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Zoi Kai Chara

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I. The Addams Family

~31 Days Until The End of the World~

"For the last time Kaminari: just because you're failing the class, doesn't mean your French professor is the Harbinger of hell."

White smoke sifted off its course through the air as the blonde breathed out a long sigh. As it filtered up his nostrils, the smell of herbs hot on its heels, Izuku felt his eyes begin to burn. He did little more that flick his eyes towards the burning incense in the corner of the greenhouse.

"Light's out." He said softly. The censer flared once, then died without further complaint. Across the greenhouse table, face framed by the waving fronds of lavender, Kaminari Denki went on and on about how he was sure Professor Polnareff had it in for him. Izuku let his whines fade into the background. Fingers knuckle-deep in soil, he continued the meticulous task of ripping out the chickweed that infiltrated his garden. It was a good thing he caught it before it managed to get into the valerian. He would need it to make Iida's sleeping salve and-maybe if he had a bit extra-he'd be able to use some for that tea Tsuyu liked. If he had the time, he'd go over to greet the lemongrass too. They were a bit snippy with him last Monday, but he was sure he could convince them to mature before the new moon.

"I even checked the prophecy again-!"

His thumb hesitated on a tender root.

"What did it say?"

The blond rolled his eyes.

"Only the usual:

 

He will come astride a chariot of shadow
Before him, the cosmos will quake and fall
The green maiden shall embrace him beneath the willow
And thus so begins the end of us all
Benediction uttered shrouds a hex merely muttered
The depths of earth will erupt at his call
Look upon death!
The Harbinger of Hell, Heaven's Wrath, Fire and Brimstone
Can only on the promised day atone
When the worlds become one, the night of Harvest's rushed end
Samhain's witching hour, he bleeds alone."

"Why does it have to be 'he', huh?," Ochako's voice rang out from the sapling section. "Last time I checked 'Harbinger of Hell' was a gender-neutral title."

"Nice to see you too ChaCha."

A short harrumph sounded from behind a pine tree. Izuku could feel the beginnings of a migraine creeping into his head. Lemon water would help. What was the incantation for that one clear head spell?

"Honestly the foreign language requirement is just stupid. What does French have to do with Compu-Sci?"

"If it's that bad, just ask Yuga for help."

"The frog? C'mon dude. My midterm is on subjunctives and the supermarket-not the Life and Times of Aoyama Yuga. Hard pass bro."

The hair on Izuku's skin bristled. Just as he opened his mouth to retort, the blonde was already checking his phone. An ungodly squawk sounded out; the pansies curled in on themselves at the sound. Scooping his backpack and skateboard, Denki turned away.

"Shoot, I forgot I have recitation. I've gotta run."

"Go with mischief!" Izuku called after him, but the boy had already disappeared. The slam of the greenhouse door resounded, ringing through his ears, ominous even in the wake of the bright sunlight streaming through the glass. A moment of silence. Another.

"Well shit," said the pine tree.

The chickweed screamed its last regrets as Izuku silently agreed.


~

 

       IT was shaping up to be a glorious night. The demise of the sun had finally begun in a shock of ominous red sky. Thick, billowing clouds were just visible over the horizon, the sight of them sending a pleased shudder through his spine. Izuku loved a good evening thunderstorm. It was the only time he could tend to the mandrake roots without worrying about waking up the whole house. The others would undoubtedly be rushing their own tasks with the upcoming storm.

So lost in thought, he would've walked past his destination if it weren't for the green and silver flag flickering in the corner of his eye. A banner bearing the letters 'ZKC' hung proud from a window, a mimicry of the same silver wrought letters embossed below the second-story window. There was no mistaking which fraternity you were dealing with as you approached the house.

He took the steps up the porch two at a time, narrowly avoiding the black tail leading into the shadows underneath the old hanging chair.

"Hey. No-Face."

The darkness didn't stir.

"I'm going to need some help with my mandrake roots."

Not a peep. The smile on Izuku's face turned wry.

"Professor Aizawa seems to have lost his cat again. Wonder what he'll do when I tell him that I saw poor little Bean hanging around the frat houses again?"

Eyelidss shot open, revealing sleepy amethyst irises that seemed to glow in the shadows. A tiny black paw shot out; then the black expanse of fur regressed into pale skin, and claws shrank blunt fingernails. A man crawled out from where the cat once basked, stretching out his lanky pale limbs without concern for his nudity.

"Your ancestors should've burned in Salem." Hitoshi muttered.

"And yours should've drowned."

His friend rolled his eyes, running a hand through mussed hair as violet as those irises.

The two crossed their arms over their chests, snapped twice, and the door sprung open to greet them. The house was as quiet as it could get. He could hear the gentle gurgle of Tsuyu's cauldron from the basement, and Momo animatedly going over plans with Tenya in the kitchen. When the skeleton in the closet reached out to hold his flannel, he saw Fumikage's cloak draped over its humerus so he supposed the warlock was skulking somewhere.

At his side, the shapeshifter kept muttering. His eyes hadn't quite turned back to normal, narrowing into feline slits as he followed Izuku up the steps.

"I don't know what it is but they've been a real pain lately. We just had a whole huge fight about me wanting to know who my birth parents are, so Grimy Dad isn't speaking to me. I slept at their place a few nights ago and Blonde Dad walked in on me in the shower-."

"E-eh?"

"And he just took a piss! While I was in the shower! I was so shocked I swear he knocked down two of my lives. Is there a spell for helicopter guardians?"

"Not that I can think of."

"Bummerrrrr," He grinned, perfectly straight teeth gleaming as mischief shone in his eye. "Maybe emo-lord can make me a hex."

They slipped off their shoes before entering Izuku's room. The mandrakes stood on the windowsill in the back. Their leaves were deep, healthy viridian, telltale streaks of white showing that they were ripe for the picking. The plants looked innocent enough, but after three attempts at harvesting, Izuku knew better.

Outside, the clouds had finally rolled in, and the steady patter of rain had begun.

It was time. Izuku pressed a dagger and gloves into the shapeshifter's hands. There was a sinister twinkle in the man's eyes as he turned to the plants, flexing his fingers with an almost manic glee.

"Rock on," he commanded his record player, making the appropriate symbol with his hands. The shriek of an electric guitar filled the room. He flicked his index finger, turning the volume up as high as it would go despite inwardly cringing at the thought of bothering the neighbors. Hopefully the roots would like some of the The Killers old stuff. (Elton John only made them scream louder)
A grimace settled onto his face. Taking a deep breath, he lunged.

The next hour or two was spent chasing screaming, plant-babies around the room as they leapt from wall to shelf to light fixture. They were hideous little creatures, with surprising agility for their stumpy arms and legs. Their expressions never changed. Their lips froze in a wide 'O', screams erupting from the pit of their being as they scrunched their tiny, beady eyes together. More than once, Izuku felt a wave of gratitude to Hitoshi for locking the door. When they plastered themselves against the doorknob, it made it easier to drive the dagger into their tiny chests.

But for each gain came a sacrifice. If the young men hadn't locked themselves away, they might've heard the commotion coming from the front door as their resident cosmologist flew in, an unconscious man with a scar over his left eye hanging off the end of her broomstick.


~


SHOTO watched as the sky turned into an expanse of vermillion and violets, streaks of gray clouds heavy with unshed rain.

"Interestingly enough," The podcast in his ear crooned. "It is the chimpanzee of the subgroup Pan that has the closest format of social organization to the human race. Like us, our ape cousins live in large multi-sex groups following a fission-fusion association pattern. They have recognized that need for others in order to survive."

He was struck with the urge to laugh. Then to cry. He settled for rubbing his thumbs together at an agitated pace, fingers interlocked with one another.

He sat alone in the cool autumn breeze. A lunch box sat at his right side, sushi half-eaten. Fuyumi had made it so meticulously that morning but it was way too much for one person. He didn't have to look about to know that there was no one about that he could pawn it off to. Not that they'd take it from him anyway. He wasn't the best at appearing friendly.

Fission-fusion, huh?

Maybe he was a subgroup of human unto himself. Maybe he was more ape than man. If he were to take a semester abroad in Tanzania, and he just so happened to come across a troop, would one of the females take a glance at his despondent form and think 'kin'?

He'd love it there. Living in trees. Running from predators. Anything was better than here, living under the reign of his father. He couldn't do so much as grab a coffee without seeing the man's face slapped on the front of the UA Herald.

The skin of his thumbs had begun to turn red. The nape of his neck itched. Just as he sat up to slick his hair back, something smacked him in the head.

Right on his left side.

Pain burst in his skull. There was a distant yelling, murky-as if he were underwater- before he came to the surface and it all became clear.

"-SO SORRY! I totally lost control of her during takeoff! Oh Hecate you're bleeding! Anastasia's ghost, what do I do?"

A student crouched before him, concern clear in her wide brown eyes as she wrung the ends of her sweater. She wore riding boots, and Shoto distantly thought that there were no horse tracks nearby. Her hair, a rich burgundy, flew every which way as a sudden burst of wind came crashing down on them.

Then he saw what hit him. Long and sleek, a black broomstick with primly tied straws, hung over her shoulder. He took one look from her, to the broom, to her boots, and immediately began to smell burnt toast.

"Witch," he tried to say, but it came out as a gargled "Hnnfefe."

And he had a brief second to realize that he was probably concussed.

 

~

 

HE woke up to the overwhelming smell of mint and the greenest eyes he had ever seen. They blinked at him from above, before turning away to reveal an expanse of rolling, dark jade curls and an adorable shell of an ear.

"Chacha," the angel spoke. "You owe me. I've been cultivating those mandrakes since August. They were supposed to go into the Hellish Hangover Brew, not a Meddling Migraine Mixture. I barely have enough left to store for winter."

"The park was empty!" The woman from earlier stood closest to him out of the entire crowd. "I wouldn't have gone flying if it were full."

"Darling, you shouldn't have been flying at all." A stern looking man stood next to her in full business attire, glasses flashing in the light. Despite his expression, there was something soft to the line of his lips when he looked her. "What if someone saw you? That wasn't one of our own?"

"Say, speaking of which," A tall, long-legged woman with a spiky ponytail spoke up. "I don't believe we've seen another one of us around these parts before. Welcome to our hearth and our home. My name's Momo Yaoyorozu. Who might you be?"

"Shoto T-," His last name caught in his throat. "Shoto Taramin."

But he would be surprised if the others caught onto his slip because a lightning bolt seemed to fly through the room, blonde hair sticking out as he flew forward to shake his hand.

"Denki Kaminari! Nice to meet ya! What do you do? College wise and magic-wise I guess! I'm a Compu-Sci major but I'm also like a pro at Divination! Oh, I'm in a band too! It's called 'The Black Parade'! You should totally check out our upcoming album! And-hey, that'd a pretty nasty hex on your eye! How'd you get that?"

A united groan flew through the room. The stern looking man from before physically caught the energetic blond by the shoulders, and dragged him away from Shoto's space. Above, the green-haired angel shot him an apologetic smile.

(Did his heart just stop? Was this...death?)

"Don't mind him." He said sweetly. "I'm Izuku. That's Ochako-,"

He pointed to the brunette from earlier. Shoto had to sit up to see her properly, just as she gave a sheepish wave.

"Tenya,"

The man didn't even glance up, speaking to his girlfriend in low tones.

"And this here is Hitoshi."

He didn't notice the weight on his thighs until the other gestured to the cat curled up on his sweater. Its claws were playing with loose strings that certainly weren't there before he was knocked out.

"The others are somewhere around the house, brewing and working on hexes. They don't mean to be rude, but you know how it is when you're mid-spellwork. Like Momo said: Welcome to our hearth and home. You had a pretty bad run in with 'Uravity' here."

Izuku brandished the broomstick he was draped across. " I patched you up with a couple herbs. You're in the ZKC house and you're safe with our coven. But, is there anyone you want us to call? Sorry to snoop, but you didn't have your witchcraft license on you so we're not really sure which coven you belong to."

"Coven?" Shoto repeated dumbly. ZKC. Zoi Kai Chara. He knew them. They were a fraternity on campus. Quiet and didn't cause trouble with campus police for the most part until...

Until Halloween came around.

"You're all witches," He said numbly, looking around the group.

The girl from earlier-Ochako-interrupted. "We're a gender neutral frat actually so we prefer the term 'wiccans' when you refer to the group."

"...Magic is real?"

Silence. There was a faint gurgling noise in the backdrop. No one did so much as move and Shoto felt the itching sensation that he got whenever he attempted at socializing. The angel-Izuku, even his name sounded like a song-had turned a deathly pale. His freckles stood out stark, like an inverted night sky of black stars against a blank canvas. He scooped the cat up and floated away slowly. The cat bounded up his arm, settling around Izuku's shoulders as they all simply stared at him.

"Fuck," the angel cursed. In the distance, the gurgling paused. A tiny explosion. Maniacal laughter. No one moved.

"Ten, please call Professor Yagi."


~


THE purr of his engine was like a moan in his ear as he ripped down the I-95. His ass was sore and his stomach had been bitching at him for the better part of the ride but he was almost there. The town was only an exit away and he definitely wasn't gonna let the sun set before he came strolling home. At his back, the last of his stuff shook as he revved his bike, weaving through traffic with a middle finger held high for whoever had the balls to honk at him.

One last trip, and he'd be saying sayonara to his hometown for good. Goodbye Jeanist Community College. Hello Yuu-fucking Ei University. The two years he spent grinding out shift after gig after class after band sesh paid off. He always had the grades. He just needed the money.

And if the old hag wasn't going to help him get this degree, then he'd just have to help himself.

The sight of his mother's smug smirk falling as he told her the news flashed through his mind, and he couldn't help but grin.

She didn't think he could do it, but he got in. Double Major in Chem and Percussion with scholarship covering a good half. Fuck, he was good. His life was changing. Everything was gonna be so much easier. He wouldn't have to drive an hour and half for practice anymore. All of the band was in one place. They could start getting a move on with their career, and maybe book some real gigs after this album hit the ground.

God, he earned this. He deserved this. This was everything he wanted and he was finally at the point where nothing could go wrong.

Faster, Katsuki urged his bike on, C'mon you sack of shit.

He felt it before it happened. He knew the signs by then. It was like a fire lit him up from the inside. It felt like a free-fall. Like the guitar riff at the end of November Rain. It was quick. It was epic. It was terrifying. His chest would begin to burn, then the heat would spread to his hands until he was too pent up to keep it all in and-.

Boom.

He bit back a yell as flames burst from his bike, whipping him through the exit for Yuuei far faster than he'd thought of. The trees-once blurs-became nonexistent as he seemed to rip through the fabric of space-time straight into the college town.

Deep Breath. What was that yoga fuckery Cammie was on talking about? Count to ten and think of some peaceful shit.

But there was no peace to be had as the flames drove him deep into the town center.

"Fucking move!" He screamed. Students, gaunt with sunken eyes, merely blinked as he maneuvered through them. The turn for the apartment building was coming up. Sticking his right hand out, Katsuki grit his teeth and pushed.

The blast nearly knocked him off his bike. Careening through the air, he gripped the handlebars let the force lift him off the seat. The ground rushed up to meet the tires. The jolt of it shot daggers through his arms, as he leapt away from the bike, rolling onto thick grass and dried leaves.

It wasn't the first time that power burst from him, and he was certain it wasn't going to be the last. Rubbing his mouth with the back of his hand, Katsuki caught sight of the smears of blood then scowled.

Whatever these flames were, they were only getting stronger. When he was 16, they would only show up in a pinch but lately it seemed that the slightest thing would set it off. His fist tightened. Around him, the sun was swallowed into the night.

He was a normal guy with weird fire powers. Was that unusual? Yeah, but it wasn't abnormal. He was fine. He could put all this shit behind him. He could be a normal rockstar if he just fucking focused.

He'd come way too far to back down.

Grabbing his knapsack from the ground, Katsuki took the first steps towards his new beginning.

Chapter Text

II. Bury A Friend

~30 Days Until the End of the World~

MORNING came in with the smell of bacon and Kirishima's gruff crooning to whatever was on the radio. (If he focused, he thought he could make out some Rolling Stones, but then again one could never tell with the incorrect mumbling over the track. Groaning, he took a pillow and moved to cover his face, but it was too late. Once he woke up, it was a wrap. He took a second or two to glare at the sunlight streaming in but was soon enough shuffling out of his room with a towel in hand.

"Bakubro!" was the greeting as soon as he sauntered into the kitchen. His hair was still wet from his shower, and he was feeling a lot more like a disgruntled cat that anything else. Grunting his greeting, he pulled a bottle of Jack Daniels from the cabinet stash and poured a healthy amount into a waiting mug of coffee.

Kirishima wasn't dissuaded by his mood. The redhead merely grinned as he continued his task of frying that he... started around an hour ago when Katsuki woke up. Consciousness slowly seeped into his brain as he took in the number of plates set up around the table.

"Wait, don't tell me-."

"Christ, I swear people don't know how to walk anymore. If you're in a group of three, what makes you think you can all walk side-by-side like holy shit make room you whores and-OHHHHH! Ki-ki's here! Now we got a party!"

Katsuki felt his eye twitch. Slowly, he uncapped the whiskey and poured a bit more.

Kyoka Jirou pulled him in for a quick side hug, smelling faintly of some fruity conditioner and...was that what he thought it was? She pulled back. Her raven locks were pulled back into a short ponytail. She didn't do her makeup yet for the day so he could see her eyes clearly. Sure enough, they were a little red, with the dark pupils blown wide before she winked and let loose a lazy smirk.

The cause came in right behind her. Toil and trouble, Denki Kaminari and Hanta Sero slinked in, eyes as red as Katsuki's own , smelling like they personally descended into hell and bathed in the devil's lettuce.

"It's literally 9 o'clock in the morning."

"Wake and bake Kats." Sero said, taking a seat at the table. "Wake and bake." The lean man immediately folded his arms and set his head down. Kaminari took a moment, blearily looking at the bottle in Katsuki's hands.

"You're one to talk bro. Rough night?"

"Early start on Thirsty Thursday?" Jirou continued, waggling her brows. She stole a piece of bacon from the plate, dropping it down her gullet before Kirishima could stop her.

"I'm gonna need it to get through the morning with you fuckers. Don't you all have homes?"
He took his own plates of bacon and eggs before she could take anymore. A high Jirou was a scary once, with an endless pit of a stomach.

"And miss out on your first morning as an official YuuEi resident? No way. What kind of friends would we be?"

Sero nodded into his arms. If Katsuki's shoved half of his own portion into the man's plate, he didn't do so on purpose.

"We're not friends. We're bandmates," He said, pushing a final slice of toast down. Jirou snorted.

"Sure Kats. Speaking of the band, we've got a gig tomorrow night. Local. This cafe called Sugar Rush is letting us play some new tunes and-,"

Her voice faded away as Katsuki's chest began to grow hot. At first he thought it was the whiskey, but then he felt the familiar burn in his hands. Fuck. Two incidents in a row? That was weird. Usually they were one-offs. He had to run. Hide. Get away from the others.

"You okay man?" Kirishima pressing a hand to his back was what shook him out of his thoughts. All around the table the others were simply eating, but Kaminari was looking at him weird. There was a strange glint to his eye, and the curve to his grin was a bit too forced to be real.

He could worry about that later. His hands were burning now.

"Bathroom," said, and it wasn't a minute before he had locked himself in the tiny room, running the shower spray over his arms at the coldest setting. He tried not to freak the fuck out but that was a little hard when his hand caught on fire and explosions filtered out from his fingertips.

A yelp flew from his lips as he jerked about. Flipping the trip lever to stop the drain, he dunked his arms into the pooling water below, praying to God the fire would stop.

"Kats? You good man? We heard a scream."

"Fucking peachy!" He hollered back. He heard Kaminari fumble on the other side of the door, breath bated and heart racing a mile a minute. Relief washed over him as the boy clambered down the steps.

Taking a look back at his arms, he shut the water off.

His skin was clear. No burns. No cuts. Just normal golden skin with rivulets of water running down the sides.

Which meant either he was going insane, or something fucking freaky was going on with his body. He wasn't sure which option he hated more. 

~


"This isn't possible. What do we do? What do we do? He's knocked out now but that won't last too long and-Oh god what if someone's looking for him. Let's see memory-eraser. Memory-eraser. How can I have thirteen grimoires for this coven and not a single one has a memory-eraser spell that doesn't involve the blood of children orphaned on the night of the Hunter's moon?"

Toshinori Yagi walked in to catch the tail end of what had indisputably been a series of mumblings that had lasted the better part of the night. A single look at his apprentice told him all he needed to know.

The youngin was crouched, a series of grimoires levitating around him with an eerie green glow. It was a great display of control, balancing all thirteen, but Toshinori was ready to accredit this feat to the fact that Izuku was too tired to overthink his magic. The student's eyes were rimmed red; dark circlets underneath sank deeper than that of a normal student and there was a faint twitch to the boy's index finger that he did not think was healthy at all. Underneath a mussed nest of green curls, there were eyes peeking up not at him but through him as murmurs continued to spill from chapped lips.

The little ragamuffin looked like he needed a hug. Food. Milk. Sleep. Some sage?

Right. First things first.

"All for one, and one for all." He said, pressing his hand onto a slim shoulder. He tried not to wince as his own energy seeped out from him. At once, color began to flow into his student's pallor. A short term solution to the effects of the exhaustion, but he reckoned it was long enough for him to gather info, give his student a proper tongue lashing for being reckless and send him off to bed with a warning.

Glancing at the familiar figure knocked out on the couch, it seemed he would need all the time he could get.

"Professor...Yagi?"

Toshinori tried a smile, ignoring the gnawing suspicion in the pit of his gut.

"Midoriya my boy. It seems like y'all've gotten into a real sticky situation."

Bless his heart; was the boy gearing up to cry? He had his arms spread wide as the telltale sniffles started and sure enough, moments later, he had snot staining his dress shirt as the young man frantically explained the situation.

"Cha-Somebody was fiddling with something and accidently knocked this guy out. Well she-they thought he was one of ours cause of the hex on his eye and brought him here to get patched up. I managed to make a Meddling Migraine Mixture and he did wake up but when we started asking him about his Witchcraft Registry Card he didn't know magic was even real so now we're thinking that he's a normal guy that managed to piss off a real big witch. Then we called you but you were still on the flight back from Texas, so then we gave him a Silent Sleep but now you're here and-."

Toshinori pressed a single, comforting hand to the back of his pupil's head.

Offering a quick apology up to the Lord, he skimmed the surface of the boy’s memories.

Little Miss Uraraka was doing some illegal flying again, knocked the guy out, and now he was asleep on their couch with no concussion but still a very clear hex on his eye,

"Do you know who this young man is?"

"His name's Shoto Tamarind."

Tamarind? Oh no. No way. Toshinori wasn't touching that with a ten-foot pole. He settled for a non-committal grunt of understanding. Casting a second glance back at who was clearly Enji Todoroki's son, he racked his brain for a decision.

Maybe...maybe they could interfere just a lil' bit? Socializin' would be good for the boy. He saw the way he skulked around campus. He needed some friends and-maybe it was his pride talking but- his wiccans were the best of the bunch. A bit quirky, but millenials were into some weird shit nowadays. (Like astrology? C'mon. He'd met with the Goddess of Venus personally and she ain't give a damn if you born in October. Now jewelry offerings? She wouldn't turn a blind eye to that.)

"He's clearly one of ours. That hex is probably affectin' his powers. Now all y'all have got to help him, see? Cause a wizard in need-,"

"Can be a brother freed." And there was the Izuku he knew. Ruffling the boy's green curls, Toshinori shuffled over to the couch.

Shoto was out cold. They were right. That was a nasty hex on his eye. He'd always thought it was a nasty burn scar, but glamours faded with age and he could start to see the intricate rune-work running red around his left eye, down his cheek. Pressing a hand to the boy's head, he casted,

"It's all right now. Why? Because I am here."

Shoto relaxed in his slumber. The tight press of his lips went slack.

"Morning sunshine!"

Mismatched eyes snapped open. Gray and blue looked up at him. The boy looked about, rested his gaze on Izuku for a moment or two, before turning back to him.

"Professor Yagi?"

"Shoto, my boy. It looks like you've gotten yourself in more trouble than a cow inna steakhouse. Now, the problem is, I've got my Astrophysics class in around 20 minutes. I'm gonna do a quick explanation, then my apprentice is gonna take care of any questions you may have, roger?"

He swallowed and, bless his heart, turned to look at Izuku again before nodding.

"Roger that."
"Well, so now you know that magic exists..."

So he delved into the explanation of witches and wizards, of how he himself learned the craft from his mentor down in Texas then came up the Eastern Seaboard to find some more of his kind, gathering fame as he committed himself to pushing his powers to the point of 'All Might' as his predecessor had, defeating the forces of darkness on more than one occasion. ("He's fought with the Beezlebub himself! And he still came out on top!" Izuku interrupted excitedly)

He came to YuuEi because his mentor had a job lined up for him in the hopes he would settle down, take care of the injuries he retained in some of his worse fights. After all, getting your guts hexed outta ya' ain't something you can fix with salves or simple spellwork.

So he came here to be monitored, but rumors flew of the windmill like a bird after a moth, and soon students began to flock this sleepy college town to be taught by him, not only in Aerospace Engineering, but witchcraft and wizardry.

"This is the first time I've seen a coven on campus though. ZKC's managed to make quite a name for themselves in the past three years. Hopefully that legacy carries on."

He shot a meaningful look at his apprentice. Izuku, predictably, refused to make eye contact, toeing the floorboards with instead. Well, that could be a conversation for another day.

He left the two of them with a cheery laugh and a grin. As soon as the door shut behind him, he dropped the act. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he strode with purpose, a long frown pulling at his lips as his thoughts turned to the facts.

Enji Todoroki had no powers he could sense, and Toshinori could smell another magician from miles away. Enji was high-cotton through and through; everyone on campus knew the man's backstory from his daddy's success in owning a prosperous vineyard in California to Enji's own groundbreaking discoveries in inorganic chemistry. The family was well-off, but not magic by any means. Four children and none of the ones he'd met had shown any signs.

Ys, Enji was an uppity opportunity-monger who jumped at the chance to be Dean of Admissions when Toshinori stepped down to focus on teaching, but the man didn't have a magic bone in his body.

For his last son to turn up with a hex on his eye, and an old one nonetheless, was quite a development. If he didn't get to the bottom of it, then Lord knew his apprentice would.

It was just a matter of time.

~


THEY sat in Momo's room, Shoto laying on her bed as three of them stared at the marks running around his eye.

"And you say you've shown no traces of magic ever?" The girl asked, a strange telescope covering her right eye.

"Never," Shoto swore.

"And no one in your family?" Izuku continued.

"Not that I know of." At the questioning look, he continued. "I've never met my mother. My father refuses to talk about her."

The final member-Fumikage-hummed. Out of the three of them, he was the only one Shoto could see actually being a witch. He wore a cloak, black as night, with an assortment of silver rings adorning each of his hands. Black hair hung limp underneath his hood but his eyes-red as blood-pierced him down to the bed like a butterfly on display.

"What a mad banquet of darkness." He said. His voice was a deep gravel-perfect for casting a spell at the top of a tower with rain and thunder in the background.

Shoto hid a shudder at the image.

To look at Izuku in contrast, he couldn't imagine the two of them being in the same room, let alone both being witches. But the proof was in the way Izuku flicked his hand and his notebook levitated above him as he scrunched his brow in concentration.

"Nothing in any of our grimoires about magic suppression and I can't say hexes are my forte. Does Dark Shadow get any reading on him?"

And Shoto had to bite back a scream as a black ghost rose out of Fumikage's chest, enveloping the boy's face until all that was left was terrifying golden eyes and an obtrusive back. Then the thing began to talk, and he couldn't help but scramble back.

"Hex alright. Looks to be about 16 years old. Feminine energy points to witch. A strong one at that. It'll be complicated to take off-hexwork and runework are never a fun combo but it's possible. The tricky part's gonna deciphering which parts of the spellwork belong to which effect. There's a double-bind there so you gotta be careful. I'm assuming you don't want to send him packing to Hadestown before it's his time."

"Hmmm, maybe permanent glamour is the hex, then it's the runes that are locking his powers away." Momo said thoughtfully. She twisted the eyeglass and he could see the reflection of his own eye in them. The red of his burn scar slowly began to peel away, revealing a scramble of glowing symbols and letters. Letting out a shudder, he pressed a hand to his eye and tried to rub it off.

"Hey, no stop! That's not how this works!" Izuku caught his arm. Worry shone in his eyes. Shoto tried to ignore the pang in his chest at the sight. "We can take it off for you, but you're going to have to trust us. It's a leap of faith."

The room went silent. He felt a familiar itch as all eyes turned his way.

"I don't know about hexes or anything but I...hope you can help. I've had this scar all my life and it hasn't done me any favors."

Then Izuku smiled and it was like the sun. The vase of roses on the bedside table seemed to perk up, leaning in towards the boy and -oh fuck.

Shoto's arm shot out to catch the stems before they embedded themselves in Izuku's eyes. The boy flushed and muttered an apology, something about not losing control like that since he was a kid. In the background, to his far right, he saw Fumikage and Momo exchange a strange look.

A ringtone cut through the moment. The green-haired wizard dug through his pockets, then triumphantly pulled out a battered flip phone.

"Hullo? Mm-oh I forgot! I totally forgot! I'll be right there!"

The warmth on Shoto's arm disappeared as the sun released his grasp, flying out the room with his notebook hot on his trail. At Izuku's disappearance, the other two crowded him in, eyes twinkling.

"Looks like we'll be seeing a lot more of you," Momo said with a grin that was bit too devious for his liking. Her accomplice smirked.

"What a mad, mad banquet of darkness."


~

THE graveyard was cool that morning. Death and decay wasn't really Izuku's forte, but there were a couple trees that always made the experience a bit better. The crunch of leaves under his sneakers were a comfort. His scarf, wrapped high around his nose, protected from the worst of the morning chill. His friend waited for him at the usual spot, beneath the willow tree at the far end of the lot, almost entirely obscured by the forest behind him. He leaned up against the trunk, long legs looking like fallen branches, face obscured by a shadow of black hair. A flicker of blue flame appeared, lighting the cigarette between his teeth.

Izuku marched right over.

"Dabs." The man glanced up, blue eyes dancing with something sinister that shot a jolt of something up his spine. His scars stood out against the flames, dark violet bags under his eyes, fingers marred with bandages and burns.

"If it isn't Persephone's favorite. Always a pleasure flower boy."

"You missed the coven meeting." He said sternly, but Dabi shrugged him off.

"Busy. Necromancy's a full time gig. Spirits to talk to," His hand crept around Izuku's shoulders. "Poltergeists to take down." His breath was hot on his ear. "Ghouls to banish. You know the drill. Oh wait," And he could feel the flutter of eyelashes against his cheek, the rank of a fresh spliff heavy in the air. "That's right. All Might hasn't taught you that now has he?"

"Do you have any classes today?" Izuku droned. Dabi only smirked, ceasing his attack to jump into the massive hole dug at their feet.

"Not till 6. You'll make sure I'm back by then won't you Zuzu?"

"Accidents happen," he said shortly. The man laughed, mischief alight in his eyes.

"I'll make a me out of you yet."

He sank into the dirt, arms spread wide. Izuku tried not to feel satisfaction as he picked up the shovel leaning against the willow.

"Tell him I said hi." He said. Dabi blinked twice in affirmation before the last of the graveyard soil swallowed him whole.

~


"So I was, So I am
Swim the river, break the dam
Life and Death is all I know
As above so below"

THE first breath was always the hardest. Dabi jolted up, gasping through the searing pain in his chest, hands scrambling for purchase to end the free-fall until strong arms embraced him from behind, pulling him down onto the grass as fingers curled into his hair.

"Hey," A voice grumbled into his ear.

"Hey yourself."

From where he lay he could only catch wisps of blond, the hint of red feathers reaching towards the heavens. There was silence in the meadow. Across the sky, clouds lazily rolled by. There was no sun. Only gray.

A rather somber place for someone who once shone so bright.

"Izuku says hello."

"Hello Izuku." The voice sung. Silence once more. An unsteady peace reigned. The fingers in his hair had moved to his spine, stroking soft and slow over the bones. Not for the first time, he felt the overwhelming desire to stay. It was an all-consuming longing, thick as molasses and sweet on his tongue as he brushed his lips against soft skin. There was a humming. Distantly, Dabi recognized the song, remembered the way they danced to it in his kitchen, how firm a slim waist felt under his palm.

His heart ached.

"I'll be down here with you soon. The apocalypse is coming. They're not any closer to solving the prophecy." He said to distract himself. The humming ceased.

"They...?"

The question hung.

"We." Dabi corrected, but it was already too late. The fingers on his spine stopped. He rose, leaning on his elbows to search the face below his.

Hawks looked towards the sky. Those golden eyes were empty, searching the heavens for something that could not be found. He remembered a time when they were expressive- when they danced with the light of mischief or how they would crinkle when Dabi y said something particularly sarcastic. Nothing else had changed-not the prideful slope of his nose, the trim cut of his jaw, the faint scar under his chin, nor the way his lower lip set when something troubled him.

He kissed it, pulling the tension away with his teeth and pushing the cold back with his tongue until the temperature of the body below matched his own. The humming returned; fingers wrapped in his own.

"Zuzu's smart," Hawks said softly. "He'll figure it out."

"No hints from his beloved supervisor?"

The blond's nose scrunched up. He scoffed out,

"I was an EMT director, not a psychic. Even from here, I can't do a thing"

For a moment, he was there-young and playful and full of life.

Then his voice fell to a murmur once more. "You'll have to make do without me."

"It gets harder every day." Dabi said without thinking. His breath hitched. It was too much. He showed his hand too soon. He wanted to take it back, throw out a witty, cynical remark but he already felt the telltale tug on his chest, pulling him up towards the clouds.

"Make sure you feed the dog!" Hawks called up after him. "And not too much! I can see how much you've been giving him. He'll gain weight."

He wanted to turn around and holler something right back.

I got it. I will. I promise. I don't want to leave. I love you. I love you. I love you. I-.

"Morning sunshine."

Izuku pulled him out of the dark with a slap to his cheek. The sun had fully risen by then. Groggily, he sat up.

"What time is it?"

"4." The boy said curtly. "You were under for 7 hours."

It felt like thirty minutes. It was never long enough.

He turned longingly towards the dirt still glowing an vibrant blue, but Izuku caught him and threw his backpack into his lap.

"You've got class," The man pressed. "Then you need to go home and feed Hotwings who is counting on you to survive. Then tomorrow, you're going to wake up and you're going to get breakfast with me at SugarRush before we try to not kill ourselves in Medicinal Ethics with Aizawa. Then you're going to come to the house, and help me out with this hex I'm having trouble with."

"A hex?" Dabi quirked a brow. "Hexes aren't really your forte are they little tree-whisperer? Does your master know you're playing with 'dark' magic?"

Izuku twisted his ear.

"Class." He said, shoving the older man away. Dabi complied, shoving his hands in his pockets after adjusting his knapsack onto his back. He walked through the cemetery gates without turning around, which was a great improvement if he said so himself.

But there was still that pesky ache in his soul; a gaping wound that festered and burned, as if he ripped out a piece of it and left it behind.

Once upon a time, he had hoped it would fade. Now he knew better.

Chapter Text

~29 Days Until the End of the World~

THERE was a new kid in her Biochemistry I class. Tsuyu only noticed because he walked past her, smelling of soot and gasoline and a strong cologne hastily sprayed on amongst other unsavory things that screamed 'Don't-Touch-Me-I'm-Not-Afraid-Of-Prison'.

He held himself with a certain arrogance, shoulders square and defiance set in his jaw. Spiky ash blonde hair was left disgruntled as if he simply rolled out of bed (He probably did, to be quite honest, class started fifteen minutes ago), cropped short on the sides to let the eye wander to the piercings that climbed up his earlobes. Then from the piercings, the eye could cling to the slope of his neck, crawling down the black of his t-shirt onto the bicep that boasted a full sleeve of tattoos. A scroll of a name winked at her in the light. Carmen? Carla? 'Camie' she settled on finally.

Well, that was stupid. She thought her generation mutually agreed not get the names of their lovers permanently etched into their skin. Whatever passing interest she had slowly fizzled and died.

She nudged Izuku at her side. Sleepy green eyes battered into life, then followed the line from where she jabbed her finger to the figure sitting three rows ahead of them in the aisle seat.

Then Izuku froze, which made Tsuyu freeze because that was not the reaction she was expecting.

It was more of a 'Get a load of this idiot. How long do you think it'll take for him to drop Vlad's class?' type of jab, not a 'This man shall fill you with a great terror and angst. Mad banquet of darkness and all that stuff Fumikage liked to talk about' type.

She watched, a little confused, as the wizard seemed to get a hold of himself. Scrambling for his sunglasses, he slipped the black shades onto his face, put up his hoodie and ducked his head, taking quick efficient notes.

Which was...weird. Her passive dismissal turned into a new curiosity, and mild dislike, for someone who could cause such a strong, negative reaction in someone who was the living embodiment of sunshine.

She looked back at the newcomer, but he caught her gaze.

His eyes were red. Not bloodshot or tired but a vibrant ruby sharp enough to pierce. A weird coloring for a mortal. But when she reached out, probing his aura, he was just as normal as every other student. No mgic at all. Nonetheless, she held his gaze, quirking a brow until he scowled and looked away.

Izuku didn't glance up from his notes for the rest of class. At the end, as soon as the rustle of students exiting began, he shot up, rushing to get everything in his backpack.

"Izu-!" But her lips shut with a painful smack, tingling with the sting of a 'Shut Up' spell. He looked to her in a way that she believed to be apologetic (she couldn't see a thing past those sunglasses).

"I'll explain at home," he whispered before turning in the complete opposite direction to the exit that was closest to them, and running out.

"Oi."

She turned back to find the man in question. He glared down at her and she felt it. The strength of his magic pressed down on her like a bomb. She felt the spell on her lips fall away in its wake. A startled gasp nearly choked her as she took it in. Like ash and smoke, it burned her throat.

"We gotta problem?"

She shook her head. The man scoffed. Without a single glance back at her, he exited, leaving her heaving as she tried to force down the rising nausea in her gut.

Whoever he was, he was strong. Maybe she should've followed Izuku's lead when he high-tailed outta there. Shuddering, she shut down her laptop and resolved to brew some Calm Calamity when she got home.

She sniffed.

Maybe she'd take a sachet’s worth of cloves from the greenhouse too. Just in case. Wouldn't hurt to have a bit of protection in her pocket.

 

~


"You're not seriously bringing him to class are you?"

Izuku stared across the table at the black Doberman. Hotwings stared right back at him, unblinking. Dabi took a long sip from his coffee cup.

"He's my emotional support dog. I'm a widower who lost my husband."

"Fiancée. Unless there's paperwork, they're not going to accept it."

"He fits in my backpack-,"

"His legs fit in your backpack when you take out all of your stuff-,"

"That you're going to carry for me. In your bag. Because I've got to carry the dog."

"Aizawa's going to kill you," Izuku fiddled with his iced caramel macchiato. Dabi's mouth stretched into a smirk and the verdette groaned,

"Don't say it-,"

"I wish the bitch would." And he laughed as Izuku sunk into the pink vinyl seat, looking everywhere but at the man sitting across from him. SugarRush wasn't too busy that Thursday morning. There was, of course, the rush that came in between classes, but it wasn't to the point where it was uncomfortable. It was because of this that the group standing in the back corner by the stage stood out. They seemed to be setting up instruments. Led by a short girl with a sharp black bob, the boys-a redhead, one lean-looking fellow, and a blonde with...wait, that was Kaminari.

Izuku raised his hand and moved to shout, but another blonde head caught his eye and he faltered. He'd know that ash blond hair anywhere.

First in class? Now when he was trying to eat? Could he never catch a break?

"Hey, Riki!" He stage-whispered. The burly young man wiping down the counter turned his way. Izuku gestured him over, sinking further into his seat by the moment. Dabi looked at him strangely, but wisely remained silent as the man came to their table.

"What's up with the band in the back?" Izuku whispered. Riki gave him an odd look, but nonetheless whispered back,

"They're 'The Black Parade'. YuuEi students o'course. The boss agreed to let a couple performers do a little show tonight for a quarter of whatever they make. Hey, invite your friends yeah? Especially you Izu-I know you've got half the campus on your contact list. Support your local artists!"

Izuku nodded his head, knowing full well he had no intention of ever re-entering this establishment again. Maybe he'd switch schools? Or even skip the country. Professor Yagi would understand wouldn't he? He could take on a new apprentice. Chacha was already one of his TAs. They had a good relationship. She could handle it. And he would always be a part of the coven no matter what right? So it was-.

Dabi flicked his forehead.

"You're muttering again freak. What's up with you and those guys? Don't tell me you've got the hots for Sparky Sparky Boom Boom Man?"

"Denki is literally my cousin you sicko." Izuku nodded towards other blond, who was loudly arguing with the red head about where to place the drums. "See that guy? That's Katsuki Bakugou."

Dabi froze. Hotwings picked up on his owner'smood, releasing a low growled not to different from Dabi's own voice as he continued.

"The same one from Jeanist High?"

"The one and only."

"He followed you to college?"

Katsuki actually announced his intentions to go to YuuEi first, but in the long run did that really matter? (It did. When Izuku got the scholarship that Professor Yagi fought tooth and nail to award him, Katsuki was left with dirt and no choice but to defer. Persephone help him, this reunion was going to be bad. Even worse if Chacha found out.)

Dabi looked like he was gearing up for a fight. Blue flames already danced at the edge of his fingertips, shoulders tensed up and eyes gone cold. Izuku reached out for his arm, tugging him further into the booth, towards the window.

"It's not worth it," he pleaded, but the man didn't even glance back.

"Hawks would want me to protect you."

"Then do that Dabs. If something happens, I know you've got my back, but let's not start anything we don't have to."

"Zu-,"

"We'll be late for class," Izuku pointed out. "And if we're late, Aizawa will definitely notice the dog."

That at least got him to sit down again, but he could see from the other's grip on his coffee mug that the conversation was far from finished. Dabi seemed to think about it for a second, then sighed.

"If he starts shit, I'll send him to the seventh circle."

It was a promise, through and through, but it wasn't one he had to act on yet. Casting a glamour over the three of them, Izuku hurried the little group out of the cafe before they caught Katsuki's eye.


~

"How are you feeling today Shoto?"

What an odd question. It was the same inquiry that started all of their sessions. He never liked answering it. He looked anywhere but at the woman across from him, shifting his gaze from the aloe plant in the windowsill to the sachets of lavender teetering on the edge of the bookshelf.

"Shoto?"

He rubbed his thumbs together, eyes fixated on the hardwood floors.

"How are you feeling today Shoto?"

It was an innocent question, but it felt like a demand. He looked up, glanced over kind but tired grey eyes and wisps of white that fell out of the loose bun atop the woman's head. She smiled at him, as if to be encouraging. He didn't like the way her lower lip twitched. He dropped his gaze.

"Fine." He said shortly.

"I'm happy to hear that. Did you work on what we talked about last week? About taking the first step?"

His fingers dug into his pant legs as the image of freckles and floating broomsticks crossed his mind. He wanted to grab the memories and hold them close. He wanted to tuck them away from her grasp, shove them out of his brain-past her domain-into the deepest chamber of his heart so no one else could have the magic but him.

Dr. Blanche was a nice woman who probably wanted the best for him. (Or, at the very least, wanted his father's paychecks) but for some reason, this felt private. How would he go about explaining witches and hexes when he hardly believed it himself?

"Somebody accidently hit me with a ball in the park. She came over to apologize then...we got tea afterwards. For her to apologize."

"So I guess the first step took you," The doctor said bemusedly. He didn't like it when her mouth quirked like that-like she was laughing at him.

He rubbed his thumb, and returned his gaze to the floor.

"Did you get her contact information?"

"Yes."

A lie. He didn't have Ochako's. Only Izuku's. It was the fifth number in his phone. If she caught the fib, she didn't let on. Smiling that blank smile of hers, she said,

"Well I suppose the same homework from last week still applies then. Take the first step. Reach out. Maybe see if this young woman would like to grab tea again?"

"I already made plans actually," He tried not to sound haughty, but his tongue felt too loose to hold the words back. "I'm going to see them after my Primate Behavior class."

"Primate...Behavior?"

Her eyes seemed to narrow at that. Immediately, he caught his own mistake. The high that took him just a moment before came crashing down. His thumb was sore. He clung to it anyway.

"I thought your father spoke to you about this Anthropology major. I thought you agreed to stick to Public Policy."

"I'm double-majoring." It could've been a whisper for all it was worth. His heart beat against his chest, flooding his ears with the terrifying cacophony of a drum. He could hear the scratch of pen against paper. Already his arm began to burn with the grip of his father's hand. He could hear the rumble of the man's roar, the stench of gin hot on his breath before the harsh sting of the slap-.

She couldn't tell him. She couldn't tell his father. He wouldn't allow it. He needed to stop her.

The ripping of paper was deafening in the sudden silence. He looked up to find Dr. Blanche taking her notebook and systematically ripping out the last two sheets of their session. She didn't acknowledge him as she did so, silently tearing strip by strip, folding them into tiny pieces and tossing them into the lit candle at the end of her desk.

" I suppose what he doesn't know won't kill him. After all, your life is your own."

Something cold flickered through her gaze as she watched the flame flare up. Her smile stopped just before it reached her eyes.

"You do deserve to be happy Shoto, and only you know what your happiness looks like."

Then the moment passed. The shadow that passed over her spirited away, leaving only the frail kindly woman behind, with her hands crossed on her lap.

"Now, what's the primate fact of this week?"

A little stunned, he spouted out the first fact that came to mind. ("If you press your pinky to your thumb, you'll see the palmaris longus muscles. It's a vestigial trait. We'd only need it if we were brachiators, swinging from tree to tree." "Tres cool!") Their session ended soon after that, and his legs were leading him out of her office out onto campus before he knew it. With little more than two hours before his next class, he went to the park, collapsed onto a bench and stared up at his sky,

He could hardly imagine what happiness looked like, let alone his own.

If the smell of soil and mint danced at the edges of his mind, then he didn't acknowledge it.

~


THE smell of cigarettes and sweat hung heavy on the autumn air as the band nestled into the back of Kirishima's truck. Katsuki tapped a beat against the sides, knee jittering with anticipation of the upcoming gig. His throat burned as he watched Kaminari take a swig of Jose Cuervo straight from the bottle. The blond swished it around his mouth, swallowed, then proceeded to stupidly declare,

"Okay so no cap. No bullshit. All feminist energy and respect to the fairer sex. But I gotta say it: Some women are meant to be housewives."

A series of groans and a loud "What?" from Sero went about the crew as Kaminari held his hands up in defense. Kirishima's fingers paused on his phone.

"He's got a point though. Would I trust Mina with my finances? No. Would I trust Mina with making a Bundt cake for my Nana's 80th birthday? Yes."

"It's not a matter of being 'meant for housework'." Jirou said seriously. "It's a matter of allowing her the freedom to choose if that's what she wants to do." She turned to Kirishima. "And Mina doesn't need your finances, she has her own." Then, quietly, "Not a lot, but it's there."

"Thanks for the faith hun. Good to know that some of us know what we're talking about."

Bedazzled fingernails that were more like talons clung to the ridge of the trunk before Mina swung herself over the top. She was already geared up for her act. That night's wig was a chic pink bob, matching her prim fur coat. Kaminari, Sero, and Jirou whooped as she twirled using only the tip of her stiletto, before posing to reveal how the boot stretched up to her thigh. (And her navel. Katsuki averted his eyes from the long expanse of tawny skin barely covered by a white crop top.)

"Friends! You too can look like me if you shop at Vintage Acid! We're having a BOGO sale till the end of October for Halloween! Please, come. Cause, like, no cap fam, they will fire me if we keep losing customers."

She reached for the bottle of tequila and took a long swig. Her sunglasses twinkled under the streetlights, and her own mischievous wink at Kirishima was barely seen from behind the yellow lens.

The target of the wink was barely holding up. It happened every time Mina entered the room, five years of dating be damned. If Katsuki didn't find how his face flushed a deep scarlet fucking hilarious, he'd probably feel pity for the man.

"But you just got that gig as that back-up dance right? For-what's their name? The Cheetah Girls-?"

"The Wild, Wild Pussycats you mean?" She patted his shoulder. "Good try babe. And, yeah, but practice doesn't start till June. I need to pay rent now. The roomie will kill me if I'm late again."

"How is Toru?" Sero asked. Mina scrunched her nose.

"Never see her. Our schedules clash too much. I'm out all night. She's out all day. Now,"

Her grin turned excitable as she huddled in. Looking about conspiratorially, she dropped her voice,

"Don't tell anyone I told you this, but apparently the manager of NOMU is in town. He's supposed to be hanging around tonight to scout out some new talent. I'm gonna try and give him my mixtape."

"Fuck. You tell us this now?"

"Christ, Kiki. I only found out this morning. Let's loose the 'tude dude." Mina held her hands out in the shape of a cross. The drummer folded his arms across his chest, but the shaking of his knee increased tenfold. Kaminari looked like he was about to vomit straight tequila, looking between Mina and his girlfriend with pure fear.

Jirou was his complete opposite. Like a fire sparked under her ass, she leapt up and hollered loud for the entire block to hear,

"This is the golden ticket boys! We've got a golden ticket! Fuck me this is so rock n' roll dude! THANK YOU MICK JAGGER!" A few stragglers from SugarRush gave her a strange look, but she didn't care, punching her fists into the air and laughing aloud.

"Now I don't know if it'll work out for y'all just cause the League doesn't really sign rock acts, but it doesn't hurt to make a good first impression. You're lucky-," She pointed at Katsuki. "That I told you at all."

She took a final swig of tequila. Then, with a kiss to Kirishima's cheek and a swirl of pink fur, she was gone. The boys looked to be varying degrees of sick, while Jirou bounced about.

"We're going to absolutely crush it! We gotta!"

And how could he look at the determination on her face and deny her? Rolling his eyes, he crossed his arms and scoffed.

"Fuckin' course we are. Since when do we half-ass shit Zero?"

She started to hype them up, pushing tasks onto the boys and wrapping up the pre-game to get them inside for a little sound check, and maybe to catch a bit of Mina's act. Katsuki followed along, dutifully getting his drum kit ready.

The burning in his chest was pushed to the back of his mind. For better or for worse, time would tell.


~


IT was just his luck that he left his student ID at Sugar Rush. Granted, Deku seemed to lose the plastic card at every opportunity he got, but it always managed to turn up by the end of the night. Either a friend had picked it up or a good Samaritan had turned it in for the campus police to find the victim.

He'd walked his usual route around campus, Hotwings sniffing at the ground in front of him as if he too were on the hunt. It was only after he scoured Dabi's apartment for the third time that Rikki texted him about finding the card in the crook of the booth.

Around 30 minutes before that night's show was supposed to start.

"Good thing you're coming to the show anyway haha! And you invited your friends right?"

He would've left it there to rot, but the only way through the gate into the student housing section is with a student ID. Even if he got someone to toggle the gate from inside, Tenya was the only one home and he would never break security code, no matter how much love for Izuku he may hold.

Dabi didn't even offer to let him crash the night. Handing him Hotwings's leash, the man only said,

"Walk him while you're out. Make sure he doesn't bite someone again. I nearly got sued."

(It was one time. And to be fair, that lacrosse player was giving him the evil eye. It was only natural that Hotwings would jump at him. That's what good familiars did.) He sulked as he rounded the corner, and the vivacity of nightlife overtook him.

Shot Street was known for its string of bars and clubs. The more debauchery-inclined of the university found themselves crammed into the slim strip, chattering under the dim streetlights. Ducking his head, he made his way through the thick crowd with relative ease. Hotwings was intimidating enough to make people jump out of his way as he strode across cobblestone, ducking into the cafe.

It was packed. Those that could find a seat were standing tight together like sardines in a can, each bopping their head to the aggressive rap song blaring through the speakers. A woman in a long pink fur was on stage, holding her own with no back-up dancers as she sped through another verse complete with choreo. Horns stood high on her head, bright gold and dangerously sharp. Relief loosened his limbs. If she was still on stage, then the band had either already went up or were waiting in the back for their turn. He just needed to grab his ID, and leave quick. He turned to see if he could find Rikki but a flash of light blonde caught the corner of his eye.

"Get it Pinky!"

He'd know that enthusiastic squeal anywhere. And if the voice wasn't obvious enough, the clothes were. There were few people willing to wear an oversized sparkling pink t-shirt, no pants, and a tall white combat boots, also gleaming with sparkles. Yuuga Aoyama was one of these few.
He stood by the bar. The man's blonde hair had streaks of pink running through it, and it seemed to rise around him in a halo as he screamed lyrics back at the rapper. There was a red flush high on his cheeks-whether from excitement or alcohol Izuku didn't know.

But he knew he couldn't just leave him there and risk regretting it in the morning. He could already see Yuuga's drink, a hot pink cosmopolitan, levitating at his side. Give the man another drink or two and he'd be drawing pentacles for the world to see. Izuku cast a glance about him, then waved his fingers and muttered,

"Power is power and might is might
May I be my brother's keeper this night.
Keep him safe, his hearth will glow
His magic joins mine, until tomorrow."

The drink fell. Yuuga visibly staggered, pressing a hand to his chest. Izuku stepped forward before he could fully panic, pressing a firm hand to his shoulder. Violet eyes jumped up to meet his, and immediately the fear in them made way for relief.

"Your drink was levitating. Anyone could've seen."

"I knew I kept you around for a reason." Fluttering his eyes, Yuuga leaned back into Izuku's chest. The smell of drink on his breath confirmed the earlier theory. "Give me thirty minutes and a café au lait. I'll be ready to go home."

Thirty minutes. He could do that. Pinky would still be on for a solid half an hour right?

It seemed the gods had other plans. By the time he returned from his chat with Rikki, ID and two cups of coffee in hand, not even ten minutes had passed and she had already left the stage. His heart dropped as he watched stage hands set up a familiar crimson drum set.

"You ready? Can we go?" Yuuga's grip was iron on his wrist, dragging him down to occupy the two seats that were vacated after Pinky's set.

"One more song. Then we'll go. Please."

If it were anyone else, Izuku would've argued. The fact that Yuuga was Yuuga was the only thing keeping him in his seat.

It was rare that he saw an authentic grin on the man's face. He didn't talk about it, but Izuku knew he was having a hard time. Being an international student, and joining the coven a year after the others, he was having trouble finding his role.

It was Izuku's job to help him figure that out. If he could stoke that tiny spark of joy for a bit longer, then he'd just have to put up with churning feeling in his gut.

Maybe if he looked down, they wouldn't make eye contact. He kept his gaze glued onto Hotwings, who was laying across their feet as if to nap. Worried about the noise, he cast a quick Subtle Silencer on the dog's ears, cutting away the chatter to let him rest. Then the lights went out. Voices fell silent as the first chords of a guitar rang out, only to be joined by a second supporting guitar line moments later. The drums came in heavy. Izuku could feel the force of them climbing up his legs as the crowd rushed in to get closer to the stage.

"Yuuei! Let's start a riot!"

At once, bright spotlights came down on the band on the stage. The lead singer, a short girl with hair dyed a violet so deep it almost looked black, jumped right into the first song, chipped black fingernails moving a mile a minute on her guitar. Kaminari was at her side. He did a strange hop as he played the same instrument. It made the single black streak in his hair go wild as the entire mop flew in a crackle of electricity. The wizard's powers were subtle. Little sparks that danced here and there, a few instances Izuku could catch the guitar playing itself when the man accidently sliced his finger with the string. He didn't know the third man on the strings, but he fit right in with the rest. A wide grin spread across his face as he tore up his bass. Long and lean, he seemed to stretch into his playing, leaning into each note with ease.

Then a flash of gold caught his eye, and Izuku found his eyes resting on the drummer.

It'd been a while since he'd seen Katsuki play. (Sophomore Year talent show...so 5 years ago?) Hell, it'd been a while since he'd seen the man at all. He had plenty more tattoos to show for the time that passed. A full sleeve covered his left arm, stretching up his shoulder to disappear behind his black muscle tee. He closed his eyes while he played, banging against each drum and cymbal with sheer placement-memory until he hit a particularly difficult set of tabs. Then the red of his glare shone through as he bared his teeth, slamming the beat into submission. He knew that determination-that sheer rage-and the sight of it churned something molten and bittersweet in his chest.

Before he knew it the song came to a rolling end. The room was filled with cheers as the musicians panted, wringing out their arms and exchanging grins.

Katsuki held his hands over his head in a stretch. He crossed his drumsticks in the air and the act flashed the black words on his forearms for all to see.

"AWAKE" read his left. "UNAFRAID" said the right. The lead singer reached for mic, showing that she had markings in the exact same place, with the exact same font.

"ASLEEP" her left read, with "DEAD" on the other arm.

And, suddenly, he was thrown ten years into the past, when living was easy and a simple g-note played on the piano was all someone needed to get a chorus of screams in a music class. It was nice to see that the other man still loved the band they used to listen to as kids.

Enough to seek out another superfan...

Matching tattoos were weird. Maybe she was his girlfriend? But he recognized the girl from Denki's screensaver, and he was pretty positive the two were still in a relationship. Unless she dated Kaccha-.

'Katsuki,' he reminded his brain sharply. 'His name is Katsuki. Bakugou if we're feeling petty.'

A shout took him out of his thoughts.

"Yuu-freaking-Ei, what is good? We're super grateful for SugarRush letting us chill and bang out a couple new tunes for you guys tonight. Hope you enjoy."

She stepped back as if to go into the next song, but Katsuki barked something at her that had her scrambling back to the mic. Laughing nervously, she said,

"Almost forgot. Let's introduce the booooyyyys. On the bass, the man with the hands: Hanta!"

The black haired man played a couple chords before falling into a melody. The singer spoke over it, gesturing to her left.

"On lead guitar, ladies and gents, the legs of our band, the man who carries us through to the end: Denki, who's going to be single very soon if he doesn't stop trying to show off and pick up a guitar pick."

The blond skipped up, placed a kiss on the girl's cheek all the while digging through her pocket for a pick as the crowd let out a series of catcalls. Denki joined Hanta's melody, flawlessly falling in line as the vocalist stepped aside to give the crowd a better view.

"And what's a body without blood? The drummer and heartbeat of our motley crew everyone: Ki-Ki!"

"Do you love me?" the crowd screamed. "Are you riding?"

Izuku frowned as he looked to the drummer. He expected the worst: a series of vehemently spat curses or even for him to walk right off the stage, but he took the attention in stride. Drum sticks were mere blurs as the lights changed from stark white to blue to violet. The grin he wore was manic as he struck cymbal after cymbal, foot tapping a vicious pattern into the bass drum.

"They call me Zero! And we are The Black Parade!"

The burst of applause and yells that followed was an intense bout of noise. The amount of people packed into the cafe definitely posed a fire hazard. Even if Izuku wanted out, he couldn't move. Instead, he clung to his seat, impassively watching the performance even as Yuuga stirred, bopping his head and shouting encouragements.

They were good. He knew his cousin and Kaccha-Katsuki had joined a band sometime in middle school, but talent shows did nothing to predict what they would turn into a decade down the line: a force to be reckoned with.

As expected, his cousin was lightning on the guitar. Denki flowed into the songs with ease, pick or no, and had no trouble thrashing his head and tossing winks for those with their cameras out to capture the moment. His partner followed his lead, bass supporting the melody with a cool, calm line to keep everyone on track.

And Zero was a star. Frontwoman of the band, she was a whirlwind on stage. Jumping up and down, whipping her hair, and crawling to the front of the stage on her hands to get closer to the fans and share the mic for a spell were only some of the girl's more rambunctious acts. If this was a 'chill out and bang a couple tunes' session, then he'd love to see what she was like for a serious act.

Hypothetically. Because he was never coming to another one of their shows again.

As if sensing his thoughts, the reason for his aversion went in for a drum solo. Not once did he hesitate. Izuku was used to seeing fury on the boy's face. Not this excited grin, nor the content spark in his eye as he guided the batons in his hands through the end of the song. His bandmates yelled as he went off.

Then red eyes met his, and the entire world burst into flames.

Izuku could sense it before it happened. Other people's magic was like a wisp of a spider web against the skin, or the prickle of static. It made your hair stand on end. This sudden blast was so strong, he could taste the sweet tang of power as he grit his teeth.

The drumsticks caught fire in Katsuki's hand, to the surprise of his bandmates. Immediately, the man jumped away from his drum, yelping as his upper-arms caught that same crimson flame. The crowd, once pushing to get closer, started scrambling back. People pushed and shoved their way out, startling Hotwings, who began to bark and balefully howl.

Yuuga seemed to be shocked into sobriety. Pressing his hand to his friend's temple, he recited

"The night is over.
Tomorrow has come.
Let these powers
Go back to where they're from."

As the other blinked dazedly, Izuku gave him orders to direct everyone out safely. He stumbled a little but sprung to action. Raising his hands, he flickered the lights on and off, then jumped onto the bar, fully illuminated by what seemed like a curtain of glitter.

"Everyone! There are two exits! Please exit calmly and orderly. There is no fire! I repeat: there is no fire, but we will need everyone out for the night. You can go anywhere you want, but you cannot stay here! But you'll all have to calm down! It's all right now! Why? Because I am here."

Subtly, while they were all staring at the scantily clad blonde man, Izuku scooped a few poppy flowers from his hoodie pocket. He made quick work of the petals, ripping them to bits, then blew them into the air, sparks of green magic following them the whole way.

At once the mood changed. The eyes of those around them fell to half-mast. The shrieking immediately stopped as they all blindly followed Yuuga's instructions. They would be blindly following instructions for a while. This was why it was better to use the power of the petals than the whole thing. Was it more dangerous to let them out into the world? He really didn't want to take that risk.

He wasn't sure if he had enough strength left in him, but he went for it anyway.

"Sleep tight mortals. Don't let the bedbugs bite."

At once, bodies collapsed to the floor. It was difficult, casting on so many people at once. It wouldn't last even 15 minutes before people would start to shake out of it. He'd have to take care of this in five.

He stumbled up to the stage. Ignoring the throbbing pain in his casting hand, he threw himself over the edge, walking over the fallen bodies of the band till he reached where Denki stood. At the sight of him, the man dropped his shirt from over his nose.

"You really didn't hold back did you cuzzo?" He said. Immediately after a sneeze left him, resounding through the room like a rocket. Izuku didn't reply. Instead he crouched down before the fall body of the drummer.

He poked. Katsuki jolted. His eyes were open, swiveling around even as the rest of his body didn't move. He wasn't asleep. Which meant he wasn't mortal.

"Did you know?"

A long pause. The scuffling of shoes.

"I was suspicious," Denki muttered finally. "Sometimes I would sense things, but they were flashes. I thought I was tripping."

"Even me, despite our history, I didn't..." His voice trailed off. Katsuki's eyes met his. The beating in his chest only grew.

He tried not to feel a sick sense of satisfaction as he curled his fingers into a fist. The red eyes that bored into his burned-curses clear in the irises even as the other man's mouth didn't move.

"Sorry Kacchan."

Then Izuku punched him across the jaw. He felt the moment those eyes stopped glaring at him. At once the allure of powerful magic fell away. He let loose a long, heaving breath.

"Call Professor Yagi." He said. As discomfort fell away, an odd sense of deja-vu came and took its place.

Chapter Text

~28 Days Until the End of the World~

            THE smell of coffee was heavy on the air when Izuku crawled down to the kitchen that Saturday morning. Stifling a yawn, he shuffled to the counter, pouring himself a cup with cream and lots of honey. He just needed a sip to start his day in peace, then he could go down to the station and get to work. As if reminding him of the ungodly hour, his pager buzzed in his pocket as he sat down.

Was it worth it? This EMT-B thing? He wanted to help people for sure but was this really the way?

 As he basked in self-pity and fatigue, the front door opened with the clashing of keys and a whispered argument.

"Katsuki Bakugou?" He'd recognize Ochako's furious tone anywhere. It sent a shiver down his spine. An angry Ochako meant things would start getting super weird super quickly.  Sure enough, the coffee mug in his hand began to quake. It was as if it were a hundred pounds in his hands, only getting heavier by the second. Ignoring the burn, he chugged the caffeine as quickly as he could, eavesdropping on the argument taking place before the cup ripped from his hand to hit the floor.

There was no crash, only a flattened disc at his feet.

"He's changed." That was Denki. They went out for a morning run then. A spike of envy ran its course through his veins as he thought about how alert they were in the mornings. A 12-hour shift would be nothing to them. 

"Oh, does he torment kids instead of terrorize them? What an improvement. I can't believe you still hang out with him. After what he did to Izuku! After what he nearly did to your father's coven!"

"He was a kid!"

"So were we!" She countered fiercely. "And you, Sparky, don't act like you're not at fault here. He was going to out us all and you just sat back and watched. I don't know what it is about him that makes you want to choose him over us. Izuku's your cousin for Circe's sake! I-oh."

He could hear them come into the kitchen, and turn on the lights. He didn't raise his head from the nook of his arms. There was an awkward scuffling-what he assumed were Ochako's shoes butting against the floor; she tended to tap her toes into the ground when she was nervous. 

"Morning Zu! How're you feeling?" Her cheeriness rang false. He ignored the question, and went straight for the kill.

"It's not Denki's fault. It's mine and his. Whatever we've got between us, we'll have to plow through it if it comes down to that. Don't pull Sparks into something that's none of his business."

Ochako whirled on the blond. "You see that? That's how you're supposed to defend your family. You should be taking notes."

She sneered. It was a rather nasty look for someone with such a kind, round face. Snatching a water bottle, she took her leave, stomping her way up the steps. However rare a mad Chacha was, it never failed to make the bottom of Izuku's stomach drop out. When she left the air in the room seemed to grow lighter. Gravity didn't press him down as much-the weight of her anger no longer rearranging the laws of physics. His coffee cup was a goner though. Dismayed, he poked at the flattened disc in front of him. Its surface was sandy with sugar particles that hadn't dissolved yet. He licked it as Denki sat.

There were dark circles under his amber eyes, and the telltale flush of exertion high on his cheeks. It was as though he hadn't slept since last night. Izuku wouldn't put it past him. He had a bit of trouble himself, but two shots of Tsuyu's Calm Calamity brew and he was out like a light.

The other man probably didn't get the chance. Denki left SugarRush with his friend in tow, awarded the task of being the one to explain to the man that 'Yes. Magic does exist. Yer a wizard Katsuki.'

Well, half-wizard. Izuku had met Mitsuki Bakugou and she was definitely more bitch than witch. His favorite aunt with a humor that reminded him of Shinsou's, a killer sense of style, but no magic bone in her body. Maybe she was the third child, and all the magic she was carrying went to her kid? He didn't know too much about Katsuki's father, having met the man only once, but Izuku's mother would've said something. They were neighbors after all, and she was a strong witch in her own right. She would've picked up on something.

Unless, of course, the Law of the Third came into play. Magical genetics were strange. The third child never had active powers. All the genes to pass on thought That must suck: being the only one in your family without magic while your siblings got to do spells and brew potions. Or even worse, the Infant Theft: the theory that newborns could 'suck' the power out of other members of a magic household. Izuku had wanted a sibling as a kid, when he got his powers at 16, he couldn't hep but be relieved. He didn't want to think what his life would be like without them.

No matter how much shit Katsuki gave him for being a 'freak' in high school, he didn't regret anything.

"I can hear you thinking from here." Denki squashed his cheeks into his fists as he leaned into his arms, dejectedly looking at Izuku, begging for pity.

He checked the time. 3 minutes before he had to go. He decided to indulge his cousin.

"How did he react?"

"...Exactly like you'd expect. Yelling. Disbelief. I told him to call up some of his family to see if they might know anything. But I'm just as surprised as you are. Who starts showing out at 22? Talk about late bloomer."

Izuku was ready to respond when his pager rang out once more.

"I haven't seen it, but I guess it's not impossible. Especially if he's only half. Miracles of life and all."

He tossed his cup-turned-disk out. Shrugging on a flannel, he made sure to shove his ID into his pocket right next to his keys.

"Keep Professor Yagi posted." 

"The Professor-?"

"Yuuga and I called him last night. He'll handle it. Katsuki's not part of our coven so he has no reason-,"

"Wait, what?"

He refused to comment. Denki continued, "So we're leaving Kats out but that hex-guy gets three of our best working on his case?"

Izuku shot him a look. At once, the blond stiffened, glancing away. Without another word exchanged, he opened the door to the early autumn chills, and left for work.

~

BEADS of sweat jumped out at him as his fist connected with his opponent's headguard If he used his imagination, he could pretend the fucker across from him had wide green eyes with curly hair to match. He could see the myriad of freckles scattered across his stupid face like oil splatters on a garage floor.

Fucking Deku. He knew the nerd went to Yuuei. He should've expected the little shit to crop up at some point. He just didn't expect to see him so soon, and at one of his shows nonetheless.

The next hit sent shivers through his arm. He brought his right up to block, then started swinging with his left.

But those flames. There was no warning before they burst through him. It was almost as if Deku himself had prompted them.

Which would make sense. Katsuki always knew he was a fucking freak. That didn't explain Kaminari though. No matter what, the man was always on his side when he and greenie fought. But last night, when they both stared him down as he lay struggling to breath, something otherflashed in their eyes. The weight of it pressed down on him from all sides, making the hair on his arms rise. Even thinking about it made him want to puke.

The gym was hot. Even beneath the whirling fans up above, there was no escaping the vortex of heat. He plowed through it, even as sweat dripped from his brow, spittle flying from his mouth as let out a wet scream.

 And Denki had the nerve to text him that morning. "Suspension of disbelief" the fuck-wad said. No context. No follow-up. No shit. He was going to roast him whenever he saw him again. He doubted he'd have the guts to show up to the meet-up at Jirou's place tomorrow night. He'd be too busy hanging out with his favorite cousin Deku, and he'd leave Katsuki in the dust to rot

"Focus on precision. Ya' gotta a good arm there, youngin'. No need to waste your time building more power for punches that aren't landing in the first place."

"The fuck did you say-!" He turned, ready to start a fight, but the sight of the man leaning against the ring made him pause.

There was no mistaking him. Not many men could boast an imposing figure of 7 ft. He was skinnier than what the viral photos of him would claim, but he supposed that's what came with radiation exposure. Though there were no bulging muscles and broad shoulders, there was no way in hell Katsuki would mistake that wide, loony grin.

He thought he was going to explode. As if he understood the boxer's sudden panic, Professor Toshinori Yagi (leading expert in Aerospace Engineering and primary technician of the All Might VIII-the human-rated super heavy-lift launch vehicle used by NASA for the first human expedition to Mars-and the subsequent first astronaut to land on fucking Mars) pulled himself into the ring.

"Scram."

At first Katsuki thought the words were for him. He nearly turned to go when his opponent all too happily left the arena. He could feel the sweat on his palms start to heat up under his gloves when the Professor he worked so hard to get near raised his fists and assumed the stance.

"Let's see what ya' got youngblood. Put 'em where I can see 'em."

He raised his arms half-heartedly. As awe-inspiring as Professor Yagi was, he wasn't the type of loser that went around hitting  old guys. The reward for his ignorance was a blast to his ribcage that knocked him to the ground.

He sank to his knees, spluttering, as the bare knuckles that nearly rearranged his insides returned to the professor's original stance, as if nothing happened.

Something devious sparked in blue eyes. 

"C'mon youngin. What? Are ya' waitin' for the sugarcane to grow?"

 Katsuki stood, reassumed the position, and from there they exchanged blows. The old man was spry. Each punch was deflected with a tap, or avoided completely with a fancy twist of the ankle. The ones the old man threw back were too rough for the gnarly hands and skeletal fingers they came from. A particularly nasty feint had Katsuki leaning into his left, where Professor Yagi's fist was already waiting for him.

His ribs jostled. Inside him, something shifted and started to burn. There was no urgency like the other times, just a slow, molten circulation of heat till his hands started to burn through the gloves. He wanted to run, shove the flaming appendages beneath his armpits and make a getaway, but his wrist was caught in a vice that dragged him forward as his opponent stepped to the side.

"Interestin'," Professor Yagi muttered as he examined the flames sparking from Katsuki's flesh. "He was right. That right there is a mighty fine display of pyrokinesis. 's a shame ya' ain't got any control over it though."

He heaved a great sigh, but there was a light in the blue eyes that bored into Katsuki's own. He had seen too many videos of the man to mistake that spark: the light of discovery and daredevil's urge to experiment shone back at him as the elder man let out a boisterous laugh.

"Looks like we've got our work cut out for us. Put up those fists kiddo. Let's get that breathing under control, then I'll tell you everything you need to know."

~

SHOTO hesitated on the front steps of ZKC house. His hand was already poised to knock when his breath started to get short, anxiety hitting him like planes hit birds in flight: nonchalantly, leaving only a bloody spurt of feathers behind while it remained unscathed.

This...was a mistake. He would go back and tell Dr. Blanche that he was never meant to take his own steps at all. His father laid out a path for him to follow. That's all he's ever known.

He dropped his fist to his side. He could turn around, go home, and pretend that none of this ever happened. Common sense would dictate that magic wasn't real. The whole incident was an anxiety-induced hallucination. Or maybe it was all real, but these people didn't really want him sticking around. Shoto wasn't the best with people. He could say the wrong thing without thinking or do something that made it terribly obvious that he didn't have friends and look like some kind of freak in front of Izuku and common sense said self-preservation. Live to try again another day-

Shoto let out a breath. Jabbing common sense in the throat, he raised his fist and knocked three times.

Silence.

30 seconds passed. Then a minute.

No response. Something in him deflated. He had a great suspicion that was his heart dragging on the ground. He should've been used to disappointment by then. It should've up greeted him like an old friend instead of crawling into his skin and ripping him to shreds. Common courtesy.

 It was fine. Truly. He would just leave and study for a bit in the park-(notthepark.notthepark.notthepark)-in the library. Humans were complex creatures he couldn't begin to fathom, but primates? Primates he knew like the back of his hand.

"You're a little weird, aren't you?" 

Shoto jumped. There, beneath the hanging chair, was a naked man with powder white skin and a muss of hair the color of lavender. He looked to be about his age, and judging by the lack of clothes or hairbrush, probably homeless. Campus security was getting lax. (He hoped someone would find a way to blame it on his father. The old man could get fired and Shoto would be free to do as he pleased.)

Violet eyes flicked up at him. A wide, cheshire grin spread across the vagrant's face.

"How long do you think it takes someone to answer a door Hex boy? Or were you trying to ding-dong ditch us?"

"No, I-. Oh, that's just vulgar."

The man had stood up, letting it all hang free much to Shoto's immediate displeasure, and walked to the front door. Crossing his arms over his chest, the man snapped twice.

The door snapped open at once. Few rays of sunshine penetrated the dark hallway. Swallowing, Shoto looked to thank the man, but he had disappeared. In his place, a hairy black cat chased its own tail. The little thing didn't even spare the human a glance as it leapt into the seat of the hanging chair, eyes shut to the world as it prepared for a late afternoon slumber.

"Thank you," Shoto said to it, because it would be rude to do otherwise. The cat did not reply. Bracing himself, the student clutched the strap of his messenger bag, and took his first steps inside. The skeleton arm that jumped out of the closet in the hallway nearly frightened him to death. He inched around the bony appendages, back to the white wall, oblivious to the eyes of the framed photographs of student past, slowly approaching the room from which he heard the most voices.

In the living room, there was a wide spread of action. The girl that hit him with the broom-Ochako was furiously scribbling with a stylus, the light of her laptop casting a glow against her round cheeks. Her boyfriend-the stern one with the glasses-looked over her shoulder, taking his own notes on his computer, occasionally asking for her reasoning behind a certain calculation. On the long couch, a girl with hair as green as Izuku's, lay on her stomach with her legs crossed behind her. The remote in her hand twirled, TV settled on some particularly graphic horror show.

She had stopped watching to look at him, which made the image of her a bit worse. As her wide, black eyes looked him up and down with an impassive caution, as something resembling the minotaur screamed on screen, blood running down its body. 

He avoided looking her in the eye for the duration of his stay.

All in all, they would've appeared to be normal college students, but there were little odds and ends around the room that he couldn't help but notice upon second glance. Like the pentacle crudely engraved into the wooden floor. That one would raise a couple brows. Did they have a rug to cover that, or would they just let guests assume the worse? He stepped in, only to jump back again when a bodiless head dropped from the ceiling, caught only its own pink locks of hair. 

Golden eyes peered at him, crazed, then it opened its mouth to shriek.

"STRANGER DANGER! STRANGER DANGER! THERE'S A STRANGER! HE'S IN DANGER! TURN BACK NOW OR FACE MY WRATH!"

It lunged for him and Shoto reached out on instinct.

Something shot through him, something warm and powerful that danced like lightning up his left arm. He hardly gasped before it was gone. Only a throbbing pain in his eye was left in its wake.

 Then the thing burst into flames, curling into itself as a blood-curdling scream erupted from its maw. Shoto scrambled away from it as the pink hair holding it up burned into nothing.

No one in the room spared it a glance.

"Mei!" Ochako hollered. Her eyes remained glued on her work. "Come get your head! It's scaring our guest." Still not looking up, she said, softer, "How're you doing Shoto? How's that head?" 

"I'm fine." A pause, then he realized that the only polite follow up was, "And yourself?"

Before she could answer, there was a thundering from the steps. Momo appeared first, but was quickly surpassed by a blur of black and pink. It came to an abrupt stop right in front of him. The same head-this time with a body to accompany it-cocked this way and that, not unlike a bird peering at its prey before swooping in for the kill. 

"You're Izuku's hex-boy," The head said. Shoto realized she was a girl from the voice alone. Her black cloak hid her form, and her pink hair was cropped into an undercut. (Her face was pretty enough-but so was Izuku's thus, he concluded, attractiveness did not determine gender.) She entered his personal space without faltering. While he squirmed and determinedly avoided eye contact, she peered at his eye, all the while muttering under her breat

"Glamour covering up a hex...no. Not a hex. Wait, yes a hex. A binding hex. Say, who'd ya' piss off so bad they had to bind your powers? Oh, you poor thing, you're as good as mortal now. Hades' Hounds, I'd just die if I turned mortal. Have you met Fumikage? He might be able to he-hel-haaaaaaa? My baby!"

She shrieked, dropping to her knees to cradle the smoldering embers of what was once definitely her head. The look she gave him was one that left a sour, bitter taste in his mouth. Where her eyes once shone with curiosity, something darker appeared: fear.

She tried to laugh it off, but he could see the way she slowly made to back away.

"Say, you're pretty strong huh? To be able to use destructive magic like that against my homunculus head, even though your powers have been binded. That's...Say, I'm sorry about the 'mortal' comment. I didn't mean it-," 

"Y-You have nothing to apologize for. I don't know how I managed to do-," he gestured towards the thing. "All of this."

In the background, the girl on the couch's eyes flickered to him, almost quickly enough for him to miss it.

 

Not even a minute in their house and he made it weird. He was weird. How did he managed to screw up within five minutes? And the homeless catman had been nice enough to open the door for him too. There was a sinking feeling in his chest as his throat began to clog up. He clutched his hands together, and made to apologize when-,

 

"Shoto! I was just about to text you." A warm, strong hand rested on his shoulder. The face that beamed up at him was open, despite the signs of fatigue pulling at his eyes and lips. Izuku strode in, tossing around bright hellos while pulling Shoto by the wrist. (And god his hand was warm. Shoto could feel a blush spread across his body like wildfire).

He was wearing some kind of uniform. All black like a firefighter's but also not. His pants, loose with an endless supply of pocket, were tucked into a pair of boots, with his polo tucked into that in turn.  Midoriya was printed beneath a white six-pronged star. When the man reached up to crook two fingers at Momo in a 'come hither', he could see bandages wrapped tight around his wrist. Catching Shoto staring, Izuku sheepishly went to hide the wound.

"Little scratch. Perks of the job, huh?"

"What is it that you do?" 

He seemed to swell proudly. "I'm an EMT with the Yuuei Fire Department."

"But he won't be for long," Momo said, holding the man's arm up. "A burn, Izu? You're gonna get fired if you keep breaking protocol. Rumi can't keep vouching for you."

He grinned at her. A row of white teeth gleamed, some crooked boyishly and a little gap between his canines and the rest of the set. . Shoto pressed a hand to his chest at the sight. (Was this a part of the other's magic? Was this attraction some type of power?)

 The three of them sat down at the table. Another man, blonde with violet eyes, glanced back at them. He was rather slim, dressed formally in a white button down and black slacks, with an apron that read 'Coucou, Salut!' when he turned to place a bowl of soup in front of the table.

 "My name's Yuuga. I'm French." The man said this with a wink as he placed another bowl in front of Shoto. At the blank stare he received in response, he continued, "I'm a kitchen witch. Not to brag, but I've been told that I can cream a nice eclair."

He felt nothing. So much for magical attraction.

 He gave the chef his name just to be polite but made sure to shift his chair substantially closer to Izuku. The boy was eating heartily as Momo fussed at his side like a mother hen.

"And you already have so many scars. This one's going to be hideous."

 Izuku waved her off as he slurped down another spoonful, taking a bite out of the slice of baguette. He pointed to Shoto as if to say "Don't worry about me! Focus on him!"

 And so the woman did. Turning to face him, a range of emotions flickered across her face before finally settling on apologetic.

"Fumikage and I have been working on this since you left. We don't think we're ready to try and take off whatever's holding back your powers, but the glamour wasn't too hard to figure out. We're thinking that, once we take that off, it'll be easier to try and navigate the binding spell. If you don't mind, I can take it off now."

He nodded his assent, before a quick thought made him pause.

He was here. With other people. People he may dare to call his friends someday, if they'd let him. He was eating their food and walking into their house without them making a big deal about it as if he were...welcome.

When their business was done and the hex was gone, would he be afforded the same regard?

But he couldn't do anything about it. Momo's soft hand was already covering his blue eye. It was a little clammy, but like aloe to a burn it soothed as she muttered an incantation under her breath. It was an eerie stream of something that sounded suspiciously like latin. It made his scar burn but held in the gasp of pain that flittered in his throat at Izuku's curious gaze. The man held his hand up. An old whether notebook labelled '13' flew into his palms. Whipping a quill out of the air, he began to write.

And Shoto felt that. He felt the tingling sensation running up and down his arms when the other held out his hand. He felt the moment the spellcasting ended, like a static shock after touching a freshly laundered blanket. The aftereffects were like caramel on his tongue-a little burnt but all too sweet in the air.

 "Done."

The woman sat back, and the burning in his eye fled to the back of his mind as he began to feel. Was the world so gray before this? He could sense everyone in the house, like tiny balls of electricity that he was dancing between, with the ones closest to him closer to live wire than anything else. The sweet smell in the air grew sickly, and his head began to grow light.

 He looked down at his hands. The same worn brown lines stared up at him from the paleness of his palm, but he was feeling so much more. Glancing up at Izuku, he swallowed his nausea and reached.

"Whoa!" The man squealed. He nearly leapt from his seat, rotating his shoulders as he looked around. Finally settling his gaze on Shoto, he let out a laugh. 

"Eager aren't you? You've got a strong magic signature so that's good. Try and keep it to yourself though. You don't want to be jabbing at strangers."

 He felt something in his chest glow at the compliment. He had questions, wanted to learn more, but the burning in his eye and lightness in his head grew too cumbersome to ignore. Gritting his teeth, he shoved the bowl of soup away and lay his head on the counter.

"Overstimulation. I should've warned you before you took off the glamour. Sho, there's too many magicians in here for you to handle at once. I'm going to bring you outside, ok?" 

Sho. Despite the pain he wanted to grin. He had a friend give him a nickname. Dr. Blanche was going to have a field day with this. To make things better, he felt a strong arm wrap around his knee before her was hoisted over bulky shoulders in a classic fireman's carry. It was a bit awkward since he was substantially taller than the other, but he didn't complain even as the smell of cinders and sweat hung heavy in the air.

Izuku shooed away the cat before setting Shoto in the chair. As the cool evening air settled around them, his head began to clear, and he could take in the sight before him.

 Of a man who had just come back from a long day of work and was tired, and hungry, and much too nice to say no to dealing with some charity case. Suddenly extremely self-aware, Shoto stiffened.

 "I-um, I should go."

"What? No!"

Izuku's brow scrunched. He reached out a hand to grab Shoto's arm again but he dodged. He knew better. The sensation of calloused fingers on his bare skin was a weakness.

"I made plans with...someone." Someone being his cold, silent room in the family's townhouse. Preferably with his head tucked under his pillow to drown out the sounds of his father screaming at the television if it was a tame night. Nursing brand new bruises on his arms if it was a worse one.

 He rubbed his thumb.

"I-I see." Green eyes looked away, cast over the railing of the porch to peer out at the streetlights lining the road. The amber glow warmed his skin, freckles more brown than black, as something softened in his lips. The man hummed, and Shoto traced the faint bob of his Adam’s apple, enchanted.

 

Then the other slapped his knees, making to stand from his crouch.

"Well, don't let me hold you. Thanks for coming over to visit. I'm sure we'll take care of that hex soon enough."

Shoto nodded, not trusting himself to speak. It was on unsteady legs that he stood. His heart was beating a little too fast in his chest as he began to make his way down the steps.

"Hey,"

He turned. The cat had appeared from nowhere, and draped itself over Izuku's shoulders. Violet and green eyes alike looked him over with something akin to amusement-fondness, if he were to be indulgent. 

There was crinkle surrounding the green eyes when the other smiled.

"You're welcome back anytime. I know frat houses are kind of a grimy place to hang, but we'd like to get to know you. ZKC's always looking for new members."

Joy. Unbridled joy sparked in his chest. He could not mistake the way his ribcage expanded as his heart moved as if to burst. The darkest parts of his brain could not ruin the sensation with doubt or reason. Hiding the quirk of his lips behind his hand, he decided to take Dr. Blanche's advice.

"Thanks. I'll...I'll take you up on that." 

He turned away then, lest the other see the embarrassing grin tugging at his mouth, and popped in his earphones.

 

"And we have found that, like humans, chimpanzees lean heavily on their social group to survive. Field studies have shown these marvelous creatures going as far as to hunt together, sharing food and tools for use all in the efforts to ensure the survival of the troop as a whole. No chimp could ever survive on its own. It needs its family to survive." 

~

"Has anybody seen my son?" 

"Hizashi, please."

             The Business School's staffroom was by far the nicest. With functioning heaters (a rare thing at this godforsaken school) and a pantry full of snacks (also a very rare thing), it was also the most populated. Even on a weekday night when people who had familiesthat they should've gone hometo, they hung out here because they had no livesand they liked pissing him off.

            Nemuri, that dark haired witch that taught some throwaway elective in Art History, gasped aloud, undoubtedly at some text one of her latest, not-so-secret paramours sent her. (How'd she find out about the BSS? She didn't even have tenure. Were the gods so cruel as to subject him to this madness?)

            Aizawa went through papers at a breakneck speed, ignoring the blond man screeching his head off as he walked in. He didn't have to look up to see his husband's glare when he felt the icy chill of it. Despite the stupid round 70s red sunglasses he wore (It was 8 o'clock at night for Christ's sake), the distress and betrayal in his eyes shone clear. Hizashi decided to stride right up to Aizawa's desk, the bells in the string tying back his hair chiming angrily with each step.

"Hitoshi," he began with a great heave, as if the name itself pained him. "Is missing. Our child, who hasn't come home in two weeks, who won't text me back in the family groupchat, who-."

"Is 21 years old and is perfectly capable of making his own decisions." Aizawa deadpanned. Oh, that student definitely didn't pay attention in lecture. Heh. He tried to fight a grin as he scrawled a huge, fat 'F' on top of the poor dunce's paper. God, if only Headmaster Nedzu would let him expel kids on sight. That would make it so much easier.

"Babe, you can't act like you haven't been affected by this," Hizashi glanced about, then lowered himself to Aizawa's level so he could whisper and still be heard. The amount of unnecessary extra fabric his scarf had draped all over his student’s papers, so he was effectively blocked off from grading, forced to look at the worried furrow in his husband's brow as green eyes peered down at him over the rim of his glasses.

"You're not eating. You've been sleeping in that yellow cocoon you call a bed roll- and don't bother denying it cause I know what the bed feels like when you've been in it and it hasn't felt that way since Day 5. You're failing your students more than usual. I mean, c'mon babe,"

The blonde held up the paper he had failed just a moment ago.

 "You're going to flunk this kid in a core pre-med class that he'll probably need to graduate just because he didn't use the font you wanted? Leave this to your T.A's to grade since you're obviously not in your right mind and come help me find our son."

"You two know he's an adult right? With friends? Falling off the grid for a bit is normal." Nemuri said, because she just had to fucking say something. To make matters worse, she kept going, examining her nails as if the comments were idle remarks instead of flying daggers of war. "Over half the kids here live in the dorms instead of comfy townhouses with their professor parents. Why? Because that's college. That's growth and, y'know, independence. If you ask me, you're lucky he waited till he was 21 to star acting out. He might be a little less stupid. "

"It's a good thing we didn't ask." Aizawa bit out. Zashi's voice was right on his tail, adding a haughty huff to the end. He shifted off of the papers on the desk to tell her off, leaving the name on top of the next essay on full display.

Izuku Midoriya. The Problem Child. The kid was a good enough student. He attended every lecture, took notes, and participated. Aizawa could see himself liking the kid. 

But, unfortunately, his son saw fit to crawl up Midoriya's ass and stay there, ignoring the ones that stuck by his side for ten years, despite all the creepy shit that Shinsou just seemed to attract. (And, boy, there was some creepy shit-Aizawa didn't even know someone could secrete spider phermones till the day he woke up to Shinsou screaming.) 

It fit. Midoriya was weird too. He and that other kid with all the purple scars didn't really interact with anyone else in the class unless they had to. Friend groups were normal, but it was a small campus, and gossip traveled fast.

That ZKC fraternity was something odd. They stuck close to each other, only opening their doors to others in October while the other frats started their rushing process in August. There hadn't been any scandals yet, but this was their third year on campus. They were just getting comfortable. Aizawa wouldn't put it past them to fuck up this year.

Maybe then they'd finally get kicked off campus, and his son would start talking to him again. Communicate like a normal person instead of breathing irritated sighs and keeping eyes glued to his cellphone, undoubtedly waiting for a text from one of his frat friends.

Shinsou was never the type to be attracted to that type of lifestyle. Once upon a time, it was difficult to get the kid to leave the townhouse at all. Then Midoriya found him, and they were as thick as thieves.

And-oh, speak of the devil and he shall appear. 

Aizawa stared down at the paper before him. Izuku Midoriya stared right back up at him. He had already made the blind-notes in the margin from his first go round. Perfect content. The exact format he wanted down to the margin size, and no fancy graphics that made it more difficult for his deteriorating eyesight.

 But, was that a stain on the bottom corner? Such sloppy presentation. He might as well fail that moral-less, son-stealing good-for-nothing-,

"Could you two take yourperversions elsewhere? This university has a reputation to maintain. Its staff doesn't need distractions, much from careless hippies who can't keep track of their own child."

The gravelly tone of Enji Todoroki broke through the commotion with an unsettling brevity. Aizawa felt the spark in his chest, but was still too stunned at the fucking audacity to find words past the waves of anger. Hizashi was the loud mouth. He could see the blood rush up to the other man's head as he opened his mouth to scream, but it was the Art History wench that dove in first.

"You're one to talk," She drawled. She arched a brow, but he could see the way she clutched her knees under the desk, black nails like talons. "It's 8:45. Do you know where your child is Dean Todoroki?"

The man leaned back in his chair. He was intimidating enough with his bulky frame straining his pressed white button down. His hair was red as fire, but tamed with a strict hand in a way crackling flames would never assent to. Clean cut, his goatee and mustache was cropped close to his jaws. His hair was slicked back. The man would be the classic depiction of a pompous, rich asshole, if it weren't for the vicious scar that ran down the left side of his face. It was a wide, brutal thing, the story of which Aizawa had never heard the truth, but it only made the man's glare fiercer as he stared the newbie down.

 She took it in stride, meeting his eyes with her own icy blues as her lips curled up into a wicked smile.

 "Y'know I saw him hanging around that frat house. ZKC? Something like that. It's so nice that you're letting him make friends this year. Maybe he'll be running away from home too. Ah, did I say maybe? I meant hopefully." 

Aizawa didn't have to look. He could hear the man's sharp intake of breath, and imagine the way the vein in his forehead would bulge out. The newbie kept going at him; she showed no fear at all as her tone of voice grew condescending (Maybe she deserved tenure after all. He'd put in a word with President Nedzu and see if he could pull a few strings.)

"Like, let's be honest, the only thing worse than a helicopter parent is one that doesn't know how to keep their insecurities to themse-,"

"You must not like this job Ms. Kayama." That tone could burn through ice. Against his better judgement, he looked to Nemuri to warn her to back off.The woman wasn't looking at him. She picked at her manicure, then continued in that same sugary voice.

 "I love it actually. I was just talking to Dean Yagi-Oh wait. Professor Yagi now. I forgot that he let you take his place this year."

And Aizawa took that as their cue to leave. Sweeping papers into his briefcase, he wasted no time in grabbing his husband by the wrist and making a swift getaway.

He had no intention of bearing witness to a murder that night.

~

SHOTO walked home in high spirits. The chill of the evening did nothing to the warmth tinging his cheeks as ducked his chin into the collar of his turtleneck. He felt something whimsical playing in his chest, a light sensation that gave him the nostalgia for a childhood he never had.

They wanted to get to know him. They were going to be friends. Like a Colobus monkey traversing the Serengeti, he could have his own troop to lean on when he needed help. Pressing a hand to his scar, he bit back a smile.

 This ugly, marred thing that had become more of a blessing than a curse. Though what little vanity he held forced him to retain some hatred of the thing, he had to admit he was almost grateful.

 It was funny how these things turned out.

He wanted to skip down the sidewalk, spin around the lampposts and laugh aloud. Instead, he dug his hands into his pockets and absently watched as dark leaves fell to the strengthening winds. At the end of the block, their townhouse stood. It was only slightly more extravagant than those neighboring it. If he got close enough, he'd be able to see the marble steps leading up to the white archway set in the red brick. 'PLUS ULTRA' the plaque atop the house would read, the University's motto on proud display for any guests. 

But he didn't get close enough, because his sister was waiting for him at the end of the steps, just before the garage.

Fuyumi Todoroki was a willowy thing with hair as white as his own, random streaks of red running through her disgruntled bob. Her glasses hid her expression in the dim light, but he could tell from the way she wrung her hands that something was wrong. He looked to the house. Sure enough, the light in his father's study was on, but that wasn't what worried him.

 The curtains were drawn. All of them.

The light feeling in his chest flew out, letting something frantic take its place as he surged forward. Sparing no time for a greeting, he took her face in his hands, twisting it this way and that.

"I'm fine."

 Blue eyes flashed with worry as she took his hands away, glancing back at the door then to him again.

"He's been back for at least half an hour. Shoto, where were you? Is what he's saying true? You were at some frat?"

 He opened his mouth to respond, but the crashing of glass and splintering of wood interrupted Heart in his throat, he nodded. Something softened in her gaze then. Quick as a rabbit, she pressed her cold lips to his cheek.

"I'm so proud of you. Remember that, okay? No matter what. I'm super proud." It was then that he felt the weight being pressed into his palm. He looked down to find a duffel bag, packed to the brim and bulging. He looked up with the question in eyes, but his older sister shook her head.

"You gotta get out of here."

"Fuyumi. I can handle him. We can handle him. We get through this together."

She pressed her hand to his face, flattening her palm against the red, scarred tissue of his left.

"Things are different now." She said, and something foreign flashed in her eyes. He had no forewarning before that sweet scent passed through the air. The force of something shoved him backwards. A good yard away from where he once stood, he could only stumble over words as his sister-the same one who had raised him, who taught him how to read and tie his shoelaces-lowered her hand into wave.

A goodbye, he realized belatedly.

"We made a promise with Mom," She said. "That we'd take care of you till you could take care of yourself.  If we stick around now, I think we'll only hold you back."

The front door burst open. Natsuo practically flew out of it, throwing suitcases across the lawn like they were footballs. Taking a moment to ruffle Shoto's hair, the man winked, grey eyes alight with mischief.

"We'll catch you on the flip side baby bro! When the time comes, tell Mom to bring us back. Fuyu barely has enough magic to get us there as it is." 

"W-Wait, I-. How do you know-?"

"Tell Touya I said hi." Natsuo cut him off. He ran to join Fuyumi and the two clutched hands. Crouching their knees, they jumped as one and winked out of existence faster than the sonic boom that sounded after their disappearance.

 Shoto, palms quivering, stared at the place that they once were, but there was nothing that indicated that they were ever there in the first place. Nothing but the sharp static dancing up his arm, setting hairs on end. He breathed, great heaving intakes, as he reached to rub his thumb-

 

"SHOTO!"

The sweet smell turned sour. He could feel something coming from the house, but it wasn't the electric thrill he was slowly getting used to. That static was a gentle warning, a teasing prod.

This one burned. This one was forewarning, a building fear. Shoving his hand over his nose, he picked up his duffel bag and ran.

~

THE kitchen slowly emptied own, leaving the usual late nighters: Izuku, Shinsou and Yuuga, consuming slices of cheese and chatting softly as they swiveled the wine that was left in their glasses. Izuku hummed for the fourth time that hour and sighed,

"He so mysterious."

The other two groaned.  

"Mon mec, that boy is laced tighter than Kim K's bicycle shorts." Yuuga said, not bothering to hold back a snort. Hitoshi nodded his agreement then added,

"Hex boy's got a pretty face, but he's still hexed. Don't you think it's a little suspicious?"

"What is?" 

His voice had dropped low. Fingers froze on the stems of glasses as the air grew stilted. Izuku looked Hitoshi in the eye, only to find his own fearlessness staring back at him. The shapeshifter quirked his brow.

 "He shows up the same month Sparky's prophecy is supposed to come true with a mysterious powerful hex locking away his equally powerful powers?" He took another bite of cheese. " I mean, you're smart Izu. I'm not gonna spell it out for you."

"I'm confident I'd be able to tell if Shoto was the Habringer of Hell," Izuku said. "Besides, it doesn't fit the prophecy. 'He will come astride a chariot of shadow'. He lives on campus. Unless his 'chariot of shadow' are his Chelsea Boots, I don't think it applies."

"He doesn't have a car? He seems rich." Yuuga said idly. Izuku blanched. He didn't know. 

In fact, he didn't know all that much about Shoto, save for the fact that he dressed nice, had super long lashes and a voice that sounded as smooth as thick molasses streaming out of a spoon.

But, he wanted to know more. What was his major? Hobbies? Was he a Stardust Crusaders or Golden Wind fan? Favorite music?

He didn't know anything at all, which shot a little thrill up his spine. He always liked puzzles and mind games. Wouldn't figuring this guy out be just like that?

"No it wouldn't be. Stop muttering," Shinsou shot him a look. "He might be the one that causes the apocalypse and you want to talk to him about anime?"

"I can personally vouch for his innocence-." 

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

Mei kicked off from the wall by the stairs, approaching the crew with some type of blackened bundle in her hands. She set it down, right in front of the cheeses, and Izuku winced as the smell of cinders and burnt flesh mixed with gouda.

Her homunculus head stared at up them with empty, blackened eye sockets. Scraps of pink tufts stuck out of the scalp but the damage was done. She would have to make a new one. Izuku's heart went out to her. It was a year's worth of crescent moon work at least.

"He did this." She said solemnly. "He burned mybaby." 

"He's hexed," Izuku countered. "He can't burn anything unless he whipped out a lighter, which I highly doubt happened. Are you sure something didn't go wrong?"

 "No! She was perfect! We all know what can break through a binding spell: accidental magic. He probably got scared and blasted her. But even accidental magic should never be as strong as-!"

She gestured wildly to the head. There were tears in her eyes as she picked it up, stroking its bald scalp as she cradled it to her chest and began to sob. Yuuga enfolded her into a hug. He led her back up the steps, patting her back and cooing little assurances, leaving Izuku to deal with Hitoshi's relentless stare.

 He opened his mouth to defend his friend, when the doorbell rang. There was a bit of fumbling, Tsuyu's surprised 'Oh!', then a blur of white, red and black as Shoto came running into the kitchen. His chest heaved with each breath. There was a flush of exertion stained high on his cheeks and his hair was slicked to his forehead with sweat. A duffel bag dropped from his hand as he seemed to get a hold of himself, then sheepishly avoided Izuku's gaze by looking up to the ceiling.

"Is that offer still open?"

Hitoshi scoffed.

"What did your parents kick you out already?" 

He said it jokingly, but something passed through the other man's mismatched eyes- burning with the promise of retribution. As if a certain fire had awakened inside of him.

It was the same look Hitoshi had given him three weeks ago, eyes rimmed red from crying and voice still hoarse. 

But, somehow, this was worse. Hitoshi had anger alone. Behind Shoto's eyes, past the false bravado, he could sense the tightly wound cord of fear.

Shoto didn't answer the question. None of the three forced him to.

Hitoshi looked to Izuku. Izuku jerked his head in Shoto's direction. Hitoshi arched a brow. Izuku batted his lashes. Hitoshi groaned. Izuku turned his puppy eyes up to their highest voltage and jutted his lower lip.

Sighing, the violet haired man stood. Opening the fridge, he asked,

 "So...are you a Four Loko kind of guy or a Mike's Hard Lemonade type of guy?"

Chapter Text

~27 Days Until the End of the World~

THE smell of pancakes and coffee did nothing to assuage Izuku as he shot into the kitchen that morning. Yuuga paused at the stove, staring over at him curiously as the man ran all over the place, upturning chairs and tables.

 "We lost Shoto!" Izuku yelled. "Oh god, what if he teleported somewhere without realizing?"

"Negative," Tenya said, folding up his paper. "It took me a year to learn how to teleport. He won't manage it in a night unless he really panicked."

The student cast a side look at his still frantic friend. "Did you remember to adjust the wards so that the house wouldn't eject him?"

"Ah."

Izuku stopped. Hung his shoulders as realization and embarrassment blew over him. Grabbing his keys from the rack, and a mug of coffee, he moved to run out of the kitchen, but was stopped at the sound of his name. 

"Midoriya, I had hoped we could talk a bit before I left." 

"Can it wait Ten? I don't really want him to wake up somewhere weird."

"Two minutes. That's all I need."

The almighty 'Class President' voice, the same one that got him elected, the one he used when trying to convince Professor Yagi to let him use his magic to finesse the academic system. Many had fallen victim to it. Izuku surely wouldn't be the last. Placing his keys into his flannel pocket, he slowly sat.

Tenya was the most adult of them all, with his sturdy build and the fashion sense of a baby boomer. The way he folded his paper and set it into his lap made Izuku think of the father he never had, especially when his blue eyes flashed at him disapprovingly from behind his glasses.

"Ochako told me about one of your friends from high school showing up with pyrokinesis."

"Well you know what they say: Birds of a feather flock together."

 "Even so," Tenya crossed his arms, shoulders set in what Izuku quickly realized was his lecture pose. Was it too late to make a run for it? Could he leap out the window? "If someone shows up in our town with powers, we should all hear about it. Especially now with sword of Damocles hanging over our heads." 

"He's harmless." Izuku said. "A bit of a temper, but he's harmless. I didn't even know he had powers till that night and we grew up together."

"That doesn't make me feel any better. Look, I just wanted to be frank with you because I know you, and I know your willpower isn't any match for your hero complex."

Izuku opened his mouth to object, but Tenya plowed on, leaning in to emphasis his point.

"Be careful. As your coven-mate and as your friend, I don't want this to end up blowing up in your face but, as a wizard and student of this school: consider taking him under your wing. You're the strongest of all of us. Professor Yagi chose you. If this Bakugou guy ends up using magic where he shouldn't, he could ruin us all."

"The Professor's already on it," Izuku muttered, but he felt Tenya's gaze just as hot on his skin.

"He's not what he used to be. I think, it would be best if you at least offered-,"

A loud series of chimes interrupted the statement. Tenya whipped out his phone, swiped his alarm to silence, then stood. 

"Gotta run! Couple of meetings today! Think about what I said."

Pressing the palms of his hands together, he shut his eyes.

"Eat my dust!" He cast, and in an instant, he winked out of existence. The sharp smell of burnt sugar and coffee hung in the air as the wisps of smoke from Tenya's spell. Still a bit digruntled, the verdette stood.

 

"'Zuku."

 

Yuuga didn't even glance up from the dishes he was washing. Izuku waited.

 

"I'm not going to tell you what to do, as I don't think it's my place. But, trust your gut. You haven't been wrong before; I don't think you'll start now."

 

Something warm and thick swelled in his chest. Blinking back a sudden wetness, Izuku took the time to throw an arm about the blond's shoulders, burying his nose in the lavender scent of the other's hair, before hollering a thanks and moving to continue his search.

  ~

            SHOTO woke up to something tickling his nose. He sneezed, and immediately the tickling sensation crawled over his chin instead. He slapped the sensation away. Felt something wet. Paused. Crawling...legs...His eyes shot open at once. There, on his hand, were the remains of a rather large black spider.

He screamed. 

Something large and white scurried in and out of the corner of his vision. He glanced at it, only to find a rat poking at strands of his red hair. It paused. Turned. Looked at him with soulless black eyes.

Then it bared its teeth.

He screamed louder.

"Hades' prostate, shut the fuckup. Are you trying to wake the...dead...?"

Shoto shot a look to the dirt in front of him. A man's head was stuck out, pale skin littered with streaks of graveyard dirt that stuck to his cheeks and midnight black hair. His blue eyes, once icy and narrowed into a glare, looked Shoto over and blew wide, as if he were the ghost. Silence hung between them as the man, no more than five years his Senior, slowly dug himself out of his grave, never breaking eye contact.

 "Why are you here?" The question was asked as if the man was struggling with something in his throat. There was a familiarity in it, which confused him, as Shoto couldn't recall this man's name for the life of him. Memories tugged at the edge of his mind; there was someone that this man looked like but each face that passed in front of him was a miss.

Ignoring that for now, he looked about, trying to assess the current mess he dropped into. He was in the same clothes he slept in- a white t-shirt now littered with grass stains and his red flannel pants. His socks were soggy with morning dew, toes cold as he flexed them experimentally. All around them were graves, as far as the eye could see, cold gray tombstones and statues of angels poking out of the ground like weeds. To his back was an old willow tree, and at its side: a motorcycle. Was that how he got here? His last conscious memory was staring up at the ceiling of the spare bedroom in ZKC house. He was never one to sleep walk, but to get up, steal someone's Harley and ride down to the nearest cemetery was freaky.

 Even more so, considering the fact that he'd never touched a motorcycle in his life.

"I'm not quite sure." The man was standing by then. Shoto looked up at him, wincing at the glare of the sun's halo behind his head. "Who are you?"

"Dabs! He's a friend! Chill out.."

Izuku appeared from behind them. He was a little worse for wear, as if he did the bare minimum before stepping out of the house. His green curls still wild from sleep; the dark bags under his eyes were only punctuated when his lips stretched open into a lion's yawn. Scratching behind his ear, the verdette gestured between them.

"Another wizard. He's going to join the coven. Go ahead, introduce yourself."

"Shoto T-Tamarind." He said hastily. He had hoped the other man wouldn't catch the slip, but his icy blue eyes had already narrowed into slits, mouth tugged into a sardonic smirk.

"Tamarind, huh? Are you sure about that?"

 He knew.

Shoto didn't reply. The man scoffed.

"Dabi Takami. I'd say it's a pleasure but...well..."

Ignoring Izuku's strangled guffaw, Shouto plowed on. Takami? Was he another faculty member's kid? A TA he had in the past? There were scars at his neck, violet purple marks at either side of the base. Shouto would remember scars like that. They were distinctive enough to stand out against his pale skin, darker even than the bags under his eyes.

"Have we met before?"

"I don't know anyone by the name Tamarind." Came the harsh response.

 Silence hung between them, tense as an early breeze came by. The clouds hung heavy in the sky, casting a gray shroud over them all as Izuku stepped between them. The shorter man placed a steady hand on Dabi's forearm, and Shoto fought down the hot spike that rose in him at the sight.

 "We're going to run back really quick. I wanted to sit down and get everything explained to him this morning. Meet us at the house?"

 The please wasn't said, but it was there. Rolling his eyes, Dabi brushed lingering dirt off of his clothes and strode over to his bike. As the roar of the Harley faded into the distance, Izuku turned to Shoto, the question obvious in his gaze. 

"No idea." He responded verbally.  They began their walk back to main parts of town side-by-side, hands dangling at their sides, hot skin brushing each other but never truly touching. 

~

HE stared down at the name on the phone screen. 'CRAZY' stared right back up at him in all caps, with a devil emoji right next to the 'Y', eyes leering as if daring him to take the plunge. Katsuki's thumb hovered over the call button, then fell to the home screen once more.

He set his phone facedown against his sheets. Took in a breath. Then picked it up again.

 There was only one way to get to the bottom of this shit, and that was with the truth. He needed to go back to where it all started.

Steeling himself, he pressed 'Call'.

"Ayoooooo, what's good cuzzoooo?"

"I need to know how Dad died. The real story. Not the bullshit the hag's been feeding me."

He never knew Camie to be quiet, but in that moment, she clung to silence like a lifeline.  A minute that felt like an eternity passed before she let out a long, gentle sigh.

"...You alone?"

 "Yeah."

Kirishima wasn't home yet. There was some type of lighting issue at Golden Sounds. He wouldn't be leaving the bar anytime soon. Convenient, Katsuki supposed, as he braced himself for the long haul.

"Drop your phone."

"Huh?"

The screen grew hot as black smoke streamed through each open crevice. It clouded his vision, and made his bedroom smell more like a bakery than dirty laundry. Gradually, it took shape, molding and melding till Camie's body began to form at its center.

At first, all he saw were her ankle boots. Black with thick square wedges, he could recognize that $200 Christmas gift anywhere. He had to bust ass to get those for her. Scowling, something in him soured as the rest of the woman came into being, boots leading into slender, olive-toned legs cut off mid-thigh with a tight leather skirt just as form-fitting as her camisole. Her denim jacket fell off her shoulders, making way for her ash brown hair to fall over in waves before she whipped it back dramatically. Pulling her dark shades up into her locks, she winked down at him (and those were his father's eyes weren't they? He knew the way they crinkled when he smiled-that telltale laughter line that creased the corners of the left eye more than the right) and cracked a small grin.

"So," She reached out, causing her hand to disappear briefly, before dragging a chair into the image, twisting it around so she could sit on it backwards, resting her forearm on the back. "You've finally discovered your powers."

"You knew?" Anger rose in him, hot and unbidden. "And you didn't say anything? For 22 years? What the fuck happened to 'fam', you psychotic little-!"

"Well I wasn't sure. Usually mag' starts kicking in at 16, and when yours didn't, we just assumed the worst. Besides, it's not like our families ever sit together and discuss this kind of thing. Besides you, I don't think I've seen anyone from Dad's side since Uncle Masaru died."

There was that somber expression on her face, the one she got whenever there was so much as a hint at something to do with their grandparents. Just as quickly as it appeared, it fell away. Her smile grew teasing again.

"We thought you took after Auntie M. You've got her coloring after all; we figured you missed out on the magic gene. How'd you discover your powers anyway kid? Did you kill someone? Were you so scared you pissed yourself?"

"We were in the middle of a gig," Katsuki started. 'Then my hands caught on fire."

He didn't remember any of it. The only confirmation he had were the scorch marks on his drumsticks and Kaminari's word. He trusted that his bandmate was telling the truth. He looked so serious when rehashing the events of that night that Katsuki couldn't deny him. Even if he had, there would be no mistaking the lightning that danced other man's palms that night, jumping from corner to corner before returning to be enclosed in his fist. 

"One of the teachers on campus, Professor Yagi-"

"Toshinori Yagi?"

"Yeah, the Aerospace Engineer."

She snorted, seating herself rightly this time. "You mean the wizard. He's All Might."

He gave her a blank look. She winced. 

"The strongest magician on the face of the planet? The eighth holder of this title? The one who has learned all?"

Katsuki only blinked.

"You'll learn." The assurance would've hit home if the woman hadn't grimaced right after saying it, turning her gaze away and cocking a brow. Her hand exited the frame of smoke once more, returning with a Starbucks cup. Taking a long sip of undoubtedly some sugary crap, she got that melancholy look in her eye once more.

"Uncle Masaru didn't die in a construction accident. He made a blood pact with someone he shouldn't have. In order to get his end of the bargain fulfilled, he offered his life." 

Ice struck him through. He couldn't find air to breath. The smoke filled his throat, cloying and thick, covering his lungs in black tar.

 "What..."He could hear his own voice miles away, rough like he smoked one cigarette too many. "What was worth it?"

Camie looked up through shadowed lashes. His father's laughter lines turned into crow’s feet as her face contorted into something somber.

"You." she said, and his world began to burn. There was a void in his chest, nothing but an endless swirl of black, but he could smell the hairs on his arms begin to burn, the odor at once rancid and sweet. Camie continued, oblivious.

"You were so sick Kats. You couldn't eat. Sleep. Move. They thought you were going to die. That happens with halfies sometimes. Their mag' kicks in and they just can't handle it. The exposure is like radiation to some of them and you... You had it bad cuz. And there wasn't a doctor, shaman, or witch who knew what to do to make you get better. I don't know the details. I just know that one morning I woke up to Pops crying and two weeks later, I saw you walking around at the funeral with that green-haired kid holding your hand. No trace of magic on you. Like you were a full-blooded normal mortal instead of a halfie."

He could see the flames then. They greedily licked at his sweat, hugging his form like a clingy lover. He didn't feel anything, even as the skin on his fingertips began to blister.

 "Kats, I know it's a lot to take in but you've gotta deal with it. Soon. Get your powers under control. Something big is coming and people like us are gonna need all the power we can get. I-."

The sound of keys in the front door jolted them both.

"Trust All Might."

Ducking her head, Camie faded back into smoke and dust, the last of her dissipating just as Kirishima's thunderous bounds up the steps came to a stop.

Three raps on the door before it opened.

 "So the electrician came in and everything's under control. I already texted Kyoka, so you guys should be ready to get back to your normally scheduled gigs whenever. I've got a slot reserved for-Whoa."

The red head took a long look around the room, eyes widening at the disarray and stray scorch marks, then let his gaze fall to Katsuki, whose arms were fully exposed, sleeves burnt off in the aftermath.

Kirshima blinked twice, slowly, let out a long "Yeaaaahhhhh." and backed away, shutting the door behind him. 

Angrily kicking at his phone, Katsuki decided to gear up to go for a run.

~

 

            Izuku set the tray of cookies in the middle of the dining table. His cloak hung heavy on his shoulders as he went about the task of pouring tea for all twelve people present. The faint smell of citrus filled the room as the steam rose from their cups, mingling with the sharp tang of the incense burning on the counter. 

None reached for their till he himself was seated at Momo's right hand side at the end of the long table. To his own right, Shoto sat still, the furocious rubbing at his thumb betraying the nerves that his face did not. Taking in a deep breath, Izuku inched his hand beneath the table till he had a firm grip on the cold, clammy hand, and their shaking came to an end.

 "Zoi Kai Chara. We are gathered here today to welcome a newcomer into our ranks. A wizard in need has presented himself to us, and it is our duty to ensure that he becomes a brother freed. If there are any objections now, speak now."

Fear clutched his heart like a vice. He cast a quick look around. Everyone wore their cloaks, hoods up, but he could recognize them for the most part. Shinsou met his gaze head on, violet eyes shadowed by the heavy fabric, then smirked, miming zipping his lips. Mei didn't meet his gaze, but there was a firm tightening in her shoulders that said she wasn't too please. Kaminari was definitely asleep, a lumpy mass of black slumped onto the table, but it was the voice that he didn't expect that spoke up,

"I don't object," Dabi said lowly. "But I don't approve. I know I don't hang around you undergrads as much since Hawks passed, but that doesn't mean I get skipped when it comes to potential newbies." He looked straight across the table towards Shoto then, blue eyes flashing with something indescribable. "Present yourself," He said, tone light and mocking. "And tell the truth. If you lie, I'll know."

Which wasn't true at all. The only one with any kind of mental power was Shinsou, and he could only read minds on a really good day. 

Which left Izuku to wonder why something like that was said in the first place? Did he think Shoto was lying? Did they...know each other? Izuku stared at the man across from him, trying to decipher where the friend he'd known for the past five years ended, and the teen he was before that began.

Hawks was always closer to Dabi than he was, to the point where he let the younger man take his last name upon his passing, but Dabi wasn't his real name. Izuku knew that for sure.

It was everything else about him-the truth about him-that was a mystery. He moved to speak out, to call his friend out on his own hypocrisy, but the cold hand he was holding left his grip and Shoto was standing before he could pull him down.

"My name's Shoto. I'm a Public Policy and Anthropology Major. Junior Year. I..." He looked about, bi-colored bangs hanging into his eyes. "I know nothing about magic at all, but I'm not so ignorant as to my own faults to realize that I know even less about how to socialize with other human beings. So, thanks, I guess, for putting up with me for so long, and for helping me with this," 

He gestured to his eye, and even nervous, Izuku couldn't help but think that he was Boreas incarnate-he was so cool-and the rest of them were just autumn leaves getting swept up in his winds. 

"I've had for my whole life and its done me more harm than good. I don't remember how I got it. I don't remember anything from before I was 9 years old so...I hope I can finally get some answers."

He sat down once more, immune to the sudden hush of the womb. Izuku recognized the tightening in Dabi's jaw, unappeased even though he stood down, arms crossed and eyes fixed into an expression that was too nonchalant to be genuine. 

Momo was the first to disrupt the silence.

 "Cleanse yourselves and clutch hands."

At once, their hands snapped to the mugs of tea. Shoto followed only a beat later when Izuku nodded his encouragement. The tea was hot in his throat, and he could feel it as is made it course through his chest, into the pits of his belly, where he knew his magic lay. He focused on that heat as he reached out, clutching the hands of those on either of his sides, and began the spellwork to bind them.

 

"We call upon Hecate, Circe, and Medea

Our coven is strong

May our hearth burn long

And, by your hand, we will live to cast forever

 

As birds of a feather flock together,

So do the children of the night

We call upon you now to add another log to our fire

Tether us together so that we may fight

 

Into Zoi Kai Chara, Enters Shoto

One ripped from your womb

We shall keep him here

Shield him from evil eyes

And teach him to bow to your infinite light"

 

            The familiar seductively sweet smell of power filled the room as a soft thrumming began, vibrations going through their clasped hands as the bond began to settle. Soon, Izuku felt that the familiar click of the tether falling into place, and said,

"It is done."

Around the table, they dropped hands, but he kept his skin against Shoto's. Selfishly, he supposed, but the other didn't seem to mind at all.

Tenya, at the opposite head of the table, glanced at his girl.  Ochako knew her role well. A cosmologist in both the mortal and supernatural sense of the term, her skills were unparalleled. The familiar golden sheen took her as she began to float, eyes going white as she moved to sit seiza, lips moving as she communicated with those the others could not see.

She came over to levitate before Shoto, pressing a thumb to the center of his forehead, and waited.

Power drifted from her in waves, scent like a forest fire snuffed out by rainfall or the first warm winds of Spring in February's frost. Like a promise of new life.

Persephone then? Izuku guessed. The goddess had granted him her favor when it was his turn to be inducted. Her grace wasn't given as liberally as some of the others, but it wasn't as hard to achieve as the big primordials. Not like-

 "On Circe's recommendation, Gaia accepts this one into her fold. Just as she did with Titans, you shall make the world anew."

...What?

 "What the actual fuck?" Denki said aloud, echoed by similar sentiments around the table. Chacha winced, tried to hold still, but the thumb against Shoto's forehead wavered, and at once her connection was gone. Izuku could see that there was more to it, that frustrated sigh that left her lips spoke volumes, but so did the way she looked at the newcomer with renewed interest. They were on the same level after all.

"How many major deities is that?" Tenya was asking Momo. "If he has Gaia, Ochako has Aether, Momo has Atum. Shinsou has Inari-."

"Five." Izuku spoke up. "Eros chose Aoyama." 

"Um, pardon? No? I thought we weren't sure if Eros was a primordial or not? Please leave my name out of this mess. I don't like responsibility."

"Hun, you can't run. He chose to sponsor you."

"But that doesn't mean he's a primordial."

Izuku opened his mouth to speak, but the tickle of warm breath against the shell of his ear made him stop short. His heart grew wings and tried to fly out of his throat, thick and warm in the base of his neck.

"Sorry," Todoroki murmured into his ear. "But what are they all talking about?"

"The gods," Izuku winced. His voice was so hoarse it was embarrassing. "Magicians are descendants from the Magic Three: Circe, Hecate, and Medea, who in turn are related to the gods. To be accepted into any coven, you have to be confirmed by one of the three to have their blood, and then sponsored by one of the gods. You're a descendant of Circe, and Gaia has chosen to sponsor you, which is....aha, kind of a big deal." 

Bi-colored eyes stared down at him, the question clear. He was close enough to see just how long his eyelashes were, stark white on both sides, with gentle curls at the end-.

 Oh he was staring shoooot.

 "Well different gods have different ranks. The primordials are like the first gods so they're the most influential. Getting one is a pretty big deal since which god you get influences your magic. Like, um, Ochako? She's also one of Circe's, but she was chosen by Aether, who is the god of divine air. So she can fly, but she can also communicate with the gods directly. Shinsou has Inari, which lets him shapeshift-."

"And you?"

Izuku held up a hand. From its center sprouted a simple pink chrysanthemum.

"I'm one of Hecate's, chosen by Persephone, so I have a lot of luck with plants. You got Gaia, so you might have something similar, but we won't know until we get that block off of you."

He didn't even think before he reached up to brush the red strands away. Underneath his fingers, the skin was rough to the touch, hot with active magic as the runes engraved glowed beneath his scrutiny. Shoto winced, and he moved to take his hand away, but another hand, pale as snow, stopped him before he could. The other man tried for a smile, a tiny, nervous thing, and Izuku let the palm of his hand press against the skin firmly, fingertips dropping to curl through hair just brushing an earlobe-

"Are y'all serious? At the dining table?"

 "Can we focus please?"

"Ooh, yeah, boss lady. Slay."

Momo shot Shinsou a scathing look, but her face was just as red as that of the verdette on her side.

 Izuku dropped his hand quick, meeting the varying looks around the room with an apologetic grin. Jealousy hit him hard when he peeked out of the corner of his eye at Shoto, only to notice that the other man was unbothered, eyes blank with indifference.

Momo cleared her throat. When all eyes returned to her, she slowly removed to hood of her cloak, revealing a visor with 'ZKC' across the front with silver letters. Her ponytail stuck out high as she whipped it around, shooting streamers and a disco ball out of the strands. Denki woke up for this part, already fiddling with the stereo as Shinsou began pulling drinks and red solo cups from the cupboard.

 "Now that the coven stuff is over-," She shucked off her cloak to reveal a green and silver hockey jersey, the fraternity's crest emblazoned on the front.  "Let's move on to the frat. Dues are $500 per Semester-$675 for you now including new membership costs-which covers house upkeep, events we may choose to host, and other rising issues. The minimum GPA requirement used to be 3.5-,"

 She shot a scathing look at Denki. "But this year we decided to be lenient and lower it to 3.15.

"I can't speak French," The blond said in defense. "You need a high quality code? I got you. The plus-que-parfait? No chance. I was born in New Jersey, where we speak English."

"Is that what they're calling English nowadays?" Mei muttered. Denki wheeled on her.

"You're on to talk Idaho!"

"I could tutor you. One-on-one. Tete-a-tete."

 "You could also keep it in your pants Yuuga. Stop making that face at me. I can smell your magic from here."

"Anyway," Momo continued loudly. Her businesswoman smile was tight on her face, eyes pulled into a false cheer. Izuku knew they were desperate for new recruits but not like this. "The only mandatory event is our Halloween Bash which is on Saturday the 26th. The fraternity part is mostly a cover for the coven but we do need to do the bare minimum to make sure we still have a place on campus since having a house for us all to live in is really convenient. And I know it's on short notice, but if we could wrap this part up as-." 

"Do you take venmo?" 

Momo's eyes lit up as she nodded. She her hair once more and the contract fell through. Shoto signed without a second glance. Izuku would be lying if he said he didn't swoon a little at the way the man didn't blink as he swiped at his phone. 

"I paid for the year." He said, and Momo looked like she was going to faint. Her hands quivered at her sides, as if she was going to leap in for a hug, but she turned away at the last minute, running up the steps with a backwards call of,

"Thank you! No refunds! Hope you enjoy initiation!"

Then she disappeared, undoubtedly to resume planning the Halloween Bash with the new funds in mind. Without her to reign in the dogs, this left Shoto at their mercy with only Tenya and Izuku to protect him. As if sensing his thoughts, Tenya took one long look at the three bottles of Jose Cuervo lined up, stood, and teleported away.

Chacha took her boyfriend's place at the head of the table, a manic look in her eye as she raised the first cup of the night.

"ZKC!" She screamed.

"YEAH!" 

"We've got a newcomer. Let's see if he can keep up! On this fine Saturday night you, Shoto Tamarind, will learn how to breath fire!" 

A series of 'ooh's went around the room. Izuku couldn't meet Shoto's panicked gaze as Denki and Shinsou grabbed his arms, forcing him onto the table in the 'hanged man' position as Dabi held his jaw open. The chanting of 'Shots! Shots! Shots!' had already begun with Tsuyu and Mei pounding on the table, shadowed by a typical electronic song in the background. Chacha was the worst of the bunch, grin nothing short of feral as she held the bottle in the position, mirrored by Fumikage's Dark Shadow hoisting apple cider and Fumikage himself hoisting the whipped cream. All three were ready to pour when Izuku panicked.

"Wait!" The chanting stopped. Eyes on him. "Consent?"

Then the eyes went to Shoto, who uttered a simple,

"Mmphdh." which Dabi followed up with,

"He said yes. Do it."

And Izuku was ready to bet money that the translation was wrong, but it was too late. He could only watch in mounting horror as they proceeded to create a shot in his mouth and command him to stir it with his tongue (which was hot-but not the point)

After the third, Chacha was appeased. Hoisting Shoto up, she announced,

 

"A wizard in need

Is a brother freed.

Oh shelter of mine

Welcome him into your doors

May our hearth be his warmth

And our liquor flow in his veins"

 

The house creaked and moaned, wards expanding to allow another presence into its depths without forced expulsion. Chacha slammed Shoto on the back and sure enough, the man began to cough, scrabbling at his throat for purchase till flames-crimson as blood-spurt from his mouth to engulf the room. Applause and more table pounding followed. The ringleader swept her victim into a tight embrace, laughing aloud, and that tiny grip of worry on Izuku's heart loosened. He could feel someone press a cup into his hand, but he only had eyes for the man standing atop the table, arms awkwardly coming up to pat the woman's back.

He glanced over. Their eyes met and for one moment, they were the only people in the room. Izuku winked, raising his glass, and the smile Shoto shot back had him seeing stars.

"Party it up now people!" Denki yelled over the speakers. "The world ends in 26 days!" 

And just like that, the grip on his heart tightened once more.

~

HE stumbled down the porch, leaning heavily into the warm shoulders at his side, relishing the hold of calloused hands on his hips as they held him steady. (And, whoa, those hands were huge. Their grip? Firm. He could scale trees with ease. Swing from branches. He wanted those hands in his hair. They felt nice on his scar, but on his scalp. He might just pass out.) 

Shoto looked down just to catch the tail-ends of reddening cheeks as Izuku pulled him upright, hiding his face under a sea of green curls and that wouldn't do at all. As nice as his hair was, Izuku's face was nicer. What kind of expression was he wearing? Was he embrassed? Happy? Did he find Shoto annoying? He supposed he was being a bit of a nuisance, dragging Izuku out into the chilly night in order to 'get some air'. He needed to say something. The only sound between them was footsteps against stone, breathing and the roar in Shoto's ears. He needed to say something cool. Something like-. 

"You know you have really great hands for social grooming." 

Something not like that.

"And brachiation." He added hastily, as if that would help the situation at all.

Izuku looked up at him, green eyes wide.

"Like a chimpanzee or...or a gorilla." He finished. Then he was sure it couldn't get any worse than that.

They both stopped, silent as the rustle of leaves picked up around them. Shoto's chest threatened to crack open and spill vital organs onto the dirt before them as Izuku only stared, eyebrows raised. Then a sputter left the shorter man's lips, full-on laughter chasing at its heels as Izuku doubled over, clutching his sides.

 

"I'm sorry, Shoto, but what? That has to be the weirdest compliment I've ever gotten."

"Primates are noble, trustworthy creatures," Shoto sniffed. "To be compared to one is an honor."

He nearly stalked away but his toes caught on something. He would've gone crashing to the ground if it weren't for those hands grabbing him again. Izuku smiled at him, a soft, delicate quirk of the lips, slowly dragging him over to the nearest bench.

They sat for a bit. Breath showed as white puffs in in the air as they watched the world go by, bikers and cars passing through with headlights bright, all the expected activity for a college town's Saturday night. When the allure of the streetlights lined with garlands of orange leaves and pumpkins settled at their base faded, Shoto tried to sneak a peek at his friend, only to find green eyes already trained on him. Izuku realized he was caught soon enough, turning away abruptly with a little cough.

 "S-s-s-so you really like monkeys huh? You mentioned you were an Anthro major? That's pretty cool. W-What made you decide on that?"

"I was pretty sheltered growing up. I was homeschooled until university, so the only people I knew were my siblings and my father." 

He could feel the burn in his eyes at the mention of them. Neither of them responded to any of his texts since the whole disappearing act. He was sure that they were okay, but the lack of communication wasn't like his sister.

"I didn't have friends. I had books. The television. Magazines. Podcasts...I found a book one day amongst my mother's things. Jane Goodall's 'My Life with Chimpanzees'. I used read and re-read that thing till the pages started falling out. I think I was fascinated by their social patterns. They're like humans: living in groups, eating together, protecting each other just like we do. But I felt so far removed from that as a kid. This whole paradigm of the human experience and what it means to be a person is something I couldn't begin to figure out. There were all these TV shows about groups of friends coming together to fight a big bad guy, and I remember getting so jealous. I didn't have a group of friends like that. I had my older siblings and my father, and my home life...wasn't the ideal."

He rubbed his thumbs together.

 "I started studying primates. I thought that if I learned their social patterns well enough, it might come in handy just in case I was able to...branch out later in life. Like I was practicing for when I'd actually have people to be with."

Those same calloused hands took his, gently brushing over the irritated skin. He looked to Izuku, but the wizard was focused on the contrasts of their skin, sun-kissed tan against a snowy white.

"Tell about them," Izuku said in a hum. "Monkeys. Gorillas. I wanna know what you know."

Shoto didn't realized he was apprehensive till his chest lightened at those words. Reluctant as he was to pull his hand away, he did so to pull out his phone, pulling up his favorite video on YouTube. If Izuku noticed how he shifted closer, then he'd blame it on the sharp tang of whiskey still lingering in his mouth.

"I'll do you one better. There's this video I like of this gorilla. If you see the way he interacts with his young, it's really fascinating. Playful, never violent. What a father should be like."

His voice strained towards the end, but his companion never noticed. Cradling the phone, Izuku watched the video with a faint smile playing at his lips, scrunching his nose when the game of chase began. There was a thrumming in his veins, a soft, molten sweet thing in his chest, as he watched tears water in green eyes.

"They're so cute." Izuku practically moaned. He looked to Shoto then, tears streaming freely over his dimples. That molten thing in his chest climbed up his throat till words spilled out,

"You're cute."

It was as those green eyes went wide that Shoto made a decision: He was never going to drink again. Ever.

 He was going to fix out, but all of sudden his tongue hung heavy. The words in his head were either entirely inappropriate or not human language and-fuck-he fucked up. Dr. Blanche was going to be so disappointed in him. He made it weird. Again. But not in a reparable way. He-.

"Deku?"

The new voice was gruff. Just before them a blond man stood, suspiciously underdressed for the weather. Boxing gloves hung over his shoulders, wide biceps bared to the autumn chill, goosebumps showing only on the one without all the tattoos. He was jogging, it seemed, by the way his legs came to a slow stop, black shorts swishing over his compression leggings.

He...felt weird. While Izuku's magic drew him in like a moth to flame, this one sputtered in and out of existence. At once burning hot, then zapping itself into nothing. He wasn't sure what this man was, but a friendly face wasn't it.

Crimson eyes glared down between him and the verdette at his side, who had gone still. Shoto put his phone in his pocket, settling his left hand against Izuku's right to let him now that he was there in case there was any trouble. He didn't miss the way the boxer let his gaze rest on the action for a few moments, before glaring at Izuku again. 

"Didn't think I'd run into you so quickly."

"My frat house is down the block."

 The other man sneered. "You? In a frat? You never seemed like the type to pay for your friends."

 "Frat or no frat, they're family. You know Denki. Ochako's there too."

A flash of fear ran through the other man's eyes, but it was gone before Shoto could hone in on it.

 "We need to talk." The blonde grumbled.

"I don't want to talk to you."

 "I don't care. We need-,"

"He said no." Wow, whiskey really made him a chatterbox didn't it? Crimson eyes fixated on him. Their intensity burned worse that the alcohol in his veins. Hot and angry, it put sparks in the air, the beginning of a what could turn out to be a blaze.

"Who the fuck are you?"

"A friend. Leave him alone."

 "Tch. You always did know how to make friends with the freaks, huh Deku?"

 "Had great practice since you were the first Kacchan."

There was a history there. He could tell by the way the blond recoiled, as if the nickname physically struck him. Izuku wasn't doing any better. His expression was cool enough, but behind them the grass had begun to shrivel, leaves on trees shriveling and falling off faster than nature could keep up. He knew enough to know that magic in public was a very bad idea. He went to fully grasp Izuku's hand when a series of beeps and vibrations went off.

The verdette's face went white as he whipped out a phone, reading the message across it with a mounting stormy expression.

 "Fuck," And the curse sounded even more heinous on those innocent lips. Like it didn't belong. (Shoto wanted to tap it on its shoulder and ask "Excuse me sir, are you lost? Cause I know you don't belong there.) "I'm on call. Fuck. Um, Sho, I've gotta run. Think you can make it back alone? I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you. Hello? Yes, I'm on my way. 10-4."

 The verdette took off running, speeding down the street towards the direction of the fire station. Which left a very not-sober student with an angry athletic-type who looked like he just busted a vein.

"You," He met the infuriated gaze head on. He was used to shit like this. "What are you?"

Shoto blinked.

"His frat brother. A friend." He repeated. " And you?"

The man's-This Kacchan's- shoulders hung heavy. He kicked a rock, sending it soaring through the air like a tiny meteor, flames streaming behind. Crimson eyes turned the opposite way of where Izuku went as he fixed his earphones once more. 

"A bad dream." he said. Before Shoto could ask what he meant, the man took off running. He watched him go till he was just a pinprick of blonde in the night. Taking his own headphones out, he put on his favorite podcast and settled himself for the walk home. 

'Mating competition is high in the Silverback Gorilla community and will result in quite a few skirmishes. It is not uncommon for an entire troop to get involved when a rival silverback threatens the place of the current head of the troop.'

Chapter Text

~26 Days Until the End of the World~   

      THERE was a fox in their windowsill. A small, red thing no older than a pup, it nestled in his bed of pansies, eyes shut to the world as it breathed, tail twitching ever so minutely under its jaw. Hizashi rubbed at his eyes, trying to get a better look past the blur of morning, then started as he realized that-Yes. It was a red fox showing up in his flowers of all places, in the middle of Fall, sleeping with its face looking in as if it watched over them last night. 

He pawed at the warm, wall that was his husband's back, letting out a keen whine when he only received a grunt in response. Shota turned to face him then, dark eyes rimmed red and hair unrulier in the morning light.

Shota arched a brow.

Hizashi pointed. 

       Shota narrowed his eyes for a minute or two, peering at what was surely just a blur of purple. (And Hizashi saw it: the way his eyes lit up for just a moment, how his thin lips pulled into a rare smile-and from it an ache grew deep in his chest) The dark-haired man scrabbled for his glasses on the bedside table, throwing them on haphazardly before turning to the window once more.

Then Hizashi looked away. He didn't have to see the disappointment crash down on the man's face. He could feel it in the way the sheets began to shudder-that telltale quiver and release of the mattress as weight suddenly left it. 

He felt the bedroom door slam shut and winced.

It wasn't their son, but it was still a cute fox. Gathering the sheets around his body, he left the bed, white linens trailing after him like a makeshift cape as he padded across the room to get a closer look.

It was an adorable little thing. A snub black nose nuzzled into the flowers as it began to shift, as if it could feel Hizashi's gaze. It had a brushing of violet in its ears, probably due to spending so long mussing up the petals.

It wasn't his son, but the sight of the fox served as a balm for the gaping wound in his soul. Whether Shota liked it or not, he would get a good look before the thing decided to run away.

Hizashi turned, ready to give his husband a piece of his mind, only to find the man already in the doorway, storm-faced and jaw locked. He was going to try for a gentle smile, then his gaze fell to the shotgun in the other man's hands.

"No!" He felt the word rip from his lips and he lunged forward, shaking his head back and forth. The metal was cool in his hands for just a moment before Shota brushed him aside, holding him back with his body as he poised to shoot.

"Please." And that one wasn't a rip as much as it was a stumble of his tongue. The flat of his palm hit his chest so hard it burned. He forced it form circles till Shota looked away. Then he reached up, fingers finding purchase on heated bare skin, then lips on the junction of a neck and a shoulder to get them so stop shaking. He looped his arms around, palms flat against a stomach softened by time, and gently pressed.

Only when the shaking subsided did he inch his way around. Deft, quick fingers brushed tear trails out of the dark stubble that began to sprout, rising to comb through wisps of hair equally as black before falling to his front once more.

"Please," Hizashi signed, nodding at the shotgun. "Don't hurt it. It's not it's fault." 

     There was a moment, a minute hesitation as his burly fingers curled on the metal, before Shota relented. He put the safety back on, but held it in his right hand none the less, bringing the left to snake about Hizashi's waist, a brawny and warm cord tight against his belly. They stayed like that, watching and waiting as it's breath grew shallower till the fox opened its maw in a yawn, and something spilled out. 

Papers? Something familiar about them. Hizashi squinted down at them as the wind blew through, letting them unfurl.

White with bold red writing that...that was his own. Splotches of purple and black made into some kind of drawing... Oh. Ohhhh.

"THAT LITTLE SHIT'S BEEN EATING MY MISSING CHILD POSTERS!" He yelled, and he could feel Shota recoil behind him. The soothing feeling of being held bled away as hot rage overtook it. Pounding at the glass of the windowpane, he continued,

"Oi! You think you're funny? You better spit them all back up before I come out there."

The fox blinked awake. It's eyes took in Hizahi first, who was undoubtedly a sight from the depths of hell itself, then to Shota, who was clutching at his ear with one hand, then down to the gleaming gun in his hand.

It froze. Shota's hand twitched. It fled, scampering out of the flower bed like the devil was at its heels. Huffing, Hizashi turned around.

"You take Eri to Sunday Service. I need to make more posters."H e signed. Shota gave him an exasperated look, but there was a fondness within its depth as he moved to begin their daughter’s day. Hizashi threw himself back onto the bed, snuggled underneath the sheets, and waited. When the voices in the kithen finally gave way to the sound of keys locking the front door, he pulled out his phone. 

[8:45 AM: Hey kid-o! Hppy Sunday! We'll b having burgers 2nite! All vegan, just the way u lyk it! Hope u can make it!]

 Pressing send, he ignored the pang in his chest at the sight of the other messages that were read and ignored, then set his face into his pillow and screamed.

~

            THE sunflowers still grew high behind Professor Yagi's house. Despite the dropping temperatures, they held on to life, stubbornly facing the noon sun with a devil-may-care attitude. It was pretty badass, Izuku supposed, as he sipped on sweet tea.

Professor Yagi was in the kitchen, fumbling in the fridge and whistling along to whatever was on the radio. He emerged not a moment later, red flannel loose on his frame, with his hair hanging limp. The perfect casual Sunday morning look, complete with black sweats and bunny slippers. Izuku wasn't any better, with his worn, dirt-stained jeans, varsity jacket and matching bunny slippers. For his own amusement, he settled his feet close to the Professor's when the older man sat, smiling at how it looked like the little green bunnies on his feet were having a conversation with the yellow ones across the way.

"Don't tell your momma now," The man said, settling a few beers on the table. "She's ready to tar and feather me as it is."

"Not a word." Izuku agreed, cracking one open. After shooting a quick thank you up to the powers that be, they dove into their weekly brunch. Izuku gave himself a healthy portion of collard greens and hushpuppies, piling them on till his mentor gave him a pointed look, then took the bowl of fried batter balls for himself. Setting some grits to the edge of the plate, he moved in on the barbecue ribs and biscuits.

      There was a comfortable quiet as they ate, punctured by the sounds of chewing and gentle strums of an old song on the radio in the next room. (Then the solitary "Did you make this? It's good." through a mouthful of key lime pie, and the rebuttal made through bites of corn "No, it's Yuuga. I'll pass on the message." followed by a "I'm going to visit Grandpop Torino in Dagobah on Friday. Are ya' free?" "I'll take off.") 

      A heavy, hard-hitting meal was a comfort after the kind of night Izuku had. He had relayed the details immediately upon his revival, citing three seperate fires and one heart attack for his state of dishevelment when he showed up on the doorstep with a pie in hand. The Professor only let him in, gesturing to the stairs to indicate that the young man already knew where the shower and spare clothes were.

Not even two hours later, Izuku was settling in his chair, hands prostrate on his stomach as he tried to fight back sleep. Across from him, Professor Yagi wasn't any better, in the exact same position, eying the last bite of biscuit on his plate with an internal debate burning in his eye.

"We're not any closer to finding out who that Harbinger of Hell is." Izuku said. He saw his mentor freeze up, then congratulated himself when the other man shoved the plate away. Folding his hands on his stomach, the blond man leaned back, blue eyes trained on the ceiling fan as he asked,

 "Could ya' tell me that little riddle again? Let's see if we can decipher any clues."

"He will come astride a chariot of shadow."

"Are we sure it's a he?"

 "Chacha made the same point." 

Professor Yagi hummed, a faint smile playing at his lips. "Smart girl, that one. My best T.A too."

Izuku continued, "Before him, the cosmos will quake and fall."

"....The cosmos...Like the planets? Or maybe...A meteor shower. There should be one this month. I don't remember what day it is though. Look into it."

 "The green maiden shall embrace him beneath the willow."

"That's you."

 Izuku snorted, beer gushing from his nostrils as he frazzedly responded,  "Last time I checked I wasn't a maiden."

"Son, there ain't nobody that's greener than you. Green hair, green eyes, green thumb. Shoot, you're one of Persephone's for Christ's sake. The only other person I can think of would be little Ms. Asui, and the only one she's been embracing is that warlock boyfriend of hers." 

"They're not dating."

"Yet."

 

Izuku winced, not wanting to think about Tsuyu and Fumikage at all in that context.

"And thus so begins the end of us all. Benediction uttered shrouds a hex merely muttered."

There was a silence following this one. Izuku opened his mouth to continue, but his mentor held up a hand to stop him.

"It sounds like a glamour."

His stomach dropped. There was only one person he knew with a glamour. But that couldn't be right. Shoto was innocent. He knew Shoto was innocent. Kaminari was wrong. 

"But then again...it could be charmwork used to nullify the effects of a hex instead of removing the hex completely. I'd keep an eye out for that one if I were you. You're the keeper of the coven's grimoire. If anyone comes to you asking for something even a little strange, tell me."

"Denki thinks its Shoto. Remember, that new guy?"

He needed assurance of the opposite. He wanted the Professor to laugh and wave away any doubts he had, but the man's face remained impassive as he seemed to consider it.

 "Now, I'm sure he's good people, but a good magician keeps his eyes open to all the possibilities. I'm willing to bet money that little man just caught the wrong side of a witch having a bad day and had his face mangled up for it, but I don't know, and since I don't know there's a chance I'm wrong. At this point, the only people we can trust are me, you and Chacha and that's just 'cause I've known y'all since you got your powers in. I can confirm no foul play."

It wasn't the answer he wanted to hear at all, but Izuku took it in stride.

"The depths of earth will erupt at his call."

"Self-explanatory." The man had started gathering the dishes to bring into the kitchen. Izuku followed. They worked side-by-side, setting aside leftovers for him to take home and placing the empty dishes in the sink.

"Look upon death: The Harbinger of Hell, Heaven's Wrath, Fire and Brimstone."

"Lotta' of titles for one man." The Professor murmured. Izuku picked up a sponge and the soap.

"Can only on the promised day atone. When the worlds become one, the night of Harvest's rushed end, Samhain's witching hour, he bleeds alone."

"The promised day is Halloween. The worlds becoming one refers to Otherworld and ours. The witching hour is between 10 PM and midnight." He rinsed out the plates and put them in the drying rack. "There's still no definite way of stopping him. 'Atone'? What is he atoning for? Is he a villain?"

"Whoever it is, he's done something to wrong someone close to Denki. Since the prophecy came to him, it'll be someone in close proximity to him on Halloween night. Since he's staying on campus grounds, we can assume that the culprit is already hanging around."

He hesitated for a moment, trying to find the words to continue. "Sir, I...I don't think it's a coincidence that Katsuki Bakugou showed up on campus now."

"You think young Bakugou's our guy?"

"I think he's someone I've known since birth, who's shown no signs of magic at all up until now. A half-mortal with a strong affinity for pyrokinesis. I don't want to point any fingers, but the fire's kind of a glaring-," 

"He's new to this, that's all. Him being a half-mortal don't got nothin' to do with how much we can trust him." The man frowned, setting down his dish towel. "You're the last person I was expectin' to say somethin' like that."

Shame flash flooded him, making his cheeks grow hot as he turned towards the task at hand. 

"Sides, if we're talkin' 'bout flames, we all know someone who has both the firepower and the experience." 

"Dabi's not it."

"Anyone can be it."

 "Then so can Kacc-Katsuki," Izuku bit out. "Dabi's already offered to give me some magic lessons. Why would he do that if he were planning on ending the world?"

 "He what?"

Izuku froze. At his side, he could hear the Professor sigh, clutching the edge of the sink as he found the words he wanted to say. He didn't yell. He never yelled at him, but that exhalation of breath betrayed disappointment, and somehow that was so much worse.

 "I know it's hard for you," Professor Yagi began. "With you being one of Persephone's and him being one of Hades-"

" We're friends. He's one of the closest ones I have since Hawks..." His chest grew tight. The words stuck in his throat. He shut off the sink with a shuddering hand. "I want to be like you. Every magician wants to achieve All Might, but I can't be the one that knows all if I never learn necromancy."

"And you will learn," Toshinori countered. "When you're ready."

 "Sir, with all due respect, I'm ready now."

"You still kill of every green thing around you when you get angry. Don't think I haven't noticed."

The blond man toweled off his hands passing the cloth to Izuku when he was done, then going over to sit on the counter.  He flicked his hand and the coffee pot came soaring over, along with the cream, sugar and two mugs. He watched Izuku as the utensils did his bidding, brow furrowed with worry.

"It's not that I don't trust you. I just think that it's best for you to learn when it's right, from someone you can trust-,"

"I trust Dabi. Hawks trusted Dabi."

"That youngin' doesn't know what he's doing. All those scars on his arms? Do you know what they are? When you start to linger a bit too long in the Otherworld, or start giving them corpses the slightest hint that you're alive, they latch onto ya' tight." He mimicked the action, grasping his forearm till his nails were pressing crescent into the tanned skin. "They try to keep you down there, and the more you fight them off, the more of them you'll have on you. Those scars tell me he's had more than a few close calls. I've let it slide cause we've talked and he made clear that he's a grown man capable of making his own decisions, and I understand the situation but I'll be damned if I let the same thing happen to you."

He broke the eye contact, looking at the window with something indescribable lingering in his iris as they settled on the sunflowers. 

"Necromancy changes you if you give it any sort of opening. It'll be even worse for you, since your magic has an affinity for maintainin' life instead of destroying it.

"So Dabi can take the risk but I can't?"

"I don't see Dabi as my son." The man said softly. The righteous anger bursting in Izuku's chest fizzled away. There was something new, something bittersweet on his tongue and thick enough to make his throat clog up as the telltale burn of tears pricked at his eyes. A strangled sob escaped the mess that was his gullet as he lunged forward, throwing his arms around the professor's bulky frame.

"H-hey young Midoriya-!" 

"Izuku!"

"Huh?"

He tucked his chin over the man's shoulder. His throat burned hot as he fought to get out,

 "You're gonna have to start calling me Izuku." 

The hands on his back relaxed, settling into the embrace. The palms patted a new beat against his back, as if to assert an acceptance of the task.

 (For a moment, he wondered if he had ever known such an affection before. Did his birth father ever pat his back like this? Ruffle his hair when he did a good job? What did it mean to be a father's son?)

 "...I guess I'll be Toshi," came moments later. If the laughter that followed it was preluded strangled sob, Izuku didn't say anything.

 

~

 

            HIS sticks were lightning bolts in his hand and he was Zeus, striking his drums into submission with a vicious beat that he felt vibrating through his biceps. They only fell went Kaminari went in for a guitar solo, strings shrieking in his hands as Jirou hyped him up. The two jumped in sync as the blond played, finishing off with the woman headbanging into the next verse and her partner falling back in line with Sero, riffing off of each other as Katsuki flew back into a smooth tempo. There was a life in this. He couldn't deny the thrill that shot through him as they entered the chorus, lyrics that he wrote burning on his tongue as their vocalist sang their notes out for the world (Sero's garage) to hear. Looking around at all of them, then down at the sticks in his hand, he knew. 

This was his shit. This was what he wanted to do with life. Fuck what his mom had to say. He just wanted to play some good music at shitty bars with his shittier friends, and maybe, y'know, snag a record deal?

As if she heard his thoughts, Jirou held her fist up-a signal for them all to stop. He let out one final bang on a cymbal before tucking his sticks behind his ears, leaning back and breathing heavy as she sat cross legged on the floor, black doc martens thick under her knees.

"I-," She sneezed into her flannel. "Sorry. Band meeting. So, obviously that gig at SugarRush was kind of a dud since someone decided to keep their blunt lit behind their ear. No names please."

"Katsuki" Kaminari coughed.  The drummer shot him a withering glare, but just grumbled. They'd come up with that excuse on the fly, knowing full well that explaining, 'Hey I'm a half-wizard with fire powers.' wouldn't come out well at all.

"I thought it was good," Mina hollered from her boyfriend's lap. "I mean, you definitely screwed up at the end, but you got a good crowd."

"Says the girl with a business meeting with the Mr. Overhaul of NOMU records." Sero scoffed. The woman simply flipped her hair, examining the acid green claws on her hands as she retorted,

"Don't be worried about me, myself and I when you could be worried about you, yourself, and ya'. Get in your bag, hater.''

 A series of 'ohhhhsss' went around the room as Sero waved her off, going back to tuning his bass with a little smirk on his face. Jirou called them all back to attention with a wave.

"Anyway, back to me. We've got hella gigs this month so keep your nights free. As you all know, we're set to have the first EP drop on the 24th, so that gig at the Golden Sounds on the 25th is gonna super important. Everybody thank E when I'm done talking," She shot a look at her boyfriend, who had already cupped his hands around his lips. "I can't emphasize this enough: Invite everybody you know. Your friends. Your enemies. Your mom. Your grandma. Your third cousin twice removed. Cause dudes, this shit is gonna be crucial. I have my friend Kendou coming in to shoot with her team so we might be able to snag a couple official band photos and a music video off of this gig. I want that crowd like huge like-,"

She spread her arms out wide.

 "Like fucking huge dudes. Other than that, we're sounding great. I don't really have any notes for this session so I guess you're all good to go-,"

 "Freedom!" Sero shouted, running to open the door. The others followed him, stretching out the kinks from a five hour jam session. Katsuki rose, tucking his sticks in his back pocket, when he felt delicate fingers on his arm. Jirou blinked up at him, a smile that was much too sweet to mean anything good plastered on her face. 

"Except you Kats. I wanna work on lyrics for a little bit."

He groaned. "Zerooo-,"

"Ki-kiiii,"She moaned in return, then winked. "C'mon. I'll order Chipotle and beer."

 He pushed out of the drum set. Plucking an old Fender off the wall, he sat where she sat before, strumming idly at the strings.

" Get me a Belgian White. None of that vegan shit that you've been drinking." 

"All beer is vegan, dumbass." 

She rolled her eyes, but brought out her phone anyway. An hour later, they were alone, empty plates and papers scattered around them with Katsuki's fingers sore from playing. She plucked a second bottle from the pack, and sat back.

"I'm thinking we scrap that third verse entirely. No matter what we do it sounds like shit."

"Then the songs only two minutes."

 "I'd rather it be two minutes and too short than long as fuck and suck. It's got a great hook. I don't want that last verse to ruin it. Or we could even repeat that hook again."

He plucked at the strings again, entering the melody with ease as she snapped her fingers.

"We'll just cut it." She said after a moment. "But then we'll need a whole new song. We'd be at 5 songs in 24 minutes. Might as well use up some of that extra 30 seconds. Make it 6."

"We've got ti-."

"I want a love song. Like a love, rock ballad. Something like what Harry Styles did with Sign of the Times? But like harder. Grittier. Y'know?"

"Sorry, no, I don't have shit taste in music." He let the guitar fall into his lap. Rubbing at his arms, he added, "Why a love song? Why not a banger? Let's end it with a riot. Something people will remember."

"Eijirou's proposing to Mina. He wants us to write him a nice little song so he can do this. We'll debut the song as a new single on the 26th, bring them on stage, and Kendou will film the whole thing."

Katsuki guffawed. Beer shot through his nostrils, stinging them raw. He grabbed a napkin to wipe up the mess as Jirou hid her snickers behind her hand.

"He didn't tell me shit." He threw the napkin to the side. 

"He literally decided this morning. We've been telling him to bag it up since she's headed for the top. Y'know: Marry her now so she doesn't have to take a break from her career later. I guess that meeting with Overhaul finally set his head on straight."

She worried her bottom lip. "It was hard enough to get him to push back the date. He wanted to do it on his birthday, but that gives us barely a week to plan it, He'll probably ask you to go ring shopping with him really soon. But,"

She let out a long sigh. Discomfort wasn't a typical expression on her, but he could recognize it in the way she avoided his gaze, running a hand through her hair before continuing,

 "You're closest to him so I figured: If anyone could write Eij a love song, it'd be you, y'know? And who better to sing it than, well, you?"

A stone sat in the pit of his stomach.

"No." The fact that the question had to be asked was insulting.

"Look Kats, I know you don't think so but you've got a good voice. It'll mean a lot to them."

Against his will, he felt his resolve soften. Jirou put the emphasis on the last sentence on purpose, if that sly flicker in her eyes was anything to go by.

"And what'll you do?" He ignored her triumphant fist-pump. The woman swirled her bottle around, eying the contents with that spark in her gaze that he grew to love. She was scheming. And Zero's schemes usually turned out pretty wicked.

"I'm thinking this'll be an acoustic thing. Just you and a guitar. Make it real special and have them center stage. Then when she says yes, me and the boys will run back on and give 'em a real nice champagne shower."

 "Fucking alcoholics."

 "Functioning alcoholics." She corrected with a grin. It was quick to fade. There was something else on her mind. He demanded that she spit it out but she only spluttered for a moment, falling back to silence as she looked to the ceiling for the words to say. 

" I, uh, I get it if you don't want to do any shows around Halloweekend. October's a rough one for you so if you can't I'm sure they'll understand-,"

 "I'll fucking do it Zero, Christ." Her watery grin was the only warning before she threw her lanky arms around his shoulders. A moment or two passed before he awkwardly returned the embrace with his left side, cheek pressed up against her hair so close he could smell her sweat.

"If I pull a T-Swift cover out of my ass, just remember that you asked for it."

The punch to his gut was well-deserved.

~

       DABI shook out his aching joints, rolling his shoulders even as they cracked in protest. Hotwings walked at his side, sniffing at a tree before he lifted his hind leg to take a long piss. The third one in the past hour. It was a wonder really, how much that dog packed in him. Maybe he needed to see a vet. Scowling, he made a mental note to call Rumi and see if he could swing by her place for a checkup.  (He didn't count on it though. Ever since she got with her girlfriend, the two had locked themselves away from the rest of the world. He didn't think he and Hawks were ever like that.) 

It was a chill, Sunday night. Not too many people on the streets but he still did a little glance around before sneaking a blunt into his lips, using his pinky finger to light it up. He took a deep drag, shutting his eyes for a brief moment of bliss, before the sound of sirens went off. The firetruck sped off, all white and red lights and loud blares. He couldn't help the way his eyes strayed after it, how the cavern in his chest stretched in longing.

 The dog finished his business soon enough. It started pawing at his pants. It stuck it's wet, dripping tongue out and wagged it tail. Blissful in its ignorance. Dabi simply stared down at it for a moment or two, stifled heaving breaths slowly de-escalating into something like a normal rate before leading the dog back the way they came.The town passed by in a blur. The stick between his lips went by just as fast. All that was ever-present was that ache in his core. His throat was sore and his eyes were heavy with something that wouldn't come out.

 He shuffled into their-his apartment. Let the dog off the leash. Took off his shoes and pants, casting the latter onto the couch before going for the kitchen. He made it as far as the freezer, hand on a carton of ice-cream, before he felt another presence in the house.

He didn't hesitate. Casting feathers of blue flame behind him, he bid them to find their mark.

"Shield." He demanded. The familiar click of a basic ward sounded out as the barrier set itself up around him. Another barrage of flames followed the first.

A second was all he needed for better spell work. A single moment for a better ward, or stronger attack, but he never got the chance. He could hardly raise his hands to guard before he was hit with winds stronger than any storm.

 "Bind." Came the command, and suddenly he knew fear. The daze of his high still enshrouded at the corners of his mind, but there was no denying that sinking feeling in his chest as his attacker's face came into the light.

"If it isn't the Boy Who Lived?"

 Sarcasm was his last defense. The daring smirk on his face betrayed nothing of the shaking of his fingers as eyes icier than his own leered down at him.

"Don't mouth off. I can hex ya' all the way to the ninth circle. I've done worse to men greater than you."

And if the blue sparks dancing around the man's fists weren't clue enough, he had seen firsthand what the man could do. Wincing, he bowed his head, letting his arms hang limply at his side. 

History didn't know a wizard stupid enough to go up against an All Might alone. He wasn't about to be the first.

"What is this about?" The question sounded tired.

"I've got a job for you." 

"And I've got a thesis to write. Sorry. Try again around June?"

       All Might stepped forward into the light of the fridge. Even without magic, he was big enough to kick his ass. Legs that were more like tree-trunks stretched for miles, leading into a trim waist and wide chest, partially covered by tan arms speckled with golden hairs. He stood at nearly 7 feet, teeming with muscle mass as he leaned over Dabi, a not-so friendly smile playing at his lips. 

"You're funny kid. You're also one of ZKC's which makes you one of mine." He clapped a hand onto Dabi's shoulder, and he felt his entire side clench. "Now, there's a half-mortal with fire powers. You're gon' teach him all he needs to know to be a good pyro."

He opened his mouth to spit something disparaging. At once, he felt it. An oppressive aura so strong he could see it, curling like wind around the man as he smiled down at him, blue eyes disappearing in the shadows of the night. His teeth clacked shut.

Resignation and bitterness mixing in his chest, Dabi nodded.

"Now that wasn't too hard was it? I'll bring him around the coven house tomorrow night. Introduce him to the people of his own kind. You'll meet him there."

All Might clapped his shoulder once more. The man wound his scarf around higher around his chin as he turned to leave, then seemed to think better of it.

 "And while we're on the topic of mentoring," The older man leaned in. His notorious grin was absent, expression all hard lines and furrows. "Stay away from my apprentice. If you're so eager to teach, get yourself a license from the Witchcraft Education Committee and start a practice. Do what you want, but the youngin' Midoriya is off limits."

"Afraid he'll surpass you?"

He attempted to goad, but his target only turned away.

"I know he'll surpass me." All Might said after a pause. "I've never doubted it, so I ain't scared of it."

~

            Shinsou leaped up to the window, glanced about for a minute to check for any bystanders, then rolled into the townhouse just the door of the room he entered shut. My Little Pony and Sailor Moon poster stared down at him menacingly, making his fur stand on end as he scampered underneath the bed.

"Shinny? Is that you?"

He felt the familiar transformation take hold. His limbs stretched out , bones breaking and reforming to accomodate his new size as sharp spikes of fur sank back into his skin. Rolling his neck, he waited until he had the vocal chords for human speech before whispering back,

"Yeah. You got the stuff?"

       A tiny pair of feet appeared at the edge of the bed. There was some rustling, before a pudgy little hand appeared, clothes in their grip. It took him a minute, but Shinsou managed to scramble into the sweatpants and t-shirt provided, setting the bag with the burger to the side. He crept out from beneath his sister's bed, sneezing dust into his elbow, as he collapsed on the mattress. Peeking down at her worried gaze, he feigned another heaving sneeze, then began to fall in slow-motion, crushing her tiny body even as she pleaded with him to stop, beating at him with tiny fists.

"Your armpit smells like poo!" She squeaked. Her hair, long and silver, was mussed by the rough housing, falling into her red eyes as she pouted, socking him right in the jaw when he snickered. Out of the corner of his eye, he checked the clock. 9. He had a couple minutes.

 Picking a hair brush up from her bedside table, he sat cross-legged behind her and began to run it through her hair.

"Did you brush your teeth?"

"Mmm."

"Say goodnight to the parental figures? 

"Mmm."

"Turn off all cellular devices?"

 "Hmmmmmm-," She reached for her phone, pressing the button on the side till the screen blacked out. "Mmmm!" 

"Well then," he sighed. "I guess you deserve a bedtime story."

He finished his work, tying it all into a loose braid before she excitedly clambered under her sheets, staring up at him expectantly.

"So what story-?"

 "Simba." Her tone brokered no room for argument. Sighing, he settled down by her feet, poking at them through the comforter as he began to recite,

 "There once was a little lion named Simba, son of the great lion Mufasa, the king of Pride Rock..."

 And if the story kept him there for a half an hour longer than he intended, he didn't mind. Nor did he complain when her eyelids began to droop, her head a heavy weight on her pillow as she began to lightly snore.

And if there was the flash of blond hair and green eyes peeking through the doorway, he didn't mind that either.

Chapter Text

~25 Days Until the End of the World~

            IT rained that Monday. Shoto watched the beads crash against his window. They were clear, rivulets running down the glass with a background of green trees and telephone poles. There was a steady beat to it. Nature's song he supposed. In his mind's eye, he envisioned old youtube videos of a chimpanzee's rain dance, a long, sopping wet limbs and hoots. An undisputed sign of the development of culture in humanity's primate cousins.

 After all, didn't everyone have some kind of routine?

 He waited in bed till his alarm clock rang out, signaling 7:00 on the dot. He put on his house slippers, right leg before his left. He stretched. Warrior I right-hand extended. Warrior II right-hand extended. Triangle pose right hand to the floor. Downward Dog. Child's Pose. Corpse Pose. Repeat. 50 stomach crunches. 50 squats. 

7:30.

He moved to the closet to select his clothes for the day.

There wasn't much to choose from. He didn't have the guts to return to the house after his siblings had left, ignoring all the texts his father had sent him and cautiously avoiding the man's usual hangouts around campus. He would have to make some changes soon. Frowning, he reached out with his right hand, selecting a pair of black slacks and a black turtleneck before laying them out on his bed. Then he grabbed his toiletries bag and went to the bathroom. 

       The first disruption to his routine came when he barged in without knocking, only to find Fumikage more asleep than awake, dick in his hands as he took a piss.  He murmured his apologies before quickly escaping. He was allowed five minutes to fight down his embarrassment before the dark-haired man came out, scratching his back. He didn't acknowledge him, which Shoto couldn't help but feel a little humiliated by. He brushed the disturbance off, entered the bathroom, and locked the door behind him.

 He brushed his teeth, the chords of La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin playing in his head. When the melody had finished, he rinsed with a whitening mouthwash. 60 seconds, back and forth. Gargle. Spit. Satisfied with the gleam of his molars, the routine continued.

 He showered with cold water. It numbed his skin, forcing little goosebumps and his hair to stand on end as he lathered with an organic, tea-tree oil infused liquid soap, spending exactly 60 seconds on each part of his body.

 (At this point, there was the second interruption: a banging on the door, followed by a feminine "Hurry up!" This went ignored.) 

He then took the same amount of time on each with a sea-salt exfoliator, paying meticulous attention to his armpits, groin and joints, where he knew dead skin was more likely to build up. He dried off with a fresh towel. Then went to the wide counter to start work on his face.

Then came the third interruption. The soft knocks on the door. He replied that someone was in, to which the response was an adorably lethargic,

 "Can I jus' brush m'teeth? It'll only take a sec'. Pinky promise."

 He unlocked the door immediately. Ushering the sleepy-eyed verdette in, he adamantly ignored Ochako glaring daggers as she waved her shower brush like a club, and locked the door once more.

 Then, his face.

        Tugging on a black headband to pull back his bangs, he went to work. The routine began with a water-based, willow bark infused cleanser. He rubbed it into his with small circular motions to ensure efficiency. (Izuku was shirtless. Did he sleep shirtless? He had so many scars running down his arms, memories of stitches and cuts etched into his skin. Was being an EMT so dangerous?)

A chemical-mask exfoliator was next. It took him a while to figure it out, but his skin reacted best to pumpkin enzymes and glycolic acid. The mix shone blood red on his skin, stinging like little mosquito bites. He kept it on for one minute and thirty seconds.

(Was Izuku always so sleepy in the morning? He was practically falling into the sink, blue-ish foam at the corner of his lips. Shoto wanted to reach out, to swipe it away with his thumb and then lean down and-.) 

The first and only time he introduced hot water into his routine was with a steaming towel to wipe off the exfoliator and open up his pores for his favorite step. The hydrating face mask with vitamin C for brightness and added amino acids for elasticity. He lay the towel down on the counter. On it, he lay his brush, the mix and the activator. It was a bit tricky to pour the activator in the mix pack with swirling it around with the brush, but his left hand only missed for a second or two.

 (Izuku was washing his face in the second sink. Like the raindrops on his window that morning, streams of water ran down tanned skin, tracing the valleys and hills of those scars tantalizingly slow, as if mocking him as they got to trace the patterns of puckered skin.)

 Taking a sufficient amount onto the hairs, he brushed the mask onto his skin in long, sweeping motions. His scar-or hex rather-would always be a glaring blemish on his face. There were imperfections that he could prevent. If the rest of his skin was flawless, there was the off-chance that someone might overlook his scar and-.

 "Oooh, what's that?"

Izuku was close, face right at his shoulders as wide green eyes traced his movements in the mirror.

"Face mask," Shoto murmured after a moment. (His voice was hoarse. His chest was tight. He could smell the scent of his mint toothpaste. Did he have to be so close?)

"Can I try?" 

        And thus came the fourth interruption to his routine. He opened up a new mix and activator, rinsing out the brush to prevent any cross-contamination, before going for the same sweeping motion across his face. He started with the man's forehead, brush secure in his right hand as he timidly raised his left to hold back where he believed Izuku's bangs to begin. (He was close, palm brushing against feather-light eyelashes before reaching its goal.) Long strokes led to marks of white against his skin. Save for a couple of spots on his temple ( he resolved to convince the verdette to get more sleep), the brush was met with little resistance aside from Shoto's own. It was the freckles that made him hesitate. As he had never seen their scattering up close before, he didn't want the chance to miss out now. He took his time, tapping at each dot with increasing care, as red climbed up Izuku's cheeks, lips parted to let cool breath slide against Shoto's knuckles.

 A certain heat coiled in his center. He stepped back, abruptly dropping the brush as he turned away.

"Done." he said by way of explanation. He turned to the mirror once more.

There was a wild look in his eyes. He willed it to fall away into his typical cold gaze as he reached for his essence, patting it into his skin before dutifully placing it to the side. (Izuku took this as an invitation to pick it up and pour himself entirely too much for a $200 product but he couldn't find the anger in him to say anything as the verdette mimicked his actions.)

The anti-aging serum was next, smelling faintly of citrus as he used his index and middle to spread it over the key areas of his face. For this one, he had to turn, stopping Izuku's hand before he could reach for the bottle, and apply it to the shorter man's face himself.

"Your fingers are cold."

"Sorry." He nearly retracted them but Izuku followed his touch, cradling his cheek into the flesh of his palm as he mumbled "S'fine."

The serum was followed by moistourizer, which was followed by SPF, till they were both gleaming. He watched the verdette grin as he turned his head to and fro, examining the plump shine of the skin with glee. 

"It's so smooth." He said, as Todoroki began to pack his things. He had to bite down a smile.

 And so came the end of his morning routine. It was unlike any other before it, but he supposed that no rain dance was ever the same. Traditions and cultures being an abstract, illusory concept rather than something tangible that could break by his hand, they were malleable. He could bend and shape them to his will and current context rather than abiding by any rigid lines.

(A part of him supposed that this was a form of rebellion. Wasn't it his father that emphasized structure? Perhaps a break from the monotony of routine was a healthy one. He needed change.) 

He didn't mind cohabiting with Izuku. He didn't mind sharing his things. It made him feel like he was a part of something, as if he were a little more human compared to the person he was before. 

"Are you two serious? It's been 30 minutes!"

Oh. That's right. He braced himself as Izuku opened the door, only to get lifted off the floor by a sweet-smelling wind and swept out of the bathroom. It was all he could do to keep his towel wrapped around him as the woman not-so-gently set them down.

"Chacha, calm down-." 

Izuku cut himself off with a squeal when she jabbed her shower brush at him.

"Next time, use a bedroom like normal people!" She flipped them both off. They got a glimpse of her rolling her eyes before she slammed the door behind her.

Which left them in a tense silence. He could only hide his smirk behind his hand as a stark red blush climbed up Izuku's face. He spluttered something incomprehensible, arms making a scrambled pointing motion as he turned and went down the hall to his room.

 The floorboards creaked beneath his feet, the sound of the house's amusement as it too decided to chime in.

~

          BREAKFAST happened at 8:38 instead of 8:30 on the dot. It was Monday, so he went for high carbs. With a vanilla greek yogurt base, he scattered blackberries, banana and exactly one tablespoon of granola, cacao nubs, coconut flakes and flaxseeds atop to make a bowl. Smoked salmon avocado toast served as his side, with green tea to complete the meal.

He went to take his first bite when Hitoshi strolled in. The man was bundled in a hoodie, eyes rimmed with bags as violet as his hair, and looked like he just got run over by a truck, he was so disgruntled and clearly upset at being awake.  But he took the time to pause, look at Shoto's meal, raise both his brows and snort. He reached into the freezer, took out three hot pockets, and said,

"Flame On."

Immediately the things began to steam up. He took a bite, guffawing when it burned his tongue. Shoto caught him murmuring something about never learning as he left the kitchen, juggling the hot pockets between his hands.

 Ochako entered when he was finished with his salmon toast. She didn't even hide her disdain. Face scrunched into something vaguely constipated, she poured herself a bowl of cereal and sat right next to him, leering at him intently as she chewed. He endured.  The heat of twin pinpricks on his skin was aggravating at its worst, a nuisance at best. He dug into his fruit bowl with ease.

 Then Izuku came clambering down the steps, still shirtless, and went to the fridge. He spluttered on yogurt when the man leaned over. His eyes traced the shift of the sinews of muscle beneath tanned skin, traced the curve of his shoulder blades before a triumphant 'Aha!' rang out, and Izuku rose. A red pomegranate shone in his hand. He picked at the fruit with a practiced ease, scooping seeds with his fingers till the tips were sticky. He was a messy eater. The juice ran over his lips, painting them a deep scarlet. Shoto watched a stray seed settle on their curve, lingering for just a moment before a flash of white teeth tucked it back where it belonged, a swipe of pink sluicing away the lingering brushes of red.

 His spoon clattered to the table. Reddening, he turned away, only to meet Ochako's gaze.

 The woman wiggled her brows, throwing him a sly wink, before pressing her index finger to her mouth. An act which Shoto could not, nor had any desire to, begin to interpret.

 "You're up early for a Monday Izu," she said, still staring at Shoto. "I thought you didn't have class until the afternoon."

 "O-Oh yeah, um, Fumi texted me about this problem he was having with a spell so I went to help him. Couldn't go back to sleep after that."

"I see."

Conversation lulled. The witch continued to send him pointed glances as Izuku did obscene things with that fruit until Shoto finally finished his bowl and began to head out.

He was out the front door at 9: 07. Seven minutes behind schedule.

~

            HE made to lecture in time to claim his usual seat: center-right, not too far in the front that he'd be noticed but also not too far in the back that he'd be expected to socialize. He usually took meticulous notes as Intermediate Micro-Economics wasn't his best course. But that day his pen strayed to the margin of his notepad, etching little flowers and scattered seeds, designs growing simpler as his thoughts wandered to broad shoulders and the smell of mint toothpaste. (He wondered if this was MUJI's intention the whole time: their notebooks were better suited for doodling than actual notes.)

 Class ended and he had bundles of hibiscus and dandelion strewn across his pages instead of notes. He resolved to go over the slides when they were posted that night. He moved through the rest of his schedule in that same daze, trying and failing to pay attention to his professors. Even his Primate Behavior recitation was a bust. He had to pull his T.A, Mirio, aside after to reserve a remedial office hours session, which in turn cut into his lunch break. The taste of his favorite-cold ginger soba-was a mere blip in his senses as he sat in the park, mind turned to the way the smooth planes of warm skin felt beneath his fingertips. 

It wasn't until his private piano lessons that he stumbled upon thoughts that weren't carnal in nature. Debussy's chords rolled through him like a second heartbeat, much to the satisfaction of his tutor.

"This song...They say that this is what it sounds like to fall in love."

Clair de Lune came to an abrupt end. The piano shrieked as Shoto's hands dropped to the keys. Their landing sounded off with a clash of notes so terrible Tamaki had to cover his ears. Apologizing profusely, Shoto began again, this time with a Mephisto Waltz, if only to shield his mind from the train of thought barreling towards it.

 His tutor did not speak again, but his face regained its usual small frown. Dark hair shielded his eyes from view, but Shoto knew Tamaki wasn't pleased.

He received the same comment each time: Technically perfect but-.

 "Your heart isn't in it. Anyone can learn to play a few keys, but you can't be an artist without a soul."

They exchanged their goodbyes. Shoto left without checking the time. So distracted was he that he bumped into a massive body in the hallway without so much as hesitating.

His body did not fall, but his heart did, collapsing in his chest as his lungs swelled. His first inhale was deep, nostrils full of a musk so familiar he could practically smell the cigar smoke that usually accompanied it.

Shoto had his father's coloring on his left side, as well as his height. This was where the resemblance ended.

         His father stood as wide as a wall. The muscle from his glory days playing college rugby had lingered. Where Shoto was lean with the soft lines, Enji was all bulging veins and harsh, square lines. His hair was few shades darker than that of pongo pygmaeus, wild spikes tamed and slicked back against his scalp for work. A mustache and goatee too thick for his usual style were the first signs of distress. There had always been a tightness to the man but then he seemed a little high-strung, a tightness to his lips that made it seem like he was biting back a curse.

Shoto stared at the ground then, gaze cold and unrelentingly impassive. He fought to urge to rub at his thumb. Any sign of weakness would be found and exploited.

"Your siblings are missing."

He said nothing. The tone was flippant, borderline uncaring, but he knew his father better. There was a strain in the third word, a catch in his breath that betrayed his rage. His worry. 

"All of their things are missing. Fuyumi's boss called me the house morning about her missing two shifts. A segment of Natsuo's graduate thesis was due today. Professor King stopped me in the staff room to remark on how my son didn't turn it in. I don't know why they would be so irresponsible so suddenly."

 That gaze was fire on his skin. He could smell his hair smolder and burn. (He wondered what his siblings were doing? Where did one go to escape the grip of a tyrant? What was the first act of freedom?)

"You wouldn't know where they are would you Shoto? I hope you haven't followed those idiots down the wrong path. You haven't been sleeping at home. That Burberry Overnight Bag I got you for Christmas is missing."

"...Yves Saint Laurent."

"Excuse me?"

He didn't know what possessed him. There was a sudden burst in his chest as he looked up, arms shaking as the words spilled from his tongue into the air as a river ran into an ocean.

"I own the Yves Saint Laurent bag. Natsuo's the one that likes Burberry. Fuyumi doesn't like designer things because she thinks it's too self-indulgent and the money could be used for better causes. She told you this when you got her that Gaultier dress-the one with all the feathers that you thought she could wear to work even though she works in a preschool with children that make messes.

A pause. Blood thrummed in his head like a war drum. He spat, "Do you remember? That weekend Professor Yagi stepped down as Dean of Admissions, endorsing you for the position. You got so drunk and angry that you threw a bottle of St. George's at the television. Natsuo and I spent that night plucking shards of glass out of her arms because she begged us not to take her to the hospital."

 He pointed at his cheek.

"If you look close, you can still see the scar one of the bigger pieces left on her face. That was Friday night. You brought home the dress that Sunday morning. She told you she didn't want it. You insisted. She repeated herself. Explained why. You still insisted."

He met his father's eyes, and that wrath in them outdid his own storm. Tempest quelled, the next words to leave his mouth were mere mutters,

 "That dress is currently sitting in the racks of Vintage Acid. She sold it to them, and gave the money to Habitats for Humanity. For an idiot, I think that's the smartest thing she could've done: turn your dirty bribe into something worthwhile....You've got a problem old man. You care a little too much and when things don't go the way you plan, you break down. Get help. Dr. Blanche is always taking on newcomers."

He heard the quick gasp of breath like a siren. His eyes dropped to the floor again, head ducked as he threw caution to the wind and rubbed his thumbs together. He waited for it: the sting of a blow, the cruel ache of fingers digging into his arm. The hallway was clear. Tamaki was busy with his next student.

He shut his eyes as he heard his name as a guttural rumble that belied rage, the swish of his father's arms straining against the threads of his blazer as he raised his hand to deliver a blow-. 

That never came.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" 

All he saw was pink. Pink hair. Pink fur coat. Pink wedge boots. Pink plaid skirt and a pink cropped turtleneck.

It pained his eyes. The girl stood in front of him, arms crossed from what he could see, and much too short to mouthing off to his father like that.

"I asked you a question sir. What-What are you deaf? Like can you not hear me? I asked you what you were doing? Answer the question-."

Enji Todoroki, for the first time in Shoto's life, seemed to be at a loss for words. He watched, fearing for the girl's life, as his father's face turned a vicious shade of puce, veins bursting on his forehead. Like an active volcano, he steamed up before he burst, spittle flying out of his mouth as he said,

"Insolent little-! Do you have any idea who I am?"

"I don't give a fuck who you are! Who the hell do you think I am? Lemme' introduce you super quick. They call me Pinky, and if I ever catch you raising your hand to hit a student again, I will beat your ass. Fuck, bro, I'll get you fired! I'll sit outside Dean Nezu's office day n'fucking night if I have to! "

"I could have you expelled!"

 "I don't care!' She kept yelling. "I don't give a fuck! Expel me! But if you do, fam, I'll find you and you won't like it if I have to chase after you. Now, get outtahere!"

She raised her arms like a bear, and Shoto saw the gleam of the talons on her fingers in the iridescent light. A feral roar left her lips as she stepped up to him, getting into his face making clawing motions.  (Was she...crazy? If it weren't working, he'd be concerned.)

Icy blue eyes met his own over the top of her head. His father's face contorted into a snarl before he turned away. "Bye! See ya!" The pink phenomenon was yelling at his retreating form. "If you really wanna expel me: the name's MINA ASHIDO!A-S-H-I-D-O! I'm a Senior in the Dance Program! I rap too! Pinky's the stage name! Google me bitch!"

 She panted to try and regain her breath. His father was long gone before she turned to him and started, almost as if she forgot he was there.

Mina (Pinky?) had elvish features: slightly sharp ears that pointed out of her pink wig, pierced at least 5 times over with golden studs and a tiny prick of a nose that scrunched up when her eyes fixed upon the sight of him, widening behind amber sunglasses.

"Whoa. Hey man, you're shaking. You wanna come outside with me for a bit? Get some air."

He let himself be led by a tiny (yet strong) hand on his wrist. She brought him behind the music building, into a secluded spot by some trees. Plopping onto the bench, she patted the space next to her for Shoto to take his own seat. He struggled to regain his breath as she took a neatly wrapped joint from her inside pocket and lit it. Exhaling wisps of gray smoke, she offered him a hit, to which he politely murmured his decline.

They sat in silence for only a second. She wasn't the type to stay quiet for too long, it seemed, as she was diving into introductions before he could do so much as blink.

 "So you might've guessed by now, but I'm Mina. Nice to meet ya' Mr.?"

"Todoroki. I'm Shoto Todoroki." 

He didn't even think of it till he saw the way her eyes widened. Immediately the hand outstretched to him dropped and he felt something wretched rear its head in his gut.

"Fuck, so that was-?" 

"My father. The Dean of Admissions."

 Mina blinked. Turned. Took another hit. Opened her mouth to speak. Shut it. Took yet another hit before she was ready.

"Has he always been...like that?"

 "Since I can remember."

"Fuck." She said eloquently.

"Indeed." Shoto agreed.

Fuck, indeed. He checked his phone. 6:48. He was supposed to have dinner by 7. There was no way he'd make it on time. His routine was-for lack of a better term-fucked.

And he found that he didn't care. As if the noose around his neck suddenly snapped, he could breathe again, taking in crisp autumn air like a fish finally submerged in the sea. He wasn't out of the woods yet, but he was a little freer than he was yesterday. He stood in the world, as a member of its events rather than a witness attesting to the proceedings with passive disinterest.

He reached out on an impulse. The pink woman placed the stick in his hand. He took an experimental puff-a man hell-bent on conquering all that this new world had to offer-then was quickly humbled as he fell into a coughing fit. 

Her laughter was the soundtrack of that day's sunset.

~

       THEY bunched together in the living room. Blankets and pillows were strewn about, with the most punctual (Read: Tenya and Ochako) claiming the most on the couch. Shoto lingered in the doorway, unsure of himself, watching as they all seemed to enter their designated spot with ease. Tsuyu lay on her stomach on the floor. Above her, Fumikage made a hammock of Dark Shadow, lounging in the swath of black with sunflower seeds hovering at his side.

 Deku was arguing with Yuuga, who had firmly wrapped himself around a body pillow, before huffing and stalking off to Momo. The woman, seated atop a pumpkin beanbag, peeked out of the hood of her cloak. She listened to him impassively, and Shoto fixated upon her face. It was framed beautifully when she let her hang down. Even without makeup, it was clear. Her lashes were long and her lips were full, puckered into something vaguely annoyed as she raised her arms.  In a burst of sparkles, another pumpkin beanbag sprouted in her hands, weighing heavy on the dainty, smooth fingers.

        Objectively, she was attractive. But Shoto couldn't see himself fixating on the curve of her right shoulder blade in the middle of class. Izuku waved his hands through the air, reciting a spell Shoto couldn't hear over the commotion and the pumpkin bag grew large enough for at least 4 people. He settled it by the wall, then sat down himself, throwing a thick blanket over his legs. His eyes glanced up and gleamed when we waved, patting the space next to him. 

The fluttering in his chest began anew. A small smile played at his lips. 

"What are we watching?" He asked as he sat down. Izuku threw the other end of the blanket over his legs. Huddled in close, Shoto could feel the warmth of the other man's arm against his own.

"American Psycho. Cult classic."

 The verdette squealed as a particular cat jumped onto him. Violet eyes flickered over Shoto, ears quirking every which way, before Hitoshi let out a meow that sounded more like a dry laugh. He shut his eyes for a nap before they could protest.

Denki and Mei came running in, arms full of snacks and soda. They dutifully passed the supplies around before the blond sent a spark at the television, starting up the film.

Unlike the Todoroki siblings’ idea of staring at a screen in silence until the movie was down, the ZKC coven believed it best to puncture every scene with slick comments and jokes, occasionally veering into a heated debate over one philosophical concept or another.

"Humanity is so much more than appearance," Izuku was arguing passionately. "You could be the most beautiful person in the world and still-at your core-be so far removed from the rest of the world that you shouldn't be counted as a member of mankind."

 "But who are we to dictate what constitutes as 'removed from humanity'?" Ochako retorted. "If it walks like a human, eats like a human, and reasons like one-it's human. Period."

"So Hitoshi isn't human?" 

"We're wiccans! We're practically immortal!"

"But we're still human!"

       Shoto didn't want to begin to understand the argument, so he was rather grateful when a series of 'Circe's tits' and 'Shut up's flew around the room. The peace was not longstanding. The tall, sad-looking fellow came in somewhere around the halfpoint, took one look at Shoto at Izuku's side, then wordlessly strode over to them. A burst of air smelling like burnt chocolate whipped at him once, and suddenly Dabi sat between the two, avoiding Izuku's bewildered gaze as he dug his hand into Shoto's bowl of Chex mix.

"Take my seat again and I'll set you on fire." The man said nonchalantly. His eyes were on the screen the entire time, following the murders with a rapt interest.

 Only ten minutes after that, the final disruption of Shoto's day was dragged in by his collar.

"Oi! Lemme go! I never said I-!"

 Kaminari sent out a shock to pause the film, an unusual nervous frown on his lips. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Ochako tense up, face as red and swollen as a balloon ready to burst into expletives. She looked to Izuku for a mere second, then leered out the window, pointedly turning away from the entryway as Professor Yagi came in. He was smiling at least, the only beam of light in a room of people quickly turning to stare worriedly or full on leer at the younger man in his grasp.

 It took him a moment, but Shoto recognized that shock of ash blonde hair. And if the near white spikes didn't ring a bell, the outrage in crimson eyes certainly would.

 This man was the same one that ran into them the other night, and he wasn't nice at all. A sense of foreboding curled in his gut.

 Kaminari was the first to act.

 "What're you doing here Kats?"

"The himbo brought me over. I wouldn't be here if I had the choice." The man scrambled out of Professor Yagi's grip. Shoto was perceptive enough to notice the way his gaze skirted over Ochako, rested on Izuku for hardly a moment, before he was shuffling to sit next to the one person that was willing to deal with him.

"Evening y'all! I'm sorry to call on ya' so late but I hope you understand the urgency of the situation in times like this" The Professor stood tall, commanding the attention of the room with his booming voice. "This youngin' here is Katsuki Bakugou. Now, he's a half-mortal packing pyro powers. I've already talked to some of you about training him-,"

He shot a pointed look at Dabi, who scoffed. "But I thought it'd be best if he meets the rest of y'all. Gets used to Yuuei's magic community. Treat him well-."

 "He's not welcome here."

The tension was strung tight enough to hang a man. Ochako didn't even look their way. That same pained expression rested on her face as she stared out, brown eyes swimming with an emotion he couldn't name.

"You all can do what you want. But leave me out. I'm not binding hands to get the house's wards to adjust to him, so if you want to bring him in here, one of you will have to let him in."

"Ochako, c'mon, he's changed-."

 "I've barely even forgiven you!" She rounded on Denki. "You're lucky your cousin vouched for you. I would've sent you to the ninth circle you asshole!"

 She was crying, Shoto realized belatedly. Her face was red because she was upset. That thing swimming in her eyes were tears. They never touched her cheeks, floating around her as crystalline balls instead as her hair began to rise. Swiping an arm at her face, she jumped up (too high-her head nearly busted through the ceiling) and left, pushing past Professor Yagi with a broken sob.

Her departure only made it worse. Awkwardly, they didn't speak for a moment. Shoto was glad to find that he wasn't the only one that was confused, staring between the three blond men and Izuku as they all pointedly avoided eye contact. 

"She's right, Professor," Izuku said after a moment. "I told Yuuga to call you because we couldn't take him in. He's a risk-."

"He's right here!" The newcomer exploded. "And he'd fucking appreciate it if you'd recognize it-."

 "Katsuki Bakugou threatened to expose my family when I got my powers in high school."

 Shoto didn't recognize this Izuku. This one spoke with cold conviction, green eyes closed off to the world as he continued, "Knowing what that type of threat means to us-knowing what these mortals have done-I cannot in good conscious accept this. He-," 

Green eyes chanced upon the man then. Shoto saw something in them crack, an emotion so strong and heartfelt he felt a spike of anger in his chest. The irrational thought of jumping in between the two of them crossed his mind as some ugly feeling stirred in his belly.

"Now, of all times, we can't let anyone in that could hurt us." His voice was a tired rasp. "I know firsthand that Kac-Katsuki is capable of that."

 "Wait a second!" Kaminari jumped up. Electricity danced in his palms, lights flickering as he raised his voice "What? We were in high school Izuku. We were kids, and you're going to hold it against him?"

 "We were all kids! As if figuring out your powers isn't hard enough, we have to add someone threatening to out our entire family to it too? He could've had our parents killed. Ochako's got so scared they moved halfway across the country."

"He didn't know-!"

"But you did! You could've said something and you didn't! We begged you to stop him and you just-!"

"Family feuds are pretty ugly huh?" Shouto turned to find Dabi already looking at him. His whisper was light-hearted enough, snarky in nature, but that didn't reflect in his eyes. Those were cold. Piercing. They seemed to stare right into his insides, bringing up secrets he'd rather not speak of. Nodding his agreement, he turned back to the commotion, rubbing his thumbs as a chill ran up his spine.

"We were kids." Denki repeated. "We were young, dumb, super strong and unsure of ourselves. He has powers, Iz. You've seen what he can do. If anything we should be helping him because we know what it feels like." 

"I know what it feels like to watch my mother reset the wards every night, to dye her hair black so people didn't look at her too closely. She didn't cast for months! "

 "It was fine! The mortals all thought it was a joke-."

"But we didn't! None of us did! That's not the kind of thing you joke about with people like us! Calling someone a witch in broad daylight! Getting the entire class to mark us as freaks?"

Izuku crossed his arms, eyes hidden as green curls dropped to hide his expression, leaves sprouting in their depths.

"We live in Post-Salem America. Call it generational trauma if yo want but you were raised the same way I was. The first lesson we ever learned was not to fool around with mortals.Their 'jokes' kill us."

 "We'll vote." Tenya's voice cut in as that of reason. "All in favor of Katsuki-,"

"Wait!" Tsuyu raised her hand. "I have something I'd like to say. I'm sure alot of people in this room don't know what happened back then, and I respect yours and Ochako's feeling Izu."

 She took a breath, steeling herself for the words to come, hard glint in her green eyes. "But we have to focus on what's going on now. We're running out of time. If the apocalypse is truly upon us then we should think carefully about how this decision is going to affect us. We have to be rational, not emotional."

The tension had already been mounting. They all fell into that silent unease as fear began to scratch their skin. Momo reminded Tenya about the vote after a few moments, but her eyes were far away, teeth worrying her lower lip. 

"All in favor of Katsuki staying out, show your hand."

Dabi's hand was the first to go up surprisingly. Izuku's followed his after a brief hesitation, some unfathomable shadow crossing his face. Shoto also raised his hand. Not because he had anything to say about the feral blond, but because Izuku seemed to think that this was best. Yuuga was the last, saying something about 'not wanting bad vibes in the house'. 

"Count me twice" The verdette said. "Chacha said no too."

"She forfeited her vote when she left the room." Denki shot back. Izuku rose, incensed, when Tenya nipped that argument in the bud with a curt,

"She clearly stated exactly how she felt before she left. It counts. Including me, that's six nos. All in favor of letting him in."

Denki's arm shot up like lightning, Mei's close behind. ("If he gets in," She nodded at Shoto. "Then it's only fair.") Tsuyu raised hers at a calmer rate then, seeing the woman's vote, Dark Shadow raised his wing on Fumikage's behalf. Professor Yagi also raised his hand. He was looking at Izuku, Shoto noticed, and had been for the whole time. The verdette met his gaze with no shame. 

For a moment, the victory seemed clear, then Momo ducked her head and raised her hand.

 "It's not personal." She said. "It's just what's best for the coven."

 A draw. 6 to 6. 12 votes in a room of thirteen.

"Who didn't vote?"

"Somebody wake up the damn cat."

 Izuku prodded Hitoshi out of his slumber. Bleary violet eyes blinked up at them as the cat stretched, tail curling and swatting angrily at being disturbed. Izuku was to be the one to ask him the question, when Denki stopped him, citing bias. In the end, Dabi did the honors.

"There's another newcomer. Nay or Yay?" It opened its maw and Hitoshi's voice emerged, distorted by snarls and keening tones.

"You woke me for this?"

"Nay or yay?" The man repeated, and the words never sounded more like a threat.

"Yay." Came the short answer. Hitoshi curled back into Izuku's warm lap, shutting his eyes to the world, oblivious to the gravity of the decision he just made.

 "That's settled then." Denki said, satisfied. He turned to congratulate the newbie, but Katsuki burst out, yelling,

"I don't want to join your fucking frat. I want someone to explain to me what the hell is going on! How do I turn this shit off?"

       At once, the blonde arm burst into flame. Panic ensued, during which Tsuyu encased his arm with a ball of water as the others began to stamp the flames out of the couch. In all the commotion, Shoto was sure he was the only one that noticed when Izuku got up. His eyes traced the slumped form of the verdette as he deposited Hitoshi in the spot he sat in, shoved his hands in his pockets, and left the room. Professor Yagi reached for him, but he recoiled as if burned, hoodie hiding his expression as he left. The sound of the front door slamming shut was lost in the chaotic crescendo.

Chapter Text

~23 days until the End of the World~

He skipped Bio-Chem. He'd get the lecture slides online sometime before Thursday. Instead, he spent the morning in the greenhouse. Plants were patient and kind. Plants were not jealous. They did not brag and were not proud. Plants weren't rude, nor selfish, nor did they get upset with others.

 They did not betray.

His hands shook. His nose began to burn anew as fat, hot tears seared in his eyes.

            Izuku was never the biggest boy in his grade. The muscles didn't come until Hawks took him under his wing in his Senior year. He was scrawny for the better part of high school. He was an awkward, bumbling thing, limbs skinny and frail and a face as smooth and hairless as a girl's.

An easy target. 

He hadn't had his head stuck down a public school toilet in years, but he remembered how it felt to have water slick through his hair. How the smell would hang off of him for hours. The way his mother would lay the backseats with plastic before she picked him up, threatening to hex every child in that school as she drove him home.

 He remembered every cut, bruise, scrape from every punch, kick, the occasional switchblade, but they didn't hurt. The phantom scars had faded sometime between his first rescue and his first Thanksgiving shift. He had new, actual scars to show. Wounds that he got from saving lives. Thick, jagged things from the occasional violet patient, more than a few burn scars from defying orders and running too close to flames.  He was proud of them. They erased the worst of physical insecurities.

He sniffed. The larkspur beneath his fingers wove around his skin, tracing his hands like veins of flowers.

      In retrospect, the laughter was the worst of it. He could take a hit. He'd always had the stamina for that. He hated when people didn't take him seriously. He'd always had that little lisp. That pervasive tendency to ramble followed him out of the womb. These were immutable characteristics that he couldn't help. It was in his blood. Magic was in his blood. He was a wizard strong enough to apprentice the 10th All Might but last night he couldn't even look his childhood bully in the eye without remembering the snarky comments and the laughter and Denki's smug fucking face as he stared down at his cousin covered in toilet water and toilet paper and the blonde would just sit there and watch and he would never help Izuku not once. Ochako was the only one with the balls to say anything-to go running into the boys locker room with all five years of jiu jitsu under her belt as she went about kicking ass but what did that get her? 

A house in Cali her parents could barely afford? A chance to start over her Senior year, with entirely knew people who she couldn't relate to at all? A nice tan?

The summer she moved away was the worst of his life. Any friend he had wouldn't stand by him if Chacha wasn't there. But now, even she didn't hold sway. He would lose them all again. 

         Kacch-Kats-Bakugou always had to be the best. Ever since they were kids. He was the one with all of the friends. (It didn't matter if Izuku met them first) He was the one with the fancy house (Inko Midoriya believed in using her powers for the greater good rather than the self.) He was the one that got time to meet his Dad, to know what his father looked like in the mornings and how he laughed outside of photo albums (Hisashi Midoriya believed in the same as his wife-that's what killed him.)

This time around, Izuku didn't have Hawks to pick him up and dust him off. He had Dabi, but the two of them together were a dumpster fire of self-deprecation, enablement and subsequent dangerous activity and simply not healthy. They were both struggling to survive in a world without the sun. They couldn't begin to save each other when they could hardly handle themselves. 

A choked sob sounded out. He felt his head grow light, the way his knees buckled before he sank down onto his haunches. The saplings were on him in an instant, cluttering his space with their branches, surrounding him in the sharp smell of pine and sweet, sticky sap. He found no comfort in their embrace.

"-Zuku! Izuku!"

At once, the branches surrounding him were laid bare. The saplings stood at attention, their leaves and pine needles scattered across the ground without any forewarning. Fear took him as he reached out. His fingertips ran over the ridges of tawny wood, searching for the telltale pulse of life. It was there, but inactive. Almost as if it were-.

"Sleeping," He muttered. Then, louder, "They're in dormancy. How did you...do that?"

"I thought they were hurting you." Shoto stepped into the light. He looked to be on his way back from class, a vision in a snug, all-black ensemble. But Izuku spent no time ogling, eyes straying instead to the coffee cup in the other man's hand. Frost appeared across its surface. He traced the pattern of the snowflakes with his gaze before glancing up at Shoto's eye.

The hex was still in place. Nothing about it had changed.

"Does your hex hurt?"

"I don't feel it, so...no."

Interesting. If Shoto hadn't felt any different, then maybe there was something about the hex that they were overlooking-. Wait.

"You can't feel it?" Izuku exclaimed. "Like the nerves are dead? Can you see through that eye?"

The other man shook his head absently. He studied Izuku's face (and both eyes still moved in sync so how...?) eyebrows furrowed as he reached out.

Then swiped at Izuku's cheek with his thumb, drawing back a single tear. They stood for a moment, breaths bated, before Shoto rubbed the damp spot on his shirt.

"Would you...like to take a walk with me?" 

Izuku, still muttering to himself about what this could mean for their research, pressed his hand into Shoto's. (Cold! he noted. As if winter itself was encased in his palm.) Together they left the greenhouse. Stepping out into the gray light of a sun shrouded by clouds, they shuffled closer as the winds blew past.

"Are you still upset about last night?" Shoto was nothing if not blunt. Izuku wanted to shrink away from the conversation, to remain strolling down the road in a stormy silence.

But if he didn't say something now, he probably never would, letting it fester till it overcame him and turn him into someone he didn't want to be. It was Shoto, at least. The man wasn't the type to gossip. 

"As a wizard, your magic kicks in on the sunset of your 16th birthday. Around that time, your body starts adjusting to the change. It's not unusual for accidental bursts of magic to start happening every now and again. Chacha's first accident made her really good at tennis. She was messing with the gravity of the balls. Hitoshi was at a Giants game and started yelling at them to win. They overcame an 20 point difference in the last 5 minutes. Harmless things that don't hurt anyone."

Izuku frowned. The hand around his tightened.

"For my first act, I committed necromancy. It's the blackest magic in the book not to mention illegal in several countries...You can imagine how much I freaked out."

He swallowed. 

        They were in the graveyard. Right next to Dabi's favorite pile of dirt. The irony of the situation wasn't lost on him as he sat, back against the tree. He could feel Shoto settle down next to him, but it was distant, a mere blip in the edges of his subconscious, as a familiar hot sense of shame rose in him.

"It's bad enough to have your first act be something so drastic, but on top of that I did it in class, in front of all these mortals. We were in bio. Jeanist High's pretty old-fashioned, so we did physical dissections of frogs instead of the digital one and I-...All I remember is feeling so bad for it. The other kids were having a blast, but I felt like complete and utter shit. I couldn't even pick up the scalpel." 

Silence. Another comforting hand squeeze. Izuku's throat grew hot, but tears wouldn't come to his eyes. He tried to swallow, but the lump at the base of his neck was too large. He spoke past it, 

"I reached out for it. It was cold and slimy and just gross y'know? But I thought that maybe that wasn't the way it was when it was alive. I thought of it in a pond, sitting on a lily pad, eating flies and all of a sudden-."

He snapped. "It was up. Jumping around. I didn't see anything come out of my hand but Kacch-Bakugou was my lab partner. This was back when I still thought we could be....Anyway, he swore to anyone who would listen that he saw green lightning on my fingers. I denied every accusation, but he was already calling me a freak. And, well, y'know how high school kids can be."

"I was homeschooled." Shoto said. Izuku let out a bitter bark of laughter at that. 

"Course you were," Something wry played at his lips, a little bit of life in his eyes. "I don't know why I expected anything less of you. Since you don't know: high school is hell on earth. Especially when you live in the middle of 'bumblefuck'."

 There was a pause. He toyed with the other man's hand, fingers brushing up against a vicious blister by the knuckle.

"It...Well, it hurt obviously. We may not seem like it now, but we were best friends growing up. I was there when his Dad died. My mother hated our relationship-she doesn't really trust mortals-but I still snuck him into my house whenever I could. He met Denki through me, and you can see how close they are now."

 His fingers paused. He looked off into the distance. Words spilled from his lips without reflection.

"Then high school happened. I was a tiny, skinny kid. Katsuki was tall, hot, played on every sports team. Naturally, I suppose, our lives changed. I had Ochako. He had his 'death posse'. I thought we could still be friends but that's not the way it goes. That day in bio finally cemented it for me I think. I could deal with getting locked in the girl's bathroom or beaten up behind the bleachers. It was the fact that he could endanger me like that-endanger my family that I couldn't stand. He called us freaks, said we were witches and kept making these jokes about 'what they used to do to people like me'."

He swallowed. There was that familiar burn in his eyes again.

 "It didn't blow up until someone made some comment to my Mom at a Parent-Teacher Conference. That's how it starts, y'know? It was innocent comments, then double-entendres until I came home one day to my mum on her knees, scrubbing a pentacle with the words 'voodoo bitch' spray painted across it off of our door. We were one out of ten houses to get hit."

He didn't sob. Impassively, he felt the hot streaks run down his face, lost in a memory.

"She had to call an emergency meeting. Her entire coven met up at the house that night. Denki and I are coven cousins so he was there too. I tried to talk to him. Get him to bring Kacchan down but he...he picked which side he was on long before that. It was stupid of me to even consider it."

"You're not stupid. You're trusting."

"Seems like that's the same thing nowadays," He murmured bitterly. "...Ochako's family wasn't part of the coven, but they lived in the area so we figured they were involved too. It was her Dad that had the idea to call the All Might. And that's how I met Professor Yagi. He came in and cast this massive spell on the town. It didn't erase anyone's memories, but it made them less suspicious. They all started treating it as more of a running joke. We were the only ones that knew better. Half of the coven-people that raised me-moved away that summer. Ochako's family was one of the first. I still attended Jeanist High. I didn't speak to Denki or Bakugou. Professor Yagi started acting as my mentor and I started looking for better ways to control my powers. I became an EMT towards the end of my Senior Year. Life magic is pretty useful when you need to heal people."

 He covered the blister with his palm, felt the heat flow to his fingers as they began to glow a sick green. When he lifted his hand, all that was left was smooth skin. Shoto took his hand back. Marveling at it for a second, the other man said,

"That's rough buddy."

 Silence. Then a really embarrassing guffaw on Izuku's part. Wiping tears from his eyes, he sniffed back snot and said,

"Shoto, you're really not good at this whole friends thing are you?" 

The man's face went white. He stammered out an apology, wringing his wrists together, as Izuku patted his shoulders to calm him down.

" It's okay. We'll learn together, alright? You won't get rid of me that easily."

 He let his hands stray down till they were pressed against the inch of bareskin at Shoto's wrist. With a great sigh, he draped himself over the other man's lap, eyes fluttering to a partial close against the gleam of the sun. From beneath his lashes, he could see the hint of a smile on Shoto's face. It took all the self-control he had not to reach up for it.

 "What have I gotten myself into?" The man muttered. 

"I'm like a hex. A constant pain in your ass." 

"Pain in my eye."

"Oh, you're so clever."

He took a cheap shot. The finger that would've brushed at full lips deftly swerved around, landing on a spot where the hex scar ended. He was countered with a jab to the ribs. He ruffled Shoto's hair. Shoto pushed his arms to the ground, and that competitive spark in Deku's heart wouldn't let him loose. They struggled, laughing as they threw dead leaves, skin smeared with dirt as they rolled over the hill.

 They stopped when they hit a grave. Izuku squirmed, swiveling his hips as Shoto straddled him, holding his wrists back against dewy ground. His breath hitched as Shoto leaned forward, face full of mirth as he smirked. He could hear his heartbeat roar, lungs flaring as the sharp smell of cologne got stronger.

Then the sickening sensation of a warm, wet tongue in his ear canal.

He squealed. Shoving Shoto back as he let out a long howl. The man only laughed (That sick, sick bastard) and the sound of it was rare, all too infectious as Izuku found his own mirth bubbling in his chest. 

Then he looked at his companion properly. The obsidian wings of a statue spread wide behind him, feathers sharp against the gray of the sky. Clouds, huge and dark with rain, swirled in the background, casting an ominous shadow of the man looming over him. The sun itself disappeared in their massive swaths. A crack of thunder sounded out, and he felt it.

Fear.

It crawled up his skin. Gooseflesh shifted against the rough cloth of his flannel. He felt the grass beneath him begin to rise. Trees creaked as they turned his way, instinctive magic deep in his bones calling life towards him, to protect him.

But to protect him against what? 

"Ah." 

The first patter of rain came down upon him, shaking him out of the moment.

"We should go." Shoto said rising. Izuku stumbled through an agreement, but he still lay there for a beat after his companion rose.

The fear was gone. The grass didn't cling to him so harshly and the ballad of the trees had ceased. Worrying at his lips, he turned towards the town.

What in the world was that?

~

"Katsuki! Hey, Katsuki! Wait up!"

         Tsuyu stumbled up the steps of the lecture hall. The blond man moved fast, but with a little help of magic, she could catch up. (It wasn't too hard to discreetly shoot a little water whip around the man's leg, tugging him back.) 

He looked back at her, red eyes narrowed in frustration. 

"What do you want Froppy?"

Froppy...? Maybe...he was insulting her? She didn't understand it so she didn't mind.

"Your initiation is tomorrow night. Try to get to the house around 8, kay? I can send you the address."

 "Hah? What part of I don't want to join your stupid frat did you not understand?"

"Denki and Professor Yagi risked a relationship that's very important to them to vouch for you," She said calmly. "I don't think they'd appreciate it if you threw their efforts in their face."

He paused. She knew she'd won when a grumble sounded out, low and feral.

"I don't wanna go where I'm not wanted."

"Listen, I'm not going to pretend to know what happened between you, Izuku, and Ochako-,"

He winced. Was that fear in his eyes? Interesting. "But they'll get over it if they love this cov-fraternity as much as they say they do. Deku's not the type to hold grudges. It goes against his nature."

She could still see reluctance twitching in his face, so she added,

"And Ochako's calmed down since she started dating Tenya. She's not as...fired-up as she was freshman year."

 It was a bold-faced lie, but it worked. His shoulders relaxed. Without turning around, he muttered,

"Whatever."

     He stalked off without her giving him the address, but it was still a win in her book. He agreed to come after all, that's all she needed to do. She left the hard part up to everyone else. Izu and Chacha were the stubbornest out of them all, with a strong sense of what they believed to be good and just. Convincing them to do something that they didn't deem as such was like baiting werewolves with fairy blood.

A task for only the dumbest of their kind to take on.

~

"Mom. Hey. Yeah, I'm fine. He's treating me fine. You need to stop worrying. How are you? Huh? Oh. Well, rosewater and ginger root should fix that. Mmm. Yeah. U-Uhm, ma? I, uh, I wanted to call and warn you just 'cause I know Parent's Day is coming up and I know that you're super excited to come down-. Do...do you remember the Bakugous? Yeah. Yeah, that's the one. Uh...So it turns out Katsuki's at Yuuei now. Yeah. Yeah, he's in our coven....Mo-.....Mom, it's fine. I'm fine....Well, we didn't really have a choice. He has...He's half-mortal. His father was probably a warlock...The coven thought that since the apocalypse is coming up-....Yeah, exactly. Um. Well I just wanted to call and tell you in advance so you don't come in unprepared. Mmm. Mmm-hmm. Yeah, that was it. Oh, okay. Yeah!...Love you too. Okay mom. Bye."

She looked on as Izuku set his phone face down on her bed, hands curled in his hair as he let loose the third burst of waterworks that hour.

"Your turn," he sniffed, throwing an arm over his eyes. Bracing herself, Ochako waved her hand.

"Come," she demanded, and her phone zipped out of the pocket of a pair of jeans thrown over her chair. For a moment, it looked like it was going to hit her telescope (Which definitely would've broken her eyepiece based on her luck nowadays) but she could breathe once more when it zipped around it instead.

It was around 4pm in Cali. Her parents would still be at work. Maybe if she was lucky, they wouldn't pick up.

Her father's voice came through after the second ring.

"How's it hanging, comet?"

 

The nickname was already enough to make her lose her voice. Her hand quivered; her grip loosened. It was Izuku's firm pinch to her waist that brought her back.

"Sweetie?"  

"I'm fine Poppa. Um, I...How's Mom?"

 Coward.

 "She's fine. A bit snappy today though. She came back from the therapist gig at 2, and she's working the night shift t at the nursing home so she might be trying to catch a few hours of sleep now. I'm sure she won't mind if you call-." 

"No! No it's fine. Um, I-I just-About Parent's Day, I wanted to warn you-."

"She didn't tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"Comet, your mother and I..." She knew that deep sigh, always the prelude to bad news. This time was no different. "Well, we can't make it this year. I can't get anyone to man the store. That weekend is the one before Halloween so we're expecting a lot of business. Those levitating broomsticks you made the spell for? Flying off the shelves. Haha, literally!"

She cringed at the pun. There was a part of her that was disappointed, but her father sounded so enthused that she couldn't help share in it.

"We'll make it up to you sweetheart. I know there's no holiday as great as Samhain for the family to come together, but how about when you come home for Yule. We'll make Spider Venom Cider and Fido Fang Cookies."  

"Did he just say Spider Venom Cider?" Izuku sat up abruptly. She rolled her eyes.

"Izuku says 'Hi' Dad."

"Hello son!" He laughed at his own joke again and she struggled against the sudden surge of murderous intention in her soul. " That boy used to drink it by the pitcher, the little madman. He's invited to come to Cali anytime. His mother too. Speaking of whom, when was the last time you called your Scary Godmother? It'd be shameful for her to show up on Parent's Day without getting a phone call from you, young lady. You need to give her a call as soon as you get off the phone with me.  Your uncle Gunhead was asking about you too-,"

"Alright Pops. I have class in ten so I have to go. Love you so much. Bye."

"Ocha-!."

      She flung the phone away. Groaning her irritation, she buried her face into Izuku's shoulder and screamed. A couple seconds passed, then Izuku started screaming too. Their voices mingled, forming a hair-raising howl that reverberated around her room. She let it out until she felt light-headed and empty, immune to anything and everything the universe could throw her way.

With her parents out of the way, she could handle it. Bakugou was never a friend of hers. She could deal with him without any remorse. It seemed the warning she gave him in high school wasn't enough. She needed to rev it up. Spook him so bad he would think twice about ever approaching Izuku again. 

"No." 

"Hmm?"

"You've got that look on your face," Izuku's tongue swiped out the corner of his mouth as he started up a game of Subway Surfers, eyebrows furrowed in concentration. "That's the same face you had on before we burned down that SeaWorld. We're not 17 anymore. We're 21. We can get charged as adults."

"They were abusing animals." 

"It took us 2 whole days to complete that heist. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to transfigure a 12000 pound orca into a 20 pound Rottweiler? Not to mention changing gills into lungs."

He shuddered.

"Well that's the reason you're the next All Might and I'm not. 'Sides," She shot him a sly look. "You totally had a crush on one of the guards. Remember? The one with the pins on his hat? He'd look at you funny whenever you'd walk out with like 80 dogs attached to your waist but you liked the attention."

"You're a menace."

 She laughed, a retort quick on her lips just as a few knocks sounded out. They shared a look, simultaneously sending out their aura to see who it was. As the tingling sensation of static ran up her arm, her mood dropped. Eyes narrowed, she turned to the wall as Izuku simply sighed.

"Come in." She heard the boy say.

 The swing of her door grated on her ears. She could hear the scuffle of his tennis shoes against the floor coming closer. Closer.

Closer.

There.

"Dear me! Dear me! What is this I see? A rat? A bug? No, I think he's a slug!"

"Fuck-!"

The scream of outrage got cut off. A slimy, disgusting blob of slime lay on her floor, twitching. Izuku sighed.

"Turn him back."

She did so. Watering eyes glued to the zodiac chart on her wall, she reversed the hex with,

"A slug? No, a man. Hecate, please, change him back if you can!"

Silence. The sick squelch of slime inevitably dripping to her hardwood floor. Denki reeked.

"I guess I deserved that," He had the audacity to say. 

He was really stinking up her room. There was a spell for that wasn't there? Oh, yes. Pinching her nostrils closed, she declared,

"Tide's In-Dirt's Out!"

             She turned around just in time to see the soapy water materialize above Denki's head. The boy's amber eyes went wide as it fell upon him in a cold shower. To make matters worse, his hair-carefully flat-ironed every morning-took in the moisture quick. The waves quickly formed, coiling and tightening as he reached up.

"I guess I deserved that too." He winced at he shot out a little shock to try and tame it. It didn't work. The hair stuck out, tail ends effectively fried off. Ochako waved a hand, summoning wind to her fingertips.

"Want me to dry you off?" 

"No, please. No. I...I just wanted to talk."

"We don't have anything to say to you."

"Ochako, I'm sorry-."

 "That's what you said last time." Izuku cut in. "We had this exact same situation four years ago and you said it would never happen again. We're not going to fall for that again. Do you think we're stupid?"

"Not stupid. Never stupid. But you two have always had your heads stuck up your own asses."

"Excuse me-?"

 "Fuck you Denki! Get out!"

She threw out her arm and the resulting blast sent the blonde through the doorway. The mahogany came to a crash behind him. Ochako buried her face in a pillow and screamed.

"I didn't mean to say that." came through the doorway. She had half a mind to cast a silencing spell, but Izuku stayed her hand with a flick to her thigh.

"I acted like a dick in high school. I still act like a dick today. You guys have known me longer than I've known myself. You have a clearer idea of my mistakes than anyone in the world. But the same goes for Bakugou. You were his friend first 'Zuku. You can't look at that kid and tell me you never liked him-."

 "This isn't about that." Izuku protested.

"But it is. This shit. What Bakugou did and why he did them has everything to do with you-." 

"So it's my fault I got my head stuck in the swirlies-?"

"No! That's not what I'm saying at all! I-,"

A long drawn out sigh. He was probably scratching at his face. Ochako had seen that nervous tic more times than she could count.

"Look, I'm not here to tell you about what was going through Bakugou's head. I'm just here to ask you guys to let go of your pride and give him a chance because he can be a good guy when he wants to be."

"When he wants to be" Ochako repeated. "Funny, I can't recall that ever happening."

"Don't lie. Do you remember who went to Principle Tsunagu to arrange the welcome-back halftime show at Homecoming for your Uncle?" 

The angry retort on her lips crumpled, a chunk of her resolve faded away.

"Katsuki went to all the Veteran's groups in town to get some of those old guys to come down and give your Uncle a big welcome to their ranks. He even made sure the field was wheelchair-accessible." 

"He only did that to get Uncle Gunny to write him a recommendation-," She responded, but it was weak. The words were ashes on her tongue, false even to her own ears.

"We both know you don't believe that. Izuku, when your mum came down with that really bad case of the WereSniffles, who practically moved in to cook every night? And didn't say a word every time she howled after a sneeze?"

"That doesn't change anything." 

"That changes everything you prick! He cares about you two. He can grumble and bitch and diss you until you cry, but those are words. He shows he cares by actions!"

"Punching me until I threw up was him caring?"

"You're...different Izu. You were always different."

What the hell did that mean? She shot a sideways look to the verdette, but he was just as confused as she was.

 "I'm not here to explain anything for him. I'm trying to make sure he gets the chance to. Give him a try. Let him vouch for himself. The world isn't black and white. We're not playing 'villains and heroes' in the sandbox. There are people, who fuck up and do shit they don't really mean or maybe don't even understand. And, yeah, it might be a crappy thing to do in the first place, but they deserve the chance to make up for it!

       His voice rose to a crackling thunder. She could hear his deity in his tone. The great thunderous declaration punctuated by rattling emotion and divine rage. Zeus favored this one, not as much as he did Professor Yagi but enough to imbue him with his sway. She could see the verdette quake beneath the effects of the hidden spell. She felt its draw, the great oppressing mass of aura coming down on them, but remained stoic.

Persephone would have a hard time defying the God of Thunder. Aether had no such difficulties. She could feel his hold on her, a swirl of divine wind casting that aura away.

"A chance to ruin our lives again, you mean." She retorted sharply. "Or have you forgotten your own prophecy?"

The resulting crackle of electricity was like a thunderstorm. She could see the shock of blue running through the amber of his eyes. The way his hair would stand on end as static coursed through it, sparks dancing across his skin like stars.

Denki Kaminari was not an angry man. He knew what rage meant with a power like his. The mistakes he could make. 

Ochako was the one of the few that could push him to that point.

 "It's not him." The blond grit out. "He's our friend."

"Your friend. My tormentor."

"Don't be overdramatic!"

"Says the guy that was just putting on a light show!"

"He didn't know what he was doing! Do you really think he thought you were witches?" 

"I don't know! You tell me! Apparently you were closer to him than we ever were! Closer to him than you were to us you backstabbing douchebag!"

 "Chacha, shut your filthy mouth!"

     Her lips clamped shut, a final insult trapped in her mouth as strong magic knitted the skin together. It was still too late. A high-pitched keen sounded out, followed closely by a loud zap. Izuku ran to the door, throwing it open to reveal the blond man on the floor. Sure enough, he shortcircuited. Too much lightning would do that to a man. His eyebrows had scorched off in the surge, gaze unfocused as a lazy, manic smile stretched across his face. Drool dribbled out of the corner of his lips, snot and blood forming a slick river of slime from his nose.

Izuku cradled his cousin in his hands, shooting her a disappointed look.

"Did you hear what he was saying-?"

"We're not kids anymore. Grow up."

      He slung the man over his back in a fireman's carry and the began the task of lugging him downstairs for some juice and a strong Meddling Migraine Mix. The door slammed behind him. The resulting noise was sufficient enough background for the cracks forming in her armor. To make matters worse, the wood screamed, then split, falling into three large pieces on the floor.

 Unable to take it, she gave into the swell of emotion in her chest, stuffed her face in her pillow, and had a long cry.

Chapter Text

~22 Days Until the End of the World~

            THE cigarette that hung between his teeth was getting low fast. Flicking it to the floor, he ground it up with the heel of his bare foot, leaving a black smear behind as he strode forward. The dank musk of the abandoned warehouse had faded by then. The strong smell of ash and cinders covered it well; a stream of smoke billowed through the open windows and doorway. Dabi flicked out his hand as the wipss began to thin out. From his fingers burst a dragon of blue flame, maw stretched into a roar as it leapt from cauldron to cauldron, twists serpentine as it let out great bursts of flame, setting piles of oak wood soaked in peppermint oil alight with spiraling columns of azure ("For focus," Izuku had said, pressing the oil into his hand.) 

       Once all five were revived, it returned to him as quick as it left, warming his skin and adding more sweat to the sea already forming on his brow. Shrugging off his shirt, he frowned. At the center of it all, Bakugou sat in the lotus position. He was a hideous kid that grit his teeth when he was annoyed and vicious red eyes that seeked to destroy everything in his path. Dabi hated his type. Loud. Annoying.

And so fucking stupid.

"You're forcing it. Stop trying to call what's already there. Treat is as a part of your body instead of a tool."

"Don't you think that's what I've been doing?"

"If you were doing it, we'd both be home by now." Dabi drawled. He sat on the floor, patted his lap, and Hotwings loyally came running. The dog settled under his hands, baring its belly as Dabi ordered,

"Again."

The blond shut his eyes. Extended his arms out and turned his palms towards the heavens. 5 deep, searching breaths to find his core. Another five to let the air from his lungs fuel that flame. In. Out. In. Out. And on the final exhale-,

 "AGHHH!" The kid screamed, eyes bursting open. 

At least, that time, tiny sparks fizzled in his hands. Dabi gave him a long unimpressed stare. Hotwings stopped his happy squeals. Silence, then the dog huffed. Padding over to the blond, he lifted his leg and let his bladder loose.

"Even the dog thinks you're shit." 

He tried and failed to hold back a smirk as the kid jumped to his feet, screaming expletives as he chased the Doberman around. His arms were burning beacons of flames, held out behind him to make him faster as he struggled to catch up. Which assuaged one of Dabi's concerns. The kid did have magic in him. The problem was he only knew how to use it when he was getting emotional.

And emotions and fire didn't really mix. He learned that the hard way.

(He thought of his mother, how she would wrap up his burns with eucalyptus leaves, soft pale fingers skittering across his red, sensitive skin as she reprimanded him,-)

 "Magic isn't an item. You cannot buy it. You cannot break it. It is a part of you-a limb-an arm, a leg, a wing, a claw. To treat it as something other...is to deny yourself."

 Bakugou slowed. 

The muted patter of rain outside mingled with the crackle of the flames. Hotwings yipped, seeing his chance, and made a clean break, leaving the two men to face each other.

"You come up with that yourself?"

"I wish." He said truthfully. His mother was much wiser than he could ever be. "Try it. You said it usually comes to your arms right? Start there. Bring whatever is in your core to your arms and push."

The blond nodded. Determination set his shoulders as he balled his hands into fists. Assuming a boxer's stance, he crouched low, red eyes searing behind his guard hand. He kept his feet nimble, tips of his sneakers squeaking against the floor as he switched up his angles.

Breath in. Breath out.

     Then he threw the first punch so quick, Dabi could barely shout "Shield!" fast enough to put up a ward. The blast was strong enough to jolt through his body; a strained grunt left his lips as he forced the ward to hold. He could feel the sting of a new burn slashing across his outstretched hand. Crossing his arms so the kid wouldn't see, Dabi stepped back, and watched the blonde progress.

 A wicked grin had spread across his face. Flames encircled his arms, shooting out in sharp spikes as he punched. Laughter, wild and nothing if not terrifying, burst from his lips as he grew a bit more confident. He tossed balls of flames between his hands, sending it through his fingers, waving it around like a flag.

"Better," Dabi conceded. "Now try to make something and send your fire further away. It's like stretching your arm out to reach something. You saw my dragon earlier. Try something like that but smaller. A pigeon."

 "I'll do you one better," Bakugou's vowed. That feral grin on his face grew wide as he enfolded his flames back into his arms. He stood straight as he stretched the limbs wide, palms raised to the gods as-.

Wings. Brilliant, terrible colossus bright enough to send a searing itch through his eyes. Something wretched clawed at his guts; nausea spilled over-cloying and thick in his throat as he fell to his knees. Words-a plead- caught fast in his throat. (Was he supplicating himself as if to beg?) He choked on them, the bitter taste of ash on his tongue, and all around him the fires burned.

"Dabs? You left your location on so I came out-Ew! What's up with this place? What is it with you and grimy-?" 

He could hear the moment she saw it. The sudden gasp. The clatter as she dropped her keys to the ground, then the quiet, reverent,

"...Birdie?"

      Somehow, her mistake made it worse. He shut his eyes, turning his back on the scene as he brought his head between his knees and fought off the mounting urge to retch. He couldn't breath. He was shivering but he wasn't cold. No, his flames kept him warm-hot till he was burning, surrounded on all sides with no escape-and his scattered gulps of air was the oxygen that kept the fire burning. In the background, he could hear the swish of those wings falling away. Rumi was talking to the kid, laughing off the situation as if it were something so easy. Minutes that easily could've been hours passed before he heard the roar of a motorcycle.

The next sound was the click of her heels on the ground, purposefully loud to let him know she was coming to sidle up next to him.  He appreciated the gesture. Most of the wolves he knew lost any desire to walk like a normal person when they made the turn.

(It was easier to sneak everywhere, he supposed. Hawks would go around on his wings with every chance he got, which wasn't all too often. He remembered the first time they drove to Mount Logan to meet the rest of the tengu clan-how they left the car covered with branches and brambles a little off from the main path, climbing the first couple miles before veering off the path themselves. 

How Hawks' hands secured themselves around his waist and they flew, the sharp, frost of wind biting his cheeks before he had the good sense to light up his hands. He remembered Hawks' mother-how she had her son's strong grip as she folded him into a firm welcoming hug.

He didn't see Mrs. Takami again until the funeral. She wasn't strong then. Her hair had thinned. Her wings were losing their downy tufts, more skin than sleek red feathers. She looked at him as they lowered her son into his grave, and that same surge of shame he felt rose in him now-.)

"I clearly remember telling you to make sure the dog doesn't walk around by himself. People are sick dude."

Rumi plopped down at his side much too close for comfort. The heat of her body contrasted the ice surrounding his as she matched his position, pressing the bare skin of their arms together. She didn't speak again, letting the silence between them grow long as he pulled himself together, stitch by stitch.

 He shot her a sideways glance. She was already staring back at him, golden eyes belaying no emotion as she patiently waited on his response. Her hair-stark white and flat-ironed to the point of abuse-caught the light of the fire burning around them, illuminating the sharp counters of her face in such a way that betrayed their abnormality. The glint of a canine peeked out from her full upper lip, jabbing at the bottom till it tore through skin, a spot of golden ichor rising to the spot instead of blood. She started, wiping at it with her arm; the streak of gold was like stardust against her dark skin. He politely ignored it when she clung to the rabbit's foot around her neck and started to count under her breath.

(She was restless that day. Was there a full moon coming up? He'd have to stay far away from the graves.) 

"He's peeing too much." 

"Well, it could be a minor UTI or it could be diabetes. You'll have to let me take him in."

"No." His fingers curled against his knees as the hot blaze of possession flared in him. He could hear her scoff, see her roll her eyes but he didn't care.

"He'll have to interact with someone that isn't you or Izuku eventually."

"No." 

"Then he'll die too."

He could recognize a cheap shot when he saw one. That didn't make it hurt any less. He scowled, burying his mouth in the hot crook of his arm, but said nothing more. Rumi patted his shoulder. Quicker than he could blink, she was at the doorway, sunglasses on to shield her eyes from the light. 

"I'm going for dinner with 'Zuku tonight. He wanted me to meet one of his friends. Get Hotwing's stuff ready and meet us there."

 "I need another favor."

She paused.

 "That kid...He's a half-mortal. All Might wanted me to train him but you...you saw that. I can't deal with that right now."

 "Well you're looking at the wrong wolf. I don't know the first thing about witch shit, lettalone half-witch shit." She offered him a kind smile, and for a moment her features softened. He could see the human she once was past the striking otherness. "If it makes you feel any better, dontcha' think All Might wouldn't have given the job to you if he didn't think you could do it?"

She turned back to the light. Her hands jabbed into her back pockets as she bent her knees.

 "It'll be a year on the 23rd. Hawks would've wanted you to grieve, yeah? Take some time to chill, but don't wallow. Ya' gotta get up and fly, otherwise this world's gonna leave you behind."

 With that said, she leapt into the sun. The only sign she had even been there was the quickly fading sound of her zooming through the cover of trees, crackling through the dead autumn leaves. 

~

       IZUKU whisked the matcha as Yuuga set up the cups. A tarte sat between the two of them, gleaming underneath the iridescent lights of the kitchen, smelling every bit as good as an afternoon snack should smell. Anticipation thrummed in his veins as the froth began to form. It wasn't long till he could take the bowl by hand and portion it into two. 

     His companion set to cutting the tarte. His narrow hips swung as he hummed along to a song on the radio. Once healthy slices were cut out, Yuuga took his seat and they began. He goodnaturedly agreed when the blonde patted himself on the back for his creation. (Because it was good, He didn't know what Tartus Framboid was supposed to mean, but he loved the sticky sweet tang on his tongue.)

But all good things had to come to an end. He felt her enter, a creeping vision of green out of the corner of his eye. 

She had just finished brewing a Thayers Tonic, if the smell of crushed fairy wings was anything to go by. The spice of it made him sneeze, eyes watering as he pressed a hand to his nose to stop the snot from dripping into his tart.

 "You missed class yesterday," Tsuyu made as if to approach, but at his violent sneezing, fell back. Yuuga had daintily pulled out a handkerchief to wrap around his face, violet eyes going between the two of them with unabashed fascination. "I shared the notes with you."

"You didn't have to." 

Hecate, did she bathe in it? A Thayers Tonic needed a single ladle-full of fairy wings, meticulously crushed to the beat of olde Gaul's war song beneath a full moon, mixed in counterclockwise after the minced rose petals.

 He had crushed those fairy wings himself. They were perfect, so why?

"I didn't have enough jasmine."

The final steps. A bushel of jasmine churned in to stabilize the concoction. No wonder she smelt so strongly, the thing probably blew up in her face. He chanced a good look at her through the tears in his eyes and, sure enough, she was covered in scales, brilliant iridescent green things that made her movements stiff as she shuffled side to side. Gills were on either side of her neck, flaring from the lack of water.

He scrunched his nose behind the sleeve of his arm. 

"I have more than I can use. Why didn't you just ask me?"

"You haven't spoken to anyone since the vote." She said levelly. The pointed look sent his way was enough to get his blood roiling again. He would've jumped to his own defense, but a particularly vicious wheeze left the woman and a cold guilt took him instead.

"You should sit in the bathtub before you asphyxiate. I don't know if I can resuscitate a fish."

 "Amphibian," She corrected, but complied anyway. Yuuga's eyes followed her. There was an exchange between them, something passing just over Izuku's shoulder, but he didn't care to turn around and find out. When she left, the two men continued to munch. The radio's trashy french pop songs was the only sound between them. I was soon accompanied by Yuuga's pointed 'harrumph' here, an agitated tapping of his foot there, till the man finally came out with it:

"You have to forgive them sometime y'know. They were trying to do what was best."

Izuku frowned.

"After tonight, the guy who made my last year of high school equal to if not worse than the era of King James's witch hysteria is going to be bonded to me for life. He will have access to the same magic he once ridiculed and for the sake of being polite I will be forced to see his face at least 4 of the 8 sabbats." 

"I never thought I'd be the one to say this: but don't be so dramatic."

Waving a hand, he wordlessly bid the dishes to float to the sink and clean themselves.  

What were the odds? Even taking into account the 'birs of a feather flock together' principle, how was it that another group hadn't already snatched the guy up? At least 30 covens in the Northeast alone and Kacchan had to choose his.

"Well, to my understanding, his father died before he could even explain that magic existed. He grew up mortal. So the covens uh-comment dit-on- 'did not give shit'?" 

The words were marbles in the man's mouth but Yuuga looked so proud when he finished reciting lines off of google translate that Izuku couldn't correct him.

"Still," he pressed. "They're my friends. They're supposed to believe me when I say someone's bad news."

"And they do. But, the world doesn't rest on your shoulders y'know? They don't need you to protect them. They're adults with their own minds to make their own decisions, and they decided that this risk was one they were willing to take."

He turned away. His voice went soft, barely a mutter, but Izuku could catch the maudlin bitter words,

"You're lucky you're friend with them."

And he wasn't about to accept that at all. Clapping a hand to the blonde's shoulder, he tugged him into a one-armed embrace, not speaking till violet eyes were looking straight into his.

 "We need you. You and Momo are the ones that keep the fraternity cover going. Hades' hell, you're even the one that's planning this Halloween Bash."

"That I'm not going to," the blonde muttered.

"Huh?"

He watched the bob of his throat as he swallowed, pale expanse of his neck quickly spotting with red as the other man dropped his gaze once more, lips thinning into a prim line.

"No-," His voice was hoarse. "No I don't think so. I'm...I'm not like you. They all love you. I'm just...that weird international student that's here to make the snacks."

"Yuu, hey, listen." The one-sided embrace turned into a hand on each petite shoulders. The thin fabric beneath his palms was so light he feared he might rip it, so he loosened his hold to bare fingertips against dainty acromia.

"We all like having you around. Even if you couldn't bake, y-you're still...you're still super cool and well, I like you y'know? Not like that but like you always feed me when I'm feeling down or anxious and whenever I get too caught up in gardening to notice I missed dinner but-Oh no, that's still food examples. Um...Um, you keep me company when you totally don't have to. You're always super willing to help out and do your best with everything and um, we're all a bunch of bumbling nerds, y'know? A lot of us grew up supernatural so we know what it's like to feel like a freak and we don't want you to feel like that with us 'cause you're not! You're not a freak! You're a really cool guy that can bake and I'm proud to be able to call myself your friend because you're good at the friendship thing and I'm rambling now but you get what I'm trying to say right? Please say yes. I don't to spout all that brotherhood stuff the Betas say but we're family now and, yeah, I like having you around. We like having you around."

Violet eyes blew wide. Lips parted in a moment of awe, before curling into a tiny smirk.

"I can see why he's attracted to you."

"Wha-?"

 "Shoto of course. He needs someone like you, I think. You two are like...vin chaud avec pain d'epices. Both very odd, but work together beautifully."

Yuuga turned out of his grip. Izuku could only sputter at his back. His BPM was definitely a solid 210. He could feel it bouncing around the quickly tightening cavern of his chest, lung swelling in time with his deep panicked breaths. The blonde turned once.

"When you two are in the same room, my radar goes off the charts. If the winged man hadn't said no, I would've arrowed you two together and called it a day. But, I suppose, sexual tension has its perks. The chase is the fun part." 

His right eye shuttered into a sly wink as his left glowed a soft pink. Throwing a two-fingered salute, he bid adieu with,

"Work hard okay? I'm excited to see how this plays out." 

     He left the mess for Izuku to clean up, but the verdette could hardly get a hold of his breathing. To make matters worse, the subject of conversation decided to stroll in. Shoto gave him a soft smile in greeting and he felt each individual synapse in his brain short circuit. He had finally broken his usual uniform of black-on-black with a deep pine green. Ever since he received the frat crewneck, he refused to take it off. It was a snug fit. 'ZKC' emblazoned across his trim pecs; baggier at the waist where his core narrowed out. The long column of his neck ended at clavicles just shy of hidden by the collar. Izuku fixated on the expanse of skin, thinking of how pretty the contrast of green and red would be if he pressed his lips to the dip at its center and began to suck-.

Then he caught himself. Muttering something that wasn't part of the English language, he fled from the kitchen to his room. Back sliding against his door, he stuffed his face into his sleeve and willed the heat rising to his face to go down.

Kore help him; he was such a doooorrrrk.

            DENKI loathed the smell of incense. It made his stomach broil with nausea strong enough to be unsettling, but not to the point where he was physically sick. A mild annoyance pricking at his senses as his nerves bundled and jumped with stray sparks. His heels beat patterns into the carpet as he looked about the table, studying each hooded form with skittish worry.

Fumikage and Tsuyu were huddled close together. Dark Shadow had wrapped around the girl, undoubtedly keeping her cool as she guzzled down water like her life depended on it. He forced himself not to stare at the scales still lingering on her face. (He hoped Kats wouldn't be the type to get into potions work; nasty business even for the smartest of brewers.) Mei was rubbing what he hoped to be an antidote and not one of her 'experiments' on the woman's arms, with Dabi and the new kid watching her closely, the exact same expression of wary confusion furrowing their brows.

 Hitoshi was making googly eyes at their fearless leader, who paid him absolutely no mind as she scratched out figures on the sheet before her.

 Tenya and Momo sat at their respective ends; the latter seemed a bit more putout. Probably about the money. Katsuki had been adamant about not joining the fraternity front. That was a clean $700 that could've gone to last minute prep for the Halloween Bash. But if the battalion of beer kegs in the basement were anything to go by, Denki would argue that they were more than ready to top last year's party.

They had all gathered for one thing. The tea to cleanse was already set out and was getting colder by the minute. The ceremony that should've taken them 15 minutes was slowly becoming a long 45. 

     There were two missing, both crucial to the proceedings as one was the only one who could converse with the gods and the other was the keeper of the grimoire, who had to be present to record the name of the new coven member into the book. Not to mention a joining of hands without all members of the coven present had a tendency to turn out a little wonky. (He shuddered as he remembered the story of how his cousin Tenko quite literally managed to join hands with his coven; it took three warlocks to get the appendages to stop sticking to him)

 Kats had noticed it too, if the stormy expression on his face was anything to go by.

"He'll show up," Denki assured, more for himself than anyone else. The blond just scoffed.

Which was better than how he used to be. In high school, there would've been a whole tirade about how he didn't care (He really did though); how the nerd could be hiking Mount Everest and he wouldn't give a fuck (He'd book a flight out to China the next day)

      Izuku had always been the one Katsuki paid attention to. It was as if the entire world fell away, as if everyone else were background characters in their movie. They used to sneak off and go on the grand adventures in the forest, leaving him behind to play House with Ochako. They had all the cool stories; like of the snake they found in the river or that one time they carried back an injured fawn (Boy, did Auntie Inko freak out at that one).

They were cool. He wasn't. At least, not until high school. He remembered their freshman year, how he switched from extra to protagonist's best friend, how it was Izuku's turn to wait behind, to stare at him and Katsuki enviously as they went on great, bizarre, adventures.

Then Izuku got his own group of friends. Started to drift away. Kats noticed. Didn't like it, and started to do all of this horrible shit in an attempt to get his attention back.

 ("I'm the only person he should be looking at," Kats muttered under his breath one day, glaring at Izuku across the cafeteria. Crimson eyes remained trained on the verdette, narrowing as he praised his friend Shindo's breakdancing tricks even as the lunch monitor came over to reprimand them. Kaminari thinks this is the moment that he knew he was always going to be second place, not cool enough to even play sidekick.)

     But there was more to it wasn't there? Something had changed their third year, and what was once pulling at pigtails became...worse. (That was the same year that IzuOcha rumor went around wasn't it? He remembered the look on Kats' face when he saw their faces grinning up at him in the school newspaper-'Favorite Class Couple' scrawled beneath their photo in bold letters. It wasn't true, of course. But the blond didn't seem to care.)

Looking back on it, he really should've noticed it sooner. That thing between Kats and Izu, the constant competition and need for the other's unwavering attention, was something he could never hope to attain. 

With Kyoka maybe. But he didn't think he wanted something like what those two had anymore. It seemed to hurt them more than it did them any good.

      As if sensing his thoughts, the duo came sweeping in, matching black aviators hiding their eyes from view. They didn't wear their cloaks, a clear sign of rebellion, and took the last two empty seats between Momo and Fumikage. Deku crossed his arms and sunk low in his chair, his frown strong enough to kill the bouquet in the center of the table. At first glance, his nose seemed tinged red from the brisk winds outside, but Denki knew better.

"You're late," He couldn't hold back the bite in his words. Ochako turned to him and, sure enough, there was a flush high on her cheeks. They were definitely having a crying session. She was in sweats and a frat hoodie. Propping her socked feet onto Izuku's lap, she said,

"I'm going to need you to speak through a third party instead of directly to me. My hex hand has a mind of its own today." 

She began the gestures for a Waterboard Woogie so he didn't hesitate in throwing up a ward. But before it could start, Yaoyorozu ended it.

"Can we focus please? This is already dragging on too long. I have an essay to write."

"Tell 'em boss lady."

Momo shot Hitoshi an exasperated look but the man only wriggled his eyebrows. Embarrassed irritation made her voice crack when she continued,

"Enough. Cleanse yourselves and join hands."

 The tea was cold leaf juice that he struggled to force down his throat. All around the table, similar expressions of disgust were shared, and Katsuki gagged at his side.

"I have tasted death and lived," Fumikage muttered as Dark Shadow spat through the open window. Someone muttered about Izuku being the only one allowed to make tea from now on, and with a grumbling unsettlement, they all grasped each other's palms-save for Ochako, who left Deku's right hand hanging in the air as she folded hers.

"We forgot objections," she said pointedly.

"We all know how you feel Round Face. Now grab Shitku's hand so we can go home."

"I am home. You can't force me out again. You're the outsider here and may you always feel like a stranger in this hearth."

She made a shoving motion with her hands. Denki could feel the exact moment the spell caught. His hold on Katsuki's magic, already a fragile thing, wavered, the cord as slippery as an oil slick as the house tried to force the blond out. It was a brutal banishing spell, dictating that once someone was cast out, they could never return.

 And if Katsuki couldn't re-enter coven ground, then he was lost. An 'orphan of the night' was what they called them- covenless magicians who spent their days endlessly wandering, magic fizzling into nothing as it searched for a home.

To bid someone to that life was like giving them a death sentence.

     The room was in uproar. Voices swelled-angry, chastising, confused-all targeted at the girl as she leapt up to defend herself. Denki didn't hear anything they were saying. His attention was on his friend, how he bared his teeth as he fought off what must've been wave after wave of pain, resisting the strength of their coven's house-of the magic of a primordial witch-with nothing more than a grunt of assertion.

 Denki could only lend a hand.

"Hey ho hey ho, may this house be your home."

His grip caught, but his magic wasn't as strong as Ochako's. In a few moments, it would fail him.

 "Hurry!" he shot at Momo. The woman jerked back to focus. The house croaked and screeched as a wind sped around them, blowing the vase off the table to crash against the wall. Someone screamed. Forcing Ochako's hand into her own, she sped through the initiation incantation.

"We call upon Hecate, Circe, and Medea."  The windowpanes screamed in protest.

"Our coven is strong. May our hearth burn long and, by your hand, we will live to cast forever." ("What the hell were you thinking?" Tenya was shouting at his girlfriend-a rare sight Denki nearly missed as a glass came flying at his head.)

"As birds of a feather flock together, so do the children of the night." Dark Shadow shieleded his master and Tsuyu from the worst of the winds, but he could see the effect the chaos had. The spirit bird's golden eyes were slowly clouding with crimson.

"We call upon you now to add another log to our fire. Tether us together so that we may fight." A flash of blue flame. A muffled gasp. Dabi's lips were pursed, blue dragon emerging from his lips to grasp the falling chandelier in its maw. Shoto, pale as parchment, sat stoic beneath it, glass dusting his hair.

"Into Zoi Kai Chara enters Katsuki! One ripped from your womb." He could feel Katsuki's hand slipping away, inch by crucial inch till only their fingers were interlocked. 'Hurry' he thought at Momo. 'Please.'

"We shall keep him here." Katsuki let out a gasp of pain.

"Shield him from evil eyes." Across the way, Izuku's expression was hidden by his hoodie.

"And teach him to bow to your infinite light."

The windows clattered shut, and the pressure pushing at their shoulders was relieved. The cord of Katsuki's magic snapped clean into place.  A few sighs of relief came from the brave ones, but most were sneaking glances at the quartet, particularly at Ochako before looking away. 

"His name's in the book." Izuku said, revealing nothing with his tone. Silence. Then Tenya's gentle,

 "Ochako-."

 "I know." She snapped. In a single leap, she was over the table. Even in close proximity he couldn't see her eyes behind her sunglasses. But there was no msitaking the ways her shoulders tensed, nor the waves of anger coming from her as she slapped her hand to Katsuki's forehead.

"On Hecate's recommendation-," She paused. Expecting more shit, Kaminari got his hand ready to throw up a ward, but then she continued with a name like marbles in her mouth. "Xiuhtecuhtli accepts you into his fold. Just as he was Lord of Fire, so shall you become. You will be the warmth in the cold, provide food after famine, and restore life after death. May your strength fuel your flames." 

"Who the actual fuck is that?" Shinsou muttered into the silence that followed. Ochako didn't seem to have the answers. Her eyebrows furrowed in a glare down at Katsuki, who snarled right back, but Denki could see the quiver in her hand as she withdrew it.

Fear. She was scared.

"Hey Sirius, who's...Shoot tech coot lee?"

Even Iida stumbled over the name, but his phone pinged with a search all the same.

"In Aztec mythology, Xiutecuhtli was the god of fire. The 1st Aztec Lord of Night and 1st of the Lords of the day. He precides over the New Fire Ceremony, which requires the heart of a sacrificial human to be removed from the chest cavity, and a small flame to be put in its place-.

"What. The. Fuck." Hitoshi said. They all turned to look at Katsuki, simply staring as the blonde shot a defensive glare around the room.

"What? What does that mean?"

"Your sponsor...is a bit violent." Denki winced as his voice cracked. "Doesn't mean you will be! Just be careful."

 Ochako was speaking before he could finish. Levitating over table, she raised her hands high to draw the focus to herself.

"I think now would be a great time to emphasize that the world is supposed to end in 22 days from today. The Harbringer of Hell is coming, you remember that guys? Heaven's Wrath. Fire and Brimstone. Yada yada yada. Just making sure we're all aware that is could be anyone."

"What's she trying to say?" Katsuki muttered. Denki promised to explain latter, indignance on his friend's behalf brewing in his gut. A simmering started between them as Ochako whipped off her glasses. Her eyes glowed a deep amber as she leered down at him, and he refused to back down.

If she wanted to go to war, he'd meet her there.

"Well, this was horrible." Dabi said suddenly. Zuku was quick to follow up on that. "We've got plans so, uh, we'll be headed out."

That said, the man rose. Shoto and Dabi followed. The three of them, cloakless, walked out with nary a glance back as they chatted amongst themselves. Denki dropped his gaze to Katsuki, watching red eyes-wide and full of something he couldn't name-trail after a head of green curls as it disappeared around the corner.

He wasn't the only one that caught it. Aoyama caught his gaze from down the table. The man's lips were curled into his trademark smug little smirk, both eyes glowing a hot pink

"Eros was right." He said excitedly. "We are in for a show!"

~

       THE smell of grease and artificial sugar was new to Shoto's nose. The lights were dim in the diner, with the lamp two tables down flickering in and out, and every surface seemed to be sticky. But there was a lightness in his heart as he picked up a fry, popping it in his mouth and chewing as oil slicked over his teeth. Izuku's was a constant warmth at his side, waving his hands wildly as he continued his harrowing tale of grievances against this boss.

"He won't let me do any of the major calls anymore. I'm not saying it's because I'm young, gay and Asian, but it's definitely because I'm young, gay, and Asian."

 Rumi, a tall tawny-skinned woman with platinum blonde hair tugged into a disgruntled bun, snorted at the verdette's cheeky grin. Catching his humor, she quipped back,

"Chief Inui won't let you in on any of my calls because you've got a hero complex that's as big as you and twice as thick. Maybe if you get your head out of your ass and stop jumping into active fires, he'll let you do something better than the weekend school zone patrol."

     She swept a few of his fries into her milkshake, and dropped them each into her maw, teeth glinting in the light before the incisors snapped shut. Shoto had to swallow back a start. It was a bit unnerving, seeing a wolves' teeth in a human mouth, but Izuku had no such qualms about reaching up and bopping her on the nose. She let out a low keen, bringing up the collar of her hoodie to hide her face from view. Daring amber eyes flashed back and forth, betraying her before her hand darted out to steal more.

Shouto decided that he liked her. She reminded him of Natsuo, brash and loud and easy to amuse. The thought of his brother didn't even have a chance to settle in its bittersweet ache, swept off by her yell "Like hell I'd let you back into my truck short stack!"

It wasn't everyone that one could say they had a werewolf for a friend. He was glad he was going to be part of the few. He was...changing. Quickly.

Maybe, he too could be the type to...?

     Before he lost his nerve, his hand darted out. Stealing a fry from Dabi's platter, he popped it into his mouth, looking right into icy blue eyes all the while. The grad student froze, burger halfway to his mouth. A pickle slipped out of the end. For a moment, he felt the cold clench of fear strike his heart as he wondered if he did it wrong, but then there was a splatter on his forehead, sticky ketchup running down his face as the sour smell of that same pickle met his nose.

 It was on. He lunged to the side as a bun followed and threw a salt packet in retaliation. Dabi had the smarts to open up three pepper parchments, flinging black powder across until he sneezing. By now the other two had caught on, flinging fries and napkins as Dabi's dog sat patiently, wagging his tail as he leapt and bound to catch the scraps.

Izuku laughed, and it was like the sun, peeking behind from gray clouds over a sea of water: bright and unrelenting. Shoto had no choice but follow, throwing his head back as the verdette wrestled with him, squirting ketchup till he had a salty mouthful of it.

 "So what did Uraraka mean by 'the world's going to end in 22 days'?" He asked when they calmed. Izuku's arm had migrated to the top of the booth. If Shoto twisted just so, his cheek would rest on the scar in the junction of his elbow.

"Oh, the Harbinger of Hell is supposed to come on Halloween and kill us all. Kaminari prophecized it."

 Rumi choked on water. That warm feeling in Shoto's chest turned to ice.

 "So it must be true," Dabi snorted, but Izuku wasn't smiling when he murmured in return, "Well, he wasn't wrong before. 'The fires rose and the phoenix fell'."

 Shouto knew there was something he was missing when the three of them went silent. Hotwings nuzzled at his knee and he fed the dog the scraps of his burger, turning away from them as he tried not to focus on the creeping feeling of 'otherness' climbing up his neck. 

"Hey, halfie!"

       He looked up only to find a familiar face waving him down from the bar. Mina's wig was a stark teal that day. Clothes were far more casual than the last time he saw her- fur coat forsaken for a red flannel, a t-shirt advertising 'The Golden Sounds', some ripped jeans and a pair of tennis shoes. She came to him instead, pausing to coo at the dog, before enveloping him in a hug that smelled like cigarette smoke and cherry blossoms. Awkwardly, he patted her shoulder.

"By yourself?" He asked stiltedly, still a bit taken aback. She jabbed a thumb over her shoulder to point at the doors.

 "Date night with my mans. You haven't met Eij yet. He's out having a smoke. What about you? You gonna' instroduce into these hotties?"

He turned to the others, to find Rumi grinning and the other men staring at him with wide, astonished eyes.

"You have friends?" Dabi asked. Shoto wasn't sure if the fact that the question was entirely honest made him feel better or worse. He rollled his eyes regardless. Introductions were quick, a 'hello there' and 'what do you do?' before a tall, brolic redhead appeared at the door, flagging Mina down with a wave.

"Let's meet up sometime! Play some music at the park or something! I wanna meet more of your friends!"

 She bounced away but her words stayed with him, circling his mind as a tiny pleased smile toyed at his face.

Friends. He, Shoto Todoroki, a half-blind, scarred (hexed?) and anxiety-ridden schmuck had friends. Had someone told him a month ago what October would bring, he'd have found this more difficult to believe than magic. Now, the only challenge would be keeping them.

They stayed well into the night, oblivious to the way the nights grew sinister, winds howling through the trees as darkness fought dawn back. The clouds shrouded the moon: an omen for the mad banquet to come.

Chapter Text

~21 Days Until the End of the World~

     THE trees were a watercolor painting. Brushstrokes of gold, crimson and ginger swiped past as they rumbled down the highway. Katsuki kept his face tucked into his scarf as he traced hilltops outside the window. The heater in Kirishima's car had broken a little over a week ago. He would've gotten it fixed by now, but-well, other things took precedent it seemed.

     The man himself was mumbling along to a song on the radio. One hand on the steering wheel, the other tapped a beat out onto the PRNDL. To anyone that didn't know him, Eij looked calm. Unfazed even.  But Katsuki could read between the lines. A couple dark eye circles here, a mismatched sock there.

The most damning evidence was his hair. The roots had started to grow out, dark overpowering the bright red of his ends. It needed to get cut by that point. He wasn't usually the type to let it get out of hand like that.

"Thanks for agreeing to do this Bakubro." 

The blond merely grunted. This wasn't ideal. He was missing classes for this little trip, classes that he was paying good money for, but there wasn't another option. Next week would be a little late in the game and tomorrow he was going on a trip with Professor Yagi.

("There's someone who's done lil' bit o' research on half-mortals," The man had said over the phone. "Best wizard I know. Wouldn't hurt ya' to pick his brain a bit.")

Which would be better than having nothing. Between Denki and Camie, he knew the basics. Say a spell. Do some hand movements. Bam. Magic. Use too much of it and you die. Use too little of it and it used itself for you. 

"Flame on."

He narrowed his eyes on a bush in the distance then, uncaringly, snapped his fingers. It burst into flames quick, torching everything surrounding it till a wall of flames grew alongside the car. Eijirou didn't even notice, tapping that same beat into the gear shift.

    Focusing on the building flames, Katsuki did that new thing. Where his magic settled in his core like a sleeping dragon every so often prodded into rage, there were others. Smaller thrums, barely a prick, that circled it. He tugged at the one that felt the coolest, like morning dew stuck to his running shoes as he paced through the park.

"Rain on me."  

His fingers fluttered down to mimick stormy weather. Clouds separated themselves from the bunch, leaving a peek of the blue heavens in the otherwise gray sky, and hoved above the trees, forcing a downpour on them so strong, mist began to rise with the smoke of a put out-flame.

"I hope she likes it," Eijirou muttered. "I really hope she thinks it's nice."

 'I hope she says yes.' went unsaid. In the cupholder between them, nestled next to a cold flat white and a Heath bar, sat a velvet box worth $15,000.

"Wasteland baby," crooned the radio. "I'm in love. I'm in love with you."

~

     THERE was a cloud shaped like a bunny. It reminded him of the foot tied around Rumi's neck. Turning to the man next to him, Dabi murmured so. Hawks did not respond. He hadn't had much to say that day. When he was alive, this meant trouble, like the time he'd eaten the couscous Dabi wanted to have for dinner or when he got into that accident with the bike after he was told not to take it in the first place.

But this Hawks was different from the Birdie that danced in the moonlight and kissed him good morning. This one was cold. Contemplative. Too much like himself. Silence was his default. What did someone have to say when they died besides goodbye?

 (Apologies. His mind supplied. Regrets. But this never applied to them. They apologized and forgave in bruising kisses and quick fucks in gas station parking lots. They were never ones to mix their emotions with their words.)

     He lay there, blonde hair splayed around his hair like a halo, expression neutral and body still, looking every bit as untouchable as the divine. Dabi reminded himself to ignore this feeling of otherness, tucking his chin

If Hawks were to decay, he would do the same. They would spend an eternal dusk in this wasteland, unmoving as the bruising winds blew dirt over their bodies and filled their lungs with stone. From their earth would sprout life anew.  No god could deny him this. Not even his sponsor. Aidoneus could come to this clearing himself, attempt to force his wife's gentle touch upon him and he'd resist her to the end, clutching the cold hand lying in his own till it turned to dust. 

    He felt whole here, by this body, in these lifeless arms. It was a hollow completion, but one nonetheless. Birdie needed him. He was a mess who needed to be reminded to feed the dog and go to class on time and actually eat meals instead of chicken wings all the time. If Dabi wasn't there to do it, then who-. 

"Izuku." The name left in a great sigh, as if the act of speech was a herculean task. "He'll need help. I'm not there, so you are the only one..."

 "He's grown." Dabi said when the pause grew too long. He watched the gray haze his words made in the air. "He's the next All Might. He'll be fine." 

"I left him with you. I left Hotwings and Rumi with you. I left you alive, and as long as I can hold this consciousness, I want to keep it that way." 

"...Keig-?"

 He was sent flying. Coming down near a tree trunk, he coughed as he tried to get his orientation back. In the center of the clearing, the blond had not moved. He was only staring, golden eyes like glass.

"Leave."

     It was one word, but it felt like a barrage. With each blow, pain in his chest sparked anew, till he was kneeling, head between his knees as he went to cover his ears. Hawks was saying his name, but it wasn't his voice. 

He knew his Birdie's voice. It was a melody in the mornings, chipper as dawn broke and ready to break into song, joy sailing the undercurrents of the baritone. In the afternoons, it was a lethargic drawl. His accent was strongest around 4 when he settled down for a nap before work. At night, it was a husky thrum that crawled under his skin and made a home. 

It wasn't this sound devoid of affection. Even angry, Birdie didn't speak to him like this.

"Touya." Yes. This was it. This was love; he could tell by the emphasis on the final syllable, the caress that carried through his name. He chanced a look up. 

And atop the man's chest stood a robin. It froze, turned to him, black eyes unseeing. His gaze traveled down, past the yellow beak clamped on a branch, down through the plume of feathers at its crimson breast, till it rested at the arrow protruding from it's tiny frame. The arrowhead punctured clean through, coming out at the otherside with bloody entrails and a tiny heart still beating on its point.

     It opened its maw and Dabi screamed as he was tugged up by his chest, careening through the sky as the dot of red that was the bird only got smaller and smaller.

     He heaved as his head came above dirt. Hands scrambled for purchase on either side of the grave as he got up and ran to the willow, retching violently. The smell of bile was sharp, nauseating, but thick hands didn't hesitate to pull his hair back, staying close till the vomiting subsided. When he was down, he kicked some dirt over it and let Izuku bring him down to sit, put a thermos in his hand, and hold him in sideways embrace underneath the shade.

"You should know better," The verdette chastised when appropriate. "Than to visit the departed so close to their death day."

Dabi said nothing. Shivering under his touch, he tried not to think of how those warm fingers thawed his skin. The sun began its ascent, late autumn blooms unfurled, fragile in the incoming cold.

But the moon still hung in the sky, faded but ever-present, the night's final guardian.

 ~

       HITOSHI stretched out, catching the full brunt of the afternoon sun's rays as he lazed on his usual park bench. He liked this spot. It was far enough from the coven house that he wouldn't risk getting caught skipping class, but close enough to the faculty townhouses that he could easily sneak back home for a new change of clothes. He was nothing, if not crafty. He was about to settle into his nap when a deafening screech sounded out.

"BEEEEEAAAAAAAN!"

Then he was being touched. Delicate, long fingers were tugging him away from his spot, into the crook of a tan neck and all he could see was long blonde hair. The tang of lemon verbana shampoo clogged his sensitive nostrils and he knew immediately who dared to intrude on his self-care.

His spot was too close to the faculty townhouses it seemed.

Resigning himself to his fate, he let Blonde Dad pet him, settling into the other man's grip. To his surprise, Hizashi didn't immediately head for home. He simply sat the in same spot Hitoshi was in before, in clear view of the sun.

 The man hummed.

"You and Shinny are so troublesome, going missing at the same time. Shota's been worried sick y'know."

He bristled, fur standing on end as a bolt of shame shot through his gut, hot and stinging. 

"Oh Hush." Knuckles met the folds behind his ears. He hummed as they gently brushed him into a state of lethargic content. The light was warm, tempered by the crisp air, as he settled himself to cozy up, one ear pricked to let his the blond's endless chatter filter through.

"He's been chopping down trees like his life depends on it. We don't even have a fireplace. I don't even know if that's legal around these parts without a permit," A loud sigh; the stroking motion came to a stop.

"You know what I always say. You can take a man out of Vermont,"

'But you can't take Vermont out of a man.'

       He could see it now. Grimy Dad, wrapped up tight in that old ratty flannel, his denim jacket more brown than blue with coffee stains, hoisting up his big red axe till the ends of the metal glinted in the light. He used to sit on abandoned stumps and watch, hugging scraped knees, as the grimy old guy went to work. He could practically smell the crisp pine after fresh snowfall, hear the scuff of the man's boots as he adjusted his stance. His forearms were by no means broad but, looking at the way the muscles beneath shifted with each swing of the axe, Hitoshi believed they could carry the weight of the world. 

Then he grew up. Got a couple powers and came to harrowing realization that his parents weren't as invincible as he believed them to be.

"Why hello, Dean Todoroki."

He blinked out of his memories, turning onto his back to see past black slacks and the end of a tucked in button down, up at the scowling face that blocked the sun. Hitoshi had only met Professor Todoroki (or, Dean now right?) a few times growing up. Enough to know that the man was a total buzzkill that hated anything that smiled. Hitoshi's sarcastic jokes never landed with him, and it was probably for the best. He was kind of a dick.

Deciding the man wasn't worth his time, he shut his eyes, purring as he got belly rubs. The two men conversed lightly, but he could recognize the strain in his Dad's tone. Seemed like Hizashi wasn't a big fan either.

"Aizawa," He could hear the tartness in the greeting from the borderline of unconsciousness. The feeling was mutual then. "I have urgent business with my son. You wouldn't have happened to see him? I understand you visit that fraternity hoven frequently."

He did? Holy Hecate,fuck, they'd have to strengthen the wards again. 

"I have not. Why don't you call him?"

A silent fidgeting. Long sighs then the man shifted his stance. A grumbled,

"Goes straight to voicemail."

Hizashi's hum sent waves through his body, reverberating through Hitoshi's body like a massage chair. The fingers at his stomach began to scratch once more as the man searched for words to say.

"What I've learned, is that sometimes they need a break. You can't force them to come home. They'll do so when they feel its time...or when they run out of money. Whichever one comes first."

 "It'll probably be the first. My children don't have the same financial restrictions as yours."

What. A. Dick. He hissed and spat, claws already extended as he moved to pounce, but Hizashi's grip was firm on his neck, a stable collar keeping him down as the man cheerily replied,

 "And my children aren't afraid to come home. So who's really winning here?" He heard the other man splutter in indignation but the blond only continued.

"Look, I'm not trying to trade insults. I'm trying to help. Father to father. The boys are at the age where they start figuring out what they want for themselves. They still need us, but not as much as before. We need to give them the room to make decisions. At the very least, they've all got each other. Shinny's not a bad kid. I'm sure he won't Shoto do anything rash."

            Oh.  That was....sweet. Something thick and warm, like syrup on waffles, snuck up his chest, coating his insides in a molten heat as he fought down a blush that wouldn't show anyway, face pressed to his paws. Then the words struck home.

Shoto? As in Shoto Tamarind?

He froze, then slowly inclined his head to look up at the man. He'd seen those eyes. That very distinct shade of red in his hair. There was no doubt.

Hex boy had been lying to them the whole time. He was a Todoroki. He was the Dean of Admissions son. 

But why? Unless Mei and Denki were right, and he really was the big baddie.

He needed to tell someone. Izuku needed to know. He tried to leap up, but Hizashi held him tight in his arms. He squirmed to and fro, hissing and snarling, but the man didn't relinquish his grip.

"What's wrong Bean? Are you sick?"

Trying to apologize with his eyes, he swiped at the man's thigh, claws shallow enough not to maim but deep enough to hurt. But it was almost as if the man was expecting it. He felt himself getting lifted into the air.

 "You stinky, grimy little boy. You must be exhausted and cranky. Let's take you home. Shota will wanna give you a bath. Hope the talk helped a bit Dean Todoroki. Catch you around."

 He was forced to watch, locked in a prison of flesh and bone, as the man grew smaller and smaller till he was only a prick of red, and behind him the path to ZKC house got further away. Resigning himself to his fate, he vowed to text Izuku as soon as he could transform back.

 Which, knowing how thoroughly his father liked to care for his cats, wouldn't be anytime soon.

 ~

MOMO consulted her notes once more. She didn't focus on the quiver in her hands but the scrawled ink beyond her fingertips. The symbols blurred together, looking a lot more like cuneiform than latin.

 Which was fine. Everything was fine. Either she got it right or she got it wrong. What was the worst that could happen?

She looked to Shoto, a stone pillar lying prostrate on the couch. He blinked up at her slowly. The blue eye was half a second behind the grey. Did he know that? Was that normal or part of the hex? Did she have to take that into account? What if she made it worse? What if his hex eye would never be able to close again? What if it dried up and fell out and-?

"I trust you."

"Huh?"

Shoto stared up at the ceiling. His face was impassive but the tips of his ears had turned rosy.

"Someone special once told me that magic was a leap of faith. He trusted you with this and so-,"

He tucked his knees into his chest, turned, and rolled off the couch, landing on his bottom and soles. Brushing off his clothes in a long, sweep, he resumed his original position.

 "There. I took the leap for you. Now you don't have any choice but to do it."

     She couldn't help but snort. He was an odd one, but kind nonetheless. 'Zuku had a knack for attracting that type. Without her notice, the shivers racking through her arm had stopped. Swallowing lingering doubts, Momo pressed her palm up against the cool skin of the hex, and began to recite the reversal.

      Latin was no stranger to her lips. Her mothers liked to joke that she was 'babbling incantations from petri dish to womb'. It was basically intuition at that point. No, her pronunciation wasn't the concern. It was her strength. There was a resistance there; a firewall blocked her access to the worst of the bind. She couldn't just barrel into it for fear of setting off something she shouldn't. She would break it down, brick by brick, till some kind of headway was made.

She let her magic flow through him, guiding the churning mass from the forge in her core to the man's eye. The hex was old, but strong. A fighter's hex-it met her blow for blow and with each brick she struggled to take down it fought back ten times harder to keep the rest standing.

     It was a full 15 minutes of casting before she was approaching the end. Panting through the last few incantations, she reached out to see what she had left. Then struggled to hold her ground as something snapped back at her. The burn ran up her fingers, shocking the skin till it went numb, but she held her palm against the skin and took down the last of the bricks.

But she knew it wouldn't be enough. There was something else lurking behind the wall. She didn't have Fumikage's eyes. She couldn't tell what it was so she left it be, pulling back her magic

Sure enough, when she took her palm back, nursing the reddened fingers, the hex was still there. The runes had mostly disappeared, but the skin was still a violent pink-like a healed over burn scar-and puckered. 

His eyes fluttered open-

~

AND he could see. It was blurry at first. Two Momos blinked down at him, worriedly biting their lower lip till two became one. He closed his left eye, and the image remained-the raven black of her hair, the eerie gray lighting from the ceiling, flashes of blue and green from the TV. It ached. A chilling sensation ran from the spot, numbing his face and travelling down his neck, through his body to coalesce in his gut like an ball of ice.

 His fingers twitched. Arm seemingly moving of its own accord, he stretched it out and pushed.

 Then the room was enveloped in a white dusting. Frost lovingly brushed their skin, close and intimate, spreading from the two of them to dust the couch and carpet alike. At the windows, flakes of ice danced across the glass in intricate patterns, stark white against the murky blueish-black of the night, disappearing in the face of the warm glow of the road lanterns. 

Shoto took a breath, and from his palm winter burst. A flurry of snow descended upon them both.  Thick and wet, it seeped deep into his flimsy dress shirt. It wasn't long before he was sneezing.

"Finish the spell," Momo said softly, as if afraid the words would ruin the scene. Shoto let out an icy breath, and with it came spilling from his tongue, "That's all folks."

Chapter Text

 ~20 Days Until the End of the World~

            THE sound of his suitcase rolling over gravel broke the peace of the morning. Still, the songbirds sang, a cheery tune ascendant to the baby blue heavens, flying on despite the nippy air. Even the tired bags beneath his eyes couldn't dissuade them from their morning greeting. A sparrow stopped on his shoulder, leaning in to peck him beneath his jaw, before joining the rest of his crew in the trees.

Izuku himself continued his descent down the hill from the Greek Block to the main road, where the bright red Jeep Wrangler that would serve as his home for the next six hours sat. The engine revved when he came into eyesight, and the music only seemed to get louder, classic rock drowning out the bird song.

"Howdy, kiddo!" Toshi hollered from the front seat. The man stood at his full six feet, most of his torso peeking out from the roofless frame, and waved him down to hurry him up. "Let's getta' move on! I told the old man we'd be there by noon."

"Can we stop at McDonalds? I'll treat you. I didn't get a chance to eat."

"Oooh, I concur!" Another head peeked out. This one was pale as porcelain, with sunglasses shielding her icy blue eyes from the dawning sun. Her hair was loose around her, tucked underneath a Longhorns baseball cap, probably protecting her from the worst of the light. 

Professor Nemuri grinned at him, and Izuku knew better than to spare a glance at the fangs she had for canines. Leaning in, he kissed her on each cheek, shooting a pointed look at a sheepish looking Toshi when her chin was tucked over his shoulder.

"You look...well"

She giggled, a full-bodied laughter that sent ripples through her chest, distractingly exposed by the low cut of her top.

"Don't sound so testy flowerboy. I'm not trying get between you and your Pops this time around. I'm coming along for a consultation."

He tried not to glow at the term 'your Pops' but knew he failed by the way her giggles followed him to the trunk. His arms hardly burned as he rearranged the back so his suitcase could fit, taking out three other bags to adjust and make space-.

 Wait, three?

Maybe Nemuri brought two.

But something deep inside told him that there was trickery afoot. Cautiously, he stepped around the car and opened up the backseat.

Only to find a pair of crimson eyes glaring at him.

...Without a word, Izuku closed the doors, crossed his arms, then went and sat on the curb.

~

            IT took both the sex pot and Professor to tug Deku into the car. She may not look like it, but the woman was freaky strong. Deku wasn't the same tiny little twink he was in high school. At some point, his limbs became more like tree trunks than spaghetti strings. He could put up a fight, latching onto the lamppost as she tugged him away from the ground. If the pole hadn't come uprooted, it was hard to say how much longer they would've gone at it. The initial 15 minutes was intense enough.

Katsuki chanced a glance at the verdette next to him. He may have filled out, but he still had that baby face. No cheek definition to speak of. The only thing he had going for him were those eyes. Even narrowed in rage, they were iridescent, sparks of emerald that reflected off the glass as they leered out at the passing cars on the freeway. 

And the freckles, if he were being honest. They started as a light dusting by his eyes, gradually becoming darker and more intense as one looked down the column of his neck, following all the way to the collar of his hoodie. There was one imposter, if he remembered correctly. A beauty mark so tiny one would miss it if they didn't know it was there. It sat just off the corner of his upper lip, a shade darker than the rest of the freckles adorning the tan expanse of skin.

 He had kissed it once. That's why he knew it was there. When they were kids and 'Zuku had slipped on black ice, he'd fallen right on his face. Katsuki wanted to make him feel better-that's what his mom did to him and so he thought that...

 "You gonna sit there and sulk the whole fucking time nerd?"

The proper adults in the front were singing along to Bruce Springsteen at the top of their lungs. They couldn't hear him even if they wanted to. Izuku could though. He could tell by the way those shoulders stiffened.

 "Oi, you ignoring me?"

Silence.

So that was how this was going to be?

It didn't matter how old they were. The fucking dweeb would always look down on him, act as if he were so fucking superior, too high to even speak-! 

He could already feel the flames climbing to his hands, but he swatted them down. A storm raged in his insides but that's where it remained as he turned and stared out his own window. Only a moment later, his fingers were itching. Ripping his phone out of his pocket, he shot out a quick text.

 

                                                                        You won't fucking believe who tagged along on this road trip.

 

Kaminari was a quick texter. Not even a second went by before the vibration went off. Silencing his phone, he read his screen.

 

Pikachu: I know. Saw him packing. Not hard to put two and two together.

 

Then,

 

Pikachu: Please don't kill each other.

 

                                                                                                                                    No promises.

Pikachu: We're not in high school anymore.

Pulling on pigtails is a form of assault, not flirting.

 

Gotta try something else.

 

                                                                                                            I'm NOT tryna' get in his pants you sicko. Stop projecting.

The image of Marcia Brady arching her brow stared up at him. 'Sure Jan' blinking below her collarbone in white bold letters. He bit his cheek hard enough to draw blood, fingers ready to type up a storm when a new text came in. 

Pinky:Kam told me you're with Izuku! Tell him Shoto's friend Mina says hi!

Shoto's friend...Oh, that weird half-and-half kid with the hair. The one that Deku left with that night. With the smug, emotionally-constipated pretty boy face and hideous scar on his right eye. He had no personality. No sense of self nor opinion outside of Deku and probably came with a shitload of insecurity issues and self-doubt.

 That fucker. He was friends with Mina? Deku he could believe. The bleeding-heart dumbass took in anything with a heartbeat. But he expected Mina to at least have some kind of standard. He was probably buddy-buddy with Kaminari too then. What, was he trying to steal all his friends? He needed to back off or he'd-

"Pit stop. Y'all boys go get some food now. You already know what I want kiddo."

 Professor Yagi proceeded to ruffle Deku's hair, slipping a 20 in the boy's hoodie pocket while the verdette turned to get out of the car. Katsuki was quick to follow, not wanting to bear witness to another second of the adults canoodling. As if he sensed his presence, Deku walked faster, short stocky legs pumping like machines to reach the door of the rest stop and let it shut behind him.

He caught him at the line for Cinnabon, standing behind him with his eyes glued to his form as Deku calmly ordered a box of minis, and two black coffees.

"You never drink your coffee black." He couldn't help but comment. 

"It's not for me. Toshi likes it black." came the automatic reply. Then, catching himself, Deku slapped a hand over his mouth. Furrowing his brow, eyes bright with determination, he shoved past Katsuki towards McDonalds.

Rubbing his shoulder, the blond followed. 

"This weekend's going to be really shitty if you refuse to speak to me the whole time." 

"I have nothing to say." 

"Then I've got questions to ask."

 "Ask someone who cares." Green eyes shot him a look of pure vehemence before widening to their typical innocent spheres, bright and bubbly as he turned to the cashier. "Hiya! Three large fries, four egg mcmuffins no bacon and an M&M McFlurry please."

"Ice cream machine's broken," The girl behind the counter drawled. Deku didn't skip a beat.

 "Then I'll take a large mocha frappe."

Katsuki knew better than to ask whether any of it was for him. If he could count on anything not to change, it was Deku's appetite. Grabbing a burger and some fries for himself, he soon joined the verdette at the Pick-Up Station.

 "No chicken nuggets?" He tried. Deku sniffed, lifting all three bags with ease.

"I'm a vegetarian." The verdette threw over his shoulder. Katsuki tried not to let his gaze linger on the sway of his hips as he walked away. (The lady behind the counter had to call out his number three times to get his attention.)

~

Chacha: You should kill him.

 Throw him in the Atlantic.

No one will know.

 

Izuku snorted. If Ochako was anything, it was consistent.

                                   

                                                                        Granpop Torino will know. He senses everything in Dagobah.

Forgot that he was linked to the land

...Maybe push him outta the car on the highway?

                                                                       

                                                                                    Too late. Already exited. Basically there already.

 

Shoot.

Well don't let him ruin your vacay.

Ask GPT about the prophecy if you get the chance.

            A spike of dread rose in him at her final words. He had put up a sort of mental block around the whole 'impending doom' thing. Now with only 20 days left to figure things out, they were approaching crunch time with no leads. It was definitely someone they've met. The Fates rarely gave a forewarning unless there was something that could be done to stop the disaster from happening. Assuming 'the green maiden' was a reference to him, he needed to keep a record about each time he passed around a willow tree with someone else.

But there were willows all over campus. There was one looming over the walkway into the Med School, the one that Hotwing liked to pee on by Suzy Street, the one in the graveyard-.

Unbidden, the image of Shoto looming over him came to mind, obsidian wings at his back and a storm brewing behind him. His magic came to his hand as second nature, a thorned vine wrapping around his palm and fingers as they twitched.

He threw it out the window, shoving down the momentary spike of paranoia as nothing more than that. Shoto may be a little bit strange, but there was no way someone who didn't know he had magic at all could amass enough power to become the Harbinger of Hell in a month.

Besides...

The demon in his mind morphed into the boy from last night, the one that snuck into his room a little after midnight with two cups of hot chocolate and a glint in his heterochromatic eyes that made them seem even more unreal. Together, at the foot of his bed, tangled up in his throw adorned with the lunar phases, the man had snuggled close to his side, close enough for the lingering wisps of his cologne to puncture the air. Arm outstretched and bare, he commanded Izuku's attention without a word then brought winter's merciless winds down upon them.

 It was the seasons, he realized as a whirlwind of cerulean and silver burst from a pale palm. Gaia had gifted him control over the seasons. Because there was more to the man's power. The marks of his curse still lingered, a paler shade of red but present nonetheless, binding powers unknown.

Maybe he'd have control over Spring as Izuku did. They could spend Winter Break wrist-deep in soil, laughing as they turned hellebore into hyacinths, beloved by their respective goddesses.

If they lived that long of course.

"We're here!"

        Toshi was the first to leap out of the car, forgoing the door entirely as he jumped out of the top, hurdling towards the seashore like a child after an ice-cream truck. The man had already kicked off his shoes, scrambling to roll up the cuffs of his jeans before he hit the sand. Scrambling into the water, he let out a triumphant yell.

The vamp was right on his heels. The noon sun had weakened her quite a bit, so she walked as a mortal did, hands stuffed in the back pocket of her jeans. She hollered something Izuku couldn't make out that made Toshi burst into that booming laughter of his before making grabby hands. He chased her down, tossing her over his broad shoulders before dunking her beneath the waves like some sort of demented baptism.

"They're like kids."

Katsuki had appeared at his side at some point. Izuku tried not to focus on the warmth that emanated from him, a comforting pillar in the path of the seaside winds.

 "They're in love." And for once, he didn't sound too bitter about it. It was a statement of facts as they are.

 "Must be nice."

      He hummed noncommittally, remembering that they weren't speaking. He started to unpack the trunk and Katsuki seemed to get the hint that he needed to help soon enough. Before long, they were lugging suitcases up the rock-lined pathway to the lone white house, nestled in a bed of wild greenery. If Izuku hadn't visited so many times in the past, he wouldn't have recognized the house for what it was. He stopped to press a hand to some violet bindweeds, sinking his magic deep into their stems, to their roots, till he reached the spiralling network linking them all beneath the dirt.

 "This son of Kore commands you: Relinquo."

     At once, they vanished. He felt the reverb of the strong banisher climb up his arm. The finger that touched the plant first was entirely numb. He didn't have to attempt to move it to know that the bone had broken. Which hadn't happened in a while. He was getting stronger, and so had his level of spell work. A banisher was advanced, yeah, but at most it should've just tired him out.

Unless the fields behind the house were hit too. Which meant he had his work cut out for him this weekend. Inwardly groaning, he made a mental list of his usual chores, resigning himself to his fate when the door slammed open,

 "Toshinori! What have you done with my flowers?" 

Izuku saw the cane before he saw the man. The wooden stick launched straight for his eyes. He hardly had the time to throw up a ward before a barrage of wind followed. He was knocked onto his ass, slamming into the gravel as the suitcase he held skittered away.

 Granpop Torino stood at 4 feet with a slight back hunch and knobby knees. His yellow sweater was several sizes too big and was bundled at the wrist, cuffs like scarves for his thin wrists. His skin hung loose on the bone, riddled with as many liver spots as Izuku had freckles. Huge, black-rimmed frames edged to the bottom of the man’s nose, but they were already defunct.

The eyes peering down at him, once a startling sky blue, had clouded over. Crow's feet tugged at their ends, lines broken by the wisps of silver hair that slipped out of the yellow bandana holding it back. Scowling, the man slipped off his house slipper, exposing his gnarly toes for the world to see, and let the wind pick it up.

Izuku started running the moment he saw the old man reach down. 

"They were weeds," he screamed pleadingly. But the slipper didn't let up. Each hit was spark against his ass, pain punctured by manic laughter. He skidded to a stop when the Grandpop did, looking over to see why the man suddenly quit. 

He and Katsuki made an interesting picture. The blond glared down at him, unflinchingly. Granpop Torino didn't meet his gaze, eyes resting at his waist as his bare feet minutely shifted against the sand.

 "You...you've got a fire in you boy. Great potential. I'll work you so hard. You won't be able to move."

Izuku expected the blond to say something cocksure and arrogant. He braced himself for impact, and the undoubted showdown that would follow.

But Katsuki only nodded. "I'll be in your care, sir. Thank you for taking the time out to help me." 

The old man hummed then, quick as a whip, he turned about.

"Lunchtime! Toshinori!"

"Y-Yes!" Izuku scrambled to get the bags again, following close behind as the old man led them into the house. Dropping the bags in the usual corner, he rolled up his sleeves, and set to make lunch.

~

"Dead one."

 HE could sense her as she bowed low. Every step she took on his land sent waves through his land, and all life receded from her presence. It was making his arthritis act up.

"Guardian of these lands and liege of the gods, I humbly seek reprieve in your home."

Sorahiko scratched his side, facing where he sensed the vampire to be with a stern frown pulling at his face. He didn't like her very much. Whatever happened to the other one? The little green witch?

He'd bite his tongue, lest Toshinori rip him a new one.

 "You must leave by sundown on Sunday. You sleep on the couch. Toshinori sleeps in his room.Reprieve granted."

"Wait-!" 

He would've left, if she hadn't reached out. Hissing, he dodged her touch, saving an entire segment of the forest from decay in the process. 

"Sorry. I'm sorry. I'm still new to...this."

 He said nothing, rubbing his forearm. She paused. A moment or two passed in awkward tension as he waited for her to continue. In the background, he could hear Toshinori wooping at the television about a touchdown 

"I came for a consultation. You should already know what's going to happen on the 31st."

            The ground had already begun to tremble, sending shivers through his legs. The animals had made their burrows early, set to hide from the destruction that would ravage the lands, and with them went his mobility. The sea's gentle rocking had turned into turbulent waves and his blood threatened to clot his veins. Yes, the land was aware, and thus so was he.

"My people...have their concerns."

"Your people are already dead."

"Death's relative. Annihilation's certain. Toshinori's kids are well aware of it but I was wondering if you could-."

 "The prophecy arrived at their doorstep. It's their problem."

"So we're going to let kids decide whether we all live or die?"

"Don't be melodramatic. The Fates probably just want a show."

He said it, but he wasn't sure if he was convincing her or himself. He pushed past her to hobble outside, taking in the salty sea air with a grumble in his chest. In the distance, the tide crashed up against the bluffs.

 His joints hurt.

 

~

            It was great to know that Deku was just as useless at cooking as before. Burnt paninis still steamed in the trash can. The verdette sat, pouting, with a steaming cup of tea in hand as his eyes narrowed at the shoreline out the window. Katsuki ripped his eyes away before they strayed elsewhere, focusing on the flick of his wrists as he fried mixed vegetables. The smell of pepper was rich on the air, mingled with that of trout baking in the oven. He was already salivating at the thought of the warm food in his belly. It rumbled in response, filling the air between them briefly before silence took them once more. A couple minutes passed, in which he pored over what to throw in next, when,

"Don't make it too spicy."

 He glanced back, but the Deku hadn't even looked his way. His lips remained still, puckered around the rim of his teacup, as if he hadn't said anything at all.

 Katsuki turned back to the pan.

No pulling pigtails. Gotta try something else.

"You remember how I like my food? Ain't that adorable?"

It came out harsh and sarcastic. He bit back a groan. He heard Izuku straighten. Heart thundering in his chest, he forced his stature to remain casual. He stirred the curry he kept on the side into the mix, breathing deep as a choked, startled noise rang out behind him.

"I-Oh, Cassandra's tongue!" 

He turned and, on instinct, caught the cup before it could crash against the floor. The tea was hot on his hand, but barely enough to cause any damage. Most of it had spilled onto the counter. Easy fix. He went for paper towels just as a freckled hand littered with scars did the same.

"I got it," Deku said, but Katsuki had long-forgotten about the mess, fixated on the purple mass that was once an index finger.

"Did you... get hurt?"

"Huh?" Deku glanced down at his own hand as if it were foreign to him. "No? It just broke." 

"Just...broke." Katsuki repeated. Deku muttered a 'Yeah', wiping down the counter with his right. That same broken finger was lifted a bit above the others, turned this way and that as if it didn't hurt at all. It seemed to be mocking him, turning into more violent shades as he looked down at it, as if daring him to do something. 

His hands were moving on his shirt before he even thought of how to make a split. Strips of fabric were quick work, ready to tie around the limb when Deku snatched it back.

 "I've got it," The boy bit out. "This is what happens when I overexert my magic. I'll heal myself in an hour."

"Just trying to help." Katsuki muttered. 

"Well I don't need your help."

"What's with the fucking attitude, shit for brains? We gotta' problem?"

         Deku froze. The napkin in his hand was forcefully tossed aside as he looked him in the eye, green eyes blazing like a forest fire. He leapt over the table with ease, socks making him skid a little of the way right into Katsuki's chest. He had grown. The ends of his curls tickled Katsuki's chin before he looked up, and all of a sudden, all he could see was the rosy red budding under tanned cheeks. 

It was like a painting. The blossom of rouge was slow and steady, an undertone for the freckles, creating the definition the rounded cheeks lacked.

"Of course we have a problem." The hiss sent out a flash of buck white teeth. Katsuki followed the way they disappeared beneath plush lips. "What, did you think you could walk back into my life and we'd be okay?"

"I didn't ask for this shit!"

"Neither did I! But you know what, the universe has a way of screwing you over anyway. Bend over and take it, asshole!"

"Toshinori!" 

The old man stood in the archway, arms crossed. He was tiny, but no less intimidating as he glared at the tabletop, house slipper floating menacingly at his side. "Lunch. Time."

Deku was the first to break away. Green eyes shone with something that made his throat catch, before narrowing into a leer so fierce he felt whiplashed. Taking up a water pitcher and some cups, he wordlessly left for the dining room, leaving Katsuki behind to tame the burning need in his core.

 ~ 

"...Toshinori?" 

"No. No, sir. It's KAT-SU-KI. BA-KU-GO."

 "...Toshinori?" Grandpop repeated, but louder. Izuku shoved his snort into his sleeve before anyone could notice. He failed. The original Toshinori shot him a look, then bit down on his lip as he tried to hold back his own laughter as the two continued.

"KATSUKI!"

"TOSHINORI!"

 "Give it up kid," Professor Nemuri said. She pulled a fish bone from her teeth, flicking it onto her plate. "You're not going to get through to him." 

"Grandpop," The real Toshinori tried. "This is Katsuki Bakugou. He's a half-mortal that needs help with his magic, y'hear? Can ya' give him some advice?"

 "Half-mortal? Well why didn't you start with that?"

They all leaned in expectantly. Grandpop rubbed his chin. Took off his glasses. Folded them and placed them on the table. Coughed. Then said,

 "Toshinori."

A long, pregnant pause.

"Yes?" All three men chorused. Nemuri snorted. 

"You will train Toshinori by the shore. He is of fire, so water is his weakness. If he does not die by Sunday morning, I will give him my advice. Toshinori!"

"Yes?" Bakugou alone spoke up that time. Granpop Torino hummed.

"Open your ears and your mind. Toshinori might be your age mate but he beyond you in experience. Don't look down on him."

"It seems to be the other way around sir."

Anger wasn't an emotion that came easy to Izuku. He prided himself on having an even temper. He might've been prone to bouts of extreme anxiety, overenthusiastic about the things he liked, and a bit of a crybaby. But he wasn't an angry crybaby.

    He might be a livid one whenever Katsuki came into the picture. He lifted his uninjured hand and didn't have to do anything more than twitch his fingers. The table they sat around grew branches. Wrapping themselves like arms around the back of the blonde's head, they tugged, sending him face-first into his plate of rice, before rescinding back into the polished mahogany.

The mini Ochako dancing around his brain fist-pumped. He could feel Toshi's disapproving gaze on him, but he swerved it, sipping at his water as if nothing had happened at all.

"Toshinori! You and the dead one will stay here while the kids train. Let's...chat."

Grandpop smiled, and the sight of it sent chills down Izuku's spine. He didn't want to get stuck with Katsuki, but it seemed that was the better option of the night. He chanced a look at the older man, only to find that he had turned a startling shade of white, blue eyes unseeing as he froze, burly hand still reaching out for the bread bowl. Nemuri wasn't any worse for her, but that was because she didn't know any better. 

Izuku watched her out of the corner of his eye, honing in on the way she placed a worried hand on Toshi's bicep, prodding him with the black claws she called nails.

Well, if Grandpop Torino didn't scare her away, maybe she had the guts to stick around. 

"This reminds me of my youth. It's the Summer of '78 in Brooklyn and my Chiyo had just passed her MCAT..."

Pouring himself another cup of water, Izuku settled in his seat for one of Grandpop's infamous long stories.

~

"I've got something for you." 

Dr. Blanche presented a pamphlet beneath his nose. A baby gorilla stared up at him with big black eyes, hair mussed by a headless mother grooming him from behind. Taking it from her hand, he flipped through and read aloud

 "The Speedwagon Foundation's Kujo Conservation Sect would like to invite you to...Once in a lifetime...What is this?"

She returned to her seat. As she smoothed out her skirts, he noticed the slight quiver there, how she wringed her wrists. Nervousness. But what reason would she have to be nervous about paper?

"I want...I want you to be happy Shoto. I may be overstepping my boundaries a bit but...."

She trailed off. For a moment, he studied her as she searched for the words to say in the vase of white roses. Dr. Blanche had never been the image of perfect health but she was looking frazzled that week. Her usual bun was a mess, random wisps of silver and white framing her face, which had gone gaunt in the week that passed. The dark curves beneath her eyes were so dark even her makeup couldn't blot them out.

There was something different about her. Something weaker. He wasn't sure if it would work, but he tried to reach out with his newfound magic. Maybe he could give her a boost?

But as soon as he made the first prodding step, she disappeared. He could see her well enough, but the life force he sensed had disappeared into thin air. She looked up, grey eyes sharp and mouth tugged a bit too firmly for her next words,

"It's a research trip for lowland gorilla conservation. Professor Kujo is leaving the University to lead it. He's decided to take a couple lucky students with him. It's aimed for grad students, but if you present him with a strong enough thesis, I'm sure you can make it."

His uncertainty must've showed on his face, because she implored him to at least think about it before ending their session.

"I want you to try something new this week. You've been making such great progress so quickly, so take a day for yourself. Grab a friend and go out. Take the train into the city. Have some fun before..." 

Something terribly melancholy crossed her expression. He didn't like that at all, but didn't want to pry lest he make it worse.

"Did you know," he began softly. "That baboons use 10 different vocalizations to communicate?" 

She blinked at him, as if unseeing.

"I think that's better than the human way. There's enough sounds for them to convey an emotion or command, but not so many that they get lost in semantics. Nobody misunderstands, so nobody gets hurt. They say what they feel, bare it all for the world to see...I think the human self-consciousness holds us back. We fear how others will perceive us, so we choose words that may not represent who we truly are. Baboons do not know social anxiety, and thus they don't know insecurity. They don't have a vocalization for lying, because they don't need it."

      He left it at that. There were no words between them. If not for the steady sound of water rushing in the fountain outside, the silence would've been deafening. He sensed it was time to take his leave just a couple moments after it grew awkward. They stumbled through their goodbyes, speaking over each other and maneuvering around the other's body awkwardly. It was like their first couple sessions, back when he was 16, when they'd hardly known each other.

It had been five years, but she still felt like a stranger.

Trying to shake off the odd, cold feeling climbing up his arms, he stepped out into the light. He hardly made it three steps before hands landed on his shoulders. He tried not to freeze up at the sudden touch but the thumping in his chest was too fast for his body to do anything but.

"Shit! Sorry! I forgot! It's just me! See?" 

       Mina appeared in his line of sight, red visor sunglasses blocking her eyes. She calmed him down, got permission to hook her arm in his, and led him across town, chattering all the while. She was like Izuku in that sense. Shoto had went into his room last night to show him the new magic development, and verdette kept him until half past three with theories alone. He woke up that morning to dark, undereye bags and a mild headache, but he didn't mind.

 The only thing that concerned him was the perpetrator's sudden disappearance. He tried to be inconspicuous as he went through his morning routine. Face masks were uninterrupted by a request to shave in the second sink. He got dressed and ate his breakfast in silence. Only when Ochako came in from her morning run did he get the answer to his silent question.

"He's down at Dagobah for the weekend with Professor Yagi. They went to see Grandpop Torino." 

"Grandpop...?" 

"Professor Yagi's adoptive father," she explained through a mouthful of banana. Her eyes pored over her notebook, going a mile a minute past formulas and theorems. "They try to visit him at least three times a year. With the apocalypse coming, they probably thought it'd be better for them to go sooner than later."

Shoto remembered how his lip curled in snickering disbelief at her tone. In his humble opinion, they were taking this 'prophecy' a little too seriously. The world had seen countless end-of-the-world theories and none of them had panned out thus far. He was going to treat whatever came out of Denki's mouth with a grain of salt.

 Even now, the thought of it made him want to laugh. At Mina's quizzical look, he waved her off, following close behind her as they went through the doorway, bells announcing their arrival.

       Vintage Acid smelled like old linens and febreeze, only the febreeze failed to fully mask the old smell and the two mixed into a disconcerting floral must. He didn't like it very much, but Mina didn't even flinch, waltzing through like she owned the place. Which, she nearly did, judging by the amount of shifts they were giving her.

"Do you have a Halloween costume yet?" She asked, waving the blond guy behind the counter out. The man visibly relaxed, stretching out his arms, before going to the back to clock out.

"My family doesn't really celebrate."

"But your frat does." She countered. "The Zois throw the biggest party on campus. Everyone gets a costume for that one. Which means you do too." 

She took on the racks. Glaring them down, glasses holding her pink curls back into place, she reached in, pulling out a sheer lacy number. He was already shivering.

"How about a sexy vampi-?"

"No." 

She pulled out a ripped up shirt that once again left little to the imagination.

 "A sexy werewolf?"

"Nope." 

She huffed, crossing her arms. She glanced around then ran to the back. Only a second or two passed before she re-emerged from the beaded curtain, a katana in one hand and mismatched kimono in the other.

"A sexy samurai!"

"No. Please stop waving that around."

 "What do you want to be then?"

He blew out a sigh, tried to muster up the energy to care, then abandoned that effort as quickly as it started.

"I'll just let Izuku decide for me." 

"Ha, like a couple's costume?"

He tried to fight it down, but he could feel the creeping sense of embarrassment climbing up his skin. Blood rushed in his ears and he lifted his hands to cover his face but it was too late. She was already gasping.

"Oh my gosh! You liiiiiike him." She drew out the vowel, dropping both sword and kimono to sidle up to him. Her talons dug into his arm like a cat's dug into furniture as she tugged him over to the counter.

"Tell me everything." She demanded. He watched her balance the register, money passing through her hands in quick, green flashes. "When did it start? Are you officially a thing or is it just flirting? Have you fu-?"

 "Mina, you're embarassing him. Stop."

Shoto sent a wave of gratitude to her co-worker. The blonde didn't even spare him a glance, shooting the girl a pointed look through the mirror, as he carefully wound a headband around his hair. Slamming the register shut, Mina pouted.

 "He needs to make a move! Izuku's the type that'll be in high demand. He's cute, Caesarino! Like, really cute! If we don't act now, someone else will take him."

"L'amore trova la strada. If it's meant to be, it'll find a way. You cannot force it, or else it will not come. Let them be and you,"

 The man pointed Shoto's way, then winked. "Don't let her bully you, alright? She has a boyfriend that says he loves her, but hasn't popped the question. She doesn't need to mess with anyone else's love life but her own."

With that, the blonde took his leave, abandoning two quickly reddening, hopeless idiots behind. Shoto chanced a glance up at the same time as Mina. Their eyes met, and they could only awkwardly glance away. Something somber settled in the air, tension like an electric current running through it.

"A truth for a truth?" She offered. He nodded. He'd never seen her nervous before, but there was no mistaking her sigh, nor the way her hands came to rub her arms as if she were still chilly beneath that fur coat.

"I keep leaving out wedding magazines and hinting at the fact that I want him to propose before graduation, but Eij either hasn't picked up on it or...." She swallowed, and something in him twisted as he saw tears come to her eyes. She wiped them away before they could fall, voice thick when she continued,

"He's not dumb like everyone thinks he is y'know? He's a businessman. He runs the Golden Sounds all by himself so I know he's smart so he definitely noticed and he's just....He's just ignoring it. I don't think he wants to marry me. That's the problem I have with all my boyfriends. They see me and think-," She gestured wildly at herself. "Oh she's interesting! She's cool! Then the coat and the nails and the wigs come off and they see me first thing in the morning and they're like 'Wait, she's not shit.' y'know. And it may have taken him a while, but he's finally noticed-. What the fuck are you doing?"

 He set her wig down on the counter. She snatched it up, turning to the mirror to throw it back on. For a minute, he worried that he did something wrong, but his words were steady when he said,

"I think you're cool. Pink hair or no. You're still you. We'd still be friends even if you were bald.

She rolled her eyes, but the smile on her face betrayed her. 

"You touch my hair again, and I'll break your fingers." 

He nodded solemnly. To his credit, he only flinched slightly when she reached down to intertwine those same fingers she threatened in her own, squeezing tight once before reaching back up to adjust the curls.

"Your turn." She said to the mirror. Shoto was silent. He was silent for a long time. But that was okay. She gave him the room to think about it, figure it out as she rearranged racks and hung up new clothes. He didn't the exact time, but it was quite a while till he opened his mouth to say, 

"I like him. I like Izuku. Not as a friend, but..." 

He trailed off. His voice was hoarse from disuse. It cracked somewhere in the middle there. But that was alright. He had the guts to admit it. A light, bubbly feeling emptied out his chest. He felt lighter. Stronger. As if he'd just fly away and take on the world.

But Mina's arms around his waist kept him grounded. She was so small for someone with a mouth so big; the ends of her curls barely brushed his collarbone.

 "Thanks for telling me." She murmured. The bells of somoene's entry broke them apart. When she looked up, her eyes were blazing.

"Now, let's get you a man!"

~

            THE trek down to the beach was silent. Granpop Torino's house was the only one for miles, but there was still a bit of traffic on the roadway. Any accidently magic too close to the house could  be seen by strangers. So they had to go a little way down. Izuku hated the silence, but he didn't want to speak unless he absolutely had to. Katsuki seemed to feel the same way. His face kept that same stony expression since he cleaned the last of the rice off his face. Brow furrowed and mouth set in a scowl, he looked like a disgraced angel, dangerously beautiful and hell-bent on destruction if the glint in his eyes was anything to go by. He'd always been the attractive one despite his temper. When prom came around, Kachan's locker had been flooded with notes and tiny bribes. Girls loitered around his lunch table.

While Izuku spent the weeks leading up to prom fending off the football team after school, then the actual prom night itself taking his EMT certification. Hawks took him out for ice cream that night, if he remembered correctly. While the rest of his class made memories that would define their high school career, he was... 

He had already moved onto something better. Ripping his gaze away from the cut of Katsuki's jawline, he turned to the sea.

Izuku's toes dug into sand, cold from the abuse of the tide. The ocean spread before him, vast and unrelenting, inevitability swirling in its depths. He felt it brush up against his ankles. It tugged at him, pulling him in to sink and never re-surface. He resisted the temptation. Kicking the waves away, he came to a stop.

      The heat of the other's body came devastatingly close to his skin, before Katsuki side-stepped and, like two planets, they avoided collision, orbiting around each other at a cautious distance till Izuku pivoted and they were face to face. He slid his right foot back, raising his fists up as if to fight, then uncurling his fingers to let them loose: the typical dueling stance. Katsuki caught on fast. He kept his fists up, and his biceps were clear even in the baggy hoodie he wore. Izuku wondered if he was still playing sports. He was a star quarterback when they were younger. Was he still active? Yuuei didn't have a football team that was any good, but maybe lacrosse?

Suddenly, the blonde dropped his stance. Crimson eyes were gleaming in twilight, and Izuku could feel his skin burn where they passed. 

"One punch," Katsuki's voice was low, gruff. "You get one free punch. Then we put all this shit behind us."

That was his way of apologizing. He'd never admit he was wrong. This was as much as he could give, as much as Izuku was going to get.

 He tightened his fists once more, drew his right back like a bowstring.

 Then sent a kick to Katsuki's ribs, wincing at the sickening crack that sounded out. Sand blasted up as the man fell, cursing all the while, but Izuku didn't let up. His finger still throbbed with phantom pain, but he drew from his magic anyway.

"Heal."He commanded. The bones knitted themselves back together beneath the skin, and the reddening bruise immediately fell back to the normal golden skin tone.

 "Deku, what the fuck? I'll kill you!"

    Unfazed, he resumed the dueler's stance. He could see a flash of something cross the other's face, before a stony determination took its place. Izuku struck again. A pillar of fire stood in his way but he brushed it aside, leaping at the spot where Katsuki was with a punch, binding hex already on his mind. His fist met the sand, a blow strong enough to make the ground vibrate, sand remaining still as the spell took effect. A gust of wind blew his way. The smell of burnt hair on its tail. 

He looked up.

        Katsuki's bare heel skimmed his cheek as he fell back, kicking out with his left only to meet empty air as his opponent used his flames like rocket thrusters, shooting back into the sky. Squatting low, Deku brought his magic to his feet, then leapt to follow. They continued like this well into the night.  They exchanged no words, only blows and grunts of pain. When the magic ran out, with Izuku's bones threatening to snap and Katsuki coughing up smoke, they still fought, laying hands on each other till the roar of the ocean fell into background noise and all they could focus on was the other's breathing. At the end, Izuku didn't get one punch.

 He took 75.