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U.A.'s Resident Ghost

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The first day of school is usually pretty rough in Shouta’s experience. A whole nother group of students and a whole nother three years to go through. Sometimes he wonders why he’s even a teacher at all since he’s never really been all that suited for the job, but it’s whatever. He’s here, he does it, and that isn’t changing any time soon.

Plus, with the exception of perhaps Mineta, all the Class 1-A students show potential. In the entrance exam, they’d all fought their hardest. He was surprised by how many robots Hagakure was able to take out, given she was invisible and all and didn’t have any outstanding physical abilities. And Shinsou managed to get in, too, despite having a more psychological Quirk. It’s impressive.

He’s filing through paperwork and mentally going over what he wants to work with tomorrow on their official first day of school. The Quirk Apprehension test is a must; plus it’s a good way for him to see where the students are positionally. Their confidence, their drive, how badly they want to be here. That sort of thing.

Shouta heaves a long sigh and massages his temples with aching fingers. He feels like he’s been at this paperwork for hours and has put no dent in it. Sometimes he wonders why he bothers with this. He doesn’t get enough sleep even when school isn’t in session.

He’s just about to screw it and call it a night when across from him, the door opens and slams.

Shouta doesn’t jump, but his eyes snap upwards to the door and his hands come down from his face. The door had been closed snugly, he’d made sure of that. It hadn’t been a draft. He hadn’t seen anyone open or shut the door, either.

He watches the door for a while longer afterwards, and when it doesn’t happen again, he rises from his feet and makes to pack up his things—though he does keep looking over his shoulder, even though he knows there’s no one there. With how crime rates have escalated over the years despite the reign of All Might, he doesn’t trust this city.

The strange phenomenon doesn’t happen again. Once he’s packed his things and slung his messenger bag over his shoulder, he heads outside. The door handle feels like it’s been frozen, then thawed with ice water, but he turns it and steps into the hall. There’s some part of him that feels like he’s being watched, but he knows that can’t possibly be. There’s no one here to watch him. The feeling is unwarranted and doesn’t make any sense.

So he ignores it.

He takes a cab back to his apartment, and as soon as he’s got one foot in the door, his resident cat bounces over. Shouta had found the cat in an alleyway after taking out a band of villains one night, and the creature had looked so helpless that he couldn’t help bring it home. He’d named the cat “Ashtray” because that’s what it looked like (and smelled like) the day he brought him home.

Ashtray mewels at him unhappily, angry that he’s been gone this long, and Shouta is just about to apologize, but that’s precisely the moment that Ashtray arches his back, fluffs up his fur and hisses at the spot right beside Shouta.

The banging door hadn’t startled Shouta earlier, but this does. His head snaps around to follow Ashtray’s eyes, but there’s nothing there. Just the blank space beside him.

“There’s no one there,” Shouta says, finally pulling the door shut beside him. Ashtray doesn’t stop hissing, though, and Shouta takes the long way around the cat and heads into the kitchen to get him his dinner. Ashtray doesn’t move from his spot at the door until he hears his food bowl rattling in the kitchen, and even then he looks warily back at the entryway.

Shouta hadn’t been all too bothered before, but he’s definitely on edge now. Ashtray isn’t a very friendly cat, but he’s pretty laid back unless deliberately aggravated. To see him so upset about something is unusual.

Shouta sets the food bowl on the ground and heads into the bedroom. Maybe some mindless TV will help distract him from all this.


The TV isn’t working.

It turns on alright, and for a little while the news blares annoyingly and he has half a mind to shut it off, but about thirty seconds into the program is when it starts acting up. Right in the middle of the report, a wave of static engulfs the screen.

The sound of the static is what really startles him, because it seems far louder than usual. Almost like the TV is actually shrieking at him and not simply malfunctioning.

Shouta reaches blindly for the remote, but his fingers grasp air. The remote isn’t where he left it; instead, it’s all the way on the other side of the room, on the floor.

The sad part about it is, this evening has been so weird and he’s so worn down that for a second he wonders, did I actually THROW it? but then he remembers that, no, he’d put it right beside him after turning on the TV. He wouldn’t have thrown it across the room anyway.

He gets to his feet, and once he has the remote in his hands again, he shuts off the television. That’s enough of that.


Ashtray is staring at the wall.

He’s always been a weird cat, and more than once Shouta thought that perhaps he’d suffered some kind of head affliction before Shouta took him in, but he’s never done anything like this before. He’s sitting on the foot of Shouta’s bed, tail curled around his toes, and he’s staring with wide eyes and fluffed fur at the wall.

Shouta’s first thought is, yep, his cat has officially lost it and honestly he’s probably lost it too, but that can’t be the answer. Shouta hadn’t opened and slammed the door earlier; he hadn’t thrown the remote across the room; there’s nothing wrong with the TV that he can find; and he’d done nothing to warrant Ashtray hissing like that.

Something more must be at play here, but Shouta can’t come up with anything conclusive. He thinks about it until his headache redoubles, and when he can’t think any longer, he goes to bed. It’s three in the morning and he doesn’t have much time, considering tomorrow’s the first day of school for the new U.A. students, but he’ll take what he can get.

If Ashtray could stop staring at the wall, now, that would be fantastic.


“AND NOW, WE WILL RETURN TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING—”

Shouta yells and shoots upright, scrambling for the TV remote. The sudden burst of sunlight against his eyes burns, but the volume of the TV burns his ears even more, and he fumbles and scrambles for the remote. Ashtray makes some kind of strangled, inhuman sound and all but flies out of the room, just as Shouta’s fingers close around the remote and blindly slam buttons.

The volume’s up all the way, definitely, but before he can shut the accursed thing off and be done with it, the static comes back and it’s piercing.

It takes more time than it should, but he’s still exhausted and this is the rudest awakening he could’ve gotten this morning. He finally finds the off button and slams it with enough force to break it. The TV clicks off and the chaos is gone as soon as it’d come.

Shouta sits there for a while longer to wait out the ringing in his ears. He sets the remote on the side-table and brings his hands up to his face again, rubbing his temples and shutting his eyes against the piercing sunlight through the window. It’s morning now. He needs to get ready to go to school.

“Damn thing,” he grumbles under his breath. If it happens again, he’s not sure he’ll be able to keep himself from just launching the TV into the sun or something.

Ugh. What a morning.

He pushes himself to his feet, still rubbing his head, and heads towards the hall bathroom. He passes Ashtray on the way, who looks every bit as disheveled as Shouta, and Shouta supplies a brief, unenthusiastic good morning and steps into the bathroom.

There’s something red and dripping on the mirror.

His first thought is immediately oh, as if this morning couldn’t get any better, but then he’s crossing the room to examine it closer. The nearer he gets, the less it looks like blood (which is what his brain had first jumped to). Against his better judgement, he touches a drop with his finger and smells it.

Paint.

It’s paint.

He reaches for the tap to wash off his hands (and possibly call the police about a break-in), but that’s when he notices that it’s not just lines and symbols written on the mirror in paint.

They’re words.

They’re smeared pretty badly, and it takes Shouta a lot longer than it should before he can read them, but soon enough, he does.

 

I’m sorry I broke your TV and scared your cat.

 

Shouta doesn’t know why it happens now of all times, but it clicks. The slamming door, Ashtray’s snarls, the static on the TV, his rude awakening, and now this. Writing on the bathroom mirror with no one else in sight.

There’s a freaking spirit in his apartment.

He looks around for a second longer, half-expecting to see whoever they are, but there’s no one there except him (and now Ashtray, who has poked his head through the door to probably nag about breakfast). Once he’s made sure he’s alone, Shouta looks back towards the mirror.

“Who are you?” Shouta says.

He’s not really expecting a response, but he gets one. At the very bottom of the mirror, in tiny lettering, words are smeared.

 

Not enough room.

 

Ah. Yes. The first message took up the majority of the bathroom mirror, the spirit doesn’t have the space he needs to properly answer.

“Would a notebook work?” Shouta asks. Honestly, he’s having one of those moments in life where really, he may as well just be talking to a ghost. Like seriously, why not. Why not.

The word yes shows up at the very bottom, and Shouta spins on his heel, motioning for the spirit to come with him. Ashtray fluffs up his fur again and scampers down the hallway at light speed.

“Don’t mind him,” Shouta says, recalling the spirit’s first message. “He’s pretty laid back once he gets to know you.”

He says, to the spirit. Maybe he should call in sick today because something isn’t right about this situation.

In the end it isn’t a notebook he finds, but rather a stack of sticky notes and a marker. He sets the items on the kitchen table, then gestures at the air in front of him where he guesses the spirit might be.

“So. As you will.”

He’d been scarily okay with the blood-like lettering on the mirror, but there’s something far more unsettling about watching the pen rise as though of its own fruition and scratch words onto the post-it.

 

My name is Izuku. I’m 12. I’ve been following you since this morning. I tried showing you I was there but nothing worked. I’m sorry.

 

This, this is what gets him. Not the spirit, not even the blood-like letters on the mirror or the pen moving as though on its own. It’s that number, 12.

This is a child.

This is a dead child.

“It’s fine, kid,” Shouta says, still staring into the empty space. “Sorry I didn’t realize what was going on sooner.”

 

It’s okay. I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear sooner.

 

This is almost too much to deal with, and to think, he still has to go to U.A. and teach an entire group of students on their first day. He doesn’t think he’s ever been this unenthusiastic about anything in his entire life.

“You’re fine,” Shouta says, but he shakes his head and rests his arms on the countertop, leaning his weight on them. “What’s up? Why’ve you been following me around like this?”

The post-it tears from the bunch, sticks on the table, and the pen moves again on a new, untouched sheet.

 

I wanted to ask you about U.A. And…

 

The pen taps against the countertop for a little while at a speed that almost gives Shouta whiplash.

 

… I wanted to ask if maybe I could take some classes there or something.

 

Good lord, what is today?

Shouta sighs. “I’ll be frank with ya, kid,” he says, shaking his head, “that’s not gonna be easy. You said you’re twelve, right? That’s a little young for high school.”

 

If I was alive I’d be 15.

 

Shouta blinks. “... It’s been… three years?”

The post-it tears itself from the rest again, and a new post-it replaces it.

 

Yes. Three years is…

 

More tapping. More hesitation.

 

It’s a long time. To be alone.

 

This is a child. A child. Just a little kid, a dead little kid, and he’d come to Shouta for help. Every part of Shouta wants to do something, because there’s some part of him that says that, as a hero, as a protector of the public, this is his fault.

But… a ghost at U.A., and not just that but a student ghost. Is that even a thing that’s possible? In a world full of abnormalities and unusuals, is this too much? What determines “too much”? Hagakure is invisible and she’s still a student. Is it really that different?

“... You said your name was Izuku, right?”

 

Izuku. Yes.

 

“Well, Izuku.” Shouta can’t believe he’s saying this, let alone to literal blank air, but he exhales sharply through his nose and shakes his head again. “I’m testing the Class 1-A students later on today to determine whether or not they have enough potential and determination to make it through U.A. If you want, you could come along and watch. Maybe you could even participate.”

Something in the air changes drastically. Shouta hadn’t realized what a weight had been on his shoulders until now, when it’s removed.

 

Do you mean it? says the post-it note.

 

Shouta nods. “Sure thing, kiddo. I’ve gotta go get ready to head out, but—”

The pen has started scratching on a brand new post-it note to form the words, Favorite Person. The post-it tears from the rest and smacks against Shouta’s forehead.

Shouta flinches back at first, but the post-it note is stuck to his head now and honestly? He just accepted a freaking ghost onto U.A.’s campus. Having a post-it note stuck to his head is the least weird thing that’s happened today.

“... Thanks,” he drones, shoulders slumped.

The atmosphere rises yet another notch, and Shouta imagines that, if he’d been able to see the boy, there’d be a smile on his face.

Chapter Text

If someone had told Shouta yesterday that he’d be practically adopting a dead twelve year old, he… well… he doesn’t really know what he would do because that’s such an absurd thing to say in the first place.

Except, here he is, passing notes with the kid’s spirit. There isn’t nearly enough coffee in the world to get him through today.

Shouta’s got about one hour to go before he has to leave for U.A. to meet the Class 1-A students, and it’s only about that moment that he realizes the real extent of what he’d told Izuku.

Izuku, the spirit. The ghost whom he’d told could go to U.A. and watch, maybe even participate in the classes. What is his life, anyway?

“... I don’t know how the faculty is going to feel about you being a part of the school without taking the entrance exam,” Shouta tells him, brows drawn in a frown. He doesn’t know where Izuku is and of course he can’t see him, so he just follows Ashtray’s wide, haunted eyes to get a basic estimate. “You haven’t technically qualified to enter the school.

The stack of post-its and pen are floating mid-air. The pen scratches along the paper before the boy turns the paper to show him.

 

I took the entrance exam. You just didn’t notice me.

 

Shouta blinks, long and hard. “You what.”

More scratching of the pen on paper. The boy turns it around again for him to see.

 

I took down the robots by watching that invisible-girl find the switches. It’s okay if you don’t believe me but I did take them down.

 

Now that he mentions it, Shouta did find it absurd that Hagakure seemed to take down so many bots, despite being on the other side of the field when some of them went down. Had it really been izuku flipping switches? Really?

“... I have a video on my computer,” Shouta says, “of the entrance exam. The school sent me a copy to look over the candidates for the school. If I show you the video, can you point out which robots you took down?”

 

Yes.

 

“Alright.” He really should be going, but what the heck, this child is taking priority. “Follow me, we’ll get the laptop. Also, quick question.”

He heads into his bedroom and scoops his laptop off the bed to set it instead on the desk. Ashtray follows closely, warily staring up at the blank empty space that must be Izuku.

“If I get you a phone,” Shouta says, turning to him, “would you be able to use it to message me? Might be easier than the post-it notes, don’t you think?”

I don’t know. Maybe.

 

He tears a new post-it note.

 

It would be a lot easier, I just don’t know how the electronics would react if I was using them.

 

Shouta flips open his laptop screen and leans back in his chair. The little Favorite Person post-it from earlier this morning is taped to the corner of the screen. He hadn’t the heart to throw it away and possibly hurt the kid’s feelings.

He gestures to the laptop. “Well. You seem pretty close to this one, and nothing’s happening. Try getting closer. Press a key or something.”

A cold chill spirals down his spine, but he pretends it doesn’t happen. The H key presses of its own accord, and the screen glitches out a little, but the damage isn’t lasting. It’s barely noticeable.

The post-it notes and pen rise from the desktop, and the pen scratches a new letter.

 

I think that works.

 

“Then I’ll get you a phone,” Shouta says, nodding shortly. He pulls open his library on the laptop and scrolls through the videos until he finds the one he needs. “You can get a couple games on it too if you ever get bored. It’s a nice pass-time.”

 

Okay. Thank you.

 

Shouta rolls his eyes. “Already told you, you don’t need to thank me, kid,” he says, hovering over the video. “It’s…”

A dead child.

“... It’s the least I could do,” Shouta assures with a soft smile. “Don’t worry about it, alright? As long as you don’t start intentionally haunting me, then we’re good.”

 

Aren’t I already intentionally haunting you? As a ghost, aren’t I haunting you by default?

 

“Not necessarily,” Shouta says, typing away at his laptop to search for the file because he knows it’s here, it’s just a matter of finding it amidst all his saved videos. Half of them are just videos of Ashtray that he couldn’t bear to part with. “I wouldn’t say you’re necessarily ‘haunting’ me, just following me around.”

He stops abruptly, a thought crossing his mind.

“... Hey, kid. Why haven’t you connected with, y’know… the rest of the spirits? I’m sure there’re a ton of them around.”

The pen scratches the post-it notes.

 

I don’t know. I’ve tried, but I’ve never been able to see other spirits. It’s lonely.

 

So he wasn’t joking. He really has been all alone these past couple of years.

“Well,” he says, turning towards him fully, “you don’t have to be lonely anymore, alright?”

Izuku doesn’t respond with the post-its again, but the atmosphere goes up a noticeable notch, and Shouta exhales through his nose with a smile.

“Ah. Here we go.”

He double-clicks the video once he finds it and grabs a second pen and piece of paper from the pencil cup and desk drawer respectively. “Just use the pen to point to whatever robots you took out, alright? I’ll add it up as we go.”

 

Okay.

 

And so it begins. The images start moving on the screen, and the cameras cut between every student who’s achieved a score of at least 20 Combat Points. Shouta goes ahead and checks down 20 on the notepad so he can add from there (granted Izuku is here after all).

He is. The pen floats and points several times at a fallen robot on-screen.

“That one?” Shouta says, marking down a 2 beneath the 20 points. The camera cuts abruptly to a scene of Hagakure as she sneaks up to one and cuts the power. The camera pans over to Iida Tenya, launching a kick at a robot and taking it down effortlessly. Then it cuts to Uraraka Ochako, lifting three robots into the air just to slam them back down with gravity. Izuku points to a robot behind Uraraka, and Shouta marks down a 3.

And then, Bakugou Katsuki blows one of the robots to smithereens.

A chill spikes up Shouta’s spine, and he feels like the room temperature just decreased by a good couple degrees. On-screen, Bakugou breathes hard before turning around and launching another explosion at the next closest robot that comes at him.

Shouta doesn’t know much about Bakugou, but he knows even less when it comes to why Izuku got suddenly spooked.

“Hey, kid?” Shouta asks, frowning. He pauses the video while they resolve this, because he doesn’t want to miss a point while Izuku is distracted. “What happened? Is everything okay?”

The post-it notes raise to meet the pen.

 

I’m fine. Just thinking about something.

 

Shouta quirks a brow at him, but decides not to argue. If Izuku doesn’t want to tell him now, then Shouta won’t push him now.

“Alright,” he says. “If you’re ready, we’ll move on.”

He doesn’t get an objection, so he plays the video again and Izuku keeps pointing out robots with the pen.

As things progress and the video plays on, there’s only one difference that Shouta notices between Izuku’s takedowns and Hagakure’s takedowns, and that is, the robots always sense Hagakure at the last second. They never sense Izuku. That’s more confirmation in his mind that, yep, that’s definitely Izuku taking out these robots and not Hagakure. It’s a defining factor.

There are thirty seconds left in the video. Izuku is currently up to 61 Combat Points—more than what he needs to actually pass the exam, not to mention his stealth is impressive considering no one knew he was there—but that’s precisely when things make a swift change. The ground shakes. The video portraits every student’s reaction respectively, but they all have that same, mortified look on their face.

Ah. The Zero-Pointer.

Shouta has always had conflicted feelings about the Zero-Pointer, but that’s whatever. He hadn’t watched this part of the exam; once all the Combat Points were dialed in, he’d left while the judges took care of the Rescue Points accordingly.

He leans forward a little, and the cold, icy presence beside him tells him Izuku is doing the same.

The Zero-Pointer comes stomping down the street with its massive, bulky figure, bringing down buildings and crushing faux cars beneath its footsteps. It garners just about the reaction Shouta expected; the students turn and run in the opposite direction, screaming and hollering.

Shouta watches, waiting, and that’s when he notices the girl from earlier, Uraraka Ochako, pinned by the leg beneath a chunk of building.

Shouta’s heart gives a small lurch, but he knows she’ll be fine. This video wouldn’t exist, and U.A. wouldn’t either if she wasn’t. It’s just a matter of how—

He can’t even finish that thought before there’s a loud explosion from off-screen, and then someone suddenly blasts themselves on-screen, explosions blasting behind them and red flames clouding the camera.

The smoke clears just in time for Shouta and Izuku to watch as Bakugou Katsuki launches a massive, full-scale attack at the Zero Pointer.

The robot can’t retaliate. Its metal creaks and crunches as the explosion nearly blasts out the speakers on his laptop, and Bakugou Katsuki is suspended in the air for a duration, hands smoldering, smoke filling the sky.

The Zero Pointer falls, and then so does Bakugou.

It’s Uraraka who thinks quickly enough to tap the nearest piece of asphalt to her with her Quirk activated. The asphalt lifts, weightless, and Bakugou slows his fall with a brief explosion before landing, unharmed, on the broken piece. Uraraka touches her fingers and the asphalt hits the dirt.

That’s the last thing that happens before the cameras cut abruptly, and that’s the end of the exam. Shouta leans back in his chair with a long, heaving sigh, then takes up the notebook again to double-check his numbers.

“Well, kid, looks like you’ve got yourself sixty-one combat points,” he deduces, lifting his head towards the blank space beside him. The post-it notes and pen are still resting on the desk beside the laptop. “That’s pretty close to being the top score. Actually, wait…”

He hadn’t paid much attention during the scoring part of it. He just figured he’d meet his students when the time came down to it. But he seems to recall another student totaling up with about that number.

“You might actually have the most combat points out of all the Class 1-A students,” Shouta says, a bit stunned himself. “That’s nothing to sneeze at, kid. Good job.”

There’s no answer. The stack of post-its and the pen remain still on the desk beside the laptop. Shouta frowns deeply.

“Kid?”

He looks to Ashtray, who is usually the perfect “Izuku Detector,” but he has just about enough time to see Ashtray’s tail as the cat sprints from the room, leaving Shouta alone.

Shouta hadn’t realized it before, but the icy presence at his side is gone, too.

He’s sure Izuku will be back, but, still. Shouta can’t help his concern.

No matter, he pushes himself to his feet, gathers his notebooks, papers, laptop, and whatever else he’ll need (sleeping bag included) into his duffle bag, leaves a post-it note for Izuku telling him where he is, and double-checks with Ashtray. The cat is circling the living room, mrrowing sadly.

Izuku definitely isn’t around, then.

Shouta tries not to think too hard about it and sets out for U.A. Izuku will find that post-it note whenever he comes back, and with luck, they’ll be able to talk about it later. If the kid wants to be alone, then there’s literally nothing Shouta can do about it. He’ll never be able to track him down or coax him to come back.

So he heads to U.A., all the while hoping the kid is okay and that they can, indeed, talk about it later. Shouta’s not sure his heart will be able to take this if it keeps happening.


The Quirk Apprehension test is the first thing on the agenda for the Class 1-A students. There’s no welcome ceremony, no opening speech, no “get to know each other” game or anything like that. Shouta greets the class briefly, then leads them outside to the back of the school for the apprehension test. He’s barely known Izuku for a couple hours, but he already misses the kid’s presence by his side and the little post-its he writes on.

Shouta ignores it and faces the class before him, stone-faced and stiff. “We’ve set up a series of tests to examine the strength of your Quirks,” he says. “You won’t all be qualified for each test, but do whatever you can to overcome your weaknesses. Find ways around what you can’t do and do your best. Whoever comes in last will be expelled.”

This elicits just about the reaction he’d expected, with half the class shrieking uncontrollably and the other class murmuring to each other, trying to determine whether or not he’s serious. The few exceptions are Shinsou and Bakugou; Shinsou has no real reaction whatsoever and Bakugou won’t break eye contact with Shouta.

The test begins, and the students throw themselves right into it with vigor. They’re more enthusiastic than half the other students that come through here and are expelled right off the bat. He blows the whistle for them to switch exercises, but aside from that, doesn’t interfere.

“Ah, dang it, my Quirk is really unsited for stuff like this,” Kirishima murmurs, looking down at his hands. “This is so frustrating, c’mon.”

Bakugou comes up behind him and gives him a short but prominent whack to the back of the head. It doesn’t seem to hurt, but it gets Kirishima’s attention.

“Idiot, don’t sell yourself short,” he says, eyes narrowed. “You’ll figure something out, just think.”

Kirishima stares at him for a long while before grinning, nodding, and diving headlong into their next exercises.

It becomes pretty obvious that they’re all coloring out of the lines.

“Hey, Satou,” Shinsou says, walking up to him. “You’ve got good grip strength, huh.”

“Oh, yeah!” Satou says, turning to him with a smile.

Shinsou nods and hums. “I don’t suppose you’d want to, y’know… take my turn and get me a good score.”

Satou’s eyes glaze over. Shinsou gets the highest amount of points that round.

Yaoyorozu fashions makeshift rockets and roller blades during the dash. Bakugou blasts (literally) through each test like it’s made of paper. They’re coloring out of the lines, not quite following the rules, but they’re making it work. Even with Quirks that are unsuited for particular exercises, they’re making it work.

The one person Shouta has his eye on primarily is Mineta, and it’s not because his Quirk is weak, because it isn’t. His Quirk could actually be quite useful for hero work someday if he could only get his personality to catch up with it.

He’ll definitely be speaking to Nedzu about that. And anyway, it’s Mineta who ends up coming last in the Quirk Apprehension Test, anyway. So maybe he has an easy out, there, because he will not stand to have someone with that kind of personality in his class.


“It’s odd of you to request a meeting with me, huh,” Nedzu comments, stirring a cup of tea briskly. “Well, I’m sure you didn’t come here to chat, so go ahead and tell me what’s going on, Eraserhead.”

The students are in the lunch hall now, several hours after the Quirk Apprehension Test, and Shouta had decided to take this opportunity to meet with Nedzu. He’s seated on a chair opposite of Nedzu’s desk, and there’s a cup of tea in front of him that he has yet to actually drink from.

Shouta lets out a heaving sigh and shakes his head.

“First off,” he says, cutting to the chase, “I would like to ask that Mineta Minoru is expelled.”

“Ah, yes.” Nedzu nods and taps away at the computer before him for a moment, one… toe? … after the other. “I have had quite a few complaints about him from other students. A lot of third years, too, no less. I will inform his parents of this decision and we’ll have a replacement ready for him tomorrow.”

“I already have a replacement in mind.”

Nedzu was just about to take a sip of his tea, but stopped as soon as the words were out of Shouta’s mouth. “Is that so?” He lowers his teacup down onto its saucer on the desk and folds his paws inquisitively. “Well, I wasn’t expecting this. It’s enough for you to only expel one student at the start of a new year, but to already have someone else in mind… that’s very not like you, Eraserhead.”

To be honest it’s not much like him to all but legally adopt a ghost child, but he doesn’t say that. Instead he nods, and Nedzu begins flipping through a stack of papers at his desk.

“Well, go ahead and tell me his name,” Nedzu says. “What class is he in? Are you moving him up?”

“He took the entrance exam,” (technically, but Shouta doesn’t add that), “but he didn’t get into U.A. at all.”

“Hm.” Nedzu continues reading over the papers. “What was his name?”
“Izuku.”

For the first time since the beginning of this conversation, Nedzu frowns. “Izuku, you say?”

Shouta frowns, too. “What? Do you recognize the name?”  

“Well.” Nedzu pushes the papers aside and focuses on the laptop screen instead, typing and clicking away. “I received an application form from a boy by that name, but it looked like a virus, so I didn’t interact with it.”

A virus. Shouta thinks back to all his glitching technology.

“That’s probably him,” Shouta says, nodding. “I watched the entrance exam video with him, and he pointed out all the robots that he took down on his own. He’s… invisible, like Hagakure,” smooth, “so I think the judges just thought it was her doing and added his points to her total.”

“Hm, yes, that makes sense,” Nedzu says, nodding. “I’ve found the email. There’s no surname, and he didn’t give any contact information, but it’s here. How many points did you say he received?”

“According to the video, sixty-one.”

“Not bad,” Nedzu comments, turning away from the computer to smile once again. “Well, I’ll need to speak to the boy’s parents, of course, since there’s no contact information here,” oh god his parents, where are his parents, “but if you approve of him, Shouta, then I don’t think there should be any trouble.”

Shouta holds up a hand to stop him. “Before you say that, you need to meet him.”

Nedzu’s smile doesn’t fade. “I really don’t think that’s necessary,” he says, “once we have all the proper information. He can enroll as soon as—”

“He’s dead, Nedzu. He’s a spirit.”

Nedzu’s smile doesn’t fade. A small, intoned “Ah” finds its way from his mouth. “Yes. That. That definitely complicates things a bit. Hmm.”

“He’s a good kid,” Shouta says. “He’s been alone all this time, but he really wants to come to school here if there’s any way possible.”

“I understand,” Nedzu says, nodding, “but this is… like I said, this complicates things.”

Shouta gets it, he really does, but still. The kid wants this. He really wants to be here, and Shouta had promised that he’d help him achieve that.

“... Tell you what.” Nedzu looks Shouta in the eyes with more seriousness than he’s ever seen before. “Bring him to meet me tomorrow. We’ll have a meeting. An interview, if you will. If everything checks out alright… then, to be completely honest with you, I don’t see any reason why he cannot be a part of this school.”

Shouta releases a huge breath he hadn’t been aware of holding. “That means a lot,” he says. “I’ll bring the kid in tomorrow, I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.”

Nedzu nods again. “Yes, be sure to bring him in tomorrow. I look forward to meeting him, Shouta. Especially considering you have such faith in him.”

Shouta nods, bids his farewells, and bows out of the room.


When he steps up to his apartment, the first thing Shouta notices is the collage of post-it notes stuck and taped down to the front of the door. The post-its come in varying colors and the writing has varying degrees of neatness and readability, but they all say the same thing.

I’m sorry

I’m sorry

I’m sorry

I’m sorry

I’m sorry

Over and over again, until Shouta’s head spins with concern because why would he be apologizing? What does he have to be sorry about? Shouta jams the key into the lock, turns it, and swings the door wide open.

“Kid?” he calls immediately, looking around. The lights are on, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Izuku is here. Maybe he just forgot to turn them off when he left today. “Kid? Kiddo, are you here?”

Just as he’s about to really start worrying, he sees Ashtray batting at a piece of string in the living room. A floating piece of string in the living room.

Shouta feels lightheaded with relief, and he redoubles his pace and heads inside. “There you are, kid. You had me worried, what’s wrong? What’s with all the notes on the door?”

The piece of string falls into Ashtray’s claws, and the post-it stack and pen on the floor raise.

 

I ran off earlier. I didn’t say goodbye or tell you where I was going. I’m sorry.

 

“That’s nothing worth leaving ominous messages on the door for,” Shouta says, shaking his head and setting down his duffle bag. “You don’t have to apologize. But if you’re overwhelmed like that again, just tell me outright, alright? I’m here to help you with that kinda stuff, you just have to trust me.”

The post-it notes don’t move again. Shouta can’t find any other words worth saying on that subject, so he changes it.

“Kid, here. Got you this on my way home.”

He fishes it from his back pocket and holds it out to the icy space. Cold somethings graze over Shouta’s hands as the phone is taken from his grip.

“I figured you wouldn’t need to make any calls, so I got the unlimited texts with limited calls plan,” Shouta explains, shaking the cold sting from his hand. “You can still use the post-its if you want, but I figured that’d be easier.”

The phone is still in the air for a moment while Izuku studies it. Then he jots down something on a post-it note.

 

Does it already have your number in it?

 

Shouta nods. “Here, go ahead and shoot me a text. See if it works.”

Watching the laptop key press on its own had been unsettling, to say the least, but watching the phone hover in mid-air as a message is tapped out by invisible fingers is almost more unsettling than that. Shouta isn’t sure he’ll ever get used to this.

His phone buzzes in his pocket, and he whips it out.

 

[Izuku]
Did it work? I think̴̢̹͇̖̼̻̐́̔̍̑ͥͬ̕  it worked.

 

“With minimal glitching, yeah,” Shouta says. “If you’re good with this, then we’ll go with this.”

 

[Izuku]
It work̴̢̹͇̖̼̻̐́̔̍̑ͥͬ̕s.

 

“Alright.” Shouta pockets his phone again. “Also, Izuku, about what happened earlier—what.”

The phone is waving back and forth at him frantically.

“What’s the matter?”

In his pocket, his phone dings.

 

[Į̖̳̒ͮ͗͌̚ͅzuku]
Do̡̫͚͙͇̻͍͙̯̫̿ͯ̍̚n’t call̠̩̼̖̼̭̠ͮ̈͒ͦͨͬ me Į̖̳̒ͮ͗͌̚ͅzuk̴̢̹͇̖̼̻̐́̔̍̑ͥͬ̕u at U̴ͤ̆҉̯̺.͒͌̃̈́͏̰͢A̶̛̳̪̜ͣ̐ͭ̒̋̉̊͢.̞͈̪͖͙͈̉ͨ̈ͧ͑̄

 

It takes Shouta a second before he’s actually able to read the message, but when he does, he lifts his head with a frown.

“Why not?”

 

[Izuku]
Plȩ̮ͩͥͮͤ͒ͧ̽ͭ̚asȩ̮ͩͥͮͤ͒ͧ̽ͭ̚

 

His phone has started glitching to a concerning rate, so he shakes his head and doesn’t argue. “It’s fine,” he says, “I won’t call you Izuku. But if you’re going to be a student there, then you’ll need another name.”

He hadn’t realized how heavy the atmosphere had become until the weight is gone and he can breathe freely again. Maybe the phones aren’t a good idea because he’s not sure how long either of them will be able to handle Izuku’s… oddities.

As though reading his mind (or being similarly unsettled), Izuku takes up the post-its this time.

 

Can I have a nickname?

 

“I’m sure that’ll fine,” Shouta says, not knowing what else to say. And he’d thought he was out of his element with living children. “I can’t imagine Nedzu being upset about that… do you have one in mind?”

 

No.

 

“Well, I’ll think of one, I guess,” Shouta says.  “The principal wants to have an interview with you tomorrow, we can talk to him about this, too. For now, we should probably go to—”

He’d been about to say bed, but…

“... You can’t really sleep, can you?”

 

No.

 

Just another stab in the gut, then, why don’t you. The air is still tense and Izuku is still distressed about something, beit what happened this morning or whatever reason he doesn’t want Shouta using his first name at U.A., and usually when Shouta is stressed about something beyond his help, a couple hours (or minutes, depending on how much time he has) of shut-eye usually helps clear his head.

But Izuku doesn’t have that luxury.

“... Well,” Shouta says, trying not to sound bothered, “why don’t you play with Ashtray for a while? He’s nocturnal, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind hanging out with you.”

Ashtray is still on the floor, on his back with the string caught in his claws. The pen and post-its move again.   

 

Okay. Thanks. I’m sorry about today.

 

“You’re okay, kiddo,” Shouta says, and he’s never been one for physical contact but he really wishes he could just, ruffle the kid’s hair or something. Anything. “I’ll be back soon with a good nickname for ya, alright?”

 

Okay.

 

“And no more apologizing. It’s alright to be upset about stuff. Just don’t run off next time, ‘kay?”

 

I won’t.

 

Satisfied, Shouta gives a nod before turning on his heel and heading into his bedroom. He’ll need to do actual online research if he wants to give this kid a good nickname, because, considering the fact he has a cat named Ashtray, he isn’t the best at coming up with names.


It’s midnight when he emerges from his room again, feeling somewhat more elated than before. The atmosphere in the living room is still gloomy, and Izuku is still on the floor, playing with Ashtray (judging by the post-its, pen, phone, and suspended string).

“Hey, kid, I found a nickname you might like.”

There’s a distinguishable woosh of cold air against Shouta’s face, and on instinct, he takes a step backwards.

“Okayokay, calm down, you might not even like it.”

The atmosphere isn’t nearly as dark and cold as it’d been before, though. The kid must be thrilled.

“I was thinking something along the lines of Saikō,” Shouta says. “Kinda short and catchy. Thought maybe it’d suit you.”

Izuku’s demeanor soars, and he scoops the phone off the floor. A second later, Shouta’s phone dings.

[Izuku]
THAT’S PERFECT I LOVE IT
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

No glitching. Shouta can’t help but smile softly.

“Well, I’m glad, kid. We’ll bring it to Nedzu tomorr— kid do not put that post-it note on me, do not—”

Izuku chases him around for a good three minutes before Shouta gives in to his fate. Honestly, at this point, as long as it makes the kid happy, Shouta can deal with it.

—Except he decides that there has to be some kind of limit to that, when he wakes up the next morning covered from head to toe in post-its that all read Favorite Person, along with a couple that just have little smiley faces on them.

Shouta sighs, but when he gets out of bed and heads into the living room to talk to Izuku about this, he takes one step into the living room, feels that light, joyous atmosphere, and decides instantly that he doesn’t have the heart.

He might have to get some kind of folder for all these post-its because he definitely doesn’t have enough room along the edge of his laptop screen anymore.

Chapter Text

The first thing Shouta does that morning before setting out to U.A. with Izuku is stop by the store to grab a wipe-off board and a pen. It’s small enough to be easily portable but big enough for complete sentences. Shouta thanks the cashier before taking it home to Izuku, who brings the mood of the entire house up by several notches.

“Figured this would be easier than wasting a ton of post-it notes,” Shouta says; before he knows what’s happening, the wipe-off board and pen are out of his hand and the pen is frantically writing on the board. “You can still use your phone while we’re here, but I thought this would be better for around the school.”

The wipe-off board flips around.

 

It’s perfect!! Thank you!! :D
Can I ask you one question, though?

 

“Sure, Squirt, what’s up?”

 

Can I still use post-it notes around the house?

 

Shouta wants to say no, but this is just a little kid, a dead little kid, and if leaving post-it notes around the house makes him so happy, then Shouta can’t take that away from him. He doesn’t have the heart.

“If you want to,” Shouta says, shrugging, “then I don’t mind. Just limit it to a couple a day, alright? I don’t got a ton of post-its left.”

 

Okay, I understand. Thank you!

 

“You don’t need to thank me, Izuku.”

The wipe-off board does a little flip and spin mid-air, and Shouta exhales through his nose with a shake of his head. Izuku doesn’t mind Shouta calling him by his given name so long as they’re in the apartment; but once they’re outside, once they’re at U.A., Izuku is “Saikō.”

“Wellp, kid,” Shouta says, “if you’ve got your things, then we’ll head on out. Do you still have the books I gave you?”

Izuku doesn’t write a response; the wipe-off board floats down the hallway, and there’s a backpack beside it. Shouta reaches out and takes the backpack from him, slinging it over his own shoulder.

“I’m ready if you are.”

 

I’m ready!

 

They head out, and Shouta locks the apartment behind them. He really hopes Nedzu likes the kid because it’s hard enough to deal with a ghost child as it is, Shouta doesn’t think he’ll be able to deal with an utterly crushed and heartbroken ghost child.

That makes him think of something.

He doesn’t know how Izuku died.

He thinks about it the entire time on the train to U.A., and the cold air above his head tells him that Izuku is hovering over him to avoid disturbing other commuters. A couple people have dogs with them who bark and yap in Shouta’s general direction, and the owners apologize fervently and promise that they “usually aren’t like that.” Shouta forgives them easily.

Shouta is holding the wipe-off board in his lap, but the pen moves on its own a moment later. The movements are small and low as to not direct attention towards it, but,

 

I’m sorry I’m making the dogs sad.

 

Shouta glances left and right of him, and when he sees no one watching him, he takes the pen from the boy’s transparent, invisible hand (ignoring the icy chill that runs up his spine) and writes beside the boy’s messy lettering,

You aren’t making them sad. They probably just want to say hello.

 

The pen is swiped away from him again.

 

Are you sure?

 

Positive.

 

The kid leaves the pen on the wipe-off board and doesn’t try saying anything else, and Shouta returns himself to his thoughts, which honestly he would much rather not do. He wonders how it ended up like this. Where the boy’s parents are. If they’re still here, if they’re still alive, then why was Shouta the first person the boy ever reached out to?

Why not one of them?

The train slows to a stop at the station, and Shouta gathers his things and sets out. The cold air beside him speaks of Izuku’s presence. Despite his nagging curiosity, Shouta decides that it’s too early to ask the kid about what happened to his family (or even what happened to him). If Izuku wants to talk about it, then he’ll talk about it.

Until then, Shouta will try not to think too long or too hard about it.


“Ahh, Izuku, is it?”

The tension in the air skyrockets. Shouta had kind of been expecting it, but every fur on Nedzu’s body stands up, and his smile is noticeably much tighter than before.

“He’d prefer to go by Saikō while on campus here,” Shouta explains before it can escalate further. “His given name… it…”

The wipe-off board and pen rise from the seat beside him, and once the words have been written, it’s flipped around.

 

I’m sorry. I know it makes it harder for you.

 

“No, I understand,” Nedzu says finally, and the tension in his shoulders loosens a bit as the atmosphere eases. “That’s quite alright. Saikō, you said? It’s an honor to meet you.”

Shouta breathes a huge mental sigh of relief. That could’ve gone worse. They’ve only been in his office for about five minutes so far and already tensions are rising, but they’re working through them. It’s good.

“Well.” Nedzu sits back in his chair again, folding his paws on the surface of the desk. “I spoke with Mineta’s parents, and he shouldn’t be here today. I trust Aizawa’s word that you will make a great addition to Class 1-A, Saikō, but I would like to talk to you about a couple things first, if you don’t mind.”

 

Okay.

 

“First,” Nedzu says, “please understand where I am coming from. This is a difficult situation for me to be in as the principal of this school. I am not willing to turn away students who prove themselves worthy, but your situation is a complicated one.”

The tension doesn’t rise. The entire atmosphere deflates.

 

I understand.

 

“That said,” Nedzu goes on, slightly more chipper than before, “it’s like I said, I won’t turn away any student who proves themselves. Which is why, from this moment on, congratulations, Saikō. Welcome to your first day as an official student of U.A.”

Shouta jumps a little. He’s sure Izuku does, too. “Already?” Shouta asks. “I thought this was an interview.”

“Think of it as more of a consultation,” says Nedzu, smiling. “Saikō, for the next couple of weeks leading up to our annual Sports Festival, I would like you to do everything in your power to prove that you belong here. I will be monitoring your actions on campus to the best of my ability, along with how the other students get along with you. We will make a proper decision at a later date.”

Well. It might not be a permanent arrangement, but Shouta knows the kid has it in him. He wouldn’t have brought this to Nedzu in the first place if he’d thought otherwise.

Like he’d expected, the atmosphere peaks upwards into something brighter, looser, more cheerful. The wipe-off board does a couple dramatic little spins, and Nedzu chuckles lightly. It sounds wrong.

“Well, Aizawa, I’ll let you head to your class,” Nedzu says. “Don’t want to get off-schedule, now, do we? Goodbye for now, Saikō. It’s been wonderful talking to you.”

 

Thank you so much! writes the pen, messily and frantically. I won’t let you down, I promise!

 

“I’m sure you won’t,” says Nedzu, still smiling. Shouta rises to his feet and beckons for Izuku to follow, and they head out.


“I heard Mineta got expelled after the Quirk Apprehension Test yesterday,” Ashido says, leaning over Ochako’s desk. “I don’t miss him, but it’s kind of a bummer. He might’ve been kinda cute if he wasn’t such a pervert.”

“I’m kinda more interested in who will replace him,” says Kaminari, leaning so far back in his chair that Iida actually snaps out a hand to steady him. “I mean, someone’s gotta step in the place he left behind, right? The teachers wouldn’t just leave it empty.”

“Ooo, I wonder who!” chirps Hagakure excitedly. “I’m super excited! I can’t wait to see who it is!”

The gossip is real. These students have only known each other for a full twenty four hours now (minus those who met during the entrance exam of course), but after the Quirk Apprehension Test and overcoming the threat of expulsion together, it’s like they’ve been friends their whole lives. The only people Ochako is kind of afraid to interact with so far have been Todoroki, Tokoyami, and Shouji; the former two because they’re more serious and reserved and the latter because. Well. Shouji is kind of scary. And Bakugou is kind of scary, too, but only because he looks angry all the time. Aside from that, she doesn’t dislike him.

“Well.” Across from them, Iida straightens his glasses. “I don’t think it matters all that much who replaces Mineta. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Ochako likes Iida. He’s serious, but she can tell that beneath that, he has a good heart and genuinely wants to do his best and encourage the others. She’d been apprehensive of him at first, when she’d met him before the entrance exam, but not anymore.

“Iida is right,” speaks Yaoyorozu, nodding. She sits at the back of the class with Todoroki and she’s a lot like Iida in a lot of ways. “I’m sure we will be briefed soon, and if we are joined by another student, we will meet them soon, too.”

Before anyone has the chance to voice another thought or even agree, the door slides open, and everyone scrambles for their desks. They’ve only known Aizawa for a day but you couldn’t pay any of them enough to cross him.

Aizawa steps through the door and overlooks the class. He always has this exhausted look about him, but Ochako knows that he could still take all of them out without barely even trying. Can’t judge a book by it’s cover around here.

“Well, good to see you all in your places,” Aizawa says, eyeing the empty desk at the back of the room for a moment or so. “Well. I’ll just skip the formalities and cut right to the chase.”

He steps behind his desk and sets a small wipe-off board and pen on the table. Ochako frowns, curious.

“As you all know,” Aizawa intones, “Mineta is no longer welcome here, and as a result, we are welcoming a new student into Class 1-A. Please treat him well. And… try to stay as open-minded as you can.”

Open-minded…?

Kirishima’s hand goes in the air. “Sir, I’m sorry, but are we going to meet him soon? Who is he?”

Aizawa takes a long breath, and this may be the first time he’s actually looked human and not just plain old scary. “He’s already here,” says Aizawa, and he turns to the blank space beside him. “Your new classmate, Saikō. He’s a spirit.”

It’s so blunt that Ochako’s mind immediately blanks. Such a big revelation like that needs some ease going into it, right? Aizawa wouldn’t just say that, would he? Is he kidding? He’s kidding. Right?

It would seem she’s not alone in that. The air in the classroom has become one of confusion and wonder and, in some cases, disbelief.

“A spirit?” breathes Sero, wide-eyed. “How’s that possible? That’s not possible, is it?”

Aizawa looks like he was expecting this, because he steps out of the way and gestures to the desk. “Saikō. If you would introduce yourself.”

The wipe-off board and pen lift from the desk as though Ochako had used her Quirk on it.

This grasps the class’ attention, and suddenly silence has fallen and everyone waits with bated breath. Ochako doesn’t even hear anyone shift in their seat. The pen drags across the wipe-off board while everyone watches on, and when it’s finished, the board flips around to be read by all.

 

Hello! I’m Saikō. I’m sorry about all of this. I know it’s weird and it’s probably kind of scary, too, but I really look forward to making friends with all of you and becoming heroes together. Please, even if you don’t understand… don’t give up on me too quickly. I’d understand if you did, but, please. Give me a chance.

 

Ochako doesn’t know whether to feel touched or unnerved. She just doesn’t know.

And judging by the stunned silence that follows, neither does anyone else.


“I’ll be honest.” Kaminari stirs around his rice with his chopsticks, biting his lip. “I’m… not really sure how I feel about having a spirit as a classmate. I-I’m sure he’s nice and all!” He waves a hand back and forth for a second. “It’s just… kinda scary to think about, y’know? I-I mean, if he’s a ghost, then… he’s dead, right? T-That’s kind of… hard to think about without getting kind of unnerved.”  

“I still think it’s just some kind of a trick or something,” Sero says, shaking his head firmly. “I mean, U.A. couldn’t… they couldn’t let a ghost attend school, could they?” And then, to the group, like he’s suddenly unsure, “Could they?”

“I don’t think it matters whether or not U.A. could or would,” says Iida, shaking his head. “What matters is that we’re here now and this is the situation we’re going to have to work with no matter what.”

“Honestly,” Kirishima says, leaning back at the cafeteria table, “I kinda think having a ghost classmate is pretty rad. I mean, think about it! If it’s not some kind of a trick, if Saikō really is a ghost, then think of how awesome that is! Ghosts are scary and all but, I mean, Saikō is on our side. I think that’s pretty neat. Oh, hey! Bakugou!”

He waves a hand over his shoulder. Bakugou had been just about to take a seat at another table when he’s called over. Bakugou sighs, but heads over to their table instead. Kirishima and Ochako, sitting next to each other, scoot over to make room for him.

“Thanks,” Bakugou says, taking a seat and setting his desk in front of him. “What’re you idiots going on about, anyway?”

“We’re talking about Saikō,” says Kirishima.

Bakugou’s eyes narrow, but Ochako can’t figure out what emotion makes them. “What about him, huh?”

“We’re just talking about our thoughts,” Ochako answers, trying to keep her tone light.

“What do you think about Saikō, Uraraka?” asks Iida, who’s sitting across from her.

Ochako bites her lip and drums her fingers against the tabletop for a moment. “Honestly,” she says, “I wanna give him a chance. I-I know it’s kinda weird and spooky and all, but I don’t wanna judge a book by its cover.”

“Yeah!” Kirishima slings an arm around Bakugou’s shoulder. “I mean, look at Bakugou! I thought he was gonna kill me when we first met!”

“I might have to kill you if you don’t let go of me.”

“I mean,” Sero says, shaking his head, “it’s hard to wrap my head around, if I’m honest. I still think it’s some kind of a trick, maybe some kind of freak Quirk or something, but if it’s not, then… I don’t mind giving Saikō a chance.”

“OOO, is this the cool kids’ table?”

“It won’t be anymore if you sit down,” drones Bakugou.

“Awww, don’t be like that!” Ashido complains, but she’s smiling. Tsuyu stands beside her. “I guess there’s not anymore room for us, though, is there? That’s okay! We’ll go sit with Shinsou.”

“What do you think about Saikō?” Kirishima asks before she can leave.

Ashido blinks. “Saikō? You mean our new classmate?”

“I mean,” says Tsuyu, tapping a finger to her chin with the hand not holding her tray, “it’s bizarre, but I don’t think it’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened. Or even the worst thing.”

Ashido nods her agreement. “Yeah. I kinda feel the same way. I mean, Tokoyami’s pretty brooding himself, and we have classmates who are a lot scarier than Saikō. I think that little speech he wrote on the wipe-off board was really sweet.”

“I dunno.” Kaminari shakes his head. “It’s still kind of unnerving.”

The conversation ends there. Ashido and Tsuyu go to join Shinsou and Tokoyami at a separate table, and they eat the rest of their lunch in tense silence. Ochako doesn’t know why, but something in the atmosphere has made a sharp turn for the worst, and it leaves an icy chill on her spine.


Katsuki has nothing to say about Saikō.

It’s weird and some part of him wants to think more into it, all things considered, but it’s not worth looking into. For some reason U.A. thought this was a good idea and he isn’t about to question that. He’s fine.

He’s heading back to Class 1-A with Kirishima after lunch when a voice comes over the intercom. It sounds like the principal.

“Hello students! Would Bakugou Katsuki please meet me in my office? I would like to have a brief word if you are able to make it! That is all!”

“Huh, that’s weird,” says Kirishima, looking around as though Nedzu was floating above them. Eventually, he turns to Katsuki. “What’d you do, huh?”

“Nothing that I’m aware of,” Katsuki says, glaring down the hall over his shoulder. “Unless they took my threats on killing you seriously, in which case they’re idiots.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing, man,” Kirishima says, clapping him on the shoulder. “I’ll wait up for ya.”

“You don’t have to,” Katsuki says, already starting down the hall. He catches Kirishima’s bright grin as he turns away and knows that the idiot is gonna be right there when he gets back. Figures. He doesn’t know what the idiot sees in him.

He’s on his way to the principal’s office when he feels something beside him.

Natural instincts kick in, and he whirls towards it, ready for anything. His eyes come to rest on the wall opposite from him, empty and blank but somehow… alive.

Katsuki narrows his eyes. “If you’re Saikō, don’t think you can sneak around me,” he says sharply, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “What, do you wanna talk? Where’s your wipe-off board?”

There’s no answer. He wonders if, perhaps, Saikō can’t answer.

“Look, I know you’re there. If you’ve got something to say then we can find some paper or something—”

The presence suddenly disappears, and Katsuki is left alone. He frowns a little deeper. He isn’t curious, but there’s something about Saikō’s air that strikes him as… familiar. Like he should know them, but he’s never known anyone named Saikō.

Unless his name isn’t really Saikō.

Katsuki forces his brain to shut up and continues to the principal’s office.


“Thanks for coming on such short notice, Bakugou.”

“I don’t really care, just tell me what you want.”

Nedzu isn’t put off by Katsuki’s mannerisms. Instead, he folds his paws on the desktop and gets right to his point. “I spoke to your parents,” Nedzu says. “I wanted to ask you what you thought about having Saikō as a student here, considering—”

“If I had a problem with Saikō I would’ve said so already,” Katsuki answers snappily. Usually he’d be fine dealing with stuff like this, but he really wants to leave the room right about now and forget any of this happened. “Is that all you wanted from me? Because I feel like this has been a waste of both our times.”

Outwardly, Nedzu doesn’t seem surprised, but it shows in his voice. “Yes, of course,” he says a bit too quickly, nodding. “That’s all, Bakugou. Thank you for your time.”

“Yeah, sure.” Katsuki rises from his seat with a roll of his eyes and heads toward the door. “Bye.”

“Bakugou, one more thing.”

Katsuki doesn’t look back. “What?”

“It wasn’t your fault, what happened. It might not mean a lot, coming from me, but—”

“You’re right.” Katsuki looks at Nedzu over his shoulder, eyes narrowed and teeth clenched. “It means nothing.”

Nedzu doesn’t stop him a second time, and Katsuki leaves.


Izuku has been weird ever since they got home. … No, check that, the kid’s been weird all day. Ever since introducing himself to Class 1-A and throughout the rest of the school day after. He never attempted to connect with any of his classmates after morning homeroom, which, honestly? That surprised Shouta. For a kid who’s spent so long alone, with no one, it was odd for him to get so excited about his classmates only to not attempt any further communication with them.

Izuku is clearing the dishwasher when Shouta steps into the kitchen, arms crossed over his chest. The kid hasn’t talked to him much all day, either. Not even a single post-it note.

“Hey, kid. What’s the matter with you?”

The plate that’d been floating in mid-air hits the ground and shatters into a hundred pieces. Ashtray, who’s on the kitchen counter, shrieks and sprints off, nearly jumping right into the glass when he hops down.

Shouta can feel the mood plummet as Izuku must have realized what just happened, but he’s quick to speak.

“It’s fine, kid, it’s fine,” Shouta says, already grabbing the broom and dustpan from the pantry. “It’s just a plate, don’t think about it. I’m more worried about what’s going on with you right now.”

Izuku makes no attempt to answer. The wipe-off board and pen sit on the counter, and he makes no move to grab them as Shouta begins to sweep up the glass.

Finally, he does. But it’s not what Shouta wanted to see.

 

I can clean it up. You don’t have to.

 

“Like I said, it’s fine. Just. Tell me what’s going on. Even if it’s vague or brief, just give me something to work with, here, ‘kay?”

The pen is still for a while. Shouta continues to clear the glass and only looks up when he hears the smallest squeak of the marker on the wipe-off board. The kid takes a great deal of time picking what to say, and he uses the eraser on the pen cap every so often, but finally he’s done and flips it around for Shouta to see.

 

It’s not a big deal, it’s just sometimes I remember my past and it makes me sad. It doesn’t happen a lot, and a lot of my memory is pretty fuzzy, but when it isn’t, it hurts.

 

Shouta takes a breath through his nose, sweeps up the glass, and dumps it in a cardboard box in the pantry. “That’s… that’s a tough one, kiddo. Do you wanna talk about it or would you rather have some kind of distraction?”

 

Distraction.

 

“... Well.” Shouta shuts the pantry and turns back towards Izuku fully. “One of my co-workers invited me to the aquarium with him tonight. I was gonna ask if you wanted to go either way, but, who knows. Maybe it’ll help.”

Just as he’d been hoping, the air isn’t nearly as dark or gloomy as it’d been before. The marker scribbles on the wipe-off board.

 

An aquarium? With fish?

 

“And other sea creatures, yes. Do you wanna go?”

 

I’d love to go. I used to have a pet fish.

 

“Really?” Shouta asks, trying to sound as interested as he can as he swipes his keys from the countertop and his coat from the hanger by the door. “That’s pretty cool. Who knows, maybe if Ashtray behaves enough, we can get one someday.”

Wait, why did I say that?

It doesn’t matter, because the wipe-off board swoops through the air again as Izuku celebrates, and Shouta can only roll his eyes as they set out for the train station again. This kid is making him too soft for his own good.

Chapter Text

“Yo, Shouta!” Hizashi is already waving at him, and he’s loud enough even without his Quirk for Shouta to hear him from across the street. “For a little while there I thought maybe you’d chickened out on me!”

“I would’ve told you if I didn’t want to come,” Shouta answers plainly. “Besides, it’s not like I have anything better to do.” He keeps a safe distance from Hizashi for the sole purpose that Izuku is right beside him and he doesn’t want Hizashi to catch wind of him.

Hizashi doesn’t seem to notice, and he laughs heartily. “Well, you could be catching up on sleep,” he says, lowering his glasses from his eyes for a moment, “but I know that isn’t your style, so I won’t bother you with it.”

Shouta sighs. “Are we going inside or not?”

“Right you are!” Hizashi says, swinging himself around as if to loop his arm around Shouta’s shoulders. Shouta ducks beneath the limb, and judging by the fact that Hizashi doesn’t immediately recoil and clutch his hand, Izuku must have moved out of the way, too.

Hizashi doesn't seem too bummed about it, because his grin doesn’t fail and he spins on his heel to start towards the aquarium’s entrance. Today is one of the very few days that Shouta wore a hoodie, and he only did it for the sole purpose that Izuku could keep his phone in the hood and text him when he needed him.

Shouta doesn’t know how he’d even start explaining it to Hizashi, or even if Hizashi would believe him. Nedzu hasn’t brought it up with the other teachers yet, and honestly? Shouta wouldn’t be surprised if he just. Didn’t. And Hizashi isn’t the kind of person to question another invisible student.

So.

Hizashi pays for them both (with Shouta glaring at him the entire time because he can pay a couple yen to get into the aquarium, thanks, Hizashi), and after that they head inside. There aren’t many people here this time of night, understandably. It’s already dark outside on a school night; Hizashi and Shouta probably shouldn’t be here, either.

There are long hallways with blue carpet and walls built from aquariums. There are more fish in this building than Shouta has ever seen in his life; wide assortments of colors and breeds swim along in the tanks, following Shouta and Hizashi along. Angelfish, clownfish, gobbies, trout, and a wide range of others that Shouta has never heard of before.

“Usually I like something more exciting, myself,” says Hizashi as they move, “but this place is pretty chill, ‘specially at this time of night. Nice cool-down after a long day at U.A., huh?”

Shouta nods stiffly, but doesn’t answer otherwise. It isn’t long before the air around them brightens considerably, and for a brief moment, even though he doesn’t have the slightest clue what the kid looks like, he can imagine Izuku pressing his face against the glass, beaming.

It’s a sweet mental image, but it also kinda stings.

“What’s got you looking so distracted?” Hizashi interrogates, and it effectively snaps Shouta from his thoughts. “I mean if you didn’t want to come you didn’t have to.”

“Like I said before,” says Shouta, shuffling behind him and admiring the illuminated tanks on either side of the hall, “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to. Just got a lot on my mind.”

“Riiight, right, sure,” says Hizashi, shaking his head. “Makes sense. You’ve got all those crazy 1-A kids. I don’t know how you do it.”

In Shouta’s pocket, his phone buzzes. He’d turned it on vibrate so Hizashi didn’t hear the ding every time Izuku tried talking with him. While Hizashi babbles on about the different kinds of fish as they pass, Shouta pulls his phone from his pocket just enough to read the message.

[Izuku]
These fish are all so cOOL
I love them.

Hizashi seems distracted enough with his commentary, so Shouta dares to write back.

[Aizawa Shouta]
Glad to hear it.
Which one’s your favorite?

[Izuku]
All of them!!
When they swim around it’s kind of like they’re floating, like I do, so that’s really cool!

If that doesn’t warm Shouta’s heart then he doesn’t know what possibly could.

“You even listening, Shouta?”

“Sorry,” Shouta says, slipping his phone back in his pocket. “What were you saying?”

Hizashi lifts a brow at him suspiciously. “Is something wrong that you aren’t telling me?” he asks, frowning. “It’s not like you to be so… weird, like this. Like you’re bored by a lot of things, but you don’t seem very bored right now.”

“I’m not.”

“Then what’s the matter?”

“It’s a lot to go into right now,” Shouta says, and when Hizashi won’t, he steps forward and leads the way down the hall as though he could leave the entire conversation behind him. “C’mon, let’s go.”

Hizashi follows behind, and the icy presence above him tells Shouta exactly where Izuku is. Hizashi will probably find out eventually anyway, beit if Nedzu tells him and the others or if he just puts the pieces together himself, but either way, Shouta certainly doesn’t want to try explaining all that right now.

“So, listen, Shouta, I’ve been thinking,” says Hizashi as they go on, “you’re living by yourself right now, unless you finally found a roommate.”

“And I’m perfectly happy living by myself,” Shouta says. He feels the air above him go a little colder, and murmurs a quiet, “Sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Hizashi says, misunderstanding. He frowns deeper. “Weird of you to apologize for it, y’know. Are you sure there’s not something you wanna tell me? If something’s really bugging you this much, maybe you should say something.”

Shouta’s phone vibrates. Great.

“It’s nothing worth mentioning right now,” Shouta says, shaking his head. “Go on, lead the way. You said there was something you wanted to show me specifically, right?”

“Right.” Hizashi gives him one last long, hard look before turning and heading away. Shouta follows, intentionally lagging behind so he can check the message.

[Izuku]
:(

[Aizawa Shouta]
Kid you know I don’t mean that.

[Izuku]
:( :( :(

[Aizawa Shouta]
Kid. C’mon, I know you’re just messing with me.

[Izuku]
I don’t mind you telling him. I kind of like him, he’s funny.
Besides, won’t he find out eventually anyway?

[Aizawa Shouta]
Listen, it’s a lot to explain.
And it’s hard to take in.

[Izuku]
You took it well.

[Aizawa Shouta]
I also have the kind of life that may as well just have a ghost in it.
I love ya kiddo but we should probably keep this between us for now, alright? I’ll tell him at a better time. Promise

[Izuku]
:)

“OOOOO, who are you talking to!? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile at your phone before!”

Shouta moves the phone out of the way of Hizashi’s hands when he swings around to grab it. “None of your business.”

“Aww, come on!” Hizashi whines, still trying to grab it away from him. “I wanna know what it is! I’m your best friend, you can tell me anything!”

“Who said you were my best friend.”

“Fine, I’m your only friend!”

His phone buzzes again and Shouta can already imagine the kid laughing at him. “Mic, quit it.”

“I’m not quitting it until you tell me what’s going on! Are you dating someone?”

“That is literally the farthest thing from what is going on here.”

“Then what is it!?”

“Mic I swear—”

There really is no talking Hizashi out of stuff like this. He’ll pester and bother until he gets what he wants, and when it comes to people like Shouta, Hizashi can read him pretty well. Enough to know that whatever’s going on isn’t top secret or serious.

Above him, the air is icy but not hostile. Izuku really doesn’t mind Hizashi at all. And besides, the aquarium is abandoned enough for now. It’s not like anyone will be overhearing this.

Shouta sighs. “... Fine, okay, I’ll tell you. Just, don’t go screaming it to the world or anything.”

Hizashi beams brighter than a child on their birthday, and with how excited he seems, he may as well be one.  He waits for Shouta to explain, and at long length, Shouta begins.

“There’s this kid, see.”

That’s all he has the chance to say before Hizashi’s eyes blow wide. “YOU HAVE A KID AND YOU DIDN’T TELL ME!?”

“He’s a ghost, Hizashi. He’s dead.”

It’s an odd thing. Hizashi definitely looks shocked, stunned, and then horrendously sad, but the overall atmosphere doesn’t change. Izuku really isn’t bothered by any of this.

“Shouta, I… had no idea,” Hizashi says, shaking his head. “You lost your kid?”

“He’s not my kid,” Shouta says, a little frustrated that Hizashi still isn’t really getting it. “He followed me home from U.A. the day before the semester officially began and I spoke with Nedzu about him. Does the name ‘Saikō’ ring any bells?”

Apparently it does, because Hizashi lights up again. “OH!” he says, like he’s about to blow this case wide open. “He’s that other invisible 1-A kid! Wait, is he here?” Hizashi looks around, as though he could somehow see Izuku even though he hadn’t before. “Yo, lil’ dude! Where you at?”

Shouta’s phone buzzes, and both he and Hizashi turn towards it. Shouta reads it first, changes Izuku’s display name for just a second, then shows him the message.

[Saikō]
:D

“Oh wow, that’s amazing!” Hizashi says, swiping the phone right out of his hands. “Y’know, I’ve always wondered if there really were ghosts around us. Guess I was right!”

Shouta takes back his phone. “You believed that pretty quick, huh.”

“Well,” says Hizashi, grinning, “I’ve always thought about it, so I guess I’m not all that surprised! Plus, you aren’t the kind of person to joke around about stuff like this. Or at all.”

[Saikō]
I think you could tell jokes if you tried hard enough.

Hizashi, who’d read the message over his shoulder, cackles. “Y’know, Saikō, you’re pretty neat!” he says, beaming. “It’s a pleasure to officially meet you, listener! Glad to have you as one of my students!”

He holds out his hand, and Izuku must have shook it, because Hizashi trembles and shivers unexpectedly, shaking his head.

“That is crazy!” he says, shaking out his hand. His smile hasn’t faded. “Say, Saikō, do you like the aquarium? Maybe we can actually continue on with the tour now that Shouta isn’t so distracted!”

[Saikō]
Yes please!! :D

“Alrighty!” Hizashi spins on his heel dramatically and throws a wild grin over his shoulder. “Follow me!”

Shouta sighs, but both he and Izuku trail behind him when he sets off.


Izuku shows particular interest in the shark tank, of all things. He thinks the hammerheads look “funny,” and the moment Shouta relays this to Hizashi, the latter lets out a small shriek that would probably attract the crowd if the aquarium were any busier.

“They might look funny,” says Hizashi, straightening his glasses just to be dramatic even though it really just makes him look like an anime character, “but trust me, those things are dangerous. You don’t wanna end up on the wrong side of the glass.”

“The sharks are circling something.”

Hizashi’s head snaps around towards the tank again, wide-eyed. Shouta isn’t surprised; he’s only known Izuku for a couple days, but he’s just the kind of person to go swimming with sharks without realizing (or caring) how dangerous they are.

Plus he’s… dead so that doesn’t quite apply to him, anyway.

“HEY!” Hizashi shouts, a lot more concerned than Shouta. “Heyheyhey, get out of there! I’m all for reckless endeavors but this is ridiculous!”

“He’s a ghost, Hizashi,” says Shouta, deadpan. “He’ll be fine, let him have this.”

“He’s swimming with literal sharks, Shouta! Stop him!”

“Nah.”

“Shoutaaaa!”

Hizashi doesn’t stop shouting about it until long after the sharks have stopped circling and Izuku icy presence is, once again, hovering by Shouta’s side. Even after they’ve long since started down the hall, Hizashi still won’t let it go.

“Listen,” he says, leading the way, “I get it, you’re a kid and you wanna try some crazy stuff. I was just like that—heck, I’m still just like that! But you gotta know when to stop!”

Shouta’s phone dings.

[Saikō]
Does he usually do this?

[Aizawa Shouta]
Usually it’s worse.

[Saikō]
The sharks didn’t hurt me. It was kinda like we were playing tag.

[Aizawa Shouta]
I know that, you know that, but good luck with Hizashi

[Saikō]
Yeah, I guess you’re right.
Oh hang on a second
I think I have an idea

[Aizawa Shouta]
Oh boy, good luck kid

There’s a whoosh of cold air beside him. On either side of the hall, all the fish in the tanks turn to watch blank, empty air until they’re all looking in Hizashi’s direction.

“So,” says Hizashi, looking over his shoulder at Shouta and Izuku, “what did we learn to—”

Hizashi’s glasses float right off his face and hover in the air in front of him. Hizashi gapes just like one of the several fish watching him, eyes wide as saucers and mouth hanging open.

Shouta is already mentally preparing to cover his ears.

“Hey!”

Hizashi tries snatching them back, but it’s no use. The glasses dive beneath his hand, above his hand, and then rocket down the hallway in the opposite direction.

Hizashi pursues him, and it’s not long before Shouta follows in suit.

“Don’t put those on, you’ll screw up your eyesight! Give them back right now!”

Never in a million years could Shouta have thought he’d spend a late Tuesday night like this, but honestly, life has never really gone the way he thought it would.


Can I bring the post-its instead of the wipe-off board today?

 

“Sure,” Shouta says, slinging Izuku’s backpack over his shoulder. Izuku could carry it himself, but it expends energy and once they’re at U.A., Izuku will have to carry it for the rest of the day anyway. “Why not the board, though? You seem to be using it fine now.

 

The post-its are more discreet right now. The board is kinda big.

 

“Discreet, huh?” Shouta snatches his keys off the hook by the door. “Well, alright, kid, whatever makes you feel more comfortable. Lemme know if people give you a hard time while we’re there, and there should be post-it notes in your backpack. If not, I’m sure we could steal some from the principal.”

 

Or y’know we could always just. Ask nicely for them.

 

Shouta shakes his head with a soft smile. Kid really does live up to his alias.

As soon as they have all their things and the apartment is locked, they set out for U.A.


Saikō has post-it notes today instead of the wipe-off board. Ochako doesn’t really get why, but she doesn’t ask. Saikō sits in the back of the class, and she doesn’t have a chance to talk with him after homeroom. She never knows where exactly he is, or if he’s even there at all.

Their final period of the day is Basic Hero Training, taught by All Might. Ochako swears she saw him reading a “Teaching for Dummies” study guide in passing earlier and honestly, she doesn’t know whether to be scared or excited for what’s to come.

There’s the upside of getting to wear their costumes, at least.

Once she and the others are suited up, they head outside to Field Gamma where they’ll be meeting All Might. Ochako’s costume ended up being a bit more more skin-tight than she’d wanted, but it isn’t unbearable. And the costume designers had gotten her galaxy-themed cape on point, so she didn’t have much to complain about in the long run. Her cape looks almost like it’d been made straight out of stars and galaxies itself. She couldn’t be happier with it.

Along with the moon-shoes and the dark pink undertones of the costume, she’s really digging the space theme she’s got going. It works with her Quirk and aesthetic.

“Oh hell yeah, Bakugou, that looks rad!” Kirishima is saying excitedly, practically bouncing up and down in front of Bakugou, who looks like he’d rather be anywhere but here. “Pretty intimidating, I like it!”

“Little flashy for me,” says Shinsou, whose entire hero costume is just a dark hoodie and jeans, along with a purple-tinted visor, “but yeah, pretty nice.”

“I can’t believe we get to show off what we’re working on!” Kaminari says excitedly, literally spinning in a circle like a ballerina. “This is so awesome, I’m hyped! I wonder what kind of exercise it’ll be? It’s gotta be exciting, right? I mean, this is U.A.!”

“I’m certain it will be interesting no matter what,” says Yaoyorozu with a nod. Her hero costume isn’t what Ochako had been expecting from her, but it’s nice. A flattering, floral-colored summer dress with a zipper down the front and an exposed back, plus lots of thin but decorative lace. The combat boots kinda throw it off, but still; Ochako is certain that any enemy would mistake her for some kind of helpless rich kid, and that’s where they’d make their biggest mistake.

Yaoyorozu is not someone Ochako wants to be on the bad side of.

“I’m still pretty shocked by how big this place is,” says Sero, looking around at the towering buildings surrounding them as they walk. “I mean, this entire arena is just for training? It’s basically its own city!”

“It’s pretty crazy, yeah,” says Ashido, “but that’s U.A. for ya!”

As the others talk and they continue down the street, Ochako catches sight of Saikō’s post-it notes and pen, swaying in the air a little ways away from her. There’s nothing flashy about it, and he isn’t wearing a proper hero costume like the rest of them; the only thing she sees aside from the post-its and pen is a small, leather bracelet with a tiny charm on it. She can’t even tell what it is from this far away.

She bites her lip for a moment and pretends she doesn’t see him, but something in her heart aches.

It’s like everyone’s ignoring him, she thinks, wringing her hands together. That, or they just don’t know how to act around him…

I bet he’s lonely.

The thought strikes her hard, and before she’s able to reconsider, she squeezes past Hagakure and Todoroki to instead flank Saikō.

“H-Hi!” she blurts, not knowing what else to say.

The post-it notes just about fly halfway across the group. Saikō recollects himself and catches them in time, but still. That hadn’t gone as planned.

“I-I’m sorry!” she says, waving her hands back and forth frantically. “I-I didn’t mean to scare you!” Ironic, really. “I-I just thought you seemed really lonely s-so I wanted to say hi to you and m-maybe… b-be friends?”

Even if she doesn’t know what to think of Saikō yet, he’s done nothing to deserve the silent-treatment from any of them. They are classmates now, after all.

“S-Sorry if that was too sudden!” she says, shaking her head and waving her hands again. “I just, I don’t know. I don’t like seeing people all alone.”

Saikō doesn’t answer for the longest moment—so long, in fact, that Ochako thinks he may not answer at all—but then the pen scratches something on the post-it, and he hands it to her.

 

Do you really want to be friends?

 

There’s a touch of disbelief, there. Almost like he’s calling her out for joking.

“I do,” she answers, handing back the post-its. “I’ll be honest, Saikō, I don’t really know what to think about all this, and y-you said it yourself that you understood that. But I really want to try. It might take some time, but… I really, really do want to be your friend.”

There’s something stale in the air that’s neither happy nor sad, good nor bad. The pen hesitates, but moves again.

 

Then… I’d like to be your friend, too.

 

Ochako beams, and before she can think twice, she goes on with, “Well, my name is Uraraka Ochako. It’s really nice to officially meet you, Saikō!”

She’d shake his hand if he’d. Had one. But the stale atmosphere becomes something much more warm and friendly and if that doesn’t speak numbers, she doesn’t know what else could.

They reach All Might not long after, and come to a halt in the middle of the street before the hero. There’s a box on either side of All Might—one labeled as “Heroes” and the other labeled as “Villains.”

Ochako already has a bad feeling about this.

“You all look stunning in your costumes, heroes!” All Might booms with that same trademark grin he’s known by. “But now it’s time to put your skills and Quirks to the test! For this lesson, we will be dividing you all into teams of two. At random, we will pick two teams to be pitted against each other in a test of skills and abilities! Heroes versus villains!”

“Seems straightforward enough,” says Kirishima thoughtfully.

“The villain team will have ten minutes to enter the building and hide a paper-mache weapon somewhere within,” All Might continues, and Ochako and the others listen intently. “In the meantime, the hero team will look over blueprints! When the ten minutes are up, the battle will begin! In order to win, the heroes must either capture both villains with the capture tape provided to you, or seize the weapon! The villains win by either successfully defeating the heroes, or protecting the weapon until time runs out!”

Ochako turns all this over within her own mind, and the very first thought she has is, Wouldn’t Saikō’s team have an advantage? Especially if he’s a hero…

“However,” All Might goes on, as though reading Ochako’s mind, “we have special exceptions for Saikō, due to a few…” He pauses a moment, trying to pick his words, “... unfair advantages. As such, if Saikō winds up on the Hero side of things, he is not permitted to interact with the weapon. I apologize, Saikō, but this is just the way things must be.”

 

I understand, says Saikō’s next post-it note, and All Might continues as soon as he’s read it.

 

“Now then!” All Might claps his hands together. “Listen up, students, because I will now be announcing teams!”

Ochako listens for her name, and is surprised to hear hers and Saikō’s announced for Team C. Team A and Team B are made up of Bakugou and Iida and Shinsou and Sero respectively; as for everyone else, Ochako can’t keep up with them.

With all the teams assigned, All Might reaches into both bins simultaneously; one hand in the Hero bin and the other in the Villain bin. Ochako waits with bated breath.

From the Hero bin, he pulls what would seem to be a sizeable rubber ball with a big letter C plastered to it. From the villain team, he pulls a similar ball, but with the letter A plastered to it.

“And we have our first match!” says All Might, as Ochako comes to grasps what this actually means. “Uraraka and Saikō as heroes, and Bakugou and Iida as villains!”

Chapter Text

“You got a plan?”

Tenya turns to Bakugou with a frown, which he follows up with a slight nod. “Something of one,” he says, reaching out and pressing the flat of his palm against the paper-mache weapon. It’s about twice as tall as he is, but much lighter. If need be, moving it wouldn’t be too big a hassle. “What do you specialize in?”

“Attacking, mostly,” says Bakugou, turning to him. Bakugou always looks like he’s just about ready to kill someone, but he isn’t hostile in the slightest. “I’m good at fighting back.”

“Hmm, I see.” Tenya cradles his chin in a hand for a moment, deep in thought. “I think, if that’s what you specialize in, you should stay here and guard while I scout out the area. I should be quick enough to evade their attacks while still keeping track of their positions.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Bakugou nods stiffly. Tenya can’t really tell whether he means it or if he’s just saying it to get rid of him. It’s hard to tell with Bakugou. “I’ll hang out here. Don’t get caught.”

Tenya takes it as a “good luck” and nods. “Same to you. Send word through the earpiece if they come to you first.”

“Alright alright, just go.”

Tenya doesn’t wait any longer. He starts down the hall, away from Bakugou and the weapon, and from there on, he treads cautiously. He’s seen Uraraka’s Quirk in action, but he knows next to nothing about Saikō and what he can or will do. The fact that he can’t even see him approaching also sets him on edge.

A ghost for a classmate. He knows very well what the others think about that, but as far as he’s concerned, he’s not quite sure what to think.

What should he think?


“Iida is fast,” Ochako says as she and Saikō look over the map she’s been given. “He also seems like the kind of person to come up with an unbeatable strategy. I don’t know much about Bakugou, though… only that he blew away the Zero Pointer during the entrance exam.”

Saikō’s pen moves across his post-it, and once he’s done, he shows her.

 

Bakugou would probably go on defense.

 

“You think so?” Ochako says, surprised. “I always thought Iida was more likely to do that… Bakugou kinda looks like the type of person who’d love to go on offense.”

 

Yeah, but looks aren’t everything. I could also go around as a spy and come back with information first, just to be sure.

 

That sounds like a better option. It would confirm either way who’s on offense and who’s on defense without being found out by either. “Sounds good,” Ochako agrees, nodding. “Once we’re inside, I’ll find a secure hiding spot while you go look around.”

 

Got it.

 

A buzzer rings overhead, and Ochako looks up. It doesn’t make a difference. She can’t see the announcer. But a voice rings out, “Time’s up, Heroes! You are now free to infiltrate the building!”

“Let’s go,” Ochako says, and despite that she can’t see him, she can feel Saikō’s presence move with her as they advance.

The building is eerily quiet when they head in through the window. The sound of Ochako’s shoes hitting the ground is enough to hurt her ears and make her wince. Before she even knows it, Saikō’s presence has disappeared. His post-its, bracelet, and pen sit on the floor by her feet. She’s alone and he’s on the move.

She sighs, adjusts her visor, and keeps a sharp eye out for any movement around her. They can come up with a plan once Saikō returns with their opponents’ locations; until then, she just has to avoid getting caught.


Katsuki paces the floor irritably while he waits for the designated “heroes” to find him. Saikō and Uraraka. Ghost kid and gravity girl. To be honest, a part of him thinks it’s kind of unfair for Saikō to be unallowed to interact with the weapon, but whatever. If he had been allowed, it’d be no challenge for his team.

Katsuki paces a while longer, hands stuffed deep in his pockets. Iida’s sudden voice through his earpiece almost makes him jump out of his skin.

“Bakugou! What’s the situ—”

“Oh damn it, don’t shout!”Katsuki barks back, pressing his finger into the earpiece himself. “Gimme some kind of warning next time, won’t you!?”

“Ah, my apologies. I should not have shouted, I’m just… a bit on edge myself.”

“Yeah no kidding,” Katsuki growls back. He lets out a heaving sigh and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Just. What do you want. What is it.”

“I haven’t seen any sign of Uraraka or Saikō yet,” Iida answers, and now that he’s calmed down some, Katsuki can hear the slight heaviness of his breath and the roar of engines as he runs. “Moving down another floor now. Have you spotted them?”

“No, not at all,” Katsuki answers, surveying the room one more time. “I locked the window, so I’ll be able to hear if anyone tries coming in. And of course I’m facing the damn door and they’re idiots anyway if they think they can get past me that way.”

“Got it. Keep me posted on your situation, Bak—”

There’s an ear-piercing screech! from the device, and Katsuki releases an indistinguishable shout and wrenches it from his ear. It ends as soon as it’d come, and he hears Iida’s muffled voice from the thing on the floor, but that’d freaked him out more than he’d care to admit. Holy crap.

“—kugou! Bakugou! Can you hear me? What happened?”

Katsuki doesn’t insert the device a second time; instead he holds it, close enough to hear Iida’s voice but still far enough to avoid that happening again.

“Yeah. But I’m pretty sure Saikō was here. He’s spying on us.”

“What?”

“Electronics are supposed to freak out around ghosts, right? Besides, since he can’t actually interact with the weapon, don’t you think it makes sense for him to act as a spy?”

“You’re right, it does make sense… shall I double back around in case the heroes try attacking?”

“Nah.” Katsuki glances over at the door, at the window, then focuses on the conversation again. “I’ve got this place under my watch, don’t—”

 

Blood.

 

Rain.

 

Bodies.

 

Katsuki chokes.

He doesn’t know what it is he chokes on; the acid that springs unexpectedly into his throat, the shock itself, the memory. But he clasps a hand over his mouth and takes in a breath through his nose, fighting against it.

Iida is still talking. Great.

“Bakugou? Are you okay? What happened?”

“M’fine,” Katsuki grumbles around his hand. He can’t trust himself to remove it yet. “Just. Go find the others.”

“Bakugou—”

“Just go, Iida!” Katsuki snaps, and even though his voice cracks and he’s unconvincing, Iida doesn’t argue again. He says one more thing about being careful and contacting him if he needs help, but Katsuki hadn’t listened so he can’t be sure which way or the other. Slowly, he lowers his hands down to his sides, and once they’re there, he doesn’t move them again.


“Bakugou looks like he’s having a hard time, but nothing’s happened yet…” Kirishima murmurs, hand raised to touch his chin thoughtfully. “What’re they talking about, All Might?”

The rest of the students either turn towards him for an answer or keep watching the screens. The screen displaying the person in question, Bakugou, is one of the bigger screens, depicting the entire room housing the weapon. It’s true; the only person in the room is Bakugou (discounting the possibility of Saikō having snuck in there), but his hands had been clutching his face a moment ago, and his shoulders are rounded, like he’s trying to curl in on himself.

“Do you think he’s going to be okay?” Yaoyorozu voices, concerned. “He doesn’t seem alright…”

“Saikō might just be messing with him,” says Asui, tapping a finger against her cheek in thought. “I can’t think of anything else that would set Bakugou off. He seems pretty hard-headed.”

“Yeah,” Kirishima confers with a stiff nod, but his face hasn’t changed. “I just… something doesn’t feel right, y’know? It’s not like him.”

Even though the students and teachers have only known each other for a few days, All Might can’t help but agree. Bakugou is hard-headed but soft-hearted; that’s what he’s gleaned of the boy so far. It’s odd for him to freeze up like that. All Might can’t help but wonder what’s wrong, but until there’s a concrete reason, he can’t stop the match.

He watches with the students, but keeps a closer eye on Bakugou all the same.


Tap.

Ochako springs backwards and shifts into a fighting stance, ready to take down whoever had tapped her, but she’s met with nothing but blank air. She breathes a sigh of relief.

“Sorry, Saikō, that was my bad, not yours,” she amends gently, shaking her head. She rubs her shoulder for a moment; her costume still carries a chill. “I should’ve known the touch was too cold to belong to anyone else… did you find anything?”

Once Saikō recovers, he slips the bracelet over his wrist and takes up his post-its and pen. The charm dangles and swings as he writes, but Ochako still can’t get close enough to tell what it is.

 

Katsuki is on the fifth floor with the weapon. Iida is moving down floor by floor. He was on the third floor when I saw him last.

 

“Which means that he should be coming our way any second now,” Ochako reaffirms, mulling this over. “Okay. So, um, unless you have a better plan, I have a couple thoughts that might work.”

 

Let’s exchange strategies. You first.

 

Ochako nods. “So, I was thinking maybe…”


Tenya stops running once he hits the ground floor. Unless Uraraka and Saikō started from the roof downwards—which they very well could have done, considering Uraraka’s Quirk and Saikō’s… hmm….—they have to be here. Which means that he has to be on guard.

He rounds a corner, peering around it beforehand. Once he sees it’s clear, he ventures onwards. “Stealth” wasn’t a word that came to mind when he designed his costume, and with every clank of metal, he regrets that a little bit more.

Well. What’s done is done.

He comes to another corner and rounds it, but this time he notices something on the far wall. It’s bright pink, but he’s too far away to properly identify it.

Once he’s certain Uraraka and Saikō are nowhere to be found (although, Saikō could really be anywhere), he moves toward it to investigate.

It’s a post-it note. Bright pink, about as discreet as an elephant in a gym. He frowns, takes another look around him. Left, right, left, right, behind him. No sign of Uraraka. No floating objects. He should be alone, but that innocent little post-it note is instilling way more fear than it has any right to.

He gets close enough to read it.

 

Don’t turn around.

 

Tenya turns around. There’s no one there.

Behind him, in between him and the wall, there’s a thunk! and a rush of air. But before he can react, a hand slaps him on the shoulder, and his feet leave the floor.

“What—!?” he gasps, eyes blown wide. “What is the meaning of—!”

From her spot on the floor, Uraraka grins up at him. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen her look more devious.

“He’s all yours, Saikō!” Uraraka declares, punching her fist into the air.

Tenya doesn’t have a chance to react before something indescribably cold rushes over him, paralyzing him where he floats, and something relatively not-cold binds his hands. He has just enough time to identify it as capture tape before Uraraka claps her hands together and gravity returns to him.

The floor rushes at his face, but Saikō’s icy hands close around his forearms and lower him slowly. His feet touch the ground again and he knows he can run, but he’s already lost. The capture tape is a testament of his failure. He’s finished.

“Yes!” Uraraka spins around before leaping and pumping her fist into the air. Her cape spins with her as though it’s celebrating, too. “We did it, Saikō, we did it! Ghost high-five! Oh god that’s cold— nononono it’s okay Saikō! It’s okay!”

Tenya can’t even say anything. He hadn’t expected that at all. But eventually, he resigns himself to this fate and releases a heaving sigh.

“You’ve stopped me this time, heroes,” Tenya says, “but it won’t happen again.”

Uraraka beams at him, and in the icy space beside her, Tenya can almost imagine Saikō doing the same thing.


“Iida Tenya, villain, has been captured by the heroes! Seven minutes remain on the clock! Think fast, everyone!”

Katsuki barely hears the announcement. There isn’t a word for what he’s feeling right now; at least, not a word he can come up with. He’s had flashbacks before, but it’s been a long time since he’d had one that vivid. Usually it’s as though he’s witnessing something out of a dream, but this time, it was like he’d gone back in time and was going through it all again.

In the back of his mind, he thinks they’re on their way, the heroes are on their way now and I have to be ready to stop them, but he can’t bring himself to really acknowledge it. He can’t bring himself to really care.

He takes a breath through his nose, forces himself into composure, and prepares himself for the next round. All he has to do is get through this session; then he can talk to a teacher about leaving early and going home.

If he can get through the now, he can deal with everything else later.


All Might doesn’t like how this is going. Saikō and Uraraka took out Iida in a very clever way that utilized not just their abilities, but their resources, too. The post-it note as a distraction while Saikō held Uraraka in the air, the misleading instructions on the post-it, their surprise attack and ability to carry it out. It was satisfying to watch it all come together so perfectly.

But now they’re racing towards the fifth floor to take down Bakugou, and All Might is rightfully worried. Bakugou looks worse than before. Uraraka is speeding down the halls at such a speed that the cameras are having a hard time keeping up with her. Chances are Saikō went right through the floor to reach the destination ahead of time, but still. All Might has a bad feeling about this.

But there’s nothing wrong. He can’t see a problem outside of Bakugou’s odd behavior. That’s the only thing that sets him off.

Uraraka runs down the hall, galaxy cape billowing behind her, and the rest of the students watch the screens, eager for the conclusion. Although, All Might has to admit, the energy is more negative than positive.

“Honestly, I’m getting kind of worried,” Kaminari voices, and the look on his face easily backs up his words. “Bakugou hasn’t moved since that weird thing happened, and now he doesn’t have Iida to back him up.”

“Bakugou’s tough,” Shinsou says. He has his arms crossed over his chest and he speaks with certainty, but there’s a small hint of something in his tone that betrays how he really feels. “And either way, it won’t be much longer now.”

“Where did Saikō go?” Ashido asks, also watching the screen. “Is he still with Uraraka?”

“No,” Tokoyami says without looking at her. “He isn’t.”

“What? How do you know?”

“Oh, yeah, look!” Sero points, and the others swivel around to follow his finger. “She’s carrying his post-its and pen. He must’ve gone ahead and is planning a surprise attack for Bakugou.”

“Didn’t he have a bracelet?” Hagakure asks. “Ochako-chan isn’t carrying that, too, is she?”

“I can’t tell. All I see are the post-its—”

“Oh, oh, there’s Bakugou’s room! She made it!”

A hush befalls the students as they all lean in a little closer. The countdown timer displays 4:37, quickly descending.

Uraraka doesn’t hesitate. The room has no door, and she doesn’t bother with a surprise attack. After a moment to catch her breath, she straightens up and heads inside.

Bakugou sees her at once, and he lowers his hands down from his head to instead hang at his sides. The weapon is directly behind him.

“So you finally made it,” Bakugou says, crossing his arms over his chest. He puts on a fairly good act, but he’s definitely paler than he’d been at the start of all this. “I was starting to think you weren’t gonna show up.”

“Well, you know,” Uraraka counters, beaming, “you can always count on the heroes to show up precisely when they’re needed. And now that I’m here, I will be taking that weapon.”

Bakugou barks a cold laugh. “As if. If you want the weapon so bad, why don’t you come take it from me?”

Uraraka grins a little wider. “And here I thought you’d never ask.”

“Look, behind him!” says Kirishima, realizing. “There’s—!”

On-screen, Bakugou realizes it, too. He swings around and fires off a blast of fire behind him, just as a strand of capture tape was about to descend upon him. The blast incinerates the tape in but a second, and Bakugou winces.

“Don’t think that was allowed,” he says, looking down at his hands. “Damn—hey!”

He catches Uraraka’s movement out of the corner of his eye and lets loose another explosion, this time at her. She taps her fingers together and drops like a stone, rolling on her shoulder as she hits the ground. The blast goes right over her head and dissipates before it can damage the building.

“Dang it,” she hisses through gritted teeth. “Guess we’re gonna brute-force this one, huh...?”

Bakugou grins, but it looks incredibly forced and tight. “And here I thought you’d never ask.”

Saikō can’t interact with the weapon. Bakugou knows this, and he takes advantage of this. He kicks off the ground and launches himself at Uraraka.

Uraraka gets her feet underneath her and springs backwards. Bakugou’s hand spreads towards her face, but before he can fire off a third blast, an unseeable force grabs his arm and yanks him downwards. Bakugou slams into the floor with an indistinguishable shout. Uraraka is there with capture tape, but he recovers himself in time, slamming his palm into the ground and releasing a blast.

It isn’t strong enough to blow a hole through the floor, but it’s strong enough to send Uraraka off her feet as smoke billows around them. Bakugou gets to his feet, teeth gritted, triumphant in his maneuver.

But something isn’t right about that look on his face. He isn’t gritting his teeth in determination or even in frustration. The gritted teeth, combined with the pallor of his cheeks and the panic in his eyes, he looks like he’s in pain.

Uraraka doesn’t notice, not that she’s expected to considering the scenario, and she leaps at him from the smoke. He doesn’t attack. Instead, he dodges, regroups, and then goes in for a blow. But it doesn’t work the way he intended it to. His movements are sloppy, and in his fumble, Uraraka unclips her cape and throws it over his face.

It’s not much, but it’s a distraction that lets her slip past him. Blindly, he swings around and tries to fire a blast, but his feet are torn from under him, and he hits the ground around the same time Uraraka’s palm makes contact with the weapon.

Bakugou tears the cape from his face, but doesn’t push himself to his feet yet. When All Might catches up with the situation and finds his voice, he presses a button and says into the mic, “Hero team wins, with two minutes remaining!”

The students around All Might clap and cheer, but mostly in relief. A couple of them are discussing Bakugou’s behavior and how odd it was, along with counter strategies that would’ve worked against Uraraka and Saikō, but the most prevalent topic is that of concern.

“Kinda weird for Bakugou to get taken down so quickly… even if one of his opponents was invisible…”

“I dunno, it just seemed kinda out of character for him…”

“Are you sure he’s okay?”

“Hard to say at this point, honestly…”

“Did you see that look on his face?”

“Yeah… I don’t like it.”

All Might doesn’t like it, either, and the more he thinks about it, the quicker he is to press a finger to the device on his ear and say, “Send Recovery Girl down here. Tell her to bring a stretcher.”


Ochako does a victory leap, spinning around just like she’d done after taking down Iida. “Heck yeah, Saikō, we did it!” she cheers, beaming. “We did it!”

If Saikō is there, there’s no way to tell, but she assumes he’s gone to get his post-its and pen outside the door. She isn’t worried. When she thinks about it, she spins around and races over to where Bakugou is still on the ground. She doesn’t know why he hasn’t stood yet, but offers her hand to help him up anyway.

“Sorry,” she says, wincing at her cape lying beside him. “That was kind of dirty, but I… kinda panicked. I wasn’t expecting you to come at me like that, I thought you were regrouping.”

Bakugou doesn’t respond, but he does accept her hand and lets her help him to his feet. She’s surprised at how clammy his skin is, and frowns.

“Hey, you okay? I didn’t smother you, did I?”

“No, it wasn’t your fault,” Bakugou breathes, shaking his head. “I’m just gonna go check in with the nurse or something, forget about it.”

“Oh… okay.” His voice was thick and unconvincing, but she doesn’t know whether or not she should push it. “A-Are you sure? Do you want me to go with you?”

“I’m fine, Houston,” Bakugou grumbles, dragging the back of his hand across his forehead. “Just got winded when Saikō decked me, I’m fine.”

Speaking of Saikō, he’s here now, with his post-its and pen and bracelet hovering in the space beside Ochako. The air he’s emitting is a direct mirror of how Ochako feels.

Bakugou notices it, too, because he turns to the blank space and says, “Relax, Post-Its, I’m fine. It was a fight, what were you supposed to do? And it’s not like you hurt me, I just got winded.”

He was acting weird before that, though. The more Ochako thinks about it, the less she believes him.

But she doesn’t have the chance to say this or even push the issue further, because quiet footsteps draw hers, Bakugou’s, and Saikō’s attention towards the door. The footsteps start soft, but gradually get louder until eventually, Recovery Girl moves to stand in the doorway.

Typically when stuff like this happens, the nurse looks a mixture of exasperated, unimpressed, and disappointed. But now, she just looks concerned.

“Ah, Bakugou-kun, would you come with me?” she says, gesturing with a hand. Her voice is casual enough, but there’s something about the look on her face that shows how she really feels. “I’m going to take a look at you in the infirmary if you don’t mind.”

Ochako doesn’t miss the slight slump of Bakugou’s shoulders and the small, relieved sigh that passes his lips. “Yeah, sure,” Bakugou says, starting towards her. “Houston, Post-Its, cya some other time.”

“S-See you,” Ochako says, raising a hand in a tentative wave. The slight sway of Saikō’s bracelet says that he’s waving, too, but Bakugou has his back turned and doesn’t see either of them.

Moments later, after they’ve left, All Might’s voice summons Ochako and Saikō to the viewing area so the next team can have their turn, and Ochako and Saikō head down to the first floor. Iida should be outside already; they’ll meet up with him before heading to the viewing area to watch the remaining students.

Ochako doesn’t bring up Bakugou, and neither does Saikō, but the silence isn’t very pleasant, either. As she tries to think of something to say, she winds up stumbling on something that’s actually worth asking.

“Hey, Saikō,” she says, turning in his direction, “I’ve been wondering this for a while now, but what’s the charm on your bracelet?”

Saikō pauses momentarily, stretching out his hand so she can see. She leans in closer, until the charm is still and clear. It’s a little plate, with words carved into it.

出来る

“‘Dekiru’?” she voices. When he doesn’t object, she beams. “That’s pretty neat, Saikō,” she says, falling in step beside him again (she doesn’t think he steps, exactly, but, details); “Really encouraging, y’know? I like it! Befitting of a hero, too.”

The sudden spike of his presence is enough to make her laugh out loud. For a moment, everything is right in the world.

And then, “Ahh, my cape! I forgot my cape!”, and the two of them are doubling back around, climbing the five stories once again, until they’ve retrieved it. Ochako doesn’t stop smiling once.


In the infirmary, Katsuki sits on the edge of the bed while Recovery Girl is seated on her stool across from him. His file is open on her desk, papers scattered. He keeps his head down to avoid meeting her eyes.

“Bakugou…”

“I don’t know what triggered it,” Katsuki bites, torn between feeling stabbed and suffocated. “Nothing should’ve done it, nothing happened, I don’t know why—”

“Stop it,” Recovery Girl cuts in. “There’ll be time to think about that later, after you’ve had some time to recuperate. Your parents are coming to pick you up, they should be here any second now. You’ll be alright.”

Katsuki keeps his teeth clenched, but turns his head so he can look out the window instead of at the nurse. The sun is setting now. The rest of the class should be finishing up with the simulations soon. Hopefully his parents get here before that; he’s not sure he can deal with anyone else’s concern right now.

He squeezes his knees to his chest and rests his head against them, trying to steady himself. Recovery Girl doesn’t interrogate him further.


The final Heroes vs. Villains simulation is one of the quickest: Sero and Ashido, villains, versus Shinsou and Yaoyorozu, heroes.

Sero and Ashido’s strategy was to set themselves up on the roof, where they’d buy time if the heroes came from the ground up, which they’d assumed they would do. Unfortunately for them, that did not happen. Yaoyorozu fashioned a ladder to take them to the top, having deduced their strategy, and as soon as the two had reached the roof, it wasn’t long before Shinsou had them both brainwashed and Yaoyorozu had them restrained with capture tape.

The only match that ended quicker was Todoroki’s, but that was only because he froze the entire building in ten seconds flat. With that one exception, Shinsou and Yaoyorozu were the fastest team to win.

When it’s all said and done, Fumikage finds himself leaving with the others, heading back to the classroom for a final closing session before they’re all sent home for the day. While everyone else chatters and laughs and fangirls over each other’s strategies in the match, Fumikage has his eyes set on the spectre suspended beside Uraraka as they walk and talk.

Finally, when he’s gathered himself, Fumikage moves toward them. They’re at the end of the pack, and it isn’t hard to catch up with them.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Fumikage says, and Uraraka and Saikō both turn to him at once, “but, Saikō, if you have a moment, I’d like to speak with you. Privately.”

Saikō writes something on the post-it note and thrusts it out to him.

 

Sure.

 

“I’ll catch up with you later, Saikō,” Uraraka says, beaming at him. “You did good today, nice job!”

Saikō beams back at her and waves with his bracelet hand. She waves back and jogs to catch up with the others, leaving Fumikage and Saikō alone.

Saikō turns to him and writes, What do you want to talk about? on the post-it note. Fumikage takes in a long, deep breath to steel himself. He probably should’ve waited a while, and he’s almost regretting this decision, but.

“I understand we haven’t spoken properly yet, Saikō,” Fumikage says, “but I have to be honest with you.” When Saikō doesn’t react, Fumikage takes in another breath before meeting his eyes. “Saikō, I happen to be a Medium. I can see you.”

Chapter Text

“Thank you for coming on such short notice. —No, he’s alright, he wasn’t injured. —Yes, he doesn’t have to come in tomorrow if he isn’t feeling up to it, just give us a call beforehand so we know. Thank you. Go home and rest, Bakugou-kun, and don’t come back until you’ve had plenty of time to recuperate.”

Katsuki’s father has a hand settled on his shoulder as he guides him out of the nurse’s office, down the hall, and finally out of the building. Katsuki barely thinks twice about Recovery Girl’s parting words to them. He takes the passenger seat while Dad drives, and they’re home before Katsuki realizes the car was moving.

The car eases into a halt, and Dad’s hand touches his shoulder again. If Katsuki had been able to move, he’s sure he would’ve flinched.

“Katsuki? Are you—”

“I’m fine,” he interrupts, and forces his body to cooperate long enough to get himself out of the car. The sidewalk still doesn’t feel completely real beneath his feet. Dad exits the car on the driver’s side, and they head up the porch to the front door. Everything around Katsuki feels stale and lifeless, and the only real things are the images that plague his mind. Images of something that happened years ago.

Seriously, it happened four years ago, he tells himself as Dad leads him through the doorway. Get a grip already.

Mom stayed home while Dad picked him up, and the house smells like his favorite food. It doesn’t comfort him like he knows it should. He feels repulsed at the thought of eating anything right now, what with those images still in the forefront of his mind.

“Katsuki,” Mom greets when she sees him, and she dries her hands on a towel and heads his way. She’s smiling, but he can see the lingering question and concern in her eyes. It bugs him. “Dinner’s nearly done if you’re hungry—”

“I’m not.”

That’s all he needs to say. She ruffles his hair and leaves him alone, and without a word edgewise, he spins on his heel and heads to his room.  

He faceplants onto his bed as soon as he’s there, without even bothering to turn on the lights or change out of his uniform. Chances are he won’t even be able to drag himself out of bed tomorrow. That’s how nights like these usually go.

Typical.

Katsuki does fish his phone from his pocket, though, and he forces himself to stay awake with music videos and dumb vine compilations. His drum set is in the corner, a glare of moonlight stretched across it, and that’d be a nice distraction, too, if only he could muster the strength to play it.

Oh well. Music videos and vine compilations will do. Honestly, anything that keeps him from falling asleep will do just fine, he isn’t picky.

Except, he’s still loading up the video (why is tonight the night the internet decides to be a pain in the butt?) when a message drops down from the top of his screen. He doesn’t recognize the number, but the sender introduces themself right away.

[xxx-xxx-xxxx]
yo Bakugou, it’s Kirishima! you seemed kinda distracted so I don’t know if you remembered it, but you gave me your number and just said you’d get mine when I texted ya, so! :D

Well. It’s a distraction. He saves Kirishima’s contact before rolling onto his back and responding.

[Bakugou Katsuki]
Shouldn’t you be doing homework or something

[Kirishima Eijirou]
kinda rude there bro. :(

[Bakugou Katsuki]
So I’m right

[Kirishima Eijirou]
ok listen here, the homework isn’t due until this friday, i have time.

[Bakugou Katsuki]
Not as much time as you need I’m sure

[Kirishima Eijirou]
CAN YOU STOP.
WITH ALL THE LOW BLOWS.
IT’S NOT FUNNY. :(

[Bakugou Katsuki]
Actually it is kind of funny

[Kirishima Eijirou]
NO IT IS NOT.

[Bakugou Katsuki]
Pft. Anyway
If you aren’t doing homework like you should be, then what are you doing

[Kirishima Eijirou]
procrastinating mostly, actually. i’m pretty bad at studying.

[Bakugou Katsuki]
That’s rough, sorry

[Kirishima Eijirou]
something tells me you don’t mean that

[Bakugou Katsuki]
You wouldn’t be wrong

[Kirishima Eijirou]
OY.

Katsuki snorts to himself and messages back, thinking to himself that, yeah. This is a lot better than his usual distractions. It’s nice to have someone to talk to, even if the conversations are meaningless overall. Maybe tonight won’t be so bad.


Shouta lingers at school just a little while longer after the students have gone home, but once he’s finished the last of his duties and has gone over tomorrow’s lessons with the rest of the teachers, he ducks out of there and makes for home. Saikō hasn’t gotten in touch with him, so he assumes the kid has already gone home, too, but still. He’d like to know for sure.

When Shouta arrives, all the lights in the apartment are off, Ashtray lifts her head from the couch sleepily with half-closed eyes, and everything is as Shouta left it this morning. Izuku’s phone sits on the side table by the couch, where he’d left it that morning.

He never came home, huh…


“Good evening, Mother.”

“Ahh, good evening, Fumikage.” She and Dad are in the kitchen preparing dinner, and he hears their voices but doesn’t see either of them. “How was school?”

“It was fine,” Fumikage replies, slipping his shoes off by the door and hoisting his backpack a little further over his shoulder.  Saikō pushes the door shut behind him. “I brought a spirit home, we’re gonna be hanging out in my room for a while.”

“Oh! That’s nice,” Mother says, and he can hear the smile in her voice. “Been a little while since you’ve brought a spirit home, huh? What’s their name?”

“Saikō,” Fumikage says. “... He’s waving at you.”

“Hi, Saikō!” Mother greets back, followed by the sound of running water and the clang of a pot. “Go ahead and make yourself at home! Oh, but I have to ask that you avoid the television set in the living room. It’s survived a lot of ghost interference, but I’m fairly certain it’s on its last legs.”

“He’s nodding.”

“Aw, thank you, Saikō. Well, go ahead and have fun, you two! You can come eat whenever you want, Fumikage.”

“Thank you.” Fumikage turns to his guest, hovering in the air beside him. Saikō’s empty sockets meet his eyes, and Fumikage jabs his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of his room. “Wanna play a game or something? We can catch up.”

Saikō’s initial reaction to realizing Fumikage could see him was to smack him upside the head with his stack of post-its and book it, but he’s calmed down since then (even though it did take a lot of searching on Fumikage’s part to find him). Now Saikō is mutely embarrassed and nods shyly at Fumikage’s request, and the latter leads the way into his room with Saikō trailing behind.

“Guess I probably have some explaining to do, huh?”

Saikō smiles with a questionable amount of sincerity, but Fumikage brushes it off.

He flicks on the light once they’re in his room, though it isn’t a bright fluorescent light overhead. Rather, they’re strings of deep blue and magenta lights, hooked on the walls and looped around the room. There’s a black light hanging from the far wall, where Fumikage has a few posters. The atmosphere seems a bit gloomy for someone with a nickname like Saikō, but the spirit seems more awed than frightened. It’s a relief.

“Well, feel free to make yourself at home,” Fumikage says, gesturing to the open room. “Just don’t touch the swords.”

Saikō takes to it like a fish takes to water, darting to and fro from the bed to the desk to the bookshelf, eyes wide with wonder. Or, as wide and awed as they can be, considering his sockets are empty.

Fumikage swings his backpack onto the desk chair while Saikō continues to wander about, and without Fumikage’s complete consent, Dark Shadow gets bored and makes his presence known, nothing more than a dark silhouette with glowing, narrowed eyes.

Saikō jumps and nearly drops the book he’d pulled off the shelf, but Fumikage waves a hand and shakes his head.

“Don’t worry, it’s just my Quirk,” Fumikage assures him, dropping his hand back down to his side. “Being able to see you is just a part of my lineage, it doesn’t really have anything to do with my powers. Dark Shadow, meet Saikō. Saikō, Dark Shadow.”

Saikō moves forward tentatively, but Dark Shadow introduces himself with unnecessary pomp and circumstance, thrusting out his shadowy hand while his eyes crinkle with amusement. Saikō is wary at first (and honestly who wouldn’t be), but eventually he reaches out and slips his hand right through Dark Shadow’s. Fumikage can’t tell if he’s afraid of making physical contact, or if he can’t actually make physical contact. Dark Shadow is just a shadow, after all.  

“Well, now that you two have met,” Fumikage says, crossing over to his desk. He grabs a book and holds it out to Saikō, “here. You can borrow this if you want. And I’m in no hurry to get it back.”

Saikō takes the book into his hands and looks down at it, Dark Shadow moving to peer over his shoulder. Fumikage can only tell where Saikō is looking by the lilt of his head. His eye sockets are vacant, but still not lifeless, if that makes sense. Fumikage has never really known how to properly describe a spirit’s empty but lively gaze.

“It’s JSL,” Fumikage says, turning to face him fully. “I’m not perfect, but I’ve studied it over the years. If you’d be willing to learn it, we could communicate without having to deal with all the post-its.”

When Saikō has finished examining the cover and flipping through its pages, he lifts his head to Fumikage again, smiling. Fumikage returns the gesture, but it’s cut short and he decides that they can go through all the JSL, later. Right now they need to cover the bases, and he’s sure Saikō has just as many questions to ask him as he has to ask Saikō. 


“I come from a family of Mediums.”

They’re sitting on the floor—Saikō, Fumikage, and Dark Shadow—playing Mario Kart. Saikō isn’t very good and neither is Dark Shadow, and Fumikage forces down his competitive spirit to give Saikō a chance. Video games seemed like a way to add a sense of ease and lightheadedness to this situation (which, quite frankly, is bothering Fumikage a lot more than he’d care to acknowledge).

Saikō’s empty eyes don’t fall on him, but Fumikage can tell just by his air that he’s listening. Even though Fumikage has seen spirits before, and interacted with spirits before, there’s something about Saikō’s presence that just… bothers him.

“It’s far removed from the family,” Fumikage goes on, swerving the controller. His on-screen vehicle matches the maneuver, but with little success. “I’m the first person in several generations who’s been able to see spirits, but even then, I can’t always see them. Only sometimes.”

Which is why Saikō bothers him so much, because aside from the slight translucent touch of his skin and the way he floats a few inches off the floor, he may as well be a real, physical person.

Not to mention Saikō is just so… young. His front teeth are actually missing.

“It was kind of strange, at first,” Fumikage says, barely paying attention to the screen anymore. “When I was younger, I used to play with other children at the park. I thought they all shared the same odd Quirk, and it wasn’t until my parents asked me who I was talking to that it clicked.”

Dark Shadow crosses the finish line first and makes sure both of them know it by victoriously throwing down the game controller and doing a dramatic little spin. Saikō looks disheartened, but sets his controller down to clap soundlessly.

“You’ll get better at it, don’t worry,” Fumikage assures him. “It takes some time. Have you ever played Mario Kart?”

Saikō frowns at this, turning away and rounding his shoulders. Fumikage doesn’t know how it’s possible, but he looks even smaller than before.

He nods.

“You have?” Fumikage asks, to be sure, and Saikō nods again. “Did you use to play it with anyone? With family, friends?”

Saikō holds up one finger.

“Just one friend?”

A nod as he returns his hands to his lap. He’s wearing a t-shirt and jeans, but it’s only now that Fumikage realizes how many tears there are through the fabric.

It’s probably too soon to ask, and really, Fumikage probably shouldn’t ask at all, but this is the first time a spirit has been so vivid. This is the first time he’s been able to hold a conversation with one for more than a couple minutes. Not to mention the fact that Saikō is his classmate, too. His dead classmate.

“Do you feel comfortable talking about what happened to you, Saikō?”

The controller slips from his fingers as his hands snap upwards to grasp at his throat, and the TV flickers and black lines of static glitch the loading screen, but Fumikage shakes his head before anything else can happen.

“Don’t worry about it,” he assures, “it’s alright. Most the spirits I’ve met either don’t realize they’re dead or they don’t want to talk about it, so it’s fine. I’m not going to force or pressure you into saying anything you aren’t comfortable with, don’t even think about it.”

Saikō visibly relaxes, and he throws a smile Fumikage’s way before taking up his controller again. They cut Dark Shadow out of the game so it’s just the two of them, and when the countdown is finished, they launch into round two.

“So, Saikō,” Fumikage says, swerving to the left and intentionally going a little too far so Saikō can pass him, “how old are you, again? Ten?”

Saikō shakes his head.

“Eleven?”

Another shake of his head.

“Twelve?”

He nods.

“Ah.” So he died four years ago. They continue with their game in silence for a while, until, “... Listen, Saikō, I’ll be honest. I have… absolutely no idea how to talk to you.”

Saikō’s mouth upturns in a smile, and he shakes his head. His mop of unkempt hair swishes with the movement.

“Ah. You, neither?”

He nods. Fumikage refocuses on the screen, just in time to swerve out of the way of a hazard in the road. Then he remembers that he’s trying to let Saikō win and internally berates himself.

“Are you living with anyone, now? You’re free to stay with me if you don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Saikō’s brows furrow for a moment, fingers going still around the controller. Getting the hint, Fumikage pauses the game, barely reaches far enough to snatch his school notebook off the desk, and hands it out to Saikō. He finds a pen a second later, and Saikō flips to the very back page and writes.

 

I’ve been haunting Aizawa-sensei for the past week.

 

“Oh, that makes sense,” Fumikage says, and feels a bit stupid for not catching on sooner. Aizawa had introduced him to the class as though he were his own child. Of course. “Well, just thought I’d offer anyway. Dark Shadow, it’s rude to eavesdrop.”

Saikō’s head whips around to look over his shoulder, and Dark Shadow retreats guiltily (though no doubt with full intention to try again when Fumikage isn’t looking).

“Don’t mind him,” Fumikage says, “he’s just curious. It’s been a while since we’ve actually seen a spirit like you, Saikō. Though, I’m sure you’ve met plenty of them, haven’t you?”

Saikō meets his eyes briefly, but turns away all too fast. The sharpie scratches the paper for a while longer before he’s happy enough with his message to share. Several words have been scribbled out and rewritten.

Not actually. I’ve never been able to see or interact with other spirits.

 

“... Really?”

Saikō nods.

“That’s… strange.” Fumikage frowns deeply. “That doesn’t make sense. Do you know why that might be?”

Saikō shakes his head, and fair enough, Fumikage thinks. It’s not like he has any answers himself, and he’s supposed to be the Medium, here. He can’t even explain why Saikō is such a vivid spirit, and when he thinks about it too much, he feels as though he’ll end up imploding.

He’s just about to ask Saikō if he’d like to return to the game when he begins writing again, and Fumikage waits patiently for him to finish.

 

You can tell Aizawa what I look like if you want, Saikō says, but please don’t tell anyone else.

 

Tell Aizawa he’s a Medium, huh. Tell him what Saikō looks like. Honestly, considering the situation, the teachers should probably know—or, at least, some of them should know. Maybe not the more exuberant, loose-lipped ones like Present Mic, who’s most likely to accidentally spill. But he could tell Aizawa.

He’s about to voice this when he thinks about the rest of Saikō’s request.

“Just Aizawa?” he clarifies, and Saikō nods. “Is there any particular reason why you don’t want anyone else to know what you look like? Not that I’d spread that around, anyway, but...”

Saikō is already shaking his head and writing. Like before, he takes his time, scribbling out words, rewriting them, then scribbling those out and trying again. Finally he comes to something he’s content with and hands it to Fumikage shyly.

 

I knew Bakugou back when I was alive. I don’t want him to know that I’m Izuku.

 

There are several scribbled out somethings before that name. Izuku. He’d hesitated.

He turns to Saikō, Izuku, and sees the wide, concerned eyes of a frightened child, and the answer is far too clear.

“... Of course,” Fumikage says, smiling. “You have my word, Saikō.”

Saikō beams, and despite the lurking figure of Dark Shadow behind him and the overall gloomy atmosphere, the room has never felt brighter.


Tokoyami is nice.

It feels we ird to talk to him sometimes, but he’s the first person I’ve met who actua lly understands me and sees me. Th at’s worth something. Dark Shadow is okay too but he’s kind of spooky.

Th at’s kind of ironic, I guess. To be spooked by something li ke that even though I’m the one who’s dead.

Ḑea̕d̶, t̕h͝a҉t'̡s rig͘ht̨,̡ ̧dead͡.

Maybe I should ask Aizawa if he can come over so m͝et͠im e to hang out. That would be fun.

Su̷p̸p͘osȩd͜ to͢ b̢e͡ fu͜n̛. ҉

I should ask. Tokoyami w ou͏ld like Ashtray, I think. May͞b ę?

I̷ sho͠uld a̕sk̨

D҉o̷̢ņ̨̨̛͜'̡̢̕t̸̸͜ ̵͟͟͠c̡̡̕͟͜o̵̴̡m̨̕ȩ ̡͝h̵̡̕͞e̛͘͜r̸̨e͟͏.̴͢ ͠͏͝S͡t͘͝͏a͘҉͟y̕ ͝a̡̛͡͡w̷̨͠a̶̧͟͟͟y̡̨͝ ̴̸f̡̕͢r̷͟o̶͡m̵̧̡͠͡ ̴̨͘h͢e͠͠r̸e̶҉҉.͏̴S͡t͘͝͏a͘҉͟y̕ ͝a̡̛͡͡w̷̨͠a̶̧͟͟͟y̡̨͝ ̴̸f̡̕͢r̷͟o̶͡m̵̧̡͠͡ ̴̨͘h͢e͠͠r̸e̶҉҉.͏̴








There’s something… floating?


The microwave dings around the same time the front door clicks open, and Shouta takes a second to weigh between his options before deciding to investigate the door first. Ashtray tries to dash ahead, but he snatches her into his arms before she can get any further. She has a nasty habit of running out this time of night and he’s not in the mood to chase her down.

There’s no one in the doorway, which means it must be Izuku, and Shouta is just about to call out and ask him why he was out so late when he notices something else.

A fish bowl. He’s carrying an empty fish bowl.

“... Izuku.”

The fish bowl gives a lurch as Izuku no doubt does the same, and Shouta lets Ashtray down once the door is shut. He crosses his arms over his chest out of habit, even though he’s curious, not upset.

An empty fish bowl. There isn’t even any water in it.

“What’cha got there?”

The bowl lowers to the ground, and once his hands are free, Shouta tosses him a pack of post-its and a pen, since he doesn’t seem to have any on him. Izuku catches them, and the pen flies across the post-its faster than ever.

He flips it around eagerly and thrusts it out for Shouta to see.

 

I found Chilli!

 

Shouta stares. “... What?”

The pen scribbles on the post-it again with an unprecedented level of eagerness.

 

I used to have a fish when I was alive. I think I found him!

 

Shouta looks first at the empty bowl, then up at the post-its, then back down at the empty bowl. Ashtray is circling it, eyeing it warily as though there really is a fish in there, except Shouta sees nothing.

But Izuku just seems so damn excited, and Shouta can’t destroy that.

“... That’s awesome, kid,” he says with a tight smile that he only hopes Izuku can’t see through. “Glad you… have a friend.”

The fish bowl ends up in the closet (which has become a makeshift room for Izuku, even though he can’t sleep; Shouta figured he deserved his own little space), and Shouta and Izuku sit at the dining table. Izuku tells him that he’d been with Tokoyami all night and that they’d hung out and played Mario Kart for several hours, to which Shouta smiles and reminds him to just, let him know the next time he plans on being away for a while. And to take his phone with him. Izuku agrees cheerfully.

Chapter Text

Bakugou doesn’t show up the next day. Not that he’d been expected to; Shouta would be more surprised if he did come to school. Shouta doesn’t know the situation half as well as he’d like (although, Nedzu and Recovery Girl are definitely in the know), but all in all, he’s glad Bakugou is staying home.

He opens the sliding door of Class 1-A. He hears a couple hushed swears, followed by squeaky shoes and the rattling of desks. Shouta pretends not to notice the students’ haste to scramble into their seats and approaches the front of the classroom.

Bakugou’s desk is empty, just as Recovery Girl had told him. Technically Izuku’s desk is empty, too, but Shouta knows he’s there.

“Today,” Shouta says without wasting any time, “you’ll be picking a class rep.”

He gets about the reaction he’d expecting. Half the students leap to their feet with a victorious cheer while the rest slump at their desks, relieved it wasn’t a pop-quiz. Shouta restores order with an intimidating glare, and once everyone’s in their seats where they belong, he continues.

Or, he would have, if Iida’s hand hadn’t snapped in the air.

“What is it?”

“Pardon my intrusion!” Iida says, always so serious. “But shouldn’t we wait for Bakugou before making such a permanent decision?”

“Usually I would be inclined to agree with you,” Shouta says, “but since we don’t know when he’ll be coming back, we can’t put this off. As such, his name won’t be on the listing.”

There’s a bit of a sigh from the class. Kirishima and Uraraka in particular look disheartened the most. Shouta draws a breath, releases it, and then goes on;

“You have until the end of homeroom to decide who gets to be class representative. The way you decide doesn’t really matter.”

“We could take a vote,” Yaoyorozu says, quick to solve the dilemma. “We don’t know each other all that well just yet, but a voting system seems like it’d be the best way to go.”

No one has a better idea and they’re quick to agree. Shouta stands off to the side to let them handle it; Iida marks everyone’s names on the chalkboard while Yaoyorozu hands out slips of paper. The votes will be counted up by her, but remain anonymous.

“I think I already know who’s gonna be class prez and vice prez,” says Kaminari, glancing up from the paper he’s writing on. “We’re lookin’ right at them, y’know.”

Shouta can’t deny it, Iida and Yaoyorozu did take the leadership naturally, without even having to be prompted, and that in and of itself is impressive. Not to mention they’ve already proven themselves to be diligent students, in book work and otherwise.

The votes are gathered up, counted, and Shouta isn’t the least but surprised by the results.

Yaoyorozu: 8
Iida: 8
Uraraka: 3

Pandemonium ensures. Not in case of the voteless, but in case of the victors.

“W-Wait, me?” Uraraka gasps, eyes wide and cheeks red. “W-Who voted for me!? Why!?”

“Hey, three votes!” Kirishima says, leaning back in his chair a dangerous amount and throwing a grin and thumbs-up her way. “That’s not bad considering we’ve only known each other for a few days!”

“But why!?” Uraraka cries, before burying her face in her hands and shaking her head with a dramatic but muffled groan.

No one speaks up, but Iida and Yaoyorozu who’d voted for her. They’d seemed impressed by her performance yesterday during the heroes versus villains exercise, and it only makes sense.

As for the third vote, Shouta can’t be sure, but he has his suspicions.

“WHY DO I HAVE EIGHT VOTES?” Iida thunders as though he’s accusing someone of murder. He swings around to face the class, like he can somehow pinpoint exactly who voted for him and why.

Beside him, Yaoyorozu is facing a similar problem. “E-Eight votes…? Really…? Why?”

“I don’t think it really matters why,” Shouta says before it can go on any longer. All the noise is starting to give him a headache. “The votes are in, and that’s that.”

“But, wait, Iida and Yaoyorozu tied,” Sero says, frowning deeply. “So if they tied, who’s gonna be class rep?”

“Both of them!” exclaims Ashido, like she’s gonna blow this case wide open. “It’s really not that hard, right? We need a vice prez anyway, so why not let Iida and Momo-chan take turns on being vice prez and prez?”

“That seems like it’d get confusing real quick,” Kaminari admits, rubbing the back of his head. “It might be best to only have one…”

“You can be class president, Iida,” Yaoyorozu speaks up, turning to him. She’s still a bit red in the face, but has regained her composure. “I’ll be vice president, I don’t mind.”

But Iida is already shaking his head. “No, no, that wouldn’t be fair to you, Yaoyorozu. We both have the same amount of points, I cannot accept that position knowing that you deserve it just as much.”

Ashido’s idea is lookin’ pretty good right about now. Shouta doesn’t know how the rest of the class feels about it, but it’d be a quick way to end this so they can finally move on to other things.

“Enough,” Shouta says, and the students silence themselves and give him their attention (honestly they’re probably afraid not to). “Iida and Yaoyorozu will both act as class representatives. It’s the easiest way around this situation, and besides, we have the entire rest of the day to deal with. We don’t have all the time in the world to spend on picking a class president.”

Iida and Yaoyorozu exchange glances, but when the class explodes into whoops and cheers, they bow lowly and that’s that.


There isn’t a ton on the agenda today. Nothing particular interesting. Shouta shoos the students out (Mic is taking them outside to work on sparring or something, he doesn’t quite recall), and the students comply without much prompting.

“Aizawa-sensei, do you have a moment?”

Shouta turns, just as the sliding door clicks shut. Tokoyami meets his eyes. Out of the entirety of Class 1-A, Tokoyami was the last person Shouta expected would hang back to talk to him. He’s kept to himself for the most part since the beginning of the school year; aside from the other day, Shouta hasn’t actually heard him speak at all.

“Sure thing,” Shouta says, turning to him, “but make it snappy, if you can. You have other classes.”

“I’m not sure how ‘snappy’ a thing I can make this, Sir.”

Shouta lifts a brow at him. “Is that so.”

Tokoyami nods. “I wouldn’t have brought it up if it weren’t important, but we thought you should know as soon as possible.”

Shouta frowns at that. “... Is Saikō here?”

“Izuku is not.”

Shouto’s eyes widen, but Tokoyami doesn’t seem the least bit fazed. He actually stuffs his hands in his pockets, like this is the most casual conversation anyone could possibly have.

“Aizawa-sensei, I happen to be a Medium. I’m not a very strong one; I can barely see spirits half the time; but I can see Saikō.”


It doesn’t really take that long to explain. Aizawa takes it about as well as Fumikage could’ve expected him to. He agreed to keep it a secret with exception of Nedzu and possibly Recovery Girl, should a time come when that was important (Fumikage couldn’t currently think of such an incident, but anyway, he’d agreed).

Izuku is waiting for him outside the classroom door when Fumikage and Aizawa finish talking. He springs away from the wall, wide-eyed and concerned, but Fumikage waves a hand at him dismissively.

“Don’t worry about it, he took it alright. He’s probably gonna wanna talk to you about it later, though, so be ready for that after school.”

Izuku bites his lip, shakes his head, and then Fumikage starts down the hallway, Izuku drifts alongside him.

“... Saikō, I’ve been meaning to ask you this all morning, but… why is there a fish following you, and how come I can see it?”

It’s a small presence, a faint presence, but it’s just enough for Fumikage to make out, hovering in the space beside Izuku’s head. He hadn’t known what it was at first and he hadn’t asked, but now that he’s had long enough to study it, he was able to make out the figure of what seemed to be a goldfish with a long, flowing tail.

Izuku starts a bit, but smiles easily and answers. Chilli, he spells out in what JSL he and Fumikage had had the chance to go over. It’s not a lot, but it’s more convenient than the post-its. Old pet. Found him.

Fumikage nods. Izuku doesn’t know much sign language yet, so most of their conversations are driven by Fumikage asking yes or no questions that Izuku can answer by nodding or shaking his head.

He asks, “Do you know why you can see him and not any other spirits?”

Izuku shakes his head.

“Huh. Weird.”

That’s the entire situation at this point. “Weird.” He doesn’t question it further just because he doesn’t know what he’d even be questioning, and he and Izuku head outside to rejoin their classmates. Hopefully they haven’t already finished the exercise.


When lunch rolls around and the cafeteria is buzzing with hundreds of hungry students, Fumikage singles Izuku out, sitting alone at the table that’s farthest removed from the commotion. He’s reading a book that’s set before him on the table in place of a tray, flipping a page every so often. The little fish hovers by his shoulder as though it’s reading along with him.

Fumikage doesn’t hesitate, just starts toward the table and takes a seat across from Izuku. Izuku lifts his head and meets his eyes, but goes back to reading a second later.

“Good read?” Fumikage asks.

Izuku puts his finger in to keep his place, shuts the book on it, and holds it up for Fumikage to see. His hand would be blocking the cover if not for that he’s translucent.

JSL - Learning, Studying, and Brief History

“Oh, cool,” Fumikage says, breaking his chopsticks apart and pinching them between his fingers. “How’s it going so far?”

Izuku drops the book onto the table and slams his head against it. Fumikage chuckles.

“It’s alright, it took me a long time before I got it, too. Don’t worry.”

“Oh, Tokoyami! Saikō! Can I sit with you?”

Izuku turns around and Fumikage doesn’t have to. Uraraka is already moving towards them with her lunch tray, beaming like she hasn’t seen either of them in years.

“Saikō’s right across from me,” Fumikage says, “but you can sit anywhere else.”

“Thank you!” Uraraka chirps, and sits down right beside Izuku. There’s no contact made, but she shivers involuntarily. “Y-Yeeeep, I know that feeling! How’re you doing today, Saikō? Oh,” She realizes softly, “you don’t have your wipe off board, do you? Is it in your bag?”

Izuku looks between her and Fumikage for a moment. Uraraka’s eyes don’t stray; even though she doesn’t know what she’s looking at, she’s trying hard to show Izuku that her focus is on him. It’s a nice gesture.

And it gives Fumikage a chance to flash a quick Okay with her knowing? at Izuku. Izuku seems unsure for a long, almost eternal moment, but then he nods uneasily.

If you are, he signs. She’s good. I trust her.

“Uraraka,” He’s gonna get real tired of saying these words pretty soon, but, “if you can keep this between the three of us, I would greatly appreciate it, but I’m a Medium.”

Uraraka blinks at him, not quite getting it at first.

He can pinpoint the exact moment she does.

“Wait.” Her head whirls toward Izuku, who waves, but she’s turned back toward Fumikage a second later, eyes wide as saucers. “Wait, waitwaitwait wait, that means you can see—”

“I would like to keep it between the three of us, Uraraka,” Fumikage reiterates. Uraraka goes quiet, still turning this over, but it’s not long before she’s nodding firmly.

“Okay,” she says, “okay, I promise I won’t tell anyone. S-Sorry for freaking out a little, I just… wasn’t expecting that at all.”

Izuku gives Fumikage a thumbs-up, coupled with one of the biggest grins he’s ever seen, and Fumikage smiles and shakes his head.

Uraraka catches sight of the JSL book Izuku had been reading, and she zeroes in on it immediately. “Oh, are you learning JSL so you and Tokoyami can talk?” she asks, scooting over. Her arm phases through Izuku’s when she gets too close, and they both know it, judging by the unease on Izuku’s face and the icy terror on Uraraka’s.

“Ah, sorry!” she apologizes, backing off and rubbing her forearm. “Yikes, sorry, that was my bad, I just kinda forgot you were there.”

Izuku is waving his hands around and shaking his head.

“He’s alright, Uraraka,” Fumikage says. “... He’s complaining about personal space violations, though.”

Izuku glares at him, and it’s about as intimidating as a kitten, so Fumikage can’t help but smile. Uraraka doesn’t seem to realize it’s a joke at first.

“Oh, is it really that awful?” she asks, concerned. “I-I’m sorry, Saikō—”

“I’m joking, Uraraka, he didn’t say anything like that,” Fumikage tells her, shaking his head. “Saikō, what do you think?”

Izuku isn’t happy with him, but he answers.

“Yeah, he says it doesn’t really bother him,” says Fumikage. “Just tickles a bit.”

“Oh, good.” Uraraka deflates, shoulders slumping and arms limp at her sides. “Ahhh, for a second I was worried I’d done something wrong…”

“I apologize.”

“Nono, you’re fine, I should’ve known.” She balls her fist and smacks it through Izuku’s shoulder. It’d been his shoulder by complete coincidence, of course, but considering it’s what she’d been going for, it’s a nice coincidence. “Goofball.”

Izuku beams at her, and it’s the one thing Fumikage doesn’t have to translate. The atmosphere always lights up when Izuku is happy, and judging by Uraraka’s own smile, she’s feeling every bit of it.

In hindsight, he doesn’t remember what he’d been about to say before the alarms blared loud enough to make his ears bleed.

Uraraka almost jumps out of her seat, and Izuku actually does, zipping into the air involuntarily. The little ghost-fish spins in-air circles without a care in the world.

“Students, please follow the evacuation protocol and make your way calmly towards the nearest exit,” comes a robotic voice over the intercom. Fumikage thinks blandly that the voice has no interest in their safety whatsoever.

… And apparently none of the students actually listened to the “calmly” part of that protocol, because the floor trembles like they’re in the middle of an earthquake as students run, trip, push, and scramble for the exits. They took “calmly” the same way the makers of the Harry Potter movies did when describing Dumbledore’s temperament in The Goblet of Fire—that is, to say, not at all.

“Wait, what’s going on?” Uraraka voices as she gets to her feet. Across from her, Fumikage does the same. “It’s different from the fire alarm, right?”

Fumikage falls in step beside her, eternally grateful that they wound up at such a far-removed table. They’re probably the only students not swept up by the frenzic crowd.

“Regardless of what it is,” he says, “we should follow the evacuation protocol. Come on.”

He leads, Uraraka flanks him. And then Izuku taps him on the shoulder.

Fumikage skids to a halt. “What is it?” he asks, glancing at Uraraka as she continues to jog ahead, not yet realizing that he’d stopped.

Wordlessly, Izuku points toward the window—or, more accurately, outside. Fumikage doesn’t need to ask for further clarification; he nods, then spins on his heel and runs to catch up with Uraraka. When he looks back over his shoulder, Izuku is gone, and he turns back to flank Uraraka.

They hang at the back of the pack while the rest of the students scramble about like their lives depend on it (which honestly it might, but if it keeps on like this they’re just gonna end up doing more harm than good). Uraraka looks about how Fumikage feels. Her eyes are wide and her fists are clenched.

“What’s going on!?” she says, and she has to shout to get her voice over the din. At this point Fumikage wouldn’t be surprised if the roof caved in on top of them. “We’re not seriously being attacked, are we!?”

“I don’t know,” Fumikage responds, but he’s not sure he’s loud enough for her to hear and goes on with that in mind. “Saikō went to try and find out what’s going on, he should be back—”

It’s at that precise moment that Izuku returns, zooming towards them like a bullet. He snaps to an abrupt halt right in front of Fumikage, hands flying before Fumikage can ask what’s going on.

Reporters, Izuku says. I saw reporters.

Fumikage’s eyes widen. “It’s the press?”

Uraraka hears him and whirls around. “Saikō! What’d you see?”

“He says it’s the press,” Fumikage vocalizes, spinning towards her. “We’re not in danger, the reporters must have crossed through the gate and triggered the alarm.”

Uraraka’s already saucer-like eyes blow wider. “So we aren’t in danger after all…”

“Good luck getting everyone else to feel the same way, though,” Fumikage says, wincing. Within him, Dark Shadow riles and thrashes, longing to be a part of the action, but Fumikage stomps him back. Losing control right now would be a worst case scenario, for sure.

Izuku looks just as lost as the rest of them, and the roar of the riling students only grows louder. For a while, Fumikage starts to wonder what they should do. They know it’s the press, but that doesn’t really matter if they can’t communicate it to the others.

But then Uraraka’s eyes ignite with something. She snaps her fingers. “I think I know what to do,” she breathes. “Saikō, do you think you can carry me like we did during the test yesterday?”

Izuku turns wide, empty eyes toward her, but nods.

“He says yes,” Fumikage aids.

Uraraka nods gravely, already turning toward the crowd. “Then, let’s do this!”

She touches her fingertips together, then taps both her shoulders. Her feet leave the ground, and Izuku takes that as his cue to swoop forward, take her by the forearms, and guide her as she directs.


“Everyone, listen! It’s just the press, no one is in danger here! Please stay calm! If we really were in danger, we’d most likely be dead by now! You can’t panic and freak out like that in a crisis, you have to keep a level head!”


Fumikage would be lying if he said he wasn’t impressed. Uraraka hadn’t struck him as much of a leader at first, but he realizes now that he’d misjudged her. She was the only person today who even attempted to take action, and not only that, but she’d succeeded in getting the truth across to the others and, in doing so, diffusing the turmoil.

“Ahhh, that was crazy!” she’s saying as she, Fumikage, Izuku, and the rest of their classmates head back to Class 1-A. The teachers had been forced to push everything back a couple hours, due to the alarms as well as the reporters’ intrusion, so they’d missed their final class of the day, but no one complains.

“Crazy?” Hagakure repeats, bouncing alongside her. “That was awesome, Ochako-chan! You were so cool, man, I wish I could’ve done something like that!”

“It wasn’t that cool,” Uraraka says, shaking her head. “Besides, I wouldn’t’ve been able to do it without Saikō, he was the one who guided me around once I was in the air.”

“You don’t say?” says Kirishima, and he’s grinning. “Damn, you two sure do make a great team! First the heroes versus villains exam, now this? You guys are gonna be unstoppable someday!”

Uraraka turns away embarrassedly, and Izuku looks kind of like he’s gonna fold in on himself like an origami box. Fumikage can’t help but smile.

Aizawa isn’t there when the rest of the students arrive, and everyone immediately breaks into groups to gossip about the press and how rude it was of them to intrude like that, along with why they’d go so far, all for some dumb interview with All Might or something.

Fumikage takes his own seat at his desk and folds his arms on its top, sighing deeply. At least Dark Shadow isn’t trying to tear himself free anymore. That’s a relief.

The door slides open, and the students scramble for their desks, but Aizawa doesn’t seem bothered by it this time. He looks a combination of weary and irritated; a combination that looks deadly on his face.

He faces the class once they’re all seated again. “Well,” he says, voice betraying only the slightest hint of what must be an abundance of annoyance, “as you can see, I hate the media.”

Fumikage isn’t sure it’s meant as a joke, but a couple brave (or stupid, who knows) students end up stifling laughs behind their hands. Either Aizawa doesn’t notice, or is too annoyed with the press to think twice about it.

“A lot of our time wound up wasted today,” Aizawa says, frowning deeply, “so all I can do now really is hand out an assignment or something for you to bring in tomorrow—”

“Erm, S-Sensei?”

It’s not the interruption itself that’s as surprising as the person who interrupted. Aizawa goes silent, and every head turns as Yaoyorozu pushes her chair back and rises to her feet. She’s biting her lip, and her fingers are curled into fists at her sides.

“What is it?” Aizawa asks.

Yaoyorozu struggles with her words for a moment, trying to decide what to say. “I… I’m sorry to cause trouble,” she says, turning away, “and I know we already settled this earlier, and it’s finished, but… if you’re alright with it, I would like to give my position as class representative to Uraraka.”

“What?” Now it’s Uraraka who leaps to her feet, wide-eyed. “But, Yaoyorozu— why…?”

Yaoyorozu swallows thickly, and for a bit it seems as though she isn’t going to respond at all, but then, “You were able to diffuse the situation earlier so effortlessly, when I myself didn’t know what to do. I think that’s important. You’d make a far better leader than I would, Uraraka.”

“I was freaking out, too!” Uraraka insists, waving her hands. “I was just as panicked and confused as everyone else, believe me! It was a long shot idea, I don’t know how it worked, but… there’s a reason why I voted for you, Yaoyorozu, and there’s a reason why seven other people did, too. You’re gonna be a fine class representative, just like Iida, and we’ll follow you. Don’t worry, yeah?”

“Hell yeah, Yaoyorozu!”

“That’s right!”

“Give yourself some more credit!”

“I second Uraraka, you’ve got this!”

Uraraka smiles, and after a while longer of looking stunned, Yaoyorozu smiles weakly, too.

“Well,” Aizawa says before either of them can go on, “guess that’s that. Class reps, come up here and help me hand out assignments. Bring it back with you tomorrow.”

If the class hadn’t been so apprehensive of Aizawa, Fumikage is sure they would’ve groaned.


It’d been difficult to make out at first, in the heat of the moment, surrounded by press with U.A.’s alarm system going haywire. But when the police arrived and shooed them off, that was when Aizawa and the rest of the teachers who’d come outside saw the true extent of the damage.

The great steel wall, which had collapsed over the door as soon as the alarm was triggered, is nothing more than a disintegrated pile of dust to be scattered by the wind. Its remains have probably been swept off by now.

“The reporters weren’t the only people involved in the fiasco earlier. There’s no way the press managed that.”

It isn’t a question, and Shouta knows Nedzu takes it as such. They’d already discussed it briefly with the other teachers, outside, immediately following the incident, but Nedzu had called Aizawa into his office specifically.

Nedzu hums, paws folded and elbows resting on the table (the anatomy of that doesn’t really make sense in Shouta’s mind, but he’s done questioning anything at this point). “Yes, I believe you are correct, Aizawa.  I think the press were used as an unknowing distraction to whoever really attempted to get into the school.

Shouta sets his jaw and looks out the window to avoid the principal’s eyes. The setting sun stretches golden-orange rays across the city, silhouetting its buildings.

“Well,” Nedzu says, perking up way too quickly, “there’s no use worrying about it now. We’ll run a full system sweep and double down on security starting tomorrow. The most important thing now is the infiltrators failed.”

That’s perhaps the worst part of it, though. Because, did they? Who knows?

“Sorry for keeping you long,” Nedzu says as though nothing had happened at all, “and I apologize for calling you here again, but the incident with the press isn’t really what I wanted to talk about.”

Of course. There’s always one more thing. Shouta heaves a long, exasperated sigh, but tries to stay professional. “What is it?”

“That boy you brought in, Izuku. Does his surname happen to be Midoriya?”

Shouta’s breath gets stuck in his throat, and before he registers moving, he’s whirled around to face Nedzu. The dying light of the setting sun almost silhouettes his form, too.

“... I don’t know,” Shouta admits, and this is when he really realizes it. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. “He never gave me more than Izuku.”

“Mm… you might want to take it up with Tsukauchi Naomasa. And speak with Izuku regarding this, soon.”

“Tsukauchi Naomasa? The detective?”

“The same, yes.”

Shouta’s head spins for a moment. “Why him? What’s this about?”

“I don’t want to jump to conclusions and tell you that Midoriya Izuku and Saikō are the same person,” Nedzu cuts in, voice steady but grave. “But regardless, you should take it up with Tsukauchi. Before something happens.”

Shouta’s teeth clench behind his lips, but he doesn’t argue.

“He’s… young,” Tokoyami had said in Class 1-A, as he explained whatever he could. “His front teeth are missing, he has a lot of freckles, his hair is unkempt and messy but not quite in a bad way. He said he doesn’t mind me telling you some things, but that’s all he wanted me to share. You’re going to have to talk to him about the rest.”  

As apprehensive as he is, the fact that Izuku is twelve and dead is always a glaring light in his eyes. Something he can’t get out of his head or overlook.

“... Fine. I’ll take it up with Tsukauchi tomorrow, after we’ve finished at the USJ.”

Nedzu nods. “Yes, you do that. And let me know how it goes. Good luck, and good night, Aizawa.”

“Yeah, night.”

He slams the door a bit too hard on his way out.


Ashtray is batting at a floating cat toy when Shouta arrives home.

He kicks off his shoes as he shuts the door behind him, shoulders heavy and head aching. Down the hallway he can see Ashtray running in small circles to chase his toy, pupils fully dilated and eyes locked on his prey. Izuku’s phone is on the floor nearby, beside where Shouta imagines him sitting.

“I’m back,” Shouta hollers into the house. The toy hurls itself across the room and Ashtray scrambles after it; moments later, Shouta’s phone dings.

[Izuku]
Welcome back!! :D

Ah, dammit. There’s no way they can discuss “Midoriya” tonight, not when the boy is as happy as he is. Shouta had been pondering how to bring it up the whole way home, but now, any hope of having that talk tonight have been dashed completely.

He sighs, moments before his phone dings again.

[Izuku]
Tokoyami said you’d probably wanna talk to me about the whole... 
Thing.

That’s probably what he should do, but...

“We can talk about it tomorrow, kid,” Shouta says, around the same time Ashtray retrieves his toy and Izuku begins harassing him with it again. “I’m gonna catch up on some work in the office. You can watch TV in my room if you want, just shoot me a text if you need me.

[Izuku]
Okie dokie!

 

It’s then that Shouta decides to go to Tsukauchi first and Izuku second. After all, if Izuku and “Midoriya” aren’t the same person, there’s no use in bringing it up anyway. He may as well wait and speak to Tsukauchi first.

But that’s all after he’s had time to think everything over.

For now, he just really wants to go to bed.


“... All Might… always saving people with a smile…”

A flash of something in a dark, gloomy atmosphere, too dark for him to see. Broken imagery, silhouettes, like photos that weren’t completely or properly developed. The words sound like they’re being spoken from far underwater. Or maybe he’s the one underwater?

“... turn society on its head…”

Broken imagery, silhouettes. Muddled movement. A shout. A screech.

“... kill All Might…”

Fumikage shoots upright, throat contracting with every heaving gasp, chest aching. The words echo in the forefront of his mind a while longer before fading out, like a very distant echo, but the feelings it’d ignited him are still very much present and real.

He looks down at his hands. Trembling.

“What the… hell…”

He puts his head in his hands, if just to keep them from shaking, but it isn’t long before someone is tapping him on the shoulder. Reluctantly, Fumikage raises his head and meets Dark Shadow’s glowing, cat-like eyes in the darkness.

The question is clear, and Fumikage answers before Dark Shadow can even begin to voice it.

“I’m alright,” he assures, but it comes out sounding more like a question, even to himself. “Sorry, I just… had a bad dream or something, I’m fine.”

The shadow doesn’t seem convinced, but he leaves it at that, and so does Fumikage. With some difficulty, he forces his breathing to steady and lies down, dragging the blanket up over his head.

He’ll wake up the next morning having forgotten all about it.

Chapter Text

 

[Kirishima Eijirou]
hey dude you gonna be at school today? you feelin’ any better?

[Bakugou Katsuki]
No
I have a doctor appointment today
Probably not gonna be back until the day after tomorrow or something

[Kirishima Eijirou]
oh i see, that’s cool.
noyou okay? anything i can do to help?

[Bakugou Katsuki]
Not really, but thanks
There’s not much anyone can do about it but me

[Kirishima Eijirou]
jeez i’m sorry, man, that sucks.
hmu if you think of anything i can do to help, alright?

[Bakugou Katsuki]
If you wanna take notes for me or something I’d appreciate that
Maybe it’d benefit you, too
Motivate you to actually pay attention

[Kirishima Eijirou]
OH YEAH I CAN DO THAT
HELL YEAH

[Bakugou Katsuki]
Well anyway
Good luck, cya when I cya, etc.

[Kirishima Eijirou]
<salutes> gotcha covered dude don’t worry bout a thing.

[Bakugou Katsuki]
Thanks

“Bakugou still isn’t here? I thought for sure he’d be back today...”

Eijirou shoves his phone in his pocket as he shakes his head. “I texted him this morning, he said he has a doctor appointment or something,” he says, looking at Ashido from across the cafeteria table. “I’m sure he’s alright.”

“In any case,” Iida says, straightening his glasses a bit, “I’m glad he’s getting whatever help he may need. It’s important to be vigilant in your studies, but it’s even more important to take care of yourself.”

“I’ll drink to that,” says Kaminari, and takes a gulp of orange juice so large that he ends up choking on it and has to turn away and cough. Iida sighs.

“Can I say something?” Sero asks, raising his hand before pointing it across the room. “Those guys were sitting over there during lunch yesterday. And they’re there again.”

All heads turn in that direction. At the table closest to the far wall of the cafeteria sit Uraraka and Tokoyami. There’s a floating wipe-off board beside Uraraka, and Dark Shadow is reading a book, but it’s too far away for Eijirou to make out the cover.

He turns back to the others and they do the same. “I wonder if Saikō feels like an outcast around here,” he says, cradling his chin with a hand. “I mean, I dunno about you guys, but if I was dead and all my classmates and teachers were alive, I’d feel pretty out of place, too.”

Kaminari, having recovered from choking on the orange juice, shivers involuntarily. “Yeah,” he says, looking away, “but… heck, this feels terrible to say out loud, but there’s a part of me that’s glad he’s over there and not here. I don’t know what it is, but… he kind of gives me the creeps.”

“Well,” Iida says, “I suppose that can’t really be helped. I’ve been doing my best to keep an open mind about all of this, but I’ll have to admit, having a spirit as a classmate is a bit…” He pauses, trying to think of a word that isn’t too offensive while still accurately portraying how he feels. “... Unsettling.”

Eijirou glances over his shoulder at the table of four (if you count Dark Shadow), thinking. Then, mind made up, he snatches his tray from the table and gets to his feet.

“I’m gonna go sit with them!” he declares, beaming.

Kaminari chokes on his orange juice again.

“Wait, you’re going to what?” Sero gasps, eyes widening. “I mean, all the power to you and stuff if you really wanna, but what brought that on?”

“Saikō’s gonna be our classmate from here on out, right? So I might as well get the creeps over with now!”

With a final smile to their baffled (and awed) faces, Eijirou spins on his heel and starts toward their table. The supernatural has always thrilled him, and even though he may be a little scared beneath all that pomp and circumstance, he isn’t going to let that stop him.

Who knows? Maybe he’ll end up finding a new friend in the process.

“Yoooo, Uraraka! Tokoyami! Saikō! Dark Shadow!”

All party members whirl to look at him as he approaches, and while he can only guess what direction Saikō is facing, he’s sure the spirit has turned to him as well.

“Kirishima,” Uraraka greets, beaming. “What’s up?”

“Ah, well,” Eijirou says, smiling nervously, “I was thinking maybe I could sit with you guys if you didn’t mind. I mean, we’re going to be classmates from now until we graduate, so it’s a great time to be able to sit and talk and get to know each other, don’t you think?”

“Oh, I don’t mind!” Uraraka says, smiling even brighter, if that’s possible. Her eyes seem to sparkle. “Tokoyami, Saikō, what do you think?”

“I’m alright with it as long as Saikō is,” says Tokoyami.

The wipe-off pen is already writing on the board, and the words I don’t mind! is all the confirmation Eijirou needs before he takes a seat beside Tokoyami and settles his tray on the table.

Success.


“We’re going to be taking a bit of a drive today,” Aizawa says once lunch has finished and the students are back in their classroom, seated at their desks. “There’s a training building not far from here where we’ll be working on Search and Rescue with All Might and one other pro.”

“Rescue training!” Ashido exclaims, as though it were her idea in the first place. “Oh my gosh, that’s so exciting! This is what being a hero’s all about, I can’t wait!”

“We’re leaving whether or not you want to wear your costumes up to you,” Aizawa goes on like she hadn’t said anything at all. “Keep in mind, this is for search and rescue. Think practically about your choice. The bus will be here in twenty minutes. Please be outside and ready to leave by then.”

Everyone’s scrambling from that point on, grabbing their costumes and hustling to their respective locker rooms to change. Eijirou decides he’ll be wearing his costume; he can’t see how it would hinder him in any way during a rescue, and this is a nice field-test to see if it does. Because if that ends up being the case, then he has some critical alterations to make.

Eijirou is one of the first students outside, with Saikō right beside him with his wipe-off board.

“You don’t have a costume, Saikō?” Eijirou asks, genuinely curious.

The wipe-off pen moves fervently until the message is completed.

 

It’s difficult to wear clothes from the physical realm because it drains a lot of energy. I have a bracelet that kind of acts as a costume, but I don’t think I’ll need that today.

 

“Ah, makes sense!” Eijirou says, nodding. “But you’ve got like, spirit-clothes?”

 

Yes.

 

“Do you have any spirit-clothes that, like, say ‘hero’ or something?” Eijirou asks. “Sometimes wearing a costume is an awesome way to psych yourself up, so I think it’d be cool, if you had something like that!”

There’s a long moment of stillness where the wipe-off pen and board remain completely unmoving. And while it does last some time, it doesn’t last forever.

 

I do.

 

“Awesome!” Eijirou beams at him, flashing a thumbs-up. “Saving people’s what being a hero’s all about, so I’m really looking forward to today! Let’s do our best, ‘kay?”

He holds out his fist. Something cold and firm, like a block of ice, knocks against his knuckles. He grins tighter, but the sincerity behind it doesn’t change. Dead or alive, Saikō is still just like them. Still just striving to become a hero. And that’s something Eijirou can relate to. That’s something he can respect.

“You guys, wait up!”

Uraraka runs up to them, cape billowing behind her, eyes sparkling in the sun.

“Whoa, Uraraka!” Eijirou gasps, whirling to face her fully. “Your costume is even cooler up close! Dang, your cape is so cool!”

Uraraka laughs shakily, rubbing the back of her neck. “Thanks!” she says, and drops her hand to her side again. “I debated whether or not I wanted a cape for a while, but I’m glad I decided to have one after all. Has Tokoyami finished yet?”

“Present.”

Eijirou and Uraraka (as well as Saikō, Eijirou is sure) turn as Tokoyami approaches. His hero costume seems to be nothing more than a black, hooded robe, but it sure does suit him well. Matches flawlessly with his Quirk, too.

The bus arrives then, and once all the students have loaded up, they head out.


The USJ is, admittedly, a lot bigger than Fumikage had imagined it. Which is saying quite a lot, because considering how blatantly, unashamedly extra U.A. has proven itself to be, he’d imagined it pretty spacious.

It’s massive, with structures of all shapes, sizes, and type, layered in several different sections, designed so that no two zones clash with its neighbor. Fumikage is able to pick up the obvious ones; there’s a shipwreck section, what seems to be a rockslide section, but there are several other sections with dome-shaped rooves that he can’t see beneath.

“Whoa!” Kaminari is the first to speak, though his exclamation is echoed with varying synonyms by the rest of them—Saikō included. “It’s like some sort of theme park or something! How crazy is this!?”

“I can’t believe we’re doing rescue training today,” breathes Ojirou, wide-eyed but smiling. “This is really what being a hero’s all about, isn’t it? I’ve been looking forward to this for so long…”

“It certainly is something,” Fumikage murmurs, head raised toward one of the tallest domes in the dome-shaped building. He’s standing in between Kirishima and Uraraka, with Saikō hovering wide-eyed nearby. “I guess I should expect nothing less from U.A….”

“I knew U.A. wasn’t gonna pull any punches when it came to stuff like this,” Shinsou observes, looking just as stunned as the rest of them, “but damn if I don’t keep being surprised by it. S’alot to get used to…”

“Welcome students!”

In front of them—how Fumikage failed to notice them before is beyond him—stands none other than the rescue hero, Thirteen. A well-known and well-adored hero by the public, known for a whole mess of dangerous yet successful rescue maneuvers they’ve carried out over the years. Uraraka squeals, unable to contain herself, and Saikō whacks Fumikage on the shoulder with one hand while pointing frantically at Thirteen with the other.

Aizawa moves forward while the students continue to gasp and wail and clap and cheer. He murmurs something close to Thirteen as soon as he’s close enough, and Thirteen responds in a tone so low that no one (save perhaps Jirou, if she’d so chosen to eavesdrop) can hear. After that, Aizawa straightens up and turns to face the rest of the students. His brows are drawn together now; they hadn’t been before.

“Due to unavoidable circumstances, All Might will not be joining us today,” says Aizawa, arms crossed over his chest. “Thirteen and I will be manning today’s lessons on our own.”

A couple questioning murmurs circle the group of students, but not for very long. Aizawa turns to Thirteen and nods, and Thirteen responds by taking a step forward while Aizawa steps off to the side out of the way.

“Students!” Thirteen says, spreading their arms, and everyone snaps to attention. “We are gathered here today to learn what is arguably the most important thing you can ever learn as heroes in training—and that is, the art of saving lives. It sounds easy enough on paper, or maybe even in your heads. You might be standing there wondering why you’re here at all.

“But there’s a lot more to it than just that. You never know what situations you may find yourself and others in. Today, we’ll be discussing and carrying out several different types of rescue maneuvers. It may take some time to take this to heart, but these powers you’ve carried with you and honed from the day you were born until now… there’s more to it than fighting villains. There’s more to it than your own personal gain. You’re all here today so that you can, someday, use these powers to save people. And today, we’ll take the first big step towards that future goal.”

For a moment the audience stands there stunned as the echo of Thirteen’s words ring through their heads. The air around Saikō changes into something Fumikage has never felt from any spirit before. A kind of determination, the kind Fumikage has ever only seen in the living. The determination of someone who has a life to live and a life to give. His eyes are hollow but his fists are balled tight and his brows knit together.

The air reaches the rest of the rest of the students until it’s like the tides have turned completely. Even the class goofballs like Kaminari and Ashido look five years older. It reaches Fumikage, too, even though he knows what it is and he’s dealt with spirits before.

The class erupts into cheers a moment later, claps and hollers and determined shouts. Aizawa and Thirteen exchange a look, and just like that they’re ready.

There’s a gust of wind.

It doesn’t come from Saikō. It doesn’t actually come from anyone on this platform. It’s a deep, icy, biting wind that feels like it could cut through Fumikage’s skin as easily as arrows. It’s not just him who notices it; Uraraka and Kirishima throw up their hands to shield their faces, and so do the students nearest to them. Aizawa and Thirteen aren’t immune to it either, and whirl around wide-eyed to look behind them.

It’s in the center of the USJ, by the fountain. A small, gaping something, like a swirling, ever-changing black hole.

And it’s getting bigger.

Fumikage’s nightmare suddenly rushes back at him and he remembers every detail with a startling bout of clarity. This… he’d seen this before. And not just this, but he’s seen what came after it. He knows what’s going to happen.

Vaguely, faintly, but it’s there. And it flashes on the backs of his eyelids when he blinks.

From the gaping hole—now stretched far left and far right like a swirling veil of tar—march the villains. Not one, not five, not even fifty. There has to be a good hundred or so of them, some small and some very large, some with disfigured bodies and some as tall as giants.

Fumikage finds his voice and starts forward.

“Aizawa!”

Aizawa’s head whips around to look at him, and the blind terror in his eyes must be enough to convey the gravity of it. As if the black hole didn’t already do that.

“They’re here to kill All Might,” Fumikage says. “There’s a villain down there—it isn’t human, I don’t know what it is—but it’s going to kill him.”

Somehow, Aizawa doesn’t question a word of it. “Thirteen,” Aizawa says, already reaching for his capture scarves and settling his goggles over his eyes, “protect the students!”

And just like that he leaps over the edge, freefalling off the platform and toward the villains that lie ahead. Fumikage whirls around as Thirteen begins barking orders, shouting at the students to retreat, to get out of there while they still have the chance.

Saikō isn’t beside him anymore.

Fumikage’s head spins and he tries looking over his shoulder, tries finding any sign of him, but Uraraka grabs him by the elbow and hauls him forward, eyes wide and frantic but determined.

“Aizawa-sensei can take care of this!” she swears, but says it like she’s trying to convince herself and not him. “We’ll only get in his way if we stay here, we have to go like he said!”

“Uraraka!”

Fumikage tears his arm from her hold. She skids to a halt and looks back at him, wide-eyed, breathing hard.

“Saikō is gone.”

Uraraka’s already wide eyes blow wider. “W-What do you mean he’s—”

“Cover your ears!”

Fumikage’s eyes land on a canon Yaoyorozu has hastily conjured up and he has barely enough time to snap his hands up toward his head before she lets loose a blast. Even though they’re covered, Fumikage’s ears still ache and ring as the ammunition slices through the stirred air like a knife through smooth butter.

Yaoyorozu had been aiming to blast down the entire door, but there’s no time for the cannonball to reach its target before the swirling abyss of nothingness is suddenly a gaping hole in front of them. It swallows the ammunition and nothing more is seen of it.

“What the hell…” Kirishima breathes through teeth tightly gritted, trembling hands curled into fists.

“Pardon the intrusion.”

The abyss takes on form; a human-esque shape with narrowed yellow, animalistic eyes, with no visible pupil. Actually, there’s no visible anything. No distinction between whites, irises, pupil; only a yellow shine, a stark contrast against the abyss but just as easy to get sucked into.

“I’m afraid to tell you,” His voice is hollow, even emptier than his eyes, “but you’re our hostages, now. And I’m not letting you escape.”

Dark Shadow burns within him and Fumikage lets him go. Dark Shadow has a sort of emptiness to him as well, but not like this thing. Beside him, Uraraka and Kirishima take up stances. So do the others. Yaoyorozu has a hand on the fuse of the canon.

“In any case, I’m afraid we don’t have much time to chat.” The villain expands again, encasing them all with a wall of shimmering darkness. “Our main objective here is to kill All Might… but we certainly wouldn’t mind taking a few of you along for the ride.”

Yaoyorozu fires the cannon right at the villain’s head. No—slightly lower than that.

It’s aimed at his chest.

A near point-blank range, coupled by the villain’s shock of it all, gives her a still, easy target. Fumikage is just beginning to think that it’s pointless, that she’s only made it worse—when the cannonball actually lands.

With a resounding clang, the villain is thrown backwards and slams into the door. The mist scatters, lowering from around the students.

“He has a physical form!” Yaoyorozu hollers to the others, jaw set, eyes narrowed into slits. “There’s no avoiding him, we have to barrel through!”

Thirteen doesn’t want to, but they’ve been through enough to know that there really isn’t another option here. Fumikage’s mind is swirling with thoughts of Saikō and Aizawa and his vision from the night before, but he can’t worry about any of that. Not until the threat right in front of them is eliminated.

“Stand your ground!” Thirteen barks, arm thrusting out toward the students. “Watch and wait for an opening, we still don’t know what they’re capable of!”

“Right!” is the affirmative answer, and everyone picks their best battle stance. Jirou slides a foot out in front of her, earplugs lashing like whips; Yaoyorozu constructs a shield and staff and stands beside her canon, ready; Dark Shadow rears over Fumikage’s head, snarling like a wildcat; Kirishima, Ashido, Uraraka, and Shouji form a line like runners ready to race, only their hands are brought up in front of their faces and their fists are balled tight.

The villain before them chuckles, and the dissipated mist comes swirling back to reform his body. “Clever,” he says, eyes reappearing in the center of his face. “So you figured it out. Spectacular. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do against me that would make a difference. You’ll be going now.”

The floor drops out from underneath him, and he falls into a gaping nothing, the surprised shouts and screams of his classmates and the roaring boom! of Yaoyorozu’s cannon filling his ears all the way down, down, down, until the portal finally snaps shut over his head.

He hits the ground a moment later, just when he thinks he may be falling forever, and he’s got his feet underneath him again as soon as possible. Wind whips against his skin like thousands of tiny knives, and he whirls around once, twice, thrice, taking in his surroundings.

A desolate area, wind blowing around newspapers, dirt, debris, leaves… there are trees with shuddering branches moved by the wind, high buildings covered in dust and windows fogged by it. All the while the wind continues to pound against him relentlessly, and he can’t find his bearings.

At least, he can’t, until he realizes there’s a dome over his head. And an approaching shadow from further down the street. Through the dust and wind, he can see only a silhouette, but it’s all the information he needs.

He’d been warped to the wind zone. And he wasn’t warped alone.

Dark Shadow answers his tug and makes himself known, looming over Fumikage like a threatening, gloomy cloud, snarling and hissing and arching his back like an enraged, feral cat. Fumikage sets his jaw, mentally prepares himself.

If he wants to get to Saikō—if he wants to help the others—then he has to clear this obstacle, first. And he has to do it quickly.


Yaoyorozu and her cannon were warped off by Kurogiri—but not before she had the chance to send off several rapid-fires and blast a chunk out of the wall.

Like clockwork, as the rest of their classmates disappear around them, Tenya’s engines roar to life. Across from him, keeping herself afloat as the ground disappears beneath her, is Uraraka.

She meets his eyes. He meets hers.

“We have an opening!” shouts Sero, swinging forward on ropes of tape. “C’mon! Iida, run!”

Tenya doesn’t want to. Running right here, right now, with so much chaos surrounding him and within him, running is the last thing he wants to do. It’s the last thing any of them want to do.

But there’s an opening, now. An opening while Uraraka, Sero, Shouji, Thirteen, and Kirishima keep the warp gate distracted. An opening that isn’t going to last forever.

He takes it. Engines roaring, heart pounding, head still in an inner war with himself, he charges forward.

The warp gate tries to stop him, but Sero and Uraraka are quicker. Just as though they’ve done it a million times, Uraraka runs straight for the warp gate, and Sero’s tape winds around her waist and yanks her up out of the way of the portal that opens in front of her. She’s swung through the air like a catapult, then launched forward.

“Run, Iida!”

Tenya runs.

Kirishima comes alongside him, ramming himself straight into the villain’s physical body just barely long enough to stun him. Kirishima disappears through a portal a moment later, but it’s given enough time for Uraraka and Sero to formulate their counter strategy.

Uraraka grabs ahold of the warp gate’s body. It glows a soft pink and she holds tighter, doesn’t let go. Sero swings the two of them up into the air, higher and higher and higher—until they’re high enough, and Uraraka lets go, and the villain sails off helplessly.

Uraraka grins, a slight grimace twisting her features as she once again applies her Quirk to herself to soften her landing.

Tenya doesn’t waste anymore time. He runs, leaps, and dives through the hole made by Yaoyorozu’s cannon, and before he can think twice, before he can talk himself out of it, he’s tearing down the dirt roads all the way back to U.A. He’s never run so fast before in his life.


Hitoshi hits the water before he has the chance to brace himself.

He does have enough sense to close his mouth and hold his breath beforehand, but that’s it. He hits the water feet-first and plummets straight towards the bottom like a sinking stone. The water feels like ice and stings just as badly, but he opens his eyes regardless and collects his wits, kicking with his feet and looking around.

They separated us…

There’s a dark something moving towards him, a dark blur of shadow and bubbles. Moving towards him quickly.

Before he has the chance to react, another blur zooms out of nowhere and intercepts it, diving into it feet-first and snapping it clear off its path. Hitoshi doesn’t have time to be relieved before Tsuyu coils her tongue tight around his waist and thrusts him up out of the water.

The air hits him almost as unforgivingly as the water did, but everything’s happening so quickly that he doesn’t have the chance to even breathe before he’s dropped back-first onto the deck of a ship.

He rolls himself over on his side, coughing and choking as he fights to regain his breath. A thump beside him speaks of Tsuyu hauling herself up in like manner, though she’s much more graceful about it than he is.

“Are you okay, Shinsou?”

He nods stiffly and forces himself upright, finally getting his vicious coughs under control. “I’m fine. Thanks for the save, back there.”

She shrugs as though she hadn’t just saved his life, before turning and peering over the railing of the ship once more. “Oh.” Her voice is quiet, not even surprised. “We’ve been surrounded.”

Hitoshi pushes himself to his feet and follows her gaze. Sure enough, several heads bob from the surface of the water, peering up at them like leering sharks waiting for their chance to strike.

“... Cool.”

Tsuyu turns to him, and he couldn’t read her face if his life depended on it. “They’re all water-types,” she informs, clutching the railing with one hand. “They planned this pretty well.”

Hitoshi snorts and rolls his eyes. “Apparently not well enough if they warped you here.”

His words hang in the air for a moment before doing a 180 and slamming right back into his skull.

“... Wait.”

Judging by the look on her face, Tsuyu has come to the same realization. “Shinsou,” she says, wide-eyed, “I think you just said something unintentionally brilliant.”

“I think I might’ve, too.”

“If they warped me here, to the water zone…”

Hitoshi nods, confidence rekindling. “They don’t know what our Quirks are.”

She blinks at him long and hard and says nothing.

“What is it?”

“Nothing,” she says, turning back towards the water, “I was just thinking that you’re scary when you’re scheming.”

“Oy.”

There’s no heat to his tone. He knows what they need to do. If the villains really don’t know what their Quirks are… granted they’re all as loud-mouthed as Mr. Warp Your Butt back there, well. They have this in the bag.


“HEY, BOZOS!! UP HERE, YOU MISSED A SPOT!”

“Who are you callin’ a bozo—!”

He hits the mark, right between the eyes. He feels the villain’s body in his control, like someone had tied strings to his fingers. With a thought, he commands the villain to attack his fellow.

The villain does just as ordered, and he and the villain just beside him in the water are plunged beneath the surface.

“Hey!” snaps another, more angry than scared. “Knock it off! Now’s not the time to be fighting with each other, cut it out!”

They haven’t found them out yet. Hitoshi grinds his teeth tighter and shouts even louder;

“What are you waiting for!? We’re up here! Come kill us already! Isn’t that what you wanted to do all alone, huh!?”

“Shut up—!”

“Let’s get them!”

“C’mon!”

“Sounds like someone needs to learn their place!”

Hitoshi takes a long breath through his nose. The strings around his fingers and mind multiply substantially, and his sight tunnel visions for a moment before steadying once again. Tsuyu’s hand is settled on his shoulder, grounding him, but he doesn’t have enough focus left to thank her.

Attack each other is the command, and he tugs the invisible strings with as much vigor and accuracy as he can. He can feel the villains fighting back for control, can hear the sloshing of water and a couple strangled yelps as they wonder why their bodies won’t cooperate, but he doesn’t let up. A couple loose threads here and there never hurt. Just as long as he holds onto the majority.

The villains clash, shouting and screeching, demanding to know what’s going on but unable to fight back. Hitoshi continues to manipulate the strings from aboard the ship, Tsuyu’s hand a grounding, steady force on his arm (or, both her hands, now; he doesn’t remember that changing).

Take each other out.

He grinds his teeth. It’s harder when they fight back, it always is, but he holds on for dear life and doesn’t let go for anything.

He can’t see what’s going on anymore, and he hears Tsuyu asking if there’s been enough, if he’s had enough, if they can run now—but the villains are still fighting. And as long as they’re fighting, he has to, too.

So he does. He pits them against each other, one mental string at a time, until one by one, the strings begin dropping off the radar naturally. He can’t control the unconscious.
The last string slips from his fingers and he drops his control all at once, slumping so suddenly that he, too, almost takes the plunge into the water. If not for Tsuyu’s hands on him, he probably would’ve.

“Shinsou? Shinsou, are you—”

“I’m fine,” he breathes, gripping the railing with both hands, so tightly that his knuckles turn white. His fingers shake. “We can go now. C’mon.”

She doesn’t seem convinced, and he’s given her no reason to be, but she nods, grabs him around the waist again, and throws both of them overboard.

Hitoshi loses hold of his consciousness long before they hit the water.


Shouta is already spinning his wheels as fast as they can go, kicking and punching and striking quick, and the biggest and most intimidating of the villains here hasn’t made a single move yet.

Shouta kicks one villain in the chest, snags another around the ankle with his capture scarf and uses them like a slingshot to slam them into a small band of villains coming in for a second wind. He’s surrounded on all sides and the two villains he really wants to get to the most are still out of reach. A scrawny villain completely covered with disembodied hands the color of death and sick, most likely the ringleader of this whole fiasco, and then the big villain, burly and “inhuman,” Tokoyami had called it.

What does that mean?

“Watch your back, Eraserhead!” sneers a villain, rearing up behind him. “You jump into the inferno, you’d better expect to get burned!”

Shouta is this close to taking him out when he’s intercepted mid-air by… nothing. The villain’s head snaps to the side and his nose gushes blood, but there’s no chance of recovery or retaliation. The villain is swing by the ankle, round and round and round like the devil’s carousel until he’s finally released. Cartwheeling through the air, the villain collides with several other villains on the verge of a counter attack.

Shouta grits his teeth. “Get out of here, Saikō!”

Izuku’s presence doesn’t leave. Another villain, this one farther off, is blown off their feet and slammed into the ground. Great.

Shouta doesn’t have the luxury of arguing his point. Another villain runs at him, and he’s forced to focus his attention on the task at hand. Scolding Izuku will come later, when he’s done fighting for his life.

Hit after hit, the villains go down and don’t get up. Some of them try to, but are knocked down by Saikō before they can get more than a step toward him. None of them have been particularly strong so far, but the amount of them is overwhelming. Shouta doesn’t know how many he’s taken out so far. More than he’s dealt with the past month, that’s for sure.

Doesn’t matter.

One by one they come at him, and blow by blow he takes them out. They hit the ground and he’s already swung himself around and chosen another target and is going for them with vigor. The stragglers on the outskirts are blown off their feet by Saikō, overwhelmed by his icy chill, frozen in place by his grip on their fear.

Saikō cannot die. The reminder is all Shouta needs before he can put the boy out of his mind for now. He hates to think about it, but as far as his life is concerned, Saikō is safe. Nothing can touch him. Nothing can hurt him.

All Shouta has to do is keep fighting. They’ll break through eventually.

He senses the movement before he sees it, and he swings himself around, already preparing his next move.

It doesn’t come.

Standing before him, overwhelming him in its shadow, is that thing. The thing Tokoyami warned him about so desperately.  

What?

How did it get here so—

Its fingers snap around his head in a vice grip, and pain explodes over his sight like fireworks as it squeezes. Any thought is lost with the grip. He scrambles for purchase, clawing, kicking, but it doesn’t change a thing. It squeezes harder, lifts him off the ground, brings him close to its face. Rows and rows of yellowed teeth, slime dripping from its maw, eyes wide and bulging and brains visible through its skin.

The atmosphere changes. And it changes in such a way that twists every instinct Shouta has and screams at him to run.

And it isn’t because of the thing’s grip on his skull, the fact that he can’t feel the ground, the fact that he can’t see.

“I—Izuku—”

His face is slammed into the dirt.




A shadow crosses over the USJ like a billowing smoke cloud. It stretches far beyond the reach that any shadow should, spreading over domes, over trees, over mountaintops, over lakes and ships and rocks and dirt and pathways and buildings. It reaches everything and strikes a singular arrow into every one’s hearts individually. One after the other the shadows fall over them. And one after the other, they’re choked by it.




Shouta returns to himself, slowly.

The world fades in and out. His head screams and spins and he can’t see past the blood in his eyes. His ears ring, his throat can barely drag air through it, his chest feels crushed.

He hears it, starting soft but growing as his ears become used to it. A roar. A shriek. A terrible, godawful sound like a tortured animal on its final legs of life. It grates on his ears like shards of glass.

Slowly, but surely, Shouta lifts his head and blinks until his vision clears, and he can see it clearly.

The monster is screaming, thrashing, howling, stomping its massive feet and sending cracks spiraling through the dirt. It doesn’t stop. It howls and screams in a horrible, grating desperation and fear and horror. Its claws tear giant, gaping holes through its flesh. Blood gushes from the wounds and stains the ground below.

Thrashing. Screaming. Tearing out chunks of its own flesh, tearing itself into pieces . All the while screaming bloody murder and thrashing madly. Spit flies. Its eyes bulge, wide with terror, limbs moving on their own and tearing deeper, faster. More violently.  

Shouta’s stomach leaps into his throat.

“Izuku, stop!”

The thing whirls around and looks at him.

Clips like old video film flash in his mind’s eye. There’s no complete picture. No complete scene. Huge bits are missing, crucial bits, but he sees flashes. Images.

There are two of them.

An adult. A child.

It’s dark.

It’s raining.

They’re on the ground, in a spot between two alley walls.

It’s dark.

There’s a third body, features indistinguishable. Smashed inwards. Lots of blood.

The boy and woman have dark hair. Neither of them move.

Shouta looks deeper into the monster’s eyes and sees Izuku. And as clear as day, as though someone is speaking directly behind him, he hears the words.


I won’t let you die, too.


A child’s voice. Small, gentle. Choked.


I won’t let anyone else die.


The monster’s tortured screams resound like thunderclaps throughout the USJ.

Chapter Text

“... So, nerd. S’been a while.” 

The hillside is peaceful, but there’s a sort of doleful tone in the air. A sour note in a familiar melody. Katsuki watches the shrine closely, the name engraved on its front, and there’s some part of him that expects (wants) something to change, something to happen. 

Nothing happens, and nothing changes, and the knots in his chest loosen and he lets out a long, heaving sigh. 

“It’s kinda dumb, actually. When I think about it. You were an idiot, but you were a good idiot, y’know? Had a good heart n’... stuff.” 

He wishes there was a can or a rock or something he could kick, but settles for shuffling his foot through the grass. The pastures roll with the wind like great waves in the ocean, stretching as far as the eye can see. Katsuki draws a breath. 

“... He said I need to ‘let it go,’ or some crap,” Katsuki snarks, shaking his head. “That’s not exactly what he said, but… that’s basically what he meant. I don’t know. I know he’s tryin’ to help and all, but, after he said that I just kinda tuned him out, y’know?”

He clicks his tongue, smiles tightly. 

“Yeah, probably shouldn’t’ve done that, right? You’d… probably tell me I shouldn’t’ve.” 

The shrine does not hear him and does not answer. Katsuki swallows, stuffs his hands in his jean pockets, and rocks between the balls and heels of his feet. 

“... But, I guess I’ll never know what you think anymore, will I? I can guess for as long as I want, but I’ll never know what you’d really say. And you’ll never hear anything I have to say to you, either. I’ll never even… have the chance to say goodbye.” 

The silence falls, and he lets it stretch. The wind breaks the silence by rustling itself through the green pastures. 

“I hated your guts, but… I never hated you. So, I guess…” He rocks on his feet again, hands stuffed as deep into his pockets as they go. “As for me, I’ll just… do more, next time. From here on out. You’re the kind of idiot who’d tell me not to blame myself, so I’ll do my best to make you proud. Eventually.” 

The shrine doesn’t answer, and Katsuki isn’t sure whether or not he wants it to. He wonders if there’d be a way of ever seeing him again. If it’s even possible. He’d never wondered that until recently. 

“... So, I guess I’ll talk to you la—” 

“Katsuki!” 

He just about jumps out of his skin and whirls around, heart pounding against his ribs. His father approaches rapidly, eyes wide like he’d seen a ghost, face as deathly pale as Katsuki imagines one could be. He stops a short distance from his son and breathes hard, hands on his knees with his head bowed low. 

“What’s the matter?” Katsuki meets him where he’s at, bile rising into his throat. “What’s wrong? What happened?” 

Dad breathes only a moment longer before straightening up. His face carries the same urgency as before. Perhaps worse. 

“Your classmates, at U.A.—” 

Katsuki’s heart lands in his stomach. 

“We just heard about it on the news, they were attacked—” 

Katsuki pushes past and by him running. His father’s startled, desperate shout of his name doesn’t even slow him down.


The Nomu’s screams tear through Shouta’s eardrums like sawblades, only somehow much worse. Its thrashing shakes the earth and rattles what villains remain standing (which aren’t very many at all). The ringleaders of the operation—the villain with hands and the villain with a body formed of void—aren’t boasting anymore. They aren’t doing much of anything anymore. They stare with the rest of the USJ in horror. Shouta stares with them too. 

For a time. 

He grits his teeth until his head burns and pushes himself up onto his hands and knees. The world blackens around the edges and dark splotches like ink spread through his sight, but he clutches his consciousness as close as he can and staggers to his feet. 

The Nomu hasn’t stopped screeching. It tears its flesh from its bones, blood spraying and leaving streaks on the floor. The nearest villains have taken the hint and fled. The rest of them can’t move in the face of it.

“Izuku!” 

The thing still thrashes. Shouta can’t carry his voice loud enough, far enough, but he tries again. 

“Knock it off, kid,” he manages against the blood and acid in his throat. “You can’t prove anything. If you keep going like this, all you’ll end up doing is destroying yourself, I’m not going to let you do that.” 

There’s some response. Only some. The Nomu goes still long enough for Shouta to know there’s a chance. Long enough to give him something to hold onto. Long enough for him to see that Izuku is still in there.

He takes a staggering step forward. 

“You have to let it go, kid,” he tells him, approaching with uneven footfalls and spinning vision. “It’s not worth it. You won’t accomplish anything with this. Let it go.” 

The Nomu’s eyes find his and lock there, pupils big and round, eyes wide and scared. Shouta swallows down the acid in the back of his throat and takes one more step forward. 

“Give it up, yeah? It isn’t worth it. It’s not worth it.” 

The Nomu’s eyes roll back in its head, and it hits the floor with a deafening thud that seems to shake the USJ to its foundation. The surrounding villains release a chorus of shrieks and screams as their footsteps pound and carry them farther away. Shouta doesn’t know the state of the ringleaders or the state of the rest of them. 

Through the nauseating dizziness and mounting threat of unconsciousness, he smiles tightly. 

“There you go, kiddo. There you go.” 

The world spirals down into nothingness, and he’s gone with it.


The roar of the ambulance still bites into Eijirou’s eardrums like vipers, even now that he’s outside, even now that the villains are being apprehended and the injured (most notably Aizawa) are being taken care of. Aizawa is long gone now, being swept off by the first ambulance that arrived at the scene. The police are still trying to block off the area before the media gets wind of what’s going on (which has definitely already happened; nothing can be kept under wraps for very long). 

Eijirou is sitting on the ground by the USJ’s massive dome, leaning back against it, listening.

No one is talking. 

Considering the terror they’d just endured, it doesn’t make sense. Eijirou wishes they’d make noise. He wishes his classmates would shout or yell or, hell, even laugh. Something. Anything to kill the silence. 

But they don’t do it, and he can’t bring himself to do it either. He stays quiet as the medics check him out, only speaking long enough to answer their questions. He stays that way when the police get his testimony and he explains how he dealt with the villains who’d first attacked him. Then they move on to the rest of the class and he’s left in silence again. 

Aizawa was hurt, badly. All Might and the heroes arrived with Iida, but there wasn’t anything left to be done. Eijirou may not have seen what went down, how Aizawa ended up in that state, but he’d heard the screeching. Everyone did. 

No one is talking about that, either. 

“Is everyone accounted for?” 

That’s Iida, overlooking the class and counting mentally. He hits eighteen and stops there. No one really pays him much mind. 

It’s unsettling, really. How quiet everything has become. 

The police are still securing the area, nearly done. The medics don’t seem to have found any injuries amongst the class devastating enough to warrant a hospital. Everything passes slowly and uncertainly. He doesn’t know how little or how much time has passed. It all feels the same. 

Everyone is scattered, sitting on the ground, standing off to the side, sitting together, sitting alone, standing with the police. But out of the lot of them, Uraraka and Tokoyami stand out from the rest. They’re standing, but further off than the rest of their classmates. Almost too far. 

And they’re talking. The only two of their classmates who are.

Eijirou pushes himself to his feet and makes his way over without really knowing why. But he needs to do something, and sitting isn’t the something he needs. 

“—know what happened, but the energy was… bad, to say the least.” 

“What does that mean?” 

“It’s hard to say, but—” 

Tokoyami stops mid-thought and turns his head; Uraraka follows his gaze and Eijirou halts in his approach, feeling a bit like he would’ve been better off just staying where he was, whether or not he hated it. 

But then he takes a closer look at their faces, at their expressions, and he comes to realize they aren’t upset with him. That isn’t anger or annoyance on their faces. It’s distress. Particularly transparent on Uraraka’s face and more subtle on Tokoyami’s, but still there and still incredibly overwhelming. 

“What’s wrong?” Eijirou asks, because nothing should be wrong anymore. The villains are being taken care of, Aizawa is getting help, he’ll pull through (he has to pull through, he has to, he has to). So why. Why is something wrong. Why is everyone so damn quiet. “We beat the villains, right? We won.” 

“We don’t know where Saiko is,” Uraraka says quietly.

Eijirou’s heart does an upwards plunge into his throat. “What?” 

“Kirishima!” 

He starts hard, and so do Uraraka and Tokoyami. From the direction of the shout charges Bakugou at full-speed. He’s wearing a hoodie and jeans, along with a pair of white sneakers. Casual. 

The look on his face is the exact opposite of that. His eyes are wide, filled with something so haunting that Eijirou can’t even begin to put a word to it. 

He ducks past medics and officers and comes skidding to a halt just in front of them. Just as Eijirou opens his mouth to ask what’s wrong, Bakugou takes him by the shoulders. His fingernails dig through his shirt and into his skin. His eyes bear into his, unforgiving and as piercing as a knife.

“Is everyone okay?” he bites, near snarling, but the crack in his voice gives him away. “Iida, Kaminari, Ashido, Yaoyorozu, Aoyama, everyone—are they okay? Are you okay?” 

“We’re fine,” Eijirou manages around the sudden lump in his throat. His train of thought is caught somewhere in between racing and derailing. “We’re—Yeah, we’re fine, promise. Aizawa took on the brunt of the villains by himself, he’s getting help from the doctors now, but they say he’ll be okay too. We’re okay, man, don’t worry.” 

He holds Bakugou’s gaze. Uraraka and Tokoyami stand nearby, silent. 

And then it crumbles. Bakugou slumps until his chin touches his own chest, and the hands previously gripping Eijirou’s shoulders loosen. He doesn’t let go—not quite—but his grip becomes less like a vice and more like a desperate, choked plea. Eijirou finds himself disarmed by it. 

“Oh, hell…” Bakugou’s voice is barely anything at all. “Hell, hell, oh my god—” 

“Bakugou?” Uraraka reaches out tentatively to settle her hand on his shoulder. “We’re—We’re okay. It’s okay.” 

Bakugou shakes his hanging head, and Eijirou finally brings himself to move, to put his hands on Bakugou’s shoulders, too, even if just to brace him. His knees seem fit to buckle. He hasn’t let go of Eijirou’s shirt. Tokoyami moves closer—not too close, but close enough to be a presence. 

They stay that way for a very long time.