Denki whispered back. “Me and the babs.”

Eyes fluttering, Eijirou peeled them open and blinked slowly at him. Then, with a squeaky yawn, he sat up and scrubbed his eyes. He smiled a lazy grin. “Morning,” he said. “Is that the squish I hear?”

“Indeed it is,” Denki grinned back. “And he’s at optimum cuteness today, you’ll be pleased to know.”

“Let me take a look,” Eijirou said and Denki shuffled Ryū across the bed, watching fondly as he babbled and cooed quietly to himself. It was a nice change of pace. Akio and Rai had been loud babies - always screaming or yelling at something. Ryū was super chill, however, and Denki couldn’t say he wasn’t surprised. There was none of his colouring in the baby, but he would’ve sworn a Katsuki and Eijirou mix would’ve been the loudest one yet. “Hey, chubbs!” He smacked a kiss to that pudgy little cheek and sighed dreamily. “So soft...”

“Ugh,” Katsuki groaned and his angry scowl appeared over the top of his blanket, eyes crusted with sleep. “What are you two losers doing?”

“Baby,” Eijirou whispered back and help Ryū up, who proceeded to babble and waggle his little arms like an uncoordinated starfish. “C’mon, Katsuki, you can’t stay mad at this little squish!”

“Don’t call him that,” Katsuki muttered, but he was smiling a little, unguarded so early in the morning.

The blanket wobbled and Rai’s head popped out, platinum hair spiked up like a sleepy little hedgehog. He yawned and bared razor-sharp baby teeth to the world. “Sleepy,” he murmured. “Baba, Ryū wants his breakfast?”

“Yeah,” Eijirou whispered, “let’s be quiet, though, because I think Aki is still asleep.”

Rai eyed the lump that was his younger brother and then grinned. He yanked the blanket away and shoved his knees in poor Akio’s face. “Wakey wakey!”

“Rai!"

"Come here, brat," Katsuki grabbed Rai under the armpits and hauled him away as Akio grumbled and groaned, sitting up reluctantly, “Alright,” he said gruffly. “You asked for this.”

Screeching, Rai kicked his legs, but it was too late. The Katsuki monster had already begun to eat him, blowing loud raspberries on his chubby tummy. Akio saw the horror being inflicted upon his brother and scrambled across the bed, nearly careening right off the edge.

“Oniisan! I’ll save you!” He leapt onto Katsuki’s back and clung on for dear life.

“Shit!” Katsuki yelled because the swearing was a work in progress even after all these years. “I’m done for!” Then, a squirming Rai tucked under one arm, he reached back and hauled Akio over his head and clutched him around the middle. “Ha! Got you now!”

“No!” the squealed in unison.

Denki watched them roll around on the ground with a fond smile, then turned back to Eijirou and his little man, who looked distinctly unimpressed. “So grumpy,” he said. “I get the feeling you’re going to be the one keeping those two in check.”

“Or distracting the adults whilst they get into trouble,” Eijirou suggested. “Just look at that sweet little face.”

“Ha! He looks just like you, Ei,” Denki teased. “Are you sure you’re not just feeding your own ego?”

“Not all me,” Eijirou blushed a little. “The hair, sure, but look at his serious little frown.” They did. “That’s all Katsuki for sure. Our squish will be telling old ladies off before we know it.”

“Well, whatever you do with your cuteness,” Denki told the baby seriously, smiling as Ryū watched his brothers wrestle with an open moue of curiosity. “We’ll be there to cheer you on through it!"

“Like he has a choice with three dads and two big brothers. Kid’ll be sick of us by the time he’s in high school.”

 


 

Chapter Text

“Thanks for telling me,” Michiko said quietly as they both watched the police scatter around, the paramedics tending to any wounded civilians. There went the old man that had been crouched near them behind that truck. “You’re very brave, I think.”

“You think?” he echoed.

“Well,” Michiko said. “I’m sure. I mean, I don’t know if I could’ve even brought it up if I were you. But...aren’t you going to tell your social worker? She can make sure he...you know, doesn’t do that again. Forever.”

“Mm,” was all he said. “I’ll think about it.”

“Good. That’s, you know, a start,” she cleared her throat a little awkwardly. “Shall we -”

“Hey, Michi-nii!” A high-pitched, faint little voice called. “Ryū-nii!”

They both turned in sync. A little girl with short, choppy blonde hair and a long, curly green-scaled tail, was bouncing towards them, smiling. She came to a stop in front of the ambulance, hands bunched up in her dress.

“Ryū-nii!” she beamed. “You’re okay! Onii-san said you hurt your back so I was really worried!”

Michiko felt an automatic smile spread across her face. She adored Kagami’s little sisters and it only made her more and more impatient for her own to make an appearance. She was going to be so cute, Michiko already knew. Fuzzy orange hair, big blue eyes...she’d look just like their mom! So, so so cute -

“Oi,” Ryū said, snapping his fingers impatiently in front of her face. “You in there?”

“Sorry!” she blushed a little, but eh. Big sister love! “Hiya, Mayu-chan!”

“Michi-nii, is Ryū-nii okay or not? I don’t want him to die or anything,” Mayu’s bottom lip quivered and her eyes shone with unshed tears. “That would be...so sad...”

“He’s not going to die!” Michiko quickly shook her head, feeling anxious at the thought. “He just needs to see a doctor!”

“I don’t,” he frowned.

Michiko had a great idea.

“In fact, it’s really important he sees a doctor right now,” she said seriously. “His back is severely injured.”

Mayu gasped, looking quite scared. “Ahh! It’s really that bad?” Her head and tail swung side to side in unison. “Help! Doctor! He needs a doctor!”

“Fuck you,” Ryū said, but a woman in a fluorescent jacket hurried over, eyes fixed on little Mayu and it was too late.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” she asked her. “Is everything okay?”

“Ryū-nii is hurt!” Mayu told her earnestly, nothing but sweet, pure concern in her eyes. Ryū’s, on the other hand, were filled with contempt and they were focused right onto Michiko’s face. She shrugged. “Can you make him feel better?”

“Where are you hurt?” the paramedic asked, looking him over. “Oh - you’re the boy who was involved in the attack! I thought you’d already been looked over!”

“He hasn’t,” Michiko said before he could state otherwise. “And it’s his back, it’s all,” she waved a hand, “bruised up.”

“Alright,” the paramedic said, “I’m going to need to take a look...”

“Kaminari,” Michiko supplied. “Kaminari Ryū.”

She nodded in thanks. “Alright, Ryū-kun,” she told him calmly. “Why don’t we hop into the ambulance and take a look? Shall we bring your parents over?”

“No,” he said.

“I’ll get my mom?” Michiko suggested. “She can just sit with you.”

He jerked his head in a nod and she smiled. Baby steps.

 


 

Daizo felt his thoughts drift as he marched through Hidarigawa Park, head down and music blasting; Western pop and his favourite song too - HITM3N by crueltown. To buy the CD in the store he had to be eighteen, so Daizo had done what all sensible, smart kids did and downloaded it illegally. On the library computer, but it wasn’t like he had access to wifi by himself…

His eyes were drawn to some little kids were playing on the jungle gym and in the sandpit. The swings were empty and beckoned his name, but Daizo couldn’t let himself give in. He was way too old to play with stuff like that now and besides, he just couldn’t be late him. It was already past when he was expected and if Jikai-san was home early…it wouldn’t be good.

A lady was jogging with a baby in a stroller and an old man was reading a newspaper on a bench, a scatter of pigeons pecking at his feet. There were even some teenagers playing hooky by the public toilets, but Daizo wasn’t going to rat them out. They’d leave him alone in exchange.

He reached the edge of the gravel path and kicked his rollerblades out. They were cheap - he’d brought them at a yard sale years ago but Daizo was small for his age and luckily they still fit, even if only barely. He had to push the round button on the heels and then boom - four little wheels popped out along the sole and away he would go. Daizo skated down the sidewalk, grabbed a streetlight and swung around it, flying through an intersection crossing just in time for the signal to flash.

His music thumped, kicked and beat against his eardrums, and Daizo bobbed his head. He swerved around an elderly couple peering through a store window and a businessman on a late lunch.

“Watch where you’re going, kid!” a grocer in an apron kicked a soda can at him when he nearly bowled over one of his stalls, but Daizo tossed an apology over his shoulder and continued on. He wasn’t going to let that guy get anywhere close to him with a scowl like that! He’d learnt better than that by now.

He hit his street and sped up on the path outside, hopped to slap his wheels down and jammed his keys into the lock as he snuggled his headphones into his pocket. The hallway was empty and dusty - as usual - and only one pair of shoes sat in the cubby. Small and sparkly pink. Daizo sighed in relief. He toed his own shoes off and slid into the smallest pair of slippers. They were big, sure, but he had small feet so most things designed for kids his age were big on him, to be honest.

He peeked into the kitchen and found it empty. A bag of chips and a glass of juice quickly found themselves squirrelled away upstairs, shut behind the protective barrier creaky door of Daizo’s bedroom. He sat on his mattress and felt all his tension fade away. He’d been so sure he’d be late - it was past one and usually, anything after twelve that got him done for. Someone must’ve been smiling down on him.

As if fate had heard his happiness, a floorboard creaked outside and Daizo jerked his head up, staring unnervingly at the door. A second later there was a tentative knock, just three little raps. The handle turned and a head of dark hair peered in, followed by big dark eyes set in a pale, thin face.

“Tani-chan,” Neri admonished. “You’re late.”

“Sorry. The library opened after I thought it would.”

“You’re just lucky Jikai-san wasn’t here,” Neri came inside, shut the door and sat cross-legged on his mattress. She munched on a chip from the bag. “You know how he gets.”

Daizo nodded because he definitely did. All too well. “I’m glad he even leaves at all. Imagine if we had to stay here locked up all day.” He realised how stupid that way the instant he said it and flushed. “Sorry.”

She shrugged. “It’s fine. I’m glad you get to go outside and have some fun, at least.” Neri absentmindedly rubbed the bulky black monitoring anklet cuffed around her right ankle. “Was the salad man there?”

He cracked a grin. “He had a whole container of dressing and everything! The librarian was so mad, but it’s not against the rules to eat soft foods in the library, right? And does salad count as a soft food?” He shrugged. “Guess it does.”

“One day he’ll go a cucumber too far and -” a loud crunching sound vibrated from her mouth, “it’s game over for salad man.”

The front door slammed shut downstairs and they shared a wide-eyed glance, all their fun and humor forgotten.

“Speaking of game over,” Neri scrambled up and over to the door. She whispered: “See you after dinner!” and slipped out without a sound. Daizo began hastily stuffing chips into his mouth, crunching and wincing as the sharp edges scraped the soft skin of his throat on the way down.

Footsteps clunked upstairs. He gulped the juice in one long swig and then put both the glass and the mostly-empty packet down on the other side of the mattress, out of view of the door.

The door opened not a second later and Jikai-san stared at him with white-rimmed pupils.

“Boy,” he said and then: “Get downstairs. We have,” he twitched, his head jerking unnaturally to one side, “guests.”

Daizo went downstairs.

Hiroto-san was there, dressed in the same suit he always wore. He was plain-looking with short grey hair, scary eyes, and old. Really old. Daizo thought he might’ve been a hundred years with all the wrinkles on his face. If Daizo didn’t know better he would have said he wasn’t mean or dangerous in the least.

“Hello, Daizo,” he smiled. “It’s good to see you again.”

But Daizo did know better.

Jikai-san came up behind Daizo and put a hand on his shoulder. “Oh, we’re so,” he twitched a little more, fingers flexing, “honoured. Very honoured.”

“That’s so nice to hear; I do love your company, Daizo. But, unfortunately, we don’t have time to play today. I have a little gift for you.”

He shivered, trying not to think about what Hiroto-san meant when he said ‘play’. It made his stomach bubble and swirl like a washing machine spinning round and round and round...

“Say thank you,” Jikai-san shook him.

“Thank you.”

“Here you go,” pulling a thin roll of paper from the depths of his jacket, Hiroto-san held it out invitingly. “Take it.”

Nearly tripping, Daizo hurried forward to take it. Their hands barely brushed and Hiroto-san recoiled with a hiss. Daizo fumbled the paper and clutched it to his chest in terror.

“Ah, ah,” Hiroto-san laughed. “Careful there. Wouldn’t want anything bad to happen, would we? All from a simple brush of fingers?”

“No, sir,” he whispered.

“Good. Now, if you would,” waving his hand, Hiroto-san watched Daizo expectantly and Jikai-san went into the kitchen to get a knife. He came back with a short one, some sort of filleting blade. It gleamed silver in the bright living room light.

He handed it over silently and Daizo held it in trembling fingers.

Jikai-san helped Daizo roll his sleeve away, holding his wrist in an unforgiving grip with his arm extended tightly. Daizo lifted the knife, closed his eyes and slashed it right across his forearm, between the two pale blue veins visible through the skin.

Blood welled up and immediately rolled down his elbow, dripping lethargically onto the floor. It was painful, but not too bad and he knew the sting would only get worse anyhow. Before time could escape him and he’d have to cut himself all over again, Daizo shoved the paper directly into the deep cut.

It hurt.

He cried out and tried to pull away but Jikai-san held him tightly, eyes white-rimmed in excitement. Both men watched as Daizo was forced to push the paper into his arm, pulling the two sides of his skin further apart to make room. His face was wet and hot when he finished and the floor was covered in blood. Snot dripped down his chin and into the neck of his hoodie and his shoulders shook against his will as he sniffled.

“Good boy,” Hiroto-san said. “Off you go then.” He sat back on the couch and steepled his fingers atop his crossed legs, looking done and very expectant that Daizo would leave now.

Clutching his bleeding, throbbing arm, face still damp with tears still spilling over, Daizo stumbled from the room. He shoved his feet into his sneakers and Jikai-san opened the door for him with a flat expression, no pity and no mercy in those clear onyx eyes. He watched Daizo cry and gasp on the ground where he’d fallen, small and probably very pathetic. Then he shut the door and Daizo was left all alone.

Again.

 


 

Ryū sat quietly on the bed in the ambulance, hunched over with his elbows on his knees. His shirt was discarded on the paper cover beside him and Michiko sat on his left. Her mother, Itsuka-san, was on the right and the paramedic, whose name he still didn’t know, behind him.

“How did this happen, Kaminari-kun?” she asked, gently touching the back of his neck. He winced and tried not to arch away from her fingers. “Sorry, but I have to examine your injuries.”

“Will he have to go to the hospital?” Michiko worried. “It looks really bad.”

“More than likely,” she said. Ryū twisted and she pushed at his shoulder. “Keep still.”

“I’m not going to the hospital,” he told her. “I’m fine - it’s just a -”

“Bruise? Well, if it was only that then I’d agree, but you have road rash on top, and after an incident like this I’d imagine your family will want you looked over properly.”

“Yeah,” he said but both he and Michiko knew that wasn’t true. Maybe Itsuka-san knew it too even.

“Michiko and I will be there,” Itsuka-san said kindly. “We won’t leave your side, Ryū-kun, and I’m sure Kagami-kun and his mother feel the same way.”

He could feel his skin tingle as if his Quirk was about to activate and Ryū felt a creeping embarrassment. Oh, he was so...for all the stupid things she did sometimes, Michiko was also a damned good friend. Clearly, she had gotten that from her mom.

“Thanks,” he muttered, then sucked in a sharp breath as the paramedic began to wipe his grazes down with antiseptic wipes.

“Ah, Mom,” Michiko grinned. “You’ve embarrassed him!”

Itsuka-san merely smiled in return, a secretive twinkle in her eye. “That’s my job.”

 


 

Akami heaved a sigh of relief as she watched Kirishima, Bakugou and Kaminari drive away. They’d all left in the same car, a sleek black one driven by a plain, unassuming man and she didn’t want to fret over what that might imply. The things Ryū’s parents go up to in their private lives weren’t her concern until they began to affect their son. She’d told them what she thought and been completely honest. Akami had seen countless moms and dads torn apart trying to reclaim their children and put themselves back together again some handful of years later and it never worked out in the child’s favour. Granted she didn’t often - read: never - work with such an...interesting family structure as three dads, but the result still stood. To uproot Ryū now and explain to him that his parents wanted him back now but not before would be very risky and at an awful time. She was already going to have to reveal that she would be revoking his grandparents’ custody rights and this on top of that...

The poor boy was only fifteen, for God’s sake, and emotionally immature at that. Vulnerable right now too if the news as to what was going on at home was to be believed. She couldn’t see his close friends lying about that for no gain to themselves and paid that with the way Miso-san had acted upon meeting the great grandfather versus Akami’s response and the man’s Quirk...it added up to make a very disturbing picture indeed.

“Igarashi-san?” Detective Ishikawa sidled up beside her. “Everything alright?”

“Yes, yes, of course,” she replied quickly, dusting off her skirt. Akami was sure she was a right sight by now, grimy and sweaty with her makeup more than likely smudged and her hair in need of a comb. “Just lost in thought.”

“Ah,” he said understandingly. “I’m going to need you to get a statement from the boy then. We’ve taken that creature away but the higher-ups aren’t sure where to put it. If it’s a Quirk out of control or...something like those Nomus way back when. He may be able to give us a greater insight into how this all started.”

“Ryū has too much to worry about as it is,” she sighed. “I’ll see what I can do, but you might have better luck speaking with his friends Tetsutetsu and Ojiro; they seem to be much more forthcoming types.”

“Alright,” he scrubbed his neck and they stood in silence for several moments longer.

“Is...something the matter?”

Ishikawa looked drawn-out and frankly exhausted in the unflattering blue and red lights of the police cruiser parked behind them. “Yeah, unfortunately. I sent some officers to the house to take the grandfather in for questioning and, well....”

“Did he come quietly?” If Ryū’s great-grandfather was the monster she suspected him to be, she at least thought he’d turn himself in quietly, if only because he seemed like a dignified man. “Oh...I take it from your expression that he didn’t.”

“He wasn’t there,” Ishikawa explained. “The uncle said he’d packed his things and left soon after you did.”

Oh for... “This is the last thing I need,” pinching her nose, Akami couldn’t even find it within herself to be surprised. “Have you sent out an alert? If he manages to leave Japanese soil -”

“Igarashi-san, with all due respect, I can’t waste man hours tracking down a man on an accusation from a teenager -”

“An accusation!?” she spluttered. “Ishikawa-san - Ryū’s best friends have confided in me that they overheard inappropriate comments being made by Mori and -”

“Inappropriate comments aren’t illegal,” he said. “And without proof or a statement from Kaminari himself -”

“This is ridiculous. I am Ryū’s social worker and I’m telling you that we suspect abuse in his home and you want me to just send him back -”

“Even if I did that wouldn’t be possible,” he cut across. “Unfortunately...both of the boy’s grandparents have left too.”

What? “What?”

“They went with the great-grandfather. Said the stress of the whole situation was too much for them. The grandfather asked the uncle to give you this,” he held out a wad of papers. “Custody agreements.”

“For fuck’s sake,” she muttered, taking them. “This is just wonderful. How am I supposed to explain this to Ryū? Even with his grandmother there he’d be unlikely to take the news well and now they’ve disappeared off to who knows where -”

“I understand this isn’t ideal,” he said. “But maybe it’s for the best. Kaminari can have a fresh start. Are there any foster families available in the area? I’d think his friends’ parents would be willing to take him in - the pregnant one even went with him in the ambulance -”

“Ambulance!?” she cried, looking around. “Why didn’t anybody tell me?”

“He’s just being checked over. In that one over there.”

Akami was off without another word, leaving Ishikawa standing by himself. She knocked hastily on the red and white doors of the vehicle, tapping her foot impatiently until it swung open.

“Ryū!” she spotted him sat on the hospital bed inside, with Tetsutetsu-kun and her mother at his side. He looked very small hunched over there, thin and probably too skinny for his own good, his face tired and wan. It had been a long day.

She climbed past the paramedic and sat beside him. “What happened?” she asked. “Are you hurt?”

“Barely.”

“He got dragged under a car,” Tetsutetsu-kun explained. “By that...monster. His back is all scratched and messed up.”

Akami took a peek over his shoulder and sucked in a sharp breath. The top portion of his back and neck was purple with splotches of green trailing outwards but even worse than that were the red-raw patches and scrapes across it all - tiny pieces of gravel stuck inside.

“You need to go to the hospital,” she said. “I understand your aversions to them, but Ryū, these are serious injuries -”

“No,” he scowled, every bit as stubborn as she remembered. “It’s my decision and I don’t want to fucking go -”

“Young man, watch your language -”

“Don’t tell me what to do,” he stood up and the paramedic tutted as she tried to continue cleaning up his back. He wasn’t even wearing shoes, for goodness sake. “You’re not my mom.”

“Ryū, sit down,” she said as she tried to stay as calm as possible.

“This is bullshit,” he grabbed his shirt and tugged it on.

“I haven’t finished cleaning your -“

“My grandparents will want me home,” he said forcefully, throwing open the ambulance doors and hopping out with the barest of winces. “I need to help Obaa-san make dinner -”

“Ryū -” Akami hurried after him, clambering down and leaving Tetsutetsu-kun, her mother and the paramedic watching after them. She followed him down the sidewalk.

“- and laundry for tomorrow -”

“Ryū, listen to me -” she tried again, catching him by the arm.

He shook her off. “Let go - you don’t know me, why can’t you just leave me alone -?”

“Hey, hey,” she said loudly, pulling him to a sharp stop. “Ryū, listen to me! I only want what’s best for you...!”

“Do you really?” he asked, looking up at her with a proud jut to his chin that had Akami sighing. “If that’s the case then you’ll let me go home to my family!”

“You can’t go home,” she explained quietly. “The situation has changed -”

“I already told you nothing happened - nothing is happening!”

“They’ve left.”

“I don’t want to - what?” he looked at her, blinking those big red eyes and Akami bit her lip nervously. Ryū was so headstrong, so proud, that she didn’t think she’d ever see him this thrown off balance.

“I’m very sorry, Ryū; your great-grandfather, he’s -”

“No! What do you -?! What does - they’ve left? What does that mean?” he shook his head and his dark hair waved violently from side to side. “Igarashi-san, tell me what's going on!”

“We don’t know where they are,” she explained and it was so painful to see his confused frown, his wide-eyed misunderstanding. “But your uncle told the police they left of their own accord. Your grandmother, she’s...forfeited your custody.”

“Forfeited...”

Akami held the papers out and he took them with quiet hands, reading the complicated legal talk on the page and then flicked through to stare at his grandmother’s signature in black and white at the end. “I don’t understand.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I know this isn’t what we wanted - I promised you this would be the last place -”

“I don’t understand!” he threw the papers and Akami watched in shock as they scattered in the wind. “Fuck you!” Then he turned on his heel and began to run, seemingly having no clue where he was going as he veered down between two houses.

“Ryū!” she called, scrambling to collect the important sheets of paper, torn between chasing after him and making sure not a single piece found itself lost. “Ryū, please come back!”

He disappeared around the corner and Akami felt her anxiety ratchet up. She couldn’t lose her charge again -

“Ryū!”

 


 

His feet were barely skimming the ground, socks damp from the grass and a puddle he’d stumbled through. He couldn’t hear his heartbeat, his blood pounding in his veins - he couldn’t hear anything .

“Kiyo!” he yelled. “Kiyo, I need you!”

But she wasn’t there and she wouldn’t be. He’d given her up, left her to the mercy of those Pro Heroes - fuck. Ryū’s foot slipped on the curb and he rolled into the road, a sharp scream leaving his mouth as his stupid back scraped the concrete. It was like fire in his veins, like what he imagined flames would burn like without his Quirk there to keep him safe.

His Quirk.

“KIYO!” he rolled to his feet and cupped his hands around his mouth, standing there in the middle of an empty road like some crazy freak, shoeless and in just a blood-stained t-shirt and pants. “Kiyo!”

A horn blasted and Ryū hopped up onto the sidewalk just in time to avoid being hit by a car going at least sixty in the twenty zone. He flipped the driver off and decided that calling for Kiyo was dumb and useless; he needed to find his grandmother to make sure nothing had happened to her because, well, he couldn’t even fathom her leaving him, gallivanting off with - with -

Ryū clawed at his face, razing his fingernails through his hair and down his cheeks but he could barely feel the sting. God, what was wrong with him? He had to go home.

Ryū set off, however, he’d only walked about thirty or forty steps before a white-clothed figure stepped out from behind a tree. His heart raced for a second, adrenaline pumping through his veins, but then Ryū recognised the pale-lipped smile directed at him.

“Kaminari,” Kurosawa greeted, his hands in his pockets and casual as anything. “Good to see you’re better now.”

Staring at the other boy across the dark emptiness between them, Ryū managed a weak little scoff. “Whatever. What the fuck do you want?”

Kurosawa tutted. “I heard your screaming and, as an upstanding citizen, it was my duty to check and make sure no one was injured.” He looked him up and down, eyes lingering on Ryū’s socked feet. “Maybe you should come inside.”

“Inside?”

He gestured over his shoulder at the huge, traditional-style house looming in the darkness. The path was lined by smooth stones circling a small koi pond and leading up to the wide engawa¹ wrapped around the house. It was single-floored save for the small room on the top, upon which a small round window shone yellow.

“My house,” Kurosawa extrapolated. “I’ll make you some tea.” Then he turned and went back inside.

Ryū followed, wiping his feet hurriedly on the small mat in the genkan and putting on a pair of guest slippers.

Kurosawa flicked the light on. The interior house was, unsurprisingly, also very traditional. Tatami flooring, sparse decor, and no photo frames. There was a small Kamidana shrine behind the chabudai², upon which a small candle was burning.

“Please,” he said. “Sit.”

Ryū sat at the chabudai and let his head rest on the smooth wood even though it was horrendous manners to do so. Kurosawa had disappeared elsewhere and the warmth and overall atmosphere of his house had Ryū relaxed almost immediately. Who would have thought such a weird guy would have such a nice home?

He let his eyes close but they opened once more at the rattling of cutlery. Kurosawa came around an intricate shoji wall carrying a tray. He was wearing a white turtleneck and white pants, feet tucked into pale blue slippers. The spot of colour on him looked very strange indeed.

“We don't have much in the kitchen,” he said, setting the tray down on the chabudai and folding himself into a seating position. “Just some tea and noodles. I wasn't anticipating guests.”

“Yeah,” Ryū said because no way in hell was he saying sorry or any crap like that. The guy hadn't been forced to invite him inside after all. Kurosawa poured him a steaming cup of mint tea and Ryū watched the leaves swirl around at the bottom before taking a small sip.

“Good, yes?”

It was good.

“Thanks,” he said begrudgingly. He could be nice when it suited him. And the other boy was doing him a favour, even if the expression on his face didn't entirely support that theory. What a creep.

Kurosawa looked at him down his long nose. “You’re welcome,” he said. “So, tell me, what’s the story behind your state of disarray, hm? Are you injured?”

“A bit,” Ryū replied. “There was a misunderstanding with the police. My social worker wrongly thought I’d been... hurt by my family and somehow's she forced them to give up custody of me! It's total bullshit. Obaa-san would never do that.”

He frowned. “But they aren’t hurting you? Not at all?”

“No,” he said forcefully. “They'd - they'd never. I love living there."

“Well, that’s an easy fix,” Kurosawa explained. He stretched his hand out across the chabudai, his long, pale fingers held neatly together. “Make another deal with me, Kaminari-san. I'll make sure she lets you go back with your family."

 


 

Chapter Text

“A deal?” Ryū eyed him.

“Well our last one is working out so well,” Kurosawa said and he even offered a small, lopsided smile. “This will fix all of your problems, you know.”

“What’s in this for you?”

“I want to help. Kaminari, you fascinate me.”

Uh...what? Ryū shuffled back a little on his knees, skin prickling. “What’s that supposed to mean?” he demanded. Who said shit like that?

“I’ve never met anybody like you before,” he explained simply, letting his hand drop onto the chabudai. “Weak, powerful, fearful, confident...people are all the same really; goals, dreams, it’s boring. But you...I haven’t been able to get a fix on you. On that first day when everyone was introducing themselves in homeroom, I noticed you seemed angry when Imai brought up your father.”

“I don’t like to talk about that shit.”

“Exactly,” he stared at Ryū with those piercing milky white eyes. “Having a Pro Hero for a parent is usually a bragging point - Iida, Midoriya, Amajiki, Tetsutetsu, etcetera, they’re all households names by now. To claim them as family, especially at a school like U.A., is to ascend to the top of the social standing. Yet you shy away.”

Ryū scoffed. “Yeah? So what?”

“So,” he stressed, “Kaminari, though not as well known these days, is still a well-respected Pro Hero name. Why do you dismiss any connection between you and the Hero Chargebolt?”

The silence hung in the air and then Ryū placed his cup down with a clatter, rising to his feet. “Thanks for the tea,” he snapped, marching back into the genkan and kicking off the guest slippers. Fucking nosy little shitbag -

Kurosawa hurried after him and grabbed his arm. Ryū had had enough of people doing that by now, so he yanked himself away, spitting and snarling.

“Back off!”

Holding his hands up in the universal sign of ‘I come in peace’, Kurosawa looked at him seriously. “I’m sorry to be so blunt, but my point still stands, Kaminari. Your motivations for even being at U.A. are unclear - I’ve seen no particular desire in you to become a hero at all, to be honest.”

Who the fuck did this guy think he was? Ryū viciously threw the door open. It was a fucking mystery to him why he’d thought going into this creep’s house was a good idea! Hadn’t he learnt his lesson by now about trusting people!?

Ryū made it halfway down the path before Kurosawa called after him.

“What about our deal? Don’t you want everything to go return to normality?”

He forced himself to stop.

“You still want to make some stupid deal with me? Put everything back the way it was?”

Maybe...if Kurosawa’s Quirk truly went against the rules of the universe, against fate, he could combat Kurou-sama’s abilities? Make it so he couldn’t just erase everyone’s memories of all this. But could Ryū take that risk?

“Of course.”

“And what do you want in exchange?” Ryū pushed, stepping a little closer. “Money? Those losers might be rich, but I’m not.”

He laughed a little. “I don’t want their money, Kaminari. Hm...what I would like is a favour of sorts.”

“A favour. What kind of favour?”

“Well. You seem to be have an interesting time, yes? Lots of...excitement? Drama, action and so forth,” he watched Ryū for his reaction, eyes brimming with something close to eagerness. “I want some of that.”

Ryū recoiled, totally repulsed.

“You want this?” he gestured wildly down at himself.

“No,” Kurosawa said, looking insulted. “I don’t want your life, I want everything to be like that! We’re living in an age of boredom, don’t you see? Everyone’s more powerful, more settled! It’s,” he pulled a face, “it’s infuriating! How am I meant to be a Hero if everyone is already so good?”

“So you want...bad things to happen,” Ryū deadpanned. “Are you fucking insane?”

“Not bad things, per se. Just interesting ones. Action, drama - romance even! I want it all!”

“And you think I can make that happen? What’s the point in telling me all this, huh!?”

“You don’t need to,” Kurosawa dismissed. “My Quirk does all the work. All I need is to give you something to get something back. I make your life better and you help do the same for me.”

Ryū stared at him.

“Are you in?”

“This is fucking crazy.”

“I know it is,” Kurosawa said and he held out his hand again. This time, however, it was palm-up and a wispy flame sprang into life in his palm, silver and glowing. It lit his eyes with an eerie milk-coloured light. “Deal,” he said again. “My Quirk is Deal. Shake my hand and all our dreams will come true. You’ll be with your family and me...I’ll be the Hero I’ve always dreamed of.”

It took a moment but Ryū still shook his head. “No,” he said. “No, I can’t.”

“What?” Kurosawa frowned. The flame danced even higher, practically obscuring his pale eyes. “Why? This is everything I - everything you ever wanted!”

“You don’t know me,” Ryū said firmly. “This is a mistake, Kurosawa.”

“Only if you make it one,” he said. “Are you really going to do this to yourself? Why? It would be so easy.”

Ryū shook his head, stepping back. “Nothing ever is, but this will only end badly for both of us.” Everything always did.

Kurosawa stared at him with flames dancing across the harsh planes of his face. “You’re making a mistake.”

“Maybe,” Ryū said honestly. Was it worth the risk? “But it’s mine to make.”

A second past, a blink of an eye, and then Kurosawa snapped his fingers closed into a tight fist, extinguishing the flame and leaving them illuminated in the sparse light from his open front door. He looked quite menacing with it haloing behind him, like a white-clad devil.

“No,” he said. “No, this isn’t fair.”

“It’s my -”

“No!” he stormed forward and Ryū took an automatic step back, but it wasn’t enough because a second later Kurosawa’s hands wrapped over his shoulders in a punishing grip and help him tightly in place. “You can’t do this, Ryū. I won’t let you!”

“Let go of me,” he hissed, tugging at the other boy’s arms. “And don’t fucking call me that!”

“You don’t understand,” Kurosawa shook him and Ryū, despite the roiling anger in his chest, also felt a fission of fear. This was just some dumb kid in his class, right? A crazed weirdo who didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about - “This is about more than just you, Kaminari, get that into your head! I need to make a deal with you!”

“You already have!” Ryū spat and he shoved at Kurosawa’s chest with all his strength, forcing him to stagger back. “Stay away from me!”

“That was different!” Kurosawa loomed over him and with an equally as violent shove, Ryū found himself on his ass, staring up into a pair of furious white eyes. “That was just fun!” He shoved his foot against Ryū’s side, pressing intently. “You’re making this very difficult.”

Ryū reeled his own foot back and slammed his heel directly into the other boy’s kneecap. A delicious crunch was the result and he scurried away like a crab, trying to put as much distance between them as possible. He managed to get to his feet as Kurosawa’s lay on the grass, groaning and clutching his injured knee.

“Fucking psycho,” he said, kicking a scatter of stones at him. Then Ryū turned tail and ran before this day could get even more fucked up.

“Wait...” Kurosawa called weakly. “Ryū, you don’t...understand...please...”

Ryū clenched his fists and sped up, feet pounding the sidewalk. He needed to get home and find his grandmother. She’d make everything better.

“Ryū…!”

 


 

“Obaa-san?” Ryū kicked his door open and tumbled into the dark house. “Hello?”

On filthy feet, he padded into the living room. It, unlike the kitchen, was in disarray. The magazines always kept on the kotatsu were now spread across the floor and the pale blue blanket that his grandmother always kept wrapped around her was crumpled up by the door.

“Anybody?”

Upstairs was just as messy. The closet in his grandparents’ room was half-empty with most of their clothes either missing or half-hanging out of an abandoned suitcase left on the bed. Their toothbrushes were gone and so was the little tin of wax his grandfather used for his hair and his moustache.

Ryū didn’t dare check the spare room where Kurou-sama had been sleeping, but he had a feeling that would be just as empty, just as swiftly packed. He sat down in the freezing kitchen, crossed-legged on the tile and stared into the darkness of the house, listening to the wind whistle through the still-open front door.

He sat like that for a long time. A really long time.

So long, in fact, that he began to think about all the horrible things that had happened recently. It was a sizeable list, really.

The terror on Ariyoshi’s face, when Kiyo had eaten him, was still clear in Ryū’s mind. He hadn’t had much time to process the brutal murder he’d been a witness - an accessory - to, but it sort of seemed unimportant next to the current emptiness of his family home. Earlier, Igarashi had said they’d left. Ryū hadn’t wanted to listen. Honestly, he hadn’t even believed her.

But now, faced with the dishevelled house, the half-packed suitcase, the unlocked front door - it seemed to much evidence to deny, too much to merely dismiss as a coincidence.

They had left him.

She had...left him.

If he was a crying person, Ryū was sure he’d be crying. He’d been close to it, back in that alley with Michiko and Kagami, but now summoning up the energy for that seemed a lifetime away. He was too dried up to shed a damn tear.

Ryū flopped back down to the floor, letting the cold breeze waft over his face. He felt like a piece of shit, curled up and feeling sorry for himself in this big empty house. It was pathetic, but knowing that didn’t make it any easier to stop. Besides, what else could he do other than mope about? Trail back to Igarashi with his tail between his legs? No thank you.

His mind, against his will, conjured up a picture of Michiko and her loud, obnoxious parents. They’d take him in, of course. Had always offered even when Ryū didn’t feel like it was warranted. He knew they considered him a sort of awkward surrogate son, mostly because he stuck around Michiko even at her most irritating, but if he turned up on their doorsteps they’d definitely get out a spare futon for him. But Igarashi would know he’d go there, turn to either her or Kagami. She’d turn up not long after and take him away to another stupid foster home or whatever.

There was always - no.

Those two shitstains didn’t fucking deserve to hear from him. He couldn't just go...crawling back to them! Apart from the past few days, Ryū hadn’t spoken to either them in years. And not Akio either. It was clear brotherly love or whatever shit people liked to peddle had run out by now. He’d make that damn clear after the unprovoked bullshit of a fight last night, the crap he’d sprouted about -

They’d probably turn him out either way. Who wanted some weird kid like him when they had golden boy Akio? Ryū was just spare trash to them, maybe something to waste time on at U.A. when they didn’t want to do any work marking or whatever, but nothing substantial.

“Ugh,” he said to the ceiling. “Fuck this shit.”

He stood up, done, and went back upstairs.

Ryū pulled a small, mostly unused, suitcase from the closet in the hall and dragged it into his room. He packed away his books, plant (which he wrapped in a cloth to stop it falling out of its pot), and candle. Then he opened his wardrobe and packed all his clothes save for a pair of sneakers, which he put to one side to wear later. His box of...private items went last tucked neatly to one side. He zipped up the bag, rolled his futon up and tucked it through the handle, then lugged his things downstairs.

He put his sneakers on and his thick red winter parka, shut the front door with a click of finality and then sat down on the suitcase, kept out of the rain on the front porch. After about another ten minutes, headlights lit up the street as a little blue car trundled up. The passenger door opened.

“Ryū,” Igarashi sighed in relief when she saw him sitting there pathetically. She walked over, her footsteps slow and even. “Thank goodness you’re here.”

He stared at the ground, the empty driveway, anywhere but the pity on her tired face.

“Come on,” she said. “Let’s get you in the car.”

He dragged his bag over and she helped him heft it into the trunk. Then he climbed into the back seat and did up the seatbelt. Miso-san was behind the wheel - the cool and collected, sunglasses-wearing woman whose full name Ryū had never found out. Why someone would want to go by the name of a fucking soup he would never know.

“Alright,” Igarashi said when she was back in the warmth of the car. “Ryū, would you like to go to the hospital today or tomorrow?”

He stared at the back of her head but averted his gaze out the window when she turned to look at him expectantly.

“Tomorrow it is,” Miso-san said and off they drove. “It’s been a long damn day.”

Ryū watched the houses flicker past, knowing that it was more than likely the very last time he’d ever see them.

He couldn't tell if he was sad about that or not.

 


 

The house they pulled up outside was about a forty-five minute drive from Ryū’s own and big as all hell. It was made of bricks with green siding, was three stories tall with a privacy wall and expertly trimmed bushes all the way around, two balconies that he could see and a curved roof on one side. It would probably look even more impressive in the day time and was clearly the house of people who cared about functionality as well as aesthetics. It was familiar, however. Very familiar... a foreboding feeling began to gurgle in his stomach.

Miso-san whistled. “How’d you swing this, Igarashi?”

“Ah,” she replied. “Well.”

The front door opened and yellow light spilt down onto the path. Ryū, who had just climbed out of the car, groaned. For Christ’s sake. He got back in the car and shut the door.

Igarashi rapped on the window. “Ryū,” she said through the glass. “Ryū, get out of the car, please.”

He kicked the seat in front of him and scowled at her, shaking his head resolutely. He was acting like a little kid, but who cared? If they thought they could pull this shit on him then they had another thing coming!

“Kid,” Miso-san. “Don’t play this with me.” She waited a good few seconds then stuck her arm through the door and unlocked it. “Fine. If you want to act like a child then I’ll treat you like one.”

“Miso-san -”

She wrenched the door open and pulled him out firmly but not aggressively. Ryū didn’t resist but he did glare at her with as much hatred as he could muster, which was a fair bit. What a fucking bitch.

Miso walked him up the path.

“Thank you for taking him on such short notice, Bakugou-san,” Igarashi was saying. “I apologise for the late hour -”

“Ha! Like we’d say no to taking the little brat in after all this time. Did something happen to Shinju though? Is she alright?”

“It’s a complex situation,” Igarashi hedged. “Perhaps one to be discussed at a later date -”

“She left.”

‘Bakugou-san’ finally looked down at him. She was just as he remembered. “Huh,” she said. “I can see why you called us now. He’s just like my Katsuki.”

Ryū was nothing like -

“Yes, well, it was here or a foster home for the night and after the events of the evening we decided it was best if he’s was somewhere he was at least familiar with,” Miso explained. She eyed Ryū contemplatively. “He’s not to go to school tomorrow and we’ll be back sometime in the evening to collect him if that’s alright with you.”

“Sure. Masaru works from home so he’ll be here all day,” she held the door a bit wider. “Please come in and have some tea.”

Igarashi and Miso exchanged a look. They eventually nodded. “That would be lovely, thank you,” Igarashi said. “Come on, Ryū.”

Ryū trailed after them, taking in the large entryway, the tasteful traditional-style art and sweeping stairway up to the second level. They kicked off their shoes and put on the guest slippers.

“Masaru! He’s here!” she called into the depths of the house, leading their dumb little trio into a modern kitchen with a breakfast bar, two ovens and a large window looking out onto a darkened backyard. “Sit.”

She produced tea, muttering to herself a little, and plopped it down in front of Ryū, who had claimed a seat one down from Igarashi. The tea sloshed a little over the rim and splattered on the gleaming granite countertop.

“Aw, shit,” she muttered, grabbing a cloth. “Stupid tea...”

“Bakugou-san,” Igarashi said after taking a polite sip of her own drink. “Perhaps, if you’re amenable to it, we can discuss the longer term arrangements...?”

Ryū scoffed quietly into his tea. It was fine, but not really hot enough for his scalding tastes.

A man with a greying moustache and silky blue pyjama pants shuffled into the room. “Sorry,” he yawned. “Dozed off at my desk.” He smiled warmly. “Thank you for coming. Tea?"

“No, thank you,” Miso said.

Igarashi bowed her head. “We are very grateful you agreed to take Ryū in. Putting him in a foster home would not have been ideal.”

They all looked at him.

“Of course,” he said. “You don’t need to thank us. Ryū is our grandson - turning him away would be - well. Unimaginable.”

“Yeah,” she added. “Exactly. Plus, it’s not like we don’t have experience with bratty kids. Katsuki was a handful for sure.”

Of course they’d keep comparing them. Ryū knew already that this was swiftly going to become a running theme in the house and he’d only been there about two minutes.

“I wouldn’t call Ryū a handful!” Igarashi said. “Quite the opposite, in fact. He’s very quiet, well mannered - a lovely boy. Of course, every teenager has their moments -”

Ryū frowned. He was sat in the room, for god’s sake.

“- but I expect he’ll be on his best behaviour tonight and tomorrow. It’s been a long day so he’ll most likely just sleep anyway. I ask that you let him do so in these extenuating circumstances -”

“Thank you for the tea,” Miso cut through. “Like Igarashi-san is explaining; it’s been an eventful day and it will be another one tomorrow, so we best get going now. Let’s fetch your bags, kid.”

When was he trundling his suitcase back up the garden path, Igarashi placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and took him to one side. “You rest up,” she said kindly. “Everything will look brighter in the morning, Ryū. You’ll see.”

“Are you looking for them?” he asked, studying her dark eyes for any sign of a lie in her answer. “Obaa-san and Ojii-san.”

“The police are. They want this situation sorted out as much as you do,” he watched her visibly hesitated. “And Ryū, your great-grandfather -”

His mouth twisted up like he’d been sucking on a lemon. “Don’t.”

“All I was going to say,” she soothed. “Is that if you want to talk, any one of us will be willing to listen. Me, Miso-san, your grandparents here. Even a teacher at your school. Whenever you're ready, know that we’re here for anything you want to say.”

Ryū eyed her genuine face and sighed a little. “Alright,” he said.

He was shown to a large bedroom - bigger than his grandparents’ own master at home - decorated in tasteful blues and browns. The bed was Western-style, as was the rest of the furniture. There was even a sleek chrome computer set up at the desk, which overlooked the front of the house via a large window covered by bamboo blinds.

“We have breakfast at eight,” ‘you call me Masaru if it makes you feel more comfortable’ said a tad awkwardly. “You’re welcome to join us.”

Ryū grunted and mustered a ‘whatever’. He sat on the bed pointedly. ‘Get the fuck out’ said his body language. Masaru got the hint, fortunately. He smiled one more time, then shut the door with an ominous click.

Lying back on the bed, admitting its cloud-like softness only to himself, Ryū listened to them murmur quietly in the entryway downstairs. All that space and marble made the sound echo but he couldn’t make out any actual words. He knew they were talking about him, at any rate, but that wasn’t exactly new. It seemed like everyone was talking about him these days.

He stripped to his underwear, tossing his clothes on top of his case, and crawled under the cooled white sheets. He made sure to keep off his sore back, lying on his side to stare out into the darkness of the room.

No school tomorrow. He wasn’t happy about something like that being decided for him, but not torn up about it either. After all, confronting all those...whatevers was not something he was looking forward to. Especially that shitface Kurosawa. Ryū had thought he was a creep, but not to the extent he’d shown that evening. Shoving him around like that, making those demands - who the hell did he think he was? Ryū wasn’t anyone’s bitch and he certainly wasn’t going to make some weird Quirk deal just because Kurosawa had told him to. Their last one, just a friendly agreement to work together in team vs. team trials had not involved the flaming palm he’d shown earlier. Clearly, that had just been a regular deal. What Kurosawa wanted was obviously a more...binding agreement.

And like hell he’d get that now.

 


 

Ryū awoke with a hiss of pain. His back, which he had rolled onto at some point, caught and tugged on the sheets. When he managed to peel his eyes open, he found the crisp white bedding smeared with dried blood.

“Kid?” knuckles rapped loudly on the door. “Kid, you awake yet?”

He pulled himself up, wincing and moaning. Oh fuck - the pain had definitely sunk in after a good night’s rest. Ryū managed to tumble out of bed, toes curling on the cold wood flooring, and over to the door. He cracked it open and stuck his head out.

Mitsuki raised an eyebrow at him.

“Sleep well?” she asked sarcastically. He got the feeling - somehow - that she wasn’t too happy with him. Ryū couldn’t tell why.

Literally. He had no idea why she thought him sleeping in this room all night would warrant a sarcastic remark.

“You know,” she continued. “Lights out are at eleven, kid. Do whatever you want in your room, alright, but do it quietly. Talking on your phone all night is not quiet.”

Talking on his phone? The phone that was who the fuck knows where? This lady was obviously fucking nuts .

“Well?” she asked expectantly. “Are you coming down for breakfast or not?”

Ryū looked her up and down then shut the door.

“Stupid bitch,” he mumbled. Ryū dressed in clean clothes, despite the grime, body odour and blood clinging to his skin, he decided it could be worse in the end. He could’ve shit himself too. “Stupid breakfast.”

He opened the door - she was gone - and went downstairs. The house was just as grand, just as over the top and ostentatious as it had been the night before. Masaru was in the kitchen, tending to a frying pan sizzling on the stove.

“Good morning,” he said. “Eggs? Toast?”

Ryū shrugged and a plate of bacon dropped down in front of him. Mitsuki scoffed, dusting her hands off belligerently.

“There. Meat for the bones.”

He grunted.

“Don’t speak much, do you?” she asked, raising another eyebrow. “Cat got your tongue?”

“It been a traumatic few days, Mitsuki,” Masaru coaxed, coming over to touch her shoulder. “Let the boy think.” He smiled kindly. “How are you feeling, Ryū?”

Ryū sucked his lip, chewed thoughtfully on it, and then speared a piece of bacon and popped it into his mouth. He chewed slowly. They were still watching him, however, so he mustered a: “fine” and hoped they would take that as enough and leave him the hell alone.

Mitsuki and Masaru looked at one another, sharing the kind of meaningful glance that only married couples who’d been together for decades seemed able to understand.

“I have work in an hour, but I’ll be back at five-ish. Masaru will be in his office and he needs quiet to concentrate, so don’t keep bugging him all day, got it?”

“Mitsuki,” Masaru chided. “It’s completely fine for him to come and fetch me.” He smiled, a kind and gentle thing. “I’d appreciate the company, but if you want to keep to yourself then that’s fine by me also.”

“Tt.” He went back to his bacon. Like he’d ever want to spend time with anybody related to his lousy sperm donor. Masaru sighed, kissed Mitsuki on the cheek and then Ryū was alone in the kitchen. He nodded to himself in appreciation; just how he liked it.

 


 

Ryū spent the rest of the day lounging on the couch with his school books. He wouldn’t let some stupid rules keep him from kicking ass in the classroom. He didn’t have his phone, so he couldn’t text Michiko or Kagami but he got the feeling they’d probably track him down sooner or later anyway. They had a weird sixth sense about things like that.

At around two there was a loud, insistent knock at the door. He stared up at the second level, but Masaru did not make an appearance and he heard no sound of movement for a good thirty seconds. Then there was another, even more gregarious, knock.

Sighing, Ryū stretched to his feet. He turned the heavy deadbolt and opened the front door, expecting to find a parcel delivery or Igarashi and Miso arriving early.

“Oh,” he said flatly.

Akio sneered, turning his nose up. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

 


 

Chapter Text

Ryū slammed the door shut in his brother’s face, went back into the sitting room and sat on the couch. The knocking immediately picked up again.

“Oi!” Akio’s muffled voice barely made it through the heavy wood. “Oi, you little shit! Open this door!” There was a thud a little lower down. Really? Now he was resorting to kicking? What a spoiled baby.

Ryū closed his eyes, trying to block out the irritating shouts and bangs as his older brother tried to force himself inside. After about five minutes, he heard footsteps trot downstairs.

“Ryū,” Masaru said, looking rather amused. “Do you think, perhaps, that there might be someone at the door? Hm?” The screaming continued.

“Maybe,” Ryū said vaguely.

He watched Masaru let Akio in out of the corner of his eye. His brother’s face was crimson, cheeks puffed up and fists clenched. Ohhhh he was pissed. At his heels was a mammoth of a man wearing an Ingenium hoodie over Uravity pants, Cellophane high-tops and a Ground Zero hat pulled low over his dark hair.

“Hello Masaru-san,” the guy said politely.

“Izuku-kun,” Masaru warmly replied, clapping him on his big shoulder. “What brings you over? You know Katsuki is still at his office at this time.” Ugh, great - another fanboy; Ryū should’ve clocked it from the minute he saw all that tacky Pro Hero merchandise.

“3-A and 3-B finished training early,” Izuku-kun explained. “I was picking Sasuke up early anyway, so I thought I’d drop Akio-kun off on my way to mom’s house.” He must’ve seen Ryū in the corner of his eye because he turned and smiled, looking only mildly surprised. “Oh, hello Kaminari-kun.”

“Oi,” Akio growled, stomping over. “You little - ugh! What the hell is wrong with you, huh?!”

Ryū watched Akio loom over him with a long-polished apathy, blinking slowly. He shrugged.

“Don’t you shrug at me! Speak, damn it!”

“Akio,” Masaru said sternly. “Leave your brother alone. We have guests.”

Guest s? Plural?

Ryū turned sharply and found a little boy peeking around the still-open door, wide eyes fixed on them. He had snow white hair and was wearing a set of thick worksman gloves that looked tailored to fit his tiny hands. Ugh. Ryū was an asshole, but even he didn’t like scaring kids.

Akio grunted, but he reluctantly backed off too.

“It’s okay, Ikumi,” Izuku coaxed. “Say hello.”

“Hn,” said Ikumi and then he retreated behind his father(?) without another word.

“He’s shy.”

“Aw, that’s alright,” Masaru said companionably. “Me too. It can be pretty intense when older kids fight, don’t you think?” He looked pointedly at Ryū and Akio. “But that’s how brothers are. I bet Haruka-kun and Sasuke-kun are the same, right?”

“Hn,” said Ikumi.

“Sounds about right,” Izuku huffed. “Well, it’s nice to see you again, Ryū-kun.”

Again?

Ryū scrutinised the guy a bit closer and then had to hold in his sigh of agony. Of course. Of fucking course! Deku. Why the hell not? Next thing Ground Zero and Red Riot would be joining this little party too!

“Deku,” Ryū said coldly.

Deku smiled a little awkwardly and rubbed the back of his neck. “Come on, Ikumi. I think it’s best we got home, huh? Ojii-san’s made katsudon for us!”

“Mm,” said Ikumi and the pair left with one more stilted goodbye from Deku. Masaru shut the door behind them and offered an unsure smile.

“Well,” he said. “How about I leave you boys alone? I think it’s time for a nice long chat, don’t you?”

“No,” Ryū stressed at the same time as Akio said: “yes.” They glared at each other.

“I expect everyone should be here soon,” Masaru said as if they’d not replied to him at all. “I’ll prepare some tea.” Then off he fucked.

“So,” Akio said. “Let’s talk, little brother.”

 


 

Denki strummed his fingers on Katsuki and Eijirou’s dining room table, trying not to look too obvious as he stared around their apartment, taking in the semi-familiar furniture, the little quirks of design he considered to be a strictly KatsukiandEijirou thing. It was weird as hell to step into that zone again, especially after so long. Over half a decade!

“Tea?” Katsuki mumbled, purposefully keeping his eyes averted from Denki’s face. He’d been doing it all evening and that morning when they all woke up too - he and Eijirou in the bedroom - their bedroom - and Denki on the couch. “I have that shit you like. You know - spicy leaves.”

“Chai?” Denki blinked. “But you guys hate that.”

“Yeah, well,” Katsuki scoffed. “Whatever. Forget it.” He sat down with a thump opposite Denki, with Eijirou stiff as a statue in the adjacent seat. “So.”

“Why didn’t you tell us about Ryū?” Eijirou burst out with. It was clear he’d been holding that one in for a while. Days, even. “Why did you just give him up like that?”

Denki frowned.

“It’s complicated.”

“Bullshit,” Katsuki replied instantly, propping both elbows on the table and letting his chin settle on his palm all casual-like. Denki had been married to him, however. He knew that look curling around his eyes. “He’s our kid.”

“You did the same thing,” Denki pointed out a little irritably because...well. Principles. “Just signed over custody to me like that. At least I tried to see Akio for a while. You dropped Ryū like a hot potato when you realise we weren’t getting back together.”

“He didn’t want to see us! Every time he stayed over it all we got was complaining that he’d rather be at home with you anyway. What was the point?”

“He’s your son!” Denki cried, slapping the table. “When you stopped calling he was totally woebegone for months because what was he supposed to think?! He thought you didn’t love him anymore!”

“And how do you think Aki felt?” Eijirou asked, wet-eyed. “What about Rai, huh? Are we all just conveniently forgetting about him? He was only fourteen!”

“They were all young,” Denki said. “Ryū was ten, Aki was twelve and, yes, Rai was fourteen, but hell, we were only thirty-two! Divorce was not what I was planning on.”

Katsuki scoffed. “You mean you gave up! Shitty Hair and I are still going strong, aren’t we? Divorce is for quitters.”

“We’re not talking about that,” Denki cried heatedly. “Katsuki! Just listen to me, okay, for once in your life just listen!” He panted, shoulders reeled back tensely. “I forgot what we were like, je -sus. I need a drink.”

“Tea?” Katsuki snarled.

Denki went to their cupboards and rooted until he found what he was looking for. An unopened pack of beer cans. He took two and popped the ring-top on one, downing a sizeable amount of the can before sitting back down at the table.

“There,” he said. “If we’re going into heavy stuff then I need to be ready.”

Eijirou looked him over. “You look tired,” he said finally. “Different.”

“Old,” Denki supplied, taking another gulp. “The word you’re looking for is old.”

“You’re thirty-seven. Don’t be stupid.”

Denki, however, was not offended. Despite Katsuki’s words, his face was sharp and eyes drooping under heavy-lidded exhaustion. His shoulders slumped and though they had always been that way, Denki could tell the reasoning behind them being so was now far different. Eijirou, the tallest of them, but still with hard muscles stretched over sharp bones and little fat. He had some dark roots peeking in over his scalp and wrinkles around his mouth from frowning. Denki himself, however, was definitely the worst; shorter hair, scarred, thin and perpetually exhausted.

“Sure,” he said. “At any rate, what are we going to do now?”

“We?”

“Apply for custody,” Eijirou said determinedly. “Ryū’s our son and we have Akio with us already. It shouldn’t be too hard -”

“No way,” Katsuki and Denki said at the same time. They exchanged a suspicious look.

Eijirou blinked and then anger clouded his face. “What does that mean? Katsuki...but...he’s our baby…!”

“We have to think about Aki, though,” Katsuki said, folding his arms. “They don’t get along.”

“One little fight is hardly enough to go throwing big decisions like that around!”

“Whoa, hold up. What fight?”

 


 

“Let go of me!” Ryū thrashed wildly, clawing at Akio’s fingers, and held upside down as he was, that was a rather difficult thing to do. “You fucking -”

“Hey, stop squirming,” Akio said as he toted Ryū upstairs. The bobbing of the room caused Ryū’s eyes to cross nauseatingly and his back pressed unforgivingly against his brother’s arm, was tight and painful. “You’re only making this more difficult for yourself!”

“Fuck off!”

They stopped for a moment and Ryū heard the click of a door handle being turned. Then he was flung onto a bed, which he promptly rolled off the side of. Groaning, he held his back and hoped the scabs hadn’t re-opened and started bleeding. Akio approached around the bed, glaring and glowering. He looked pretty intense, actually. Probably practised that look in front of the mirror.

“You,” he said, sitting down on the bed. The room was decorated in purples and dark monochrome, a few posters on the wall and a hot-rod red electric guitar sat next to an amp in the corner. There was even a tacky black and white striped bean bag, and a lava lamp on the desk. Looked like his brother’s tastes in decor hadn’t changed much over the last years five years. “Have been a royal pain in my ass.”

“Well, you started it,” Ryū grumbled, still flat out on his ass. “What was that for?”

“I didn’t start it! You went first - jumping out of the bushes after spying on a private conversation like that!”

“I wasn’t spying,” spat Ryū. “You gossip too loud.”

“Piss off.”

Ryū scowled. “Gladly,” he managed to get to his feet but Akio caught his elbow in a surprisingly gentle grip as soon as he made to go to the door. “What now?”

“What’s wrong with you?” Akio was frowning, frowning in a sort of disapproving way that Ryū found sickeningly familiar. It reminded him of...of Kurou-sama. Ugh, he’d forgotten that Akio would be genetically related to him, that his genes flowed from Obaa-san and Ojii-san in a way that Ryū could never hope to have. Instead, he was related to the idiots who owned this giant house and whoever drop-kicked Red Riot out nearly forty years ago. “Why are you here? Does this have something to do with that big fight you were caught up in yesterday?”

“Didn’t Red Riot or Ground Zero tell you? I would’ve thought they’d love to bad-talk me at whatever opportunity they get.”

“Huh? What are you talking about? They’ve never - why would you think that?! I’ve never heard either of them talk about you like that - they really miss you.”

“Ha!” Ryū couldn’t hold back his scoff of derision. “That’s rich. Where the fuck have they been then, hm? What have they been doing whilst I was stuck with -” He caught his tongue between his teeth in the nick of time, rolling the words back into his chest and lonely brain where they belonged. It was not the time for that.

Akio, obviously very bitter, scoffed a little sigh. “Stuck? Yeah right! I bet you were living it up together - papa - I mean, your dad quit and now he’s some retired schmuck sat at home. All the time in the world for his kid? Sounds like a struggle.” Sarcasm was evident.

“I guess not,” Ryū said, working his jaw. “But I wouldn’t really know anyway. I haven’t seen him in years, not since he dumped me on Obaa-san.”

“Uh. What? He - he - you mean Shinju-obaa-san? You’ve been with... living with her?”

“Yeah.”

Scrubbing his stunned face, Akio rested his chin in his palm. “Holy shit,” he said. “Ho- ly shit.”

“You didn’t know?” Ryū asked, a little shocked himself. “I would have thought you...well. That Igarashi would’ve said.”

“Who?” His eyes scrunched up.

“My social worker.”

“Right,” Akio said. “Of course.” He looked at Ryū with a sigh. “Sit down.”

“No,” Ryū said quickly, automatically. “No, why?”

“Because I don’t want you to feel like I’m, like, interrogating you or anything.”

“You are,” he said flatly. Ryū still sat down, however, making sure to keep at least two feet of space between them. “So.”

“This is nuts,” his brother exclaimed. “This is so crazy! Now I get why you were so angry with me. I thought you were just living it up with him and, you know, not giving a shit about us.”

Living it up.

Yeah, sure.

“Not at all,” Ryū admitted freely. “Well, I didn’t think about you or...or them much but why would I? It would only make things worse.”

Akio flopped back on his bed, legs still hanging over the edge. He frowned at the ceiling.

“Sorry then,” he said. “I can manage that. Apologies are rare in this family but I don’t have a problem with them when I know I’m in the wrong.”

That was a change. Ryū would expect anyone raised around his toxic family to possess egos the size Japan, but Akio was being actually surprisingly...humble. Huh.

“Hmph.” Ryū gingerly laid back on the bed beside his brother, hands folded in his stomach.

“Don’t worry. You don’t have to say it back,” Akio said and Ryū could see him smiling in the corner of his vision. “We’re cool now, right?”

“Whatever.”

“Good. I’m fed up with arguing.”

Me fucking too, Ryū thought.

 


 

Igarashi showed up not long after.

Ryū and Akio had mostly lain in companionable silence on the bed, though his brother had gotten up at some point to put on some weirdo retro pop. It had been fine but Ryū hasn’t really been listening in the first place. He had a lot more on his mind than music.

Murder, for one. In all the goings-on he’d mostly forgotten about how his Quirk had killed Ariyoshi so easily - the way she’d swallowed down his body and left his car a very strange crime scene indeed. A peeled back roof, bloody seat and no body. Would there be anyone around to report him missing? A wife? ...Kids? Ryū damn well hoped not. He shuddered at the thought of little children having been around that sick freak.

He couldn’t say he was torn up about Kiyo eating him for dinner but Ryū was a bit nervous about the DNA he might’ve left at the crime scene. And his bag was...well, he didn’t actually know where it was, but Kiyo wouldn’t have left it.

...Right?

The doorbell rang twice and they listened to Masaru come out of his office and go down to answer it. Ryū sat up.

“I should pack,” he said.

“Pack? What, for where?” Akio followed him.

“For wherever she’s going to take me,” Ryū explained tersely, sliding out into the hallway. “Some foster family probably.”

“What!?”

Akio’s shout bounced down the marble stairs and to the entry, where Igarashi and Masaru were staring up at them.

“Ryū,” she said. “I didn’t...who is this?”

“Akio,” Akio folded his arms. “His brother.”

Flustered, she blinked fast and then seemed to collect herself: “oh. Well, hello, um, Akio-kun.”

“Hi,” he said. “Where are you taking him?”

“Akio,” Masaru said carefully. “Please, let’s just -“

“No, this is bullshit!” He threw his hands up. “What’s the point in taking Ryū away from us when we want him back? Some random family isn’t going to like him more than us!”

“This is a complex issue.”

“Fuck that!” Ryū watched him storm downstairs in a mute yet stunned silence. What the hell was happening? “We’re his family, lady! We want him to stay with us and he wants the same! Right, Ryū?” He glanced back up at him with pleading eyes.

“Uh,” he managed, still standing at the top of the stairs like an idiot.

“The Tokoyami family is perfectly willing to accept Ryū for a short-term placement and pending into the long-term too. This is the best decision -” Ryū didn’t hear anymore of it.

Tokoyami!?

Oh fuck, that shitstain!?

“I want to stay,” Ryū jumped in eagerly, still standing like a moron on the top step. “I - we’ve been getting along...really well.”

She stared at him, befuddled. “What?”

“Akio and I,” he explained. “We’re friends now.” Grit and bear it - grit and bear it. He didn’t want to end up with Tokoyami and his presumably just-as-weird family, now did he?

“Well, that’s...lovely to hear, Ryū, but I’m afraid we still have to -”

The door swung open and Miso stared them down, hands planted on her hips. “Sounds good to me,” she said. “Is that alright with you, Bakugou-san? And with your wife?”

“Uh,” he fumbled. “Well, I assume so? Mitsuki can be a tad -”

“Great,” Akio said, clapping his hands. “That’s all sorted then.”

“I love a happy ending,” Miso deadpanned. “But family reunification is always our goal, Igarashi, don’t forget.” She looked half chiding and half amused. Ryū himself was just entirely relieved. He couldn’t imagine how awful it would have been to live with a fucker like Tokoyami and his probably equally as annoying family.

Akio was grinning from ear to ear, practically bouncing about on his toes. If Ryū had been closer he got the impression he would have been swept up into a...a hug of all things. The horror.

“We’ll need to have a settle-in period, of course,” Miso continued. “This is very short notice and Ryū will need to speak with a panel of social workers in a few weeks to decide if this decision is right for him. You and your wife will need to be present, but please don’t go through with this if you’re not one hundred percent certain. Raising a child is a large commitment.”

“I’ve already raised one son,” Masaru said firmly. “And he was a difficult boy. Ryū will be no trouble and we’re glad to have him if that’s what he wishes.” Then he looked up at Ryū questioningly and Ryū felt a curl of appreciation for the old man. At least he bothered to ask for Ryū’s opinion, unlike most adults who treated him how he looked - like a ten-year-old.

He nodded once. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I want to live here.”

Igarashi mustered a smile. “Alright. Now, first we -” Ryū was wincing in anticipation of a demand he finally go with them to the hospital for his wounded back and he was half-tempted to just acquest simply from the amount of pain he was in, but the lights flickered before she could finish her sentence. Everyone looked at the ceiling.

“Odd,” Masaru said thoughtfully. “I should check the generator. Please excuse me for one moment,” he bowed shortly and went into the kitchen. Ryū heard a door slam and Akio shuffled his feet awkwardly as they were left alone with Miso and Igarashi.

Ryū, on the other hand, felt a cold trickle meander its way down his spine. He couldn’t say why or what had caused it, but whatever that sensation was, it bothered him enough that he found himself trotting down the stairs at a rather hurried pace, veering past his brother without making eye contact “I’ll go help.”

He tracked Masaru’s movement through the large house; from the kitchen, into the back hallway and then through a door that had a different handle than the rest; heavy metal as opposed to carved wood. The most likely suspect for a door into a room that would hold a generator. He opened it and was met with a staircase down into a basement. Though the lights weren’t on, Ryū could heat faint breathing and dripping water. A clunk of metal.

He stared down into the dark, apprehensive. His gut was telling him not to go, that the dark never ended well for him, but Masaru was down there. Probably. Most likely.

The first step created under his foot and the breathing stopped. Or, at least, grew too quiet to hear.

“Masaru?” Ryū hedged. He hadn’t exactly spoken to him or his wife since arriving the night before, after all. “Are you down here?”

Going into dark places with Kurou-sama had never ended well for Ryū, that much he knew. Bad things happened in the dark, things hidden in the shadows as opposed to the relative safety the day could bring him.

Was...was Masaru like that? A creature to be feared in the dark? Ryū didn’t think so, but then again, sometimes it was the ones you least suspected that ended up surprising you. Like the late Ariyoshi and his car full of trouble. Ryū had been...an idiot then. He didn’t want to be one now too, and, sure, he could never remember Masaru being anything less than strictly family-appropriate with him as a child, but...well. People had different tastes.

Ryū’s feet hit the concrete flooring at the bottom of the stairs. The basement was packed with boxes, aisles and winding aisles of childhood mementoes, old furniture and decorations piled nearly ceiling-height. There was some light coming over one of the stacks, a faint yellowish glow that flickered and swayed like a single bulb on a chain.

He shivered again, this time in the cold breeze that whistled around his ankles, and edged deeper into the darkness. “Masaru?” he tried once again. “Hello?”

Walking further and further, Ryū edged around an antique grandfather clock and then, rather suddenly, standing in front of the generator. It was a simple gray box, big and plastic and whirring quietly, vibrating against the concrete floor, but there was no Masaru in sight.

“Huh,” Ryū said. “Must’ve gone back -” he turned to leave but found himself nose-to-nose with a hollow of a mouth filled with needle-thin teeth and two glowing ruby eyes. He let out a strangled cry, but then that face - that terrifying face - registered in his mind and he let out a breath. “Kiyo! How the - what are you doing here?!”

You left me, she huffed, sounding oddly petulant. And I was hungry.

Ryū’s chest went very, very still. “Masaru,” he managed. “Did you...Kiyo, please, tell me you didn’t...” He clutched his hair in a blind panic. “Did you eat him!?”

As if. I had a snack on the way here.

“Oh,” he said faintly. “Well, that’s good.”

Happy to see you.

“Yeah. I mean, yeah, me too. I suppose,” Ryū nodded dumbly. He leant back against the grandfather clock and it groaned with age. “I thought they were taking you to Tartarus.”

Maybe, but leaving them was child’s play, she explained, leaning back on her haunches like an over-large dog rather than a terrifying demon woman. Finding you was a lot harder. Kiyo looked at him disapprovingly.

“A lot of shit’s gone on since you made that big display in front of the whole city. Igarashi, my social worker, she said my...my grandmother’s left,” Ryū, despite himself, felt a selfish lump form in the back of his throat. “They all did and now...I have to live here.”

Kiyo looked around the dirty, badly lit basement. I like it, she said.

“Upstairs.” Ryū rubbed his tired eyes. “At any rate, there’s going to be more people around now. Mitsuki and Masaru, they’re my grandparents. My other grandparents and I get the feeling they like to be involved. Very involved. If you’re going to stay here then you have to keep yourself hidden. I can’t keep uninvolved from another public incident again.”

If you insist.

“Right.” Ryū nodded and then frowned. “Hang on, you’re being very...eloquent. Much more well-spoken compared to how you were when we first met. Does that have something to do with me? Since you’re my Quirk?” Had he done something to increase her intelligence, or was simply participating in conversations making Kiyo a better Japanese speaker?

I told you, Ryū. WE makes us stronger. YOU make us stronger. The more we consume, the more we accept into our lives, the more powerful our unit is.

Consume? Accept into their lives? What the fuck did that mean?

Ryū’s stomach roiled. “Consume? Do you mean -” his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. “Wait, wait, earlier, just now, you said you had a snack; a snack on the way here. Did you -” he looked around just in case Masaru was lurking behind a box and listening to him talk to himself, “did you eat somebody?”

Only a few.

“More than one!” he cried, before stifling the outraged yelling he so desperately wants to do. “Kiyo, you can’t just eat people! Who were they? Did anybody see you?”

Her red eyes narrowed into slits and she huffed. Not stupid, stupid; I wasn’t seen and they were outcasts, wastes of society. They won’t be missed.”

Okay. Ryū nodded to himself. Sure. His Quirk apparently serially enjoyed eating people - eating them whole. And...it made her more intelligent? Why? What was the purpose of that?

“You said doing...this, eating people, makes ‘us’ stronger. How? How does that work?”

We become then, she hissed. We ingest them; ingest their lives, ingest their power. With every morsel, you, I, WE, are better. We will become what you desire, right?

“What I desire.”

I know you, Ryū. I remember what you say. You want to win, to be the best, and me, you, us together, can help you do it.

Ryū, for once, was torn between what he wanted and what was right. “But eating people. I don’t think I can...condone that, Kiyo.”

Bad people, she explained softly, her skeletal body swaying closer. People nobody would miss. People like...Ariyoshi…

“Ariyoshi,” Ryū repeated, his skin clammy, his gut squirming at the very thought of the man’s sweaty hands, his blubbery mouth.

Didn’t you enjoy seeing me devour him? Give him his just desserts? He didn’t deserve to live, Ryū. He NEEDED to die. We can help cleanse the world, free those innocents who may fall victim to scum like him.

“But killing is wrong. I’m no virtue of morals,” he admitted. “I know that. But I can’t...I...”

“Ryū? Ryū, are you down here?” A long rectangle of light spread across the basement as the door at the top of the stairs swung open. A figure haloed in yellow stood at the top. “Ryū?”

“Y-Yes!” Ryū called. “We - I’m here.”

“Thank goodness,” Igarashi sighed. “What are you doing down there?”

“Uh,” he said and Kiyo’s long tongue slid out of her mouth and caressed his jaw, wet and slimy. He shivered. “Nothing! I’ll be up in a minute!”

I understand, Kiyo growled softly. I understand, Ryū. I’m sorry I pushed you.

“Kiyo,” Ryū gasped out.

“Ryū? Are you talking to somebody?” The stairs began to creak as Igarashi headed down into the basement. “Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine!” he called a little panickedly. “Kiyo, you need to go - she can’t -”

It’s okay, Kiyo said and her tongue slithered over his face a final time before disappearing back into the depths of her mouth. You’ll see eventually…

“Kiyo!” he hissed but then Igarashi came around the corner, a puzzled expression creasing her brow. Even though Kiyo was standing right in front of her, Igarashi didn’t seem to react at all, so Ryū assumed his Quirk was invisible again.

“Ryū,” she said, clearly taking in him just standing there doing nothing, apparently having been talking to himself. “Are you...alright?”

He cleared his throat. “Yes, Igarashi-san, I’m fine. Shall we go back upstairs?”

Shall I eat her?

“No,” Ryū said quickly. Igarashi blinked at him. “I mean...yes. Yes, let’s go.”

“Ryū,” she said and he hated the way she said his name. Over and over, all the time, trying to make it seem like they were friends, like she cared for him. What gave her the right to be so familiar with him? “Are you sure you’re happy staying here? You can tell me. There’s no one else listening.” Her fingers gently touched his arm, but Ryū jerked away.

“I want to be here,” he said stiffly but honestly. “It’s better than...then where I was before.”

“...Okay. If you’re sure.”

And, despite himself, he really was.

After that, Ryū went back up to his room. Akio was off somewhere, and Masaru wanted to speak with Igarashi and Miso privately before Mitsuki arrived home. Ryū wasn’t going to insist on being around them any longer than he had to, so he led Kiyo’s skeletal form to his new room. It was big and modern, but not his tastes.

Ryū sat at the desk and powered up the shiny computer that was now apparently his own. At least this perk he would definitely enjoy.

What are you doing? Kiyo asked. She had crawled up onto the ceiling and was lurking in the corner like a big, gawky spider.

“Researching,” Ryū said shortly. He opened up the search engine and typed in ‘ariyoshi tokyo lawyer .'

The first result was exactly what he was looking for. A professional looking website opened up, headlined by the very company he knew Kurou-sama worked at; Yamazaki & Yaoyorozu.

HIM, Kiyo landed beside him and loomed over Ryū’s shoulder like a demented scarecrow as Ariyoshi and Kurou-sama’s face become magnified on the screen. That is the BUG who dared threaten us!

“Yeah, that’s him. And that’s…” he shook away the static fizzling in his brain. “That’s my great-grandfather. They’re friends. Were friends.”

Then we shall eat him next!

Ryū thought about that, about Kurou-sama’s head being bisected from his shoulders and swallowed by Kiyo, never to be seen again. “Alright,” he nodded. “He’s next.”

Yessssss, she hissed. Wait, why are we looking them up?

He clicked on Ariyoshi’s ugly face and was greeted by a long list of credentials and detailed information, most of which he had no use for. However, there was one thing that jumped out...

Ryū smiled.

 


  

Ariyoshi Genta resides in a suburb of Tokyo with wife Tamiko (a florist) and their three adult children; Chikako, Chitose and Botan.

He has been practising law for over thirty years and a partner with Yamazaki & Yaoyorozu™ for twenty-five.

Before this, he studied at Waseda University, from which he graduated with Honors.

He can be contacted at either ariyoshi-g@y&y.ne.jp or 0423-320310.

 


 

Chapter Text

Ryū poked around the Yamazaki and Yaoyorozu website for a while longer but found nothing else of use, so he opened up LifeBook, searched for ‘Ariyoshi Botan’ and, there, a few profiles down, was a smiling man with windswept orange hair and rectangular-shaped pupils.

“That’s his son,” Ryū said thoughtfully as he investigated the man’s profile. He was in his early twenties, single and worked at a tea shop called the Jasmine Teapot in downtown Tokyo, about half an hour away from Ryū’s new house when he checked on Maps.

Are we going to see him, then? This son, Kiyo asked. She was gnawing on her arm and Ryū chose wisely not to comment on whatever was going on there. Is he rotten too?

He shrugged. “Maybe, since his father was, but I need to check. Do you think they’re going to make me skip school tomorrow as well? It’s a Friday, so the weekend is right there either way.”

“Ryū?” Masaru asked through the door and Ryū jumped a little in his seat. “Who are you talking to?”

Ryū looked at Kiyo and then back at the door. “Myself,” he replied.

“Alright... Well, I just came up to tell you that dinner’s ready. Your brother made saba shioyaki and nikujaga as a treat. Plus, I think Mitsuki will grab us all some chocolate pudding for dessert on her way home.”

Oh~ Chocolate~

It seemed his Quirk had an affinity for human heads and over-sweet cocoa snacks. Why not at this point!

“I’ll be right down,” Ryū replied and he listened to Masaru shuffle away. “You better not cause me any trouble,” he sternly told his Quirk. “They’ll notice if anything’s fishy.”

Fish, she said dreamily and he huffed.

“Make sure you do as I say,” he said finally. God, this was a fucking nightmare.

Ryū flicked the computer monitor off and went downstairs, where he found his brother stirring a pot of soup on the stove, Masaru laying the table and a cat he’d never seen before winding its way around their feet.

Masaru must’ve seen him staring because he smiled and said: “That’s Ikari. She’s a stray that sometimes comes and joins us for dinner.”

Food? Kiyo, who had followed them downstairs, practically salivated over the poor feline.

“No," Ryū said sternly and then, when they turned to blink at him in surprise: “Uh, so her name is Ikari; Ikari as in ‘anchor’?”

“As in ‘angry’,” Akio said. “Dad named her.”

Lip curling, Ryū dropped the subject very quickly after that.

Dad.

“Thank you for the meal, Aki. It looks delicious.”

“Mm,” Ryū said.

They all said “Itadakimasu,” and dug in. Ryū had to admit that Akio was a surprisingly good cook all said and done; the meal tasted like their long-left behind childhood and, to be honest, Ryū hadn’t even realised how hungry he was until the first piece of it was in his mouth.

“So, Ryū.” He tried not to groan as soon as Masaru picked up a conversation threat. Why couldn’t he just eat in peace, hm? Was silence really that bad? “I heard you started at U.A. on Monday.”

Well. That he could mention, at least.

“Yes,” he said. “But I’ve missed a few days now and tomorrow is Friday. I don’t think Igarashi-san wants me going in, but if I don’t then I’ll have a lot of work to catch up on and I’ll miss a few critical classes.”

“The first week was the best,” Aki agreed. “Lots of training exercises. It’s when I learnt everyone’s names.”

Masaru frowned. “Oh dear. You’re right on that note, Ryū, your social worker did ask me to keep you out of school tomorrow. Would you like me to ring her and request she re-think?”

Ryū...didn’t think that would do much good.

“She wouldn’t change her mind,” he said a little sadly. “But one of my classmates offered to copy her notes for me and also collect any homework I need. Could I go over to her house tomorrow and pick them up?”

“I don’t know, Ryū...”

“It’s okay, Ojii-san. I’ll can take him before school.”

“Oh,” Masaru said a little awkwardly. “Well, if you’re sure.”

“It’s no trouble,” Akio insisted with a smile and when their grandfather returned to his meal, he turned to wink at Ryū. “It’ll be fun.”

Very suspicious, Kiyo said.

Indeed, Ryū thought. What was Akio up to?

 


 

Ryū went to bed straight after dinner, though Akio, Masaru and the newly-arrived Mitsuki, sat down to watch the television together. No fuckin’ thank you.

What classmate? Do I know her? Is she your girlfriend? Kiyo pestered as Ryū brushed his teeth with the spare brush and paste in the en-suite.

“I’m gay,” he said, toothpaste frothing in his mouth. “And yes. You attacked her yesterday, remember?”

...The big fire guy?

Ryū looked at her over his shoulder. “That’s Endeavor,” he said. “He’s a man and about sixty. Gross.” He went back to his hygiene routine. “I meant the girl with the silver hair - her name is Tetsutetsu Michiko. We’ve known each other since we were babies; her, Ojiro Kagami and I.”

Cute, she said, staring at him in the mirror. So cute, cute. cute~

“Fuck off.” He spat the toothpaste in the sink and shuffled out of the bathroom, clambering up into his bed. “Get the lights, would you?”

Kiyo hit the switch and the room was awash with darkness, though her figure could be seen near the window, a big black shape, ominous and fucking creepy.

I’m not a slave, she groused.

“Do you even sleep? I can’t stand you watching me all night, so you’ll have to get lost if so,” Ryū said as he snuggled under the covers. Western beds were comfy as fuck.

I sleep. Just...not often. Only if I’m really tired and since I stopped off for a snack on the way to you, I feel great, Kiyo said. Ryū...still didn’t want to think about her idea of a ‘snack’, thank you. One problem at a time and his Quirk eating people was firmly at the very end of that very long list.

He frowned at her in the darkness, lips pursed, “Then you need to leave. I have a thing about horrifying monsters watching me sleep, you see.”

Hmph, she grumbled, sounding half-confused, half-annoyed. Well, everyone has their faults. But where exactly do you want me to go? There’s not a whole lot of fun to be found here in this big, empty house, Ryū.

“Go watch my brother,” Ryū said. “He won’t hear you bothering him.”

She snarled. Well, at least he’ll be doing something more exciting than you!

“Probably,” Ryū said, unfazed. “Maybe you can even get some dirt on him, then.”

Hmph, she said again. I’m not your errand-runner, you know. Then her shadow swept along the wall and disappeared. Entirely contented with himself, Ryū closed his eyes.

About fifteen minutes later, however, when Ryū was just drifting off into the sweet embrace of what he liked to think of as temporary death, Kiyo came skulking back through the wall. She was growling softly, dragging her feet and eyes glowing tiny-pinpricks of red.

That is not the kind of exciting I want to think about ever again. She shook her head viciously like a dog.

“What?” Ryū blinked slowly, still half-asleep. “What do you mea - ewww! That’s fucking disgusting!” He squeezed his eyes shut, trying desperately to wipe that awful picture from his brain. But he had no luck in doing that, and so the mental assault continued.

I think I can entertain myself after all, actually, Kiyo quickly exited the room and Ryū was left to suffer all alone, scarring pictures playing in his head on a loop. He would have a hard time looking at his brother in the face come morning, that was for sure.

 


 

“Akio,” a voice said. “Aki, kid, time to wake up!”

“Mmrf...” Akio mumbled, squishing his face into his pillow. So soft... “Noooo.”

“You need to take your brother to his friend’s house,” his grandma reminded. “At this rate you’ll make yourself late and I’m not going to write you an excuse note either.”

Akio peeked his eyes open and squinted into the light slotting through his bamboo blinds. “Okay, I’m getting up.”

His grandmother, hands on her hips, stood at the end of his bed. She was already dressed for work in a fashionable navy pantsuit and crimson heels. “Breakfast is on the table, but you grandfather and I won’t be home until late. Make sure you feed Ikari.”

“Yes, Obaasan,” Akio yawned and he lay reclined against his pillows until she click-clicked out of his bedroom and shut the door behind her. Then he sat up and stumbled blearily into his school uniform.

He went down the hall to Ryū’s room and knocked. “Hey, you awake?!”

There was a thump and the door swung open. Ryū stared up at him, pillow creases lining his cheek, hair ruffled and eyes bleary with sleep. “I am now,” he said flatly.

“Well good, because we have to get going soon,” Akio yawned, stretching his back muscles out with his arms outstretched upwards. “Whose house are we going to? Is this a friend or just a classmate? Is she your... girlfriend?”

“Tetsutetsu Michiko, she’s a friend, and no.” The door slammed shut in his face. What was with this kid and doing that!? Akio kicked said door and stomped back to his room. Then, remembering what he was actually supposed to be doing, came out again and stomped downstairs, making sure his footsteps were as loud and annoying as possible.

He ate his breakfast angrily and ignored Ikari as she wound around his ankles, meowing up a storm. She had food, she was just a whiny hoe.

His phone rang just as he was throwing Ryū’s plate into the oven.

“What?” he groused as he answered.

“Good morning to you!” his dad said heatedly and there was a faint, rhythmic chop-chop in the background. Making breakfast then.

Akio sighed because he didn’t mean to be so hot-headed all the time. It just happened that way. “Hey, sorry, just. Ugh.” Life.

“I get you, brat, I get you,” Dad said, sounding very much like he completely understood. Life as a Hero...ha! He definitely did get it. “How’s the hag and the old man? They bothering you yet?”

“Nah,” Akio said with a laugh. Ojiisan and Obaasan were...big characters, sure, better grandparents than most. They put up with Akio’s frequent turn-ups and week-long (month-long) sleepovers without a word of complaint. Plus they mostly let him do whatever he wanted, which, of course, was a big ass plus in any teenager’s eyes. “Busy with work as usual.”

“And...you know, the kid?” Dad cleared his throat. He sounded...man, he sounded nervous of all thing. “Ryū? He...there now?”

“Er, yep,” Akio glanced over his shoulder just to double-check that Ryū was, like, literally right there. That would be just what he needed right now; a big family blow-out over the phone at six am.

“Everything settling in okay, then? Are you getting along? I remember you used to be really close, but it’s been a while, huh? Big personalities under one roof and all that.”

“I think it’s alright? I mean, he’s pretty...uh, you know,” Akio tried. Ryū was damn hard to explain. An enigma; simultaneously abrasive and rude, and quiet and passively timid. “Like you said, a big personality. We’re okay, I think. Working on it.” The ceiling squeaked above his head and Akio heard a door close. “Look, I gotta go now; I’ll talk to you later.”

“Sure, kid. Look after yourself.”

“Will do.”

“And your brother.”

“Of course.”

“Kick ass at school too.”

“I will! Okay, bye,” he whispered as Ryū walked downstairs, slippers making a clapping sound on the marble. “I really have to go, bye!”

“Bye, brat.”

Akio hung up the phone and got Ryū’s food out of the oven. He clunked it down on the table and tried not to scowl as Ryū shuffled into the room, also dressed in his school uniform.

“I thought your social worker said no school,” he pointed out. “Don’t you dare get Obaasan and Ojiisan in trouble.”

“They’ll be fine. Igarashi knows I’m going in today.”

Akio was not so easily convinced, however. “Does she really? She answered her phone this early in the morning?”

“No,” he said snidely. “I emailed her.”

“Huh,” Akio said, stumped. Ryū tucked into his food. “Fine then.”

 


 

To get to school, Akio had to catch a train every morning. Luckily, the station was a few moments walk away and the journey was only fifteen minutes to the next stop.

Having company was...strange. The music he could usually listen to now didn’t seem much of an option when he had to keep a beady eye on his troublemaking little brother. It seemed risky not too, to be honest. So, bored, Akio stood, holding onto the handrail and swinging with the motion of the train whilst Ryū sat beside him, reading a nondescript book with an eagerness that Akio found very disturbing.

“So,” he had tried at one point.

“Don’t,” Ryū had replied without looking up from his book, and that had been that.

Thankfully, Akio’s phone buzzed not long after.

 

 

 

 

 

From: akaaoi_staff@ua.ed.jp

Subject: Music Club Practice

To: bakaki_3@UA.ed.jp, iidsay_3@UA.ed.jp, amayor_3@UA.ed.jp

Bakugou, Amajiki, Iida,

I have finally reserved the west-facing club room from the yearbook club, but only on a bi-weekly basis. We're short on space at the moment, unfortunately, and this was the best I could manage for the time being. I will speak with Yaoyorozu-san, but I doubt she will change her schedule on these terms; she is notoriously stubborn and our club is the smallest in school so there is very little afforded to us in the way of expenditure or space.

On another note, Principal Shinsou has shown interest in Z-Rush performing a short set at the cultural festival come May. Let me know if this is something you are interested in and I will pursue the matter further with him. However, it may lead to further funding and interest in the music club should the performance go well, so perhaps take that as a small incentive.

I expect to see you all in the usual room at 3:30 for a brief warm-up and then set practice. Iida, do remember to bring your bass as the music room remains notoriously low-stocked.

Plus Ultra,

Akashiro Aoi

 

Akio did a subtle fist-pump, ignoring his brother’s irritated huff. The west-facing club room was small but extremely hard to book time in. It was usually hogged by the yearbook committee, who thought themselves so high and mighty because they were sanctioned by the principal and got the most funding out of all the non-sports-related clubs. With fifteen members, they far outclassed the measly three-member music club.

Akashiro-sensei was the club’s sponsor and took great pleasure in insulting their every musical attribute until they were lying on the ground in pure defeat. He was a very harsh teacher, but also a brilliant one; his flute playing outclassed even the most professional player Akio had watched online, and that was in a casual setting. Who knew what levels he could reach when actually trying to be impressive...

“This train will arrive at City Central in five minutes. Take all your belongings with you and please mind the gap. Thank you.”

And even the idea of Z-Rush performing at U.A.’s cultural festival...woo-wee! That was some cool ass shit! They’d been jamming as a band for two years and had performed exactly one gig; for Sayaka’s little brother’s - Takuya’s - birthday. It had been a bunch of five-year-olds so there wasn’t much to do but play child-friendly songs and bop around to an audience of squeals, but it had still been awesome. Takuya was cute as hell, after all. Much cuter than Ryū. Sayaka was damn lucky her siblings were affectionate little things with no major issues. Definitely no involvement from social workers, that was for damn sure.

Akio played the guitar, had done so for over a decade, with Sayaka on bass and Yori their sick keyboard player. Yori originally been a concert pianist, or at least one in training, but after the accident in middle school, they were lucky he even wanted to jam out with Z-Rush. Akio was pretty lucky he had his two best friends with him, and that they all had a love of music in common.

A foot shoved into his knee and Akio glanced down in surprise. Ryū, eyes averted, shoved his book into his satchel as the train rocked to a stop.

“Oh, right,” Akio mumbled, hefting his own bag. “Is your friend close by?”

Tetsutetsu was Ryū’s childhood friend, that much Akio did remember. Their dads were friends, though Akio hadn’t seen the silver-haired Hero in a few years. Maybe that friendship wasn’t as close anymore...which wouldn’t exactly be a big surprise. Dad and Baba were both becoming increasingly antisocial, rarely making a PR appearance, let alone a social one.

It was nice she still hung around with his brother. The Ojiro boy was part of their little friendship group too, right? And at least he’d met some people at U.A. already. After their fight, that girl with the twintails and the annoying dad, she’d stuck around with him, right? At least Akio didn’t have to worry about Ryū being totally anti-social.

“Yes,” Ryū said and that was all Akio got via that line of questioning. Still a boy of few words, then. Maybe even more so than he had been before.

They walked for about ten minutes and, surprisingly enough, a familiar figure rounded the corner of the empty street up ahead, hands in his pockets and shoulders hunched in an ever-present black jumpsuit.

“Aizawa-sensei!” Akio said cheerfully because Eraserhead was, and probably always would be, one of his favourite Heroes. “Good morning!”

Semi-reluctantly, Aizawa came to a stop. He looked between them. “Bakugou,” he said flatly. “Do I want to know?” The unspoken ’why you’re skulking around in a residential area with a first year’ was as crystal clear as if he’d spoken it aloud. It wasn't a question either.

“Just going to a friend’s house. That’s not a crime, is it?” He grinned cheekily.

Aizawa grunted suspiciously. “Suppose not,” he said. “As long as you keep me out of it.”

“We will, sir,” Akio promised. “Sayonara!”

“Wait,” Aizawa caught Ryū’s arm as they tried to hurry past him. “I remember you. From the entrance exam.” He leant a bit closer. “Kaminari, right?”

“...Yes.”

Aizawa looked thoughtfully at Ryū’s dark hair and then Akio’s own, obviously comparing them. “Now it all makes sense,” he said. “They’ve set you babysitting duties, haven’t they?”

“Er.”

“Bakugou and Kirishima,” he said gruffly. “That must’ve been something growing up. They were trouble students, you know. Always making a mess of things.”

“We really should get going, sensei -“

“And Kaminari in the mix...a recipe for disaster. We all knew it wouldn’t last. He was never cut-out for the Pro lifestyle. Too air-headed.”

Akio’s chest withered.

Kaminari was always a soft spot for him, but even he didn’t like to hear the man talked bad about and by his former-teacher no less! Akio had respected the man but that was quickly diminishing as the conversation went on!

“But...learn from their mistakes, got it? God knows you’re trouble enough already; what with that mess you caused in the city on Wednesday, kid.”

Ryū’s cheeks visibly flamed and he bowed his head. A faint mumble escaped his lips.

Akio tugged hastily on his hand. “Come on, bro, we should really go if we want to make it to Tetsutetsu’s house before she leaves for school!”

“Nice talk,” Aizawa said. “Keep an eye on that one.” It wasn’t 100% clear which of them he was actually speaking to.

“Will do! Bye, sensei!” Akio power-walked them away until the former-underground Hero was gone from sight. “You okay?”

Wrenching his arm away, Ryū scowled. “I’m fine,” he insisted. “Let’s go.”

“If you’re sure,” Akio said weakly because...man, was he was shit at comforting people. “Let’s go," he repeated and they did.

 


 

“About time you showed up.”

Shouta sucked the inside of his lip but offered a visibly-sincere grin to his surprise visitor. For all intents and purposes, he was sickly delighted to see her.

“I ran into a student,” he explained, hands dug tight into his pockets. The alley was small and cramped, the usual environment for visits like these; no witnesses and only one exit.

“A second-generation student?”

He split-second debated his choice, then nodded and, with a casual shrug, added: “Yeah, but they’re all the same if you ask me. Bigger egos than their Quirks.”

“And this one? Were they also too...over-eager in their self-praise?”

“Hm,” he said thoughtfully, carelessly. “Well, maybe not him. He's the Bakugou kid; Ground Zero and Red Riot’s little delight. The only case of self-flagellation I might agree with, actually.”

“Ah yes. His Quirk...Nokia?”

“Stupid name, but yeah. As indestructible as U.A.’s ever had. There’s been nothing that cracks his shell yet. I’m betting that nothing ever will.” This, at least, was very true. They’d tried dropping cars and even uses buses on top of him, giant pieces of rubble too, even knives, guns and explosives. Nothing has fazed the kid. It was like his skin was made of some flexible material. It squished and moved at a gentle touch but could withstand a punch from Deku at near 100% of his power. Shōta thought that it was probably one of the strongest Quirks he’d ever seen and the kid had really no idea. Erasure didn’t have an effect on it, so Nokia was for sure a Mutant class Quirk, but that was all the more strange. An Emitter and a Transformative having a Mutant child was quite outside of the norm.

“Indeed...”

God, he needed to retire properly. If he was well enough for undercover work then he was damn well enough for a night patrol, Nedzu. That old rat really did love to stick his nose in where it didn’t belong. “Enough about the brats. What did you call me here for? It’s risky to meet this close to school at this time of year. Security’s always on high alert for first year student assaults and Purple Haze has eyes on all four corners of this damn city.” That was Hitoshi, alright. Student safety was one of his top priorities

“Don’t fret. There was a...particular issue I wished to speak with you about, but pressing matters have presented themselves now. Tell me more about this Bakugou boy. Is he as arrogant as his father?”

“Hardly,” Shouta snorted, truly amused. “A hothead, sure, but soft. He’s a people-pleaser and not the good kind. Lets his peers push him around too much in class.”

“All these second-generation kids stick close together. I know of him vaguely; boy is in with an Iida and an Amajiki, correct? All strong Quirk users.”

“Mm.”

“But who was that with him? The middle school student?”

Shōta hesitated for barely half a second. “He’s a first year,” he explained. “Kaminari. The third son of the failed marriage. I’m guessing you saw the news the other day? With the Mutant Quirk rampage uptown?”

“Interesting. That was his Quirk? Electricity, dermal transformation and glycerin production certainly don’t pair for a type like that, in any sort of combination."

“No, his Quirk is actually pretty damn weak. I think it has something to do with heat; warm hands, faint light generation, maybe fire immunity. I don’t know how he got into the Heroics Department in the first place, honestly. His Entrance Exam was a crapshoot.” His face was flat and uncaring. Believe his own lie. Make it true.

“A Level Five with a Level One sibling? So disappointing. Well. I assume you’ve at least found me one lineage worthy of further study?”

“The Amajikis. Suneater’s dietary manifestation and Lemillion’s intangibility have evolved into two distinct Quirk presentations; the older boy, who possesses a strong form of property absorption, and the younger, an ant-mutation type with all the bells and whistles.”

“Formidable, yes, but high profile targets for sure. Two Pro parents. You know I was after a one-Pro parent specimen tree.” She smiled. “In fact, I’ve just had a marvellous idea.”

“Oh?”

“Purple Haze, the principal, he has a son, does he not?”

Shouta’s blood ran cold in his veins and it took all his considerable history of undercover work to keep a straight, bored expression. “I believe so, but Suneater and Lemillion are two of the most powerful -“

“I’ve been looking into this principal,” she continued as if he hadn’t even spoken. “Know your opponents and all that. Would you like to hear what I discovered?” She paused for a moment and Shōta could only nod. “An old recording of the Sports Festival some two decades ago, if you can believe it. Of a boy, purple hair, tall, with a Brainwashing Quirk. That sounds very familiar, don’t you think?”

“Yes.“

“Familiar, of course, because Purple Haze possesses that very Quirk. So, of course, this got me thinking. Shinsou, of course, is his family name, but I found mention of it in an archived newspaper.” She smiled, red lips peeled back over straight white teeth. “With a mention of his adoption by the Voice Hero Present Mic. And I thought to myself...weren’t you married to Present Mic at one point, Eraserhead? It all clicked in my brain from there.”

“Yes.” The air barely dared to move and the sun certainly did not shine on that dirty little alley. “I was.”

“Uh oh!” she said cheerfully. “Looks like you’ve been keeping secrets, you naughty boy!”

“My previous involvement with Present Mic and Purple Haze has nothing to do with our agreement,” he said gruffly. “I promised you intel and I’m delivering.”

“Oh, you certainly are. But I’ve decided to alter the terms of said agreement. A spur of the moment thing, you understand.”

“No deal. This ends now,” Shōta activated his Quirk, hair floating gently around his head. “Don’t make it any harder than it has to be.”

“No, no,” she tutted. “I haven’t finished yet. You see, upon recalling this interesting tidbit, I took it upon myself to look in the records of all of the nearby elementary and middle schools...and there he was. Shinsou Sora, age five. I do so love children and it certainly sounds like a fun idea, don’t you think? To pay him a little visit?”

Shōta dropped Erasure. “Are you threatening me?” His family? His mask was beginning to crack, faint ripples of panic peeking out.

“Sure,” she said, unconcerned. “And if you want the boy alive much longer then you'll come with me.” She leered at him, eyes pinpricks of glee on her round face. "I trust there won’t be any more delays?"

“It doesn’t have to be this way, you know. Just come quietly," he tried one last time.

“Darling,” she smiled. “That’s what they all say.”

 


 

Akio stood at the end of Tetsutetsu’s drive, eyes kept on his brother as the kid knocked thrice on the front door. He’d gotten the hint that privacy would be requested and hadn’t left it to Ryū to ask. He was a mess at socialising sometimes, but not that bad.

A girl answered the door. She was about Ryū’s age but a whole head taller, with long silver hair pulled back in a side ponytail. She was also wearing the U.A. uniform and the pair looked like an odd duo despite the similarities; her with a big, beaming smile and him with a deadpan glare.

He caught a few snatches of the conversation they exchanged. “...Kobayashi-Sensei...” , “...last few days…” , “ homework...”, “...grandparents’ house...” , and “...Tokyo...” .

Frowning, Akio shuffled a step closer, just a one-foot over the other sort of hop. Ryū must’ve twigged it, however, because he glanced over his shoulder with a dirty look pasted across his face and shut their chat down.

“I should go,” he said.

“Wait, hang on!” she frantically grabbed a pair of shoes from the shoe rack and shoved her feet into them. “I’ll walk with you!”

“Tt,” he said, striding back up the path.

“Come on, bro; let’s wait for your little friend!” Akio wheedled as his brother knocked past him. “Don’t be a dick!”

“Fuck off,” Ryū hissed and Akio swallowed back a tight knot of anger. He’s just a kid, he reminded himself. Don’t let yourself get wound up.

A door slammed, a postbox rattled and the Tetsutetsu girl hurried past, coat half-on flapping out behind her like an over-eager flag and bag unzipped with a book hanging dangerously out.

“Ryū-chan, wait up!”

Ryū didn’t stop (of course), but Akio was pleased to see he did at least slow down a touch. Maybe there was hope for the little weirdo after all.

Ryū was annoyed to find a little crowd of students there to intercept their arrival; Shiomi, Iida, Matsumoto and Kagami. They were sitting on the steps of the front entrance, huddled around a textbook, heads all bent together like they were praying.

“Hey, guys!” Michiko called, bouncing ahead.

They looked up in unison.

“Tetsutetsu-kun!” Matsumoto said, smiling. “You’re here early.”

“Yeah, well, look who dragged me out of the house,” she jabbed a finger at Ryū over her shoulder.

“Kaminari-kun,” Iida blinked in shock. He stood up too. “We didn’t expect to see you back so soon...”

“Me neither,” Akio said cheerfully, jogging up beside the group. “Nice to meet you all, though.” He bowed. “Bakugou Akio, at your service.”

“Iida Kentarō,” Iida replied in kind.

“Chill, Kentarō-kun, I know who you are,” Akio grinned. “And I know I don’t exactly hang around with Sayaka-kun often at your house, but surely you recognise my face! Don’t forget all those big...weird, quasi-reunions too.”

“I suppose I just didn’t think I was exceedingly memorable,” Iida said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. “Sorry, Bakugou-senpai.”

“No!” The girls gasped. Shiomi shook her head.

“Don’t say that, Iida-kun!” Michiko cried.

“You’re very memorable, Iida-kun!” Kagami added. “Don’t put yourself down.”

“Yeah,” Matsumoto said.

Iida smiles bashfully and Akio grinned lopsidedly.

“There you go, kid,” he gave a thumbs up. “Not a thing to worry about. I know none of our parents have been speaking much lately...in the confusion of things I often forget people I’ve known for years.”

“I’m glad you understand,” Iida smiled gratefully. “To be honest, I didn’t even recognise you when we were first introduced, Kaminari, even if our parents were very close friends.”

Ryū shrugged. “I didn’t recognise you either.” He still damned didn’t, but that wasn’t really a surprise. His memory was messed as hell after had Kurou-sama fucked around with it...

“Well, perfect,” Michiko clapped her hands. “Nobody recognises each other except for Bakugou-senpai so we are all memorable in our own rights!” She fist-pumped. “All cool!”

Akio grinned like an idiot and Ryū sighed. Why did he surround himself with such excitable pests? It was fucking exhausting. He wanted to leave. He wanted to walk to class by himself and be done with all this kawaii bullshit.

Weird, Kiyo said. She was panting over Shami's shoulder and Ryū watched a string of drool wobble in mid-air, hanging precariously close to the oblivious girl’s shoulder. Should I eat them?

“No!” Ryū snapped and then everyone turned to look at him. “I mean...tt. Are you done with all this mushy bullshit?”

“Kaminari-kun!” Iida protested. “We really should not be using foul language on school grounds -”

“Iida-san,” Matsumoto placed a gentle hand on his waving arm. “It’s fine. He’s clearly just emotionally stunted.”

Oh, I don’t like her, Kiyo bared her fangs in a snarl.

“Matsumoto-kun,” Iida admonished, apparently having forgotten it was Ryū he was telling off in the first place. “I imagine Kaminari-kun is still very tired from what happened on Wednesday.”

“I saw the fight on the news,” Shiomi said quietly. “I’m glad you’re alright, Kaminari-san.”

“Ryū-chan’s tougher than some old monster!” Kagami beamed. “It didn’t stand a chance against him! Plus, we gave it a run for its money, right, Michi-kun? You were all - POW! Bike in the face! And then I was like - WHOOSH! Face change!” His hair bubbled to a bright, iridescent lilac that glittered and glimmered in the rising morning sun.

“Those are some powerful Quirks,” Akio agreed. “I imagine you’ll all be great Heroes once you get your provisional licences. Count on me to cheer you on at the Sports’ Festival too!”

“Thank you, Bakugou-senpai!”

“That’s so kind of you, senpai!”

“Thank you.”

“We’ll be awesome, right, guys!?”

“Thank you, senpai. That’s kind of you to say.”

“Tt,” Ryū tutted. He stuck his hands in his pockets. “Whatever.”

“He’s modest,” Michiko explained. People had begun to trickle towards the gates now, so she grabbed the textbook from where it lay abandoned on the steps and shoved it into her bag. “Gawking at the pictures in this can wait! We better get to class!”

“1-A and 1-B have Hero Training this morning,” Akio revealed. “I may have heard some teachers talking about it yesterday.”

The others burst into excited whispers and Akio clapped Ryū on the shoulder.

“See you later, kid,” he said. “Ojii-san and Obaa-san will want us to walk home together, okay? So we’ll meet back here after school.”

“Fine.”

“Sweet!” He patted him again, this time on the head. “Have a kick-ass day, otouto.”

“Fuck off!” Ryū slapped his hands away, flattening his hair back down. What a fucking prick. Akio sauntered off merrily, even humming to himself like the obnoxious bastard he was.

Onii-chan is weird, Kiyo observed.

Ryū’s face bled crimson. “Fuck off, don’t fucking call him that,” he hissed as quietly as he could manage out of the corner of his mouth. “He’s not our onii-chan!”

“Aw,” Michiko said from right beside him. “Looks like you’re getting along again after all this time, Ryū-chan. I hope my little sister calls me onee-chan too!”

Kiyo laughed. So cute.

UGH.


 

Chapter Text

Shinsou blew his whistle loud and long. “Alright, listen up! Heroes, your mission is to rescue the civilians and escort them safely out of the building within the fifteen minute time frame. Villains, your mission is to stop them. Teams will be chosen randomly and consist of two people on each opposing side! However, as this class is of seventeen today, the final round will be be three against two. Is that clear?”

“Hai!”

A hand went up and Shinsou pointed at the boy with the purple skin and hair. Ryū believed his name was Mineta. “Sensei,” he said. “But there are eighteen of us!”

“Kaminari will be sitting out,” Shinsou said and Ryū’s gut sunk. What? Everyone looked at him and he could feel his cheeks burning with heat. His Quirk leaked a bit of light into his palms that he quickly had to stifle in his gym uniform sleeve. “After the incident a couple of days ago, the Piper insisted he be given time to recuperate. Would anyone else like to question my authority today?” He frowned at Mineta.

“No, sensei,” everyone mumbled.

He crossed his arms. “Good. Let’s see who’s up first...” Shinsou drew two white balls from a small box on the desk below the computer monitors and read the neat black kanji printed upon it. “Iida and Oyama! Congrats, you’re the Heroes. And facing you today is...” He took out two more balls. “Akamine and Goro.”

The group burst with whispers and wishes of luck as the unlucky first four headed off to the training ground, which was displayed on the large monitor; a fifteen-story apartment block in U.A.’s mock city, where the ‘civilian family’ (they were just floppy test dummies dressed in vague approximations of normal clothing) were huddled in a bedroom on the tenth story.

Iida, of course, Ryū was familiar with. His Quirk was AMM and allowed him to copy any action or non-Quirk related ability within the five-minute span of him having seen it. How he knew what was Quirk-powered and what wasn’t was a mystery, but he still remained a challenging opponent. Oyama he knew nothing about save for the fact that she’d placed second in the entrance exam behind him and well past the third place Ishikawa. A formidable pair for sure.

Akamine was the girl he’d worked with during that weird-as-hell training exercise in the woods - her Quirk was Rubber Band and though elasticity was formidable, he didn’t know how well it would fend against the powerhouse that was Iida and Oyama. Goro was as much of a mystery as Oyama, if not more, but at least Ryū knew what he looked like; the quiet, anxious boy from the first day of class with the long, curly hair and the eyepatch.

Without knowing either his or Oyama’s Quirks, Ryū had no way of saying for certainty who would win, but he had a feeling it was going to be the hero team. The first place winner and Iida...it would be interesting to see how that dynamic played out against two less-powerful students.

“Are you ready?” Shinsou asked. He’d sat down at the desk and put his feet up with his hands propped lazily behind his head. He appeared to be barely watching the screen. The rest of the room could not hear their reply, but they assumed it was in the positive because Shinsou hit a button and a big red timer began to tick down from fifteen on the video. “Go!”

They watched the pairs settle into their roles, the villains stationed on the roof and the heroes outside on the ground; both immediately bent into a huddle, heads bowed together as they came up with their strategies. Ryū finally caught a glimpse of Oyama when the camera view changed; she was a short, curvy girl with long, curly blonde hair and, oddly, no eyebrows. Her blue eyes shone with determination as she scowled at Iida; they were clearly bickering already. It wasn’t a promising start.

Akamine and Goro, on the other hand, were working far more cooperatively, having already made their way down a few floors. They were practically on top of the civilian family now, keeping close to the wall and tense for attack from any angle. Ryū assumed the villains were given information on where the family was located as their steps were smooth and practised, knowing exactly which way to go to reach the correct apartment.

“Sucks you have to sit out, Ryū-chan,” Kagami commiserated from beside him. “But at least you’ll get to watch all the matches?”

“Mm.”

“Iida and Oyama sure are going at it. I wonder what they’re talking about...”

 


 

Kentarō tried to keep the clear irritation off of his face, but he knew it wasn’t working. This girl was - well, she was insufferable! It seemed ludicrous that she was allowed in 1-B with that sort of attitude and he for one was not going to stand for it.

“Look, my guy, just because you think yourself king mighty does not mean I’ll put up with you jackin’ my style!” she continued, hands on her hips. “I dealt with enough shit to get into this school in the first place and I won’t let some J-pop wannabe ruin that for me! Capiche?”

Gritting his teeth, Kentarō nodded stiffly. “Yes. But perhaps we can work civilly from now on, Oyama-san? The exercise has already begun and we only have so much time.”

She eyed him speculatively. “Sure, hotstuff. But call me Felicity, got it? That’s my Hero name.”

A Western name? It certainly made sense. She had a very faint accent that revealed the fact that Japanese was not her native language. She was a very good speaker, however, even with the unusual colloquial terms.

“Don’t give me that look,” she huffed. “It means ‘intense happiness’ and that’s the sort of Hero I want to be!” Oyama grinned for the barest of moments, something like actual happiness in her eyes. Then it faded. “So, don’t make fun or else, got it!?”

“Yes,” he said again. “Call me Viceroy.”

She looked him up and down. “Noble,” she said. “It’s kick ass.”

“Tha -”

“My Quirk is Lucky Pocket,” she cut across. “It lets me store anything I wanna in a dimensional fold and re-materialise it at will from my skin. Kind of like Creati, but I gotta remember all the stuff I’ve stored or else it’ll disappear forever!” She pushed the sleeves of her gym uniform up and rested her fingers against her skin. About half a second later, a thin piece of wood began to extend from her skin. She pulled it and the piece got longer and longer until it was entirely removed.

“A broom?” Kentarō asked, disappointed. “I doubt that will be useful in a combat scenario.”

She shoved it back in her arm with a huff. “It was just a demonstration! Jeez, calm down, guy.”

“Oyama -”

“It’s Felicity.”

“Felicity,” he continued. “Your Quirk could be very useful in this exercise. Mine is AMM and allows me to recreate non-Quirk related actions perfectly for five minutes after having seen it. From what I’ve seen, Akamine may be proficient in hand-to-hand combat, but if you can engage her briefly then I will be able to copy any move she makes!”

“Huh. Well, I have a better idea for you, Vice. You like free running?”

“Free...running? I can’t say I’ve ever heard of it -”

“Sick,” she said and pulled a small screen from her arm. “Well, guy, welcome to the world of looking stuff up on the internet.”

 


 

“Keep behind me!” Akamine whispered as Senri kept close on her tail. He kept his sigh to himself. This girl certainly was abrasive. It was just his luck they’d be teamed up in this exercise and as the first group to go no less. “They could be fucking anywhere!”

“It’s unlikely,” Senri whispered back. “We’d have heard them coming from the stairwell as it’s made of metal and neither of them have Quirks that allows for entrance through the exterior higher than the first floor.”

She stopped and looked back at him with stunned brown eyes. “...Well, I’ll be! You’re pretty good at this shit, Goro! What else are ya keeping to yourself?”

“Just that I know Iida and Oyama have opposing personalities and are unlikely to get along. Iida is proper, rule-oriented and believes in the power of good over evil. Oyama is more cynical, with a Westernized thought process, an argumentative streak and a bit of an ego. I doubt they’ll have even begun to infiltrate the building yet.”

“That gives us time to set up a base,” she said thoughtfully. “From the map Sensei gave us, I figure the right apartment should be just...ah-ha! Gotcha, fucker!” She opened apartment 10-b (fitting) and rolled inside. Senri followed at a more sedate pace, but he probably couldn’t have done a roll like that even if he wanted to. He needed to do more yoga before that was even a possibility.

“Alright,” she said. “Alright.”

The civilians were piled haphazardly in the corner, two smaller sacks in dresses and two larger in shirts and pants.

“I’ll guard the door,” Senri said, settling down to one side of the jam so if they were snuck up on the door wouldn’t smash him in the face. He put a hand on the wall and waited. Iida and Oyama would come for them soon. He could feel it.

Akamine was looking around the sparse room; there was a couch, coffee table, a bed through to the room in the back and a basic kitchen off to the side. A set of doors opened up onto an empty balcony. She opened a cupboard by the fridge and made a triumphant noise.

“Popcorn!”

Senri tried not to be too judgemental. He asked, “Is now really the time for a snack?”

She stared at him like he was an idiot. “No,” she stressed. “And this isn’t a snack.” Akamine took the bag over to the door, kicked it open and waltzed right past Senri into the hall. He heard her rustling about with it and then she came back empty-handed. “It’s a trap. I scattered the kernels in the hall two floors below. They’ll have to step on them to get past so we’ll hear those fuckers coming!”

Huh. That was...not a bad plan, actually. “That’s ingenious,” he marvelled. “I would have never - wait.”

Win win win find those villains

“What? What is it?”

“They’re coming. Third floor, at least.”

“How do you fucking know?” she hissed, pacing up and down. “Are you sure?”

“Mind’s Eye - my Quirk,” he clarified. “One aspect of it is a sort of limited telepathy. I can sense the abstract thoughts of people touching the same surfaces as me if I’m directly thinking about them.”

“Is it both of ‘em or just one?”

Senri concentrated a little harder, tuning in on Iida and Oyama’s individual faces in his mind. But there was only one buzz nearby, a prickle of translucent pink plastic. Everyone’s brains felt a little different and that was definitely Oyama.

Up up climb the stairs find the villains find them

“Definitely just Oyama.”

“Alright,” she said. “Be ready! We can rush her as soon as she gets outside the door and gain the element of surprise since she doesn’t know exactly what room we’re in.”

“Alright,” Senri whispered. “I’ll go high and you go low. She’ll see you first and expect you to be the one who does for the head-on attack.”

Akamine nodded. She was determined, that much was obvious. Senri felt her can-do attitude seep into his consciousness as they made sure eye-contact.

We can do this.

Senri grinned. Yes. They could, he was sure of it.

They waited with bated breath and then there was a crunch-crunch-crunch. Senri exchanged a look with Akamine. “The popcorn,” she mouthed.

Crunch-crunch-crunch and then bang-bang. The metal stairs. Oyama was close. Very close. Senri felt his heart pound a rapid beat in his throat, adrenaline pumping through his veins.

Stay alert don’t get distracted

Senri looked at Akamine and that was their cue. She charged forward with three light steps and threw the door open.

“Got you, shitbag!” she cackled. Senri heard a thunk and then Oyama came stumbling into the room with Akamine’s long, bendy arms wrapped tightly around her middle. “Now, Goro!”

Senri lunged forward, wrapping both arms around her face and throwing all his weight with his momentum to one side. They grunted when they hit the floor but Senri held on tight. He was not going to let Akamine down! Not today!

“Wily bitch!” Akamine howled and her arms withdrew. Senri risked a glance up. There was a cut sluggishly bleeding on her forearm, a crimson slash of pain. His eyes hefted up just in time to duck his head sideways away from the swing of Oyama’s small penknife. “Careful! Watch out!”

Oyama kicked her legs and threw her head back viciously but Senri managed to dodge each wild movement. “Let go of me, villain!”

“Goro, catch!” A large object sailed through the air. Heart throbbing, Senri shot his arm out and managed to catch it in one fumbling hand. It was a bedside lamp. He tried to swing it back but Oyama managed to twist at just the right moment whilst his arm was occupied and scrambled across the floor. She hit the wall and was on her feet, hands held up defensively.

“Bring it,” she snarled, blue eyes flashing. She truly was a beautiful girl - very exotic features even when twisted into that awful expression. “I can take anything you can dish out!”

Keep going keep going dark blue, twisting, threaded with burnished copper and streaks of cold that curled and writhed slowly. It was creeping up outside like a vine on a church wall.

“Akamine, look out!” Senri shouted but it was too late. Oyama grinned triumphantly as the window burst and Iida tumbled inside, taking Akamine down with him. She cried out as his heavy body crushed her to the ground, and he easily twisted her arm up behind her back.

“Felicity!” Iida ordered as he pinned the squirming Akamine to the ground. “Get the civilians to safety!”

Senri watched, still blindsided, as Oyama - Felicity? - looked madly around the room and then made a dash for the pile of dummies. He dropped the lamp and stumbled after her, feet sliding on the smooth wooden floor that felt entirely out of place in the environment of their fight.

He was fast, faster than her, and managed to catch her around the shoulders as she drew up to the pile. Unfortunately, Senri was in for a rude awakening. His fingers had barely brushed her arm when she swung back, arm reeled and smacked him with something.

His vision went white and then he blinked and was on the ground. Everything was fuzzy and he couldn’t hear a thing over the ringing in his ears. Sprawled across the floor, Senri could only blink up at the ceiling as Oyama looked down over him, a blurry shape held loosely in her fist. He closed his eyes for a second, but they sprang open at the sound of a loud, far too close, voice.

“Hero Team wins!” Principal Shinsou said. “With three minutes to spare.”

They’d lost, that much made sense. Senri could only hope Akamine wouldn’t completely destroy him when he could manage to get back to his feet. Maybe the Piper could knock him out for a few days and she’d get over it before he woke up...that’d be nice…

 


 

Kagami chewed nervously on his lip. Oyama had been so intense! He couldn’t believe the way she’d just clubbed poor Goro over the head with that stick! And Iida had strained Akamine so easily that the fight had hardly seemed fair...the popcorn idea had been very clever but in the end, their planning hadn’t mattered. Iida and Oyama’s Quirks were far too diverse and powerful for Goro and Akamine to really be a threat...

Principal Shinsou grunted as he called the teams back into the control room. When they arrived, Kagami was one of the people who jumped forward to congratulate the winners and try to bolster the confidence of the losers as Goro was escorted off to the nurse's office by one of the school's robots. At least the pair had still put on a good show despite being wildly outmatched against their opponents.

“Well done hero team,” Principal Shinsou said. “You completed that exercise with an admirable swiftness despite the rocky start.”

“Teamwork makes the dream work!” Oyama said cheerfully.

“And villain team,” he continued. “Despite not winning your match, you worked together much better than the heroes did and came up with a simple, yet impressive, plan. I’d give you a five out of ten and the heroes a three.” He turned to the box and pulled out two more of those scary, decision-making balls. “Up next is heroes Ishikawa and Ojiro, versus villains Egami and Kurosawa.”

Kagami tried to look strong as his friends glanced back at him. Okay, okay, he could do this. His own Quirk may be entirely non-combative, but Ishikawa was the strongest kid in their class - winning with him should be a piece of cake.

“Alright!” the other boy said, calm as a cucumber. “You ready for this, Ojiro?”

“I think so,” Kagami mustered.

“Good,” he replied. “Just leave this to me.” Then he picked up a big bottle of water and began to drink it down, barely stopping to breath.

Kagami jumped as a hand touched his arm, hesitant fingers resting in the crook of his elbow. He spun, then heaved a sigh of relief. “Ryū-chan. Everything okay?” His little grump of a friend frowned like an angry little goblin. “I’m about to go on.”

“Keep an eye out for Kurosawa,” Ryū muttered. “He’s a fucktard and big trouble besides.”

“Wow, really?” Kagami asked nervously. He’d seen the guy in class but never spoken to him. His eyes were unnerving, but Kagami wasn’t one to judge on appearances alone. How did Ryū know this about the guy when he hadn’t even been at school half the week? “How come?”

Ryū pursed his lips. “His Quirk. It’s powerful, so make sure you don’t let him talk you into any ‘deals’ or whatever, got it? It’d be annoying if you got yourself into shit I had to bother myself with.”

Aw. He did care. “Sure, dude,” Kagami smiled, really touched by his friend’s gesture. “I’ll steer clear of him if I can. Don’t worry about it.”

“I won’t. Just don’t fuck this up.”

Pumped, Kagami nodded firmly. “I won’t disappoint you, Ryū-chan!” He turned to Ishikawa, who had just finished his massive bottle of water. “Let’s do this!”

Ishikawa grinned back and his watery hair bubbled and dripped onto the floor at their feet. “Yeah! Come on!”

They started outside as Iida and Oyama had, and Kagami couldn’t help the rush of anxiety that forced him into a panicked little jig from foot-to-foot. “What’s our game plan?” he asked his fellow Hero, who still seemed entirely unbothered by the situation. “Stealth? Brute force?”

“Hold onto me,” Ishikawa replied. Kagami grabbed the back of his gym uniform because he wasn’t an idiot. “Egami’s Quirk allows her to freeze people in place so don’t let her get anywhere near you. Though, I doubt they’ll even have a chance to mobilise.”

“What does that mean?” Kagami shuffled even closer as Ishikawa’s hair stretched and twisted, the water leaving a puddle of moisture around their shoes as it spread out over their heads. Little rain droplets splattered in their hair and his uniform was already growing uncomfortably damp. “I take it you do have a pla - AH!” The water domed around them until the only glimpse of the outside world Kagami could see was distorted and very blue.

“Hold your breath!” Ishikawa glanced back at him and his blue eyes were glowing with glee.

Kagami sucked in a lungful of air and then the water converged in. He had to squeeze his eyes shut to avoid the stinging sensation. It was... salty?

The water bubbled and shifted and a strange floating sensation took over Kagami’s body; it felt like when he went swimming and dunked himself down in the deep end - weightless and unable to tell which was up and which was down. For several long seconds, he didn’t dare to risk a peek, but finally, Kagami peeled his eyes open.

Then he promptly began to panic, kicking his legs and flailing his arms. The careful breath of precious air escaped his lips in a bubbled cry. They were floating in the fucking air, they were a good 30 feet above the ground, they were going to die -

The bubble of water they were suspended in came to a trailing stop close to a window on one of the tippity-top floors. Ishikawa, seemingly at home in the water, swum around with a bright, almost impish, grin. He looked like he was bald with the water of his hair completely indistinguishable from the water of the bubble and the strange, humourous sight had him calming down almost at once. How could be a person be scared for their life when there was a bald kid blowing water bubbles in front of them?

Ishikawa took Kagami’s hand and then they rushed forward, busting through a window and into a room. Kagami could guess it was probably similar to the one they’d seen on the TV monitor during Iida, Oyama, Akamine, and Goro’s turn, but he couldn’t conclusively say at first since he was gasping on the floor, soaking wet, with water rushing all around him.

He heard a yelp, a thump and then laughter. Spluttering, Kagami pushed his wet hair out of his face and his hands splashed in the pond around his feet as he guided himself upright. Stood in the middle of the room was Ishikawa, hands on his hips. He was soaked too, but that didn’t seem to deter his pleased, rather smug, smirk. Kurosawa was face-down in the water, out cold, and a squirming Egami was being suspended in a what looked to be a liquid straight-jacket. She was grunting and glaring at them, but didn’t say anything.

“Hero team wins,” Principal Shinsou said. “I’d say with the villain team restrained you win by default. Nice work, Ishikawa.”

Ishikawa grinned. “Thank you, sensei!”

“Wow,” Kagami managed, realising just how useless he’d actually been in their win. He couldn’t find it in himself to be resentful, however. It wasn’t Ishikawa’s fault he had such an amazing Quirk and it certainly wouldn’t help Kagami himself any to covet something he could never have. His own Quirk was simply better for stealth missions and there was nothing wrong with that, thank you very much. “That was so cool! Terrifying, but cool!”

“Thanks, Ojiro-kun,” Ishikawa said, smile turning shyer. “I’m sorry I didn’t let you do very much.”

“It’s not like I could have been any help the way we went about it,” Kagami shrugged. “But let’s work together in the future, okay? And I’ll show you how useful I can really be in a fight!”

“Sure thing!”

Kagami winked. “And call me Kagi-kun,” he asked politely. “Since we’re friends now.”

“Alright, Kagi-kun. Then call me Shiro, as well,” Ishi - Shiro requested.

“Shiro-kun, got it!”

“Ugh,” Egami scowled. “Are you two saps done yet? I think I’m going to be sick!” She was still suspended in Shiro’s makeshift water restraint.

Shiro waved his hand and the water splatted to join the weepy puddles filling up the rest of the room. Egami fell to the ground and rubbed her butt. She muttered something under her breath but Kagami didn’t catch it.

“Please make your way back to the control room,” Principal Shinsou said, bored. “And someone make sure Kurosawa doesn’t drown, why don’t you?” The white-haired boy was still face-down in the water. “I don’t want another student death on my hands.”

“Another?” Kagami muttered, incredulous. “He’s only been the principal for half a year!”

 


 

They got back to the control room and Kagami found himself shoved a little to the side in order for his classmates to circle Shiro in a ruckus of congratulations. The action stung but that tiny bitter part of him disintegrated as soon as he spotted Ryū looking at him, having hung back from the others.

“Hey, man,” Kagami said softly.

“That was fucking awful.”

He winced. “Well, I mean, Shiro had it pretty well covered by himself and my Quirk doesn’t -“

“Not that,” Ryū snarled. “I meant shitty Ishikawa hogging all the credit.”

“I didn’t even do anything, though. He deserves to be recognised for doing all the work.”

“Fuck that!” Ryū told him, scowling. It looked more like pouting, to be fair. “You knocked out that creep out all by yourself.”

His pulse thundered eagerly in his ears. “What? Did I really?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “With your fat ass.”

Kagami’s heart swelled. “Wow,” he beamed, truly touched. “You’re a good friend, Ryū. You really know just how to cheer me up when I feel bad.”

Ryū sat with Kagami for the beginning of the following match. It was Matsumoto and Imai as the villains and quiet and serious Wakana with Shiomi for the heroes, who were now two for zero. The tension was obviously high because the two villain girls spoke very little before descending down to the room that the fake civilian family were in.

They watched the fight closely. Imai and Matsumoto were both Mutant-type Quirks and put those physical differences to good use. The former scaled the building with quick agility, using her claws to gain a steady hold in the red exterior brick, whilst the latter made her way up through the main staircase, keeping close to the wall with her tree-trunk legs exposed to the elements as she had kicked off her gym shoes outside.

Shiomi, however, took much longer planning with Wakana. Ryū remembered that she and Imai were friends - they had spoken informally on the first day and mentioned going to the same middle school. That would make their fight interesting, at least.

Despite not being able to hear what anyone was actually saying, Ryū could tell when Shiomi and Wakana had come up with their plan as they shook hands and began to descend into the bowels of the building, keeping close together behind one of Shiomi's prismatic blue shields.

The confrontation happened somewhere near the sixth floor, with the civilian mannequins nowhere in sight. Shiomi and Wakana hit the bottom stair just as Matsumoto made it to the top and they came face-to-face without a moment’s notice.

Matsumoto cried out in surprise when she walked straight into Shiomi's shield and bounced off it to hit the wall, but the other girls were just as startled. As her focus wavered, so did the shield and Shiomi and Wakana were left without protection.

Then there was a great crack and a door to one of the apartments busted open so Imai could bounce out on all fours. “You’re going down, Takagi!” she grinned toothily.

Ryū was torn from the action by the swift rap of knuckles on wood. Everyone jumped and turned to stare at the door of the control room.

“Iida, get that for me, would you?” Shinsou asked lazily, not glancing away from the screen.

“Of course!” Iida leapt to his feet and strode to the door, pulling it open. Ryū could see the side-profile of his handsome, hard-boned face as it twisted in surprise. “...Senpai?”

“I’ve come to fetch Kaminari,” a bored, drawling voice said. “The Piper wants to see him.”

Then everyone was no longer staring at the student at the door but Ryū instead. Just great.

“Who’s that?” Mineta asked nosily.

“The Piper is the school nurse, idiot,” Egami muttered from where she had taken a seat a ways apart from the group with her leg up on her chair and arms crossed sullenly. “His Quirk is musical healing.”

“Awesome,” Kagami and Ishikawa said in sync and the two traded identical grins.

“Off with you,” Shinsou said. “Don’t bother coming back until after lunch.”

Ryū stretched to his feet and straightened his gym uniform. So fucking pointless to make him wear it and the scab on his back was only further irritated by the material. He squeezed past Iida and then tried not to make any sort of movement suggestive or surprise or fear as the door shut behind him and he got a good look at his escort’s face.

“So,” Midoriya Haruka said, blue eyes burning with both fury and amusement alike. “The little mouse finally leaves its hole.”

 


 

Chapter Text

Ryū resisted as much as he could on the walk to the nurse’s office. Midoriya kept a tight grip on the collar of his uniform, so much so that with one gentle tug Ryū’s feet would be swept far off the ground. It was humiliating, but at least there was no one else around to see it.

“If you’re planning to kill me,” Ryū tried. “Then don’t bother. You’ll be found out straight away seeing as you’re the person who fetched me from my classroom.”

“Shut up,” was the snapped reply and then they walked in silence. Straight past the nurse’s office, where Ryū could see the Pied Piper making a bed further into the room. He barely caught a glimpse, however, as Midoriya dragged him around a corner and opened a plain, nondescript door. The room was dark, an indeterminable size from the limited view of outside and smelt strongly of dust and mildew. What was an unclean place like that doing in a world-famous school like U.A.? Ryū wondered. Surely nothing good.

“About time,” another voice said. Midoriya directed them both into the room and shut and locked the door behind them. The clang of the metal deadbolt sliding into place was like the tolling of a church bell to Ryū’s ears - it sounded prophetic and ominous all at once.

Tezuka Shin, the boy who he’d overheard kissing Midoriya in the bathroom and then by subsequently attacked by. His red eyes seemed to glow in the light from his phone, which he held up dramatically. On the screen was a blurry photograph of a small figure from a considerable distance. Standing beside it was a hunch-over, much larger person with a strange gait. They both had blobs of dark hair atop their heads. Ryū’s gut sunk at the sight.

“Where did you get that?” he asked around his tight throat, which was half nerves and half because the collar of his uniform was cutting into his adam’s apple with how tight Midoriya was gripping it.

“Ah ah ah,” Tezuka scolded, scratching idly at his neck. His eyes still penetrated and Ryū’s he couldn’t help but notice how similar they were - both red, both brimming with a hidden sinister nature they tried to mask. Were his own eyes really that bad? “Leave the questions for me, kid.”

Ryū scoffed to mask his trepidation.

“Oi!” Midoriya shook him like a puppy being held by the scruff in its mother’s jaws. “Do as he says,” he ordered. “We’re not going to hurt ya.”

“Not yet,” added Tezuka gleefully. Scritch scritch scritch went the fingernails on his neck. “I want to draw it out a little beforehand, at least.”

Okay, so this was exactly as it seemed. Ryū struggled against Midoriya’s hold, kicking out at his knees and trying to twist at the fingers entangled in his uniform. Unfortunately, the older student’s grip was firm and true. He even had the nerve to laugh.

“Feisty little shit,” he said. “Don’t bother trying to wiggle out. Even if you could, the door’s locked and you won’t beat us in a fight again without your little pet beast.”

“She’s not my pet,” spat Ryū.

“We know,” Tezuka laughed. He paused his itching and he reached out with bloody fingers. Ryū recoiled but could only stretch to the limit of Midoriya’s grip and that wasn’t very far a all. Tezuka’s wet, sticky fingers rubbed fondly at his cheek. “Dumb brat.”

“That’s some Quirk you’ve got,” Midoriya observed. “Reminds me of Tsukuyomi, but far less fucking approachable. Dunno how Ground Zero and Red Riot popped you out, though.”

“Kiss my ass,” Ryū snarled but Tezuka took the chance to shove two of his fingers into Ryū’s open mouth with considerable force. Ryū gagged and choked, trying to turn his head away, but Midoriya held his chin still. The taste was metallic, copper and something gritty like dirt.

Tezuka poked around in his mouth for several seconds, then drew his hand out to wipe it on his blazer. “Blunt teeth,” he told Midoriya. “Told you.”

“Fuck off,” Midoriya replied casually. “I know what I saw, Shin.”

Ryū spat on the dark floor. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Tell me how this Quirk of yours works.” Tezuka completely ignored him. “Do you manifest your monster when you want to or is it situationally-triggered? I don’t see it lurking around now, so it can’t be with you all the time. Does it mutate your appearance when you use it?”

“I don’t know,” he hoped that would get them off his back, at least. Why were they so damn interested in his Quirk? Sure, Kiyo had kicked their asses but to interest them to the extent that they’d sourced a photo of them...weird shit was going on for sure.

“He doesn’t know,” Midoriya told Tezuka.

Tezuka chuckled. “He doesn’t know,” he repeated to himself. “Well, what a surprise. You know, I’ll tell you what, Kaminari-kun - you tell me what I want to know and I let you live.” His mouth spread in an uncomfortably wide grin, cracked lips peeling back from gleaming teeth.

Ryū stared back at him, frozen.

“Little fox,” Midoriya said. “Thinks he’s so smart.”

“Well, we’re wolves, fox boy,” Tezuka added. “And we don’t play by the woodland rules.”

Oh fuck. These guys were fucking crazy.

“Fine.” And the only way to combat crazy was to play by their rules. “It’s...I’m not too sure on any of the specific details just yet, but she acts as a separate sentient entity. She’s always here but wanders far and can make herself invisible to people that aren’t me. Maybe me too.”

Midoriya frowned and shook him a little more. “She?” he echoed.

“That’s different than what we thought,” Tezuka mused. “Different, but useful. How far can... she venture from you?”

“I have no idea,” Ryū said honestly. “Quite a long way. At least a mile.”

Tezuka and Midoriya looked at each other and shared a deep, meaningful glance. Midoriya’s grip slackened and Ryū pulled away, shoving his back up against the locked door. If he could just get it open then that would be the moment to make a run for freedom...

“Well, well, the little fox has a use after all.”

“Maybe,” Tezuka mused. “So?”

A few seconds past.

“So?” he repeated.

“Are you talking to me?” Ryū asked. “‘So’ what?”

“He means,” Midoriya stressed. “Are you in? Are you willing to join us?”

“Join you? Why the fuck would I want to join you?

Tezuka looked at him like he was Japan’s biggest idiot, arms folded. “Duh,” he deadpanned.

“Look here,” Midoriya said and he reached out a long arm and reeled Ryū back in again, this time by his shoulder. His grip was just the wrong side of too-tight. “This is a once in a lifetime offer, kid. It’s not often you get invited to join the big boys and I recommend you don’t turn us down.”

“Or else,” Tezuka added helpfully.

“Or else we might have to rethink our forgiving nature with regards to the bathroom incident.”

Midoriya smiled and it wasn’t a nice one despite his round-cheeked, friendly face. “And you don’t want that, trust me, foxy.”

Ryū could see the situation he was in and it wasn’t good. Midoriya’s fingers flexed on his arm, tight and then loose over and over again. It was a warning and threat wrapped up into one.

“Alright,” he gave in. “Alright. What exactly am I joining?”

“Myriad X.”

Oh fuck; they even had a tacky villain name. Ryū was up shut creek without a paddle, that was for sure.

“We’re anti-hero,” Midoriya said. “And by that, I mean we hate everything that stand for. Every fucking press talk and every dead civilian on their hands.”

“You hate villains,” Ryū repeated. “But you’re students at U.A.! How does that work?”

“It’s expected,” he continued, sour. “My dad - he couldn’t even consider that I didn’t want to come to this place.”

“And fucking up in the entrance exam isn’t even a possibility,” added Tezuka, looking at Midoriya with some unreadable emotion in his red eyes.

“I got in on recommendation,” Midoriya bitterly said.

“So you hate your dad,” Ryū said. “Don’t we all?”

Midoriya stared down at him. Then he tightened his fist and shoved Ryū back against the door with a tremendous push. He loomed over him, and fuck the guy was tall.

“I want Deku gone,” he hissed. “I want every last one of them off the streets for good. Dead, injured, retired, outlawed - I don’t give a fuck how it gets done, frankly.”

“I personally like the sound of ‘dead’,” Tezuka added, smiling that creepy smile.

“And you,” Midoriya went on, “are going to help us, you mouthy little shit.”

“Am I?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, you are.”

Silence fell in the small, cramped room. It was dark without the light from Tezuka’s phone and stiflingly hot. Ryū has no means of escape; he was trapped with these two maniacs and had no choice but to agree to their terms lest he find himself dead in a dumpster before lunchtime.

“Myriad X,” he said. “So you want me to help you get rid of Heroes...how the hell am I meant to do that?”

“My dads are the top two,” Midoriya said, though his face twisted with disgust. “But yours are third, tenth and nineteenth. Not to mention your little friends - Ojiro and Tetsutetsu, right? - their parents are eleventh and fifteenth, with the other two close to ranking on top.”

“We’ve read the cheat guide,” Tezuka smirked. “We know your every move, Kaminari, every acquaintance you’ve ever made. You can’t pull the wool over our eyes.”

“We know your use, brat, and we want it. You use your Quirk, your friends and those Hero dads of yours to help us take the system down.”

“And you get to live at the end of it.”

“You honestly think two teenagers are going to be able to take down the entirety of Hero culture in Japan? Defeat Pros like Deku, like Frostburn?”

“Not us,” Tezuka hissed. “Not us alone.”

“There are others in your gang?”

“Hundreds,” said Midoriya. “Thousands. They lurk in the shadows and bide their time until it’s time to pounce, and you, shitty brat, will be the key to it all. That Quirk of yours is all we need to be successful.”

Ryū swallowed. “How?”

“We’ll be in touch,” Tezuka said abruptly and he reached around Ryū to unlock the door and push it open. Light spilled across them, bright and enough for Ryū to shield his eyes. The next thing he knew, Midoriya was shoving him and he was stumbling back and falling on his ass. The duo looked down at him with identical blank stares.

“See you around, fox boy,” Midoriya said and then the door closed. Ryū stared at it for several seconds and then climbed shakily to his feet. He shuffled off, hands in his pockets and head in the vicinity of the clouds. He couldn’t get the image of Midoriya’s face out of his mind; how disgusted he’d been when speaking about his parents. Ryū hated his own most of the time, but that level of true vitriol...

He shuddered.

 


 

“Hey, hey,” Michiko said as Ryū dropped his lunch tray down on the table. She was sitting with Iida, Matsumoto, shitty Tokoyami, Shiomi and Kagami in the outside courtyard. There was also a girl with dark green hair pulled back in a long ponytail and startling green eyes set against a black sclera sat with them too. “This is Ashido-kun!”

“Hm.”

“How was the nurse’s office, Kaminari-kun?” Iida asked. “Did the Piper have to play to you?”

“No,” he said shortly, shovelling a clump of rice into his mouth.

Michiko rolled her eyes. “That’s all you’ll get from him, Kentarō-kun.”

“Oo~” Kagami sing-songed. “Since when did you use first names, Michi-kun?”

“Since it got confusing with so many siblings around,” she sniffed. “There’s Iida-kun, his dad, his uncle, his auntie, and his three cousins. Besides, I already call Takuya-chan by his given name, so what’s the big deal?”

“Indeed!” Iida said, blushing a little. “It seemed the most sensible option. Please, feel free to all call me Kentarō too!”

Yeah, no.

“Thank you, Kentarō-san,” Shiomi said, blushing back. “That’s very considerate of you.”

“Well, you can all call me Michiko as well, if you’d like! Maybe not Michi-kun, though...”

“That’s our special friend nickname,” Kagami grinned, hair bubbling a bright navy blue streaked with glittering silver. “Michi-kun, Kagi-kun and Ryū-chan!”

“Poor Kaminari,” Matsumoto snickered. “Why is he stuck with the ‘-chan’ end of the stick?”

Michiko giggled. “Because he’s the youngest! And because when we were in middle school all our classmates thought he was from the elementary next door!” Everyone laughed. Ryū did not. Surely he didn’t look that young. Yes, he was short with a round face, but he had a more mature haircut and swore like a sailor half the time. He didn’t know any ten-year-olds that did that.

The laughter trailed off and Michiko made a strangled sound. Everyone glanced at her then followed her line of sight to see the gaggle of students lingering in the middle of the courtyard, which was empty save for their own table. It was the curly-pink-haired girl with her duo of black-haired twins and a boy Ryū had never seen before. He had side-swept light brown hair and a plain fair half-covered by round, wire-rimmed glasses. He was also huge; at least 182cm and half as broad across, with a nasty scowl curling his lip up.

“Oh,” smirked the pink-haired girl, having the gall to fake real surprise. “Look who it is.”

“What are you doing out here? Gen Ed has third lunch,” Michiko asked suspiciously.

The girl with the long bangs covering her face was just standing there, seemingly not even listening to the conversation, whilst the other, the one with the soft, friendly face was looking from person to person like she was watching a particularly interesting play. The boy was still sneering at them.

“Iida-sensei let us leave early,” the pink-haired girl said snottily. “But what are you Hero Studies idiots doing out here all alone? I thought all you lot like to clump together inside and hog all the tables.”

“Yeah,” said the boy. “It’s not fair that you’re all favoured more than us.”

The girl laughed. “Well, since we’re just weak little Gen Ed students, no one’s going to care if we mess with you anyway.”

“C’mon, that’s not nice,” coaxed Tokoyami. “We’re not idiots - we’re loyal, hard-working and we deserve to be in Hero Studies!”

“How sweet,” cooed the girl. “Hey, I recognise that ugly hair... Tokoyami Jin! Your dad’s the bird Hero, isn’t he? I wonder if your postman has pink hair!”

“Oi, don’t talk to him like that,” snapped Michiko. “What’s your problem?”

“My problem,” said the girl, stomping forward to prod the other girl in the chest. “Is that you 1-A and 1-B students strut around here thinking you’re so great - that you’re above the rest of us, but newsflash: you’re not.”

“We haven’t d-done anything to you,” Ashido said and it was the first time Ryū had heard her speak. She was visibly shaking. “Just l-leave us alone!”

“J-J-Just l-l-leave us al-l-lone,” the pink bitch mimicked in a high-pitched, wobbly voice. “You’re as bad as the rest of them, Ashido. Your brother set such high expectations of first years and you’re letting them all go to waste.”

“You make us sick,” said the giant boy.

“Yeah,” chorused the black-haired girls, one quiet and one loud.

“Please, just move on,” Iida ordered. “You’ve said what you wanted - now leave!”

“Don’t tell us what to do!” the boy snarled.

“Shut it, Deguchi. I want to hear what the losers have to say,” pink bitch said thoughtfully.

Michiko growled. “We’re not losers! You’re the loser, picking on people for no reason!”

“We’ll tell Kobayashi-sensei about this,” warned Tokoyami. “And he’ll tell Principal Shinsou and you’ll get into a fuck load of trouble! Detention every night for the rest of the year!”

“Ha!” said pink bitch. “Ha ha ha! What do you think, Yumi? Will Principal Shinsou do anything to us? What do you think?”

“No,” said Yumi. She was the loud one with the short bangs and actually looked quite bored.

“You know what? I don’t think so either! Go on then! Go tell whoever you like, but no one’s going to do anything about it because Shinsou is a garbage principal - this school went to ruin when Nedzu left last year.”

Michiko stood up abruptly and so did Tokoyami and, surprisingly, Matsumoto. “Why you -”

“Deguchi,” the pink bitch said and the giant boy ambled forward to stand defensively by her side. “Don’t even think about it. Four against seven we may be, but your group is made up of a bunch of second-rate Heroes bound for failure. Defeating you in a fight will be too easy. I’d feel bad about doing it, really - like fighting a group of Quirkless freaks.”

There was a tense stalemate. Iida had to restrain Michiko, but Kagami, at his side, was seething, face bright red and fists flexed so hard Ryū was surprised he didn’t hear his bones crack under the pressure.

“What do you want?” Shiomi asked calmly. “You’ve made your point.”

“Hm,” the pink bitch tapped her chin. “What to do, what to do. Any ideas?” She directed this to her eager lackeys. Ryū had to wonder why they were so intent on pleasing her when she seemed to have this awful of a personality.

“What about this?” Yumi asked and she snatched a bag from the quiet girl that hadn’t spoken yet. A very familiar bag.

“No way!” Tokoyami said even as his bag was handed off to the pink bitch with a delighted smile. “That’s mine! Give it back!”

“Oi, stop!” Kagami yelled as Tokoyami’s stuff was roughly sorted through. “Get the fuck away from - oof!”

He went down heavily on his side as Deguchi punched him square in the face. Ashido cried out and hid behind Shiomi, watching in horror as Kagami dabbed at his own bleeding nose.

“Leave him alone!” Matsumoto demanded and her leafy hair began to twist and flutter.

The General Education lot laughed, pink bitch tossing her head back in amusement as Tokoyami’s bag was tossed aside.

Deguchi sneered. “And what are you going to do about it, huh? Give me that.” He snatched Michiko’s satchel from the floor, seemingly uncaring that her hands had grown in size or that Matsumoto’s hair was getting more and more agitated. Out came a letter, neat kanji on thick blue paper. “What have we got here?”

Ryū stood up.

Pink bitch took it from him, eyes eagerly skimming the page. “‘Love and hugs, the best Daddy in the world,’” she cooed. “Kiss kiss kiss. Isn’t that sweet? Looks like they couldn’t be bothered to give you some advice,” she added with pure venom in her voice. “Why don’t I do it for them?”

“Go on, Kita,” Yumi goaded.

“Alright,” the girl - Kita, Ryū knew her name now - took a sweet step forward. “Tetsutetsu, you’re not powerful enough to be a Hero. Face it, your Quirk is no more special or exciting than any of ours! The only reason you even got into 1-A is because your parents are Pro Heroes. I think it’s sad, frankly, that everyone lets you be so deluded.”

Michiko’s face dropped and Ryū heard her breath hitch.

Deguchi upended her bag on the ground and her snapped pens leaked out across the stone, her textbooks, notebooks and everything else too. “Oops!” he laughed. “Sorry.”

Ryū felt an acid sting of anger burn in his eyes. It was like a fire had ignited within him, a fire he didn’t feel very inclined to extinguish. They punched Kagami and mocked Michiko, unprovoked and thought that this was okay? That because Ryū’s friends were stupidly kind and wouldn’t outright attack General Education students, no one would stand up to them?

“Leave them alone!”

Fuck that.

Kita jumped a little and turned her attention to Ryū. “What did you just say to me?”

“Leave. Them. Alone.”

“Ryū-chan,” Michiko warned in a wobbly voice, but Ryū ignored her.

“Oh? And who are you exactly?” She was taunting him, she knew it would rile him up and fuck if it wasn’t working.

“The boy telling you to fuck off,” he snarled. “Get lost, bitch.”

Kita laughed uproariously. “I recognise you - Kaminari Ryū, the weak little shit that thinks with a Quirk like light production, he can make it as a Hero. Don’t make me laugh.”

Ryū stared at her, hatred burning within him. He wanted Kiyo to appear, rip Kita’s head off and devour her like she’d devoured Ariyoshi. He wanted it so badly.

“Go on then,” she goaded, clapping her hands. “Hit me! You won’t do it; I know you won’t. Hit me! Hit me! Hit - urk!” She went flying onto her ass, scraping a few feet back across the courtyard with a hand raised to her red cheek. She stared up at him in shock and Ryū, fist still raised, shrugged off Iida’s clinging hand.

“Kaminari-kun, think this through!” Iida begged, but none of them made any real move to stop him. They knew the bitch deserved it.

Ryū planted a foot on her stomach and shoved down. She coughed. He leaned a little closer. “Don’t fuck with my friends,” he whispered. “Don’t come near us again.”

“Hey!” Deguchi stomped over, but Ryū activated his Quirk (well, Magma, not Kiyo) on his hand and held it out towards the much larger boy. The light and the heat it produced was enough to hold him off for a moment, plus it obscured everyone else’s view of Ryū and Kita.

“Or...what?” she gasped, pink eyes white-rimmed.

“Or I’ll sneak into your room at night and slit your throat,” Ryū said simply.

She looked scared, eyes darting from side to side and mouth opening soundlessly. “You’re a psycho!” she managed eventually.

“Sure am,” he replied in a deadly whisper. “So stay away from my friends.”

He took his foot off and Kita scrambled to her feet, shaking hands dusting off her uniform. Kita’s eyes ticked from Iida’s glare to Kagami’s bloodied face and the protective arm Shiomi had around the hiding Ashido’s shoulders. Michiko looked close to tears, however. Kita seemed to decide that the risk was too big to explain hanging around, especially should they be found by an older student or a teacher, so she shrugged them off. “Come on, let’s leave these freaks to their crybaby party.” She shoved past Ryū with a contemptuous scowl. “You should watch your back, psycho.”

Deguchi, Yumi and the other girl both followed at a fast-paced clip, whispering and laughing. Ryū watched them disappeared around the corner and waited until footsteps could no longer be heard before picking up the letter Kita had dropped on the ground. He flicked off a few piece of dirt and then held it out to Michiko.

She sniffled. “Thanks, Ryū-chan.”

“That was amazing, Kaminari!” Matsumoto said, smiling. “I would have never expected that from the likes of you.”

“Tt.”

Iida nodded firmly. “The way you stood up for Michiko-kun...I admire you tremendously, Kaminari!”

Kagami even went a step further and draped an arm around his shoulders, squeezing tightly. Ryū didn’t pull away even as his scab pulled taught at the movement, merely accepting the familiar sensation of his friend being a clingy little shit.

“I bet she won’t be messing with us again after that,” Tokoyami grinned. He punched the air. “Maybe I was wrong about you after all, huh? Maybe you’re not a total weakling!”

Ryū looked at him. “Thanks,” he said flatly.

“We should tell Principal Shinsou,” Iida said. “U.A. has a strict no-bullying policy.”

They all turned to stare at him.

“Uh, no,” Kagami stressed, blotting his bloody nose with the sleeve of his shirt, turning it a bright scarlet colour. He still had his arm around Ryū’s shoulder. “That’s how you get bullied even more, Iida. Besides, Ryū-chan scared her straight. I doubt she’ll ever bother us again.”

“She won’t,” Michiko said as she scrubbed at her red eyes. “I can’t believe I just froze like that...that I let her get to me...”

“Hey,” Kagami said. He reached out to put his other bloody arm around her. “My two best buds. You guys were amazing, and hey, Michi-kun, you didn’t freeze. You were upset! It’s a totally different situation! Anyone of us would have been upset, right guys?”

There was a murmur of agreement.

“I’m just sorry I couldn’t do more,” Shiomi said quietly. “But I thought my shields might have just instigated the situation even further.” Ashido was still hiding behind her and didn’t say a word.

“You did the right thing, Shiomi-kun,” Matsumoto smiled. “I’m just glad you're all okay. Well, except -”

Kagami snorted. “Except me. Don’t worry, it’s okay. I’ve had worse from Ryū-chan!”

“It’s true.”

“You guys...have a weird friendship,” Tokoyami said.

Michiko beamed a watery smile. “Thanks!”

 


 

Chapter Text

“Bye, Kaminari!” The little group of nerds that had somehow attached themselves to Ryū at U.A., all called as they set off for home, splitting into groups and Kagami grabbing his bike.

“Thanks for earlier, Ryū-chan,” Michiko whispered as she lingered beside him at the gate. “I really appreciate you sticking up for me like that.”

“Whatever,” he muttered and she nudged him.

“Kaminari Ryū has feelings after all,” she teased and jogged off before he could take a half-hearted swipe at her. She hopped on the back of Kagami’s bike and they sped off down the hill with two farewell waves. Ryū felt a stab of envy - not long ago (was it really only a few days?) he’d have been right at their side on his own bike.

...His bike. It was still at his old house, parked up around the side of the kitchen. Would Akio let him go back and fetch it? Would it even still be there? He could well imagine Kurou-sama destroying it in a fit of pique, wheels torn off, handlebars twisted and shiny black paint scratched and ruined...

“Hey.”

He jumped a little. Akio stood behind him a little, hands in his pockets. He didn’t have his bag and wasn’t wearing a jacket either, despite the cool April weather. On top of that, he looked very guilty.

Ryū eyed him suspiciously. “What have you done?”

“Me!? I haven’t done anything, you little shit!” Akio groused, scowling like a petulant child. “I just came out to tell you that I can’t walk home with you after all. I forgot that I have music club and unless you want to hang around for a few hours and wait for me...”

Yeah, no thanks.

“I didn’t think so,” Akio said smugly. His expression wilted a little, eyes darting off to one side. “But I’m not supposed to let you go home by yourself -”

“I’ll be fine,” Ryū snapped, irritated beyond belief. He wasn’t an infant, for god’s sake.

“- so I called someone who can give you a ride.”

Ryū had a bad feeling. A very bad feeling. “Who?” he asked, stomach bubbling with dread.

“Uh,” said Akio.

“You ready, kiddo? Sorry for making you wait, but you know how your Auntie Iida is and - uh.”

Oh, Christ.

Red Riot stared at him, slack-jawed and, for once, at a loss for words. He was wearing a tight maroon-coloured t-shirt with ‘GET HARD’ printed on it in white, baggy gray sweatpants and bright red sneakers. His usually spiky hair was loose and straight, pulled back with a flame-patterned bandana. He looked a mess.

Akio laughed nervously. “Haha, yeah. Surprise!”

“Aki,” Red Riot said tightly. “You know I’m not -“

Ryū didn’t want to hear anymore. What the fuck was his dumbass brother thinking? Bringing this shitstain around like it was nothing...like it wasn’t everything...

He turned and walked away, trying not to look like he was hurrying despite the fact that he definitely damn was. It was a long week. It was a long life, actually, and Ryū was tired of it all.

“Hey!” Akio called. “Hey, Ryū, come back! I didn’t mean to...” He trailed off and Ryū resisted against the urge to turn and look why, because, well, he had a suspicion.

“Stupid Akio,” he muttered.

Footsteps pounded up behind him, heavy and sure. He growled but that didn’t stop Red Riot from angling his body in front of him to force a fast stop, hand wrapping around his arm.

“Ryū,” he said and the sound of his name being spoken in that loud raspy voice sent a shiver of gross nostalgia up Ryū’s spine. “Kiddo, hey, slow down a little.”

“Don’t,” Ryū wrenched his arm free, “touch me.”

Red Riot held his hands up in surrender. “Woah, okay. I’m sorry.”

“I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t ev -er,” his voice cracked, “want to talk to you again. Now, leave me the hell alone!” Ryū shoved past and made his way down the sidewalk, eyes prickling.

“Ryū!” Red Riot called despondently. “Ryū!”

But Ryū didn’t glance back and no one chased after him after that. He made it to the station and sat on the train with his beg between his knees and head in his hands. He felt empty and hollow and, though his eyes continued to burn hotly, not a single tear ever escaped.

 


 

“How was school?” Masaru asked as Ryū let himself into the house. He was sat in the sitting room dressed in a loose robe over pyjamas, with a laptop whirring away on his knees and a cup of tea at his elbow. He looked the same as he usually did and that eased Ryū in a half-relax. Nothing had changed, really. Nothing big enough that anyone else was affected, but Ryū still felt drained. At least Masaru was normal.

“Fine.” He kicked off his shoes and dumped his bag on the floor.

“You weren’t supposed to go today, Ryū. I had an angry phone call from your social worker when I was designing a rather fabulous set of dresses for the Hero Gala, and I’m sure she didn’t appreciate the email you apparently sent her either.”

Ryū fell onto the couch, pressing his face into one of the obnoxious furry cushions, trying to push out that nagging voice.

‘I’m going to school, get fucked’ is not the appropriate way to speak to anybody, let alone a woman who has dedicated so much of her time to helping you.”

Oh shit. He actually sounded mad. Ryū kept very still. He didn’t want to stir up more shit.

Masaru sighed. “Ryū,” he said calmly. “I understand things have been tough for you. Real tough. But that’s no excuse and no reason to mistreat other people. I think you owe Igarashi-san an apology for what you said.”

Ugh. Ryū groaned. “Fine.”

“We’re going over to your grandmother’s friend’s house for dinner tonight,” Masaru went on. “So put on something nice, please. If you need any spare clothes, I think we have some in the basement.”

Ha! Like Ryū was going down there again anytime soon!

“I’ve got some,” he said, gingerly climbing back to his feet. He shuffled upstairs, though paused near the top of the stairs. Wait. What friend?

 


 

“Thank you for coming,” Midoriya-san said with a bow. “Masaru-san, Mitsuki-kun.”

“Yeah yeah,” Mitsuki said, waving a loose hand dismissively. “No need to be so formal, Inko!”

Ryū, still standing behind Masaru like a creep, scowled down at his shoes. They were sneakers, black, though quite heavily scuffed. Mitsuki hadn’t been happy about that but she also hadn’t had any spare shoes in his size and going in his school ones was apparently a bigger faux paus than being unkempt, so the sneakers had stayed firmly on Ryū’s feet. The fact that he was wearing his school shirt and trousers as ‘formalwear’ didn’t seem to play into that.

Masaru went inside with another thankful greeting for Midoriya-san and that unfortunately left Ryū right out in the open. Kind green eyes focused in on him and then widened in surprise.

“Oh, hello,” she said, smiling through her shock. “I didn’t expect to see you tonight, Ryū-kun!”

Ryū stared at her, unsure of where he stood or what he was supposed to say. He didn’t think he’d ever even seen this woman before, let alone told her she could call him that.

“Oh, Mitsuki,” Midoriya-san went on with a faint wobble in her voice. “He’s so big now...”

Thanks?

“They sure do grow up fast,” Mitsuki said dryly, slipping on a pair of fluffy blue slippers. She and Masaru were wearing matching ones, so when Midoriya-san finally let Ryū past, he made sure to put on the plain white pair - it would be the height of sickening for the three of them to match and - “Manners, kid!” SLAP

Ryū twitched, head curling down. The back of his head hurt a little, but it was mostly the noise and the surprise of it all that had him pulling away. What had he been thinking? Of course, they were all the fucking same. Mitsuki and Masaru were no damn different at the end of everything. Same shitty people.

“Mitsuki,” Masaru muttered. “We spoke about this.”

She tutted, huffing a little. “Yeah, yeah. He’s not like Katsu-brat. I know. Still needs to mind his manners, though.”

“Thank you for having me, Midoriya-san,” Ryū said with a bow. His ears were still ringing.

“No need to thank me,” Midoriya-said, laughing awkwardly. “Please, come in.”

The Midoriya house was much smaller than Ryū’s new one and much cosier. Framed photos lined the hallway; a beaming green-haired baby in the arms of a much younger (and taller) Midoriya-san. The baby grew up in photographs until there was the giant man Ryū now knew as Deku, his arm around a nervous-looking Frostburn. A few of these later was a wedding photo and then a shy green-haired toddler with mismatched eyes. Then the toddler was older and a baby was in the photo; red hair and lazy blue eyes. Ew, was that Midoriya Haruka as a cute baby? It seemed very wrong to imagine him as anything other than a sociopathic teenager with a plethora of daddy issues. The two children got older and older. A skeletal blonde man joined the family photos, his arm around Midoriya-san. The last few featured a new arrival - a tiny white-haired baby with grey eyes that evolved into the shy child Ryū has met the day before.

Ryū hadn’t seen a single family photo in Masaru and Mitsuki‘s house. Not even of just them. His other grandparents had had one or two of them at their wedding and a framed childhood photo of Hibiki sitting on a blanket in a blue ruffled sundress. There hadn’t been any pictures of Ryū and he hadn’t wanted any. Who would want a photo of a scowling teenager on their walls?

There was a Western-style dining table in the modern kitchen, around which six people were sat. More than Ryū had expected, at any rate. Deku, Frostburn, the old skeleton man, an older boy with green hair and multi-coloured eyes - one red and one green -, Midoriya Haruka (Ryū would have to stop calling him that if there were going to be so many Midoriyas he had to meet), and the white-haired little boy.

“Auntie, Uncle,” Deku said with a cheerful smile. “Thanks for coming!”

“It’s no problem, Izu-kun,” Mitsuki said and what was with all the gross cutesy nicknames? “It’s not like our son ever invites us over for dinner.”

Deku laughed awkwardly just like his mom had. Haruka rolled his eyes and the boy with green hair - Ryū knew this must be Sasuke - didn’t look up from where he was shredding a napkin.

“Well, we’re still happy to have you as guests,” said the skeleton man, beaming. Now that really was familiar... “Please, take a seat.”

Ryū sat next to the little kid with Haruka across from him and Masaru on his other side. He sunk a little into his seat.

“Hello, young man,” said the skeleton man. “We’ve met before, though I doubt you’ll recall me, haha...I’m -“

“It’s All Might,” said Haruka.

Oh.

Ohhh.

“Haha, yes...that’s me. Or, not any more, I suppose! Please, just call me Yagi.”

Ryū stared at the glass of water on his placemat.

“He’s shy,” Mitsuki said helpfully. “Doesn’t talk much. Which, since we’re so used to Katsuki and Akio, is a big damn change, I’ll tell you.”

“That’s alright,” Ryū could see Deku smiling out of the corner of his eye. “We don’t mind shy.”

He wasn’t shy. He just didn’t give a fuck.

“Izuku talks enough for the lot of us,” added Frostburn. “He’s a nervous talker.”

“Shotō!”

“Dinner’s ready!” Midoriya-san said cheerfully as she whisked in a large tray of rice. “Who wants soba?”

 


 

“- and then I said she had to stop or I’d be forced to use my Quirk to make her.”

“So she jumped off the roof,” added Frostburn.

“Yes, she jumped off the roof! It was so scary but what was even worse was the fact that Shotō jumped off after her!”

“I had a plan.”

“And he says he had a plan, but I don’t believe it! Good job Ochako was there since she caught them both by hanging out of a window a few stories down.”

“I arrested the villain mid-air.”

“A hundred feet up,” Deku grumbled. “We got in a lot of trouble for that one.”

“Well, I should think so! What were you thinking, Izuku?!” Midoriya-san fretted.

“Mom, it wasn’t me, I -“

“Letting poor Shotō risk his life like that...you should be more careful when threatening villains as they can be so unpredictable!”

“Mom...”

“Well, it’s true.” She turned to look at Yagi, who froze like a deer in headlights. “Isn’t it, Toshi?”

“Uh.”

“Can I be excused?” Sasuke asked. Ryū has decided it was just easier to call them all by their given names for now. This was the first time he had ever actually heard Sasuke speak. “I have homework to do.”

Deku checked his watch. “Oh, sure! Go ahead, boys!”

“Ryū, you can go as well,” said Masaru. Sasuke slithered upstairs but Haruka stayed frozen.

“The TVs all set up in the sitting room,” added a Midoriya-san. “Why don’t you put a movie on?”

“He can come hang out with me,” Haruka said flatly. His hair, that same dark red as the right side of Frostburn’s own, fell over one lazy turquoise eye in a casual sway.

“Um,” said Deku. “Oh, are you sure, Haru?”

“It’s not like you to want to socialise,” pointed out Frostburn with a suspicious deadpan. Ryū knew subtlety wasn’t his strong suit, but even still. Ouch. He watched the annoyance and a twitch of anger blossom across Haruka’s face.

“Well, I do. That a crime?”

“No, no!” Deku spluttered, flapping and waving his hands like an idiot. “Of course not, you can -“

“Great. Come on, Kaminari.”

Ryū jumped to his feet and tucked in his chair. “Thank you for the meal,” he said quickly, bowing and then hurrying after Haruka, trailing him up the stairs and into a small hallway decorated with even more photo frames. A central one caught his eye; a group of twenty or so U.A. students posing dramatically around a bored-looking man in a black jumpsuit and long gray scarf. Deku was central, back to back with a brown-haired girl and with a large boy in glasses standing behind them with his arms raised and mouth half-open in a yell. The ones that drew Ryū towards them, however, were the cluster at the edge.

A plain boy with jagged black hair grinning at the side of a pink girl with black sclera who was power-posing. To their right was a red-haired tanned boy flexing his arms and two blondes. One with a half-hearted glower and arms crossed defiantly, and a second with sunshiny happiness displayed in an outward grin and proudly raised peace sign.

Oof.

“Oh yeah,” Haruka said from his doorway. “Disgusting, isn’t it? Seeing them so...so young, when they’ve turned out like they are. It’s a waste.”

“Yeah,” Ryū mumbled, keeping that photo in his mind’s eye as he followed Haruka into a room decked out nearly entirely in beiges and creams. There was a bed, dresser with a TV on it, and a desk underneath a window with drawn curtains. Sasuke was spread across the bed with his head buried in his repeatedly buzzing cell phone.

“Take a seat,” Haruka demanded, slouching at the desk with his long legs kicked out in front of him. “Knowing how it usually goes, we’ll be here for a while.”

“This happens a lot?” Ryū asked as he perched gingerly on the end of the bed.

Sasuke scoffed. “All the time,” he said. “Don’t bother trying to not come either.”

“It’s ‘mandatory family bonding’ ,” Haruka said with derision. “Though I’m sure you already get enough of that at home.”

Ryū thought of the kind of ‘family bonding’ Kurou-sama often insisted on - the kind they carried out in privacy, and decided that sitting around in some bedroom with two randoms whilst they waited for their parents/grandparents to finish gossiping...well, that wasn’t the end of the world. He shrugged. Let them think what they wanted.

“It’s been a while, Kaminari-kun,” Sasuke said, glancing up. He set aside his phone, which continued to buzz and light up beside his leg at random intervals. “How have you been?”

“Don’t be fucking boring,” Haruka snapped at him, glaring pure venom. “Of course he’s been shitty. He’s been living with those fucking freaks for years.”

Freaks?

Sasuke had the grace to look a bit embarrassed, a red flush sweeping across his cheeks. “Ah,” he said. “Right; apologies. I forget sometimes that you don’t live with Uncle Katsuki and Uncle Eijirou.”

Katsuki and Eijirou, Ryū thought with disgust. Uncles.

“Uncle Denki was always better,” Haruka muttered. “Shame he fucked off, but at least he’s dropping off the Hero Rankings. I don’t have such a bone to pick with him now.”

Laughing quietly, Sasuke shook his head. “You always have a bone to pick, Haru. That’s why Dad and Papa hate you so much.”

Haruka shot him a dirty look. “Kiss my ass. I don’t give a shit what those frauds think of me, you hear? It’s bad enough I have to do what they say in the name of authority, I don’t need hassle about it from my dumb brother too.”

Jeez, there was some major family fuckery going on around here, wasn’t there? Ryū had wanted to steer well-clear of drama at U.A., but here he was, right in the thick of it all. He was shit out of luck in the cruise-along department for sure and his original plan of playing a gruff but soft-centred weakling didn’t sit right anymore. He’d have to have a major re-plan.

“Are you like this with Aki-chan?” Sasuke asked Ryū. “I have to wonder if all older brothers are put through torture like me.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Ryū said shortly. “I don’t talk to that fucker.”

Maybe they had been on their way, minutely even so, to a semblance of a relationship, even a friendly one, but after the stunt he’d pulled with Red Riot earlier...yeah, no thanks. Ryū would pass on ever even trying to getting close to anyone again. It wasn’t worth the risk when he was just as happy - if not happier - to hang solo.

“Ha! Rock on, foxy.”

Sasuke looked between them, a furrow appearing between his thin green eyebrows. “Huh,” he said. “Haru-chan’s found himself a friend.”

Haruka snarled. “Fuck off, greenie!”

Ryū flopped back on the bed and stared at the ceiling.

This was going to be a long evening.

 


 

“Ryū! Ryū, it’s time to go!” Mitsuki hollered a good two hours later. She sounded drunk, her words slurring a little. Ryū, who was in basically the same position, save for the undoing of the top few buttons of his school shirt and the addition of fat brown cat on his stomach, sat up. The cat, who was named Mini-Might, yowled in annoyance and dug her claws in.

“Here,” Sasuke said, setting aside his phone for the first time since that original chat, as he reached over to grab Mini-Might around the middle and prise her off. “Come on, you, it’s time to let Ryū-kun go home.”

Ryū rubbed one of her ears between his fingers and nodded. “Thanks.”

“See you on Monday, fox boy,” Haruka said snidely. He was lurking at the desk still, also on his phone. He didn’t look up. “Big plans on the horizon for you.”

“Ignore him,” Sasuke advised and Ryū did.

“Bye,” he said awkwardly. Then he fled the room and stood at the top of the stairs to orient himself.

“- Quirk,” Masaru was saying.

“It’s hard to say,” Deku said nervously. “I mean, with me, I, uh, the doctors think it was some...like, a really big chance? At least 0.001 percent, so I don’t know if I can so...exactly what sort of...um.”

“I think what Izuku is trying to say,” Frostburn said in a much more coherent manner, “is that we still don’t really know much about Quirks. We can’t speculate on how Ryū’s might turn out. Quirks mutate strangely. Mine is half my mother and half Endeavor, but my brother had a very weak copy of just my mother’s. More like snow generation than actual ice. Sometimes people’s Quirks just aren’t as strong as their parents’.”

Oh. They were talking about him.

“And fireproofing is powerful in its own right,” Deku added. “For rescue scenarios, and paired with his light generation, they could be a really useful asset. In fact, I’ve been thinking that he inherited some form of Kacchan’s explosion generation Quirk and Eijirou’s body morph and that manifested in a weaker explosion body-morph? As in, perhaps were his Quirk stronger, he would be able to self-detonate and cause some sort of skin-implosion that he was impervious to. That would be very versatile if he could use it for propelled flight or warming properties were he able to control the intensity and -”

Frostburn coughed. “Izuku.”

“Ah! R-Right! Sorry, sometimes I get a little carried away,” Deku said. “But those are just my speculations anyway. Ryū-kun’s Quirk will either evolve on its own or it won’t. There’s nothing I can do personally, but we still have the phone number for the Quirk Doctor who worked with Sasuke when he was younger, if you’d like? It’s not much, really, but if you think it might help even just a little bit, then I’ll be happy to give it to you!”

“You’re so thoughtful, Izuku-kun,” Masaru said kindly. “Thank you for lending an ear.”

“And the number,” Mitsuki added.

Ryū pressed his foot down on a step so it squeaked and listened to the rapid whispering as he decended down. When they came into view, Deku and Frostburn was smiling pleasantly and Mitsuki and Masaru were already slipping on their shoes and coats.

“Ready, Ryū?” Masaru asked as if nothing had happened. Like they weren’t bad mouthing his Quirk.

Ha! Well, little did they know...

 


 

The next day, Akio still hadn’t turned up. Mitsuki and Masaru didn’t seem worried, though Akio had mentioned coming and going when he pleased. Ryū supposed this was normal for him, then and was jealous of the freedom his brother seemingly received. Oh sure, when Ryū went for ice cream with his cousin the whole damn police force was called out, but Akio vanishes without a trace and no one gives a shit. Fucking typical.

Despite the latent anger at his brother, Ryū woke up early and in relatively high spirits. Kiyo was lurking about...somewhere, but he couldn’t find it in himself to be mad about that when he had such an important a mission to partake in. He needed to get to Tokyo and he needed to get there fast if he wanted a chance of catching Ariyoshi Botan at his workplace before he clocked off. It figured a college student would work weekends and Ryū was fixing to use that to his advantage.

He dressed in casual dark clothes and slunk downstairs, where he found Mitsuki in the kitchen with a tablet and steaming cup of coffee. She glanced up at him and grunted.

“Where are you off to so early?”

“A classmate’s house,” Ryū said, grabbing an apple from the stocked-full fruit bowl. “We’re having a study session.”

“Oh?” she raised an eyebrow. “And who is this classmate, then? S’not like you’ve been around at school much to make friends.” Shit, she looked suspicious.

“Midoriya,” he spun. Ryū made sure to sound bored and near annoyed as to why she was questioning him. “He offered to lend me his old class notes.”

“Did he.”

“Yes,” Ryū gritted. “Bye.” He scuttled out of the room before she could question him further.

He kicked on his shoes and a heavier jacket to brace the Tokyo wind and jogged down the street to Midoriya-san’s house.

She answered the door, bleary-eyed and in a pale green nightgown, clear surprise on her face at the sight of him. “Ryū-kun! Is everything okay?”

“Is Haru-senpai in?” Ryū asked politely, hating every moment. Fuck, the piece of shit better have slept over at his grandparents’ house or else Ryū didn’t know what he’d do. He was 100% sure that Mitsuki would ring soon and check that Ryū’s story was true and he needed that alibi fast, lest the police are called again.

Haru -senpai...?” she echoed, flummoxed. “Why, yes. I mean, I suppose so?”

“May I speak to him, please? I’m sorry it’s so early.”

“Oh, it’s no problem. He’ll be up in his room at this time, so you might have to wake him up, Ryū-kun. It’s the door on the end.” The one they’d been sitting in last evening.

“That’s fine,” he said. “Thank you.” Ryū took off his shoes and walked calmly upstairs. He knocked and eased the door open. “Oi.”

Haruka’s room was dark, still and rather humid. A lump under the bed covers jostled as the rectangle of light from the hallway spilt across it. An angry face peered out at him.

“What the fuck are you doing here.”

“I need a favour,” Ryū said. “I need you to say that you’re helping me study today.”

Groaning, the red-haired second year slouched up in his bed, bed covers still tangled around him like a throne of blankets. “And why,” he asked, deadly, “should I do that?”

“Because I’ll help you and Tezuka Shin on your suicidal crusade,” Ryū revealed. His plan was new and dangerous, but it was a damn fucking good one. “So long as you cover for me whenever I ask.”

“That true? What makes you think I’m not just going to force you to help us, no matter what you actually want, and just rat you out to your stupid parents anyway?”

He had a point. “You need me,” Ryū said and though he didn’t know why, he was sure that was the truth of it, “and if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain, I’m going to get my Quirk to come into this house and devour your family.”

Haruka went very still. “You don’t have a clue what you’re threatening.”

“Oh, I do. I know you love your family, Haru-senpai.” He went with the nickname on a spur of the moment but knew it was just the right factor of uneasy as soon as he did. “I know you love your older brother and your dads and your grandma. Even All Might, as weak as he is now. You can deny it all you want and play the big man to impress your boyfriend. But I know what makes you tick, and I will come in here and I will destroy them.”

“You are one evil little fucker,” Haruka snarled.

“Thank you,” Ryū said pleasantly. “Do we have a deal?”

He sucked his lip and stuck his hand out. “Fine. Fine, you’ve got a fucking deal, freakshow. Now shake my damn hand before I regret it.”

Ryū crossed the room in three quick steps and their hands clasped together. Almost immediately, Haruka’s palm ignited bright blue around his own and if he were anyone else, Ryū would be rolling on the floor, screaming, with full-thickness burns. Luckily for him, he wasn’t anyone else and his Quirk saved him from that.

In the end, the heat from the flames was like the tickle of a whisper, but the pleasure of the win felt was the burning of a thousand suns. Ryū felt alive.

 


 

Ryū caught the fifth morning train into Tokyo and unfortunately was caught up in the first business rush. He stood for the half-an-hour journey, wedged in between a businesswoman and a pack of giddy middle-school students on their way into the city to do some shopping. It was a nightmare but one he could tolerate with his new plan in mind.

He got off at Kawasaki Station and stopped on a bench outside to catch his bearings. Seeing as it was a Saturday, and an early one at that, the streets were basically barren. The large crowd of people in the train station had dispersed into basically nothing.

Where next?

Ryū flinched. “Jesus,” he sighed. Kiyo was perched on the back of the bench right next to him. “Don’t do that.”

What, speak? Rude.

“I meant sneak up on me,” he asserted, wiping his sweaty hands on his denim-clad legs. “I’m already wired as it is.”

Oh, Kiyo said thoughtfully. Right. The Jasmine Teapot. Are you really going to corner this guy like a stalker?

“You eat people in alleyways. I don’t think you have much of a leg to stand on, Kiyo. Besides, if I don’t do it know I’ll miss my chance. Haruka will only cover for me so much before what little patience he has runs out, and then where will I be? Up shit creek without a paddle.”

The Jasmine Teapot sat squat across from the station, placed strategically to appeal to rush hour holidaymakers and tired commuters. It had a kitschy feel - dark paint with shimmery gold writing and matching metal tables set outside. Ryū could see an old man sat down inside, a female barista wiping the counters down and Ariyoshi Botan sweeping the floor. It was now or never, really.

He stood and marched across the street, Kiyo at his heels. Ryū went down the little alley at the side and perched on the dumpster with a little leg-up help from an empty trash can. He swung his legs, trying to ignore the nasty stench, and waited.

His patience was rewarded no more than two minutes later when the door open and Ariyoshi came out humming, bag of trash in his hand. He turned, looked up, and yelped a high pitched cry of fright.

“Hey,” Ryū said.

“Oh damn,” Ariyoshi said, bracing a hand on his heaving chest. “Man, kid, you gave me a shock.”

“Are you Ariyoshi Botan?” he asked because it would suck to interrogate the guy only to find out he had the wrong fucking weirdo.

“Um,” he said. “Yes? I mean, who’s asking?”

Ryū rolled his eyes. Yeah, like he’d just hand that information out. “An interested party.”

“Okay? Well, Mr Interested Party...how can I help you? Shouldn’t you be at school or something?”

“It’s Saturday,” he said flatly.

He’s dumb.

“Sure is. Look, guy, let me see your phone.”

Ariyoshi clutched the trash bag tighter to his chest. He took a wavering step backwards. “Sorry, I really need to get back to work, but good luck with,” he waved a hand, “this.”

Kiyo snarled.

“It wasn’t a request,” Ryū slid off the dumpster in one smooch movement, “give me your damn phone.”

There was a stalemate of a few seconds and then Ariyoshi dropped the trash and fled.

“Don’t let him go!” Ryū yelled and Kiyo leapt forward to snatch Ariyoshi up into the air. He let out a girlish scream, rectangular-shaped irises widening with terror. “Oh, you almost got away!”

“Please,” Ariyoshi warbled, “I don’t know what it is you think I’ve done, but you’ve got the wrong guy -“

Ryū slid a hand into his pants pocket and retrieved a shiny new smart phone with a red case. “What’s your password?” he asked. “If you’re innocent like you say then this will all be forgotten. You can go on living your boring little life like before.”

He started to cry. “Please -“

Jesus Christ, really? The world was not being very forgiving as of late, was it?

Kiyo shook him like a wet flannel. He can’t see me.

Ryū felt the veritable light bulb go off. He couldn’t risk showing Kiyo to the man if he it turned out he really was innocent and went to the police to report a small boy with black hair and red eyes whose Quirk, that had been all over the news, had attacked him. People were stupid but even they could make a connection that obvious once given all the elements in sync.

“This is my Quirk,” Ryū said. “I’m telekinetic and strong at that. You tell me what I want to know and I won’t throw you through the wall of this lovely little tea shop you work in.”

Ariyoshi trembled with fear but finally seemed able to form a coherent sentence. “It’s 0104! Now let me go!”

“Be patient,” Ryū said, unlocking the phone. His background was him with a little blonde boy - probably his brother - in a bright, luscious park. They were smiling, heads pressed close together. He opened the messaging app and found five conversation threads.

One was a pizza company sending discount codes and another his contract provider nudging about an unpaid bill. The other three were the most interesting.

Mom

 


Sweetie have you seen my shoes I know you borrowed them last xx

No sorry check with chitose maybe

Okay thank you honey :-) xxx

Are you coming home tonight? xx

Have you seen your father?? x

Botan I’m getting worried!! Please call me!

Message deleted

Okay sorry to bother you sweetie xx

Well, that was… fucking weird. Why feel the need to delete a message in such an innocuous conversation? Surely only someone with something to hide...

 

J

Sunday any good? - J

Sure amazing! Missed D for the past few weeks B

Got the good stuff this week too - J

Thanks ill bring a present. 6000? B

5750 for u - J

Thanks man see you at 6 B

Np - J

So Ariyoshi was buying something from this guy J. Regularly, from the looks of it, and it had something to do with a D. Was J her pimp? It seemed the most logical explanation, actually. A guy spawned from a sick freak like Ariyoshi Snr. was bound to have some deeply repressed issues. The guy had a weakness for prostitutes and often let down his mother by disappearing to fuck them, but the same could be said for a large portion of the Japanese population, Ryū was sure. That wasn’t really a crime, expect maybe a moral one. Prostitution was legal, after all, if rare nowadays in the age of Quirks. 

 

S.

UAKAm17-2

Copy

And that was all.

Ryū went through the rest phone but everything else was just trash. A few game apps, a photo of Ariyoshi and a few coworkers in their Jasmine Teapot uniforms, a log consisting entirely of calls to ‘Mom’, ‘Chitose’, ‘Chikako’ and one to ‘Work - JT’ in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

“Who’s J?” he asked and Ariyoshi continued to blubber. “Is he a pimp?”

“Yes!” the man sobbed. “Yes, yes, I’m sorry! I’ll tell you everything!”

“Ugh,” Ryū said. Ariyoshi was getting on his nerves and had been a complete waste of time besides. “Quit blubbering and I’ll let you down.”

Kiyo dropped him like a hot potato.

Now you’re just taunting me, she pouted. I’m hungry and I wanna eat something.

Just hang on, he thought. They’d buy some chocolate and a raw chicken on the way home as a reward for her resisting cannibalism.

...which was not a phrase he’d ever thought he had to use, actually.

They watched Ariyoshi roll on the floor, crying and gasping, for a while and then Ryū turned on his heel. “I’m keeping this,” he said, holding the phone aloft over his shoulder. “Thanks!”

He set off out of the alleyway with Kiyo loyally trotting at his side, but they stopped just outside the main glass of the Jasmine Teapot when his newly acquired phone buzzed and beeped in his palm.

What now? Kiyo demanded. I need to EAT!

“Wait a second,” Ryū mumbled, attention caught by the notification.

1 new message from J it said.

He unlocked the phone - 0104 - and stared at the solitary photo J had sent. His toes tingled, his brain fizzled. The phone slipped from his numb fingers and clattered like a gong against the sidewalk.

Ryū? Kiyo asked, seven hundred miles away. Are you okay?

The phone buzzed again. Doo-doo-doo~ it chimed cheerfully. Ryū bent to pick it up, his knees creaking in their sockets. Every beat of his heart thudded in his ears and he prayed, begged, that what he had seen was not true. Was just a flash of the light, his mind playing tricks on him... 

 

J.

He misses you too ;)

The photo flashed open again. The boy, the fear in his eyes, the tears on his cheeks, the - the thing in his mouth - Ryū turned to one side and vomited in the bushes lining the road. He coughed and hacked, bent double. Oh fuck he was having déjà-vu, he was remembering - no no ono nononoonononono nononono NONONONO NO

Kiyo loomed over him and eyeballed down at the phone. A moment, a lifetime, passed in that instant. Her chest thundered a primal screech against his back and Ryū watched, dead-eyed, as she threw her head back in a second howl that bounced down the street and sent shivers up the spine. People stopped and stared. The girl inside the Jasmine Teapot screamed as Kiyo leapt straight through the window, glass shattering into a billion shards across the street and inside the teashop. Ryū was still stood there, a frozen mummy.

There was another great crashing sound and a gurgled scream. Kiyo galloped out of the alleyway with a pair of legs kicking wildly out of the maw of her mouth. Blood sprayed in an arc across the walls and Ryū’s blank face as she crunched down. The kicking slowed to a stop. The screaming continued.

Kiyo’s form began to bubble and weave until both she and Ryū were encased in acrid black smoke. Then there was nothing and, for once, he was blessed.

 


 

Chapter Text

Ryū opened his crusty eyes with great effort. He squinted up at the clear blue sky, listening to the squawking of...were those seagulls? In Tokyo?

He sat up. Too fast, apparently, because all the blood rushed to his brain and he had to cradle his head in an attempt to ease the throbbing pain plaguing it.

Ugh, Kiyo grumbled somewhere to his distant right. My mouth tastes gross…

The memories of that morning all flooded back.

“Yeah, but that’s because you ate that guy,” he replied, stomach roiling. “And he was one nasty son of a bitch.”

Tasted like vinegar, she agreed.

“And I thought he was just some...innocent idiot with a perv for a dad. We almost let him walk away!” He slapped a fist into his palm.

Yeah but we didn’t. We ate that fucker like noodles on rice and we’d do it again. He can’t hurt anyone else.

That picture, that sick image of - of perversion flashed in Ryū’s mind. That kid. He was still hurt, still being hurt, maybe right at that very second.

“J,” he said. “The freak who sent the photo, though. He’s still out there.”

She snarled.

“But we’ll find him,” Ryū said darkly. “We’ll find him and make him pay.”

Damn straight, Kiyo said. She crawled into his line of sight, long tangle of black hair whipping about in a sudden wind. Ryū took in the smooth pebbles he was sat on, the taste of sea salt in the air.

He shivered. “Are we at the beach?”

Yeah. We went fishing.

Ryū climbed laboriously to his feet, but rather surprisingly nothing hurt. Nothing. He reached back to feel his back but the tight scabbing and ache were non-existent.

“You healed me,” he marvelled. “I almost forgot you could do that.”

He was disgusting to eat, Kiyo explained. But made us much stronger. His power was, she licked her face with that long red tongue, yum.

“His power?” Ryū frowned in thought. “You mean his Quirk?”

Power, Quirk. It’s all the same thing. Tastes just as good no matter what you call it.

“That’s what makes you stronger? Eating their Quirks?” Ryū’s mind raced. So it wasn’t human flesh that strengthened them - it was Quirks. Was that even possible? Why would evolution create that as a legitimate source of strength? Surely the negatives of social stigma far outweighed the positives!

No, she said. The make us stronger. Without eating them, we can’t absorb their powers.

Absorb their powers...

Ryū looked around the sunny, yet windy beach. There was no sand and only a few small figures off in the distance. A line of locked-up beach hits sat camped along the promenade and a closed ice cream shop. The waves crashed on the shore with a rhythmic shushing every few seconds. His arms goosebumped at the sight but his jacket was nowhere to be seen.

“Did anybody see us?”

She scoffed, offended. No. We were stealthy.

Ryū would believe that when he saw it, but if she said they went unseen...he’d take her at face value. She was his Quirk, after all.

His shoes crunched on the pebbles. “Come on,” he said over the howl of the wind. “Let’s figure out where we are.”

I already know, she replied as she crawled along beside him. We rode on the top of a train and got off when the whistle blew. It’s far away from that awful thing and his awful tea shop. No one will ever suspect us.

“Apart from the fact that he went missing only a few days after his father. I’m sure someone will find that a bit suspicious, don’t you? The last thing I need is all this shit tracing back to me.”

Worry less, she advised. There’s nothing that can link us to their disappearances.

“You can,” Ryū reminded angrily. “First you make that ridiculous scene downtown with all those Pros and get yourself caught, only to escape! And then you charge through the window earlier like a raging bull and catch the attention of everyone with eyes or ears! It’ll only be a matter of time before the police can link both of your appearances together.”

Yes, but not you and me, Ryū. They won’t be able to find us when we’re together. Just stay close, and I’ll always protect you.

“How?” he pushed. They walked a rising verge and came out overlooking a small, seaside town with shingled roofs. The wind settled down too. “Red Riot, Ground Zero and even Endeavour, they beat you easily. A whole team of Pro Heroes wouldn’t leave us with even a chance.”

Ha! Ryū, you don’t understand! She said in a half-mocking tone. We are powerful, even better than we were just a handful of few days ago!

“Kiyo,” Ryū stopped outside an empty florist’s, dawdling on the sparse sidewalk. “Be clear. What does that mean? How do we become powerful, exactly? Are you physically stronger; can you do anything different? Or are these just empty words?”

Your body, she replied ominously. My mouth.

He snapped: “Kiyo -!”

Look at yourself, she hissed. Feast your eyes upon our glory.

Ryū turned and peered into the florist’s window. In his reflection, he could see his face, his wind-tousled black hair, white skin and the dark bags underneath his eyes.

His eyes...

“No! No, Kiyo - what have you done?”

I told you. I told you, Ryū. We, you, I, all of us become them.

His eyes were red. A trait he’d inherited from one of his parents, though, of course, he’d never know which. He’d never really enjoyed them since he didn’t like their source, but eyes were eyes. At least they weren’t bad enough that he’d been forced into glasses, he’d always thought.

Now? Now, he desperately missed his old, boring eyes because the ones staring back at him had rectangular-shaped pupils. The same pupils he’d seen so full of malice and wickedness on Ariyoshi Genta and Ariyoshi Botan.

What the fuck.

“Kiyo,” he repeated. “What have you done?”

Us becomes them.

“You ate him,” he said faintly. “And now my eyes have, what, become his? Why? Why would my Quirk be - why would I ever want to look like that fucking sicko?”

Look like him? she scoffed. No. We see only what we are. Everyone else...less so.

“Only I can see my pupils like this?” he twigged.

Yes. Only us.

“But why? What’s the point?” Ryū still felt very nauseous at the thought of even somewhat resembling a person - persons - like Ariyoshi and his son.

Not to look, Kiyo said cryptically. To be.

“To be,” Ryū repeated. “You make no sense.”

She laughed a fear-inspiring, throaty growl. We have company.

“What? What do you - oh.” A small child was staring up at him from a few feet away, hidden in the shade of a record store. Dressed in a pair of small pink shorts and a white shirt-sleeved hoodie with rabbit ears, their yellow blonde hair fell to waist-height. Their eyes were like twin pools of ink. “Hi.”

The child blinked.

I think it wants you to follow it, Kiyo said.

“Are you okay?” Ryū asked. “Are you lost.”

They nodded and then pointed across the street. Ryū followed their gaze to a real estate storefront, where dazzling multi-million yen beach houses were displayed in the window.

“Are your parents in there?” They nodded. “Come on, I’ll take you back.”

They took his hand unprompted and began to tug him across the street. Kiyo trailed behind like an uncooperative monochrome wagon. Their hand was small and damp, either from the sea air or just sweat. Ryū hadn’t held anybody’s hand in a long time. Years, maybe. It felt...nice.

The door chimed as they went inside and the first breath of recycled cool air was heaven. A few agents sat behind desks and they looked up when he came in, but Ryū’s attention was drawn to a bespeckled man with the same long yellow hair as his new cling-on. He was on his phone and looked pissed.

“Hey,” Ryū said rudely. “Is this your kid?”

The guy looked up. He had creepy eyes and they only served to remind Ryū of his own new pupil situation. He ducked his head self-consciously, but the guy took no notice.

“Touma!” he cried. “What are you doing here? Where’s Mrs Yuā?”

The child shrugged. He - Touma was definitely a boy’s name - pointed outside and looked to Ryū, who glared judgmentally. He didn’t like bad dads one bit.

“I found him outside,” he said. “Wandering around. You should keep a closer eye on him.”

The guy pulled Touma away to hug. “Who are you?” he asked, seemingly not very angry at all.

“I’m...Ren.”

“Did you ask Ren-kun for help?” the guy asked Touma, who nodded. Didn’t the kid ever speak? “Ren-kun, thank you for returning my crazy kid to me.” He stood up and bowed. “I can’t thank you enough.”

“Er,” Ryū said awkwardly. Kiyo laughed at him from over by the window. “It’s no problem.”

“I’m Yamada Hizashi and this is my son Yamada Touma. We’re looking to buy a house here, you see, and he was supposed to stay with the owner of the house we’re staying in this weekend,” this was said with a stern look sent Touma’s way. The kid shrugged again. “But he likes to wander off, so I should have known better. Are you from around here? Maybe you can drop some deets on the best areas to live?”

“I’m on vacation,” Ryū invented on the spot. “So. I don’t think I can be much help. I only got off the train this morning.”

“Oh,” said Yamada. “All by yourself?”

“Yes - I mean! No. I’m here with my...parents.” Great. Great job, Ryū. Really convincing.

“Cool,” Yamada said, unsurprisingly unconvinced. “Well, thank you anyway. I feel like I need to pay you back somehow.”

“That’s really not necessary.”

Please just let them leave.

“I insist!” Yamada cried, suddenly 100% more upbeat. “Let us buy you lunch! I’m getting hungry now anyway, right, Touma?”

Touma nodded and stuck his fingers in his mouth.

“But -”

“No buts!” Yamada stuck a finger in the air. “A growing boy has to eat, after all, Ren-chan!”

“Just Ren.”

“Ren!” Yamada corrected cheerfully, bouncing to his feet. “I think I saw a tea shop down the street earlier! Come on, kiddos, let’s get a move on!” He galloped to the door on long legs with Touma trailing after him.

Another tea shop, Kiyo said, flat. Great.

 


 

Ryū sat by the window with Touma opposite, Yamada diagonal and a big bag of...stuff to his left. Yamada had nearly forgotten it back in the real estate agents’ and had yelped dramatically upon retrieving it. Ryū had no idea what was inside that could be so important, however, and frankly he didn’t want to know.

Yamada took a long slurp of his coffee. “So,” he said. “What year are you in, Ren? Middle school is a toughie, I remember that much.”

Kiyo chortled. Middle school?!

Ryū frowned at his own empty cup. He’s drunk his tea in one big gulp as soon as it had been set down in front of him. He’d had no idea he was so thirsty! “I’m in ninth.”

“Fourteen,” Yamada’s nose wrinkled. “Not the best time, I admit. But you’ll be going into High School soon; any idea where you’ll apply?”

“No,” he said. U.A.? Was that too obvious? Could he be connected to his real name through that? “Maybe something with an arts focus.” That had been Ryū’s real second choice. He liked to draw and to paint and to design things - like his own and his friends’ Hero costumes - but didn’t really get much time to do so. Going to school to follow his secondary artistic passions seemed like an equal good to showing the middle finger to his dumb parents at U.A. High.

“Oo~ arts? Performing or...? I did my major in education, but my minor was musical theatre, you see. It’s my passion.”

Musical theatre? Ryū could see it. Yamada was quite flamboyant and very...intense. Translating that into a stage presence didn’t seem like too much of a leap, actually.

“So you’re a drama teacher?” he hedged.

“A dra - haha! No, but that sounds awesome!” Yamada beamed. “I loved my university so much I actually went back at a later date to study communications with a focus on TV and radio and now I’m a radio DJ. Or, well, I was.”

A radio DJ.

“Fine, maybe,” he admitted. “Or studio. I do like fashion but I don’t like people much, so probably that’s not for me.”

“Maybe that’s a good idea; fashion designers are a pretty social breed,” Yamada agreed. “Fine arts sound amazing - I always thought the students in that course looked very...intimidating and serious and you seen to fit that bill, Ren-kun!”

Ryū didn’t bother to correct him about the ‘-kun’. He had a feeling it was a lost cause at this point.

“My Quirk helps me with radioing, so I guess I was a bit of a teacher’s pet in university. Is your Quirk advantageous?” Ryū got the sense he was now fishing a bit for information.

Indulge a little, Ryū. Kiyo was sat on the street outside, people watching, but he could hear her clear as day all the same. What can this radio weirdo do?

“Not really.”

“Sorry, I just assumed it was vision-based from your pupils.”

I thought Kiyo said only I could see them, Ryū thought wildly, a state of panic washing over his entire body. Touma stuck a piece of his cookie in his mouth and patted Yamada on the arm with sticky fingers, then pointed at Ryū.

“Ah,” Yamada said delicately. “Sensitive subject. Sorry. My husband always does say I’m a foot-in-mouth kinda guy even at the best of times.”

Husband?

“He’s a security guard,” Yamada explained unprompted. “For one of Japan’s best schools, though that does mean he’s away an awful lot.”

Touma nodded slowly.

“We miss your dad, don’t we, bud?” Yamada said as he brushed his son’s long hair back from his soft, round face. “What do your parents do?”

Wrong footed, Ryū looked around the tea shop. “Er.”

Yamada smiled in that way only people who have discovered a truth they already knew, deep down, did. “It’s alright,” he said. “I understand. Sometimes being a kid can be even harder than being a grown up.”

“Yeah.” Ryū truly felt that. He fiddled with his tea cup.

There was a buzz.

Yamada looked expectantly at him, but Ryū kept a steady shuffle up.

Another buzz.

“Are you going to get that?” Yamada finally broke.

Ryū didn’t want to do anything less than he wanted to answer some sick freak’s phone. But Yamada and Touma were both staring at him, waiting for him to make a move, so he reluctantly delved into his pocket and his fingers touched cool metal. He pulled out the phone and stared at the screen. There were eleven missed calls from ‘Mom’ and about twenty messages.

The newest call was from the S. contact and there was one simple message from them too.

S.

Call me now.

“It’s nothing,” he said, shoving the phone back into his pocket on silent. He’d tried very hard not to look at that innocuous little background of a happy boy smiling beside Ariyoshi Botan, the one that had such a dark, insidious undertone within it. “I should go.”

“Aw,” Yamada said disappointingly. “Well, I have my car, and we’re in no rush. Would you like a ride anywhere?”

Yes, Kiyo hissed excitedly.

“No,” Ryū said quickly. “No thanks.” He stood up and tucked his chair in. “Thank you for the tea.”

Yamada looked at him with sad eyes. He slid a napkin across the table; it had a number scrawled on it. “Here,” he said softly. “In case you need it.”

Ryū grabbed the napkin and balled it up in his pocket. “Thanks,” he said again, tucking his chin down and marched hurriedly towards the door. The bell jingled over his head as he joined Kiyo outside; he risked a glance back and saw Yamada following his path with those unsettling green eyes. Touma waved and Ryū lifted a hand back as they set off for the train station, the ocean wind whipping around them.

 


 

 

“How was your study session?” Masaru asked from the sitting room when Ryū had kicked off his shoes and hung up his jacket. “I didn’t know you and Haruka-kun were so close.”

“Huh?” It took a moment for the memory of Ryū’s lie to click in. “Oh, yeah. We met in school on Monday.” He lingered by the stairs.

“And he offered to tutor you? I’ve never known him to be so...helpful. He reminds me of when your father was younger, actually! Very spirited.”

‘Spirited’ was one word for it, sure.

“He’s alright,” Ryū said briefly. “I’m going to go study.”

“Okay, have fun! Let me know if you need anything, Ryū.”

Ryū grunted and made his way quickly upstairs to his room. He shut the door, leant against it and heaved a huge sigh of relief. “That was close,” he muttered.

I’m sure he wouldn’t have even noticed, Kiyo pointed out. He was busy.

...Yeah. He padded to his mirror and stared at himself.

Pale skin, black hair tamed down a bit, and red eyes. Rectangular pupils.

“Will I have these forever?”

Only if you want to. If you use him.

“If I use him,” Ryū echoed. “You mean...you mean his Quirk?”

Duh.

Ryū’s mind began to race with possibilities.

So...if Kiyo ate somebody, Ryū gained their Quirk? That seemed extremely powerful - it didn’t feel real that an amazing Quirk like that would belong to him, Ryū the lightbulb boy. Ha! If only his stupid middle school classmates could see him now!

“And this happens every time? I get their Quirk if we - I mean if you, eat them?”

Uh-huh, Kiyo said, disinterested. She sniffed around his bed and then crawled up onto the ceiling to linger in the corner like an demented, overgrown spider. That’s what I’ve been telling you this entire time.

Not well. “I can’t believe it.”

Not their whole power, she clarified. Only bits of it sometimes.

“Even still,” he whispered, still staring at himself. This time, the horror felt a lot like awe. “I wonder what his Quirk was...” The opportunities this would provide, they were completely unquantifiable!

“Which one?” she asked. “It’s six by my count now.”

“Six,” Ryū repeated dumbly and once she’d said it, he too, of course, remembered her mentioning a ‘snack’ at one point, plus Ariyoshi Snr as well as his son. Six people meant six unknown Quirks. Meant six new powers for Ryū to explore.

But these people, how would he find out what their Quirks actually were? It was incredibly risky to leave it up to chance and let them show themselves when ready, surely. Ariyoshi Botan and Ariyoshi Genta, he could probably find out theirs somehow, but he didn’t even know the names of the ‘wastes’ Kiyo had claimed she’d eaten. He couldn’t even think of where to start.

“Kiyo, where was this ‘snack’ that you had? Do you think you could take me there tonight?”

She licked her lips. Sure thing. I love seconds.

Ryū didn’t even deign that with an answer. He was too busy scheming.

 


 

 

They spent the afternoon and early evening researching both Ariyoshis online. There was no mention of Senior’s Quirk on the Yamazaki & Yaoyorozu website, nor of either of theirs on LifeBook. Whatever their Quirks were, they were subtle and non-Mutative.

Ryū was just beginning to get a stress headache from their lack of progress when there was a knock on his bedroom door. He minimised the tab page and opened up a random English textbook that was laying on the desk.

“Come in.”

The door creaked open a little. “Ryū,” Masaru said. “You have a visitor.”

Immediately, a wash of dread swept Ryū from head to toe. Who? The only people he could possibly think of were bad news. Haruka and Tezuka, come to reclaim his promised debt? Igarashi and Miso, back to drag him to some miserable foster home? Red Riot and Ground Zero?

...his dad?

“Who is it?” he asked eventually, but Masaru had already left. All Ryū could do was drag himself to his feet and downstairs. Kiyo hung behind, still snoozing in her claimed corner.

The front door was open and standing in it with her arms crossed and hip cocked, was Michiko. His bike was beside her on its stand, shiny and scuff-free. It looked cleaner than he had ever seen it.

“Ryū-chan!” she squealed, bumbling forward to wrap him in a tight, familiar hug. Her skin was warm through her soft pink sweater regardless of the chilly April evening air and Ryū found himself relaxing despite his early nerves. “I love your new house!”

“It’s not mine,” he said but she brushed right over that with a tut, pulling back to grin at him as if they hadn’t seen each other in months rather than just the day before.

“It sucks that you live so far away now. Kagi-kun and I have been so bored without you there to grunt at us.”

“Oi,” he said but it was weak. Fuck, his friends were so good. They certainly wouldn’t have a human-eating Quirk, would they? Their personalities were too kind, too genuine. Ryū? Well, it wouldn’t surprise many people that his Quirk worked like that. Most everyone saw him as some selfish asshole who didn’t five a single fuck and whilst that was true...well. He supposed that was all, actually. It was true.

“We missed you,” she said gently. “Come visit more often!”

“Like I can,” Ryū muttered just in case Masaru was eavesdropping or something. “They have me under lock and key here. I have to make up some bullshit about studying just to get a minute to myself.”

She smiled, always seeing the positive side of things. “Well, I think it might be good, even if we do miss you. You’re much chattier lately.” She poked him in the side. “I like it.”

Ryū scoffed and pulled out of the hug, digging his hands into his pockets. “Whatever. Is that all you came for? Just to make fun of me?”

“No way! I brought your bike,” she pushed it forward by the handlebards. “Dad and I went to fetch it after my cram school yesterday and we even fixed it up for you. The wheels needed oiling and I figured out how to use the power washer too.”

Ryū was touched but, of course, he’d never say so even under threat of brutal torture. “Tt, it was a waste of time if you ask me, but do what you want.”

“Take it,” she urged, glancing over her shoulder. “I’ve gotta get going in a sec - we’re going to my grandma’s house and mom’s getting impatient.”

Peering around her out of the door, Ryū caught a glimpse of Michiko’s mother’s blue SUV rumbling on the street at the end of the path. He took the handlebars from her. “Thanks,” he muttered and she beamed a smile from ear to ear.

“No prob, Ryū-chan! See you on Monday!” she hopped off down the drive. “I left a surprise for you in the back box!” Michiko hopped in the back of the SUV and waved energetically as they sped off. Ryū watched until their car disappeared down the street, then wheeled the bike inside and leant it against the wall before shutting the door.

Masaru came out of the kitchen, smiling secretively. “I didn’t know you were still friends with Tetsutetsu-kun,” he said, which was a blatant lie in an attempt to get Ryū to talk to him. Whatever, two could play at that game.

“Yeah, she was inviting me out for lunch tomorrow,” Ryū lied easily. “We’re going to some dumb cat café by school.”

“Sounds fun,” he said. “I’m glad you have such nice friends.”

Ryū sighed. “Where can I keep my bike?”

“I’ll put it out the back for you,” he said. “I’ve got to head to the store anyway. Would you like anything?”

“No.”

“Okay. Mitsuki should be back any minute, so don’t do anything you wouldn’t want her seeing.” He winked. Ryū didn’t want to imagine what Masaru thought he would be doing at home by himself, but he got the feeling it wasn’t researching the guys he’d killed that week.

“Sure.” He watched Masaru put on his jacket, shoes and a scarf. He smiled, waved and left, locking the door behind him. Ryū jogged back upstairs and shut himself away. Kiyo peeled open an eye.

He gone? she yawned.

Ryū rifled through his suitcase, which he still had not unpacked into the closet. Who knew how long he’d actually be there, after all. He grabbed a black hoodie, jeans and athletic shoes, and put those in the unused gray gym bag he’d found shoved into the back of the closet during his day off from school. 

That looks like a sneaky outfit. Are you wearing it to the snack joint? It’s not a long walk, you know, and going out in all black around town will only make you seem more unapproachable.

“Good,” he muttered, only half listening. “Go to the basement, will you? See if you can find a flashlight or some sort of mask.”

She grumbled, but left her corner and crawled down the wall to disappear into the floor.

Ryū went into Akio’s room and rifled through his pigsty of a closet. He found a shopping bag with a picture of the snowy Alps on it and, miraculously, inside, a pair of unworn, untouched ski goggles. The receipt said they’d been bought two years previously and they’d obviously never been touched either. Ryū decided to gamble that Akio would never even notice them missing. At least their worked with his aesthetic; bless Akio and his punk style.

He put the room back the way he’d found it and shut the door carefully behind him just as a bang echoed through the house.

“Hello?” Mitsuki called. “Anyone in?”

Ryū hid the goggles down the back of his pants just as she peered up at him standing at the top of the stairs.

“Ryū,” she said, huffing a wilted lock of spiky blond hair out of her face. “Masaru here?”

“He went to the store,” Ryū said and she grumbled her way into the kitchen.

Prize in hand, Ryū ran back to his room just as Kiyo re-appeared through the floor with two items held tightly in her jaws. She dropped them on the desk with a clatter; a heavy-duty red flashlight rolled off and onto the floor and a bulky, heavy-duty black mask with two filter cartridges sticking out, one on each side.

“Ugh,” he recoiled. “What is that?”

Some sort of protective chemical mask, I believe.

“It’s fucking awful,” he said. “It’s perfect.”

 


 

 

Dinner came and went. Akio still did not show up and Mitsuki and Masaru ate in stony silence. Ryū got the feeling they had argued about something when he wasn’t around, but he didn’t really care and it wasn’t his business either. He was too busy worrying about his imminent late-night venture to concern himself with marital bickering.

He excused himself to his room and sat in bed for several hours, wasting time and at least trying to do the catch up work he’d been given on Friday. Finally, Masaru and Mitsuki went to bed early, still obviously not on speaking terms. They did not say goodnight and Ryū was glad about that.

He waited another full hour until the house fell silent and his heart began to speed up, then quickly and quietly changed into his new costume. He pulled the hood over his hair just in case, put the goggles on and let the mask hang around his neck. Then he looked at Kiyo.

“Can you take us both out?” he whispered and she swung closer.

Close your eyes, she demanded and Ryū did. His mind fuzzed and when he blinked, what felt like a fraction of a second later, they were stood outside on the dewy grass. It had rained over the course of dinner, but now the moon sat round and clear in the sky.

Despite the fact that they were now outside and well away from Mitsuki’s and Masaru’s hearing range, Ryū still kept his voice to a low murmur. “How quick can you get us to where we need to go? Do you know the way?” It would make things much more complicated if she didn’t and they had to go wandering around the city all night. He didn’t know exactly what time Mitsuki woke up, only that it was before and Ryū was already an early riser. That didn’t leave them much time at all to find the information they were looking for.

Of course I do, stupid. I have a perfect memory. Ryū very much doubted that. Why don’t you let me take the reins for a bit?

“Because every time you do, I wake up in some strange place and you’ve broken a bunch or shit or eaten people!”

I won’t do that now, I promise. I just want to help Ryū.

“Don’t make me regret this,” he warned. “But okay. Do your thing.”

Kiyo lunged forward and, once again, Ryū was consumed by darkness. However, not a second later, his vision returned and he was still standing on dewy grass in the dark.

“Kiyo? I thought you - oh.” He looked around. This was not Mitsuki and Masaru’s front garden anymore; instead, they were standing on the wide, hilly greenery of the park he, Kagami and Michiko used as a cut through from their houses to downtown. “That was fast.”

She preened. Thanks.

“Where now? These guys you found, were they around here?” He eyed the area but couldn’t see anything that would indicate a brutal massacre had taken place.

This way. She disappeared into the brush, unbothered by the thorns and brambles pulling at the rags she wore as clothing, or even her gray skin. Ryū followed with no small amount of nerves; they were heading into the unknown, after all. Who knew what Kiyo was getting them into?

They crawled and scrambled along for several minutes and then Ryū tumbled out of the bushes and down a small hill into a leafy ditch. Said leaves were damp and soft and they stuck to his clothes like mites. He brushed them off and saw Kiyo peering over a dirty bridge into a dark underpass.

Down there...there they were...there they are, no longer...

Ryū joined her. The underpass was lit by a single, dim streetlight, and the walls were lined in ugly graffiti of all colours but still managed to look dirty and unwelcoming. Trash littered the ground, and camped out at the end of the were a quartet of homeless people clustered around a garbage can that was on fire. The flames danced across their tired faces, their wan expressions. It was pretty pathetic.

“Homeless people? You ate homeless people?”

Only five, she said petulantly. Besides, they were talking about doing bad things, about hurting people for money. They deserved it.

“They didn’t deserve to die,” Ryū said weakly. “Come on, let’s go talk to them! Maybe they knew who the people you hurt were.”

Kiyo snorted. Like they’ll talk with us! We’re the ones who did it, remember?

Ryū pulled his mask up and shook his head. “Not if they think we’re the ones to trust. Stay hidden, alright?” He jumped down into the underpass, pushing into a roll to ease the hard landing a little. His knees still smarted and so did his feet, but Kiyo could heal that on their way back and he had bigger fish to fry.

The homeless guys looked up, alarm wide on their faces.

“Oi!” one with a big, bushy beard hollered. “Who the fuck are you!?”

“The guys who slept here before,” Ryū said, marching over. He dropped his voice a little to make it sound deeper. “Five criminals - who were they? What were their names?”

“Ha?!” another, this one with a grimy blue sleeping bag, blinked. “Get outta here, nosy shit! It ain’t none of your business, is it? Why should we tell you anyfink?”

Ryū thought fast on his feet. “I’m the underground Hero, Ren,” he said.

“Fuck off,” said the third - he was wearing fluffy earmuffs - in a yellow-toothed snarl, “I’ve never heard of ya, so get lost!”

“That’s the point,” he said darkly, voice still deep and gruff. It was also muffled through the mask and he thought that gave it a sense of intimidation too. To them, he was just a short Hero and, in a world of Quirks and oddities, an adult man shorter than 155 cm was not terribly unusual to find. “Of course you haven’t. And what does that tell you?”

“That you’re shit?” the last person and only woman, scoffed, and they all howled with laughter. The air stank of alcohol and something stronger. Drugs, maybe.

“No,” he said, stalking even closer to loom in the shadows, to assert his dominance over their seated forms. Ryū dropped his voice to a whisper. “That no one dares speak my name, that there is no one left to do so. That no soul leaves my clutches still breathing.”

They blinked at him.

“You wanna know about Dog and ‘is lot then?” asked Beard.

Er. “Yes,” Ryū said. “Tell me everything. Now.”

“Well, there’s ain’t much to tell, honest,” Lady said, crossing her heart like she was five. “I swear down! Their gang kept mostly hush-hush, you know, but you could spot him a mile away anyhow. He was one ugly son of a bitch!”

A lead; yes! “His Quirk?”

“Yeah,” said Earmuffs. “He weren’t called Dog for nuffink. Big, ugly mug; drooly and a nose like a bloodhound. Dogs, they were, like, drawn to ‘im or sum’fin’, it was weird.”

“Used to have ‘undreds of ‘em following him,” added Sleeping Bag. “Day or night.”

Beard nodded. ‘That’s why none of us messed wi’v him. You’d ‘ave a pack of snarling mongrels on you faster than you could say ‘fuck off’. Dunno where’ve they all gone now.”

“I saw the little one,” said Lady. “You know, whatever he called it.”

“Skunk, cos the damn thing smelt to all hell and back,” reminded Sleeping Bag. “Dog used that ‘ave that one with him seventy four seven, always dragging the thing around. But that ain’t the worst of it, is it?”

Shuddering, Lady nodded along with her companion. “His second in command, a real bitch too, she could see into your head or somethin’, I dunno, but always knew what to say to fuck wiv ya’.”

“And she always looked at ya’ with this nasty sneer,” Earmuffs added. “Like she knew what you was finkin’ about her and she didn’t give a shit. Like she knew all your dirty secrets.”

“S’why we called her Mind Rape,” Lady explained and Ryū tried very hard not to wince.

Dog - canine physiology and allure? Manipulation or communication of some kind, maybe?

Mind Rape - mild telepathy? Empathy?

“And the other three?” he asked impatiently.

“Tap Shoes,” Sleeping Bag remembered. “The dancer.”

“Oh yeeeah,” said Beard, chuckling deep from within his chest. “I remember that one good now! Flash Mob was what ‘e called it. When he danced, so did the world!” They all laughed again and Ryū sighed, but he was getting the information he wanted so he couldn’t really complain.

Got it.

Flash Mob - possesses the ability to compel people to join in when they see him dancing.

Three down, two to go.

“Dunno about the others.”

“Yeah,” Earmuffs agreed with Beard. “They kept far off from us. Shifty eyes, ya know?”

“Nothing left for ya’, Hero,” said Lady. “You gonna let us go?”

They all looked at him expectantly, as if waiting for him to offer them tea and not decide whether he was going to kill them or not.

Oh, let’s! Kiyo cried excitedly. I could do with some dessert!

“No,” said Ryū sternly. “But if you’ve lied to me or missed anything out, then I’ll be back!”

“Sure thing,” said Earmuffs. “Later, Underground Hero Ren.” He winked and they went back to squabbling over a half-empty can of dollar store beer. Ryū retreated out of the underpass to reconvene with Kiyo.

Got everything?

“No,” he scowled. “Only three. The other two...well, you heard. They kept to themselves.”

Two is better than before, Kiyo pointed out. We have them.

“And we have names,” he said. “I bet the police would know more about Dog and his gang of losers if they were criminals like you said they were.”

And what? You think the police are just going to, what, hand over the information?

“No,” said reluctantly. “I guess not.”

She stretched her horrible jaws wide in a yawn. Let’s go home, then. We can think whilst we sleep.

They set off through the park as Ryū thought deeply. After about ten minutes, he slowed and a devilish idea settled in his mind. It was bad, it was mean, it was...

“Perfect,” he muttered.

What’s perfect? Kiyo asked from a few feet ahead. Ryū?

“Ishikawa Shiro,” Ryū explained. “His dad’s a detective.”

Were going to break into their house? Kiyo asked eagerly, now looking wide awake. And eat them?!

“No,” Ryū said, as much as he liked the sound of that. “We’re going to become his friend.”

 


 

Chapter Text

When Ryū got home, he looked up Ishikawa’s number on LifeBook and added it as a contact on his cursed, newly-acquired phone.

 

 

 

Ishikawa Shitro

This is Kaminari. Do you have the notes I missed?

After a few minutes, his phone buzzed back.

 

 

 

Ishikawa Shitro

This is Kaminari. Do you have the notes I missed?

Hey hey! How did you get my #?? Ok i can give them 2u tomorrow if thats ok??

Ew. He was one of those texters. 

 

 

 

Ishikawa Shitro

This is Kaminari. Do you have the notes I missed?

Hey hey! How did you get my #?? Ok i can give them 2u tomorrow if thats ok??
Ok.
👍 okie cool i live next door to the police station in the house with the blue door come over when you wanna!!!! ;p
Ok.

Then he rolled over, trying not to look at Kiyo looming above his bed on the ceiling like an evil bat, and went to sleep. Despite the day he’d had, his dreams were peaceful and deep.

 


 

On Sunday, Ryū woke up refreshed and with a game plan. He had an early breakfast, which Mitsuki did not interrupt for once - were she and Masaru having a lie-in? Were they Sunday lie-in people? -, and dressed in jeans, sneakers and a white long-sleeved shirt under a light jacket. It was April, after all, but he still wanted to make a good ‘be my friend’ impression on Ishikawa after their...turbulent start.

The police station was about a fifteen-minute bike ride away, but Ryū had woken up with an alternative form of transportation in mind. He left a note on the kitchen table explaining that he’d gone out to meet Michiko and Kagami much earlier than expected and that he’d be back before dark, then set off for the Midoriya household.

He knocked and, once again, Midoriya-san answer the door in a dressing gown.

“Ryū-kun,” she said, smiling. “Here for Haruka again?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You’re in luck,” she replied. “Here’s up. Haru! Haru, come here, please!”

“Obaa-san,’ a deep voice grumbled and Haruka lumbered into sight wearing adorable blue plaid pyjamas and matching slippers. He spotted Ryū and groaned. “You again! Haven’t you had enough - enough studying this weekend?”

“You can never study too much, Haru-senpai,” Ryū said sweetly and Midoriya-san beamed at him.

“It’s no good of you to do this, Haru,” she told her grandson. “I’m very proud of you.” Her voice, watery as it was, wavered on the last syllable and she sniffled all the way into the kitchen and out of sight.

As soon as she was out of sight, Haruka’s bemused expression slipped off his face and he took Ryū roughly by one arm to steer him back outside. The door swung shut behind him and he snarled down into Ryū’s face.

“What now?” he demanded. “Another study session?”

“No,” Ryū said. “I need a ride.”

“A ride?” he went red around the edges with fury. “I’m too young to get a car and even if I wasn’t, there’s not a chance in hell I’d ever drive you anywhere!”

“No, I help you, you help me, and nobody else is caught in the crossfire. That was our deal.”

“Well, the deal’s off,” Haruka went on and his turquoise eyes shone with both anger and glee. He was enjoying their argument, in throwing Ryū wrong-footed. “I’ve had a think about what you said and, heh, I didn’t like the way to spoke to me, Tiny.”

Then his fingers, still caught in the shoulders of Ryū’s light jacket, erupted into blue flames.

Almost immediately, the smell of burning cloth reached Ryū’s nose, pungent in the way only burning things were. Black smoke drifted into the air and around Haruka’s face like a pair of curly ram horns. He looked frightening.

Ryū felt the flames lick his face and burn away his clothing all the way down to skin, but he kept the nonplussed expression on his face. It didn’t hurt. Flames never did.

“And what? Without your boyfriend here, you can’t hurt me, Midoriya.”

Haruka snarled and the flames flickered higher, nearly touching the walls of Midoriya-san’s house, which was vulnerable wooden. Ryū felt a frisson of something. The old lady was nice and she didn’t deserve to have her house burnt down because two teenagers were having a petty argument.

Someone else must’ve thought the same because then the flames disappeared. Not as if Haruka had deactivated his Quirk, but as if they were just...sucked out of existence. Haruka was not as confused as Ryū, because he let go of him to glare at the third, new member of their little tête-à-tête.

Midoriya Sasuke stared at them, expression furious. His left eye was red and the right green like his hair, but both were narrowed with contempt and focused directly on his younger brother.

“What the hell are you doing?” he asked, voice low. “You nearly caught Obaa-san’s house on fire, Haruka.” He stepped towards them and, despite being at least eight centimetres smaller than his brother, stared up at him without an ounce of fear. “What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking,” Haruka snapped back, just as pissed. “That this little shit is fucking up my entire day and deserves to get what’s coming to him.”

Sasuke looked Ryū up and down; his messy hair, burnt clothes and bored face. “Uncle Katsuki’s son? Why?”

“Because - because - ugh!” Haruka could hardly disclose the deal we’d made without revealing his ‘evil’ plan to everybody, now could he? “It’s none of your damn business!”

“Does this have something to do with Himi-kun?” Sasuke prodded. “I’m sorry she moved away, but you can’t just go around forcing people to be your new cute friend.”

Ryū snorted. “You think I’m cute?” he asked Haruka, blinking sweetly. What a shitface! He deserved the dressing down Sasuke was giving him.

“No! Fuck you, Sasuke,” Haruka replied, fists clenching and blue flames dancing up his arms once again. “If you’d keep your nose out of other people’s business for once, then maybe you wouldn’t be such a loser at school.”

Unimpressed, Sasuke stared at him. Then he opened his mouth and sucked in a deep breath of air. Ryū would have thought he was merely gearing up to spit some more insults, if it wasn’t for the way the fire Haruka had created zipped through the air and straight into his open mouth, which he then shut with a smoky cough.

“Don’t,” he croaked, “make me do that again.”

Sasuke’s Quirk was fire breathing? Quite powerful, and interesting that they’d both inherited a fire-related Quirk from Frostburn rather than a strength one from Deku. Ryū wondered what their younger brother would have - Ikami, was it? Maybe a fire Quirk too?

“Now, I don’t know what you want, Kaminari-kun,” Sasuke went on. “But maybe you should leave until my hot-headed brother calms down.”

“He said he would drive me somewhere,” Ryū said. “I’m not leaving until he does.”

Sasuke’s eye twitched a little. “Stubborn people everywhere,” he muttered under his breath and then, louder: “I’ll take you. I have an electric bike I got for my birthday and nowhere to be this morning.” He smiled half-heartedly and Ryū nodded back.

Okay, change of plans.

“I’ll take to you later, Haru-senpai,” he said and Haruka flushed with anger, but didn’t seem willing to risk his brother’s wrath of calmness anymore. He stormed back into the house and slammed the door behind him with a resounding crash. Sasuke rolled his eyes.

“Call me Sasuke-senpai,” he said. “I like it.” Then he walked across the front garden to the small garage at the side of the house. “This way. You can borrow the spare shirt I keep in my bike too.”

Ryū followed him. The Midoriyas were a weird ass family, and that was saying something.

 


 

Sasuke’s moped was red with shiny chrome handlebars and a black box on the back. Ryū had changed into the embarrassingly oversized white shirt, squished onto the seat behind him and tried to keep their bodies as distant as possible, though the older boy hadn’t seemed to notice nor care. He’d held a green helmet out.

“I only have the one,” he’d said. “You wear it.”

Ryū had felt the urge to argue; Kiyo, after all, could heal him if he got injured, but Sasuke’s fire-breathing Quirk would not be so helpful in the face of decapitation or serious injury. However, admitting that Kiyo even existed wasn’t possible...so Ryū had put on the helmet.

They’d ridden in silence, listening to the whipping of the wind and the hum of Musutafu waking up on an early Sunday morning. Sasuke had navigated the streets and traffic like a well-seasoned professional, easily weaving in and out of cars and down alleyways.

They came to a stop outside the police station and Ryū immediately spotted Ishikawa’s small, blue-doored house. It looked run-down, yet well-kept. He’d handed the helmet back and nodded his thanks once more.

“No problem,” Sasuke had said, fastening the chin strap. “Good luck with my brother.”

“Thanks,” Ryū had replied dryly and then he’d watched Sasuke drive away, zipping down the street like a man with places to go. What a weird guy.

He knocked on the Ishikawa household front door and waited for about two minutes before trying again. There was a muffled crash from inside and tall girl with tanned skin and hair down to her knees was the person to greet him. Ryū wouldn’t have been so thrown off by said hair if it wasn’t green, slimy and seaweed.

“Hi,” she said, obviously taking in his helmet hair and oversized shirt. “Can I help you...?”

“Is Ishikawa in?” Ryū asked and then he realised how stupid that question was. “I mean, er, Shiro-san?”

“Oh.” She blinked green eyes slowly. “Really?”

“Yes?”

She looked over her shoulder into the house. “You better come in then.” She held the door open wider. “I’m Miana,” she said when Ryū ducked under her arm and began to take off his shoes. “Shiro’s my dumb younger brother.”

“Kaminari Ryū.”

Miana nodded and turned to the tiny staircase shoved right beside the door. “Shiro!” she called. “You have a guest!”

The floor above their heads creaked and groaned and then Ishikawa called back. “Is it Kaminari?”

“Yes,” Ryū replied and then Ishikawa was bounding into view, smiling and wearing a loose blue shirt and flowing white linen pants. Ryū always found it strange the first time he saw his classmates out of their uniforms - like they had become completely different people with lives and houses and sisters with seaweed hair. He’d forgotten how exuberant Ishikawa was as well, how pure he seemed. “Thank you for having me,” he said politely, bowing a little.

“Ha, it’s no problem,” Ishikawa said quickly. “Come on, let’s go up to my room.”

“You really are friends?” Miana asked, obviously stunned. “Who would have thought? Not me!”

“Miana!” Ishikawa hissed. “You’re embarrassing me.”

“Good,” she replied. “Have fun with your ‘friend’.” She did air-quotations with her fingers and then winked her way out of the room, chuckling.

Ishikawa looked horrified, staring at Ryū with wide eyes and a pale face. His hair rippled and dripped all over the place. “Oh my god,” he said. “I hated every second of that and I’m sure you did too. I’m sorry, Kaminari-kun! Please forgive me for my awful sister.”

“It’s fine,” Ryū said, though he hadn’t enjoyed, nor appreciated, her attitude either. Share something personal to make him feel better, the small empathetic part of him murmured and Ryū did only because that’s how people made friends and kept them. Apart from Michiko and Kagami, who, for some reason, put up with him despite it not being a very present thing. At all. “That’s how my brother is.”

“Your brother,” Ishikawa repeated, tapping his chin in thought. His hair dripped onto the wood flooring. “Oh, I remember now. He’s in third year, right? Bakugou?”

“Yes,” Ryū said, trying not to seem constipated.

“Only the one? One older brother?”

Emotional connection. Emotional connection.

“No... I have two. Raiden’s out of high school now. He lives in Tokyo.” Maybe. Apparently.

“Wow,” Ishikawa and he, at least, seemed a little cheered upon the subject of siblings. “You know, I always wanted a brother, but then my mom died and there’s only my sister and me.”

“Oh,” Ryū said awkwardly. Like a great big idiot. “Sorry to hear that.”

“It’s okay, it was a long time ago.” Ishikawa offered a small, wistful smile and the silence hung for a beat too long. “Well! Anyway! Let’s go upstairs.” He jogged up, conversation obviously over, and Ryū couldn’t argue with that. He didn’t want to, at all. Thank God it was over; that had truly been torturous. He followed at a more sedate pace, taking in the paint chipping from the walls and ceiling, the creaky stairs and dim, windowless hallway at the top. “Sorry for the mess,” he went on as he pushed open one of the four doors. “I was cleaning it when you arrived.”

Ishikawa’s bedroom was like the rest of his house - small and cramped. There was a single window at the end that looked into another house about three feet away, underneath which a single bed sat. Apart from that bed, there was a beat-up wooden dresser, desk with stool, a cream-coloured lamp, and a woven rug made up of spiralling blue and turquoise colours. The walls were covered in posters of lions and other miscellaneous safari things. A plush lion sat on the green bedspread.

It was very tidy if one ignored the pile of clothes lying at the side of the bed and the stack of cups lining the windowsill. Kagami’s bedroom was much, much worse, would practically be growing its own ecosystem since Ryū had last seen it.

“Sorry,” Ishikawa said again, kicking a pair of jeans under his bed. Ryū shut the bedroom door because he didn’t want Ishikawa’s annoying sister barging in on his friend-making attempts.

“It’s fine. I don’t care.” Ryū sat at the desk. “I brought my phone to take a picture of the syllabus items I missed if that’s okay.”

“Yeah! Of course! You can even take my notes home if you’d like. I’m going over the ones for next week.”

“You’re one of those students, are you? A nerd?”

Insult him...

“Eh?!” Ishikawa waved his hands frantically. “No, no! I’m not -“

“It’s okay,” Ryū said. “Me too.”

...and relate to him.

Ishikawa stared at him and then broke out into a nervous smile, blushing around the edges. “Oh.”

Did Ryū feel bad about manipulating him? No, not really. It was all for a bigger cause, after all. It was about that blonde boy, the one that Ryū could manage to save.

“A-Anyway! Here,” he grabbed a notebook from the desk and held it out. “Let me show you what my handwriting means because I like to use shorthand in class and translate later and I haven’t had time to properly do that just yet.”

 


 

A few hours later, knuckles rapped on the door.

“Shiro! You better both be decent!”

“Miana!” Shiro cried as his sister stuck her head in, eyes screwed shut. “We’re just talking!”

Miana opened her eyes and smirked. “Oh,” she said. “So you are. Having fun?”

“Yes,” Ryū said, but he didn’t like this girl one bit. What high horse did climb up on to barge in on his friendship overtones and fuck it all up in one fell swoop? He knew Ishikawa, who had begun to open up, became receptive to Ryū’s plans and words, had already shut down at the sight of his nosy bitch of an older sister.

“What’s the matter?” Ishikawa averted his eyes down to his bed covers, which he was sat cross-legged on. Ryū, on the other hand, was down the floor, though he had deliberately placed himself lower to seem more submissive, less of a threat. And now he was watching all that planning go down the toilet.

“Dad’s back,” she said. “He wants you to come down for lunch.” She looked at Ryū with a knowing expression. “And he wants to meet your...friend.”

Ishikawa did not look enthusiastic about this upcoming introduction and Ryū couldn’t blame him, honestly. He wasn’t too thrilled about it either.

“It’s okay,” Ryū slid to his feet with a stretch. “I’m supposed to be home by one anyway.” He picked up his notebook and bag. “Thanks for helping me.”

Ishikawa sighed in disappointment, but he looked half glad too. Clearly, he didn’t want Ryū around his family any more than strictly necessary. “It’s no problem, really. I had fun!”

“Aw,” cooed Miana.

“Miana!” a deep voice called from downstairs. “Miana, come down here and stop bothering your brother!”

Ryū and Ishikawa exchanged a smug glance as Miana dragged her disgruntled feet downstairs, muttering under her breath and gross seaweed hair dripping a watery slime on the floor.

“Sorry about her,” Ishikawa muttered and Ryū shrugged.

“Whatever,” he said. “My brother’s an asshole too.”

Ishikawa chuckled and also stood up. He took the bucket by the side of the bed - which he’d fetched after about twenty minutes into their studying, claiming he needed it when trying to concentrate - that he’d dripped all the excess water from his hair until at regular intervals, and smiled crookedly. “Let’s go this again sometime.”

“Sure,” Ryū said, but even in the crucial friend moment, he couldn’t summon a smile. He settled for a nod and that, at least, seemed to be enough for the other boy. Smiling was...eh. Not for him. Ryū hadn’t done so in at least a decade, because, well, what was there to smile about in his miserable little existence?

They went downstairs and Ishikawa’s father was standing there, dressed in his detective’s uniform. He was the large man who’d been there when Ryū’s Quirk had...gone off the rails, so to speak. He frowned at Ryū but didn’t say anything about that, thankfully. Ryū had enough of being famous for stupid reasons, thanks, the next time he was on the television he wanted it to be because everyone had finally found out how powerful he really was; now that would be newsworthy.

“Kaminari, right?” he shook Ryū’s hand with his own giant paw. Ryū felt like a tiny baby in comparison to him and realised why Ishikawa might’ve been reluctant to have them meet (pointless though it was). His dad was damn intimidating. “Nice to meet you, kid.”

“Hello, sir,” Ryū said politely. “Thank you for having me.”

“Kaminari-kun can’t stay for dinner, Dad,” Ishikawa said quickly. “His parents want him home.”

Detective Ishikawa looked Ryū over speculatively. Ryū realised he was still wearing the big shirt Sasuke had leant him and probably looked a complete state, but...eh. Ishikawa’s father, of all people, would definitely know that Ryū’s parents wanted no such thing and didn’t even have custody of him, and had seen him in a worse state before. True to thought, instead of calling his son out on the lie, Detective Ishikawa grunted. “Yeah, yeah. Dinner’s ready, anyway, so see your friend out now.”

Ryū put his shoes on. “Thank you for having me,” he said again. “Maybe we can study again some time?”

Ishikawa smiled, though it was more subdued under the eyes of his serious father and nosy sister. “That sounds great. I’ll see you on Monday?”

Nodding, Ryū stepped outside. “Yeah; bye,” he turned up the street and walked off before anyone could say anything else. Being ‘friendly’ was fucking tiring.

Kiyo was sat on a lamppost a few houses up, chewing on some sort of...lump.

It’s pigeon, she slurped. There’s plenty around.

“That’s fucking nasty,” Ryū said and off they went home because, well, she was always fucking nasty so what more was there to say?

 


 

Mitsuki looked at him funny when he got home.

“What the hell are you wearing?” she asked perfectly reasonable considering he was wearing a shirt about five sizes too big for him and no jacket in rather cold weather. “You look like a fucking mess.”

“Mitsuki, honey,” Masaru, who was sitting beside her at the dining room table, said. “Now let’s not judge. Maybe Ryū wants to look like a mess.” He smiled.

Ouch.

“It’s not mine anyway,” Ryū muttered on his way past. He wouldn’t let them get a rise out of him. “I’m going to study.”

“Alright,” Masaru said after a pause. “We won’t bother you until dinner.”

Ryū grunted and continued on upstairs. If studying meant stalking potential victims online then sure, he was studying. He’d not let them think any differently, at any rate.

“Hey, wait!” Mitsuki hollered. “Come back a second, damn brat! We’ve got to -”

Ryū stopped halfway up the stairs. His heart sunk.

HIM! Kiyo howled and she perched on the stair railing like a demented bony gargoyle. RUN RYŪ, HE’S BACK!

“Oh,” Red Riot said nervously. He had a stuffed bag slung over one shoulder and was, somehow, dressed even worse than Ryū. At least his own clothes were due to circumstance and not just horrible taste like Mitsuki and Masaru thought. “I didn’t...expect you to be home so soon.”

“And yet here he is,” said Akio. He had a guitar case at his side and was grinning like the smug little asshole Ryū knew him to be. “I’m so shocked.”

EAT! Kiyo snarled but she didn’t move. Was she waiting for his say-so? Maybe she really was learning to listen to him...

“Eijirou, maybe you should leave,” Mitsuki suggested from below them. She was now standing with Masaru, staring up with an indiscernible expression on her smooth face. Her Quirk really did work wonders on her skincare. “The kid’s not really supposed to be around you.”

“We don’t want his caseworker to decide we’re unfit for custody,” Masaru added, tapping his fingers together with a smile. “And we’ve been told to not let you visit when Ryū is here.”

Red Riot’s face wilted like a flower and he looked old all of a sudden. Really old. “Alright. We were nearly done anyway. You got everything, kiddo?”

“Yeah,” Akio looked significantly less smug now. “I just need my spare bass for tryouts.”

“Uh-oh,” Red Riot and Masaru said together and a disgruntled yell came from elsewhere in the house. “Mitsuki - “ But it was too late.

“I couldn’t find it! Are you damn sure it’s where you -” Ground Zero came to an abrupt stop by Mitsuki and Masaru after realising that everyone was staring at him and that it was oddly quiet. “...What the fuck is going on?”

“Katsuki - “

“Babe, uh, we should go -”

“Dad -”

MY LEAST FAVOURITE! Kiyo flung herself into action, self-restraint having vanished. Ryū watched her shimmer as if she was going to reveal herself right there in front of everyone and his mouth opened against his permission.

“No!”

His shout echoed through the house and everyone cut themselves short to gawp like idiots. Panting, Ryū watched Kiyo catch herself and land to the side of Ground Zero, who had no idea how close he’d come to being turned the way of the earlier pigeon.

Er. Fix it, fix it -

Then he decided the best course of action would be to rip off one of his slippers and hurl it at his brother. Akio fell as it hit him directly in the eye, curling around his guitar like a mother might shield their baby from gunfire. He wailed as he rolled about on the floor and Ryū ran, one slipper down, up the stairs, past a shocked Red Riot, stood on Akio to vault into his room, and slammed the door shut behind him. Then he locked it for good measure.

He heard Kiyo make a dying shrieking sound from outside and could only guess that she was laughing. At least someone thought the situation was funny. Ryū fell face-first onto his bed and wished for death. Why, oh why, did bad things always happen to him? Was it the murders? He got the feeling it might be the murders.

Somebody knocked on the door and Ryū took off his other slipper to throw that. It made a very satisfying thump against the door and whoever it was, went away. Ryū still wasn’t pleased, though. How could he be when those two fuckers had been in his house?

YOUR house? Kiyo asked from right next to him. It’s not your house, Ryū. This is those two old things’ house. We don’t have one.

“Fuck off,” Ryū was ashamed that she’d heard him make a fool of himself like that because she was right. This wasn’t his house. He was just some...some charity case. Mitsuki and Masaru wouldn’t have taken him in if there was any other option, that much was sure. Ryū wouldn’t want to take in some strange teenager either and he couldn’t really blame them for feeling that was about it.

We’re better off as us, she added quietly. Not us and them.

Yeah.

“Yeah. I guess...no, you are right. I just -“

“Who are you talking to?”

Ryū’s blood froze and he shot up from his face-down position. Akio was stood in the doorway with a confused expression. No surprise there. He’d just walked in on his brother talking to an invisible being. Anyone would be weirded out.

Nevertheless...

“Get out!” Ryū screamed and he’d not felt this angry, this embarrassed, in a long time. “Get out!”

“Whoa,” Akio held up his hands. The eye that had been hit by the slipper was red. “Chill. I only came to see if you were okay.”

He lurched to his feet. “Well I am, so get out!” Go away, go away -

Akio sneered. “ I don’t care, either way, you know! Dad made me come up and I’ll just tell him you’re as big of an asshole as you always are!”

“Fine!”

“Fine!” Akio’s yellow eyes glowed fiercely against his tanned skin and black hair. “Ungrateful shit!”

“Get out!” Ryū howled and his hands began to shimmer and burn. Light crept orange through his skin and red in his eyelids. “I hate you!”

“What the fuck is going on up there?” Mitsuki bellowed. Akio sneered meanly.

“They’re too good for you,” he hissed. “I know what you’re really like!” He stormed off. Or, tried to, because Ryū wasn’t having it. He sprung after his fucking piece, caught up to his piece of shit brother at the stairs and shoved him, hard, on the back. Akio stumbled, wobbled, and bounced down each marble step like a ball.

“Ryū!”

He was leaping after Akio and hanging himself around his neck like an angry scarf before whoever it was could get out another word. Ryū clung tightly and they thrashed downward, fast rolling and bouncing on top of one another. Akio was yelling unintelligibly. Ryū dug his fingers into his brother’s face and pulled.

Nothing happened, of course, as Akio’s Quirk affected the strength of his skin to superhuman levels, but it still felt damn satisfying and Ryū did like to be satisfied.

Get him! Kiyo bellowed. Get him, gut him, kill him, Ryū!

They met the bottom of the staircase and Akio swiftly got the upper hand. He caught Ryū by the back of Sasuke’s large shirt and held him away from his body like he was a dirty pair of underwear.

“What,” he panted, “the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Put him down,” Ground Zero and, yes, great, the whole lot of them were there. Perfect. “You should damn well know better!”

“He attacked me,” Akio argued right back. “I was defending myself.”

“He’s your brother and he hasn’t got a Quirk like yours,” said Red Riot, crossing his arms. “We heard you arguing upstairs, Akio. Don’t think you can call innocent when you said what you said.”

Ryū kicked him ineffectively. “Put me down,” he said, trying not to sound out of breath. “Put me down!”

Akio looked around at the adults, his free hand waving in emphasis. “See? Are you seeing this?”

“Akio,” Red Riot sighed. “Put him down.”

“You know I don’t like fucking fighting in my house,” Mitsuki grumbled. “It’s rule one!”

“Everyone shut the fuck up,” barked Ground Zero. “I’m tired of it; now put him down before I make you, brat!”

Akio huffed an angry sound but dropped Ryū unceremoniously onto the floor, where he landed on his ass in a sprawl. He didn’t fucking flinch, though. He was too pissed for shit like that.

“Thank you,” sighed Red Riot, relieved. “Now, can’t we just, you know, use our words? Talk?”

“No,” Akio said.

“No,” Ground Zero said.

“No,” Ryū said.

“Well, at least you agree on something,” Red Riot tried weakly, gently touching the red spikes atop his head in a nervous gesture. He laughed.

Ground Zero snapped at him: “Quit it, Ei! We’re not some lovey mushy family or some shit! We don’t hug and we don’t make up.”

“Yeah, that’s for sure,” Akio kicked at the ground with a buckle-booted foot. “We start shit, Dad, we just never finish it.”

I’m bored, Kiyo whined. Let’s get out of here, Ryū. I wanna eat something!

Ryū clambered to his feet, sweat dripping from his brow and his hands. God, he was roasting hot; this was why he avoided confrontations like this. Sasuke definitely wouldn’t want his shirt back now.

He sneered at his brother’s profile. “Coward.”

“Oh dear,” said Masaru.

“What the fuck,” Akio rounded on him, eyes wreathed in fire, “did you just say to me?”

“For fuck,” Ground Zero said as Akio reeled back his foot.

Wham.

His shoe booted Ryū right in the guts and everything went static for several seconds. When he next blinked, Ryū found himself canted to one side and vomiting. Sound burst into being again.

“Akio! What the fuck!” Ground Zero exploded. Not literally, otherwise they’d all be egg splatter on the gleaming white walls of Mitsuki and Masaru’s house. “Ei, call an ambulance!”

An ambulance?

Yes! Kiyo howled and she sounded delighted Yes, it’s finally happening!

Red Riot skidded down on his knees beside Ryū and held his shoulder as he heaved and coughed up the contents of his stomach. “It’s okay,” he said, panic clear in his voice. “It’s okay, Ryū, don’t be scared -“

Ryū tried weakly to bat him away but the spasming of his oesophagus didn’t allow much force to be applied. His mouth tasted of bile and the sweat continued to pour off him in rivulets.

“His eyes are - Aki, how hard did you hit him?!”

“Not that hard!” his brother defended himself. “It was just a tap - I’ve given Amajiki a harder time in a friendly spar!”

“Amajiki’s a third year, Akio, and well-trained at taking hits - your brother’s only been at U.A. for a few days and he’s small for fifteen, too; look at him! You’ve done some serious damage!” Red Riot said. He patted Ryū unhelpfully on the back.

Show them what you’re made off!

The vomiting slowed down and Ryū found it within himself to shove Red Riot’s hand off from where he was attempting to push back his sweaty hair. “I don’t need your help,” he rasped around through sore, vile-tasting throat. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine,” Ground Zero said. He was squatting beside Red Riot on Ryū’s other side, hands braced on his knees. “He’s delusional. I called an ambulance.”

“I’m -“

“Kid, look at yourself,” Mitsuki urged.

Ryū looked at their anxious, fearful faces and then down at himself. The vomit, interspersed with chunks of food and a puddle of bile, was run black with blood.

What the fuck -

“But I feel fine,” he repeated. “I’m not even -“

Blood had stained his hands and at first glance, Ryū thought he might've just been sick on them but then he noticed that the flow of blood was thick and viscous. It was coming from his hands, not staining them.

Yessssss!

He brought one up to eye it closer and found it didn’t hold the distinctive burn of copper scent that blood did either. And it wasn’t the maroon black that blood held, but an inky darkness that reminded him of...oh shit.

“It’s not blood,” he said, thinking on his toes. “It doesn’t...it’s just my Quirk.” Well, that was true.

Akio scoffed. “Your Quirk? No way! Your Quirk is heat and light, Ryū - not bleeding from your eyes!”

Bleeding from his eyes…? He brought a hand up to his cheek to feel it and, sure enough, the same black liquid was streaming from his eyes. And what he’d previously thought was sweat was now clearly not. And with Kiyo acting like that, so happy with herself, it could only mean one thing...

“It mutated,” he said and that was also true. “It’s not very useful so I didn’t re-register, but I can produce ink. From my pores.”

“The fuck,” said Ground Zero. “Why didn’t you speak up earlier, huh? Trying to kill us all?”

“No,” he muttered. “It wasn’t important.”

“Looks important to me,” Akio said bitterly. “Why did you get a Quirk like that? None of us are, you know, ink-related Quirks.”

“I have a sweat Quirk, though,” Mitsuki pointed out, “and so do you, Katsuki. And Eijirou doesn’t know what his parents’ Quirks might’ve been.”

“But light, heat and ink?” Akio replied. “Those don’t go.”

“Yeah,” said Red Riot thoughtfully and Ryū was certainly not panicking now. “What’s up with that? Even if one my parents could create ink, then why would Ryū inherit that? The heat and light generation aspects are from Katsuki and I’s Quirks mixed together, but ink? So strange...”

Do something, Ryū, urged Kiyo, but Ryū was lost. What could he say to convince them?

“Well,” said Masaru. “Todoroki-san has a dual Quirk, does he not? Surely it’s not that unusual then. I think you should go and see your Quirk doctor, however. Maybe she can shed some light on the subject for you?”

“Good idea, old man,” said Ground Zero begrudgingly. “I’m sick of weird Quirk shit.”

Which implied he’d dealt with a similar situation recently? Frankly, Ryū couldn’t bring himself to think about that just yet. He had his own pile of shit to manage without worrying about whatever dumb fuckery his sperm donors had gotten themselves involved with.

But ink production. That must be one of the unknown Quirks, one of the homeless criminals or either of the Ariyoshis. Ryū couldn’t see how useful that would exactly be, having ink come from the pores on his hands and from his tear-ducts, but these losers knew about it now so at least he could use it around other people. Maybe even at U.A. for training. Ink could be useful for temporarily blinding people or making a surface slippery. Underwater it would prove especially handy for creating blind spots too.

...But he was getting ahead of himself because now he had some Quirk doctor to contend with, to convince of his normality. Would she be able to see that this ink Quirk was stolen?

Humans are stupid, Kiyo said. You overestimate them, Ryū. They come to their own conclusions with very little effort from us. All we have to do is smile and nod.

Smiling, he thought with disgust.

Smiling was for those freakishly happy people, the ones with non-broken families who weren’t molested by their family members, not chucked into foster care by their parents - by three parents - and who had non-cannibalistic Quirks. Normal people.

Kiyo laughed, low and grating. Yeah, we’re not one of those.

 


 

Chapter Text

“Thanks for seeing us on such short notice, Doctor,” said Red Riot. Ryū was sat on the little hospital bed in a paper-thin gown. Even more embarrassing than that, however, was that they’d had to give him one sized for a ten-year-old because the others were all far too large for him. Which was...just great.

“Oh, it’s no problem,” said the doctor. She’d introduced herself but Ryū hadn’t been listening. What was the point? It wasn’t like he’d get a say in any of it either way. “Now, Ryū-kun, would you feel more comfortable alone or -“

“Alone.”

“Of course,” she replied. “Kirishima-san, if you would…?”

“Oh,” he said. “Oh, yes! Sure!” He smiled. “I’ll be just outside, Ryū!”

Ryū watched him leave, waited for the door to shut and then turned back to the doctor. “I don’t need an assessment,” he explained. “I already know how my Quirk works.”

“I’m afraid it’s not up to us; the government believes that everyone citizen under the age of eighteen must keep their Quirk record up-to-date and if not, their parents can be fined a rather hefty amount. You wouldn’t want your parents to be fined, would you?”

Ryū would like nothing more than that, actually, but ‘manners’ and ‘social skills’ dictated that he couldn’t say so. “No,” he said reluctantly. “Let’s just get this over with.”

“That’s the spirit!” she smiled. “It’s just a basic check, so don’t panic. First, tell me a little about your Quirk from your point of view.”

I have a human flesh-eating monster that crawls on the ceiling and makes bad jokes and tries to get me to kill people. She also steals the Quirks of the people she digests and so far we’ve got seven, Ryū thought.

“It’s not very exciting,” he said. “I can produce light and heat from my skin, and the more intense my emotions are, the stronger they get.”

She typed something on her computer, but the screen was angled away. “I see. And the more recent development?”

“I can produce ink,” he said. “From my eyes and the sweat glands on my palms.”

“I see,” she said again. “Anything else?”

Yeah, the demon standing behind you.

“No.”

“Okay,” she said and her green eyes focused back on his own red. “Perfect. Could you give me a demonstration?”

Ryū held his hand out, palm up, and activated his Quirk. His skin shimmered a glowing orange as light and a faint pulsating heat began to emit from it. After a few seconds, the temperature in the room had noticeably risen and the doctor leaned forward for a closer look.

“Interesting,” she said. “It says in your file that your skin is also impervious to fire. Is that still the case?”

“Oh, yes. I don’t use that one much.” At all.

“Can you resist cold temperatures as well? Say, for example, you were to submerge your body in an ice bucket for several minutes. Would you begin to develop hypothermia?”

“Of course. I can only withstand flames or heat.” Cold resistance would have been damn useful, though! Maybe good for rescue Hero work?

“And your new ink Quirk?”

Ryū reactivated his Quirk and tried to look subtle as he caught Kiyo’s eye across the room. He had no clue how to activate his newly-acquired Quirk as the familiar presence of Magma in the back of his mind did not relate to this one. Ink? Should he just give it an unoriginal name and be done

Concentrate. You can do this. We can do this.

Squeezing his eyes shut, Ryū tried to remember the feeling of the ink dripping down his face and his fingers. After a few seconds, he felt wet trails meander their way down his cheeks. He blinked his eyes open and found the doctor studying him with an intense frown.

“Hm,” she murmured. “I see what Kirishima-san meant...is there anything else you’d like to tell me? Any other new aspects?”

Yes.

“No.”

“Alright,” she said. “Well, Ryū-kun, I’m not sure how fitting the name ‘Magma’ is to your Quirk now. Would you be interested in changing it?” She handed him a tissue and Ryū carefully wiped the ink from his hands, trying not to stain the clothes he’d changed into.

Oh please, Kiyo said. Magma is so boring. Why not...Quirk Inhale?

Quirk Digestion?

“No.”

“A man of little words,” she smiled enigmatically. “I can appreciate that. Okay, Ryū-kun, I’ll get your registration all changed up for you, so I think you can be on your way now.”

Ryū stood and, sliding past where Kiyo was hunched over, tried the door handle. It was locked and the doctor laughed. “Oh dear,” she said. “Let me get that for you.”

She came up behind him and leaned slightly over his shoulder to unlock the door. Ryū felt a puff of air on the back of his neck and flinched, but she merely drew away and stared at him in confusion from a safe distance.

This time when he attempted to open the door, it moved under his hand and swung open. Red Riot was sitting in the hallway with his phone out, but he swiftly put it away when he spotted them. “Oh hey,” he jumped to his feet. “Everything alright?”

“Yes,” said the doctor. “Yes, I think so.” Her contemplative expression disappeared as she shut the door behind Ryū. He felt a shiver work its way up his spine, though he didn’t know exactly what he was so anxious about. She’d seemed nice enough, after all.

“Hey, kiddo, Mitsuki’s just gone out to the car to put some more money in the meter - we weren’t sure how much longer you’d be - so what do you say you and me go and grab a drink or something next door? There’s a coffee shop I go into sometimes before work and -”

“Ha!” Ryū burst out with, but he lowered his voice when an old lady nearby looked over curiously. “Why the fuck would I ever want to spend time with you? You’re dead to me, don’t you get that?”

Red Riot’s face dropped. “Ryū, listen, I know I haven’t been around much lately -”

“Lately? Try the last five years!” Ryū stepped a little closer. “Can’t you just leave me alone? I don’t want to see your fucking face for a minute longer!” It made him sick to his stomach.

Done, Ryū stomped off down the corridor, but he could hear Red Riot’s heavy footsteps chasing after him, surprise surprise. Couldn’t the guy ever just give up?

“Ryū!”

He turned at the corner, hit the elevator button and watched the lights ascend up the floors below with tense shoulders, keenly aware that Red Riot was getting closer and closer with each torturous second.

Finally, the elevator chimes and the doors slid open. Ryū was prepared to dive inside, but, of course, it was already occupied.

Oh gross, Kiyo said from behind him. Them again? Can’t we catch a break just once?

“Oh, Midoriya,” Red Riot said. “Hey, how’s it going, man? What are you doing here?”

“Quirk check-up,” replied Deku as he stepped out of the elevator. “You know how strict the laws are at the moment about Pros being fit for practice.”

Red Riot grinned. “Yeah, tell me about it! Katsuki won’t shut up about his agency’s new policies.”

“They are more stringent,” said Frostburn. “Hello, Kaminari-kun.” His grey and blue eyes focused in on Ryū’s annoyed expression with almost laser-like intensity. “Do you remember Haru?”

“Of course he does,” Haruka snapped. “It’s only been a few days, hasn’t it?” His eyes, plain blue, were furious. So he was still mad about their argument that morning, huh? “Let’s get this over with.” He shoved past Ryū and off down the hallway with his hands in his pockets.

Deku laughed a little nervously. “Sorry about that! We, um -“

“Don’t worry about it,” Red Riot said, despite the fact that Ryū was the one who’d been assaulted like some nerd in an alleyway. “Teenagers.”

“Teenagers,” Deku repeated. “Speaking of, how are you finding U.A., Kaminari-kun? I only saw your performance in the Group Hostage Scenario, but it was...interesting! You keep a calm head in a battle, that’s for sure!”

“You hit me with a rock,” deadpanned Frostburn.

“The rest of my class are idiots, so it’s not like I have much competition.” And no comment.

Deku snorted a half-stifled chuckle and shook his head. “Wow! You sound just like -“

“Like Katsuki, right?” Red Riot said proudly. As if he had any fucking right to be proud of Ryū. “It’s crazy how similar they are sometimes.”

“But Akio-kun takes after both of you, doesn’t he?” said Deku, smiling nostalgically. “And Rai-kun you most of all, Kirishima! Isn’t it funny how that kind of stuff works?”

“Haha, yep! I wish I could return the favour, but I’m not exactly sure who Haru is most like,” replied Red Riot. “He honestly reminds me of Katsuki too!”

Ryū didn’t like that one bit. He and Haruka were nothing alike, thanks. He wanted to say as much to these idiots too, but he wouldn’t date really. Even Ryū knew better than to back-talk the top two Pro Heroes in Japan. Instead, he let his mind wander as he watched Kiyo loom over the shoulder of a couple waiting on a bench nearby. The woman was holding a half-eaten sandwich, which he assumed was what had grabbed his Quirk’s attention.

He wanted to call Kiyo off, but, of course, he couldn’t do that without drawing attention to himself, so instead, Ryū scuffed his shoe on the ground and edged closer to the elevator, which Deku was blocking with his...Deku-ness. Surely no one person needed to have and maintain so many muscles...it seemed ridiculous.

“I’m going to wait downstairs,” he said, hitting the elevator button again.

“Aw, Ryū, come on,” wheedled Red Riot. “We can -”

Ding! The doors opened and he hurriedly stepped inside, watching Red Riot’s crestfallen face disappear in the gap. Ryū felt a curl of satisfaction in his gut. What a needy moron.

He nearly jumped out of his skin, however, when a hand smacked down on one door, halting their closure. Haruka smirked at him. “I forgot something in the car,” the older boy told his parents. “Be right back.”

“Uh,” Deku’s eyes briefly flickered between Ryū and Haruka. “Okay?”

“Be quick,” said Frostburn and then the two of them were trapped in a claustrophobic metal box together. Ryū inched away, heart rate picking up a little.

“So,” Haruka said. “You’re a feisty little thing, aren’t you? Caused a shit load of trouble this morning with my brother.”

“You started it.” Ryū gasped as Haruka fisted his shirt and shoved him up against the wall of the elevator, eyes flickered with his blue flames.

“Don’t ever do that again, you hear me?” he demanded. “Stay the fuck away from my house and don’t talk to my brother again.”

Ryū tried to wiggle away. “He talked to me! I didn’t - how else am I supposed to talk to you? We made a deal, remember? You cover for me and I help you and your boyfriend with whatever dumb shit you’re caught up in.”

Haruka jerked away and paced the short distance to the other wall and back again, hands fisted tightly at his sides. “Oo,” he said. “I forgot how irritating you are.”

“I try.”

“You think you have everyone fooled; grumpy yet quiet with a heart of gold sounds right up your alley, so I thought you were just a sneaky fox playing in the lion’s den. But it turns out you’re the cuckoo in the nest of dumbass birds, aren’t you?”

This guy sure loves animal metaphors, Ryū thought.

“Myriad X,” Haruka went on. “We...huh. You know what, come to a meeting. Tonight.”

...

Well, that was a sudden change in tune.

“I thought you’d make another good errand boy,” Haruka went on. “But you’re much more than that, I think. I don’t normally recruit, that’s more Shig - Shin’s thing. Maybe I can make an exception; I’d like to see the look on my dads’ and your dads’ stupid faces when they see us working side-by-side to defeat them. I think that’s something you might enjoy as well, so you in?”

That did sound tempting...

Ding! The doors slid open once more and a doctor in a lab coat blinked at them in surprise. Admittedly, they were standing in rather weird poses, with Ryū backed-up against the wall and Haruka pacing like a wild animal.

“Oi, come on,” muttered Haruka and Ryū trailed him past the quizzical doctor and out of the busy clinic. A large forest green truck was parked outside on the street with an old All Might decal on the front bumper. “Sad shit, isn’t it?”

“Deku sure is a fanboy,” Ryū observed. Haruka took a cigarette out of his jacket pocket and jammed it between his lips. He lit the end with his finger and exhaled a puff of smoke right into Ryū’s face.

“Where were we?”

Ryū coughed and waved a hand in front of his face. Smoke didn’t really affect him, but it sure stung his eyes and didn’t taste good either. “You were giving me the hiring speech,” he said dryly. “And invited me to a meeting.”

“Right,” Haruka said thoughtfully. He leant against Deku’s truck with one hand in the pocket of his black skinny jeans. “Kid, you know my dad’s fight with the League of Villains? The footage is played in Hero classes all the damn time, so you’ve seen it, I’m sure.”

“Yes.”

“Well, those villains were idiots. A teleport Quirk and a shapeshifting one ain’t enough to defeat all the Pro Heroes kicking around in Japan, let alone the world. Sure, the Nomus were nasty fuckers and, sure, that big bad was a powerful one with his theft Quirk, but they were outnumbered plain and simple. It doesn’t surprise me they lost.”

...Theft Quirk?

“Anyway, my point is: Myriad X is better than those idiots put together. We’ve been building our members for years, plenty enough to take down whatever those Pro Heroes can throw at us,” he cocked his head, red hair falling into his eyes as he exhaled another cloud of grey smoke. “But we could always use another heavy hitter.”

“I already said I’d help if you covered for me,” Ryū said. “What more is there?”

“Meet us outside that ice cream parlour you wrecked on Wednesday,” Haruka simply said. “I saw your Quirk fight Endeavor and your dads on the news. Is that all it can do?”

Ryū wanted to laugh. “No.”

“Good,” Haruka replied. “Meet us there.” He dropped his cigarette on the ground, turned and began to walk back across the parking lot, hands tucked into his pockets. “Midnight!” he called over his shoulder. “Don’t be late.” Then the clinic doors swished shut behind him.

“For fuck’s sake,” Ryū muttered. He ground out Haruka’s still-glowing cigarette with the toe of his sneaker. “What have I gotten myself into now?”

 


 

The ride back was...uneventful. Ryū sat in the back and stared out the window of Mitsuki and Masaru’s eight-seater minivan. He didn’t know why they needed so many spaces to sit and he didn’t care enough to ask either. Red Riot was in the passenger’s seat and Mitsuki was driving and, though they attempted to make conversation, Ryū responded enough with silence and monosyllabic answers that they, of course, eventually gave up. Putting in any amount of effort was too much for Red Riot and his stupid husband, wasn’t it?

“How’d it go?” Masaru asked when they got back inside. Ground Zero and Akio had already left and who knew where Kiyo had gone? Ryū hadn’t seen her since that woman with the sandwich, but hopefully, she hadn’t gotten herself into any more trouble.

“Can I go to Tetsutetsu’s house?” Ryū shot back. “She wants me to sleep over.”

“Well,” hedged Masaru.

“Please,” Ryū added because using ‘please’ always made people feel bad for him.

“Well...”

“Please?”

“I can drive you,” Red Riot said cheerfully. He had his jacket over one shoulder and a hip cocked against the door obnoxious asshole-like, of course. “It’s no problem, Masaru.”

“Mitsuki?”

She looked up from where she was squeezing past Red Riot into the house. “What?”

“Can Ryū go to his friend’s house tonight? They’re planning to walk to U.A. together.”

“Oh?” Mitsuki said, looking shrewdly at Ryū. “Is this your girlfriend?” She was trying to mess with him...well, Ryū wouldn’t be fazed. He’d heard that assumption plenty of time, especially when everyone had thought he was best friends with two girls.

“No,” he said. “She’s just a friend.”

“I was thinking about visiting Tetsutetsu either way,” said Red Riot. He was trying to vouch for Ryū and Ryū hated it. “It’s no trouble.”

“I should think so,” said Mitsuki. “He is your son, Eijirou.”

Red Riot laughed nervously. “Yeah.” Ryū had thought it before and he’d think it again - what a moron. He didn’t understand how he’d ever come from the DNA of a guy like that.

“Fine,” she eventually sighed. “Go get your shit.”

 


 

“Soooo,” Red Riot said when they were in the car and on their way; it was going to be a long forty-five minutes, that was for sure. “I can’t believe you’re still friends with Michiko. I wouldn’t think your personalities would mesh too much!”

“Hn.”

“But people say the same thing about Katsuki and I,” Red Riot went on cheerfully. “So I can’t really judge. I heard Tetsu and Kendō are having a baby soon - isn’t that crazy? Time really does fly, huh? I remember when we first had you and your brothers; every time it felt like we forgot how hard babies really -”

“Would you stop?” Ryū eventually snapped. “I don’t want to hear any of this mushy shit, especially from you of all people.”

“Woah, Ryū -”

He scowled out the window. “I’m sick of all of you thinking you can just waltz back into my life like nothing ever happened; I’m not a little kid anymore and I don’t need you telling me stupid stories to try and ‘bond’. It’s never going to happen; why can’t you get that?”

A short, but heavy, silence fell in the car as the sun peeked in through the windows in red and orange spirals. Eventually, Red Riot spoke, his voice small: “I didn’t know you felt that way. I...I’m sorry, Ryū.”

Sorry? He was sorry?

“Your apologies mean nothing to me. You mean nothing to me.”

Ryū listened to Red Riot sniffle, watching his red hair bob as he reached up to wipe his face, one hand white-knuckled around the wheel. It was times like this that Ryū contemplated that there might be something wrong with him. Surely it wasn’t normal to feel so irritated by the sight of a family member, or even another person in general, crying. Did other people get the same surge of annoyance, of being put-upon to react to the emotion? Was that normal?

“I - I,” Red Riot’s voice wobbled. “I don’t know what to say. I’m such a shit dad. How can I - is there a way that you wouldn’t hate me? Or is this all...pointless?”

“Is what pointless?” Fuck, just shut up - just shut up -

“Me reaching out, trying to reconnect. Will we ever be able to have a normal father-son relationship? Are you going to hate me for my mistakes forever?”

“They’re not mistakes,” Ryū said sharply. “You reached out, not once, for six years. Why would I want to have a relationship with a deadbeat like that? A deadbeat like you.”

He listened to Red Riot sob, the way his voice hitched and spluttered on all of his inhales. The car wavered a little as he reached up to wipe his wet eyes and the headlights skittered across the rapidly darkening road. The sun had basically dipped out of sight by now, after all, and Ryū stared out into the onyx sky with an exhausted sigh. Why were the people around him always so emotional? He needed to find himself a stable and logical friend; one who didn’t cry at the slightest problem and babble mushy bullshit on a constant basis. Was that too much to ask for?

After a few minutes, Red Riot got a hold of himself. “I love you more than you will ever understand, Ryū. I can’t...I don’t know what to tell you other than that since you’ll just turn everything I say against me. I hope you can be happy with your life even if it’s not the one I wanted to have. Together. I...really am sorry.”

Ryū stared at the back of his head, infuriated. “Fuck you. Saying I’ll just turn everything back on you is manipulative and you know that damn well because Ground Zero does the same thing. Leave me the fuck alone and I’ll be the happiest I’ve been in a long time if you do.”

“Please don’t bring your father into this -“

“He’s not my father!” Ryū yelled and it must have been far louder than he’d planned as the words caused Red Riot to jerk the wheel and pull the car to an abrupt stop outside a residential area. “Fuck you,” he said again. It was all he could think to say. “I hate you all - I hate you -“

He threw the door open and scrambled out into the crisp dawn outside, sucking in lungfuls of air. Fuck, why was life so stressful? Why did everyone have to be such a wuss? He’d really forgotten how much of a crybaby Red Riot was.

“Ryū,” Red Riot called balefully. “Ryū, please come back! We can talk about this!”

Ryū threw the middle finger over his shoulder as he stomped down the dark sidewalk. The house alongside the car was dark and the wind blew past it in strong gusts that whipped his hair about his face. He didn’t know where he was going, nor how to get to Michiko’s house from such a long way away. Hopefully, Kiyo would turn up at some point and direct them.

“Ryū! Ryū!” Was it possible to get sick of his own name? “Ryū, I -“

Enough. “SHUT UP,” Ryū whirled around, mind racing and ready to let loose with a hailstorm of words, of vitriol, all the emotions he had pent up over the years - but.

But Red Riot was gone.

His car was still parked at the side of the road, the back door open from where Ryū had climbed out, headlights on, and interior lights illuminating nothing. He’d been right there, though. Even a Pro Hero couldn’t move fast enough to disappear like that, surely?

“Hey, where’d you go?” he asked, walking closer. “Red Riot?”

Ryū, a sense of trepidation deep in his gut, edged around the front of the car, craning his neck to catch a glimpse of the empty ground beside the driver’s seat. Red Riot had truly vanished into thin air, not a glimpse of red or black to be seen. How did a grown man simply just disappear?

“...Red Riot?”

Ryū turned, ready to scour the streets for any other sign of the Pro Hero, but found his face becoming acquainted with a tremendous amount of pain instead. WHAM. Straight across his cheek and nose, hard enough to rattle his brain. Blood sprayed from his nose and onto the door of Red Riot’s car as Ryū tumbled back against it. With his ears ringing, Ryū caught a brief glimpse of a blurry figure looming over him - dark clothing, dark hair, nothing else.

“Wait,” he gargled around a mouthful of blood, but the figure swung their foot back and just when he was bracing himself for a hell of a lot more pain, a roar bounced down the street and Kiyo leapt onto the figure’s back. Ryū sat there for a moment, vision spinning wildly, and then managed to get ahold of himself enough to watch his Quirk sink two rows of needle teeth into their - his? - shoulder.

“Get it off!” he howled, thrashing wildly. “Get it off!”

Stumbling upwards, one hand propped on the car, Ryū gasped his Quirk’s name. “Kiyo!” he ordered. “Stop! Stop, you can’t -”

He hurt you! She snarled. He hurt Ryū and he must pay!

Ryū glanced around the empty street, the large patches of shadows where dozens of people could be silent and watching as he allowed his Quirk to kill a person. He couldn’t risk it.

“No, you need to stop! You’re going to get me arrested; just let the police deal with him!” his voice edged a little into pleading-territory, but Ryū wasn’t ashamed. His future Pro Hero career was on the line now and he’d degrade himself in nearly every way to preserve it.

Her eyes, red rubies like his own, flickered up and then narrowed into angry slits. Her jaw unhinged and she released the man, who fell to the ground, heaving great lungfuls of air and moaning quietly as he clutched his mauled shoulder. Kiyo leapt nimbly to Ryū’s side, her leathery grey skin brushing his sleeve. He jerked his arm away instinctively and used the excuse of wiping the blood from his face to cover the action.

“I don’t think it’s broken,” he said when he gingerly probed his sore nose. His touch drifted up to his left eye, where the skin was already swelling beneath his fingertips. “I’ll have a bruise, however.” A fucking large one, at that. “Where’s Red Riot?”

Kiyo looked around. Who?

“My - uh - the guy with red hair, the one who -”

Him, she said darkly. Tree man.

Whatever that meant, it didn’t help him figure out what to do with his attacker, nor where the idiot had put Red Riot. Presumably he was still alive, otherwise, his corpse would be lying in the street somewhere. No one bothered to hide a dead body nowadays.

“Hey,” he said, stomping over to the groaning guy. “Where’s Red Riot?”

“Ugh,” the guy replied. He was still clutching his injury and make loud hitching sounds every time he breathed. “Get...fucked...brat...”

Ryū frowned in annoyance. “Don’t make me ask you again.”

“Go to hell...”

He planted his foot in the guy’s bloody shoulder and gave it a hard shove, taking only a small amount of pleasure in the whimpering and cussing that followed suit. “Look,” he said, squatting down beside him. “I’m going to level with you.”

Eat him.

“Personally, I don’t much care what you’ve done with the guy. He’s annoying and his haircut is obnoxious and my life would be all around better off without him in it. However, and this is the crucial part, I’m the last person who will have been seen with him if you’ve done something you shouldn’t have. I’m sure you can understand how that might reflect badly. So, here’s what’s going to happen.” He gestured Kiyo to approach and she did so eagerly. “I won’t kill you in exchange for Red Riot’s whereabouts. If you don’t spill, then my Quirk will find you just perfect to be a post-dinner snack, capiche?”

“You’re insane...”

“Okay,” Ryū said. He stood back up. “I tried to warn you.”

“No, no, wait!” The man scrambled upright, bracing his weight on his uninjured side. “I didn’t see him, okay?! I didn’t see anyone; that’s why I went for the car in the first place! I thought the owner had just forgotten to lock it when they got out. Please, it was a mistake to hit you, okay? You just surprised me, but I wouldn’t have gone further!”

That wasn’t true, Ryū thought, remembering the swing of the man’s foot as it aimed right for his face with the intention of causing true and lasting damage. That wasn’t true at all.

He’s lying.

“Yes, I know,” Ryū replied. “What’s your name?”

“What? Like I’m telling you!” the man chuckled and he seemed to have gotten his nerve back. “Just because you’ve got an ugly beast of a Quirk, doesn’t mean I’m going to do whatever you want, kid! There’s no way you’ll risk doing anything to me out in public like this.”

As much as Ryū wanted to deny it, the man was correct. He couldn’t risk hurting the man any further, as the line of self-defence had passed with him injured and incapacitated on the ground. There truly was nothing he could do.

Then, as if someone had heard his quandary, the air shimmered and an oval of light shone to life above their heads. It was silver, semi-transparent, and glittered as if filled with stars. Ryū, Kiyo and the man watched in stunned silence as the oval writhed, twisted and then surrounded them in a glowing silver ring.

“What the hell...?” the man wondered, agape. His gaze spun from the silver circle to Ryū’s face and he recoiled. “What happened to your eyes?”

“My...eyes?” Ryū said, touching his eyelids but, obviously, he could feel no difference. Had they changed colour? “Did you do this?”

“Wha - me!? How the fuck would I do this?” the man cried. “My Quirk is useless!”

Then...was Ryū somehow doing this? Was it one of the homeless people’s Quirks?

“Kiyo,” he asked. “What’s happening?”

Beat’s me, she said. Let’s eat him.

“No! Please!”

“We can’t,” Ryū said. “We can still be seen.”

Nobody’s around, she wheeled. Come on.

“No,’ Ryū insisted. “I’m going to get my phone and we’re calling the police. Then he can explain what happened to Red Riot. You’ll need to make yourself scarce before they arrive, however. I’m sure every station in Musutafu already has word that you escaped custody.” He went back around the car, which was luckily within the silver circle, to the passenger’s seat and opened the door. Ryū grabbed his phone and was in the process of unlocking it when they were a strangled noise and a wet crunch.

His stomach sank. Oh no.

“Kiyo!” he called, running back. “Please tell me you didn’t...” he stared at the patch of empty street, then at the way his Quirk was licking her lips. “Kiyo!”

Mm mm, she said. Nice and fresh.

“Someone could be watching!” He snapped at her. “You might’ve just doomed my entire Pro career before it even began.”

She scoffed. No. Not noticeable.

“Of course it was fucking noticeable! You just ate some guy! Again!”

No, she repeated insistently. Not noticeable. UN noticeable. Then she looked at the circle.

Ryū looked at it too. His brain clicked. “You mean...?” He walked over and, a little unsurely stepped out of the ring. He didn’t feel any different than before, but when he turned back to look at her, found his eyes merely slid away, focusing on some empty patch of street. No matter how hard he tried to focus, his gaze would not allow him to look at Kiyo.

He stepped back into the ring, shaking his head. “Is this a new Quirk?” he asked. “If so, it must be from one of those homeless people you decided it would be a good idea to eat; some sort of avoidance emitter. That could be very useful…”

See? Eating people? Good thing.

“Not sold on it yet,” Ryū replied. “But I admit you are making a good case for yourself.”

So, can we go now? Can you drive?

“I don’t think I could even reach the pedals. We need Red Riot for that.”

Tree.

“Yes, I don’t like him much either, but insulting him constantly doesn’t help me find him.”

No, she snarled. TREE.

“Tree,” Ryū repeated, puzzled. “Tree? What does that -“ He froze. “Oh.” Looked up. “Tree.”

Suspended from the branches above them, Red Riot stared back at Ryū, face twisted in horror and confusion. “What,” he drew out, “the fuck.”

 


 

Chapter Text

“I can explain.”

Doubt it. Kiyo laughed. But let’s see what you’ve got.

“You...Ryū, what’s going on?” stammered Red Riot, trying to untangle himself. It seemed fruitless, however. Had their late (very late) attacker possessed some sort of sticking Quirk? “That’s the thing that attacked us! Why are you - it talks?”

“That’s what you’re going to focus on?” Ryū asked incredulously. “That she can talk?”

“She?” He replied in just as much disbelief. “You’re - you’re friends?”

Ryū scoffed. “Hardly,” he said. Best just to come out and say it. “She’s my Quirk.”

“No,” Red Riot said stubbornly. “You’re Quirk is Magma, Ryū, not - not this thing! You can produce heat, produce light and - and sure you’ve just got that weird new mutation but -“

“It’s not a mutation. Can you...come down so we can talk properly?”

What are you planning, tricky boy?

Red Riot hardened his arms and scraped at the tree branches entangling him. They gave with a snap and he landed nimbly on the street beside Ryū and Kiyo, though immediately took a few big steps backwards. He brushed his hands off on his pants and took a deep breath.

“Start from the beginning.”

“Well,” he hedged, eyes darting anywhere except to meet the red ones anxiously searching his face. “There’s not much to tell. Kiyo, she’s my Quirk. She can turn invisible and that’s why nobody’s ever seen her before.” Sort of. “If she eats people she absorbs their Quirk. Or, well, some of it. Then I can use it for myself, though we haven’t quite worked out how that works just yet.”

“Eats people,” Red Riot repeated faintly. “So you really did kill that man?”

“Er...yes.”

Brow furrowing, Red Riot seemed all of twenty years older as his face sagged in exhaustion. “Ryū, I can’t let you do this. I love you, but - but murder - I’m a Pro Hero! This isn’t right.”

“What are you going to do about it?” he asked bitterly. “Arrest me?”

“No! I mean, I don’t want to! You’re my son.” He looked deeply uncomfortable. Torn. “But. How many?”

Despite knowing exactly what he was talking about, Ryū played dumb. “How many what?”

“How many people, Ryū! One? Two? More than that?”

Those homeless people...both Ariyoshis and this guy. That was...probably it. Unless Kiyo had been off snacking when she disappeared all those times, which wasn’t unlikely...no. Best to keep it simple. “Eight.”

Hands shaking, Red Riot ran his fingers through his red hair. “Eight,” he said. “Okay. Okay, that’s eight people. Eight people you - are you sure?”

Definitely more than that, now that Ryū thought about it. “Yes.”

“We need to go to the police station,” Red Riot told him seriously. “Ryū, eight is - it’s a lot of people, okay? You’re not in trouble, we just need to make sure that -” Ryū zoned out. Red Riot always was a terrible liar. He looked at Kiyo and she blinked back at him, confused.

Now?

This was the point of no return. There was no going back. Was he ready?

“Just don’t kill him."

Yes.

 


 

“Ryū-kun!” Tetsutetsu-san said when he opened the door in a loose t-shirt and sweatpants, the smell of freshly-cooked ramen drifting out around him. “Are you here for dinner?”

Ryū appreciated the Tetsutetsu house more than he would ever say. They never asked why or implied they were unhappy that he turned up at all hours, day and night, to stay for an unknown amount of time. They merely welcomed him with hot food and a freshly-laundered pair of pyjamas to sleep in.

“Sorry it’s so late,” he said, bowing quietly. “I didn’t notice the time when Red Riot offered to drop me off.”

Tetsutetsu-san looked over his shoulder into the darkness as if looking for Red Riot’s car or even the man himself, but he didn’t say anything about his absence. “Aw, it’s no problem. Come on in!” He let Ryū take off his shoes and then closed and locked the front door. He led Ryuu through to the kitchen where Michiko and Itsuka-san were spooning steaming hot clams into their bowls. Though very simple, Ryū loved the way asari ramen tasted and hadn’t had it in months. His stomach grumbled and Michiko grinned.

“Ryū-chan! Hey, hey, I didn’t know you were coming! Mom, we need another bowl!”

Itsuka-san rubbed her big belly and tutted. “I’m sure Ryū-kun can fetch it himself,” she said not unkindly and Ryū quickly grabbed another bowl from the cupboard. “Making your poor mother do all this work whilst she’s cooking up your little sister! Honestly.”

“Sorry,” Michiko said sheepishly. She kissed her mother’s stomach. “Sorry, imōto-chan!”

Tetsutetsu-san ruffled her hair as he sat at the kitchen table. They always had more Western-style furniture than most family homes and Ryū had always found the difference appealing. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starving!”

“Ryū-chan, pass me the soy sauce, please,” Michiko said and Ryū held it across the table. “I actually have something to show you after dinner.”

“What is it?”

“No way - I won’t tell you yet; it’s a surprise!”

“Michiko,” Itsuka-san rolled her eyes. “Don’t yell at the table. It’s bad manners and we don’t want Ryū-kun thinking we act like animals all the time, do we? Even if he has seen us much worse.” She smiled at him, teal-coloured eyes crinkling up at the corners. “I’m sure you’re probably used to it by now, huh?”

Ryū used his chopsticks to slide a clam into his mouth, but also to give him time to think of a reply. “Michiko is pretty loud,” he replied after swallowing. “And so if Kagami.”

Michiko beamed. “Yeah, he’s desensitised at this point, Mom. Can I have some more rice?”

Itsuka-san sighed.

 


 

“Is everything okay?” Michiko asked as soon as she’d shut them both away in her bedroom. “I didn't know you were coming over.” You didn’t text, she meant.

“Everything’s fine,” Ryū muttered as he rolled out the spare futon on the floor space between her bed and desk, underneath the little window overlooking the road. “It’s just a lot.”

She sat on her bed and pulled the signature side ponytail out of her hair, shaking out the silver locks. “I can’t imagine how it would feel to have to go live with my grandparents. I’d miss my house a lot, and all my neighbours.”

Ryū hadn’t thought about his old house since the moment he’d been packed into Igarashi’s car and driven away. “Yeah,” he said. “So what did you want to show me?”

She perked up. “Okay, so you remember that awful thing that attacked us on Wednesday? That demon Quirk?”

He twitched. For fuck’s sake; why now? “Yes. What about it?”

“Well, I was talking to Kagi-kun and he walks that way to the dojo with his dad - you know, for their bo lessons? - and - and he saw it!”

“What?”

“I know, right? Everyone thinks they locked it up tight, or are experimenting on it in some lab, but how would Kagami see it crawling through the destroyed ice cream shop then? It doesn’t make any sense!”

Ryū swallowed. “What’s your point?”

“We need to investigate!” she exclaimed, her hands waving madly in excitement. “Why is it so interested in that area? Why go back after, presumably, escaping from the police? That seems like a risky move unless whatever’s in the ice cream shop is important enough.”

“So? Why do you care what this…'demon Quirk’ does? If it’s not attacking anyone now and it didn’t attack Kagami and his dad either...why not just leave it alone?” Ryū pushed a little too eagerly. Michiko must’ve heard the desperation in his voice too because she frowned at him.

“Ryū-chan...are you sure you’re okay? It’s fine if you’re not,” she said gently. Her head tilted. “Speaking of the attack, do you remember when we were in the alley right before? And we got into that fight about...did you tell anyone?”

“No, but you did,” he said bitterly. “Why do you think my family ran away? They didn’t want to go to prison and now I’m stuck with two nosy idiots who I barely know. It’s not any better.” And he missed his dear Obaa-san, even if she was forgetful and always lost in her own mind. “It wasn’t that bad.”

“Your back was all messed up. You could’ve gotten really badly hurt!”

“But I didn’t.”

“It doesn’t matter! It -“ she swallowed. “Do you remember what you said to me in the back of the ambulance?”

“I don’t want to talk about that.”

She sniffled and Ryū was horrified to see a few tears dribble down her cheeks. “You said - you said that your -“

“Michiko!” Ryū burst and the room fell silent at his shout. “Stop.”

She panted a little. “But -“

“I don’t want to talk about this any more.”

Michiko huffed. “Fine,” she said. “But we’re not done, you, not by a long shot. Be glad I’m such an understanding friend.”

“If you say so,” Ryū replied dryly. “Pyjamas?”

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s get to bed and have an early morning; I still need to cook my lunch and I’m sure Iida would love it if we got there before him. Did you bring a uniform?”

Ryū nodded. “Downstairs in my bag. I even have the homework, which I’m guessing you didn’t do.”

She smiled sarcastically. “We had homework?”

“Yes and I recommend you start doing it unless you want to race Iida-sensei’s wrath. Just because you babysit her son, doesn’t mean she’ll let you off easily.”

“Aw, you do care,” she said as she grabbed two pairs of pyjamas, throwing him one. “Hey, want me to change in the bathroom?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, be right back,” she winked, slipping out of the room. Ryū changed quickly into the plain green pyjamas he usually borrowed and grabbed his phone. It was on a low charge, but there was a message waiting for him, having arrived at some time during dinner.

Unknown number

12am. Be there.

Ryū sighed as he promptly switched his phone off. He flopped back on the futon, head sinking into the expensive memory foam pillow Itsuka-san had populated the house with after news of her pregnancy. They were so comfortable Ryū was tempted to steal one for himself.

Why was Tezuka texting him of all people? From their little Myriad X conversation, Ryū had gotten the impression that Haruka was the man in charge of it all. Was that not the case? And, even so, Haruka already had his number. Why bother to give it to Tezuka so he could send the message?

As his thoughts swirled around in his mind like a washing cycle, Ryū rubbed his aching temples. There was no use trying to apply logic to the actions of idiots, especially ones so strange and revenge-driven as Tezuka Shin and Midoriya Haruka. They might think they were unbeatable and had Ryū trapped in a corner he could only escape by joining them, but that only spoken more to their lack of intelligence. It was just check, not checkmate.

The door creaked as Michiko snuck back in, dressed in a short purple nightdress. “Mom and Dad have already fallen asleep,” she whispered, climbing into bed. “I think I might have an early night too. My little cousins have worn me out; I was playing ‘lift me up’ for, like, ten hours.”

Ryū yawned on cue. “Alright,” he said, pulling the covers up over himself. “Goodnight.”

There was a short moment of quiet. “Goodnight,” she repeated and he listened to the shuffling and rustling of bedsheets as Michiko got comfortable. Eventually, the light flickered out and pale yellow light filtered through her blinds to slat across his futon and the wall. He stared at it until his eyes drooped and then closed altogether, drifting off to the sound of his best friend’s quiet, even breaths.

 


 

Ryū woke up in the morning feeling well refreshed. He stretched, shoving his face into that glorious memory foam pillow again. Then he peeled his eyes open to shafts of sunlight filling the room, illuminating Michiko’s sleep-encrusted, drooling face. Rolling his eyes, he sat up and slid out from under the covers. Then he went to the bathroom to wash up and make himself presentable and headed downstairs.

Itsuka-san was washing dishes at the sink, dressed in a dressing gown and slippers. She was staring out the window with a complicated, wistful look on her face, oblivious to him.

He hedged his bets. “Itsuka-san?”

She jumped, dropping a plate into the sink with a loud clattering sound. Spinning to face him, Itsuka-san clasped one soapy hand over her chest and the other on her stomach.

“Oh, Ryū-kun! I didn’t expect you up so... anyway! Good morning.”

He eyed the half-embarrassed, half-surprised look on her face. What was she so worried about? “Sorry,” he said. “I was going to make breakfast.”

She smiled at him as she picked up the fallen plate, returning to her dishes. “Don’t worry about it. Michiko makes breakfast and I think she’d be disappointed to see you’ve stolen her job. Especially since it would mean she’d have to weed the garden as a replacement chore. I take it she’s still fast asleep?” This was asked fondly.

“Yes,” Ryū replied. He wasn’t going to argue about breakfast, but he did grab a dish towel and begin drying the soapy dishes Itsuka-san had washed. He set them to one side to put away once he’d finished and the atmosphere fell into a contented silence. At least one family member of the Tetsutetsu house knew how to appreciate a nice lull in conversation.

“So,” Itsuka-san as she was emptying the sink and wiping down her hands. “How are you finding living with your grandparents? I’ve never met Bakugou’s folks, but I imagine they might be quite similar in personality to him?”

Ryū tried very hard not to sigh or groan. Pregnant ladies went over the line of those he could be mad at without feeling like a piece of shit on the ground. “It’s fine,” he said shortly. “They’re fine.”

“Well,” she replied, unphased at his curt tone. “If you ever need to talk, then I’m here. All of us can struggle with things and after what you experienced last week - well, like I said. Both Tetsu and I are here to talk if you need us, and I’m sure Tōru and Mashirao feel the same.”

Ryū willingly talking about his feelings? Surely Itsuka-san knew better than that.

“Okay.”

He hoped that was the end of it.

“And you’re welcome here anytime.”

...ugh .

“Thank you, Itsuka-san.”

She smiled at him. “It’s my pleasure, Ryū-kun. Now, how about you go see when my lazy daughter plans on getting up? She won’t have long to cycle you both to U.A. at this rate.”

He took the out with grace and found Michiko in the same position, snuggled up in her bed with nary a worry in mind. Ryū woke her up, enjoyed her panicking, and then got dressed as she rushed through getting breakfast ready. There was no time to make lunch, so they shovelled food into their mouths and Ryū grabbed their bags as Michiko fetched her bike.

Ryū sat on the luggage rack, satchels swinging on his shoulders and hands braced either side of him. Michiko huffed and panted them up a steep hill, but the rest was either flat or smooth-sailing downwards.

“So much...for meeting...Iida...!”

“Maybe tomorrow,” he suggested over the whooshing sound of the bike wheels carrying them down the street. “Week two.”

Michiko, well in-tune with him after all these years, got what he was alluding to immediately and tossed a dimpled grin over her shoulder. Her long silver hair whipped angrily in the wind and looked very strange down and not up in the side ponytail she always wore. Ryū guessed she would put it up when they got to school to avoid having the styling get messed up by the wind.

“Week two!” she cheered. “I’m so happy you’re back, Ryū-chan, honestly - it’s no fun without you there with us! In fact, Kagi-kun and I were thinking...” She trailed off and their furious biking pace slowed down enough that Ryū turned to follow her gaze.

Two fire engines were parked in the road, the area surrounding them cordoned off to the public. A still-smoking blackened husk of a building was being combed by firemen in heavy yellow suits, though there seemed to be little more than rubble and ash left. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the sight of a burned-down building that had caused Michiko to stop, but because said building was all too familiar.

They stared at the scene in silence until it passed by, and then Michiko began to urge them even faster, her feet practically skimming the pedals at the speed she was going. The stores and houses they passed all the time whizzed by in a blur of colour.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Ryū tried, but he knew it was useless.

“We have to investigate!” Michiko exclaimed as they crested the hill by U.A. with roughly ten minutes to spare before homeroom started. Other students also hurrying into school had to jump out of the way of her erratic pedalling. “It’s no coincidence, and I’m not going to sit around whilst some - some monster is - ah!”

His stomach swung up into his mouth, flipping wildly, and Ryū found himself on the ground, elbows and knees smarting with pain. He shook the dizziness away and glanced up because towering over him, eyes blazing with anger and lip curling, was Midoriya Haruka. And he looked pissed.

“Damn! Hey, are you kids okay!?” Uravity called, flapping her hands in panic as she ran over.

“We saw you fall at quite a speed!” A big guy with glasses added. He was wearing a stuffy blue suit with a tan trench coat over the top. Ryū thought he looked vaguely familiar. “You really should wear helmets when riding bicycles to prevent head injuries occurring!”

“Ow,” Michiko said from beneath the back wheel of her bike, sitting up to rub her head. “Ugh, point noted.”

Haruka grunted and held a hand out. “Here,” he said. “Let me help you up, Ryū-kun.”

Ryū looked between his outstretched hand and angry, expectant face. Then at Uravity and the big guy. He begrudgingly took the hand and tried not to wince when Haruka squeezed his fingers hard and hauled him to his feet.

“Tetsutetsu, you alright?” A boy with antennae asked as he walked past with a gym bag over one shoulder. Ryū recognised him from their kidnapping training session and thought his name might be Amajiki Yuki.

“I’m fine,” she huffed, standing up and wiping her scuffed hands on her torn tights. “I just feel stupid. Are you okay, Ryū-chan?” She grabbed her bicycle and slid into the bike rack.

Haruka reluctantly dropped his tight grip and Ryū inspected his grazed and bleeding palms. “Yes,” he said. “It’s only a graze.”

“A Hero should never disregard injuries, no matter how severe or mild they may seem!” The loud guy exclaimed. “Small ‘grazes’, as you say, may become serious should they become infected!”

“I’ll take him to the nurse’s office,” said Haruka as he stuck his hands deep into his pockets. “I don’t mind being late to homeroom.”

“Midoriya-kun; you have an admirable sense of honour, I see! Please take Tetsutetsu-kun with you!”

God, did everyone have to shout so much? Ryū was starting to develop a stress headache and it was only eight in the morning.

“I’m fine, Iida-san,” Michiko dismissed quickly. “One of my classmates has a healing Quirk that works on people she’s familiar with, so I’ll ask her to take a look at my grazed elbow, but Ryū-chan should get his hands and knees checked over by the Piper. They might get infected without treatment, as you said.”

“You should get to class,” Haruka told her, clapping Ryū, who could feel the red hot building in the palm of the older boy’s hand, on the shoulder. “Oshiro-sensei is strict and won’t take any excuses from you both.”

Uravity gasped. “Homeroom!” Then she ran off, mumbling frantically as she disappeared into the main building.

The guy chopped his arm, said “Please, I implore you to seek the nurse’s help!” and ran after her. Michiko giggled, rolling her eyes.

“That’s Iida-san and Iida-san for you,” she said. “But you’re right, Midoriya-senpai! Come on, Amajiki!” She glanced at him when he dawdled, odd black eyes focusing on where Haruka’s hand had clamped onto Ryū’s shoulder. “Amajiki-kun! Are you coming or not?”

“Oh,” he said. “Yes. I’m coming.” Then, with one last glance back at them, he followed the eagerly bouncing Michiko inside and Ryū was left all alone with the guy who very clearly wanted to kill, or at least seriously maim him.

“Alone at last,” the red-haired boy whispered in Ryū’s ear and he cringed away, shivering at the, er, unfortunate images that statement brought up in his mind. That was...hopefully not the effect Haruka was going for. “Come on.”

Ryū was hauled by his blazer across the cobblestones and around the side of the building into the deserted area lined with trees and bushes. Tucked against the wall in a shady spot, dressed in his U.A. uniform sans tie, was Tezuka Shin. He stared at Ryū with a tight, hateful expression and stalked over as soon as Haruka pulled them to a stop.

“You think you’re better than all of us, huh? That ignoring what we tell you to do will work out in your favour?”

“I didn’t have a choice,” Ryū snapped, though that was mostly a lie. “Red Riot -”

Tezuka closed his hand around Ryū’s throat, pinky finger lifted up just enough that it didn’t make contact. “I ought to end you right here,” he said. “You’re outweighing your usefulness in my eyes. That’s a dangerous position to put yourself in, Kaminari-kun.” He smiled with chapped lips, red eyes gleaming. Ryū felt a shiver roll up his back. “Luckily for you, Haruka still has some morality left for brats. He’s convinced me to give you a second chance so I suggest you thank him.”

Ryū was no idiot. “Thank you, Midoriya,” he gritted around the tightening grip on his throat.

“See? You can take orders, after all,” Tezuka laughed. “Good.” He dropped his hand and stepped back with his hands in his pockets, acting casual when not a second ago he’d had his Quirk ready to kill. And Ryū was certain he would have done it, too.

“What sort of second chance?”

Haruka snorted, ambling around Ryū like a predatory shark hungry for a snack. He pulled out his phone, tapped in his passcode and then held it out. “I figured you weren’t going to show up, so we had you followed. Caught some very interesting things on camera, actually.”

Ryū watched the clip play out; the man from the night before, mouth moving, though from some distance away and under the cover of foliage, Ryū and Kiyo standing over him. The appearance of the noticeability Quirk, and then, when it deactivated, the stain of blood on the street and Red Riot dropping down from the tree to talk to him. Not entirely damning but very incriminating nonetheless.

“This Quirk of yours,” said Tezuka. “It’s pretty OP. It causes me to wonder how you got your hands on one like it. Dermal armor and nitroglycerin generation hardly seem capable of making...hm. A sentient Quirk stealer, shall we call it? I’ve only ever heard of one person before you having such a powerful Quirk and I’m sure you’ll be familiar with his name, if not his methods.”

Wracking his brain, Ryū resisted the urge to take a step back as Tezuka leaned right into his personal space. “You mean All-For-One? The villain that All Might fought thirty years ago?”

“That very one.”

“Why are you bringing him up? What’s a villain who's been dead for decades got to do with me?”

“We’re not on that quest yet,” Tezuka said ambiguously. “But whatever the reason, I’m sure it will be interesting, don’t you?” He looked at Haruka.

The red-haired boy grunted. “We should get on with it,” he said. “Classes have started.”

“You’ll get your tardy pass, don’t worry, Midoriya,” Tezuka snapped and he looked truly angry for a second, and then that dissolved back into passive engagement as he re-focused on Ryū. “Kaminari, as for you, I have a special little side quest I think will suit you well.”

 


 

Ryū, like Haruka, was given a fake tardy pass and ushered off to 1-B’s classroom. All eyes turned to him when he came in the door and Kobayashi-sensei - fuck, it had been a long few days since he’d thought about that guy - hummed disapprovingly when he read the pass.

“Hm,” he said. “Very well, Kaminari. Please take your seat.”

Ryū went and sat in his window seat, a curious Kagami to his right. He quietly took out his books and pens, quickly writing down the information from the board. Homeroom and then, subsequently, Hero Law, passed in a blur and before he knew it, Ryū was shuffling out of the classroom for their lunch period.

It all felt so surreal. To go from living with his dear obaa-san and putting up with the monster masquerading as his great-grandfather, to finding his new Quirk and companion in Kiyo - as questionably gray-moral as she was -, killing several people in quick succession, one (or three, if the Ariyoshis counted) even on purpose, being caught up in a public Hero battle involving his own Quirk and two of his long-absent parents, moving in with the other set of grandparents that he barely knew, finding that vile photo of that little boy on Ariyoshi Junior’s phone, being blackmailed into joining some dumb anti-hero society, taking on a semi-solid fake persona known as Ren, seeing one of his older brothers, and kidnapping Red Riot after murdering a guy right in front of him.

“Hey, Kaminari, good to see you back!” Oyama said as she passed, the abundance of multi-coloured bangles on her wrists jingling with every step. “Have to say, you’re looking better than ever! Though, I wouldn’t say it’d be a bad thing if you got a nice haircut.”

“Leave him alone, Oyama-kun,” Ishikawa scolded, jogging up alongside them, his hair bobbing and bubbling cheerfully. “Kaminari-kun has had a very taxing week, so we should all cut him a little slack, okay?”

“Hmph,” she said. “Class Prez knows best.”

Ryū looked at the other boy, who was smiling bashfully. “'Class prez'? You won the vote?”

Kagami stuck himself between them, arm over Ryū’s shoulder. “Four votes higher than everyone else! Poor Iida never stood a chance.”

He listened to them ramble on as they streamed with the crowd into the cafeteria and lined up for their trays. Lunch Rush passed him a helping of food, though what kind Ryū couldn’t actually say. He hadn’t been in much of a mood to eat since talking with crazy Haruka and his psycho boyfriend.

*krzzz* went the loudspeaker and Principal Shinsou’s voice echoed through the cafeteria. “Bakugou Akio come to my office, that’s Bakugou to my office, please.”

Every head swivelled in unison to stare at a particular table and Ryū watched his brother climb to his feet, head held high and unbothered by all the stares. He left the cafeteria with a little group of fellow third years at his heels and, as soon as they disappeared, a hum of gossip broke out across the room.

“What was that about?” Kagami wondered; their little table consisted of just him, Ryū, Iida and Matsumoto, as Class 1-A was, mysteriously, nowhere to be seen, Ishikawa had run off somewhere with the flamboyant eye-patched guy called Goro, and Shiomi was merely home with the flu. Ryū thought it felt odd without their sad ragtag group, even if he’d only ever sat with them a handful of times. “Ryū-chan?”

“Nothing to do with me.”

“Hmmm,” said Matsumoto. “Do you want to follow them?”

Iida hacked a cough in surprise, spluttering madly. “Honoka-san! We can’t just - it’s - that’s extremely rude! We can’t, as good conscience people, eavesdrop on a private conversation with the principal!”

“Well, we can,” Kagami replied. “We’d just happen to be going in that direction too! A total coincidence if anyone asks! Ryū-chan, Matsu-kun’s right - you do look like you want to hear what they’re going to talk about, so what do you say?”

Ryū wasn’t particularly interested in the academic goings-on of his brother’s life, but he was rather concerned that the topic of the meeting had something to do with Red Riot. Had they already clocked the Pro’s disappearance? Did they - rightfully so - suspect Ryū of being the person behind it all?

No! How could they? There was no evidence! Nothing that could make them suspicious!

“Yoo-hoo! Ryū-chan, are you there?” Kagami’s fingers waggled in front of his eyes.

But...just in case... “Let’s go,” he stood up from his still-full tray. Kagami scurried after him with Matsumoto calmly on the pink-haired boy’s heels.

Iida, however, was slightly more torn, wringing his hands nervously. “This is a breech of all known rules of good manners I have,” he lectured down the hallways. “It’s worthy of an after-school detention, even!”

“Dude, chill,” Kagami said cheerfully. “We’re not doing anything wrong. Walking down the hallway isn’t a crime, is it?”

“Well...no.”

“And, in fact, the exercise would even be encouraged for Hero students, right?”

“I suppose so...”

Eyes sparkling, Kagami nudged Iida’s broad shoulder. “Then you have nothing to worry about!” Ryū, who was covertly listening to the conversation, found himself impressed, though not surprised; Kagami had always been very good at curtailing the worries of his friends and those around him and this time was no different. Clearly, in the days Ryū had been away from U.A., they had formed a tentatively tight friendship group.

“See?” added Matsumoto. “Kentarō-san, you can walk with me and we’ll hang behind a little when we get there if you’d like. That way, we won’t be as culpable.”

Iida flushed a little, pinking in a way that complimented his dark blue hair. “No, thank you, Honoka-san! I would be doing a disservice to my friends by leaving them to be punished should the situation come to that. I am just as complicit as the rest of you and I don’t want you taking responsibility for me. Do you really think this meeting between Principal Shinsou and your brother is so important, Kaminari-kun?”

“Yes.” And - there! A glimpse of several pairs of uniform-clad legs rounding a corner. That had to be Akio and his groupies - no one else would be stupid enough to wander around during the lunch period like this.

...Except for them, of course.

They rounded the corner and Ryū threw an arm out, stopping Kagami and, by extension, Iida and Matsumoto, in their tracks. Akio, a boy with spiky blonde hair that Ryū recognised from the ‘unfair fight before Shiomi's dad decided to intervene’ incident, but whose name escaped him, and a tall girl with thick dark hair pulled back from her face. They looked like they were arguing, but thankfully hadn’t noticed Ryū and his - his friends watching them.

Kagami dragged them back around the corner and they peered around at the bickering older students, ears straining to hear the conversation. Unfortunately, they were too far away to catch anything more than a few unintelligible mumbles.

“What do you think they’re arguing about?” Kagami whispered. “Yaoyorozu-senpai is usually so chill.”

“Yaoyorozu?” Ryū asked quickly. As in Yamazaki & Yaoyorozu, the company Ariyoshi Botan had worked for before his - ahem - untimely death? What a damn small world he was living in.

“The girl with the dark hair,” Matsumoto added. “Her mother was Creati: the Everything Hero! You know her, right Kentarō-san?”

“Um, well -” Iida flustered.

Ryū wracked his brain. It, sort of, maybe vaguely, tickled some place of recognition. Maybe from his parents’ old class reunions that he’d been dragged to as a little kid.

“Aw, does Iida-kun have a crush?”

“I would rather you did not speculate upon my romantic life, Ojiro-kun! I hold no amorous feelings for Yaoyorozu-senpai, I assure you. Shouldn’t we get back to the matter at hand?”

“Sorry, Iida, man! I was just teasing you.”

“Apology accepted, I suppose. Now, as you can see, next to Yaoyorozu-senpai is Amajiki Yori. Son of Suneater and the American Hero Lemillion. I met both of them at a gala just a few months ago; their other son is in 1-A, I believe.”

“Those are Akio’s friends,” Ryū hazarded a guess. He knew Amajiki was, at least, but he’d never heard of that Yaoyorozu girl before. “Is Shinsou’s office around here?”

Iida huffed disapprovingly. “It’s Principal Shinsou, Kaminari-kun.”

“Tt.”

“It is,” Matsumoto said. “I had to go there on my first day to fill out my special requirement forms and I recognise this hallway.”

How? They all looked the same to Ryū.

“Special requirement forms? For what?” Kagami wondered, looking at her aslantly, his hair dappling to a curious pale blue.

She rolled her eyes. “Ojiro, my legs are wooden, and my hair is made of leaves! I need high levels of sunlight, among other things, to remain healthy and the principal just wanted to make sure I could get that in class all day.”

“Oh.”

Akio threw his hands up and stomped his foot. Ryū wanted to roll his eyes at the childish actions of his older brother, but before he could, a door a little further down opened and Shinsou stuck his head out.

“Are you coming in?” he called loudly. “I don’t have all day, you know.”

Friends hanging back, Akio dragged his feet into Shinsou into his office.

“Principal Shinsou surely is an intimidating figure,” Iida muttered. He sounded nervous, which was probably warranted with his huge fear of getting in trouble at school. Or in general. “I suppose we should go back to the cafeteria now.”

Ryū walked around the corner and, at a brisk pace, over towards Amajiki and Yaoyorozu.

“Ryū-chan!”

“Kaminari-kun, don’t - ugh!”

“Hey,” he called to the two upperclassmen, who both jumped at the sound of his voice. “What were you arguing about?”

The black-haired girl blinked and now that he was up close, Ryū could see she had a bright orange streak shot right through her bangs. “Excuse me?”

“Hello, Kaminari-chan,” said Amajiki. “Did you follow us here?”

“Don’t call me ‘chan’,” was the point he addressed first and then: “I want to know what Akio is talking to the principal about.”

“Ryū-chan, we should go,” Kagami said as he joined them. Ryū glanced over his shoulder to see Iida panicking back at the corner, waving his arms frantically and muttering to himself as Matsumoto attempted to reassure him. “Before Iida-kun develops an ulcer.”

Yaoyorozu rolled her eyes, though she looked fond about it. “He’ll be fine,” she said. “He’s always been like that, even as a baby.”

Ryū’s phone buzzed in his pocket, but he ignored it. There were more pressing matters to attend to at that moment. “My brother,” he stressed again. “What did Shinsou want to talk to him about?” Was it Red Riot? Had Ryū really been caught out so early in the game?

“Nosy thing, aren’t you?” Amajiki grinned, but there was no malice behind it. “He didn’t say. We were arguing about our internships if you must know.”

Oh. Ryū slumped a little in disappointment. He’d really thought that they’d been about to spill all of the juice Akio gossip, but it appeared luck wasn’t on his side. Not that it ever was.

His phone buzzed again.

“Well, I guess that’s that! Ryū-chan, let’s go finish having lunch, eh?”

He eyed Amajiki and Yaoyorozu for a moment to ascertain if they were hiding anything, but if that was the case they were damn good at doing so and Ryū was put at ease. “Tell Akio I want to talk to him,” he said. “After school, outside the main gate.”

Yaoyorozu quirked an eyebrow. She looked amused. “We will.”

As they walked back to the cafeteria, Ryū did not participate in Kagami, Matsumoto and Iida’s discussion about classes, as he was too busy wondering what Shinsou deemed so important he had to pull Akio out of lunch to discuss. It had to be something that couldn’t wait and the only thing Ryū could think that earnt that urgency was Red Riot being missing.

He was just sitting down at the table when he remembered his phone.

J

Same time tonight? Got a special surprise for you xx - J


 

Chapter Text

“Hey, guys,” Michiko chirped when she and the rest of 1-A finally trudged into the cafeteria, a bare fifteen minutes before the bell would ring for their next class. There were tiny specks of mud on her cheek and in her dishevelled silver hair. “Sorry we’re so late! Oshiro-sensei worked us hard in Hero Training today.”

“We had to run twenty laps around the whole school,” Tokoyami moaned, knees shaking as he collapsed at the table. His forehead thumped against the top. “I threw up twice.”

“It was gross,” agreed Michiko. She seemed in much better spirits than Tokoyami, nearly bouncing right out of her seat. “But the running was fun, I think.”

Ryū and Kagami glanced at one another. There was something off with her. Very off. They’d have to confront her about it later, when there was less going on.

“You psycho,” mumbled Tokoyami. “You and Amajiki both.”

“He was like a tank, right?! It was amazing!”

“You’re just saying that because he ran with you the whole time,” Tokoyami glanced up slyly with a crooked smirk. “You looked pretty cosy.”

Kagami gasped. “Michi-kun, is this true?”

Her cheeks flushed and she averted her eyes in a truly telling way. Ryū raised his eyebrows at Kagami, who gaped back at him. “Well, I guess if you want to put it like that, then sure. But we were just evenly paced - it made sense for us to run together.”

“Sure. Just like it made sense for you to give him your phone number after we got changed.”

“Michiko!” Kagami exclaimed, throwing his arms up. “And you thought you could hide this from Ryū-chan and I, your best friends?! The nerve of it all! If you have a boyfriend now -“

“He is not my boyfriend.”

“- then we wanna meet him!”

“No way!”

“Yes way!”

“No, Kagami; quit it!”

“Ryū-chan, back me up!”

The table turned to look at him with anticipation.

Ryū looked back with dead eyes. “Yes.”

Kagami cheered and Michiko groaned and she would say no more on the subject no matter how much everyone pestered and wheedled. Ryū thought it was obvious she had a crush on Amajiki now, just from the way she stammered and blushed. Whatever. He didn't have time for his friend's romance right now.

 


 

The rest of the afternoon went by relatively peacefully. Ryū took good notes and remained undistracted by Kagami’s whispers, and even put his hand up once to answer a question in math with Creati. When the bell rang, he packed up his things and walked with Kagami out to the bike rack.

“Do you want a lift to the train station, Ryū-chan?” Kagami asked as he swung his leg over his bike, wheeling it carefully around another student trying to do up their shoelaces. “It’s not too far and I need to go to the store anyway.”

“No, I have to wait for my brother.”

“Oh, yeah! I’m such a wet-brain sometimes. Anyway, the twins are having friends over tomorrow so my mom said you and Michiko can come too if you’re up for it?”

“I’ll think about it,” Ryū said, which really meant ‘if I’m not too busy being blackmailed into joining a weird cult, murdering and then cannibalising people with my Quirk, or being tossed around from shitty relative to slightly less shitty relative by my social worker, then sure’.

Kagami’s smile slipped into something softer. “Well, if you ever need to talk to me, then here I am, okay?” He nudged Ryū’s shoulder with his fist. “I know Michiko’s closer to you than me, but -”

What? “No, she isn’t.” Where had that thought come from? “We’re...the three of us have known each other since we were babies. Why would you be different than Michiko and I?”

“It’s just, you guys hang out more and I know you stayed at her house last night. Look, Ryū, I get it - she’s good at emotions and stuff and I’m more of the comic relief -”

“Stop. This is bullshit. You’re not comic relief, you’re not even that funny -”

“Thanks.”

“- and we wouldn’t keep you around for that even if you were.”

Contemplatively, Kagami sat back on his bike seat, balancing one foot on the floor and the other on the pedal, which span lazily at the increased pressure. “Really?”

Despite himself, Ryū felt a bubble of irritation. Since when was Kagami this sensitive about their little trio? Their confident, well-adjusted friend...questioning where he stood, whether he was wanted, or needed? It didn’t suit him and why was he coming to Ryū of all people for reassurance? Surely the other boy knew he was not that best at anything emotional.

“Yes,” he said and Kagami’s entire face lit up, hair bubbling from its usual pale pink to a sort of deep reddish tone Ryū hadn’t seen before. Usual red just meant he was angry.

“Ryū-chan, you’re so sweet, and you always know just what to say to make me feel better. I don’t think we give your comforting abilities enough credit.”

Ryū, privately, thought they gave him far too much, actually. Giving people ‘support’ to ‘help’ with ‘issues’ was not something he wanted to do. Or could do.

He was emotionally stunted.

“Thanks,” he said. “What were you saying about tomorrow?”

“Oh, right! You and me, my house tomorrow night?”

“And Michiko?”

Kagami grinned lopsidedly, rubbing the back of his neck. “Oops, yeah, of course!”

“What about the others?” Ryū asked reluctantly. He didn’t really like them much yet, but he knew how most friendship groups interacted with each other; sleepovers were par for the course. “Iida and Matsumoto and Shiomi.” Etcetera, etcetera.

“Well, I mean, we can ask them if you want? You, uh, have anyone particular in mind?”

Ryū grimaced. Did he? He was trying to get closer to Ishikawa to gain access to his father’s job, but was it worth spending time with the other boy outside of school hours?

He thought about the rapid and intense developments with regards to his Quirk - the new and unknown, potentially dangerous, Quirks Kiyo had stolen from those homeless people. The ones he knew next-to-nothing about and could use to take down the man who’d sent those vile text messages. The man known only as J.

“Ishikawa,” he said. “We should invite him.”

Kagami’s brown eyes went round in shock. “Really? I didn’t know you guys were...friends.”

“Friendly.” Definitely not friends in any stretch of the imagination.

“Friendly, right.” Why did he sound so bitter? Ryū avoided most social interactions, sure, but Kagami had been around long enough to see him occasionally touch bases with someone when they impressed him or he needed them for something. Those never lasted long, but still. “Fine,” he said stiffly. “Invite him if you want.”

“Okay,” Ryū said. “I will.”

“Good,” Kagami snapped, hair fading a dark brown. “That’s just great.” He swung his leg over his bike and wheeled around to face the gate. “I - I have to go. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Hang on -” Ryū said, annoyed at the brusque dismissal, but by then Kagami was already pedalling away, red tie flapping over his shoulder. He watched that head of chocolate hair disappear and then frowned to himself. That had been...out of character, to say the least. He was just about to think deeper on the topic, go back over the conversation in his mind, when someone cleared their throat to his right. It looked like Kagami would have to wait.

“You summoned?” Akio raised a sarcastic eyebrow. “So, are you talking to me now?”

Don’t let him get to you, Ryū, he thought. He’s trying to rile you up; stay on target!

“I guess so,” Ryū said cooly.

“Well, couldn’t it wait? I was heading to Obaa-san and Ojii-san’s anyway. I need to pick up my spare guitar for practice tomorrow.”

“I’m staying at Michiko’s house tonight, so no.”

A smirk. “What, again? Are you sure she’s not your girlfriend?”

Ryū chose not to deign that stupid fucking question with an answer. “I want you to take me to see Ground Zero.”

Akio’s face, smooth and tanned, went flush and twisted up in confusion. “Er, what? You wanna - am I going crazy, or did I just hear you say you want to talk to Dad of all people?”

“You heard right. I need to talk to him. Tonight.”

“Why so soon?” Akio asked and then he shook his head. “No, wait, is everything okay? I can’t imagine you ever wanting to talk to him or Baba unless something was really wrong.”

Don’t react, Ryū told himself, tense at the mention of Red Riot. “Everything’s fine,” he said. “It’s about...” Shit, what should it be about? “It’s about my Quirk. I thought, since we’re got similar ones, he might be able to help me train.”

Akio frowned. He didn’t look convinced yet. “Oh. I mean, why not just ask one of the Pros here? Who’s your homeroom teacher? Uravity?”

“Kobayashi, but that’s not the point. I want to talk to Ground Zero. Give me your address.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea...” Akio hedged, averting his eyes. “Dad says they have a guest over so I’m not allowed back yet, so I doubt they’d be pleased if you just turned up.”

“Akio, come on,” Ryū said, a little annoyed now. “Just give it to me. I won’t tell anyone I got it from you. I’ll just say I knew from my social worker.”

“And that’s another thing! Obaa-san and Ojii-san said you weren’t supposed to see them and they were already breaking the rules when we came by to get my stuff. I don’t want to get them into any trouble.”

“They wouldn’t -”

“No, Ryū! I’m not going to risk that! Now, stop asking.”

“But -”

“Stop. Asking.”

He gritted his teeth so hard he was sure they’d crack and grunted his acceptance, shoving past his brother and out the gates. He slumped against the front wall once he was sure he was out of Akio’s line of sight and sighed angrily. Stupid Akio. Why had Ryū ever thought he could be of any help? He was just as dumb and useless as everyone else at this stupid Hero school.

“Ryū-kun? Are you okay?” Ryū scraped his nails down his palms. Sasuke, standing a good twenty centimetres taller when standing, looked at him in concern, a chunky black bag clutched at one side. “Did something happen in class?”

“Fuck off.”

Sasuke held up his hands in surrender. “Woah, okay. I was just trying to help.”

Ryū analysed his face. Sasuke had green hair that brushed his shoulders in loose waves and dramatic, attention-grabbing eyes - the left a deep red and the right the same colour as his hair. He had freckles, lots of them, and, upon looking closer, Ryū realised they too were split evenly down his face - red and green respectively. He looked a bit like a strawberry, Ryū thought privately. Did he get that heterochromatic split from Frostburn?

Underneath his strange, but pleasant, features, however, was pure concern and no malice. Ryū was sure he really did well-meaningly want to help - to know why Ryū was sulking outside U.A. after classes were over.

He sighed. Sasuke was a lot more bearable than any other innumerable amount of people who could have bothered him instead. Like his evil brother. Or his arrogant parents. “Fine,” he mumbled, allowing the older boy to hoist him back to his feet and then quickly jerking his hand away. “It’s just my dumb brother.”

“Ah,” said Sasuke. “I get it.” He glanced over his shoulder. “I was going to go in town and get some coffee. Want to come? We can talk brother drama if you’d like.”

Ryū paused, but he didn’t really have to think about it. Sasuke was nice enough for the son of Deku and Frostburn and pairing that with anything that would really annoy Haruka was a big bonus in his eyes. “Sure,” he said. “But you’re paying.”

 


 

Sasuke led him on a quick twenty-minute walk into the city centre. Ryū didn’t often go there simply because he wasn’t a fan of the crowds, but today it wasn’t very busy and he couldn’t find much to complain about with regards to the weather either. Pretty damn sunny for an typical April day. That meant the small café they ended up in was mostly deserted save a few older ladies and a couple with three young children in the corner. Ryū took a seat by the window whilst Sasuke went and ordered himself a coffee and cake, as he wasn’t feeling either hungry nor thirsty. It was hard to when life sucked so much you wanted to just curl up and die.

“Okay,” Sasuke said when he sat down, coffee steaming in front of him. There was a little cat swirled in the froth and Ryū stared at it contemplatively. “So. Let’s talk business.”

“Business?”

“Of course. It’s not often I meet someone who hates their sibling as much as I do.” Sasuke took a demure sip of his coffee. “I think it must be taboo to talk about.”

“You hate your brother?” Ryū asked, thinking this over. It was weird to hear someone else say out loud how he really felt. “Both of them?” Even that little white-haired kid? Even Ryū hadn’t thought he was annoying when they crossed path at that hideously awkward dinner with the Midoriya family.

“What? No! I love Ikumi.”

“Oh.” Love. How disgusting. “So only Haruka then. Is it because he’s...” He searched for an appropriate word to describe Haruka’s personality. Was Sasuke actually being genuine? Did he really dislike Haruka enough to bad-talk him to a near-stranger in a public setting?

“Heh. A jerk?”

“Yeah.”

“Well...yes.  I see what he does to my dads, how much they worry about him, and it drives me crazy! He sneaks out all the time to see that - that Tezuka boy, and he thinks they don’t notice him climbing out his window. That we’re all blind morons.”

Ryū tried to think of something to say to that, but what options were there? ‘I’m sorry’? ‘That sucks’? He got the feeling those platitudes weren’t what Sasuke were after, seeing as he’d dragged a boy he barely knew to a café to vent about his brother. This was clearly more of a...therapeutic venting.

“My dads are Pro Heroes; they don’t have the time or energy to spend worrying about my stupid younger brother, but, every night, without fail, they sit up and they wait for him! And - and when he comes home, he doesn’t even care! Doesn’t care that he’s driving us all CRAZY!” Sasuke, whose voice had been rising further and further as he got more incensed, slammed a fist on the table, causing it to rattle and slosh his coffee in all directions.

A trio of old ladies shot them dirty looks across the room and Ryū shot one right back again. Like they wouldn’t be just as interested in the gossip if they knew Ryū and Sasuke were talking about the sons of the top two Pro Heroes.

Sasuke laughed a little nervously, splayed fingers of one hand covering his tomato-coloured blushing face. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I think I got a little heated there for a minute.”

“It’s fine,” Ryū said, because it was. “I get what you mean.”

“Really? Sometimes I feel like I’m being overdramatic about it...”

Ryū took a moment to consider that. Was Sasuke being overdramatic? Worrying for his parents, as he clearly cared about them a great deal, and being concerned his brother was endangering their health? “No, I don’t think so. It sounds reasonable to me, at least.”

Red eye and green eye peering between his fingers, Sasuke cocked his head. “Really? My friends usually just tell me I’m getting worked up.”

“Hm,” Ryū hem-and-hawed, taking Sasuke’s sweet vanilla cupcake and peeling the wrapper down to take a bite. “I’ve met Haruka,” he said after he’d swallowed. “And I know how much of a fuckface he is, so maybe that’s the difference.”

“Yeah, I noticed he was interested in you. And vice versa. Don’t think I don’t remember you turning up on my grandparents’ doorstep looking for Haru. What was that all about?” He didn’t seem to even notice Ryū had stolen his cupcake, eyes laser-focused on his face, wide with interest and curiosity.

“He,” Ryū tried to decide what he wanted to admit to, “wanted me to go along up a lie that he was tutoring me to give him a cover story for being out late or all day on the weekends.”

Sasuke frowned down at his coffee, the froth now puddled across the table and liquid probably less-than-hot now. He took a sip anyway. “That sounds like something my brother would do,” he replied. “I should have thought of that. No offence, but I don’t think you would have caught his attention otherwise. Your Quirk isn’t powerful enough.”

Ryū stared at him and, then, stunned with himself even as it happened, found himself letting out a loud and unfiltered laugh. He laughed, chin tucked to his chest, and shoulders shaking for several seconds, then glanced up at Sasuke, snickering. “Sasuke-senpai, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.”

“What’s so funny?”

 


 

Ryū left Sasuke over an hour later. He’d sat, mostly mute, listening to the older boy ramble on about his family, occasionally adding in his own two-cents, and had only left when he realised what the time was. Sasuke had thanked him, patted his shoulder and headed off home. Ryū, on the other hand, had cut across town to the Onderū District.

Once, Onderū had been a bustling area of Musutafu, with an up-and-coming shopping sector, a large city-point bank and dedicated sky garden set centre-stage atop the 400m tall Kanbara Building, the someplace of Kanbara Industries, the company behind a lot of the high-spec military technology used nowadays.

Nobody had told the prolific villain Resonate this. With the power to replicate and amplify sounds sent her way, she had been on the run for years, killing and stealing to her heart’s content before Deku cornered her near the Onderū City Bank. He’d been having trouble getting past her sound-relays and called in reinforcements. Unfortunately for everyone there that day, Present Mic had arrived and the police working the scene had incorrectly briefed him on the situation, leaving him with the impression that she dampened sound, not amplified it. When he’d let out his iconic shout...well, the entire foundation of the district had trembled and taken with it the Kanbara Inc. Building. People had been quick to leave Onderū after that, not wanting to stick around after buildings started collapsing left, right and centre without a moment’s notice. Present Mic had never been held accountable for the incident, as he was found not-liable, but had gone on to retire not two months later anyway. The fall of a Pro, any Pro, was nearly always a bad one.

After six months, Onderū was completely abandoned and the road connecting it to central Musutafu was very strange in deed to drive or walk down. One minute there were tall, modern-style white buildings and clean sidewalks and the next was rubble and overgrown, cracked slabs of concrete with weeds and garbage strewn about like stuffing from a child’s lost toy.

When they were younger, Ryū, Kagami and Michiko would often venture out into Onderū to jump through the abandoned buildings and throw rocks at rusty old cars. They hadn’t been allowed to do this, of course, and had been banned and warned and threatened from going there, but that hadn’t bothered them. He had pretty fond memories of that time, and even remembered his brothers joining them on occasion in a sort of mother-hen, but troublemakers, sort of way.

Now, however, Ryū was alone. He kicked a rock and watched it bounce off the trunk of a de-wheeled car propped up on cinder blocks, but it wasn’t anywhere near as fun as it would be if Kagami and Michiko were there to cheer him on for doing it.

He climbed over a piece of concrete about three Ryūs high by shoving his foot into a crack running along it and stared out over the Vortex Mall left to the elements near the edge of the shopping district. It was huge, far bigger than any other in Musutafu, and had fared very well from the Resonate vs. Present Mic incident. It was still standing, at least, and the big ‘WELCOME’ sign had most of its letters, though it now said ‘WECOME’ instead, which sounded much more threatening than welcoming. The stores had all been looted long ago, but the foundation and framework remained even after ten years of a solitary existence.

Ryū had heard, of course, that villains and up-to-no-gooders hung around the ruins of Onderū, but he had never seen any. Maybe they only came out at night? If that was the case, he didn’t want to stick around much longer, or the sun would be going down.

On the walk up to the doors of the Vortex mall, Ryū got the distinct feeling that he was being watched. It felt a little like knowing someone was walking over your grave. Uneasy and just plain weird. He shoved his hands into his pockets, ducked his head, and walked a little faster.

The doors were metal, relatively rust-free because of the type, but the glass was entirely gone, lying in glittering pieces scattered across tiles inside. He pulled one open and winced as said glass crunched underfoot, squinting into the dim, eerie interior of the mall. A rat scuttled past, disappearing deeper into the gloom.

“Hello?” he called just in case there was someone lurking around. The word bounced and echoed back at him. ‘Hello’, ‘hello’, ‘hello’. Ryū shivered. There was something about an empty, abandoned shopping mall that gave him the creeps. Every horror movie he’d ever watched told him that walking any further was a bad idea, but needs must.

He wandered in, then had an idea and he lit his hand with his Quirk, then shone it around the mall, which was set-up with a large atrium design open to the two floors above, stores lining each of the three walls, whilst the fourth floor was closed off and where the remnants of the food court lived. Disused and broken escalators and lifts sat in the middle, half the glass of the elevator column was shattered across the smooth white tile flooring. Some stores were left as if people would be back any minute, shutters open and displays still out, though all the inventory was either looted or scattered across the interior. Others were shut tight, seemingly untouched.

The place smelt thick, of dust and stale air and mould. He sneezed and there was a sound, the jarring screech of movement against glass and Ryū swung his lit hand, peering up at the next floor.

A set of glowing ruby eyes shone in the beam, surrounded by dead grey skin and underlined by a chilling white-fanged grin. Ryū is here.

He shook his head, trying to calm his breathing, his racing pulse. Okay. No need to worry now. It was just Kiyo, just Kiyo watching him from the dark like a fucking psycho. Nobody was spying on him. Calm down. “You scared the fuck out of me,” he muttered.

Kiyo is…sorry. Kiyo was excited to see Ryū after being alone all day. This place is very empty, you know. Very lonely.

“Yeah, I see that,” he said, lifting his hand-torch over the trash and bricks, the broken glass littered across the atrium. “This place is eerie.”

I kind of like it.

Ryū shook his head, rolling his eyes. “Why am I not surprised? So. Um, where is he?”

She hopped up onto the railing, looming over him like a hellbeast thirsty for blood, eyes glinting and toothy smile widening even further across her ghoulish face. Follow me. Quick, come on!

Ryū followed her deeper into the mall, trying to avoid stepping onto the trash acting as a makeshift obstacle course whilst also keeping his lit hands focused on his fast-moving Quirk as she jumped and ducked above his head, even leaping onto the stationary handrail of the escalator once they reached it.

Up up, come on! You’re going to be so proud of Kiyo! Very proud, she chattered and Ryū carefully climbed the escalator, finding the second floor just as dark and dirty as the first.

Kiyo scampered into an open store-front and Ryū came to a stop as soon as he saw the sign above it. “You’re fucking with me.”

There was something very blasphemous about this, Ryū couldn’t help but think. What would his friends say if they could see him now? Sneaking into the Vortex Mall with the terrifying creature that had attacked them and several Pro Heroes in public.

His Quirk stuck her head back out. Ryū. Ryū, come on!

He sighed, glanced around just to completely reassure himself that no one was following him or spying from the shadows, and then followed her into the musty, destroyed interior of ‘HERO MEMORABILIA’. Fuck. Even thinking of the store name made him feel guilty. He flicked off his Quirk.

The store was set up with the displays taking up the main floor space and the checkout counter against the back wall. Most of the inventory was gone now, looted by fans or simply opportunists; though a few collectables and some dusty merchandise had been forgotten and now lay crumpled or broken on the floor. Ryū stepped over a Tsukuyomi t-shirt in size XXL, then let Kiyo eagerly guide him through the door behind the counter and into the stock room, which was small, dark and packed tightly with abandoned boxes. There was a second door with a shelving unit shoved in front of it, that he presumed led out into the employee hallway.

“…Hello?” a small voice called, hoarse and cracked. “Is somebody there?”

Ryū stopped in the doorway, heart beating fast in his chest. Okay. They were really doing this. This was a real situation. At school, it had been easy to forget and pretend nothing was going on, that his Quirk wasn’t off somewhere doing something highly illegal, but now? Now there was no denying it.

A pipe, a good thirty centimetres around, ran along the ceiling and down the far wall. Slumped against it, hands behind his back and shoulders pulled tight, was a man. His chest was sweaty, shirt covered in grime and dripped with brown bloodstains on one shoulder, trouser legs hiked up to make room for thin chains wrapped tight around both ankles. His head, raised and tilted alertly in their direction, was pressed against the pipe, red hair held down by the dirty, makeshift blindfold tied around his head.

No, there really was no denying it, huh? They’d kidnapped Red Riot.

“Hello?”

Ryū shook his head clear of thoughts and stepped closer. His toe knocked an empty soda can and Red Riot jumped, shoulders hunching at the sudden noise.

He opened his mouth, got about one sound out, and then snapped it closed. How stupid would that have been? He looked to Kiyo, who was also watching Red Riot, though with a particularly more…hungry expression than Ryū’s clear panic.

I can’t talk, he thought. He’ll recognise my voice right away.

“I know somebody’s there! I can hear you breathing!”

Ryū retreaded back into the main store, shutting the door right in Kiyo’s confused, angry face. She phased right through it, leaping up onto the counter.

You’re…you’re not happy? I did what Ryū asked, though.

“You did,” he whispered. “Thank you. But…but I just - that’s Red Riot! We kidnapped him!”

We had too. He was going to take us to the police, remember? He was going to get us arrested. She leant forward, staring at him with those ruby red eyes. We would have gone to prison, been kicked out of U.A., and never would have made it as a Hero. All because of him. We couldn’t let that happen, Ryū. What other choice did we have?

“But. But he’s still…”

Either way, it’s too late to go back now. He’ll know it was us, he’ll tell everyone and we’ll be seen as villains forever. I know that’s not what you want.

“Of course not!” He snapped, then quickly lowered his voice. “I want to be a Hero.”

Then this is what we have to do. Nobody needs to know about it, Ryū. It can be our secret. Just us.

“But one day we’ll have to let him go, Kiyo, and then what? He’ll still snitch then.”

I have a plan.

Ryū scoffed. “You? A plan? Hit me with it then? And don’t say ‘let’s eat him’ because that is not a plan.”

Nooo. Kiyo glared right back at him, long tongue flicking out of her fanged jaws to clean her sharp, grey face. Ryū, what is your Quirk? Tell me.

What? “Well, I’m not too sure. I think I have two. Magma, it lets me produce heat and light from my skin, and also makes me fireproof. And then there’s you. Kiyo. We…we eat people. Or, you do. And then we get their Quirk.”

Exactly. That tongue slithered out a little more and caressed his face. He shivered at that horrible slimy sensation but didn’t pull away. Kiyo was his Quirk. He could never be disgusted by her, not really. Even with all the awful things she did. Just think about it. All we need to do is find…somebody and take their Quirk. A person with a memory-erasing ability. Maybe we already know them.

Ryū’s entire body went cold, skin prickling uncomfortably. “You’re - you mean - Kurou-sama?”

He deserves to die. He HURT US. Are you saying you want him out there, maybe hurting other defenceless children as we had been?

“Of course I fucking don’t,” Ryū snarled right back. “How could you ever think I did? I want him gone. I want him wiped off this stupid planet forever.”

It’s the perfect solution. We find him, we find that monster, and you let me kill him. We eat his disgusting corpse and get his Quirk. Then we can let your Riot Man go. And everything will go back to normal.

“Back to normal?” No more Kurou-sama, no more Red Riot being tied up in some abandoned mall. Just classes and Hero training and his friends. A normal teenager’s life. “You make it sound so easy.”

It is easy. Besides, what other option do you - do we have? Think about it, Ryū.

Ryū did think about it. And the idea was sounding more and more appealing with each passing moment. Normality. Kurou-sama, gone. Surely that was all he needed to think about.

“Okay, but how? We don’t know where he went, Kiyo.”

You’re befriending that puddle boy, aren’t you? To find out the Quirks of those disgusting street rats. We can see if this…Kurou is on record. Maybe he has a house we don’t know about. And with your grandparents with him, surely he can’t be too well-hidden.

Obaa-san, Ryū thought. Ojii-san.

“Okay,” he replied. “What now? Red Riot will recognise my voice.” Even if they were going to erased the Pro’s memory, he still wouldn’t be able to talk to him and reveal he was the kidnapper behind it all. His skin crawled at the thought of doing so.

She laughed, loud and grating, and Ryū glanced at the door of Red Riot’s prison, but there was no responding noise. He guessed Kiyo was doing that thing she did where she spoke solely to him in his mind.

Haven’t you noticed? she asked.

“What the fuck does that mean?”

Take a look. There’s a mirror over there.

Ryū saw said mirror, over by the clothing merchandise section, and walked over to it. He looked at his reflection, swore and scrambled away. “What the fuck?” he repeated. “Why do I -?”

There’s another one we’ve figured out, Kiyo observed casually. I’m surprised you didn’t notice.

Hands shaking, Ryū touched his cheek, his nose. “I look like my brother.”

“I don’t see it.”

“No, my other brother. Like Raiden.”

His face, arguably, was sort of similar. Same skin colour, same nose. But his eyebrows were thinner, more angled, and his eyes…his eyes were blue. Still shaped and placed the same, but a bright blue that was definitely the same as Raiden’s. His hair was basically the same, but shorter, shaved into an undercut, and…

“I’m blonde!?”

A shapeshifting Quirk, Ryū. That’s how you looked when you met that man and his spawn. They wouldn’t recognise you as yourself.

“A shapeshifting Quirk?” Ryū echoed, still prodding his new face. “This is so fucking weird.” Was this how Kagami felt when he changed his appearance? Ryū felt much more respect for the other boy now. How alien it felt. “So, this is what Yamada and his son saw. When I introduced myself as Ren.”

Ren Form. Kiyo said. That’s what we should call this Quirk. I think it might solve all your worries about your Riot Man.

“My voice? But it sounds the same. My face may be different, but my voice? Not so much. He’d recognise it in a heartbeat.” His voice, not his face, because he had a new fucking face, how weird was that - “Wait.” Was he really that dumb? “Hello,” he said, deepening his voice as he stared at himself in the mirror. “Hello? Hello. Hi, my name is Ren.”

You sound stupid.

“I sound too similar, is what,” he replied. “Hello? Hello, hi. My name is - hu-hem, my name is - my name. Ugh! This is so fucking dumb!” Ryū glowered at himself, then froze. “I got it.”

Hm?

“Red Riot recognises my voice, sure but also my tone. He knows how I talk, my mannerisms. That I’m pretty flat and monotone. If I talk like,” he cleared his throat, then put a forced, stretched smile on his face. It looked ridiculous, but Red Riot was wearing a blindfold. He’d never had to see Ryū’s stupid facial expressions. “Hiya! My name is Ren-kun!”

Kiyo hacked a laugh, deep and rumbly. That’s perfect, Ryū. Will you be able to keep it up?

“Of course,” Ryū said flatly. “Ren-kun is the kidnapper, not me. Let’s do this.”

He took a deep breath, then kicked open the door to Red Riot’s room and walked in. Red Riot jumped, head swinging. His chained legs crunched up a little closer to his chest. “You’re back,” he panted. “Hey, h-hey, man. What’s this all about, huh? Are - “

“Shut up!” Ryū snapped, kicking the soda can from earlier so hard it bounced off the wall with a rattling noise. Red Riot flinched at that. “Stupid Hero,” he went on. Er, what did crazy kidnappers say? “I can’t stand to hear your voice.”

Ren, Kiyo said, and Red Riot went completely rigid, head swinging left and right in a panic. Let’s eat him.

What was Kiyo doing? Was she serious? Had she not heard - Ryū saw the pleased curl of the grin on her snarling face. Oh. Ohhh. She was giving him an opportunity for good-cop, back-cop. “No way,” he replied. “We can’t…” Shit, shit, what could he call her?

Hime, she whispered in his mind.

“We can’t, Hime! He’s more useful to use alive than dead.” Ryū looked back at Red Riot, trying not to feel bad. This was all Red Riot’s fault, just like Kiyo had said. He’d brought this on himself. “So, Red Riot. Are you going to confess?”

Ryū tried not to cringe. He was winging this; there hadn’t exactly been much time for making up some sort of logical ruse, had there?

“Confess?” Red Riot repeated. “Confess to what, man? The last thing I remember is being with -” He went rigid. “My son. Ryū! Ryū; what have you done with him!?”

Throat a little tight at that - because since when was Red Riot worried about what happened to him? -, Ryū shook his head. He had to stay focused. “Ha,” he said. “Haha! Like I’d tell you! Maybe when you’re a bit more cooperative, I’ll listen to your begging.” He checked his phone, which said it was now close to five in the evening. “But since you seem unwilling to talk right now, I’ll be off.”

“Wait!” Red Riot called. “Wait, man, please! Just tell me if he’s -”

“Shut up!” Ryū yelled and the noise bounced around the room. Boy, didn't that feel good, yelling at his deadbeat father? “If you’re good, I might bring you something to eat and drink tomorrow. If not, I’ll leave you to waste away and no one will ever find your body.” He looked at Kiyo. “Hime! Stay here.” And don’t hurt him.

Then Ryū left, slamming the door behind him.

Almost immediately, he dropped his head into his hands. Oh fuck. He’d done that. He’d really - really gone in there, under his ‘Ren’ persona and threatened Red Riot, a Pro Hero. There was no going back now. No changing his mind.

The point of no return.