Izuku frowns at the file in front of him, only four pages thick. Most of it information he knows already, information he helped deliver. Quirk analysis, criminal history, but nothing truly personal beyond a first name and age. Shoto, 23 years old . Both he could have easily lied about, with no way for Tartarus to confirm.
He swallows down a wave of dismay. “Is this everything?” he asks, looking up from the file to see the minute changes in the warden’s carefully blank face.
“Unfortunately, yes. Tartarus houses over fifteen-hundred villains. Some don’t have documented histories before they debuted as villains, others had full time jobs and families.”
“So I’ll be starting from scratch.”
“Yes.” The warden’s black eyes flicker over him. “Is this a problem?”
Izuku shrugs. “Honestly? It is. If I don’t have anything to go off of, I could do more damage than good. But I still want to try, if you’ll let me.”
There’s a long silence, but eventually, the warden leans back in her chair, seemingly satisfied. “I’ll talk to administration.”
“Thank you,” Izuku says, recognizing a dismissal when he hears one. He gets up from his seat to shake hands with the warden, and then allows himself to be lead out of her office and into the elevators by a pair of stone faced guards.
The elevators open and they step out in the lobby, giving him the bag they had seized upon entry and escorting him all the way until the armored bridge connecting the prison to the rest of Japan. He looks up behind him at the black metal cube of Tartarus, gleaming dark in the afternoon sun.
Izuku shakes off the thoughts and turns towards the approaching car as it slows down in front of him.
The guards gesture at Izuku for him to get inside, and he does. It’s as unpleasant as the first ride, and he swallows back a wave of mild claustrophobia. There are soft white lights under the metal benches and lining the top of the box, so Izuku has the benefit of not being in total darkness, but he’s still taken by surprise when the car starts moving. Thankfully, it’s smooth, and the only noise is the sound of the car hurtling down the automated movement system, clicking four times as it passes over the spaces in the bridge where it’ll collapse into itself once he’s docked at the check-point.
He counts two minutes in the box before it opens with an audible click and the quiet whirring of gears. Light streams in, and Izuku climbs out of the box with only minor difficulty. Once outside, he’s patted down another time and ushered past a series of detectors as a small entourage of guards rifle through his bag.
One gives it back to him with a curt nod and the gates jerk open violently. Releasing a long held breath, Izuku shrugs the aimless anxiety off of his shoulders and walks out onto the street, where a taxi is waiting to take him back into Tokyo.
The driver is a middle aged man, who smells slightly of stale body odor and cheap cologne. He looks at Izuku through the rearview mirror in what might be amazement. “You gotta relative in there or somethin’?” he asks. His smile reveals a couple of crooked teeth, and one golden molar.
Izuku smiles back. “Just for business,” he says, holding out his phone with the pre-set address, a small cafe that Ochako and Tsuyu regularly go out to. “Can you bring me here?”
The driver scans the screen, the communication lens in his left eye glowing blue, before turning back towards the wheel. “No problem,” he says. On the screen affixed to the dashboard, a map blinks to life, accompanied by travel time and expected payment.
Izuku opens his messaging app, texts the groupchat a quick ‘omw’, and settles into the backseat for the anticipated twenty-eight minute ride.
It passes by in more or less amicable silence, and when they slow to a gentle stop outside the cafe, Izuku siletnly swipes his credit card and steps out, barely remembering to thank the driver as he closes the door.
Inside, Tsuyu is already seated, large hands wrapped around a steaming cup of what is probably black tea. There’s a half eaten scone across from her, and a jacket that Izuku remembers Tenya gave Ochako as a gift, two years ago. “Bathroom?” he guesses.
“Hole in one,” Tsuyu says. “Do you want anything?”
Izuku glances over his shoulder at the bored looking teenager at the cash register, and then up at the menu behind him. At the angle they’re at, it’s hard to make out the words, but the warm scents of coffee and sugar is all Izuku needs. He leaves his bag at the third chair and leaves to order.
When he returns, he’s holding a tray full of pastries and a large iced coffee, and Ochako is sitting across from Tsuyu. “Did you wash your hands?” he teases, before being engulfed in an enthusiastic hug that almost makes him drop the tray.
Ochako scoots her chair over so he has more room to press in closer to her side, and Tsuyu drags a chair from the empty table behind them. “Iida’s on his way,” she explains, “should be here any second.”
“The whole squad,” Ochako adds, taking the opportunity to steal a strawberry cream puff from Izuku’s tray. He lets her take it.
“So,” Tsuyu begins, voice settling into something more professional. The image is broken when she takes a hesitant sip from Izuku’s coffee, immediately making a face at the taste. “I hear you’ve been talking to Warden Heiwakari,” Tsuyu continues after stealing a bite from Ochako’s scone. “About interviewing one of her villains.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what are you trying to do?” Tsuyu looks at him critically. “The villains at Tartarus were already evaluated for potential reintegration into society.”
“And deemed unfit,” Izuku nods. “I understand that Entropy might not want to be helped, but I was there for his arrest and I just--I just think that there might be something that the initial investigation missed.”
“The warden might conduct another one.”
Izuku shrugs. “Heiwakari is busy. She oversees the biggest maximum security prison in Japan, and between the prisoners and administration, I’m sure she has a lot to do. As unfortunate as it is, it’s probably easy for people to slip through the cracks.”
Ochako cuts in, absentmindedly brushing crumbs off of her shirt. “Didn’t you say you participated in the arrest?”
“Not the actual operation, but I was consulted for the investigation and Kacchan was there and told me what happened.” After a moment, Izuku amends, “And I saw some of the footage on TV.”
“Then you know what Entropy can do,” Ochako says, voice low and serious.
Izuku looks down at his pastries, remembering the cracking, rushing sound of ice echoing through his speakers as he sat down in front of his television set, scanning the footage for signs of life, for anything. He’d almost cried in relief when he heard the familiar pops and teeth rattling boom of Katsuki’s explosions.
He shakes off the memory. “I’m followed by at least twenty guards all the time when I’m in there, and he’s wearing Quirk restraints, like, all the time. I’ll be fine.”
Ochako hums, not quite appeased but not intent on pressing into the issue. “Iida said he’d be late, by the way.”
As if on cue, the door swings open, accompanied by a cool draft and the sound of bells. “Midoriya!” Tenya says, striding across the room and promptly reaching out to hug him. Izuku notes his windswept hair and red cheeks.
“Did you run here?” he asks, laughter brushing every word.
Tenya nods. “I wanted to hear about your project with Entropy. How did it go?”
“Is that all we’re gonna talk about?” Izuku teases. “It was just a proposal, and the warden seemed open to it. She said she’ll talk to administration.”
Ochako hums. “Admin lets Warden Heiwakari do pretty much everything she wants, so you’ll probably get it. I’m just worried about…”
Izuku tilts his head towards her. “What?”
Tsuyu shrugs. “I guess she means she’s worried about the villain affecting you in other ways.”
Izuku laughs loud enough to catch disapproving stares. “You’re worried that he’s going to be mean?” he asks, incredulous.
“In our defense!” Tenya interrupts, swooping his arms in his idiosyncratic chopping motion. “Emotional wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing! As your friends, we have a right to be concerned, especially against a villain as destructive as Entropy!”
Izuku blushes, warm blooming from his chest and into his ears. “That’s sweet, but I really want to do this. And I don’t think Entropy is the type, also, what could he say that would be so bad?”
“That’s fair,” Tsuyu says, after a long silence. “Still, better to be safe than sorry. Let us know how the meetings go.”
Izuku smiles, then breaks out into another bubbling laugh. “Wasn’t planning not to,” he says.
The conversation relaxes after that, slotting neatly into familiar patterns and easygoing warmth that leaves Izuku shining by the time he hails another cab. This driver is quiet, almost sullen, scanning the given address without a word. The silence calms Izuku down, and his mind starts to rewind to his friends’ words, his friends’ concerns. They’re valid, but all he can think about is Entropy, and the way he’d looked .
There was a great deal of rage, and very real anguish. But under it all, Izuku saw something sad and tired, and he knew there was more than what was being said. More than what he had found out when he investigated Entropy’s activities. He remembers standing behind reinforced glass, at the police station.
“ My name is Shoto ,” he’d said.
Izuku presses his lips together, pays for the ride, and takes the stairs to Katsuki’s apartment, where he’s supposed to the night. Part of a promise from when he’d first brought up the project. Katsuki opens the door before Izuku even knocks, giving him a once over with narrowed eyes. “Still breathin’?” he grunts, and Izuku takes a deep inhale, just to annoy him. Katsuki just snarls, but he let’s Izuku in and doesn’t make a scene.
“I really don’t know what all this fuss is about,” Izuku complains as soon as the door latches shut behind them. “I didn’t even meet him. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to meet him.” He pushes off his shoes, stumbling as he kicks the rest of them off and walks into the living room.
Behind him, Katsuki mumbles, “Warden’s a psycho, she’ll let you do whatever.”
“She seemed perfectly reasonable to me.”
“Fuckin’ obviously. You’re crazy too.”
Izuku rolls his eyes, but remains the picture of indulgence. “No comment,” he quips, following Katsuki to where there’s a small meal set out on the kitchen table. “No way,” he laughs, before enveloping Katsuki into a quick sideways hug. “You’d be the perfect house husband.”
“Go fuck yourself.”
“I’d rather not,” he sighs, sitting down and taking a bite, immediately noting the clean blend of spices and textures. “This is really good! If you didn’t get into heroism, you could’ve just done this.”
Across from him, Katsuki just grins, sharklike. “Heroism is how I blow off steam.”
At that, Katsuki frowns, working his jaw in a way that means Izuku got him. After a considerable silence, he says, “Nah. I like being a pro hero. And anyways, I could always just write a book or whatever.”
Izuku shrugs, but there’s nothing more to be said after that, and neither of them particularly like wasting words. They eat in comfortable silence, pausing only to delegate who washes the dishes, which ends up being saved for the next day. They pile the plates in the sink and agree to sleep on separate couches, leaving Katsuki’s bed empty.
“Are you nervous?” Katsuki asks. Izuku can tell he’s trying to be casual about it, but there’s a certain sharpness behind his eyes that only comes out when he’s talking about his job. Something in him twists, more nostalgic than anything. For all his many faults, Katsuki cares .
“A little,” he admits, voice soft in the half dark. “I’m not even sure… I don’t even know what I’m trying to accomplish, really. I made it sound official to the warden but it’s all just based on a hunch.”
“He looked sad.”
Izuku studies Katsuki for traces of derision, but all he sees is the rare solemn silence that fills Katsuki every now and then. Heroism is a hard job, Izuku knows, because more than anything he wants to be a hero. Heroism is hard and it wore away the worst parts of Katsuki; it replaced the cruelty of childhood with something solid, like a rock made cool and smooth by a stream.
“I guess,” Izuku pauses, swiping his tongue over his lips, feeling dry skin and the cut of teeth. “I guess I want him to stop being sad?”
“If it doesn’t work?”
Izuku snorts. “I’m not delusional. I’m just saying, I felt like--I feel like there’s something there.”
Katsuki hums, rolls his wide shoulders in something that might be a shrug. Something in him releases with a pop and he sighs, he picture of nonchalance, but the stillness from before doesn’t leave. “If you can do that, then you’d really be a hero,” he says. Izuku blinks, but then it’s gone, buried under a liverish sneer. “Don’t get a savior complex over it,” he warns.
Izuku privately admits that, despite the posturing, Katsuki has a point.
Katsuki wakes up at the break of dawn, even on an off day. The sound of him showering and moving around the kitchen pulls Izuku out of sleep into a warm sort of haze, eyes closed but aware of Katsuki rearranging the pillows and blankets on his couch, leaving with the sound of keys, a latch turning, a door clicking shut. He falls back asleep.
Izuku blinks open his eyes to soft yellow sunlight streaming in from the windows. The apartment is quiet, which means he’s alone. He comes awake in stages, from blearily brushing his teeth to the first spike of awareness when he washes his face.
He makes sure that he didn’t spread around too much water--Katsuki likes his house clean--and then checks his messages. A couple from his friends, which he replies to easily. One from Katsuki asking him to wash the dishes, which he does. An email from the warden.
Izuku swallows. The email is short and to the point, and he can almost hear her voice. She had a tendency to clip each word, as if she didn’t have enough time to say them.
‘Administration agreed. I have time from 13:25 to 15:30.’
Izuku does the math in his head and checks the clocks. It’s barely before noon.
He takes his time, but when the taxi pulls up to the first gate, he’s still early. The guards look him over, but move into their respective stations. He walks up to one of them and shows them the warden’s message, and they scan the screen with a separate lens, one held in the hand like a flashlight instead of inserted on the eye. The doors open for him, and he’s allowed to step through. The bridge is drawn back, tilted up and folded into itself so there’s at least a couple hundred meters of open air and seawater between the actual prison and the check-in point.
Like always, his heart rate picks up when he looks at Tartarus, looming over the horizon and bristling with guards. Protecting the egg is, of course, Warden Sorae Heiwakari, and her infamous Quirk. The details of which are under lock and key, but Naomasa of the police force had said it was powerful.
Izuku figures it has to be, as he sees the bridge begin to connect, rumbling under his feet. There’s an armored vehicle for visits, outer blue lights blinking to life as it connects to the automated movement system. He steps inside to the same soft white lights and metal benches, hears the doors slam shut. Izuku stays standing this time, bracing himself with a hand on the wall, and waits for the doors to open again. He remembers the two minutes and counts every second.
Like clockwork, the doors open. Izuku is patted down and scanned two more times, once outside of the car and a second in the lobby.
When he pulls away from the guards pushing him around a series of detectors, he finds the warden is waiting for him with two guards, in a slate gray pinstripe suit. She gives him a curt nod as he approaches and guides him to a separate set of elevators. “These connect to the interview wing,” she explains. “Can only be activated with our key cards and an eleven digit code, which changes every four days. Each individual room is opened with an additional code and an iris recognition system.”
The doors slide open with the swish of metal brushing past metal, and she lets Izuku step in before entering, followed by her guards. She taps her card on a sensor and presses one of two buttons, surrounded by a ring of soft white light and marked with a downwards arrow.
The warden studies him calculatingly in the airbrushed metal, and for the first time, Izuku feels cold spill down his spine. The doors open almost inaudibly into a wide, brightly lit corridor pockmarked with heavy metal doors in regular intervals. There’s a third guard, already waiting for them. The warden waves her hand in her direction and the guard taps her card on the sensor and punches in a code on the number pad above it. Eleven digits, as advertised. She steps back as they slow in front of the door. It unlocks and opens with the telltale hiss of hydraulics.
Inside is another series of scanners, which Izuku allows himself to be lead through. There’s a small, thick window on the other door that only shows him a blank white wall. One of the guards reaches past him and cranks a lever next to the door, and it hisses open. Izuku forces his nerves to settle and walks in.
The room is bright and featureless except for a glass panel bisecting it, with a narrow metal table pressed to either side, accompanied by a single metal chair. There’s a headset on the table, which Izuku picks up. His eyes never leave the man sitting in front of him.
He looks to be sleeping, hair falling over his eyes and arms crossed over his chest. The prison uniforms are blue, with an identification tag sewn into the front and back. Izuku notices the thin metal bands fitted snugly to his wrists. Quirk suppressors. He’s also wearing leg irons attached to a ring on the bottom of his table, a feature which Izuku checks for and finds he does not have.
He takes a moment to make sure he looks in order, not as frazzled as he feels. “Can you wake him up?” he asks, putting on the headset.
From the way the man across from him stirs, his request is heard. Izuku notes that the room is soundproof, that the warden can hear them, and offers a quick smile.
His eyes are disarming. One is a flat gray and the other is an icy blue. The rest of his expression is schooled into blankness, but he puts on the headset when he sees Izuku gesture towards it.
“I’m Izuku Midoriya,” he says.