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Haunting

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When he woke up, his head throbbed, as if warning him that opening his eyes would be a mistake. He stubbornly did it anyways, but the warnings seemed to be for naught, as the room he was in turned out to actually be pretty dim. Not empty, just dim. He groaned softly, his eyes struggling to focus for a long moment, long enough that he doesn’t get the chance to see whoever it is that’s in front of him, wiping something off the side of his neck with a cloth.

Whoever it jerks hard enough for Katsuki to hear the jangle of metal chains before they move away. He blinks a few times trying to clear the haze in his eyes.

He’s in a dimly lit room, it looks like a small bar, surrounded by the villains that had snatched him up from among his peers back at that training camp. Fuck his head hurts, and he slumps a little, trying to move his arms to grab the aching head, but he’s cuffed.

He opens his eyes and he scans the room, surrounded by villains, fuck. He recognizes all of them, from the USJ, from before he woke up, at the training camp. Well, almost all of them. There’s one he doesn’t recognize, some guy in a mask, who must be new or inexperienced seeing as he’s curled up in a chair in a corner and not taking part in this… Whatever it is.

They want him to join them, he learns pretty quickly when the hand guy explains the idea to him. They saw his performance at the sports festival, and they think he’d join them, willingly, but they’re dead wrong, as always. There’s quite a bit of back and forth, everyone seems to have something to say, except for him, the little one in the back.

He doesn’t pipe up at any point, in fact, the only reason Bakugou even remembers the kid exists is because the burnt fucker stops talking mid-sentence when the kid touches his arm.
It’s not happening, he makes that clear in plenty of words.

They all turn their attention when they hear sounds from outside. Someone must be hot on the trail, and Bakugou grins at them, glad to know that time is up for these fuckers.

It’s quick, a flurry of orders, and movement, Bakugou watches the burnt guy, Dabi, or whatever, grab the little one in the mask and he tells him to watch Bakugou while they deal with this.

He shakes his head, and he grabs onto Dabi’s hands, and Bakugou can’t see his face or hear if he says anything, but Dabi just rolls his eyes, shoves the kid’s hands off, and hurries out with the others.

The masked one has his hands outstretched toward the door, but when it closes, the hands drop to his sides, and then they come up, hugging himself as he turns to Bakugou. The mask is a little unsettling, it’s painted white, with two large eyes. He can’t see the face behind it, likely some kind of fabric there to hide the eyes of the wearer, but the eyes aren’t even the creepy part. The creepy part is the frown, that looks like it was sloppily carved into the mask by someone inexperienced with a knife. There's even a few stains of red around it, like whoever did the carving had cut themselves in their efforts to make the shape.

Bakugou watches him, as he grabs his own head and starts trembling, and suddenly the blonde is overcome with the urge to protect, because if it wasn’t obvious before, it’s certainly obvious now, that this kid isn’t exactly on level with the rest of them. Bakugou shifts a bit to lean forward, and he watches as the masked guy jumps nearly a foot in the air at the rattle of the cuffs.

He doesn’t realize the purple mist douche is still there until he talks, “Calm yourself, Nix.” The masked one, Nix, apparently, looks over to Kurogiri, and his shoulders slump a little. He looks at Bakugou, who just glares back at him. Eventually, without a word, Nix heads to the chair he’d been in earlier, and curls up again. He’s timid, and he’s obviously scared, something is wrong with this situation, Bakugou can feel it, but he can’t quite pin his finger on what, exactly is this kid’s deal.

The door opens, and the rest of the villains return turns out the sound was something else, no heroes on their way. Not yet, Bakugou corrects and gets a nasty glare from the dude with the hands, who starts scratching at his neck, like it’s a nervous tick.

There’s a small sort of huddle formed, and they discuss what Bakugou can only assume is their plans for him, and what they eventually seem to settle on is taking turns, trying to talk him into joining them, they set up shifts, and Bakugou just scowls the entire time.

They move him, after a while of more back and forth, arguments between a few of them, though Nix continues to sit in the corner quietly. The new place he’s in isn’t quite as inviting as the bar, if the bar could even be called that, it’s a lot more like a prison. He’s gagged, he’s stuck in a chair, and he’s left like that for hours, maybe even the entire night, who knows.

The point is that he doesn’t see anyone for a while, a long while, and the first one he does see is Burn Ward, who doesn’t seem all that enthusiastic about actually trying to change Bakugou’s mind, in fact he just seems to be content with a bit of time more or less to himself. Though he doesn’t talk to Bakugou much, there’s something about him that insufferably familiar, but Bakugou can’t pin that down either.

The creepy murder girl shows up later on, and she’s substantially more talkative, though what she talks about, what Bakugou figures are supposed to be tempting scenarios, don’t really do anything for him, and had he the ability to speak he’d have told her to fuck right off.

It’s stupid, and it’s annoying, and none of them are particularly convincing, but one lets it slip that All Might is hot on the trail of their whereabouts.

After that, it’s quiet for a long time, hell Bakugou almost falls asleep, he’s been awake so long anyways when the door creaks open again, but the figure that steps through is carrying something. A tray, of what Bakugou isn’t sure, not until they step closer and set the tray on the floor. It’s Nix, this time, still wearing the mask, still donned in dark clothes that obscure everything about him. Bakugou watches him through a barely cracked eye as he steps up to him, and unties the gag, softly talking to himself the whole time, though the words are hard to make out.

Bakugou tenses when he moves out of view behind him, especially so when the sizeable metal cuffs around his wrist are undone, and they drop to the floor with a metallic thud. Nix steps around to his front again and gently rocks his shoulder until Bakugou finally opens his eyes and looks up, eyes narrowed and teeth bared. Why did this idiot free him?

He swings his hands around and he blasts the villain in the face, shoving himself up, but Nix doesn’t budge. He has an arm raised, blocking the right side of his head, and Bakugou can see the smoke from his explosion drifting away from… An invisible wall? He blasts again, and Nix blocks once more, stepping back, arms at the ready, and again the smoke drifts away, and the villain is left unscathed. Bakugou tries to move quicker, but Nix is unnaturally good at predicting his moves, even if he spends the entire fight retreating until he’s pinned into a corner, blocking himself in an invisible box as he trembles.

He doesn’t move, but Bakugou doesn’t dare take his eyes away for more than a second as he scopes the room, there’s the door, obviously, but that isn’t what really catches his attention, no it’s the tray Nix brought in with him.

Resting on it is a glass of water, and a bowl of food, some rice with an egg on it. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s food, and Bakugou’s stomach lurches.

Bakugou has to remind himself that once he gets out of here, he can eat and drink as much as he damn well pleases, so he makes a break for the door. He slams into it, but it doesn’t budge, so he grabs for the handle, and he hits a wall midair. He slams his hand against it, a few times, yelling and whirling around on Nix, who has a hand extended toward him.

Invisible walls. Nix makes invisible walls. Bakugou huffs, slams his fist against the invisible wall in front of the door again, and he turns back to the char, dropping into it and folding his hands together, “I knew you couldn’t be that stupid.” Nix flinches at the word, but his hand finally, slowly, lowers, back to curl up in his lap. He doesn’t move much after that, he just watches Bakugou as he picks up the tray, and holds it out toward the villain. “I’m not eating this unless you do first. I’m not stupid either.”

Nix tilts his head a bit, but shifts a bit, crawling the short distance to the tray, and picking up the water. Bakugou would be lying if he said he didn’t lean to try and get a good look as the kid pushes his mask up, but it’s only enough to reveal his mouth, and the severe bruising that paints his jaw from one side to the other, like someone grabbed him there and weren’t gentle about it at all. He takes a drink from the glass of water, and puts it back on the tray, then takes the plastic fork to get a bite of the rice and egg.

He’s young, Bakugou had already figured that out, but judging by the looks of him like this, he couldn’t be too far in age from Bakugou, could he? Hell, he might even be younger than him. Nix swallows the food, and opens his mouth like he’s proving to him he actually did it, he didn’t just hide it to spit it out later. Satisfied, Bakugou leans back, and he drinks, and he eats. Nix fixes his mask and pushes himself back into the corner.

“What are you doing with them?” Bakugou asks, and Nix gets tense, way tenser than that question should justify, but Bakugou doesn’t press, just waits for an answer as he eats.

But it never comes. Nix never answers, he just sits in the corner, and he tangles his fingers in his mop of black hair, and he presses a hand from the front of the mask like he’s covering his mouth. Bakugou, puts the tray down, and he stands, taking a few steps closer, and Nix finally looks up flinching hard again and holding up his hands to block a blow that isn’t coming.

That urge in him that screams to save this one, who obviously isn’t evil, he’s just wrapped up in the wrong crowd, comes back in full force, and Bakugou kneels down in front of him, ready to ask more questions when there’s an explosion upstairs.

Nix jumps up, shoving Bakugou back until he’s in the chair again. He makes a gesture with his hands, like straightening a rope, and then gestures like he’s wrapping it around Bakugou’s wrists, and despite the lack of any real rope, Bakugou can feel it tight around his arms. Nix gestures like making a ball and smacks his hand over Bakugou’s mouth, and he’s gagged again, by absolutely nothing.

Nix rushes to the door, grabs the handle, and doesn’t have time to react before it blows in from the inside, slamming him against the wall so hard Bakugou can practically feel the way his bones crack. He hits the floor, and he doesn’t move, and the invisible forces that were holding Bakugou in place dissipate.

A small wave of panic rolls over him, and against his better judgment, he rushes over to Nix, instead of the hero standing in the destroyed doorway. He needs to make sure he isn’t dead, Bakugou can’t exactly save him if he’s dead. He shoves a chunk of door aside as his shoulder is grabbed, and he grabs the cracked mask on Nix’s face, pulling it off as he’s pulled away from him, and his heart practically stops.

Because it’s Deku.

His hair is dyed black, and he’s bruised to hell and back, and there’s dried blood crusted to his face, that’s just getting mixed in with fresh stuff, but it’s definitely him.

Him, who up and vanished the day Bakugou started going to UA, him who Bakugou thought had gone and offed himself, him who Bakugou has caught himself thinking of when the quiet is too much and the lights in his room can’t fight the shadows in his head.

Bakugou fights the hands on him, the hero that’s trying to save him, distantly his brain registers All Might’s voice, but he can barely hear it over his own shouting for Deku to wake up and explain himself.

The purple mist forms, and Bakugou shouts as Deku, as well as his cracked mask, fall through it, and vanish again.

Chapter Text

Bakugou spends the rest of his week reeling, he can’t focus on anything without thinking about Midoriya, who never could have become a hero, but definitely shouldn’t have ever become a villain. It just isn’t right, it doesn’t… It doesn’t add up. How did this happen?

He thinks about it, sitting in his room and turning a soda can over and over in his hands. When did he change? What happened that lead him to where he was, it didn’t make any damn sense. It’s probably a bit much to call him a villain, though, Bakugou thinks, because it isn’t like he DID anything. He sat and he hid, and he even brought Bakugou food, but the fact that he’s with them at all just doesn’t track.

His hands still, one holding the can of soda as the other runs through his hair. Fuck what a mess.

And the name they gave him, he assumes they gave it to him, Nix, nothing, literally nothing. Is that from the whole mime schtick he’s got going on now? Or is it because he’s quirkless? Well, supposed to be quirkless. He was supposed to be quirkless. Where did the quirk come from? Did he always have it, and he was hiding it, or did it develop when Bakugou wasn’t looking?

No, it had to have come later. Deku was always way too much of a nerd for quirks to have hidden one, not even from Bakugou.

When they finally deem him Not Too Traumatized To Go To School, Bakugou heads to class as he should, but his mind is still preoccupied. He wants to go back. Not to join the villains- well, yes, to join the villains, but purely as an excuse to get to Deku. But how would he even make that work? He doesn’t want to drop his schooling here at UA, he doesn’t want to actually BE a villain, but he can’t think of a way to do both.

There’s no chance in hell that he’d be able to play both sides.

He snaps into reality when a hand lands on his shoulder, and he looks up to see All Might standing over his desk. He’s gotten a bit more used to All Might’s general presence, he isn’t as starstruck as he once was, so it’s easy to relax his shoulders a bit, “You seem distracted, young Bakugou.”

“What gave it away?” he asks, though he isn’t really asking. He looks around when he realizes the room is empty, and he rolls his eyes, pushing to his feet. He shoulders his bag, and he’s about to head out, but the hand comes back. He turns to All Might, eyes narrowing in a glare, “What do you want? I need to go, lunch isn’t exactly gonna teleport itself into me.”

All Might retracts his hand, and Bakugou starts to leave when the hero speaks up, “You seemed very determined to get to that young man, despite him being a villain. I wanted to ask you about that, but there wasn’t a good chance until now.” Bakugou stops, and he leans on one of the desks, because this is gonna be a talk. All Might is gonna owe him some fucking lunch after this, that’s for sure.

“He’s not a villain.” All Might straightens, and Bakugou holds up his hands, “I know, he was with the villains, and definitely was dressed like one, but he’s not a bad kid,” he can’t be, “He was terrified, of me, and of them. Me, I get, hell, I get him being terrified of them, but…” his hands make a little circular gesture as he sorts his words out, he usually isn’t so bad at forming them, but then again he usually doesn’t try to pick them so carefully, “I know him, knew him.. We went to school together up until I came here, the day I started coming here, he disappeared. He was always so determined to become a hero up until, I dunno, sometime last year, when he just sort of dropped the whole thing, even stopped carrying around those dumb notebooks. He was a good person, though, idolized you, if that matters, so it doesn’t make sense that he’d fall into a crowd that wants you dead so bad.”

All Might has a hand on his chin, like he’s thinking, and some sort of realization must dawn on him, because his shoulders tense. “I thought I recognized him,” he starts, tapping his chin with his index finger, “I ran into that young man some months back, that sludge villain incident.” Bakugou raises an eyebrow. Deku had been involved in that? Nothing was ever mentioned about it, just that All Might had captured the sludge villain. “Yes, he was being attacked, and I saved him. He asked me for an autograph, and…” he trails off, and Bakugou leans forward a bit, intrigued by what else it could be. Knowing Deku, something about being a hero.

“He asked me if someone who didn’t have a quirk could be a hero.”

There it is.

“What did you tell him?”

All Might doesn’t answer right away, and Bakugou gets a pit in his stomach. Deku idolized All Might as much as Bakugou does, whatever he said in answer, that would be enough to make or break the kid.

“I told him the truth. That being a hero wasn’t possible without a quirk.”

Oof. Wrong answer. Bakugou winces a bit, and he drops his face into his hand, “Fuck.” He always thought that what had finally pushed Deku over the edge into that godawful depression had been him, telling him to kill himself. Bakugou sighs, “Well, the good news is he has a fucking quirk now!” he leans back, and finally pushes off the desk, “I have to go back, I have to get him out of there. He’s an annoying little shit, but whatever they’re doing to him isn’t right.” All Might’s eyes are wide, and he grabs Bakugou’s arm, probably harder than intended, since it makes Bakugou wince, and he immediately loosens his hold.

“That boy was born without a quirk, but he has one now, you say?”

Bakugou shrugs, rubbing at his arm where All Might had grabbed it, “Yeah some, like, invisible shit, like a creepy-ass mime. Invisible walls, he did this,” Bakugou copies the rope straightening gesture Deku had made before tying him up, “and tied me up, with nothing. Probably where the name comes from,” the last part is said mostly to himself, and All Might seems to be refocusing on the topic of importance.

“You can’t go back.”

“Like fuck I can’t go back!” Bakugou snaps, “Those bastards want me, right? So I just go and find them, or something, and I tell them I want in. I bet they’d even let me keep coming here, if they’re that desperate to have me, I could play fucking double agent, it’d be like a spy movie, and it would be fucking awesome.” All Might’s got his hands held up, gesturing for Bakugou to lower his voice, as he’s gotten kind of loud.

All Might shakes his head, “Young Bakugou, we have already lost one student this year, we can’t lose another.” Bakugou’s eyes drift over to the other side of the class, where the ever empty seat Iida once occupied is, with a vase of flowers in the chair. “If you are so determined, I cannot stop you, but if you can be patient, something can be done, just not at this time. The risk is too high, you’re not trained for any sort of espionage, and not to mention it may already be too late for your friend.”

“He wasn’t my friend,” Bakugou corrects, narrow gaze finally returning to All Might, “He was a useless, quirkless, pain in my ass, but I’m smart enough to acknowledge the fact that he isn’t a bad guy. I’m getting him out of there.”

All Might nods, “We will talk details later, for now, young man, you still need to go and eat lunch.”

Bakugou nods, and without as much as a goodbye, he leaves the classroom.

 

--

 

It’s six months before Bakugou sees that carved frown again. He’s in his second year, and he swears he passes that mask on the street one day on his way home for the weekend. If he’d been paying more attention he might’ve recognized Hands McFuckface too, but the only one that caught his eye was the Nix mask (chipped paint around the crack, and the frown, so it’s the same one), so he turns and follows where he’s sure he saw them go.

He can barely see him through the crowd, he’s still pretty small, and the fact that he seems to walk with his shoulders hunched doesn’t make him any more visible, (distantly, somewhere in his mind, Bakugou knows that must be the point), but he follows who he thinks is him until they turn down an alley.

Bakugou hurries, pushing people aside until he reaches the mouth of the alleyway, and his breath catches when it’s a dead end, and empty. There’s no way out except for where Bakugou is standing, and there’s no one in the little alley. Shit, he must have imagined it. He shakes his head, and he turns to head back toward home.

He doesn’t bring it up to his parents, they don’t need to know. He hangs around, and he spends some time with his parents, after dinner he excuses himself, and tells them he’s going to Kirishima’s to hang out.

“Be home by midnight!” his mom yells from somewhere in the house.

“I’ll be back as late I want, hag!” Bakugou yells in answer before slamming the door, and heading out to the sidewalk.

He is not, in fact, going to Kirishima’s, but lying is one of those things he’s been practicing to get really good at. It’s gonna be a good skill, in another year and a half, when he goes to join the villains to find, and save, Deku.

It took some serious convincing, and a lot of planning, but he talked All Might into letting him go undercover, in a way.

Once he graduates, he’s gonna put on a show of rebellion, see if he can’t get those fuckers interested, maybe they’ll reach out to him again. That’s the idea at least. He might have to seek them out. Point is, he has a plan, and on weekends, he’s been hanging out with All Might, and sometimes Mr. Aizawa, to get him ready for it. Another upside, he can still do the double agent thing and grab intel for the pro heroes in his life. Fun stuff.

Or at least it is fun, until All Might gets sick.

 

--

Bakugou found out about One for All early in his second year, after All Might had passed it onto one of the graduating students, and his health declined… Pretty rapidly after that. Then after an altercation with some of the villains, it seemed like it was gone forever, except in small fits and bursts. It certainly wasn’t enough to be All Might anymore. Despite his sickly figure, he pressed on, fine, for a while, just weaker, but by the time Bakugou was about to finish his second year, the former number one hero passed peacefully in his sleep, at least.

It was after the funeral that Bakugou saw Nix again.

He’s out, just wandering, getting himself lost afterwards because if he stops now he might, like, cry or something, and he’d rather avoid that. He feels eyes on him, and he’s gotten pretty good at knowing when he gets that feeling, it’s probably right. So he looks around, subtly as possible. It’s probably just some girl checking him out, which is nice and everything, but he doesn’t have time for that shit right now.

Finally his eyes land on two big black eyes, watching him, definitely watching him. He watches the mask as the wearer tilts their head. The paint has curled almost completely from the mask at this point, there are still a few shreds of it around the edges, and the eyes, but the little remaining paint still bubbled and curled, the mask must’ve gotten wet. Without the paint on it Bakugou can clearly see the crack that runs down the middle, into one of the eyes, and the deep rust stains of blood around the eyes and frown.

Bakugou changes his course slightly, and he aims toward the alley. Nix straightens up, and then ducks behind the wall. Bakugou picks up his pace a bit. He isn’t sure what he’s even gonna do if he gets to him, but he can figure that out in a minute.

He rounds the corner, and Nix is there, a little ways down, hands held up defensively.

He turns to run, and Bakugou throws a hand out, yelling before he has a chance to think, “I can save you!”

Nix stops, shoulders tensing, and he whirls around to look at Bakugou again. Bakugou doesn’t move, not at first, he just stays there, hand out. Like… Like he’s expecting Deku to take it, and leave with him, so Bakugou can get him out of there, so Bakugou can do what he’s supposed to. Save him.

Nix takes a step back, and then another, shaking his head and holding out his hands.

Bakugou makes a break for it, for him, wanting to get to him before he has a chance to get out the other side.

Nix stops in his tracks, turning fully to face Bakugou, and Bakugou's heart lurches in hope for a half second before he sees the villain is throw a hand up, reaching for Bakugou’s face. His palm meets Bakugou’s forehead, Bakugou reaches to grab, but his hands hit one of those stupid invisible walls. He’s shoved back, hard, harder than he thought Deku could ever push him, and he falls backwards. When he looks up again, Nix puts his hands on the walls, then brings them together, and the bricks seem to multiply, coming together to make a new wall.

Bakugou jumps to his feet, pointing his palms down and blasting himself over the wall, because he isn’t about to let this stop him, but by the time he reaches the top, Nix is nowhere to be seen. Bakugou practically snarls in frustration, and tries to land on the wall that the other made, but his foot goes right through it, and as such, Bakugou goes right through it, hitting the ground in the middle with a curse.

He stands up, and he shoves a hand at the wall Deku made, but it slips right through. It’s a fake wall.

Another quirk?

Bakugou heads out the other side of the alley, where he’s sure Deku went, and he looks around, but he doesn’t see him. Doesn’t see anyone. He shakes his head, and he rubs his eyes, because he can still hear them. He can hear people, and when he tries to step out of the alley he runs into something- someone, and they tell him to watch where he’s going.

He steps back into the alley, and he rubs his head, which is starting to hurt, until eventually, with an almost audible pop, the pain disappears, and Bakugou shakes his head as he looks up. Everything’s back to normal, people are milling about, and that wall is gone.

He goes for the wall first, running a hand over the bricks where it was. It’s... It’s definitely another quirk. Whatever one Deku had before, Bakugou doubts it could do this, whatever it was. Make Bakugou see things, or some shit.

Either way it makes his blood boil, that Deku got away again. He’s gonna make the little shit pay for making Bakugou chase him.

Chapter Text

At graduation, Bakugou put on a show. A few people were warned about the outburst he was going to have, despite how substantially his anger issues have improved over the past few years, he kept it up for publicity reasons, he’s kind of known for it now. Though his closest friends at UA know that it’s all for show when he burns down the podium that Yaoyorozu is standing at.

Not everyone in his class was made aware of his plans post-graduation, but Momo was, especially since she was going to be pretty much directly in the line of fire for Bakugou’s tantrum.

Kirishima, however, is the most aware, because despite Bakugou’s attempts during first year, Kirishima wiggles his way into his personal space, and just sort of… Well, he grew on him, and Bakugou wanted at least one or two people to have an idea until he’s able to get what needs to be done, done.

Kirishima asked him what exactly his plan was, once he got his friend out, and Bakugou told him that he wasn’t sure, and that Deku was not his friend. As far as Bakugou was concerned, Deku was just another little shit that needed saving, another villain who could go for some serious therapy, and then maybe he could be a barely productive member of society.

The trick now is just to get him out of there and get him some help.

It’s a daunting task, especially since Bakugou knows that the leader of this particular group is All Might’s, like, complete opposite. All for One, apparently. He didn’t get the chance to give Bakugou the whole story before he passed, so now Bakugou is going in almost blind to what the leader of the group is like. He thought it was Hands McFuckface, but apparently not.

A week after graduation, Bakugou is approached at a coffee shop, by someone he doesn’t recognize. Some petite girl with big green eyes, and a slightly manic look about her. She reminds him of that stabby bitch, but she definitely isn’t, with her bright purple hair and pointed teeth. She sits in front of him, with a cup held between her hands, her nails are sharpened to dangerous points, and she has this grin that makes Bakugou shift.

“Can I help you?” he asks, eyes dropping back down to his phone. He hadn’t expected someone so soon, but hey, that just means it worked. Her smile doesn’t falter, and she offers him her hand for a shake.

“Shinohara,” she greets, and Bakugou reluctantly shakes her hand. “You’re that guy who threw a tantrum at UA graduation, right?” Her smile has shifted down to a smirk, and she watches Bakugou over the rim of her cup.

“Yeah. What of it?”

“I represent a certain group, and we’re interested in you coming and joining us,” she explains, shrugging shallowly, “I wasn’t there when this happened last, but word has it they’ve extended this invitation to you before, but you were too tied up in your morals to give them a chance.” She pouts, sticking her lip out dramatically.

Bakugou takes a moment to breathe, trying not to let a grin spread across his own face. Shit, this is gonna be easier than he thought. “Yeah, I remember that. I wasn’t as, I dunno, aware then, as I am now. People are so fucking annoying.” He sips his coffee. He sets the cup aside and leans back in his chair, “You guys really want me so bad you’d risk your life to give me a second chance? What’s to keep me from kicking your ass here and now?”

Her smile grows, and she reaches into her pocket, but holds up a hand when she catches Bakugou going tense in his chair. She pulls out a phone, taps on it for a few moments, and then sets it down, showing Bakugou the video from graduation, of his staged meltdown. “No one with this much anger can truly use it for good,” she says softly, leaning close over the table, “right?”

Bakugou watches the video, biting the inside of his cheek. The freakout was extremely over the top, but damn was it fun to put on, and Bakugou can’t help himself from smirking just a little at the video. It seems to be all Shinohara needs, because she takes the phone back, and replaces it with a napkin. It has a location, a date, and a time on it. A meeting place, obviously. “If you show, we’ll know you’re interested, if you don’t, well… Maybe next time.” Bakugou looks up, but Shinohara’s already heading for the door.

He looks back down to the napkin and turns it over in his hands.

Perfect.

--

It’s three days later, and he shows up where he should, when he should, and he’s alone outside the closed store for about fifteen minutes before Shinohara shows up, smiling at him. With her is a tall, lanky person, wearing a medical mask, whose eyes light up at the sight of Bakugou. A couple feet behind them is Nix. Bakugou’s eyes go to him immediately.

The mask has been repainted, a crimson red color, with black paint outlining the frown and the sharp teeth, the eyes as well. Bakugou has to tear his eyes away, because if he stares at him too much, they might think something is up. His eyes snap back to Shinohara.

“Evening, Bakugou,” Shinohara greets, bowing a little, “This is Tao,” she gestures to the tall one and Bakugou gives a slow nod in greeting, “and this is Nix.”

“Yeah. We’ve met.” Bakugou says, giving Nix a nod. The mask tilts, and then nods, and Nix takes a step up. Toa offers a hand, and Nix shakes his head, Bakugou turns back to Shinohara, “When you fuckers kidnapped me four years ago, he was there,” he gestures to Deku with his chin, “Got his ass knocked out by All Might when they came to get me out.” Nix’s head drops a little, and Bakugou bites the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling at that.

“I heard about that,” Shinohara says softly, and she shrugs, “It's in the past. If Nix can see it in himself to forgive you for the inconvenience, I don’t see any reason to hold it against anyone.” She shrugs, and then looks to Nix, reaching out to tap his shoulder when he doesn’t respond. He twitches a bit at the contact, and then looks at her, then Bakugou, then shrugs, waving his hands a bit and taking a step back. “Oof,” Shinohara huffs, “ouch, you couldn’t even get Nix to forgive you. That’s a fucking feat.” She laughs, this light sound, and Bakugou sighs.

“Can you just take me to whatever rundown shit-shack you guys are calling home these days, or are we gonna stand out here until the sun comes back up?” Bakugou snaps, pushing off the wall he was leaning against and stepping up to Shinohara, planning to get in her face, but Tao pushes themselves between them, pushing on Bakugou’s shoulder.

He opens his mouth to tell Tao to fuck off, but Bakugou’s throat seizes and the other beats him to it, “I wouldn’t touch her, if I were you.”

Tao doesn’t sound anything like Bakugou expected. In fact Tao sounds exactly like Bakugou. He snarls at the tall fuck, and he tries to tell them to get out of his space, he wasn’t planning on touching the bitch anyways, but his voice doesn’t come out, and Tao grins.

“What’s the matter, Ground Zero, cat got your tongue?” they ask, sticking their tongue out and stepping back. That tightness in Bakugou’s throat eases and he makes an awful croaking noise.

He rubs his throat, taking a step back from the two, noting how Nix’s shoulders seem to finally have drawn in on themselves. “What the fuck?” he curses, and Tao’s shoulders shake with a laugh, though no sound comes out. Shinohara sighs heavily, and she puts a hand on Bakugou’s shoulder.

“Just follow me. These two are useless, I swear I have to do all the recruiting myself.” She rolls her eyes, and Bakugou just walks with her.

After a few blocks, her hands are at her sides, and Tao is next to her. Bakugou has fallen back a bit and is walking by Nix, who seems to be making a point of not looking at Bakugou, or standing within three feet of him. Bakugou isn’t going to try anything, not here. He doesn’t know what sort of quirk Deku may have right now, he isn’t sure what sort of quirk Shinohara has, and he honestly isn’t even sure what Tao does, but he knows that the fucker used his voice, and he isn’t sure what that means.

Deku would know. Deku was always observing and taking notes and shit, before All Might told him he couldn’t be a hero. Bakugou would wager that Deku was able to figure out everyone’s quirks within a week. He doesn’t ask, though.

After a few more blocks, Bakugou curses, small pops bursting in his palms, “Jesus shit-dicking Christ, are we there yet?”

Tao nudges Shinohara, and in her voice answers, “We’ll be there soon, you impatient dick.”

Nix’s shoulders bounce with restrained laughter, and Bakugou glares at him. It’s strangely satisfying that when he looks up and sees the glare, his shoulders slump down again.

A few more blocks, and Nix seems to start getting anxious. He’s fidgety and he reaches out to grab onto Shinohara’s arm, which makes her laugh. They turn, walk down an alley, and Shinohara, presents to them a door, “Here we are, kids, last stop, this is the end of the line.” She gestures, and Nix steps up first, throwing open the door and rushing inside. Tao isn’t far behind him, and Shinohara watches Bakugou, waiting patiently with her hands held out.

“This is it?” Bakugou asks, gesturing to the door, “You just have a door? And you just lead me right to it?” He asks. Shinohara’s expression doesn’t change, she just makes the gesture again.

“Get inside, or I’ll eviscerate you,” she threatens, a little singsong in her voice. Bakugou just shakes his head, and walks up the short stoop inside. It’s dark, especially when Shinohara steps in behind him and closes the door.

She’s still for a moment behind him, before she sighs, and she grabs onto his arm, “Come on, you won’t know how to get there yet.” She explains, and tugs him behind her as she weaves through what has to be a fucking maze. Bakugou does his best to keep track, left, left, right, straight, straight, left, ri- it’s hopeless, though, Shinohara moves so quickly. She knows exactly where she’s going.

Eventually Bakugou sees light, at the top of a staircase, and Shinohara leads him up it, shoving him ahead of her once they get through into the large room that must take up the entire second floor of the building.

It’s very much like a lounge, parlor… Casino, type thing. There’s tables and couches, and a bar, and just as before that purple douche is back there, and Hands McFuckface is sitting at the end of the bar. Nix has shoved himself onto one of the couches in between Stabby Bitch and Burn Ward, and he’s curled up, letting the blonde girl coo over him, while Dabi rubs his back in a gesture that’s affectionate, and makes Bakugou’s skin crawl for some reason.

Shinohara breaks away, and joins a group in one corner of three other people who must be new, Tao as well, and Bakugou is suddenly very aware of how many more people there are now. That lizard guy, the bitch with the magnet quirk, and the fucker who turned him into a marble are all absent, but they’ve got a healthy amount of people to pick up the slack. And who knows if this is all of them, they might have more, and Bakugou has to remind himself to breathe for a moment because he’s finally here.

The belly of the beast.

Chapter Text

Shigaraki, Bakugou will still call him Hands McFuckface, is just as pissy and spoiled as ever. Bakugou wouldn’t be surprised to see this one actually throw a temper tantrum, but he keeps his upset pretty lowkey, “Still doing the scratching thing, I see.” Bakugou comments, and smirks in satisfaction when Shigaraki’s hands stop. He practically growls as they drop.

He’s at the bar now, leaning on it, to talk to these two, who seem to be the authority around here, below All for One, obviously, but All for One isn’t here right now. Kurogiri offers Bakugou a drink. It’s just a bottle of water, but Bakugou didn’t expect them to actually have anything back there. He already thought the whole bar schtick was just for show.

Shigaraki just does not seem all that happy with Bakugou’s presence, which is fine by him, he isn’t here to make the guy happy. He’s here to get Deku out.

Deku, who is still sitting between Dabi and Toga. Dabi is touching him, and Bakugou doesn’t like it. He hates how Deku is leaning against him and letting Dabi massage his shoulder, letting Toga hold his hand as she talks animatedly about who the fuck cares.

He hates how close Deku seems to these people, these villains.

Distantly he registers that Shigaraki is talking to him, but he’s distracted. Dabi barks a laugh at something Toga says. She pokes at Midoriya’s shoulder a few times, until he laughs, though Bakugou can’t hear it, then she pokes his head, and pushes the mask up to plant a kiss on his cheek and Bakugou pushes to his feet without thinking about it.

The stool he’d been sitting on clatters to the floor, making a mighty ruckus that gets the attention of everyone. Nix fixes the mask before turning to stare at him like everyone else, and Bakugou makes a point of tearing his eyes away to look at Shigaraki, who has gotten quiet.

“Whatever,” Bakugou growls, like he didn’t just miss every single thing that Hands McFuckface said, he digs a paper out of his pocket and slaps it onto the bar. “Just call if you ever need something blown up.” He debates picking the stool back up, but decides against it, waving a hand as he heads for the door. Shit, it’s a fucking maze down there, how is he supposed to get out?

Fuck it, he’ll figure it- “Nix, show our new friends how to get outside.” It’s Shinohara’s voice, but when Bakugou looks, it’s Tao who’s gesturing toward him. He glares, and bares his teeth in annoyance, at the sheer audacity of needing to be shown the way, but inside he’s kind of okay with it. Otherwise he’d get lost.

Nix jumps to his feet, and he hurries over to Bakugou, reaching to grab him, but then retreating, his shoulders hunched down. Bakugou rolls his eyes and gestures for him to go first. Nix looks up at him and straightens, like he got his confidence back. Bakugou just rolls his eyes again and waits for Nix to take the lead. Nix grabs his wrist once they’re at the bottom of the stairs. Bakugou only has a moment to think it’ll be like when they were kids, before he realizes that Nix is wearing gloves.

He tries not to feel that disappointment too hard as he’s lead through the maze and out the same door he’d come in through. Nix opens it and gestures for him to go out, and Bakugou hesitates. He turns to Nix, because he could do it now. Or he could at least start planting the seed. “Hey, walk with me for a minute,” he tells him, and snaps his fingers, gesturing for the other to follow. Nix flinches at even just that, but obeys, closing the door behind them and stepping outside with Bakugou. “Why are you here?”

Nix’s pace is slow, which bothers the shit out of Bakugou, a notorious Fast Walker, but he slows himself to keep pace as they walk through the alley. Nix doesn’t answer, though, just like before. Bakugou pauses, while they’re in a place that’s perfectly out of sight, “You’re not like them, you brought me food, you were terrified, back then, why are you still with them?”

Nix’s head tilts down, and his hands wring together, the material of his gloves squeaking a bit at the friction. He shakes his head. He reaches up, reaching for Bakugou’s head, but he isn’t about to let that happen again, so he snatches the other’s wrist from the air, pushing it back down, “What, you can’t talk? Is that it?” Nix stares at him, or at least Bakugou thinks he’s staring at him from under the mask, and shakes his head again. He wiggles his arm to try and free it, but Bakugou is stronger, he always has been.

In the struggle, Nix’s other hand comes up, and Bakugou doesn’t notice it in time, so he shoves it away only after his fingers have grazed the side of Bakugou’s head.

There’s an explosion, from a block over, and Bakugou lets go of Nix to turn and face it, and the wrist in his grip slips away. He turns back, and Nix is gone.

Shit. It’s that damn illusion quirk again.

Bakugou listens to the sound of footsteps down the alley, and follows it away from the explosion. That couldn’t have been real, the timing was too perfect. He sees a trash can shift and he follows that, picking up his pace as the sounds do. His head hurts, a piercing feeling behind his eyes, but he pushes on chasing the sounds, chasing Deku even though he can’t see him, until he finally finds a dead end. He hesitates for only a moment before barreling toward the wall, it’s probably just an illusion that the little fucker made to stop him, like before.

--

Bakugou wakes up, and the sun is up. His head is pounding, and when he touches his face, his hand comes away covered in crusty blood. He pushes to sit up, he’s on his back in an alley, and there’s a wall in front of him, with a blood stain on it.

Alright.

Not an illusory wall.

--

He’s sitting in his sparse, temporary apartment three days later when his phone goes off. It’s a text message from an unknown number, that simply reads “Bar ASAP”. So Bakugou gets himself ready. He doesn’t know what they want from him, but it’s another chance to get close to Deku, so he isn’t going to stand them up. They also might find it pretty suspicious if he doesn’t show.

So he’s standing outside the building the new place is in, just twenty minutes later, hoping he can find his way through the maze, when Stabby Bitch shows up, bouncing a little too much and grinning at the sight of him.

She greets him with an enthusiasm Bakugou could never hope to understand, and boldly hooks her arm through his. She’s got a knife in her other hand already. It makes Bakugou nervous how she freely swings it around, like she isn’t worried in the slightest about stabbing herself, or Bakugou. She probably isn’t, he realizes. She leads him through the maze and up the stairs, and in the bar is the usual line-up, though Nix is oddly absent.

Kurogiri seems to be running over a plan with Shigaraki, and Bakugou nudges Shinohara when she’s nearby. “Fuck’s going on?” He asks, “Who are you guys terrorizing today?”

Shinohara smirks a little, and cups her own chin as she looks at him, “We, dear.”

“Right, whatever.”

She laughs, “There’s a whole new crop of heroes out there who need to be put in their place, Bakugou.” She grins, looking a little too pleased with the situation.

Shit.

They’re talking about his friends. A few of whom know why Bakugou isn’t off trying to be a hero with them, thought the majority don’t. Damn. He better hope he gets a run in with Momo, Kirishima, or Todoroki, they’re the only three who know he’s undercover here, they’ll be the easiest to deal with.

“Awesome,” he grins, hoping to look as excited as he should be, he makes sparks pop in his palms, “I’ve been looking forward to a chance to kick some ass.”

Shinohara tilts her head, smirking ever so slightly, and Bakugou’s eyes widen at how… knowing, the look is. He just narrows his glare at her and faces back forward.

According to Kurogiri, Nix and Dabi are already out, they ran into one of the young new heroes, and that hero has gotten others involved, and that’s sort of what spawned the whole idea. Apparently they’re going to make an example of the group of teenagers. They don’t divulge who it is, though, which makes Bakugou apprehensive.

Christ he hopes it’s one of the three who know about his situation.

Toga insists on sticking next to him as they break apart into their designated roles, or whatever, and the moment he’s alone with her she slams him into the wall, that knife from before pressed to his throat so hard he can already feel the cut forming. He raises a hand, intending to blow her damn face off, but she catches his wrist and brings it right to her face.

She sticks her tongue out, and drags it across his hand, from the heel of his palm, to the tip of his index finger, and while she’s moaning over whatever it is she decided was pleasurable, Bakugou is trying to restrain the pure wave of ick that rolls over him at the feeling.

Toga licks her lips, puts on a real show of it, too, and if he weren’t quite so horrified, he might actually enjoy the sight of it. “Your quirk tastes good,” she compliments. Then she lowers the knife, pinches Bakugou’s cheek, and turns to skip off.

Bakugou spends a few moments reeling from the encounter before he’s able to recover, and join the others outside where Kurogiri is warping people to the scene.

It’s just as jarring this round, as it was when he was sixteen, going through the warp that Kurogiri makes, although it’s probably moreso this time purely because of the fact that as soon as he gets through, he gets slammed to the ground by something hard.

Actually, someone, he realizes, as he blinks his eyes back into focus from the impact, kneeling over him with a hardened fist raised is Kirishima, eyes wide in surprise.

“Your roots are showing,” Bakugou wheezes, as his lungs try to remember what air is, and Kirishima grins.

“I know.” Kirishima pats his own head, “I’m getting it fixed tomorrow.” Bakugou just nods. “We should probably fight.” Kirishima points it out, rehardening his arm and drawing it back again.

“Yeah, and be dramatic about it.”

“Works for me, man, I’ve been dying for a chance to get back at you.” Kirishima brings his fist down, and Bakugou shifts a bit, letting the hardened arm crack into the pavement by his head.

He’s about to fight back, palms hot with waiting explosions, when Kirishima is knocked off of him. Bakugou rolls to his feet and sees Shinohara wrestling with Kirishima and somehow holding her own, skin flickering before she’s thrown into the air. He follows her arc, watching her suddenly sprout wings, when he sees something farther off.

It’s Nix facing down Ashido, her acid splashing up against invisible walls. He’s about to go help Nix when he sees a bubble of water forming above her head, dropping down suddenly to knock her off guard. He sees her react to something invisible, more walls or what could be invisible fists, knocking her farther and farther back as Nix advances. Bakugou can’t see his expression but he can feel an intensity coming off of him. Bakugou feels a surge of protectiveness for Ashido but he can’t do anything about that as he’s reacting to a rocky fist coming in front of his face.

“She’ll be fine.”

“I know. Just die already!” Bakugou turns his feet and faces down his friend with Shinohara being an interrupting but actually useful force against Kirishima. The battle is intense, making the one from the sports festival their first year at UA look like a baby fight. Bakugou’s sweat is pouring off of him but actually starting to leave marks on his skin. Kirishima is getting sloppy and his armor not covering as much. Shinohara’s form keeps changing but at a slower rate. Neither side can keep up the battle for much longer.

Finally there’s a shout from somewhere behind them and Shinohara is grabbing Bakugou’s arm. He’s about to shake her off when he follows where she’s pointing and sees the group of pro heroes running up. Hm, must be more than these villains are willing to chew right now. He throws one last explosion at Kirishima’s face before bouncing backwards with Shinohara, gathering up with Nix and Dabi. Nix looks fine but Dabi looks injured, with his shirt eaten away by acid. Good for Pinky.

Just before they are portaled away by the purple mist, Bakugou catches the glint of a camera. A passerby recording them. He grins wildly, throwing up his middle fingers as he’s disappeared.

Chapter Text

Bakugou wasn’t completely unfamiliar seeing himself on television. It’s simply one of the side effects of being from the highest hero school in the country. This time, though, it was different. It’s a video taken by a cell phone, of him with Nix, Dabi, and Shinohara, slipping away through a purple portal.

“Recent UA graduate Ground Zero was seen in combat today but not side by side with his fellow former classmates but against them! In a strange and unfortunate but not altogether surprising turn of events, it seems that Ground Zero has found his way into some villains’ company.” Bakugou huffs a laugh and sips his drink. Shinohara is sitting next to him, watching the news as well. “Bakugou Katsuki, age eighteen, will be a formidable force for the new heroes to go up against, but thankfully they already know his quirk and fighting style as well as his tendency to blow up over the little things so our heroes will still have the upper hand. We do not have any word from the Bakugou family over this turn of events. Stay tu-” Shigaraki turns the television off, and Bakugou barely bites back snapping that he was watching it. Instead he downs his soft drink, focusing on not starting a fight.

“Changeling,” Bakugou repeats the name from earlier in the broadcast, turning to Shinohara with a raised eyebrow, and she just nods. “It fits,” he says softly.

Shinohara presses a hand to her chest. “You flatter me, Ground Zero.” She grins and turns, leaving the bar to join Tao over a board game.

Bakugou heaves a sigh, rubbing his face. Pretending to be a villain is stressful. He doesn’t want to hurt people, but the less people who know he’s faking the better. He has to keep up appearances after all, or he isn’t gonna be able to get Deku out of here.

He looks around the room, eyes landing on where Nix is patching up Dabi’s wounds from dealing with Ashido’s acid. He feels an inkling of pride, but he has to push it down. Dabi is talking to him quietly. Bakugou isn’t too good at reading lips, so he doesn’t know what it is, but it makes Nix lean back a bit to look at him and then reach up to pinch one of the burns on his side. Dabi winces, and swats at Nix’s hand, retaliating by smacking the front of his mask. The hit makes Nix fumble backwards, slipping a hand under the mask to rub at his face.

Nix reaches up, Bakugou assumes it’s to hurt him again, but instead he just uses Dabi’s shoulder as leverage to get back into his kneeling position, and he returns to patching up his wounds, starting with the one he’d pinched.

Dabi ruffles his hair, leaning back as Nix finishes patching him up. He’s closer than Bakugou is really comfortable with. Bakugou expects that to be it, for Nix to get up and leave once he’s done, but instead he just turns around, and he settles himself on the floor between Dabi’s knees, head resting against his thigh as he sighs. Bakugou swallows down the urge to break that weird cuddly shit up, especially when Toga hops over, flops across Dabi’s lap, and starts running her fingers through Deku’s hair. They’re both so familiar with him.

It really makes it obvious that Deku has been here for a while. He’s formed friendships with these people, with these villains. It’s obvious in the way that he relaxes under Toga’s hand, or just how easily he ignores it when Dabi swats her thigh, and the two start shoving at each other above him. Deku truly has settled here, and Bakugou’s stomach lurches at the idea. It might be harder to get him out than he expects.

“I’m going home.” Bakugou isn’t telling anyone in particular, but Shigaraki and Kurogiri are both in hearing distance, so he might as well be telling them. He slides off the stool and he’s headed for the door when he pauses, turning to where Shinohara and Tao are talking over a table covered in playing cards, borrowing her voice back and forth. “Shinohara, help me out again. I still haven’t memorized that damn maze downstairs.”

She looks up, and rolls her eyes, “Try harder to memorize it this time. You went to, like, a super school or some shit, didn’t you?” She pats Tao’s head and snaps her fingers at Bakugou to follow as she leads him through the maze.

Outside in the alley, Bakugou heaves a sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose. It’s a fucking complicated maze, but he might have it this time. He’ll just have to try it by himself next time.

“You know we have places to sleep here, right?”

His hand drops, and he turns to Shinohara, “What?” She points up, and Bakugou follows the direction up the building. “Those floors aren’t full of, I dunno, random villain shit? Or just nothing?”

“I mean, obviously they’re full of random villain shit, but we sleep too, you know. Not all of us are fancy UA alumni that can get apartments and stay in real homes with roofs over our heads.” She’s mocking him, obvious in her tone, and it makes Bakugou roll his eyes, “There’s, like, a million and one couches up there to crash on. That’s an exaggeration, obviously, but you get my point. You’re probably gonna need it, as soon as the place you’re staying at catches wind of your dealings with us, your ass’ll be on the street faster than you can blow it up.”

She has a point.

It’s not like Ground Zero’s true identity is a secret of any kind, everyone knows exactly who he is. It’d probably be a good idea, even if it’s just to keep up his cover here. It’d be weird if he was keeping an apartment with his now known villain status.

“Right.” He nods absently, looking at the extra three floors the building has, “I’ll probably take you up on that. Later, though. I’m gonna try and keep my place as long as I can.” Bakugou waves at Shinohara as she climbs back up the steps and heads back inside, and he heads back to the apartment he’s been staying in. If Deku proves to be too deeply stuck in this he might have to take one of the places to sleep here, if only just to keep a closer eye on Deku.

--

The next attack is a little more lowkey than outright attacking the new heroes in their area, but Bakugou still gets a much better chance to see Nix in action.

It’s… Awful.

Not that he’s bad at being a villain, the problem is that he’s good at it, and it only becomes more obvious from one job to the next.

Bakugou watches, the next time he goes on a job with these guys, as Nix makes an invisible box around a guy’s head that’s so small he runs out of air and starts suffocating. Bakugou watches him make a box around someone that they’re trying to get answers from, and he watches as Nix fills it with water with some quirk that’s somewhat new, but he recognizes from when he fought Ashido.

He watches him grab someone, slap their forehead and throw them back, and watches as they react to visions that only they can see, screaming in pain and fear. He can’t see his face through the mask, but he swears Deku is laughing under there, by the way his shoulders shake.

It doesn’t get easier to watch as time goes on, and each time they come back to the bar afterwards, and Nix quietly and happily, patches up the others. Bakugou’s stomach sinks a bit more.

In a moment of weakness he doesn’t expect he breaks down crying on the lonely twin mattress that’s in his apartment.

What happened to him? What happened to Izuku to turn him into this? He knows about what happened with All Might, he knows what he himself did to him, but it still doesn’t add up. He thought Deku was being forced into this when he saw him a few years ago, but now he isn't so sure. Now he has to face the very real possibility that Deku may be beyond saving.

Shit.

--

“Hey, I need you to hurt me.”

Kirishima perks up from where he's reading a paper from a month ago, eyebrows raising. “Okay? Uh… How much?”

Bakugou isn't sure why he invited him over. It was a bad idea, there was a chance he might be seen fraternizing, but he needed to take that chance. After being around the villains so long he's starting to lose track of himself. On top of that packing his things away for safekeeping is substantially less boring with company.

“Enough to bleed, not enough to do any lasting damage.”

Kirishima slides the paper away, and folds his hands together. “Okay. Why?”

Bakugou drums his fingers on the empty kitchen counter and he sighs, “Nix seems to be the local ‘patch up these dipshits’ guy. I need to get his full attention for a bit. Problem is, I’m pretty good at not getting hurt enough to warrant a checkup.” Bakugou shrugs, and he moves around the counter, to standing in front of his friend, arms spread, “Come on, gimme a good wound.”

Kirishima shrugs and hardens his arm, though he pauses before actually striking him. “Wait, are you sure you wanna do this here? Why not do it closer to the hideout, so you don’t have to travel so far with a wound?”

Bakugou shakes his head, “Nah, can’t take the chance of them seeing you. We gotta do it here. Not planning on staying here after today anyways.” He pats his chest, and he gestures toward himself with his other hand, “Come on, seriously, hit me.”

--

It turns out that crossing town with a bleeding gash on his chest is a pain in the ass, but he makes it work, mostly by avoiding people and wearing an extra layer that he can hold away from the bloody wound so no one sees it. He gets to the building, and he works his way through the maze, which he’s finally gotten memorized. He shoves open the door to the bar, which catches a few eyes, but not too many.

On the upside it catches the eyes that matter, Nix turns to look, and jumps to his feet quicker than Bakugou expects, considering he hasn’t even shown him what’s wrong yet. Nix surprises him by crossing the room and grabbing the front of the zipped up sweater, tugging it open and then flinching back at the blood stained shirt.

Bakugou looks down and realizes he’s pretty sure he sees what Deku did that had him moving so quickly, which is that the blood hadn’t soaked through the sweater, but in fact had started to stain the top of his pants. He tugs on the shirt a little, peeling the fabric from the cut and he looks up to meet Nix’s… Eyes… Mask holes. Whatever. “Little help here?”

Nix tenses up and then nods, grabbing onto Bakugou’s arm and dragging him over to another door across the room. Bakugou hasn’t been through it, but he was aware that the stairs to the third floor were through it. Nix leads him through the door, breaking away from him only long enough to grab a box from behind the bar, and pushes him up the stairs. Bakugou doesn’t bother to question why he’s choosing to do this in private when he’s patched up plenty of others with the whole bar watching, he just counts himself lucky he didn’t have to try and talk him into it.

Nix gets him into a room that’s mostly empty, save for a few random pieces of furniture and what might be a piano covered in a tarp, and pushes him into a chair. Nix scurries off, returning moments later with a pillow that he drops onto the floor to kneel on. He points to Bakugou’s shirt, snaps his fingers, and gestures over his shoulder with his thumb, an order to remove the clothing.

Bakugou doesn’t question it, he shrugs off the sweater, and then tugs his shirt off, dropping both into a heap on the floor next to him, and he leans back in the chair. He looks down to get a good look at the damage and he’s hit with a sudden lightheadedness he hadn’t expected. Kirishima did a good job. Although now that he’s looking at it perhaps too good.

It won’t be enough to put him out of commission for too long, but he’s gonna need stitches for sure, and it’s gonna leave a nasty scar.

He shakes his head, and looks up to Nix, who is digging through the box he’d grabbed (it’s a first aid kit, Bakugou notices), and murmuring to himself to softly it’s hard to tell it’s even happening. He digs out a few things, carefully setting them out on the inside of the lid, Bkauogu sees the needle and thread and heaves a sigh. He’s gonna have to kick Kirishima’s ass later for going too deep.

That sounds wrong.

Bakugou shakes his head to clear it of Kirishima, he needs to focus right now after all, Deku is right here, in front of him, alone. Perfect chance.

When he brings up a wet cloth to start cleaning off the wound, Bakugou notices his hands are shaking. From what he’s seen, Nix is usually pretty steady when it comes to patching up these assholes. Maybe it’s because of who it is, exactly he’s patching up. He figured, with how easily Deku hurts people in this new life of his, that the presence of his childhood bully would be a piece of cake to deal with.

The first touch stings, and reminds Bakugou just how much the gash hurts, although he’s been doing a heroic job of sucking it up the entire way here. He hisses a curse, and Deku twitches, hand drawing back only briefly before resuming its task. His other hand lands on Bakugou’s knees and squeezes it, his thumb rubbing a circle like he’s apologizing. It’s interesting. Somehow it’s soothing, and Bakugou relaxes.

It’s quiet between them, as Deku cleans, though now is as good a time as any to start talking. He should go for something less… Accusatory, this time. “Where’d your name come from?” He asks, because that’s a thing someone would ask someone, right? Right?

Deku’s hand pauses, and the mask tilts up, looking at Bakugou. His head tilts, and then he shakes it, face dropping back down to the task at hand.

Okay, so that isn’t the trick.

Eh, fuck it. He’s been here too long anyways.

“I know it’s you under there, Deku.” Despite how softly he says it, and he knows he said it softly he made a point of it, those hands still freeze. Deku’s hands hover for a bit, and the silence that stretches between them is tense.

“I’ve known the whole time,” he adds, but Deku still doesn’t move, “when you guys kidnapped me, your mask fell off. I tried to save you, but they wouldn’t let me.”

He’s expecting something, for Deku to react, to say something, anything, but he still doesn’t, and Bakugou watches him. He can practically hear the gears turning. Deku’s thinking of how to get out of this situation, he’s sure of it, but he still doesn’t move. Bakugou shifts, winces, and reaches out, grabbing the bottom of the mask, and pushing it up off of his head.

“You shouldn’t be here.”

Chapter Text

Bakugou’s eyebrows furrow and he shakes his head, “Yeah, I shouldn’t, but neither should you.” He’s still keeping his voice soft, he doesn’t want to take a chance at triggering some fight or flight bullshit in the other. Bakugou was a huge dick to him for a while, after all, if he doesn’t play his cards right the once-quirkless kid he used to know might use some of those new ones he’s got on him.

“Why are you here?” Deku asks. Bakugou wouldn’t admit it out loud, but fuck he’d missed that voice. He forgot how obnoxiously green the other’s eyes were, he’d almost forgotten what he sounded like, he almost reaches out to poke at the freckles on his cheeks like he’s checking to make sure they’re real, but he restrains himself.

“I’ll answer that if you will.” The blonde leans back in his chair again, the mask still held in his hands as Deku blinks and looks up at him. His eyes are big, and he’s still got some bruises, but not nearly as bad as when Bakugou first saw him all those years ago. No, he’s got a black eye, and his nose is a bit crooked from a previous break, but there’s no blood matting his hair down, no obvious hands that hurt him.

Deku swallows, and he shakes his head, “You wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me.” Bakugou offers, shrugging and then wincing when it pulls on his still aching wound. The hiss he lets out seems to be enough to snap Deku back to his senses, and his hands start moving again, recleaning the wound. Then he gathers what he needs to stitch it closed, “Listen, I’m not… I’m not here to be a villain, I’m here to get you out.” Bakugou explains, watching Deku as he focuses on his stitches.

He’s zoned in, it seems, fully tunnel visioned on this one task. “Deku,” he doesn’t react, he’s still stitching, “Deku?” He blinks a few times, but he doesn’t take his eyes off of the task at hand. “Deku!” Bakugou hisses a bit more forcefully, to get his attention.

Then he yelps when the needle Deku was using is stabbed into his shoulder, and those green eyes snap up to his. “Stop calling me that.” His voice doesn’t leave room for argument and the glare he’s leveled on the blonde is enough to make Bakugou shut up, swallowing hard. Dek- uh, Izu- er… Midoriya pulls the needle out and picks up where he left off. Bakugou is quiet as he works, moving only to press a finger over the hole the needle left in his shoulder to try and stop the little rivulets of blood that drop from it.

“Look, I know shit got pretty messed up for a while there, when we were fourteen, but you shouldn’t be here. I know it, you know it, so just… leave with me.”

“Why would I do that?” Mirodiya asks, cutting off the last bit of thread and grabbing a bandage to wrap around him. “You need to leave, if they figure out you’re playing double agent they’re going to kill you. Especially Shigaraki, and you really don’t wanna be on his bad side.” Midoriya leans back once the wrapping is finished. He rubs his shoulder as he adjusts to sit cross legged on the floor.

He’s breathing a bit hard, and Bakugou tugs his shirt back on despite the mess it is, “You okay?” he asks, leaning forward on his elbows. He’s holding the red mask between his hands, turning it slowly as he looks it over. It’s already got a chip in the paint, right in the middle.

“It’s been a while since I’ve talked. I forgot how exhausting it is. I also might be having a mild panic attack, but that’s not really important right now.”

It’s so… wrong. Everything about it is wrong, Midoriya shouldn’t be like this, he sounds tired, he looks tired, he shouldn’t be tired just from talking.

“You can’t stay here, Midoriya. You’re not like them, you’re not a villain.” Bakugou sighs, rubbing his face. The mask is snatched out of his hand and he looks up to see Midoriya standing, carefully looping it back around his head, though he doesn’t tip it down to cover his face.

He’s got a look like disgust on his face, a look that Bakugou didn’t think the other was capable of. “Big words coming from you. You don’t know anything about me.”

He pushes to his feet when he realizes Midoriya is about to leave and he grabs his arm, “I know you wanted to be a hero so bad that you were gonna try and take the entrance exam for UA, despite not having a quirk.” Those green eyes train in on him again, and they’re so cold it actually takes a moment for Bakugou to continue, “I know that you asked All Might if you could be a hero without one, and I know that he told you no.”

He isn’t expecting the punch, although he probably should’ve been. Midoriya’s fist meets his face so fast he swears he can see the cartoon birds flying around him as he takes a step back.

“Shut up!”

But Bakugou most certainly will not shut up, “I know that he regretted that!” He rubs his jaw where the other had punched him, persevering even though it would probably just get him hit again, “I know that this isn’t where you should be, Deku. I know that your mom misses you so much she hasn’t stopped looking.”

He sees a shift in the emotions on Midoriya’s face, he sees a flash of pain before it goes right back to that anger, “Shut up.” He raises a hand, and Bakugou ducks, avoiding the box he’s sure the other was about to make, and he steps to the side rushing forward to grab his wrists. He shoves until Midoriya’s back is against the wall, and he pins him there. He’s surprised when he doesn’t fight. “Let go of me,” his fingers flex, but he doesn’t fight the hold.

“It’s not too late.” Bakugou tries, “You’ve got a quirk now, at least three, I know because I’ve seen them, with some work, some therapy or something, maybe you can be a hero now.”

Apparently that isn’t the right thing to say, because with one hell of a roar, Midoriya shoves him back, and Bakugou moves. He does his best to keep his grip on his wrists, but one wrenches free, a foot catches his ankle and Bakugou hits the ground hard. He gasps to bring air back into his lungs, but a hand covers his nose and mouth, cutting off his ability to breathe quite a bit, but not entirely.

Midoriya is over him, pinning one arm with a hand and the other with a knee, and Bakugou is vaguely aware of a purple-y sort of mist that’s coming from the hand over his face. He breathes in and tastes lavender so strong it almost burns, but he keeps breathing, needing to get as much air as he can.

Midoriya finally lets go, backing up and waving his hands. The purple mist that was coming from his palm dissipates, and Bakugou barks a laugh that tears out of him so suddenly it hurts.

The laughter starts, and it doesn’t stop, and Bakugou grabs at his chest as the giggle fit takes hold. Midoriya steps over him toward the door, and he sighs, “You don’t know anything about me, Bakugou.”

Despite the hysterics that he can’t get away from, the name feels like a punch to the gut. Growing up it was always Kacchan this or Kacchan that, so to hear his name from the other is enough of a surprise to stop the laughter for a moment before it takes over again.

Nix tips the mask down to cover his face again, and leaves the room, closing the door behind him and leaving Bakugou there to laugh until whatever quirk he used this time wears off.

Chapter Text

Bakugou moves into one of the rooms on the third floor that’s full of unlabeled boxes and a couch, though ‘moves in’ is a generous term for what he does. Really he just scopes the rooms, picks one, and tells the whole group while they’re in the bar that that room is his and if anyone goes into it, he’ll blow their goddamn faces off.

From here he has a much better vantage point over Nix. It takes a couple of days to figure out where he sleeps, and a little longer before Bakugou gets a chance to sneak into it and see what, exactly, they’re giving him. Turns out to be just as infuriating as he expects, the room is basically a janitors closet. It’s got a big plastic sink in it, the smell of bleach lingers, and the only thing remotely close to a bed is a flimsy sleeping bag.

Nix has a small pile of personal things, a notebook, another mask, though this one doesn’t have any mouth on it, and a picture of them. Well, it’s supposed to be. It’s torn down the middle, Bakugou’s part is missing, but he remembers when that picture was taken. They were probably ten at the time, on a class trip. Midoriya’s mom took the picture.

Now, the fact that Bakugou’s half is torn off and missing isn’t that big of a deal to him, what is concerning is the fact that the picture is just Midoriya, and it’s stuck to the wall with a knife right through the middle of his face.

Around the picture, in marker, is words written in his handwriting. It’s messier in some places than others, and there’s a few spots of dark splatters like he hit the wall with the marker.

Useless, quirkless, worthless, deku, kill yourself.

Bakugou runs his fingers over the words and he swallows hard. There’s other spots on the walls that don’t fare any better, the insults are scribbled in so many places.

He’s quiet for a bit, listening, making sure no one is coming as he carefully picks up the notebook from the floor by the sleeping bag.

He flips to a random page, and it’s filled from top to bottom with an inner monologue that makes even Bakugou’s eyes sting. Another page just says ‘deku’ over and over again in decreasingly legible writing.

There’s a stack of pages near the back that have just been slashed through in different directions, and Bakugou has to close the book and throw it back onto the ground when he sees the blood that stains the corner.

He leaves the room feeling enlightened and also a bit terrified.

He did that.

He made him feel that way.

Well, not just him, but mostly him, if he’s being honest.

He flinches when the door at the end of the hall opens and he quickly closes Nix’s door, moving away from it. Dabi comes through the door and he pauses at the end of the hall when he sees Bakugou, and there’s a long silence that stretches between them.

Dabi shoves his hands in his pockets and walks down the hall to Bakugou’s side, “Stay out of his room, if he finds out you went in there he might stab you. He doesn’t even let me go in there.” Dabi shrugs, and gives Bakugou’s shoulder a pat as he continues down the hall.

Being in the same building as him all the time gives Bakugou a lot of opportunities to see him that he didn’t before and he’s learning very quickly just how deep the instability is, the longer he stays here.

He has these episodes, every now and then, where he just goes completely absent. Dabi and Toga will be talking to him and then he’ll look off at nothing and space out for a while, and no amount of nudging or loud noises or anything gets his attention. Bakugou asked Toga about it and she just laughed and told him “Sometimes Nixy just goes away for a while!”

Bakugou notices that Dabi seems to be even more protective of him during those episodes, only letting Toga get near him, though occasionally Tao will come by and give Nix’s head a pat before wandering off and using his voice to converse with the others. It’s jarring, the first time, when he hears Midoriya’s voice telling Shinohara to go fuck herself.

One day Bakugou wanders into the bar in the wee hours of the morning for a drink only to find Dabi on the couch, with Nix curled up against his side. It’s becoming less unsettling the more he sees it, sees the relationship between them that is, because by now he’s picked up on the fact that the fiery villain isn’t taking advantage of him.

Bakugou just quietly sits on a nearby chair, Dabi’s bright blue eyes following him as he moves. Bakugou doesn’t miss the way Dabi’s arm tightens ever so slightly around Nix’s shoulders.

“So are you two a thing, or what? He doesn’t seem that close to anyone but you and that stabby bitch. And he doesn’t even seem that close to her.”

Dabi smirks, “What would you do if I said yes?”

Bakugou takes a moment, a deep breath, and he shrugs. “I don’t know. Nothing, probably.” He tilts his head a bit, looking at Nix he doesn’t seem to be awake. He has that same relaxed posture about him that he gets when he spaces out. “Are you?”

There’s quiet for a while, Dabi is looking Bakugou up and down, assessing him. “Nah.” He answers finally, and Bakugou can’t quite hide the way his shoulders sag in relief. “I have three younger siblings,” Dabi says, gaze finally shifting to Midoriya as he explains, “and he reminds me of my little brother.”

Bakugou’s eyes narrow a little, there’s a softness to the villain’s face he hasn’t seen before. “How so?”

Dabi rubs Midoriya’s shoulder, sighs, “Same age, first off. That’s the easy part. Not sure how to put the rest of it into words.” He gets a smirk on his face again, “If you knew who my brother was, you’d probably see it, too. The hatred just manifested a bit differently.”

Bakugou nods slowly, fingers rubbing at the side of the glass of water he’d grabbed but hasn’t touched.

It’s an enlightening conversation.

 

The next job is going terribly. Apparently challenging pro heroes is just what they do nowadays, which is fine by Bakugou. There’s usually enough ruckus for him to stay back and keep a low profile.

Today, though, things aren’t going so easy. It’s just Bakugou, Nix, and Toga, and Toga’s already been put out of commission. Bakugou hasn’t managed to pin down this hero’s quirk, but no matter how many times Nix throws his hands up, nothing seems to stop her. He closes a fist in the air and a bubble of water forms, but as soon as the hero jabs his shoulder it releases, and he’s stumbling back, grabbing his arm.

It’s some sort of cancellation thing, Bakugou thinks. She’d gotten a glancing blow on his left upper arm and he hasn’t been able to make any explosions on that side since.

Nix trips backwards with a grunt. Bakugou curses, vaults the wall he’d been behind, and rushes over. He’s still too late though. Nix throws up one of his invisible walls, but her fist sails straight through it and she jabs him in the chest, causing him to drop his arms and swing a blind punch. She grabs his wrist, and pulls something off her belt, and it takes Bakugou a second to recognize the quirk cancelling handcuffs. He isn’t about to let Midoriya get caught, not like this.

He’s able to knock her off guard while she’s distracted by Nix, and even if Bakugou’s down half his explosive power. He lets off an explosion against the wall to throw shrapnel of brick into the air, forcing her to guard. He follows up through the dust with a hard left kick. Explosion or not, he can still hit hard. She’s dazed for a second but then she’s back at it. It’s a flurry of kicks and punches, and he does his best to keep his right side out of her reach so he’s not entirely out of commission.

She’s good. Like stupidly good. Who the fuck’s been teaching her? He manages to get a lucky shot in, but it’s just enough to buy him time to explode the ground, giving him cover to get back to Nix’s side.

Nix shoves at Bakugou’s arm when he grabs him to pull to his feet, but Bakugou doesn’t let go. He half carries him back towards where Toga is knocked out. He shoves him down to grab her before they flee. The dust cloud is starting to settle.

“I told you we should’ve brought more people!” Bakugou growls at him once they find an alley to hide down, he can’t see but he’s positive Nix is glaring at him through the mask.

“I could’ve handled it,” he snaps, still holding Toga over his shoulder, though he does seem to be sagging a little under her weight. He’s exhausted, whatever that quirk did it definitely took a lot of energy out of him. Admittedly Bakugou isn’t faring much better, if the tingly feeling in his fingers is anything to go by.

“Here, let me carry h-” he reaches to take Toga from him, he’s only got one bad side right now, while Midoriya seems to be struggling to stand at all, but before he even touches her, his wrist is grabbed and pinned to the wall, and Midoriya’s nails are digging into his skin. He’d noticed a couple weeks ago how they were filed to sharp points, but he had obviously underestimated how sharp they were, if the intensity of the stabbing pain is anything to go by.

“Just call Kurogiri.”

There’s a moment of silence, where they stare at each other, each waiting for the other to give in and let them have their own way. Bakugou relents first, waving his pinned hand a bit, and waiting until he’s released. He hisses as he rubs his wrist, and he looks over the bright red crescents on his skin. He curses as he digs a phone out and shoots Kurogiri a text with their location. He gets a text back that simply reads ‘5’.

“Alright, we’ve got five minutes. Just, stay quiet until then so they don’t find us back here.”

Nix shakes his head and slowly crouches down, still holding Toga, though he’s wobbling a bit. Bakugou puts a hand on his shoulder to steady him, and Nix’s free hand grabs onto his sleeve tightly for a second before he collapses. “Shit,” the blonde curses, barely managing to catch both of them before they hit the ground completely. He pulls and catches Nix’s arm until he’s able to get a hand on the back of his shirt, and he throws Toga over his good shoulder, leaning against the wall as much as he can, listening and waiting.

It sounds like they’re getting close.

Bakugou curses softly and he backs up a bit when he sees a shadow at the end of the alley, followed by whispering voices. He can’t move much since he’s carrying these two, and he doesn’t quite have the energy to fight anymore. He knew this was a stupid fucking idea.

Just as a head comes around the corner, the portal rips open behind Bakugou, and he tosses Nix through it, then stumbles through with Toga.

They hit the floor in a heap, and Bakugou curses as he adjusts his hold on Toga so she’s laying across his chest.

“Run into some problems there, kids?” Dabi is standing over them and it takes all of Bakugou’s energy not to snarl. Actually, wait, why the fuck shouldn’t he?

He bares his teeth at the burnt fucker and he punches him in the shin, which only earns a head tilt around the moment Bakugou realizes he used his bad side for that, so the punch was substantially weaker than normal. “Fuck off," he grumbles, slumping on the floor a bit, “Get Nix, she got him pretty bad, I’ve got her.”

Tao pulls Toga off of Bakugou and hefts her over their shoulder, “Oh I love it when people are unconscious. It makes it so easy to talk,” they sigh. Their hair is down today, making them look a bit more feminine. Bakugou still isn’t sure what their deal is, but they do seem to prefer it that way, so it works.

Bakugou gets up as Dabi scoops up Nix, and there’s that stupid fondness on his face that Bakugou gets more and more bothered by every time he sees it, though it isn’t rage anymore. He doesn’t get mad about it. If anything it just makes the tiniest wiggle of sadness burst in his heart.

He doesn’t know who Dabi’s family is- although Dabi has implied that Bakugou knows his brother- but it’s obvious he misses his siblings. He’s so careful as he carries Nix to the couch and lays him down, he loosens the mask but he doesn’t remove it as he dotes on him, checking him over for injuries.

"He’s gonna have some bruises, but nothing should be bleeding,” Bakugou offers and Dabi glances over his shoulder at him. He nods, acknowledging the advice, and finally Bakugou turns to Tao and Toga to take care of her.

The next morning Midoriya is standing outside his door when he leaves to go to the bathroom, arms crossed and mask tipped up to the top of his head. He doesn’t make eye contact, in fact his eyes stay valiantly trained on the floor as he mumbles to him.

“You saved my ass, yesterday.”

“I would’ve done it for Toga, too.”

“No you wouldn’t have. In fact, you didn’t.” Bakugou shrugs, and leans on the doorframe, “Listen, I know you’re trying to do some noble bullshit here to make up for our childhood or whatever, but if you’re gonna play at this villain shit you can’t just be on my side. You have to be on our side.”

The idea makes Bakugou roll his eyes, but Midoriya grabs his chin harshly to drag his eyes down. Now he’s looking at him, and there’s a light in those green eyes he hasn’t seen yet since he got here.

“The point is, stop being obvious.” He shoves him back when he lets go, and takes a few steps back himself. “And… I owe you one. Or something.”

Bakugou watches him leave quietly, not trying to stop him.

He’ll have to be careful about when he cashes in that favor.

Chapter Text

It’s raining pretty hard, and somehow it’s the most hypnotizing thing Bakugou has seen in a while. Standing in the room he’s been crashing in, he watches it roll down the window as lightning flashes in the sky. He’s vaguely aware of voices in the hallway, but he doesn’t bother to try to figure out who it is. He knows it can’t be Nix, he’s out with Toga doing something or another. Bakugou stayed behind because the rain makes his quirk a little harder to use, especially raining this hard. He can’t exactly blow up his nitro sweat if it’s getting washed away. Even when it’s light rain the explosions are weaker, since it’s all diluted with water.

He hears distant laughter and he’s reminded of the dorms from school, except these villains aren’t his friends and he doesn’t feel particularly compelled to go and try to hang out with them. Admittedly back in school it took him months before he actually bothered to spend a lot of time with anyone beyond Kirishima, but Kirishima was different. Kirishima had a level of tolerance for Bakugou’s bullshit that it took his classmates over a year to develop, and even when they did they still weren’t as good at it as Eijirou was.

Well, Kaminari wasn’t half bad at it, but in his case it was mostly just a complete lack of awareness.

Damn, now he misses his friends.

Kaminari, Sero, and Ashido don’t know what he’s doing here. They probably think he really has turned.

How hard is it going to be to convince them this was all planned?

Kaminari would probably pretend he knew the whole time. Sero and Ashido, though… They’d be a harder sell.

Bakugou digs his fingers into his eyes to fight off the stinging. He heaves a sigh, finally leaving the dreary window to go lay down.

Since coming here he knows it’s not a great idea to use a cell phone, at least not a fancy one, but he keeps a cheap pre-paid one on hand just in case. It’s only got three numbers in it; his mom, Eraserhead, and Kirishima.

The phone rings as he leans back on the arm of the couch, waiting for an answer. It takes a little too long, at least in his opinion, but finally there’s a click, and the sound of Kirishima talking to someone else, before finally saying “Hello?”

“Hey, shitty hair,” the nickname doesn’t hold any venom, hasn’t for a couple years now, but it earns a laugh.

“I thought you were only supposed to call me in emergencies?” Bakugou can hear a door close on the other end of the line, Kirishima’s getting away from whoever he’s with right now. Bakugou shrugs in answer, not caring if Kirishima can’t hear it. “What’s up, is there an emergency?” There’s a hint of concern in his voice and Bakugou shakes his head, shakes it harder, and then clears his throat.

“No, I just,” he just what? Wanted to put this whole thing in jeopardy because he’s lonely? Wait, is he lonely? “I wanted to see how people were doing. You know who.” It’s quiet for a moment, and then Kirishima huffs a little.

“Shit, bro, uh… Fine, mostly? Mina’s pretty bent out of shape over you going darkside, Sero doesn’t wanna talk about it and Denki keeps saying he saw it coming. Is that what you wanted to know?”

“Yeah. That’s what I wanted to know. Thanks, Ei.” There’s a rustling, a creak, Bakugou can’t quite pin down what the sounds are, but he knows that Kirishima has trouble sitting still when he’s on the phone. “You could… Tell them. If you wanted to.” Bakugou shrugs, and listens as the creak repeats, and he can hear footsteps.

“I mean I could, but I probably shouldn’t. The less people that know about this, the better. I don’t wanna risk blowing your cover, that’s like that movie where Halle Berry called that girl and the murderer heard it and shit?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Me neither, I never saw it, the point is, you’re thoroughly neck deep in a bear trap over there, and if I tell them and it gets out what’s going on, that trap is gonna snap right on your neck and it won’t matter if they knew or not.”

Bakugou huffs a sigh, sitting up on the couch, “Listen, I know you’re right, but that doesn’t change the fact that I need at least someone to know I’m not out here being a damn villain because I want to.”

“Well… I know you’re not being a villain because you want to.”

Bakugou sighs, shoulders slumping as he rubs his face with a hand. “Right. You’re right.”

Bakugou’s head snaps up when his door opens and he mashes the hangup button, shoving the phone into the cushions as someone steps into his room. “What the fuck do you want?” He snaps, watching as the other moved through the boxes. When they finally come out from between them, it’s Nix. “Oh,” Bakugou sighs, relaxing a bit until his throat is grabbed and he’s shoved back against the couch.

He grabs the other’s wrist and sets off a few warning pops as his air is cut off. For some reason he doesn’t fight beyond that, and Nix shoves the mask up with his other hand, glaring daggers at Bakugou, “What did I say about being obvious?” he growls, and Bakugou shoves at his wrist harder this time, dislodging it as he shoves the other back a few steps.

“What, is staying in my room and minding my own business not villain-y enough for you?”

“Who were you talking to?”

“What?”

“You were talking to someone, are they here?”

“What? No, fuck, I was on the phone.” For some reason he gestures to the couch, and Midoriya’s eyes dart between him and the furniture for a moment before he dives for it. Bakugou tackles him to the ground, and Midoriya fights him, shifting enough to elbow Bakugou square in the jaw as he reaches for the couch. Bakugou grabs his arm and twists it, manhandling Midoriya until the other is pinned under him.

“Fucking, stop!” he snaps, pulling on his arm until the other cries out in pain, and then he finally loosens the hold. Midoriya’s forehead thumps against the floor and he thrashes a bit under him. He opens his hands and Bakugou sees a mist coming from his palms again, though this time it’s a light blue color, so he sucks in a deep breath and holds it as he pulls his arms again.

Midoriya curses under him, but the flow of mist stops, “If you use that shit on me again I swear I will break your fingers.” Midoriya curses again, but flexes his fingers, and then relaxes under him.

“Fine!” he hisses, “Just get the fuck off of me!” Bakugou does, letting him go and pushing to stand, though he leans over to dig his phone out of the couch before he fully moves away from Midoriya. The other sits up, rubbing his shoulder and then cursing.

Bakugou pockets his phone, and offers Midoriya a hand, but it’s smacked away almost immediately. He goes back to rubbing his shoulder and he hisses another curse, leaning back on the couch. Bakugou didn’t mess his shoulder up that bad, did he?

His eyebrows furrow as he kneels down, gently pulling Midoriya’s hand away from his shoulder but all the gesture earns him is a punch in the side.

“I’m trying to see what the fuck is wrong with your arm, you little shit.” Bakugou growls, grabbing his wrist and pinning it against the other’s chest as he tugs on his shirt to get a look at his shoulder. Midoriya fights him, cursing at him the entire time until he gets it revealed and suddenly the way he rubs it when he uses his left arm too much makes a lot of sense.

It looks like a hell of a burn scar, or something. No, it isn’t a burn. But whatever it is it’s left his shoulder blade with a big dent in it, and Bakugou doesn’t quite manage to stop himself before he runs his fingers over the almost hand-shaped scar. Midoriya shivers under the touch, and fights his hold again. Bakugou lets go, and lets him get up, fix his shirt and step back. He’s panting, holding his arm as he glares at Bakugou.

“Who did that to you?”

“Fuck off,” He mumbles and snatches his mask off the floor before he storms off. He topples a couple boxes when Bakugou makes to follow, which he could easily step over but he’s gotta stop pushing so much if he expects to make any progress whatsoever. So he watches him leave, and he doesn’t make chase.

He’ll need to text Kirishima an explanation for why he hung up so quickly. Thankfully the other knows better than to call him, especially when he hangs up so suddenly.

--

The rain doesn’t let up for a few days, and in those few days Bakugou ends up spending some time downstairs. He plays a board game with Shinohara, he gets to know her a bit more. She explains her quirk to him, apparently her body can adapt to virtually any situation, if she’s stuck underwater she grows gills, in the air she sprouts wings like he saw. It’s interesting. Versatile as hell. If life had been kinder to her, Bakugou knows she could have made an amazing hero, but life just didn’t send her down that path she claims.

The mood is pretty mellow while it’s raining, generally quiet. Nix sleeps a lot, he notices, sprawled across Dabi and Toga’s laps. He isn’t surprised by how much he sleeps during the day, since he can’t imagine the guy gets any sleep in his room. That sleeping bag can’t be comfortable, with the hard floor underneath it and the smell in that room.

Finally there’s a day where Nix spends the day tired sagging but without a chance to catch a nap. Bakugou sees his chance and waits outside his room once activity stops. When Nix comes upstairs, he pauses at the end of the hall, watching Bakugou for a long moment before he finally traverses the hallway to stand by Bakugou. Bakugou is leaning on his door, he made a point of that so that the other couldn’t just duck in and dodge him.

He doesn’t say anything, not first. He wants to see if Nix will initiate. He wants to see if he’s going to bother asking why he’s here, or if he’s just going to try and wait him out. Joke’s on him, though, his patience has vastly improved from when they were kids.

The silence drags on longer than Bkauoug expects, but finally Nix’s shoulders sag, and he tips forward a bit, “What do you want?” He sounds like he’s on the verge of tears which is something Bakugou didn’t expect, and it makes him straighten out a bit.

“Do you wanna sleep in my room?”

Nix shakes his head, “Why the fuck would I wanna do that?”

“I can guarantee you the couch up there is way more comfortable than the shit you’re sleeping on. You might actually be able to catch a decent night’s sleep up there. At least decent compared to what you’re getting now.” Bakugou shrugs and does his best to ignore the way Nix’s fists flex.

“Why can’t you just leave me alone?” he hisses out, grabbing the front of Bakugou’s shirt and pulling to try and move him from his spot at the door, but Bakugou isn’t gonna let it happen. Though with the state that Nix is in, it won't take much to resist him. He plants himself firmly, and no matter how Nix pulls he’s more likely to tear his shirt than he is to move Bakugou.

He shoves at his side a bit, he kicks him in the shin at one point, but no matter what, Bakugou isn’t about to be moved. Why Nix doesn’t decide to use a quirk on him, Bakugou couldn’t say. Eventually he sags again, holding his arm and panting, “Please leave me alone.”

He sounds fucking pitiful. He’s so tired. If he’d given in already he’d at least be laying down by now. “Come upstairs, crash on the couch, and maybe I’ll leave you alone.” He can’t see it, but he feels the glare. He just shrugs, and gestures toward the stairwell at the end of the hall. Nix punches him in the arm and turns to head down the hall toward the stairs.

“I want at least three days of peace from your bullshit.”

Nix lets Bakugou go ahead of him once they get upstairs, and Bakugou leads the way to his room, he opens the door for Nix and closes it behind them. Once they get through the piled up boxes to the couch Nix stops, and turns around, “If I’m sleeping on the couch, where are you sleeping?”

“On the floor, duh.” Bakugou puts a hand on his back and pushes him a bit, “Get some sleep, you idiot.” He sits in front of the couch, leaning back against the arm of it and watching Nix.

The other hesitates, hands hovering in front of himself like he isn’t sure what to do with them. He finally reaches up to the back of his head and unties the mask, carefully sliding it off and tucking the ribbons into the back of it. “Why are you doing this?” he asks as he sits down, still holding the mask.

Bakugou shrugs, “You looked tired today. Between Shigaraki’s bullshit and patching up Dabi for the millionth time you didn’t have a chance to get any rest. You usually try to catch a nap during the day, but you didn’t get one today, I figured you could use a better place to sleep for the night.”

Midoriya watches him as he explains, and when Bakugou looks up to him after he’s finished those eyes are soft. Soft enough that Bakugou can’t manage to tear away from them. Midoriya is thinking, he can tell, he isn’t talking, but there’s the slightest movement of his lips like he’s talking to himself, though Bakugou would be hopeless to try and decipher it.

“Just get some rest, Midoriya.” That seems to be enough to snap him out of it, and his eyes drop to the floor. He nods, and he gently puts his mask on the floor by the edge of the couch opposite Bakugou, and he finally lays down, settling in to try and get some rest. It doesn’t take long for Bakugou to fall asleep himself.

--

To say he’s surprised to wake up alone would be a lie, honestly he wouldn’t be surprised if Midoriya left as soon as Bakugou fell asleep. Disappointed, though? Yeah. He’s definitely disappointed. He hopes Midoriya got something out of it.

He heads down to the bar once he’s ready to be a functional human being for the day, and Nix is down there, listening to Toga as she talks animatedly about something. He’s a bit more relaxed today, Bakugou can see it in his shoulders, so he walks up behind him and claps his hands on either side, making him jump harshly. Bakugou leans down, and whispers right against his ear “That’s two-nothing.”

He squeezes his shoulders, and he heads off to where Shinohara and Tao are playing some kind of card game to join them, glancing back to see Toga laughing, and Nix watching him

It’s not much, but it is progress.