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ACT I


BROKEN BEFORE THE STORY EVER STARTED

Chapter Text

Thump.

He takes shallow, measured breaths as the bottle comes down on his back. He had killed his subconscious reactions to such stimulus long ago. He lets out a few small, almost unnoticeable trembles, a shadow of what someone unused to the pain would do. Just enough.

Thump.

"FUCKING USELESS PIECE OF SHIT!"

Thump.

"THIS IS ALL YOU'RE GOOD FOR ISN'T IT, YOU QUIRKLESS LITTLE BASTARD!?"

THUMP.

"BEING A FUCKING PUNCHING BAG FOR EVERYONE ELSE!"

THRRACK.

The bottle shatters against him and he flinches immeasurably.

'Pieces of glass with traces of alcohol already on them isn't the worst thing to get stuck in your skin' he muses to himself absentmindedly.

But he knows she won't stop just because her beating implement now has a jagged edge. He really would like this to stop as soon as possible possible. So he curls up just a little more on himself.

He knows she likes to see him in pain at her handy work.

It's a fine line between not being enough for her to notice ("Oh, you think you're tough shit now, do you!?"), and being so much she's reminded of how pathetic he is ("You can't even handle this!? I really can't believe I almost forgot what a disappointment you are."). It's a line he likes to think he has become good at towing.

But everyone slips up now and then.

He knows he's miscalculated when she growls above him and he feels the telltale tug on his bones indicating her Quirk.

He doesn't get the message fast enough, as the force on his bones quickly goes from little more than a tug to a vice grip. Her face sets into a feral grin, a sadistic gleam in her eyes. He knows this kind of absolute control is as intoxicating to her as the alcohol on her breath.

She forces his skeleton to uncurl itself, uncaring of the ligaments and tendons in the way. If her stupid Quirkless idiot of a son is dumb enough to tear his own flesh trying to resist her, that's just yet another in a long, long list of his shortcomings as her progeny. Her nose wrinkles in rage and disgust. No, that… thing was not her offspring. There's no way any child of hers would be that pathetic.

He knew how much damage she could do too well to resist. Instead, he relaxed as she moved his joints around like some kind of sick puppeteer, letting her dictate his movements, her eyes glassy and not quite looking at him, filling with more and more rage. He had forgot about the glass in his sides, and could not hold back the agonized scream that ripped itself from his throat as the movement embedded them deeper into his flesh.

The scream seemed to cause Cynthia to snap back from her daze, her eyes looking at him with raw malice, Tears pricked at the corners of his eyes, and he barely had enough time to take a ragged gasp of air before he felt the jagged edge of her broken bottle rake across his chest. Before he could even process the pain from his previous wound, he felt the bottle slam into his head. She discarded the bottle in favor of her fists, feet, knees and elbows.

She was either being merciful or was distracted, he supposed, as she was letting him be dragged down into the familiar, comforting dark of dreamless sleep. He was glad it was a Friday, that meant that Cynthia would probably be sleeping in that morning. He might even be able to get five or six hours of sleep before his high-strung instincts warn him it's too dangerous and wake him up.

She was still raining blows upon him as he was finally submerged in soothing black darkness.


He woke up to a sharp pain in his side and the dark. He let out a soft groan, barely audible even in the still silence of their

his mother's

Cynthia's small apartment kitchen. He needed to dress his wounds. He was on his back and he could feel something cool and slightly sticky to the touch underneath him. He rolled onto his side and pushed himself up off the tiled floor.

He glanced at the digital readout of the microwave clock. '5:37. That's what like… roundabout 4ish hours of sleep? Not too shabby. I can work with this.' he thought silently. He noticed the drying blood on his body kept warm by his body heat. 'I need to wash this stuff off before it starts itching…'

He began stiffly limping towards his room to get his supplies. 'God I hope this leg isn't broken… it's probably not since I'm not crying from walking on it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like a bitch…' He takes special care to be especially silent when nearing Cynthia's bedroom.

He made it past her quarters and to his own room without incident, quiet as a shadow. He closes his door and slumps against it heavily, a sigh escaping his lips. It was still fairly quiet, but deafening in comparison to any other noise he's made since waking up.

His room is rather spartan, little bigger than a walk in closet. Not that he had ever seen one. There was a plain desk and chair in the corner, textbooks and notebooks neatly stacked in a pile, with a small clock resting where he could see it. Next to the desk was a small cot that barely supported the teen's lanky form. He paused and sight softly, smiling at the cot. Or rather, what was on the cot.

On the cot there was a ratty, tattered looking blanket, a patchwork of dull, faded fabric that was still the most colorful thing in the room aside from the textbook covers. It was actually quite comfortable as he had sown a much nicer blanket to the inside, but hopefully it looked worthless enough that Cynthia wouldn't try to pawn it off.

On the other end of the cot was an unassuming closet. The closet was where he kept his valuables, anything he didn't want Cynthia finding safely stashed away under worn clothes. He opened it up and started to move the second and third hand thrifted articles out of the way. He went to a public school, so he thankfully didn't have to worry about paying for any uniforms out of his own pocket as they would inevitably get damaged beyond his ability to repair.

He finished pushing aside worn pants and threadbare shirts and found what he was looking for, a familiar battered cardboard box. He really only kept two things in there. First was his First Aid supplies, the obviously more important of the two. He really should start carrying them with the rest of his actual valuables, seeing how often he needed to restock them anyways.

The second are his old Quirk Analysis journals. He doesn't actually care about them all that much anymore. He supposed it wouldn't be too much of a loss if they were destroyed, he just absolutely did not want Cynthia to find them. They're far too inefficient and they weren't even encrypted. He had squeezed all the information from his previous 9 journals and more into just over half of one.

And it was encrypted, along with everything he wrote nowadays that he didn't need anyone else to see. It was an old cipher, not particularly hard to solve but tedious as hell to translate if you weren't fluent in reading it. He read about it in an old book. It was called Pigpen, he thinks. He glances at the clock on his desk.

'5:42 already. I need to quit reminiscing on every single damn thing I see and hurry up. This blood isn't going to stay bearable for much longer.'

He grabs the First Aid then shoves the box back into the closet under some clothes. He stands up, body ever so helpfully reminding him of the glass embedded in his skin as he moves.

'Yeah yeah, I get it, I'm about to deal with it calm your tits… me…'

He quietly limps to the bathroom to treat his wounds.

Chapter Text

He starts the sink, running the water till its warm while he carefully takes off his torn shirt. He'll fix that later. He runs a hand through the warm water, reveling in the small luxury. Cynthia doesn't need to know. He plugs the sink and turns the tap off once he has enough water.

'Alright, glass first…'

He pulls a small package of napkins from his First Aid Kit, and dips one in, enough to get wet but not enough to make it soggy immediately. He slowly wipes the napkin down his left side, slowly cleaning the blood off of his skin. The clean skin on his left side feels nice, the rest of his body starting to get itchy from the drying blood. But he knows he cannot revel in this feeling.

He did not clean himself for the simple pleasures of warm water on his skin or being free of the itchy sensation of blood, but to reveal the several angry, red wounds where the glass shards embedded themselves, a stark contrast to the painfully familiar purple and yellows of the surrounding bruised skin. There were nine of them in total, spread from his hip to just below his armpit. Several of them were scabbed over. He grimaces, steeling himself for what is to come.

'This is not going to be fun.'

He lays out everything he needs on the sink, immensely grateful it's built into a counter. This would've been a nightmare with a freestanding sink. He sets out the tweezers, the alcohol wipes, his screamrag, and a paper cup. He quickly dips the tweezers in the warm water in the sink, then wipes them off with an alcohol wipe. He moves to grab his screamrag but pauses, and gets one of the pain pills from his First Aid Kit. He only saves them for special occasions, and he had a feeling that this was going to hurt. A lot.

He has the screamrag in his mouth and he's panting heavily through his nose, psyching himself up. He places his index and middle fingers on either side of the scab closest to his armpit, his elbow pointing towards the ceiling. He sucks a breath in through his nose and holds it, before wrenching open the scab, exposing the wound to the world yet again. The breath he'd been storing is ejected out of his nose.

'Now for the ever so enjoyable part…'

He reaches for the tweezers with trembling hands, gripping them so tight he thinks he's going to cut himself on the hard metal edges. He reigns himself in, forcing his hand to relax and arm to still. He raises the tweezers to the wound, other hand still forcing it open, and sucks another gulp of air from his nose. With only minor tremors in his hand, he maneuvers the tweezers into the hole at his side and carefully removes a shard of bloody glass. With a shaky hand, he deposits the glass in the paper cup and immediately rips the screamrag from his mouth and leans over the sink, panting furiously.

'I know I've done this before, but I don't think I'll ever get used to the feeling of digging around in my own flesh…'

Steeling himself, puts the rag back in his mouth, and puts the tweezers back into the small hole on his side. He carefully navigates the tweezers around the thoroughly unwanted cavity until he finds what he's looking for. With another held breath and trembling hands, he slowly pulls out a small wad of blood soaked fabric that was pushed in by the glass. He shakily puts the scrap in the paper cup. He takes the rag out of his mouth yet again and lets out a shuddering breath. He reexamines his wound in the mirror.

'I don't think I'll need stitches, but even if I did, I doubt I could do it myself in that spot… yeah, a bandage should do it…'

The hard part is over, but that doesn't mean it isn't going to be pleasant. He knows from experience how much alcohol wipes on wounds stings like a bitch. He grabs a wipe and carefully cleans the inside and outside of his wound, letting out a small hiss of pain he would not have made had Cynthia not been unconscious in another room. He puts a bandage over the wound and lets out a small sigh.

'One down, eight to go…'


He was panting heavily, hands gripping the edge of the counter and sweat pouring down his body from the exertion. There were nine bandages going down along his left side, and a paper cup filled with broken glass and bits of bloody fabric. Despite the pain he felt… nice. It was nice to allow himself such basic physiological responses. To not have to manage his reactions so carefully.

He looks at his face in the mirror for the first time that day, no longer focused on the glass. It was swollen, and covered in ugly yellow and purple bruises, one of his eyes very nearly swollen over. He had a thin trickle of dried blood from his (hopefully) unbroken nose, which was small and crooked from being him "tripping" so often at school, now bent in an even more unnatural angle.

He had a gnarled scar on the right side of his mouth from the top of his upper lip to the bottom of his lower. He had a similarly grotesque scar on his left, both from his lips splitting open one too many times after them being repeatedly kicked and punched against his almost unusually sharp canines. Together, they twisted the flesh of his face into a permanent grimace.

But all in all though, his face wasn't too bad. Nothing that wasn't there already or wouldn't heal by Monday, anyways. Though, the rest of his skin isn't really too much better, though, a vast expanse of mottled bruising, interspersed with splotches of drying blood and white scars.

Speaking of, the blood on his skin was really starting to get itchy, so he decides to deal with that next. He dips another napkin in the now lukewarm water and starts cleaning himself, gently and meticulously wiping the blood off of his body.

He starts with his chest, wetting the flakey, dark red splotches covering his skin, before wiping it off, revealing yet more bruises and scars. The napkin inevitably becomes too bloody to use, needing to put it down near the first before even getting to his stomach. All the blood is probably from the nasty looking gash on his chest.

The rest of his body was much the same, spets of blood cleaned away to reveal bruises and scars, both old and new. There was a lot less blood on his arms and stomach, and he assumed most of it was splatter from when she was kicking him.

He looks his body over and saw that there were no other lacerations, save for the gash across his torso from the bottle. It was thankfully a shallow cut and already scabbed over, but still not too appealing to look at. The wound consisted of three long, thin cuts spaced unevenly, starting from just below his left shoulder and gently curving right until it was just below the right pectoral.

'Well, another one to add to the collection...' He lets out a soft exhale and glances at the crisscrossing patchwork of long, thin white scar tissue in similar patterns all over his body. 'Can't even tell it was Cynthia... just blends right in to Maxie's various "signatures"…

He cleans it best he can with the alcohol wipes, then rifles around his supplies until he finds what he's looking for, a bandage roll and medical tape. 'It probably won't help all that much, since the wound's already closed, but it should provide some protection and help in case it opens again' He reasons. 'Plus, it'll feel a hell of a lot better than any of my shitty shirts.'

Satisfied with his internal reasoning, he cuts a suitable amount off of the roll with his scissors. He wraps it tightly around his wound twice, before securing it with medical tape. He lets out a small sigh.

'I really need to learn proper First Aid. This self taught stuff is serviceable for now but I am definitely wasting resources.' He began to pack away his supplies, putting each item in its precise and specific spot. 'I may not be bleeding blood, but I sure as hell am bleeding money…' He nodded as he finished putting his First Aid Kit back together, every piece perfectly ordered in their specific spots, exactly where they need to be for their next use.

He looks at the mess he's made. Bloody napkins, bandage wrappers, the pinkish bloody water, the cup full of blood and things you really don't want inside your body, and the various small drops of blood that landed on the countertop throughout his self treatment.

'Yeah, I've got work to do.'

He glances at the clock. 6:32. He's making good time.

He kneels down on one knee, silently cursing himself for forgetting about his injured leg and not properly preparing himself for the pain. He opens up the undersink cabinet and squints into the dark interior for a few moments until he finds what he's looking for, a wad of plastic grocery bags the cheapskate uses in place of proper trash bags. He grabs a fairly large one that doesn't have any holes in it and closes the cabinet. He stands up, careful this time of his injured leg.

'Well, silent sobs aren't wracking my body, so it's probably just bruised and sore to all hell'

First, he puts the napkins wrappers, and cup in the bag before gingerly bending down to place it on the ground. Then, he starts cleaning the countertop with another napkin, rubbing on the semi-dried blood until it comes off.

Once he is satisfied (fairly sure Cynthia won't hit him) with the cleanliness of the countertop, he puts the napkin in the bag with the rest. Then, he finally drains the now room temperature water, before picking up his medical supplies and trash bag. He pauses when he spots his torn shirt laying on the ground. He puts his supplies under his right shoulder and picks up the shirt to assess the damage.

'Well… there isn't really all that much fabric missing, so I could probably just sew it back together as is… but there's way too much blood on it to clean it out to an acceptable degree without bleaching it…' He sighs. 'Guess I'll just gave to toss it…' He places the ruined shirt in the grocery bag with the rest of the refuse and limps out into the hallway.

He walks down the hall, careful as always to be particularly quiet when passing Cynthia's room. His leg seems to be getting better the more he uses it, supporting the idea that his leg was simply stiff and sore rather than seriously injured.

Walking into the kitchen, he places his items on the counter. Flicking the light on, he looks at the dried blood on the floor, letting out an internal sigh. 'Well, it isn't really all that much… should take less than an hour… thank fuck it's at least not on carpet, that would be a fucking nightmare…'

Crouching down slightly, he retrieves a bucket and a roll of paper towels underneath the sink. He pauses, and, remembering that he is going yo need to clean the kitchen floor properly anyways, also grabs soap and a cloth before straightening himself. He turns on the faucet and watches the bucket fill up with dead eyes.

Once he deems it to be sufficiently filled, he turns the water off and places the bucket on the ground. He places the plastic bag of bloody paper next to it, then takes the roll of towels and kneels on the ground. Ripping a towel from the roll, he dips it in water and begins scrubbing the blood of the floor. The dry, flakey crimson easily sticks to the wet paper as he firmly ribs it against the tiles. When the towel eventually gets too dirty to use, he puts it in the bag and grabs a new one. He repeats this, letting himself fall into a routine and relaxing into the mindless repetitiveness of his work.

Chapter Text

Eventually, the tiled floor of the kitchen is free of blood, and the plastic grocery bag is filled up. He puts the paper towels away and rises to his feet on stiff legs.

'Should probably get all the bloody shit outta here before the smell starts to linger…'

He looked at the clock. 7:17. Pushing it, but no one should notice. Grabbing the bag, he heads out of the kitchen. Looking into the living room, he pauses. 'I should probably put on a shirt before going outside. No one needs to see my bandages. It wouldn't change anything.'
He walks down the hall to his bedroom, depositing the big bag of bloody bullshit on his cot before opening up his closet to rifle through his thoroughly shitty wardrobe.

He settles on a worn black tee that was a little too loose for his slim frame. It was rough and scratchy, but serviceable. He grabs the refuse and heads out through the hall into the living room, quickly crossing it to get to the window. With one hand he lifted the window open, crisp autumn air slowly drifting into the apartment. He always kept the window lubricated for times like these.

And for fires, too, he supposes.

Hefting the plastic up, he places it on the windowsill and slides it onto the fire escape just outside, pushing it off to the right slightly. The teen's lanky form buckles slightly as he maneuvers his body out of the opening. Now on his hands and knees on the grated metal surface of the fire escape, he stands up and quickly dusts himself off.

'Okay, that window is almost definitely not up to regulations… Whatever, what am I gonna do, lodge a formal complaint? Not like anything of worth would be lost if only Cynthia was able to escape a fire in time, anyways…' He muses as he grabs the bag and starts descending the steep set of stairs which lead to the lowest platform of the escape. He and Cynthia lived on the third floor, making these trips mercifully short. He stepped down onto the last platform and turned around, quickly moving to the ladder release mechanism. It worked quite well, and probably hadn't been this rust free since a few decades after the apartment complex was built. In fact, the entirety of the first two levels were practically entirely rust free, the dull grey a sharp contrast to the reddish brown of the rest of the steel structure. He used it frequently enough for it to be worth investing into its upkeep. The last time he had been to the doctor he had been too young to ask if he'd gotten a tetanus shot. And besides, no one took notice that the lower part of the fire escape on one apartment building suddenly saw an increase in maintenance.

He claims down the ladder one handed, the other holding the garbage bag a suitable distance away. Once he gets to the bottom, he drops down the remaining few feet to the ground, knees bending instinctively to absorb the shock. He's done this enough times to get the hang of it. He walks up to the large dumpster against the wall of the building, lifting one of the lids before unceremoniously throwing the plastic in and walking away. He's sure the rats are gonna have a field day with that one. Or at least until they get to the broken glass.

Finally done dealing with the consequences of the red fluid that was annoyingly persistent at mistakenly flowing through his thoroughly undeserving veins, he walks back to the ladder and begins his ascent. Once he reaches the top and slinks onto the grated metal surface of the platform, he brings the ladder back up and reengages the lock mechanism. Can't have just anyone coming up here, after all. He stands up and looks at the horizon. The sun us still low in the sky, just barely risen and starting to peek through the suburban skyline of the small town of Jax. It's still relatively early. No one should have seen him. Or at least he hopes to whatever may be beyond humanity that it's the case. The last thing he needs is his…

is Cynthia to find out about his very likely illegal use of the fire escape. She's going to find some other reason to beat his ass tonight anyways, but he'd really like to avoid someone intentionally reminding her of his existence if possible.

He snaps out of his musings when he realizes he already traveled back to the kitchen on autopilot. He's grateful, it would've been even worse if he'd been caught just staring blankly out into nothing. He's been lost in thought more than normally lately. He usually saves that kind of stuff till he doesn't have shit to do. Maybe he got a concussion or something last night?

Speaking of shit to do, he kneels down on the floor with the rag, soap, and bucket of water he'd thoughtfully prepared earlier, and starts scrubbing the kitchen floor clean like some damn housemaid.


Eventually he popped back out of autopilot to find he was finished with his work. He smiled to himself slightly. This is how it's supposed to work. Work first, thinking can wait till later. He had done all his usual chores; scrubbing the kitchen and bathroom floors, cleaning the toilet and sinks, washing the dishes, dusting, sweeping, and doing general maintenance. Thank whatever up there he doesn't work as a janitor. He already does more than enough cleaning each day.

He looks at the clock, and it's… 10:32?

Huh. All that took… less time than he expected. He's actually kind of… confused? He isn't really used to having free time. He still has about one and a half hours before Cynthia is likely to wake up. What do people normally do when they don't have work? Maybe he could watch a movie? No, he didn't have enough time for that.

It was a nice thought, though. He likes movies. Or, at least he thinks he does. He hasn't seen very many, and not one in a very long time. he was… seven, he thinks? He had managed to scrounge enough loose change from his school to buy a ticket to the local theater. Cynthia couldn't accept the fact he hadn't stole from her for his own selfish desires. He didn't try a stunt like that again. His left hand still doesn't completely close properly after the discipline that followed.

He still thinks it was worth it though. It was a showing of an old film, the oldest one he'd ever seen, but it was still his favorite. It was called "Shrek". He liked the message. That everyone was worthy of being loved. Even if you're not human. A fantasy, he knew, but a comforting one all the same. He knew he wasn't worthy or deserving of love. He was Quirkless. Useless. Worthless. Not even a person, really. Just some sick twisted creature that was designed only to hold society back. Wasting space and resources. He knew it was true. Why would people tell him constantly if it wasn't?

Chapter Text

He ended up spending the rest of his time silently working on his commissions.

He abruptly stops his work, his acute ears picking up a slight change in the already barely noticeable snoring coming from Cynthia's room. He packs up his materials into his bag, and places it back into its spot by the front door. He lets out a not-quite exhale through his nose.

'She'll be waking up soon. And that means she'll want breakfast…' He stalks into the kitchen, and opens the fridge full of Cynthia's food. His mouth starts watering, as it often does when he's preparing her food to help earn his keep.

He sets out the food onto the counter, first the carton of eggs, then the package of bacon, then the loaf of bread. A half remembered joke about a stove being on passes through his head like a fly on the water, unnoticed. He turns the coffee machine on and starts preparing the inedible food. Or at least, it helps him to imagine it's inedible, makes the fact he cannot eat it more bearable.

With his ears full of the sizzling of bacon and his head full of quiet discontent, he inserts the bread into the toaster, two slices in a slot, so that it will end up crispy on one side and soft on the other. He turns his attention back to the two pans on the stovetop. One is full of a meat he hasn't tasted in years, the other empty. He opens an egg over the pan with measured efficiency. It cracks cleanly. No mess. He likes that. He cracks another one. Two out of two. If he could have good days, he thinks this would be one.


He had a plate of food and a cup of coffee ready and waiting on the kitchen table by the time Cynthia came lumbering in on still sleepy limbs. "Oh wow! You remembered to prepare breakfast for your dear mother!" She said in a sickeningly sweet voice. He simply gave a stiff, polite nod in response, continuing to silently do the dishes. He hates when she pretends to be nice to him. He doesn't understand it. Her outbursts are always so much harder to predict and prepare for when she's like this.

She doesn't say much, and he's glad for that, but she eats loudly. Obnoxious chewing sounds and exaggerated moans of pleasure come from behind him. He can just feel that she's playing it up to taunt him. He does his best to ignore it, and returns his attention to the sink.

But, he can only wash dishes for so long. He resigned himself to standing stiffly on the opposite side of the kitchen. He kept his head lowered, trying to avoid paying attention to the self indulgent prick sitting in front of him.

Eventually, she finishes eating, swallowing the last of her meal. She stays silent for a few moments, and he waits for her to say something. He really would like to just go to work, but she hasn't given him permission to leave.

"Half a scoop."

Another stiff nod. He turns to get his food but he can't move. His bones force him to turn back to face her, his flesh just along for the ride. She is suddenly right in front of him, looking down at him. She loomed a full foot over him, 6'4" of toned muscle.

She forced his skill to tilt up. When he refused to meet her eyes, focusing on the messy shock of black hair above them. She twisted the bones in his arm, just barely stopping from dislocating his shoulder. It was an effective threat. He relented and looked into her eyes. Those piercing blue eyes that always made him feel so, so small. He instinctively tried to flinch away, to make his form smaller in the vain hope that it would make her look away. Of course, with the position if his bones locked in place by her, he didn't have much success.

"Well?" She growled, sneering down at him. "What do you fucking say when someone is kind enough to give you a gift?"

“Th-thank you…" He mumbled meekly. So small. Always so small against her. So weak. Useless. More worthless than usual.

"What was that? Speak up you little shit!" Cynthia snarled, eye twitching in anger at the though of being disrespected in such a way by such utter trash.

"Thank you, Cynthia." He said as steadily as he could. He can't let his voice crack. He can't.

"That's better. Now eat your food you ungrateful fuck." She said, leaning back against the wall and crossing her arms. She tossed him a key and looked at him expectantly, eyes narrowed.

Obediently, he turned back towards the cupboards and used the key on a padlock on one of the higher ones. Standing on his toes, he reaches up towards the now open door and grabs a large plastic sack from the previously locked cupboard. He stares at the bag of dog food with a ravenous look in his eyes. It was a few years past its expiration date, but, well… he was used to taking what he could get.

He took the scoop in the bag and dragged it through the feed, making sure to only take half a scoop. Or at least he tried to. He evidently didn't succeed, as the scoop didn't make it out of the bag. He felt a sharp slap to the head and a hard holding him up by the collar of gus shirt.

"I said half a scoop, you greedy bastard!" Cynthia snarled, eyes narrowed at her good for nothing quirkless bastard if a son.

A second or two passed in tense silence before he was roughly slammed against the cupboards.

"Well?! Did you understand me that time or do I have to talk slower you fucking retard?!" Her eyes were filled with contempt.

"...ye-yes." He stuttered. His breathing was labored, his body shaking. His eyes were wide and his pupils dilated. Sweat was starting to form on his brow. He didn't know how she always made him feel like a terrified little kid again. He could never quite get used to her the way he got used to the bullies. He supposed some small, naive part of himself was still holding out for a mother's warmth. He had tried to kill that part of himself a long time ago. He doesn't think it can be killed. He hates it.

He is unceremoniously dropped onto the floor by Cynthia, landing in a heap. She quickly tosses some food onto the floor beside him before putting the bag away and licking the cupboard, taking the key with her as always as she stormed out.

Once he calmed his breathing, got up off the floor and grabbed a paper towel. Picking his food off the floor, he wrapped it in the paper towel and stuffed it in his pocket. 'I can eat it on the way. If I wait any longer I'm going to be late for work…' He thought hollowly as he walked out of the kitchen to the door to Cynthia's apartment.

Grabbing the bag that held everything of worth to him, he stepped out the door.

Chapter Text

The walk to his work was uneventful. The dog food was dry and stale. Same as always. A brisk autumn wind but into his u insulated form, chilling him. 'Damn… I really need to get around to buying a coat. Or making one. Whatever.'

He worked at a local fast food joint on the more down-at-the-heels part of town, the kind who had no qualms with making a child work. He didn't care. He knew he wasn't a person anyways. He'd had this job for 3 years. He was a fry cook by now. There was another reason he chose this restaurant rather than any of the other various seedy establishments in this part of Jax.

They had always had a rat problem.


He slipped through the back door of VendYeets quietly. He left his bag near the door. They never bothered taking it. He was Quirkless. The only things he owned were like him. Worthless.

He meets a man with orange skin and stretchy limbs, giving him a quick nod. The man is his manager, Jake. He likes Jake. He was honest. Jake didn't lie to him. Didn't try to treat him like a person out of pity. He hates false hope. He puts on his uniform and attaches a plastic bag to his waist. He was the only one who did this. They didn't know why, and didn't really care.

He walks to his station, but stops abruptly when he sees a rat near one of the fryers. It doesn't seem to have noticed him. He licks his lips, mouth watering, and, crouching down, slowly starts approaching it.

"heeeey there, little buddy…" He breathes, barely audible as he stalks toward the rodent.

His hands quickly flash out, grabbing the rodent, and pulling it towards him. It barely has a moment to squeak before he quickly and cleanly snaps its neck.

Placing his prize in the bag, he stands up and gers back to work. He liked being a fry cook. It reminded him about some old cartoon he'd once heard his teachers talking about. Something about a fry cook named Bob? He tried to ask Cynthia about it. He remembered being beat for eavesdropping.

He is broken out of his thoughts by the sound of his boss yelling at him.

"HEY! Jackass!" Jake shouted angrily,sticking his head through the door. "Get to work! We've got orders comin' in! I don't pay you for standing around doin' fuck all… lazy goddamn bastard…" His boss trailed off, muttering.

He mumbled a quick apology and got to work making food for people who would no doubt vomit if they knew that he that made it.


It was a relatively slow day. Strange for a Saturday, but he wasn't complaining. Maybe someone had worked out he worked here? Knowing that a filthy Quirkless could be preparing their fid would certainly be a deal breaker for most. But how would anyone find out? He made a point not to interact with customers.

He'd learned that lesson after he once made the mistake of working the register. That day was a disaster. He'd had to switch restaurants after that. It was a shame. It'd been a nice place. He'd been working there for 4 years. Thankfully, though, he'd found another place that looked the other way at a 13 year old coming in to cook food.

His shift was almost over, and he was looking forward to dinner. He licked his lips as for the briefest of moments his eyes wander down to the sack of rats weighing heavily on his waist with a ravenous gaze. He shakes the thoughts from his head and removes his apron, putting it on the rack.

"Hey! Quirkless! " A gruff voice grabs his attention. He turns to see Jake leaning against the jamb, his yellow arms crossed. "Where you goin?"

"Shift's over." He replies simply, turning back to sling his courrier bag on his shoulder without missing a beat. Jake makes a noncommittal noise. He quickly glances at the bag attached to the Quirkless boys' waist, but he says nothing.

"Wh'tever…" He grunts, turning away. "Just get yer scrawny ass outta here…" He growled over his shoulder.

He gives a sharp nod to Jake, more of a jerk to the head than anything. He glances at the clock. 8:19. He has a good hour and a half before Cynthia locks the door on him. He could always come in through the window, but… he'd rather she not know about that little exploit of his. He opens the back door, and leaves into the alleyway behind VendYeets.

The alley is dingy, dirt and grime coating the walls, seeping into every crack and crevice like veins of filth stretching across the empty backstreet. Dumpsters cast long shadows from the approaching sunset, covering the scene in intermittent darkness. They're hugged by small piles of refuse, castaways rejected from the world of their human creators clinging to rafts against the wind, huddling in the shielded darkness. Dust and small pieces of whatever swirl and twirl in little whirlwinds, their complex eddys ebbing and flowing, popping up and dying down unpredictably. He lets out an exhale, watching the small puff of breath against the crisp autumn air.

He begins walking away from the restaurant, his legs taking him on his routine path from the outskirts to the very edge of Jax on autopilot. He stays out of the way, sticking to the alleys and sidestreet as he makes his way towards his familiar destination. It's a fairly short walk.

He arrives at the junkyard a little over ten minutes later. It's piled high with scrap of every kind imaginable. TVs and radios and microwaves and computers stacked in towering mounds. Scraps of metal and plastic and wood of every shape and size strewn about. Husks of unwanted cars lie like skeletons. Rust covers unprotected metal in haphazard swaths. If anyone notices him trespassing, they pay him no mind. He blends in, after all. One unwanted piece of trash among many.

He walks over to an old mailbox, its worn metal a dull grey, but rust free. He detaches his bag of rats from his waist, and unslings the courrier bag from around his chest, setting both gently on the ground. The reduced weight should help make the labor that follows at least a little easier. He reaches behind the mailbox and pulls out the skeletal remains of a small metal folding table. Or maybe it was a chair. Or a footstool. Whatever. It didn't really matter, and he didn't really care, because he was fairly sure he wasn't using it for its intended purpose.

He drags it over to a relatively uncluttered clearing, then heads back to the mailbox. He opens it and retrieves a few items he'd stashed away in the container. Some pieces of scrap wood. An old lighter. An old car antenna. He left the rest of it where it was, for now.

He tosses the wood in a messy pile under the table begins looking for more wood in the piles of rubbish. It's exhausting work, digging through the piles of scraps for bits of wood amongst the warped plastic and twisted metal. He gets a few small cuts and scrapes on his hands. They give him nothing more than a dull sting, nothing he has to worry about. Once he feels he has enough fuel under the table, he gets to work preparing it for lighting.

He fishes around his bag for his tinder. He found what he was looking for fairly quickly; paper he had raided from the recycling bins at school. He shredded a few old handouts into small pieces and set them carefully in a dent in the base of the pile, where the flames would be allowed to creep up along the underside of the wood above it, lighting the stack from the bottom up. Now he has to actually light the damn thing.

Clutching the old, worn lighter in his hand, he pressed it to the pile of shredded paper and begins rolling the sparkwheel. The lighter, having long since been empty of fluid, does not actually produce any flame. He expected this, of course; he's been doing this for a long time, and it is his lighter, after all. He keeps on rolling and rolling the wheel, until…

A spark hits the paper, and starts to catch.

Jackpot.

He shields the softly glowing piece of paper from any wind, even holding his own breath. The glowing ember was too weak, it needed time to grow. It was unnatural, he knew, to protect something so weak, but he did it anyways. He much preferred rat cooked rather than raw. Gradually, the paper begins burning in earnest, lighting other shreds of paper and the flame slowly climbing towards the first piece of wood. He deems it safe enough to start gently blowing by now.

With the flames steadily licking the underside of the wood pile, he walks back towards his ratbag. He brings it back over to the fire, his fingers absently fiddling with the car antenna in his other hand, his whole body pulsing with excitement. Sitting down in front of the now steadily growing fire, he plops the ratbag down next to him and takes a small moment to just watch the fire. He shakes his head, trying to corral his thoughts back into action.

Sticking his free hand into the plastic sack on his left, he pulls out a dead rat. 'Glad I snap their necks… much less messy this way…' He muses to himself. Licking his lips and shivering on anticipation, he forces his attention back onto the task he's given himself.

With the antenna in his right hand and a rat in his left, he carefully positions the antenna in its mouth. And he pushes. Hard. The rat slides down the skewer with a soft, squeaky squelch, impaled by the metal that now runs through the entirety of its body. He put two more on before placing the antenna on the crook of where the metal legs of the table intersect, resting the skewered rats in the steady flame. He looks at the fire burning the hair off, listens to the sizzling of the meat and the crackling of the fire.

He knows there is probably a better way to do this, but he couldn't exactly find a book on "How to Cook Rat" in his library. He supposes he could easily look it up online, but… well, he'd rather spend his rather limited computer access time on commissions.

He spends a few moments relaxing, simply staring at the fire and cooking his dinner.

Chapter Text

He's digging into his meal. It tastes fucking amazing. It tastes like meat. He thinks. He can't really remember what meat tastes like. He's glad he had such a good catch today. It's the best meal he's had in months.

He tears the tender flesh off of small limbs, savoring the flavor and sucking the bones for any strips of meat that might've been left behind. He tears them off, breaking open the white twigs of bone to suck the marrow from inside.

He places his thumbs against its chest, and presses down. Hard. Messily entering the chest cavity with a sickeningly wet sound, he pries the ribcage open to get at the precious innards. He sticks his mouth to the opening without hesitation, slurping the contents down his gullet with gusto, coating his lips with viscera in the process.

Stopping to fill his lungs with air, having nearly hollowed out the rodent, he looks at the pile of its cooked brethren, sitting on a nearby piece of mostly clean metal. He smiles, something rare. Today was a good day. another rare thing. Licking his lips of the blood and small pieces of flesh on them, he turns back to his meal, eager to strip every morsel of sustenance from it.


By the time he was done, all that he was left with was a mound of rat bones, teeth, and claws, a smoldering pile of embers underneath a soot coated folding table, and a pleasantly warm and full stomach. Getting up heavily, he stretches his muscles, working some of the stiffness out. He begins digging through the piles of garbage again, gathering wood for his next roast.

Once he has a sufficient amount of fuel, he stashes it in the mailbox, followed shortly by the lighter and antenna. He digs something out of his back pocket, a ratty old pair of work gloves.

'No damn way I'm touching that folding table… chair… thing… without gloves. I learned that the first time. Fucking blisters lasted for days…'

He drags the blackened metal skeleton back to its spot behind the mailbox. He returns to the clearing, carefully folding up his ratbag and putting it in his bag before taking off his work gloves and shoving them back into his back pocket.

'I should probably get a trench coat… those things have so many fucking pockets… could carry so many more supplies… something to put on the list…'

He kicks the bone pile, sending a good portion of them scattering onto the still burning embers. He watches the remnants darken with soot for a moment before turning around and heading back into town. He's got shit to do. His internal autopilot put him on the familiar path to the Jax Public Library.


He entered the J.P.L. quietly and silently cut his way across the entry hall to get to the computer area. The library staff didn't spare him so much as a glance. He supposes they're trying to forget his existence. He doesn't blame them.

He silently slumps onto a chair, world-weary eyes trained on the monitor. He bends down and rifles through his bag for a moment before producing a nondescript composition notebook. He opens it to the page he dog-eared earlier, where he had finished his latest batch of commissions.

He puts the notebook aside for the moment and turned his attention back to the computer in front of him. His hand quickly snakes into his hoodie pocket before fishing out his library card. Entering the number on the back of the card into the computer, he logs in and got to work.

He only has 2 hours per day on the computer, so he needs to maximize every second's usefulness. He starts up the internet browser and heads to the forums. He spends almost all of his time on the internet here, analyzing quirks for money. He is the only one who knows its what he spends his time on. That's fine, though. No one needs to know. They'd probably get in the way anyways.

He quickly logs in, typing his username and password more from muscle memory than anything else. He looks at his DMs, at his most recent commissions. 'Right. It looks like it's… drmrjr_12/4. Whiphand, yeah?' . He pulls his notebook back towards him and leafs through its pages until he finds what he's looking for.

His eyes glide over the pigpen writing as smoothly as if it were English, his fingers flying across the keyboard to copy it onto a text file. 'Now I actually have to contact the bastard… from what I recall they weren't too polite…' He opens up a chat with his client and begins to type.

'Ungrateful prick…'

He rubs a tired, sunken eye with the heel of his palm. If all his clients were going to be this rude, it's going to be a long night. He goes back to his DMs and looks at his most recent conversations. More clients to get through. Always more clients.

'Well at least the pay is good… usually… It is weird though. Being… popular. So many people wanting to talk to me. Willing to pay just to hear my thoughts… Yeah, bet that would stop real fuckin quickly if they knew who I was.'

He laughs bitterly under his breath and returns his dead, sunken eyes back to the screen.


He exits the J.P.L. at around 10:30. He pulls his hood over his head and begins the walk home, but decides to hold off a little longer. He isn't the most thrilled about seeing Cynthia again. It'd also be a good time to see Jeffrey. He walks down the shadow coated sidewalks with an unassuming gait, back hunched and head down, always avoiding other pedestrians and the halos of light cast by the streetlamps, as if trying to melt into the darkness itself and be forgotten. His tired eyes, sunken far into his gaunt, pale visage, constantly scan the world with a weary gaze. Always watching. Always waiting. Always ready.

He begins walking towards the dirty gas station Jeffrey works at. It's not a very long walk. Jax is a fairly small town, after all. A brisk wind bites softly into him, urging him forward. Autumn leaves float in the breeze, vibrant colors stripped to nothing but dark blue drops of shadow across the dim backdrop of stars, like so many pinpricks letting light through the vast sheet of the October sky.

He soon comes across the flickering neon sign of the gas station, standing with the streetlamps against the night like an army of candles about to be swallowed by the great maw of the black. He walks over to the left hand side of the entrance, towards where the tanks of propane lay locked in their cage. Bending down on one knee, he reaches around the back of the cage and picks up a jagged shard of a mirror he had stashed there earlier.

He raises it up so its in view of the gas station window and turns it back and forth a few times, enough to guarantee it catches some of the light. It was their agreed upon signal. Placing the mirror back where it was, he stands back up and walks around the side of the station. Stepping into the dingy alley behind the gas station, their agreed upon meeting place, he lets out a breath of air. Leaning, arms crossed, against the alleyway wall, he waits for Jeffrey to come.

He didn't take long, it never takes him too long to show up. He saunters out of the gas stations back door, hands in his pockets and an easy smile playing on his face. Or, at least, as close to a smile as he can manage. The other boy had the head of a chicken, and was a bit shorter than him, despite being older.

Jeffrey was… weird. He never acted like he hated him. They met when he was in 9th grade, Jeffrey in 12th. And he just… never seemed to recognize that he was Quirkless. He just treated him like anyone else. It was strange. Unnatural, he was sure of it. He must be stupid or something. He didn't think that Jeffrey was playing the long con to make him feel even worse when the façade falls down, like some of the others. At least not intentionally.

But still, Jeffrey stuck with him, even after he graduated, continuing to meet with him to laugh and joke and pretend for whatever reason that who he was talking to was worth it. If he didn't know better, he would've thought Jeffrey was his friend. But he knows better. He doesn't deserve friends. Why would someone as wretched as him deserve even one?

"Hey-ey-ey! Whatcha doin here man? It's been a while dude!" Jeffrey says, walking over with a casual wave and a hearty laugh.

The Quirkless boy leaning against the wall simply gives a curt nod in response.

"The usual." He says simply in response to the chicken-head.

"Yeah… " Jeffrey says with a disappointed sigh and an honest to God cluck. "... that's what I figured…" He finished with a mutter. He gives a shake of his head and what the other boy almost thinks is a sad smile before speaking again. "So, how much this time round?"

"Only one." He replies with his usual gray, monotone voice, so flat and devoid of emotion you'd think it belonged to a robot. He wishes he was a robot sometimes. They're so much cleaner to turn off.

"Yeah, okay." Jeffrey said with a nod. "I can do that. Brand?"

The taller boy gives an almost-snort from his nose. "You know that doesn't matter."

"Yeah, yeah…" The older boy says with a snicker of his own. "Was just hoping you'd suddenly developed taste." He paused uncomfortably for a moment, as if he was waiting for the boy across from him to say something more. "... I'll be back out with one in a minute…" He finishes awkwardly, before turning and heading back into the gas station.

The Quirkless boy watches Jeffrey's receding back without saying a word. Letting out a slow breath from his nose, he closes his eyes for a moment. He then opens up his bag and unzips an almost unnoticeable compartment, hidden away from view. He can't let the hag find out he's been 'holding out'. He fishes out a few dollars, enough for what he was about to get, and zips it back up.

Jeffrey is back outside in less than a minute. He tosses something to him while walking over. The younger boy catches it without really thinking about it. He has great reflexes. Skills develop quickly when failure is met with… severe punishment.

"How much?" He asks.

"Come on man, it's on the house!" The chicken headed boy replies

"How much is it?" He repeats.

Jeffrey gives a melodramatic sigh. "Fiiiiiiiine, if you insist on paying me, it's a dollar."

Giving his dealer the money, he quickly opens the pack of cigarettes and puts one in his mouth. "Could I get a light?" He asked Jeffrey.

"Yeah, yeah…" The shorter boy replied with a roll of his eyes. He took out his lighter and leaned in close to the Quirkless boy, lighting the cigarette between his lips. "You really need to get your own lighter."

"I know…" He muttered before closing his eyes and taking a long drag from the cigarette. He let the smoke flood his lungs and pleasantly dull his senses just a bit. He shoves the rest of the pack into his bag, before turning away. He pauses for a moment.

"... thanks…" He mumbles so soft he thinks no one can hear him. Then he walks off. Back home. To probably get the shit beat out of him for no reason in particular.

And then start the whole thing over next sunrise. It was simply the way things were, and that wasn't going to change anytime soon.

Except they did.

Chapter Text

The journals had started out as a hobby. Plans for the future. If he soaked up as much knowledge about heroes and quirks as he could, then when his Quirk eventually came in, he would be able to figure how to best apply it and be a hero. He had wanted to be a hero back then. He thought he could be a hero back then. He still thought he could be anything other than a mistake.

At five years old he was diagnosed as Quirkless. Denial wrapped around his mind like a boa almost instantly. Surely, there's been a mistake. The doctors must have gotten it wrong. His mom's Quirk had to do with bones, maybe that was why he had more bones than everyone else! His dreams remained protected in the warm blanket of his self delusion for months.

Eventually, he accepted that he was Quirkless. But not yet that he was worthless. So, the journals took on a new role. Surely, even if he didn't have a Quirk like everyone else, he could still make friends with the others if he showed them all the cool stuff he knew! It didn't work. If anything, it made them realize how pathetic he really was. ("You're… kinda creepy, you know that?" "Seriously, ▒̷̵̷͘█̧͝▒̸̴͘͡͏░̷̛̕͢͠█̨̡? Jotting every little thing down like some creepy stalker?" "How jealous do you have to be to obsess like this?") Thinking back on it though, he really hadn't screwed himself over too bad. They would eventually have found out how insignificant he was.

After that it was more of a comfort than anything else. Just something he did to make himself feel like he could be someone. That is to say, something he did to trick himself into short lived delusions. It was a habit, something he did to keep the gears in his mind whirring away at something. To keep them from analyzing his own life. But he couldn't keep his mind away forever. It remained that, little more than a distraction and a source of escapism, until he was twelve.

When he was twelve, used one of the library computers for the first time. He was amazed. The internet simply fascinated him. In a single day, his world had grown much bigger. There were so many people in the world, talking about so many different things! He spent his first hour doing nothing in particular, seeing as many sites as he could, searching about anything and everything he could think of that the library didn't have books on.

Then he found the Forums. They were so cool! So many people, talking about so many different Quirks! He had a strange feeling, like an itch inside his skull, and knew he just had to share his ideas. Just this once. He knew he'd be ridiculed, but he didn't care anymore. He'd dealt with enough verbal battering to have become numb to it. He no longer had an ego to hurt, no self esteem to shatter.

Now he just had to make an account. But what to call it? He knew he couldn't use his name. It felt like it was cursed, that just by seeing it the strangers on he web would instantly tell what he was. He knew it was a bad thing to do, not telling them he was Quirkless. not letting them know just what a disgusting wretch they were interacting with. If he were a person, he thinks he would have been a bad one.

He decided to call it something more impersonal than a name. He decided to simply name it what he was, other than being Quirkless. He settled on /blank/null. That's what he was, blank, null. Empty. He was Quirkless, and that was all he ever was.

He quickly opened up his notebook and copied down some of his thoughts about the most recent villain attack he'd seen, which had been broadcasted from Minneapolis. Seeing his time was almost up, he quickly logged out and hurried back home. He remembers getting beat especially bad that day. He'd been smiling when he'd gotten home. Cynthia thought he'd been mocking her.

The next chance he got, he rushed back to the library to check the Forums again. Only when he had logged in, there was a number next to the little outline of a person in the corner. Curious, he clicked on the icon and… oh. People had commented on his post. He'd felt his stomach plummet. Of course, people already had started berating him. What had he been thinking, that a fake name would hide what he was. He shook his head. No, It didn't matter what he'd chosen, anyone would've been able to see the rotten miasma leaking out of it, his sins emanating off of it like the devil's grimace.

He looked at the comments. And again. And again. He had to keep checking he was still on his post, not having accidentally switched to someone else's. He simply didn't understand what his eyes were telling him.

People were being… nice to him? Complimenting him, encouraging him to keep posting. Even some people who wanted his thoughts on their own quirks! It was… weird. He got an alien, warm feeling in his chest, one he certainly wasn't used to. He knew he shouldn't be enjoying the Forums' praise, that it was built on lies, but… he didn't care.

He became well known rather quickly, many people asking for analysis, and he'd even been able to make some money off of it. It was strange and new, yes, but it also made him feel something he hadn't felt in years.

Happy.

Chapter Text

He was… apathetic towards school. He was apathetic towards a lot of things. The only thing he really felt much about at all anymore was himself, a disgust and hatred so strong it pierced into the hole where he had ripped his heart out.

School was mostly just… something that happens to him. That's how most of his life went. Things just… happened to him. He wasn't an active player in those events. How could he be? He wasn't a person.

He was currently in History, his head resting in his left hand and his eyes closed as his right dutifully wrote down whatever the teacher said. It was reflex, at this point, the droning words seeming to flow in through his ears and travel down his arm to flow out his hand. He was immensely grateful that he didn't have to think that hard. He was tired as shit. Well, more than usual. He hadn't gotten any sleep last night, Cynthia's 'lessons' having been quite… 'extensive'. It took ages to clean up the resulting mess. And he had to do his 'extra credit'.

They used to yell at him for not paying attention. Now, though, they were fine with his eyes closed or to the ground, anywhere but looking at them. Glad, even. They didn't like the way his blank eyes stared at them, a dull blue with something dead and inhuman about them. He was fine with this. He was fine with most things.

The bell rung and his eyes snapped open, revealing his sullen gaze to the world. He quickly packed his things into his messenger bag, shoving his pencils into his coat pocket. He'd finally gotten that trench coat, the long, worn gray fabric hanging just below his knees. He feels he really did make the right choice buying it; the pockets helped reduce the amount of things he kept in his bag significantly, putting less strain on the stitched and restitched seams.

He stands up, shuffling out of the classroom with unblinking eyes and an unassuming gait. He makes his way to 4th hour quickly. He doesn't have to worry about people in front of him, either. They seem to sense when he was behind them and move out of the way, avoiding him like he had some kind of disease. He didn't blame them. If he was a person, he wouldn't want to interact with a thing like him either.

He's suddenly slammed into the lockers lining the halls by a strong hand on his shoulder, knocking the wind out of him for a brief moment. 'Yep, same shit as always…' He looks up to see his attacker, the lock protruding from the locker behind him digging painfully into his back. 'Maxie. Of course. Why would it be different.' He thinks resignedly. It was kind of weird lately, actually. All of his normal bullies save her had practically ignored him for the past month, only flinging the occasional insult his way. Meanwhile, Maxie had been bullying him more and more.

Maxie was the tallest person he'd ever met, easily 7 feet, looming over him. She was fit, too, all lean muscle and steel tendons. Her most striking feature were her legs. They were like that of a raptor; muscular thighs pointing forwards, shins bending bakwards, blending from smooth toned skin to dark red scales, the foot extended down to rest on the balls, and three long toes prodruding forwards, each ending in razor sharp black talons that glistened in the fluorescent lights of the halls.

She looks down at him with a predatory glint in her piercing silver eyes and a feral grin on her lips, her tongue running over her teeth in anticipation. She pushes him harder into the steel behind him and leans in, close enough for him to see her pupils dilate as she leers at her prey.

He was trembling, radiating fear like steam as his normally iron grip on his body's reactions became little more than a tug and a suggestion, easily forgotten in the panic and fear filling him. Maxie was… different than his other bullies. While they saw him as more of an automata than a person, an inanimate object to take out their anger and frustrations on, Maxie seemed to bully him because she, well, liked it. She seemed to relish in his fear, rancid glee filling her eyes and her sadistic grin growing ever wider with every drop of panic she squeezed from him.

The worst thing is she didn't treat him like an inanimate object. She treated him like a plaything, something to be used for her amusement. She treated him more like a person to be beaten down and 'played' with than a thing to be used for stress relief. And that scared him more than anything.

He wasn't a person. He couldn't be. He refused to be. He deserved this. He had to deserve this. He didn't know he would survive if it turned out he didn't. And Maxie challenged that, threatening to plant a seed of doubt in what he'd been long since convinced was a universal, immutable, undeniable fact.

He had forgotten what it felt like to be afraid of someone who wasn't Cynthia, but at times like this, trapped between steel and Maxie, it all comes flooding back.

"Where's my homework, nerd?" Comes a growl from above him, a note of half-hearted anger hanging off of it. He knows she isn't really angry. She's enthusiastic. She's enjoying it.

He doesn't respond, his brain misfiring, refusing to grab even a single thought from the sea of panic in his mind. He instead looks around, trying to focus on anything other than the presence before him. But there is nothing else. Right now, all that existed was him and Maxie.

A fist flies into his nose, resulting in a red splatter on the dirty, white tiled floor. It reminds him of her hair. "Look at me when I'm talking to you, you piece of shit." Maxie chewed off. But again, he knows she isn't angry. She's excited, even, overjoyed by his panic. She seems to love his fear.

A strong hand on his chin forces him to look upwards, his normally dead, static eyes now filled with life, with the expression of a wounded animal, and forced to meet her hungry gaze. A raised, razor sharp foot was all it took to ensure the only thing he could think of doing was frantically nodding his head as best as he could.

Maxie slowly lowered her foot, drinking in his every little twitch and reaction like it was honey. She leaned in even closer, far enough for him to feel her hot breath on his face. "Now… let's try this again." She said with her snake's grin still plastered on her face, all sharp fangs and no warmth. "Where. Is. My. Homework? You did do it, didn't you?"

He nods, not daring to say a single word. Slowly, he reaches into his bag and pulls out his 'extra credit', presenting it to her with trembling hands.

Her grin grew impossibly wider, and she let go of his chin, one hand grabbing the homework he did for her last night, the other remaining firmly pressing his shoulder into the cold steel. She gives a cursory glance at the stack of papers befir folding them under her arm. "Good little bitch." She said with a laugh dripping with sadism like rancid honey, her free hand patting his head in a twisted mockery if affection. She leaned in even closer, their foreheads almost touching. "You're so weak, you know that, right?" She asked with a breathy whisper.

Yes. Of course. Of course he knew how weak he was, how could he not? What kind of question even was that?

"Y-ye.. yes…" He managed to stammer out. He couldn't nod. He might hit her forehead. She might see that as an attempted headbutt. He'd learned that the hard way.

With a grin dripping with both hunger and satisfaction, she turned away from him and walked to her class, her claws clicking against the ground.

He breathed a sigh of relief, calm flooding back into him, his iron grip on the reins of his mind returning. He hated himself for getting so scared.

His reaction is ironic, considering what happened later that day.

Chapter Text

The rest of the school day went on without much interesting happening. He got a few demeaning notes from Maxie, but other than that it was just schoolwork and the constant stream of self loathing following him like a hungry river, ravenous to swallow him whole and drag him down to the deepest pits of despair. A normal day, really.

School had ended, and it was time for him to leave. Trying to stay overnight didn't help. He'd learned that the hard way a long time ago. When she picked him up, Cynthia had put on her mask of a caring mother she always put on when someone else was around, but the moment they got home it slipped. The beating was especially bad that night.

He does, however, linger for a small while in an unused and forgotten janitorial closet. Just a few minutes, long enough for the halls to be almost completely empty once he exited the small, dusty room. He scurries down the deserted hallways, heading directly for a seldom used back door he uses.

Opening the door, he turns his collar to the chill of the winter air, and begins walking.


He leaves the imposing building behind, putting more and more distance between him and the looming shadow of the Jax Public High School. They weren't very creative naming things here. He travels out of sight, out of the busy streets, a complex, winding route through dark alleys and switchbacks. Through the forgotten arteries running through Jax.

He knows that with the destination he's headed to, he's going to have to start using the main roads eventually, abandon his twisting path, but still, he takes comfort in these lonely canals carved from the brick and concrete. He digs his hands into one of the many pockets of the trenchcoat, fishing around for something as the snow crunches softly underneath his boots. He eventually finds what he's searching for, his cold, slightly numb hand wrapping around a thin paper cylinder. The other finds a worn, plastic shape, a bit like a long, narrow box, but rounder. His right thumb finds the familiar round, ridged metal of the flintwheel.

He takes the lone cigarette from his coat pocket and places it between his lips. He uses his lighter to light the smoke, curling his long, slender fingers in front of the flame to protect it from the wind. With his cigarette lit, he puts his lighter back in his pocket. He stops walking for a moment to take a long drag, the carcinogenic smoke flooding his lungs. He opens his mouth slightly to breathe out a dark cloud into the air, and resumes walking.

That was his last smoke. No matter, that can be fixed easily. It was actually the reason he was on this more unfamiliar path through the town. He had run out of cash, so he needed to make a trip to the bank to make a withdrawl from his account. All he needs to do is talk to the teller and turn it into paper. He's been making enough money from his 'side business' to not have to worry about it. He freezes mid-step, the soft crunching of snow underneath his boots stopping abruptly.

There's something behind him.

He slowly turns around to see… Oh. Just a stray cat. He if filled with an equal mix of relief and annoyance. He shoos the cat away with a withering glare. It seems to get the message, and slinks away behind a garbage can. A dark scowl forms in his eyes. He does not like cats. Hates them, even.

'Smug fuckin bastards… always laying around and mewling and whining, doing jack shit and expecting to have their every need taken care of… Just fuckin lounging around and wanting to be waited on hand and foot… Do some fuckin work for your food, like the rest of us animals… '

He shakes his head, clearing his mind of his poisoned envy. He takes an aggressive drag of his smoke, and continues walking.


Eventually he arrives at the bank, the hulking tumor of grey stone and concrete seeming to blend into the dull November sky. He pushes open the glass doors, gleaming metal frames so shiny it made his eyes hurt. He didn't really like coming here. Everything was too shiny and bright and saturated. It's not how things are supposed to look. But still, he was here for a reason, and there's business to be done.

He enters the lobby, and every person in the room edges away a little bit. He doesn't blame them. They know who he is. The pathetic, Quirkless little failure. They all turn away after a moment. Better to ignore him. He agrees. He walks to the back of the line that leads to the bank's single teller. He notices a man walking in, wearing a beige trenchcoat.

'Great. Now there's two jackasses in trenchcoats. Can't even see his face too clearly with that dumbass trilby in the way. Glad I came in earlier than him. Those clamps for hands must make going to the bank take forever…'

The man walks up to the line and quietly steps into line behind him. He turns his attention back to the line. He's got some waiting to do. The queue is particularly slow today. He can feel the seconds trickling by like so many grains of sand as the line gradually shortens.

He feels the man behind him put an arm around his neck, a clamp-like hand squeezing his skull gently, a threat of pain to come. Time seemed to slow down to him, watching the rest of the patrons in slow motion before time comes rushing back as suddenly as it had deserted him.

"Nobody move!" Yells the man behind him. The rest of the room froze. "Hand over the money in the till or the boy gets it!" Nobody moved.

He couldn't help but chuckle, a sound like sandpaper against metal.

"What the fuck are you laughing about!?" The man growls, increasing the pressure from his clamp-hand.

"I feel bad for you man. You went to the trouble of taking a hostage and you got me. That's just plain bad luck." He replies, his mouth in his characteristic scarred grimace but amusement in his eyes.

"Bad luck? Just cause I took you hostage? You think you're fuckin hot shit or something, kid?!" Clampy leaned in, his tone growing angrier, and his grip tightening. It started to hurt a little bit. "Think you're fuckin important? That All Might himself is gonna show up and make me regret ever messing with little old you?" The man mocks.

His laughter grows louder, a wheezing, braying sort of sound. It's a laugh you can tell isn't used that often. He can't hold back his smile. Or, well, whatever the hell his lips end up doing whenever they try to smile. Him, important? It's such a ludicrous thought.

"I'm not important. They don't care about me. You could crush my skull in front of them and all they'd think about is how much of a mess thr poor janitors will have to deal with. You've got no leverage, dude. All you've got is a run of rotten luck." He finishes with a dry, humorless laugh that carries through the air like dust.

There's a commotion near the entrance and suddenly, the doors fling open. In walks Jumpman, the Fireball Hero, dressed in his dumbass hero getup. It's essentially just a red spandex bodysuit with white overalls, providing virtually no protection. It's not surprising that his costume is so ineffective, though. Jumpman was a publicity hero. He was as corrupt as they came, only in it for the money and fame, not giving a damn about saving people. If he did, he wouldn't be heroing in some small town in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, where all he had to do was stand around and look nice while the police took care of petty crimes.

He hated Jumpman. And also couldn't tell what the hell was up with his name.

"Oh look at that kid, looks like your hero has arrived." The Clampman sneered.

He couldn't help but laugh even harder, glancing at Jumpman and his look of pitiful nervousness. "Him? You really are an import, huh? He's only in this town for the easy money and adoring fans. I bet he can't even remember anything he learned in hero school. Look at him, he's scared shitless at the thought of having to do some real work."

By this point, most of the people had turned to him with confused and concerned expressions, staring at the boy who is intermittently laughing and muttering yo his captor. Jumpman clears his throat, wiping his face clean of its pathetic look. He stands tall and proud, and points a finger towards Clampy while resting his other hand on his waist. "Unhand him, villain!" He shouts.

The hostage rolls his eyes. So cliché. He just wants this over and done with. He sighs, before slightly turning his head towards Clampy. "Throw me at them, and it should distract them long enough for you to make a break for it. As long as you have a 30 or so second head start of the police and stick to the shadows, you should get away fairly easily." He whispers, lips barely moving.

"Time is ticking, villain!" The hero shouts with a million times more bravado than the Quirkless boy knows he has.

He is suddenly flung across the room, a feeling of weightlessness in his stomach as he flies towards the costumed narcissist. He impacts with a dull thud, knocking the so-called hero over as he hears the noise of running feet and an opening door.

More than used to this "injury" (it's really more of a mild inconvenience to him) by now, he quickly regains the wind that was knocked out of him, and stands up. Dusting himself off, he glances at Jumpman. And of course, he's blubbering and whining on the floor like a little bitch, obviously not used to even the slightest amount of pain. He glares at the would-be hero for a moment. 'Grow up.'

He turns away and walks out the door. He can go to the bank in a few days.

Chapter Text

He had, of course, had the thought before. How could he not? Ever since it was… 'suggested' to him back in grade school. He had long since forgotten the specifics of who actually said it, the combined contempt and malice of all his bullies swirling in his mind, congealing into a single, hateful entity. He remembers what was said, however, quite clearly.

"You're a failure, ͜͟▓̶̧█░̧͠͠͠▒▄̢͢, you know that, right?" The now-faceless bully had sneered. "A Quirkless, pathetic little mistake. All you do is hold society back. Why don't you just kill yourself, prune the gene pool a little, yeah?" He remembers the bully shoving him to the ground before laughing and walking away. The teachers hadn't done anything. They never did.

Ever since then, it was always in the back of his mind, waiting for a lapse in concentration to claw its way to the forefront of his thoughts. And he had tried, too. Many, many times. But he never succeeded.

There was always something that stopped him, something in the deepest parts of his mind that thrashed like a wounded animal in its death throes, refusing to accept its end. It always forced him away from the precipice of despair, no matter how much self loathing his conscious mind was wallowing in.

So, he distracted himself, tiring out his mind before it had a chance to analyze itself or listen to the chorus of the damned that begged him to join their numbers. He turned his mind an engine, consuming thoughts and ideas, ravenous to analyze anything save its own flawed architecture.

He read anything and everything he could get his hands on that could possibly further his pursuit of knowledge. He tore through every school textbook he could find. Well, almost every textbook. He never really liked history. Reading about a world without quirks brought up a delusional but persistent idea, that he could have had a good, maybe even a happy life, if he had just been born at the right time. The idea of happiness was so alien to him by now that he dismisses the thought immediately every time it comes up. But still, no matter how many times he crushed the thought, it always came back eventually.

Math and science were more his style, the ordered world of numbers and equations a blissful reprieve from the messy reality he's trapped in. Algebra, Geometry, Statistics, Probability, Calculus. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Engineering. His voracious brain absorbed it like an injection straight to his mind.

Languages interested him, too. English, German, French, Norwegian, and, of course, Japanese. Japanese had seen a skyrocket in popularity as a second language ever since All Might became the #1 Hero worldwide. Enthusiastic cries of "Watashi ga kita!" were commonplace in households across the country.

Despite his knowledge, though, he kept his grades low. Slightly above average, at best. He doesn't want the attention that he is sure would come with perfect scores. The only time he puts his all in is for his… "extra credit" for Maxie. She's on honor roll now.

And, of course, his commissions helped greatly in distracting himself. But still, the thought always remains, lurking in the back of his mind. He constantly needs to seek out new things to learn, find new distractions, because as soon as they no longer tire his mind, the thought comes clawing its way back in.

Sometimes, he wonders if he even could commit suicide, linguistically speaking. Suicide implies personhood. Perhaps self-destruction would be a more accurate term.

Nevertheless, no matter how much he sometimes craves it, no matter how much the world wants him to, some part of him does not want to die. Some part of himself deep, deep in his mind will never stop raging against the long dark.

He doesn't know if he hates that part of himself.

Chapter Text

Cru-ruh-runch.

      Cru-ruh-runch.

Cru-ruh-runch.

      Cru-ruh-runch.

Cru-ruh-runch.

      Cru-ruh-runch.

The snow is deeper, now, almost higher than his boots. The only sound in the alleyway is the staccato, stop-start crunching of footfalls in deep snow.

Cru-ruh-runch.

      Cru-ruh-runch.

Cru-ruh-runch.

      Cru-ruh-runch.

Cru-ruh-runch.

Left. Right. Left. Right. Left.

      Cru-ruh-runch.

Right.

The snow isn't this deep everywhere, of course. But well maintained roads aren't the ones he prefers. He shivers slightly, a small, involuntary tremor. His mouth is its usual grotesque, twisted frown, no different than it was seconds earlier, but his soul scowls at itself. He doesn't like showing any sign of weakness. That's just asking for trouble. He doesn't like trouble. It's always so exhausting.

His body is mostly numb, an odd non-sensation spreading from his extremities, like his flesh was replaced with rubber and his blood, ice. 'Just what happens when you wear shitty clothes, I suppose…' He thinks, more to quell the deafening static of silence in his weary mind than anything else.

He has the money to buy clothes thicker than a bedsheet, but he doesn't. He learned when he was much younger that if he used any of his money on himself Cynthia would a) sell it as soon as he left the apartment, and then b) beat him for 'holding out' on her. Hell, Cynthia only thought he had the one job.

Speaking of, that's the only reason he's even out right now. Jake had finally gotten tired of his "rat problem", and fired him. He sighs. Damn it, Cynthia is gonna beat him hard tonight. He doesn't need to think about that now. He stops and pulls a cig from his pocket and lights it. He had waited a few days after Ol' Clampy tried to rob Main Street Bank to withdraw anything. Always best to lay low.

He blows a dark cloud of acrid smoke from his nose, his hands in his pockets and sunken eyes turned up towards the December sky, the dull, blue-gray of his sullen gaze meeting the weak, pallid blue expanse, as if the sky itself was on life support. He takes a long drag from his smoke, and continues walking to his apartment block through the deep snow.

Cru-ruh-runch.

      Cru-ruh-runch.

Cru-ruh-runch.

      Cru-ruh-

He stops mid step and whips around, his cold eyes calmly searching the alley. He feels watched. He waits silent like that for a while before sighing quietly. His nerves must be shot He begins turning back but whirls around again when he sees something in his peripheral. He searches the snowy sidestreet again, but all he is met with is his own doubt. He could've sworn he'd seen a flash of red hair and a blur of crimson scales…

He shakes his head furiously. 'Fuck, I must be so fucking tired… There's no way that was actually her... Winter break already started, and even if school wasn't out why the hell would she be stalking me anyway?! My mind is playing tricks on me… fuckin shot nerves…'

He lights another smoke, trying to calm his surely paranoid mind, and turns back around.

Cru-ruh-runch.

      Cru-ruh-runch.

Cru-ruh-runch.

      Cru-ruh-runch.

Cru-ruh-runch.

      Cru-ruh-runch…

He continues his walk home without many conscious thoughts at all, but he could never quite shake the feeling of being watched, being followed…


He feels it first. A small, almost, almost unnoticeable increase in air temperature. He initially writes it off, but… it just keeps getting warmer the further he walks. He stops. Something's wrong…

Now that he stops to focus, he realizes he can hear a faint popping, cracking sound, and the shrill, lilting song distant sirens, and smell the faint scent of smoke. It's all coming from the direction of his apartment block.

He slowly, cautiously turns the corner into the street he loves on just as someone barrels past him. They clip his shoulder as they run past, causing his body to pivot on the foot that's still on the ground. His body is wrenched around by his momentum, ankle twisting painfully and head striking the brick of the building beside him. His body sinks unceremoniously into the cold white blanket below him, and as his vision dims he thinks he can hear a familiar voice.

"Nah, leave 'im. That's the kid I was tellin ya about…"


He wakes up face down in the snow. He doesn't know how long he was out, and can't really remember why. What he does know, is that the back of his head hurts like a bitch.

With a slight groan, he lifts himself up off of the ground, staggering to his feet. He reaches out a hand to a wall to steady himself on swaying legs. The lurch of getting up so suddenly causes him to bend over and expel the contents of his stomach, thin, watery bile dripping down his chin. He leans against the wall for a moment, trying to steady his breathing and get his vision to stop swimming.

Once the world refocused, he stood up straighter and let out another groan. 'Fuck, my head is killing me…' He raised his other hand to rub the back of his skull, but his hand felt a warm, slightly sticky substance on his hair. 'Must've slammed into the wall… guess that explains the whole unconscious thing… really fucking hope I don't have a damn concussion…'

He brings his hand back around in front of him, expecting to see a red smear, only to be met with a clear film of saliva sticking to his hand. 'What the fuck… whatever, I can worry about whatever the fuck that's all about when I get home…'

His head feels fuzzy, like it's filled with cotton balls. His mind feels like a broken engine, cylinders misfiring and gears slipping. He hates it. He shakes his head to try to get himself to focus, instantly regretting it when he feels the world slosh around in front of his eyes. He screws them tight and breathes deeply, trying once again to steady himself.

'I have a fucking concussion, don't I? Damn it all to hell…' Once everything has stopped spinning, he opens his eyes and turns the corner. He starts walking towards his house, taking wide, staggering lurches, ignoring the pain in his ankle. His head is so foggy. Foggier than the street, even. Is fog supposed to be this dark? It smells funny too.

He continues walking.

That crackling sound is a lot louder now, and everything is coated in this weird orangey color. He rubs his eyes to try to wipe the orange stuff out of them, but it won't come out. The fog is a lot thicker now, and his sinuses are clogged with the funny yet familiar smell. His ankle hurts.

He keeps walking.

In the distance, he sees a building with this weird orangey glowy stuff all over it. It's really bright. At first he thinks it might be where he lives, but that's just silly. His building didn't look like that. On the ground there's a man with a dumb, silly looking red and white costume. He starts giggling hoarsely, his vocal cords cracking from both the unfamiliar movement and hot, dry air. It's really hot. His ankle still really hurts.

Once he gets closer, he realizes that the man's neck looks strange, all squeezed and squished and crushed in a way he somehow knows is wrong. His face is all blue and funny looking. Faces aren't supposed to be blue, silly! There's also all this really pretty red stuff all over him.

He tries to get a closer look, but suddenly his brain feels like it's falling inside his skull and he goes to the ground and his eyes are closed even though they're open. He hears a noise, like a funny bird. It's really high pitched, and kind of hurts his fuzzy mind.

And then everything is gone like a flipped switch.

Chapter Text

His eyes open to white.

He blinks and his unfocused eyes correct themselves. He realizes he's looking at a white tiled ceiling. It's familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. He thinks he's sweet it before, a long time ago. He can't exactly remember when.

The next thing he notices is the dull, throbbing pain in his head. He groans, trying to lean up from what he now realizes is a bed before giving up. It's a nice bed. Soft, with heavy sheets. White like the ceiling. He resigns himself to merely looking around.

To his right is an IV stand and a heart monitor beeping softly but steadily. 'I'm in a hospital… haven't been in one a these in almost a decade…' A foggy memory surfaces, breaching molasses of his mind like a whale.

He didn't remember it clearly. He was eight, and his class had gone on a field trip to Kezel Falls. The specifics of what the hell they were doing there are lost to him. What he does remember is somehow he broke one of his legs. One of his classmates might have done it. He doesn't know. Someone saw him and called an ambulance. He thinks they probably didn't know he was Quirkless. He remembers Cynthia beating him because of the hospital bill.

The memory sinks down into his mind as quickly as it rose, recollection reeling through him too quickly for him to grasp onto it. He resumes looking around. He looks down, and sees that he is dressed in a hospital gown, and there's an IV in the back of his right hand.

His eyes swivel to his left, and there is a woman sitting calmly in a chair next to him. She's wearing a white doctor's coat. She has dark hair tied into a messy ponytail and sharp blue eyes. She looks a lot like Cynthia. As to be expected for his sister. Those penetrating steel blue eyes fix him with what he knows is a stare of false pity and concern. He stares coolly back with his own dull blue-gray ones and Greta averts her gaze for just a moment.

"Hello Drake. Long time no see, huh?" Greta says with what the untrained eye might've been mistaken for a sad smile. But his eyes are not untrained. He knows better.

He looks around. There isn't anyone named Drake in this room. Greta sighs.

"You got hit in the head pretty bad. Because of that combined with inhalation of dangerous amounts of smoke, you were out for 2 days."

He nods curtly. She glances at him briefly, her eyes filled with something that could almost be mistaken for concern.

"Do… do you remember anything? About what caused your head injury or anything proceeding it?"

He stares at the ceiling, not meeting her gaze as he racks his brain for any shred of memory he can grasp.

"... no." He responds after a moment. "I was walking home, I was turning the corner, something knocked into me, then I woke up here." He said simply with a shrug.

Greta frowned at him, as if, for whatever reason, she was uncomfortable with her brother talking about a head injury as if it was as uninteresting as the weather.

"Well…" She sighs again, closing her eyes for a second before looking at him in the eye, regaining her steely composure he remembers so vividly. "You're going to hear the details eventually, given that the incident is all over the news, so you might as well hear it from me."

That caught his interest. He sits up straighter in the hospital bed, his eyes sharpening, an almost obsessive attentiveness coming over his features. She pulled a newspaper from her bag and hands it to him.



PRO-HERO JUMPMAN FOUND DEAD IN JAX

On the 22nd of December, at 14:47, local hero Jumpman was found dead in front of a burning apartment complex in Jax, Minnesota. Eyewitness accounts state that Jumpman had accidentally set the building on fire while trying to stop a group of D-rank villains from breaking in. The leader of the group, later identified as Jach Krilmer, the perpetrator of a failed bank robbery last month, assaulted him. Krilmer used his Quirk, Hydraulic Grip, to crush Jumpman's throat. Autopsy has concluded that Jumpman died due to a combination of a broken neck and ruptured jugular. The whereabouts of Krilmer and his associates are currently unknown. There were no survivors of the apartment fire.


Once he finished reading he looked back at Greta expectantly. She seemed to steel herself for a moment before looking him in the eye and grimly speaking the best sentence he'd ever heard in his entire life.

"Mom's dead, Drake."

He doesn't react, not externally. In his eyes is the same dead stare of cold stone and rotting soul as always. But internationally, well… he doesn't know what he feels, really. He has a strange warm feeling in his chest. It reminds him of that time the kid who could microwave things tried to use his Quirk to stop his heart, before being lightly scolded by his 4th grade teacher. Except that this didn't hurt. He didn't really understand it.

They stare at each other like that for a while, neither saying anything. He eventually breaks the silence. "So, when do I get out of here, Doctor?"

His sister opens her mouth as if about to say something, but softly closes it and shakes her head briefly. "Oh, right... once" She pauses again, chewing her lips like she wants to say something but part of her knows she can't. "... once we have your account details and everything is paid for we will give you back your things and you will be free to go…" She finishes quietly, guiltily.


The transaction went fairly painlessly. He likes that. He got his stuff back. He isn't really distraught at the fire burning his home down. Everything he owned of value was in his bag anyways. And the lack of shelter wasn't much of a problem. He'd had to fend for himself whenever Cynthia went on vacation anyways.

Life would go on mostly the same, except somehow also entirely different. Cynthia was dead. With his twisted, broken grimace of a smile bathed in the bloody light of the setting sun, he began the long walk back to Jax.

He was free.

Chapter Text

END OF ACT I



Chapter Text

ACT II


BREWING STORMS IN THE LONG DARK OF THE SOUL

Chapter Text

The walk back to Jax was a long one. The snow didn't help. He doesn’t know how long it actually took, but by the time he was back on the outskirts of his familiar hometown, the sun had risen. He doesn’t go back “home” for two reasons. The first is that he’s not an idiot, he hadn’t forgotten that the building had burnt down. The second is that it wasn’t a home. It was just somewhere he usually slept. A home is somewhere you live. He doesn’t.

He doesn’t panic at the thought of nowhere to spend the night. Primarily because panic is such a rare emotion for him. But also because he has plans for this kind of thing. He’s... well not exactly used to sleeping outside of the apartment, but he’s familiar enough with it. Whenever he missed curfew or Cynthia was on vacation, he slept in the junkyard, on a stained mattress he found, away from where anyone might question what the hell he was doing on their property

He always figured that if anything happened he’d just… move there. He could survive living on his own. If he was being honest with himself, he’d been able to do it for a long time. He doesn’t really know why he stayed with Cynthia. Some kind of sick, twisted sense of obligation, he supposes. It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t mourn for her. He’d finally been able to kill that pesky little part of himself that still foolishly longed for her love and approval. And now that part of him is as dead as Cynthia.

He grins almost painfully as he walks towards the scrapyard, his muscles not used to the action. She’s dead. Everytime he thought that it sent shivers down his spine. Strange. It wasn’t fear, like whenever he faced Cynthia or Maxie, and he wasn’t quite that cold yet. Whatever it was, he’s pretty sure it isn’t the normal reaction for a person to have towards knowing someone is dead. But he isn’t a person, now is he?


As he nears the junkyard, another shiver claims his bones, a real one, from the cold. He curses himself, remembering the paper thin scraps of fabric that he used as “sheets” at the junkyard. He could go without the proper insulation, but it would suck ass, and he’d probably get frostburn. He wants to avoid that. The results… aren’t pretty, to say the least. Maybe he could start a fire for a little while so he could rest before scrounging the dumpsters for scraps...

He suddenly stops in his tracks. He could just… buy a blanket. The thought is unfamiliar to him, foreign. He’s not used to being able to just… have stuff. He’s had money for things, but he’d always had to worry about Cynthia finding whatever it is and selling it before beating his ass til next week. It always had to be something small that he could keep with him at all times, like cigs or his lighter. Hell, the biggest thing he;d ever bought was his trenchcoat, but even that was mostly made up of his own recycled fabric to patch up the ragged, torn material.

But what was Cynthia going to do now? Crawl out of the grave specifically to tear the blanket from his grip? He can just… do that now. He’s not used to it. Not exactly unwelcome either. He pivots around his foot and alters his path, heading for the supermarket. They’d have what he needs, right? He wasn’t really all that familiar with stores or shopping. Cynthia didn't trust him enough to have him do her groceries. Well, he’ll learn more soon.


His first thought is of just how big it was.

He knew it wasn’t that big, Jax was a small town, the hulking building in Kezel easily dwarfing this relatively puny one. But still, it seemed impossibly bigger on the inside. There was just… so much stuff. Aisle upon aisle of shelves, filled with unfamiliar items. The word ‘conveniences’ drifts to the forefront of his somewhat shocked mind. He begins to walk around the store, mind slightly numb from the overload.

A few of the aisles were somewhat familiar to him, stocked with junk food, almost like the shelves he can see from the gas station window. Just… bigger. Like everything here. He almost gets used to the new store before he is met with an aisle filled with colors so blindingly bright and saturated that they hurt his eyes and almost don’t seem real.

Damn… that is a lot of blood… someone should probably clean that up. Can’t be good for the shelves…’ He thinks impassively, nonplussed.

It takes him a moment to realize that the shelves are not, in fact, covered with bloody items. The closest color to these vibrant hues he can remember ever seeing in real life is from his own blood or Maxie’s hair. It’s like a computer screen was haphazardly slapped onto reality. He doesn’t like it. These colors aren’t supposed to exist outside of a computer.

Upon closer inspection he can see what the row actually is; All Might. An entire row of shelves filled with brightly colored plastic and fabric, the Top Hero’s signature grinning face plastered all over. He walks up to a particularly confusing shelf. Rows and rows of miniature versions of All Might’s body in bright packaging resting on top of a shelf with a sign that proudly exclaims “50% OFF!”. He picks up a package, confused. The Small Might is clearly still in one piece.

“Ah, eyeing the clearance section, I see. I can assure you, it’s a great deal!” Suddenly says a voice from behind him. He turns around to see a shopkeeper looking at him with an almost kind face. It doesn’t fool him. He’s somewhat old, with a balding head and graying hair, but relatively little wrinkles and a strong body. “Noticed I’ve never seen you around here, so I decided to come say hi.”

They stare at each other for a moment before he speaks to the shopkeeper, whose name tag says Gregson. “... what is this?” He asks the man.

A look of confusion crosses his face before he gives him a warm smile that crinkles the corners of his eyes. Who is he fooling with the nice act? “Why, that’s an All Might action figure, sonny! You hit yourself on the noggin or something the like?”

He had, in fact, gotten “hit on the noggin” recently, but that has nothing to do with his unfamiliarity. “...okay, but what does it do?” He asks Gregson, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion.

“Why, it does all kinds of things!” Gregson replies cheerfully. “For example, if you press that little button on his chest, he talks!”

“Oh…” He says, nodding thoughtfully. He thinks he’s starting to understand now. “So it tells you like, how to do fighting moves, or facts about hero history? So it’s like, a study tool?”

“Um… no?” Gregson replies, dumbfounded at his response.

“So... it’s something you buy just to kinda… have? There’s no utility? No point?” He questions, confused and frustrated.

“Well, if you look at it like that..” The shopkeep trails off.

He quietly sets the Small Might back on the shelf. “Do you sell blankets?”

“Uh, yes. Yes we do” Gregson answers, still a little confused by this exchange.

“Where?” He asked, turning to face him fully.

Gregson points to where he can find blankets, and he mutters a quick thank you to the confused man before walking in the direction specified. He decides to just buy the damn blanket and then get the hell out of there as soon as possible.

Chapter Text

It took some time, but the Quirkless teen eventually started adjusting to his newfound agency. It was both wonderful and terrible. It was overwhelming. At times he felt a kind of euphoria he had never known before, like every cell of his being was pumped full of the nectars of life, and as if the whole of the cosmos was singing to him. Other times he feels as if he is drowning, the weight of his every decision crushing him.

He had spent the last week or so improving his ‘living situation’, if one could call it that, as it had been little more than just a mattress lying on the dirty ground between two precariously stacked piles of scrap. He had decided the clearing with his ‘grill’ to be sufficient, and began preparing. The first thing he did was use a sizable piece of sheet metal to shovel the dirty snowfall off of the ground. The rest of the day was spent scouting suitable pieces of scrap: things that were sturdy but also not load bearing. He spent the next few days moving his selected items, washing machines and fridges and such, and stacking his selected building materials.

He was left with a small enclosure, barely bigger than the mattress he built it to protect, with ‘walls’ made of appliances and covered with a roof of sheet metal, weighed down by the unrecognizable guts of some long decayed machine. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. It was a monumental effort, especially considering his skeletal frame and malnourished body. He reckons used his muscles more in those days of newly acquired freedom than he had in his entire life, his muscles nearly constantly aching and burning. By the end he had built up some muscle, the lean, dense kind one only gains through hard labor.

He’s still not entirely used to the idea of being able to just… have things. It almost feels like cheating, really. He’s bought a few things besides the blanket, but he mostly stuck to his previous ascetic, utilitarian lifestyle. Everything he buys has a purpose. The most useful item he owns now, though, by far, is the old laptop he bought. It’s an old model, an ancient slab of circuitry, metal and plastic. Well, ancient by computer standards at least. He obviously doesn't have Wi-Fi in the ramshackle shithole he just built, but the J.P.L. does. While he still has to go there to interact with clients, he is no longer limited by the two hours of the public computers. And, he can do voice calls thanks to the headset he had gotten.

So, here he was, curled up in a quiet corner of the Jax Public Library at 22:00, looking through his direct messages. Huh. That was weird. He has a message from someone in Japan. He doesn’t get foreigners too often. Either his reputation has reached farther than he thought, or someone is really desperate. He opens up the chat window and is greeted by a message written in kanji and kana. Joy.

There’s a reason he does foreign through voice; it's not exactly ideal to type Japanese on his american laptop. He opens the call and is greeted with a soft voice on the other side.

Um, h-hi?” The young, uncertain voice stammers in accented English.

“(Relax, kid. I know Japanese. There’s a reason I do things over voice.)” He replies in faintly accented Japanese, in a voice that reminds one of broken glass and rusty barbed wire.

The voice lets out a meek “Eep!”, likely due to the sound of his voice. God, this kid can’t be older than, what, 13? The person on the other side of the call clears his throat, and seems to steel his nerves.

(Um, this is Blank Null, c-correct? I um, I have the right person…?)” The meek voice trails off, mumbling slightly. Jeez, he really doesn’t sound confident. He hopes this doesn't take as long as he thinks it might

“(Yeah, that’s me. Spit it out kid, I don’t have all day.)” He sighs. Just get to the point.

(R-right! So, I uh.. I hear you’re really good at Quirk Analysis, umm… good enough for your reputation to reach me, so uhh.. I w-was wondering something? And I was hoping you could answer it for me?)” The shy voice almost whispers.

“(Yeah sure, I can do that.)” He sighs, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose. “(Name?.)”

(Pardon?)

“(Your name. I sure as hell am not going to call you ‘all-might-plus-ultra-fan’ for this entire conversation.)” He explains flatly.

(Oh, i-its Midoriya, Null-Senpai.)” The voice replies more firmly than before.

“(Don-don’t call m-you know what, just-just whatever… What’s your query, Midoriya?)” He replies, just the tiniest bit more dead on the inside.

(I w-was wondering…)” Midoriya says, conviction growing with each word, “(Can someone Quirkless become a hero!?)

He sucks in a breath. ‘This kid is Quirkless? And at 13, he’s still hopeful, but desperate enough to come to me for help? God, who’s been leading this kid along? I gotta break it to him now. The longer he goes on without confronting the truth, the more ugly it’s gonna be once the truth confronts him.’

He’s silent for a while before speaking again, quieter this time. “(Midoriya, can you keep a secret?)”

(Yes!)” Comes the near-instant reply, firm and confident and without hesitation.

“(Midoriya, I’m Quirkless.)” He swears he can hear the kid’s breath hitch. “(So, know that I’m speaking from experience when I say this.)”

The other side is deathly silent, not a single breath coming through.

“(You can’t be a hero if you don’t have a Quirk.)” He hears a strangled choking noise from the other end. “(Real sorry kid, but that’s just how it is. If you’re Quirkless, you can’t become anything. I haven’t told a single person on this entire damn site they’re dealing with a filthy Quirkless, other than you. And you know what would happen if my secret got out? I guarantee all business would stop, it doesn’t matter how good I am, all I would be to them would be something pathetic to ridicule.)”

He hears faint sobbing from Midoriya, and for a brief moment, he’s overcome with something, a feeling, for the first time in what feels like an eternity.

Rage.

Rage grips his heart and his soul, rage at this society that allows people to build dreams only to crush them, rage at whoever led Midoriya on for so long, and rage at himself for having to be the one to destroy his hopes. Above all, however, he feels rage at the fact that people like Midoriya seem to worship those who despise them.

“(Give up, kid. I’m sorry. You don’t have to pay me for this. That one’s for free.)” He disconnects the call and leans back, sighing. He suddenly feels tired. So, so tired.

Chapter Text

The winter break had ended, and he was back at school once again. If anyone noticed the subtle changes in his behavior, his increased irritability and misanthropy, no one said anything. The conversation with Midoriya had opened a leak in a vast reservoir of corked resentment within him. It was a small leak, yes, but a persistent one. Long forgotten emotions were trickling into the empty vessel where his heart was cut out, and the effects were already starting to show.

Case in point; Maxie. She approaches him like usual, but recently he’s been feeling something other than fear when he sees her; annoyance. At least he thinks its annoyance. He’s not good with all these new emotions. He doesn't shake in fear when she walks up to him, just feels done with it and exhausted. She’s noticed it, and has become pissier and pissier.

“HEY! NERD!” She yells as she lifts him by his shirt collar a good few feet off the ground, and pins him against the wall. “Who the fuck do you think you are, ignoring me!?”

He simply fixes her with a tired stare, his eyes almost identical to the same dead gaze his classmates had become accustomed to but with an almost unnoticeable hint of a sort of cold fire lurking in the back of his eyes. Needless to say, Maxie did not like it. “Can I help you with something, Maxie?” He says with a sigh. “I have a class to get to.”

“Where the fuck is my homework you little shit?” She growls, leering at him with her teeth bared. “You been skimping out on me?!”

“I’ve done all my homework.” He says, narrowing his eyes and letting the slightest edge of annoyance creep into his voice. “If you have homework, you can do it yourself. Everyone else seems to think you’re a smart girl, I’m sure you can handle it.”

Maxie narrows her eyes further, her face contorting in rage. She growls and pulls him closer, raising a foot up in a threat. Before she can make good on her promise of pain however, he calmly pulls out a switchblade and cuts away the section of his shirt she was holding, dropping him to the ground where he calmly walks off. Maxie stares at him, confused, too bewildered by his sudden change in character to do anything but stand there clutching a torn piece of fabric.

He doesn’t notice it when Maxie pockets the scrap of clothing greedily.

He gets to his class in time, and the teacher glances at the tear in his shirt that leaves some of his chest exposed. He almost looks surprised, like he didn’t expect the scars in the teens chest. He simply lets out a quiet growl and shoots a glare back as he takes his seat. His other classmates look at him curiously. It was the most emotion they’d ever seen from him. Not exactly a high bar when he’d acted like a rock for most of his life, but still. His teacher seems to shake himself out of whatever funk he was in once the bell rings, and begins lecturing.

“Today we are going to be starting our unit on Trigonometry, and we will be starting out with the three basic Trigonometric functions: Sine, Cosine, and Tangent. Now, to explain what these mean, please focus your attention on this right triangle…”

He tunes out the lesson. He learned this stuff years ago. It occurs to him he could probably test out of highschool if he wanted. An intriguing thought, definitely. He files it away for later. He pulls out his notebook and gets to work on commissions.


He’s back at “home”, and he can’t focus. He keeps going back to the way Maxie treats him, to the forbidden thought that he had banished with ultimate conviction so long ago. He was considering opening the gates, just the tiniest bit, and letting that thought once more wriggle its way into his mind. Maybe… he was a person? Maybe he didn’t deserve it. Any of it. Maybe he does deserve a life. Maybe he deserves to live. It was absurd to him. But he couldn’t shake it from his mind.

He thinks back to everything Cynthia did to him. The person who was supposed to care for him who instead tore him down and made him less than worthless. His thoughts go to Maxie, who took such sick, sadistic pleasure in causing him pain and suffering. His teachers, who didn’t even seem to notice the countless times he was openly singled out and bullied, and didn’t seem to give a damn even if they did. He thinks back to Midoriya, the boy who was so like him. Who had likely been beaten down as much as he had, yet still worshipped those who told him he was nothing. An intense feeling bubbled up in his chest.

Rage. A primal, savage rage from the deepest chambers of his psyche, embedded there by evolution itself. The dam holding back the storming waves of bitterness and anger and resentment suddenly broke.

He didn’t scream. He didn’t kick things. He didn’t throw a tantrum. The only physical reaction was a slight twitching of his eyes. Instead, his rage coiled around his soul inside of him like a snake of liquid fire. It warmed his insides and filled him with an energy he had never known. Cold rage and burning hate swirled inside him as sharp as a sword and as hard as a shield.

A single thought occupies his mind, louder and clearer than anything he’d ever thought. A single conviction powered by a lifetime of repressed emotion.

Something needs to change.

He walks out of his shack, movements twitchy and stiff, limbs struggling to contain the power now held within him. He knows it is something precious, something to only be spent carefully and sparingly.

Picking up a rusty hammer from his collection of tools, he walks around the scrapyard until he finds what he was looking for. A suitably sized piece of sheet metal. He grabs it and carries it to his “workshop” area. Holding his hammer above his head and, calling on a fraction of his cold, measured fury, he brings the hammer down.

The metal deforms with a CLAANG.

He lets out a feral, twisted grin, and begins creating his first tool and himself, both forged out of hate and society’s trash.

Chapter Text

He worked on his project whenever he could, the scrapyard he had taken to calling “home” filled with the clangs of metal being beaten into shape by hammer and will alone. He could see it so clearly, its image so vivid in his mind’s eye, it was like he could reach a hand down into the shattered glass of his psyche and pluck it out into reality.

He leans back, away from the piece of metal he had been working, panting heavily. He wipes the sweat from his brow, steam rolling from the sheen of his sweaty skin, made visible in the chill of the January air. He pauses for a few moments before bending back over to continue working on his current piece, a small traffic sign. He’d found it along with a load of others just sitting around deep in the scrapyard. Apparently the city had just dumped them there because they weren’t reflective. He doesn’t really great though, cause it's an easy source of aluminum. He doesn’t use steel. Too heavy.

Said sign is currently on top of an old pipe that's about as thick as the meatiest part of his forearm, in the process of being hammered into shape. He learned early on that if he wants anything good, he’s better off using a form. So that’s why he's currently a sweaty mess wearing only pants and a tank top, beating the shit out of a “PEDESTRIAN CROSSING” sign thats laying on top of a rusty pipe.

After a few more minutes of clanging and banging echoing throughout the scrapyard, he decides that the metal is sufficiently curved. Of course, his arm is not a cylinder. He knows that. He’s not an idiot. He lifts the sign off of the pipe and puts it on another pipe. This one’s smaller, just a bit larger than his wrist, enough for padding. He starts hitting it again, but only one end of it, creating a taper. After a few minutes he has to flip it and the pipe over, to get the two tapered corners to overlap.

He fully stands up now, panting and heaving, stretching his back. He walks over to a bottle of water he kept near his work area and takes a gulp. He walks back over to the pipes and retrieves the in-progress bracer. Looking at his handiwork, he lets a ghost of a smirk lick at his lips.

Not done, not by a longshot… but, it’s starting to come together...

He walks across his workspace over to his “workbench” which is really just a doorless fridge he laid on its front, with various tools and materials resting on it.. He grabs some of thick nylon webbing he had bought, wrapping it around his wrist in a loose fit. Satisfied with the wrap he had found, he marked off the amount of material before unwinding it. Laying the webbing on the table, he leans over it and begins cutting the length with a box cutter. He pulls out his ever-present lighter from his pocket and, forming the resultant strip into a loop, uses it to melt the ends together. Nodding to himself, he puts the loop on the workbench and returns to his latest metal piece.

Clamping the bracer to the fridge with his foot, he takes the hand operated drill he bought and begins drilling where the two corners of metal overlap. It takes him a while. Metal always looks thinner before you start drilling through it. Using a hand powered drill doesn't exactly make things any quicker. An hour or so later, he has four more holes; two near the wrist and two near the elbow. He decides to take a “break”. Which, of course, is just less intense work. He was never one to laze about.

He sits down on a battered metal chair in front of his work table that has his coat draped over it. He wipes the sweat from his fevered form and takes several deep gulps of water from his bottle. He puts the bottle back down and grabs some of the cheap foam padding sitting on one corner of his work table. He lays it inside the bracer, using his lighter to soften the foam and help it retain its shape. He cuts off the excess foam with his boxcutter, leaving an even layer of padding on the inside of the metal.

He makes another loop of nylon webbing, this time instead of using his wrist, he uses the thickest part of his forearm, just before his elbow. He clamps both of the loops to their respective places on the bracer, preparing to make the holes. He grabs a pair of pliers from the workbench’s surface, using it to hold his “sacrificial rivet”. He holds said rivet over the flame of his lighter for a few minutes, making sure to get it hot. When he feels it's sufficiently hot, he puts his lighter down, picks up the to-be-bracer, and plunges it through one of the holes he drilled in the metal, melting through the foam and nylon.

After repeating this for all five holes, he places a metal washer over one of the holes, followed by a rivet through it. It’s a bit awkward, but he fits his rivet gun inside the bracer and, using his newly acquired upper body strength, pops it. He looks down at the crude piece of protection and gives a feral grin.

Almost done…


Looking at himself in the mirror, his gnarled grimace-grin is on full display. Not that anyone else is watching. It took two weeks, but he had finally finished his first project, and in a sense, finished himself. It was a crude suit of armor, made with scrap metal, secured to nylon webbing with rivets and washers, and padded with cheap foam. But it’s enough.

It probably looked like, well, trash. But he doesn’t care. He isn’t smiling at how it looks, but how it doesn’t look. That is, he made it slim enough that he could fit it on under his normal clothes without much giving it away, his loose trenchcoat hiding the bumps. He looked normal. No one would suspect a thing.

He takes a single step and immediately realized he needs to revise his design. The bare straps are probably going to chafe like a bitch. He’s gonna have to get some underclothes…

Oh well. A small problem. He can solve that easily. He licks his lips. ‘This is gonna be fun...


It starts as a fairly normal school day for him. Get insulted by his peers, ignored by the teachers, and thoroughly bored with the subject matter that he had long since mastered. The usual. If anyone notices something different with his appearance, they don’t say anything.

Maxie had grown more and more agitated as his project went on, furious that she had to do her own homework for once. She, of course, did more than just bitch him out, giving him numerous wounds when no one could stop or see her. He didn't care. Let her hurt him. It would make it all the more satisfying when she tried to do it again, only to find she could not.

He's sitting at his desk, pencil idly tapping against it as he stares out the window. Usual behavior from him. 'Probably gonna test out of this bullshit. It's boring as hell. I'll talk to my counselor next week, maybe? Yeah, that sounds good…' He is snapped out of his musing by a shout from his teacher.

"Devlin!" Oh, yeah. That's what Mattimiro calls him. She must want him to give the answer to the next problem. "Wh-"

"Root three over two." He replies blandly, not even looking at her as he cuts her off in a flat monotone before she can finish asking the question. He solved all the problems as she was writing them on the board, and he's not so inattentive that he didn't know what problem they were on.

"... Correct." Mattimiro says after a pause. He can feel her staring at him for another beat before she turns her attention back to the rest of the class and continues her lesson. Everybody is a bit quiet for a little while after that.

Vaguely, it occurs to him that it might have been the first time he'd actually responded to a question at this school. He usually just stays quiet until the teacher asks someone else. It was probably a bit of a shock to his classmates to see him give the correct answer before the question was even finished being asked. Oh well.

Nothing much really changes for a while, him just silently staring out at the dead, snow covered branches outside. The bell rings, and he gets up to leave, never even haven taken out any supplies. He feels stares on him, ever so slightly different, but after so long even that slight irregularity is as jarringly noticeable as a cannon shot in the middle of a song. He pays them the same reaction that he does to the normal stares; which is to say, none.

He walks out the door and down the hall to his next class, his cold, tired eyes scanning the floor in front of him, ever vigilant. He walks for naught but one minute before hearing the telltale click-clacking of talons on tile and a familiar, expected growl from behind him.

"Think you can ignore me, nerd!?" She barks quietly a few feet behind him. "You better fucking have my homework today if you don't want another beating, you Quirkless little bitch! My folks aren't too happy with my tanking grades, and I'm not gonna let myself be humiliated just cause my bitch suddenly decided that he didn't wan-"

"Blow it out your ass, Maxie." He sighs, cutting her off. 'Thaaat's right, get angry… It'll make your confusion so much sweeter…' He thinks to himself, a broken smirk playing at his mangled lips.

Then, several things happened in quick succession. A roar of fury. The soft whoosh of something quickly moving through the air. The clang of something striking metal and a soft nudge to his back. A howl of pain. A rather impressive string of expletives.

He turns around to see Maxie on the floor, cradling her foot, looking up at him with rage in her twitching eyes. "What the fuck was that!?" She snarls, her voice dripping with pure malice.

"Didn't your mother ever teach you not to hit people?" He replies simply, his face kept carefully neutral despite the elation he is experiencing on the inside. He turns around and continues walking towards his class, ignoring the incredulous stares of the people who witnessed his little confrontation.


He knows that there's a place that's like the internet, but not. A place below the internet, a home to the more unsavory crowds. A place where he could get pulled into some dangerous shit if he fucked around.

At least, that's what they'd told him. All the teachers and librarians and all the other emissaries of the society that hated him so. But, everything else they told him turned out to be a big old crock of shit, so, fuck it. Why not?

It’s something he never could have done until very recently, anyways. He needs to download a special web client in order to even access it. Needless to say, the library computers didn’t allow him to install any computers, and he only just now bought a laptop because he no longer had to worry about Cynthia finding it. But, no one could stop him now, and he was curious. So, here he is, waiting patiently for the install to finish while sitting at his favorite overlooked nook in the library, out of sight of everyone.

Once it successfully installed on his machine, he starts exploring this new, forbidden section of the internet. He roots around for a little bit, and almost immediately he finds something… intriguing. It appears to be a Quirk discussion website, almost like the Forums on the regular net. Why would you need one down here, when virtually the same thing can be done on the regular net. Now he’s curious.

He makes an account, under his normal username. /blank/null. The first thing that strikes him is that rather than being a forum, it’s much more like a chat client. There’s a list of members to choose from but you can’t chat unless both parties agree. It’s essentially 100% DMs.

Makes sense… guess these guys really like their privacy. Understandable, I suppose, especially if they’re down here.

However, he notices every name is greyed out. Well, almost every name, there is a message notification next to a username with the [ADMIN] prefix attached.

Well, let’s see what that’s all about…

[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Who are you?
[1] /blank/null: /blank/null.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Sure you are. We've gotten lots of people claiming to be them, tryna get in on their clout.
[1] /blank/null: ive got clout?
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Oh, we're doing this then?

He rolls his eyes. There’s such an easy way to verify that he’s really the real /blank/null. ‘Guess I’ll have to spell it out for them… But I guess I can’t really blame him for being so paranoid, I don’t know them…

[1] /blank/null: theres a very easy way to verify my identity.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Oh? And what would that be? Please, enlighten me.
[1] /blank/null: send me a random string on the regular forums.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: And...?
[1] /blank/null: ...
[1] /blank/null: ill send it to you on here.
[1] /blank/null: the only way id know is if i had access to the account.
[1] /blank/null: which would verify my identity.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: FIne, just a second.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: There, I just sent it. Should be under a randomly generated username.

Well, at least blood-burn55 seems to be open to new ideas. That’s a start. He tabs back to his normal browser and checks his DM’s on the normal Forums, and… there. Jackpot.

He copies the string and tabs back to his conversation with blood-burn55. Hopefully this continues to go smoothly.

[1] /blank/null: Thank you.
[1] /blank/null: nv2Liuw%WW3C9xkU!CFw0MjabD%GQ&cawdbJ9WpfZ9!g2p0%5
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Oh, wow.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: It really is you.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: You know, a lot of people are going to be quite happy to finally be able to talk to you.
[1] /blank/null: finally?
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Well, you see, our little Ring caters to those who... well, lets just say they aren't exactly welcome on the normal net, and therefore the Forums.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: I do hope you understand why I was so suspicious, now. You're a hot commodity, so to speak, and the Ring prides itself on not allowing counterfeits, as it were.
[1] /blank/null: the ring?
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Yes, that's what we call our little group.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Again, I do hope you accept my apology.
[1] /blank/null: its fine, blood-burn55.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Oh! Thats one more thing!
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Outside of conversations with a given person, please refer to them with a codename seperate from their username. They'll usually give it to you at the beginning of a conversation.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Its just another layer of security, if someone were to get ahold of a chat log from here, even if you were to discuss someone other than who you're talking to, the person who broke in would have no clue which username either party is referring to.
[1] /blank/null: makes sense.
[1] /blank/null: whats your codename, then?
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: undefined.
[1] /blank/null: undefined?
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: It's a little in joke. For some reason, my username wouldn't show up at first. Something to do with the way the Ring parses text.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: I wouldn't know, I'm just an admin, not tech support.
[1] /blank/null: huh.
[2] [ADMIN] blood-burn55: Anyways, what is your codename going to be?

He pauses. A codename? But what would he put? He needs something simple. Preferably wholly unrelated to /blank/null. But what’s special about him? He isn’t. ‘Maybe something I do…?’ He thinks to his work on the Forums, and hopefully, in the Ring. He thinks about his almost encyclopedic knowledge of Quirks.

He smirks.

He knows exactly what to put.

[1] /blank/null: ...
[1] /blank/null: index

Chapter Text

His commissions in the Ring were… different from the ones on the Forums. For one thing, people usually asked about specific heroes or villains, instead of just stating a Quirk. He knows that in the past he gave analysis about the weaknesses of a Quirk that was suspiciously… "similar" to one owned by a prominent hero, or, rarely, a villain or vigilante. He knows that the majority of these clients were probably villains. He doesn't really care.

On the ring, however, nobody beats around the bush. If someone wants an analysis of Endeavor, they ask for an analysis of Endeavor. Index is thorough and diligent, and he doesn't like to half ass a project. Seeing he now knows who he has to analyze means he now has the option to search for psychological weaknesses as well. Which means he has more bases to cover. This, of course, presents a bit of a problem, as certain information of certain individuals isn't exactly public information.

Due to the flashy nature of heroics, this wasn't too hard for most targets, as they regularly gave interviews that gave insight on their personality and personal life he can use to build a somewhat rough psychological profile. He first ran into an issue when an individual from the ring contacted him with a rather lucrative commission for an analysis of Endeavor. It was fairly standard at first, but once he got into the psychological portion of the analysis, he quickly found out that there weren't any details about his home life. It was… vexing. Frustrating. He doesn't like unknowns. He tells his client that it might take a bit of extra time to finish the commission, but he'll get it done by the end of next month, at the latest. He doesn't take any more commissions for the rest of January.

He figures it's time to start something new.


He starts small, testing the waters and furthering his ability. It's the most illegal thing he's ever done, after all. He can't afford to risk being caught. He feels he's pretty good, considering how little experience he has with hacking. Of course, he can't really compare his ability to anyone because it's illegal and he doesn't hang around too many other people in general, let alone criminals, so he doesn't really know.

He was always good at learning things. It just… came easy to him. It was almost like a Quirk. He laughed to himself bitterly, a hollow, broken sound that was rough as sandpaper and raked against the mind.

The first stunt he pulled was editing the order form of Gregson's Goods, the local supermarket he frequents. The security is light and overall it's pretty easy. He replaced their order for Jumpman merchandise with a variety of clamps. A little joke to himself.

He stepped it up a little for his next exploit, going further and harder. He broke into the P.A. system for a school a few towns away, and had a little bit of fun. He played a single, loud, unbroken, high pitched squeal for ~4½ hours before their poor I.T. workers managed to fix it.

That one was awesome. It was also the first time he saw something he did in the news. He remember buying a newspaper with an article on the sudden school disruption from Gregson, who was wondering why the hell his supermarket is apparently selling industrial clamps now.

Feeling confident, he casts his net even wider still, increasing both the physical distance from himself and the security of the system he was breaking into. He decided to hack into a hospital in London for the hell of it. He could have fucked with patient data, or the life support regulation systems, but he didn’t. He wanted to cause chaos, let people know they’re not safe. He didn’t want to kill anyone.

He chose that hospital in particular because it had a reputation of “just so happening” to need to turn away the Quirkless. He doesn’t like people who aren’t honest. So, he decided that the hospital needed to be more upfront. Every single publicly visible screen in the hospital displayed the message “No, we do not serve Quirkless patients. This is a hospital, not the vet.” for 3 days. That one got an online article. They had no clue who had done it.

That was probably enough experience for the things he needed to do, but he got a bit carried away, and needed to do something a bit bigger… so, he set his sights on (likely) the most secure system in the world short of nuclear launch systems. I-Island. Idiotic? Definitely. But, he was high on the rush of his previous successes, and felt invincible. He made every single screen and projector on I-Island display “ATTENTION: DAVID SHIELD SHIT HIMSELF. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. ALL MEMBERS OF THE S.P.P.S.S. (SHIELD POO POO STERILIZATION SQUAD) REPORT TO HEADQUARTERS IMMEDIATELY”. Now that was news. Apparently, everyone else agreed, as it was front page news on every news site he could find. Again, no one knew who did it. He had to focus extremely hard to stifle his jagged, broken cackles in the library.


He realises that he got a bit carried away, and he still needs to get dirt on Endeavor, but that can wait. He needs to do something else first. While he was fucking around online and causing global disruptions, he had also been attending high school like normal. His armor made it a little easier, no one wanting to beat him up lest they break something. But, that just made it stand out even more just how… boring school was. Without the bullying it was really just him sitting around, pretending to learn things he already knows. It was a waste of time. It became more and more clear to him that he needed to get out of there.

So, here he is, sitting across his guidance counselor. She looks a bit uncomfortable. He doesn't blame her. It’s his first time seeing her, and most people are put off by his scarring at first. She seems to be trying not to stare but glances at his lips every few seconds anyways. They sit in unnerving silence for several awkward minutes before Ms. Torrence seems to compose herself, clearing her throat before speaking.

“So, Mister… Devlin, was it? What brings you to my office today?” She asks, an air of uncertainty about her.

“I would like to test out of high school.” He says bluntly in his rough voice. He studies Torrence for a moment. Her Quirk lets matter that makes contact with her hands become mildly luminescent for a few minutes after touching them, the color depending on her current emotion. Judging by the fact her pen is currently glowing a dim blue, he assumes that she accidently activated her quirk out of nervousness.

“Mister Devlin, you must know that it simply isn't that easy.” Ms. Torrence splutters after a few moments, before turning her monitor around so he can see a display of his grades. “As you can see, you are an average student, at best, what makes you think you would be able to test out of high school?”

He simply stares at her silently for a few moments, letting her squirm a little under his tired gaze. “What hoops do I need to jump through before you let me take the test?” He finally replies in a quiet but determined voice. There’s another rather lengthy period of silence before his counselor sighs.

“You know what? Fine, whatever. Just come in after school or something.” She replies exasperatedly, rubbing the bridge of her nose. He gives a short, respectful nod before standing up with a quiet thank you amd walking out the door.


He aces the test.


Now that he no longer has to waste time at school, it’s time for Index to get back to digging up dirt on Endeavor. It's not that hard for him to find private information on Endeavor's personal life, compared to his more difficult exploits. And what he finds, was, well... he doesn't like it.

From what he gathered, Todoroki Enji was, in short, a great big blazing dumpsterfire of a human being. The word "scumbag" didn't do him justice. Then again, the man seems to be immune to it. One of the first things he digs up is a summary of the billions of Yen worth of property damage he refuses to pay. He knew that the Flame Hero had a penchant for setting houses on fire, but damn. It was impressive how much his army of lawyers managed to both not pay and shove under the rug.

What he finds when he begins digging into his personal life starts painting a much more… troubling image. Rumors of a forced Quirk marriage. His wife being institutionalized for… something that no one would elaborate on other than she was "sick". That scar on his youngest. The sudden disappearance of his eldest son. Something was wrong. He has to dig deeper.

He roots around the hospital where Todoroki Rei is being held (and supposedly "treated"), and finds some audio logs from her "therapy" sessions. She sounds so… uncertain. Tight lipped. She says she caused Shouto's scar, but refuses to elaborate why. Like she's so scared of… something, that she can't even speak freely to her own "therapist". It's so confusing to him. Index obviously doesn't have much experience with "healthy" family dynamics, but even he can tell something bad is going on here.

Next, he moves on to Enji's children. Fuyumi and Natsuo seem… stable, at least. A little private and withdrawn, yes, like the rest of the Todoroki family, but, from what he found, fairly stable. He doesn't find much information on Touya. He apparently just abruptly disappeared one day. The Todorokis had apparently hired a private investigator, but that didn't really go anywhere. Which leaves just one left. Todoroki Shouto.

He doesn't like looking at Todoroki Shouto. Despite the fact their lots in life almost couldn't be more different, there's something uncomfortably… familiar about him. Even though he's about two years younger than Index, there's something unnervingly recognizable about his behavior. The way he's so distant. How he's so quiet, the quietest in the family. How carefully neutral his expression is.

He feels sick. He writes up his analysis, thorough as always, and sends it to his client. He closes his laptop and swallow roughly. He has a lot to think about.